Mock draft season grinds on with Pitcher List’s 12-team dynasty run-through. Check out Travis’ picks below:
It’s time to dispense with TINSTAAP. The data is no longer supportive when it comes to pitching injuries because every year or two we scratch off one that used to be career-altering—and (most) organizations are just getting better at picking/developing their pitching talent with the use of weighted ball programs and inning management. Once a legitimate criticism, TINSTAAP has become the go-to for pessimists—to the point that it is a joke and they’ve forgotten what real pitching talent looks like.
Enter Forrest Whitley. Remember him? The 2018 consensus top pitching prospect? The only prospect alive with four plus pitches, and the potential for a fifth? I do. And it seems like I’m the only one who does. Whitley is no longer considered the best pitching prospect after a 2019 that contained limited innings due to injury and maturity issues that culminated in a 12.21 ERA in the PCL for the then-21-year-old. He dropped out of the top five in some rankings—because I’m guessing those rankers never actually watched him pitch. Yes, he was terrible in 2019, but all his problems could be attributed to control due to injury.
Now that he’s healthy, he’s almost back to being his normal self in the Arizona Fall League: 2.88 ERA, 29 Ks, 24 IP. He’ll get the call for Houston early in 2020. Stuffwise, he is the best prospect baseball has seen in a while. He is the only pitching prospect who’s ceiling is multiple Cy Youngs.
2.18: Jesus Luzardo (LHP, Oakland A’s)
Tommy John, while prevalent, is no longer a serious matter. Now it’s just an imposition—like waiting until Christmas Day to open your presents. It’s also the only knock on Jesus Luzardo. Sure, he’s a little smaller than I’d like (listed at 6’0″), but when the A’s finally got to open their present and the then-21-year-old made his debut, he looked every bit like a front-line guy. A minor shoulder inflammation briefly slowed Luzardo’s meteoric rise through the minors (under 200 MiLB innings pitched), causing many to think that combined with TJ, the 5-11 hurler might be injury-prone. But his TJ was in high school, four years ago. That uninjured gap hardly suggests a trend. His height only affects his very long-term prospects. For the 2020 season and the following five years afterward, the future is bright for this lefty.
With two potential aces already picked, I had to start grabbing hitters. All of the safer high-end options were already taken, and we were already starting to get to the “specialists” stage. Guys who have demonstrated one or two tools and are working on a third (Vidal Brujan/Nick Madrigal/Taylor Trammell). I could go with a safer pick like Nico Hoerner, but in my mind, the only choice here was between Marco Luciano and Bobby Witt Jr. To get that high ceiling, I needed to select a guy further away from the majors. Luciano, who just turned 18 in September, mashed rookie ball as a 17-year-old to the tune of .322/.438/.616 with 10 bombs and a 27:39 BB:K ratio in 38 games. He struggled in a late promotion to Low-A, but that is not a concern, given he might not have been old enough to vote when he got promoted. He’s drawn comps to Javy Baez as far as bat speed and potential power. He might not stay at shortstop. Many scouts think he’s a center fielder. Nevertheless, he’s got sky-high potential.
4.42: Jasson Dominguez (OF, New York Yankees)
Speaking of sky-high potential: Can I introduce you to Jasson “The Freak” Dominguez? The hype machine went into overdrive for this 16-year-old when he signed with the Yankees this July. Naturally, every prospect gets a little more attention when he could wind up in the Bronx, but there is reason to love what this kid brings to the table. He’s one of the most physically gifted international prospects I’ve seen in the last decade. He’s built like a linebacker already, and while he has 40-home run potential, he also has 30-steal speed potential. Does that sound like someone we know? He’s shown the ability for plate discipline and the willingness to go the other way.
My Trevor Larnach pick might have been the biggest snipe of the draft. I’d say six of the other managers issued some kind of groan (and one got a little frisky) when I made this pick, and I understand why. Larnach is the kind of prospect everybody thinks they can wait on because he’s been very good but not great yet in the minors. High-floor guys usually aren’t sexy picks, but Larnach was one of the best hitters in college for Oregon State, and so far through Double-A he’s done nothing to suggest he won’t hit anywhere he goes:
|Year/Level||G||AVG||OBP||SLG||HR||R||RBI||BB Rate||K Rate|
This is what consistency looks like. Larnach could very well be a high-OBP and average power guy. Not a bad result for the 55th pick.
Time for another pitcher. If you’re looking for a pattern in the pitchers I pick, there isn’t one other than “talented.” To me, Matthew Liberatore is a more talented (and lefty) version of Kyle Hendricks. This is a smart kid who will do anything to get you out. It won’t be pretty, and he won’t rack up the Ks, but he’s got a top-notch curveball, a plus changeup and low- to mid-90s velocity. He’s already experimenting with changing the timing of his delivery and other tactics used by much older pitchers to keep hitters off balance. Sometimes he does it too much and it gets in the way of his stuff and can throw off his command.
I was split on this pick because part of me really wanted Luis Campusano, who went just a few picks before me, but the other was extremely happy to snatch up Greg Jones here. A rare athlete with skills like these is only available for two reasons: (1) he has an extensive injury history or (2) is a late bloomer. Happily, Jones is the latter. His tardy progression is likely also responsible for why he didn’t play college ball in a power conference. Still, at UNC Wilmington he flashed tremendous upside, stealing 42 bases in 63 games and knocking 26 extra-base hits—all while posting an OBP of .491. He picked up right where he left off in his pro debut in Low-A, slashing .335/.413/.461 with 19 stolen bases and a 10% walk rate. He can stick in the infield based on his skills, but with the glut of talented infielders the Rays can choose from in the minors, Jones could likely end up in the outfield.
Brandon Marsh has been toying with us for two years. Is he an elite prospect, or a fringe prospect? We still don’t know. At his best, the man flashes plus speed, plus power and a solid approach that yields a .300 average and a 10+% walk rate. He’s also been considerably worse than that at times—especially every time he’s been called up to a new level. After a struggle to start 2019 in Double-A, he finished with an overall slash of .300/.383/.428 with seven homers and 18 steals in 96 games. We’ll see if this pick was a steal in 2020 when Marsh moves to Triple-A and maybe higher.
9.103: Daniel Espino (RHP, Cleveland Indians)
Honestly, I’m at a loss as to why Daniel Espino isn’t on top 100 lists. He’s got plus velocity (sitting 95 mph and reaching 100 at 17), to go along with both a plus slider and a plus curveball. If his changeup improves at all, he’s THE candidate to be the Indians’ next breakout starter. Obviously, the command is an issue with him, but name a teenager who’s flashing 100 and doesn’t need to get better at locating it. In my mind, this kid had the best pure stuff in the 2019 MLB draft.
Rooting for Austin Hays is a lot like watching James Bond movies. Usually one really good movie will be followed by a giant step back. Then, just when you think they are finished, they’re back. You’ve been on this roller coaster so long that you don’t even know if you still like them. Now 24, Hays was on the fast track to majors after 2.5 years in the minors. He was terrible in his MLB debut at 21 and either lost his confidence or his swing (or both) in its aftermath. It took him so long to recover that the Orioles were running out of options and just promoted him to see if he had anything left. He surprised us all by slashing .309/.373/.574 with seven homers in 21 games. That was the player he looked like he was going to be in 2017. Will he be that player in 2020?
11.127: Jose Israel Garcia (SS, Cincinnati Reds)
A Cuban defector, Jose Israel Garcia originally impressed teams with his incredible workout before ultimately signing with the Reds for a $5 million bonus. The guy is a shortstop with very good glove and arm tools. He’s also got 30-steal speed. His hitting hasn’t quite shown up yet. He wasn’t bad in 2019, slashing .280/.343/.436 in High-A, but it’s nothing to write home about. This his is a high-upside pick
12.138: Andres Munoz (RHP, San Diego Padres)
A reliever in the 12th? Am I serious? As serious as a 103 mph fastball. That’s what Andres Munoz features. Make no mistake: This guy is a closer in the making. His fastball is as good as it gets, with both velocity and movement. He follows that up with a plus slider and…that’s it! He was decent in his MLB debut in late 2019 but needs better control. I bet he gets there. Behind James Karinchak, Munoz is the best closer candidate in the minors.
13.151: Ronaldo Hernandez (C, Tampa Bay Rays)
A lot of the very good catching prospects were exhausted by Round 7, so I waited for a time to pick up a power option who will likely remain at catcher. Converted from third base, Ronaldo Hernandez has seen very few innings at catcher but shows enough athleticism to stay there. What about hitting? He’s got a patient but powerful approach. Through High-A, he’s on a 20-homer per 162-game average, which could easily get better. This kid is only 22.
A power pitcher in the New York Yankees system? Yes please! There are some pitchers who have a motion that is just pleasing to the eye. Luis Gil’s looks so effortless, you can’t tell if he’s even awake out there when he’s hitting 98 mph. The 21-year-old Dominican already has a plus fastball and a plus slider. His curveball is better than most, and his change is a work in progress. What he really needs to improve is his command. It’s hard to know how that will come along, given that there really is nothing he needs to tweak mechanically.
DINGERS! In a dream world, Sam Huff would be the catcher we all want, with 80-grade power. The problem is he’s a big dude (6’4″), and that can be hard to physically play behind the plate. That’s probably not the only reason Huff isn’t a great defensive catcher, but that’s not any fun—so let’s focus on bombs! Sure his K rate is alarming (near 30% in High-A) but he is just 21 and smacked 28 homers in 128 games between Single-A and High-A. It’s possible he turns into Pete Alonso if everything works out in the batter’s box and he moves to first.
I like pitchers who throw something other than a fastball/slider combo. That’s what Quinn Priester is: a pitcher with a plus fastball/curveball combo. The change is near-plus too. Still, he’s definitely a starting prospect. His debut was admirable but not jaw-dropping. Let’s see what a full pro season does for this kid.
Noah Song would have been a first-rounder in the 2019 draft if he had a clearer future. He went to Navy and may have to report for a two-year stint in the next few months before returning to his professional baseball career. That’s a long time to wait for a pitcher who is already 22. Still, if his service time gets deferred, he will move quickly through the minors, although it could be as a starter or reliever. There is some debate as to what his role will be. He’s got three plus-potential pitches (fastball/slider/curve) and a decent change.
Sometimes you just need to pick an athlete. Antonio Cabello has plus power, plus speed and the makings of a plus approach. Why isn’t he higher in this draft? After he showed tremendous promise in the Gulf Coast League in 2018, it appears as if he’s taken a step back in 2019 against tougher competition. But this kid just turned 19 in November. It’s early to give up on him. If he puts it back together in 2020, he’ll hover around top 100 lists because his tools are that impressive.
19.223: Osiel Rodriguez (RHP, New York Yankees)
My fourth and final Yankees prospect is Osiel Rodriguez, who just oozes upside. Having just turned 18 a week ago, this 6’3″, 220-pound righty could still get taller. There is potential for more projection on his frame. Even if that doesn’t happen, Rodriguez still flashes elite velocity and a plus curveball with the potential for both a plus slider and changeup. There are some delivery issues, which are easy fixes. The good news is this kid already has good control for his age (how often do you hear that?). It’s possible you see his name pop up in top 100 lists in 2021.
One of my favorite picks, Bryce Ball is a lesser-known quantity, but that might not last for long. Simply put, this kid rakes. The junior college product drafted in the 24th round by the Braves was sensational in his pro debut, smashing 17 homers in 62 games between Rookie and A ball. It ain’t all power, either, the 6’6″ lefty slashed .329/.395/.628. Out of all the prospects I picked in this draft, I am most excited to see what this one does in 2020. Numbers like this could demand attention. In the 20th round? It’s hard to get that in the 10th round.
Blaine Crim is a poor man’s Ball. Crim is also a late-round first base pick (19th) from a secondary college (Division II) who continued to mash in the minors. The difference between Ball and Crim? Ball dominated A ball, while Crim dominated Low-A, and Ball has more power potential. Still, Crim slashed .348/.411/.543 with eight dingers in 53 games. He’s worth a late flier.
If you can’t tell, at this point in the draft I’m just interested in guys who can hit. Enter Gavin Sheets. Sheets might not have the power potential you’d want, but he’s consistently a good OBP guy who knows how to take a walk and has the potential to hit for average.
Is Austin Allen a catcher? Probably not. He’s probably a 1B-only guy. Who cares? This guy hits all the time. He’s on the older side at 25, but he posts very good walk rates, K rates and power numbers. His bat will make him an everyday major leaguer, but maybe not in San Diego.
Any prospect who boasts a walk rate of 14 in High-A should be picked in this draft. Even if he doesn’t have much power, which Cal Stevenson does not, his speed will be an asset if his eye is elite at the best level. He’ll just have too many chances. Let’s see if he can continue his .388 OBP in Double-A this year.
25.295: Jose Castillo (LHP, San Diego Padres)
Finally, I picked Jose Castillo just because I want to go on record saying that I still believe in this kid. Just 23, he’s incurred a myriad of injuries but continues to have fantastic stuff, including mid- to high-90s velocity and a breaking ball that offers different looks depending on how he uses it. He was very good in his 2018 MLB debut with the Friars, but injuries limited his 2019 to less than an inning. My hope is he gets a clean bill of health come spring to build on his impressive start.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)