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2016 MLB Draft Prospects – Clemson

SR RHP Clate Schmidt (2016)
rSR RHP Patrick Andrews (2016)
rJR RHP Wales Toney (2016)
rJR RHP Garrett Lovorn (2016)
JR LHP Alex Bostic (2016)
JR LHP Pat Krall (2016)
JR LHP Andrew Towns (2016)
rSO RHP Drew Moyer (2016)
rJR RHP/1B Jackson Campana (2016)
JR C Chris Okey (2016)
JR SS/2B Eli White (2016)
JR 3B/SS Weston Wilson (2016)
rSO OF/1B Reed Rohlman (2016)
rSO 3B Glenn Batson (2016)
rJR OF Maleeke Gibson (2016)
rJR 1B/OF Andrew Cox (2016)
FR LHP Jake Higginbotham (2017)
SO LHP Charlie Barnes (2017)
SO RHP Paul Campbell (2017)
SO 2B Adam Renwick (2017)
SO OF Chase Pinder (2017)
rFR OF KJ Bryant (2017)
SO OF Drew Wharton (2017)
SO C Robert Jolly (2017)
SO C/1B Chris Williams (2017)
FR RHP Ryley Gilliam (2018)
FR RHP Zach Goodman (2018)
FR RHP Graham Lawson (2018)
FR RHP/1B Brooks Crawford (2018)
FR RHP Tom Walker (2018)
FR RHP Andrew Papp (2018)
FR C Jordan Greene (2018)
FR SS/2B Grant Cox (2018)

JR C Chris Okey is in a great position heading into his draft year as an athletic, above-average all-around defensive catcher who can run a little bit. In today’s game, that’s exactly what big league teams want in a catcher, especially if you throw in the (overrated by the internet in terms of importance, but not altogether unimportant) ability to frame pitches. As I’ve written about countless times before (including the quoted Okey blurb from October you can read below), as the run environment has shifted away from the highest highs of the PED-era so too has the general preference for athleticism and defensive reliability behind the plate. This shift has come largely at the expense of big power and raw arm strength at the position. Mobility, flexibility, and fundamentally sound glovework is what moves the needle now. I’m thinking of recent early picks like Taylor Ward, Max Pentecost, Reese McGuire, and Justin O’Conner as the prototypes for this latest wave. Athletes like Russell Martin, Carlos Ruiz, Jonathan Lucroy, and Buster Posey (the man I remember watching play a decent shortstop once upon a time at Florida State) all represent the best case scenario for this player archetype; not coincidentally, those guys all rank in the top nine in fWAR since 2010 with a lot of their value tied up in excellent defensive numbers.

So what does any of this really have to do with Okey? While it’s great that he ticks off many of the boxes that teams like in a catching prospect, nobody is drafting a theoretical catcher archetype. Okey may be a fine example of the modern catcher, but that doesn’t mean he’s a slam dunk first round catcher. Here’s what I wrote about him a few months back…

Okey doesn’t have quite the same thunder in his bat as [Matt] 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.

That all holds up today (obviously…it’s been two months!), but it should be noted that the nice things said about his game are a step below what many (myself included) were saying about him after his senior season of high school. His defense behind the plate never quite reached the threshold where you’d call any one component of his game consistently plus. He’s shown some plus pop times in the past, sure, but not as often as average to above-average times. I don’t think anybody would have imagined he’d get more athletic past his teenage years — time has a way of catching up to everybody — but there is a little bit more stiffness to him at present than you might think if going off those old scouting reports. He’s still the athletic, above-average all-around defensive catcher who can run a little bit that we mentioned at the top. And if we’re going to call him out some for slipping a bit — or, perhaps more accurately, not developing as hoped — with the glove, then it’s only right to praise him for the maturation of his power. What was once considered promising but far off has turned into displays of average or better present power with the shot at plus raw still out there. I’d err on the side of caution with his future power grade and put him closer to the average to above-average range where it currently plays, but that still means he could be a steady 15-20 home run bat at his peak. One interesting name that I heard as a comparison that makes a little bit of sense: Mike Lieberthal.

I still like Matt Thaiss as the draft’s top college catcher (with Zack Collins and the reports of his improved defense coming on very fast), but Okey and a host of others remain just a half-step behind as we enter the spring season.

JR SS/2B Eli White and JR 3B/SS Weston Wilson should make up what looks to be one of college ball’s most fascinating left sides of the infield. Neither White, an unsigned 37th round pick as a draft-eligible sophomore last season, nor Wilson, a former shortstop who has grown nicely into a prototypical third baseman, have the kind of plate discipline to profile as future regulars at this point, but the tools are loud. White is a good athlete who can really run with tons of bat speed and a high probability of sticking at shortstop. I compared him to Daniel Pinero last year and think he could have a similar impact in 2016. Wilson was a big favorite out of high school because of his intriguing defensive tools and emerging power. Each player still has both a lot to work on and a lot to work with.

rJR OF Maleeke Gibson remains intriguing as a speedy athlete lottery ticket. rSO OF/1B Reed Rohlman might hit his way onto rankings by the end of the season. rSO 3B Glenn Batson has flashed power upside, but is still a long way away in terms of approach.

SR RHP Clate Schmidt has overcome a great deal to get back to position himself to a return to the mound this spring. His athleticism, fastball (90-94, 96 peak), and impressive low-80s slider make him a prospect to watch, and his story of perseverance makes him a player to appreciate. If the return to health in 2016 has him feeling more like himself this spring (i.e., he’s more 2014 than 2015), then his feel-good story should end with a potential top ten round draft selection and honest shot in pro ball.

JR LHP Alex Bostic lives in the low-90s from the left side with an average or better upper-70s breaking ball. That’ll get you noticed. rJR RHP Wales Toney has always been a favorite of mine thanks to his quality stuff (88-92 FB, up to 95) and raw yet interesting offspeed repertoire. I think having a memorable name probably helps, too. I have much love for JR LHP Pat Krall, one of the last few survivors of the Temple program still kicking around college ball. He’s more than just a good story as his ability to miss bats (9.0 K/9 in 38 IP last year) with reasonably solid stuff (upper-80s FB, usable CU) from the left side make him a potential late-round prospect. rSO RHP Drew Moyer pitched really well in limited innings last season. He’s got the stuff to back it up (low-90s FB, advanced CU), so keep him in mind this spring. rJR RHP/1B Jackson Campana is a little bit like the pitching version of Maleeke Gibson to me. I see his size (6-6, 225) and wonder what he could do if the stars aligned, but so far fortune hasn’t been on his side. Maybe this is the year he can get regular time — pitching or hitting, I’m not picky — and show off what he can really do. Getting rSR RHP Patrick Andrews back is both good for the 2016 Clemson team and for fans of large-bodied (6-4, 240) righthanded pitchers who can crank it up to the mid-90s (88-92 FB, 94-95 peak). Add in an average or better slider and you’ve got a potential relief prospect if he can stay healthy.

Two guys to watch out for in future drafts that aren’t yet listed on the Clemson roster: SO SS Grayson Byrd and FR OF Seth Beer.

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