The process of stocking and building in Major League Baseball is a never-ending process. As the 2016 MLB Draft comes to a conclusion Saturday, the 2017 Draft is already in the works and scouts already have a solid handle on the star players who will make headlines next June.
Scouts have a much greater handle on the college players who should go near the top of the 2017 draft, as it's far more difficult to understand where prep players will rank in another year. However, there are a number of high-schoolers who have a chance to be taken near the top of the first round.
Many of the top players in the 2017 draft have turned down previous opportunities to play professionally because they wanted to go to college. As their games have matured and developed, their positions as draft headliners have solidified.
|Top 2017 Draft Predictions|
|Draft Spot||Player||Position||College or Prep||School|
|1||J.P Baukauskas||P||College||North Carolina|
|3||K.J. Harrison||C||College||Oregon State|
|4||Mark Vientos||SS||Prep||Flanagan (Miami, FL) HS|
|5||Hunter Greene||P||Prep||Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, CA) HS|
|10||Hagen Danner||P||Prep||Huntington Beach (Huntington Beach, CA) HS|
|Fangraphs; Silverman predicitions|
1. Pitcher J.B. Bukauskas, North Carolina
Bukauskas was an elite high school prospect, but he decided to go the college route and he has a chance to be the top player in the MLB Draft in 2017. While the 5'11", 190-pound Bukauskas is not a physically imposing pitcher, he has a fastball that reaches the mid-90s and one of the best curveballs that scouts have seen. Mentally, Bukauskas has the kind of traits that scouts, general managers and coaches want to see from starting pitchers.
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He believes that his approach on the mound has grown significantly since coming to North Carolina.
“I’ve definitely learned that you can’t just throw the ball anywhere in the zone,” Bukauskas told Ben Trittipoe of Inside NoVA. “College hitters are way better than high school hitters, especially in the ACC. I’ve learned that you definitely have to be able to locate all of your pitches, especially your fastball.”
2. Catcher J.J. Schwarz, Florida
Schwarz has developed significantly during his career with the Gators. He has a .292 average with six home runs and 54 RBI along with a .451 slugging percentage this season. Schwarz had improved quite a bit as a hitter in his first two college seasons, and he has the tools to remain behind the plate at the next level, although he will still need some improvement in this area.
3. Catcher K.J. Harrison, Oregon State
Harrison has shown the kind of power development in his game over the past two years to make him a legitimate top prospect in the 2017 MLB Draft. He has pounded 10 home runs for the Beavers this year, and he has driven in 47 runs with a .525 slugging percentage. Scouts would like to see more in the batting average department since he is hitting .265, but he is improving quite a bit as a receiver.
4. Shortstop Mark Vientos, Flanagan High School, Miami, FL; committed to Miami (FLA)
Vientos has a chance to be the top high school player in next year's draft, and he has the size at 6'3" and 170 pounds as well as the range at the position that scouts tend to get excited about. In a report by Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs, Vientos was compared to Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles.
Vientos is concentrating on improving and figuring out new ways to develop his skills.
“I need to work on my patience,” Vientos told Shawn Krest of USA Today. “I also want to work on hitting off-speed pitching, because that’s all I’m seeing right now.”
5. Pitcher Hunter Greene, Notre Dame High School, Sherman Oaks, CA; committed to UCLA
Greene may turn out to be the top prep pitching prospect in the 2017 draft. He had an impressive run at the 18U Team USA trials and he has the kind of fastball that has gotten the scouts on his side. Greene is a solid all-around athlete who plays shortstop when he is not on the mound. He has been able to develop his change-up (h/t Eric Sondheimer of the Los Angeles Times) this season to go along with his impressive fastball.
Fangraphs provided much of the scouting information for this article.