Dallas Baptist rJR C Daniel Salters
Missouri State JR 1B Spencer Johnson
Missouri State SR 2B Eric Cheray
Bradley JR SS Tyler Leffler
Wichita State JR 3B Chase Rader
Missouri State JR OF Tate Matheny
Dallas Baptist JR OF Daniel Sweet
Evansville rSR OF Kevin Kaczmarski
Missouri State JR RHP Jon Harris
Dallas Baptist JR RHP Brandon Koch
Dallas Baptist JR RHP Joseph Shaw
Missouri State JR LHP Matt Hall
Dallas Baptist JR RHP Drew Smith
The rise of many of this class’s toolsier players putting it together, especially among the outfield group, has taken some of the shine off of the more solid than spectacular types like Missouri State JR OF Tate Matheny. Matheny still looks like a good bet to fulfill his destiny as a fourth outfielder who won’t kill you in a starting role at times (especially if deployed properly), but teams in the market for upside plays will likely look elsewhere. Such is the life of a guy with no tool worse than average, but no carrying tool either.
I’ve always lumped Matheny together with Cameron Gibson of Michigan State for reasons I’ve never actually stopped and thought about. It probably has something do with their respective big league bloodlines, Midwestern roots (I don’t actually think of Michigan as being particularly Midwestern, but I’m an East Coast jerk so everything that’s not an hour drive from the ocean is Middle America to me), similar birthdays (Matheny is just three days older), similar summer paths (Northwoods in 2013, Cape in 2014), and the fact they both play for a MSU. The comp doesn’t hold up when you actually taken into account the stuff we’re supposed to care about on a baseball draft website (Gibson is a lefthanded hitter with more speed, Matheny is a righty bat who has flashed more pop), but the brain works in mysterious ways.
I’m not sure why Dallas Baptist JR OF Daniel Sweet hasn’t been in the lineup — I’m assuming injury, but two minutes of Google reveal nothing — but I’m hoping whatever it is he’ll be back at it soon. A fairly strong argument can be made for Sweet over Matheny based largely on the difference between Sweet’s consistently above-average tools (raw power, speed, range, arm) and Matheny’s average-ish across the board skill set. Matheny is the safer of the two, having proved he could produce at a high-level over his past three college seasons, but Sweet’s junior college track record is darn impressive in its own right. His two years at Polk State weren’t bad…
.307/.436/.419 – 29 BB/29 K – 30/37 SB – 179 AB
.411/.525/.565 – 42 BB/44 K – 30/33 SB – 209 AB
So between that and his silly athleticism, you see why he’s a highly regarded prospect, right? I have less of a clue than normal about where the industry views Sweet as a prospect, but I’m fairly sure I’ll wind up having him far above anybody else this June. I’m cool with that. Sweet is good.
I like Evansville rSR OF Kevin Kaczmarski a lot. He’s always been one of those guys that smart people have told me had an outstanding approach at the plate. He could hit in AA right now, they said. His ability to track the ball out of the pitcher’s hand is legendary around campus, they said. His plate discipline is what sets him apart, they said. I took all that in, but the cognitive dissonance when hearing that and looking at his BB/K numbers (never bad, but never particularly good, either) was palpable. Keeping in mind that a) it’s early yet, and b) Kaczmarski is a redshirt senior and older than the vast majority of his competition, the smart people who kept talking up his approach (13 BB/6 K in 64 AB) look really good. He’s always been able to hit, so the gains in plate discipline are a welcomed sight. His impressive gap power and above-average speed round out his offensive game nicely. It’ll be most interesting to me to see how pro teams view his range in the outfield. I’ve heard from those who think he’s a lock to play center at the next level. The majority, however, have told me that he’s not the kind of player you’d want out there over a full season and that an outfield corner, where he’d be quite good, is his most likely future home. Since his drafting team would probably select him with a backup future as their most realistic best case scenario for him in mind, I’d think just being able to hang in center without killing you for short stretches will be enough.
I had Dallas Baptist teammates rJR C/OF Daniel Salters and JR OF Daniel Sweet as the 24th and 25th ranked college hitters in the country before the season. We covered Sweet already, so let’s get into Salters. Simply put, things have not gone well for the divisive Patriot in 2015. It’s only been 76 at bats and his BB/K numbers remain encouraging (20/22), but it’s hard to put a happy face on a .171/.364/.250 start. Slow start or not, I still believe in the athletic, powerful (plus raw for me, others have it closer to average) backstop with tremendous arm strength. I’ve heard some smart people suggest it could be time to move him from out behind the plate to an outfield corner in order to jumpstart his bat, but I’m not there yet. I think he can catch as a pro, and I think he can hit enough to be an above-average starter in the big leagues. If vouching for a guy hitting .171 just two months away from the draft like that doesn’t show you I believe in his ability, then nothing will.
Illinois State rJR C/3B Paul DeJong is the gift that keeps giving to college ball. Few players can match his uniqueness as a hitter who flat mashes (.408/.491/.714 in 98 AB this year so far) while being defensively versatile enough to play every infield position but short. Unsurprisingly, I think the smartest play for his future is to keep trying to develop him as a catcher as long as possible. He’s got the athleticism, instincts, and hands for it, so making it work should be the top priority for his drafting team. There might be enough to him as a hitter to play elsewhere in a regular role, but his best fit professionally is as a super-utility player that floats mostly between second, third, and catcher.
The loss of Missouri State SR 2B/SS Eric Cheray to a fractured left ankle is one of this season’s biggest bummers from a draft prospective. He’ll still get his shot in pro ball, but won’t get to do so on the heels of what was starting off as a monster senior season (.474/.577/.737 with 6 BB/2 K in 19 AB). I honestly believe he could have hit his way into the draft’s top five rounds or so. Lost season or not, he’s still one of my favorite straight bats in the country. The fact that he can play a variety of positions – some think he’d take really well if he returns to catching full-time – only makes him a more fascinating prospect to me. There are obvious parallels between Cheray’s game and what Paul DeJong can do; I’ll take Cheray’s plus approach over DeJong’s power upside, but it’s a close call.
Bradley rJR 2B Chris Godinez is a plus runner with the chance to play well enough on the left side of the infield to be a potential utility infielder professionally. His double-play partner, JR SS Tyler Leffler, appeared poised for a big draft season (strong arm, improved glove, intriguing bat) but has stumbled some out of the gate. Evansville SR 2B Brett Synek controls the strike zone about as well as any player in the country.
Pitcher with projection left and a chance to be an above-average big league starter or pitcher who is what he is but what he is happens to be a ready-made high-leverage big league reliever with a mid-90s fastball (98 peak) and a wipeout slider that touches 90? Or, in other words, Missouri State JR RHP Jon Harris or Dallas Baptist JR RHP Brandon Koch? You can’t really go wrong either way, but, as always, I lean towards the future starter all else otherwise being close to equal. Harris throws four pitches for strikes (88-93 FB, 95 peak; above-average upper-70s CB; plus mid-80s SL; sinking CU) with the frame to add a bit more velocity as he fills out. He’s also pulled off the trick of being a reliable starter at Missouri State since day one while also getting slowly but surely more effective along the way. Meanwhile, all Koch is doing is striking out just under 19 batters per nine innings (18.98 as I write this). There are a lot of good, quick-moving relievers in college baseball – there always are – but Koch might be the best of the bunch when it’s all said and done.
Both Harris and Koch come from loaded pitching staffs chock full of potential pro arms. Joining Koch on the Dallas Baptist staff is JR RHP Joseph Shaw, a fastball-reliant (hard to blame him when he sits 90-95, hits 98) potential starting pitcher at the next level with the kind of workhorse frame that some teams prioritize with their pitching targets. There’s also JR RHP Drew Smith, the third Patriot that I have as capable of touching 98 (lives 90-96). Smith also mixes in an average or better mid-70s curve, plus a low-80s changeup and a slider of a similar speed. He’s particularly intriguing to me because he’s been exclusively a reliever this season despite possessing a repertoire capable of going through a lineup more than once. JR RHP Cory Taylor only throws as hard as 94 MPH (slacker), so he’ll have to make up for it with his plus slider. He’s had problems throwing strikes in the past, but seems to have smoothed things out mechanically this year which has in turn improved his control. Like Shaw, Taylor is a big boy (6-2, 250) and a rather intimidating presence on the mound. JR RHP Chance Adams (low-90s FB, great numbers) and SR RHP Jay Calhoun (88-91 FB with plus movement, SL flashes plus) are both also draftable talents. Throw in rSO LHP Colin Poche, a really talented arm to follow next year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, and that’s one incredible staff.
Missouri State isn’t quite as stacked in terms of pro prospects, but Harris’s running mate in the rotation, JR LHP Matt Hall, lines up with almost any other second tier arm in the conference. It’s a fairly typical lefty profile (86-90 FB, average or better CB and CU, good command) with enough of the extra stuff (pitchability, smarts, results) to warrant top ten round consideration.
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting
- Missouri State JR OF Tate Matheny
- Dallas Baptist JR OF Daniel Sweet
- Dallas Baptist rJR C/OF Daniel Salters
- Missouri State SR 2B/SS Eric Cheray
- Illinois State rJR C/3B Paul DeJong
- Bradley JR SS Tyler Leffler
- Evansville rSR OF Kevin Kaczmarski
- Bradley rJR 2B Chris Godinez
- Evansville SR 2B Brett Synek
- Wichita State JR 3B Chase Rader
- Wichita State JR 3B/RHP Willie Schwanke
- Evansville JR SS Shain Showers
- Illinois State JR OF Daniel Dwyer
- Illinois State JR OF Jack Czeszewski
- Missouri State JR 1B/OF Spencer Johnson
- Dallas Baptist SR 2B/SS Drew Turbin
- Dallas Baptist JR 1B/3B Trooper Reynolds
- Wichita State JR OF Daniel Kihle
- Indiana State SR OF Landon Curry
- Evansville JR 1B/OF Eric McKibban
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching
- Missouri State JR RHP Jon Harris
- Dallas Baptist JR RHP Brandon Koch
- Dallas Baptist JR RHP Joseph Shaw
- Missouri State JR LHP Matt Hall
- Dallas Baptist JR RHP Drew Smith
- Dallas Baptist JR RHP Cory Taylor
- Evansville JR RHP Brent Jurceka
- Wichita State rSO RHP Chase Williams
- Indiana State rJR LHP Greg Kuhlman
- Wichita State JR RHP Isaac Anderson
- Wichita State rJR RHP John Hayes
- Bradley JR RHP Eric Scheuermann
- Southern Illinois JR RHP Colten Selvey
- Illinois State JR LHP Will Headean
- Bradley rJR RHP Steve Adkins
- Dallas Baptist rSO LHP Colin Poche
- Bradley JR RHP/1B Elliot Aschbeck
- Dallas Baptist JR RHP Chance Adams
- Dallas Baptist SR RHP Jay Calhoun
- Illinois State JR LHP Jacob Hendren
- Southern Illinois JR RHP Alex Lesiak
- Southern Illinois SO RHP Kyle Pruemer
- Southern Illinois rSR LHP Aaron Hauge
- Southern Illinois rSO RHP Connor McFadden
- Wichita State JR RHP/OF Jon Ferendelli