Part two of our first draft series takes a look at five high school infielders and catchers who made a name for themselves this summer. As a reminder, this series intends to review some of the top names and performances from this past summer. The goal is not to cover every name worth knowing for next June, but rather to serve as an introduction to the draft class for those who have not yet begun following the action, and to pool in one place a rundown of some of the top performances over the past three months once we start parsing the class in more detail.
Cavan Biggio | INF | St. Thomas HS (Houston, Texas)
The Basics: 6-foot-2, 180 pounds; left/right profile; draft day age 18y 2m; University of Virginia commit
Brings to the table: Bloodlines (son of Astros great Craig Biggio), and one of the best left-handed bats in the draft class, despite some wrap and length in his swing. The defensive profile is still a question, as Biggio is a below-average runner and may not have the arm strength for third base or right field. His best fit is as an offensive-minded second baseman, though he has some work to do convincing evaluators he can stick at the four-spot.
Made a name for himself when: He squared up nearly everything he saw during June’s PG National Showcase at the Metrodome. He continued solid performances throughout the summer, but his multi-game run in Minneapolis established him as one of the top offensive follows in the class.
Figures to get attention: In the field this spring. The task facing area scouts, as well as the higher-level evaluators ultimately pulling the trigger on draft day, is where Biggio profiles defensively. If he shows enough to project in the infield, Biggio has a chance to come off the board somewhere in the late-1st to 2nd round.
Nick Ciuffo | C | Lexington HS (Lexington, S.C.)
The Basics: 6-foot-1, 205 pounds; left/right profile; draft day age 18y 3m; University of South Carolina commit
Brings to the table: Consistent sub-2.0 pop times to second base, sitting regularly in the 1.88-1.95 range. Ciuffo is a smooth receiver who shows good transfer and footwork in his catch-and-throw game and a comfort level that enables him to throw without fear (including behind runners). Offensively, he boasts a simple swing and good hands, allowing him to go get it in all four quadrants. He is unrefined as a hitter, but has a nice foundation for a developmental staff to work with and could grow into having solid playable power.
Made a name for himself when: He followed up consistently solid June and July showings on the showcase circuit with a couple of loud offensive displays at East Coast Pro. His calling card this summer has been his glove and arm, but his performance at ECP gave high level evaluators a glimpse of his potential with the bat, as well.
Figures to get attention: Early on day two of the draft. Barring an offensive breakout between now and draft day, Ciuffo’s early-round value will be carried by his strong defensive profile and the potential his strength and simple swing mechanics offer.
Reese McGuire | C | Kentwood HS (Covington, Wash.)
The Basics: 6-foot-1, 190 pounds; left/right profile; draft day age 18y 3m; University of San Diego commit
Brings to the table: A solid catch-and-throw profile with some offensive ceiling. McGuire has shown sub-2.0 pop times throughout the summer, including a sweet spot between around 1.90 and 1.98. He moves well behind the plate and has a good chance to stick at catcher long-term. Offensively, McGuire shows some leverage in his swing, but has a lengthy stride that can get him out in front of competent secondaries.
Made a name for himself when: He capped off a strong summer by leading USA Baseball’s gold medal 18U team in hitting, posting a .400/.522/.514 triple slash line and nine walks to just three strikeouts over thirteen games. Overall, McGuire was a steady performer. Perhaps most impressive is that McGuire split his outfield hits almost evenly between left (5 struck balls/5 for hits), center (5/3) and right (6/3).
Figures to get attention: All over follow lists this spring. Advocates of the Washington native see a strong defensive catcher who could grow into having above-average power. His detractors question whether the bat will get exposed once he regularly faces more advanced arms. Given the premium placed on players projecting to high skill positions, particularly when that profile comes with some offensive potential, McGuire currently projects to the mid-to-late 1st round.
Oscar Mercado | SS | Gaither HS (Tampa, Fla.)
The Basics: 6-foot-2, 175 pounds; right/right profile; draft day age 18y 6m; Florida St. University commit
Brings to the table: Smooth actions in the field and one of the few true shortstop profiles in the draft class. Mercado projects to stay at short, but has shuffled around some this summer to accommodate the showcase format and has looked strong across the three-, four- and five-spots. He needs to add strength, but currently shows an ability to produce good backspin in batting practice and maintains a solid swing plane in-game that keeps the barrel in the zone. He’s an excellent baserunner whose instincts and aggression allow his average speed to play way up.
Made a name for himself when: He made consistent hard contact at East Coast Pro, marking perhaps his strongest offensive showing of the summer. A plus arm and potentially plus glove up the middle, Mercado was a focus for Florida area scouts and upper-level evaluators all summer. His offensive display in Syracuse may have helped solidify his status as a mid-1st round talent, as the bat speed and swing plane finally came together to show a hit tool that could grade out as above-average down the line.
Figures to get attention: At the plate this spring. There is little doubt Mercado will be able to transition to the pro game defensively, but evaluators will want assurance that the bat is truly ready if they are going to write him as a seven-figure investment. All the pieces are there, including sound mechanics, good bat speed and a solid approach. Mercado just needs to put it all together over the course of the spring.
John Sternegal | 3B/SS | Rockledge HS (Rockledge, Fla.)
The Basics: 6-foot-2, 193 pounds; right/right profile; draft day age 18y 8m; University of Florida commit
Brings to the table: A third base skill set with some pop in the bat. Sternegal doesn’t initially jump out at you on the field, but extended views reveal a solid profile that could be developed into an average Major League regular. Sternagel shows solid power in workouts and has been able to manifest that power in game action at various stops on the summer circuit. Defensively, he shows enough mobility and lower-half agility, along with left-side arm strength, to stick at third long term and potentially thrive there. He’s a below-average runner.
Made a name for himself when: He bookended the summer with loud contact in multiple games at PG Nationals and East Coast Pro. Sternagel’s pull-side power came out more regularly as the summer progressed and figures to develop as he refines as a hitter. He will need to improve his ability to let the ball travel deeper if he hopes to develop into a full-field offensive threat.
Figures to get attention: On Day 2 of the draft, but could sneak into the supplemental-1st round with a strong spring, particularly for a team with multiple picks looking to diversify their draft portfolio. Sternagel doesn’t have the highest ceiling, but a strong summer has turned him into a legit early round target. That’s quite an accomplishment for a player that some evaluators viewed as a likely college kid as of June.
High School Pitchers
Summer Summary Schedule:
Nick J. Faleris is a practicing structured finance attorney and Sports Industry team member in the Milwaukee office of Foley & Lardner LLP. The views he expresses in Baseball Prospectus are his own, and not necessarily those of the law firm.