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2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – Big East

As one of my three “home” conferences, I see a whole lot of Big East baseball. Quick trips are already lined up to see Butler, St. John’s, Creighton, and Villanova, and that’s before traveling beyond twenty minutes from my apartment. Springtime travel often takes me to New York and DC, so I might be able to catch home games at St. John’s and Georgetown as well. There are pros and cons when it comes with attempting to meld nationwide coverage of the draft with first-person “scouting” accounts – we’ll get into that some later – but it’s worth mentioning now so that my pro-Big East agenda can get out there in the open. I’ve only ever lived in the northeastern part of the United States, so I’ll be damned if I’m not going to try to support baseball here any way that I can.

“There are no stars in the Big East, but still some nice players.” That’s my most heard – twice! – refrain from those in the know about this year’s crop of Big East talent. It currently holds up upon further review. Like everyone, I love star-caliber talent; missing out on it this year is a bummer, but that’s how it goes in certain years for mid-majors. Maybe not like everyone – certainly not like anybody who covers the draft publicly like this – I relish the opportunity to find potential fourth outfielders, utility infielders, backup catchers, fifth starters/swingmen, and middle relievers. If those are the kinds of guys you like, then the Big East in 2016 is for you.

Michael Donadio is a really well-rounded outfielder who has flashed at least average ability with all five tools. His power, CF range, and arm might make more bench bat/platoon player than future regular, but it’s still an enticing overall profile. His teammate, Alex Caruso, profiles similarly, though he’s cut more from the classic “fifth outfielder” cloth. He doesn’t have the same kind of pop as Donadio, but he’ll give you outstanding instincts that help him play above his physical tools in center and when running the bases. The outfield pair at Creighton rivals what St. John’s has. Daniel Woodrow and Kevin Connolly both have plus speed (Woodrow might be a touch faster) and easy CF range. Lack of power limits the ceiling for both players, but it’s not a stretch to have the same kind of fifth outfielder future in mind as Caruso.

Creighton’s best pro prospect for 2016 is Nicky Lopez, a slick fielding shortstop with plus speed and serious athleticism. Like the rest of the names at the top his bat might keep him as more utility player than starter. He’s a fine prospect in his own right, so hopefully this doesn’t come across the wrong way…but Lopez benefits greatly from being draft-eligible in 2016 and not 2015. Last year he might have gotten swept away with all the excellent college shortstop prospects getting popped early and often on draft day; this year, he stands out as one of the better options at the position for no other reason than the fact there’s little doubt he’ll stick there as a professional. Harrison Crawford, the man who lines up to Lopez’s right at Creighton, benefits similarly from a watered down third base class. I like him as a steady fielding senior-sign with some pop. I like Reagan Fowler, yet another Creighton infielder, for much the same reasons. Fowler is a prospect that I’ve long liked, so I’m not about to bail after his good (.319 BA with 23 BB/23 K) yet not great (.065 ISO for a 1B) redshirt-junior season. He’s probably a borderline draft pick if looking at things objectively, though a return to his 2014 form would almost certainly intrigue a team enough to give him a go. A friend who liked him said he could have a lefthanded Darin Ruf type of career, if the power comes back around. I apparently compared him to Casey Grayson as a draft prospect last year, so there’s that to consider as well.

Dan Rizzie and Chris Marras are both potential senior-sign catchers with legitimate big league backup upside. Had this to say about Rizzie last year…

Xavier JR C Dan Rizzie is a pro-level defensive player with enough bat speed, patience, and pop to work himself into a really good backup catcher/workable starting catcher profile.

Fair enough. I now like Chris Marras better than Butler’s other Chris M. (Chris Maranto) despite remaining a fan of the latter’s hit tool and approach. I may have expected too much too soon out of him last season, so a rebound year for the now redshirt-junior seems like a strong possibility.

The gap between Rizzie, Marras, and, the favorite of many I talked to, Troy Dixon is minuscule. Dixon is a good glove behind the plate with a strong arm, and early returns on both aspects of his game speak to even more improvement so far this year. Making your existing strengths even stronger is often easier than turning weaknesses into strengths, after all. I talked up the Seton Hall outfielders (Zack Weigel and Derek Jenkins) last year, so I won’t go into great detail this time around. Weigel and Caruso are very similar prospects while Jenkins remains the small, speedy center fielder who has yet to show he has enough power to keep pro pitchers honest.

Finally we get to the Villanova guys. As I’ve mentioned in the past, Villanova is one of the handful of schools within a twenty minute or so drive from my home base. I don’t think I overrate prospects from local schools because of that – maybe Penn a bit since I see them more than any other team – but seeing players over and over again in person is bound to alter the process in some way. I tend to rely on publicly available information and updates from friends in the game more than my own firsthand “scouting” observations, but I’ll maintain that any change in how I usually do things – such as seeing a player fifty times over three or four years versus seeing him five times or less – is going to produce some noise that has to be filtered out if I want to stay consistent with my approach. Being cognizant of the potential bias is important, and I think disclosing such things is helpful to understanding how I arrive at certain conclusions on players.

Of the notable Villanova prospects, I think the one prospect who might have me thinking more of them after seeing him in person a lot (rather than just being a name on a page) is Donovan May. Without having seen him firsthand, there’s little chance he would be included on the rankings below. High priority follow under the team listings? Sure, why not: it’s a fairly low bar and his obvious athleticism, bloodlines, and team-leading number of walks in 2015 are enough to warrant at least some casual interest heading into his draft year. Actually seeing him field, run, throw, and, yes, even hit in person, however, has me a little extra curious about his pro future. It’s not like it’s my first rodeo where I’m easily seduced by an athlete who cuts a fine figure in uniform, but human nature is undeniable: May looks the part, so he’ll get chances when others less suited to sell jeans will not. If he doesn’t start hitting, of course, then all of this is a moot point. I’ve bought in enough to rank him, true, but there’s a reason he’s placed where he is relative to his Big East peers.

Villanova’s best prospect, Todd Czinege, is somebody I very much look forward to honing in on this spring. I’m damn sure he can hit, so the focus will be on his approach, his defense, and how usable his power will be. If he doesn’t get any better, he’s still talented enough at the plate to warrant a draft pick. If he can improve in just one of those areas, I think he becomes a legitimate top ten round threat. And if he can improve two or more of those areas? It’s almost too wild a hypothetical to consider – good baseball player becomes GREAT baseball player overnight! – but rest assured he’d rise very, very high on draft boards around the league. As is, I’ve talked to a few people in the know who think he’s the best hitter in the conference with no real competition for second. That’s high praise.

Turns out there are also pitchers in the Big East this year, too. Hopefully we still have a few words left to spare on these fine young men. The most famous pitcher in the Big East is Thomas Hackimer of St. John’s. The sub six-foot righthander (5-11, 200) has a long track record of missing bats coming out of the pen (9.84 K/9 in 2014, 9.52 K/9 last season) with all kinds of funky stuff (above-average low- to mid-80s SL and average CU) coming at you from an even funkier delivery. He clearly doesn’t fit the classic closer mold, but a recent uptick in velocity (92-93 peak this year, up from his usual 85-90 MPH range) could raise his prospect profile from generic college mid-round righty reliever to potential late-inning option if things keep clicking. I like guys like this a lot on draft day, so consider me a big Hackimer fan…as long as the price remains reasonable. At this rate, he could pitch his way right out of the “undervalued draft steal” category and into “fair value” territory.

Danny Pobreyko isn’t the type to wow, but solid stuff across the board (88-92 FB, above-average breaking ball) and an ideal frame (6-5, 200) put him on the shortlist of top pitching prospects in this conference. For what it’s worth, I originally had him in the top spot before switching back to Hackimer at the last moment. David Ellingson brings similar stuff to the mound, but with less size (6-1, 200). Bigger arms like Matt Smith (93 peak), Ryan McAuliffe (94), and Curtiss Pomeroy (95) could continue to rise with strong springs.

Hitters

  1. St. John’s JR OF Michael Donadio
  2. Creighton JR SS/2B Nicky Lopez
  3. St. John’s SR OF Alex Caruso
  4. Creighton SR 3B Harrison Crawford
  5. Creighton JR OF Daniel Woodrow
  6. Creighton JR OF Kevin Connolly
  7. Xavier SR C Dan Rizzie
  8. Creighton rSR 1B Reagan Fowler
  9. Butler SR C Chris Marras
  10. Villanova JR 2B/3B Todd Czinege
  11. St. John’s JR C Troy Dixon
  12. Butler rJR 2B/SS Chris Maranto
  13. Seton Hall SR OF Zack Weigel
  14. Creighton SR 2B/SS Ryan Fitzgerald
  15. Seton Hall SR OF Derek Jenkins
  16. Villanova SR 1B/RHP Max Beermann
  17. Creighton JR OF Riley Landuyt
  18. Villanova SR SS Eric Lowe
  19. Villanova SR OF/SS Adam Goss
  20. Xavier rJR SS/3B Andre Jernigan
  21. Creighton JR OF Riley Conlan
  22. Villanova JR OF Donovan May

Pitchers

  1. St. John’s SR RHP Thomas Hackimer
  2. Butler JR RHP Danny Pobereyko
  3. Georgetown JR RHP David Ellingson
  4. Georgetown SR RHP Matt Smith
  5. St. John’s JR RHP Ryan McAuliffe
  6. Georgetown SR RHP Curtiss Pomeroy
  7. Creighton rSO RHP Rollie Lacy
  8. Creighton SR RHP Nick Highberger
  9. St. John’s rJR RHP Michael Sheppard
  10. Butler JR LHP Jeff Schank
  11. Creighton SR RHP Taylor Elman
  12. Seton Hall JR RHP Zach Prendergast
  13. Seton Hall JR LHP Anthony Pacillo
  14. Creighton JR RHP Austin Stroschein
  15. Georgetown JR RHP Nick Leonard
  16. St. John’s SR RHP Joey Graziano
  17. Creighton SR RHP Matt Warren
  18. Creighton JR RHP David Gerber
  19. Xavier JR LHP Greg Jacknewitz
  20. St. John’s rSR RHP Joey Christopher

Butler

JR RHP Danny Pobereyko (2016)
rJR RHP Chris Myjak (2016)
SR LHP Nick Morton (2016)
JR LHP Jeff Schank (2016)
SR RHP Tyler Rathjen (2016)
rJR 2B/SS Chris Maranto (2016)
rJR OF Drew Small (2016)
SR C Chris Marras (2016)
SR OF Nick Bartolone (2016)
SO LHP Josh Goldberg (2017)
SO RHP Luke Johnson (2017)
SO SS Garrett Christman (2017)
SO OF Tyler Houston (2017)
SO OF Gehrig Parker (2017)
SO OF/2B Cole Malloy (2017)
FR RHP Quintin Miller (2018)

High Priority Follows: Danny Pobereyko, Jeff Schank, Chris Maranto, Drew Small, Chris Marras

Creighton

SR RHP Nick Highberger (2016)
rSO RHP Rollie Lacy (2016)
JR RHP David Gerber (2016)
SR LHP John Oltman (2016)
SR LHP Will Bamesburger (2016)
SR RHP Matt Warren (2016)
JR RHP Austin Stroschein (2016)
SR RHP Taylor Elman (2016)
JR LHP Jeff Albrecht (2016)
SR RHP Connor Miller (2016)
rSR 1B Reagan Fowler (2016)
JR SS/2B Nicky Lopez (2016)
SR 2B/SS Ryan Fitzgerald (2016)
SR 3B Harrison Crawford (2016)
JR OF Kevin Connolly (2016)
JR OF Daniel Woodrow (2016)
JR OF Riley Conlan (2016)
JR OF Riley Landuyt (2016)
SR OF Brett Murray (2016)
SR C Matt Gandy (2016)
SO RHP Ethan DeCaster (2017)
SO RHP Keith Rogalla (2017)
FR RHP Ty Ramirez (2018)

High Priority Follows: Nick Highberger, Rollie Lacy, David Gerber, Matt Warren, Austin Stroschein, Taylor Elman, Connor Miller, Reagan Fowler, Nicky Lopez, Ryan Fitzgerald, Harrison Crawford, Kevin Connolly, David Woodrow, Riley Conlan, Riley Landuyt

Georgetown

JR RHP David Ellingson (2016)
SR RHP Curtiss Pomeroy (2016)
SR RHP Tim Davis (2016)
SR RHP Matt Smith (2016)
JR RHP Simon Mathews (2016)
JR RHP Nick Leonard (2016)
JR OF/RHP Beau Hall (2016)
JR 3B Jake Kuzbel (2016)
SO RHP Kevin Superko (2017
SO RHP Jimmy Swad (2017)
SO OF Austin Shirley (2017)
SO 2B Chase Bushor (2017)
SO 1B Bennett Stehr (2017)

High Priority Follows: David Ellingson, Curtiss Pomeroy, Tim Davis, Matt Smith, Simon Mathews, Nick Leonard

St. John’s

SR RHP Thomas Hackimer (2016)
rJR RHP Michael Sheppard (2016)
rSR RHP Joey Christopher (2016)
SR RHP Joey Graziano (2016)
JR RHP Ryan McAuliffe (2016)
JR LHP Joe Nellis (2016)
rJR RHP Dylan Drawdy (2016)
SR OF Alex Caruso (2016)
JR OF Michael Donadio (2016)
SR 2B Ty Blankmeyer (2016)
JR 3B Robbie Knightes (2016)
JR C Troy Dixon (2016)
rJR 1B Gui Gingras (2016)
SO LHP Kevin Magee (2017)
rFR 1B/RHP David Moyer (2017)
SO OF/3B Jamie Galazin (2017)
SO 2B/SS Jesse Berardi (2017)
SO OF Anthony Brocato (2017)
rFR OF Aidan McDermott (2017)
FR RHP Matthew Messier (2018)
FR RHP Cole Whitney (2018)
FR SS Josh Shaw (2018)
FR 1B Gavin Garay (2018)

High Priority Follows: Thomas Hackimer, Michael Sheppard, Joey Christopher, Joey Graziano, Ryan McAuliffe, Alex Caruso, Michael Donadio, Robbie Knightes, Troy Dixon

Seton Hall

JR RHP Zach Prendergast (2016)
SR RHP Sam Burum (2016)
SR RHP Luke Cahill (2016)
JR LHP Anthony Pacillo (2016)
JR RHP Ryan Testani (2016)
SR OF Derek Jenkins (2016)
SR OF Zack Weigel (2016)
SR 2B Chris Chiaradio (2016)
JR 1B Mikael-Ali Mogues (2016)
JR SS Joe Poduslenko (2016)
SO RHP Chris Morris (2017)
SO RHP Zach Schellenger (2017)
SO RHP Shane McCarthy (2017)
SO RHP Matt Leon (2017)
SO OF Ryan Ramiz (2017)
FR RHP Billy Layne (2018)
FR LHP Cullen Dana (2018)
FR INF Sebastiano Santorelli (2018)
FR INF Anthony Scotti (2018)

High Priority Follows: Zach Prendergast, Sam Burum, Anthony Pacillo, Ryan Testani, Derek Jenkins, Zack Weigel, Mikael-Ali Mogues, Joe Poduslenko

Villanova

JR LHP Hunter Schryver (2016)
SR 1B/RHP Max Beermann (2016)
SR C/OF Emmanuel Morris (2016)
SR 3B/1B Kevin Jewitt (2016)
SR SS Eric Lowe (2016)
SR OF/SS Adam Goss (2016)
JR 2B/3B Todd Czinege (2016)
JR OF Donovan May (2016)
JR C Zander Retamar (2016)
SO LHP Mike Sgaramella (2017)
SO RHP Ryan Doty (2017)

High Priority Follows: Hunter Schryver, Max Beermann, Emannuel Morris, Kevin Jewitt, Eric Lowe, Adam Goss, Todd Czinege, Donovan May

Xavier

JR LHP Brad Kirschner (2016)
JR LHP Trent Astle (2016)
JR LHP Greg Jacknewitz (2016)
SR C Dan Rizzie (2016)
rJR SS/3B Andre Jernigan (2016)
JR 1B Ethan Schmidt (2016)
SR 2B David Morton (2016)
SO LHP Zac Lowther (2017)
SO RHP Garrett Schilling (2017)
SO 3B Rylan Bannon (2017)
SO C Nate Soria (2017)
SO OF Will LaRue (2017)
FR SS/2B Chris Givin (2018)
FR 2B Sam Flamini (2018)

High Priority Follows: Brad Kirschner, Trent Astle, Greg Jacknewitz, Dan Rizzie, Andre Jernigan, Ethan Schmidt

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3 Comments

  1. Big East Fan says:

    Nice right up. As far as middle infielders go, I see Jernigan listed as preseason all conference at SS. No mention of him in the article and listed 20 on your hitters. What’s the latest info on him as a draft prospect?

    • Rob Ozga says:

      I love Jernigan as a college player, but I’m not sure his ultra-aggressive approach as a hitter will translate to the pro game. He can get away with it for now, but advanced pitching is a different animal. He’s defied the odds so far, so I’m not necessarily doubting him…but my hunch is that it’ll catch up to him in the pros. That doesn’t mean that he won’t get drafted, but rather I’m personally less high on him than others. Still probably a better bet than some of the guys in the same area of the hitting list even with the swing at everything approach.

      The scouting buzz on him is probably stuff you already know: unusually physical (in a good way) for a middle infielder, very strong, solid athlete, and better defensively than he might look after a quick first impression (i.e., he grows on you). I know some have questioned his long-term future at short, but I wonder if that’s more on how he looks rather than how he plays, which isn’t particularly fair. One friend of mine affectionately calls him the Juan Uribe of college baseball. It’s not a pro comp per se, but still pretty fitting.

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