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2017 MLB Draft Preview: 1st round high school pitchers

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

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It's a very unsettled draft year on the high school pitching front. A the very top, there's Hunter Greene and MacKenzie Gore, who have separated themselves and on talent at least would go in the top half dozen picks. Another couple (Shane Baz and D.L. Hall) figure to go off the board before the Jays pick though it's not inconceivable one could slide. After that, there's a lot less consensus, with at least a dozen draftees who could go in the late 1st round/sandwich/early 2nd rounds.

This doesn't figure to be an area of emphasis as it has been in the past, with the Blue Jays not really being connected to high school pitching at least at the top, and having not chosen any with their top 10 round picks last year (they did give out one significant bonus with their first pick of the second day). That said, even under the ancien regime they never signed a high school pitcher drafted in the first round proper. But some of these names could slide/be slid to their second round pick.

We start with the usual chart of background information, and rankings:

2017 HSl pitchers 1st round


Sam Carlson (video)

Carlson popped up draft boards after his fastball velocity took a step forward, working in the low-to-mid 90s with a much improved breaking ball to compliment his change-up which he used much more than most high school players. He also wins plaudits for the life on his fastball, and his relatively advanced ability to command it. There are some concerns about his delivery and mechanics.

Trevor Rogers (video)

There's been buzz about Rogers in the top half of the first round, and some talk of teams at the top trying to cut a deal to push him to their second pick. He's got a huge frame with plenty of room to fill out, but already produces velocity that can touch into the mid-90s, though sitting more around 90 this spring. He's a classic high-upside projection pick, as his breaking balls also lack consistency at this point, with a developing changeup. He's one of the oldest high school players, not only already 19 but turning 20 later this year.

Matt Sauer (video)

Sauer is another player jumping up draft boards, with a classic starting pitcher frame and a fastball sitting the low-90s and touching higher. He compliments that a very good slider, but lacks a third pitch. There's also concerns about his arm actions, that result in a divide between whether he'll ultimately end up as a bullpen arm or whether he's be a starters with two potentially plus pitches.

Blayne Enlow (video)

Enlow has one of the best secondary weapons in the high school class, a wipeout curveball that projects as a plus pitch. He pairs that with a potential plus fastball, working in the low 90s last summer though it's backed up a little bit this spring. That should firm up as he fills out a very classically projectable frame, so that velocity should become more consistent.

Hans Crouse (video)

Crouse was mocked to the Jays by Jim Callis, and profiled here:

The Jays drafted his older brother Marrick in the 11th round of the 2015 draft, so there is a connection though he ended up at USC. Hans has been one of the top ranked 2017 high school players for a long time, thanks to an electric arm that can touch upper 90s velocity. He's no longer among the very top high school arms, as he hasn't shown the ability for a premium secondary pitch. His arm angle and mechanics have also shifted over the years, and there's some concerns about injury risk. I've watched him pitch in televised games a couple times, and come away underwhelmed given the expectations.

One final note: Perfect game listed his slider as ranking in the top five among high school pitchers, so the potential is there, but he hasn't shown it consistently.

Tanner Burns (video)

Burns is a smaller but very athletic righty, who lacks the projection of most of the others here, but conversely has more in the way of present skills and is thus more of a finished product. He pitches in the low-90s with his fastball, showing more advanced command/control, with a hammer breaking ball that projects as a plus offering. He also some feel for a changeup, so if all went well he'd project as a mid rotation starter and if not he should be a power bullpen arm.

Jacob Heatherly (video)

Heatherly is a bit of an enigma, having shown big stuff at various times, but not always very consistent and hasn't consolidated his position this spring after a good showcase summer. His fastball reaches into the low/mid 90s, and he's shown the ability to throw multiple quality offspeed stuff. At his best, he shows good command/control. He could project anywhere from a midrotation starter for teams that like him, to a backend starter.

Steven Jennings

A significant quarterback, playing football has limited his exposure on the summer showcase circuit, so he's been something of a pop-up draftee. His fastball sits in the low-90s, touching higher, with room for more as he fills out. He has a good slider, with feel for a changeup and even an emerging curveball. There's some shades of Justin Maese here, though perhaps with more present stuff.

Alex Scherff (video)

Scherff has some fo the best present stuff in the high school class, which figures considering his more advanced age and physical maturity (Perfect gme has him listed at 6'4"/205 after dropping a lot of weight over the last year). His fastball sits in the 93-95 range with the ability to hold that velo, and he's credited as having one of, if not the best changeups among high school players. He's yet to consistently spin a good breaking ball, which could lead to a bullpen profile.

Hagen Danner (video)

Danner was one of the most prominent names a couple years ago in this draft as a two-way player, though he's stagnated and is no longer at the top. He's still a two-way player, and could be drafted or developed a catcher though he's focused more on pitching. He's shown the ability for three pitches that could be average or better, his fastball touching up to the mid-90s.

James Marinan (video)

A classic projection/pop-up prospect, who velocity has climbed from the high-80s/early-90s this spring into sitting mid-90s in shorter stints. His secondaries lack behind, with a decent breaking ball but lacking in definition. It's a riskier profile, with the lack of current skills, but with huge upside between the arm strength and classic frame. In some ways, there's similarities to where Noah Syndergaard was when the Jays picked him in 2010.

Michael Mercado (video)

Another prospect rising up draft boards this spring, albeit with a strong commitment to Stanford which might force interesting teams to take him early or not at all. His fastball sits in the high-80s/low-90s, but there is plenty of room for proejction. The main selling point though is advanced command and strikethrowing with a four pitch mix, all of which could be average of better pitched in the future. A package where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. He draws comparisons to Tristan Beck, who is draft-eligible out of Stanford, but he's have to wait three years to re-enter.

Matt Tabor (video)

Tabor is one of the younger players in the draft class, not turning 18 until the signing deadline, and his stuff took a step forward this spring after adding a couple inches. After sitting in the high-80s last fall at a Perfect game tournament, he's been holding low-90s velocity and touching higher (with plenty of room to fill out and potentially add a little more). He flashes a plus changeup and decent slider as well, though both pitches will need further developments.