Keith Law MLB Mock Draft 2017: Notable Picks from ESPN Guru's 1st Mock

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMay 13, 2017

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 28: Major League Baseball logo on the back of a New Era hat during the game between the Miami Marlins and the Pittsburgh Pirates at Marlins Park on April 28, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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The 2017 Major League Baseball draft begins on June 12, leaving all 30 teams with just four weeks left to prepare their big boards.

As part of the home stretch, ESPN's Keith Law released his first mock projection for the 27 teams with a first-round selection hoping to add the next great prospect to their minor league system.


Brendan McKay, 1B/LHP, Louisville

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What better place to start with notable picks from the mock draft than at the very top?

Brendan McKay is a fascinating prospect because he's a two-way college player. There will typically be two-way players in the high school ranks, but by the time they go through three years of college, their future position will be narrowed down.

However, as MLB.com's scouting report notes, there's a divide among teams on where McKay's best future is going to be:

"McKay usually opens games on the mound by working with a 90-94 mph fastball that loses a couple ticks of velocity by the middle innings. He could add more velo and maintain it better if he focused on pitching full-time, and his fastball command is so good that his heater is effective in the upper 80s. McKay's curveball is a consistent plus pitch and he's working on refining a changeup that he hasn't needed much to this point in his career.

"McKay's smooth left-handed swing and mature all-fields approach helped him lead the U.S. college national team in hitting (.326) and on-base percentage (.434) last summer. Some evaluators consider him the best college bat in the Draft and he's hitting for more power this year, showing the upside of a .300 hitter with 20 homers per season. His lack of speed limits him to first base, where he could become a solid defender with more work."

It will be interesting to see what direction McKay's future team decides to go with him. Considering he throws left-handed and already has a fastball that can work in the low-to-mid 90s with a good curveball, starting him on the mound makes the most sense.

The offensive barrier to being even an average player at first base is so high that the improved power is a huge feather in McKay's cap.

One potential solution will be to put McKay on the Casey Kelly plan. When the Boston Red Sox drafted Kelly with the 30th pick in 2008, they let him pitch for the first half of the 2009 season and play shortstop during the second half before he eventually decided to pitch full time.

Regardless of what the decision ends up being, McKay is a truly special and unique talent who won't last long on draft day because of his ability to hit and pitch.


Hunter Greene, RHP/SS, Notre Dame High School (California)

Hunter Greene is looking to make history in this draft as the first high school right-handed pitcher to be taken first overall.

Law has the Notre Dame High School standout going second to the Cincinnati Reds, but there's little doubt he's one of the few players on the shortlist at No. 1.

Greene is ranked as the top overall draft prospect by Baseball America, which offered this scouting report for his ceiling:

"Despite a first-round draft profile as a hitter, Greene is more likely to reach the majors as a righthanded pitcher. He has an exceptionally athletic delivery with an easy finish, and he pitched mostly at 95-99 throughout the spring of his senior season, with his fastball reaching as high as 102 mph for some scouts, while others had him topping out at 101. He was throwing both a slider and a curveball as a senior, with his slider figuring to be a bigger part of his future."

He also earned high marks from Baseball America for his hitting ability, including his "loud righthanded power," but the consensus seems to be his future will be on the mound.

There are certainly many reasons no right-handed high school pitcher has ever been taken No. 1 overall. Some years there just isn't anyone worthy of going that high being one of the most obvious. There's also the natural skepticism about young players who throw that hard being able to stay healthy.

Three years ago, Tyler Kolek was lighting up radar guns with a fastball that touched 102 mph. He wound up being drafted second overall by the Miami Marlins but struggled with control in Low-A during the 2015 season with 61 walks in 108.2 innings and hasn't pitched since undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2016.

It's not a one-to-one comparison because injuries are impossible to predict. It also helps that Greene has a smooth and athletic delivery, compared to Kolek's where it's easy to see the effort he's using to generate heat, but teams are going to use past performance as a way to predict the future.

This could certainly be the year with a right-handed high school pitcher going No. 1 overall because that's how talented Greene is.


Jeren Kendall, OF, Vanderbilt

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 08:  Jeren Kendall #3 of Vanderbilt rounds second base on his way to third base on his triple during their Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic against TCU at Dodger Stadium on March 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. TCU defea
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Jeren Kendall has proved himself to be a toolsy college player with a solid upside.

Speed is a key part of Kendall's game. He stole 19 bases as a freshman in 2015 and increased that total to 28 in 2016. His hit tool does leave something to be desired because of his propensity to swing and miss. He's struck out 60 times in 204 at-bats this season, per Vanderbilt's athletic website.

Striking out in nearly 30 percent of your at-bats in college, even against SEC competition, doesn't necessarily bode well for things to come against professional competition.

MLB.com's scouting report notes Kendall's "overall game draws comparisons to that of Jacoby Ellsbury, though his arm is significantly stronger."

Because Kendall has elite speed and the ability to cover a lot of ground in center field, his offensive bar for success doesn't have to be that high. He's got good pop in his swing and has hit a career-high 13 homers at Vanderbilt this season.

Assuming Kendall makes enough contact to tap into his power, get on base enough to steal bases and play top-notch defense in center, he will be a steal for a team like the Baltimore Orioles in the back half of the first round.


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