Catching Up on the 2018 Draft Crop: Compensation and CBA Rounds

Inspired by this excellent article by MLB Pipeline’s Sam Dykstra, I’m going to pick up where they left off and do a version of ‘where are they now?’ with the Compensation and CBA rounds of the 2018 draft. I’ll include my personal rankings from my First Year Player Draft Guide at the end of each player blurb and some reflection on those takes.

Compensation Round 1:

31. Tampa Bay Rays – Shane McClanahan

A left-hander with fantastic arm speed generates a fastball that can flash 7, sitting in the upper 90s. In the draft, he seemed like a risky choice but one that also had a ton of upside. He’s both been electric (34% K-rate) and experienced plenty of control issues (16% BB-rate) in his Full Season debut in 2019. The results have been fine though, as McClanahan has put up a 4-3 record in 8 starts with a 3.25 FIP.

When you dig into McClanahan’s game logs, you can see his overall line is even a bit unlucky. On April 10, he made a start against Lake County where he only registered 1 out and gave up 3 ER on 2 hits and 3 walks. Outside of that blowup, he’s completed at least 5 innings in the rest of his outings on the season, going 89 pitches or better in each of his last 5 starts. I was concerned about his durability after the draft, but he’s pitching like a workhorse so far early on in his career.

First Year Player Draft Guide: #16 Pitcher. Had him as a Tier 3 arm which might still be fine, but there’s a ton of upside with this guy if everything clicks.

32. Tampa Bay Rays – Nick Schnell

Schnell was a start multi-sport athlete with a baseball scholarship offer from the University of Louisville. However, Tampa Bay gave him a $2.1 mil signing bonus which lured him to try professional ball. Schnell turned 19 in March and has spent all of his pro career thus far in the complex, playing games for the GCL Rays this spring. Judging by his numbers in the GCL, he’s raw: a .751 OPS, striking out at a 28% clip, and he’s only 2-for-8 in stolen base chances thus far.

Schnell is a guy that I’d love to see a complex level scouting report on, as I don’t think there are any big takeaways from his statistical line in the GCL just yet. Alas, I’m not able to find one. So Schnell goes into the ‘don’t forget about this guy’ file for now. It might be some time until we have a clearer picture of what he can become.

First Year Player Draft Guide: #38 Hitter. He was at the forefront of the “upside/???” OF including Schnell, McCarthy, Decker, Deatherage, Pompey, Canning.

33. Kansas City Royals – Jackson Kowar

“The other” University of Florida pitcher that was popped by the Royals on Day 1 in the June 2018 draft, Kowar joined his Gators teammate Brady Singer in the Royals system. He’s a fastball/changeup guy thus far, but the changeup is a plus weapon. Chris Paddack has made an impressive MLB debut in 2019 as a fastball/changeup guy, so it can be done. Kowar has spent all of the 2019 season with the Wilmington Blue Rocks of the A+ Carolina League. In 9 starts, Kowar is 3-3 with a 3.31 ERA.

His peripheral numbers look pretty solid. He’s posted a 2.82 K/BB ratio (3.0 is my magic number here), a 23% K-rate, and an 8% BB-rate. None of these peripherals are elite, but they are really close to the elite type level. The game logs show some peaks and valleys, and his last 4 starts went 0 ER, 3 ER, 1 ER, 5 ER. The Athletic’s Alec Lewis discussed Kowar’s game with Kansas City pitching coach Steve Leubber ($). Leubber noted that the team worked hard with Kowar in developing a true curveball as his breaking ball offering. His implementation of that pitch has been challenging at times this season:

“There are a lot of days where it’s an above-average, major-league pitch. He got a little frustrated the first couple of starts, but then he started to see the results.”

It’s a good lesson to remember that these pitchers can sometimes be working on specific pitches to the detriment of their overall game.

First Year Player Draft Guide: #7 Pitcher. Kowar is going to have to tap into more of his upside to realize this ranking, but if that breaking ball comes along for the ride then I’m still confident that he can do it.

34. Kansas City Royals – Daniel Lynch

Lynch underwent a crazy transformation when he hit the professional ranks last summer. His fastball sat in the low-90s at UVA, but he saw a big velocity jump after working with the Royals and was touching 98 by the end of the season last year. He’s made 10 starts for Wilmington this season, going 4-2 with a 3.00 ERA. His K/BB of 3.64 is above that magic 3.0 threshold that I look for, with a 23% K-rate and a 6% BB-rate. His stuff has been a little hittable, however, and opponents are batting .267 against him this season, inflating his WHIP to 1.30.

If you dig into the game logs, you can see that Lynch has dominated his last 3 starts (0 ER in 20 IP) after a blowup against the Salem Red Sox on May 8 (5 ER on 10 H in 4 innings). Similar to Kowar, it seems that Lynch is also searching for that consistency. If he can find it, he might even have a higher ceiling than Kowar down the road.

First Year Player Draft Guide: #9 Pitcher. I ranked the 3 Royals SPs as Singer-Kowar-Lynch. There was a time last summer where I preferred Kowar to Singer even. Now it seems that Kowar might be at the bottom of those 3. Still, I think those 3 arms are close, and all of them are future SP 2/3 types for the Royals if everything breaks right.

35. Cleveland Indians – Ethan Hankins

I became enamored with Hankins after someone in the Baseball Farm chat shared this video of him shredding South Korea with 14 Ks in the 2017 U-18 Baseball World Cup. He just turned 19 a few days ago, and the Indians are being super cautious with him early on his development. He’s going to be playing the game ‘Escape from the Complex’ that a lot of these high variance, high upside prep prospects are going to be playing for the next year or so. Hankins is currently out in extended spring training in AZ, and will likely get a short season placement with Mahoning Valley of the NY-Penn League later this summer.

First Year Player Draft Guide: #3 Pitcher. I think it is too early to tell whether this is too high. I still think his upside in this draft class is unrivaled outside of Mize.

CBA Round:

36. Pittsburgh Pirates – Gunnar Hoglund

Hoglund did not sign with the Pirates, electing instead to attend Ole Miss. So far in his Freshman year, Hoglund has made 13 starts, posting a 2-2 record with a 5.13 ERA and 1.38 WHIP.

First Year Player Draft Guide: Did not rank

37. Baltimore Orioles – Cadyn Grenier

Grenier was drafted as a glove-first shortstop out of the 2018 NCAA Champion Oregon State University Beavers. The Orioles gave him a Full-Season assignment to start his professional career in 2018, and he struggled (84 wRC+, 29% K-rate). He’s repeating A-Full with the Delmarva Shorebirds of the South Atlantic League this season, to somewhat better results (.756 OPS). Most promising for Grenier’s game so far this season is that his walk rate has improved (14% BB-rate) and his OBP has come along for the ride (.371 OBP), giving him an intriguing lead-off man type profile with some speed (4-for-5 in SB attempts). However, his strikeout rate is still concerningly high (33.3% K-rate).

First Year Player Draft Guide: #72 Hitter. My primary concern was the hit tool/holes in his swing. Still standing by that unless Grenier can show me otherwise.

38. San Diego Padres – Xavier Edwards

This speedy shortstop with a potentially elite hit tool is playing in the Midwest League as a 19-year-old this season. Edwards has flashed his plus to double-plus hit tool (8.4% K-rate), and double-plus speed (12 SB in 38 games) that made him such an attractive fantasy baseball prospect when he was selected. The power (.061 ISO, .408 SLG) has not come along for the ride yet. It might never come along for the ride. But as long as his OPS stays above .800 (.843 career professional OPS thus far) I’m not sure that it matters a whole lot. And he’s walking more than he’s striking out as a teenager. There’s a lot to love in his profile.

First Year Player Draft Guide: #5 Hitter. I had Edwards above guys like Trevor Larnach, Jarred Kelenic, Joey Bart, and Alec Bohm, when I reality I probably should have had him below the tier of ‘elite’ Hit-Power (potential 6-6) guys in the 2018 draft. The question is, where do you put a potential 7 hit, 3 power, 7 speed guy in relation to the potential 6 hit, 6 power guys? I’m not sure that I have an answer to that one at this particular time.

39. Arizona Diamondbacks – Jake McCarthy

McCarthy strung together a nice ‘8-8-8-9-6’ Blueberry line in his professional debut last summer, hinting at being a potential 5-tool guy who bats left-handed and plays centerfield. I was intrigued by the upside here, and I thought that being a hitter coming out of the University of Virginia, which teaches it’s guys an outdated hitting approach, would mean that there could be some sneaky power upside here. I even made McCarthy one of my late round choices in our Harvest competition.

Well, the 21-year-old hitter has had a harder time of it this season with the Visalia Rawhide of the A+ California League. McCarthy is slashing .234/.308/.340, despite a friendly .355 BABIP. His 89 wRC+ points to below average performance at his current level. He looks more and more like a 4th OF profile a year into his professional career.

First Year Player Draft Guide: #39 Hitter. I’m comfortable with where I had him rated for FYPD, he’s in a big pile of OF with some upside but who might just wind up being organizational depth.

40. Kansas City Royals – Kris Bubic

Of all the Day One pitchers drafted by the Royals last summer, it is Kris Bubic who has had the most impressive debut thus far. The lefty out of Stanford has just carved up the hitters in the Sally League. He’s posted a 41% K-rate to go along with his 8% BB-rate, giving him a 4-1 record with a minuscule 2.08 ERA through his first 9 starts. He got promoted to A+ Wilmington this week.

His delivery is plenty funky, and his CH has just been downright baffling to the competition he’s faced thus far. Patrick Brennan of Royals Farm Report notes that Bubic has the highest K+IFFB % of any pitcher in the entirety of the MiLB this season:

First Year Player Draft Guide: #27 Pitcher. This could be a huge whiff on my part. I just saw him as a ‘crafty lefty’ college arm, and I wasn’t anticipating all the Ks.

41. Cleveland Indians – Lenny Torres Jr.

Lenny was both one of the youngest players drafted in 2018 and also had some of the most electric arm speed in the entire draft class. Unfortunately, that’s an unstable combo which reared it’s ugly head already. Torres recently underwent TJS. He likely won’t pitch again until late 2020, and even then the Indians are sure to be very cautious with his development.

Enough dwelling on the bad, how about the upside here? Prospects Live’s Jason Pennini caught Torres on the backfields in AZ before he went down with his injury:

This “live, electric arm” still has tons of upside.

First Year Player Draft Guide: #14 Pitcher. Similar to Ethan Hankins, we are just going to have to wait and see what we actually have here. But betting on the youngest pitcher in the draft class with an extremely electric arm is a bet I like taking.

42. Colorado Rockies – Grant Lavigne

Cold weather prep bat with a great looking swing and French-Canadian last name. He’s currently in the South Atlantic League as a 19-year-old, and while he’s not exactly thriving, he’s also more than holding his own. He’s posted a 110 wRC+, mostly on his ability to draw a walk at the plate (17% BB-rate). The strikeouts are a little troublesome (29% K-rate). But the strangest thing thus far is that he’s just not hitting for much power, slugging .338 with a .119 ISO. One potential culprit is that his swing path is still generating lots of groundballs, with a 50% GB rate in 2019.

John Calvagno of Notes From the Sally got a good look at his swing path and approach early on this season:

“The swing in long and linear with above average bat speed.  He’s got strong hands, that whip the bat head through the zone. The ball really jumps off of his barrel.  He’s a strong young man, with 60 raw power and a chance for 70 or more at peak.  Right now the bulk of the contact is of the sharp grounders and low line drive variety, directed toward the center of the diamond.”

First Year Player Draft Guide: #12 Hitter. I had him at the top of the 3rd tier with some other power hitters that maybe should be above him: Seth Beer is definitely far advanced and more productive, Triston Casas is hitting very well, Malcom Nunez is heading stateside already.

43. St. Louis Cardinals – Griffin Roberts

The kid drew a 50-game suspension to start 2019 for smoking weed, which is just absurd. He’s got an excellent slider and a FB that can sit mid-90s, and at the very least he will be a potential bullpen piece for the Cardinals in the future. I’m guessing he probably starts in the FSL, but if everything clicks then he can move quickly.

First Year Player Draft Guide: #36 Pitcher. Hard to know how accurate this will be until the kid actually gets a chance to pitch.

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