Sizing Up The 2018 MLB Draft With Exciting and Unique High School Athletes
Every year there are many talented players available for selection in MLB’s Amateur Draft. This year is no different, as there will be Major League regulars, All-Stars and World Series contributors found at some point over the next three days.
Most young prospects are profiled and comped based on past players that had similar skill sets, builds and projection at their age. Occasionally, however, players come around that are hard to compare. They have a tool, a pitch or a history that makes them unique. While having a differentiator doesn’t necessarily make a player the top prospect in the draft, it does offer an exciting possibility for an organization selecting him.
This year’s draft features several high school players that bring something to the table that is truly unique, or at least is rarely seen. Here they are:
Fastball – At his best, Ethan Hankins features a 97 mph fastball that has the kind of angle and life that few prospects have ever possessed. It comes out of his hand with ease and gets downhill plane while also featuring excellent tailing and sinking life. Ethan generates both swing-and-miss and ground balls on a regular basis with this pitch, and can go through an entire line-up at this level using it exclusively.
History – Triston Casas may well be the best hitter in this year’s draft, and he brings a history of outstanding performance with him. Having starred on an international stage three times – once with USA Baseball’s 15U Team and the last two years on their 18U Team. Last summer he was named tournament MVP and USA Baseball’s Player of the Year after leading the squad to another gold medal. Add in Triston’s performance throughout his HS career at American Heritage, his two performances at the Under Armour All-America Game and the multiple other events where he continued to hit top pitching and it is hard to find a more proven high school hitter in the past.
Curveball – By this point, Carter Stewart’s spin rate on his curve is well-documented. Though we don’t have a long history of these metrics, most scouts can tell you by the eye test that Carter’s breaking ball is a pitch that hasn’t been seen on the amateur landscape in quite some time. It’s depth and bite make it a true out-pitch and a unique offering in this draft and in past years.
Arm Strength – The highest raw arm velocity that we have ever recorded in the 20+ years of Baseball Factory events is 105 mph. The person who threw it was Adam Hackenberg, a catcher from Virginia eligible for this year’s draft. He is a physical backstop who plays in high school for former major leaguer Billy Wagner and has raw power to go along with his arm. I guess arm strength runs in the family, as his brother is an NFL quarterback. There is certainly a wow factor when you see Adam throw, and he seems to be gaining momentum as the draft approaches.
Bloodlines – There are sons of former Major Leaguers in every draft, but I’m not sure we’ve seen an entire family of athletes quite like the Turang family in years past. Brice Turang should be selected in the first round tonight based on his high-level tools and the ability to use them in games, but his family has certainly played a part in getting him here. His father played in the big leagues for the Seattle Mariners and his mother competed in the College World Series as a softball player at Long Beach State. Add in that Brice’s four older sisters all played college sports – softball, soccer and volleyball, and you see where Brice’s athleticism and competitiveness were born and cultivated.
Fastball – One more fastball deserves mention, and that is the mid-to-upper 90s heater of JT Ginn. The athletic Ginn is a physical right-hander with raw power at the plate as well, but it is his fastball that is truly unique. The heavy, late life that it shows at such a high velocity allows it to stand out in this draft and in recent history. Ginn’s fastball seems to explode at the plate and rarely moves the exact same way two pitches in a row.
It will be interesting to see where these players are selected and where their careers ultimately take them. Some teams prefer to go with prospects that fit a commonly-seen profile, while others may find some appeal in these prospects that bring something new to the table.