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2013 MLB Draft Conference Preview: Ivy League

A very entertaining opening weekend is in the books. Rather than drawing any groundbreaking conclusions from three days of baseball, we’ll keep rolling with conference previews. I enjoy the conference previews, so I’m good with this, but I have to admit that not being able to get worked up over a weekend of games (from a scouting perspective, not from an enjoyment viewpoint) is one of the things that bums me out about following the MLB Draft. I’m envious of the college football/NFL Draft guys who get to watch hours of game tape all season long, to say nothing of the five or so months they get between the end of the regular season and draft day. Drawing any kind of conclusions from such a small sample size of games — Mark Appel and Sean Manaea are falling down boards! Greg Allen has passed Carlos Rodon as the top 2014 prospect! Clint Freeman is the next Babe Ruth! — isn’t a great idea, though I get why it is done. In fact, I do think there is something to be learned from even a quick one game sample. Appel’s struggles on Friday night are the perfect example of this: his stuff was as strong as ever, but his biggest ongoing issue (command) did him in once again. Not an earth shaking bit of information, but interesting nonetheless.

Anyway, here are some smart guys who also happen to be pretty good at sports…

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

C

  • Dartmouth JR C Jeff Keller
  • Brown JR C Wes Van Boom
  • Princeton JR C Bobby Geren

Three big names behind the plate in the Ivy Leagues this year, all for different reasons. The best player in the league is Jeff Keller; quite frankly, it isn’t remotely close. Keller’s an elite athlete with a patient approach and good present power. He may not fit the mold of a traditional backstop, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing: his defensive versatility could eventually be his ticket to the big leagues. In a decent year for Ivy League bats, he’s the best prospect of the lot. The best name in the league belongs to Wes Van Boom. As great a last name as Van Boom so clearly is, it is made so much more poetic with the short and sweet first name Wes. WVB has nice pop, but an approach that is far from professional quality. The most famous name in the league is Bobby Geren, son of former big league catcher and manager Bob Geren. In the grand tradition of spending a late round pick on immediate family, keep an eye on Bobby going late to the Mets this June. I doubt it happens — Bobby has barely played in two years at Princeton — but it wouldn’t be the first time a team that employed Bob drafted Bobby: Bobby went in the 36th round to Oakland when Bob managed the A’s.

1B

  • Dartmouth JR 1B Dustin Selzer
  • Penn SR 1B Spencer Branigan
  • Dartmouth SR 1B Ennis Coble
  • Columbia SR 1B Alex Black
  • Brown SR 1B Cody Slaughter

Lots of solid college sluggers to choose from this year, but Dustin Selzer (good size, good eye, good present power) and Spencer “Zapp” Branigan (good size, iffy eye, good raw power) are the leaders heading into the season.

2B

  • Princeton JR 2B Alec Keller
  • Cornell SR 2B Brenton Peters
  • Brown JR 2B JJ Franco

Another position group led by a man named Keller. This time it is Alec getting top billing, and quite rightfully so. Keller does everything right as a hitter: pretty swing, good balance, whole field approach, lots of contact, nice patience, gap power, bat speed to spare, you name it. If scouts are with me on being bullish on him defensively — he’d be in the outfield otherwise — then I could see him as a big riser between now and June.

3B

  • Penn JR 3B Rick Brebner

Senior sign, maybe.

SS

  • Yale JR SS Cale Hanson

Senior sign, maybe. Bonus point for having one of the most Yale names ever.

OF

  • Cornell JR OF Chris Cruz
  • Princeton SR OF John Mishu
  • Columbia SR OF Nick Ferraresi
  • Cornell SR OF Spenser Souza
  • Penn SR OF Ryan Deitrich
  • Cornell JR OF Ben Swinford
  • Princeton SR OF Steve Harrington
  • Penn JR OF Brandon Engelhardt
  • Brown SR OF John Sheridan

I saw a good bit of Chris Cruz last years, so…alright, I actually don’t know how to finish that thought. I guess in my head I was going to go with the whole “I saw him play, so you should bow down before my expert opinion of him,” but that’s so asinine a statement that I couldn’t even bring myself to joke about it. I did see him play against Penn and he looked like a guy who could play his way into draft consideration this June. The tools are there — strong arm, 55 speed, good looking swing — but we’re talking fifth outfielder upside in an ideal world. As nice a prospect as he is, I’m likely going to skip Cornell’s weekend series at Villanova (well, maybe I’ll swing by on Friday for Pat Young) this year because, honestly, one viewing was enough to see you’re almost certainly dealing with a late-round 2014 senior sign in Cruz. Only in the world of amateur baseball can you be a prospect (draftable talent with some upside) and a non-prospect (realistically, the odds of any player drafted outside of the first few rounds making it ain’t good) at the same time. He and his teammates did show off an impressive ability to eat Jimmy John’s sandwiches at what had to be a record rate in between games of the scheduled double-header.

P

  • Princeton SR RHP Zak Hermans
  • Dartmouth JR LHP Mitch Horacek
  • Princeton JR LHP Michael Fagan
  • Yale JR LHP David Hickey
  • Columbia SR RHP Tim Giel
  • Columbia JR RHP Joe Donino
  • Columbia SR RHP Stefan Olson
  • Columbia JR LHP Joey Gandolfo
  • Dartmouth SR LHP Kyle Hunter
  • Harvard SR RHP Matt Doyle
  • Harvard rSO RHP Sam Dodge
  • Columbia JR LHP David Speer
  • Dartmouth SR RHP Cole Sulser
  • Brown JR RHP Anthony Galan
  • Yale JR RHP Kevin Fortunato
  • Penn JR RHP Cody Thomson
  • Princeton JR RHP AJ Goetz
  • Penn SR RHP John Beasley
  • Dartmouth SR LHP Michael Johnson
  • Cornell JR RHP Connor Kaufmann
  • Cornell SR RHP Houston Hawley
  • Princeton JR RHP Mike Ford
  • Penn JR LHP Matt Gotschall

Lots of potential future relievers to be found in the Ivy League this year, I think. The above-average fastball/breaking ball combination is common among the names at the top of the list. Zak Hermans (plus SL), Mitch Horacek (above-average CB), Michael Fagan (above-average SL), and David Hickey (above-average CB) all also sit between 88-92 with their fastballs (Fagan with the highest heat, peaking at 94), so all fit the bill. Of the group, Hickey has the least velocity, but the most advanced third pitch, a changeup with above-average upside. Consider that my endorsement for Hickey as the 2013 Ivy League arm most likely to make it as a starting pitcher in pro ball.

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