Patriot League 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

Bucknell JR C Jon Mayer
Bucknell SR 1B Rob Krentzman
Lehigh JR 2B Mike Garzillo
Holy Cross JR SS Nick Lovullo
Navy rJR 3B Sean Trent
Lehigh SR OF Justin Pacchioli
Holy Cross SR OF Evan Ocello
Navy JR OF Robert Currie

Navy JR LHP Luke Gillingham
Army SR RHP Alex Robinett
Holy Cross SR RHP Donny Murray
Navy SR LHP Anthony Parenti
Lehigh JR RHP Brandon Kulp

I understand there’s only so much national attention that can be paid to a Patriot League team that already has gotten plenty of buzz about a starting pitcher averaging 13 strikeouts per start (15.4 K/9!), so let me do my small part in bringing to light the strong contributions and promising professional future of Navy rJR 3B/OF Sean Trent. From Bishop Moore HS to Florida (where he redshirted) to Manatee CC to Navy, the well-traveled Trent has been a prospect at every stop. In HS I noted his natural ability to make hard contact, strong to plus arm strength, good enough speed for an outfield corner, and the potential for a position switch to either C or 3B. All of those strengths remained (“plus arm, strong hit tool, good speed”) through his time at Manatee. He’s just a good all-around player with the kind of prospect pedigree not typically seen outside of the power conferences. At Navy I’ve heard he’s in the proverbial “best shape in his life” and so far the results (.405/.464/.541 in 74 AB) seem to back it up. His positional versatility make him appealing for teams in need of a Swiss army knife prospect that can plug holes (cool mixed metaphor) when needed in the low-minors after being drafted. That versatility could be his ticket to the big leagues if he keeps hitting like he’s capable of doing.

Bucknell JR C Jon Mayer is a little tough along the edges defensively, but he has enough arm strength, size, and power as a hitter to consider him a viable prospect. Like most prospects in the Patriot League he’ll almost have to wait until his senior season to warrant serious draft consideration, but no time like the present to start following a worthwhile prospect, right? Fellow junior Lehigh 2B/SS Mike Garzillo could be the rare Patriot League prospect to break the non-senior glass ceiling in 2015. He can throw (above-average), run (above-average to plus), and has enough sneaky pop to make his hit tool work. Topping him as a prospect is his own teammate at Lehigh, SR OF/C Justin Pacchioli. I stick the C in front of his name because he has seen some time behind the plate in the past and some think he could move back there as a pro, but since he’s athletic enough, quick enough, and instinctual enough to play average or better defense in center field then that’s probably the smartest path for now. As a hitter, I really like what Pacchioli can do going forward, so much so that I’ll be making the 90 minute trek without complaint to see him this year. His swing and feel for hitting check off all the boxes of what a “hitter” should look like for me, and his track record of success (especially from 2013 onward) is rock solid. I’m not sold on how much functional power he’ll ever hit for and lacking in that area can often cause a hit tool to play down once the competition improves, but I think there’s enough here to call for a steady organizational player with the ceiling of a useful backup outfielder at the highest level.

JR LHP Luke Gillingham, the aforementioned Navy pitcher putting up video game numbers (again: 13 strikeouts per start) to start the season, was originally tenth on my ranking of pitchers in the conference. I’ve said before that I don’t want to alter these “pre-season” rankings based on overreacting to one month’s worth of data, but I feel like I should be forgiven for making Gillingham one of my few exceptions. Gillingham has been one of college baseball’s best stories this winter, but I’m more interested in understanding the professional implications his hot start could lead to. It’s not exactly a performance out of nowhere as he’s been a prospect since high school who was only under the radar back then due to an injury that wiped out his entire senior season. At Navy he’s consistently missed bats (7.13 K/9 in 2013, 7.81 K/9 in 2014) while showing above-average control of good but not overwhelming stuff highlighted by a mid- to upper-80s fastball that he commands really well. Ultimately, Gillingham is a better college story than pro prospect, but that doesn’t mean his talent needs to be outright dismissed, either. If willing and permitted to start a pro career this summer there’s definitely a draft-worthy talent here.

Lost in the much deserved hype of Gillingham’s big start is Army SR RHP Alex Robinett doing big things in his own right. Though his 7.5 strikeouts per start (9.64 K/9) looks paltry compared to what Gillingham has done, it’s still a really fine number that is consistent with his prior work (8.60 last year). Robinett also has the edge in stuff at the present moment with more velocity (88-92) and a pair of average offspeed pitches (CB, CU). He has the overcome the Army hurdle and short righthander bias, but, like Gillingham, it’s a draftable profile.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Lehigh SR OF/C Justin Pacchioli
  2. Lehigh JR 2B/SS Mike Garzillo
  3. Navy rJR 3B/OF Sean Trent
  4. Holy Cross SR OF Evan Ocello
  5. Navy JR OF Robert Currie
  6. Bucknell SR OF Anthony Gingerelli
  7. Holy Cross JR SS Nick Lovullo
  8. Navy JR 2B Drew Hayes (2015)
  9. Bucknell JR C Jon Mayer
  10. Holy Cross SR C/3B Jack St. Clair
  11. Army SR 3B Harold Earls
  12. Lehigh SR C Tim McKay

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

  1. Navy JR LHP Luke Gillingham
  2. Army SR RHP Alex Robinett
  3. Holy Cross SR RHP Donny Murray
  4. Navy SR LHP Anthony Parenti
  5. Lehigh JR RHP Brandon Kulp
  6. Lehigh JR RHP Kevin Long
  7. Bucknell SR LHP Xavier Hammond
  8. Bucknell JR RHP Andrew Andreychik
  9. Lehigh SR RHP Nick Stephens
  10. Navy SR RHP/2B Brad Borosak
  11. Bucknell SR RHP Bryson Hough
  12. Navy SR RHP Stephen Moore
  13. Lafayette JR RHP Mitch Leeds
  14. Lafayette SR RHP Cory Spera
  15. Lafayette JR RHP Connor McMahon

SoCon 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

Western Carolina JR C Danny Bermudez
Western Carolina SR 1B Jacob Hoyle
East Tennessee State 2B Trey York
Wofford JR SS Alec Paradowski
Furman SR 3B Chris Ohmstede
Virginia Military Institute rSR OF Jordan Tarsovich
East Tennessee State JR OF Jeremy Taylor
Virginia Military Institute SR OF Brandon Angus

North Carolina Greensboro JR RHP Ryan Clark
North Carolina Greensboro JR RHP Keaton Haack
Mercer SR RHP Dmitri Kourtis
Samford SR RHP Andres Gracia
The Citadel JR RHP Skylar Hunter

The top seven pitchers ranked in the Southern Conference are as close as any conference’s top tier of pitching prospects that I’ve looked at so far. Every one of them has the stuff to pitch in pro ball, so picking a favorite among them amounts to revealing as much about the picker than the pitcher picked. There are guys built for the bullpen, riskier plays with starter upside, and even a former prep star primed for a breakout. JR RHP Ryan Clark (UNC Greensboro) and SR RHP Dmitri Kourtis (Mercer) have explosive 88-92ish fastballs that are extremely difficult to elevate. Both should find success as relievers professionally, though the 6-5, 230 pound Clark has a pair of offspeed pitches good and command enough to start if called upon. SR RHP Andres Gracia (Samford) and SR RHP Tyler Powell (Western Carolina) also both profile as intimidating pro relievers thanks to good fastballs (90-95 for Gracia, 88-93 with 94-95 peaks for Powell) and breaking balls that flash plus. JR RHP Skylar Hunter (The Citadel) can’t match their size at just 6-1, 185 pounds, but offers similar stuff and upside out of the bullpen. I’m particularly intrigued at the moment by JR RHP Keaton Haack (UNC Greensboro) and JR RHP Will Stillman (Wofford). Both player still have a little projection left while presently throwing three pitches for strikes (87-91 FB and average or better CU and SL for Haack; 88-92 FB and average or better CU and CB for Stillman) with flashes of dominance (9.00 K/9 for Haack last year; 11.74 K/9 [but wild] for Stillman last year) that portend good things to come. Haack is an Alabama transfer who has long been a favorite; in fact, he was my 43rd ranked overall pitching prospect back in 2012. The only unsigned pitchers ahead of him that year were Walker Buehler, Hunter Virant, Kyle Twomey, Trey Killian, Grayson Long, Carson Fulmer, Justin Garza, Alec Rash, Ryan Burr, and Cody Poteet. Pretty nice company to be in, I’d say.

The bats in the SoCon aren’t quite as exciting, but there are a few names worth knowing as we head into the mid-way mark of the season. JR 2B Trey York (East Tennessee State) got the nod as the top second baseman on the this list because of his game-changing speed and above-average or better glove work. I had no idea that the guy who hit .231/.305/.349 last season would start this year hitting .469/.532/.922. It’s only 64 AB, but I’d take hot hitting over cold hitting in any sample. I have a hunch he won’t keep slugging .900+ the rest of the way, though he’s been praised for being stronger with a swing built for more power than most college middle infield prospects in the past. Once the power surge ends you’ll still have a capable defender with plus to plus-plus speed and good size. There’s something work watching in York.

SR 2B/3B Brad Strong (Western Carolina) is a senior sign that I’d have high on my preference list this June and not just because his weird every other year plate discipline thing fascinates me. His BB/K numbers over the years…

2012: 4 BB/30 K
2013: 25 BB/31 K
2014: 19 BB/41 K
2015: 6 BB/4 K

This year isn’t far enough along to even pretend that this is a trend, but it’s still fun. Strong is a pesky hitter who can both run and field enough to be useful in a utility role going forward. Works for me.

JR C Danny Bermudez (Western Carolina) is a reliable defender with plenty of sock but not a ton of patience. SR 1B/LHP Jacob Hoyle (Western Carolina) is a big man with the power you’d expect but far fancier footwork around the bag than you’d expect defensively. The power is nice, but he’s too much of a hacker for my tastes. SR 1B/OF Eric Kalbfleisch (North Carolina Greensboro) is a curiously underrated hitter who has pro size (6-3, 210), an average or better hit tool, and more average-ish tools (speed, arm) than most first base prospects. All three players could get some late round love with continued growth this spring.

The Southern Conference has a swell collection of speedy center fielders headlined by rSR OF/2B Jordan Tarsovich (VMI) and JR OF Jeremy Taylor (East Tennessee State). Tarsovich is a pretty well-rounded prospect who fits the leadoff hitter profile nicely. Taylor, the more powerful of the two, runs and defends in center as well as any other player in the conference. SR OF Garrett Brown (Western Carolina) gets a spot on these rankings as long as he has college eligibility left. He’s a sensational athlete with plus-plus speed who brings a football mentality to the diamond. I could see the fans of the team that drafts him in June confused at what they are getting if they check the numbers, but if he ever devotes himself to baseball full-time then it’ll all make sense. I’m not prognosticating anything specific when it comes to Brown’s future, but rather pointing out how appealing a late round gamble he’ll be.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Virginia Military Institute rSR OF/2B Jordan Tarsovich
  2. East Tennessee State JR 2B Trey York
  3. Western Carolina SR 2B/3B Brad Strong
  4. Wofford JR SS Alec Paradowski
  5. East Tennessee State JR SS Jordan Sanford
  6. Western Carolina SR 1B/LHP Jacob Hoyle
  7. North Carolina Greensboro SR 1B/OF Eric Kalbfleisch
  8. East Tennessee State JR OF Jeremy Taylor
  9. Virginia Military Institute SR OF Brandon Angus
  10. Wofford SR OF/C Matt Ramsay
  11. North Carolina Greensboro SR 2B Hunter King
  12. Furman SR 3B Chris Ohmstede
  13. Western Carolina JR C Danny Bermudez
  14. Western Carolina SR OF Garrett Brown
  15. Samford JR SS Frankie Navarette
  16. East Tennessee State JR 1B/C Kevin Phillips
  17. Furman SR OF Jake Jones
  18. Mercer SR 2B Devin Bonin
  19. North Carolina Greensboro rSR OF Zac MacAneney

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

  1. North Carolina Greensboro JR RHP Ryan Clark
  2. North Carolina Greensboro JR RHP Keaton Haack
  3. Mercer SR RHP Dmitri Kourtis
  4. Samford SR RHP Andres Gracia
  5. The Citadel JR RHP Skylar Hunter
  6. Western Carolina SR RHP Tyler Powell
  7. Wofford JR RHP Will Stillman
  8. Wofford SO RHP Jacob Condra-Bogan
  9. Wofford JR RHP Luke Leftwich
  10. Western Carolina JR LHP Taylor Durand
  11. Western Carolina JR RHP Colton Davis
  12. Virginia Military Institute SR RHP Andrew Woods
  13. Samford SR RHP Mikel Belcher
  14. East Tennessee State JR RHP Griffin Krieg
  15. Furman SR RHP Elliot Warford
  16. Furman SR LHP/1B Ryan Morse
  17. Mercer SR RHP Ben Lumsden
  18. The Citadel rJR LHP James Reeves
  19. Samford SR RHP Cole Limbaugh
  20. Samford JR RHP Parker Curry
  21. Samford rSR RHP Mark Donham
  22. Wofford JR RHP Matthew Milburn
  23. Samford SR RHP Alex Ledford
  24. East Tennessee State SR RHP Jimmy Nesselt
  25. Wofford JR LHP Connor Foltyn

Southland 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

Southeastern Louisiana JR C Jameson Fisher
Incarnate Word SR 1B Ethan McGill
Lamar SR 2B Reed Seeley
Central Arkansas SR SS Nate Ferrell
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi JR 3B Cody Clarke
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi rSR OF Tyler Ware
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi SR OF Kyle Danford
McNeese State SR OF Andrew Guillotte

New Orleans JR RHP Kevin Kelleher
McNeese State rJR RHP Kaleb Jon Fontenot
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi SR RHP Jacob Dorris
Nicholls State JR LHP Grant Borne
Incarnate Word JR RHP Geno Encina

It doesn’t often reflect well on a conference when their best professional position player prospect is in the middle of a season lost entirely to labrum surgery. The Southland Conference is currently dealing with this stigma, but thankfully a handful of bats are doing what they can to make up for the loss of the nominal top prospect. In fairness, Southeastern Louisiana JR C Jameson Fisher is a really, really good prospect. The injury is an undeniable bummer not only because it’s a year of lost development in a critical time for a player’s long-term future but also because it brings further into question his long-term defensive home (even more than his raw glove originally did). If Fisher can’t catch, I don’t know what to think about him as a pro prospect. Like many college backstops, so much is dependent on how long and how well they can hold up defensively behind the dish. I believe in Fisher’s bat as being potentially league average or better both in terms of contact rates and power upside, but the doubt about his defense is an issue not to be taken lightly. I know nothing about Fisher’s mindset heading into June, but if I had to guess I’d assume that it’s very unlikely that a team will draft him high enough (and offer enough cold hard cash) to get him to leave college after a year away from the field. If that’s the case, we’re in for another year’s worth of “can he or can’t he” defensive debate. Can’t wait.

Southeastern Louisiana’s depth behind the plate is really impressive. Fisher is out in 2015, as is SR C Sam Roberson, a solid prospect in his own right. They keep chugging along with JR C Chris Eades there to fill the void. At 6-3, 240 pounds, filling voids is something he is well built to do. Unsurprisingly, the big backstop has a strong arm and intriguing power upside. I’d like to think that naming a Southland team’s third catcher as an honest to goodness pro prospect means I’m dedicated to finding the deepest possible sleepers imaginable, but it’s probably more of a sign that I’ve lost my mind and I need a long vacation away from amateur baseball. At least I didn’t compare next year’s potential logjam behind the plate here to Ohio State’s pending quarterback controversy.

I enjoy the notes I have on Incarnate Word SR 1B Ethan McGill. I’ll publish them here in their entirety: “he’s strong.” He’s listed at 6-4, 250 pounds and, the notes don’t lie, he’s quite strong. He’s also got enough power to be a viable late round prospect, though the non-power areas of his game hold him back. I think either he or Lamar SR 2B/3B Reed Seeley give the conference the best shot at seeing somebody drafted out of the infield (1B, 2B, 3B, SS) this year.

I really like the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi outfield duo of rSR OF/LHP Tyler Ware and SR OF Kyle Danford. Ware’s game is a little more balanced with plenty of athleticism, enough range for center field, and a power/speed/patience mix that makes him a dangerous offensive player. He’s also the owner of a very strong arm, which shouldn’t be a stunner since he can hit 92 off the mound but gets counted as a pleasant surprise as he’s recovered nicely from arm troubles. Danford is a long, lean senior sign with similar power/speed upside to Ware.

McNeese State SR OF Andrew Guillotte is a really fun player. If you long for the days of high contact, little power, and infrequent swings and misses, then Guillotte is your kind of guy. He’d be overshadowed by toolsier players with more upside in most conferences, but in the Southland his brand of hit tool, defense, and speed make him one of the more appealing draft prospects around. Southeastern JR OF Julian Service has a lot more fans among people who cover that part of the country than I ever would have imagined. He’s held his own so far this season, but a lot of smart people have told me he’s the best outfield in the prospect so you might want to listen to them (or not, seeing as I’m not yet doing so).

There are a lot of really intriguing pitchers in the Southland ready to go higher than expected in 2015. The difference between the draft-eligible position players and pitchers is striking. Significantly more depth can be found on the mound here than in the batter’s box. Turns out that for whatever reason I just wrote three consecutive opening sentences here without fully realizing it. I think I’ve done too many of these. I’m pressing on without deleting because picking one of those corny intros out of the rest is too much work. Let’s just get on with the players.

With a dominant FB/SL combination New Orleans JR RHP Kevin Kelleher has big league closer upside. That’s a bolder prediction that I intended to make, but the stuff seems in line with what we’ve come to expect out of late-inning relievers. Players who can get it up to 98 with a hard mid- to upper-80s slider to match aren’t easy to find. McNeese State rJR RHP Kaleb Jon Fontenot can throw three average or better pitches for strikes (88-92 FB, CB, CU), so there’s a chance he can fit in as a fifth starter/middle relief type down the road. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi SR RHP Jacob Dorris is just one of those players I can’t help but gravitate towards; his delivery is funky, his mid-80s fastball doesn’t stop moving until the catcher is ready to throw it back to him, and his slider is one of the very best in college baseball. Nicholls State JR LHP Grant Borne is a little bit like a bigger, lefthanded version of Fontenot; if that description alone makes you want to flip the two on the rankings, I wouldn’t argue. You can find plenty of talent further down the list if you’re willing to look. There are players way down the rankings that flirt with the mid-90s. Hard throwers like New Orleans rSR RHP Darron McKigney, Southeastern Louisiana SR RHP Kyle Keller, Sam Houston State JR RHP Ryan Brinley, and Nicholls State rJR RHP Marc Frazier could all make reasonable leaps up boards with big springs.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Southeastern Louisiana JR C Jameson Fisher
  2. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi rSR OF/LHP Tyler Ware
  3. Northwestern State JR C/OF Cort Brinson
  4. Southeastern Louisiana JR C Chris Eades
  5. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi SR OF Kyle Danford
  6. Lamar SR 2B/3B Reed Seeley
  7. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi JR 3B Cody Clarke
  8. Incarnate Word JR 3B Brance Kahle
  9. McNeese State SR OF Andrew Guillotte
  10. Southeastern Louisiana JR OF Julian Service
  11. Incarnate Word SR 1B Ethan McGill
  12. Incarnate Word SR OF Jesse Hoover
  13. Southeastern Louisiana SR C Sam Roberson
  14. McNeese State SR OF/RHP Lucas Quary
  15. Northwestern State rSO OF Nick Heath
  16. Central Arkansas SR SS/1B Nate Ferrell
  17. Stephen F. Austin State JR 1B Kyle Thornell
  18. Northwestern State SR OF Bret Underwood
  19. Sam Houston State SR OF Colt Atwood
  20. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi SR 1B Frankie Salas
  21. Houston Baptist SR 3B/RHP Josh Martinez
  22. Sam Houston State SR OF Hayden Simerly
  23. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi SR OF Jordan Lee

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

  1. New Orleans JR RHP Kevin Kelleher
  2. McNeese State rJR RHP Kaleb Jon Fontenot
  3. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi SR RHP Jacob Dorris
  4. Nicholls State JR LHP Grant Borne
  5. Incarnate Word JR RHP Geno Encina
  6. Nicholls State SR LHP Stuart Holmes
  7. Sam Houston State SR LHP Andrew Godail
  8. Southeastern Louisiana JR RHP Tate Scioneaux
  9. Southeastern Louisiana JR RHP Mason Klotz
  10. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi SR LHP Trevor Belicek
  11. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi JR RHP Kaleb Keith
  12. Nicholls State JR RHP Justin Sinibaldi
  13. McNeese State rSR RHP Cory LaPeze
  14. New Orleans rSR RHP Darron McKigney
  15. Sam Houston State JR LHP Logan Boyd
  16. Southeastern Louisiana SR RHP Kyle Keller
  17. Southeastern Louisiana JR RHP Jake Johnson
  18. Sam Houston State JR RHP Ryan Brinley
  19. Nicholls State rJR RHP Marc Frazier
  20. McNeese State JR RHP Bryce Kingsley
  21. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi SR RHP Matt Danton
  22. McNeese State JR RHP Ethan Stremmel
  23. New Orleans rSR RHP/3B Sam Carriere
  24. Sam Houston State JR RHP Juan Cortina
  25. Northwestern State SR RHP Brandon Smith
  26. Abilene Christian SR RHP Kevin Sheets
  27. Abilene Christian SR RHP Ladgie Zotyka
  28. Stephen F. Austin State SR LHP Dillon Mangham

WAC 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

Seattle SR C Brian Olson
Grand Canyon rJR 1B Rouric Bridgewater
Grant Canyon SR 2B Chad De La Guerra
Chicago State JR SS Julian Russell
Chicago State SR 3B Mattingly Romanin
Seattle JR OF Landon Cray
Sacramento State JR OF Nathan Lukes
Northern Colorado SR OF Jensen Parks

Sacramento State JR RHP Sutter McLoughlin
Grand Canyon SR LHP Brandon Bonilla
Grand Canyon SR RHP Jorge Perez
North Dakota SR RHP Andrew Thome
Grand Canyon JR LHP Andrew Naderer

The WAC’s highest upside arm is attached to the body of Sacramento State JR RHP Sutter McLoughlin, a big (6-6, 225) college reliever with the stuff and athleticism to potentially move to the rotation as a professional. His fastball is consistently in the low- to mid-90s (90-95, 97 peak) and his changeup is one the better pitches of its kind in college ball. If he stays put in the bullpen in the pros, I could see him being a sneaky contender for this year’s draft’s fastest moving pitcher. I won’t go so far as to say I think he’ll be the fastest, but with two plus pitches already in the bag he’d certainly be in the mix. Sacramento State SR RHP Brennan Leitao has been a good college pitcher for a long time now, but he’s done it without missing a ton of bats. That makes me more curious than ever about his GB% since his stuff (86-91 sinkers, tons of sliders) fits the groundball specialist profile.

Grand Canyon’s trio of pitching prospects includes SR LHP Brandon Bonilla, SR RHP Jorge Perez, and JR LHP Andrew Naderer. At last check (3/22), neither Bonilla nor Perez has thrown an inning yet this season. That makes ranking them above Naderer, Grand Canyon’s workhorse, a bit odd at face value, but, as in all but the most extreme cases, it comes down to pro projection over amateur production. Bonilla has long tantalized scouts with his size, velocity (upper-80s back in HS, but consistently in the low- to mid-90s now), and a really intriguing mid-80s circle-change. The parallels between his path and usage resemble what his teammate rJR 1B/OF Rouric Bridgewater have experienced over the years, but less game action can be spun more easily as a positive (or, more likely, considered neither good nor bad) for a pitcher than a hitter. Perez relies more on his ability to command the classic sinker (88-92, 93-94 peak) and slider (78-82, above-average upside) stuff. Naderer is a quality prospect in his own right with an exciting mid-80s fastball (90 peak) with all kinds of movement (he can cut it, sink it, and just generally make it dance), an average 79-81 changeup with promise, and a mid-70s curve; continued success could vault him past his more famous teammates by June.

Seattle SR C Brian Olson is a dependable defender with solid power and a decent approach. Grand Canyon SR 2B Chad De La Guerra has more pop than most middle infielders and picks his spots really well on the base paths. Chicago State SR 3B Mattingly Romanin makes his unconventional third base profile (more contact and speed than power and size) work in his own way. Seattle JR OF Landon Cray has demonstrated fantastic plate discipline at the plate and all kinds of speed and range in center. Northern Colorado SR OF Jensen Park does many of the same things well, but does it as a more affordable/signable senior sign. Sacramento State JR OF Nathan Lukes can’t match Cray or Park as a defender (he’s better suited for a corner, where he’s quite good), but offers a similar balanced offensive ability to go with a deadly accurate throwing arm. All of those players look like potential draft picks and contributors to a team’s minor league system. With the right breaks from there, anything can happen. None, however, can match the upside of a player I’ve long liked as a hitter, but now have to admit falls well behind the rest of the WAC pack.

“The guy can hit any pitch, works a mature whole field approach, and goes into each at bat with a plan in place.” Words written here about the aforementioned Bridgewater back in his high school days. I also cited his above-average power upside, though updated reports have it as being more than that in terms of raw power. The problems for Bridgewater can be traced to the difficulty of projecting big league futures on any teenager with a lot of growing up left to do. There’s a reason why the success rate for even first round picks isn’t nearly as high in baseball as it is in other sports. The space between now and later is filled with untold obstacles. Bridgewater’s development, or lack thereof, as a hitter can in part be traced to not getting the reps needed during the crucial baseball gestation period where boys become men. Since leaving high school in 2012 Bridgewater has gotten 88 at bats. Even a talented natural hitter like Bridgewater will struggle with so few opportunities to hone his craft against the kinds of arms he needs to see at this point.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Grand Canyon SR 2B Chad De La Guerra
  2. Seattle JR OF Landon Cray
  3. Seattle SR C Brian Olson
  4. Cal State Bakersfield JR 2B/SS Mylz Jones
  5. Sacramento State JR OF Nathan Lukes
  6. Northern Colorado SR OF Jensen Park
  7. New Mexico State rSR OF Quinnton Mack
  8. Chicago State SR 3B Mattingly Romanin
  9. Utah Valley State JR OF Craig Brinkerhoff
  10. Grand Canyon SR OF David Walker
  11. Grand Canyon rJR 1B/OF Rouric Bridgewater
  12. Cal State Bakersfield SR 1B Soloman Williams
  13. Chicago State JR SS Julian Russell
  14. New Mexico State JR 3B Derek Umphres
  15. Utah Valley State JR 1B Mark Krueger
  16. Sacramento State SR OF Kyle Moses

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Sacramento State JR RHP Sutter McLoughlin
  2. Grand Canyon SR LHP Brandon Bonilla
  3. Grand Canyon SR RHP Jorge Perez
  4. North Dakota SR RHP Andrew Thome
  5. Grand Canyon JR LHP Andrew Naderer
  6. Sacramento State SR RHP Brennan Leitao
  7. Utah Valley State SR RHP Chad Michaud
  8. Sacramento State rSO RHP Justin Dillon
  9. Cal State Bakersfield SR RHP James Barragan
  10. Utah Valley State JR RHP Danny Beddes
  11. Sacramento State SR RHP Ty Nichols
  12. North Dakota SR RHP/1B Jeff Campbell
  13. Seattle JR LHP Will Dennis
  14. Seattle JR RHP Skyler Genger
  15. Grand Canyon SR RHP Coley Bruns

SWAC 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

Southern rJR C Jose DeLaTorre
Alabama A&M JR 1B Austin Hulsey
Alabama State SR 2B Einar Muniz
Alabama A&M SR SS Julio Nunez
Jackson State SR 3B Melvin Rodriguez
Alabama State SR OF Waldyvan Estrada
Alabama A&M SR OF Andrew Utterback
Southern SR OF Lance Jones

Texas Southern SR RHP Robert Pearson
Alabama State SR RHP TJ Renda
Alabama State JR RHP Jorge Pantoja
Southern SR RHP Rafael Diaz
Alabama State SR RHP Michael Estevez

No disrespect to any of the returning players, but the biggest story from a prospect standpoint in the SWAC this year is the absence of Alabama State RHP/SS Branden Castro. If anybody knows what happened to Castro, an athletic two-way player with a fastball clocked as high as 96 in the past no longer on the Alabama State roster, please let me know. My lame attempt at researching the topic came up empty. I typically do a post on players that I’ve lost track of and get a bunch of really helpful responses out of it (I should probably do one for this year’s missing players…), so I’m hopeful somebody knows something that I don’t.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the players actually on the field this season. I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback about Jackson State SR 3B Melvin Rodriguez and Alabama A&M SR SS/2B Julio Nunez when asking around about who to watch in the SWAC this year. A player from the SWAC has been drafted every year since the Rule 4 draft began in 1965. Powerful Alabama State SR OF Waldyvan Estrada is more than qualified to keep the streak alive through 2015. Pro teams value players a lot differently than one guy writing on the internet, but I like all three players to be drafted in June as senior signs with actual upside at the plate.

Texas Southern SR RHP Robert Pearson has the fastball (90-94, 96 peak) and average or better slider to be considered a viable relief prospect. His control is a red flag, but I’ve heard teams think his arm is worthwhile and that a mechanical tweak or two could vastly improve his control. I might like him more than I should because his name reminds me of noted former Phillies ace Robert Person. For the record, I originally meant the ace thing as a bit of a crack on how bad the Phillies were during Person’s time here, but damn if he wasn’t even better – pretty darn good, even! — than my already overly rosy memories of players past originally would have guessed. Pearson would be lucky to have a career like Person.

Luck would happen that I recently wrote up the Summit League, so forgive me for comparing the relatively stacked Alabama State pitching staff to that of the Summit’s Oral Roberts. SR RHP TJ Renda (average fastball, good command, very good control), JR RHP Jorge Pantoja (better fastball, above-average breaking ball, good size), SR RHP Michael Estevez (long track record of missing bats, 2015 included), and SR RHP Armando Ruiz (short, but can hit 93) are all within draftable range for me.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Alabama State SR OF Waldyvan Estrada
  2. Alabama A&M SR OF Andrew Utterback
  3. Southern SR OF Lance Jones
  4. Alabama A&M JR 1B/RHP Austin Hulsey
  5. Jackson State SR 3B Melvin Rodriguez
  6. Alabama A&M SR SS/2B Julio Nunez
  7. Alabama State SR 2B Einar Muniz
  8. Jackson State SR SS Gary Thomas
  9. Southern rJR C Jose DeLa Torre
  10. Alabama A&M SR OF Brandyn Crutcher
  11. Grambling State SR 2B Yariel Medina
  12. Jackson State SR 1B Tilur Smith
  13. Prairie View A&M SR SS Walter Wells
  14. Alabama State rSR OF Cesar Rivera
  15. Texas Southern SR OF Jerry Ford

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

  1. Texas Southern SR RHP Robert Pearson
  2. Alabama State SR RHP TJ Renda
  3. Alabama State JR RHP Jorge Pantoja
  4. Southern SR RHP Rafael Diaz
  5. Alabama State SR RHP Michael Estevez
  6. Alabama State SR RHP Armando Ruiz
  7. Alabama A&M SR RHP Joshua Freeman

Summit League 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

Nebraska-Omaha rJR C Alex Mortensen
Fort Wayne JR 1B Kendall Whitman
Fort Wayne rJR 2B Greg Kaiser
Nebraska-Omaha JR SS Clayton Taylor
Oral Roberts JR 3B Rolando Martinez
Fort Wayne JR OF Evan VanSumeren
Nebraska-Omaha JR OF Alex Schultz
Nebraska-Omaha JR OF Cole Gruber

Oral Roberts JR RHP Guillermo Trujillo
South Dakota State SR RHP Adam Bray
Oral Roberts rSR RHP Kurt Giller
Oral Roberts SR RHP Jacob McDavid
North Dakota State rSR RHP Parker Trewin

Two players last year were drafted out of the Summit League. I don’t want to get ahead of myself here, but the possibility of topping that number seems likely this June. The conference has a good number of hitters coming off of strong seasons who also happen to be off to strong starts in 2015. It’s not the toolsiest bunch, but there are some organizational players here that deserve to be drafted. Once the ink dries on a pro contract, anything can happen. Nebraska-Omaha JR SS/2B Clayton Taylor is the top potential/production prospect in my book thanks to his athletic 6-4, 190 pound frame and consistent positive offensive contributions.

The Summit could also see a few pitchers go off the board with the staff at Oral Roberts being a one-stop shop for a few potential quality draftable arms. JR RHP Guillermo Trujillo is a hard thrower (88-94 FB, 95 peak) with a nice changeup who could see his stuff play up in a professional relief role. rSR RHP Kurt Giller has been a solid college performer since 2012 with enough fastball (88-92 FB) to get a look beyond college. SR RHP Jacob McDavid has room to put on more weight (6-5, 190) to pump up his fastball (92 peak) another grade. South Dakota State SR RHP Adam Bray is a personal favorite as a seriously smart young pitcher with advanced command and an above-average curve.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Nebraska-Omaha JR SS/2B Clayton Taylor
  2. Oral Roberts JR 3B Rolando Martinez
  3. Fort Wayne JR OF Evan VanSumeren
  4. Nebraska-Omaha JR OF Alex Schultz
  5. Nebraska-Omaha JR OF Cole Gruber
  6. Nebraska-Omaha rJR C/OF Alex Mortensen
  7. Western Illinois SR C JJ Reimer
  8. Fort Wayne JR 1B Kendall Whitman
  9. South Dakota State JR OF Zach Coppola
  10. Fort Wayne rJR 2B Greg Kaiser
  11. Oral Roberts SR 2B Matt Brandy

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

  1. Oral Roberts JR RHP Guillermo Trujillo
  2. South Dakota State SR RHP Adam Bray
  3. Oral Roberts rSR RHP Kurt Giller
  4. Oral Roberts SR RHP Jacob McDavid
  5. North Dakota State rSR RHP Parker Trewin
  6. Western Illinois JR RHP Joe Mortillaro
  7. Western Illinois SR LHP Tom Constand
  8. South Dakota State SR RHP Chad Hodges
  9. South Dakota State SR RHP JD Moore
  10. North Dakota State SR RHP David Ernst
  11. North Dakota State JR RHP Brian VanderWoude
  12. Oral Roberts rJR RHP Nathan Garza
  13. North Dakota State SR RHP Jay Flaa
  14. North Dakota State SR LHP Trent Keefer
  15. Nebraska-Omaha JR RHP Tyler Fox
  16. Fort Wayne SR RHP Ryan Wells
  17. Nebraska-Omaha rJR RHP Zach Williamsen

Sun Belt 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

Texas-Arlington SR C Eric Tate
Louisiana SR 1B Greg Davis
Texas-Arlington JR 2B Darien McLemore
Louisiana JR SS Blake Trahan
Georgia State JR 3B Matt Rose
Troy JR OF Logan Hill
Appalachian State JR OF Jaylin Davis
Texas-Arlington JR OF Cody Farrell

Arkansas State JR RHP David Owen
Louisiana SR RHP Greg Milhorn
Texas State JR RHP Lucas Humpal
Troy JR RHP Tucker Simpson
Texas State rJR RHP Jeremy Hallonquist

Writing about the Sun Belt is an excuse for me to write about a player who might literally be my favorite of all the FAVORITES I’ve written about so far. Everything about Louisiana JR SS Blake Trahan’s game appeals to me. He’s the kind of player I’m comfortable going all-in on and staking my flimsy at best internet reputation on.

I had Trahan only behind Dansby Swanson, Richie Martin, and CJ Hinojosa on my personal ranking of college shortstop prospects coming into the season, ahead of more famous names like Kevin Newman and Mikey White. I considered that fairly aggressive at the time, but, if anything, I might have underrated him; an argument could be made right now that he’s second only to Swanson as a pro prospect at the six-spot. If you’re picking high and you miss or pass on Swanson in the first round, then you might wind up getting the better end of the deal in the long run with Trahan in the second. He runs, fields, and hits for average as well as any shortstop in the class, and his intensity, aggressive style out of play (I love that Mike Rooney called it “almost out-of-control” as a positive), and on-field makeup bring that little something extra to his overall tools package.

There’s still the question of whether or not he’ll produce enough power as he begins to go head-to-head against pitching outside of the Sun Belt. I’d personally like to see him begin to make better use of his easy plus speed on the bases; if ever there was a prospect in need of a good base running coach like Davey Lopes, Trahan is it. Others don’t like his defense nearly as much as I do, though most think he at least has the hands, arm, and athleticism to start his pro career at short before potentially moving to second base down the line. Those are relatively minor concerns at this point, though I can at least understand how one might want to delve deeper into the level of competition point before investing a top fifty pick on him. I’m curious about that as well, but remain confident that his physical ability, feel for hitting, and disciplined approach (on the micro-level as a hitter and on the macro-level as a young man committed to getting the most out of his talent) is enough that he’d thrive in just about any situation. I’d draft him early, give him a little time to adjust to pro ball, coach him up a bit, and then sit back and relax as he became a fixture at shortstop for my franchise over the next half-decade.

I wrote briefly about Trahan almost exactly one year ago (today is 3/18 as I write this, but who knows when it’ll be published)…

Best tools/production combo right now is Alex Bregman with Blake Trahan not too far off the trail. I love that they are both in the same state, one at a traditional powerhouse and the other at an on-the-rise upstart; can’t wait to read the eventual Aaron Fitt feature on the two.

Still waiting on that Bregman/Trahan feature, college baseball writers! That thing practically writes itself, right? Almost everything I said about Trahan can be applied to another outstanding potential first day Sun Belt hitter in Georgia State JR 3B/RHP Matt Rose. In no way is this a direct comp by any stretch, but something about Rose’s profile reminds me former Washington star and current weirdly underrated Diamondbacks third baseman Jake Lamb. I liked Lamb a lot in his draft year (“above-average big league starter upside”) and I don’t see how anybody can objectively look at Rose and come up with too different a conclusion about his future (above-average big league starter upside). The tools are big league quality: above-average to plus raw power, really promising defensive gifts, and enough arm strength to throw 90-94 MPH fastballs off the mound. What I might like most about Rose is the persistent claim that from those who have seen him closest that he’ll be a really good big league hitter. I can’t tell you how often I heard how his approach at the plate is beyond his years. Fair and balanced to the scouting reports and statistics to the every end, I’d then look at his BB/K numbers over the years (13/37 last year, for example) and wonder what they were seeing that I never did (literally never did, by the way: I’m no scout so it might not matter, but, full disclosure, I have not yet seen Rose play at Georgia State). Well, though it may be early, Rose’s .306/.420/.722 line through 72 AB (13 BB/11 K) is a pretty nice start for those that have been on Rose since the start. He was always one of those players that seemed like he’d be better professionally – in part because he’d be away from the mound – than he looked in college, which ties us back to something frequently said about Lamb back in 2012. I’ve underrated Rose too long in the past, but no more.

(I have to point out that there are some really smart people who prefer Rose as a pitcher. That just makes him an even cooler prospect in my book. I get the appeal, too: he’s 90-94 with his fastball, shows two offspeed pitches with promise already, and has premium size (6-4, 200) and athleticism. Stretching him out as a starting pitcher in the pros would be really tempting to me if I wasn’t so confident that he’d hit (and hit with power) at third base.)

(I also have to point out – since it was pointed out to me – that perhaps my associating Matt Rose with Jake Lamb could be because they both have four letters in their first and last names. I didn’t realize that initially, so maybe that’s it. The next time somebody tries to dismiss a comp, feel free to use this awesome example as a reason to believe. Two guys with four letters in each their names have to be similar baseball players, right? That’s how this works, I’m pretty sure.)

There’s more to the Sun Belt shortstop position than just the aforementioned Trahan. Louisiana-Monroe JR SS Kodie Tidwell is a patient, balanced hitter with all of the requisite defensive tools to stick at shortstop over the long haul. While Trahan was good from day one at Louisiana, Tidwell has slowly yet surely improved in all offensively phases since entering college. Though not the same prospect as Trahan in my eyes, there’s still a pretty decent chance I would have written a few hundred words on him instead were it not for the possibility of Trahan sneaking into the draft’s first round. I also might have written more about Appalachian State JR SS/OF Dillon Dobson. The SS/OF positional designation doesn’t really do him justice as he has seen time at just about every position (1B, 2B, 3B) on the diamond as well. Between that defensive versatility, excellent athleticism, average speed, and above-average raw power (second in this area to only Matt Rose among Sun Belt infielders for me), you’ve got yourself a pretty intriguing professional prospect, especially if he can clean up his overly aggressive approach a bit.

Arkansas State rJR 3B Zach George is almost the Kodie Tidwell to Matt Rose’s Blake Trahan. He’s a really solid prospect with a really inspiring story (two torn ACLs) of perserverance. I actually had to not be lazy for a change and double-check that the two torn ACL thing was true (it is) because it’s so hard for me to fathom. I wish I had more of a platform to get George’s story out there, but, for now, just know that he’s a damn fine player and a legitimate pro prospect. Louisiana SR 3B Tyler Girouard’s 5-9, 180 pound frame doesn’t scream third base prospect, but he’s a good college hitter with an above-average approach. Louisiana-Monroe SR 3B/1B Keelin Rasch is yet another honest to goodness senior sign worth considering as a strong armed third baseman with a little thump.

There are some talented backstops in the Sun Belt this year. It speaks very well of the overall talent level of the league because, as I write all the time, quality catchers are always in demand in June. I think the odds are in your favor that when you go to a random conference game this season that you’ll see a future professional catcher or two. Louisiana SR C/3B Evan Powell (LSU transfer) and Georgia Southern SR C Chase Griffin (friend told me that Griffin is Luke Lowery if Luke Lowery hadn’t gone crazy with the bat this winter) are well-known to people who obsess about this stuff like you and I, but other catchers in the conference appear to be better bets as pros to me. Texas-Arlington SR C Eric Tate hit a ton last year and keeps on hitting this year. At some point that’ll get him noticed. Georgia State JR C Joey Roach has also hit, and the reports I have on his defense, especially in how he handles pitchers, are uniformly positive.

Texas-Arlington JR 2B/SS Darien McLemore can field his spot and give you some sneaky pop in his sturdy 5-9, 210 frame, so I’m still on him despite his slow start this season. Georgia State SR 2B/SS Caden Bailey is a player I expected to have a breakout junior season (didn’t happen), so it’s nice to see him get off to a hot start in his final year of school. I still like Bailey as a senior sign that could quickly go from organizational depth to big league utility prospect if everything breaks right. I don’t have much information yet on Appalachian State SR 2B/OF Michael Pierson, but his bat intrigues me enough to find out more.

I thought Texas-Arlington JR OF Cody Farrell had a chance to step into the Mavericks lineup and light the college world on fire. So far, that hasn’t exactly been the case. There are reasons why I liked him in the first place (athleticism, bat speed, and a well-rounded overall skill set), but he’ll have to pick it up at the plate if he wants to avoid being a 2016 senior sign breakout candidate to watch. Speaking of senior sign breakout candidates to watch, here’s Troy SR OF Jo-El Bennett. Bennett has not broken out yet, but that doesn’t stop people like me from keeping him higher in these kinds of rankings than his performance deserves. It goes to show what a cool name, impressive high school pedigree, and flashes of appealing tools can do for a player. No sense in hopping off the Bennett bandwagon now, but it’s getting pretty lonesome at this point. His teammate at Troy, JR OF Logan Hill, appears to have overtaken him in the prospect pecking order. I’m good with that because of Hill’s enormous raw power; hopefully his bandwagon still has room (a quick Google search indicates that I’m the only one on the planet writing about Logan Hill’s MLB draft stock, so, yeah, it does).

Appalachian State JR OF Jaylin Davis has as many 55’s on his card as any outfielder here. He’s above-average or better in center, throwing, and in terms of raw power, and just a touch above average as a runner. I think he’s smart enough, athletic enough, and in possession of a quick enough bat to hit enough to make all those tools work, so don’t forget the name. As a plus defender in center who has shown a little extra pop to go along with a patient approach so far this winter, South Alabama rSO OF/LHP Cole Billingsley is another name to store away.

I’ve spent a lot of words raving about many of the Sun Belt’s good looking position player prospects already, so I’ll keep my remarks about the pitching in the conference brief. It’s an interesting group when you look at the big picture: lots of undersized righthanders, not a ton of velocity (88-92 MPH fastballs are the norm), and a good number of unknowns (and transfers) with plenty to prove between now and June. Arkansas State JR RHP David Owen, one of those undersized righties at 6-0, 190 pounds, commands four pitches with impressive control of occasionally powerful (94-95 peak) stuff. Transfers Louisiana SR RHP Greg Milhorn (Arkansas) and Troy JR RHP Tucker Simpson (Florida) both hold promise beyond what they’ve shown so far. Milhorn has the stuff to start (88-94 FB, good CB and CU) and Simpson has tantalizing size (6-7, 220) and a fastball that works now (94-95 peak) with some thinking he has a little more to come. I’d like to see Texas State rJR RHP Jeremy Hallonquist (plus SL, CU with serious drop) get more innings, which I assume will happen as he puts even more time between himself and a past Tommy John surgery. Georgia Southern JR LHP Jason Richman is all kinds of funky with a mid-80s fastball, lots of sliders, and unmatched deception. It could take some time, but I could see him turning himself into an actual pro bullpen piece in time.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Louisiana JR SS/2B Blake Trahan
  2. Georgia State JR 3B/RHP Matt Rose
  3. Louisiana-Monroe JR SS Kodie Tidwell
  4. Troy JR OF Logan Hill
  5. Appalachian State JR OF Jaylin Davis
  6. Texas-Arlington JR OF Cody Farrell
  7. South Alabama rSO OF/LHP Cole Billingsley
  8. Appalachian State JR SS/OF Dillon Dobson
  9. Arkansas State rJR 3B Zach George
  10. Texas-Arlington JR 2B/SS Darien McLemore
  11. Georgia State SR 2B/SS Caden Bailey
  12. Troy SR OF Jo-El Bennett
  13. Troy SR OF David Hall
  14. Georgia Southern SR OF Aaron Mizell
  15. Louisiana SR 1B/3B Greg Davis
  16. Texas-Arlington SR C Eric Tate
  17. Louisiana SR 3B Tyler Girouard
  18. Arkansas State JR OF Austin Baker
  19. South Alabama rSR OF Garrett DeGallier
  20. Georgia State JR C Joey Roach
  21. Louisiana SR C/3B Evan Powell
  22. Louisiana-Monroe SR 3B/1B Keelin Rasch
  23. South Alabama SR OF Cole Gleason
  24. Louisiana SR OF Dylan Butler
  25. Georgia Southern SR C Chase Griffin
  26. Arkansas State SR C Stuart Levy
  27. Georgia Southern SR OF Kody Adams
  28. Georgia State JR OF James Clements
  29. Appalachian State SR 2B/OF Michael Pierson
  30. Georgia State SR 2B/SS David Levy
  31. Texas State SR OF Ben McElroy
  32. Georgia Southern SR 2B/SS Dalton Busby

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching 

  1. Arkansas State JR RHP David Owen
  2. Louisiana SR RHP Greg Milhorn
  3. Texas State JR RHP/C Lucas Humpal
  4. Troy JR RHP Tucker Simpson
  5. Texas State rJR RHP Jeremy Hallonquist
  6. South Alabama JR RHP Justin Flores
  7. South Alabama SR RHP Ben Taylor
  8. South Alabama SR RHP Kevin Hill
  9. Georgia State JR RHP Nathan Bates
  10. Georgia Southern JR RHP Chris Brown
  11. Louisiana-Monroe rJR RHP Alex Hermeling
  12. Georgia Southern SR RHP Tripp Sheppard
  13. Georgia Southern JR LHP Jason Richman
  14. Arkansas State SR LHP Chandler Hawkins
  15. Texas-Arlington SR RHP Chad Nack
  16. Arkansas State JR RHP/OF Adam Grantham
  17. Georgia State JR RHP Clayton Payne
  18. Arkansas State JR RHP/2B Tanner Ring
  19. Appalachian State SR LHP Jeffrey Springs
  20. Appalachian State SR RHP Jamie Nunn
  21. Appalachian State SR RHP Robert Whaley
  22. Troy JR RHP Lucas Brown
  23. Georgia State SR RHP Kevin Burgee
  24. South Alabama SR LHP James Traylor
  25. Troy rSR RHP Jeremy McGowan
  26. Arkansas-Little Rock SR RHP Dyllon Brownmiller
  27. Appalachian State SR RHP Taylor Thurber

Big 12 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

Oklahoma JR C Chris Shaw
Texas Tech JR 1B Eric Gutierrez
Kansas JR 2B Colby Wright
Texas JR SS CJ Hinojosa
Oklahoma JR 3B Kolbey Carpenter
Texas JR OF Ben Johnson
Texas Tech JR OF Tyler Neslony
Kansas State SR OF Max Brown

Texas Christian JR LHP Alex Young
Texas Christian JR RHP Riley Ferrell
Texas Christian rSO RHP Mitchell Traver
Oklahoma rJR LHP Adam Choplick
Texas SR RHP Parker French

I normally start with the hitters here because I’m a creature of habit bound by my small-minded attempt at maintaining some semblance of consistent order in an otherwise chaotic world. Today we’re breaking that habit not because of personal growth, but simply because the pitching in the Big 12, most notably at TCU, is worth talking about. I’m way late to the party, I know, but the collection of arms they have in Fort Worth is something to be celebrated.

Oklahoma rJR LHP Adam Choplick is a 6-8, 260 pound lefthander who can reach the mid-90s and for whatever reason very little has been written about him nationally. My contribution to help remedy that: he’s really good. I’d love to know more about Texas SR RHP Parker French’s batted ball data. He has some serious worm-killing stuff (88-94 FB with sink, 97 peak; good 78-84 CU with sink; good mid-80s cut-SL) and has succeeded over the years without striking out a ton of hitters. That last bit is a tad worrisome because pro hitters are not college hitters, but if he can be a 60% groundball guy in the pros then who knows.

Oklahoma State is loaded in its own right with draft-eligible pitchers. rJR RHP/OF Conor Costello has the depth of stuff to start and the athleticism to repeat his delivery through long outings. He’s also a decent enough hitter that letting him start in the National League could lead to some fun at bats. JR RHP Koda Glover uses a 92-95 MPH fastball and intriguing offspeed stuff (no, that’s not just that code that I need more info on him…except I do, which must be an incredible coincidence) to miss bats at a high rate. SO RHP Trey Cobb comes from a star-studded Oklahoma high school class with a sinker/slider mix that should keep him employed for a long time. SR RHP Jon Perrin could be a good bang for your buck as a potential fifth starter/middle relief type available on the cheap come drat day.

I’ve written all that (and my brief note on Choplick, can’t forget that beauty) while totally forgetting I’ve covered Kansas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State already. So, read those if you want more on any of those schools. I think we’ve waited long enough to finally get to the main event that is Texas Christian University. They might not be able to match Vanderbilt in terms of pure ceiling (Buehler and Fulmer are tough to beat), but their balance of star power, hard throwers, polished veterans, and Preston Morrison (he gets his own category) is special.

I think you almost need to find a rare three-headed coin to determine the best pitcher from TCU (and thus the best in the conference) between JR LHP Alex Young, JR RHP Riley Ferrell, and rSO RHP Mitchell Traver. All three guys fit nice neat little archetypes, so they make for a fun and relatively easy group to discuss. Young is the sure-fire starter going forward with a legit classic four-pitch mix (FB, CU, CB, SL), average overall command (above-average FB command, which is nice) and solid athleticism/size. He’s also put up numbers since day one on campus (8.41 K/9 in 2013, 8.37 K/9 in 2014), so there’s not too much need to project some kind of crazy unrealistic future where he turns into something that he’s not. The delta between his ceiling and floor is a tiny one as at his best he’s probably a mid-rotation workhorse and at his worst he figures to be a fifth starter/bullpen weapon. He’d fit in as a really swell second or third pick for a team that would prefer to reach for the stars with their first rounder. He has to be on the short list as one of the “safest” draft prospects or “quickest movers” to the big leagues. Ferrell is the future back end of the bullpen stalwart with closer upside. Like Young (and most big-time college relief prospects) Ferrell has a small gap between his dream scenario (elite closer) and his most likely scenario (good reliever who gets to the big leagues in a hurry). Also like Young, Ferrell’s track record at TCU is impeccable; with a trail of missed bats lying in his wake (11.02 K/9 in 2013, 13.90 K/9 in 2014, 14.50 K/9 so far this year), what you see is what you get. At his best he’s in the upper-90s with the heat and a plus mid-80s slider as the putaway pitch; at his less than best (like, say, on the second half of a back-to-back), his fastball sits low-90s with a slider that flashes but doesn’t have quite the same shape. I think he likely will fall in somewhere between last year’s top two relievers, Nick Burdi (pick 46) and Michael Cederoth (pick 79), were drafted last year. That seems fair for now. Traver is the wild card. His health has held up so far this year and his stuff has been as advertised. If you can’t get excited for a 6-7, 250 pound capable of hitting the mid-90s (90-94, 96 peak) with a plus mid-80s slider and a usable changeup who is finally healthy after missing the better part of two seasons with arm injuries (Tommy John back in 2013 did a number on him), then you’re reading the wrong site. I’ve gotten an interesting range of comps for Traver including a solid starter (Gil Meche), a quality reliever (Nick Masset), and a personal favorite of mine that will go down as a starting member of the what could have been team (Dustin McGowan). I like to occasionally look a comparison cousins, my lame turn of phrase for two prospects connected by being once compared to the same player. The only other time I’ve used a Dustin McGowan comp was when it was mentioned to me last year as a possible outcome for Tyler Kolek. That’s…interesting.

Those are the top names at TCU, but far from the only ones. SO LHP Tyler Alexander is a potential back of the rotation starter who has good stuff with excellent command. rSO RHP Brian Trieglaff can get it up to 94, SR LHP Travis Evans throws three pitches for strikes (including a good breaking ball), and rSR RHP Trey Teakell is an outstanding senior sign with the size (6-5, 175), repertoire (87-92 FB, low-80s CU, upper-70s CB, hard splitter), and, big shocker, sterling track record to warrant top ten round consideration. Finally we get to SR RHP Preston Morrison, college baseball’s weirdest pitcher. Morrison gets results with a mid-80s fastball with serious sink and a variety of offspeed offerings (72-74 CB, 69-74 SL, 76-81 CU) that comes in from a funky sidearm but not quite sidearm angle. I rule nothing out when it comes to Morrison’s pro future, though I think a middle relief ceiling as a guy who gives hitters a totally different look from most big league relievers feels like a fair best case scenario right now.

I’m still holding out hope that we see Oklahoma JR C Chris Shaw get going on the big stage, especially after the tremendous power displays he put on after relatively slow starts the past two seasons in junior college. Truthfully, the question as to whether or not he’ll hit for power isn’t a debate; Shaw’s success or failure going forward will be determined by the adjustments in approach he is able to make. He’s always been a touch too aggressive for his own good, but his power could mask some of the deficiencies he’s shown at lower-levels. More experienced arms will keep exploiting the holes in his approach unless he makes some changes. The power alone still makes him a high follow, but much of the optimism I felt in January has eroded under the rocky shores of reality.

I won’t move Shaw off the top spot out of a combination of wanting to keep these lists consistent with my pre-season thoughts and the prospect of him still having high-level power at the next level, but one of the two Cowboys right behind him would give him a run for his money in a revised ranking. I wish SR C/OF Gage Green was more of a sure thing to stay behind the plate because his offensive game has shown a lot of growth over the years. I also really like SR C Bryan Case, the much better glove of the two, though he’s a tough player to fairly judge due to his lack of playing time. When given a chance to play he’s hit, so I think there’s something there. After a bit more thought, I’d say that Oklahoma JR C Anthony Hermelyn would also be right up there near the top of this list in a re-ranking. His hit tool is interesting, he has a strong defensive profile with no doubts about his arm strength (been clocked as high as 94 MPH off the mound), and his plate discipline is trending in the right direction. All in all, not a bad group of catchers

Texas Tech JR 1B/LHP Eric Gutierrez is one of my favorite power hitters in a class desperately in need of some good ones. Some teams might be turned off than his less than ideal frame (5-10, 205), but so long as he keeps mashing he has a better than average shot to hear his name called in a signable range this June. Kansas State rSR 1B/LHP Shane Conlon has always intrigued me due to his reasonable power upside, average speed, and plus glove. It’s a a fun profile and one I hope we get a chance to keep following in pro ball.

Kansas JR 2B/SS Colby Wright has been a baseball magnet this season (11 HBP in 65 official AB!). I liked his pop, patience, and glove combination coming into the year, and nothing has moved me off that as of yet. I think he’s the best of a lackluster group of Big 12 second basemen. At shortstop it’s still Texas JR SS/3B CJ Hinojosa’s top spot to lose. Much has been written on these very pages already about Hinojosa, so I’ll spare you any needless rehashing and just leave you with my Marco Scuatro comp and call it a day. Almost. We’re now far enough along with the season (20 games in already, time flies), so it’s silly for me to keep pretending that these are strictly previews and not, at least in part, ongoing assessments. The rankings are more or less unchanged from where I stood pre-season, but I do try to pepper the commentary with some updates where applicable. Hinojosa’s slow start (.197/.337/.310) is notable, though it’s a) only 71 AB, and b) not as bad when you look at some underlying numbers (most notably 14 BB/11 K). I’m a little bit concerned and would consider dropping him in future overall prospect rankings, but he still is a good prospect with top five round upside.

Texas Tech rSO SS/2B Cory Raley could be a fascinating utility player prospect with the chance for more. He has the ability to be really good at second and playable at short with enough speed, athleticism, and size to buy him time as he figures out how to hit. So far so good as hitter for Raley this winter, so consider me sufficiently intrigued at what now appears to be a lower than deserved ranking. I also have to mention TCU rJR SS Keaton Jones, a player so good with the glove that he’ll get drafted almost no matter what he does at the plate this spring. The fact that he’s more than holding his own as a hitter for the first time collegiately is icing on the mid-round cake. I’m glad I went with Oklahoma JR 3B Kolbey Carpenter as the conference’s top third baseman. He impressed all those I talked to last spring with his power upside and steady glove, so it’s nice to see him off to a hot start this season. Like second base, however, it’s worth noting that he’s the best of a very thin group of potential future pros. That in no way detracts from his underrated play, of course. I have a good intuitive feeling about Carpenter as a draft prospect.

The outfield is where things get really interesting in the Big 12. I know I say this about so many prospects that it probably renders the distinction meaningless, but Texas JR OF Ben Johnson has to be one of this year’s draft’s most fascinating prospects. Johnson’s name has come up over and over again so far this season as a tooled-up prospect finally turning into a deeply skilled player. Or so I thought. All of the chatter over Johnson excited me because I had assumed he was finally doing the things that he’ll need to do to be a better pro. Full disclosure: I haven’t gotten any updates about him this season (since the fall) from anybody I know who has seen him and (I’M NOT A SCOUT) I’ve only personally seen him twice this year on the tube. So I’m not working with all the needed info to make any overarching statements that should be taken as fact. I’m just theorizing that maybe college analysts (and perhaps certain pro scouting staffs that weigh projection significantly ahead of production [they aren’t wrong for this, by the way]) are getting a little ahead of themselves in proclaiming this to be the start of Johnson’s ascension to day one of the 2015 MLB Draft. Johnson has been absolutely phenomenal this season by most every measure: .432/.463/.659 is damn good work in 88 at bats. Maybe he’s made adjustments as a hitter that the public will hear about as some of the best prospect writers begin doing some digging. Maybe (hopefully) I’ll hear something from one of my contacts sooner rather than later that brings some good news on his outburst. Until then, however, I think Ben Johnson is just doing Ben Johnson things. I won’t say that I anticipated this kind of start, but his numbers aren’t out of line with what you’d expect from a player with his kind of tools at the college level. It’s not crazy to say that he, like about a dozen or so players in this and every class, is too physically gifted for the college game. Johnson is a pro-level glove in center with an average or better arm, average or better raw power, and, most interestingly, the kind of jaw-dropping athleticism and game-changing speed that puts the whole package over the top.

Again, Johnson is putting up a ridiculous .432/.463/.659 line so far this year. That’s really great. With only 2 walks to 12 strikeouts, however, I’m not sure how all his considerable offensive gifts will continue to play as he climbs the ladder. For all the positives he brings to the table he still looks like a very high potential pick since athletes like him often provide value well beyond what they do at the plate (running, defending, you get it). That relatively high floor makes Johnson extra appealing; using a supplemental first, second, or third round pick on him is not likely to completely blow up in your face simply because he’s almost too damn athletic to do nothing. On the off chance he puts it together, watch out. If that paragraph reads like I’m hedging my bets on him, then you’re on the right track.

Hot start or not, I still lump Johnson in with fellow toolsy outfield peers like Florida JR OF Harrison Bader and Clemson JR OF Steven Duggar for the moment. Just because those guys rank 5-6-7 (further down if you consider any of Ian Happ, Richie Martin, or BC’s Chris Shaw outfielders) on my “current” (as current as anything draft-related can be that’s three weeks old) college outfield list does not mean I view them as ordinary, mid-round prospects. I didn’t write nearly enough about last year’s draft than I would have liked, but I’ll say this without the benefit of hindsight (not that a few weeks of pro ball should change anybody’s mind about anybody): I’d take this year’s toolsy outfielders above any college outfielder from last year with the exception of Michael Conforto, Bradley Zimmer, Mike Papi, and maybe (if he’s really an OF, which I’m still unsure of) Connor Joe. That’s above last year’s 37th overall pick, Derek Fisher, for what it’s worth.

In other non-Ben Johnson Big 12 outfield news, Texas Tech JR OF Tyler Neslony’s positive approach and power upside make him a strong bat worth knowing. His plate discipline has backed up a bit since last year here in the early going, so almost all caveats with such players apply. Same with Kansas State SR OF Max Brown, a rare senior sign that doubles as one of the draft’s finer physical specimens. The 6-5, 200 pound plus runner showed well in limited at bats last year, but, stop me if you’ve heard this before, his approach at the plate needs significant work. A crazy argument could be made that he might be the most valuable draft property of the three already mentioned Big 12 outfielders based solely on his talent (below Johnson to be sure, but he’s no slouch), projected round (no idea, but I’d be surprised if it was all that high), and potential bonus demands (no leverage).

The only draft-eligible outfielder listed below having an above-average season by my measures – I mean, Johnson clearly is and I’m being way too hard on him so pay no mind to the only part – is Oklahoma JR OF Craig Aikin, an above-average runner and glove with an interesting leadoff approach to hitting. Since we scratched the “only” from the previous sentence allow me to also recognize TCU SR OF Cody Jones as having a fine start to his 2015 season. He’s an even more interesting senior sign with his blazing speed, plus CF range, strong arm, and very selective approach. I don’t see enough power out of him to profile as more than a backup, but you could do worse when looking for a future speed and defense fourth or fifth outfielder.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Texas JR SS/3B CJ Hinojosa
  2. Texas JR OF Ben Johnson
  3. Texas Tech JR OF Tyler Neslony
  4. Kansas State SR OF Max Brown
  5. Oklahoma JR C Chris Shaw
  6. Oklahoma JR OF Hunter Haley
  7. Kansas SR OF/RHP Dakota Smith
  8. Oklahoma State JR SS/2B Donnie Walton
  9. Texas Tech JR 1B/LHP Eric Gutierrez
  10. Kansas rJR OF Steve Goldstein
  11. Kansas SR OF Connor McKay
  12. Oklahoma State SR C/OF Gage Green
  13. Oklahoma State SR C Bryan Case
  14. Kansas JR 2B/SS Colby Wright
  15. Texas Tech SR SS Tim Proudfoot
  16. Texas Christian SR OF Cody Jones
  17. Oklahoma JR 3B Kolbey Carpenter
  18. Oklahoma JR OF Craig Aikin
  19. Texas Christian JR OF Nolan Brown
  20. Texas SR OF Collin Shaw
  21. Texas Christian SR 3B/2B Derek Odell
  22. Kansas State rSR 1B/LHP Shane Conlon
  23. Oklahoma JR C/RHP Anthony Hermelyn
  24. Kansas State SR 2B/OF Carter Yagi
  25. Oklahoma State SR 2B/OF Tim Arakawa
  26. Texas SR 2B Brooks Marlow
  27. Kansas SR 2B/SS Justin Protacio
  28. Texas Tech rSO SS/2B Cory Raley
  29. Texas Christian JR 2B Garrett Crain
  30. Kansas rJR OF Joe Moroney
  31. Texas Tech JR C Kholton Sanchez
  32. Texas Tech JR C Tyler Floyd
  33. Baylor JR 1B Mitch Price
  34. Texas Tech SR 2B Bryant Burleson

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

  1. Texas Christian JR LHP Alex Young
  2. Texas Christian JR RHP Riley Ferrell
  3. Texas Christian rSO RHP Mitchell Traver
  4. Oklahoma rJR LHP Adam Choplick
  5. Texas SR RHP Parker French
  6. Texas Tech JR RHP Matt Withrow
  7. Oklahoma State rJR RHP/OF Conor Costello
  8. Baylor SR RHP Austin Stone
  9. Oklahoma State JR RHP Koda Glover
  10. Oklahoma State SO RHP Trey Cobb
  11. Texas Christian SO LHP Tyler Alexander
  12. Texas Christian rSO RHP Brian Triegflaff
  13. Texas Christian SR LHP Travis Evans
  14. Texas Christian rSR RHP Trey Teakell
  15. Texas rSR RHP Ty Marlow
  16. Oklahoma JR LHP/1B Jacob Evans
  17. Kansas JR RHP Hayden Edwards
  18. Oklahoma JR RHP Blake Rogers
  19. Oklahoma State SR RHP Jon Perrin
  20. Baylor rSR LHP Brad Kuntz
  21. Texas Tech JR RHP/OF Quinn Carpenter
  22. Kansas State rJR RHP Nate Williams
  23. Oklahoma rSR RHP Robert Tasin
  24. Baylor rJR RHP Ryan Smith
  25. Texas JR RHP Chad Hollingsworth
  26. Texas Tech SR RHP Dominic Moreno
  27. Texas JR LHP Travis Duke
  28. Oklahoma JR RHP RHP Corey Copping
  29. Texas Christian SR RHP Preston Morrison
  30. Kansas State rSO RHP Nate Griep
  31. Oklahoma State rSR LHP Tyler Nurdin
  32. Kansas State JR RHP Levi MaVorhis
  33. Kansas State rSO RHP Colton Kalmus
  34. Oklahoma State JR LHP Alex Hackerott
  35. Texas JR LHP Ty Culbreth
  36. Texas Tech SR LHP Cameron Smith
  37. Texas Tech SR RHP Corey Taylor
  38. West Virginia JR RHP Jeff Hardy
  39. Texas Tech JR RHP Dalton Brown
  40. Baylor SR RHP Sean Spicer
  41. Kansas State rSO RHP Blake McFadden
  42. Oklahoma JR LHP Jeffrey Curran
  43. West Virginia rJR LHP Ross Vance

MEAC 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

North Carolina Central JR C James Dey
Savannah State SR 1B Charles Sikes
Delaware State JR 2B Cameron Onderko
Delaware State SR SS David Kimbrough
Savannah State SR 3B Zachary Brigham
Savannah State SR OF David Richards
Florida A&M SR OF Marlon Gibbs
Delaware State rSR OF Charles Dailey

North Carolina Central JR RHP Andrew Vernon
Bethune-Cookman rSR RHP Keith Zuniga
North Carolina Central JR RHP Alex Dandridge
Savannah State SR RHP Brandon Whitmore
Coppin State JR LHP Anderson Burgess

Savannah State SR 1B Charles (Tre) Sikes has some serious power upside and a strong track record of hitting for extra bases. He’ll be an interesting option for a team looking to toe the line between affordable yet still promising. I’m not sure how much power Coppin State JR 1B/OF George Dragon has, but his hit tool is solid and he has no problem taking a walk. Also, his name is George Dragon.

Delaware State has a pair of potentially draftable middle infielders in JR 2B/SS Cameron Onderko and SR SS/RHP David Kimbrough. Onderko impressed in limited time last year while Kimbrough has the athleticism and arm to stick at short at the next level. Fellow Hornet rSR OF Charles Dailey might have enough in the way of a hit tool to get a late look. Savannah State SR OF David Richards is an exceptional athlete with pop, speed, and more than enough glove for center. His approach has gone backwards so far this year, but the tools are intriguing. Much of the same could be said for Florida A&M SR OF Marlon Gibbs, a similar athlete with bat speed and an up-and-down approach.

The MEAC has about a half-dozen arms that look like high follows entering the spring. Most, if not all, profile as professional relievers going forward. I like North Carolina Central JR RHP Andrew Vernon most of all with his size (6-4, 180), sinking 88-92 fastball, and above-average slider. Bethune-Cookman rSR RHP Keith Zuniga has a similar sinker/slider blend and Savannah State SR RHP Brandon Whitmore gets by with a 86-90 FB (93 peak) and a solid splitter.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Delaware State JR 2B/SS Cameron Onderko
  2. Savannah State SR 1B Charles Sikes
  3. Savannah State SR OF David Richards
  4. Florida A&M SR OF Marlon Gibbs
  5. Florida A&M SR 1B Ryan Kennedy
  6. Delaware State rSR OF Charles Dailey
  7. Norfolk State JR OF Andre’ Moore
  8. Savannah State JR OF/C Mendez Elder
  9. Coppin State JR 1B/OF George Dragon
  10. Maryland-Eastern Shore JR 2B/SS Mike Escanilla
  11. Delaware State SR SS/RHP David Kimbrough
  12. Florida A&M SR OF Jared Walker
  13. North Carolina A&T SR OF Brandon Wilkerson
  14. North Carolina Central JR C James Dey
  15. Savannah State SR 3B Zachary Brigham
  16. North Carolina A&T SR C Lester Salcedo
  17. North Carolina Central rSR OF/RHP Eric Kimber
  18. Bethune-Cookman SR OF Bryant Munoz

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

  1. North Carolina Central JR RHP Andrew Vernon
  2. Bethune-Cookman rSR RHP Keith Zuniga
  3. North Carolina Central JR RHP Alex Dandridge
  4. Savannah State SR RHP Brandon Whitmore
  5. Coppin State JR LHP Anderson Burgess
  6. Savannah State SR RHP Austin Denney
  7. Coppin State SR RHP Yahya Muhammad
  8. Norfolk State SR RHP Stephen Butt

Big Ten 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

Illinois JR C Jason Goldstein
Michigan State SR 1B Ryan Krill
Maryland rSO 2B Brandon Lowe
Illinois rSO SS Adam Walton
Michigan JR 3B Travis Maezes
Michigan State JR OF Cameron Gibson
Iowa JR OF Joel Booker
Michigan SR OF Jackson Glines

Illinois JR LHP Tyler Jay
Indiana rSO RHP Jake Kelzer
Indiana JR LHP Scott Effross
Iowa JR RHP/C Blake Hickman
Maryland JR LHP Jake Drossner

I’ve noticed that I sometimes struggle when writing about players, hitters especially, that I really like. It’s almost like I don’t know what to say other than I just really, really like him. I just really, really like Maryland rSO 2B Brandon Lowe. His tools don’t jump out at you, but they aren’t half-bad, either: lots of tools in the 45 to 55 range including his glove at second, arm strength, and foot speed. It’s the bat, of course, that makes him an all-caps FAVORITE. Lowe’s hit tool is no joke

Watching Lowe hit is a joy. There’s plenty of bat speed, consistent hard contact from barrel to ball, and undeniable plus pitch recognition. His ability to make adjustments from at bat to at bat and his impressive bat control make him a potentially well above-average big league hitter. And he just flat produces at every stop. He reminds me a good deal of an old favorite, Tommy La Stella. One scout who knew I liked Lowe to an almost unhealthy degree threw a Nick Punto (bat only) comp on him. Most fans would probably take that as an insult, but we both knew it was a compliment. Punto, love him or hate him, lasted 14 years in the big leagues and made over $20 million along the way. Punto’s best full seasons (2006 and 2008) serve as interesting goal posts for what Lowe could do if/when he reaches the top of the mountain. In those years Punto hit around .285/.350/.375. In today’s game that’s a top ten big league hitter at second base. Maybe I’m not crazy enough to project a top ten at his position future for Lowe, but he’ll make an outstanding consolation prize for any team who misses/passes on Alex Bregman, the consensus top college second base prospect, this draft. I’m also not quite crazy enough to think Lowe’s draft ceiling will match that of another similar prospect (Tony Renda of Cal, who went 80th overall in 2012), but the skill sets share a lot of commonalities. Lowe is a little bit like Houston C Ian Rice for me; both players are higher (and will continue to be higher) on my rankings than I’d imagine they’ll get selected in June. Getting one or both with a pick in the middle of the single-digit rounds would be a major victory.

Slow starts have plagued the rest of the top second base prospects in the conference. Minnesota JR 2B/SS Connor Schaefbauer is the consummate heady, athletic steady fielder that you like to see manning the keystone. Like Ohio State JR 2B/3B Troy Kuhn, his cleanest path to the big leagues would be as a utility player capable of manning all the important infield spots. Indiana SR 2B/OF Casey Rodrigue was a sleeper of mine heading into last year after transferring in from LSU-Eunice, but he hasn’t made quite the impact I thought his tools would allow. But back to Lowe: I stayed up about fifteen minutes past my bedtime on a school night (!) to think about and then write about Lowe. That’s how much I like him. You might say things are getting serious between us.

Illinois JR C Jason Goldstein has scuffled to start the year, but that doesn’t dissuade me (much) of pumping him up as a quality big league contributor as he continues to develop. He’ll never be a plus offensively (though there is some bat speed to like here), but should be good enough to allow his strong defensive gifts to play. Michigan State SR C/1B Blaise Salter reminds me a little bit of Alex Bregman. I’ll pause for a second and let that ridiculous statement sink in. I’ve mentioned this before, but so many college-oriented analysts are quite vocal in their belief that Bregman will be able to stick at shortstop in the pros; pro guys, on the other hand, can’t wait to get him off the six-spot. As for Salter, most college guys you read and listen to will push the “hey, he’s improved a lot behind the plate and, sure, he’s not the most agile guy back there, but he’s a leader and pitchers like him, so maybe it’ll work” agenda. That’s cool and all, but then pro guys, literally to a man, respond with NOPE. I have him listed as a catcher for now because I think his drafting team will at least give it a shot. That’s because he might – and I can’t emphasis might enough – be playable back there, but also because it’s a bit of a stretch to imagine his bat playing anywhere else. It’s catcher or bust for Salter if he wants to climb the pro ladder. I actually like the hit tool more than most and think he’s a better athlete than given credit for, but it’ll come down to whether or not he’ll make enough contact to allow his plus power to go to use.

There are no first basemen of note in the Big 10 this year. I hate saying that and you know I’m rooting for somebody to emerge, but it doesn’t look great right now. I’ve been a fan of Michigan State SR 1B Ryan Krill in the past, but supporting that cause is getting harder and harder to justify as the years past. Krill was a member of the 2011 MLB Draft class of high school first basemen that has flopped in a big way so far. It’s up to Travis Harrison (who I absolutely loved) to rediscover his power and Dan Vogelbach* (who I liked a lot then and still like today) to stay in reasonably good shape to carry this sad group of first basemen out of the doldrums. Krill can still bring the thunder, but contact is a problem and he too often gets himself in bad hitting counts. Here was his HS report from this very site back in the day…

Krill is another prospect I was slow to come around on, but I’m buying into his mix of strong defensive tools, super athleticism, and big upside with the bat. Like Jacob Anderson before him, he’s got the wheels and instincts to play some outfield as a pro. There is enough to like about Krill that you can dream on him being a league average hitter and above-average glove at first down the line if everything works out. That may not sound all that sexy, and there is plenty of risk involved with assuming “everything works out,” but you have to remember how much you have to hit if you want to play first base in the bigs. As much as I like Krill now, I’ll be the first to admit that each and every one of these mid-round high school first basemen will all have to make major strides in pro ball (i.e. have “everything work out”) to begin to reach their upper level projections. Life is tough when you don’t have a fallback plan, I guess.

Ohio State JR 1B/OF Zach Ratcliff is another former big-time HS prospect that hasn’t delivered in college. These are typically the guys I cling to long after they’ve shown they are overmatched. I’m trying to hang in there, honest.

The shortstop group in the conference is similar to the second baseman if you allow for the omission of a Brandon Lowe type prospect at the top. Illinois rSO SS Adam Walton comes closest to taking on that role as a fellow third-year sophomore with clear professional tools (speed, glove). I’ve neither seen nor heard much about Walton as a pro prospect just yet, but players who look like safe bets to stay up the middle with his kind of wheels and pop tend to get noticed over time.

I’ve written about Michigan JR 3B/SS Travis Maezes already, so I’ll just give the short version here: his skill set reminds me of the 25th pick of last year’s draft, Matt Chapman. The biggest noticeable difference in their games comes down to arm strength. Maezes has an outstanding arm, but it’s not in the same class as Chapman’s; that’s how crazy Chapman’s arm is. Besides that, the similarities are striking. I think Maezes has a chance to put an average hit tool with average power (maybe a half-grade above in each area) to good use as a professional ballplayer. Even if he doesn’t hit as much as I’ll think, his defensive value (good at third and playable at short, with intriguing unseen upside at 2B and C) should make him a positive player. It’s not the typical profile we think of as “high-floor,” but it works. I’ve talked to a few people who think I’m overstating Maezes’ upside as a pro. That’s fine and it’s relevant and I’m happy to hear from dissenting viewpoints. What I often hear next is what interests me the most. The majority of those who say I’m too high on Maezes have gone on to praise either Maryland JR 3B Jose Cuas or Ohio State 3B/1B Jake Bosiokovic as the better prospect. It’s not this simplistic, but I feel like if we had to boil those conversations down it would be an upside vs certainty debate. I think Maezes’ upside rivals those guys and he’s far more certain to produce positive value going forward; they think Maezes’ upside is limited when compared to Cuas and Bosiokovic, and that he’s far less likely (relative to what I’ve said) to reach that lesser ceiling anyway. Maybe. I get the appeal of Cuas (big raw power and a world of defensive tools) and Bosiokovic (athletic 6-6, 220 pound men who can reasonably stick at third are a rare breed), but, despite what I’ve heard, my loyalty to Maezes is unwavering. (For the record, I realize I’m not going out on a limb here and I’m not patting myself on the back for liking a player who is the consensus top third basemen in the conference. I’m just trying to share some opposing views I’ve personally heard. Also, I do think I like him more than most, but arguing degrees of “like” is a pretty silly exercise.)

In this class I look at Michigan State JR OF Cameron Gibson and see a slam dunk top five round draft prospect with the chance to play his way even higher (round two?). Judged solely as a hitter, however, smart people I’ve talked to liken him more to recent college players like Greg Allen, Tyler Holt, Mark Payton, and Taylor Dugas. Those guys, all favorites of mine once upon a time, were drafted in the sixth, fifth, seventh, and eighth rounds, respectively. I’m not sure what that necessarily says about Gibson’s draft stock (if anything!), so I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. The “as a hitter” qualifier above is not to be missed. Gibson’s range in center isn’t nearly on the level of any of those players, with one scout simply telling me he was “fine in center, better in a corner.” That corners figures to be left field as his arm is his one clearly below-average tool. Everything else could play average or better making the strong, athletic Gibson a potential regular if he can stick in center. If not, then he could make it work as a regular left fielder in today’s new world order of reduced offense. A plus glove with upside at the plate in left is a property worth investing in these days. An unexpected but amusing comparison I’ve heard for Gibson’s ceiling is Brady Anderson (sans 50 HR season). I like it, though I’m not sure if projecting Anderson’s plate discipline (remember it being good, but shocked how good) on any young hitter is fair.

Iowa JR OF Joel Booker remains a bit of a mystery man to me, but crazy speed, premium athleticism, and considerable arm strength paint the picture of a strong overall prospect. Booker destroyed junior college ball the past two seasons (.403/.451/.699 last year) and has adjusted fairly well to big time college ball so far this year. The big question even as he was annihilating juco pitching was how his high-contact, minimal bases on ball approach would play as the competition tightened. It’s still a concern, but it might just be one of those tradeoffs we have to accept in a flawed prospect. Booker’s aggression nature defines him at the plate; pushing him into more of a leadoff approach could neuter his unusually adept bat-to-ball ability just as easily as it could take him to the next level as a prospect.

All of those names mentioned in the Cameron Gibson paragraph (Allen, Holt, Payton, Dugas) might better apply to Michigan SR OF Jackson Glines. Glines can chase balls down in center with the best of them where he is able to use his above-average foot speed and instincts to get balls others can’t. There aren’t too many senior signs in the country with his kind of future. Speed, CF range, patience, and pop = FAVORITE.

The next tier down of outfielders still has some players to watch. Maryland JR OF LaMonte Wade (arm, power, approach) has upside rivaled only by Cam Gibson among his outfield peers. Indiana rSR OF Scott Donley rolls out of bed ready to hit. Iowa SR OF/2B Eric Toole has speed, Maryland JR OF Anthony Papio has power, and Purdue JR OF Kyle Johnson has a little bit of everything, size included (6-5, 215).

I’m trying to find the right fact that shows how impressive the Big 10’s pitching this year is. Let’s see which sums it up the best…

The top ranked arm, Illinois JR LHP Tyler Jay, is an easy first round talent who could keep on striking guys out all the way into the top ten. That could be reason enough to be impressed with the Big 10’s pitching, but, wait, there’s more.

Jay is just one of literally a half-dozen lefthanded pitchers that I have at peaking with their fastballs at 94 or better. There’s Jay (97), Indiana JR LHP Scott Effross (94), Maryland JR LHP Jake Drossner (95), Maryland JR LHP Alex Robinson (96), Minnesota JR LHP Dalton Sawyer (94), and Illinois JR LHP Kevin Duchene (94).

One of my quick sorting tools when I’m looking at a class a year or more out (like I just finished up doing with the college class of 2016) is to start with any pitcher capable of throwing three average or better pitches. I had to do the same thing when figuring out how to prioritize this follow list. Jay, Indiana rSO RHP Jake Kelzer, Effross, Iowa JR RHP Blake Hickman, Drossner, Michigan JR RHP/3B Jacob Cronenworth, Duchene, Michigan State SR RHP Mick VanVossen, and Indiana JR RHP Christian Morris all fit the bill based on my notes.

The one-two-three punch of Jay, Hickman, and Cronenworth give the conference as much athleticism and theoretical two-way ability as any group of pitchers as you’d like to see. Jay is a plus athlete with legitimate plus speed, Hickman was once an honest to goodness catching prospect with big power and a plus arm (duh), and, despite a fascinating three-pitch mix (88-92, 94 peak; above-average breaking ball; above-average mid-80s split-CU) Cronenberg might currently be a better prospect as a position player (speed, arm strength, power). As somebody who values athleticism in pitchers very, very highly, this is some exciting stuff.

I’ve managed to namecheck eleven different pitchers so far without mentioning a certain SO RHP at Ohio State by the name of Travis Lakins. All Lakins is capable of is throwing darting mid-90s fastballs with above-average command, an average curve that flashes plus, and a raw but steadily improving changeup. No biggie.

To continue the “how can a guy this good be ranked so low?” theme, there’s are a pair of pitchers just outside of the top ten who have both hit as high as 97 with impressive breaking balls. That would be Maryland JR RHP Jared Price and Ohio State rSO RHP Shea Murray.

The aforementioned Duchene is next with his lively four-pitch mix and stellar track record of success. Then there’s Michigan State rSO LHP Cameron Vieaux, another southpaw who can get swings and misses both with the heat (88-92) and an above-average breaker (CB). It doesn’t hurt that he’s a 6-5, 200 pound athletic son of a gun, either.

I could go on and on and on. A few more quick notes…

I’m as shocked as anybody that I didn’t have Hickman, a massive personal favorite, behind Jay in the two spot. Those Indiana arms (Kelzer and Effross) just got too much love for the smart folks I talked to. Kelzer is the rare big pitcher (6-8, 235) with the fluidity and athleticism in his movements as a smaller man. I’ve yet to hear/see of a true offspeed pitch of note (he’s got the good hard slider and a promising slower curve), but something a touch softer (change, splitter) would be nice. Effross is a more traditionally easy to like prospect: lefthanded, damn good change, misses bats.

Maryland could stock a AA bullpen tomorrow. Jake Drossner has the stuff to start, but Alex Robinson, Kevin Mooney, Jared Price, and Zach Morris (and his comically oversized cell phone) all have at least the fastball/breaking ball combination that could get good pro hitters out right now.

(I wrote this about Jay earlier, but seeing as he’s the top guy I figure it didn’t hurt to run it again)

I guess I just find the case of Jay continuously flying just under the radar to be more bizarre than anything. I’m almost at the point where I’m starting to question what negatives I’m missing. A smart team in the mid- to late-first round is going to get a crazy value when Jay inevitably slips due to the unknown of how he’ll hold up as a starter. Between his extreme athleticism, a repertoire bursting at the seams with above-average to plus offerings (plus FB, above-average CB that flashes plus, above-average SL that flashes plus, average or better CU with plus upside), and dominant results to date at the college level (reliever or not), there’s little doubt in my mind that Jay can do big things in a big league rotation sooner rather than later. There two questions that will need to be answered as he gets stretched out as a starter will be how effective he’ll be going through lineups multiple times (with the depth of his arsenal I’m confident he’ll be fine here) and how hot his fastball will remain (and how crisp his breaking stuff stays) when pitch counts climb. That’s a tough one to answer at the present moment, but the athleticism, balance, and tempo in Jay’s delivery give me hope.

*I don’t know if this comp has ever been made – Google doesn’t seem to think so – but I see a lot of Brett Wallace, for better or worse, in Vogelbach. I say for better despite Wallace not working out professionally because I’m sure he was a well above-average first base bat in one of our world’s parallel universes. Or something like that. Anyway, Vogelbach’s minor league numbers to date: .285/.375/.481. Wallace is a career .304/.376/.480 minor league hitter. Hmm.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Michigan JR 3B/SS Travis Maezes
  2. Maryland rSO 2B Brandon Lowe
  3. Michigan State JR OF Cameron Gibson
  4. Maryland JR 3B Jose Cuas
  5. Iowa JR OF Joel Booker
  6. Illinois JR C Jason Goldstein
  7. Michigan SR OF Jackson Glines
  8. Maryland JR OF/LHP LaMonte Wade
  9. Illinois rSO SS Adam Walton
  10. Michigan State SR C/1B Blaise Salter
  11. Indiana rSR OF Scott Donley
  12. Michigan State SR 1B Ryan Krill
  13. Minnesota JR 2B/SS Connor Schaefbauer
  14. Ohio State JR 2B/3B Troy Kuhn
  15. Iowa SR OF/2B Eric Toole
  16. Nebraska SR C Tanner Lubach
  17. Maryland JR OF Anthony Papio
  18. Indiana SR C/OF Brian Hartong
  19. Purdue JR OF/RHP Kyle Johnson
  20. Minnesota SR OF Jake Bergren
  21. Nebraska SR OF Austin Darby
  22. Illinois SR 1B/SS David Kerian
  23. Nebraska SR 3B/1B Blake Headley
  24. Maryland JR C Kevin Martir
  25. Ohio State JR 3B/1B Jake Bosiokovic
  26. Northwestern rSR C Scott Heelan
  27. Minnesota rSR SS Michael Handel
  28. Rutgers SR OF Vinny Zarrillo
  29. Iowa JR 1B/RHP Tyler Peyton
  30. Indiana SR 2B/OF Casey Rodrigue
  31. Iowa SR OF Dan Potempa
  32. Illinois SR OF Casey Fletcher
  33. Ohio State SR C Aaron Gretz
  34. Nebraska JR 2B/SS Jake Placzek
  35. Nebraska SR SS Steven Reveles
  36. Iowa rSR 2B Jake Mangler
  37. Ohio State SR C Connor Sabanosh
  38. Penn State JR OF James Coates
  39. Ohio State JR 1B/OF Zach Ratcliff
  40. Michigan SR C/OF Kevin White
  41. Purdue JR 2B Michael Vilardo

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching 

  1. Illinois JR LHP Tyler Jay
  2. Indiana rSO RHP Jake Kelzer
  3. Indiana JR LHP Scott Effross
  4. Iowa JR RHP/C Blake Hickman
  5. Maryland JR LHP Jake Drossner
  6. Ohio State SO RHP Travis Lakins
  7. Maryland JR LHP Alex Robinson
  8. Maryland JR RHP Kevin Mooney
  9. Minnesota JR LHP Dalton Sawyer
  10. Michigan JR RHP/3B Jacob Cronenworth
  11. Maryland JR RHP Jared Price
  12. Ohio State rSO RHP Shea Murray
  13. Illinois JR LHP Kevin Duchene
  14. Michigan State rSO LHP Cameron Vieaux
  15. Nebraska SR RHP Josh Roeder
  16. Michigan State SR RHP Mick VanVossen
  17. Minnesota rJR RHP Lance Thonvold
  18. Nebraska JR RHP Colton Howell
  19. Illinois rSR RHP Drasen Johnson
  20. Indiana SR RHP Luke Harrison
  21. Iowa JR RHP Calvin Mathews
  22. Michigan State JR LHP Anthony Misiewicz
  23. Indiana JR RHP Christian Morris
  24. Iowa JR RHP Tyler Radtke
  25. Maryland rJR LHP Zach Morris
  26. Ohio State SR RHP Trace Dempsey
  27. Illinois rSR RHP/2B Reid Roper
  28. Northwestern SR RHP Brandon Magallones
  29. Nebraska SR LHP Kyle Kubat
  30. Michigan JR LHP Evan Hill
  31. Ohio State SR LHP Ryan Riga
  32. Ohio State JR RHP Jake Post
  33. Rutgers JR LHP Mark McCoy
  34. Michigan State rSR LHP/OF Jeff Kinley
  35. Nebraska SR RHP Chance Sinclair
  36. Indiana JR LHP Will Coursen-Carr
  37. Iowa SR RHP Nick Hibbing
  38. Maryland SR RHP Bobby Ruse
  39. Minnesota SR RHP Ben Meyer
  40. Indiana JR LHP Sullivan Stadler
  41. Illinois JR LHP JD Nielsen
  42. Illinois rSR LHP Rob McDonnell
  43. Indiana rSO RHP Thomas Belcher
  44. Indiana JR RHP Evan Bell
  45. Indiana rJR LHP Kyle Hart
  46. Indiana rSR RHP Ryan Halstead
  47. Michigan rJR RHP Matthew Ogden
  48. Minnesota rJR LHP Jordan Jess
  49. Rutgers rSO LHP Max Herrmann
  50. Indiana rSO RHP Kent Williams
  51. Iowa JR LHP Ryan Erickson

2016 MLB Draft Preview – College Prospects

The 2013 HS class was a really good one, so it’s no shock that the 2016 college group has a chance to be so exciting. One mostly clueless guy ranked the following unsigned 2013 HS prospects in his top 100 overall prospects that year: Kyle Serrano (20), Matt Krook (35), Chris Okey (39), Ryan Boldt (41), Cavan Biggio (42), Andy McGuire (52), Connor Jones (53), Brett Morales (58), Robert Tyler (68), Keegan Thompson (69), Cal Quantrill (70), Garrett Williams (73), Zack Collins (80), JB Woodman (89), Sheldon Neuse (92), Jordan Sheffield (93), and Connor Heady (96). Phil Bickford (34) and Francis Christy (100), both eligible for this year’s draft due to their decision to attend junior colleges in 2015, were also included within the top 100 prospects of 2013. Of that group listed above I’d say only McGuire (injured) and Heady (bat hasn’t come around) have hurt their draft stock. In fact, almost all of those names listed above can make realistic claims as first round picks next June. That’s awesome. A really quick top ten before I slip and say that it’s way way way too early to be ranking players…

  1. Virginia SO RHP Connor Jones
  2. Tennessee SO RHP Kyle Serrano
  3. Notre Dame SO 2B/3B Cavan Biggio
  4. Oklahoma SO 3B Sheldon Neuse
  5. Georgia SO RHP Robert Tyler
  6. Nebraska SO OF Ryan Boldt
  7. Texas A&M SO OF Nick Banks
  8. Oklahoma SO RHP Alec Hansen
  9. Stanford SO RHP Cal Quantrill
  10. Clemson SO C Chris Okey

ACC has the bats, SEC has the pitching

First, it’s way way way too early to be ranking players in the most honest sense of the word. I think grouping players and prioritizing the potentially great prospects over the good is appropriate, but even a crazy person like myself won’t yet attempt a strict ranking. If I were to do so, ranking the pitchers would be a much easier task at this point. There’s a much clearer line between the best and the rest for me there right now.

I do believe, per the subheading above, that the ACC has a chance to become the spot for crosscheckers on the hunt for above-average position players in next year’s draft. It might be a stretch, but I can see an argument for the ACC possessing three of next year’s draft top four college infielders. Clemson SO C Chris Okey, Miami SO 1B/C Zach Collins, and Notre Dame SO 2B/3B Cavan Biggio all have a chance to go very, very high in 2016’s first round. A snappier prediction would have been about the ACC having THE top three infield bats, but Oklahoma SO 3B/RHP Sheldon Neuse had to ruin those plans by being too darn good at baseball.

Still, Okey, Collins, and Biggio all have the chance to be long-term above-average regulars at demanding defensive positions; Okey and Biggio in particular could be major assets when you factor in their defensive value. I’m not sweating the relatively slow starts of Collins or Okey so far (Biggio has been great, which isn’t a shocker since he’s the most complete hitter of the trio), so you shouldn’t either. Collins has enough of the Kyle Schwarber/Travis Hafner power bat thing going on with a three-true outcomes approach to hitting that I think the bat plays at first if/when catching doesn’t work out. On the flip side, Okey moves so well behind the plate that Perfect Game compared him to a young Craig Biggio defensively back in 2013. His glove alone is almost reason enough to warrant a first day draft grade, and the fact that he could/should be a league average or better bat is what makes him a potential top ten pick in my eyes. Is it really any wonder why I like Biggio as much as I do? My old notes on him include the following: “born to hit,” “carries himself like a pro,” and “great pitch recognition.” Even better than that was the phrase “patient and aggressive all at once.” That’s my kind of hitter. It’s way too early to call it, but let’s do it anyway: Okey, Collins, and Biggio will all be first round picks in 2016.

The Hitters (including a return to gloves at short and catcher)

Keeping up with the ACC theme, Virginia SO C Matt Thaiss jumps out as another potential high round pick from looks like 2016’s best conference for bats. Thaiss is a rock solid defender who is starting to tap into his above-average raw power in a big enough way do his old Baseball America comps to Brian McCann justice. After Okey, Thaiss, and Texas SO C Tres Barrera, Some of the catchers from a bit off the beaten path (Santa Clara SO C Steve Berman, Grand Canyon SO C Josh Meyer) haven’t quite had the breakout second seasons I was hoping to see. Still, the overall depth at the position looks promising. Catchers are always in high demand in June, and I think this class will make many teams happy.

After Collins, first base looks grim. Two of my pre-season sleepers, Stony Brook SO 1B/OF Casey Baker and Texas State SO 1B Granger Studdard, have fallen flat so far this year. Thankfully East Carolina SO 1B/LHP Bryce Harman has come out of the gate mashing and Florida SO 1B Pete Alonso is coming off an impressive summer.

Once I figured out they weren’t the same guy, it was easy to like both Louisville SO 2B Nick Solak and Tennessee SO 2B Nick Senzel. Despite not yet making his college debut, I’m still sticking with the extremely promising LSU FR 2B/SS Greg Deichmann as the 1b to Biggio’s 1a at the position. The shortstops aren’t nearly on the level of what we have this year, but both Long Beach State SO SS Garrett Hampson and Tulane SO SS Stephen Alemais stand out as old-school defense-first prospects who could hit enough to still play every day. The aforementioned Neuse is the man at third base. Trailing him are names that include Vanderbilt FR 3B/SS Will Toffey, Clemson SO 3B/SS Weston Wilson, and Arizona SO 3B/RHP Bobby Dalbec, the closest current competitor to Neuse’s throne.

The real draw right now for fans of bad teams in search of offensive help will come in the outfield. Texas A&M SO OF Nick Banks and Nebraska SO OF Ryan Boldt appear set to battle back and forth throughout this season and next as the fight to see how high they can rise as first round picks. I’d have Boldt (who I comped to David Dahl back in HS) a tick above for the time being (better approach), but could see Banks closing the gap in short order thanks to a more impressive overall tool set (most notably raw power). Both look like safe first round picks as of now, good health pending.

The battle for the third spot is what interests me most right now. Many of the names expected to rise up (most notably Florida State OF/SS Ben DeLuzio) have taken a step back in the early going of 2015, but a lot of the athletic upside types like Florida OF Buddy Reed, Georgia SO OF Stephen Wrenn, LSU SO OF Jake Fraley, and Mississippi SO OF JB Woodman (hmm…SEC, SEC, SEC, and SEC) have stepped up in an even bigger way than hoped. Hey, did you catch that parenthetical note there? Might be time to amend one of the subheadings above…

ACC has the (infield) bats, SEC has the pitching (and outfielders)

That’s better. I’ll admit to not checking in on every single 2016 draft-eligible outfielder’s start to the 2015 season so far – I’m not even done previewing the current college season and we’re already over a month into things – but one favorite that I have noticed off to a hot start is St. John’s SO OF Michael Donadio, a really well-rounded player with an more advanced bat than most of his peers.

Power Pitchers from Power Conferences 

In what I’d consider my top tier of 2016 college pitchers, the SEC has three out of the top seven prospects. If I get a bit more inclusive and check in with the larger second tier (18 pitchers), then you’d see that an even two-thirds (12) come from the SEC. By complete luck that comes out to 25 total pitchers in the top two tiers with 15 able to call the SEC home. I’m pretty pleased with how this turned out, what with Carson Cistulli recently finding that the SEC has produced 23% of baseball’s “good pitchers” since 2010. For what it’s worth, the ACC is second (barely) only to the Pac-12 in terms of producing “good batters” since 2010. Since I amended my previous conclusion that’s no longer as relevant; not sure what the metrics say about infield prospects only. Anyway!

Power Pitchers with Changeups = $$$

One of the big early trends that pleases me to no end in college baseball in recent years is the rise of the changeup, arguably the finest offspeed pitch known to man. Virginia SO RHP Connor Jones – above-average, flashes plus. Tennessee SO RHP Kyle Serrano – inconsistent, but flashes plus when on. Florida SO RHP Brett Morales – above-average, flashes plus to plus-plus. Stanford SO RHP Cal Quantrill (RIP right elbow ligament) – plus. Those are just the righthanders from the top tier. Arkansas SO RHP Dominic Taccolini, Auburn SO RHP Keegan Thompson, Florida SO RHP Logan Shore, Mississippi State SO RHP Austin Sexton, Oklahoma State SO RHP Thomas Hatch, Maryland SO RHP Michael Shawaryn, and Alabama SO RHP Geoffrey Bramblett all throw consistently average or better changeups at present.

I think any number of the pitchers in my current top tier could make a run at 1-1 next June. Cal Quantrill’s shot is probably gone now that there’s word he’ll go under the knife for Tommy John surgery in the coming days. Connor Jones might now be the front-runner for me. Jones can get it up to the mid-90s with some of the craziest movement you’ll see, plus he can mix in three offspeed pitches (slider flashes plus, solid curve, and a hard splitter that acts as a potential plus changeup) with the know-how and ability to command everything effectively. Comps I’ve heard run the gamut from Jeff Samardzija to Dan Haren to Homer Bailey, but I’m partial to one that hit me when viewing his second start this season: Masahiro Tanaka. I’ve comped another pitcher in this class I love Kyle Serrano (ranked 20th overall in 2013) to Jarrod Parker, who once went 9th overall in the draft, in the past. Georgia SO RHP Robert Tyler throws really hard (mid-90s, 98-99 peak) with pair of secondary pitches with major upside. Brett Morales might not be on everybody’s list so close to the top, but his changeup is such a dominating pitch when on that he’s hard to leave off. Oklahoma SO RHP Alec Hansen and Oklahoma State SO LHP Garrett Williams have some fantastic Friday night showdowns ahead; Hansen’s the hard-thrower with the size scouts love while Williams is the more polished athlete with advanced offspeed stuff.

Quick, unfortunate aside not worthy of a subheading of it’s own: due to the unnatural nature of throwing a baseball at high speeds with crazy movement every year the topic of injuries has to be brought up. The 2016 MLB Draft college class is no different. Texas SO RHP Morgan Cooper, College of Charleston SO RHP Bailey Ober, and Cal Quantrill will all be closely monitored as they come back from injury that knocked out all or most of their 2015 seasons. Cooper and Ober should both be good to go relatively close to the start of the season while Quantrill will be lucky to be back by mid-season at the earliest. The upside of a healthy Quantrill and the timing of his injury put him on any short list of most fascinating draft prospects for 2016 right now. He was a top ten slam dunk for me pre-injury…and I wouldn’t rule him out from getting back there if he can avoid any immediate post-rehab setbacks.

Power Pitchers with Changeups from Power Conferences >>> Everybody Else 

A lot will happen between now and June of 2016 – I’ll no longer be in my twenties, for instance – so it’s foolhardy to suggest anything I say now should be written in ink. My one bummer of a prediction is that college baseball’s non-power conferences appear primed to take a backseat to the traditional powers in 2016. I say that as a long-time advocate for players who don’t get written about every single Thursday by every single national college baseball publication. The monster recruits of 2013 that went unsigned and went to big-time schools have almost all panned out, effectively crowding out the little guys in next year’s draft class. There is hope, however. Pitchers from Air Force, Central Michigan, and Kent State should rise way up boards. There are even guys from Northwestern State, Albany, High Point, and Sacred Heart that have top five round upside or better.

Way, way, way too early college follow lists that are unranked and as inclusive as possible. I left a lot of players on even though they are off to verrrrrry slow starts this year because at this point scouting reports trump performance by a silly margin. If I left off anybody (particularly if it’s a son/nephew/BFF/player on your favorite team), assume it’s a mistake and gently remind me in the comments or via email.

C

Clemson SO C Chris Okey
NC State SO C/3B Andrew Knizner
Virginia SO C Matt Thaiss
Tulane SO C Jake Rogers
Mississippi State SO C Gavin Collins
Texas SO C Tres Barrera
Furman SO C Cameron Whitehead
Murray State SO C Tyler Lawrence
USC SO C/1B Jeremy Martinez
Maryland SO C/1B Nick Cieri
Pepperdine SO C Aaron Barnett
Santa Clara SO C Steve Berman
Grand Canyon SO C Josh Meyer
Ball State SO C Jarett Rindfleisch

1B

Miami SO 1B/C Zack Collins
East Carolina SO 1B/LHP Bryce Harman
Florida SO 1B Pete Alonso
Stony Brook SO 1B/OF Casey Baker
Texas State SO 1B Granger Studdard

2B

Notre Dame SO 2B/3B Cavan Biggio
Louisville SO 2B Nick Solak
Notre Dame SO 2B/SS Kyle Fiala
Wake Forest SO 2B/OF Nate Mondou
LSU FR 2B/SS Greg Deichmann
Tennessee SO 2B/3B Nick Senzel
Texas A&M SO 2B/OF Ryne Birk
Columbia SO 2B Will Savage
Florida Atlantic SO 2B/SS Stephen Kerr

SS

Long Beach State SO SS Garrett Hampson
Virginia Tech SO SS Ricky Surum
Tulane SO SS Stephen Alemais
Mississippi FR SS/2B Tate Blackman
Mississippi SO SS/2B Errol Robinson
Arizona State SO SS/2B Colby Woodmansee
Sacred Heart SO SS Zack Short
Austin Peay State SO SS/3B Logan Gray
Stanford SO SS Tommy Edman
San Diego FR SS/2B Bryson Brigman
Central Michigan SO SS Alex Borglin
Coastal Carolina SO SS/2B Michael Paez

3B

Oklahoma SO 3B/RHP Sheldon Neuse
Clemson SO 3B/SS Weston Wilson
Louisville rFR 3B/SS Blake Tiberi
Vanderbilt FR 3B/SS Will Toffey
Texas A&M SO 3B/C Ronnie Gideon
Oklahoma State SO 3B Andrew Rosa
Texas SO 3B Andy McGuire
Arizona SO 3B/RHP Bobby Dalbec
Bradley SO 3B Spencer Gaa

OF

Texas A&M SO OF Nick Banks
Nebraska SO OF Ryan Boldt
Florida State SO OF/SS Ben DeLuzio
Louisville SO OF Corey Ray
Miami SO OF Willie Abreu
LSU SO OF Jake Fraley
Georgia SO OF Stephen Wrenn
Mississippi SO OF JB Woodman
Arkansas SO OF Andrew Benintendi
Arkansas FR OF Luke Bonfield
Vanderbilt SO OF/1B Bryan Reynolds
Florida SO OF Buddy Reed
Oklahoma SO OF Cody Thomas
Oklahoma State SO OF Ryan Sluder
St. John’s SO OF Michael Donadio
Mercer SO OF Kyle Lewis
Samford SO OF Heath Quinn
UCLA SO OF/2B Luke Persico
UCLA SO OF Brett Stephens
Washington State SO OF Cameron Frost
Ohio State SO OF Ronnie Dawson
Ohio State SO OF Troy Montgomery
Hawaii SO OF/2B Marcus Doi
UC Riverside SO OF Vince Fernandez
BYU SO OF Brennon Lund
Loyola Marymount SO OF Austin Miller
Ball State SO OF Alex Call
Jacksonville SO OF Austin Hays
Nevada SO OF/LHP Trenton Brooks

P

Virginia SO RHP Connor Jones
Tennessee SO RHP Kyle Serrano
Georgia SO RHP Robert Tyler
Florida SO RHP Brett Morales
Oklahoma SO RHP Alec Hansen
Oklahoma State SO LHP Garrett Williams
Stanford SO RHP Cal Quantrill
Arkansas SO RHP Dominic Taccolini
Auburn SO RHP/1B Keegan Thompson
South Carolina SO RHP Wil Crowe
Florida SO LHP/1B AJ Puk
Florida SO RHP Logan Shore
Mississippi State SO RHP Austin Sexton
Oklahoma State SO RHP Thomas Hatch
Texas SO RHP Morgan Cooper
Oregon SO LHP Matt Krook
Oregon State FR RHP Drew Rasmussen
Arkansas SO RHP Zach Jackson
Vanderbilt rFR RHP Jordan Sheffield
Maryland SO RHP Mike Shawaryn
College of Charleston SO RHP Bailey Ober
Louisiana SO RHP Reagan Bazar
Alabama SO RHP Geoffrey Bramblett
Connecticut SO LHP Anthony Kay
California SO RHP Daulton Jefferies
Boston College SO RHP Justin Dunn
Louisville SO RHP Zack Burdi
Louisville SO LHP Drew Harrington
Miami SO RHP/1B Derik Beauprez
Miami SO RHP Bryan Garcia
North Carolina SO RHP/SS Spencer Trayner
Pittsburgh SO RHP TJ Zeuch
Houston SO RHP Andrew Lantrip
Houston SO RHP Marshall Kasowski
Tulane SO RHP JP France
LSU SO LHP Jared Poche
South Carolina SO RHP Matt Vogel
Alabama SO RHP Nick Eicholtz
Georgia SO LHP Connor Jones
Vanderbilt SO RHP Hayden Stone
Florida SO RHP Dane Dunning
Mississippi State SO RHP Dakota Hudson
Texas A&M SO RHP Ryan Hendrix
Oklahoma SO RHP Jake Elliott
TCU SO RHP Brian Howard
Texas Tech SO LHP Ty Damron
Arizona SO RHP Austin Schnabel
Arizona State SO RHP Hever Bueno
Washington State SO RHP Ian Hamilton
Michigan SO LHP Brett Adcock
Nebraska SO RHP Derek Burkamper
Pacific SO RHP Vince Arobio
Wichita State SO LHP/1B Sam Hilliard
Air Force SO RHP/1B Griffin Jax
Central Michigan SO LHP/1B Nick Deeg
Kent State SO RHP Andy Ravel
Northwestern State SO RHP Adam Oller
Albany SO RHP Stephen Woods
Elon SO RHP/C Chris Hall
Stetson SO RHP Mitchell Jordan
High Point SO RHP Cas Silber
Longwood SO RHP Mitchell Kuebbing
Sacred Heart SO RHP Jason Foley

MAC 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

Central Michigan SR C Tyler Huntey
Ohio SR 1B Jake Madsen
Western Michigan JR 2B Kurt Hoekstra
Buffalo JR SS Bobby Sheppard
Kent State JR 3B Justin Wagler
Ohio JR OF Manny DeJesus
Northern Illinois SR OF Stephen Letz
Kent State SR OF Alex Miklos

Miami (Ohio) rSO LHP Ryan Marske
Miami (Ohio) rSR RHP Nate Williams
Central Michigan JR LHP Adam Aldred
Western Michigan JR RHP Gabe Berman
Miami (Ohio) SR RHP Ryan Powers

Both catchers listed below (Central Michigan SR C Tyler Huntey and Eastern Michigan rSO C/OF Michael Mioduszewski) are far more athletic than your typical catcher. That seems to be a trend in college ball this year, though I might just have the recent footage of a USC game and Garrett Stubbs on the brain. The athletic Huntey has the size, strength, and speed to work as an appealing senior sign at a position that teams always load up on at every draft. The athletic Mioduszewski brings similar abilities to the table, but with a bit less of a track record and two more years past this one of collegiate eligibility.

I’m at the point where I now get a little bit sheepish when describing how I feel about Ohio SR 1B Jake Madsen as a prospect. Some guys you almost form an irrational fondness towards through the years, I suppose. Of course, I’d argue my affinity for Madsen is grounded in a fair amount of logic and reason: he has a pretty swing, above-average hit tool, impressive plate coverage, and the kind of patience at the plate that suggests good things to come when combined with all those other positives. The major knock on him has forever been his lack of raw power. I’ve looked past this in prior years because a) I so badly wanted to believe, and b) there were enough intermittent signs of pop that made it appear a full-fledged breakout was imminent. It hasn’t happened yet, so downgrading Madsen from FAVORITE prospect status to just regular plain-old favorite prospect is where things now stand. The good news is Madsen still has that sweet swing, can still consistently barrel up pitches up, down, in, and out, and still walks more than he strike outs. All that and a plus glove make him a rock solid mid-round senior sign that I’d be happy to take a shot on if I ran a room.

Madsen is joined in a strong overall first base group by Central Michigan rSR 1B Cody Leichman. Leichman shares many qualities with Madsen including a strong feel for hitting and a steady glove at first. Working in Leichman’s favor is his greater raw power. If personal preference points you towards the Central Michigan slugger, go for it. If pure uncut upside is your thing, you might want to take a look at Leichman’s teammate JR 1B Zack Fields. Fields has even bigger raw power (and a bigger body at 6-5, 265 to house such power), but all the requisite swing-and-miss that often comes with a man of his stature. There’s also a fairly sizable current gap between what his power could be and what it is; sometimes we (fine, I) get locked into thinking that a young guy with big raw power will eventually turn into an old guy with big in-game power. That’s obviously not always the case – in fact, it’s more the exception than the norm when you get deep down into the boom/bust rate of all these prospects we love so much – and it’s quite common to see a player with huge raw power unable to ever make enough contact to put his raw talent to use. It’s kind of cruel and borderline Twilight Zone-y if you think about; a young man discovers he can hit a baseball thrown at 90+ MPH upwards of 500 feet soaring through the air with majestic arc while oohs and ahhs break out across the crowd, but can’t make even the simplest amount of consistent contact to put that prodigious power to use.

I have a lot of these previews half-written from weeks ago, so calls for breakout 2015 seasons might seem a little funny now that we’re basically a month into the season. Well, trust me (or not!) when I say that Western Michigan JR 2B/OF Kurt Hoekstra’s skill set jumped out immediately after seeing him, making him one of the easier 2015 breakout candidates to call. So far, so good for Mr. Hoekstra as he’s doing a little bit of everything offensively for the Broncos. SR 2B Pat MacKenzie doesn’t have the raw tools of most prospects I’d personally rank him around, but there’s no ignoring his plus-plus plate discipline. How a player can put up a 46 BB to 17 K ratio while slugging just barely over .300 in a full college season I’ll never know, but it’s an impressive feat that earns my respect. If I’m selling MacKenzie to my boss, I’m highlighting his overall hard-working playing style with promises (fine, hopes) that maybe his outstanding mental approach to hitting will rub off some on his new pro teammates. He’s an underdog prospect to be sure, but I just plain like the guy.

Meanwhile, Ball State JR 2B Ryan Spaulding is one of those players that I don’t know a ton about, but what I do know I like quite a bit. If any Ball State/MAC baseball fans happen to be reading this, man, watch out for whatever it is they are doing in Muncie. I pay very little attention to college ball outside of tracking prospects (i.e., I don’t know which teams are good and bad outside of the traditional powerhouses), but the talent level on Ball State’s roster has blown me away. I’ve been messing around with some 2016 college prospect lists and Ball State stands out to me with every revision. There are a whole bunch of sophomore prospects there (Alex Call, Jarrett Rindfleisch, Caleb Stayton, Zach Plesac, Alex Maloney) that really stand out as high follows heading into the summer/next season.

I mentioned above that this lists were composed before the season actually began. Sometimes I like to check in on how players are doing and mention it in the write-ups (which, as mentioned, are mostly half-done). Then again, sometimes I don’t. I left the shortstop list alone for now without looking up how each guy has performed to date. That’s done, at least in part, because I don’t want a small sample of good or bat hitting to make me second-guess my initial notes, which are based largely on real scouting reports, firsthand observations (i.e., not real scouting reports since I’m not a scout), and statistical benchmarks accrued in larger samples. This is all a long way of saying that even though Bowling Green SR SS Brian Bien, Toledo JR SS Deion Tansel, and even Kent State SR SS Sawyer Polen have fine combinations of positive scouting notes (“steady glove” is a popular phrase here) and impressive track records at the plate (Bien, for example, hit .351/.400/.401 with a near even BB/K and 17/24 SB last year), my choice of the untested JR SS Bobby Sheppard (Buffalo) stands even with his slow start at the plate (yeah, I cracked and checked just now). My reports on him topped the others, but that doesn’t mean he will hold this spot in perpetuity. If rankings worked like that, then my life would be a lot simpler from February to June. It just means that Sheppard has (had?) the lead and it’s on the rest to overtake him by draft day. You know, since the honor of being ranked highly by me means sooooo much to these guys.

Kent State JR 3B Justin Wagler and Bowling Green rSR 3B Brandon Howard can both ably man the hot corner at the next level. There might not be enough offensively for either to make much noise in pro ball if they get there, but I do like Wagler’s pop and Howard’s speed. I’ve heard some pleasant murmurings about Wagler, mostly in the vein of “if his body fills out, there could be something there.” Both players have racked up plenty tons of MAC plate appearances, so I can’t help but root for them going forward.

Hey, the MAC has some damn bats this year. I can only hope that the wall of text preceding this highlighted some fun names to follow, but if it’s still not coming across then you should really check out the outfield group. The top two outfielders for me are unproven, but full of talent; ultimately, the latter is all I care about when it comes to projecting a young player’s future. Ohio JR OF Manny DeJesus can flat hit. He can also run, defend, and work a pitcher into some crazy deep counts. You can search for many of the nice things about fellow transfer Cedric Mullins and apply them to DeJesus. Neither player is getting much love (as I’ve seen/heard) nationally as a prospect, but these guys can play. Northern Illinois JR OF Stephen Letz is right there with them as a bat, but with arguably the most raw power of the trio.

If Western Michigan SR OF/C Jared Kujawa convinces somebody he can catch professionally, he might have a nifty little future in the pros. He’d instantly become one of baseball’s most athletic backstops and best runners. The bat might be a touch light to profile as anything but an interesting backup, but he does so much well that you can’t help but be drawn to him every time he takes the field. Toledo rJR OF/SS Dan Zuchowski is in the same boat, but he faces the challenge of proving he can play a little middle infield as well as in the outfield. I’ve heard good things about his glove at second base, so maybe a future as a backup 2B/OF prospect could be a possibility. It’s a long shot, but worth considering a late pick on in my view. There’s something about the Regnier family that inspires curiosity within me. JR OF Logan and SR OF Nick (Central Michigan) are similarly built (6-2ish, 200ish pounds) plus runners who control the strike zone and flash a spot of pop here and there. Logan might have to follow in Nick’s shoes as a senior sign; if so (or if not…he could be drafted this year for all I know), it would be great fun to see them reunited once again in pro ball.

I don’t have as much to say about the pitching in the MAC. I wish I did, but I don’t. I always feel guilty when I give one side of the game almost four times as much coverage as the other, but, what can I say, I’m a hitter at heart. A trio of Miami (Ohio) arms sits near the top of list all the same. rSO LHP Ryan Marske was a name I heard a good bit about this winter. The gist: low-90s fastball, offspeed with promise, fresh arm, and ample projection left in his frame. The belief was that he’d be a mid-90s guy once he filled out a bit more, which was good enough for me to give him a shot in the top spot.

I wrote about SR RHP Ryan Powers last year after the Phillies selected him with pick 652 in the 22nd, calling him “another college starter with average numbers, good size (6-5, 210), and not a whole lot in the stuff/projection department.” That was a little bit sassier than I normally get on here, but the point still stands. His size is nice and his stuff is fine (88-92 FB, 94 peak; usable SL and CU), but he’s never missed a ton of bats (K/9’s around 6 over the past two year) and lacks the knockout pitch you’d like to see in a future pro reliever. Draftable arm, sure, and a more certain bet going forward than teammate rSR RHP Nate Williams. Still, I like Williams’ upside a touch more in no small part due to his above-average to plus curveball.

Moving from Oxford to Directional Michigan gives us a chance to take a closer look at JR LHP Adam Aldred (Central Michigan) and JR RHP Gabe Berman (Western Michigan). Aldred won’t wow you with his heater, but his pair of offspeed pitches (SL, CU) each individually rank among the best in the conference. Berman’s big 2014 season (10.85 K/9 in 34 IP) and solid stuff (low-90s FB, CB/CU) make him an interesting follow. Akron teammates JR RHP JT Brubaker, SR LHP Pat Dyer, and rSR RHP Matt LaRocca make the trip to see some MACtion in the Rubber City worthwhile. Brubaker has the fastball (94 peak) and projection, Dyer has the sheer size (6-9, 215 lefty? My interest is piqued), and LaRocca has (but hasn’t always shown) impressive control. Kent State rSR RHP Josh Pierce hasn’t pitched much due to injury, but if he’s healthy and back to his old ways then he could shoot up boards as a priority senior sign.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Ohio JR OF Manny DeJesus
  2. Northern Illinois JR OF Stephen Letz
  3. Kent State SR OF Alex Miklos
  4. Western Michigan SR OF/C Jared Kujawa
  5. Buffalo JR SS Bobby Sheppard
  6. Ohio SR 1B Jake Madsen
  7. Western Michigan JR 2B/OF Kurt Hoekstra
  8. Ball State JR 2B Ryan Spaulding
  9. Toledo rJR OF/SS Dan Zuchowski
  10. Central Michigan SR C Tyler Huntey
  11. Central Michigan JR OF Logan Regnier
  12. Central Michigan rSR 1B Cody Leichman
  13. Eastern Michigan rSO C/OF Michael Mioduszewski
  14. Bowling Green SR SS Brian Bien
  15. Central Michigan SR OF Nick Regnier
  16. Toledo JR SS Deion Tansel
  17. Akron rSR OF Joey Havrilak
  18. Miami (Ohio) JR OF Gary Russo
  19. Central Michigan JR 1B Zack Fields
  20. Kent State JR 1B/3B Zarley Zalewski
  21. Kent State JR 3B Justin Wagler
  22. Kent State SR SS Sawyer Polen
  23. Buffalo JR OF Nick Sinay
  24. Miami (Ohio) SR SS Ryan Eble
  25. Central Michigan SR 2B Pat MacKenzie
  26. Eastern Michigan SR 2B/SS John Rubino
  27. Bowling Green rSR 3B Brandon Howard
  28. Miami (Ohio) SR OF Matt Honchel

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

  1. Miami (Ohio) rSO LHP Ryan Marske
  2. Miami (Ohio) rSR RHP Nate Williams
  3. Central Michigan JR LHP Adam Aldred
  4. Western Michigan JR RHP Gabe Berman
  5. Miami (Ohio) SR RHP Ryan Powers
  6. Akron JR RHP JT Brubaker
  7. Akron SR LHP Pat Dyer
  8. Akron rSR RHP/1B Matt LaRocca
  9. Akron rSR RHP Jon Pusateri
  10. Bowling Green SR RHP Trevor Blaylock
  11. Kent State rSR RHP Josh Pierce
  12. Kent State JR RHP Nick Jensen-Clagg
  13. Eastern Michigan SR LHP Ben Dartnell
  14. Toledo JR RHP Kyle Slack
  15. Bowling Green rSO LHP Andrew Lacinak
  16. Toledo JR RHP Adam Tyson
  17. Central Michigan SR RHP Tim Black
  18. Ball State SR RHP Scott Baker

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Tulane

JR RHP Ian Gibaut (2015)
rJR RHP Alex Massey (2015)
rSO RHP Daniel Rankin (2015)
JR RHP Emerson Gibbs (2015)
JR RHP/OF Tim Yandel (2015)
SR 2B Garret Deschamp (2015)
SR 1B/3B Tyler Wilson (2015)
JR OF Richard Carthon (2015)
SO SS Stephen Alemais (2016)
SO C Jake Rogers (2016)
SO RHP JP France (2016)
SO RHP Tyler Zamjahn (2016)
SO RHP Zach Flowers (2016)
SO 3B Hunter Hope (2016)
SO 1B/OF Lex Kaplan (2016)
SO OF Grant Brown (2016)
SO RHP Corey Merrill (2016)
SO RHP Patrick Duester (2016)
FR LHP Jackson Johnson (2017)

The practical logistics of moving a pitcher from the college bullpen (or an expected pro bullpen role) to a professional rotation is a hot topic every year at draft time. Everybody has a different opinion about what makes a starter a starter and a reliever a reliever. Some focus on one specific aspect of a pitcher’s game and use that as the determining factor when deciding on a future role. Too often this is a simple question of size — Is he 6’0″ or less? Stick him in the pen then! — which is obviously an unfortunate bout of reducing a complex (by baseball standards) decision into a binary yes/no that lacks the necessary nuance and ratiocination required. Thankfully there are others, more sensibly in my view, who take a holistic approach as they debate the merits of a pitcher’s depth of repertoire, ease of mechanical repeatability, physical stature (size is a factor, but not the factor) and conditioning, and ability to maintain high-quality stuff deep into outings as the pitch count climbs and fatigue sets in. Creating a dichotomy using short and tall as determining factors is bad process that occasionally will lead to positive results

Forgive me if I copy/paste that paragraph whenever Dillon Tate, Carson Fulmer, and Tyler Jay are brought up this spring. For now, the logic presented above applies to JR RHP Ian Gibaut, who has excelled as a college reliever since first stepping foot on campus at Tulane in 2013. There’s no reason to believe that Gibaut’s success as an amateur reliever would slow down in any way as he transitions to pro ball this summer. Still, I’d be tempted to stretch him out and see how his stuff holds up as a starter. My desire to see him work in a starter’s role isn’t so great that I’d kill a team for thinking he’ll be best in the bullpen as a professional; if anything, it’s more of a selfish curiosity to see what a college reliever with the build, arm action (in my amateur view), and diverse enough set of pitches (above-average 75-78 CB, upper-70s CU that flashes plus [others like it less and I’ll at least acknowledge it’s an inconsistent pitch at present], and hard mid-80s SL) could do in a more taxing role. I’ve heard but not seen firsthand that Gibaut’s velocity is the type that plays up in short bursts, so keeping him in the bullpen would seem to be a perfectly reasonable course of action. If that winds up being how it plays out, then don’t be surprised when Gibaut winds up as one of this year’s draft fastest moving college relief prospects.

I’ve always preferred JR RHP/OF Tim Yandel as a hitter to a pitcher, but the evidence is now stacked up too high against my original position to ignore. The light has never really gone on for Yandel as a hitter, but he’s emerged as a solid college arm with a chance to find work as a middle reliever type in the pros thanks to his plus 78-83 slider. rJR RHP Alex Massey has shown he can miss bats in his swingman role over his two plus years at Tulane. Given time in the bullpen exclusively should help his already solid fastball (88-92, 94-95 peak) play up a tick, all the better to complement his existing above-average slider. If you’re scoring at home, that’s three potential relievers that could come out of this year’s Tulane staff.

There’s less to love offensively, but it isn’t as though Tulane has no hitters worth keeping an eye on. SR 2B Garret Deschamp has flashed some power to the gaps and can field his position. I’ve heard nothing but positive things about SR 1B/3B Tyler Wilson’s bat, so hopefully we’ll get a chance to see what he can do with more than the 26 AB he received last season. JR OF Richard Carthon can run, but it remains to be seen if he’ll hit.

Tulane’s sophomore class is where it’s at. SO SS Stephen Alemais is a legit defensive shortstop with a big arm and serious wheels. He didn’t light the world on fire as a freshman, but he held his own. Same could be said for SO RHP JP France (but with standout peripherals), an undersized athletic fireballing righthander in the mold of Lance McCullers. C Jake Rogers, 3B Hunter Hope, OF Grant Brown, and RHP Corey Merrill are all also sophomores talented enough to finish as high picks.

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Connecticut

rJR RHP Devin Over (2015)
rSR RHP Carson Cross (2015)
rSR RHP Jordan Tabakman (2015)
rSO RHP Ryan Radue (2015)
rJR RHP Max Slade (2015)
rSO RHP Callahan Brown (2015)
SR 1B/OF Blake Davey (2015)
JR 1B Bobby Melley (2015)
SR OF Eric Yavarone (2015)
SR OF Jon Testani (2015)
SR C Connor David (2015)
JR OF Jack Sundberg (2015)
JR 2B/3B Vinny Siena (2015)
JR 3B Brian Daniello (2015)
JR C Max McDowell (2015)
JR 1B/OF Nico Darras (2015)
SO SS/2B Aaron Hill (2016)
SO LHP Anthony Kay (2016)
SO RHP Andrew Zapata (2016)
SO RHP Pat Ruotolo (2016)

I should really stop being surprised when I look up Connecticut’s talent. Every year I mentally subtract the players that they lost and every year I expect to see the cupboard too bare to care from a draft standpoint. Yet every darn year I find myself being in the same mental place, somehow unready to process the half-dozen or so honest to goodness prospects scattered across the team’s roster. This year’s club features a low-mileage pitcher with plus arm strength (rJR RHP Devin Over), a college ace returning from Tommy John surgery capable of throwing three average or better pitches for strikes (rSR RHP Carson Cross), and a changeup specialist with enough size and fastball (88-92ish) to get some late round consideration this June (rSR RHP Jordan Tabakman). Over in particular is a fascinating prospect due to his mid-90s fastball (97 peak) and impressive athleticism. The results have never matched his stuff (in terms of K/9), so scouts will have to really hone on him this spring to see why a guy with an arm like his has been unable to consistently miss bats. That might not be a particularly fair criticism considering his limited track record to date (30ish lifetime innings), but prospect evaluation ain’t always fair.

Offensively, two hitters stand out as particularly promising. SR 1B/OF Blake Davey and JR 1B Bobby Melley both have shown they possess the type of above-average raw power and measured approach to hitting that pro teams prioritize on draft day. Working against them, of course, is the likelihood that both players wind up as first basemen professionally. It’s a steep climb from nice college hitting prospect to legitimate potential big league first baseman. Two guys with lesser bats but greater positional value that could get drafted are JR OF Jack Sundberg and JR C Max McDowell. Sundberg is held back by a lack of any kind of meaningful pop, but he can run, throw, and defend well enough in center that a team might put up with some growing pains with the stick. He profiles better as a 2016 senior sign to me. McDowell, on the other hand, appears to be one of the nation’s most underappreciated catching prospects. He does the things you’d expect out of any real catching prospect (solid glove, interesting power upside) while also doing the extras (really nice runner for the position, more athletic than most backstops) that make him a legitimate top ten round sleeper. Houston’s Ian Rice is unabashedly one of my favorites in all of college baseball, so, naturally, taking his throne as top catching prospect in the AAC was never really going to happen for McDowell. Still, I like him so much that there really wasn’t much internal debate as to who would fill in the second spot, where McDowell sits ahead of the more famous and preferred option by many, Luke Lowery of East Carolina. JR 3B Brian Daniello might just be the top third base prospect in the conference, though that says at least as much about the dearth of talented third basemen in the AAC than anything about Daniello’s maybe/maybe not pro future. In any event, he’s a really solid college player who I’m happy to give a little recognition.

Ceilings, Floors, Tyler Jay, and Dillon Tate

I probably shouldn’t reveal something that will undoubtedly make this whole site feel like even more of an amateur operation that it already does, but the impetus for rearranging a few important names (done so before I published it) within the top dozen or so college pitching prospect ranking was a team-specific email I was very casually firing off to a friend. I started by trying to answer the simple question of which college pitcher would I most like to see still on the board if I was a fan of a team picking in the middle of the draft’s first round. I like thinking about that question at the start of the amateur season because it generates a lot more discussion than a simple “Who would you take at 1-1?” query. Right now, I’m pretty sure I’d answer Brady Aiken and Michael Matuella for the latter question, but they would not necessarily be at the top of my list for the first hypothetical. That may seem a bit counter-intuitive, so allow me to explain.

Let’s say you’re picking tenth overall this year. As exciting as it would be to still see Aiken or Matuella on the board that low in the first round, you’d have to assume that there’s a really good reason for the fall. In the case of both Aiken and Matuella, there is an undeniable injury concern that is still a long way from being answered this spring. I think the only way that either pitcher would still be available that late is if news of a significant injury (a la Jeff Hoffman last year) broke between now and June. In last year’s draft, I think a really strong argument could have been made that Hoffman was talented enough compared to his peers that taking him around tenth overall even over healthy pitchers was a gamble worth taking. The peer group surrounding Aiken and Matuella (and any other pitcher that may or may not get red-flagged for injuries this spring) is much stronger. A Phillies fan would have been justified (in my view) in wanting to see his team gamble on Hoffman over Aaron Nola last year; this year, however, taking an injured Aiken or Matuella over a healthy Nathan Kirby, Walker Buehler, or Dillon Tate would make little sense. When you go to the next tier down (Carson Fulmer, Tyler Jay, Kyle Funkhouser, Phil Bickford), then I can begin to see the argument of gambling on a full return to health for Aiken or Matuella beginning to seem more appealing.

(Hastily added post-publication transition goes here. Use your imagination that I wrote something good…)

Even though I included him in the tier with Fulmer, Funkhouser, and Bickford and ranked him in the seven spot on my “preseason” draft rankings, I still think I’ve given short shrift to Tyler Jay. It’s fairly stunning to me that so much was made before the year by many (Keith Law, most famously) about UCSB’s curious decision to leave Dillon Tate in the bullpen, but I haven’t heard one peep about Jay’s usage. We all know by now that a last minute injury opened the door for Tate to start and the script has more or less written itself since then. What I don’t understand is how quiet the internet has been concerning Jay, a wildly talented young lefthander left to pitch only in short, unpredictable outings as Illinois’ closer. I’m not particularly interested in getting into the moral debate about what is best for the player versus what will most benefit the team (fine, real quick here’s my non-morals, all-baseball take: it’s crazy not to start a pitcher like Jay if the pitcher can in fact start), but I’d really like to see a potential first round player play on a regular schedule that would more easily allow as many well-earned eyeballs on him as possible. It’s nuts that literally everybody I’ve talked to, most everything I’ve read, and my own dumb intuition/common sense hybrid approach to this kind of thing (four pitches? great athlete? repeatable delivery?) point towards Jay entering pro ball as a starting pitcher despite never getting an opportunity to take the mound in the first inning in three years of college. If he’s good enough to start professionally three months from now, then he’s damn sure good enough to start in the Big 10. (This is the part where I’ll at least mention that Illinois’ pitching staff is loaded and whatever the coaches want to do with their team is their call. Still, for both short-term [Jay is awesome, so give him more innings] and long-term [Jay getting more innings will show everybody he is awesome, he’ll go higher in the draft because of it, and you can tell recruits you had a guy go top five rather than top twenty-five] reasons, I’d think the decision to start your best pitcher would be a no-brainer. I won’t kill them because it’s quite possible that the Illini coaching staff has information about Jay’s ability to start [relative to his teammates, if nothing else] that we don’t know from the outside looking in. Either that or they are being irrational and buying into old school baseball tropes that will only make their team worse anyway. Where were we?) If Jay goes as high as his raw talent merits (he’s easily a first round pick), then we’re talking about a college reliever being drafted right into a professional rotation. Such a move feels unprecedented to me; a quick check back through the archives reveals only one other similar first round case in the six drafts I’ve covered in depth since starting the site. The only first round college reliever drafted with the idea of converting him to the rotation professionally was Chris Reed. More on that from back in November 2011…

As one of the most divisive 2011 MLB Draft prospects, Stanford LHP Chris Reed will enter his first full season of pro ball with plenty to prove. He could make me look very stupid for ranking him as low as I did before the draft (200th overall prospect) by fulfilling the promise of becoming a serious starting pitching prospect as a professional. I don’t doubt that he can start as he has the three-pitch mix, frame, and mechanics to do so; I just question whether or not he should start. Advocating for time spent in the bullpen is not something I often do, but Reed’s stuff, especially his fastball, just looks so much better in shorter stints. Of course, he might grow into a starter’s role in time. I like that he’s getting innings to straighten out his changeup and command sooner rather than later. Ultimately, however, Reed is a reliever for me; a potentially very good reliever, mind, but a reliever all the same. Relievers are valuable, but the demand for their work shouldn’t match up with the sixteenth overall pick in a loaded draft.

I swear I didn’t copy/paste that just because it’s one of my few predictions to have held up really well so far. I mean, that was a big part of it, sure, but not the only reason. I guess I just find the case of Jay continuously flying just under the radar to be more bizarre than anything. I’m almost at the point where I’m starting to question what negatives I’m missing. A smart team in the mid- to late-first round is going to get a crazy value when Jay inevitably slips due to the unknown of how he’ll hold up as a starter. Between his extreme athleticism, a repertoire bursting at the seams with above-average to plus offerings (plus FB, above-average CB that flashes plus, above-average SL that flashes plus, average or better CU with plus upside), and dominant results to date at the college level (reliever or not), there’s little doubt in my mind that Jay can do big things in a big league rotation sooner rather than later. There two questions that will need to be answered as he gets stretched out as a starter will be how effective he’ll be going through lineups multiple times (with the depth of his arsenal I’m confident he’ll be fine here) and how hot his fastball will remain (and how crisp his breaking stuff stays) when pitch counts climb. That’s a tough one to answer at the present moment, but the athleticism, balance, and tempo in Jay’s delivery give me hope.

It’s hard to mention Jay without also mentioning Tate (multiple times, apparently), the fastest rising of this year’s college group of starter/reliever question marks (Carson Fulmer being the third). Tate’s turn in the rotation this year has allowed him to begin to answer all of those questions emphatically in the positive. His fastball has dipped some late in games so far this year (95-98 early to 91-93 late), but that’s less of a problem when you’re already starting at easy plus to plus-plus velocities; we should all be so lucky to throw in the low-90s when tired. Jay has shown similar velocity to Tate so far out of the bullpen (mid- to upper-90s), so even knocking a few MPHs off his peaks in short bursts would allow his fastball to play at a more than acceptable level in the pros. Just because Tate has done it obviously doesn’t mean Jay is a lock to do it when he gets his chance, but it’s a nice parallel to draw from two fairly similarly talented prospects.

Speaking of parallels, and I really hate to make this comparison because of how lazy it’ll appear, hear me out with this one. Long-time readers of the site know I do my best to look past player characteristics that don’t matter when it comes to developing comps, so hopefully I get the benefit of the doubt on this one. In all honesty, it makes a lot of baseball sense so whatever let’s just do it: Tate’s scouting profile looks a lot like Marcus Stroman’s coming out of Duke. The differences (mechanics aren’t similar at all [man, I loved Stroman’s] and Tate has a few inches on Stroman) are real, but the ties that bind the two are far more interesting. Both Tate and Stroman were primarily relievers through two years of college (Stroman made 13 starts out of his 34 games), both are/were great athletes with repeatable deliveries (even if you don’t love Tate’s, as I don’t, he is athletic enough to keep it up), and both clearly had the stuff to start once you looked past some of the superficial “he’s a reliever!” concerns (big fastballs, plus hard sliders/cutters, and underdeveloped changeups with big upside). I think it’s pretty cool that we’ve come far enough in just a few short years to better appreciate what a slightly non-conventional pitcher can do, and Tate should have no problem blowing past Stroman’s draft ceiling (22nd overall pick) this June. It helps that Tate has a little more size — Stroman being 5’9″ took the short righthander thing to a wonderful extreme — and a few additional contemporary examples of young big leaguers (Yordano Ventura) and minor league stars (Luis Severino) that helped crack the shorty righty glass ceiling. Speaking of Severino, I don’t know if that’s a terrible comparison for Tate, either. I prefer Stroman, but Severino, who dazzled me the two different times I got to see him this summer (93-96 FB, 98 peak; cartoonish mid-80s breaking ball, and a more advanced CU than most pitchers his age), isn’t a terrible name to be associated with.

Man, this is the kind of post that I just sit and write without doing much planning. Now that I’ve re-read it, it shows. Originally I thought we were going to get into the high-ceiling/high-floor abilities of Nathan Kirby and Walker Buehler (and maybe a little Tate), but it wound up mostly being about Tyler Jay and Tate. Two thousand words later and here we are. Go figure.

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