So it turns out that last Friday was the fourth birthday of this site. I considered doing a post to mark the anniversary, but figured the most fitting thing to do was to keep plugging along with these silly conference previews. What better way to celebrate four long years of baseball writing than with more baseball writing? The fact that the MVC features my top college prospect is present enough for me.
Here’s the key for the player lists:
- Bold = locks to be drafted
- Italics = definite maybes
- Underlined = possible risers
- Plain text = long shots
- Missouri State SR C Luke Voit
- Illinois State JR C Mike Hollenbeck
- Bradley JR C Austin Jarvis
- Evansville JR C Jake Mahon
- Southern Illinois JR C Matt Jones
The catchers in the Missouri Valley Conference are living proof that, try as we might, you just can’t have it all. Luke Voit and Mike Hollenbeck can both mash, but defense remains a serious question mark for both men. Austin Jarvis has a cannon behind the plate and the footwork and quick release to shut down a running game, but his hit tool can best be called questionable at this point in his development. This may be dubious logic, but the only thing that separated Voit and Hollenbeck on this list in terms of classification (i.e. Voit is a definite maybe, Hollenbeck is a possible riser) is their respective years of eligibility remaining: Voit’s senior status makes him more likely to be drafted on the cheap in the here and now, Hollenbeck is more likely to be next year’s Voit.
- Wichita State rSR 1B Johnny Coy
- Bradley JR 1B Greg Partyka
- Illinois State SR 1B Kyle Stanton
Ninth-year senior (estimated) Johnny Coy is back at it again for yet another run at the draft. He’s coming off a fine junior year (.330/.404/.537 with 31 BB/51 K) that gives some hope that he’s finally turning into the player we all thought he could be. Time isn’t on his side, so he’ll need a huge senior season to get picked in a round in line with his natural talent. He’s way too aggressive for his own good and his swing remains as long as your average Oscar-nominated film, but he still has big raw power and envious athleticism wrapped in his 6-7, 225 pound frame.
- Wichita State JR 2B Dayne Parker
- Indiana State rSR 2B Koby Kraemer
- Southern Illinois SR 2B Brock Harding
- Creighton SR 2B Alex Staehely
Dayne Parker and Koby Kraemer are similar prospects who both have a chance to be drafted this June. In what probably qualifies as the Weird Comp of the Day, I had a scout friend tell me that Parker reminded him of Placido Polanco, mostly as a hitter. Polanco would represent Parker’s absolute perfect utopian ideal world upside, of course; more likely, he’s an org guy who will spend his career fighting for a chance to make it to AAA where he’ll be one injury away from a shot with the big club. Kraemer’s tools are a little louder than Parker’s, especially his pop, speed, and current ability with the glove. He has a tendency to get in his own way at times and might be a little too headstrong for pro ball, so, despite the slight edge in tools, I can’t put him above the safer Parker.
- Southern Illinois JR 3B Donny Duschinsky
- Illinois State SR 3B Zac Johnson
Donny Duschinsky may have the name of a fictional character, but I assure he’s quite real. In fact, not only is he a real life living breathing human being, but he’s also a pretty darn good ballplayer. Duschinsky runs well, throws well, plays a mean third base, and has some decent pop. In a great year for college third basemen, Duschinsky should be a nifty mid-round value pick.
- Southern Illinois JR SS Jake Welch
- Missouri State rSR SS Travis McComack
- Illinois State rSO SS Brock Stewart
- Indiana State JR SS Tyler Wampler
- Wichita State rJR SS Erik Harbutz
- Illinois State SR SS Brett Kay
A friend who knows the MVC inside and out told me I was nuts to have Tyler Wampler this low. He also said that he thinks Wampler has the talent to be conference player of the year before his college career is over. To be fair, he made the latter comment last year at this time, a few months before Wampler hit an uninspiring .250/.333/.303 in 208 2012 at bats. I should probably check back in with him to see if he’s changed his tune at all. Travis McComack is back, healthy, and hoping to build on a solid 2011 season (.298/.386/.346 with 26 BB/23 K). I like his glove and arm enough that I think he sticks at shortstop defensively no problem, though I’m far from convinced he’ll hit enough to make it worthwhile. Brett Kay is in the same boat.
- Wichita State rJR OF Micah Green
- Bradley SR OF Mike Tauchman
- Wichita State rJR OF Garrett Bayliff
- Evansville rSO OF Kevin Kaczmarski
- Indiana State SR OF Rob Ort
- Creighton JR OF Mike Gerber
- Indiana State JR OF Mike Fitzgerald
- Missouri State JR OF Trey Massenberg
- Evansville SR OF Jason Hockenmeyer
- Missouri State SR OF Keenen Maddox
- Illinois State rSR OF Eric Aguilera
- Southern Illinois SR OF Rennie Troggio
- Illinois State SR OF Chad Hinshaw
- Creighton JR OF Brad McKewon
- Southern Illinois SO OF Tanner Renner
The pair of Wichita State fourth-year juniors are both largely projection picks at this point. Micah Green’s upside (athleticism, speed, raw power, body) is easy to spot after watching him just a few times. What keeps him from being an even better prospect is his lack of production at the college level, due mostly to him still being a raw, unfinished product. Garrett Bayliff doesn’t have quite the same tools package, but an argument can be made that he’s the better ballplayer. Rob Ort has long been a favorite, both because of well-rounded skill set and because of the dearth of quality pro players who go by Rob. In my admittedly quick search on the topic, I only found six Major League players who went by the first name Rob, including current Marlins catcher (and old draft favorite) Rob Brantly. I question the validity of that number, however, as my all-time favorite big league Rob (Ducey, of course) wasn’t included on the list.
The scouting reports on Mike Tauchman’s defensive progression over the years are fascinating to me. My guy who has seen him a good bit over the years started off telling me he was likely a 1B only in the pros, then upgraded him to LF/1B, and now believes he might actually be able to play the occasional CF at the next level. That’s definitely a credit to the hard work that Tauchman has put in to improve his foot speed and athleticism, and a testament to his well above-average baseball instincts. It’s also a really good thing for his prospect stock: as a 1B only, his lack of power would have torpedoed any chance of getting drafted. As a player with a little bit of positional versatility, his hit tool, plate discipline, and above-average speed give him a chance. Whether or not he makes it in the pros is obviously yet to be determined — I should just type that phrase for every player and be done with this whole site! — but his attitude toward always looking to improve his game makes him one of college ball’s underrated gems.
- Indiana State JR LHP Sean Manaea
- Wichita State JR RHP Cale Elam
- Missouri State rJR RHP Nick Petree
- Missouri State SR RHP Grant Gordon
- Wichita State rSO LHP Kris Gardner
- Wichita State JR LHP Albert Minnis
- Missouri State SR RHP Clay Murphy
- Wichita State rJR RHP Tobin Mateychick
- Illinois State SR RHP Brad Sorkin
- Wichita State SR RHP TJ McGreevy
- Illinois State rSR RHP Otto Roberts
- Bradley rSO RHP Steve Adkins
- Bradley rJR RHP John Nasshan
- Evansville rJR RHP Sam Johns
- Illinois State SR RHP Chris Razo
- Indiana State JR LHP Jeff Degano
- Indiana State JR RHP Daniel Peterson
- Illinois State rSO LHP Joe Claver
- Southern Illinois JR RHP Todd Eaton
- Wichita State JR RHP Foster Vielock
- Illinois State rSO RHP Dan Savas
- Missouri State SR RHP Cody Schumacher
- Missouri State rJR RHP Jake Powers
- Bradley SR RHP Rob Kennedy
- Indiana State SR RHP Devin Moore
- Southern Illinois SR LHP Cody Forsythe
- Evansville SR RHP Jake Naumann
- Bradley rSR RHP Patrick Flanagan
- Evansville JR LHP Cole Isom
- Evansville SR RHP Kyle Lloyd
- Evansville JR RHP Ryan Billo
- Wichita State JR RHP Brandon Peterson
- Southern Illinois rJR RHP Aaron Snyder
- Wichita State rSO RHP Zach Beringer
- Southern Illinois rJR LHP Brad Drust
- Southern Illinois JR LHP Tyler Dray
- Evansville SR LHP Josh Biggs
- Illinois State rJR RHP JD Learnard
- Southern Illinois JR RHP Matt Murphy
With apologies to fans of Mark Appel and Ryne Stanek, it is Sean Manaea who has the best shot of any college player to go first overall to the Houston Astros. I want to be bolder and proclaim him the early favorite over the entire field, but I can’t help but think Houston’s upper-management, and I say this with a great deal of admiration, will be tempted once again by whatever high school bat shows the most long-term upside this spring. Manaea’s bread and butter is his fastball, a pitch that does everything you’d want a fastball to do and more. I went through my personal fastball checklist (velocity, movement, command) when talking about Kyle Finnegan a while back, but Manaea is probably the better example of the ideal fastball in the eyes of talent evaluators. His velocity (very consistent 90-94, 96 peak as starter and 98 in short stints) is up there with the best you’ll find from a lefthanded starting pitcher. His ball moves so much that unfamiliar catchers have a tough time with him at first. His command has gone from a question mark to arguably his greatest strength. Finally, and I missed this during my first mention of the fastball checklist, his funky delivery helps allow him to hide the ball longer than most, giving his fastball the appearance of a few ticks hotter on the gun than it clocks in at in reality. So Manaea’s fastball grades out as plus or better across the board: velocity, movement, command, and deception. It’s an elite pitch. Add in his newish mid-80s split-change that has turned into a weapon and his low-80s slider that flashes plus more often than not, and you’ve got yourself a big time pitching prospect. I’ve said it before (I think) and I’ll say it again: Manaea’s development from out of shape, underwhelming high school project to legitimate future big league star reminds me of Stephen Strasburg’s road to Washington. Last two points on Manaea that I’m too lazy to properly put into coherent sentences so I’ll just list them: 1) Manaea has an outstanding pickoff move, something that doesn’t get talked a lot around the internet but I guarantee scouts who see Manaea regularly mention to their bosses, and 2) the only tiny concern about Manaea going forward is his control, especially as it relates to his sometimes inconsistent release point and footwork on the mound. This is an area he has improved in a great deal in his two years at Indiana State, but it seems worth mentioning, if only to maintain my reputation (ha) as fair and balanced.
Nick Petree is the next most famous name on the list thanks to his outstanding 2012 season that drew well deserved acclaim from many of the national college baseball publications. Petree gets the job done without the benefit of a big-time fastball. On a good day he’ll hit 90 MPH, but he’s most often in the mid-80s. What makes Petree so good is his command, control, offspeed repertoire (sinkers, sliders, changeups, cutters, curves…basically whatever works), and, yes, that always difficult to define intangible we all know as pitchability. I don’t know what Petree’s eventual pro role will be — as much as I love him, it’s hard to see him as a big league starting pitcher — but he’s the kind of guy I’d like to have in my organization, soaking up innings and biding his time in the hopes he’ll one day get some innings coming out of the bullpen.
I like Cale Elam a lot more than most: 88-92 FB with great movement, SL with plus upside, raw but interesting changeup, above-average athleticism, and coming off a strong 2012 season (9.20 K/9 | 2.86 BB/9 | 3.66 FIP | 44 IP). What’s not to like? Other things I like: Albert Minnis’ fastball sink and deceptive delivery, Clay Murphy’s pedestrian fastball but deep set of usable pitches and consistent strong results, Tobin Mateychick’s projection and name, Steve Adkins’ frame and breaking ball, and John Nasshan’s girth and slow/steady improvement.