20. Joshua Baez – OF Dexter Southfield (MA)
The best way to describe Joshua Baez’s game is powerful. The Massachusetts native constantly registers exit velocity of 100+ mph and has an arm that has been clocked at 92 mph from the outfield.
Baez has the tools to turn into a premier power corner outfielder but does have a bit of swing and miss in his game that will have to be ironed out if he is going to fully tap into his raw power at the next level. The swing and miss is real and is why I have Baez ranked all the way down at 21, but the power and arm may be enough for a team in the top 20 to take a swing at the kid from Boston.
19. Jud Fabian – OF. Florida
Florida’s Jud Fabian is essentially the college version of Joshua Baez.
Fabian provides immense power from the right side of the plate and demonstrated this by blasting 20 home runs in only 59 games for the Gators this past season. Fabian doesn’t have the same arm strength that Baez possesses, but the Florida native has received plus run grades (running a 6.54 60 while still in high school 3 years ago), which has provided teams with the hope that Fabian could stick in center field once he turns pro.
Like most power hitters that will be drafted in the back half of the first round, Fabian has a lot of swing and miss in his game, punching out in almost 30% of his at-bats during his final season in Gainesville. The Florida product showed a better feel for the strike zone last summer, where he walked more than he struck out during his 19 games in the Florida Collegiate Summer League, so the potential to hit for average is definitely there. Fabian will just have to figure out how to showcase this on a more consistent basis if he wants to succeed in the minors.
18. Ben Kudrna – RHP Blue Valley Southwest (KS)
Kudrna is one of my favorite under-the-radar prospects in this year’s class. The LSU commit has primarily received second-round grades and I quite frankly don’t understand why.
Kudrna is an advanced pitcher for his age, already possessing a three-pitch mix. The right-hander features a fastball that resides in the low to mid 90’s with fantastic arm side run, a changeup that he has great feel for, and a slider with a ton of movement and late-breaking action. Along with his advanced arsenal, Kudrna has projectable size, standing at 6’3” and weighing in at 195 pounds. Combining his three-pitch mix with his plus size bodes well for the Kansas native sticking as a starter throughout his professional career and is why he is someone who I would feel comfortable with the Blue Jays taking at 19 despite the number of second round grades he has received.
17. Bubba Chandler – SS/RHP North Oconee (GA)
Thanks to Shohei Ohtani, two-way stars are all the rage right now in professional baseball. Bubba Chandler is entering the draft as both a pitcher and shortstop and has the potential to turn into a star on both the mound and at the plate.
Chandler has a lively arm, with a fastball that constantly sits in the mid 90’s and “regularly touches 97 mph”. His best secondary offering is his curveball, which added velocity this past offseason and has great depth, making it a plus offering to go along with his heater. While most scouts believe that the Georgia native has the highest ceiling on the mound, others believe his future involves him playing more shortstop due to his raw athleticism and plus power. Being able to play on both sides of the ball has made Bubba Chandler one of the more interesting prospects in this year’s class.
While I don’t know if he is going to be able to make it to the big leagues as a two-way player, some teams will fall in love with that vision, which is why he is going to be a first-round selection.
16. Christian Franklin – OF Arkansas
Christian Franklin is a player that has slowly dropped down my draft board over the past month and a half.
When I first took a look at Franklin earlier in the season, I was impressed by the Kansas native, as I saw a player who already possessed plus power, speed, and arm strength and looked like he had corrected some of the swing and miss issues that had plagued him during his first two seasons in Fayetteville. When I initially evaluated Franklin back in early April, the speedy center fielder was having a fantastic year, hitting just above .300, with a 1.014 OPS, and was the catalyst for the Arkansas offense, which at the time was the number one team in the nation.
Unfortunately, Franklin had a brutal second half of the season, watching his average drop over .030 points and looked overmatched by high-level pitching, especially in the NCAA tournament where teams were able to consistently beat the outfielder with fastballs up in the zone. The five-tool potential is there and if Franklin is able to make more consistent contact, he has a chance to turn into a special player at the next level. However, Franklin’s swing and miss issue is just as bad as it was when he arrived in Fayetteville, as he punched out in 32% of his at-bats during his freshman season and 36% this past year.
The lack of growth in a problem area of his game leaves me questioning if it is a skill that he will ever improve upon, or if Franklin is just destined to be a light-hitting fourth outfielder.