In the amateur draft this year, the Mets have the twentieth pick. Let’s review some infielders who they might be able to pick in that spot.
Keston Hiura (INF/OF)
Based on his skill with the bat, University of California Irvine infielder/outfielder Keston Hiura might be the best hitter in the 2017 draft. He got progressively better during all three years he played at UCI, hitting .330 as a freshman, .358 as a sophomore, and well above .400 in his junior year this season, with on-base and slugging percentages to match. He had a strong showing with the collegiate national team, as well, hitting .289/.356/.553 with Team USA in 2016. Key to his impressive ability to hit is his plus bat speed and strong wrists.
Despite being 5’11”, he puts a charge in the ball, producing as much hard contact as any other player in the 2017 draft, leading scouts to grade his power anywhere between above-average to plus. In addition, he is projected to hit for average, showing no problems versus both velocity and movement. Combined with his above-average judgement at the plate, there is no doubt that Hiura will be an offensive force.
What may make Hiura available to the Mets is the fact that an elbow injury has kept him off the field since April 2016. During a game against San Diego State, he made a max-effort throw from center to throw a runner out at home and sprained his UCL. For the rest of that summer, with UC Irvine, Team USA, and the Santa Barbara Foresters of the California Collegiate League, he only played DH. He received a platelet-rich plasma injection in January to help heal the injury, but as a precaution, he has not played the field in 2017 and has barely even fielded balls in practice. Time and the platelet-rich plasma injection may eventually turn out to not be enough, and the possibility still exists that Huira could need Tommy John surgery.
Before the injury, when he was able to throw, consensus was split between whether or not he’d be able to stay in the outfield, where he’d be most likely assigned to left field, or if he’d play second base. Because he has not played the field in some time, scouts have been unable to evaluate him. When he last played the outfield, his limited range and average arm seemed to indicate left field would be the best fit for him, and when he last played the infield, he needed to work on his footing and other defensive actions at second base.
Nick Pratto (1B)
Nick Pratto came into national prominence in 2011, when he hit a walk-off single to give his California team a 2-1 victory over Japan in the championship game of the Little League World Series. Since then, the youngster has only gotten better as a baseball player. His stock has risen over the course of his four years at Huntington Beach High School to the point that he is widely expected to be selected by a Major League Baseball club in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft.
As is the case with most elite high school baseball players, Pratto excels both on the mound and at the plate. As a pitcher, he attacks hitters with a fastball that sits in the upper-80s, touching as high as 91. His primary strikeout pitch is a changeup that is highly advanced for someone his age, as it already flashes plus fade. Additionally, he throws a not-very-well-defined breaking ball that shows promise in its shape and spin, but is currently a below-average pitch. Though there is some potential there, his future is no doubt in the batter’s box. The young first baseman has positioned himself as perhaps the best high school hitter in this draft.
Despite being so young, Pratto has an idea at the plate well beyond his age. He has shown an advanced eye at the plate and demonstrates pitch recognition far beyond most players his age. Thanks to loose wrists and a swing that creates separation, the young first baseman is able to adjust to pitches late and keep himself alive in counts by fouling off borderline pitches he is unable to square up on. Though not the biggest guy, Pratto’s raw power has really developed this past year, and as a result, he has the ability to really put a jolt into balls he can square up on.
Defensively, Pratto is expected to be an advanced defender at first base. His arm is strong enough to play the outfield, but he will likely never have the necessary range to be a proficient fielder. He possesses slightly-below average speed currently, and will likely lose a step or two as he ages.
Pratto has a commitment to the University of Southern California.
Jake Burger (3B)
The Mets were thought to be interested in drafting a bad-bodied but impressive hitter in Wake Forest third baseman Will Craig last season, and though they ultimately passed over him, they may able to draft a player similar to him in Jake Burger. Over the last few years, the 6’2”, 210 lb. right-hander has been a consistently above-average player for Missouri State, hitting .342/.390/.518 as a freshman, .349/.420/.689 as a sophomore, and even better this season in his junior year. After hitting just four home runs in his freshman year, Burger responded by having back-to-back seasons of 20+ homers in 2016 and 2017.
Burger is one of the biggest power threats in this draft class, more through physical strength than bat speed. He generally is a fastball hitter, but he has enough strike zone awareness and pitch recognition to lay off or foul off tough breaking balls and get himself back in a fastball count. Burger bars his arm in his swing, which hasn’t had much of an impact during his college career, but in the pros, it likely means that pitchers will be able to exploit his long swing and he will post low batting averages. His willingness to take a walk should mitigate that, to a degree.
Defensively, his range is below-average-to-average, but he has soft hands and a solid arm. Burger should be able to stay at third base provided he stays in shape and the team that drafts him be patient. He is a modest athlete, and once he hits his stride is about an average runner. The third baseman has gotten comparisons to Hunter Pence in that he may look awkward and uncomfortable when doing it, but he gets the job done.
Nick Allen (SS)
Throughout his life, Nick Allen has faced questions regarding his worthiness to play because of his size. At 5’8”, 158 lbs., the shortstop would fit in better in the 1940s, rather than the 2010s. Size has always been an issue for Allen, prompting coaches to pass him over, leave him off their teams, and choose other players over him, but it never stopped him from persevering. A high school senior, Allen has built an elite resume for himself and is on the cusp of being drafted by a major league club.
Allen’s defense is his calling card. Scouts have no doubt that he will stick at shortstop, where he is a defensive wizard. He is very aggressive in moving to the ball, and thanks to plus range, he is able to get to balls that few shortstops his age can reach. His hands are soft and his exchanges are smooth, meaning that very little time is wasted between when he gets to the ball and when he fires it off, and he possesses a plus arm as well. In addition, he possesses speed and is a plus runner, knowing what spots to steal bases, and regularly stretching singles into doubles.
His bat is another matter. It isn’t bad, but it doesn’t stand out anywhere near as much as his defensive game. His right-handed swing is compact, and thanks to his quick hands, he keeps the barrel of the bat through the zone well, leading to plenty of contact. The diminutive shortstop has a surprising amount of pop in his bat when he is able to barrel up on the ball, spraying line drives around the field, but he will never hit for much power.
Outside of his physical baseball tools, Allen has a high baseball IQ, is considered a good clubhouse guy, and because of his size and the difficulties he’s had in baseball circles because of it, plays with heart and a chip on his shoulder. The shortstop has a commitment to the University of Southern California.
Logan Warmoth (SS)
For most of his career, Logan Warmoth has been overlooked. He was a solid player in high school, but barely stood out in the crowd, few college recruiters paid him much attention, let alone pro scouts. Even after getting into the University of North Carolina and making their baseball team, very little attention was paid to him, as he hit .246/.315/.282 in his freshman year. When he returned to UNC in 2016, he had a breakout season and hit .337/.402/.481. He has enjoyed a similar season in 2017.
At the plate, Warmoth has a short, compact stroke. His power is mostly to his pull side, but he uses the entire field. He is a patient hitter, waiting for pitches that work for him and driving pitches that he likes. The power that he developed in his sophomore year appeared out of nowhere, but it is considered sustainable, and scouts see the shortstop as having 10-15 home run upside in the pros.
Defensively, scouts are split on where Warmoth will end up as he progresses his baseball maturation. Most feel that he should be able to remain at shortstop, but a significant minority feel that he will have to be shifted over the second base. His average-to-plus arm is his best defensive asset, and perhaps his best overall tool. He makes strong throws and makes them with accuracy. His range is only average, which is what gives scouts who thinks he will not be able to remain at shortstop concern, but he is able to cover for throws that he has to rush thanks to his arm.
Warmoth is not a toolshed, but he is average or better across the board,without any glaring weaknesses. He does not have the upside that other first-rounders might have, but his floor is thought to be high, and as such, Warmoth is considered a very safe pick for whatever team selects him.