In our last 2019 MLB Draft adventure, we looked at the top two tiers of prospects that make up this year’s Draft Class.
Remember that those first two tiers do bleed together a bit in the middle, as some teams prefer hitting ability over pure athleticism, etc. But I still think that most of those eight players will be selected in the first 10 picks of the draft, with only one or maybe two sliding down as teams begin to take the players we will talk about today due to individual, tier, or financial preference.
So let’s begin, and remember that the tiers we are talking about today are far more equal than the tiers from yesterday—they are all within my third tier, but make up separate sub-tiers based on their positions
Tier 3A: College Pitchers
Nick Lodolo, LHP, Texas Christian
As a 6’6” Lefty who sits at 90-94 mph and can hit 96, Lodolo has a surprising amount of projection remaining for a college pitcher. He was okay in his first two years at TCU but has turned the corner this year with improved control and command, posting a 2.39 ERA and 100/19 K/BB ratio through his first 13 starts and 83 innings. He has the potential to have three pitches that are at least above average, and a good chance at remaining a starter despite his low arm slot.
Alek Manoah, RHP, West Virginia
Poor command kept Manoah from reaching his potential as a full time starter in his first two years of college ball, but he has improved that greatly this year to the tune of a 121/22 K/BB ratio through his first 90.2 innings and 13 starts, with an impressive 1.89 ERA. Manoah is a large human being, listed at 6’6” 260 pounds. His 65-grade fastball sits 94-97 with good sink, and he has a great slider that could be a plus pitch. He also has a changeup that could be average. Manoah is the classic high upside college pitcher who might end up shifting to the pen but has the stuff to be a high-leverage reliever.
Zack Thompson, LHP, Kentucky
Of all the college pitchers projected to be first round potentials, Thompson’s value is the most volatile based on an injury history that plagued both his final year of high school and sophomore year of college. A strong junior campaign with a 2.14 ERA over his first 13 starts (84 innings, 121/31 K/BB ratio) has boosted his stock up quite a bit but the injury concern remains. The 6’3” 225 pound lefty throws a 90-94 mph heater that he can tick up a bit more and has a slider, curveball, and changeup that all show flashes of being above average, with his breaking pitches being better than his changeup. The control isn’t great, but his mechanics are relatively solid enough to improve that.
Jackson Rutledge, RHP, San Jacinto Junior College (Texas)
Rutledge might have the best pure stuff in the draft class, but it is hard to judge JuCo pitchers who face weak competition and have the leverage of returning to a 4-year school for their junior years if they have lofty bonus commands. Standing a towering 6’8” 240 pounds, Rutledge has a plus-plus fastball that sits 94-97 and reaches 99mph, an upper-80’s slider/cutter that is at least plus, and a curveball that can be above average at times. He has a short arm despite his size, which may lead to his mediocre control and his general inconsistency with his breaking pitches.
George Kirby, RHP, Elon
There seems to always be a starting pitcher from a smaller college that ends up in the first round. This year, it is Kirby, who has an impressive 105-6 K/BB ratio in his first 82.2 innings on the year along with a 2.07 ERA. Kirby throws a plus fastball and has both a slider and a curveball that can be average-to-above-average, although the curveball is the pitch most evaluators like. His changeup could be average as he uses it more as well. Kirby has the lowest ceiling of the players in this tier and will likely be drafted the latest unless a team with multiple early picks can get a steal of a deal.
Tier 3B: The College Wildcards
I figured I would explain the name here: these guys are generally separated from Tier 1 and Tier 2 by most evaluators, but still could be drafted anywhere from picks 5-20, based on team preference and the potential for an under-slot deal that would save a team money for later picks.
Bryson Stott, SS, UNLV
Stott is widely considered the best college shortstop in the draft class which mean just about every team likes him on some level. The left handed hitter has posted a great .369/.498/.636 line this season with a 37/50 K/BB ratio and 10 homeruns to go with 15 steals in 19 tries. He is considered an above average defender who should be able to stick at short, and if he can’t, he has the range and arm combination to play second or third, depending on where his bat ends up— he has a potentially plus hit tool with power ranging anywhere from below average to above average (45-55) if he develops well.
Josh Jung, 3B, Texas Tech
Just by looking at Jung, most would suspect the stocky 6’2” 215 pound right hander to be a major power hitter. While Jung has solid raw power and strength, he has been more of a pure hitter so far in college. He had an epic sophomore year, hitting .392/.491/.639 but with just 12 homers. So far, as a junior he has maintained a similar OPS despite his average dropping a bit (.355/.491/.634 line with 9 homers through 46 games). Jung has a great ability to put the bat on the ball and has a good eye as well, but if he had been able to significantly improve his slugging this year, he may have been a surefire top ten pick. He has a great arm at third but lacks range, so he will have to work on that a bit to stay there long term.
Shea Langeliers, C, Baylor
If Adley Rutschman didn’t exist, Langeliers would be the best catcher in the draft, hands down. And if Langeliers had a more consistent college career, he would be a surefire top-10 pick this year no matter what. Langeliers hit a solid .928 OPS as a freshman, but struggled to a mark of .847 his sophomore year as his averaged dropped since he was trying to hit for more power. He started this year hot but a broke a hamate bone in his hand and even though he has returned and hit well overall (.318/.388/.493), the power that would make people believe in his bat just isn’t there. He is solid enough defensively to likely have a floor of being a Drew Butera-type, but if he can hit at all he could be a big league regular. If teams do doubt the bat, he may fall more than Stott—to somewhere in the 20-30 range.
This is going to be a very interesting tier to watch. Of the 8 players listed I think 7 could be in play for the Twins with pick 13, with George Kirby being the only player I would consider a reach (unless he signed well below slot value and we used that money to get a high-upside player with our Competitive Balance Round pick). I’ve listed him in this tier because he is generally considered well ahead of the other college pitchers, but significantly behind the Lodolo-Manoah-Thompson trio, who could all go top 12 if teams believe in their health and ability to start.
In mock drafts I have seen Lodolo in the 5-11 range, Manoah from 7-13, and Thompson from 12-25. Rutledge is almost always in the teens and has been linked to the Twins while Kirby is usually in the 16-25 range.
For the hitters, mocks are far more random, thus the name. I’ve seen Stott as high as 5 and as low as 20. I suppose it depends on if a team likes his defense and/or his power, as well as his willingness to sign below slot value. Langaliers is most often in the 12-25 range, but I have seen him crack the top 10 to a team like Atlanta who has two first round picks and could sign him below slot to help groom their bevy of young pitchers. Josh Jung is always somewhere between 11-22, most often between 11-16 (the Twins range, but I’ve heard they are interested in another third baseman we can talk about later).
This tier is pretty solid, but if the Twins were to draft any of these players I think you could only judge the selection based on what they are able to draft with their second (39), third (54), and fourth (90) picks, as I expect them to spread the money around.
Next time we will take a look at the most confusing tier, consisting of high schoolers and college bats who can go almost anywhere from pick 9-41, and beyond.