Back in early May, Baseball America listed their top 500 prospects looking ahead to the 2019 MLB Draft, which begins today and ends June 5.
As expected, the BA list is littered with current and future Rebels. Current Rebs Grae Kessinger, Cooper Johnson, Will Ethridge, and Thomas Dillard are expected to be taken at some point in this year’s draft, but for the sake of my sanity and the future, let’s just take a look at where the 2019 signees are listed on their big board.
Ole Miss’ 2019 class is loaded with four guys in the top 100 and three more who are in the top 250, according to scouting site Perfect Game — good enough for the No. 4 overall recruiting class.
Here are the six potential draft risks and what scouts think about them heading into today’s festivities.
Jerrion Ealy - OF, Jackson Prep (Miss.)
The five-star running back and outfielder from the capital city was at one point thought to be a top-10 pick and a shoe-in for NOT showing up on campus. Now I am not saying he is a shoe-in TO show up, but he has dropped considerably over the past year due in large part to his increasingly-growing prospects as a Power 5 running back and a less-than stellar senior season for the Patriots.
Here’s what BA had to say about him:
For all of Ealy’s tools and athleticism, however, the industry has soured on him this spring as he’s struggled offensively against below-average Mississippi competition. While Ealy does have impressive hand-eye coordination and solid pure bat-to-ball skills, he has long needed refinement in his plate discipline, approach and mechanical setup at the plate—which is mostly to be expected from a two-sport athlete at his level. However, scouts thought he would hit much better this spring and have been disappointed with the lack of progress he has shown in the batter’s box. Given Ealy’s upside on the gridiron and underwhelming performance this spring, he figures to be a tough sign out of Mississippi. He no longer projects as a first-round talent—like he did last summer—but still has tremendous upside if he ever focuses exclusively on baseball.
Me thinks he shows up in Oxford and is not only an integral part of the Ole Miss football team and Rich Rodriguez’s new offense, but he will also push for playing time at Swayze Field due to his elite speed (6.13 60-yard dash) and defending ability in the outfield. The bat will take some time, but he is explosive enough to potentially force Bianco’s hand.
Hayden Dunhurst - C, Pearl River Central (Miss.)
As I alluded to above, the Rebels’ catcher is almost certainly on his way out after the 2019 season after dramatically improving his draft stock with a great junior campaign.
The 5’11, 208-pounder isn’t as physically-imposing as Johnson, but the production is there at the plate. BA seems to really like his stick at the dish and after losing a little bit of weight, he appears primed to stay behind the plate on defense, per their scouts.
Dunhurst is one of the better hitting prospects among the Mississippi high school class, and after slimming down this spring he has a better shot to remain at catcher. His left-handed bat gives him a chance to be a solid pro even if he moves off the position, as he shows plus power and plus hitting potential. He uses the whole field, and his power allows him to drive the ball to the opposite-field gap. He didn’t get much of a chance to show that power this spring as many teams opted to simply intentionally walk him time after time. Defensively, his footwork and actions will require a lot of work in pro ball, but he does show a plus arm. However, that arm strength doesn’t always play in games because of his footwork, and he currently projects as a below-average defensive catcher. Dunhurst’s bat can sustain a move to first base one day, but if he can figure out a way to play just average defense behind the plate, his power potential could make him a valuable pro.
At the plate, he kind of reminds me of former Reb Henri Lartigue with his quick hands and ability to extend his hands throughout the entire strike zone. He hit .396 as a senior with 10 doubles, 11 home runs, and 37 RBI’s. He also slugged .906, sported a .609 on-base percentage, and had an OPS of 1.515, which is bonkers. If he shows, he will challenge Knox Loposer for the starting job in 2020 immediately.
Connor Walsh - INF, Niceville (Fla.)
The Sunshine State pipeline continues with the signing of Mr. Walsh. Ealy had the fastest time ever in Perfect Game history in the 60-yard dash, but the smooth-fielding short stop from Florida had the second-fastest (6.25) in 2019. Grae Kessinger is more than likely on his way out after 2019, and with Anthony Servideo sliding over to short, the 6’2, 185-pounder could be a candidate at second base. And much like Ealy, he is a two-sport star who played wide receiver so you know he’s got plenty of athleticism to handle the middle infield.
Despite dropping to the 140-range in their top 500, BA thinks someone could slide in on day two and possibly take a chance on him.
Walsh is one of the fastest players in the 2019 prep class. He’s a plus-plus runner who also played wide receiver for his high school football team. On the diamond, Walsh plays shortstop and has a chance to stick with solid actions and above-average arm strength. If for some reason he has to move off of the position at the next level, he has the tools to profile nicely as a dynamic center fielder. He has the athleticism and instincts to handle the job just fine. Walsh has a short, quick stroke from the right side, but his bat is the lightest tool in his arsenal. Scouts put below-average future grades on his hitting, but he does have some ambush power and has the frame—6-foot-2, 185 pounds—to grow into more power down the line. Some teams might prefer to let Walsh go to school at Mississippi and show that he can hit in the SEC, but his running ability and defensive value might be enough for someone to take a chance early on Day 2.
If he shows up in Oxford, Walsh would certainly give Mike Bianco plenty of flexibility in terms of position.
Andrew McDaniel - RHP, St. Thomas More (La.)
Our fourth prospect on the list has suffered some injuries in high school, knocking him down a peg or two on some draft boards, but the tools are there in spades. He’s only 6’2 and 170-pounds, but the kid can sling the pill (a.k.a. throw the ball very well).
After a strong summer, McDaniel looked like one of the best prep pitching prospects in Louisiana. In addition to featuring a 92-95 mph fastball, he showed the ability to spin both a curveball and slider. But during the spring, McDaniel had to be shut down with a sore elbow. He tried to return, but when he did his velocity dipped into the upper 80s and he didn’t have the same control he had shown before he was shut down. The injury clouds his status and makes it a little more likely he’ll make it to Mississippi. If he does, there’s a chance he’ll be throwing even harder in a few years.
Due to the frame, wind-up, and velocity, he reminds me of former postseason hero Scott Weathersby. He runs it up there with ease and is a bulldog on the bump, showing emotion and competing with every pitch. And as the scout mentioned above, he appears to have room to grow physically and increase ball speed.
Derek Diamond - RHP, Ramona (Calif.)
The former Stanford commit flipped to the Rebels earlier this spring and was one of Bianco’s biggest signees despite some of the heavy hitters listed above. The Perfect Game AND Under Armour All-American has a nice frame to build around (6’3, 190) and possesses an effortless delivery with low-90’s stuff that should get folks excited.
Diamond was a showcase mainstay last summer, pitching at the Perfect Game National Showcase in Tampa Bay, the Under Armour All-America Game in Chicago, the Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., and the Perfect Game All-America Classic in San Diego. He sat 89-93 mph throughout the summer and generated buzz as one of the top pitchers in the draft class, but he injured his right shoulder in a snowboarding accident over the winter and pitched in only five games this spring. Diamond is a good athlete who played quarterback for his high school’s football team. He has a clean delivery, shows advanced command for a prep and has a solid pitcher’s frame at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds. Diamond’s fastball remained in the low 90’s in his few outings this season, but his curveball took a step back, coming in around 65 mph. He shows feel to spin in general and has tinkered with a slider in the past. Teams like Diamond’s talent, but given his injury and lack of innings this spring, they are wary of his high bonus demands.
As Bianco likes to do, Diamond is another two-sport athlete in this class and, despite the injury, should project as an early contributor at Swayze next spring. It will be interesting to see what the staff does with him since his secondary stuff isn’t your typical secondary stuff yet his arsenal does seems somewhat polished thanks to playing in so many high-profile showcases. He might be someone who blossoms late in his career in Oxford and could be a Chris Ellis-type guy who all of a sudden is a Friday night dude.
John Rhys Plumlee - OF, Oak Grove (Miss.)
Yes, another two-sport star is in this 2019 class. Though he’s not ranked anywhere close to being a draft risk, he has been named in BA’s top 500. He had a much better senior season than Ealy did and hit .455 as a junior. His bat still needs some touching up, but his career slash line in high school is mesmerizing (.395/.511/.604).
Plumlee is one of the better athletes in the high school class. He runs well enough to stay in center field, and he’s physical enough that there is hope he will one day develop above-average power. Right now, he has the swing-and-miss of a power hitter, but he doesn’t have a lot of the thump. It’s understandable because he’s less experienced than his peers. He’s much more advanced as a quarterback than he is as an outfielder, and he’s signed as a speedy quarterback who can also pick apart defenses with his arm—that arm surprisingly doesn’t translate all that well to baseball, however. Current draft bonus rules make it quite hard for teams to try to buy out two-sport stars like Plumlee.
He is in the same boat as Ealy since teams do NOT want to get burned by two-sport stars now that Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray ruined it for everyone, but I feel pretty good that J.R.P. will be in a Rebel uniform in 2020. I also feel pretty confident that he will contend for an outfield spot once Ryan Olenek departs, Dillard potentially gets drafted, and Servideo moves back to his natural infield position.
We will obviously keep you in the loop as the day goes on and draft picks are selected so keep it locked in here and at @RedCupRebellion on Twitter to stay up-to-date with all the comings and goings of 2019’s First-Year Amateur Draft.