(I didn’t like this setup as well as I thought I would and writing this much about each team in every conference will drive me to insanity before the season even begins, so I’m still pondering ways to present the info I have in a way that marries readability with a format that will allow me to get a full night’s sleep during the work week. Consider this a head’s up that things will probably change with the next conference preview. If you liked this, sorry. If not, you’re in luck!)
What RHP Bryce Welborn lacks in college experience he makes up for in fastball velocity. He’s still largely an unknown and his size (5-10, 185) works against him, but there’s no denying his heater (90-94, 96 peak) when on. The safer, and arguably superior, prospect is RHP Nate Cole, a potential sleeper relief prospect who has been able to combine good stuff (low-90s fastball, slider, change) with strong results (10.34 K/9 in 47 IP last year). RHP Kyle Carroll could be the third best arm on the staff.
SS Logan Preston and OF Tyler Langley are positioned to get themselves into late-round senior-sign territory with big springs. That’s something.
RHP Dylan Zarosky is a short (5-11, 200) righthander with limited innings under his belt (around 40 the past two seasons combined), but his fastball (88-92, 93 peak) and breaking ball (76-77 CB, average to above-average) are enough to keep missing bats. I’m intrigued by 2B Greg Espinosa due to his extreme high contact approach (5 BB/7 K in 153 AB) at the plate.
The freshman group of pitchers is where it’s at, but in the meantime I think the best prospect here is probably 3B Brance Kahle. Pro baseball needs a Brance and this one might have what it takes to get drafted. Fun Brance fact (besides the fact he has an above-average arm and appealing bat speed): he’s one of seven children, all with first names beginning with either B or C.
RHP Will Hibbs has the fastball (93), size (6-7, 235), and peripherals (8.74 K/9 in 2015) to profile as an intriguing senior-sign reliever. SS Stijn van derMeer can field his position and do enough with the bat to rank as one of my favorite senior shortstops in this class. Fair or not, I can’t help but think of him as a potential Die Hard villain whenever I read his name. I like what rJR OF Cutter McDowell did in a small sample last year, so he’s officially on my high follow list this spring. There’s a chance one of 1B Jake Nash or 1B Trey Silvers does enough this spring to get some draft love by June.
Native New Yorker CJ Moore, coming off an up-and-down freshman season with more encouraging signs than not, is now back at home at Monroe (NY) CC. He’s as raw as his 12 BB/66 K freshman numbers suggest, but his speed, power, and athleticism are all at the top of the charts. I’m sufficiently intrigued.
The McNeese State pitching staff could have up to a half-dozen arms get draft consideration this summer. I like RHP Kaleb Fontenot a ton when healthy. RHP Bryce Kingsley and RHP Ethan Stremmel could join him as senior-signs. The little I know about LHP Austin Sanders sounds good to me. Then there are the two guys with numbers that stand out above the rest. RHP Collin Kober makes his upper-80s fastball work with a sidearm delivery that confounds hitters (9.17 K/9 and 1.02 ERA in 52.2 IP last year) at this level. RHP Tyler Day matched him in terms of peripherals (10.35 K/9), but not in run prevention (5.85 ERA). I still like him. All in all, it’s a strong group of pitchers here.
The best two position player prospects are underclassmen (2B Joe Provenzano and OF Shane Selman), but OF Matt Gallier has shown enough power to be interesting to teams in the here and now.
RHP Daniel Martinez and RHP Riley Hodge both could be late-round reliever options. C Kyle Bracey is a young catcher with some power, so he’ll have his fans this spring. OF Chaz Boyer might have a shot thanks to his plus speed, above-average range, and solid athleticism. He’ll have to do something drastic about his ugly 7 BB/41 K ratio, however. JR OF Hezekiah Randolph rivals Zacarias Hardy for best name in the conference.
RHP Justin Sinibaldi has been a consistently strong performer as he’s utilized an upper-80s fastball (85-91) and average or better curve to carve hitters to the tune of a 1.40 ERA in 77.1 IP in 2015. His peripherals are less exciting, but still solid.
OF Justin Holt is yet another very fast, above-average glove in center – there seems to be a lot of these guys in this conference – with questions about his in-game pop and approach at the plate. SR 3B Kyle Reese has similar questions about his approach, but the power looks legit.
Those guys are all nice prospects, but RHP Jake Smith and RHP Cole Stapler are the true co-headliners here. Smith has the frame (6-5, 220) and fastball (94-97) to rocket up pref lists this spring. Stapler measures up similarly (6-5, 230) with a likewise strong heater (88-92, 94 peak) and the athleticism one might expect from a two-way threat.
LHP Chase Hymel has the kind of out-pitch in his curve ball that could give him an extended look in the pros. That’s something. He’s second for me among Northwestern State pitching prospects behind RHP Adam Oller. Oller has really impressive stuff with three pitches profiling as average or better professionally, but the lackluster track record of missed bats (4.75 K/9 in 2015) is worrisome. If the breakout happens in 2016 we’ll know why. I’m cautiously optimistic.
I like rJR OF Nick Heath as a potential high-contact, athletic, plus running center fielder, but the complete lack of power undermines what he does well otherwise. He’s more fun college player than serious pro prospect until he can start driving a few more balls to the gaps. They can’t all be power hitters, but the threat of power is a must in the pro game.
1B/OF Cort Brinson (who has experience behind the plate) and C Daniel Garner do more than threaten power – they deliver. I’ve long liked Brinson, but, despite hitting for more power than ever, last year was admittedly a step back when looking at his all-around offensive game. Tough to say that for a guy coming off a .350/.407/.518 season, but his control of the strike zone dipped enough to raise tiny light red flags. We’ll call them light pink flags for now…maybe salmon. I’m less worried about the change (16 BB/18 K in 2014 to 12 BB/35 K in 2015) after talking to somebody who saw him a lot last year. His rationale for the dip was pretty simple: Brinson was so locked in that the choice to expand the zone was a conscious one. If he can find a happy medium that allows him to further tap into his deep power reserves through controlled aggression at the plate, watch out for him rising as one of the draft’s better senior-signs.
Sam Houston State
I really dig the Sam Houston state pitching staff. There’s a really nice blend of stuff and results that should give every team something to like. RHP Dakota Mills and RHP Cody Brown lead the way in the stuff department, but do so with limited D1 data to date. RHP Greg Belton and RHP Jordan Church have the numbers to get them noticed. RHP Sam Odom has a little bit of both: he’s 88-92 with his heat and coming off a solid sophomore season (7.05 K/9 in 83.0 IP).
I’m a little less keen on the 2016 hitters, but could see either 2B Zach Smith or SS Miles Manning play their way into late-round consideration. 1B/3B Matthew Broadbent has some positive buzz around his name as well.
I’ve been on record as being a big C/1B Jameson Fisher fan, so consider me damn excited for his return to the field in 2016. If his arm allows him to show off behind the plate this spring, I could see him rising up into that round five to ten area where he belongs. C Sam Roberson also returns in 2016, so keep an eye on the underrated “other” catcher on the roster here. Then there’s C Chris Eades, the “other OTHER” catcher that could hear his name called this June. Eades took advantage of the absence of his teammates last year by flashing decent power and a strong arm from behind the dish.
Non-catcher talent on Southeastern Louisiana includes OF Julian Service (very athletic, good speed), SS/2B Kennon Menard (versatile defender with some utility player potential), OF Webb Bobo (untapped power), and 2B Carson Crites (impressive 2015 season). I like 2B/3B Daniel Midyett best of all thanks to his blend of speed, patience, and sneaky pop. OF Jacob Seward isn’t far behind on my personal list: he’s got a discerning eye at the plate and plenty of usable speed.
LHP Kyle Cedotal has the crafty college lefty thing down to a science, so spending a late pick on him and watching him move quickly as he mows down low-minors hitting out of the bullpen could be fun. RHP Domenick Carlini missed plenty of bats (11.25 K/9 in 2015) with his low-90s velocity as a junior. RHP Mac Sceroler stands out as one of the better draft-eligible sophomore arms I’ve come across.
Stephen F. Austin State
Any one of OF Matthew Dickey (speed, glove), Kyle Thornell (power), or OF/1B Conner Fikes (athleticism, approach) could wind up drafted with good springs.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
If RHP Kaleb Keith can stay on the mound, I think he can show the kind of stuff to get drafted. RHP Nolan Holland has the low-90s sinker/slider combination that could give him time in a pro bullpen. OF Zacarias Hardy excels at running, throwing, and having the first name Zacarias. I like him.