For 9 months it was Kumar Rocker. Then Jack Leiter threw 20 hitless innings. The allure of the high school shortstop vaulted Jordan Lawlar ahead of these two collegiate stars. And then…
Some years, 1-1 is easy. The elite talent is there, separating themselves from the pack; Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Adley Rutschman, etc. There are years like 2017. There’s a top tier of players—Hunter Greene, Kyle Wright, Brendan McKay, MacKenzie Gore, Royce Lewis—each with their nitpicky flaws but all seemingly elite, top-50 prospects in their own right.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
And then there’s this year. I don’t want to say it’s a down year, because I do think there’s depth to be had in this class. But at the top there’s hardly consensus, and each of the top options have major questions: Rocker has had concerning velocity dips at times. Leiter’s performance has come back to earth since mid-April and has walked 11.2% of his batters (MLB average is 8.9%). Lawlar lacks plus tools, and even with the high school shortstop demographic being comparably safe, there’s always questions with high schoolers. Davis has questions about his ability to stick at catcher, and if he doesn’t his bat really has to play up. It’s “bad” enough that presumptive 2021 top pick Elijah Green—outfielder from IMG Academy in Florida—is being described as “a slam dunk No.1 pick” if he were eligible this year.
So that’s where we find ourselves with seven weeks to go until the draft. The college regular season has come to an end, with conference tournaments beginning as we speak (I’m watching BA #50 Hunter Goodman and Memphis play East Carolina in the First Round of the AAC while I write). With so many player seasons ending more than a month before Day 1, it’ll be interesting to see how much movement occurs after, say, June 14th.
Before we get to the current top-50, let’s mention a few notes in detail…
- Brady House is a big winner in this update, improving his DRAFT score from 22.98 to 4th overall at 27.32 He’s a tier down from Lawlar and Meyer, as he should be, but is separating himself from the other prep hitter options. He’s definitely put himself into top-5 consideration, and may have made it difficult for the Orioles to consider him at #5.
- Colton Cowser also won big, jumping from 20.31 to 24.76 (6th overall). Since Baseball America has him ranked 13th currently, he’s a clear underslot target if the Orioles like his bat—slashing .357/.471/.637 in a mid-major conference—and particularly if they believe he can stick in centerfield.
- As was mentioned, Jack Leiter has slowed down a fair bit over the past 5 weeks. In five starts—four against ranked teams—he has totaled 27.1 IP, an ERA of 4.94, 43 K, 15 BB, and 9 HR allowed. When Baseball America expands their rankings to 500 players, I’d be a little surprised if he was still ranked #1.
- James Wood’s swing-and-miss worries have started to catch up to him, with his score falling by over 5 runs. I’m in the process of improving certain aspects of the model, and the changes that I foresee aren’t likely to help him.
- Gunnar Hoglund’s Tommy John surgery hasn’t been accounted for in the rankings, hence why he’s still 7th overall. He’s still a 1st Round guy, and could be a real good get for a team comfortable with his medicals.
- Lots of pitchers making big moves. Michael McGreevey is now 16th overall (DRAFT Score of 16.04, up by nearly 5 runs), Matt Mikulski is 20th overall (DRAFT Score of 13.67, up by 7.4 runs), and Gavin Williams is 31st (DRAFT Score of 10.67, up by 6.5 runs).
- I’m in the process of making some changes to several portions of the model. Players that I see being hurt by these changes are physically large players—particularly physically mature high schoolers—and players putting up big rate stats in relatively few plate appearances.
And finally, here are the latest Top 50 players according to the DRAFT Model. As always, you can find the more complete list at my website Sabermetric Sandlot. I’m working on getting a more complete list of draft-eligible players, as well as starting to create and update player pages for the players with scores.
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Dr. Stephen Loftus received his Ph.D. in Statistics from Virginia Tech in 2015 and is an Assistant Professor of Mathematical Sciences at Randolph-Macon College. Prior to that, he worked as an Analyst in Baseball Research and Development for the Tampa Bay Rays, focusing on the Amateur Draft. He formerly wrote at FanGraphs and Beyond the Box Score. As a lifelong fan of the Orioles, he fondly remembers the playoff teams of 1996-97 and prefers to forget constantly impending doom of Jorge Julio, Albert Belle’s contract, and most years between 1998 and 2011.