Day one of the 2018 MLB draft is just two weeks away and the Rockies will have three picks that day. I’ve covered potential guys who fit the profile with the first pick and now I’ll throw out a couple options for their two other picks on day one. The Rockies have picks 42 and 76 after gaining a pick for Greg Holland rejecting their qualifying offer and losing a pick for signing Wade Davis.
Seth Beer, 1B, Clemson
Commence the eye-rolling and grumbling. One of the most polarizing players in the draft, Beer has been talked about a ton since his monstrous freshman year at Clemson and plenty of you are sick of hearing about him. Sure, he’s put up great numbers over the course of his career, but his swing mechanics are a mess, he has no defensive ability anywhere on the diamond, and his baserunning ability is essentially non-existent. I’ve heard it all, but after starting the year generally respected and within the top-25 prospects in many publications, Beer has fallen to the 45-60 range in most of those same publications. He could therefore theoretically be available for the Rockies at 42 and I want to break it down a little to see if he may be worth a pick.
.316/.484/.628 with a 20.4 BB% and 11.0 K% with 12.14 AB/HR
.333/.449/.656 with a 16.6 BB% and 11.8 K% with 11.92 AB/HR
The numbers above depict the career stat lines of two guys who were three-year college players in major conferences. The top is Seth Beer and the bottom is Justin Smoak. Smoak went 11th overall to the Rangers in 2008 out of South Carolina as a college first base only prospect. Smoak, however, had a much sounder and smoother swing than Beer with better defensive ability and the added plus of being a switch hitter. The numbers are similar enough to be a pretty interesting comp with both players displaying elite BB/K and AB/HR rates to go with impressive slash lines.
All of this is not to say that Seth Beer will have the same career arc that Smoak has had or to say that he deserves to be picked in the top 11. It is simply to show the statistical similarities in two players with similar offensive and defensive profiles. Justin Smoak certainly gets the nod as the better MLB prospect coming out of college but statistically there are obvious similarities. “Never scout the stat line” is a well-known rule in baseball and well respected for good reason, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore what happens on the field either. I think a player’s track record on the field can often help inform, along with your own eyes and the scouting reports, on where the player’s value ultimately lies.
One thing is sure, Seth Beer can flat out rake, and the team that’s willing to take him on will be hoping to adjust the swing mechanics and make him as close to an average first baseman as possible. The baseball acumen, pitch recognition, and pure strength are good building blocks to start with. The pick comes with a lot of risk, but the reward could be great enough to make the risk worth it. Personally, I think a team in the 30s takes a shot but if I were the Rockies, I wouldn’t let him fall further than 42.
Matt McLain, SS, Arnold O. Beckman High School (CA)
McLain has experienced a meteoric rise this year due to a great spring that has scouts buzzing. McLain is a bit undersized at 5’10” and 175 pounds but makes up for it with exceptional footwork and range defensively. He covers a lot of ground and has great defensive instincts to go along with soft hands and a strong arm. He should have the ability to stick at short when he reaches pro ball (although some scouts put him at second in the future) and the defensive profile is enough to get scouts excited.
On top of his defensive prowess, McLain has shown a well balanced offensive game this season as well. He shows a good batter’s eye whenever he comes to the plate, clearly approaching every at bat with a plan. He has good bat-to-ball skills and sprays the ball with authority to all fields. He shows a good ability to go with the pitch where it’s thrown and has shown off some over-the-fence power this season. His speed has been graded anywhere from average to plus but he gets up the line quickly and has a knack for swiping bags.
Overall, McLain doesn’t have one carrying tool, rather, he does everything well and has shown improvement in every facet of his game this season. He obviously has a great work ethic and puts in the time to improve his game. The team that drafts him will be banking on his continued hard work to hone his impressive set of tools. With time and instruction he could develop into a solid leadoff hitter with some sneaky pop and an above-average defender at short. His profile may not necessarily scream top-75 pick but players like McLain have a lot of organizational value.
Griffin Roberts, RHP, Wake Forest
Roberts has done nothing but blow guys away this year. He came out of the bullpen primarily for his first two years at Wake Forest but has transitioned into the starting rotation this year with immense success. As of this writing he has 117 strikeouts in just 82 innings pitched while walking 34. His control issues have really improved over the course of the season and he has firmly put himself among the top-100 draft prospects.
Roberts accomplishes all this with a low-mid 90s fastball with a lot of run and sink on it that can induce swings-and-misses. He also owns a mid-80s change that shows promise but isn’t terribly advanced right now. His go to pitch however, is a low-mid 80s slider that features a ton of movement and regularly freezes both lefties and righties. It darts off the table and is difficult for hitters to pick up. The pitch is incredibly effective and may be one of the best breaking balls in this draft class. He throws it regularly and with a ton of confidence.
The biggest knock on Roberts is his reliever risk. Many teams may shy away from him because his delivery is high-effort and difficult to repeat. This has led to high walk rates in the past but this season he has really improved in that area. The fact that he has two above-average or better offerings is encouraging but his change really lags behind, increasing that reliever risk even more. A team that selects him will hope to hone the change to get it at least average and let him ride the slider to success. The Rockies could do worse at 42 and they’d definitely be wise to grab him at 76 if he’s still around.