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2019 MLB Draft Prep: Dogging it

That’s the Mississippi State Bulldogs we’re talking about.

Jake Mangum of Mississippi State
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Many of my in-season draft pieces focus on a position or strategy. This one swings back to looking at a specific team, and why “pretty much anyone from” some teams are worth grabbing. To be clear, not all are draft eligible. In any of these sorts of cases, not all that are will be desirable. However, in the case of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, the swath is wide and varied. I’d dig quite a few players from this roster, each for their own reasons.

I’ll start with their fifth-year senior lead-off man Jake Mangum. As you might assume if you’ve read these awhile, being a fifth-year senior places him squarely in the “senior sign” bracket of the draft. While many seniors are trapped in a corner regarding leverage, Mangum is a better player than many. His career OPS in college is in the .900 range as an SEC participant. Mangum will likely be sought out in the fifth round, or so. While his eroded eligibility won’t help his draft stock, he’ll agree to a reasonable signing bonus neighborhood before a team announces him.

Mangum is a leadoff type. This season, he has more walks than strikeouts (five strikeouts in his first 107 at-bats), and has a .411 batting average. His doubles are creeping up, though his home run power still seems accidental. He throws left-handed, and his defense is more Chris Coghlan than Ian Happ, probably. He would have little use for the Arizona League, and should be better than the Northwest League, as well. As he switches to “full-time athlete,” would he be able to make a full-run to MLB? Is his skill-level going to cap out in Advanced-A or Double-A? This is where scouts earn their money.

The Bulldogs Friday night starter is Ethan Small, who is central casting for a Cubs pitcher in the Epstein era. A 6-3 southpaw, he usually sits in the 91-93 range, but he has a repertoire. Is there more velocity there? See my comments on scouting. Either way, he’s usually better than college hitters, including SEC ones. Against a solid LSU side on Friday, Small ho-hummed his way through five, allowing three hits and an uncharacteristic four walks. He was charged for two runs, fanning ten. His ERA concluding the night was bumped up to 1.98 on a first-inning two run homer.

Whether a team buys Small as a valid starter or a reliever to zoom through a system will determine whether he goes late in the first day, or early in the second day (which starts with Round Three. I’d be good with Small in the second round, though quite a few other players are on that page, as well.

Six-foot six Cole Gordon puts games away in Starkville. In twelve 2019 innings, his control has been a bit erratic, but he’s fanned 21, saving seven of eleven games, and winning two others. He’d be a bit down my list as a relief choice, but he’s a senior, as well. Getting Gordon for tuppence in the ninth or tenth round would be a reasonable low-end wager.

While Mangum is the starting center fielder, Tanner Allen is listed as a center fielder, but plays first base. A sophomore-eligible, Allen may be a bit of a tougher sign than the above players. He may have more upside than Mangum, but the selection would require more “encouragement” financially. Or, he may be ready to start playing. Allen has more power than Mangum, but would face a sterner challenge in Eugene.

Elijah MacNamee starts in right, and is likely a better hitter than Mangum. A senior, MacNamee has also drawn more walks than he’s given up strikeouts, and has positional value. Sign that sort of a background (with a degree of wood bat success) in Rounds Eight through Ten, and be ecstatic for the addition to the family.

Junior catcher Justin Skelton isn’t quite the hitter that Mangum or MacNamee are, but he makes sense around Round Eleven or Twelve if he’s willing to sign for the $125,000 standard bonus in those rounds. Otherwise, hard pass. As hinted, others on the squad will be as interesting in later drafts, when eligible. Some teams are good enough so it’s of interest when the school pops on the board. Tracking where the Dogs are selected in June educates me on where the next batches of players should be selected.

Draft selections are an asset for an organization. Maximizing talent from each cycle helps with sustaining success. Properly assessing ‘where’ for ‘whom’ is a part, as is having a system that players want to join. Selecting eighth round talent in the fourth shortchanges the system. Holding off on a fifth-round talent until in the eighth allows other teams a chance at a bargain. Yeah, it’s a bit like a fantasy draft, only with bigger stakes and more eventual interest.


High school baseball has started. Whether you still receive dead tree news on your front porch or not, some outlet in your neighborhood likely covers local prep spots. While locals routinely support their local football or basketball teams, the same doesn’t often happen regarding baseball. True, high school baseball games are played in the daytime when many people are working. News of which players are best is likely available, if you’re willing to seek it out.

The best teams in the Rockford area aren’t in Rockford. Honnonegah (Rockton, Illinois) has a pitcher named Tyler Statler who is throwing mid-90’s and has a very legitimate college commitment in Southeast Missouri State. I recommend you read the article, if just for his injury backstory. Harlem (Machesney Park) is a good squad, also, and opposed Quinn Priester (31st with a bullet on Fangraphs’ list) Tuesday night in Cary Grove, Illinois. Yes, you can support baseball by watching it on television, or listening on radio, but watching kids play is something different.

It may well be inconvenient. It won’t be to the level you’re used to. Going to a local game of baseball, particularly if the teams playing are reasonably good, encourages the younger generation to play. For many of you, a decent prep or college team plays within a reasonable driving distance. The Cubs will be there the next night or afternoon. Young athletes, in any sport, crave appreciation. You do, or you do not.

Part of “getting” the draft mindset is learning about scouts. Here’s an article on Diamondbacks scout Mark Ross. That the Snakes can reboot their farm system this June makes it particularly poignant. In about five years, Arizona might be legitimate if the front office does June properly.

This past weekend’s action didn’t have many major tremors, yet. Hunter Bishop went very deep, again, and SEC arms trended toward "really good" again, particularly some of the 2020 options. I expect the talent pool should be quite solid the next two years. This year's strengths into the second day of the draft should be middle infielders and right fielders. Adding three or four valid MLB options should be possible, though not necessarily likely.