Cal Poly JR C Brian Mundell
UC Davis rSR 1B Nick Lynch
Cal Poly JR 2B Mark Mathias
Cal Poly JR SS Peter Van Gansen
Long Beach State JR 3B Zack Rivera
Cal State Northridge rJR OF Spencer O’Neil
UC Santa Barbara JR OF Dalton Kelly
Hawaii SR OF Keao Aliviado
UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Dillon Tate
Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Thomas Eshelman
Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Justin Garza
UC Santa Barbara JR LHP Justin Jacome
UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Dylan Hecht
I’ve written about Santa Barbara JR RHP Dillon Tate a bit before. One particularly pertinent excerpt…
Speaking of parallels, and I really hate to make this comparison because of how lazy it’ll appear, hear me out with this one. Long-time readers of the site know I do my best to look past player characteristics that don’t matter when it comes to developing comps, so hopefully I get the benefit of the doubt on this one. In all honesty, it makes a lot of baseball sense so whatever let’s just do it: Tate’s scouting profile looks a lot like Marcus Stroman’s coming out of Duke. The differences (mechanics aren’t similar at all [man, I loved Stroman’s] and Tate has a few inches on Stroman) are real, but the ties that bind the two are far more interesting. Both Tate and Stroman were primarily relievers through two years of college (Stroman made 13 starts out of his 34 games), both are/were great athletes with repeatable deliveries (even if you don’t love Tate’s, as I don’t, he is athletic enough to keep it up), and both clearly had the stuff to start once you looked past some of the superficial “he’s a reliever!” concerns (big fastballs, plus hard sliders/cutters, and underdeveloped changeups with big upside). I think it’s pretty cool that we’ve come far enough in just a few short years to better appreciate what a slightly non-conventional pitcher can do, and Tate should have no problem blowing past Stroman’s draft ceiling (22nd overall pick) this June. It helps that Tate has a little more size — Stroman being 5’9″ took the short righthander thing to a wonderful extreme — and a few additional contemporary examples of young big leaguers (Yordano Ventura) and minor league stars (Luis Severino) that helped crack the shorty righty glass ceiling. Speaking of Severino, I don’t know if that’s a terrible comparison for Tate, either. I prefer Stroman, but Severino, who dazzled me the two different times I got to see him this summer (93-96 FB, 98 peak; cartoonish mid-80s breaking ball, and a more advanced CU than most pitchers his age), isn’t a terrible name to be associated with.
I’d rather not use up all my words on Tate again because there are a ton of other quality arms in the Big West to get to, but suffice it to say that the fireballing righty from Santa Barbara is really, really good and all but a lock for the top ten of this year’s draft barring injury.
What a pleasant surprise it was to find Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Thomas Eshelman has a lot more fans among pro guys than I would have originally guessed. I’ve written about the different perception of college writers versus draft writers a few times over the years, and Eshelman seemed like a perfect case study as a dominant college starter unlikely to keep up his awesome results as a pro because of a lack of overpowering stuff. Thankfully, the majority of the smart people I asked about Eshelman couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about his professional future. Obviously expectations contextualize their enthusiasm – he’s not a first round prospect and not a future big league ace, two simple realities that ought to go without saying but might come as a surprise to the staunchest college only baseball fans – so we’re talking more about the better than expected chance that he’ll continue to stay in a rotation in the pros with the possibility of him reaching a mid- to back-end rotation starter status before long. Some draft guys dismiss Eshelman altogether as a future pro, but I don’t get why his strengths (plus-plus command, plus-plus control, and a variety of offspeed pitches designed to keep batters as off-balanced as a weeble who not only wobbles but has in fact fallen down) won’t translate to the pro game. Even his fastball velocity, his biggest perceived weakness coming into the season, has firmed up from the mid-80s (touching 90) to closer to the upper-80s (93 peak). That’s fast enough for me, especially when you consider his pinpoint command of the pitch and significant deception in his delivery. The deception in his motion in addition to the overall package and future pro outlook all bring to mind Ben Lively, a fourth round pick in 2013. That seems like a reasonable expectation for Eshelman at this point. Other big league names that I’ve heard Eshelman’s ceiling compared to include Aaron Harang, Brandon McCarthy, Tanner Roark, and Phil Hughes.
Eshelman’s teammate JR RHP Justin Garza is another unconventional pitching prospect with big league rotation stalwart upside. Unlike Eshelman, Garza’s got the classic stuff of a power pitcher: 90-94 FB (96 peak), above-average to plus 79-86 cut-SL, and an average 76-82 changeup that flashes better. It’s Garza’s slight 5-11, 165 pound frame that make him a bit of an anomaly. It’s imperfect as a comp, but I view Garza almost as a harder throwing version of former Fullerton ace Tyler Pill*, a fourth round pick in 2011. In terms of ceiling, I’d stay in California and use former USC star and current Padres pitcher, Ian Kennedy.
*There are 36 pitchers ahead of Pill on Baseball America’s Mets depth chart and 54 total prospects ahead of him at Fangraphs. I’m not sitting here projecting stardom for the guy, but too often floor is not valued nearly enough by the experts. I understand that prospect guys garner more acclaim for hitting on top names and being the first to identify a high-upside low-minors player that make good, but let’s give a little love for the cheap, useful, and competent role players and maybe/maybe not fifth starters. Going for the home run is more fun – heck, I do it all the time and would go to bat for upside over certainty if forced to choose – but ML-ready talent that can be used to patch holes on rosters right now are grossly undervalued on expert lists. Maybe this is just the native Philadelphian in me, but I’d kill for a guy with a solid draft pedigree, decent stuff, and consistently stellar minor league success like Tyler Pill right now on the Phillies roster.
JR LHP Justin Jacome, currently better known as Tate’s rotation-mate with UC Santa Barbara, deserves more draft love than he’s currently getting. Like Eshelman, he won’t overwhelm you with his velocity (85-90 FB, 92 peak) but the confidence he has in all five pitches (cutter, CB, CU, SL) makes it work. His size, athleticism, command, and changeup (my favorite of his secondaries) are all points in his favor. Next time anybody takes me too seriously, just remember that I had UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Dylan Hecht on my 2015 prospect to know list last year instead of Tate. I was buying him as the better bet to make the conversion to the rotation for reasons I don’t even remember. Now I can’t even find the guy on a roster. Anybody have any insight there? Ten minutes of Googling has me with more questions than answers.
Cal State Northridge JR RHP Calvin Copping is intriguing because of a fastball with more coming (86-92 now), occasional plus slider, and a changeup with promise. Cal State Fullerton SR LHP Tyler Peitzmeier is one of the country’s best relievers with the stuff (87-90 FB, plus CU) and deception to keep missing bats as a pro. UC Davis rJR RHP Max Cordy is a power arm with a plus fastball and not so plus control. As a high-profile transfer from Tennessee, UC Irvine JR RHP Matt Esparza was a name to watch coming into the season. He’s delivered so far as he’s ably mixed a solid fastball (88-93), plus hard splitter/slider thing, and flashed a truer breaking ball (upper-70s curve) with above-average upside.
The pitching in the Big West is deep and impressive, but what about the prospects tasked with hitting off these guys? The second base Big West prospect group for 2015 is a lot of fun. I could see up to a half-dozen future professional second basemen coming out of here. The obvious headliner is Cal Poly JR 2B/OF Mark Mathias. Mathias is a famous enough prospect by now that I probably don’t have to even mention this, but, man, can he hit. Mathias and hitter are basically synonymous at this point. He’s one of only two players in this year’s college class that I can put down plus for his hit tool and walk away feeling totally confident. A search of “plus hit” in my 130,000+ Word document produces only nine matches. Among them are UCLA JR OF Ty Moore, Mathias’s plus hit tool peer, and Notre Dame SO 2B/3B Cavan Biggio (a reasonable comp as a hitter for Mathias), as well as a few 2015 draft-eligible players I noted as having a chance for a plus hit tool in Cincinnati JR 2B/OF Ian Happ and Mississippi State rSO OF Jacob Robson. Other players in the mix for best hit tool in this class include obvious candidates like Arizona JR SS Kevin Newman, Vanderbilt JR SS Dansby Swanson, LSU JR 2B/SS Alex Bregman, and Florida State JR OF DJ Stewart. Dark horses I like more than others – and, again, we’re talking straight hit tool here only – are Auburn JR OF/2B Jordan Ebert and Ohio SR 1B Jake Madsen.
Some players engender more comps than others and for whatever reason Mathias is one of those guys. Baseball America has thrown out David Bell and Sam Travis as comparisons in the past. I’ve heard Placido Polanco, Howie Kendrick, and, my personal favorite (and, though he’s never told me why, one of my dad’s all-time favorite players) Mark Loretta.
UC Davis rSR 2B/OF Tino Lipson is a versatile defender (who happens to be really good at second) with plus speed and a patient approach. The buzz on Long Beach State rJR 2B Zach Domingues coming into the season shocked me in a good way. His bat has been slow to warm up so far this year, though he’s found a way to control the strike zone, one of the main selling parts of his game, despite his struggles. Cal State Fullerton JR 2B/SS Jake Jefferies is a quality all-around player who could see his stock rise if teams feel confident about his glove being able to hang at shortstop in small doses. Hawaii SR 2B Stephen Ventimilia isn’t big, but he’s a fantastic runner and athlete with a serious knack for getting on base.
As if this class needed another shortstop with the upside to one day start in the big leagues, here comes wildly underrated Cal Poly SS Peter Van Gansen and his steady glove, strong arm, and patient approach. He’s on the thin line between future utility player and potential regular right now, though his increased pop in 2015 could convince some teams he’ll hit enough to hold his own at the bottom of a lineup. I’m admittedly higher on him than most, but he checks enough of the boxes that teams like in potential backup infielders that I think he’ll wind up a valuable draft asset.
Cal Poly JR C Brian Mundell just keeps chugging along as one of the west coast’s most underrated catching prospects. All he’s done is produce since his first day on campus. I have him as a potential high-level backup catcher with the upside of starting in the big leagues with continued development. That’s aggressive, but, much like Van Gansen, I just like the way he plays the game.
UC Davis JR C Cameron Olson hasn’t been able to put it all together quite yet, but if he does then it’ll be worth the wait. His plus raw power and plus arm strength combination is what evaluators dream about. On the other end of the spectrum is the reliable yet unexciting profile of UC Irvine rSR C Jerry McClanahan. The veteran Anteater’s patient approach at the plate is my kind of prospect, but his lack of power and advanced age make him more organizational depth than future big league backup. Of course, the former can become the latter in certain cases, and there are all kinds of unseen advantages in bringing in quality workers like McClanahan to work with your minor league pitchers. I’d still have to take the upside play in Olson over the steady yet limited McClanahan, but I could understand why a team would want to use a late pick on a catcher that would put his pitchers first.
I’ve always been fond of Cal State Northridge rJR OF Spencer O’Neil’s physical ability, but his approach at the plate needs to change in a hurry if he’s to have the kind of pro future his raw talent suggests. UC Santa Barbara JR OF/1B Dalton Kelly has similar issues as a hitter, though he’s a really interesting athlete with serious speed and defensive tools varied enough to play both 1B and CF at a high level.
Back when I guess I thought I would physically be able to cover every team in college baseball I began working on previews for a few Big West schools. Since they’d never see the light of day otherwise, why not rescue these unfinished drafts from my Gmail archives with the adoring public? Keep in mind that these were all written back in December, so blame any stupidity you read on that fact and that fact alone.
Long Beach State
SO SS Garrett Hampson’s time under the draft microscope is still a year away, but that won’t stop scouts from honing in on him this spring. Part of that is because he’s a huge draw on his own (crazy speed, great athlete, all the defensive upside you could ask for) and part of that is because he’s one of the very few draws on the roster. That’s not to say that players won’t emerge or that I’m missing quality prospects hiding in plain sight, but I’m not sure there’s a sure-fire 2015 draft prospect on this roster. JR 3B Zack Rivera showed promise in 2013, but his production took a dive in a small sample last year. JR C Eric Hutting has professional backup catcher traits (arm, glove, athleticism), but, like Rivera, took too big a step back with the bat last year for me to be comfortable calling him a 2015 draft lock. rSR RHP Kyle Friedrichs, a Tommy John surgery survivor back in 2013, has always had nice peripherals and solid stuff. He’s probably my favorite of the upperclass pitching crop, but it’s an admittedly thin group at the moment.
There’s some nice talent scattered across the Hawaii lineup. You can point to just about any regular position player and identify a skill or tool that stands out enough to get on a follow list. There’s not much power on the roster, so scouts will key on players that could keep advancing levels by way of their speed, defense, and athleticism. The two players that best embody those physical attributes are SR OF Keao Aliviado and SR 2B Stephen Ventimilia. Both seniors are undersized (5-7ish, 160ish pounds) grinders with athleticism to spare. Ventimilia is the better runner and Aliviado has flashed a tiny bit more functional power, but those are two of the few separating characteristics here. Each guy has hit well in a wood bat league, each guy has walked as much as he’s struck out (more or less in Aliviado’s case), and each guy should have no problem hanging at an up-the-middle defensive position. Neither player profiles as anything close to a starter, but both should be late-round senior signs and strong organizational players with the kind of makeup that would give an organizational a net gain just by being around other young players.
Hawaii’s pitching looks decent enough that it’s not crazy to think a pitcher or two could get selected off the roster in June. I’m curious to see what JR RHP Tyler Brashears can do, hopeful that SR RHP Eric Gleese can put it all together in his last year, and fascinating to see what rSR LHP Jarrett Arakawa has left in the tank. Arakawa, a fifth-year senior who’s strong freshman season (7.43 K/9) got him early attention, has survived a missed season (2013) after having a procedure done on his labrum. What he lacks in stuff post-injury he makes up for in guile on the mound. His case may unfortunately wind up as a “what if” rather than a happy draft day ending, but just having the opportunity to convince scouts he’s got what it takes to pitch professionally one last time is a success for Arakawa at this point.
Cal State Northridge
I still have the quote saved from when rJR OF Spencer O’Neil left Oregon after the 2013 season: he “decided to pursue other opportunities” and that was that. Well he’s back playing D1 ball this year and I’m damn pleased to see it. There’s the big question as to whether his approach will remain a hindrance to his overall game, especially after a year at junior college that showed little to no gains from his freshman season at Oregon (from 6 BB and 32 K at Oregon to 8 BB and 30 K at Central Arizona). I liken him to a power pitcher capable of hitting the mid-90s with a darting fastball that he has no idea how to harness effectively. The raw talent is obvious, but bridging the gap from prospect to player is going to take a lot more work than your typical draftable college bat.
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting
- Cal Poly JR 2B/OF Mark Mathias
- Cal Poly JR SS Peter Van Gansen
- UC Davis rSR 2B/OF Tino Lipson
- Long Beach State rJR 2B Zach Domingues
- Cal Poly JR C Brian Mundell
- Cal State Northridge rJR OF Spencer O’Neil
- UC Santa Barbara JR OF/1B Dalton Kelly
- Cal State Fullerton JR 2B/SS Jake Jefferies
- UC Davis JR C Cameron Olson
- Hawaii SR OF Keao Aliviado
- Cal State Fullerton JR 1B Tanner Pinkston
- Cal Poly SR OF Zack Zehner
- UC Davis rSR 1B/3B Nick Lynch
- Hawaii SR 2B Stephen Ventimilia
- UC Irvine rSR C Jerry McClanahan
- UC Riverside SR 2B/OF Joe Chavez
- UC Santa Barbara SR OF Cameron Newell
- Cal State Northridge SR C Nick Murphy
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching
- UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Dillon Tate
- Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Thomas Eshelman
- Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Justin Garza
- UC Santa Barbara JR LHP Justin Jacome
- Cal State Northridge JR RHP Calvin Copping
- UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Dylan Hecht
- Cal State Northridge rSR RHP Kyle Ferramola
- Hawaii JR RHP Tyler Brashears
- Cal State Fullerton SR LHP Tyler Peitzmeier
- UC Davis rJR RHP Max Cordy
- UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Connor Baits
- Cal State Fullerton SR RHP Willie Kuhl
- Cal State Northridge SR LHP Jerry Keel
- UC Irvine JR RHP Matt Esparza
- UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Trevor Bettencourt
- UC Santa Barbara JR RHP James Carter
- UC Riverside JR RHP Keaton Leach
- Cal Poly SR LHP Taylor Chris
- Hawaii JR RHP LJ Brewster
- Cal Poly JR RHP Casey Bloomquist
- UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Kenny Chapman
- Hawaii SR RHP Eric Gleese
- UC Riverside SR LHP Kevin Sprague
- UC Santa Barbara JR RHP/3B Robby Nesovic
- Hawaii rSR LHP Jarrett Arakawa
- Hawaii JR RHP Josh Pigg
- Cal State Northridge JR RHP Rayne Raven