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2018 Draft Preview No. 5: A Couple College Hitters For Consideration

A continuing series, attempting to document all the future stars fit to scout.

St Louis Cardinals v Houston Astros Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Today we have a trio of hard-hitting college infielders, two of whom happen to be teammates at Wichita State. The Shockers have become quite a program over the past ten-ish years, and this may be their highest-profile class yet. The final member of our triumvirate today is one of the most intriguing hitting prospects in the whole class, but also one guaranteed to create at least some consternation among front office personnel as they try to figure out just what to do with such an unconventional player.

Greyson Jenista, OF/1B, Wichita State

6’4”, 240 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Right

DOB: 7 December 1996

So, what’s so great about this guy?

I’ll be honest: the first two players I’m covering here today could potentially have fit into the bat-first category as well, as neither are really the sort of player likely to offer much in the way of defensive value, or baserunning, or anything much beyond hitting. Both fall into the category of potentially so good at hitting it doesn’t matter, though, which would again make the case they could have been in the bats category. However, compared to Seth Beer et al, I think Jenista and his teammate Alec Bohm have at least a chance to be more well-rounded as players.

And of the two, Jenista is the more well-rounded player already, as he really does have enough tools to contribute in ways beyond just hitting. He’s an average runner, maybe a tick better once he gets going, and has a big arm that makes him a good fit for right field. He’s not the most exciting fielder, but gets the job done all the same. He’s played a fair amount of first base for the Shockers as well, but he moves well enough I would expect any organisation taking him to give him every chance to fail in the outfield before moving him over to first. All in all, Jenista isn’t going to make an impact with his legs or glove, but there’s a chance he’s a solid-average corner outfielder, probably in right, and won’t hurt you by clogging up the bases.

All that being said, it is very much the bat that is going to get Greyson Jenista drafted, as he has one of the better left-handed hitting strokes in the draft this year. He would seem to be in somewhat direct competition with Seth Beer for that top lefty bat position, and compared to Beer Jenista has the more natural feel for hitting and the barrel of the bat. Beer is more patient, more disciplined, and has shown less swing and miss, but Jenista is less stiff, less mechanical in his actions, and there’s less concern about his hitting with wood. In fact, he torched the Cape Cod League last summer, so there’s basically no concern on that front.

There’s a little bit of Eric Hosmer in Jenista’s hitting approach, in that he hits for far less power than his frame would suggest, due to a swing that generates lots of lower launch angle type contact, but he’s a little more pull-happy than Hosmer.

The plate discipline is a plus, and Jenista manages to put up fairly low strikeout rates. He’s not a big power guy now, but certainly has the size to suggest he could be. Even if left alone, though, this is a polished, mature hitter with an approach that would seem ready to translate into the pros without too much trouble. I don’t think there’s a star-level ceiling present for Jenista, which probably keeps him from going in the top 20, but he’s also one of the safer-looking prospects in the draft this year, and I think he’ll fit in well with some contending team’s draft plans toward the end of the first round.

via Baseball America:

Alec Bohm, 3B/1B, Wichita State

6’5”, 230 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 3 August 1996

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Remember a moment ago, when I said Greyson Jenista was a more well-rounded player than his teammate Alec Bohm? And then a couple moments later, when I compared Jenista to Seth Beer in terms of top college lefty hitters? Well, here’s Bohm himself, who hits from the other side of the plate but is probably even a slightly more direct competitor with Beer for the top spot in terms of pure college bat prospects.

Let’s get the negative out of the way first: Alec Bohm is probably not a third baseman. He’s played quite a bit of third at Wichita State, and draws good reviews for his effort, makeup, and work ethic, but he’s just limited athletically in terms of mobility in the field. (The arm is fairly middling, too.) His hands look pretty good, so perhaps there’s a good first baseman waiting to come out, but if he stays at third long term it’s almost certainly because his team decides to sacrifice defense to keep his bat on the field. That being said, even if he does move to first base there’s a chance his bat could be special enough to make him a premium talent. At least, I think there’s a good chance, anyway.

Put simply, I believe Alec Bohm is an extraordinary hitter. He has some of the easiest, smoothest power of any hitter in the draft, and shows it to all fields. Now, we aren’t talking light-tower power like you might see from a Triston Casas or Griffin Conine, another candidate for the bat-first report this year I’ll get to at a later date; Bohm doesn’t hit moon shots the way some of the real raw power monster types do. What Bohm does, instead, is barrel balls up and get to more of his power more often than the all-or-nothing five o’clock heroes do. There’s easy loft in his swing, and he doesn’t have to work to get the ball in the air. He doesn’t have to cheat to hit velocity, and so he doesn’t. As a result, he makes more contact than any other power hitter in the draft this year, with Seth Beer perhaps his one real rival in that arena, and rarely takes a truly bad at-bat.

Of the college hitters in this year’s draft class who fit down toward the bottom of the defensive spectrum, Bohm is my personal favourite. The fact there’s a chance he could play third base is certainly tempting, but I think ultimately he just fits much better across the diamond. Nonetheless, if I could only pick one hitter from the college ranks I really believe could become an impact major league hitter, I think this is the guy I’m taking. I think Bohm is going to have a big spring and jump up draft boards, to the point he’ll engender the same kind of debate Evan White did last year, about just how high a first baseman in this current era of baseball should be drafted. As it stands right now, I see Bohm as a sandwich pick or early second rounder, somewhere in the 35-50 range, but I expect that to go up between now and June. How far is tough to say, but I believe in his bat more than just about any other player in this class.

via Brandon Schlotfeld:

Nick Madrigal, 2B, Oregon State

5’7”, 160 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 5 March 1997

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Okay, so I admit it: I kind of buried the lede on this one here today. Nick Madrigal is, in any group of 2018 draftees, going to be the headliner. Not only because he is arguably the best player of just about any group you can select out, but because he is almost inarguably the most interesting prospect we will see taken this June.

The reason, of course, is easy to see, so long as you didn’t just skim over the vital stats I provide right under the player’s name: 5’7”, 160. Nick Madrigal, in addition to being an incredibly talented baseball player, is also positively Altuvian in stature — or perhaps Pedroian — and represents a real test of new-school analytical scouting, which tells us Madrigal is an amazing prospect, and old-school eye test only scouting, which tells us that players of this size just very rarely have the kind of functional strength to become impact hitters.

Really, though, to Madrigal’s credit, he’s anything but a one-dimensional bat-only prospect. He’s a 60-65 grade runner, probably capable of 25-30 steals a year without becoming inefficient. He’s a 60 glove at second base, and could probably fake it at shortstop if need be, though the arm is really not a great fit for the left side of the infield. In other words, Nick Madrigal does basically everything on a baseball diamond very well.

It is, however, the hitting which will make the headlines. There’s a reason Madrigal will get comp’d to Pedroia and Altuve from here ‘til June, and it isn’t just because he’s of a similar physical stature. He also has the same kind of uncanny hand eye coordination, as well as the same feel for the barrel, which allows him to take a big, aggressive hack at the ball without sacrificing contact ability. His swing really resembles Pedroia’s most of all, with the high leg lift and exaggerated step forward, throwing the whole body into generating bat speed. It’s probably only average power, but coming from a player the size of Madrigal, it’s impressive nonetheless.

There really isn’t much precedent for a player built like Madrigal to go as high in the draft as he is projected to this June. Right now, he should go in the first half of the first round. If he comes back from an ankle injury suffered a few weeks ago and rakes the remainder of the college season, though, there’s really no telling how high he could ascend on draft boards.

via rkyosh007:

I just heard Stephen Hawking died.

That’s sad. Very sad, in fact, in that way it’s always somewhat surprisingly sad when a cultural icon dies.

Then again, he was 76 years old, was told he had a few years to live when he was in his early 20s, and then proceeded to be Stephen Hawking for a half century.

It’s a loss for humanity. But that man fucking won.