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2016 MLB Draft Prospects – Duke

JR RHP Bailey Clark (2016)
rSO RHP Karl Blum (2016)
rSO LHP Jim Ziemba (2016)
SR LHP Nick Hendrix (2016)
rSR RHP Conner Stevens (2016)
JR LHP Kevin Lewallyn (2016)
rSR LHP Trent Swart (2016)
rSR RHP Kellen Urbon (2016)
rJR OF Jalen Phillips (2016)
JR C Cristian Perez (2016)
SO LHP Chris McGrath (2017)
SO LHP Mitch Stallings (2017)
SO RHP/SS Ryan Day (2017)
SO 3B/RHP Jack Labosky (2017)
SO 1B Justin Bellinger (2017)
SO 3B/SS Max Miller (2017)
SO 2B/OF Peter Zyla (2017)
SO OF Michael Smicicklas (2017)
SO OF Evan Dougherty (2017)
FR RHP Al Pesto (2018)
FR OF Keyston Fuller (2018)
FR OF Kennie Taylor (2018)
FR OF Jimmy Herron (2018)
FR SS Zack Kone (2018)
FR SS Zack Kesterson (2018)
FR OF Griffin Conine (2018)

JR RHP Bailey Clark was ranked 47th on the initial 2016 MLB Draft prospect list (college only) back in October. This was what was written then…

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.

…and obviously not much has changed in the two months since. Clark pitched really well last year (2.95 ERA in 58 IP), but fell just short in terms of peripherals (7.60 K/9 and 3.26 BB/9) where many of the recent first day college starting pitchers have finished in recent years. That’s a very simplistic, surface-level analysis of his 2015 performance, but it runs parallel with the scouting reports from many who saw him this past spring. Clark is really good, but still leaves you wanting more. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — being a finished product at 20-years-old is more of a negative than a positive in the eyes of many in the scouting world — but it speaks to the developmental challenges facing Clark if he wants to jump up into the first round mix. The fastball (88-94, 96 peak) is there, the size (6-5, 210) is there, and the athleticism is there, so it’ll come down to gaining more command and consistency on his mid-80s cut-SL (a knockout pitch when on) and trusting his nascent changeup in game action enough to give scouts an honest opportunity to assess it. Even if little changes with Clark between now and June, we’re still talking a top five round lock with the high-floor possibility of future late-inning reliever. If he makes the expected leap in 2016, then the first round will have to make room for one more college arm.

JR C Cristian Perez and rJR OF Jalen Phillips are both “show-me” prospects at this stage. Both are physically advanced and full of intriguing tools, but still very rough around the edges when it comes to demonstrating consistent professional baseball skills. It’s not a stretch at all to see one or both guys wind up in the top ten rounds: Perez has a unique blend of athleticism, physical strength, power upside, and defensive promise behind the plate while Phillips is an average or better runner with an elite throwing arm. Holding them back offensively is an all-or-nothing approach to hitting that led to a combined 31 BB/108 K ratio last season. If either player begins taking better at bats, then they’ll move up these rankings quickly. Until then, however, I’ll remain bearish on their professional futures.

Neither rSO RHP Karl Blum nor rSO LHP Jim Ziemba have the type of track records typically associated with potential top ten round guys, but both could reach that level by June. Blum is a strike-thrower with a nice fastball (88-92 with more coming) and above-average breaking ball, plus plenty of size (6-5, 210) and athleticism. The 6-10, 230 pound Ziemba tops him in the size department and matches him in terms of present stuff. The big righthander was all kinds of wild in a small sample (9.2 IP) last season, but has the kind of ability to do major damage down the line with his funky sidearm delivery if he can get his mechanics in check.

SR LHP Nick Hendrix and rSR LHP Trent Swart could get looks as matchup lefty relievers. I’ve always had a soft spot for Swart, a changeup specialist with enough fastball (mid- to upper-80s) and deception to mess with the timing of good hitters. If he’s healthy after missing last year (Tommy John surgery), then there’s no reason he won’t get some sort of a shot in pro ball. Cornell transfer rSR RHP Kellen Urbon joins them as a potential mid- to late-round relief prospect of note.



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