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2016 MLB Draft Prospects – LSU

SR LHP John Valek (2016)
rJR RHP Hunter Newman (2016)
JR LHP Jared Poche’ (2016)
SR LHP Hunter Devall (2016)
rJR RHP Russell Reynolds (2016)
JR RHP Parker Bugg (2016)
rSO RHP Jesse Stallings (2016)
JR RHP Alden Cartwright (2016)
JR RHP Collin Strall (2016)
JR RHP Riley Smith (2016)
JR OF Jake Fraley (2016)
SO 3B/2B Greg Deichmann (2016)
JR 2B Kramer Robertson (2016)
JR OF Cody Ducote (2016)
JR 2B Cole Freeman (2016)
JR C Jordan Romero (2016)
SO RHP Austin Bain (2017)
SO RHP Alex Lange (2017)
rFR LHP Jake Latz (2017)
SO RHP Doug Norman (2017)
SO OF Beau Jordan (2017)
SO C/1B Bryce Jordan (2017)
SO C Mike Papierski (2017)
FR RHP Cole McKay (2018)
FR RHP Caleb Gilbert (2018)
FR OF/LHP Brennan Breaux (2018)
FR 3B/SS O’Neal Lochridge (2018)
FR SS Trey Dawson (2018)
FR OF Antoine Duplantis (2018)
FR OF/1B Brody Wofford (2018)
FR 3B Chris Reid (2018)

JR LHP Jared Poche’ is a tough guy to peg as a pro prospect because so much of his value comes from what he is rather than what he could be. That’s antithetical to everything that those who cover the draft are all about! What he is should be enough to have a long pro career: upper-80s fastball that can sometimes sit as high as 88-92 (93 peak), above-average or better 73-78 CB that flashes plus, and a really good 78-82 CU that is at least average and probably better. Add that in to a good new-ish cutter and strong overall command, and you can see that Poche’ has what it takes to get pro hitters out. How dare he be so polished and composed at such a young age!

What keeps Poche’ from being a true threat to crash the draft’s early rounds is the lack of projection in his 6-1, 200 pound frame and decent but not exciting peripherals (5.11 K/9 and 5.94 K/9) through two college seasons. He’s been an absolute workhorse as a weekend starter for LSU since first stepping foot on campus and his outstanding college career should be celebrated whether it comes to a close this June or next, but the possibility that he’s more great college pitcher than big-time pro prospect feels very real to me. His is just a tough profile to find any reasonable recent draft contemporaries to compare against. We need a filled-out lefthander with average velocity (give or take), a nice assortment of offspeed stuff, and lots of high-level college success despite underwhelming peripherals. Many guys check all but one of those boxes (size and peripherals are often the missing piece), but it’s hard to find anybody who went in the top five rounds or so with the same background. Closest that I found include guys (listed in order of my pre-draft rankings last June) like Travis Bergen from Kennesaw State (7th), Kevin Duchene from Illinois (5th), Scott Effross from Indiana (15th), Christian Trent from Mississippi (24th), Bobby Poyner from Florida (14th), and Reid Love from East Carolina (10th). Bergen and Duchene give me some hope that there’s room in the first seven or so rounds for a competitor like Poche’. Of course, comparisons like these lean heavily on historical trends often at the expense of the individual in question. It only takes one player to rise above and break past the ceiling that others have put on them, much the same way that “(fill in the blank) has never happened” until the first time that it does. Maybe Poche’ is the one to crack the draft’s top five rounds and make the paragraph you’re reading right now seem silly. I think Poche’ falling somewhere between round six and ten is the most likely outcome, but we’ll see.

SR LHP John Valek takes his mid- to upper-80s fastball, solid change, and plus command from Akron to LSU for the upcoming season. A year of holding his own in the SEC could get him some looks as a potential late-round matchup lefty possibility for some teams. rJR RHP Russell Reynolds has shown slow yet steady improvement as he’s come back from a labrum injury in 2013. He could force his way back into the draft mix if his stuff returns to pre-surgery levels. JR RHP Parker Bugg has enticing size (6-6, 220) and a fastball/slider combination that works well in relief. I’m a big fan of rSO RHP Jesse Stallings, a hard thrower (88-94, 95 peak) with a deceptive delivery and a split-change he makes good use of.

It’s unclear what to make of JR RHP Alden Cartwright at this point. Reports on his stuff are pretty ordinary — upper-80s heat complemented with a nice upper-70s curve — and he’s not particularly big (6-0, 190), but his peripherals last season (13.05 K/9 and 1.80 BB/9) make him worth keeping in mind. rJR RHP Hunter Newman’s stuff is a tick better across the board — 88-92 FB with a 75-77 CB with plus upside — and his peripherals aren’t far off the mark (8.27 K/9). Judging by more conventional standards, such as ERA (an eye-popping 0.49 in 36.2 IP last year), makes him a clear cut relief arm to know. I’ll always have a soft sport for undersized (5-8, 180) SR LHP Hunter Devall, a quality arm from the left side who keeps getting batters out year after year.

JR RHP Riley Smith is the biggest wild card on the staff. His raw ability suggests he could be the highest drafted arm off of this staff in 2016, but there’s always some risk in projecting a college arm who hasn’t done it at this level that high. I’ve always preferred talent to experience, so count me very much in on Smith heading into his draft year.

JR OF Jake Fraley is an outstanding prospect. I may have actually underrated him despite ranking him twentieth overall in the college class back in October. Here’s what was written then…

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.

That fact about the outfielders still blows my mind. Six out of eight years with a top three round outfielder is one heck of a run for any university. Anyway, peers ranked over Fraley this year (according to me back in October) included names like Lewis, Reed, Ray, Boldt, and Reynolds. Banks, Wrenn, Quinn, Abreu, Brooks, and Dawson came next. I think if I had to do it again today with a few more months of research and thought under my belt, I would have Fraley behind only Lewis, Reed, and Ray, and in as close to a tie as humanly possible with Reynolds. He’s really good. In what is surely an unfair thing to say based on the sheer awesomeness of this guy’s numbers last year, I can see some opportunity for a Benintendi-like breakout for Fraley in 2016.

“If he’s not a star for this team, I’m quitting the internet draft game” – January 6, 2015. I said that about SO 3B/2B Greg Deichmann last year and I stand by it today. His first year at LSU didn’t end in stardom and as an older sophomore he’s able to leave after this year, so this could be do-or-die time for my sterling reputation as a prospect soothsayer. Of course, if Deichmann leaves LSU after this year then that almost certainly would mean he had a huge season that positioned himself to be drafted high enough to make turning pro a smart decision. If not, then I’ll at least get another year to tout him as the great prospect that I think he is. Deichmann completely won me over as a hitter in the year or so before he enrolled at LSU. Loved the swing, hands, bat speed, everything. His red flag during his prep days was his age, but that’s no longer a concern as a draft-eligible sophomore playing in the SEC. The new worry — or the old worry, if you weren’t sold on Deichmann as a hitter as I once was — is his approach. If said approach can move from “swing at anything that moves” to something slightly more refined, then he’ll take off as a hitter. That’s what I’m banking on in 2016.

I have Deichmann listed a primary 3B who can also play 2B; I’ve leaned toward him playing the latter position professionally, but a lot of smart people have finally convinced me that his long-term home is at third. JR 2B Kramer Robertson should have little difficulty staying at his position, so now the question will be whether or not he hits enough to make it worthwhile. On the surface he hasn’t done much in limited time, but despite his struggles making contact — he’s hit an empty .200 and .232 in his first two college seasons — he’s held his own in other ways (26 BB/30 K career). It’s a small thing, sure, but I like to see a guy battle like that in at bats even when things aren’t going great. From a tools standpoint, he’s still plenty intriguing: Robertson is a decent runner with pop and loads of athleticism, a steady glove, and a presence at the dish that makes his results to date all the more confusing. If the light bulb comes on — and there’s no guarantee he’ll even get the chance to keep working through things considering the depth that surrounds him on this roster — then he’s very much a draftable talent.

JR OF Cody Ducote (bat), JR 2B Cole Freeman (glove), and JR C Jordan Romero (arm) all do certain things well enough to be major players of interest to me this spring. Among the many, many underclass prospects to follow this spring are guys like SO RHP Austin Bain and SO RHP Alex Lange. I’d call them both future stars, but I think they are already there. Looking forward to seeing what rFR LHP Jake Latz and all of the true freshmen (McKay, Gilbert, Lochridge, Dawson, Duplantis, Wofford) do in their debuts.

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2016 MLB Draft Prospects – Tulane

SR RHP Emerson Gibbs (2016)
rJR RHP Daniel Rankin (2016)
rSR RHP Alex Massey (2016)
JR RHP Corey Merrill (2016)
SR RHP Patrick Duester (2016)
rJR RHP Eric Steel (2016)
rSO RHP JP France (2016)
SR RHP/OF Tim Yandel (2016)
rSR RHP Evan Rutter (2016)
rJR LHP Christian Colletti (2016)
rSO RHP Chris Oakley (2016)
rSO LHP Sam Bjorngjeld (2016)
rSR RHP/OF Trevor Simms (2016)
JR C Jake Rogers (2016)
JR SS Stephen Alemais (2016)
rSO OF Grant Brown (2016)
SR OF Richard Carthon (2016)
rJR C/1B Jeremy Montalbano (2016)
JR 1B/OF Lex Kaplan (2016)
JR 3B Hunter Hope (2016)
JR 1B Hunter Williams (2016)
JR OF Jarrett DeHart (2016)
rSO 2B Matt Rowland (2016)
rSR 2B/C Shea Pierce (2016)
JR 2B Jake Wilsey (2016)
SO LHP Jackson Johnson (2017)
FR LHP Ross Massey (2018)
FR OF/LHP Grant Witherspoon (2018)
FR INF Cade Edwards (2018)

Quantity and quality. Tulane has both in spades. I’m starting the SEC team profiles as soon as I finish this so maybe I’m being influenced by my dumb brain making patterns when it shouldn’t, but Tulane has both the depth and high-end talent typically found in an SEC school. Or an ACC school. Or a Pac-12 school. I mention those three conferences specifically because Tulane’s blend of first day pick quality and chance for double-digit draftee quantity inspired me to take a closer look at schools that have managed to have two or more players selected in the first round (including supplemental) AND a total of seven or more total draftees in the same year. I went back to my first year at the site (2009) to see what teams and conferences (without accounting for realignment) have done the trick. Unsurprisingly, the SEC, ACC, and Pac-12 are well represented…

2009: Boston College (2 first rounders, 4 total picks), Southern Cal (2, 6), Indiana (3, 7), Kennesaw State (2, 6), and North Carolina (2, 7)
2010: Cal State Fullerton (2, 9)
2011: Connecticut (2, 10), Vanderbilt (2, 12), and UCLA (2, 9)
2012: Texas A&M (2, 7), Florida (2, 9), and Stanford (2, 8)
2013:
2014: Virginia (3, 8) and North Carolina State (2, 7)
2015: Vanderbilt (3, 9)

This year it seems likely that a few more teams join the mix. Florida seems like a lock with Louisville right there with them and Virginia and Oklahoma just a step behind. Then you have maybes in Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, Miami, and Kentucky, plus teams with an outside chance like Oregon, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Clemson, Stanford, Louisiana State, Texas A&M, and Wake Forest (as well as any other team I’m forgetting). There’s also Tulane. Now we’re finally full circle. I’m not predicting that JR C Jake Rogers and JR SS Stephen Alemais are first day draft prospects, but the possibility certainly exists. Both Rogers and Alemais have similar general profiles as players: premium defensive talent at incredibly important spots on the diamond. Rogers is good enough defensively that his glove alone should keep getting him promoted even if he never hits. Alemais isn’t quite on that level, but he’s a legitimate shortstop with the athleticism, arm strength, and range to stick for a long time. The fact that he’s the better current hitter of the two makes up for the difference in my mind.

One of the easier comps in this year’s class is Rogers to Austin Hedges. It’s just too obvious to ignore. If you’re still on the Hedges bandwagon — I stayed off from the start — then you’re really going to like Rogers. If you value defense but also appreciate a guy who be a positive value player offensively — it doesn’t have to be an either/or! — then you might want to hold back for now. All bets are off if Rogers comes out swinging it this spring. If that’s the case (he’s got decent raw power and has held his own in terms of BB/K ratio, so don’t rule it out) then ignore everything you just read and mentally insert him into the first day of the draft. Pretty significant “if,” however. Alemais doesn’t have that “if” for me. I think he’s an honest big league hitter with continued development. There’s enough speed, pop, and approach to his offensive game that I’m comfortable calling him the best college shortstop profiled so far. That only includes most of the ACC and AAC, but it’s better than nothing. He’s a lock to finish as one of the country’s dozen best shortstops and has a strong case for remaining at the top spot come June.

Rogers and Alemais cover the quality at the top. Now let’s get to that depth. Assuming the two defensive stars have big junior season, these are the players that could push Tulane to join those schools listed about in my newly created (2, 7) club.

There are a ton of strikeouts found on the résumés of many of the returning Green Wave hitters, but also a lot of enticing tools that could have a few of these prospects in line for drastic improvements in 2016. SR OF Richard Carthon (40 K), JR 1B/OF Lex Kaplan (59 K), JR 3B Hunter Hope (73 K), and rSO OF Grant Brown (12 K in 35 AB) all have their issues, but not without also flashing pro ability at times. As the only senior listed, Carthon is obviously the only one in the do-or-die draft situation. Being a senior can work for and against you; in Carthon’s case, I think it might ultimately benefit him. His status as a potential money-saver combined with a few clear big league tools (speed, CF range) could get him a shot in the pros. Hope is steady enough defensively at third that I could see a team being intrigued by him as well. Kaplan, arguably the best hitter of the bunch, has a tougher hill to climb without that positional edge. Brown still has three years of eligibility if he wants it, so we’ll call the fascinating power/speed athlete a wild card at this point in the process. He’d be the easiest bet to identify as a breakout candidate in 2016 if you’re into that sort of thing.

Transfers from Louisville (rSO 2B Matt Rowland), Louisiana State (JR OF Jarrett DeHart), and Texas (rJR C/1B Jeremy Montalbano) add to the existing hitting surplus. All look promising in their own way. Rowland is known for a patient approach at the plate, DeHart is a great athlete who can really run, and Montalbano has as much raw power as nearly any 2016 draft peer. The only thing stopping me from hyping up Montalbano more than I will is the nagging belief that his C/1B position designation should be flipped. If he proves he can play even a slightly below-average catcher this spring, he’ll shoot up boards assuming the bat cooperates. If not, then he still has a chance as a pro prospect at first if he hits as many believe he can.

Transfers from West Virginia (rSR RHP/OF Trevor Simms), Connecticut (rJR LHP Christian Colletti), and Rice (rSR RHP Evan Rutter) add to the existing pitching surplus. The best of the incoming transfers should be rSO RHP Chris Oakley (North Carolina), big man with a bad fastball (90-94 with sink). I saw him back in his high school days when he was also flashing a pair of average or better secondaries (hard CB and split-CU), but I haven’t gotten any updates on him in a long while. As such, I’m looking forward to seeing him back on a mound this spring.

Those transfers will join experienced holdovers like rSR RHP Alex Massey (88.1 IP), SR RHP Emerson Gibbs (79.0 IP), JR RHP Corey Merrill (102.0 IP), SR RHP Patrick Duester (70.0 IP), and SR RHP Tim Yandel (56.1 IP). That’s a crazy amount of innings returning. I have all of those pitchers in my notes (save Duester since I don’t have gun readings on him) sitting 88-92 with their fastballs with Massey hitting higher (94-95). In fact, all of the pitchers that I have notes on at Tulane seem to have velocities that fall in that 88-92 range. That’s also where rJR RHP Daniel Rankin and rSO JP France are at, though both can get it up to the mid-90s like Massey. The similarities in sitting fastball velocity is kind of nice to see because it allows us to look beyond the obvious — admittedly to the slightly less obvious, but still — to differentiate the prospects.

Massey has that extra gear with his heater and an above-average slider that gives him a reasonable relief prospect floor if he can’t keep starting. Gibbs and his outstanding control, command, and sink on his fastball help him stand out among the rest. Merrill has a little more size (6-4, 230) and a good sinker. Yandel and France are old favorites who might be moving in different directions. The former, once a highly touted enough guy that Perfect Game compared him to Hunter Renfroe, hasn’t live up to his promise from both a performance perspective and from an evaluation of his stuff (lost velocity + the move away from a slider that flashed plus = not great). France, once compared to Lance McCullers by me, had a nice freshman season (9.26 K/9 and 1.80 BB/9 in 35 IP) and should enter the 2016 season ready to go. Between that old comp (rich in hindsight, but as draft prospects I stand by it) and France’s super talented right arm (90-94 FB and chance for two plus breaking balls), I’m all-in on France this year. That would leave me with a ranking of France, Massey, Gibbs, Merrill, (Oakley), Rankin, Duester, and Yandel. The fact that all have or are close to draftable grades is pretty impressive. I’d be surprised if Tulane doesn’t have at least five pitchers drafted this year.

2016 MLB Draft Prospects – South Florida

JR RHP Brandon Lawson (2016)
rJR RHP Brad Labozzetta (2016)
rSO RHP Peter Strzelecki (2016)
SR RHP/OF Ryan Valdes (2016)
JR OF/RHP Daniel Portales (2016)
SR C/3B Levi Borders (2016)
rSO SS Clay Simmons (2016)
JR OF/C Luke Borders (2016)
SO OF/1B Duke Stunkel (2016)
SR OF Luke Maglich (2016)
JR 2B Andres Leal (2016)
SO RHP Joe Cavallaro (2017)
SO INF/OF Kevin Merrell (2017)
FR LHP Shane McClanahan (2018)
FR LHP Garrett Bye (2018)
FR LHP Andrew Perez (2018)
FR OF Garrett Zech (2018)
FR OF Chris Chatfield (2018)
FR C/1B Joe Genord (2018)
FR SS Robert Montes (2018)
FR OF Cam Montgomery (2018)

The freshman class at South Florida has a chance to lead to fantastic things. OFs Garrett Zech and Chris Chatfield have definite early round talent. C/1B Joe Genord has big-time raw power. SS Robert Montes could be the type of two-way infielder that helps change the fortune of a program. And LHP Shane McClanahan could be a future Friday night guy. That’s the good news. Now let’s talk about 2016…

Since I hopefully cushioned the blow some for any USF fans who might stumble upon this, I don’t feel so bad in calling rSO RHP Peter Strzelecki, set to miss the season after Tommy John surgery, the most promising pitcher in the 2016 class. He’s flashed impressive stuff when healthy, so hopefully he returns at full strength next season.

Offensively, look for one or both of the Borders brothers to draw interest from the Phillies this spring. Their father, Pat, is a manager in the organization and is thought of very highly (like, future MLB manager somewhere highly) by some important people in the front office. I prefer the bat of JR OF/C Luke Borders to that of SR C/3B Levi Borders, but the position adjustment bump Levi gets as a true catcher makes it a really tight race. Both look like really solid org guys to me more than serious professional prospects, but each guy has flashed enough as a hitter to warrant a closer look.

rSO SS Clay Simmons could make a move this spring as he returns to 100% health. He’s a good athlete with a strong arm and some pop. SR OF Luke Maglich joins the Border brothers as the trio make up one of the most prolific group of swing and missers in the college game. A strikeout is mostly just an out that feels worse than it deserves (though it has some predictive power in non-MLBers), so it’s not a judgment but look at these totals: 66 for Levi, 51 for Luke, and 66 for Maglich. Impressive. Curiously (or not), the only notes I have on Maglich make mention of his low-80s fastball.

2016 MLB Draft Prospects – Memphis

rSO RHP Trevor Sutton (2016)
JR RHP Nolan Blackwood (2016)
JR RHP Blake Drabik (2016)
SR RHP Matt Ferguson (2016)
SR OF/1B Jake Little (2016)
rSR SS Jake Overbey (2016)
SR C Corey Chafin (2016)
JR OF Darien Tubbs (2016)
JR 3B Zach Schritenthal (2016)
JR OF Chris Carrier (2016)
SO RHP Colton Hathcock (2017)
SO RHP Connor Alexander (2017)

JR RHP Nolan Blackwood intrigues the heck out of me as a big (6-6) lanky (175 pounds) submariner with a legit fastball (88-91) and sustained success keeping runs off the board. His peripherals aren’t anything to write home about (4.11 K/9 last year), but the shiny ERA (0.52) is fun. A few more whiffs and continued success doing whatever he’s doing to get guys out (I’d love to see the batted ball data on him as I suspect he’s getting his fair share of ground ball outs and weak contact) would help him move way up the rankings.

The Jake brothers return in 2016 after disappointing junior seasons. SR OF/1B Jake Little had previously been able to overcome his swing-happy approach, but the bottom fell out for him last year. He’ll need to rebound in a big way to get win back the hearts and minds of the area guys who have stuck with him through his ups and downs. Then there’s rSR SS Jake Overbey, a very interesting case that earned this blurb last year…

Jake Overbey is the most talented player on the roster, so it should go without saying there are many in and around the Memphis program eagerly anticipating his debut for the Tigers. Overbey, the Ole Miss transfer, is an incredibly athletic baseball player with the defensive tools to play up the middle professionally. He’s had a long layoff between steady at bats so there’s really no telling how he’ll perform at the plate, but the upside is fascinating.

Turns out a few years away from facing high-level competition will bring some serious growing pains as Overbey struggled to hit his weight last season. I’ll be curious about him until the day he decides to move on to something different with his life, so count me in as one of his last remaining fans (non-friends and family division, of course). He’s still a great athlete and he can still defend. That’s a start.

Jake Tubbs…wait, no that’s not right. JR OF Darien Tubbs leaps past the field as Memphis’s best position player prospect. He’s got the type of build (5-9, 190) that inspires the “sneaky pop” disclaimer in my notes, but his days of catching opposing pitchers by surprise might be over after his breakout sophomore campaign. Tubbs can run, defend in center, work deep counts, and knock a ball or ten to the gaps when you’re not careful. Tubbs isn’t quite a FAVORITE yet, but he’s as close as you can get without tempting me into holding down the shift key. A friend who knows how much I went on about Saige Jenco over the past year reached out to me to let me know that he believed Tubbs was a better version of the same guy. Fun player.

Beyond the 2016 players, I have to give a quick mention to a pair of really promising arms worth knowing for 2017. I really, really like SO RHP Connor Alexander. He’s got a chance to be a pretty special college pitcher by the time he’s through, not to mention a damn fine MLB Draft prospect. Pairing him with fellow sophomore RHP Colton Hathcock gives Memphis the kind of 1-2 pitching punch a team needs to make some noise in conference play.

2016 MLB Draft Prospects – Houston

JR RHP Andrew Lantrip (2016)
JR RHP Marshall Kasowski (2016)
rJR RHP Bubba Maxwell (2016)
JR RHP Nick Hernandez (2016)
JR LHP Nathan Jackson (2016)
SR 3B/1B Justin Montemayor (2016)
SR C Jacob Campbell (2016)
rSO 3B/SS Connor Hollis (2016)
JR SS Jose Reyes (2016)
JR 3B Jordan Strading (2016)
SR 2B Josh Vidales (2016)
SR 2B Robert Grilli (2016)
SO LHP Seth Romero (2017)
SO LHP Aaron Fletcher (2017)
SO OF/3B Corey Julks (2017)
SO C/SS Connor Wong (2017)
SO OF Clay Casey (2017)
SO OF Zac Taylor (2017)
FR LHP Tanner Lawson (2018)
FR RHP Mitch Ullom (2018)
FR C/1B Joe Davis (2018)
FR OF Grayson Padgett (2018)
FR OF Caleb Morris (2018)
FR INF Wendell Champion (2018)

I’m all about SR 2B Josh Vidales. I can’t help it. Here’s what was written about him last year…

I wish JR 2B Josh Vidales had even a little bit of power (.327 and .306 slugging the past two seasons) because his approach (88 BB/51 K career), defense (plus) and speed (26/34 SB career, not a burner but picks his spots really well) all rate high enough to be an entertaining prospect to follow professionally. The fact that he’s currently seen as a second base or bust (though, again, he’s fantastic there) defensive prospect works against him, though I wonder — I honestly don’t know — if that’s something he can change minds about this spring. If he could be trusted on the left side of the infield, then we’re talking a strong potential utility future, even without the power. For all his flaws, I’d still want him to be a member of my organization.

He did up his SLG to .387 last year. That’s not great, but it’s an improvement. It also gave him his best ISO (.087) in his career. He kept getting on base with a .397 consistent to what he’s done in the past (now up to 123 BB/74 K career), swiped a few more bags (32/43 SB career), and played his usual brand of excellent defense at second. It’s not unusual to see spikes in production during a player’s senior season — far too often draft outlets overrate players on this basis, something I’ve been guilty of in the past — so hopefully Vidales enjoys the same fate this spring. If that’s the case, I think his consistent year-to-year output should get him drafted; this indirectly yet directly contradicts my previous point about overrating seniors, but this would be the case of a steady player having a better than usual senior year and not a guy having a breakout senior season out of nowhere. Consider the bigger than expected senior season prediction my attempt at wish-casting that others begin to see Vidales as I do. He’s an excellent college player and an honest pro prospect.

As much as I love Vidales, the clear top prospects on the Houston squad reside on the pitching staff. JR RHP Andrew Lantrip and JR RHP Marshall Kasowski both have very real chances of crashing the early round party. Kasowski has the more traditionally valued skill set — hard FB (up to 95), above-average mid-70s curve, rapidly improving change, and a sturdy yet athletic 6-3, 220 pound frame — while Lantrip nearly matches him in straight stuff (88-92 FB, 94 peak; above-average low-80s SL, rawer CU) but brings some of the best fastball command of this class to the mound each trip. The knock on him could be his size (6-1, 180), but that would be a silly thing to worry about considering the many positives already cited and his strong track record of striking men out and keeping runs off the board. I like both guys quite a bit could see one or both off the board much higher than many would presently believe. Two additional pitchers to know from the Houston staff include rJR RHP Bubba Maxwell (looking to find that 90-94 MPH heat he had pre-Tommy John surgery) and JR LHP Nathan Jackson (command lefty with a nice curve). Add those pitchers to SO LHP Seth Romero (2017) and you’ve got yourself one exciting group of arms.

2016 MLB Draft Prospects – East Carolina

JR LHP Evan Kruczynski (2016)
JR LHP Jacob Wolfe (2016)
SR LHP Nick Durazo (2016)
JR LHP Luke Bolka (2016)
rSO RHP/INF Davis Kirkpatrick (2016)
SR RHP Jimmy Boyd (2016)
JR SS/RHP Kirk Morgan (2016)
SR OF Garrett Brooks (2016)
rJR C Travis Watkins (2016)
JR C/OF Eric Tyler (2016)
JR 2B/SS Charlie Yorgen (2016)
JR SS Wes Phillips (2016)
SR OF Jeff Nelson (2016)
JR 1B/LHP Bryce Harman (2016)
JR OF/RHP Zack Mozingo (2016)
SO RHP Joe Ingle (2017)
FR RHP Chris Holba (2018)
FR RHP Denny Brady (2018)
FR RHP Sam Lanier (2018)
FR OF Dwanya Williams-Sutton (2018)
FR OF Justin Dirden (2018)
FR SS Turner Brown (2018)
FR SS Kendall Ford (2018)
FR INF Brady Lloyd (2018)

This 2013 ranking of HS first basemen has held up surprisingly well so far. The only player not doing what was hoped so far is Ian Hagenmiller (10). Dominic Smith (1), Rowdy Tellez (2), Cody Bellinger (4), Nick Longhi (5), and Jake Bauers (8) have all had starts of their pro careers ranging from decent to damn good. Zack Collins and Pete Alonso are near the top of their class heading into this draft. Joe Dudek* (9) has a chance to join them with a big junior season. The same could be said for JR 1B/LHP Bryce Harman (6), the jumbo-sized (6-6, 240) slugger with raw power to match. Harman was known as a complete hitter (power and contact) throughout his prep career, but has struggled some in both areas so far at the college level. That’s not to say he’s been bad — he hasn’t — but just a suggestion that many talent evaluators will want to see more out of him this spring if he is to fulfill his top five round destiny. That might be too rich a forecast simply because college first basemen haven’t gone all that high in recent years — we only had eight college 1B go in the top ten rounds last year with only two of them in the top four rounds — but this class looks better at that position than it has been in a while. After going through the ACC teams with publicly posted rosters (i.e., no Louisville, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, or Virginia), I’d have Harman behind only Will Craig and Preston Palmeiro. A year like what many (myself included expect) — .500+ SLG, .200+ ISO, even BB/K ratio — would keep him moving up the board in the right direction.

(* 1/18/16 EDIT: Dudek is transferring to from North Carolina to Kentucky this season. He’ll sit out 2016 and have two years of eligibility remaining starting with the 2017 season. He’s still draft-eligible this year if a team fell enough in love with him this past year to make a run. Not likely — why go through the transfer process only to turn pro before getting on the field for your new team? — but possible.)

Harman is the best prospect on the team, but he’s not alone near the top. SR OF Garrett Brooks is my kind of senior sign: well-rounded, athletic, and patient at the plate. From last year…

JR OF Garrett Brooks could be on the verge of something, but after two highly underwhelming seasons I’m no longer sure what that something will look like. He’s got pro-caliber tools packed into his strong 5-9, 200 pound frame, but the results so far haven’t been pretty.

His 2015 was a lot prettier than the first two seasons (.270/.375/.357 with 21 BB/17 K in 126 AB), but showing a little more pop or in-game speed is the next step. I think he’ll take it and get himself drafted this June. JR SS Wes Phillips, an incoming transfer from Wichita State, could find himself in a similar spot. He’s likely to be joined in the middle of the Pirates infield with JR 2B/SS Charlie Yorgen, a steady glove with impressive plate discipline. I like him. Finally, East Carolina returns a pair of interesting catching prospects. Both rJR C Travis Watkins and JR C/OF Eric Tyler could play themselves into late-round draft consideration. Their most realistic outcome is senior-signs in 2017, but teams are always in the need for org catchers later in the draft.

JR LHP Evan Kruczynksi is my favorite thanks to his upper-80s fastball, pair of usable secondaries (CB and CU), and room to grow. A spike in missed bats in 2016 due in part to a few extra ticks on his fastball (maybe putting him in that 88-92 range) is my personal hope and expectation for his upcoming season. JR LHP Jacob Wolfe throws a mid- to upper-80s fastball with impressive sink. He had a fairly similar 2015 season to Kruczynski, but doesn’t quite offer the same growth potential physically. JR LHP Luke Bolka has the firmest fastball (88-94) and strongest track record of missing bats (10.35 K/9), but, like Wolfe, he lacks much projection. He’s also the most inexperienced of the trio: those peripherals came in just 11.1 IP last season. A case could be made for any of the three — the one with projection, the one with the sinker, the one with the heat — as the best long-term pro prospect depending on your personal tastes.

The top righthanded pitcher in ECU’s 2016 draft class is rSO Davis Kirkpatrick, who might just have a strong enough fastball (88-93) and breaking ball combo to rank as the top overall pitching prospect on the staff. He’ll have to overcome a year away from the mound and the inherent short righthander bias universal among all but the most open-minded of scouts, but I think he’s athletic enough to open some eyes. SR RHP Jimmy Boyd gets a special mention because his 0.76 BB/9 in 59.0 IP last season ranks as one of the lowest that I’ve come across so far. Keep on throwing strikes, Jimmy.

2016 MLB Draft Prospects – Cincinnati

SR RHP Mitch Patishall (2016)
rSR RHP Bryan Chenoweth (2016)
rJR LHP Colton Cleary (2016)
JR RHP Andrew Zellner (2016)
SR C Woody Wallace (2016)
SR 1B Devin Wenzel (2016)
rSO 2B Connor McVey (2016)
SO LHP Dalton Lehnen (2017)
SO LHP JT Perez (2017)
SO RHP Tristan Hammans (2017)
SO 1B/OF Ryan Noda (2017)
SO 2B Kyle Mottice (2017)

Can we just talk about Ian Happ again? Please? I guess since it’s my site and I make the rules there’s really nothing me from doing just that, but it’s only right to turn the page and take a closer look to see who’s next in line.

If we’re swinging for the fences, then the most appropriate player to discuss is SO 1B/OF Ryan Noda. He’s obviously a 2017 draft candidate to know and we don’t typically try to get too far ahead of ourselves here, but his talent merits a mention. Power like Noda’s isn’t found at places like Cincinnati every day. He’s a good athlete with plenty of bat speed and no fear as a hitter, so if he can find a way to make his aggressive approach (77 K in 196 AB) work better for him then he’ll be talked about as a serious early round talent in 18 months or so.

The pitching staff returns a few intriguing names. My favorites among them include SR RHP Mitch Patishall, JR RHP Andrew Zellner, and SO LHP Dalton Lehnen. Lehnen, like Noda a 2017 draft prospect, showed solid stuff across the board as a freshman. Patishall had a 2015 season to forget, but could bring his decent fastball/curveball starting kit to a team willing to overlook some of his early college struggles. Zellner is your best Bearcat prospect heading into the 2016 draft season. His 87-91 heat and average or better slider could look even better by the end of the years as he’s got some projection left at 6-3, 190 pounds. Continued growth out of him could make him a worthy draft pick come June.