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Royals take gambles on risky prospects in the 2023 Draft

Three prep prospects at the top accompany numerous interesting college players

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MLB Draft presented by Nike Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Last year, the Kansas City Royals went chalk at the top of the draft before taking a mix of the typical college mid-rounders and some interesting late round flyers. In the 2023 Draft, the Royals spread out their money a bit more by taking chances on some high risk prospects early in the draft. Their first two picks come from the riskiest demographics in the draft: a prep catcher in Blake Mitchell with the eighth overall pick and right-handed prep pitcher Blake Wolters with the 44th pick. Since 2014, the Royals have now alternated between a high school player and college player with their first pick every year. Despite the risks inherent with prep catchers, the Royals are willing to take a chance on Mitchell:

“If you just look at the grades across the board, it’s not just because he can catch,” Picollo said. “He can throw, he can hit, he’s got power and he’s a left-handed-hitting catcher.

“When you add all those things up, I would say if he had played another position, he would have still sat very, very, very high on our board. … It was pretty clear he was the guy for us regardless of position.”

Wolters was their next pick, while the Royals rounded out their Day One haul with a college outfielder in Carson Roccaforte:

“We stuck to what we think our identity needs to be,” general manager J.J. Picollo said. “We need to be able to compete on the mound, you need a leader and impact player behind home plate — it’s not easy to find — and then we really value outfielders who can cover ground and play the outfield at a high level.

“So just to look at the start of the Draft with another 18 picks to go, we’re off to a pretty good start when we think about the identity we want to stick to. And that’s really staying up the middle.”

The Royals kicked off Day Two with another prep righty in Hiro Wyatt before going on a run of college players. A couple of those picks, fourth-rounder Hunter Owen and fifth-rounder Spencer Nivens, could be in line for overslot deals with the money that was saved at the top:

“There were a couple of guys that we had targeted that got taken within the first couple of picks in the fourth, fifth round,” scouting director Danny Ontiveros said. “But we still like the guys we got. … They all kind of metrically fit a need that we were looking for, as well as what the scout’s evaluation was.”

Just as they did last year with David Sandlin, the Royals began Day Three with a college player who is a much better prospect than their draft position indicated and is likely in line for overslot money:

“We were really attracted to the bat, and we wanted to add another bat into our system,” Ontiveros said. “So right off the first pick, we felt like, ‘OK, we got the bat we wanted to get on Day 3.’”

“The first two picks we got, we were just extremely proud to get them,” Ontiveros said. “We were thrilled we got off to a great start.”

The Royals then went on a run of college pitchers with varying degrees of polish and upside before finishing out, just like last year, with three prep players that they’ll look to sign away from their college commitments:

“Spencer hadn’t really filled out, there weren’t plus tools, but the instinct level and the field of play was already there,” Ontiveros said. “You were just waiting for some other things to come. Extremely good bat-to-ball, and that’s what was attractive [about Russell].”

Now the Royals will turn their attention to signing those players. Players picked in rounds 11-20 can sign a bonus worth up to $150,000 without counting toward a team’s available bonus pool. Teams can offer more than $150,000 if they have bonus pool money remaining by signing any of their top-10 round picks for less than the slot value assigned to their pick number. Last year, the Royals signed two of their three final picks (Milo Rushford and Austin Charles).

“We’re going to give it our best shot,” Ontiveros said. “The dynamic is a little different this year, but we’re going to give it our best shot and hopefully be able to sign one or two of them, at least.”

None of the three prep players taken at the back of the draft are the caliber of prospect that Austin Charles was last year, but all offer interesting tools with the potential to develop into an impact prospect. With the college arms, the Royals seemed to target stuff-over-command. It seems they are finally looking for pitchers with riding fastballs as opposed to the sink-and-tail type, but it’s interesting to see the continued emphasis on stuff as many teams now prioritize present command while looking to develop velocity.

In all, the Royals selected five college position players, nine college pitchers, one college two-way player, four prep position players, and two prep pitchers.

Round 1, Pick 8: C Blake Mitchell, Sinton HS (TX)

This is not a surprising pick given multiple mock drafts (including the one put together by yours truly) had Mitchell here. High school catchers are a very risky demographic, but there are many reasons to be optimistic about Mitchell. The two-time Gatorade state player of the year and 4-A state champion boasts a long track record of performance, including playing with the gold-medal-winning 18U national team. Swinging from the left side, Mitchell produces big power to all fields with his strong 6’1”, 200 lb frame. He has a strong understanding of the strike zone and knows how to work a walk. The knocks on him offensively are below-average speed and a raw hit tool, though some tweaks to his swing could help him make more contact and unlock some additional game power.

What makes Mitchell a first-rounder is his work behind the plate, where he is potentially the best defensive catcher in the class. He’s demonstrated strong receiving and blocking skills, ably handling some dynamic but wild pitchers on the USA 18U team. The standout tool is a 70-grade cannon, with Mitchell posting pop times in the 1.8-1.9 second range on throws to second base. With new rules in MLB giving rise to stolen bases, having a catcher that can throw like Mitchell would be a huge asset for the Royals.

He’s also spent time on the mound as a high schooler, clocking up to 97 on his fastball with an easy delivery, but he doesn’t have an effective secondary offering. Should he stall offensively in the minors, perhaps he could use pitching as a fallback option.

Mitchell’s tools and track record make him a slam-dunk first rounder, but this is undoubtedly a risky pick. In addition to being a prep catcher, Mitchell is also old for the class as he’ll turn 19 next month. This isn’t necessarily a problem (Bobby Witt Jr. was also old for the class) but many model-driven teams prefer players toward the younger end of the class. This is very likely an underslot deal as the Royals look to spread money towards prospects later in the draft as they did in 2021. Mitchell is committed to LSU.

MLB Pipeline: 14

Prospects Live: 15

FanGraphs: 20

Baseball America ($): 15

Keith Law ($): 20

Kiley McDaniel ($): 29

Round 2, Pick 44: RHP Blake Wolters, Mahomet-Seymour HS (IL)

Call it confidence or call it hubris as the Royals take prospects from perhaps the two riskiest demographics with their first two picks. Wolters got onto the scouting radar this past winter thanks to his big arm, setting the Super 60 showcase fastball record by getting up to 98. He was clocked as high as 99 in the spring but generally sat in the mid-90s during games. Throwing from a high 34 arm slot, his fastball demonstrates the riding life at the top of the strike zone that has become en vogue in the sport. His go-to secondary is a slider in the low-to-mid-80s with high spin. Wolters has shown some feel for manipulating the slider, demonstrating a traditional breaker with the ability to throw a slower sweeper as well. It’s rare for prep pitchers to have more than two above-average pitches and Wolters is no exception, as his changeup will need considerable development to be a playable pitch.

From a physical standpoint, Wolters is close to a finished product. At 6’4”, 215, there’s not much filling out left on his frame, but he has a classic starting pitcher’s frame as is. Where Wolters does need refinement is with his command. That’s not to say he’s particularly wild, but it’s more control-over-command at the moment. He could also use some mechanical adjustments to help him hold his velo deep into games. As a former basketball player, Wolters is fairly raw, but has a very solid foundation to become a big league starter and hasn’t used as many bullets as some guys that have been focused on baseball for longer. Wolters is committed to Arizona.

MLB Pipeline: 41

Prospects Live: 38

FanGraphs: 49

Baseball America: 50

Keith Law: 61

Kiley McDaniel: 70

CB Round B, Pick 66: OF Carson Roccaforte, Louisiana-Lafayette

Roccaforte arrived on campus in Lafayette in 2020 and immediately grabbed a starting job for the Rajun’ Cajuns. He started for the entire season in right field and held his own as a freshman, slashing .274/.351/.419 in 206 plate appearances. He went to Anchorage that summer and played 38 games in the Alaska Baseball League, hitting .248/.323/.314. As a sophomore in 2022, Roccaforte broke out in a big way. He hit a sizzling .374/.435/.671 with 11 doubles, 16 homers, and 25 stolen bases on 32 attempts. That earned Roccaforte First-Team All-Sun Belt honors. He spent some time in the Cape Cod League that summer and struggled in 22 games, hitting .182/.241/.234.

Expectations were high for Roccaforte entering his junior season and he disappointed, regressing in almost every area compared to 2022. His batting average dropped from .374 to .318, his ISO from .295 to .220, his home run total from 16 to eight, and his stolen base success rate from 78.1% to 64.7%. He did manage to bump his walk rate up a couple points to 12.5%, but his strikeout rate also spiked from 13.3% to 18.7%. Roccaforte still posted a solid overall line of .318/.426/.538 and his 26 doubles tied for fourth-most in the country, but it was a disappointing platform season for a guy that had first round aspirations entering the spring.

Roccaforte boasts an all-around game without a true standout tool. He makes consistent quality contact and has plenty of pull-side pop, but he’s more of a doubles hitter than home run hitter. It’s possible that part of his struggles in 2023 were due to changes to his approach that he made after his struggles on the Cape the preceding summer. With more time to refine his approach and swing, Roccaforte could cut his K rate and do a better job of hitting to the opposite field.

Demonstrating plus speed, Roccaforte is a good baserunner but had a tendency to be overaggressive with his stealing. He could efficiently swipe 20+ bags in the majors if he can be more selective about running. He also puts his speed to good use in the field. After starting at right field in 2021 and splitting time between first base and all three outfield spots in 2022, Roccaforte held down center field for the Cajuns in 2023 and looked the part of a capable defender out there. With his offensive skillset and defensive versatility, Roccaforte looks like a fourth outfielder on a contending team with the potential for more depending on how he develops on offense.

MLB Pipeline: 129

Prospects Live: 118

FanGraphs: COL-H-19

Baseball America: 160

Kiley McDaniel: 81

Round 3, Pick 75: RHP Hiro Wyatt, Staples HS (CT)

After dipping into the Connecticut prep ball scene with Frank Mozzicato in the first round of the 2021 draft, the Royals go right back to that pot here with Wyatt. He is the third Gatorade state player of the year taken by the Royals in this draft and, as you can see from the rankings below, opinions of him as a prospect vary considerably. Wyatt’s fastball velo increased through the spring and by the end he was sitting in the mid-90s and topping out at 97 with armside bite. It plays up thanks to a low 34 arm slot and fast arm action. The money pitch is a wipeout slider in the low-80s that Wyatt generates a ton of spin with. He’s also added a mid-to-high 80s cutter that tunnels well with his fastball to generate weak contact. As with Wolters, Wyatt has a seldom-used changeup that is fringe-average at the moment.

At 6’1”, 190 with a narrow frame, Wyatt doesn’t have the typical starting pitcher’s body. He’s also struggled at times with command, but he did demonstrate improved strike-throwing later in the spring. Like Mitchell, he is old for the class and will turn 19 next month. As with any prep arm, there’s considerable development to be done here and plenty of reliever risk. But given Wyatt’s slider, arm speed, and overall athleticism, there is a ton of potential here. Wyatt is committed to USC.

MLB Pipeline: 234

Prospects Live: 170

Baseball America: 142

Keith Law: HM

Kiley McDaniel: 96

Round 4, Pick 106: LHP Hunter Owen, Vanderbilt

Owen is the first of a couple very solid gets from the college ranks that Kansas City snagged in this range. After pitching out of Vanderbilt’s bullpen in his first two years on campus, Owen joined the weekend rotation in 2023 and had a very solid season. The highlight of the year came on March 17 when he allowed just three baserunners while punching out 11 in a complete game shutout over Ole Miss. Overall, he tossed 64 innings with a 3.52 ERA, striking out 28.9% of batters while walking 6.5%.

In a weak class for college lefties, the 6’6”, 261 lb Owen is possibly the best of the bunch. His fastball sits in the low-90s and has topped out at 97, showing solid riding life at the top of the strike zone. He consistently throws his fastball for strikes to set up his breaking balls. Owen throws both a slider and curveball, and which of them is a better pitch depends on who you ask. His curveball is an upper-70s bender that falls off the table, while the slider is a mid-80s offering that torments lefties. Owen has shown some feel for a changeup, but he’ll probably need to refine it more to use as a weapon against righties.

Owen seems to check a lot of boxes: big, physical, lefty, throws strikes, good raw stuff, clean delivery, coming from a program in Vanderbilt with an aptitude for developing pitchers. The main concern for Owen is health. He has never demonstrated the ability to hold up to a full season workload. He missed the second half of the 2022 season and missed a few starts in 2023 due to injuries and fatigue. He’s a considerably better prospect than the typical fourth-rounder and looks like a potential mid-rotation starter.

MLB Pipeline: 56

Prospects Live: 106

FanGraphs: COL-P-18

Baseball America: 58

Keith Law: 38

Kiley McDaniel: 93

Round 5, Pick 142: OF Spencer Nivens, Missouri State

Nivens will stay close to home. After playing prep ball in Columbia, Nivens spent two seasons with the Bears in Springfield and will now attempt to make it up to Kansas City. After redshirting in 2021, he earned a roster spot in 2022 and made the most of it, breaking out with a line of .346/.443/.542 in 289 plate appearances with 12 doubles, 11 homers, and only one more strikeout (45) than walk (44). He was named to the All-MVC Second Team. He built on that with a stellar 2023, hitting .341/.437/.650 with 16 doubles, six triples, and 14 homers. He was named to the All-MVC First Team and MVC All-Defensive Team and took home MVC Player of the Year honors.

Don’t be fooled by Nivens’ small frame (5’11”, 185) as he makes a ton of hard contact with a simple swing. His power is mostly pull-side and he is adept at lifting the ball, but he is capable of taking pitches on the outer third of the plate the other way. He doesn’t have a ton of raw power but he consistently accesses all of it in games. While he was a bit more chase-prone in 2023 than in ‘22, Nivens still shows solid pitch selection.

After playing shortstop in high school, Nivens manned center field in Springfield. He has enough speed that he could stick in center, but his reads and routes need work. If he can’t cut it in center field, he’ll likely move to left due to his below-average arm. Nivens has an interesting profile as a bat-first outfield prospect. The Royals should do whatever they can to help Nivens improve in center field as being a left field-only prospect would put a lot more pressure on his bat.

MLB Pipeline: 119

Prospects Live: 91

Baseball America: 87

Keith Law: 75

Kiley McDaniel: 175

Round 6, Pick 169: RHP Coleman Picard, Bryant

Picard has bounced around small schools, struggling in limited innings as a freshman for Hartford before transferring to Bryant. He had a solid 2022 out of the bullpen for the Bulldogs before moving into the rotation in 2023. He put himself on the prospect radar with an electric start against a strong Virginia Tech lineup, striking out 12 Hokies over five innings. Picard missed a little more than a month with injury and wasn’t pitching deep into games upon his return. He finished the season with a 3.43 ERA in 42 innings, striking out 59 batters and walking 12. Picard has been pitching in the Cape Cod League this summer, making three starts with a 1.93 ERA.

Slight of frame at 6’2”, 185, Picard throws a fastball in the low-90s that touches 95, riding with good life up in the zone. He gets ahead with the fastball and turns to his breaking balls to put hitters away. His go-to secondary is a mid-80s cutter/slider with tight break. He also throws a curveball with good spin, but he didn’t miss many bats with it in college. Picard is willing to throw his breaking balls to hitters batting from either side of the plate, but he will mix in a fringe-average mid-80s changeup against lefties. He throws from a high 34 slot and can throw all of his pitches for strikes.

The results have been good and the stuff and control are solid, but there’s very little track record here. Picard has never thrown more than 50 innings in a season and, given his frame, it’s fair to question if he can hold up to a starter’s workload. He should get a shot at starting but his future is likely in the bullpen.

MLB Pipeline: 195

Prospects Live: 461

Baseball America: 324

Kiley McDaniel: 160

Round 7, Pick 199: TWP Trevor Werner, Texas A&M

A four-year SEC player, Werner played only 32 total games over his first two seasons due to the pandemic and injuries and didn’t hit much. He managed to play 36 games in 2022 and showed better results with a .256/.357/.489 line. Werner finally managed to stay on the field for a full season in 2023, playing 57 games and hitting .252/.349/.514. He showed solid pop with 13 doubles and 14 homers but also plenty of swing-and-miss, punching out 26.1% of the time.

The most fascinating part of this pick is that Werner was announced as a two-way player. He threw only 11 innings in College Station and none since 2021. He struck out 14 batters and walked eight while allowing eight earned runs. Per a report from fall of 2020, Werner throws his fastball up to 97 with a slider in the upper-80s. He had also shown some feel for a changeup and curveball that fall. He hasn’t pitched in a game in over two years, but I don’t see any harm in seeing what he’s got.

At 6’3”, 225, Werner is a physical specimen in the right-handed batter’s box. He has big-time all fields power and posted elite exit velocities. That power comes with some major hit tool questions as he has whiff issues with non-fastballs. He moves well at third base and shows solid hands and a plus arm, so he should be able to stick at the position. The potential here is enormous, but so is the bust risk. One should temper their expectations for senior signings with hit tool issues.

Baseball America: 473

Round 8, Pick 229: SS Dustin Dickerson, Southern Mississippi

Mr. Reliable for the Golden Eagles, Dickerson will be remembered in Hattiesburg regardless of how his pro career pans out. Starting his career in the Covid-shortened 2020 season, Dickerson played in all but one of 209 possible games for USM in his four seasons with the team. He was a slap hitter in his first three years that posted solid numbers on the way. In 2022, he tied for 13th in the nation in doubles with 24 and did not hit a home run. Nobody else in the country hit more than 17 doubles without a homer. He was a Second-Team All-Conference USA selection that year. Southern Miss moved to a tougher conference in the Sun Belt in 2023 and Dickerson had his best offensive season to date. He slashed .328/.419/.552 with 21 doubles and, after going yard just twice in his first 611 plate appearances, 11 homers in 315 plate appearances. He also swiped 14 bags in 17 tries and walked (36) more than he struck out (31). Dickerson was named First-Team All-Sun Belt and was the Most Outstanding Player in the Auburn Regional, going 8-22 with four homers and a triple.

In his last 14 games of the season, Dickerson hit eight of his 11 homers. That power surge not withstanding, Dickerson is very much a hit-over-power type. At 6’1”, 180, he’ll look to spray the ball to all fields from the right-handed batter’s box with his power mostly coming in the gaps and down the lines. He’s not a burner but he’s a savvy baserunner and could steal 20 bases with the limitations on pickoffs. Dickerson isn’t a flashy defender at shortstop but he holds his own out there, hence why Scott Berry ran him out there everyday for four years. He should have no problems manning second or third base should he need to shift positions. He’s also been mentioned as a potential two-way guy, but he threw just 1.2 innings in college.

The quintessential baseball rat, Dickerson was a leader in the dugout in Hattiesburg. If any of the improvements he made at the dish in 2023 prove to be sustainable, he could hit his way to a utility infielder role. More likely he’s org depth in the middle infield.

Round 9, Pick 259: LHP Jacob Widener, Oral Roberts

The 6’7”, 235 lb Widener got his start at Palomar College in 2020, where he made eight starts as a freshman. Their 2021 season was cancelled due to the pandemic and Widener transferred to Oral Roberts for the 2022 season. He made just seven sporadic appearances that year and completed just five innings. He finally managed to lock down a regular role in 2023 as a multi-inning reliever and put together a dominant campaign, posting a 2.90 ERA in 49.2 innings as Oral Roberts made a surprising run to the College World Series. Widener’s season was highlighted by 2.2 scoreless innings in the CWS against Florida in which he struck out four. He struck out 80 batters while walking 21 over the course of the season, though also plunking 18.

Widener is purely a relief prospect with two pitches from the left side as your classic low armslot funky lefty. He throws a heavy sinker in the low-90s and pairs it with a sweeping slider in the upper-70s. The fastball generated plenty of whiffs in college but is probably more of a groundball pitch at the next level due to its shape. The slider is a potential plus pitch. He attacks hitters but can be wild at times. He could be a lefty-specialist out of the pen with late-inning potential if he can improve his fastball and command.

Prospects Live: 163

Round 10, Pick 289: SS Justin Johnson, Wake Forest

A man with a very ordinary name and few scouting reports to speak of, Johnson began his collegiate career in 2019 at Lafayette (not to be confused with Louisiana-Lafayette). He immediately slotted in as the starting shortstop on a bad Lafayette team. He had a nice season hitting .284/.371/.407 in 51 games. He was named Patriot League Rookie of the Year as well as All-Patriot League First Team. Due to the pandemic and injuries, he would play only 41 games over the next three years, missing the entire 2022 collegiate season with a hip injury. He recovered to play a strong summer in the Coastal Plain League before joining Wake Forest as a grad transfer.

Johnson was a candidate to play shortstop for the Demon Deacons, but ended up slotting at second base in deference to a superior defender in Marek Houston. Johnson enjoyed a big season in Winston-Salem, hitting .324/.424/.618 with 16 doubles, 16 homers, and seven steals without being caught. He struck out 16.4% of the time while walking 11.3%. Johnson earned First Team All-ACC honors and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Winston-Salem Regional after going 7-15 with two doubles, a triple, and two homers.

Much like Dickerson, Johnson enjoyed an immense power breakout this season, swatting 16 homers in 293 plate appearances after hitting just 3 in his first 408 collegiate trips to the plate. Unlike Dickerson, this was a season-long trend rather than a few hot weeks. Johnson is still very much a hit-over-power type at the plate, but he’s more than capable of running into one. He’s got good hands on the infield with a strong enough arm and enough range to feasibly play anywhere on the dirt. Also like Dickerson, he could carve out a utility infielder role if he can hit his way through the minors.

Prospects Live: 324

Round 11, Pick 319: OF Jared Dickey, Tennessee

Just like last year, Kansas City opened Day 3 of the Draft with a very interesting college selection. Dickey redshirted his freshman season and then had a big summer in the Southern Collegiate Baseball League. He received sporadic playing time in 2022 on a stacked Tennessee squad and missed about a month with a foot injury. However, he was very impressive when he played. In just 126 plate appearances he whacked 16 extra base hits and walked 20 times with only 12 strikeouts, putting together a .380/.484/.690 batting line.

The encore was not as impressive as Dickey regressed in full-time action in 2023, perhaps in part due to a nagging shoulder injury he dealt with throughout the spring. In 273 plate appearances, he hit .328/.392/.525 with 12 homers, a 12.5% strikeout rate, and a 7.3% walk rate. Despite the regression, he was named Second Team All-SEC and was a key cog in a lineup that reached the College World Series.

Dickey is mostly filled out at 6’1”, 204. He’s not the most athletic guy and he has a noisy setup in the box, but his plus bat speed is evident. His barrel control is also solid, as well as his pitch recognition and raw power. Dickey needs to elevate the ball more to fully unlock his game power and he could stand to be a bit less aggressive at the dish. The hit tool is good, but he makes so much contact that he doesn’t always make the best contact nor does he walk much.

After playing a lot of center field in summer league in 2021, Dickey split time between all three outfield spots for the Volunteers, as well as getting some reps behind the dish. He was announced as an outfielder in the draft so perhaps his days wearing the tools of ignorance are over as he’s not a great receiver back there. His arm strength and range are also limited, so he’s probably a left fielder or first baseman at the next level. Dickey is a bat-first prospect that, with some small tweaks to his approach and swing, could be the complete package at the dish.

MLB Pipeline: 115

Prospects Live: 110

Baseball America: 129

Kiley McDaniel: 130

Round 12, Pick 349: RHP Logan Martin, Kentucky

Starting his collegiate career at Division III Sewanee, Martin had the misfortune of getting his start at the D3 level in the 2020 season. He pitched just 20.1 innings in 2020 before the season was shut down due to the pandemic. The D3 season was further affected by the pandemic in 2021 and he only got to pitch 19 innings, innings in which he dominated to the tune of an 0.95 ERA. Martin finally got to pitch a proper season in 2022, striking out 98 batters against just 25 walks in 69.1 innings while posting a 3.89 ERA. He earned SAA Pitcher of the Year honors for his efforts and transferred to Kentucky that autumn.

Impressing for the Wildcats in fall ball, Martin earned a spot in the weekend rotation for the 2023 season. After a promising first three starts, he suffered the first of several injuries that would greatly cut into his playing time. He made six sporadic appearances over the rest of the season, with just two after April 22, never pitching more than three innings at a time. He pitched 26.1 innings over nine appearances, striking out 30 and walking 17 while compiling a 4.44 ERA.

Delivering from a slender 6’1”, 180 frame, Martin throws a fastball sitting 93-95 that has touched 98 with ride. His go-to secondary is a low-80s slider with variable shape, sometimes giving a slurvy look while being more of a sweeper at others. He flashes a mid-80s changeup that was more of a show-me pitch than anything else this spring. He’s had strike-throwing issues at times and, between that and the lack of a viable third pitch, Martin is likely a reliever.

Baseball America: 376

Round 13, Pick 379: RHP Ethan Bosacker, Xavier

After getting shelled in six innings in the shortened 2020 season, Bosacker bounced back to put together two quality seasons of pitching in the Big East. Joining the weekend rotation in 2021, he pitched particularly well down the stretch, allowing just three runs across 20.2 innings over his last four starts. He totaled 62 innings that season, posting a 3.34 ERA with a 20.1% strikeout rate and 9.0% walk rate.

Missing the entire 2022 season with injury, Bosacker returned in 2023 and slotted in as Xavier’s Friday night starter. He made the most of the assignment, putting together a stellar season for the Musketeers, culminating in a complete game shutout over Eastern Illinois in the Nashville Regional. He totaled 98 innings over 16 starts, striking out 25.3% of batters while walking 7.3% en route to a 3.49 ERA. He entered the transfer portal after the season and, should he not sign, will head to Oklahoma State.

I haven’t been able to find a scouting report of Bosacker more recent than high school, but I found some limited film of some of his college starts. He has a clean, simple delivery with a 34 arm slot. His fastball sits around 90 and he tends to throw it in the bottom of the zone with sink. He puts hitters away with a slider at 80-82 with plenty of vertical break. Bosacker shows good feel for locating the slider to the glove-side. I think I saw him throw a changeup away to a righty as well but I’m not certain. Bosacker was rather home run prone in college and, while he threw plenty of strikes, also hit 21 batters in 160 innings. He seems like a classic senior-sign, spot start type.

Round 14, Pick 409: LHP Mason Miller, Florida Gulf Coast University

Finding anything about Miller is tricky thanks to the Oakland A’s rookie of the same name. Miller never really locked down a regular role at FGCU. As a freshman in 2021, he tossed an impressive seven inning, one run start against Florida A&M, but totaled just four innings the rest of the season and finished with a 7.77 ERA. He got more consistent playing time in 2022 between starting and relief, but was quite hittable, allowing 45 hits in 35.1 innings and posting a 5.86 ERA. He made seven starts in 2023, including five innings of no-hit ball with 11 strikeouts against UMass Lowell. That was his longest outing of the season, however, and he made his last appearance on April 1 before undergoing season-ending surgery. He finished the season with a 5.68 ERA in 25.1 innings, sporting a healthy 27.1% strikeout rate but also a 12.4% walk rate. He stands 6’3”, 205, and throws a low-90s fastball with a nice curveball and some feel for pitching. Miller is a left-handed development project.

Round 15, Pick 439: RHP Chase Isbell, Auburn

Pitching out of Samford’s bullpen in 2021, Isbell put together 31 innings with a 2.32 ERA, earning him SEC interest in the transfer portal. He transferred to Auburn for the 2022 season and never quite put it together for the Tigers. He pitched just 18.2 innings in 2022, posting a 4.82 ERA and striking out 23 batters but also walking 14. Isbell got more regular playing time in 2023 and still struggled from a run prevention standpoint with a 5.94 ERA in 33.1 innings. He showed solid swing-and-miss stuff with 42 strikeouts, but he also walked 17.

At 6’3”, 210, Isbell served as a power righty out of the Auburn bullpen and frequently worked multiple innings. He has a fastball at 93-96 that he’ll throw at the top of the zone. He pairs that with a tight, late-breaking slider at 86-88. The slider is a true out pitch so with better overall command, Isbell could find a role in a major league bullpen.

Round 16, Pick 469: RHP Josh Hansell, Arizona State

Getting his start in 2021 at Wichita State, Hansell struggled to the tune of a 7.65 ERA in 20 innings with as many walks as strikeouts (15). He transferred to Tempe the following autumn and pitched just 4.1 innings in 2022, struggling badly with control. He played in the Alaska Baseball League that summer and impressed, starting seven games and posting a 2.68 ERA in 37 innings, with 33 strikeouts and 19 walks. He got more playing time in 2023, typically being deployed as a multi-inning reliever. Hansell was generally effective, but a few blowup outings inflated his overall numbers. He finished the season with a 7.47 ERA in 31.1 innings, striking out 30 batters but also walking 15.

Standing 6’6”, 215, Hansell throws from a high 34 arm slot. He throws a four-seamer that sits in the mid-90s and pairs it with a solid mid-80s cutter. He didn’t miss many bats in college, but the size and velo is a nice foundation for a relief prospect.

Round 17, Pick 499: LHP Connor Oliver, Miami (OH) University

Oliver pulled off the impressive achievement of playing for four different schools over four seasons. He made one appearance for Wichita State in 2020 prior to the shutdown. He transferred to Wabash Valley, an Illinois JuCo, for the 2021 season. He put together an outstanding season there with a 1.87 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 57.2 innings. Oliver then transferred to TCU for the 2022 season. He struggled for playing time with the Horned Frogs and got hit hard when he did pitch, surrendering 19 hits and nine walks in just 11 innings. He transferred to Miami (Ohio) for the 2023 season and finally put it together. Earning a spot in the weekend rotation, Oliver tossed 78.2 innings with a 3.89 ERA, posting a strong 27.6% strikeout rate while walking 12.6%. He was a Second-Team All-MAC honoree for his efforts.

A lanky lefty at 6’2”, 170, Oliver works a low-90s fastball from a high 34 arm slot. Its spin helps the heater play above its velo. He’ll also mix in a changeup, curveball, and cutter, and he’s shown good feel for the cambio. Oliver has always been able to miss bats, but his command isn’t great. Lefties with good changeups can usually find some sort of role, but there’s considerable development needed here.

Round 18, Pick 529: C Stone Russell, IMG Academy (FL)

Listed as a middle infielder everywhere I’ve looked, Russell was announced as a catcher. Coming out of the athletic factory that is IMG Academy, Russell had a strong, athletic build at 6’1”, 195, and is already quite mature physically. He has a simple, smooth swing, demonstrating the ability to hit the ball gap-to-gap on the prep circuit. He makes plenty of hard contact from the right-handed batter’s box, showing good feel for the barrel even without a ton of present power. Russell has shown smooth actions in the field and has a strong arm, but I have no idea what he’s like behind the plate. Russell is committed to Florida.

Round 19, Pick 559: OF Donovan LaSalle, Barbe HS (LA)

The quintessential toolsy prep player, LaSalle has plenty of present power that should only increase as he fills out his 6’2”, 190 lb frame. That power comes largely from his lightning quick hands, giving him impressive bat speed. He can really go get it in the outfield, showing the ability to make flashy plays with the glove. He’s had tons of success for a consistently good Barbe program. LaSalle is committed to Oklahoma State.

Round 20, Pick 589: SS Blake Wilson, Santa Margarita Catholic HS (CA)

The Royals are attempting to corner the market on Blakes with this draft. Wilson has played all over the diamond in prep ball, including on the mound, where he’s been up to 89 with his fastball. He puts that arm strength to good use in the middle infield where he’s played well defensively. He has a simple load and swing in the right-handed batter’s box. At 5’10”, 175, he’s built like a prototypical compact middle infielder. Wilson is committed to Washington.


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