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2016 MLB Draft Prospects – Wake Forest

SR RHP/C Garrett Kelly (2016)
JR RHP Parker Dunshee (2016)
rSO RHP Chris Farish (2016)
JR RHP Connor Johnstone (2016)
JR RHP John McCarren (2016)
rSO RHP Parker Johnson (2016)
JR 1B/RHP Will Craig (2016)
JR C Ben Breazeale (2016)
SR OF/2B Joey Rodriguez (2016)
JR 2B/OF Nate Mondou (2016)
rSR OF Kevin Conway (2016)
JR OF Jonathan Pryor (2016)
SO RHP Drew Loepprich (2017)
SO OF Stuart Fairchild (2017)
SO 1B Gavin Sheets (2017)
SO OF Keegan Maronpot (2017)
SO SS/2B Drew Freedman (2017)
SO SS/2B Bruce Steel (2017)
FR LHP Tyler Witt (2018)
FR RHP Griffin Roberts (2018)
FR RHP Rayne Supple (2018)
FR 3B/SS John Aiello (2018)

I think I’m going to keep touting JR 1B/RHP Will Craig as the righthanded AJ Reed until he starts getting some serious national recognition. I cited that name in the college draft preview from October, so might as well keep mentioning it over and over and over…

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…

I love Craig. In past years I might back down some from the love from reasons both fair (positional value, certain scouty quibbles about bat speed and timing) and not (seeing him ignored by all the major media outlets so much that I start to question my own judgment), but I see little way that will be the case with Craig. Sure, he could force my hand by cratering out with a disappointing junior season (a la Ryan Howard back in the day), but that would only shift him from sleeper first round talent to sleeper fifth round value. His is a bat I believe in and I’m willing to ride or die with it.

I wanted to mention the Daniel Murphy comparison I got for JR 2B/OF Nate Mondou that I heard recently, but I couldn’t remember the major media outlet that had it first. I could have missed it elsewhere, but I think mentioning it again would be one of those instances where I plagiarize myself. I hit thirty a few months back and my memory has gone up in flames since. In addition to Murphy, I’ve also heard Todd Walker as a reference point for Mondou’s bat. Lefty bats who love to attack early in the count, provide average or better power, and can hang in at the keystone spot are always going to be valued highly by pro clubs. Or at least they should. The only thing that may knock Mondou down is the competition at the spot; we’ve only just begun, but he’s joined at the top of his own position ranking by the Notre Dame pair (Cavan Biggio and Kyle Fiala) profiled earlier. I’d put him between the two for now with the chance to rise as he keeps mashing. There’s some concern about his overly aggressive approach getting exposed along the way, so I guess consider that a second potential way that Mondou slips some this spring.

If you read the site regularly then you know that I like few things more than mid-round college catchers that look like sleeper big league backups to me. JR C Ben Breazeale fits the bill. He’s got a sturdy frame, plenty of strength, and is a steadying presence behind the dish defensively. Offensively he does enough to get by. Sounds like a potential backup catcher to me. SR OF/2B Joey Rodriguez began to put his considerable talent to work last year (.305/.411/.468), so making the call that he’ll have a big senior season is a prediction that comes about a year too late. A repeat of last year — or, better yet, continued improvement — should get him drafted as a senior sign that will do more for you than just save some draft cash. JR OF Jonathan Pryor had a nice year by most accounts last season (.316/.366/.384) while managing a tough to look at 5 BB/40 K ratio. It’s not exactly the formula for sustained success, but it worked last year. I don’t know enough about him from the scouting side to say if he’s a prospect or not, but that kind of approach is terrifying. Still, there’s something oddly pleasing about a player like Pryor finding college success with an approach to hitting antithetical to what many (myself very much included) believe is the preferred path.

It’s not personal, but I’ve been burned by SR RHP Garrett Kelly once too many times to continue touting him as a serious pro prospect. Draftable talent? Most definitely. But the upside I droned on and on about last year…

I’m a big fan of JR RHP/C Garrett Kelly. He’s a good ballplayer. He’s better at baseball than I ever was and better than 99.99% of the world’s population. Unfortunately, Kelly can’t hit. It was only 32 at bats, but his .094/.310/.125 line last season was not the kind of line you print out and stick on the fridge. That’s what makes his rumored full-time switch to the mound so anxiously awaited. Even though life as a hitter didn’t work out, there’s still a chance for him. As a pitcher, Kelly is a legit pro prospect. He’s already got that nice FB/SL relief combo going (already up to 93 with more likely coming), and the huge perk of being a low-mileage arm won’t go unnoticed by decision-makers this spring. I’ve long been been a sucker for players making the position player to pitcher switch and think Kelly could be a helium guy this spring.

…didn’t quite materialize in the form of on-field results in 2015. Of course, we’re nitpicking 11.2 disappointing innings here. That’s unfair no matter how much you’d like to justify it. I mean, Kelly still throws hard (up to 94 now) with an emerging slider and a relatively fresh arm. I’ve twisted my own arm enough here. I’m back in on Kelly as a serious pro prospect. His breakout senior season is coming, just you watch.

I’d move JR RHP Parker Dunshee to the top of the 2016 Demon Deacons (pitching) draft class (co-headlining with Kelly now that we’re cool again) because I think he has the stuff to potentially keep starting as a pro if he can improve his control and keep making strides with his low-80s change, but there’s something about rSO RHP Chris Farish that I keep coming back to. Maybe it’s his size (6-4, 210), maybe it’s his fastball (88-93, mid-90s peak), or maybe it’s the fact he he’s still largely a blank slate that hasn’t yet had the chance to experience the tough times that come with pitching in a major college conference, but I think he’s got a real chance to wind up the highest drafted pitcher off this staff come June. So that’s three co-headliners that I’m too dumb to separate beyond saying “hey, they’re all pretty promising!” I think I can live with that in January. JR RHP Connor Johnstone (coming off an ugly sophomore season, but with a nice fastball and good change) and JR RHP John McCarren (another nice fastball at 88-92) could factor into the draft mix as well.

As a program, Wake Forest is in pretty good shape. I actually don’t know if that’s true or not, but from a selfish draft perspective it certainly looks that way. You’ve got Craig/Mondou this year, SO OF Stuart Fairchild (an all-caps FAVORITE already) next year, and FR 3B/SS John Aiello for 2018. I know I’m higher on Craig than most, plus making long-term predictions about future classes almost always ends ugly, but this year’s Wake Forest team could have three potential first round caliber hitters in the regular lineup. Not bad.

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