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2018 MLB Draft Recap: NL Central

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Shaun Kernahan reviews the NL Central classes

Courtesy of Aaron Whelan

I will be breaking down my favorite, and least favorite, picks for every team. This is a six article series, going East to West for the AL and NL. I will break down four picks for each team with those being:

Best Pick: Likely a Monday selection that I love as a fit and/or upside for the organization.

Reach: A selection I just don’t like, or at least as early as the player was selected.

Sleeper: Likely a Tuesday selection that the team got lower than I would have selected them, providing good value.

Deep Sleeper: This will be a pick often after the 10th round that will likely be signed and provide value in the system and potentially become a future big league player. Some will be inside the top 10 rounds depending on how the draft unfolded for that given team.

To see the other lists, use the links below (to be added as the articles post):

AL East
AL Central
AL West
NL East
NL Central
NL West

Chicago Cubs

Best Pick: Nico Hoerner, SS, Stanford – Round 1, Pick 24 – This could truly be the reach as I am not a fan of the Cubs draft, but Hoerner will likely be the best player from this draft class on the North Side. To me he is a utility infielder as he does not have the natural fluidity you want in a shortstop but does have some range and a good enough arm to play third if needed. His lone above average tool is his hit tool, as he does a good job of barreling the ball, but there isn’t much power in the bat. It is high for a player with such a limited upside, it is also a very safe pick. He is a good enough athlete that he could likely do just fine in the outfield, giving him the possibility of being a six position player that sticks on a big league roster and sees enough time based on his ability to get on base and play everywhere.

Reach: Brennen Davis, OF, Basha HS (AZ) – Round 2, Pick 62 – I don’t get the Davis love beyond projectability given he is 6’4” just 175 lbs. and can fly. A hamstring injury slowed him this season, but when healthy his speed is a true plus tool which also allows him to make up for his raw defensive ability by running down balls in center that he originally made a poor read on. The swing is stiff although the bat speed is good, the swing itself is long. He has not shown an ability to hit for power and he swings and misses far too much. I am not sure the bat will every truly come along, which is a big risk in the second round for a Cubs team whose system is hurting for talent.

Sleeper: D.J. Artis, OF, Liberty – Round 7, Pick 218 – The swing isn’t exactly pretty, with a deep stance that is uncomfortable even to watch, he does a good job getting the hands started early and the bat through the zone. His weight shifts out front quite a bit sapping what little power may be in the bat and he pulls the ball too often but has an incredible eye at the plate. He led the country in walks in 2017 while putting up an OBP of .500 or better twice in his collegiate career. He has plus speed and solid reads in the outfield which make him a very good defensive center fielder. He is a prolific base stealer, successful in about 22% of his attempts, with more than a few of his caught stealing coming in an attempt to steal third. He has the upside of a leadoff man who plays center, but if he is a bat off the bench he can provide value there too.

Deep Sleeper: Luke Reynolds, 3B, Southern Miss – Round 10, Pick 308 – A JC transfer to Mississippi State who later transferred to Southern Miss and missed two seasons of baseball, Reynolds provides an intriguing option in round ten. He is an older draft pick even if he was listed as a senior, but he still does have another year of eligibility. He moves well for a third baseman and has the arm to stick there, but his future role will be determined by the bat. There is above average potential power in the bat, but the contact rate is of some concern. He struck out nearly once a game, but he also walked more tan once a game and reached base at a .551 clip. His swing is a little long and he struggles to stay closed, meaning pitchers at the next level will pound him away in the zone. If he makes the adjustments to be able to handle the whole plate, he could become a valuable bat with pop of the bench of a big league team in the future.

Cincinnati Reds

Best Pick: Jonathan India, 3B, Florida – Round 1, Pick 5 – It became rather clear in the days leading up to the draft that India was a real candidate to go top five in the draft, but I am not completely sold on him this high. India was a highly touted player out of high school but didn’t have a great first two years at Florida. This year he was arguably the best player in the country, with an incredible 1.217 OPS and striking out the same number of times as he walked. His tools are real, showing an above average hit tool, the potential for a plus power tool, average to better run, average arm, and an average glove that can be above average depending on the position. He saw time at short this year but was at third for most the year. The position he fits best into just might be second base where he will be able to handle it defensively just fine and the power in his bat could turn him into a very good player.

Reach: Bren Spillane, OF/1B, Illinois – Round 3, Pick 82 – Don’t let the .389 average fool you, Spillane is far from a sure thing when it comes to putting the bat on the ball. He struck out more than once a game and his bat takes a while to get through the zone. When he does make contact, the ball can go a long way, it just dosen’t happen often enough. He played first base for Illinois but has the athleticism and arm to play right and the power to fit in left. He hardly played as a freshman and had a solid sophomore year but he is really a one year wonder to this point. The third round is a little rich for me given the real concerns with his swing and lack of a track record of success at a high level.

Sleeper: Mike Siani, OF, William Penn Charter (PA) – Round 4, Pick 109 – When Siani didn’t go on the first day of the draft I figured he would end up at Virginia, but that is not the case. It appears he has signed for $2M, roughly the slot money of the 35th pick. Regardless of cost, he is as toolsy an outfielder as there is in the class and may be the lone player to grade out as a five tool guy. He has real plus speed, arm, and defense in center where he would be solid even with just average speed. There are some questions with the bat as he does not always keep his hands above the ball, which will lead to more pop ups than wanted, especially from a lefty with plus speed. He does have raw power, but the big question is whether he will adjust his approach at the plate to line the ball into the gap or sell out for more power. He has what it takes to have an above average bat, or above average power, I am just not sure he has the swing to do both.

Deep Sleeper: Michael Byrne, RHP, Florida – Round 14, Pick 409 – A reliever for all but three games in his Florida career, Byrne has saved more than 30 games over the past two years. He has very good control for a reliever and has had an ERA of 1.90 or better in back-to-back years. Despite the very good numbers as the Gators closer, he does not have the traditional power reliver profile. Byrne rarely sits above 93 but he has a 3/4 arm slot that causes a good amount of arm side run. His slider is not a power pitch either, looking much like a cutter at times but adding depth at other times. He does have a change he shows now and then that could allow the Reds to give him a look in the rotation. There is a decent amount of effort so I don’t see a starter experiment lasting long. He is more of a high floor/low ceiling guy, but no team will complain about that in the 14th.

Milwaukee Brewers

Best Pick: Brice Turang, SS, Santiago HS (CA) – Round 1, Pick 21 – Viewed by many as the best pure shortstop in the draft, assuming Nick Madrigal is a second baseman, Turang slid to the latter half of round one. Featuring plus speed with an arm that can play on the left side of the diamond and a good glove, he should be able to stick at short. He has an advanced eye at the plate, but his weight flows out over the front foot too often. When his balance is good he barrels up the ball with consistency. He will never be a power hitter, but he can put the ball in both gaps. The value of this pick will be determined largely on his ability to improve his plate balance and how many home runs he can contribute. I would pencil him in as a future regular at short.

Reach: Micah Bello, OF, Hilo HS (HI) – Competitive Balance B, Pick 73 – It is always hard to get a good read on a player coming out of an area with limited top tier talent, and Bello is just that coming out of Hawaii. He held his own at the Area Code Games but the bat is long and will be a problem against good velocity. He starts with an open stance and never gets all the way back to level, leaving him susceptible to swinging through pitches on the outer half. He doesn’t have much in terms of power but does have plus speed to go with an above average arm and could stick in center. I see him turning into an athletic fourth outfielder as I am just not a believer in the bat.

Sleeper: Drew Rasmussen, RHP, Oregon State – Round 6, Pick 185 – Following a dominant freshman year, Rasmussen has taken the hill just 14 times over the past three years. Despite undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Rays took Rasmussen 31 overall a year ago but chose not to sign him after looking at his MRIs. Their concerns were proven to be justified as he had to undergo a second TJ surgery and missed all of 2018. When healthy Rasmussen can sit up to 96 while touching 98. He has a slider that can be an above average pitch and a change that can become average in time. He fights his front foot some as it can land stiff but, if he stays healthy, he could easily become a very good fourth starter.

Deep Sleeper: Korry Howell, SS, Kirkwood CC (IA) – Round 12, Pick 365 – The hands start too far back and off the body with stiffness in his wrists, but that Howell still put up very good numbers this year. He is quite lean and there is some thought he could become an average power hitter if his approach at the plate improves enough to allow the barrel to meet the ball with more consistency. In the field he can definitely stick at short given his athleticism and soft hands with the glove, but the arm looks more like a second baseman. Howell is all projection and potential, but that is exactly what you are looking for when selecting a JC player in the 12th round.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Best Pick: Travis Swaggerty, OF, South Alabama – Round 1, Pick 10 – I was as high on Swaggerty as anyone this year. He has a bit of a long stride that creates more swing and miss than you want from a guy that could easily be a leadoff man in the big leagues. His power is nothing special, but if he were to sit in the 20-25 range it wouldn’t be a shock either. He is a plus runner and plays plus defense in center field with an arm that would play just fine in right. He has an incredibly patient approach at the plate, walking nearly once a game and improving his K/BB rate every year at South Alabama. I could see Swaggerty moving quickly through the minors and ready to take a big league role by 2020.

Reach: Aaron Shortridge, RHP, Cal – Round 4, Pick 114 – Shortridge has a an easy delivery that will allow him to carry the workload of a starter, but I question if he has the stuff to be a starter. His fastball typically tops out around 93 and if much flatter than you would expect from a 3/4 arm slot. His breaking ball is a loopy slider that is not sharp and I am not convinced it will ever be even an average big league pitch. His change has the upside of an average pitch, but that is at best. There are some that believe there is a lot of projectability given his relatively lean body, but I don’t see it. I see an upside of three average pitches that can be commanded well and a guy that I would not grade out as a future big leaguer.

Sleeper: Grant Koch, C, Arkansas – Round 5, Pick 144 – Koch’s offensive numbers took a real dip this season, but he still flashes the potential for above average power and has a good eye at the plate. He walked just two fewer times than he struck out this year but the real improvements came behind the plate. Koch went from a power only catcher to a guy that can be a real commodity with the glove. His arm is average but has shown very good footwork behind the plate, getting the transfer up quickly and throwing with excellent accuracy. He has been able to manage the pitching staff well and should develop into an elite backup catcher, which is something any team would gladly take although he does have the upside to turn into an average starter.

Deep Sleeper: Zac Susi, C, UConn – Round 12, Pick 354 – As you may have picked up by now the Deep Sleeper will very often be a productive college player as they have a higher likelihood to sign and have the track record of success at a higher level. That is just what you have in Susi, who has improved every aspect of his triple slash line in his three years in Connecticut. He is a big backstop and has shown average to better defensive abilities, although his footwork showed signs of regression this year with some added weight on his frame. There is some noise to his swing but he gets his hands into good positioning consistently. His wrists and hips seem to be out of sync which is why he has not hit for any real power in college, but the body and bat swing have the potential if he can just get his full body moving together. If he doesn’t let the weight get out of control and improves the footwork, he can be at least an average defensive catcher who has the upside of an average bat with 15-20 home run upside.

St. Louis Cardinals

Best Pick: Nolan Gorman, 3B, Sandra Day O’Connor HS (AZ) – Round 1, Pick 19 – There is going to be an easy comp for people to make of Gorman to Joey Gallo. I have long been outspoken on my less than glowing feelings of Gallo’s game, and I don’t see Gorman striking out at nearly the rate of Gallo. There are definitely holes in Gorman’s swing, but I have seen him for three years now and he looked impatient and frustrated with the lack of pitches to hit he was seeing this Spring. He was on a high school team that had fellow draftee Jayce Easley on it and several D-I commits in the lineup, but pitchers would not give him anything to hit. He has 70 grade power, and not just raw but it shows up in game. He has improved significantly as a fielder as well, going from a once poor high school second baseman to a guy who can easily be a league average defender at third. He is going to get his fair share of strikeouts, but I could see a .275 average with 35 home runs as a regular season for him in the future.

Reach: Mateo Gil, SS, Timber Creek HS (TX) – Round 3, Pick 95 – The son of long time big league catcher Benji Gil, Mateo is more athletic than his dad and is currently a shortstop. He has good actions up the middle, but the arm isn’t all that strong and the range is average, so a future move to second may be in the cards for this Cards pick. He has a good eye at the plate and sees the game very well, but his hand can get under the ball at the plate and he finds himself swinging with all arms and wrists far too often. The Cardinals will have to pony up to sign him away from a strong commitment to TCU, and I just don’t see the upside in him to be worth the selection and money this high.

Sleeper: Steven Gingery, LHP, Texas Tech – Round 4, Pick 123 – Had Gingery not undergone Tommy John Surgery this year, he would almost certainly have been a day one selection. He has never been a hard thrower, sitting most often in the 88-91 range, but his mechanics are solid and his 3/4 deliver allowed the fastball to run enough to play as an average pitch. He has a looping curve that he can spot to keep hitters honest, but his bread and butter is the change. He has the best pure change of anyone in this year’s class with excellent deception to go with run and sink for days. His change may be a top five pitch in the entire crop of pitchers this year and he has the upside of an innings eating mid-rotation starter.

Deep Sleeper: Evan Sisk, LHP, College of Charleston – Round 16, Pick 483 – Sisk is a lefty with a low 3/4 arm slot and some elbow bend. He has been a starter for most of his time with the Cougars, but his future is in the bullpen. He has been dominant against lefties but struggled at times against batters in the right-handed box. His fastball sits up to 93 but can get to 95 in shorter stints. His curve comes in slot and with enough depth that it makes it really hard for a lefty to get a good read on it, but it breaks right into righty bats. His future role is that of a loogy but he can be dominant in that role as he hides the ball well and gets solid extension allowing the fastball to play above average.