Amidst the buzz of the All-Star break, the MLB held its annual draft on Sunday night.
And with the No. 16 pick, the Cleveland Guardians selected Chase DeLauter out of James Madison University.
DeLauter spent three seasons with the JMU Dukes and a summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League, where he was named an All-Star and an Oustanding Pro Prospect.
While DeLauter likely will spend some time in the minors to further develop his game, he has the potential to help the Guardians in a big way down the line.
Here are three things to know about the newest member of the club:
1. Big Bat
It’s not always a great idea to draft based on need in the MLB.
Players take time to develop, often spending years in the minors retooling their game before getting called up.
But in DeLauter, the Guardians clearly addressed a need: power.
In 66 games with the Dukes, DeLauter pumped out 15 homers.
In 2020, DeLauter hit .382 in 16 games as a freshman, only to return the next year and bat .386 with a .723 slugging percentage.
With those numbers, it’s no reason Director of Amateur Scouting Scott Barnsby is so high on the player:
“I think what stands out is his ability to leverage the ball. I think some of the things that stand out to our group are his pitch recognition, his strike zone awareness, and so not only does he have really good bat-to-ball, but he can impact the ball to all fields. … We honestly feel like he’s just scratching the surface.”
Add in the fact that DeLauter can capably play any outfield position (he’ll probably occupy a corner in the pros) and gives the team another dimension desperately lacking: fielding plus hitting.
Franmil Reyes, the current big bat in Cleveland’s system, is a DH for a reason: he’s shown no ability to develop a defensive game.
We had Chase DeLauter the best player available in this draft in March. Special bat. Arguably the best player in the 2021 Cape. Plus tools everywhere. Run, throw, power, field, etc… Swing is unique and divisive. Kyle Tucker type? Huge ceiling. #Guardians nailed this.
— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) July 18, 2022
If DeLauter keeps his fielding up, he has a chance to give Cleveland greater lineup flexibility in the future.
2. Model Player
Just hours before the draft, Keith Law of The Athletic released his final MLB mock draft.
And Law was spot on with the No. 16 pick, predicting that the Guardians would go with DeLauter if he was still on the board.
And one of the biggest reasons Law linked Cleveland to DeLauter is because of the Guardians’ reliance on an analytics-first approach to scouting:
“Cleveland is one of the most model-centric teams in the draft, as it didn’t even have amateur scouts go see Division I games for most of the spring. And if you draft just off the model, Delauter is probably a top-10 talent — top-five if you assume he stays in center.”
Guys like Keith Woolner, the Guardians’ Manager of Baseball Research and Analytics (who invented the VORP – value over replacement player – statistic) help oversee this use of analytics in scouting.
But it’s not just scouting: virtually every aspect of the Guardians’ operations have some level of analytics basis.
And it’s hard to argue with the product, so far, given how successful the team has been despite it’s youth and inexperience.
3. Tough Spring
So far, we’ve touched on the strong aspects of DeLauter’s play.
No for the not-so-strong.
DeLauter crushed the ball well with James Madison, but some scouts were worried about the level of competition.
Guardians select OF Chase DeLauter 16th overall!
Some consider him the best bat in the whole draft after he hit .437 with JMU this past season! pic.twitter.com/zv8UjJV63u
— Farm To Fame (@FarmToFame_) July 18, 2022
That became an even bigger red flag when JMU faced off against Florida State in the spring.
The higher caliber FSU pitchers dominated DeLauter.
A few weeks later, DeLauter broke his foot, prematurely ending his season.
Nevertheless, DeLauter excelled in the Cape Cod League, where he was named an All-Star and won the Robert A. McNeese Outstanding Pro Prospect Award after batting .298.
The Cape Cod League is one of the nation’s premier summer leagues, with recent No. 1 overall draft picks Spencer Torkelson, Adley Rutschman, and Casey Mize having played there.
DeLauter’s performance there no doubt eased the minds of wary scouts.