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2015 MLB Draft: HS Catchers (May Update)

As a player who has been famous in prospect circles for two plus years now, the draft stock of Chris Betts (Wilson HS, California) is currently suffering from a clear case of prospect fatigue (also known as Daz Cameron Syndrome). Teams have seen him so often that they are now firmly in the nit-pick stage of evaluation. Internet folk (like me!) have known about him for so long that they (we!) now worry if placing him at the top of the pile will be considered too boring, too safe, and too predictable a projection. Further complicating things is the “sudden” presence of Tyler Stephenson (Kennesaw Mountain HS, Georgia), a pop-up guy who isn’t really a pop-up guy — Perfect Game has been on him for months, though recent reports from Kiley McDaniel and Jim Callis are what have put him on the main stage for internet folk (like me!) trying to catch up with the spring high school season — but still has the right combination of limited information and clear physical gifts to potentially overtake Betts as the first prep catcher off the board.

When both McDaniel and Callis, two guys who are really good at their jobs, mention Matt Wieters as a comparison, it’s time to take notice. Evoking Wieters name when discussing Stephenson is an point in the favor of the utility of a good comp because it provides a little bit of context and a frame of reference to what kind of player Stephenson is and what kind of player he could eventually be. Stephenson isn’t Wieters, but the two share enough traits that thinking of the latter will help paint a clearer picture of what the former actually looks like. When you think Wieters — the most physically impressive amateur I’ve ever seen in person, for what it’s worth — you think big power, bigger arm, and biggest frame. That’s the overall package the 6’4”, 220 pound Stephenson brings to the field each time out. Compare Stephenson’s plus raw power, plus arm strength, and imposing physicality with what was written about Wieters’s high school days at the time of his selection out of Georgia Tech in 2007…

Wieters’ strong college commitment was the only reason he wasn’t drafted in the first two rounds in 2004. A talented two-way player who flashed 90 mph heat and plus-plus raw power at his suburban Charleston, S.C., high school, Wieters is well on his way to fulfilling the lofty projections on his bat.

There’s obviously enough vagueness in that report that it’s a tad disingenuous to cite it as concrete proof that Stephenson = Wieters (which obviously isn’t the point anyway), but you can see how the two could be compared at least in the abstract. Big power, bigger arm, and biggest frame. Any catcher with Stephenson’s bulk is a question mark to stay behind the plate over the long haul.

I think it’s fair (boring, perhaps) to like Betts more as a prospect because of his overall defensive edge. The belief that their bats will be close enough with Betts being the better bet to remain a catcher through his first contract of club control has merit. Close or not, Stephenson still has more upside as a hitter, but the lingering defensive questions mitigate some of the recent excitement about his offensive game. This is hard. The two are very, very close to me. I understand the desire to chase offensive upside with your first round pick, so Team Stephenson has a strong built-in argument that I wouldn’t debate against. If it all clicks, Stephenson should end up the better player — catcher or not — but the odds of it all clicking are a bit higher for Betts.

At minimum, I think it can be agreed upon that these are the top two high school catching prospects in the country without much current competition threatening to knock them off their perch. Both profile as average or better all-around big league catchers who stack up quite well with with any one-two catching prospect punch of the last few years. Asking around on each player didn’t give me the kind of comps I was hoping to hear — the old adage of “don’t force comps” applies to these two players, apparently — but I manage to get one name for Betts and two for Stephenson. Neither of the prospect to prospect comps that you’ll read were given with much confidence and I hesitate to even share them because they were very much “well, if I HAD to compare him to somebody I’ve seen…” kind of comps, so let’s all agree to view these for the entertainment value that they bring more than anything. The name I heard for Betts was Greg Bird (as a hitter only) and the name I heard for Stephenson was (a bigger) Clint Coulter. I mentioned earlier that I got two comps for Stephenson…yeah, the other was Wieters. I believe he was deemed the “Matt Wieters starter kit.” Don’t know why I expected to hear anything differently, but there you go. For the record, since I’m realizing while doing a quick edit of this that I’ve written mostly about Stephenson, Betts can really, really hit. The Bird comp feels a bit rich based on what we know Bird has done as a pro so far, but I think an average or slightly better hit tool and raw power combination could be the end game for Betts. Those abilities combined with a reasonably disciplined approach and a high probability of playing average or better defense behind the plate for years makes Betts a legitimate first round pick. Again, purely for fun, here are the scouting notes from this site on Coulter and Bird from their HS days…

C Clint Coulter (Union HS, Washington): good defensive tools, but a little stiff behind plate; may or may not stick at catcher long-term, but I’m a believer; little Jeff Bagwell in his crouch and swing setup; good athlete; plus arm, but needs to polish up footwork; pro body; loud contact; strong; big league caliber defensive tools for me, not all agree; above-average arm; really interesting power; fun player to watch who impacts the game in a multitude of ways; 6-3, 220 pounds

Bird came into the year a big prospect, but much of the hype that came with catching Kevin Gausman last year seems to have disappeared after Gausman went off to LSU. The Colorado high school catcher has a little bit of Cameron Gallagher to his game. Both prospects are raw defensively with impressive raw power that has been seen firsthand by area scouts at the high school level. That’s an important thing to note, I think. We hear so much about raw power, so it is worth pointing out when a player has plus raw power and average present power. That’s where I think Bird is currently at. There might not be a ton of projection to him, for better or worse.

To an extent, I can see how those comps came to be — and, if you’re willing to go down that rabbit hole, so can you through the power of Youtube! — but I think it’s notable that I confused the two comparisons in my head before actually going back to check my email. Coulter was an iffy defender for many coming out of high school, but I liked him enough behind the plate to want to see his defensive development through as long as possible. I can’t disagree with the Brewers decision to put him in right field — they have seen him more than anybody, plus getting the most out of his awesome bat should be the real priority at this point — but I’ll always feel like his all-around skill set behind the plate was underrated. Same goes for Betts, though now that his body is in better shape this spring there seem to be less willing to go on record as believing he’s not a catcher long-term. Bird struck me as closer to a Stephenson type since both guys were defensive maybes with advanced bats. The note about Bird’s impressive present power being as significant as his plus raw power applies to Stephenson as well. You could keep talking yourself into circles when it comes to trying to find similarities and differences between prospects — Betts and Bird share the pros/cons of being very heavily scouted for multiple seasons, for example — so we’ll just go ahead and quit while we’re almost ahead now.

Betts and Stephenson or Stephenson and Betts. Either way, you’re looking at two quality catching prospects worthy of mid- to late-first round draft consideration. I’m more comfortable with Betts right now, but the upside of Stephenson is not lost on me. Ask me again in a month and you may or may not get the same answer, but I’ll almost certainly have changed my mind a dozen times or so in the interim. I’m glad there’s a few more weeks to think this over.

We could end the conversation here because yesterday’s quick and dirty attempt at research indicated that there will only be two successful big league catchers out of this year’s high school class, right? No? Fine, let’s go a little deeper. Before we do, allow me to get on public record that my knowledge of any year’s group of high school prospects pales in comparison to what I know (or think I know) about a given year’s college players. I’ve actually seen more high school baseball this year than I can ever remember (probably been since my own HS days ten plus years ago) – been averaging around three games a week since mid-March with games today, Thursday, and Saturday morning on the docket – but that just means I’m a fraction more informed – and even that’s debatable since, again, I’m not a scout – about high school ball in a very small geographical footprint of the country than I’d otherwise be. I’m still largely at the mercy of whatever publicly available information finds its way to the internet, plus whatever bits of information I can procure from pals I’ve made in the game over the years. In other words, I’m going to be wrong a lot more than I’m right when it comes to high school prospects, so accepting that now is probably best for everybody involved. Anyway…

Lucas Herbert (San Clemente HS, California) looks to be the best of the rest thanks to his well-rounded set of defensive tools and mature approach at the plate. I’ve seen plus pop times out of him, an impressive feat for any young catcher but more so because I’d say his arm is more good than great. Times like that speak to his quick release and nimble footwork behind the dish. His swing is nice and quiet with just a little bit of jumpiness in his back right foot, but otherwise well-orchestrated coordination between his upper and lower halves. If any prep catcher has a chance to be a regular player outside of the draft’s first round, it’ll be Herbert.

Right behind him is the draft’s best young defensive catcher in Garrett Wolforth (Concordia Lutheran HS, Texas). Whether or not he’ll hit enough to ever profile as more than a defense-first backup at his best remains an open question – there’s some bat speed there, though he’s still raw at the plate – but his soft mitts and rocket arm should make him a popular guy on draft day.

If we go back yet again to yesterday’s findings, then we should be on the lookout for three more intriguing catching prospects that could crack the draft’s first five rounds. I’ll go with Justin Cohen (Riverview HS, Florida), Elih Marrero (Coral Gables HS, Florida), and Nick Dalesandro (Joliet Catholic HS, Illinois). I won’t pretend to know all that much more about these players than what most could ascertain through some good old fashioned internet sleuthing, but I am intrigued by Cohen’s bat, Marrero’s well-roundedness, and Dalesandro’s (who reminds me a tiny bit of Blake Hickman a few years ago) arm and athleticism.

I’ve had Wyatt Cross (Legacy HS, Colorado) higher than this in the past and was ready to keep him in the top five names or so, but I’ve heard what we can charitably call mixed things about him this spring. On the other end of the spectrum are Nick Fortes (Deland HS, Florida) and Joey Bart (Buford HS, Georgia), two players that I’ve heard good things about over the past few weeks. One name that I don’t know much about but would love to know more: Brendt Citta (Leland HS, California): I could see either Citta or Cooper Moore (Huntington Beach HS, California) finishing higher where I tentatively have them at the moment.

C Chris Betts (Wilson HS, California)
C Tyler Stephenson (Kennesaw Mountain HS, Georgia)
C Lucas Herbert (San Clemente HS, California)
C Garrett Wolforth (Concordia Lutheran HS, Texas)
C Justin Cohen (Riverview HS, Florida)
C Elih Marrero (Coral Gables HS, Florida)
C/RHP Nick Dalesandro (Joliet Catholic HS, Illinois)
C Dominic DeRenzo (Pittsburgh Central Catholic HS, Pennsylvania
C Wyatt Cross (Legacy HS, Colorado)
C Nick Fortes (Deland HS, Florida)
C Joey Bart (Buford HS, Georgia)
C Brendt Citta (Leland HS, California)
C Alex Webb (Columbia Central HS, Tennessee)
C Justin Glover (Dunedin HS, Florida)
C Cole Warken (Martin Collegiate SS, Saskatchewan)
C/1B Cooper Moore (Huntington Beach HS, California)
C Tyler Garrison (Mill Valley HS, Kansas)
C/3B Cody Roberts (Blessed Trinity Catholic, Georgia)
C Baylor Rowlett (College Station HS, Texas)
C Chris Cullen (West Forsyth HS, Georgia)
C Cal Raleigh (Smoky Mountain HS, North Carolina)
C Hunter Stovall (Pelham HS, Alabama)
C Cesar Salazar (Sahuaro HS, Arizona)
C Michael Curry (Gainesville HS, Georgia)
C Eric Jones (South Mecklenburg HS, North Carolina)
C Chase Smartt (Charles Henderson HS, Alabama)
C Sean Buckhout (Don Bosco Prep, New York)
C Carlos Reyes (Hialeah HS, Florida)
C Ryan Fineman (Agoura HS, California)
C Malik Brown (Birmingham Groves HS, Michigan)
C Cole Buffington (Kennesaw Mountain HS, Georgia)
C Kyle Schmidt (Smithville HS, Texas)
C Tyler Murray (Huntington Beach HS, California)
C Angel Lopez (Perkiomen HS, Pennsylvania)
C Noah Croft (Olathe South HS, Kansas)
C/RHP Brendan Illies (Puyallup HS, Washington)
C Gian Martellini (Bishop Hendricken HS, Rhode Island)
C Scott Kapers (Mount Carmel HS, Indiana)
C Ryan Sloniger (Punxsutawney HS, Pennsylvania)
C/3B Gabriel Garcia (Monteverde Academy, Florida)
C Dalton Blumenfeld (Alexander Hamilton HS, California)
C Tyrus Greene (St. Augustine HS, California)
C/RHP Kyle Davis (Miller HS, Alabama)
C Darren Shred (St. Roch Catholic, Ontario)
C Jacob Washer (West Stokes HS, North Carolina)
C Hunter Hearn (Crosby HS, Texas)
C Briggs Benson (Tift County HS, Georgia)
C Jackson Lueck (Orangewood Christian HS, Florida)

Where in the World is…?

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego logo

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.

EDIT: I couldn’t resist doing some more searching of my own on these guys. Made it as far as Alexander before getting distracted by something else. Will hopefully get to the rest later.

Clemson SO LHP Hunter Hill (2016)
Florida State SO RHP/INF MT Minacci (2016)
Louisville SO RHP Mason Richardson (2015) – USC Aiken
Miami SO 1B Bradley Zunica (2015) – State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota
North Carolina JR OF Zach Daly (2015) – Lander
Virginia SO OF Tyler Allen (2016)
Central Florida JR RHP Zac Favre (2015)
Central Florida SO LHP Vinnie Rosace (2015) – Seminole State College of Florida 
Cincinnati rJR OF Will Drake (2015)
Connecticut JR LHP Christian Colletti (2015) – Indian River State College 
Connecticut SO 3B/1B Ryan Sullivan (2016)
East Carolina JR RHP Justin Taylor (2015)
Alabama SO OF Hunter Webb (2015) – Chattahoochee Valley CC
Alabama rSO OF Matthew Goodson (2015) – Auburn-Montgomery 
Kentucky SO RHP Logan Parrett (2016)
Vanderbilt rSO RHP Luke Stephenson (2015)
Florida FR 3B/RHP Hunter Alexander (2015) – St. Johns River State
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)

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Wake Forest

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.

Patriot League 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

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

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

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

Southland 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

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

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

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

Summit League 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

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

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

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

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

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

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

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

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

MAAC 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

Fairfield SR C Sebastian Salvo
Canisius SR 1B Connor Panas
Canisius JR 2B Anthony Massicci
Quinnipiac SR SS Scott Donaghue
Canisius SR 3B Jesse Puscheck
St. Peter’s JR OF Rob Moore
Fairfield JR OF Jake Salpietro
Quinnipiac JR OF Rob Pescitelli

Canisius SR RHP Devon Stewart
Iona JR RHP Mariano Rivera
Siena SR RHP Ed Lewicki
Fairfield SR RHP EJ Ashworth
Iona JR RHP John Daddino

I’m not sure I’ve had less information for any conference so far than the limited info I scrounged up on the MAAC. That’s not to say that there aren’t hidden gems to be found here; it’s just that the gems are so deeply hidden that they are well past the point of digging that I was able to do. The few players that I do have notes on are actually pretty darn interesting relative to the prospects found at other similarly sized conferences across the conference.

One such interesting prospect is Canisius SR 1B/3B Connor Panas. Panas is a multi-dimensional offensive threat capable of beating you with a single the other way, a deep ball to his pull side, or speed on the base paths (22/26 SB the past two seasons). I don’t know nearly as much as I’d like about his defensive ability, but if he can play a reasonable third base then he’s an even better prospect than I currently give him credit for. I’ve heard from those in the know that even if he can’t play third regularly, he should be athletic and instinctual enough to work as a four-corners utility player in the pros. He’s joined in the Canisius infield with fellow prospects JR 2B/SS Anthony Massicci (steady glove, plenty of arm, nice power/speed/patience offensive blend) and JR 3B Jesse Puscheck (game built on raw strength and physicality).

It’s possible that I’m overrating the Canisius position players seeing as only five hitters from the school have been drafted before, but I don’t think it’s that nuts to imagine a scenario where the three players listed above plus JR 1B/OF Brett Siddall and SR OF Mike Krische warrant serious draft consideration this spring. Add SR RHP Devon Stewart to the mix and you’re looking at a half-dozen total prospects with a shot to sign pro contracts. Even if just the biggest names of the bunch (Siddall, Stewart) and one other Golden Griffin gets picked in June, it will tie the 2011 group of Sean Jamieson, Chris Cox, and Shane Davis as the largest to enter pro ball together.

The alliterative pair of Fairfield SR C Sebastian Salvo and Manhattan SR C Mikey Miranda impressed in limited at bats last year. Interesting power bats like Siena JR 1B/OF Fred Smart, Quinnipiac SR 1B Vincent Guglietti, and St. Peter’s JR OF Rob Moore all could wind up drafted with productive springs.

The aforementioned Stewart’s considerable stuff has never matched his less than stellar results. I think that’s in part because he’s currently asked to shoulder a much larger role as a starter than he’ll be asked to in the bullpen as a professional. In short bursts, his fastball moves from 87ish-92ish up to a far more dangerous mid-90s (95/96) peak. His time as a starter has helped him round out his repertoire, so it’s not uncommon to see him throw an average or better slider or changeup in any given outing. If he can get either pitch to move up half a grade or so in a relief role, then he’ll have more than enough stuff to move quick once the pros get their hands on him.

Bloodlines can be overrated, but I’m buying the potential benefits that Iona JR RHP Mariano Rivera has and will continue to reap as the son of baseball’s all-time best closer. Senior was known for many things such as piling up 652 saves, finishing his career with an inconceivable 205 ERA+, and throwing arguably the greatest singular pitch known to man; while awesome, none of those things (well, maybe some of that cutter magic could rub off…) will translate to helping Junior achieve success on the diamond. It is fair to believe that the insane work ethic and preternatural ability to make adjustments on the mound could be traits passed down from father to son. For now, Rivera is a nice looking relief prospect with enough fastball (88-92, 94 peak) and an above-average slider to compensate for his lack of size and middling track record to date. To a man, every person I spoke to remarked that they believed Rivera would be a better professional than college player.

Siena SR RHP Ed Lewicki is a an all-caps FAVORITE thanks to his plus low-80s changeup, a mid-70s curve that can be an out pitch at times, and a plenty of projection left in his 6-4, 185 pound frame. Iona JR RHP John Daddino’s name doesn’t come up much in my notes, but pitchers who strike out 15.88 batters per nine in a season get special priority here. He’s high on my list of players I want to know more about this spring. I’m not sure if he’ll be drafted or not, but Rider SR RHP Kurt Sowa deserves credit for pitching well over the years while also making such fine films as Seven Samurai, Rashomon, and Drunken Angel. That’s talent.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Canisius SR 1B/3B Connor Panas
  2. Canisius JR 2B/SS Anthony Massicci
  3. Canisius JR 1B/OF Brett Siddall
  4. Canisius SR 3B Jesse Puscheck
  5. Siena JR 1B/OF Fred Smart
  6. Quinnipiac SR 1B Vincent Guglietti
  7. Fairfield SR C Sebastian Salvo
  8. Rider SR 3B Nick Richter
  9. Niagara JR 2B Michael Fuhrman
  10. Rider SR 1B/OF Justin Thomas
  11. St. Peter’s JR OF Rob Moore
  12. Fairfield JR OF/SS Jake Salpietro
  13. Manhattan SR C Mikey Miranda
  14. Quinnipiac JR OF Rob Pescitelli
  15. Manhattan JR 1B/OF Christian Santisteban
  16. Quinnipiac SR SS Scott Donaghue
  17. Marist SR 1B/OF Steve Laurino
  18. Canisius SR OF Mike Krische
  19. Fairfield JR 1B Brendan Tracy
  20. Iona SR OF Jimmy Guiliano

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

  1. Canisius SR RHP Devon Stewart
  2. Iona JR RHP Mariano Rivera
  3. Siena SR RHP Ed Lewicki
  4. Fairfield SR RHP EJ Ashworth
  5. Iona JR RHP John Daddino
  6. Marist SR LHP Rich Vrana
  7. Monmouth JR LHP Anthony Ciavarella
  8. Rider JR RHP Vincenzo Aiello
  9. Siena JR RHP Bryan Goossens
  10. Siena JR RHP Rick Morales
  11. Monmouth SR RHP Adam Yunginger
  12. Rider SR RHP Kurt Sowa
  13. Marist SR RHP Chris Napolitano
  14. Monmouth SR RHP Chris McKenna
  15. Quinnipiac JR LHP Justin Thomas

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Southern Conference Follow List

The Citadel

JR RHP Skylar Hunter (2015)
SR LHP Ross White (2015)
rJR LHP James Reeves (2015)
SR RHP Zach Sherrill (2015)
JR RHP Austin Mason (2015)
JR RHP Austin Livingston (2015)
SR LHP Kevin Connell (2015)
SR SS Johnathan Stokes (2015)
rSO OF Jason Smith (2015)
SR C Ryan Kilgallen (2015)
JR 3B Bret Hines (2015)
SO RHP Zach McKay (2016)
FR 1B Drew Ellis (2017)
FR 2B Philip Watcher (2017)

East Tennessee State

SR RHP Jimmy Nesselt (2015)
JR RHP Griffin Krieg (2015)
JR LHP Josh Jacques (2015)
JR SS Jordan Sanford (2015)
JR OF Jeremy Taylor (2015)
JR 1B/C Kevin Phillips (2015)
JR 2B Trey York (2015)
SO 3B/RHP Chris Cook (2016)
SO C Gage Downey (2016)
SO LHP Jamin McCann (2016)
rFR RHP Dillon Cate (2016)
FR RHP Ryan Simpler (2017)
FR OF Aaron Maher (2017)
FR RHP Dalton Long (2017)


SR RHP Elliot Warford (2015)
SR LHP/1B Ryan Morse (2015)
SR RHP Jake Wolff (2015)
SR RHP Matt Solter (2015)
SR 3B Chris Ohmstede (2015)
SR OF Jake Jones (2015)
JR OF Griffin Davis (2015)
JR 2B/SS Jordan Simpson (2015)
SO OF Sky Overton (2016)
SO C Cameron Whitehead (2016)
SO OF Carter Grote (2016)
SO LHP Billy Greenfield (2016)
FR RHP Will Gaddis (2017)
FR RHP Brandon Casas (2017)


SR RHP Ben Lumsden (2015)
SR RHP Dmitri Kourtis (2015)
SR RHP DJ Johnson (2015)
SR RHP Eric Nyquist (2015)
SR LHP Morgan Pittman (2015)
SR RHP Mitchell Wade (2015)
SR 2B Devin Bonin (2015)
SR OF Nate Moorhouse (2015)
SO C Charlie Madden (2016)
SO SS Matt Meeder (2016)
SO OF Kyle Lewis (2016)
SO RHP Ryan Askew (2016)
SO LHP Austin Lord (2016)
FR OF Trey Truitt (2017)

North Carolina Greensboro

JR RHP Ryan Clark (2015)
JR RHP Keaton Haack (2015)
rJR RHP Lee Gilliam (2015)
SR RHP Brennen James (2015)
SR RHP Tyler Frazier (2015)
JR LHP Bryant Stafford (2015)
rSR LHP Blair Betts (2015)
SR 1B/OF Eric Kalbfleisch (2015)
SR 1B Aaron Wright (2015)
rSR OF Zac MacAneney (2015)
SR OF/LHP Tyler Long (2015)
SR OF LJ Kalawaia (2015)
JR C Jake Hall (2015)
SR 2B Hunter King (2015)
SO OF/LHP Julian Abreu (2016)
SO C Jake Kusz (2016)
SO RHP Adam Swim (2016)
FR SS Tripp Shelton (2017)


SR RHP Mikel Belcher (2015)
SR RHP Alex Ledford (2015)
SR RHP Cole Limbaugh (2015)
SR RHP Andres Gracia (2015)
JR RHP Parker Curry (2015)
JR RHP Jesse Travis (2015)
rSR RHP Mark Donham (2015)
rJR RHP Phillip Flach (2015)
JR SS Frankie Navarette (2015)
JR 1B Alex Lee (2015)
rSO SS Danny Rodriguez (2015)
rJR OF Jared Watson (2015)
rSR OF Brandon Powell (2015)
rJR OF Damon Waller (2015)
SO OF TJ Dixon (2016)
SO RHP/INF Hunter Swilling (2016)
SO OF Heath Quinn (2016)
SO RHP Jared Brasher (2016)
FR RHP Jacob Greer (2017)

Virginia Military Institute

SR LHP Jonathan Kelley (2015)
SR RHP Andrew Woods (2015)
JR RHP Taylor Edens (2015)
SR OF Brandon Angus (2015)
rJR OF Gary LeClair (2015)
SR 2B/SS Thomas Stallings (2015)
rSR C Matt Winn (2015)
rSR OF/2B Jordan Tarsovich (2015)
JR C/1B Red Dowdell (2015)
SO OF Will Malbon (2016)
SO LHP Austin Heenan (2016)
FR LHP Brandon Barbery (2017)

Western Carolina

SR RHP Tyler Powell (2015)
JR RHP Jonathan Waszak (2015)
JR RHP Colton Davis (2015)
JR LHP Alex Barr (2015)
JR LHP Taylor Durand (2015)
SR 1B/LHP Jacob Hoyle (2015)
JR OF Kramer Ferrell (2015)
rJR OF Austin Atwell (2015)
SR OF Garrett Brown (2015)
SR 2B/3B Brad Strong (2015)
JR C Danny Bermudez (2015)
JR 3B Reece Strong (2015)
JR SS/3B JD Long (2015)
SO OF Matt Smith (2016)
SO LHP Bryan Sammons (2016)
SO RHP Korey Anderson (2016)
FR LHP Brandan Nail (2017)
FR 3B Brett Pope (2017)


JR RHP Luke Leftwich (2015)
JR RHP Matthew Milburn (2015)
SR RHP Connell Anderson (2015)
JR RHP Will Stillman (2015)
SO RHP Jacob Condra-Bogan (2015)
JR LHP Connor Foltyn (2015)
SR OF/C Matt Ramsay (2015)
JR SS Alec Paradowski (2015)
SR 1B/OF James Plaistad (2015)
JR 2B/OF Demetrius Jennings (2015)
JR 2B/SS Derek Hirsch (2015)
SR 1B Conor Clancey (2015)
SO INF Dylan May (2016)
FR LHP Adam Scott (2017)

Three Weeks Out

College baseball is back in three weeks. That’s crazy. Excited as I am, the rapidly approaching first pitch means the impending end of any kind of meaningful 2015 college baseball preview, assuming you’re the type to, you know, actually care about what words mean. I choose to play it fast and loose with “words” and “definitions” and the like, so I figure I can still “preview” teams even after the season has begun. Still, it’s clear to me that anything done after February 13 won’t have quite the same impact. All of this is just a too long way of saying that it’s time for me to step up the workload here. Expect to start seeing a combination of three things over the next three weeks: 1) continued team previews with an emphasis on the teams with the most 2015 MLB Draft talent, 2) conference previews for the smaller (yet still awesome!) conferences, and 3) a whole lot more big picture stuff that I’ve yet to figure out but have confidence will be a lot of fun to write/read. I’d also like to give a little love to the “others” at some point by spotlighting the best and the brightest from Division II, NAIA, junior colleges, and anybody else who deserves to be seen.

Finally, these are the schools that I’ve come across that have yet to post 2015 rosters. If anybody out there has any insight on who will be playing for these fine universities this spring, please drop me a line in the comments or via email.

North Carolina
St. John’s
Indiana State
South Alabama
Texas State
Georgia Southern
Alabama A&M
Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Central Connecticut State
Savannah State
Delaware State
North Carolina Central

2015 MLB Draft Prospects: Tennessee

JR OF Christin Stewart (2015)
JR OF Vincent Jackson (2015)
SR OF Jonathan Youngblood (2015)
JR OF Derek Lance (2015)
JR SS AJ Simcox (2015)
SR C Tyler Schultz (2015)
JR C David Houser (2015)
SR 1B/OF Parker Wormsley (2015)
JR RHP/1B Andrew Lee (2015)
JR LHP Drake Owenby (2015)
JR RHP Steven Kane (2015)
SR RHP Bret Marks (2015)
SR RHP Peter Lenstrohm (2015)
SR RHP Eric Martin (2015)
JR LHP Andy Cox (2015)
SO RHP Kyle Serrano (2016)
SO 1B/C Nathaniel Maggio (2016)
SO RHP Hunter Martin (2016)
SO 3B Jordan Rodgers (2016)
SO 2B/3B Nick Senzel (2016)
FR C Benito Santiago (2016)
FR LHP Zach Warren (2017)
FR SS/2B Brett Langhorne (2017)

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.

South Carolina, Kentucky, Florida, Mississippi State, and Texas A&M haven’t posted 2015 rosters as of this writing, so I can’t say the following with absolute certainty but I’m 99% sure Stewart will finish as the SEC’s top outfield prospect heading into the season. An interesting head-to-head comparison based solely from a scouting standpoint (i.e. ignoring collegiate production to date) in the larger college baseball world would be with Florida State’s DJ Stewart. DJ is ahead, but that’s not a knock on Christin. Another slightly less positive comparison would be to former Volunteer outfielder Kentrail Davis, who has flopped as a pro but still showed enough as a college prospect to go 39th overall in 2009. His wood bat experience has me excited about his upside with the stick, so, at the moment, I’m a believer. He’s pretty good.

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.

Stewart and Jackson are joined in an all-prospect outfield by SR OF Jonathan Youngblood. Youngblood checks off all my boxes in what has become on my favorite draft prospect archetypes, the shockingly raw yet scarily toolsy college outfielder. These are the guys that might as well be high school prospects when it come to the risk/reward calculus that comes into scouting them, to say nothing of the lack of track record that makes no sense from a player that has spent three to four years playing ball after the age of 18. Youngblood is fast (check) and athletic (check) with a strong arm (check) and the natural ability to roam center field (check…in fact, “patrols CF like a veteran” is written explicitly about Youngblood in my notes). He’s also very raw as a hitter with interesting raw power that is still likely a few years and some added muscle (he’s currently listed at 6-3, 185 pounds) away from showing up, if it does so at all (check and check). On top of all, his name is Youngblood. If that’s not the perfect name for our raw yet toolsy college outfield archetype, I’m not sure what is. I guess Jonathan Rawtool would be tough to beat, but Youngblood is a close second.

JR SS AJ Simcox isn’t part of that stacked outfield, but, like Stewart and Jackson before him, he’s pretty good. Though he hasn’t shown the kind of hitting acumen expected of him to date, all those I talked to can’t stop raving about his breakout potential for 2015 and professional upside. His defense is legit — range, hands, and arm are all average or better — and his as yet untapped offensive upside (above-average hit tool, average raw power, above-average speed, decent approach) is enough to give him a real chance to emerge as one of this class’ many shortstops that profile as regular players at the big league level. I write it often, but it bears repeating: I have no allegiance when it comes to college athletics, so I have no reason to prop up any particular program or prospect. Still, I find myself unusually bullish on all of these Volunteers and even I am curious if there’s some unknown reason why. Might as well keep the love-fest going with my appreciation of a pitcher I consider to be one of college baseball’s under-the-radar gems. 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. JR RHP/1B Andrew Lee has a good arm, lots of size (6-5, 220), and two-way talent. JR RHP Steven Kane, SR RHP Bret Marks, and SR RHP Peter Lenstrohm all feature above-average or better changeups and solid heat (88-92ish range). I don’t know much about JR LHP Andy Cox, but I like what I do know and his 2014 season (8.15 K/9, 3.84 BB/9, and 2.44 ERA in 77.1 IP) portends good things to come.

For as impressive as the Volunteers’ 2015 talent appears, literally all of the conversations I’ve had with those in the know about Tennessee baseball — seriously, every single one — can be summed up with the following phrase: “just you wait.” There is a ton of excitement around the game from otherwise impartial observers about the kind of program that is being built in Knoxville. There are plenty of solid underclassmen to watch like the big (6-5, 250 pound) athletic SO 1B/C Nathaniel Maggio, SO RHP Hunter Martin (nice changeup), FR LHP Zach Warren, and personal favorite SO 2B/3B Nick Senzel. The crown jewel, however, is unquestionably SO RHP Kyle Serrano. I’m fairly certain that this site was the highest on Serrano out there coming out of high school — I should check before making such claims, even when I try to cover myself with the lame “fairly certain” caveat: well, turns out he was 20th here, which was only one spot ahead of where Keith Law him him (so, maybe I wasn’t that much higher on him than everybody…) and a good bit ahead of where he landed at Baseball America (35th) — and nothing he did his freshman season has changed any minds about his long-term upside. His changeup stood out as a potential plus pitch in high school and the pitch remains a high upside offering that flashes plus at present. His velocity has ticked up just a bit (96 peak) and remains more consistently in the low- to mid-90s deeper into starts. The curve, like his changeup, flashes plus at times, and his control, while scary from the outside looking in (more walks than strikeouts this past year), isn’t a major concern going forward. All told, the profile reminds me quite a bit of a young version of Jarrod Parker, the ninth overall pick back in 2007. Sounds like a decent draft/upside parallel to me, but Serrano has two more years to make it a reality. Pretty good chance he does exactly that.

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)

2014 HS Third Basemen

This list isn’t all that I wanted it to be, but it’s still a fairly strong representation of the players that I’ve either seen up close or feel like I have enough information on to make an educated guess about. Information becomes more scarce the further down the list you go, so keep it that in mind if you’re the type to think the guy listed at 9 is WAY better than the player listed at 5. In fact, it might just be best to focus on the rankings closer to the top of the list while using the back end as just a quick shorthand for the most notable tools each player possesses. Lastly, this list is just a quick version of what I have. If you want to know more about anybody — or want to add something — please don’t hesitate to ask/contribute any way you see fit.

  1. 3B/RHP Jacob Gatewood (Redwood HS, California): star upside; plus bat speed; big raw power, could be plus-plus; more present power at a younger age than most big-time prospects; seen as a potential CF over SS by many, could also fit very well at 3B; above-average to plus arm; great athlete; not much foot speed; popular yet unreasonable Tulo comp; swing needs to be reworked, but makeup suggests willingness to work at it; FAVORITE; mid-80s FB; good 74 CB; 6-5, 200 pounds
  2. 3B/2B Michael Chavis (Sprayberry HS, Georgia): good approach; above-average to plus defender; can’t throw it fast enough for him; very real right-handed power, at least above-average and plus for me; average speed; average or better arm; good athlete; bat speed is nuts; could be catcher convert; PG comp: Javier Baez; not perfect, but reminds me of Cavan Biggio last year; Callis comp: Jedd Gyorko; I can see maybe RHH Robin Ventura; have heard Blake DeWitt as warning; 5-10, 200 pounds
  3. 3B Sean Bouchard (Cathedral Catholic HS, California): quick bat; good to plus speed; above-average power upside; good athlete; good defensive tools; plus arm; average hit tool; 6-3, 200 pounds
  4. 3B/2B Charlie Cody (Great Bridge HS, Virginia): plus hit tool; strong arm; good athlete; really good defensive tools; quick bat; good speed; FAVORITE; PG comp: David Wright
  5. 3B/RHP Shane Benes (Westminster Christian HS, Missouri): average or better power upside; good athlete; above-average arm; average or better hit tool; 87-91 FB; 76 CB; 79 CU; strong; ACL injury in 2014; 6-3, 200 pounds
  6. 3B/SS Joe Dunand (Gulliver HS, Florida): power upside; good speed; strong arm; good defensive tools; 6-3, 210 pounds
  7. 3B Kevin Padlo (Murrieta Valley HS, California): good arm; good athlete; good hit tool; 6-1, 190 pounds
  8. 3B Montrell Marshall (South Gwinnett HS, Georgia): great athlete; 6-5, 200 pounds
  9. 3B/SS Will Toffey (Salisbury Prep, Massachusetts): strong; good hit tool; below-average speed; good athlete; great base runner; average or better raw power; above-average arm; smart hitter
  10. 3B Grayson Byrd (King’s Ridge HS, Georgia): mature approach; strong arm; 6-3, 180 pounds
  11. 3B/OF Travis Jones (Atascocita HS, Texas): quick bat; above-average to plus speed; power upside; good athlete; 6-4, 200 pounds
  12. 3B Dylan Busby (Sarasota HS, Florida): strong; good athlete; good range; good athlete; 6-4, 180 pounds
  13. 3B Max Ponzurick (Greensburg Central HS, Pennsylvania): interesting hit tool; strong arm; good defensive tools; 6-3, 220 pounds
  14. 3B/SS Taylor Lane (IMG Academy, Florida): strong arm; average at best speed; good athlete; above-average raw power; 6-1, 200 pounds
  15. 3B/RHP Jordan Pearce (El Camino HS, California): above-average power; 86-90 FB; mid-70s SL; good CB
  16. 3B/2B Joe Gillette (Scotts Valley HS, California): plus potential with glove; great athlete; good speed; PG Brett Morel comp; 6-3, 190 pounds
  17. 3B/RHP David Hensley (Patrick Henry HS, California): good glove; power upside; can get it against high velocity; 85-88 FB; 77-80 SL/CB; 6-5, 175 pounds
  18. 3B Dalon Farkas (Milton HS, Georgia): strong arm; power upside
  19. 3B Jackson Soto (West Albany HS, Oregon): strong; good athlete; 6-1, 200 pounds
  20. 3B Jayden Eggimann (Desert Ridge HS, Arizona): average power
  21. 3B/RHP Jared Walker (McEachern HS, Georgia): average speed; strong arm; 87-91 FB
  22. 3B/SS Michael Gretler (Bonney Lake HS, Washington): interesting upside with glove; 6-2, 180 pounds
  23. 3B/SS Dominic DiSabatino (St. Mark’s HS, Delaware): below-average speed; above-average arm; 6-5, 180 pounds

2015 MLB Draft: HS Shortstops

At one point, you could have made a case – a tenuous one, to be sure – that the shortstop position at the high school level was similar to the catcher spot. The catchers are currently Chris Betts and a lot of question marks. Shortstop has as clear a top prospect in Brendan Rodgers, but he’s not the only early round candidate worth knowing about. Some of the players listed won’t remain at shortstop, but many will. All in all, this is one of the deeper high school shortstop groups that I can remember this early in the process. Players always come out of nowhere and surprise just as attrition will knock some of the existing top players down a peg or three. I’m just saying that as of September 2014, this is a good group with a clear star at the top and a fun amount of depth trailing behind him.

It’s only logical to compare the aforementioned Brendan Rodgers to Florida’s top shortstop and eventual fifth overall pick, Nick Gordon. Perfect Game has also throw out a Troy Tulowitzki comp (not knocking it, though I don’t see it, but it seems like there’s one of these every year these days) and a JJ Hardy comp (more on target, I think). I’d actually compare his skill set and potential professional future with a different Florida amateur from back in the day: Florida State’s Stephen Drew (except righthanded this time). Rodgers is unquestionably ahead of Drew at similar stages of development – check out the HS scouting report of Drew from Baseball America when you can; it’s rough – and doesn’t come with any of the makeup questions that have dogged Drew (fairly or not) throughout his career. Rodgers, in fact, garners some of the highest praise of any amateur athlete I can remember when it comes to makeup; read this interview on Baseball America for some insight of how he views the game and keep it mind scouts have said this is just tip of the iceberg when it comes to his baseball IQ and commitment to maximizing his natural talent. The words “above-average” litter any report on his future tools: raw power, speed, arm (flashes plus), hit tool, and range/hands/instincts/footwork all hit the mark. The cherry on top is his explosive bat speed, which ranks at or near the top of this year’s group of high school hitters.

My only current quibble with Rodgers’ prospect standing is something he can’t control: his age. He’s not so old for his class that it’s going to move him down boards in any meaningful way, but it is worth keeping in mind when assessing his on-field performances over the past summer and going forward this spring. Even a few month developmental start can make a difference at that age. When you hear reports on his tools, forget about the age thing. If you hear from somebody raving about how he’s overmatching his competition, take it with a little grain of salt. Again, this is really is not anything to obsess about but rather something to store away in the back of your mind when comparing him against the rest of the very tippy top of the draft class. He’s still great, slightly overaged or not.

Cadyn Greiner is a massive personal favorite who ably combines a steady glove, strong arm, above-average speed, and a bat with a chance for an above-average or better hit tool with average power. He’s not quite Brendan Rodgers, but he may be 90% of him. I wish I was more confident that Greiner would stick at shortstop, but, if he has to move off, it is comforting to know he’s gifted enough to handle second base (with the chance he grows into enough power to make third base an option). Nick Shumpert’s glove is worth the price of admission, and the bat/speed could be enough to make him a future regular. He’ll be an interesting player to watch as he enters pro ball because he’s the type who projects as potential plus at second (or better…I really, really like his glove there) or around average at shortstop. What player brings more value? That’s a rhetorical question, as I’m a) not smart enough to actually figure that stuff out, and b) unsure there’s a good, publicly available way to figure that out, what with defensive metrics free for the masses still a relatively new and as yet imperfect measure for adjusting for such things. I hope a smart team with strong propriety defensive data collection system drafts Shumpert to help add a point to one side of the debate.

I’m quite sure somebody somewhere has beaten me to this, but I can’t find it anywhere after a solid fifteen seconds of Googling. Nick Madrigal has a lot of Jose Altuve in his game, and not just because he’s a fellow vertically challenged middle infield prospect. I mean, sure, that has a lot to do with the comp, but it also has to do with Madrigal’s excellent glove, advanced bat control, instincts beyond his years, underrated athleticism, and an approach to hitting tailor-made for pro ball. This is obviously a ceiling comp, as Altuve has matured into a very fine player, but if you can’t project high school players to big league all-stars nine months before the draft, then when can you?

Beyond those top four names, there’s still a ton of players who are good at baseball. That’s important because this is a site that makes guesses about which players will wind up being the best at baseball. In five to ten years we’ll have a better idea which of these players will make me look smart or stupid. I’ve considered using that as a new tagline for the site, if you can believe it. Logan Tolbert has the size, tools, and instincts teams fall in love with during the process. Lucius Fox is a great athlete with easy plus speed. Xavier LeGrant reminds me a little bit of a southern Nick Shumpert. Brandon Perez can really pick it at short and is a really smart hitter. The list goes on and on.

If you’re the type to wonder how a combined high school middle infield prospect list might currently look, then you’re in luck. I think I’d go Rodgers – Alonzo Jones – Greiner – Kyler Murray – Cornelius Randolph – Shumpert – Madrigal. Lots of close calls in there, so take it as tentative on tentative on tentative. Tentative is what I do best, after all.

SS Brendan Rodgers (Lake Mary HS, Florida)

SS/2B Cadyn Greiner (Bishop Gorman HS, Nevada)

SS/2B Nick Shumpert (Highlands Ranch HS, Colorado)

SS Nick Madrigal (Elk Grove HS, California)

SS/3B Logan Tolbert (IMG Academy, Florida)

SS/2B Lucius Fox (American Heritage HS, Florida)

SS/2B Xavier LeGrant (Phillip O Berry Academy of Tech, North Carolina)

SS/2B Daino Deas (Parkview HS, Georgia)

SS/OF/RHP Daniel Neal (South Laurel HS, Kentucky)

SS Brandon Perez (Mater Dei HS, California)

SS/2B Travis Blankenhorn (Pottsville Area HS, Pennsylvania)

SS/RHP O’Neal Lochridge (St. Thomas More HS, Louisiana)

SS Jalen Miller (Riverwood HS, Georgia)

SS Brody Cook (Riverdale Baptist HS, Maryland)

SS/RHP Kyle Datres (Loyalsock HS, Pennsylvania)

SS/2B Luke Wakamatsu (Keller HS, Texas)

SS Chris Reid (St. Michael the Archangel HS, Louisiana)

SS AJ Graffanino (Northwest Christian HS, Arizona)

SS/2B Tristan Metten (Prestonwood Christian Academy, Texas)

SS Ramon Alejo (Boone HS, Florida)

SS Carter Hall (Wesleyan HS, Georgia)

SS/3B Jeremiah Burks (Will C. Wood HS, California)

SS Brandon Janofsky (Jackson Memorial HS, New Jersey)

SS Jonathan Meola (Toms River East HS, New Jersey)

SS Nate Fisbeck (The Woodlands HS, Texas)

SS Kyle Isbel (Etiwanda HS, California)

SS Jake Mueller (Richland Northeast HS, South Carolina)

SS Grant Cox (Greenville HS, South Carolina)

SS Jay Sanford (Pope John XXIII HS, New Jersey)

SS David Posas (Valdosta HS, Georgia)

SS Dylan Doherty (Foothill HS, California)

SS/RHP Dylan Poncho (Kinder HS, Louisiana)

SS Ty Denzer (Chanhassen HS, Minnesota)

SS Deacon Liput (Oviedo HS, Florida)

2014 HS Shortstops

This list isn’t all that I wanted it to be, but it’s still a fairly strong representation of the players that I’ve either seen up close or feel like I have enough information on to make an educated guess about. Information becomes more scarce the further down the list you go, so keep it that in mind if you’re the type to think the guy listed at 13 is WAY better than the player listed at 7. In fact, it might just be best to focus on the rankings closer to the top of the list while using the back end as just a quick shorthand for the most notable tools each player possesses. Lastly, this list is just a quick version of what I have. If you want to know more about anybody — or want to add something — please don’t hesitate to ask/contribute any way you see fit.

  1. SS/RHP Nick Gordon (Olympia HS, Florida): great athlete; excellent defensive tools, will be average at least professionally; good hit tool, easily above-average; interesting power upside, average to above-average for me (consider him underrated here); average to above-average speed (some have plus); above-average arm, plus at times; hits it with more authority than his brother at same stage; comparison to JP Crawford makes some sense, but has gotten physically stronger and results have been encouraging; easy 88-92 FB, 93-94 peak; above-average 73-79 CB flashes plus; upper-70s CU; 6-2, 170 pounds
  2. SS Ti’Quan Forbes (Columbia HS, Mississippi): above-average arm; good range at SS; excellent athlete; impressive raw power, easy average or better raw; quick bat; love his defensive upside at SS, CF is strong fallback; plus to plus-plus speed; needs to get stronger; only thing “holding him back” is misguided view that all MS preps fail; huge FAVORITE; 6-4, 175 pounds
  3. SS/3B Josh Morgan (Orange Lutheran HS, California): plus defensive ability at 3B; average or better arm; love his approach; impressive game power, average presently; average speed; great approach; no problems squaring velocity; BP comp: Addison Russell defensively; FAVORITE; 6-0, 180 pounds
  4. SS/3B Cole Tucker (Mountain Pointe HS, Arizona): above-average arm; good athlete; average or better speed; above-average raw power; knows how to play; 6-3, 180 pounds
  5. SS/2B Ryan Lillard (Urbandale HS, Iowa): strong arm; good speed; quick bat; good athlete; average power; 6-1, 185 pounds
  6. SS Brody Westmoreland (ThunderRidge HS, Colorado): good athlete; good defensive tools; strong arm
  7. SS Blake Wiggins (Pulaski Academy, Arkansas): power upside; strong; has also been tried at C; 6-1, 190 pounds
  8. SS Milton Ramos (American Heritage HS, Florida): good speed, plus for some; good enough arm; very good defensive tools, plus to plus-plus; impressive footwork; has gotten stronger over calendar year; not sure if he’ll hit; PG comp: Oscar Mercado; 6-0, 160 pounds
  9. SS/OF DJ Burt (Furquay-Varina HS, North Carolina): good speed; strong enough arm; good athlete; quick bat; gap power; 5-9, 160 pounds
  10. SS/2B Dalton Guthrie (Venice HS, Florida): smart player; good defender; solid all-around; typical Kevin O’Sullivan middle infielder in a good way
  11. SS Quin Walbergh (Edmond Santa Fe HS, Oklahoma): good speed; good defensive tools; interesting bat
  12. SS Kyle McPherson (Western Branch HS, Virginia): plus defensive tools
  13. SS Alexis Pantojas (Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico): plus defensive upside; good arm; above-average speed; bat will be a question; 6-0, 165 pounds
  14. SS Justin Fowler (Aliso Niguel HS, California): good hit tool; steady glove
  15. SS/RHP Tristan Gray (Elkins HS, Texas): strong hit tool; 88-89 FB
  16. SS Nick Valaika (Hart HS, California): good glove; strong arm; 6-0, 175 pounds
  17. SS Henry Davis (Mayo HS, South Carolina): really good defensive tools; strong arm; good athlete; 6-3, 160 pounds
  18. SS Christian Hicks (The Bolles HS, Florida): plus defensive tools; plus range; strong arm; 6-4, 180 pounds
  19. SS Dale Burdick (Summit HS, Tennessee): smart hitter; good approach
  20. SS/RHP Grant Fennell (Scripps Ranch HS, California): good athlete; good defensive tools; plus arm; 85-89 FB; 65-66 SL
  21. SS/3B Jonathan Ducoff (Kingwood Park HS, Texas): strong; good athlete; strong arm; 6-1, 190 pounds
  22. SS Josh Garbrecht (Edmond North HS, Oklahoma): good athlete; good speed; accurate arm
  23. SS Bryce Evans (Savannah Christian HS, Georgia): plus speed
  24. SS Clayton Custer (Blue Valley Northwest HS, Kansas): good athlete; 6-0, 170 pounds
  25. SS Nick Roark (Broken Arrow HS, Oklahoma): good defensive tools
  26. SS Ryan Gridley (Milton HS, Georgia): steady glove; 5-9, 170 pounds

2015 MLB Draft: HS Second Basemen

I love the three names at the top. Unreasonably so, maybe, but they make up as dynamic a trio of future second basemen from the high school ranks in as long as I can remember. Guys with tools like this simply don’t see themselves projected as future second basemen all that often. Adding talent like this at second base is a good thing for the game (obvious statements are obvious, but stay with me), and perhaps an acknowledgment that a) a good second basemen is hard to find, b) sending out lesser players to second base isn’t a sound long-term development strategy, and c) offensively, the two positions up the middle have a freakishly similar threshold of acceptance (2B: .251/.309/.364 [.299 wOBA, 89 wRC+]; SS: .250/.307/.363 [.298 wOBA, 87 wRC+]). We’ve been conditioned to think of second basemen as nothing more than “failed shortstops,” but the perception of how difficult it is to play the position well appears to be changing. I realize there simply aren’t enough athletes to go around to field thirty middle infielders with two “shortstops” playing up the middle, but that shouldn’t (and it doesn’t, obviously) stop teams from trying. Let’s embrace second basemen in the same way we have long showered praise on shortstops; the position is important and difficult to play well and more than just guys who couldn’t hack it at short.

Of course, we are still cheating in a way. A good HS second base prospect is still very hard to find. As much as I look at the top names on this list as primary second basemen, I’d still be surprised if any of the above players wind up actually playing much of the position this upcoming spring for their high school teams. That’s just the nature of high school ball. Alonzo Jones is passable at shortstop (maybe better) and will forever be an intriguing option in center field thanks to his plus to plus-plus speed. Kyler Murray (see below) is almost as fast and no less athletic. Cornelius Randolph could play a variety of positions, and I wouldn’t argue with anybody who projected him as a third basemen or even a corner outfielder going forward. I think he fits best at second, but the body type more clearly fits the traditional third base mold. Either way, he’s not a great bet to get a ton of reps this spring at the keystone unless things change between now and then.

I know Murray is listed as a shortstop in many places on the internet, but those I’ve asked about him have been emphatic that he’ll wind up at second base in the long run. I find this interesting because athleticism (or lack thereof) is often cited as one of the main reasons a middle infielder will make the shift to his left to second base; if you know anything about Murray, you know damn well that his plus athleticism is not in question. All of this could be moot if he winds up playing college football, but I’ve learned that it doesn’t make sense to close the book on a prospect just because the football threat exists. On talent, he’s a no-brainer top two talent at second in this class. If you expand the rankings a bit, it’s clear he’s very much in the mix as a top five HS middle infield prospect. Always bet on athleticism.

Second, short, or center, Jones can really play. There might not have been a player I enjoyed watching more this summer than him. I’m not one to typically throw around scouting buzz words, but it was hard to describe the way he plays the game as anything but effortless ease. There’s not a future tool here that you’d rate average or worse, and his speed, athleticism, physical strength, bat speed, and swing all rank at or near the top of the class. I know some still ultimately question how much he’ll hit, so consider that one of the few remaining questions about his game as we head into the 2015 draft season. A big spring will lock him into the first round. I think the natural comparison we’ll see this spring – maybe not in the form of a comp, but more in a competition to see who goes first in this year’s draft – will be between Jones and Ian Happ of Cincinnati.

Randolph can’t quite compare as an athlete, runner, and defender with the two players ranked above him, but his hit tool could put him on the top of the list by next June. I really enjoy the Terry Pendleton comp that Perfect Game put out there. I’ve heard two fairly interesting ones as well: a lefthanded Bill Madlock (well before my time, but based on what I now know I can buy it) and Gregg Jefferies. I think Jefferies is a particularly interesting comp for a variety of reasons, though I wonder if he’s one of those rare players (well, not so much as a player since things didn’t quite go as planned, but as a prospect) that we shouldn’t comp anybody to. Probably not, but I have heard from multiple (two!) industry types that Jefferies was the most impressive young player they had ever scouted to that point.

We’ll circle all the way back to the original thought about this being a particularly strong year of “true” (truer than in year’s past, at least) high school second base prospects. As much as I think this year has the potential to be an exception to draft history, it should be noted that the track record for prep second basemen isn’t much to get worked up about. Only 11 HS second basemen were drafted last season. Of that 11, only seven signed. As the 35th overall selection in the draft Forrest Wall was the freak of the class (in a good way); after him, signed second basemen went in rounds 7, 7, 10, 12, 14, and 15. Positional designations do play a part in the data appearing the way it does – despite being placed on this list today, there is no guarantee they’ll still be here come June, let alone called a 2B by their drafting team on the big day – but it’s still worth remembering that players expected to settle in at second base at an early age aren’t typically sought after as amateur prospects. It’s not crazy to expect this year’s class to buck the trend.

2B/OF Alonzo Jones (Columbus HS, Georgia)

2B/SS Kyler Murray (Allen HS, Texas)

2B/3B/OF Cornelius Randolph (Griffin HS, Georgia)

2B/OF Jagger Rusconi (West Ranch HS, California)

2B Pikai Winchester (Iolani HS, Hawaii)

2B/SS Luke Alexander (Belmond HS, Mississippi)

2B Kody Clemens (Memorial HS, Texas)

2B Cobie Vance (Pine Forest HS, North Carolina)

2B Ethan Paul (Newport HS, Washington)


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