2018 MLB Draft Results: Biggest Winners and Losers of the Entire Draft
The 2018 MLB draft is wrapping up, and while we won't know what to make of this year's crop of incoming talent until years from now, it's always fun to make some instant calls on the biggest winners and losers.
Below, we've highlighted players and teams that fall into one of those two categories based on draft slot relative to expectations for the players and overall talent haul for the teams.
For good measure, we also added a bonus winner from the college ranks.
Just remember, more than any other draft in professional sports, the MLB draft is a crapshoot. We won't truly know who won the three-day event until years down the road.
Honorable Mention Winner: LSU Tigers Baseball
The LSU Tigers had a pair of draft-eligible sophomores who were in the mix to be selected in the first three rounds of the 2018 draft, at least according to predraft rankings from Baseball America and MLB.com:
- CF Zach Watson (BA: 66, MLB.com: 65)
- RHP Zack Hess (BA: 87, MLB.com: 91)
Neither player came off the board through the first 33 rounds.
Watson might be the best defensive center fielder in college baseball, and he hit .304/.359/.470 with 14 doubles, six home runs and 13 stolen bases this season. A strong showing in the Cape Cod League and a productive junior season could push him into the first-round conversation next June.
Hess pitched out of the bullpen as a freshman, winning seven games and saving four more while posting a 3.12 ERA and 12.3 K/9 in 60.2 innings of work. He returned to starting this season and went 7-5 with a 4.43 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 101 strikeouts in 89 innings.
The 6'6" right-hander has some intriguing upside as a starter if he can refine his command. Given his potentially dominant fastball/slider pairing, the bullpen is always a fallback.
With those two back on campus and a recruiting class that ranks No. 2 in the nation, according to Perfect Game, LSU will be a team to watch next spring.
Loser: Jake Mangum, OF, Mississippi State
Despite an impressive college resume, Jake Mangum has now been overlooked two years in a row.
As a draft-eligible sophomore last season, he hit .324/.380/.385 with 15 doubles and 14 stolen bases while playing through a broken left hand. However, signability concerns caused him to slip to the 30th round, so he returned to Mississippi State for his junior season.
It's been more of the same this spring, as he posted a .353/.432/.475 line while flashing more gap power and raising his walk rate from 2.9 to 8.4 percent. Yet he didn't come off the board until the 32nd round, when the New York Mets selected him at No. 950 overall.
MLB.com gave him a glowing review while ranking him as the No. 180 prospect in this class:
"Mangum's best tool is his speed, which grades as plus-plus out of the batter's box but doesn't play quite that fast and hasn't translated into elite base-stealing or defensive ability. A switch-hitter, he concentrates on making contact and getting on base, an approach that leaves him with almost no power. He's doing a better job of working counts and drawing walks as a junior, though he still needs more patience to become a true table-setter.
Mangum also has improved his jumps and reads this year, making him a solid defender in center field. He has a stronger arm than most players at his position, having reached 93 mph with his fastball when he started five games on the mound as a sophomore. He proved his grit by playing through a broken left hand for much of last season."
At this point, it looks like he'll be heading back to campus for his senior season. He'll lose any leverage he might have had in negotiations next spring when his college eligibility runs out.
Winner: Ryan Jeffers, C, UNC Wilmington
The first 64 picks in the 2018 draft carry a slot bonus of at least $1 million.
UNC Wilmington catcher Ryan Jeffers was the only player picked in those first 64 spots who was not ranked among MLB.com's top 200 prospects heading into the draft.
After playing sparingly as a freshman, he's been one of the most productive offensive catchers in college baseball over the past two seasons:
- 2017: 225 PA, .328/.422/.604, 19 2B, 10 HR, 32 RBI, 44 R
- 2018: 282 PA, .322/.468/.650, 22 2B, 16 HR, 59 RBI, 53 R
Along with his uptick in power production, he has also raised his walk rate from 12.4 to 18.1 percent this spring while showing a more advanced approach.
With an extremely thin crop of college catchers beyond No. 2 overall pick Joey Bart, a few collegiate backstops were bound to be selected earlier than expected.
Jeffers has work to do on defense, and he still needs to prove himself against higher-level competition. However, he showed enough to be among the biggest individual winners of Day 1 when he went No. 59 overall.
Losers: Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs' draft philosophy in recent seasons has been to go after guys with a high floor in the early rounds, save some money in the process and then target an above-slot high school pitcher or two who slips later in the draft.
No. 24 overall pick Nico Hoerner fit that approach perfectly.
The shortstop hit .349/.396/.498 this spring and was a three-year starter at Stanford. He offers intriguing power potential, and even if he needs to move off shortstop, he should be able to hit enough to be an everyday option as a second or third baseman.
With most expecting Hoerner to go off the board in the second round, the Cubs will likely save some money with that selection.
However, the big above-slot pick never came.
Prep outfielder Cole Roederer will likely cost a bit more than the $775,100 slot bonus that comes with his No. 77 overall spot, and he might have gone earlier if not for a separated shoulder that brought a breakout senior season to an abrupt halt. He isn't a first-round talent, though.
All in all, the Cubs' draft didn't unfold as expected after they reached for Hoerner to kick things off.
Winners: Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox landed the best pure hitter in the draft when they selected Oregon State standout Nick Madrigal at No. 4 overall.
With a 65-grade hit tool, he could move through the minors as quickly as anyone in this class. He'll get a chance to play shortstop after deferring to Cadyn Grenier and playing on the other side of second base during his time at Oregon State.
He didn't miss a beat this spring after returning from a broken wrist, hitting .395/.459/.563 with 12 extra-base hits, nine stolen bases and only five strikeouts in 135 plate appearances.
MLB.com wrote: "Analytics departments love him because of his approach at the plate that led to more walks than strikeouts in 2017, and while he doesn't have a ton of over-the-fence power, he makes consistent hard contact and is a legitimate extra-base threat. His speed and instincts should allow him to continue to be a base stealer."
The White Sox followed up the Madrigal selection with one of the biggest steals of the draft, as they took Oklahoma outfielder Steele Walker at No. 46 overall.
After hitting .352/.441/.606 with 13 home runs this spring, the junior outfielder clearly joined the second tier of college bats, and he was routinely mentioned toward the end of the first round. He's limited defensively, but he might only be scratching the surface of his offensive upside.
College pitchers Konnor Pilkington (81) and Jonathan Stiever (138) also slipped further than expected, and they'll be welcome additions to a farm system that is already among the best in baseball.
Losers: Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies had only one pick inside the top 100 this year after signing Jake Arrieta and Carlos Santana in free agency.
They used it on Wichita State slugger Alec Bohm at No. 3 overall.
In a bubble, Bohm has a chance to be one of the most productive hitters in this draft. He may move quickly through the minors thanks to his polished approach and huge raw power from the right side.
However, he doesn't look like the best fit in Philadelphia.
The MLB draft is rarely about picking players based on need. But when taking an advanced college hitter with a top-five pick, the path to playing time at least warrants consideration.
While Bohm played third base in college, the consensus is that he'll eventually need to move across the diamond to first base. With Carlos Santana signed through 2020 and Rhys Hoskins currently miscast as an outfielder who's biding his time until he can move back to first base, Bohm doesn't fill a clear need.
The Phillies had their pick of high school pitchers at this spot, or they could have gone with someone like toolsy high school outfielder Jarred Kelenic.
Cal State Fullerton ace Colton Eastman has a chance to provide some value in the fourth round, and Dominic Pipkin was a nice above-slot target in the ninth round. But overall, this was an underwhelming haul by the Phillies.
Winners: Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays got arguably the biggest steal of the draft when Matthew Liberatore slipped to them at No. 16 overall.
Ryan Weathers (7), Carter Stewart (8), Grayson Rodriguez (11) and Cole Winn (15) were instead drafted ahead of Liberatore, so the Rays selected him with their first of five Day 1 picks.
They followed that up with a roll of the dice on South Florida left-hander Shane McClanahan, who was in the conversation to go No. 1 overall at the start of the spring. The southpaw has an electric fastball that routinely touches triple digits and an excellent changeup that had him on a number of teams' first-round radar.
If he can refine his command (5.7 BB/9), the Chris Sale comps might not be completely off-base.
Prep outfielder Nick Schnell (32), Florida Atlantic shortstop Tyler Frank (56) and two-way standout Tanner Dodson (71) were also among the Rays' Day 1 haul. They'll immediately provide a shot in the arm to a farm system with much of its talent residing in the upper levels.
Winners: Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals always seemed like a reasonable fit for a University of Florida right-hander.
Jackson Kowar was part of the second-tier of college arms in this year's class, and he was frequently projected to be taken somewhere in the teens, where the Royals were positioned at No. 18 overall.
Meanwhile, teammate Brady Singer was expected to be long gone by the time they picked, as he was widely regarded as the top college pitcher not named Casey Mize.
Instead, Singer was shockingly still on the board.
Equally shocking, they were still able to grab Kowar when they picked again at No. 33 overall.
From there, the Royals went on to pick nine more college players before took their first high schooler.
Left-handed pitchers Kris Bubic (49) and Daniel Lynch (77) and outfielder Kyle Isbel (75) were among that group, so they were able to add three more players ranked among the draft's top 100, per MLB.com, to a farm system in serious need of a talent infusion.