Now that the MLB Draft is just hours away, experts have weighed in for the final time on who they believe each team will select in the first round this evening. Writers like John Manuel at Baseball America and the duo of Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com are connected to the inner thinkings of teams, so their mock drafts are more than mere shots in the dark.
In the final set of mock drafts produced by both entities, they believe that the Yankees will go for a first baseman with their first pick at 16th overall. MLB.com’s unanimous prediction is one that has been linked to the Yankees several times in mock drafts: Nick Pratto out of Huntington Beach High School in California.
Pratto has been a two-way player with a fastball that can hit 91 mph and a fairly remarkable changeup. However, he is expected to be drafted as purely a position player when he is selected in the draft. Here is what Baseball America has to say about him:
He's a left-handed hitter with strike zone awareness and plate discipline well beyond his years. Pratto stands close to the plate and covers it well. He has exceptionally loose wrists and creates separation in his swing, giving himself time to adjust to pitches late and keep himself alive in counts. Pratto has advanced pitch recognition and timing. The biggest development of Pratto's draft year was the growth of his raw power; it's become a plus tool for him and he's capable of hitting the ball out to the opposite field or pulling it 400-plus feet.
He's still learning how to get to all of that power, but the ball consistently comes off his bat with authority in games and he should develop more game power as it becomes a bigger part of his approach. Pratto is a near-average runner and has enough arm strength to play the outfield, but he's a very advanced defender at first base at present. He is committed to Southern California, where he'd likely begin his collegiate career pitching on the weekend and hitting in the middle of the lineup, but he is expected to be drafted in the first round as a position player. Scouts compare him to Joey Votto because of his offensive skillset and competitive spirit.
Manuel’s final prediction for the Yankees is first baseman Evan White from Kentucky. He really isn’t one of the names that has been connected to the team throughout the lead up to the draft, but if there is intel out there that says the Yankees will be going for a first baseman, he makes some sense.
Baseball America had this to say about White:
White is not your typical college first baseman. Usually college first baseman are players who can't handle another position. White, who wears number 19 because it's Joey Votto's number, is athletic enough and fast enough (he's an above-average runner) to play in the outfield and his plus arm would fit in right field. But White is such a gifted defender at first base that Kentucky has kept him in the dirt. He's a 70 defender at first on the 20-to-80 scouting scale with range, the hands to scoop balls out of the dirt and excellent flexibility.
He's shown himself to be an adequate corner outfielder when he got some time in the grass while playing for USA Baseball's College National Team last summer. And he has a long track record of hitting--he hit .318 as a freshman, hit .376 as a sophomore and was posting similar stats as a junior, having shaken off hip and hamstring injuries that sidelined him early in 2017.
White projects as an above-average or even plus hitter. But scouts do understandably wonder about White's power. He generally earns fringe-average power grades from scouts and he's never reached double digits in home runs at Kentucky. As a right-handed hitting, left-handed throwing first baseman/corner outfielder White is going to have to hit for at least average power in pro ball. He does have some athleticism and the frame to add some more weight.
Interesting that both guys have Joey Votto mentions in their scouting reports. Is that just the standard when it comes to first basemen, or is there actually something there? Likely no one can say for sure.
So White isn’t a guy who is at first base by necessity, which is somewhat comforting. Both guys seem to have athleticism beyond just being the guy who has to be stuck over at first as a stationary target because playing him anywhere else would be embarrassing to all involved.
Still, the 16th pick is a high one for the Yankees. Using it on a first baseman doesn’t seem like the greatest use of that asset, based on general availability for the position, but everything could always go sideways if a player they like drops to their selection.
Would you be happy if the Yankees drafted Pratto or White? Is there someone else you’d rather them roll the dice on instead?