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MLB Draft Preview

Draft: Top Prep Prospects

by Mike Rosenbaum
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

The annual MLB First-Year Player Draft begins Monday, June 8 with the selections of the first 75 picks. By the end of Wednesday, however, all 40 rounds will be in the books.

 

Last year’s draft saw 15 high school players come off the board in the first round including four of the first 10 picks: LHP Brady Aiken (No. 1 – Astros), RHP Tyler Kolek (No. 2 – Marlins), SS Nick Gordon (No. 5 – Twins) and OF Alex Jackson (No. 6 – Mariners). Of course, Aiken and the Astros famously were unable to reach an agreement before the signing deadline, while Kolek, Gordon and Jackson have experienced their own respective struggles this season at the Low-A level.

 

Which prep players are likely to hear their names called on Monday? Here’s an in-depth look at eight of them, as well as a short list of other notable prospects to look out for on day one of the draft.

 

Also in this series: The Top College Players in the 2015 Class

 

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1. Brendan Rodgers, SS, Lake Mary HS (Fla.)

2015 Stats: 29 G, 88 AB, .366 AVG, .480 OBP, 8 HR, 8 2B, 24 RBI

 

Brendan Rodgers entered the spring as the cream of the crop in the 2015 draft class, with many scouts having long projected him to come off the board with the No. 1 pick. The 18-year-old shortstop did nothing to diminish that notion this spring at Lake Mary HS (Fla.), batting .366 with eight home runs and eight doubles in 29 games. More importantly, he posted those numbers while getting pitched around consistently.

 

Rodgers is an aggressive right-handed hitter who does a good job keeping the barrel on plane in order to explode through the zone and drive the ball to all fields. Rodgers possesses plus bat speed and raw power, though most of his pop is to left field presently. However, he generates enough backspin the other way to project above-average power at maturity, which could translate to 15-20 home runs. And while he may not be an electric defender at shortstop, Rodgers is an impressive athlete with excellent footwork, smooth actions and a great feel for the position.

 

Rodgers, who’s committed to Florida State, is the headliner of this year’s class for his power potential and ability to remain at shortstop long term. He may not go No. 1 overall to the Diamondbacks, but it’s difficult to envision a scenario in which he’s still on the board after the first three picks.

 

2. Kyle Tucker, OF, Plant HS (Fla.)

2015 Stats: 23 G, 54 AB, .407 AVG, .581 OBP, 8 HR, 6 2B, 21 RBI

 

Kyle Tucker is another prep player with MLB bloodlines, as his older brother Preston is currently excelling in the big leagues for the Houston Astros. Kyle is viewed as arguably the top prep hitter in this year’s class, standing out with his repeated success at the plate on the summer showcase circuit in addition to playing for his high school team. “Repeated success” probably isn’t the best way to describe Tucker’s illustrious four-year career at Plant HS (Fla.), as he batted a robust .435/.569/.903 with 28 home runs, 26 doubles and 94 RBI in 95 games. He also walked 69 times against 18 strikeouts in 348 plate appearances.

 

Tucker has a gorgeous left-handed swing, creating a flat, slightly uphill path through the hitting zone after angling his bat in his pre-pitch load. While the movement may appear to be somewhat excessive, Tucker possesses the barrel control to drive the ball to all fields even when his timing is off. At 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, Tucker already features good raw power and it’s easy to envision him developing even more given his projectable frame as well as the effortless nature of his swing. Lastly, Tucker has solid instincts in the outfield and takes good routes, but he lacks the athleticism to project as a true center fielder at the next level. But that’s okay; his bat should more than suffice at either corner spot.

 

Tucker, a Florida commit, will be one of the first players drafted on Monday, with most experts expecting him to come off the board within the first 10 picks, likely in the 5-8 range.

 

3. Tyler Stephenson, C, Kennesaw Mountain HS (Ga.)

2015 Stats: Not available

 

Stephenson wasn’t a well-known player in scouting circles headed into the spring, as he chose to play for a local program last summer - albeit a really, really good one in East Cobb - while his peers received exposure on the showcase circuit. The 18-year-old backstop missed a few weeks at the beginning of the spring due to an oblique injury, but he played well in his return and shot up draft boards as a result, even receiving consideration as a potential bargain as the No. 1 overall pick.

 

A 6-foot-4, 210-pound right-handed hitter, Stephenson projects to hit for both average and power as a professional, though he does have some kinks in his swing that need to be ironed out. He might never be more than a .260 hitter, but his physical strength and excellent rotation in his swing should yield plus over-the-fence power. Stephenson moves well behind the plate given his size, showing good footwork and mobility, but he’s going to have to prove he can remain behind the plate every step of the way.

 

For that reason Stephenson might be viewed as a risky investment in the first round. But in a class that’s astonishingly thin on catchers, teams in need of a future backstop can’t be too picky.

 

4. Daz Cameron, OF, Eagles Landing HS (Ga.)

2015 Stats: 25 G, 77 AB, .455 AVG, .569 OBP, 8 HR, 10 2B, 32 RBI

 

Daz Cameron has been a known commodity for a long time, as his father, Mike Cameron was former major league All-Star and 17-year MLB veteran. Unsurprisingly, Daz possesses tremendous instincts and a high baseball IQ due to his time spent around the game, and when considering his excellent set of tools, it’s easy to see why the 18-year-old center fielder is receiving consideration as a top-10 pick. 

 

Cameron, a right-handed hitter, excelled playing for the 18 and Under Team USA squad last summer, hitting .405/.519/.667 over 12 games with three home runs, 19 RBI, seven stolen bases and 10 walks to six strikeouts. Meanwhile, Cameron’s raw power has really started to show this spring, as he has been mashing, highlighted by a .510/.652/1.020 stat line with eight doubles, five home runs and 15 stolen bases and drew 18 walks to just five strikeouts over his last 16 games.

 

Cameron has very good bat speed, while his short, line-drive stroke gives him a chance to hit for average as a professional. At 6’1”, 190 pounds, there's obvious raw power in Cameron's right-handed bat, although his swing mechanics aren’t necessarily structured toward producing power presently. The 18-year-old’s plus speed is arguably his loudest tool and, when combined with his athleticism, gives him a chance to stick in center field as a professional.

 

The Florida State commit is one of the top talents in this year’s class, but it’s also widely known that he has a high asking price. 

 

5. Kolby Allard, LHP, San Clemente HS (Calif.)

2015 Stats: 5 G/2 GS, 7 IP, 0.00 EA, 6 BB, 9 K

 

Allard was viewed as one of the top pitching prospects in the class headed into spring after the left-hander dominated older hitters last summer on the showcase circuit. Unfortunately, the 17-year-old suffered a stress reaction in his back in mid-March, brining his highly anticipated senior season at San Clemente HS (Calif.) to an unexpected end after logging seven innings. Allard didn’t appear in any games leading up to the draft, though he is said to have fully recovered from the back injury.

 

At 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, Allard an athletic delivery that he repeats very well given his age, with clean mechanics and smooth arm action. His arsenal is highlighted by a plus fastball that sat 91-93 mph in most starts and ran as high as 96 last summer. Allard’s curveball is another plus pitch as well as a legitimate swing-and-miss offering, thrown with tight spin and hard, downer break that induces whiffs from both righties and lefties. The southpaw’s change is still a work in progress, but it has a chance to be at least an average offering with improved feel and more deceptive arm speed.

 

There weren’t many opportunities to scout Allard, a UCLA commit, this spring, so teams looking at the young left-hander in the first round have to feel good about what they saw over the summer. The fact that Allard’s draft status as a likely first-round pick really hasn’t changed this spring despite his back injury speaks volumes about his potential.

 

6. Mike Nikorak, RHP, Stroudsburg HS (Penn.)

2015 Stats: 29 2/3 IP, 0.94 ERA, 21 BB, 50 K

 

Nikorak made a name for himself at last year’s Perfect Game National when he lit up radar guns with an effortless fastball in the mid-90s. The prep right-hander’s draft stock has continued to soar since then, setting the stage for a likely selection in the first round.

 

At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, Nikorak has a good feel for repeating his athletic delivery, keeping consistent tempo throughout so as to achieve a consistent high-three-quarters release point. The 18-year-old features one of the best fastballs in this year’s class, bumping 97-98 mph while routinely working in the 92-95 mph range with some sinking action. Nikorak's curveball could give him a second plus offering at maturity, as he does a good job getting on top of the pitch to generate tight spin and late, downer bite. It’s worth noting that Nikorak also throws a changeup that flashes above-average potential at 78-81 mph with late sinking action.

 

Nikorak’s combination of size, stuff and projection, not to mention his ability to throw strikes, give him one of the higher ceilings of any pitcher in this draft class. He’s committed to Alabama for 2016, but it’s doubtful he ever steps foot on campus.

 

7. Ashe Russell, RHP, Cathedral HS (Ind.)

2015 Stats: 41 IP, 1.02 ERA, 9 BB, 67 K

 

Russell will contend with Allard and Nikorak to become the first prep pitcher selected in the 2015 draft, as he’s parlayed a strong showing on the summer showcase circuit and equally impressive spring at Cathedral HS (Ind.) into a likely first-round selection.

 

A 6-foot-4, 195-pound right-hander, Russell works produces a 93-95 mph fastball from a lower slot, and his slinging arm action gives the pitch some natural deception. The 18-year-old’s best pitch is his slider, thrown in the low 80s with good depth and late bite, and it’s particularly lethal against same-side hitters. That Russell’s changeup is virtually non-existent speaks to the dominance of his fastball-slider combination, though he’ll obviously need to develop one that’s at least usable in order to turn over lineups at the next level.

 

Russell is committed to Texas A&M, and there’s little concern about his signability. However, when he comes off the board likely will be tied to a team’s belief in his long-term future as a starter.

 

8. Donny Everett, RHP, Clarksville HS (Tenn.)

2015 Stats: 67 IP, 0.94 ERA, 8 BB, 125 K

 

Everett has seen his name climb draft boards throughout the spring thanks to reports of improved velocity to back up his video-game statistics. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound right-hander has the combination of size and stuff teams look for in a potential first-round draft pick, armed with a fastball that sits 93-96 mph with downhill plane, and was as high as 98-100 in the middle of the spring. Everett’s projected out-pitch - he relied heavily on his fastball in high school - is a slider that flashes above-average in the low 80s with downer bite, though he does have a tendency to get around the pitch at times and impart a slurve-like spin. The 18-year-old also features a promising changeup, thrown with convincing arm speed and good velocity separation, but it noticeably lags behind the other two pitches in his arsenal.

 

Everett has as much helium as any prep pitcher in this year’s class, but where exactly he’s drafted in the first round will come down to a team’s confidence in his ability to start at the next level. On top of that, teams looking at Everett in the first round must believe he can be swayed away from his commitment to Vanderbilt, a program that historically lands some of the top unsigned prep pitchers each year.

 

Other Potential First-Round Prep Hitters:

 

Garrett Whitley, OF, Niskayuna HS (N.Y.): 20 G, 59 AB, .356/.487/.593, 24 R, 3 HR, 14 SB

Nick Plummer, OF, Brother Rice HS (Mich.): 12 G, 33 AB, .545/.681/.969, 2 HR, 6 2B, 11 SB, 12 BB, 2 K

Trenton Clark, OF, Richland HS (Texas): 23 G, 56 AB, .518/.697/.767, 25 R, 10 XBH, 9 SB, 30 BB, 3 K

Chris Betts, C, Wilson HS (Calif.): 30 G, 74 AB, .473/.642/.891, 8 HR, 5 2B, 29 RBI, 32 BB, 7 K

Cornelius Randolph, IF, Griffin HS (Ga.): 17 G, 53 AB, .528/.643/.924, 4 HR, 9 2B, 18 RBI, 18 SB, 14 BB, 9 K

 

Other Potential First-Round Prep Pitchers:

 

Drew Finley, RHP, Rancho Bernardo HS (Calif.): 14 G/13 GS, 6 CG, 86 IP, 0.81 ERA, 28 BB, 131 K

Beau Burrows, RHP, Weatherford HS (Texas): Not available

Jacob Woodford, RHP, Plant HS (Fla.): 10 G/9 GS, 52 IP, 0.67 ERA, 10 BB, 57 K

Juan Hillman, LHP, Olympia HS (Fla.): 11 GS, 58 1/3 IP, 1.20 ERA, 9 BB, 77 K

Tristan Beck, RHP, Corona HS (Calif.): 11 G/10 GS, 65 IP, 0.65 ERA, 18 BB, 82 K

 

All high school stats courtesy of MaxPreps and MLB.com.