For many young players, getting their names called in the MLB Draft is a dream come true. Whether it’s Round 1 or Round 40, players are at a crossroads in life when it comes to the draft. Do they sign, or do they go back to school?
In the 2018 MLB Draft, the first round presented a few surprises. In this edition of the 2018 Draft Review series, we take a look at the players who were selected just outside the top ten, and highlight picks 11-20:
#11 – Baltimore Orioles – RHP Grayson Rodriguez
For the first time since 2012, the Baltimore Orioles managed to find themselves in the top 15 of the first round. In recent years, the club has taken a chance on plenty of prep players in the first round, and that trend continued as they selected right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, the first player to be selected out of Texas in the 2018 Draft.
Being a pop-up player in the draft, he pitched his way into first round discussion after reworking his delivery and adding 20 pounds of muscle. This led to an increase in velocity, which in turn, led to a rise in his draft stock. After signing with the Orioles, he continued to show his dominance that led to a first round selection, pitching to a 1.40 ERA in 19.1 innings, where he struck out 20 batters and walked 7 in 9 appearances, including 8 starts. He did not allow a run until his seventh outing in Rookie ball.
Prior to his bulk-up, Rodriguez had originally worked in the high-80’s to low-90’s with his fastball, before reaching 92-94 MPH and topping out at 97 MPH last spring before the Draft. Since then, he did see a bit of a dip in velocity to 91-94 MPH, which is not uncommon among young prep pitchers like him. His fastball has good life down in the zone and he accompanies it with a solid curveball and slider that can be above-average. His changeup is still developing, but is projected to be an average offering for the big 6’5 righty. With a projection of a middle of the rotation workhorse, Rodriguez could start his first full season of pro ball with the club’s Low A affiliate in Delmarva.
#12 – Toronto Blue Jays – SS Jordan Groshans
For the Toronto Blue Jays, the 2018 Draft saw the end of a four year run of college players, dating back to the 2014 Draft when they took Jeff Hoffman from ECU. In 2018, the Blue Jays reverted back to their prep school form as they took Jordan Groshans out of Magnolia High School in Texas and signed him to a $3,400,000 bonus.
Groshans would go on to dominate in the Gulf Coast League, slashing .331/.390/.500, with 4 home runs and 39 runs batted in, with a 13:29 BB:K ratio in 37 games. In mid-August, he would be bumped up to the Appy League, where he did struggle in 11 games, as he slashed a mere .182/.229/.273.
Despite the late season struggles, Groshans still has an advanced approach at the plate and raw power that some scouts consider to be a plus tool. In the GCL, Groshans had saw time at both shortstop and third base, to which he may be converted as he progresses through the Blue Jays’ system. Scouts believe if he does move to the hot corner, he can be an everyday player. For now though, he will begin his first full pro season with the Blue Jays’ Low A affiliate, the Lansing Lugnuts.
#13 – Miami Marlins – OF Connor Scott
H.B. Plant High School in Florida is no stranger to producing MLB talent, as the school has produced a Hall of Famer in Wade Boggs and Houston Astros’ top prospect, Kyle Tucker. For the Miami Marlins, Connor Scott will be the next kid up in a long list of prep players the team has taken in recent years, as the Marlins signed Scott to a bonus of $4,038,200, which is the highest they have ever given to a position player.
Overall, Scott’s debut was lackluster, which is not unexpected for a prep player at his age. In Rookie ball, Scott’s bat struggled, as he slashed .223/.319/.311, but that did not stop the Marlins from being aggressive in his development and inserting him into the lineup with Class A Greensboro. Unsurprisingly, the struggles continued, as Scott could only muster a slash line of .211/.295/.276 in 23 games. However, while the bat lagged behind, his defense was stellar, as he played center field through his debut year.
The Marlins view Scott as a five-tool player, and rightfully so. While his biggest asset is his speed, which plays well on the base-paths and in the outfield, scouts believe his bat is a plus tool and could develop nicely in 2019. His defense is also a plus tool, but he could be moved from center field to the corner spots as he fills out his frame. Aggressively promoting Scott to Class A was the plan for the Marlins, as they expect him to play a full season with their new Class A affiliate in Clinton, Iowa as he further develops his tools.
#14 – Seattle Mariners – RHP Logan Gilbert
For the Seattle Mariners, the club had not taken a pitcher in the first round since taking Danny Hultzen second overall in 2011 out of Virginia. The team is hoping to avoid what happened to Hultzen this time around, as they selected Stetson ace Logan Gilbert to a bonus worth $3,883,800.
After leading Stetson to a Super Regional appearance, Gilbert sat out the rest of 2018 as he recovered from a case of mononucleosis and surgery on his toe. Despite this, Gilbert draws hype, and for good reason. In three years at Stetson, Gilbert pitched to an ERA of 2.48 in 250.2 innings, and as a starter in 2018, Gilbert struck out 163 batters in 112 innings of work. This comes after a dominant performance in the Cape Cod League during the summer of 2017, where he started 7 games and pitched to a 1.72 ERA, with 31 strikeouts in 31.1 innings.
While Gilbert had previously had his fastball sitting in the mid-90’s during the Cape Cod League appearances, he found himself sitting at 91-92 MPH in 2018, as he topped out at 94 MPH. There is little concern about the dip in velocity as well, as Gilbert has excellent late life on the pitch. He accompanies it with a plus change-up, as well as a slider and curveball that the Mariners view as potential plus pitches. The expectation is that Gilbert could stay in extended Spring Training as he returns from his ailments before heading off to complete his first season of pro ball.
#15 – Texas Rangers – RHP Cole Winn
The Texas Rangers have dived into the prep class for the past three years, and that trend continued in 2018 as the club selected Baseball America’s High School Pitcher of the Year, Cole Winn, who hails from Orange Lutheran High School in California. The team signed Winn to a $3,150,000 bonus, but ultimately shut down Winn for the year, as he only saw minimal action in the instructional league in the fall.
Winn had transferred to Orange Lutheran from Colorado prior to his senior year in order to play in one of the top conferences in the nation, and ultimately helped the team repeat as NHSI champions in March. As mentioned before, the Rangers had shut down Winn, as well as other top prep arms the team had selected, not long after signing.
Winn’s arsenal consists of a 92-96 MPH fastball that is located well due to his smooth and repeatable delivery, a plus curveball that sits in the mid-70’s and is his primary out-pitch, as well as a slider and change-up that still needs some refining. Winn may follow the path of 2017 first rounder Hans Crouse, who started 2018 in extended Spring Training after being shut down after signing, with the possibility of starting in Low A Spokane over the summer.
#16 – Tampa Bay Rays – LHP Matthew Liberatore
If there is one thing that the Tampa Bay Rays are good at, it’s developing pitching. The Rays have seen the likes of David Price, Chris Archer, and Blake Snell blossom into aces at the major league level, and the club hopes to see the same from southpaw prep arm Matthew Liberatore, who many saw as a top-five pick prior to the draft. The Rays did sign Liberatore to a bonus of $3,497,500 prior to making his debut in Rookie ball.
Coming off a strong performance for USA Baseball in the U18 World Cup, Liberatore did lose some command and velocity, but got it back for his pro debut, as he dominated in 9 starts, pitching to a 1.38 ERA in 32.2 innings, striking out 37 and walking 13 batters. He achieved a promotion to the Appy League late in the season and made one start, where he pitched 5 innings of 2-run ball in his debut.
Many scouts and analysts, myself included, were surprised to see Liberatore fall like he did, and for the Rays, it was an opportunity they could not pass up. While his fastball usually sits around 92-95 MPH, he had previously touched 96-97 MPH prior to the draft and scouts believe he can reach that mark again as he progresses. He also has a stellar curveball and change-up, both of which are advanced for his level. The Rays have a track record of slowly progressing prep arms, so a start with Low A Hudson Valley is the likely guess for where Liberatore begins 2019.
#17 – Los Angeles Angels – OF Jordyn Adams
Jordyn Adams has a similar background to Kyler Murray, as he played football and baseball at Green Hope High School in Cary, North Carolina, but the Los Angeles Angels managed to lure him away from a football commitment to UNC to continue to play baseball. Adams, a late bloomer, was able to sign with the Angels to an over-slot bonus of $4,100,000.
Adams jumped on the radar after a strong performance at the NHSI event right down the road from his school, as he was not on Baseball America’s Top 200 draft rankings prior to the event. In Rookie ball, he slashed a respectable .267/.361/.381 in 29 games, where he hit 6 doubles and 3 triples, but could not muster a home run. His debut season was cut short after sustaining a broken jaw late in the year. Adams began 2019 in Spring Training, but struck out in his only plate appearance.
Adams’ biggest tools are his speed and athleticism, which comes from his two-sport background. He has excellent bat speed with the potential to have plus power as he fills out his frame, and he can be an impact center fielder in the future. However, there is a huge question mark over how he will hit, as his track record is quite small. The expectation is he will start the year in Low A Burlington.
#18 – Kansas City Royals – RHP Brady Singer
Following the footsteps of previous Florida aces A.J. Puk and Alex Faedo, Brady Singer was projected as a top-five pick before falling into the laps of the Kansas City Royals, who would end up signing Singer to a $4,250,000 bonus, which was nearly $1 million over slot value.
After pitching deep in the Gators’ run at the College World Series crown in 2018, Singer did not sign until three days prior to the signing deadline. Much like Logan Gilbert, Singer was shut down after signing; however, this was to rest Singer after his deep run in the College World Series, as well as a minor hamstring issue. In his first full year as a starter, Singer went 12-3 in 17 starts, pitching to a 2.55 ERA in 113 innings, as he struck out 114 batters and walked just 22.
Singer’s pedigree will lead to high expectations when he steps on the mound in 2019, but Singer has an arsenal to live up to those expectations. He possesses a fastball that usually sits around 91-94 MPH, with a chance of reaching back for 95-96 MPH, as well as a sharp slider in the mid-80’s. He does have a change-up, but he does not use it frequently due to a lack of feel for the pitch. Singer could rise fast in the Royals’ system, as he will start the year in High-A Wilmington, with a chance he reaches Double-A by seasons’ end.
#19 – St. Louis Cardinals – 3B Nolan Gorman
History was made with this pick, as Nolan Gorman was the first player born in 2000 to ever be selected in the MLB Draft. For as young as Gorman is, his power is incredible, and it caught the eye of the St. Louis Cardinals, who would sign the youngster to a bonus of $3,231,700.
The aforementioned power that Gorman possesses was on full display during his debut season, as Gorman torched the Appy and Midwest Leagues for 17 home runs in 63 games, while slashing .291/.380/.570 and driving in 44 runners. However, during his time in the Midwest League, Gorman did struggle to find consistent hitting, as he slashed .202/.280/.426, but managed to earn a Spring Training invite, where he hit .100/.182/.400 in 5 games.
For Gorman, his power is easily his best tool, as it grades “plus-plus,” but he does have issues seeing southpaws and has trouble with breaking balls. However, Gorman can adjust very quickly and has power to all fields. As for positioning, scouts consider Gorman to be “stiff” at third base, leading to speculation he could change positions in the future. However, no matter where Gorman plays, he can be an everyday power threat in the lineup. The expectation is Gorman will start the year in the Midwest League, where he finished his 2018 season.
#20 – Minnesota Twins – OF Trevor Larnach
One year after having the first overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, the Minnesota Twins had received the 20th overall position in 2018 due to a Wild Card appearance. With the pick, the club went with touted Oregon State outfielder Trevor Larnach, who was fresh off winning the College World Series.
Larnach broke out his junior year at Oregon State, slashing .348/.463/.652, while hitting 19 home runs and driving in 77 base-runners in the process. Larnach continued to mash the ball in his pro debut, as he slashed .303/.390/.500 in 42 games, where he hit 5 home runs and drove in 26 runners. A late season promotion to Single A Cedar Rapids led to a Spring Training invite, but Larnach slashed a mere .167/.167/.667 in 2 games in the Grapefruit League.
Larnach’s bat is explosive, as he hits for power to left field and center field. His plate approach is also extremely good, but defensively, he grades below-average, with a fringe arm in right field. However, scouts believe that will not hamper Larnach’s rise through the Twins’ system. He will begin the 2019 season with the Twins’ High A affiliate in Fort Myers.