Time for little crowd-sourced assistance to help track down some of these prospects that I had on rosters, but no longer show up as active players in 2015. I imagine many are at junior colleges, some have given up the game, and others are sitting out the year while transferring to another D-1 school. Heck, some could be on the roster that I had them listed on originally, but I was too blind to see them. Any and all help is appreciated.
As for the rest of the week (and beyond), the goal is to get back into high school ball and go over a bunch of my older notes on this year’s underrated prep class. I’ve actually seen more HS ball than college ball so far this spring for the first time since my own high school days, so I’m pretty excited to take a pause from college coverage to get a closer look at some of the best high school athletes this country (and Canada and Puerto Rico…) has to offer.
Clemson SO LHP Hunter Hill (2016)
Florida State SO RHP/INF MT Minacci (2016)
Louisville SO RHP Mason Richardson (2016)
Miami SO 1B Bradley Zunica (2016)
North Carolina JR OF Zach Daly (2015)
Virginia SO OF Tyler Allen (2016)
Central Florida JR RHP Zac Favre (2015)
Central Florida SO LHP Vinnie Rosace (2016)
Cincinnati rJR OF Will Drake (2015)
Connecticut JR LHP Christian Colletti (2015)
Connecticut SO 3B/1B Ryan Sullivan (2016)
East Carolina JR RHP Justin Taylor (2015)
South Florida rJR OF Marcus Carson (2015)
Alabama SO OF Hunter Webb (2016)
Alabama rSO OF Matthew Goodson (2015)
Kentucky SO RHP Logan Parrett (2016)
Vanderbilt rSO RHP Luke Stephenson (2015)
Florida FR 3B/RHP Hunter Alexander (2017)
Mississippi State JR RHP John Marc Shelly (2015)
Texas A&M JR LHP Hayden Howard (2015)
Texas A&M rSO LHP Rex Hill (2015)
Oklahoma SO LHP Octavio Rodriguez (2016)
Oklahoma SO RHP Tyler Gibson (2016)
St. John’s JR RHP Anthony Rosati (2015)
California FR 3B Denis Karas (2017)
USC JR LHP Sean Adler (2015)
Stanford JR RHP Andrew McCormack (2015)
Washington State FR C Alan Crowley (2017)
Washington State JR RHP Chris McDowell (2015)
Maryland FR SS Dominic DiSabatino (2017)
UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Hector Lujan (2015)
UC Santa Barbara SO SS Brody Weiss (2016)
Gonzaga JR 2B/SS Cabe Reiten (2015)
Loyola Marymount SO RHP Matt Gorgolinski (2016)
San Francisco SO LHP Jordan Haseltine (2016)
San Francisco JR OF Harrison Bruce (2015)
San Francisco rSO 1B/OF Dylan Parks (2015)
Charlotte rSO SS Matt Creech (2015)
Marshall JR C David Diaz-Fernandez (2015)
Marshall JR LHP Zachary Shockley (2015)
Old Dominion JR RHP Tommy Alexander (2015)
Illinois State SO Ben Hecht (2016)
Fresno State JR RHP Blake Quinn (2015)
San Diego State JR RHP Tyler Sapp (2015)
Abilene Christian JR RHP Stuart Patke (2015)
Stony Brook JR SS Austin Shives (2015)
UNC Wilmington JR William Prince (2015)
Louisiana-Monroe SO LHP Taka High (2016)
South Alabama rSO RHP Kyle Rovig (2015)
Florida Gulf Coast rSO RHP Brad Labozzetta (2015)
Stetson SO RHP Taylor Cockrell (2016)
Coastal Carolina SO LHP Dalton Moats (2016)
Gardner-Webb JR RHP Hunter Smith (2015)
Longwood JR RHP Blake Ream (2015)
Presbyterian JR RHP Brett Byrum (2015)
Alabama State JR SS/RHP Branden Castro (2015)
Southern SO RHP Brady May (2016)
North Carolina Central JR SS Nick Stoll (2015)
I’ve resisted writing about Louisville baseball for a while. It started months ago, but back then it wasn’t my fault: the Cardinals were one of the last teams in all of college ball to release their updated roster, so I had to wait anyway. Staying away even once the roster was published can be explained away to a point (even a patient guy like me has to move on eventually), but the most honest reason why I didn’t write about Louisville before today is because I didn’t know what to say about their star player and potential top ten pick, JR RHP Kyle Funkhouser. I still don’t.
I’ve personally seen Funkhouser twice. The first was way back in Louisville’s Big East days on 5/4/13. It was a blink and you’d miss it appearance with Funkhouser only pitching to two batters. He threw more balls than strikes that day while allowing a single and a walk. It wasn’t the kind of outing that had you walking away thinking you just saw a future lock first round pick, but there were indicators (arm speed, delivery, frame) that better days were ahead. Most of the scouts around me that day — and there were about a half-dozen or so, a pretty good crowd for any Villanova home game — didn’t pay much attention to Funkhouser’s appearance, busying themselves instead with their guarded chats about the starting pitchers they were here to say who just exited (Pat Young and Jeff Thompson) and the relief ace yet to come (Nick Burdi, who struck out two in getting his tenth save of the season). They also talked — far more openly and enthusiastically — about the forthcoming annual BBQ planned by one of the local veteran scouts in attendance. Thought long and hard about trying to angle for an invite to crash that party, but I would have been the youngest guy there by about thirty years so I opted to stay in my lane.
The next time I saw Funkhouser he was pitching for a team now in the AAC against Temple in one of the Owls last ever games. He was a little better this time out: 8 IP 4 H 0 ER 1 BB 12 K. The game also featured another shot at seeing Nick Burdi up close and personal (two strikeouts again) and an impressive complete game loss thrown by future Phillies ninth round pick Matt Hockenberry. I don’t recall if the scouts had a BBQ planned that weekend or not, but I do remember hearing from many that only a nasty injury would keep Funkhouser out of the 2015 first round. I also remember an older gentleman — not a scout as far as I could tell — refer to the pitcher having his way with Temple that day as Doogie Howser, so, all in all, it was a pretty good day.
Even for a prospect that I’ve seen multiple times (pro tip: multiple is almost always used to mean twice, at least when I use it) and have gotten a lot of feedback on from actual baseball men, I still don’t know what to say about him. He’s really good, obviously, but I’m not sure what I can add to the conversation beyond that. The fastball has a chance to be a plus pitch that he can lean on heavily when the offspeed isn’t working (and even when it is) due to premium velocity (90-95, 97-98 peak) and movement. The missing component there is command, an area of Funkhouser’s game that remains inconsistent despite the progress he’s made there this spring. He’s overall command has improved (fastball more so than offspeed, which I’d rather see if forced to choose), but it’s still not much better than average on his best day. I don’t see why he couldn’t make a jump in his command grade in the future because his delivery is clean and repeatable (I’m far from an expert, but I personally really like his motion — really well-balanced with outstanding tempo — minus the rushed finish), he’s reasonably athletic, and he’s already shown the capacity for improvement going back to his high school days in Illinois. The assortment of secondary offerings (SL, CB, and CU) speaks to the relatively high floor that a strapping four-pitch righthander with a track record of striking out a batter an inning at a big-time baseball school is expected to bring to the pro ranks.
I personally really like his slider (80-86) because it’s a pitch that he can throw down for swinging strikes and backdoor it to get guys looking and/or set up the next (better) pitch. It’s been consistently above-average for me and (reportedly) often gets better as the game goes on and he gets a better feel for it. His curve is still a pitch in progress, but I’ve been told that he’s firmed it up enough (73-77 when I saw him, 75-82 this year) that I should consider bumping up my average upside for the pitch (usable currently, but more of a “wasted” show-me pitch at the moment) to slightly more than that. His change ranged from 80-87 in my look and has varied this year from outing to outing (80-84 one week, 85-89 the next, then back to the low-80s again, etc.). I actually prefer his a little bit on the firm side because I don’t really see the pitch ever becoming a consistent swing and miss offering for him. The added firmness should encourage him to use the pitch earlier in counts when velocity separation isn’t as big a deal, and hopefully the pitch will help him get some nice, quick ground ball outs in the process. My 100% “not a scout, just a fan” observation after watching nine innings of him in person (and a bunch on video, but mostly just for fun) is that the arm action on Funkhouser’s change seems quite consistent with his heater, a fact that, again, could have something to do with the fact he can throw it close to as hard as where certain unnamed big league pitchers get their fastballs. I’m more bullish on it becoming at least an average pitch before too long with even more upside as he begins to use it more, which will hopefully be the case if he pumps it in there within the first few pitches of every few at bats.
Add it all up and you get a pitcher with a fine delivery, solid athleticism, inconsistent yet improving command and control, a clear plus fastball (with plus-plus upside if he learns to better command it), an above-average slider, and a raw curve/firm changeup combination that should produce at least another average or better pitch but should at least give him two additional usable pitches that hitters will have to at least mentally account for. A few pitching prospects came to mind when watching him that I feel are worth sharing with the group. In addition to my own potential comps, I also asked around and got two names from smart people. I like this because these guys are all peers of Funkhouser, so, hopefully, one of the bigger criticisms of comps that I hear (they create unfair expectations for players!) can be bypassed this time. One cautionary name that Funkhouser’s game brings to mind is Kyle Crick. Cautionary is perhaps a tad harsh sounding because there’s really nothing wrong with Crick, a fine pitching prospect with the Giants with the chance to be a very good big league pitcher. Check Kiley McDaniel’s report on him from earlier this month, mentally sub in Funkhouser’s name for Crick’s, and tell me they don’t share some similarities…
Crick has electric #2/3 starter stuff, is still only 22 and is in the upper levels of the minors, but his command has never been strong. Some guys with big stuff just take time to develop the feel and find consistency in their delivery, so the Giants will give Crick more innings to figure it out…At his best, Crick sits 94-97, hits 99 mph and will show heavy sink down in the zone. His mid-80’s slider flashes plus with hard cutting action, he mixes in an average curveball to change eye levels, and his changeup is above average when he throws it perfectly. Crick’s feel still wanders a lot, affecting the crispness and consistency of his off-speed stuff and command.
Again, Crick is really good, so getting a guy with his kind of talent in the draft is a wonderful thing. It’s just the uncertainty over a guy like Crick’s (and potentially Funkhouser’s) future role — many, as McDaniel alludes to in his full article, think of Crick as a potential closer — and his persistent control problems combine to make it a dicey gamble within the draft’s top ten picks. Another interesting comp (and I guy I completely whiffed on) is Jake Thompson. This would be another “cautionary” comp only because of the potential you’re drafting a guy too early that is destined to get stuck in the bullpen due to below-average command. I like this comp a little less because Thompson is more of a classic “whoa, this stuff is suddenly GREAT in short bursts” future reliever, and that’s an issue that Funkhouser simply doesn’t share. Joe Ross, formerly of San Diego and currently with Washington, came up as a point of comparison as well. Funkhouser and Ross share explosive fastballs, strong sliders, athletic builds, and a reputation for spotty command. That’s not a bad one (Ross is a little leaner and a better athlete), and I could see the two having similar pro ceilings. Finally, there’s Chris Anderson. Here’s what I wrote about him in his draft year…
Jacksonville JR RHP Chris Anderson: 88-92 FB; good breaking ball; Cape 2012: 88-92 FB, 93 peak; good 75-76 CB; SL; 79-81 split-CU; held velocity well; iffy control; FB up to 94-95 at times; 2013: 89-95 FB, 96-97 peak; above-average to plus 80-85 SL; 78-84 CU with above-average upside; average to good 77-80 CB; sinker; holds velocity late; Matt Garza and Andy Benes comps; 6-4, 225 pounds; (2011: 7.11 K/9 | 50.2 IP) (2012: .273/.346/.339 – 8 BB/28 K – 0/0 SB – 121 AB) (2012: 7.13 K/9 | 3.97 BB/9 | 4.36 FIP | 88.1 IP) (2013: 8.86 K/9 | 2.24 BB/9 | 3.64 FIP | 104.2 IP)
I don’t love how the Anderson report is organized with the most recent stuff (at the time) at the end, but if you look at the draft year (2013) update you see this: 89-95 FB, 96-97 peak; above-average to plus 80-85 SL; 78-84 CU with above-average upside; average to good 77-80 CB; sinker; holds velocity late. Again, not entirely dissimilar to the Funkhouser package. Funkhouser (9.04 K/9 and 4.39 BB/9 in 242 IP) has performed at a higher level than Anderson (7.71 K/9 and 3.73 BB/9 in 244 IP) against better competition, plus he gets bonus points (from me) for being a fairly well-known prospect for the better part of the past two seasons. Funkhouser has been picked apart by just about everybody with a vested interest in this stuff by now; Anderson was a bit more under the radar, so the newness of his prospect status engendered a feeling of untold possibility for dopes like me who can get fatigued by talking about the same old prospects for years on end. Here’s Kiley McDaniel again with an update on what Anderson has done since his draft days…
Anderson popped up in his draft year (2013) out of Jacksonville U. in Florida, going in the middle of the first round after delivering on his physical projection by flashing a plus fastball and slider with starter traits. Anderson’s changeup was average in most outings in his draft year, but it’s coming and going in pro ball. His command also wandered a bit and it showed in his numbers, but getting out of the hitter-friendly Cal League for 2015 should help in that regard. Anderson made a mechanical change late in 2014 to revert back to his pre-draft mechanics and it looked to help both issues. There’s #3 starter upside if it all comes together and a 2015 campaign in Double-A could be the place that happens.
Sounds about right for Funkhouser’s pro projection, though, now that he’s the “new” prospect to talk about (always funny how pro guys get excited about all the college/HS prospects we were once thrilled to cover at the start of their amateur journeys) it’s understandable and perhaps even reasonable to think there’s a little more ceiling to Funkhouser. When it comes to ceiling, I do like to talk in terms of big league comparisons. This is where those who hate comps for the unrealistic expectations they create — one of my favorite lines I heard on this is “Just let (Blank Player) be the first (Blank Player)!” Sure, sure. Thankfully, I don’t think that will be a problem here as there very clearly can be one, and only one, FUNKHOUSER — can tune me out. Crick, Ross, and Thompson are all tough players to compare to Funkhouser as prospects because a) they are themselves still prospects and comparing unfinished things to fellow unfinished things is a sure way to drive yourself mad, and b) comparing prospect peers currently on different developmental paths can be quite messy, what with attempting (and, in my case, failing) to define similar points of development and getting all turned around when looking at HS prospects (like the aforementioned group) with college guys (like Funkhouser). As the lone college product Anderson is probably the closest of the four previous comps (I think). Anderson was selected 18th overall in 2013, so it only makes sense that the superior Funkhouser would go higher in an inferior draft talent-wise.
Beyond the prospects we’ve covered, three big league stars (and all college guys) came up in conversations (both with real life talent evaluators smarter than myself and in my own head because, yeah, I sometimes talk to myself about this stuff) centered around trying to find an honest comparison for Funkhouser. The first mystery comp can be found below with his pre-draft (2009) scouting report excerpted from Baseball America as his only identifier…
He routinely sits at 93-95 mph with life on his fastball and touched 98 in a relief outing against Wichita State. He has a mid-80s slider with bite that peaked at 89 mph against the Shockers. And if that’s not enough, he has a power curveball and flashes an effective changeup. He has a quick arm, a strong 6-foot-2, 217-pound build and throws on a downhill plane with little effort…He has the raw ingredients to become a frontline starter, and on the rare occasions when he has command, he looks like an easy first-round pick.
Next we have a heavily redacted college pick from 2007…
[His] stuff was improving as the season went on, and he was consistently working in the low 90s and showing a quality slider as [his team] entered the [conference/division/league] playoffs. He also throws a changeup with promising action and uses a loopy curveball as a fourth pitch. [He] regularly touched 93-95 in the Northwoods League, and scouts expect him to show that velocity more often as he adds more strength to his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame.
And finally we have a player with a pre-draft scouting report that looks so goofy now that I won’t even quote it. Fine, fine…you’ve twisted my arm. Here it is…
[He] has pitched more at 91-92 mph, often peaking at 95. While he has one of the best pure arms in the draft, he doesn’t consistently have a second plus pitch. His slider is effective but usually rates as a 50 or 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He has added a wide-grip changeup and a two-seam fastball in the last year, and he’s still refining his secondary pitches. While he has toned down his delivery in college, he still throws with more effort than Joba Chamberlain or Luke Hochevar.
Ironically enough, the pitcher in question directly above was the highest (11th) player selected out of the three pitchers we’re talking about. Needless to say, he has surpassed the expectations that BA had for him pre-draft back in 2006 (they strongly suggested he’d be in the bullpen before long) by a healthy margin. I think we can more or less throw this one out because I think of him as a pretty big outlier in terms of player development. In other words, thanks for playing Max Scherzer. Comping anybody to the $210 million man is probably a mistake anyway, but it was largely based on Scherzer’s incredibly effective fastball/slider usage and slowly improving change that he’s relied on a bit more almost every year since hitting the majors.
The top scouting note from above refers to Garrett Richards. Richards is another fastball/slider pitcher, but what makes him most like Funkhouser (potentially) is the way he has overcome his command issues and while drastically improving his control. The notion of Funkhouser being all stuff with little touch is perhaps a bit unfair and outdated since, again, he’s improved his command in small measures every year since enrolling at Louisville, but it’s still his closest player archetype in my mind because, as much credit as I give him for improving this year, we’re talking going from below-average to average at times and not some miraculous leap just yet. Literally just had a conversation with the wife where she bragged about filling up the PUR water pitcher more than she used to. That’s all well and good, I say, but when filling it up more means doing it once a month instead of never, then I’m not sure how much love should be given for that improvement. In other words, both command and control are still issues for Funkhouser, though neither look like a potential fatal flaw. Or, alternatively, just sub out shoe shining for command and you get the idea…
I don’t love the Richards comparison for a few reasons (stylistically, the two couldn’t have deliveries that look more different to my eye), though statistically the two put up some interestingly close numbers. Take it with the same grain of salt you would whenever stats are used to compare amateurs, but Richards at Oklahoma did this (9.07 K/9 and 4.93 BB/9) compared to Funkhouser at Louisville doing this (9.04 K/9 and 4.39 BB/9) so far. Hmm. In terms of career path and ultimate value, maybe it’s a fit. Finally, there’s the man behind the second scouting blurb: Jordan Zimmermann. He’s yet another fastball/slider big league pitcher with little time for much else. He uses the curve as a de facto changeup because, quite honestly, like the other two stars mentioned, his change isn’t very good. I bring up Zimmermann not as a direct comp per se, but as a potential developmental path that Funkhouser could mirror once he hits the pro ranks. I think Funkhouser’s change should be given room to grow rather than ditched, but Zimmermann’s below average change was once said to have “promising action,” so what do any of us really know?
One last bonus comp came to mind as I was working my way through this piece. Before I get to it, an obvious disclaimer that I’d feel guilty leaving unwritten: these are all extreme ceiling comparisons and the likelihood of all but the surest of sure thing amateur prospects (Stephen Strasburg comes to mind) becoming a consistent above-average or better big league pitcher on the level of any of those star players isn’t all that high. This whole profile may not do a great job of getting this point across, but I like Funkhouser more than love him. That’s based on a nagging intuitive feel more than anything concrete, so don’t take it as too big of a knock. I still would strongly consider him with a top ten selection, but I don’t think he’s the slam dunk single-digit pick that many have made him out to be. A guy that was just compared to Richards, Scherzer, and Zimmermann should really be a lock to go 1-1, but that’s why I want it to be clear that I’m only trying to compare elements of his game (and, in some cases, potential best case scenario career paths) to those guys. No literal comps here today. Anyway, the last pitcher that jumped out at me when thinking about Funkhouser had this written about him pre-draft by Baseball America…
He pitches at 90-91 mph, touching 94, and his delivery is clean. The strong-bodied Texan has an intimidating presence on the mound, and he pounds the zone with four pitches. His slider is the better of his two breaking balls, and he features an average changeup.
Funkhouser has a little more present velocity, but otherwise the stuff matches up fairly well to a young Corey Kluber. This article makes plenty of interesting points, but what caught my eye was the mention that Kluber’s fastest and slowest pitches fall within a narrow range of velocity. That’s something I can see Funkhouser eventually doing as he finds his way and adjusts his arsenal to the pro gram. It isn’t something you’d typically consider a good thing for a pitcher, but certain guys can take this perceived negative into a positive. The smaller velocity gap allows the hard stuff to work without a major change of speed because so much of that hard stuff is moving every which way before it gets to the catcher. Timing velocity is one thing, but timing velocity that comes in various shapes is a whole other challenge for a hitter. Movement is paramount, and Funkhouser has the fastball movement and hard breaking ball (slider) to potentially pull off this trick. Like Scherzer, Kluber is a unique developmental case so convincing somebody that you’ve found the “next Kluber” is a justifiably challenging uphill battle. Other fine examples of articles well worth your time can be found here and here; the latter is the best one out there, I think, and reading about Kluber’s impossible to classify breaking ball is something I could do all day. There’s really only one Kluber, just like there’s only one Scherzer, Zimmermann, and Richards, but Funkhouser, at his best, shows elements of each that make him an undeniably intriguing prospect.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you. If you skimmed to the last paragraph to see if I made an attempt to wrap everything up with a pithy conclusion, you’re in luck. Kyle Funkhouser is a really talented young pitcher with the fastball/slider combination that rivals similar one-two punches thrown by some of the game’s best starters. Both his command and control will need to be closely monitored as he transitions to pro ball, but there appears to be no real indication that he is physically or mentally incapable of improving in those areas going forward. There are no concerns about his mechanics nor is their any doubt about his ability to mix his pitches to get through lineups multiple times, so a move to the bullpen doesn’t appear necessary. He’s a future big league two hundred inning workhorse with the ability, especially with improved control and feel for pitching, to one day pitch in a team’s postseason rotation. He should be off the board within the draft’s first dozen or so picks.
JR RHP Kyle Funkhouser (2015)
rSO LHP Josh Rogers (2015)
rSO LHP Robert Strader (2015)
JR RHP/1B Anthony Kidston (2015)
SR 2B/SS Zach Lucas (2015)
JR 1B/3B Dan Rosenbaum (2015)
SR OF Michael White (2015)
SR 2B/SS Sutton Whiting (2015)
SO RHP Zack Burdi (2016)
SO LHP Drew Harrington (2016)
SO RHP Jake Sparger (2016)
SO OF Corey Ray (2016)
SO 2B/OF Nick Solak (2016)
rFR 3B/SS Blake Tiberi (2016)
rFR OF/C Ryan Summers (2016)
SO OF Colin Lyman (2016)
SO C Will Smith (2016)
FR LHP/1B Brendan McKay (2017)
FR SS/2B Devin Hairston (2017)
FR RHP Lincoln Henzman (2017)
FR RHP Kade McClure (2017)
FR C/1B Colby Fritch (2017)
JR RHP Kyle Funkhouser is going to be covered tomorrow. I went from having nothing to say about him — he’s a very what you see is what you get prospect for me, which makes him really good but tough to personally write about — to writing close to 4,000 words. That’ll be up tomorrow morning.
I’ve got nothing but love for SR 2B/SS Sutton Whiting, one of college ball’s foremost examples of how good things can happen if you keep grinding and play within yourself. Whiting can run, throw (though his arm is more accurate than strong), and spoil pitchers’ pitches. Ignore what you’re about to read about Zach Lucas (I really should plan these things better and stop skipping around…) because Whiting is the far better example of a senior sign that you can draft and develop with a clearly designed path to get him to (at least) the upper-minors. He’s a ready-made potential utility player right out of the box with almost all of the standard pluses (speed, patience, glove, arm accuracy) and minuses (power, requisite strikeouts that come with working deep counts, raw arm strength) that you’d expect. I can dig it.
SR 2B/SS Zach Lucas (told you we’d get to him) doesn’t have the power to profile as anything but a defense-first utility player (if that), but he’s a scrappy college player with plus defensive tools and instincts and that’s worth mentioning even if he never makes his mark on pro ball. That’s one type of college senior sign prospect, albeit not exactly the perfect player (Lucas is hitting .208/.310/.309…so just pretend I used Whiting to illustrate this point instead) to use as the archetype: defined role, limited upside, reasonable expectations of reaching/maintaining floor value. A different type of college senior sign prospect is SR OF Michael White. White fits the model of underexposed but physically gifted prospect with as yet untapped (for a variety of reasons) upside. I can’t make any bold proclamation on White’s future, except to t say he’s a really intriguing under the radar name to know in the event your goal is to look smarter (or more annoying) than 99.99% of the world’s baseball loving population. He’s a great athlete with monster raw power and enough speed and instincts for center. He’s never been able to get steady playing time in the Cardinals lineup, so there’s really no telling how good (or not so good) he’d be in an extended look. I hope he gets the chance in pro ball.
rSO LHP Josh Rogers gets swallowed up by the FUNKHOUSER hype, a perfectly understandable yet unfortunate matter of fact that happens when you share a the top of a rotation with a potential top ten pick and one of the nation’s top freshmen (LHP/1B Brendan McKay). Rogers, a Tommy John surgery survivor, has decent velocity for a lefty (85-90, has been up to 92-93 in the past) and a workable breaking ball. He’s always gotten results when called upon (8.13 K/9 and 2.08 BB/9 last year, 7.65 K/9 and 2.18 BB/9 this year), so, if signable (non-stars with two remaining years of eligibility don’t always jump at the first pro offer they get) there’s really no reason why he shouldn’t be drafted and tried as a pro starter this summer. I don’t know anything about fellow rSO LHP Robert Strader except for the fact that he’s a lefty with a quality name (baseball needs more Robert’s) and good size (6-5, 210), but he’s kept guys from scoring the past two seasons (1.93 ERA last year, 1.20 ERA so far this year) and that’s a good thing. He is missing more bats this year (still walking too many guys though), so consider him a name to keep on eye on as we get closer to June until I find more out about him.
JR RHP/1B Anthony Kidston hasn’t hit since 6 AB his freshman year, yet I still list him as a RHP/1B. Some things in life can’t be explained. Or they can be explained very easily: I’m lazy. On the mound, Kidston has struck out over a batter per nine in his career so far (9.43 K/9 to be exact), so you can overlook his ugly 2015 ERA. His stuff doesn’t blow you away, which is a phrase you almost always when a guy doesn’t have a big fastball. Rarely if ever do you hear that with any attention paid to a player’s offspeed stuff. I’m guilty of doing exactly that here as Kidston actually has a pair of solid secondary pitches (CB and CU), but falls short with his heater (86-90). The overall package is draftable for me because of Kidston’s track record, athleticism, and reasonably enticing stuff.
I know college baseball fans have noticed, but I’m not sure how much casual fans of the game realize how Louisville has turned into a professional producing machine in recent years. Next year’s draft will feature Cardinals like SO RHP Zack Burdi (like him a little less as a reliever than his brother, but think he has the higher likelihood of starting as a pro, which could ultimately make him the better prospect), SO OF Corey Ray (one of 2016’s best power/speed athletes who could really take off with a jump in plate discipline), and SO 2B/OF Nick Solak (personal favorite who wins with a great approach and underrated pop and speed). Then there is SO LHP Drew Harrington (commands three pitches and has a 0.30 ERA in 30 IP this year with outstanding peripherals) and rFR 3B/SS Blake Tiberi (another personal favorite who can really, really hit), plus the aforementioned 2017 early round candidate freshman two-way sensation McKay.
JR RHP/C Garrett Kelly (2015)
SR RHP Matt Pirro (2015)
rSO LHP Max Tishman (2015)
rJR RHP Aaron Fossas (2015)
rSR OF Kevin Jordan (2015)
JR OF/2B Joey Rodriguez (2015)
JR OF Luke Czajkowski (2015)
SO C Ben Breazeale (2016)
rFR RHP Chris Farish (2016)
SO 2B/OF Nate Mondou (2016)
SO 3B/RHP Will Craig (2016)
SO RHP John McCarren (2016)
SO RHP Connor Johnstone (2016)
SO RHP Parker Dunshee (2016)
FR OF Stuart Fairchild (2017)
FR INF Bruce Steel (2017)
FR 1B Gavin Sheets (2017)
FR SS Drew Freedman (2017)
FR 3B Justin Yurchak (2017)
I kept reading the names on the list above over and over trying to remember when I had written about them before. I swear I covered Wake Forest already. It had to be this year, right? Maybe last year, but this year made so much more sense. I guess I’m just losing it, I thought, so let’s jot down some quick notes on what I want to say about certain players…
SO 2B/OF Nate Mondou and SO 3B/RHP Will Craig are both names that all Brewers, Phillies, and any other team in the basement should know in advance of next year’s draft. Mondou can really hit, so the question about him will come down to his projected professional position. Craig is doing his best DJ Stewart impersonation so far at the plate: .396/.500/.758 with 31 BB/16 K in 149 AB.
JR OF/2B Joey Rodriguez isn’t big, but his tools are. If he can play second, he’s a real prospect. I keep reading his name as Joely Rodriguez, recently acquired Phillies minor league lefthanded pitcher. Edit that last sentence out before you publish.
SR RHP Matt Pirro has a good arm (88-93 FB, 95 peak) with a knuckle-curve that flashes plus, but his below-average control hasn’t gotten much better over the years. Feels like a late round flier on a guy with arm strength is his best bet. Wonder if his bad control stems from bad mechanics; if so, can it be fixed?
At this point, I got to JR RHP/C Garrett Kelly’s name in my notes. There is no way I didn’t write about him already this year. I couldn’t find the finished Wake Forest copy anywhere. Searched my site and found nothing. Searched my mail (where I write the occasional rough draft of these things) and found…
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. He’s joined in what could be one of the more underrated pitching staffs in the conference. SR RHP Matt Pirro finally started missing bats last season, a development that took longer than expected given his impressive stuff (88-92 FB, 94 peak, kCB that flashes plus) but is surely welcomed by the coaching staff all the same. rSO LHP Max Tishman is another arm with a better than 50/50 shot at being drafted this June.
There’s less to like on the hitting side, but that’s all right because of the mere presence of rSR OF Kevin Jordan running around the diamond. Jordan could still hit his way into draft consideration, but failing to do so wouldn’t be the end of the world. His story may not get that Disney ending of him finally climbing the big league mountain, getting a big hit, and then presenting the game ball to Tom Walter, his head coach that donated a kidney to him before his freshman season, but in the real world we can all accept that both he and his coach are already huge winners. I don’t know anybody in and around the game who isn’t rooting for him to succeed. A complete, healthy season where he can start to realize his substantial potential (speed, defense, power, smarts) is the current goal. JR OF/2B Joey Rodriguez’s story doesn’t carry the same weight, but his tools are pretty darn interesting in their own right. He’s still very raw and not particularly big, but a season where he puts it all together would be exciting. Guys like SO 2B/OF Nate Mondou, SO 3B Will Craig, and SO RHP John McCarren should make this a nice spot for scouts next spring.
Yesssss. I wrote those things on November 29, 2014. Let’s see how wrong they are now. First, the most wrong prediction of all: Garrett Kelly. His line so far this year: 9.68 ERA in 17.2 IP with 11 K and 16 BB. Not sure what the opposite of a helium guy would be, but pretty sure those are the numbers of what one would look like. Google says the opposite of helium is sulfur hexaflouride, by the way. The more you know. Pirro is still missing bats, but the aforementioned control woes undermine the rest of his game. Max Tishman hasn’t been able to get healthy, but I still like his arm if/when he gets back on the mound.
Kevin Jordan is a success even while hitting .167/.265/.333. He’s the kind of guy you keep as the last name on your draft board even through the struggles. Rodriguez has come pretty close to putting it all together this season. My only quibble is his still less than stellar BB/K ratio (17/33 as of now), but he’s done enough to get drafted in my view. Mondou and Craig have delivered, but McCarren, despite possessing the third best ERA on the squad, hasn’t missed bats as needed.
SR RHP Benton Moss (2015)
JR RHP Reilly Hovis (2015)
JR RHP Trent Thornton (2015)
rJR RHP Chris McCue (2015)
SR RHP Trevor Kelley (2015)
JR RHP Taylore Cherry (2015)
JR OF Skye Bolt (2015)
JR OF Josh Merrigan (2015)
JR 3B/2B Landon Lassiter (2015)
JR C Korey Dunbar (2015)
JR SS/OF Alex Raburn (2015)
SO RHP/SS Spencer Trayner (2016)
SO RHP AJ Bogucki (2016)
SO RHP Zac Gallen (2016)
SO LHP Zach Rice (2016)
SO C Adrian Chacon (2016)
SO 1B Joe Dudek (2016)
SO 2B/SS Wood Myers (2016)
SO OF Tyler Ramirez (2016)
SO OF Adam Pate (2016)
FR 3B/RHP Ryder Ryan (2016)
FR 1B/LHP Hunter Williams (2017)
FR SS/3B Zack Gahagan (2017)
FR RHP JB Bukauskas (2017)
FR RHP Hansen Butler (2017)
FR RHP Jason Morgan (2017)
FR OF/2B Logan Warmoth (2017)
FR RHP Brett Daniels (2017)
FR INF Brooks Kennedy (2017)
FR LHP Nick Raquet (2017)
FR INF/OF Brian Miller (2017)
JR OF Skye Bolt, for whatever reason, has become of the bigger lightning rod names in college baseball this year. I swear on all that is important to me that the wording of the previous sentence was not intentional; sadly, I’m not that clever. The point made is true, however. Bolt has some gigantic fans of his game out there that think he’ll be a first-division regular in center field and a tremendous asset both at the plate and in the field. Bolt also has detractors who think he’s overrated going back to high school. In fact, and this is 100% true, I’ve heard from two pretty solid sources and generally really bright guys that Bolt has become an overrated prospect outside of the industry because of his memorable name and little else. If his name was Sam Barnes (or whatever), nobody would pay him much mind, they argue. It’s a pretty fascinating theory and one that I think has more than a kernel of truth to it when you take a step back and examine how the prospect game has changed and evolved as technology and social media access has grown over the past decade or so, but, as a fan of Bolt’s game based solely on what he does on the field and not what’s on his birth certificate, I won’t worry too much about how the dangers of herd mentality internet scouting and the weird Twitter-driven need to be #cool (it’s the same idea as Prom King Comedy but applied to the young guys — man, I sound old right now — who use the technical yet largely meaningless [or, at least, comically over-complicated] scouting jargon and talk down to those who don’t see ten games a week like they do so much so that eventually everybody else just gives up, accepts their expertise, and watch as these self-proclaimed “scouts” land jobs at formerly reputable places like Baseball Prospectus) for now. I just like Bolt because I think he’s good at baseball and will continue to be good at baseball as a professional.
Bolt is a strong prospect because he has a clear set of skills that are above-average or better: he can run, defend in center, and throw at a big league level already. I have no problems with his bat speed — have seen him hit a good fastball more times than I can count — but he does seem to run into an inordinate amount of trouble picking up offspeed stuff out of the pitcher’s hand. I think there’s more power than he’s shown the past two seasons (think double-digit pop in the bigs) and his approach at the plate has remained consistently patient even as his batted ball luck has fluctuated. If it works I can see the same ceiling as those who like him (everyday player who brings value both at the plate and in the field), though I think a more realistic outcome would be fourth outfielder with a chance to keep hitting himself into something more. That’s a bit of a lame hedge, but sometimes the conservative estimation can be the smart play.
JR C Korey Dunbar isn’t really my kind of prospect due to a questionable approach at the plate, but there’s no denying his defensive upside, raw power, and arm strength. I’ve heard from smart people that he’s a breakthrough or two away from really figuring things out at the plate — he’s one of those guys I get consistent “good approach” notes on despite the lackluster BB/K numbers — so maybe, despite thinking he’s likely the best catching prospect in the conference, I’m underrating him still. No surprise, but I’ve always liked JR 3B/2B Landon Lassiter for his patient approach and versatile glove. He’s taken that versatility up a notch this year by playing in the outfield, so now I don’t think it’s crazy to think of him as a viable utility prospect who can play any spot on the diamond save catcher. The fact that doesn’t have much power and probably can’t be called anything better than average at any one defensive position knocks his already modest prospect stock back down to earth. I’d give him a shot late if he’d be willing to sign (for no real reason, I see him as a potential four-year player at UNC), but admit that I might be seeing something in him that really isn’t there.
I’m shocked that I haven’t written much if at all about SR RHP Benton Moss on the site already because I really think the world of him as a prospect. Off the top of my head, I’d have him as the country’s best senior sign pitching prospect. Smart, athletic, competitive, dependable, and with an arm that can crank it to 95 when he needs to, Moss has all the components of a legitimate big league starting pitcher. He’s added to this repertoire over time (most notably two similar yet distinct pitches: a low- to mid-80s slider and a mid-80s cutter) and can now throw any one of four to five pitches (above-average mid-70s CB and upper-70s CU as well) for strikes in any given count. I have no feel at all for when he’ll be selected this June — his big senior season has to help boost his stock, though his recent arm woes (which he’s come back from, but still) could scare some teams off — but I have the feeling that he’ll wind up a really good value for a really happy team.
JR RHP Reilly Hovis getting hurt (TJ surgery) is a major bummer for a pitcher with a really good arm (90-95 FB, above-average 77-83 SL) that could have been a quick-moving top ten round relief option if healthy. I’d take JR RHP Trent Thornton and let his 87-92 (94 peak) fastball, plus upper-70s breaking ball, and average or better upper-70s changeup get regular turns in a pro starting rotation. Same with rJR RHP Chris McCue, a similar sized (6-0, 175 pounds) bullpen stalwart comparable stuff (86-92 FB that peaks at 94 and a pair of good offspeed pitches in an average 78-80 CU and average CB 72-76 that both flash better) and athleticism. Unfortunately, unlike Thornton, McCue has been slow to regain his form after ending last year banged up. I still like the arm talent, so if he’s healthy he’s worth a pick. JR RHP Taylore Cherry disappeared late from the UNC roster this past offseason. Five minutes of searching reveals nothing. I’ll be honest, I had just assumed he was on the roster all year and when I realized today that I hadn’t heard anything about him this year, I figured it was just because he wasn’t playing all that well. I’d argue very few players have had as disappointing a run from big time HS prospect to whatever it is he’s up to now. From my older notes on him…
RHP Taylore Cherry (Butler HS, Ohio): 92 peak FB in early 2011; big jump in velocity expected but never quite realized; new summer 2011 peak of 94, sitting 91-93; good upper-70s CB, 78-81 that might as well be SL; emerging mid-70s CU that he has upped to 83-85 and is now a plus pitch; exceptional control of huge frame; spring 2012 update: 86-87 two-seam FB, 88-91 four-seam FB; good breaking ball; 78-79 CB; 78 SL; 84-86 CU; at his best can throw 91-94 FB with plus sink as well as a 77-79 CB with above-average upside and a low-80s CU with at least average upside, but hasn’t been at his best for a long time; 6-9, 260 pounds
It sounds almost strange to say, but, with the added benefit of hindsight, it might just be that Cherry peaked as a player early on in his high school senior season. We’re all guilty of equating youth with potential, but sometimes a guy is just going to be as good as he’ll ever get and that’s all there is to it. When a high school scouting blurb includes the phrase “but hasn’t been at his best for a long time,” I’d say that’s a red flag for a player’s pro prospects, especially when injury isn’t to blame. It’s a bummer, but that’s baseball. If we can take any lesson from it, then I think we can look at how importance athleticism is for pitching prospects, especially those with frames that require a little extra balance and flexibility to maintain consistent mechanics.
On the opposite side of the spectrum there’s a guy who is so much what is great about the sport. SR RHP Trevor “Everyday” Kelley has more than lived up to his name this year. Kelley has appeared in 28 out of 39 games (72%) this year. That would come out to around 115 appearances in a 162 game season. To further put that into context, Kelley has more innings pitched right now than all but two Tar Heels pitchers. Guys with six (Hunter Williams) and seven (Moss) starts have significantly less innings than Kelley. One of the secrets of adulthood that I feel qualified to share with younger readers now that I’m a wizened old man less than seven months away from turning thirty is that just showing up is a huge part of getting by in this world. Trevor Kelley clearly has that covered. Some people prefer to do more than just get by, so it should be noted that it turns out you can get ahead by actually making a positive difference (or, you know, at least an effort) after you’ve shown up. I’d say pitching almost two innings per appearance (note: it’s closer to 1.2 innings per outing, but we can round up) with an ERA of 2.36 while striking out close to 7.5 batters per nine is a pretty strong impression to leave after each showing. Kelley’s stuff is more solid than spectacular (86-91 FB with sink, CB flashes plus) and he’s never truly dominated in a relief role, but I’d like to think there’s some draft value to be squeezed out of a reliable rubber-armed reliever who attacks hitters at a funky angle.
We’ve finally made it to the ACC, the last remaining division one baseball conference to get the draft “preview” treatment. Below you’ll find my “preseason” all-prospect teams for the conference as well as links (with brief commentary where applicable) to team previews for eleven of the fourteen teams in the ACC. I’d like to do quick write-ups for the three remaining teams (Louisville, North Carolina, Wake Forest) in the coming days (perhaps all at once in a post for tomorrow) because I’m a completist by nature.
Keep in mind that the preseason teams you see below were more or less decided on coming into the season. I made a few minor tweaks, especially on the pitching side (mostly the second team). The one glaring oddity on this list is John LaPrise hanging on to a first team spot despite missing almost the entire season so far, but there weren’t any alternatives that jumped off the page (senior sign Logan Ratledge makes the strongest case) so I let it stand. The outfield was an unexpected mess to figure out outside of the top four names. Talk about a top heavy position. I didn’t rank the pitchers yet within each team, so don’t take the Matuella, Kirby, and Funkhouser 1-2-3 as where I currently see them falling. I need to think on that a bit more.
North Carolina JR C Korey Dunbar
Boston College JR 1B Chris Shaw
Virginia JR 2B John LaPrise
Clemson JR SS Tyler Krieger
Miami JR 3B David Thompson
Florida State JR OF DJ Stewart
North Carolina JR OF Skye Bolt
Virginia JR OF Joe McCarthy
Duke JR RHP Michael Matuella
Virginia JR LHP Nathan Kirby
Louisville JR RHP Kyle Funkhouser
Miami rJR LHP Andrew Suarez
Clemson JR LHP Matthew Crownover
Miami SR C Garrett Kennedy
Florida State rSR 1B Chris Marconcini
North Carolina State SR 2B Logan Ratledge
Virginia SO SS Daniel Pinero
Miami JR 3B George Iskenderian
Clemson JR OF Steven Duggar
Georgia Tech rJR OF Dan Spingola
North Carolina State SR OF Jake Fincher
Clemson JR LHP Zack Erwin
Virginia JR RHP Josh Sborz
North Carolina SR RHP Benton Moss
Duke JR RHP/SS Kenny Koplove
North Carolina State rSO RHP Johnny Piedmonte
Includes comparing Chris Shaw to Ike Davis and Carlos Pena…
Does not include me comparing Matthew Crownover to Adam Morgan, so let me do that right here, right now. As somebody still holding out hope that Morgan can be a league average-ish big league starter, that’s a compliment.
Includes me comparing Michael Matuella tp Zack Wheeler and Kyle Gibson (and definitely NOT Roy Halladay…)
Includes comparing DJ Stewart to Matt Stairs, Billy Butler, Jeremy Giambi, and Carlos Santana…
Really nice college team, but nobody that moves the needle much for me as a pro prospect at the moment…
Includes some thoughts on their top bat (with apologies to SR C Garrett Kennedy, a guy I considered a sleeper last year who disappointed but has come back with a vengeance as an unstoppable force in the Hurricanes lineup and is now one of this class’s finest potential senior signs) and their top arm, both of which I’ve excerpted below to save you the trouble of clicking through…
Through all the ups and downs physically, his [David Thompson] upside on the diamond remains fully intact from his HS days — I had him ranked as the 56th best overall prospect back then — and a big draft season is very much in play if he can stay healthy throughout the year. The bat will play at the next level (above-average raw power, plenty of bat speed, physically strong, plus athleticism, knows how to use the whole field), so the biggest unknown going into this season is where he’ll eventually call home on the defensive side. I’ve liked his chances to stick at third since his prep days; failing that, I’d prioritize a home in the outfield (he’s not known for his speed, but the athleticism and arm strength should make him at least average in a corner) over going to first, where, overall loss of defensive value aside, at least he’s shown significant upside. His strong showing at the end of the summer on the Cape is an encouraging way to get back into the grind of college ball, though he did appear to sacrifice some patience at the plate for power down the stretch. If he can find a way to marry his two existences — college (approach: 35 BB/45 K in his career) and Cape (power) — in this upcoming season (like in his healthy freshman season), Thompson should find himself off the board early this June.
JR LHP Andrew Suarez has the raw stuff to find himself selected once again in the top two rounds this June, but the peripherals leave something to be desired after two seasons (6.33 K/9 in 2013, 7.16 K/9 in 2014). Still, he’s a rapidly improving arm (especially his changeup) who throws a pair of quality breaking balls and can hit 94/95 from the left side. His control has also been really good and he’s been a workhorse for the Hurricanes after labrum surgery (believed to be as minor as a shoulder surgery can get, for what it’s worth) two years ago. He’s a reasonable ceiling (mid-rotation starting pitcher) prospect with a high floor (if healthy, he’s at least a quick-moving reliever). It’s a profile that’s really easy to like, but fairly difficult to love.
Includes an homage to Rick Pitino, which I stand by but admit could be a little harsh looking back on things. SR 2B/3B Logan Ratledge and rSO RHP Johnny Piedmonte aren’t Trea Turner and Carlos Rodon, but they aren’t half-bad, either.
Waiting on next year for 2B/3B Cavan Biggio…
(Also, a good college team like Georgia Tech. Not loaded with 2015 talent, but getting the job done all the same. That’s worth mentioning even as a cold-hearted fan of the pro game only…)
Waiting on next year for RHP TJ Zeuch…
(Not a very good college team like GT and ND, but not every team can be a winning team, right?)
I’m a little bit back and forth with LHP Nathan Kirby yet, though I think the recent overreaction to his below-average (for him) velocity and all-around stuff that can (maybe) be explained away (to a point) due to his recently diagnosed strained lat was a bit much. I still view him as a high-floor, TBD ceiling prospect worthy of the top half of the first round conversation.
rSO OF Saige Jenco’s year hasn’t gone quite the way I was hoping, but SR 2B/SS Alex Perez, SR 1B/RHP Brendon Hayden, and SR LHP/1B Sean Keselica have all done their part to pick up the slack.
Real life has had me busy lately and my queued up supply of posts has finally run dry, so let’s do something a little different. Figure if we’re going to experiment, then Friday is the right day for it, you know? This might be a bit too stream of consciousness-y for some, but we’ll try it anyway.
In a recent Perfect Game piece, a few comps for Arizona JR 2B/OF Scott Kingery, easily one of my favorite college bats in this year’s class, were mentioned. As a sucker for a good comp, I was pleased to see the perfectly logical names Ian Kinsler and Jason Kipnis brought up. I like both, though the last time PG used Kipnis (to my knowledge) was when Frankie Piliere (who is now at D1 Baseball and still great, by the way) compared him to Phillip Ervin. Kingery and Ervin as comp cousins doesn’t pass my personal smell test, but to each his own. On the surface, Kipnis is pretty spot-on for a variety of reasons (same state, same position switch, vaguely similar build); here’s an excerpt from his Baseball America draft scouting report…
Kipnis doesn’t have one standout tool, but can do a little bit of everything. He has a patient approach and a line-drive swing. He has shown he can hit quality pitching, though he doesn’t profile for big power with a wood bat, making him a potential tweener. While his defense in center field has improved, he doesn’t have the range to stay there long-term–yet he might not hit enough to man a corner spot. He may also get a chance to try second base.
I like it more than love it, but it’s at least worth thinking about. I’d say, if anything, Kingery is ahead of where Kipnis was as a prospect at a similar point in their respective development. Kingery’s glove is definitely ahead, both in terms of getting a head start at second base and being flat better across the board. You could make an argument for Kipnis’s bat being ahead back then, but I’d personally go with Kingery’s upside with the stick all the same. Fun final college season stat comparison…
ANYWAY, this post isn’t even about Kingery. I mean, it kind of is because the PG piece got me thinking about other potential comps for Kingery. One of my favorites that I heard recently is a slightly more physical version of Ray Durham, an massively underrated player who can lead you down a very long, very weird Baseball-Reference rabbit hole if you’re not careful. I say that because — big surprise — that’s exactly what happened to me this afternoon. But this post isn’t solely about Kingery because I, of course, had to take things a step further. Self-obsessed individual that I am, I had to check my own damn site to see if I had mentioned Durham in the past. Turns out I had…
2B Willie Calhoun (Benicia HS, California): love his hit tool, easy above-average; average defender; gap power; average speed; good enough arm; great patience; PG Ray Durham comp; have heard a shorter Jay Bell; 5-8, 170 pounds
Good old Willie Calhoun. Went to Arizona for a year, scuffled somewhat at first glance but wound up holding his own more than most non-stud freshman (.247/.345/.301 with 19 BB/11 K in 146 AB), and doing more of the same on the Cape that summer (.245/.331/.331 with 15 BB/15 K in 139 AB), all before transferring to Yavapai JC (Kyle Blanks, Kole Calhoun, Curt Schilling, and Ken Giles all passed through there, among others) where he’s now hitting a robust .443/.520/.940 with 24 BB/8 K in 167 AB. Wait, what: .443/.520/.940 with 24 BB/8 K in 167 AB? All obvious caveats (mainly level of competition and geography/playing conditions) aside, those are numbers of a player worth knowing more about, right?
When a player is literally hitting a homer every other game (or close to it: 22 HR in 47 G), then learning more seems like the smart play. Yavapai’s status as a consistently strong junior college program (they are 34-14 this year) who produce a good bit of big league talent (see the list above) and fields a team this year with a potential top five round pitcher in SO RHP Chandler Eden (Oregon State transfer) and another intriguing prospect in SO 3B Luke Doyle all add up to there being plenty of scouting heat at their games this season. I did a little digging to see what some are saying while also going back deeper into my notes on him from his high school days.
Calhoun has experience over the years at second, third, and in the outfield. At last check he’s not particularly great at any of those spots, but should be around average at his natural position of second base with continued work. Average-ish glove at multiple spots, average wheels, and an average at best arm (that might be generous, but it at least plays at second) can all be worked around with a bat like Calhoun’s. In addition to his innate ability for hard contact, he has a very well-trained eye that allows him to swing at “his” pitches and spit on those he doesn’t like. He has no problem hitting with two strikes and excels at driving the ball to all fields. The uptick in power this year lends credence to those I talked to while Calhoun was still in HS who believed he could eventually develop his way into double-digit professional home run pop. The overall offensive profile is quite appealing for a player with a strong chance to stick up the middle, to say nothing of when you should be able to grab him in the draft (hint: not early) and what the expectations of him will be as he enters pro ball.
If you read the site often, then you know I don’t do “sleepers” because — really — what does that word even mean anyway, and Calhoun was too well-regarded out of high school to fit what I personally think the term should mean, but if you want to go ahead and call him that, I won’t stop you. What he lacks in size, exposure, and over the top physical ability, he more than makes up for in the batter’s box. I love loud tools as much as anybody, but there will always be a place in the game for a hitter like Calhoun who can crack line drives pole to pole, work deep counts, and sneak a few over the fence when he’s feeling strong.
Nathan Kirby – 66.3%
Michael Matuella – 55.8%
Walker Buehler – 62.7%
Dillon Tate – 67.8%
Carson Fulmer – 45.7%
Kyle Funkhouser – 60.4%
Phillip Bickford – 53.3%
Jake Lemoine – 58.5%
Kyle Twomey – 61.3%
Alex Young – 60.4%
First, a quick thanks for all those that stumble across this site for whatever reason and click around a bit to see what we’ve been working on. An even bigger thanks to those of you who knowingly come back time after time. I never had expectations in terms of traffic, but it’s still pretty cool to see things trending upwards the way they have over the past few months. Yesterday was a non-June record high for the site, which is both exciting and more than a little funny since it happened on one of the very few weekdays I didn’t publish a post (did my TAXES and went to the DENTIST instead because I’m an ADULT now) since the start of December. This has easily been the most fun I’ve had covering a draft and we’re only getting started.
I’ve been sky high on Kirby in the past, so seeing some of the reports of him having less than stellar stuff in recent starts is a definite bummer. I’m still choosing to believe that he’s being knocked a tad unfairly by experts who put more stock (rightly or wrongly, it’s up to you to decide) in the one outing or so that they see firsthand than the information they gather along the way from individuals who see a player far more often, but it’s a situation well worth monitoring going forward.
Like many experts have already alluded to — or, in one case, reported and then quickly deleted for reasons unknown — concerns within baseball about Matuella’s recovery from Tommy John surgery are far less than whatever is going on with Brady Aiken’s left elbow. That said, since rumblings of complications have not yet manifested themselves in concrete news items, I’d still rank the more talented Aiken ahead of Matuella as of this second. There’s been so much interesting stuff written about the Tommy John procedure (much of it concluding with an attitude of “hey, let’s all pump the breaks on assuming it’s an easy in/out recovery and appreciate how rare it is for even the best athletes to overcome tearing a ligament in the most important part of their body”) over the past few months that I’m now wary of putting either prospect in the top ten conversation. Based on what we think we know at this point — a dangerous game to be sure, but it’s all we’ve got right now — any team drafting Aiken, and to a lesser extent Matuella, has to be prepared for the possibility that they’ll wind up getting nothing out of the pick. I think both players are talented enough, hard working enough, and young enough to recover and eventually pitch in the big leagues, but I’m no doctor…and even if I was, I wouldn’t know anything from the outside looking in at this point. Confusing stuff, really. This may just confuse things further (I’ve waffled a bit since then), but I wrote this to a friend (tried to edit out as much of the local spin as possible) the day after Aiken announced he had the surgery. Much of it presupposes that Aiken’s injury is more standard than what the rumors of late have indicated. I can only hope that this is the case for all involved. Here’s what I wrote last month…
Brady Aiken very stealthily went under the knife last night to repair his busted elbow. Everybody knew he wasn’t right, and in a weird way I’m glad that this was the cause for his average stuff of late. The success rate for Tommy John surgery isn’t what it used to be — it went from a scary thing to a seemingly normal thing and now it’s back to being kind of scary again — but it’s still a reliable enough procedure that I think I’d take it (with appropriate recovery time) over some of the other rumored possibilities (back, shoulder, hip). What does it all mean for the top of the draft?
I’d personally still consider taking Aiken with a top ten pick, but only if everybody in the organization was on the same page about his recovery and development. If it was up to me, I’d plan on him not pitching in a real game until the end of June 2016 (when Rookie ball starts) at the earliest. That’s admittedly a tough pill to swallow since teams picking in the top ten need RESULTS NOW out of their picks to an extent (you don’t have to give in to public pressure and much of the public doesn’t really follow the draft so much anyway, but some teams value this more than others), so I’d understand the trepidation felt by those against the pick. I’d be adamant about holding him out until I was sure he was right. The research on “rushing” guys back is pretty illuminating and a sobering reminder that any arm surgery is a big deal. If you really want to consider the long view, then fourteen months should be the prescribed minimum for this kind of thing per the numbers. Of course, everybody is built differently and standardizing recovery times and rehabilitation has it’s own downsides.
As to that last point, Lucas Giolito is the easiest point of reference from recent history. He was back from TJ in a crazy ten months: surgery on 8/31/12 and back in game action 7/3/13. The ongoing recovery of Jeff Hoffman should also be considered. I think there’s a non-zero chance that those players could both be freaks (in a great way), so it’s hard to use them as measuring sticks. Aiken strikes me as another freaky athlete with the chance to get back on the mound quicker than most, but that’s without knowing the extent of the injury. As far as the draft goes, it’s far from a sure thing teams picking in the back half of the top ten/early teens will even get a chance at Aiken. An injured Hoffman went ninth in the very same draft that a healthy Aiken went first. If Hoffman could go ninth in a better draft (an arguable point, but I freely admit that I hold the minority view that this year’s top half of the first round is every bit as good as last year’s…though with every passing injury this becomes a more difficult position to maintain), then why couldn’t the more talented Aiken do the same or better this year?
My number one hope above all else right now is for whatever team that drafts Aiken does so with a plan in place for his recovery. More to the point, I hope they take the long view with him and don’t give in to rushing his recovery in any way. He’s so damn talented (and young for his class) that the lost developmental time is hardly a killer in the long run. After getting his feet wet in Rookie ball next summer, he could be on a path that would include combined A ball in 2017, AA in 2018, and a shot at the big leagues at some point in 2019. That’s probably too slow a timeline for most fans and/or bosses with jobs on the line (he’d still just be 23 that August), so I could see wanting to pass on him. You could conceivably move that up a bit (skip Low-A, go A+/AA in 2017, AA/AAA in 2018 before potentially getting an audition for the ’19 rotation that September), but, advanced or not (and he is quite advanced, make no mistake), that’s a really aggressive path for a “high school” arm like Aiken. And, of course, this all assumes no setbacks, on the field or otherwise.
As mentioned previously, I think there is enough high-end pitching talent in this class that passing on an injured pitcher like Aiken or Matuella (who has looked really good and healthy of late), talented as they may be, would be justified. I’d lean towards taking the risk right now, but that’s easy to say in March…and when all that is at stake is your internet reputation and not your livelihood.
See the bolded part in that last paragraph? See how quickly things can change when following the draft? Damn. I’ve just depressed myself unintentionally from the past. Let’s get positive…
Buehler and Tate: both as advertised all year long. Strong argument to be made that they are the 1-2 in terms of college pitching in this class, though the order would be flipped (Tate then Buehler). Funkhouser and Twomey have also come on strong of late. I think the former might just pitch his way into top ten lock status soon (I’m still more in like with him than in love with him, but I’m a bit behind on his recent performances so we’ll see) while the latter could still sneak himself into the back of the first round.
Vanderbilt JR RHP Walker Buehler
Vanderbilt JR RHP Carson Fulmer
Kentucky JR RHP Kyle Cody
Auburn JR RHP Trey Wingenter
Texas A&M JR RHP Grayson Long
Missouri JR RHP Alec Rash
Florida JR RHP Eric Hanhold
Arkansas JR RHP Trey Killian
Tennessee JR LHP Drake Owenby
Vanderbilt SO LHP John Kilichowski
Before we get to some updated stuff, here are a few words I’ve written about some of the SEC’s top pitching prospects (or so I thought…if I could get a do-over on some of those Second Team picks above, I sure would) from before the season…
Vanderbilt JR RHP Walker Buehler
Beyond his smarts, pitchability, command, athleticism, and groundball tendencies, Buehler sticks out to me for having two legitimate, distinct above-average to plus breaking balls. They can run into each other at times — I’ve seen an unhealthy amount of baseball in my life and consider myself reasonably bright, but distinguishing between curves, sliders, and even cutters isn’t a personal strength — especially when they are both in the low-80 MPH range, but there’s enough separation between his mostly upper-70s curve (77-83, really) and his “hard CB” from high school (then 78-82) that is now a fully formed 80-85 slider that both get swings and misses. I will say that in my experience viewing him and talking to smarter people who have seen him way more, the two pitches don’t often seem to be in that above-average to plus range within the same game. I’d like to chart a few of his starts to test the validity of this claim, but it’s been said to me that he’ll figure out which breaking ball is working early in the game and then lean on it almost exclusively as his breaker of choice throughout the game. The ability to spin two quality breaking balls on top of an impressive fastball (90-94, 96 peak) and average mid-80s sinking changeup that flashes much better on top of all of Buehler’s previous strengths and two arguable weaknesses (size and inconsistencies with his breaking balls) make him a difficult pitcher to find an instructive comparable player for. Some of the names I’ve tossed out as ceiling comparisons over the past few years include Roy Oswalt, Javier Vazquez, and Julio Teheran. All of those work and don’t work for various reasons, I think. I also think I like Buehler so much as a prospect that I’m cool with dropping the Zack Greinke with a harder curve comp that’s been on my mind with him for a while now. It’s not meant to be a comparison we all get crazy carried away with — Greinke was already in the big leagues at Buehler’s current age, after all — but in terms of the total present prospect package of stuff, pitchability, build, and frame, I think it works very well.
Vanderbilt JR RHP Carson Fulmer
Fulmer has had almost as much success as Buehler through two college seasons with their only significant difference coming in the former’s more common bouts of wildness. It’s not the kind of wildness that raises any kind of red flags, but rather something that falls somewhere between the typical developmental path of an electric young arm and the potential start of a long, fruitful run of being “effectively wild” from now until the day he retires. That aside, the biggest real question about Fulmer will be future big league role. I’d like to think I’ve long shown a willingness to allow players to play themselves from bigger roles (starting, up-the-middle defensive spots, etc.) to smaller roles, so it should be no shock that I’d run Fulmer out as a starter for as long as he shows he is capable of holding down the job in pro ball. A big part of believing in Fulmer as a starter is the fact that his stuff does not appear to appreciably suffer in longer outings. He has the three pitches he’ll need to go through lineups multiple times (mid-90s FB, honest 99 peak; plus low-80s breaking ball; mid-80s changeup with promise) and more than enough deception in his delivery to make him a tough matchup in almost any circumstance. There is some fair cause for concern that his delivery — I’m not expert on these things and I mostly only care that it’s repeatable, but it’s rough enough that even I can see what the fuss is about — won’t allow him to hold up throwing 200+ innings a season. This isn’t the only reason why Buehler is universally regarded as the better prospect (see the silly amount of fawning I do over him above for more), but it’s a big one. Not all drafts are created equal, but I have a hard time imagining Fulmer falling too far on draft day one year after a very similar pitcher in Grant Holmes went 22nd overall.
Auburn JR RHP Trey Wingenter
Put me down as believing JR RHP Trey Wingenter is in store for a monster 2015 campaign. All of the pieces are there for a big season: legit fastball (88-94, 95/96 peak), a pair of breaking balls ranging from average (mid-70s CB) to better than that (mid-80s SL), an average or better CU, a very low-mileage arm (only 36 innings through two college seasons), and an imposing yet still projectionable 6-7, 200 pound frame.
Missouri JR RHP Alec Rash
Rash has been a hot name in prospect circles (78th ranked prospect in 2012 here) since his high school days. He couldn’t come to terms with the Phillies that same year after being selected with the 95th overall pick. Things haven’t gone quite according to script for him at Missouri (less than 50 combined innings pitched to date), but he’s missed bats when called upon (8.15 K/9 last year) and still flashes pro-caliber stuff. The lack of innings only presents an issue in how it’s limited opportunities for him to further develop the third pitch he’d likely need to start as a professional. Nobody questions his fastball (90-95), slider (low-80s, flashes plus), frame (6-6, 200), athleticism, or work ethic, so it’ll mostly come down to how he looks in an expanded role and whether or not his mid-80s changeup impresses evaluators enough to project him in a starting role going forward. He’ll be a high pick either way, but showing he can start could mean the difference between a top three round selection and a top seven round selection.
Arkansas JR RHP Trey Killian
JR RHP Trey Killian’s performances through two year are confusing. His first year was quite strong (8.59 K/9 and 2.95 BB/9), but he did it in limited innings (36.2). Last year he proved to be more of a workhorse (94 IP) and he did a great job of keeping runs off the board (2.30 ERA), but he missed way less bats (5.94 K/9) yet wound up improving his control (1.72 BB/9). Good, less good, good, good, less good, good…you see how he can confuse even the most brilliant internet baseball writers, right? His track record, stuff (88-92 FB, 94 peak; good cutter; really good yet underused low-80s CU; above-average slider; usable curve), command, and athleticism all add up to strong back of the rotation starter material, so maybe I’m overthinking it with him anyway. Or maybe I’m still waiting on a year when he combines really good peripherals with really good run prevention and we all point to him as a guy who figured it out enough to get the bump to middle of the rotation material. That’s my hope — I want to say expectation, but I’m not quite there — for Killian in 2015. He’s the best returning arm on the Arkansas staff either way.
Tennessee JR LHP Drake Owenby
JR LHP Drake Owenby, the owner of one of the sport’s most difficult to scout fastballs, will need to reign in his serious control issues if he wants to get himself selected in a draft range commiserate with his considerable raw stuff. At his best, he’s got a big league fastball (more on that in a second), a well above-average mid-70s curve that flashes plus, and an underdeveloped but plenty intriguing changeup. His walks have been out of hand to date, but he’s missed bats along the way (8.53 K/9 in 25.1 IP last year) and he’s the kind of athlete you believe will figure out some of his mechanical issues (and corresponding control woes) along the way. As for that aforementioned confounding fastball: at least in my looks, Owenby has added and subtracted from his heater to a degree that I can’t recall an honest to goodness amateur prospect doing so before. My notes have his fastball at literally anywhere between 85-95 (most often 88-92ish, like about 95% of the pitchers I see), and there doesn’t appear to be any external cause (e.g. injury, game situation, weather conditions) for the fluctuations. Owenby is a weird, fun prospect who also just so happens to be, you guessed it, pretty good.
I’ll personally champion Walker Buehler as a candidate to go 1-1 because there’s little in his profile to suggest anything but a consistently above-average big league starting pitcher. Zack Greinke Lite with a firmer curve was my original comparison for him, and I’m sticking with it. Though I’d be fairly surprised if the Diamondbacks of all teams considered either Vandy arm with their pick, I personally believe that Carson Fulmer deserves to be in the 1-1 on merit. There’s something about so many tripping over themselves to talk about Dillon Tate (who is also awesome, just so we’re clear), but unwilling to go there with Fulmer that makes me laugh a bit. Worst case scenario he’s a better version of Joel Peralta (and much quicker moving), middle ground has him becoming an impact reliever like David Robertson, and his ceiling could be a little bit like a (WARNING: weird comp not to be taken literally ahead!) righthanded Gio Gonzalez. Or, if you hate my comps, just think solid middle reliever or elite closer or electric if a tad wild above-average starter. It’s a fun spectrum with both a reasonably high floor and pretty thrilling ceiling.
The third member of the presumed Vanderbilt weekend rotation also happened to rank third on the pre-season version of this list. I had to make a rare edit, however, because keeping Tyler Ferguson that high just straight up makes no sense at all. I hate saying that because he’s a really talented young pitcher, but until he can figure out the root cause for his serious control problems (categorized by some as a case of the dreaded “yips”) then he’ll remain one of the draft’s most mysterious prospects. Area scouts will earn their money and then some if they can properly identify whether or not whatever Ferguson’s got going on is correctable because it’s a fantastic arm otherwise.
Kentucky JR RHP Kyle Cody takes Ferguson’s place in the three spot (jumping all the way up from four!), which is only right because he has been really good this year. Good year + big guy (6-7, 250) + big stuff (mid-90s FB peaking at 98, chance for two average or better offspeed pitches) = serious prospect. I’ve seen and heard some top ten talk for Cody, but that seems a little much. Still, he’s a good one. I go back and forth on him, Auburn JR RHP Trey Wingenter (covered above and having a solid year), and Texas A&M JR RHP Grayson Long for the best non-Vanderbilt pitching prospect in the conference. It’s Cody for now, but Long seems like the stiffest competition going forward.
As far as unsigned 2012 high school pitchers go, only Buehler, Hunter Virant, Kyle Twomey, Trey Killian, and Keaton Haack ranked ahead of Long. Right behind him were Fulmer, Justin Garza, Alec Rash, Ryan Burr, and Cody Poteet. I dug that up initially because of wanting to talk about Long, but look at those names again. Long is obviously in the SEC now, and check out the rest (in order): SEC, Pac-12, Pac-12, SEC, SEC (Haack started at Alabama), SEC, Big West, SEC, Pac-12, and Pac-12. As a dispassionate observer of who actually wins and loses these games, I stay out of the conference pissing contests…so draw your own conclusions there. As for Long, here’s what I wrote about him back in his HS days…
62. RHP Grayson Long (Barbers Hill HS, Texas): 88-91 FB, 93 peak; good 80 CU; 75-77 CB with upside; SL with plus upside, but still a really inconsistent pitch; delivery ready for the pros; similar prospect to Walker Weickel in many ways, for better or worse; love his FB – command and movement make it a plus pitch even without big present velocity; has fallen off in the eyes of many this spring, but the long-term value is still very high; 6-6, 190 pounds
I like the Weickel comparison not because it was particularly prescient or anything (at this point in each player’s respective development, who knows), but, assuming it has even the slightest shed of validity, we can then compare/contrast each player’s career as if they are the same person living alternate timelines. Or not. It’s an admittedly silly exercise because there are way too many factors to ever pull off a realistic enough experiment to draw conclusions, but I still find it amusing. Anyway….
Long hasn’t progressed quite as much as I was expecting back then, but that’s not to say he hasn’t progressed at all. It’s been a slow and steady climb for him, and the results so far this year indicate that real honest improvements have been made. Long lives 88-92, but can climb up to 94-95 when needed, though those mid-90s figures are an admittedly rare occurrence. The fact that the long and lean high school version of Long, thought for all the world to be full of projection and potentially of capable of eventually lighting up radar guns once he filled out, hasn’t added much to his fastball can be taken either as a negative (for obvious reasons) or a positive (he’s pitched damn well even without the big fastball and there could yet be some more in the tank coming) depending on your world view. All of those other extras that made me fall for his heater in the first place remain, and I’d call his fastball a plus pitch still even without the knockout velocity. There still isn’t one consistent offspeed pitch that he can lean on from start to start, but there are enough flashes of his change and slider that you can understand what the finished product could look like.
If Tyler Ferguson is one of this draft’s bigger mysteries, then Alec Rash and Florida JR RHP Eric Hanhold have to be right there with him. Rash (see above) might be my favorite pitcher who hasn’t actually pitched. Hanhold hasn’t pitched much either (12.1 IP as of 4/11) and been wild when given his shot (7 BB), but I still like the overall package. I’ll stubbornly hold out hope for both because the arm talent is hard to give up on, inconsistent college careers be damned.
Ferguson’s stumble this season has opened the door for draft-eligible sophomore (he’ll be 21 in May) LHP John Kilichowski to slide in as Vanderbilt’s third best 2015 pro pitching prospect. He was great as a freshman last year (8.61 K/9 and 1.57 ERA in 23 IP) and has continued to do good things in 2015 (44 K/11 BB in 37.2 IP). His fastball isn’t an overpowering pitch (86-92), so he wisely leans on a pair of average or better offspeed offerings (mid-70s CB, upper-70s CU) to help him miss bats. Good stuff, solid track record, relatively fresh arm, and plenty of size (6-5, 210) all coming in from the left side? Nice. Statistically he’s had a very similar season to teammate rJR LHP Philip Pfeifer, yet another potential early pick off the Commodores staff. Pfeifer can’t match Kilichowski’s size or track record as a starter, but his fastball is a tick faster (94 peak) and his curve a bit sharper. How much of that can be attributed to his fastball/curveball combo playing up in shorter outings – in fairness, though he’s pitched out of the bullpen exclusively this season he almost always goes multiple innings at a time – or just having flat better stuff is up for the smarter area guys to decide. I give Kilichowski the edge for now based on what I know, but I can see it being a coin flip for many.
Florida rSO RHP Mike Vinson is another pitcher who hasn’t pitched much, but when he has he’s had the chance to show off a nasty cutter that ranks as one of the nation’s best pitches of its kind. I’ve banged the drum for Mississippi rSR RHP Scott Weathersby before, so what’s one more bold statement with a ton of weird qualifiers: of all of college baseball’s current relievers who aren’t primary closing options for their team, he’s the safest bet to pitch in the big leagues.
Tennessee JR RHP/1B Andrew Lee is a fascinating two-way prospect currently killing it on both ends. When he finally gets a chance to concentrate full time on pitching then he could really take off. His teammate, LHP Andy Cox, is one of my favorite “sleepers,” thanks in part to his well-rounded arsenal (88-91 FB, average or better low-80s SL, average or better CU) that could make him an interesting relief to rotation project in the pro ranks.
There are a ton of pitchers that I don’t yet have the time to cover as much as they deserve, but rest assured all of the following have had really good starts to the season worthy of more attention than they are getting: Auburn rJR RHP Justin Camp, Florida SR LHP Bobby Poyner, LSU rSO RHP Hunter Newman, Mississippi rSO RHP Brady Bramlett, Georgia JR LHP Ryan Lawlor, Georgia JR RHP Sean McLaughlin, Georgia rJR RHP David Sosebee, Mississippi State SR RHP Trevor Fitts, Missouri JR RHP Peter Fairbanks, Missouri JR RHP Reggie McClain (the most famous name of the bunch and arguably the best), Missouri JR RHP Breckin Williams, South Carolina JR LHP Jack Wynkoop, Tennessee SR RHP Bret Marks, Texas A&M JR LHP Matt Kent, Texas A&M JR RHP Andrew Vinson, and Texas A&M LHP AJ Minter. All of those players will be higher on an updated ranking.
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching
- Vanderbilt JR RHP Walker Buehler
- Vanderbilt JR RHP Carson Fulmer
- Kentucky JR RHP Kyle Cody
- Auburn JR RHP Trey Wingenter
- Texas A&M JR RHP Grayson Long
- Missouri JR RHP Alec Rash
- Florida JR RHP Eric Hanhold
- Arkansas JR RHP Trey Killian
- Tennessee JR LHP Drake Owenby
- Vanderbilt SO LHP John Kilichowski
- Vanderbilt JR RHP Tyler Ferguson
- Missouri JR RHP Reggie McClain
- Florida rSO RHP Mike Vinson
- Mississippi rSR RHP Scott Weathersby
- Tennessee JR RHP/1B Andrew Lee
- Tennessee JR LHP Andy Cox
- Texas A&M JR LHP/OF AJ Minter
- Florida rJR RHP Aaron Rhodes
- Kentucky JR RHP Dustin Beggs
- Alabama rJR RHP Jake Hubbard
- Alabama JR RHP Ray Castillo
- Alabama JR RHP Will Carter
- Louisiana State rSO RHP Hunter Newman
- Mississippi rJR LHP Christian Trent
- Mississippi rSO RHP Brady Bramlett
- Texas A&M SO LHP Tyler Stubblefield
- Mississippi rSO RHP Jacob Waguespack
- Mississippi JR RHP Sean Johnson
- Auburn SR RHP Rocky McCord
- Missouri JR RHP Breckin Williams
- Texas A&M JR RHP/INF Andrew Vinson
- Texas A&M JR LHP Ty Schlottmann
- South Carolina JR LHP Jack Wynkoop
- Arkansas SR RHP Jacob Stone
- Tennessee SR RHP Bret Marks
- Mississippi State SR RHP Trevor Fitts
- Louisiana State SR RHP Zac Person
- Tennessee SR RHP Eric Martin
- Tennessee JR RHP Steven Kane
- South Carolina SR LHP Vincent Fiori
- Alabama SR LHP Taylor Guilbeau
- Louisiana State rSO RHP Russell Reynolds
- Tennessee SR RHP Peter Lenstrohm
- South Carolina SR RHP Cody Mincey
- Alabama SR LHP Jonathan Keller
- Mississippi SR RHP Sam Smith
- Kentucky rJR LHP Matt Snyder
- Alabama rSO LHP/OF Colton Freeman
- Alabama JR RHP/C Mitch Greer
- Georgia JR RHP/OF Sean McLaughlin
- Texas A&M SO RHP Cody Whiting
- Mississippi State rSO RHP Paul Young
- Missouri JR RHP Brandon Mahovlich
- Florida JR LHP Danny Young
- Missouri rJR RHP John Miles
- Florida SR LHP Bobby Poyner
- Texas A&M SR RHP Jason Freeman
- Kentucky JR LHP Dylan Dwyer
- Georgia SR RHP Jared Cheek
- Georgia rJR RHP David Sosebee
- Kentucky JR LHP Ryne Combs
- Georgia JR LHP Ryan Lawlor
- Georgia JR RHP David Gonzalez
- Florida JR RHP Taylor Lewis
- Auburn rJR RHP Justin Camp
- Kentucky SR RHP Andrew Nelson
- Vanderbilt rJR LHP Philip Pfeifer
- Mississippi State JR RHP Myles Gentry
- Kentucky SR RHP Spencer Jack
- Arkansas rSR RHP Jackson Lowery
- Auburn SR RHP Jacob Milliman
- Missouri JR RHP Peter Fairbanks
- Texas A&M JR LHP Matt Kent
- Louisiana State SR LHP Kyle Bouman
- Missouri SR RHP Jace James
Louisiana State JR C Chris Chinea
South Carolina SR 1B Kyle Martin
Louisiana State JR 2B Alex Bregman
Vanderbilt JR SS Dansby Swanson
Florida SR 3B Josh Tobias
Florida JR OF Harrison Bader
Louisiana State JR OF Andrew Stevenson
Tennessee JR OF Christin Stewart
Georgia JR C Zack Bowers
Vanderbilt rJR 1B Zander Wiel
South Carolina JR 2B Max Schrock
Georgia rSO 3B Trevor Kieboom
Florida SR 3B Josh Tobias
Tennessee JR OF/LHP Vincent Jackson
Vanderbilt JR OF Rhett Wiseman
Arkansas SO OF Andrew Benintendi
There are so many prospects here that I’m going to do my best to touch on as many as possible as we whip around the diamond. There are some quoted bits from previous entries when applicable so this isn’t entirely original content, but it’s over 6,000 words…and that’s before we get to the pitching. Buckle up.
LSU JR C Chris Chinea is a good athlete with a big raw power and a solid defensive reputation. His teammate SR C Kade Scivicque joins him in what has to be one of college ball’s top catching tandems. It would hardly be a surprise to see the talented Scivicque get selected before Chinea with the former’s senior sign status giving him the edge for teams that view them as comparable talents. I look at Texas A&M SR C Mitchell Nau in a similar way to Scivicque: both are solid senior signs that should come relatively cheaply, provide a steadying presence for young arms, and give you a chance at a big league backup catcher down the line.
Alabama SO C Will Haynie has obvious upside in his 6-5, 230 pound frame. Catchers built like that with plus raw power and plus arm strength get chances even when the overall package – Haynie struggled badly last season and has only made modest improvements in 2015 — doesn’t amount to what you’d expect. A team might bet on his tools higher than expected, but I think the most realistic outcome would be a return to Tuscaloosa in 2016. No need to rush Haynie just because he’s a draft-eligible sophomore, though I suppose the question as to whether or not his development would be better served in college or in the pros going forward is one worth asking. I typically side with the pro side on matters like these, but Haynie needs the kind of at bats that playing every day in the SEC would give him. He’s almost too raw a player to take on the pros right now; I’d worry that he’d get lost in the shuffle of pro ball as even the best player development staffs can only take on so many projects at any one time.
Georgia JR C Zack Bowers can’t match Haynie in terms of sheer mass (Bowers is listed at 6-1, 200), but offers a similarly appealing plus raw power/plus arm strength package. His glove remains a work in progress, but the strides he has made as a hitter this year have been encouraging. He’s still going to swing and miss more than you’d like, but there’s a chance with continued work he can get that aspect under enough control to put his big raw power to use. I’ve personally moved away from the arm/power catcher archetype in recent years (I know lean towards athleticism and plate discipline), but the upside of a player like Bowers is undeniable. To an extent, how much you like Bowers (and Haynie, for that matter) comes down to how much confidence you have in your player development staff working with these kinds of players. If you believe that you can coach up defense and approach, then the raw talent of the arm/power catchers supersedes any concerns. I can buy that defense can always be improved – the Cubs sure seem to think so – but changing a guy’s approach at the plate is a gigantic challenge.
If he can convince teams that he can work defensively as a four-corners (1B/3B/LF/RF) prospect, then South Carolina JR 1B Kyle Martin could wind up drafted higher than most other straight college first basemen in his class. He has the athleticism and arm strength to pull off such a move, though it remains to be seen if the primary first baseman can make the transition in pro ball. As a hitter he’s improved every season – especially in the power department – enough to make a case that he could just keep mashing enough to get a shot down the line even if he’s locked into first base only. Of course, we say it every year and it bears repeating yet again: the tremendous offensive demands of the position makes projecting any amateur first basemen as a regular a long shot. Guys who can play multiple spots – like Martin potentially, as well as LSU SR 1B Conner Hale (who has also seen time at 2B and 3B), Georgia JR 1B Morgan Bunting (3B/OF…when he plays), and Auburn JR 1B Dylan Smith (OF…when he plays) – tend to wind up the most interesting prospects on draft day.
I liked Vanderbilt rJR 1B Zander Wiel last season as a draft-eligible redshirt sophomore, so it should be no shock that I like him again as a draft-eligible redshirt junior. Power, strength, and enough patience make him one of college ball’s better first base prospects. When I wonder here about why certain guys don’t get talked about more, I sometimes stop and think, “Well, how much have I publicly praised the player?” Almost always, I haven’t. I’ve thought about him a lot and maybe fired off some behind-the-scenes type things about the guy, but never given him the public recognition he deserves. That’s one of the reasons I’m glad I did this conference previews even if they did monopolize much of my free time over the past few months. There are so many more players that aren’t projected to be top ten picks that baseball fans should know about, and a quality first base prospect at one of the best programs in the country is one of them.
And now for something totally different. Mississippi SR 1B Sikes Orvis is one of college ball’s most famous names. His colorful personality, noteworthy facial hair (since lopped off, sadly), egg-like bod, and near weekly appearances on ESPN’s coverage of the SEC make him a worthy ambassador for the game and one of the most well-known players to casual college baseball/draft fans (if you’re an athlete who my wife recognizes on TV as she flicks by, then you’re famous). On top of all that, he’s also a pretty good college baseball player. He’s a better athlete and defender than his body suggests, and his power bat is nothing to mess with. The profile is a long shot to ever top out as anything but a 4A slugger, but it’ll be a fun ride. Equally entertaining plus-sized Mississippi State rSR 1B Wes Rea is in the same boat. I don’t know how high he’ll climb in the minors, but all eyes will be on the 6-5, 275 pound ATHLETE at every minor league park he sets foot in. That’s more than most mid-round prospects can say, so I’d argue he’s already ahead of the game.
LSU JR 2B/SS Alex Bregman and South Carolina JR 2B Max Schrock have been covered already, so I’ll be brief with each here. On Bregman…DID YOU KNOW that as of 4/3/15, he has more home runs (7) than strikeouts (5)? That’s good, right? His defense has also universally lauded this spring, enough so that some smart people are starting to lead the Bregman as pro shortstop charge once again. Two things about that: 1) I think whatever team drafts him does so with playing him at shortstop for at least the remainder of 2015 and possibly even 2016. I’m not sure what happens after that, but my hunch is that he’ll be given every shot to stay at shortstop despite what haters like me write. I mean, if Corey Seager is still technically a shortstop, then why won’t a team stick with Bregman at the six-spot as long as possible? 2) As a “hater,” I’m encouraged about the positive reports about his defense, but more so because now I’m more sure than ever that he could be a plus glove at second rather than a future pro shortstop. Any way you look at it his improved defense is a good thing even if it does muddle the Bregman narrative up a bit.
That wasn’t particularly brief, so I’ll try again with Schrock. I’ve read in multiple places how Schrock has been a disappointment this year for South Carolina. We’re not talking from a draft perspective, but from a 2015 college production point of view. His batting average is over fifty points lower so far this year, so I guess that has to be why I keep hearing about his struggles this year. It’s certainly not about his OBP because, lower average or not, he’s getting on base at a higher clip this year (.379) than he did last year (.366). You could fairly point to his decrease in power so far this year, but it’s not so far off – especially with the added OBP value – to say he’s having a down year relative to what he’s done in the past. From a draft prospect perspective I was hoping for last year’s numbers plus improvements across the board (I’m selfish like that), but he’s hardly been disappointing through 105 at bats. I know this doesn’t have much to do with anything, but I feel better for getting that off my chest.
Alabama JR 2B/SS Mikey White’s power breakout has had many talking him up as a possible third baseman as a professional. I don’t think the power spike is real – he’s a really good hitter, but not somebody I would have had down for much more than average power going forward – but it’s the scouts he has to convince, not me. I had somebody smart (and, because I know he wouldn’t mind me saying this, also super old) recently compare him to a righthanded Graig Nettles. That feels a little rich for me – Nettles’ raw numbers don’t blow you away, but he’s a borderline HOF third baseman if going off of JAWS – but it’s an interesting comparison to a historically underrated player who once made the transition from second base to third. Lost in this whole conversation is White’s potential to remain at shortstop. Like those who will fight you to the death on Alex Bregman’s future position, there are some college baseball loyalists who will get very mad if you suggest White will have to move out of the six-spot as a pro. Believe it or not, I understand where those fans of White’s game are coming from: he’s as hard working as any prospect you’ll find, a tremendous team leader, and his baseball instincts are off the charts. Do those intangibles make up for average at best foot speed and suboptimal range? Despite the leading question, White has more of a shot to stick a shortstop for a few years than I had thought coming into the year. I still think either second or third makes more sense, and I’m not entirely sold on the bat being good enough to make him an everyday player, but the comparisons to former Alabama star Josh Rutledge…wait, this felt familiar so I searched my site for my last Rutledge reference and turns out I’ve written almost all this before. Turns out writing 10,000 words a week about college baseball for two months on end leaves you with mush for brains. Here’s my section on White from January…
It goes against a lot of what I’ve written previously, most notably in the LSU preview when discussing Alex Bregman, so don’t read too much into my listing of JR 2B/SS Mikey White’s two most likely pro positions in that precise (2B/SS) order. White could very well wind up sticking at short as a professional; in fact, I reserve the right to switch that up a half-dozen times in my mind (and in print!) over the next few months. Working very much for him are his tremendous instincts, which rank among the best I’ve seen at the amateur level. Though impossible for the amateur eye to quantify, he’s one of those players who always seems to be in the middle of the action on the field, almost always doing something positive after finding himself in the right place at the right time. Watch him for a game or even a series and you might chalk it up as a coincidence, but we’ve now got two years of college, plenty of high-level summer ball, and, depending on who you are lucky enough to talk to, a year or more of tracking him in high school to go off of at this point. If his preternatural ability to be at the right place at the right time is just a coincidence, then I no longer understand the meaning of the word.
There’s a perfectly reasonable and logical Josh Rutledge comp out there (can’t recall the origin) for White that I don’t hate, though I think White is a truer traditional middle infielder (better glove, less power) than Rutledge ever was. There’s also been a Nolan Fontana comparison floating around with Baseball America as the source. I think the Fontana comp is a little bit stronger (both players relying as much on smarts and positioning than raw athleticism as defenders), but, like all comps, it’s still imperfect: Fontana always had an elite approach as a hitter as well as, in my personal view, a surer path to remain at shortstop professionally. The best comparison that comes to mind for me is current Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer. Both guys have good size, strong arms, and have been universally praised over the years for having high baseball IQs. All that, and their sophomore year numbers aren’t all that far off…
JM: .299/.359/.481 – 15 BB/28 K – 5/7 SB
MW: .300/.399/.443 – 27 BB/44 K – 3/5 SB
Mercer followed that up with another quality season highlighted by a power spike significant enough to get him popped with the 79th overall pick in 2008. He then experienced a slow and steady climb through the Pirates minor league system before breaking through as a legitimate regular at short for Pittsburgh in 2013. If Mikey White follows the same path then we can pencil him as a third round pick this June with the chance to hit the big leagues by 2020. Doesn’t seem that unreasonable to me, though I think you could at least argue that he’ll be a faster riser but with more of a utility upside. The latter was often said about Mercer throughout the earliest portion of his career, so you never know.
White has blown past what Mercer did his junior season, especially from a power standpoint. I’ve touched on the veracity of the realness of that power before, but without much evidence against it I’m inclined to believe something good is going on with either his swing, strength, or some combination thereof. A third round selection might be a little light based on what White has done so far this year, though I remain skeptical of a heretofore non-power bat hitting for this kind of pop with the kind of plate discipline red flags evident in White’s game.
I’m about as confused on White as I’ve been on a college player so far this season. I’m no scout, but, as a baseball fan, he is exactly the kind of player I feel like I legitimately need to see more of with my own two eyes in order to better understand his strengths and weaknesses. I want to keep putting him into certain restrictive places in my mind – he’s a scrappy utility player with a “true middle infield” glove, he’s an underappreciated (by me!) power hitter who will be best at third, he’s an overrated mirage, he’s an underrated grinder – but he doesn’t seem to fit nicely in any one player archetype. Mikey White has broken me, and I think that’s a good thing. I lean towards him turning into a potential quality utility player with a chance to play regularly at second with continued progress, but will likely go back and forth a few more times between now and June.
I haven’t heard a player get the “he’ll be a better pro than college player” treatment in a long time quite like Tennessee JR SS AJ Simcox. I’m not sure how to take that exactly. It almost sounds like a dig on the Tennessee coaching staff, but I find that hard to believe knowing what I do about the people they have in place there. I think it’s more likely explained by the differences in the pro grind – all baseball, all the time – versus the multitude of various interested parties pulling one’s attention away from the day in college. I don’t know anything specific to Simcox here, for the record. He could be as focused as can be and simply in need of an all-encompassing baseball environment because of personal preference.
It’s just now occurred to me that the SEC shortstops have a pretty clear tier system. It gets even more clearly defined if we include maybe shortstops like Bregman and White. The top tier includes Vanderbilt JR SS/2B Dansby Swanson and Bregman, then there’s Florida JR SS/OF Richie Martin and White, then a big step down to Simcox, Auburn JR SS Cody Nulph, and Mississippi State SR SS Seth Heck, and a final tier of South Carolina JR SS Marcus Mooney, Arkansas rJR SS Brett McAfee, and whomever else I missed.
I’m still holding out on JR 3B Xavier Turner (formerly of Vanderbilt, though technically he’s still enrolled at school there and just not playing ball this year) as the conference’s best third base prospect. That’s as much as because of Turner’s talent (ample athleticism, bat speed in spades, and average or better raw power, speed, and arm strength) as it is the relative void at the position without him. I had Georgia rSO 3B Trevor Kieboom as the next in line, but his transition to the SEC hasn’t been all that it could be so far. He still gives you intriguing power, defensive upside, and size. Since it was a close battle for second pre-season anyway, I don’t’ feel too bad about editing my list a bit and flipping Florida SR 3B/2B Josh Tobias to the two spot for now. Tobias has always flashed talent (above-average speed, more pop than his size suggests, and a steady, versatile glove), so it’s been nice to see him put together a strong senior season. As a senior sign with a possible utility future (the approach keeps him from being a starter for me), he could find his way into the late single-digit rounds. Similar things apply to Texas A&M JR 3B/SS Logan Taylor, another versatile defender (potentially plus at third, average at both short and second) with some pop who could find a role off a big league bench one day.
I want to say that Florida JR OF Harrison Bader can do a little bit of everything, but that would be a lie. Harrison Bader can do a lot of everything. He’s a legitimate five-tool player and I’ll fight anybody who says otherwise. I’d take him over any bat in the conference not named Bregman or Swanson without a second thought. Above-average raw power, above-average to plus speed, and the ability to play center make him a lot like Vanderbilt JR OF Rhett Wiseman to me, but with a markedly better approach at the plate. If he’s there in the second, it’s an easy call. Also, I’m not a scout and smarter people have disagreed with me, but I love his swing. It’s not conventionally pretty, but his lower half and upper half are coordinated really well and there’s just enough of an uppercut (but not too much) to suggest his power surge is real.
LSU JR OF Andrew Stevenson could step into a AA lineup tomorrow (just in time for opening day!) because his defense in center (plus-plus), speed (plus), and hit tool (above-average) are all professional quality right now. He’s one of those players that it would be very hard to imagine not someday carving out a big league role for himself on the basis of his defensive prowess and game-changing speed on the base paths alone. When you add in that hit tool, his emerging pop, and an improved approach at the plate, it’s easy to envision him maturing into a table-setting leadoff hitter guaranteed to give you years of positive defensive and base running value in the bigs. I was high on Stevenson before writing this paragraph, but now I’m more pumped about him than ever.
Tennessee JR OF Christin Stewart just keeps getting better and better and better as a hitter. With an above-average hit tool and honest plus raw power, his breakout season (happening right now!) was only a matter of time. I’ve been hard on him in the past because of my perceived disconnect between his consistently praised approach at the plate and below-average BB/K ratios (1/2 for most of his first two seasons), but I’m starting to buy in. When I hear this is a below-average draft, I think of players like Stewart who have emerged as worthwhile top three round picks – not just in this draft, but in any draft – and smile. If a down draft means a few pitching prospect have gotten injured and no stone cold mortal lock for 1-1 exists, then I guess this draft isn’t very good. If it means that there will be future big league regulars selected out of college as late as the fifth round, then I feel like we’re not on the same page. I try not to cheerlead, but the bad draft stuff is just laziness from paid professionals who really ought to try digging a little deeper.
I’ve written a lot about many SEC prospects already (links to the teams that had rosters in early are found below), but there are a few players I’d like to quickly revisit based on updated information and performance. I didn’t realize it until after the fact that almost every blurb has a BUT in it, so I did my best to sneak one into each.
- Tennessee JR OF/LHP Vincent Jackson – still love the tools, but where’s the power?
- Vanderbilt JR OF Rhett Wiseman – status unchanged (solid tools across the board), but approach still holds him back
- Auburn JR 2B/OF Jordan Ebert – hoping his early season struggles are more attributable to bad BABIP luck, but his BB/K is still strong enough to give me hope that he’ll hit
- LSU JR OF Mark Laird – now view him as Stevenson without the ceiling, but still a ML player
- Tennessee SR OF Jonathan Youngblood – tools remain elite, but hasn’t played at all; could see a fan raging about his IDIOT team drafting somebody with such “bad” college numbers without knowing how damn toolsy Youngblood actually is just as easily as he could go undrafted
- Alabama JR OF Georgie Salem – had a hunch that he was in line for a breakout season, but I’ve been told (haven’t seen him in person this year) he’s actually regressed at the plate and looks lost at times
I didn’t get to a few SEC schools that were late to post rosters, so special mention should be made about outfielders from Arkansas, Kentucky, and Alabama. Here are their quick blurbs, all decidedly BUT free…
- Arkansas SO OF Andrew Benintendi – well-rounded with above-average speed, solid pop, CF range, and a live bat; somehow leading the nation in homers as of this writing at only 5-10, 175 pounds, which says about his strength and swing
- Alabama SO OF Casey Hughston – swings and misses too much for my taste, though he’s still one of the draft’s best athletes and power hitters who is having a giant second season
- Kentucky JR OF Kyle Barrett – reminds me a little bit of Laird as a speedy center fielder with fourth outfielder upside, might be a better all-around player
- Kentucky JR OF Ka’aI Tom – size and tools don’t blow you away, yet he’s found a way to produce at every stop
Wherever he lands defensively, Bregman is going to hit. The ability to play one of the middle infield spots and hit while doing it is what makes him as close to a first round lock as there is in this college class. If that sounds like exceedingly simple analysis, well, that’s because it is. He has an easy to identify above-average or better hit tool, average to above-average speed that plays up due to his impressive feel for the game, average raw power with an emphasis on splitting the gaps, plenty of bat speed, and a consistently smart approach at the plate. There aren’t a lot of holes you can poke in his game from an offensive standpoint. One thing I’ve found particularly fascinating about Bregman as a prospect is the response you get when his name comes up within the game. I think I’ve heard more comps on Bregman than literally any player I can remember. Something about his game just evokes that “every man” feeling deep inside talent evaluators, I guess. Take a look at the list I currently have of comps I’ve personally heard for Bregman: Mike Lansing, Mark Ellis (BA has used this), Robby Thompson, Orlando Hudson, Tony Renda, Randy Velarde, Bill Mueller, Jose Vidro, Edgardo Alfonzo, Carlos Baerga, Ray Durham, Jhonny Peralta, and Mark DeRosa. There’s also the increasingly popular Dustin Pedroia comp, which makes sense on the surface but is a scary comparison for anybody due to the unique set of circumstances (or, more plainly, an obsessive/borderline maniacal drive to be great) that has led to Pedroia’s rise in the game. I’ve also heard the cautionary comp of Bobby Crosby, though I’m not sure I buy the two being all the similar at similar points in their respective development. A statistical look comparing Bregman and Crosby makes for an interesting conversation starter (if, you know, you’re friends with other obsessive college baseball/draft fans)…
AB: .344/.408/.504 – 51 BB/46 K – 28/35 SB – 526 AB
BC: .340/.417/.496 – 70 BB/103 K – 40/51 SB – 635 AB
Top is Bregman so far, bottom is Crosby’s career college numbers. It would have worked better if I had left out the BB/K ratios, but that would have been intellectually dishonest and I’m far too morally upstanding to stoop to statistical manipulation to make a point. I’d never dream of doing such a thing. Hey, look at this comparison…
AB: .369/.419/.546 – 25 BB/24 K – 17/18 SB – 282 AB
AH: .329/.391/.550 – 20 BB/20 K – 10/11 SB – 222 AB
The top is Bregman’s first year at LSU, the bottom is Aaron Hill’s first year at LSU. Notice how I didn’t say freshman year: Hill transferred from Southern Illinois to LSU after his freshman season. Since we’ve already gone down this dark and twisted road of statistical manipulation, let’s go even deeper…
AB: .316/.397/.455 – 27 BB/21 K – 12/18 SB – 244 AB
AH: .299/.375/.463 – 15 BB/27 K – 6/7 SB – 134 AB
Those would be Bregman and Hill’s “other” college season; more specifically, you’re looking at Hill’s freshman year at Southern Illinois and Bregman’s more recent season. I’m not sure what could be gained from comparing these two seasons, but, hey, look how similar! Jokes aside — though, seriously, those are some freaky similar numbers — I think the comparison between Alex Bregman and Aaron Hill is probably the most apt comp out there at this point. If the numbers don’t sway you, just check Hill’s playing card from his draft year at Baseball America…
In a draft thin on shortstops, Hill is one of the few with legitimate offensive potential. There are questions as to whether he can handle that position all the way up to the majors, but he’ll get the shot to prove he can’t. His instincts and gritty makeup get the most out of his tools–which aren’t lacking. He has enough arm to make plays from the hole, along with range and quickness. He’s not flashy but gets the job done. At worst, the Southeastern Conference player of the year will be an all-around second baseman. Offensively, he has a beautiful swing, above-average speed and control of the strike zone. He doesn’t have plus home-run power, but he can hit the occasional longball and line balls into the gaps.
I don’t normally post full sections like that, but come on! Replace Hill for Bregman and that’s pretty much spot-on! Well, the bit about this being a draft thin on shortstops might not work that well — if the 2015 draft is strong at any one position player group in the college game, it’s shortstop — but still. Interesting to me that this quick scouting report glossed over Hill’s offensive promise much in the same way I coincidentally (I swear!) did with Bregman above. It’s almost as if it was a foregone conclusion that Hill would hit enough to play somewhere, just like how many, myself included, view Bregman today. I like Bregman to hit a little bit more than Hill, run a little bit better than Hill, and field a little bit better than Hill. Otherwise, I think the comparison is pretty damn good.
Of all the teams profiled so far, none have a 1-2 outfield punch of 2015 draft prospects quite like Tennessee’s duo of JR OFs Christin Stewart and Vincent Jackson. Neither are likely first round prospects, so there are imperfections in their respective games that will be watched closely this spring. Stewart betrayed his patient, pro-ready approach last season in an effort to produce gaudier power numbers. It’s hard to blame him what with power being the most coveted singular tool in baseball these days, but the cost might prove to be greater than what it winds up being worth. On one hand, the change in approach worked as Stewart’s slugging percentage jumped about one hundred points from his freshman season. Unfortunately, the major dip in plate discipline — Stewart’s K/BB almost doubled from his first season to his sophomore year (1.48 to 2.80) — now creates a new question in his game that will need to be answered on the field before June. If all of that sounds overly negative, well, it’s not supposed to. Consider it more of a reality check for a really strong prospect than anything else. I’m still very much a believer in Stewart’s raw power (legitimately plus), hit tool (solidly above-average), and overall approach to hitting, past year production be damned.
The current number two to the top ranked Stewart is Vincent Jackson. Jackson is an outstanding athlete with considerable tools — in particular, his power stacks up quite well with Stewart’s and his plus speed blows him away — who has yet to blow scouts away at Tennessee. Inconsistent performance or not, his size and skill set evoke comparisons to two-time All-Star Alex Rios, a lofty comp at first blush but a little more palatable when you remember Rios’ earliest scouting reports and slow to manifest power as a young professional. Jackson’s blend of size, speed, raw power, athleticism, and defensive upside (above-average arm and range at present) combine to make a pretty enticing prospect. In other words, he’s also pretty good.
Swanson broke out last season in a big, big way. His first real test at the college level was hardly a test at all as he hit .333/.411/.475 with 37 BB and 39 K in 282 AB. He also added 22 steals in 27 attempts for good measure. The numbers obviously speak for themselves, but it’s still nice when the scouting reports back it up. Swanson can really play. I’ll indirectly piggyback a bit on Baseball America’s Trea Turner (with less speed) comp and reuse one of my comps for Turner last year for Swanson. It actually fits a lot better now, so I don’t feel too bad going to the Brett Gardner well in back-to-back drafts. The package of athleticism, speed, defensive upside at a critical up-the-middle spot with an above-average hit tool and average-ish power (little less, probably) works out to a consistently above-average regular with the chance for stardom — certainly flashes of it — within reach.
There’s a bit of a gap between Vanderbilt’s (draft) class of 2015 and Wiseman, but that speaks to the strength of having four likely first round picks more so than any major deficits in Wiseman’s game. I’ve run into two interesting schools of thought about Wiseman while putting this together. The first, and I’ll admit that this was my initial view from the start, is that he’s still more tools than skills right now. The tools are quite strong, but the fact that they haven’t turned into the skills many expected by now gives some pause. Still, those tools that were clear to almost all going back to his high school days are still real and still worth getting excited about. The breakout could come any day now for him and when it does we’ll be looking at a potential first-division regular in the outfield. The opposing view believes that Wiseman’s development has gone as scripted and what we’re seeing right now is more or less what we’re going to get with him. He’s a great athlete and a far more cerebral hitter than given credit, but the tools were overstated across the board at the onset of his amateur career and now we’re seeing expectations for him correcting themselves based on what he really is. There really are no pluses in his game and no carrying tool that will help him rise above his future fourth outfielder station. I’m a believer that it’s always wise to bet on athletes having the light bulb turn on before too long, so count me in as still leaning closer to the former (and my original) position. I do understand the concerns about Wiseman potentially topping out as a “tweener” outfield prospect — he hasn’t shown the power yet to work in a corner, but that’s where he’s clearly best defensively — so going on the first day might be off the table. He’s still an intriguing blend of production (good, not mind-blowing) and tools (same) who could wind up a relative bargain if he slips much later than that. I could see him both being ranked and drafted in the same area that I had him listed (110th overall) out of Buckingham Browne & Nichols.
In any event, I don’t think Wiseman’s viewed by many as quite the prospect he was back in high school and a good part of that was the way many — me included — viewed his rawness, age, and relative inexperience as a New England high school product as positives. We all are guilty of assuming there are concretely meaningful patterns we can expect from prospect development and that all young players will continue to get better with age and experience. Development is not linear and can be wildly unpredictable. Some guys are as good as they are going to get at 17 while others don’t figure it out (unfortunately) until way after their physical peak. This speaks to the heart of what makes assessing and drafting amateurs so much fun. We’re all just trying to gather as much information on as many players as possible and then making the best possible guesses as to what we’ll wind up with.
The surest bet in the Auburn lineup is JR OF/2B Jordan Ebert. Ebert doesn’t get enough love as one of the college game’s best pure hitters. That above-average or better hit tool combined with enough pop and speed allow him to potentially profile as an above-average regular offensively. I think his glove will play at any of the spots he’s tried — 2B, 3B, OF — but think his value will likely lie in his ability to play multiple spots — especially those where he can show off his plus arm — well. If you only knew what I just wrote about Ebert, you’d surely think he’s a big-time 2015 draft prospect, but, at least for now, an overly aggressive approach at the plate (31 BB/54 K) holds back his appeal to a degree. I still like him quite a bit; quite simply, guys with hit tools like his are not to be dismissed. If Ebert can settle in to a spot defensively (likely a corner OF spot), flash a touch more power, and clean up his approach a bit, he’ll become a prime candidate to become one of college ball’s fastest risers in 2015. I still think a pro team will try to keep him in the dirt for as long as humanly possible after signing. As an outfielder, he profiles as a high-level backup, especially if he can hang in center a bit. As an infielder, however, he’s a potential everyday contributor.
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting
(This was my pre-season list with a few minor tweaks where I could remember to update certain position rankings. Outside of the first five picks or so, it doesn’t really reflect where I’m at roughly three months after putting it together initially. I considered not publishing it at all and waiting until I have time to do a full revision to get it up, but so long as everybody understands it is already a bit dated I figured there’s no harm sharing. Consider it a glorified follow list, if nothing else.)
- Vanderbilt JR SS/2B Dansby Swanson
- Louisiana State JR 2B/SS Alex Bregman
- Florida JR OF Harrison Bader
- Louisiana State JR OF Andrew Stevenson
- Florida JR SS/OF Richie Martin
- Tennessee JR OF Christin Stewart
- South Carolina JR 2B Max Schrock
- Tennessee JR OF/LHP Vincent Jackson
- Alabama JR 2B/SS Mikey White
- Vanderbilt JR OF Rhett Wiseman
- Arkansas SO OF Andrew Benintendi
- Auburn JR OF/2B Jordan Ebert
- Louisiana State JR OF Mark Laird
- Alabama SO OF Casey Hughston
- Tennessee SR OF Jonathan Youngblood
- Kentucky JR OF Kyle Barrett
- Tennessee JR SS AJ Simcox
- South Carolina SR 1B Kyle Martin
- Vanderbilt rJR 1B Zander Wiel
- Florida SR 3B/2B Josh Tobias
- Auburn JR SS Cody Nulph
- Alabama JR OF Georgie Salem
- Alabama JR 2B/RHP Kyle Overstreet
- Louisiana State JR C Chris Chinea
- Alabama SO C Will Haynie
- Mississippi SR 1B/C Sikes Orvis
- Georgia rSO 3B Trevor Kieboom
- Kentucky JR OF Ka’ai Tom
- Texas A&M JR OF/1B Jonathan Moroney
- Arkansas rJR OF Tyler Spoon
- South Carolina JR SS Marcus Mooney
- South Carolina JR 2B/SS DC Arendas
- Georgia JR C Zack Bowers
- Louisiana State SR C Kade Scivicque
- Arkansas SR OF Joe Serrano
- Louisiana State SR 1B/3B Conner Hale
- Texas A&M SR 2B/SS Blake Allemand
- Texas A&M SR 3B/RHP Logan Nottebrok
- Arkansas rJR SS Brett McAfee
- Vanderbilt JR OF/RHP Kyle Smith
- Auburn JR OF Sam Gillikin
- Mississippi State rSR 1B Wes Rea
- Texas A&M JR C/OF Boomer White
- Georgia JR 1B Morgan Bunting
- Kentucky rSO OF Storm Wilson
- Auburn JR 1B/OF Dylan Smith
- Tennessee JR OF Chris Hall
- Mississippi State rSO OF Cody Brown
- Alabama JR 3B Daniel Cucjen
- Mississippi State SR SS Seth Heck
- Texas A&M JR 3B/SS Logan Taylor
- Texas A&M JR 1B/RHP Hunter Melton
- Texas A&M SR C Mitchell Nau
- Kentucky JR C Zach Arnold
- Texas A&M JR OF JB Moss
- Georgia SR OF/RHP Heath Holder
UCLA JR RHP James Kaprielian
USC JR LHP Kyle Twomey
Arizona State JR LHP Brett Lilek
Oregon rSO LHP Cole Irvin
UCLA JR RHP Cody Poteet
Stanford JR RHP Marc Brakeman
Arizona State JR LHP Ryan Kellogg
Arizona State JR RHP Ryan Burr
Oregon JR LHP Garrett Cleavinger
Oregon State JR RHP Andrew Moore
I’m oddly fascinated at the idea of a pitcher with a “four-pitch mix” because I feel like that phrase almost exclusively is thrown around at the amateur level. Maybe you’ll hear it at times for minor leaguers, but depth of repertoire is not something discussed much in the big leagues. Obviously this is because we’ve got a self-selecting sample and pitchers without the requisite three or four pitches needed to run through lineups multiple times have already been converted to relief, but I still think there’s perhaps something to the way evaluators overrate prospects with a ton of decent pitches (who must be starters then!) and underrate young arms with two knockout pitches (relief all the way!) without factoring in that pitchers can in fact develop additional effective pitches along the way. I’m not saying a young guy who can’t throw a curve will one day wake up finding one in his wrist, but there have been enough recent examples of pitchers tinkering around the edges with grips that help previously unusable pitches (changeups, cutters, occasionally sliders) suddenly work to help get advanced hitters out. Even my old notes on Michael Wacha, a player that I think compares in certain respect to the guy we’re eventually going to talk about, make mention of this phenomena…
Texas A&M JR RHP Michael Wacha: big velocity jump during college tenure – once peaked only as high as 92, but now regularly sits 90-95 FB, hitting 96-97; like many young arms, can get himself in trouble when he overthrows fastball and it begins to straighten out; somewhat similar to Kyle Zimmer in the way he relied on excellent fastball command before seeing a velocity spike; holds velocity well, very rarely dipping below 90; have heard he’ll throw his legitimate plus to plus-plus CU with two distinct grips: one at 82-85 with the circle change grip, the other more of an upper-70s straight change; either way, the CU should be a weapon from day one on; occasional 81-85 SL with cutter action; also will go with a very rare upper-70s CB that could be the breaking pitch he’ll be asked to run with as a pro; neither breaking ball is pro-ready, but both have flashed enough that it is easy to imagine a pro staff believing it can coach him up; natural comparison is Ryan Madson, especially if Wacha never develops a consistent third pitch and is used out of the bullpen; as a starter, I think there are some similarities in terms of stuff when you compare him to Braves prospect Julio Teheran; 6-6, 200 pounds
Wacha wasn’t quite a two-pitch guy in college, but he was close. The idea that a player capable of hitting the mid-90s with an easy plus change, clean mechanics, and a prototypical starter’s frame would be relegated to the bullpen because of an iffy present third pitch was silly at the time and downright preposterous in hindsight. Thankfully, it also represents a learning experience and the chance to reevaluate what elements are most crucial when projecting pitchers into the future. Going back to the idea that amateurs need three or four pitches to start spurred me to look up what big league arms actually throw four quality pitches. The only three starting pitchers I found with positive pitch values (per Fangraphs) for each of the four pitches in the classic “four-pitch mix” (FB/CU/CB/SL) last season were Felix Hernandez, Anibal Sanchez, and Tanner Roark. If you expand it to include relievers, then Danny Farquhar, Tom Wilhelmsen, and Zach Duke join the fun. If you let David Price’s cutter in stand in for a slider, then you can add him to the starter party. Many players were close (Clayton Kershaw, Julio Teheran, Matt Garza, and Scott Kazmir to name a few) and the whole thing is about as unscientific as you can get, but I found it interesting and a fine use of five spare minutes.
This whole discussion goes back to a “four-pitch mix,” which admittedly is a bit of a strawman of a premise in the first place. I don’t know of anybody who says you NEED four pitches to make it as a starting pitcher in the big leagues. Three pitches is the most common baseline and a quick spin around Fangraphs Pitch Type leaderboard validates this idea. The only two pitchers you could even make a flimsy argument for being two-pitch starters (out of the 88 player sample of 2014 qualified pitchers) are Bartolo Colon (11.8% SL, 5.6% CU) and Lance Lynn (10.2% SL, 8.4% CB, 2.4% CU). Those two might be closest, but neither is what I’d expect anybody to call a two-pitch pitcher. Lynn, who is literally (!) a four-pitch pitcher, being included in this conversation at all is somehow both absurd (he throws four pitches!) and justified (showing a pitch and throwing a pitch aren’t the same, right?), but the whole thing is still a stretch. The three pitch minimum lives on.
That was a lot of words when I could have simply said that even though years of being in and around the game have conditioned me to want to see three usable big league pitches on any amateur (college, especially) before feeling confident enough to project him as a big league starter pitcher, I’ve come around to the idea that young guys with two above-average or better pitches can be just as likely to develop a usable third pitch as a more advanced at present peer. Even shorter still: give me the pitcher with two nasty pitches over the one with four average pitches, assuming all else (delivery, athleticism, command, control, etc.) is equal.
This all brings me to the guy I think Wacha compares to on some level, UCLA JR RHP James Kaprielian. Draft people like me who sometimes try to get too cute for own good have fought it in the past, but there’s no denying that Kaprielian warrants a first round grade this June. Well-built righthanders with four pitches (ding!) and consistently excellent results in a tough conference profile as big league starting pitchers more often than not. I’m going to just go with an excerpt of some of my notes on Kaprielian because they are among the longest running that I have on any player in this college class…
JR RHP James Kaprielian (2015): 87-92 FB, 94-95 peak; potential plus 79-84 CB, commands it well; potential plus 80-85 CU with serious sink; above-average 79-85 SL; good athlete; excellent overall command; 2014 Summer: 88-92 FB, 93 peak; above-average to plus or better 75-79 CB with plus command, still gets it up to 85 depending on situation; average or better upside with 79-82 SL; FAVORITE; average or better upside with mid-80s CU with splitter action; UPDATE: 83-85 SL, flashes above-average; average 78-80 CB with above-average to plus upside; good athlete; commands both breaking balls well; 2015: 89-94 FB; above-average 78-81 CB flashes plus; above-average 83-85 SL; above-average mid-80s CU, flashes better; 6-4, 200 pounds (2013: 12.39 K/9 | 5.09 BB/9 | 2.20 FIP | 40.2 IP) (2014: 9.17 K/9 – 2.97 BB/9 – 106 IP – 2.29 ERA)
The UPDATE and 2015 sections give the most pertinent information (88-94 FB, 95 peak; above-average 78-81 CB, flashes plus; average 83-85 SL, flashes above-average; above-average mid-80s CU with drop, flashes plus; good athleticism; commands both breaking balls ably; plus overall command), but I like including the whole thing (or as much as can be published) to highlight the growth he’s made. Kaprielian is damn good and smart team picking in the latter half of the first round will get a quick-moving mid-rotation arm who still might have a bit of upside left in him beyond that.
On the other end of the spectrum (kind of) is USC JR LHP Kyle Twomey. Twomey has long been a favorite thanks to a fastball/changeup combination (just two pitches, gasp!) good enough to get big league swings and misses within the year. His fastball doesn’t have premium velocity (87-92, 94 peak), but the heaps of movement he gets on it make it a consistent above-average to plus offering. His change does a lot of the same things from the same arm speed, making the 78-82 MPH pitch above-average with plus upside. Those two pitches and room to grow on a 6-3, 170 pound frame make him a very appealing prospect. There are some issues that will need ironing out at the pro level – deciding on whether to further refine his cutter/slider hybrid or tightening up his soft curve, plus improving his overall control and offspeed command – but the pieces are there for him to make it as a big league starting pitcher.
I was all about UCLA rSO LHP Hunter Virant heading into the season as a prospect with no college track record storming up boards and claiming his spot in the first round. I think on the original iteration of this list he was in the top five. Whoops. His situation in school isn’t exactly the same as Matt Purke’s, but there are enough depressing similarities to the two that I think citing their stories might give the push to recommend pro ball to any young arm. That’s not to say that anything specifically done to Virant while at UCLA has damaged his pro prospects; pitchers get hurt no matter the time and place. Heck, if anything you could argue that Virant is better off with (presumably) three years of coursework towards a degree at a fine university than he would have been taking bonus money out of high school and flaming out of pro ball by now. Other HS arms I loved once upon a time that have fallen into hard times collegiately include the Stanford duo of JR RHP Freddy Avis and JR RHP Daniel Starwalt. I still have hope for all these players, but every day that passes without them pitching effectively on the mound (or pitching at all, really) makes it a little tougher to justify the faith.
In happier news, Oregon rSO LHP Cole Irvin’s return from injury (Tommy John) has gone fairly well to date. I’d say he’s done enough to show he should be in the top five round mix this June, especially when his pre-injury talent level, athleticism, control, and plus-plus pickoff move are all taken into account.
Somebody at Perfect Game (I believe) compared Arizona State JR LHP Brett Lilek to a lefty Phil Bickford. I can buy it to some degree as their stuff (and frame and command) isn’t too far off, but Lilek has never shown the same ability to miss bats as Bickford, admittedly at a different level, right now. He’s still a lefthander with size (6-4, 200), velocity (90-94, 95 peak), and three offspeed pitches each with a varying degree of promise (I’d rank them slider, curve, change). Yes, I fully understand the irony of pumping up Lilek, a potential four-pitch pitcher (though more likely three-pitch) with a prospect status built more on the strength of a high likelihood of at least some success (league average starter?) rather than sheer upside, right after my weird little tangent about no longer wanting to overrate prospects just like him. Maybe every prospect should be evaluated on their own merits or something? Lilek’s teammate JR LHP Ryan Kellogg is a similar prospect (size, command, smarts) but has neither the same fastball (87-92) nor the same quality of offspeed stuff. That’s not meant to diminish his ability as he still has a chance (just slightly less so than Lilek for me) to make it as a back-end big league starter.
I swear I’m not making this up, but my notes on UCLA JR RHP Cody Poteet include this exact phrase: “legit four-pitch mix.” I mean, it is true after all. What Poteet lacks in physicality he more than makes up for with the depth of his stuff. I like more than love him as a prospect, but his slider has the makings of a really good pro pitch. USC JR RHP/C Kyle Davis and Oregon State JR RHP Andrew Moore (easy plus command and control guy) give the class two additional short righthanders with well-rounded stuff and strong track records.
Stanford JR RHP Marc Brakeman is more of a two-pitch prospect (like Twomey) that I’ve referenced above. Armed with a nice albeit inconsistent heater (88-94, 95 peak – though I’ve seen him sit more on the low end of that range at times) and an outstanding low-80s changeup, Brakeman could move up boards quickly once he gets healthy again. I’ve been the low man on him in the past, but that’s more due to an intuition thing than anything I can reasonably express.
Arizona State JR RHP Ryan Burr and Oregon JR LHP Garrett Cleavinger stand together as the two best 2015 relief prospects likely to come out of the conference. Burr has gotten some recent love as a possible starter at the next level, but I don’t really see it. Been there, done that. He has the stuff (90-96 FB, above-average low-80s SL, ability to mix in raw yet intriguing mid-80s CU and upper-70s CB) to pull it off, but the delivery, control (though improved), and command all scream reliever to me. I haven’t heard anybody mention Cleavinger as a potential pro starter. Keeping him in the pen also makes sense to me because, though he has the pitches (90-96 FB, above-average breaking ball, average CU) to face a lineup multiple times through, he has the arm action and stamina (stuff plays way up in short bursts) to thrive in the relief role in the pros. There has been some market correction on how teams value college relievers in recent drafts, but I still expect to see Burr go higher than he’ll wind up on my personal board this June. He’s really good, so it isn’t as though that will be a horrible mistake…but assuming Cleavinger (and other “second tier” college relievers) wind up going multiple rounds lower, that’s the value play I’d lean towards.
I’ve said many times I don’t believe in sleepers. I find the whole concept a tad demeaning to all involved. To call somebody a sleeper insults the player, the audience, and the profession (or, if you’d prefer, industry). If you’re any good, somebody somewhere knows who you are, so you’re not a sleeper by my own personal, admittedly crazy narrow, definition. Still, insults might be too strong a word because I don’t take any of this stuff that seriously – I do this entirely for fun, I acknowledge that my influence is nonexistent, I don’t buy into scouting as some sacred insider only thing that only real baseball men can participate in, I actively root for all prospects (even the ones I “miss” on) to do well and make millions and live out all their dreams, etc. – but few things bug me more when reading draft or prospect stuff than really famous players being called “sleepers.” I realize the interest in the MLB Draft isn’t on par with the NFL or NBA counterparts, but when actual paid professional draft writers start with the assumption that their audience only knows players expected to go in the top five picks and then pat themselves on the back years later when their draft “sleeper” (picked, like, fourteenth overall) winds up a great player, a little part of me dies inside. Another example of this is the way that most publications write up at least thirty prospects per organization, but then the one that limits it to ten has the gall to name an additional prospect from each system a “sleeper” and crow when that player — nominally the eleventh ranked player in the system — has a good year. Come on.
I guess instead of sleepers I can just call them players I think I’ll wind up having ranked higher than where they’ll be drafted. Even then, if I like a guy more than most right now and wind up “right” about him as pro teams get wise to his ability/upside, then judging by that standard doesn’t seem particularly fair. Calling them guys I like more than the consensus isn’t very meaningful when most draft rankings only go about fifty deep (if that) up until the week leading up until the draft.
This tangent doesn’t really apply here since many of my potential sleepers (there’s that word again) haven’t quite lived up to expectations so far this year, but there are a few guys that will be drafted fairly late that I like quite bit. I like Arizona State SR RHP Darrin Gillies as a sinker/slider guy with size, Washington SR RHP Brandon Choate for similar reasons (90-94 FB, 96 peak; SL flashes plus; lots of ground balls), Oregon JR RHP Conor Harber (who might be too good to be a sleeper…I have no idea anymore) for his untapped upside, athleticism, and fresh arm, and, in the most decidedly non-sleeper of them all, UCLA SR RHP David Berg, who is just plain fun to watch carve up good hitters in high pressure situations with mid-80s fastballs and impeccable control. If I updated this list today rather than just reusing my existing preseason list with Virant dropped a dozen spots from his original lofty perch, all four guys would be higher than they are below. Harber would be much higher. I also try to tack on a few speculative picks at the end of these rankings when I can (the bottom quarter of many of these lists are mostly a combination of players with clearly defined potential big league roles — like a future lefty specialist or something — or players I don’t know much about with about much of a track record but with substantial upside), so don’t sleep on UCLA rSO RHP Tucker Forbes.
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching
- UCLA JR RHP James Kaprielian
- USC JR LHP Kyle Twomey
- Arizona State JR LHP Brett Lilek
- Oregon rSO LHP Cole Irvin
- UCLA JR RHP Cody Poteet
- Stanford JR RHP Marc Brakeman
- Arizona State JR LHP Ryan Kellogg
- Arizona State JR RHP Ryan Burr
- Oregon JR LHP Garrett Cleavinger
- Oregon State JR RHP Andrew Moore
- Arizona rJR RHP Matthew Troupe
- UCLA rSO LHP Hunter Virant
- USC JR RHP/C Kyle Davis
- Oregon JR RHP/OF Conor Harber
- Arizona State SR RHP Darin Gillies
- Stanford JR RHP Freddy Avis
- Stanford JR RHP Daniel Starwalt
- Arizona JR RHP Nathan Bannister
- Washington SR RHP Brandon Choate
- Washington State rSR RHP Scott Simon
- California JR RHP Ryan Mason
- UCLA rSO RHP Nick Kern
- Arizona State JR RHP/OF David Graybill
- California rSR RHP Dylan Nelson
- Arizona JR LHP Cody Moffett
- Washington JR RHP Troy Rallings
- UCLA SR RHP David Berg
- UCLA SR LHP Grant Watson
- UCLA rSO RHP Tucker Forbes
- Washington rSR RHP Josh Fredendall
- Stanford JR LHP Logan James
- USC JR LHP Marc Huberman
- Stanford SR RHP David Schmidt
- Washington JR RHP Alex Nesbitt
- Utah JR RHP Dalton Carroll
- Utah JR RHP Bret Helton
- Washington State SR RHP Sam Triece
- Arizona State JR RHP/2B Jordan Aboites
- Arizona SR LHP Tyler Crawford
- Arizona JR RHP Tyger Talley
- USC JR LHP Tyler Gilbert
- Washington State SR RHP Sean Hartnett
- USC JR RHP Brooks Kriske
- USC JR RHP Brent Wheatley
- Washington SR RHP Tyler Davis
- Stanford SR LHP Jonathan Hochstatter
- Washington JR RHP Ryan Schmitten
- Washington State JR LHP Matt Bower
Washington JR C Austin Rei
Oregon JR 1B/OF Phillipe Craig-St. Louis
Arizona JR 2B Scott Kingery
Arizona JR SS Kevin Newman
Oregon JR 3B Mitchell Tolman
Oregon State JR OF Jeff Hendrix
UCLA JR OF Ty Moore
Washington JR OF Braden Bishop
Arizona State JR C RJ Ybarra
Oregon State JR 1B Gabe Clark
UCLA rJR 2B Kevin Kramer
Stanford JR SS Drew Jackson
Arizona State JR 3B Dalton DiNatale
Oregon rJR OF Scott Heineman
USC JR OF Timmy Robinson
Arizona JR OF Justin Behnke
I’ve touched on both Washington JR C Austin Rei and Oregon SR C Shaun Chase recently, so I won’t go into great depth on either again. I was hoping to see one or both make a serious run for college ball’s top catching prospect in 2015, but a torn thumb ligament for Rei and the continued inability to make adjustments as a hitter for Chase have knocked both out of the running. That said, I still think Rei gets picked way higher than anybody thinks because he’s coming into pro ball at the perfect time with plus pitch framing skills that match what teams want to see most in catching prospects. I’m a really big fan of Rei and think he’s one of the draft’s “safest” prospects with both a high ceiling (above-average regular) and high floor (elite defensive backup). Barring additional injuries, I don’t see how he doesn’t have some sort of big league career.
Arizona State JR C RJ Ybarra has had the kind of year I was expecting to see out of Chase. It doesn’t hurt that their player profiles are so similar: big arms, big power, big bodies, and raw defenders. Ybarra’s better approach gives him the edge as a hitter and prospect for now. Long time readers of the site (all six of you) will remember I’ve long been on the Riley Moore bandwagon. No reason to hop off now that the Arizona senior catcher is having his best season at the plate. For teams looking for athleticism and leadership in their catching prospects, he’s a great fit. Relative to where he’ll likely be picked, I think he winds up being a pretty nifty player. His numbers this year very closely mimic what Stanford JR C Austin Barr has done as of this writing. Barr is another member of the Chase/Ybarra/Graham (see below) group of upside bats with TBD defensive possibilities.
Oregon JR C/RHP Josh Graham is one of the most intriguing two-way talents in the country. I have him listed with the catchers for now, but I’ve heard the split on his pro future is pretty much 50/50 for folks in the game. He’s been up to 96 off the mound in the past (haven’t heard any updates in 2015, but his numbers have been really good) while also showing above-average raw power at the plate. His rawness definitely shows up both as a hitter and in the field, but the upside is significant.
There really aren’t any words to accurately describe USC SR C Garrett Stubbs. He’s a player you really need to see play to understand. Catchers with plus athleticism, above-average speed, and the defensive talent to actually stick behind the plate over the long haul don’t come around every day. I’m not sure that his power spike so far this year is real (track record suggests it is just a typical senior year bump), but if a team buys in to him potentially having even average raw power then you’re talking about a unique skill set with legitimate big league value.
It comes down to a Civil War battle for which first base prospect will wind up the conference’s best bet to be drafted first in 2015. I go back and forth almost daily – don’t be jealous of the exciting life that I live – between Oregon JR 1B/OF Phillipe Craig-St. Louis and Oregon State JR 1B Gabe Clark. It’s slightly more complicated than this, but today it comes down to the hit tool of Craig-St.Louis winning out by a hair over the power upside of Clark. Tomorrow I might go with the power.
I swear I’ve written about Arizona JR 2B/OF Scott Kingery on the internet somewhere before this season, but I can’t find proof of it anywhere. No matter, as I’m happy to write about one of my favorite 2015 draft prospects all over again for the first time. Of course, you can’t really write about Kingery without also writing about his double-play partner JR SS/2B Kevin Newman. Both players have the chance for plus hit tools in the big leagues with enough pop (average for Kingery, a touch less than that for Newman) and speed (above-average to plus for Kingery, average to above-average for Newman) to be really valuable offensive players. Defensively, Newman’s instincts are so damn good that I think he’s a sure-fire shortstop for a long time even without the kind of physical tools some teams demand in the middle infield talent. I hesitate to add that last part because it sells Newman’s actual tools short. Though he’s not plus in any area (except arguably the hit tool), every other non-power tool is at least average and that’s before getting bumped up because of his preternatural feel for the game.
Somebody smart told me that Newman reminded him of Dansby Swanson “without the super-charged athleticism.” He meant it as a compliment for both guys: Swanson is both a talented ballplayer and a freak athlete worthy of top ten consideration while Newman, a back-end first round pick in his eyes, can do almost everything Swanson can do without being gifted freaky tools (i.e., Newman does more with less). The description I got on Kingery was equally impressive. I was told that “he plays second base like a center fielder.” Again, though I can see how this might be perceived as a slight, this was meant in a very good way. Kingery is such a good athlete that his range at second base, especially on balls into the air behind him, is second to none. I was actually on the fence about his glove being able to stick in the infield this year, but only because I thought he could be good at second and potentially great in center. Now I’m confident that he could be an excellent defender at either spot.
If the preceding paragraphs weren’t clear, I’m all-in on both Kingery and Newman as potential first round picks. Tools, athleticism, instincts, approach, track record…not sure what else you could ask for. If these guys were doing what they are doing while playing for a certain ACC school disproportionately, for reasons both fair (proximity) and not so fair (not so thinly veiled fandom) covered by a certain publication, then we’d be getting weekly updates on their progress and the only draft question left would how high they’d go in the first. I’m extremely tempted to put Kingery over Newman, but the magic of being able to play shortstop wins out for now. That may change between now and June.
There are more misses than hits on my 2011 HS second base rankings — boy, I liked Phillip Evans a lot — but USC SR 2B Dante Flores and UCLA rJR 2B/3B Kevin Kramer coming in at 6th and 8th respectively have held up all right. It took Flores three seasons to hit (he was actually really good as a freshman, but let me have my narrative) and it’s fair to wonder if something has really clicked or if it’s the senior season bounce I referenced above. I buy it as real, but take that for what it is since I’m the guy with “hasn’t turned into player many hoped, but still like him” in my notes from Flores after seeing him during last year’s disappointing junior season. Here are some of the old notes from four years ago on Flores…
Flores can definitely swing the bat, but his power upside is limited and he is an average at best runner. He’s a steady defender at second, capable of making plays on balls hit at or near him but lacking the athleticism and instincts to ever wow you at the spot. Prospects who lack positional safety nets — i.e. a spot on the diamond they can play if they can’t hack it at their original spot — make me really nervous. Flores is probably a second baseman or bust, so there is a lot riding on that hit tool.
Kramer’s return to health has gone even better than hoped in 2015. His bum shoulder that kept him out last season is but a distant memory now that he’s back swinging a hot bat. I haven’t heard how much arm strength he’s regained (it was average pre-injury), but if it’s enough for the left side then he’s a prime candidate for above-average big league utility infielder. That might be selling him short as he’s got the swing, hands, and feel to hit enough to play every day at second base at the next level. Here are Kramer’s HS notes from 2011…
Strength, both at the plate and jammed into his throwing arm, describes Kramer’s biggest current asset. I also like his bat a lot — feel like I’ve said that about a half dozen players already, but it’s true — and have a strong intuitive feel on him.
I still have Arizona State JR 2B/RHP Jordan Aboites listed as a primary infielder, but his pro future will likely come on the mound if it comes at all. If that’s the case, I can vouch for his showing up on a Fangraphs list before too long as one of Carson Cistulli’s favorite prospects. Relievers who stand 5-5, 150 pounds with ridiculous athleticism, solid velocity (88-92), and plus breaking balls tend to be fairly popular players. I mean, even I love the guy and I’m an old curmudgeonly jerk.
California SR 2B/3B Chris Paul is another Pac-12 middle infielder who took longer than expected to hit, but appears to have figured something out in 2015. Stanford JR SS/RHP Drew Jackson might be the guy we talk about in a similar vein next season. I’ve come full circle on him, originally thinking he was overhyped back when some mentioned him as a first round sleeper to now believing he’s being undervalued as a toolsy athlete with as yet untapped upside. He’s got the goods to stick at shortstop (his plus-plus arm being his best tool) with enough offensive talent (plus speed, average raw power) to intrigue. I think the combination of his preseason draft expectations and the lure of a Stanford diploma will make him a very tough sign this summer, but that’s just one outsider’s take.
Oregon JR 3B/1B Mitchell Tolman has been under the radar for too long. He’s a steady, versatile (can also play 2B) defender with average speed, ample arm strength, and a patient approach. This is a “in no way is this a comparison” comparison, but Tolman’s profile is a little bit like the college game’s version of Matt Carpenter. Arizona State JR 3B/OF Dalton DiNatale is another guy who can play multiple spots. He’s also got a solid approach and good size. Utah rSO 3B Dallas Carroll is a good athlete with, you guessed it, a good approach, but I mostly wanted to include him since I felt bad for stiffing the Utah offense otherwise. JR 2B Kody Davis and JR SS Cody Scaggari are nice players, too!
Oregon State JR OF Jeff Hendrix is a fine looking prospect who hasn’t gotten much (any?) national attention just yet. If you’re starting to pick up on a trend with the Pac-12 this year, then you’re smarter than you look. On paper, Hendrix sounds damn good: above-average to plus raw power, average to above-average speed, and great athleticism. He’s made steady improvements on the field with little sign of slowing down. It’s rare that an honest to goodness potential top five round gets overshadowed like this – perhaps it has something to do with being teammates with the extremely impressive freshman KJ Harrison – but he’ll get his due before too long.
UCLA JR OF/LHP Ty Moore is living proof that you can have average tools across the board so long as the best of said tools is the bat, whether it’s straight hit or power. Moore has as good a hit tool as you’ll find in this year’s class. The rest of his tools may be more or less average, but that hit tool will keep him getting paid for years to come. It’s a bit of a tricky profile in an outfield corner, but those with confidence in him as a hitter will give him a long look. I’m buying it.
Meanwhile, Washington JR OF/RHP Braden Bishop is the anti-Moore. His tools have always been loud (plus arm strength, plus to plus-plus speed, plus CF range), but his bat has long been a question. By all accounts he has turned a corner as a hitter so far this spring, which is both great to see from a personal perspective and because it adds yet another talented up-the-middle talent to this year’s draft class. USC JR OF Timmy Robinson isn’t quite the same athlete, but works as another potential anti-Moore (or, more aptly, Moore’s inverse prospect) with four average or better tools (all but the hit).
I was very excited to see Oregon rJR OF/3B Scott Heineman back and healthy after getting past a lost 2014 season. There have been signs of rust both at the plate and in the field, but no real drop in his impressive set of tools. I’m starting to think of him more as a potential super utility player (OF, 3B, 2B, maybe some C) at the highest level, though I admit that usage like that might not exactly be all that realistic an outcome knowing what we know about how most big league managers favor more defined roles. I’m also starting to get the feeling that Heineman could be one of those players who, for whatever reason, wind up as better pros than collegiate players.
The positive buzz on Arizona JR OF Justin Behnke coming into the season was unrelenting, so it’s good to see him delivering on his promise in his first year as a Wildcat. He’s an easy to appreciate prospect who wisely plays within himself and accentuates his strengths (speed, defense, plate discipline) with smarts and good baseball instincts. I’m a fan. Arizona State JR OF John Sewald is his brother from another mother at a rival school. Neither player ever gives off the future regular in the big leagues vibe, but both have clear, usable skill sets that help you envision a path to the highest level as a valuable role player.
Though he’s done next to nothing so far this year, Stanford JR OF Zach Hoffpauir remains one of the draft’s most intriguing wild cards. He’s incredibly raw and a little stiff in his baseball movements, but still flashes the athleticism, strength, and power that keep him on follow lists. I’ve cooled a bit on football to baseball conversions, especially those that have trained their bodies to play on the gridiron during their college years, after getting the chance to talk to some really smart people in the game on the subject (both old school types and younger front office members privy to some interesting proprietary research). Washington State rJR OF Ben Roberts never played football for the Cougars, but much of what was written above applies to him all the same: tools aplenty, but hasn’t done it on the field enough to warrant serious draft consideration in 2015. Speaking of tools…I don’t recall if I’ve shared this before and I’m too lazy to check, but seeing in my notes that USC rSR OF Omar Cotto Lozada was once described to me as “if Usain Bolt played baseball” always brightens my day. I’d drop a pick in round forty on the guy just to watch him run.
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting
- Arizona JR SS/2B Kevin Newman
- Arizona JR 2B/OF Scott Kingery
- Washington JR C Austin Rei
- Oregon State JR OF Jeff Hendrix
- UCLA JR OF/LHP Ty Moore
- Washington JR OF/RHP Braden Bishop
- Oregon rJR OF/3B Scott Heineman
- UCLA rJR 2B/3B Kevin Kramer
- Oregon JR 3B/1B Mitchell Tolman
- Stanford JR SS/RHP Drew Jackson
- Arizona State JR C RJ Ybarra
- Oregon SR C Shaun Chase
- Arizona SR C Riley Moore
- USC SR 2B Dante Flores
- USC JR OF Timmy Robinson
- Arizona JR OF Justin Behnke
- Arizona State JR 3B/OF Dalton DiNatale
- Arizona State rSR OF Trever Allen
- Arizona JR OF Zach Gibbons
- Oregon JR C/RHP Josh Graham
- Stanford JR C Austin Barr
- USC SR C Garrett Stubbs
- California SR 2B/3B Chris Paul
- Arizona State JR OF John Sewald
- Oregon JR 1B/OF Phillipe Craig-St. Louis
- Stanford JR OF Zach Hoffpauir
- USC JR SS Blake Lacey
- Oregon State JR 1B Gabe Clark
- Washington State rJR OF Ben Roberts
- UCLA JR 2B Trent Chatterdon
- UCLA JR C Darrell Miller
- Arizona JR 2B/SS Jackson Willeford
- USC rSO SS Reggie Southall
- Oregon rSR OF Steven Packard
- USC rSR OF Omar Cotto Lozada
- Utah JR SS Cody Scaggari
- Utah rSO 3B Dallas Carroll
- UCLA rJR C Justin Hazard
Cal Poly JR C Brian Mundell
UC Davis rSR 1B Nick Lynch
Cal Poly JR 2B Mark Mathias
Cal Poly JR SS Peter Van Gansen
Long Beach State JR 3B Zack Rivera
Cal State Northridge rJR OF Spencer O’Neil
UC Santa Barbara JR OF Dalton Kelly
Hawaii SR OF Keao Aliviado
UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Dillon Tate
Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Thomas Eshelman
Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Justin Garza
UC Santa Barbara JR LHP Justin Jacome
UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Dylan Hecht
I’ve written about Santa Barbara JR RHP Dillon Tate a bit before. One particularly pertinent excerpt…
Speaking of parallels, and I really hate to make this comparison because of how lazy it’ll appear, hear me out with this one. Long-time readers of the site know I do my best to look past player characteristics that don’t matter when it comes to developing comps, so hopefully I get the benefit of the doubt on this one. In all honesty, it makes a lot of baseball sense so whatever let’s just do it: Tate’s scouting profile looks a lot like Marcus Stroman’s coming out of Duke. The differences (mechanics aren’t similar at all [man, I loved Stroman’s] and Tate has a few inches on Stroman) are real, but the ties that bind the two are far more interesting. Both Tate and Stroman were primarily relievers through two years of college (Stroman made 13 starts out of his 34 games), both are/were great athletes with repeatable deliveries (even if you don’t love Tate’s, as I don’t, he is athletic enough to keep it up), and both clearly had the stuff to start once you looked past some of the superficial “he’s a reliever!” concerns (big fastballs, plus hard sliders/cutters, and underdeveloped changeups with big upside). I think it’s pretty cool that we’ve come far enough in just a few short years to better appreciate what a slightly non-conventional pitcher can do, and Tate should have no problem blowing past Stroman’s draft ceiling (22nd overall pick) this June. It helps that Tate has a little more size — Stroman being 5’9″ took the short righthander thing to a wonderful extreme — and a few additional contemporary examples of young big leaguers (Yordano Ventura) and minor league stars (Luis Severino) that helped crack the shorty righty glass ceiling. Speaking of Severino, I don’t know if that’s a terrible comparison for Tate, either. I prefer Stroman, but Severino, who dazzled me the two different times I got to see him this summer (93-96 FB, 98 peak; cartoonish mid-80s breaking ball, and a more advanced CU than most pitchers his age), isn’t a terrible name to be associated with.
I’d rather not use up all my words on Tate again because there are a ton of other quality arms in the Big West to get to, but suffice it to say that the fireballing righty from Santa Barbara is really, really good and all but a lock for the top ten of this year’s draft barring injury.
What a pleasant surprise it was to find Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Thomas Eshelman has a lot more fans among pro guys than I would have originally guessed. I’ve written about the different perception of college writers versus draft writers a few times over the years, and Eshelman seemed like a perfect case study as a dominant college starter unlikely to keep up his awesome results as a pro because of a lack of overpowering stuff. Thankfully, the majority of the smart people I asked about Eshelman couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about his professional future. Obviously expectations contextualize their enthusiasm – he’s not a first round prospect and not a future big league ace, two simple realities that ought to go without saying but might come as a surprise to the staunchest college only baseball fans – so we’re talking more about the better than expected chance that he’ll continue to stay in a rotation in the pros with the possibility of him reaching a mid- to back-end rotation starter status before long. Some draft guys dismiss Eshelman altogether as a future pro, but I don’t get why his strengths (plus-plus command, plus-plus control, and a variety of offspeed pitches designed to keep batters as off-balanced as a weeble who not only wobbles but has in fact fallen down) won’t translate to the pro game. Even his fastball velocity, his biggest perceived weakness coming into the season, has firmed up from the mid-80s (touching 90) to closer to the upper-80s (93 peak). That’s fast enough for me, especially when you consider his pinpoint command of the pitch and significant deception in his delivery. The deception in his motion in addition to the overall package and future pro outlook all bring to mind Ben Lively, a fourth round pick in 2013. That seems like a reasonable expectation for Eshelman at this point. Other big league names that I’ve heard Eshelman’s ceiling compared to include Aaron Harang, Brandon McCarthy, Tanner Roark, and Phil Hughes.
Eshelman’s teammate JR RHP Justin Garza is another unconventional pitching prospect with big league rotation stalwart upside. Unlike Eshelman, Garza’s got the classic stuff of a power pitcher: 90-94 FB (96 peak), above-average to plus 79-86 cut-SL, and an average 76-82 changeup that flashes better. It’s Garza’s slight 5-11, 165 pound frame that make him a bit of an anomaly. It’s imperfect as a comp, but I view Garza almost as a harder throwing version of former Fullerton ace Tyler Pill*, a fourth round pick in 2011. In terms of ceiling, I’d stay in California and use former USC star and current Padres pitcher, Ian Kennedy.
*There are 36 pitchers ahead of Pill on Baseball America’s Mets depth chart and 54 total prospects ahead of him at Fangraphs. I’m not sitting here projecting stardom for the guy, but too often floor is not valued nearly enough by the experts. I understand that prospect guys garner more acclaim for hitting on top names and being the first to identify a high-upside low-minors player that make good, but let’s give a little love for the cheap, useful, and competent role players and maybe/maybe not fifth starters. Going for the home run is more fun – heck, I do it all the time and would go to bat for upside over certainty if forced to choose – but ML-ready talent that can be used to patch holes on rosters right now are grossly undervalued on expert lists. Maybe this is just the native Philadelphian in me, but I’d kill for a guy with a solid draft pedigree, decent stuff, and consistently stellar minor league success like Tyler Pill right now on the Phillies roster.
JR LHP Justin Jacome, currently better known as Tate’s rotation-mate with UC Santa Barbara, deserves more draft love than he’s currently getting. Like Eshelman, he won’t overwhelm you with his velocity (85-90 FB, 92 peak) but the confidence he has in all five pitches (cutter, CB, CU, SL) makes it work. His size, athleticism, command, and changeup (my favorite of his secondaries) are all points in his favor. Next time anybody takes me too seriously, just remember that I had UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Dylan Hecht on my 2015 prospect to know list last year instead of Tate. I was buying him as the better bet to make the conversion to the rotation for reasons I don’t even remember. Now I can’t even find the guy on a roster. Anybody have any insight there? Ten minutes of Googling has me with more questions than answers.
Cal State Northridge JR RHP Calvin Copping is intriguing because of a fastball with more coming (86-92 now), occasional plus slider, and a changeup with promise. Cal State Fullerton SR LHP Tyler Peitzmeier is one of the country’s best relievers with the stuff (87-90 FB, plus CU) and deception to keep missing bats as a pro. UC Davis rJR RHP Max Cordy is a power arm with a plus fastball and not so plus control. As a high-profile transfer from Tennessee, UC Irvine JR RHP Matt Esparza was a name to watch coming into the season. He’s delivered so far as he’s ably mixed a solid fastball (88-93), plus hard splitter/slider thing, and flashed a truer breaking ball (upper-70s curve) with above-average upside.
The pitching in the Big West is deep and impressive, but what about the prospects tasked with hitting off these guys? The second base Big West prospect group for 2015 is a lot of fun. I could see up to a half-dozen future professional second basemen coming out of here. The obvious headliner is Cal Poly JR 2B/OF Mark Mathias. Mathias is a famous enough prospect by now that I probably don’t have to even mention this, but, man, can he hit. Mathias and hitter are basically synonymous at this point. He’s one of only two players in this year’s college class that I can put down plus for his hit tool and walk away feeling totally confident. A search of “plus hit” in my 130,000+ Word document produces only nine matches. Among them are UCLA JR OF Ty Moore, Mathias’s plus hit tool peer, and Notre Dame SO 2B/3B Cavan Biggio (a reasonable comp as a hitter for Mathias), as well as a few 2015 draft-eligible players I noted as having a chance for a plus hit tool in Cincinnati JR 2B/OF Ian Happ and Mississippi State rSO OF Jacob Robson. Other players in the mix for best hit tool in this class include obvious candidates like Arizona JR SS Kevin Newman, Vanderbilt JR SS Dansby Swanson, LSU JR 2B/SS Alex Bregman, and Florida State JR OF DJ Stewart. Dark horses I like more than others – and, again, we’re talking straight hit tool here only – are Auburn JR OF/2B Jordan Ebert and Ohio SR 1B Jake Madsen.
Some players engender more comps than others and for whatever reason Mathias is one of those guys. Baseball America has thrown out David Bell and Sam Travis as comparisons in the past. I’ve heard Placido Polanco, Howie Kendrick, and, my personal favorite (and, though he’s never told me why, one of my dad’s all-time favorite players) Mark Loretta.
UC Davis rSR 2B/OF Tino Lipson is a versatile defender (who happens to be really good at second) with plus speed and a patient approach. The buzz on Long Beach State rJR 2B Zach Domingues coming into the season shocked me in a good way. His bat has been slow to warm up so far this year, though he’s found a way to control the strike zone, one of the main selling parts of his game, despite his struggles. Cal State Fullerton JR 2B/SS Jake Jefferies is a quality all-around player who could see his stock rise if teams feel confident about his glove being able to hang at shortstop in small doses. Hawaii SR 2B Stephen Ventimilia isn’t big, but he’s a fantastic runner and athlete with a serious knack for getting on base.
As if this class needed another shortstop with the upside to one day start in the big leagues, here comes wildly underrated Cal Poly SS Peter Van Gansen and his steady glove, strong arm, and patient approach. He’s on the thin line between future utility player and potential regular right now, though his increased pop in 2015 could convince some teams he’ll hit enough to hold his own at the bottom of a lineup. I’m admittedly higher on him than most, but he checks enough of the boxes that teams like in potential backup infielders that I think he’ll wind up a valuable draft asset.
Cal Poly JR C Brian Mundell just keeps chugging along as one of the west coast’s most underrated catching prospects. All he’s done is produce since his first day on campus. I have him as a potential high-level backup catcher with the upside of starting in the big leagues with continued development. That’s aggressive, but, much like Van Gansen, I just like the way he plays the game.
UC Davis JR C Cameron Olson hasn’t been able to put it all together quite yet, but if he does then it’ll be worth the wait. His plus raw power and plus arm strength combination is what evaluators dream about. On the other end of the spectrum is the reliable yet unexciting profile of UC Irvine rSR C Jerry McClanahan. The veteran Anteater’s patient approach at the plate is my kind of prospect, but his lack of power and advanced age make him more organizational depth than future big league backup. Of course, the former can become the latter in certain cases, and there are all kinds of unseen advantages in bringing in quality workers like McClanahan to work with your minor league pitchers. I’d still have to take the upside play in Olson over the steady yet limited McClanahan, but I could understand why a team would want to use a late pick on a catcher that would put his pitchers first.
I’ve always been fond of Cal State Northridge rJR OF Spencer O’Neil’s physical ability, but his approach at the plate needs to change in a hurry if he’s to have the kind of pro future his raw talent suggests. UC Santa Barbara JR OF/1B Dalton Kelly has similar issues as a hitter, though he’s a really interesting athlete with serious speed and defensive tools varied enough to play both 1B and CF at a high level.
Back when I guess I thought I would physically be able to cover every team in college baseball I began working on previews for a few Big West schools. Since they’d never see the light of day otherwise, why not rescue these unfinished drafts from my Gmail archives with the adoring public? Keep in mind that these were all written back in December, so blame any stupidity you read on that fact and that fact alone.
Long Beach State
SO SS Garrett Hampson’s time under the draft microscope is still a year away, but that won’t stop scouts from honing in on him this spring. Part of that is because he’s a huge draw on his own (crazy speed, great athlete, all the defensive upside you could ask for) and part of that is because he’s one of the very few draws on the roster. That’s not to say that players won’t emerge or that I’m missing quality prospects hiding in plain sight, but I’m not sure there’s a sure-fire 2015 draft prospect on this roster. JR 3B Zack Rivera showed promise in 2013, but his production took a dive in a small sample last year. JR C Eric Hutting has professional backup catcher traits (arm, glove, athleticism), but, like Rivera, took too big a step back with the bat last year for me to be comfortable calling him a 2015 draft lock. rSR RHP Kyle Friedrichs, a Tommy John surgery survivor back in 2013, has always had nice peripherals and solid stuff. He’s probably my favorite of the upperclass pitching crop, but it’s an admittedly thin group at the moment.
There’s some nice talent scattered across the Hawaii lineup. You can point to just about any regular position player and identify a skill or tool that stands out enough to get on a follow list. There’s not much power on the roster, so scouts will key on players that could keep advancing levels by way of their speed, defense, and athleticism. The two players that best embody those physical attributes are SR OF Keao Aliviado and SR 2B Stephen Ventimilia. Both seniors are undersized (5-7ish, 160ish pounds) grinders with athleticism to spare. Ventimilia is the better runner and Aliviado has flashed a tiny bit more functional power, but those are two of the few separating characteristics here. Each guy has hit well in a wood bat league, each guy has walked as much as he’s struck out (more or less in Aliviado’s case), and each guy should have no problem hanging at an up-the-middle defensive position. Neither player profiles as anything close to a starter, but both should be late-round senior signs and strong organizational players with the kind of makeup that would give an organizational a net gain just by being around other young players.
Hawaii’s pitching looks decent enough that it’s not crazy to think a pitcher or two could get selected off the roster in June. I’m curious to see what JR RHP Tyler Brashears can do, hopeful that SR RHP Eric Gleese can put it all together in his last year, and fascinating to see what rSR LHP Jarrett Arakawa has left in the tank. Arakawa, a fifth-year senior who’s strong freshman season (7.43 K/9) got him early attention, has survived a missed season (2013) after having a procedure done on his labrum. What he lacks in stuff post-injury he makes up for in guile on the mound. His case may unfortunately wind up as a “what if” rather than a happy draft day ending, but just having the opportunity to convince scouts he’s got what it takes to pitch professionally one last time is a success for Arakawa at this point.
Cal State Northridge
I still have the quote saved from when rJR OF Spencer O’Neil left Oregon after the 2013 season: he “decided to pursue other opportunities” and that was that. Well he’s back playing D1 ball this year and I’m damn pleased to see it. There’s the big question as to whether his approach will remain a hindrance to his overall game, especially after a year at junior college that showed little to no gains from his freshman season at Oregon (from 6 BB and 32 K at Oregon to 8 BB and 30 K at Central Arizona). I liken him to a power pitcher capable of hitting the mid-90s with a darting fastball that he has no idea how to harness effectively. The raw talent is obvious, but bridging the gap from prospect to player is going to take a lot more work than your typical draftable college bat.
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting
- Cal Poly JR 2B/OF Mark Mathias
- Cal Poly JR SS Peter Van Gansen
- UC Davis rSR 2B/OF Tino Lipson
- Long Beach State rJR 2B Zach Domingues
- Cal Poly JR C Brian Mundell
- Cal State Northridge rJR OF Spencer O’Neil
- UC Santa Barbara JR OF/1B Dalton Kelly
- Cal State Fullerton JR 2B/SS Jake Jefferies
- UC Davis JR C Cameron Olson
- Hawaii SR OF Keao Aliviado
- Cal State Fullerton JR 1B Tanner Pinkston
- Cal Poly SR OF Zack Zehner
- UC Davis rSR 1B/3B Nick Lynch
- Hawaii SR 2B Stephen Ventimilia
- UC Irvine rSR C Jerry McClanahan
- UC Riverside SR 2B/OF Joe Chavez
- UC Santa Barbara SR OF Cameron Newell
- Cal State Northridge SR C Nick Murphy
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching
- UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Dillon Tate
- Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Thomas Eshelman
- Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Justin Garza
- UC Santa Barbara JR LHP Justin Jacome
- Cal State Northridge JR RHP Calvin Copping
- UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Dylan Hecht
- Cal State Northridge rSR RHP Kyle Ferramola
- Hawaii JR RHP Tyler Brashears
- Cal State Fullerton SR LHP Tyler Peitzmeier
- UC Davis rJR RHP Max Cordy
- UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Connor Baits
- Cal State Fullerton SR RHP Willie Kuhl
- Cal State Northridge SR LHP Jerry Keel
- UC Irvine JR RHP Matt Esparza
- UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Trevor Bettencourt
- UC Santa Barbara JR RHP James Carter
- UC Riverside JR RHP Keaton Leach
- Cal Poly SR LHP Taylor Chris
- Hawaii JR RHP LJ Brewster
- Cal Poly JR RHP Casey Bloomquist
- UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Kenny Chapman
- Hawaii SR RHP Eric Gleese
- UC Riverside SR LHP Kevin Sprague
- UC Santa Barbara JR RHP/3B Robby Nesovic
- Hawaii rSR LHP Jarrett Arakawa
- Hawaii JR RHP Josh Pigg
- Cal State Northridge JR RHP Rayne Raven
Fresno State JR C Taylor Ward
Nevada SR 1B Austin Byler
New Mexico JR 2B Sam Haggerty
New Mexico JR SS Dalton Bowers
San Diego State JR 3B Ty France
San Diego State SR OF Steven Pallares
Fresno State JR OF Brody Russell
New Mexico SR OF Ryan Padilla
San Diego State JR RHP Bubba Derby
UNLV JR LHP Brayden Torres
Fresno State SR RHP Garrett Mundell
Nevada JR RHP Michael Fain
Nevada JR RHP Sam Held
Sometimes I get so wrapped up into doing things for the site that I forget that there is a great big baseball world outside my tiny corner of the internet. As such, I’m way behind on checking in on a lot of the mainstream draft coverage that has been put out since the college season in February. Help me out here: Fresno State JR C Taylor Ward is a first round pick, right? People have caught on to that? He’s pretty much Max Pentecost without the Twitter approved cool guy name. If Pentecost could go eleventh overall, then surely Ward can find a fit in the first day, right? He’s a really good athlete who moves exceptionally well behind the plate. His arm is an absolute howitzer with easy to spot plus to plus-plus raw strength. Offensively he does enough of everything – average or a tick below speed underway, about the same raw power, and a disciplined approach that consistently puts him in good hitter’s counts – to profile as a well above-average regular when both sides of his game are considered.
“The best true catcher is probably Pentecost,” a club executive said. “He’s going in the first round for sure. He doesn’t have a lot of power, it’s more alley and extra-base hits than pure power, but he’s a good hitter, a good athlete and he can run. He can throw and he will get better as a receiver. I think it’s a solid overall player at a tough position to find.”
Sub out Pentecost’s name for Ward’s and you’re all set. His closest competitors for top college catcher in this class (pre-season) for me have all slipped enough that I think there’s real separation between Ward and everybody else. Shaun Chase (Oregon) still has the prodigious raw power that will keep him employed for years to come, but the approach has shown little to no signs of improving. My former top guy, Ian Rice (Houston), has been up and down (to put it kindly) in his first season of D1 baseball. Austin Rei (Washington) seemed poised to have a breakout season and challenge Ward for the top spot, but a torn thumb ligament stalled his season after only 17 at bats. There’s still a question as to whether or not he’ll be back before the end of the season. I could see a scenario where a team would prefer Rei, who I still think goes higher than anybody thinks because of his pitch-framing abilities alone, but the injury obviously makes him one of the draft’s greatest unknowns heading into June.
I don’t actually know where Ward will go in the draft and without having my entire board lined up just yet it is premature to say he’s a no-doubt first round pick for me personally. I do find it hard to imagine that a player with his upside will fall past the first forty picks or so into the second round. This kind of logic doesn’t always hold because it takes but one team to select a player, but if Pentecost, who, I liked more than loved as a prospect, went off the board at eleven last year then I don’t see why Ward would fall multiple rounds past that in what many (not me, but still) consider to be a weaker draft.
Last March I wrote very briefly about Nevada SR 1B/3B Austin Byler and his promising future. Back then I had him ranked seventh out of all draft-eligible college first basemen behind a pretty damn good list of bats. Kyle Schwarber, Casey Gillaspie, Sam Travis, JD Davis, AJ Reed, and Kevin Cron were the only players I had above him then. Coming into this year I had him only behind Boston College 1B/OF Chris Shaw in terms of straight college first base prospects and neck and neck with Central Florida 1B/OF James Vasquez. I haven’t updated those rankings in a while, but I think Byler is comfortably in the top five first base prospect range. Here’s the blurb on Byler from last March…
Slow start notwithstanding, Byler’s power is legit and his approach to hitting, while not reflected just yet in terms of BB/K ratios, is well-suited for professional ball.
Not much has changed in his scouting profile, though he’s turned into even more of a three-true-outcomes monster in 2015. I’ve asked around on Byler and gotten some pretty interesting feedback. On the high end he’s gotten comparisons to Mark Reynolds and Russell Branyan. More to the point, he’s viewed as a hitter who will strike out a ton, walk his fair share, and swat dingers at an impressive clip. I also got a Preston Wilson comparison (hitter only, obviously) that I enjoyed as much for the nostalgia as the utility. A more cautionary comparison is the one that likened him to former first round pick Tyler Colvin. I personally find the continuum from a lefthanded Reynolds (useful power source that can be quite valuable when deployed properly) to Colvin (4A slugger with flashes of promise, but more of an up-and-down bench bat) particularly useful.
As far as a draft prospect comparison, I think Byler could wind up going off the board around the same range as another senior sign slugger from yesteryear (way, way back in 2012), Preston Tucker. Byler could get a bit of a boost because power is in even higher demand now than just three years ago. He could also beat that seven round projection because he’s a more conventionally pleasing looking player for scouts who might worry as much about aesthetics than results. I like the bat enough that I think you start thinking seriously about him somewhere between rounds three and five.
All of the middle infielders from New Mexico that I like (JR 2B/SS Sam Haggerty, JR SS/2B Dalton Bowers, and JR SS Jared Holley) have gotten off to slow starts so far. The consistently positive things I’ve heard about Bowers (in general) and Holley (his plus glove specifically) keep my appreciation for the group alive, but a little more pop out of the trio would make me feel a bit better. San Diego State JR 3B Ty France has one of the draft’s most underrated bats, especially when his natural feel for hitting and functional strength (and subsequent power) are considered. Guys who really get excited about watching a young player swing at bat well come away raving about what France can do at the plate. I haven’t seen enough of him to get that feeling (also: I’m not a scout), but hearing it as often as I have from people who have been around the game forever definitely gets my attention.
The outfield group in the MWC this year is more about depth than high-end talent. There are a lot of maybe/maybe not draftable players, but no sure things. My favorite of the bunch is San Diego State SR OF/RHP Steven Pallares. It’s taken some time for Pallares to get going – it’s the end of March as I write this and he’s already tied his career high in AB – but now that he’s hitting full-time he’s, well, hitting full-time. His arm is both strong and accurate, he’s an above-average runner, and the strides he’s made at the plate are undeniably encouraging.
Below you’ll find my unedited (with one exception) pre-season list of Mountain West 2015 MLB Draft pitching prospects. The only tweak I made was in moving up San Diego State JR RHP Bubba Derby from third to first; all other players are exactly where I put them before the season began. I make special note of that now because this list has not held up well at all. It could be that I have no idea what I’m talking about or that the MWC has an especially volatile group of arms this year or that maybe the elevation or atmospheric conditions or something altogether unexplainable inherent to this conference makes predicting pitching more of a guessing game than even I, a guesser by nature (“Baseball Guesser” should go on my nonexistent business card because, let’s face it, that’s all we’re really doing here), am used to. All I know is that I’m more confused about these pitchers now more than ever.
We know Derby is good, though even with his awesome numbers (12.5 K/9) we’re still not quite sure how good he really is. The fact that he can throw two above-average breaking balls to complement his 88-92 (94 peak) fastball is obviously a very good thing. His 5-11, 185 pound frame, however, could give evaluators some pause when projecting him to carry a full starter’s workload in the big leagues one day. I don’t share those concerns, but I get it. I’d personally like to see or hear more about a usable changeup before going all-in on him as a potential average or better big league starter, but the pieces are there. Behind Derby are two other favorites that don’t get much national acclaim. Fresno State SR RHP Garrett Mundell is extension personified. It’s as if he’s handing the ball off to the catcher. I like that. UNLV JR LHP Brayden Torres has pitched out of the bullpen for the Runnin’ Rebels, but I think he has the depth of stuff, control, and build to start professionally.
Little to nothing has gone right with Nevada’s top draft-eligible pitching prospects this season. JR RHP Michael Fain has an electric arm capable of mid-90s heat and a hard low-80s slider, but his college career has been plagued by inconsistency. He’s got the long, lean frame (6-6, 185) to dream on, so no reason to hop off the bandwagon altogether. His teammate JR RHP Sam Held is another good athlete with a strong fastball (94 peak) and plenty of projection left who hasn’t performed as hoped so far this season.
Finally, since we’re on the subject of Nevada, how about JR 1B/OF Ryan Howell? He’s a junior college transfer (Chabot College) that I have little to no information on, but his numbers leapt off the page when doing a quick check of the conference’s strongest early performers: .400/.485/.790 in 105 AB is no joke. That’s one year after wrecking juco ball to the tune of .292/.464/.571 with 35 BB/25 K in 154 AB. The Oregon State transfer is finally healthy after the long recovery from a torn labrum. He’s played both first and in the outfield in the past, but is manning second for the Wolfpack in 2015 in deference to one of college ball’s most stacked set of corner prospects (Byler at first with Kewby Myer and Trenton Brooks in the outfield corners). I’m not sure how real this hot start is or how he’s holding up at second, but I’m motivated to know more.
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting
- Fresno State JR C Taylor Ward
- Nevada SR 1B/3B Austin Byler
- San Diego State JR 3B Ty France
- Nevada SR 1B/LHP Kewby Meyer
- New Mexico JR 2B/SS Sam Haggerty
- San Diego State SR OF/RHP Steven Pallares
- Fresno State JR OF/SS Brody Russell
- New Mexico SR OF/1B Ryan Padilla
- UNLV JR OF/3B Joey Armstrong
- New Mexico JR OF Aaron Siple
- UNLV SR C/OF Erik VanMeetren
- San Jose State JR 2B Ozzy Braff
- San Diego State rSO C/RHP CJ Saylor
- San Diego State SR 3B/1B Ryan Muno
- New Mexico JR SS/2B Dalton Bowers
- New Mexico JR SS Jared Holley
- San Jose State SR OF Andre Mercurio
- Nevada SR SS Kyle Hunt
- San Diego State rJR OF/C Seby Zavala
- Nevada SR C Jordan Devencenzi
- San Diego State rJR OF Spencer Thornton
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching
- San Diego State JR RHP Bubba Derby
- UNLV JR LHP Brayden Torres
- Fresno State SR RHP Garrett Mundell
- Nevada JR RHP Michael Fain
- Nevada JR RHP Sam Held
- Nevada SR LHP Tyler Wells
- New Mexico rJR LHP Toller Boardman
- UNLV JR RHP Kenny Oakley
- New Mexico JR RHP/SS Drew Bridges
- San Diego State JR RHP Dalton Douty
- New Mexico rJR LHP Alex Estrella
- UNLV rJR LHP Zak Qualls
- UNLV rJR RHP Zack Hartman
- San Diego State JR RHP Mark Seyler
- New Mexico JR RHP Taylor Duree
- Nevada JR RHP Adam Whitt
- UNLV JR RHP/1B Bryan Bonnell
- New Mexico rJR RHP Victor Sanchez
- San Jose State SR RHP/OF Kalei Contrades
- New Mexico JR RHP Mike Gould
- Air Force SR RHP Ben Yokley
- UNLV SR RHP Joey Lauria
- New Mexico SR RHP Jake Cole
Dallas Baptist rJR C Daniel Salters
Missouri State JR 1B Spencer Johnson
Missouri State SR 2B Eric Cheray
Bradley JR SS Tyler Leffler
Wichita State JR 3B Chase Rader
Missouri State JR OF Tate Matheny
Dallas Baptist JR OF Daniel Sweet
Evansville rSR OF Kevin Kaczmarski
Missouri State JR RHP Jon Harris
Dallas Baptist JR RHP Brandon Koch
Dallas Baptist JR RHP Joseph Shaw
Missouri State JR LHP Matt Hall
Dallas Baptist JR RHP Drew Smith
The rise of many of this class’s toolsier players putting it together, especially among the outfield group, has taken some of the shine off of the more solid than spectacular types like Missouri State JR OF Tate Matheny. Matheny still looks like a good bet to fulfill his destiny as a fourth outfielder who won’t kill you in a starting role at times (especially if deployed properly), but teams in the market for upside plays will likely look elsewhere. Such is the life of a guy with no tool worse than average, but no carrying tool either.
I’ve always lumped Matheny together with Cameron Gibson of Michigan State for reasons I’ve never actually stopped and thought about. It probably has something do with their respective big league bloodlines, Midwestern roots (I don’t actually think of Michigan as being particularly Midwestern, but I’m an East Coast jerk so everything that’s not an hour drive from the ocean is Middle America to me), similar birthdays (Matheny is just three days older), similar summer paths (Northwoods in 2013, Cape in 2014), and the fact they both play for a MSU. The comp doesn’t hold up when you actually taken into account the stuff we’re supposed to care about on a baseball draft website (Gibson is a lefthanded hitter with more speed, Matheny is a righty bat who has flashed more pop), but the brain works in mysterious ways.
I’m not sure why Dallas Baptist JR OF Daniel Sweet hasn’t been in the lineup — I’m assuming injury, but two minutes of Google reveal nothing — but I’m hoping whatever it is he’ll be back at it soon. A fairly strong argument can be made for Sweet over Matheny based largely on the difference between Sweet’s consistently above-average tools (raw power, speed, range, arm) and Matheny’s average-ish across the board skill set. Matheny is the safer of the two, having proved he could produce at a high-level over his past three college seasons, but Sweet’s junior college track record is darn impressive in its own right. His two years at Polk State weren’t bad…
.307/.436/.419 – 29 BB/29 K – 30/37 SB – 179 AB
.411/.525/.565 – 42 BB/44 K – 30/33 SB – 209 AB
So between that and his silly athleticism, you see why he’s a highly regarded prospect, right? I have less of a clue than normal about where the industry views Sweet as a prospect, but I’m fairly sure I’ll wind up having him far above anybody else this June. I’m cool with that. Sweet is good.
I like Evansville rSR OF Kevin Kaczmarski a lot. He’s always been one of those guys that smart people have told me had an outstanding approach at the plate. He could hit in AA right now, they said. His ability to track the ball out of the pitcher’s hand is legendary around campus, they said. His plate discipline is what sets him apart, they said. I took all that in, but the cognitive dissonance when hearing that and looking at his BB/K numbers (never bad, but never particularly good, either) was palpable. Keeping in mind that a) it’s early yet, and b) Kaczmarski is a redshirt senior and older than the vast majority of his competition, the smart people who kept talking up his approach (13 BB/6 K in 64 AB) look really good. He’s always been able to hit, so the gains in plate discipline are a welcomed sight. His impressive gap power and above-average speed round out his offensive game nicely. It’ll be most interesting to me to see how pro teams view his range in the outfield. I’ve heard from those who think he’s a lock to play center at the next level. The majority, however, have told me that he’s not the kind of player you’d want out there over a full season and that an outfield corner, where he’d be quite good, is his most likely future home. Since his drafting team would probably select him with a backup future as their most realistic best case scenario for him in mind, I’d think just being able to hang in center without killing you for short stretches will be enough.
I had Dallas Baptist teammates rJR C/OF Daniel Salters and JR OF Daniel Sweet as the 24th and 25th ranked college hitters in the country before the season. We covered Sweet already, so let’s get into Salters. Simply put, things have not gone well for the divisive Patriot in 2015. It’s only been 76 at bats and his BB/K numbers remain encouraging (20/22), but it’s hard to put a happy face on a .171/.364/.250 start. Slow start or not, I still believe in the athletic, powerful (plus raw for me, others have it closer to average) backstop with tremendous arm strength. I’ve heard some smart people suggest it could be time to move him from out behind the plate to an outfield corner in order to jumpstart his bat, but I’m not there yet. I think he can catch as a pro, and I think he can hit enough to be an above-average starter in the big leagues. If vouching for a guy hitting .171 just two months away from the draft like that doesn’t show you I believe in his ability, then nothing will.
Illinois State rJR C/3B Paul DeJong is the gift that keeps giving to college ball. Few players can match his uniqueness as a hitter who flat mashes (.408/.491/.714 in 98 AB this year so far) while being defensively versatile enough to play every infield position but short. Unsurprisingly, I think the smartest play for his future is to keep trying to develop him as a catcher as long as possible. He’s got the athleticism, instincts, and hands for it, so making it work should be the top priority for his drafting team. There might be enough to him as a hitter to play elsewhere in a regular role, but his best fit professionally is as a super-utility player that floats mostly between second, third, and catcher.
The loss of Missouri State SR 2B/SS Eric Cheray to a fractured left ankle is one of this season’s biggest bummers from a draft prospective. He’ll still get his shot in pro ball, but won’t get to do so on the heels of what was starting off as a monster senior season (.474/.577/.737 with 6 BB/2 K in 19 AB). I honestly believe he could have hit his way into the draft’s top five rounds or so. Lost season or not, he’s still one of my favorite straight bats in the country. The fact that he can play a variety of positions – some think he’d take really well if he returns to catching full-time – only makes him a more fascinating prospect to me. There are obvious parallels between Cheray’s game and what Paul DeJong can do; I’ll take Cheray’s plus approach over DeJong’s power upside, but it’s a close call.
Bradley rJR 2B Chris Godinez is a plus runner with the chance to play well enough on the left side of the infield to be a potential utility infielder professionally. His double-play partner, JR SS Tyler Leffler, appeared poised for a big draft season (strong arm, improved glove, intriguing bat) but has stumbled some out of the gate. Evansville SR 2B Brett Synek controls the strike zone about as well as any player in the country.
Pitcher with projection left and a chance to be an above-average big league starter or pitcher who is what he is but what he is happens to be a ready-made high-leverage big league reliever with a mid-90s fastball (98 peak) and a wipeout slider that touches 90? Or, in other words, Missouri State JR RHP Jon Harris or Dallas Baptist JR RHP Brandon Koch? You can’t really go wrong either way, but, as always, I lean towards the future starter all else otherwise being close to equal. Harris throws four pitches for strikes (88-93 FB, 95 peak; above-average upper-70s CB; plus mid-80s SL; sinking CU) with the frame to add a bit more velocity as he fills out. He’s also pulled off the trick of being a reliable starter at Missouri State since day one while also getting slowly but surely more effective along the way. Meanwhile, all Koch is doing is striking out just under 19 batters per nine innings (18.98 as I write this). There are a lot of good, quick-moving relievers in college baseball – there always are – but Koch might be the best of the bunch when it’s all said and done.
Both Harris and Koch come from loaded pitching staffs chock full of potential pro arms. Joining Koch on the Dallas Baptist staff is JR RHP Joseph Shaw, a fastball-reliant (hard to blame him when he sits 90-95, hits 98) potential starting pitcher at the next level with the kind of workhorse frame that some teams prioritize with their pitching targets. There’s also JR RHP Drew Smith, the third Patriot that I have as capable of touching 98 (lives 90-96). Smith also mixes in an average or better mid-70s curve, plus a low-80s changeup and a slider of a similar speed. He’s particularly intriguing to me because he’s been exclusively a reliever this season despite possessing a repertoire capable of going through a lineup more than once. JR RHP Cory Taylor only throws as hard as 94 MPH (slacker), so he’ll have to make up for it with his plus slider. He’s had problems throwing strikes in the past, but seems to have smoothed things out mechanically this year which has in turn improved his control. Like Shaw, Taylor is a big boy (6-2, 250) and a rather intimidating presence on the mound. JR RHP Chance Adams (low-90s FB, great numbers) and SR RHP Jay Calhoun (88-91 FB with plus movement, SL flashes plus) are both also draftable talents. Throw in rSO LHP Colin Poche, a really talented arm to follow next year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, and that’s one incredible staff.
Missouri State isn’t quite as stacked in terms of pro prospects, but Harris’s running mate in the rotation, JR LHP Matt Hall, lines up with almost any other second tier arm in the conference. It’s a fairly typical lefty profile (86-90 FB, average or better CB and CU, good command) with enough of the extra stuff (pitchability, smarts, results) to warrant top ten round consideration.
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting
- Missouri State JR OF Tate Matheny
- Dallas Baptist JR OF Daniel Sweet
- Dallas Baptist rJR C/OF Daniel Salters
- Missouri State SR 2B/SS Eric Cheray
- Illinois State rJR C/3B Paul DeJong
- Bradley JR SS Tyler Leffler
- Evansville rSR OF Kevin Kaczmarski
- Bradley rJR 2B Chris Godinez
- Evansville SR 2B Brett Synek
- Wichita State JR 3B Chase Rader
- Wichita State JR 3B/RHP Willie Schwanke
- Evansville JR SS Shain Showers
- Illinois State JR OF Daniel Dwyer
- Illinois State JR OF Jack Czeszewski
- Missouri State JR 1B/OF Spencer Johnson
- Dallas Baptist SR 2B/SS Drew Turbin
- Dallas Baptist JR 1B/3B Trooper Reynolds
- Wichita State JR OF Daniel Kihle
- Indiana State SR OF Landon Curry
- Evansville JR 1B/OF Eric McKibban
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching
- Missouri State JR RHP Jon Harris
- Dallas Baptist JR RHP Brandon Koch
- Dallas Baptist JR RHP Joseph Shaw
- Missouri State JR LHP Matt Hall
- Dallas Baptist JR RHP Drew Smith
- Dallas Baptist JR RHP Cory Taylor
- Evansville JR RHP Brent Jurceka
- Wichita State rSO RHP Chase Williams
- Indiana State rJR LHP Greg Kuhlman
- Wichita State JR RHP Isaac Anderson
- Wichita State rJR RHP John Hayes
- Bradley JR RHP Eric Scheuermann
- Southern Illinois JR RHP Colten Selvey
- Illinois State JR LHP Will Headean
- Bradley rJR RHP Steve Adkins
- Dallas Baptist rSO LHP Colin Poche
- Bradley JR RHP/1B Elliot Aschbeck
- Dallas Baptist JR RHP Chance Adams
- Dallas Baptist SR RHP Jay Calhoun
- Illinois State JR LHP Jacob Hendren
- Southern Illinois JR RHP Alex Lesiak
- Southern Illinois SO RHP Kyle Pruemer
- Southern Illinois rSR LHP Aaron Hauge
- Southern Illinois rSO RHP Connor McFadden
- Wichita State JR RHP/OF Jon Ferendelli