(Photo via BigThreeSports.com, seen here)
As the 2018 college baseball season draws closer, Nico Hoerner (SS, Stanford) and Alex McKenna (OF, Cal Poly) will look to improve their draft stocks during their respective junior years. Baseball America has both batters in its top 50 college players for the 2018 MLB Draft. Nico Hoerner made a strong impression in the Cape Cod League, and Alex McKenna has offered consistent production during his time at Cal Poly. How can both players improve their draft stocks in 2018?
After being ranked by Perfect Game as the 27th best middle infielder coming out of high school, Nico Hoerner maintained his ability to make consistent contact. During 209 at-bats for Stanford, he posted 24 RBI and carried a .254 batting average. While his .298 on-base percentage was low for his ability, his line drive swing (video here at 0:03, 0:08, and 0:19) helped him hit eight doubles and two triples in 2016.
During his sophomore year, Hoerner raised his profile with improved plate discipline, as he struck out 22 times in 251 at-bats while drawing 15 walks. Perfect Game described his stroke as a “gap to gap threat,” and he showed that by hitting 18 doubles and two triples during 2017. Driving the ball helped his .307 batting average, .406 slugging percentage, and .763 OPS as a sophomore. Leading the team in hits and doubles led to an appearance on the All Pac-12 team. His accomplishments were not confined to the plate, as Hoerner’s “quick release and lateral range” landed him a spot on the All Pac-12 defensive team.
Nico Hoerner’s excellent play in the Cape Cod League for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox should move him up draft boards. He picked the right time to use his above-average speed, as he was successful on 15 stolen bases in 22 attempts. After only hitting one home run during two years at Stanford, hitting six home runs for Yarmouth-Dennis shows that he has the capability to extend his gap power. Hoerner added seven doubles to maximize his power-speed combination on the Cape, and he hit .300, slugged .456, and posted a .812 OPS in 160 at-bats. Baseball America captured Hoerner’s batting practice for the Cape Cod All-Star game.
(YouTube, BaseballAmerica, seen here)
Hoerner’s balanced start and small front leg lift provides him with plenty of time to load, turn, and drive a ball. When he was out in front of the last few swings (1:28), he squared up the ball with hard contact on pull swings. Carrying over his home run power from the Cape to his junior year would further elevate his 2018 draft stock.
According to Perfect Game, Alex McKenna (OF, Cal Poly) also has a “line drive swing” that creates “gap to gap” potential. The outfielder hit six doubles and six home runs in 184 at-bats in 2016, and he led the team in home runs as a freshman. Even though he struck out 38 times and walked 24 times, McKenna stole four bases while hitting .261 with a .762 OPS.
Like Hoerner, McKenna posted stronger statistics during his sophomore year. In 236 at-bats, he hit 11 doubles, two triples, and five home runs with 31 RBIs. Perfect Game lists him as an “above average runner,” which he supported by stealing 13 bases as a sophomore. Hitting .356, slugging .483, and posting a .903 OPS resulted in an appearance on the All-Big West team in 2017. Continue to monitor McKenna’s batting average, as a .422 BABIP may have played a role in his rising batting average, and he struck out 45 times. In the field, he committed three errors as a freshman, and he posted a 1.000 fielding percentage in 145 total chances as a sophomore.
McKenna’s sophomore campaign also earned him a spot on the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. While he still can drive the ball, McKenna finished his time on the Cape with nine doubles and no home runs in 124 at-bats. He drove in 16 RBI and stole seven bases in 10 attempts. McKenna struck out 29 times and posted a .298 batting average with a .749 OPS. Here is a look at McKenna’s batting practice from the Cape Cod All-Star game:
(YouTube, BaseballAmerica, seen here)
McKenna’s swing features a higher leg kick, and one notices how long his bat stays in the zone (0:22). He has above-average bat speed (0:38), and his hands move quickly through the zone. Combined with his bat speed, his line-drive approach (1:59) will continue to allow McKenna to use his running skills. As he enters his junior year, DI Baseball lists McKenna as the 11th best outfielder available in the 2018 draft.
Track Nico Hoerner’s power progression from his time in the Cape Cod League to his junior year. With increased patience and power, Hoerner would elevate his draft status. Alex McKenna will look to follow-up his strong sophomore year with another consistent junior year that features some power, a good batting average, and an ability to reach base consistently. Carrying over his consistent hitting skills from his time at Cal Poly will keep him as an outfielder to watch during the 2018 season.