While it lacks the elite shortstop prospects that we’ve often seen taken at the top of the draft in recent years (Royce Lewis, Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman, Brendan Rodgers, Nick Gordon, and Carlos Correa come to mind), this year’s MLB Draft class is full of talented infielders. There’s a legitimate possibility that as many as three could come off the board within the top five, and with all three of those players being high-floor college hitters, it’s possible that we could see several infielders from this draft making an impact in the big leagues sooner than later. Here are five infielders that you should be keeping your eyes on in advance of next week’s draft:
Nick Madrigal, 2B, Oregon State University
Madrigal is an interesting case at the top of the draft. He’s been a spectacular collegiate player, but at a listed (and perhaps generous) 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, he certainly isn’t built like your typical first-round pick. With Jose Altuve perhaps being the most dominant hitter in the majors right now, though, Madrigal is getting his rightful respect — and perhaps even getting a little bit of a boost as teams search for “the next Altuve.” Madrigal is a very good, rangy second baseman, and that should continue as he turns pro; two of the majors’ top six second baseman in defensive runs saved, Altuve and Kolten Wong, are 5-foot-9 or shorter, so his size shouldn’t hurt him in that area.
He’s a high-effort player who shows off great speed, and he displays both great contact skills and impressive patience at the plate, having hit at least .330 while walking more than he’s struck out in each of his college seasons. He’s probably not going to hit many home runs — he’s never hit more than four in a college season — but he should hit plenty of doubles. In the past, it’d be a major surprise to see a player as small as Madrigal who is (likely) limited defensively to second base get taken so early, but with the hype that he’s getting leading up to the draft, it’d be a surprise if he doesn’t get taken within the top five.
Alec Bohm, 3B/1B, Wichita State University
Bohm has tremendous power, making him desirable in today’s homer-happy league. He’s hit double-digit home runs in each of the past two seasons while posting a spectacular .625 slugging percentage this season. On the other hand, there are plenty of intriguing power hitters to be found all throughout the draft, and there are some concerns to be had about Bohm.
He’s almost 22 years old, so his ceiling isn’t exceptionally high, and it’s doubtful that he’ll tap into much more power than he has right now. He’s played mostly third base at Wichita State, but he’s really tall and lanky at a listed 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds and looks awkward at the hot corner, so he appears to be a guy that will end up at first base as a pro. It’s rather rare to see college first basemen taken in the top 10 — though we did see Virginia’s Pavin Smith get taken at No. 7 overall last year — so it’ll be interesting to see how much Bohm’s defensive limitations affect his value.
While it’s odd to compare his ceiling to two players who weren’t taken in the first round, the best-case scenario for Bohm likely involves him becoming a Joey Votto or Brandon Belt type — in other words, a guy who can hit for power and take a ton of walks. He has fantastic on-base skills, having posted an OBP that’s at least 80 points higher than his (over .300) batting average in each of the past two seasons. If he can’t translate that plate discipline to the professional level, though, then he may have trouble distinguishing himself offensively.
Jonathan India, 3B, University of Florida
At a listed 6-foot and 200 pounds, India doesn’t look like much of a power hitter, but he’s shown that first impressions aren’t everything in 2018, hitting 17 homers while posting a ridiculous .723 slugging percentage in 57 games. India has never hit double-digit homers or posted a slugging percentage above .450 before this year at Florida, so it’s difficult to tell if that power is a one-year fluke or a legitimate development. Whatever the case, his performance at the plate has been unbelievably intriguing — he’s also posted an insane .362 batting average and .502 OBP — and he’s built up plenty of momentum heading into the draft.
India looks like a good third baseman, but he’s got enough range that some believe he could end up in the middle infield as a pro. Obviously, if he can transition to shortstop and continue hitting for such impressive power as a pro, he’ll be unbelievably valuable to whatever team drafts him.
Nolan Gorman, 3B, Sandra Day O’Connor High School, Phoenix, Arizona
Gorman is a lefty hitter with massive power potential, and seeing as he just turned 18 years old, he’s got plenty of time to turn himself into one of the game’s elite sluggers. Then again, he’s a high-ceiling, low-floor player, and he’s endured a somewhat rough senior season. Gorman isn’t necessarily built in a way that’d make it easy for him to move across the infield if he doesn’t stay at the hot corner — he’s 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, slightly undersized for first base — but the good news is that he looks agile enough to stay at third base long-term. With Gorman’s potential to be an elite power-hitting third baseman, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see him go within the top 10.
Brice Turang, SS, Santiago High School, Corona, California
In a draft that is unusually devoid of upper-echelon shortstops, Turang may be the best pure shortstop in the class (with Florida high-schooler Xavier Edwards and Missouri State’s Jeremy Eierman also possibly pushing for that title). Turang is a good defender who hits from the left side of the plate and makes consistent contact. At bare minimum, he seems likely to hit for a high average as a pro, though his swing is odd — he puts a lot of weight on his back foot — and he may need to make some significant adjustments later on.
Though he’s just 18 years old, Turang doesn’t carry a lot of weight on his frame, measuring in at just 6-foot-1 and 165 pounds. He doesn’t have a ton of power potential, which may limit him to a utility role in baseball’s current offensive environment, where you pretty much have to hit double-digit homers or get left behind. He’ll have plenty of time to defy the odds, though, so he seems like a worthwhile gamble at some point in the middle of the first round.