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2018 Draft Preview: Reviewing the 2017 Draft

2014 MLB Draft Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The 2017 draft was the first for the Blue Jays under new scouting director Steve Sanders, continuing the transition fully to the Mark Shapiro/Ross Atkins era. With the draftees less than one year into their pro careers, it’s really too early to be doing much in the way of evaluating the draft class, even despite the majority being collegians and having played upwards of four months in pro ball with the attendant data.

Nonetheless, I’ve included a summary table below as for the other drafts reviewed; after that is a brief review of whose prospect stock is significantly up and down since the draft.

2017 summary 2018

Stock way up

  • Kevin Smith: He’s torching the Midwest League, showing the power (29 extra bases hits) that had him in the first round discussion entering 2017. Even more positively, that’s happening while mitigating his Achilles’ Heel of striking out a lot, reducing that to about 15% from 25% in Bluefield and just over 20% in his junior season and the Cape Cod League. David Laurila of FanGraphs had a good interview with him about changes he’s made.

Stock up

  • Nate Pearson: Had he not missed the first month of the season and then had a liner fracture his elbow in the 2nd inning of his first start, he might be in the category above. Unlike some draftees whose stuff takes a step backwards throwing every fifth day in pro ball, Pearson had electric velo in the high 90s and routinely touching triple digits in Vancouver. His secondaries were better than (I) expected too. There were stretches were he was doing more throwing than pitching and getting by with great stuff against low level hitters, but overall it was about as good as a debut as could expected.
  • Kacy Clemens: Admittedly, I didn’t see him as much more than a senior sign, and his debut in Vancouver was mostly in line with this. Then he obliterated low-A pitching when he wasn’t being pitched around, earning a quick promotion. Given his advanced age/experience, that’s of limited inferential value and high-A/AA will be be the real proving grounds, but so far so good.

Stock down

  • Logan Warmoth: A solid debut in Vancouver, albeit with a pretty empty average carried by a .378 BABIP. That’s carried over to Dunedin, where he’s hitting just .257/.333/.333 despite a healthy .324 BABIP. He’s shown almost no game power while striking out around league average rates. It’s not definitive, but it’s also not a great sign especially for those that had questions about whether he’d hit enough.
  • Riley Adams: He got off to a really hot start to his pro career in Vancouver, before tailing off some. He’s really struggling in Dunedin, and though it was a little surprising to see him skip right over Lansing, it’s not a level that a bat-first college prospect should be overmatched by. The big caveat is that the priority would likely be on his progress defensively, and if he is able to stick behind the plate there will be plenty of time for the bat to come around.

Overall, there’s something of an interesting dichotomy. At the very top, the results one year overall aren’t terribly good, with two of the Top 100 picks in the down category and Hagen Danner’s debut very rough as well. Beyond that, a lot of draftees have impressed and done more to encourage than discourage. To name a few, Brock Lundquist has tapped into power in 2018, Zach Logue has been very effective in pro ball after a rough junior year, Ryan Noda blew away the Appy League (and is having a very peculiar year in low-A).

In the next entry, we’ll drill down a little into tendencies, and how things have radically changed over the past couple years.