Last week, I broke down the draft from the NL Central. One thing I noticed was how pitcher-heavy each team was throughout the entirety of the draft. This week, I’ll be switching leagues to the American League Central. There have been two solid stories from the division in the Minnesota Twins owning the best record in Major League Baseball, and Lucas Giolito making a strong case for the American League Cy Young Award. The American League Central saw three picks within the first ten first-round selections in this year’s draft. There are numerous prospects scattered throughout the American League Central minor league organizations, and this week I will be breaking down each team’s draft in “That’s Amore!” Building for the Future: MLB AL Central Draft Breakdown 2019.
With another losing season in sight, the Tigers do have a bright spot in their minor league system via the way of starting pitching. They have guys in Casey Mize, Matting Manning, and Franklin Perez getting closer to their call, but the next few years will be crucial in landing prospects at other positions. After entering the 2018 draft with the first overall pick, the Tigers entered the 2019 draft with the fifth overall pick. With their first selection (Round 1, Pick 5) the Tigers selected prep outfielder Riley Greene out of Hagerty High School (FL). Widely regarded as the best high school hitter in this year’s draft, Greene brings a solid left-handed hitting approach. At 6’3″ 200lbs, Greene will only add muscle, and power, as he develops within the next few seasons. While his size may see him destined for a corner outfield spot, there’s no denying the Tigers landed one of the most prized high school bats in this seasons draft, and arguably the best player they selected in the 2019 draft.
With dire needs across all positions, the Tigers went to work selecting position players with their next six of nine picks. After Greene, the Tigers went hard at third base and shortstop selecting Arizona shortstop/third baseman Nick Quintana (Round 2, Pick 47), Tennessee third baseman Andre Lipcius (Round 3, Pick 83), and UCLA shortstop Ryan Kreidler (Round 4, Pick 112). I love what they have in all three selections with my favorite being Arizona’s Nick Quintana. A shortstop before attending Arizona, Quintana brings great raw power from the right side of the plate. The second-round pick ended the season slashing .342/.462/.626 with 15 home runs and 77 RBI. Watching him swing and man the hot corner reminds me of a smaller version of Colorado’s Nolan Arenado. While it’s high praise, you can see the resemblance in his stellar defense and smooth right-handed swing. When it’s all said and done, Quintana arguably has the best chance at reaching the Majors out of the entire draft class.
One of the highest reaches of the Tigers draft class was LSU right-handed pitcher Zack Hess. While he possesses one of the better fastballs in this year’s class, the fact he doesn’t have a feel for a second pitch leads me to believe he may see extra time in the minors. If they were after a dynamite reliever, I believe there were better pitchers available at this draft position, and Hess could’ve been available a few rounds after the seventh. Still, with the high-90s fastball he possesses, he could turn out to be a reliable reliever assuming he develops a second pitch.
Chicago White Sox
If there were ever a time to be excited for the Chicago White Sox, now is the time. Words can’t express what they possess in the minor leagues, and we’ve already seen the bright futures of Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez. With prized prospects on the mound, and across the entire field, the White Sox found themselves in great position entering this year’s draft. With a glaring need at the future of first base, the White Sox wasted no time in selecting University of California first baseman Andrew Vaughn third overall. Vaughn ended the 2018 season winning the Golden Spikes Award after hitting .402 with 23 home runs. Without missing a beat, Vaughn ended the 2019 season slashing .374/.539/.704 with 15 home runs and 50 RBI. Selecting arguably the most well-rounded hitter in this year’s draft, the White Sox could end up with the player having the best career in this draft, and arguably one with the quickest path to the Majors.
As I mentioned earlier, the White Sox possess solid prospects across the diamond, and after Vaughn, the White Sox went after pitchers that should be developed by the time this team is ready to compete in the next three to five seasons. With their second (Pick 45) and third (Pick 81) round selections they drafted right-handed pitchers Matthew Thompson and Andrew Dalquist. Both pitchers bring low-to-mid, touching high, 90s fastballs with decent breaking balls. With an emphasis on elevating the fastball, both Thompson and Dalquist give them two off the brightest high school arms in this year’s draft, with Thompson being arguably the top prep arm in this year’s draft.
One of the most intriguing picks by the White Sox was 16th round selection (470 Overall) DJ Gladney out of Illiana Christian High School (IL). At 6’3″ 195lbs, the third baseman may be a bit of unknown, but a player the White Sox organization is familiar with since he was part of the White Sox developmental program. He possess great power, and speed, and could be an under-the-radar prospect as he develops in the minor leagues. Another mid-round player I see with upside is left-handed pitcher Sammy Peralta (Round 18, Pick 530) out of the University of Tampa (FL). He reminds me a lot of Gio Gonzalez, and could be a solid back-end starter down the road.
After finishing the 2018 season second in the division, the Twins have taken a giant leap in 2019. With a young team currently in the Majors, the Twins possess a number of outfield prospects in Alex Kiriloff, Trevor Larnach, and Brent Rooker. With Royce Lewis taken number one overall in last season’s draft, the Twins put an emphasis in this year’s draft on middle infielders and pitching. With the thirteenth pick in the first round, the Twins selected Eastlake HS (CA) shortstop Keoni Cavaco. He has plus-attributes across the board, so the Twins landed another middle infield prospect to team with Lewis. While he likely lands at second or third, there’s no denying the hit tool and speed Cavaco possesses. While some teams shied away due to the unknown in terms of developing power, the Twins were quick to select Cavaco.
With their next two picks the Twins selected Southern Mississipi outfielder Matt Wallner (CBA Pick 39) and Rice University right-handed pitcher Matt Canterino (Round 2, Pick 54). Wallner is one of my favorite picks by the Twins. The 6’5″ 220lbs slugger slashed .323/.446/.681 this past season with 23 home runs and 60 RBI. At his size, he brings great athleticism and has reached 97 MPH from the pitcher’s mound. Reading his bio, and watching video, I immediately thought of Tampa Bay’s Brendan McKay. It remains to be seen what the Twins do with Wallner, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him featured on the mound and in the outfield. After Wallner, the Twins used their second-round pick on Matt Canterino. In Canterino, the Twins landed arguably their best pitcher of the ones they drafted. The stocky righty brings a low-to-mid 90s fastball with two dynamite secondary pitchers in his slider and curveball. The fact that both pitches are plus leads me to believe that he could be a dynamite middle rotation starter within the next few seasons, and the chance of becoming a number two.
With their seventh round pick, 209 overall, the Twins selected Anthony Prato out of Connecticut. Prato could end up being a steal in the draft due to his hit ability and stolen base potential. This past season the junior hit .324 with three home runs and 14 stolen bases. Given his ability to play either middle infield position, and his athleticism, he reminds me a lot of Kansas City’s Whit Merrifield, and could give the Twins a solid leadoff bat within the next few seasons. There’s no question the Twins possess bats to give them power, and I’ve noticed there are numerous teams, across Major League Baseball, that lack a top-of-the-order player that can not only get on base, but provide an adequate amount of speed. Prato could be the player to give the Twins both hitting and speed, and he managed to hit over .300 through his three years playing for UCONN.
Kansas City Royals
After finishing the 2018 season at the bottom of the American League Central, the Royals look headed for another stint in the AL Central’s basement. There’s no question there is a lot of work to be done rebuilding this organization, but I was a big fan in Kansas City’s first two 2018 picks in Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar. With the team possessing outfield options in their minor league pipeline, and a first base prospect headed for stardom in Nick Pratto, the Royals went heavy in this year’s draft selecting not only pitching but middle infield prospects.
With the second overall pick, the Royals selected Colleyville Heritage High School (TX) shortstop Bobby Witt, Jr. After a 2018 season that saw him win the High School Home Run Derby and Under Armour All-American Game MVP, the five-tool player was arguably the best high school prospect in this year’s draft. He’s shown a great approach at the plate, with a quick, direct swing that allows him to drive the ball to all parts of the field. At 6’1″ 190lbs, his athleticism, and phenomenal tools remind me a lot of Washington’s Trea Turner. It’s extremely rare to see a high school player possess all of these tools, and Witt Jr. has the chance of becoming not only the Royals best player selected in the year’s draft, but the best player out of the entire draft class.
With the 70th overall pick, the Royals selected Alec Marsh out of Arizona State University. Of the pitchers the Royals took in this year’s draft, I believe Marsh possesses the best stuff. While his fastball sits in the low-to-mid-90s, his slider, curveball, and changeup are all plus pitches, and ones that he has great control over. While I don’t think he has the front-liner starters stuff of last year’s top picks (Singer and Kowar), Marsh could end up being one of the best back-end rotation pitchers, and one that could easily be better than many teams’ number one.
The Indians had their shot after going after the World Series. They made an appearance, but fell short in a game seven loss to the Chicago Cubs. Fast-forward through the past few seasons, and present, and the Indians have a few bright spots, but this offense doesn’t look anything like those of years past. Their pitching is still a bright spot, but they need to keep their minor league system stocked if they want to compete with the rest of the division, specifically the Chicago White Sox, within the next few seasons, and foreseeable future. While it’s unknown if they will be able to fork over the cash to keep Francisco Lindor when he’s eligible to become a free agent in 2020, now is the time to have enough in the minor league system to ease the potential loss of Lindor. With that being a concern, the Indians made an effort in selecting numerous shortstops, drafting three with their first six picks in this year’s draft.
Taking shortstops with three of their first six picks, the Indians selected Yordys Valdes (Round 2, Pick 63) out of McArthur High School (FL), Christian Cairo (Round 4, Pick 130) out of Calvary Christian HS (FL), and Jordan Brown (Round 6, Pick 190) out of Junipero Serra HS (CA). Of the three Valdes and Cairo bring the most intrigue. Valdes in an interesting pick as he has a similar size to Lindor and he’s also a switch-hitter. Valdes possesses some of the best defensive abilities out of this year’s prep prospects, and arguably the best arm. It remains to seen what type of hitter he develops into, but his great athleticism gives him a lot of room for growth. In Cairo, the Indians get a player with a high baseball IQ since he grew up the son of a former Major Leaguer. He’s another solid defender, but may end up on the other side of second base. He’s able to manage the barrel throughout the strike zone, but he’s more hit than power, and it’s an unknown if the power will develop over time. Still, Valdes and Cairo give the Indians solid prospects to help develop within the next few seasons.
With their first-round selection (Pick 24) the Indians selected high school pitcher Daniel Espino out of Georgia Premier Academy. One of the best prep arms in this draft class, Espino brings the best fastball out of this year’s high school class sitting in the high-90s, and it’s hard to argue that his fastball doesn’t compare to anyone in this year’s draft. His sharp slider, and tight curveball, give him two above-average pitches that have the chance to develop into plus pitches. If he can develop his below-average changeup, he will possess all of the tools in becoming a front-line starter.