University of Florida

2017 MLB Draft: Big Board Part 5

In his latest Big Board installment, Jeff Ellis lists some more of the top players expected to be taken in this year's draft.

Note*- Height, Weight, Age, and Zepp Labs data for all prep players is thanks to the Perfect Game website

51- 41 can be found here

40-31 can be found here

30-21 can be found here

20-12 can be found here

Complete ranks can be found here

11. Tanner Houck, RHP, Missouri

Houck is the top pitcher, currently, in the second tier of college arms. It is a very deep class of arms, as I keep stating. Teams are going to get really good arms into the third and fourth round this year. Houck started the year slow, but has really turned it around. He has been a strong, steady performer in the SEC since his freshman year. He has never worked out of the pen for Missouri since he arrived. His walk rate this year is the highest it's ever been, at 2.32 per nine. I highlight this number because it’s still a fantastic rate and is just .01 higher than a year ago. Houck’s fastball is a plus pitch; it sits mid 90’s, hits high 90’s, and generates a lot of weak contact. It is a sinking fastball, which he should be able to rely on heavily. This is a good thing, as his secondary pitches need work. They are mostly show me type of pitches right now, which is why some think Houck might end up in the pen. Houck is a big kid, at 6’5”, and will be just 20 on draft day. As a matter of fact, he is five days younger than Tristan Beck and has 24 more college starts. Houck will be just the fourth first rounder in Missouri history. While Missouri has been an improving program, it is still not one known for baseball. When you consider Houck’s youth, size, and the program he came from, I think there is room for significant growth. Houck was a late bloomer, to begin with, and is still a work in progress. I would rather bet on a player like Houck, with his ceiling and performance, than some of the other arms who I have mentioned. 

10. DL Hall, LHP, Valdosta HS (GA)

Hall is a 6’2” left handed pitcher from Georgia. His fastball and curve are his best pitches. His delivery is clean, but isn’t always consistent. This leads to issues with control and command for Hall at points. He is a low 90’s guy, but has touched 96 with his fastball. There are three prep left handers who stick out this year. I have already written about Gore and Heatherly. I rank Hall the highest because of his ceiling. He also has more risk, to me, than those other two arms. A team that drafts him has to feel they can work with Hall on his consistency of mechanics. If they do, he has the best chance at multiple plus pitches of any lefty prep arm in this class.   

9. Seth Romero, LHP, Houston

So, obviously this placement has changed after the suspension news for Romero. He was trending up this year, as his control numbers had stayed strong while his strikeout numbers had jumped. This marks back to back years with suspensions for Romero. Last year, it was over conditioning; this year, he was first demoted to the pen for violations of team travel rules on a trip to Central Florida. This was then changed to an indefinite suspension for multiple infractions. Romero was looking like a sure top 15 pick and a contract north of a million dollars. Teams look for reasons to not draft a player and Romero has given teams that reason. Last year, Delvin Perez still went in the first round, but there is something worse about a player who is letting his team down. The other issue, of course, is that this is not a onetime issue. I would have Romero in the 40’s now. All eyes are on a player during their draft year and players need to be smarter; this issue might easily cost Romero half a million dollars or more. There is time to come back and pitch well, but teams will be leery about spending a lot of money or a high pick on a player who has had multiple suspensions. 

8. Austin Beck, OF, North Davidson HS (NC)

Beck is yet another highly athletic outfielder in this class with tons of physical tools. Beck was hurt last year and didn’t play over the summer. He is not a strict pop-up guy, as he was well known before the injury, thanks to his physical tools and defensive projection in centerfield. A healthy Beck has flown up boards this year. Beck is not the biggest guy but, with his strength and bat speed, he has plus power potential. The ball flies off his bat, but there is also significant swing and miss in his game. The profile is very similar to what has been written on Jo Adell throughout the process. Adell has more physical tools, but Beck is more likely to stick in center. Beck’s power/speed/ defensive ability have made him one of the hottest names this year.

7. Kyle Wright, RHP, Vanderbilt

This is my third year at Scout and the third year a top right handed pitcher has struggled at the top of the board. The last two years saw Michael Matuella and Alec Hansen go much later than expected, after starting near the top of all boards. Wright’s numbers are going in the wrong direction this year. His is striking out fewer hitters, walking more, and his hit rate has jumped through the roof. I am not sure if it's a matter of mechanics, pitch tipping, or what, but Wright has been ineffective most of the year. He has been moved from his spot as the Friday starter for Vanderbilt. The upside is still there, but the performance is a concern and Wright could start to drop even more if he can’t turn it around. 

6. Jeren Kendall, OF, Vanderbilt

Kendall is another Vanderbilt star who has disappointed this year. The entire team has disappointed so far, to be honest, in terms of performance. There were always issues with Kendall, who is undersized and had a lot of swing and miss to his game. The physical tools, though, were enough to look past issues, especially in a class that was lacking in college bats. His strikeout percentage should have been a bigger concern than anyone made it. Last year, the rate was at 22%, which is astronomical; this year, it’s up to 25%. The rest of his numbers are fairly consistent, even though his power is up this year. Kendall has started to play better after a rough start, which is why I am not as concerned as I am with Wright. Kendall is another talented, toolsy outfielder with concerns about contact. 

5. Royce Lewis, OF/SS, JSerra Catholic HS (CA)

Lewis is a player who just seems to look smooth no matter what he does. He is a plus athlete, who I think has a legitimate chance to stick at short and has a floor, position wise, as a centerfielder. He is a plus runner with plus bat speed. The profile reminds me a bit of Mickey Moniak from a year ago, if Moniak had a chance to play short. Lewis is 6’2” and, thanks to his bat speed, should have average to above average power, along with above average to plus hit tool. If he stays at shortstop, that is a potential star who could fit in any spot at the top of the lineup.

4. Brendan McKay, LHP, Louisville

McKay would make the top 15 twice, if he could. His ceiling is higher as a pitcher but, as a hitter, he would also be one of the top players in this class. One cannot help but think about how he might improve when he focuses solely on one area of the game. The ceiling is not as high as the guys ahead of him, but the floor is incredibly high. I would argue he has the highest floor in this draft. McKay is finishing up what will likely be a college Hall of Fame career at Louisville. He should move quickly to the majors. There is incredible value in a starting pitcher; think about how much a left handed, mid rotation starter could get on the open market. He might not have big velocity or multiple plus pitches, but McKay is a safe bet to help a team in the not so distant future. I would not be surprised at all if he ends up better than anyone expected once he is focused on pitching. One thing I have learned the last three years is don’t bet against Brendan McKay.  

3. JB Bukauskas, RHP, UNC

If Bukauskas was 6’3”, instead of 6’0'', he would be the runaway favorite for the top pick in the draft. He brings dominant performance, stuff, and velocity; the only knock is his height. Bukauskas is also one of the youngest college juniors in this class. He won’t turn 21 until November, which puts him closer in age to some high school seniors than he is to a few fellow juniors. I know the concerns are that, with his height and effort in his delivery, he might struggle once drafted, much like Carson Fulmer has. While his lack of height does make the odds of him becoming an ace less likely, it doesn’t mean he can’t be one. His fastball often sits mid 90’s and hits high 90’s. This year, both his strikeout rate and walk rate have shown strong improvement. His hit rate has been cut nearly in half. He has gone from a great pitcher to a transcendent one. Every year, I feel like I fight the height battle. Sometimes I am proven right, other times wrong. I would still rather take the risk on a player with Bukauskas’s raw stuff and youth over just about any college pitcher in this class.

2. Hunter Greene, RHP, Notre Dame HS (CA)

Greene is undoubtedly the highest ceiling player in this class. It is not often that a player could be considered a legitimate top ten prospect as a hitter or a pitcher. I, like most, think he is more likely to reach his highest ceiling as a pitcher instead of a shortstop. Greene currently had a mid 90’s fastball that has been reported to touch 100. Greene is more than just an athletic kid with a fastball; his curve has always been a weapon and he has shown a change. Greene is also young for this class, not turning 18 until August. No prep right handed pitcher has ever gone number one overall. The overall package of velocity, youth, and athleticism means Greene likely will be the first such player to go first overall. The potential is there for him to be one of the best pitchers in baseball, or one of the top five shortstops. Since he is a prep player, there is more risk than there would be for a college player, just in terms of the time it will take to develop and the potential for injury as he develops. Greene is a fantastic talent, but the inherent risk of any prep arm means he is second on my board. 

1. Alex Faedo, RHP, Florida

I refuse to quit on Alex Faedo. I get why Greene has passed Faedo on many boards. The higher ceiling of Greene is hard to resist. Yet, I keep Faedo here because he is significantly safer, to me, than Greene. This is not a knock on Greene, just an indicator of how confident I feel about Faedo. Faedo had surgery on both knees this offseason. Faedo had some rough stretches to start the year but, overall, the numbers are just as strong as they were a year ago, when he nearly lead the nation in strikeouts. His strikeouts are down and his walks are up, but the rates for both are still numbers most pitchers would dream of having. I should note that he does pitch in a very favorable pitcher's park, but one doesn’t put up the numbers he has based on park alone. A fully healthy Faedo shows a plus fastball and slider. I think his slider is potentially his best pitch. It has not been as sharp this year but, again, Faedo is not at 100%. Faedo, once drafted, likely won’t pitch much this year in the minors. I expect he will start next year in A ball, and move quickly through the minors. He has it all and should be a legitimate front of the rotation starter. He may not have the ceiling of others in this class. For me, though, I think he is the best balance of ceiling and floor and that is why I am keeping him the top player in this class.  

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