You won’t find a bigger proponent of drafting college players, in particular, college bats, at the top of the MLB Draft/First-Year Player Fantasy Baseball Draft, but this year’s college class is so uninspiring, I’m shooting for the moon in 2017. The college players are still the much safer play, but the combination of their lack of upside and the extreme upside of the top high schoolers, has me thinking this is the year to roll the dice. Here is the 2017 Compete Top 36 MLB Draft Fantasy/Dynasty Baseball Prospect Rankings: 1-36
1) Hunter Greene (6’3’’, 205) HS, RHP/SS – Greene is the type of generational talent you just don’t pass up. He is both a power hitting shortstop and a flame throwing starting pitcher. The first “comp” to pop in my mind when watching him pitch was Satchel Paige from those old black and white documentaries where the film was sped up so everything looked so fast, except with Greene’s videos, that’s just his normal speed. His secondary pitches are still raw, but the easy mid-90’s heat, extremely athletic delivery, and top notch work ethic/mindset makes him the best bet to emerge as a superstar from this class, regardless of where he plays on the field.
2) Royce Lewis (6’1’’, 190) HS, SS/OF – The best combination of tools, athleticism, speed, and feel to hit in the entire draft. The 17-year-old Lewis can also take some vicious hacks at the plate that foreshadows his future power potential. The best case scenario in his early professional career would be a Victor Robles type, but it’s doubtful the hit tool will be quite that good.
3) Austin Beck (6’1’’, 200) HS, OF – Controlled aggression is the best description of his swing, as it looks like Beck has channeled all of his pent up anger into crushing baseballs. The plus bat speed is almost guaranteed to play at any level, and he mixes that with plus raw power and plus speed. He can still struggle against breaking pitches, and hasn’t gotten many reps against elite competition, which is partially due to tearing his ACL and meniscus last May, but his power/speed combo is truly elite.
4) Jordon Adell (6’3’’, 200) HS, OF – When Major League Baseball talks about losing the best athletes in the country to football, Adell is usually the type of player they are talking about. His dad was actually a star football player at North Carolina State, and was selected in the 12th round of the 1992 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. But Jordon smartly wanted nothing to do with football, and the only choice he had to make was between pitching or hitting. It looks like hitting is winning out, as Adell has put on a massive power display this Spring (video of him hitting 3 homers in a game on May 3rd) while rarely striking out. He is still far more projection than current refinement, but this is a recently turned 18-year-old kid, not a college junior. I’m betting on plenty of refinement down the line, and count me among the Adell believers.
5) MacKenzie Gore (6’2’’, 180) HS, LHP – I am a sucker for a big lefty with a funky delivery, and Gore not only checks those boxes, but he also has elite control of a low 90’s fastball, along with three different secondary pitches (slider, curveball, changeup) that flash plus and project as above average or better. Nothing about him screams ace, and maybe we are all being pulled in by that leg kick (something I am seriously considering, ha), but all together, there doesn’t seem to be many weakness, either.
6) Adam Haseley (6’1’’, 195) Virginia, OF – Haseley possesses the best combination of contact, power, and speed in the college class, slashing .390/.491/.659 with 14 homers, 10 steals, and a 21/44 K/BB in 58 games. He currently looks more like a solid across the board type, rather than a true impact 5-category fantasy contributor, but if any college bat is going to creep up the rankings as draft day approaches, it will likely be Haseley … unless Brendan McKay gets drafted as a hitter (more on that next week).
7) Kyle Wright (6’4’’, 220) Vandy, RHP – Solid as a rock, both in build and performance. Wright has a very clean, non-deceptive delivery with an advanced four pitch mix (fastball, curve, slider, changeup). His stuff is clearly MLB quality across the board, but none of his pitches standout as truly dominant. He looks the part, though, and has also pitched very well in the toughest conference in college baseball (SEC). If he lands in a good environment for pitching, I can see a relatively quick moving #2-3 fantasy starter, but I don’t think he is the type of guy who will win you a league or carry your pitching staff.
8) Brendan McKay (6’2’’, 212) LOU, 1B/LHP – McKay is a total wildcard for First-Year Player Drafts because we may not find out his ultimate position until next season. On the hitting side, he has a very loose, quick left handed swing with natural loft and the ability to hit for both average and power. On the pitching side, he profiles as a safe mid-rotation starter. I’m rooting for the bat to win out, especially for fantasy.
9) Keston Hiura (6’0’’, 185) UC Irvine, 2B/OF – Hiura is possibly the best college bat in the class, and he has the numbers to prove it, slashing .442/.567/.693 with 8 homers, 9 steals, and a 38/50 K/BB in 56 games. His plus bat speed creates loads of hard contact, and he combines that with a plus hit tool and an advanced plate approach. This is a potential stat stuffing “glue guy” on your fantasy squad who will contribute in a different way every night. If he wasn’t likely headed for Tommy John surgery right after the draft, he might have snuck into my top 5.
10) Bubba Thompson (6’2’’, 180) HS, OF – An elite athlete, Thompson turned down multiple major D1 football scholarships in order to finally focus on baseball full time. He is a plus-plus runner with a very projectable frame and plus bat speed. He is still raw, but he looks damn smooth taking swings in batting practice, unleashing some savage hacks. With continued refinement, Thompsom has a legitimate chance to end up the best player in this draft.
11) J.B. Bukauskas (6’0’’, 195) NC, RHP – The “small righty” seems to be one of the last vestiges that traditional scouts have to hang their hats on, much to the dismay (or maybe delight) of Billy Beane, who looks to be collecting them by the dozens. Bukauskas is in the plus fastball/slider mold, leaning heavily on the slider, leading many scouts to pigeonhole him as a typical power righty out of the pen. His college numbers are undeniable, though, putting up a pitching line of 2.53/1.07/116/37 in 92.2 IP, and the team that ends up drafting him is very likely to believe in him as a starter.
12) Pavin Smith (6’2’’, 210) Virginia, 1B – It’s all about that absurd contact rate, as Smith has a 12/38 K/BB in 228 at-bats, along with 13 homers and a .342/.427/.570 triple-slash. Only problem is, you need your first baseman to provide more than “solid” power, especially in today’s homer happy landscape. In 16+ team leagues, I can see giving Smith a bump, but in 10-14 teamers, I’m probably shooting for more upside if I’m drafting in the top half of the first round.
13) Nick Pratto (6’1’’, 193) HS, 1B – The first thing that jumps out at you when watching Pratto hit is how effortlessly he creates plus bat speed and how hard the ball comes off his bat. He combines that with an advanced, patient approach at the plate, along with plus athleticism for a first baseman. If you are looking for a potential .300/.400/.500 slashing first baseman, Pratto is your best bet.
14) DL Hall (6’0’’, 190) HS, LHP – Hall might have the best curveball in the entire draft (or at least my favorite one), reminiscent of Kolby Allard’s, but he doesn’t command it quite as well and his delivery is not as clean, either. I’ve been flipping a coin between him and the next guy on my list for the last two weeks …
15) Shane Baz (6’3’’, 190) HS, RHP – Baz is a big, physical righty with plus spin rates and several secondary pitches. The ingredients are definitely there for him to be a true ace, but there are still some command issues, and the results haven’t played up quite as high as the pure stuff.
16) Evan White (6’3’’, 177) Kent, 1B – During the Razzball Prospect Podcast: MLB Draft Edition, I challenged my co-host, Ralph Lifshitz, to talk me into White, and he did a damn fine job (Ralph and I did a 2-man mock draft on the podcast last Saturday). White is a plus athlete (and not just for a first baseman), with a great feel to hit and very projectable power considering his skinny, broad frame. He reminds me a little bit of the recently broken out Ryan Mountcastle, although Mountcastle is actually one year younger.
17) Jake Burger (6’2’’, 210) MissouriSt./3B – I’m not extremely excited about Burger, but this is fantasy baseball, and there aren’t many big-bopping college hitters out there this year, especially at the top of the draft. Burger is slashing .333/.448/.663 with 22 homers and a 36/42 K/BB in 61 games. He has solid bat speed, plus raw power, and is surprisingly nimble for his physique, although he may still end up at 1B long term. His body type, swing, and approach reminds me of Kevin Youkilis, except without the extreme walk rate, which was kinda what made Kevin Youkilis, Kevin Youkilis.
18) Jeren Kendall (5’10’’, 180) Vandy, OF – I’m not extremely excited about Kendall, either, but he has the best overall tools and power/speed combination in a depleted college hitting class, albeit with an awful hit tool (71/24 K/BB in 60 games). If I’m going to take someone who is raw, I would rather take a shot on one of the teenagers ranked ahead of him, although his plus CF defense has a chance to keep him on the field and force a team into being patient with him well into his mid-20’s.
20) Trevor Rogers (6’6”, 185) HS, LHP – A big, slingin’ lefty with a nasty delivery and plus fastball/slider combo. Rogers is old for his class, but all of the ingredients are there for him to be a strikeout machine on the next level.
21) Nate Pearson (6’6”, 240) JC, RHP – An absolute beast on the mound, Pearson lights up the radar gun with an upper 90’s fastball, which he pairs with a plus slider and developing changeup. There is some bullpen risk, but the upside is elite.
22) David Peterson (6’6”, 240) ORE, LHP – The Eric Lauer of this year’s draft, except all of the draftnik’s seem to like Peterson better. He destroyed the Pac12 by pounding the strike zone with a plus fastball/slider combo, while occasionally mixing in a curveball and changeup too. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff and it seemed like he dominated the competition more on guile and experience, but Peterson is one of the safer starters in the draft.
23) Alex Faedo (6’5’’, 225) FLA, RHP – The two arthroscopic knee surgeries gives me some pause, but Faedo has been excellent all 3 years in the SEC, and has one of the best sliders in the draft.
24) Heliot Ramos (6’1’’, 188) HS, OF – I don’t love his swing, but Ramos has elite power/speed potential, and being one of the youngest players in the draft, there is plenty of time for refinement.
25) Drew Waters (6’2’’ 185) HS, OF – A switch-hitter who looks smooth from both sides of the plate, although his left-handed swing looks like it is geared to do much more damage than the right. He is a good athlete with plus speed too.
26) Blayne Enlow (6’4’’, 180) HS, RHP – One of the prettiest curveballs in the draft with a low 90’s fastball and an athletic delivery. He is still a bit raw, but Enlow has top of the rotation potential.
27) Sam Carlson (6’4’’, 195) HS, RHP – Carlson has prototypical size with a fastball that just explodes out his hand. His changeup and slider both project to be plus, as well, and has solid control of all of his pitches. Like Enlow, there is still some work to do, but these are the qualities you look for in a high school pitcher.
28) Brent Rooker (6’4’’, 215) MissSt., 1B – Already 22 years old, but Rooker put up some of the best offensive numbers in all of college baseball, slashing .392/.498/.820, with 23 homers, 18 steals, and a 56/47 K/BB in 66 games. He made legitimate improvements to his underlying hitting profile this season, and if you want to ignore his advanced age, I can see ranking him much higher than this.
29) Seth Romero (6’3’’, 205) HOU, LHP – Major off-the-field issues and has problems with his weight too, but Romero is a hard throwing lefty with electric stuff. Before Houston kicked him off the team, he was striking out 15.7 batters per nine.
30) Griffin Canning (6’1’’, 170) UCLA, RHP – Safe, fast moving college starter without dominating stuff, but has a great feel to pitch. Unless his stuff mysteriously ticks up like James Kaprielian’s did after the draft, mid-rotation starter is likely his upside.
31) Brian Miller (6’0’’, 187) NC, OF – A plus-plus runner with a sweet lefty swing and excellent numbers in the ACC (.343/.422/.502 with 7 homers, 24 steals and a 35/38 K/BB). Doesn’t have much power right now, but has plenty of room to pack on mass. Miller is an excellent late round target in dynasty drafts if you are looking for quick moving speed.
32) Stuart Fairchild (5’11’’, 180) Wake, OF – Already built like a rock, Fairchild put up some of the best fantasy numbers in college baseball, slashing .360/.437/.640, with 17 homers, 21 steals, and a 51/29 K/BB. His hit tool is questionable and the swing isn’t all that pretty, but everything else is there.
33) Nick Allen (5’8’’, 158) HS, SS – Everyone loves an underdog, and Allen fits the role at 5’8’’, 158 pounds. He has a plus hit tool, plus speed, and is a sure bet to stick at SS.
34) Mark Vientos (6’4’’, 190) HS, SS – Inconsistent, but looks like one of the very top prospects in the draft during batting practice. At his best, Vientos has a beautiful swing with plus bat speed and natural loft. He is likely to move off SS, but has the plus power potential to profile at any position.
35) Luis Campusano (6’0’’, 200) HS, C – The best catcher prospect in the draft, Campusano has big raw power with plus bat speed, but there are some strikeout concerns on the next level.
36) Tristen Lutz (6’3’’, 220) HS, OF – Lutz is more physically developed than some of the college juniors I was watching, and unsurprisingly, makes harder contact than many of them too. He still hasn’t fully tapped into his raw power, but it isn’t hard to see Lutz turning into one of the best power hitters in this draft.
Just missed: Gavin Sheets, Hans Crouse, Tristan Beck, Clark Schmidt, Garret Mitchell, Tanner Houck, Matt Sauer, Quentin Holmes