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An early look at the 2018 draft: high school players

Milwaukee Brewers v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

See also: Early look at the 2018 draft: college players

After surveying the college side yesterday, today is the high school side. Again, I want to emphasize this is just a high level look at the top 5-7 players in each group as things currently stand; it goes without saying that especially on the high school side a lot will change between now and June.

High School Hitters

  • Nander de Sedas (SS, Florida): Moved up significantly this summer as his offensive profile came on. Not considered a gifted defender at short, but has a chance to stick or would fit at 3B with a strong arm.
  • Nolan Gorman (3B, Arizona): Arguably the best power in the draft, both raw and in game, including a HR at Petco in the PG All-American game in August. Not expected to be a defensive standout, but should stick at 3B.
  • Jarred Kelenic (OF, Wisconsin): I can distinctly remember two winters ago watching video and how different the ball sounded coming off his bat. Perhaps the best pure hitter in the class, with decent power profile as well. He`ll get the “five tool” label which is a bit of a misnomer, but has some chance to stay in centre but otherwise could be a prototypical RF. Yellow flag is that he’ll be almost 19 on draft day, so he’s on the older end.
  • Bryce Turang (SS, California): Was widely considered the top position player coming into the summer after being one of the better players on the 2016 USA 18U team playing up a year, but didn’t standout this summer with very high expectations. Well rounded, expected to stick at short, but lacks the proverbial carrying tool at this point. Could be interested if he slipped outside the top 10.
  • Will Banfield (C, Georgia): High school catching is always a fraught demographic, but he’s universally considered a gifted and elite defender in all aspects (framing, blocking, throwing). The question is how much he’ll hit - his bat is not considered elite, but the bar for catchers is also very low.
  • Noah Naylor (C, Ontario): At this point, he’s really in the next tier, but the top Canadian and younger brother of Josh Naylor. Offensively, he’s got some pop. Defensively, he’s got some work to do behind the plate, but a cannon arm that really plays. I saw him absolutely hose a couple runners in games this summer.
  • Other names of note: Joe Gray Jr. (OF, MIssissippi), Xavier Edwards (SS, Florida), Jordan Groshans (3B, Texas)

High School Pitchers

  • Ethan Hankins (RHP, Georgia): Barring something unforeseen, there’s no way falls to the Jays, so there’s no point going into too much detail. But he basically has everything one looks for in a frontline starter.
  • Matthew Liberatore (LHP, Arizona): If this list had been done at the end of the 2017 draft, he wouldn’t have been on the first round radar. But he was dominant the entire summer, including the couple outings I aught that were televised. He doesn’t have any huge pitches, but a good fastball that sits low-90s, a good curveball and apparently feel for a changeup (I don’t recall seeing much of it). What sets him and that good stuff apart is advanced pitchability. This isn’t a comp, but the overall profile reminds me of what got Braxton Garrett selected 7th overall in 2016.
  • Kumar Rocker (RHP, Georgia): He’s been at or around the top of the class for a couple years due to top shelf fastball velocity, as he sits mid-90s and touched the high-90s. He’s the son of a NFL linebacker, and was very advanced physically, so some of the “fall” from the very top is others catching up. That said, the promising development this summer was showing much improved slider, as he lacked a true offspeed weapon
  • Ryan Weathers (LHP, Tennessee): Son of David Weathers, so there’s big league bloodlines. I haven’t seen him pitch much, so there’s nothing to add beyond the usual reports, which is that while he lacks anything truly plus, there’s the ability for three pitches with good/repeatable mechanics.
  • Cole Wilcox (RHP, Georgia): Another pitcher from Georgia from Georgia with a big fastball, ho hum. It’s not quite at the same level as the two above, but he does show feel for both a good changeup and slider. That chance at three average or better pitches with a classic frame gives him big upside. Will turn 19 a month after the draft.
  • Mason Denaburg (RHP, Florida): A legit two-way prospect who also catches, similar to Hagen Danner last year, the consensus is he’s a better pitching prospect with a big fastball and feel for secondaries. He’s more raw than others, partly due to less experience, and is also on the older end of the spectrum.
  • Carter Stewart (RHP, Florida): I’m including him mostly to talk about his curveball, which has essentially unparalled, 3300+ rpm spin rates even compared to the best major leaguers. It’s bonkers. Seriously, just watch it.
  • This list could go and on, there’s so many high upside high school pitchers who could take a big steps forward this spring by refining their potential. The Jays have shied away from this demographic since the Cleveland takeover, but some pretty good pitchers should slide down into the second and even third rounds, so I really hope they’re open to them.