A couple of weeks ago, we got an early start at previewing the top of the 2017 MLB Draft by taking a look at which pitchers MLB.com ranked at the top of it’s 2017 Draft Prospect Watch list.
But, some fans may take a look at the Reds farm system, see the bounty of near-ready and hopefully ready prospect arms the Reds have acquired as a part of their year and a half long (in earnest, at least) rebuild and yearn for a top rated position prospect. It’s a tact the team itself took just last year, when the Reds made 3B Nick Senzel the second overall pick in the 2016 draft.
As I mentioned last time; this is a very early look at the top of the draft. Some (if not all) of these names won’t be this highly regarded when we get to June, and you can bet your butt that we’ll keep track of the jockeying all along the way. But, for those looking for an interesting position prospect at the top of the 2017 draft, the early returns come strong with interesting talent.
Jeren Kendall - OF, Junior, Vanderbilt University
At this stage, Jeren Kendall is regarded to be “easily” the top college position prospect. While the consensus behind that wasn’t necessarily 100% going into 2016 draft, plenty of scouts were saying the same things about Senzel when the Reds held the number two pick last season.
A fast-twitch athlete with five-tool potential, Kendall stands out most with his plus-plus speed and also possesses deceptive strength. He has learned to incorporate his lower half in his left-handed swing while at Vanderbilt and has good balance at the plate. There's more swing and miss in Kendall's game than scouts would like, leading to some concerns about his pitch recognition and whether he'll reach his offensive upside.
The scouting report sounds like a higher floor Billy Hamilton when it also mentions his ability to stand out on defense. Comparisons to Jacoby Ellsbury have already been made, which is incredible considering that until Kendall reached Vanderbilt, he wasn’t even a full time baseball player.
Kendall seems like a pick that any team would feel comfortable making. As it stands, I think he’s the odds on favorite to be selected by the Reds, should he still be there when the second pick rolls around. He checks all the boxes for the Reds; advanced bat, outfielder, and a fairly reasonable signing bonus price. He just also happens to be, in all likelihood, the best player available.
Royce Lewis - SS/OF, Senior, JSerra Catholic High School (California)
Lewis is the top prep bat available according to MLB.com, and has already drew comparisons to last year’s top California prep bats: number one overall Mick Moniak and number 18 Blake Rutherford.
Lewis is a veritable tool shed, with the chance to be a game-changer on both sides of the ball. He might have more speed than Moniak does, and he has more power at this point. Lewis makes consistent hard contact and should continue to grow into over-the-fence pop. His speed allows him to be a basestealing threat, and it helps him cover a lot of ground both at shortstop and in center field.
Lewis won’t even turn 18 until right near the draft, so the 6-foot-1-inch, 185 pound has plenty of room to grow, which makes him imminently projectable. This past August, we was named the Perfect Game All-American Classic MVP, going 2-3 with a triple, 2 RBI, and a run scored for the West’s route of the East, 13-0.
Lewis would certainly be very valuable as a world busting shortstop that could just as easily smack a dinger as fire a dart deep from the hole, but many scouts seem to like him better in center field, but could perhaps try giving it a go at second base as well. Regardless, he’s been a weapon for his high school team that’s been able to make it work nearly everywhere on the diamond. As a fanbase, we’ve been clamoring for a true “Ben Zobrist-y” type for years and years (and years. And years).
Jordon Adell - OF, Senior, Ballard High School (Kentucky)
Adell is a name that certain Reds fans might recognize or, depending on how things break, will recognize in the near future. Ballard HS is located in the Louisville area, and Adell is currently committed to the University of Louisville.
Adell has the best all-around tools in the 2017 Draft, and his physical gifts have drawn comparisons to Byron Buxton and Melvin Upton Jr. Both of those players were drafted No. 2 overall ... Adell's electric bat speed gives him huge raw power from the right side of the plate, but his propensity to swing and miss leads to questions about how much he'll be able to translate that pop into production. He has trouble catching up to average fastballs at times and must learn to recognize breaking pitches. A tremendous athlete who already has a big league body, he has well above-average speed...
A work in progress, to say the least, there’s a reason that MLB Pipeline’s list has seven pitchers ranked between Lewis and Adell. “Has trouble catching up to average fastballs,” is not something you want to read about a prep star whose strength is an upside.
Though, just for fun, go ahead and reads this Today’s Knuckleball piece comparing Jo to Bo... Jackson.
The comparisons to Buxton and Upton are intriguing, if only because of where the Reds will be making this selection. It seems like a long shot that this Reds brain trust would be willing to select a high school bat in need of this much refinement, considering the priority the team has placed on proximity to the big leagues when evaluating talent. However, should Adell prove that his pitch recognition is much improved throughout this spring and summer (and that the team could have it all should they choose him), the Reds just might say hello to Adell at number two.