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Early April College Hitting Update

It’s Monday and I’m behind on some of the conference “preview” stuff I want to publish, so let’s take a quick look instead at some of the country’s top college hitters so far in 2016. There are an infinite number of ways to approach a topic like this, so I tried to make things easy on myself by coming up with some rules to make it manageable.

First, I used college stats from Friday to sort players into categories. That gave me a one-stop shop for all my stat needs, but it necessitated a look at individual team sites last night to update the numbers to get the most recent information. That’s why you’ll see some inconsistencies between the categories and the stats of the players found under each. Secondly, I decided to focus only on draft-eligible players. That eliminated most sophomores and all freshmen. Those guys will get their fair shake in the years to come. Finally, in what may seem like a direct contradiction to the above at first, I made the cruel executive decision to skip seniors for now. I promise that they’ll get their due in an exercise similar to this closer to the draft, but for now I wanted to hone in on the players seen as better prospects by the majority. I love me a good senior-sign, but that extra year of experience gives them a bit of an unfair statistical boost. So only juniors and draft-eligible sophomores for now.

OBP over .500 and SLG over .700

C/1B Jameson Fisher (Southeastern Louisiana) – .521/.626/.872 with 25 BB/10 K and 6/11 SB in 94 AB
C/1B Zack Collins (Miami) – .416/.581/.688 – with 34 BB/16 K in 77 AB
OF Kyle Lewis (Mercer) – .426/.555/.843 – with 33 BB/17 K and 4/7 SB in 108 AB
OF Adam Groesbeck (Air Force) – .447/.520/.671 with 11 BB/8 K and 12/14 SB in 85 AB
C Logan Ice (Oregon State) – .389/.495/.792 with 14 BB/3 K and 1/1 SB in 72 AB
C Brett Cumberland (California) – .425/.552/.904 with 15 BB/18 K and 3/3 SB in 73 AB
OF Anfernee Grier (Auburn) – .442/.535/.692 with 19 BB/23 K and 14/17 SB in 120 AB
OF Tyler Ramirez (North Carolina) – .394/.508/.670 with 22 BB/21 K and 6/9 SB in 94 AB
1B Dre Gleason (Austin Peay) – .390/.487/.680 with 17 BB/24 K in 100 AB

This is the category you want to be in as a hitter. It’s a spin-off of the .600+ SLG and BB> K group I had last year. On-base skills plus power potential equals big money come draft day. Tools will always matter, but results like the ones these players are putting up will get your foot in the door even if some scouts are dubious about other aspects of your game. Luckily, many of the names on this list are likely very familiar as big-time draft prospects who combine stellar performances with big league caliber tool sets.

I’m not sure anybody doubted Jameson Fisher’s bat coming into this season, but just in case he’s gone out and picked up where he left off in his last healthy season (2014)…and then some. We’re talking a 100 AB or so sample for all of the players listed, so let’s get that caveat out of the way right now. Still, Fisher’s start to the season has been positively Bonds-ian. I haven’t heard anything about his defense this season, but I do know scouts will want to see him behind the plate a little bit more before confidently projecting him as a pro-caliber defender. If he keeps hitting like he has, however, he might get himself into the top few round conversation much like the player one spot below him on the list. I still think Zack Collins is a catcher and I still think he should be talked about as a potential option for the Phillies at 1-1. Same thing with Kyle Lewis, minus the whole catching thing.

Adam Groesbeck, known more for his speed than his potent power/patience blend coming the season, has to be in the top ten round mix at this point. Logan Ice and Brett Cumberland are Pac-12 catchers with top two round bonafides. This class and catchers, man. It’s really unbelievable. Anfernee Grier has gotten some first round buzz of late and while I’m not sure I’d go that high on him yet, he’s certainly holding up his end of the bargain here in 2016. Tyler Ramirez could get dinged some by being an undersized tweener, but teams that believe in him in center should like the all-around offensive profile that comes with it. I don’t have much of a read on what those outside my own bubble think of Dre Gleason. I could see him as a surprising inclusion in the latter half of the draft’s single-digit rounds or being a mid- to late-round pick that winds up going back to school in an attempt to raise his stock as a 2017 senior-sign. I don’t know if teams are buying his bat as real just yet; hopefully he keeps hitting and quiets the doubters.

If we tease out the members who lost their spot over the weekend, we’re left with just three players currently in the .500/.700 club: Jameson Fisher, Kyle Lewis, and Brett Cumberland. Not a bad trio.

OBP over .500

2B Nick Solak (Louisville) – .455/.564/.623 with 19 BB/8 K and 7/8 SB in 77 AB
1B Carmen Benedetti (Michigan) – .372/.526/.570 with 24 BB/11 K and 6/7 SB in 86 AB
3B Sheldon Neuse (Oklahoma) – .392/.500/.686 with 22 BB/22 K and 8/8 SB in 102 AB
2B Cavan Biggio (Notre Dame) – .330/.527/.516 with 34 BB/14 K and 8/8 SB in 91 AB
2B/3B Nick Senzel (Tennessee) – .384/.504/.646 with 24 BB/12 K and 10/11 SB in 99 AB

Nick Solak can flat hit. I’d take him on my team anytime. He’s likely locked in at second in the infield, so I don’t know how high that profile can rise but I have a hunch he’ll be higher on my rankings than he winds up getting drafted in June. I’m more than all right with that. I have a hunch that Carmen Benedetti will go out as a pitcher in pro ball, but I like his bat too much to put it on ice. I like letting two-way players with split-decision futures start as hitters with pitching as a fallback rather than the other way around. Personal preference, obviously, but I think it’s easier to pick pitching back up on the fly. Sheldon Neuse is a deep fly or two away from being in the .500/.700 club. A lot has gone wrong for Oklahoma prospects this year, but Neuse has taken a step forward both at the plate and in the field. I think he’s solidly in the second round mix. Same for Cavan Biggio, the top-ranked college hitter on my way too early 2016 college preview back from March 2015. He was one spot ahead of Neuse. Before I start patting myself on the back too hard — something I really shouldn’t be doing in the first place considering that Biggio and Neuse, much as I love both, aren’t on anybody’s board as the top two college hitters — the next three hitters were Ryan Boldt, Nick Banks, and Chris Okey. Win some, lose some. Nick Senzel has been doing a lot of winning of late. I don’t know if Baseball America’s infatuation with him is more about them or about what they are hearing from big league front offices (my guess is the former in this case), but either way he’s a damn fine player and a legitimate top ten type. I’ve taken to comparing him to Anthony Rendon. That’s pretty special.

SLG over .700

OF Heath Quinn (Samford) – .330/.455/.679 with 22 BB/27 K

Like Neuse just missing the cutoff for .500/.700 by a few bombs, Quinn came into the weekend in need of just a few extra trips to first base (or any other base for that matter) to push his OBP over .500. Along the way his slugging dipped below the .700 line, but we’ll still count it since I used Friday’s numbers to originally sort (through the NCAA stats page) despite displaying stats as of the end of the weekend (via the more quickly updated team sites). Quinn is a physical 6-3, 220 pound outfielder with speed, power, and a solid approach. I’ve heard some speculate that he’s hurt some by the overwhelming presence of Kyle Lewis in his conference, but I think that’s nuts. There’s plenty of scouting love to go around, and the more general exposure the SoCon gets, the better it is for every team and every player.

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