With tonight’s MLB Draft (watch on MLB Network starting at 6 pm) looming, there are going to be plenty of story lines worth watching. Here are just a few, for example:
- In what order are Rutschman and Witt Jr. selected?
- Will Baltimore throw us through a loop?
- When does Andrew Vaughn get taken?
- How will Arizona manipulate their huge draft pool?
All of these items will make for an exciting MLB Draft later tonight. There is one story line though that will carry on long past tonight, that I think will trump all of these in due time. Beyond whether or not the Orioles make the right decision on Witt Jr. vs Rutschman, there will always be the competition between CJ Abrams and Bobby Witt Jr.
Bobby Witt Jr. has become nearly a sure-fire lock to go either #1 or #2 overall in tonight’s MLB Draft. There’s another prep shortstop that seems to be a consensus top five prospect in this draft though that has been overshadowed by Witt during this entire process. Over at FanGraphs, they have CJ Abrams rated as the 4th best draft prospect this year, and ranked just 19 spots behind Bobby Witt Jr. on their “top 130 prospect” ranking list.
CJ Abrams is a fantastic draft prospect. In a lot of other scenarios, the Royals would be thrilled to add a guy like that to the system. But they probably won’t this year, as they appear to be dead set on Bobby Witt Jr., which is probably the right call, at present.
Abrams is a phenomenal athlete. He’s a 70-grade runner with ++athleticism and is a lock to stick at SS, unless a team just wanted to move him into the outfield. He possesses one of the better hit tools in the draft and has actually flashed some impressive raw power from the left side. The only real tool that Abrams hasn’t shown much of to date is the ability to access his power in games on a consistent basis, something Bobby Witt Jr. has had no problem with.
Back in 2015, the MLB Draft saw one of the best SS classes in recent memory get taken 1-2-3. Dansby Swanson went #1 overall to the Braves. Alex Bregman went #2 overall to the Houston Astros. Brendan Rodgers went #3 overall to the Colorado Rockies. Swanson has finally come around at the plate a bit, flashing some of the power everyone knew he could possess. Bregman is a legitimate MVP candidate and Rodgers is one of the top prospects in all of baseball.
Here is how Baseball America had those three guys ranked heading into the draft that year:
1) Brendan Rodgers
2) Dansby Swanson
4) Alex Bregman
At #3, Baseball America had RHP Dillon Tate, who has yet to make an appearance at AAA. Just about everyone had Dansby Swanson ranked ahead of Alex Bregman at the time, and Bregman appears to be the best of the bunch at this stage in their careers. At the time, no one really had Bregman ranked ahead of Swanson. Things can change so quickly in the game of baseball.
My point in all of this is not to say, “Haha look at these losers who got this wrong.” That’s not it at all. It’s just nearly impossible to peg the MLB Draft with any kind of consistency. No one knows for sure that Bobby Witt Jr. will be a better player moving forward than CJ Abrams. That’s the crap shoot that is the MLB Draft.
But people will make the comparisons nonetheless. If Bobby Witt Jr. turns out to just be okay and CJ Abrams becomes an All-Star, people will look back at the 2019 MLB Draft and say, “Man, how could the Royals have missed this badly?” Just as people connect John Elway, Todd Blackledge, and Jim Kelly. And just like we’ll always connect Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, and Dashaun Watson. Or Bubba Starling to Francisco Lindor. There will always be the look-back at the time Bobby Witt Jr. was drafted before CJ Abrams.