We have looked at a number of players who will likely be first round picks in the 2019 MLB Draft. Now we have a chance to look at some players with helium, an industry term for players who rise quickly up draft boards the closer we get to the draft. These guys might be taken in the first round, but might be drafted far later based on a number of criteria.
Tier 5A: High School Helium Hitters
Tyler Callihan, 3B/C, Providence HS (Florida)
Everyone seems to love Callihan’s bat, which is a solid mix of a hit tool and power from the left side. The problem is that he is a defensive project. He plays third base and catches every so often for his high school team, and a team might like his bat enough to try him there more often.
Rece Hinds, 3B, IMG Academy (Florida)
Hinds has an insane amount of raw power, but he needs to develop his hit tool as he has some swing and miss to his game. He needs to prove he can stay at third base, as his lack of range would limit him to third or first base.
Matthew Lugo, SS, Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy (P.R.)
Lugo is pretty advanced for a high school shortstop, having just turned 18. He doesn’t have the best pure tools, but he knows how to do just about everything well and might maintain enough athleticism and arm strength to stick at short where his above-average bat should make him an everyday player. Lugo has been linked HEAVILY to the Twins, who have a solid history with Puerto Rican draftees between Eddie Rosario and Jose Berrios along with more recent picks like Jose Miranda and Ricardo De La Torre. I’ve seen Lugo mocked to the Twins in the first round at #13(!!) as a money saving move as well as at #39, but many feel he won’t be available that late any longer.
Keoni Cavaco, 3B, Eastlake HS (California)
No one has quite as much helium in their draft stock as Cavaco, and no, I can’t pronounce his name. He has plus speed and plus raw power as well as a good arm and instincts in the field. I’ve seen him mocked in the mid-teens for teams looking to save money.
Sammy Siani, OF, Penn Charter HS (Pennsylvania)
Considered an even better prospect than his brother, Mike Siani, who was drafted in the 4th round last year by the Reds. Siani has a great left handed swing as well as above average speed. The question is if he has the athleticism to stick in center or the power to stick in the corners.
Nasim Nunez, SS, Collins Hill HS (Georgia)
Of all the high school shortstops in the draft, Nunez is the safest bet to stick at the premium position in the pros—maybe the safest bet among all shortstops in the draft, period. The question is his bat. He started switch hitting in the last few years to make better use of his plus speed, but he is small at 5’9” and no one knows if he will ever hit, even just for gap power.
Brooks Lee, SS, San Luis Obispo HS, (California)
With his father as the head coach at Cal Poly, Lee has grown up around the game and has a high baseball IQ. He also has good bat speed as a switch-hitter and a strong arm, although he may be too slow to play shortstop.
Gunnar Henderson, SS, Morgan Academy (Alabama)
Big for a shortstop at 6’3”, he may slow down a bit as his body matures and have to move to third base. His arm profiles there, as do his hands, and he has the chance to hit for enough power to be an everyday third baseman.
Yordys Valdes, SS, McArthur HS (Florida)
Featuring a cannon arm and solid hands, Valdes is another high school prep guy who is a relatively safe bet to stick at shortstop even though he may not be the quickest guy out there. His hit tool and power potential are the big questions.
Anthony Volpe, SS, Delbarton HS (New Jersey)
The teammate of prep pitcher Jack Leiter, Volpe might end up being drafted higher because of Leiter’s high asking price and Volpe’s solid defensive skills. The bat is a question but he could be a defense-first utility infielder type even if the bat doesn’t come around.
Kyren Paris, SS, Freedom HS (California)
Boasting a solid mix of speed, arm, and glove, Paris is prep shortstop who might be able to stick there, but will need his bat to progress as he currently lacks the ability to impact the ball due to his slight frame, like a young Nick Gordon. Paris has been linked to the Twins recently, likely a target with our 39th overall pick.
Jerrion Ealy, OF, Jackson Prep (Mississippi)
One of four players all time to be an All-American in Football and Baseball (and one of two in this draft class), Ealy could end up playing both sports at Mississippi if teams doubt his ability to make contact. He has plus-plus (75 grade) speed and the arm to play any position in the outfield.
Tier 5B: College Hitter Sleepers
Kody Hoese, 3B, Tulane
After being drafted in the 35th round in 2018 as a draft-eligible sophomore, Hoese returned to school and has absolutely raked: .388/.482/.780 with 20 doubles, 23 homers, and a 33/38 K/BB ratio. Turning 22 after the draft, he isn’t quite as old as Brent Rooker was in 2017, but he has a similar draft profile as a guy with pop who returned to school and improved his stock. He has been linked to the Twins both because of the Rooker comparison and because the Twins have apparently been out to scout him heavily, although he might be picked before the the Twins have their second selection at #39.
Davis Wendzel, 3B, Baylor
Wendzel is somewhat similar to Hoese as a guy who is old for the draft class (turning 22 before the draft) who went back to school this year and has come out hot: .377/.488/.623 with 17 doubles, 8 home runs, a 35/27 K/BB rate, and 11 steals in 14 tries. Wendzel has a decent-sized body, listed at 6’1” 200lbs but a lot has been made about his effort in increasing his athleticism in college to near-fringy running grades. He is pretty good fielder and plays all over the infield well, enough to be a utility type.
Greg Jones, SS, UNC Wilmington
If Jones ends up being drafted by Atlanta he might be able to steal the Freeze’s job away with his legitimate 80 grade speed. He has a solid .343/.491/.551 line and is 40 for 50 in stolen bases on the year. While he hasn’t tapped into his power yet, he has made great strides with his plate discipline—having switched his 70/33 K/BB ratio last year to a 41/53 mark this year. He might have to move to center but has the arm to pair with his speed in the outfield. I haven’t seen any actual rumors linking Jones to the Twins, but the front office saw a lot of Jones last year when was the starting shortstop for Wilmington when Twins draftee Ryan Jeffers was their starting catcher.
Mike Toglia, 1B, UCLA
A power hitter from both sides of the plate, Toglia is having a down year despite a 1.009 OPS, seeing his K/BB rate weaken heavily, from 60/48 in 2018 to a poor 57/24 this year. Toglia is a pretty solid fielder at first base and has the combination of athleticism and arm strength to play a corner outfield position for a team that believes in his bat.
Logan Wyatt, 1B, Louisville
Wyatt has a great eye at the plate and has the ability to hit for contact although he lacks current game power. A .299/.471/.498 is down from last year across the board. Wyatt probably stuck at first base but could have the raw power to hit 20 homers a year there once he taps into it.
Brady McConnell, SS, Florida
In the fall of 2016 McConnell was an early favorite to be a top 5 pick in the 2017 draft. He struggled that spring and honored his commitment to Florida, struggling his first year but turning it around this year as a draft-eligible sophomore. He has turned in an impressive .341/.392/.594 line with 15 homers, although his 55/16 K/BB ratio might turn some off. McConnell has always been a good athlete for his 6’3” frame and might be able to stick at shortstop, although he could play third or second and might have the power to stick at the hot corner.
Tier 5C: The Other College Pitchers
Seth Johnson, RHP, Campbell
Playing shortstop his first two years of junior college, Johnson moved to the mound after transferring to Campbell. He has a nice and easy delivery and sits 91-95 while being able to hit 97 or so when he wants to. He needs to work on secondary pitches and becoming a pitcher as opposed to a thrower. Despite a 4.72 ERA in his draft year, his velocity and delivery means he has enough upside to be taken fairly early by a team with a deep prospect pool or a specific plan for the pitching convert.
Drey Jameson, RHP, Ball State
Standing only 6’0” 165lbs, Jameson lacks projection but already has a plus fastball that sits 93-96 as well as two distinct breaking pitches that both flash plus at times. Originally signed as a two way player, he may have the athleticism to be a shorter starting pitcher, but needs to work on command. A 146/32 K/BB ratio in 91.2 innings is certainly impressive.
Isaiah Campbell, RHP, Arkansas
Turning 22 before the end of 2019 will hurt Campbell’s stock a bit but he has performed well against a tough SEC conference in his redshirt Junior season, with a 2.37 ERA and a 100/18 K/BB ratio through his first 95 innings. Isaiah has an interesting Fastball-Cutter-Splitter repertoire as well as a get-me-over curve. That cutter was thought to him by current Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson, although Campbell may be pitching himself out of the Twins grasp, potentially being taken before the 39th pick.
Ryan Pepiot, RHP, Butler
Pepiot has struggled to a 3.92 ERA with a 126(great)/44(bad) K/BB ratio as a junior, but he has the right frame (6’3” 215lbs) and great spin rates on his pitches, which include a solid curve, a great changeup, and a fastball that sits 91-95.
John Doxakis, LHP, Texas A&M
While he sits 88-93 with his heater, Doxakis is more than just a soft throwing lefty, putting up a 1.84 ERA through his first 15 starts with a 106/26 K/BB ratio. He also has a solid slider and decent changeup to pair with above average or even plus control.
Matt Canterino, RHP, Rice
Cantarino features a pretty good fastball/slider mix and also has a distinct curveball that flashes above average. He has done well this year with a 2.81 and 121/23 K/BB rate through 99.1 innings, but has some effort in his delivery and may end up a solid reliever.
Tommy Henry, LHP, Michigan
He was a soft throwing lefty last season, but at the beginning of 2019 he was sitting 91-92 and hitting 94. He has a solid changeup and a slider that should be a useful pitch. A 104/23 K/BB rate through his first 92.1 innings has helped his helium this spring, where he could be a below-slot guy with upside although he will be 23 next April.
There are so many players that fit into this range, so this is certainly not an exhaustive list by any means, especially with so much important college baseball to left to play before the draft. The volatility is similar for the high school guys, who have ranging signability concerns. I didn’t even try to go into high school pitchers with this tier, since many of the prep pitchers I’ve already covered will factor into the same ranges that this 5th tier of players will be picked in.
For the prep hitters, a good chunk will be taken from 15-32, while another crop will be taken in the Competitive Balance Round and 2nd round. The third round, after Competitive Round B, is usually the best chance to snag someone who is falling, as there is just enough slot money for the third round pick to sign a player for $1.5 Million or $2 million if you saved enough early on or are willing to take a few senior signs in rounds 6-10 (the Twins did both in 2017). You always see some of these high school guys drafted in the 28-40th rounds as “just maybes.” The team offers those player a decent overslot deal but likely not enough to talk them away from college. It’s a good way to build a relationship for the future, similar to how the Twins drafted Brent Rooker two years in a row.
This crop of college bats might have their fortunes completely changed in the NCAA tournament. Still, any college position player with a standout tool (or the right collection of solid tools) and the willingness to sign below slot could be an option between the late first and Competitive Balance Round B, much like Ryan Jeffers last year.
These college pitchers are a significant drop from the Lodolo/Manoah/Thompson trio at the front end of the draft, but still have their share of #3-#5 starter upside that could always move to the pen. Any deal makers could end up drafted early, but some may slide to be good pickups in the 2-5 rounds.
Under the new regime the Twins have had surprising picks with their 2nd round selections— like Ryan Jeffers last year who was not ranked in MLBpipeline’s top 200 draft prospects— but many of these players are in the running for the Twins 39th overall pick, depending on who falls to them.
Over the past few weeks we have covered a wide number of prospects that could be available for the Twins’ first few selections in the 2019 Draft. Be sure to keep your eyes on Twinkie Town before the draft, as we will bring you any juicy draft rumors. And of course, join us on the evening of June 3rd as we will be following along with the draft!