Ben Eshleman

2017 MLB Draft: Big Board Pt. 1 101-80

In the first installment of his final Big Board of the season, Jeff Ellis breaks down some of the top players expected to be taken in next week's draft.

80. Asa Lacy, LHP, Tivy HS (TX)

Lacy leads off this list, because he is different than every prep arm I will mention in the rest of this article. He is a pitcher not a thrower right now. He is not listed high because he is 6’5” and hits 99. He is here because he has a strong feel for his secondary pitches, which are more developed than most kids at this point. He is also young for the class just having turned 18 this month. He is a good athlete as well and pitchers always earn bonus points for being left handed. He needs to add some bulk, and the ceiling is not as high as those names who come next, but the floor is significantly higher for Lacy. This is more than likely too low, and me being nervous about pushing a player up the board who I believe I am the high guy on already. When it comes to arms I will always take the young, athlete, who can pitch over big and throws hard every day of the week. 

81. James Marinan, RHP, Park Vista HR (FL)

Marinan was not a player on the tips of many tongues to start the year. His velocity jumped this year to the mid 90’s and of course when any high school is 6’5” and sits mid 90’s everyone is going to take notice. I could just cut and paste this refrain for so many arms in this class. He has the prototypical build and velocity which teams look for. He is raw though and his secondary stuff needs a lot of work. The fastball alone though means he has a good chance to be a reliever if his command or control do not undo him. Just rinse, lather, and repeat my friends. Guys like Marinan are wish and a prayer arms. The most likely outcome is non major league arm. The best outcome is two or three pitcher. He is placed higher than those behind him again, because I don’t get to see a lot of the prep arms and have to trust people I talk with. 

82. Joe Perez, RHP, Archbishop McCarthy 

As I write this it has been reported that Joe Perez will need Tommy John surgery according to Baseball America. This will affect his value to a degree, but not as much as one might think. Perez was already one of the rawer arms in the class. This was really his first year pitching regularly. He entered the season more known as a third baseman. He showed high 90’s velocity but not much else as a pitcher. The team that drafted him was betting on his youth and what he showed this year to hope and bring him along slowly. Perez is also one of the youngest players in this class not turning 18 till December. Perez likely would have been shut down anyways by who drafted him. He might be more likely to sign now as in addition to any bonus once signed a team would pay for this surgery. 

83. KJ Harrison, 1B/C, Oregon State

Harrison joins Corbin Martin and JJ Schwarz on the way over hyped as freshman group. Harrison can hit, it is clearly his best tool and likely an above average one. I am not so solid on his power and think it's likely going to be sub average. The bat won’t play at first, but it would at catcher. He was a catcher in high school, but has not had a chance to do it in college. If I was a team I would give him every chance there first as it would be so much more valuable. I don’t think he projects as a starter any other way. His ranking here is because I do think there is a chance he could catch. If we knew this for sure Harrison would be in my top 50. 

84. Jake Eder, LHP, Calvary Christian Academy HS (FL)

One could do worse than just drafting the pitchers that Vanderbilt has already signed for next season. It seemed like a few teams did exactly that for the last few years. Vanderbilt on top of being a great program is most known for their ability to develop arms. They seem to know what recruits will work best and target them. Eder is going to have to likely be a top two round pick to get him to break his commitment to Vanderbilt. For a player like him that thought process has to be well in three years I will be a top ten pick after exiting the program. He is a big bodied lefty with inconsistent performances this spring. I put him a but higher on the board because people I talked with who like him really like him. There are people I trust who have gone to bat for his potential. As for me right now I think Eder would be best served going to school as he looks more like a backend starter to me. 

85. Daniel Tillo, LHP, Western Iowa CC

Tillo will turn 21 on day two of the draft, which means that if he had gone to a traditional college he likely would have been on of the top draft eligible sophomores in the class. Tillo is a player who jumps off a page on paper. He is a 6’5” lefty who weighs 215 pounds and touches 97. Left handed pitchers with his size and velocity are one of the more finite resources in baseball. He is also an excellent athlete having been Mr. Basketball for the state of iowa in 2015. He barely pitched at Kentucky as a freshman decided to transfer back home and now should be a top three round pick because of size, velocity, and athleticism. He is very raw at this point almost like a 21 year old high school arm. His secondary stuff needs a lot of work, and there is a good chance he ends up a reliever down the road. The numbers were strong in terms of walks and strikeouts this year so you give him every chance to start. Over all Tillo intrigues me, and I heavily value athletic pitchers both in terms of cleaning up mechanics and staying healthy.

86. Adam Hall, SS, AB Lucas Secondary School (CN)

Hall is a young, cold weather, up the middle talent, which will surely cause him to go in the top two rounds. Hall just turned 18 at the end of May and is from the Great White North. He is a plus athlete whose best skill right now is his foot speed. If you want to have fun with Hall go to his PG page and look at the PG percentiles and Zepp labs data. Hall’s worst percentile rank is 78% in the class, his next worst is 91%. He is basically 99th percentile in three categories (60 yard, 10 SPL, and Bat Speed at Impact). Hall has tools for days and projects to be able to stay at short. It is a combination of position and athletic ability which would not shock me if he went in the supplemental round. He is raw which is about the only knock on Hall I have. 

87. Caden Lemons, RHP, Vestavia Hills HS (AL)

When it comes to prep arms maybe more than anything else in the draft it is very subjective. Most of these kids throw about the same velocity and show secondary pitches that need a lot of work. So it comes down to little things to seperate. While I don’t believe I am as high on Lemons as some this is not a knock. It is just more about what I look for as separators. Lemons is 6’6” and touches 97 this alone will make him a darling for many.If you follow me at all you know I get nervous about guys his size with mechanics issues. Big pitchers with mechanics issues tend to continue to have those issues throughout their careers. Last year there were just eight pitchers in all of baseball who were 6’6” or taller who posted a bWAR of at least two. While there were 53 pitchers 6’2” or smaller who did and if I drop it to 6’ still 19 pitchers who make the cut. Lemons is a bet on more traditional scouting, but for me ceiling is limited by the mechanical issues. 

88. Mason House, OF, Whitehouse HS (TX)

Oh look another toolsy outfielder. House is what many would call a pop up player. He was not a showcase kid, but word started to get out this spring and scouts started running. He isn’t super fleet, but more a fluid athlete. He is a player who looks like he is gliding instead of running. He will likely end up in a corner outfield spot, but his bat should player there. When it comes to House there is a degree of new toy syndrome. People can get very excited to see someone they had not known before. There is a chance for an above average corner outfielder with House. He is just raw and about as far as one can get from the majors. Patience is key, but for me I see more a third round talent because of the risk with any anyone this raw. 

89. Matt Whatley, C, Oral Roberts 

Matt Whatley will be just the sixth player selected from his high school of Claremore. He likely won’t be the highest drafted from there, but has a very good chance to be the first player from Claremore to reach AAA. Whatley has been a starting catcher at Oral Roberts for the last three years. His defense is what will get him drafted and likely guarantee him a long career in the minors at worst. Whatley had double digit home runs this year but it is at best a future average skill more than likely sub average. His strength at the plate is his eye. Whatley walks a lot. He was tied for 11 in the country for walks this year. I think there is a good chance he out plays his draft position and could see a profile similar to Roberto Perez of the Indians. 

90. Riley Mahan, 2B, Kentucky 

Earlier this year I went to see Evan White and Tanner Houck face off at Missouri. Instead I walked away most impressed by Tristan Pompey and Riley Mahan. Mahan was a mess as a shortstop last year, but was moved to second and looked like he could stick there. I saw him play the position well in the one game I saw, which is the smallest of sample sizes. As a batter Mahan showed quick wrists and some power in that game as well. I think he is a player who could be all 5’s across the board in terms of tools. A player who is average at everything at second is likely a top ten player at the position. The issue is if second does not work out than you are looking at a left fielder more than likely. The big separator between him and the middle infielders further down this list is the chance for average power. 

91. Cole Turney, OF, William B. Travis HS (TX)

This class has about 250 toolsy prep outfielders. Ok so that might be a bit of an exaggeration but after college arms nothing in this class is deeper than toolsy outfielders. Turney reminds me a bit of Will Benson from a year ago. They are both athletic outfielders whose power is their best trait and have serious issues in terms of their hit tools. Turney on just base athletic ability is a top outfielder in this class. He can run some and his bat and hand speed are top of the class. There is a lot to like, but with questions regarding his ability to get on base and also being a smaller guy means there is a good chance he ends up at Arkansas. 

92. Morgan Cooper, RHP, Texas

There was a time when Texas was one of the top programs in the country in terms of prospects and in terms of performance. During my team writing on the draft it has been a long time since there was a Texas prospect who got any draft run. CJ Hinojosa is the last player I remember, and his talk was mostly before his junior year began. The last first rounders from Texas were Corey Knebel and Taylor Jungmann in 2013 and 2011. Cooper is a big kid with a sinking fastball in the low 90’s. His secondary stuff needs work and he turns 23 this August making him older for a draft pick. It is a build of a backend innings eater, but in a deep college arm class Cooper is likely to get pushed down boards.   

93. Ernie Clement, SS/2B, Virginia 

For long stretches of the year Clement had the fewest strikeouts in the country. He ended the year with just seven strikeouts in 57 games. He doesn’t walk much either with just ten on the year. He has really benefitted from the fact he has a pair of top ten picks hitting behind him. It has meant more eyes and better pitches for him. I think I can safely state he has the least power of any college player who is on this list. I am sure as I write I will find another but Clement doesn’t even bring doubles power to the game. He is an on base guy who should excel as a super utility type. He has played short, second, and center in college and I could see him being groomed to play all those positions off the bench as a pro. 

94. Landon Leach, RHP, Pickering HS (CN)

Canada has been a growing power in the MLB draft. The rise of the sport there has seen multiple high picks over the last few years out of Canada. As a matter of fact I am not sure that any one area has seen better growth over the last decade. If you are a fan of Leach it is due to ceiling. He is a cold weather arm, just 17, 6’4”, and throws in the low 90’s. He has been slotted this late or latter on most boards, but would not be shocked if he ended up going as high as round two. The combination of youth and cold weather has been a powerful combination in terms of team interest in the past.

95. Joey Morgan, C, Washington 

Morgan reminds me a lot of Logan Ice from a year ago. Bother were defensive first catchers from the Northwest whose offensive breakouts during their junior year took them from seventh or later round picks to top five round choices. I think home runs are the one area where his numbers went down this year, though it was just by one. He is not a power guy in general though. Morgan’s defense is what gets him drafted. His on base skills this year are what have caused him to rise to national prominence.  

96. Jeremiah Estrada, RHP, Palm Desert HS (CA)

Estrada has fallen a bit this year from where he was at the start of the draft season. He now looks very likely to end up at UCLA. UCLA is one of the best places in the country for any pitcher to go, which could lead to him being a first round pick in 2020. His stuff has backed up compared to the summer. I know teams look down on these issues, but I instead just see a high school kid with a tired arm. There have been several players who get drafted later than they should for just this reason. When one adds in the fact that Estrada is height challenged, I would strongly bet on him going the college route. 

97. Seth Corry, LHP, Lone Peak HS (UT)

Corry is an excellent athlete who also played defensive back on his school's high school team which made it to the state finals this year. It was also on the football field he tore his ACL that caused him to miss most of his 2016 baseball season. Corry is not the biggest guy and is a bit more raw thanks to the injury. His command and consistency have also been issues this year. His curve looks like an above average to plus pitch and his change I would project out as potentially average. It is going to take some time, but the overall build looks like a pitcher who could end up a mid rotation starter. 

98. Joe Dunand, 3B, NC State

There have been so many stories about Dunand and his famous uncle. Dunand has shown power both at NC State and in the Cape which might remind some of his uncle AROD. He finally broke out in terms of power this year hitting 18 home runs which is more than he had hit the previous two years combined. Dunand should work as a third baseman or outfielder for a team once drafted. His power is what will get him drafted and it is an above average to plus skill. Hit hit and on base skills are both below average skills from my perspective. There is right handed power here, but I am not sure if he is going to hit enough to access it. It is hard to project him out as a starter when both hit and eye at the plate are questions. 

99. Devin Hairston, SS, Louisville 

Might as well get this out of the way first Hairston is 5’7”. He is the only player on this list that Nick Allen could literally look down on. His production tailed off a bit after a hot start for Louisville. I am the biggest defender of size, but Hairston is on the extreme end of it. The profile is very similar to that of Zach Rutherford which is why the two are back to back on my list. I see a future utility player who would be a good value in the fourth or fifth round. 

100. Zach Rutherford, SS, Old Dominion 

Rutherford first jumped onto my radar after his performance on the Cape this summer. He returned to Old Dominion and continued to excel. He racked up 25 doubles this year with an on base percentage near .400. He likely a second baseman or even more likely a utility player going forward. He doesn't possess any plus or even above average skills. He does show multiple average level skills which combined with his ability up the middle should make him a player drafted in rounds three to five. 

  

101. Seth Lonsway, LHP, Celina HS (OH)

I swear the inclusion of Lonsway is not just some Ohio bias by myself. He has been slowly rising up boards and the question now which lefty is the top prospect in the state of Ohio this year. It is either Lonsway or college pitcher Zac Lowther. Lonsway was on the radar to start the year as an undersized arm who was in the high 80’s. This year he has come out and sat in the low 90’s which caused a rush to see him. Lonsway is an athletic lefty who looks like he will be a loss for the Ohio State baseball program. Lonsway was one of the bigger recruits that the program had in years. 


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