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A way-too-early look at the 2018 MLB draft

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The 2017 season may be lost, but the amateur ranks hold some real gems for them to pick from in 2018.

New York Yankees v Detroit Tigers - Game Four Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

No one likes to watch their favorite sports team lose. Waking up each morning, I am apprehensive to check the score of the game from the night before. Even though a majority of Detroit's fans voted that they are rooting for the team to lose in a recent poll, it is still painful to watch the ballclub struggle like they have recently. Sadly, baseball is built in such a manner that only the most well-run teams are able to delay kicking the bucket much longer than the Tigers have.

The pied piper has come to collect his due from the Detroit Tigers.

However, the story is not all sad for those cheering for the Old English D. The silver lining to a season so heart-wrenching is a high draft pick the following year. Even better, while the 2017 class was widely considered to be a rather shallow one, the hopefuls entering for selection in 2018 are supposed to be a much stronger group.

No one player has separated himself from the herd yet and become established as the consensus best talent of the group. Still, there’s a general consensus that the upper echelon of players that teams will consider favors arms over bats.

SS Brice Turang

One position player who has a decent shot to break away from the pack, however, is prep shortstop Brice Turang. Somewhat small — listed at 6'0 and 165 pounds — Turang has a package of tools that has been compared to that of Christian Yelich. MLB Pipeline cited a scout who said he prefers Turang in every aspect of the game except his power. Unlike those two, even though he has experience in the outfield and it is a fallback option, evaluators are fairly certain that he will be able to stick at shortstop long-term.

RHP Brady Singer

Also jockeying for the top spot is Florida Gators ace Brady Singer. After being relegated to relief by the monstrosity that was the Gators' starting rotation of 2016 and playing second fiddle to Alex Faedo and his demon slider last year, the upcoming 2018 season is Singer's time to shine. He is best known for the venomous movement on his fastball, which elicits ugly swings and leaves batters clueless.

He was drafted highly as a prep arm, with the Blue Jays selecting him in the second round, but opted to go to college. This choice has seemed to work out well for him. His stuff has sharpened, he has gained experience, and his draft position will reflect that.

OF Jarred Kelenic

One of my favorites, Jarred Kelenic patrols center field and swings a good bat, catching the attention of many scouts. He is a one of the gems of the class, and that is made even more impressive by the fact that he hails from Wisconsin, a cold-weather state. While Baseball America had kind things to say about the young man, the Perfect Game evaluation stuck me as being especially generous. Usually cool and noncommittal in their opinions, this is what PG said about him:

Jarred Kelenic is a 2018 OF/LHP with a 6-1 196 lb. frame from Waukesha, WI who attends Waukesha West HS. Very strong athletic build. 6.57 runner, has centerfield range and speed with a high level right field throwing arm, makes accurate throws with very good carry, highest level defensive outfielder. Left handed hitter, hits from a spread stance, excellent raw bat speed with a low tension swing and loose hands, ball flies off the barrel, big power when he turns on the ball but will let it travel and drive it up the gaps as well. Advanced player with all the tools, plays hard. Good student, verbal commitment to Louisville. Selected for the 2017 Perfect Game All-American Classic.

These words, while analytical in nature, combine to create the image of a player worth keeping an eye on.

RHP Kumar Rocker

Kumar Rocker is one of two prep righties who round out the top five players in the upcoming crop of future stars. He has advanced stuff and thrives off a potent mix of his high-90s fastball and nasty slider that he throws from the right side. He also includes a developing changeup. His delivery is described by Perfect Game as low effort, but his mechanics include the infamous "inverted W," which could lead to concerns. Talking Chop mentions that there isn't a lot of projection left in his stuff, but as overpowering as he is, asking for much more than polish would be greedy.

RHP Ethan Hankins

Finally, the massive Ethan Hankins finishes out this upper group. While his stuff isn't nearly as devastating as that of Rocker's, it is easy to foresee it becoming just as good as his. Standing at a whopping 6'7, he has an easy delivery and controls his body far better than one would expect from an individual as tall as he. He boasts a fastball that tops out around 96 miles per hour and sits in the low-to-mid 90s. Paired with a curve that flashes incredible depth and is increasing in power and the potential for plus command, it is easy to see why teams are interested in Hankins.

The Best of the Rest

Joe Gray Jr. — A prep outfielder with a plus arm and defense that sits comfortably above average, he flashes power but wrestles with contact issues. He is quite similar to Jo Adell.

Seth Beer — The slugger is popular due to a fun batting profile and an even more fun name, but is kept out of the top group due to serious questions about his defense in the outfield corners.

Nick Madigral — Everyone loves a small, scrappy player, and Madigral is just that. He is a better batter than you might expect from looking at his 5'8" frame, but isn't likely to stick at shortstop. Scouts suspect that he will be sliding to the right side of the bag and play professionally at second.

Will Banfield — The rare prep catcher with smooth, fluid defensive actions and a significant bat, Will Banfield has plus tools on both sides of the ball. According to Talking Chop, he has "significant experience" catching both Kumar Rocker and Ethan Hankins. However, horror stories of prep catchers drafted early in recent years may make some teams skittish, especially if his tools start to slip late next year.

Nolan Gorman — A shortstop at the moment, most think that he will transition to third at some point. That's okay, though, because he'd be a plus defender there and his left-handed swing provides more than enough production for the position.

Slade Cecconi — Even though he is one of the fastest runners of the class, Cecconi will make his money pitching. Scouts note a fastball and slider that both register as plus, but his track record is limited and Perfect Game noticed that he lowers his elbow when throwing a curve or changeup. A good spring could raise his draft stock from first-rounder to top-ten selection.

Carter Stewart — With a fastball that scrapes 92 mph, one might not to expect to see Stewart in this list. However, he throws a curveball at elite spin rates and a changeup that has both life and good arm speed. One scout who spoke to Bless You Boys said he believes that the projection and command that Stewart offers could make him a valuable prospect.

This article was originally published on August 21, 2017.