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2017 MLB Draft Preview: 1st round high school hitters

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For previous entries of BBB's 2017 draft preview, see the 2017 Draft Storystream

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We arrive at the last demographic left to be previewed, and perhaps the riskiest of all of them in high school position players. High school pitchers are generally considered riskier due to injury risk as well the risk of having their stuff back up picking more often in pro ball, but in some sense they're easier to scout since the stuff can be considered and evaluated independently of opposition. That can be a lot trickier with hitters.

To wit, the last everyday regular position player the Blue Jays drafted and developed out of high school was Alex Rios back in 1999. To put that in perspective, not only is Rios no longer playing, but many of the draft eligible high school players this year were born in 1999...with a handful not even yet born on the day Rios was drafted. Conversely, the smashing success of Bo Bichette thus far might encourage going back to the well, especially with players who slip or can be slipped down (as with Bichette).

Overall, it's not considered a very strong year for high school hitters, partially since some of the best players are two-way players whose future is expected on the mound. A couple players should go in the top 10 (Royce Lewis, Austin Beck), with another couple who should be gone before the Jays pick (Nick Pratto, Jo Adell - though he's a bit of a wild card). There's really only a handful of players who fit firmly into the back of the first round, with the caveat that opinions generally vary quite widely on this demographic.

2017 HS hitters 1st round

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Bubba Thompson

Potentially the top athlete in a high class that has a lot of top shelf athletes as a highly recruited baseball and football player. He can run, he can throw, he should be a lock to be a plus defender in CF. If he hits, he'll be a star, but that's always the rub with this profile though there are suggestions he has a reasonable feel for hitting and emerging power. Another high school player who's already 19.

Nick Allen

A gifted defender, Allen is considered a lock to not only stick at shortstop but excel there as perhaps the top defensive high school player. If he were 6'0" (without detracting from his defensive profile), he'd likely go in the top 10 of not top 5 picks, as he does project to hit well but the smaller stature makes for a tougher profile with little expected power. That said, even a good if empty-ish average from a plus defender at SS is a going to be a valuable player.

Heliot Ramos

At this point, there's a good chance Ramos has played himself into the middle of the first round as a high upside outfielder with speed and power. The primary knock is inconsistency in his swing, but seeing as he's the youngest elite draft eligible prospect (not turning 18 until December) to some extent that comes with the territory and there's a strong track record of really young draftees improving by leaps and bounds.

Drew Waters

The latest in a long line of elite Georgia high school prospects, Waters combines a strong defensive profile with one of the stronger demonstrated track records of hitting across the showcase circuit. There's a bit of a split in terms of exactly how good the overall package, with some sources seeing him as a bona fida first rounder and others as more of a second rounder.

Tristan Lutz

A future corner outfielder, the selling point for Lutz is his bat, combining good power with a feeling for hitting that allows him to get to the power. There may be more power to be tapped into as well, which would be beneficial to profile as a regular in a corner.

Jeter Downs

Let's start with the obvious: the name alone is practically disqualifying (Buck and Tabby would never stop talking about him). He's on the older side, at almost 19 years old, but has been increasing his stock as a solid defender at shortstop with a good feel to hit, some pop and aggressiveness on the basepaths. Realistically, he's probably a reach in the top 30 picks and long off the board by 60 (or else not signable), so it's not a strong likelihood.

Mark Vientos

An inconsistent spring offensively with some injury concerns has caused Vientos' draft status to slip, probably outside the first round now and potentially opening the possibility he goes to school. One of the main selling points is how young he is, essentially a full year younger than most peers which offsets some of the concerns about inconsistent production. There's also a split on his defensive profile, with Perfect Game noting he might stick at shortstop and others not confident he'll ultimately handle third.

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Below are more players who haven't been in the first round conversation, but could fit before the Jays pick in the 2nd round (keeping in mind how volatile these things are):

  • Luis Campusano: high school catchers are a tough draft profile with a poor track record, but Campusano is thought be project behind the plate with good raw power.
  • Quentin Holmes: considered the fastest player in the draft, Holmes should be a defensive standout in CF, but the question is if he'll hit enough with an inconsistent track record.
  • Chris Seise: expected to stick on the middle infield, as a good runner with a good arm with an emerging offensive profile that's pushed him up draft boards.
  • Ryan Vilade: a transplanted Texan, best tool is his power potential (won the UA home run derby last summer)
  • Brady McConnell: high profile name, but stagnated this spring which has knocked down his expected draft position. Expected to stick on the middle infield, questions are his bat.
  • Garrett Mitchell: considered one of the best athletes and strongest defenders in high school draft ranks, long way to go with bat, very strong commitment to UCLA
  • MJ Melendez: son of a D1 head coach, tools to remian behind the plate, another guy who has drifted down draft boards over time.
  • Cole Brannen: another speedster in the outfield, but with offensive potential due to quick hands and a line drive swing
  • Conner Uselton: one o the highest power grades in the high school class