Mock drafts appear in every sport, building anticipation for draft day. The better mock drafts are fueled by conversations from media, scouts, front office types, and evaluators around the game. In the latest mock draft from Baseball America, they have listed Nick Loftin, shortstop from Baylor University, as the Yankees’ first-round pick. But what makes him an appealing selection for the Bombers?
Loftin went undrafted out of high school, but he has hit for average from his first days in college. Following his sophomore season, he was named as a first team All-Big 12 performer. After a summer of playing in Cape Cod League, and with Team USA’s collegiate squad, he was selected as the pre-season Big 12 Player of the Year for 2020.
In 108 games for Baylor University, he produced a .319/.381/.480 batting line with 12 home runs. Scouts do not see one carrying tool in his game, but he also does not have a glaring weakness that could crater his progress. With a solid major-league ceiling that might not match some of the other players available at this spot, Loftin also has a much higher floor than other candidates.
He is an outstanding contact hitter who has only struck out 37 times in 458 at-bats during college. Not known for his power, Loftin is adept at taking what the pitcher gives him and hits line drives to all fields. While he has not displayed elite power, his slugging percentage has risen noticeably during each of his three season in college.
In his shortened 2020 season scouts noticed a new swing path that allowed Loftin to generate more power. That adjustment resulted in a .544 slugging percentage in 14 games played prior to the season cancelation. His power is still not projecting as a plus tool, but scouts saw an improvement that can play in the professional game.
Loftin has all the physical ability and tools to stick as a shortstop all the way to the major-league level. Beyond that he also fits in with a game that places a value on versatility. While playing for Team USA last summer he played shortstop, second base, third base, right field and left field.
Some evaluators have also viewed him as a player who would have no problem moving to center field in the future. He started his career at Baylor in left field, and as part of his high-floor profile, he has the ability to play the utility role if he is blocked by a strong middle infield moving forward.
The Yankees have placed a premium on versatility over the last few years. Gleyber Torres was routinely playing three infield positions in the minor leagues prior to his injury in 2017. Other players who rose through the system as middle infielders like Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada have found themselves spread across the diamond by the Yankees as they were needed to fill holes caused by injuries.
If the Yankees take Loftin with the 28th pick, it might look like a reach to some. Baseball America has him listed as a first-round talent—the 29th best prospect in the draft. MLB Pipeline, however, has him down the list as the 49th best prospect. Other scouting organizations have him going well into the second round in their mock drafts. This discrepancy on his potential seems to center around his uptick in power during the abbreviated 2020 season. If an organization like the Yankees feel that his improved power from this season is sustainable, then Loftin is very likely a first-round pick.
Nick Loftin is a solid prospect that the Yankees could utilize in a variety of ways. His elite contact skills displayed against college competition will serve him well as he also continues to develop his power approach. Shortstops are known for their versatility due to the athleticism that it takes to play the position, and this is a skill that Loftin has already displayed. The Yankees could land a player who could climb through the system quickly with Loftin at the 28th pick.