Batteries refreshed after gargantuan college recaps and tedious schedule making, so let’s switch things up and delve deeper into what has turned out to be a much more popular topic (judging by Google entry searches) than I ever would have anticipated – junior college baseball. I’ll admit to being a big of a novice in this area, but, being the man of the people that I am, I see no reason why that should stop us from taking a closer look into an unfamiliar topic for many baseball fans. A little bit of reading, a glance back at my old notes, and a couple of phone calls and emails later, boom! we’ve got a top ten list to use as a frame of reference going forward.
We’ll edit and expand this list as the season continues, but here is an initial look at the top ten draft-eligible junior college prospects as promised. Between this list and the Junior College All-Prospect Team from earlier in the month, we’ve got a working list of players to watch.
1. Jake Cowan (RHP – San Jacinto CC – Texas): Cowan combines a plus 95 MPH fastball with two above-average secondary offerings. A fastball like that coupled with strong secondary stuff makes Cowan stand out above his junior college peers. There are players below that have great fastballs, there are players below that have decent secondary offerings, but no player below combines the two quite like Cowan. To use an all too often repeated scouting cliche, Cowan is as much a pitcher as he is a thrower and that’s a very good thing going forward.
2. Ryan Weber (RHP – St. Petersburg CC – Florida): Weber’s strengths are tons of big game national team experience, plus movement on everything he throws, plus command of quality secondary stuff (slider and change). What he lacks is a blazing fastball (tops out in the high-80s) and much physical projection. That’s the old news. What’s new this spring is the development of that “quality” change into a legitimate plus pitch. Fastball with plus movement, plus change, plus command, and an above-average slider. More than any other player on the list, Weber’s junior college numbers will be closely scrutinized this season. The lack of projection means he’ll have to dominate at every level to get noticed.
3. Daniel Webb (RHP – Northwest Florida State CC – Florida): Webb is the consensus top junior college arm and a potential first round pick, but something about his scouting profile continues to rub me the wrong way. I said it before so I’ll say it again – Webb is an easy, easy, easy choice as the consensus top junior college prospect in the country – great size and a mid-90s fastball will get you far. However, his secondary stuff still lags behind his heater (though his curve is coming along quickly), both his command and control remain shaky, and, most worrisome to me, his fastball, though undeniably fast, is just too darn straight at present. A quick comparison between Weber and Webb right now: Throwing a ball that moves a lot > Throwing a ball that moves very quickly but in a straight line. To compare him to Weber yet again, it should be noted that Webb’s performance is less important than the continued development of his stuff and pitchability this spring.
4. Kendal Korban (RHP – Blinn CC – Texas): A big-time recruit out of high school, Korban has a pro body and dazzling raw tools, but little idea how to maximize his stuff at this point. If he puts it all together (a BIG if), he could find himself sitting pretty on draft day.
5. Shawn Sanford (LHP – Palomar CC – California): I know I compared another juco lefty (Chad Bell) to Ryan Weber in an earlier post, but Sanford’s stuff lines up with Weber’s just as well. They each have fastballs in the 80s, plus changeups, and above-average sliders. However, Sanford has two big advantages – he’s a lefty and he’s got a projectable frame (6-5, 190) that scouting directors can dream on. I’m sure I had a good reason for ranking Sanford behind Weber (probably related back to fastball movement), but they are very, very close. Future iterations of the list may differ…
6. Mike Rayl (LHP – Palm Beach CC – Florida): With a good frame and three above-average pitches, Rayl has strong present stuff wrapped up in a body with lots of room for growth. If/when his body fills out, his fastball could jump to the point that it sits comfortably in the low-90s. If/when that happens, his stock will rise considerably.
7. Chad Bell (LHP Walters State CC – Tennessee): Bell does compare to Weber (as noted above) in that both players have an off-the-charts level of knowing what pitch to throw in what situation.
8. Patrick Corbin (LHP – Chipola CC – Florida): Corbin may profile best as a two-pitch lefty reliever down the line, but if both pitches are plus (fastball/slider) then he’ll be alright.
9. Kevin Gelinas (LHP – Central Arizona CC – Arizona): Gelinas may be another two-pitch lefty reliever as a professional, but, much like Corbin, if those two pitches are plus — and Gelinas fastball is definitely a plus pitch at present — he’ll go far as a prospect. Gelinas has further to go than Corbin in developing his stuff, but he has shown enough flashes that I feel safe saying his upside is higher.
10. Runey Davis (OF – Howard CC – Texas): We need at least one position player on the list, right? Davis is a high upside, tools-laden centerfielder who looks the part of a professional ballplayer, but needs to start putting up the numbers to legitimize his standing as a professional prospect. Davis will surely benefit from the lackluster college position player group draft eligible this June. If nothing else, the blazing speed of Davis will earn him a paycheck even if the bat doesn’t come all the way around.
The Next Five (in no 0rder):
David Stewart (OF – Grayson County CC – Texas)
Brett Bruening (RHP – Grayson County CC – Texas)
Rey Cotilla (RHP – Miami-Dade CC – Florida)
Miles Hamblin (C – Howard CC – Texas)
Jason Townsend (RHP – Chipola CC – Florida)