Welcome back to LL’s 2023 MLB Draft previews! It has unfortunately been a few weeks since our last installment in the series, leaving a bit of a gap to be made up in player breakdowns. Thus, to make up for lost time, I’ve decided to do a “mega-week” this week, covering five of the most exciting prep players in the class. In recent years the Mariners have had an affinity for high school talent at the top of their draft classes and while it is no guarantee they will mirror their 2021 draft and select three straight prep players to start their draft, this year’s high school class is quite deep and there will almost certainly be a plethora of intriguing players to choose from. With that said, this week’s issue focuses primarily on current shortstops that may or may not have to move off of the position depending on who you ask. Without further ado, let’s start with one of my prospects in the entire class, Walker Martin.
As I prefaced, Walker Martin is quite literally exactly how you draw up my favorite type of prospect. There really isn’t a major box he doesn’t tick for me. Firstly, lets have a look at his swing.
A beautiful lefty stroke by any measure. Martin is a highly physical player that has added considerable muscle and height throughout his high school career. He’s used this to his advantage as he’s laying waste to his competition and dominating. Granted, Colorado is not necessarily a hotbed for elite pitching, but he’s left little doubt in anyone’s mind. It should be made very clear that raw statlines for high school players mean very little for evaluation as there is high variance in competition levels across the country, but when you can hit .639/.707/1.666 for an OPS of 2.374 (!!!), you’re doing something right. Martin has 19 HR’s in 25 games with only five strikeouts. Pretty good.
Now standing around 6’4 and currently sticking at shortstop, Martin is a good athlete that has fluid motions on the dirt. He’s a self-proclaimed “late bloomer” and may physically outgrow the shortstop position as he’s filling out, but should he have to move over to second or third he should have no issue. The arm could be a bit better but between the fantastic swing and considerable power potential, the bat should absolutely play anywhere on the dirt. The biggest critique of Martin is his age as he’s already 19 years old. Personally, if a prospects most prominent flaw is he’s a teenager in high school, that’s not half bad! While he’s obviously not a perfect prospect in the grand scheme of things, I can’t help but sensationalize his talents just a bit. He’s just such a fun prospect to root for.
Aidan Miller is one of the more interesting prospects to gauge in this year’s upper echelon of talent. By all evaluations I’ve seen, he is firmly a first round talent. The problem? He’s been out all year with a hamate injury. For most, this would absolutely tank a high schoolers draft stock and could push them into a later round, but Miller isn’t most high school talents. He is perhaps the most “known” commodity for a prep player in the entire class. Whether it be his showcase performances or prodigious displays of power, Miller has been dominating opposing pitchers for years, no small feat for someone his age. Because of this, Miller remains a premiere commodity despite missing his senior season.
The appeal with Miller is some absolutely nutty power. He’s got some lightning fast hands that allow him to barrel up balls and send them over the fence in loud fashion. His swing is made to lift the ball and he often succeeds at doing so. He does have a fairly pronounced hitch of his hands in his load, however it has not been an issue against premium stuff for his level and shouldn’t be an issue moving forward. If he has an average or better hit tool at the major leagues, you’ve comfortably got one of the best sluggers in the league.
On the dirt, Miller is currently listed as a shortstop by most recruiting pages, but he is absolutely a third baseman at the next level. He’s a good athlete, but he’s not quite as fluid on the dirt as you would like to see from a shortstop. Fortunately, he’s got a cannon of an arm, topping out at 94 on the mound as a 17 year old. The profile fits incredibly well at third base where he has the athleticism and power ability to lock down the hot corner for years to come.
If you hadn’t picked up on it from the Walker Martin section of this piece, I’m a sucker for a sweet swinging lefty and Eric Bitonti is precisely that. With a physical 6’4 frame and long levers, Bitonti really gets into his lower half and uses that to crush the ball all over the park. His frame is largely filled out and likely won’t see a ton of growth physically, but he should be able to maximize his large frame in pro ball and the power is already an above average tool. He’ll have no trouble hitting the ball hard regardless of where he ends up.
One of the youngest players in the 2023 class, 3B/SS Eric Bitonti shoots this up the middle for an RBI 1B.— Ian Smith (@FlaSmitty) July 22, 2022
Projectable frame (6-4, 200) with above-average to plus raw power. Good actions in the IF, and 91 across the diamond as well. Will be just 17.8 at draft day next year. pic.twitter.com/pdCT1I7ebB
The key to Bitonti will be the hit tool. I tend to think the hit tool can get where it needs to be due to his advanced skill set at a young age (He will be just 17 on draft day), but like any other prepster, he’s got to show it at the next level. The actions on the dirt indicate a third baseman at the prod level due to his large frame and somewhat stiff actions, but his excellent throwing arm and athleticism make him well suited for the job. I’m personally very high on Bitonti, currently slated as a second round pick by most outlets I’ve seen. Between his frame, swing, and athleticism, I have a hard time thinking some team can’t maximize Bitonti and make him a fearsome slugger. Why not Jerry and Co.?
George Lombard Jr.
Lombard Jr. is one of the biggest risers in the class thus far, working his way into first round conversations after being a late second rounder at the beginning of the year due to some concern over the hit tool. He put those concerns to rest this spring, making loud contact all spring in a competitive Florida baseball scene. He truly has the potential to be an impact five-tool player that can hit for both average and power at the highest level.
In the field, Lombard Jr. is a twitchy, explosive athlete that looks comfortable on the infield. He’s played shortstop during his high school season thus far but has taken reps at both middle infield positions at showcases in the past. Some expect him to move to second due to his arm, though others posit the athleticism is enough to warrant trying him at short. I would personally start him at short in the minor leagues knowing that if he has to move over to second base, he immediately has impact potential. Plus speed, a solid hit tool, above average power, and good athleticism in a large frame is a pretty darn good recipe for success, and Lombard Jr. has got all of that and then some.
This is the type of player that many people absolutely adore. McGonigle is, in a way, the antithesis of why most people get excited for high school shortstops. Typically, you dream on a large frame with all the tools in the world and live with the inherent imperfections in their game, but that’s not really McGonigle’s appeal. McGonigle is very much reliant on a premium hit tool and his advanced approach that enables him to make hard contact all over the park. He’s got a really twitchy swing that can run into some power pull side and do so with little added effort. He won’t be a true power hitter at the next level, but 15 homer upside is not out of the question by any means.
KEVIN MCGONIGLE GIVES BONNER THE LEAD!!— Delco Baseball Now (@DelcoBaseball) May 20, 2023
The Auburn commit and potential first round draft pick got ALL of this 2-0 fastball to give @Bonner_Baseball a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first pic.twitter.com/OtJfDIceAn
On the dirt, McGonigle is a solid mover with good hands. He will likely be able to play shortstop at the major league level, but would likely see his defense tick up away from it. He could play any position on the infield, giving him some nice flexibility and utility positionally. He’s not an elite runner but should post average times as a pro, perhaps even a tick above if he trains it. McGonigle is very similar to Cole Young in many, many, ways, clearly a profile the Mariners have liked in the past.
That wraps up this weeks edition of our draft previews! Next week will be a continuation of this year’s deep prep class and it’s exciting young talent.