Scouting Baseball's 2014 MLB Draft Content
Evaluations & Rankings: Pre-PG Showcase Notes, PG Junior National Hitter Rankings, PG Junior National Pitcher Rankings, Top Five High School PItchers With Full Video & Reports & Top Five High School Hitters With Full Video & Reports
Marginal Prospects Podcasts: Post Showcase Class Breakdown with BA's Clint Longenecker & PG's Frankie Piliere & Early Cape Cod League & Pop Up Prep Names
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 Alex Jackson 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 around in that 7-10 area. So, below is all the info I've got right now on the top five hitters, with a handful of guys that could easily be on this list that I'll break down soon.
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.
2. Alex Jackson, C/RF, Rancho Bernardo HS (CA)
6'2/215, R/R, Previous Rank: 1, Draft Day Age: 18.45, Oregon commit
Scouting Report: Jackson comes from a historic powerhouse high school that's produced a number of high draft picks (Cole Hamels and Hank Blalock among 14 draftees and 4 first rounders from 1999-2005) and Jackson has been getting considerable hype as an underclassmen that showed up the older kids at a few showcases last year. He did this as a catcher that showed the tools to possibly stick behind the plate including an easy plus arm, plus power potential, bat speed and some feel to hit. While he isn't the same kind of prospect, you can see why there were some whispers of him being the next Bryce Harper: a precocious underclassman catcher from a western high school power that flashed top five pick tools at a young age. Like Harper, there have already been rumors that with the ensuing circus after his showcase performances that he's getting advice (allegedly from Scott Boras) to move away from catcher to save his knees, extend his career, keep healthy and maximize his ultimate payday(s). Jackson plays on the same travel team (San Diego Show) as Gatewood and couple other solid 2014 draft prospects.
As you can see in the above video, Jackson brings plus bat speed, good strength and a fluid, powerful cut. He's clearly geared up to hit the ball as far as he can and his hands have to travel a good distance with a slight bat wrap as his load but Jackson's has plenty of bat speed to make this approach work, his head stays remarkably still and he has feel to go to the opposite field as well. The ingredients are here for a 60 (.280 average) or maybe even better bat on the 20-80 scouting scale but, while it was a short look, he did strikeout a few times in Minnesota, swinging through some average fastballs. That's not enough of a sample to really ding his hit ability, but it's worth noting as I'll be seeing more AB's from Jackson later in the summer. Jackson's size and BP display actually reminded me a lot of Padres 2013 first rounder (#13 overall), former Mississippi State RF Hunter Renfroe, with Jackson's best power (55 or 60) to his pull side, but having plenty of juice to all fields in a more compact frame that's athletic but pretty maxed-out.
The biggest question with Jackson right now if where he'll end up playing. He put up some more absurd pop times (2.00 is MLB average, 1.90 is plus and Jackson was 1.79-1.85 on my stopwatch) with his plus arm and very quick release in Minnesota, but clearly is coached to cheat a little bit in a showcase setting. His actions behind the plate are fine, but he projects more as a potentially average glove with a huge arm. The rumors that Jackson would soon stop catching got more fuel in Minnesota as he had an awkward semi-collision at the plate while catching that looked to ding his throwing hand. Word is he didn't catch at all this past week in a travel ball tournaments in Atlanta and there's a chance he won't again, or at least not again as a pro. As a right fielder, he's roughly comparable to Hunter Renfroe, but I would prefer Jackson as despite being just an average runner, I think he brings similar defensive value and raw power but with superior hitting tools and mechanics. If he ends up sticking with catching that top 10 pick type prospect becomes a legitimate top 3-5 pick threat.
3. Jack Flaherty, 3B, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
6'4/200, R/R, Previous Rank: 4, Draft Day Age: 18.64, North Carolina commit
Scouting Report: California high schools are three-for-three at the top of my hitter rankings and Flaherty, like Jackson, comes from the another powerhouse prep program. Harvard Westlake produced two first round pitchers in the 2012 draft (Nationals RHP Lucas Giolito and Padres LHP Max Fried) and also produced a 2013 2nd rounder (Mariners RF Austin Wilson) via Stanford. Flaherty was a name scouts have known for a few years as his size, ability to hit and hands to stick in the infield were evident at a young age, along with a fastball that's been in the low 90's at times.
I saw him in March at a high school tournament that's included in the above video and saw what the fuss was about, but thought he may need to move to right field eventually due to his size. The one big difference between March and June was Flaherty looked considerably thinner and was much fast, running shockingly-quick times in the 60 in Minnesota: 6.37 and 6.45. Every club uses a conversion table to turn 60 times to scouting grades for speed, and that time would be a 70 for most teams. The reason scouts still use stopwatches in games when they have a recent 60 time is because they ideally want game speed, not a something that's laser-timed on a fast turf surface. So, most scouts discount these grades some for the fast surface, but even then, Flaherty doesn't look like a 60 runner in games as his longer limbs take some time to reach full speed and he's normally changed directions by then. I have him as a 55 runner than likely settles at 50 as he continues filling out his frame, but the blistering long speed is still an analog for the overall athleticism he has. Flaherty's short area quickness isn't enough to stick at shortstop, but his above average arm, solid actions and good footwork can stick at shortstop and be average or better.
As you can see in the above video, Flaherty has a very smooth swing for a young kid that's his size and that's the separator for him. There were a number of guys at PG National that were about Flaherty's size that have all kinds of projection and some now skills, but most of them are still awkward and gangly at the plate, where any inefficiency can now be exposed by peers that all throw 90 mph. He has a great feel for contact and a fluid, sound cut that he can use to serve balls anywhere on the field. Flaherty's arms create a good length for his hands to travel and he doesn't have the plus bat speed of Jackson or Gatewood, but his athleticism, direct bat path and above average bat speed are enough to project him as a 50 or 55 hitter. Flaherty's raw power is a 45 to fringe average right now but big, athletic projectable kids with feel for power to the opposite field in games at a young age have an excellent track record of success, even if they may take a little longer to reach their potential. Eventually, I think there will be 55 game power (20-23 homers annually in MLB) in his mid-to-late 20's and with the low bar for everyday third baseman in the big leagues right now, an average defender with an above average bat would be welcome; that's how Colin Moran almost went #1 overall this spring.
4. Michael Gettys, CF/RHP, Gainesville HS (GA)
6'2/205, R/R, Previous Rank: 3 (as P), Draft Day Age: 18.62, Georgia commit
Scouting Report: Gettys is a dynamic athlete that was a well-known name in scouting circles, but was though to be primarily a pitcher since he was regularly topping out at 94 or 95 mph in his junior season. At the PG National showcase in June, he ran 6.43 and 6.47 in the 60, looked just as fast on the field and had impressive power created by the best bat speed in the class. I saw Gettys as a hitter face Rangers first rounder Travis Demeritte this spring and I was surprised at how athletic Gettys was and how good his swing was, but this was a case where the showcase setup really lets you know how talented he is, where a game on it's own sometimes can't. Gettys was also very impressive on the mound in PG National and is a legitimate top two round prospect on the mound, but I prefer him as a hitter due to his upside; Gettys also apparently wants to hit professionally as well. Michael's little brother Jonathan just finished his freshman year at Gainesville HS and is a lefty that's already hit 90 mph.
Gettys worked 91-94 mph with an above average 78-80 curveball with sharp three-quarters break and some feel for a changeup he barely used. He's athletic but is more of a thrower with good stuff right now and also has some effort to his delivery with limited plane to the plate. As a hitter, Gettys is 65 or 70 runner with a 70 arm that can play center field with current 50 raw power and plus-plus bat speed: a combination of tools you don't see that often. I like Getty's toolset to hit for average as his shorter arms and explosive bat speed allow him to bar out his lead arm and create some length/loft to his bat path but still get to any pitch in games. His head also stays remarkably still in his swing and Gettys can really punish a ball when he gets his arms extended. It's also worth noting that Gettys hit 100 mph throwing from the outfield in the showcase portion--the highest PG has ever recorded. For his precocious two-way talent and explosive quick-twitch ability I compared him to former Rangers first rounder out of an Orlando-area high school, Michael Main, and scouts agreed the skillset is very similar, though Main was preferred as a pitcher in his draft year.
While Gainesville isn't in Atlanta, it's just an hour northeast and Gettys looks to be the best prospect in another absolutely loaded crop from the talent-rich area. That said, there are still some concerns that Gettys needs to address before draft day. I mentioned some of his shortcomings on the mound above and the questions as a position player and squarely focused on his ability to hit. He swung and missed in BP in Minnesota and popped up more than a few times while also not letting the ball travel deeper into the hitting zone and pulling everything. Gettys had trouble with off-speed pitches in games and only seems comfortable hitting fastballs right now. He's still ranked this high because it seems to be more a lack of focus on the finer points of hitting since he's always been such a good prospect as a pitcher rather than a lack of feel or ability in this area. Scouts will give him the benefit of the doubt and evaluate him more in this area in the fall (October's travel team tournament in Jupiter will be a big event for Gettys) and in the spring (the good talent in Atlanta should give scouts plenty of games to focus on).
5. Nick Gordon, SS/RHP, Olympia HS (FL)
6'2/170, L/R, Previous Rank: 3, Draft Day Age: 18.62, Florida State commit
Scouting Report: Nick Gordon is a player that I've seen a ton over the past two years. Gordon attends many showcases and played on a stacked 2012 Olympia HS roster with first rounders RHP Walker Weickel (Padres) and OF Jesse Winker (Reds) along with Braves over slot OF Connor Lien ($375,000). Olympia has also in recent years produced six more draftees, including Mariners SS of the future Brad Miller, who went to Clemson before becoming a 2nd round pick. Gordon's father is former MLB All-Star closer Tom "Flash" Gordon, who is visible at almost every game or showcase his son attends. Gordon has still more pedigree as his brother Dee is a Dodgers shortstop and there are some physical similarities though it's obvious Nick has a much more physical build, hopefully allowing him to get past some of the strength issues that have held Dee back. Gordon is preferred by scouts as a shortstop prospect but is also a legitimate top few rounds pitcher as well, sitting 90-92 and hitting 94 mph with an above average curveball as a junior in high school.
Gordon has shown progress each time I've seen him, as he's slowly growing into his frame and adding strength. Given his younger brother's build, that will always be a question for Nick, but it looks like he should still add another 10-15 pounds and that weight and physical maturity is key for him. He's got good bat speed, more power than any of the true shortstops in the class, foot speed and arm strength, but he's still a little rough in some areas and I think there's another gear that could come, possibly this spring. As a lefty bat, Gordon has an upright stance and a loose swing that slashes line drives to all fields, along with feel to do the same in games. He's more of a gap-to-gap, 8-10 homers and a lot of doubles type hitter right now, but as I said above, I think there's a notch better power and bat speed if he can put on more weight. Defensively, he's very good at shortstop, with true actions, good hands and an above average to plus arm. Gordon is an above average to plus runner but isn't as quick laterally and his feet can get choppy at times. The defensive standard for shortstops is very high and Gordon is just short of it for me, but I'd rather wait a year and see where he is before I declare he's a second base/center field fit.