I like Taylor Walls a lot. I think there’s a good chance he can keep playing shortstop in the pros. If that’s the case, then he has a chance to go much higher than wherever I’m likely to end up ranking him. That potential relatively low ranking stems from the fact that I’m far less than certain than many seem to be about his chances of developing into an everyday shortstop. In all honesty, I don’t really know what to make of his defense just yet. My eyes say “sure why not,” my ears (i.e., contacts I know and trust) say “nope,” and BIG DRAFT (BA, PG, D1) collectively seem to think of him as a lock to stick at short. That’s confusing. It adds up to “inconclusive, needs more evidence” for me, so I guess that’s my official position for now. Feel free to draw your own conclusions as you see fit. Frankie Piliere, who has been pumping out great stuff for some time now but has taken it to another level so far in 2017, compared Walls to Brock Holt earlier this year. I like that a lot. I’ve gotten two comps for him — Walls, not Piliere — that I like for the throwback vibes if nothing else: the young versions of Mark McLemore and Luis Alicea. Between those three comps — long-term big league role players with flashes of starting-caliber output, all — and the generally positive scouting notes on Walls (great glove at second, good glove at short; enough arm strength for the left side of the infield; above-average speed; typical Florida State approach as a hitter), it’s fair to think of him as a relatively high-floor prospect with starting middle infielder upside. The higher the odds you place on him remaining at shortstop, the higher he should be on your board.
This is a completely anecdotal statement based largely on the recent memory of Ben DeLuzio wearing the gold and garnet, but it feels like Florida State, a school famous for piling up free passes on the offensive side of the ball, has a big-time hitter every season who completely bucks the extreme patience trend. Enter Dylan Busby, the proud owner of a 49/167 (and counting!) career BB/K ratio. Athletically gifted enough to play anywhere on the diamond — 50/50 split on first or third (my preference as to not waste his above-average arm) as his long-term spot based on info I received — and capable of some of most majestic home runs (easy plus raw power) in all the land, Busby has a lot going for him. He’s not my kind of prospect, but the power/speed athletic profile will surely entice teams willing to overlook his present free-swinging ways.
Rhett Aplin has been really strong in his Florida State debut. There’s power, arm strength, and the usual Seminole emphasis on plate discipline there. I know some that are excited at the prospect of him getting on the mound eventually, but I think his offensive game is plenty to be happy about for now. Quincy Nieporte didn’t have the breakout 2016 some (me) were expecting, but he’s been damn good to start his final season in Tallahassee. The world will always need senior-signs with power, so keep Nieporte on your draft radar. “Strong and slow” was how one contact described him. I like that.
There are probably enough decent middle infielders in this class to keep Matt Henderson from getting a chance in pro ball. That’s a shame if only for the fact Henderson might be the weirdest player in college baseball. If I told you that there was a quality glove at second (playable at short) with above-average to plus speed putting up on-base percentages of .420 (in 2016) and .397 (so far in 2017) in one of college ball’s best lineups, then you’d be sold on that as a sure-fire draft target, right? But what if that guy also hit just .230 (in 2016) and is hitting .204 (so far in 2017) with dangerously little power? Bit of a tougher sell, I’m guessing. I’d begrudgingly remove Henderson from my hypothetical draft board even before taking into account the likelihood that his one offensive strength (taking four balls and walking to first) would get weakened in a hurry once pro pitchers got wise to his total lack of sock. It still doesn’t hurt to point out how weird and wonderful Henderson is in the college setting. He could play for my college team anytime.
I think all nine of the draft-eligible Florida State arms listed below could be drafted this June. That’s a ton of picks off of one staff. Let’s rank them based on that very likelihood…
9 – Ed Voyles – Good 2016, slow start in 2017; changeup (flashes plus) and size (6-7, 200) both working in his favor
8 – Alec Byrd – long track record of success should matter more than his ugly 2017 to date; decent velocity (86-91) from the left side with some projection left (6-4, 180)
7 – Steven Wells – argument could be made he could be ranked lower due to relative inexperience on the mound, but stuff (89-93 FB, mid-70s CB) and athleticism make him a project worth taking on
6 – Will Zirzow – misses bats with a well-rounded repertoire (good 73-76 CU, 73-74 CB) without premium velocity (86-88 FB)
5 – Cobi Johnson – a true wild card as he comes back from last April’s Tommy John surgery; at his best, arguably the best stuff of any draft-eligible pitcher here (87-92 FB, 94 peak; plus 73-74 CB; average CU; 81-83 cut-SL)
4 – Jim Voyles – more success than his brother with a more relief friendly featured offspeed pitch (plus 78-80 SL)
3 – Drew Carlton – floor of an effective sinker/slider reliever with the ceiling of a useful back of the rotation starter thanks to a quality if underutilized 79-82 MPH changeup
2 – Andrew Karp – the template for Johnson as he returns from injury; like Johnson, a big HS recruit known for legit stuff (87-92 FB, 94 peak; 84-86 SL; 77-81 CB; good 79-82 CU); finally putting it all together
1 – Tyler Holton – just about everything written about Charlie Barnes of Clemson earlier in the week — 85-90 FB (92 peak), 75-79 breaking ball with promise, nasty 76-78 changeup, command for days — applies to Holton with a strong case to be made that the Seminoles draft-eligible sophomore is the better long-term prospect; big fan of this guy and his expert pitchability
For the record, that countdown is less about my own personal feelings about each than guesses about draftability. My prep love of Johnson might push him all the way to the top of a straight ranking by personal preference. Wouldn’t argue with anybody who had Holton, Karp, or Carlton in the top spot, however. All are really good pro prospects.
JR RHP Cobi Johnson (2017)
JR RHP Drew Carlton (2017)
rSO RHP Andrew Karp (2017)
SR LHP Alec Byrd (2017)
rJR RHP Ed Voyles (2017)
SR RHP Jim Voyles (2017)
rJR RHP Will Zirzow (2017)
SO LHP/OF Tyler Holton (2017)
JR RHP/OF Steven Wells (2017)
JR OF/LHP Rhett Aplin (2017)
SR 1B Quincy Nieporte (2017)
JR 2B/SS Taylor Walls (2017)
SR C Bryan Bussey (2017)
JR 3B/1B Dylan Busby (2017)
SR 2B/SS Matt Henderson (2017)
SR OF/3B Hank Truluck (2017)
SO RHP Cole Sands (2018)
SO RHP Chase Haney (2018)
rFR RHP Alex Carpenter (2018)
SO RHP Ronnie Ramirez (2018)
rFR RHP Dillon Brown (2018)
SO C Cal Raleigh (2018)
SO OF/C Jackson Lueck (2018)
SO OF Donovan Petrey (2018)
FR LHP Clayton Kwiatkowski (2019)
FR RHP Brandon Reitz (2019)
FR RHP Justin Sorokowski (2019)
FR LHP/OF Drew Parrish (2019)
FR OF/RHP JC Flowers (2019)
FR 3B Drew Mendoza (2019)
FR 2B/OF Nick Derr (2019)
FR SS Tyler Daughtry (2019)
FR OF Ryan Mejia (2019)
After a slow start (1-17 in first 4 games), Busby has been coming around. “Easy power” is an apt description. He’s dinged right now though with a thumb injury. Hopefully he gets back in there soon. He’s fun to watch.
Matt henderson might not be toast quite yet. As an old-school guy that wants that hit tool to be first, second, and third amongst the 5-tools, he isn’t my cup of tea….. however, a Nolan Fontana comp may not be a stretch. While Nolan did execute a more all around game with the stick at Florida, he hasn’t been that guy with wood. Meanwhile I think henderson hit .349 in summer ball this year, making for a possible career intersect between the two in pro ball.
Agree with report on Walls. I think he could stick at short. Arm strength may not be plus, but makes all throws on time. Hitting may have started slow but you can see approach has been a little more aggressive helping him not to get in more two strike counts. But bat speed is there saw him take Florida pitcher that was hitting 94-96 mph over right field fence. Great knowledge of strike zone maybe best in draft. I also agree with old school feel as a player. Can pencil in every day with a never ending motor. I think if he finds the right organization could be a very productive player. Maybe not allstar but very good utility, max potential everyday short stop slashing 260-280 avg/10-15 hr/ stealing 10-20 bags with really good on base.
Would love to see your thoughts on Holton after the amazing season he just had.
Honestly, my memory is bad and I write about so many players that I can’t remember where I stood on Holton previously, so forgive me if I’m either repeating myself or contradicting myself…but I really do love Holton. Quality offspeed stuff, commands the fastball, dominant results two years running…what’s not to like? Oh yeah, velocity. To that I say “big deal.” At some point all those other positives has to outweigh less than ideal velocity. And it isn’t like he’s a low- to mid-80s true soft tosser, either. I’ve got him 85-90 (92 peak) in my notes. I also ranked him 292 in this class; despite where he actually went — though that obviously had plenty to do with signability as much as talent — I think I may have actually underrated him in hindsight.
Sorry if that was a bit disjointed, but I really do like Holton. He’ll go into next season as one of my favorite college pitchers.