San Diego SR C Jesse Jenner
St. Mary’s SR 1B Collin Ferguson
Loyola Marymount SR 2B David Edwards
San Diego JR SS Kyle Holder
Santa Clara JR 3B Jose Vizcaino
Pacific JR OF Giovanni Brusa
Pacific SR OF Tyler Sullivan
San Francisco SR OF Derek Atkinson
Brigham Young JR RHP Kolton Mahoney
San Diego JR RHP/1B David Hill
Loyola Marymount rJR RHP Trevor Megill
Santa Clara JR RHP Reece Karalus
Pepperdine JR RHP Jackson McClelland
The talent in the West Coast Conference exemplifies the 2015 MLB Draft college class as well as any conference in the country; in many ways, it resembles is a microcosm for the rest of the class. There’s pitching because, no matter the year, there always seems to be pitching. Power is scarce, shortstops are plentiful, and talented yet unrefined talents face hugely important draft seasons.
The pitching in the WCC is predictably deep. The best arms in the conference don’t have quite the name recognition as the top pitchers in other conferences, but they will by June. If not, then they should. BYU JR RHP Kolton Mahoney leads the way with an honest four-pitch mix that includes a pair of above-average breaking balls (77-84 SL, 75-77 CB) that come close to running into each other but never quite get there. San Diego JR RHP/1B David Hill has bounced around some, but appears to be settled in with the Toreros. He has a similar fastball to Mahoney (88-94, though Mahoney commands it better) and very comparable offspeed stuff (above-average 75-79 CB, 80-85 cut-SL that flashes plus, intriguing new-ish split-CU that I’ve heard good things about). Santa Clara JR RHP Reece Karalus is a classic sinker/slider arm that adds a fun wrinkle to the archetype with his plus command and plus control. He’s too good to call a sleeper, but between the way he misses bats, gets ground balls (presumably…would love to dig up the numbers on him), and limits walks he could be a shockingly quick mover once he hits the pro game.
Two wild cards in the conference are Loyola Marymount rJR RHP Trevor Megill and Pepperdine JR RHP Jackson McClelland. Both pitchers have been far more wild than usual so far this season. Megill’s wild ways can be explained at least in part to his ongoing adjustment to being back on the mound after missing last season (TJ surgery). When he’s on, he brings a devastating array of power stuff (86-92 FB with good sink that can reach the mid-90s; plus cut-SL; imposing 6-8, 250 pound frame) to the table. McClelland’s wildness is more difficult to explain; in fact, since I haven’t seen him this year, I won’t even attempt to do so. For now I just chalk it up to another oddity in what has been a perplexing collegiate career to date. His stuff is more than enough to get college hitters out (90-95 FB, breaking ball with upside, usable change) and he’s a really good athlete throwing from a 6-5, 220 pound body, but he’s never consistently missed bats. Teams with a more forging view of underachieving college talent who might consider him a talented ball of clay to mold rather than a near-finished product seem more likely to give him a call this June than otherwise.
Safer bets include St. Mary’s SO RHP Cameron Neff and Loyola Marymount SR RHP Colin Welmon. Welmon has stepped his game up considerably this year as he’s changing the narrative on his scouting reports (slider with upside; changeup with promise) from potential to realized skills. You could do worse if in the market for a rare senior sign pitcher with a chance to one day crack a big league rotation than Welmon. Neff is built similarly, but is already able to harness a plus offspeed pitch (changeup) that keeps hitters off his just good enough fastball (88-92). I can’t remember the origin, but I have an AJ Griffin comp on him in my notes that I think is reasonable.
Remember the bit about power being scarce? This piece got delayed a few days because I kept stopping and starting the section on first basemen, the position most commonly associated with power. It’s not that I think that these breakdowns constitute the most entertaining daily reads on the internet, but I try to say at least one interesting thing for as many players as possible within each piece. There are four first basemen in the conference worth writing about, but for the life of me I can’t figure out anything fun to say about any of them. St. Mary’s SR 1B/LHP Collin Ferguson is a senior sign that figures to appeal to teams of all player development philosophies. He has shown consistent power (more or less), a relatively sound approach, and the athleticism, arm, and glove one needs to play a mean first base. Pepperdine JR 1B Brad Anderson’s calling card is his big raw power. San Francisco SR 1B/3B Brendan Hendriks’ strengths are his hit tool and defensive versatility (in addition to 1B and 3B he has also seen time at 2B). Portland rSR 1B/OF Turner Gill’s career hasn’t gone quite according to plan – he hit .348/.408/.500 and .341/.418/.508 in his first two seasons before being injured and ineffective the past two years – but he’s still a dangerous guess hitter who can put a charge into the ball when he guesses right.
Power may belong to first basemen above all other positions, but outfielders can also get in on the fun; unfortunately, outside of Pacific JR OF Giovanni Brusa (one of those talented yet unrefined talents from earlier) there’s not much in the way of thump to be found among WCC outfielders. The lack of pop is forgivable, but the weird lack of noteworthy draft-eligible outfielders in the conference is just plain bizarre. I’m sure I’m missing a few names, but even after checking and double-checking the only three serious outfield prospects heading into the season were Brusa, Pacific SR OF Tyler Sullivan, and San Francisco SR OF Derek Atkinson. An argument could be made that even including Sullivan and Atkinson is me being generous, as Brusa is currently the only WCC outfielder mentioned as a viable top ten round pick. I think that sells Sullivan, a pesky hitter who fits the backup outfielder with a leadoff mentality mold well, a bit short.
The appreciation for Brusa, however, is right on point. His above-average to plus raw power will keep him employed for a long time, especially combined with his elite athleticism and playable defensive tools (slightly below-average arm and foot speed, but overall should be fine in left field). Brusa going from good prospect to great prospect will take selling a team on his improved approach as a hitter; early returns are promising but a team that buys into his bat will do so knowing he’ll always be a player who swings and misses a lot. Whether or not he a) makes enough contact, and/or b) demonstrates enough plate discipline (strikeouts are easier to take when paired with an increased walk rate, like he’s shown so far this year) will ultimately decide his fate as a hitter and prospect. Before the season I would have been in the “think he’ll be drafted too high for my tastes, so let me just kick back and watch somebody else try to fix his approach” camp in terms of his draft value, but I’m slowly creeping towards “if he falls just a bit, I’d think about taking a shot on his upside over a few players with more certainty and less ceiling” territory. That’s a big step up for me, even if it doesn’t quite seem like it.
All the shortstops are great. That was the short note I wrote to myself designed to be a placeholder for the actual text to come, but now I’m thinking that’s what I should publish. (My notes on the outfielders: BRUSA. I’m not a great writer, clearly.) San Diego JR SS Kyle Holder is a special talent with the glove. He’s a fantastic athlete with everything you’d want to see out of big league defender: his range, hands, feet, instincts, arm, and touch are all exemplary. There might not be a lot of power to come, but he’s a smart, balanced hitter who works deep counts and battles in every at bat. With a very real clear strength and no obvious weaknesses, the well-rounded Holder could be a dark horse first day candidate. If you shoot for the moon with an all-upside first pick, then going for what could be a quick-moving rock solid big league shortstop with your second pick makes a lot of sense. The comps I have on Holder are among my favorite for any player in this year’s class: Mike Bordick, Walt Weiss, and Orlando Cabrera. I don’t know why, but that strikes me as a fun group of possible outcomes. Bordick and Weiss both feel fair in a plus glove, good command of the strike zone, enough power to keep pitchers’ honest kind of way. The Cabrera comparison is especially intriguing to me because I’ve used it already this year on a big glove, little bat prospect. Kennesaw State JR SS Kal Simmons, the recipient of said comp, is an interesting head-to-head prospect comparison for Holder. So far in 2015…
KS: .302/.391/.563 – 11 BB/12 K – 8/9 SB – 96 AB
KH: .353/.409/.412 – 7 BB/6 K – 4/6 SB – 85 AB
And in their college careers…
KS: .284/.345/.365 – 46 BB/74 K – 14/17 SB – 543 AB
KH: .315/.374/.406 – 22 BB/22 K – 11/15 SB – 276 AB
I think both players have big league regular upside – something I wouldn’t have said about Simmons prior to this season – but Holder gets the edge for me as the better all-around offensive threat. The real conclusion is this, however: all the shortstops are great.
Pacific JR SS/OF Brett Sullivan is an all-caps FAVORITE of mine who compares favorably to Holder in many areas of the game. The one great big obvious difference between the two is defensive projection. I’m obviously confident in Holder being a damn fine defensive shortstop in the big leagues, but I can’t say the same with much certainty about Sullivan. I mean this literally: I can’t say it with certainty because I straight up don’t know right now.
This is one of those cases where a position conference ranking doesn’t do the quality of depth at the position justice: three of the top four hitters in the conference are shortstops (four out of five if you think Santa Clara JR 3B/OF Jose Vizcaino sticks at SS). Loyola Marymount SO SS David Fletcher would be the top shortstop in many conferences across the country. He does a lot of the same things that Holder does well, especially on the defensive side. I’m a tiny less sure about his bat going forward, so consider that my admittedly thin rationale for having him behind both Holder and Sullivan. Being the third best shortstop behind those two guys is still a really, really good thing. He’s stung the ball so far this season, and I’ve heard from those who have seen him often that the improvements are real. Slowly but surely his ceiling has risen with some now willing to make the move from glove-first utility player to potential big league regular. I’m not quite there yet, but I get it. All the shortstops are great.
If you’re buying Vizcaino’s glove at shortstop then he might be the co-headliner up the middle with Holder. He’s easily one of the 2015 draft class’s best tools to skills transformation prospects. Like Brett Sullivan, I don’t quite have enough updated information on his defensive future to say one way or another where he’ll wind up as a pro. I have as more likely than not to switch over to third in the pros, but it’s a fluid situation. An admittedly far too generous Matt Carpenter comp (qualified with less advanced as a hitter and less athletic) for Gonzaga SR 3B Mitchell Gunsolus has stuck in my mind over the years. It’s obviously too much, but I still like Gunsolus power and patience blend. Even if he has to move to left field, as some have speculated, his bat looks strong enough to be a worthy senior sign all the same.
So we’ve covered the lack of power bats, the great shortstops, and some of the better tools to skills transformers. What’s left? Loyola Marymount SR 2B/SS David Edwards is a versatile enough defender to play just about any spot on the diamond. That versatility should serve him well professionally assuming he hits enough at the next level to fulfill his destiny as a big league super-sub. That versatility is also what gives him the slight edge over Pepperdine JR 2B Hutton Moyer, a good glove likely limited to second who can run and flash some power. Portland SR 2B/OF Caleb Whalen has long intrigued me as a plus runner who can play multiple spots with an underrated hit tool, but time is running out on him turning some of his raw ability into concrete skills.
I’ve liked what I’ve heard about San Diego SR C Jesse Jenner so far. The consensus on him seems to be there is enough power, arm strength, and athleticism to profile as a potential big league backup backstop. He stands out as the best of a thin group of WCC catchers.
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting
- San Diego JR SS Kyle Holder
- Pacific JR OF Giovanni Brusa
- Pacific JR SS/OF Brett Sullivan
- Loyola Marymount SO SS David Fletcher
- Santa Clara JR 3B/OF Jose Vizcaino
- Gonzaga SR 3B Mitchell Gunsolus
- Brigham Young SO SS Tanner Chauncey
- San Diego SR SS/2B Austin Bailey
- Loyola Marymount SR 2B/SS David Edwards
- Pepperdine JR 2B Hutton Moyer
- San Diego rJR C Jesse Jenner
- Portland SR 2B/OF Caleb Whalen
- Pacific SR OF Tyler Sullivan
- San Francisco SR OF Derek Atkinson
- San Diego SR 3B Brandon DeFazio
- St. Mary’s SR 1B/LHP Collin Ferguson
- Pepperdine JR 1B Brad Anderson
- San Francisco SR 1B/3B Brendan Hendriks
- Portland rSR 1B/OF Turner Gill
- Gonzaga JR 2B/OF Caleb Wood
- San Francisco rJR 2B Michael Eaton
- Brigham Young SR C Jarrett Jarvis
- Santa Clara JR 3B Kyle Cortopassi
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching
- Brigham Young JR RHP Kolton Mahoney
- San Diego JR RHP/1B David Hill
- Loyola Marymount rJR RHP Trevor Megill
- Santa Clara JR RHP Reece Karalus
- Pepperdine JR RHP Jackson McClelland
- St. Mary’s SO RHP Cameron Neff
- Loyola Marymount SR RHP Colin Welmon
- Portland SR RHP Kody Watts
- San Diego JR LHP Jacob Hill
- San Diego JR LHP Troy Conyers
- San Diego rJR RHP Wes Judish
- Gonzaga JR RHP Andrew Sopko
- Brigham Young SO RHP Michael Rucker
- Loyola Marymount SR LHP/OF Sean Buckle
- San Diego JR LHP PJ Conlon
- Loyola Marymount JR RHP Michael Silva
- Gonzaga SR RHP/C Zach Abbruzza
- Gonzaga JR RHP Taylor Jones
- Santa Clara JR RHP Jake Steffens
- Santa Clara rSO RHP Steven Wilson
- Pacific SR RHP Michael Benson
- Brigham Young SR RHP Jeff Barker
- Pacific JR RHP Jake Jenkins
- Pacific SR RHP Michael Hager
- San Francisco SR LHP Christian Cecilio
- San Diego JR RHP Gary Cornish
- Brigham Young SO RHP Mason Marshall
- Pepperdine JR RHP Evan Dunn
- Brigham Young SR RHP Brandon Kinser
- San Francisco SR RHP Logan West
- St. Mary’s SR RHP Tanner Kichler
- San Diego rJR RHP Drew Jacobs