The 2018 MLB Draft will take place June 4-6 and three of the past four years have seen a high school player go No. 1 overall. And while the jury is certainly still out on those three players (Brady Aiken in 2014, Dansby Swanson in ’16, Royce Lewis in ’17), there are many more who have taken the similar path of going from high school standout to MLB star.
Cody Bellinger was a fourth-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2013 draft out of Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona. Even though he started the 2017 season in the minors, Bellinger made his major league debut on April 25 and didn’t look back. He finished the season with 39 home runs, 97 RBIs and a .267 batting average for the eventual National League champion Dodgers. Along the way, he was named to his first All-Star team, wound up ninth in the NL MVP voting and was the unanimous Rookie of the Year. Not bad for someone who was in high school just four years earlier.
Now for every Bellinger there are many more busts, but that hasn’t stopped major league teams from trying to identify the next high school prodigy in the draft. So which prep standouts are MLB teams eyeing for this year’s draft in hopes of finding their next franchise cornerstone?
Top 40 High School Prospects for 2018 MLB Draft
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1. Brice Turang, SS, Corona, Calif.
Turang has good but not exceptional tools. There are shortstops in this class who have stronger arms, are faster or have more power potential. But he is the most well-rounded position prospect in this class. He’s an excellent shortstop who has an advanced feel for hitting.
2. Ethan Hankins, RHP, Cumming, Ga.
Hankins has everything scouts look for in a top-of-the-draft arm. He has plenty of fastball (up to 96 mph), a slurvy breaking ball that should develop into a weapon and the ability to throw strikes already.
3. Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Glendale, Ariz.
The best is still to come for Liberatore as scouts believe he has the upside to get better and better over the next few years. But he is already really good. He understands how to set up hitters, and he can beat them with a low-90s fastball he locates well.
4. Nolan Gorman, 3B, Phoenix, Ariz.
Gorman is an offensive third baseman who has a chance to hit for average and power while sticking at the hot corner for the long term. He offers both offensive and defensive ability, which makes him one of the most well-rounded high school players in the class.
5. Nander De Sedas, SS, Montverde, Fla.
It’s a great year for shortstops in Florida, and De Sedas is the best of the crop. There are some questions about his hitting ability, but he does have strength and potential power to go with the ability to stick at shortstop.
6. Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha, Wisc.
The track record of high school hitters (other than Jeren Kendall) coming out of Wisconsin is awful. But Kelenic is likely to change the trend. He’s been a star on the summer showcase circuit for several years. Scouts debate whether he’ll end up in right field or center. They don’t debate whether he will hit.
7. Will Banfield, C, Snellville, Ga.
Scouts got a good chance to see how well Banfield could handle premium velocity last summer, and the reports were that he handled it with ease. Banfield is perhaps the most polished receiver in the class and has a strong arm. Scouts will watch his bat closely this spring.
8. Ryan Weathers, LHP, Loretto, Tenn.
A Vanderbilt commitment, Weathers has a pro-ready body and a potentially pro-ready fastball and curveball as well. His dad David pitched in the majors for 19 years.
9. Mason Denaburg, RHP/C, Merritt Island, Fla.
Denaburg’s athleticism allows him to do a lot of different things. If he focuses on catching, he has the ability to stick behind the plate. If he focuses on pitching, he’s already shown he can spot a potentially plus fastball. And he’s athletic enough to run around the outfield too.
10. Kumar Rocker, RHP, Bogart, Ga.
Rocker could end up at the top of this list when the draft rolls around. The son of former NFL defensive lineman Tracy Rocker has an outstanding frame and a fastball clocked up to 96-98 mph. But so far hitters have seemed to pick the ball up out of his hand better than one would expect for such high-octane velocity.
11. Triston Casas, 1B, Plantation, Fla.
Casas reclassified to become part of the 2018 draft class. He has some of the best power around from an already mature build.
12. Mike Vasil, RHP, Wellesley, Mass.
Vasil is one of the most polished high school pitchers in this class because he has four pitches, a clean delivery and plenty of fastball velocity (90-94 mph).
13. Joe Gray Jr., OF, Hattiesburg, Miss.
Gray has speed, an excellent throwing arm and power. He can be a rangy center fielder with 20-plus home runs if he can make more consistent contact.
14. Carter Stewart, RHP, Melbourne, Fla.
Stewart may have the best curveball in this class, although he needs to land it more often. Scouts say they won’t be surprised if he adds velocity before the draft.
15. Xavier Edwards, SS, Coconut Creek, Fla.
Edwards has some of the best speed in the class, and he knows how use it. There are debates whether he will end up at shortstop or second base, but he’ll definitely remain up the middle with some of the best athleticism around.
16. Cole Wilcox. RHP, Ringgold, Ga.
Wilcox has already shown a breaking ball and a changeup to go with a decent fastball. But he’s somewhat of a split-camp pitcher. Some love his projection and frame, while others don’t like how he finishes his delivery.
17. Slade Cecconi, RHP, Winter Park, Fla.
Cecconi can run his fastball up into the high 90s like some of the best arms in this draft class, and he’s already shown a quality breaking ball to pair with it. It wouldn’t surprise if he moved up this list with a strong spring.
18. Cole Winn, RHP, Orange, Calif.
Winn is another pitcher who could climb with a strong spring. His fastball is already 92-94 mph, and his slider is steadily developing into a very usable pitch.
19. Noah Naylor, C, Mississauga, Ont.
The younger brother of Padres prospect Josh Naylor has his brother’s power, but he has more defensive ability, too, as he’s a strong-armed catcher who may be able to stay behind the plate.
20. Austin Becker, RHP, Sunbury, Ohio
Becker is one of the best pitching prospects in the Midwest after he showed a solid fastball/curveball combo during the summer showcase season.
21. Landon Marceaux, RHP, Destrehan, La.
Marceaux isn’t as tall as scouts would like, but that’s about the only big ding on a righty with a legitimate fastball/curveball combo and excellent makeup.
22. Mike Siani, OF, Glenside, Pa.
Siani is a prototypical center fielder with the ability to run the ball down in the gaps, speed on the basepaths and the ability to hit for average. The big question is how much power he will provide.
23. Braxton Ashcraft, RHP, Robinson, Texas
Ashcraft isn’t a fully developed prospect just yet, but he already has shown a feel for spinning a breaking ball, and his fastball velocity should keep getting better.
24. Jeremiah Jackson, SS, Mobile, Ala.
Jackson has shown that he should be able to stick at either shortstop or second base while hitting for some average and power.
25. Anthony Seigler, C, Cartersville, Ga.
There are scouts who believe Seigler is the best defensive catcher in the prep class. He doesn’t have the offensive potential of Naylor or Banfield, but he is a very solid receiver.
26. Luke Bartnicki, LHP, Marietta, Ga.
If Bartnicki were a righthander, he’d probably head to college. But there are fewer and fewer polished lefties every year, and Bartnicki looked really good in his best outing on the Perfect Game National All-Star team.
27. Connor Scott, OF, Tampa, Fla.
Scott has the ability to square up velocity consistently. He’s going to have to fill out and gain strength, but it’s easier for a skinny outfielder to fill out than for a strong one to figure out how to hit.
28. Owen White, RHP, China Grove, N.C.
One of the stars in Jupiter at the World Wood Bat championship showed athleticism, competitiveness and plenty of stuff, which made him a must-follow for this spring.
29. Alek Thomas, OF, Chicago, Ill.
Thomas is an excellent football player in addition to being a standout on the diamond, but his long-term future is likely to be roaming in center field.
30. Jaden Hill, RHP, Ashdown, Ark.
Hill is going to have to work on developing a better breaking ball, but hitters don’t like trying to catch up with his low-90s fastball because he does a good job of spotting it as he works in and out.
31. JT Ginn, RHP, Brandon, Miss.
Ginn is one of the older pitchers among the high school prospects, and his delivery also raises some concerns as some evaluators envision him as a future reliever. But his fastball is also extremely hard to square up.
32. Jordan Groshans, 3B/SS, Magnolia, Texas
Groshans has played multiple positions, but in pro ball he most likely will end up as a solid third baseman — if he puts in a good bit of work — with the power required of the position.
33. Adam Kloffenstein, RHP, Magnolia, Texas
Kloffenstein started to grow into and refine his body as he headed into his senior year. The stuff has ticked up in response as he’ll now show a low-90s fastball.
34. Elijah Cabell, OF, Winter Park, Fla.
Cabell’s swing may be a little too geared for power right now, but if he can make some adjustments to trade a little power for more contact, he’s got the other tools to succeed.
35. Jonathan Childress. LHP, Forney, Texas
Childress is a good candidate to take a big step forward this year. His delivery needs to improve, but his fastball and curve are pretty good already.
36. Nick Northcut, 3B, Mason, Ohio
Northcut will have a lot of work to do to stay at third base if he wants to avoid an eventual move to first, but his power has a chance to play at either spot.
37. Jack Perkin, RHP, Kokomo, Ind.
Perkin just isn’t all put together yet, but if or when he figures out how to repeat his delivery more consistently, he’s got a fastball and slider that can dodge bats.
38. Parker Meadows, OF, Grayson, Ga.
The younger brother of Pirates center field prospect Austin Meadows has a pretty similar toolbox. He can run, and there is plenty of projection.
39. Simeon Woods-Richardson, RHP/3B, Houston, Texas
Woods-Richardson is a legitimate two-way player, although he seems to be getting more attention from scouts as a projectable pitcher.
40. Osiris Johnson, SS/OF, Alameda, Calif.
There will be plenty of debate whether he should stay in the infield or roam center field, where his excellent speed would be put to better use. He needs to make more contact.
(Top photo courtesy of @Twins)