BOOTH: Scouting the MLB Draft Combine

June 20, 2024

Three hundred and nineteen. That’s how many draft-eligible players were in Phoenix at the MLB Draft Combine.  The purpose of the event is well known, and for the most part achieves its overarching goal. Day 1 is always a challenge for any event of this size but it went well, especially for all the moving parts.

There’s a particular point that kept popping up throughout both days, and it’s a big one. It’s the separator: Execution. Players, hear me now: scouts cannot stand bad baseball no matter the degree of emphasis on tools.

Raw power is useless without the ability to use it in games. Foot speed, without the ability to run the bases or track balls in play defensively makes the raw tool far less valuable. In that mindset, there were clearly some norms in the event that stand the test of time and absolutely come into play when drafting players.

  • The average fastball is 93 mph. Call it technology, call it velocity training, but it’s up 1.5 mph from what was once the norm. That isn’t news but quantified nightly for professional prospects.
  • Raw Power to the Pull side is everywhere. Players, if this is your game, get in line with everyone else. It’s all over the place like it has been forever.
  • Athleticism is a constant. The degree of athlete will give you options as players progress in the future.
  • The window for the college player to arrive is shorter than ever. There are fewer minor league levels, and better tool development at school means they have to enter and move quickly.
  • The window for high school players to arrive is about the same but with higher standards at each level. More high school players than ever (in the last 15 years) are considering signing, which is a good thing for the game as a whole.
  • There’s a definite formula to arrive in these positions, and it’s absolutely not what most families and players think it is. Truthfully, I’ve known this for some time, but some have been sold a different tune or somehow think it doesn’t apply to them. I’ll tell you this as plainly as I can: the players who progress and get clubs excited are the ones who check all the boxes in preparation for this moment. That’s just a fact, no matter how much some may want to deny it.
  • Slow heartbeat. There were no insane celebrations, no taunting, no anything close to that. Everyone had the right demeanor and want, and it showed.

Here are the players that stood out to me in Phoenix:


Bats

Sir Jamison Jones, C — St. Rita of Cascia (IL)
Jamison is a big, physical kid with improving athleticism. He took one of the best swings of the two days on field staying inside a 94 mph fastball and keeping it fair down the right-field line for a triple.

The barrel stayed above the ball well and he created the backspin the other way needed to be successful at the professional and big-league level.

Defensively he’s a take-charge type of player who controlled the game as soon as he entered it, settling down a flow that had been somewhat erratic and stalled to that point. I’d take him in the third round happily.


David Hogg, IF — The Oakridge (TX)
This one showed up more physical and ready to play than I expected. Hitting exclusively right-handed now, he can use the whole field and open his swing for in-game extra-base hits when he wants to, and that’s a skill that will only improve as time goes on.

He’s a plus runner who plays on the bags and can play all three infield positions similar to a Howie Kendrick.

I’m saying this as loudly as I can: guys are light on him and he was probably under-scouted in North Texas, based on what I’ve heard from the industry. Fits in that Rounds 3-5 range, as well.



PJ Morlando, OF –Summerville (SC)
I don’t know where you play this kid (probably LF), but I know he’s going to drive the baseball. He’s got legitimate 70 raw power and is a dangerous hitter. How much he hits remains to be seen, but he has some Todd Hollandsworth in him, and that’s a very good player.

I can see him taking his hits and some doubles the other way, but any ball middle-in has a chance to get lost from center to the right-field line. He goes 18-35 range, and you’re good with it.


Samuel Richardson, OF — Lewisburg (MO)
Richardson is a bigger version of Ron Gant for me, a strong human with future 80 raw power. He mishits balls that still carry out to all fields, and that’s the game he’s going to play as he matures. He’s also going to swing and miss a lot, and that will limit his draft ceiling in some models.

He runs enough and is athletic, but will also need to watch his conditioning to ensure he stays flexible and limits injury risk. When he figures out how to stay above the ball to all fields he’s going to be an absolute monster.


Ivan Brethowyr, 1B/OF –UC Santa Barbara
The Aaron Judge comps are inevitable. He’s similar physically, and the approach to the ball is close. He’s also got swing-and-miss to him, but that’s the game now with this profile. He should drive the ball enough over time to make 190-220K’s a year worth it.

Someone will take him pretty good not only because he deserves it, but because lots of draft rooms look back on 2013 and wish they valued Judge differently. I was in one, and I’ll sign off on that right now.


Duce Gourson, SS — UCLA
Gourson is athletic with some upside left, the type of hitter that will control the zone and use the whole field with the barrel. He’s a guy that will drive pitchers nuts because he will find a way to get to the next pitch and force mistakes. Arms hate that. A lot.

Defensively he’s going to end up like Nick Punto, and that’s got a lot of value for a college infielder with a track record. That player hangs around a while.


Aiden Harris, 3B — Manchester (VA)
Harris possesses some of the best raw power in the event and the swing is geared for that exact result. He’s athletic and has physical upside, but the swing will need to flatten some and improve the process of changing his swing plane to contact to reach his offensive ceiling. It’s a corner bat, no matter how you slice it there’s enough ability on the dirt to give him a chance to stay there, or play his way off it. Either way, has to hit.


Cody Schrier, SS — UCLA
Schrier is not the type of guy who wows you with tools. His separator is the instincts to play the game and his ability to execute. He can help you at shortstop and fill in there for an extended period of time if needed, but he’s the perfect candidate for a utility role that hits in multiple spots in the lineup to provide what the club needs on that day.

He’s a real-world 45 on a championship club that plays above his tools to maximize skills and can be better than you think. Baseball player.


Alex Hernandez, 3B/RHP — Forsyth Central
Hernandez is athletic with projection, physically similar to Travis Fryman. He has that type of athletic ability and feel to drive the baseball too, but he’s going to need to hit first and let game power arrive.

It’s every bit of a 60 glove and might be a 70 arm, and picking up the ball to save runs isn’t ever a concern. High school bats with the aptitude to actually hit are few and far between, and Hernandez is nowhere near his bat ceiling, spending time on the mound as well, just like Jason Flores or Josiah Romeo.

On the mound, the demeanor fits and he just goes to work. It’s three average-to-plus pitches here that improve with no longer being a hitter, but It’s ice in the veins and a cold-blooded approach to going to work. He’s efficient and puts hitters away fast and bloodlessly. I’m excited about him as an arm, but he’s earned the right to go out as a hitter first if he wants.


Sam Parker, 1B — Chipola
This kid is more physical than I remember, and the body is in shape with durability written all over it. It’s a power left-handed stroke with feel to use the whole field. He can defend the outer part of the plate to get to the next pitch and do some damage, and it’s enough in the middle of the field to believe he has a chance to hit.

He’s got lighter feet than you expect around the bag to save runs, and he will make your infield better with their confidence in throwing it across.


Arms

Trey Gregory Alford, RHP — Coronado (CO)
This is some of the best pure stuff I’ve seen this year. Gregory-Alford has continued to trend in the right direction where that’s concerned. It’s a starter frame and package on the surface with three future 60-grade pitches and at least average control.

After that, we get into who’s going to believe what. It’s a low arm slot, and while the life on the ball might be a 7, the force on the arm at that angle has a chance to be an issue down the line. It’s not anything you change as that’s just how he does it, but the real wonder has to be how he holds up for 180 innings a year.

Also, his ball has so much east-west run hitters who know to take that pitch and force him back to the plate will require the velocity and power he naturally possesses to complement it all. Interesting cat for sure, and whoever believes in the starter future takes him.


Noah Franco, LHP — IMG Academy (FL)
It’s a starter frame with projection, power stuff, feel to pitch, and strike-thrower ability with future 55 control once he learns to harness his length. He’s got some serious ceiling and the ability is apparent. Let’s not overcomplicate things with a guy with two future 60-grade pitches, an average third, and who’s uncomfortable to face.


Jason Flores, RHP — Naaman Forest (TX)
Flores is physical and put together. This kid has a big arm, will pitch with a 65 fastball, plus slider, and feel for a changeup. It’s control over command and always will be, but the body is durable for innings and he will post every fifth day as a pro.

None of that happens, however, until he puts down the bat, something he’s been reluctant to do. Another player who was surprisingly a little undervalued out of high school but made up for it here.


Josiah Romeo, RHP — Mayfield Seconday (Ontario)
He’s Canadian, which simply means he’s younger for the class. American players typically graduate at 18 (some turning 19), but in Canada that’s not the case.

The body reflects it as well as he’s got a long way to go until he’s physically mature. Considering he’s already pitching with a 55 fastball and has feel for two present average secondaries projecting three 60-grade pitches in the future is easy to do. As in, very easy.

He has an advanced ability to command the baseball now when he’s in sync and knows how to get soft contact. There’s a lot of room for growth and he’s going to be stolen by someone who likes young arms with low mileage, plus stuff, and can start. You know, if that’s your thing.


Cade Obermueller, LHP — Iowa
This gato lit me up. I walked out of Day 1 raving about this kid, and he’s real. It’s 95 mph, plus everything else, excellent mound demeanor, strike thrower, back-end, give-me-the-rock bullpen arm that appears fearless. I want this guy pitching for me anytime he’s available, and if I’m in the box I want nothing to do with him. The angle he creates with his slot and delivery is special.

He’s not a plus command guy but he doesn’t have to be. It’s a zone filler, right hook- left uppercut type of package to knock you out, and he reminded me of Jeff Fassero. This guy will pitch for a decade plus if he stays healthy, and it’s going to be very, very good.


Caedmon Parker, RHP — TCU
Parker is a starter type with projection left on the frame and three plus pitches right now. His command can get spotty at times, but he’s got such aptitude on the mound that the ability to make adjustments by processing information is above average.

It’s a slow heartbeat and relentless attackdog mentality. You know, the kind that wears down hitters and at the end of the night has people mentally drained. It’s 80 makeup too, and he’ll make your clubhouse and organization better.


Pierce George, RHP– Alabama
Monster isn’t enough for this guy. I’m a large human and Pierce is every bit a 6-6, 250 pounds, and absolutely diesel. I believe that closers are born, not made, and you’ve got to have a serious take-no-prisoners, put-away-the-bats-and-balls, good-night type of mentality to do it along with power and unrelenting stuff that plays in and out of the strike zone.

Time will tell if George ends up in that role, but he’s not long to the big leagues once he signs and he’s got all the makings of just that. It’s a 100 mph fastball at times that plays above that, and it’s just not fun at all to face.


Nate Dohm, RHP — Mississippi State
Dohm possesses a lean body with projection left in the frame through natural maturity. He’s got plus stuff across the board that will settle where he’s at if he ends up a starter. There’s some bullpen risk with durability over time with the intent of his delivery, but that’s nitpicking to find a hole as they all end up there eventually.

Ultimately, it’s good mound presence and an aggressive mindset, which is a carrying tool of arms that shows up in the big leagues to stay.


Brandon Clarke, LHP — State College of Florida
Clark has a long body, is physically strong and high waisted with upside, and really, really big stuff. He’s a zone filler who attacks hitters and loves to stomp on their dreams.

The makeup is battle-tested as he’s had some injury history, which over time for load management likely puts him in the bullpen, but it’s good when it comes out.

He’s mean on the mound, and he’s got every reason to keep attacking hitters and fear no one. It’s 97 mph with angle and a plus, put-away breaking ball when he hits it. Keep it simple here.


Bryce Navarre, LHP — Montgomery (TX)
Navarre is a starter type with plenty of room to grow into it. He’s likely a year away from a big stuff jump, and the metrics back that up when factored with his frame and present stuff.

It’s a simple delivery, clean and efficient, and a cerebral approach. He’s a strike thrower who projects to have a 50 fastball, 60 curveball, and 60 changeup with 60 command and control. Also a lower mileage high school arm that is always searching for a game.

Reminds me of Ted Lilly, sideways look on the mound staring back at hitters included.

Jeremy Booth

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