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Category Archives: 2016 MLB Draft
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)