Notes and video on Brendan McKay, Keston Hiura, Zack Collins, and more.
Brendan McKay, 1B/LHP, Tampa Bay Rays (short-season Hudson Valley) In the leadup to the 2017 draft, McKay was on the short list of players receiving consideration to be selected first overall by the Twins. The Rays ultimately snagged him at pick four and are giving him the opportunity to both hit and pitch for the foreseeable future. Early results suggest he is presently more advanced on the mound. Through his first two professional starts (five innings), the left-hander has yet to allow a run and has compiled seven strikeouts. The athletic 21-year-old’s most impressive offering is his potentially plus curveball. It displays 11-5 action and should generate swings and misses at the major-league level. His fastball initially sits 90-94 before dropping to the upper 80s by the end of an outing. Despite the lack of elite velocity, the pitch flashes plus due to its movement and his ability to command it on both sides of the plate. His final pitch is a sparingly used and inconsistent changeup. McKay’s floor is a middle reliever, and he should become a mid-rotation starter once he learns how to sustain velocity deeper into games and gains confidence in his changeup.
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Zack Collins, C, Chicago White Sox (High-A Winston-Salem)
Collins may be one of the pickiest hitters in the minors right now, as evidenced by his.212/.384/.379 slash line. At the plate, Collins is an extremely patient hitter with above-average plate discipline and pitch recognition. He has a mild bat wrap, but it doesn’t seem to impede his balanced, smooth swing. There’s unquestionably plus power in the bat. Right now, though, too many of Collins’ deep counts are ending with strikeouts, and he’s pounding plenty of balls into the ground with a low-line drive rate to go along with it. He has to work on making consistent contact more often.
Behind the plate, Collins seems like a logical game caller; he has soft hands and can handle balls in the dirt well. He’s not afraid to be a bit frisky either; I saw him throw behind a runner at second early in game action and behind a runner at third later in the evening, with above-average release and accuracy. He’s been more consistent with his pop times and throws velocity-wise this season, and the numbers back that up. The book on Collins in 2016 was that you could run on him, but he has certainly changed that perception in 2017. In a diverse and interesting White Sox system, Collins is certainly a name to watch.There is tangible progress in his defense that could go a ways towards combatting a pre-season scouting consensus that he was unlikely to last at the position. —Victor Filoromo
A list of names you should be familiar with for your first-year dynasty drafts this winter.
As we peel out from the holiday season and into draft season, it’s a good time to reflect on what we got. Maybe you got that PS4 you really wanted. Maybe you got a really nice bottle of wine. Maybe you got clothes. There’s nothing inherently wrong with getting clothes as a present. You need clothes. They literally prevent you from being arrested when you leave your house. Yet they are also extremely fickle. Sure, that sweater is looks really nice but it gets a little bunchy in the shoulders and it just doesn’t look right. Or worse yet, it does look great but then it shrinks in the dryer after the second time you wear it. It could always be worse; you could have gotten socks. You know you’d never actually spend $15 on a pair of socks, but the level of comfort over the 5/$20 pairs you already own is still noticeable—even if you can’t really figure out what makes socks comfortable.
You've read the rankings and mocks. Now here's the list that matters most for dynasty leaguers.
When it’s stated over and over again that the strength of a draft class is its prep pitching, you know as a dynasty leaguer that spells trouble. And when another highly regarded aspect is its catching depth, well, you can see where we’re going with this. If last year was a good year to acquire draft picks, especially in the second-third round range, this year is a good time to find those owners who were frustrated they didn’t get enough talent last year and try to sell them your picks this year.
As Spring comes to a close and the 2016 draft looms larger than ever, scouts are finishing up evaluations on players and trying to get one last look. One of the most difficult things for them to do is line up their pref list. The pref list is where they rank each player in order of how they would select them in a vacuum. It mainly follows an OFP (Overall Future Potential) number but sometimes a player will be ranked higher on the list because of intangibles or an area scout’s feel on a player. Most clubs take it a step further at the cross-checker level and have them rank their players by position as well. When all's said and done, there will be a master pref list, or big board, and several smaller lists by position. The team will use this list as the draft unfolds and it allows them to keep track of priority guys and trends that are happening within the draft.
The debates between scouts on particular player positioning can be intense, especially when two area scouts or cross-checkers are pit against each other, but eventually the scouting director will make a decision based on his evaluations of the particular players. This time, we take a look at the best collegiate catchers in the class: Miami’s Zack Collins and Virginia’s Matt Thaiss.
We made you wait an extra day, so we put in an extra writeup.
Eric Lauer, LHP, Kent State (2016 Draft Class) Lauer and the Kent State Flashes entered the MAC Tournament as the heavy favorites, however a loss to Western Michigan ended their run at post season play. Lauer started for the Flashes on Wednesday, going the distance with a complete-game shutout. He showed advanced pitchability throughout the game, and the stuff to match. While Lauer doesn’t currently have a pure out-pitch, his arsenal is still adequate. His fastball sat 93, hitting 94 a few times with a deceptive look from the left side, with some cutting action on it. His curveball will be an above-average pitch, showing 1-7 break across multiple planes at 76 mph. His slider is much improved since I last saw him in April; it usually sits 85-86 topping at 87 mph. His changeup also looked improved, and he threw it with much more confidence this game, featuring horizontal arm-side fade and a touch of tumble as it fell late at times.
Lauer won't be an ace, or even a number two in all likelihood, but what he is missing in ceiling he makes up for in floor. Even as someone who hates the term “high-floor player,” Lauer looks the part to be a fast-rising mid-to-back-end starter. He is as polished as anyone in the class currently, and if any of his off-speed pitches can improve into the plus range, his ceiling becomes even higher. His endurance has never been questioned, as his last two outings have been a no hitter at Bowling Green, and this shutout. His velocity held through all nine innings on Wednesday, and he maintained his delivery well. His delivery is extremely clean, but has a quirk with his left leg that needs to be timed correctly in order to hit his spots. But out of all of his outings that I have seen, he’s only lost his timing in a few. I would look for Lauer to go anywhere in the 25-40 range, but losing out on his ability to prove himself against post season competition is unfortunate. —Grant Jones