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2013 MLB Draft Conference Preview: Sun Belt

Slowly but surely we are working our way through our tour of the conferences. Mountain West, West Coast, and Ivy League are all lined up and ready to go. Until then, all the best the Sun Belt has to offer…

Here’s the key for the player lists:

  • Bold = locks to be drafted
  • Italics = definite maybes
  • Underlined = possible risers
  • Plain text = long shots

And away we go…

C

  • Florida Atlantic SR C Mike Spano
  • Arkansas-Little Rock SR C Myles Parma
  • South Alabama SR C Whitt Dorsey
  • Arkansas-Little Rock SR C Blake Johnson
  • Louisiana-Lafayette rSO C Mike Strentz
  • Western Kentucky SR C Devin Kelly
  • South Alabama SR C Drew Cofield

Lots of veteran experience in this group, but not much in the way of pro talent. Mike Spano and Myles Parma bring the best combination of production and defensive value to the table, though I’m not sure that’s enough to get drafted. It should come as no huge surprise that the player with the most upside of the group happens to be the only non-senior present. Mike Strentz is a great athlete who looks the part of a quality college catching prospect, but suspect production (.167/.235/.200 in only 30 at bats last year) keeps him in “wait and see” mode. Given good health in 2013, he may make this low ranking look foolish.

1B

  • Louisiana-Lafayette JR 1B Chase Compton
  • South Alabama JR 1B Jordan Patterson
  • Troy SR 1B Logan Pierce
  • Florida Atlantic SR 1B Mark Nelson
  • Louisiana-Monroe rSR 1B Corben Green
  • South Alabama SR 1B Dustin Dalken

Chase Compton reminds me a little bit of a bigger version of Washington State rJR Adam Nelubowich: pretty swing, impressive hit tool, great approach, and debatable defensive quality at third base. Stick him at first full-time, watch him hit, and then consider taking him in the mid- to late-rounds this June. Jordan Patterson is a good looking two-way prospect who could get drafted as either a 1B (power, athleticism, glove) or LHP (low-90s FB).

2B

  • Middle Tennessee State SR 2B Johnny Thomas
  • South Alabama rSO 2B Logan Kirkland
  • Arkansas-Little Rock JR 2B Chris Burk
  • Western Kentucky JR 2B Griffith Roark
  • Western Kentucky rSR 2B Blake Crabtree

Johnny Thomas has intrigued me since his days at New Orleans, so I’ll vouch for him as the most interesting Sun Belt second baseman to watch this spring. Kirkland has youth, a little bit of speed, a good eye, and steady glovework on his side.

3B

  • Troy rJR 3B Danny Collins
  • Arkansas State JR 3B Zach George
  • Western Kentucky JR 3B Scott Wilcox
  • Middle Tennessee State JR 3B Hank LaRue
  • Arkansas State SR 3B Zach Maggio
  • Louisiana-Monroe SR 3B Judd Edwards

One thing I’ve noticed about the Sun Belt’s group of 2013 MLB Draft prospects it that there is no shortage of players who can flat smack the ball around (and out of) the park. The trio of 1B/3B Chase Compton, OF/3B Claude Johnson, and 3B/1B Danny Collins ranks up there with almost any other conference’s top three, so long as the conversation is about college players who can be trusted to put forth consistent quality at bats. Collins has a keen eye, above-average hit tool, and easy plus power. What hurts him is his questionable defensive future. A friend who has seen a lot of Collins actually emailed me in faux-concern, worrying about my uncharacteristically generous placement of Collins on a third base prospect list. I don’t have a strong feeling on Collins’ defense either way — on the whole I’ve heard from more who think he sticks, at least in the short-term, at third than those who don’t — so I figured I’d leave him here until he shows that a move to 1B (or, with luck, LF) is an absolute necessity.

SS

  • Louisiana-Lafayette JR SS Ryan Leonards
  • Arkansas State JR SS Dustin Jones
  • Troy JR SS Garrett Pitts

Not a great deal of depth in terms of middle infield 2013 MLB Draft prospects to be found in the Sun Belt. Ryan Leonards’ strong 2012 season (.352/.424/.448), good speed, steady glove, and otherwise generally favorable scouting reports make him the name to know here.

OF

  • Louisiana-Lafayette JR OF Dexter Kjerstad
  • Arkansas State JR OF Claude Johnson
  • South Alabama SR OF Nolan Earley
  • Florida International SR OF Nathan Burns
  • Arkansas State SR OF Logan Uxa
  • Arkansas-Little Rock JR OF Ben Crumpton
  • Louisiana-Monroe JR OF Dalton Herrington
  • Arkansas State SR OF Ryan Emery
  • Florida Atlantic JR OF Tyler Rocklein
  • Western Kentucky JR OF Regan Flaherty
  • Middle Tennessee State JR OF Jake Ellison
  • Middle Tennessee State JR OF Trent Miller
  • Florida Atlantic SR OF Nathan Pittman
  • Florida Atlantic SR OF Corey Keller
  • Arkansas State SR OF Seth McWilliams
  • South Alabama SR OF Nick Zaharion
  • Troy SR OF Chase Mathis
  • Florida International SR OF Tyler James Shantz
  • Arkansas-Little Rock SR OF David Guarno
  • Florida Atlantic JR OF Geoff Jimenez
  • Louisiana-Monroe SR OF Brandon Alexander
  • Middle Tennessee State JR OF Ryan Stephens

There are times when really talented players bounce around so much after high school that even the most draft obsessed among us lose track of their travels. The sudden reappearance of a long forgotten player is one of the joys of following amateur baseball. This leads us to Dexter Kjerstad, a once highly sought after high school outfielder who wound up signing on to play for Texas. been a long strange trip, but Kjerstad has finally emerged as a legitimate 2013 draft prospect. His speed, power, and athleticism are all big league quality. It’s also worth noting that he’s impressed with the bat at every stop along the way. Claude Johnson can really swing the bat; if he get scouts on board with him being a viable third base prospect, so much the better for his draft stock. Nolan Early and Nathan Burns put up oddly similar 2012 season lines (.308/.412/.464 for the former, .308/.402/.484 for the latter), but got there very differently. Early is a very well-rounded player, roughly average with every tool but lacking a standout skill. Burns has the size (6-4, 200 pounds), speed, and arm that help separate him from the prospect herd, but comes up empty with too many swings (50 K in 221 AB last year) to have anybody touting him as a future regular. I’m excited to see what Dalton Herrington, Tyler Rocklein, and Vanderbilt transfer Regan Flaherty can do with full seasons of at bats on the big stage.  

P

  • Florida International JR LHP Tyler Alexander 
  • Florida Atlantic SR RHP Mike Sylvestri 
  • Arkansas State SR RHP John Koch
  • Arkansas State JR RHP Bradley Wallace
  • Florida International JR RHP Mike Ellis
  • South Alabama JR RHP Dylan Stamey
  • Middle Tennessee State SR RHP Daniel Palo
  • Louisiana-Monroe rSR RHP Cale Wine
  • Troy rJR LHP Shane McCain
  • Florida Atlantic rJR RHP Kevin Alexander
  • Western Kentucky JR RHP Justin Hageman
  • Middle Tennessee State SR LHP Jordan Cooper
  • Florida Atlantic rJR RHP Jeremy Strawn
  • Florida Atlantic rSR RHP Hugh Adams
  • Middle Tennessee State SR RHP Hunter Adkins
  • Western Kentucky rJR LHP Tanner Perkins
  • Middle Tennessee State JR RHP Paul Mittura
  • Western Kentucky JR RHP Andrew Edwards
  • Arkansas-Little Rock SR RHP Chance Cleveland
  • Florida Atlantic rSO LHP Bo Logan
  • Florida International SR LHP Michael Gomez
  • Florida International rJR RHP Albert Cardenas
  • Troy JR RHP Austin Sullivan
  • Middle Tennessee State JR LHP Zac Curtis
  • Western Kentucky SR RHP Taylor Haydel
  • Troy SR LHP Nate Hill
  • South Alabama SR LHP Kyle Bartsch
  • Louisiana-Lafayette SR LHP Chris Griffitt
  • Western Kentucky SR LHP Tim Bado
  • Troy JR RHP Tanner Hicks
  • Florida Atlantic SR RHP Jake Meiers 
  • Arkansas-Little Rock rSR RHP Blake Huffman
  • South Alabama SR RHP Payton Gardner
  • South Alabama SR RHP Jarron Cito
  • Troy SR RHP Thomas Austin
  • Troy SR LHP Ryan Sorce
  • Florida International SR RHP John Caballero
  • Western Kentucky rSO RHP Tate Glasscock
  • Troy SR RHP Joe Hernandez
  • South Alabama SR RHP Anthony Izzio
  • Arkansas-Little Rock JR RHP Austin Pfeiffer
  • Louisiana-Monroe rSR RHP Andrew Richardson
  • Troy SR RHP Ryan Brady
  • Louisiana-Monroe SR RHP Shelby Aulds
  • Arkansas State SR RHP Daniel Wright
  • Louisiana-Lafayette JR RHP Matt Hicks
  • Western Kentucky rSO LHP Austin Clay
  • Middle Tennessee State SR LHP Joey McClung
  • Troy JR RHP Matthew Howard
  • Troy JR RHP Will Starling
  • Florida International JR RHP Mike Franco
  • Troy JR LHP Ben Tidwell
  • Middle Tennessee State SR RHP Jonathan Sisco

I can’t help but like Mike Sylvestri more than just about anybody else I’ve talked to or read seem to. The former catcher is a really good athlete with a fast arm and enough rawness to his game that you watch him and wonder what else he’s got hiding in that right arm of his. I think he’s worth a mid-round pick as a bullpen depth, if nothing else. That’s likely the ceiling for the remainder of the players mentioned on this list, the best of the bunch at the top featuring good fastballs and breaking balls (mostly sliders).

Tyler Alexander doesn’t have the track record of success that many of the pitchers below him on this list can call their own. That’s not too much of a problem when you’ve got a good 88-92 (93) fastball, above-average curve, a sinking changeup that flashes plus, and, above all else, elite athleticism that ties the whole package together. His control remains an issue to monitor, but scouts who are high on Alexander believe that a full-time commitment to pitching — he moonlights as an outfielder — will go a long way in correcting his problems.

Cale Wine is a nice mid-round pitching prospect with the chance for three average or better pitches, not a disgusting healthy new-age fermented drink. The coolest thing about Shane McCain is his intriguing upside (CB and CU look really strong to me, mid-80s fastball has room to grow), narrowly beating out the fact that his name rhymes. Tanner Perkins is a favorite of many — we’re talking best pitching prospect in the conference kind of favorite — and I can appreciate his steady stream of sinkers and changeups as much as the next guy, but he’s more middle reliever than starting pitching prospect to me. Fun college arm to watch all the same.

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3 Comments

  1. Rick Doty says:

    Drew Doty now at the University of Tampa from Santa Fe CC. Playing CF & LF 3/10 w/2RBI and 2Runs in three games.

    • Why do that have Claude Johnson (A-State) Listed as a OF and he’s a everyday third baseman?

      • Rob Ozga says:

        Hey Mr. Johnson,

        I included Claude with the OF group instead of the third basemen because a scouting contact of mine who has seen him play a bit informed me he thinks a switch to the outfield professionally is likely in the cards. He could be off the mark on that, of course, but that was all the info I had so I ran with it. His draft possibilities definitely increase if teams think he can handle the hot corner as a pro, something I think we’ll all know a little bit more about as the season gets underway. He’s a really good looking hitter either way, so he’ll be fun to watch this season.

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