Today, we’re heading back to the 2018 draft to unearth some hidden gems. You’ve all likely heard about Casey Mize, and Alec Bohm, and Nolan Gorman… but who are some of the other prospects who will soon become dynasty darlings?
Shane McClanahan, LHP, Rays
Baseball America (org ranking): 11
MLB Pipeline: 10
Marc Hulet: 4
McClanahan deserves more love. As you can see above, most publications have him around the fringe of the Rays’ Top 10 prospects list. And I get it. He was a top college player — selected 31st overall — but opened his first full season in Low-A ball, which is not the most challenging level given his past pedigree. However, there were big concerns over his ability to throw consistent strikes and, well, this is the Rays — an organization that is always on the conservative side of developing prospects not named Wander Franco.
And the concern was warranted, as seen by McClanahan’s walk rate of 5.26 BB/9 in 11 appearances. After showing improvements, he was promoted to High-A ball where he was outstanding at working the strike zone. He walked just eight batters in 49.1 innings, which works out to a sparkling 1.46 BB/9 rate. The hard-throwing lefty didn’t miss quite as many bats with his new approach but it was still far better than average (from 12.57 to 10.76 K/9). McClanahan was so impressive in those nine games that he earned another promotion — this time to Double-A. In his one start to date, he posted a K-BB of 8-1 with just two hits allows in five innings. With a blazing fastball, excellent curveball, strong frame, and a tendency to induce ground-ball outs, McClanahan has all but shaken off the concerns that he may eventually end up in the bullpen.
Ethan Hankins, RHP, Indians
Baseball America: 9
MLB Pipeline: 8
Marc Hulet: 7
A supplemental-first-round pick from 2018, Hankins is outperforming a number of first-rounders. Standing 6-6, the 19-year-old hurler opened 2019 in extended spring training before being assigned to short-season A-ball. He did an outstanding job of missing bats (10 K/9) and inducing ground balls (59%). What he didn’t do so well was find the strike zone (4.19 BB%). Still, if he can find a way to get the walk rate down even one per nine, he has a chance to be a mid-rotation starter and chew up lots of innings for the Indians. He could be even more if one (or more) of his two breaking balls becomes a plus offering.
Jeremiah Jackson, 2B/SS. Angels
Baseball America: 10
MLB Pipeline: 5
Marc Hulet: 5
Jackson lasted until the 57th overall selection in the 2018 draft but, prior to the draft, I advocated for him to go in the late first or supplemental round. He’s become a little bit of a different player than I was expecting but you can’t argue with a .904 OPS at the age of 19. Athletic with outstanding bat speed, this middle infielder has a ton of potential. But he’s also still very raw in some aspects. He’s gotten to his raw power more quickly than expected but he’s also had a lot of work done to his swing and has an unsightly BB-K of 20-70 in just 48 Advanced Rookie Ball games. The Isolated Slugging of .317 is outstanding but the 33% strikeout rate is downright worrisome. The Angels love to draft raw, toolsy athletes but they also have a spotty development record with the jury still out on a number of young players. Jackson needs to take a step back and focus more on just having good at-bats and less on trying to do over-the-fence damage.
Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP, Blue Jays
Baseball America: 8
MLB Pipeline: 7
Marc Hulet: 6
Part of me really didn’t like the Jays’ return for Marcus Stroman from the Mets. The other part of me was a huge Woods Richardson fan. The young hurler, who’s still just 18, has been nothing short of brilliant in pro ball to date. He was actually on his way to High-A ball when the Jays acquired him so that’s where he landed with his new club, too, after posting a strikeout rate of 11.15 K/9 in 78.1 Low-A ball innings. In his first two games in the Toronto system, he has 13 strikeouts in 8.2 innings but he’s also been a little (uncharacteristically) wild. Woods Richardson has a high ceiling, especially if he can harness a third pitch to go with his outstanding fastball-curveball combo. If the pitchers can stay healthy, the Jays could have a really exciting starting rotation in about three years with Nate Pearson (2018 first rounder), Alex Manoah (2019 first rounder), Woods Richardson (2018 2nd rounder)… and one other guy I’m going to talk about in a minute.
Adam Kloffenstein, RHP, Blue Jays
Baseball America: 13
MLB Pipeline: 11
Marc Hulet: 9
Kloffenstein lasted until the 88th selection of the 2018 draft because everyone — including the young pitcher – thought he was going to Texas Christian University. But the organization worked some magic and got him under contract. The Jays have been cautious with this arm because, like Woods Richardson, he’s still just 18. Kloffenstein opened the year in extended spring training but earned an assignment to the short-season A-ball league, which is normally filled with 21- and 22-year-old college picks. He has not looked out of place and even made the all-star team. He’s shown good control and the ability to strike out batters while also inducing a lot of ground-ball outs. Kloffenstein stands 6-5 but he’s still working on building up his velocity. He sits in the low 90s right now and can touch 95-96 mph. If he continues to develop on this path, he could reach the Majors with a four-pitch repertoire and at least three above-average offerings.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.