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Minor Developments: MLB Draft's top bats

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The 2014 MLB draft is quickly approaching, so let’s take a look at some of the more intriguing hitting prospects likely to have their names called in the first round. We’ll tackle the pitchers next week. This piece is geared toward deep dynasty players, as well as avid baseball fans who have an interest in following baseball’s possible future stars.

High School

Alex Jackson, C, Rancho Bernardo HS Escondido: Easily the highest upside hitter in the draft, Jackson has plus power to all fields, and shows a willingness to use the whole field when hitting. His advanced feel for hitting and plus bat speed should push him quickly through the minors, despite his youth. While currently a catcher, his plus arm could be used in the outfield or third base if the club who drafts him decides to get him to the majors quickly, as opposed to taking the time to develop him as a backstop.

Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS Orlando: The younger brother of Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon, Nick is a much different player than his older brother. His bat has average power potential and could be above average over time. While the wheels are there, he is much more conservative on the base paths than his older sibling. Gordon is a solid middle infield prospect that should contribute offensively and defensively.

Monte Harrison, OF, Lee’s Summit (Mo.) West HS: One of the best, if not the best, athletes in the entire draft. Has a football and basketball background, and while his tools on the diamond are loud, he’s very raw as a prospect. His plus bat speed, plus running ability and above average raw power make him a tantalizing center field prospect. He’ll be a project, but is worth the upside if you’re gambling in a dynasty format.

Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis (Calif.) HS: From a power standpoint, he may have the most raw strength of all the prep hitters in the draft. His plus bat speed regularly makes him a threat to leave the yard, but his questionable mechanics and long swing may prevent him from hitting for average in the pros. He may need to change positions in the pros due to his size and lack of speed up the middle.

Derek Hill, OF, Elk Grove (Calif.) HS: One of the best contact hitters in the draft, he has a line drive swing that should allow him to use his plus speed effectively in the pros. He’ll most likely make his mark as a fantasy asset with his legs, and could provide high average, runs and steals totals down the road. Double-digit homers are possible as he matures.

Michael Chavis, SS/3B, Sprayberry HS Marietta: He’s been one of the most consistent hitters this spring at the prep level, and has moved up draft boards as a result. Chavis has plus raw power and bat speed in a compact stroke that should allow him to hit for a solid average in the pros. He’s a good athlete and hard worker, but may be best suited for third base.

College

Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State: He’s a bat first player with plus raw power, who may struggle initially with batting average due to the length of his swing. Conforto shows good patience at the plate, and is the most polished hitting prospect in the draft. His upside could be .280/25 out of a corner outfield spot if things click once he reaches the pros. That, coupled with a solid on-base percentage, is useful in all fantasy formats.

Trea Turner, SS, NC State: Turner’s calling card is his speed, rated plus by scouts, even after an ankle injury in ’13. He’s got deceptive power, but tends to get too pull happy as a hitter when trying to clear the fence. His defense is simply average, and while he has the range to play shortstop, he may be forced to move to second base or the outfield due to his arm. If all the tools come together, he could be a star.

Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco: His stock has risen much like that of his brother, Royals 2012 draft pick, Kyle Zimmer. As a hitter, Bradley Zimmer lacks the pop you’d expect from a corner outfielder, as he may only hit 15-20 homers in his prime. He’s more of a line drive hitter, with the skills to be a table setter that hits near the top of the order in the pros.

Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State: The Cape Cod League MVP last summer, with a swing built for line drives. His power potential is modest, although 10-15 is attainable over time. He profiles as an offensive-minded catcher with average receiving skills behind the plate.

Kyle Schwarber, C/1B, Indiana: While he’s been a catcher in college, there is a good chance he moves to first base as a pro. Schwarber has an advanced feel for hitting and is quick to make adjustments between at-bats. His hit and power tool both have plus potential, making him a potential cornerstone player in dynasty formats.

Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Wichita State, Younger brother of White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie, he looks the part of a bat-first player, but is deceptively good with the leather at first base. He’s very selective at the plate and, with his above-average raw power from both sides of the dish, could be an offensive force in the pros.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rsteingall

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