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2018 MLB Draft: Ethan Hankins, RHP, Forsyth, Georgia

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Yesterday we looked at high school shortstop Brice Turang, who was expected to contend for a top five pick in the 2018 MLB draft but who looks like he will slip a bit due to reasons not under his control. Ethan Hankins, who may be the most physically gifted pitcher in the entire draft class, is in a similar situation. There was talk of Hankins going one-one a few months ago but that’s faded due to circumstances. That said, he’s enormously talented and will still be a first-round pick.

Hankins attends Forsyth Central High School in Forsyth, Georgia. Scouts have been on him for awhile; he was playing in showcases as early as 2014 and was especially impressive last summer for Team USA. He was also a top-rank college recruiting target, destined for the Vanderbilt Commodores if he doesn’t sign. Hankins was ridiculously good last summer and most expected him to be a top five pick for 2018, with a chance to go first-overall.

The reasons for this are obvious. Listed at 6-6, 200, Hankins is athletic and generates easy heat when healthy, working at 93-96 with peaks as high as 98. The fastball isn’t straight and has movement as devastating to hitters as the velocity. It is at least a 70 pitch with some evaluators giving the heat an 80.

As with most young pitchers his secondaries need more polish but he’s worked on a complete arsenal with a curve, slider, and change-up. Reports vary on which pitch is best; each one has its supporters, varying on what day the evaluator saw him, but all three secondaries have at least average potential and could wind up better than that.

It is not hard to project him as eventually having two plus secondaries to go with the fastball. His overall command is solid for his age and reliever risk seems minimal given good health. He is also one of the younger players in the class, having turned 18 just three days ago.

You will notice the phrases “when healthy” and “given good health.”

Back in February Hankins hurt his shoulder. He took a month off but when he came back his stuff was initially down, his fastball velocity dropping into the 90-93 range along with some regression in his secondary pitches. That scrambled his draft position, as shoulder woes are generally scarier than elbow problems, and the consensus had Hankins dropping from the top five into the teens or even the 20s on draft day.

However, Hankins looked better in his last few outings, back up to 95-97 in his final start of the season and with crispness returning to his breaking stuff. The medical reports on his shoulder are reportedly reassuring and he’s been moving back up draft boards. Where he lands is still unclear but any club confident in his health would find it difficult to pass him up. He has top of the rotation potential.

Like Brice Turang, Hankins still has the talent that made him so attractive early in the draft process. Hankins also has the Vanderbilt commitment to use as leverage if he falls too far. Assuming that nothing bad happens over the next week, Hankins could still get into the top ten on draft day.

Perfect Game video

From Taiwan Baseball Notes