JR OF Kyle Survance (2015)
rJR OF Ashford Fulmer (2015)
SR OF Michael Pyeatt (2015)
JR 3B/1B Justin Montemayor (2015)
JR 2B Josh Vidales (2015)
JR C Ian Rice (2015)
JR RHP Patrick Weigel (2015)
SR RHP Aaron Garza (2015)
JR RHP Jacob Lemoine (2015)
SR RHP David Longville (2015)
SR RHP Jared Robinson (2015)
SR LHP Matt Locus (2015)
JR RHP Bubba Maxwell (2015)
SO 3B Connor Hollis (2016)
SO RHP Andrew Lantrip (2016)
SO RHP Marshall Kasowski (2016)
SO 3B Jordan Strading (2016)
FR INF Connor Wong (2017)
Houston returns three outfielders who all could get a shot at the pros come June. JR OF Kyle Survance is the best of the trio. His power is limited, but his speed and defense should keep him employed for at least a few years. If it clicks for him, it’s a big league skill set. rJR OF Ashford Fulmer is the most confounding player of the three. You could argue for his tools over Survance’s (very close call there, though I’m admittedly lower on Survance than most), but his average or better raw power hasn’t shown up in games yet while his overly aggressive approach leaves something to be desired. What SR OF Michael Pyeatt lacks in raw tools, he almost makes up for in baseball IQ. I have no feel on how teams currently feel about him — if they have a strong emotion on him either way — but he strikes me as the classic undersized battler who will grind out at bats and play beyond his physical limitations. I’d rank them as I discussed them (Survance, Fulmer, Pyeatt, with decent-sized gaps between each), but all three are draftable talents.
JR 3B/1B Justin Montemayor certainly looks the part, but, like Fulmer, he’s a young hitter who has been too aggressive at the plate for his own good to this point. I wish JR 2B Josh Vidales had even a little bit of power (.327 and .306 slugging the past two seasons) because his approach (88 BB/51 K career), defense (plus) and speed (26/34 SB career, not a burner but picks his spots really well) all rate high enough to be an entertaining prospect to follow professionally. The fact that he’s currently seen as a second base or bust (though, again, he’s fantastic there) defensive prospect works against him, though I wonder — I honestly don’t know — if that’s something he can change minds about this spring. If he could be trusted on the left side of the infield, then we’re talking a strong potential utility future, even without the power. For all his flaws, I’d still want him to be a member of my organization.
All of those players are established big time college baseball players; the fewest number of career at bats for any one of them is still over 300. The Cougar hitter I think has the best chance to be a quality pro (or at least the 1a to Survance’s 1b), however, is a guy without the same kind of major college track record. I’m sky high on JR C Ian Rice, a transfer by way of Chipola who can really, really hit. If he shows enough behind the plate to convince teams he’s a catcher long-term (as I do), there’s no telling how high he could rise by June. It’s just a hair too early to start stacking up prospects by position, but I’m very sure Rice will wind up higher on my board at that spot than anywhere else on the internet.
The two biggest arms on the staff belong to JR RHPs Jacob Lemoine and Patrick Weigel. The imposing pair combine big fastballs (both 88-94, peaking up near 96/97) with big frames (6-5, 220 for Lemoine and 6-6, 220 for Weigel). Lemoine’s big strength is his hard mid-80s slider, an average or better pitch at present with the chance to be a consistent plus offering in time. Weigel’s big weakness is his control. He walked over 7 batters per nine in his one year of big conference college ball at Pacific before upping that number to over one batter per inning at Oxnard CC last year. That’s scary. Even at his best, like last season when he struck out 12.39 batters per nine in 61 innings, he’s what could charitably be called “effectively wild.” In a way, Weigel is a tiny bit like the pitching version of Rice. Both are largely unproven talents with serious upside. We’ll have to wait and see as to how far along the well-traveled Weigel’s command and control (both need work) have developed, but the raw stuff is top two round quality. Lemoine is a more proven commodity after having spent two seasons putting up numbers ranging from solid (2013) to very good (2014) right here at Houston. If he takes that next step in terms of performance, it’s no stretch to envision him as a mid- to late-first round pick, especially if teams look at him as a starting pitcher going forward. I think his rapidly improving changeup and strong ground ball tendencies (allegedly…I have yet to check the numbers myself, but I will) give him a better than average shot at remaining in the rotation professionally. Both players have the potential to go very high this June, something that should come as no surprise in a sport that will always value power arms and power bats above most else.
SR RHP Aaron Garza is an excellent college pitcher who may not miss enough bats to be anything more than an excellent college pitcher. His consistent success at this level is pretty damn impressive considering said inability to miss bats (he’s gone from K/9’s of 6ish to 5ish to 4ish over the past three seasons, not exactly an inspiring trend) and his stuff is at least a little intriguing (CB, SL, and CU can all be throw for strikes AND flash above-average or better on any given day), so maybe he’s a whole is greater than the sum of parts kind of pitcher. The short fastball (mid- to upper-80s, 90 peak) is going to be held against him, but his secondaries, command, size (6-4, 200) and continued mastery of college competition against all logical odds demands some attention. Every year I do my best to track GB% for certain pitchers, and Garza could be a good candidate for this year’s exercise. I’m not sure what else we can attribute to his consistent run of success without being able to strike people out. Even his biggest fan wouldn’t call him a serious top five round pitching prospect, but he’s a fascinating player all the same. I know little to nothing about SR RHP Jared Robinson and JR RHP Bubba Maxwell, but the pair combined to strike out almost a batter per inning last season (61 K in 71.2 IP) with good control and shiny ERA’s. Both are undersized righthanded pitchers, so who knows what the future holds. SO RHP Marshall Kasowski is one to watch for the class of 2016.
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