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2018 Draft Preview Lucky 13: Three Athletes for the Stretch

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A very painful and oft-interrupted set of scouting reports on some very athletic kids as we near the draft.

St Louis Cardinals v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Well, it has happened to me again this year, in the same way it always does. The draft is now a matter of just a few days away, and I haven’t covered nearly as many players as I would have liked. By the time I finish this batch, by my count I will have written up 42 players, twelve posts of three each and one of six. I would like to have hit something like twice that many, but here we are, and as I said, it pretty much happens every year. There’s only so much time, and things to write about that aren’t the draft always come up. Oh, well. I’ll write abou these three, and then do another persons of interest post on Sunday, and then a final preview roundup on Monday morning.

My plan for Monday night is to write up the Cardinals’ picks as quickly as possible after they make them, pretty much as per usual. Tuesday I may not have as much time as I would like, but I’ll try to grab some of the interesting names during the day to write up as well. And then we’ll be back to Wednesday, and we’ll just play it by ear.

Okay, so this text editor is not working at all well today. I’ve been disconnected about three times just in the course of trying to write that short little introduction. So let’s cut to the chase and just write up the players, shall we? I’ve got three high schoolers today, all with high-end athleticism of one sort or another, and all with very high ceilings as a result. I’ve written up plenty of similar players along the way, but these three just managed to fall through the cracks up until now.

Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha West High School (WI)

6’1”, 195 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Left

DOB: 16 July 1999

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Essentially, anything and everything you want a baseball player to be is what Jarred Kelenic has at least the potential to be. It’s not just that he’s toolsy; there are plenty of players who present remarkable athletic talents. What Kelenic has is elite baseball tools, to a degree not many prospect do, and there’s a chance he’s one of the best, if not the best, players in this draft class five years from now. He was number four on my list of three favourite position prospects, and really could have been higher.

Kelenic has one of the most natural batting strokes in the draft, an easy, lofted howitzer of a left-handed swing that generates easy bat speed and lift. He’s advanced for a high schooler, with better feel for both his bat and the strike zone than most, and seems to have very little problem recognising offspeed pitches. Admittedly, he’s mostly facing high school-level offspeed stuff, but even in showcase events he shows as one of the best pure hitters on the field.

The raw power is solid but not exceptional, but Kelenic gets to more of his raw at game speed than most players his age. So many high school power hitters are batting practice heroes, capable of putting on a show in practice or against weaker competition, but don’t yet have the feel and polish for hitting to take on top level pitchers. Kelenic is not that.

Five disconnections now. This is really starting to piss me off.

Beyond the natural hitting talents, Kelenic has plus tools pretty across the board. He’s at least a 55 runner, maybe a 60, and could probably handle center field for the near- and medium-term future. His best position will likely be right, though, where he can show off a cannon of a throwing arm that would be more impressive if he didn’t already do everything else so well.

If you’re looking for comps, Jason Heyward comes to mind in terms of tools, though in a smaller package. Considering the ease and naturalness of Kelenic’s hitting ability, though, I think the very best player comp I can offer you is a former Cardinal: J.D. Drew.

There’s not a great chance Kelenic makes it to the Redbirds at nineteen, but if he did, I would expect them to pounce instantly. The ceiling is just too high to pass on.

via The Prospect Pipeline:

Brice Turang, SS/UTI, Santiago High School (CA)

6’1”, 165 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Right

DOB: 21 November 1999

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Brice Turang is really one of the more interesting prospects in the draft this year, in that he’s got a bit of a case of Daz Cameron Syndrome going on. What I mean by that is that Turang has been on the radar for a long time, many of his baseball skills having shown up early, and he hasn’t really continued to develop much along the way. He also hasn’t had a ton of luck in adding much weight and strength, and so the tools that looked elite as a high school sophomore are still very good, but haven’t taken the step forward one might have expected. As the class has grown around him, Turang has stood still, leading to much more debate about his future than you might have expected had you been following U16 baseball a couple years ago.

All that said, Turang is still a plus athlete, with plenty of tools that should get him drafted relatively high. He’s a 60 runner, maybe 65, and that speed plays both in terms of range in the field and on the bases. He’s better at stretching singles into doubles and doubles into triples than he is stealing bases, but there’s enough quickness to his game he should be able to refine that and swipe 20-30 bags a year. The arm is a plus, plenty strong enough for shortstop or third base, and his hands are quick and soft. In other words, there’s a chance Turang ends up a 60 runner and 55 fielder, even at short.

The bat is really where there are more questions, as Turang hasn’t improved a ton from where he was a year or two ago. He’s got good contact skills from the left and uses all fields, and his speed should help him both leg out a few extra infield hits here and there and stretch those hits one extra base from time to time as well. He occasionally does the running start thing coming out of the box, though not quite to the extent of an Ichiro type, and usually it serves him well.

It’s the power that really hasn’t shown up yet, and with Turang’s frame it’s fair to wonder if it ever will. He’s just very slightly built, and while he’s got that wiry strength common to all athletes, there isn’t a lot of thump to his physicality. That said, it’s fair to also point out he’s still just eighteen years old, and there’s still plenty of time for him to add that size and strength. The fact he hasn’t really started to fill out yet, though, has to give one some pause when considering his toolset.

Turang’s ability to play short, and hopefully do so at a relatively high level, should give him a solid floor to work from, but having watched him, I wonder if the best use of his varies athletic abilities wouldn’t be something along the lines of a super utility player. Think of how much the Cardinals seemed to value Yairo Munoz’s ability to play the outfield this spring when they made the decision to bring him North with the big club (though due to a very crowded picture in the outfield we haven’t really seen him there). Turang has the speed to handle center field, easily, and should be able to play any of the three infield positions you might want him to. Perhaps keeping him a starting shortstop is the best and easiest way to ensure he’s contributing, but I think there’s a reasonable case to be made for Brice Turang as a six-position player, whose bat could play well enough to make him an asset overall.

It’s possible some team will look at Turang and talk themselves into him as the next Trea Turner, but for the most part I think he’s closer to the 25-30 range than the top ten. At nineteen for the Cardinals, he could definitely make sense if they wanted to take a similar chance to what they did with Delvin Perez a couple years ago.

via Taiwan Baseball Notes:

oh, the hell with this. I’m tired of getting disconnected and losing pieces of this article. The last report is going to be very abbreviated; please don’t think it reflects a lack of enthusiasm on my part for the player.

Xavier Edwards, SS, North Broward Prep (FL)

5’10”, 155 lbs

Bats/Throws: Switch/Right

DOB: 9 August 1999

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Xavier Edwards is, to put it briefly, a throwback sort of player. If you’re roughly my age, then you most likely remember middle infielders being something like Xavier Edwards. Small players with waterbug builds, usually switch hitters, who could run like crazy. Picture Luis Alicea, and if that triggers a memory, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Edwards is lightning quick, probably a 70 runner, and it plays both on the bases and in the field. He has some of the best range of any infielder in the draft this year, probably a slight step down from Cadyn Grenier in terms of polish and slickness at the shortstop position, but maybe even more electric athletically. The arm is solid but unexceptional for a shortstop, so there’s at least one tool holding him back from potential Andreltonhood down the road. Still, it’s maybe a 60+ glove at the toughest infield position, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

The bat is less exciting than the glove, certainly, but that’s not to say there isn’t anything to like there. He makes a lot of contact from both sides of the plate, and has an innate understanding of what he can and cannot do offensively. Again, think of those late-80s, early-90s switch-hitting middle infielders, who all hit seventh and didn’t scare you, but rarely struck out and helped extend rallies at least often enough to give them some value.

Edwards may sneak into the first round, but for my money he’s more of a supplemental or early second-round pick. And, if I’m being honest, as far as switch-hitting middle infield prospects go this year, I still prefer Nander De Sedas, whose prospect stock has wobbled this spring due to inconsistent performance as a senior. Still, Edwards absolutely has the glove to stick at short, and it’s understandable why teams prioritise players with at least the possibility of contributing value at the toughest spots on the diamond to fill.

via rkyosh007: