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2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – Southern Conference

I’m an unabashed Kyle Lewis fan. I’m also a fan of hitters who can control the strike zone, spoil pitchers’s pitches, work favorable counts, and punish baseballs when ahead. Right now, that description only partially describes Lewis…and even that requires a more optimistic outlook than some are willing to take at this point in time. So how can those two statements be reconciled? It’s a dangerous thing for my credibility to admit, but call it an educated hunch that the 20-year-old Lewis will figure things out as a hitter. It goes back to something I mentioned in the comments section a few weeks back: guys either learn to hit or they don’t. That’s my paraphrased take from this scout’s quote talking about the likelihood of Jahlil Okafor improving his outside shot as a professional: “He needs to become a better shooter and free throw shooter. He either will or he won’t.” Scouts work very hard evaluating amateur and minor league talent across the country, so their collective insight into projecting a young hitter’s future is not to be dismissed. But…can we ever really know how a guy is going to react when thrown into the professional environment? A 95 MPH fastball with movement is a 95 MPH fastball with movement at any level. Plus speed, outstanding glove work, and the ability to miss bats are all translatable skills when honed properly. Hitting is an entirely different animal.

A big part of what makes hitting unique is that it can mean different things to different evaluators. There’s no wrong way to define “hitting,” so long as it remains consistent report to report. When I personally talk hitting, I’m including everything that I think goes into what separates a good hitter from a not so good hitter. If that means there’s overlap with other tools (power, most notably) and abilities (athleticism, hand-eye coordination, work ethic), then so be it. Hitting can be broken up into all kinds of smaller sub-components, but the three central facets are “hitting” (contact skills, bat-to-ball ability, mechanics), power (fairly self-explanatory), and approach (having a plan at the plate, both early and late in counts). The hitting and power components are relatively easy to identify with practice — there’s a reason they are two of the oft-cited five tools — but approach has always been the great mystery of amateur scouting. This is problematic for guys like me who place a great deal of importance on the approach piece of the pie; without an approach up to a certain standard, the hit and power tools will suffer greatly. I know some scouts will argue for hit over power (i.e., the Kansas City and Pittsburgh approach to scouting and development) or power over hit (where many teams are still at as they struggle to adjust to a post-PED world), but I’ll always be approach over hit/power, with no real preference on the last decision.

So what do I look for in young hitters and what does this ultimately have to do with liking Kyle Lewis and his current sub-optimal (per performance metrics) approach so much? I want to see athleticism (both traditional and baseball-specific), ease of mechanical repeatability (swing path, pre-swing movements, and upper- to lower-half coordination are all interesting to me, but ultimately I’m pragmatic: don’t really care how it looks as long as the hitter is comfortable, productive against top competition, and able to consistently do the same thing over and over), a high frequency of “hard” contact (easier judged now thanks to new technology at the pro level, but still a subjective call at the amateur level), and evidence of a planned approach (more about “self-scouting” and less about trying to guess what the hitter is seeing out of the pitcher’s hand — often labelled “pitch recognition,” but a really hard thing for an outsider to claim in my opinion) with every single plate appearance.

The relative importance of hitting the ball to all fields is something I go back and forth on; it’s obviously a good thing, but I think there’s still room in our shift-filled game for a slugger with extreme pull-side power to succeed if he’s good enough at it. For now, I consider it a bonus and not a prerequisite for being an average or better pro hitter. I’m also somewhat divided in thought when it comes to bat speed. As somebody who grew up with a front row seat — well, upper-deck  (sections 420/421!) but it still counts — to watching Chase Utley play every day, I’m not about to downplay the importance of swinging a quick bat. Bat speed is undeniably important, but damn hard to judge in a nuanced way. That could be a personal failing of mine and not a universal issue among real deal scouts, but I’m not sure how the human eye can possibly determine bat speed beyond differentiating between “whoa,” “decent,” and “slow.” Maybe you could attempt to circle back to existing scouting language and separate a bit more (plus, above-average, average, below-average), but even that only teases out one extra descriptive layer. Short of measuring bat speed electronically, we’re left at doing our best to approximate what we see in an instant.

There’s also always going to be the most basic aspect of scouting: how does he look when he’s doing what he does. Think of this as an informed “gut” instinct. That’s so much of what scouting is: educated guesses. I wish I had access to some kind of special proprietary video library of every hitter of the past few decades to compare what I’m seeing right this second to what has worked for others historically, but I don’t. Thankfully, our brains are designed to cycle through all that our eyes have perceived and form patterns based on positive outcomes. That magic video library is inside each and every one of us obsessives who watches baseball on a daily basis. This will always be the most subjective aspect of scouting — everybody has a “type” and we’re all preconditioned to prefer those who fit that mold — but that doesn’t mean it’s not without value. And, yes, Kyle Lewis is my type, thank you very much.

Acknowledging that we all have our own preconceived notions about what is best lends further credence to the idea that sweeping proclamations about whether or not a young guy will hit aren’t wise. We can all make our best guesses — some of us having to do so with millions of dollars on the line — but ultimately these hitters will or won’t hit as pros. There’s already some interesting “expert” noise out there about Florida OF Buddy Reed’s swing being unsuitable to the challenges of the pro game. That’s a fair criticism (when substantiated beyond the boring blanket statement of “I just don’t like that swing”), but consider me preemptively bummed out to read (in the event of him being a great pro) how it wasn’t a scouting miss per se but rather a developmental success. No way could it be that his swing wasn’t misidentified as a bad one. Nooo, it was the impossible to predict reworking of his swing as a pro that led to his (again, entirely hypothetical) pro success. In other words, be careful what you read about a young hitter’s ability to adjust to the pro game. Nobody on the outside really knows — heck, neither do the supposed insiders! — so beware anybody who claims to have some kind of soothsaying abilities when prognosticating raw amateur bats. These guys are often the first to explain away their misses under the guise of unforeseen pro development. Here I am thinking that making that determination was part of the scouting process — silly me!

Kyle Lewis hit .367/.423/.677 last year in a decent college conference. That’s good, clearly. His 19 BB/41 K ratio is less good. So why buy the bat? As a hitter, I like what I’ve seen and heard about his righthanded swing. I like that he seemingly improved his approach (aggressively hunting for “his” pitch showed good self-scouting while getting ahead more frequently late in the year demonstrated a fuller understanding of what it will take to succeed against top-level competition) and started chasing fewer pitchers’s pitches as the season went on. I like his physical projection, public and privately shared intel about his work ethic, bat speed (I’ve seen some “whoa” cuts from him), and how his athleticism allows his upper- and lower-body to work in concern with one another with each swing. Believe me, I understand doubting him now as a potential top ten pick and dark horse to go 1-1 in this draft based on a wait-and-see approach to his plate discipline; if improvements aren’t made in his draft year BB/K ratio, all the positive scouting buzz will matter a lot less to me come June. But part of college scouting early in the season is identifying players set to make the leap as juniors. I think Lewis’s leap as a more mature, thoughtful, and explosive hitter has already begun, and it’ll be reflected on the field this upcoming season. I’ve thrown out a Yasiel Puig comp in the past for his ceiling and I’m sticking with that for now. As an added prospect to prospect bonus, his game reminds me some of Anthony Alford. Your mileage might vary on how in the draft a player like that could go, but it sure sounds like a potential premium pick to me.

Hitters

  1. Mercer JR OF Kyle Lewis
  2. Samford JR OF Heath Quinn
  3. East Tennessee State JR SS/RHP Chris Cook
  4. East Tennessee State SR 2B Trey York
  5. Mercer JR SS Matt Meeder
  6. Mercer JR C Charlie Madden
  7. East Tennessee State SR 1B/C Kevin Phillips
  8. Mercer JR 2B/SS Ryan Hagan
  9. East Tennessee State JR 3B Blake Rowlett
  10. East Tennessee State JR OF Lance Mays
  11. Furman SR 2B/SS Jordan Simpson
  12. East Tennessee State SR OF Jeremy Taylor
  13. Furman JR C Cameron Whitehead
  14. Mercer JR 3B Danny Edgeworth
  15. Western Carolina SR C Danny Bermudez
  16. Samford JR 1B/RHP Hunter Swilling
  17. Wofford JR 1B Brett Hash
  18. Samford SR 1B Alex Lee
  19. Samford rJR SS Danny Rodriguez
  20. East Tennessee State rJR 2B/SS Danny Carrier
  21. Furman JR OF Carter Grote
  22. Samford JR OF TJ Dixon
  23. Furman JR OF Sky Overton
  24. North Carolina Greensboro SR 3B Collin Woody
  25. Western Carolina JR OF/1B Matt Smith
  26. Wofford JR C Carson Waln
  27. Wofford JR OF Kody Ruedisilli
  28. Samford SR C Richard Greene
  29. Mercer rSR OF/1B Blaise Lezynski
  30. Western Carolina rSR OF Garrett Brown
  31. East Tennessee State JR 1B/RHP Zach Thompson
  32. Western Carolina SR 2B/3B Reece Strong
  33. Wofford SR 2B/SS Alec Paradowski
  34. Samford SR SS Frankie Navarette
  35. Wofford SR SS/2B Derek Hirsch

Pitchers

  1. Samford JR RHP Jared Brasher
  2. Wofford SR RHP Will Stillman
  3. Wofford JR RHP Jacob Condra-Bogan
  4. East Tennessee State SR RHP Griffin Krieg
  5. North Carolina Greensboro rJR RHP Hunter Smith
  6. East Tennessee State JR RHP Blake Smith
  7. VMI SR RHP Taylor Edens
  8. North Carolina Greensboro SR RHP Keaton Haack
  9. East Tennessee State rSO RHP Dillon Cate
  10. Western Carolina SR RHP Colton Davis
  11. VMI rSO RHP Jack Gomersall
  12. Western Carolina JR LHP Bryan Sammons
  13. Western Carolina SR LHP Taylor Durand
  14. East Tennessee State JR RHP Victor Gonzalez
  15. Mercer JR RHP Ryan Askew
  16. Wofford JR RHP John Caskey
  17. Mercer JR LHP Austin Lord
  18. Western Carolina JR RHP BJ Nobles
  19. Wofford SR RHP Matthew Milburn
  20. Samford SR RHP Parker Curry

The Citadel

rSO RHP Zach McKay (2016)
rJR RHP Zach Lavery (2016)
rJR LHP Nate Brecklin (2016)
SR 2B/3B Bret Hines (2016)
rJR OF Steven Hansen (2016)
rJR OF Jason Smith (2016)
JR OF Austin Mapes (2016)
SR C Stephen Windham (2016)
SR OF Mike Deese (2016)
SO LHP JP Sears (2017)
SO RHP Thomas Byelick (2017)
SO RHP/2B Jacob Watcher (2017)
SO 3B/SS William Kinney (2017)
SO 2B Philip Watcher (2017)
SO 1B Drew Ellis (2017)
FR 1B Ben Peden (2018)

High Priority Follows: Steven Hansen, Austin Mapes, Stephen Windham

East Tennessee State

SR RHP Griffin Krieg (2016)
rSO RHP Dillon Cate (2016)
SR LHP Josh Jacques (2016)
JR LHP Jamin McCann (2016)
JR RHP Blake Smith (2016)
JR RHP Victor Gonzalez (2016)
SR RHP Lee Haeberle (2016)
JR RHP Connor Bartow (2016)
JR RHP/1B Zach Thompson (2016)
JR SS/RHP Chris Cook (2016)
SR 1B/C Kevin Phillips (2016)
SR 2B Trey York (2016)
SR OF Jeremy Taylor (2016)
JR 3B Blake Rowlett (2016)
JR OF Lance Mays (2016)
JR 1B/OF Caleb Longley (2016)
rJR 2B/SS Danny Carrier (2016)
SO RHP Ryan Simpler (2017)
SO RHP Logan Gentry (2017)
FR RHP Dalton Long (2017)
SO OF Aaron Maher (2017)
SO C/INF Hagan Owenby (2017)
SO INF Christian Bailey (2017)

Highest Priority Follows: Griffin Krieg, Dillon Cate, Blake Smith, Victor Gonzalez, Zach Thompson, Chris Cook, Kevin Phillips, Trey York, Jeremy Taylor, Blake Rowlett, Lance Mays, Danny Carrier

Furman

SR RHP Steven Fondu (2016)
JR RHP Will Dvorak (2016)
SR RHP Ryan Griffith (2016)
JR RHP Matthew Quarles (2016)
JR LHP Billy Greenfield (2016)
JR C Cameron Whitehead (2016)
SR 2B/SS Jordan Simpson (2016)
JR OF Carter Grote (2016)
JR OF Sky Overton (2016)
SR OF Griffin Davis (2016)
SR INF Matt Towarnicky (2016)
SR C Andrew MacLatchie (2016)
SO RHP Will Gaddis (2017)
SO LHP Grant Schuermann (2017)
SO 1B/RHP Brandon Elmy (2017)
SO SS Sims Griffith (2017)
SO OF Landon Kay (2017)
FR RHP Rollin Layton (2018)

High Priority Follows: Matthew Quarles, Cameron Whitehead, Jordan Simpson, Carter Grote, Sky Overton, Griffin Davis

Mercer

JR RHP Ryan Askew (2016)
JR RHP CJ Martin (2016)
JR LHP Austin Lord (2016)
JR OF Kyle Lewis (2016)
JR SS Matt Meeder (2016)
JR C Charlie Madden (2016)
JR 2B/SS Ryan Hagan (2016)
rSR OF/1B Blaise Lezynski (2016)
JR 1B Ben Upton (2016)
JR 1B Hunter Bening (2016)
JR INF Drew Lingo (2016)
JR 3B Danny Edgeworth (2016)
rJR 1B Howard Joe (2016)
SR C Jose Hernandez (2016)
SO LHP Conner Herd (2017)
SO RHP Carter Varga (2017)
SO OF Jackson Ware (2017)
SO OF Trey Truitt (2017)
FR RHP Kevin Coulter (2018)
FR RHP Andrew Kane (2018)
FR RHP Conrad Broom (2018)

High Priority Follows: Ryan Askew, Austin Lord, Kyle Lewis, Matt Meeder, Charlie Madden, Ryan Hagan, Blaise Lezynski, Danny Edgeworth

North Carolina Greensboro

rJR RHP Hunter Smith (2016)
SR RHP Keaton Haack (2016)
SR 3B Collin Woody (2016)
JR C Jake Kusz (2016)
JR OF Dillon Stewart (2016)
JR 1B Michael Goss (2016)
JR C/INF JoJo Underwood (2016)
JR 2B/OF Ben Spitznagel (2016)
rSR OF LJ Kalawaia (2016)
JR OF Ryne Sigmon (2016)
SO LHP Bryce Hensley (2017)
SO RHP Andrew Wantz (2017)
SO RHP Chad Sykes (2017)
SO OF Devin Ruiz (2017)
SO SS Tripp Shelton (2017)
FR RHP Matt Frisbee (2018)
FR OF Andrew Moritz (2018)
FR SS Cesar Trejo (2018)

High Priority Follows: Hunter Smith, Keaton Haack, Collin Woody, Jake Kusz, Dillon Stewart

Samford

SR RHP Parker Curry (2016)
JR RHP Jared Brasher (2016)
JR 1B/RHP Hunter Swilling (2016)
JR OF TJ Dixon (2016)
JR OF Heath Quinn (2016)
SR 1B Alex Lee (2016)
SR C Richard Greene (2016)
SR SS Frankie Navarette (2016)
rJR SS Danny Rodriguez (2016)
rSR OF Jared Watson (2016)
rSR OF Damon Waller (2016)
JR 3B/SS Anthony Gonzalez (2016)
SO RHP Jacob Greer (2017)
SO RHP Tristan Widra (2017)
SO RHP Wyatt Burns (2017)
SO 1B Austin Edens (2017)
FR RHP Connor Radcliff (2018)

High Priority Follows: Parker Curry, Jared Brasher, Hunter Swilling, TJ Dixon, Heath Quinn, Alex Lee, Frankie Navarette, Danny Rodriguez,

Virginia Military Institute

SR RHP Taylor Edens (2016)
JR LHP Austin Heenan (2016)
SR RHP Micah Gorman (2016)
rSO RHP Jack Gomersall (2016)
rJR RHP Ryan Bennett (2016)
JR OF Will Malbon (2016)
SR 3B David Geary (2016)
JR 1B Tyler Tharp (2016)
JR OF BJ Dudeck (2016)
SR OF Ray Lopez (2016)
SO LHP Brandon Barbery (2017)
SO RHP Jared Silva (2017)
SO RHP Matthew Eagle (2017)
SO SS Jacob Jye (2017)
SO C Peyton Maddox (2017)
SO OF/1B Collin Fleischer (2017)
SO OF Matt Dunlevy (2017)
FR RHP Josh Winder (2018)

High Priority Follows: Taylor Edens, Jack Gomersall

Western Carolina

JR LHP Bryan Sammons (2016)
JR RHP Korey Anderson (2016)
SR LHP Taylor Durand (2016)
SR RHP Colton Davis (2016)
SR RHP Jonathan Waszak (2016)
JR RHP BJ Nobles (2016)
rJR LHP Dillon Bray (2016)
SR C Danny Bermudez (2016)
JR OF/1B Matt Smith (2016)
SR OF Kramer Ferrell (2016)
SR 2B/3B Reece Strong (2016)
rJR 3B/SS JD Long (2016)
rSR OF Garrett Brown (2016)
rJR OF Bryson Bowman (2016
rSO C Pierce Suttles (2016)
rJR 1B Jason Smith (2016)
SO LHP Brandan Nail (2017)
SO LHP Corey Sikes (2017)
SO SS/3B Brett Pope (2017)
SO OF Matthew Koehler (2017)
SO C Spencer Holcomb (2017)
FR LHP Tristan Baker (2018)

High Priority Follows: Bryan Sammons, Taylor Durand, Colton Davis, BJ Nobles, Danny Bermudez, Matt Smith, Kramer Ferrell, Reece Strong, Garrett Brown, Pierce Suttles

Wofford

SR RHP Will Stillman (2016)
SR RHP Matthew Milburn (2016)
JR RHP Jacob Condra-Bogan (2016)
JR RHP Elliot Lance (2016)
JR RHP Spencer Kulman (2016)
SR LHP Connor Foltyn (2016)
JR RHP Jordan Accetta (2016)
JR RHP John Caskey (2016)
SR SS/2B Derek Hirsch (2016)
SR 2B/SS Alec Paradowski (2016)
SR OF/2B Demetrius Jennings (2016)
JR 1B Brett Hash (2016)
JR C Carson Waln (2016)
JR OF Kody Ruedisilli (2016)
JR INF Dylan May (2016)
SO LHP Adam Scott (2017)
SO 3B Max McDougal (2017)
SO OF McClain Bradley (2017)
SO C Mack Nathanson (2017)
SO C Cody Miller (2017)
FR RHP Reed Massey (2018)
FR LHP Austin Higginbotham (2018)
FR RHP Thomas Tatham (2018)
FR OF Chandler Engel (2018)

High Priority Follows: Will Stillman, Matthew Milburn, Jacob Condra-Bogan, John Caskey, Derek Hirsch, Alec Paradowski, Brett Hash, Carson Waln, Kody Ruedisilli

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5 Comments

  1. […] Atlantic MAC Mid-Eastern Missouri Valley Mountain West Northeast Ohio Valley Pac-12 Patriot SEC Southern Southland and (Part 2) Southwestern Summit Sun Belt West Coast Western […]

  2. […] Also for what it’s worth, I’ve heard from a few friends who are far from sold on Perez the hitter. That’s obviously a fair counterpoint to all of the enthusiasm found in the preceding avalanche of words. Will Perez hit enough to make the kind of impact worthy of the first overall selection? This takes me back to something tangentially related to Kyle Mercer, another potential 1-1 candidate, back in February… […]

  3. […] write about him anymore since 95% of the time I type “Kyle Mercer” and have to fix it; expanded thoughts from before the season here; RHH; FAVORITE; 6-4, 210 […]

  4. […] Also for what it’s worth, I’ve heard from a few friends who are far from sold on Perez the hitter. That’s obviously a fair counterpoint to all of the enthusiasm found in the preceding avalanche of words. Will Perez hit enough to make the kind of impact worthy of the first overall selection? This takes me back to something tangentially related to Kyle Mercer, another potential 1-1 candidate, back in February… […]

  5. […] during the draft process. Rather than reprint a whole wall of Kyle Lewis words, I’ll leave this link from last February here. I don’t normally link to myself and recommend you read it, but this […]

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