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Little March Madness Fun: “First Round” Edition

I’ve been working on the darn SEC draft preview piece off and on for over a week now, and I’m happy to say that it’s finally close to completion. In the meantime, I thought we’d have a little fun with the NCAA college basketball tournament getting started tonight. Quick 2013 MLB Draft prospect previews of the four teams featured in tonight’s play-in — excuse me, “first round” — games.

North Carolina A&T‘s 2013 prospect strength comes in the way of a trio of seniors: 1B Kelvin Freeman, Andre McKoy, and Dairio Little. Of the three, only Freeman is holding up his end of the prospect bargain so far this season. He’s got a chance to go late as an athletic power-hitting first baseman with pro size (6-4, 235 pounds) and a rapidly improving feel for hitting. The best 2013 prospect on the team is JR 2B/SS Luke Tendler. Tendler has hit from his first day on campus (.347/.370/.563 in 2011, .285/.323/.466 in 2012) and seems to have really hit his stride in 2013 (.406/.449/.719 in 64 AB so far). He’s a good athlete with sneaky pop, decent speed, and enough defensive skill to stick up the middle in the pros. It’s a long shot for a few reasons, but I could see him getting into the single-digit rounds if he keeps mashing at his current rate. I won’t pretend to know much about SR LHP Brent Moore, but his strong start to the year deserves a quick shoutout.

Liberty has some pretty darn good ballplayers on their roster. The best of the bunch for me is a player who I’m sure is no doubt excited to be one of my all-caps FAVORITE’s for the upcoming draft class, none other than Mr. Ryan Cordell. Cordell is an above-average runner (great baseball instincts may bump that up to plus on the base paths) with an above-average arm, impressive athleticism (he can play any outfield spot, 1B, and has dabbled on the mound with an upper-80s FB in the past), bat speed to spare, and, last but not least, a sturdy pro build (6-3, 200 pounds). What I like most about Cordell is that he’s an even better player than the sum of his parts suggests. Cordell is joined by fellow interesting position players such as JR C Danny Grauer (good size, plus arm strength, and a patient approach, though I still think I like him best on the mound), SR 2B Bryan Aanderud (another personal favorite — though not quite a FAVORITE — on the strength of a quality hit tool and steady defense, not to mention that he’d be the first player in the all-time MLB alphabet if he ever makes the big leagues), and SR 3B Dalton Sype (down year so far, but a nice college bat otherwise).

Aanderud’s hot start (.392/.495/.459 with 15 BB/3 K in 74 AB) bears mentioning, though it should be acknowledged that a big senior season fits in nicely with the type of productive hitter he’s shown himself to be (.364/.467/.450 with 32 BB/18 K in 220 AB last year). Those are numbers you have to take notice of, no matter the context. Aanderud is a really strong college player who deserves a shot in the pros. A bat that I know next to nothing about that caught my eye through numbers only is SR C Trey Wimmer. Hitting .392/.446/.649 gets you on my map, even if it is only through 74 AB.

Liberty’s pitching staff has as many as four arms that could be selected in this year’s draft. SR RHPs Brooks Roy and Matt Marsh, along with rJR RHP Josh Richardson, all have enough in the way of stuff and track record to warrant consideration in June. Roy has arguably the best offspeed pitch of the trio (change), Marsh has the best size (6-3, 190 pounds…both Roy and Richardson are sub 6-0), and Richardson has the best arm strength (93 peak) and athleticism (former middle infielder). Roy may be a little too “smoke and mirrors” for pro scouts, but I think Marsh (14 K/1 BB in 9.2 IP) and Richardson  (13 K/4 BB in 10.1 IP) could be legitimate late round selections. The fourth pitcher of interest is SR RHP Kody Young, a big fella (6-5, 230 pounds) with decent stuff — anybody who throws a passable or better forkball is alright by me — who hasn’t pitched in 2013 as of yet.

Saint Mary‘s has a pair of southpaw pitchers that have the stuff to get drafted if all keeps going to plan. JR LHP Jordan Mills has the requisite three pitch mix to get a chance starting in the rotation in professional ball. His fastball is a little short at times (85-88 mostly, can have days where it is closer to 88-92), but the movement he generates on the pitch makes it a consistent above-average offering. Mills also mixes in a pair of average or better offspeed pitches in his upper-70s change and a drastically improved slider. Some funk in his delivery and the advantage of extension (he’s 6-6, 210 pounds) helps his stuff play up across the board. Mills is a good pitching prospect who has seemingly taken the leap — from K/9 ratios in the 6.00’s his first two years to 9.00+ in the early going this year — in his draft year. A notch below Mills is fellow JR LHP Ben Griset. From fastball velocity to the solid breaking ball/changeup combo, Griset has similar stuff to Mills across the board. What he lacks is a) Mills’ size (Griset is 6-0, 185 pounds), b) Mills’ ability to cut, sink, and run the fastball, and c) Mills’ offspeed refinement, though you could argue that his breaking ball is closer to Mills’ than his changeup currently is. It is encouraging that Griset has made a similar performance leap in 2013: freshman year (5.70 K/9), sophomore year (7.75 K/9), early in junior year (9.72 K/9). SR RHP Patrick Keane, JR RHP Thomas Cortese, and JR LHP Ryan Brockett make up the rest of the interesting pitching names to know for 2013 on the Saint Mary’s staff. Brockett (a starter) and Keane (a reliever) have thrown particularly well so far in the early going.

The two 2013 position players that I’ve gotten some positive feedback on are SR OFs Brenden Kalfus and Cole Norton. Kalfus has been the better of the two in the early going, hitting .292/.444/.313 (13 BB/7 K), but it is hard to see either as legitimate pro prospects when it is all said and done.

Middle Tennessee State‘s best shot to see somebody drafted in the 2013 MLB Draft can be found on their pitching staff. SR RHP Hunter Adkins has decent stuff and good size (6-4, 200 pounds), but has never put up the big numbers many expected for him at the start. Same could be said about SR RHP Daniel Palo, another big boy (6-4, 250 pounds) who has underwhelmed despite the athleticism and stuff (mid-90s peak FB, average or better CB) to dominate his level. SR LHP Jordan Cooper has a similar strong FB/CB combo, and, surprise surprise, a similar track record of less than stunning performances. Others on the mound to watch are SR LHP Joey McClung (decent arm despite 5-9, 180 pound frame), SR RHP Jonathan Sisco (out for 2013 season due to labrum surgery), JR LHP Zac Curtis (another short pitcher, but with better all-around stuff), and JR RHP Paul Mittura (interesting sinker/slider guy). It is doubtful any of this group get drafted, but you never know.

SR 2B Johnny Thomas, a transfer from New Orleans, has been his usual steady self. JR 3B Hank LaRue has been a little bit less than that. The entire Middle Tennessee outfield can be considered prospects, if we define the term loosely. JR OF Jake Ellison has some power but not much else, fellow power bat JR OF Trent Miller’s in the midst of an early season slump (slugged close to .600 last year, sitting below .300 so far this year), and JR OF Ryan Stephens, coming off a disappointing sophomore season, has hit fairly well so far in 2013. Again, I wouldn’t put money on any of the three getting any draft consideration this year, but all three can at least be productive college bats when things are going right.



  1. Gary says:

    Maybe you need to Check out some of the recent numbers for MTSU. Especially for pitcher’s Hunter Adkins and Jordan Cooper.

    • Rob Ozga says:

      Maybe I do. Let’s see…

      Adkins 2012: 6.93 K/9 – 3.52 BB/9 – 4.79 FIP – 76.2 IP
      Adkins 2013: 7.48 K/9 – 2.74 BB/9 – 4.67 FIP – 49.1 IP

      Hmm. A little better, sure, but not exactly the numbers top prospects are made of, you know?

      Cooper 2012: 6.23 K/9 – 6.23 BB/9 – 4.11 FIP – 43.1 IP
      Cooper 2013: 11.31 K/9 – 5.47 BB/9 – 2.81 FIP – 24.2 IP

      Definitely more impressive. Control obviously remains an issue, but no denying the gains made elsewhere. Then again, some advancement should be expected for a pitcher another year older, right? I’m not saying the extra year of experience/maturity is the sole difference for the impressive jump, but it is a factor.

      Neither guy has had such a mind-blowingly awesome senior season thus far — Cooper is close, but that wildness… — that I feel the need to go back on the original thesis. Both guys have pro stuff, but when you look at the entirety of their respective bodies of work, you don’t come away as impressed as you’d like. Obviously that’s totally subjective — what impresses me may not impress you — but that’s where I stand. I should note that I was unclear in the original post: I don’t expect any of that last group of names to get drafted (McClung to Mittura), but think that each of Adkins, Cooper, and Palo are 50/50 bets at worst.

      • Gary says:

        Thank you for confirming that you messed up in the print at the end. I agree with everything you said for the most part especially since you but it in detail instead of referring to the pitchers as a group. Things have changed since then as well, but that’s baseball.

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