No two drafts are exactly alike, but the 2017 draft was probably more different than usual, as there was no clear number one going into the draft. The names on the first-round list are not household names yet, and even looking down the draft, not one player has ascended to the Majors with the ‘potential star’ tag on him. The wait may be worth it, especially for a number of self-identified two-way players, who are trying to make the leap to MLB in the Shohei Ohtani mold.
Coming off the worst record in baseball in 2016, the Minnesota Twins has the first overall pick, though they selected a player who was rarely even in the top-tier conversation. Their selection of Royce Lewis with the number one overall selection was a surprise to many in the game, though there don’t seem to be any phenoms rapidly making their way through the Minors and onto an MLB roster this season, Lewis included. Lewis however does rank as the eighth-ranked prospect in baseball per Baseball America, and it’s likely he lands in Minnesota sometime in 2020.
Number two pick, Hunter Greene, certainly made a name for himself by earning a Sports Illustrated cover story as a high school flamethrower. Throughout his high school career, his fastball clocked in at a whopping 102 miles per hour. The Reds selected Greene as a raw power arm, and like so many that preceded him, he underwent Tommy John Surgery, and will not pitch in 2019.
With the third overall pick, the Padres selected MacKenzie Gore, another high school pitcher who needed seasoning but whose stuff earned him top-of-draft status. Gore had a coming out party in the Mexican Winter League, where he pitched four excellent innings in front of a 20,000-person crowd in Mexico City. He showed good command, sat in the mid/high 90s, and struck out five, allowing only a single. In 47 innings this season in high-A ball, he’s struck out 64 batters and walked 10.
The biggest step-forward for Gore will be that he can play a full season without missing significant time due to blisters. Stil, it will be the long-game for the PAdres, since despite being their number two prospect, he has an estimated MLB arrival somewhere in the 2022 timeframe.
One of the interesting parts of the 2017 draft was the number of self-identified two-way players who declared themselves as such entering the draft. MLB did not have an announced two-way player enter the draft since Kaleb Cowart did it in 2010. The Angels signed the pitcher / third baseman with the number 18 pick, but he’s spent the last four seasons shuttling between Anaheim in the minors.
Coming out the University of Louisville, Brendan McKay was the first college player selected in the draft. The Rays took him with the fourth overall pick. McKay entered the 2017 draft as a lefty two-way pitcher / first basemen. Many scouts projected him as the top-talent in the draft, some even comparing him to two-way draft prospect Dave Winfield (who as we know, ultimately made his Hall of Fame career in the outfield). The Rays are committed to helping McKay stay a two-way player, which has slowed his minors ascention a bit, though he’s still a top-40 prospect, and expected he could potentially DH and/or pitch for Tampa as soon as next season.
Vandy right Kyle Wright rounded out the top-five, selected by the Braves. A consensus top-five pick, the Braves managed to land the first 2017 draftee to graduate to the Majors, where he threw two solid relief innings against the juggernaut Red Sox. Wright made the rotation straight out of camp this season, but after struggling through three starts, Atlanta optioned him back to Triple A. He’s back with the big league club this weekend, taking Matt Joyce’s spot as he tends to bereavement leave.
Brewers second baseman Keston Hiura is regularly in the 2019 Brewers lineup. He is only 22 years old, but is one of Milwaukee’s best pure hitting prospects in years. He’s already suited up for 11 games since his call-up on May 14th.
There very well could be impact players who come out of the first round in addition to the top five. The Angels Jo Adell, selected number 10 overall, is a top-ten prospect in the game. With an excellent power/speed combo, his athleticism and strength make up for a mid-grade hit cool.
Other than the players discussed above, only the Orioles D.L. Hall (ranked 43) and the Blue Jays Nate Pearson (45), no other first round prospect from 2017 makes BA’s top 100. With players seemingly coming up younger and younger, and with the rapid ascension of players like Vlad Guerrero, Jr. and Dante Bichette Jr., the 2017 class has much to prove in 2019 and well beyond.