Central Michigan SR C Tyler Huntey
Ohio SR 1B Jake Madsen
Western Michigan JR 2B Kurt Hoekstra
Buffalo JR SS Bobby Sheppard
Kent State JR 3B Justin Wagler
Ohio JR OF Manny DeJesus
Northern Illinois SR OF Stephen Letz
Kent State SR OF Alex Miklos
Miami (Ohio) rSO LHP Ryan Marske
Miami (Ohio) rSR RHP Nate Williams
Central Michigan JR LHP Adam Aldred
Western Michigan JR RHP Gabe Berman
Miami (Ohio) SR RHP Ryan Powers
Both catchers listed below (Central Michigan SR C Tyler Huntey and Eastern Michigan rSO C/OF Michael Mioduszewski) are far more athletic than your typical catcher. That seems to be a trend in college ball this year, though I might just have the recent footage of a USC game and Garrett Stubbs on the brain. The athletic Huntey has the size, strength, and speed to work as an appealing senior sign at a position that teams always load up on at every draft. The athletic Mioduszewski brings similar abilities to the table, but with a bit less of a track record and two more years past this one of collegiate eligibility.
I’m at the point where I now get a little bit sheepish when describing how I feel about Ohio SR 1B Jake Madsen as a prospect. Some guys you almost form an irrational fondness towards through the years, I suppose. Of course, I’d argue my affinity for Madsen is grounded in a fair amount of logic and reason: he has a pretty swing, above-average hit tool, impressive plate coverage, and the kind of patience at the plate that suggests good things to come when combined with all those other positives. The major knock on him has forever been his lack of raw power. I’ve looked past this in prior years because a) I so badly wanted to believe, and b) there were enough intermittent signs of pop that made it appear a full-fledged breakout was imminent. It hasn’t happened yet, so downgrading Madsen from FAVORITE prospect status to just regular plain-old favorite prospect is where things now stand. The good news is Madsen still has that sweet swing, can still consistently barrel up pitches up, down, in, and out, and still walks more than he strike outs. All that and a plus glove make him a rock solid mid-round senior sign that I’d be happy to take a shot on if I ran a room.
Madsen is joined in a strong overall first base group by Central Michigan rSR 1B Cody Leichman. Leichman shares many qualities with Madsen including a strong feel for hitting and a steady glove at first. Working in Leichman’s favor is his greater raw power. If personal preference points you towards the Central Michigan slugger, go for it. If pure uncut upside is your thing, you might want to take a look at Leichman’s teammate JR 1B Zack Fields. Fields has even bigger raw power (and a bigger body at 6-5, 265 to house such power), but all the requisite swing-and-miss that often comes with a man of his stature. There’s also a fairly sizable current gap between what his power could be and what it is; sometimes we (fine, I) get locked into thinking that a young guy with big raw power will eventually turn into an old guy with big in-game power. That’s obviously not always the case – in fact, it’s more the exception than the norm when you get deep down into the boom/bust rate of all these prospects we love so much – and it’s quite common to see a player with huge raw power unable to ever make enough contact to put his raw talent to use. It’s kind of cruel and borderline Twilight Zone-y if you think about; a young man discovers he can hit a baseball thrown at 90+ MPH upwards of 500 feet soaring through the air with majestic arc while oohs and ahhs break out across the crowd, but can’t make even the simplest amount of consistent contact to put that prodigious power to use.
I have a lot of these previews half-written from weeks ago, so calls for breakout 2015 seasons might seem a little funny now that we’re basically a month into the season. Well, trust me (or not!) when I say that Western Michigan JR 2B/OF Kurt Hoekstra’s skill set jumped out immediately after seeing him, making him one of the easier 2015 breakout candidates to call. So far, so good for Mr. Hoekstra as he’s doing a little bit of everything offensively for the Broncos. SR 2B Pat MacKenzie doesn’t have the raw tools of most prospects I’d personally rank him around, but there’s no ignoring his plus-plus plate discipline. How a player can put up a 46 BB to 17 K ratio while slugging just barely over .300 in a full college season I’ll never know, but it’s an impressive feat that earns my respect. If I’m selling MacKenzie to my boss, I’m highlighting his overall hard-working playing style with promises (fine, hopes) that maybe his outstanding mental approach to hitting will rub off some on his new pro teammates. He’s an underdog prospect to be sure, but I just plain like the guy.
Meanwhile, Ball State JR 2B Ryan Spaulding is one of those players that I don’t know a ton about, but what I do know I like quite a bit. If any Ball State/MAC baseball fans happen to be reading this, man, watch out for whatever it is they are doing in Muncie. I pay very little attention to college ball outside of tracking prospects (i.e., I don’t know which teams are good and bad outside of the traditional powerhouses), but the talent level on Ball State’s roster has blown me away. I’ve been messing around with some 2016 college prospect lists and Ball State stands out to me with every revision. There are a whole bunch of sophomore prospects there (Alex Call, Jarrett Rindfleisch, Caleb Stayton, Zach Plesac, Alex Maloney) that really stand out as high follows heading into the summer/next season.
I mentioned above that this lists were composed before the season actually began. Sometimes I like to check in on how players are doing and mention it in the write-ups (which, as mentioned, are mostly half-done). Then again, sometimes I don’t. I left the shortstop list alone for now without looking up how each guy has performed to date. That’s done, at least in part, because I don’t want a small sample of good or bat hitting to make me second-guess my initial notes, which are based largely on real scouting reports, firsthand observations (i.e., not real scouting reports since I’m not a scout), and statistical benchmarks accrued in larger samples. This is all a long way of saying that even though Bowling Green SR SS Brian Bien, Toledo JR SS Deion Tansel, and even Kent State SR SS Sawyer Polen have fine combinations of positive scouting notes (“steady glove” is a popular phrase here) and impressive track records at the plate (Bien, for example, hit .351/.400/.401 with a near even BB/K and 17/24 SB last year), my choice of the untested JR SS Bobby Sheppard (Buffalo) stands even with his slow start at the plate (yeah, I cracked and checked just now). My reports on him topped the others, but that doesn’t mean he will hold this spot in perpetuity. If rankings worked like that, then my life would be a lot simpler from February to June. It just means that Sheppard has (had?) the lead and it’s on the rest to overtake him by draft day. You know, since the honor of being ranked highly by me means sooooo much to these guys.
Kent State JR 3B Justin Wagler and Bowling Green rSR 3B Brandon Howard can both ably man the hot corner at the next level. There might not be enough offensively for either to make much noise in pro ball if they get there, but I do like Wagler’s pop and Howard’s speed. I’ve heard some pleasant murmurings about Wagler, mostly in the vein of “if his body fills out, there could be something there.” Both players have racked up plenty tons of MAC plate appearances, so I can’t help but root for them going forward.
Hey, the MAC has some damn bats this year. I can only hope that the wall of text preceding this highlighted some fun names to follow, but if it’s still not coming across then you should really check out the outfield group. The top two outfielders for me are unproven, but full of talent; ultimately, the latter is all I care about when it comes to projecting a young player’s future. Ohio JR OF Manny DeJesus can flat hit. He can also run, defend, and work a pitcher into some crazy deep counts. You can search for many of the nice things about fellow transfer Cedric Mullins and apply them to DeJesus. Neither player is getting much love (as I’ve seen/heard) nationally as a prospect, but these guys can play. Northern Illinois JR OF Stephen Letz is right there with them as a bat, but with arguably the most raw power of the trio.
If Western Michigan SR OF/C Jared Kujawa convinces somebody he can catch professionally, he might have a nifty little future in the pros. He’d instantly become one of baseball’s most athletic backstops and best runners. The bat might be a touch light to profile as anything but an interesting backup, but he does so much well that you can’t help but be drawn to him every time he takes the field. Toledo rJR OF/SS Dan Zuchowski is in the same boat, but he faces the challenge of proving he can play a little middle infield as well as in the outfield. I’ve heard good things about his glove at second base, so maybe a future as a backup 2B/OF prospect could be a possibility. It’s a long shot, but worth considering a late pick on in my view. There’s something about the Regnier family that inspires curiosity within me. JR OF Logan and SR OF Nick (Central Michigan) are similarly built (6-2ish, 200ish pounds) plus runners who control the strike zone and flash a spot of pop here and there. Logan might have to follow in Nick’s shoes as a senior sign; if so (or if not…he could be drafted this year for all I know), it would be great fun to see them reunited once again in pro ball.
I don’t have as much to say about the pitching in the MAC. I wish I did, but I don’t. I always feel guilty when I give one side of the game almost four times as much coverage as the other, but, what can I say, I’m a hitter at heart. A trio of Miami (Ohio) arms sits near the top of list all the same. rSO LHP Ryan Marske was a name I heard a good bit about this winter. The gist: low-90s fastball, offspeed with promise, fresh arm, and ample projection left in his frame. The belief was that he’d be a mid-90s guy once he filled out a bit more, which was good enough for me to give him a shot in the top spot.
I wrote about SR RHP Ryan Powers last year after the Phillies selected him with pick 652 in the 22nd, calling him “another college starter with average numbers, good size (6-5, 210), and not a whole lot in the stuff/projection department.” That was a little bit sassier than I normally get on here, but the point still stands. His size is nice and his stuff is fine (88-92 FB, 94 peak; usable SL and CU), but he’s never missed a ton of bats (K/9’s around 6 over the past two year) and lacks the knockout pitch you’d like to see in a future pro reliever. Draftable arm, sure, and a more certain bet going forward than teammate rSR RHP Nate Williams. Still, I like Williams’ upside a touch more in no small part due to his above-average to plus curveball.
Moving from Oxford to Directional Michigan gives us a chance to take a closer look at JR LHP Adam Aldred (Central Michigan) and JR RHP Gabe Berman (Western Michigan). Aldred won’t wow you with his heater, but his pair of offspeed pitches (SL, CU) each individually rank among the best in the conference. Berman’s big 2014 season (10.85 K/9 in 34 IP) and solid stuff (low-90s FB, CB/CU) make him an interesting follow. Akron teammates JR RHP JT Brubaker, SR LHP Pat Dyer, and rSR RHP Matt LaRocca make the trip to see some MACtion in the Rubber City worthwhile. Brubaker has the fastball (94 peak) and projection, Dyer has the sheer size (6-9, 215 lefty? My interest is piqued), and LaRocca has (but hasn’t always shown) impressive control. Kent State rSR RHP Josh Pierce hasn’t pitched much due to injury, but if he’s healthy and back to his old ways then he could shoot up boards as a priority senior sign.
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting
- Ohio JR OF Manny DeJesus
- Northern Illinois JR OF Stephen Letz
- Kent State SR OF Alex Miklos
- Western Michigan SR OF/C Jared Kujawa
- Buffalo JR SS Bobby Sheppard
- Ohio SR 1B Jake Madsen
- Western Michigan JR 2B/OF Kurt Hoekstra
- Ball State JR 2B Ryan Spaulding
- Toledo rJR OF/SS Dan Zuchowski
- Central Michigan SR C Tyler Huntey
- Central Michigan JR OF Logan Regnier
- Central Michigan rSR 1B Cody Leichman
- Eastern Michigan rSO C/OF Michael Mioduszewski
- Bowling Green SR SS Brian Bien
- Central Michigan SR OF Nick Regnier
- Toledo JR SS Deion Tansel
- Akron rSR OF Joey Havrilak
- Miami (Ohio) JR OF Gary Russo
- Central Michigan JR 1B Zack Fields
- Kent State JR 1B/3B Zarley Zalewski
- Kent State JR 3B Justin Wagler
- Kent State SR SS Sawyer Polen
- Buffalo JR OF Nick Sinay
- Miami (Ohio) SR SS Ryan Eble
- Central Michigan SR 2B Pat MacKenzie
- Eastern Michigan SR 2B/SS John Rubino
- Bowling Green rSR 3B Brandon Howard
- Miami (Ohio) SR OF Matt Honchel
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching
- Miami (Ohio) rSO LHP Ryan Marske
- Miami (Ohio) rSR RHP Nate Williams
- Central Michigan JR LHP Adam Aldred
- Western Michigan JR RHP Gabe Berman
- Miami (Ohio) SR RHP Ryan Powers
- Akron JR RHP JT Brubaker
- Akron SR LHP Pat Dyer
- Akron rSR RHP/1B Matt LaRocca
- Akron rSR RHP Jon Pusateri
- Bowling Green SR RHP Trevor Blaylock
- Kent State rSR RHP Josh Pierce
- Kent State JR RHP Nick Jensen-Clagg
- Eastern Michigan SR LHP Ben Dartnell
- Toledo JR RHP Kyle Slack
- Bowling Green rSO LHP Andrew Lacinak
- Toledo JR RHP Adam Tyson
- Central Michigan SR RHP Tim Black
- Ball State SR RHP Scott Baker