SIS Blog

2019 Top College Baseball Draft Prospects: Middle Infield (Part 2)

Josh Smith is one of the top hitters in this year's draft

Over the next month leading up to the 2019 MLB Amateur Draft, Baseball Info Solutions will be publishing a series of position-by-position scouting reports from our Video Scouts for the top-50 collegiate draft prospects. Each player is graded by the 20-80 scouting scale, given a comprehensive evaluation, and assigned a floor and a ceiling comparison, which indicate–if a player makes the Major Leagues–the range of the type of player into which he can develop.

Previous coverage:
Catchers
Corner Infield (Part 1) 
Corner Infield (Part 2) 
Middle Infield (Part 1)

This post covers the second half of our middle infielders. Though none of these players should be drafted in the first round, the group offers an exciting mix of toolsy shortstops and a high-floor second baseman. All of these middle infielders are projected to be drafted between the second and fourth rounds.

Each one of these players has played the majority of his time this season at shortstop. Cameron Cannon is the only player to be projected as a second baseman. Greg Jones and Will Holland are future shortstops with the best speed of the group. Brady McConnell has the largest build and power of the bunch, while Josh Smith is the smallest but best pure hitter.


Josh Smith, SS
Louisiana State University (JR, 2019)
L/R 5-10, 172 lbs.
Date of Birth: 08/07/1997

Hit- 45 (60) Power- 35 (50) Run- 50 (50) Arm- 50 (50) Field- 50 (50)

Written by Mitch Glessner

Analysis
A former 38th-round pick out of high school, Smith began his collegiate career in 2017 with high expectations. He exceeded those expectations by earning Freshman All-American honors, playing in 71 games for the Tigers. After missing most of the 2018 season due to injury, Smith has made a strong case to be one of the first shortstops taken this upcoming draft, posting a .348/.444/.525 batting line this season.

Smith holds the bat vertically and stands with a slightly open stance in his setup. Normally he has roughly a six-inch stride with a small leg kick involved. With two strikes, he will get lower to the ground and take away his stride for a more simplified approach. He will also do this when facing pitchers who rely on their off-speed stuff. Smith possesses rare talent in his ability to utilize his hands in his swing. He is able to use his hands so well because of how far back he keeps them. They start back, and remain behind the rest of his body as he initiates his swing. This allows him to keep the barrel in the hitting zone for a long time and spray the ball to all fields. Power is not Smith’s biggest strength, but he does drive the ball on pitches low in the zone. He has a flat bat plane, which results in a lot of line drives and a high contact rate. He takes an aggressive approach early in counts, and has the ability to become a pest by dragging out at-bats when behind in the count.

In the field, Smith has an above-average arm that plays well at shortstop. His quick transition out of the glove and good internal clock make up for his average foot speed. He consistently makes accurate throws with good carry. He has the range to stick at shortstop and is better moving to his left on balls up the middle.

Outlook
What makes Smith so attractive is his natural swing with flashes of power despite being slightly undersized. He should be able to tap into more of his raw power as he gets stronger. The learning curve at the next level should not be a problem given the natural instincts he has on both sides of the ball. Smith has the skills and makeup to be an above-average major league shortstop.

Projection: Everyday shortstop with well-rounded skill set and elite intangibles.

Ceiling: Jason Kipnis
Floor: Eric Sogard
Draft Expectation: Rounds 2-3


Greg Jones, SS
UNC Wilmington (SO, 2019)
B/R 6-02, 190 lbs.
Date of Birth: 7/24/1997

Hit- 35 (45) Power- 40 (50) Run- 70 (70) Arm- 55 (55) Field- 50 (55)

Written by Will Hoefer

Analysis
Greg Jones is a draft-eligible sophomore out of a mid-major program, but has gotten opportunities to see ACC pitching in 2019 due to UNC Wilmington’s proximity to major programs like UNC and NC State. Early in the year, Jones was more inclined to utilize legitimate plus-plus speed to generate his offensive output. He had a controlled, compact stroke from both sides of the plate that he kept flat to generate as much line drive and ground ball contact as possible.

Later in the season, Jones showed a more concerted effort to try and get to his above-average raw power. It was, and still is, very much a work in progress; he had trouble planting his back leg to drive the ball, and the increased length of his swing exacerbated his issues with hitting advanced breaking balls. Still, he has flashed plus bat speed and used his hands better of late, generating more loft on contact.

Defensively, Jones looks every bit like a guy who can handle shortstop. He has smooth and quick lateral movements and enough arm strength to make the throws he needs to make. He sometimes looks like he lacks urgency when making plays, but there’s nothing attitude- or effort-wise to suggest this will be any sort of issue.

Outlook
On tools alone, Jones is easily a top-10 talent. However, he’s very raw offensively and will be a project for any team that takes him in this year’s draft. There’s star potential here if Jones can stick the landing with the adjustments he’s making in the batter’s box, with a floor of a bottom-of-the-order middle infielder who sprays the ball and causes havoc on the basepaths.

Projection: High-upside speedster with raw offensive tools and an ability to stick at short.

Ceiling: Adalberto Mondesi
Floor: Jonathan Villar
Draft Expectation: Rounds 2-3


Cameron Cannon, 2B/SS
University of Arizona (JR, 2019)
R/R 5-10, 196 lbs.
Date of Birth: 10/16/1997

Hit- 45 (55) Power- 40 (45) Run- 50 (50) Arm- 50 (50) Field- 50 (55)

Written by Dominic Asta

Analysis
Cameron Cannon is a compact 5-foot-10, 196-lb. middle infielder at the University of Arizona. He is in the midst of an outstanding junior season, hitting .370/.462/.587. Cannon has been moved around the infield this season, playing both second base and shortstop. He is a capable defender at either spot, but will most likely end up at second base long term. He has had a very impressive college career and has a ton of experience with wood bats, playing each collegiate summer in a different wood bat league. He is a contact hitter with sneaky power and the ability to play multiple positions. This tool set should get him selected in the first three rounds in June’s draft.

Cannon sets up deep in the batter’s box and leans heavily on his back leg. He has a wide, low stance and a small toe tap as he loads for the pitch. He has a quick bat and an uppercut swing that produces a good deal of fly balls and line drives. He uses his lower body and great hip rotation to explode on the ball and spray line drives gap to gap. He currently leads the country in doubles and should grow into close to average power at the next level. Cannon excels at putting the ball in play, as he has struck out in less than 12 percent of his plate appearances this year (which is higher than his minuscule 8.4 percent last season). He is a selective hitter at the plate and is willing to take walks if he does not get his pitch. He currently has 74 walks compared to 58 strikeouts in his college career. He has the makings of a great contact hitter with doubles power and low strikeout numbers.

Cameron has played all over the infield throughout his college career. He has played mostly second base and shortstop at Arizona, but played third base in the Cape Cod League this past summer. He has made a concerning number of errors this season and will most likely be moved off of shortstop at the next level. He possesses an accurate arm, but not the type of zip you want to see at shortstop. He has solid arm strength that plays better at second or third, and his great footwork and sure hands allow him to play those positions adequately. Cannon does not have great speed out of the box and is consistently 4.4-4.5 from home to first. He is a bit quicker when he is underway and at full effort.

Outlook
Cameron Cannon has solid tools across the board and a track record of success with wood bats. He has a high floor and the ability to play multiple positions in the infield. He is a good defender at second and third base, while also being capable of filling in at shortstop. He has the swing mechanics and plate coverage to hit for average and mostly doubles power. Based on his skill set, Cannon should be drafted in the first few rounds.

Projection: Strong-hitting second baseman with solid tools and a high floor.

Ceiling: Mark Ellis
Floor: Gordon Beckham
Draft Expectation: Rounds 3-4


Brady McConnell, SS
University of Florida (SO, 2019)
R/R 6-03, 195 lbs.
Date of Birth: 05/24/1998

Hit- 45 (60) Power- 45 (60) Run- 55 (50) Arm- 60 (60) Field- 50 (60)

Written by Harris Yudin

Analysis
Brady McConnell is one of the tougher collegiate players to project considering he has less than one full season of college experience under his belt. The draft-eligible sophomore totaled just 22 plate appearances as a freshman, but has enjoyed a terrific 2019 campaign in his first — and perhaps last — real taste of college ball. Across 204 plate appearances this season, the Gators’ shortstop has slashed .360/.415/.602 with 12 homers and five stolen bases, driving in 40 runs and scoring 42 more. His 1.017 OPS as of May 8th puts him fifth in the SEC.

McConnell displays an open stance at the plate, utilizing a small leg lift towards the plate as the pitch approaches. He waves his bat around pre-pitch, but keeps his head and body quiet throughout his smooth, uppercut swing. He uses a quick bat and strong lower half to generate big raw power, and there is plenty of room for more power projection as he fills out over the next couple of years.

A notorious fastball hitter, McConnell will often jump on the first pitch. He can get jammed on inside pitches, and occasionally makes the decision to swing too late. While he does have a tendency to chase breaking balls low and away, he has flashed the ability to get down and drive them. An overall aggressive hitter, he could benefit from being more selective and trying to draw more walks.

The 21-year-old possesses above-average speed that he uses to his advantage on the basepaths and in the field. He has a quick reaction time and gets a good jump on stolen base attempts, but can be overly aggressive at times.

Defensively, McConnell flaunts solid range both up the middle and in the hole, and can track down fly balls in the shallow outfield. He has good instincts charging in, and uses his soft hands to eat up hard-hit balls. He has a knack for making highlight reel-type plays, but can occasionally get complacent and make avoidable errors. He has an incredibly strong arm, with the ability to throw on the run and across his body, although he has a habit of double clutching before making a throw. While there are no concerns about McConnell’s ability to stick at shortstop for the immediate future, a move to third base — where he could be a plus defender — isn’t out of the question if he were to bulk up and lose some of his mobility.

Outlook
McConnell has off-the-charts tools and athleticism, but a limited college track record by age 21 — plus the possibility that he could choose to return to Gainesville — may hurt his draft stock a bit. Whichever team pulls the trigger on the sophomore, however, could be getting a cornerstone-type infielder at a great price. McConnell has some of the highest upside in this class, but has to go a very long way to reach it.

Projection: Potential five-tool shortstop with All-Star upside but limited track record.

Ceiling: Troy Tulowitzki
Floor: Trevor Plouffe
Draft Expectation: Rounds 3-4


Will Holland, SS
Auburn University (JR, 2019)
R/R 5-10, 180 lbs.
Date of Birth: 04/18/1998

Hit- 30 (40) Power- 35 (40) Run- 60 (60) Arm- 60 (60) Field- 50 (50)

Written by David Salway

Analysis
Will Holland is a 5-foot-10, 180-lb. shortstop from Auburn University who has had an up-and-down college career. During his freshman campaign in 2017, he was a below-average hitter, but the cornerstone of Auburn’s defense. Between 2017 and 2018, he made a huge leap on offense, hitting .313 with a .530 slugging percentage thanks to 12 home runs and 18 doubles, to go along with a .406 on-base percentage. However, he has regressed in the 2019 season, with his batting average and slugging both down over 100 points year over year.

He has quick bat speed, but has a lot of swing and miss in his game. Holland is a patient hitter at the plate and will draw walks at an above average rate. He has a small load and can occasionally get lazy in his lower half, leading to a lack of contact or weak contact. When he does make contact, he is prone to popping the ball up due to his uppercut swing. While this could lead to the possibility of more home runs, he struggles with pitches low in the zone. So far in 2019, Holland has struck out 23 percent of the time, up seven percentage points from 2018.

On defense, Holland is one of the best current-tool shortstop prospects in the draft. He is quick, shows great range and flashes a plus arm. The Auburn SS is prone to making errors, typically with the glove, which is average. However, his arm can make up for his lack of soft hands and tendency to not move his feet to get in proper position. Holland’s movements are smooth and he makes playing SS look easy compared to his peers. Occasionally, he will lack effort and it will seem as if he is not giving it his all, but more often than not he is able to perform as one of the premier defenders in the SEC.

Outlook
Holland will likely top out as a utility player, with the possibility of becoming a Quad-A type of middle infielder. If he reaches his full potential, though, he could become an MLB regular at SS, with the prospect of 10-15 HR per year to go along with above-average defense.

Projection: Defense-first middle infielder who will need to maximize his hitting ability to become an impact player.

Ceiling: Orlando Cabrera
Floor: 
Taylor Featherston
Draft Expectation: Rounds 3-4


Other middle infielders to keep an eye on:
Christian Koss, UC Irvine
Grae Kessinger, University of Mississippi
Michael Massey, University of Illinois
Chris Cornelius, University of Missouri

See what's up.