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. With the 2019 Draft coming up in the next couple of months, let’s take a look back at each player selected in the first round of the 2018 draft, starting off with the top ten players selected.
#1 – Detroit Tigers – RHP Casey Mize
We start off with the player who went 1-1, right-hander Casey Mize, who hails from Auburn University. After leading the Auburn Tigers to a Super Regional appearance against the Florida Gators, the Detroit Tigers did not pass up on the opportunity to pick the best pitcher in the draft, signing Mize to a record deal worth $7,500,000, and becoming the highest pick out of Auburn in school history.
After signing, Mize was placed in the team’s Rookie Ball affiliate, where he made a scoreless start before making the steep jump to the Tigers’ Single-A Advanced affiliate, the Lakeland Flying Tigers. In four starts with Lakeland, Mize posted a 4.63 ERA in 11.2 innings, striking out ten batters and walking just two. Despite the rough start to his pro career, Mize garnered an invite to Spring Training, where he pitched in two games before being sent to minor league camp.
According to Baseball America, Mize slots in as the Tigers’ top prospect going into the 2019 season, bolstering an already impressive pitching crop with Franklin Perez, Matt Manning, Alex Faedo, and Beau Burrows. Mize boasts a healthy fastball that usually sits 92-95 MPH and can top out at 97 MPH, accompanied by a solid mid-80’s slider and a knockout splitter, which is considered to be the best pitch in the draft class. With that kind of arsenal, it’s no surprise that the right-hander could reach the majors in short order, as he will start the year with Lakeland and could reach Double-A Erie by season’s end.
#2 – San Francisco Giants – C Joey Bart
With the team’s highest pick since taking Buster Posey 5th overall in 2008, the San Francisco Giants took a familiar strategy with the pick. They selected a highly regarded catcher in Joey Bart out of Georgia Tech from the ACC, the same conference that Posey came from 10 years prior.
Bart signed for $7,025,000 and quickly found success at the plate. In 51 games between Rookie Ball and Single-A Short Season Salem-Keizer, Bart raked, slashing .294/.364/.588, cranking out 13 home runs and driving in 40 runners. Bart’s .982 OPS in the Northwest League would have ranked second had he played enough games to be deemed eligible to make the rankings. The impressive debut led to Bart receiving a Spring Training invite, where he has continued to mash, slashing .500/.533/.857 with a home run and six runs batted in in 10 games.
Bart has shown impressive power to all fields with his bat, which evaluators grade as above-average, but has shown that improvements in his defense are needed, despite having a good arm. Much like Mize, Bart is the best prospect in the Giants’ system, per Baseball America, and will start the 2019 season with Single-A Advanced San Jose, with the potential to be a fast mover as well.
#3 – Philadelphia Phillies – 3B Alec Bohm
For the fifth straight year, the Philadelphia Phillies had a top ten selection, and for the third time in five years, the team tapped into the college pool. The Phils selected Alec Bohm, a solid third baseman out of Wichita State, who could be a future replacement for Maikel Franco.
After a great Junior season at Wichita State, Bohm signed for $5,850,000 and was inserted into Rookie Ball. While he is highly touted for his impressive power, Bohm struggled to find it. He slashed just .252/.335/.324 in 40 games, with only six doubles and two triples and not registering a home run between Rookie Ball and Single-A Short Season Williamsport. Despite this, there is still confidence among scouts that Bohm will sort things out at the plate.
Unlike Mize and Bart, Bohm did not receive an invite to Spring Training. He is expected to jump to Single-A Advanced Clearwater to start 2019, much like fellow Phillies farmhand and 2017 first-rounder Adam Haseley did for his first full season. The plan is for Bohm to stay at third, as he has a solid arm and range, but could be moved around in the future. If he stays at third, he could be a solid everyday hot corner specialist for the Phillies.
#4 – Chicago White Sox – 2B Nick Madrigal
For five years, the Chicago White Sox have had a fixation with college players, starting with Tim Anderson in 2013. That did not change in 2018, as the team selected Nick Madrigal out of Oregon State, while he was in the midst of a run to a College World Series championship.
Fresh off his College World Series triumph and incredible Junior season, Madrigal signed for $6,411,400 and was inserted into Rookie Ball before ending the season with Single-A Advanced Winston-Salem. In 43 games, Madrigal slashed .303/.353/.348, and much like Bohm, did not homer in his debut season. Despite this, Madrigal boasted a 7:5 BB:K ratio and garnered seven extra base hits. He earned a Spring Training invite, where he appeared in 8 games, slashing .308/.400/.308, with all four of his hits being singles.
Madrigal hits for average, which is not surprising for a player of his stature, as he is 5’7 and 165 pounds. He is a speedy player with above average defense, so there is a good chance he sticks at second base in the future. Like other White Sox players before him, Madrigal is on a fast track to the majors, with the possibility of him reaching Double-A Birmingham in 2019 and a debut as early as 2020.
#5 – Cincinnati Reds – 3B Jonathan India
After going for prep players in 2017 with their first round selections, the Cincinnati Reds turned their attention back to the college pool for 2018, this time selecting another third baseman in Jonathan India, who hails from the University of Florida.
India, much like Madrigal, was in the midst of a College World Series appearance at the time of his selection and signed for $5,297,500 and started his debut season in Rookie Ball before making the jump to Single-A Dayton. In 44 games in his debut season, India performed well, as he slashed .240/.380/.433, with six home runs and 23 runs batted in. While the batting average was low, he boasted a brilliant on-base percentage, with a 28:44 BB:K ratio, as well as a respectable .814 OPS.
As a product of Florida, India will have some high expectations to adhere with the Reds. Fellow prospect Nick Senzel will block India’s progress at third, leaving India with the possibility of changing positions before he reaches the majors. He did play at second base and shortstop in both college and in the minors in 2018, where he is polished defensively. He is expected to start 2019 with Single-A Dayton, but he may not rise quickly like those selected in front of him.
#6 – New York Mets – OF Jarred Kelenic
With their first top ten selection since 2010, where they selected Matt Harvey out of UNC, the New York Mets took the first prep player of the 2018 draft in Jarred Kelenic, an outfielder from Waukesha West High School in Wisconsin. The Mets would go on to deter Kelenic from his commitment to Louisville and sign him to a franchise record $4,500,000 deal.
Kelenic spent his debut season in Rookie Ball with the Mets, where he absolutely mashed the ball. In 56 games, Kelenic slashed .286/.371/.468, with six home runs and 42 runs batted in. Kelenic boasted an impressive 26:50 BB:K ratio and recorded 10 doubles and six triples to go on top of that. However, his time in the Mets’ system was short-lived, as he was moved along with Jay Bruce, Gerson Bautista, Justin Dunn, and Anthony Swarzak to the Seattle Mariners for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz in early December. The Mariners gave Kelenic a Spring Training invite, where he appeared in three games and only managed to draw a single walk.
As he is a prep player, Kelenic is not expected to be rushed in the Mariners’ system. However, he does slot in as the best position-player prospect in their system. His raw power is highly touted and he has a good probability of staying in the outfield, where he will lead the charge in the Mariners’ rebuild. At the age of 19, Kelenic will start the season in Single-A Short Season West Virginia in 2019, where the Mariners will take it slow with the youngster, for now.
#7 – San Diego Padres – LHP Ryan Weathers
The San Diego Padres have one of the best farm systems in Major League Baseball, and they continued to bolster it with selecting prep southpaw Ryan Weathers out of Loretto High School in Tennessee. A Vanderbilt commit, the Padres signed Weathers for $5,226,500, where he was inserted into Rookie Ball.
Weathers’ debut season was very interesting, to say the least. Appearing in seven starts between Rookie Ball and Single-A Fort Wayne, Weathers pitched to a 3.44 ERA in 18.1 innings, striking out eighteen and walking just four. However, Weathers posted a 7.85 RA9 (Runs Average Per Nine Innings) in that span, which is due to him allowing a total of sixteen runs, but only seven of those runs were earned runs. As strange as that is, Weathers did allow nineteen hits, which is not unnatural for recently-drafted players, but it was clear that luck (or dismal defense) was on his side.
Much like Kelenic, Weathers is expected to be on a slow path to the majors. His arsenal consists of a four-seam fastball that sits 90-94 MPH, a two-seam fastball that sits in the same range as his four-seam, a mid-70’s curveball that grades above-average, and a changeup with significant fade that mirrors his two-seamer. There is a good chance Weathers begins the season with Fort Wayne, and this time, he’s hoping to stave off early struggles.
#8 – Atlanta Braves – RHP Carter Stewart
The story behind the Carter Stewart saga with the Atlanta Braves is an interesting one. Much like with Brady Aiken and the Houston Astros a few years ago, the Braves found something in Stewart’s physical that they did not like, which was a wrist problem. This led to the Braves low-balling the prep star out of Florida, and eventually, the two did not come to an agreement as the signing deadline passed.
Stewart would go on to file a grievance against the Braves and MLB, as he attempted to become a free agent. However, the Braves would win after the case went to an arbitrator, meaning they would be able to keep their 2019 first-round selection. Stewart, a commit to Mississippi State at the time, opted to go to Eastern Florida State College, where he will be eligible to be drafted again in 2019, with the possibility he could go in the top 10 once again.
Stewart is a quality arm that was ranked in the top five in draft rankings prior to the draft by MLB.com. He possesses a solid fastball that sits at 92-96 MPH and can reach 98 MPH, and has a hammer curveball, which was considered one of the best pitches in this draft class. He has a changeup as well, but that pitch is still far behind in development. It will be interesting to see how 2019 plays out for Stewart, who is off to a solid start in Junior College.
#9 – Oakland Athletics – OF Kyler Murray
The Kyler Murray saga with the Oakland Athletics has enough content to make a separate article out of it; however, it should not take away from how incredible of an athlete Murray is.
Touted as a first-round prospect out of Oklahoma, Murray was selected by the Athletics for $4,660,000, but did not take the field, as he was allowed to partake in college football with Oklahoma. Murray would win the Heisman Trophy and lead the Sooners to an appearance in the College Football Playoff, forcing to Murray reconsidering his career path. He would eventually choose to enter the NFL Draft, where many believe he can go higher than he did in the MLB Draft.
While Murray is going to play football for his career, he was a very intriguing prospect in the outfield. In 2018, Murray slashed .296/.398/.556, hitting 10 home runs and driving in 47 runners. Oklahoma would reach the Regional Final in the NCAA Tournament against Mississippi State, but was swept in two games. Murray provided significant speed to the Sooners lineup, with improved approaches at the plate and average power. Sadly, those skills will not be used on the baseball diamond, for now.
#10 – Pittsburgh Pirates – OF Travis Swaggerty
The University of South Alabama has never had a first round selection in school history, but the Pittsburgh Pirates made that change. The Bucs selected highly touted outfielder Travis Swaggerty with the final pick in the top 10, signing him for $4,400,000.
Swaggerty, who had an excellent college career, struggled a bit in his debut season with the Pirates. He slashed a mere .239/.322/.383, with five home runs and 20 runs batted in in 52 games. For perspective, Swaggerty slashed .319/.457/.504 in college, and posted a rather impressive 143:130 BB:K ratio. His struggles did not keep him from a Spring Training invite, however, as he appeared in three games, but did not record a hit and recorded a walk and a strikeout.
Despite the early struggles, Swaggerty has the potential to have no below-average tools as he progresses through the Pirates’ system, which will be slow, something the Pirates tend to do with prospects. As an above-average defender, Swaggerty looks to stick in center field, with a chance at moving around the outfield as he moves up. While he will more than likely start 2019 in Single-A Short Season Greensboro, he could reach Single-A Advanced Bradenton before the year ends.