Draft Risers for the 2024 MLB Draft

College players to watch this season!

With the college baseball season now in full swing, the top draft candidates for the 2024 MLB Draft are beginning to take shape. We are starting to get a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of this particular draft, as well as some of the names on the rise as we get closer to July. For anyone interested in more detailed analysis of the top draft candidates coming in to the season, check out my piece on the top names to know entering the season. Let’s get in to 3 of the top risers so far this spring!

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2024 Draft Risers


When talking about some prospects with helium in this draft, it is impossible to ignore some of the names at the top that have taken a large step forward. Chase Burns has shown a massive improvement in production, rivaling the dominance Paul Skenes showed last season. Hagen Smith has been relentless in the strike zone, which has allowed his already elite stuff to play up even more. And Travis Bazzana has shown an increase in bat speed and power, that combined with already elite strike zone awareness and barrel skills, makes him a scouts dream.

Those guys could all be considered risers as they push to be the 1st player taken in the draft, but I wanted to dive into a little bit more detail with some players that were not household names entering the Spring season.

Trey Yesavage – RHP, East Carolina

2024 stats: 30.0 IP | 1.20 ERA | 49:9 K:BB

I wrote about Yesavage after I watched him live during the 2nd weekend of the season, when he went 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 11 K’s against a really good UNC offense. Since that outing he has proceeded to pitch a combined 20 IP, 7 H, 2 ER with 30 K’s over his next 3 starts. What has been super impressive is the fact that he has not only been dominant, but he has also been consistent. For a college starting pitcher with high level stuff, the ability to be relentless in the strike zone, and not have an outing where it even looks remotely effort filled is a really good sign of the quality stuff from the ECU ace.

Yesavage has a 4 pitch mix that all grade out as above average to plus offerings. His fastball usually sits in the 93-95 range, but he can run it up to 97-98. The delivery is effortless, and when watching him live it is easy to wonder if there is more in the tank from his physical 6 foot 4 frame. He features a curveball, slider, and a splitter that are all effective pitches for him. From my vantage point behind home plate, the splitter is a legit out pitch. Early in the outing, he had a tendency to spike it in the dirt, which comes as no surprise from a splitter, but once he established the strike zone with it, there were a lot of uncomfortable swings from Tar Heel hitters.

The combination of a high riding vertical move fastball paired with a splitter is a combo that will become more prevalent in the pro game in the next few years. Yesavage already has that combo down. When the splitter is in the strike zone it tunnels so well with the fastball, and leads to a lot of FB takes for strikes, and chases in the dirt on splits. Combine that with a banger CB that will also tunnel well with the FB, and a SL that is more of a cutter than a sweeper, and it is easy to see how his stuff will profile at the next level. Check out some of his stuff here.

Ultimately, I do not see Yesavage overtaking Chase Burns or Hagen Smith as the top college arm in the draft. But it would not surprise me one bit if he is one of those late 1st round picks, who is taken by the right organization and people start to question how he wasn’t taken higher. Think about the career trajectory of his former teammate Gavin Williams when he was taken by the Guardians 23rd overall. The 4 pitch mix, with a feel for the strike zone makes Yesavage one of the more intriguing prospects in this draft.

Cam Smith – 3B, Florida State

2024 Stats: .476 AVG | .543 OBP | .756 SLG | 6 HR | 2 SB | 14:7 K:BB

Cam Smith entered his college career with a lot of hype. A highly touted high school prospect out of Florida, Smith fell in the draft for multiple reasons, but one in particular being his age. As a 19 year old high school Senior, a lot of teams were not interested in selecting him for the price and range he was projected in. Knowing he would be a draft eligible Sophomore, he chose to get on campus in Tallahassee, but it was not the start people envisioned for the highly touted slugger.

During his Freshman season, Smith struggled with the speed of the ACC. He finished the season hitting .258 with 66 K’s in 51 games. While he did showcase impressive power with a .517 SLG% and 25 extra base hits, including 12 HRs, there was work that needed to be done. That development came WAY quicker than anyone imagined. He showed up on the Cape last summer looking much more like the highly touted high school prospect. With wooden bats, he slashed .347/.406/.575 with 6 HRs and only 24 K’s in 44 games. That loud production has carried over to this spring where he has spent the majority of the season hitting above .500 with power. His current slash line is .487/.556/.782 while continuing the trend of cutting down his swing and miss.

The power production is Smith’s calling card. Standing in at 6 foot 3, he is an imposing presence in the box. He has legit power to all fields with the ability to go backside with the best of them. Florida State has not faced a murderers row of competition, but the difficulty will increase quickly. They face the #4 team in the nation, the Clemson Tigers, this weekend and will be in the thick of ACC competition for the rest of the season. The combination of his production in the Cape, and the beginning of his 2024 season, makes it easy to see why he was so highly regarded. If the trends continue, he will start to move himself in to the top half of the 1st round.

Kaelen Culpepper- SS, Kansas State 

2024 Stats: .341 AVG | .447 OBP | .576 SLG | 4 HR | 7 SB | 18:15 K:BB

The easiest way to be a draft riser is to play a premium position in a year where that position is down. That is the scenario with Culpepper. This years SS class is one of the lighter in recent memory for both the HS and College demographics. Similar to other top MIF prospect JJ Wetherholt, Culpepper is playing SS for the first time in his college career after moving from 3B to SS. During the Cape last summer, and so far this spring, he has handled the position change well, and looks like he has a legit chance to stick up the middle. He showcases plus athleticism and quickness, and the arm is more than serviceable for the position.

As a hitter, the profile is more hit over power. He has shown the ability to hit for high average at all stops, but the questions really pop up when looking at his power production with wood. As I wrote about when talking about standardizing college statistics, power across the college game is higher than it ever has been. So seeing a .318 SLG% in a small sample size last summer in the Cape raises a massive question mark about the power potential. The main positive thing with Culpepper is the bat speed is present. He has lightning quick hands, and when he gets a ball in the air to the pullside it is legit. Look at an example below.

We have seen guys tap in to more power with maturity at the next level. Both maturity in approach, and a better understanding of a hitter’s strengths comes with time. The Astros are the best in the league at taking guys with average raw power, and teaching them how to pull the ball in the air consistently. Players like Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Chas McCormick are all guys that have below average exit velocity traits, but have shown developed power production. Culpepper would need to be put in the right situation, but the traits are present for him to be a dynamic piece with the right development. The present feel for hit and the potential to add power makes him one of the top draft risers so far this spring.

Honorable Mentions

Billy Amick- 3B, Tennessee

2024 Stats: .375 AVG | .457 OBP | .800 SLG | 9 HR | 2 SB | 14:10 K:BB

Amick parlayed an impressive Sophomore season at Clemson, in to an opportunity to be a focal point of Tennessee’s high powered offense. While he showcased impressive offensive abilities to the tune of .413/.464/.773 with 13 home runs and 17 doubles at Clemson, the production has ticked up this spring. The power has seen a major boost, and combined with an improvement to an already plus hit tool, Amick is quickly moving in to the top 30 of the draft. His bat will carry his profile, but all he has done is rake since getting an opportunity at Clemson, and it does not seem like it will stop any time soon.

Ben Hess- RHP, Alabama

2024 stats: 20.2 IP | 3.92 ERA | 34:11 K:BB

A physical presence on the mound, Hess’ main obstacle is the ability to stay healthy. A highly regarded prep prospect, he spurned the MLB draft to get on campus in Tuscaloosa. Coming in to this season, he was only healthy enough to make 15 starts and throw 70 total innings. This season so far he has been healthy and showcasing the stuff that made many impressed with his profile. The fastball reaches 99 with good carry up in the zone. He also features a plus SL that has legit sweep and generates a ton of swing and miss. His command of the strike zone is what many scouts were most impressed with, as he only walked eight hitters in 36.1 IP in 2023. The combination of stuff and command makes it easy to see why many are so high on Hess.

James Tibbs III- 1B, Florida State

2024 Stats: .387 AVG | .467 OBP | .827 SLG | 8 HR | 2 SB | 6:13 K:BB

The middle of the Florida State lineup is one of the scariest in the country. The combination of Smith and Tibbs III is one many ACC pitchers would prefer not to face. Tibbs showcased impressive power through his first two years on campus. He hit 27 total home runs in those two seasons, with 17 coming in 2023. After a good summer in the Cape, he has continued that production this spring. Currently slashing .387/.467/.827 with eight home runs through 19 games, he is on pace to set career highs in every offensive category. Combine the impressive power with only six strikeouts so far, and you have an impressive offensive profile. The competition is in for a jump up over the rest of the season, but Tibbs is making a push for one of the top bats in the draft.

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