Weight: 230 lbs.
DOB: 0ct 21, 1997
Notre Dame’s baseball program is never going to be its marquee attraction, but nonetheless they consistently produce solid big leaguers every few years- most recently, names like Cavan Biggio, Trey Mancini, A.J. Pollock and John Axford have made it to the show as Fighting Irish alumni. Next in line could be their slugging lefty first baseman, Niko Kavadas, who has gradually built a strong resume as a power hitter over the course of his college career.
As a prep prospect, Kavadas played at third base and catcher as well as first, positions that helped make use of his above-average arm strength while not requiring too much agility, and was already a fairly polished slugger for his age. While evaluators did see promise in Kavadas’ powerful bat, he was already beginning to outgrow positions other than first base, and he projected as a later day 2 or early day 3 pick if signable in the 2017 draft. Believing he could improve upon that projection, Kavadas decided to honor his commitment to Notre Dame, where he stepped into a substantial role as a freshman.
As a 19 year old in his first year with the Irish, Kavadas appeared in 47 games and made 165 trips to the plate, slashing .299/.409/.445 with 5 homers, showing significant offensive upside as one of the younger players in the ACC. The following offseason, he took his talents to Kalamazoo and the Northwoods league, one of the premier offseason leagues for college competitors, after the Cape Cod League. This was Kavadas’ first chance to show his stuff with wood bats, and he seized the opportunity, hitting .308/.422/.455 with 5 more home runs while being over a year younger than league average.
His strong performance with wood gave him serious momentum heading into his sophomore campaign with the Irish, and his power took a step forward, as he hit .274/.390/.517 with 12 more homers. There was a bit of a blemish on his performance as he did sport a hefty strikeout rate with 55 in 246 PAs, but those were offset by a robust 33 walks. To build on that success, Kavadas went out to the Cape in the offseason and more than held his own, again showing significant wood bat power with 9 home runs and a .252/.344/.519 slash line. Again, his strikeouts were a concern with 44 in just 154 plate appearances, but his consistent wood bat power performance was nonetheless a big check mark for a prospect confined to the bottom of the defensive spectrum.
Kavadas had some buzz as a sleeper entering his junior year, and appeared to be making good on it in the early going. In 13 games before the season was shut down, he hit a whopping 7 homers and slugged .673, and had a more manageable 11 strikeouts in his 66 PAs. Had he been able to continue similar paces in those departments, he likely could’ve worked his way into the discussion as a fringe top-100 selection, but with such a limited sample and contact issues in his history, he’s more likely to be a late selection in this year’s truncated draft.
At the plate, Kavadas employs a medium sized leg kick in an otherwise simple setup from the left side, with a longer bat path that plays into his significant raw power. Kavadas also rotates quite well for a player with his frame, which is large and carries a bit of extra weight. He already does a good job of lofting balls, and shows some opposite field pop to boot. His bat speed is good but not top of the scale, and given the swing length he projects as more of a below-average hitter at the highest level. That said, his power is undeniably plus or better, and he is able to draw a good amount of walks with a patient approach, so even if his bat does end up being just a 40 or so, he could be a dependable offensive performer at 1B/DH given the rest of his offensive profile.
Projected Draft Round
Typically, Kavadas would be a mid-day 2 prospect, however in a 5 round draft, that gives him a fringe draftable grade. I’d expect that he is selected, most likely in the fourth or fifth round.
Does he fit with the Astros?
Personally, I think he’s worth a look for Houston. The Astros don’t pick until the third round, so their options are limited, and Kavadas talent fits in the 3rd-5th round range. As a bonus, he fills an organizational need, though I don’t expect that to be part of James Click’s calculus.