2017 MLB Draft: Big Board Part 2 60-79

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

Here are the complete Ranks

Here are reports on players 101 to 80

60. J.J. Matijevic, 1B, Arizona 

Matijevic started out as a shortstop, before moving to first for Arizona this year. This is more than likely going to be his position going forward. Matijevic jumped on the scene after a strong year on the Cape. He continued that play this year for Arizona. He hit double digit home runs this year, but more interesting to me was the fact he lead the NCAA in doubles. It was not just home runs for Matejevic; he was an extra base machine as well. He nearly doubled his total number of extra bases from his sophomore year, while cutting down on his strikeouts. He also posted the 17th best batting average in the country, and it is that bat which will have to carry him. Matejevic is not your traditional first baseman. He is listed at 6’0” and, as mentioned before, his defense is not something that brings additional value to the game. He doesn’t walk much, either. I see a likely third rounder here, as I am not sure if his power or hit tool will be enough for him to be an everyday first baseman. 

61. Calvin Mitchell, OF, Rancho Bernardo HS (CA)

Mitchell has a sweet swing that scouts love. The problem is that, in spite of how nice it looks, it was not super effective this spring. After a strong performance over the summer, I heard some talk about him having potential plus power and hit tools. Now, the talk is that both areas might be closer to average than plus down the road. He still has plenty of fans, though, who think this spring was more of an aberration and that, with proper coaching, he will get back to looking like a first round talent. The other issue for Mitchell is that of position; he is, best case, a left fielder and there’s a good chance he might end up at first. Mitchell seemed lost this spring; the bat is what gets him drafted, so it will take a team that feels comfortable with what they saw in 2016 rather than what he did in 2017.

62. Drew Rasmussen, RHP, Oregon State

If Rasmussen had been healthy all year, I have little doubt that he would have been a first round pick. Rasmussen had Tommy John surgery last March and made it back this year to pitch in six games, starting four. He has been extremely effective in those starts, much like he was a year ago, before injury. Rasmussen has three pitches that he can use effectively in game. His fastball is a low to mid 90’s pitch and is his most effective. Rasmussen’s injury isn’t his only issue, as he is also undersized, at 6’1”. The combination of size and injury will cause Rasmussen to likely slip to the late second or early third round. I think he is a starter all the way, though there is some reliever talk. 

63. Heliot Ramos, OF, Martinez  HS (PR)

Ramos has had some signature games throughout the process, which have seen his stock look, at points, like a hyperbolic graph. He is one of the youngest players in class and, as such, has a wide range of opinions on his outcomes. I have some people think his hit tool will be above average, others below. I have been told he will stick in center and also been assured that he is a future left fielder. I see an above average future left fielder. I doubt he becomes a star and there is a good chance of a bust here, which is why I am lower than most. 

64. Zac Lowther, LHP, Xavier

Lowther is about as far from the next player on this list as possible. I see a very safe, left handed reliever who should move quickly through the minors and be a back end arm. He lead the Cape in strikeouts last year, which made it the second straight year a small school Ohio lefty did this, after Eric Lauer a year ago. Lowther continued this trend, posting the third highest strikeout per nine rate of any starter in the NCAA this year. His home run and walk rates were both up this year. His walk rate is still under four, so I am not concerned. He has three average pitches. When I saw him in person earlier this year he was sitting 88-91, but the pitch moved and Ohio State struggled the whole game with him. I am the high man on Lowther. His high level performance in the Cape and at Xavier this year will make him the highest pick in school history.  

65. Hans Crouse, RHP,  Dana Hills HS (CA) 

Crouse is a player who has taken a tumble throughout the process. He had early first round talk when boards were first posted this year. He might have the best fastball in the entire prep class; it looks like a future 70 grade pitch. I am just not sure he has another future pitch that's even average. In addition, his delivery is extremely violent and there are issues with his command and control. There is a chance for him to be a special talent, but there is an equal chance he doesn’t make it to AAA. I see a future reliever, but also understand the ceiling is high. 

66. Kevin Smith, SS, Maryland

Smith had a very rough start to the year which, seemed to make people forget about him a bit. He went from a first round bubble guy to a player I forgot about at points. Smith has always been more about tools than production. A player with his tools in the Big Ten should dominate, there is no way around it. This year, he stepped up, hitting double digit home runs and posting an OPS over .800 for the first time in his career. He still didn’t walk and posted low averages for his ability in the Big Ten. He should be an above average defender at short, with some pop and below average on base skills. I think the ceiling is close to what Zack Cozart was before this season. 

67. Colton Hock, RHP, Stanford 

I think Hock has a chance to start. I know I want to take every reliever and make them a starter, but the value is so much greater. There is not a college reliever who I would not give at least a season and a half chance to start. I also do not place a ton of value in drafting relievers in general, as most great relievers were starters when they first entered the minors. So if a reliever makes my top 101, it is almost always because I think they can start. Hock is built like a starter, at 6’5” and 225. He had respectable strike and walk per nine numbers this year. His changeup needs work and his fastball was not as strong this spring. He didn’t have the breakout many expected to start the year. He was viewed as a potential first rounder at the start of the process and is likely a third or later now. I just see his build and rate data and think that Hock has a chance to work as a back end starter.   

68. Bryce Bonnin, RHP, Barbers Hills HS (TX)

Bonnin was recruited to Arkansas as a shortstop. I think he would be a two way player if he ended up going to school. I don’t think he will, and is likely a second round pick this year. As one would expect from a player recruited to be a shortstop in the SEC, Bonnin is a plus athlete. This year, he came out as a pitcher, hitting 97 and sitting in the low 90s. He is raw and has a lot of room for growth, as he was more focused on hitting than pitching for most of his life. There are some concerns with his delivery and it is something teams might try and mess with. The bigger issue, pun intended, is size. Bonnin is 6’1”; this means many teams won’t consider him, because the cost to sign, along with his height, will combine to be prohibitive. 

69. Alex Scherff, RHP, Colleyville HS (TX)

It has not been a great spring for Scherff who, earlier this year, was listed in some places as a top ten or twenty player in this draft. I had my concerns and a big part of that concern was due to his age. Scherff turned 19 in February. I also got nervous about a kid who almost ended up pitching at four different high schools in four years. The lack of continuity of coaching can stunt growth. The age, movement, and height (6’2”) were always going to hurt his stock. His fastball and change is a deadly combo, and part of me thinks that he is likely a very good future reliever with those potential plus pitches. 

70. Tristen Lutz, OF, Martin HS (TX)

Lutz is a hit first outfielder. He is likely a right fielder, but I could also see him end up at first long term if he bulks up. This would be a waste of his strong arm, which is currently his best tool.  The first comment anyone gives me on Lutz is that he can hit. When one combines his size and bat speed, there is a chance for plus right handed power with Lutz. He is not a strong athlete and he turns 19 this August, which are two bigger knocks on him. He will be drafted for the bat and, specifically, his power potential.

71. Steven Jennings, RHP, Dekalb County HS (TN)

Jennings is a three sport athlete, who tore his ACL this year playing football. He got a late start to the year, but has taken advantage of the time he has had and has been rising up boards all spring. Jennings is a projection pitcher. He has not pitched as much as most arms on my board, as his other sports kept him out of summer leagues and showcase circuits. His ability in those sports, though, helped to show off his plus athletic abilities. I have to note that Jennings is 6’2”, which falls below the ideal height and will cause him to be dinged. In addition, he is more a high 80’s or low 90’s guy, so it is all about the projection and athletic ability. 

72. Jeter Downs, SS, Pace HS, (FL)

Yes, he is named after Derek Jeter, so it only seems right that he would be a shortstop himself. Downs has been rising on boards this spring and looks like he will be a top 50 selection on draft day. Of all the prep shortstops on this list, Downs is second to Nick Allen in terms of likelihood to stay at short. As a matter of fact, Downs and Allen are the only players I would list at 100% likelihood to stick at short. On top of a solid defensive profile, he can also swing the bat some. He has an advanced approach and uses all fields. The one knock for him is that he turns 19 this summer. He is one of the many players in this class who would be draft eligible in just two years. 

73. Connor Wong, C, Houston 

Wong is my number one college catcher and my third ranked catcher overall. He has spent the last two years at Houston, catching multiple future draft picks. The Houston staff, in general, have always been great in terms of control numbers. This past year, they had the third best walks per nine of any team in the NCAA. I mention this because, when I see numbers this strong, it makes me wonder about Wong’s ability to frame pitches. This is completely unscientific, but something I thought about as I watched him. Wong is an average catcher, but I think he could improve there, since he is an excellent athlete. As a freshman, Wong was a shortstop, so he has only been catching for two years. I mentioned Wong is a plus athlete. He has the most stolen bases of any college player in my top 101 this year. He has some swing and miss to his game, but also walks a lot to go with it. Wong reached double digit home runs this year, but it is more likely an average skill at best. The big knock here is size; Wong is listed at 5’11”, but is smaller than that. There will be concerns about whether he can hold up behind the plate. Wong’s wide range of skills is why he makes the top college catcher spot, for me, in spite of his size concerns.  

74. Daniel Cabrera, OF, Parkview Baptist HS (LA)

Cabrera makes this list mostly for his bat speed and hit tool in general. He is an advanced hitter who takes what is given and finds success. It is an approach that reminds me a bit of Mickey Moniak, from a year ago. I think there is a chance for 55/55 for his hit and power tools. This is good, as I am not sure the rest of his tools profile as even average. He is not quick and his arm is ok, but he would be best served in left field going forward. He is not the toolsy outfielder, like the majority of prep players in this class. For a team that drafts him, they are betting on his bat to carry him through the minors. 

75. Michael Mercado, RHP, Westview HS (CA)

Mercado, at this point, might be an unsignable player in this draft. One can never leave out the importance of economics when it comes to players. If two players are close in terms of evaluation, then money can and will be the decider. No position sees more top level talent make it to college than right handed pitchers. The reason is simple, only so many guys can get paid. There are always more right handed arms then can get signed. Mercado is a Stanford recruit, which is always viewed as a hard school to sign players away from, in general. Mercado has been a name on the rise, thanks to his consistency this spring. When it comes to young arms, consistency matters. Mercado doesn’t throw hard; he is mostly high 80’s to low 90’s. It is easy to see his fastball gaining more velocity as he fills out. He shows three off-speed pitches right now and all of them have a chance to be average pitches. While the present might not be as sexy as other arms, the future looks very bright for Mercado, either in the minors or at Stanford. 

76. Brian Miller, OF, UNC

I am not as high on Miller as most are. I understand why many are high on him. He has been remarkably consistent the last two years. He has posted high averages and walked more than he struck out. In addition, he uses his speed well, which is his best tool, posting high percentage steal rates the last two years. I just feel like there is a very thin line between Miller as a fourth outfielder and Miller as a starting centerfielder. If he does not stick in center, then his arm is going to limit him to left field or first base, which means he might not even end up as a fourth outfielder then. If everything works out, then he is a league average centerfielder. 

77. Christopher Seise, SS, West Orange HS (FL)

Seise is a bigger kid, at 6’3”, but, in spite of that, the industry seems rather sure that he should be able to stick at shortstop. His best trait is his speed; Seise can run with the best of them and it's a plus tool right now. While most think that Seise will stay at short, he does have the arm to handle third if he out grows short. His bat looked better in the spring, but his offensive profile looks to be more that of a league average player. I could see him ending up with above average power as he fills out his frame.

78. Matt Tabor, RHP, Milton Academy (MA)

Tabor went from a 5’4” middle infielder to a 6’2” right handed starter over his time in high school. He popped up during the spring, in part, due to the late start one gets as a pitcher in Massachusetts. This late attention is why Tabor is committed to Elon. This is not a knock on Elon, but more a case of how odd it is to see a universal top 100 prospect going to a school of that size. He was hitting 96 this spring, but his velocity and stuff were inconsistent. Tabor is a lottery ticket more than any arm on this list. His combination of late growth spurt and cold weather arm mean that more velocity could easily be added. He is going to need time and there is a lot of risk, but the ceiling is intriguing. 

79. Riley Adams, C, San Diego State 

Adams is a big kid, at 6’5”, which makes him almost too big to be a catcher. He is an average defender and shows great balance behind the plate, which should not be a surprise, as he is a second degree black belt in karate. As one would expect with a player his size, Adams has natural power potential, which showed in games this year. He hit more home runs this past season than his first two years combined. I have him as my number two college catcher in this class, as I think he can stay behind the plate and should hit for power. The only question is whether he will hit enough to access his power, as there is already a lot of swing and miss in his game.  


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