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2016 MLB Draft – College Update

We’re now one month’s worth of games into the college season, so it feels like as good a time as any to take the temperature of the top college prospects in this class. All stats are updated as of games played on March 12 or March 13 depending on when the games ended yesterday. I used this post to frame the discussion.

Many, many, many players I like were not included in this update. I say this knowing full well how obnoxious it sounds, but trust that I know about your favorite player’s hot start. Neither malice nor ignorance is the cause of their exclusion. It’s simply a time and space thing. That said, feel free to bring up said favorite players’s hot starts in the comments. The more the merrier there, I say.

C Zack Collins – Miami – .400/.576/.733 – 19 BB/9 K – 0/1 SB – 45 AB
1B Will Craig – Wake Forest – .458/.581/1.021 – 10 BB/7 K – 48 AB
2B Nick Senzel – Tennessee – .393/.500/.589 – 14 BB/6 K – 7/8 SB – 56 AB
SS Michael Paez – Coastal Carolina – .328/.418/.483 – 6 BB/11 K – 0/2 SB – 58 AB
3B Bobby Dalbec – Arizona – .191/.350/.319 – 10 BB/17 K – 0/1 SB – 47 AB
OF Kyle Lewis – Mercer – .466/.581/.879 – 15 BB/8 K – 1/2 SB – 58 AB
OF Buddy Reed – Florida – .306/.411/.468 – 10 BB/12 K – 7/7 SB – 62 AB
OF Corey Ray – Louisville – .377/.452/.738 – 9 BB/6 K – 20/22 SB – 61 AB

We knew Collins could hit, so his great start is hardly a surprise. Still, those numbers are insane, very much under-the-radar nationally (source: my Twitter feed), and more than good enough to play at first base if you don’t think he’s worth trying behind the plate as a pro. It took Kyle Schwarber a long time to gain national acceptance as a potential top ten pick; I could see Collins following a similar path between now and June. He’s already very much in that mix for me.

Craig is a monster. The only note I’d pass along with his scorching start is that Wake Forest has played 12 of their first 17 games in the very friendly offensive confines of their home park. I still love the bat.

Senzel is yet another of the top prospect bats off to a wild start at the plate. Got an Anthony Rendon-lite comp on him recently that I think fits fairly well.

Much has been made about Ray’s start — rightfully so as he’s been awesome — that what Lewis has done so far has been overlooked some. I’m not blind to the fact that Ray’s functional speed and higher level of competition faced make him the preferred college outfielder for many, but no reason to sleep on Lewis.

RHP Alec Hansen – Oklahoma – 13.20 K/9 – 7.20 BB/9 – 6.00 ERA – 15.0 IP
LHP Matt Krook – Oregon – 14.32 K/9 – 7.67 BB/9 – 4.08 ERA – 17.2 IP
RHP Connor Jones – Virginia – 7.91 K/9 – 1.98 BB/9 – 1.98 ERA – 27.1 IP
LHP AJ Puk – Florida – 9.53 K/9 – 4.76 BB/9 – 2.65 ERA – 17.0 IP
RHP Dakota Hudson – Mississippi State – 12.20 K/9 – 5.72 BB/9 – 1.90 ERA – 23.2 IP

Funny how three of the top five have lines that line up similarly so far. I think Jones has shown the best mix of stuff and results out of this top tier this spring. I also think that right now there really isn’t a realistic college arm that can lay claim to being in the 1-1 mix. Early returns on the top of the 2016 college class: bats > arms.

C Sean Murphy – Wright State – .259/.429/.778 – 5 BB/5 K – 0/0 SB – 27 AB
1B Pete Alonso – Florida – .424/.493/.661 – 8 BB/4 K – 1/1 SB – 59 AB
2B JaVon Shelby – Kentucky – .341/.481/.756 – 8 BB/7 K – 2/2 SB – 41 AB
SS Logan Gray – Austin Peay State – .327/.450/.755 – 11 BB/16 K – 2/2 SB – 49 AB
3B Sheldon Neuse – Oklahoma – .340/.493/.698 – 16 BB/14 K – 6/6 SB – 53 AB
OF Bryan Reynolds – Vanderbilt – .345/.486/.618 – 14 BB/18 K – 2/5 SB – 55 AB
OF Jake Fraley – Louisiana State – .400/.500/.583 – 12 BB/7 K – 11/15 SB – 60 AB
OF Nick Banks – Texas A&M – .263/.317/.421 – 2 BB/6 K – 0/0 SB – 38 AB

While the First Team has had a few slow starters (Dalbec for sure, Paez if you’re picking nits about his BB/K), the Second Team is rolling from top to bottom. Murphy and Banks have been slowed some by injuries, but otherwise these guys are mashing.

It speaks to how great Lewis and Ray (and even Reed to an extent) have been this year that neither Reynolds nor Fraley have gained much traction as top outfield prospects in the national consciousness. Both are really good players who will make their drafting teams very happy in June.

It’s taken me a few years, but I finally realized who Banks reminds me of as a prospect: Hunter Renfroe. I’m not yet sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s a thing.

RHP Cal Quantrill – Stanford
LHP Matt Crohan – Winthrop – 9.95 K/9 – 0.47 BB/9 – 2.37 ERA – 19.0 IP
RHP Zach Jackson – Arkansas – 11.71 K/9 – 5.12 BB/9 – 2.19 ERA – 12.1 IP
RHP Robert Tyler – Georgia – 13.94 K/9 – 1.69 BB/9 – 3.38 ERA – 21.1 IP
LHP Garrett Williams – Oklahoma State

I really liked Keith Law’s Ryan Madson comp for Tyler. I’m high enough on Tyler to modify that and use it as a potential MLB floor because I think Tyler has a better chance to continue developing a good enough breaking ball to go through a lineup multiple times.

The relative struggles of some of the top college pitchers in this class leave the door wide open for a guy like Quantrill coming back from injury to seriously enter the 1-1 conversation.

C Matt Thaiss – Virginia – .361/.473/.541 – 12 BB/1 K – 0/1 SB – 61 AB
1B Carmen Beneditti – Michigan – .298/.452/.426 – 10 BB/4 K – 3/4 SB – 47 AB
2B Cavan Biggio – Notre Dame – .229/.448/.313 – 17 BB/10 K – 4/4 SB – 48 AB
SS Colby Woodmansee – Arizona State – .370/.486/.630 – 14 BB/9 K – 1/1 SB – 54 AB
3B Lucas Erceg – Menlo (CA) – .342/.378/.685 – 5 BB/6 K – 0 SB – 111 AB
OF Ryan Boldt – Nebraska – .318/.382/.424 – 6 BB/8 K – 7/12 SB – 66 AB
OF Stephen Wrenn – Georgia – .353/.424/.471 – 5 BB/9 K – 4/7 SB – 51 AB
OF Ronnie Dawson – Ohio State – .263/.354/.509 – 8 BB/9 K – 3/4 SB – 57 AB

Love Thaiss. Loved Biggio, but starting to re-calibrate my expectations a little. Same for Boldt. Never loved Woodmansee, but I’m beginning to get it. Erceg’s start confuses me. It’s excellent, obviously, but the numbers reflect a high-contact approach that doesn’t show up in any of the scouting notes on him. Consider my curiosity piqued.

LHP Eric Lauer – Kent State – 8.05 K/9 – 4.02 BB/9 – 1.82 ERA – 24.2 IP
RHP Michael Shawaryn – Maryland – 7.04 K/9 – 3.33 BB/9 – 3.33 ERA – 24.1 IP
RHP Daulton Jefferies – California – 11.42 K/9 – 1.73 BB/9 – 1.04 ERA – 26.0 IP
RHP Kyle Serrano – Tennessee – 3.2 IP
RHP Kyle Funkhouser – Louisville – 8.77 K/9 – 5.34 BB/9 – 4.18 ERA – 23.2 IP

When I re-do the college rankings (coming soon!), I think this is where we’ll see some serious movers and shakers. Things are wide open after the top eight or so pitchers as the conversation shifts move towards high-floor fourth/fifth starters rather than top half of the rotation possibilities. I’ve read and heard some of the Jefferies top half of the first round buzz, and I’ve been slow to buy in so far. I like him a lot, but that feels rich. Then I remember that Mike Leake climbed as high as eighth overall back in my first draft doing this, so anything is possible.

Now for some prospects that weren’t on the preseason teams that has caught my eye so far…

Logan Shore – Florida – 9.33 K/9 – 0.67 BB/9 – 2.00 ERA – 27.0 IP
Jordan Sheffield – Vanderbilt – 13.17 K/9 – 2.56 BB/9 – 1.09 ERA – 24.2 IP
Corbin Burnes – St. Mary’s – 11.20 K/9 – 2.32 BB/9 – 3.09 ERA – 23.1 IP
Bailey Clark – Duke – 10.50 K/9 – 2.63 BB/9 – 3.38 ERA – 24.0 IP

I’ve been slow to appreciate Sheffield, but I’m on board now. My lazy but potentially prescient comp to Dillon Tate is something I can’t shake. Clark vs Zach Jackson is a fun head-to-head prospect battle that pits two of my favorite raw arms with questions about long-term role holding them back.

Nick Solak – Louisville – .434/.563/.585 – 15 BB/5 K – 6/6 SB – 53 AB
Bryson Brigman – San Diego – .424/.472/.515 – 3 BB/4 K – 5/7 SB – 33 AB
Stephen Alemais – Tulane – .462/.477/.641 – 3 BB/6 K – 4/5 SB – 39 AB
Jake Rogers – Tulane – .302/.471/.547 – 13 BB/11 K – 5/5 SB – 53 AB
Errol Robinson – Mississippi – .226/.317/.358 – 7 BB/8 K – 2/2 SB – 53 AB
Logan Ice – Oregon State – .463/.520/1.024 – 5 BB/1 K – 0/0 SB – 41 AB
Trever Morrison – Oregon State – .400/.456/.600 – 5 BB/12 K – 0/1 SB – 50 AB

Solak’s start is a thing of beauty. Rogers and Ice add to the impressive depth at the top of the catching class. It’ll be interesting to see which C/SS combo gets drafted higher between Oregon State and Tulane.

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6 Comments

  1. Joe Coke says:

    I still think you’re missing Delay, catcher at Vanderbilt. He is batting over 0.300, is throwing out 60+% of anybody trying to steal and blocks everything. He should be in the discussion as one of the best catchers in the country. He also has at least one RBI in every game he has played in his year.

    • Rob Ozga says:

      Maybe. That over .300 BA comes with a less thrilling .340 OBP and a concerning — in as much as any small sample issue can be concerning — 2 BB/8 K ratio, plus good (.447 SLG) yet not great power. I think he’s still clearly behind the three catchers (or two, if you consider Collins a 1B) listed and the early season returns put him behind the other two names (Rogers and Ice) as well. Statistical and scouting cases can be made for others — I’m thinking Andrew Knizner and Gavin Stupienski off the top of my head — in addition to the others mentioned in the original post. And all this ignores the pre-season number one (for many) Chris Okey. Being behind prospects of these caliber don’t mean that I don’t like Delay, of course; I just think he’s right there on the outside of that discussion. There’s just a lot of depth at the top of the position this year. Reasonable minds can (and will) differ.

      • Ben Gipson says:

        I don’t get the Murphy love! I’ve seen him multiple times in the cape and he just doesn’t perform against top comp. He seems very raw and not elite at either phase. Especially when compared to other catchers above. What am I missing?

  2. Ben Gipson says:

    After seeing all of these catchers in the cape I must disagree with your ranking as well. Rogers is the clear leader overall defensively and if he continues with his bat then sky is the limit. Ice is on fire but along with Murphy very underwhelming in the cape! I don’t get the Murphy love. I’m sorry but I would put delay above him as well as Delay is a at least a proven hitter. Thais and Collins are great hitters but not catchers. You’re right that Collins could be moved to first but the dilemma with Thais is he is 5’9 and can’t play catcher (he did play first for Hyannis and never caught). What do you project for him?

    • Rob Ozga says:

      Think you brought up similar points on Twitter, where I was about to respond, but figure we’ll do it here instead without the character restrictions. I think first and foremost I should make clear my pet theory that the Cape, an undeniably fantastic baseball environment for reasons beyond anything a dope like me can put into words, may not be the best way to judge catching prospects. I know of some pro teams that don’t sweat what pitchers do their on the basis of it being the tail end of a long season. I think the same logic can apply to catchers. That wouldn’t mean I’d downplay a catcher who looked awesome, but rather I’d give the ones that struggled more of a mulligan than I might otherwise. Not saying that you’re doing that or that any in-person view on the Cape is invalid, just something to think about.

      As for the actual players in question, honestly, I can’t really say you’re missing anything with Murphy. If you don’t see it, you don’t see it…and that’s cool. I don’t personally have a great feel for the bat yet, but those who like him cite bat speed, strength, and willingness to use the whole field. I’d thrown in his approach — admittedly based on production rather than anything scout-y — as another positive for him at the plate. What I can vouch for is his arm being one of the best in the class. He’s got a rocket and enough natural mobility behind the plate to put it to good use. I think he’s good enough all-around defensively to profile as a high-floor potential backup big league catcher with the upside of a starter. If nothing else, I think the comparison to Delay is a bit off the mark. A scout might prefer Delay to Murphy and I wouldn’t argue, but calling Delay a proven hitter and implying Murphy doesn’t work. The only time that Delay clearly out hit Murphy with the bat was on the Cape last summer…and that was in 42 AB for Delay and 93 for Murphy. Delay is a .271/.368/.371 (29 BB/60 K) hitter at Vandy while Murphy has hit .316/.407/.450 (51 BB/68 K) at Wright State. Level of competition shrinks the gap some (SEC >>> Horizon) and projection trumps prior production, but I think Murphy has proven a lot at the plate so far. I’ll reiterate that I haven’t seen a ton of Murphy up close over the years (and even if I had, I’m a fan and not a scout), so a lot of my appreciation comes from secondhand reports and the numbers.

      Rogers vs Murphy is interesting. I think they are fairly similar in their strengths and weaknesses, actually. Agree that Rogers is the better defender, so that alone could be the edge. His hot start at the plate is definitely opening some eyes. Rogers over Murphy is a very fair take, and your point about Murphy still being rough around the edges is well taken.

      I don’t think Collins will ever be a “good” catcher and maybe not even average, but feedback I’ve gotten on him indicates that a good number of pro teams will try him there. I’d do the same, so I approve. Thaiss (two more homers tonight, BTW) is a catcher all the way for me, so we’ll agree to disagree on him. At worst, I think he’s Andrew Knapp.

      • Ben Gipson says:

        Man great post and thanks for the reply! Thaiss is a weird case as he didn’t catch for team USA or the cape where he ironically backed up Rogers for Hyannis. He definitely has always had a bat, I’m just unsure of him being an everyday catcher?! I see more of a first baseman? Things to ponder. Thanks again

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