Bryant JR C Buck McCarthy
Bryant JR 1B Robby Rinn
Mount St. Mary’s SR 2B Kory Britton
Bryant JR SS Dan Cellucci
Long Island-Brooklyn SR 3B Bobby Webb
Bryant JR OF AJ Zarozny
Bryant SR OF Jordan Mountford
Sacred Heart JR OF Jayson Sullivan
Bryant JR RHP Kyle Wilcox
Wagner SO RHP Nolan Long
Brynat SR LHP Trevor Lacosse
Long Island-Brooklyn SR RHP Rafael Guerrero
Wagner JR RHP Mike Adams
My rough count has eight players drafted last year from the Northeast Conference. It’s early yet, but I think the conference will be hard-pressed to match that total in 2015. That’s not because it’s necessarily a down talent year for the NEC; it’s just more top-heavy than usual. The top guys all happen to be pitchers this year led by the fascinating one-two punch of Bryant JR RHP Kyle Wilcox and Wagner SO RHP Nolan Long.
Kyle Wilcox is pretty much what you’d draw up if you wanted to create an under-the-radar college pitching prospect with big league starting potential. He’s been well hidden (HS in Connecticut, college in Rhode Island) with minimal wear-and-tear on his right arm, and he’s been allowed to develop at a smaller school in a smaller conference at his own pace. His athleticism (plus) and arm strength (90-95 FB, 96-97 peak) are both stellar, and his hard breaking ball flashes plus. There’s still enough rawness to his game (control, third pitch) that a high pick (first three rounds or so) won’t be needed to take a shot on him. Geography, a relative lack of experience, plus athleticism, and quotes calling him “still very clearly a work in progress”: that’s the template for a draft sleeper.
A very similar story could be written for Nolan Long. His path to this point (Connecticut HS and New York college), the fact that two sport stardom has reduced his workload (and kept him raw enough to slip past where his physical gifts should see him taken), easy to spot plus athleticism, and longstanding command issues (stemming from inconsistent mechanics) all make him (oxymoron alert) an easy to identify potential draft sleeper. Of course, like Wilcox, the term sleeper is relative: I know about him, you know about him, EVERYBODY in baseball who gets paid for this stuff knows about him, but the possibility of falling in the draft past where his talent should dictate is still very much in play. Also like Wilcox, Long has the goods to go high even if it weren’t for the fresh arm and athleticism. He has more than enough present fastball (88-94, 95 peak) and offspeed stuff (above-average CU, average breaker) to give a glimpse at what could be.
Most impressively, we’ve made it a whole 150 words or so here without mentioning the fact that Long is listed at 6-10, 240 pounds. The fact that he’s a giant is considered an afterthought by many who really, really like the guy. Now if you didn’t know that Long was a big man, you might have surmised as much based on some of the hints dropped above: two-sport star (basketball, obviously), plus athlete, and inconsistent mechanics. The last two points are what currently fascinate me most about Long. He’s 6-10, 240 pounds, but, if you can buy it, he doesn’t move like a human being that big. I mean that in the best way possible, like when the NBA’s most athletic big men (Anthony Davis, for one) are talked about as capable of running the floor like guards. I can’t even begin to imagine how tricky it is for a man of his size to reproduce an act as precise and scripted as a pitching windup, but Long pulls it off.
The ability to reproduce one’s mechanics and maintain a consistent release point (and landing spot) is vital to the development of professional grade command. Big guys often struggle with this for obvious reason. Great athletes, however, are given a huge leg up on figuring things out mechanically*. This is what makes Long a bit of a conundrum for scouts. He’s so tall that you can’t help but worry about him coordinating his body’s movements well enough to throw consistent strikes, but he’s so athletic that you want to believe that with enough hard work he’ll figure out some mechanical middle ground that suits him.
*This is one of the reasons I’m less worried about Dillon Tate’s occasional mechanical weirdness (and subsequent loss of command) than most. He’s a good enough athlete to smooth things out over time. Long’s athleticism is in that same class. I’ve been burned countless times by larger than life pitchers (hitters as well, for that matter) because baseball is a game of such carefully choreographed movements. Logic dictates that the longer one’s limbs are the more difficult it is to coordinate one’s movements at once. This is what you hear about when hitters are talked about as having difficulty getting their long levers through the zone quick enough to make consistent contact or any of the previously discussed challenges with command brought down by sloppy mechanics.
I’m all for giving Long a shot in a round that makes sense for both him and the team, but my own history of overhyping oversized pitchers makes me reluctant to put too high a grade on him. The gap between what he could be and what he currently is, premium now stuff or not, is just too great for me to gamble on him within the draft’s top five rounds or so. For what it’s worth, I got a chance to see Long start earlier this year in Wagner’s first win in ten tries back on March 14th against Northeastern. I can’t go into too much depth about what I saw for reasons I’ll disclose later, but needless to say his release point, command, and control were all major topics of the day. The name Andrew Brackman might have been brought up once or twice. It wasn’t a bad showing by any stretch, but it did little to quell any of the oft-cited concerns that currently stand in the way of him ever reaching his considerable upside.
If optimistic about Long’s future, an easy comparison can be made to another two-sport athlete listed at the same height of Long. From Baseball America’s initial pro scouting report on Chris Young back in 2000…
Young has outstanding mechanics and coordination for such a big man. Scouts are impressed with how he consistently repeats his delivery, a difficult task for tall pitchers. He also is graceful and moves well around the mound. Young’s fastball routinely hits 90 mph and has the potential to max out at 95-96 mph because of his large frame. His breaking and offspeed pitches need work, which is understandable because he lacks experience.
Swap Long for Young and that could read very similarly to what the former’s bigger advocates are saying. Seven years in a big league rotation and over one thousand career innings are lofty goals for Long, but the raw talent is significant enough that it’s not crazy. I tend to think Long falls closer to Brackman than Young on the tall basketball player/righthanded pitcher spectrum. We’ll see.
Long Island-Brooklyn SR RHP Rafael Guerrero has enough in the way of stuff (88-94 FB, usable CU and CB) to contribute in a big league bullpen one day, but the control issues that have hindered him throughout his college career will need to be corrected if he’s to have any semblance of a pro future. Bryant SR LHP Trevor Lacosse doesn’t have the most exciting profile, but the uniqueness of his stuff, most notably an underwhelming fastball in terms of velocity that plays way up thanks to movement, location, and deception, as well as a breaking ball that flashes plus, could make him a pain the neck for opposing hitters in short bursts at the next level.
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting
- Bryant JR OF AJ Zarozny
- Bryant JR C/OF Buck McCarthy
- Mount St. Mary’s SR 2B/3B Kory Britton
- Wagner SR C Nick Dini
- Bryant SR OF/C Jordan Mountford
- Mount St. Mary’s SR C Andrew Clow
- Bryant JR 1B Robby Rinn
- Sacred Heart JR OF Jayson Sullivan
- Long Island-Brooklyn SR 3B Bobby Webb
- Wagner JR 3B/OF Ben Ruta
- Fairleigh Dickinson JR 2B/SS Dylan Sprague
- Bryant JR SS Dan Cellucci
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching
- Bryant JR RHP Kyle Wilcox
- Wagner SO RHP Nolan Long
- Bryant SR LHP Trevor Lacosse
- Long Island-Brooklyn SR RHP Rafael Guerrero
- Central Connecticut State JR LHP Cody Brown
- Wagner JR RHP Mike Adams
- Central Connecticut State JR LHP Casey Brown
- Central Connecticut State SR RHP/1B Dominic Severino
- Long Island-Brooklyn SR RHP Dustin Carlson