Texas-Arlington SR C Eric Tate
Louisiana SR 1B Greg Davis
Texas-Arlington JR 2B Darien McLemore
Louisiana JR SS Blake Trahan
Georgia State JR 3B Matt Rose
Troy JR OF Logan Hill
Appalachian State JR OF Jaylin Davis
Texas-Arlington JR OF Cody Farrell
Arkansas State JR RHP David Owen
Louisiana SR RHP Greg Milhorn
Texas State JR RHP Lucas Humpal
Troy JR RHP Tucker Simpson
Texas State rJR RHP Jeremy Hallonquist
Writing about the Sun Belt is an excuse for me to write about a player who might literally be my favorite of all the FAVORITES I’ve written about so far. Everything about Louisiana JR SS Blake Trahan’s game appeals to me. He’s the kind of player I’m comfortable going all-in on and staking my flimsy at best internet reputation on.
I had Trahan only behind Dansby Swanson, Richie Martin, and CJ Hinojosa on my personal ranking of college shortstop prospects coming into the season, ahead of more famous names like Kevin Newman and Mikey White. I considered that fairly aggressive at the time, but, if anything, I might have underrated him; an argument could be made right now that he’s second only to Swanson as a pro prospect at the six-spot. If you’re picking high and you miss or pass on Swanson in the first round, then you might wind up getting the better end of the deal in the long run with Trahan in the second. He runs, fields, and hits for average as well as any shortstop in the class, and his intensity, aggressive style out of play (I love that Mike Rooney called it “almost out-of-control” as a positive), and on-field makeup bring that little something extra to his overall tools package.
There’s still the question of whether or not he’ll produce enough power as he begins to go head-to-head against pitching outside of the Sun Belt. I’d personally like to see him begin to make better use of his easy plus speed on the bases; if ever there was a prospect in need of a good base running coach like Davey Lopes, Trahan is it. Others don’t like his defense nearly as much as I do, though most think he at least has the hands, arm, and athleticism to start his pro career at short before potentially moving to second base down the line. Those are relatively minor concerns at this point, though I can at least understand how one might want to delve deeper into the level of competition point before investing a top fifty pick on him. I’m curious about that as well, but remain confident that his physical ability, feel for hitting, and disciplined approach (on the micro-level as a hitter and on the macro-level as a young man committed to getting the most out of his talent) is enough that he’d thrive in just about any situation. I’d draft him early, give him a little time to adjust to pro ball, coach him up a bit, and then sit back and relax as he became a fixture at shortstop for my franchise over the next half-decade.
I wrote briefly about Trahan almost exactly one year ago (today is 3/18 as I write this, but who knows when it’ll be published)…
Best tools/production combo right now is Alex Bregman with Blake Trahan not too far off the trail. I love that they are both in the same state, one at a traditional powerhouse and the other at an on-the-rise upstart; can’t wait to read the eventual Aaron Fitt feature on the two.
Still waiting on that Bregman/Trahan feature, college baseball writers! That thing practically writes itself, right? Almost everything I said about Trahan can be applied to another outstanding potential first day Sun Belt hitter in Georgia State JR 3B/RHP Matt Rose. In no way is this a direct comp by any stretch, but something about Rose’s profile reminds me former Washington star and current weirdly underrated Diamondbacks third baseman Jake Lamb. I liked Lamb a lot in his draft year (“above-average big league starter upside”) and I don’t see how anybody can objectively look at Rose and come up with too different a conclusion about his future (above-average big league starter upside). The tools are big league quality: above-average to plus raw power, really promising defensive gifts, and enough arm strength to throw 90-94 MPH fastballs off the mound. What I might like most about Rose is the persistent claim that from those who have seen him closest that he’ll be a really good big league hitter. I can’t tell you how often I heard how his approach at the plate is beyond his years. Fair and balanced to the scouting reports and statistics to the every end, I’d then look at his BB/K numbers over the years (13/37 last year, for example) and wonder what they were seeing that I never did (literally never did, by the way: I’m no scout so it might not matter, but, full disclosure, I have not yet seen Rose play at Georgia State). Well, though it may be early, Rose’s .306/.420/.722 line through 72 AB (13 BB/11 K) is a pretty nice start for those that have been on Rose since the start. He was always one of those players that seemed like he’d be better professionally – in part because he’d be away from the mound – than he looked in college, which ties us back to something frequently said about Lamb back in 2012. I’ve underrated Rose too long in the past, but no more.
(I have to point out that there are some really smart people who prefer Rose as a pitcher. That just makes him an even cooler prospect in my book. I get the appeal, too: he’s 90-94 with his fastball, shows two offspeed pitches with promise already, and has premium size (6-4, 200) and athleticism. Stretching him out as a starting pitcher in the pros would be really tempting to me if I wasn’t so confident that he’d hit (and hit with power) at third base.)
(I also have to point out – since it was pointed out to me – that perhaps my associating Matt Rose with Jake Lamb could be because they both have four letters in their first and last names. I didn’t realize that initially, so maybe that’s it. The next time somebody tries to dismiss a comp, feel free to use this awesome example as a reason to believe. Two guys with four letters in each their names have to be similar baseball players, right? That’s how this works, I’m pretty sure.)
There’s more to the Sun Belt shortstop position than just the aforementioned Trahan. Louisiana-Monroe JR SS Kodie Tidwell is a patient, balanced hitter with all of the requisite defensive tools to stick at shortstop over the long haul. While Trahan was good from day one at Louisiana, Tidwell has slowly yet surely improved in all offensively phases since entering college. Though not the same prospect as Trahan in my eyes, there’s still a pretty decent chance I would have written a few hundred words on him instead were it not for the possibility of Trahan sneaking into the draft’s first round. I also might have written more about Appalachian State JR SS/OF Dillon Dobson. The SS/OF positional designation doesn’t really do him justice as he has seen time at just about every position (1B, 2B, 3B) on the diamond as well. Between that defensive versatility, excellent athleticism, average speed, and above-average raw power (second in this area to only Matt Rose among Sun Belt infielders for me), you’ve got yourself a pretty intriguing professional prospect, especially if he can clean up his overly aggressive approach a bit.
Arkansas State rJR 3B Zach George is almost the Kodie Tidwell to Matt Rose’s Blake Trahan. He’s a really solid prospect with a really inspiring story (two torn ACLs) of perserverance. I actually had to not be lazy for a change and double-check that the two torn ACL thing was true (it is) because it’s so hard for me to fathom. I wish I had more of a platform to get George’s story out there, but, for now, just know that he’s a damn fine player and a legitimate pro prospect. Louisiana SR 3B Tyler Girouard’s 5-9, 180 pound frame doesn’t scream third base prospect, but he’s a good college hitter with an above-average approach. Louisiana-Monroe SR 3B/1B Keelin Rasch is yet another honest to goodness senior sign worth considering as a strong armed third baseman with a little thump.
There are some talented backstops in the Sun Belt this year. It speaks very well of the overall talent level of the league because, as I write all the time, quality catchers are always in demand in June. I think the odds are in your favor that when you go to a random conference game this season that you’ll see a future professional catcher or two. Louisiana SR C/3B Evan Powell (LSU transfer) and Georgia Southern SR C Chase Griffin (friend told me that Griffin is Luke Lowery if Luke Lowery hadn’t gone crazy with the bat this winter) are well-known to people who obsess about this stuff like you and I, but other catchers in the conference appear to be better bets as pros to me. Texas-Arlington SR C Eric Tate hit a ton last year and keeps on hitting this year. At some point that’ll get him noticed. Georgia State JR C Joey Roach has also hit, and the reports I have on his defense, especially in how he handles pitchers, are uniformly positive.
Texas-Arlington JR 2B/SS Darien McLemore can field his spot and give you some sneaky pop in his sturdy 5-9, 210 frame, so I’m still on him despite his slow start this season. Georgia State SR 2B/SS Caden Bailey is a player I expected to have a breakout junior season (didn’t happen), so it’s nice to see him get off to a hot start in his final year of school. I still like Bailey as a senior sign that could quickly go from organizational depth to big league utility prospect if everything breaks right. I don’t have much information yet on Appalachian State SR 2B/OF Michael Pierson, but his bat intrigues me enough to find out more.
I thought Texas-Arlington JR OF Cody Farrell had a chance to step into the Mavericks lineup and light the college world on fire. So far, that hasn’t exactly been the case. There are reasons why I liked him in the first place (athleticism, bat speed, and a well-rounded overall skill set), but he’ll have to pick it up at the plate if he wants to avoid being a 2016 senior sign breakout candidate to watch. Speaking of senior sign breakout candidates to watch, here’s Troy SR OF Jo-El Bennett. Bennett has not broken out yet, but that doesn’t stop people like me from keeping him higher in these kinds of rankings than his performance deserves. It goes to show what a cool name, impressive high school pedigree, and flashes of appealing tools can do for a player. No sense in hopping off the Bennett bandwagon now, but it’s getting pretty lonesome at this point. His teammate at Troy, JR OF Logan Hill, appears to have overtaken him in the prospect pecking order. I’m good with that because of Hill’s enormous raw power; hopefully his bandwagon still has room (a quick Google search indicates that I’m the only one on the planet writing about Logan Hill’s MLB draft stock, so, yeah, it does).
Appalachian State JR OF Jaylin Davis has as many 55’s on his card as any outfielder here. He’s above-average or better in center, throwing, and in terms of raw power, and just a touch above average as a runner. I think he’s smart enough, athletic enough, and in possession of a quick enough bat to hit enough to make all those tools work, so don’t forget the name. As a plus defender in center who has shown a little extra pop to go along with a patient approach so far this winter, South Alabama rSO OF/LHP Cole Billingsley is another name to store away.
I’ve spent a lot of words raving about many of the Sun Belt’s good looking position player prospects already, so I’ll keep my remarks about the pitching in the conference brief. It’s an interesting group when you look at the big picture: lots of undersized righthanders, not a ton of velocity (88-92 MPH fastballs are the norm), and a good number of unknowns (and transfers) with plenty to prove between now and June. Arkansas State JR RHP David Owen, one of those undersized righties at 6-0, 190 pounds, commands four pitches with impressive control of occasionally powerful (94-95 peak) stuff. Transfers Louisiana SR RHP Greg Milhorn (Arkansas) and Troy JR RHP Tucker Simpson (Florida) both hold promise beyond what they’ve shown so far. Milhorn has the stuff to start (88-94 FB, good CB and CU) and Simpson has tantalizing size (6-7, 220) and a fastball that works now (94-95 peak) with some thinking he has a little more to come. I’d like to see Texas State rJR RHP Jeremy Hallonquist (plus SL, CU with serious drop) get more innings, which I assume will happen as he puts even more time between himself and a past Tommy John surgery. Georgia Southern JR LHP Jason Richman is all kinds of funky with a mid-80s fastball, lots of sliders, and unmatched deception. It could take some time, but I could see him turning himself into an actual pro bullpen piece in time.
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting
- Louisiana JR SS/2B Blake Trahan
- Georgia State JR 3B/RHP Matt Rose
- Louisiana-Monroe JR SS Kodie Tidwell
- Troy JR OF Logan Hill
- Appalachian State JR OF Jaylin Davis
- Texas-Arlington JR OF Cody Farrell
- South Alabama rSO OF/LHP Cole Billingsley
- Appalachian State JR SS/OF Dillon Dobson
- Arkansas State rJR 3B Zach George
- Texas-Arlington JR 2B/SS Darien McLemore
- Georgia State SR 2B/SS Caden Bailey
- Troy SR OF Jo-El Bennett
- Troy SR OF David Hall
- Georgia Southern SR OF Aaron Mizell
- Louisiana SR 1B/3B Greg Davis
- Texas-Arlington SR C Eric Tate
- Louisiana SR 3B Tyler Girouard
- Arkansas State JR OF Austin Baker
- South Alabama rSR OF Garrett DeGallier
- Georgia State JR C Joey Roach
- Louisiana SR C/3B Evan Powell
- Louisiana-Monroe SR 3B/1B Keelin Rasch
- South Alabama SR OF Cole Gleason
- Louisiana SR OF Dylan Butler
- Georgia Southern SR C Chase Griffin
- Arkansas State SR C Stuart Levy
- Georgia Southern SR OF Kody Adams
- Georgia State JR OF James Clements
- Appalachian State SR 2B/OF Michael Pierson
- Georgia State SR 2B/SS David Levy
- Texas State SR OF Ben McElroy
- Georgia Southern SR 2B/SS Dalton Busby
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching
- Arkansas State JR RHP David Owen
- Louisiana SR RHP Greg Milhorn
- Texas State JR RHP/C Lucas Humpal
- Troy JR RHP Tucker Simpson
- Texas State rJR RHP Jeremy Hallonquist
- South Alabama JR RHP Justin Flores
- South Alabama SR RHP Ben Taylor
- South Alabama SR RHP Kevin Hill
- Georgia State JR RHP Nathan Bates
- Georgia Southern JR RHP Chris Brown
- Louisiana-Monroe rJR RHP Alex Hermeling
- Georgia Southern SR RHP Tripp Sheppard
- Georgia Southern JR LHP Jason Richman
- Arkansas State SR LHP Chandler Hawkins
- Texas-Arlington SR RHP Chad Nack
- Arkansas State JR RHP/OF Adam Grantham
- Georgia State JR RHP Clayton Payne
- Arkansas State JR RHP/2B Tanner Ring
- Appalachian State SR LHP Jeffrey Springs
- Appalachian State SR RHP Jamie Nunn
- Appalachian State SR RHP Robert Whaley
- Troy JR RHP Lucas Brown
- Georgia State SR RHP Kevin Burgee
- South Alabama SR LHP James Traylor
- Troy rSR RHP Jeremy McGowan
- Arkansas-Little Rock SR RHP Dyllon Brownmiller
- Appalachian State SR RHP Taylor Thurber