Going into the 2017 MLB draft last season, there were up to seven players who could potentially be chosen by the Twins this year. While the 2018 MLB draft class is quite deep overall, the Twins’ potential pick doesn’t quite have the same drama — at least not yet— as last year’s first overall pick.
One player has set himself apart from the crowd in this year’s draft class, and it would take quite a big effort for him to drop from the top slot. Even if he isn’t the first overall pick, we know with a fair degree of certainty of one player who will not be available when the Twins pick 20th overall.
Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn University
(scouting grades according to MLB.com)
Fastball: 60 | Slider: 60 | Splitter: 70 | Control: 60 | Overall: 60
Undrafted out of highschool, Casey Mize put himself on the 2018 MLB Draft radar with a very good 2017 season for the Auburn Tigers, going 8-2 with a 2.04 ERA and a 109/9 K/BB ratio in 83.2 innings pitched. Coming into the 2018 college season Mize was considered a potential top ten pick, but he quickly solidified his status as the best all around prospect.
On March 9th against Northeastern, Mize pitched a 9-inning no hitter, striking out 13 and not giving up a walk (only an error broke up the perfect game). Over the remainder of the season Mize has effectively copied his dominant 2017 season. In 13 starts in 2018, Mize has gone 9-3 with a 2.73 ERA and a 124/8 K/BB ratio in 89 innings.
Mize has shown to be both a power pitcher and a control wizard, utilizing a fastball that sits 91-96 mph with late movement, a wipe out slider in the mid-80s, and a legitimate mid 80s splitter. Listed at 6’3 and 220-230 lbs, Mize has the size and the athleticism to maintain his delivery and command long into games.
Mize is likely the best college pitching prospect since Mark Appel, but he has also dominated as a 20 and 21 year old in a way that Appel never did. The only knock on Mize are some health concerns stemming from last season when he was shut down in the spring and the summer on Team USA.
Why the Twins won’t be able to draft him
If Mize is not drafted first overall by the Tigers, I would be thoroughly surprised. He projects as a front of the rotation arm that could quickly make it to the Majors, like the Phillies’ Aaron Nola. Mize would also pair well with the Tigers depth of right-handed pitching prospects. Their four highest ranked prospects are right-handed pitchers between the ages of 20 and 22. The Tigers did select Alex Faedo out of Florida with the 18th pick last year, so picking high-ceiling college arms is certainly in their wheelhouse.
If the Tigers passed on the best college arm, few teams would be willing to pass on Mize’s combination of high ceiling and high floor. Even if Mize were to suffer a major injury before the draft he would likely get snatched up before the Twins’ 20th pick in the first sound. Mize won’t turn 22 until May 1st of next year, meaning he would be able to make some appearances at the end of the season as a 22-year-old and have a full season as a 23-year-old. Brent Rooker, drafted in the second round by the Twins last year, is in his first full professional season as a 23-year-old this season, for comparison.
Barring a case of the yips during the College World Series or an epic performance by a high schooler during their state tournament or workouts with pro teams, Mize will likely find himself being the first name called come June 4th.