Name: Jacob Gatewood
Born: September 25, 1995 (17), Clovis, California
Height/Weight: 6'5", 200 pounds
School: Clovis High School (California)
Jacob Gatewood has baseball in his blood. His father, Henry Gatewood, was drafted 11th overall in the 1982 MLB January Second Phase Draft out of Sacramento City College. He never played in MLB, instead spending one season in rookie ball, six seasons in Single-A, and one season in Double-A, hitting a cumulative .234/.295/.287. Jacob, unlike his father, is probably never going to slug .287 in professional ball. He is known primarily for one thing: prodigious power.
Bar none, Jacob Gatewood has the most power potential found in this current crop of top high school and college prospects. Last summer, touring the country on various exhibition games, he put on batting practice shows, hitting tape measure home runs out of major league stadiums, including Citi Field, where he had no problem overcoming its ample dimensions, winning the junior portion of the All-Star Game Home Run Derby by slugging 13 homers—more than every participant in the derby besides Yoenis Cespedes, Bryce Harper, and Michael Cuddyer.
Not to undersell or take anything away from his teammates, but teams Jacob Gatewood has played for have regularly gone to their respective playoffs and/or won championships, and it is no coincidence. At ten, his Little League team won the Cal Ripken World Series Championship. In his freshman year, Clovis High School went to the CIF Central Section playoffs, but they were eliminated in the quarterfinals. In his sophomore year, Clovis High made it to the championship game, but they lost. And in his junior year, Clovis High was eliminated in the CIF Central Section playoff semifinals. Only a few days ago, Gatewood ended his high school career on a high note, helping lead the top-seeded Cougars to that championship that had eluded them the past four years.
Gatewood has committed to the University of Southern California for 2015. While he is already a highly-touted first round draft pick, there is the non-zero chance that he will go to college. He is certainly aware of his own shortcomings as a player, and tutelage under the USC coaching staff might give him the rub he needs to overcome them and become an even brighter star in a future draft. Regardless, as he exists right now, Gatewood represents extreme risk and extreme reward. As Cormican put it over at The Good Phight, "I honestly see two outcomes from this draft in regards to Gatewood; in 20 years we either look back and say ‘My god, how did we pick X over Jacob Gatewood!?' or ‘Who the heck is Jacob Gatewood?'"
What The Scouts Think
Jacob has legitimate grade 70 power on the scouting scale, meaning it is well above average. Unfortunately, while there is no question that Gatewood can murder balls when he gets the bat on them, the question remains whether or not he'll be able to make contact—and it is a pretty glaring question. His body gets out of sync with itself when he swings, and though he's made mechanical improvements over the course of this spring, quieting a hand hitch and getting his legs and torso to work together a bit more, the problem is still fairly severe. As Matt Garrioch puts it, "he looks like [he's] swinging an eight-pound bat the way it goes through the zone." Some further refining of his pitch recognition skills will help, but ultimately, Gatewood needs mechanical tutelage to smooth his swing and turn his batting practice power into in-game power.
Defensively, Gatewood is passable. He has enough range, arm strength, and reactionary instincts to play short, but he probably is not going to stick at the position as he progresses through the minor leagues. At 6'4", 200 pounds, he is somewhat tall and heavy for the position, though there have been many tall and heavy shortstops in recent history. He will likely slow down and lose range as he adds additional weight and muscle mass to his lanky frame. If he does, he will probably be moved over to third base, where his skill set should work, or right field, where he has the arm if he can demonstrate the mobility. It isn't a guarantee that he will have to move off shortstop, but it is very likely.
Not that it is relevant at this point, but earlier in his high school career, Gatewood was a pitcher. At the time, he threw a mind-80s fastball with good sinking action, but given that he has put on roughly 25 pounds since his freshman year, the fastball currently has a little more velocity. In addition, he worked in a mid-70s curveball with tight spin. He has mentioned that he has no interest in pitching in either college or in professional baseball, but it is worth noting.
What Alex Nelson Thinks
It's easy to look on Gatewood and dream a little. He has the most power in this draft and a non-zero chance of sticking at shortstop. The bad news is that he can't quite hit and he's probably too big to stay at short. His swing isn't the worst you'll see, but it's easy to see why he's had difficulty translating that raw power into usable game power; he has multiple timing issues. First of all, he starts with his feet spread wide apart, which isn't a bad thing, but I think it might be contributing to his lower body becoming overanxious, causing him to move his weight and turning his hips way too soon. When the pitch actually arrives, he's already leaked the entirety of his weight, forcing him to swing with just his arms. If I were to draft him, I'd work on getting his lower body in sync while also quieting his hands to make his swing path more direct to the ball. Because as it is, I think he'll struggle to consistently hit for average or power.
In the field, Gatewood really doesn't look bad. He's fluid, he's agile, he has a strong arm. Unfortunately, he's 6 feet, 4 inches tall, and he could (and probably will) slow down enough as he adds weight such that he'll have to move to third.
"Gatewood can hit the ball a very long way."
—Keith Law, ESPN