The 2018 MLB season is in the books and while most fans in Kansas City are enjoying the juggernaut that is Kansas City Chiefs football, their neighbors at the Truman Sports Complex are scrambling to add talent to an organization that lost over 100 games at the major league level. The boys in blue didn’t find much success in the W-L column this season but the silver lining is that they’ll have the opportunity to add a top of the line prospect come next June; part two of my early look at the 2019 draft eligible players will explore a few of the best high school pitchers in the class.
RHP Daniel Espino, Georgia Premier Academy
Espino has the look of a special player. In my eyes (preceded by the eyes of most scouting services for prep baseball players) he has the highest ceiling of any draft eligible high school player. Listed at 6-3, 200 lbs, Espino has a solid, long limbed and athletic frame. His athleticism allows him to repeat his mechanics, keeping him consistently around the plate. With his fastball nearing triple digits in short stints this Summer he might be considered an early round talent based on that pitch alone, but that’s not the only weapon in his arsenal. His repertoire also features a plus slider, an above average curve and a developing change up. To cement his status, Espino will need to show that he can maintain his stuff deep into starts this coming Spring.
LHP Spencer Jones, La Costa Canyon High School
Upside. Projectable. High Ceiling. These are a few of the words and catch phrases you’ll probably read when researching my favorite prep lefty in the 2019 draft class. Committed to Vanderbilt, this 6-7 205 lb southpaw plays both ways in high school but I feel he’ll eventually make his money on mound. Jones currently sits in the low 90s with his fastball but it’s easy to envision more once his frame fills out. He’s very athletic for a player his size. I’d definitely like to see another pitch develop before the Spring but there is serious upside here.
RHP Brennan Malone, IMG Academy
Another flamethrower with an impressive frame (6-5 210 lbs) that is constantly mentioned near the top of the rankings. As of late October, Malone’s fastball was clocked touching 97 mph at the WWBA World Championships in Jupiter, Florida. He rounds out his 3 pitch mix with a curveball and a change, but those pitches currently lag behind the heater. He’s entering his senior year after spending all summer on the showcase circuit as well as playing for Team USA 18u.
RHP Quinn Priester, Cary-Grove Community High School
Priester may be my “safe pick” guy if you could ever consider that for a prep arm. His game is well rounded with smooth mechanics and a well rounded pitch repertoire. The TCU commit stands at 6’3” with a strong build pitching from a 3/4 arm slot. His fastball sits in the low 90s which he compliments with a solid sinker and a powerful curveball. With his advanced pitchability it wouldn’t surprise me to see him take a similar path to the top of the HS class similar to how Cole Winn was receiving so much praise after he completed his senior season. One thing working against Priester will be the fact that teams may be reluctant to draft a prep pitcher from a cold weather state (Illinois) with a high pick.
LHP Hunter Barco, The Bolles School
Barco is an interesting case for me and rounds out my top 5 early on. He’s a two way player committed to Florida that most would probably tab as the top lefty in the prep class (perhaps the top arm in the draft period). He’s got an unconventional delivery that features a low 3/4 arm slot which helps give him some unreal movement on his low 90s fastball. Although the pitch isn’t likely to blow hitters away based on velocity, it’s a plus pitch that has gotten swings and misses over the summer showcase circuit. His arsenal also features a slider and a change up although he doesn’t quite command those pitches as well and they don’t grade out as high. As with most prep pitchers with room to fill out, it’s easy to see Barco adding a tick or two to that fastball and he could end up with several plus pitches with a deceptive delivery that would make a very formidable big league starter.
Other names to know:
JJ Goss, Kendall Williams, Mack Anglin, Matthew Thompson, Matthew Allen, Jack Leiter, Cutter Clawson, Avery Short, Kellan Tulio, Cooper Benson, Michael Prosecky, and Chris Villaman.
Photo: Orlando Ramirez, USA TODAY Sports