2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Virginia Tech

rSO OF Saige Jenco (2015)
SR 2B/SS Alex Perez (2015)
rSR OF Kyle Wernicki (2015)
rJR OF Logan Bible (2015)
SR 1B/RHP Brendon Hayden (2015)
rSO 1B/LHP Phil Sciretta (2015)
SR LHP/1B Sean Keselica (2015)
rSO LHP Kit Scheetz (2015)
rJR LHP Jon Woodcock (2015)
SO RHP Luke Scherzer (2016)
SO SS Ricky Surum (2016)
SO RHP Aaron McGarity (2016)
SO 3B Ryan Tufts (2016)
SO OF/LHP Tom Stoffel (2016)
SO 3B/OF Miguel Ceballos (2016)
FR C Joe Freiday (2017)

This year’s Virginia Tech roster is one of the reasons I enjoy following college baseball prospects. Quite simply, there’s not much on this roster worth getting worked about. There are a few worthwhile 2015 follows like SR 1B/RHP Brendon Hayden, who has sandwiched two pretty good years around a dismal sophomore season and has interesting power in his 6-5, 210 pound frame, and SR LHP/1B Sean Keselica, another valuable two-way talent who who has a good arm (87-92 FB, good breaking ball) but has been inconsistent on the mound.

Even still, it would be easy to call it a down year (draft-wise) for the program and move on to the next team, perhaps returning next year if SO SS Ricky Surum starts hitting as expected or SO RHP Aaron McGarity has another solid season. Moving on, however, would led you to miss one of college baseball’s most overlooked talents. rSO OF Saige Jenco is a really good ballplayer. His plus to plus-plus speed is a game-changing tool, and, best of all, his understanding of how and when to utilize his special gift helps it play up even more. It’s rare to find a young player who knows what kind of player he truly is; the ability to play within yourself is so often overlooked by those scouring the nation for potential pros, but it can be the difference between a guy who gets by and a guy who gets the most out of his ability. Jenco knows how and when to use his speed to every advantage possible. From running down mistakes in the outfield, swiping bags at a solid rate, working deep counts and driving pitchers to frustration (40 BB/23 K), to knowing adopting the swing and approach of a power hitter would lead to ruin, Jenco fully understands and appreciates his strengths and weaknesses. While it’s true the lack of present power is a significant weakness (.032 ISO is mind-boggling low), Jenco’s strengths remain more interesting than what he can’t do well. A career along the lines of Ben Revere, Juan Pierre, Dee Gordon, or Craig Gentry, who had an ISO of just .087 in his junior year at Arkansas before returning for a senior season that helped him show off enough of a power spike (.167 ISO) to get drafted as a $10,000 senior sign, is on the table with continued growth.

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Virginia

JR OF Joe McCarthy (2015)
JR 2B/3B John LaPrise (2015)
SO SS/3B Daniel Pinero (2015)
SR 3B Kenny Towns (2015)
JR C/RHP Robbie Coman (2015)
JR LHP Brandon Waddell (2015)
JR LHP Nathan Kirby (2015)
JR RHP Josh Sborz (2015)
JR LHP David Rosenberger (2015)
SO RHP Connor Jones (2016)
SO C Matt Thaiss (2016)
SO RHP Jack Roberts (2016)
SO RHP Alec Bettinger (2016)
FR 2B Jack Gerstenmaier (2017)
FR 1B/RHP Pavin Smith (2017)
FR RHP Derek Casey (2017)
FR RHP Tommy Doyle (2017)
FR OF/LHP Adam Haseley (2017)
FR LHP Bennett Sousa (2017)
FR 3B Charlie Cody (2017)
FR C/2B Justin Novak (2017)
FR OF Christian Lowry (2017):
FR INF/OF Ernie Clement (2017)

Virginia has spoiled us all when we look at the talent above and think “yeah, it’s good but I’m just not feeling blown away.” That was my initial reaction to seeing the team laid out like this, but then you start doing the math. We’ve got a super athletic corner outfielder with a plus approach and strong hit tool (JR OF Joe McCarthy), a 6-5, 210 pound defensively gifted middle infielder (SO SS/3B Daniel Pinero), a crafty lefty with a plus curve who struck out almost a batter an inning his last healthy season (JR LHP Brandon Waddell), and a power-armed potential professional closer who lives in the mid-90s with three average or better secondaries including a hard cut-SL that could be a major weapon in time (JR RHP Josh Sborz). Then there’s JR LHP Nathan Kirby. All he’s done since getting to Virginia is a) strike out a batter an inning while consistently shutting down some of the stronger lineups in the country each week, b) see his stuff tick up to where he’s now hitting 94/95 with a knuckle curve at 76-84 that is unhittable when on, and c) retain his always above-average or better athleticism and command. He also had that no-hitter with 18 strikeouts against Pittsburgh last season, a performance so dominating he now has his own Wikipedia page. I am far too lazy to do a comprehensive list of all 2015 college draft prospects with Wikipedia pages, so you’ll just have to buy that the only ones I found in my two minutes of research are Kirby, Alex Bregman, Carson Fulmer, and Phil Bickford, though I suppose once Brady Aiken is officially enrolled at a junior college he can be added to the mix. Add those players to a potential first round pick in Kirby (who could be joined in the first by McCarthy, it should be noted) and you’ve got yet another talented Virginia squad. What else is new?

Kirby fascinates me not only because he’s achieved my dream of someday being important enough to warrant a Wikipedia entry but also because I really don’t have a firm grasp on what he is nor what he will be. I mean, I think he’s a high-floor future big league starting pitcher, but I’m not quite sure how high I’m willing to go with his ceiling. Perhaps I’m waiting to see more out of the changeup, a pitch that, as mentioned, seems to get a little better looking every time out. I got a comp from an area guy who has seen Kirby pitch more than 99.99% of human beings on the planet who actually compared him to a lefthanded Ian Kennedy, but with the caveat that his changeup still had some improvement left to truly “earn” such a comp. In terms of repertoire only (future performance as well, I suppose), I see some Alex Wood in Kirby. That comes with the big difference of Kirby’s Danny Hultzen style delivery replacing Wood’s painful looking arm action. Hultzen, the most logical comparison, doesn’t really work because of their flip-flopped stuff (Hultzen had the plus change and emerging breaking ball, Kirby is the other way around) but it’s not the craziest thing in the world. It’s yet another imperfect comp — a familiar refrain if you’ve been paying attention — but of all the recent first round lefties you’ll read about below, I think the closest comp at the same developmental stage is Andrew Heaney.

That leads into the other reason why Kirby fascinates me so. College lefties are weird. College lefthanded pitchers have had a surprisingly (to me) spotty track record since I’ve started this site up in 2009. If we take a look back through the years, you’ll see what I mean. Off the top, let’s be clear that Carlos Rodon is a separate animal altogether. I haven’t written a ton about him because this was a quiet last year for me on the site, but he’s not a guy I’m willing to compare to any other young arm at this point. He’s a man on the mound, and trying to shoehorn him into this discussion would be fruitless. Last year we also saw Kyle Freeland, Sean Newcomb, and Brandon Finnegan off the board in the first fifteen picks. Marco Gonzales went 19th in 2013 while Sean Manaea fell to 34th overall albeit for unique (injury, bonus demands) circumstances. Heaney (9th overall) and Brian Johnson (31st) were first round picks in 2012. Hultzen, Jed Bradley, Chris Reed, Tyler Anderson, Sean Gilmartin, Andrew Chafin, and Grayson Garvin all went in what we now know as a highly disappointing first round (for lefthanded college pitchers, at least) in 2011. Drew Pomeranz and Chris Sale were both popped early in 2010. Mike Minor was the only real first round college lefty in 2009, but a run of ill-advised southpaws saw Rex Brothers (fine, he’s good), Aaron Miller, James Paxton (good, but unsigned), Mike Belfiore, Matt Bashore, and Tyler Kehrer all taken within the top fifty overall picks in the sandwich round.

We’ll leave the two most recent drafts alone because we need at least a little bit of time before rushing to crazy conclusions. So far, however, Rodon, Finnegan, and Gonzales all look good, as each guy is expected to play an important role in the big leagues at some point in 2015. Heaney, Johnson, and Paxton are all still probably too young to say, but each guy has done enough that I think we can call them successes at this point. Pomeranz appears to finally have something cooking with Oakland. Minor is an easy win. Brothers is a maybe, but I’ll be generous and say he’s shown enough at his best to be a positive. I guess that Chris Sale guy is pretty good, too. Not counting 2014 and 2013, that’s seven happy endings from the past four first and supplemental first rounds. On the downside, I count eight pitchers (Bradley, Reed, Anderson, Gilmartin, Miller, Belfiore, Bashore, Kehrer) that have disappointed, and that’s at least partly generous in some respects (still giving time to Hultzen, Chafin, Garvin). For the record, it’s really painful for me to call anybody a disappointment, but I’m trying to be as objective as I can here. I still have plenty of hope for Bradley, Anderson, and maybe even Reed to be average or better big leaguers. Anyway, by draft standards, even when taking into account we’re talking first round picks, that’s not necessarily a devastatingly low number of successes, but college pitching really should be a spot where you have a higher hit rate.

Anyway, diversion aside, I think a Kennedy, Wood, or Heaney type career path is well within reach for Kirby at this point. On the highest of high ends is a ceiling reminiscent of none other than Cliff Lee. We’re talking young Cliff Lee (i.e. before the plus command), so don’t think I’m 100% crazy (just 75% or so). Maybe you can bump that figure up a little higher, as I’ve previously compared two draft prospects (both righties, go figure) to Lee in the past: Chris Stratton (still love him, but whoops) and Trevor Bauer. That last comp remains one worth watching, I think. Bauer hit the big leagues before Lee, so we can’t do a straight age comparison but here’s a rough comparison by innings…

Lee: 7.9 K/9 – 4.1 BB/9 – 90 ERA+ – 241.2 IP
Bauer: 8.3 K/9 – 4.3 BB/9 – 85 ERA+ – 186.1 IP

We can’t finish up writing about Virginia by referencing two players with no connections to the program. That’s my stilted attempt at a transition to a quick discussion of the “other” UVA 2015 draft-eligible players and the many interesting Cavalier underclassmen. SR 3B Kenny Towns (steady glove, has flashed at times with the bat), JR C Robbie Coman (strong arm, good approach), and JR LHP David Rosenberger are all solid college role players that could sneak into the late round mix with bigger than anticipated seasons. The battery of SO RHP Connor Jones and SO C Matt Thaiss could both find themselves as first round picks in a year. SO RHP Alex Bettinger really impressed as a freshman (32 K in 36.2 IP) despite a less than stellar fastball. There are plenty of potential impact players in the freshman class, most notably 3B Charlie Cody, LHP Bennett Sousa, 1B/RHP Pavin Smith, and 2B Jack Gerstenmaier.

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Pittsburgh

SR OF Boo Vazquez (2015)
SR 1B Eric Hess (2015)
SR SS/2B Matt Johnson (2015)
SR RHP Hobie Harris (2015)
SO RHP Sam Mersing (2016)
SO RHP TJ Zeuch (2016)
FR 3B/SS Charles LeBlanc (2017)

Sometimes laziness can work to one’s benefit. If I had written similar college previews last year, I’m quite sure I would have championed SR OF Boo Vazquez as a breakout player to watch and a potential sleeper top ten round pick. He’s a big, strong corner outfielder (6-4, 215) with serious raw power, a strong arm, and decent speed. If I had written this last year, I would have been all-in after a .312/.405/.412 park/schedule adjusted season with more walks (27) than strikeouts (22) in 199 AB, all signs of growth after a really strong freshman year. Last year, however, Vazquez saw his number take a hit against the board. His still respectable .246/.312/.400 is nowhere near bad enough to have me jumping off the bandwagon, especially considering the consistency of which he’s shown his tools over his three years in school, so maybe my laziness isn’t as useful a virtue as I’d like to think. Perhaps my stubbornness — once I like a player, it takes an awful lot for me to turn on him — is the bigger flaw at work here. Vazquez’s relative struggles when many (like me) expected him to take off did play a part in dimming his draft prospects, but not so much that anybody is counting him out. There’s still time for him to turn it back around. The tools remain and the makeup gets high grades from all those who know him well. His composite raw college numbers (.302/.381/.427 with 64 BB and 78 K in 553 AB) are another point in his favor. Add it all up and you still have a prospect worthy of top fifteen round consideration. If anything, the decision to return to school could help his draft profile — though likely not his wallet — if a team hones in on him as an affordable senior sign target in rounds eight, nine, or ten. He’s Pittsburgh’s best 2015 prospect by a long shot and arguably one of the top ten returning bats in the conference. I can’t put him above DJ Stewart, Joe McCarthy, or Skye Bolt in the completely unimportant and entirely in my head All-Prospect ACC team, but he’s on the cusp.

(Did I start writing this with the premise that I overrated Vazquez coming into last year in mind? Yes. Did I wind up convincing myself in the process of writing the preceding paragraph that the expected breakout for Vazquez that didn’t come last year — when I was spared the public forum of predicting said unfulfilled breakout — might actually come this year, consequently opening myself up to the very same public ridicule (as if anybody really cared what I wrote, but let’s pretend) I avoided last year? Yes. I’m not a smart man.)

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Notre Dame

rSR RHP Cristian Torres (2015)
SR RHP Scott Kerrigan (2015)
JR RHP David Hearne (2015)
JR LHP Michael Hearne (2015)
JR LHP/OF Zac Kutsulis (2015)
SR 3B Phil Mosey (2015)
SR OF/1B Ryan Bull (2015)
SR OF Mac Hudgins (2015)
SR OF Blaise Lezynski (2015)
SR OF Conor Biggio (2015)
JR SS Lane Richards (2015)
JR C/OF Ricky Sanchez (2015)
SO RHP Ryan Smoyer (2016)
SO 2B/SS Kyle Fiala (2016)
SO 3B/2B Cavan Biggio (2016)
SO C Ryan Lidge (2016)
FR RHP Peter Solomon (2017)
FR RHP Brad Bass (2017)
FR RHP Brandon Bielak (2017)
FR LHP Sean Guenther (2017)

The strength of the 2015 Notre Dame team from a draft perspective is in the pitching. There are no locks to be selected this June, but the odds are better we see an arm go off the board than a bat. Nobody jumps out due to performance — SR RHP Scott Kerrigan and JR LHP Michael Hearne both had shiny ERAs, but middling at best peripherals — but there are a handful of arms who can run it up to the low-90s (rSR RHP Cristian Torres, JR RHP Nick McCarty, JR RHP David Hearne), a significant enough velocity benchmark that gives you a second look from most area guys. Torres (6-6, 215) and Kerrigan (6-7, 215) offer tantalizing size, and JR Zac Katsulis, who I list as a LHP but has seen more time in the outfield of late, brings serious athleticism to the mound. I’d put the over/under on all Notre Dame players being selected this June at 1.5 and still probably pick the under, but it’s not a team completely devoid of worthwhile follows. Let’s check in on how the offense stacks up.

JR SS Lane Richards does good things defensively, but hasn’t shown enough as a hitter yet to warrant serious draft consideration. SR OF/1B Ryan Bull has flashed some decent power in the past, enough that if a team thought he could catch again he could get picked late. SR OF Conor Biggio has a chance to be picked late because of his famous last name, especially if the analytical Houston front office has a sudden moment of sentimentality on draft day. The two best bats on the Notre Dame squad are guys we’ll have to wait another year to get into the pros. SO 2B/SS Kyle Fiala grows on you the more you see him. He held his own as a freshman and could be in line for a breakthrough sophomore campaign. I also expect big things (bigger, really) out of SO 3B/2B Cavan Biggio (one of the smartest, most naturally gifted young hitters I’ve seen up close), which should be unsurprising considering how much I liked him in high school (42nd ranked prospect that year, sandwiched between Ryan Boldt and Billy McKinney). It’s obviously early yet, but FR RHP Peter Solomon looks like the most intriguing young arm to track.

Running 2015 MLB Draft Prospect Follow Lists (Week Two)

The original is here. The latest is below. The title says it all.

Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, and North Carolina State have been added to Boston College, Clemson, Duke, and Florida State. Still waiting on North Carolina to post a real roster online, so we’ll keep skipping them and move on to Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Virginia, and Virginia Tech for next week.

C

  1. Maryland JR C Kevin Martir
  2. Duke rSR C Mike Rosenfeld
  3. Miami SR C Garrett Kennedy

1B

  1. Boston College JR 1B/OF Chris Shaw
  2. Florida State rSR 1B Chris Marconcini
  3. Georgia Tech SR 1B/C AJ Murray
  4. Georgia Tech rSO 1B Cole Miller

2B

  1. Maryland rSO 2B Brandon Lowe
  2. Georgia Tech SR 2B/SS Thomas Smith
  3. North Carolina State SR 2B/3B Logan Ratledge

SS

  1. Clemson JR SS/3B Tyler Krieger

3B

  1. Miami JR 3B/1B David Thompson
  2. Maryland JR 3B Jose Cuas
  3. Miami JR 3B/OF George Iskenderian
  4. Georgia Tech JR 3B/SS Matt Gonzalez

OF

  1. Florida State JR OF DJ Stewart
  2. Clemson JR OF Steven Duggar
  3. Georgia Tech rJR OF Dan Spingola
  4. Clemson SR OF Tyler Slaton
  5. North Carolina State SR OF Jake Fincher

P

  1. Duke JR RHP Michael Matuella
  2. Clemson JR LHP Matthew Crownover
  3. Miami rJR LHP Andrew Suarez
  4. Clemson JR RHP Clate Schmidt
  5. Florida State JR LHP Alex Diese
  6. Duke JR RHP Kenny Koplove
  7. Maryland JR LHP Alex Robinson
  8. Maryland JR LHP Jake Dorssner
  9. Clemson JR LHP Zack Erwin
  10. Clemson rSO RHP Wales Toney
  11. Florida State JR RHP/OF Jameis Winston
  12. Duke SR RHP Andrew Istler
  13. Duke rSO RHP James Marvel
  14. Maryland JR RHP Kevin Mooney
  15. Maryland JR RHP Jared Price
  16. Florida State SR LHP Bryant Holtmann
  17. Maryland rJR LHP Zach Morris
  18. Clemson rJR RHP Patrick Andrews
  19. Florida State rJR RHP Mike Compton
  20. North Carolina State JR LHP Brad Stone
  21. Miami JR LHP Thomas Woodrey

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – North Carolina State

JR RHP Jon Olczak (2015)
rJR LHP Travis Orwig (2015)
JR RHP Karl Keglovits (2015)
JR LHP Brad Stone (2015)
rSO RHP Johnny Piedmonte (2015)
SR OF Jake Fincher (2015)
SR OF Bubby Riley (2015)
SR 2B/3B Logan Ratledge (2015)
SR 1B/OF Jake Armstrong (2015)
JR C Chance Shepard (2015)
SO RHP Cory Wilder (2016)
SO 3B Andrew Knizner (2016)
SO OF Garrett Suggs (2016)
SO 1B Preston Palmeiro (2016)
SO RHP Joe O’Donnell (2016)
SO LHP Ryan Williamson (2016)
SO LHP Cody Beckman (2016)
FR RHP/INF Tommy DeJuneas (2017)
FR RHP Evan Mendoza (2017)
FR OF Storm Edwards (2017)

Carlos Rodon and Trea Turner aren’t walking through that door.

Just one year after being the center of the college baseball world, North Carolina State returns a really thin group of 2015 draft prospects. JR LHP Brad Stone seems poised to take over the mantle as top pitching prospect, but, no knock against him, his stuff (upper-80s heat, usable change, pair of interesting breaking balls) is many steps down from Rodon on his worst day. He’s still the best of what’s around, and an arm worthy of serious draft consideration going forward. There’s also JR RHP Jon Olczak (low-90s FB) as a potential middle reliever to watch. One of the big stories to follow this spring for this team will be the return to health of a trio of talented arms that could help boost the team back into contention. rJR LHP Travis Orwig (88-92, good mid-70s CB), JR RHP Karl Keglovits (strong name, large human, sinkers all day), and rSO RHP Johnny Piedmonte (6-8, 240 mountain of a man with plus arm strength) all bring something worth tracking to the table. So the cupboard isn’t totally bare, but we’re down to saltines and leftover duck sauce packets. If even two of those arms coming back from injury has a big year and the projectable Stone continues to grow as a pitcher and Olczak responds to an increased role…you just never know. When you’re hungry enough a saltine/duck sauce sandwich can taste pretty good. Or so I’ve heard.

If I have the nerve to call the pitching thin, then what does that make NC State’s hitting? There are a ton of seniors returning hoping that one final push will get them a shot at pro ball. I hold some hope that SR OF Bubby Riley (speed, CF range, some pop) can recapture what got him so much early buzz last season, but his disappointing 2014 (.200/.340/.261 in 115 AB) tempers a good bit of the old enthusiasm. SR 2B Logan Ratledge could still have some appeal as a potential late-round senior sign utility infielder, but it’ll take an area guy sure he can play shortstop professionally to make that dream happen. My favorite prospect on the team is SR OF Jake Fincher. I really believed a breakout year was in store for him last season, but things never got on track. He’s a great thrower who can really run, and his positional versatility — how many guys can say they’ve logged time at C, SS, and CF? — make him a really fun super-sub to project going forward. Alas, all those virtues will go unloved if he doesn’t get his bat going. Check his career stats to date (first two seasons are park/schedule adjusted)…

2012: .295/.352/.400 – 19 BB/35 K – 17/24 SB – 210 AB
2013: .317/.406/.358 – 34 BB/40 K – 15/21 SB – 265 AB
2014: .267/.342/.317 – 19 BB/53 K – 12/13 SB – 202 AB

The gains made from his freshman season to his sophomore year — trading some pop for a more disciplined approach — are what encouraged me the most from a strictly performance-based standpoint going into last year. Needless to say, he went backward in that area in a big way last season. I’m not as optimistic about a return to his sophomore season numbers as I’d like to be, which bums me out. Fincher is a really entertaining player to watch when he’s right. One can only hope he can put together a strong final season for both his sake and the watchability of the NC State lineup.

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Miami

JR 3B/1B David Thompson (2015)
JR 3B/OF George Iskenderian (2015)
SR C Garrett Kennedy (2015)
rSO 1B/OF Chris Barr (2015)
JR OF Ricky Eusebio (2015)
JR SS/RHP Brandon Lopez (2015)
rJR LHP Andrew Suarez (2015)
JR LHP Thomas Woodrey (2015)
JR RHP Enrique Sosa (2015)
SO 1B/C Zack Collins (2016)
SO OF Willie Abreu (2016)
SO RHP/1B Derik Beauprez (2016)
SO OF Jacob Heyward (2016)
SO LHP Danny Garcia (2016)
SO RHP Bryan Garcia (2016)
SO SS Sebastian Diaz (2016)
SO INF Johnny Ruiz (2016)
SO RHP Cooper Hammond (2016)
rFR RHP Andy Honiotes (2016)
FR OF Carl Chester (2017)
FR OF Justin Smith (2017)
FR LHP Michael Mediavilla (2017)
FR RHP Jesse Lepore (2017)
FR RHP Keven Pimentel (2017)
FR LHP Luke Spangler (2017)
FR RHP Devin Meyer (2017)

I have zero rooting interest when it comes to college baseball, but isn’t it nice when Miami is stocked with talent? There’s something about having those traditional powers of your youth remain a constant that just make you feel better about everything. My earliest baseball memories go back to 1992, the very same year that Miami began a stretch of seven College World Series appearances in eight years and twelve in seventeen years. I’m sure there’s some obvious underlying point there, but we’ll save the therapy session for another day. The strength of this year’s team appears to be found in the potential of the underclassmen dotted throughout the roster, but there’s still some players of note ready for June 2015 to quickly get here. Outside assessments of his raw talent, physical abilities, and professional baseball projection aside, JR 3B/1B David Thompson is a really easy person to root for. Hey, I said I don’t root for teams, but I certainly root for players. I’ve not once heard a negative word uttered about his makeup, both on-field and off, and the hard work and perseverance he’s demonstrated in repeatedly battling back from injuries, including remaking his swing after tearing his right labrum in high school, are a testament to his desire to make it no matter the cost. The fact that he went down from surgery to correct complications from thoracic outlet syndrome in late March of last year only to come back to finish the season by mid-May (he even had a huge hit in their Regional matchup against Texas Tech) tells you a lot about his will to compete. Through all the ups and downs physically, his 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.

I’m more excited than I probably should be to see what JR 3B/OF George Iskenderian will do on the big stage this year. I tend to overrate the big program (South Carolina) to junior college (Indian River) back to big program (Miami, obviously) prospects (there are more of these guys than you’d think), so I’m trying to tone it down with Iskenderian. I believe there’s power in his bat that hasn’t really shown up yet and his defensive upside at third base intrigues me. He didn’t exactly tear it up at the juco level, so he’s a wait-and-see guy for me right now. That’s me at my tempered enthusiastic best. SR C Garrett Kennedy was a massive sleeper catcher of mine last year, but fell off big time (.290/.430/.395 to .231/.336/.308) and now has to hit his way back into late-round draft consideration as a senior. JR SS Brandon Lopez has been nothing if not consistent (.249/.330/.271 in year one, .233/.320/.275 in year two), but without any semblance of power he looks more like a senior sign type than a worthwhile junior draft. His defense is good enough that that projection could change in a hurry if he shows any kind of improvement with the stick in 2015.

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. JR LHP Thomas Woodrey reminds me some of a lefty version of Florida State pitcher Mike Compton: fastball doesn’t blow you away, but good secondaries and deception in the delivery make them both fun crafty college arms to watch. JR RHP Enrique Sosa does not remind me of Mike Compton at all. Sosa throws hard, but all over the place. Control issues and slight build (5-10, 180) aside, he’s a big enough arm to track this spring.

Impact players are coming in the form of SO 1B/C Zack Collins (listed as only a catcher on the Miami website, for what it’s worth), SO OF Willie Abreu, SO RHPs Derik Beauprez and Bryan Garcia, FR OFs Carl Chester and Justin Smith, and your freshman pitcher of choice (I’ll say LHP Michael Mediavilla and RHP Keven Pimentel for now). Collins’ monster freshman season has me reevaluating so much of what I thought I knew about college hitters. I see his line (.298/.427/.556 with 42 BB/47 K in 205 AB) and my first instinct is to nitpick it. That’s insane! In the pre-BBCOR era, you might be able to get away with parsing those numbers and finding some tiny things to get on him about, but in today’s offensive landscape those numbers are as close to perfection as any reasonable human being could expect to see out of a freshman. Player development is rarely linear, but if Collins can stay on or close to the path he’s started, he’s going to an unholy terror by the time the 2016 draft rolls around. Here’s a quick look at what the college hitters taken in the first dozen picks in the BBCOR era (and Collins) did as freshmen (ranked in order of statistical goodness according to me)…

Kris Bryant: .365/.482/.599 – 33 BB/55 K – 197 AB
Michael Conforto: .349/.437/.601 – 24 BB/37 K – 218 AB
Colin Moran: .335/.442/.540 – 47 BB/33 K – 248 AB
ZACK COLLINS: .298/.427/.556 – 42 BB/47 K – 205 AB
Kyle Schwarber: .300/.390/.513 – 30 BB/24 K – 230 AB
Casey Gillaspie: .274/.378/.442 – 34 BB/43 K – 215 AB
DJ Peterson: .317/.377/.545 – 15 BB/52 K – 246 AB
Hunter Dozier: .315/.363/.467 – 12 BB/34 K – 197 AB
Max Pentecost: .277/.364/.393 – 21 BB/32 K – 191 AB

I’d say Collins stacks up pretty darn well at this point. Looking at this list also helps me feel better about their being a touch too much swing-and-miss in Collins’ game (see previous heretofore ignored inclination to nitpick). It is also another data point in favor of that popular and so logical it can’t be ignored comparison between Collins and fellow “catcher” Kyle Schwarber. Baseball America also threw out a Mark Teixeira comp, which is damn intriguing. I won’t include Teixeira’s freshmen numbers because that was back in the toy bat years, but from a scouting standpoint it’s a comp that makes a good bit of sense. Fine, you’ve twisted my arm. Here are Teixeira’s freshmen numbers: .387/.478/.640 with 39 BB and 27 K in 225 AB. Damn. The comp to Schwarber really works well; so much so, in fact, that I think using some of Schwarber’s old comps can work for Collins as well. My favorite of those for Collins are a lefty Paul Konerko and, my favorite of the favorites, Travis Hafner. I like that one a lot. Heck, I like Collins a lot. Heck again, I like this Miami team a lot. I have no insight as to what the Hurricanes are planning on doing with their 1-9 this season, but the fact you could send out a lineup with Kennedy, Barr, Diaz, Lopez, Thompson, Iskenderian, Chester, Abreu, and Collins on a daily basis if you wanted to is pretty fun to think about from a prospect standpoint. Put Suarez on the mound and that’s a fine looking team of prospects.

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Maryland

JR LHP Jake Drossner (2015)
JR LHP Alex Robinson (2015)
JR RHP Kevin Mooney (2015)
JR RHP Jared Price (2015)
rJR LHP Zach Morris (2015)
SR RHP Bobby Ruse (2015)
JR OF/LHP LaMonte Wade (2015)
JR 3B Jose Cuas (2015)
JR C Kevin Martir (2015)
rSO 2B Brandon Lowe (2015)
JR OF Anthony Papio (2015)
SO C/1B Nick Cieri (2016)
SO RHP Mike Shawaryn (2016)
SO LHP Tayler Stiles (2016)
FR C Justin Morris (2017)
FR LHP Willie Rios (2017)
FR 2B/SS Andrew Bechtold (2017)
FR OF Zach Jancarski (2017)
FR SS Kevin Smith (2017)
FR RHP Taylor Bloom (2017)
FR RHP Tyler Brandon (2017)
FR OF Kengo Kawahara (2017)
FR RHP Brian Shaffer (2017)
FR OF Jamal Wade (2017)
FR LHP Jack Piekos (2017)

So, Maryland is kind of stacked, huh? How about that? I’m excited by a future that includes SO C/1B Nick Cieri’s bat (less so his glove…), SO RHP Mike Shawaryn’s pro-ready changeup, FR C Justin Morris getting the chance to catch his older brother again, FR LHP Willie Rios making sub-6 foot pitchers proud, and FR OF Zach Jancarski running balls down in center. The present doesn’t look half-bad, either. Maryland’s pitching in particular stands out. Most, if not all, of their top current arms will wind up as relievers in professional ball, but the fact that they have upwards of five 2015 arms who look like safe bets to be selected in June speaks volumes about the quality of talent that has been pumped into the school in recent years. JRs LHP Jake Drossner and RHP Kevin Mooney have the best shot at starting in pro ball. Drossner throws two offspeed pitches for strikes (mid-70s CB, low-80s CU) and Mooney has the stuff to garner groundball outs (FB with sink, CB with plus upside) yet may not have quite the changeup he’ll need to escape the pen as a pro. JRs LHP Alex Robinson (96 peak) and RHP Jared Price (95 peak) have the most raw arm strength, but both have some serious control issues to work out before taking the next step. On sheer upside alone, a pretty easy case could be made that they are the top two 2015 arms on the roster; I’ll take Robinson if forced to pick. rJR LHP Zach Morris rounds out the group as another physical strong-armed future reliever with below-average present control.

I hope giving some love to the pitching staff doesn’t make it seem like the Terps are light on hitting. They are not. JR OF LaMonte Wade is a power spike away — which, based on his swing/frame/HS days is well within reach — from being a really intriguing 2015 draft prospect. As it is, he’s still a guy who can throw, run a little, and work deep counts. JR 3B Jose Cuas reminds me a little bit of Matt Gonzalez of Georgia Tech: both players have the tools to be regulars at the hot corner, especially defensively, but still have some growing to do on the offensive side. Cuas is the toolsier of the two, though both flash big league ability at times. I stuck a sophomore season comparison between the two ACC 3B after this paragraph, if you’re into that sort of thing. JR C Kevin Martir has almost the opposite problem as Cuas: his bat is way ahead of his glove at the present moment, which is not necessarily an ideal situation for a catcher to be in. I’ve heard some really good things about JR OF Anthony Papio, but his breakthrough — been far more solid than spectacular — has yet to occur.

MG: 314/.358/.416 – 20 BB/55 K – 9/17 SB – 255 AB
JC: .279/.333/.417 – 14 BB/49 K – 3/5 SB – 204 AB

I think Cuas and Wade are future pros with little doubt, but there’s one Maryland hitter that I’d take over both. It should come as no shock to any long-time reader that rSO 2B Brandon Lowe is my kind of ballplayer. His physical tools skew closer to average than not (glove, arm, speed, raw power), but the man has a knack for consistent hard contact that can’t be taught. He also has a tremendous batting eye that often puts him in good hitting counts. It’s a really tough profile to get too excited about — offensive second basemen who can’t really run are not typically seen as prospects by anybody — but I believe in the bat (.348/.464/.464 with 34 BB/20 K in 181 AB last year) enough to think he’s got a real chance to make it. He’s obviously not the best position player prospect in the ACC this year, but he’s definitely my favorite.

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Georgia Tech

SR 1B/C AJ Murray (2015)
rJR OF Dan Spingola (2015)
JR 3B/SS Matt Gonzalez (2015)
rSO 1B Cole Miller (2015)
SR 2B/SS Thomas Smith (2015)
JR LHP/OF Jonathan King (2015)
SR RHP Cole Pitts (2015)
SO OF Ryan Peurifoy (2016)
SO RHP Zac Ryan (2016)
SO C Arden Pabst (2016)
SO OF Keenan Innis (2016)
SO 3B/RHP Brandon Gold (2016)
SO LHP Ben Parr (2016)
SO INF Connor Justus (2016)
FR OF/1B Kel Johnson (2017)
FR LHP Daniel Gooden (2017)

This is the first team I’ve profiled that doesn’t have a strong built-in hook to work off of. For a below-average, lazy writer such as myself, this is an unwelcome turn of events. There are a few “maybes” scattered throughout the roster, but no one player that truly captures the imagination. I had hoped SR 1B AJ Murray could be that guy once upon a time, but the move off of catcher and good but not great college career has him more in the late round, organizational player mix at this point. rJR OF Dan Spingola can run, defend, and throw, plus he’s flashed enough power (.319/.384/.451 in 257 AB last year) to put himself in the draft mix. rSO Cole Miller has the frame and approach of a potential draft pick, but the jury is still out as to what kind of college player he’ll be. I like SR 2B/SS Thomas Smith (all he does is hit) more than just about anybody outside of his immediate circle of friends and family, but he’s still a limited overall player with an uphill battle to get noticed by more influential people than I come June. The biggest name in the group is JR 3B/SS Matt Gonzalez. Gonzalez has all the tools to be a potential regular third baseman at the big league level one day, but still needs ample polish to start turning said tools into skills. He’s a super safe bet to be the first — and maybe only — Yellow Jacket off the board this June. His stiffest challenger right now is either Murray, Spingola, or, if his debut season goes as planned, Miller, though one can’t rule out either JR LHP Jonathan King (crafty lefty who leans on a low-80s change) or SR RHP Cole Pitts (good size, decent track record, coming off Tommy John surgery) stepping in as the next man up.

Sophomore position players Ryan Peurifoy (outfielder with a plus arm) and Arden Pabst (well-rounded catcher who is very reliable defensively) show promise, and SO RHP Zac Ryan (88-92 FB) did good things last year (29 K/16 BB in 30.2 IP). FR OF/1B Kel Johnson, better known as Hunter Pence’s body double, could also make some noise in the coming years.

Running 2015 MLB Draft Prospect Follow Lists

I thought this would be a fun way of finishing off each week and organizing the walls of text I keep throwing up from Monday to Thursday. This list is not nearly as comprehensive as the follow lists I’ve made in previous years nor is it as long as the list I keep internally, but I’m trying to be a little be more selective about whom we’re calling “prospects” in order to keep things a bit tidier around here. That leaves a few borderline draftable talents out for now, but I’ll be more inclusive on future lists as we get closer to June. You might think it would make more sense to do it the other way. My response to that is…yeah, you’re probably right. I might expand it in the next edition, at least with the position players.

Boston College, Clemson, Duke, and Florida State are the only schools with players listed at this time. Four more teams will be added each Friday for as long as we can keep up this pace. Next four teams are Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, and North Carolina State. It would be North Carolina, but they are the last remaining holdout in the ACC who have yet to post their 2014/2015 roster. Happens every year with them. Not cool.

C

  1. Duke rSR C Mike Rosenfeld: 5-10, 185 pounds (2012: .329/.403/.476 – 16 BB/48 K – 170 AB – 7/8 SB) (2013: .377/.451/.525 – 8 BB/9 K – 2/3 SB – 61 AB) (2014: .268/.396/.335 – 32 BB/42 K – 7 – 11/SB – 194 AB)

1B

  1. Boston College JR 1B/OF Chris Shaw: 6-4, 250 pounds (2013: .183/.286/.323 – 18 BB/32 K – 0/0 SB – 164 AB) (2014: .329/.393/.502 – 21 BB/38 K – 1/3 SB – 207 AB)
  2. Florida State rSR 1B Chris Marconcini: 6-5, 230 pounds (2011: .301/.404/.490 – 24 BB/38 K – 206 AB) (2013: .316/.409/.579 – 28 BB/39 K – 8/10 SB – 190 AB) (2014: .252/.341/.435 – 28 BB/38 K – 7/9 SB – 230 AB)

2B

SS

  1. Clemson JR SS/3B Tyler Krieger: 6-1, 170 pounds (2013: .266/.360/.321 – 29 BB/29 K – 9/15 SB – 218 AB) (2014: .338/.410/.447 – 25 BB/24 K – 19/24 SB – 219 AB)

3B

OF

  1. Florida State JR OF DJ Stewart: 6-0, 230 pounds (2013: .360/.469/.551 – 40 BB/38 K – 8/12 SB – 225 AB) (2014: .351/.472/.557 – 40 BB/30 K – 4/5 SB – 194 AB)
  2. Clemson JR OF Steven Duggar: 6-2, 200 pounds (2013: .308/.368/.392 – 24 BB/39 K – 16/23 SB – 250 AB) (2014: .294/.368/.378 – 27 BB/51 K – 25/28 SB – 238 AB)
  3. Clemson SR OF Tyler Slaton: 5-7, 200 pounds (2012: .208/.377/.226 – 13 BB/16 K – 6/6 SB – 53 AB) (2013: .269/.375/.306 – 24 BB/32 K – 6/9 SB – 160 AB) (2014: .274/.391/.373 – 42 BB/34 K – 11/17 SB – 241 AB)

P

  1. Duke JR RHP Michael Matuella: 6-6, 220 pounds (2013: 4.53 K/9 | 2.03 BB/9 | 3.95 FIP | 57.2 IP) (2014: 69 K/15 BB – 58.1 IP – 2.78 ERA)
  2. Clemson JR LHP Matthew Crownover: 6-0, 200 pounds (2013: 6.04 K/9 | 2.06 BB/9 | 4.55 FIP | 70 IP) (2014: 2.90 ERA – 90 K/20 BB – 99.1 IP)
  3. Clemson JR RHP Clate Schmidt: 6-2, 180 pounds (2013: 4.20 K/9 | 4.04 BB/9 | 4.66 FIP | 55.2 IP) (2014: 3.68 ERA – 53 K/28 K – 66 IP)
  4. Florida State JR LHP Alex Diese: 6-3, 200 pounds
  5. Duke JR RHP Kenny Koplove: 6-2, 170 pounds (2013: .314/.341/.379 – 7 BB/24 K – 2/3 SB – 153 AB) (2014: .191/.243/.224 – 14 BB/41 K – 2/2 SB – 183 AB)
  6. Clemson JR LHP Zack Erwin: 6-5, 200 pounds (2013: 5.10 K/9 | 2.85 BB/9 | 4.39 FIP | 60 IP) (2014: 4.21 ERA – 62 K/28 BB – 72.2 IP)
  7. Clemson rSO RHP Wales Toney: 6-2, 210 pounds
  8. Florida State JR RHP/OF Jameis Winston: 6-4, 220 pounds (2013: .227/.374/.336 – 23 BB/32 K – 2/4 SB – 119 AB) (2013: 7.33 K/9 | 3.67 BB/9 | 3.66 FIP | 27 IP) (2014: 31 K/7 BB – 33.1 IP – 1.08 ERA)
  9. Duke SR RHP Andrew Istler: 5-11, 180 pounds (2012: 6.23 K/9 | 1.56 BB/9 | 3.44 FIP | 52 IP) (2013: 8.20 K/9 | 2.89 BB/9 | 3.52 FIP | 37.1 IP) (2014: 59 K/24 BB – 76 IP – 2.84 ERA)
  10. Duke rSO RHP James Marvel: 6-3, 200 pounds (2013: 4.93 K/9 | 3.21 BB/9 | 4.23 FIP | 42 IP) (2014: 16 K/8 BB – 25.1 IP – 1.78 ERA)
  11. Florida State SR LHP Bryant Holtmann: 6-5, 200 pounds (2012: 6.39 K/9 | 2.84 BB/9 | 3.88 FIP | 25.1 IP) (2013: 6.00 K/9 | 4.50 BB/9 | 4.20 FIP | 36 IP) (2014: 29 K/12 BB – 36.2 IP – 3.68 ERA)
  12. Clemson rJR RHP Patrick Andrews: 6-4, 225 pounds (2012: 8.28 K/9 | 4.30 BB/9 | 3.70 FIP | 29.1 IP) (2013: 6.21 K/9 | 2.39 BB/9 | 3.87 FIP | 37.2 IP)
  13. Florida State rJR RHP Mike Compton: 6-2, 200 pounds (2012: 6.73 K/9 | 2.57 BB/9 | 4.36 FIP | 91 IP) (2014: 50 K/19 BB – 83.2 IP – 3.23 ERA)

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Florida State

JR OF DJ Stewart (2015)
rSR 1B Chris Marconcini (2015)
JR 2B/SS John Sansone (2015)
SR C Daniel De La Calle (2015)
SR OF Josh Delph (2015)
rJR RHP Mike Compton (2015)
SR LHP Bryant Holtmann (2015)
JR RHP/OF Jameis Winston (2015)
JR LHP Alex Diese (2015)
JR LHP Dylan Silva (2015)
SR LHP Billy Strode (2015)
SO RHP Taylor Blatch (2016)
SO LHP Alec Byrd (2016)
SO RHP Boomer Biegalski (2016)
rFR RHP Andy Ward (2016)
rFR RHP Ed Voyles (2016)
SO RHP Jim Voyles (2016)
SO OF/SS Ben DeLuzio (2016)
SO 1B/C Quincy Nieporte (2016)
SO C/OF Gage West (2016)
SO INF Hank Truluck (2016)
FR RHP Cobi Johnson (2017)
FR RHP Andrew Karp (2017)
FR RHP Drew Carlton (2017)
FR SS Dylan Busby (2017)
FR SS/2B Taylor Walls (2017)
FR C/1B Darren Miller (2017)
FR OF/RHP Steven Wells (2017)

Florida State is a machine. Star recruits in, high draft picks/future big leaguers out. This may be a bit of a down year on that future big league player side of the equation, but it’s more than made up for by the influx of star recruits armed and ready to lead the team back to the top. Since 2017 is over two years away, we’ll wait a bit on the young guys and focus on the slightly less young guys who are eligible to be drafted this June. The main attraction for scouts visiting Tallahassee this spring is quite clearly JR OF DJ Stewart. Let’s compare Stewart to another potential first round ACC outfielder, Joe McCarthy of Virginia. Here’s what they’ve done so far…

DJ Stewart

2013: .360/.469/.551 – 40 BB/38 K – 8/12 SB
2014: .351/.472/.557 – 40 BB/30 K – 4/5 SB

Joe McCarthy

2013: .363/.495/.480 – 57 BB/31 K – 12/13 SB
2014: .301/.417/.449 – 35 BB/34 K – 11/12 SB

Both are likely left fielders professionally, though McCarthy has some chance at playing right (better arm) or even some center (more athletic, though Stewart is vastly underrated in this area in my view). Stewart has more raw power (above-average to plus compared to McCarthy’s average, though the latter may have untapped upside if the right swing adjustments are made), a fact that’s nicely reflected in their numbers so far. The same is true when speed is compared: McCarthy has more (above-average to plus) than Stewart (average at best), and it’s reflected in the stats to date. Both are big strong men (6-4, 225 for McCarthy, 6-0, 230 for Stewart) with pretty swings that should push them towards and above an average hit tool. A case could be made for either as top outfielder in the conference with much of the disagreement on the two coming down to personal preference (speed, approach, defense versus POWER), though there is a good bit of overlap between the two skill sets. I think the need for POWER in pro ball is great enough that Stewart will wind up the preferred prospect come June, a choice that I would not personally disagree with.

rSR 1B Chris Marconcini, a transfer from Duke, saw his power numbers slip enough last season that his prospect stock heading into this season is way down. There’s still some hope that his above-average raw power and a big senior season will help convince teams once again he can make it as a potential platoon player/bench bat. JR 2B/SS John Sansome has flashed some utility player upside and the Florida State staff seems willing to ride or die with him in the infield, but he’ll need a much better season across the board in 2015 to garner any meaningful draft buzz. For all the good things I’ve heard about him, he really needs to start showing something with the bat after almost 400 below-average at bats through his first two years on campus. The high hopes I had for SR C Daniel De La Calle heading into last year were quickly dashed by his struggles at the plate (.224/.315/.241). He’s still so good behind the dish that a professional future can’t be ruled out, but even a pro backup has to hit a little bit. SR OF Josh Delph has done FSU proud by consistently showing the kind of plate discipline (68 BB/46 K the last two seasons) the program values so highly, but a lack of power upside makes him more of a good college bat than a future professional contributor.

The Florida State 2015 pitching class lacks the star power of a DJ Stewart, but is otherwise very similar to the hitting group. There are lots of solid college pitchers, but no sure-fire future pros at this point. SR LHP Bryant Holtmann has the size teams covet (6-5, 200) and it doesn’t hurt that he’s coming off a nice junior season. He’s flashed some interesting stuff in the past (mid- to upper-80s fastball, good cutter), so a team could like him as a senior sign reliever this June. rJR Mike Compton is one of my favorite college pitchers to watch — there’s something especially entertaining about watching a man with plus FB command carve up jumpy college hitters — but he’s never shown the requisite bat-missing ability needed to thrive in pro ball. Another season removed from Tommy John surgery could help him see an uptick in that area because his pitchability, deception, and secondary stuff, especially his low-70s curve, is top notch. JR LHP Dylan Silva and SR LHP Billy Strode jumped out at me as statistically impressive, but I don’t have anything on either beyond that right now. Another player I don’t have much on but am very, very intrigued by is JR LHP Alex Diese. Diese has the secondary stuff (plus CU, above-average CB) and enough fastball (88-92) to do big things in his first year as a Seminole.

The only two underclassmen that I see that have performed well when given the chance so far are SO LHP Alec Byrd (13 K/8 BB in 15 IP) and SO OF/SS Ben DeLuzio (.281/.371/.398 in 171 AB). Byrd’s got some projection left in him (already upper-80s) and DeLuzio (speed, size, bat speed, defensive upside) is a potential star with a chance to go very high in 2016. rFR RHP Andy Ward is a name to watch as he returns to health after Tommy John surgery and SO C/OF Gage West feels like the next in line of patient Florida State hitters. The freshman class is particularly loaded with future first day pick RHP Cobi Johnson the headliner. There’s also high hopes for FR RHP Andrew Karp, a pitcher who, like Johnson, has the chance for three above-average or better pitches by the time his draft year comes back around. For as much upside as Karp has, the foremost concern for him and the program is working together to get him healthy after a recent accident.

Oh yeah, there’s also a QB/RHP on the roster that is a tad famous. JR Jameis Winston, the likely 1b to Marcus Mariota’s 1a on most NFL teams QB draft boards, is a very real MLB draft prospect in his own right. I won’t touch on his many off-field incidents because I can only judge a player based on what I know (or think I know) — at best he’s an immature kid, at worst he’s a criminal who should be behind bars — but there’s been nothing but positive things said about his on-field makeup. That’s not necessarily enough to sway me into using a valuable early pick on him (trust me when I say I don’t make light of some of the charges against him), but it does me make wonder why he can’t be given a fair shot like anybody else if all the background checks on him come out clean. If a team does their homework and deems him an unemployable candidate, so be it. Players are employees who must represent the company, after all. Speaking strictly about his ability on the diamond, however, he’s an easily identifiable draftable talent. Too many of the national draft pundits have completely dismissed him because they don’t seem to like the amount of hype he gets relative to his peers; I get that, and I’m preemptively frustrated for the aftermath of if/when he’s picked and he instantly becomes the draft’s top storyline on a national/casual fan level. I don’t think it’s fair, however, to besmirch the man’s talent because the media is likely to get carried away with him. He didn’t ask for the hype, so holding it against him personally is silly. There isn’t always a need for the push-back that counters the over-the-top reaction from one side because it often winds up being equal to or greater than the initial uproar.

There are real risks involved with selecting Winston, of course. The big one was outlined above: if he’s not the kind of person you want to employ, move on and don’t think twice about it. If my favorite team passed on him for that reason, I’d be proud. If my favorite team did as much homework on him as possible and determined he’s an individual worth taking a chance on, well, that’s fine, too. The other big risk with Winston is the obvious downside to drafting a player that will always put baseball second. I don’t mean that as a knock on Winston, as he’s indicated a genuine passion for baseball on multiple occasions. It’s just that football is his best sport and where he’ll make his millions. As a pitcher — a reliever at that — I think a two-way professional athlete can exist in today’s game. The lost developmental time isn’t as big a factor for a pitcher with limited bullets in the chamber as is.

It’s next to impossible to assign any player a round value at this point in the process. Winston’s unique situation makes it even more difficult. At this point, I think I’d be willing to use a late-single digit round pick (8th, 9th, 10th round) on Winston if he’d be willing to go underslot like a senior might. Figure that’s earlier than he’d expect to get selected, money won’t be that big an issue to him after getting his NFL bonus a month or so prior, and it’s not such a high pick that you’re passing up a surer thing. As a baseball player he’s not a projected star like in football (and even that’s up for debate at this point), but I’ll take an athletic 6-4, 220 pound righthanded pitcher who has hit 95/96 in the past (and shown a promising breaking ball) coming off a season like the one he just had (31 K and 7 BB in 33.1 IP) in any draft. If, and I can’t stress this enough, and only if the background checks on him come back 100% to my liking.

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Duke

JR RHP Michael Matuella (2015)
SR RHP Sarkis Ohanian (2015)
SR RHP Andrew Istler (2015)
SR LHP Trent Swart (2015)
rJR LHP Remy Janco (2015)
rJR RHP Conner Stevens (2015)
JR LHP Nick Hendrix (2015)
rSR LHP Dillon Haviland (2015)
rSO RHP James Marvel (2015)
JR RHP/SS Kenny Koplove (2015)
rSR C Mike Rosenfeld (2015)
SR 2B Andy Perez (2015)
SO RHP Bailey Clark (2016)
SO RHP Karl Blum (2016)
SO LHP Kevin Lewallyn (2016)
SO RHP JR Holloway (2016)
SO C Cristian Perez (2016)
FR 1B Justin Bellinger (2017)
FR LHP Chris McGrath (2017)
FR SS Ryan Day (2017)
FR 3B Jack Labosky (2017)

JR RHP Michael Matuella took a massive step forward last year while putting hitters down far more consistently (doubled his K/9 and then some) and flashing the kind of stuff that could potentially dominate big league hitters. Guys who are 6-6, 220 pounds that show plus command of a four pitch arsenal that includes a mid-90s fastball and three secondaries with a chance to be above-average or better don’t come around everyday. . I’m not quite as knocked out about him as I could be — and I fully acknowledge some personal bias is seeping in here as I’ve yet to see him throw a plus offspeed pitch in my own viewings — but I’m very much prepared to go all-in on him the second he’s back out on a mound this February. As is, even with me not as in love with him as I should be, he still might be the best overall prospect in the country and top prospect on my next 2015 MLB Draft rankings. So I don’t yet LOVE him as much as I’m hoping to but still think he’s likely the best prospect in the land. If that doesn’t tell you what kind of upside he has, I’m not sure what else I can say.

On top of his strong recent track record, deep and varied array of pitches, plus command, and above-average athleticism and size, it’s really the amount of extension, deception, and downward plane he gets on every pitch that make him a special talent. Kiley McDaniel has comped him to Tyler Glasnow of the Pirates. Baseball America has thrown out a Michael Wacha comparison. I like both of these. Me being me, of course, I have a few others to throw at the wall and see if they stick. Because I was born and raised on Philadelphia sports in the 90s, I’m obligated to share a cautionary comp I heard over the summer. Let’s get the negativity — relative negativity since this guy is still pretty good — out of the way first. This pitcher never showed quite the same fastball velocity as Matuella, but similarities include the following: groundball tendencies, well-rounded assortment of pitches, plus command, almost identical height/weight (this guy is a little thinner), and a nerve-wracking collegiate injury history (Matuella has the manageable but still worrisome back condition called spondylolysis). We’re talking former Missouri Tiger ace and current solid mid-rotation arm for the Twins, Kyle Gibson. An outcome like that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world by any means, but it’s not the ceiling you’re shooting for if you’re thinking of popping a guy 1-1. More optimistically, I could see Matuella rounding into the professional version of Zack Wheeler on the realistic end with — I’m so sorry I’m doing this, but I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe it — a potential ceiling reminiscent of future Hall of Fame pitcher Roy Halladay on the highest of high ends. All comps are imperfect and stacking up any amateur player with one of the game’s greatest all-time performers is more irresponsible than I’d like to be, but the pieces are there (similar repertoires, plus command, outstanding extension/deception/plane) for it to at least become a justifiable ultimate 100% best-case scenario ceiling. Just putting that into writing makes me incredibly anxious, so let’s quickly move on to some of the other potential Duke draftees.

rSO RHP James Marvel is coming off Tommy John surgery, but showed a really nice FB/CB mix when healthy. He also has one of the most underrated names in this year’s draft; just think about the corporate and movie tie-ins that could be made if he makes it big. I’m an unabashed JR RHP Kenny Koplove fan dating back to his earliest amateur days. Did I write that he’s “not the next [Marcus] Stroman, but not not the next Stroman if you catch my drift” after seeing him a few times in high school? Yes, yes I did. That might have just been a teeny bit too rich a comparison — well, technically it wasn’t a comparison since I hedged like crazy but you surely caught my drift, right? — but Duke appears to be finally buying in to the idea of RHP Kenny Koplove rather than SS Kenny Koplove, which feels like a smart move after the shortstop version of Koplove hit .191/.243/.224 last season. I do think Koplove could be a difference-maker on the mound and is a major 2015 draft sleeper at this point. His delivery is a pain for hitters to pick up, he has plenty of arm strength (94ish peak), and I’ve always liked his breaking ball (I remember it as a curve, but I’ve heard/read slider since). Factor back in his athleticism and relative fresh right arm, and you’ve got somebody to be excited about.

Joining Baby Halladay, Captain Marvel, and Not Not Marcus Stroman is a really strong veteran pitching core. There’s SR RHP Sarkis Ohanian (strong stuff, good peripherals, below-average control), SR RHP Andrew Istler (stuff to start, but should play up enough in short bursts to get a look as a reliever), and SR LHP Trent Swart (crafty lefty profile who has no problem offspeeding you to death), all of whom could be senior signs with good springs. I’m actually surprised Istler, the most complete pitcher of the bunch, is back for a final year in Durham. I’m intrigued but unsure to expect out of other veterans like rJR LHP Remy Janco (limited innings), rJR RHP Conner Stevens (Tennessee transfer coming off a strong year), and LHPs Nick Hendrix (JR) and Dillon Haviland (rSR), both of whom jumped out at me as statistical favorites. There are no certainties here, but I’d be surprised if Duke got shut out on draft day after Matuella comes off the board.

At this point it should be fairly clear that Duke has some weapons on the mound. Will they hit enough to make any kind of noise in the ACC? That I’m much less sure about. I thought rSR C Mike Rosenfeld was on the verge of a statement 2014 season, but it never quite materialized. Still, his decent year with the stick (.268/.396/.335 in 194 AB) combined with his plus defensive abilities could be enough to keep him on follow lists around the league. Rosenfeld might be it as far as 2015 Duke bats go. I personally like SR 2B Andy Perez as a pesky middle infield prospect to watch, but he’s likely more good college player than future professional athlete. Future classes have talent in SO C Cristian Perez and FR 1B Justin Bellinger, so it’s not as if the lack of impact bats for 2015 is any cause for alarm.

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Clemson

Hey, all. It’s that time of year. We’re doing team-by-team college prospect previews for as long as I have the sanity to keep rolling ‘em out. Feel free to request a team/conference and I’ll put it at the top of the list. Also, as always, don’t hesitate to tell me how wrong I am in the comments or via email (robozga@gmail.com)…

JR LHP Matthew Crownover (2015)
JR LHP Zack Erwin (2015)
JR RHP Clate Schmidt (2015)
rSO RHP Wales Toney (2015
rJR RHP Patrick Andrews (2015)
rSR RHP Kevin Pohle (2015)
rSR RHP Jake Long (2015)
JR RHP Brady Koerner (2015)
rSR RHP Clay Bates (2015)
rSO RHP Garrett Lovorn (2015)
JR OF Steven Duggar (2015)
SR OF Tyler Slaton (2015)
rSO OF Maleeke Gibson (2015)
JR SS/3B Tyler Krieger (2015)
SO C Chris Okey (2016)
SO LHP Pat Krall (2016)
SO 3B/SS Weston Wilson (2016)
SO SS/2B Eli White (2016)
SO LHP Alex Bostic (2016)
SO RHP Drew Moyer (2016)
rFR 3B Glenn Batson (2016)
rFR OF Reed Rohlman (2016)
FR OF KJ Bryant (2017)
FR LHP Charlie Barnes (2017)
FR OF Drew Wharton (2017)

I like this Clemson team on paper. The pitching looks really promising with up to eight draft-eligible pitchers hitting the low-90s by my last count (I’m sure there are more, but I’m only one man here). Injuries to some of the most talented arms make it tough to truly pick a favorite, but I think it comes down to going with one of the quartet of JR LHP Matthew Crownover, JR LHP Zack Erwin, JR RHP Clate Schmidt, or rSO RHP Wales Toney. The first three names all made significant strides between the 2013 season and last year. Crownover is the most polished (three pitch mix highlighted by my favorite pitch, a good CU) and has the best control, Erwin has the deepest repertoire, good deception, and imposing size (6-5, 200), and Schmidt is the best athlete with the hottest heat (lives in the 90s, peaks at 96). As a draft eligible arm with no real college track record to speak of, the big-armed Toney (95 peak) is the mystery man of the group. All four are definite draft picks in my mind and potentially high ones at that.

The next tier of Clemson pitching is still quite solid. There’s not a lot to go on results-wise (at least of late) when it comes to evaluating rJR RHP Patrick Andrews, rSR RHP Kevin Pohle, and JR RHP Brady Koerner, but all fit the the mid- to late-round middle relief profile at the next level. Andrews and Pohle in particular have that FB/SL combination that pro teams seem to like, but may not miss enough bats to get serious draft consideration barring big 2015 seasons.

JR OF Steven Duggar is as tooled up as just about any college player in the country. His speed, arm, and athleticism all rate with anybody else in the class. Even if the approach (27 BB/51 K last season) never catches up to where you want it, those tools will all play in the big leagues. He’s a ready to roll from day one center field prospect as speed, arm, and defense can take you very far with an up-the-middle profile. He could move from good to great prospect by either showing an improved approach or showing more consistent power. I’m not sure what adjustments it’ll take to help him unlock his considerable raw power in game situations, but if that happens to click, watch out.

Duggar could be flanked in the outfield with a pair of potential 2015 draftees to either side. SR OF Tyler Slaton is a classic undersized senior sign grinder who can run, defend, and battle through at bats enough to get a look. rSO OF Maleeke Gibson has yet to do much on the big stage, but he’s a plus runner with the chance to open some eyes if the stars align. An argument can be made that Duggar, awesome as his tools may be, is not the best 2015 draft prospect in the Clemson lineup. That title could fall to JR SS/3B Tyler Krieger, a big personal favorite. In light of Kyle Seager’s recent massive extension, I think we’re all trying to find “the next Kyle Seager.” I won’t say it’s Krieger, but there are some scouting similarities between the two. I like Krieger for his above-average to plus speed (plays up, too), simple direct swing path, and steady glovework. I’d like to see a little more consistency with his throws this year and a little more pop wouldn’t hurt (that’s the one clear area college Seager has him beat), but Krieger is a rock solid prospect as is. Clemson’s last two recruiting classes have injected even more talent into the program with SO C Chris Okey, SO 3B/SS Weston Wilson, and SO RHP Drew Moyer all showing early signs of promise. I’m also intrigued by SO LHP Alex Bostic, FR OF KJ Bryant, and FR LHP Charlie Barnes. Of both future draft classes, Okey stands out as the biggest potential star but don’t sleep on Wilson or Bostic breaking through this year.

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Boston College

Hey, all. It’s that time of year. We’re doing team-by-team college prospect previews for as long as I have the sanity to keep rolling ‘em out. Feel free to request a team/conference and I’ll put it at the top of the list. Also, as always, don’t hesitate to tell me how wrong I am in the comments or via email (robozga@gmail.com)…

JR 1B/OF Chris Shaw (2015)
JR SS Joe Cronin (2015)
SR 2B/SS Blake Butera (2015)
SR RHP John Gorman (2015)
SR LHP Nick Poore (2015)
JR RHP Jeff Burke (2015)
JR LHP Jesse Adams (2015)
SO RHP Justin Dunn (2016)
SO RHP Mike King (2016)
SO SS/3B Johnny Adams (2016)

JR 1B/OF Chris Shaw is the big draw here. In terms of 2015 draft prospects, you could actually call him the only draw at the present moment. I like both SR 2B/SS Blake Butera and JR SS Joe Cronin a little bit, and the two of them should be good college table-setters for Shaw, but the BC lineup on the whole isn’t exactly stacked, especially by ACC standards. There are some interesting pitchers to monitor including strong senior sign candidate RHP John Gorman and statistical favorite JR LHP Jesse Adams, but the best two arms on the staff from where I’m sitting are both 2016 prospects (SO RHPs Justin Dunn [huge fan of his] and Mike King).

So, back to Shaw. The raw power is up there with any other player in this class. It’s shown up in the numbers (.329/.393/.502 last season at BC and a 30 HR full season pace on the Cape) and in games/BP. He’s big and strong and has a knack for hitting the ball hard. The power alone will get him drafted in the top five rounds without worry. Those who have fully bought in have touted him as a first round caliber prospect. I’m personally conflicted on Shaw as a draft prospect as I really, really like what I’ve seen with my eyes (beautiful swing that somehow manages to be both compact and powerful all at once with really quick hands and unusual looseness for a big man), but the overly aggressive approach at the plate (21 BB/38 K last season followed by a worse 13 BB/37 K ratio on the Cape) is a major red flag going forward. The fake scout in me can see a breakthrough coming in that area thanks to said components for an above-average hit tool, significant plate coverage, and his well-earned reputation as being a student of hitting, but, at the same time, I’ve got a reputation as a “numbers don’t lie” internet writer to uphold. I’d hate to hedge and say I’m waiting on him flipping his BB/K numbers around before pumping him up as a potential top two round pick with big league regular upside, but I think that’s where I’m at right now. I’d love to know what College Splits has on him when it comes to his performance against Friday night starters to date.

Now for the fun part. As a high-profile draft prospect, Shaw has garnered all kinds of interesting player comps over the past few months. Perfect Game has thrown out Garrett Anderson (as a hitter), Casey Gillaspie, and Chris Davis as comparable players for various reasons. I’ve personally heard a pair of “classic” player comps that I found neat: Harold Baines and Steve Garvey. The one modern hitting comp I’ve heard is Torii Hunter, which I kind of like because it speaks to Shaw’s ability as a hitter first and a slugger second. His swing at 2:07 in this clip is what I keep coming back to when I think of that, though I realize cross-handedness hitter comparisons are doomed from the start. That’s the stroke of a hitter who just happens to be strong and hit for power and not necessarily a power hitter’s mighty hack. Finally, two of my own (and therefore, my favorite) comps: first, a comp so logical that I’m stunned it hasn’t been made yet. I lived in Boston for a few years, so I can tell you firsthand how tricky (but not impossible) it is to see quality amateur baseball on a consistent basis in the frigid winter months early in the college season. The stories that I heard from older scouts in the area who talked often about Carlos Pena playing at Northeastern line up quite nicely with what I’ve seen, read, and heard about Shaw. For the record, here is each guy’s sophomore season line…

.309/.398/.600 – 26 BB/34 K – 175 AB
.329/.393/.502 – 21 BB/38 K – 207 AB

Top is Pena, bottom is Shaw. Not perfect, but not crazy different, either. My favorite comp, however, has nothing to do with geography. Check out these sophomore seasons…

.346/.400/.532 – 26 BB/39 K – 231 AB
.329/.393/.502 – 21 BB/38 K – 207 AB

Bottom is Shaw once again. The top is a guy who BA said the following about pre-draft: “struggled with wood in the Cape in 2007″…”excellent raw power”… “above-average at first base”… “plus arm”…”below-average speed.” I’d knock Shaw a grade lower in all non-bat grades across the board (average glove, above-average arm, slow), but for the most part it checks out. The player in question is the newest member of the Oakland Athletics and former first round pick (18th overall) Ike Davis. That seems like Shaw’s draft ceiling and it just might be his most realistic professional outcome.

2015 MLB Draft: HS Third Basemen

This is a little bit of a rough group even though I do like the names at the top quite a bit. I have to keep my mouth shut more than usual about John Aiello because he’s one of the players I saw up close multiple times this past spring in an effort to perform a service for a team/company in return for a small financial outlay. I don’t foresee lucking into the same arrangement next year – said team/company now has a more permanent employee in the area, which I’m pleased about since it saved me from making a tough life path decision – so I should be able to write freely about Aiello’s game multiple times next spring. Everything you’ve heard/read elsewhere about him is true: he’s got a big league body with the confidence that comes with it (or swagger, if you’re into that kind of thing), above-average power and arm strength, and enough athleticism to project as a darn fine third baseman professionally with the tiny chance he stays up the middle for a bit. Exciting overall profile.

I haven’t seen anybody else on the list as often as I have Aiello, but I think I have a decent feel for the rest of the class based on the few looks I’ve had, the short snippets I’ve heard from smarter pals, and the free public info out there on each guy. Ryan Mountcastle can really swing the bat. Ke’Bryan Hayes looks like he’d be comfortable dropped into a professional batter’s box tomorrow (no surprise with his bloodlines). J’Mar Smith is shaping up a little bit like this year’s Ti’Quan Forbes for me; it’s very early yet, but I like everything I know about Smith to date and think he could be a very fast riser.

Willie Burger sounds delicious right about now (as always, I skipped lunch); more importantly, he has interesting power and lives close enough by that I should be able to see him a few times this year. My appreciation for Carson Kelly as a prospect back in the day trickles down to Parker Kelly, so he’s a high follow for me. I remember very little about Bryce Denton, which doesn’t mean anything good, bad, or whatever. Bat intrigues me, but I’m curious about the glove. Only notes I have on him from East Coast Pro don’t reveal a whole lot about his defense, so that’ll be something I’ll try to pay extra attention to now.

3B/SS John Aiello (Germantown Academy, Pennsylvania)

3B Ryan Mountcastle (Hagerty HS, Florida)

3B/RHP Ke’Bryan Hayes (Concordia Lutheran HS, Texas)

3B/RHP J’Mar Smith (Meridian HS, Mississippi)

3B/C Willie Burger (Lancaster Catholic HS, Pennsylvania)

3B/RHP Parker Kelly (Westview HS, Oregon)

3B/OF Bryce Denton (Ravenwood HS, Tennessee)

3B Ben Ellis (Briarcrest Christian HS, Tennessee)

3B Brenton Burgess (Chamblee Charter HS, Georgia)

3B/RHP Andrew Noviello (Bridgewater-Raynham HS, Massachusetts)

3B David Chabut (Loganville HS, Georgia)

3B Alec Bohm (Roncalli Catholic HS, Nebraska)

3B LJ Talley (Charlton County HS, Georgia)

3B/SS Austin Pharr (Cherokee HS, Georgia)

3B Jake Franklin (Jefferson HS, Georgia)

3B Zack Quintal (Marshwood HS, Maine)

3B/SS Lucas Larson (Jefferson HS, Iowa)

3B Jared Mang (Los Alamos HS, New Mexico)

3B/1B Greyson Jenista (De Soto HS, Kansas)

3B Trey Cabbage (Grainger HS, Tennessee)

3B Brendon Davis (Lakewood HS, California)

3B Ryan Mantle (Linn HS, Missouri)

3B/RHP Blake Burton (Mater Dei HS, California)

3B Jack Mattson (Chanhassen HS, Minnesota)

3B/RHP Tyler Wyatt (Liberty HS, Arizona)

3B/RHP Grant Sloan (Zionsville HS, Indiana)

3B Matt Vierling (Christian Brothers HS, Missouri)

3B Graham Mitchell (Eastside HS, South Carolina)

3B Tyler Nevin (Poway HS, California)

3B/1B AJ Curtis (Amador Valley HS, California)

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