Intro and part one here, part two here, and part three…now!
Liberty JR OF DJ Artis
I’m so excited to finally get the Artis hype train rolling I can barely contain myself. He’s not even a FAVORITE in my notes: he’s a “FAVORITE FAVORITE FAVORITE.” Players with OBPs above .500 in back-to-back college seasons tend to get that kind of treatment. Take a moment with me and stare at his career numbers in amazement: .365/.515/.504 with 114 BB/58 K and 46/55 SB. You’ll probably hear the phrase “teams that value analytics will love him” repeated a few dozens times here on the World Wide Web between now and June. It’s true, but acting like he’s a statistical darling drastically undersells the tools. What Artis lacks in size and strength, he makes up for in plus athleticism, above-average to plus speed (added perk: it plays up due to superior base running instincts), a strong arm, and more than enough range to handle center. True, his lack of present and likely future power limits his overall ceiling. He did, however, up his ISO from .095 as a freshman to .193 as a sophomore with a .060 ISO hitting with wood on the Cape in between. In an abbreviated stint with Chatham this summer, he went without an extra base hit in 33 plate appearances. The power Even if Artis is a four-tool player, he’s valuable.
Donnie Dewees was the first name that came to mind as a potential draft comp. It’s not perfect and pretty far off stylistically, but a similar draft year rise (Dewees was a second round pick in 2015) doesn’t seem impossible to me
Hawaii SR 1B Eric Ramirez
When your scouting strength is the high praise you receive for your hit tool, you really need to find a way to hit better than .256 through three college seasons. Ramirez will look to up that number with a big senior season in 2018. The fact that he’s doubled his ISO every season is a bright spot, though that’s admittedly a job made a lot less tough when you start off with a .032 mark. Still, progress is progress. I’ve long liked Ramirez because I think he’ll hit. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. So far, he hasn’t hit a whole lot. We’ll see if he hits enough next year to get noticed as a viable senior-sign.
College of Charleston SR 3B Luke Morgan
I liked Morgan as a 2017 draft sleeper going into the year due to an advanced approach at the plate and average or better defensive tools at the hot corner. I was wrong. Still have hope for 2018, of course.
Towson JR SS/2B Richard Palacios
Though his arm may push him to second, I’m still all-in on Palacios as one of the upcoming college class’s most interesting middle infield prospects. He’s a true burner on the bases with more pop than his slender frame might suggest. Like Artis, he’ll almost certainly wind up getting talked about way more here than anywhere else on the internet between now and June before eventually getting ranked way higher than anywhere else on the internet once it gets time to put together the final big board. These are the guys why the FAVORITE tag exists in the first place.
Rice JR SS Ford Proctor
Proctor is another player who might wind up being too good to be considered a true FAVORITE; in fact, him winding up as the top college shortstop on a few boards (including here potentially) wouldn’t be much of a shock at all. He’s a rock solid defender with a very high likelihood of sticking at short. His above-average raw power is the icing on the cake.
Rice SR OF Ryan Chandler
Nothing immediately jumps out about Chandler’s game, but he does everything pretty well and there’s value in that kind of solid across the board skill set. He’s one of my favorite later round senior-signs that should give you a floor of quality organizational player and the upside of a potential backup outfielder.
Dartmouth SR OF/2B Kyle Holbrook
I see a disproportionate amount of Ivy League baseball, so it’s no shock that I have a FAVORITE or two from the conference each season. Holbrook takes really good bats every single time I see him, and the numbers back it up. His long-term defensive outlook will be what gets him a look in pro ball or not. As a corner outfielder only, it’ll be a tough road ahead. If teams see him as a potential super-sub who can play a little second and third in addition to the corners, then he’s got a chance. I know there are some that think he can hack it behind the plate again, so that’s another option going forward.
Dallas Baptist JR OF Jameson Hannah
Hannah is an ascending talent who seems to add something positive to his game from one outing to the next. He’s also one of this year’s example of a classic “better approach than he’s shown” type. I’ve gotten raves from those who have seen him up close about a major breakout coming…and that’s off the heels of a pretty damn good (.328/.411/.530 with 34 BB/45 K and 9/10 SB) sophomore season. A year similar to that with a flip in his BB/K ratio could get him first day consideration.
Wichita State JR 1B/3B Alec Bohm
Righthanded power is always in demand, so I expect Bohm, plus raw power being central to his game, to wind up a premium draft prospect come June. If we were to distill what makes a FAVORITE a favorite, I think it might come down to three things for positoin players: 1) one clear plus carrying tool, 2) above-average athleticism for the position, 3) advanced command of the strike zone. Bohm has the power, athleticism, and plate discipline to easily qualify.
Bryant SR C Mickey Gasper
This has probably been my favorite group of FAVORITES so far. Artis, Palacios, Proctor, Bohm…and now Gasper. The man hit .421/.532/.726 with 39 BB/25 K last summer in the Futures League. He’s currently hitting .338/.475/.568 with 20 BB/19 K in 99 PA on the Cape. He hit .342/.470/.528 with 42 BB/18 K as a junior at Bryant. What more can he do to earn your love, ML scouting directors? I get that he’s a bit of a defensive question mark due to early career injuries and subsequent inexperience behind the plate, but there has to be a point in the draft where the downside of him being switched to first base — something I haven’t heard anybody actually suggest, FWIW — is worth the gamble on the bat potentially playing there. For me, he’s a switch-hitting catcher with outstanding knowledge of balls and strikes, emerging power, and all the physical ability and desire to eventually be a defensive asset behind the plate.