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2018 Draft Preview, Part Two: Early Favourites, Position Edition

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In which we look at the author’s picks for best positional prospects in the 2018 draft, four months out from draft day.

St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Morning, everybody. Getting a late start on this, so let’s jump right in, shall we? You know the drill; I wrote up my favourite pitchers in the draft a couple weeks ago, and now here are my positional guys, at least here in the very early going. Presented in no particular order.

Nander De Sedas, SS, Montverde Academy (Florida)

6’1”, 185 lbs

Bats/Throws: Switch/Right

DOB: 25 July 1999

So, what’s so great about this guy?

As we have seen from the Cardinals’ own farm system over the past handful of years, infielders are not so easy to scoop up for a dime a dozen the way flycatchers are. Even rarer than players guaranteed to stay in the dirt are those guys with the chance to stay up the middle, especially at shortstop. So when a player comes along with not only a very good chance to stay at shortstop, but possessed of a potentially elite-level bat, it’s worth taking notice. Such is the case of Nander De Sedas, a Panamanian-born infielder now attending high school in Florida, who brings a rare blend of offensive and defensive skills to the table.

De Sedas is only an average runner, and so is not the rangiest player, which is probably the place to start if one wished to ding him for something. If he gets much bigger and slows down, he might end up shifting down the spectrum to either second base or, more likely, third, at which point the bat would be a slightly less remarkable commodity. However, with that small caveat in mind, De Sedas is, for me, the top positional prospect in the draft this year. He has a plus arm, great hands, and enough lateral quickness I think he stays at short long term.

All of which is really, it must be said, just a backdrop to rave about his bat. He hits well from both sides of the plate, with a nearly identical swing both ways, and has both above-average bat to ball skills and raw power. You don’t often see middle infielders with 55 hit, 55 game power upside, but that is exactly what De Sedas looks like he could be. For a high school aged player, he looks to have a plan at the plate, has excellent balance in his swing from both sides, and generates just enough loft that he could put 20+ homers over the fence annually down the line. Basically, if you asked me for a comp, it would take me all of fifteen seconds, at the most, to spit out ‘Jurickson Profar’, because that’s the most similar player I see to De Sedas. (The version of Profar that didn’t suffer a catastrophic shoulder injury that derailed his career, I should probably point out.) He’s more physically mature that Profar was at eighteen, already having filled out in his upper body a bit, but otherwise the two are very similar, I think. De Sedas attends the same high school from which Francisco Lindor hails, and so will almost certainly get a lot of Lindor comps as well, but that’s a less comfortable fit for me, as De Sedas doesn’t have the same kind of explosive athleticism of a Lindor. He does have some of the same smoothness of action as Profar, though, as well as the sorts of physical tools that should make him a dependable, if not spectacular, defender at one of the toughest positions on the diamond.

The only real problem with De Sedas, as is so often the case when I’m writing up these favourite players of mine, is the fact he’s a long shot to make it to the Cardinals at nineteen in June. The Cards really picked one of the worst years imaginable to have a down season, as there were so many deeply mediocre clubs in 2017 that the Redbirds’ worst record since 2007 failed to even get them close to the top fifteen in the draft. Very disappointing. Right now, De Sedas look likely to go in the top ten, though that is, of course, open to negotiation.

via Baseball Factory:

Nolan Gorman, 3B, Sandra Day O’Connor High School (AZ)

6’1”, 210 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Right

DOB: 10 May 2000

So, what’s so great about this guy?

It’s a banner year for high school infielders with offensive upside, and Gorman sits near the top of the heap with one of the most naturally explosive batting strokes in the draft. What Michael Chavis of the Red Sox was in his draft year, Nolan Gorman is in 2018.

Gorman carries his hands low from the left side of the plate, and unloads with a suddenness that reminds one a bit of Eric Hosmer, though Gorman has much more natural loft in his swing, rather than pounding the ball into the ground endlessly. It’s plus-plus bat speed, easy plus or better raw power, and he generates that power without having to sell out to the pull side. That being said, there is some swing and miss to his game, and he’s one of those hitters who seems to begin his hand load a little later than I would prefer, though for now it absolutely works for him. Still, if it were up to me, he might get his hands moving a little sooner, and maybe incorporate a bit more of a leg kick to give him a more consistent timing mechanism.

Defensively, Gorman looks fine at third base, with a 60-65 grade arm that gives him some margin for error, but otherwise unexceptional defensive tools. He’s a big kid who got his strength early, and there’s a little concern he might end up getting heavy and slowing down, but I’m not in that camp. He’s already a fringey runner, though, so I can’t say those concerns are unfounded.

There’s enough natural strength in Gorman’s swing he doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing hitter to generate plus power, and he actually appears fairly good at taking outside pitches the other way, which is very encouraging. I could see someone having some concerns about his contact skills, but the overall offensive package is incredibly exciting.

Gorman is also one of the younger players in the draft class, turning eighteen just a month before the draft. The age relative to draft demographic bonus shouldn’t be taken as gospel, of course, but it’s certainly a point in his favour, similar to someone like Dylan Carlson or Delvin Perez, though Gorman isn’t in that class of extreme youth relative to his peers.

via Perfect Game Baseball:

Connor Scott, OF, Plant High School (FL)

6’4”, 185 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Left

DOB: 8 October 1999

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Both Nander De Sedas and Nolan Gorman have the benefit of infield profiles, which help give them an instant boost in terms of upside. The simple fact of being able to play a premium position gives them a leg up. Connor Scott, on the other hand, does not have that luxury (though in his defense, he does play the most premium of outfield positions), and yet manages to have what I believe could be the highest ceiling of any player in the draft this year.

Scott currently attends H.B. Plant high school in Florida, which is most notable currently for producing Astros uber prospect Kyle Tucker. It also produced Jake Woodford, the sinkerballer currently kicking around the mid-minors for the Cardinals, but that’s less interesting. The reason it’s more interesting that Tucker and Scott are from the same high school is because their swings are eerily similar, with the same old-fashioned flat hand load, a la Ted Williams or Stan Musial. There must be a coach at Plant high school teaching his charges to swing a bat like the greats of a bygone era (or else Connor Scott just picked up some habits from the best hitter in the amateur ranks of a couple years ago, I suppose), because it doesn’t seem coincidental the two tall, lanky outfielders have such similar swing mechanics.

Unfortunately for Scott, while his swing looks remarkably similar to Tucker’s, he cannot match the older outfielder for pure hitting talent. Then again, basically no one really can, so there’s no shame in that. What Connor Scott does have that Kyle Tucker doesn’t, however, is a chance to be a legit plus center fielder, with 65+ grade speed that chews up vast amounts of turf in the outfield and an arm that has produced fastballs as high as 94 on the mound. Scott has pitched in high school, but his talent at the plate and in the field are such that he’s an easy positional pick for me. In that way he also reminds me of Alex Verdugo, the former two-way amateur taken by the Dodgers as an outfielder who has become one of the better hitting prospects in baseball. Whereas I was more split on Verdugo, though, actually preferring him slightly as a pitcher at the time, Scott is just too good a hitting prospect to consider keeping on the mound.

Tall and lanky, Scott has just averageish power right now, but there’s plenty of room for him to add size and strength to his frame without compromising his athleticism any. He has above-average feel for hitting, should have at least average power, could play a plus center field, has a 70 grade throwing arm in the outfield, and should be able to swipe 20 bags a year given his speed. He’s not as polished as either of the other two players I’ve covered here today, but Connor Scott hitting his ceiling is a game-changing player.

via The Prospect Pipeline:

That’s it for today, everybody. I’m probably going to writing something about the opening of spring training next Wednesday, but then after that try and dive into the draft coverage most weeks. June still seems like it’s a long ways off, but from personal experience I know it gets here in a hurry when there are so many players I want to get written up.

See you all soon.