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MLB Draft Recap: AL Central

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Nick Madrigal; Surprise Baseball Complex
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 White Sox

Best Pick: Nick Madrigal, MIF, Oregon State – Round 1, Pick 4 – Madrigal is the best pure hitter in the draft this year, if not in the past few years. His ability to stay on top of the ball and hit it hard is second to none and he has a fantastic eye at the plate. There isn’t much in terms of power, but he can put the ball in the gap just fine. In the field his arm is just enough to play short and he has a lot of range. Given his short stature, many feel he will be a second baseman at the next level, where his defense will be elite, but don’t sleep on him proving himself enough to make it at short.

Reach: Lency Delgado, SS, Doral Academy (FL) – Round 4, Pick 108 – Delgado is listed as a shortstop but it is unlikely he will stay there. His future position is best suited to be third base where his plus arm will be able to shine. He does not possess great athleticism and can be slow down the line. The bat takes a long time to get through the zone making it tough for him to tap into his raw power against elite competition. In the fourth round there were plenty of better options at both short and third.

Sleeper: Steele Walker, OF, Oklahoma – Round 2, Pick 46 & Konnor Pilkington, LHP, Mississippi State – Round 3, Pick 81 – All of the attention coming out of the draft was on two sport star Kyler Murray, but it is his outfield counterpart in Oklahoma that I feel is the better pro coming out of Norman. He has an above average hit tool and solid power. He shows very good pitch recognition to go allowing him to put up an OBP over .440 and improved in almost every offensive category all three years with the Sooners. In the field he has seen time in center and right, but he will likely be a left fielder at the next level. His arm is not what you want from a right fielder, and he doesn’t have the elite athleticism in center but does have very good instincts that will allow him to play there if needed.

The following round the White Sox picked up a college lefty who has proven himself in the SEC, the Cape Cod League, and with the US Collegiate National Team, and won’t turn 21 until September. Pilkington doesn’t have a huge fastball, but is able to spot it well and his long body makes it play up from the high-80s to low-90s it typically sits. He has a breaking ball that he commands well and a change that shows flashes of being his best pitch. His delivery is solid enough to stick as a starter but did show signs of slowing later in games, so it will be interesting to see how he handles a pro workload.

Deep Sleeper: Gunnar Troutwine, C, Wichita State – Round 9, Pick 258 – Troutwine is easy to overlook with Alec Bohm and Greyson Jenista on the same club, but the catcher had his best offensive season yet to go with his already solid defensive abilities. He has a leg kick but keeps his balance pretty well but does drift out front from time to time. His bat lags behind his hips at times as well preventing him from showing a lot of power, but there is above average power potential in his bat and he can be an average to better hitter. He will likely not turn into much more than a big league backup, but getting him in the ninth round with a real shot to sign him could be a real steal for the White Sox.

Cleveland Indians

Best Pick: Ethan Hankins, RHP, Forsyth Central HS (GA) – Round 1 Compensatory, Pick 35 – The long right hander has been clocked up to 98 MPH with his truly elite fastball, but a shoulder injury caused him to fall in the draft. When he is fully healthy and fills out the 6’6” body, many scouts believe he will be touching 100 with relative ease and it already has a ton of run. He throws a curve now but has tried adding a slider that many feel will end up being his best secondary offering given his armslot and velocity. He does have a solid change that could become a plus pitch given its excellent movement. Regardless, getting a player that at one time was thought to have a shot to become the first ever prep righty to go 1-1 at pick 35 is not something the Indians will complain about.

Reach: Richard Palacios, SS, Townson – Round 3, Pick 103 – A productive left handed hitting college shortstop is a nice “problem” to have as your reach. Palacios shows an advanced eye at the plate and solid ability to barrel up a ball but, despite his increase in power numbers every year, he likely won’t ever contribute much with the long ball. His arm is not what you want from a shortstop so a move to second is likely where his athleticism can play well. His glove is solid but his true carrying tool will be his speed, which may see the Indians give him a look in center to try and create a super-utility player.

Sleeper: Raynel Delgado, INF, Calvary Christian Academy (FL) – Round 6, Pick 193 – A player drafted well below his rank, Delgado may be a tough sign with his college commitment being to Florida International. If the Indians are able to sign him though, they will be getting a switch-hitting infielder who is driven by the bat. He has a swing that looks almost identical from both sides of the plate that gets to the ball quickly and drives the ball well by staying on top of it and using his hips well. The glove is solid but not anything special, as is the arm, but the foot speed is a real concern. He is a very instinctive player which helps but it is unlikely he will be able to stick at short. The biggest question on Delgado now is what position will fit him best, as there really isn’t one that his skill set is ideal for.

Deep Sleeper: Jack DeGroat, RHP, Liberty – Round 11, Pick 343 – DeGroat struck out two batters per inning in the Cape Cod League last summer while having a 4:1 K:BB ratio. He was poised to have a breakout campaign with Liberty but ended up undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing the 2018 season. The fact the Indians grabbed him in round 11 tells me they didn’t want to risk losing out on any slot money but think they still may be able to sign him at the same time. His delivery has a ton of effort to it and will almost certainly land him in a bullpen very early in his pro career, but the stuff is real. He sits up to 94 with a sharp slider that makes hitters buckle.

Detroit Tigers

Best Pick: Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn – Round 1, Pick 1 – A dominant college pitcher in the SEC with the best pitch in the draft, Mize was hands down the top prospect in the draft this year. His split change is absolutely filthy and can be a plus pitch at the big league level today. He has a clean and repeatable delivery to go with pinpoint control striking out 12.6 batters for every free pass he allows and less than one per nine innings. His fastball is a plus pitch as is his slider. In all, Mize has all the makings of a front of the rotation arm so long as he can stay healthy which has been the lone concern for him. A slam dunk first pick in the draft.

Reach: Kody Clemens, 2B, Texas – Round 3, Pick 79 – I am a fan of Clemens, but I was really surprised to see him go with the first pick of day two of the draft. He is an old college junior so there might be some limit on his upside to go with his lack of a natural position. He played second base at Texas, but he does not have the fluid actions you want to see at that position, and the arm is strong, but not ideal for third base. His lack of foot speed will limit his ability to play the outfield, leaving the power in his bat to be his carrying tool. Best case I see Clemens becoming a serviceable at best defensive utility player than can add some pop off the bench.

Sleeper: Parker Meadows, OF, Grayson HS (GA) – Round 2, Pick 44 – Austin Meadows younger brother is not as hyped as his brother and went about where he was expected to, but the upside here could prove to be a real value. His swing needs to be overhauled as his hand positioning and movement is not good, although he quieted it down some towards the end of the year, and I rarely saw his front foot land with consistency in regards to the pitch timing. He also has a very long bat path that will likely lead to trouble against pro pitching, although he did show well against some high quality pitching in Georgia. There is a lot of raw power in the bat and the defensive tools are plus. He has plus speed with very good instincts in center and an arm that would play very well in right if he ever needs to move off center.

Deep Sleeper: Tarik Skubal, LHP, Seattle – Round 9, Pick 255 – Listed as a senior on the MLB Draft Tracker, Skubal actually has another year of eligibility as he red shirted in 2017 after recovering from Tommy John Surgery. His command was a real concern in 2018 and he struggled in run prevention, although he did strike out nearly twelve batters per nine this season and held opponents to an average of just .225. He has a long 3/4 delivery with good balance off a large leg kick. There is a lot of cross body action do his delivery to go with some arm bend that may make his ability to start over the long term tough. If he is moved to the bullpen he has the stuff to shine there with a fastball that gets into the upper 90s and a breaking ball that flashes plus.

Kansas City Royals

Best Pick: Brady Singer & Jackson Kowar, RHPs, Florida – Round 1, Pick 18 & Round 1 Compensatory, Pick 33 – Singer was considered the top prospect in the draft coming into the year and I would not be surprised at all if Kowar goes on to have the best career of any pitcher in this year’s draft class. The Royals managed to get the collegiate teammates who were hands down the best 1-2 punch in college baseball and will be able to keep them as a 1-2 punch in their system. My guess is they are considered the two best prospects in the Royals system the day they sign.

Reach: Jonathan Bowlan, RHP, Memphis – Round 2, Pick 58 – Widely considered a day two pick, Bowlan heard his name called in the middle of round two on the first night of the draft. He is a big pitcher at 6’6”and 260 lbs., he has the look of an innings eating starter. The problem is the secondary stuff which could play well off his fastball but neither has shown the consistency needed to make an impact at the next level. His slider is his best chance to be an average to better secondary offering, flashing plus at times, while his change has shown average potential but is not a pitch that can get elite hitters out today. If one secondary offering comes together he can be a decent reliever, if both come together he can be a back end of the rotation starter, but there is a real shot neither get to where they need to be and he winds up topping out at AA.

Sleeper: Kris Bubic, LHP, Stanford – Competitive Balance A, Pick 40 – In a draft that saw the Royals take college players in the first 11 picks, there is no shortage of sleeper potential here. I gave real consideration to the first two position players taken in Kyle Isbel of UNLV and Eric Cole of Arkansas, both outfielders, but I am too high on Bubic to pass on him. While Tristan Beck took back the Friday night duties this year after coming back from injury, Bubic was arguably the best Saturday pitcher in college baseball not named Jackson Kowar. Bubic’s best pitch is he plus to better change that plays off a fastball that has a good plane to it and can show great run at times but does not have elite velocity. His curve is an average to better pitch and he can command all three pitches. He has a hitch in his delivery that he can vary to throw off a hitter’s rhythm if he needs to. My main concern over his delivery as he gets to the next level is the fact he drops his hand so far in his delivery hitters may be able to pick up the grip and know the pitch before he throws it. In the end, I see a mid-rotation starter in the future.

Deep Sleeper: Jon Heasley, RHP, Oklahoma State, Round 13, Pick 392 – The draft eligible sophomore did not have a great season which may lead to him not signing in the 13th round, but if he does it could be a great signing for the Royals. His fastball is a heavy 94-95 to go with a slider that can grade out as plus. He mixes in a curve and change that are inconsistent and need real improvement if he is going to stick in a rotation. If a team moves him to the bullpen, his fastball and slider could play up to the level of being a reliable late inning reliever.

Minnesota Twins

Best Pick: Trevor Larnach, OF, Oregon State – Round 1, Pick 20 – Let’s start with the negative, Larnach is not fast, ok, that is all. He has an advanced approach at the plate that allows him to have a hit tool that would work as an up the middle player, but finally turned his raw power into game power this season launching 17 home runs. He has an incredible eye at the plate allowing him to reach base at a rate more than .100 points higher than his average in all three seasons with the Beavers and will gladly drive the ball into the left center gap if that is where he is pitcher. The bat gets into the zone quickly and there is little wasted movement in his swing. In the field, the lack of speed is a concern, but the instincts are solid and he has enough arm to play right. If he ends up a left fielder in time, the bat is more than enough to make him a valuable player. He could turn into a .300 hitter with 30 home runs someday, which any team will take.

Reach: Ryan Jeffers, C, UNC Wilmington – Round 2, Pick 59 – The second player drafted that was not on MLB’s top 200 draft prospects (the first being Josh Stowers to the Mariners) Jeffers was a player that teams either loved, or were totally out on. He does not have the arm or defensive chops to stick behind the dish as a catcher so he will likely shift to first base in time. He was a very productive offensive player for UNCW with a natural upper cut swing that leads to good looking home runs, but I am not sold the consistency will be there at the next level. He struck out at a near 16% rate but walked even more often. He was a three true outcome player with 93% of his trips to the plate resulting in a home run, strikeout, or walk. While today’s game is shifting much further in that direction, doing so in the Colonial Conference is a lot easier than at the pro level, where the strikeout numbers will likely increase and walk numbers decrease.

Sleeper: Cole Sands, RHP, Florida State – Round 5, Pick 154 – Missing a couple starts late in the season due to elbow tendinitis followed by having to leave his start in the Regionals early due to an apparent injury certainly didn’t help Sands’ draft stock. When healthy, he pounds the zone with a running fastball that sits up to 95 with a sharp slider an improving change. Had he been healthy the whole year, there is a chance he would be a late round two or early round three selection, but he slipped to the fifth round for the Twins. He has the potential of being a mid-rotation starter in time, but more likely at the back of a rotation starter.

Deep Sleeper: Regi Grace, RHP, Madison Central HS (MS) – Round 10, Pick 304 – Looks like a good chance to sign with the Twins despite being a rare high school pick in the tenth round. His delivery is very repeatable with all of his pitches coming out of the same arm slot. There is good leg drive, although his front foot does land ahead of the rest of the body forcing him to work against himself some. The fastball is not huge, but he gets good extension in his delivery allowing it to get on hitters quicker than the 89-92 would suggest. He has a breaking ball that is slurvy and needs to either add depth to it as a curve or sharpness as a slider. He does not have much of a change at the current time, but the mechanics are what give him the upside. It is all going to be about how he takes to pro coaching, but a potential spot starter out of high school in the tenth round is a nice pick.