The Spitter’s 2017 MLB Draft Watch List

When the 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft takes place on this coming Monday evening, over 1,000 student-athletes will be presented with a golden opportunity to fulfill their lifelong dream.

The beauty of this year’s draft class is that there are several blue chippers available who very easily could’ve been selected first overall in previous years. If your favorite team is looking for an elite power arm, then one can be found well into the early second round – unlike most years where there is a significant disparity between hurlers taken within the first dozen picks versus the leftovers. There are plenty high schoolers sporting 90+ mph fastballs as well as an abundance of college stars bringing the electric stuff of a frontline MLB starter.

About a year ago, I tweeted early that North Carolina’s J.B. Bukauskas is my top pitching prospect for 2017. As of this moment, there are many scouts that would disagree with my assessment. However, I’m sticking to my guns heading into this draft despite the plethora of premium-quality aces available for the taking. There is no doubt in my mind that he is truly above and beyond every other hurler in this draft.

Unfortunately, aside from the studs that I’ve listed below, I’m nowhere near as enthusiastic about the position players that are available in this year’s draft. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time scouting high school prospects over the past year, but came away unimpressed by the vast majority of those being touted as upper tier talent.

I recently spoke with a former teammate of mine that currently serves as a regional scouting supervisor for an MLB team. When I raised the subject of talent available in this year’s draft, he agreed 100% with my assessment that most of these kids would’ve either been cut or riding the bench for the summer league select teams that we played on as amateurs.

Among the college hitting prospects, this draft class is extremely shallow. I seriously question whether some of the biggest names (like Vanderbilt’s Jeren Kendall, Virginia’s Pavin Smith, and Mississippi State’s Brent Rooker) will develop into anything more than a common MLB player. I’m already looking forward to next year’s draft class where there will be more true MLB prospects.

Despite that, the following are my top 10 players to watch in this year’s draft. I’ve also included my own 20-80 grades for each player based on the MLB Scouting Bureau’s Scouting Grade System:

1. J.B. Bukauskas, RHP – University of North Carolina

Fastball – 70, Curveball – 65, Changeup – 65, Control – 65, Overall – 65

There’s no chance that he’ll be selected 1st overall and it’s unlikely that he’ll even be the 1st pitcher selected off the board. But, I pity any team that passes on J.B., especially when his power stuff reminds me of Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens. There’s been talk of converting him into a reliever as a pro, but that would be a tragic waste of his potential.

2. Hunter Greene, RHP/IF – Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, CA)

Hitting – 55/60, Power – 80, Speed – 60, Defense – 50/55, Arm – 70, Overall – 65

On Monday evening, Greene will most likely earn the distinction of being the 1st overall pick in the 2017 amateur draft. He’s a two-way phenom that could develop into an all-star hurler or elite position player with immense light-tower power. Personally, I’d much rather see his Ruthian bat in the lineup for 162 games instead of having him pitch every fifth day.

3. Jordon Adell, OF – Ballard (Louisville, KY)

Hitting – 50/55, Power – 65, Speed – 80, Defense – 55/60, Arm – 65, Overall – 65

The best all-around athlete available in this year’s draft. He has an elite combination of speed and power, but will need to show more consistency at the plate.

4. Kyle Wright, RHP – Vanderbilt University

Fastball – 70, Curveball – 65, Slider – 65, Changeup – 55, Control – 55, Overall – 60

Just might be the best pitching prospect that Vanderbilt has ever produced, which is saying quite a bit given their history. Dominant, frontline quality starter who mows down hitters and is a prime time performer in big games.

5. Nick Storz, RHP – Poly Prep Country Day (Brooklyn, NY)

Fastball – 55/60, Slider – 65/70, Changeup – 45/50, Control – 65/70, Overall – 60

Throws a devastating slider and heavy fastball that tops out at 94 mph, reminds me of Pete Harnisch with far superior stuff. Has committed to LSU, so signability might be an issue that causes teams to avoid him.

6. Alex Lange, RHP – Louisiana State University

Fastball – 60/65, Curveball – 50/55, Changeup – 65, Control – 45/50, Overall – 55/60

LSU has a long track record of producing elite prospects that ultimately fail to deliver on expectations at the pro level. Hopefully, Lange’s golden arm will enable him to deliver on his tremendous promise.

7. Royce Lewis, SS – JSerra Catholic (San Juan Capistrano, CA)

Hitting – 50/55, Power – 55, Speed – 65, Defense – 50, Arm – 55, Overall – 55

Quick hands with exceptional bat speed, awesome fastball hitter but must improve mechanics to maximize potential. Reminds me of Nomar Garciaparra and Ian Kinsler — line drive hitters with enough pop to be perennial 25+ home run guys.

8. Kyle Jacobsen, OF – Allatoona (Acworth, GA)

Hitting – 50, Power – 45/50, Speed – 70, Defense – 50/55, Arm – 60, Overall – 55

Underrated prep star whose name doesn’t appear on many lists of elite prospects, but I love his speed-power combo and have him graded just below last year’s #1 overall pick, Mickey Moniak.

9. DL Hall, LHP – Valdosta (Valdosta, GA)

Fastball – 55, Curveball – 65, Changeup – 50, Control – 50, Overall – 55

Possesses a knee-buckling breaking ball and great command. Loves to paint the black and is mature beyond his years. Has performed well against elite prep stars, but must limit hitters sitting on his fastball. Reminds me of Mike Hampton.

10. C.J. Van Eyk, RHP – Steinbrenner (Lutz, FL)

Fastball – 45, Curveball – 65, Changeup – 45, Control – 65, Overall – 55

Not an imposing presence on the mound, but has a big curve that freezes hitters and good movement on his fastball. Has great command of the strike zone on both sides and makes all of his pitches look the same from their delivery point.

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