2018 MLB Draft: High School Pitcher Rankings
Chris Ransom follow @DraftUtopia Last Updated: June 1, 2018.
- Matthew Liberatore, P, Mountain Ridge HS (AZ) Projected Round Top 10 Pick
- 2018 Season Recap The 6-5 190 lb Matthew Liberatore has added more variety to his pitches with a 12-6 curveball to compliment his fastball and changeup. Liberatore is currently 7-1 with a 1.04 ERA in 2018. Liberatore's ERA declined slightly from 2017 to 2018, but he still has a phenomenal ERA. He's nearly matched his 96 strikeouts during 62.1 innings in 2017 with 94 strikeouts in 54 innings this season in 2018.
Matthew Liberatore SWOT Report
- Strengths: Has a good variety of pitches. He has a 94-mile per hour 4-seam fastball, a 93-mile per hour 2-seam fastball, and an 84-mile per hour changeup with a 3/4 arm slot. Liberatore developed a 12-6 curveball in 2018. He also caused Nolan Gorman our top High School batter to go 0/3. Can be used as a starting pitcher or a reliever out of the bullpen.
- Weaknesses: Liberatore only has two years of experience as a High School starter compared to the four years most top pitching propsects have. His ERA isn't as strong as last years pitchers, but he's still pretty good. One pitch he could improve is his slider.
- Opportunities: 5. Cincinnati Reds, 6. New York Mets, 7. San Diego Padres, 8. Atlanta Braves, and 10. Pittsburgh Pirates.
- Threats: There are no threats with Matthew Liberatore. He doesn't have the upside of last years top 5 High School pitchers in Hunter Greene, Mackenzie Gore, Trevor Rodgers, Alex Scherff, or Hans Crouse.
- Despite that, he's the top High School pitcher in the 2018 MLB Draft. He may not have the upside of a blue chip starting pitcher like those five, but he does have the ceiling to be a elite number two starter who could end up as an ace of an MLB rotation in the right system.
- Potential Grade: 94/99
- Matthew Liberatore went 0-1 with a 5.52 ERA in 2015. Liberatore went 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in 2016. Liberatore went 8-0 with a 0.79 ERA in 2017 with 96 strikeouts during his junior season. If Liberatore matches his outstanding junior play with a strong senior season there is no reason to think he can't be the top High School pitcher drafted in 2018.
- Ethan Hankins, P, Forsyth Central HS (GA) Projected Round Top 10 Pick
- 2018 Season Recap The 6-6 220 lb Ethan Hankins began the year with a shoulder injury despite adding 10 lbs of muscle in the offseason. He began 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA in his first three starts. He even continued to strikeout batters while keeping his ERA low throughout the regular season.
- A bad outing in a playoff game versus Brookwood High School along with a major decline in velocity since his shoulder injury earlier this season is why scouts are concerned. While Hankins may have the upside of a top 10 pick he's someone who could end up falling out of the top 30. I doubt he slides that far, but would not rule it out.
Ethan Hankins SWOT Report
- Strengths: Ethan Hankins has a 96-mile per hour 4-seam fastball, a 92-mile per hour 2-seam fastball, a 84-mile per hour changeup, 76-mile per hour curveball, and a 75-mile per hour slider. Dispays excllent command with his pitches. Can be used as a starter or a reliever. Recognizes signals that the catcher will make and can adapt on the fly.
- Weaknesses: Ethan Hankins may have a fastball that can go up to 98-miles per hour. His 4-seam fastball maxed out at 92-miles per hour and his 2-seam fastball maxed out at 89-miles per hour after he returned from his shoulder injury. The uncertainty of whether you're getting a pitcher who will max out with an 89-mile per hour fastball or a 98-mile per hour fastball concerns a lot of teams. He has a delayed kicking motion and the timing hasn't been the same with that this season too.
- Opportunities: 6. New York Mets, 7. San Diego Padres, 8. Atlanta Braves, 9. Oakland Athletics, and 10. Pittsburgh Pirates. Ethan Hankins will not be the top 5 prospect people hyped him up to be at the beginning of the year, but he's still got enough upside to go in the top 10 if a team is willing to look past the shoulder injury where he stands medically.
- Threats: I'm worried about Hankins shoulder injury. The inconsistency with Hankins velocity also worries me to a degree.
- Even though I have a top 10 grade on Hankins you cannot fault a team for passing on Hankins if they'd prefer taking the best College Batter, College Pitcher, or High School Batter on their board. It's a deep class and there is an outside chance Hankins slides as a result.
- Potential Grade: 93/99
- Hankins went 5-2 with a 0.90 ERA in 9 starts. Great 3/4 arm slot. Hankins is also dominating Summer Showcase games as well with a lot of strikeouts.
- Ryan Weathers, P, Loretto HS (TN) Projected Round 1st Round
- 2018 Season Recap The 6-2 210 lb Ryan Weathers went 11-0 in 2018. Weathers matched his 0.11 ERA from 2017 and is 20-0 in his last two seasons at Loretto High School.
Ryan Weathers SWOT Report
- Strengths: Weathers has a deadly fastball that can go up 95-miles per hour. His 4-seam can touch 95-miles per hour and his 2-seamer can touch 94. Weathers also has a 83-mile per hour changeup and a 79-mile per hour curveball. Has a great 3/4 arm slot. Great release with a super quick arm. Controls the baseball and does a great job with his command manipulating the strike zone.
- He has remarkable tempo and even a better attitude on the mound. Weathers is 16-0 in starts during his last two seasons at Lorreto High School in Tennessee. His father David Weathers was on the 1996 New York Yankees World Series.
- Weaknesses: Ryan Weathers needs to develop a slider. Other than that, he's pretty complete.
- Opportunities: Ryan Weathers is a top 20 talent. I have him going to the Angels at 17. He could realistically go earlier than that and most think he could be the second High School pitcher drafted after Carter Stewart. I've seen Ryan Weathers projected as high as 10 overall to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
- Threats: I don't see a single threat with Ryan Weathers. He's a pretty safe prospect who could even go earlier than this.
- Potential Grade: 90/99
- Ryan Weathers went 9-0 with a 0.11 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 2017 as a junior. If Weathers finds a way to improve on that he could surge up boards.
- Mason Denaburg, P, Merritt Island HS (FL) Projected Round 1st Round
- 2018 Season Recap The 6-3 195 lb Mason Denaburg went on the road to EAU Gallie High School and defeated Carter Stewart who many MLB scouts have graded as the top High School pitcher in a heads up pitchers duel. Denaburg is someone who could be a fantastic value pick near the end of the first round. He went 5-1 with a 0.99 ERA in 2018.
Mason Denaburg SWOT Report
- Strengths: Mason Denaburg has a 97-mile per hour 4-seam fastball, a 94-mile per hour 2-seam fastball, and a 91-mile per hour sinker. Denaburg also has a 78-mile per hour changeup, 76-mile per hour slider, and a 75-mile per hour curveball that could develop into plus pitches down the road.
- Denaburg also has a remarkable kicking motion when throwing on the mound. Defeating Carter Stewart in heads up play really solidified his status as a first round prospect. Played both pitcher and catcher. Has remarkable character and attitude as a person.
- He's a three sport athlete. Perhaps the only High School arm in this draft that can pitch 9 innings right now due to the fact that he's got a lot of stamina being a three sport athlete who played football, baseball, and soccer growing up.
- Weaknesses: Mason Denaburg seems like one of the more complete prospects I've watched. He may not have the ceiling of a top notch pitcher, but you can certainly argue he has one of the best floors as far as developing quickly in the minor league goes.
- Opportunities: Mason Denaburg is a top 25 talent. I won't fault a team for taking him in the top half of the draft because I love his attitude and he showed he can go on the road and beat a powerhouse High School team like EAU Gallie. I got the Milwaukee Brewers getting Mason Denaburg at 21 to develop for the future.
- Threats: Mason Denaburg may not play pitcher. He may move to a batter role. He moved to right fielder as a senior too.
- There's an outside chance he ends up going to Florida if a team doesn't pay him exactly what he wants and that is leverage for Mason because Florida is a powerhouse when it comes to College Baseball. I don't see this as a big threat since I think Mason is gonna take the money and sign with the team that drafts him if he gets picked in the first round.
- Potential Grade: 89/99
- Mason Denaburg played football, baseball, and soccer growing up. Being one of the only three sport athletes in this draft has to convince teams he could be worth a flyer at some point in the first round.
- Carter Stewart, P, Eau Gallie HS (FL) Projected Round 1st Round
- 2018 Season Recap The 6-6 200 lb Carter Stewart is 6-3 so far this season with a remarkable 0.39 ERA. Stewart has also seen a huge spike in velocity on his pitches in 2018.
Carter Stewart SWOT Report
- Strengths: Carter Stewart has two MLB ready pitches with his fastball and curveball. Stewart has a 97-mile per hour 4-seam fastball and a 96-mile per hour 2-seam fastball. His fastball maxed out at 88-miles per hour last season and now maxes out at 98-miles per hour.
- Stewart's fastball isn't even his best pitch. He has the best curveball of any pitcher in this years class and the variety of curveballs that Carter Stewart can pitch is off the charts.
- Stewart can pitch an 88-mile per hour power curveball which is fastest among pitchers in the 2018 MLB Draft. Stewart can also pitch an 85-mile per hour 12-6 curveball and a 78 mile per hour curveball with more top spin then any High School pitcher in recent memory.
- Stewart has two MLB ready pitches with his fastball and curveball. Those pitches along with his stellar 2018 campaign are why Carter Stewart is getting top 5 hype. I still see a top 15 prospect on tape though.
- Weaknesses: Stewart relies on his fastball and curveball. With his fastball jumping from 88-miles per hour to 98-miles per hour there will be inconsistency with his fastball.
- Most MLB pitchers have three plus pitches outside of their fastball. Stewart has 2 plus pitches anf 5 if you count the variety of fastballs and curveballs he uses.
- The thing is he hasn't developed his changeup. He also doesn't have a fourth plus pitch outside of his fastball, curveball, and changeup. This is a huge concern with me.
- Opportunities: I have Carter Stewart going to the Texas Rangers at 15. There is a chance Stewart could be the first High School Pitcher drafted due to how dominant he's been in 2018. I don't think his ceiling is as high as the top three pitchers on these rankings which is why I have him at 4, but you can argue he's the safest High School pitcher to draft simply due to the fact that he already has two MLB ready pitches with his fastball and curveball.
- Threats: Carter Stewart doesn't have many threats. He's probably the safetest High School pitcher to draft even though I don't believe he's got the ceiling of a High School pitcher. A lot of High School right handed pitchers that have been drafted in the first round, have gone on to bust. While Stewart could be a great number three to number five starter, I don't see him becoming this MLB All Star that most scouts believe he has the potential to become.
- Potential Grade: 89/99
- Carter Stewart may have the best curveball of any pitcher in the 2018 MLB Draft. He needs to add more velocity to his pitches though.
- Kumar Rocker, P, North Oconee HS (GA) Projected Round 1st Round
- 2018 Season Recap The 6-6 235 lb Kumar Rocker has elite size and throwing power along with deadly velocity. He relies too much on that velocity and needs to do a better job controlling diffrent pitches.
Kumar Rocker SWOT Report
- Strengths: Kumar Rocker has a 98-mile per hour 4-seam fastball. It's probably his only plus pitch on tape. Rocker is a winner. He went 5-0 in 2017 in 8 starts. Rocker was a two sport athlete who started at pitcher while playing defensive end off the edge in High School before focusing on Baseball full-time in 2018.
- Weaknesses: Rocker doesn't know how to control his velocity on his slider and changeup. He doesn't even use a 2-seam fastball and relies heavily on his 4-seam fastball. I think Rocker could be a deadly reliever like Aroldis Chapman, but as far as being a starter goes I see someone who is extremely raw that needs a lot of coaching and development in the minors.
- Opportunities: Kumar Rocker entered the season as a top 5 prospect. I got him going to the Minnesota Twins at 20.
- Threats: Kumar Rocker needs to develop more pitches. He cannot rely just on one pitch if he wants to become a successful starter. I gave Rocker an 86/99 potential grade as a starting pitcher, but a 92/99 potential grade if a team takes him as a relief pitcher and molds him into a closer like Aroldis Chapman. That averages out to an 89/99 potential grade.
- Potential Grade: 89/99
- Kumar Rocker went 5-0 with a 1.36 ERA in 2017 in 8 starts. If Rocker finds a way to improve on that in 2018 he could go as early as the top 5. At the same time, if he doesn't add more pitches besides his fastball he could move down on some boards too.
- Cole Wilcox, P, Heritage HS (GA) Projected Round 1st Round
- 2018 Season Recap The 6-5 220 lb Cole Wilcox is 8-1 with a 1.06 ERA in 2018. Wilcox is putting together a strong season and showing why he's a first round pick.
Cole Wilcox SWOT Report
- Strengths: Has good size. A 96-mile per hour sinker, a 94-mile per hour 4-seam fastball, a 91-mile per hour 2-seam fastball, a 84-mile per hour changeup, a 82-mile per hour slider. He has excellent mechanics and command for a pitching prospect.
- Weaknesses: Cole Wilcox needs to develop a curveball. He's got four effective plus pitches, but could certainly use one more. Wilcox doesn't have an overpowering pitch.
- Opportunities: Cole Wilcox is a top 25 talent. I got the Arizona Diamondbacks taking him at 25.
- Threats: Cole Wilcox didn't pitch as a junior. Despite having immense success as a freshman, sophomore, and senior one may ask if durability is a concern.
- Potential Grade: 88/99
- Cole Wilcox did well his first two seasons. He didn't pitch as a junior and needs to do well in 2018 in order to go in the first round.
- Adam Kloffenstein, P, Magnolia HS (TX) Projected Round 1st Round
- 2018 Season Recap The 6-5 225 lb Adam Kloffenstein has made the transition from batter to pitcher. They won Texas High School Player Of The Week twice in 2018 and are the only player in Texas to win the award multiple times this year. I think Kloffenstein could get picked in the back half of the first round.
Adam Kloffenstein SWOT Report
- Strengths: Adam Kloffenstein has a 94-mile per hour 4-seam fastball, a 90-mile per hour 2-seam fastball, a 86-mile per hour changeup, a 82-mile per hour slider, and a 79-mile per hour curveball. Kloffenstein pitches with a lot of velocity on tape. Kloffenstein has already pitched a no hitter in High School so that should give him a lot of confidence. Magnolia swept their opponent too.
- Weaknesses: I'd like to see him pitch with a little more control and command. The velocity and throwing power Kloffenstein has along with his big frame at 6-5 225 lbs is there though.
- Opportunities: Adam Kloffenstein should get picked in the compensation part of the first round. I expect a team picking in between 31-43 to take him. Its also possible that a team could reach for Kloffenstein.
- Threats: I don't see any threats with Adam Kloffenstein. He seems like a pretty sound prospect.
- Potential Grade: 87/99
- Adam Kloffenstein is making the transition from batter to pitcher. He could surge up boards with a big year in 2018.
- Luke Bartnicki, P, Walton HS (GA) Projected Round 1st Round
- 2018 Season Recap The 6-3 190 lb Luke Bartnicki continues the trend of High School pitchers from the state of Georgia in the 2018 MLB Draft. He joins Ethan Hankins, Kumar Rocker, and Cole Wilcox as the fourth pitcher prospect from the state of Georgia in the 2018 MLB Draft that could go in the first round.
Luke Bartnicki SWOT Report
- Strengths: Bartnicki has a 94-mile per hour 4-seam fast ball along with a 92-mile per hour 2-seam fastball and an 82-mile per hour slider. Almost pitched a perfect game in High School that became a no hitter due to catchers interference. He's a winner.
- Weaknesses: Luke Bartnicki has a lot of promise. He still needs to develop his curveball and changeup.
- Opportunities: Luke Bartnicki is a first round prospect. I have him going in the late first round to Kansas City at 33.
- Threats: Luke Bartnicki has no threats. He's a pretty consistent pitcher overall.
- Potential Grade: 86/99
- Luke Bartnicki went 10-1 in 2017. He will get drafted in the first round if he builds on that in 2018.
- Cole Winn, P, Orange Lutheran HS (CA) Projected Round 1st Round
- 2018 Season Recap The 6-2 195 lb Cole Winn went 8-2 with a 0.20 ERA in 14 starts. Winn led Orange Lutheran High School to their second consecutive State Championship in California after transferring from Colorado following his junior season.
Cole Winn SWOT Report
- Strengths: Winn has a 94-mile per hour 4-seam fastball, a 92-mile per hour 2-seam fastball, a 90-mile per hour cutter fastball, a 87-mile per hour slurevball, a 85-mile per hour slider, and an 80-mile per hour changeup. Possesses a great 3/4 arm slot just like Matthew Liberatore and Ethan Hankins.
- Weaknesses: Cole Winn needs to improve his command. Developing a curveball into a plus pitch and adding some muscle are other things Winn can work on.
- Opportunities: I have Cole Winn going in the late first round in the compensation part of the first round. I've seen Winn mocked in the top 10 and top 15 so he could end up going a lot higher then I currently project him to.
- Threats: There aren't any threats with Cole Winn. I feel like his upside is limited though.
- Potential Grade: 85/99
- Cole Winn has three plus pitches. He could be a huge riser in 2018 with a strong senior season.