To answer the question in the headline: maybe.
Rutgers hasn’t produced a first-rounder in the MLB Draft since Todd Frazier went 34th overall to the Cincinnati Reds back in 2007, and have only had two other alumni reach the big leagues since; Patrick Kivlehan and Brian O’Grady both saw time in The Show as outfielders.
Ryan Lasko, another outfielder, is looking to join them. Ranked in the top 100 of all 2023 MLB Draft eligible prospects by multiple publications, the New Jersey native stayed close to home with the Scarlet Knights. He skyrocketed up draft charts with a big sophomore season in which he hit .349 with 16 home runs and 51 RBI, producing a 1.075 OPS along the way.
The six-foot, 190-pound junior was the main attraction for about a half-dozen MLB scouts in attendance in Piscataway Friday afor their Big Ten opener against Michigan State. Lasko delivered two hits (both seen above) and did little to hurt his stock, showing the athleticism and instincts that have many excited for his future.
The 2022 All-Big Ten First Team selection has some projectability left in his frame with the potential to add, albeit slightly, to his frame and showed solid range running back for a ball on his lone defensive chance of the contest. The general belief is Lasko likely will move to a corner spot down the road as he fills out physically.
Lasko stayed on brand with quality, smart at-bats, and his instincts on the basepaths really stood out; he legged out a hustle double on a routine hit to left field, and was thinking two on a similar hit later in the game.
With no standout tool — although he does have average pop — Lasko may be surpassed on draft boards by players with ‘helium’ throughout the spring and summer, but should be a Day-2 pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, albeit one that goes relatively early for a team looking for a college outfielder.
Lasko wasn’t the only player scouts had their eyes on, however.
Drew Conover both dazzled and disappointed as Rutgers’ Friday starter; he touched 96 MPH on the radar gun one year after being drafted by the Detroit Tigers but electing to transfer from Seton Hall for his junior year, but also issued six walks and hit one batter in a very mixed-bag, four-inning outing.
Lauded for his slider, Conover struggled with command throughout the duration of his start, perhaps flustered by a very inconsistent strike zone behind the plate. The projectable 6-foot-5, 185-pound righty was impressive when he was on his game, but also validated other reports that he’s likely a reliever at the next level, unable to maintain consistency as his outing went along. He came out sitting at 93-94 mph, touched 95 several times, and hit 96 once.
Lastly, Michigan State’s Mitch Jebb came into the game with some significant Draft buzz, and provides one of the more unique profiles you’ll see. Described by many outlets as having a “Japanese-type slap-hitter approach” at the plate, that showed to be true on Friday, as seen above with his unique load and stance. P
rojected as a potential second-round pick, Jebb didn’t show the pop that surprises many given his setup, but the left-handed hitter was robbed of a line drive hit on his pull side by a diving stab and did make an excellent defensive play at shortstop in the late innings to help preserve the win for the Spartans.
A very consistent hitter — he has a .321 career mark — Jebb also stole 20 bases last season, showing off a very under-appreciated above-average run tool that will help him as he continues to round out his game at the next level.
He’ll have value as an on-base machine, but will need to continue to develop some of the power he showed as a sophomore; he hit six homers in 262 plate appearances last year, but is without one in his first 84 this season.
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