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2016 MLB Draft Preview – College Prospects

I don’t typically get into rankings this early in the process because doing it the right way as a research/writing staff of one takes me literally hundreds of hours. Realistically putting together what I feel is representative of my better stuff just hasn’t been possible in the past unless I pushed other micro baseball projects — for the site and elsewhere — aside and instead looked took the time to cover a nation’s worth of prospects on the macro level. Having a draft site that spends more time on players on the fringes who may or may not wind up drafted at all while failing to address the prospects at the top of the food chain seems a bit silly, so I’m trying to balance things out a little bit better this year. There will still be lots of the usual draft minutiae I enjoy so much, but a rededicated focus on the draft’s first day just makes sense. With all of this in mind I put other baseball duties on hold for the last ten or so days to put this list together. It’s imperfect, but I like it as a starting point. Some notes on what you’ll see below…

*** I didn’t include any non-D1 players at this point because I haven’t yet had the time to go as deep into other levels of competition and junior college ball just yet. Nick Shumpert would have made the top fifty for sure. Lucas Erceg likely would have been considered.  After a quick skim of my notes, I’d say Kep Brown, Tekwaan Whyte, Ryan January, Ethan Skender, Liam Scafariello, Jesus Gamez, Curtis Taylor, Willie Rios, Shane Billings, Brett Morales, Hunter Tackett, Devin Smeltzer, and Tyson Miller would be just a few of the names also in the mix for me right now. I said it a lot last year, but it bears repeating: I’d love to find the time/energy to go deeper with non-D1 baseball this year. The finite number of hours I have to devote to this site might get in the way, but I’m going to try.

*** This is going to sound bad and I apologize in advance, but I don’t believe I left anybody off that I intended to include. It’s possible, of course, but I don’t think that’s the case here. A ton of really, really good prospects, many of whom will be future big league players, didn’t make the cut as of yet. It’s not personal, obviously. I would have loved to include any player that even remotely interested me, but I had to have a cut-off point somewhere. If you think I whiffed on somebody, I’m happy to listen. Reasonable minds can disagree.

*** There is no consensus top player in this college class. The hitter at the top could wind up out of the first round by June. The top pitcher listed has medical red flags reminiscent of Michael Matuella last season. And — SPOILER ALERT — the top overall player in this class isn’t included on the list below. There are players ranked in the twenties that may be in your top five and there are players in the thirties that may not crack somebody else’s top seventy-five. It’s a fun year that way.

*** If I had to predict what player will actually go number one this June, I’d piggy-back on what others have already said and put my vote in for AJ Puk. The Phillies are my hometown team and while I’m not as well-connected to their thinking as I am with a few other teams, based on the snippets of behind the scenes things I’ve heard (not much considering it’s October, but it’s not like they aren’t thinking about it yet) and the common sense reporting elsewhere (they lean towards a quick-moving college player, preferably a pitcher) all point to Puk. He’s healthy, a good kid (harmless crane climbing incident aside), and a starting pitcher all the way. Puk joining Alfaro, Knapp, Crawford, Franco, Williams, Quinn, Herrera, Altherr, Nola, Thompson, Eickhoff, Eflin, and Giles by September 2017 makes for a pretty intriguing cost-controlled core.

*** The words that go along with the rankings are a bit more positive than what long-time readers might be used to. My early take is that this appears to be an above-average draft, but a friend who saw an early draft (no pun intended) of this told me that 2016 must be an incredibly talented group of amateurs. He said that reading through led him to believe that every pitcher is a future big league starter and every hitter is a future above-average regular. Guilty. I admit that I generally skew positive at this site (elsewhere…not so much) because I like baseball, enjoy focusing on what young players do well, and believe highlighting the good can help grow the college game, but being fair is always the ultimate goal. That said, there will be plenty of time to get deeper into each prospect’s individual strengths and weaknesses over the next seven or so months. In October a little extra dose of positivity is nice.

With no further ado, here are the 2016 MLB Draft’s top fifty prospects (with a whole lot more names to know beyond that)…

(Fine, just a bit more ado: A very rough HS list and maybe a combined overall ranking will come after Jupiter…)

  1. Mercer JR OF Kyle Lewis

The popular comp for Lewis has been Alfonso Soriano (originated at D1 Baseball, I believe), but I see more of Yasiel Puig in his game. He’s an honest five-tool player with a rapidly improving approach at the plate. There’s still some roughness around the edges there, but if it clicks then he’s a monster. There’s obvious risk in the profile, but it’s easy to be excited by somebody who legitimately gets better with every watch.

  1. Oklahoma JR RHP Alec Hansen

Hansen would rank first overall (college, not overall) if not for some recent reports of forearm troubles. His injury history probably should have been enough to temper enthusiasm for his nasty stuff (huge FB and chance for two plus offspeed pitches), but the upside is just that exciting. The popular Gerrit Cole makes sense as Hansen is a big guy (6-7, 235) with outstanding athleticism who holds his plus velocity late into games.

  1. Florida JR OF Buddy Reed

Reed’s relative newness to playing the game full-time makes his already considerable upside all the more intriguing. More reps against quality pitching could turn the dynamic center fielder (plus range, plus speed, plus arm) into the top overall pick.

  1. Oregon rSO LHP Matt Krook

This may be a touch more speculative that some of the other names on the list since Krook missed the 2015 season after Tommy John surgery, but I’m buying all the Krook shares I can right now. He came back and impressed on the Cape enough to warrant consideration as a potential 1-1 riser. There’s no squaring up his fastball and there’s more than enough offspeed (CB and CU) to miss bats (12 K/9 in 45 freshman innings). He’s not as physical as AJ Puk, but the more advanced secondaries give him the edge for now.

  1. Florida JR LHP/1B AJ Puk

Extension, deception, and power would be three words that come immediately to mind when describing Puk. He’s every bit of 6-7, 225 with a delivery that hides the ball damn well. His power comes both with his left arm (92-96, 98 peak) and at the plate (he’d quickly be among the better hitting pitchers in the game), so it’s no big shock that some guy on the internet (that’s me) sees some similarities between him and the prospect version of Madison Bumgarner.

  1. Wake Forest JR 1B/RHP Will Craig

Do you like power? How about patience? What about a guy with power, patience, and the athleticism to pull off collegiate two-way duty? For everybody who missed on AJ Reed the first time around, Will Craig is here to give you a second chance. I won’t say he’ll be the first base prospect that finally tests how high a first base prospect can go in a post-PED draft landscape, but if he has a big enough junior season…

  1. Louisville JR OF Corey Ray

If you prefer Ray to Lewis and Reed, you’re not wrong. They are all different flavors of a similar overall quality. Like those guys, Ray can do enough of everything well on the diamond to earn the much coveted label of “five-tool player.” The most enthusiastic comp I got from him was a “more compact Kirk Gibson.” That’s a thinker.

  1. Arkansas JR RHP Zach Jackson

We’ll know a lot more about Buddy Reed (and other SEC hitters) by June after he runs the gauntlet of SEC pitching. In addition to teammate AJ Puk, I’ve got three other SEC arms with realistic top ten draft hopes. Jackson’s chance for rising up to the 1-1 discussion depends almost entirely on his delivery and command. If those two things can be smoothed out this spring — they often go hand-in-hand — then his fastball (90-94, 96 peak), curve (deadly), and change (inconsistent but very promising) make him a potential top of the rotation starting pitcher.

  1. Georgia JR RHP Robert Tyler

Just about everything said about Jackson can be said about Tyler. The Georgia righthander has the bigger fastball (90-96, 100 peak) and his two offspeed pitches are flip-flopped (love the change, still tinkering with his spike curve), so getting his delivery worked out enough to convince onlookers that he can hold up over 30 plus starts a year could make him the first college arm off the board.

  1. Mississippi State JR RHP Dakota Hudson

Hudson is the biggest mystery man out of the SEC Four Horsemen (TM pending…with apologies to all the Vandy guys and Kyle Serrano) because buying on him is buying a largely untested college reliever (so far) with control red flags and a limited overall track record. Those are all fair reasons to doubt him right now, but when Hudson has it working there are few pitchers who look more dominant. His easy plus 86-92 cut-slider is right up there with Jackson’s curve as one of the best breaking balls in the entire class.

  1. Tennessee JR 2B/3B Nick Senzel

Arguably the safest of this year’s potential first round college bats, Senzel has electric bat speed, a patient approach, and as good a hit tool as any player listed. His defensive gifts are almost on that same level and his power upside separates him from the rest of what looks like a pretty intriguing overall college group of second basemen.

  1. Notre Dame JR 2B/3B Cavan Biggio

Without having seen every Notre Dame game the past two years — I’m good, but not that good — one might be confused as to how a player with Biggio’s pedigree and collection of scouting accolades (“line drive machine; born to hit; great pitch recognition; great approach, patient and aggressive all at once”…and that’s just what has been written here) could hit .250ish through two college seasons. I say we all agree to chalk it up to bad BABIP luck and eagerly anticipate a monster junior season that puts him squarely back in the first round mix where he belongs.

  1. Nebraska JR OF Ryan Boldt

World Wide Wes said it best: “You can’t chase the night.” Of course that doesn’t stop me from trying to chase missed players from previous draft classes. Nobody was talking about Andrew Benintendi last year at this time — in part because of the confusion that comes with draft-eligible true sophomores, but still — so attempting to get a head-start on the “next Benintendi” seems like a thing to do. As a well-rounded center fielder with a sweet swing and impressive plate coverage, Boldt could be that guy.

  1. Vanderbilt JR OF/1B Bryan Reynolds

CTRL C “Ryan Boldt paragraph”, CTRL V “Ryan Boldt paragraph.” Reynolds also reminds me somewhat of Kyle Lewis in the way that both guys have rapidly improved their plate discipline in ways that haven’t yet shown up consistently on the stat sheet. If or when it does, Reynolds could join Lewis as a potential future impact big league outfielder.

  1. Virginia JR RHP Connor Jones

Jones, the number one guy on a list designed to serve the same purpose as the one created over seven months ago, hasn’t actually done anything to slip this far down the board; competition at the top this year is just that fierce. I like guys with fastballs that move every which way but straight, so Jones’s future looks bright from here. His mid-80s splitter has looked so good at times that he’s gotten one of my all-time favorite cross-culture comps: Masahiro Tanaka.

  1. Stanford JR RHP Cal Quantrill

A case could be made that Quantrill is the most complete, pro-ready college arm in this year’s class. The fact that one could make that claim even after losing almost an entire season of development speaks to the kind of mature talent we’re talking about. Pitchability is a nebulous thing that isn’t easy to pin down, but you know it when you see it. Quantrill has it. He also has a plus changeup and a fastball with serious giddy-up.

  1. Virginia JR C Matt Thaiss

Comps aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, but I’ve always defended them because they provide the needed frame of reference for prospects to gain some modicum of public recognition and leap past the indignity of being known only as soulless, nameless abstract ideas on a page until they have the good fortune of reaching the big leagues. Matt Thaiss played HS ball not too far off from where I live, so I saw him a few times before he packed things up and headed south to Virginia. I never could find the words to describe him just right to friends who were curious as to why I’d drive over an hour after work to see a random high school hitter. It wasn’t until Baseball America dropped a Brian McCann comp on him that they began to understand. You can talk about his power upside, mature approach, and playable defense all you want, but there’s something extra that crystallizes in your mind when a player everybody knows enters the conversation. Nobody with any sense expects Thaiss to have a carbon copy of McCann’s excellent professional career, but the comp gives you some general idea of what style of player is being discussed.

  1. Clemson JR C Chris Okey

Okey doesn’t have quite the same thunder in his bat as Thaiss, but his strong hands, agile movements behind the plate, and average or better arm give him enough ammo to be in the mix for first college catching off the board. The days of the big, strong-armed, plus power, and questionable contact catcher seem to be dwindling as more and more teams appear willing to go back to placing athleticism atop their list of desired attributes for young catching prospects. Hard to say that’s wrong based on where today’s speed and defense style of game looks like it’s heading.

  1. California JR RHP Daulton Jefferies

To have Jefferies, maybe my favorite draft-eligible college pitcher to watch, this low says way more about the quality at the top of this year’s class then his long-term pro ability. Jefferies brings three potential above-average to plus pitches to the mound on any given night. I like the D1 Baseball comparison to Walker Buehler, last year’s 24th overall pick. Getting Jefferies in a similar spot this year would be something to be excited about.

  1. LSU JR OF Jake Fraley

In a class with potential superstars like Lewis, Reed, and Ray roaming outfields at the top, it would be easy to overlook Fraley, a tooled-up center fielder with lightning in his wrists, an unusually balanced swing, and the patient approach of a future leadoff hitter. Do so at your own discretion. Since I started the site in 2009 there’s been at least one LSU outfielder drafted every year. That includes five top-three round picks (Mitchell, Landry, Mahtook, Jones, and Stevenson) in seven classes. Outfielder U seems poised to keep the overall streak alive and make the top three round run a cool six out of eight in 2016.

  1. Vanderbilt rSO RHP Jordan Sheffield

It’s a lazy comp, sure, but the possibility that Sheffield could wind up as this year’s Dillon Tate has stuck with me for almost a full calendar year. He’s undersized yet athletic and well-built enough to handle a starter’s workload, plus he has the three pitches (FB, CU, CB) to get past lineups multiple times. If his two average-ish offspeed that flash above-average to plus can more consistently get there, he’s a potential top ten guy no matter his height.

  1. Wright State JR C Sean Murphy

Watching Murphy do his thing behind the plate is worth the price of admission alone. We’re talking “Queen Bee” level arm strength, ample lateral quicks on balls in the dirt, and dependable hands with an ever-improving ability to frame borderline pitches. He’s second in the class behind Jake Rogers defensively — not just as a catcher, but arguably at any position — but with enough bat (unlike Rogers) to project as a potential above-average all-around regular in time. I expect the battle for top college catching prospect to be closely contested all year with Thaiss, Okey, and Murphy all taking turns atop team-specific draft boards all spring long.

  1. Texas A&M JR OF Nick Banks

If you’ve ever wondered what the right field prototype looked liked, take a gander at the star outfielder in College Station. The combination of speed, strength, power, and one of the country’s most accurate and formidable outfield arms make taking the chance on him continuing to figure things out as a hitter well worth a potential first round pick.

  1. Tennessee JR RHP Kyle Serrano

Serrano is the second guy on this list that reminds me of Walker Buehler from last year, though I still like my own Jarrod Parker comp best. He’s transitioned into more of a sinker/slider pitcher as he’s refined his breaking ball and lost some feel for his change over the years, but as a firm believer in the idea that once you have a skill you own it forever I remain intrigued as to how good he could be once he learns to effectively harness his changeup once again.

  1. Kentucky JR 2B/OF JaVon Shelby

In yet another weird example of an odd comp that I haven’t been able to shake all year, there’s something about JaVon Shelby’s game that takes me back to watching Ian Happ at Cincinnati. Maybe the offensive game isn’t as far along at similar developmental points, but Shelby’s odds at sticking in the dirt have always been higher.

  1. Miami JR 1B/C Zack Collins

If I had more confidence that Collins could play regularly behind the plate at the highest level, he’s shoot up the board ten spots (minimum) in a hurry. He’s a fastball-hunting power-hitting force of nature at the plate with the potential for the kind of prodigious home run blasts that make Twitter lose control of its collective mind. I stand by the Travis Hafner ceiling comp from last December.

  1. Arizona JR 3B Bobby Dalbec

The good popular comp here is Troy Glaus. The less good comp that I’ve heard is Chris Dominguez. The truth, as it so often does, will likely fall in the middle somewhere.

  1. Georgia JR OF Stephen Wrenn

Wrenn is a burner who has looked good enough in center field at times that you wonder if he could handle all three outfield spots by himself at the same time. He’s an athletic outfielder who remains raw at the plate despite two years of regular playing time — making him seemingly one of forty-five of the type in this year’s top fifty — so you’re gambling on skills catching up to the tools. The fact that his glove alone will get him to the big leagues mitigates some of the risk with his bat.

  1. Winthrop JR LHP Matt Crohan

Premium fastball velocity from the left side is always a welcomed sight. Crohan can get it up to the upper-90s (sits 90-94) with a pair of worthwhile offspeed pitches (mid-80s cut-slider and a slowly improving change). He’s got the size, command, and smarts to pitch in a big league rotation for a long time.

  1. Louisville SR RHP Kyle Funkhouser

Much electronic ink was spilled on Funkhouser last season, so I’ll be brief: he’s good. It’s unclear how good — I’d say more mid-rotation than ace, but reasonable minds may disagree — but he’s good. Of the many comps I threw out for him last year my favorite remains Jordan Zimmermann. If he can up his command and control game like Zimmermann, then he could hit that mid-rotation ceiling and keep pushing upwards.

  1. Louisville JR RHP Zack Burdi

Of all the rankings outside of the top ten, this is the one that could make me look dumbest by June. Burdi is a really tough evaluation for him right now because even after multiple years of being on the prospect stage it’s unclear (to me, at least) what role will eventually lead to him maximizing his ability. I’m reticent to throw him in the bullpen right away — many do this because of his last name, I think — because he’s shown the kind of diversity of stuff to stay in a rotation. Whether or not he has the command or consistency remain to be seen. Still, those concerns aren’t all that concerning when your fallback plan means getting to go full-tilt in the bullpen as you unleash a triple-digit fastball on hitters also guarding against two impressive offspeed pitches (CU, SL). It’s almost a win-win for scouting directors at this point. If he has a great spring, then you can believe him in as a starter long-term and grade him accordingly. If there’s still doubt, then you can drop him some but keep a close eye on his slip while being ready to pounce if he falls outside of those first few “don’t screw up or you’re fired” picks. You don’t want to spend a premium pick on a potential reliever, clearly, but if he falls outside of the top twenty picks or so then all of a sudden that backup bullpen plan is good enough to return value on your investment.

  1. Samford JR OF Heath Quinn

Just what this class needed: another outfielder loaded with tools that comes with some question marks about the utility of his big-time power because he’s still learning how to hit against serious pitching.

  1. Miami JR OF Willie Abreu

Nick Banks gets a lot of deserved attention for being a potential early first round pick — somebody even once called him the “right field prototype,” if you can believe it — but Willie Abreu’s tool set is on the same shelf. There’s power, mobility, arm strength, and athleticism to profile as a damn fine regular if it all clicks.

  1. TCU rJR RHP Mitchell Traver

Traver was featured plenty on this site last year as a redshirt-sophomore, so that gives me the chance to rehash the three fun comps I’ve gotten for him over the years: Gil Meche, Nick Masset, and Dustin McGowan. Based on years of doing this — so, entirely anecdotal evidence and not hard data — I’ve found that bigger pitchers (say, 6-6 or taller) have an equal (if not higher) bust rate when compared to the smaller guys (6-0ish) that are typically associated with being higher risk. There are always exceptions and years of scouting biases has created a flawed sample to choose from, but pitching seems like a chore best done for smaller bodies that are easier to consistently contort into the kind of unnatural throwing motions needed to withstand chucking balls 90+ MPH over and over and over again. Maintaining body control, tempo, and command at a certain size can be done, but it sure as heck isn’t easy. Like almost everybody, I see a big pitcher and get excited because with size also often comes velocity, extension, and the intangible intimidation factor. Maybe it’s time to start balancing that excitement with some of the known risks that come with oversized pitchers.

  1. Maryland JR RHP Mike Shawaryn

A long draft season could change this, but Shawaryn looks all the world to be a rock solid bet to wind up a mid-rotation big league starting pitcher. Never a star, but consistently useful for years going forward.

  1. Louisiana JR RHP Reagan Bazar

Bazar is one of the bigger gambles to grace this list. He hasn’t done enough yet at Louisiana to warrant such a placement, but when he’s feeling it his stuff (mid- to upper-90s FB, promising low-80s SL) can suffocate even good hitting. Yes, I realize ranking the 6-7, 250+ pound righthander this high undermines a lot of what I said directly above. I’ll always be a sucker for big velocity and Bazar hitting 100+ certainly qualifies.

  1. Rice rSO RHP Jon Duplantier

Athleticism, projection, and wildness currently define Duplantier as a prospect. Key elements or not, those facets of his game shouldn’t obfuscate how strong his big league starter stuff is. That’s a mixed bag of qualities, but there’s clearly more good than bad when it comes to his future.

  1. San Diego SO 2B/SS Bryson Brigman

Middle infielders are always a need for big league clubs, so it only makes sense that the better ones at the amateur level get pushed up ahead of where you might want to first slot them in when simply breaking down tools. The extra credit for Brigman’s smooth fielding action is deserved, as is the acclaim he gets for his mature approach and sneaky pop.

  1. Vanderbilt JR LHP John Kilichowski

Vanderbilt pumps out so much quality pitching that it’s almost boring to discuss their latest and greatest. Kilichowski (and Sheffield and Bowden and Stone) find themselves sandwiched between last year’s special group of arms and a freshman class that includes Donny Everett and Chandler Day. The big lefty has impeccable control, easy velocity (86-92, 94 peak), and the exact assortment of offspeed pitches (CB, SL, and CU, all average or better) needed to keep hitters off-balance in any count. It’s not ace-type stuff, but it’s the kind of overall package that can do damage in the middle of a rotation for a long time.

  1. Oklahoma State JR LHP Garrett Williams

The scene on Friday night for the Hansen/Williams matchup is going to be something special for college ball. Scouts in attendance will likewise be pretty pleased that they can do some one-stop shopping for not only a potential 1-1 guy in Hansen but also a real threat to wind up in the first round in Williams. Continued maturation of Williams’s curve (a weapon already), change (getting there), and control (work in progress) could get him there.

  1. Nevada JR OF/LHP Trenton Brooks

Brooks is a two-way athlete good enough to play center field or keep progressing as a lefthanded reliever with a plus approach and an all-out style of play. How can you not like a guy like that?

  1. Coastal Carolina JR SS/2B Michael Paez

Our first college shortstop, finally. Paez hasn’t yet gotten a lot of national prospect love that I know of, but he’s deserving. He can hit, run, and sneak the occasional ball over the fence all while being steady enough in the field that I don’t know why you’d have to move him off of shortstop. I wouldn’t quite call it a comp, but my appreciate for Paez resembles what I felt about Blake Trahan in last year’s draft.

  1. Oklahoma JR 3B/RHP Sheldon Neuse

Neuse could still fulfill the promise many (myself included) saw in him during his excellent freshman season back when he looked like a potential Gold Glove defender at third with the kind of bat you’d happily stick in the middle of the order. He could also get more of a look this spring on the mound where he can properly put his mid-90s heat and promising pair of secondary offerings (SL, CU) to use. Or he could have something of a repeat of his 2015 season leaving us unsure how good he really is and thinking of him more of a second to fifth round project (a super talented one, mind you) than a first round prospect.

  1. Wake Forest JR 2B/OF Nate Mondou

Second basemen with power, feel for hitting, and an idea at the plate are damn useful players. The comp I got a few weeks ago on Mondou is about as topical as it gets: Daniel Murphy.

  1. Kent State JR LHP Eric Lauer

I loved Andrew Chafin as a prospect. Everybody who has been around the Kent State program for a while that I’ve talked to agree that Lauer is better. I can see it: he’s more athletic, has better fastball command, and comes with a cleaner medical history.

  1. Florida JR 1B Pete Alonso

The Gators have so much talent that it’s inevitable that even a top guy or three can lay claim to getting overlooked by the national media. Alonso, with plus bat speed and power to match, is that guy for me. The burgeoning plate discipline is the cherry on top. I’m not in the national media, but maybe I’ll look back and see how I overlooked him as he rises up boards next spring.

  1. Duke JR RHP Bailey Clark

Poised for a big potential rise in 2016, Clark has the kind of stuff that blows you away on his best days and leaves you wanting more on his not so best days. I think he puts it all together this year and makes this ranking look foolish by June.

  1. Louisville JR 2B/OF Nick Solak

The day you find me unwilling to champion a natural born hitter with a preternatural sense of the strike zone is the day I hang up the keyboard. Solak is a tough guy to project because so much of his value is tied up in his bat, but if he build on an already impressive first two seasons at Louisville in 2016 then he might just hit his way into the draft’s top two rounds.

  1. Ohio State JR OF Ronnie Dawson

You could say this about almost any of this year’s upper-echelon of college outfielders, but I saved it specifically for Ronnie Dawson: he’s a big-time prospect from the minute you spot him getting off the bus. He looks more like a baseball destroying cyborg sent from the past to right the wrongs of his fallen brothers who fell victim to offspeed pitches and high fastballs on the regular. Few of his peers can quite match him when it comes to his athleticism, hand-eye coordination, and sheer physical strength. As a member of this year’s college outfield class, however, he’s not immune from having to deal with the open question as to whether or not he can curb his overly aggressive approach at the plate enough to best utilize his raw talents.

  1. Kentucky SR RHP Kyle Cody

As an outsider with no knowledge of how Cody’s negotiations with Minnesota actually went down, I’m still surprised that a fair deal for both sides couldn’t be reached last summer. The big righthander (here we go again…) is what we thought he was: big, righthanded, erratic with his command, and an absolute handful for the opposition when his three pitches (mid-90s FB, average 76-82 kCB that flashes plus, hard CU with average upside) are working. There are no real surprises left in his amateur development, so the leap to the pro game seemed inevitable. Maybe he’s got a trick or two up his sleeve yet…

*****

Best of the rest position players…

  • Austin Peay JR SS/3B Logan Gray
  • College of Charleston JR OF/SS Bradley Jones
  • Oklahoma State JR OF Ryan Sluder
  • Ohio State JR OF Troy Montgomery
  • Virginia JR SS/3B Daniel Pinero
  • Vanderbilt SO 3B/SS Will Toffey
  • Auburn JR OF Anfernee Grier
  • Tulane JR SS Stephen Alemais
  • NC State JR C/3B Andrew Knizner
  • Pacific SR OF Giovanni Brusa
  • Hawaii JR 2B Josh Rojas
  • Wisconsin-Milwaukee rJR SS/3B Eric Solberg
  • Murray State JR C Tyler Lawrence
  • Miami JR OF Jacob Heyward
  • Louisville rSO 3B/SS Blake Tiberi
  • Florida State JR OF/SS Ben DeLuzio
  • Illinois SR C Jason Goldstein
  • Texas JR C Tres Barrera
  • Oregon State JR SS Trevor Morrison
  • Missouri JR SS/3B Ryan Howard
  • Mississippi State rSO OF Brent Rooker
  • Stony Brook JR OF Toby Handley
  • Virginia Commonwealth JR OF/2B Logan Farrar
  • Belmont JR SS Tyler Walsh
  • Southern Mississippi SR 1B Tim Lynch
  • Old Dominion JR SS/OF Nick Walker
  • Maryland JR C/1B Nick Cieri
  • Coastal Carolina SO OF Dalton Ewing
  • St. John’s JR OF Michael Donadio
  • Stanford JR SS/2B Tommy Edman
  • Arizona State JR SS/2B Colby Woodmansee
  • Tulane JR C Jake Rogers
  • Texas A&M JR 2B/OF Ryne Birk
  • Mercer JR C Charlie Madden
  • Saint Louis SR 3B Braxton Martinez
  • UC Santa Barbara rJR OF Andrew Calica
  • South Alabama rJR OF/LHP Cole Billingsley
  • USC JR C/1B Jeremy Martinez
  • Texas State JR OF/1B Granger Studdard
  • Bradley JR 3B Spencer Gaa
  • Long Beach State JR SS/2B Garrett Hampson
  • Gonzaga SR 1B/RHP Taylor Jones
  • NC State JR 1B Preston Palmeiro
  • Mississippi State rJR OF Jacob Robson
  • Jacksonville JR OF Austin Hays
  • Louisiana Tech rSR SS/2B Taylor Love
  • Oral Roberts JR C Brent Williams
  • Southeast Missouri State JR OF Dan Holst
  • Dallas Baptist SR OF Daniel Sweet
  • St. John’s SR OF Alex Caruso

*****

Best of the rest pitchers…

  • Vanderbilt JR LHP Ben Bowden
  • Central Michigan JR LHP/1B Nick Deeg
  • Auburn JR RHP/1B Keegan Thompson
  • Georgia JR LHP Connor Jones
  • Illinois JR RHP Cody Sedlock
  • Florida JR RHP Logan Shore
  • Florida JR RHP Dane Dunning
  • Florida JR RHP Shaun Anderson
  • Sacred Heart JR RHP Jason Foley
  • Michigan JR LHP/1B Carmen Beneditti
  • Air Force JR LHP Jacob DeVries
  • St. Mary’s JR RHP Corbin Burnes
  • Albany JR RHP Stephen Woods
  • Indiana rJR RHP Jake Kelzer
  • Oregon JR RHP Stephen Nogosek
  • Connecticut JR LHP Anthony Kay
  • Oregon rJR LHP Cole Irvin
  • Mississippi State JR LHP Daniel Brown
  • Liberty JR RHP/OF Parker Bean
  • Pacific JR RHP Vince Arobio
  • Pittsburgh JR RHP TJ Zeuch
  • Loyola Marymount JR RHP JD Busfield
  • Washington State JR RHP Ian Hamilton
  • Michigan State rJR LHP Cameron Vieaux
  • Michigan JR LHP Brett Adcock
  • Gonzaga JR RHP Brandon Bailey
  • South Carolina JR RHP Wil Crowe
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30 Comments

  1. […] Click here for an UPDATED LIST (October 23, 2015) if you’re into that sort of thing… […]

  2. Cal Fan says:

    Where is Mitchell “El Gaucho” Kranson on this list? He was the hero of Cal’s run at the Texas A&M Regional and is expected to have a great Senior season.

    • Rob Ozga says:

      I like Kranson quite a bit as a college player and he’s a prospect for sure, but I’m less sure about his long-term pro prospects than you might be. As a senior catcher with experience calling his own games and reasonable athleticism he’ll have value to clubs who might like him as an organizational player and potential backup, but I think his lack of power keeps his ceiling in check. So he’s a draftable prospect, but not at the same level as the guys listed here.

  3. RUStoney33 says:

    Hello. No mention of any UNCW players on your 2016 college prospects list? RHP Closer Jared Gesell sits at 93-94 and could have gone in the draft this past June. 5 saves, .180 BA against, 30 Ks, in 31-2/3 innings. Jr. SS Kennard McDowell has all the tools, .289/.316/.433, 5 HRs, 29 RBI. LHH Catcher Gavin Stupienski hit .344/.415/.516, 6 HR, 37 RBI as a Redshirt Soph last year, and was just off your Top 100 catchers this past June. Led Coastal Plain League in hits (66) and RBI (42) in 2014. Slow start with Wilmington in CPL this past summer (.250/.333/.375, 7 2Bs, 1 HR, 15 RBI in 26 games) before finishing strong for Wareham at the Cape (.351/.400/.459) with 4 doubles and 6 RBI in 12 games. Helped Wareham make the playoffs as late season catcher helping out Knizer and Cieri. Was All-CAA and Baton Rouge Tournaments catcher. All three players helped UNCW to the Baton Rouge Regional, smoking Tulane twice while losing to LSU 2-0, twice.

    • Ryan Molacek says:

      Uncw has some nice players, but not top 5 round talent. Stupinski and Gessel could sneak up there as senior signs. McDowell simply doesn’t walk enough. The school that should be getting more recognition is Southeastern Louisiana, very injury prone last season, but were still successful. They were on their 3rd string Catcher and still should’ve made it to the field of 64, but the committee liked Virginia on the hot streak over the team who had a dozen more wins who had a bad weekend. The players I would like to see up there are Mitchell Jordan of Stetson (great Cape Cod numbers) and Jameson Fisher (catcher coming off torn acl who would of been top 5 round pick ly) from SE Louisiana.

      • Rob Ozga says:

        We’re definitely on the same page when it comes to the UNCW prospects. I also really, really like Jameson Fisher. Wrote about him a fair amount last year and was a little surprised that a team didn’t make a run at him last year even with the injury. He was actually included in my final draft top 500 rankings (499, but still counts!). I strongly believe in the bat, so if he comes back 100% and puts some of the defensive questions surrounding him to rest, he’s a potential top five round guy this year. Thaiss, Okey, Murphy, Knizner, Lawrence, Goldstein, Barrera, Cieri, Rogers, Madden, Martinez, Williams…it’s another good year for college catching prospects. Jordan is another guy who just missed the cut. Really nice first two years at Stetson, outstanding on the Cape (as you mentioned), and really solid stuff across the board. The only thing keeping him outside that top tier for me right now is the lack of a knockout secondary pitch. That’s a nit-picky concern as his curve and change both flash above-average already, but I personally like to see that one go-to offspeed pitch that can miss bats for top amateurs. Jordan could very well get there…and even if he stays as is, he’s really good. Could see him pitching his way to the second round if everything breaks right, though I have him more in the 3-5 range at present. Great names, though.

    • Rob Ozga says:

      It’s still early enough for me that I haven’t done as thorough enough of a look at the Wilmington roster as I’d like to give you a proper response, but I’ll do what I can in the interest of not wanting to leave you hanging any longer. Ryan’s comment above smartly touched on a couple of the reasons why certain players were left off. A few quick thoughts on the three you mentioned…

      Gesell – He’s one of my favorite relief prospects in this class and a potential steal as a senior-sign for somebody in rounds 8/9/10. I have him throwing 88-94 (95 peak) with a good changeup and an emerging slider to go along with plenty of deception in his delivery and great size. If he keeps making strides with his control, he’s a real prospect. Big fan. I do tend to personally devalue relievers more than others might, so that explains keeping him off this list. Honestly, he wasn’t even a consideration and that’s with me liking him a lot. It’s a tough list to crack.

      McDowell – As Ryan said, McDowell’s plate discipline is what keeps him off here. Walking six times to 55 strikeouts while still an amateur is a major red flag. Still, he’s talented enough otherwise (solid bat, sneaky pop, really impressive defensive tools) that he is firmly on the draft radar even if he doesn’t control the strike zone better this year.

      Stupienski – Now we’re talking! I like Stupienski best out of this trio and think he could climb much, much higher up the catching lists than where I had him (too low, admittedly) last year. I don’t yet know a ton about him — your comment was really helpful in this regard! — but everything I’ve read and heard has been positive to date. Positive scouting buzz + good numbers = real prospect worth following.

      I still really like Terence Connelly, BTW. Steven Linkous and Casey Golden also look promising from here. Could also see guys like Ryan Foster, Andy Austin, and Joe Bertone playing their way into draft consideration this spring. It’s a good team coming back.

      • RUStoney33 says:

        Thank you for your response on UNCW. Linkous: Extremely fast. Makes more contact and cuts down on K’s, he’s right there.
        Golden: Has the tools. Seahawks need him to break out this year. Despite struggling for periods of time, put up good numbers.
        Connelly: Grinding baseball player. Provide more X-base pop, will really help. Austin: Clutch, has speed, excellent around the bag at first. Can also play good corner OF. Bertone: Awesome raw power. If he hits .250, 10 HRs and 30+ ribbies…. the latter two with good senior seasons, UNCW will be back in a Regional. Need pitching staff to match/improve on Ramsey/Phillips/Monroe/Shepley–all drafted in June. RHP Foster: Bulldog, competes and eats innings. Dominated Tulane at Baton Rouge Regional. Concede that most may not be Top 5 Round guys, but if they have the seasons they are capable of, Gesell and Stupienski can be there. McDowell’s discipline should be much, much improved. Big, strong, plus arm, makes spectacular plays. Make more of the routines cleanly. Strong Soph and Frosh classes.

      • Rob Ozga says:

        Excellent response here. I’ve got not much to add since you covered it all really well. Once I get a little deeper into my college prep work, I’ll see if I can add anything else specific here but you know your stuff. For now, I have to say that UNCW looks really formidable yet again this yet. They’ve built some kind of program over the years. Once the season starts things start to slip by me pretty easily, so don’t be a stranger with any updates or observations you care to share. And if I ever say anything stupid, feel free to call me out on it!

      • RUStoney33 says:

        Can’t wait for February 19!!!

  4. CalBaseballFan says:

    His power numbers certainly have risen. His number of XBH’s is also quite high for a player of average speed. I think they translate well to power at the next level. Plus he is the toughest K in the PAC12 with very few GDP’s.

    • Rob Ozga says:

      All true. He’s improved in the power department, so the possibility of him taking the next step certainly exists. He has a lot of positive traits in his game going for him. Might seem a bit random but perhaps following the Paul Lo Duca path could be his best case scenario.

  5. Ryan Molacek says:

    I’ve always wondered how aren’t you a scout in some organization. You do a great job covering the draft and I’m really into covering amateur baseball as well. I don’t get a chance to really watch much college baseball in person since I’m a teen living in small town USA. Anyways, I enjoy reading your reports and look forward to your next report.

    • Rob Ozga says:

      Really appreciate this. Thanks a lot.

      I have to say your passion for amateur ball comes across in a major way. I know the recent trend in baseball prospect coverage is the firsthand report approach, but I think there’s always room for different styles. Plus, geography is overrated and baseball can be consumed in a variety of ways, so keep on doing what you’re doing.

      If you do get out to a game and would like a platform to share your observations, let me know. Or if you ever want to share general notes from around the world of amateur ball (more my style these days), that’s cool too. One of the best parts of this site is getting to talk baseball with those who love it as much as I do, so don’t be a stranger.

      • Ryan Molacek says:

        Since you said so alright. I don’t own a radar gun and finally can drive I don’t have a lot of actual reports, but here is some based on numbers.
        LF Anthony Pacheco UNK good numbers throughout college. L-R 6-0 190 Senior
        2013 Fr. .333 BA .427 OBP 4 HR
        2014 So. .404 BA .462 OBP 4 HR
        2015 Jr. numbers dropped, but didn’t have much protection .333 BA .419 OBP 11HR
        LF/CF Cole Gruber UNO lefty Sr.
        .399 BA .495 OBP 22-28 SB
        3B Clayton Taylor UNO Sr.
        Nice Power
        RHP Tyler Fox Sr.
        Good Enough numbers to get drafted 2.88 ERA
        OF Nathan Ackerman Wayne State College Sr.
        Big Power .694 Slugging in DII college
        IF Harrison Crawford Creighton
        Numbers aren’t pretty, but plays at TD ameritrade. Hit 3 HR vs. opponents hitting 4 HRs against Creighton the whole season.
        RHP Matt Warren Creighton
        Control/command freak
        Nebraska has Shleppenbach, Boldt, and Burkamper. Colton Howell I’m not huge on, but should be drafted as well.
        I will try to see some more games this year and keep you updated.

      • Rob Ozga says:

        All really good under-the-radar names. Gruber stands out to me as a really solid potential senior-sign. Fox could be in the same boat as an upper-80s command guy with a long track record of success. Taylor and Crawford are both really underrated infielders too. Great stuff.

  6. jim says:

    Just wanted to get your opinion on Miami’s first baseman, RJR, Chris Barr? You had him at 34 First baseman last year. Thanks for your input!

    • Rob Ozga says:

      Hey! I still like Chris Barr quite a bit in 2016. He’s got an impressive blend of speed, pop, and patience, plus a really smooth glove at first. If a team thinks he can slide back into the outfield some as a pro (you’d likely know if that’s possible better than I would!), then that would only enhance his value. He might be the kind of player who will get more serious looks as a senior next season, but I wouldn’t rule anything out with a big spring in 2016. Best of luck to him this year.

  7. Ken Wilson says:

    As a SEC fan, I think you missed a few that should be included: Fraley – LSU OF- Batted over 300 last year, and great range in outfield; Bugg – LSU RHP-Big kid with under 0.2 ERA last year; Delay – Vandy C – Has gun for arm and is probably top catcher in SEC; Jackson – Arkansas RHP – About 0.200 ERA last year, but expecting great things this year; My sleeper- Holland – Miss State INF- A senior 2nd baseman who battled injuries, but is back to full strength this year.

    • RUStoney33 says:

      Fraley was #20 on BDR’s report above. Agreed, very good player.

    • Rob Ozga says:

      As mentioned, Fraley was covered on the list. He’s great. Jackson is also great: he’s 8th on the list.

      Bugg’s size is really intriguing and his stuff is certainly good enough for pro ball. Nice name there. I’d agree Delay is the top draft-eligible SEC catcher this year and a pretty safe bet to wind up one of the top ten college catchers selected. Holland is a fun sleeper and you described his game well. If 100% healthy this year, he should wind up one of the class’s finer middle infield senior-signs.

      All really strong names and definitely potential pro players. Thanks for giving them a little extra deserved attention here.

  8. Joe Coke says:

    A few comments – I spent a lot of time this at the Cape and with team USA, and a few comments on players in your list –
    Wrenn (GA) was very impressive and gets great jumps on balls can absolutely cover OF. Very athletic. Sheffield (Vandebilt) – While he has great velocity (95+) his control is suspect. Hopefully he’ll figure it out. Craig (Wake)- Obviously had a great season at Wake, but looked lost most times at the Cape, hopefully he get back to form this season. I think he batted below .220?
    Okey (Clemson) – Didn’t play well with team USA. Hit poorly (0.125?) and made a number of poor decisions/plays that I saw. Maybe he was just tired. I’ve seen him play before, but wasn’t impressed in the 3 games I saw.
    Reynolds (Vandy) – Very athletic, and gets to balls in the gap easily. Hit over 0.300 at the Cape. Impressive player.

    • Rob Ozga says:

      Great comment, thanks for doing so. I love the firsthand observations like this. Very happy to hear that you’ve seen what I’ve also seen in the past with Wrenn. Love watching him chase down balls in center. I remember BA had a Peter Bourjos comp on him from way back, and I think it fits defensively. Agree on Sheffield needing to improve both his command and control before getting into the first round mix. He’s a guy I think of as having first round stuff but fifth round command/control; splitting the difference and thinking of him as a third rounder (as of now) feels fair. Okey is a surprisingly divisive prospect this year: some guys really like him, others come away unimpressed. There’s been enough of those negatives you spoke of — “sloppy” is a word I’ve heard more than once — that I’m beginning to get a little concerned about his long-term outlook. Craig is another guy I started out really, really high on, but between the relative struggles on the Cape (as you mentioned) and the nagging belief that his numbers are unduly inflated by Wake’s home park…I don’t know if I overrated him from the start or what.

      Do you think Reynolds can stick in center as a pro over the long haul? That’s my one big question with him right now. I lean towards yes — actually think he’s a better fit for center than a corner based on how he reads balls off the bat — but I’m not 100% sure yet.

  9. E-Dub says:

    Thoroughly enjoyable reading as always. Can’t help but feel as if Connor Jones is this year’s Michael Wacha, destined to out perform the pitchers who will be drafted before him.

    Anfernee Grier is my “other guys” listee pick to click. If he shows he can stick in CF, I think the stick will play.

    • Rob Ozga says:

      I like the parallel between Jones and Wacha. Think you might really be on to something there.

      Grier is a great name to like out of the “other guys.” I personally believe in his CF defense above any other singular facet of his game, so add that to your belief that he’ll hit…that’s a heck of a player. Would love to see him work out as there has been a pretty substantial lack of Anfernee’s in sports since Penny (and Lil’ Penny) retired.

  10. Randy Fisher says:

    Jameson Fisher is stronger and his swing is much better now than his fresman and sophomore years.

    • Rob Ozga says:

      Great to hear. He’s one of my favorites in this class. I’ve read that he’s not catching to start the year as he recovers from last year’s injury. Any insight there that you’re free to share? As a catcher, I really think he’s a big-time prospect. Either way, I’ll be rooting for him this spring.

  11. Randy Fisher says:

    You left a good one off the list, you’ll see. Much stronger and much better swing than his sophomore or freshman year, and those were pretty good years. Just because he was medical redshirt last year dosen’t mean he lost any talent.

    • Rob Ozga says:

      Well this is from October. Since then I’ve ranked him as the best prospect in his conference (after doing the same last season even after the injury) and mentioned him as a top five to ten round prospect, so, yeah, guess we’ll see!

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