As a little kid, there wasn’t much better than Christmas morning. You’d wake up super early, annoyingly wake your parents up, and haul your butt out to the Christmas tree faster than an Aroldis Chapman fastball. All those new brand spanking new toys just waiting to be added to your current collection scattered across the floor in your bedroom. Fast-forward to adulthood and the MLB Draft has that same feeling for dynasty league owners and prospect hounds alike. We get to add a slew of new prospects to the already deep prospect pool. What’s better than that? Don’t answer that, it’s a trick question.
2018 MLB Draft – First-Round Pitchers
Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn
Selected: 1st – Detroit Tigers
Fair warning, I’m going to ramble a bit here, but it’s deserved. When you watch Casey Mize pitch, you can’t help but get excited about his future potential. He looks the part of a frontline starter, standing at 6’3 and 205 pounds with an easy and clean right-handed delivery. Now, there’s more to being a frontline starter than just looking purdy on the mound. You need to have the arsenal to back it up and there’s no doubting that Mize has that, too.
Mize attacks hitters with a three-pitch assortment he commands extremely well. His fastball sits in the low to mid 90’s, with strong arm side run and can reach 97-98 when he needs to. On top of that, Mize features two plus secondary pitches that grade out as plus to plus-plus. His slider sits in the mid-80’s with late life and can sometimes turn into more of a high-80’s cutter. As good as this pitch is for Mize, his greatest weapon is an 87-89 mph splitter with hard, late drop that darts down and in to righties and disappears into a different zip code against lefties.
Casey Mize, Filthy 88 mph Splitter (home plate view).
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 14, 2018
That’s just one nasty splitter from Mize. When you watch more film on Mize from that same game, you’ll quickly realize that batters have little chance to make solid (or any) contact on Mize’s splitter when he’s throwing it well. The Tigers already have a strong crop of minor league pitchers and Mize has the potential to be the best of the bunch and a future Major League and fantasy ace. He needs to be the first arm taken in first-year player dynasty drafts.
Ryan Weathers, LHP, Loretto HS (Tennessee)
Selected: 7th – San Diego Padres
This might be seen as a slight reach, but Weathers has one of the highest floors you’ll see from a high school pitcher. He doesn’t have one true plus pitch at the moment, but Weathers does have a strong, diverse arsenal he can command and control well. Sometimes, it’s not always about lighting up the radar gun. Weathers operates in the low 90’s with his fastball and mixes in a curveball and changeup that both flash plus potential. There’s nothing overly exciting about Weathers like there is with Mize, and that will likely cause him to go much lower than seventh in first-year player drafts for dynasty leagues. Don’t underestimate the “safe” picks.
Carter Stewart, RHP, Eau Gallie HS (Florida)
Selected: 8th – Atlanta Braves
Remember how I said that Mize’s splitter was arguably the best off-speed pitch in this year’s MLB Draft? Well, Carter Stewart’s curveball takes offense to that statement. The dictionary only has so many words to describe the filth that is Stewart’s curveball. The spin rate he gets on his curveballs is almost unheard of and would be tops in the Major Leagues right now. This paragraph took me forever to write as I kept getting distracted by the video below. It’s just so damn fun to watch.
Carter Stewart and his 3500RPM curveball. 🤢😱 pic.twitter.com/ta2tELinLt
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 14, 2017
Believe it or not, Stewart does have other offerings outside of his curveball. His fastball earns rave reviews as well. Stewart sits comfortably in the 95-96 mph range and can get as high as 98 with a clean, repeatable delivery. While his change-up isn’t as advanced as the other two offerings, it does show the potential to be at least an average Major League change-up. Once he starts needing to use it more in the minors, expect Stewart to get a better feel for it. Outside of Mize, this is my favorite arm from this draft class.
Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Central Heights HS (Texas)
Selected: 11th – Baltimore Orioles
For pitchers, is getting drafted by the Orioles basically the kiss of death? It’s not as bad as getting drafted by the Rockies, but Baltimore’s track record of developing pitchers lately hasn’t exactly been stellar. Rodriguez made some gains during his senior season in high school, especially with his fastball which now sits in the 93-95 range consistently with strong arm side run that gives right-handed batters fits.
When it comes to his secondary pitches, none currently grade out as plus, but he does have good feel for his curve, slider, and change-up, with the slider being the biggest weapon of the trio. There’s no doubting that Rodriguez has a bright future ahead of him, but there are several hurlers taken after him with higher fantasy upside.
Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson
Selected: 14 – Seattle Mariners
Well, now I know where Stetson University is (Florida). Gilbert is a tall, slender right-hander with a strong three-pitch arsenal. His fastball sits in the low to mid-90’s with his three-quarter arm slot generating late life. None of Gilbert’s three off-speed pitches would be considered plus, but his change-up and slider have flashed that potential and could develop into strikeout inducing weapons after some minor league seasoning. What’s really important here with Gilbert is his above-average control and clean delivery. If he can continue to develop the secondary pitches, there’s SP2 upside here.
Cole Winn, RHP, Orange Lutheran HS (California)
Selected: 15th – Texas Rangers
With the exception of Gilbert, there was a long run on prep arms throughout the middle parts of the first round. And outside of Stewart, Winn might possess the highest upside of the five high school pitchers taken from picks seven to 16. Winn possesses two plus pitches already, with the potential for a third down the road.
Let’s start with his slider. To put it simply, it’s nasty. Winn throws it in the low 80s with hard, two-plane break and can locate it for strikes on both sides of the plate. The change in velocity offsets his fastball which sits in the 93-95 range deep into starts. The Rangers might have just drafted their future ace. Winn checks in as my No. 4 fantasy pitching prospect from this MLB Draft class.
Matthew Libatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge HS (Arizona)
Selected: 16th – Tampa Bay Rays
Some had Matthew Liberatore as the top southpaw in this year’s MLB Draft, but the prep arm slid into the Rays lap at pick 16. That’d be the Tampa Bay Rays, not some random guy named Ray. Like with Weathers, Liberatore doesn’t feature any elite offerings, but does have four average to above-average pitches that he can locate and mix extremely well.
That’s what you got to love about Liberatore. He pitches with the poise of a Major League veteran and he’s still three years away from being able to legally drink. Now, for a little bit of fun. Liberatore often looks like a left-handed Johnny Cueto on the hill, randomly quick-pitching hitters and altering his time to home plate on basically every pitch. You don’t often see this high of a floor on a prep arm.
Brady Singer, RHP, Florida
Selected: 18th – Kansas City Royals
Finally, the Singer freefall comes to an end. For a guy that was in the running for the top overall pick back in the spring, this is a bargain for the Royals. Singer has true ace upside and a nasty arsenal. His fastball sits in the mid-90’s with late run and he can ratchet that up an mph or two when he needs to. To offset his heater, Singer mixes in a slider with plenty of break and an emerging change-up with some late tumble that should be at least a Major League average offering, if not better.
If you were watching MLB Network last night, you would’ve heard Pedro Martinez call Singer the “safest bet” in this draft. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to trust Pedro when it comes to anything pitching related. Outside of Mize, Singer has the highest fantasy potential for pitchers in this draft.
Ryan Rolison, LHP, Ole Miss
Selected: 22nd – Colorado Rockies
Finally, a collegiate left-hander. Almost thought we might sneak out of the first round without one. While not overly imposing on the mound at 6’2 and 195 pounds, Rolison uses a strong lower half to sling in his 92-94 mph heater with a clean and repeatable delivery. Rolison features three secondary pitches with his curveball easily grading as plus. His slider and change-up, while not as dynamic, display decent movement and have the potential to be above average offerings for him. Rolison is talented and should progress quickly through the Rockies system. However, don’t forget that he’ll have to deal with Coors Field. That’s about as fun as trying to hit a Mize splitter.
Mason Denaburg, RHP, Merritt Island HS (Florida)
Selected: 27th – Washington Nationals
While he’s no Stephen Strasburg, Denaburg possesses great upside for this draft slot. This is a first-round pitcher that hasn’t even been fully focusing on pitching as he’s also strong at the plate and could probably play college football as a kicker, too. Denaburg already has two plus pitches in his arsenal. His fastball sits in the mid-90s with arm side life and, while inconsistent, his breaking ball has hard downward break and misses plenty of bats. Patience is key here due to Denaburg’s age and experience as a full-time pitcher, but don’t be surprised to see him as one of the top pitching prospects from this draft in 2-3 years.
J.T. Ginn, RHP, Brandon HS (Mississippi)
Selected: 30th – Los Angeles Dodgers
Pitchers like Ginn are a lot of fun to project, but can end up being a pain in the ass to own in dynasty leagues. Ginn is often inconsistent and his maximum effort delivery could cause a move to the bullpen. No one wants to be stashing future relievers in dynasty leagues. If his delivery doesn’t derail him, Ginn has the arsenal to be a No. 2 starter and possibly even an ace. His mid-90’s fastball and wipeout slider combination is arguably the best in this year’s MLB Draft. Let’s just hope he can stay in the rotation.
Compensation Picks of Note
Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida
Selected: 31st – Tampa Bay Rays
Cross your fingers and hope that McClanahan’s control gets better as a professional. Why? Because he has the best overall left-handed arsenal in this draft. A blazing fastball that can hit triple-digits and a change-up with a ton of two-plane fade are the bread and butter for McClanahan. His slider isn’t as effective, but is at least serviceable as a third pitch. With better control, we could be looking at a front of the rotation southpaw.
Jackson Kowar, RHP, Florida
Selected: 33rd – Kansas City Royals
How Kowar dropped into the comp round is beyond me. His change-up is one of the best right-handed change-ups in this draft and he can sit in the 95-97 range with ease on his fastball. The one issue with Kowar is the lack of fastball run which causes him to get hit harder at times. Going strictly off fantasy upside, Kowar is easily amongst the top-10 arms in this year’s MLB Draft.
Ethan Hankins, RHP, Forsyth Central HS (Georgia)
Selected: 35th – Cleveland Indians
Ah, the old 80-grade fastball but not much else pitcher. Hankins already sits in the mid-90’s and should add more velocity once he fills out his lanky 6’6″ frame. The question is, how will his secondary offerings develop. His change-up has flashed plus potential but both breaking balls are a work in progress, to say the least. How lucky do feel?