Now that football has wrapped up and the D1 college season is just eleven short days away, I think it’s time to come out of my semi-planned hibernation of the past few weeks. Time away from posting hasn’t meant time away from baseball draft work; quite the contrary, really. My college prep work is finally complete and my college notes Word document now stretches 186 pages and 129,856 words. Finding a way to turn those notes into something worth reading is the challenge we’ll tackle together these next two weeks. I have no concrete plan as to how I want to get the information I’ve accumulated out there, so any and all suggestions as to what you — yes, YOU! — want to see are appreciated. I’ll come up with something otherwise — conference previews? — but I’d rather do something by request…and not just because I don’t have anything pre-written in what could be a busy real life work week otherwise.
Until then, here are my (first annual?) College Prospect All-American Teams. The name says it all, but just in case…College PROSPECT All-American Teams. For the purpose of these teams, we care only about who will wind up the best professional prospects come June. Let’s do it…
C Zack Collins – Miami
1B Will Craig – Wake Forest
2B Nick Senzel – Tennessee
SS Michael Paez – Coastal Carolina
3B Bobby Dalbec – Arizona
OF Kyle Lewis – Mercer
OF Buddy Reed – Florida
OF Corey Ray – Louisville
RHP Alec Hansen – Oklahoma
LHP Matt Krook – Oregon
RHP Connor Jones – Virginia
LHP AJ Puk – Florida
RHP Dakota Hudson – Mississippi State
Filling my pretend team with Collins, Craig, Senzel, Dalbec, and the outfielders were pretty easy for me at this point. I love (Collins, Craig, Senzel, Lewis) or like (Dalbec, Reed, Ray) all of them as first round talents this June, though even getting three of them (I’ll guess two of the outfielders and Dalbec as the wild card) into the first thirty or so picks is probably more realistic knowing how I tend to value certain types different than actual scouting directors might. Fans of teams picking in the top ten dreaming of a quick fix college bat should follow all of them, but with the clear understanding that every single name there (save Craig) has a lot to prove this spring at the plate, especially in the strike zone discipline/approach facets of the game. I’m too lazy to do the math, but I’m pretty sure there is about 3,241 (rough estimate) strikeouts combined courtesy of those hitters. Paez is probably the name that jumps out for many, but it’s a really shallow year for college shortstops…and Paez is pretty damn good. More on him in the coming weeks.
There’s so much college pitching in this year’s class that there’s even less of a chance of coming up with a “right” order of players than usual. Like many, I love the healthy versions of both Hansen and Krook, so their placement on top of the rankings mountain is a bet on continued good health from right this second to early June. Jones was my top college player last March when I made a list like this, but I dropped him to seventh college pitcher on my most recent update in October. Without realizing it until now, it appears I’ve split the difference (more or less) with his current placement in the three spot. I still can’t get enough of that Masahiro Tanaka comp I heard for him. Puk is such a good prospect that I don’t feel too bad in nitpicking him here by pointing out his inconsistent secondaries (unlike the others listed, I haven’t seen a reliable plus offspeed pitch from him yet), up-and-down control, and good but not great athleticism. The fact that he can have all of those question marks — all very fixable issues, it’s worth noting — and still rank so highly says something about how overwhelming his strengths are. Hudson is all upside at this point; he reminds me of Taijuan Walker in more than a few ways.
C Sean Murphy – Wright State
1B Pete Alonso – Florida
2B JaVon Shelby – Kentucky
SS Logan Gray – Austin Peay State
3B Sheldon Neuse – Oklahoma
OF Bryan Reynolds – Vanderbilt
OF Jake Fraley – Louisiana State
OF Nick Banks – Texas A&M
RHP Cal Quantrill – Stanford
LHP Matt Crohan – Winthrop
RHP Zach Jackson – Arkansas
RHP Robert Tyler – Georgia
LHP Garrett Williams – Oklahoma State
I could see a lot of the guys on this team outperforming their first team counterparts over the long haul. There’s a little more certainty with some of the names, but not quite the same degree of upside. Murphy, arguably the draft’s best two-way catcher, stands out as an example of this. You could also probably lump Reynolds and Fraley in the category, especially when compared to fellow SEC-er Buddy Reed.
From talking to smart people around the game lately, I think I might wind up the high guy on Crohan. I see a lefty with size, velocity, athleticism, and a nasty cut-slider. I also see a guy who does a lot of the same things AJ Puk does well, but with far less hype. One of my favorite snippets of my notes comes in the Jackson section: “if he fixes delivery and command, watch out.” Well, duh. I could have said that about just about any upper-echelon arm in this age demographic. With Jackson, however, it reinforces just how special his stuff is when he’s right. I don’t think this college class has a pitch better than his curveball at its best.
C Matt Thaiss – Virginia
1B Carmen Beneditti – Michigan
2B Cavan Biggio – Notre Dame
SS Colby Woodmansee – Arizona State
3B Lucas Erceg – Menlo (CA)
OF Ryan Boldt – Nebraska
OF Stephen Wrenn – Georgia
OF Ronnie Dawson – Ohio State
LHP Eric Lauer – Kent State
RHP Michael Shawaryn – Maryland
RHP Daulton Jefferies – California
RHP Kyle Serrano – Tennessee
RHP Kyle Funkhouser – Louisville
There are too many good players and far too spots. Leaving out some of this year’s catching class breaks my heart, but ultimately I’m more excited at the ridiculous depth at that spot than at any pretend tough decision I had to make on what will turn out to be a meaningless list anyway. Second base wound up a tougher call than I expected when trying to weigh the relative pros and cons of Biggio, Nate Mondou, Bryson Brigman (who might be a worthwhile SS after all), Kyle Fiala, Nick Solak, and Ryne Birk. Woodmansee felt like the right choice over a few other deserving peers, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a trio I didn’t select (Daniel Pinero, Stephen Alemais, Ryan Howard OR Errol Robinson, Trever Morrison, Eli White) wound up the better bet by June. I had originally planned to make this a D1 only list, but figured the more the merrier so Erceg, the Cal transfer, got the call. That’s partly because I really like Erceg (as both a hitter and a pitcher, though I think I’m in the minority who prefers him currently with the bat) and partly because the pickings at third base are slim. Three of the next four names under consideration at the hot corner are draft-eligible sophomores: Greg Deichmann, Will Toffey, and Blake Tiberi. Beneditti, the choice at first over a similarly lackluster field, is also a two-way player who many prefer on the mound long-term. I liken him to a better Brian Johnson, the former Gator and current Red Sox lefthander. In a fun twist, I preferred Johnson as a hitter as well back in the day.
The similarities between Shawaryn and Jefferies are uncanny. Both guys should rank among the quickest movers in this year’s college starting pitching class once they make the move to pro ball. Pitchers considered who just missed the cut were numerous, but a few fun names include Corbin Burnes, Jake Elliott, Bailey Clark, and John Kilichowski, my personal favorite of the many outstanding Vanderbilt arms.
SR LHP John Valek (2016)
rJR RHP Hunter Newman (2016)
JR LHP Jared Poche’ (2016)
SR LHP Hunter Devall (2016)
rJR RHP Russell Reynolds (2016)
JR RHP Parker Bugg (2016)
rSO RHP Jesse Stallings (2016)
JR RHP Alden Cartwright (2016)
JR RHP Collin Strall (2016)
JR RHP Riley Smith (2016)
JR OF Jake Fraley (2016)
SO 3B/2B Greg Deichmann (2016)
JR 2B Kramer Robertson (2016)
JR OF Cody Ducote (2016)
JR 2B Cole Freeman (2016)
JR C Jordan Romero (2016)
SO RHP Austin Bain (2017)
SO RHP Alex Lange (2017)
rFR LHP Jake Latz (2017)
SO RHP Doug Norman (2017)
SO OF Beau Jordan (2017)
SO C/1B Bryce Jordan (2017)
SO C Mike Papierski (2017)
FR RHP Cole McKay (2018)
FR RHP Caleb Gilbert (2018)
FR OF/LHP Brennan Breaux (2018)
FR 3B/SS O’Neal Lochridge (2018)
FR SS Trey Dawson (2018)
FR OF Antoine Duplantis (2018)
FR OF/1B Brody Wofford (2018)
FR 3B Chris Reid (2018)
JR LHP Jared Poche’ is a tough guy to peg as a pro prospect because so much of his value comes from what he is rather than what he could be. That’s antithetical to everything that those who cover the draft are all about! What he is should be enough to have a long pro career: upper-80s fastball that can sometimes sit as high as 88-92 (93 peak), above-average or better 73-78 CB that flashes plus, and a really good 78-82 CU that is at least average and probably better. Add that in to a good new-ish cutter and strong overall command, and you can see that Poche’ has what it takes to get pro hitters out. How dare he be so polished and composed at such a young age!
What keeps Poche’ from being a true threat to crash the draft’s early rounds is the lack of projection in his 6-1, 200 pound frame and decent but not exciting peripherals (5.11 K/9 and 5.94 K/9) through two college seasons. He’s been an absolute workhorse as a weekend starter for LSU since first stepping foot on campus and his outstanding college career should be celebrated whether it comes to a close this June or next, but the possibility that he’s more great college pitcher than big-time pro prospect feels very real to me. His is just a tough profile to find any reasonable recent draft contemporaries to compare against. We need a filled-out lefthander with average velocity (give or take), a nice assortment of offspeed stuff, and lots of high-level college success despite underwhelming peripherals. Many guys check all but one of those boxes (size and peripherals are often the missing piece), but it’s hard to find anybody who went in the top five rounds or so with the same background. Closest that I found include guys (listed in order of my pre-draft rankings last June) like Travis Bergen from Kennesaw State (7th), Kevin Duchene from Illinois (5th), Scott Effross from Indiana (15th), Christian Trent from Mississippi (24th), Bobby Poyner from Florida (14th), and Reid Love from East Carolina (10th). Bergen and Duchene give me some hope that there’s room in the first seven or so rounds for a competitor like Poche’. Of course, comparisons like these lean heavily on historical trends often at the expense of the individual in question. It only takes one player to rise above and break past the ceiling that others have put on them, much the same way that “(fill in the blank) has never happened” until the first time that it does. Maybe Poche’ is the one to crack the draft’s top five rounds and make the paragraph you’re reading right now seem silly. I think Poche’ falling somewhere between round six and ten is the most likely outcome, but we’ll see.
SR LHP John Valek takes his mid- to upper-80s fastball, solid change, and plus command from Akron to LSU for the upcoming season. A year of holding his own in the SEC could get him some looks as a potential late-round matchup lefty possibility for some teams. rJR RHP Russell Reynolds has shown slow yet steady improvement as he’s come back from a labrum injury in 2013. He could force his way back into the draft mix if his stuff returns to pre-surgery levels. JR RHP Parker Bugg has enticing size (6-6, 220) and a fastball/slider combination that works well in relief. I’m a big fan of rSO RHP Jesse Stallings, a hard thrower (88-94, 95 peak) with a deceptive delivery and a split-change he makes good use of.
It’s unclear what to make of JR RHP Alden Cartwright at this point. Reports on his stuff are pretty ordinary — upper-80s heat complemented with a nice upper-70s curve — and he’s not particularly big (6-0, 190), but his peripherals last season (13.05 K/9 and 1.80 BB/9) make him worth keeping in mind. rJR RHP Hunter Newman’s stuff is a tick better across the board — 88-92 FB with a 75-77 CB with plus upside — and his peripherals aren’t far off the mark (8.27 K/9). Judging by more conventional standards, such as ERA (an eye-popping 0.49 in 36.2 IP last year), makes him a clear cut relief arm to know. I’ll always have a soft sport for undersized (5-8, 180) SR LHP Hunter Devall, a quality arm from the left side who keeps getting batters out year after year.
JR RHP Riley Smith is the biggest wild card on the staff. His raw ability suggests he could be the highest drafted arm off of this staff in 2016, but there’s always some risk in projecting a college arm who hasn’t done it at this level that high. I’ve always preferred talent to experience, so count me very much in on Smith heading into his draft year.
JR OF Jake Fraley is an outstanding prospect. I may have actually underrated him despite ranking him twentieth overall in the college class back in October. Here’s what was written then…
In a class with potential superstars like Lewis, Reed, and Ray roaming outfields at the top, it would be easy to overlook Fraley, a tooled-up center fielder with lightning in his wrists, an unusually balanced swing, and the patient approach of a future leadoff hitter. Do so at your own discretion. Since I started the site in 2009 there’s been at least one LSU outfielder drafted every year. That includes five top-three round picks (Mitchell, Landry, Mahtook, Jones, and Stevenson) in seven classes. Outfielder U seems poised to keep the overall streak alive and make the top three round run a cool six out of eight in 2016.
That fact about the outfielders still blows my mind. Six out of eight years with a top three round outfielder is one heck of a run for any university. Anyway, peers ranked over Fraley this year (according to me back in October) included names like Lewis, Reed, Ray, Boldt, and Reynolds. Banks, Wrenn, Quinn, Abreu, Brooks, and Dawson came next. I think if I had to do it again today with a few more months of research and thought under my belt, I would have Fraley behind only Lewis, Reed, and Ray, and in as close to a tie as humanly possible with Reynolds. He’s really good. In what is surely an unfair thing to say based on the sheer awesomeness of this guy’s numbers last year, I can see some opportunity for a Benintendi-like breakout for Fraley in 2016.
“If he’s not a star for this team, I’m quitting the internet draft game” – January 6, 2015. I said that about SO 3B/2B Greg Deichmann last year and I stand by it today. His first year at LSU didn’t end in stardom and as an older sophomore he’s able to leave after this year, so this could be do-or-die time for my sterling reputation as a prospect soothsayer. Of course, if Deichmann leaves LSU after this year then that almost certainly would mean he had a huge season that positioned himself to be drafted high enough to make turning pro a smart decision. If not, then I’ll at least get another year to tout him as the great prospect that I think he is. Deichmann completely won me over as a hitter in the year or so before he enrolled at LSU. Loved the swing, hands, bat speed, everything. His red flag during his prep days was his age, but that’s no longer a concern as a draft-eligible sophomore playing in the SEC. The new worry — or the old worry, if you weren’t sold on Deichmann as a hitter as I once was — is his approach. If said approach can move from “swing at anything that moves” to something slightly more refined, then he’ll take off as a hitter. That’s what I’m banking on in 2016.
I have Deichmann listed a primary 3B who can also play 2B; I’ve leaned toward him playing the latter position professionally, but a lot of smart people have finally convinced me that his long-term home is at third. JR 2B Kramer Robertson should have little difficulty staying at his position, so now the question will be whether or not he hits enough to make it worthwhile. On the surface he hasn’t done much in limited time, but despite his struggles making contact — he’s hit an empty .200 and .232 in his first two college seasons — he’s held his own in other ways (26 BB/30 K career). It’s a small thing, sure, but I like to see a guy battle like that in at bats even when things aren’t going great. From a tools standpoint, he’s still plenty intriguing: Robertson is a decent runner with pop and loads of athleticism, a steady glove, and a presence at the dish that makes his results to date all the more confusing. If the light bulb comes on — and there’s no guarantee he’ll even get the chance to keep working through things considering the depth that surrounds him on this roster — then he’s very much a draftable talent.
JR OF Cody Ducote (bat), JR 2B Cole Freeman (glove), and JR C Jordan Romero (arm) all do certain things well enough to be major players of interest to me this spring. Among the many, many underclass prospects to follow this spring are guys like SO RHP Austin Bain and SO RHP Alex Lange. I’d call them both future stars, but I think they are already there. Looking forward to seeing what rFR LHP Jake Latz and all of the true freshmen (McKay, Gilbert, Lochridge, Dawson, Duplantis, Wofford) do in their debuts.
SR RHP Emerson Gibbs (2016)
rJR RHP Daniel Rankin (2016)
rSR RHP Alex Massey (2016)
JR RHP Corey Merrill (2016)
SR RHP Patrick Duester (2016)
rJR RHP Eric Steel (2016)
rSO RHP JP France (2016)
SR RHP/OF Tim Yandel (2016)
rSR RHP Evan Rutter (2016)
rJR LHP Christian Colletti (2016)
rSO RHP Chris Oakley (2016)
rSO LHP Sam Bjorngjeld (2016)
rSR RHP/OF Trevor Simms (2016)
JR C Jake Rogers (2016)
JR SS Stephen Alemais (2016)
rSO OF Grant Brown (2016)
SR OF Richard Carthon (2016)
rJR C/1B Jeremy Montalbano (2016)
JR 1B/OF Lex Kaplan (2016)
JR 3B Hunter Hope (2016)
JR 1B Hunter Williams (2016)
JR OF Jarrett DeHart (2016)
rSO 2B Matt Rowland (2016)
rSR 2B/C Shea Pierce (2016)
JR 2B Jake Wilsey (2016)
SO LHP Jackson Johnson (2017)
FR LHP Ross Massey (2018)
FR OF/LHP Grant Witherspoon (2018)
FR INF Cade Edwards (2018)
Quantity and quality. Tulane has both in spades. I’m starting the SEC team profiles as soon as I finish this so maybe I’m being influenced by my dumb brain making patterns when it shouldn’t, but Tulane has both the depth and high-end talent typically found in an SEC school. Or an ACC school. Or a Pac-12 school. I mention those three conferences specifically because Tulane’s blend of first day pick quality and chance for double-digit draftee quantity inspired me to take a closer look at schools that have managed to have two or more players selected in the first round (including supplemental) AND a total of seven or more total draftees in the same year. I went back to my first year at the site (2009) to see what teams and conferences (without accounting for realignment) have done the trick. Unsurprisingly, the SEC, ACC, and Pac-12 are well represented…
2009: Boston College (2 first rounders, 4 total picks), Southern Cal (2, 6), Indiana (3, 7), Kennesaw State (2, 6), and North Carolina (2, 7)
2010: Cal State Fullerton (2, 9)
2011: Connecticut (2, 10), Vanderbilt (2, 12), and UCLA (2, 9)
2012: Texas A&M (2, 7), Florida (2, 9), and Stanford (2, 8)
2014: Virginia (3, 8) and North Carolina State (2, 7)
2015: Vanderbilt (3, 9)
This year it seems likely that a few more teams join the mix. Florida seems like a lock with Louisville right there with them and Virginia and Oklahoma just a step behind. Then you have maybes in Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, Miami, and Kentucky, plus teams with an outside chance like Oregon, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Clemson, Stanford, Louisiana State, Texas A&M, and Wake Forest (as well as any other team I’m forgetting). There’s also Tulane. Now we’re finally full circle. I’m not predicting that JR C Jake Rogers and JR SS Stephen Alemais are first day draft prospects, but the possibility certainly exists. Both Rogers and Alemais have similar general profiles as players: premium defensive talent at incredibly important spots on the diamond. Rogers is good enough defensively that his glove alone should keep getting him promoted even if he never hits. Alemais isn’t quite on that level, but he’s a legitimate shortstop with the athleticism, arm strength, and range to stick for a long time. The fact that he’s the better current hitter of the two makes up for the difference in my mind.
One of the easier comps in this year’s class is Rogers to Austin Hedges. It’s just too obvious to ignore. If you’re still on the Hedges bandwagon — I stayed off from the start — then you’re really going to like Rogers. If you value defense but also appreciate a guy who be a positive value player offensively — it doesn’t have to be an either/or! — then you might want to hold back for now. All bets are off if Rogers comes out swinging it this spring. If that’s the case (he’s got decent raw power and has held his own in terms of BB/K ratio, so don’t rule it out) then ignore everything you just read and mentally insert him into the first day of the draft. Pretty significant “if,” however. Alemais doesn’t have that “if” for me. I think he’s an honest big league hitter with continued development. There’s enough speed, pop, and approach to his offensive game that I’m comfortable calling him the best college shortstop profiled so far. That only includes most of the ACC and AAC, but it’s better than nothing. He’s a lock to finish as one of the country’s dozen best shortstops and has a strong case for remaining at the top spot come June.
Rogers and Alemais cover the quality at the top. Now let’s get to that depth. Assuming the two defensive stars have big junior season, these are the players that could push Tulane to join those schools listed about in my newly created (2, 7) club.
There are a ton of strikeouts found on the résumés of many of the returning Green Wave hitters, but also a lot of enticing tools that could have a few of these prospects in line for drastic improvements in 2016. SR OF Richard Carthon (40 K), JR 1B/OF Lex Kaplan (59 K), JR 3B Hunter Hope (73 K), and rSO OF Grant Brown (12 K in 35 AB) all have their issues, but not without also flashing pro ability at times. As the only senior listed, Carthon is obviously the only one in the do-or-die draft situation. Being a senior can work for and against you; in Carthon’s case, I think it might ultimately benefit him. His status as a potential money-saver combined with a few clear big league tools (speed, CF range) could get him a shot in the pros. Hope is steady enough defensively at third that I could see a team being intrigued by him as well. Kaplan, arguably the best hitter of the bunch, has a tougher hill to climb without that positional edge. Brown still has three years of eligibility if he wants it, so we’ll call the fascinating power/speed athlete a wild card at this point in the process. He’d be the easiest bet to identify as a breakout candidate in 2016 if you’re into that sort of thing.
Transfers from Louisville (rSO 2B Matt Rowland), Louisiana State (JR OF Jarrett DeHart), and Texas (rJR C/1B Jeremy Montalbano) add to the existing hitting surplus. All look promising in their own way. Rowland is known for a patient approach at the plate, DeHart is a great athlete who can really run, and Montalbano has as much raw power as nearly any 2016 draft peer. The only thing stopping me from hyping up Montalbano more than I will is the nagging belief that his C/1B position designation should be flipped. If he proves he can play even a slightly below-average catcher this spring, he’ll shoot up boards assuming the bat cooperates. If not, then he still has a chance as a pro prospect at first if he hits as many believe he can.
Transfers from West Virginia (rSR RHP/OF Trevor Simms), Connecticut (rJR LHP Christian Colletti), and Rice (rSR RHP Evan Rutter) add to the existing pitching surplus. The best of the incoming transfers should be rSO RHP Chris Oakley (North Carolina), big man with a bad fastball (90-94 with sink). I saw him back in his high school days when he was also flashing a pair of average or better secondaries (hard CB and split-CU), but I haven’t gotten any updates on him in a long while. As such, I’m looking forward to seeing him back on a mound this spring.
Those transfers will join experienced holdovers like rSR RHP Alex Massey (88.1 IP), SR RHP Emerson Gibbs (79.0 IP), JR RHP Corey Merrill (102.0 IP), SR RHP Patrick Duester (70.0 IP), and SR RHP Tim Yandel (56.1 IP). That’s a crazy amount of innings returning. I have all of those pitchers in my notes (save Duester since I don’t have gun readings on him) sitting 88-92 with their fastballs with Massey hitting higher (94-95). In fact, all of the pitchers that I have notes on at Tulane seem to have velocities that fall in that 88-92 range. That’s also where rJR RHP Daniel Rankin and rSO JP France are at, though both can get it up to the mid-90s like Massey. The similarities in sitting fastball velocity is kind of nice to see because it allows us to look beyond the obvious — admittedly to the slightly less obvious, but still — to differentiate the prospects.
Massey has that extra gear with his heater and an above-average slider that gives him a reasonable relief prospect floor if he can’t keep starting. Gibbs and his outstanding control, command, and sink on his fastball help him stand out among the rest. Merrill has a little more size (6-4, 230) and a good sinker. Yandel and France are old favorites who might be moving in different directions. The former, once a highly touted enough guy that Perfect Game compared him to Hunter Renfroe, hasn’t live up to his promise from both a performance perspective and from an evaluation of his stuff (lost velocity + the move away from a slider that flashed plus = not great). France, once compared to Lance McCullers by me, had a nice freshman season (9.26 K/9 and 1.80 BB/9 in 35 IP) and should enter the 2016 season ready to go. Between that old comp (rich in hindsight, but as draft prospects I stand by it) and France’s super talented right arm (90-94 FB and chance for two plus breaking balls), I’m all-in on France this year. That would leave me with a ranking of France, Massey, Gibbs, Merrill, (Oakley), Rankin, Duester, and Yandel. The fact that all have or are close to draftable grades is pretty impressive. I’d be surprised if Tulane doesn’t have at least five pitchers drafted this year.
JR RHP Brandon Lawson (2016)
rJR RHP Brad Labozzetta (2016)
rSO RHP Peter Strzelecki (2016)
SR RHP/OF Ryan Valdes (2016)
JR OF/RHP Daniel Portales (2016)
SR C/3B Levi Borders (2016)
rSO SS Clay Simmons (2016)
JR OF/C Luke Borders (2016)
SO OF/1B Duke Stunkel (2016)
SR OF Luke Maglich (2016)
JR 2B Andres Leal (2016)
SO RHP Joe Cavallaro (2017)
SO INF/OF Kevin Merrell (2017)
FR LHP Shane McClanahan (2018)
FR LHP Garrett Bye (2018)
FR LHP Andrew Perez (2018)
FR OF Garrett Zech (2018)
FR OF Chris Chatfield (2018)
FR C/1B Joe Genord (2018)
FR SS Robert Montes (2018)
FR OF Cam Montgomery (2018)
The freshman class at South Florida has a chance to lead to fantastic things. OFs Garrett Zech and Chris Chatfield have definite early round talent. C/1B Joe Genord has big-time raw power. SS Robert Montes could be the type of two-way infielder that helps change the fortune of a program. And LHP Shane McClanahan could be a future Friday night guy. That’s the good news. Now let’s talk about 2016…
Since I hopefully cushioned the blow some for any USF fans who might stumble upon this, I don’t feel so bad in calling rSO RHP Peter Strzelecki, set to miss the season after Tommy John surgery, the most promising pitcher in the 2016 class. He’s flashed impressive stuff when healthy, so hopefully he returns at full strength next season.
Offensively, look for one or both of the Borders brothers to draw interest from the Phillies this spring. Their father, Pat, is a manager in the organization and is thought of very highly (like, future MLB manager somewhere highly) by some important people in the front office. I prefer the bat of JR OF/C Luke Borders to that of SR C/3B Levi Borders, but the position adjustment bump Levi gets as a true catcher makes it a really tight race. Both look like really solid org guys to me more than serious professional prospects, but each guy has flashed enough as a hitter to warrant a closer look.
rSO SS Clay Simmons could make a move this spring as he returns to 100% health. He’s a good athlete with a strong arm and some pop. SR OF Luke Maglich joins the Border brothers as the trio make up one of the most prolific group of swing and missers in the college game. A strikeout is mostly just an out that feels worse than it deserves (though it has some predictive power in non-MLBers), so it’s not a judgment but look at these totals: 66 for Levi, 51 for Luke, and 66 for Maglich. Impressive. Curiously (or not), the only notes I have on Maglich make mention of his low-80s fastball.
rSO RHP Trevor Sutton (2016)
JR RHP Nolan Blackwood (2016)
JR RHP Blake Drabik (2016)
SR RHP Matt Ferguson (2016)
SR OF/1B Jake Little (2016)
rSR SS Jake Overbey (2016)
SR C Corey Chafin (2016)
JR OF Darien Tubbs (2016)
JR 3B Zach Schritenthal (2016)
JR OF Chris Carrier (2016)
SO RHP Colton Hathcock (2017)
SO RHP Connor Alexander (2017)
JR RHP Nolan Blackwood intrigues the heck out of me as a big (6-6) lanky (175 pounds) submariner with a legit fastball (88-91) and sustained success keeping runs off the board. His peripherals aren’t anything to write home about (4.11 K/9 last year), but the shiny ERA (0.52) is fun. A few more whiffs and continued success doing whatever he’s doing to get guys out (I’d love to see the batted ball data on him as I suspect he’s getting his fair share of ground ball outs and weak contact) would help him move way up the rankings.
The Jake brothers return in 2016 after disappointing junior seasons. SR OF/1B Jake Little had previously been able to overcome his swing-happy approach, but the bottom fell out for him last year. He’ll need to rebound in a big way to get win back the hearts and minds of the area guys who have stuck with him through his ups and downs. Then there’s rSR SS Jake Overbey, a very interesting case that earned this blurb last year…
Jake Overbey is the most talented player on the roster, so it should go without saying there are many in and around the Memphis program eagerly anticipating his debut for the Tigers. Overbey, the Ole Miss transfer, is an incredibly athletic baseball player with the defensive tools to play up the middle professionally. He’s had a long layoff between steady at bats so there’s really no telling how he’ll perform at the plate, but the upside is fascinating.
Turns out a few years away from facing high-level competition will bring some serious growing pains as Overbey struggled to hit his weight last season. I’ll be curious about him until the day he decides to move on to something different with his life, so count me in as one of his last remaining fans (non-friends and family division, of course). He’s still a great athlete and he can still defend. That’s a start.
Jake Tubbs…wait, no that’s not right. JR OF Darien Tubbs leaps past the field as Memphis’s best position player prospect. He’s got the type of build (5-9, 190) that inspires the “sneaky pop” disclaimer in my notes, but his days of catching opposing pitchers by surprise might be over after his breakout sophomore campaign. Tubbs can run, defend in center, work deep counts, and knock a ball or ten to the gaps when you’re not careful. Tubbs isn’t quite a FAVORITE yet, but he’s as close as you can get without tempting me into holding down the shift key. A friend who knows how much I went on about Saige Jenco over the past year reached out to me to let me know that he believed Tubbs was a better version of the same guy. Fun player.
Beyond the 2016 players, I have to give a quick mention to a pair of really promising arms worth knowing for 2017. I really, really like SO RHP Connor Alexander. He’s got a chance to be a pretty special college pitcher by the time he’s through, not to mention a damn fine MLB Draft prospect. Pairing him with fellow sophomore RHP Colton Hathcock gives Memphis the kind of 1-2 pitching punch a team needs to make some noise in conference play.
JR RHP Andrew Lantrip (2016)
JR RHP Marshall Kasowski (2016)
rJR RHP Bubba Maxwell (2016)
JR RHP Nick Hernandez (2016)
JR LHP Nathan Jackson (2016)
SR 3B/1B Justin Montemayor (2016)
SR C Jacob Campbell (2016)
rSO 3B/SS Connor Hollis (2016)
JR SS Jose Reyes (2016)
JR 3B Jordan Strading (2016)
SR 2B Josh Vidales (2016)
SR 2B Robert Grilli (2016)
SO LHP Seth Romero (2017)
SO LHP Aaron Fletcher (2017)
SO OF/3B Corey Julks (2017)
SO C/SS Connor Wong (2017)
SO OF Clay Casey (2017)
SO OF Zac Taylor (2017)
FR LHP Tanner Lawson (2018)
FR RHP Mitch Ullom (2018)
FR C/1B Joe Davis (2018)
FR OF Grayson Padgett (2018)
FR OF Caleb Morris (2018)
FR INF Wendell Champion (2018)
I’m all about SR 2B Josh Vidales. I can’t help it. Here’s what was written about him last year…
I wish JR 2B Josh Vidales had even a little bit of power (.327 and .306 slugging the past two seasons) because his approach (88 BB/51 K career), defense (plus) and speed (26/34 SB career, not a burner but picks his spots really well) all rate high enough to be an entertaining prospect to follow professionally. The fact that he’s currently seen as a second base or bust (though, again, he’s fantastic there) defensive prospect works against him, though I wonder — I honestly don’t know — if that’s something he can change minds about this spring. If he could be trusted on the left side of the infield, then we’re talking a strong potential utility future, even without the power. For all his flaws, I’d still want him to be a member of my organization.
He did up his SLG to .387 last year. That’s not great, but it’s an improvement. It also gave him his best ISO (.087) in his career. He kept getting on base with a .397 consistent to what he’s done in the past (now up to 123 BB/74 K career), swiped a few more bags (32/43 SB career), and played his usual brand of excellent defense at second. It’s not unusual to see spikes in production during a player’s senior season — far too often draft outlets overrate players on this basis, something I’ve been guilty of in the past — so hopefully Vidales enjoys the same fate this spring. If that’s the case, I think his consistent year-to-year output should get him drafted; this indirectly yet directly contradicts my previous point about overrating seniors, but this would be the case of a steady player having a better than usual senior year and not a guy having a breakout senior season out of nowhere. Consider the bigger than expected senior season prediction my attempt at wish-casting that others begin to see Vidales as I do. He’s an excellent college player and an honest pro prospect.
As much as I love Vidales, the clear top prospects on the Houston squad reside on the pitching staff. JR RHP Andrew Lantrip and JR RHP Marshall Kasowski both have very real chances of crashing the early round party. Kasowski has the more traditionally valued skill set — hard FB (up to 95), above-average mid-70s curve, rapidly improving change, and a sturdy yet athletic 6-3, 220 pound frame — while Lantrip nearly matches him in straight stuff (88-92 FB, 94 peak; above-average low-80s SL, rawer CU) but brings some of the best fastball command of this class to the mound each trip. The knock on him could be his size (6-1, 180), but that would be a silly thing to worry about considering the many positives already cited and his strong track record of striking men out and keeping runs off the board. I like both guys quite a bit could see one or both off the board much higher than many would presently believe. Two additional pitchers to know from the Houston staff include rJR RHP Bubba Maxwell (looking to find that 90-94 MPH heat he had pre-Tommy John surgery) and JR LHP Nathan Jackson (command lefty with a nice curve). Add those pitchers to SO LHP Seth Romero (2017) and you’ve got yourself one exciting group of arms.
JR LHP Evan Kruczynski (2016)
JR LHP Jacob Wolfe (2016)
SR LHP Nick Durazo (2016)
JR LHP Luke Bolka (2016)
rSO RHP/INF Davis Kirkpatrick (2016)
SR RHP Jimmy Boyd (2016)
JR SS/RHP Kirk Morgan (2016)
SR OF Garrett Brooks (2016)
rJR C Travis Watkins (2016)
JR C/OF Eric Tyler (2016)
JR 2B/SS Charlie Yorgen (2016)
JR SS Wes Phillips (2016)
SR OF Jeff Nelson (2016)
JR 1B/LHP Bryce Harman (2016)
JR OF/RHP Zack Mozingo (2016)
SO RHP Joe Ingle (2017)
FR RHP Chris Holba (2018)
FR RHP Denny Brady (2018)
FR RHP Sam Lanier (2018)
FR OF Dwanya Williams-Sutton (2018)
FR OF Justin Dirden (2018)
FR SS Turner Brown (2018)
FR SS Kendall Ford (2018)
FR INF Brady Lloyd (2018)
This 2013 ranking of HS first basemen has held up surprisingly well so far. The only player not doing what was hoped so far is Ian Hagenmiller (10). Dominic Smith (1), Rowdy Tellez (2), Cody Bellinger (4), Nick Longhi (5), and Jake Bauers (8) have all had starts of their pro careers ranging from decent to damn good. Zack Collins and Pete Alonso are near the top of their class heading into this draft. Joe Dudek* (9) has a chance to join them with a big junior season. The same could be said for JR 1B/LHP Bryce Harman (6), the jumbo-sized (6-6, 240) slugger with raw power to match. Harman was known as a complete hitter (power and contact) throughout his prep career, but has struggled some in both areas so far at the college level. That’s not to say he’s been bad — he hasn’t — but just a suggestion that many talent evaluators will want to see more out of him this spring if he is to fulfill his top five round destiny. That might be too rich a forecast simply because college first basemen haven’t gone all that high in recent years — we only had eight college 1B go in the top ten rounds last year with only two of them in the top four rounds — but this class looks better at that position than it has been in a while. After going through the ACC teams with publicly posted rosters (i.e., no Louisville, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, or Virginia), I’d have Harman behind only Will Craig and Preston Palmeiro. A year like what many (myself included expect) — .500+ SLG, .200+ ISO, even BB/K ratio — would keep him moving up the board in the right direction.
(* 1/18/16 EDIT: Dudek is transferring to from North Carolina to Kentucky this season. He’ll sit out 2016 and have two years of eligibility remaining starting with the 2017 season. He’s still draft-eligible this year if a team fell enough in love with him this past year to make a run. Not likely — why go through the transfer process only to turn pro before getting on the field for your new team? — but possible.)
Harman is the best prospect on the team, but he’s not alone near the top. SR OF Garrett Brooks is my kind of senior sign: well-rounded, athletic, and patient at the plate. From last year…
JR OF Garrett Brooks could be on the verge of something, but after two highly underwhelming seasons I’m no longer sure what that something will look like. He’s got pro-caliber tools packed into his strong 5-9, 200 pound frame, but the results so far haven’t been pretty.
His 2015 was a lot prettier than the first two seasons (.270/.375/.357 with 21 BB/17 K in 126 AB), but showing a little more pop or in-game speed is the next step. I think he’ll take it and get himself drafted this June. JR SS Wes Phillips, an incoming transfer from Wichita State, could find himself in a similar spot. He’s likely to be joined in the middle of the Pirates infield with JR 2B/SS Charlie Yorgen, a steady glove with impressive plate discipline. I like him. Finally, East Carolina returns a pair of interesting catching prospects. Both rJR C Travis Watkins and JR C/OF Eric Tyler could play themselves into late-round draft consideration. Their most realistic outcome is senior-signs in 2017, but teams are always in the need for org catchers later in the draft.
JR LHP Evan Kruczynksi is my favorite thanks to his upper-80s fastball, pair of usable secondaries (CB and CU), and room to grow. A spike in missed bats in 2016 due in part to a few extra ticks on his fastball (maybe putting him in that 88-92 range) is my personal hope and expectation for his upcoming season. JR LHP Jacob Wolfe throws a mid- to upper-80s fastball with impressive sink. He had a fairly similar 2015 season to Kruczynski, but doesn’t quite offer the same growth potential physically. JR LHP Luke Bolka has the firmest fastball (88-94) and strongest track record of missing bats (10.35 K/9), but, like Wolfe, he lacks much projection. He’s also the most inexperienced of the trio: those peripherals came in just 11.1 IP last season. A case could be made for any of the three — the one with projection, the one with the sinker, the one with the heat — as the best long-term pro prospect depending on your personal tastes.
The top righthanded pitcher in ECU’s 2016 draft class is rSO Davis Kirkpatrick, who might just have a strong enough fastball (88-93) and breaking ball combo to rank as the top overall pitching prospect on the staff. He’ll have to overcome a year away from the mound and the inherent short righthander bias universal among all but the most open-minded of scouts, but I think he’s athletic enough to open some eyes. SR RHP Jimmy Boyd gets a special mention because his 0.76 BB/9 in 59.0 IP last season ranks as one of the lowest that I’ve come across so far. Keep on throwing strikes, Jimmy.
SR RHP Mitch Patishall (2016)
rSR RHP Bryan Chenoweth (2016)
rJR LHP Colton Cleary (2016)
JR RHP Andrew Zellner (2016)
SR C Woody Wallace (2016)
SR 1B Devin Wenzel (2016)
rSO 2B Connor McVey (2016)
SO LHP Dalton Lehnen (2017)
SO LHP JT Perez (2017)
SO RHP Tristan Hammans (2017)
SO 1B/OF Ryan Noda (2017)
SO 2B Kyle Mottice (2017)
Can we just talk about Ian Happ again? Please? I guess since it’s my site and I make the rules there’s really nothing me from doing just that, but it’s only right to turn the page and take a closer look to see who’s next in line.
If we’re swinging for the fences, then the most appropriate player to discuss is SO 1B/OF Ryan Noda. He’s obviously a 2017 draft candidate to know and we don’t typically try to get too far ahead of ourselves here, but his talent merits a mention. Power like Noda’s isn’t found at places like Cincinnati every day. He’s a good athlete with plenty of bat speed and no fear as a hitter, so if he can find a way to make his aggressive approach (77 K in 196 AB) work better for him then he’ll be talked about as a serious early round talent in 18 months or so.
The pitching staff returns a few intriguing names. My favorites among them include SR RHP Mitch Patishall, JR RHP Andrew Zellner, and SO LHP Dalton Lehnen. Lehnen, like Noda a 2017 draft prospect, showed solid stuff across the board as a freshman. Patishall had a 2015 season to forget, but could bring his decent fastball/curveball starting kit to a team willing to overlook some of his early college struggles. Zellner is your best Bearcat prospect heading into the 2016 draft season. His 87-91 heat and average or better slider could look even better by the end of the years as he’s got some projection left at 6-3, 190 pounds. Continued growth out of him could make him a worthy draft pick come June.
JR LHP Andrew Faintich (2016)
JR RHP Campbell Scholl (2016)
JR RHP Juan Pimentel (2016)
rSR LHP Harrison Hukari (2016)
JR RHP Robby Howell (2016)
JR RHP Trent Thompson (2016)
JR OF/LHP Luke Hamblin (2016)
JR C/1B Matt Diorio (2016)
JR OF Eli Putnam (2016)
JR OF Eugene Vazquez (2016)
JR 3B/SS Kam Gellinger (2016)
JR SS Brennan Bozeman (2016)
SO RHP Brad Rowley (2017)
SO RHP Cre Finfrock (2017)
SO RHP/2B Kyle Marsh (2017)
SO C Logan Heiser (2017)
FR INF Matthew Mika (2018)
“We don’t know what we don’t know” is a quote I heard a smart person say one time. Sounded good. Could even seeing it make some sense in some respects. But I can assure you that I do know what I don’t know when it comes to the Central Florida team in 2016. This roster is loaded with players with little to no division one baseball experience, so my usual move of supplementing scouting reports, firsthand observations, and public commentary with a long look at the player’s track record on the field is out the window here.
Nice things have been said about JR OF Eli Putnam, JR OF/LHP Luke Hamblin, JR RHP Juan Pimentel, and JR RHP Campbell Scholl, but assessing any of those players fairly as prospects is a bigger task than an outsider like me can complete. I’m looking forward to seeing all four play this year.
I’m also looking forward to getting a closer look at returning talent like JR C/1B Matt Diorio, JR RHP Robby Howell, and JR LHP Andrew Faintich. Diorio is a pretty straight forward prospect for me right now: he can really hit, but his defensive future is highly uncertain. As a catcher he could rise up as one of the handful of top names in this class, but the “as a catcher” qualifier is something easier said than done. The good news is that many who know Diorio better than I do have insisted to me that he’s athletic enough to play some corner outfield in the event the idea of catching goes belly up. Framed as a potential corner outfielder/first baseman who occasionally can catch, Diorio’s path to the big leagues suddenly gets a little clearer. In a perfect world he’s a backstop all the way, but a super-utility player who can hit is hardly without value.
Howell and Faintich both have upper-80s fastballs (93 MPH peak for the former, 91 for the latter) and average-ish breaking balls. Howell was a workhorse last year (80.2 IP) who seems poised to do more of the same in 2016 while Faintich put up some crazy numbers (17.42 K/9 and 11.61 BB/9 in 9.1 scoreless innings) in his brief first extended taste of college ball. rSR LHP Harrison Hukari falls somewhere between the two as an arm who pitched more than Faintich (50.0 IP) but with better peripherals (9.18 K/9) than Howell. His is more of a mid- to upper-80s fastball, but his size (6-6, 250) from the left side could get him a second look this spring.
JR 3B/SS Kam Gellinger got the “interesting bat” comment in my notes. That’s meant to be a compliment or (at worst) an indicator to me to follow up to learn more about a guy as a hitter, but I suppose hitting .198/.234/.287 last year like Gellinger could be deemed “interesting” in the truest sense of the word. A line like that certainly catches your attention. Lackluster sophomore season or not, the toolsy infielder (arm, speed, range) is still interesting to me and could be in for a nice draft year breakout with the bat.
Much as I like the uncertainty of this year’s class at UCF, I’m digging the major upside — won’t call it a certainty that said upside will be reached, obviously, but that’s the slick writing transition I would have liked to pull off here — of the 2017 class. SO RHP Cre Finfrock is a household name to those as into college ball as I’m assuming anybody reading this is. Right behind him as a prospect is big personal favorite SO RHP/2B Kyle Marsh, a legitimate two-way talent who, in spite of an excellent fastball (88-94) and slider (flashes plus) mix, I might actually prefer as a position player.
SR RHP/C Garrett Kelly (2016)
JR RHP Parker Dunshee (2016)
rSO RHP Chris Farish (2016)
JR RHP Connor Johnstone (2016)
JR RHP John McCarren (2016)
rSO RHP Parker Johnson (2016)
JR 1B/RHP Will Craig (2016)
JR C Ben Breazeale (2016)
SR OF/2B Joey Rodriguez (2016)
JR 2B/OF Nate Mondou (2016)
rSR OF Kevin Conway (2016)
JR OF Jonathan Pryor (2016)
SO RHP Drew Loepprich (2017)
SO OF Stuart Fairchild (2017)
SO 1B Gavin Sheets (2017)
SO OF Keegan Maronpot (2017)
SO SS/2B Drew Freedman (2017)
SO SS/2B Bruce Steel (2017)
FR LHP Tyler Witt (2018)
FR RHP Griffin Roberts (2018)
FR RHP Rayne Supple (2018)
FR 3B/SS John Aiello (2018)
I think I’m going to keep touting JR 1B/RHP Will Craig as the righthanded AJ Reed until he starts getting some serious national recognition. I cited that name in the college draft preview from October, so might as well keep mentioning it over and over and over…
Do you like power? How about patience? What about a guy with power, patience, and the athleticism to pull off collegiate two-way duty? For everybody who missed on AJ Reed the first time around, Will Craig is here to give you a second chance. I won’t say he’ll be the first base prospect that finally tests how high a first base prospect can go in a post-PED draft landscape, but if he has a big enough junior season…
I love Craig. In past years I might back down some from the love from reasons both fair (positional value, certain scouty quibbles about bat speed and timing) and not (seeing him ignored by all the major media outlets so much that I start to question my own judgment), but I see little way that will be the case with Craig. Sure, he could force my hand by cratering out with a disappointing junior season (a la Ryan Howard back in the day), but that would only shift him from sleeper first round talent to sleeper fifth round value. His is a bat I believe in and I’m willing to ride or die with it.
I wanted to mention the Daniel Murphy comparison I got for JR 2B/OF Nate Mondou that I heard recently, but I couldn’t remember the major media outlet that had it first. I could have missed it elsewhere, but I think mentioning it again would be one of those instances where I plagiarize myself. I hit thirty a few months back and my memory has gone up in flames since. In addition to Murphy, I’ve also heard Todd Walker as a reference point for Mondou’s bat. Lefty bats who love to attack early in the count, provide average or better power, and can hang in at the keystone spot are always going to be valued highly by pro clubs. Or at least they should. The only thing that may knock Mondou down is the competition at the spot; we’ve only just begun, but he’s joined at the top of his own position ranking by the Notre Dame pair (Cavan Biggio and Kyle Fiala) profiled earlier. I’d put him between the two for now with the chance to rise as he keeps mashing. There’s some concern about his overly aggressive approach getting exposed along the way, so I guess consider that a second potential way that Mondou slips some this spring.
If you read the site regularly then you know that I like few things more than mid-round college catchers that look like sleeper big league backups to me. JR C Ben Breazeale fits the bill. He’s got a sturdy frame, plenty of strength, and is a steadying presence behind the dish defensively. Offensively he does enough to get by. Sounds like a potential backup catcher to me. SR OF/2B Joey Rodriguez began to put his considerable talent to work last year (.305/.411/.468), so making the call that he’ll have a big senior season is a prediction that comes about a year too late. A repeat of last year — or, better yet, continued improvement — should get him drafted as a senior sign that will do more for you than just save some draft cash. JR OF Jonathan Pryor had a nice year by most accounts last season (.316/.366/.384) while managing a tough to look at 5 BB/40 K ratio. It’s not exactly the formula for sustained success, but it worked last year. I don’t know enough about him from the scouting side to say if he’s a prospect or not, but that kind of approach is terrifying. Still, there’s something oddly pleasing about a player like Pryor finding college success with an approach to hitting antithetical to what many (myself very much included) believe is the preferred path.
It’s not personal, but I’ve been burned by SR RHP Garrett Kelly once too many times to continue touting him as a serious pro prospect. Draftable talent? Most definitely. But the upside I droned on and on about last year…
I’m a big fan of JR RHP/C Garrett Kelly. He’s a good ballplayer. He’s better at baseball than I ever was and better than 99.99% of the world’s population. Unfortunately, Kelly can’t hit. It was only 32 at bats, but his .094/.310/.125 line last season was not the kind of line you print out and stick on the fridge. That’s what makes his rumored full-time switch to the mound so anxiously awaited. Even though life as a hitter didn’t work out, there’s still a chance for him. As a pitcher, Kelly is a legit pro prospect. He’s already got that nice FB/SL relief combo going (already up to 93 with more likely coming), and the huge perk of being a low-mileage arm won’t go unnoticed by decision-makers this spring. I’ve long been been a sucker for players making the position player to pitcher switch and think Kelly could be a helium guy this spring.
…didn’t quite materialize in the form of on-field results in 2015. Of course, we’re nitpicking 11.2 disappointing innings here. That’s unfair no matter how much you’d like to justify it. I mean, Kelly still throws hard (up to 94 now) with an emerging slider and a relatively fresh arm. I’ve twisted my own arm enough here. I’m back in on Kelly as a serious pro prospect. His breakout senior season is coming, just you watch.
I’d move JR RHP Parker Dunshee to the top of the 2016 Demon Deacons (pitching) draft class (co-headlining with Kelly now that we’re cool again) because I think he has the stuff to potentially keep starting as a pro if he can improve his control and keep making strides with his low-80s change, but there’s something about rSO RHP Chris Farish that I keep coming back to. Maybe it’s his size (6-4, 210), maybe it’s his fastball (88-93, mid-90s peak), or maybe it’s the fact he he’s still largely a blank slate that hasn’t yet had the chance to experience the tough times that come with pitching in a major college conference, but I think he’s got a real chance to wind up the highest drafted pitcher off this staff come June. So that’s three co-headliners that I’m too dumb to separate beyond saying “hey, they’re all pretty promising!” I think I can live with that in January. JR RHP Connor Johnstone (coming off an ugly sophomore season, but with a nice fastball and good change) and JR RHP John McCarren (another nice fastball at 88-92) could factor into the draft mix as well.
As a program, Wake Forest is in pretty good shape. I actually don’t know if that’s true or not, but from a selfish draft perspective it certainly looks that way. You’ve got Craig/Mondou this year, SO OF Stuart Fairchild (an all-caps FAVORITE already) next year, and FR 3B/SS John Aiello for 2018. I know I’m higher on Craig than most, plus making long-term predictions about future classes almost always ends ugly, but this year’s Wake Forest team could have three potential first round caliber hitters in the regular lineup. Not bad.
rJR LHP Kit Scheetz (2016)
rSR LHP Jon Woodcock (2016)
JR RHP Aaron McGarity (2016)
JR RHP Luke Scherzer (2016)
rSO RHP Ryan Lauria (2016)
rJR 1B/LHP Phil Sciretta (2016)
rJR OF Saige Jenco (2016)
rSR OF Logan Bible (2016)
JR OF Mac Caples (2016)
JR 3B Ryan Tufts (2016)
rSO OF/LHP Tom Stoffel (2016)
SO LHP Packy Naughton (2017)
SO OF/3B Max Ponzurik (2017)
SO C Joe Freiday (2017)
FR RHP Nic Enright (2018)
FR RHP Culver Hughes (2018)
FR RHP Cole Kragel (2018)
FR RHP Payton Holdsworth (2018)
FR LHP/1B Patrick Hall (2018)
FR RHP Tim Salvadore (2018)
FR OF/1B Stevie Mangrum (2018)
FR C/OF Stephen Polansky (2018)
Last year around this time I was all over rJR OF Saige Jenco…
rSO OF Saige Jenco is a really good ballplayer. His plus to plus-plus speed is a game-changing tool, and, best of all, his understanding of how and when to utilize his special gift helps it play up even more. It’s rare to find a young player who knows what kind of player he truly is; the ability to play within yourself is so often overlooked by those scouring the nation for potential pros, but it can be the difference between a guy who gets by and a guy who gets the most out of his ability. Jenco knows how and when to use his speed to every advantage possible. From running down mistakes in the outfield, swiping bags at a solid rate, working deep counts and driving pitchers to frustration (40 BB/23 K), to knowing adopting the swing and approach of a power hitter would lead to ruin, Jenco fully understands and appreciates his strengths and weaknesses. While it’s true the lack of present power is a significant weakness (.032 ISO is mind-boggling low), Jenco’s strengths remain more interesting than what he can’t do well. A career along the lines of Ben Revere, Juan Pierre, Dee Gordon, or Craig Gentry, who had an ISO of just .087 in his junior year at Arkansas before returning for a senior season that helped him show off enough of a power spike (.167 ISO) to get drafted as a $10,000 senior sign, is on the table with continued growth.
Jenco followed the Gentry college career path fairly well by putting up an improved .136 ISO last year. The Red Sox couldn’t get him to put his name on a pro contract last summer and their loss is the Hokies gain. Not much has changed in his overall profile from a year ago — he’s still fast, he still has an advanced approach, he can still chase down deep flies in center — so the ceiling of a fourth outfielder remains. Of course, guys with fourth outfielder ceilings with similar skill sets (speed, patience, defense) have turned into starting players for some teams as the dearth of power in the modern game has shifted the balance back to the Jenco’s of the world.
Not all of these guys are great examples of that archetype, but a quick search of 2015 seasons of corner outfielders (200 PA minimum) who slugged less than .400 but still finished with positive fWAR includes Brett Gardner, Nori Aoki, Jarrod Dyson, Ben Revere, Delino Deshields, Rusney Castillo, and Chris Denorfia. David DeJesus, a pretty good tweener who feels like a really good fourth outfielder or a competent starting corner guy that is often one of the first names I think of when I think of this type, fell just short of the list. I’m not necessarily comparing Jenco to any of those guys — while some of those guys are great in a corner and stretched in center, Jenco is really good as a CF — so consider this more of an exercise in theoretical player comparisons as we attempt to define the various types of players that teams seem to like these days. As far as comps go, I’ll stick with my Gentry one for now.
JR OF Mac Caples hasn’t done it yet, but those who have seen him more than I have insist he’s set for a big junior season. He’s a really smart young hitter with plenty of power and solid speed. His impressive summer showings the past two years give those that are bullish about his future a strong leg to stand on when arguing on his behalf. The same people who (wisely) turned me on to Jenco are the ones talking up Caples this year; take that however you’d like. I’m excited to see what he does in 2016.
Despite the eye-catching last name JR RHP Luke Scherzer (no relation) hasn’t received much (if any) attention at the national level. That’s not unusual for a college reliever without knockout stuff, but I still think many will regret not tracking him more closely as we get closer to the draft this June. He’s got good stuff (88-93 FB, low-80s SL with promise) and a knack for getting swings and misses when it counts. The college closer profiles more comfortably as a potential middle reliever as a pro, but that’s still a fine outcome for a pitcher not expected to go until the mid-rounds. JR RHP Aaron McGarity has similar stuff, better command and control, and a bit more projection, but hasn’t missed bats at the same rate of Scherzer. rSO RHP Ryan Lauria, a Louisville transfer, could be a quick riser as he continues to make the comeback from Tommy John surgery. His pinpoint command of a low-90s fastball make him a nice sleeper name to remember. rJR LHP Kit Scheetz and his upper-80s fastball could eventually work himself into a late-round relief prospect. That’s what he looked like over the summer for Orleans on the Cape.
rSO OF/LHP Tom Stoffel is a new name for me to follow, but there’s been some positive buzz on him as a hitter. I like his on-base skills (.412 OBP last year in limited PA), but a little more power would go a long way in getting him noticed. rJR 1B Phil Sciretta showed well with the bat in limited opportunities in 2014, but couldn’t follow it up in even more limited at bats in 2015. What trend is real: will he show improvement because it’s another even-numbered year or continue his decline by slipping a bit once again? All depends on what narrative you’re into, I guess. Or, you know, how he’s looked to those who have seen him up close. I haven’t, so I’m stuck making bad narrative jokes. There’s a reason why this site is free to read, after all.
SR RHP Nick McCarty (2016)
SR RHP David Hearne (2016)
SR LHP Michael Hearne (2016)
JR RHP Ryan Smoyer (2016)
JR LHP Jim Orwick (2016)
JR LHP Scott Tully (2016)
SR RHP Connor Hale (2016)
SR OF/LHP Zac Kutsulis (2016)
JR 2B/3B Cavan Biggio (2016)
JR 2B/SS Kyle Fiala (2016)
SR SS Lane Richards (2016)
JR C Ryan Lidge (2016)
rSO OF Torii Hunter (2016)
SR C/OF Ricky Sanchez (2016)
SO RHP Brad Bass (2017)
SO LHP Sean Guenther (2017)
SO RHP Brandon Bielak (2017)
SO RHP Peter Solomon (2017)
SO RHP Evy Ruibal (2017)
SO OF Jake Johnson (2017)
FR OF Matt Vierling (2018)
FR RHP Connor Hock (2018)
FR RHP Chris Connolly (2018)
FR 3B Jake Singer (2018)
I like the collection of Notre Dame 2016 position player prospects quite a bit. We’re too removed to make any bold predictions about how pro teams will view them on draft day, but I can say with some confidence that this will be an entertaining offensive team to watch.
JR 2B Cavan Biggio, JR 2B Kyle Fiala, and SR SS Lane Richards make up three-fourths of what has to rank of one of college baseball’s most fun infields. Biggo has been covered before (search his name here and you’ll find plenty), but Fiala hasn’t gotten his time in the internet sun just yet. That needs to change. Compare these two sophomore seasons…
.258/.406/.462 – 50 BB/54 K – 14/16 SB – 221 AB
.301/.394/.452 – 31 BB/33 K – 10/12 SB – 239 AB
Top is Biggio, bottom is Fiala. That’s not to say that they are on the same prospect tier — there’s more than sophomore year stats that go into that equation — but Fiala is a damn good player. Middle infielders with the chance for average power, an above-average glove, average or better arm strength, and average or better speed that have done what he’s done in major college ball don’t grow on trees.
Of course, you wouldn’t know that thanks to the presence of Biggio. If you didn’t take my advice and search his name already, I’ve saved you the trouble by finding the most recent blurb written about him…
Without having seen every Notre Dame game the past two years — I’m good, but not that good — one might be confused as to how a player with Biggio’s pedigree and collection of scouting accolades (“line drive machine; born to hit; great pitch recognition; great approach, patient and aggressive all at once”…and that’s just what has been written here) could hit .250ish through two college seasons. I say we all agree to chalk it up to bad BABIP luck and eagerly anticipate a monster junior season that puts him squarely back in the first round mix where he belongs.
Biggio’s hit tool, patience, and ability to play important infield spots at a high level still have him at or near the first round range for me. Not sure if it’s instructive or not, but I like looking back at Biggio’s placement between Tyler O’Neill and Billy McKinney (the two hitters who signed pro deals that sandwiched Biggio in his initial draft year) and using that as a starting point as to what kind of hitter I think he can be as a professional. O’Neill if he sells out some of his patience and contact skills for power and McKinney if he keeps progressing as a hitter as is. McKinney in the infield is a pretty interesting prospect and one that I think can play his way into the first round even in a top-heavy year. Two pros that I’ve heard him compared to so far are Ryan Roberts (realistic floor) and Justin Turner (hopeful ceiling). I can see it.
Richards is an obvious step below, but there’s still pro upside in his game. Teams like guys who can defend, throw, and run like him, plus he has enough juice in his bat to at least make him a threat to occasionally knock one for extra bases. You can do worse for a mid- to late-round senior sign. SR C/OF Ricky Sanchez hasn’t done much in three seasons, but has flashed power and proven to be a dependable backstop if nothing else. JR C Ryan Lidge and rSO OF Torii Hunter both have damn fine bloodlines. They are very different players and prospects — Lidge is coming off an underrated 2015 season and is the more proven of the two while Hunter is know more for his speed, athleticism, and football skills at this point — but both are definite draft candidates to me. People may be surprised at how high I’ll eventually have Lidge on my personal list of college catchers. SR OF/LHP Zac Kutsulis doesn’t have a ton of power, but he’s a good athlete with a real knack for hard contact, above-average speed, and the strong arm you’d expect from a part-time pitcher.
The Notre Dame pitching staff doesn’t have quite the same level of prospects for 2016, but a part of me wonders if there’s an edict coming from the coaching staff about pitching to contact rather than going for whiffs. Some decent arms here are putting up fine earned run averages, but with dangerously low (in a prospecting sense) strikeouts per nine innings. If anybody who knows more about college ball and the Notre Dame team in particular knows what’s up here (if anything), let me know.
Take SR RHP Nick McCarty as one example. His stuff is fine: 87-90 FB, mid-70s breaking ball that flashes plus, and a usable change. He pitched well in 2016 (3.93 ERA in 68.2 IP), but did so while only striking out 4.59 batters per nine. Odd, right? SR LHP Michael Hearne (mid-80s FB, above-average CU that flashes plus, above-average command) kept runs of the board in 2016 (2.38 ERA in only 11.1 IP) without piling up strikeouts (3.98 K/9). SR RHP Connor Hale somehow pitched to a 1.33 ERA (20.1 IP) even though he only struck out 3.57 batters per nine. Maybe I’m easily amused, but this stuff blows my mind.
The only prospect I have listed who bucked this trend is JR LHP Scott Tully. He deserves a mention for his fine 2015 season: 8.68 K/9 and 2.21 BB/9 in 65.1 IP of 3.17 ERA ball. Of course he’s also one of the few Irish arms that I have with no meaningful notes on his stuff. JR RHP Ryan Smoyer kept runs off the board at an even better clip (2.27 ERA in 79.1 IP), but with nowhere near the same peripherals (3.75 K/9). He’s a big guy (6-4, 200) with decent stuff (88-91 FB, 77-80 SL), so we’ll wait and see if he starts missing a few more bats in 2016. What in the world is going on in South Bend?
Interestingly enough, I’ve had a few different people tell me that they think the best 2016 pitching prospect on the Notre Dame roster is SR RHP David Hearne. That’s the very same Hearne who hasn’t pitched much at all since 2013. The big (6-4, 220) righthander missed his share of bats that year (7.57 K/9 in 44.0 IP) with a fastball that got up to 93 and a nice mid- to upper-70s curve. If health and back to his old ways, he might make those who tipped me off to him look smart.
(The lowest K/9 of any of the impressive group of 2017 pitching prospects is 6.30. Every one of Brad Bass, Sean Guenther, Brandon Bielak, Peter Solomon, and Evy Ruibal has a chance to eventually go higher in the draft than any 2016 pitching prospect on the staff. Maybe it’s more of a talent thing than a coaching thing, after all. Who knows?)
JR RHP Joe O’Donnell (2016)
rJR LHP Sean Adler (2016)
rJR RHP Johnny Piedmonte (2016)
JR RHP Cory Wilder (2016)
rSR LHP Travis Orwig (2016)
SR LHP Will Gilbert (2016)
rJR RHP Karl Keglovits (2016)
rSR RHP Kyle Smith (2016)
rSR RHP Chris Williams (2016)
rSO LHP Cody Beckman (2016)
JR LHP Ryan Williamson (2016)
JR C/3B Andrew Knizner (2016)
JR 1B Preston Palmeiro (2016)
SR SS Ryne Willard (2016)
SR C Chance Shepard (2016)
rSO OF Garrett Suggs (2016)
SO LHP Brian Brown (2017)
SO RHP Evan Mendoza (2017)
SO RHP/INF Tommy DeJuneas (2017)
rFR OF Storm Edwards (2017)
SO OF Josh McLain (2017)
SO 3B/SS Joe Dunand (2017)
SO 2B Stephen Pitarra (2017)
SO OF Brock Deatherage (2017)
FR SS/OF Xavier LeGrant (2018)
JR C Andrew Knizner is a fascinating prospect who doesn’t quite fit the mold of what one might think of a potential top five round college catcher. Defensively, he’s still very much out of sorts as a relatively new catcher but his athleticism and willingness to make it work could be enough for teams willing to take the long view on his pro future. Offensively, he’s a high contact hitter with excellent plate coverage and power that has a chance to be average or better as he continues to add strength. I tend to give players new to a demanding defensive position the benefit of the doubt for as long as possible, so I’m fine with riding out another half-season or so of shaky defense behind the plate before beginning to ask the question whether or not Knizner has what it takes to be a catcher full-time in the pros. Almost no matter what transpires on the field this year, I can’t see a team drafting Knizner high enough that he’s signable with the intention of at least continuing to try him as a catcher for the foreseeable future. He’s good enough in other areas that it’s not quite a catcher or bust proposition for him, but that depends on how high one’s expectations are for him at this point.
SR C Chance Shepard might be overlooked as the second catcher on a team with a big prospect ahead of him like Knizner, but that shouldn’t be the case. He’s a big guy with power who can handle himself fine defensively. If he gets a chance to play more I think more people will take notice of him as a viable pro prospect.
I’m still on the fence some about JR 1B Preston Palmeiro, but he has some very vocal fans out there who love his swing and think he has a chance to be an average or better hitter with above-average power production. Being a primary first base prospect at the amateur level is a tricky thing with a bit more to it than many — myself included — think about. On the one hand, it’s obvious that being limited defensively to first base drastically increases the threshold of entry to professional baseball as a hitter. You need to hit and hit and hit to make it. On the other hand, there simply isn’t the same competition at first base at the amateur level as there is at other spots. I know that many a big league first baseman played elsewhere along the way, but if we’re just talking about getting drafted in the first place then the competitive field begins to look a lot thinner. In other words, if Palmeiro goes out and hits the shit out of the ball all spring, then what’s to stop a team from valuing that bat higher than we’re conditioned to think because of the relative lack of options to be found later in the draft? Up the middle players are wonderful and we know they dominate these drafts for a reason, but with offensive production (power, especially) growing increasingly scarce at the highest level perhaps the place for a big bat a team believes in will come sooner on draft day.
(This may totally undercut the previous point, but it’s crazy enough to me that I don’t mind. You want the list of first day college first basemen taken since I started the site back in 2009? We’ve got Chris Shaw, Casey Gillaspie, CJ Cron, and…that’s it. Three guys in seven drafts. That probably shouldn’t amaze me, but it does. As we’ve repeated already, many first basemen are made and not born. College first day guys who can also handle and may eventually play 1B full-time include Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, and Stephen Piscotty. I think all can be corner outfielders at worst, but reasonable minds may disagree. If you’re feeling kind you could also add Bryce Brentz, Kyle Parker, and Michael Choice to that list. I’m not sure I see a future big league first baseman of worth out of that trio, but you never know, right? I suppose the point here is that recent historical trends point towards college first basemen lasting longer than one might think. Or maybe it’s a coincidence based on the fact that we’ve had an unusually underwhelming group of college sluggers in this time frame. Or maybe it’s an arbitrary endpoints thing. Who knows!)
JR RHP Cory Wilder might have to go by Cory Wildest if he has another season like his past one. From a performance perspective, the good (11.06 K/9 and 3.50 ERA in 64.1 IP) outweighed the bad (8.26 BB/9) and his stuff has always been on point (88-94 fastball that hits 95 with an average or better breaking ball that flashes plus and a usable low- to mid-80s change), so the package on balance is appealing in spite of his wild ways. Even a small jump in improved control will have him flying up boards this spring. He’s the current 1b to JR RHP Joe O’Donnell’s 1a when ranking the team’s 2016 pitching prospects. O’Donnell has the best shot of any member of the team’s 2016 pitching staff to continue starting as a professional. He’s got the sinker/slider combo at the top (some have called his breaking ball a curve, FWIW), a low-80s changeup with average upside, and no red flags with command, control, delivery, or size. I’m a fan.
rJR RHP Johnny Piedmonte might be the most interesting Wolfpack pitching prospect to a casual fan. I’d venture that guess based on Piedmonte’s size (6-8, 240) more than any other factor. Big guys always get extra attention. Vince McMahon was on to something, I guess. Piedmonte is more than just a monster on the mound, of course. He’s got a good fastball (88-92, 93 peak), a pair of breaking balls with average upside, and a change that he can at least work in from time to time. The size undeniably makes him that much more appealing, so keep an eye on whether or not he can sharpen up one of his two main offspeed pitches and get his mechanics in order this spring.
rSR RHP Kyle Smith might be the most interesting Wolfpack pitching prospect to me. I won’t pretend to know a ton about him just yet, but everything I’ve read and heard is quite intriguing. We know he’s a fantastic athlete with a big arm (90-96 FB) and a slider with promise. We don’t yet know he’ll perform under the bright lights of ACC competition. I’m obviously bullish on his future and will be keeping close tabs on him all spring. I try to be stingy with my FAVORITE designations in my notes — obvious early round players that I like along with everybody else, like Zack Collins of Miami from yesterday’s preview, aren’t given the nod — so it’s worth mentioning that Smith is the first guy profiled so far to get the honor.
SR LHP Will Gilbert gets a mention for missing bats (9.89 K/9 last year) with average stuff (upper-80s FB, average breaking ball) and not much size (5-11, 160). JR LHP Ryan Williamson is similar yet better in most of those areas: 11.04 K/9 last year, 87-92 FB, average upper-70s slider, and listed at 6-3, 200 pounds. That said, if run prevention is your thing then Gilbert (2.47 ERA) tops Williamson (5.17 ERA) based on what they both did last year. rSR LHP Travis Orwig tops them both in that area (1.85 ERA) and offers a decent compromise in terms of stuff (88-92 FB, average or better mid-70s curve) and size (6-2, 210). I don’t have a clever way of tying in rJR LHP Sean Adler into this discussion other than to point out that we’ve got ourselves yet another North Carolina State lefthanded pitching prospect of note. The transfer from USC has some projection left that gives hope he’ll continue to add on to a fastball that lives 85-90 (92 peak).
I’m fairly certain rJR RHP Karl Keglovits is on my top ten list of players I’ve written about the most disproportionate to their draft impact to date. His size (6-6, 230) and movement on his fastball continue to make him an arm I can’t quit, but the next sustained run of effective innings at the college level will be his first.
SR LHP Thomas Woodrey (2016)
JR RHP Cooper Hammond (2016)
JR RHP Bryan Garcia (2016)
JR LHP Danny Garcia (2016)
SR RHP Enrique Sosa (2016)
rSO RHP Andy Honiotes (2016)
JR RHP/1B Derik Beauprez (2016)
JR C/1B Zack Collins (2016
JR OF Willie Abreu (2016)
JR OF Jacob Heyward (2016)
SR SS Brandon Lopez (2016)
rJR 1B/OF Chris Barr (2016)
JR 2B Johnny Ruiz (2016)
JR INF Randy Batista (2016)
SO LHP Michael Mediavilla (2017)
SO RHP Jesse Lepore (2017)
rFR RHP Keven Pimentel (2017)
rFR RHP Devin Meyer (2017)
rFR LHP Luke Spangler (2017)
SO OF Carl Chester (2017)
SO OF Justin Smith (2017)
FR RHP Andrew Cabezas (2018)
FR 3B Romy Gonzalez (2018)
I love JR C/1B Zack Collins as a prospect. His brand of power isn’t typically seen in amateur prospects. His approach, which will always include lots of swings and misses especially on the slow stuff, has matured enough that I think he’ll post average or better on-base numbers as a pro. He’s what we would charitably call a “work in progress” behind the plate, but all of the buzz out of fall practice (always positive and player-friendly, it should be noted) seems to indicate he may have turned the corner defensively. The comparisons to Kyle Schwarber make all the sense in the world right now: they are both big guys who move better than you’d think with defensive questions at their primary position, massive raw power, the ability to unleash said power in game action, and a patient approach that leads to loads of walks and whiffs. The edge for Schwarber comes in his hit tool; I think Schwarber’s was and will be ahead of Collins’s, so we’re talking the difference between above-average to average/slightly below-average. That hit tool combined with plus raw power, an approach I’m fond of, and the chance of playing regularly behind the plate (with an all-around offensive profile good enough to thrive elsewhere) make Collins one of my favorite 2016 draft prospects.
In what has to be a sign that I’ve been doing this too long (and/or I’m getting old and my brain is turning into mush), I kept coming back to a lefthanded hitting Mike Napoli comparison for Collins. I remembered seeing that for Kyle Schwarber (first mentioned by Aaron Fitt, I believe) and liking it, so the continued connection made sense. What I didn’t remember was this…
1B/C Zack Collins (American Heritage HS, Florida): impressive bat speed; good approach; really advanced bat, close to best in class; above-average to plus raw power; really good at 1B; might be athletic enough for corner OF; much improved defender behind plate; Mike Napoli comp by me; FAVORITE; 6-3, 215 pounds
That was from June of 2013. I had no idea I went with the Napoli comparison already. I’m plagiarizing myself at this point. Speaking of things I’ve written about Collins in the past…
Collins’ monster freshman season has me reevaluating so much of what I thought I knew about college hitters. I see his line (.298/.427/.556 with 42 BB/47 K in 205 AB) and my first instinct is to nitpick it. That’s insane! In the pre-BBCOR era, you might be able to get away with parsing those numbers and finding some tiny things to get on him about, but in today’s offensive landscape those numbers are as close to perfection as any reasonable human being could expect to see out of a freshman. Player development is rarely linear, but if Collins can stay on or close to the path he’s started, he’s going to an unholy terror by the time the 2016 draft rolls around. Here’s a quick look at what the college hitters taken in the first dozen picks in the BBCOR era (and Collins) did as freshmen (ranked in order of statistical goodness according to me)…
Kris Bryant: .365/.482/.599 – 33 BB/55 K – 197 AB
Michael Conforto: .349/.437/.601 – 24 BB/37 K – 218 AB
Colin Moran: .335/.442/.540 – 47 BB/33 K – 248 AB
ZACK COLLINS: .298/.427/.556 – 42 BB/47 K – 205 AB
Kyle Schwarber: .300/.390/.513 – 30 BB/24 K – 230 AB
Casey Gillaspie: .274/.378/.442 – 34 BB/43 K – 215 AB
DJ Peterson: .317/.377/.545 – 15 BB/52 K – 246 AB
Hunter Dozier: .315/.363/.467 – 12 BB/34 K – 197 AB
Max Pentecost: .277/.364/.393 – 21 BB/32 K – 191 AB
I’d say Collins stacks up pretty darn well at this point. Looking at this list also helps me feel better about their being a touch too much swing-and-miss in Collins’ game (see previous heretofore ignored inclination to nitpick). It is also another data point in favor of that popular and so logical it can’t be ignored comparison between Collins and fellow “catcher” Kyle Schwarber. Baseball America also threw out a Mark Teixeira comp, which is damn intriguing. I won’t include Teixeira’s freshmen numbers because that was back in the toy bat years, but from a scouting standpoint it’s a comp that makes a good bit of sense.
Hinting at a comparison to a Hall of Very Good player like Teixeira was jumping the gun a little, but I’m as bullish on Collins’s future than ever after his strong sophomore season at the plate. Here’s the same comparison as above updated with sophomore season statistics…
Kris Bryant: .366/.483/.671 – 39 BB/38 K – 213 AB
Michael Conforto: .328/.447/.526 – 41 BB/47 K – 247 AB
Colin Moran: .365/.434/.494 – 21 BB/24 K – 170 AB
ZACK COLLINS: .302/.445/.587 – 57 BB/64 K – 242 AB
Kyle Schwarber: .366/.456/.647 – 42 BB/37 K – 235 AB
Casey Gillaspie: .299/.447/.517 – 62 BB/35 K – 234 AB
DJ Peterson: .419/.490/.734 – 33 BB/29 K – 248 AB
Hunter Dozier: .357/.431/.595 – 29 BB/42 K – 227 AB
Max Pentecost: .302/.374/.410 – 22 BB/27 K – 212 AB
Just going off of raw numbers, I’d put Collins fourth out of this group in 2014. Using the numbers above, I’d probably knock him down to the fifth spot with a couple of new names now ahead of him. Also, I erroneously claimed that all those guys were taken in the draft’s first dozen picks when Casey Gillaspie didn’t get selected until the twentieth pick. Doesn’t change the premise, but still worth noting. If we go back to the first dozen picks as a cut-off, then we’d have to add these guys from 2015…
Dansby Swanson: .333/.411/.475 – 37 BB/49 K – 22/27 SB – 282 AB
Alex Bregman: .316/.397/.455 – 27 BB/21 K – 12/18 SB – 244 AB
Andrew Benintendi: .376/.488/.717 – 50 BB/32 K – 24/28 SB – 226 AB
Ian Happ: .322/.443/.497 – 32 BB/35 K – 19/24 SB – 171 AB
ZACK COLLINS: .302/.445/.587 – 57 BB/64 K – 7/8 SB – 242 AB
Seeing Swanson and Bregman at the top like that makes you appreciate how historically significant having so many college shortstops go early last really was. If we expanded this to the top twenty, we’d have to add fellow shortstops Kevin Newman and Richie Martin. Having players with real defensive value skews the data some, but if we all agree to put it in context in our own terms then we should be fine. Long story short here: Zack Collins is in very good company when stacked up against peers who went very high in the draft. As a first baseman only, I’d predict (maybe boldly, maybe not) that he still would be selected on the draft’s first day. If his rumored improvements behind the plate are real, then I don’t see why he can’t keep mashing his way into top ten consideration just like Kyle Schwarber before him.
The analysis — such as it is — above covers recent trends, but ignores potential 2016 draft peers. That’s less than ideal, but I’m only one man and time is unyielding. Thankfully, this stuff gets me going enough that I don’t mind carving out some extra time to do a very quick look at the top bats in the 2016 draft by the numbers. All I’m doing here is sorting hitters in my (admittedly unfinished) database by power numbers and then making subjective calls on plate discipline. Keeping in mind that I’m still in the process of inputting a lot of the rising junior class’s stats, here are the 2016 draft-eligible prospects who hit on all the statistical targets I searched for…
Juniors: Zack Collins, Matt Thaiss, Pete Alonso, Carmen Beneditti, Trenton Brooks, Blake Butler, Gavin Stupienski, Michael Paez, Alex Stephens, Logan Gray, Jose Rojas (JC)
Seniors: Donnie Walton, Jason Goldstein, Taylor Jones, Tim Lynch, Esteban Tresgallo, Danny Hudzina, Ryan Tinkham, Chad Sedio, Jack Parenty, Shane Johnsonbaugh, Kevin Phillips, Collin Woody, Larry Barraza, Jose DeLa Torre, Buck McCarthy, Robby Rinn, Joe Ogren, Stefan Trosclair, Kyle Clement, Nick Rivera, Tyler Fullerton, Kyle Nowlin, Charley Gould
Just Missed: Ryan Sluder, Giovanni Brusa, Tyler Lawrence, Lucas Erceg
I’m not sure what to say about these lists exactly, but I’m glad they are out there publicly for anybody who finds this to make their own conclusions. I do know that you’ll be reading a lot about these guys in this space over the next few months. Sure, there are big names here that don’t need much in the way of introductions — Collins, Thaiss, Alonso, plus a few notable seniors if you’re really into college ball — but some of the others are personal favorites who deserve way more attention than they are currently getting. In due time, fellas.
As it relates to Collins specifically, I think it’s a means of pumping the breaks some. I think Collins is a first round talent. I think Collins has the kind of production through two seasons that is consistent with first round college players of the past few drafts. But Collins is not alone as a 2016 draft prospect with his kind of production. While it’s theoretically possible that Thaiss, Alonso, Brooks, Paez, and the rest of those players listed above also wind up as first day picks, it’s a serious long shot. There’s no magic formula or mystical statistical benchmark that turns a college player’s production into an early round draft spot. But when we combine production and scouting observations then we can begin to piece together what a potential first round college player typically looks like. That’s what Collins appears to be.
I recently had a conversation with somebody (note: this chat may or may not have been with myself in the car while stuck in traffic one day) about OF Willie Abreu and his prodigious raw power. We went back and forth a bit about how he ranks in the power department judged against his collegiate peers before settling on the top ten with a case for top five. Of course, one of the names that is ahead of him on any list of amateur power is his teammate Zack Collins. I can’t imagine how it would feel to have easy plus raw lefthanded power and still come in second on your own team. I’m sure he doesn’t mind being teammates with a slugger equally feared — protection may be a myth, but it’s a fun one — and on a squad with designs on playing deep into June.
For all the talk about Abreu’s raw power, there is still some question about how much he’ll ever be able to utilize it in game action. His power numbers through two years are much closer to good than great and there’s the predictable swing-and-miss aspect to his game present, so there’s some pressure on him to put turn some of his raw ability into tangible skills in 2016. I’m bullish on him doing just that, but your mileage might vary.
OF Jacob Heyward does a lot of the good things that his older brother does — defend, throw, run, work deep counts, hit for some pop — but not quite at the $184 hundred million level. He’s still a fine pro prospect and a potential top five round pick. I feel like I’m saying that more than usual this year: “potential top five round pick.” There’s a lot of depth in this class and a lot of players who have the upside of average or better regular if everything works out. I thought that SR SS Brandon Lopez was a likely senior-sign at this time last year, so it’s not entirely shocking to see him back at Miami for one final year. Still, after the improvement he showed offensively in 2015 (.303/.417/.382 with 29 BB/26 K) it is a little bit surprising that a team wouldn’t be intrigued by the steady fielding, plus-armed, non-zero offensive shortstop. He’ll make whatever pro team drafts him this year very happy. rJR 1B/OF Chris Barr is a standout defender with enough patience and power to the gaps to be interesting if a team thinks he can handle the outfield corners in addition to his work at first.
RHP Derik Beauprez comes with a lot of “if’s” — if he can get his control in check, if he can find some feel for an improved but still in need of improvement upper-70s breaking ball, if he can tweak his delivery to help unlock a little more velocity (already an impressive 90-95) and gain some consistency with his command — but the overall package is fascinating. If it clicks for him the upside is tremendous.
There will always be a place in my heart for guys like RHP Cooper Hammond, Hammond chucks up upper-70s to low-80s sinkers all day from a submarine delivery that hitters can’t stand to see coming. Modern evaluators are less dismissive of pitchers like Hammond than they might have been in the past, so I’ll hold out hope that a forward-thinking team gives him a shot at pro ball in the next year or two. College competition and funky delivery or not, Hammond gets guys out. If he can keep doing that for another season or two at Miami, then who am I to say he can’t keep doing it for a spell in the pros? I’m in on Hammond.
LHP Thomas Woodrey doesn’t have anywhere near the same delivery of Hammond — not many guys do, after all — but shares a good bit of similarities otherwise. I think many would categorize both as good college pitchers and just that. That’s not entirely unfair as Woodrey gets by more on deception and guile than stuff (low- to mid-80s heat supplemented by a good slow — it would have to be, wouldn’t it? — change), but I’m inclined to wait and see on Woodrey’s senior season before tagging him with the NP label. He’s obviously a long shot, but that’s what makes it fun. If nothing else, his college career has been excellent and deserves all the attention he can handle. Here’s to Thomas Woodrey: a great college pitcher and a future 40th round pick of my hypothetical pro team.
LHP Danny Garcia has a fastball that has been clocked in the 88-92 range with an average or better breaking ball and a splitter with a similar grade. JR RHP Bryan Garcia has a fastball that has been clocked in the 88-94 range with upper-90s peaks (though his velocity was down some in 2015 compared to 2014) with an average or better breaking ball. Danny has the edge in control (and handedness, if you’re into that sort of thing) while Bryan tops him in stuff on days when both guys have their best going. A case could be made for liking either guy more than the other, but I think the higher velocity of Bryan has him ahead by a little bit right now. Not the most detailed analysis ever, but sometimes a few ticks on the fastball can make all the difference.
RHP Enrique Sosa improved his control enough last year that I could see him being a viable senior-sign reliever (solid FB/CB combo) with another good spring. Tommy John survivor RHP Andy Honiotes could also be a relief prospect of interest thanks to a sinker/slider mix.
JR LHP Ben Parr (2016)
JR RHP Matthew Gorst (2016)
SR LHP/OF Jonathan King (2016)
JR RHP/3B Brandon Gold (2016)
JR RHP Zac Ryan (2016)
rSR RHP Cole Pitts (2016)
JR LHP Tanner Shelton (2016)
JR RHP Matt Phillips (2016)
JR OF Keenan Innis (2016)
JR OF Ryan Peurifoy (2016)
JR C Arden Pabst (2016)
JR SS Connor Justus (2016)
SR 3B/SS Matt Gonzalez (2016)
SO OF/1B Kel Johnson (2016)
SO RHP Patrick Wiseman (2017)
SO 2B Wade Bailey (2017)
FR RHP Jonathan Hughes (2018)
FR RHP Tristin English (2018)
FR RHP Bobby Gavreau (2018)
FR RHP Keyton Gibson (2018)
FR RHP Jake Lee (2018)
FR RHP Micah Carpenter (2018)
FR C Joey Bart (2018)
FR OF/1B Brandt Stallings (2018)
FR 2B/SS Carter Hall (2018)
FR 2B/SS Jackson Webb (2018)
JR OF Ryan Peurifoy has made enough incremental progress as a hitter over the past few years that I’m buying him as a potential 2016 breakout prospect. He’s an unusually instinctual player with above-average range and foot speed that both play up even more than that thanks to his innate feel for the game. His best physical tool has always been his arm, a real weapon that is plus in both strength and accuracy. He still might wind up a tweener who doesn’t quite have the power for a corner or the quicks for center, but that’s not the kiss of death that it was once. In today’s testing world, a “tweener” can do quite well for himself with teams who put a premium on outfield defense in left and right field. Put me down for thinking Peurifoy has a reasonable fourth outfielder floor with the chance to be one of those plus glove/decent bat starting corner outfielders if it all breaks right. He’s joined in the outfield by JR OF Keenan Innis, a decent runner with some power who could also enjoy a breakout junior season of sorts.
The infield has three potential draft picks in JR C Arden Pabst, JR SS Connor Justus, and SR 3B/SS Matt Gonzalez. Pabst is the most interesting to me at this moment because of a steady defensive presence and as yet untapped raw power. Justus is an outstanding defender who will need to do more at the plate to creep up into the early round draft conversation. Gonzalez is another gifted defensive player who has to show a lot more offensively to be thought of as a viable draft prospect. He checks many of the physical boxes, but his approach (13 BB/52 K) is holding him back in a major way.
I’m less enthusiastic about Georgia Tech’s pitching prospects, but there are still a few potential relief arms to track this spring. My favorite Georgia Tech arm is attached to the body of JR RHP/3B Brandon Gold. Gold is a good athlete — no surprise coming from a two-way talent who might be seen as a primary third baseman by some teams — with the kind of stuff that you wonder if it might play up once asked to focus on pitching full-time. He’s been up to the low-90s with a nice changeup and average or better command, so there’s a good base to work with here.
JR LHP Ben Parr looked promising after an impressive freshman season, but things went completely off the tracks for him last year. He’s maintained the same mid- to upper-80s fastball with advanced command profile, so a return to his debut year form ought to get him in the draft conversation once more. JR RHP Zac Ryan has the one-two punch (FB/CB) and enough of a track record to get a look in pro ball. SR LHP Jonathan King has decent stuff, but no real projection left and a three year run of declining strikeout numbers. rSR RHP Cole Pitts is a Tommy John survivor with inconsistent control, but the kind of size (6-5, 235) that could interest teams.
I don’t think I have much in the way of biases when it comes to liking or not liking college teams, but re-reading this quickly before hitting publish has me thinking this skews a little bit negative. I swear it’s not personal, though I suppose my dislike for bees might be subconsciously torpedoing things. So, in the spirit of positivity , allow me to say that the future at Georgia Tech looks quite bright thanks to a loaded freshman class. I don’t think it’s premature to have RHP Tristin English, RHP Jonathan Hughes, OF/1B Brandt Stallings, and C Joey Bart as the top four prospects on the team (apologies to OF/1B Kel Johnson, who is a fine prospect and exactly what many of us thought he was, good and bad) before they’ve played their first college game. We’ll wait to figure out the order of those four until we get a bit closer to 2018…
Slipped my mind that Kel Johnson is a draft-eligible sophomore. Here are his HS scouting notes…
OF/1B Kel Johnson (Home School, Georgia): above-average to plus power upside, easy power during BP; sprays ball all over; more power than hit tool; slow; below-average arm; uncanny similarities to Hunter Pence physically; 6-4, 215 pounds
The Pence comparison was and is physical only; like, the two look similar but don’t have the same game. As a freshman Johnson did pretty much as expected: tons of power with lots of swing and miss. I’d actually say his contact skills were better than what we could have hoped. I’m cautiously optimistic heading into his second college season though the aforementioned swing and miss issues and defensive questions (maybe a LF, likely a 1B) are red flags.
Stacked up against ACC prospects from teams profiled as of this edit, I’d tentatively have him behind teammate Ryan Peurifoy as well as Willie Abreu (Miami), Jacob Heyward (Miami), Ben DeLuzio (FSU), and Saige Jenco (Virginia Tech). Could probably argue him all the way up to second on that list if so inclined.