C – Griffin Helms
1B – Austin Upshaw
2B – Hunter Hanks
SS – Julio Gonzalez
3B – Alex Merritt
OF – Michael Gigliotti, JJ Shimko, Taylor Allum
The offensive headliners in the Atlantic Sun this year can be found roaming the outfields. Michael Gigliotti, who has been compared to both Leonys Martin and Josh Hart by Perfect Game in the past, was the consensus top hitter in the conference coming into the year, but a down draft season has opened the door for challengers to his throne to rise up. The most impressive of said challengers is JJ Shimko, a player with similar strengths (hit tool, speed, arm, CF range, approach) and weaknesses (mainly power). As I’ve said a few times this spring already, players like Gigliotti and Shimko would have been really high on my board in previous years. This year, however, I’m finding myself a little burnt out on non-power types. That’s probably not a fair characterization of either player — Gigliotti and Shimko both have average raw power even if it’s only really shown up for them in one of their three respective college seasons — but it isn’t so far off the mark that I have to rewrite this whole paragraph. Thank goodness for that.
The positive sell on both guys is pretty easy: both are natural center fielders who can run, throw, and, most importantly, hit. Add in positive plate discipline indicators and it’s enough to help both guys profile as potential average to slightly above-average regulars once defense and base running are factored in. One comp for Gigliotti that comes to mind is Jackie Bradley Jr. Their college stat comparison is a little interesting…
.306/.418/.429 with 98 BB/97 K and 58/73 SB
.331/.425/.530 with 97 BB/106 K and 17/23 SB
Top is Gigliotti, bottom is Bradley Jr. You could elaborate on the comp with the qualifier “less pop, more speed,” but at that point does the comp still hold water? Yeah, he’s just like Jackie Bradley Jr. except he’s faster but with less power…and, oh yeah, maybe he’ll wind up hitting for a higher average, too. I don’t know. I tried.
I do like Gigliotti a little more than Shimko, but not by as large a margin as I assume the industry leaders will separate the two come draft day. If the choice is Gigliotti in round two or Shimko in round eight, I’m cool grabbing a surer thing power-wise and waiting on the true center fielder until later.
I’ve got nothing on fellow Taylor Allum minus the obvious that is his outstanding 2017 performance. In a thin outfield class beyond the big two of Gigliotti and Shimko, that’s more than enough to get a seat at the table. He’s high on my list of players I’d like to find out more about between now and June.
Griffin Helms‘s tools have long fascinated me, but an ugly BB/K has been as much a part of his game as his plus athleticism and enticing power/speed/defensive upside. If he slips because of that iffy plate discipline, he could be a fun mid-round value play for a team with a strong track record of channeling overly aggressive hitters towards positive outcomes.
All four first basemen listed could be drafted next month, but the two that stand out above the rest are Nick Rivera and Austin Upshaw. Picking between the two is an admittedly pointless exercise — that’s harsh, but seeing as both guys should be available late in the draft so teams could easily take both at a low cost if they really can’t decide — created solely to fit the little all-conference gimmick I’ve got going here, but I suppose it’s ultimately of some value if a hypothetical either/or situation comes up for a scouting director in June. Forced to choose just one guy, I’d go Upshaw due to his present power, room to put on some bulk, and command of the strike zone. Rivera, no slouch in any of those departments, is a little older and little more physically maxed out; some teams may prefer that to Upshaw, a potential senior-sign next year like Rivera is now, while other teams may go for the younger, slenderer type. Not for nothing, but doesn’t slenderer feel like a word that shouldn’t exist? Looks weird, sounds weird.
Hunter Hanks‘s average tools could give him a shot to play a long time in pro ball as a potential utility guy, especially if you buy the glove and arm as good enough to handle short in a pinch as I do. Same goes for Julio Gonzalez, a more natural shortstop currently in the midst of a really impressive draft season. All my notes on him focused on his glove coming into the year — generally positive buzz there, for what it’s worth — but the bat coming on this strong has been a pleasant surprise. He joins Allum on my list of guys I need to find out more about over these next few weeks. Lee Solomon could also join the utility player party, but more of a combo second base/outfielder type. People I’ve heard from swear he’s the same game this year as last minus some bad luck on balls in play. If that’s the case, he could go a lot higher than his current .236/.357/.348 line might suggest.
Others receiving consideration…
C – Jake Perry, Austin Hale
1B – Nick Rivera, Charlie Carpenter, Christian Diaz
2B – Lee Solomon, Grant Williams, Matt Reardon, Patrick Ervin
SS – N/A
3B – Jeremy Howell
OF – Eli Lovell, Gage Morey, Nathan Koslowski, Evan Pietronico, Chris Thibideau, Wesley Weeks, Yahir Gurrola