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Category Archives: 2016 MLB Draft
Or, alternatively and with apologies to David Foster Wallace, my own version of A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again…
Though it put me a little bit behind schedule when it comes to 2017 MLB Draft prep (fresh content there coming soon!), finally accomplishing a goal I’ve had going all the way back to when I first started this site in 2009 (!) was well worth it. Here is the complete list of every team’s 2016 MLB Draft review. Every single player signed to a pro contract out of the 1216 young men drafted this past June is included. I don’t know exactly how many players that wound up being and Google doesn’t seem to have an easy answer, but I can say with a high degree of certainty that it sure felt like a heck of a lot. The final damage by the numbers…
That’s twice as many words as both To Kill a Mockingbird and The Hobbit. More than The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, and Brave New World combined. Longer than The Corrections, Jane Eyre, and Great Expectations. Only one of the Harry Potter books (Order of the Phoenix) beats it. It’s a lot of words.
So here they are if you missed any the first time through. Now I’m off to take a nap, catch up on a few non-baseball real life obligations (if anybody has a crib recommendation, I’m all ears), and finish updating my 2017 MLB Draft database. There are only 146 days until the Twins will be making the first pick, after all…
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National League East
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National League West
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Cincinnati in 2016
7 – Nick Senzel
55 – Chris Okey
61 – Taylor Trammel
*115 – TJ Friedl
171 – Nick Hanson
212 – Tyler Mondile
285 – Scott Moss
312 – Ryan Hendrix
1.2 – 3B Nick Senzel
Combing my notes on Nick Senzel (7) reveals one glaring negative about his game. Ready for it? “Little worried about his arm.” Even with that gigantic red flag, Cincinnati took Senzel with the second overall pick. What in the world were they thinking? On Senzel (with updated stats) from April 2016…
Nick Senzel is really good. I’ve compared him to Anthony Rendon in the past – the exact phrasing from my notes is “Rendon lite?” – and I think he’ll have a good long career as an above-average big league player. He also reminds me a little bit of this guy…
.352/.456/.595 – 40 BB/21 K – 25/29 SB – 210 AB
.393/.487/.592 – 45 BB/38 K – 13/14 SB – 262 AB
Top is Senzel, bottom is Kyle Seager. I’ve used the Seager comp a few (too many) times over the years, most recently on Max Schrock last season. Speaking of Schrock, how did he fall as far as he did last year? That one still blows my mind. Anyway, in an attempt to move away from the tired Seager comp, another name popped up…
.352/.456/.595 – 40 BB/21 K – 25/29 SB – 210 AB
.351/.479/.530 – 46 BB/26 K – 11/14 SB – 185 AB
Top is still Senzel. Mystery bottom guy was written up like so by Baseball America after his pro debut…
“He has a short, compact swing and hits the ball to all fields, and he handles breaking pitches well because of strong balance. Though he’s a physical 6-foot-1 and has good strength, [REDACTED] has a line-drive swing that doesn’t produce natural loft, leading some to project him to have below-average power. He earns high marks for his defense, with good feet and hands to go with an above-average arm at third base. He’s also versatile enough to have played second base, shortstop and left field for Team USA. He’s a good athlete and a solid-average runner.”
I would have linked his pre-draft report from BA, but they have the absolute worst log-in page on the entire internet. Anyway, the passage above was typed up from the 2009 Prospect Handbook. We’re talking about a guy who once played infield in the SEC. He had a similar draft year statistically. And he’s really broken out in his late-20s. Any guesses? When I’ve done mystery comps like this in the past I wouldn’t reveal the player. Then I’d search my site about a different player years later, come across the mystery comp post, and have no idea myself who I was talking about. So, yeah, it’s Logan Forsythe. My future self thanks my present self. I like Senzel to hit the big leagues running a bit more easily than Forsythe (i.e., I don’t think Senzel will enter his age-28 season with an OPS+ of 85), so maybe that would bump Senzel up over Forsythe as a guy with a higher floor. A couple of peak years like Forsythe’s seems like a reasonable ceiling projection. That’s a damn fine player. Supports the original claim: Nick Senzel is really good.
In addition to the Rendon, Seager, and Forsythe comparisons, I’ve also likened Senzel to a young Michael Cuddyer. Of all the comps I’ve thrown out this past draft season, Senzel to Cuddyer generated the most feedback from those in the know, especially as the summer pro season dragged on. Here’s part of Baseball America’s scouting report on Cuddyer after his first full pro season…
Strengths: Cuddyer had few problems at the plate in his pro debut, leading Fort Wayne in home runs, RBIs, doubles, triples, runs and walks. He showed excellent power potential and should dramatically increase his home run total as he grows into his 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame. Twins officials save their highest praise for Cuddyer’s approach to the game. He did not let his defensive struggles affect his offense or his leadership role, even early in the season. Where the pressures of pro ball sometimes eat up young prospects, the Twins feel that Cuddyer will thrive on them. Weaknesses: Cuddyer’s defensive struggles at shortstop resulted in 61 errors. The errors weren’t primarily in one area where a correction or extended repetitions could address the problem. The Twins felt that Cuddyer’s above-average arm strength and hands were fine and that his limited range was forcing him to try to make plays he couldn’t. The Twins also realized that they had two premium shortstop prospects in Luis Rivas and Cristian Guzman. Cuddyer was switched to third base during instructional league and made an “instantaneous” conversion to the corner.
Talk in pro scouting circles about Senzel potentially putting on more good muscle and bulking up to become an occasional third baseman, corner outfielder, and first baseman at maturation (mid- to late-20s) makes the Cuddyer comparison feel a little more apt than before. Whether that actually happens or not, it doesn’t change the fact that just about everybody agrees that Senzel will hit on a similar level to all those guys he’s been compared to. I’d also add Matt Carpenter’s name in the mix; he was a name that came up with Lucas Erceg was discussed and since I consider Erceg to be a “Senzel-lite” type of prospect, it stands to reason that Carpenter and Senzel would share some similarities.
Senzel is an above-average athlete with explosive bat speed, a veteran’s approach at the plate, and above-average to plus raw power. Despite passing along some of the things I’ve heard, I personally have no worries about him excelling at the hot corner defensively with more than enough in the way of instincts, arm strength, and athleticism to make it work. Heck, I’m the one pushing the idea that he could someday return to second base after all. A plus offensive player with a long track record of hitting capable of playing at least average defense at a key position is a potential big league star. That’s Nick Senzel. Nick Senzel is really good.
(Since I’ve been asked before, a quick fantasy take to close things out: Nick Senzel is the clear best prospect for fantasy purposes in this draft when you account for finding the sweet spot between certainty, proximity to the big leagues, and upside.)
1.35 – OF Taylor Trammel
I have no evidence to back this hunch up, but it feels like there is a prep outfielder in every class that has physical tools on par with the early first round talents but falls well past that point in the draft. If that’s true, then I nominate Taylor Trammel (61) for that position in 2016. If it’s not true, then, well, I still think Taylor Trammel fits the very toolsy potential-laden outfielder player archetype quite nicely. From May 2016…
Trammel can run and defend with the best in his class, but his arm is inconsistent. One thing I really like about him is how real his progression has felt this past calendar year. There’s been no surge in buzz about him throughout the spring; instead, it’s been a slow and steady build, as many scouts have noted that the average grades on his sheet have morphed into above-average to plus marks over the course of his final season.
What’s with the Reds picking really good looking young players with questionable arms? That’s two players in a row where the arm is really the only fair thing to question about their respective tool sets. Guess if you’re going to skimp on one tool doing so with the least important one makes sense. Good players with bad arms is the new Moneyball. To Trammel’s credit, his arm got progressively stronger throughout the spring and summer seasons and is now seen as closer to playable than his below-average status. So his one big weakness is now just a minor weakness. And all his strengths — plus to plus-plus speed, plus range in center, average raw power, absurd athleticism — remain. All of those traits give Trammel a high floor even if his bat doesn’t come around as hoped. If it does, he’s a star.
2.43 – C Chris Okey
On Chris Okey (55) from December 2015…
JR C Chris Okey is in a great position heading into his draft year as an athletic, above-average all-around defensive catcher who can run a little bit. In today’s game, that’s exactly what big league teams want in a catcher, especially if you throw in the (overrated by the internet in terms of importance, but not altogether unimportant) ability to frame pitches. As I’ve written about countless times before (including the quoted Okey blurb from October you can read below), as the run environment has shifted away from the highest highs of the PED-era so too has the general preference for athleticism and defensive reliability behind the plate. This shift has come largely at the expense of big power and raw arm strength at the position. Mobility, flexibility, and fundamentally sound glovework is what moves the needle now. I’m thinking of recent early picks like Taylor Ward, Max Pentecost, Reese McGuire, and Justin O’Conner as the prototypes for this latest wave. Athletes like Russell Martin, Carlos Ruiz, Jonathan Lucroy, and Buster Posey (the man I remember watching play a decent shortstop once upon a time at Florida State) all represent the best case scenario for this player archetype; not coincidentally, those guys all rank in the top nine in fWAR since 2010 with a lot of their value tied up in excellent defensive numbers.
So what does any of this really have to do with Okey? While it’s great that he ticks off many of the boxes that teams like in a catching prospect, nobody is drafting a theoretical catcher archetype. Okey may be a fine example of the modern catcher, but that doesn’t mean he’s a slam dunk first round catcher. Here’s what I wrote about him a few months back…
Okey doesn’t have quite the same thunder in his bat as [Matt] Thaiss, but his strong hands, agile movements behind the plate, and average or better arm give him enough ammo to be in the mix for first college catching off the board. The days of the big, strong-armed, plus power, and questionable contact catcher seem to be dwindling as more and more teams appear willing to go back to placing athleticism atop their list of desired attributes for young catching prospects. Hard to say that’s wrong based on where today’s speed and defense style of game looks like it’s heading.
That all holds up today (obviously…it’s been two months!), but it should be noted that the nice things said about his game are a step below what many (myself included) were saying about him after his senior season of high school. His defense behind the plate never quite reached the threshold where you’d call any one component of his game consistently plus. He’s shown some plus pop times in the past, sure, but not as often as average to above-average times. I don’t think anybody would have imagined he’d get more athletic past his teenage years — time has a way of catching up to everybody — but there is a little bit more stiffness to him at present than you might think if going off those old scouting reports. He’s still the athletic, above-average all-around defensive catcher who can run a little bit that we mentioned at the top. And if we’re going to call him out some for slipping a bit — or, perhaps more accurately, not developing as hoped — with the glove, then it’s only right to praise him for the maturation of his power. What was once considered promising but far off has turned into displays of average or better present power with the shot at plus raw still out there. I’d err on the side of caution with his future power grade and put him closer to the average to above-average range where it currently plays, but that still means he could be a steady 15-20 home run bat at his peak. One interesting name that I heard as a comparison that makes a little bit of sense: Mike Lieberthal.
I have to be honest, I really like that Lieberthal comp. That’s some of my best work right there. My updated notes on Okey include this line, exclamation point and all: “average glove, average arm, average power, average everything!” That’s Chris Okey. Coincidentally, Mike Lieberthal finished his career with a wRC+ of 100. Can’t get much more average than that. Average is a really good thing, especially if you’re a catcher. Only five qualified catchers posted average or better wRC+ last season. The number only jumps to eleven if you open things way up to include all catchers with at least 250 PA. An average offensive catcher has a really strong shot at finishing in the top five to ten in terms of value at the position. Okey’s average tools all get a little bit of boost for me when you factor in his above-average athleticism and exceptional makeup. There’s plenty to argue about the ultimate utility of even including a note about a prospect’s “makeup” (whatever that means to you) in these draft reviews, so I’ll just say that if you’re going to make it a priority at any one position then let it be catcher. Hard work, leadership, communication skills, ability to take coaching, passion for the game and understanding its place in a larger universe…all particularly important for a catcher. I like Okey so much that projecting about a league average catcher feels fair almost as a floor with a run of above-average years as a ceiling.
(Got a few other interesting comps for Okey that I thought were worth passing along. Some are better than others, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide. I still like Lieberthal, but names like Wellington Castillo, AJ Ellis, and Wilson Ramos have all been floated to me at one point or another. Also got this one…
.336/.438/.598 – 37 BB/47 K – 244 AB
.339/.465/.611 – 51 BB/54 K – 239 AB
.329/.425/.546 – 89 BB/116 K
.301/.392/.504 – 100 BB/136 K
Top is Chris Iannetta, bottom is Okey. From his pre-draft scouting report at Baseball America…
Iannetta could go as high as the third round after a stellar junior season. He reminds scouts of Joe Girardi, though he’s lost some life in his lower half and doesn’t run like Girardi did. Like Girardi, Iannetta has a short, compact stroke and a mature approach to hitting, leading to consistent, hard contact. His other tools are unspectacular, but he’s an average receiver and has an average arm that might play up a bit because of his quick release. His younger brother Matt is a Rhode Island prep player who has signed with North Carolina.
Sounds vaguely Okey-ish, right?)
3.79 – RHP Nick Hanson
I’ve long had a weird affinity for pitchers out of cold weather states like Minnesota — Sam Carlson is next man up for 2017, by the way — so it’s no shock that I liked the solidly built Nick Hanson (171) out of Prior Lake HS. His size, projection, occasional bouts of wildness, and Kentucky commitment had makes it easy to mentally tie him to former Wildcat starters like Alex Meyer and Kyle Cody, but I think the present version of Hanson is ahead of where those eventual college guys were as teenagers. Hanson’s fastball (87-93, 95-96 peak) and curve (average or better now 75-78, above-average to plus eventually) are exciting enough as is, so tossing on an average-ish split-changeup at such a young age is icing on the cake. So much can go wrong with prep pitching prospects and the relatively low ranking of Hanson pre-draft reflects the unpredictability that scares me off players like Hanson every June, but I still find myself liking this pick a lot for Cincinnati even knowing the potential downside.
4.108 – LHP Scott Moss
On Scott Moss (285) from May 2016…
Moss is a wild card as another good yet wild performer with the size (6-5, 215) and stuff (90-94 FB, solid breaking ball and low-80s CU) to make a big impact at the end of games as a professional. The further he gets from his own Tommy John surgery, the better he’s been.
Every day is another day further for Moss, who finished the year striking out 12.13 batters per nine with 3.52 BB/9 and a 1.57 ERA out of the Florida bullpen. His strikeout numbers were sliced almost in half (6.81 K/9) in his 38.1 inning pro debut. The encouraging news is that his run prevention (2.35 ERA) remained strong even when tasked with starting games consistently for the first time since high school. That vote of confidence from the Cincinnati developmental staff combined with the late-season gem of a start Moss threw for the Gators and a highly effective three-pitch mix make the idea of continuing to use Moss in the rotation a very intriguing possibility. I liked Moss as a potential multi-inning weapon out of the bullpen coming out of Florida (still the most likely outcome if I were a betting man), but this new ceiling as a potential mid-rotation starter (assuming his stuff and health allow it) turns this pick from good to great.
A weird but fun subplot to follow from this draft will be which of the three key Gators relievers good enough to start (Moss, Shaun Anderson, Dane Dunning) have the best pro careers.
5.138 – RHP Ryan Hendrix
Two quick blurbs that tell the story of Ryan Hendrix’s (312) 2016 college season and the impact it had on his draft stock. First, from March 2016…
He’s got the heat (mid-90s peak), breaking ball (low- to mid-80s CB flashes plus), and enough of a changeup (83-86) to potentially make the switch to the rotation at the next level. If not, he’s a potential quick-moving reliever with late-inning upside. Win-win!
And then from May 2016…
His teammate Ryan Hendrix hasn’t been quite as good – more whiffs, more walks, and a lot more runs allowed – but remains a good bet to go high in the draft because of his premium stuff (94-98 FB, 83-86 breaking ball that flashes plus) and correctable flaws.
Hendrix’s premium stuff and correctable flaws remain. His pro debut (9.18 K/9 and 3.31 BB/9) looked a lot more like his dominant 2015 season (10.53 K/9 and 3.97 BB/9) than his erratic 2016 (12.81 K/9 and 7.11 BB/9), but one stat from his first 35.1 professional innings jumps out. Hendrix uncorked 11 wild pitches in his debut. That’s good for a 2.80 WP/9. This took me down a weird rabbit hole about wild pitches. Did you know that Felix Hernandez has thrown the most wild pitches this decade with 86? I never would have guessed that, though I guess it makes sense that a “good” pitcher like Hernandez would be near the top of a list of a “bad” counting stat. More sensible guesses like AJ Burnett, Tim Lincecum, Francisco Liriano, and Edwin Jackson round out the top five. I don’t have the patience to look at everybody, but a quick glance reveals that the highest WP/9 among those who rank near the top of the overall list is Garrett Richards. His 0.80 WP/9 (almost a third lower than Hendrix’s, FWIW) is higher than any other starting pitcher I found. If I go deeper and look at qualified relievers as well, then Pedro Stop takes the prize at a whopping 1.06 WP/9. Bartolo Colon has only thrown three wild pitches this decade. That means that in any given nine-inning stretch, you might expect to see Colon throw .025 wild pitches. Baseball Draft Report: come for the baseball draft reporting, stay for the inane statistical minutiae!
First round stuff + tenth round control = fifth round selection. Math don’t lie. Hendrix could be a relatively quick-moving reliever if/when he figures out what was up with his control in 2016 at Texas A&M. As mentioned, the early pro returns were certainly encouraging. I’m buying Hendrix as a future big league asset with a ceiling that likely falls just short of making him a consistent option to close.
6.168 – RHP Tyler Mondile
On Tyler Mondile (212) from May 2016…
Tyler Mondile looked really good. He actually tied Groome for the hottest heater of the night at 94 MPH — I had them both getting there four different times, but saw Mondile up to 95 on a few of the guns around me — and had the more consistent velocity throughout the evening. In a funny twist, Mondile happened to hit 94 with his fastball three straight times in his first head-to-head battle with Groome at the plate. Groome took a fastball in for a strike, a fastball further in for a ball, and a fastball on the outer half to put him in a 1-2 hole before the at bat ended preemptively when Mondile got a little help from his catcher with a stolen base threat eliminated at third base. If there was any doubt that Mondile was pumped for this one — and two seconds of watching him stomp around the field pre-game would push those thoughts aside right quick — then the 94, 94, 94 to start the at bat against the opposing starting pitcher was a clear indicator of how amped up the Gloucester Catholic righthander must have been feeling.
Beyond the strong showing of arm strength, I was impressed with the admittedly few curves Mondile managed to drop in for strikes (76-79 MPH). He used it more as a pitch in and around the strike zone than as a chase pitch, but it had the shape and consistency to worth in both directions with continued use. In time, the pitch looked like it could be a legitimate second weapon. There’s a good bit of effort in Mondile’s delivery and his high level of demonstrative emotion on the mound (something that would make him a fan favorite in many markets) might mean a future in the bullpen could happen sooner rather than later, but reports of his changeup being an average or better offering and his ability to repeat said delivery make him worth trying as a starter as long as possible. I wouldn’t necessarily say his 6-1, 185 pound frame screamed projection, but his upper-half looked like it could stand to put on at least another ten pounds of weight to help even out his stout lower-body. Despite his relatively short stature, Mondile’s legs looked like they’d pass any relevant strength test. In this specific class it would be hard to call him a first rounder, but I could see him making sense for any team anywhere between rounds three and six. I came away believing that he likely made himself some money based on how he looked in front of a crowd with that many influential executives.
Not a bad summation of Mondile’s present stuff and future projection, if I do say so myself. Mondile has all the ingredients (three pitches, repeatable mechanics, solid command) to remain a starter in the pros. As far as upside goes, that’s all you could want in a sixth round teenage pitching prospect. My hunch is that he winds up in the bullpen over the long haul, and I’m not sure that allowing his high-energy self to go 100% in short bursts would be a bad thing. In whatever role he lands, Mondile is a talented arm well worth a six round pick.
7.198 – LHP Andy Cox
The selection of Andy Cox in round seven begins a run of Cincinnati saving some serious cash ($30,000 spent total) on four selected players from round seven to ten. The Reds also effectively ended their draft earlier than most teams with only one pick signed past round twenty-nine. I’m not necessarily faulting Cincinnati here — they did spend almost all of their nearly $14 million in pool money, so it’s not like they went cheap on the whole — but their approach both at the top and bottom of the draft feels a bit off to me. Over 80% of the money they spent on the 2016 MLB Draft paid for their top three picks. That was similar to the one team picking ahead of them in the draft (Philadelphia), but way more than two of the other three (in addition to the Phillies) top draft spenders (69% for Atlanta, 54% for San Diego). My favorite draft so far belongs to the Cardinals, a team that spent 61% of their draft total on their top three picks and managed to bring in seven prospects past the thirtieth round. Comparisons like this are complicated because of the current draft rules in place and I don’t have any grand conclusions, but it’s all at least a little interesting, right?
Anyway, let’s talk about Andy Cox. Here’s a little something on him from April 2015…
His teammate, LHP Andy Cox, is one of my favorite “sleepers,” thanks in part to his well-rounded arsenal (88-91 FB, average or better low-80s SL, average or better CU) that could make him an interesting relief to rotation project in the pro ranks.
I still think he has the stuff to remain a starter, but projecting his command and control for that role seems like a stretch. His repertoire is still strong enough to make him a potential relief option with continued growth. The seventh round seems a little too early for me for a player like Cox, but the allure of saving some cash and landing a decent prospect must have been too strong for the Reds to ignore. I’ve never had to juggle economic and political considerations in a draft room, so I won’t kill a team for taking a money-saving senior that I’m sure they like on merit even if I don’t feel the same way.
8.228 – 2B John Sansone
A .370/.455/.576 offensive year in the ACC is nothing to sneeze at, senior season or not. John Sansome is a classic Florida State style hitter with exemplary plate discipline and more power than you might believe at first look. He’s also a decent runner who can play multiple spots in the infield. If the way he curtailed the strikeouts — the one downside to scouting the classic Florida State style hitter: how much is genuine plate discipline with an innate knowledge of the strike zone and vision to pick up spin/location early…and how much is just taking pitches because that’s how you’ve been coached — in his senior season is real, then Sansome might have enough positive qualities to play regularly at second or third. If not, then he still has a shot to keep advancing as a potential utility infielder capable of playing anywhere on the dirt.
If you really wanted to mislead people by ignoring many important contextual factors (plus the pesky scouting thing), then you could do this…
…and ask which one was the second overall pick in the draft and which one was the eighth round selection. Using this to disparage Nick Senzel would be silly for a variety of reasons, but it’s not a terrible way of saying “Hey, maybe our eighth round pick ain’t so bad!”
9.258 – RHP Alex Webb
Alex Webb saved the Reds a ton of money, but still could wind up as a big league pitcher. That’s good work by them. My favorite of the four consecutive Cincinnati senior-signs, Webb has a quality low-90s fastball with a decent curve and usable change. It’s not a thrilling package, but it looks a little nicer when you account for his cold weather background, plus control, and outstanding track record as a Thunderbird. ERA is not something quoted often around here, but if you can throw 104.1 innings with a 1.38 ERA then you’re doing something right. Webb has all the ingredients to profile as a back of the rotation starter, but could be best served moving to the pen and letting his fastball fly.
10.288 – RHP Lucas Benenati
I was a little intrigued with Lucas Benenati coming into his senior season at Kansas State after a solid junior year (7.31 K/9 and 2.25 BB/9) and reports of decent middle relief style stuff (low-90s fastball, ability to command serviceable breaking ball) filtering through. His final season as a Wildcat was rough enough (6.68 K/9 and 4.45 BB/9) that I opted to leave him out of the 2016 MLB Draft conversation entirely. He was rather good in pro ball including time spent in low-A Dayton, but as a guy who turns 24-years-old in May of his first full pro season that kind of speedy acclimation to pro ball is expected.
11.318 – RHP Joel Kuhnel
On Joel Kuhnel from March 2016…
I’m less in on Joel Kuhnel. The big righty from Texas-Arlington, who incidentally reminds me of one of the many flame-throwing Dallas Baptist relievers from last year, is a favorite of many I’ve spoken to, but, for reasons both on the scouting side and the numbers side, I’m not really feeling it. It’s very likely a reliever profile (to me), so some of his value is cut off at the legs already. I do think he can be a fine bullpen piece with continued refinement — starting with a fastball that touches 96-97 and a hard 86-87 MPH slider doesn’t hurt – so depending on where he falls on draft day he could be a nice value for a team searching for a potential late-inning arm. I’ve gotten a Toddy Coffey comp for him that works in a few different ways (though I’m unclear if Kuhnel’s mound entrance is as entertaining as Coffey’s), but I think that could wind up being a little light in the long run. Not that there’s anything wrong with an eight-year career that earns you just under seven million bucks, of course. I suppose part of my relative lack of love for Kuhnel is anticipating how highly others will value him come June. It’s not ideal logic, but it’s all I’ve got for now.
Kuhnel going in the eleventh round is still a little rich for me, but I can live with it. There was some top five round hype early in the year that made no sense, so this is certainly more palatable by comparison. No matter what round Kuhnel was selected in, he’s a bit of a mystery to project going forward. Maybe that mid-season Todd Coffey comp should have been a clue that he’s be a tricky guy to figure out. I like his fastball (90-95 MPH, 97 peak) and slider (consistently at least average 86-87, flashes plus) combination, but can’t quite put my finger on why he doesn’t miss bats like he should. He kept that trend going in the pros: 4.82 K/9 as a sophomore, 6.35 K/9 as a junior, and 6.00 K/9 in his 21.0 inning pro debut. He also kept his very low walk rate up in the pros: 1.93 BB/9 in 2015 to 1.99 BB/9 in 2016 to a minuscule 0.43 BB/9 in the pros. He rolled his fair share of ground balls in his debut, too. Not a ton of missed bats, very few free passes, and (small sample size alert) promising ground ball tendencies — what to make of that? The formula for Kuhnel to continue to succeed could be to follow the Jim Johnson (6.54 K/9, 2.92 BB/9, 58.0 GB%) model.
12.348 – C Cassidy Brown
The early professional success of Cassidy Brown (.322/.409/.383 with 20 BB/32 K) could be small sample size noise. It could also be the beginning of a nifty little victory for scouting over statistical analysis, as if that battle was ever really a battle worth fighting in the first place. If you humor me and go along with the premise, then Brown, a powerful 6-3, 215 pounder with a big arm, lots of strength in his swing, and well above-average athleticism for a catcher, is merely doing what it looks like a guy like him should have been doing from the start. He may not be exactly what you envision a young catching prospect should look like, but he’s pretty damn close. If that pro debut is a sign of his skills catching up to his tools, then the Reds have landed a legitimate sleeper with real starting upside in the twelfth round.
13.378 – RHP Ryan Olson
What I lack in updated Ryan Olson notes from college, I make up for it in old scouting notes on Ryan Olson from high school…
RHP Ryan Olson (Western Christian HS, California): 88-92 FB with plus sink; good 79-82 SL; iffy 76-78 CB; good 81-82 CU; 6-2, 180 pounds
His last fully healthy season at Cal Poly Pomona saw him put up really good (9.35 K/9 and 2.34 BB/9) numbers. Assuming that his stuff has held up, I’m intrigued. An even more fun assumption would be that the twenty or so pounds he’s put on since his prep days and the usual assortment of physical, mental, and emotional growth that an individual experiences as they transition to teenage kid to young adult equates
14.408 – LHP Jesse Adams
On Jesse Adams from December 2015…
SR LHP Jesse Adams is not particularly big nor does he throw particularly hard, but he’s been consistently effective and figures to remain so as a professional. I think there’s clear matchup lefthanded reliever upside to him with the chance that a team less concerned about his size and more enamored with his three-pitch mix (87-91 FB, above-average mid-70s CB, upper-70s CU) will let him keep starting.
I’m less enamored with Adams now than I was a year ago, but that matchup lefty upside still seems attainable if he can hit the ground running in pro ball. His control slid back a bit in 2016 and he became more fastball/changeup reliant. I’m not particularly hopeful that Adams sees the big leagues, but I’m rooting for him if only because of a new-ish super slow upper-60s curve he introduced into his arsenal this past spring for kicks. It’s not quite the RJ Swindle starter kit (there will never be another RJ Swindle…), but it’s the closest we’ve seen in a while.
15.438 – RHP Jesse Stallings
Back-to-back Jesse’s off the board to the Reds in rounds fourteen and fifteen. I often wonder about things like this. It had to be intentional, at least on some level, right? The odds of them waiting another thirty picks and being able to take Jesse Stallings in the sixteenth round after first taking Jesse Adams in the fourteenth round were really, really good. Maybe they just loved the two Jesse’s so much that they couldn’t risk losing out on one, but I’ll believe until my dying day that somebody in the Reds draft room thought it would be fun to take back-to-back Jesse’s and things progressed from there. Anyway, Stallings has a really good arm (low- to mid-90s fastball up to 96-97, quality splitter) and could work himself into the middle relief prospect mix before too long, but a spotty college track record (strong run prevention, mediocre peripherals) pumps the breaks on that enthusiastic outlook a bit.
16.468 – OF Mauro Conde
I’ve got nothing on Mauro Conde outside of general positive vibes (strong arm, decent runner, bat is promising but still a question mark) from secondary sources that may or may not mean much in the big picture. Still have to give the Reds credit for getting a high school prospect signed past round ten. I’ll repeat it in every draft review if I have to, but any high school player signed in a double-digit round is a good investment in the current draft system.
19.558 – RHP Matt Blandino
I lost track of Matt Blandino after two just all right seasons at Central Connecticut State. Turns out he landed about ninety minutes away from me at Felician University. Small world. Blandino was really good as a junior, so that’s cool. He was also really good in his pro debut with the Reds. That’s also cool. Blandino gets by more on command and pitchability than knockout stuff, so he should carve up hitters for a few years before getting his first real challenge in the upper-minors.
21.618 – LHP Andrew Wright
Having just finished the Giants draft review, this pick makes a lot of sense. Took me a minute to realize that Cincinnati and not San Francisco took the 6-5, 225 pound lefthander from USC with a big fastball (90-94, 95 peak) and little control (10.70 BB/9 in 14.1 junior year innings). I’m willing to give the athletic Wright a bit of a pass for his wild ways due to his two-way background, limited time on the mound, and the adjustments that come when you go from mid-80s in high school to mid-90s in college.
22.648 – RHP Aaron Quillen
The well-traveled Aaron Quillen is coming off two really solid seasons as one of Belmont’s top starters. His size (6-3, 200) and stuff (88-92 FB) paint him as a fairly ordinary mid-round potential middle relief prospect. Everybody thinks that “ordinary,” “generic,” and “pedestrian” are insults, but that’s never the intent. There’s no shame in being familiar. Plus, being an “ordinary” middle relief prospect in professional baseball beats the breaks off of being an extraordinary cubicle dweller, right? No offense to 98% of the working population, of course.
23.678 – SS Manny Cruz
The Reds finally get their man. Manny Cruz was originally a thirty-ninth round pick by Cincinnati out of high school, so it’s only right that they wind up together again three years later after Cruz’s successful (.327/.427/.437) three year run at Southern New Hampshire. Included in that career line is his eye-opening .373/.487/.509 (44 BB/30 K) junior season. Cruz followed that up with a strong pro debut (.272/.355/.400, 118 wRC+) for the AZL Reds. He played almost exclusively at second in said debut, so showing off increased defensive flexibility going forward will likely be what makes or breaks him as a prospect. If he can play on the left side of the infield as well as he can at second, then he gets put in the overflowing “potential utility player” pile that all teams seem to have. There are worse fates than that.
“Fun” fact that I’ll include in lieu of actual Manny Cruz knowledge: of the eleven players drafted out of Southern New Hampshire in the modern era (all but one since 2011), Cruz is only the second position player to come out of the Penman program. SNHU is really Pitcher U, am I right?
24.708 – 1B Bruce Yari
I hate that the Reds went back to British Columbia a second time to select Bruce Yari fifteen rounds after grabbing Alex Webb, but accepting that all teams double-dip with colleges comes with the reality of following the draft so closely. It’s hard to buy the “you can’t criticize a front office since you’re a damn dirty outsider” argument I hear all the time when you see teams taking the convenient route over the best option. That said, there are times when convenience and quality intersect. When you add in the draft value of getting a thumper like Bruce Yari this late in the draft, then you have yourself a real QVC pick*.
* My mom forced my sister and I to go to career camp when we were kids. She was all about free/cheap day camps that got us out of the house and doing stuff. Can’t wait to do the same to my kids someday. Anyway, at career camp we went to day trips to all sorts of local businesses. Two have always stuck out: the trip to the Philadelphia Inquirer offices (where I managed to get my name in the paper by lying about Spam…long story, but the short version is that I was a weird kid) and the trip to QVC headquarters. One of the few things I remember specifically from that visit was learning what QVC stood for. I knew then that one day I’d use that knowledge in something vitally important that may or may not change the world as we know it forever. Today was that day. Now we wait…
25.738 – 2B CJ Wright
Remember that potential utility player pile that every team has that was referenced two rounds earlier? If Colby Wright is the guy at the top of said pile, then you’re doing all right. I really like Wright as a potential big league backup infielder. Between his time at Kansas and with the Reds, he has experience at every infield spot already, so that gives him a leg up on some challengers to his utility throne off the bat. Speaking of the bat, Wright has a good one. If his development threads a very tight needle (i.e., things go perfectly), he could do enough to warrant regular time at second or third one day. That’s the rich projection, so we’ll stick with the more realistic utility future. If he does, then he’ll bring this special skill to the table. From March 2015…
Kansas JR 2B/SS Colby Wright has been a baseball magnet this season (11 HBP in 65 official AB!). I liked his pop, patience, and glove combination coming into the year, and nothing has moved me off that as of yet.
My quick math has him at getting hit once every fourteen times he came to the plate throughout his four years at Kansas. That’s insane. He then got hit nine times in 153 professional plate appearances. That’s right on the Brandon Guyer pace. Wright got plunked once every seventeen trips to the plate while Guyer’s career mark is once per ever sixteen and change. Is Colby Wright the next Brandon Guyer? No, no, he is not. But he does get hit by a lot of pitches like him, so they at least share that potential similarity.
26.768 – RHP Patrick Riehl
A really good read on Patrick Riehl can be found here. A choice excerpt…
After recovering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Schuler was not surprised to see Riehl begin to throw harder than ever. Schuler likened the recovery to those recovering from Tommy John surgery, where pitchers will have to basically learn how to throw all over again, which will show an improvement in their mechanics, allowing them to throw at a higher velocity than they once thought was their max.
After recovering from surgery, Riehl began to hit the mid-90s.
When Riehl began hitting in the mid-90s, interest in him grew. Scouts began to take notice of him and he ultimately was invited to a Cincinnati Reds tryout.
That mid-90s velocity helped Riehl sit down 12.44 batters per nine in his draft year. The newness of the velocity, however, may have played a part in spotty command and below-average control. In addition to the whiffs, Riehl also walked 5.49 batters per nine (plus eight wild pitches and two bean balls) on the way to a 6.57 ERA in 24.2 innings pitched. It’s not every year you see a Division II pitcher drafted with an ERA that high, but mid-90s heat is mid-90s heat.
For reasons I can’t remember, I made note of Riehl’s last three appearances for Mars Hill. Pitching in relief against Tusculum, Montreat, and Bluefield State, Riehl did the following: 5 IP 2 H 0 ER 3 BB 8 K. I’m not quite sure why past-me thought those last three outings were so noteworthy; if I had to guess, I’d say there was a connection between his recovery from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and the promise of a strong finish. Considering he pitched really well in his debut — 8.45 K/9 and 2.82 BB/9 in 38.1 IP more than qualifies — that would seem to be the most likely reason. Very interesting sleeper.
29.858 – OF Daniel Sweet
I’ve slowed down some with these draft reviews since I first started a few months ago. That’s a bit of a shame for Daniel Sweet, who would have gotten one thousand words minimum if the Reds were one of the first teams profiled rather than one of the last. Still, I like Sweet a ton and am happy to write about him as a draft prospect one last time. The amount of words spend on him over the past four years is admittedly a little silly for a player who turned out to be a twenty-ninth round pick, but it at least backs me up as a charter member of the Sweet fan club. I’m no Sweet-loving-Johnny-come-lately, dammit. Here’s a fun excerpt from March 2016…
Daniel Sweet came into the season as the top Dallas Baptist hitting prospect for me and I don’t want to be reactionary by moving him off because of the hot starts of those around him, but some of his teammates have made things mighty crowded at the top. Sweet’s blend of power, speed, and athleticism have made him a favorite for years. I still believe in his bat enough to think he can make it as a future regular in center and potential big league leadoff hitter. In the event that doesn’t work out, his overall skill set lends itself to quality backup. I’ve compared him to a more powerful Andrew Toles in the past; Toles’s pro career hasn’t quite been all it was expected to be so far, so take that comparison with the requisite block of salt.
If Sweet can continue to tap into his considerable physical gifts as a pro (above-average raw power, above-average or better speed) then he legitimately could have a similar professional impact as Andrew Toles. I loved Toles as a draft prospect, so his resurgence in 2016 emboldens me to continue to tout Sweet as a potential big league regular. Like Toles, he already has the defensive thing down, so it comes down to whether or not he can do enough offensively to warrant steady playing time in center. I obviously think he can. The better bet is quality fourth outfielder who plays good defense and drills righthanded pitching, an outcome that would still represent tremendous value this late in the draft.
36.1068 – 2B Ty Blankmeyer
I saw Ty Blankmeyer play a few different times over his years at St. John’s. Never really gave much thought to him as a pro prospect. High makeup and a lifetime spent around the game mean different things to different people, though.
41.1217 – OF TJ Friedl
The undrafted — or forty-first rounder if you’re feeling cheeky — TJ Friedl got $732,500 to sign after a variety of factors (confusion and cost, mostly) kept him from being selected in the 2016 MLB Draft. He’s got plenty the speed and athleticism to make him a defensive asset in center. His approach at the plate that could make him a potential top of the order hitter if his lack of power doesn’t undercut the rest of his offensive skills. All in all, it’s a nice package made even nicer when the expense is only cash and not a top five round pick. My fake ranking of him would have put him around 115th overall in this class, ahead of Michael Paez and Bryson Brigman (his closest comparison that I can see) but just behind fellow draft-eligible sophomore Charles LeBlanc.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Mitchell Traver (TCU), JC Flowers (Florida State), Todd Lott (Louisiana), Dion Henderson (TCU), Cooper Johnson (Mississippi), Vincent Byrd (?), Austin Langworthy (Florida), Matt Crohan (Winthrop), Nick Derr (Florida State), Ty Weber (Illinois), Walker Whitworth (Missouri Southern), Alec Benavides (Alvin CC), John Wilson (Old Dominion), Otis Statum (Nevada), Michael Bienlien (NC State)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Kansas City in 2016
123 – Chris DeVito
170 – Logan Gray
183 – Khalil Lee
201 – AJ Puckett
253 – Nicky Lopez
404 – Jace Vines
455 – Dalton Griffin
2.67 – RHP AJ Puckett
Not having a pick until after sixty-six prospects have already been chosen presents a unique challenge for any drafting team. The Royals opted to approach this conundrum by selecting a college performer with a long track record of success and a high probability of reaching his modest yet plenty useful ceiling. Fair enough. AJ Puckett (201) carved up hitters for three straight seasons at Pepperdine as one of the west coast’s most underappreciated collegiate arms. He’s been really good yet never dominant peripherally — 7.74 K/9, 7.52 K/9, and 8.61 K/9 — though his junior year dip in ERA to 1.27 after two seasons of 3.60 and 4.36 ball could obviously qualify as dominant run prevention in most quarters. Still, his good yet never dominant strikeout numbers dovetail nicely into a discussion about his good yet not dominant stuff. Puckett’s biggest strength is his ability to throw three average or better pitches for consistent strikes. His fastball ranges from 88 to 94 MPH (96 peak) with solid sink. His 73-78 MPH curve is an average pitch, but only in the sense that it sometimes flashes much better (above-average to plus) and sometimes has very little bend and gets hammered. Puckett’s changeup (79-85 MPH) isn’t all the way there yet, but shows signs of being an average to above-average pitch with continued use in the pros. With some projection left in his 6-4, 180 pound frame, a best case scenario could be a career not unlike what we’ve seen out of Alex Cobb to date.
3.103 – OF Khalil Lee
If you’re going to go safe with the first pick, then it only makes sense to swing for the fences with the next one. Highly athletic two-way prep star Khalil Lee (170) certainly qualifies as a big cut from the heels that could either result in a majestic home run or the cooling breeze of a major whiff and miss. Of course, that presupposes that boom/bust prospects result in all-or-nothing players; a swing for the fence can just as easily result in a double high off the wall or a sac fly. Prospect evaluation can mean many things to many people, but one thing it ain’t (or shouldn’t be) is an exercise in projecting binary outcomes. Anyway, Lee’s upside is considerable and the arrow on his likelihood of getting there is pointing up after a tremendous pro debut that saw him turn tools to skills quicker than just about anybody outside of the Kansas City front office could have anticipated.
Lee has the physical ability to be a star if he can remain in center feel as expected. He’d still have above-average regular upside in a corner — we know he has more than enough arm for right field — but the thought of him maintaining enough quickness and flexibility as he fills out to stick up the middle is particularly exciting. Offensively, Lee has the bat speed, swing plane, and muscle to hit for real power, average speed to do a little damage on the bases, and the keen understanding of the strike zone one might expect from a legitimate pitching prospect. There’s a lot to like when the overall package is taken into account.
4.133 – RHP Jace Vines
Draft-eligible sophomore Jace Vines (404) looks like a classic sinker/slider (88-92, 94 peak for the former; 83-86 and flashing plus for the latter) reliever to me with an outside shot at sticking in the rotation depending on how his changeup develops over time. I don’t hate it.
5.163 – SS Nicky Lopez
On Nicky Lopez (253) from March 2016…
Creighton’s best pro prospect for 2016 is Nicky Lopez, a slick fielding shortstop with plus speed and serious athleticism. Like the rest of the names at the top his bat might keep him as more utility player than starter. He’s a fine prospect in his own right, so hopefully this doesn’t come across the wrong way…but Lopez benefits greatly from being draft-eligible in 2016 and not 2015. Last year he might have gotten swept away with all the excellent college shortstop prospects getting popped early and often on draft day; this year, he stands out as one of the better options at the position for no other reason than the fact there’s little doubt he’ll stick there as a professional.
From that point on, Lopez grew on me a little bit with every passing day. Guys who hit .306/.417/.444 with twice as many walks (26) as strikeouts (13) in their draft year tend to do that. Beyond the obvious awesome plate discipline indicators, what I liked about Lopez is the steady increase in functional power (.038 ISO in 2014, .089 ISO in 2015, .138 ISO in 2016) and continued strong base running (83.3% career success rate). Those kind of secondary offensive skills and his longstanding quality defense at short — above-average range, plus arm, soft hands — elevate Lopez’s ceiling to a potential regular at short. If that’s too rich for you, then Lopez’s hot start should at least up the odds of him reaching his existing upside as a high-level utility guy.
6.193 – OF Cal Jones
Cal Jones is a classic, old school Royals draft pick. Take a special athlete with legit plus speed and more than enough range for center, and see if you can coach him up into a viable big league hitter. Great find by the Kansas City scouting staff. Now the really hard part comes for the development staff tasked with guiding Jones through the ups and downs of pro ball. I’m oddly optimistic on this one.
7.223 – RHP Travis Eckert
The Royals may have found themselves a late-bloomer in Travis Eckert, a steady yet unspectacular performer in two years at Oregon State who saw his stuff jump up across the board upon entering pro ball. What was once a fairly standard three-pitch command-oriented repertoire has been elevated to a slightly more interesting all-around profile thanks to a faster fastball (more flashes of mid-90s than his old 88-93 heat) and tighter 77-81 MPH breaking ball. Those two pitches combined with his solid 79-85 MPH changeup give him the requisite mix many teams require for a future in the rotation. I wouldn’t have put that that expectation on him six months ago — his immediate post-draft evaluation would have been something between unlikely middle relief help to minor league depth — but sometimes pro ball just agrees with a guy.
8.253 – 1B Chris DeVito
On Chris DeVito (123), the highest ranked player drafted by the Royals in this class, from March 2016…
I’m not yet sure what to make of Chris DeVito as an all-around prospect, but the confidence that he’ll hit as a pro grows by the week. The improvements he has made as a hitter, especially as he’s found a way to retain his big power while significantly decreasing the length of his swing, are real. One friend of mine affectionately refers to him as the “western Zack Collins.” My prospect love for Collins runs far too deep for me to go there, but I still like it. If DeVito can convince pro teams he can catch professionally, there’s no telling how high he can rise. I’m unsure if that’ll be the case – literally unsure: haven’t heard much in either direction about his glove, so I legitimately do not have an updated opinion on the matter – but I look forward to finding out more about his defense in the coming weeks. He’s a potentially great (top five round?) prospect – though I’d caution taking his offensive production with his offensive environments in mind — if he catch, and a good one (round six to ten?) if he’s forced to first base.
Of course, the Royals drafted DeVito, that same friend said after the fact, they already have his right-handed hitting counterpart in Chase Vallot. DeVito played exclusively first base in his pro debut, a sure sign that his number one job as a Royal will be to hit. Whether or not he’ll do so enough to be an everyday option going forward remains to be seen. I remain bullish on the Red Hercules as a plus power bat with patience and enough feel for contact to make a meaningful offensive impact at the highest level, so count me in on DeVito as a future regular.
9.283 – RHP Walker Sheller
Walker Sheller could be a quick-moving middle relief option for Kansas City as a funky strike-throwing fastball (87-93 MPH, 95 peak) and slider (low-80s, average but flashes better) righthander. It’s not the most explosive stuff or the highest ceiling, but it’s the kind of skill set that should play well in short bursts in the pros.
10.313 – LHP Richard Lovelady
It should be a pretty fun race to the big leagues between Walker Sheller and tenth rounder Richard Lovelady, a lefty reliever who can run it up to the mid-90s (sits 88-92ish) with a quality mid- to upper-70s breaking ball and usable upper-70s change. Good college numbers (10.26 K/9 and 4.93 BB/9) and a strong pro debut (10.80 K/9 and 3.24 BB/9) paint a pretty picture of a potential big league reliever.
11.343 – OF Vance Vizcaino
A big redshirt-sophomore season year at Stetson seemed to set Vance Vizcaino up for stardom at the college level, but his 2016 was a step back in just about every offensive area. That dip in production allowed the Royals to wait it out and and snag Vizcaino in the eleventh round. Getting someone closer to the 2015 version of Vizcaino would be a steal, but I can’t help but think that season will look more and more like an aberration the longer his career goes on. It isn’t that Vizcaino is a bad prospect — he isn’t — but he’s the epitome of an outfield tweener. He’s playable in center, sure, but much better in a corner. His speed is impressive, no doubt, but not quite on the level that I’d call it a clear carrying tool. His power is decent, yes, but not good enough to profile as a regular, especially in an outfield corner. Add it all up and the Tennessee transfer could be a useful backup outfielder in time if everything goes right. There’s no shame in profiling as a bench player, but I’d want a little more in a round that has turned into one where most teams target high upside, overslot gambles. That’s not Vizcaino.
12.373 – RHP Jeremy Gwinn
I was no Jeremy Gwinn expert in the spring and I’m no Jeremy Gwinn expert now. What I do know about him, however, I like. He’s got size at 6-5, 200 pounds. He’s got a good fastball at 90-94 MPH (95 peak). He can reach back and use one of three offspeed pitches (SL, CB, CU) in any count. His numbers at Colby CC this past year (11.85 K/9 and 2.39 BB/9 in 79.0 IP) were excellent. There is a lot to like here.
13.403 – 2B Logan Gray
Plate discipline is at or near the top of my list of required skills for any college hitter I’ll champion. It does seem, however, that every year there is a player or two who I can’t help but like in spite of consistently ugly BB/K ratios. One of those guys this year was Logan Gray (170). An optimistic take from April 2016…
All Logan Gray does is hit. There’s no point in me doubting him anymore. I’m sure there are scouts who don’t love every aspect of his swing or his bat speed or the way he circles the bases after hitting yet another home run, but at some point his extended run of hitting, hitting, and hitting some more has to matter. His athleticism and speed should translate to some steals (double-digits upside?) as he climbs the ladder and his power should play.
And a slightly more measured take from June 2016 right before the draft…
Logan Gray’s approach never took the step forward I was hoping to see (his sophomore to junior numbers are eerily similar), but he’s still so tooled up otherwise that he’s more than justified being a long-time FAVORITE. This class is dying for real third base prospects, so a raw yet highly athletic guy like Gray is very much welcomed.
There is so much about Gray’s game to like. He can run, he has power, he’s a great athlete, he’s capable of playing multiple spots…but the elephant in the room has been and figures to continue to be his approach. The downside to his game couldn’t have been made more clear in his 132 plate appearance debut in the Royals organization. Gray struggled to make contact (.187 BA), was unable to get into his plus raw power (.073 ISO), struck out a ton (34.8%), and barely walked at all (4.5 BB%). I’m not hopping off the bandwagon altogether after just 132 lousy plate appearances, but the fact that his struggles were so on the nose with what he’s had issues with in the past is more than a little concerning. Still, players with the kind of natural ability that Gray has shown don’t come around all that often, especially at the low low price of a thirteenth round pick. I had Gray valued at something closer to the fifth round — too early, probably, but defensible in this class when upside is taken into account — so it should go without saying that I love it in round thirteen. Whether or not Gray ever figures things out at the plate and gets past AA won’t make this pick any less clever to me. Process over results forever.
14.433 – RHP David McKay
David McKay joins a big group of relief prospects that could include every pitcher taken by Kansas City past their first overall selection. Competition for innings should be fierce in the early going, so McKay will need to impress as much as possible with his strong fastball (88-93) and breaking ball (once a plus slider, now far more of a curve as he’s adjusted to life post-Tommy John surgery) when called upon. So far, he’s done just that…
8.32 K/9 – 3.05 BB/9 – 44.1 IP – 2.64 ERA
7.96 K/9 – 3.14 BB/9 – 74.2 IP – 3.74 ERA
Top is what McKay did in his pro debut, bottom shows his redshirt-sophomore season at Florida Atlantic. Can’t knock the man for being consistent, that’s for sure. I like this pick a lot.
15.463 – LHP Mike Messier
I know it happened almost three weeks ago, but I still can’t get over Jaromir Jagr passing Mark Messier for second place on the all-time NHL points list. Jagr was old (but awesome) when I had the pleasure of watching him nightly with the Flyers and that was five years ago. This has nothing to do with Mike Messier and I apologize for that. Turning our attention back to baseball, kudos to the Royals for sticking with Messier despite a somewhat rocky junior season (4.75 ERA, highest among the three weekend starters) at Bellarmine. His peripherals remained solid (10.50 K/9 and 2.63 BB/9) and his stuff (88-92 FB) never wavered. Lefthanders with a certain baseline of velocity will always appeal to teams on draft day.
16.493 – OF Nick Heath
The pre-draft take on Nick Heath…
I like rJR OF Nick Heath as a potential high-contact, athletic, plus running center fielder, but the complete lack of power undermines what he does well otherwise. He’s more fun college player than serious pro prospect until he can start driving a few more balls to the gaps. They can’t all be power hitters, but the threat of power is a must in the pro game.
That feels pretty fair to me. Heath does enough well to potentially keep rising and make it as a reserve speed/defense outfielder, but the absence of power keeps his ceiling low. Solid depth piece at this point in the draft.
17.523 – RHP Dillon Drabble
A drabble is a short work of fiction of around one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is brevity, testing the author’s ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in a confined space. Sounds a little bit like Twitter on a slightly larger scale. I’m much too dumb to write fiction, but let’s try to write a drabble about Dillon Drabble.
Dillon Drabble was drafted in the seventeenth round by Kansas City out of Seminole State JC in Oklahoma. He pitched well as a sophomore (10.45 K/9 and 3.19 BB/9) using a solid fastball (88-92) and cut-slider combination to get more than his fair share of swings and misses and a boatload of ground ball outs. He kept it up in his pro debut, notable mostly for a whopping 65.15 GB% on all batted balls in his 60.1 innings pitched. One contact who saw them both pitch in 2016 said he preferred Drabble to Kansas City’s similarly skilled fourth round pick, Jace Vines.
102 words! So close! I didn’t even get to talk about the comic strip as planned. Can’t win ’em all.
18.553 – LHP Vance Tatum
Two players named Vance in one draft class has to be a record, right? Vance Tatum is a fine find this late in the draft. The big lefty from Mississippi State has always done the job when called upon (7.73 K/9 and 3.45 BB/9 in 96.2 career college IP) thanks to enough velocity (85-91 FB), a true plus changeup, and a usable 76-81 MPH breaking ball. An imperfect comp for him that may have some merit, especially if he picks up a little velocity: Luis Avilan.
19.583 – RHP Tyler Fallwell
No matter what Fangraphs says, it’s Tyler Fallwell and not Falwell. The real Fallwell had a final draft year at Cochise (10.96 K/9 and 3.62 BB/9) and throws three pitches (88-92 MPH fastball, up-and-down slider, decent changeup) for strikes.
20.613 – RHP Anthony Bender
With a 9.94 K/9, 2.76 BB/9, and 1.65 ERA, Anthony Bender made his abbreviated sophomore year (16.1 IP) at Santa Rosa count. Armed with a fastball that could flirt with triple-digits in time (up to 97 already), Bender is exactly what you want in a mid-round quick-moving potential reliever.
21.643 – OF Dalton Griffin
I like a lot of elements in Dalton Griffin’s (455) game. He’s a solid runner with a strong arm, enough range to handle all three outfield spots (not at the same time though, that would be nuts), and a mature approach at the plate. Or, if that one sentence synopsis of Griffin doesn’t do it for you, how about just celebrating the fact that literally any high school prospect signed this late is worth getting at least a little excited about.
22.673 – RHP Cody Nesbit
Sometimes, just knowing a guy’s numbers can be enough. Cody Nesbit dominated this past spring at San Jacinto JC to the tune of a 15.60 K/9 and 2.00 BB/9. Knowing nothing beyond that, I’d still say that’s enough for me.
The Royals gave Nesbit $100,000 to sign. For those new at this, that’s the maximum amount allowed to a draft pick past the tenth round without dipping into the bonus pool allotment. The fact that Nesbit, a dominant junior college arm, got one hundred grand is wholly unremarkable. The fact that Nesbit is the is the twelfth Royal in a row to get a real signing bonus — ten of whom got six-figure bonuses — is pretty damn great. I love that Kansas City threw around that extra cash to get the players they wanted. I also love that the players got some real money upfront to help supplement their meager minor league salaries. I know Major League Baseball isn’t a charity, but if I was in charge of the draft room I’d push hard to give literally every player taken past round ten the full $100,000. There’s no penalty to doing so with the only real cost being a few extra bucks missing from the owner’s bottom line. I know it’s easy to say since it’s not my money, but the amount of good will around the game and potential for positive PR could pay for itself in time. A relatively small investment — the Royals signed 27 guys past round ten, so that would be $2.7 million if they followed my plan to the letter — that opens up the talent pool and could engender good feelings that resonate for years to come? Seems like something you could sell an open-minded owner on to me.
23.703 – OF Kort Peterson
UCLA has a deserved reputation of being a pitching factory in recent years. Everybody knows the big names like Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, but the Bruins have put big league pitchers like Charles Brewer, Erik Goeddel, Matt Grace, Rob Rasmussen, and Adam Plutko in the big leagues since 2009. James Kaprielian will join those guys shortly — he’s far more Cole/Bauer than any of those others — with Griffin Canning, Jake Bird, Justin Hooper, and Kyle Molnar all waiting in the wings. But the Bruins deserve equal credit for recruiting, developing, and sending off a slew of interesting high-contact, well-rounded offensive players to the pro ranks of late.
Maybe the group of Eric Filia, Kevin Kramer, and Tyler Heineman doesn’t have quite the same star power of that Cole/Bauer/Kaprielian trio, but all three are professional hitters who could carve out long pro careers if things fall the right way for them. I’d put Kort Peterson in that same class. Peterson doesn’t have any clear standout tools, but he’s a smart hitter with enough speed, range, and power to make a little noise in pro ball. His biggest selling point is his athleticism, so there’s more growth potential here than his good but not great college track record might suggest. I think my own track record (such as it is) of being bearish on college players who haven’t put up great numbers as amateurs (like Peterson) should indicate that I like the former UCLA outfielder’s overall skill set more than most.
24.733 – C Mike McCann
A torn thumb ligament cut short Mike McCann’s breakout junior season at Seattle, but the Royals made him a twenty-fourth round pick anyway. I heartily approve. McCann’s bat is ahead of his glove for me, but I still think he has the smarts if not the physical gifts to remain a catcher for the foreseeable future. A case could certainly be made that you’d rather have the smart catcher who can think along with your young pitching in the middle rounds than a bigger armed, better all-around defensive player lacking in the baseball IQ department. I’d take the latter guy early — big league tools are big league tools, after all — but, knowing what we know about the realistic success rate of players drafted at this point, getting a guy who will help with the overall development of his teammates makes perfect sense to me. Make no mistake, McCann is no slouch as a prospect in his own right. In a class loaded with college catching, his half-season (.319/.491/.445 with 37 BB/19 K) stands up to almost anybody’s. Great value here.
25.763 – 1B Robby Rinn
Robby Rinn is an older prospect (turned 24 this past October) confined to first base, so he’ll have to hurry up and start hitting if he wants to keep getting steady playing time in pro ball. His pro debut was fine (.280/.341/.386, 109 wRC+), but it was all in the AZL. That’s not Rinn’s fault — you can only play where you’re assigned — but he has to hope now that the Royals move him a lot quicker than that starting next spring. I believe in him as a hitter, but acknowledge that the odds are against him for a whole bunch of reasons.
26.793 – 3B John Brontsema
I don’t really understand this one. John Brontsema was already in my 2017 MLB Draft notes as a potential senior-sign — he has a solid glove and can play multiple spots — because I figured his unexciting junior season (.289/.364/.389 with 16 BB/44 K) would cause him to go undrafted. The Royals saw differently. Brontsema has rewarded that faith so far with a .337/.386/.396 (13 BB/33 K) debut.
27.823 – LHP Rex Hill
Rex Hill fell a little bit further than a three-pitch lefthander with good size (6-3, 200) probably should have. Perhaps it has something to do with Hill’s upper-80s fastball not being what pro teams want. I’d take it when combined with two average or better offspeed pitches (77-81 change, upper-70s breaking ball) and the chance he’ll gain a tick or two of velocity in a more consistent relief role. Worth a shot.
28.853 – C Yordany Salva
Yordany Salva hit .276/.339/.429 with 15 BB/33 K and 12/14 SB in his sophomore season at Broward CC. That’s all I’ve got. Typically those numbers wouldn’t be enough to be on my draft list, but the Royals obviously like him. We’ll see. Early reports on his defense have been positive, so at least there’s that to build on.
1/17 EDIT: As Shaun Newkirk of Royals Review points out, Salva has already been released by the Royals. It was fun while it lasted.
29.883 – RHP Grant Gavin
From 10.29 K/9 and 3.53 BB/9 (2.64 ERA) in 30.2 IP at Central Missouri to 8.57 K/9 and 0.91 BB/9 (2.01 ERA) in 49.1 IP in his pro debut: not a bad spring and summer for Grant Gavin. With a fastball up to 94 MPH, emerging offspeed stuff (CB and CU), and plenty of athleticism, Gavin could wind up one of this draft’s sneakier quick-moving relief prospects.
30.913 – RHP Geoff Bramblett
An established workhorse pitcher from the SEC with solid stuff across the board — 87-93 fastball, good low-70s breaking ball, improving sinking changeup — and plus athleticism still on the board tor the Royals in the thirtieth round? This is a pick you run to the phone to make. Nice work here.
31.943 – RHP Malcolm Van Buren
There’s literally nothing not to like about Kansas City taking a shot on Malcolm Van Buren in the thirty-first round. Athleticism, velocity (low-90s, up to 93), intriguing assortment of offspeed stuff (CB, CU, SL), and a 6-4, 185 pound frame with plenty of growth potential. The only issue here is his recent Tommy John surgery, but teams knew about the heading into the draft. If anything, strictly from a draft value perspective from the Royals point of view, Van Buren’s injury can be considered a positive. A healthy Van Buren goes twenty rounds sooner. As if I didn’t like this pick enough, the selection of Van Buren gives me an excuse to link to the classic clip you see below. When (fine, if) I sit down and try to determine my favorite picks across baseball from this draft, it’ll be hard to leave this one off.
34.1033 – RHP Nathan Webb
Very cool piece from a story on Nathan Webb, a pitcher I pretty much know nothing else about…
Safe to say he is the only member of the draft class who already has been presented with a World Series ring from the team.
That’s right, Webb, a right-handed pitcher, is one of four members of his high school team who works on the Royals’ grounds crew. The crew received rings.
“More than a replica,” said Lee’s Summit North baseball coach Mike Westacott. “They were really nice.”
How great is that? Good for the Royals.
35.1063 – C MJ Sanchez
When I start compiling notes for these draft reviews, I do so by collecting any and all relevant links that can add to the discussion about a given player. For reasons not particularly clear to me now, I found this link and decided it was worth saving. I can only guess that it had something to do with correctly guessing that the Jets would trade up to take Mark Sanchez. From there I linked Mark Sanchez to MJ Sanchez since MJ’s given name is also Mark. This is what passes for analysis in the thirty-fifth round. For what it’s worth, Sanchez hit well (.323/.384/.455 with 13 BB/15 K) in his redshirt-junior season at California Baptist. Have to figure that experience catching Tyson Miller, the highest drafted player in Lancers history, doesn’t hurt, either. It certainly helped Sanchez get multiple looks from scouts when he might have otherwise been given just a passing glance. I love it when a big-time prospect helps draw in scouts and gives exposure to talented teammates. I’m convinced there are way more good players out there than there are scouts on the road capable of seeing everybody. If you’re good they’ll find you, but getting a little serendipitous help along the way makes things a lot easier.
36.1093 – RHP Alex Massey
Alex Massey going all the way back to 2012 (!) at Tulane…
2012: 8.06 K/9 – 2.45 BB/9 – 51.1 IP
2014: 9.92 K/9 – 4.13 BB/9 – 32.2 IP
2015: 7.47 K/9 – 4.70 BB/9 – 88.1 IP
2016: 7.89 K/9 – 3.11 BB/9 – 75.0 IP
Four pretty solid seasons, all in all. Massey did it with a good sinking fastball (88-92 as a starter, but can run it up to 94-95 in shorter outings) and an above-average slider. That’s more than enough to warrant inclusion in the great big future middle relief pile the Royals have assembled through this draft.
37.1123 – RHP Justin Camp
Justin Camp had a weird college career at Auburn. He was basically the same guy in 2013, 2014, and 2016, but something much more in 2015. What do you do with that? I guess if you’re the Royals you take it in the thirty-seventh round and hope for the best. Camp has good stuff — 90-93 FB, low-70s CU, low-80s breaking ball — with decent command. Tough to see him being much more than an organizational arm, but he’s a bit more talented than your typical bottom of the draft selection.
39.1183 – C Chase Livingston
Chase Livingston was drafted by a MLB baseball team — the defending champs no less! — and I was not, so he’s clearly got plenty going for him and doesn’t need my approval in any way whatsoever. That’s why I don’t feel bad in pointing out that he might have the worst body of work of any 2016 MLB Draft pick. Livingston hit .202/.273/.267 with 25 BB/86 K in 337 AB at Rhode Island. His big senior year saw him put up a career-best .309 SLG as he hit .216 with a .275 OBP (11 BB/39 K). Naturally, he turned into a much better hitter (or had a nice run of fortune on balls in play in a small sample) in pro ball as he hit .273/.375/.273 (8 BB/11 K) in 66 PA split between two levels of rookie ball. With college numbers like his, the only way I can begin to rationalize this pick is to assume Livingston is the world’s greatest defensive catcher. It’s basically Nichols’ Law of Catcher Defense come to life.
40.1213 – RHP Taylor Kaczmarek
Some teams end with pointless nepotism picks, others pick players they have developed lasting long-term relationships with — the Royals originally drafted Taylor Kaczmarek out of South Mountain CC in 2012 — battling their way back from beating acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Kaczmarek is a feel-good story to be sure, but he’s not some total charity case selection: the reliever from San Diego has been up to 90 MPH with his fastball in the past.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Luke Bandy (Dallas Baptist), Kam Misner (Missouri), Joey Fregosi (?)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Washington in 2016
14 – Carter Kieboom
40 – Sheldon Neuse
58 – Jesus Luzardo
*100 – Dane Dunning
148 – Nick Banks
193 – Jake Noll
388 – AJ Bogucki
1.28 – SS Carter Kieboom
The rich get richer as the Nationals do it again with an absolute steal with their first round pick. The birth of this site coincided with Washington’s unprecedented draft run beginning in 2009. I’m not sure a team has had better draft luck in any sport over an extended period* than what the Nationals experienced in the four drafts from ’09 to ’12. Being bad at the right time to land Stephen Strasburg (’09) and Bryce Harper (’10) is one thing, but having the number one prospects like Anthony Rendon (’11) and Lucas Giolito (’12) fall to pick six and sixteen in their respective years is otherworldly lucky. All credit to Washington for actually taking the plunge with Rendon and Giolito as they fell, but just being in that position in the first place is nothing short of a draft day miracle.
Getting Carter Kieboom (14) with the 28th overall pick might not qualify as another draft day miracle, but it’s not all that far off the mark, either. Some quick history on Kieboom, starting in April 2016…
Carter Kieboom is listed at third, but recent impressive defensive showings could allow him to remain at shortstop for the foreseeable future. If that’s the case, he could jump ten or more spots up these rankings because the bat is legit.
…and then again a month later…
Carter Kieboom was with the third base prospects in my notes up until about a month or so ago. The buzz on him being good enough to stick at shortstop for at least a few years grew too loud to ignore. In fact, said buzz reminds me quite a bit about how the slow yet steady drumbeat for Alex Bregman, Shortstop grew throughout the spring last season. Beyond the defensive comparison, I think there’s actually a little something to looking at Kieboom developing as a potential Bregman type impact bat over the next few seasons. He checks every box you’d want to see out of a high school infielder: hit (above-average), power (above-average raw), bat speed (yes), approach (mature beyond his years), athleticism (well above-average), speed (average), glove (average at short, could be better yet at third), and arm (average to above-average, more than enough for the left side). He’d be neck and neck with Drew Mendoza for third place on my third base list, but he gets the bump to second here with the shortstops. At either spot, he’s a definite first round talent for me.
There you go. Carter Kieboom: the next Alex Bregman. It’s not really that simple because it’s never really that simple, but the two young players share a lot of the same positive traits. Bregman’s incredible start to his pro career makes the direct one-to-one comparison extra scary. I love comps, but recognize they aren’t for everybody. The very nature of player comparisons can create unfair expectations based on misunderstanding the purpose of the enterprise; Kieboom not hitting the ground running quite like Bregman wouldn’t make him a failure, but the optics of linking the two together invites an extra layer of scrutiny that perhaps confuses more than clarifies. Still, I stand by the view that Kieboom has a lot of the same positive qualities in his game that make Bregman so good. I’m comfortable projecting Kieboom as a potential impact player on the same tier as Bregman.
*Maybe the Cleveland Cavaliers with an unfair run going back to getting arguably the most important first pick of all-time (LeBron James), the second piece of their Big Three (Kyrie Irving) after only having to suffer one year post-Decision, and the pick that would become the third member (Andrew Wiggins begat Kevin Love) falling into their laps despite just a 1.7% of happening. And that ignores the Anthony Bennett year, which, fine, was a wash, but it still put them in a position where they could have realistically taken somebody useful like Oladipo, Porter, Noel, or McCollum or unrealistically taken a superstar like Antetokounmpo or Gobert instead. The Pittsburgh Penguins could be in the mix with their Marc-Andre Fluery, Evgeni Malkin, and Sidney Crosby run.
The Colts are a sneaky darkhorse for one of the luckiest draft teams of all-time: going from fourteen seasons of Peyton Manning directly into the Andrew Luck era is pretty damn fortunate any way you look at it. Recent holiday boredom, however, revealed that the Colts are one of only three teams to have only had three quarterbacks (George, Manning, Luck) play all sixteen games in a season in the modern era. The others are the Patriots (Grogan, Bledsoe, Brady) and Jaguars (Brunell, Garrard, Bortles). The Texans have technically had the worst luck at the position (Carr and Schaub), but their history only goes back to 2002 so they get a mulligan for now. Anyway, I feel a little less jealous of the Colts now that I see how ugly things were for the decades that came before Manning/Luck. If you want to go way back, then I’d be willing to hear arguments for the Orlando Magic in the early-90s. If you flip the Strasburg/Harper drafts, then maybe you could flesh out a longform think piece worthy comparison between Orlando getting Shaq (transcendent superstar a la Harper) and Penny (crazy talented but oft-injured) in 1992 and 1993. I’d read that.
1.29 – RHP Dane Dunning
I messed up on Dane Dunning (*100). hence the asterisk next to his “pre-draft ranking.” From draft night…
A copy/paste error this morning kept Dunning off of the top 500 rankings. Now I’m paranoid that he’s not the only name missing since I tend to copy/paste in bunches. Anyway, Dunning has a really good arm. Going off memory, I think he was ranked somewhere just after the 200 mark near the Matt Krook, Matthias Dietz, Greg Veliz, and Tyler Mondile band of pitchers. My inexplicably unpublished notes on him…
JR RHP Dane Dunning: 88-94 FB with plus sink, 96 peak; average or better 81-83 SL; no longer uses good mid-70s CB as much; average 82-87 CU, flashes above-average with plus upside; improved command; good athlete; 6-3, 200 pounds
2014: 11.57 K/9 – 4.71 BB/9 – 21 IP – 5.14 ERA
2015: 8.25 K/9 – 3.45 BB/9 – 60.1 IP – 4.05 ERA
2016: 10.28 K/9 – 1.45 BB/9 – 68.1 IP – 2.50 ERA
For all the completists out there, Dunning finished 2016 at Florida with the following line…
10.08 K/9 – 1.37 BB/9 – 78.2 IP – 2.29 ERA
Anyway, good thing Dunning was just a late first round pick with little fanfare who didn’t make any noise this past offseason or anything. The newest member of the White Sox — or one of the newest members, it’s been a busy offseason on the South Side so far — is really good. I did some digging my own archives and found that the draft day estimate that placed Dunning around 200th overall was off. He was actually closer to the 100 mark in the same group as fellow Gator Shaun Anderson (90th), Ben Bowden (93rd), Mike Shawaryn (98th), and Bailey Clark (102nd). Dunning has a shot to be an impact mid-rotation arm — calling guys “mid-rotation,” as I’m often guilty of doing, is so vague; my attempt to differentiate that a bit with the “impact” adjective isn’t all that I wanted, but hopefully it shows some nuance that separates a damn good potential third starter mid-rotation arm from a innings-eating fourth starter mid-rotation arm — who piles up outs on the ground with an elite sinker/slider mix. He has the changeup, command, athleticism, and delivery to start with the experience in relief as a tantalizing fallback plan.
2.58 – 3B Sheldon Neuse
On Sheldon Neuse (40) from March 2016…
Recently got a Mike Olt draft comparison for Sheldon Neuse. Thought that was a pretty strong comp. Also liked that it was a draft comparison and not necessarily a pro prospect match. Olt’s big league disappointments don’t change the fact that he’s a really talented ballplayer capable of looking really good for long stretches at a time. Players develop in all kinds of different ways, so expecting one guy to follow another’s path is unwise. Maybe Neuse will fulfill his promise professionally in a way that Olt wasn’t able. Maybe he’ll experience similar developmental road blocks and see his game stall in a similar manner. Olt went 49th overall in the 2010 MLB Draft; snagging Neuse at any point after that would be a steal in 2016.
And then again in April 2016 (with a bonus pre-season take from October 2015 embedded within)…
On Sheldon Neuse before the season…
Neuse could still fulfill the promise many (myself included) saw in him during his excellent freshman season back when he looked like a potential Gold Glove defender at third with the kind of bat you’d happily stick in the middle of the order. He could also get more of a look this spring on the mound where he can properly put his mid-90s heat and promising pair of secondary offerings (SL, CU) to use. Or he could have something of a repeat of his 2015 season leaving us unsure how good he really is and thinking of him more of a second to fifth round project (a super talented one, mind you) than a first round prospect.
So far, so good on the whole fulfilling that promise thing: Neuse has hit .383/.483/.692 through 32 games with 23 BB/26 and 8/9 SB. On the mound, he’s been just as good: 16 K in 16.2 IP of 1.62 ERA ball. He’s now firmly back on the first round bubble and one of this draft’s quintessential first round talents that might get squeezed out of the top thirty or so picks because of the impressive depth at the top of this class.
Drafting Neuse any point after pick 49 would be a steal, I said. The Nationals took Neuse with pick 58. If one were to connect the dots, one might see a picture of, I don’t know, Neuse stealing something or the Nationals stealing Neuse or something that makes it clear that Washington did indeed get themselves fine value with their second round pick. Neuse’s plus-plus arm, quality defense at the hot corner, and intriguing power upside remind me a little bit of former Rutgers star Todd Frazier. It’s an imperfect comp — the body types are off — but similar career arcs don’t seem out of the question.
3.94 – LHP Jesus Luzardo
I really, really like the healthy version of Jesus Luzardo (58). The young lefty has about everything you’d want in a pitching prospect. Fastball? Sits anywhere from 87-95 MPH with peaks as high as 97 MPH. Changeup? Such an important pitch for a lefty and Luzardo delivers with an above-average 75-82 MPH version with plus upside. Breaking ball? You get two for the price of one as Luzardo throws a really good 75-82 MPH slider and a decent 73-78 curve. He commands his offspeed stuff well and his fastball exceptionally well. The only knocks on Luzardo are the standard risks that come with any teenage pitcher coming off of Tommy John surgery (Luzardo had his in March 2016) and the lack of projection — though it’s arguable how much he needs to grow with his present stuff being so strong — in his 6-1, 200 pound frame. I can’t help but view this pick as less of a 2016 third round selection and more of a bonus 2017 first rounder. Assuming his rehab goes as planned, Luzardo could be in line to start his career almost exactly one year after he would have if healthy from the start. We’re talking a mid- to late-summer rookie ball debut with the goal of having him ready for Low-A by April 2018. Mentioned it before the draft, but Luzardo reminds me a lot of last year’s second round pick by Cleveland — and 59th overall selection, just one spot off of Luzardo’s pre-draft ranking here…hmm — Juan Hillman. I think Luzardo is better, though.
4.124 – OF Nick Banks
On Nick Banks (148) from March 2016…
Hunter Renfroe went thirteenth overall in the 2013 MLB Draft, so his 2016 doppelganger Nick Banks going a few spots later seems appropriate. Banks is one of the many hitters with questionable BB/K marks before the season that scouts insisted had more mature approaches at the plate than the raw numbers suggested. The scouts have been redeemed by most of those hitters — Kyle Lewis most famously — but Banks has continued to struggle (5 BB/10 K) out of the gate so far. He could still have a fine pro career without polishing up his approach — he’s a legit five-tool guy with no singular grade falling below average on most scout cards — but plugging that last remaining hole could mean the difference between good and great.
Those scouts could still be be on to something as maybe Banks is just a late-bloomer as it pertains to his approach, but it probably makes more sense to just accept him for the free-swinger that he is. His BB/K as a junior at Texas A&M: 24 BB/47 K. His BB/K in his pro debut: 11 BB/37 K. Just as concerning for Banks is his defense; he’s more than fine in either corner, but stretched in center. Banks may very well be a classic outfielder tweener. His offense feels a half-step behind what you want for a corner player and his defense makes him a less than ideal fourth outfielder candidate. Working in his favor is a history of hitting righthanded pitching particularly well, so a platoon situation could benefit both him and his club if/when he reaches the big leagues. I’d be happy with that outcome at this point if I were in the Washington front office.
5.154 – OF Daniel Johnson
I’m always a bit apprehensive when a player’s best tools are arguably the two least important, but Daniel Johnson’s plus-plus arm strength and plus to plus-plus speed are almost so much better than the norm that I can accept it. His rawness at the plate still makes me a bit uneasy, but I get the appeal. Fifth round still seems way too early, though. Johnson is a great athlete who covers a lot of ground in center and can clearly throw and run with the best of them. If that’s all he is, then there’s some value there as a speed/defense fifth outfielder. If he hits even a little, then you might be able to squint and see a future regular depending on how highly you value what he does well.
Heard two interesting things about Johnson while doing some digging. First, a contact said that his team had Johnson much higher than Buddy Reed, a similar speed/defense type who may or may not hit. Thought that was pretty interesting. I also got an Aaron Brown comparison for Johnson that makes a little sense, especially if you once thought (as I did) that Brown’s most likely path to the big leagues was on the mound. I’m not necessarily saying the same about Johnson — he runs and defends in center better than Brown ever did — but the thought of seeing what his monster arm could do if unleashed as a pitcher is pretty damn intriguing.
6.184 – C Tres Barrera
I’ve always been high on Tres Barrera. He was ranked in the top 500 back in his high school days (356 in 2013, one spot ahead of Mitch Garver) and I continued to champion his abilities into April 2016…
Tres Barrera’s ordinary start – his approach has taken a big step back – knocks him down from his clear perch in the two spot to closer to the middle of the pack. Despite seeing some time at third base this year for the Longhorns, I still like him behind the plate over the long haul. His above-average raw power keeps him in the top ten round mix despite the aforementioned backslide in approach.
For as much as I liked Barrera over the years the weird shift in approach (33 BB/39 K as a sophomore to 28 BB/54 K as a junior) was enough of a red flag to keep him out of my top 500 in this draft class loaded with college coaching. Do I regret it? A little bit, especially after Barrera went back to a more pleasant to the eye BB/K ratio of 15/22 in his pro debut. That performance has me questioning a whole lot of what I knew — or thought I knew — about Barrera as an offensive player, to say nothing of my own process for evaluating talent from afar. Was reading into the 211 at bats Barrera compiled in his final season at Texas nothing more than a classic case of mistakenly sweating a small sample? Is the smaller pro sample (164 AB) more of an aberration that shouldn’t be read into, either? Or could it be that Barrera was just a 21-year-old (22 this past September) catcher going through the ups and downs of playing in a pressurized college environment, shifting between multiple positions on defense, and attempting to make the adjustment to pro ball on the fly, so, hey, maybe we (fine, I) should ease up on judging him as if he was a finished product? Let’s go with that for now. Barrera is talented — average power, average arm, more than athletic enough to make it behind the plate — and versatile, so he’ll get plenty of chances to sink or swim in pro ball. I’ll go high-level backup catcher good enough to play a few different spots defensively in a pinch. Maybe something like a more well-rounded version of Eli Marrero/Tyler Houston depending on how Washington deploys him, though all the smart money is on the Nationals being fully committed to him behind the plate.
7.214 – Jake Noll
I remember thinking that Jake Noll (193) looked a little bit like Ryan Zimmerman after seeing him play for Florida Gulf Coast this past spring. Now he’s in the same organization. Great analysis, right? For more insight like that, here’s me on Noll from March 2016…
One of the better on-the-radar mid-round (or better) middle infield juniors is Jake Noll. Noll is a good hitter with above-average bat speed, above-average foot speed, and enough defensive versatility (2B, 3B, OF) to be a really interesting pro prospect. He’s hit well so far in 2016 despite some uncommon plate discipline struggles (small sample alert!), so his opportunity to rise up boards in a college class in need of more up-the-middle talent remains present. I like Noll more than I love him right now, but he’s earned his spot atop an average at best all-around class of hitting talent.
An outside-the-box name to keep in mind when thinking about Jake Noll in the pros: Odubel Herrera. Both guys can run a little bit, play a few different positions (if Noll doesn’t stick at second, he could be a prime candidate to move to center like Herrera), and, most critically, know how to flat hit the baseball. Like Herrera, Noll can really hit. That ability should serve him well as the rest of his game catches up in the pros. Bonus comparison that also makes a little bit of sense: former Nationals prospect Max Schrock.
8.244 – RHP AJ Bogucki
I’ve seen a lot of AJ Bogucki (388) over the years, first at Boyertown HS (about 30 miles from me) and later at North Carolina, so I can say that his pre-draft ranking is more about what I’ve heard and read than what I’ve seen firsthand. Bogucki has always looked good when I’ve seen him — his results in three years as a Tar Heel back this up — but I’ve almost always walked away thinking he was one of those prospects who had many great individual components that never quite added up to a great prospect. Bogucki has a fine fastball (87-94, 96 peak) that he commands well at times (but not so well at others), plus an above-average breaking ball that flits between both a curve (upper-70s) and slider (low-80s). Going with the sinking fastball/harder slider (a pitch that flashes plus at times) combination could make him a useful reliever if that’s how he and the Nationals decide to take his development. It’s what I would do, at least.
9.274 – C Joey Harris
Defensively, Joey Harris fits in really well in the big leagues. His hands, arm, and athleticism could be his ticket to advancement in the years to come. Offensively, it takes some projection to get to a similar level. I don’t personally see it — not enough power, patience is just all right, contact skills are inconsistent — but I know for a fact (#SOURCES) that there are those in the Washington organization who see things differently. Harris is a guy seen as a future everyday catcher internally. We shall see.
10.304 – SS Paul Panaccione
Flattery will get you everywhere, they say. That may well be true, but I think the same could be said for positional versatility. Being able to play a variety of spots on the diamond as a non-premium prospect entering pro ball is the best way to get the playing time you need to make a meaningful impression on the powers that will ultimately decide your professional fate. Paul Panaccione has that part of the game well taken care of. In his debut, the shortstop from Grand Canyon played shortstop (duh), second, and third. He also mixed in a few innings in both left and right field for good measure. Defensive flexibility like his helped keep his bat in the lineup even as he scuffled to an ugly .205/.254/.250 start in his first 190 plate appearances. There’s no way to sugarcoat those awful numbers, so Panaccione will have to hope that his relative strengths and draft standing are enough to get him another honest shot in 2017. As a fan of his game, I hope that’s the case. Panaccione is a steady glove wherever you put him who uses his average speed well. He makes a lot of quality contact and has a patient approach at the plate. From March 2016…
It’s fairly well-established by now that this year’s college shortstop class isn’t good. I’m about as positive a guy as you’ll find willing to do this for free and even I’ll admit that. That said…there are way more mid-major and small school types that can a) probably stay at shortstop in the pros, and b) hit frozen ropes even when dragged out of bed to do so. Paul Panaccione is one of the best of those types. In drafting Panaccione, you’d be getting a steadying influence in the middle infield, a hitter with a very clear plan with every trip to the plate, and an all-around solid performer with an increasingly intriguing track record of getting it done at the college level.
Rough start or not, Panaccione still looks like one of the draft’s most interesting super-utility prospects. It’s not a super high ceiling and the odds of reaching it obviously took a little bit of hit since draft day, but for a tenth round pick it’s more than fair value.
11.334 – OF Armond Upshaw
I’ve heard from those in the know that there are those within the Washington organization view Armond Upshaw as a potential switch-hitting Michael Taylor. That would be a more than suitable outcome for an eleventh round pick. Upshaw has serious speed, more than enough range for center, and surprising feel as a hitter. Regular readers of the site know I try to stay away from the name game, but Armond Upshaw just sounds too good to fail. Major League Baseball is ready for an Armond Upshaw.
12.364 – LHP Hayden Howard
It’s easy to see the appeal of Hayden Howard, a big (6-4, 190) lefthander with a nice mix of present stuff (87-92 FB, low-80s CU, low-70s CB) and projection to come. The results, however, are enough to pump the breaks on Howard’s upside being much more than a potential matchup lefty out of the pen. Howard’s junior year at Texas Tech (5.66 K/9 and 2.06 BB/9 in 70.0 IP) looks a lot like what he did in his pro debut (5.41 K/9 and 3.86 BB/9 in 23.1 IP). I won’t write off Howard completely as a potential starting pitching option based on a little under one hundred combined college/pro 2016 innings, but the idea that he is what he is in that role has certainly crossed my mind. This doesn’t mean he’s useless, of course; as mentioned, a successful career in relief could very well be on the horizon for Howard.
13.394 – 1B Conner Simonetti
Monster power, quality first base defense, and one glaring potentially fatal flaw. That’s Conner Simonetti, a legit plus raw power bat from Kent State who struck out 126 times in 379 at bats between college and the pros in 2016. That’s a ton of swing-and-miss. I’m good with betting on power at this point in the draft even if the odds of Simonetti being able to make enough contact to make it worth it are low.
14.424 – RHP Kyle Simonds
Kyle Simonds not landing in my top 500 surprises me a little bit now that I have a few months of reflection behind me. Simonds is the kind of college arm that is unexciting on the surface (5.43 K/9 in 2015, 7.22 K/9 in 2016), but with the exact mix of polish (two average or better offspeed pitches), command (consistently above-average), athleticism (plus), and ground ball stuff (52.38%52.38%) to profile as a quick-mover in pro ball. I like Simonds’s three-pitch mix (86-92 sinking fastball, above-average low-80s slider, average or better 78-84 changeup) enough to keep starting, though his age (24 in May) means he’ll have to get moving fast. It may be a little rich, but there are enough similarities with Tanner Roark here that a career path along those lines wouldn’t be a shock. Value like that in round fourteen is excellent.
15.454 – LHP Ryan Williamson
Ryan Williamson is kind of what you get when you combine Hayden Howard and Kyle Simonds. He has the lefthandedness and history of run prevention of Howard while his stuff (87-93 FB, really good 77-83 SL, intriguing CU) more closely mirrors what Simonds throws. That makes him a closer prospect to Simonds in my mind, a good thing for Williamson’s pro prospects. Less good for Williamson’s pro prospects is the fact he’s likely to miss the entire 2017 season after Tommy John surgery in late-May of 2016. A return to full health would put Williamson right back on the prospect map. Lefties with three pitches and size (6-3, 200) coming off three straight seasons of double-digit strikeouts per nine in the ACC tend to get plenty of opportunities to impress in pro ball. I like this one a lot.
16.484 – RHP Phil Morse
The first two seasons for Phil Morse at Shenandoah…
The last two seasons for Phil Morse at Shenandoah…
Interesting, right? The jump in strikeouts and the drastic drop in run prevention coincides with two things: a shift to the bullpen and increased velocity. Morse went from 88-92 MPH as a starter to 92-96 MPH in relief. Part of that was the obvious shift in role, but it was also the culmination of a larger journey. Morse put on good weight, improved his conditioning, tweaked his delivery, and won the genetic lottery that allows some guys to suddenly see major upticks in velocity when others don’t. With his big fastball, cut-slider, and occasional change, Morse has a shot to pitch out of a big league bullpen one day if he can get his control under control.
17.514 – SS Tyler Beckwith
I like what Washington did in targeting potential utility options in this draft. They went alliterative early with Paul Panaccionne and late with Branden Boggetto, and settled on Tyler Beckwith in between. All three guys have proven themselves versatile defensively with intriguing offensive upside to match. Beckwith played third base, shortstop, and second base in his pro debut. He’s a really good athlete with standout speed and an above-average arm who has a chance to hit for solid power if he can keep advancing. What’s not to like there? Toss in Beckwith’s college experience in the outfield and you can see the outline of a true seven position super-sub if everything breaks right.
18.544 – LHP Ben Braymer
Size (6-2, 220) and arm strength (88-92, 94 peak) from the left side will always get you a foot in the door. A quality draft season in the SEC (8.81 K/9 and 2.35 BB/9 in 48.0 IP) doesn’t hurt, either. The development of a reliable offspeed pitch, be it the slider or the change, will determine how far Ben Braymer will go as a reliever from here on out. As the first of six consecutive signed college arms, competition figures to be fierce in the years to come.
20.604 – LHP Jake Barnett
Jake Barnett pitched well as a junior (9.84 K/9 and 2.93 BB/9) on a dominant Lewis-Clark pitching staff. Did some digging beyond that and…I’ve got nothing. He relies heavily on a sinker/slider combination, so at least I can share that. Beyond that…nothing.
21.634 – RHP Jacob Howell
Jacob Howell made his one and only season at Delta State worthwhile. His junior year numbers — 11.81 K/9 and 3.94 BB/9 — look good. Like Jake Barnett, his stuff is a bit of a mystery at this point for me. Low-90s fastball is all I’ve got. It’s a start.
22.664 – RHP Sterling Sharp
I lost track of Sterling Sharp, a Drury Panther by way of Eastern Michigan and Darton State who was a pretty big deal as prep prospect once upon a time, so it’s cool to see him reemerge as a legit pro prospect after a good but not great draft season (7.69 K/9 and 3.76 BB/9) in 2016. Sharp managed to follow that success with more of the same in pro ball. He posted a 7.34 K/9 and 1.16 BB/9 in 46.2 debut innings with the Nationals organization this past summer. Getting a really athletic righthander with low-90s heat and limited innings weighing down his arm is a nice move in the twenty-second round.
23.694 – RHP Michael Rishwain
I have nothing against the Nationals per se — Natitude is embarrassing, but can we really hold that against the organization forever? — yet them making things incredibly difficult for a one-man gang to come up with insightful things to say about all of their obscure college pitching prospects has me reconsidering how I feel about the franchise. Michael Rishwain did this at Westmont College in 35.2 innings: 7.84 K/9 , 1.77 BB/9, and 1.51 ERA. That’s all I’ve got.
24.724 – RHP Joseph Baltrip
Joseph Baltrip makes it five consecutive pitchers from non-D1 schools in a row for Washington. I’m not passing judgment, just noting that five in a row starting in a nice round number like twenty feels like more than just a coincidence. Or maybe I’m just a crazy conspiracy theorist. Nice to see Lewis-Clark State, Delta State, Drury University, Westmont College, and Wharton County Junior College get some draft love all the same. Baltrip, the one from Wharton County JC, might have put up the weirdest professional line of any 2016 draft pick. On the surface, things were great: can’t really argue with a 1.38 ERA in 26.0 IP even if it comes with a pedestrian 5.88 K/9, right? What if that 1.38 ERA came with a 7.96 BB/9 and an incomprehensibly high 93.3 LOB%? Of all pitchers with at least twenty innings thrown, only Henry Owens had a higher BB/9 in the big leagues this past season. Only two big league pitchers (Chris Capuano and Andrew Miller) had higher LOB%. Forget what I said earlier: what Baltrip did is the TRUE definition of effectively wild.
For better or worse, said wildness isn’t necessarily a new thing for Baltrip. In his draft year as a Pioneer, he managed a 10.73 K/9 and 5.36 BB/9. Into the mid-round potential middle relief pile he goes. Incidentally, Baltrip’s last name reminds me of the fictional basketball league I created as a kid. I obviously had to make up some killer names to fill the rosters of the 64-team league (because tournaments are awesome, you see), so necessity was the mother of invention as I looked wherever I could to find cool sounding ideas. I distinctly remember being at a baseball game and seeing the out of town scoreboard post the updated totals for the Orioles-Blue Jays game. Something about BAL-TOR sounded good to me, so Josh Baltor was born. He was terrible. Hopefully Joseph Baltrip enjoys more success.
25.754 – SS Branden Boggetto
I like Branden Boggetto as a potential bat-first utility prospect capable of playing any of the four infield spots in a pinch. The college shortstop took to second base in the pros as he continued to hit for solid power with a decent if sometimes overly aggressive approach.
26.784 – OF Jack Sundberg
On Jack Sundberg from March 2015…
Sundberg is held back by a lack of any kind of meaningful pop, but he can run, throw, and defend well enough in center that a team might put up with some growing pains with the stick. He profiles better as a 2016 senior sign to me.
I guess there are worse organizational guys to have around than Sundberg, though it’s hard seeing how a punchless outfielder with no real carrying tool (his glove, speed, and arm are all good, but nothing that bowls you over) who can’t hit lefthanded pitching carves out a role over the long haul.
27.814 – LHP Jeremy McDonald
Jeremy McDonald, all 5-9, 185 pounds of him, did this at California Baptist: 9.43 K/9 and 4.29 BB/9 in 84.0 IP. Then he went out and did this in the pros: 9.23 K/9 and 1.71 BB/9 in 26.1 IP. I’ve heard some quiet hype about McDonald being the next Tim Collins, but I have no idea if there’s real merit to the idea or if it’s just a short lefthander being compared to a short lefthander kind of thing.
28.844 – LHP Jonny Reid
Jonny Reid at Azusa Pacific: 7.33 K/9 and 2.09 BB/9. Jonny Reid in the pros: 6.00 K/9 and 1.75 BB/9. That’s all I’ve got. Sorry.
29.874 – RHP Sam Held
On Sam Held from April 2015…
His teammate JR RHP Sam Held is another good athlete with a strong fastball (94 peak) and plenty of projection left who hasn’t performed as hoped so far this season.
If Held’s 2015 was a disappointment (7.80 K/9, 6.00 BB/9, and 8.40 ERA in 15.1 IP), then I’m not quite sure what to call his 2016. His ERA went down to 5.17 and his innings went up to 38.1, so that’s good. He also significantly trimmed his walk rate (2.11 BB/9), so that’s really good. But somehow a long, lean, mid-90s throwing machine managed to get through his senior season only striking out 3.05 batters per nine. Of course then he went out and did this in 29.0 pro innings: 6.83 K/9, 2.48 BB/9, and 1.86 ERA. In short, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
31.934 – C CJ Picerni
Undergraduate universities attended by the four Ozga siblings: Boston University, American University, Pace University, and New York University. The last time a player was drafted from each respective school: 1969 (Nicholas Stipnovich and Joe Lasorsa), 2011 (Stephen Lumpkins), 2016 (Brett Bittiger), and 2016 (CJ Picerni). Figures I’m the only one without a draft pick from my school in the June draft ever. Anyway, Picerni getting selected by Washington is a pretty big deal for NYU. He’s the first NYU baseball player drafted since the school brought back the baseball program in 2015 after a 41-year hiatus. I honestly had no idea they brought baseball back. Shows what I know.
Is Picerni any good? I have no notes on him nor have I seen him, but his senior season stats (.258/.319/.331 with 7 BB/30 K) as a 23-year-old playing Division III ball don’t inspire much confidence. He was much better as a junior (.331/.365/.510 with 13 BB/21 K), so at least there’s that. If nothing else, he can always say he got drafted and played in pro ball. And my brother now has bragging rights on me once again.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Jarrett Gonzales (Grayson CC), Tristan Clarke (New Orleans), Garrett Gonzales (Incarnate Word), Ryan Wetzel (Pittsburg State), Morgan Cooper (Texas), Tristan Bayless (Texas A&M), Jordan McFarland (Arkansas), Cory Voss (Arizona), Noah Murdock (Virginia), Matt Mervis (Duke), Sean Cook (Maryland)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Miami in 2016
18 – Braxton Garrett
184 – Thomas Jones
377 – Chad Smith
466 – Jarett Rindfleisch
471 – Sean Reynolds
479 – Eric Gutierrez
1.7 – LHP Braxton Garrett
Time will tell, of course, but the Miami 2016 MLB Draft class looks really thin on paper. Thankfully for fans of the Marlins, the MLB Draft — all drafts, really — can be analyzed until we’re blue in the face, but, more often than not, can ultimately be assessed as no more than a simple first pick pass/fail. If you hit on your first pick, then you’ve passed almost regardless of what transpires later. From this vantage point, it sure as heck looks like the Marlins have hit on their first round pick. Braxton Garrett (18) is a serious talent with true top of the rotation upside. He’s exactly the kind of high impact prospect that can make a draft. Garrett doesn’t have the velocity (87-92, 94 peak) that blows hitters away (yet), but he more than makes up for it with some of the best command you’ll find out of a teenage arm anywhere in the world. Garrett also have above-average control, tons of pitchability, and a pair of stellar offspeed pitches that include a legit plus curveball best in the low-80s and a mid-80s changeup that is already an average pitch with above-average to plus upside. There’s a reason ESPN compared the guy to both Jon Lester and Cole Hamels this past spring. Two additional names that I’ve heard include Rich Hill and Steven Matz. That’s a heck of a list of comps, something that ought to come as no surprise as Garrett is a heck of a prospect.
3.84 – OF Thomas Jones
After getting a deal done with Vanderbilt commit Braxton Garrett in the first round, Miami ensured they’d stay off Tim Corbin’s Christmas card list by by signing Thomas Jones (184) away from the Commodores in round three. Vandy’s loss is the Marlins gain as Jones checks just about every box you’d want to see in a young outfield prospect. He can run (above-average), throw (above-average), and hit for power (plus raw). Like any teenage position player there’s a big gap between what he is and what he could be, but favorable comps ranging from Devon White (Perfect Game), 39th overall pick Anfernee Grier (my own), and Carlos Gomez (heard this from a pro guy over the summer) are certainly intriguing.
4.113 – OF Sean Reynolds
The good news here is that my pre-draft positional designation of RHP/1B for Sean Reynolds undersold his athleticism and arm strength. Despite being a big guy (6-7, 200), he’s good enough in the outfield to project as a solid right fielder going forward. Reynolds is also still just a teenager (19 in April) who is only now focusing on hitting full-time for the first time in his life. He also has a quality fastball (85-90, 92 peak) and that aforementioned size to fall back on as a pitcher if hitting doesn’t work out in the long run. That leads us to the bad news. In his debut, Reynolds hit .155/.262/.196 with 37.0 K% and 12.7 BB% in 173 PA. That’s not the end of the world, but it does highlight some of the red flags I had heard pre-draft about Reynolds as a hitter, mainly the standard long-levers leading to big holes in his swing theory and general power over hit worries.
5.143 – RHP Sam Perez
On Sam Perez from March 2016…
Sam Perez could work as a sinker/slider reliever, but I’m more intrigued at the thought of him as a potential four-pitch starting pitcher capable of piling up outs on the ground.
Perez wound up being one of the rare college sinker/slider types (88-92 two-seam with plus sink/average or better slider) who didn’t produce expected results (45.16 GB% in his debut) after signing. Somewhat curious for a pitcher with “lots of ground balls” in his scouting notes. Still, Perez is a really capable pitcher who is clever on the mound when it comes to mixing that fastball, slider, average low-80s changeup, and average upper-70s curve. He’s a decent bet as a fifth starter type with some swingman upside out of the pen.
6.173 – RHP Remey Reed
The Marlins are known for loving their Oklahoma and Texas prospects, so taking the plunge with Remey Reed in round six is something that makes all the sense in the world. His fastball can get up to 94 MPH and he’ll throw an average or better changeup. That and the possibility of a better breaking ball coming together — he’s thrown both a slider and curve in the past — plus imposing size (6-5, 225), a big junior year as a Cowboy (11.22 K/9), and a name perfectly suited for middle relief all add to the appeal. Though I realize I’m starting to sound like a broken record, this one feels a bit early to me.
7.203 – OF Corey Bird
Fairly straightforward package here with Corey Bird: above-average to plus speed that plays up, elite center field defense, solid contact skills, patient approach, and literally no power. I won’t say that last part completely invalidates all the good that came before it, but…well, it kind of does. I appreciate what Bird does well and can see him carving out a big league role for himself if literally everything goes right in his development, but what’s his realistic upside? Fifth outfielder?
8.233 – OF Aaron Knapp
On Aaron Knapp from April 2016…
Aaron Knapp fascinates me as an athlete with easy center field range and impact speed, but with such little power that the profile might wind up shorting before he even gets a real chance in pro ball.
Remember what we said about Corey Bird one round earlier? It all applies to Aaron Knapp, too. Love the athleticism, speed, and range, but can’t see a guy with such little pop making serious noise in the pros. Knapp might be a good enough natural hitter to adjust somewhat, but it’s a long shot proposition. Marlins could have some fun backup outfielders soon, though. At least there’s that.
9.263 – C Jarett Rindfleisch
All Jarett Rindfleisch (466) did for three years at Ball State was hit. I like guys like that. He’s a capable defender behind the dish with a strong arm and the athleticism to stick. Likely a backup catcher ceiling, but could be a good one.
10.293 – LHP Dylan Lee
Dylan Lee is a more than acceptable senior-sign in the tenth round. Big lefties with velocity (88-93 FB) will always have a place in pro ball. Again, I’m not sure you’re getting anything more than a bullpen arm (sub in bench piece for the hitters), but that’s better than nothing. If you’re picking up on the fact I just don’t like this draft at all and I’m trying to be as nice as I can about it, you’re on to something.
11.323 – RHP Chad Smith
A draft pick spent on Chad Smith (377) is one made entirely with upside in mind. What Smith is — a one-pitch reliever with control woes — is nowhere near what he could be. The finished product could be a starting pitcher with three quality pitches and decent enough command to make it all work. The big selling point for Smith is his fastball, an explosive 90-95 MPH (97 peak) pitch that hitters can know is coming and still swing through. That pitch alone could get him to the high-minors. Certainly Smith and the Marlins have larger aspirations than that, and it’ll take improving his two present below-average offspeed pitches — an appealing yet inconsistent low-80s breaking ball that presently flashes both plus and minus in seemingly equal turns and a changeup that’s just sort of there — to get there. The gap between now and then is larger for Smith than most prospects coming out of a major college program like Ole Miss, but as far as lumps of clay go he’s a really interesting one to work with.
12.353 – RHP Mike King
Whenever I have something I think is interesting from the past to bring up when discussing a player’s future, I do so. Even when I’m saying dumb stuff like this excerpt from my Boston College preview back in December 2015…
For as much as I personally like [Justin] Dunn, others have JR RHP Mike King as Boston College’s top prospect (pitching or otherwise) heading into 2016. Frankly, it’s hard to argue. I mean, I had planned to do just that in this very space, but have mentally backtracked before I even got the chance to start. King has a solid heater (88-92, 93 peak), above-average low-80s changeup, and outstanding overall command. If one of his two breaking pitches sharpens up, then he’s a threat to crash the top five rounds just like Dunn. If you’re keeping score, I’d give the advantages of command, control, frame, and track record to King. It also shouldn’t be discounted that his name sounds like “viking” when said quickly. Dunn gets the edge in fastball velocity, all-around bat-missing stuff (this is double-counting his fastball some, but I’d say his slider is more of a strikeout pitch than King’s change, even while acknowledging that they are both more or less equally effective pitches) and athleticism. I’ll stick with the claim that both have top five round upside, but hedge some and say it’s more likely they wind up in the six to ten round range, where they’d be potential steals. Bonus prediction: Dunn gets drafted higher this June, but King winds up the (slightly) better long-term professional player.
I’m going to slowly walk away from that “(slightly) better long-term professional player” remark if it’s all the same to you. King might not have had the junior year bump — both in stuff and performance — as Dunn, but he’s still a solid get in the twelfth round. All of the things that made King a potential single-digit round prospect one year ago hold true today. He’s got pinpoint command, a quality sinker, and a fine assortment of offspeed pitches (79-83 CU, 80-85 cut-SL, 72-76 CB) that he can go to in any count. His best bet to make it at this point might be by embracing the sinker/slider/command aspects of his game in relief, though I still hold out a tiny sliver of hope that his well-rounded game could play as a starter.
14.418 – RHP Michael Mertz
I don’t like saying stuff like this because there’s an implication associated with it that I don’t care for (e.g., deficiencies in makeup, intelligence, work ethic), but Michael Mertz feels like one of those players who should be better than he is. It sounds like a bad thing — and, on balance, I suppose it is — but it’s actually a compliment to Mertz as a player. He’s really talented. He could see it all come together one day. It just hasn’t happened just yet.
The talent with Mertz begins with his outstanding mid-70s changeup, one of the best of its kind in this class. He also throws a really good 78-83 slider that can flash plus and a decent fastball at 88-92 (94 peak). What hurts him most is an inability to consistently command his breaking ball and an overall lack of control. If pro instruction can tighten up those two problem spots even a little, then the Marlins might have something with Mertz.
15.443 – SS James Nelson
James Nelson is a fascinating prospect that flew very much under my radar prior to the draft. Off the top, his given name of James is what he’s listed at just about everywhere, but he prefers to go by Ryan, his middle name. So Ryan Nelson it is. Ryan Nelson hit .434/.468/.796 with 14 BB/43 K in his freshman season at Cisco College. That’s really impressive even with the BB/K red flag staring us in the face. Of course, as we always try to remember, context matters: the Cisco team as a whole hit .388/.461/.634 in 2016. That’s incredible. Still, nobody was out there getting those hits for Nelson but Nelson himself, so that has to count for something; I’d rather have a guy hit big on a team with inflated offensive numbers than a guy not hit big on a team with inflated offensive numbers. Bold take, I know. Nelson’s draft day announcement had him called out as a shortstop, but he played every inning in his pro debut at third. Said pro debut went pretty well: .284/.344/.364 with 14 BB/30 K in 162 AB looks good to me. Remember what we said about how context matters? Those numbers look even better when you consider that Nelson was very young for his class. Even after a full year of college, Nelson played his entire pro debut at just 18-years-old. That makes him a full six months younger than prep to pros 2016 first round pick Blake Rutherford.
Put it all together and you’ve got a young infielder capable of playing the left side who has already been drafted twice (18th round by Boston in 2015) coming off a great yet flawed junior college season and a pro debut that showed growth in some of his seemingly weaker offensive areas. Having known little to nothing about Ryan Nelson as of about ten minutes ago, I can now say that he officially has my attention. Any port in the storm that is this year’s Marlins draft class.
16.473 – RHP Dustin Beggs
If you liked Mike King, then you’ll like Dustin Beggs. Both are highly competitive college righthanders from power conferences who get by more on the strength of stellar command, control, and guile than overwhelming stuff. Beggs doesn’t have enough fastball (87-91) to get picked by everybody, but Miami will happily bank on his well-rounded repertoire of offspeed pitches (upper-70s CB, low-80s SL, CU) and pitching acumen carrying him beyond what the grade on his heater would suggest. Only Ryan Nelson has interrupted the Marlins going with a different college pitcher archetype with every other pick here: Smith (intriguing stuff, iffy command), King (huge command, decent stuff), Mertz (intriguing stuff, iffy command), and Beggs (huge command, decent stuff). If the pattern holds then the Marlins will draft an intriguing stuff/iffy command guy next…
17.503 – RHP Brent Wheatley
Brent Wheatley isn’t quite the same type of intriguing stuff/iffy command guy the Marlins drafted in rounds eleven and fourteen, but he’s pretty close. He’s got size (6-4, 210), a long college track record that includes both good (9.71 K/9 as a senior) and bad (5.77 BB/9 and 6.03 ERA that same year), and solid stuff (88-93 FB, 82 cut-SL, 74-75 CB, 80 CU) that plays down due to his inability to throw consistent quality strikes. Unlike Chad Smith and Michael Mertz, I’m not sure the upside with Wheatley is quite high enough to warrant the longer than ideal developmental time likely required to turn him around, but we’ll see.
18.533 – C David Gauntt
Three really great years in a row at Washburn got David Gauntt noticed by Miami in round eighteen in 2016. An awesome senior year (.353/.518/.739 – 44 BB/45 K – 11/12 SB – 184 AB) helped boost his college career stats to an outstanding .304/.452/.611 lifetime mark. Also noteworthy are Gauntt’s career HBP totals (51 in 578 AB) and stolen base rate (21/25). Since I don’t have much on Gauntt beyond the numbers and it’s been a while since we’ve done one of these fun little “Where were you when it happened?” moments…
“I was in the middle of Walmart with my girlfriend, and when they called me we both got really happy and probably turned a couple heads,” Gauntt said. “People in the store probably thought we were crazy.”
Love that stuff.
19.563 – LHP Shane Sawczak
Here’s what Shane Sawczak did at Coastal Carolina in 2015, Palm Beach State in 2016, and his professional debut this past summer…
5.50 K/9 and 3.67 BB/9 in 54.0 IP
9.66 K/9 and 3.47 BB/9 in 59.2 IP
7.02 K/9 and 4.42 BB/9 in 34.2 IP
Nothing particularly interesting about those numbers, but I looked them up from three different places so you can be damn sure I was going to use them. This is what you do when you don’t know much else about a team’s nineteenth round pick.
20.593 – 1B Eric Gutierrez
It’s tough out there for righthanded hitting first base prospects lacking the classic size/strength profile of the position. Eric Gutierrez (479) will continue his attempt at being the exception to the rule in pro ball. From March 2015…
Texas Tech JR 1B/LHP Eric Gutierrez is one of my favorite power hitters in a class desperately in need of some good ones. Some teams might be turned off than his less than ideal frame (5-10, 205), but so long as he keeps mashing he has a better than average shot to hear his name called in a signable range this June.
A year later and now much changed with Gutierrez. He returned to Lubbock and had a monster senior season .333/.465/.581 with 42 BB/37 K in 234 AB), but questions about his long-term pro utility remain. You can hit and hit and hit, but sometimes being a 5-10, 200 pound righthanded hitting first baseman is too much to overcome. I still like the pick as Gutierrez should at least provide value as an org bat with some lefty-mashing bench upside.
21.623 – SS Luis Pintor
Miami presumably saw fifteenth round pick Ryan Nelson and twenty-first round pick Luis Pintor square off on May 13, 2016 as Nelson’s Cisco College squad squared up against New Mexico JC in the same town (Lubbock, Texas) that twentieth round pick Eric Gutierrez played his college home games at Texas Tech. That all has to mean something, right? Anyway, Pintor hit a single and scored a run in five at bats. Nelson…didn’t play. Probably should have checked that first before writing that opener, huh? Pintor’s 1 for 5 outing dragged down his season line all the way to .389/.484/.730 with 35 BB/26 K and 32/36 SB in 211 AB. His New Mexico JC team as a whole hit .377/.475/.691 on the season, so, you know, context. Still, Pintor hit a bunch in college and hit pretty well in his debut, so my interest is piqued. If you can squeeze out one potential utility player out of him and Nelson, that’s a win.
22.653 – RHP Alex Mateo
I don’t have much on Alex Mateo. Him winding up at Nova Southeastern by way of Point Park University in Pittsburgh, a school I don’t recall ever mentioning on this site before, is pretty interesting. Good but not great final year numbers at Nova Southeastern (7.69 K/9 and 2.16 BB/9) are a little less interesting. I got nothing.
23.683 – RHP Hunter Wells
Back-to-back picks where I’m bringing little to no scouting notes to the table. I’m clearly losing my touch. Hunter Wells out of Gonzaga had a decent junior year (9.13 K/9 and 4.63 BB/9 in 68.0 IP) with the Zags. He wasn’t as successful in his limited pro debut (4.50 K/9 and 3.21 BB/9 in 14.0 IP). That’s all I’ve got.
24.713 – SS JJ Gould
JJ Gould is a fun utility prospect with experience at second, short, and third and a nice power/patience blend at the plate. There’s probably too much swing-an-miss in his game to keep climbing the ladder barring a real chance in approach, but what he does well is interesting enough to warrant a twenty-fourth round shot all the same.
25.743 – 2B Mike Garzillo
I’ve seen a good amount of Mike Garzillo over the years. He’s not quite a JJ Gould clone, but the back-to-back college middle infielders share a lot of similar traits. On Garzillo from February 2016…
Garzillo has more tools than you’d expect out of a typical Patriot Leaguer, so it’s expected that his speed, arm strength, and pop should get him drafted as a senior-sign even if he doesn’t clean up his approach this spring.
And then again from May 2016…
We know what Mike Garzillo is by now as a draft prospect: real power, useful speed, a strong arm, and a “grip it and rip it” approach. It’s not my favorite profile, but there’s a place for it in pro ball.
Power and patience for a price (strikeouts) in addition to solid speed and arm strength give Garzillo a shot to make something of himself as a utility player if he can be trusted enough to play on the left side defensively.
26.773 – C Gunner Pollman
Gunner Pollman has outstanding arm strength, well above-average accuracy, a lightning quick release, and nimble footwork behind the plate. He also can’t hit even a little. Feels like a decent fit for an organization that employed Jeff Mathis the past four seasons.
27.803 – RHP Parker Bugg
It’s never quite this simple, but Parker Bugg’s success/failure in the pros always felt like it would come down to his ability to keep the ball on the ground with his sinker/slider combo playing up thanks to his 6-6, 210 pound frame giving him plenty of extension. Very early pro returns (34.74 GB%) are not super encouraging. He still has a long way to go, so we’ll see.
28.833 – 1B Colby Lusignan
Colby Lusignan is pretty much what you’d expect out of a 6-4, 230 pound lefthanded slugger from a Division II school like Lander: lots of power, lots of walks, lots of strikeouts. He mashed as a 23-year-old in the GCL but struggled in his small sample cameo in the slightly more age-appropriate NYPL. It’s an uphill battle for any first base only prospect, but I don’t hate betting on one with Lusignan’s type of power if you’re inclined to try.
29.863 – OF Walker Olis
Seeing a player put up big numbers at Pacific who completely flew under my radar confused me. As much as I like to pretend, I’m not all-knowing…but a guy hitting .415/.544/.711 with 44 BB/22 K and 28/29 SB is not one who typically escapes my attention. Finding out that Walker Olis put up those PlayStation numbers as a Pacific Boxer at a Division III school in Oregon and not as a Tiger in the West Coast Conference makes me feel a bit better for missing, but I’m still plenty intrigued about Olis’s brand of plus speed, advanced plate discipline, and sneaky pop.
31.923 – RHP Preston Guillory
Really nice pickup of a potential quick-moving middle reliever here in the thirty-first round with the selection of Preston Guillory of TCU. There’s no standout velocity or a go-to offspeed pitch here, but Guillory has enough (88-90 MPH heat, quality change, funky delivery) to consistently sit hitters down. I think he’s a big leaguer, thirty-first round pick or not.
32.953 – RHP Chevis Hoover
One of the coolest things about this whole draft review undertaking is getting to dive a little deeper into the backgrounds of prospects chosen in the later rounds. I had never heard of Chevis Hooper before two minutes ago (proof of that comes via the typo: his name is Chevis HOOVER not HOOPER) but now I’m genuinely pumped for his pro future. Chevis Hoover was a certified NAIA superstar in his senior year at Tennessee Wesleyan. He contributed both on the mound (11.87 K/9, 3.30 BB/9, and 3.13 ERA in 54.2 IP) and at the plate (.342/.435/.605 with 13 BB/18 K in 76 AB). With obvious athleticism and a fastball up to 94 MPH, Hoover is a pretty darn intriguing get this late. It’s a little reminiscent of something the Cardinals might have done. Needless to say, I approve.
33.983 – 1B Branden Berry
On Branden Berry from March 2016…
On the other end of the defensive spectrum is Branden Berry, the transfer from Washington. Berry’s early season offensive explosion may just be the case of an older guy picking on younger competition – his first three seasons were remarkably consistent in a good college player kind of way – but in a class thin on big bats, he could have scouts doing a double-take.
As is the case with most proper explosions, Berry’s turned out to be as brief as it was impressive. The Cal State Northridge slugger finished the year with a good but not great (in pro prospect terms; it’s a pretty great college season by any measure) .294/.403/.508 line with 22 BB/36 K. The bar is just so high for a first base prospect like Berry that it’s hard to think of him as much more than an org player at this stage. It is round thirty-three, though, so guess that makes sense.
34.1013 – LHP Trenton Hill
I liked Trenton Hill a bit more as a hitter than a pitcher, but I understand wanting to give a lefthander with size, athleticism, and deception a shot on the mound. If he can curb some of his wild ways, then his stuff (88-92 FB, 77-83 SL with promise) should keep him getting chances for years to come. Heck, as a low-90s lefty he’s got a shot to pitch forever even if he stays wild. Not for nothing, but Chevis Hoover, thirty-second round pick, was teammates with Hill at Lee in 2015.
35.1043 – 2B Matthew Brooks
Matthew Brooks was really good in his two years at Monroe College, assuming you agree that .353/.480/.538 with 58 BB/43 K and 29/39 SB in 275 AB is really good. His first shot at pro ball was a bit tougher, but those two good seasons are enough to give him one more go in 2017.
37.1103 – OF Zach Daly
The Marlins go back to Lander University to take Zach Daly because how else would you finish up a weak draft than driving me crazy with the small school double-dip? Daly comes with some pedigree as a former Tar Heel, but his impressive at first glance (.291/.397/.614 with 7/10 SB) senior season is undermined by a not insignificant plate discipline (24 BB/78 K) red flag.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Nick Eicholtz (Alabama), Garrett Suchey (Alabama), Matt Popowitz (Penn), Dustin Demeter (Hawaii), Caleb Scires (Navarro JC), Evan Douglas (Lewis-Clark)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by San Francisco in 2016
39 – Bryan Reynolds
96 – Heath Quinn
103 – Garrett Williams
191 – Nick Deeg
198 – Ryan Howard
208 – Matt Krook
319 – Gio Brusa
336 – Stephen Woods
344 – Jacob Heyward
348 – Jose Layer
2.59 – OF Brian Reynolds
Draft season comparison between Bryan Reynolds (39) and another famous Vanderbilt product…
.330/.461/.603 – 49 BB/58 K – 8/13 SB – 224 AB
.335/.423/.623 – 43 BB/54 K – 16/18 SB – 281 AB
That would be none other than 2015 first overall selection and 2017 Atlanta Braves starting shortstop Dansby Swanson at the bottom there. Is Reynolds the outfield version of Swanson? Let’s look at some career college numbers…
.329/.413/.508 – 103 BB/174 K – 39/52 SB – 791 AB
.330/.418/.541 – 84 BB/108 K – 39/47 SB – 579 AB
Not a terrible statistical comp, right? There’s clearly a little more swing-and-miss going on with Reynolds and the difference between shortstop and Reynolds’s likely corner outfield landing spot is no small thing, but there’s enough there to make this a conversation worth having. If you buy that the two have similar offensive ceilings, then the Giants getting Reynolds in the second round has to qualify as one of the draft’s easiest to identify sleepers. From October 2015…
Reynolds also reminds me somewhat of Kyle Lewis in the way that both guys have rapidly improved their plate discipline in ways that haven’t yet shown up consistently on the stat sheet. If or when it does, Reynolds could join Lewis as a potential future impact big league outfielder.
Reynolds didn’t quite have that same kind of junior year breakout, but the general point that both players received similar “he has a better approach that shows up in the box score” praise from scouts who saw them day in, day out. I thought that this sentiment would quiet down once pro scouts got their first looks at him, but I heard more of the same throughout the summer. That’s the bullish view on Reynolds: he’s good now as a hitter, but he has it in him to take it up a whole other notch once something in his approach clicks. The less optimistic but still plenty exciting view was laid out back in April 2016…
Bryan Reynolds’s physical tools are all at least average, though there are none that I’d hang a plus on without some serious cajoling first. If we compare him to the guy directly behind him in the rankings, Buddy Reed, he’ll lose any athletic head-to-head battle. Furthermore, his defense in center is a bit of a long-term concern for me, but smarter people than I have said he’s actually better – more instinctual, quicker reads, just more natural all-around – in center than he is in a corner. I haven’t seen enough of him to say either way, but it’s an interesting view to consider. Thankfully, despite those concerns, the man can flat hit. Speed, defense, and arm strength are all important, but the bat will forever be king.
Reynolds’s numbers – again, the ones on the bottom in the two comparisons above – are undeniably excellent. One of the few concerns I have about the Vanderbilt slugger is his propensity to end long at bats with short walks back to the dugout. Strikeouts at the big league level don’t bother me in the least, but they mean something more at the amateur and minor league level. Some of this concern is mitigated by Reynolds’s high walk totals, but the high strikeout/high walk college hitter archetype is one that has seen mixed result at the pro level in recent years. It’s also one that I still don’t know what to do with as an evaluator.
Reynolds looks like one of those hitters who can pile up both walks and strikeouts while also making a ton of good contact and hitting for average or better power. You know what we call guys like that? Well when they can also run, throw, and defend average or better, we tend to call them potential big league all-stars. As a ceiling, that’s exactly what you want out of your first pick. What makes Reynolds even more appealing is his high floor. When I think of high floor players, I think of guys who have clear baseball skills that are desirable to all thirty big league teams. The ability to play all three outfield spots is a clear baseball skill that is desirable to all thirty big league teams. The ability to switch-hit is a clear baseball skills that is desirable to all thirty big league teams. A track record of hammering righthanded pitching when hitting lefty is a clear baseball skill that is desirable to all thirty big league teams. You get the idea. As was written in June, Reynolds “looks like a long time future regular with a chance for flashes of greatness;” if he falls short of that, however, a career as an ace bench bat who wears out righthanded pitching and fourth outfielder who won’t hurt you in spot-duty in center is a fine backup option.
I still can’t believe Reynolds fell this far.
3.95 – OF Heath Quinn
College outfielders ranked ahead of Heath Quinn (96) by me in the 2016 MLB Draft: Lewis, Ray, Fisher, Reynolds, Fraley, Woodman, Grier, Thompson-Williams, Reed, Dawson. College outfielders selected ahead of Heath Quinn in the 2016 MLB Draft: Ray, Lewis, Grier, Reed, Boldt, Woodman, Reynolds, Dawson, Fraley, Call, Hays. I have no deeper point here. Never like to miss an opportunity to highlight this past draft’s crazy outfield depth, though. I stand by my rankings six months later (obviously) and don’t see a name in the second list that was drafted — maybe Boldt, but that’s stretching it some — ahead of Quinn that looks egregious in hindsight. That said, Quinn is an outstanding prospect who had a stellar debut in professional ball. I hope he starts his first full season in 2017 at the same level (A+) he ended 2016. On Quinn from October 2015…
Just what this class needed: another outfielder loaded with tools that comes with some question marks about the utility of his big-time power because he’s still learning how to hit against serious pitching.
Like Reynolds, Quinn’s approach took a step forward in 2016. It may not have been a Kyle Lewis size step, but progress is progress. Quinn improved his approach, upped his power output, and continued to show a well-rounded physical tool set that includes above-average speed underway, an above-average arm, and average or better range in a corner. A prospect who you can confidently project to giving you quality defense, positive value on the base paths, and potential above-average offensive contributions is just about all you can ask for; if Quinn can do all of those things, he has similar upside (“long time future regular with a chance for flashes of greatness”) to Reynolds. I’m bullish on both reaching that level. San Francisco did really well with these first two selections.
Of course, that’s the optimistic view. What happens if both players struggle with high-level pitching? One thing I particularly like about these first two picks is the high floor that I believe comes with them. The absolute worst case scenario for the Giants with their first two picks (barring major injury, naturally) could result in backing into a potentially dominant corner outfield platoon. The switch-hitting Reynolds has a history of killing righthanders while the righthanded hitting Quinn mauls lefthanders. I think the Giants got long-term future left and right fielders (really good ones at that), but even a hater of these picks would have to admit that the possibility of a timeshare between the two would be scary. Maybe using two picks to get one combined corner outfielder is a less than ideal outcome, but if you take a look at the actual success rate of picks past the first round in the draft then you’d take this “worst case scenario” every single time if it comes to it.
4.125 – LHP Matt Krook
The first night of the draft is a bit of a pain, what with the made-for-TV element slowing everything down. I won’t really complain about it too much because that kind of exposure is a really good thing for growing the draft beyond the niche audience that already exists, but, even as an apparently rare soul who enjoys MLB Network’s presentation (more or less) of the event, the first night drags. Day two is fantastic; this year I was able to speed home from work listening to the selections go by on the MLB At Bat app and then settle in with the computer for the rest of the late-afternoon’s selections. Day three is also a ton of fun, but the timing of this past year’s draft killed me. Instead of being at the home base with every electronic device available locked into tracking the draft, I was making the six hour trek to beautiful Cleveland, Ohio. It was tons of fun. You work all year towards a three-day event and you get to spend 75% away from a computer. Fantastic.
Long story short, even as I was driving 80ish MPH west on 76 (or 80, who can remember) it was easy to put together that the Giants were getting weird with their draft. Look at four of the five college pitchers taken by San Francisco in the top ten rounds…
Matt Krook: 6.18 BB/9
Garrett Williams: 7.52 BB/9
Stephen Woods: 7.01 BB/9
Alex Bostic: 8.10 BB/9
Those are college career walk rates. I started by doing just 2016 numbers, but so many of these guys pitched so infrequently in 2016 BECAUSE OF THEIR TERRIBLE CONTROL that using the larger sample felt like a fairer representation of their true abilities. I assumed the walk rates would go down some, but…nope. The Giants also took Reagan Bazar (5.71 BB/9), one of the mid-round poster boys for “big stuff, little control” in the seventeenth. If that’s not a pattern, then I give up. The next logical question is a simple one: why? The Giants clearly prioritized stuff over control in this draft. Do they think they have an organizational-wide coaching magic formula that can fix any young pitcher with control woes? Did they see something specific in each individual pitcher they selected that can turn each respective hurler’s control around? Do they simply not care about control as much as the rest of baseball? Or was this just a simple case of a good team realizing that picking in the late first round every year (or not even that depending on free agency) has limited their opportunities picking pitchers with “big stuff,” so they just went for it when they could with the idea that they’d figure out the “little control” stuff later?
I have no definitive answers. I do know that I’m a little surprised I didn’t give Matt Krook (208) the “first round stuff, tenth round command/control” tag prior to the draft. Here’s a little on Krook from April 2016…
And then there’s Matt Krook! I had him second only to Alec Hansen (whoops) in my overall college pitching rankings before the season and now he’s third in his own conference. You could look at that as me being wishy-washy (not really, but maybe), me not knowing what I was doing in the first place (always a possibility), or this year’s draft class being more talented than some would like you to believe (yes). Whatever the case may be, Krook remains a legitimate first round arm with as much upside as any college pitcher throwing. Here was the pre-season take that accompanied the aforementioned ranking…
This may be a touch more speculative that some of the other names on the list since Krook missed the 2015 season after Tommy John surgery, but I’m buying all the Krook shares I can right now. He came back and impressed on the Cape enough to warrant consideration as a potential 1-1 riser. There’s no squaring up his fastball and there’s more than enough offspeed (CB and CU) to miss bats (12 K/9 in 45 freshman innings). He’s not as physical as AJ Puk, but the more advanced secondaries give him the edge for now.
I stand by that today. His fastball velocity isn’t all the way back yet (more of a steady 88-92 than 90-94), but he still gets incredible movement on the pitch. His curve has morphed into something more like a slider (or something in-between), but remains a true plus offering. Both his command and his control remain works in progress as he pitches himself back into competitive shape. Picking Krook as early as I’d recommend would take a bit of a leap of faith in his command/control woes being remedied largely by the increased passage of time separating him from his surgery. Going Krook would not be for the faint of heart, but, hey, nothing venture nothing gained, right?
Needless to say, I’m on board with this pick. It’s scary, true, but sometimes moving away from what’s safe is what a franchise in need of another wave of high-impact talent needs. I’ll say something irresponsible about Krook that I honestly believe to be true: no amateur player I’ve ever seen pitch has had the kind of consistent natural and unnatural movement on his pitches as Krook. I think once pro scouts begin getting eyes on him and we start to see some internet chatter about him people will begin to realize that Krook is a rare bird. Everything he throws moves like crazy. His fastball, though still not completely back to its pre-injury velocity peaks, is an easy plus pitch even with spotty command. His slider and his curve run together at 78-84 MPH, but it doesn’t really matter what the pitch is called because it’s another offering that flashes plus more often than not. I even like his steadily improving mid-80s diving changeup more than most. Most guys simply don’t have the ability to throw three to four pitches (depending on if you want to give him credit it for an extra breaking ball or just call the pitch a curve) that dance like Krook’s fastball, breaking ball(s), and changeup do. If James Brown was a pitcher, he’d be Matt Krook. It’s special stuff, really. It’s hard to draw a straight line between stuff and stats at the minor league level, but check this out: 91 of the 118 balls in play against Krook this year were on the ground. That’s good for a 76.5% GB rate. If that doesn’t speak to Krook’s ability to get plus movement on damn near everything he throws, I’m not sure what else will. Plus fastball, plus breaking ball(s), and an average yet ascending change? That’s the kind of stuff only aces and $80 million closers possess.
Of course, without even a baseline amount of control the whole thing falls apart. A future without ever reaching the big leagues has to be in play for a college pitcher coming off a draft season where he walked 8.23 batters per nine. Krook is no sure thing, clearly. An honest worst case scenario is never getting his control woes figured out and topping out in AA. A more optimistic worst case would be following the up-and-down career arcs of guys like Jonathan Sanchez and Dontrelle Willis; bullpen, rotation, great years, not so great years, and everything in-between. Those two outcomes represent fair middle-tier paths for Krook if he can remain a starter with well below-average control. Just getting that control to slightly below-average would go a long way to putting Krook on the road to a future as a potential front line starting pitcher. I’ve mentioned more than once that I think Krook has the stuff to project as an ace or a star closer (Zach Britton 2.0?) if the rest of his game comes together. Names that fall just short of being called aces like Francisco Liriano and Matt Moore (but with ground balls) show that pitchers with wild backgrounds can make it. That’s probably where I’d place my bet now that I’ve had time to reflect: flashes of ace-like dominance with occasionally frustrating bouts of wildness that leave you with a pitcher who has defied the odds in a great way yet still disappointed just a touch at the same time.
5.155 – SS Ryan Howard
On Ryan Howard (198) from April 2016…
Ryan Howard is a nice prospect, but not the kind of guy who would crack the top five at short in a major college conference in most years. He does most everything fairly well – solid hitter, average raw power, dependable at short – but nothing so well that you’re pumped to call his name on draft day. Part of my reticence in buying in to Howard comes from what may be a silly place. There is far more to the position than speed, but Howard’s below-average foot speed has always struck me as a potential red flag when assessing his long-term defensive outlook. Maybe that’s being lazy by haphazardly using speed as a proxy for athleticism, but the solid yet unsexy profile that I seem to like at other positions doesn’t grab me the same way at shortstop.
Eight months later and I still feel a little bad about that. I guess I didn’t come right out and say it, but the implication there was that Howard, as a prospect, bored me. Still kind of does. He’s pretty good (arm, approach, instincts) to just all right (power, range, speed) across the board. That gives him a good chance of making it as a quality utility player — fair value in the fifth round if that’s indeed the outcome, by the way — but little shot at much more. I’ve used the comp a few times already over the years (most directly on Mikey White), but Howard could have a career similar to a player he shares a lot of common traits with in Jordy Mercer.
6.185 – OF Gio Brusa
On Gio Brusa (319) from March 2016…
Remember when Gio Brusa was a thing? This was his report from last year…
The appreciation for Brusa, however, is right on point. His above-average to plus raw power will keep him employed for a long time, especially combined with his elite athleticism and playable defensive tools (slightly below-average arm and foot speed, but overall should be fine in left field). Brusa going from good prospect to great prospect will take selling a team on his improved approach as a hitter; early returns are promising but a team that buys into his bat will do so knowing he’ll always be a player who swings and misses a lot. Whether or not he a) makes enough contact, and/or b) demonstrates enough plate discipline (strikeouts are easier to take when paired with an increased walk rate, like he’s shown so far this year) will ultimately decide his fate as a hitter and prospect. Before the season I would have been in the “think he’ll be drafted too high for my tastes, so let me just kick back and watch somebody else try to fix his approach” camp in terms of his draft value, but I’m slowly creeping towards “if he falls just a bit, I’d think about taking a shot on his upside over a few players with more certainty and less ceiling” territory. That’s a big step up for me, even if it doesn’t quite seem like it.
Almost exactly one year to the day, I can say that’s pretty much where I remain on Brusa as a prospect. There’s still upside in a player like him because his natural gifts are obvious – maybe all it will take is the right voice in his ear in pro ball – but the increasingly large sample of below-average plate discipline is getting harder and harder to ignore. I tried my best to do so last year when spinning his early season successes as a potential step in the right direction, but reading between the lines above should reveal what I really thought. Avoiding the urge to flat out say “I just don’t like this prospect” has cost me some credibility among some small pockets of the baseball world in the past, but I sleep a lot better knowing I skew positive publicly on this site. When it comes to writing about young men chasing their dreams in a game we all love, why wouldn’t you make the attempt to be positive if at all possible? Positive doesn’t mean ranking every player in a tie for best prospect, of course. Brusa finished last season as my 144th ranked draft prospect. For a variety of reasons, some because of baseball but most not (i.e., signability past a certain point), he fell to pick 701. I think his ranking this year could split the difference between the two spots…but with a slight edge to being closer to 144 than 701. Have to stay positive, after all.
Pick 422.5 splits the difference between 144 and 701. He wound up going at pick 185 after I ranked him 319th overall. Not sure what it all means, but there you go.
Despite dropping Brusa down the final draft board, I remain intrigued about how his physical abilities will translate to pro ball. From the scouting notes featured on this site back in his high school days…
OF Giovanni Brusa (St. Mary’s HS, California): above-average arm; above-average speed; great athlete; big power upside; raw hit tool; could be league average defender in RF; 6-3, 200 pounds
Sounds about right. Brusa’s power and athleticism are carrying tools that should give him enough chances to buy time while he figures out some of the more skill-based aspects of the game (“raw hit tool” remains relevant here). Interesting to note that he’s a switch-hitter who performed significantly better as a lefthanded hitter in his pro debut. Bryan Reynolds did similar things in his debut. Maybe we can upgrade the “worst case scenario” for those first two picks to include this one: Reynolds in one corner and Brusa/Quinn in the other. Feels a little rich to me — Brusa’s floor is minor league slugger who can’t figure out upper-level breaking balls enough to be counted on for anything but up-and-down duty — but it could happen.
7.215 – LHP Garrett Williams
I have no idea what to make of Garrett Williams (103). Or maybe I do. I don’t know what I don’t know at this point. The short version: above-average fastball (88-94), above-average curve (76-83) that flashes plus to plus-plus, intriguing hard changeup (85-90) that can get too firm for his own good, usable low-80s slider, and no idea where any of them are going. What do you do with a pitching prospect like that? There’s clearly enough there in raw stuff to thrive as a starting pitcher, but we all can agree it takes more than raw stuff to start. Williams’s control is a problem at present. I’d guess the only group that has a firm enough grasp on how correctable his control problems are would be those counted among the player development staff tasked to fix it. The only thing I know for sure here is taking a chance on an arm like this with mid-rotation or late-game reliever upside in the seventh round is worth the downside of getting nothing every single time.
8.245 – RHP Stephen Woods
I feel bad for quoting my past self so often, but these college pitchers are all the same. The same but different, I suppose. There are only so many ways to write “great stuff, not so great control” before thoughts of giving this all up and starting a mozzarella stick review website instead start creeping in. On Stephen Woods (336) from March 2016…
Right off the top, I’m fairly comfortable declaring that Stephen Woods is the most talented 2016 MLB Draft prospect in the America East. That may or may not be enough to make him the best prospect, but it certainly puts him in the mix. Woods has a big-time arm (95-96 peak) with an intriguing curve and an unusually firm yet effective changeup. All of that was enough to make him a sixth round pick out of high school. His biggest issue has always been control: he walked 9.9 batters per nine his freshman year, 7.0 batters per nine last year, and sits at 6.1 in the early going this season. Any team drafting Woods with a single-digit round pick will have to weigh his raw stuff against his wild ways. Look at his early 2016 line: 13.1 IP 16 H 11 ER 9 BB 25 K. What in the world do we make of that? Really good stuff + elite ability to miss bats + well below-average control + inconsistent (at best) track record of run prevention = I have no idea and I’m glad I’m not paid to make a definitive statement about his draft future. A selection anywhere from as high as round five to as low as the twenties wouldn’t surprise me at this point. When it doubt it never hurts to gamble on arm strength guys with pedigree like Woods, but know that his eventual pro future will be dictated far more on development than an accurate scouting report.
Huge arm, little control, and a chance for one of his offspeed pitches (hard curve, mid-80s change, and up-and-down cut-slider) to develop enough to make him a late-inning relief option. You take that all day in the eighth round. Based on little more than a hunch (which, in turn, is based off of doing this draft thing for years), I’m particularly bullish about Woods figuring things out in the pros.
9.275 – LHP Caleb Baragar
The one early-ish San Francisco draft pick that breaks that big stuff/little control mold is Caleb Baragar from Indiana. Baragar doesn’t wow you with stuff — he’s fastball, fastball, and fastball (88-92, mostly) with the occasional quality hybrid-breaking ball mixed in — but he pounds the strike zone and keeps the ball down. The Giants have had more look with players like this than they have had with the big stuff/little control types, so Baragar making it as something more than the middle relief matchup lefthander ceiling I’d put on him wouldn’t surprise me much. I mean, they did draft him in an even year, right? Has to count for something…
10.305 – LHP Alex Bostic
Fastball at 90-94 MPH. Above-average 78-83 MPH slider. Have seen a mid-70s curve and heard about a decent change. His control? Sit down for this one because you’re going to be shocked to hear that it’s not great. That’s Alex Bostic in fifty words or less.
12.365 – 1B Ryan Kirby
I’m not sure Ryan Kirby would have been my first choice when looking for a bat-first college prospect just outside of the top ten rounds, but I get what San Francisco was thinking here. Kirby has always flashed more power than he’s shown in-game — the HS notes on Kirby from this very site call his raw power “big” — so the potential for more than what we’ve seen makes him a fine developmental lottery ticket.
13.395 – OF Jose Layer
I like Jose Layer (348) just about as much as I do any other prep position player at this point in the draft. Nothing about him stands out per se, but I don’t think anybody would be shocked if he winds up as one of the better mid-tier high school outfielders from this class. Once you get past the first three rounds or so, personal preference takes over in an even more profound manner than with those first few thoroughly vetted and frequently cross-checked selections. Layer is a clear plus runner with potential standout ability in center field. That alone gives him some nice athleticism-based value that should prop up his career if his hitting lags behind. His small sample (61 PA) debut is a hopeful step in that not being a necessary fallback plan.
14.425 – LHP Conner Menez
On principle, It don’t enjoy seeing a team using two of its first nineteen selections on teammates from a semi-local (The Master’s College is in California, so, hey, it’s local…but California is a really big state, so semi-local it is) NAIA school. I’ve tried to explain my reasoning for this over the course of these draft reviews — seriously, just click any review and you’re almost certain to find me going into far greater deal about this silliness — so I’ll stick to the very short version here: it’s lazy. I’ve actually moved past the point of being annoyed at pro teams for doubling or tripling up at one school and am now focused on the know-it-alls of the sports media world who hide behind the idea that pro teams 100% absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt always know better than us fans. Pro teams do by and large know more than us, but at the end of the day they are working with finite resources, too. They don’t know everything. The only thing worse than those know-it-alls are the know-it-all draft guys who think they somehow have a better grasp on what teams should be doing on draft day than the teams themselves. Hey, wait a second…
So I shouldn’t like the Conner Menez pick, but, damn, I can’t help it. He’s a keeper. An excellent pro debut that included a whopping 27.1 IP at High-A (!) certainly helps his case. More importantly, it’s his stuff from the left side (low-90s heat, advanced change, solid slider) that make him so appealing. Great find by the Giants in the fourteenth round. Feels a little Cardinals-y to me.
15.455 – RHP DJ Myers
My notes on DJ Myers while at UNLV: “big guy, consistently solid peripherals.” He then went out and had one of the absolute best debuts of any pitcher in the 2016 MLB Draft class: 8.02 K/9, 0.77 BB/9, 1.70 ERA, 58.1 IP. He even got a successful one inning cameo in AAA at the end of the season. Not bad at all.
16.485 – LHP Chris Falwell
Size seems to be a common theme I’m picking up with San Francisco’s mid-round run of college pitchers. Chris Falwell fits that mold at 6-7, 210 pounds. He uses that size to get above-average extension and help his solid fastball (87-92) play up. Add in a quality curve and strong junior year results (9.14 K/9 and 3.01 BB/9), and you’ve got yourself a darn fine sixteenth round pick.
17.515 – RHP Reagan Bazar
I have always liked Reagan Bazar a little too much for my own good. Big guys with monster fastballs (90-96, 98-100 peak), nasty breaking stuff (when on), and little clue where the ball is going are my favorite. I can’t help it. Here’s what I wrote about Bazar back in October 2015…
Bazar is one of the bigger gambles to grace this list. He hasn’t done enough yet at Louisiana to warrant such a placement, but when he’s feeling it his stuff (mid- to upper-90s FB, promising low-80s SL) can suffocate even good hitting. Yes, I realize ranking the 6-7, 250+ pound righthander this high undermines a lot of what I said [about my historical tendency to overrate jumbo-sized pitchers] directly above. I’ll always be a sucker for big velocity and Bazar hitting 100+ certainly qualifies.
Even then I knew I was ranking him way too high and would regret it, but I just couldn’t help myself. One day I’ll learn…but probably not. His pro debut was pretty much perfect Bazar: plenty of strikeouts, walks, and ground balls. If coached up properly, the sky is the limit for Bazar. That much I’ll stand by. It’s just going to take a lot of work to get there. Not everybody makes it in the end.
18.545 – OF Jacob Heyward
Every draft class has one player I drag my feet on and delay writing about until the very end. I’ve gone from Bryan Reynolds to Chris Bono, but still find myself sitting here staring at an unfinished Jacob Heyward (344) section. I don’t know what it is about Heyward that renders me speechless, but here we are. Maybe looking back to last year will help. Here’s some Heyward notes from December 2015…
OF Jacob Heyward does a lot of the good things that his older brother does — defend, throw, run, work deep counts, hit for some pop — but not quite at the $184 hundred million level. He’s still a fine pro prospect and a potential top five round pick.
And here’s some from March 2016…
Steady year-to-year improvement has been the name of Heyward’s game as a Hurricane. It’s more of a fourth outfielder profile than a slam dunk future regular ceiling, but he’s a solid, well-rounded player capable of doing just enough of everything to keep you invested.
A late-season slump torpedoed Heyward’s chances at the top five rounds and negated that “steady year-to-year improvement” line; in fact, Heyward’s season total substantially dipped across the board from his sophomore year to his junior year. He still maintained interesting plate discipline indicators and flashed all the positive tools — above-average raw power, average speed, average or better arm, and quality defense in a corner — that made him a prospect in the first place. It feels like a nifty fourth outfielder package if his offense comes back to something resembling his second year output at Miami.
If the evaluation was that simple, then maybe this would have been written at a more reasonable hour of the night. Maybe I’m overreacting to a 143 PA sample, but Heyward’s professional debut was an offensive explosion that ranks among the very best of any 2016 draftee. In those 143 PA, Heyward hit .330/.483/.560 with 27 BB/33 K and 11/13 SB. If he would have done that as a junior, he would have been an easy top five round pick. Instead, we’re left with a confusing prospect with a future that can be spun any number of ways.
If you’re in on Heyward, then you cite the oft-repeated assertion that Heyward is just one of those guys who will be a better professional than collegiate athlete. His junior year was the real small sample size blip and his offensive growth can be measured more by his improved approach and steady power output (.146 ISO in 2015, .141 ISO in 2016) in the face of larger potentially BABIP-related struggles. He has a really well-rounded tool set and is at least average in just about every area of the game. If he can hang in center, then he could be an everyday asset; if not, then he’s on his way to a long, fruitful career as a well-paid fourth outfielder and spot starter.
If you’re cool on Heyward, then that down junior season is Exhibit A in explaining him being overrated for years. If he was Jacob Jones (or O’Brien or Miller or Ozga) and not Heyward, then he would never have gotten that top five round hype in the first place. He’s a classic tweener with not quite enough range to play center regularly and not enough thump in his bat to ride with him in a corner. He has no carrying tool that would propel him to a certain big league future. His small sample size debut was an aberration that we will look back and have no explanation for as he works himself into an up-and-down fill-in player who spends the majority of his time at AAA.
I try not to overreact to the small sample of a pro debut, but it’s hard not to get a little excited about what Heyward did. I don’t think it’s bad form to up his projection a bit based on a few hot months because only because he’s shown that kind of progress before. I’ll stand by the fourth outfielder projection for now, but the door is opened for more if what he did this summer is closer to the real Heyward than not.
19.575 – SS Brandon Van Horn
Here’s the second of the two prospects from The Master’s College referenced in the Conner Menez pick review five rounds above. I liked Menez quite a bit…maybe the Giants should have stopped there. Brandon Van Horn’s numbers in NAIA ball look fine enough on the surface (.280/.352/.567 with a less fine 17 BB/31 K ratio), but when the team as a whole combined for a .303/.377/.502 line, the luster begins to wear off just a touch. He’s a fine defender at short, so any path to the big leagues will be on the strength of his glove-first style of play appealing to the powers that be.
20.605 – RHP Justin Alleman
Justin Alleman, formerly of Michigan State, had a weird year at Division II Lee in 2016. His peripherals were as good as you’ll find (10.31 K/9 and 1.81 BB/9), but his run prevention (5.29 ERA) was ugly. Part of the reason for that looks to be some home run weirdness — Alleman allowed 12 dingers in 64.2 IP, over 35% of the team’s total in just 16% of the innings — so I’m not sure how much of a concern that should be going forward. Alleman’s stuff (90-94 FB, 96 peak; above-average breaking ball) suggest that those peripherals were a better reflection on his long-term ability than the ERA suggests. He’ll be 23-years-old to start his first full season, so he’ll need a hot start in pro ball to move as quickly as his scouting reports and track record warrant. I like this pick.
21.635 – C Will Albertson
Very boring trivia about me: for reasons unknown, I always associate Lonnie Chisenhall with Catawba. Seeing as he played at Pitt Community College and not Catawba, I have no idea why I think that. There’s yet to be a positive value player drafted out of Catawba. Jerry Sands has been the best so far. Maybe Will Albertson will be the first. In any event, writing this all out was done with the intent of finally getting the Chisenhall/Catawba out of my brain forever. Seeing it in writing helps me realize how wrong it all is.
Anyway, Will Albertson finished his season season with a disappointing .404/.494/.689 line with only 32 BB/19 K and a mere 7/10 SB. That was nothing compared to his junior season:.467/.531/.865 with 26 BB/21 K and 2/2 SB. Seeing a hugely productive hitter with athleticism capable of playing a premium defensive position like Albertson instantly made me think of the St. Louis draft (again) that I couldn’t write enough nice things about earlier this fall. Then I read this…
“I’m excited,” Albertson said. “They were one of the teams I has been talking to and they expressed a lot of interest. I knew if I team was going to take me, it was going to be them or St. Louis. St. Louis said I had a chance on being taken yesterday, but that didn’t happen.
Makes sense. Albertson is an accomplished Division II hitter with a decent arm (strong, but could use some quickening of his release to help it play up) and average speed. If he can keep developing defensively, then Albertson’s offensive blend of patience and pop could make him a real prospect with legitimate starting upside. I’m more than happy to drive this bandwagon.
22.665 – OF Malique Ziegler
I erroneously had Malique Ziegler in my notes as a 2017 draft-eligible incoming freshman at Northern Illinois earlier in the year. Imagine my surprise seeing him turn up as a signed 2016 draft pick of the Giants. If it helps set the stage, I was sitting at my computer with a slightly confused look on my face. I may or may not have said “Huh” to myself. Feels like you were there in the room with me, right? Ziegler left Northern Illinois to attend North Iowa Area Community College (or NIACC, which is all kinds of catchy) where he hit a robust .395/.490/.726 with 35 BB/43 K and 31/34 SB. He is a great athlete with plus speed who can more than hold his own in center. That sentence and his 2016 stats at NIACC are all I know about Ziegler, but that’s enough to make him a late-round name to watch going forward. I’m still not sure how I feel about the Giants drafting all those wild college pitchers, but just about everything else they’ve done gets an emphatic seal of approval from me.
23.695 – RHP Jacob Greenwalt
I’ll try to be brief here because I can only imagine how fans of 29 other teams are reacting to me loving all of these late-round Giants selections. Jacob Greenwalt is another outstanding find at this stage of the draft. Signing any prep prospect this late is an automatic win, but it becomes an even bigger WIN when the prep prospect in question has a quality fastball (88-92, 94 peak), commands two offspeed pitches (curve and change), is very athletic, and hails from one of my favorite states (Colorado) to unearth undervalued high school pitching. Greenwalt’s signing scout deserves a raise.
24.725 – C Jeffry Parra
I know very little about Jeffry Parra other than the fact that his name is not spelled Jeffery (as most of the internet claims), he’s a prep catcher from New York with a good chance to stick behind the plate, and he signed for the maximum bonus without penalty ($100,000) as a twenty-fourth round pick. You know what? Parra’s signing scout deserves a raise, too. Getting high school players signed past round twenty is a pretty big deal that should be celebrated more by prospect-obsessed fans.
26.785 – OF Nick Hill
Joe Lefebvre, Steve Balboni, and Jim Mecir were all drafted out of Eckerd College. Nick Hill will attempt to join them in the big league fraternity one day. His college draft year production (.391/.457/.590 and 12/15 SB) is strong yet not without red flags (10 BB/34 K). My notes on him that I was supposed to clean up, but it’s late so whatever: “size, decent start, idk.” Analysis like that is why they pay me the big bucks.
27.815 – RHP Pat Ruotolo
Whatever the maximum allowed amount of enjoyment can be derived from a team selecting an undersized college reliever from New England in the twenty-seventh round is, I’m there with Pat Ruotolo going off the board to the Giants here. Ruotolo is short and thick at 5-10, 220 pounds. His stuff is more ordinary (88-92 FB, 94 peak; mid-70s CB; CU) than amazing. His control has been up (2.35 BB/9 as a junior) and down (5.50 BB/9 as a sophomore, 4.70 BB/9 as a freshman). Through it all, Pat Ruotolo has missed bats. From 10.02 K/9 as a freshman to 12.89 K/9 as a sophomore to 10.58 K/9 as a junior, Ruotolo has gotten results out of the pen for the Huskies. In the pros, little changed: Ruotolo set down 15.75 batters per nine while walking 5.25 batters in the same stretch. I’m cool with going with either extreme in the mid- to late-rounds. Go get a guy with fantastic stuff and inconsistent results or a guy with questionable stuff and dominant results, but pick a lane and go hard with it. Ruotolo has been a great reliever for over three years now, and there’s no reason to doubt him going forward. The lack of knockout stuff puts a cap on his ultimate upside, but why can’t Ruotolo keep getting opportunities to impress the powers that be and eventually get his shot at middle relief?
29.875 – SS Mike Bernal
Already 24-years-old, Mike Bernal will have to get moving if he wants to fulfill his late-round utility guy upside. He played mostly second in his pro debut, but also managed to get a few innings in at short and third. I like him as a defender and athlete, so the possibility that he can keep rising as a defense-oriented backup exists. My lack of love for his offensive game has me bearish on him making it to the highest level.
30.905 – LHP Nick Deeg
Nick Deeg (191) has gotten a little bit better every season going back to his days as a Michigan prep star. You have to like that. From February 2016…
He’s third on my list only because of a lost coin flip to Deeg, another lefthander with above-average velocity (86-92, 94 peak) and an average or better breaking ball (his curve took off this summer after firming up from a loopier 71-74 to an improved 79-81 bender). Deeg got the edge over fellow lefty Akin despite the latter’s better peripherals to date because of a more advanced change (a low-80s offering with average or better upside) and an interesting but as yet underdeveloped mid-80s cutter. His size advantage (6-5, 220 for Deeg, 6-1, 200 for Akin) certainly didn’t hurt either.
I really don’t understand how Deeg fell to pick 905. I understand there was a velocity dip during the 2016 season from his usual upper-80s/low-90s down to mid-80s/upper-80s, but he was still effective throughout the year. I’d personally have a hard time knocking a prospect with as strong a track record as Deeg’s down for that unless I had been tipped off on whatever caused his velocity dip being permanent or not. Maybe teams know something I don’t here; 6-5, 220 pound lefthanders who have flashes his kind of stuff at his best don’t typically fall twenty plus rounds past their peak talent level without a decent reason. In the present absence of that missing piece of knowledge that may or may not actually exist, I’ll happily go on record calling Deeg one of the absolute biggest steals in this draft. Did you read all those word on Matt Krook earlier? The two are very different prospects with different degrees of upside and risk, but I ranked Deeg higher pre-draft than Krook. Pre-draft rankings lose a sliver of utility as every day past the end of the draft goes by, but still. This is a crazy steal by the Giants.
32.965 – RHP John Timmins
John Timmins does the power sinker/slider thing almost a little too well judging by how little present control he has on his darting stuff. In two years as a Bellevue Bruin, Timmins struck out 9.47 batters per nine while walking 5.08 batters in the same stretch. It was a small sample (26.2 total innings), but indicative of the kind of pitcher he is. The less said about his pro debut, the better. His arm is too good to dismiss based on 22.1 ugly innings, but it’s clear the big righthander has plenty to work on in pro ball.
34.1025 – RHP CJ Gettman
The Giants grab another big arm (90-94, 96 peak) from somewhat off the beaten path (Central Washington, home of just three MLB draft picks in twenty years) in CJ Gettman, a highly productive if effectively wild (13.85 K/9 and 5.19 BB/9) righthanded reliever with good size (6-5, 220). Feels like a slightly better version of John Timmins to me.
35.1055 – LHP Sidney Duprey
This is a fun one for a few reasons. First, Sidney Duprey is a native of Guayama, Puerto Rico. Didn’t see that one coming. Second, he’s a bonafide two-way prospect: his sophomore season at Kaskaskia CC in Illinois saw him hit .378/.471/.446 with 13 BB/13 K in 87 PA while also putting up outstanding numbers (9.71 K/9 and 1.99 BB/9 in 81.2 IP) on the mound. That leads us to our third fun fact about Sidney Duprey: the man can pitch a little bit. Duprey is typically 87-91 with his fastball and able to consistently command a decent breaking ball. If it all works out, maybe he can make it as a matchup lefty one day. If that’s the case, he’ll be MLB’s first Sidney since Sir Sidney Ponson retired back in 2009.
36.1085 – C Ryan Matranga
Any time you can select a local product coming off a .182/.237/.221 (8 BB/41 K) season, you pretty much have to do it. Matranga is a good defensive catcher, so it’s not like this is the worst pick in the entire draft or anything. I mean, it’s on the short list of worst picks and very much in the running, but it’s not definitively the worst pick. There are others that give it some stiff competition, I can assure you.
37.1115 – OF Chris Bono
I wouldn’t quite put the selection of Chris Bono in the worst draft pick mix, but he’s only about a tier away. Bono hit .183/.335/.266 as a redshirt-senior at UCLA. In his defense, he’s a better all-around prospect than can be summed up with his triple-slash. He’s a good athlete who can run, throw, and more than hold his own in center field. There are worse potential org guys to give opportunities to at this stage, I suppose.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Jason Delay (Vanderbilt), Mike Rescigno (Maryland), Jayden O’Dell (?), Adam Laskey (Duke), Jarrett Montgomery (Northwest Florida State JC), David Lee (Florida), Andrew DiPiazza (?), Nick Bennett (Louisville)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Seattle in 2016
4 – Kyle Lewis
54 – Joe Rizzo
119 – Bryson Brigman
256 – Donnie Walton
301 – David Greer
351 – Nick Zammarelli
379 – Reggie McClain
424 – Thomas Burrows
1.11 – OF Kyle Lewis
I like Kyle Lewis (4). I write about guys I like a lot during the draft process. Rather than reprint a whole wall of Kyle Lewis words, I’ll leave this link from last February here. I don’t normally link to myself and recommend you read it, but this is one of those rare times when I think it’s worth it. The paragraph most germane to our present discussion of Lewis…
Kyle Lewis hit .367/.423/.677 last year in a decent college conference. That’s good, clearly. His 19 BB/41 K ratio is less good. So why buy the bat? As a hitter, I like what I’ve seen and heard about his righthanded swing. I like that he seemingly improved his approach (aggressively hunting for “his” pitch showed good self-scouting while getting ahead more frequently late in the year demonstrated a fuller understanding of what it will take to succeed against top-level competition) and started chasing fewer pitchers’s pitches as the season went on. I like his physical projection, public and privately shared intel about his work ethic, bat speed (I’ve seen some “whoa” cuts from him), and how his athleticism allows his upper- and lower-body to work in concern with one another with each swing. Believe me, I understand doubting him now as a potential top ten pick and dark horse to go 1-1 in this draft based on a wait-and-see approach to his plate discipline; if improvements aren’t made in his draft year BB/K ratio, all the positive scouting buzz will matter a lot less to me come June. But part of college scouting early in the season is identifying players set to make the leap as juniors. I think Lewis’s leap as a more mature, thoughtful, and explosive hitter has already begun, and it’ll be reflected on the field this upcoming season. I’ve thrown out a Yasiel Puig comp in the past for his ceiling and I’m sticking with that for now. As an added prospect to prospect bonus, his game reminds me some of Anthony Alford. Your mileage might vary on how in the draft a player like that could go, but it sure sounds like a potential premium pick to me.
Lewis followed that sophomore season up with a .395/.535/.731 junior campaign. His BB/K ratio moved from 19/41 to 66/48. That’s the kind of progress you can only dream about when forecasting a draft year breakout. Lewis delivered and then some, yet some still found reasons to tear him down during the draft process. No player is above being viewed through a critical lens, but I can’t help but feel that Lewis, for whatever reason, was this year’s “yeah, but” prospect for far too many. Positive scouting reports from his sophomore season at Mercer and summer on the Cape…yeah, but his numbers, namely his BB/K, weren’t first round quality. Tremendous turnaround in that exact area as a junior…yeah, but the level of competition puts the degree of actual improvement in question. Electric bat speed, plus to plus-plus raw power, hit tool looking better with every week…yeah, but strikeouts? Can’t play center? Too likable and hard working?
There are clearly some elements of truth in all of the singular bits of criticism of Lewis’s game — no prospect is perfect, after all — but what does well (lots) and how well he does it (very) is far more important to me than his minor flaws. From May 2016…
Arguably the closest comp to Bryant statistically is Kyle Lewis. Most walks, most whiffs, and some degree of a speed component. They also both played slightly lesser conference competition than their peers. I still kind of think that he’s got a lot of Yasiel Puig in his game — both the good and the bad — but that’s admittedly a minority view. Jermaine Dye is a good one put out there by Frankie Piliere. I’ve also heard Derek Bell, a name that I like because I think it fits fairly well and because any excuse to look up Derek Bell again gives the mid-90s sports nostalgia part of my brain a jolt.
Operation Shutdown will never not be funny to me. Anyway, I still like the Puig comp best of all. Comparing anybody to Puig, a player coming off as weird, wild, and unpredictable a first four MLB seasons as anybody in recent memory, might be silly, but I think Lewis lines ups favorably from both a skills and tools standpoint, and could have a similar above-average offensive start to his career with flirtations of stardom mixed in any given year. Burgeoning hit tool, loads of power, at least average speed, arm, and range, young for class, litany of favorable comps, and, most importantly of all, continual improvement in all phases of his game almost every time he steps foot on the diamond. Lewis had a very strong case for going first overall in this class; getting him at eleventh overall is about as big a no-brainer first round pick as you’ll see.
2.50 – 3B Joe Rizzo
I don’t love leading with “old” information, but this bit on Joe Rizzo (54) from May 2016 is one of my favorites…
Joe Rizzo, the man without a position, slides into the top spot here at first base. My strong hunch is that whatever team drafts him early will do so with the idea to play him at a more demanding defensive spot – could be third, could be second, could even be behind the plate – but eventually he’ll settle in as a professional first baseman. Offensively, I’ve gotten a Don Mattingly comp on him that I obviously find intriguing. The better comp, however, is one that takes a little getting used to. If I had to type up an anonymous scout quote to back it up, it might sound like this: “Well, I don’t like the body, but he can really swing it. Some guys just have a knack for hitting it hard every time, and Rizzo is one of ‘em. Pretty swing, above-average to plus power, and more athletic than he looks. Can probably fake it elsewhere on the diamond, but I’d stick him at first and just have him focus on piling up hits. Reminds me of a young John Kruk.” So there you have it. The anonymous scout that I made up has put a young John Kruk comp out there. Nice work, anonymous scout. I like it.
(It’s also worth pointing out that an actual scout – i.e., not one that is actually me in disguise – mentioned Bobby Bradley as a recent draft comp for Rizzo. I don’t hate it!)
John Kruk! I just love that comp so much. I can’t wait to start reading (and getting) firsthand reports about Rizzo, a position-less unconventional-bodied straight baller at the plate, from pro guys. They won’t know what hit ’em. They WILL know (presumably) what Rizzo can do: hit ’em. I adore Rizzo’s hit tool and think he’s going to be an above-average to plus offensive contributor for a long, long time. I’m intrigued about his defensive upside at a couple of different positions (second, catcher, or his current landing spot third), but I really just want to watch him hit and hit and hit. I’m very much into this pick. Kyle Lewis and Joe Rizzo is a hell of a way to start off a draft.
3.87 – SS Bryson Brigman
Obsessing all spring about finding answers about the long-term defensive future of Bryson Brigman (119) — quick version: athletic enough for short with just enough range, but arm feels just a touch light to want him there in anything more than spot-duty — obscured the more pressing Brigman question: will the young middle infielder from San Diego get into enough power to profile as a regular no matter what position he plays? For example, here I am going on and on and on about Brigman’s glove back in March 2016…
Doing so would allow me to regularly see Bryson Brigman, a prospect that has begun to remind me a lot of Arizona’s Scott Kingery from last year’s draft. Kingery was a second round pick (48th overall) and I could see Brigman rising to a similar level by June. Like Kingery last year, Brigman’s defensive future remains a question for scouts. Fortunately for both, the question is framed more around trying him in challenging spots than worrying about having to hide him elsewhere on the diamond. Brigman has an above-average to plus defensive future at second back in his back pocket already, so his playing a solid shortstop in 2016 is doing so with house money. In much the same way that former second baseman Alex Bregman wore everybody down with consistent above-average play at short last college season, Brigman has proved to many that he has what it takes to stick at shortstop in pro ball. Brigman’s appeal at this point is pretty clear: tons of defensive potential in the middle infield, contact abilities that elicit the classic “he could find a hole rolling out of bed” remarks from onlookers, and enough of the sneaky pop/mature approach offensive extras needed to be an impactful regular in the big leagues. I’ll stick with the Kingery – who smart people told me here could play shortstop if needed, a position since corroborated by those who have seen him in the pros (I’ll be seeing him for myself on Saturday, FWIW) – comparison for now, but I wouldn’t object to somebody who offered up a mix of the best of both Kingery and his old double play partner Kevin Newman. That would obviously be some kind of special player, but Brigman doesn’t seem too far off. I’ve said before I hate when people throw around terms like “first round player” so loosely that you could count 100 first rounders in their eyes in the months leading up to June, but I’ll be guilty of it here and call Brigman a first round player as of now. I’ve really come to appreciate his game since the start of the season.
Comparing any young guy to Scott Kingery, a prospect I’ve always liked more than maybe I should, is high praise. I have little doubt about Brigman’s hit tool continuing to play at the big league even as questions about his power exist. Hit tool, plate discipline, athleticism, speed, and defense can take you a long way in pro ball. The glaring lack of power, however, puts a pretty clear potential cap on his ceiling. And I say that before checking the stats from his first professional season: .260/.369/.291. Six doubles and a triple in 318 plate appearances isn’t going to cut it. I still believe the hit tool will play, but it’ll be on Brigman to make the necessary adjustments to pro pitchers who will attack him differently once reports of his below-average power make the rounds.
4.117 – LHP Thomas Burrows
The fourth round felt a little early for a guy like Thomas Burrows (424) based on ceiling, but there’s no arguing with the results the lefty from Alabama has produced on the field to this point. Burrows was great in college from day one, but took things to another level as a junior: 13.04 K/9, 2.86 BB/9, and 0.95 ERA in 28.1 IP. Then he went out and did more or less the same thing in his pro debut: 13.50 K/9, 4.01 BB/9, and 2.55 ERA in 24.2 IP. I’m sure there are other recent comparables to Burrows over the years I could think of if I really sat down and tried, but the two names that immediately came to mind when it comes to reasonable comps are Paco Rodriguez (82nd overall pick in 2012) and Jacob Lindgren (55th overall pick in 2014). By that logic, based solely off of two previous draft examples, Seattle got a steal in snagging Burrows with pick 117! For real, the three guys all have common traits that give them high-floors with reasonable upside. All were lefthanded college relievers with fastballs capable of hitting the mid-90s (Burrows is 88-94), quality sliders, good command, and ample deception. The safety of this profile — both Rodriguez and Lindgren within a year of being drafted — is dinged only slightly by the uncertainty that comes with literally every single pitching prospect in the game (both Rodriguez and Lindgren have had Tommy John surgery, as pitchers do). I’m not saying that Burrows will pitch in the big leagues early in 2017 before eventually being forced to make his way back after his elbow explodes, but if you’re the type to buy into historical precedent and the power of three…
5.147 – SS Donnie Walton
From the high-floor of Thomas Burrows to the high-floor of Donnie Walton (256), the Mariners grab two likely big league role players with back-to-back selections within the draft’s first five rounds. As an avowed fan of going upside early and often, I shouldn’t like it…but I kind of do. I unexpectedly sold myself on Burrows with those Rodriguez/Lindgren comps, and Walton is the perfect example of a the right kind of high-floor prospect to target. If you’re going to go minimal risk with an early pick, get a guy like Walton who makes tons of quality contact, works deep counts, and can play whatever spot on the diamond you want to try him at. A long track record of success, sneaky speed, and an average arm that is stretched on the left side but playable just add to what makes him a rock solid future big league utility option. This echoes what was written back in April 2016…
Walton is pretty much exactly what you’d expect out of the son of a coach: there’s nothing flashy to his game, but he ably fields his position, runs well, and can make just about all the throws from short. It might be a utility player profile more so than a future regular ceiling, but it’s relatively safe and well worth a top ten round pick.
The fifth round qualifies as a top ten round pick, right? Then we’re good here. Nice work by Seattle.
6.177 – RHP Brandon Miller
When I saw Brandon Miller pitch this past season for Millersville (3/31/16 against East Stroudsburg), I saw a big (6-4, 210) righthanded starting pitcher with exceptional control, solid command of four pitches (88-93 FB, average 77-83 SL, 82-83 CU flashed average, show-me 72 CB), and a willingness to attack hitters with high fastballs. He wasn’t at his best that day (6 IP 10 H 7 ER 2 BB 4 K), but you could still see future professional starting pitcher traits. Sixth round for Miller seems early to me, but a team like Seattle that valued his brand of control, command, and well-rounded stuff is free to disagree. I’m always in favor of guys I saw play up close going high, so I’m on board for entirely selfish reasons.
7.207 – RHP Matt Festa
When I saw Matt Festa pitch this past season for East Stroudsburg (3/31/16 against Millersville), I saw a short (6-1, 190) righthanded starting pitcher with above-average control, solid command of three pitches (89-95 FB, average CB/SL, CU flashed average), and a propensity for pitching down in the zone. He was pretty sharp that day (7 IP 6 H 2 ER 2 BB 8 K), so it was easy to walk away impressed. I’d love to see him get a shot in relief where he’d really be able to air it out — more mid-90s than low-90s could get him on a much faster track to the big leagues — but he’s good enough to develop as a starter as well. Big thing working against him now is his age; Festa will start his first full pro season at 24-years-old. That could be all the more reason to get him in the pen sooner rather than later.
8.237 – 3B Nick Zammarelli
Seattle’s emphasis on finding productive college players continues with Nick Zammarelli (351) going off the board in round eight. If you’re into versatile defenders who have shown steady growth in all offensive areas (power, patience, contact) over the course of the past three seasons, then Zammarelli is your guy. I can see his pro debut being a template for how he’ll likely be deployed if/when he reaches the big leagues. While with the AquaSox, Zammarelli played all four corner spots (1B/3B/LF/RF). That seems like a reasonably realistic outcome for an eighth rounder, though I wouldn’t put it past the Elon product continuing to impress with the bat enough to find steadier work one day.
9.267 – C Jason Goldstein
On Jason Goldstein from April 2016…
Jason Goldstein is one of those all-around catching prospects that teams should like a lot on draft day, but all indications point towards that being a minority view than a consensus around baseball. I liked Goldstein a lot last year, I still like him this year, and it’s fine that he’ll likely be drafted much later than where he’ll be ranked on my board. He’s a heady defender with enough arm strength to profile as a big league backup at worst.
I really like Jason Goldstein as a potential big league backup catcher. Or at least I thought I did before Seattle took him much earlier than I ever could have imagined heading into the draft. Maybe I was just a year ahead of the curve when I ranked the catcher from Illinois as the second (!) best college backstop and 94th overall prospect (!!!) in the country in 2015. That was one heck of an aggressive ranking. I dropped him all the way down to 37th among college catchers in 2016 and out of the top 500 entirely. That may have been too drastic an overcorrection from 2015 — in fairness, the college catching depth in 2016 was head and shoulders above what we saw in 2015 — so splitting the difference between when he was ranked 94th and when he was ranked 501st (humor me here) probably gives the most accurate depiction of what I think about him as a draft prospect. That would have put him at 297th, not too far off from where Seattle took him (267th) this past June. His scouting notes from way back in his high school days — back when he was ranked 499th among all draft-eligible prospects — are as useful as ever…
C Jason Goldstein (Highland Park HS, Illinois): plus arm strength; highest level defensive tools; accurate arm; strong; fantastic footwork; quick bat; good approach; not a ton of power upside, but a professional hitting approach; 5-11, 190 pounds; R/R
Add a couple inches, about twenty good pounds, and a strengthened reputation as a high baseball IQ leader behind the dish, and you’ve got the 2016 version of Goldstein. His junior season power spike got me a little carried away with his upside, but he’s still a guy who does all the little things well enough to have a long career as a potential high-level backup. Even if that upside isn’t met, the unseen value of having a guy like Goldstein around minor league pitching the next few years is worth a ninth round pick. Good get for a money-saving senior-sign.
10.297 – 3B David Greer
On David Greer (301) from April 2016…
David Greer is one of college baseball’s best, most underrated hitters. I’d put his hit tool on the short list of best in this college class. With that much confidence in him offensively, the only real question that needs to be answered is what position he’ll play as a pro. Right now it appears that a corner outfield spot is the most likely destination, but his prior experience at both second and third will no doubt intrigue teams willing to trade a little defense for some offense at those spots.
David Greer can hit. I think the position he played most often during his debut (RF) is probably his most likely landing spot in the long run. A guy with his kind of hit tool, disciplined approach, and big arm in right field has a shot to profile as a potential regular there. If it doesn’t work out that way, a four-corners future a la Nick Zammarelli could be his path to the big leagues. That kind of future would fit this Seattle draft class really well.
If there’s one consistent theme I’ve heard about the new-ish Mariners front office, it’s that building depth throughout the system matters. Seattle’s attention to the peripheral positions on the roster has come across with decisions both at the big league level and through the draft. Kyle Lewis could be a star. Joe Rizzo has that kind of upside as a hitter. After that, you can see the kind of highly productive potential role player types that Seattle seemingly targeted selected across their draft from round three to forty. A little more upside at certain spots would be nice — a high-upside HS type in the mid-single-digits and another in round eleven would qualify — but I think a draft focused on making solid contact rather than taking big all-or-nothing cuts can make sense in its own way.
11.327 – RHP Michael Koval
Michael Koval is who we thought he was. Junior season at Cal Poly Pomona: 6.80 K/9 and 2.14 BB/9. Pro debut with Seattle: 6.37 K/9 and 2.55 BB/9. You have to appreciate a prospect who delivers exactly what is expected, for better or worse. Koval’s peripherals aren’t those typically associated with a top ten round pick (or eleven, in this case), but the former Division II star’s game is geared more toward getting outs on the ground than via the strikeout. When you do the former at a dominant level (literally two-thirds of batted balls against him in his debut were on the ground) and the latter at a respectable level, you can make the sinker/slider relief profile work.
12.357 – LHP Tim Viehoff
Two picks off the beaten path in a row for Seattle here as they follow up the Michael Koval (Cal Poly Pomona) selection by making Tim Viehoff Southern New Hampshire’s highest drafted player ever in the twelfth round. Viehoff is plenty deserving of the spot thanks to a trio of quality offerings (88-92 FB, SL, CU), a three-year track record of missing bats (11.81 K/9) and limited walks (3.43 BB/9), and imposing size (6-4, 200) from the left side. Sounds good to me. Came across this when checking Viehoff’s numbers…
The Aquasox instituted a policy for their on-field staff to wait 30 days after a player is drafted before tweaking their game, which gives the staff a full view of why a player was drafted. Viehoff’s hope is that Aquasox pitching coach Moises Hernandez, the older brother of Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, will help sharpen his change-up and slider, among other things, upon finally getting the opportunity to work together. Whether or not he will gain further development is the furthest concern from Viehoff’s mind.
First, good policy. My initial reaction is that thirty days isn’t long enough; I’m not saying it’s wrong and I’m admittedly nowhere near as knowledgeable about the player development side of things as I pretend to be about prospect evaluation, but my instinct would be to wait until the first fall instructional league to begin to tinker with a player’s game. Anyway, the real reason for pulling out that paragraph is that I had no idea that Felix Hernandez’s brother was a pitching coach in the Mariners organization. I’m sure M’s fans know all about that, but I’m willing to be that a lot of fans of other teams didn’t know, either.
13.387 – RHP Reggie McClain
This felt like the perfect spot to give Reggie McClain (379) of Missouri a shot, especially if you buy into my pre-draft rankings (found in parentheses for every top 500 prospect if you haven’t caught on by now). The redshirt-senior more than held up his end of the bargain after signing (10.24 K/9 K/9 and 0.93 BB/9 in 48.1 IP), though it should be noted that he’s old for his class as a guy who will be 24-years-old heading into his first full pro season in 2017. Still, I can’t help but remain intrigued by a veteran (by amateur standards, McClain has seen and done a lot) college arm with a solid fastball (velocity isn’t great at 85-91, but command and movement prop it up) and an outstanding changeup who has consistently shown over-the-top great control no matter the level of competition. It’s a profile I believe in. When I get players (and profiles) that I like, I tend to go a little overboard bothering friends in the game for comparisons. The first name that came to mind as a contemporary draft comp was Mike Morin, a prospect that I absolutely LOVED during his North Carolina days. Morin is my comp, but I also heard Brandon Kintzler, Deolis Guerra, and, I like this one a lot, Chris Devenski. A Morin/Devenski career path would be a fantastic outcome for a thirteenth round pick like McClain. Incidentally, Morin was a thirteenth round pick in 2012…
14.417 – RHP Kyle Davis
On Kyle Davis from April 2016…
Kyle Davis, a prospect I once thought would wind up better as a catcher than as a pitcher, has compiled strong numbers since almost his first day on campus. As I’ve said a lot in the preceding paragraphs, a big point in his favor is that he has the requisite three to four pitches needed to start. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll continue to hold down a rotation spot in the pros, but it gives him a shot.
Despite the optimism expressed above, I’ve never been a big Kyle Davis supporter. Nice college arm with a well-rounded arsenal (legit CB and average CU/SL), but arm action, build, and numbers (far more effective as a reliever in college) all point to him as a guy with a middle relief ceiling in pro ball. There’s nothing wrong with that in round fourteen if you think he can fulfill that promise, but I’m bearish on Davis as a pro. Worth pointing out that Seattle went with back-to-back-to-back $5,000 senior-signs. In rounds 8-9-10, the money-saving aspect would make some sense. In rounds 12-13-14, it’s a little odd. Not bad or anything — maybe they just happen to love these three pitchers and getting them cheap is a fun bonus for them — but still odd.
15.447 – LHP Danny Garcia
I’m stumped when it comes to Danny Garcia. The overall spread of stuff from the left side — 88-92 FB (93 peak), average or better low-80s split-CU, decent breaking ball — is encouraging even with the lack of a singular knockout pitch. His first two seasons at Miami (8.10 K/9 and 8.67 K/9) looked good. Then things got weird. Garcia remained effective as a junior weekend starter (3.50 ERA in 87.1 IP), but his strikeout rate nearly halved (4.74 K/9) and his walk rate almost doubled (1.84 BB/9 to 3.09 BB/9) from his sophomore season to his draft year. His strikeout rate remained anemic (4.85 K/9) in 42.2 innings as a pro. Could it be something as simple as the increased workload — not so much in total innings, but as a full-time starter rather than an occasional starter/swingman — that explains the decline in strikeouts? Or could it be a level of competition thing? Garcia pitched mainly against non-conference mid-week opponents during his sophomore season before getting challenged with a full ACC weekend slate as a junior. Or is it just the vagaries of small sample sizes rearing their ugly head once again? Whatever it is, Garcia feels like a potential matchup lefty in a best case scenario outcome. Good enough for the fifteenth round, but hard to ignore that junior year K/9 (4.74!) when trying to project him going forward. Not in love with this one.
17.507 – OF Dimas Ojeda
Dimas Ojeda hit .396/.442/.634 with 15 BB/28 K in his sophomore season at McLaren JC. Not bad at all, but a little less impressive when you see the team as a whole hit .342/.439/.579 this past year. Context matters. For what it’s worth, 25 of McLaren’s 33 drafted players since 1998 came on the mound. I honestly don’t know what that’s worth, if anything. Seemed like an interesting tidbit (kind of) worth sharing in lieu of any actual information about Ojeda. Seattle obviously saw something special enough in the big lefty’s stick to give him $100,000. Can’t argue too much with his .264/.343/.455 pro start. Early returns on his defense in left field — a position the lifelong first baseman only started playing this past season as a sophomore — have him as “serviceable” in the role. The offensive bar for a serviceable left fielder is damn high, so the M’s must really believe in him as a hitter. Worth a shot here.
18.537 – RHP Robert Dugger
Seattle has bested me here. I’ve got nothing from a scouting perspective when it comes to Robert Dugger out of Texas Tech. All I have to go on with Dugger are his impressive junior year (7.36 K/9 – 3.08 BB/9 – 52.2 IP – 2.56 ERA) numbers. He kept it up in pro ball with a 8.77 K/9 and 2.54 BB/9 across three levels including a late-season cameo at AAA.
19.567 – OF DeAires Moses
I likely know what you know about DeAires Moses. Or what you could know about DeAires Moses if you were to Google him yourself. He’s a speedy junior college center field prospect without much in the way of a standout offensive tool to project as much more than a fifth outfielder if it all goes right.
20.597 – OF Eric Filia
“Now he was a 24-year-old playing for the AquaSox, but…” is how I’ve started an email or two to friends asking for super-duper deep league fantasy sleepers from this past draft. Eric Filia’s crazy hot start to his pro career (.360/.451/.494 with 40 BB/19 K and 10/15 SB in 247 AB) might be the best of its kind in this draft class. That doesn’t drastically change the pre-draft evaluation of Filia, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Big debut or not, I flat out like Filia and have for a while. From April 2016…
I’ve lumped David Greer and Eric Filia together because both guys can really, really hit. I think both guys can work themselves up the minor league ladder based on the strength of their hit tool (plate discipline included) alone. Defensive questions for each hitter put a cap on their respective ceilings (Greer intrigues me defensively with his plus arm and experience at 1B, 2B, 3B, and in the OF; Filia seems like left field or first base all the way), but, man, can they both hit.
If I had been paying closer attention to Seattle’s picks to this point, I probably wouldn’t be as surprised (and delighted!) to see the M’s snag both Greer and Filia in the same draft as I am. As it is, Seattle did really well to get a bat as advanced as Filia this late. All of the caveats that come with bat-first prospects apply here (and then some: Filia has never showed big power, is limited to 1B/corner OF, missed a college season with a bum labrum, missed a second college season due to academics), but in the twentieth round why not bet on a hitter?
21.627 – OF Austin Grebeck
The almost complete lack of power should be a disqualifying red flag, but I just can’t help liking Austin Grebeck. He’s such an annoying (in a good way) hitter that the idea of him going from the twenty-first round on the heels of a .070 junior season ISO all the way to the big leagues one day doesn’t strike me as nearly as crazy as it should. He’s still a super long shot with a limited ceiling (fifth outfielder?), but the things he does well (defend, run, throw, take pitches) should at least give him a chance to hang around in pro ball long enough to get noticed.
22.657 – OF Jansiel Rivera
23.687 – RHP Jack Anderson
It goes without saying that I can’t see every player I write about. That creates an interesting divide between players I think I know what I’m talking about because I’ve seen them (thus placing a higher emphasis on my own evaluation over what has been written and passed along to me otherwise) and players I think I know what I’m talking about because I specifically haven’t seen them (and can then go all-in on the notes that I have from actual talent evaluators without the fear of overrating my own firsthand take). I like detaching my own “scouting” bias from the process as much as I can, but sometimes I can’t help myself. In the case of Jack Anderson, I think it worked out for the best.
As far as I can tell, there hasn’t been anything draft-specific written about Anderson publicly. As a semi-local prospect to me, I had a few decent contacts that had seen him and could give me some quick notes but nothing I had was substantive enough that I felt great about publishing anything about him unless I could see him for myself. So, that’s exactly what I did and I’m thankful for it. Anderson is a ton of fun. His wicked submarine delivery gives him crazy amounts of deception. I was kind of but not quite behind the plate for some of his time on the mound and his delivery had me flinching for a few pitches as a spectator before I got the hang of it. When I saw him his fastball was mostly mid-80s (88 peak), but I’ve heard he hit 90 MPH later in the spring. He used the heater a ton, but managed to mix in a few interesting Frisbee sliders along the way. The swings hitters got on him were really awkward when they made contact at all. It’s easy to say after the fact, but one of the first thoughts I had after seeing him warm-up was there is no way there are 500 better draft prospects in the country than him. I immediately got a strong Chad Bradford vibe; this article cites his college coach’s familiarity with Joe Smith as another point of reference for what Anderson could be. A funky righthanded reliever capable of rolling bowling balls and getting loads of weak contact sounds great to me in round twenty-three. His batted ball breakdown in his pro debut — 46 ground balls, 12 line drives, 4 fly balls, and 3 pop-ups — backs it up. I’m all-in on Jack Anderson, future big league reliever.
24.717 – OF Trey Griffey
I didn’t put two and two together about the round the M’s selected Trey Griffey in until now. That’s actually a nice touch.
Sentimentality aside, this still feels way too early to throw away a pick for me. There are a lot of bigger and more credible reasons as to why the MLB Draft doesn’t attract more casual fans, and I’d be willing to hear arguments that silliness like this brings some much needed levity to the marathon that is day three of the draft, but I think selections like this ultimately hurt the product’s growth potential. If I’m a casual draft fan and hear that the Marines selected Ken Griffey’s son in the twenty-fourth round, my first thought might be “Hey, cool” or something like that. My next thought would likely be “Wait, he never even played in college? So what’s the point of following the draft past this point if a team like Seattle is willing to do this just past the draft’s midway point?” I like the draft at forty rounds because the amateur baseball scene across the country (and beyond) is teeming with talented players who are only one phone call away from getting a chance to show it off, but shenanigans like this back up the commonly held idea that going forty rounds is just too long. I’ve heard numbers floated by industry types ranging from ten to twenty-five as the sweet spot for enough rounds without going overboard; I guess I’d be fine with something on the high end of that range, though I’d really rather not see it dip any lower than thirty.
Anyway, Seattle is free to use their picks in any way they deem appropriate, so I won’t go full old man yells at cloud on this pick. I’ll just say the following and leave it alone: I wouldn’t have done what they did when they did it. Nobody asked me, though. None of this is Griffey’s fault, by the way. Best of luck to him in the upcoming East-West Shrine Game and NFL Draft process.
26.777 – LHP Elliot Surrey
A pick like this shows the downside to the Jack Anderson analysis above. I can’t recall ever seeing Elliott Surrey pitch in person at UC Irvine. On the surface, he’s a fairly similar prospect to Anderson: mid-80s fastball, good offspeed pitch (changeup in this case), some funk in his delivery, long college track record of success. Surrey might even have the objective edge as a lefthander who throws enough useful pitches (cutter, breaking ball) to have a history as a college starter under his belt. Maybe if I had seen Surrey like I did Anderson, I’d be more excited about this pick. As it is, it’s a fine pick in the twenty-sixth round for all the reasons mentioned above. I’m not inspired to write the impassioned review that Anderson got, but that’s not because of anything Surrey did or didn’t do. It’s the downside of seeing certain guys and potentially overvaluing them because it’s human nature to want to see those you “know” succeed more than those you don’t.
27.807 – RHP Paul Covelle
I’ve got next to nothing on Paul Covelle, a senior righthander from Franklin Pierce. His senior season (8.69 K/9 and 1.40 BB/9) was nice. And it was in line with what he’s done over his career as a Raven (8.28 K/9 and 2.68 BB/9). That’s nice to see.
28.837 – RHP Nathan Bannister
A strained forearm kept Nathan Bannister out of action after signing. I couldn’t find anything more recent than that, so it appears that treatment and rest should get him back on the mound next spring without having to undergo any type of surgical procedure. That’s good news for the former Arizona ace who relies heavily on precision command and plus control to help his otherwise unspectacular stuff play up. If Bannister makes it, it’ll be as a sinker/slider middle reliever.
29.867 – RHP Steven Ridings
Steven Ridings (Messiah) and Stephen Ridings (Haverford) played their college ball about one hundred miles apart from one another in Pennsylvania. The former righthanded pitcher was selected twenty-one rounds after the latter. I like Stephen quite a bit as you can read here, but Steven is no slouch, either. The Messiah Ridings can get it up to the mid-90s with the frame and athleticism to suggest a few more ticks to come. Combine that with stellar collegiate results as a senior (10.66 K/9, 2.26 BB/9, and 1.72 ERA in 83.2 IP) and it’s a little surprising to me that he fell this far. Really nice addition for Seattle this late.
34.1017 – RHP David Ellingson
I like David Ellingson probably more than I ought to for a thirty-fourth round pick. There’s nothing special about his profile — 6-1, 200 pound college relievers with decent fastballs (88-92, 93 peak) and above-average 77-79 breaking balls are kind of a dime or dozen in the college game — so let’s chalk up my pro-Ellingson feelings as an odd intuitive feel and move along.
36.1077 – 2B Joseph Venturino
Joe Venturino was a career .363/.432/.457 hitter with 73 BB/48 K and 59 SB in 680 AB at Division III Ramapo College. Pretty standard second base prospect without much pop, but with plenty of contact skills, speed, and patience. No idea about his glove. All in all, works for me in the thirty-sixth round.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Lyle Lin (Arizona State), Ryan Fucci (unsigned as his shoulder was deemed “too risky” by Seattle, but out of college eligibility and the M’s still technically hold his rights), Tyler Duncan (Crowder JC), Lincoln Henzman (Louisville), Kenyon Yovan (Oregon), Morgan McCullough (Oregon), Will Ethridge (Mississippi), Eli Wilson (Minnesota), James Reilly (James Madison), Camryn Williams (Dallas Baptist), Adley Rutschman (Oregon State)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Toronto in 2016
30 – TJ Zeuch
46 – Bo Bichette
48 – Zach Jackson
59 – JB Woodman
77 – Cavan Biggio
147 – Josh Palacios
203 – Kyle Weatherly
239 – Travis Hosterman
308 – Bradley Jones
459 – Ridge Smith
1.21 – RHP TJ Zeuch
I really, really, really like TJ Zeuch (30). Even without a slam dunk present offspeed pitch that he can use in times of trouble, Zeuch has managed to consistently mow down whatever competition attempts to get in his way. Strikeouts and ground balls and ground balls and strikeouts. Pretty good recipe for success no matter what. From April 2016…
TJ Zeuch has come back from injury seemingly without missing a beat. I’m a big fan of just about everything he does. He’s got the size (6-7, 225), body control, tempo, and temperament to hold up as a starting pitcher for a long time. He’s also got a legit four-pitch mix that allows him to mix and match in ways that routinely leave even good ACC hitters guessing.
Despite my springtime optimism, I’ve heard from a few smart people since who question Zeuch as a long-term starter. Their reasons, based mostly on concerns about pitch selection and repeating his delivery, tend to make sense. Zeuch can throw a curve, cut-slider, and change, but tends to lean on his power sinker more often than most starting pitching prospects around. I get it. As for his delivery, I don’t know. I respect where they are coming from and I think there’s something to the idea that pros who have watched literally tens of thousands of pitchers have a better idea of what works than what doesn’t, but my non-scout eyes don’t see anything particularly concerning about Zeuch’s mechanics. Still, it’s a legitimate reason why one might not love a pitcher as a starting option even if I don’t necessarily agree with it in this specific instance. The larger point is that these are valid concerns that a reasonable observer can arrive at, so keeping a close eye on how Zeuch holds up to the rigors of pitching every fifth day in the pros is a worthwhile endeavor. I’m confident he’s a starter, but there’s enough noise about him potentially needing to shift roles that you can’t call him the stone cold mortal lock to start you’d want out of your first pick.
He doesn’t quite have the same slider, but Zeuch reminds me a little bit of Tyson Ross coming out of Cal in 2008. Even though his ups and downs over the years, you’d take that outcome (the Padres run specifically) in the mid-first round every time.
2.57 – OF JB Woodman
If you’ve kept up with him as an amateur at all, then you had to have loved JB Woodman’s (59) pro debut. It was nothing if not very JB Woodman-y. Flashes of contact ability, patience, power, and speed with a ton of swing-and-miss to go with it. On the whole, Woodman hit .297/.391/.445 with 85 K and 34 BB in 229 AB. Very Woodman-y. The lefthanded bat from Ole Miss is a fantastic athlete who can run, throw, and defend in center. Those skills alone — he’s at least above-average in each area — should get him to the big leagues eventually a la Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Drew Stubbs before him, but his upside is considerably higher than that. Offensively, what we’ve seen from Woodman so far only scratches the surface. In some respects, he’s the type of tooled-up college performer that can be viewed almost as if he’s a teenager coming out of high school. The upside with Woodman is well above-average regular with potential spurts of star play mixed in, but he has some work to get there yet.
I’ve gone back and forth on a few potential career arcs for Woodman if he hits as hoped. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which one is best. Based on feedback I’ve gotten and my own two cents, I’ll offer up the names Michael Saunders, Colby Rasmus, and Joc Pederson as possible ceilings for Woodman. The common themes are self-evident: athletic, power/speed lefthanded hitters who can play up the middle (more or less) with an inclination to striking out a little more than you’d like. That’s the prospect archetype you’re buying with Woodman in round two, and those guys are examples of it working in the pros. My hunch is that Woodman will join that list of “talented but slightly frustrating yet still really valuable in the grand scheme of things” players before his career is out.
2.66 – SS Bo Bichette
On Bo Bichette (46) from December 2015…
Bo Bichette is a really good prospect. Bo Bichette also makes my head hurt. I was never all that high on his brother (“I’d be lying if I said I felt good about his future from an instinctual standpoint” is a thing I said about him once and I ranked him 103rd on my board when he went 51st), so I admittedly went into my evaluation of him with a little bit of a skeptical predisposition. That’s not fair and not a particularly good way of doing business, but I’m human and therefore susceptible to silly biases with a brain desperate to create formations of patterns when there’s really nothing there. Fortunately, I’m also a fairly reasonable human who is all too aware of his own failings, so I did my best to get over whatever agenda my dumb brain tried to stick me with. Bichette is really good and getting better. I’m a believer in his power, his bat speed is no joke, and he takes at bats (works deep counts, utilizes whole-field approach) like a seasoned professional hitter already. I’m not on board with those who’d like to push his glove to second, but I think he’s athletic enough to hand at third for a bit. A strange and arguably nonsensical comparison that came to me when watching him over the summer: Maikel Franco. You watch him and maybe it shouldn’t all work, but it does.
And again from May 2016…
It’s easy to ignore high school statistics for top draft prospects. There are way too many complicating factors that make relying on performance indicators little more than a waste of time at that level, but it doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun with some of the outstanding efforts put forth by some of this country’s best hitters. Take Bo Bichette, for example. All he’s done as a high school ballplayer is hit .545/.650/1.272 in 200 HS PA since his sophomore season. That line includes fifty extra base hits (almost half of which being home runs) with 52 BB and just 18 K. When you’re flirting with an OPS that begins with 2.something, you’re doing something right. It’s hard to put up such monster numbers in a competitive baseball state like Florida without having some pretty intriguing physical abilities to match. Interestingly enough, one of his physical traits that seems to have talked about the most is something that not all agree is a good thing. Bichette’s “weird back elbow thing” has been brought up by multiple contacts as a potential point of concern going forward; others, however, aren’t bothered by it in the least. I suppose like any unique swing setup, it’s only an issue for those who don’t believe in him as a hitter in the first place. If you like him, it’s a fun quirk that will either work as a pro or be smoothed out just enough to keep working after getting in the cage a few dozen times with pro coaching.
If you don’t like him, then it’s hard to get past. This is far from a one-to-one comparison, but the never-ending discussion among scouts about Bichette’s mechanics at the plate reminds me of the internet’s incessant chatter about Maikel Franco’s “arm-bar swing.” Breaking down players’ mechanics to the point that no pro team ever does makes you stand out as super smart on the internet, you see. Less cynically, I’d acknowledge that young hitters are hard to judge, so it’s hard to blame a neutral observer tasked with making a long-term assessment on a prospect’s future for being concerned with a hitter who does something different at the plate. Different can get you fired in this business, after all.
My own stance on hitting/pitching mechanics hasn’t changed much over the years: if it works for the individual and he is comfortable repeating it consistently, let it ride. I get that there are instances where guys can get away with mechanical quirks against lesser competition that need to be noted and potentially tweaked as they advance, but, for the most part, positive results beget positive results. If a kid can hit, let them do what they do until they stop hitting. Then and only then do you swoop in and start making peripheral changes to the approach. Of course, this makes me sound like a caveman: results over process is a terrible way to analyze anything, especially if we’re trying to make any kind of predictive critical assessments. Process is critical, no doubt, but I’m open to all kinds of processes that get results; it should go without saying but just in case, there’s no “right” way to swing a bat. Open-mindedness about the process is as important as any other factor when scouting.
I guess my positive spin on players with unique mechanics is simple: if a guy like Bichette can hit the ball hard consistently with a “wrong” swing, then, as a scout confident in my team’s minor league coaching and development staff, I’d be pretty excited to get him signed to a contract to see what he could do once they “fix” him. Said fix would ideally be a tweak more than a total reconstruction – why completely tear down a productive player’s swing when you don’t have to? – but drafting a player you plan on drastically altering mechanically doesn’t make a ton of sense in the first place anyway.
Draft Bichette for his electric bat speed, above-average to plus raw power, and drastically improved whole-fields approach as a hitter. Draft him because he’s a solid runner who has flashed enough defensive tools to profile at multiple spots (3B, 2B, corner OF) on the diamond. Draft him because you believe that his “weird back elbow thing” can be channeled in a positive direction and turned into a helpful trigger when facing off against high-caliber arms. Don’t draft him to reinvent him as something he’s not.
There’s a lot there, so I’m not sure what more to add after Bichette’s stellar pro debut only confirmed what we already knew: dude can hit. Defensively, the jury is still out on where he’ll eventually land but the general consensus seems to be that it’ll be somewhere worthwhile. Whether that’s second, where Bichette saw time at when not playing shortstop this past summer, third, or in the outfield, his defense should be good enough to provide positive overall value once position is taken into account. With the way he swings the bat, that’ll play. Bichette has clear star upside with a future tied as closely to his bat almost as much as any 2016 draft peer. I’m buying here both because I really like Bichette and because almost everybody I talked to the last few months say that Toronto is the perfect landing spot for a guy like him. Feels like almost too easy a call at this point…
3.102 – RHP Zach Jackson
On Zach Jackson (48) from October 2015…
In addition to teammate AJ Puk, I’ve got three other SEC arms with realistic top ten draft hopes. Jackson’s chance for rising up to the 1-1 discussion depends almost entirely on his delivery and command. If those two things can be smoothed out this spring — they often go hand-in-hand — then his fastball (90-94, 96 peak), curve (deadly), and change (inconsistent but very promising) make him a potential top of the rotation starting pitcher.
I had Zach Jackson really high up in my pre-season rankings last October: eighth overall among college prospects and fifth among college pitchers. If you’ll indulge me with a little self-scouting here, I think the four pitchers I had at the top of my 2016 MLB Draft rankings eight full months ahead of the actual draft is instructive. My list then was Alec Hansen, Matt Krook, AJ Puk, and Jackson. Let’s look at how their college seasons actually played out…
13.08 K/9 – 6.80 BB/9 – 51.2 IP – 5.40 ERA
11.42 K/9 – 8.23 BB/9 – 53.2 IP – 5.03 ERA
12.35 K/9 – 4.52 BB/9 – 73.2 IP – 3.05 ERA
11.21 K/9 – 6.79 BB/9 – 53.0 IP – 5.09 ERA
Certainly seems like I have a type. Maybe this year I’ll chill a little bit on the power stuff/little control types. Eh, probably not. As for Jackson, can we just say that he is a righthanded version of Matt Krook (125th overall pick) and call it a day? Lazy analysis is my favorite kind of analysis, but we really should try to get a little bit deeper. Let’s look back at May 2016…
We’ll go with the pre-season evaluation on Jackson to hammer an old point home…
One of my favorite snippets of my notes comes in the Jackson section: “if he fixes delivery and command, watch out.” Well, duh. I could have said that about just about any upper-echelon arm in this age demographic. With Jackson, however, it reinforces just how special his stuff is when he’s right. I don’t think this college class has a pitch better than his curveball at its best.
I think Jackson’s delivery has made strides in 2016 – if not smoother, then certainly more repeatable – but questions about his command can now be partnered with similar concerns about his control. First round stuff + fifth round command/control = ultimate third round landing spot? I don’t know if the math checks out there, but I think the conclusion might wind up being correct. I also think that the scouting on Jackson can more or less be wrapped up for the season – we know what he is by now – so the attention of anybody assigned to watch him between now and June should be on determining if whatever is getting in the way of his stalled command progress and backwards trending control can be fixed through pro instruction and repetition. Jackson is the kind of maddening talent that can get an area scout promoted or canned, but his success or failure from this point forward is all about how he adapts to the pro development staffers tasked with guiding him along.
“First round stuff + fifth round command/control = ultimate third round landing spot” turned out to play out as guessed. Jackson at his best was probably my favorite college arm in this class to watch. The obvious problem was that he was rarely at his best. Great stuff consistently undermined by below-average command and control isn’t nearly as useful as it should be. Never say never, but I have a hard time seeing Jackson ever developing the kind of command necessary to make it work as a starter. Unleashing his fastball/curveball combination in short bursts against professionals should lead to big things. I’ll go out on a major limb and say that those things will be big enough that Jackson will one day be one of those free agent $10 million/year relief pitchers we’re all talking about during hot stove season.
4.132 – Joshua Palacios
Things to like about Josh Palacios (147): chance for above-average hit tool, above-average speed underway, and average raw power. Things to be concerned about Josh Palacios: average athleticism that doesn’t really play in center, iffy arm strength that doesn’t really play in right. If you’re thinking Palacios is an interesting offensive prospect with the inherent limitations that come with likely being limited to left field in the pros, then you might just be on to something. Of course, this was written before seeing the Jays played Palacios exclusively in center and right in his debut. Probably nothing more than a funny coincidence, but it is possible that Toronto views Palacios differently than we do.
5.162 – 2B Cavan Biggio
Old draft favorites are hard to give up. I’m going down with the Cavan Biggio (77) Future Big League Regular ship if it’s the last thing I do. A quick recent timeline of my Biggio love beginning in October 2015…
Without having seen every Notre Dame game the past two years — I’m good, but not that good — one might be confused as to how a player with Biggio’s pedigree and collection of scouting accolades (“line drive machine; born to hit; great pitch recognition; great approach, patient and aggressive all at once”…and that’s just what has been written here) could hit .250ish through two college seasons. I say we all agree to chalk it up to bad BABIP luck and eagerly anticipate a monster junior season that puts him squarely back in the first round mix where he belongs.
That monster junior season didn’t come to pass, but Biggio still had a solid final season (.311/.473/.454 with 54 BB/32 K and 14/14 SB) for the Irish. That final line (adjusted for competition) feels like the type of player Biggio can be at his peak: solid batting average, plenty of walks, some strikeouts, middling pop, and sneaky speed. More on him including a few comps from January 2016…
Biggio’s hit tool, patience, and ability to play important infield spots at a high level still have him at or near the first round range for me. Not sure if it’s instructive or not, but I like looking back at Biggio’s placement between Tyler O’Neill and Billy McKinney (the two hitters who signed pro deals that sandwiched Biggio in his initial draft year) and using that as a starting point as to what kind of hitter I think he can be as a professional. O’Neill if he sells out some of his patience and contact skills for power and McKinney if he keeps progressing as a hitter as is. McKinney in the infield is a pretty interesting prospect and one that I think can play his way into the first round even in a top-heavy year. Two pros that I’ve heard him compared to so far are Ryan Roberts (realistic floor) and Justin Turner (hopeful ceiling). I can see it.
Justin Turner had another incredible year for the Dodgers, so I think we can toss that comp right on out the window. Still like that (lefthanded) Ryan Roberts floor, though. A new ceiling comp that doesn’t really work but I still like: Derek Dietrich. Here’s Dietrich’s pre-draft report from Baseball America…
He’s a difficult player for scouts to judge because he doesn’t fit an obvious pro profile. His lefthanded bat brings value, as do his strong arm and developing power, and he tied his career high with 14 homers this spring. He plays hard and has been a serviceable college shortstop defensively. Scouts believe he lacks the footwork or athletic ability in his 6-foot-1, 196-pound frame to stay at short, though, and wonder if his footwork can improve enough for him to play at second. Most doubt that and believe third base is his best fit with the glove, and he may not produce enough power to profile as a regular there. He also could prove to be a versatile big leaguer in the mold of Geoff Blum or Scott Spiezio, who both had the advantage of switch-hitting.
Sounds a little Biggio-y to me, though I think Dietrich had a little more power upside whereas Biggio has a better idea at the plate. On to March 2016…
Sometimes I feel as though I’m the last remaining Cavan Biggio fan. I know that’s not literally true, but I do still believe in him as a potential long-time big league regular. Offensively he strikes me as the kind of player who will hit better as a pro than he ever did as a college player. I don’t have much of anything to back that opinion up, but this is a mock draft so unsubstantiated claims are part of the deal.
There you have it. Cavan Biggio: potential long-time big league regular. I think the hit tool (bat speed, pitch recognition, approach) and good enough power/speed are enough for him to profile as an every day contributor offensively while his glove at second should be dependable enough to make him an average or so all-around player. I’m comfortable enough betting on the hit tool that I don’t mind being on an island with that forecast. Now, we wait…
6.192 – DJ Daniels
This marks the fourth player selected by the Blue Jays already with a two-letter first name. They’ve already drafted a TJ, a JB, and a Bo. DJ Daniels is not only the fourth two-letter first namer, but he’s also (probably) the earliest draft pick that I had no pre-draft knowledge of. Without having completed all of the draft reviews yet I can’t say for sure, but I I think Daniels not only takes the crown but he demolishes all comers by at least ten rounds.
Unfortunately, his pro debut was nothing to write home about. An overall line of .100/.176/.125 in 131 PA equaled a wRC+ of 0. I’m fairly certain we’ve seen a few draft prospects with rookie season wRC+ figures in the negatives, so this isn’t the worst start of any 2016 MLB Draft prospect. That’s…something positive to glean from all this, I guess. It could have been worse? Working for Daniels is his outstanding athleticism and steady stream of glowing reports about his work ethic. Sometimes pro developmental staffs can mold these types into players.
7.222 – RHP Andy Ravel
I saw Andy Ravel pitch about an hour from me a few years back at Wilson HS in Reading, PA. I also saw him during his junior season at Kent State. He’s plenty impressive on the mound with a repertoire build more on quantity — 88-92 FB (94 peak), average-ish 79-81 SL, 75-78 CB that flashes average, nascent 78-82 CU with average upside — than quality that could led to a decent career as a crafty reliever if/when he figures out what offspeed he likes best, but I had no idea he was teammates with such a character. When I was looking at Ravel’s player page at Kent State doing some final pre-draft cramming, I couldn’t help but notice a section in his bio with the sentence starter “Is creeped out by ____.” I wondered if this was a standard thing for everybody — Ravel is creeped out by tight spaces, BTW — so I clicked another Kent State player’s name at random to double-check. Sure enough the “Is creeped out by ____” question comes standard in the “getting to know you” section of each player’s bio. Where am I going with this, you may be wondering. Well, the player 100% clicked at random to confirm the original question came standard just so happened to be a young man by the name of Tim Faix. Tim is creeped out by “the Nightman, goblins and ghouls.” Pretty entertaining so far, but there’s more. His “likes” include “the Dayman, karate, friendship and different cheeses.” He’s “interested in bird law.” If ever there was a reason for a team to draft a player based solely on answers from his bio, this is it. The Phillies dropped the ball here.
8.252 – RHP Kyle Weatherly
Kyle Weatherly’s (203) awesome junior college season at Grayson (11.78 K/9 and 2.26 BB/7 in 75.2 IP) confirmed what I thought I knew of him coming into the season: he’s really good. Weatherly’s fastball (90-94, 95 peak) is a weapon with serious sink; even better, unlike many young pitchers with plus movement, the righthander commands the pitch like a seasoned veteran. His slider (78-82) flashes above-average to plus, so a long-term sinker/slider future could very well be in the cards. That profile can work either in relief or as a backend starter. I tend to think he’s equipped to make it as the latter thanks to an already average low-80s changeup with more upside than that. Whether he starts or relieves I can’t say for sure, but I think Weatherly is a big league talent who will provide big league value in some capacity soon.
9.282 – RHP Nick Hartman
I like Nick Hartman quite a bit here in the ninth round. The righthander from Old Dominion was one of those “big stuff, iffy results” guys heading into his draft year, but he took the exact kind of leap you hope to see from a guy with a real chance to pitch in a big league bullpen one day. Even as his ERA remained more or less the same (5.14 to 4.81), his strikeouts went up (6.59 to 9.63) and his walks went down (4.50 to 2.96) all while showing the kind of big stuff (88-94 FB, 96 peak; quality 76-80 breaking ball) needed to avoid iffy results in the pros. You can question the wisdom of going for a college reliever with a fairly limited ceiling with a top ten round pick (I do), but at least the guy they targeted in the spot is good at what he does.
10.312 – LHP Kirby Snead
On a loaded Gators pitching staff (Puk, Dunning, Shore, Anderson, Moss), you’ll be forgiven if the name Kirby Snead doesn’t immediately spring to mind as a legit pro prospect. Heck, Snead is so overlooked that many forget and/or never realized that he was the other guy with AJ Puk on that fateful crane climbing night. But Snead is a dependable lefthanded reliever with decent stuff (87-91 FB, 76-79 SL that flashes above-average, 81-83 CU) and a long track record of success as a Gator. It’s not a sexy profile, but it’s not completely without value. Snead reminds me quite a bit of fellow Gator turned AL East participant Bobby Poyner. Incidentally, the only two men to reach the big leagues with the given first name of Kirby are either in the Hall of Fame (Puckett) or currently pitching in relief for the New York Yankees (Yates). I’d say that augurs good things to come for Snead. If I know anything at all about Kirby’s (and I don’t), then he’s certain to swallow their respective powers and become the HOF reliever he was meant to be.
11.342 – LHP Travis Hosterman
17-years old when drafted. Lefthanded. Upper-80s fastball, peaking at 92. Above-average mid-70s breaking ball. Promising changeup. Good size. That’s Travis Hosterman (239). Sounds good to me.
12.372 – C Ridge Smith
When WordPress notifies me of a rare traffic spike that can be linked back to a different site sending people my way, you’d better believe I’m clicking on the referring site to see what people are saying about me. One common theme I’ve noticed over the years is that many accuse me of using hundreds of words when dozens will do. Can’t say they are wrong, really. Heck, even that opening sentence feels needlessly wordy. Maybe it’s an ego thing and I just like to read my own stuff. Maybe I’m just not a natural at this whole writing business. Whatever the reason, it’s a fair criticism. I do tend to go long far too often when something more concise would do the trick instead. Not so with Ridge Smith (459), one of the most interesting mid-round college catching prospects around. I managed to bring up Ridge three different times over the past ninth months without ever writing more than three sentences at a time about his game.
I’m not sure Ridge Smith is a catcher over the long haul, but he’s got the athleticism to give it a go as a pro. Failing that, he could still put that athleticism (and above-average speed) to good use at either third or an outfield spot.
Ridge Smith is a really nice draft sleeper with experience at a variety of positions and a bat that has produced going on three seasons now.
I like Ridge Smith a lot as a potential Swiss Army knife do-everything defensive prospect at the next level. He can catch, play first and third, and even hang in the outfield.
It was great to see that Toronto played Ridge exclusively at catcher in his pro debut; if he’s going to sneak his way to the big leagues as an everyday player, that’s the position he needs to play. As with most (all?) position player prospects drafted in round twelve or later, his most likely best case scenario is making it as a bench player and spot starter. In that role, your versatility as a defender plays a huge part in your usefulness. I’ve long been a fan of a backup catcher that can play other spots as well, so it should be no shock that I think Ridge has a legit chance of reaching the big leagues in that role.
14.432 – RHP Chris Hall
The fourteenth round is when you start seeing college catchers turned relievers with mid-90s heat, above-average sliders, and inconsistent command go off the board. Hey, there goes Chris Hall.
15.462 – RHP Josh Winckowski
17-years-old when drafted. Righthanded. Upper-80s fastball. Impressive changeup. Usable curve. Good size. That’s Josh Winckowski. I approve.
18.552 – 3B Bradley Jones
I like taking a hearty swing on Bradley Jones (308) in the eighteenth round quite a bit. Though he split his time between only first and third in the pros, the versatile defender played a variety of spots (1B, SS, 3B, OF) as a Cougar. In the same way that twelfth round pick Ridge Smith was praised for his ability to move around the diamond, Jones should be commended for his flexible glove. It probably goes without saying, but the ability to plug multiple holes in a lineup gives any young player a leg up on the many similar hitters vying for eventual big league bench jobs.
20.612 – RHP Angel Alicea
I have a strong affinity for SWAC prospects and Angel Alicea happened to be one of the best in 2016. The athletic righthander followed up his stellar junior season at Alabama State (13.99 K/9 and 3.66 BB/9 in 29.2 IP) with a very similar run in the pros (12.40 K/9 and 2.76 BB/9 in 32.2 IP). That kind of production combined with legitimate pro stuff (90-93 FB, good 80-82 SL) make Alicea a good bit more intriguing than your typical twentieth round pick.
21.642 – RHP Mitch McKown
Nothing on Mitch McKown before the draft, nothing on Mitch McKown after a few minutes of searching the web. All I know is that his abridged sophomore season at Seminole State was a bust (7 H, 11 ER, and 10 BB in 5.0 IP) and his pro debut was somehow arguably worse (9 H, 15 ER, 18 BB, 4 HBP, and 13 WP in 7.2 IP). He was also pretty brutal as a freshman, when a 2.98 K/9 and 4.47 BB/9 turned into a 6.59 ERA in 42.1 IP. I’m rooting hard for McKown to make it because this would be the ultimate “it doesn’t matter how you start” story to encourage all slow starting athletes everywhere. Move over Derek Jeter and your 56 errors in your first full pro season. Step aside Mike Schmidt and his.197 BA through his first two big league seasons. Let me tell you youngsters about Mitch McKown. You may now know him as big league all-star Mitch McKown, but back in the day…
22.672 – RHP Connor Eller
As the most recent of the eight draft picks to come out of Ouachita Baptist in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, Connor Eller stands to be the latest and greatest chance for a player from the school to reach the big leagues in the draft era. With an aggressive approach on the hill, quality heater (88-92, 94-95 peak), a variety of offspeed toys he commands nicely, and a deceptive delivery, Eller has a chance to make it as a funky righthanded reliever.
23.702 – OF Dom Abbadessa
I won’t pretend to be an expert on Dom Abbadessa, but early returns on the highly athletic, plus running, easy defender in center have been positive. It’s a true leadoff CF profile if it works out perfectly with a shot to still leverage his speed and defense as a fifth outfielder if it doesn’t.
24.732 – RHP Mike Ellenbest
I’ve called guys “generic righthanded middle relief prospects” in the past. People don’t like that. I’ve had coaches, parents, and even players admonish me in the comments or via email about their dissatisfaction with that characterization. I get why you wouldn’t want your player/son/self called “generic,” but there’s no harm intended with the phrasing. In fact, I don’t even think generic, in the most literal sense, is all that pejorative. And it’s not like guys are being called generic nobodies. They are still being called “prospects,” generic or not. Anyway, 88-92 MPH with the fastball with a trio of decent but hardly world-beating offspeed pitches (CB, CU, SL) is kind of my general definition of a potential “generic righthanded middle relief prospect.” That’s Mike Ellenbest.
27.822 – C Ryan Gold
There’s some temptation to slag Toronto’s draft because they took so many players that I knew little to nothing about prior to the draft. Ryan Gold is the fifth signed player in a row that have left me scrambling to find something interesting to write. Pointing out Gold’s nice debut (.280/.359/.402 in 92 PA) as a lefthanded hitting teenage catcher is a little interesting, right?
29.882 – RHP Andrew Deramo
I’m not so humble to say that sneaking a Division I prospect by me is a rarity, so nice work by Toronto getting Andrew Deramo from Central Florida through in the twenty-ninth round. I had nothing on Deramo in my notes. That’s not super weird considering the junior college transfer played only one year as a Knight after coming over from Northwest Florida JC (home of Anthony Molina and Jarrett Montgomery, among others, for 2017!), but I typically catch pitchers with strikeout rates like Deramo’s 10.13 K/9. If I had to guess, I’d figure that he came up when I was doing my final pre-draft sweep of the nation only to be disqualified due to his 5.40 BB/9. Intrepid reporter that I am, I can pass along this fine article on Deramo’s signing that mentions a fastball up to 94 MPH. Good velocity, good size (6-6, 210), and good strikeout numbers in his one year at Central Florida add up to a good pick in the twenty-ninth round that I completely whiffed on before the draft.
30.912 – LHP Jake Fishman
Probably my biggest regret every draft season is not getting the time to spotlight the many small school and/or lower-division prospects that I have notes on. Within that regret is another layer of regret specific to certain players that I really want to write about, but keep finding reasons to push back behind other bigger named players. I try to be as inclusive as possible — a few larger media outlets that have expressed some interest in what is done here have literally all given me the same feedback that I’ll forever happily ignore: ditch the deep dive nonsense and focus 95% of your writing on potential first round prospects — but as just one guy with a full-time job, part-time job, wife, and kid on the way, sometimes players (and schools) (and entire levels of competition) don’t make the cut.
That’s a long way of saying that I’m super bummed that I never got around to writing up Jake Fishman on the site this past year. It may seem a tad disingenuous to declare that after the fact, so the decision whether or not to trust me is entirely up to you. A pretty easy case could be made for Jake Fishman as college baseball’s best all-around player in 2016. As a pitcher, his track record is tough to top: 11.59 K/9 and 1.50 BB/9 (0.41 ERA) in 66.0 IP. Those 66 innings came in just nine starts. Elementary school math means that Fishman averaged 7.1 IP per start. Six of his nine starts were complete games. Three of those complete games were shutouts. That’s a special kind of dominance. As a hitter, Fishman finished second on the team in BA (.361), first in OBP (.438), and third in SLG (.489). No truth to the rumor that the do-everything Fishman catered the team’s post-game spread and handled all the laundry himself.
Great college players do not necessarily make great pro prospects. Fishman, however, isn’t some overachieving, limited prospect drafted solely due to his achievements as a college athlete. Fishman can play with the big boys. Drafted as a pitcher allows us to focus only on his pro impact on that side of the ball
With a low-90s fastball (up to 92) with incredible sink — something that stunned my one buddy and likely one of the few people on the planet who saw Fishman during his junior season at Union College AND in his first pro season (“Fastball never moved like that when I saw him at Union”) — and an astute ability to self-scout (same buddy from before: “He remind[ed] me of [Trevor] Bauer, in the best ways. Maybe [more] like a lefty Brian Bannister.”], Fishman’s physical gifts line up with his track record of collegiate dominance. He’s good. Don’t let the thirtieth round distinction fool you; Fishman has the stuff and smarts to pitch in the big leagues.
32.972 – 1B David Jacob
I’ve done this gimmick once before, but it’s getting late and I’ve spent too much time playing around with future White Sox lineups after the big Chris Sale/Adam Eaton trades so…here are my unfinished notes on David Jacob that were originally only meant to be a placeholder…
Coming off a .392/.486/.613 senior season at Division II Quincy,
with 32 BB/12 K in 204 AB
tore up GCL
.304/.392/.472 (21 BB/24 K)
young for class (20-years-old when drafted)
sleeper potential who has hit at every stop – why doubt him now
33.1002 – RHP Brayden Bouchey
On Brayden Bouchey (and a few other things) from March 2016…
Bouchey came into the year with lackluster peripherals (3.75 K/9 and 4.00 BB/9 in 36.1 IP last year) despite intriguing stuff. In weighing performance vs projection, I tend to put more weight on the former when compared to “real” scouts. You can’t scout solely off of statistical output, but it’s a really big piece of the puzzle. This is where the internet can be a bit of a bummer. To get heard, you need to go to extremes. Whether that means extolling the virtues of a player who has put up big numbers with neutral or worse scouting reports (and getting blasted for scouting the box score and discounting projection as a factor) or holding on to beliefs formed in one short look at a player despite all statistical evidence to the contrary (and getting ripped by those who believe development is linear and Heisman Trophies equate to pro success), you need to be LOUD to get recognized. Moderate approaches that attempt to balance a multitude of factors are not nearly as fun to read about, I guess. There’s no need to constantly be hedging one’s bets along the way – that’s simply not realistic – but a little patience, humility, and self-awareness on the part of the evaluator can go a long way.
I personally don’t think there’s anything about baseball that’s all that complicated, at least outside of actually playing it well at a high level. Playing is hard, but watching and forming opinions about what you’ve watched is a pretty straightforward endeavor. With few exceptions, if a player has put up impressive numbers at every level of competition along the way, then said player deserves to keep getting chances until he doesn’t. Conversely, if a player have the kind of physical ability that is apparent to a five-year old on his or her first ever day at the park, he’s entitled to a few extra shots even after he’s shown he’s not yet ready to consistently produce. There’s no need to pick a side: the draft goes forty rounds deep every year for a reason, there’s room for all types to get their shot. Some guys produce and produce and produce without it ever looking like they should be able to do the things they do; others can keep it up against a certain level of competition before their fatal flaws are exploited. Some guys take a really long time to go from toolsy athlete to high-performing ballplayer; others never really get past just being bigger, faster, and more athletic than their peers enough to develop the necessary skills they’ll need later on.
With Bouchey you get the best (or worst, if you’re a glass half-empty type) of both worlds. Coming into the season, his numbers left little to get excited about. His scouting reports, however, were uniformly upbeat: his 88-92 fastball with real sink, promising curve, plus command, deception in his delivery, and intriguing size (6-6, 210) had those who had seen him up close encouraged about his future. In his case, projection appears to be winning out over prior production, at least now that the (small sample size!) results (12.15 K/9 and 3.31 BB/9 in 16.1 IP) have caught up to his talent level. It doesn’t always work out quite this well, so we’ll enjoy it for now…and hope that Bouchey has turned the corner as a prospect. As with Hill, I’m in.
Bouchey went from 3.75 K/9 as a sophomore to 9.26 K/9 as a junior to 13.15 K/9 in his 26 inning professional debut. Go figure. His BB/9 has also climbed with every passing year before peaking (for now?) at 5.88 in the pros. All of the positives listed above — sinking fastball, curve with upside, plus command, deception, size — remain, and now there are some nice peripherals to back it all up. If he can curb some of his recent wild ways, then I see a long career in middle relief for a guy picked after 1,001 other players in the class.
35.1062 – RHP Jared Carkuff
Seriously, the MLB Draft is the best. I’m well aware that the odds of any player outside of the first few rounds making a lasting impact on the big leagues aren’t particularly high. I know there are national draft writers who constantly mock readers who ask questions about non-first round picks; it’s not a nice thing to do and I wish that they’d be more into finding players because, you know, it’s THEIR JOB, but, statistically, they aren’t wrong. I get that going this deep with any one draft class isn’t for everybody. But if you really like baseball, amateur scouting, and/or player development, then finding legitimate big league prospects in the thirty-fifth round is exactly what makes the MLB Draft so much fun. There’s talent everywhere if you’re willing to do the work to find it and nurture it.
Jared Carkuff is a really good relief prospect. He pitched well for four seasons at Austin Peay (8.09 K/9 and 3.24 BB/9 in 55.2 IP as a senior), he pitched well in his first pro season (12.52 K/9 and 1.35 BB/9 in 26.2 IP), and I’m willing to bet he keeps pitching well into his second, third, and fourth pro seasons. Carkuff pitches off a low-90s (94 peak) sinking fastball that pairs quite nicely with an above-average 83-84 MPH slider. He keeps balls on the ground, he misses bats, and, though he’s no spring chicken in the context of a 2016 draftee (23 this past August), he could still stand to put on some good weight on his 6-4, 160 pound frame. Solid present stuff with years of positive results and a little bit of physical projection left? What more could you ask for in the thirty-fifth round. Long live the MLB Draft and long live Jared Carkuff.
37.1122 – LHP Luke Gillingham
Lots to get to about Luke Gillingham, one of college ball’s most famous players over the past few seasons. I’m not 100% positive if that’s a true statement or not — the fame part, not the lots to say part…I’m always sure I have a lot to say about thirty-seventh round picks — but I’m pretty sure I got as many questions over the past twenty-four months about Gillingham as all other draft-eligible college prospects combined. Let’s first go back to March 2015…
JR LHP Luke Gillingham, the aforementioned Navy pitcher putting up video game numbers (again: 13 strikeouts per start) to start the season, was originally tenth on my ranking of pitchers in the conference. I’ve said before that I don’t want to alter these “pre-season” rankings based on overreacting to one month’s worth of data, but I feel like I should be forgiven for making Gillingham one of my few exceptions. Gillingham has been one of college baseball’s best stories this winter, but I’m more interested in understanding the professional implications his hot start could lead to. It’s not exactly a performance out of nowhere as he’s been a prospect since high school who was only under the radar back then due to an injury that wiped out his entire senior season. At Navy he’s consistently missed bats (7.13 K/9 in 2013, 7.81 K/9 in 2014) while showing above-average control of good but not overwhelming stuff highlighted by a mid- to upper-80s fastball that he commands really well. Ultimately, Gillingham is a better college story than pro prospect, but that doesn’t mean his talent needs to be outright dismissed, either. If willing and permitted to start a pro career this summer there’s definitely a draft-worthy talent here.
And then a little more recently in February 2016…
This year I’m happy to update Gillingham’s profile to include some specific numbers on the fastball (85-89) and make mention of improvements with both of his offspeed offerings (curve and change, both of which flash average to above-average). I stand by the assertion that he’s a better college story (human interest, really) than pro prospect, but I think we can move his draft grade up a notch or two now that he’s seen a small but meaningful jump in stuff. He’s still a long shot, but the pros outweigh the cons when considering the “risk” of taking him in the mid- to late-rounds. At best he’s a matchup lefty of some value and at worst he’s a fine ambassador for your organization.
And then just a few days before the draft…
There’s so much to like with this year’s Navy team. Luke Gillingham is the big name as the crafty lefty who has carved up opposing hitters for four straight seasons. When his current year (8.87 K/9 and 1.96 ERA) is seen as a “down season,” in some circles, it says something about his overall track record to date. I think he’s got enough going for him (85-89 FB, low-70s CB that flashes above-average, a much improved CU) that his plus command and deception will keep him pitching professionally for as long as he’d like.
Gillingham’s incredible junior season looks like the outlier year of his college career, but that means that the “real” version of him is an almost a strikeout per inning starting pitcher with impeccable control and well above-average run prevention abilities. Being short on stuff will make his potential climb up the professional ladder more challenging than his college track record (and fame) might suggest, but going on record as the guy who doubted Luke Gillingham in pro ball isn’t something I’m fighting to put on my résumé. I’m thrilled Toronto is giving Gillingham a chance. Even with a fastball that can’t quite crack ninety, he has a shot. Bo Bichette feels like the kind of potential star that can make or break this draft class, so maybe all the words on the double-digit round prospects is overkill…but I love what Toronto did later in the draft almost as much as what any team did in the same post-round twenty or so. Gillingham is a part of that late round haul that could give Toronto a few quality role players and relief options. Getting those guys essentially for free for three seasons (and three more cheap years beyond that) is directly related to saving cash that keeps the established stars around. Late rounds matter.
39.1182 – OF Chavez Young
I think my takes are generally on the measured side around here, so forgive me for wanting to sneak in a scorcher down at the bottom of one of these draft reviews. Nobody actually reads these entire things anyway, right? Here we go: Chavez Young to Toronto in the thirty-ninth round is the literal best pick in the draft. I always say that getting any high school prospect signed in a double-digit round is a major victory. Getting a thirty-ninth (!) high school pick signed is incredible. Best yet, Chavez is a really good prospect! The native of the Bahamas is a fantastic athlete with plus speed, center field range, an above-average to plus arm, and enough offensive upside (solid approach, real pop) to make giving him time to catch up to the speed of pro ball worth it. Fantastic work by Toronto nailing down Young’s number needed to sign and getting him into pro ball. Even if the pick itself doesn’t work out, the process is impossible not to love.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Chris Lincoln (UC Santa Barbara), Dominic Taccolini (Arkansas), Clayton Keyes (Washington State), Spencer Van Scoyoc (Arizona State)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Pittsburgh in 2016
13 – Will Craig
32 – Braeden Ogle
106 – Max Kranick
155 – Stephen Alemais
220 – Cam Vieaux
260 – Austin Shields
331 – Dylan Prohoroff
473 – Travis MacGregor
1.22 – 3B Will Craig
I like everything about Will Craig (13) minus the position that comes before his name above. My #notascout observations of him over the years has me believing Craig, despite being blessed with a huge right arm, is not a third baseman. He’s a first baseman through and through. That bit of “bad” news out of the way allows to instead focus on what Craig does well. In short, the man can hit. From January 2016…
I think I’m going to keep touting JR 1B/RHP Will Craig as the righthanded AJ Reed until he starts getting some serious national recognition. I cited that name in the college draft preview from October, so might as well keep mentioning it over and over and over…
Do you like power? How about patience? What about a guy with power, patience, and the athleticism to pull off collegiate two-way duty? For everybody who missed on AJ Reed the first time around, Will Craig is here to give you a second chance. I won’t say he’ll be the first base prospect that finally tests how high a first base prospect can go in a post-PED draft landscape, but if he has a big enough junior season…
I love Craig. In past years I might back down some from the love from reasons both fair (positional value, certain scouty quibbles about bat speed and timing) and not (seeing him ignored by all the major media outlets so much that I start to question my own judgment), but I see little way that will be the case with Craig. Sure, he could force my hand by cratering out with a disappointing junior season (a la Ryan Howard back in the day), but that would only shift him from sleeper first round talent to sleeper fifth round value. His is a bat I believe in and I’m willing to ride or die with it.
I still like the righthanded AJ Reed comparison as a baseline for what Craig could be in pro ball. His power, smarts, and underrated athleticism make him the rare bat-first prospect to warrant a first round draft grade. His fit with the organization that drafted him, however, is a bit trickier to figure. Assuming the Pirates don’t keep trying to jam Craig’s round peg defense into the third base square hole, the long-term plan for the Wake Forest star in Pittsburgh seems muddled at best. Josh Bell seems like he has first base on lock for the foreseeable future, so where does that leave Craig? I know, I know…worrying about too much prospect depth at certain positions is a waste of time as these things tend to work themselves out on the diamond sooner rather than later. Still, Bell is really good and, even with the curious decision to have their first round pick avoid full-season ball in his debut, Craig doesn’t figure to be in the minors for long. I don’t think you draft a player with the twenty-second overall pick with the intention of developing him primarily as trade bait, but something has to give. Wherever he lands, I think his upside as a top ten player at first base makes this pick a worthwhile endeavor. I understand the value of accumulating young players on the happy side of the defensive spectrum, but there’s nothing wrong with betting on bats sometimes. Craig is a good one to bet on.
2.68 – RHP Travis MacGregor
I’ve got nothing on Travis MacGregor (473) that you can’t easily find elsewhere on the internet. Young, athletic, projectable righthander with the chance to remain a starter due to flashes of a solid yet unspectacular three-pitch mix. I’m not in love with it this early, but the Pirates are notorious for being of a handful of teams that draft “off the board” with no fear of public backlash. It’s commendable, really. I’m not sure it’ll necessarily work out here, but I still respect the process.
3.105 – SS Stephen Alemais
Stephen Alemais (155) has the look of a consistently above-average defensive shortstop with just enough offensive skill that you don’t feel terrible batting him eighth (NL) or ninth (AL) in the lineup because you know you’re not getting a total zero there. At worst, it’s a glove-first utility profile. It’s not a pick that gets you pumping your fist on draft day as a fan, but it’s fine enough for the third round — I had him as more of a fifth rounder, so it’s not crazy off — that you can’t kill it for being a gross draft day miscalculation. Neither great nor awful, this pick just is, man.
4.135 – LHP Braeden Ogle
It’s admittedly a bit difficult to qualify the pre-draft ranking gulf between Travis MacGregor and Braeden Ogle (32), so I’ll do my best and you can let me know if it makes any sense at all. First, the two prospects are very similar. We should get that out of the way early. The fact that Pittsburgh valued them so similarly on draft day — no matter the rankings of an internet draft guy like me — speaks to that. Both are high school pitching prospects with impressive college commitments, plenty of projection left, quality “now” velocity, and enough feel for their offspeed that staying in the rotation seems like a good bet going forward. Where Ogle wins for me is pretty simple: more heat (90-94 FB, 96 peak), more upside with his breaking ball (75-78 CB, could be above-average to plus in time), better present changeup (80-82), and an edge in handedness (lefty > righty, right or wrong). Are those advantages enough to explain the stark difference in pre-draft evaluation of each young pitcher relative to the rest of the class? Not really, no. Some of the mid-spring helium that floated Ogle as high as it did wound up doing the trick on me and I probably ranked him higher than his skill set warranted.
Long story short: both Ogle and MacGregor are solid prep pitching prospects worth gambling on within the draft’s top ten rounds. I overrated Ogle and underrated MacGregor before the draft, but the two are fairly similar prospects once you cut away all the excess fat. I still prefer Ogle for the reasons stated above — lefties with mid-90s velocity who have the depth of stuff to remain in the rotation aren’t typically around this late — but am open to reasonable arguments opting for MacGregor. Both have mid-rotation upside if it all works out with Ogle having both the higher probability of getting there and the better chance for more.
5.165 – RHP Blake Cederlind
The Pirates really like to make us internet draft guys work. Like many, I didn’t have much on Blake Cederlind prior to the draft. His stuff, namely mid-90s heat that moves, should have been enough to get him a mention on the site, but two years of scary control (9.58 BB/9 and 5.31 BB/9) kept me away. Obviously Pittsburgh was confident that they could fix Cederlind’s control once they got their hands on him, so taking a chance on a good relief prospect with a big arm and decent breaking ball works for me in the fifth round.
6.195 – LHP Cam Vieaux
On Cam Vieaux (220) from April 2016…
Vieaux throws hard, can spin two effective breaking balls, and knows when to drop in his improving low-80s change. I think he can remain in the rotation professionally.
I really like Vieaux as a potential back of the rotation big league starter. He checks all the familiar boxes: solid fastball (86-92, 94 peak), quality assortment of offspeed stuff (he’ll flash an above-average 75-78 CB, above-average 77-81 SL, and average 81-83 CU, though each pitch has seen some ups and downs over the years) that gives him options when one secondary offering is working better than the rest, sturdy frame (6-5, 200 pounds), solid athleticism, good control. Probably the biggest thing working against him — minus the absence of a singular consistent above-average to plus pitch he can rely on every trip to the mound — is his age. Vieaux will be 24-years-old at the onset of his first full pro season. If he is to achieve that fourth starter ceiling I think he’s capable of, then he needs to get moving fast.
7.225 – C Brent Gibbs
I’m not an expert on Brent Gibbs, but everything I know about him I like an awful lot. The Indiana transfer wound up hitting a ton (.396/.497/.590 with 15 BB/22 K) at Central Arizona for his redshirt-sophomore season. He’s got good size, a plus to plus-plus arm, and nothing but favorable reports about his defense behind the plate. Even if you’re not completely sold on the inflated junior college offensive onslaught, Gibbs is the kind of defensive asset at catcher that teams love to push up their system. If he hits, he can be a regular catcher in the big leagues. If not, he’s got enough going for him elsewhere to be a backup for years to come. Nice pick here.
8.255 – RHP Dylan Prohoroff
I had Dylan Prohoroff (311) listed as a high school pitcher to know back in 2013 when he was topping out at 87 MPH. Now he’s hitting 97 regularly. Pretty cool progress by him. Wrote some nice things about him almost three years later in March 2016…
Prohoroff’s game is a little more reliant on his fastball, a pitch that sits in the low-90s with the occasional forays to 95-96-97. His breaking ball isn’t as far along as you’d like, but the arm strength, size, and production all point toward a potential middle reliever future with continued growth.
I got some pretty good reports on his 78-83 hybrid breaking ball past that point, so the ingredients are certainly there for a long career in middle relief for Prohoroff if he can stay healthy and keep throwing strikes. The ceiling may not be all that exciting, but I think the certainty of his floor is a nice way to diversify the draft portfolio.
9.285 – OF Clark Eagan
Clark Eagan could be a lefthanded hitting four-corner (1B-3B-LF-RF) platoon player if he can keep hitting. He reminds me some of Matt Diorio, the Pirates sixteenth round pick profiled below. Eagan’s slight chance of playing some third base ups his value some in the same way that Diorio’s slight shot at catching helps his cause. Both have flashed contact skills, power, and some semblance of an approach in the past, but a lot of pressure will be on their bats going forward if they are to make it or not.
10.315 – RHP Matt Anderson
On Matt Anderson from May 2016…
Matt Anderson is a favorite that proved this year he’s ready for pro ball. With a solid fastball (88-92, 94 peak), plus change, and an average or better breaking ball, I think he can keep starting in the pros. He’s one of the best senior-sign out there from both a stuff and performance perspective.
He is what we thought he was. Matt Anderson by the numbers…
12.41 K/9 and 4.03 BB/9 in 29.0 IP
12.77 K/9 and 4.13 BB/9 in 91.2 IP
Top was Anderson in his debut for West Virginia, bottom was Anderson in his senior season at Morehead State. In a perfect world Anderson wouldn’t walk so many guys, but I can live with his wild ways so long as he keeps missing bats. My pre-draft evaluation pushed for him to remain a starter in the pros, something I still think he can do for the foreseeable future. If he has to make the move to relief, however, then I think his already potent changeup will look even better when paired up with a (hopefully) amped up fastball (88-92, 94 peak as a starter). The Pirates played the senior-sign game perfectly here by getting Anderson to sign for $10,000 here in the tenth round.
11.345 – RHP Max Kranick
I see a lot of local guys over the course of the winter/spring, but the schedule never worked out for me to make the two hour trek north to Valley View HS. If it had, I could have seen Max Kranick (106) up close and personal. I did, however, see him last summer and have plenty of notes on him otherwise, so I don’t feel too bad about the senior season whiff. On the plus side, I saved some money on gas and tolls. Anyway, Kranick is good. His fastball (87-93, 94-95 peak) has a shot to be a plus pitch even without overwhelming velocity (though he could still had a few tickets as he fills out) thanks to his ability to sink it, cut it, run it, and command it. His mid- to upper-70s breaking ball moves between a curve and a slider needs some polish, but flashes above-average enough to give you confidence it’ll be at least a consistent average pitch in time. I like what little I’ve seen out of his low-80s changeup, too. All in all, it’s the kind of three-pitch mix, command, and frame that strongly suggests a future pitching every fifth day. Between Kranick, Braeden Ogle, and Travis MacGregor, the Pirates may have landed two-fifths (pitcher attrition and all) of a future rotation.
12.375 – C Arden Pabst
Arden Pabst making it to the big leagues will be a success of scouting over stats. The scouts see a sure-handed catcher who has shown the ability to handle pro pitching defensively since his days as a teenage prospect at Harvard-Westlake HS. They also see a better hitter, both in terms of contact skills and power upside, than he’s shown thus far in his post-prep career. I get all that, and it wouldn’t surprise me (much…) if he had a long, successful career as a big league backup catcher for those reasons. The stats, however, are a concern. Pabst was a .234/.326/.333 hitter (44 BB/91 K) in 372 AB while at Georgia Tech. The gap between what the scouts see and what he’s done is fairly significant. Even if the former group is on to something, they’d have to REALLY be on to something if Pabst is going to go from .234/.326/.333 in college to the big leagues. I’ve liked him in the past for the scout-y reasons, but can’t vouch for the pick at this point. When a guy’s absolute best case scouting profile paints him as an average offensive player (admittedly at a premium defensive spot where he’s really good, but I’m trying to make a point here so let’s ignore that for now) then I’d really like to see an established, specific offensive skill already on the board before considering using a top 500 pick on him. Pabst didn’t show that in three years as a Yellow Jacket. No contact, no patience, no power. The light bulb could still go on, but I don’t think the eventual upside if it does makes it worth it to find out. If all that makes me a “box score scout,” the worst pejorative a wannabe scout on the internet can be called, then so be it.
13.405 – RHP John Pomeroy
Coincidentally or not, everything written about Arden Pabst above can be applied to John Pomeroy here. The scouts surely see Pomeroy and are intrigued because why wouldn’t a heavy mid-90s fastball (up to 98) and emerging low-80s slider get their attention? That potential late-game stuff has been seriously undermined by Pomeroy’s complete lack of control. In limited innings as a Beaver, Pomeroy has put up BB/9’s of 7.64 (10.2 IP) and 8.57 (6.1 IP). Those parenthetical innings totals are relevant, too: for better (fresh arm, small sample forgiveness) or worse (too wild to trust, needs more in-game experience to fairly assess), Pomeroy simply hasn’t gotten out onto a mound in a competitive environment enough since his senior year of high school. A 12.51 BB/9 in 13.2 IP during his pro debut doesn’t exactly help assuage concerns over his long-term future.
Still, I like this pick more than the one round earlier for a few small reasons. First, and maybe stupidly on my end, Pomeroy’s path to a big league role seems much shorter and simpler than Pabst’s. We’re comparing apples and oranges here (or pitchers and catchers, more accurately), but the market for relief pitching (590 pitchers came out of the bullpen at least once for MLB teams in 2016) is larger than the need for catchers (104 MLB players caught at least one inning in 2016). That’s a fairly obvious point, but sometimes obvious is all right. Second, I think the distance between what Pomeroy is and what he could be is shorter than Pabst’s. Pomeroy pretty clearly has the stuff to miss bats (11.85 K/9 in his small sample debut), but lacks the control. Pabst may or may not have the goods to play in the bigs depending on who you talk to and when. Pro coaching could be the key to unlocking Pomeroy’s upside; the same could be true for Pabst, but it seems less likely from where I’m sitting. Finally, Pomeroy’s track record, while bad, is short. That actually works in his favor here. I’d rather roll the dice on the guy with the bad but shorter track record than on a guy like Pabst, who has a bad but long track record. Pomeroy has the advantage of the unknown on his side. It’s not necessarily fair, but that’s the way life goes sometimes.
Pomeroy pitching to Pabst is a thing that will likely happen so if it hasn’t happened already. That’s cool.
15.465 – RHP Danny Beddes
Letting Danny Beddes loose in a professional bullpen seems like a very good idea to me. The hulking righthander (6-6, 240) has shown power stuff (90-95 FB, 85-87 cutter, 80-82 CB) as a college starter that could play up even more in shorter outings. I’m in on Beddes, pro relief prospect.
16.495 – OF Matt Diorio
On Matt Diorio from January 2016…
Diorio is a pretty straight forward prospect for me right now: he can really hit, but his defensive future is highly uncertain. As a catcher he could rise up as one of the handful of top names in this class, but the “as a catcher” qualifier is something easier said than done. The good news is that many who know Diorio better than I do have insisted to me that he’s athletic enough to play some corner outfield in the event the idea of catching goes belly up. Framed as a potential corner outfielder/first baseman who occasionally can catch, Diorio’s path to the big leagues suddenly gets a little clearer. In a perfect world he’s a backstop all the way, but a super-utility player who can hit is hardly without value.
Diorio didn’t catch in his debut with the Pittsburgh organization, but that won’t stop me from holding out hope that they’ll consider trying him behind the plate again someday. If not, his road to the big leagues could be a tough one to navigate. Diorio is a really interesting offensive player for me because I think he can hit, I think his approach his solid, and I think his power is intriguing. Checking all three of those offensive boxes should make him a slam dunk offensive prospect, but he’s not all that close to being at that level. I guess the easiest way to explain that is to say that he’s kind of a “master of none” type of hitter. He does everything fairly well, but nothing so well that he gives off any certain big league hitter vibes. He’s talented enough to get there in a backup role — especially if a big league team believes in him as a catcher who can do the job once or twice a week — but it’s going to take a whole lot of hitting at every level to get there.
17.525 – RHP Matt Frawley
Young for his class (turned 21 in August) and coming off a season more good than great (7.03 K/9 in 74.1 IP), Matt Frawley seemed more likely to be a potential premium 2017 MLB Draft senior-sign candidate to me than a signable 2016 pick. The Pirates did their homework and scooped up an interesting relief prospect capable of hitting the low-90s (up to 94) with a solid breaking ball for a $60,000 bonus in the seventeenth round. That’s probably more than Frawley would have gotten as a senior-sign, so win-win-win here. The third win goes to fans of the West Virginia Black Bears, who got to see Frawley mow down the competition (10.61 K/9 and 2.89 BB/9 in 28.0 IP) in his summer debut.
18.555 – SS Kevin Mahala
Concerns about how his defense and approach (10 BB/34 K) would translate to pro ball caused me to leave Kevin Mahala off my 2016 draft list even after his strong (.286/.326/.461) junior season at George Washington. That looks to be a mistake after his solid debut with the Pirates. I’m still not entirely sold, but I could be talked into Mahala, who played lots of second, some third, and a little bit of short in his debut, having some utility player appeal if he keeps hitting.
20.615 – RHP Adam Oller
On Adam Oller from February 2016…
Oller has really impressive stuff with three pitches profiling as average or better professionally, but the lackluster track record of missed bats (4.75 K/9 in 2015) is worrisome. If the breakout happens in 2016 we’ll know why. I’m cautiously optimistic.
Did the breakout happen? Oller upped his K/9 (5.99) and dropped his ERA (2.58 to 1.23), but still didn’t quite miss enough bats on the whole to qualify for true breakout status. Still, college ERAs of 2.44, 2.58, and 1.23 in three years carrying a heavy load for Northwestern State (92.1 IP, 108.1 IP, 109.2 IP) have to count for something. His pro debut saw his strikeout numbers go up (7.57 K/9) while his ERA did the same (4.45). That’s…confusing. Confused or not, I still like him as a potential relief option down the line for the Pirates. Oller has enough fastball (87-92), two quality offspeed pitches, and above-average command and control.
21.645 – RHP Matt Eckelman
Matt Eckelman is a quality senior-sign relief prospect with a solid fastball (87-92), a decent assortment of offspeed stuff, and good size. He’s actually a lot like the man picked one round ahead of him, Adam Oller. Go figure.
22.675 – RHP Brandon Bingel
I liked Brandon Bingel a little better as a position player (second base) than I did on the mound, so what do I know. The logic in turning out Bingel as a full-time pitcher makes sense, though. He’s an athletic, aggressive strike-thrower with velocity on the rise (88-92, 93 peak) and a hard mid-80s slider that flashes plus. I’m pro-athlete when it comes to pitchers and Bingel is as athletic as they come, so you could say I like this pro athlete. That was terrible and I am sorry.
23.705 – OF Garrett Brown
On Garrett Brown from March 2015…
SR OF Garrett Brown (Western Carolina) gets a spot on these rankings as long as he has college eligibility left. He’s a sensational athlete with plus-plus speed who brings a football mentality to the diamond. I could see the fans of the team that drafts him in June confused at what they are getting if they check the numbers, but if he ever devotes himself to baseball full-time then it’ll all make sense. I’m not prognosticating anything specific when it comes to Brown’s future, but rather pointing out how appealing a late round gamble he’ll be.
Fans would surely have been confused if Brown would have been drafted (he wasn’t) after his 2015 season (.206/.270/.206 with 1 BB/11 K in 34 AB), but I can’t imagine too many Pirates fans are all that puzzled by the team taking a shot on the crazy athletic former wide receiver coming off a .325/.374/.442 (11 BB/28 K) full season at Western Carolina. In terms of recent baseball experience, Brown might as well be considered a high school prospect rather than a redshirt-senior college graduate. He’ll be 23-years-old as he enters his first full pro season, but I don’t see his age being as much of an impediment to his long-term development than others might. Brown has clear big league traits (speed, defense, athleticism) with enough offensive upside to keep him employed for years to come. One contact of mine likened his upside and potential pro impact to that of Andrew Toles, an old draft favorite around here.
25.765 – OF Hunter Owen
Righthanded power will always be valued on draft day more than I anticipate. Hunter Owen delivers in that area. Without much to say beyond that, I’ll note that I found it interesting that Owen played a few innings each at both third base and second base in his debut. Left field was still his primary home, but it bears watching going forward. Could be that the Pirates needed a body in the infield on a few given days. We shall see.
26.795 – RHP Robbie Coursel
Despite two solid years of peripherals at Florida Atlantic, I don’t have much on Robbie Coursel. If I had to guess based on what the Pirates have done so far, I’d go with average velocity, decent offspeed, and above-average command. Add it up and it’s a potential middle relief option if everything breaks just so.
27.825 – SS Tyler Leffler
On Tyler Leffler from March 2016…
I have no idea what to make of Tyler Leffler, a shortstop who looked poised for a breakout draft season last year only to see his batting average drop almost in half from his sophomore season. A year ago I would have considered him a promising bat-first prospect with serious questions about his long-term defensive future. Now his glove seems to have passed his bat – and not just because of his 2015 struggles – and his offensive game is what will determine if he can be a mid- to late-round sleeper future regular or more of a utility prospect at best. I give him a lot of credit for the defensive improvements and I’m anxious to see if a big senior season can get him back on the draft radar for most teams.
Turns out I’ve spent a lot of time over the years pondering the future of a college baseball player from Bradley with a utility infielder perfect world ceiling in pro ball. In fairness, check out Leffler by the numbers during his college run…
2013: .298/.372/.377 – 13 BB/28 K – 4/5 SB – 151 AB
2014: .354/.464/.470 – 16 BB/25 K – 2/6 SB – 181 AB
2015: .193/.308/.255 – 23 BB/35 K – 4/6 SB – 192 AB
2016: .313/.402/.474 – 17 BB/25 K – 1/1 SB – 192 AB
You can see why one might look at those lines and see an ascending hitter ready to break out in a major way heading in his first college draft year (2015), right? He then fell on his face as a junior before going right back to his sophomore year production as a senior. On top of that, the tone of the buzz of Leffler has been comically up-and-down going back to his freshman year. He went from “bat-first prospect destined for the outfield” to “who the heck knows what’s up with him as a hitter, but pretty solid in the infield” in a flash. A friend who has seen a lot of Leffler over the years called him a “college version of Ryan Rua.” Did that mean that he felt Leffler had the upside of Rua or what? Asked to clarify, he said that, no, he meant Leffler was the literal college version of a player like Rua in the pros. I’m not sure if I explained it well, but in any event that’s a vote against Leffler having much of a professional career. I tend to agree. Leffler was still one of the most fascinating college players I can remember following, so at least there’s that.
29.885 – RHP Geoff Hartlieb
Geoff Hartlieb has the hard sinker (up to 95) and impressive slider combination to keep on getting ground ball outs and soft contact as a pro. Between Adam Oller, Brandon Bingel, and Hartlieb, I think the Pirates scooped up at least one future big league reliever past the twentieth round. That’s not super exciting, but there’s value there.
31.945 – LHP Jordan Jess
You can add Jordan Jess to that maybe/maybe not future big league reliever pile. The big (6-3, 240) lefthander has the fastball (88-92) and recent track record of missing bats (8.65 K/9 in 2015, 11.71 K/9 in 2016) to keep getting innings in the pros. He’s taken full advantage of his early opportunities (9.85 K/9, 2.55 BB/9, 2.55 ERA in 24.2 IP), though it should be noted that he’ll have to move quickly as a prospect set to begin his first full season in 2017 at the age of 24.
33.1005 – RHP Austin Shields
LOVE this one for the Pirates. Austin Shields (260) may or may not work out over the long run, but the idea behind this pick makes it a winner in my book no matter the outcome. Shields is a big (6-6, 240) Canadian righthander with a fastball already up to 95 MPH (88-93 usually) and a low-80s slider that flashes. He could be a nice starting pitching prospect if he develops a third pitch and improves his command. He could be a big-bodied reliever with power stuff that nobody likes to face late in games. He could never make it out of Low-A if his progress stalls as a pro. Nothing would really surprise me with a prospect like Shields — and that’s more about the archetype we’ve seen before (big, cold weather, good fastball, inconsistent breaking ball, nothing soft, iffy command) than the specific player — but why not take a chance on a guy already showing you the kind of stuff Shields has flashed way down in the thirty-third round? For only about $100,000 over slot, too. Great gamble by Pittsburgh at this point.
35.1065 – RHP Pasquale Mazzoccoli
The last two seasons for Pasquale Mazzoccoli fascinate me. Maybe they’ll interest you as well. Maybe not. Maybe I needed a hook for the last Pirates prospect to find and decided to go with this. Take a look…
2015: 5.55 K/9 – 4.40 BB/9 – 47.0 IP – 4.02 ERA
2016: 10.64 K/9 – 4.43 BB/9 – 40.2 IP – 4.43 ERA
Same walks, similar innings, similar earned runs allowed…but he almost doubled his strikeout rate. That’s weird, right? Doubling one’s strikeout rate is odd enough (IMO), but doing so while just about everything else in your game remains the same is downright wacky. You’d think the ERA would have dropped some if nothing else. My mother’s maiden name is Paladino, so seeing Pasquale Mazzoccoli, up to 94 MPH with his fastball this past season at Texas State, succeed in the pros would be pretty cool. As one of the draft’s oldest prospects, he’ll have to get busy in a hurry. Mazzoccoli will be 25-years-old (!) when his first full season kicks off. Bryce Harper, big league veteran of 657 games played through five MLB seasons, is seven months younger than Mazzoccoli. Age isn’t everything, but…I don’t know how to finish that in a way that’s all that complimentary to Mazzoccoli’s chances at ever seeing the big leagues.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Nick Lodolo (TCU), Hagen Owenby (East Tennessee State), Pearson McMahan (St. John’s River State JC), Austin Bodrato (Florida), Michael Danielak (Dartmouth), Chris Cook (East Tennessee State), Ben Miller (Nebraska), Craig Dedelow (Nebraska), Dustin Williams (Oklahoma State), Colin Brockhouse (Ball State), Aaron Maher (East Tennessee State), Harrison Wenson (Michigan), Bret Boswell (Texas)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Tampa in 2016
9 – Josh Lowe
47 – Jake Fraley
136 – Zack Trageton
157 – Easton McGee
206 – JD Busfield
234 – Ryan Boldt
251 – Nathaniel Lowe
338 – Dalton Moats
401 – Austin Franklin
1.13 – 3B Joshua Lowe
I love Josh Lowe (9). There’s really no other way to put it. His collection of tools is unlike any other prospect in this year’s draft class. The power, speed, arm strength, and athleticism are all top shelf. That little (9) next to his name doesn’t do his upside justice; sifting through the top tier of this draft was a challenge, but that doesn’t mean I don’t already regret not ranking Lowe even higher than I did. Honestly, a few months of reflection on this draft’s top tier has me questioning if Lowe shouldn’t have been picked first overall. With so much confusion at the top, maybe pure straight unadulterated upside should have won out. That’s Lowe. More on him from May 2016 featuring some of my patented pre-draft hedging and a rather lofty comp…
He’s a little bit of a higher variance prospect than Jones – more upside if it all clicks, but less certainty he turns into a solid professional than I’d put on Jones – so if I was a real scouting director with real future earnings on the line, I’m not sure I’d take him quite as high as he could wind up on my final rankings. The possibility, however, that he winds up as the best player to come out of this class is very real. He reminds me just a little bit of an opposite-hand version of this guy…
Bryant entered the summer with lofty expectations, but he often looked overmatched at the plate during the showcase circuit last summer. When he’s on, he’s a treat to watch. He has a lean, 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame and light-tower power that draws comparisons to a young Troy Glaus. The power, however, mostly shows up during batting practice or when he has a metal bat in his hands. There are a lot of moving parts to his swing and he has trouble barreling balls up with wood, so how much usable power he ends up having is a big question. He has a long, loopy swing and he never changes his approach when he’s struggling. He’s athletic for a big guy and may be able to handle third base. He has the arm for it, and some scouts said they wouldn’t be shocked if he eventually ended up on the mound. Some scouts love Bryant’s power enough to take him in the back half of the first round, while others turned him in as a token gesture and have little interest in him–especially for the price it will take to lure him away from his San Diego commitment.
I really, really like Josh Lowe, if that’s not already clear. I mean, I did once kind of compare him to Babe Ruth. I think a team would be justified taking either Lowe or Jones in the top ten…and quite possibly the top five…or maybe even top three. Let me stop now before I really get too far ahead of myself.
Give Lowe three years at Florida State and I have to believe he’d come out the other side as a draft prospect in the same 1-1 mix that Bryant was a few years back. Getting him at pick thirteen before he truly blows up as a prospect makes this pick as good as it gets. Whether he sticks at the hot corner or makes the predicted move to center, I think Lowe’s career trajectory will take him on a path to stardom. He’s the kind of talent who will compete for MVPs at the highest level. I really can’t say enough about how much I love this pick.
2.53 – OF Ryan Boldt
On Ryan Boldt (234) from October 2015…
World Wide Wes said it best: “You can’t chase the night.” Of course that doesn’t stop me from trying to chase missed players from previous draft classes. Nobody was talking about Andrew Benintendi last year at this time — in part because of the confusion that comes with draft-eligible true sophomores, but still — so attempting to get a head-start on the “next Benintendi” seems like a thing to do. As a well-rounded center fielder with a sweet swing and impressive plate coverage, Boldt could be that guy.
I should have listened! Why didn’t I listen? World Wide Wes is never wrong. Ryan Boldt is fine. He’s a good runner with legitimate center field range, so the speed/defense thing automatically gives him a long leash in the pro game. I genuinely believe in his hit tool — lots of line drives, advanced approach despite disappointing junior season BB/K, impressive plate coverage — playing at the highest level, but his lack of present functional power could keep him from being an above-average offensive contributor. Barring a breakthrough I’m no longer willing to predict for him, Boldt’s best case scenario outcome looks like an average regular in center with the more likely outcome being a high-level fourth outfielder and spot starter. It’s a reasonable enough floor with as yet untapped upside that I don’t hate it in the abstract, but there were plenty of college outfielders available here (Woodman, Reynolds, Dawson, Quinn, Fisher) that I would have personally preferred.
Oddly enough, the pro player comp I’ve used on Boldt over the years happens to be long-time (Devil) Ray Randy Winn. Maybe it was meant to be.
2.77 – OF Jake Fraley
In the pick analysis above, I mentioned a bunch of college outfielders I liked more than Ryan Boldt. One such outfielder is none other than the man Tampa took later that very same round, Jake Fraley (47). Nice little bit of redemption for the Rays, as if they cared. A very enthusiastic Fraley take from January 2016…
JR OF Jake Fraley is an outstanding prospect. I may have actually underrated him despite ranking him twentieth overall in the college class back in October. Here’s what was written then…
In a class with potential superstars like Lewis, Reed, and Ray roaming outfields at the top, it would be easy to overlook Fraley, a tooled-up center fielder with lightning in his wrists, an unusually balanced swing, and the patient approach of a future leadoff hitter. Do so at your own discretion. Since I started the site in 2009 there’s been at least one LSU outfielder drafted every year. That includes five top-three round picks (Mitchell, Landry, Mahtook, Jones, and Stevenson) in seven classes. Outfielder U seems poised to keep the overall streak alive and make the top three round run a cool six out of eight in 2016.
That fact about the outfielders still blows my mind. Six out of eight years with a top three round outfielder is one heck of a run for any university. Anyway, peers ranked over Fraley this year (according to me back in October) included names like Lewis, Reed, Ray, Boldt, and Reynolds. Banks, Wrenn, Quinn, Abreu, Brooks, and Dawson came next. I think if I had to do it again today with a few more months of research and thought under my belt, I would have Fraley behind only Lewis, Reed, and Ray, and in as close to a tie as humanly possible with Reynolds. He’s really good. In what is surely an unfair thing to say based on the sheer awesomeness of this guy’s numbers last year, I can see some opportunity for a Benintendi-like breakout for Fraley in 2016.
As it turned out, the only college outfielders who finished above Fraley on my final rankings were Lewis, Ray, Fisher, and Reynolds. I stand by that, of course, but not without a little uneasiness. What Fraley does well, he does really well: hit, run, defend. Like Boldt (and any speed/defense type), those attributes will keep him gainfully employed — in as much as the pittance minor league players make can be called this — for as long as he’s willing to chase the big league dream. I prefer Fraley’s hit/run/defend tools all over Boldt’s, and think his clear edge in plate discipline makes him a much better option offensively going forward. The aforementioned uneasiness comes when looking at a problem all too common with players like Fraley: power, or, more specifically, a lack thereof. It isn’t so much Fraley’s lack of present power that troubles me, but the fact his power potential doesn’t figure to make him much of an extra base threat (speed-assisted gappers excepted) could alter how pro pitching approaches him. I still think Fraley’s strengths are strong enough to make him a big league regular in center, but the lack of thunder in his bat limits the likelihood just enough that I won’t call him the stone cold mortal lock future big league starting center fielder I’d like to. Going super obvious and comparing Fraley to former LSU teammate Andrew Stevenson doesn’t bother me at all. Sometimes obvious comps are obvious for a reason.
3.90 – RHP Austin Franklin
Due to a rumored strong to VERY strong Stanford commitment, I didn’t spend nearly as much time digging around for information on Austin Franklin (401) before the draft as I should have. As such, some of my pre-draft information on him (86-92 FB, 93 peak) was a little dated by June (similar sitting velocity, but more consistent mid-90s peaks). That fastball combined with his really good 78 MPH curve give him a really nice one-two punch to handle young pro hitters. Definitely get a mid-rotation starting pitching vibe from Franklin based on everybody I’ve checked in with these past few months. Nice work by Tampa getting him signed for a good price in the third round.
4.120 – RHP Easton McGee
Easton McGee (157) could very well be the poster prospect for my “big guy who pitches like a little guy before filling out and getting the best of both worlds at maturity” prep pitching archetype. McGee’s present stuff — 85-90 FB, 93 peak; pair of offspeed pitches (SL and CU) that flash above-average; usable low-70s CB — doesn’t blow you away, but the way he uses it shows an appreciation for his craft well beyond his years. You walk away thinking how impressive the 6-6, 200 pound high school prospect will look once his body more completely fills out, his fastball bumps up a few ticks, and his offspeed stuff sharpens. Well, the pros have him listed at 6-7, 220 pounds, so we’re on our way to finding out. I’m bullish on McGee’s future.
5.150 – RHP Mikey York
Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but Mikey York makes it three consecutive young righthanded pitchers selected by Tampa in a row that I can’t help but like. York is an athletic, quick-armed (89-93, 94-95 peak) Tommy John survivor coming off a monster year (11.28 K/9 and 2.96 BB/9 in 48.2 IP) at the College of Southern Nevada. His change is a solid present pitch already and his 72-75 MPH curve flashes plus. I could see him either being developed as a three-pitch starter or getting fast-tracked in relief depending on what the Rays prefer. Either option is a viable one, so I’d let York keep starting until he shows he can’t. Like Franklin and McGee, there’s mid-rotation upside if it keeps clicking.
6.180 – RHP Zack Trageton
Why not make it four straight quality righthanders in a row? Tampa stayed in Nevada but moved from the junior college ranks to high school to find Zack Trageton (136) from Faith Lutheran HS in Las Vegas. There’s a ton to like about Trageton’s game. As one of the youngest prospects in his class (only 18 as of September 2), Trageton brings a steadily improving fastball (88-92, 94 peak) with room to grow, a potentially above-average upper-70s breaking ball, and all kinds of athleticism to the mound. His changeup is behind the three righthanders picked directly in front of him, but that’s about the only thing you can ding him on at the moment. I think a clear case can be made that Trageton has the most upside of any pitcher taken by Tampa in this class.
7.210 – RHP JD Busfield
On JD Busfield (206) from March 2016…
JD Busfield has the size (6-7, 230) that gets him noticed as he steps off the bus. His fastball velocity ranges from the mid-80s all the way up to a mid-90s (94-95) peak, but those wild fluctuations are largely because of the big sink he’s able to get at varying velocities. That sink, his impressive low-80s slider, and the silly amount of extension he gets with every pitch put him on the (no longer) short list of pitchers I want to dig into available batted ball data on.
How do 71 ground balls compared to 40 combined fly balls, line drives, and pop ups sound? I don’t know about you, but it’s music to my ears. Busfield’s early ground ball tendencies (64%) line up perfectly with his plus sinker, above-average slider, and exceptional extension off the mound. If it all works out, then maybe Busfield can follow a path similar to Doug Fister’s and become a bowling bowl tossing rotation fixture. A more reasonable outcome could be something like what Jared Hughes has done out of the Pittsburgh bullpen. Either way, it’s the kind of profile that’s worth a shot in round seven.
8.240 – LHP Kenny Rosenberg
On Kenny Rosenberg from March 2016…
For Kenny Rosenberg, however, the simple phrase “VIDEO GAME” felt appropriate. He’s whiffed 57 guys with only 10 walks in 41.1 innings of 1.96 ERA ball. It’s the best strikeout rate of any pitcher on the team and his ERA is third among qualifiers (first among starters). He’s not doing it with junk, either: Rosenberg lives 87-92 and has shown above-average command of three offspeed pitches. I don’t know how high his upside is, but I’m willing to keep watching him sit hitters down until we figure it out.
Rosenberg kept on missing bats as a pro, going from 10.84 at Cal State Northridge to 10.49 across two levels in his debut. Solid heat (87-92 FB, 93 peak) and command of three offspeed pitches (curve, change, cutter) give him a shot to do a little damage in relief.
9.270 – RHP Peter Bayer
An outstanding pro debut (12.40 K/9, 0.83 BB/9, 0.83 ERA) has thrust Peter Bayer back into the prospect spotlight after a surprising (to me) transfer from Richmond to Cal Poly Pomona took him out of it. I honestly lost track of him after he left the Spiders. My last real notes on Bayer from the site commented on his strong freshman season at Richmond and a promising frame you could dream on. His bonkers senior season (14.13 K/9 and 5.63 BB/9) as a Bronco and increased fastball velocity — something he credits to his work with Kyle Boddy and the Driveline guys — got him a shot in pro ball, and so far he’s run with it. I’m intrigued. With that heat now into the mid-90s and projection left in his 6-4, 200 pound frame (to say nothing of what else he might be able to accomplish using the damn intriguing methods at Driveline Baseball), Bayer is one of the sneakier high ceiling draft prospects around.
10.300 – RHP Spencer Jones
Spencer Jones is not entirely different from the pitcher selected just one round ahead of him, Peter Bayer. Jones has size (6-5, 200), an improving heater, a plus change, and a strong recent college track record all working in his favor.
12.360 – RHP Brandon Lawson
Brandon Lawson’s jump from 2015 (9.40 K/9, 4.60 BB/9, 6.40 ERA) to 2016 (9.89 K/9, 2.67 BB/9, 2.50 ERA) was one of college ball’s most pleasant surprises. That performance boost was enough to get Lawson on my personal draft radar (and clearly more than enough to get the attention of Tampa’s front office), but his solid but unspectacular righthanded relief profile (88-92 FB, 94 peak; average SL) didn’t move the needle for me much beyond that.
13.390 – 1B Nathaniel Lowe
I jump around from player to player when writing these draft reviews, often saving the guys I have either little to say about or too much to say about until the end. It didn’t occur to me until this very moment that the last two Tampa prospects that I need to write about are the Lowe brothers. My problem with both Josh and Nathaniel is that there is there is too much to say about them both, almost all of it positive. Who wants to read about sunshine and lollipops and future baseball stars? No snark, no edge, no style. What a snooze. Anyway, here’s some words on Nathaniel Lowe (251) from April 2016…
Nathaniel Lowe is a legitimate FAVORITE who has exceeded my lofty hopes for his 2016 re-entry to major college ball. Lowe and the aforementioned Jack Kruger might just be brothers from different mothers. Lowe, like Kruger, spent a year at a D1 program (Mercer), transferred to a well-regarded junior college (St. Johns River), and then hit the ground running back in D1 at Mississippi State. I know I just published these rankings a few days ago, but he’s too low already. Lowe is an exciting power bat in a class that needs them.
I don’t know what else to add. Sometimes a guy can just hit. Lowe can hit. Being locked into first base makes breaking through at the big league level a challenge, but I truly believe Lowe can be enough of an offensive force to make it work. Nobody I talked to throughout the spring was nearly as high on Lowe as I was; the “positive” reports tended to be centered around forecasting a lefty bench bat future if he makes it at all. I never really saw that and am pleased the very early returns (63 AB) on Lowe as a bat in need of protection against lefthanded pitching seem misguided. Again, we’re talking just 63 AB, but the big lefty from Mississippi State hit .365/.488/.619 against same-sided pitching in his debut. Maybe that doesn’t mean as much as I think it does, but I think the ongoing adjustments that Lowe seems to make as a hitter speak well to his ability to grow as an all-around bat in the professional ranks. It’s a stretch for a variety of reasons, but I dream of a Lowe, Lowe, and (Brandon) Lowe infield one day in Tampa.
14.420 – 2B Miles Mastrobuoni
I like this one for both Tampa and Miles Mastrobuoni. The Rays get an interesting prospect in the fourteenth round and Mastrobuoni gets to go to an open-minded organization more likely to value his skill set than most. It’ll still be a tough climb for a prospect likely locked into second with below-average power, but Mastrobuoni’s approach, speed, and steadying defensive influence at the keystone make him more interesting than his any right to be. Bonus points for being one of the younger college prospects in this class.
15.450 – LHP Dalton Moats
The Rays potentially landed another major steal in the fifteenth round with Dalton Moats (338). It’s a bit of a leap of faith considering Moats’s one year at Coastal Carolina was an abject failure (2.77 K/9 and 6.46 ERA in 39.0 IP) and present upper-80s fastball, but two solid seasons at Delta State and intriguing offspeed stuff including a curve that flashes plus and a change with promise makes it a risk worth taking. Early pro returns have been encouraging both in terms of results (8.70 K/9 and 1.50 BB/9 in 30.0 IP) and an uptick in velocity (more frequent 92-93 peaks).
18.540 – LHP Sam Long
Have to like a live-armed lefthander with decent college results and enough stuff (86-92 FB, above-average CU) and command (above-average to plus) to keep starting in the pros. That’s what Tampa got when they paid Sam Long in the eighteenth round.
19.570 – 3B Jim Haley
Jim Haley has an odd profile at the hot corner — solid speed, minimal power — but he’s been a consistent producer at the college level with a history of making lots of quality contact. If he can prove to be a little more versatile defensively, then he’s got an outside shot to keep climbing the ladder and make it as a utility guy.
20.600 – SS Kevin Santiago
Kevin Santiago hit .303/.415/.504 with 19 BB/30 K in 149 PA as a freshman at Miami-Dade JC, where the Puerto Rico native wound up after turning down both Cincinnati (39th round pick) and the University of Miami (his original college commitment) after the 2015 MLB Draft. The tools are there, so polishing up some of the rough edges around his game (including a generally impatient approach at the dish) will be the developmental challenge of the Rays on-field staff.
23.690 – OF Isaac Benard
A better internet sleuth than I might find more on Isaac Benard. All I have are what I assume are incomplete numbers (.395/.484/.526 with 13 BB/6 K in 94 PA) from his most recent season at Mt. Hood JC in Oregon. Seems reasonably promising.
24.720 – RHP Joe Serrapica
Joe Serrapica has a good fastball (90-94) and a history of missing bats (9.86 K/9 in 84.0 IP as a senior) that has stayed true as a pro. That’ll work.
25.750 – RHP Matthew Vogel
After a blink and you’d miss it career at South Carolina, Matt Vogel will take his shot in the pros. So far, so good: the 28.0 innings Vogel threw in his debut were almost as many (38.1 IP) as he pitched in his three years at South Carolina. Combine that inexperience with his prep background as a cold-weather (New York) state prospect and some of his college wildness (41 career walks) begins to look a little more forgivable. Also working in his favor are below-average but not outright terrible summer league numbers (5.63 BB/9 in the Coastal Plains League). His wild ways are also easier to take when you see a guy flashing plus velocity (90-95, 97 peak) and a nasty breaking ball (when he can command it). The twenty-fifth round is the perfect time to roll the dice on a live arm with control issues, and I have a weird instinctual hunch that this one could work out for the Rays down the line.
27.810 – 2B Robbie Tenerowicz
“He’s way better than his numbers show” was a familiar refrain from scouts who saw Robbie Tenerowicz play this past spring. This came up for two reasons, one obvious and one unexpected. The obvious reason is that Tenerowicz has plenty of as yet unseen upside as a ballplayer. He’s a really good defender at second (with enough arm to potentially get some time on the left side of the infield and/or the outfield if needed), he’s an average or slightly above-average runner, and he’s got very real above-average raw power, a rarity for a second base prospect at any level. Tenerowicz was also one of those guys that I had contacts repeatedly tell me had a much better approach at the plate than was reflected in his numbers (12 BB/31 K).
The other reason why I had so many people warn me not to sleep on Tenerowicz was because of his personality. Every single contact I talked to mentioned how fascinating a guy he was. There’s a whole lot of love out there for Robbie Tenerowicz the person; if you think that doesn’t matter late in the draft, you’re badly mistaken. High makeup guys are important for what it means to their own careers, but also for how their personalities rub off on the clubhouse and other perhaps more talented prospects in the organization. This whole article is well worth a click, but I’ll highlight my two favorite parts. First, Tenerowicz on why he was leaning towards turning pro…
“I’m pretty sure I’m going to go,” Tenerowicz said. “It’s a good opportunity. You never know what happens. It’s probably — well, not probably — it’s the best job offer I’ll ever get, so I feel like I have to take it, and I want to take it, and I like the Rays. I like [area scout] Allen Hall. I talk to him a good amount before the draft, and I really like him, and I think I look good in their colors, too. It’ll make my eyes pop.”
And then on his likely replacement at Cal (Ripken Reyes) with a very much appreciated take on how he views the game…
“He’s good,” Tenerowicz said. “He’s the opposite of me. I look really lazy sometimes, and I’m not, and he looks like he’s moving at 100 miles an hour, and once he tones that down, he might be better than me. I tell him every day he’s never going to be better than me — jokingly — but I think keeping it loose like that, showing him that it’s not boot camp; we’re still playing baseball, that helped him a little bit. He’s going to be really good, though. I’ll tell you that.”
All in all, I don’t really know what to make of Tenerowicz. I’m rooting for him, clearly, but beyond that I don’t know what kind of player he’ll be. The tools and makeup are damn intriguing, but the overly aggressive approach at the plate has always been the deepest shade of offensive red flag for me. Some guys are talented enough to hit with an approach like that while others improve as they mature, but the vast majority of 21-year-old college hitters who come out of school with career marks of 36 BB to 92 K don’t make it all that far in the pro game. I wouldn’t bet on anybody with those odds, but I wouldn’t bet against Tenerowicz, either.
28.840 – C Jean Ramirez
I don’t have much love for a good but not great college catcher who will be 24-years-old going into his first full pro season, but I’m willing to acknowledge the Rays, who have actually seen Jean Ramirez play multiple times up close and personal (I have not), likely know more about the catcher from Illinois State than I do.
29.870 – 2B Trek Stemp
Much of the same logic applied towards my lukewarm feeling about the Jean Ramirez pick one round earlier applies to Trek Stemp as well. Tough for me to get too excited about a 23-year-old outfielder with underwhelming college numbers. Been wrong before, though.
31.930 – C Joey Roach
This class and college catching, man. So many quality options from round one all the way down to round forty. In this case, the Rays find a dependable college catcher with four legit years of big production for Georgia State in round thirty-one. Joey Roach may not be a star, but he’s an offensive backstop with power, a strong approach at the plate, and a steadying presence behind it. If he can hang on long enough and keep hitting, he’s got a shot to play in the big leagues. I like this one.
32.960 – SS Deion Tansel
I like this one, too. Deion Tansel is another dependable glove at an up-the-middle defensive spot with enough offensive upside to maybe carve out a big league role someday. If he does make it, it’ll be on the strength of his above-average to plus speed, outstanding approach (64 BB/42 K in his career at Toledo), and defensive versatility.
34.1020 – 1B Bobby Melley
All right, now this is just getting weird. First Joey Roach, then Deion Tansel, and now Bobby Melley. That’s three of my favorite college senior bats taken in a four-round stretch by Tampa. Really nice turnaround from the Jean Ramirez/Trek Stemp back-to-back. Here’s some love for Melley from March 2016…
Bobby Melley has his so far this year, too. Combine that with a consistent track record of patience (88 BB/80 K coming into the season) and flashes of power (his 2014 was legit) and you’ve got yourself a really underrated senior-sign slugging first base prospect. His strong glove and good size are nice perks, too.
Sounds about right. Like Roach and Tansel, Melley entered pro ball with a legitimate four-year track record of hitting at the college level. Worth noting that all three hitters had big senior seasons that included at least as many walks as strikeouts. In Massey’s case, he walked 12 more times than he whiffed (42 to 30) while piling up a .313/.436/.518 final season at Connecticut. At some point I think Melley’s hitting is going to be too much for the experts to ignore. I’m not an expert, but I do think Massey is a damn good ballplayer and a potential big leaguer.
35.1050 – LHP Alex Estrella
I don’t think Alex Estrella will be a star — see what I did there??? — but a low-90s lefty with a good changeup in the thirty-fifth round is nice value all the same. Matchup reliever upside.
36.1080 – RHP Anthony Parente
Can’t say I see the logic in picking Anthony Parente after his shaky sophomore season at Fullerton JC (5.54 K/9, 5.81 BB/9, 2.16 HBP/9), but the Rays must have seen something they liked. I can dig it.
38.1140 – RHP Brian McAfee
I’ll bury a quick rant against Baseball America here where nobody will likely ever read it. I like Baseball America a lot. Even with the brain drain of the last half-decade or so (countless good people lost to competing sites and MLB scouting staffs), the site remains a tremendous resource for anybody (such as myself) into amateur and minor league baseball. I use their publicly available information — mostly via their writers on Twitter — to help round out opinions on players I might not otherwise have a ton of my own notes for and make the full attempt to credit and link them whenever appropriate. I don’t steal from them and I certainly don’t copy their rankings; in fact, I literally haven’t looked at their pre-draft rankings in years.
HOWEVER, a friend of mine recently alerted me to Baseball America’s pre-draft ranking of Brian McAfee. BA ranked McAfee, a fine pitcher to be sure who is probably better at baseball than I am at any one thing, as the 355th best prospect in the 2016 MLB Draft class. In a word, that ranking is laughable. What kills me is the complete absence of evidence in McAfee’s “scouting report” that supports the ranking. That report literally contains this line: “he could be a fine organizational solider with the makeup to be more.” If organizational solider with a chance for more is what you are getting with the 355th best prospect in the draft, then there’s really no point in ranking 145 players past that point. So why was McAfee ranked where he was? The easy answer would be the North Carolina connection. BA may be staffed with plenty of Tar Heels, but the love for all local universities (BA’s offices are in Durham) is fairly easy to spot in their coverage. Proximity bias is real, and, honestly, it’s not that big a deal to me. You see a guy enough and you’re going to put him higher on your rankings, consciously or not, than a similarly talented player who is just a name on a page. Or maybe you throw some local coaches and contacts a bone by giving their guy a little extra love in the rankings if it means getting better information in the future. I get it. That’s not why I think McAfee was ranked where he was, though. McAfee was a Blue Devil for only one season. Prior to that, he was at Cornell. One of Baseball America’s draft writers just so happens to be a Cornell grad and unabashed homer for his alma mater. Sometimes 2 + 2 = 4 and that’s that. It’s a bummer for any fan of the draft that relies on Baseball America’s rankings and doesn’t have the time to sort out one draft writer’s weird, unprofessional desire to prop up one of his own, but something something state of modern journalism something something.
(I’m not a scout nor do I write for Baseball America, but I saw Brian McAfee when he was pitching for Cornell. I liked him as a potential sinker/slider middle relief prospect then. I still do today. Early returns on that sinker/slider combination are really encouraging: MLB Farm has his batted ball data at 72.41% ground balls through his first 28.2 pro innings. I don’t think he’ll ever miss enough bats to be much of a threat to ever pitch in the big leagues [his 6.36 K/9 at Duke was a college career high], but there’s a place in pro ball for a reliever with extreme ground ball tendencies. I love high GB% pitchers, so I’ll be rooting for him.)
(I should also add that Ben Badler is the best. He’s not a draft guy, but he’s still a must-read and easily the best thing the site has to offer. That’s not a knock on any of the other guys there, but rather a testament to his industry-leading excellence. If you’re here you probably know all this already, but had to add get this out there just in case.)
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Zach Thompson (Kentucky), Dominic Miroglio (San Francisco), Wyatt Mills (Gonzaga), John McMillon (Texas Tech), Freddy Villarreal (Houston), Justin Glover (Georgia), KV Edwards (Coastal Carolina), Ryan Zeferjahn (Kansas), Joshua Martinez (?), Andrew Daschbach (Stanford)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Houston in 2016
26 – Forrest Whitley
82 – Ronnie Dawson
88 – Jake Rogers
200 – Carmen Benedetti
230 – Ryne Birk
265 – Stephen Wrenn
327 – Dustin Hunt
478 – Taylor Jones
488 – Brett Adcock
498 – Chad Donato
1.17 – RHP Forrest Whitley
On Forrest Whitley (26) from April 2016…
You really shouldn’t have a first round mock draft that doesn’t include at least one big prep righthander from Texas. It just doesn’t feel right. Whitley, standing in at a strapping 6-7, 240 pounds, has the requisite fastball velocity (88-94, 96 peak) to pair with a cadre of power offspeed stuff. We’re talking a devastating when on upper-80s cut-slider and an average or better mid-80s split-change that has been clocked as high as 90 MPH. I’m not sure how power on power on power would work against pro hitters — this is NOT a comp, but I guess Jake Arrieta has found a way to do it — but I’m looking forward to finding out.
Honestly, not a whole lot has changed from the pre-draft evaluation on Whitley to now. There’s a ton to like with him: big fastball that went on to hit 97 MPH later in the spring (his weight was down to 225 by then, too), nasty hard cut-slider, power split-change that is lethal when on, and a truer breaker that lives somewhere between a curve and a slider at around 76-81 MPH. Whitley carries all the risk that big teenage pitchers bring to the table, but the upside here is immense. He has the kind of talent that makes you think putting a ceiling on what he can do is a waste of time. I’ll do it anyway and say that Whitley’s upside looks a lot like what we’ve seen so far out of Gerrit Cole.
2.61 – OF Ronnie Dawson
On Ronnie Dawson (82) from October 2015…
You could say this about almost any of this year’s upper-echelon of college outfielders, but I saved it specifically for Ronnie Dawson: he’s a big-time prospect from the minute you spot him getting off the bus. He looks more like a baseball destroying cyborg sent from the past to right the wrongs of his fallen brothers who fell victim to offspeed pitches and high fastballs on the regular. Few of his peers can quite match him when it comes to his athleticism, hand-eye coordination, and sheer physical strength. As a member of this year’s college outfield class, however, he’s not immune from having to deal with the open question as to whether or not he can curb his overly aggressive approach at the plate enough to best utilize his raw talents.
A final spring at Ohio State didn’t quite answer the question about Dawson’s approach, but the incremental improvements he’s made in that area of his game over the years gives hope that he’s a young hitter who gets it. I think Dawson is a long-term regular in an outfield corner with flashes of all-star season upside. His improved approach combined with the existing physical tool set (above-average power, speed, arm, and range in a corner) should get him where he wants to go. It’s not a direct one-to-one comparison, but there are a lot of similarities between Dawson and future Houston teammate George Springer when the latter was coming out of Connecticut.
3.97 – C Jake Rogers
Jake Rogers (88) to Houston makes so much sense. A team that values defense behind the plate, especially the previously “hidden” (i.e., not publicized) advantages of such things as pitch-framing, taking one of the amateur rank’s best defensive catchers to enter pro ball in years. It would be terrible for his own development, but I wonder what kind of defensive numbers Rogers could put up jumping straight to the big leagues in year one. Just tell him to hit .200 and play the kind of defense that impressed me so much that I compared his all-around game behind the plate to the Florida State version of Buster Posey. It’ll never happen (thankfully), but it would be kind of fun.
With Rogers being a stone cold mortal lock to provide tremendous defensive value going forward (top five defensive catcher in baseball by the end of his rookie year?), the question then moves to how much you’ll get out of him as a hitter. There are a few different ways we can approach Rogers as a hitter, but, for the sake of brevity, let’s hone in on his power upside. Rogers has more raw power (average to above-average) than he’s shown, which can be looked at either as a positive (it’s in there, we just have to find a way to unlock it!) or a negative (raw power is great, but if he hasn’t figured out how to tap into it by now then it doesn’t do us any good). I tend to side with the positive thinkers there if only because the day-to-day hands-on teaching that goes on in pro ball (especially in an organization like Houston that takes the long view with player development) is so different than what amateur prospects get in college, high school, or on the showcase circuit (LOL). Dedicated time, effort, and energy of pro instruction needs to at least be given a chance before writing off any particular amateur’s odds of improvement. Rogers getting into a little more power would hardly qualify as a shocker, and the overall bump of such a development would make him more of a complete prospect. I think 2016 Russell Martin (.231/.335/.398, 99 wRC+) is probably Rogers’s ceiling as a hitter, though I could be talked into bumping that up to Martin’s current career mark (.254/.350/.404, 106 wRC+) if we wanted to keep these optimistic vibes going. Approaching that kind of offensive output with his brand of defensive brilliance would make Rogers a very valuable player and a very rich man. Consider former Astros catcher and current Twin Jason Castro (.232/.309/.390, 94 wRC+) and his recent three-year contract worth $24.5 million. No reason that Rogers can’t have a similar career or better.
4.127 – LHP Brett Adcock
On Brett Adcock (488) from April 2016…
Brett Adcock doesn’t have the size as Vieaux, Sawyer, or his teammate Hill, but his stuff is no less impressive. Lefties that can throw four pitches for strikes with his kind of track record of success, both peripherally (10.29 K/9 in 2014, 9.50 K/9 in 2015) and traditionally (2.87 ERA in 2014, 3.10 ERA in 2015), have a tendency to get noticed even when coming in a 6-0, 215 package. I had somebody describe him to me as “Anthony Kay without the killer change,” an odd comparison that kind of works the less you think about it. Adcock has a good fastball (88-92, 94 peak) and two average or better breaking balls (77-81 SL is fine, but his 75-78 CB could be a big league put away pitch) in addition to an upper-70s changeup that is plenty usable yet hardly on par with Kay’s dominant offering. If Kay is a borderline first round talent (he is), then surely Adcock could find his way into the draft’s top five or so rounds. That might be too aggressive to some, so I’ll agree to knocking down expectations to single-digit rounds and calling it even.
From about the time of that writing on, Adock’s control went from iffy to downright scary. That leaves us with a short lefthander that can really only command two pitches (fastball and 75-82 spike-curve) who will need a lot of work in pro ball. I don’t love it. If his delivery can be tweaked enough to see a return to his freshman year control (3.38 BB/9), then we can get back to thinking about him as a potential fifth starter candidate. If not, then effectively wild lefthanded reliever it is.
5.157 – 3B Abraham Toro-Hernandez
The Astros must have been cussing out the Royals in their draft room when Kansas City stole Seminole State RHP Dillon Drabble away from them in the seventeenth round. The lousy Royals foiled Houston’s plan of drafting not one, not two, not three, but four prospects from one junior college in Oklahoma. I’ve discussed my distaste for loading up on players from one school too many times to count during these draft reviews, so we’ll instead focus on the actual player drafted by Houston here. That would be Abraham Toro-Hernandez, a third baseman coming off a season so good (.439/.545/.849 with 38 BB/18 K and 8/9 SB in 205 AB) that I literally had to check his state page multiple time to be sure I didn’t mess up somehow. Pro ball was slightly more challenging (.254/.301/.322 with 10 BB/31 K in 193 PA) for the 19-year-old, but I’m still liking Houston’s willingness to put real stock in players coming off of exceptional amateur careers. Toro-Hernandez is a solid athlete who has already shown elite plate discipline and power potential. That’s a great starting point to build from.
6.187 – OF Stephen Wrenn
I’ve been writing about the MLB Draft on the internet for long enough now to develop enough of a core audience that I feel comfortable sharing my inner-most secrets with you. Ready for this one? I’m not sure I’ve ever really realized that Stephen Wrenn (265) and Steven Duggar, former Clemson star and Giants draft pick from 2015, were actually different people. I mean, sure, I knew there were not the same literal person, but the two prospects were so similar to me that my brain just melded them into one player and I think that thought may have bled into some of the analysis for both guys. Making matters more confusing (and validating my apparent stupidity), Wrenn went off the board to Houston in the sixth round with the 187th overall pick. San Francisco took Duggar last year in the sixth round with the 186th overall pick. I swear I didn’t realize that before writing the first four sentences of this intro. Life is weird, man.
Whatever similarity the two players once shared went by the wayside in 2016, draft position oddity aside. Duggar really began to click as a hitter during his junior year at Clemson; Wrenn went backwards in his final season at Georgia. The fact that the latter still got picked in the same spot as the former should speak to Wrenn’s upside. Unfortunately, said upside has only ever manifested itself in flashes. His speed, glove, and baseball instincts should all help keep him employed a long time, but his approach at the plate keeps him from being the star (or at least slam dunk potential regular) that he should be. I’ve gotten comps on him that range from Leonys Martin to Kevin Pillar to Adam Jones. That’s a fairly broad spectrum, but certain traits (CF range, athleticism, evidence of more physical gifts than baseball skills at times) are fairly consistent throughout. Personally, I see him as a potential (more naturally gifted) Juan Lagares type at the next level: plus defender, intermittent power, positive on the base paths. Peak Lagares (2014) with the most recent version’s power (2016) would give you around a .280/.320/.420 hitter. That seems like a reasonable offensive ceiling for Wrenn. Even getting near that with his glove would make for a really useful player. If you’re picking up on some similarities between the questionable bat/standout defensive up-the-middle profiles of Wrenn and Jake Rogers, then we’re on the same wavelength.
8.247 – RHP Nick Hernandez
One outstanding year at Houston (11.75 K/9 and 1.93 BB/9 in 43.2 IP) was more than enough evidence to convince the Astros to pluck Nick Hernandez out of their own backyard. The power-armed righthander (88-92 FB, 94 peak; above-average low-80s SL) kept right on rolling in pro ball after signing (10.38 K/9 and 3.12 BB/9 in 26.0 IP). Curiously, Hernandez finished his (small sample) debut with one of the lowest GB rates (28.6%) out of any pitcher I’ve come across in organized ball. No idea if that’s an aberration or part of a larger trend, but it’s something to keep in mind going forward.
9.277 – LHP Ryan Hartman
NAIA competition or not, a 0.64 ERA in 98 innings pitched with standout peripherals (11.85 K/9 and 1.10 BB/9) is something special. Ryan Hartman put up those awesome senior year stats thanks to a solid heater (87-91, up to 93) and a really good changeup he’s not afraid to double up on when needed. An improving curve could give him a shot to remain in the rotation as a professional, but for now his clearest path to the big leagues looks to come as a fast-tracked reliever. I like it.
10.307 – RHP Dustin Hunt
Dustin Hunt (327) is a fine project to take on at this stage in the draft. His size (6-5, 200), fastball (87-93, 94-95 peak), and track record (the three-year rotation mainstay put up a 9.04 K/9 and 3.02 BB/9 in almost 250 total college innings) stack up against just about any college pitching prospect you’ll find past the first few rounds of the draft. I’m less enamored with his offspeed stuff than most, but the good outweighs the bad and time is still on his side anyway. Nice pick.
11.337 – RHP Chad Donato
Chad Donato’s (498) future remains somewhat cloudy after being red flagged by many teams after being diagnosed with a strained UCL just a few days before the draft. Donato wound up needing Tommy John surgery; he underwent the procedure on July 1, the same day as three other professional pitchers according to this wonderful resource that I can’t believe I’m only now seeing for the first time. If Donato can return to 100% health, then the Astros may have stolen a future quality big league reliever in the eleventh round. With a fastball up to 94 (88-92 typically), an above-average to plus curve, and standout control, Donato was able to dominate (10.37 K/9 and 1.87 BB/9) college competition in his junior year in Morgantown.
There are too many cool anecdotes in this story on Donato’s draft day experience that I couldn’t pick just one to share. Read it yourself and see. I’m such a sucker for these types of stories.
And for the millionth time this draft review season, THIS is what the eleventh round is all about. Well, kind of. Even though Donato’s $100,000 bonus wasn’t technically an overslot deal that counted against Houston’s allotted bonus pool, the eleventh round was still the perfect time to give a talented but risky guy like Donato six-figures. Use the last few single-digit rounds for cheaper senior-signs — like Houston did with Ryan Hartman in round nine — to give yourself flexibility elsewhere.
12.367 – LHP Carmen Benedetti
Though announced as a pitcher on draft day, Carmen Benedetti (200) played almost every inning of his rookie pro season in right field. This decision pleases me greatly. If you’re a regular reader, you know why. If not, you’ll learn. On Benedetti from April 2016…
Carmen Benedetti is such a favorite of mine that I didn’t even bother with dropping the FAVORITE designation in my notes on him; it’s just assumed. He’s not the best prospect in this class, but he has a case for being one of the best players. I’ve compared him to Florida’s Brian Johnson (now with the Boston Red Sox) in the past and I think he’s legitimately good enough both as a pitcher and a hitter to have a pro future no matter what his drafting team prefers. As with Johnson, I prefer Benedetti getting his shot as a position player first. I’m a sucker for smooth fielding first basemen with bat speed, above-average raw power, and the kind of disciplined approach one might expect from a part-time pitcher who can fill up the strike zone with the best of them. If he does wind up on the mound, I won’t object. He’s good enough to transition to the rotation professionally thanks to a fine fastball (90-94), above-average 77-80 change, a usable curve, and heaps of athleticism. I get that I like Benedetti and this draft class more than most, but the fact that a prospect of his caliber isn’t likely to even approach Johnson’s draft position (31st overall) says something about the quality and depth of the 2016 MLB Draft.
And again later that same month…
Search for “Carmen Benedetti” on this site. I’ve written a lot about him lately. Assuming you don’t — and good for you not being bossed around by some baseball nerd on the internet — the quick version is he’s really good at baseball, both the hitting/fielding part and the pitching part. I’ve likened him to Brian Johnson more than once, and I think he’s shown enough as a position player to get a shot in the field first. The raw power might not scream slam dunk future big league regular at first base, but the overall offensive and defensive profile could make him an above-average regular for a long time.
I really like Benedetti. I think I’ve made that clear. Now let me pump the breaks a little bit. Here’s a topical comparison to consider…
.323/.410/.485 (56 2B, 4 3B, 10 HR) with 83 BB/76 K in 549 AB
.327/.444/.446 (45 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR) with 127 BB/100 K in 626 AB
Top was Benedetti in his three years at Michigan, bottom was what Houston prospect Conrad Gregor did in his three years at Vanderbilt. Gregor was a FAVORITE who I thought would up his offensive game to another level in the pros. Hasn’t happened. So many of the notes I have on Benedetti match up with what I once had on Gregor. Here’s a sampling of some older Gregor notes: “plus defender at first, pretty good in outfield; average speed once he gets a full head of steam; good arm, but slow release; very strong hit tool; great approach; physically strong; smart hitter, but still chases too many bad balls; plus bat speed; can get pull happy; pretty swing; that raw power is still there, but has been slow to manifest.” Every player is different and should be assessed independent of whatever his peer has done, but there’s no harm in attempting to find patterns in player archetypes that work or don’t work within your own organization. Gregor hasn’t worked out to date; that can be attributed to him, the Astros, or (most likely) the nature of the challenge that is professional ball. Hopefully Benedetti can avoid the pitfalls that have ensnared Gregor to this point. If not, hey, there’s always the option of moving back to the mound.
I should close with that rare snappy line, but I can’t help myself; I’m pulling a reverse Costanza here. The college stat comparison game is one I enjoy even though I freely admit that stats can sometimes be used to create false equivalencies and lead to faulty conclusions. I mean, I don’t do that — or at least I try not to — but it can be done. For example, maybe you really like Benedetti and you take exception to the Gregor comparison above. You might pull this guy’s numbers to use as a basis of comparison instead…
.323/.410/.485 (56 2B, 4 3B, 10 HR) with 83 BB/76 K in 549 AB
.341/.410/.466 (42 2B, 4 3B, 12 HR) with 62 BB/68 K in 689 AB
Top is still Benedetti at Michigan, but the bottom is now Cardinals standout Stephen Piscotty’s career numbers at Stanford. Pretty damn similar, right? So maybe Benedetti is Gregor or maybe he’s Piscotty. Or maybe he’s just Benedetti. I keep looking up at his college numbers and thinking that some slightly scaling back — about 50 points of everything, give or take — could represent a reasonable pro ceiling for him. So that would be something like .280/.360/.430 at his peak. Those numbers would make him almost an exact duplicate of 2016 Odubel Herrera. That’s…unexpected but great. Other 2016 outfielders with a similar line include Adam Eaton, Kole Calhoun, and Stephen Piscotty (!). The closest 2016 first base facsimiles are Adrian Gonzalez and Eric Hosmer. You’d take the 2016 version of any of those hitters out of a plus defender at first or a strong-armed right fielder. Maybe Benedetti won’t have to hop back on the mound after all…
13.397 – 2B Ryne Birk
Ryne Birk (230) has always hit, so it wasn’t a huge shock to many long-time observers of his game that he kept right on hitting in pro ball after signing. Even better than the hitting (for me) was the apparent commitment by Houston to give Birk an honest shot to stick in the dirt going forward. From March 2016…
Birk has worked his tail off to become a competent defender at the keystone, so selecting him this early is a vote of confidence in his glove passing the professional barrier of quality in the eyes of his first wave of pro coaches. I think he’s more than good enough at second with an intriguing enough upside as a hitter to make a top five round pick worth it. Offensively he’s shown average power, above-average speed, and good feel for contact. Sorting out his approach will be the difference between fun utility option or solid starter once he hits pro ball. He reminds me a good bit of Trever Morrison as a prospect, right down to the slightly off spellings of their respective first names.
And then again in April 2016…
A lot of what was written about Shelby could apply to Ryne Birk, at least in a poor man’s version kind of way. Birk might be a little ahead in terms of power and approach, but Shelby beats him everywhere else. I’ve gotten positive reviews on his glove at second this year, but there are still a few who maintain that his speed (good not great) and arm (neither good nor great) will force him to left field in the pros. For those reasons and more, I’ve gotten a fun and somewhat obscure Andrew Pullin comp for him this spring.
As much as I like Birk’s bat independent of where he plays, even I have to admit that the offensive bar in left field would be tough for him to clear enough to be considered a legitimate prospect at the position. At second, a position where I’ll go down believing he can play until he’s long retired, he’s instantly one of the most interesting prospects of his kind in baseball. I mentioned comps to both Trever Morrison and Andrew Pullin in the months leading up to the draft, but it now occurs to me that Birk could be a little bit like this draft’s version of Max Schrock. Coincidentally (I swear!), both Birk and Schrock fell to the thirteenth round in their respective drafts. Hmm.
14.427 – RHP Carson LaRue
A 11.28 K/9 and 2.79 BB/9 for Carson LaRue at Cowley County CC looks pretty good from where I’m sitting. The former Oklahoma State pitcher has the low-90s fastball/weaponized slider one-two punch to get a potential look in relief down the line.
15.457 – SS Alex DeGoti
Alex DeGoti could be another one of Houston’s patented non-D1 college finds. The middle infielder hit .404/.492/.694 with 27 BB/22 K in 193 AB at Barry after three lackluster years at Long Beach State. He then followed it up with a .228/.320/.329 (99 wRC+) pro debut. Not too shabby.
16.487 – OF Spencer Johnson
Spencer Johnson has been a consistently impressive power/speed threat going back to his high school days. I’ve always been surprised at the lack of hype the 6-4, 215 pound physical specimen has received over the years. Of course, I’m guilty of this as well if you want to check the archives. There’s no time like the present to talk a guy up, so that’s what we’ll do with Johnson now. Houston got themselves a really interesting player in the draft’s sixteenth round. From a strictly physical standpoint, Johnson is one of the draft’s best looking prospects. He has huge raw power, decent speed (admittedly not quite as much as he had in his younger days), and is unafraid to grip it and rip it in any count. That aggressive style works for him more often than not, but an avalanche of strikeouts is never that far away. If he can limit the empty swings in pro ball, he’s got a chance to do some damage in a bench role.
18.547 – RHP Colin McKee
Colin McKee dominated at Mercyhurst in his redshirt-junior season to the tune of a 13.50 K/9 and 1.82 ERA in 94.0 IP. His first 8.1 IP as a pro weren’t quite as magical unless you consider 7 BB, 2 HBP, 7 WP, and an ERA of 11.88 a good time. At least his FIP was just 8.58. Those 8.1 innings were obviously a less than ideal way to make a first impression, but McKee still has plenty going for him. He’s got the track record, stuff (88-92 FB, 94 peak; good 76-81 SL), and build (6-3, 225) to pitch his way back into the future middle relief mix for Houston.
19.577 – 1B Taylor Jones
I like this one. On Taylor Jones (478) from March 2016…
Taylor Jones is a risky pick behind Brigman as guys with long levers bring that boom/bust aspect to hitting. The boom of Jones’s power currently outweighs any bust I feel about his long-term ability to make consistent contact as a pro. The fact that he’s more than just a slugger helps give some wiggle room. Jones is an average runner who fields his position really well. He’s also capable of moonlighting on the mound thanks to an upper-80s fastball and up-and-down curve. Broken record alert, but he’s one of my favorite senior-sign hitters in this class. That makes about four dozen favorite senior-sign hitters; thankfully, nobody keeps track.
One day I’ll stop getting sucked into believing that the next giant hitter — Jones is 6-7, 225 pounds — will find a way to make enough contact to be a star in the pros. One day…
(Jones hit really well in his pro debut, BTW. Still a huge fan of him as a potential big league contributor. Super pick. Just when I think I’m out…)
20.607 – 2B LP Pelletier
The LP in LP Pelletier’s name stands for Louis-Phillippe. That seems like good information to have in the back pocket going forward for some reason. Also good information: Pelletier hit .445/.504/.873 with 18 BB/18 K and 16/19 SB in 229 AB for Seminole State JC this past spring. The team hit .380/.469/.684, so this is similar to the Raymond Henderson deal you’ll read about two rounds below. As with Henderson, Pelletier still gets credit from me for going out and hitting. The advantages are all well known, but you still have to do your job. Pelletier did that and then some this past spring. It didn’t quite work as well for him in a small sample over the summer, but time is on his side.
21.637 – C Chuckie Robinson
You’re getting power, a big arm, and sheer physical strength with Chuckie Robinson. He can get a little too aggressive at the plate for his own good at times and not everybody you talk to is convinced he’s a catcher long-term, but the righthanded power should be enough to keep him employed for the foreseeable future.
22.667 – C Raymond Henderson
In his two years at Grayson County CC, Raymond Henderson did this…
.374/.451/.663 – 30 BB/26 K – 190 AB
.452/.541/.782 – 40 BB/17 K – 188 AB
Damn. Some of those offensive numbers should be taken with a grain of salt — the team as a whole hit .354/.445/.551 in 2016, so, yeah, but there are still many positives to be gleaned from his time as a Viking. Even with an inflated scoring environment, questionable competition, and juggernaut lineup accounted for you still have to go out there and actually do the hitting. Henderson certainly did that, and he did it while also showing off a stellar approach at the plate. Pro ball was a bit more challenging (.223/.292/.394 with 9 BB/24 K in 106 PA), but I’d be willing to give a guy who has shown that kind of college production a bit more time to make his adjustments to pro ball. I’ll be watching Henderson closely. There’s some sneaky forward-thinking (catcher/second base/third base) utility guy upside here.
23.697 – RHP Tyler Britton
A 13.83 K/9 and 2.63 BB/9 in 41.0 IP puts Tyler Britton near the top of the hill when it comes to 2016 MLB Draft pro pitching debuts. The undersized (5-11, 190) righthander from High Point (9.60 K/9 and 1.63 BB/9 in 55.1 IP as a senior) isn’t flashy, but there’s little doubt he’ll keep getting chances as long as he can keep missing bats.
24.727 – 1B Troy Sieber
Even though plenty of quality articles on the subject have been written, I’m still baffled how the Astros identified Tyler White, the fifty-first best college first base prospect in 2013 according to some internet hack, as a potential big league player after a really good but not mind-blowing (.361/.420/.630 with 17 BB/25 K) final season at Western Carolina. That’s why I’m absolutely taking notice of Troy Sieber, Houston’s twenty-fourth round pick out of St. Leo College down in Florida. Sieber entered pro ball sporting a .381/.489/.738 (64 BB/60 K) career college line that included a .457/.553/.873 (31 BB/26 K) junior season. That’ll work. He kept right on mashing in the GCL (.289/.449/.474 in 49 PA) before running into his first challenge at Greeneville (.242/.356/.339 in 146 PA, down across the board but still good for a 102 wRC+). Like White, Sieber will have to keep hitting at every level to get his shot. Like White, he’s got a chance to do just that.
25.757 – RHP Kevin Hill
On Kevin Hill from March 2016…
Hill is the consummate college senior tearing up younger hitters with pinpoint command and stellar sequencing. He’s capable of tossing one of his three offspeed pitches in any count, and there’s now enough fastball (up to 88-92 this year, peaking at 93) to keep hitters from sitting on it. Smarts, plus command, and solid stuff make Hill a really good senior-sign, but it’s his fantastic athleticism that helps set him apart. The entire package makes him arguably one of the best potential senior-signs in the country. One scout referred to him as “store brand Aaron Nola.” I’m in.
I’m sure it’s just because I finished writing their draft review recently, but it’s shocking to me that Hill wasn’t drafted by Cleveland this year. He’s the embodiment of the command/athleticism aesthetic they seem to be going for of late. Houston snapped him up in the twenty-fifth round and could get a big league pitcher for their trouble. Working strongly against Hill is his age (already 24!) and lack of projection, but his present ability could be enough to challenge him with an aggressive AA assignment to start his first full season. Whether he starts there or elsewhere (High-A, most likely), the goal for all involved should be to get Hill to AAA by the end of the season. If he can do that, then he’s got a shot to fulfill his fifth starter/middle relief destiny.
27.817 – LHP Nathan Thompson
I’m not sure if this is noteworthy or not, but eight pitchers handled 454 innings in 56 games for the Bison in 2016. Seems like they kept that staff busy. I like it. One of those eight pitchers was Nathan Thompson. The lefthander leaned on an upper-80s fastball (90 peak) to strike out 11.81 batters per nine in his final season at Oklahoma Baptist. There’s some matchup relief upside here if it works.
30.907 – 3B Brody Westmoreland
It’s impossible for me to mention Brody Westmoreland without also mentioning his awesome high school. Before a quick stop at San Diego State and a year at the College of Southern Nevada, Westmoreland played ball for the ThunderRidge HS Grizzles. ThunderRidge! Anyway, Westmoreland is a reasonably interesting four-corners (1B/3B/LF/RF) utility prospect with a strong arm, solid athleticism, and legit power. There’s probably too much swing-and-miss in his game to do a whole lot, but it’s a reasonable gamble here all the same.
31.937 – LHP Howie Brey
As a semi-local prospect (Rutgers!) to me, I’ve seen a fair amount of Howie Brey over the past four college seasons. I can’t lie and say that I ever came away from watching him thinking he had a future in pro ball, but I’ve been wrong plenty before. Rooting for him.
34.1027 – SS Stijn van der Meer
Pre-draft take on Stijn van der Meer…
SS Stijn van derMeer can field his position and do enough with the bat to rank as one of my favorite senior shortstops in this class. Fair or not, I can’t help but think of him as a potential Die Hard villain whenever I read his name.
I’ve seen his name spelled just about every way imaginable, so we’ll go with the Baseball-Reference approved Stijn van der Meer for now. Speaking of B-R, this is well worth a read. I would have loved to sum it up, but I didn’t know where to begin. Stijn van der Meer has already had a damn fascinating baseball existence and he’s only a few months into minor league career. At least this pre-draft report on him sums up his skills on the diamond nicely…
Lamar SR SS Stijn van derMeer: really strong glove; very little power; patient, pesky hitter; adept at working long counts, hitting with two strikes, and fouling tough pitches off; fun comp from his college coach: Ozzie Guillen; 6-3, 170 pounds
Pretty simple package here: defense, patience, and no power. The defensive aspect won’t take a hit in pro ball, so it’ll be worth watching to see if he can still play his style of offensive game against pro pitching more adept at exploiting punchless hitters’ weaknesses. Early pro returns were encouraging (.301/.386/.370 with 8.2 BB% and 14.1 K%), but he has a long way to go. Best case scenario could see him following a fairly similar career arc as a player I haven’t yet given up on. Look at these draft year numbers…
.376/.471/.441 – 38 BB/15 K – 7/12 SB – 213 AB
.309/.429/.512 – 43 BB/21 K – 12/12 SB – 207 AB
Top is what van der Meer did his last year at Lamar, bottom is what Nolan Fontana did his final season at Florida. Not exactly the same — note the significantly higher ISO for Fontana — but not completely out of line. Even with that difference in mind, I think you’d take your chance on van der Meer looking even a little bit like Fontana considering the former prospect was selected 966 picks after the latter.
36.1087 – RHP Ian Hardman
I knew I hadn’t written about Ian Hardman without even checking because I’m 100% certain his is a name I would have remembered. He’s definitely my favorite Mega Man villain ever drafted. I typically shy away from name-related “humor,” but it’s actually relevant in the case of Hardman. Or Harman, as the official National Junior College Athletic Association page would have you believe. Whoops. Hardman had a very eventful year for Seminole State: 15.12 K/9 and 6.33 BB/9 in 25.2 IP. Knowing nothing of his stuff, I’m intrigued. Previously unknown (to me) junior college guys with cool names, tons of strikeouts, and lots of walks always rank among my favorites.
38.1147 – OF Chaz Pal
Chaz Paul hit .363/.438/.583 with 49 BB/65 K in 424 AB over two seasons as a USC-Aiken Pacer. That’s all I’ve got. It does occur to me that Houston drafted both a Chuckie (Robinson) and a Chaz (Pal).
39.1177 – INF Tyler Wolfe
Tyler Wolfe, long a reliable defender at multiple infield spots, hit just enough as a senior to hear his name called on draft day. He then went on to split his time in the pros between second, third, and short with the vast majority of his work during his debut coming at the hot corner. He also managed to get two innings in on the mound. Considering they were good innings — two hits, one walk, and three whiffs — maybe the Astros ought to think about letting him give it a shot full-time.
40.1207 – RHP Lucas Williams
This is such a good story. Since I know about one in a hundred people actually click these links, here’s my favorite part…
“I was umping a 9-year-old game on the day of the draft, when my friend Brad Wilson (a former University of Central Missouri All-American baseball player) got my attention,” said Williams, a 2012 graduate of Grain Valley High School who starred on the mound for the Mules Division II World Series team this past season.
“He said my phone was buzzing and going crazy and I looked at it and found out I’d been drafted by the Houston Astros.”
So, what did Williams do?
“I had four more innings to ump in that game and another game after that – so I didn’t get to do a lot of celebrating.”
Don’t know much about Williams (8.40 K/9 and 2.80 BB/9 in 45.0 IP at Central Missouri) otherwise, but I’m rooting for him now. As a one-time terrible work-study intramural referee in college, we’ve got to stick together.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Tyler Buffett (Oklahoma State), Brian Howard (TCU), Avery Tuck (San Diego State), Johnny Ruiz (Miami), Elliott Barzilli (TCU), Darius Vines (?), Toby Handley (Stony Brook), Nick Slaughter (Houston)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by New York in 2016
35 – Justin Dunn
53 – Pete Alonso
62 – Blake Tiberi
69 – Anthony Kay
118 – Michael Paez
131 – Colby Woodmansee
199 – Gene Cone
210 – Colin Holderman
267 – Cameron Planck
325 – Matt Cleveland
1.19 – RHP Justin Dunn
With the way New York has identified and developed young pitching of late, Justin Dunn (35) going to the Mets has to be a little scary to the other four teams in the National League East. A weekend series against Syndergaard, deGrom, and (healthy) Harvey (or Wheeler/Matz/Gsellman) isn’t enough of a challenge, so let’s add a first round arm into the mix to add an extra layer of fun. MLB awards extra wins based on degree of difficulty, right? A quick timeline of Dunn notes starting way back in December 2014…
There are some interesting pitchers to monitor including strong senior sign candidate RHP John Gorman and statistical favorite JR LHP Jesse Adams, but the best two arms on the staff from where I’m sitting are both 2016 prospects (SO RHPs Justin Dunn [huge fan of his] and Mike King).
Then a year later from December 2015…
JR RHP Justin Dunn has the chance to have the kind of big junior season that puts him in the top five round conversation this June. Like Adams and Nicklas, Dunn’s size might be a turn-off for some teams. Unlike those guys, it figures to be easier to overlook because of a potent fastball/breaking ball one-two punch. Though he’s matured as a pitcher in many ways since enrolling at BC, he’s still a little rough around the edges with respect to both his command and control. His arm speed (consistently 90-94, up to 96) and that aforementioned low-80s slider are what put him in the early round mix. If he can continue to make strides with his command and control and gain a little consistency with a third pitch (he’s shown both a CB and a CU already, but both need work), then he’ll really rise.
And finally a couple months before the big day from April 2016…
I came very close to putting Justin Dunn in the top spot [in the ACC]. If he continues to show that he can hold up as a starting pitcher, then there’s a chance he winds up as the best pitching prospect in this conference by June. I’d love to see a better changeup between now and then as well.
We may not have quite gotten that consistent changeup, but Dunn’s electric fastball and wipeout slider were more than enough to overlook the present lack of a still potentially average third pitch. Eventually, it’s easy to envision him figuring out something soft — probably that change, though I can’t quite give up on his curve — because he’s just too damn athletic, too damn smart, and too damn hard working not to. Sonny Gray may be a bit of a tired comp in general (check my archives for a bunch of comparison to Gray if so inclined), but it’s not one I’ve heard connected to Dunn specifically. I think it fits.
1.31 – LHP Anthony Kay
On Anthony Kay (69) from March 2016…
Much as I like him, I don’t necessarily view Anthony Kay as a first round arm. However, the second he falls past the first thirty or so picks he’ll represent immediate value for whatever team gives him a shot. He’s a relatively high-floor future big league starter who can throw four pitches for strikes but lacks that one true put-away offering. Maybe continued refinement of his low-80s changeup or his 78-84 slider gets him there, but for now it’s more of a steady yet unspectacular back of the rotation. Nathan Kirby (pick 40 last year) seems like a reasonable draft ceiling for him, though there are some similarities in Kay’s profile to Marco Gonzales, who went 19th in his draft year. I like Kay for his relative certainty depending on what a team does before selecting him; his high-floor makes him an interesting way to diversity the draft portfolio of a team that otherwise likes to gamble on boom/bust upside plays.
Apparently the Mets took me literally when I said that “the second he falls past the first thirty or so picks he’ll represent immediate value” as they took Kay with the thirty-first pick in the draft. Or maybe not considering I mentioned Kay as a potential hedge pick that would allow his drafting team the opportunity to “diversify the draft portfolio of a team that otherwise likes to gamble on boom/bust upside plays.” New York going with college guys with every pick in the top ten rounds — though, to be fair, their overslot high school pitching picks in rounds eleven and twelve were pretty slick — hardly makes them one of the draft’s most daring teams.
As for Kay the prospect, the Mets got a potential mid-rotation arm if everything works out just right. So far, everything hasn’t worked just right. Kay underwent Tommy John surgery in early October and figures to miss the entire 2017 season as he recovers. That delay to start his career will make him 23-years-old before ever throwing a professional pitch. That’s less than ideal, but hardly a deal-breaker for him as a prospect. He was a bit ahead of my time so I can’t really speak to the specifics of the comp, but I’ve heard Kay compared to a shorter version of Frank Viola. The very same Viola who is the Mets AAA pitching coach. That’s fun. I’m not saying Kay will get healthy, see his stuff return to 2016 levels (90-95 FB, above-average to plus 82-86 CU, vastly improved 77-81 CB), and start 420 games in the big leagues (and win a Cy Young and go to three All-Star games and average 189 IP/season and go on to successful post-playing coaching career and…), but, hey, you never know, right?
2.64 – 1B Pete Alonso
On Pete Alonso (53) from April 2016…
All the guy does is hit. Working against him is his handedness: nobody gets excited for a righthanded hitting prospect limited to first base, fair or not. Working for him is everybody’s desire – think it peaked last year, but I still hear about it from time to time – to find the next Paul Goldschmidt. Alonso isn’t the runner or athlete that Goldschmidt has proven to be nor is it likely he’ll ever hit like the Arizona superstar. It’s still nice that we now live in a baseball universe where Goldschmidt has made it cool to be a righthanded hitting power bat again.
Seriously, that Goldschmidt thing is real. I don’t talk to everybody and my scene is typically lower-level baseball types when I do, but so many have told me that they’ve been told that the “next Goldschmidt is out there” and that it’s their job to find him. They don’t say (as far as I know) the next Trout or Harper or Kershaw or Machado or Lindor or Bryant or Votto or any other player; it’s always the next Goldschmidt. I figure it’s 98% because Goldschmidt, eighth round pick in 2009, has become the current poster boy for later round draft success with maybe a little bit of that righthanded power making him a unicorn of sorts. Whatever the case is, it never fails to crack me up. I keep picturing this guy…
…demanding BRING ME GOLDSCHMIDT.
Ready to get weird?
.334/.408/.638 with 22.4 K% and 10.9 BB% (165 wRC+)
.321/.382/.587 with 17.9 K% and 8.9 BB% (184 wRC+)
Top was Goldschmidt’s debut, bottom was Alonso’s. This means nothing, but it’s fun. Goldschmidt then went to A+ for his first full season and then split his second full year between AA and the big leagues. That puts Alonso’s MLB ETA at mid-2018. This also means nothing, but it’s fun. What means something (to me, the Mets, and presumably you since you’re reading this) is that Alonso is a really good looking hitting prospect. The silly comparison to Goldschmidt does him no favors, but if it helps Alonso get a little more deserved attention as a prospect then it serves a purpose. Again, Alonso is a really good looking hitting prospect. He’s got big league regular upside at first base, a ceiling not to be taken lightly considering the offensive bar at the position. The Mets could have themselves a great problem to figure out sooner rather than later with Alonso joining Dominic Smith on the short list of best first base prospects in all of baseball.
3.100 – 3B Blake Tiberi
Seeing Blake Tiberi (62) struggle in his pro debut turned my world upside down. If there was one thing I was sure about in this draft class — fine, this is crazy hyperbole: the truth is I wasn’t sure about anything, but that doesn’t pack the same narrative punch — it was that Blake Tiberi could hit. In terms of straight hit tool, I’d put his up against any college hitter in this class. That top tier for me would include guys like Jameson Fisher, Cavan Biggio, and Boomer White. On the high school side, top hit tools would go to names like Moniak, Jones, Rutherford, Rizzo, and unsigned Mets twentieth rounder Cortes. Not a bad group of hitters to be a part of if you’re Tiberi.
The young infielder from Louisville’s ability to make consistent hard contact on pitches thrown up, down, in, and out excited me every time I saw him play. I stand by the plus hit tool, an opinion I came to with information beyond my own eye test, even after his disappointing pro debut. Tiberi can flat hit. I also like his athleticism far more than most and think his long-term defensive home at the hot corner isn’t really a question. My one concern is the potential for Tiberi to be a little one-dimensional as an offensive player. Guys who have to rely on hitting for a high average aren’t typically the safest prospect bets. You need to see some plate discipline, some power, and some speed in addition to a high-contact approach. Thankfully, Tiberi has always been a patient hitter, but his power and speed are both average at best. I can live with a big contact/good approach bat even without all the power/speed typically found at the third base spot, but your mileage might vary. Everybody has their own preferred player archetypes, and Tiberi’s strengths are enough for me to forgive some of his weaknesses.
One interesting name that came up as a possible comp for Tiberi was Danny Valencia. It’s not perfect — what comp is? — but I don’t hate it.
4.130 – SS Michael Paez
I wrote about Michael Paez (118) quite a bit over the past year, but we’ll try the rare short and sweet approach and just focus on this particularly salient passage from February 2016…
Paez was my preferred First Team All-Prospect college player from two weeks ago for a reason. My indirect comp for him — more about how I perceive him as a prospect than a tools/physical comparison — was Blake Trahan, a third round pick of Cincinnati last season. I don’t know that he’ll rise that high in the eyes of the teams doing the picking in June, but there’s nothing in his prospect profile to suggest he doesn’t have a chance to finish around the same range (early second round) on my final big board. In a draft severely lacking in two-way college shortstops, he’s as good as it gets.
Upon further review, the Coastal Carolina middle infielder fits in best as a second baseman in pro ball if he’s good enough offensively to project for regularly duty down the line. If he doesn’t hack it with the bat to play everyday, then a utility future that includes plenty of time at shortstop seems within reach. That’s a sneaky way of saying pro guys all said he’s a definite second baseman going forward while still hedging my bets that the amateur evaluation — including what I’ve seen with my own eyes — can keep him at short some. At the plate, there’s no real sugarcoating his rocky debut. Still, the hitter who tore it up as a sophomore at Coastal Carolina (.326/.436/.526 with 29 BB/23 K and 19/23 SB) is in there somewhere. I believe in Paez as a hitter and think we’ll see the “good” version of him in 2017 and beyond. I can’t say I’m quite as excited about Paez as I was back in February, but I’m still pretty pumped about his pro future.
5.160 – SS Colby Woodmansee
On Colby Woodmansee (131) from April 2016…
Those who prefer Colby Woodmansee to Ice as the Pac-12’s best position player prospect have an equally strong case. Like Ice, Woodmansee is a near-lock to remain at a premium defensive position in the pros with enough offensive upside to profile as a potential impact player at maturation. Early on the process there were some who questioned Woodmansee’s long-term defensive outlook – shortstops who are 6-3, 200 pounds tend to unfairly get mentally moved off the position to third, a weird bit of biased thinking that I’ve been guilty of in the past – but his arm strength, hands, and first-step quickness all should allow him to remain at his college spot for the foreseeable future. Offensively there may not be one particular thing he does great, but what he does well is more than enough. Woodmansee has average to above-average raw power and speed, lots of bat speed and athleticism, and solid plate discipline. For the exact opposite reason why I think Ice and others like him might slip some on draft day, the all-around average to above-average skill set of Woodmansee at shortstop, a position as shallow as any in this draft, should help him go off the board earlier than most might think.
I may not be in love with Woodmansee as a prospect, but I like the idea of him and the idea of taking a player like him in the fifth round a whole heck of a lot. Does that make sense? As a prospect, my instincts are pointing me away from Woodmansee. Questions about his approach and functional power loom large. Still, the idea of him is intriguing. Woodmansee is an experienced college bat from a major program coming off back-to-back strong offensive seasons. On top of that, his defense at short has steadily improved to the point of no longer being much of a concern at all. Sounds pretty good, right? Then you think about getting a prospect like that with the safety net of a toolsy utility infielder with strong defensive skills at every infield spot in the fifth round, and the whole thing really begins to sound good. I could see Woodmansee underperforming in the strictest sense of the term based on his raw ability and tool set, but still having a long, successful career where he does good things in a variety of roles (starter, backup, something in between) over the years. Does that make sense? I have no idea.
It’s fun to imagine a future Mets infield filled entirely with top five round 2016 draft prospects: 1B Pete Alonso, 2B Michael Paez, 3B Blake Tiberi, and SS Colby Woodmansee. Apologies to Dominic Smith, Gavin Cecchini, David Thompson, and, most of all, Amed Rosario. Hey, that’s not a bad infield, either. Look at the Mets building some depth in a hurry here.
6.190 – RHP Chris Viall
On Chris Viall from April 2016…
Chris Viall seems like another reliever all the way. With lots of heat (up to 96-97) and intimidating size (6-9, 230 pounds), he could be a good one.
Jury is still out on Viall ever being able to find a way to command his awesome stuff. As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, his control is more than a little spotty as well. Check his 2016 numbers…
11.35 K/9 – 7.43 BB/9 – 23.1 IP – 5.09 ERA
12.15 K/9 – 7.65 BB/9 – 20.0 IP – 6.75 ERA
Top was Viall at Stanford in the spring, bottom was Viall at Kingsport in the summer. If big, scary, hard-thrower with no real idea where the ball is going is what Viall is going for, then he’s absolutely nailing it. This felt early to me, but if the Mets and their pitching brain trust deemed Viall “fixable” then…
7.220 – RHP Austin McGeorge
One round after Chris Viall comes Austin McGeorge, a pitcher who couldn’t be more different than the wild 6-9, 230 pounder from Stanford. Despite sharing a California college past and a more relevant appreciation from the New York front office, the Long Beach State product McGeorge does thing very differently than Viall. From a few weeks ahead of the draft…
Austin McGeorge is one of the better arms that nobody seems to be talking about. He’s got enough stuff – not great, but enough at 88-92 with an average or better low-80s slider – that a team that emphasizes performance (13.89 K/9) should take him sooner than the majority might expect.
McGeorge’s sinker/slider combination should allow him to keep missing bats and getting ground ball outs as he climbs the ladder. I’m bullish on McGeorge as a long-term big league reliever. Slick pick here by the Mets brass.
8.250 – LHP Placido Torres
A 23-year-old from Tusculum College? That was my first reaction to this one. Can’t say I knew much about Placido Torres before the Mets took the plunge here in the eighth round, but something about his age and college struck me as odd. Of course, a tiny bit of digging shows the strong NYC connection between Torres and the Mets. Torres played ball both at North Brunswick Township HS in New Jersey and ASA College in New York City before finding his way to D-II Tusculum College in Greenville, Tennessee. Local ties weren’t all that drew the Mets to Torres; the diminutive lefthander’s dominant two years at Tusculum (12.16 K/9, 2.19 BB/9, and 1.43 ERA in 201.1 IP) probably had a little something to do with his selection. His senior year was particularly impressive, especially in how Torres ripped through innings in his final season as a Pioneer. Check this out: 14 GS, 7 CG, 116.0 IP. Quick math on that says that Torres pitched just a hair under 8.1 IP per start. I don’t care about the level of competition, that’s unheard of in 2016.
Of course, local ties and crazy D-II numbers weren’t all that drew the Mets to Torres. I mean, that would have been enough for me, but there’s a reason I’m not in a draft room. On top of the cool story and workhorse stats, Torres has a good fastball/slider combo that should keep him hanging around pro ball long enough to potentially pitch his way to the big leagues. His stuff isn’t so loud that he’ll get any special treatment, so it stands to reason he’ll always have to be a guy who puts up really big numbers to keep getting noticed. I wouldn’t put it past him to keep doing just that.
9.280 – RHP Colin Holderman
“Great athlete, two-way star, love him” were the quick post-draft notes I jotted down after New York’s selection of Colin Holderman (210) in the ninth round. His pro debut wasn’t all that (6.27 K/9 and 5.30 BB/9 in 18.2 IP at Kingsport), but I still believe. Holderman has great size (6-6, 220), awesome athleticism, and a big fastball (88-94, 95 peak) with flashes of really promising secondary stuff (low-80s SL and CU). I’m in way too deep with this draft stuff to call any top 500 prospect and/or top ten round pick a sleeper, but Holderman is a definite name to know as a future breakout prospect in an increasingly impressive minor league system. In the words of one brilliant internet prospect guy, Holderman is a “great athlete, two-way star, love him” or something like that.
10.310 – OF Gene Cone
The fatal flaw of Gene Cone’s (199) offensive game (lack of pop) was far too easily ignored during the 2016 college season by the draft expert currently writing this sentence you are now in turn currently reading. I like so much about Cone’s overall profile — tons of contact and patience that makes him a natural future leadoff hitter, good athleticism, solid speed — that his power deficiency was overlooked when putting together the pre-draft rankings. There’s still some backup outfielder upside here thanks to his aforementioned strengths — though it’s worth noting he’s not a defensive standout in center — but that’s about it.
11.340 – RHP Cameron Planck
This is making the system work for you. Quibble if you must about some of the specific players selected by the Mets in the top ten rounds, but the clear plan of saving money to spend big on overslot falling prep talent in the immediate rounds that followed is exactly how the modern draft game should be played. I mean, you could argue that the surprising surplus in bonus cash directly tied to damaged goods Anthony Kay’s artificially lowered bonus saved the Mets from gambling wrong on Cameron Planck (267) signing for less than the figure he floated pre-draft (maybe he would have eventually caved, who knows), but everything worked out in the end. Better to be lucky than good, I guess.
Planck wound up getting $1,000,001 to sign. That extra dollar intrigues me far more than it should. My admittedly limited amount of research turns up on stated reason for the extra dollar. If anybody else out there knows and is willing to help a guy sleep better at night, please share. Anyway, the bonus was large but it matches Planck’s upside on the mound. I can’t say with great certainty how he’ll turn out as a pro pitcher, but I will say a lot of the feedback I got on him this past spring (when many thought he was good, but not worth top three round money) was that three seasons at Louisville would have gotten him in the first round mix come 2019. Whenever you can get a future potential first round pick in the eleventh round, you do it. Planck’s current best offspeed pitch (inconsistent low-80s SL, flashes average or better at times), mechanics (inconsistent), and command (inconsistent…noticing a trend?) all paint a picture of a young pitcher with a lot to learn. You can’t teach his kind of size (6-4, 220) and velocity (90-94, 96 peak), so it’s easy to show a willingness to work with him on those inconsistencies all things considered. I think the upside here is more late-inning reliever than big league starting pitcher, but no matter the result of the pick, the process here deserves appreciation.
12.370 – RHP Matt Cleveland
All of the positive vibes from what the Mets did in round eleven carry over to their twelfth round selection, Matt Cleveland (325). How can you not like an overslot, athletic 6-5, 200 pound teenage righthander with a big sinking fastball (88-92, 94-95 peak) and some feel for a mid-70s breaking ball and low-80s changeup? It’s a very similar profile to Cam Planck’s right down to both prospects having similar on-field upside and little to no big picture draft downside.
13.400 – C Dan Rizzie
My shorthand notes on Dan Rizzie’s pro debut that were originally mean to be a placeholder only, but it’s the day before Thanksgiving as I write this so whatever let’s just get this thing done…
bad: everything else
Sounds about right! I’ve liked Rizzie’s defense behind the plate for a long time now. From March 2015…
Xavier JR C Dan Rizzie is a pro-level defensive player with enough bat speed, patience, and pop to work himself into a really good backup catcher/workable starting catcher profile.
The “workable starting catcher” thing might have oversold Rizzie’s upside a tad, but I still think he can be a decent defense-first backup catcher in the big leagues if it all works out. Not the worst pick you can land in the thirteenth round.
14.430 – RHP Christian James
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Big bonus, good size, teenager, righthanded, quality velocity (88-93 in this case), underdeveloped secondary stuff…and on and on. First we had Planck, then we had Cleveland, and now the Mets grab Christian James for $100,000 in the fourteenth round. I’m into it. Not for nothing, but James had the best (small sample!) pro debut of any of the prep arms selected by the Mets in 2016. It may not mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it gives him a nice head start on his new teammates (and organizational competition) heading into his first minor league spring training.
15.460 – OF Jacob Zanon
Nothing here pre-draft on Jacob Zanon, but his .395/.463/.670 season at Lewis-Clark with 20 BB/18 K and 26/26 SB in 200 AB has got my attention. He kept controlling the zone as a pro (21 BB/25 K) and remained a very efficient base stealer (20/22 SB), but also showed off what has been said to be his fatal flaw as a hitter: a serious deficiency of power. That puts some pressure on his glove to continue to impress in center. If viewed as a legit up-the-middle defender (and I don’t see why that wouldn’t be the case as a plus runner with experience at the position), Zanon has a shot to keep moving through the system as a potential backup outfielder. Though his bat might be a little light, it’s worth remembering that defense, speed, and patience are skills valued by all thirty teams. I have a nice instinctual feeling about Zanon making a little noise in pro ball.
16.490 – RHP Trent Johnson
I like this pick a lot. You’ll read plenty below about how much value I put on on any high school draft pick signed after round ten. The principle remains the same for Johnson. The big righthander isn’t a high school prospect, but the sophomore junior college righthander still has plenty of projection left in his 6-5, 185 pound frame. His time at Santa Fe JC went well (8.15 K/9 and 1.92 BB/9), so you’re getting a little bit more of an established hurler than your typical prep arm. Feels like a win-win for the Mets here. Johnson was the first of three Santa Fe JC pitchers drafted this past year and the only one to sign with a pro club. Troy Bacon is sticking around another year and David Lee is off to Florida. Should be fun to track how the three former teammates on distinctly different paths do in the seasons to come.
17.520 – 3B Jay Jabs
It’s a big jump from Franklin Pierce to pro ball, apparently. Jabs went from straight mashing against the likes of Southern New Hampshire, Central Missouri, and Nova Southeastern before getting the reality check that is professional baseball in Brooklyn. Rough debut or not, Jabs is still a talented guy (decent pop, big arm, plus speed) with a track record of hitting (.352/.466/.638 with 43 BB/32 K and 16/21 SB in 213 AB at Franklin Pierce) and some defensive versatility. On that last point, it’s worth noting that he played almost exclusively in the outfield rather than his college position of third base in the pros.
18.550 – RHP Adam Atkins
Love this one. Anytime you can land a college reliever coming off a season as dominant as what Adam Atkins did in his senior year, you have to do it. The Louisiana Tech grad outclassed the competition as a senior to the tune of a 1.10 ERA in 41.0 IP. Even better, he struck out 11.63 batters per nine while limiting free passes (2.20 BB/9). The 6-3, 210 pound righthander did it all with a really good fastball (88-92, 93 peak) that looked even faster than that due to his funky sidearm deceptive delivery. Hitters can know the fastball is coming and still swing through it thanks to how sneaky his mechanics. Toss in an impressive slider on top of that and you’ve got a high-probability mid-round future big league reliever.
19.580 – RHP Gary Cornish
Gary Cornish in Brooklyn: 15.84 K/9 and 1.08 BB/9 in 25.0 IP (2.16 ERA) with 56.9 GB%. Not too shabby. I’ve liked him as a senior-sign for quite some time…
Gary Cornish’s reputation for being a ground ball machine puts him on that very same list. His sinker, breaking ball, plus command, and track record of missing bats all up to a fine senior-sign candidate.
That sinker is typically an upper-80s MPH pitch, but Cornish was getting his fastball up to the low-90s (including rare 93-94 peaks) later in the spring. He’s a fastball-dependent arm, but when you’re able to command his brand of movement then you can make that work. So far I’d say he’s done just that. I like what the Mets like when it comes to college relievers.
21.640 – RHP Max Kuhns
Pro baseball now has a Max Kuhns to go along with the existing Max Kuhn. Fantastic. That won’t get confusing at all. Kuhns had a solid junior season at Santa Clara (8.19 K/9 and 3.55 BB/9) after two middling ones. That’s all I’ve got.
22.670 – OF Ian Strom
I thought Ian Strom was an ascending player in line for a huge junior season that could propel him into the top ten round draft conversation. Didn’t work out. Still, the good that led to such a feeling in the first place remains inside of Strom, so taking a chance on him even after the down year makes sense. I’m no longer feeling an offensive breakout, but his speed, arm, and center field defense could be enough to keep him employed for many a year. Zanon, Jabs, and Strom all strike me as similar players the Mets seemed to target in the mid-rounds. If you hit on one and get a cheap backup outfielder (or better if you’re a dreamer) for a few years, then that’s a win at this stage in the draft.
23.700 – 2B Nick Sergakis
One sentence about Nick Sergakis from April 2016 leads us into a tale of two prospect outlooks…
Nothing about Sergakis’s profile makes sense, but he deserves a load of credit for going from decent college player to actual draft prospect seemingly overnight.
(1) I stand by it. Sergakis has a shot to be one of those “out of nowhere” types who does just enough of all the little things well to scrap by level to level. I love this pick in the twenty-third round. Sergakis will never be a star (or even a starter), but a long career as a patient, pesky hitter off the bench known first and foremost for his outstanding glove work at multiple spots is very much on the table. Sure, he’s older but that just means he’s closer to the big leagues, right? A good year spanning a few different levels in 2017 (start in A+, move quickly to AA, then who knows) could put him on the short list of utility options for the Mets heading into the 2018 season. Not bad for a twenty-third round pick.
(2) I just don’t see it. Sergakis was a great story and really does deserve credit for his great redshirt-senior season, but a big part of his recent successes can be traced back to him being a man (23-years-old) among boys. Just look at his three years at Ohio State…
2014: .318/.366/.404 – 8 BB/25 K – 3/7 SB – 151 AB
2015: .250/.352/.330 – 18 BB/44 K – 6/6 SB – 176 AB
2016: .332/.451/.542 – 36 BB/34 K – 15/17 SB – 238 AB
…and tell me which one is the wacky outlier based largely on being more experienced and physically mature than his competition? To go from a two year total of 26 BB/69 K to 36 BB/34 K as a senior is almost as surprising as bumping one’s ISO from .080 to .210. And Sergakis, for all the defensive praise, hasn’t really been tested at shortstop. How valuable is a potential utility infielder who can’t play short? No harm in taking a shot on a guy like this in a round like this, but also no need to get all excited, either.
Obviously, the Mets weighed all of the above when they made the decision to take Sergakis where they did. Is he as good a player as he looked as a 23-year-old at Ohio State? Probably not. Does that mean he’s not worth getting a closer look if the cost is only a mid-round pick? Apparently not.
24.730 – RHP Dariel Rivera
As I’ve said before and I’ll surely say again, any high school prospect you can sign past the tenth round is a good get in my book. Dariel Rivera is a righthander from Puerto Rico with plenty of projection left in his 6-3, 160 pound frame. He’s also starting off at a pretty good place with a fastball up to 90 MPH and an intriguing upper-70s breaking ball. Why not?
30.910 – RHP Eric Villanueva
The Mets stayed in Puerto Rico with the selection and signing of Eric Villanueva six rounds after getting Dariel Rivera’s name on the dotted line. There’s maybe a touch less projection and present velocity with Villanueva than Rivera, but it’s yet another worthy gamble at this stage in the draft. Remember, any high school prospect you can sign past the tenth round is a good get in my book. If you’ve read more than one draft review this offseason, I know you’re sick of hearing that by now. It’s true, though!
31.940 – OF Jeremy Wolf
Jeremy Wolf hit .408/.508/.741 with 35 BB/19 K in 201 AB as a senior at Division III Trinity. That’s clearly awesome, but it should be kept in mind he did so on a D-III championship team that hit .353/.429/.549 on the season. For his career, Wolf hit .367/.455/.577 with 105 BB/87 K in 679 AB. He also had three years of summer league wood bat action for teams to get a better feel for him as a hitter. The Mets clearly saw something they liked somewhere along the line and Wolf has made his signing scout look pretty smart so far. The sturdily built lefthanded bat has kept hitting in the pros (.290/.359/.448, 124 wRC+), so maybe there’s something here.
It’s worth keeping in mind that Wolfe played 99.3% of his debut innings at first base rather than the left field he was announced at on draft day. He does have experience roaming the outfield corners, so maybe he’ll return there at some point in the pros. It goes without saying, but being able to hang in left and right as well as first would greatly up his chances of maybe carving out a big league role down the line. I’ve heard from one Mets source who expressed some degree of confidence that Wolf could hit his way up the ladder with the end result being a quality lefthanded bench bat that can spot start against righthanded pitching.
36.1090 – RHP Garrison Bryant
Bonus points for the Mets getting Garrison Bryant drafted and signed out from under the nose of National League East division rival Philadelphia. Bryant, the best prospect out of Clearwater HS in quite some time, played his home games just two miles from Philadelphia’s spring training and instructional minor league complex. The Phillies loss is the Mets gain as Bryant is yet another prep righthander with projection left for the New York minor league staff to work their magic with. Incidentally, the best player to ever be drafted out of Clearwater HS is none other than Mets great Howard Johnson. That has to be a good sign for Bryant and the Mets, right?
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Rylan Thomas (Central Florida), Michael Chambers (Grayson CC), Carlos Cortes (South Carolina), Jaylon McLaughlin (Nevada), Branden Fryman (Samford), Duncan Pence (Tennessee), Joel Urena (?), Andrew Harbin (Kennesaw State), George Kirby (Elon), Alex Haynes (Walters State CC), William Sierra (?), Jordan Hand (Dallas Baptist), Anthony Herron (Missouri State), Cody Beckman (NC State)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Colorado in 2016
2 – Riley Pint
49 – Robert Tyler
91 – Colton Welker
93 – Ben Bowden
163 – Brian Serven
254 – Garrett Hampson
310 – Willie Abreu
314 – Justin Calomeni
320 – Reid Humphreys
355 – Matt Dennis
1.4 – RHP Riley Pint
On Riley Pint (2) from April 2016…
There have been a lot of challengers to his throne this spring, but Pint’s raw stuff is still the most impressive of any high school arm in this class. He’s the only prep prospect that I’m confident in putting future plus grades on three different pitches. Jay Groome, Ian Anderson, Alex Speas, Austin Bergner, and Forrest Whitley all could get there, but Pint’s already convinced me. He’s the singular most talented pitching prospect in the country. So why is listed as a mid-first round pick and not a slam dunk 1-1 here? If you’re reading this on your own volition — and I certainly hope there’s no crazed lunatic out there forcing random people to visit my site; that’s my job! — then you already know. Pint’s delivery has many of the smarter public talent evaluators concerned about how he’ll hold up pitching every fifth day. I’m less concerned about that because I’m fairly stubborn in my belief that there’s no such thing as “bad mechanics” since the mere act of throwing a baseball is bad and unnatural by definition. I’m just looking for a guy with athleticism who can repeat whatever he is doing on the mound consistently with an open-mindedness to receiving instruction and a willingness to adjust aspects of his craft as needed. I think Pint fits that bill. The one knock on the fire-balling righthander that I think could have some merit is the concern over his risk of injury going forward. Again, this isn’t something that I’m crazy with concern about — pitchers get hurt, so you have to be ready for that inevitability with any pitching prospect — but the idea that Pint’s most obvious selling point (100 MPH!) could also be his biggest red flag (too much velocity too soon) intrigues the heck out of me. That’s straight out of Shakespeare or The Twilight Zone or something. Red flags or not, Pint’s arm talent is unmistakable. He’s well worth a shot here and likely a whole heck of a lot higher. He’d be on my shortlist at 1-1 if I had a say.
This from his pre-draft scouting blurb sums up my enthusiasm for Pint pretty well: “a high school righthander who throws 102 MPH is a terrifying investment, but what separates Pint from failed teenage flame throwers from the past is his present ability to throw two well above-average offspeed pitches fairly consistently and elite athleticism across the board.” Pint is extra exciting to me because he doesn’t need to throw triple-digit fastballs to be a premier pitching prospect and potential ace. Pint living in the mid- to upper-90s with his kind of offspeed stuff (tremendous spike-curve and downright filthy change) with his kind of athleticism is more than enough. I got a little (entirely imagined) heat for having high school pitchers as my top two draft prospects this year, but Jay Groome and Pint aren’t typical high school pitchers. Groome and Pint are crazy talented outliers with the chance to be long-term fixtures atop big league rotations for a long time. If Pint even approaches his ceiling, then the Rockies, an organization quietly building something pretty special, will find themselves in outstanding shape. I know projecting any team three seasons down the line is an exercise in futility, but it’s fun so whatever let’s do it…
1B – McMahon
2B – Story
SS – Rodgers
3B – Arenado
LF – Dahl
RF – Tapia
SP – Gray
SP – Hoffman
SP – Freeland
SP – Bowden
SP – Marquez
Prospects like Serven, Murphy, Mundell, Wall, Welker, Nevin, Hampson, Abreu, Castellani, Castro, Tyler, and Nikorak can help fill in the gaps. There are potential assets in the meantime like Gonzalez, McGee, Blackmon, LeMahieu, and Ottavino that could bring in reinforcements along the way via trade or potentially be extended and become part of the new core. And then top it all off with a pitcher with arguably the highest upside of any teenager in organized ball as the potential ace tying it all together. I’m bullish on the Rockies and I’m bullish on Pint. That’s a potential World Series club core with a potential World Series Game One starter in the system ready to head up the rotation.
1.38 – RHP Robert Tyler
On Robert Tyler (49) from May 2016…
I didn’t intend for this to be an all comp all the time post, but I can’t get the Ryan Madson comparison (first noted by Keith Law) out of my head whenever I think about Tyler. I really want to believe in his breaking ball being good enough to let him be the starting pitcher that Madson never could be, but nobody I’ve spoken to seems to think he can stay in the rotation as a big leaguer. That won’t stop me from stubbornly continuing to believe Tyler, one of the youngest players in his class, won’t find a way to harness his spike-curve more effectively more often. He has the size, command, ability to hold his velocity, and smarts to make it as a starter. I’d be willing to spend a second round pick – maybe a late first depending on how the board breaks – to get him signed, sealed, delivered, and working with my pro staff (coaching and medical) to see firsthand whether or not a more consistent breaker is in that electric right arm of his.
Even after a disaster of a professional beginning (16 walks and 9 wild pitches in 7.0 innings), I think the obvious play is to continue to develop Tyler as a starter with the hope that pro instruction and repetition will lead to some improvement in his spike-curve and control. When that inevitably doesn’t work, then you can guide Tyler’s full-time transition to potential relief ace and speed up his big league timeline. His fastball/changeup combination in short bursts would be lethal. Tyler is a much higher variance college pitcher than one might expect to be picked in the draft’s top two rounds. Him being selected where he was despite his flaws is a testament to how good he’s looked when everything is clicking.
2.45 – LHP Ben Bowden
It could just be that I just wrote about the guy last Friday, but in my mind new Rockies farmhand Ben Bowden (93) will forever be linked to Florida reliever turned Boston maybe starter/maybe reliever Shaun Anderson. Both were SEC relievers on insanely deep college pitching staffs with the pure stuff to start, but no clear opportunity to do so consistently. The opportunity will be there for both in the pros, so it’ll be up to each as individuals to do what they can with their respective shots. Bowden has the requisite three (or four, depending on your view of his breaking ball[s]) pitches to give hitters multiple looks over the course of a single outing with the frame (6-4, 220), athleticism, and pedigree to make the conversion a smooth one. As with Anderson (and fellow SEC guy Robert Tyler), I think trying to make it work in the rotation makes the most short-term sense for Bowden. Also like those guys, I think there should be a relatively short leash with a clear understanding that winding up as a relief ace isn’t a demotion of any sort. Some pitchers see such a significant bump in stuff when able to go full-tilt for shorter outings that it makes sense to allow them to do what they are best at even if there’s more “value” (a tricky thing to truly assess when factors like leverage, strategical freedom, and good old fashioned peace of mind are brought into play) in having them throw more innings as a starter. If Bowden is mid-90s in relief and more 88-92ish as a starter, then there’s no shame in sticking him in the pen and giving yourself another option to deploy each night as needed. A young, cheap, dynamic bullpen filled with guys like Bowden, Tyler, Justin Calomeni, Reid Humphreys, and Matt Dennis would eliminate a lot of the managerial stress that comes with playing 81 games a year at Coors.
3.81 – SS Garrett Hampson
A whole bushel of words on Garrett Hampson (254) from March 2016…
Comparing almost any amateur prospect to [Kevin] Newman is tough (and possibly useless) because the crazy high hit tool bar set by the former Arizona star after a pair of otherworldly summers on the Cape should not be ignored. That should be reason enough not to use him as a comp two days in a row, but…we’ve now hit sentence number two where I don’t know how to finish. I’m stubborn, I guess. I liked but didn’t love Newman last year – ranked him 31st, drafted 19th – but his track record with wood makes him a bit of a prospect unicorn and, no matter your opinion about his long-term future, a comparison that really ought not to be thrown around lightly. I wouldn’t put Hampson’s straight hit tool up against Newman’s, but even at a notch below there are enough other general similarities that make the comparison work. Contextual comps for life. The closest match between the respective games of Hampson and Newman comes down to instincts in all phases. “Special” is the word most often used to describe the way Hampson’s instincts allow him to do things that his raw physical abilities might otherwise not. Like Newman, his arm might be a little light for the left side of the infield; also like Newman, his arm plays up thanks to his skill in turning a quick transfer from glove to throwing motion (hot baseball fan take: a quick release can make up for a lesser arm easier than the other way around) and general aptitude for being in the right place at the right time to get off any number of throws from funky angles that don’t always look pretty but find a way to first base.
Attempts at getting a consensus view on Hampson’s foot speed has me completely turned around. I’ve gotten plus-plus, plus, and average, and the split between plus and average is just about even. My hunch here is that we’re seeing the difference between when and where he’s being timed. On his own batted balls, I could see his times playing closer to average because that’s more representative of his raw ability. However on first to thirds, the combination of his reads, jumps, and hustle helps bump his times up just enough to hit closer to the plus range. This is all just a theory, mind you, and it still likely doesn’t explain the disparity between an average time and plus-plus (easiest explanation for that: scouts are human) spread of times, but the fact we see another example of one his tools playing up thanks to his feel for the game is noteworthy. Stuff like this is representative of the kind of player you’ll get with Hampson. He’s got a good looking swing geared for a lot of contact (my not a scout observation is that he’s one of those guys who can manipulate the bat so that the fat part stays in the zone a long time), playable speed and arm strength that you can round up due to his instincts, and impressive overall athleticism. I’d call him a high-floor/low-ceiling prospect, but I think that mischaracterizes the value of a starting big league shortstop; perhaps it goes without saying, but a utility player floor (best case) and average or so regular (again, best case) ceiling means something different at different positions on the diamond. Hampson won’t be a star, but the simple fact his ceiling could be a regular at short (or even second) gives him more value than his tools suggest.
As for the downside, we’ll refer back to old friend Kevin Newman. This is where I finished with him last year offensively…
Newman’s feel for hitting is special, but, as a guy who will always believe the hit tool is king, it pains me to admit a hit tool alone is not enough to equate to future impact regular. Pro pitchers attack hitters with minimal power differently than amateurs. In no way should all hitters be expected to come into pro ball with 20+ HR/season ability, but the threat of extra base power is needed to get the pitches and favorable hitting counts that lead to good things. It’s considerably more difficult to hit .300 with minimal power at the highest level than it is in college and in the lower-minors. I’m not bold enough to unequivocally say that Newman can’t do it, but the odds are stacked against him.
and this was the final amateur defensive verdict…
Though his superior instincts, first step quickness, and quick release all give him a shot to stick at the six-spot, his lackluster arm strength and limited range make him a better long-term fit at second base. Part of my thought process changing had to do with seeing more of him on the field (with two caveats: I’m a fan, not a scout, and it was video, not live), part of it had to do with hearing from trusted contacts who did see him up close a lot more than I could have hoped to, and part of it was my own evolving view of how important arm strength is for a shortstop. We’ve become so accustomed to thinking that third base is the infield position where the biggest arm is needed, but after focusing more closely on some of the throws that big league shortstops are asked to make deep into the hole as their momentum carries them away from their target, I’d argue that shortstop is where ideally your strongest arm would go. That’s not Newman, and I think that the rest of the industry will realize that sooner rather than later.
The question then becomes whether or not I think Hampson can succeed in the same way I think Newman will (solid regular at second) even with a lesser hit tool. I think I do, but no so strongly that I’d use a top hundred pick to see it through. Of course, there are also the additional questions about how closely remaining abilities – namely range, arm, and speed – compare to Newman’s. It’s my belief that he’s at least as strong in each of those areas as Newman, but reasonable minds can differ. Those tools added up give him a slightly better chance to succeed at shortstop in the pros, but the safest outcome is still average or so regular at second. Kind of like Kevin Newman.
There you have it. A lot of words to say that Hampson, who had a fantastic debut, is a fine player with a shot to be a good regular shortstop (early returns from both the scouting world and the attempts at minor league fielding metrics have been positive), an arguably clearer shot to be a good regular second baseman, but a clearest yet path to a long career as a sneaky high value utility infielder.
4.110 – 3B Colton Welker
I really like how Colorado diversified their draft portfolio early on. Their first five picks: high school pitcher, college pitcher, college pitcher, college infielder, and high school infielder. Said high school infielder is none other than Colton Welker (91), one of my pre-draft FAVORITES now in a fantastic position to flourish as a pro hitter. I think Welker is a good enough all-around hitter — real power, fine swing, mature approach — with impressive left side of the infield defensive tools to be an above-average potential regular at the hot corner. He reminds me a little bit of another old draft FAVORITE and fellow Miami commit David Thompson. I like this pick a lot.
5.140 – C Brian Serven
On Brian Serven (163) from April 2016…
Blessed with an arm both strong and accurate, Serven’s strong hands and plus mobility behind the plate make him a defensive weapon. Whether or not he’ll keep hitting enough to play regularly remains an open question for me – all I have on him offensively are his numbers and that he’s got average or better raw power – but the present defensive value is enough to last a long time in pro ball.
Serven is a fine example of what makes the draft process and talent evaluation as a whole so much darn fun. You can read elsewhere on the internet all about Serven being a potential bat-first catcher with serious defensive questions. Is that right? Is what I have right? All I can write about is what I personally see and hear firsthand. The truest way to know for sure if I’m right or wrong is to get out there and see Serven up close yourself. Or wait until a trusted pro prospect writer comes out with a report that makes sense to you. My quick evaluation of Serven is “backup catcher with a chance to add value defensively, but not a good enough hitter in any phase to play regularly.” That’s not a ceiling projection that knocks your socks off in the fifth round, but it fits when you look at position scarcity and the importance of getting your guy before it is too late. My top twelve college catchers and when they went off the board in parentheses…
Collins (1) – Thaiss (2) – Murphy (7) – Smith (3) – Ice (5) – Okey (4) – Martinez (9) – Lawrence (😢) – Cumberland (6) – Rogers (8) – Tinsley (13) – Serven (10)
In other words, Serven was just about the last man standing out of that group. The only other options that the Rockies had at that point from my top twelve were Lawrence (😢) and Tinsley. You could definitely argue that Colorado should have tried to get a different catcher earlier, but that’s the kind of draft butterfly effect type stuff that will drive you crazy if you let it. I lumped Serven in with names like Smith (high end of that spectrum), Rogers (middle), and Tinsley (middle-ish) as highly athletic catchers with strong defensive upside, and I think getting one such player like that was critical for Colorado in a draft they praised such a premium on collecting high upside yet volatile young pitching. I gently criticized the Braves for drafting a bat-first catcher in Cumberland in the same draft they also went with loads of pitching early, so it’s only right to give the Rockies credit for getting a potentially stabilizing force behind the dish in a similar situation. I may not love the player, but the thought process is there.
6.170 – OF Willie Abreu
I’m still concerned about Willie Abreu’s (310) propensity for swinging and missing, but his physical profile is top notch. How can you not see what the Rockies saw in him? One watch of Abreu and you see a guy who stands out physically from the rest. From October 2015…
Nick Banks gets a lot of deserved attention for being a potential early first round pick — somebody even once called him the “right field prototype,” if you can believe it — but Willie Abreu’s tool set is on the same shelf. There’s power, mobility, arm strength, and athleticism to profile as a damn fine regular if it all clicks.
And then again in December 2015…
I recently had a conversation with somebody (note: this chat may or may not have been with myself in the car while stuck in traffic one day) about OF Willie Abreu and his prodigious raw power. We went back and forth a bit about how he ranks in the power department judged against his collegiate peers before settling on the top ten with a case for top five. Of course, one of the names that is ahead of him on any list of amateur power is his teammate Zack Collins. I can’t imagine how it would feel to have easy plus raw lefthanded power and still come in second on your own team. I’m sure he doesn’t mind being teammates with a slugger equally feared — protection may be a myth, but it’s a fun one — and on a squad with designs on playing deep into June.
For all the talk about Abreu’s raw power, there is still some question about how much he’ll ever be able to utilize it in game action. His power numbers through two years are much closer to good than great and there’s the predictable swing-and-miss aspect to his game present, so there’s some pressure on him to put turn some of his raw ability into tangible skills in 2016. I’m bullish on him doing just that, but your mileage might vary.
Abreu hit for more power than ever in 2016, but kept on piling up the strikeouts. He’s still young enough to improve — a not so minor point that can and should be remembered about ALL of these prospects profiled in these draft reviews — but the track record suggests the style of hitter he is ain’t changing any time soon. You can still be a pretty good player even while striking out a ton, so the toolsy Abreu bears close watching going forward. For both scouting reasons and the strength of following an instinctual hunch, I’m cautiously optimistic that Abreu, despite being the antithesis of what I typically look for in a young hitter n terms of approach, puts it all together as a pro by maximizing his strengths and getting by with his weaknesses.
7.200 – RHP Reid Humphreys
I preferred Reid Humphreys (320) as a hitter, so feel free to disregard just about everything you’ll read ahead. As a pitcher, Humphreys is a good looking potential big league reliever. On his best days, his mid-90s fastball and above-average breaking ball combination give him the look of a future late-inning option. When he doesn’t have it clicking on the mound, he’s more of a low-90s type with an average at best breaker. His junior year peripherals at Mississippi State (11.83 K/9 and 2.54 BB/9) and increased time away from HS Tommy John surgery give some hope that the best of Humphreys on the mound is yet to come.
8.230 – LHP Ty Culbreth
I get needing to save some dough with a senior-sign here, but not sure I’ve seen what Colorado evidently sees in Ty Culbreth. The little lefthander from Texas was a really good college pitcher and a legitimate late-round draft prospect, but the absolutely best case scenario here is last man in the bullpen matchup lefty. There’s really not a ton of room in pro ball for upper-80s pitchers with solid but not spectacular offspeed stuff.
9.260 – RHP Justin Calomeni
On Justin Calomeni (314) from March 2016…
Calomeni complements his heater with an impressive sinking changeup and a low- to mid-80s slider with plus upside. His track record through two and a half college seasons is unimpeachable. I like him a lot as one of those mid-round relievers who winds up “coming out of nowhere” developmentally to pitch in the big leagues for ten years.
Love this pick for Colorado. Calomeni has a big fastball (up to 97) to go with that aforementioned slider and changeup. I think he can ride the fastball and slider all the way to a late-inning big league role.
10.290 – OF Vince Fernandez
On Vince Fernandez (and a larger attempted point about scouting a hitter’s approach) from March 2016…
On the other hand, Vince Fernandez has long been a FAVORITE despite a questionable at best approach. That’s begun to catch up with him some on these rankings – no shame in being ranked tenth, but if we were talking sheer physical ability he’d be top three – and it’s officially fair to wonder if he’s ever going to be the kind of hitter I once thought he could be. That alone obviously wouldn’t disqualify him from a long, prosperous professional career, though his stalled development has to be a cause for concern even for those who are more willing than myself to believe he’ll figure things out as a hitter. For what it’s worth, Fernandez has gotten a steady stream of compliments about his approach over the years; it’s exactly that type of positive feedback (combined with average to above-average raw power, above-average speed, and considerable bat speed, all of which are no small things) that made him a FAVORITE in the first place. We’ve seen the scouts – we’ll pretend that my presentation here of THE SCOUTS somehow equates to a monolithic being with one set opinion on each player across the country with no room for dissenting opinions – hit big on many of the position players in this class with notes that read “good approach” and BB/K ratios coming into the year that would have you believe scouting is a big old waste of time. The most famous example of this is Kyle Lewis. Fernandez hasn’t been able to join the “hey these scouts might know what they are talking about after all and sometimes a player can improve in incremental ways that aren’t really reflected in the numbers until BOOM one day it clicks and they are” group just yet, but the overarching success of players like him gives me some hope it could still happen. Kyle Lewis being able to do this really ought to have no impact on whether or not Vince Fernandez can do something similar, but the fact that it can and does happen is enough to keep hope alive for him. There’s still a lot of season left…and potentially a senior season if it comes to it.
Fernandez did wind up improving his plate discipline indicators somewhat from 2015 (23 BB/63 K) to 2016 (30 BB/58 K), but the drastic jump in walks and decline in whiffs that a guy like Kyle Lewis experienced didn’t quite work out for Fernandez. That doesn’t mean the former UC Riverside star isn’t a good prospect. Success comes in many shapes and sizes, and Fernandez has a well-rounded corner outfield profile (average to above-average power, speed, and arm strength) that makes him an interesting prospect even if he’s going to be a hacker in the pros.
11.320 – RHP Bryan Baker
Bryan Baker brings a big body (6-6, 225) and a potent fastball (88-94, 96-97 peak) to the mound. I’ll be long dead before teams stop overdrafting size and velocity. Still, Baker is a decent relief gamble here.
12.350 – RHP Brandon Gold
On Brandon Gold from December 2015…
My favorite Georgia Tech arm is attached to the body of JR RHP/3B Brandon Gold. Gold is a good athlete — no surprise coming from a two-way talent who might be seen as a primary third baseman by some teams — with the kind of stuff that you wonder if it might play up once asked to focus on pitching full-time. He’s been up to the low-90s with a nice changeup and average or better command, so there’s a good base to work with here.
Gold further refined his stuff in 2016 with the Yellow Jackets. His breaking ball (76-84, more slider than curve but a little of both at times) and sinking change (80-85) give him a pair of offspeed weapons that can get him both swings and misses and outs on the ground. I’d keep him in the rotation for as long as possible and bank on the continued full-time dedication to pitching making him one of the draft’s better college sleepers. I like this pick a ton.
13.380 – SS Taylor Snyder
Colorado stayed close to home by selecting Taylor Snyder from the Colorado State University-Pueblo Thunderwolves in the thirteenth round. Snyder hit a robust .345/.398/.684 with 16 BB/30 K and 9/10 SB as a junior, though those numbers were rolled up as part of a team that hit a combined .331/.404/.513. Still, the power is real (based on what I’ve been told) and he’s athletic enough to play any spot in the infield, so the possibility of a fun bat-first utility player is very much in play here.
14.410 – RHP Matt Dennis
I really like Matt Dennis (355). Here’s the praise from March 2016 to prove it…
He’s got enough fastball (88-92, 94 peak), a damn fine changeup (plus upside), and a solid low-70s curve. His command is good, he’s kept runs off the board (1.50 ERA last year), and his peripherals have always been where you want them. It’s not the kind of profile that blows you away at first look, but all of the individual components work well together. I’m a fan.
I think Dennis pitches in the big leagues for a long time, likely in a relief role.
Lots of guys with good changeups being drafted by Colorado in this class. Coincidence or internal data informing decision making? The collective wisdom of the internet says using the change at elevation leads to inconclusive results (slider > curve seems like the one legit conclusion so far), but anecdotally I think a good changeup would make sense as a potential out-pitch at Coors.
15.440 – RHP Justin Valdespina
Justin Valdespina followed teammate Tim Viehoff (Seattle) as the second of three Southern New Hampshire prospects to be drafted in 2016. He’s also the eighth Penman pitcher to be drafted since I started the site up in 2009. That’s a pretty impressive run of producing draft-quality arms for a Division II program located in New England. Were it not for Viehoff going off the board eighty-three picks earlier, Valdespina would have gone down in history as the highest drafted Penman to date. Alas, he’ll have to settle for second from the top for now. I’m not particularly bullish on his decent fastball/better curveball approach playing all that well at Coors, but it’s a decent enough context-neutral middle relief skill set all the same.
16.470 – C Will Haynie
Will Haynie is the first of three college bats taken in the next four picks by Colorado that follow a fairly simple pattern: huge raw power, silly amounts of swing-and-miss, uncertain long-term defensive fit. That’s not the player profile I’d personally load up on, but Colorado never asked me. From April 2015…
Alabama SO C Will Haynie has obvious upside in his 6-5, 230 pound frame. Catchers built like that with plus raw power and plus arm strength get chances even when the overall package – Haynie struggled badly last season and has only made modest improvements in 2015 — doesn’t amount to what you’d expect. A team might bet on his tools higher than expected, but I think the most realistic outcome would be a return to Tuscaloosa in 2016. No need to rush Haynie just because he’s a draft-eligible sophomore, though I suppose the question as to whether or not his development would be better served in college or in the pros going forward is one worth asking. I typically side with the pro side on matters like these, but Haynie needs the kind of at bats that playing every day in the SEC would give him. He’s almost too raw a player to take on the pros right now; I’d worry that he’d get lost in the shuffle of pro ball as even the best player development staffs can only take on so many projects at any one time.
Eighteen months later and I’m still not a big fan of Haynie’s pro prospects. Nothing about his junior season at Alabama (.225/.291/.423 with 12 BB/55 K) changed his long-term outlook for me. I remain intrigued by his power and arm strength, but scared off by his outrageous swing-and-miss potential. Maybe he can carve out a role in the big leagues down the line as an old school plus power/plus arm strength backup catcher, but I’m not seeing it.
17.500 – RHP Mike Bunal
Mike Bunal could be an athletic sinker/slider reliever if he keeps moving his game in the right direction. That’s not a profile that lights the world on fire, but there could be some value there.
18.530 – 1B Hunter Melton
Part Two of the Rockies big power/too much swing-and-miss/questionable defender grab bag brings Hunter Melton to the Colorado organization in the eighteenth round. From April 2016…
Turns out I don’t have a hook for Hunter Melton, so we’ll focus on his interesting power, positional versatility (some think he could still play some 3B if need be), and intriguing track record with wood. In the late rounds, it all could be worth investigating.
Lots of power, lots of strikeouts, and likely locked into first base going forward. If he can convince the Rockies that he can move around the diamond a little (third base, maybe an outfield corner) then he has a sliver of a chance of making it as a bat-first utility type. As a first baseman only, I think the approach holds him back too much.
19.560 – 1B Jacob Bosiokovic
First Will Haynie, then Hunter Melton, and finally Jacob Bosiokovic. Of the three, I think I like the Ohio State slugger best of all. That said, while I understand the intrigue that comes with a big guy (6-6, 240 pounds) with his kind of tools, I think there’s just too much swing-and-miss to Bosiokovic’s offensive game to make a lasting impact in pro ball. He’s an excellent athlete with big-time strength who can run, defend multiple spots, and work deep counts. Curbing some of his strikeouts will be key, but the upside here for a four-corners (1B, 3B, LF, RF) utility bat exists. His brand of power and Coors Field is as close to a perfect prospect/team marriage that exists in this draft. I hope it works out for him because watching his BP in Denver 81 times a year would be more than worth the price of admission.
20.590 – LHP Kyle Cedotal
I don’t quite know how I feel about the Colorado draft as a whole just yet, but this run of low-probability/low-ceiling prospects is bumming me out. Kyle Cedotal is an upper-80s lefthander who throws a whole lot of junk (in a good way) and relies on changing speeds above all else. From June 2016…
LHP Kyle Cedotal has the crafty college lefty thing down to a science, so spending a late pick on him and watching him move quickly as he mows down low-minors hitting out of the bullpen could be fun.
That’s about right, I think. Cedotal has a chance to eventually rise up as a funky matchup lefty. Whether or not that gets you going is something I’ll leave up to you.
21.620 – OF Tyler Bugner
Hit .439/.522/.620 with 29 BB/14 K and 20/21 SB in 187 AB during your junior season and you’ve got my attention. Tyler Bugner followed up that ridiculous year at Newman with an impressive in its own right professional debut. I don’t have much in the way of scouting notes on Bugner, but one contact told me that “if intangibles matter, Bugner’s a future big leaguer.” I’m on the bandwagon.
22.650 – OF Steven Linkous
The first of back-to-back draftees from UNC Wilmington, Steven Linkous is a plus runner, outstanding athlete, and quality defender in center. A lack of power limits his overall upside, but there are enough secondary skills and defensive versatility in his game to merit some long-term utility player consideration.
23.680 – RHP Jared Gesell
I thought Jared Gesell had a shot to sneak into the tenth round as a money-saving senior-sign. In fact, here you go from March 2016…
Also, not for nothing, but Jared Gesell is another FAVORITE who will make a drafting team extremely happy as a high value senior-sign. I think he’s a future big leaguer.
Future big leaguer is a bold take, but I stand by it with Gesell. Size (6-4, 200), fastball (88-94, 95 peak), above-average changeup (78-83, flashes plus), emerging breaking ball (77-80 slider), deception, and a long track record of missing bats all add up to a really nice mid-round relief prospect by any standard. The only bugaboo with Gesell is his control. Check his senior year college numbers (top) against stats from his professional debut (bottom)…
12.18 K/9 and 5.35 BB/9 in 30.1 IP
13.16 K/9 and 4.39 BB/9 in 26.2 IP
I’m not saying he’ll be a 12ish K/9 and 4.5ish BB/9 guy in perpetuity, but the consistency of his output gives a pretty clear idea of what kind of pitcher you’re getting with Gesell. The stuff and strikeouts are enough for me to overlook the control for now. Twenty-third round pick Jared Gesell: future big leaguer.
24.710 – RHP JD Hammer
JD Hammer doesn’t throw a curve (to my knowledge), so that’s a little disappointing. He does throw a fastball up to 94 with an average or better slider, so big league middle reliever isn’t a crazy potential outcome for him. Hammer is a quality arm to land in the twenty-fourth round.
25.740 – RHP Heath Holder
Only in the MLB Draft can you find a solid performer (10.01 K/9 and 3.68 ERA in 71.0 IP) from the SEC with size (6-6, 210 pounds), a decent fastball (88-92), and a quality breaking ball all the way down in the twenty-fifth round. I suppose that makes sense since none of the other drafts go this many rounds. And pro teams drafting in their respective drafts might not value a righthanded pitcher in quite the same way a baseball team might. I am kind of curious now about Heath Holder’s skating ability.
26.770 – RHP Austin Moore
Doesn’t West Texas A&M have that perfect just real enough quality to it that it could be used on TV and in movies as a stock university without having to worry about copyright infringement? Turns out not only is it a real school, but it now has it’s first every MLB draftee in Austin Moore. Pretty cool. All I have on him are his numbers. Thankfully, they are good ones: 11.65 K/9 and 3.98 BB/9.
27.800 – RHP George Thanopolous
On George Thanopolous from March 2016…
George Thanopoulos is a classic sinker/slider guy who could soak up enough low-minors innings to buy the time needed to earn fans in high organizational places. There are hundreds of pitchers like him between amateur ball and the minor leagues and predicting which ones can take their sinker/slider blend to big league bullpens is anybody’s guess.
I should really just copy and paste that for about 50% of all of the college righthanders drafted past the twentieth round or so. Minus Thanopolous’s misspelled name. Well, minus his name altogether actually. Things would get really confusing if I copied and pasted that specific passage for multiple players not named George Thanopolous. But the sinker/slider stuff is relevant for many.
28.830 – RHP Ryan Luna
Ryan Luna’s two seasons at Sonoma State saw him strike out 8.88 batters per nine and walk 3.86 batters per nine. That’s all I’ve got. Luna means moon. You probably knew that already, but any attempt to stretch these out is a good one. I get paid by the word, after all.
29.860 – RHP Josh Shelley
Josh Shelley is a sinker/slider relief prospect out of Mobile. He didn’t pitch in his first year with the Rockies organization. Him not pitching ruined my plans of checking his GB%. Can’t win ’em all, I suppose.
30.890 – RHP Rico Garcia
Rico Garcia likely benefited at least a little from scouts expensing trips to Honolulu to see eventual thirteenth round pick Brandon Bonilla (among other reasons), but his thirtieth round selection was one clearly made on merit. Garcia’s senior stats (6.90 K/9 and 2.10 BB/9 in 77.0 IP) won’t blow you away, but he’s shown consistent command of a quality three-pitch mix (low-90s FB, CU, breaking ball) for years now. The undersized righthander has middle relief upside if it all works out in the pros.
31.920 – RHP Kenny Oakley
Kenny Oakley has always had solid stuff (88-92 FB, average or better CU), but could never quite seem to put it all together for an extended period of time during his senior season (5.89 K/9 and 3.56 BB/9) at UNLV. His quality first three seasons and that aforementioned solid stuff were enough to get him popped by Colorado despite his senior year blues. Because baseball is a funny game, Oakley then went out and dominated (peripherally, at least) rookie ball. His debut line included a 13.66 K/9 and 2.86 BB/9 in 28.1 IP.
33.980 – SS Tyler Orris
When I started this site before the 2009 MLB Draft, Millersville had three draftees in school history. Since then, they’ve had six. Of that six, three came in 2016 alone. One of those three is Tyler Orris. The Millersville shortstop hit .337/.421/.427 (110 BB/78 K) with 101 SB in his 224 career games as a Marauder. As a senior he hit .354/.459/.467 with 40 BB/19 K. The athletic, sure-handed Orris can certainly field his spot(s), so sticking him at either short or second in the low-minors will at least give your organization confidence he’ll make all the needed plays behind your young pitching. His approach at the plate is a thing of beauty (he even kept piling up walks as a pro with a 20 BB/20 K ratio for Boise), but the lack of power is his offensive undoing. Still, speed, defense, and a good approach are about all you can ask in a thirty-third round org guy like Orris. Small school prospects coming off highly productive college careers are some of my favorite types to root for in pro ball.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
John Hendry (Indianapolis), Wyatt Featherston (Western Kentucky), Michael Toglia (UCLA), Trevor Edior (?), Troy Bacon (Santa Fe JC), Quin Cotton (Grand Canyon), Cuba Bess (Grand Canyon), Luca Dalatri (North Carolina)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Boston in 2016
1 – Jay Groome
76 – CJ Chatham
90 – Shaun Anderson
98 – Mike Shawaryn
213 – Bobby Dalbec
324 – Stephen Nogosek
416 – Santiago Espinal
1.12 – LHP Jay Groome
That link takes care of a lot of my thoughts on Groome, the draft’s best long-term prospect for my money. For those less inclined to click a link, the most relevant excerpt…
Groome came out firing in the first with a string of low-90s fastballs (93, 94, 92, 93) before dropping a picture perfect 78 MPH curveball that made the Gloucester Catholic’s leadoff man’s knees buckle and the crowd of scouts and execs behind home plate (as well as a few thousand of their closest friends) audibly “oooh.” Incredibly, that was just the first of five different “oooh” curves he’d throw all night: there were two more in the fifth inning and two more after that in his sixth and final frame. I had that pitch ranging from 74-78 on the evening. Everything about the pitch is plus to plus-plus, though I think you could quibble some with a slightly slowed arm speed on the offering that tips it just enough for HS hitters to notice, but not nearly enough for them to react. The pitch is so good that there’s a chance he can get away with the slight pause in pro ball for a while; obvious point is obvious, but that’s really high praise. Groome’s curve is special and that alone makes him a top ten prospect in this class.
After going 93, 94, 92, 93, and 78 on the first batter, Groome went 93, 77, 92, 94, and 93 to the second hitter. That basic pattern — work off the fastball, mix in one curve per plate appearance — was followed by Groome for much of the game. I won’t say my notes were perfect — my focus on the fast-paced, well-pitched (though admittedly not particularly crisply played otherwise) game was a solid 98% throughout, but taking in the atmosphere occasionally led to a missed radar reading or two — but I only had Groome dropping two curves to the same batter on four occasions. This strategy obviously worked (14 strikeouts is 14 strikeouts) with the threat of a bigger fastball than he wound up showing, average fastball command that flashed better in certain at bats, and that devastating curve ranking as the reasons why in ascending order of importance.
Everything you’ve already seen, read, or heard about Groome’s mechanics held up. They are close to picture perfect. I’ve long been on the record of only caring about mechanical extremes, and I’d say with great confidence that Groome’s arm action and delivery are on that happy tail of the bell curve. With his frame, bulked up from a boy late last summer to a rock solid man by now (though I’d argue with some loss of athleticism), his age, and those textbook mechanics, it’s easy to imagine a day in the not so distant future where Groome is a consistent mid-90s arm if he wants to be. Of course, that’s all projection at this point: Groome’s velocity on this day fluctuated from those early game low-90s peaks to a strange middle inning dip to the mid- to upper-80s. I was almost positive while watching live that he wasn’t working in his changeup — some around me thought otherwise, for what it’s worth* — but I had him with an 85, 86, 87, and four 89’s between innings three and five. After thinking about it some more I could buy the mid-80s pitches being his attempt at the change to give the scouts a little taste of his third pitch; if so, I’ve seen it look better, but the arm action sure looked like the fastball, so at least there was that. Still, the 89’s for a well-rested teenage arm on a nice night weren’t exactly typical of what we’ve come to expect out of a potential first overall pick. He rebounded some in his final inning, sitting 90-91 with his fastball while relying more on the curve than in any other part of the game to that point. His final pitch of the night was a 92 MPH fastball that was swung through for eighth strikeout in a row to end the game and fourteenth overall.
(* Groome himself identified the pitch as a change: “As far as my command goes, I think that’s pretty good, but I need to show a little more depth to my changeup. I’m not really getting out in front of it and left a couple up high today. They fouled it off, they didn’t really make me pay. Later on down the road, I have to get that good depth on it.”)
This is the point in the report where I’m supposed to make a grand conclusion about what I saw out of Groome on the night. Well, I’ve got nothing. I selfishly wanted to see Groome at his very best — again, it’s worth pointing out that the man had fourteen strikeouts in six innings and that’s not his best — so that I could walk away ready to declare the race for 1-1 and top spot on my board over. The obvious good news is the confirmation that his curve and mechanics are both 1-1 caliber. His fastball has been in the past, but wasn’t on this night. I’m not terribly concerned about one good but not great velocity night — the fastball was still commanded fairly well (average to above-average), had such obvious late life that even my old eyes could see it, and came out of a deceptive enough slot that it had hitters taking bad swings all evening long — but I think the summer showcase version of Groome’s heater is (unsurprisingly) less the real thing than what we’ve seen out of him this spring. His changeup remains an open question, but that’s not atypical for a big-time high school arm with Groome’s brand of one-two punch locked and loaded for bear most starts. The development of his physique continues to surprise me — it’s as if he finds a way to pack on a pound or three of good weight every time I see him — but I do worry some that he’s getting close to the danger zone of sacrificing some looseness and athleticism, both facets of his game that excited me so much about him last summer, for strength. Add it all up (above-average fastball with plus upside, clear plus curve, changeup with a chance to be average, elegant mechanics, and a pro-ready body) and it’s clear that Jay Groome is a really, really good pitching prospect. What isn’t clear, however, is whether or not he’s the best amateur prospect in the country. For some, not yet knowing is knowing; when the risk of taking a teenage arm gets factored in, Groome not being a slam dunk pick above the rest means the risk is too great to pass on similarly valued peers (Puk, Lewis, Moniak, Rutherford, Perez, Ray, whomever) with more certainty. I think that’s where the Phillies are currently at in their evaluation. Between Groome’s staggering perfect world ceiling and moderate (for a HS arm) floor (less projection in his body than most, plus his mechanics portend good things to come) and the less than thrilling options that surround him at the top of the class, I’d have a hard time removing his name from 1-1 consideration if I was in charge of such a pick.
I’m not saying that’s the definitive Jay Groome take. Everything written above came from a game report from one Groome start. That outing was only one of five different times (once last summer, once in the winter, three times in the spring) that I saw Groome pitch in person. I’m not a scout so take all of the above with the usual grain of salt that comes with a fan’s observations of the game — though I’ll rudely point out for the millionth time here that watching baseball isn’t exactly rocket science no matter what those with a vested interest in creating that precise mythology within the industry would like for us all to believe — but I generally feel confident in my overall evaluation of Groome based on the combination of having seen him at multiple stages of his teenage development, having traded firsthand accounts for games and showcases that I’ve missed with others in the game, and absorbing all possible public published information on him.
In short, Groome is the truth. Sky high expectations caused some draft fans (and evaluators) to turn on him as the spring dragged on, but even at his “worst” he was still flashing easy first round stuff. There was some grumbling in the stands during a game where he struck out fourteen batters in six innings. I know scouting isn’t a performance-based thing, but, come on, that should at least tell you something about the guy.
I can’t get behind the Clayton Kershaw comparisons for Groome because Kershaw is in a different stratosphere altogether from the rest of the big leagues right now, but I’ll still throw out a very lofty comparison for Groome that I don’t think I’ve shared on the site before. Watching the young lefthander from Jersey’s evolution over the past eighteen months reminds me a lot of a young Andy Pettitte. We can’t help but think of Pettitte now and go right to his dominant cutter, but he didn’t start to throw the cutter consistently until the 2004 season (when he was 32-years-old) and he didn’t technically swap it out for his slider until 2008 (when he was 36-years-old). The 18-year-old Groome has plenty of time to reinvent himself a half-dozen times or so before he gets to the late-career portion of his big league run. Groome reminds me more of the early-career version of Pettitte, the one with a consistently above-average heater that could hit the mid-90s, plus curve, and above-average change. That’s the Pettitte that was written up as a soon-to-be 23-year-old back in 1995 courtesy of the always excellent Diamond Minds scouting database…
So much about Groome reminded me of Pettitte after his last start against Gloucester Catholic that I was kicking myself (not literally, I’m not that flexible) on the whole ride home for not putting it together sooner. Their mechanics, the use of a knuckle-curve, the body types…watching Groome was like going back in time and seeing a young Pettitte for the first time. The scary part here is that I think Groome has a chance to be a better version of Pettitte. Call him Pettitte 2.0. That’s Hall of Fame upside. That’s what I think Jay Groome can accomplish.
(Self-indulgent post-script to the Groome/Pettitte comparison. I, like many others I’d imagine, have a hard time remembering what young versions of established stars looked like. The days before MLB.TV made watching the over-the-top amount of baseball we all do today a lot harder back then. I do, however, remember what a young Andy Pettitte looked like. Of course, entirely selfish reasons brought me to him in my own early teenage years. Pettitte, having just turned 27-years-old, was very much on the trade block in 1999. The Yankees had a deal in place with my hometown Philadelphia Phillies contingent on a few other dominoes falling that same deadline. The return for Pettitte would have been rather bleak in hindsight: Reggie Taylor, Adam Eaton, and Anthony Shumaker. New York didn’t get the reliever they wanted elsewhere, so they pulled out of the deal at the last minute.
2.51 – SS CJ Chatham
On CJ Chatham (76) from March 2016…
CJ Chatham is an intriguing modern shortstop who has opened eyes throughout the game with his huge start to 2016. In no means is it a direct comparison, but what he’s doing so far is similar to what Kyle Lewis has done at Mercer. Chatham, like Lewis, has done everything possible to turn a perceived weakness (approach) into a strength. Going from a 8 BB/39 K as a freshman and 10 BB/28 K as a sophomore to his draft year 10 BB/7 K ratio is something worth getting excited about. With Chatham’s seemingly improved approach, scouts can now freely focus on the other positives in his game (above-average range, above-average to plus arm, a 6-4, 185 pound frame to dream on) and begin forecasting a big league regular out of the overall package. In a class with a serious talent void at the top of the college shortstop rankings, Chatham has emerged as a legit contender to be the very first off the board and a top hundred pick. He’s that good.
Chatham’s patient start at the plate didn’t quite foreshadow a true shift in approach — he walked 13 times with 27 strikeouts from the time of that original writing forward to bring his totals on the season to 23 BB/34 K — but that didn’t stop the Red Sox (and many other teams) from being hot on his trail on draft day. I’m sure part of that had to do with the scarcity of true shortstops in this class, but plenty also had to do with Chatham’s dreamy 6-4, 185 pound frame, above-average to plus raw power, and outstanding defensive tools that could make him an above-average glove at short or a true plus defender at the hot corner.
It’s probably silly to make too much out of any player’s professional debut, but something about Chatham’s .259/.319/.426 line at Lowell to begin his career stands out to me. Call it an attempt at informed prospect projection or a wild ass hunch, but Chatham’s most realistic upside with the bat falling around .260/.320/.425 just feels right to me. Those marks would put him 13th (BA), 13th (OBP), and 14th (SLG) among qualified shortstops in 2016. Slap some above-average defense on him and that’s a top ten player at the position. For what it’s worth, that .260/.320/.425 ballpark projection gets us pretty close to what Troy Tulowitzki (.254/.318/.443) did this past year on his way to a just ahead of league average (102 wRC+) offensive showing. That line would also put him close to the career averages of guys like Jimmy Rollins (career .264/.324/.418 hitter), Jhonny Peralta, and Rich Aurilia. I highlighted the Rollins career stat line not only because it’s as close as you can find to that hypothetical .260/.320/.425 shortstop we’ve created, but also to reiterate the limits of performance-based expectation comparisons. Chatham and Rollins are too very different players from a scouting perspective; ten seconds of watching them makes that obvious to even the most casual of baseball fan. Thankfully, that’s not the intent of a performance comp. Different types of players can still bring about similar long-term value. A career like what Rollins, Peralta, or Aurilia did (or are in the process of doing) seems within reach for the Red Sox second round selection.
3.88 – RHP Shaun Anderson
I’m really excited to see what direction the career of Shaun Anderson (90) goes in pro ball. It’s really easy to see Anderson remaining in the bullpen and being one of this year’s quickest moving draftees. He’s got the plus to plus-plus fastball that is a good enough pitch for him to use it an entire inning at time. There’s velocity (88-94, 96 peak), movement (tons), and the ability to command it (all the more impressive when you factor in that crazy movement); in short, his heater checks off everything you’d want in the pitch. Anderson also throws an above-average to plus cut-slider that can also turn into a truer slider with a bit more bend when it takes a little off of it. In the bullpen, that fastball/cutter mix could be enough to mow down batters at a similar clip that he did at Florida.
As a starter, all bets are off. One of the easiest and most difficult things to do is to project a college reliever with all the attributes of a starting pitcher to a pro rotation spot. It’s easy because it just makes sense. If a guy has the body, delivery, temperament, and stuff to start, but circumstances as a college athlete forced him in the bullpen then dreaming on him in his “natural” role makes sense. Easy, right? What’s difficult about the whole thing is how challenging the actual transition really is. A plus fastball in short outings may just be above-average (if that) as a starter. A lesser fastball then allows hitters to more easily prepare for the premium offspeed stuff, and even that assumes said offspeed stuff remains as good as it was in fewer innings. There’s also the simple issue that some bodies, no matter how they look, are better equipped for one role over the other. Conventional wisdom be damned, there are big guys who tire more easily as starters and little guys who seem to get better the more innings they throw. I’m not saying there’s no way of telling how a player will react until actually put into the new role, but…actually, I guess that is what I’m saying. Projecting is what we do, but to call it an inexact science is an insult to actual science.
I’d like to think Anderson can maintain all of the stuff he’s shown in his three years (worth noting here he pitched 43.0 innings his junior year after just 39.0 IP his first two seasons) at Florida, but I really have no idea. If he can, then he’s a potential mid-rotation starter with the chance for a little more than that. If he’s destined to the bullpen (my personal hunch), then he could become a major relief weapon for the Red Sox sooner rather than later. With a legit four-pitch mix (emphasizing fastballs and cutters), above-average command, ample deception in his delivery, and plus control, Anderson could potentially be deployed in any number of ways out of the pen. A bullpen with both him and Stephen Nogosek capable of putting out fires and going multiple innings at a time could be a ton of fun.
4.118 – 3B Bobby Dalbec
Where to begin with Bobby Dalbec (213)? Let’s start with a flashback to March 2016…
Dalbec deserves a lot of credit for battling back from a slow start to now have a more than respectable 2016 overall batting line. He also deserves respect for being one of the realest 2016 MLB Draft prospects out there. What you see is what you get with Dalbec: massive power, lots of whiffs, and a fair amount of walks. His arm and athleticism help make up for a lack of easy lateral quickness at the hot corner, so sticking at third should remain an option for the foreseeable future. The older, popular, and common comp for him has been Troy Glaus; on the flip side, I’ve heard Chris Dominguez as a possible outcome. The Glaus ship appears to have sailed, so something in between that and Dominguez would be a fine professional result.
And then again from April 2016…
Bobby Dalbec continues to confound. More and more people I’ve spoken to are becoming open to the idea of sending him out as a pitcher in pro ball. As frustrating as he can be at the plate, I don’t think I could throw his kind of power away that easily, even if only on a temporary basis. I also don’t think I’d touch him in the first five rounds. The comparison shared with me before the season to Chris Dominguez feels more and more prescient by the day.
I had Dominguez ranked 41st on my final board back in 2009 before he was drafted 86th overall by the Giants. I’m not sure what it says (if anything) about my own evolving view on prospecting or how the industry itself has changed or how the game has shifted, but I can say with 100% certainty that Dalbec won’t rank anywhere close to where Dominguez once landed on my personal ranks. I can also say with about 95% certainty that he won’t be drafted as high as Dominguez was in 2009. Of course, a player’s draft ranking ultimately is not about where he falls on the average of all teams’ boards but rather where he eventually falls on the board of the one team that drafts him. That’s where that 5% uncertainty comes in: all it takes is one team to look at Dalbec’s two clear plus tools (raw power, arm strength) and believe they can tweak his swing to make enough contact to allow his natural ability to shine through. His upside is very real, as is the possibility he tops out as an all-or-nothing AA power hitter. I’m out on him for now, but I understand the appeal. Chicks dig the long ball.
There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to Dalbec, a prospect who has been in the spotlight since his senior year at Legend HS. Any conversation about Dalbec tends to center around four different things, two positive and two negative. Working for the big slugger from Arizona has always been and will always be his prodigious raw power and cannon for a right arm. If you like Dalbec, you like his power upside and enormous arm enough to override any of the negatives to come. If you’re not as into Dalbec, then the power isn’t enough to distract from the massive amount of swing-and-miss in his game (career 81 BB/179 K as a Wildcat) and the arm strength isn’t enough to look past the defensive questions (many of which have been answered positively, to be fair) that have followed him for years. Best case scenario you’re getting a power-hitting third baseman. Worst case scenario you’re left with a first baseman with a long Swiss cheese swing unable to make enough contact to allow the power to play.
If we go back to my pre-draft comparisons, I’d say his future will probably result in a player not nearly as good as Glaus yet not quite as disappointing as Dominguez. I think that outcome would be fine value for a fourth round pick like Dalbec. Upside to be a lineup fixture and home run champion threat, downside that sees him flaming out in AA (and potentially making a return to the mound…), and most realistic middle ground as a four-corners power bat that will always rack up strikeouts but can be a positive value player for years if deployed properly. The approach scares me off enough that the downside makes this a slight reach, but, as mentioned earlier, it’s not so crazy a reach that it can’t also be considered fine value. All depends on how you weigh the possibilities of his potential outcomes.
(We’re about to get a little weird here based on a curiosity I had about Dalbec’s pro start. Feel free to skip this if you’re not about small sample size outputs and whether or not they can tell us anything.)
To Dalbec’s credit, the big righthanded bat went out after a long college two-way season and hit bomb after bomb in his pro debut. Dalbec’s awesome start to his pro career got me wondering just how many players have slugged .674 (as he did) in short-season rookie ball and failed to reach the big leagues. Small sample noise and misleading levels of competition often point towards early career success not being particularly predictive. I get that. But this isn’t run-of-the-mill early career success. This is leading the league in slugging (if he had qualified) by over 150 points over the top qualifier. That’s destroying the league. Does that mean anything? Let’s find out…
As mentioned, Dalbec signed too late to get a full season in and therefore didn’t qualify for the league leaderboard — Darick Hall and his .518 SLG led the league in his stead — but that slugging percentage would have been out all but one qualified hitter in the past dozen years. Dalbec’s .674 SLG is second only to Roman Wick and his silly .378/.475/.815 line in 141 PA for State College in 2014. If you can tell me anything about Roman Wick beyond the fact I just shared, then you’re probably related to him. For the sake of science, I went back and found every player in the New York-Penn League to slug .550 or better. These guys managed to do it over the past twelve seasons: Stone Garrett (.581), Roman Wick (.815), Travis Taijeron (.557), Cory Vaughn (.557), Marcell Ozuna (.556), Neil Medchill (.551), Miguel Fermin (.628), Ryan Patterson (.595), Michael Hollimon (.557). Cory Patton (.555), and Nolan Reimold (.550). That’s not a particularly encouraging list. If we expand the search for guys over .500 SLG, then we have the following…
Darick Hall, Garrett, Wick, Chris Breen, Conor Bierfeldt, Jesus Solorzano, David Washington, Taijeron, Dean Green, Danny Muno, Vaughn, Ozuna, Rylan Sandoval, Ryan Fisher, David Anderson, Darrell Cecillani, Jonathan Rodriguez, Medchill, JD Martinez, Sebastian Valle, Sean Ochinko, Deangelo Mack, Leandro Castro, Fermin, Luis Sumoa, Phil Disher, Ben Lasater, Todd Martin, Damon Sublett, Casper Wells, Patterson, Hollimon, Patton, Reimold, Neil Sellers, Francisco Plasencia
Some of those guys are too early in their careers to label and others were at least good enough to hang in the big leagues for a bit, but I don’t think it’s all that controversial a take to say that the track record of .500+ SLG players in the NYPL ain’t great. Of the 36 players listed above, there are only two (Ozuna and Martinez) that I would consider to be developmental success stories. Two out of thirty-six. This quick look back doesn’t mean that Bobby Dalbec will join the failed prospect crew or that he’s any more likely to struggle than his lesser-slugging peers (though you could probably float a theory about hitters who show big power early in their career as being free-swinging outliers and that such an approach leads to early power success but no long-term sustainability); it only means that early power success in the NYPL does not guarantee anything beyond that.
5.148 – RHP Mike Shawaryn
On Mike Shawaryn (98) from April 2016…
Shawaryn’s big 2015 (10.71 K/9 and 1.71 ERA in 116.0 IP) set him up as a potential first round pick coming into the year, but a slight dip in production and stuff has many cooler on him now than before. He’s always been in that ten to fifteen range for him as a 2016 college arm, so the recent downtick in stuff isn’t something I’m too worked up about. At his best, he’s got enough fastball (87-94, 95 peak), a changeup with big upside, and a breaking ball that seemingly improves every time out (even as he’s had some rocky starts this year). Breaking down his individual pitches is obviously important, but the main selling point with Shawaryn was always going to be his above-average to plus command, standout control, and deceptive motion. Assuming his decline is more fatigue – he’s approaching almost 250 college innings in his career; for context’s sake, that’s about a hundred more than AJ Puk and over twice as many as Alec Hansen – than injury (though separating the two can be tricky without proper pre-draft medical screening), Shawaryn might be the perfect candidate for a team in round two (or three if they are lucky) willing to draft a potential mid-rotation starting pitcher with the intent not to pitch him competitively the summer after signing. Draft him, sign him, get him working with your top player development staffers, and focus more about 2017 rather than getting onto the field immediately. If it turns out he’s feeling good and looking good sooner rather than later, so be it. But he’s the type of smart young pitcher that could begin his first professional season at High-A without much concern. That’s the path I’d consider taking with him, but maybe I’m making more out of a few good rather than great starts than I really ought to.
I think that holds up really well today. If you want the short version, we could go back to this from October 2015…
A long draft season could change this, but Shawaryn looks all the world to be a rock solid bet to wind up a mid-rotation big league starting pitcher. Never a star, but consistently useful for years going forward.
I think that’s on target as well: “never a star, but consistently useful.” Shawaryn is going to have a long career as a mid-rotation starting pitching in the big leagues. That’s excellent value in round five. Love this pick.
6.178 – RHP Stephen Nogosek
On Stephen Nogosek (324) from March 2016…
Another college reliever! Stephen Nogosek is one of the most interesting of his kind in this year’s class. He’s not the two-pitch fire-balling righthander with the plus breaking ball that teams view as a classic late-inning type. Nogosek commands four pitches for strikes, relying more on the overall depth of his repertoire than any one singular go-to offering. Many speculate that his delivery lends itself to shorter outings, but I’m not convinced that a pro team won’t at least consider using him in the rotation at some point.
And again from April 2016…
If it’s a true college reliever you want, then Stephen Nogosek out of Oregon is your best bet. He’s a little bit like [Ian] Hamilton in that he’s got the raw stuff to start – an honest four-pitch mix seems wasted some in relief – but his command would make longer outings untenable at this time. As a reliever, however, he’s effectively wild. Pitching out of the pen also puts him on the short list of fastest potential movers.
The sixth round feels like a great spot to land a high-probability/reasonable-ceiling potential quick-mover in Nogosek. The funky, undersized righthander can use any one of his three offspeed offerings — upper-70s SL that flashes plus, solid mid-80s CU, average or better upper-70s CB — while also commanding a quality 88-94 MPH (up to 95) fastball. I don’t think there’s closer upside here, but it shouldn’t take much for Nogosek to have a long career as a dependable seventh inning reliever.
7.208 – OF Ryan Scott
Hitting .435/.516/.713 at the D-I level should get you drafted in the top ten rounds, right? Tuns out that’s exactly what it does. I didn’t have anything on Scott besides the easy to Google knowledge of his awesome senior year performance, so let’s just go ahead and repeat that: .435/.516/.713. That’s ridiculous. The stat-inclined portion of my brain is really rooting for Scott to have a long, successful pro career.
8.238 – C Alan Marrero
Alan Marrero walked or struck out in 62.9% of his 70 plate appearances in his debut with the Red Sox. That’s nuts. I have a feeling that number will go just a touch in his first full pro season next year. I’m sure the Red Sox are counting on it even though they likely are more excited about Marrero’s athleticism, arm strength, and standout defense behind the plate than anything he’ll do as a hitter. Like a few other catchers in the 2016 MLB Draft class — both Jake Rogers and Cooper Johnson spring to mind — Marrero’s defense could very well be so good that the baseline offensive standard for his bat will be almost so low he can’t help but reach it. In other words, Marrero’s defense is just about big league quality already. Expecting anything special at the plate is just getting greedy.
9.268 – OF Matt McLean
Here’s a little bit on Matt McLean from March 2016 with a bonus Granger Studdard (twenty-second round pick) reference thrown in for good measure…
On (kind of) the other end of the spectrum is Matt McLean of Texas-Arlington. McLean is a good runner and savvy all-around ballplayer who (to my knowledge) isn’t being talked up by anybody as a serious draft prospect. I’m not sure whether he is or isn’t, but the way he commands the strike zone has my respect. McLean is off to a similar start as Studdard (12 BB/4 K), but differs in that it’s part of a longer track record of doing so (40 BB/19 K last year). When looking to fill out rosters late during the draft, I’d recommend McLean to my scouting director every time. I’m high on the McLean’s on the world not only for what they could become in their own right – solid org guys can occasionally turn into useful pieces over time – but also because of the unseen positives that bringing players like this into an organization can provide. I don’t think McLean possesses any magic plate discipline dust that would rub off on his teammates, but having my young guys exposed to his consistent professional approach to the game, calculated plan of attack as a hitter, aggressive yet smart style of play in all phases, and determination to succeed no matter what couldn’t hurt.
Everything written about McLean there holds up today, I think. He went earlier than I had anticipated back in March, but did so as a $10,000 bonus senior-sign. McLean’s last two seasons at Texas-Arlington produced a cumulative mark of 76 BB/41 K. He’s still only a fifth outfielder if literally everything breaks right for him developmentally, but damn if I don’t think there’s a larger value to bringing players like this into the system. Maybe I’m nuts.
Also, I’m probably just a touch too young to get this in a more meaningful way but I’m up enough on nostalgic pop culture references to think of this every single time I read McLean’s name.
10.298 – SS Santiago Espinal
I’m buying Santiago Espinal (416) as a potential big league utility player even with his glaring lack of pop. He makes a ton of quality contact, works deep counts, defends his spot well at both second and short, and can put up above-average run times. One thing worth noting with Espinal is his age: despite playing only one college season, the former Miami-Dade shortstop is already 22-years-old. It puts his outstanding freshman season (.432/.492/.562 with 20 BB/11 K and 15/20 SB) at the junior college level in a different light. Liking Espinal, however, is liking what you’ve got already with him. His brand of on-base ability and reliable defense up the middle isn’t something that needs much projecting past what he can already do.
12.358 – RHP Matthew Gorst
Matthew Gorst had a good year. He did this at Georgia Tech as a junior: 10.10 K/9 and 2.39 BB/9 and 0.55 ERA in 49.0 IP. He then followed that up with this pro debut: 9.00 K/9 and 2.00 BB/9 and 2.67 ERA in 27.0 IP. I’m still personally wary of a college reliever without premium stuff (88-93 FB, 84-87 cutter, 77-81 SL) with a limited track record of success, but Boston clearly must believe Gorst turned a corner in 2016. Pro results are certainly backing that up for now.
14.418 – LHP Robby Sexton
The Red Sox signed only three lefthanded pitchers in this draft class. You know about Jay Groome. You might not know quite as much about the two college lefties Boston scooped up from the Midwest. We’ll cover Kyle Hart from Indiana shortly, so let’s take a closer look at Robby Sexton from Wright State now. In brief, I like Robby Sexton more than I do most mid-round college pitchers with good but not great track records at non-power conference universities. Lefthanders who can pull off the sinker/slider combo are some of my favorite relief prospects to follow. That’s what you’re getting with the athletic Sexton.
16.478 – C Alberto Schmidt
My public notes on Alberto Schmidt were sparse — “good athlete; strong arm; older for class” — but I heard lots of nice things about him (both as a person and prospect) behind the scenes leading up to the draft. If you heard such nice things then you probably should have ranked him higher then, you might be thinking. Not a bad point, I’d counter. Maybe I should have ranked him higher (or, you know, at all). Yeah, you’d repeat, maybe you should have. Yeah, I’d say. Yeah, you’d say.
17.508 – C Nick Sciortino
The seventeenth round feels just a little too early for me to take a local product org player, but the Red Sox went out and took Boston College catcher Nick Sciortino anyway. His defense is good and his arm is solid, but I’m not sure he’ll ever do enough offensively to be anything but a handy catcher to shuffle around affiliates as needed.
19.568 – LHP Kyle Hart
A buddy of mine was insistent this spring that Kyle Hart could get big league lefthanders out right now. I’m not sure if that’s was said in part because of Hart’s present old man game — mid-80s fastball, advanced change, lots of slow curves, impeccable control — rather than a literal ability to get big league hitters out. Sometimes players with such limited physical projection wind up being a touch overrated because of a general assumption that they are better than they really are since they’re already likely as good as they’ll get. I just read that back and I have no idea if it’ll make sense to anybody but myself. Confusing attempt at a larger point aside, I still like the crafty, athletic Hart. Him getting big league lefties out at some point next year wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
20.598 – SS Nick Lovullo
On Nick Lovullo from February 2016…
Lovullo has the bloodlines, athleticism, and steadying infield presence to be a really solid org guy with the chance for more. His bat has improved each year at Holy Cross, so a big senior season is well within range. Nobody is asking for my seal of approval, but having seen Lovullo play on a few different occasions, I can certainly vouch for him as a player that does all the little things beautifully.
And then again right before the draft…
Nick Lovullo had an odd season. He only hit .225, but bolstered his OBP with a whopping 40 walks. I’ve always liked his approach, athleticism, and reliable defense up the middle, so I’ll overlook that .225 (and the dismal 6/15 SB success rate) and keep him on my draft board. He’ll make a fine future Red Sox minor leaguer.
I’m not going to go too crazy patting on my back for connecting the obvious dots here, but, hey, it is nice to win one every now and then. I think “solid org guy with the chance for more” remains a fair assessment of Lovullo’s upside. Like the Sciortino pick in the seventeenth round, this felt a bit early to me — I predicted Lovullo to Boston in the fortieth round, a spot more commensurate to his prospect value for me — but what do I know. Fair to wonder now if we see a quiet “Lovullo to Arizona for future considerations” type deal in the not too distant future…
22.658 – OF Granger Studdard
On Granger Studdard from March 2016…
Granger Studdard is another personal favorite of mine out of the Sun Belt due to his power upside, athleticism, arm strength, and speed. The last three facets of his game are far stronger than you see out of a typical first base prospect, so it’s not shock that the majority of those I spoke to who like him as well prefer him as a corner outfielder. That defensive versatility only boosts his stock. The most interesting thing about Studdard to me is how scouts have raved about his approach since his first year at Texas State. Much like what has been said about Kyle Lewis at Mercer, the buzz surrounding Studdard has been about how he really knows how to hit and approaches every plate appearance like a seasoned veteran. Like Mercer, however, the results didn’t seem to back it up: Studdard hit well in both of his college seasons, but did so while putting up BB/K ratios of 19/42 and 20/62. The disconnect between the scouting take and the on-field indicators figured to come to a head in his draft season, and, so far, the scouts look like they know a thing or two about the game. SMALL SAMPLE SIZE, but Studdard has walked twelve times in 2016 with only five strikeouts to his name. If that’s real, then you can put his standing as one of the best under-the-radar mid-major bats in the county in ink.
So was it real? Technically, yes. Studdard finished his junior year with 37 walks to 26 strikeouts. The more patient approach seemingly came at a cost of some power, however: his .285/.389/.380 line more closely resembled his freshman season (.270/.364/.385) than his sophomore year (.281/.345/.485). It’s how to deduce why that is without having seen Studdard multiple times throughout his final season at Texas State. Was he being pitched around? Is this just a small sample aberration? Was his sophomore year power spike the real outlier? Is there something in Studdard’s scouting dossier (swing, approach, pitch recognition, etc.) that explains it better? Anything I’d offer would just be a guess at this point. In any event, the reasons for liking Studdard are still reasons that explain why I currently like Studdard. He struggled in his debut at the plate, but 38 of his innings in the field came in either left or right. That’s a good sign for his prospect stock going forward.
23.688 – OF Juan Carlos Abreu
As an older high school talent (he’ll be 20 next May) with a game built on speed and a strong arm — two nice tools, to be sure, but arguably fourth and fifth in terms of importance if you were to rank them — Juan Carlos Abreu was more of a peripheral prospect on the radar for me this spring. Worth a shot as a twenty-third round pick, I guess.
24.718 – RHP Hunter Smith
Maybe some teams were turned off by Hunter Smith’s ugly 6.19 ERA in his draft year at North Carolina Greensboro. That’s about all I’ve got by way of explanation for Smith’s drop to the twenty-fourth round in this year’s draft. He’s got the size (6-3, 200), fastball (87-93, 95 peak), and offspeed stuff (above-average slider that flashes plus and an average or better change) to get stretched back out as a starter next year if that’s something Boston is willing to try. If not, I think he’s got a bright future in relief. Big fan of Hunter Smith.
25.748 – RHP Francisco Soto
Now I’m no Nancy Drew, but I consider my internet sleuthing abilities to be at least above-average. Francisco Soto is the first player drafted this year that I’m not sure actually exists. I mean, fine, he exists: he pitched twelve innings for the GCL Red Sox after signing after all. But my quick research on Soto’s time at Allen CC in Kansas has yielded nothing meaningful to date. He’s listed at 6-5, 220 pounds, so he’s got good size. That’s literally all I’ve got.
26.778 – RHP Jared Oliver
Mid-90s velocity (up to 97) is never a bad thing, so I get where the Red Sox are coming from when taking a chance on Jared Oliver. It’s just that he’s got a lot of work to do (7.12 BB/9 at Truett-McConnell) and not a whole of time to do it (24-years-old to start next season).
33.988 – OF Chad Hardy
Underwhelming junior college numbers? How does .297/.358/.513 with 13 BB/29 K sound? Brutal first 90 PA of pro ball? A hard to look at .163/.191/.233 with 3 BB/32 K. A 60-game suspension for testing positive for Tamoxifen? Why not add it to the pile at this point, right? I’m not here to bust on Chad Hardy’s disastrous first year with the Red Sox; if anything, I can empathize with a young man’s desperation when faced with a pressure-packed situation filled with “do-or-die” feelings of urgency. Hardy making it to AA — let alone the big leagues — would be a success I’m not prepared to see with this pick. Hope it works out all the same.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Carter Henry (Houston), Jake Wilson (Bowling Green), Austin Bergner (North Carolina), Carter Aldrete (Arizona State), Jordan Wren (Georgia Southern), John Rave (Illinois State), Aaron McGarity (Virginia Tech), Jeff Belge (St. John’s), Christian Jones (Washington), Tyler Fitzgerald (Louisville), Cam Shepherd (Georgia), Jordan Scheftz (Central Florida), Vince Arobio (Pacific), Beau Capanna (New Mexico), Trevor Stephan (Arkansas), Michael Wilson (Stony Brook), Nick Quintana (Arizona)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Texas in 2016
21 – Alex Speas
86 – Cole Ragans
111 – Charles Leblanc
121 – Kyle Cody
218 – Kobie Taylor
287 – Kyle Roberts
433 – Sam Huff
443 – Kenny Mendoza
485 – Jonah McReynolds
1.30 – LHP Cole Ragans
I didn’t pick up on it at the time but after talking with some friends in the game who know these sort of things, it became pretty clear to me that Cole Ragans (86) entered this past June as one of the most surprisingly divisive prospects in the 2016 MLB Draft. Discussion on Ragans basically split into three different camps. There were those who absolutely loved him as a mid-first round talent and long-term asset, those who liked his upside just fine but would rather another team try to get the best out of him, and those who took him off their board completely on the basis of his seemingly too strong to sign for a fair price commitment to Florida State. Those who love him rave about his athleticism, size, deception, and projection. Goes without saying that all of those are very good things for an 18-year-old pitcher to bring to the table. The belief of the pro-Ragans side is that his athleticism will help him eventually iron out his inconsistent mechanics, his size (6-4, 185) and deception will help all of his stuff play up and lead to lots of ground ball outs in the pros, and his physical projection will lead to far more low-90s fastballs (and eventually mid-90s peaks) than his current 86-92 MPH (93 peak) heat might have you believe. Those less keen on Ragans highlight his present command and control issues, up-and-down present velocity with no guarantee of long-term growth and staying power, and a lack of a clear future knockout offspeed pitch. The best case scenario outcome on the positive side seems to be a potential mid-rotation starting pitcher (or better) while those lower on Ragans seem him more as a pitcher who will top out as one of those quality arms that always seems to struggle with throwing enough strikes and winds up bouncing from team to team and from the rotation to the bullpen.
Because I’m boring and predictable it shouldn’t come as a big shock that I think he’ll likely fall somewhere in between those two potential ceilings. Ragans can be an athletic lefty with size and promising if untested offspeed stuff while also being a teenager with unanswered questions about his control and pitchability. I lean towards the pro-Ragans crowd (“always bet on athletes” is considered a truism around my household) coming out ahead over the long run, but both positions are reasonable. Either way, Ragans is a major talent that will have a fascinating developmental path from where he is to where he’ll wind up.
2.63 – RHP Alex Speas
I have a few friends in baseball that I can rely on for a decent quote every now and then, but even the prospect of anonymity has some of them unwilling to be quoted directly if I can help it. I don’t mind paraphrasing or aggregating multiple different views (see above), but there’s something about a direct quote, anonymous or not, that gets the blood pumping just a little faster. Thankfully when it came to the Rangers draft this year, I had more than one volunteer step up to give their quick view on what Texas did. My favorite: “Nobody thinks of them this way nationally, but of all the teams in the league that get this rep it’s really those guys who think they are smarter than everybody else. They invented baseball and know scouting better than everybody else, so going off the board is treated as a genius thing there rather than a red flag. It’s a nice place to work because being wrong is being right. They just want athletes and live arms and then put it all on the field staff to make it work.”
Lots to take away from there, right? I try to stay away from the HOT TAKES on this site when I can, but I think that one certainly qualifies. The overarching takeaway for me is that the Rangers simply do things different when it comes to the draft. Hey, if that means walking away with Cole Ragans and Alex Speas (21) with your first two picks, then maybe different is the way to go. Speas is great. Normally I’d like to think my takes are a little more nuanced than that, but I really, really like what I’ve seen out of the 6-4, 180 pound righthander. Explosive fastball (88-94, 96-98 peak), ultra-firm but effective change (mid-80s, up to 90 in some looks this past spring), average or better slider (83-86) that flashes plus, and a quality mid- to upper-70s curve that he’ll drop in as his “in case of emergency” pitch. Like Ragans, there’s a lot of dreaming that goes into Speas’s long-term projection with plenty of hoping that his athleticism will translate to a more consistent delivery (and then that will lead to more consistent command and control), but the upside is undeniably immense. There’s a huge gap between what Speas is and what he could be, but I think it’s fair to throw a future ace ceiling on him based on his raw stuff, athleticism, and amateur track record. This could look like a ridiculous second round steal sooner rather than later.
(Didn’t know where to shoehorn this in, but one contact said he thought Speas’s future is as a top five reliever in baseball. He likened him to former Rangers farmhand Carl Edwards. So there you go.)
3.99 – 3B Kole Enright
No getting around it, I completely whiffed on Kole Enright before the draft. I can’t offer much, but I did manage to get get a few names from smarter people that I can pass along to my adoring public. One contact said this pick reminded him of when the Rangers grabbed Josh Morgan earlier than many expected a few years ago. He may or may not have been the same guy who ranted about the Rangers thinking they are smarter than everybody else above. I told him he was just jealous that Texas trusts their area scouts to mine for lesser known gems and he just nodded sadly in agreement. Or at least that’s what I assume he did; tough to pick up on physical cues like that over email.
I’ve also heard a comparison between Enright and surprise 2014 first round pick of the Pirates Cole Tucker. I like that one a lot. Could be because that’s the comparison I thought of when reading up on and asking around about Enright’s skill set. I did run it by somebody who has seen both guys play (Tucker as a pro, Enright as an amateur) and he said it wasn’t crazy. Putting that one on my next (first) business card. Rob Ozga: Not Crazy!
4.129 – SS Charles Leblanc
I’ve probably said this too often that it doesn’t quite carry quite the same meaning as it would otherwise, but, man, Charles Leblanc (111) to Texas in the fourth round might be my favorite pick in the draft. This is in part because I saw Leblanc this past spring and was incredibly impressed in my short three game view, but I think my love of the big infielder from Pittsburgh goes beyond the small sample size eye test. Leblanc checks every box for me: ultra-productive draft year (.405/.494/.513 with 30 BB/29 K), great size and strength (6-4, 200 pounds), clear carrying tools (power and arm), no obvious weaknesses (solid athlete with decent wheels), young for his class (won’t be 21-years-old until next June)…the list goes on and on. His eventual defensive transition to third base will be one to watch closely as the college shortstop has the ability to man the hot corner but not yet the experience. If that goes off without a hitch, I think Leblanc could be the above-average regular at third that so many (myself included) thought Mike Olt could once be. I’m all-in on Leblanc.
(For the record, a quick check of published draft reviews so far for the terms “favorite pick” and “best pick” only turned up two names so far. Those are far from the most conclusive search terms I could use, but my hyperbole still wasn’t quite as bad as I feared. Jake Elliott and Jon Duplantier were the recipients of that praise, FWIW. I didn’t come right out and say it, but Alex Speas in the second round is another one of my favorite picks. Nice work by Texas here.)
5.159 – LHP Kyle Roberts
I won’t pretend to be the foremost expert on Kyle Roberts (287), the Rangers fifth round pick out of Henry Ford CC, but what little information I do have on the big lefthander skews positive. Roberts is a hard-thrower (up to the mid-90s) with a really promising upper-70s to low-80s slider (plus upside) and enough feel for some slower stuff (curve, change) that you can dream on the 6-6, 210 pounder as a potential starter if he keeps moving in the right direction. The fallback is pretty nice as well as I’ve heard that teams value lefties with size, velocity, and nasty sliders in the bullpen quite a bit these days. As an extremely raw prospect, it’s no big shock that one of Roberts’s biggest concerns at this stage is a lack of present control. His awesome K/9 at Henry Ford (14.28) was matched only by the (almost) equal yet opposite ugliness of his BB/9 (8.41). Considering I see the bullpen as Roberts most likely long-term home, getting his control up to an acceptable range is a far more pressing concern than developing a deeper starter’s arsenal of offspeed pitches. Get him firing fastballs and sliders with some clue where they are headed and reap the rewards.
6.189 – RHP Kyle Cody
Wondered about Kyle Cody (121) back in May 2016…
Kyle Cody’s stuff has always outstripped his results on the field. Is he destined to forever be a consistently inconsistent professional in the mold of fellow Wildcat Alex Meyer or is there something more in his game that can be unlocked with the right coaching?
Still wondering about that even after Cody’s really strong (10.08 K/9 and 2.47 BB/9 in 47.1 IP) pro debut. The comparison to Meyer continues when you look at what the one-time Nationals first round pick did (9.70 K/9 and 3.14 BB/9) as a 22-year-old splitting his time between low-A and high-A in his first full pro season. Of course, Meyer’s pro struggles should not be held against Cody as a prospect; as it turns out, I actually like Cody quite a bit as a potential mid-rotation arm (if the changeup comes on) or late-inning relief weapon (a far more likely outcome in my view). He’s athletic for a big man with a potentially lethal power sinker/slider combination that should continue to get him plenty of ground ball outs as he climbs the ladder.
7.219 – C Sam Huff
It would be easy to write off the 6-4, 200 pound Sam Huff (433) as a prime candidate to move out from behind the plate sooner rather than later, but the big guy from Arizona is a far more advanced and natural defender than his size might otherwise suggest. He’s not a total slam dunk to remain a catcher over the long haul — few teenager catchers are, after all — but he’s got a better than 50/50 shot to remain a backstop going forward. If that’s the case, then the upside for a potentially above-average regular is very clearly here. Huff’s calling card is his average to above-average raw power, but he’s also shown impressive plate coverage and disciplined approach as a hitter. Much of the feedback I’ve gotten on Huff this past offseason has been of the “pump the breaks” variety (equal parts concern about his ability to make enough contact and his defense holding up long-term), but my instinctual lean here has me ignoring that and going all-in on Huff as a future big leaguer.
8.249 – RHP Tai Tiedemann
The lack of pre-draft notes on Tai Tiedemann quickly outs me as a recent member of his bandwagon, but better late than never, right? Tiedemann, completely off my radar this past spring, would have likely been a pre-draft FAVORITE if I had known he existed. His numbers at Long Beach CC don’t jump off the page (6.98 K/9 and 3.04 BB/9 in 80.0 IP), but everything else about his scouting profile looks good to me. Tiedemann is an exceptional athlete with great size (6-6, 200), a low-mileage arm, good velocity (90-94 and climbing), feel for offspeed, and a proclivity for getting outs on the ground. Despite being two seasons past his high school graduation, his relative inexperience on the diamond makes him closer to a prep prospect than an established college guy. As long as his development is viewed through that lens (i.e., it’s going to take some time), I think Tiedemann is a keeper. It’s not a direct one-to-one comparison, but there are some distinct similarities between the earlier pick of Kyle Roberts to the Tiedemann selection three rounds later.
9.279 – RHP Hever Bueno
For as much as I can appreciate a three-pitch college righthander like Hever Bueno, the lack of any semblance of a track record (16.0 IP in both 2014 and 2015) kept me from buying in heading into his draft year. I was hoping that would change during his junior season, but, alas, his final college season (as it turned out) was cut short after only 6.1 innings due to a bum UCL that necessitated Tommy John surgery. If you’re into Bueno, you see a potential back-end starter or late-inning reliever with far more stuff (90-94 FB, 97 peak; average to above-average 81-83 CB/SL; average to above-average 84-88 CU) than results to date. I like that optimistic prognostication; it’s not a stretch at all to see better days ahead for Bueno, assuming his rehabilitation goes as planned. I’m still not really buying a pitcher who, depending on that rehab timeline, may not get back on the mound for steady pro innings until he’s a 23-years-old with only 38.1 post-HS innings to his name. The 7.28 BB/9 in said innings doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence, either. That’s closer to the résumé of a guy you sign out of indy ball than a ninth round pick you pay a six-figure bonus. Of course, if I was a fan of the Rangers (or a more informed firsthand observer who had seen Bueno at his best) then I’d be all over this pick as a high reward/minimal risk gamble worth taking. It’s easy to like a pick like this because everybody involved will look really smart if it hits. If Bueno never comes all the way back from Tommy John (or the healthy version of Bueno turns out to be the wild, underdeveloped pitcher his track record suggests), then it’s just another forgotten ninth round pick.
10.309 – OF Josh Merrigan
I like to bust out the old “well-traveled” chestnut every now and then (read: too often), but it really, really applies to Josh Merrigan. The lefthanded outfielder’s path to the draft included stops at Georgia State, Chipola JC, and North Carolina before finally finding a home playing for an absolutely dominant (57-6!) Georgia Gwinnett squad. Merrigan more than did his part by hitting .423/.468/.562 with 23 BB/25 K and 44 SB in 201 AB. Lauded for his speed, arm strength, and overall athleticism, Merrigan’s maturation as a hitter makes him one to watch very closely as he climbs the minor league ladder. If it all works out, there’s some fourth outfielder upside here.
11.339 – RHP Joe Barlow
With a sophomore season split fairly evenly between starting (7 starts) and relieving (6 relief appearances, including 2 saves), Joe Barlow gives the Rangers some flexibility in how he’ll be used in the low-minors. The bullpen seems like the more sensible long-term spot for the effectively wild (9.85 K/9 and 5.79 BB/9 as a sophomore) converted catcher with the expected arm strength (low-90s heat) and rawness that comes with a young man relatively new to pitching.
12.369 – C Alex Kowalczyk
Strong arm, powerful build, and plenty of pop. That’s the short version of Alex Kowalczyk’s game. Maybe not my preferred college catcher at this point, but I still like it all right.
13.399 – SS Jonah McReynolds
Jonah McReynolds (485) is a sensible bet on tools at this stage in the draft. Athletically, he checks every box. He’s graceful and coordinated around the bag with quick hands, a plus arm, and above-average foot speed. I’m bearish on him ever hitting enough to play regularly, but it’s hard to bet an athlete like this making some noise as a potential utility guy somewhere along the way.
14.429 – RHP Derek Heffel
Asking around about Derek Heffel after the draft elicited this response: “SEC quality arm.” High praise for the native Southerner after two seasons putting up solid numbers (including 8.05 K/9 and 2.55 BB/9 as a sophomore) at decidedly “un-southern” Madison JC. Continued improvement on both his curve and chance will only help his low-90s sinker become more effective in the pros. The vibe I got around this pick from talking to those in the know was that the Rangers nabbed Heffel one year before he was going to blow out and become a top five round prospect at Middle Tennessee State. We’ll see if that’s how it really plays out, but you have to like the size and stuff in the meantime.
15.459 – OF Kobie Taylor
Easy center field range. Above-average to plus speed. Impressive (albeit not super long) track record of squaring up velocity, showing big bat speed, and making lots of hard contact. Strong arm. Solid athleticism. And the Vanderbilt seal of approval that you just love to see with any (signable) high school prospect. I like a lot about Kobie Taylor’s (218) game. Excited to see him back on the field next year after his busted thumb is all healed up. Major steal here.
16.489 – RHP Scott Engler
13.94 K/9 and 4.41 BB/9 in 51 innings as a freshman at Cowley County CC is enough for me to get on the Scott Engler bandwagon.
17.519 – RHP Reid Anderson
I commend the Rangers for taking a substantial leap of faith on their area guy with the selection of Reid Anderson here in round seventeen. Anderson, a low-mileage arm relatively new to pitching after converting from the outfield, put up career marks of 6.57 K/9 and 3.84 BB/9 at Millersville. That right there is not what you want to see out of a Division II draft prospect. Texas went a little deeper and dug what they saw with Anderson’s potential plus fastball (low-90s already with reason to believe that can trend upward with room to grow physically and mechanically) and plus slider (personally seen it flash now, though it’s still as inconsistent as one might expect for a guy with only around 80 college innings under his belt). The numbers guy in me remains dubious, but the wannabe scout keeps trying to look past the lackluster results. Odds are against him as a seventeenth round pick either way, but Anderson should be one of the more interesting mid- to late-round picks to track these next few years. It’s a fun low-stakes spin on the tired scouts vs stats narrative.
18.549 – OF Marcus Mack
Marcus Mack can really run. That’s one thing I know about him. I also know that his plus wheels help him more than hold his own defensively in center. Those are two very good things working in Mack’s favor. A third good thing will be the weight lifted off his shoulders after he records his first pro hit next season. The lefthanded hitting overslot ($175,000) speedster from Texas went an unfortunate 0-20 in his pro debut. An 0-20 stretch during the middle of the season feels bad, but ultimately gets lost in the shuffle of the day-to-day grind of pro ball. Going 0-20 to start a career and then having to put it on ice for six plus months…damn, that’s just no fun at all.
19.579 – RHP Alex Daniele
All I have on Alex Daniele: ideal size (6-5, 225), older for class (23 in April), and has shown strikeout ability (12.44 K/9 in small sample final year at Oklahoma) to go along with potential control red flags (8.05 BB/9 in same small sample). He’s done more of the same in stints at New Jersey Tech (9.90 K/9 and 4.20 BB/9) and in his brief pro debut (7.85 K/9 and 5.77 BB/9). Without any scouting notes on him it’s hard to say what his future may hold, but the patterns in his results across multiple spots can certainly give us a hint.
20.609 – 3B Stephen Lohr
Stephen Lohr had a monster junior season at Cal Baptist that included a.403/.496/.665 batting line with 36 BB/22 K in 206 AB. Good enough for me to start paying attention, I’d say.
21.639 – RHP Kaleb Fontenot
I like Kaleb Fontenot just about as much as any potential big league reliever drafted past the twentieth round. His age (24 in June of his first pro season) and size (6-1, 180) work against him, but his stuff is good enough (88-92 FB, pair of average or so offspeed pitches) to get good hitters out. Probably nothing more than last man out of the bullpen type ceiling — and I don’t mean last man in terms of the guy you use in the last inning, clearly — but at least that’s something to hang your hat on in the twenty-first round.
22.669 – C Clay Middleton
Two weeks before the draft on Clay Middleton…
Clay Middleton is a steady defender behind the plate and a useful contributor at it; in a class awash with college catching, I think he fits in the mid-rounds for a team willing to do a deep dive into the MEAC.
The Rangers wisely took the plunge with Middleton, a solid defensive player with a sound offensive approach. There’s backup catcher upside here if everything works out. Can’t hate that in the twenty-second round.
23.699 – RHP Dylan Bice
As I’ve said in a few other draft reviews, any high school prospect signed past the tenth round is automatically a good pick. Dylan Bice is a good pick for that reason. Athleticism, size, velocity (low-90s fastball, peaks a little higher than that), and feel for offspeed (change, slider) make him a really good pick.
24.729 – LHP Kenny Mendoza
Kenny Mendoza’s (443) velocity climbed as the weather warmed up this spring. Proof of that comes in my embarrassing pre-draft mix-up…
LHP Ken Mendoza (Clearview HS, New Jersey): 86-89 FB; 6-4, 215 pounds
LHP Kenneth Mendoza (Clearview Regional HS, New Jersey): 88-92 FB, 93 peak; 6-4, 215 pounds
So if you search for “Mendoza” on my site, these two gentleman will pop up. Ken is the late-summer/fall version of Mendoza while Kenneth (or Kenny) is the spring version the Rangers drafted in the twenty-fourth round. That’s a Jimbo. Mendoza is a lefthander with size, appealing velocity, and a strong aptitude for the art of pitching. By any name, it’s a really nice pick by Texas this late.
26.789 – RHP Tyree Thompson
Tyree Thompson, older for his class as a 19-year-old when drafted, is another win for Texas as we institute the “any high school prospect signed past the tenth round is a good pick” rule yet again. Tons of athleticism, physical projection (6-4, 165 feels like a frame that could put on some good weight), and present fastball velocity (88-92, 93 peak) make it a really good pick. Feels like we’ve done this before…
27.819 – LHP Lucas Jacobsen
Lucas Jacobsen shares many superficial similarities (height, whiffs, walks) to Alex Daniele. Jacobsen has a little bit of youth, a little more projection, and his lefthandeness on his side.
28.849 – RHP Marc Iseneker
A sidearming reliever from St. John Fisher College? Sure! That’s what the twenty-eighth round is all about. The rubber-armed Marc Iseneker had a nice run (8.49 K/9 and 3.55 BB/9) during his time as a Cardinal.
30.909 – LHP Christian Torres
Christian Torres (8.17 K/9 and 3.60 BB/9 at Faulker this past season) showed Texas enough to get a shot at Low-A after a few rookie ball innings. He took that opportunity and ran with it to the tune of a 8.80 K/9, 2.93 BB/9, and 1.47 ERA in 30.2 IP. Pretty impressive way to start a pro career, especially if you look past that earned run per inning clip he was on while with Spokane. Have you picked up on my trick of talking about a guy’s debut when I don’t have any worthwhile scouting notes to share?
32.969 – OF Travis Bolin
Travis Bolin makes four 2016 MLB Draft picks out of Davenport University that I’ve now written about in these draft reviews. Bolin’s 2016 season there (.412/.472/.819 with 19 BB/30 K and 17/24 SB in 226 AB) makes him as deserving as any of the three Panthers pitchers to be drafted ahead of him. He was productive albeit prone to swings and misses in his debut. I’m into it as a super late round sleeper to store away. For what it’s worth, the next few Davenport teams should have some players up for draft consideration as well. I’ve already got 1B/OF Brian Sobieski (2017) and Central Michigan transfer LHP Grant Wolfram (2018) in my sights.
33.999 – RHP Mark Vasquez
This one leaves me conflicted. On one hand, teams drafting multiple players from NAIA schools — even great ones like Faulkner — remains a sore subject. Sure there’s a chance that the Rangers organically came to the conclusion that two of the top thirty-three players in their draft pool both happened to attend Faulkner, but it sure as heck doesn’t seem statistically likely to me. Convenience scouting is a thing and while I understand the pros that come with it (all of this has been talked to death in other draft reviews by now, BTW), it will always set me off just a little bit. If nothing else, I think examples like Texas going with Christian Torres and Mark Vasquez, both out of a NAIA school with around 3000 students enrolled, show that that big league teams have finite resources they can and will spend on amateur scouting. Don’t listen to those who constantly throw the “appeal to authority” logical fallacy at you when it comes to pro teams knowing so much more than we could ever possibly imagine as outsiders.
On the other hand (took a while but we got here), the actual player selected (Vasquez) looks pretty interesting. Definitely can’t hate a team getting a workhorse pitcher coming off a senior year with peripherals (11.26 K/9 and 2.10 BB/9) like his. He’s older for his class (25 in May) and highly unlikely to reach the big leagues (as anybody picked in the thirty-third round would be), but it’s far from a throwaway pick. I don’t know what to think about this one. All I know is that I’ve spent more time on pick 999 than about 99.9% of the population and I’m all right with that.
34.1029 – OF Preston Scott
3B Preston Scott (Hanford HS, California): really quick bat; big power upside; promising defender
Four years later, Preston Scott got himself drafted and signed to pro ball after a .339/.418/.579 (22 BB/20 K) season at Fresno Pacific. That line is made all the more impressive when viewed through the prism of his team’s .265/.350/.348 overall line. Scott’s power plays and his athleticism helps him both in the field defensively and on the base paths. I like this pick. The only downside is that it makes me thing of an old friend of mine named Scott Preston who I’ve lost touch with over the years. Haven’t seen him since middle school…that’s almost twenty years ago now. Wonder how he’s doing…
35.1059 – RHP Jean Casanova
Jean Casanova, who grew up in the Dominican Republic, is yet another high school pitcher signed by Texas late in the draft. Really nice work by their area guys in gauging signability this year. For his part, Casanova has a solid heater (88-92) and a full assortment of secondary offerings (none stand out just yet, maybe the change if you had to pick one). Worth a shot.
37.1119 – OF Austin O’Banion
Austin O’Banion hit .335/.429/.588 with 24 BB/40 K in 170 AB at Fullerton JC. This March 3, 2016 article offered a fine bit of foreshadowing…
Last week, Fuscardo said a good friend of his who scouts for the Texas Rangers recently left the field wowed by O’Banion’s fielding chops and raw power.
38.1149 – RHP Reilly Peltier
An easy to spot Texas 2016 MLB Draft trend that I probably should have mentioned sooner: pitchers with size. Just about every pitcher the Rangers drafted this past year is a physical monster. Coming in at 6-5, 215 pounds, Reilly Peltier, fresh off a fine season McHenry County JC (12.73 K/9 and 4.20 BB/9 in 68.2 IP), is no different.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Brent Burgess (Spartanburg Methodist), Tyler Walsh (Belmont), Herbie Good (Santa Barbara CC), Blair Calvo (Pittsburgh), Robert Harris (?), Tra’Mayne Holmes (Alabama State)