With the 13th overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, the Minnesota Twins cannot simply hope and pray that other teams will refrain from picking the player the Twins want most. Instead, Thad Levine and the scouting department need to identify several players worthy of taking with the 13th overall pick.
Instead of relying on a simple numbering system to rank prospects that we can choose from, I think it is better to group players into tiers. By putting that player into a tier with similar players, you worry a little less about the personal preference of evaluators and more about widespread consensus.
It is well known that different teams have biases for certain tiers. The Atlanta Braves have a known penchant for taking high upside arms in the first round, and as such, have a farm system full of solid starting pitchers. Over the last decade the Marlins have focused very heavily on high-upside high schoolers, regardless of position. As we get closer to the draft we will investigate if the new Twins regime has a preference for a certain tier, but first let’s try to identify some of the tiers in the 2019 Draft class, and what that means for the Twins with the 13th pick.
Tier 1: The Elite Four
Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State University
Rutschman probably deserves to be in his own God-tier, but there are rumors that the Orioles are keeping their options open with the first overall pick. Rutschman is a switch-hitting catcher with defense that is considered Gold Glove-caliber. But his offense is even better, hitting .431/.581/.791 for Oregon State with a 31/60 K/BB ratio. I’ve heard evaluators say he will hit .280 with 40 home runs while playing Gold Glove defense.
Andrew Vaughn, 1B, California
Andrew Vaughn is hitting .373/.530/.711... and is having a down year. He crushed as a sophomore, is still doing so as a junior, and is probably the only player who can contend with Rutschman as being the “best bat in the class.” The only issue is that Vaughn is a 6’0” first baseman who throws and bats right handed, which means the bat is the only thing that really has value for him.
Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Colleyville Heritage HS (Texas)
As a potential five-tool shortstop, Witt rightfully belongs at the top of draft boards. He has a great combination of plus (60 grade) speed, a plus arm, and the hands to stick at shortstop. He also has legitimate power that could be plus with time. The biggest knock on Witt is that some scouts don’t think he will be able to hit for average in the pros and could be strikeout prone, but others think he has the physical ability and knowledge of the game to turn that around. He is turning 19 after the draft, but that won’t hurt the stock of such a highly regarded player.
C.J. Abrams, SS, Blessed Trinity Catholic HS (Georgia)
Other than being left handed, Abrams has a pretty similar profile—at least in terms to scouting grades— as Royce Lewis did in 2017 with elite speed (even fast than Lewis) and a solid hit tool but with questions about his defensive future—many think he will end up in center field. Lewis probably had better power grades at this point in his draft year, but scouts seem to like Abrams’ arm more than they liked Lewis’.
Tier 2: The Almost-Elite Four
J.J. Bleday, OF, Vanderbilt
Bleday has hit an impressive .352/.465/.791 with 23 homeruns so far this year and could easily slide into that top tier if he continues his impressive season. He would probably would already be in that tier if he had hit more than 4 homeruns in a 39 game, injury-shortened sophomore season. Bleday is a corner outfielder only but does have the arm to stick in right field.
Corbin Carroll, OF, Lakeside HS, Washington
An elite athlete with plus-plus (70 grade) speed, Carroll also brings a plus hit tool and impressive defense in centerfield. The only knocks on Carroll are that he is small at 5’10” and currently lacks game power. But there are a bunch of evaluators who think that he has the swing and strength to hit for average-to-above average (50-55 grade) power in the future, like Andrew Benintendi, a similarly statured player.
Riley Greene, OF, Hagerty HS, Florida
Greene probably has the best overall bat among prep position players in the draft, showing a plus hit tool and the body and swing to add legitimate power. He is not the best athlete out there, so the power will have to develop to make him a worthwhile corner outfielder—but people had that concern about Alex Kirilloff too.
Hunter Bishop, OF, Arizona State
After struggling in his sophomore season, Bishop came out of the gate hot in 2019 and hasn’t looked back, hitting .354/.484/.792 with 19 homers in his first 45 games for the Sun Devils. Bishop moves well for his large 6’5” 210 pound frame and is currently playing center field, but may have to move to the corner eventually. He is still a bit strikeout prone but has increased his walk rate this year.
Most draft evaluators that I have read have these 8 players somewhere in their top ten prospects. They constitute the best overall prospects in the draft class when not factoring in any sort of under-slot bonus strategies—which will likely make their way into the top ten picks.
Rutschman, Vaugh, and Witt will more than likely be the first three off the board, in some order. Abrams may fall somewhere in the 5-10 range if teams prefer the hit tools of the second tier over his pure athleticism, and so far Corbin Carroll has been the only player I have seen of this bunch falling out of the top 10 picks in mock drafts, likely due to concerns over his power potential and size. That would make him the only possible target of this bunch for the Twins. I like him as a player, but he will likely require a slot value or even an over-slot deal, and I’m not sure the Twins want that sort of deal considering they have four picks in the top 100 selections and have spread money around well the last two years.
There is one oddity about these top tiers... did you see it? There are no pitchers listed, and that isn’t simply oversight because I grouped together a bunch of position players. This draft class is considered to have historically bad pitching depth, especially in the college ranks. The best college pitchers do make up their own tier, generally evaluated behind our Tier 2 in overall talent, but still might slip into the 5-10 pick range if teams want to start by drafting pitching and load up on position players later in the draft.
We will get to that tier of pitchers and the next crop of position players in our next post, see you then!