While more high school players have been taken with the first pick in the MLB draft in recent years, it doesn’t mean those college prospects taken No. 1 overall haven’t panned out. Two of the Washington Nationals’ current All-Stars — Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg — were college players (Harper played for a junior college) taken with the first pick in 2010 and ’09, respectively. And the most recent college player taken No. 1 overall, Atlanta shortstop Dansby Swanson in 2015, has gotten off to a hot start in 2018 after enduring his share of struggles in his first full MLB season.
The 2018 MLB Draft is set for June 4-6 with Detroit possessing the first pick. While the Tigers will certainly consider the top high school prospects, should they choose to go the college route there’s a good chance it will be a pitcher. Seven of the top 10 college prospects toe the rubber.
Top 40 College Prospects for 2018 MLB Draft
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1. Brady Singer, RHP, Florida
In each of the last three years, a Florida ace came into the season with a very solid chance to go 1-1. A.J. Puk and Alex Faedo couldn’t live up expectations as juniors. Now it’s Singer’s chance. He has a plus fastball with life that is hard to square up and a slider that gives him a second weapon.
2. Nick Madrigal, 2B/SS, Oregon State
Madrigal doesn’t look like the typical top-10 pick. He’s 5'7", 160 pounds, and he lacks power as one might expect from someone his size. But he does everything else well. He runs, can play a solid shortstop and an excellent second base and is one of the best pure hitters in this year’s class.
3. Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida
McClanahan missed the 2016 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but his redshirt freshman season proved more than worth the wait. McClanahan has one of the best fastballs in the class for a lefty and a solid changeup.
4. Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn
If Mize can stay healthy all spring, he could work his way into consideration for the top pick. But he was shut down last year during the season with a sore arm, and he didn’t pitch in fall ball. So scouts don’t only need to see his potentially three plus pitches; they also need to be comfortable that he can be durable.
5. Jackson Kowar, RHP, Florida
The Gators will have a pretty fascinating battle to see who is the best pitching prospect on the staff, which is bad news for the rest of the SEC. Kowar can throw a little harder than Singer, and he has a very promising changeup.
6. Ryan Rolison, LHP, Ole Miss
Rolison is able to fill the strike zone consistently with a fastball-curveball pairing that was good enough to strike out more than a batter per inning last spring and helped him dominate at Orleans in the Cape Cod League.
7. Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson
Stetson is a pitching factory having produced Jacob deGrom and Corey Kluber in the past decade. Gilbert could be next as he has plenty of velocity, an easy delivery and a quality breaking ball.
8. Travis Swaggerty, OF, South Alabama
Swaggerty can draw a walk, can run, and he has a little bit of power too — although right now it’s metal bat power. He could be a productive center fielder if he makes more consistent contact.
9. Sean Hjelle, RHP, Kentucky
The 6'11" Hjelle is one of the tallest pitchers ever to step on the mound, but he pitches like he’s a foot shorter thanks to exceptional body control and coordination for his size. His stuff continues to get better and better as he matures as a pitcher.
10. Greyson Jenista, OF, Wichita State
A first baseman for most of his time at Wichita State, Jenista showed he could handle center field last summer in the Cape Cod League. He has a pretty swing and developing power to go with his athleticism.
11. Tristan Pompey, OF, Kentucky
Scouts will have a lot of reasons to catch Kentucky this spring as the Cats have several high-end prospects. Pompey could end up being the best of them. The switch-hitter has power and can run.
12. Griffin Conine, OF, Duke
The son of Marlins star Jeff Conine was one of the best players in the Cape Cod League last summer as he led the league with nine home runs. He’s one of the best power bats in this year’s class.
13. Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech has a pretty good track record of producing catchers — Matt Wieters and Jason Varitek come to mind. Bart doesn’t fit in that class, but he does have size, strength and an excellent arm.
14. Jeremy Eierman, SS, Missouri State
Eierman had a monster sophomore season for Missouri State, and he did it in front of plenty of scouts as they came to watch his teammate and 2017 first-round pick Jake Burger. Eierman struggled hitting with wood in the Cape Cod League and faces more questions as he enters his junior season.
15. Tim Cate, LHP, Connecticut
Cate may have the best curveball in the 2018 draft class, which gives the short (6'0") lefty a weapon that will play in pro ball. He may end up as a reliever.
16. Luken Baker, 1B, TCU
Baker was a two-way star as a freshman, but he focused on hitting as a sophomore and showed some of the best power in the nation. Baker is patient at the plate as well. When pitchers try to pitch around him, he’ll take his walks.
17. Steele Walker, OF, Oklahoma
Ideally, Walker would roam around center field, where his ability to hit for average but with limited power would play perfectly. He’s more comfortable in the corner outfield spots, which is going to put more pressure on his ability to drive the ball consistently.
18. Alec Bohm, 3B, Wichita State
Bohm has an excellent track record of hitting with a wood bat, which will serve him very well come draft time. But scouts are still figuring out how well he can handle third base.
19. Konnor Pilkington, LHP, Mississippi State
Pilkington can dominate with his heavy fastball and a promising slider, as he showed last spring at Mississippi State (8–5, 3.08) and with USA Baseball last summer (0–0, 2.65).
20. Seth Beer, OF/1B, Clemson
Beer is one of the most divisive prospects in this year’s class. He’s been one of the best hitters in college baseball for the past two years. But he doesn’t run well enough to really have a defensive position, and he hasn’t hit with wood.
21. Blaine Knight, RHP, Arkansas
Knight was drafted in the 29th round last year as a draft-eligible sophomore with a big asking price. He’s back in college and will go a lot earlier this year with a 90-95 mph fastball and a solid changeup and curve.
22. Tristan Beck, RHP, Stanford
Scouts haven’t really seen Beck pitch since he impressed as a freshman in Stanford’s rotation in 2016. He missed 2017 with a stress fracture in his back. He has to get back on the mound, but he has first-round stuff if healthy.
23. Jake McCarthy, OF, Virginia
If McCarthy can start driving the ball more, he could be special. But right now, he relies more on his speed and ability to put the bat on the ball consistently.
24. Zach Watson, OF, LSU
Watson made an immediate impact for the Tigers as a freshman, hitting .317 with nine home runs. His speed is even more impressive than his gap power, and the draft-eligible sophomore could go high with another big spring.
25. Cadyn Grenier, SS, Oregon State
Grenier and Madrigal helped lead Oregon State to 56 wins last spring, and they form the best middle-infield duo in college baseball. Grenier is good enough defensively to keep Madrigal at second. The big question is how much Grenier will hit.
26. Isaiah Campbell, RHP, Arkansas
A redshirt sophomore who missed the 2017 season recovering from an elbow injury, Campbell has the upside of a first-round pick, but he has more to prove because of his limited track record.
27. Steven Gingery, LHP, Texas Tech
Gingery’s stuff isn’t as dominating as some of his contemporaries, but he’s also one of the most reliable starting pitchers available in 2018 after going 10–1, 1.58 last season.
28. Matt Mercer, RHP, Oregon
Mercer was generally effective last spring for Oregon, and he took a big step forward in the summer in the Cape Cod League. With a low- to mid-90s fastball and three other pitches, he could take a further jump this spring.
29. Nolan Kingham, RHP, Texas
After a year in Texas’ bullpen, Kingham impressed as a starter last spring as a sophomore with a hard fastball. He just has to keep doing what he did last year to be picked in the first round.
30. Kris Bubic, LHP, Stanford
With Tristan Beck sidelined last spring, Bubic stepped up as Stanford’s best starter. He doesn’t have Beck’s stuff, but he locates three pitches consistently.
31. Tanner Dodson, RHP/OF, California
A year after Brendan McKay impressed the Rays enough as a hitter and a pitcher to be allowed to do both in pro ball, Dodson appears to be the college game’s top two-way star in 2018.
32. Nick Sprengel, LHP, San Diego
It’s a good year for college lefties, and Sprengel is one of the better ones thanks to a low-90s fastball and an above-average slider. He’ll be working on his control this spring.
33. Cole Sands, RHP, Florida State
Sands has yet to have a lot of success in the Seminoles’ rotation. He posted a 5.40 ERA last spring. But he impressed in the Cape Cod League last summer and has the stuff (91-94 mph fastball and a slider) to be much improved this spring.
34. Austin Bergner, RP, North Carolina
With 2017 first-rounder J.B. Bukauskas pitching in the Astros system now, Bergner has a chance to step into a much more prominent role for North Carolina as a draft-eligible sophomore. Bergner’s 92-95 mph fastball has plenty of life.
35. Josh Stowers, OF, Louisville
Louisville produces first-rounders year after year. Stowers is potentially the next in line as a speedy center fielder with power potential. He’s been a left fielder, but he gets to show how he can handle center in 2018.
36. Adam Hill, RHP, South Carolina
When Hill is rolling, he can run through a lineup a couple of times just pitching with his 88-92 mph fastball. But for pro ball, he’ll need to tighten up his curveball.
37. Jonathan India, 3B, Florida
India has played in a whole lot of games that matter in two years with the Gators. A high school shortstop, he has proven to be excellent at third, although his power is lacking for the position.
38. Jake Mangum, OF, Mississippi State
Mangum turned the Yankees down as a 30th-round pick as a draft-eligible sophomore in 2017. He’s been one of the best hitters in the Cape Cod League in back-to-back seasons, and he covers plenty of ground in center field.
39. Zack Hess, RHP, LSU
Hess moves from the bullpen to the rotation for LSU this spring as a draft-eligible sophomore. With a 92-95 mph fastball and an excellent slider, he has starter stuff.
40. Sean Wymer, RHP, TCU
Every year, there are a few college relievers-turned-starters who pitch their way into the top three rounds of the draft. Wymer is a candidate to do just that. He’s been a dominating reliever and has the fastball and slider to handle longer outings.