Last year, the Boston Red Sox shocked the draft world selecting Archbishop Mitty second baseman Nick Yorke with the 17th pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. Revered for his bat-to-ball skills and potential to hit at the next level, Yorke certainly had his fans in scouting circles. But most tabbed Yorke a potential third round value. Baseball America ranked him the 96th-best prospect available.
Yorke lacked consensus arm strength and many scouts had doubts on the power projection. Being labeled a future second baseman as a high school draft pick usually won’t get you pick in the first round. The lack of versatility and athleticism is a turn off for most scouts, at least at the top. It speaks volumes toward the enthusiasm General Manager Chaim Bloom and Scouting Director Michael Rikard had for Yorke’s bat.
Haughton, Louisiana infielder Peyton Stovall is already being compared to Yorke. Reasonably unknown entering the 2021 spring season, Stovall has absolutely blistered the ball this year. The bat is real and some scouts believe he’s one of the better pure hitters in the entire country.
Stovall is off to a scorching start. Through 20 games, Stovall was slashing .551/.699/1.203 (38 for 69) with 12 bombs, 7 doubles, a triple, 33 walks, one HBP, and just two strikeouts. That means in 69 at-bats, Stovall has been on base 72 times. Pretty unreal.
Like Yorke, Stovall is likely going to end up at second base by the time he debuts at the big league level. There are fringy tools smattered about his scouting report, but the bat may be so special, he won’t make it out of the top two rounds of the draft.
Also unique to Stovall, Louisiana isn’t exactly a hotbed of talent. Preps out of Texas’ sister-state aren’t all too common at the top of the draft. He’s looking to become the first high school player selected in the first two rounds out of The Bayou since Chase Vallot was the 40th pick in 2014.
Tools (Future Value)
The conversation really revolves around the hit tool, and for good reason. Stovall has some innate qualities about his game at the plate that suggest future success.
It starts with Stovall’s balance at the plate. It’s awfully quiet with a moderately wide setup and slightly open posture. There’s some rhythmic waggle pre-load a la Mitch Haniger from the left side.
There’s a ton to like mechanically with this kid’s swing. Stovall stays in his back hip really well. There’s solid wrap and no drift in his swing with quiet hands. Stovall uses the whole field and does a good job staying up the middle in his approach. There’s some angle to his swing as well and some additional power projection coming.
One of the more impressive parts of Stovall’s game at the plate thus far has been his ability to adjust and handle anything the pitcher is throwing his way. He’s pummeled fastballs, sliders, curveballs and off-speed stuff without losing much juice. Much of his is possible due to his mechanics and exceptional lower half balance.
2021 SS Peyton Stovall (Haughton, LA) hit another bomb tonight after his nuke last night. This kid is hitting everything right now. Arkansas commit. Push him up your boards. #MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/5BGRw2GflX— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) February 26, 2021
Stovall will have plenty of opportunities to show off his refined hit tool this spring in showcase events leading up to the 2021 MLB Draft. It’s a bat scouting directors are eager to see matched up against premier arms.
Stovall continues to add weight onto his 6-foot frame. He’s up to 185 pounds but most think he can add 10 or 15 more pounds of muscle by the time he debuts.
There’s already some angle to his bat bath and creating backspin and driving the ball with authority has been on display this spring. The loud track record with a wood bat, primarily at Area Code Games 2020, isn’t quite as impressive, but that was pre-2021, almost eight months ago.
Haughton, LA shortstop Peyton Stovall continues his relentless assault on HS baseball. Dinger no. 12.— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) April 2, 2021
Through 20 games, Stovall is slashing .585/.718/1.321 (31 for 53) w/12 bombs, 6 2Bs, 25 BBs and 2 Ks.
He has 53 at-bats and has been on base 56 times... #MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/sKifwOnxSD
Stovall has a keen understanding for finding the barrel of the bat. He doesn’t get exposed by good secondaries and puts together mature, complete plate appearances. For those reasons, I think Stovall has a shot a pumping out some 20+ homer seasons at the big league level. At his peak, I think Stovall has a chance to be one of the better second base bats in the league.
Stovall plays an interesting brand of defense. He’s moved between shortstop and second base at most events, but he’s definitely a second baseman at the next level. Aesthetically, Stovall makes it look rather routine, almost to the point he looks, well, bored. There’s some nonchalant built into his actions. It’s not to the level Robinson Cano has made look so famous, but there are some innate quirks that have scouts befuddled. That said, Stovall makes all the plays he should.
Stovall seems to be more comfortable making plays to his left than into the hole to his right. He can be a choppy runner, so gliding up the middle can be a little more challenging, especially when having to turn and fire back to first base. That said, it plays better at second base than it does into the left field hole at shortstop.
Stovall has a buttery glove and is sure-handed, so making the routine plays up the middle and turning a smooth double play should be a strong suit as a pro.
Up unto this year, Stovall was also an accomplished quarterback at Haughton High School. He’s got a good arm with plenty of arm strength, and that’s continuing to develop on the diamond. It’s not “easy” arm strength though. It’s a longer stroke and arm accuracy has been something he’s grappled with in his prep career. Stovall handles ground balls that he has to come in on quite nicely and he looks really comfortable doing so. Coming in, the arm is whippy, loose and free. He also handles ground balls and throwing while moving to his left well too.
The arm strength doesn’t play quite as well moving to his right. It’s a little more fringy in the hole, and arm accuracy moving and/or planting to his right will be a place of developmental emphasis as a pro. This is the primary reason second base is likely his landing spot.
You could make the argument Stovall is presently an average runner, but I do believe he’ll end up in the fringier, 45-grade bucket by the time he debuts. They’re shorter, choppier strides. As Stovall adds more weight and muscle, putting more emphasis on the bat, plus the move to second base taking some pressure off his legs, running probably takes a step back.
Stovall is exactly the type of bat that surprises on draft day. Teams pay a premium for the peace of mind hit tool at the next level. If he doesn’t go in the first round, he’s a pretty decent bet to get popped in the top 100 picks.
An Arkansas commit, Stovall certainly has a solid fallback plan too, so he won’t be cheap.
Stovall fits the mold of the Todd Walker, Daniel Murphy, Jason Kipnis types of yesteryear. His talent with the bat give him a pretty solid floor. He’s a personal favorite of mine, and I think he makes a lot of sense for Seattle at pick no. 47... even more-so as an overspend option at pick no. 84, though I’d be surprised if he lasted that long.