NEW YORK (AP) – Casey Mize has dazzled scouts for months with his impressive arsenal of pitches.
The tantalizingly talented Auburn right-hander could find himself leading off the Major League Baseball draft on Monday night , with the Detroit Tigers ready to go on the clock with the No. 1 pick .
While Mize has long been the favorite to be the top selection, he’s not necessarily the type of no-doubt, sure-thing prospect Stephen Strasburg (2009) and Bryce Harper (2010) were considered in their draft years. Florida righty Brady Singer and Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart are also possibilities to have their names called first by Commissioner Rob Manfred at MLB Network studios in Secaucus, New Jersey.
For the Tigers, it’s the first time they have the No. 1 pick since they took Rice pitcher Matt Anderson in 1997.
“I don’t know if there’s a can’t-miss,” Tigers general manager Al Avila recently told reporters. “From draft to draft, you try to say, ‘Who’s that can’t-miss?’ There’s been plenty of can’t-misses that have missed, as you all know, in the history of the draft, but there are good players in this draft.
“And there’s going to be players in this draft who are going to get to the big leagues, and there will be players in this draft who may end up being All-Stars or maybe even franchise players. And they come from all places in the draft.”
Here are some of the top players eligible for the draft (with position, school, age, height, weight and college class):
C, Georgia Tech, 21, 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, junior.
The Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year led the conference in hitting with a .359 average and topped the Yellow Jackets with a .632 slugging percentage, 79 hits, 16 home runs, 55 runs scored and a .471 on-base percentage. Bart had a 16-game hitting streak this season and has terrific power potential at the next level. He’s also one of the country’s best defensive catchers, with a .992 fielding percentage on the season while throwing out 12 of 33 would-be base stealers.
3B, Wichita State, 21, 6-5, 240, junior.
Bohm is one of the top offensive players in the draft, hitting .339 with 16 homers – the most by a Wichita State player since 2004 – and 55 RBIs with 14 doubles and 39 walks. He also showed a knack for hitting in the clutch by setting a school record with three grand slams this year, and led the team with 10 go-ahead RBIs. Bohm will likely play either third or first base at the next level.
3B, O’Connor H.S. (Arizona), 18, 6-1, 210.
Gorman has made scouts drool with his raw power that has been on display while winning high school home run derbies around the country. MLB.com rated him the No. 1 power hitter among all players in the draft, prep or college, and his fast bat and hands are expected to translate to the pro level.
RHP, Forsyth Central H.S. (Georgia), 18, 6-6, 200.
Hankins has a blazing fastball that reaches 98 mph at times and some consider it the best in the draft. He missed a month with tightness in a muscle in his shoulder that affected his overall effectiveness and dropped him out of the discussion for the No. 1 overall pick. But the big righty is still highly coveted, and some believe his fastball has potential for gaining even more zip to go along with a solid changeup.
3B, Florida, 21, 6-0, 200, junior.
India has been an offensive force for the defending College World Series champions, hitting .364 with 18 homers and 45 RBIs through Saturday’s NCAA Tournament regional games. He’s the 12th player in school history to post 20 or more homers, 100 or more RBIs and 30 or more stolen bases in his career. The SEC player of the year also had a 24-game hitting streak earlier this season. He’s considered athletic enough to play several spots around the infield.
LHP, Mountain Ridge H.S. (Arizona), 18, 6-5, 200.
Liberatore is considered by many to be the top left-hander in this year’s draft class because of a three-pitch repertoire that has a chance to special. He hits the low- to mid-90s with his fastball, and while it’s not the best heater in the crop, the big lefty has terrific command and mixes in a knee-buckling curveball and solid changeup – along with a still-developing slider.
2B, Oregon State, 21, 5-7, 160, junior.
His slight physical build makes him look anything but one of college baseball’s best players, but he’s very much in the mold of similarly vertically challenged big league All-Stars Jose Altuve and Dustin Pedroia. Madrigal is considered by many to be the best overall hitter in the draft. He rebounded nicely for the Beavers after missing half the season with a broken left wrist. He was hitting .406 with three homers and 32 RBIs and just five strikeouts in 133 at-bats while helping lead Oregon State to the NCAA Tournament super regionals.
RHP, Auburn, 21, 6-3, 220, junior.
The likely No. 1 overall pick went undrafted out of high school three years ago, developing into a potential big league ace while in college. Mize has the mound combination that makes scouts drool – and batters consistently miss. He’s got solid command of four pitches, including a fastball that hovers in the mid-90s. But it’s his outstanding command and wicked splitter/changeup – possibly the best in the draft – that push him to the top of most teams’ wish lists. He was 10-5 with a 2.95 ERA and 151 strikeouts and just 12 walks in 109 2/3 innings while helping the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament.
RHP, Florida, 21, 6-5, 210, junior.
The Gators ace and SEC pitcher of the year has been in the discussion since last year to be the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft with his mid-90s fastball and solid slider. A slow start and recent hamstring issue, combined with a terrific year by Auburn’s Casey Mize, likely have the Florida righty instead going within the top five selections. Singer showed he was healthy again by going seven strong innings in an NCAA Tournament win over Jacksonville on Saturday. He’s 11-1 with a 2.27 ERA and 98 strikeouts and 19 walks in 95 innings.
RHP, Eau Gaille H.S. (Florida), 18, 6-6, 200.
Stewart has a ridiculously deceptive curveball that MLB.com rates as the best in the entire draft, and he combines it with a mid-90s fastball that he turned up to 98 mph in some outings. If not for Auburn’s Casey Mize and Florida’s Brady Singer, Stewart could have been a strong candidate to be the first prep righty in draft history to go No. 1 overall.
OF, South Alabama, 20, 5-11, 180, junior.
The left-handed hitting Swaggerty has five-tools potential with a terrific mix of speed, athleticism, power and defense. He could be the first outfielder taken. Swaggerty projects to be a leadoff-type center fielder in the pros. He hit .296 with 13 homers and 38 RBIs with a whopping 54 walks for the Jaguars this season.
OTHER POTENTIAL EARLY FIRST-ROUNDERS: Stetson RHP Logan Gilbert; Wisconsin high school OF Jarred Kelenic; Oregon State OF Trevor Larnach; South Florida LHP Shane McClanahan; Tennessee high school lefty Ryan Weathers, son of former big leaguer David Weathers; and California high school RHP Cole Winn.
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