The MLB draft is a week and a half away from beginning, and to continue our draft preview series, we’re shifting our attention to some bats.
We decided to split hitters into two groups: the one you see here, which is comprised of players who will likely play corner infield (first base and third base) or corner outfield (left field and right field) positions as professionals.
Some of these players have been connected to the Rays in mock drafts, and some haven’t.
3B Tyler Callihan, Providence High School (L/R, 6’1 200, 18 years old)
Baseball America rank: 37
ESPN rank: 40
FanGraphs rank: 30
MLB.com rank: 32
Callihan is listed as a third baseman in every prospect ranking, but every report is unanimous: no one knows which position he’ll end up playing professionally. He’s already pretty big. He’s tried some catcher, and it might be worth giving him a shot there professionally.
Whichever team drafts him will do so for his bat. His hit and power tools are both potentially plus or at least above average, and he has a track record of success against quality competition.
With those tools, his bat should play at any position. He could stick at third, but he would fit in a corner outfield position too. If the Rays want him, he could be available with one of their comp-round picks.
3B Keoni Cavaco, Eastlake High School (R/R, 6’0 185, 17 years old)
Baseball America rank: 32
ESPN rank: 37
FanGraphs rank: 23
MLB.com rank: 37
Cavaco has been a Rays selection in several mock drafts, and as we get closer to the draft, I would assume that’s informed speculation and not just guesses.
Every report on him mentions that he wasn’t a top prospect at this time last year and that he’s done a lot to improve his stock this spring. He’s now expected to be a first rounder.
His best tool is possibly his power, and even though he still has room to get stronger, he already has a bit of present power. Whether he hits enough to tap into it in games is still a question. He may strike out too much.
He’s not a bad athlete, and he has a good arm. He can be a good third baseman, but second base isn’t out of the question either.
3B Rece Hinds, IMG Academy (R/R, 6’4 210, 18 years old)
Baseball America rank: 40
ESPN rank: 53
FanGraphs rank: 77
MLB.com rank: 35
Hinds is probably one of the most well-known players in the draft, largely due to his raw power. It might be the best in the class.
That power gives him more upside than almost everyone available, but it comes with great risk. There are serious questions about his hit tool. He’ll strike out, and his pitch recognition has to improve. Whichever team drafts him will have to be patient.
With his great arm strength, Hinds is the prototypical third base prospect, but his defensive game isn’t polished either. His overall game will take time to develop.
Despite the risks, his talent will be too much for a team to pass up on Day 1.
3B Kody Hoese, Tulane (R/R, 6’4 200, 21 years old)
224 AB, .388 AVG/.484 OBP/.790 SLG, 23 HR, 43 XBH
Baseball America rank: 30
ESPN rank: 42
FanGraphs rank: 25
MLB.com rank: 27
Teams are always looking for college bats, and that’s likely going to land Hoese in the first round.
However, he doesn’t have a long track record of performance like this. He didn’t hit any homers his first year at Tulane, and he only had five as a sophomore. Where did the power come from? MLB.com’s report notes that he began hitting for more power last summer and has always had the potential for this kind of breakout.
His approach has always been good, and this season, he has more walks than strikeouts. He should make a lot of contact.
Hoese has the tools to remain at third base and should do so. Whichever team drafts him will be doing it for his bat, though.
1B/OF Michael Toglia, UCLA (S/R, 6’5 226, 20 years old)
209 AB, .316 AVG/.390 OBP/.617 SLG, 13 HR, 33 XBH
Baseball America rank: 60
ESPN rank: 51
FanGraphs rank: 54
MLB.com rank: 39
Whichever team drafts Toglia will have a decision to make — in the field, does it want a really good first baseman or an adequate corner outfielder?
His bat has the potential to profile in either spot. His power has improved in each season at UCLA, and he has plus power potential.
He’s had some inconsistencies, though. His walk rate is down this season, and he might strike out a bit too much. He had a slow start this spring but has surged during conference play.
Ultimately, he’s a college hitter with a decent track record. He’ll be a Day 1 pick.
OF/RHP Matt Wallner, Southern Mississippi (L/R, 6’5 220, 21 years old)
202 AB, .312 AVG/.426 OBP/.668 SLG, 20 HR, 32 XBH
Baseball America rank: 50
ESPN rank: 69
FanGraphs rank: 55
MLB.com rank: 62
After drafting Brendan McKay and Tanner Dodson in consecutive drafts, it’s clear the Rays are interested in two-way talents. That would’ve made Wallner an obvious target for them.
However, he hasn’t pitched this season due to a forearm strain, and he may be a hitter all the way now. That’s fine for him because he’ll still be a second-round pick with a long track record at the plate.
In his career, he has 55 home runs with a .335 average, a good walk rate, and a manageable strikeout rate. Defensively, he’s solid in right field with a strong arm, although he’s reportedly been limited in this area this season, perhaps due to his injury.
If he could be convinced to resume pitching again, a team would be getting a nice relief prospect who can touch the high 90s and complement that heat with a good breaking ball.
Another of note
1B Andrew Daschbach, Stanford: Daschbach was the Rays’ final pick in 2016. He’s increased his walk rate and reduced his strikeout rate each season with the Cardinal, and he has 31 home runs total over the last two seasons.