I shared some early thoughts about the top three hitters at the NHSI high school tournament last week. Before I jump into the new names I saw later in the week, here's some updated thoughts on those three:
- Grayson HS (GA) CF Austin Meadows (Clemson signee) had an underwhelming first three days of NHSI due to a lack of hard contact against marginal pitching, but bounced back with a 3-for-3 performance on day four to finish with a solid stat line: 5-10, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 1 strikeout. My longer form thoughts from earlier in the week still stand and, after looking at some video, I spotted some mechanical problems in his swing that may be to blame.
I saw 10 of Meadows' 13 plate appearances at the event and a number of high level scouts saw even more of them. They will no doubt be going to see Meadows again before the draft and I'll be in Atlanta in a few weeks to get another look as well. I have Meadows in the 7-11 range in my rankings right now (new top 50 coming soon) and time is running out for him to impress clubs that are still on the fence. He has very good tools and some feel in the batter's box but I'm not alone in having concerns about his ability to be an impact bat; his market is still unsettled. Pittsburgh (who has the 9th and 14th overall picks) were among the teams bearing down on Meadows and while the Pirates may be a logical fit, it only takes one team and Meadows could be long gone by pick number nine. I'll have a full scouting report and video up later this week on Meadows.
- Lexington HS (SC) C Nick CIuffo (South Carolina signee) was about the same each of the four days, so my comments on him are largely still accurate. He's athletic for the position, projects to stick behind the plate and has above average pop but won't be a high average hitter. His approach is more for power, there's a little swing and miss and he has some trouble with good off-speed stuff. He still fits in the late first to sandwich round area.
- Eustis HS (FL) C Chris Okey (Clemson signee) had a tough tournament but while fellow Clemson signee Meadows' issues may be longer-term, Okey's seem short-term. Okey has below average power and has always been more of a contact-oriented guy. In this event, Okey got too contact-oriented, getting his foot down too early and messing up his timing. Okey slots just behind Ciuffo for many scouts due to the lack of power, but he's a better athlete--an average runner, rare for the position-- and also fits in the late first to sandwich round area.
- Moran, junior 3B for the Tar Heels, has slowly been rising on draft boards due in part to his improved defense but also a weak class of college bats. Moran and San Diego 3B Kris Bryant look to be the only college hitters sure to go in the top 20 picks and both of them look like good bets to go in the top 10 picks. A VP, director or crosschecker for nine of the clubs picking in the top twelve were in attendance for Saturday's series opener versus Clemson. It was a convenient game with NHSI happening nearby and mostly ending before it got dark and the Saturday series start enabled scouts to see top starters for another series on Friday then again on Saturday in Chapel Hill.
Moran is a late-blooming, undrafted northern player due both to the weather and competition in New York and the longer time it takes for bigger players (he's listed at 6'3, 215 pounds but looks bigger in person) to grow into their frames athletically. He has big league bloodlines with former Tar Heel, 19 year big leaguer and 1985 MLB Draft 1st overall pick B.J. Surhoff as his uncle. I'll save the in-depth breakdown for his scouting report, but Moran can stick at third base and has a sweet swing from the left side. The question is if his fringy current raw power will improve and/or be enough to profile at the hot corner.
- Ryan McMahon, 3B from Mater Dei HS (CA) and USC signee checks all the scouting boxes with an long-limbed, projectable, athletic 6'3, 195-pound frame and showed some loud tools at NHSI. He had some trouble early on, expanding his zone and having inconsistent hitting mechanics, but really hit his stride once he settled in. McMahon's frame could add 20+ pounds so while he's more physical than Moran was at the same age, there are some similarities with the defensive profile, developing frame and lefty swings. McMahon shows the tools to stick at third and present raw power from the left side to profile easily at the hot corner. The length to his arms and legs create some problems for him in terms on repeating his swing, but he's still growing into his body and he showed excellent mechanics later in the week with power showing up in games. McMahon could go anywhere from the sandwich round to the third round depending on how his bat progresses, but I'd bet he doesn't make it out of the second round.
- Jeremy Martinez, catcher and McMahon's teammate from Mater Dei HS (CA) is likewise a USC signee and has had a very different development path than his teammate. Martinez has a very mature frame listed at 5'11, 200 pounds and scouts openly commented this week that he peaked as a freshman or sophomore at Mater Dei, when he showed very similar tools. He can stick behind the plate with good quickness for his size and an above average arm, but the bat is the question mark. Martinez has some feel for hitting and a contact approach with limited power like Okey, but his carbon copy of Albert Pujols' mechanics don't do him any favors. Martinez doesn't have the tools to hit for average with that swing and doesn't have the strength to hit for power. He's hitting with wood this spring to give scouts a better idea of his ability, but he's more of a third to fifth round pick that may end up on campus.
- Nick Longhi, 1B/RF from Venice HS (FL) and LSU signee is one of the younger players in the draft class and has hit everywhere he's played but has some real warts scouts are having trouble getting over. Longhi is maxed-out at 6'2, 210 pounds and hits from the right side where he taps into his power in games, but his raw juice is below average and doesn't project to be more than average. He's a well below average runner and has the arm to play right field now but will eventually move to first base. He's a fourth to sixth round pick for me and scouts love him, but can't find the tools to justify taking him much higher. Longhi would be well-served by going to LSU, putting up numbers and going a few rounds higher in 2016 as a college performer.
- Three other draft-eligible hitters I saw this weekend are worth mentioning in short. Harvard-Westlake HS (CA) had two first rounders last year in LHP Max Fried (Padres) and RHP Lucas Giolito (Nationals) but the Wolverines' best 2013 draft prospect is C Arden Pabst. Pabst has similar tools to fellow southern California backstop Martinez but doesn't have the same athleticism or feel for hitting. Pabst has a good chance to end up at Georgia Tech next spring. Maryland junior 1B Tim Kiene and Clemson junior 3B Shane Kennedy both showed some power in batting practice and some idea how to hit, but both may be low-end enough prospects (8th to 15th round types, Kiene due to body/position and Kennedy due to contact issues) that they'll opt to return to school for their seniors seasons.