Rutschman, Witt, Vaughn lead list of MLB draft prospects
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr. AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Adley Rutschman has been a powerful presence at the plate and a formidable force behind it for Oregon State.
That tantalizing combination could make the switch-hitting catcher the No. 1 overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft Monday night.
Baltimore leads things off for the second time in franchise history, and first since it selected LSU pitcher Ben McDonald in 1989. Rutschman, a Golden Spikes Award finalist and the Pac-12 player of the year, has been linked to the Orioles at No. 1 for most of the college season.
Texas high school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., the son of former major league pitcher Bobby Witt; Cal first baseman Andrew Vaughn; Vanderbilt outfielder JJ Bleday; and Georgia high school shortstop CJ Abrams are also possibilities to have their names called early by Commissioner Rob Manfred at MLB Network studios in Secaucus, New Jersey.
“It’s hard to understate it — it’s a huge opportunity,” Baltimore general manager Mike Elias said. “Any time you’re picking high in the draft, not just the No. 1 pick, but a top-10 pick, you’ve got a pretty good shot of really getting a franchise cornerstone. But it’s not a 100% shot by any stretch of the imagination. It’s probably more like 50-50 if you look at the historical records of it. So you feel a lot of pressure. There’s a big upside to the opportunity, but nobody has a crystal ball and it’s not easy to nail.
“So we just do as much work as we can going into it, and do what we think is right.”
That could lead to the Orioles doing what has been expected for weeks: taking the impressive Rutschman, who hit .411 with a career-best 17 homers with 58 RBIs and threw out 13 of 27 baserunners for the Beavers.
Here’s a capsule look at some of the top players eligible for the draft (with position, school, age, height, weight and college class):
SS, Blessed Trinity Catholic H.S. (Georgia), 18, 6-foot-1, 178 pounds.
Speedy shortstop could be selected within first five picks. Lefty hitter batted .418 with eight home runs and 100 RBIs in high school career. Impressed teams last summer by hitting .297 with eight RBIs for Team USA’s 18-and-under national team while playing center field. Has speed and arm to remain at shortstop, but could shift to center field or second base at next level.
OF, Arizona State, 20, 6-5, 210, junior.
Slugging outfielder has powerful left-handed swing that has him ranked among national leaders in home runs (22), RBIs (63), total bases (165) and runs scored (65). Has light-tower power and finished five homers shy of Sun Devils’ single-season record of 27 by Mitch Jones in 2000. Had 44-game on-base streak. Younger brother of Mariners outfielder Braden Bishop (third round, 2015).
OF, Vanderbilt, 21, 6-3, 205, junior.
Finalist for Golden Spikes Award given to country’s top overall player. Southeastern Conference player of year leads nation in homers with school-record 26, with quick lefty swing. Expected to be first college outfielder taken in draft. SEC Tournament MVP hitting .351 and brings 42-game on-base streak into next weekend’s super regionals in NCAA Tournament. Cemented status as potential top-five pick when selected last summer as Cape Cod League’s top prospect.
OF, Lakeside H.S. (Washington), 18, 5-11, 161.
Speedster committed to play at UCLA, but expected to be top-10 pick. Lacks size of most premier prospects, but not tools. Gatorade’s Washington state player of year hit .540 with nine home runs and 26 RBIs from left side of plate while playing excellent defense in center field. Has solid line-drive power to all fields and always threat on bases with 11 steals as senior.
OF, Hagerty H.S. (Florida), 18, 6-1, 191.
Gatorade’s Florida state player of year hit .422 with eight homers, 27 RBIs and 38 runs scored as arguably country’s top prep outfielder. Has smooth left-handed swing that produces consistent line drives. Projects as corner outfielder in pros with good pop. Was one of stars of Team USA’s 18-and-under national team, leading squad with 20 RBIs.
C, Baylor, 21, 6-foot, 190, junior.
Outstanding defensive catcher threw out 14 of 25 would-be basestealers. Would be shoo-in for first catcher selected if not for Oregon State’s Adley Rutschman. Bounced back from broken hamate bone in left hand that sidelined him for 10 games. Has raw power in smooth right-handed swing. Hit .308 with 10 homers and 42 RBIs. Set NCAA Tournament record with 11 RBIs in three-homer game vs. Omaha on Saturday night.
LHP, TCU, 21, 6-6, 185, junior.
Generally regarded as top pitching prospect in this year’s class , lefty went 6-6 with 2.36 ERA and struck out 131 while walking just 25 in 103 innings for Horned Frogs. Was 41st overall pick by Pirates in 2016 — highest selection to go unsigned that year. Expected to become school’s highest-drafted player, topping Lance Broadway (No. 15 by White Sox in 2005). Uses three-quarters arm angle to throw mid-90s fastball with nice sink. Slider also plus-pitch that sits in low-80s and complements solid changeup.
RHP, West Virginia, 21, 6-6, 260, junior.
Unanimous Big 12 pitcher of year had school-record 144 strikeouts while going 9-4 with 2.08 ERA and just 27 walks in 108 1/3 innings. Imposing power pitcher slings fastball in mid- to upper-90s. Also mixes in solid slider and changeup. Went undrafted out of high school, but led Cape Cod League in strikeouts last summer. Had scoreless streak of 33 1/3 innings this season, span that included consecutive shutouts of Texas Tech and Kansas with 15 strikeouts in each game.
RHP, San Jacinto J.C. (Texas), 20, 6-8, 240, sophomore.
Big righty fires fastballs that sit in mid- to upper-90s late into games as part of five-pitch repertoire that includes solid slider and knee-buckling curve. Top junior college prospect in this year’s draft class went 9-2 with four complete games, 0.87 ERA and 134 Ks and 30 walks in 82 2/3 innings. Was considered a top high school pitcher in Missouri, but opted for college. Transferred from Arkansas after freshman season.
C, Oregon State, 21, 6-2, 216, junior.
Golden Spikes Award finalist was Pac-12 player of year and conference’s co-defensive player of year. Widely considered favorite to go No. 1 overall to Baltimore. Would mark seventh time player drafted as catcher taken with top pick — first since Joe Mauer in 2001. Switch-hitting slugger ranks among national leaders in several offensive categories, including on-base percentage (.575), slugging percentage (.751) and school-record 76 walks. Was 40th-round pick of Seattle in 2016.
1B, California, 21, 6-foot, 214, junior.
Outstanding overall hitter looking to become first repeat winner of Golden Spikes Award after being selected as country’s top college player as sophomore last year. Widely considered best all-around hitter in draft, Vaughn hit .381 with 15 homers and 50 RBIs with .544 on-base percentage that ranks among national leaders. Struck out just 74 times in three seasons.
BOBBY WITT JR.
SS, Colleyville Heritage H.S. (Texas), 18, 6-foot, 180.
Son of former big league pitcher Bobby Witt, who was selected No. 3 overall in 1985 draft. Would become seventh father-son combo of first-rounders, and first since Delino DeShields (1987) and Delino DeShields Jr. (2010). Could also become highest-drafted father-son duo, topping Tom Grieve (No. 6, 1966) and Ben Grieve (No. 2, 1994). Younger Witt considered top high school prospect this year. Five-tools shortstop has impressive power with smooth right-handed swing.
OTHER POTENTIAL EARLY FIRST-ROUNDERS: Florida high school RHP Matthew Allan; Texas high school 3B Brett Baty; California high school 3B Keoni Cavaco; Tulane 3B Kody Hoese; Elon RHP George Kirby; UNLV shortstop Bryson Stott; and Kentucky left-hander Zack Thompson
AP Sports Writer Dave Ginsburg in Baltimore, Maryland, contributed.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports