With the World Series already underway, another exciting time will already be underway. Fall ball for amateur talents will give scouts a look at the best talents across the country. Scout.com gives you a preview of the very best of those talents.
The third part of a five story series, Scout.com draft analyst, Taylor Blake Ward, gives you an in depth look at some of the best amateur talents heading towards the 2017 MLB Draft. Listed below are the top draft prospects, 21-30, in our Top 50 Prospects Countdown.
http://www.scout.com/mlb/scouting/story/1716402-mlb-draft-top-50-prospec...30. Turner Larkins, Right-Handed Pitcher, Texas A&M
Rob Childress has been responsible for 57 different arms drafted in his 18 years of coaching at the collegiate level. Not including top organizational prospects such as Corey Ray, Grayson Long, A.J. Minter and Mark Ecker, Childress has only seen two of his pitchers be labled as "first-rounders." The next product from Texas A&M is Turner Larkins, who has the opportunity to become the third pick under Childress to be selected in the first round of the amateur draft.
Already given the chance to play pro ball, Larkins made the obvious decision to be part of the Aggies rotation when the Brewers took a shot in the 28th round of the 2014 draft, one pick prior to former A&M football star and Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel. Scouts have been happy with the development he's shown in both the growth of his pitches and his growth between the ears. Larkins shut himself down for the summer circuit after eight innings in the Cape Cod League, which has raised suspicion on how much of a work load he can take.
Larkins has the look of a pro pitcher, with a big body at six-foot-three and just over 200 pounds. He works downhill with his fastball that sits 92-93 with sink and arm-side run, jumping upwards of the mid 90's. For a period of time, the fastball was only one of two weapons Larkins truly possessed. Flashing an average to above-average curveball, Larkins has been able to locate his high 70's breaking pitch with depth but needs to work on not exposing it out of the hand. Many didn't know how good his changeup would be, or become, until he started throwing it more often. Childress has helped him develop an above-average change with late tumble, that has turned into a potential plus pitch due to it's swing-and-miss notions.
The difference maker with Larkins is if he'll be able to continue developing his off-speed pitches and how consistently he can throw strikes. With a simple delivery, easy arm action and high release point, some scouts believe you can look past his walk rates and allow a professional coach to develop his abilities to throw more strikes and help his command. Most in the industry are excited to see what Larkins can do over the spring, and see him turn into more than just a potential "inning-eater" and into a high-end draft piece.
29. Trevor Rogers, Left-Handed Pitcher, Carlsbad HS (NM); Committed: Texas Tech
Each year, there's a new breakout artist from the Area Code games. This year, scouts were drawn to a tall southpaw with long limbs and an explosive fastball. New Mexico's own, Trevor Rogers, flashed raw tools that have lifted him onto scout's radars. The cousin of former 12 year Major Leaguer, Cody Ross, Rogers is working his way towards the top of draft boards and further advancing his goal of following in his cousin's footsteps.
The amateur draft has only seen three first-round prep players from New Mexico in it's 51-year history, and Rogers could become the state's first prep pitcher since 1982, when Duane Ward went ninth overall. Though many scouts from the mid-southern parts of the country will primarily see draft prospects in Arizona, Oklahoma and Texas, many will travel to the middle mark of Dallas and Phoenix to see Rogers regularly.
Rogers has all the looks of a pitcher. Tall stature at six-foot-six, broad shoulders, and a giant wingspan. That size, added with his athleticism, allows him to deliver the ball with ease, and maintain his velocity into outings. With a high leg kick, and long stride to the plate while keeping the behind his large frame, and a low 3/4 arm angle, he gives added deception. Rogers works in the low to mid 90's with his fastball, tapping out at 96, all with late life. The fastball is his biggest, and most used, weapon, as he's shown good command of the pitch, working east-to-west in the bottom of the zone, and elevate it when wanted. Rogers has flashed an above-average late breaking slider that he's been able to throw for strikes, and has shown some feel for a changeup but like most prep arms, rarely uses it. All-in-all, Rogers is a big projection arm, with a low floor due to his high velocity and simple mechanics.
http://www.scout.com/mlb/scouting/story/1718366-mlb-draft-top-50-prospec...28. Jeremiah Estrada, Right-Handed Pitcher, Palm Desert HS (CA); Committed: UCLA
Though California has produced hundreds upon thousands of Major League arms, the Palm Springs area is rare in producing such high-caliber talent. Of course, you can add the likes of Johnny Bench and Leo Durocher, along with non-playing baseball names like Gene Autry and Harry Caray, the Eastern Desert of Southern California has been short of shining baseball stars. This draft could change that with one name that you need to familiarize yourself with; Jeremiah Estrada.
The most important aspect of Estrada doesn't come from the field though. A blue bracelet with the inscription, "Negu," which stands for "Never Give Up." When pitching in showcases across the nation, Estrada and multiple other draft prospects stopped Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego. There, Estrada met young Daniella. He spent time with the quiet young girl, battling cancer, and built a special bond. In the end, the bracelet remains on his wrist, permanently, at the request of young Daniella. Even at the young age of 17, Estrada knows that his presence as a baseball player is far more important than the talents he possesses on the field.
What he does on the field though is what will get his name called in the draft. Estrada comes equipped with a wicked three-pitch arsenal, with his fastball/changeup combo being among the best in the nation. Though without premier height, Estrada works downhill with his low to mid 90's fastball that ranges 93-94 with late cut, being as high as 96. His plus changeup from a circle grip may be his best offering, coming in with diving and sinking action, that he throws with confidence in the low 80's. Estrada also works in a breaking ball, that registers as an average slider. Though inconsistent, when on, it stays on a fastball line with a sharp 11/6 break.
27. Alejandro Toral, First Baseman, Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL); Committed: Miami
In the 21st century, only 10 of the 747 first-round picks have been prep first-basemen, or, just over one percent. There has been one constant with all of those prior draft picks - a plus hit tool. Alejandro Toral is no different as the South Florida native has flashed some of the most premier raw power in recent draft history, which only helps with the current direction the game is going.
Though it may be an uphill battle due to his limited versatility, Toral does have a step up on the majority of the previous teen first-base draftees. Despite below-average speed, Toral does have a plus arm which would be suitable for the outfield. He's lost excess weight over the years, and has been said to be in the best shape of his life. If he can continue to grow his physic in the proper direction, you could see him make the transition to left field from time-to-time and see his stock rise as an average or better defensive first-baseman who can also be used in the outfield.
The obvious standout with Toral is his absurd power tool. His six-foot-two, 220 pound frame packs a loud punch behind it with obvious upper body strength, helped by a firm lower half, and explosive bat speed in a smooth left-handed swing. Loading with his hands and a small kick to his belt, Toral has showed all the tools and mechanics to be a plus-plus power hitter. Though the swing is violent, Toral maintains a steady plane in his swing which could attribute to low swing-and-miss totals and an average all around hit tool to help him hit for average. Though leaning slightly to the aggressive side, Toral carries a balanced, up-the-middle, approach with him. Most of his power is to the pull-side, but he's shown the ability to hit the ball hard to all parts of the field.
26. Dalton Guthrie, Shortstop, Florida
You could easily argue that the University of Florida has held the best collegiate roster, top-to-bottom, over the past few years. Over a two-year span alone, 12 pitchers have been drafted with four being top 100 picks. On offense, five position players, four in the top 100. Hidden, but not lost, in that talented group was Dalton Guthrie.
The son of 15-year veteran pitcher, Mark, the exciting infielder is looking to be part of back-to-back years of a trio or more Gators going in the first 50 picks. Those prior picks have both been a blessing and curse for Guthrie's stock. Having to wait his turn in line, Guthrie was limited to second base as a freshman, as Richie Martin held the reigns at shortstop. He was mixed in between Martin, Buddy Reed and Peter Alonso in the lineup, allowing scouts to see him but give their focus on the others. Now, it's Guthrie's time to shine as the Gators leadoff man, and at a premium defensive position, shortstop.
An ignition and spark plug to the Gators lineup, Guthrie has all the tools of being a top leadoff bat at the next level. He stays within his up-the-middle approach and patiently waits to drive the ball with his short and compact swing. He possesses slightly above-average speed, but where his skills on the base paths really show are in his killer instincts. Learning the game forwards and backwards from a young age, Guthrie is one of the smartest players on the field on any given night. The biggest knock on Guthrie will continue to be his lack of power. At just under six-foot and 170 pounds, scouts would like to see him fill out more, but power will never be a part of Guthrie's game.
One of the blessings noted from past teammates came in the form of Richie Martin. A standout defensive shortstop, Guthrie took in a lot of knowledge of how to read the ball off the bat and make more efficient routes to the ball. Prior to that, Guthrie showed the natural ability to range to his throwing side and make a quick transition from glove to hand. Though the moves have been fluid, scouts question the arm and how well it will stick at shortstop. There seems to be a 50/50 split in scouts who believe he'll remain at shortstop or move to second base at the next level, but he'll be able to show all development being the Gators shortstop over the spring.
25. Garrett Mitchell, Outfielder, Orange Lutheran HS (CA); Committed: UCLA
Eric Borba took over the Orange Lutheran program with two premier arms in place that are now Major Leaguers - Gerrit Cole and Brandon Maurer. In his short tenure with the Lancers, he and his coaching staff have helped produce organizational prospects, Josh Morgan and Jason Martin. The strong Southern California outlet now has their next talent, an unorthodox hitter ready to make his own name in the draft, Garrett Mitchell.
Since his elementary school days, Mitchell has needed an insulin pump to help with his Type 1 Diabetes. That hasn't stopped Mitchell from living out his dream, and showcasing his incredible natural skill set among the nation's best. Coming off a junior campaign where pressure mounted and offensive woes came in the early stages, he skyrocketed in all aspects of the game to end the year and scouts saw that he's one of the better hitters and athletes among the prep ranks.
Mitchell has the makings of a four-tool player, all highlighted by his plus-plus athleticism. The initial standout tool is his speed and base running skills. Showcasing a quick stride allowing him plus speed (60-yard time of 6.35), Mitchell has shown an aggressive nature on the paths, knowing that his speed will beat out even some of the best arms. Still raw in the field, he's shown abilities to take proper angles and backs it up with another above-average tool, his arm, that's been tracked at 94 MPH from the outfield. Though he has the speed to play center, it seems that mixed with his confidence in his own athleticism and strong arm, Mitchell will fit as an above-average right fielder in the future.
At the plate, Mitchell has shown a strong and short swing from the left-side. Though he's shown raw power, the tool is still below-average. The hitting tool itself is above-average though, as he shows excellent bat-to-ball skills. Starting with a hitch in his hands, Mitchell's flat line-drive stroke stays through the zone in a quick manner. The big concern was that Mitchell did see the external pressures of the game turn into internal pressures to perform, and he lost his approach early during his junior year. It seems that everything in between the ears is an item of the past, and Mitchell will be one of the top contact bats in this draft.
More than anything, Mitchell is a toolsy high-ceiling player. He's versatile in the field, but should fit best in the outfield. Scouts would like to see him add some loft to his swing and flashing more signs of power, but with his contact rates, there's no way teams will turn their head from him due to lack of power. Very confident in his own abilities and off the charts athleticism, Mitchell has the makings of a star talent. The biggest key will giving him a consistent approach, and allowing him to go out and just play the game the way he enjoys playing it.
24. Quentin Holmes, Outfielder, McClancy Memorial HS (NY); Committed: Mississippi State
In a year where baseball has seen long droughts end, we're reminded of a recent 19-year drought. In 2015, Garrett Whitley became the first prep position player from the state of New York to go in the first-round, since Dee Brown went in 1996, one year before Whitley was born. In fact, only five prep players from New York have been first-rounders since that '96 draft. This draft could change that entirely with two potential top draft prospects coming from New York, with the highlight piece an outfielder from just outside of Queens, Quentin Holmes.
Scouts have recently flocked to the Northeast, seemingly after Mike Trout made such a name for himself from the region. Not many players have four-tools with average or above potential, and far less have that chance to be a five-tool player. Scouts believe Holmes does. If the tools weren't enough, the infectious smile and fun-natured Holmes has been a name to remember. Though still raw, Holmes possesses potential star power.
Holmes big tools primarily stem from outstanding athleticism. He's a plus-plus runner, touching times as low as 6.15, per Perfect Game, which isn't limited to just his explosiveness on the base paths. In the field, Holmes has a very quick first step, and takes accurate routes to the ball. With an excellent mindset in the field, quick reactions, backed with his speed and an average or better arm, Holmes is a sure-fire center fielder.
At the plate, Holmes has a short and compacted swing from the right-side. The contact rates should remain high throughout his career, but the question is how much power will come with time. A prototypical athletic build at six-foot-two and 180 pounds, Holmes is a little wiry, and has room to add some room to his frame. This should help add power, which has already shown in small samples as average to above-average raw power. He'll have to learn to develop a more advanced approach, especially when tested against professional pitchers. Organizations will have to rely on the tool set, but with his abilities to impact the game on both sides of the ball and put continued pressure on pitchers, Holmes may have one of the higher ceilings in this draft class.
23. Clarke Schmidt, Right-Handed Pitcher, South Carolina
In what may be argued as one of the best rotations in collegiate baseball going into the Spring, in arguably the best conference, South Carolina will look to their ace, Clarke Schmidt, on Friday nights. Along with the Gamecocks' faithful, scouts will have their primary focus on Schmidt through the season. Those same scouts have seen him since he was a high schooler in Georgia, and seen all the development and adjustments that have made him one of the premier arms in the draft.
Everyone goes through adversity in life, but what matters is how you learn from it. It's a simple quote from Lou Holtz, but has matched the current career path of Clarke Schmidt. In a do-or-die game, Schmidt pitched to his highest level, but fell short in a 3-1 loss that sent Oklahoma State to Omaha. That was nothing compared to what his family had been dealing with just months prior. His brother, Clate, a former pitcher at Clemson and Tigers' 2016 draftee, was fighting for his life through chemotherapy to treat Hogdkins Lymphoma. Clate's cancer is now in remission and he's living as a professional baseball player, all the while, the younger Schmidt brother can focus past his last outing of 2016 and into a new season leaning towards winning with his brother's support.
Schmidt has shown all the adjustments to excel at the highest level. His fastball went from the high 80's to a power sinker that ranges 91-94, that has touched 96. The added velocity came when he added 10 pounds to his legs, following a conversation with strength and conditioning coach, Billy Anderson. Schmidt's slider flashes plus when it's on, with a powerful late break, but will need to be thrown with more consistency. His changeup sits around 10 miles per hour slower than his fastball, which is a solid third above-average offering. Schmidt throws all three of his pitches for strikes and has shown more advancement in his command of all three.
22. Mark Vientos, Shortstop, Flanagan HS (FL); Committed: Miami
Flanagan High School has shown a strong track record, seeing the likes of J.D. Martinez and Mike Napoli etching their name in Falcons history. The current team shows more promise than almost any other before, with Ray Evans' group possessing multiple Division-I players, including hard-throwing southpaw, Jeremy Cook, and top draft prospect, Mark Vientos. Both will likely hear their name called in the draft, but Vientos seems destined to be one of the very first.
Though it will be hard to lure Vientos away from his commitment to the University of Miami, scouts are raving about his upside. He's been on the radar since his early high school days for his impact a game in all aspects, giving him the potential for five above-average tools. However, there's a lot to still see in his overall game, and there's no larger critic to Vientos' game than himself.
Everything with Vientos stems from his physical frame, at six-foot-four and 185 pounds with room to fill out. There's a high load of strength in Vientos' swing from the right-side, stemming from a wide stance, firm base, and plus bat speed. With a line-drive stroke, there's promise of Vientos hitting for contact and power in the long run. The biggest knock will be his lack of approach and need for better pitch recognition, but with his aggressive nature, he'll feed on fastballs prior to the draft. On the defensive side of the ball, Vientos has a good chance at staying at shortstop due to his quick movements, range to both sides, and plus arm. If Vientos is moved to third-base, which won't happen until he reaches the upper minor league levels, he could be a premier defender. With added size, and maybe a sign of improving his average to above-average speed, organizations will be jumping to take one of the younger upside talents in this draft class.
21. Seth Romero, Left-Handed Pitcher, Houston
Last season, only one pitching staff (Cal State Fullerton) had a lower ERA than the University of Houston, and no team had a better strikeout-to-walk ratio. It was all led by a sophomore who missed the first eight games with a team suspension. Though the discipline was for undisclosed conduct detrimental to the team, there has never been fear of Romero's makeup being a problem. The cougar mentality of being a silent killer fits the mold of the Cougars' ace.
Numbers are a very small part of the draft process, but when the skill set and numbers match up, it only glorifies the talent. In Romero's case, the numbers shoot off the page. Over his two years with the Cougars, Romero has boasted a 2.12 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 6.12 hits-per-nine, 2.53 walks-per-nine, 10.37 strikeouts-per-nine, and .193 opposing average. The numbers stem from high-quality performances, such as a pair of one-hitters, one of which came in a Regional contest as a freshman.
As for the skill set of tools, Romero flashes some of the best in the draft. Turning excess weight into muscle mass, the southpaw has a bulky frame at six-foot-three and 230 pounds. Working from a low arm slot, he gains strong sinking movement on his explosive fastball that sits 91-95. With it's premier velocity, sinking notion, and ability to command it to both sides of the plate in the lower part of the zone, Romero's fastball registers as one of the most elite in the draft. Romero backs up his fastball with a breaking ball that ranges in break and velocity, with a sharp and tight break. The varying speeds can change the break, and sometimes give it vertical break, and other times, horizontal, making it slurve-esque. Romero rarely goes to his changeup, but has shown a decent feel for the pitch and it could become an average or better offering with development.
This article was written and published by Taylor Blake Ward, who serves as a Senior Publisher and Draft Analyst for Scout.com. For more updates on the MLB Draft, follow Taylor on Twitter, @TaylorBlakeWard.null