Scouting Report: Jacob Gatewood

Kiley brings us a scouting report of his top high school hitter as a free preview of his 2014 draft class reports.

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As I've noted on twitter & my breakdown of the top arms, the biggest early storyline about the 2014 MLB Draft is the obscene depth of the high school pitching class. 2013 was a down prep pitching class and down in the prep ranks in general, including in a number of the traditionally productive regions like Texas and Florida. It's still early, but in the three-man podcast discussion after the first two big events of the summer, we concluded the prep hitter class is looking the same to stronger than last year's (average) crop with a little more depth in the top group in the 2014 class.

Since everyone's first question with these early breakdowns if if there is Bryce Harper type talent, there is not. Jacob Gatewood and my #2 player have #1 overall potential as I'll detail below but they both have some issues to address to get securely in that discussion. I did a quick pref list a few weeks ago in between games at the PG National showcase in Minnesota and found the top group of hitters went about ten deep for me and hasn't changed much since then. PG put up their rankings a few days ago and our lists look to diverge in that 7-10 area.

This is a free preview of subscriber content for 2014 MLB Draft coverage. Also see the free breakdown of the top prep five arms in the 2014 draft class.

1. Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis HS (CA)

6'4/190, R/R, Previous Rank: 2, Draft Day Age: 18.70, USC commit

Scouting Report: Gatewood announced himself on the national prospect scene at last August's Area Code Games, the premier west coast showcase. He put on a show in BP and in one of the games he hit a tape measure homer to center field that traveled an estimated 430 feet. This spring he reportedly hit 95 mph on the mound and had appeared to have added another dimension to his game, but Gatewood has said he has no interest in pitching beyond high school. He has plenty of tools as a position player though, as his overall package is reminiscent of two premium 2012 draft picks, high school shortstops Carlos Correa (#1 overall, Astros) and Addison Russell (#11 overall, Athletics). Gatewood has bloodlines, too, as his father Henry was a catcher that went 11th overall to the Dodgers in the 1982 MLB Draft

Gatewood is one of those players that jumps out at you right away: a 6'4 shortstop with electric bat speed. His BP swing can get into lean back/uppercut/yank homers territory pretty quickly but if you had easy plus power at 17 years old, you'd probably do that, too. Gatewood's raw power comes from quick, strong wrists, leverage and bat speed; it's at least a 60 right now and may be a little better, with more on the way as he adds strength. That's the calling card and, as you might guess, I don't think he'll stick at shortstop long-term as he adds some of that weight but he has a longer, more narrow frame than most guys with his height/weight. Since he isn't a guarantee to add lots of weight, I can't rule out a shortstop future--his arm is above average and his hands, actions and footwork could all conceivably be enough--but he'd be a fringy shortstop at best as his lateral quickness isn't elite and his actions/release can get a little long for that play deep in the hole. I think his most likely big league defensive fit is third base where he could be above average. Gatewood is an above average straight line runner but likely settles in closer to average, so center field isn't really an option long-term.

The big question on Gatewood is how his bat will play. He has power-oriented swing and he's still growing into his long frame, so his mechanics broke down in a couple different ways in some game swings I saw last week. Off-speed stuff gives him some trouble and he'd often offer off-balance swings if he wasn't leaking his front hip or over-striding and making contact with his back leg off the ground. These issues led to less hard contact than you'd expect given the raw tools and there's already concerns he won't be a high average hitter with his bat waggle and long arms. Gatewood has good bat control but these other issues obscure that talent and he'd probably be best served to simplify and focus on hard line drives to the middle of the field. The elements are here for an average or better hit tool but very few guys this size hit for power and average at this age, so it wouldn't necessarily be obvious in games just yet.

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