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2018 Rewind: Top MLB Draft Stories

Analysis


Another year of coverage is in the books at D1Baseball. And as usual, we end each year with an in-depth look at the year’s top storylines.

In our first installment, our David Seifert breaks down the top storylines from a prospect and MLB draft standpoint.

Let’s get down to business:


SEC & PAC-12 DOMINATE DAY ONE

Heading into the season, the Southeastern Conference was considered the top conference in terms of having the top teams and the top prospects. It lived up to its billing with five of the top 33 overall picks and the Florida Gators accounting for three of those five: Casey Mize (Auburn, first overall), Jonathan India (Florida, fifth), Brady Singer (Florida, 18th), Ryan Rolison (Ole Miss, 22nd) and Jackson Kowar (Florida, 33rd).

Auburn’s Casey Mize had a season and summer to remember. (Auburn)

Not to be outdone, the Pac-12 (with three less teams than the SEC) had five picks in the top 40 led by Oregon State with three of those five: Nick Madrigal (Oregon State, fourth overall), Trevor Larnach (Oregon State, 20th), Nico Hoerner (Stanford, 24th), Cadyn Grenier (Oregon State, 37th) and Kris Bubic (Stanford, 40th).

The ACC and AAC also flexed its draft muscle on Day One. Top Atlantic Coast Conference selections included Joey Bart (Georgia Tech, second overall), Seth Beer (Clemson, 28th), Daniel Lynch (Virginia, 34th), Jake McCarthy (Virginia, 39th), Griffin Roberts (Wake Forest, 43rd), Griffin Conine (Duke, 52nd) and Josh Stowers (Louisville, 54th). The American Athletic Conference followed closely with five of the top 65 selections: Alec Bohm (Wichita State, third), Shane McClanahan (South Florida, 31st), Greyson Jenista (Wichita State, 49th), Jonathan Bowlan (Memphis, 58th) and Tim Cate (Connecticut, 65th).


ATHLETICS SELECT ATHLETES

A year after cornering the college senior market, the Oakland A’s drafted for athleticism and upside with its top three picks, selecting Kyler Murray (Oklahoma), Jameson Hannah (Dallas Baptist) and Jeremy Eierman (Missouri State). Murray, a spectacular dual-sport athlete who is also the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner, was a surprise choice at ninth overall. His lack of history (only 278 college at-bats) with a high strikeout rate (26.2%) made him a risky first-round pick, but the elite athleticism and five-tool upside are obvious. The A’s then doubled-down on the risk of the pick by allowing Murray to continue to play football this fall while also giving him a near full-slot bonus of $4.66M (slot $4.76M). Murray has recently stated that he will begin his professional baseball career this spring.


EARLY VOTE FOR BEST OVERALL DRAFT

With five picks on the first day and the second-largest bonus pool, the Rays possessed the cards to replenish their farm system, and they did not disappoint. All five of their picks on Day One were in the top 50 of the PBR Draft Board. They opportunistically selected a couple prospects that should not have gotten to them. With the 16th overall pick, the Rays selected PBR No. 3 ranked prospect, Matt Liberatore (Mountain Ridge HS, AZ). Also falling into their lap at 31st overall was the No. 17 prospect, Shane McClanahan (South Florida). They then mixed in No. 33 Nick Schnell (Roncalli HS, IN), No. 42 Tyler Frank (Florida Atlantic) and two-way talent, No. 50 Tanner Dodson (California). The Rays showed good balance in their draft, mitigating the risk of high school pitching with proven college performers. During Day Two they picked up four more top 200 prospects by selecting No. 88 Grant Witherspoon (Tulane), No. 146 Ford Proctor (Rice), No. 170  Nick Lee (Louisiana-Lafayette) and No. 192 Taj Bradley (Redan HS, GA).


TOP DAY TWO PICKS
Immediately following Day Two of the draft we identified several prospects as the best picks of that day. Among them were Tristan Beck (Stanford), Devlin Granberg (Dallas Baptist), AJ Graffanino (Washington) and Brock Deatherage (North Carolina State). Who else did we identify? Check it out here.

We also chose several teams which had the best drafts on Day Three. Obviously, not all the players who were selected ended up signing, but it’s fun to take a look back here.


MARINERS SIGN FIRST 34 PICKS
When Seattle’s third round pick, Cal Raleigh (Florida State), signed just prior to the deadline, it created a run of 34 consecutive signings. Beginning with Logan Gilbert (Stetson) in the first round (14th overall) and ending with Nick Wegmann (Binghamton) in the 34th round (1018th overall), the Mariners added immediate depth to the lower levels of their system, mainly via the college route. Overall, only two of the 34 picks were for a high school prospect, while the remaining 32 consisted of three junior college talents and 29 from four-year colleges.


THREE FIRST ROUNDERS GO UNSIGNED
After signing their first 24 picks of the 2017 Draft, the Braves failed to sign RHP Carter Stewart (Eau Gallie HS, FL) as the eighth overall pick in 2018. Other unsigned first-rounders were SS Matt McLain (Beckman HS, CA), who went 25th overall to Arizona, and RHP JT Ginn (Brandon HS, MS), the 30th overall selection by the Dodgers. It was the first time since 2010 that three first-rounders from the same draft failed to sign. Including supplemental first-rounder, 36th overall Gunnar Hoglund (Fivay HS, FL), four of the top 36 picks in 2018 did not sign.

Mississippi State struck gold with J.T. Ginn going to school. (Shotgun Spratling)

Fortunately for the drafting clubs, they will each receive a compensatory pick in the 2019 draft for failing to sign these players. The Braves will receive the No. 9 pick, the Diamondbacks get No. 26, the Dodgers No. 31 and Pittsburgh will have the No. 37 selection.

Despite three first-rounders not signing, 310 of the 314 players selected in the Top 10 rounds did sign. The four unsigned picks are the third-lowest total ever, following two in 2016 and three in 2017. Looking at it from another perspective, MLB signed every pick from 37th to 334th overall picks…an impressive run of 301 consecutive signed draft selections.


BRAVES DRAFT WITHOUT A THIRD ROUND PICK

In addition to not signing their first round pick, the Braves began the 2018 draft one pick short. In October 2017, then Braves general manager John Coppolella and international scouting director Gordon Blakely resigned, a result of a signing bonus scandal in both its international and domestic scouting departments. Coppolella received a lifetime ban from MLB. Blakely was suspended for one year. MLB also took the Braves’ third-round pick after investigators discovered the club offered extra benefits to outfielder Drew Waters, the 41st overall pick. An excerpt from the full statement by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves offered impermissible benefits, which were never provided, to a player they selected in the First-Year Player Draft in an attempt to convince him to sign for a lower bonus. As a penalty for the Club’s attempted circumvention involving a draft selection, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.”

Greyson Jenista has massive upside at the next level. (Wichita State)

Despite the setbacks, Atlanta targeted college players with some upside, selecting 34 of their 39 picks from the college ranks. They took No. 50 Greyson Jenista (Wichita State) in the second round at 49th overall and watched him jet up to high Class A. In the fourth round, Atlanta landed one of the draft’s top pitching talents in No. 20 Tristan Beck (Stanford), who fell due to previous medical issues. They also chose D1 favorites No. 94 Trey Riley (John Logan CC, IL) in the fifth round, No. 89 Andrew Moritz (UNC Wilmington) in the sixth and No. 93 Nolan Kingham (Texas) in the 12th.


INJURY BUG BITES
Opening weekend saw two of the top lefthanded arms suffer season ending injuries. Steven Gingery (Texas Tech), ranked No. 13 in the preseason, left the mound due to tightness in his throwing arm after two innings. He was diagnosed with a torn UCL and missed the rest of the season with Tommy John surgery. As a result, he fell to the fourth round. Tyler Holton (Florida State), No. 68, also felt tightness in his pitching arm and was removed from the game after 4.2 scoreless innings vs. Xavier. He, too, underwent Tommy John, missed the remainder of the season and fell to the ninth round.

Nick Madrigal (l) teamed up with Trevor Larnach to bring OSU its third national title. (Shotgun Spratling)

The injuries multiplied from there. Week Two of the college season saw No. 5 Nick Madrigal (Oregon State) break his wrist while sliding into home plate vs. Ohio State. He missed seven weeks, but returned in time to restore his draft value, going fourth overall to the White Sox. No. 11 Tim Cate (Connecticut) also missed seven weeks with a forearm strain and fell to the second round, 65th overall. Two more top lefties missing time were No. 40 Nick Sprengel (San Diego) with shoulder and control issues and No. 50 Hogan Harris (Louisiana-Lafayette) who was out for a month with an oblique strain. Sprengel fell all the way to the 15th round, while Harris rebounded and was selected in the third round. No. 15 Jake McCarthy (Virginia) injured his wrist in early March, missed two months and returned late in the spring to play a season total of 20 games. He was selected 39th overall. No. 19 Sean Wymer (Texas Christian) overcame early season back injuries to post a solid season on the bump, yet fell to the fourth round. In mid-April, Wymer’s college teammate, No. 28 Luken Baker suffered a season-ending injury for the second year in a row, this time with a broken leg. He was selected in the second round, 75th overall. No. 31 ranked Zach Watson (LSU) missed a month early in the spring with a strained oblique. As a sophomore-eligible prospect, his draft intentions were cloudy from the start, and he was finally selected in the 40th round by Boston. Several top right-handed pitchers also landed on the DL and saw their draft value slide. No. 36 Cole Sands (Florida State) battled shoulder issues the last half of the spring and fell to the fifth round after hearing early season industry whispers of potential selection in the second to as high as the supplemental first round. No. 43 Jackson Goddard (Kansas) missed six weeks with a mid-season oblique injury. No. 46 Adam Hill (South Carolina) missed a start vs. Georgia with a shoulder strain and No. 53 Noah Davis (UC Santa Barbara) was another victim of Tommy John surgery. He fell to the 11th round.

Overall, 13 of the top 53 pre-season ranked college prospects suffered injuries that ranged from 10 days to the entire season. Other notables from our Preseason Top 100 who missed a large portion of their draft year were No. 73 RHP Gregory Veliz (Miami), No. 75 SS AJ Graffanino (Washington), No. 91 RHP Kyle Molnar (UCLA) and No. 94 C Willie MacIver (Washington).


FLORIDA RISES, BUT GATOR ARMS FALL AGAIN
Throughout last winter (Dec 4 mailbag) and spring we spoke about the state of Florida possessing a deep draft class for 2018. The Sunshine State did not disappoint. Eleven of the top 38 and 13 of the top 56 picks came from Florida. The state’s first selection was Gator infielder Jonathan India (fifth overall) to the Reds, followed by Carter Stewart (eighth), Connor Scott (13th) and Logan Gilbert (14th).

On the downside, another Florida Gator pitcher who was ranked No. 1 in the preseason, fell to the middle of the first round. Whether it was bonus demands or industry concerns that his arm action would lead to a future reliever role in MLB, Brady Singer fell to 18th overall by the Royals. This follows the 2017 draft when Alex Faedo went 18th overall to the Tigers when he was the consensus preseason pick for No. 1 overall and 2016 when A.J. Puk dropped to sixth overall by the A’s after receiving the top spot in numerous preseason rankings.


BONUS POOLS AGAIN EXCEEDED, SPENDING RECORDS SET

The industry combined to spend $294,648,102 on bonuses in 2018, exceeding the record just set in 2017 ($287,700,870). Twenty three teams spent more than their bonus pool, but none exceeded their pool by more than 5 percent, which, by rule, would have cost them a future first-round pick. The teams who did not exceed their pools were the Astros, Mariners, Mets, Orioles, Rays, Rockies and Twins.

More bonus spending news from 2018:

Top 10 Spenders:
Tigers: $14,784,100
Royals: $14,768,200
Giants: $13,935,000
Rays: $13,783,600
Reds: $12,952,000
Padres: $12,565,515
White Sox: $12,284,400
Phillies: $11,342,900
Indians: $11,222,459
Mets: $11,017,238

Bottom 10 Spenders:
Rockies: $8,549,000
Yankees: $8,148,400
Brewers: $7,747,400
Red Sox: $7,252,900
Nationals: $6,912,500
Twins: $6,876,700
Astros: $6,485,800
Braves: $5,815,000
Diamondbacks: $5,769,400
Dodgers: $5,139,540

Exceeded Bonus Pool the Most:
Phillies: $2,484,400
Tigers: $2,369,300
Giants: $2,187,500
Padres: $2,103,515
Indians: $2,077,259
Reds: $2,051,600
Yankees: $2,033,300
Royals: $1,986,300
Blue Jays: $1,908,200
Rangers: $1,819,500


1ST ANNUAL SIMULDRAFT
How did the crew at Prep Baseball Report and D1Baseball do ranking and selecting prospects during the 2018 draft? With our extensive coverage of amateur baseball and its prospects, complemented with occasional insight on signability and medical issues, we selected a pool of prospect for ourselves. We assigned ourselves the average bonus pool (15th at $8.46M) and selected immediately following the Marlins, who had the 14th ($8.66M) overall bonus pool. Here’s what we came up with. Each pick was made in real time as the draft was happening.

Pick  Player  School Bonus
1/13b    Matt Liberatore  Mountain Ridge HS, AZ $3,497,500
2/53b  Alek Thomas  Mount Carmel HS, IL $1,200,000
2/69b  Jeremy Eierman  Missouri State $1,232,000
3/89b  Tristan Beck  Stanford    $900,000
4/117b  Michael Byrne  Florida    $257,500
5/147b  Devlin Granberg  Dallas Baptist      $40,000
6/177b  Isaiah Carranza  Azusa Pacific    $175,000
7/207b  Riley Thompson  Louisville    $200,000
8/237b  Tarik Skubal  Seattle    $350,000
9/267b  Sam Bordner  Louisville    $125,000
10/297b  Deacon Liput  Florida    $134,300
   Pool $ spent:  $8,121,300
11/327b  Kyle Datres  North Carolina    $125,000
12/357b  Davis Martin  Texas Tech    $130,000
13/387b  Jonah Davis  California    $125,000
14/417b  Josh Green  Southeast Louisiana         $5,000
15/447b  Eddy Demurias  South Carolina    $125,000
16/477b  Brett Daniels  North Carolina        $1,000
17/507b  Nick Lackney  Minnesota             DNS
18/537b  Luke Miller  Indiana    $100,000
19/567b  Cody Scroggins  Arkansas             DNS
20/597b  Connor Coward  Virginia Tech        $1,000

DNS indicates the prospect Did Not Sign and returned to college.

There is obvious risk in the number of pitchers we selected who have past medical issues like Beck, Carranza, Thompson, Skubal and Martin. However, our picks also include potential all-stars in Liberatore and Thomas, low risk performers like Byrne, Granberg and Demurias, as well as tooled position players in Eierman, Liput, Davis and Miller. Although we may have occasionally disagreed with the MLB scouting industry on the value of certain prospects, we kept it simple and selected the next most talented player on our draft board.

 

LOOKING FORWARD TO 2019
The 2019 draft order has been set. It is based on reverse order of finish from the 2018 regular season with tie-breakers determined by 2017 won-loss record.

  1. Orioles (47-115)
  2. Royals (58-104)
  3. White Sox (62-100)
  4. Marlins (63-98)
  5. Tigers (64-98)
  6. Padres (66-96)
  7. Reds (67-95)
  8. Rangers (67-95)
  9. Braves (comp pick for not signing Carter Stewart)
  10. Giants (73-89)
  11. Blue Jays (73-89)
  12. Mets (77-85)
  13. Twins (78-84)
  14. Phillies (80-82)
  15. Angels (80-82)
  16. Diamondbacks (82-80)
  17. Nationals (82-80)
  18. Pirates (82-79)
  19. Cardinals (88-74)
  20. Mariners (89-73)
  21. Braves (90-72)
  22. Rays (90-72)
  23. Rockies (91-72)
  24. Indians (91-71)
  25. Dodgers (92-71)
  26. Diamondbacks (comp pick for not signing Matt McLain)
  27. Cubs (95-68)
  28. Brewers (96-67)
  29. Athletics (97-65)
  30. Yankees (100-62)
  31. Dodgers (comp pick for not signing JT Ginn)
  32. Astros (103-59)

 

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