Some may be wondering how Kershaw can be compared to those two all-time greats without a good October track record. The main reason lies in two stats. With his 2.441 ERA he currently sits 37th all time amongst pitchers with at least 1000 innings pitched or 100 decisions in their careers. This includes relievers such as Mariano Rivera and pinchers who pitched their entire careers in the 1800s such as Will White, when run scoring was more than twice as low as it is today. Also, on that list are legends such as Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and even Babe Ruth with his 2.277 ERA. Lastly the next active pitcher on that list is Jacob DeGrom who has a 2.622 Era and is 60th all time. While Jacob DeGrom does have back to back CY Young awards and is arguably the best pitcher in baseball right now Kershaw has thrown more than double the amount of innings deGrom has and still has an ERA that is .18 runs lower.
The number six pick in the 2019 MLB draft was CJ Abrams. He is a shortstop with a fantastic hit tool drafted by the San Diego Padres. While the San Diego Padres have a shortstop named Fernando Tatis Jr., he may or may not be able to stay at the position long term due to defensive deficiencies. While Abrams may never win a gold glove he may be a better answer at the shortstop position long term. Regardless of where he ends up, his bat, which allowed him to hit .393 across two levels during his first season of pro ball, will play anywhere. What further allows him to have the potential of a dynamic leadoff hitter in the future is his top of the scale speed which is ranked an 80 on the 20-80 scale. The number six pick in the 2018 MLB draft was Jarred Kelenic. He is a five-tool monster who has a career minor league OPS of .882 in just two minor league seasons, with 29 homeruns and 35 steals. He may end up being the best player in the 2018 draft as he came in to the draft regarded as the best high school hitter and has further honed his skills as he has moved up the minor league ladder. Already in double A at just age 20 he may be knocking on the MLB door as early as 2020. While Abrams may one day be one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball, Jarred Kelenic is a true five tool superstar who seemingly gets better every day. While the Mets will regret trading him for a very long time the Mariners look like they have their next franchise player who could be up as early as this year.
The number seven pick in the 2019 MLB draft was the first pitcher taken in the draft, Nick Lodollo. He is a tall lefty at 6’6’’ out of Texas Christian University. He has three above average pitches and has shown an ability to command each one. He still has some projection left in his frame and he pitched very well despite only throwing eighteen and a third innings. He looks like he will move quickly and will be a main stay in a big-league rotation for a long time. The number seven overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft was Ryan Weathers of the San Diego Padres out of Loretto High School. He is another lefty pitcher who is currently the number nine prospect in a deep San Diego farm system. Weathers is the son of former MLB Picher David Weathers and while he does have four solid pitch’s he lacks a true out pitch. Weather struggled in the second half of his first minor league season, but he looks like he will fit nicely in to the middle of a big-league rotation. While both these pitchers offer fairly high floors I believe Lodollo’s slightly better stuff, out of his tall frame, allows for a bit more potnetial moving forward. While Weathers could end up being a three or a four starter in a big-league rotation I see Lodollo more as a two or a three and give him the slight edge here.
The number eight pick in the 2019 MLB draft was Josh Jung a third Baseman out of Texas Tech University. He is regarded as a polished hitter and despite questions about his future power potential he has shown reliable hands and a strong arm at the hot corner. His power may ultimately determine his celling, but he may have the potential to hit as many as twenty-five or more homeruns to go along with his other sound tools. The eighth overall pick in 2018 was Carter Stewart who ultimately did not sign with the Atlanta braves after they drafted him. He threw 96-97 MPH when he was drafted and had a power curve that was regarded as one of the best breaking balls in the draft. Stewart had suffered a wrist injury and the Braves offered him a a signing bonus below slot value after the draft and he chose not to sign. He then enrolled at Eastern Florida State College for the next season and threw 13 starts with a 1.70 ERA. He then decided to sign a six-year deal to play in Japan with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of Nippon Professional baseball. Now we have no idea if we will ever see Carter Stewart on the mound for an MLB team and as a result Josh Jung is the player I would rather have going forward. Now Carter Stewart may have made this interesting if he had continued putting up strong college numbers and reentered the MLB draft at some point.
Lastly the number 10 pick in the 2019 MLB draft was Hunter Bishop selected by the San Fransisco Giants. He is a toolsy outfielder out of Arizona State. He has tremendous raw power but there is also some swing and miss to his game. He was inconsistent throughout his career up until his junior year of college. He also has the speed to play center field and be a threat on the base paths. In his small sample after being selected he only hit .229 but had a .438 on base percentage. Those are two numbers that usually do not align in that way, but Bishop walked almost as much as he struck out. While his potential will depend on how well he hits going forward he has the tools to be a dynamic player should everything come together even if there is still swing and miss in his game. The tenth pick in the 2018 draft was another toolsy college hitter out of South Alabama named Travis Swaggerty. While all his tools rate as a 50 or better on the 20-80 scale he has only hit .257 so far in the minors with 14 homeruns in 173 games played. He is similar to Bishop in that his ability to make contract will determine his ceiling, but he has the speed to play center and be a threat on the base paths. He did perform better in the second half of 2019 after some adjustments as well. While both hitters scouting reports are very similar Bishop is rated as a 55 overall compared to Swaggerty as a 50 overall on MLB.com. I give the slight edge to Bishop here since he is younger, and his eye was so good immediately upon entering pro ball. Both these players have similar ceilings and floors and it will be interesting to see if either or both can figure out what adjustments are necessary for them to make the big leagues.
Now I have looked at the top ten overall picks in the 2018 and 2019 MLB drafts. As of right now I give the slight edge to the 2019 draft. While the 2018 draft has the best pitcher in Mize and the best positon player in Kelenic, having lost Kyler Murray to football and Carter Stewart to Japan has hurt this draft. Even if I was to put both of them back in the 2019 draft still is a little better as Carter Stewart has never faced professional hitters and Kyler Murray was a very raw prospect and we do not know how his development would go. The top of the 2018 draft could be historic with the top 5 picks all looking like all stars and or MVP candidates the 2019 draft however has really good to all star players and maybe even some MVP candidates throughout its first ten picks. Now all stars and MVP candidate can come from all round and the rest of the first rounds could even change this going forward. Where I stand today may not be where I stand even a year from now but that is the fun of reflecting on the past, living in the now and dreaming about the future.
The first overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft was catcher Adley Rutschman. He was considered by many to be the most hyped baseball prospect since Bryce Harper heading into the draft. The Baltimore Orioles selected him out of Oregon State. Over his three collegiate seasons Adley posted a .352 batting average and a 1.032 OPS. In 2018 the first overall pick was a pitcher named Casey Mize. He was a college pitcher out of Auburn with great stuff and command. Everyone saw he had the body, mechanics and college results of a future frontline starter. He had a career 2.96 ERA in college with 334 strikeouts in only 267 innings pitched. As much as I am an Adley Ritschman fan and generational catchers are so rare, I have to take Mize. A frontline starter can have such an impact on a team especially in the playoffs just ask the Nationals with Scherzer and Strasburg the Giants with Bumgarner the Cubs with Lester and many others. While yes Buster Posey was definitely an important part of the Giants three world series rings as well, the Nationals won the world series with a time share between Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes and just one year earlier the Red Sox won it all with Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez behind the plate, hardly recognizable names. Mize is also a little closer to the majors right now and has shown immense success in the minors at such a young age and we don’t know how old Adley will be when he makes it to the big leagues.
The second overall pick in 2019 was Bobby Witt Jr. he is regarded as a one of the best five tool shortstops to ever come out of high school. He hit .491 in high school with a 1.578 OPS. All his tools are rated as a 55 or above on the 20-80 rating scale used for prospects demonstrating his exceptional all-around skill set. The second overall pick in 2018 was Joey Bart out of the Georgia Institute of Technology. Bart has already advanced to Double A despite missing time due to injuries over the past two seasons. His number one offensive tool is his power, and many believe he will be an above average catcher at the highest level with maybe even more upside than that. If he becomes more selective at the plate he could be one of the best catchers in the MLB. While Bobby Witt Jr has as much upside as any prospect in today’s game he also carries considerable risk since he came out of high school and has so much development ahead of him. In this situation I like Bart because he has shown he can advance quickly, deal with injuries and the Giants have shown that a great catcher may not be the most important aspect of a championship team, but it could never hut to have one.
The third overall selection in the 2019 draft was first baseman Andrew Vaughn from the University of California. He won the Golden Spikes award as the best college player in the nation his sophomore year and was a finalist once again his junior season. He has a 60-hit tool and a 60-power tool on the 20-80 scale and considerable bat speed. He has the potential to hit .300 with 30 homeruns annually at the highest level. The third pick in the 2018 draft was a college third baseman by the name of Alec Bohm. At 6 foot 5 inches Alec Bohm is tall even for a third baseman. Many people potentially see a move to first base in the future. Despite that Bohm has worked on his defense at the hot corner and hit bat will determine his value in the future. He has great bat speed and an excellent approach at the plate. In 2019 he really took off and hit .305 across three levels with 21 homeruns. He is admired for his work ethic and I believe he will be in the Phillie’s lineup sooner rather than later. While I am a big fan of Alec Bohm and I anticipate him hitting 30 home runs annually while being an on base machine, I give the edge here to Vaughn. His bat has the potential to be special even at first base. The college success he has had is remarkable and I think it will translate very well at the big-league level.
The fifth overall selection in the 2018 MLB draft was Johnathan India out of the University of Florida. While he has solid tools and potential defensive versatility he has not done anything that great in the minor leagues so far. He has a career .779 OPS in the minors thus far. In 2019 the Tigers selected Riley Greene with the fifth overall pick out of high school. Riley Greene was seen as perhaps the best pure hitter amongst high schoolers in eh draft. And while he has not posted eye popping numbers so far, his potential intrigues me a little more than India’s. I do not think either player will be great in the field, but neither will be a liability either. Riley Greene has more offensive potential and I like him more out of the two players moving forward.