Top 50 MLB draft prospects: Two-way stars top our list

Brendan McKay can thrive on the mound or, as he showed on April 25 when he hit four homers in a game, dominate at the plate. Timothy D. Easley/AP Photo

This year’s draft class has been, on the whole, disappointing. We came into the spring with a surfeit of candidates for the top spot and for the top 10 in general, but far more top prospects have underperformed so far than have boosted their stock. Even Kyle Wright, ranked No. 2 below, has had an up-and-down season and just recently started to turn the corner with 16 shutout innings in his past two starts.

When you combine the overall lack of star-caliber performances with the draft’s (known) lack of position players up the middle, you get an opportunity for solid college performers at the plate and on the mound to move up in the rankings, given that on draft day, teams will likely flee to safety even more than they normally do. If you don’t feel great about the various upside players available at your pick, you might just take the player with the track record of production, perhaps cutting a deal to save some money and go over-slot with later picks. That has boosted the two bats at Virginia on this list, two bats at North Carolina (one listed, with Brian Miller somewhere in the next 10-20 names) and some solid college starters such as Morgan Cooper and Griffin Canning.

This list is a ranking -- not a prediction of who will be picked where on draft day. I don’t think teams have narrowed their lists enough to write a first-round projection that’s worth the electrons I’d expend on it. I do think, however, that my list will tend to rank high school pitchers higher than they’ll be selected on draft day because this group of prep arms as a whole is not as good as the classes of the past few years.

That said, the class as a whole just isn’t deep in any category. I tried to come up with a hundred names worthy of ranking in a top 100, which I’ll do in a few weeks, and stalled out after around 70 to 75 who merited it. Perhaps that will mean a run on the handful of high-upside prep players, both pitchers and hitters, once we get to teams’ second picks in the sandwich round -- players I’ve identified as first-rounders based strictly on talent, without regard to signability or individual teams’ preferences for safer college players.