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2018 MLB Draft Profile – Florida State


When I think of Florida State, I think hitting. The Seminoles routinely rank among the nation’s best in OBP and their position player prospects consistently arrive in pro ball as some of the most mature, patient hitters in the country. I love Florida State hitters. But should I? Is gaudy college production blinding me to more meaningful scouting concerns that have held back recent Florida State bats?

The days of JD Drew, Stephen Drew, Buster Posey (and Paul Sorrento and Doug Mientkiewicz before that) may be over, but picks going back to since I’ve started here in 2009 such as Tyler Holt, James Ramsey, Devon Travis, Jayce Boyd, DJ Stewart, and Ben DeLuzio (an unsigned FA) have carried on the Seminole tradition. Kind of. Of those six names only Travis (when healthy) has made a mark on the big leagues. There’s still time for Stewart and DeLuzio, but, much as I’ve liked both guys in the past, it’s more than fair to point out that neither rank particularly high on present prospect lists. The group of less than impressive Florida State alums in the pros probably doesn’t mean anything in a big picture sense — it’s neither all that large a sample nor all that damning a hit/miss rate in the first place — but it makes me a little curious about whether my own appreciation for Seminole hitters at the college level gets in the way of fairly evaluating them as potential professionals.

For the record, I don’t think a prospect should be judged by the players who came before him at the same school. So maybe this analysis is all for naught. It is, however, interesting to me to look at Florida State hitters specifically because the approach taught in Tallahassee is an outlier in the same way the Virginia crouch and the Stanford swing have proven to be. Here’s the six aforementioned recent Seminole bats with the initial number being my pre-draft ranking and the second number being where they were eventually selected…

38 – Holt – 300
86 – Ramsey – 23
240 – Travis – 424
193 – Boyd – 200
26 – Stewart – 25
343 – DeLuzio – 1217

Loved Holt, Travis, and DeLuzio way more than the pros did. So far only Travis has justified that love. Lower on Ramsey than the pros and about the same for Boyd and Stewart. So do I have a history of overranking Florida State hitters? Maybe! I honestly went into this thinking it would be a definitive yes and that the conclusion would actually tell me something useful about my own scouting proclivities. No such luck, but I’m not about to dump a half-hour of work for nothing.

Anyway, the 2018 Florida State team is loaded with pitching. How’s that for a segueway? As of this writing the Florida State staff has struck out 13.57 batters per nine innings. Damn. The two biggest arms coming into the year were LHP Tyler Holton and RHP Cole Sands. Unfortunately, Holton went down early in the season with an injury that necessitated Tommy John surgery. He’ll be a fascinating player to watch this June as teams make their best educated guesses about his signability. A top junior going down just 4.2 innings into the season is interesting in its own right, but Holton was a draft-eligible sophomore last season and selected in the 35th round by Miami. Stands to reason that teams got a pretty good feel for his signability based on that, but who really knows. A healthy Holton is a top prospect Holton. What he lacks in velocity (85-90 FB, 92 peak) he more than makes up for with pitchability, command, athleticism, and a pair of quality offspeed pitches (average upper-70s breaking ball, above-average 76-80 changeup that flashes plus). I had a dream — seriously — that Cleveland drafted and signed Holton last year (probably because they one drafted Tyler Holt), so, you know, if that happens then don’t forget you heard it here first.

Sands, a more conventionally appealing prospect than Holton, is healthy and throwing really well for Florida State to kick off his 2018. He’ll run his fastball up to the mid-90s (89-94, 96 peak) and features a breaking ball (78-82) that will flash above-average. Toss in a changeup and a mid-80s cut-slider and it’s easy to see why he’s considered an intriguing potential big league starting pitcher.

RHP Andrew Karp was really good last year despite a less than great ERA. He’s got the build, fastball (up to 94), and putaway offspeed pitch (above-average 79-82 changeup, flashes plus) to go far. The way 2018 has started for RHP Cobi Johnson is comical. No lie, I literally laughed out loud when I saw his numbers so far. As of this writing, he’s struck out 22 batters in 8.2 innings pitched. Johnson throws about as hard as Karp, but features a plus low-70s curveball as his go-to offspeed pitch. He can also mix in an average changeup and an interesting low-80s cut-slider. With numbers like that and the knowledge he’s not doing it with smoke and mirrors, Johnson has a rocket ship strapped to his prospect stock in my eyes.

(As I post this, Johnson’s sitting at 24 strikeouts in 10.1 innings pitched. He’s already slowing down!)

Neither RHP Ed Voyles nor RHP Will Zirzow has pitched yet this year, but both have the stuff and track record to get drafted by teams willing to take the long view on their respective prospect stocks. RHP Chase Haney, like Holton out for the year after Tommy John surgery, is a fun sidearming sinkerballer who could pitch his way to senior-sign status down the line.

I know a few individuals who have OF/RHP Steven Wells as a pitcher first and foremost on their boards. Most of my notes on him detail his ability on the mound (89-93 FB, mid-70s CB), so I guess there’s some logic to it. Four innings and 170+ at bats in his college career later, it’s pretty clear Wells should be judged as a hitter. A hot start to his 2018 — his 17 BB/8 K mark is notable even for a Seminole — is a point in his favor. He’s like a less accomplished version of former Seminole Mike McGee.

Finally, after a million words and a misleading introduction, we’ve finally gotten to a big-time hitting prospect. Simply put, C Cal Raleigh has star upside. I had him as a potential first rounder and the first college catcher off the board back when I did my initial 2018 MLB Mock Draft back in October. I stand by it. Raleigh’s blend of power, patience, and high likelihood of sticking behind the plate (where he’s admittedly more good than great and perhaps not for everyone) is tough to top. Let the overrating of another Florida State batter begin!

In all honesty, Raleigh is a tough player to overrate. Catchers on the whole are tough to overrate. A more fitting candidate to be overranked by me is OF/C Jackson Lueck. Lueck doesn’t have a true carrying tool, but is a well-rounded switch-hitter who has hit a ton since day one. If a team buys into him as a potential catching conversion, he’ll shoot up boards. As an outfielder he’s a bit of a tweener in almost every respect, for better or worse.

Auburn transfer C/1B Jonathan Foster is a steady hand behind the plate with enough power at it to be worth a follow. 1B/OF Rhett Aplin has some pop and plenty of arm strength, so a team that still sees him as a primary outfielder could take a chance on him late. How much SS Mike Salvatore will show with the bat remains to be seen, but his glove is solid enough to get him a look in a class weak in true shortstops. 2B Rafael Bournigal was a classic Florida State hitter even before setting foot on campus. The former Belmont Bruin has great patience at the plate and is a reliable defender at the keystone. His path to the big leagues will be tough as a second baseman with limited experience elsewhere (note: I’m unsure if he can play elsewhere, just pointing out that he hasn’t), but he makes a lot of sense to me as a late-round senior-sign based on his track record as a hitter. I mean, somebody has to play second base for you in the minors, right? Might as well be a patient, mature hitter with big league bloodlines.

Looking ahead, there’s predictably a lot to like in the 2019 and 2020 classes. 3B Drew Mendoza = superstar. OF/RHP JC Flowers isn’t too far behind. I really like LHP/OF Drew Parrish, RHP CJ Van Eyk, and LHP Austin Pollock as well. The Florida State machine rolls on and I can’t wait to overrate every last prospect here.

rJR RHP Andrew Karp (2018)
JR LHP Tyler Holton (2018)
rJR RHP Cobi Johnson (2018)
JR RHP Cole Sands (2018)
rSR RHP Ed Voyles (2018)
rSR RHP Will Zirzow (2018)
JR RHP Chase Haney (2018)
rJR RHP Alex Carpenter (2018)
rSO RHP Ronnie Ramirez (2018)
SR OF/RHP Steven Wells (2018)
JR C Cal Raleigh (2018)
JR OF/C Jackson Lueck (2018)
JR C/1B Jonathan Foster (2018)
JR SS Mike Salvatore (2018)
SR 1B/OF Rhett Aplin (2018)
rSR 1B Kyle Cavanaugh (2018)
rSR 2B Rafael Bournigal (2018)
SO LHP Clayton Kwiatkowski (2019)
SO LHP/OF Drew Parrish (2019)
SO OF/RHP JC Flowers (2019)
SO 3B Drew Mendoza (2019)
SO 2B/OF Nick Derr (2019)
SO SS Tyler Daughtry (2019)
FR LHP/OF Jonah Scolaro (2020)
FR LHP Shane Drohan (2020)
FR RHP CJ Van Eyk (2020)
FR LHP Austin Pollock (2020)
FR RHP Tyler Ahearn (2020)
FR RHP Conor Grady (2020)
FR SS Cooper Swanson (2020)
FR OF Reese Albert (2020)


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