(I’m still not sure what format I like best, but we’ll start with a quick ranking of 2016 MLB Draft prospects and then transition into team-by-team follow lists. I tried to cover the bulk of the analysis with yesterday’s post, but still feel weird about doing a ranking/list post without the accompanying commentary. We’ll figure this out yet…)
The Southland Conference had 19 players selected in last year’s draft. That’s good for thirteen straight years of double-digit draftees. I’ll guarantee a fourteenth right now. Seeing as that’s not particularly bold, I’ll go a step further (farther?) and predict that the 2016 total of Southland MLB Draft selections will push past last year’s rjght up into the twenties. Much like last year’s group, I think this year will wind up as a pitching-heavy draft haul. My confidence in the hitting ranking extends only past the first few names — we’ll say Menard is the cut-off point — yet at the same time I wouldn’t be shocked to see a dozen or more pitchers off the board with little hesitation from pro scouting departments.
I won’t pretend to know the ebbs and flows of the Southland Conference any better than a guy who tries to cover an entire country’s worth of prospects by himself can, but I feel comfortable in saying that 2016 looks like a good year for the league. I’m excited for it, if nothing else. I’m particularly intrigued to see if either of my current top prospects — Jameson Fisher or Jake Smith — can beat last year’s top draft finisher (Grant Borne) as a seventh round selection. Others could rise up obviously, but I think if Fisher’s arm proves healthy and effective enough to withstand the rigors of catching by mid-season and Smith’s arm is electric as the early reports indicate then there’s a real shot.
- Southeastern Louisiana rJR C/1B Jameson Fisher
- Lamar SR SS Stijn van derMeer
- Southeastern Louisiana SR 2B/3B Daniel Midyett
- Northwestern State SR 1B/OF Cort Brinson
- Southeastern Louisiana JR OF Jacob Seward
- Southeastern Louisiana JR SS/2B Kennon Menard
- Central Arkansas SR SS Logan Preston
- Southeastern Louisiana JR 2B Carson Crites
- Southeastern Louisiana rSR C Sam Roberson
- Northwestern State rJR C Daniel Garner
- Nicholls State JR OF Justin Holt
- Central Arkansas SR OF Tyler Langley
- McNeese State rJR OF Matt Gallier
- Stephen F. Austin State rJR OF/1B Conner Fikes
- Southeastern Louisiana JR OF Webb Bobo
- Sam Houston State JR 1B/3B Matthew Broadbent
- Nicholls State SR 3B Kyle Reese
- Stephen F. Austin State SR 1B Kyle Thornell
- Lamar rJR OF Cutter McDowell
- Texas A&M-Corpus Christi rJR OF Zacarias Hardy
- Incarnate Word SR 3B Brance Kahle
- Southeastern Louisiana SR OF Julian Service
- New Orleans JR OF Hezekiah Randolph
- Southeastern Louisiana SR C Chris Eades
- Northwestern State rJR OF Nick Heath
- Texas A&M-Corpus Christi SR 3B Cody Clarke
- Nicholls State JR RHP Jake Smith
- Nicholls State JR RHP/1B Cole Stapler
- Southeastern Louisiana SO RHP Mac Sceroler
- Abilene Christian rSO RHP Bryce Welborn
- Sam Houston State rSO RHP Dakota Mills
- Texas A&M-Corpus Christi JR LHP Chris Falwell
- Northwestern State JR RHP Adam Oller
- McNeese State rSR RHP Kaleb Fontenot
- Lamar SR RHP Will Hibbs
- Abilene Christian SR RHP Nate Cole
- Sam Houston State JR RHP Sam Odom
- Houston Baptist SR RHP Dylan Zarosky
- Southeastern Louisiana SR LHP Kyle Cedotal
- Texas A&M-Corpus Christi rJR RHP Nolan Holland
- McNeese State SR RHP Ethan Stremmel
- McNeese State JR RHP Collin Kober
- Southeastern Louisiana SR RHP Domenick Carlini
- McNeese State SR RHP Bryce Kingsley
- New Orleans JR RHP Riley Hodge
- Sam Houston State JR RHP Cody Brown
- McNeese State JR LHP Austin Sanders
- Southeastern Louisiana JR RHP/1B Derrick Mount
- Nicholls State SR RHP Justin Sinibaldi
- McNeese State SR RHP Tyler Day
- Texas A&M-Corpus Christi JR RHP Devin Skapura
- Southeastern Louisiana JR RHP Cliff Hurst
- Southeastern Louisiana SR RHP Pat Cashman
- Texas A&M-Corpus Christi SR RHP Kaleb Keith
- Texas A&M-Corpus Christi SR RHP Dalton D’Spain
- Northwestern State SR LHP Chase Hymel
- Abilene Christian SR RHP Kyle Carroll
- Sam Houston State SR RHP Jordan Church
SR RHP Nick Palacios (2016)
SR RHP Nate Cole (2016)
SR RHP Garrett deMeyere (2016)
rSO RHP Bryce Welborn (2016)
JR LHP Austin Lambright (2016)
SR RHP Kyle Carroll (2016)
JR 2B/RHP Aaron Draper (2016)
SR C Alex Copeland (2016)
JR 1B/OF Russell Crippen (2016)
FR OF/LHP Derek Scott (2018)
FR SS Mark Pearson (2018)
FR OF Hunter Markwardt (2018)
FR OF Willie Harris (2018)
High Priority Follows: Nate Cole, Bryce Welborn, Kyle Carroll
SR RHP Connor Gilmore (2016)
SR RHP Derek Beier (2016)
JR RHP Riley Echols (2016)
JR RHP Jacob Murray (2016)
SR C Brandon Montalvo (2016)
SR 2B Chris Townsend (2016)
SR OF Tyler Langley (2016)
SR SS Logan Preston (2016)
SR C/1B Travis Hull (2016)
SR 1B/3B Matt Anderson (2016)
JR 2B Butch Rea (2016)
SO RHP Tyler Gray (2017)
SO 2B/SS Ty Tice (2017)
FR RHP Cody Davenport (2018)
FR 1B/OF Hunter Strong (2018)
High Priority Follows: Tyler Langley, Logan Preston, Travis Hull
SR RHP Dylan Zarosky (2016)
SR LHP Matthew McCollough (2016)
SR RHP Matt Harding (2016)
SR 2B Greg Espinosa (2016)
SR SS Louie Payetta (2016)
SR 1B Andrew Alvarez (2016)
SR OF Brandon Morones (2016)
High Priority Follows: Dylan Zarosky, Greg Espinosa, Louie Payetta
JR RHP Trevor Hardee (2016)
SR 3B Brance Kahle (2016)
SR OF Matt Morris (2016)
JR OF Mark Whitehead (2016)
SR C Christian Divelbiss (2016)
SR 2B Trey Rodriguez (2016)
SO RHP John Shull (2017)
SO RHP Tyler Miller (2017)
FR RHP Bernie Martinez (2018)
FR RHP Jake Bedevian (2018)
FR LHP Denson Hull (2018)
FR SS Ryan Gonzalez (2018)
High Priority Follows: Brance Kahle
SR RHP Will Hibbs (2016)
SR LHP Joe Farley (2016)
SR RHP Jayson McKinley (2016)
rSR RHP Billy Love (2016)
JR RHP Brent Janak (2016)
SR LHP Travis Moore (2016)
SR RHP Ryan Cawthon (2016)
SR RHP Enrique Oquendo (2016)
SR SS Stijn van derMeer (2016)
rJR OF Cutter McDowell (2016)
SR 1B Jake Nash (2016)
JR 1B Trey Silvers (2016)
JR OF Reid Russell (2016)
SR OF Jacoby Middleton (2016)
High Priority Follows: Will Hibbs, Stijn van derMeer, Cutter McDowell
rSR RHP Kaleb Fontenot (2016)
SR RHP Bryce Kingsley (2016)
SR RHP Ethan Stremmel (2016)
JR LHP Austin Sanders (2016)
SR RHP Tyler Day (2016)
JR RHP Collin Kober (2016)
JR RHP Trent Fontenot (2016)
SR 1B/OF Connor Crane (2016)
SR OF Lewis Guilbeau (2016)
rJR OF Matt Gallier (2016)
SR C Cameron Toole (2016)
JR SS Will Fox (2016)
JR 1B/LHP Ricky Ramirez (2016)
SO 2B Joe Provenzano (2017)
FR OF Shane Selman (2018)
High Priority Follows: Kaleb Fontenot, Bryce Kingsley, Ethan Stremmel, Austin Sanders, Tyler Day, Collin Kober, Matt Gallier
SR RHP Daniel Martinez (2016)
JR LHP Hunter Medine (2016)
rSR LHP Jordan Priddle (2016)
JR RHP Riley Hodge (2016)
JR C Kyle Bracey (2016)
SR OF Chaz Boyer (2016)
JR 2B/SS Samuel Capielano (2016)
JR OF Hezekiah Randolph (2016)
SR OF Ryan Calloway (2016)
JR 2B/SS Aaron Palmer (2016)
SO RHP Shawn Semple (2017)
High Priority Follows: Daniel Martinez, Riley Hodge, Hezekiah Randolph
SR RHP Justin Sinibaldi (2016)
SR LHP Zach Thiac (2016)
SR RHP Robbie Petty (2016)
JR RHP Jake Smith (2016)
JR RHP/1B Cole Stapler (2016)
SR OF Alex Shermer (2016)
SR 3B Kyle Reese (2016)
JR OF Justin Holt (2016)
JR C Alex Tucker (2016)
SO SS Joey Morales (2017)
SO OF Gavin Wehby (2017)
FR 2B Ethan Valdez (2018)
High Priority Follows: Justin Sinibaldi, Jake Smith, Cole Stapler, Kyle Reese, Justin Holt
SR LHP Chase Hymel (2016)
JR RHP Adam Oller (2016)
JR RHP Evan Tidwell (2016)
JR RHP Tim Winders (2016)
rSO RHP Brandon Stane (2016)
rJR OF Nick Heath (2016)
JR OF Matt Valdez (2016)
SR 1B/OF Cort Brinson (2016)
rJR C Daniel Garner (2016)
rJR 1B Regan Kaufman (2016)
rSR OF Bret Underwood (2016)
rFR INF Brandon Frazier (2017)
SO OF Kwan Adkins (2017)
SO SS Miller Parker (2017)
SO OF Cade Jones (2017)
SO SS David Fry (2017)
FR RHP Austin Reich (2018)
FR RHP Nathan Jones (2018)
FR 3B/RHP Austin Townsend (2018)
FR INF Lenni Kunert (2018)
High Priority Follows: Chase Hymel, Adam Oller, Nick Heath, Cort Brinson, Daniel Garner
Sam Houston State
rSO RHP Dakota Mills (2016)
JR RHP Cody Brown (2016)
SR RHP Greg Belton (2016)
SR RHP Jordan Church (2016)
SR LHP Hayden Nixton (2016)
JR RHP Sam Odom (2016)
JR 1B/3B Matthew Broadbent (2016)
SR 1B Spence Rahm (2016)
SR 2B Zach Smith (2016)
SR SS Miles Manning (2016)
SO OF Bryce Johnson (2017)
FR SS Andrew Fregia (2018)
FR 2B/RHP Riley McKnight (2018)
FR OF Hunter Hearn (2018)
FR OF Jaxxon Grisham (2018)
FR RHP Riley Gossett (2018)
High Priority Follows: Dakota Mills, Cody Brown, Greg Belton, Jordan Church, Sam Odom, Matthew Broadbent, Spence Rahm, Zach Smith
SR LHP Kyle Cedotal (2016)
SR RHP Domenick Carlini (2016)
SR RHP Pat Cashman (2016)
JR RHP Cliff Hurst (2016)
JR RHP Gage Pickett (2016)
rSO RHP Dreagen Bethel (2016)
SO RHP Mac Sceroler (2016)
JR RHP/1B Derrick Mount (2016)
rJR C/1B Jameson Fisher (2016)
rSR C Sam Roberson (2016)
SR C Chris Eades (2016)
SR OF Julian Service (2016)
SR 2B/3B Daniel Midyett (2016)
JR SS/2B Kennon Menard (2016)
JR OF Webb Bobo (2016)
JR OF Jacob Seward (2016)
JR OF Ryan Byers (2016)
JR 2B Carson Crites (2016)
SO RHP Kade Granier (2017)
SO LHP/OF Drew Avans (2017)
SO C Nico Cuccia (2017)
FR LHP Payton Robinson (2018)
High Priority Follows: Kyle Cedotal, Domenick Carlini, Pat Cashman, Cliff Hurst, Mac Sceroler, Derrick Mount, Jameson Fisher, Sam Roberson, Chris Eades, Julian Service, Daniel Midyett, Kennon Menard, Webb Bobo, Jacob Seward, Carson Crites
Stephen F. Austin State
JR LHP Patrick Ledet (2016)
JR RHP Jarred Greene (2016)
SR OF Matthew Dickey (2016)
SR 1B Kyle Thornell (2016)
rJR OF/1B Conner Fikes (2016)
rSR OF Garrett McMullen (2016)
JR 2B Nick Ramos (2016)
SO 3B Eric DeJesus (2017)
High Priority Follows: Kyle Thornell, Conner Fikes
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
JR LHP Chris Falwell (2016)
SR RHP Kaleb Keith (2016)
SR RHP Dalton D’Spain (2016)
rJR RHP Nolan Holland (2016)
JR RHP Devin Skapura (2016)
rJR OF Zacarias Hardy (2016)
SR 3B Cody Clarke (2016)
SR 1B/OF Austin Krajnak (2016)
rSR OF Zack Gibson (2016)
JR OF Brian Deaver (2016)
SR SS Casey Thomas (2016)
rSR 1B Justin Perales (2016)
FR RHP Dustin Lacaze (2018)
High Priority Follows: Chris Falwell, Kaleb Keith, Nolan Holland, Devin Skapura, Zacarias Hardy, Cody Clarke, Austin Krajnak
(I didn’t like this setup as well as I thought I would and writing this much about each team in every conference will drive me to insanity before the season even begins, so I’m still pondering ways to present the info I have in a way that marries readability with a format that will allow me to get a full night’s sleep during the work week. Consider this a head’s up that things will probably change with the next conference preview. If you liked this, sorry. If not, you’re in luck!)
What RHP Bryce Welborn lacks in college experience he makes up for in fastball velocity. He’s still largely an unknown and his size (5-10, 185) works against him, but there’s no denying his heater (90-94, 96 peak) when on. The safer, and arguably superior, prospect is RHP Nate Cole, a potential sleeper relief prospect who has been able to combine good stuff (low-90s fastball, slider, change) with strong results (10.34 K/9 in 47 IP last year). RHP Kyle Carroll could be the third best arm on the staff.
SS Logan Preston and OF Tyler Langley are positioned to get themselves into late-round senior-sign territory with big springs. That’s something.
RHP Dylan Zarosky is a short (5-11, 200) righthander with limited innings under his belt (around 40 the past two seasons combined), but his fastball (88-92, 93 peak) and breaking ball (76-77 CB, average to above-average) are enough to keep missing bats. I’m intrigued by 2B Greg Espinosa due to his extreme high contact approach (5 BB/7 K in 153 AB) at the plate.
The freshman group of pitchers is where it’s at, but in the meantime I think the best prospect here is probably 3B Brance Kahle. Pro baseball needs a Brance and this one might have what it takes to get drafted. Fun Brance fact (besides the fact he has an above-average arm and appealing bat speed): he’s one of seven children, all with first names beginning with either B or C.
RHP Will Hibbs has the fastball (93), size (6-7, 235), and peripherals (8.74 K/9 in 2015) to profile as an intriguing senior-sign reliever. SS Stijn van derMeer can field his position and do enough with the bat to rank as one of my favorite senior shortstops in this class. Fair or not, I can’t help but think of him as a potential Die Hard villain whenever I read his name. I like what rJR OF Cutter McDowell did in a small sample last year, so he’s officially on my high follow list this spring. There’s a chance one of 1B Jake Nash or 1B Trey Silvers does enough this spring to get some draft love by June.
Native New Yorker CJ Moore, coming off an up-and-down freshman season with more encouraging signs than not, is now back at home at Monroe (NY) CC. He’s as raw as his 12 BB/66 K freshman numbers suggest, but his speed, power, and athleticism are all at the top of the charts. I’m sufficiently intrigued.
The McNeese State pitching staff could have up to a half-dozen arms get draft consideration this summer. I like RHP Kaleb Fontenot a ton when healthy. RHP Bryce Kingsley and RHP Ethan Stremmel could join him as senior-signs. The little I know about LHP Austin Sanders sounds good to me. Then there are the two guys with numbers that stand out above the rest. RHP Collin Kober makes his upper-80s fastball work with a sidearm delivery that confounds hitters (9.17 K/9 and 1.02 ERA in 52.2 IP last year) at this level. RHP Tyler Day matched him in terms of peripherals (10.35 K/9), but not in run prevention (5.85 ERA). I still like him. All in all, it’s a strong group of pitchers here.
The best two position player prospects are underclassmen (2B Joe Provenzano and OF Shane Selman), but OF Matt Gallier has shown enough power to be interesting to teams in the here and now.
RHP Daniel Martinez and RHP Riley Hodge both could be late-round reliever options. C Kyle Bracey is a young catcher with some power, so he’ll have his fans this spring. OF Chaz Boyer might have a shot thanks to his plus speed, above-average range, and solid athleticism. He’ll have to do something drastic about his ugly 7 BB/41 K ratio, however. JR OF Hezekiah Randolph rivals Zacarias Hardy for best name in the conference.
RHP Justin Sinibaldi has been a consistently strong performer as he’s utilized an upper-80s fastball (85-91) and average or better curve to carve hitters to the tune of a 1.40 ERA in 77.1 IP in 2015. His peripherals are less exciting, but still solid.
OF Justin Holt is yet another very fast, above-average glove in center – there seems to be a lot of these guys in this conference – with questions about his in-game pop and approach at the plate. SR 3B Kyle Reese has similar questions about his approach, but the power looks legit.
Those guys are all nice prospects, but RHP Jake Smith and RHP Cole Stapler are the true co-headliners here. Smith has the frame (6-5, 220) and fastball (94-97) to rocket up pref lists this spring. Stapler measures up similarly (6-5, 230) with a likewise strong heater (88-92, 94 peak) and the athleticism one might expect from a two-way threat.
LHP Chase Hymel has the kind of out-pitch in his curve ball that could give him an extended look in the pros. That’s something. He’s second for me among Northwestern State pitching prospects behind RHP Adam Oller. Oller has really impressive stuff with three pitches profiling as average or better professionally, but the lackluster track record of missed bats (4.75 K/9 in 2015) is worrisome. If the breakout happens in 2016 we’ll know why. I’m cautiously optimistic.
I like rJR OF Nick Heath as a potential high-contact, athletic, plus running center fielder, but the complete lack of power undermines what he does well otherwise. He’s more fun college player than serious pro prospect until he can start driving a few more balls to the gaps. They can’t all be power hitters, but the threat of power is a must in the pro game.
1B/OF Cort Brinson (who has experience behind the plate) and C Daniel Garner do more than threaten power – they deliver. I’ve long liked Brinson, but, despite hitting for more power than ever, last year was admittedly a step back when looking at his all-around offensive game. Tough to say that for a guy coming off a .350/.407/.518 season, but his control of the strike zone dipped enough to raise tiny light red flags. We’ll call them light pink flags for now…maybe salmon. I’m less worried about the change (16 BB/18 K in 2014 to 12 BB/35 K in 2015) after talking to somebody who saw him a lot last year. His rationale for the dip was pretty simple: Brinson was so locked in that the choice to expand the zone was a conscious one. If he can find a happy medium that allows him to further tap into his deep power reserves through controlled aggression at the plate, watch out for him rising as one of the draft’s better senior-signs.
Sam Houston State
I really dig the Sam Houston state pitching staff. There’s a really nice blend of stuff and results that should give every team something to like. RHP Dakota Mills and RHP Cody Brown lead the way in the stuff department, but do so with limited D1 data to date. RHP Greg Belton and RHP Jordan Church have the numbers to get them noticed. RHP Sam Odom has a little bit of both: he’s 88-92 with his heat and coming off a solid sophomore season (7.05 K/9 in 83.0 IP).
I’m a little less keen on the 2016 hitters, but could see either 2B Zach Smith or SS Miles Manning play their way into late-round consideration. 1B/3B Matthew Broadbent has some positive buzz around his name as well.
I’ve been on record as being a big C/1B Jameson Fisher fan, so consider me damn excited for his return to the field in 2016. If his arm allows him to show off behind the plate this spring, I could see him rising up into that round five to ten area where he belongs. C Sam Roberson also returns in 2016, so keep an eye on the underrated “other” catcher on the roster here. Then there’s C Chris Eades, the “other OTHER” catcher that could hear his name called this June. Eades took advantage of the absence of his teammates last year by flashing decent power and a strong arm from behind the dish.
Non-catcher talent on Southeastern Louisiana includes OF Julian Service (very athletic, good speed), SS/2B Kennon Menard (versatile defender with some utility player potential), OF Webb Bobo (untapped power), and 2B Carson Crites (impressive 2015 season). I like 2B/3B Daniel Midyett best of all thanks to his blend of speed, patience, and sneaky pop. OF Jacob Seward isn’t far behind on my personal list: he’s got a discerning eye at the plate and plenty of usable speed.
LHP Kyle Cedotal has the crafty college lefty thing down to a science, so spending a late pick on him and watching him move quickly as he mows down low-minors hitting out of the bullpen could be fun. RHP Domenick Carlini missed plenty of bats (11.25 K/9 in 2015) with his low-90s velocity as a junior. RHP Mac Sceroler stands out as one of the better draft-eligible sophomore arms I’ve come across.
Stephen F. Austin State
Any one of OF Matthew Dickey (speed, glove), Kyle Thornell (power), or OF/1B Conner Fikes (athleticism, approach) could wind up drafted with good springs.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
If RHP Kaleb Keith can stay on the mound, I think he can show the kind of stuff to get drafted. RHP Nolan Holland has the low-90s sinker/slider combination that could give him time in a pro bullpen. OF Zacarias Hardy excels at running, throwing, and having the first name Zacarias. I like him.
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?)