I've come to decide that this draft is a lot like walking across Death Valley. It's fairly barren and you're starving for hope. In the distance you see what you swear must be water. Then your mind races away and now you see not only water, but palm trees you can sit under, and they're blowing in a breeze. Surely you've found your salvation. Of course in the desert it's the heat rising from the barren hot ground reflecting the horizon back at you. There's no water, there never was. You saw what you wanted to see. You needed to find paradise so your mind created it, because there always has to be hope. I feel like I'm seeing a lot of that this draft cycle and I feel like I may even be guilty of some of it. Sure some of the hit tools are good compared to their peers, but their peers mostly stink in this draft. Are we just creating these oases?
This is a long lead-in to Cornelius Randolph, a Georgia High School Shortstop who's as likely to step foot on Mars as he is to ever play Shortstop in the Majors. He's 6'1" and perhaps generously listed at 190 lbs. That's not to say he's fat, but he's definitely more thickly built than those numbers suggest. He's got pretty thick legs and broad shoulders and could probably eventually end up in the 215-220 range without affecting his Defense. In my last preview I covered Ian Happ, a solid hitter who no one could quite agree on a position for. Same here, only less speed and a lot more power potential. The Phillies have scouted him pretty heavily, and I have little doubt Almaraz is very familiar with the Atlanta suburb prospect.
His swing may be the best in the draft among Prep players. Short, fast and efficient, he doesn't over-complicate things. He starts with a wide stance and his only timing mechanism is a tiny foot lift/step. In the video below you can see 3 contacts. The first one he gets jammed inside a little but still manages to send it down the line though it appears to go foul likely close to Third from the reactions. The second one looks like a pulled gofer ball. The third one again appears to be a bit in on Randolph, who manages to stay inside the ball and smoke it into Left. That's pretty good bat control. Scouting reports do note what seems like a dichotomy: he displays a great approach with limited K's and plenty of walks and an understanding of the strike zone, while also having quite a bit of swing and miss to his game. Those sound mutually exclusive, but they really aren't. You can have a great eye and all kinds of patience, but sometimes guys will sell out for power and if you guess wrong... swing and miss. His bat speed and size show the skills to be an above average power hitter, maybe even plus if he grows further (he's young for the draft class, so there could be some height still on the way). The video below is from Jheremy Brown.
So the kid can hit. That's great!. Can he run? Eh, decently. He's right about a 50 on the 20-80 scale and with more growth to come I would expect he'll end up fringe average at best by the time he could make the Majors. That said he'd have enough speed and range for any position except Shortstop and Center field (Ironically the 2 positions he's played in High School). Before I get into that though, let's talk arm. Perfect Game has him scored as hitting 92 on infield throws last year in their showcase. That's also enough arm for anywhere on the field. The last guy in the video below from Prospect Pipeline is Cornelius Randolph, where you can see his throw.
The video below works in a bit of everything, but I included for the few defense shots (Prospect Pipeline again). Reports are that he has limited range and he's a little bit of a technician in his infield maneuvers, which is to say he's not very natural and will need to iron things out if he stays in the dirt. He could be a Second Baseman as he'd have just enough range. But honestly, no one on earth is drafting any High Schools Second Baseman in the Top ten picks. Hell, probably not even in the first 30 or 40 picks. Regardless of the hit tool, the floor is too low for most. He does have the arm for Third and his bat would play nicely there, likely top third on the league. That said, he's never played there and his infield actions already looked choppy at Short, with less reaction time could he pull it off? Left Field gets mentioned a lot and his power would play above average there at projection, he's got good speed and the arm for it. The red baron, who writes draft previews for our sister Cardinals blog suggested a conversion to Catcher. I could totally see that. The Phillies have kicked that around before with similar players (Maikel Franco, for one). That's a risky thing to do with the #10 overall pick, but the kid does need to learn a position anyway. He'd have the arm for Right, but could end up with less than ideal range out there.
All in all, I see some water on the horizon, but I'm suspicious of the palm trees. The hit tool is there and it seems real from everything I read. He's reported to be a smart kid who understands the game and knows the strike zone very well and doesn't chase. So I'm confident he'll hit. There's water there. However will he be able to field? After all, a hit tool is only useful if your team can get you on the field somewhere and the NL has no DH if he proves to be suspect everywhere on D. If we were talking the second round or a pick late in the First, I'd be thrilled, but at 10 he could be a reach, though he could be gotten under slot and the money could be used to grab an injury lottery ticket in the second or a prep bat who's dropping. I'll leave everyone with this quick sip of water: Randolph's swing at 200 frames per second. Enjoy the drink.