The Baseball Draft Report

2018 MLB Draft Profile – UMBC

3B/2B AJ Wright is/was a FAVORITE for his high-contact approach and underrated athleticism, but his draft year has been more down than up. That’s probably putting it nicely, especially considering my original notes on his 2018 were just one word: “disaster.” The lack of power has been an ongoing concern with Wright, but the belief here was that his discerning eye at the plate would make him an effective enough overall player to compensate. Small samples abound, but the trend in BB/K for Wright over the years is not moving the way you’d like to see. Wright has gone from 25 BB/20 K to 20 BB/24 K to his current 8 BB/16 K. That’s troubling. His ISO has ticked up a bit — moving from .127 to .120 to .144 currently — but not enough to justify the backslide in on-base ability. It’s probably best for all involved to run it back in 2019 and hope a big senior season breakout gets Wright back on the draft radar. That’s where C Zack Bright hangs out currently as a potential senior-sign catcher with just enough pop and patience (though not so much in 2018…what’s going with these UMBC hitters this year?) to parlay his passion into a path to the pros.

I don’t have much on RHP Stephen Schoch, a redshirt-sophomore transfer from Appalachian State, but the big (6-5, 235) righthander has been a revelation on the mound for the Retrievers in 2018. How does a 13.26 K/9 and 2.80 BB/9 in 35.1 relief innings of 2.04 ERA ball sound? What if I also told you he had a very good Twitter account, pitched well in a short run on the Cape (and ridiculously well in a longer stint in the Ripken League before that), and throws from a wicked submarine angle (his favorite player: Darren O’Day) that no doubt helps explain his great success without great velocity? I’m not sure Schoch is signable with two years of eligibility remaining past this one and an expressed desire to earn a college degree, but whenever he’s ready for pro ball he’d have a spot on my team.

RHP Matt Chanin held some appeal coming into the season as an upper-80s fastball guy with plus command, but getting picked now would rely on a team valuing his overall body of work far more than a draft season where he’s only pitched 6.2 innings to date. Some guys get the benefit of the doubt when they miss time. I’m not sure Chanin is one of those guys. He is, however, a member of the 2015 College Baseball Jewish Sports Review All-America team, so that’s cool. The things you find when trying to research whether or not a guy is injured…

SR RHP Matt Chanin (2018)
JR LHP David Lyskawa (2018)
rSR RHP Chase Bailey (2018)
rSO RHP Stephen Schoch (2018)
rSR 2B/SS Matt Campbell (2018)
rSR 3B Mitchell Carroll (2018)
SR OF Collin Stack (2018)
SR C Zack Bright (2018)
JR 3B/2B AJ Wright (2018)
JR OF Raven Beeman (2018)
SO RHP Mitchell Wilson (2019)
SO 3B Christian Torres (2019)
SO 1B Dalton Stewart (2019)
FR RHP Nick Trabacchia (2020)
FR C Dmitri Floyd (2020)
FR INF Joey Goodwin (2020)

2018 MLB Draft Profile – UMass-Lowell

RHP Collin Duffley seemed primed for a big draft year, but he’s only tossed six innings for the River Hawks so far in 2018. Three minutes of research revealed nothing, but I’ll assume injury. That would be a bummer for the 6-3, 200 pound righthander with the low-90s fastball and promising breaking ball. Healthy or not, I like Duffley so much that I’d still use an irresponsibly high pick on him and hope for the best.

RHP Andrew Ryan is a rock solid senior-sign who would fit in nicely in any pro bullpen tomorrow. His stuff (88-92 FB, good SL) and performance to date (6.82 career K/9) are both more good than great, but sharpened command and increased whiffs as a senior (9.18 K/9) suggest there may be more than first meets the eye. I like Ryan as a mid- to late-round depth piece. With similar stuff, RHP Nick Rand falls into the same category. With any non-premium mid-major non-senior talent there exists a strong possibility that he returns to school in 2019. If three straight hyphenated words isn’t a record, then I’ll just have to go for four next time. RHP Luke Tomczyk is a senior already, so it’s now or never for the big (6-5, 235) effectively wild (8.68 K/9 and 6.79 BB/9 career) hard thrower (up to 94, also mixes in a good cutter) from Chili, New York. He’s no lock to get picked with those walk rates, but 94 MPH is 94 MPH.

The fact that LHP Ricky Constant has been allowed to throw 73.1 combined innings in three years as a River Hawk despite posting a ridiculous 8.84 BB/9 is a testament to his intriguing raw stuff (85-91 FB, has been up as high as 93-94) and the eternal hope we all feel when watching 6-6, 200 pound lefthanders throw off the mound. To his credit, Constant has missed a bunch of bats in his (small sample) 2018 run to date. He’s also walking slightly fewer batters. Maybe a small corner has been turned here. I don’t have any notes on LHP Jack Riley, but was told not to forget him when asking around about UMass-Lowell. So here he is. Same with RHP Kendall Pomeroy. So here they are.

OF Colby Maiola has some shockingly big fans among those who have seen him consistently. I don’t mean to say that I’m shocked a player like Maiola would have fans — he’s good, after all — but rather there’s always some element of surprise for me when a player with little public fanfare (i.e., not once featured at BA, PG, or FG) gets mentioned as often as Maiola’s name has come up to me in private. All I can figure is that this draft — like all drafts, really — is dying for some power/speed types, and that’s exactly what Maiola, above-average in both departments, brings to the table. There’s still way too much swing and miss in his game to like him more than a later round lottery ticket, but I get the appeal of any college hitter with tools that should play in pro ball and a track record of producing as his team’s best hitter. 1B/OF Steve Passatempo also got a little more love than I expected as a power guy with enough defensive versatility (some think he can catch) to eventually got a chance at pro ball. Like Maiola, his approach leaves something to be desired. Also like Maiola, Passatempo may have to wait until his senior season is complete before embarking on the minor league adventure.

You know who has a BB/K ratio I find a little more exciting? 1B/OF Russ Olive. My personal system for adding guys to my database is pretty simple. You can get on with any kind of scouting buzz (whether it’s something I read, hear, or see) or you can get on by doing something that piques my interest statistically. Olive did not make the cut after his freshman year. He was added after that sophomore year on the basis of his power production. Now, as a junior in the middle of a .375/.479/.708 season with 22 BB/23 K in 120 AB, Olive is breaking out in a way few college hitters in this class can match. Going from an unheralded recruit once seen as a 50/50 possibility of winding up on the mound to a lefty power bat with more than enough athleticism to field his position at first and a suddenly very healthy approach at the plate is one of the draft’s best under the radar stories. Get ready to see Russ Olive ranked higher here than anywhere else this June.

JR RHP Collin Duffley (2018)
SR RHP Andrew Ryan (2018)
JR RHP Nick Rand (2018)
rJR LHP Jack Riley (2018)
SR RHP Luke Tomczyk (2018)
SR RHP Tim Fallon (2018)
SR RHP Dan Cunico (2018)
JR LHP Ricky Constant (2018)
JR RHP Kendall Pomeroy (2018)
SR OF Colby Maiola (2018)
JR 1B/OF Russ Olive (2018)
JR 1B/OF Steve Passatempo (2018)
SR 2B Ben Prada (2018)
JR OF Michael Young (2018)
rSO C Austin Young (2018)
JR SS/3B Oscar Marchena (2018)
SO RHP Connor Metelski (2019)
SO RHP/1B John Polichetti (2019)
FR RHP Henry Funaro (2020)
FR SS Joey Castellanos (2020)
FR OF Vinnie Martin (2020)
FR C/1B Kyle Maurice (2020)

2018 MLB Draft Profile – Stony Brook

RHP Aaron Pinto is every pitcher I’ve pushed on this site the past few seasons. Or maybe that’s just what it feels like sometimes. That pitcher would be an undersized righthander who doesn’t walk anybody, strikes out a batter an inning like it’s nothing, and gets by (or, more accurately, more than gets by) with superior fastball command and well-timed offspeed stuff (an impressive low-80s slider in this case). For what it’s worth, most of these style of pitchers aren’t ones to wow on the radar gun. Pinto brings a little extra juice with a fastball up to 94 MPH (87-92 mostly). On top of that, all Pinto has done since day one — well, day one of his sophomore year technically since his first ten-ish innings as a freshman need not be spoken of — at Stony Brook is get results. He’s good. Use a pick on him late, get him in a pro bullpen, and let him do his thing. Maybe it all catches up to him in AA or maybe he keeps getting strikeouts, limiting free passes, and one day reaches the big leagues. All for the cost of a late-round pick, too. Not for nothing, but the word I jotted down in my notes for Pinto was “awesome.” That one was just for you, Neil. Be cool for once, man. You’re smart – we get it. Let people enjoy things. Damn.

RHP Bret Clarke is a decent prospect who has gotten decent results with decent stuff (88-93 FB, above-average SL). Decent here is meant in the best way possible as the athletic, deceptive Clarke truly is a draft-worthy talent. Nothing necessarily jumps off the page about him, but there’s value in across the board decency. Sidearming LHP Teddy Rodliff is a fun college arm who comes up a little short in stuff to make it in pro ball. In one of those things that is almost certainly only neat to me, here are Rodliff’s BB/9 rates over the years: 3.96, 0.69, 6.33, and 6.59 (and counting). What in the world got into Rodliff in 2016? RHP Greg Marino is a little more conventionally interesting as a redshirt-sophomore with a pro build (6-6, 200) and better peripherals than results. He’s one to watch going forward.

It’s tough to find a sure bet to be drafted out of Stony Brook’s collection of 2018 draft-eligible hitters. My vote for most likely/deserving to be selected is 2B/SS Bobby Honeyman, a versatile defender who makes loads of quality contact at the plate. I like him a lot as is, but can also admit that the thought of him converting to catcher in the pros, as some have deemed possible, is pretty damn appealing as well. Honeyman may not have the pop necessary to make it in pro ball, but I’d be willing to spare a late-round pick or undrafted free agent contract to find out for sure.

1B/3B Andruw Gazzola has hit a lot over the years, so maybe he gets a shot. There’s some positional versatility working him there as a potential four-corners defender. OF Dylan Resk showed a ton of power last year, but hasn’t been able to match his sophomore season stats in his chance at collegiate draft eligibility. Maybe next year. OF/1B Brandon Alamo could also be a senior-sign to watch in 2019. Led by 3B/SS Nick Grande, OF Chris Hamilton, and 2B/OF Michael Wilson, next year’s class of non-senior hitters at Stony Brook has a good shot at making a little bit more draft noise than the present one.

SR RHP Aaron Pinto (2018)
rSO RHP Greg Marino (2018)
JR RHP Bret Clarke (2018)
SR LHP Teddy Rodliff (2018)
SR LHP Kevin Kernan (2018)
JR RHP Michael Russell (2018)
JR RHP Kyle Stinson (2018)
rSO RHP Aaron Glickstein (2018)
SR RHP Nick Montefusco (2018)
SR LHP/OF Cole Creighton (2018)
SR 1B/3B Andruw Gazzola (2018)
SR 2B/SS Bobby Honeyman (2018)
JR OF Dylan Resk (2018)
JR 2B Brandon Janofsky (2018)
JR C Sean Buckhout (2018)
JR OF/1B Brandon Alamo (2018)
JR OF Cristian Montes (2018)
SO RHP Brian Herrmann (2019)
SO RHP Sam Turcotte (2019)
SO 2B/OF Michael Wilson (2019)
SO OF Chris Hamilton (2019)
SO 3B/SS Nick Grande (2019)
FR C John Tuccillo (2020)

2018 MLB Draft Profile – Maine

Everybody seems to love SS Jeremy Pena. We’re talking top three round buzz in some quarters kind of love. I won’t go so far as to say I don’t get it, so let’s just say I’m more in the “like” camp than the “love” side. He’s a good bet to stick at shortstop, so that alone makes him a prospect of some note. He has a plus arm, above-average to plus speed, and average raw power that could result in double-digit home run seasons at his peak. Sounds really good, right? So what is it about him that I can’t quite bring myself to love? Call it a combination between old scouting intuition (note: I know I’m not a scout and try not to pretend to be, but we’re all baseball watchers who get instinctual feelings about certain players and after thousands of games observed it’s only fair to occasionally listen to your gut every now and then) and a personal aversion to overly aggressive college hitters with statistical red flags in the BB/K categories. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I don’t still like Pena. As mentioned, just being a viable pro shortstop gives him value at the jump. That’s good. All of those average or better tools (power, speed, arm, potentially the glove) are good, too. Even with the approach as is, Pena has a shot to be a potential regular up the middle or at third with a floor as an offensive backup infielder. That’s a really nice overall prospect profile.

I should also point out that I’m wrong about guys a lot. While I generally believe that the track record of guys with Pena’s brand of aggressive college hitting in pro ball isn’t great (not exactly a hot take, I think), there are notable exceptions that I’ve missed on in the past. The first two that come to mind are Paul DeJong (who I ranked 37 spots lower than when he was actually picked) and Marcus Semien (“isn’t enough there to project as a big leaguer at this point”). Both conveniently enough work as potential comps for Pena in pro ball. Here’s a quick statistical comparison of what the three did while in school…

.326/.427/.547 with 17.8 K% and 12.1 BB% in 528 AB
.285/.367/.428 with 14.8 K% and 11.3 BB% in 495 AB
.297/.355/.432 with 17.1 K% and 6.9 BB% in 553 AB

Top is DeJong, middle is Semien, and bottom is Pena. DeJong was a fourth round pick and Semien was a sixth round pick. If you really like Pena, then I could see that as a potential draft range for him this June. You could also use last year’s similarly tooled up shortstop prospect, Kevin Smith out of Maryland, as a reference point. Smith, an eventual fourth round pick (ranked 35 spots lower than where he was picked, FWIW), hit .267/.331/.455 with 17.0 K% and 7.6 BB% in 675 AB in his college career. Those numbers are probably the closest match out of the three pros to what Pena has done to date. So maybe the fourth to sixth round range fits. Then again, the numbers above could also potentially indicate that the sixth round is more of a draft ceiling for Pena, who is likely to enter pro ball with the least impressive resume of the group. Call the range from rounds six to ten (with an outside shot at round four or five) and I think you’re on the money with where Pena could go. The upside, like Semien, is a league average hitter who provides defensive value at short, second, and third. The downside is getting buried under an avalanche of strikeouts in AA.

C Christopher Bec is one of those hitters that I don’t know a ton about outside of the stat line, but feel confident enough in based primarily on the numbers to put him on my own “maybe” senior-sign list. That’s what playing a position of need will do for you. Bec hit in high school, at Miami-Dade, and he’s still hitting at Maine. Hard not to like that. 3B/2B Danny Casals is a solid defender at the hot corner with enough arm to stay there in pro ball. A junior year breakout at the plate has him squarely in the draft mix. I like these Maine hitters.

Grows up in Maine, attends high school in Maine, leads the University of Maine pitching staff…now all RHP Justin Courtney has to do is get selected by the Red Sox so he can play minor league ball in Portland and he’s all set. Eventually getting to AA is well within reach for the 6-5, 225 pound righthander with strong secondary stuff (cutter, breaking ball) and enough fastball (86-91). What Courtney lacks in present velocity he makes up for (in part) by extension and deception in his delivery. Unfortunately, all of this is on hold as he recovers from Tommy John surgery with the full intention of returning to Maine as a fifth-year senior in 2019. So, assuming we stave off nuclear annihilation another year, we can revisit this conversation in twelve months.

RHP Nick Silva has never been known as a consistent strike thrower. That’s not exactly ideal for a pitching prospect but certainly forgivable when you can run the fastball up to 95 MPH. His offspeed stuff (low-80s CU, low-70s CB) remains a work in progress, but Silva’s success getting swings and misses with his heat might be enough to jump to pro ball a year ahead of graduation. It also doesn’t hurt that Silva’s uncle is Alex Rodriguez. I’m not quite sure how it helps during the draft process — visibility? maybe? — but I know it doesn’t hurt.

RHP John Arel is a tough guy to figure. Working for him is his size (6-7, 275), out pitch (an above-average slider), enough velocity (up to 92), and a 2016 season that showed what he can do at his best (9.20 K/9 and 2.39 BB/9 in 75.1 IP with a 3.94 ERA). Working against him is his size (too big?), a lack of velocity (sits only 86-90), and back to back underwhelming seasons (2017 was a disaster, 2018 has been good in terms of ERA but bad everywhere else). Weighing the pros and cons gets you a 50/50 at best late round senior-sign type. RHP Chris Murphy has similar size (6-5, 270), strengths (88-92 FB, quality SL), and weaknesses (not nearly enough missed bats to make up for well below-average control). He has an extra year of eligibility before we talk about him as a potential 50/50 (at best) senior-sign in 2019. I’ve got nothing on LHP Eddie Emerson besides his fun high strikeout/high walk totals over the years. Disastrous 2018 ERA aside, as a lefty who has missed some bats over the years he may be worth watching in 2019.

JR RHP Nick Silva (2018)
SR RHP Justin Courtney (2018)
rSR RHP Jonah Normandeau (2018)
rJR RHP Chris Murphy (2018)
SR RHP John Arel (2018)
SR LHP Connor Johnson (2018)
rSR RHP Zach Winn (2018)
JR LHP Eddie Emerson (2018)
JR SS Jeremy Pena (2018)
SR C Christopher Bec (2018)
JR 3B/2B Danny Casals (2018)
SR OF Brandon Vicens (2018)
SR C Jonathan Bennett (2018)
rJR 2B/SS Caleb Kerbs (2018)
JR OF Colin Ridley (2018)
SO RHP Cody Laweryson (2019)
rFR RHP Matt Geoffiron (2019)
RHP/1B Matthew Pushard (2019)
SO 1B/OF Hernen Sardinas (2019)
SO C Cody Pasic (2019)
FR OF/LHP Ben Terwilliger (2020)

2018 MLB Draft Profile – Hartford

OF Ashton Bardzell is awesome and I won’t hear a word saying otherwise. He may get dinged by real scouts for the lack of a true carrying tool and underwhelming college competition, but that’s an evaluation that focuses on what he doesn’t do all that well as opposed to zeroing in on what he does really best. I’m not about that. When I look at Bardzell, I see an athletic outfielder who can play all three spots, hit for above-average power, post above-average to plus run times, and throw with the best of them. As importantly, I see a guy who has flat out raked over three years at Hartford. Was I a little aggressive calling him a potential top three round pick (and first round sleeper) back in October? Yes. It’s easy to get a little carried away in October. Maybe a more realistic expectation would be closer to where Erik Ostberg (round 13) went last year. That said, recalibrating my draft expectations for Bardzell in no way changes how I feel about him as a player and a prospect. All it really means is that some team is going to get a ridiculous value at whatever point they are willing to spend a pick on the massively underrated Bardzell.

Down final year or not, I’d still take a shot on 3B/SS TJ Ward based on his defensive acumen and overall body of work as a hitter. OF/1B Chris Sullivan makes more sense as a 2019 senior-sign (if that), though I can appreciate any prospect who can play multiple spots (Sullivan can also play third) while being a non-zero on offense. OF Nick Campana has been an offensive revelation as a senior. How much of that is him figuring something out versus simply getting older, stronger, and wiser enough to beat up on younger pitching is something the scouts on the ground get to determine. From the outside looking in, however, I’d say he’s well on his way to getting some draft late-round draft love from a team that heavily weighs performance. I’m only a man and not a team, but he’s certainly pushing for a spot late on my hypothetical big (500? 750? 1000?) board.

RHP Billy DeVito, RHP Seth Pinkerton, and RHP Justin Cashman all seemed like draftable talents coming into the year. Now I’m a little less sure. DeVito is a fairly straightforward prospect: size (6-4, 210), arm strength (88-92, 94 peak), breaking ball (78-82, flashes above-average), athleticism, and well below-average control. Do the many smaller positives outweigh that one massive negative? I’m inclined to say no for now, but have the feeling we’ll have the opportunity to revisit the discussion in a year. Pinkerton, the Hawks closer, has had a much better junior season than anything he’s shown before. His stuff (90-94 FB, above-average SL) is ready for a minor league bullpen. Cashman has a similar fastball (up to 93), but nowhere near the same track record. He’s 99.99% certain to need another year in college before getting his name into the draft conversation. All in all, one out of three ain’t bad.

I’m excited to see (or at least hear about) RHP/OF Sebastian DiMauro when he gets himself healthy and back on the mound. The word I wrote about him as my placeholder in my notes was “curious.” For now, DiMauro is a curiosity. We know he’s crazy athletic, sits 89-92 MPH with his fastball, and capable of throwing an impressive at times breaking ball. That’s about it. I don’t think there’s enough there to get him drafted as of this second, but a return to the mound — whether it’s this year or next year or whatever — could send his prospect stock flying. A more accomplished version of the same prospect genus, sophomore RHP Nathan Florence, figures to be a high priority follow next season.

JR RHP Billy DeVito (2018)
JR RHP Seth Pinkerton (2018)
rJR RHP Jake Regula (2018)
SR RHP Collin Ferguson (2018)
JR RHP Justin Cashman (2018)
rSO RHP Connor Lewis (2018)
rJR RHP/OF Sebastian DiMauro (2018)
JR OF Ashton Bardzell (2018)
SR 3B/SS TJ Ward (2018)
SR OF Nick Campana (2018)
rJR 2B Cam Belliveau (2018)
JR OF/1B Chris Sullivan (2018)
SO RHP Nathan Florence (2019)
SO RHP Jason Johndrow (2019)
SO RHP Alex Moconyi (2019)
SO LHP Drew Farkas (2019)
SO 2B Bryce Walker (2019)
SO 3B Zachary Ardito (2019)
SO SS Jackson Olson (2019)
SO C Bryce Ramsay (2019)
SO C Robert Carmody (2019)
FR LHP Nick Dombkowski (2020)
FR RHP Jarod Norcross Plourde (2020)
FR OF John Thrasher (2020)

2018 MLB Draft Profile – Binghamton

I should not be in charge of any team’s draft…but if I were then OF/2B CJ Krowiak would be at or near the top of my pile of potential senior-signs. Krowiak is a glider in center with the plus speed to chew up plus range in the outfield. He’s also an outstanding athlete with phenomenal hand-eye coordination who puts a ton of balls in play without striking out much. He’s going to fall much further (farther?) on draft day than he should. This isn’t to say that I think he’s a lock to have pro success and turn into a big league regular. I’m just saying I think Krowiak has a high probability of having a long career as a useful pro with enough upside to turn into a contributing big league role player if everything breaks right. There’s certainly value there and my hypothetical team would be more than happy to scoop Krowiak up once some of the higher upside priority targets were off the board.

C/1B Jason Agresti is another quality Binghamton senior-sign. He’s solid enough defensively to stick with enough power and patience to give you a little something at the plate. A capable defensive catcher with enough offensive promise to be a non-zero with the bat in his hands? It may sound like damning with faint praise, but that’s a good enough all-around package to get a shot in pro ball for me. This may shock you, but I think SS Paul Rufo could also be a useful senior-sign. He’s not flashy at the plate or in the field, but he consistently gets results. Like both Krowiak and Agresti before him, Rufo is good enough to stick at a premium defensive position while giving you enough offensive punch to potentially move up level by level in pro ball. You can’t ask for more than that as you fill out minor league rosters late in the draft.

Ouch, ouch, and ouch. Those were literally the words I wrote down next to each of Binghamton’s most promising 2018 pitching prospects after checking in on their early season results to date. All three of these guys have been unusually wild while posting ugly ERAs. For RHP Jacob Wloczewski, a redshirt-senior facing his last shot going through the draft process, the timing could not be much worse. A strong 2017 made it seem like he had turned the corner, but now more digging would be needed to see what version is the real version of the 6-3, 180 pound righthander. He has enough in the way of stuff to at least be moderately interesting — 88-92 FB (93 peak) with a quality 79-80 SL — but will have to turn it around in a hurry to convince teams he’s worth a late pick. RHP Joe Orlando, also a senior, has his back up against the proverbial draft prospect wall as well. He’s shorter with less of a breaking ball — though no less velocity, so at least there’s that — and a reliever all the way. Even in today’s game where seemingly every pro reliever comes in throwing mid-90s missiles, any guy who can pop 93 MPH is at least some kind of draft prospect for me. Orlando may not be a particularly promising one, unfortunately, but at least he is one. That’s more than my rag arm can say. The guy with the lowest current velocity (upper-80s) of the trio, RHP Nick Gallagher, may be in the best spot. That’s not necessarily because of his great changeup, but because he’s a junior who will get another shot to prove himself next season.

rSR RHP Jacob Wloczewski (2018)
JR RHP Nick Gallagher (2018)
SR RHP Joe Orlando (2018)
SR RHP Jake Erhard (2018)
JR RHP Cal Lawrence (2018)
JR LHP Robert Brown (2018)
SR LHP/1B Nick Wegmann (2018)
SR OF/2B CJ Krowiak (2018)
SR C/1B Jason Agresti (2018)
SR SS Paul Rufo (2018)
SR 3B/1B Luke Tevlin (2018)
SR OF Pat Britt (2018)
rSO OF Daniel Franchi (2018)
JR OF Anthony Meduri (2018)
SO RHP Ben Anderson (2019)
SO RHP Jake Miller (2019)
SO 3B Justin Drpich (2019)
FR LHP Reid VanScoter (2020)
FR OF Andrew Eng (2020)

2018 MLB Draft Profiles – Albany

RHP Dominic Savino has always had the stuff and size to intrigue, but the peripherals (4.97 K/9 last season) have not matched his admittedly impressive ability to keep runs off the board (2.48 ERA last year). He’s currently striking out a career best 8.58 batters per nine yet giving up more runs (4.40 ERA) than ever. Figure that one out. For me, it’s a trade off worth making. Seeing the 6-6, 200 pound Savino show off his newfound ability to miss bats with that low-90s heat puts him squarely in the draft conversation. I’ll throw out RHP Brendan Smith as a name to know for 2019 based on little but his impressive strikeout numbers over the year. Best not to peep his ERA in that same stretch. I know I’m supposed to like the 6-9, 240 pound monster that is RHP JT Genovese more than I do, but his control is too scary for me to endorse him as a worthwhile potential draft pick.

Can’t imagine there would be too much debate over the idea that OF Connor Powers is the best hitter of this year’s Great Dane bunch. You might say that makes him this year’s Greatest Dane. You might say that, but I wouldn’t. That’s way too lame a joke for me. Anyway, Powers has a well-rounded skill set that could be enough to get him drafted late. 2B/RHP Pat Lagravinese hasn’t shown enough pop to get on the draft radar just yet, but a team that values steady defense at the keystone and well above-average plate discipline (70 BB/43 K career to date) could show some interest in him as a senior in 2019. 3B Travis Collins could eventually hit his way into draft consideration, though, like Lagravinese, 2019 seems like the far more likely time for him to strike.

rSR RHP JT Genovese (2018)
JR LHP Kenny McLean (2018)
JR RHP Dominic Savino (2018)
rSR LHP Jack McClure (2018)
JR LHP Hunter Torres (2018)
rJR RHP Angelo Spedafino (2018)
JR RHP Brendan Smith (2018)
JR 2B/RHP Pat Lagravinese (2018)
JR C/1B Matt Codispoti (2018)
rSR OF Connor Powers (2018)
JR SS Kevin Donati (2018)
JR 3B Travis Collins (2018)
SO RHP Ray Weber (2019)
SO RHP Dan Yankowski (2019)
rFR RHP John Clayton (2019)
SO OF Marc Wagenstein (2019)
FR C Josh Gurnack (2020)
FR 1B Ryan Hernandez (2020)

2018 MLB Draft Profile – Wake Forest

As of this writing, RHP Griffin Roberts has a K/9 of 12.70. That’s slightly down from his 2017 peak (13.51), but still an elite mark for a starting pitcher. Also down from 2017 is his walk rate per nine: his 2017 (5.40) number has dipped to a far more palatable 3.38 here in 2018. That’s really good news. Most encouragingly, however, is the number seven. That’s exactly how many innings Roberts has averaged per start so far in 2018. He’s currently sitting at 56 innings in 8 starts. For a converted reliever trying to convince the baseball world he has the stuff and stamina to make it in a professional rotation, it’s hard to overstate how huge that seven really is.

Pitching deep into games is one thing; maintaining premium stuff, missing bats, and keeping runs off the board while doing so is an entirely different beast. So far in 2018, Roberts has done all that and more. The highly athletic 6-3, 210 pound righthander will enter the draft as one of this year’s surest things. His floor — late-inning relief weapon capable of going multiple frames as needed — is clearly evident with every low- to mid-80s breaking ball (more slider than curve) that darts by the opposition. That one pitch alone will lead to tons of success as a pro for Roberts. My mind goes right to a spectrum of bullpen outcomes that includes successful relievers like David Robertson, Greg Holland, AJ Ramos, Drew Storen, and Shawn Kelley. When paired with a sinking fastball at 88-94 MPH (96 peak), Robert’s one-two pitch combination goes to another level. Between those pitches, the aforementioned plus athleticism, and college track record of swings and misses, I could easily see Roberts continuing to start in pro ball. Predicting any young pitcher can remain in a rotation with only two pitches is admittedly a little out there — among qualified 2017 pitchers, only Chris Archer, Patrick Corbin, and Luis Perdomo threw a third pitch less than 10% of the time — but I think the way pitcher usage is evolving (namely how starters aren’t expected to go as deep) could allow Roberts to get away with it. He does have a third pitch — an 81-85 MPH changeup — that he has shown enough command of to think more work will get it to at least serviceable with daily pro instruction/repetition (this is where I should point out I’m bullish on the pitch developing into even more of that based on what I’ve personally seen, what I’ve heard, and what I’ll project thanks to Roberts’s elite athleticism and reported work ethic), so it isn’t as if there isn’t a building block for Roberts to begin.

If it all comes together for Roberts in pro ball as a starter, the name I keep coming back to as a potential comp, both as a draft day standard (42nd overall pick in 2009) and potential pro production arc (minus the injuries, hopefully) is Garrett Richards. Interestingly enough, Richards has been cited as a comp four times on the site over the past decade. Ashe Russell (Dayton Moore), Kyle Serrano (BA), Kyle Funkhouser (me), and Jonathan Gray (consensus) were all compared to Richards at one point or another. Toss out Serrano (injuries) as an outlier and you’ve got the 21st, 115th, and 3rd overall picks respectively. That comes out to around a 46th overall pick average, not too far off from where Richards once went. All of this is to say that I really, really like Roberts (hence the Richards starter comp, plus all those fun reliever comps) and think that if my totally non-scientific guess is anywhere close to accurate, Richards will wind up great value if picked anywhere from around pick forty on.

Quick quiz: RHP Rayne Supple has a) electric stuff, b) little to know idea where the ball is going once it leaves his hand, c) one of this year’s best names, or d) all of the above. His control has gotten better (14.09 BB/9 coming into the year) in 2018 (5.25 BB/9) to the point where we can now call it “effectively wild,” so that’s a big win for Supple’s draft stock. His brand of fastball velocity (88-94, 95 peak) and breaking ball quality (77-78 hybrid, flashes plus) is what teams look for in relief prospects. If pro ball doesn’t work out, there’s always the Novel Sport Mouthguard Device. According to the outstanding Wake Forest team site, Supple holds a United States design patent for that very product. Pretty cool.

LHP Tyler Witt has my full attention as another (we’ll get to some more later) Wake Forest pitching prospect who breaks the mold a bit. Typically when we think sinker/slider relief prospects, we think righthanded pitchers on the shorter end of the spectrum. Witt happens to be a 6-5, 215 pound lefthander. Count me as a big fan…or at least as big a fan as any one draft prospect writer can be of a middle reliever on a below .500 college team can be. For the record, it’s bigger than you’d think.

I hate the expression “it is what it is,” but damn if it doesn’t fit sometimes. Having seen him a bunch at Germantown Academy and one time in each two of the last three seasons at Wake Forest, I feel pretty confident in saying 3B/SS John Aiello is what he is. Aiello has above-average to plus power. Aiello has above-average to plus arm strength when healthy. Aiello has more feel for hitting than often given credit and is a good enough athlete to play above-average defense at the hot corner while being able to fake it at shortstop as needed. Those are all really great qualities to see in a young position player prospect. Aiello’s potential fatal flaw has always been his plate discipline. For all the natural hitting ability, Aiello strikes out a ton. Always has. His first two years at Wake Forest led to this: 29.7 K% and 8.8 BB%. The question scouts will have to answer is whether or not he always will. His early 2018 smaller sample numbers are encouraging: 23.0 K% and 11.2 BB%. His career to date totals look like this…

.287/.381/.527 – 28.1 K% and 9.4 BB%
.282/.374/.468 – 26.7 K% and 11.9 BB%

That’s Aiello on top. The numbers on the bottom belong to 2011 fourth round pick Bobby Dalbec. The two aren’t quite twins, but there are enough similarities in both the numbers and their scouting profiles to make you go “hmm.” I’d give Aiello the edge as a hitter and defender while Dalbec bests him in the power department and as a thrower. Dalbec holds small advantages in both K% and BB% cited above, though it’s worth repeating that Aiello is at least trending the right direction there. I wound up ranking Dalbec about one hundred spots lower (213) than Boston ultimately selected him (118), a decision I obviously stand by. That feels like a similar area where I’m likely to rank Aiello in this class, and I think around round seven or so is when his upside begins to start making sense on the risk/reward matrix every pick is run through. In much the same way I would have stayed away from Dalbec until a few rounds after he was actually selected, Aiello’s swing-and-miss would scare me from popping him too early. At some point, however, Aiello’s makeup, athleticism, and power would all be too much to ignore, strikeouts be damned.

SS/2B Bruce Steel, OF/1B Keegan Maronpot, and RHP Chris Farish are all still suspended indefinitely for violating athletics department rules. Without any more information than that, it’s very difficult to ascertain the extent of damage done to each player’s respective prospect stock. If it’s a dumb NCAA thing, then I’d venture most teams won’t care but for the loss of developmental time and scouting opportunities. If it’s something deeper, all bets are off. As is, I think Maronpot stands to lose the most. The senior .202/.293/.386 career hitter (33.3 K% and 10.3 BB%) was probably not going to get drafted anyway, but now whatever little shot you’d have given him before the year — disappointing numbers aside, Maronpot had a tiny shot as a good athlete with a pro build who can play all four of the corner spots — seems gone. That’s rough, but that’s the way life goes.

Pro ball will likely be inclined to be more forgiving to better prospects Steel and Farish. I’ve liked Steel for a while as a legitimate shortstop with above-average pop, speed, and arm strength. If the approach comes around, I think he can be a potential regular in the big leagues one day. If not, then his defensive versatility makes him a nice bet to get plenty of chances to make it as a utility infielder along the way. Farish has the size (6-4, 220), velocity (88-94, 96 peak), and breaking ball (an average or better 78-82 CB that morphed into a more dangerous mid-80s SL in 2017) to fit in a big league bullpen one day. A 12.98 career K/9 certainly doesn’t hurt the cause. Best not to mention his career 9.47 BB/9, though, since we’re already mentioning it, it’s worth pointing out he did at least drop it down to 4.43 in his 18.1 innings last season. Baby steps.

Circling back to the question about who gets hurt the most by these suspensions, I’ll stick with Maronpot as the answer because going from maybe drafted to definitely not drafted has to sting in a special kind of way. However, thinking this over a bit has me believing that all three guys are really going to get hurt by this. Steel and Farish are both talented prospects who had a ton to prove this spring. Being unable to do so on the field is a killer for their long-term chances at pro success. I would have boldly guessed that Steel could have played his way into the top five rounds as one of the country’s best shortstop prospects and Farish would have been a stone cold mortal lock to be a true senior-sign that saves a team money in the top ten rounds while also being a damn good prospect in his own right. With both being out of sight and out of mind this spring, I honestly have no idea how pro teams will consider them come June.

2B Jake Mueller is a good athlete who can both defend and hit. If a team talks themselves into his potential on the left side of the infield as well, then he has a shot to get drafted higher than most think as a potential backup infielder. Even if that’s not the case — I’ve heard his arm would be too far stretched at short and third — he’s still a damn intriguing second base prospect. That may be an oxymoron to some, but not for me. C Logan Harvey is a good enough defender to work himself into the 2019 senior-sign mix.

SS/OF Patrick Frick is very high on my list of players I know little about but want to learn everything about this upcoming summer. OF/SS DJ Poteet and OF Chris Lanzilli seem like interesting follows for 2020. Same goes for 1B Bobby Seymour. LHP Carter Bach is a really weird prospect in that he’s a lefty who relies more on good offspeed stuff than premium fastball velocity (88-92) yet is still ridiculously wild. Like, if RHP Colin Peluse was that wild then it would make a little more sense. Big righthanders with big fastballs (Peluse is up to 95) fit that high velocity/high walk rate pitching prospect archetype more easily in my brain, but it’s very much not the case here. RHP Morgan McSweeney gets us closer to said archetype, but is too good to get stuck with that tag. Any narrative you want to attach to it, the Demon Deacons have a nice foursome (the aforementioned three plus RHP Rhyse Dee) of sophomore arms to build on.

JR RHP Griffin Roberts (2018)
rSR RHP Chris Farish (2018)
JR RHP Rayne Supple (2018)
JR LHP Tyler Witt (2018)
JR 3B/SS John Aiello (2018)
rJR SS/2B Bruce Steel (2018)
JR 2B Jake Mueller (2018)
JR C Logan Harvey (2018)
SR OF/1B Keegan Maronpot (2018)
SO LHP Carter Bach (2019)
SO RHP Colin Peluse (2019)
SO RHP Morgan McSweeney (2019)
SO RHP Rhyse Dee (2019)
SO OF Nick DiPonzio (2019)
SO SS/OF Patrick Frick (2019)
SO SS/3B Chase Mascolo (2019)
SO OF Christian Long (2019)
FR RHP/1B Cole McNamee (2020)
FR LHP/OF Jared Shuster (2020)
FR C/RHP Shane Muntz (2020)
FR OF/LHP Michael Ludowig (2020)
FR OF/SS DJ Poteet (2020)
FR OF Chris Lanzilli (2020)
FR 1B Bobby Seymour (2020)

2018 MLB Draft Profile – Virginia Tech

If you’re looking for a quality senior who has fallen through the cracks a little, then RHP Connor Coward might just be your guy. He may get dinged by the scouts for a lack of big velocity (88-92, 93 peak) and less than ideal size (6-0, 200). He may get dinged by the analytics side for not being a big-time college performer (5.23 career ERA). I think he makes up for the lack of fastball/size with a full assortment of intriguing offspeed pitches including an above-average low-80s breaking ball (plus upside), an average mid-80s change, and an emerging cutter. I also think he makes up for the lackluster college stats by trending in the right direction — admittedly not out of the ordinary for any soon-to-be 22-year-old senior — in all the relevant public facing metrics (he’s posting career bests in ERA, K/9, BB/9, BAA). All in all, Coward’s stuff and performance should be enough to get him a chance in pro ball.

RHP Nic Enright throws a little harder (88-92, up to 94) with a quality changeup, pro size (6-3, 215), and a little more youth (or, put another way, a little less experience) on his side (redshirt-sophomore). RHP Andrew McDonald fits somewhere in between Coward and Enright. He’s always missed bats, but it’s taken until his redshirt-senior season before showing he can keep runs off the board. Is that just a 23-year-old doing his thing against younger competition or has the big (6-6, 240) righty with decent stuff (90-93 FB, usable SL and CU) turned a corner? It’s likely the former, but lesser arms get drafted late every year so I wouldn’t count McDonald out.

RHP Joey Sullivan is a sinker/slider reliever with enough to warrant an honest pro look. I’ve long been a fan of RHP Luke Scherzer, an easy guy to root when you consider the hard work and dedication needed to get back on the mound after two full seasons away. I’m not sure pro ball is in the cards for him considering the many red flags (injury history, Short Righthander Bias, underwhelming results) he’ll have to confront in draft rooms, but, if healthy, he deserves a shot. His stuff at his best — 88-93 FB, 80-81 SL with above-average promise — is solid.

Both C Joe Freiday and C Luke Horanski are intriguing college backstops in a class in need of them. Freiday has a long track record of flashing power and athleticism, but his size (6-4, 240 and hacktastic ways (23 BB/110 K coming into the year) cast some doubt about both his future behind the plate and standing next to it. He’s still striking out too much (20.0 K%), but nowhere near the 30%+ rate of recent years. He’s also walking a touch more (10.0%). If you believe in him defensively, then Freiday deserves a spot in any conversation about top senior-sign catchers. Horanski, a transfer from Creighton, has gotten off to a great start in 2018. The big Canadian mashed last season at Cisco JC, so it’s not like there isn’t some track record beyond his hot small sample start this year. I’m sufficiently intrigued. If you can catch, you’re a prospect. If you can catch and hit a little bit, you’re a candidate for the top ten rounds.

2B Jack Owens has been hit by a pitch in 5.9% of his collegiate plate appearances. He’s also a career .342/.430/.479 hitter in 390 PA between his time at East Carolina (all two games there) and Virginia Tech. I don’t have much on him in the way of scouting notes, but those are certainly the type of offensive numbers that will get you noticed. SS Nick Owens (no relation) is a steadying presence in the middle infield with just enough offensive skills (little pop, little patience) to fit as a late round prospect this year or senior-sign next year.

OF/LHP Tom Stoffel is one of my favorite college players. He’s been a productive two-way player going back to 2014 (note: I’m old) topping out with last year’s magnificent redshirt-junior season. For all that college success, however, it is difficult to imagine a path to the big leagues for him. Still, there are worse org guys to bring into the fold with a late round pick or undrafted free agent contract.

1B/3B Sam Fragale has real power but an even realer swing and miss problem. The latter keeps the former from making him much of a prospect. JR OF/1B Stevie Mangrum‘s coach has compared him (via D1) to Marty Costes. That’s…no. I can appreciate a coach pumping up his own guy and there may even be some similarities from a body type and/or tools standpoint, but Mangrum has one walk to nineteen strikeouts so far in 2018. That puts his three year total at 15 BB/71 K. Costes is at 75 BB/105 K. Even if the two were physical clones that gap in plate discipline is too much for Mangrum to overcome to be anything but a “wait-and-see” 2019 potential senior-sign for me. That doesn’t sound great, I’ll admit, but there are still worse things to be at this point in the draft process.

SR RHP Connor Coward (2018)
rSO RHP Nic Enright (2018)
rSR RHP Andrew McDonald (2018)
SR RHP Joey Sullivan (2018)
rSR RHP Luke Scherzer (2018)
JR LHP/1B Paul Hall (2018)
rSR OF/LHP Tom Stoffel (2018)
rJR 2B Jack Owens (2018)
rSR 1B/3B Sam Fragale (2018)
JR OF/1B Stevie Mangrum (2018)
rJR C Luke Horanski (2018)
rJR SS Nick Owens (2018)
SR C Joe Freiday (2018)
SO RHP Dylan Hall (2019)
rFR RHP Connor Yoder (2019)
SO RHP Graham Seitz (2019)
SO 1B JD Mundy (2019)
FR LHP Ryan Okuda (2020)
FR LHP Ian Seymour (2020)
FR RHP Gavin Hinchliffe (2020)
FR OF Darion Jacoby (2020)

2018 MLB Draft Profile – Virginia

RHP Evan Sperling – good but wild
RHP Derek Casey – good, not wild

I’ve done this bit before, but I like it enough so I’m doing it again. Those were my placeholder notes on RHP Evan Sperling and RHP Derek Casey designed to serve as a jumping off point for a larger discussion about each young Virginia pitcher. If you’re not into a couple hundred words on each guy, then those quick synopses should work. If you want more…

Both Sperling and Casey were lumped together in my notes because they are both good (as one can plainly read in the exhaustive notes written above) and coming off of Tommy John surgery. Clever, right? Both guys also took their tags far more to the extreme last season than this current one. Sperling (“good but wild”) missed bats (10.34 K/9) but walked a ton of guys (7.05 BB/9) in his 38.1 shaky (7.51 ERA) innings. Casey (“good, not wild”) was good (3.79 ERA in 71.1 IP) and not wild (2.65 BB/9), but didn’t show quite the same strikeout stuff (7.32 K/9). Literally everything (outside of Casey’s slightly higher ERA, but there’s so much noise with these small sample ERA’s that I don’t sweat it) is better this year. Strikeouts are up (13.53 K/9 for Sperling, 12.06 K/9 for Casey) and walks are down (4.06 BB/9 for Sperling, 2.11 BB/9 for Casey). Weaknesses are shrinking and strengths are growing. Really can’t ask for much more than that.

Of course, looking up the stats is easy. Important, sure, but easy. You probably come here for the scouting reports, such as they are. Sperling has premium size (6-6, 215) and velocity (a wide range of 87-94 depending on health and role, but up to 96 in short bursts is eye-catching no matter what) with an average to above-average mid- to upper-70s breaker that goes between a curve and slider. He’s shown enough proof of a changeup existing in the past that keeping him in the rotation isn’t out of the question in pro ball. If that works, there’s enough here to be a big league starting pitcher. If not, Sperling’s stuff and effectively wild ways would play well in the bullpen. Casey, the more athletic of the two, can’t quite match that size (6-1, 200) or arm strength (though I have him up to 94-95 in the past, he was more 85-90ish in his return last season) but comes with a more pro-ready changeup (average or better) and a soft mid-70s curve that flashes average in its own right. Increased velocity — which may have already happened since, full disclosure, I don’t have anything from 2018 on him yet — would increase his ceiling, though I think the profile still makes a ton of sense as a backend big league starter if it all works out.

How does a 6-4, 200 pound lefthander with enough fastball (85-92, 94 peak) and a wide assortment of quality offspeed pitches (above-average 76-84 CU, average 75-83 CB, above-average 82-86 cut-slider) only miss 5.24 batters per nine in their sophomore season? I don’t know, but maybe LHP Daniel Lynch can fill us in one day. I’d only think to ask because those low strikeout numbers are but a thing of the past. As of this writing, he’s sitting at a far more fitting 10.45 K/9 through six starts. All is right in the world again. I like Lynch a lot as a potential big league starting pitcher. This year’s Virginia squad may be struggling by their admittedly high standard, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t like a ton of their pitching prospects.

LHP Bennett Sousa had a K/9 of exactly 12 last year in 33 innings pitched. Bennett Sousa has a K/9 of exactly 12 (as of this writing*) in 21 innings pitched this year. There should be no at this point that Sousa has the ability to miss bats. Limiting free passes? Now that’s an open question. As is whether or not his good yet not great stuff — namely a fastball between 88-92 MPH (94 peak) and a low-80s slider with promise — will continue to help him pile up strikeouts in the pros remains to be seen. The good news is the likely draft capital needed to find out what you really have in the senior lefthander figures to be well worth the risk. That’s a nice way of saying Sousa, though equipped with that low-90s heat and strong collegiate strikeout rate, figures to fall long enough on draft day to be considered good value when he’s eventually selected.

*Now that’s I’ve gone back to finish this and post it, I see his K/9 is up to 12.38 in 24 IP. I could just make the change in the original sentence, but let me have this little bit of cheap narrative heat. Also, for the sake of completeness, Lynch’s K/9 is up to 11.11 after his seventh start.

RHP Chesdin Harrington fits the polished lefty with an upper-80s fastball and above-average changeup player archetype like a glove. That glove, however, actually goes on Harrington’s left hand, so maybe we need to rethink the handedness requirement for this particular archetype. A healthy Harrington, who is currently on the shelf with a bum elbow, is a draft-worthy talent even without premium velocity. An injured one may be tougher to wrestle away from such a good school, especially if he has two years of eligibility remaining as expected. LHP Riley Wilson missed a lot of bats (12.95 K/9) while also missing the strike zone a lot (6.78 BB/9) in his 14.2 innings last season. The upper-80s lefty will probably have to come back for a senior season in 2019 to get more draft notice, though getting innings in an ever-crowded Cavalier bullpen is easier said than done. The same path seems likely for RHP Grant Donahue, a sinker/slider relief prospect that could work himself into the 2019 senior-sign mix if everything breaks right.

Injuries are the worst. OF/RHP Cameron Simmons was poised for a fantastic draft season, but a serious shoulder injury will wipe away his entire junior year. How big a blow is this to the top of this June’s draft? Those who have seen Simmons more than I have were adamant that he was ready to flip his 23 BB/40 K from last season all the way around as a junior. An athlete like Simmons who can run, throw, and hit for power with a cleaned up approach at the plate? That’s a potential first round sleeper. Alas, we’ll either have to wait a year for him to try it all again or see if a team that has really done its homework can draft him in a spot high enough to buy him out of those last two years of collegiate eligibility.

OF Jake McCarthy managed to get thirteen games in before going down with an injury of his own. A bum wrist has kept him out of the lineup since early March, though he could be in line to return before the close of the current month. Jake’s older brother Joe was a ridiculous steal by Tampa as a fifth round pick back in 2015. I don’t think Jake was going to fall that far and I still wouldn’t be surprised to see him taken earlier than that if deemed signable this spring. McCarthy is a legitimate four tool (only a lousy arm holds him back) potential impact player. He may never quite give you star-level offensive production, but his game-changing speed and above-average center field range should make him a potential regular regardless. I’ve been told “Kevin Kiermaier without the arm” as one frame of reference for McCarthy that makes some sense. I’m not about to project him as that kind of defender — those types of center fielders are rare — but I think it’s smart to think of McCarthy as being part of the larger Kiermaier, Pillar, Dyson, Bourjos, Inciarte, and Gentry prospect genus. There’s a wide range of ability within that group, so maybe putting him with all those guys doesn’t tell you as much as you’d like…but it’s better than nothing, at least as a starting point.

3B/1B Nate Eikhoff is easy to like as a steady bat who can hold his own at the hot corner. The lack of power and no clear carrying tool makes him tough to love. If teams think he can play up the middle at all, then his stock as a potential utility player goes up. That’s where 2B/SS Andy Weber is. Weber is a good athlete and capable defender at all of the infield spots. There might be just enough bat to work himself into regular time up the middle, but the strong backup infielder floor is intriguing enough if it doesn’t. If I was a little bolder, I’d make the same call for 2B Jack Gerstenmaier. From a tools standpoint, he’s rock solid: average or better hit tool, defense at second, and speed. It’s the lack of at bats and time away from the game hurts him. Also working against him is present unknowns about his ability to play effective defense anywhere but the keystone. If he can, then you can put Gerstenmaier and his 113 career at bats in your folder of deep deep deep long shot sleeper prospects. 3B/2B Justin Novak interests me more as a potential catcher conversion project than anything else. His bat is light, but there’s enough defensive versatility (experience at second, third, short, and catcher) to potentially get him a shot as a “seat filler” in pro ball. It’s not glamorous work, but somebody has to do it.

I still believe in OF/3B Charlie Cody as a potential big league player, but I can admit my conviction in that belief has been shaken quite a bit over the past calendar year. His early season power loss is notable as is the decreased likelihood he’ll get a shot to keep playing third base at the next level. A third baseman with power? Sign me up. A corner outfielder currently rocking a .026 ISO? Hard pass. I have a long enough memory to not totally bail on the Cody bandwagon — after all, I am the guy who had Cody as a fourth round value last year and one ranked him as a top five third base prospect coming out of high school — but I’ll admit it is getting a little lonely on this ride.

It appears I may have jumped the gun in busting out the HBP% stat on Notre Dame infielder Nick Podkul last week. C Caleb Knight may just be the one true king of getting hit by very fast baseballs after all. My rough math (as of this writing) has him at a whopping 9.6% career HBP rate. That is absolutely insane. If you include his two years at junior college (thus increasing the sample to an even meatier 697 collegiate PA), that figure drops down to a still wild 6.6%. No matter how you look at it, Knight knows how to take a pitch off the body like very few ballplayers before him. It’s worth noting that the Virginia catcher’s approach at the plate includes more than just “wait until something gets close and lean it.” Knight has a career 42 BB/43 K mark over two seasons as a Cavalier. With a little bit of pop to go with that, there’s enough offensively working for Knight that he could carve out a long career as a minor league catcher with a shot to one day reach the big leagues as a backup if you buy into his defense behind the plate.

As excited as I am about what RHP Bobby Nicholson and LHP Andrew Abbott have shown so far this year, I’m almost that nervous about the offensive future of the Virginia program. It’s tough to look too far ahead, but there isn’t a ton for me to get excited about offensively here. There’s certainly a lot of pressure on guys like SS/3B Tanner Morris and SS Andrew Papantonis to help prop up the offensive future of the team.

rSR RHP Mack Meyer (2018)
SR LHP Bennett Sousa (2018)
rJR RHP Derek Casey (2018)
JR LHP Daniel Lynch (2018)
rSO RHP Evan Sperling (2018)
JR RHP Grant Donahue (2018)
JR RHP Chesdin Harrington (2018)
rJR LHP Riley Wilson (2018)
JR OF/RHP Cameron Simmons (2018)
rSO OF Jake McCarthy (2018)
SR 3B/2B Justin Novak (2018)
SR C Caleb Knight (2018)
JR C Cameron Comer (2018)
JR 3B/1B Nate Eikhoff (2018)
JR 2B/SS Andy Weber (2018)
JR OF/3B Charlie Cody (2018)
SR 2B Jack Gerstenmaier (2018)
SO RHP Bobby Nicholson (2019)
SO RHP Noah Murdock (2019)
SO C Drew Blakely (2019)
SO SS Cayman Richardson (2019)
SO OF Jalen Harrison (2019)
FR RHP Griff McGarry (2020)
FR LHP Andrew Abbott (2020)
FR RHP Kyle Whitten (2020)
FR LHP Robb Adams (2020)
FR SS/RHP Devin Ortiz (2020)
FR SS Andrew Papantonis (2020)
FR 1B/OF Alex Tappen (2020)
FR OF Christian Hinka (2020)
FR C Brendan Rivoli (2020)
FR SS/3B Tanner Morris (2020)

2018 MLB Draft Profile – Pittsburgh

You could forgive SS Liam Sabino for struggling some in his redshirt-junior season at Pitt after accumulating only 68 AB in his previous three seasons coming into this one. I mean, you could…but you don’t have to. Sabino is hitting a team leading .345/.464/.678 through 110 PA so far in 2018. That’s good. He’s also 13/14 stealing bags and playing quality defense. That’s also good. In less good news, Sabino’s 30.9 K% is as bright a red flag as you can find for an otherwise good looking hitting prospect. This got me thinking….and not just that I really could use a thesaurus. I wish I had the time and data skimming ability to find out for sure, but it certainly seems like Sabino ranks at or near the top of this year’s Three True Outcomes college leaderboard. My very quick search at least puts him in the exclusive (and admittedly very silly) 20/30/7 club. That would be BB/K/HR for those scoring at home. Other members include Kevin Woodall, Nick Ames, and Seth Lancaster. Anyway, if we add Sabino’s K% with his high BB% (18.2) and seven homers (6.4% of his PA) then we see he’s whiffing, walking, or walloping in 55.5% of his total plate appearances. That puts him squarely in Sano/Judge territory and in the same zip code as Gallo. Of course, all of those guys are doing it in the MLB and not the ACC, but you get the idea. So in Sabino we have a Three True Outcomes star, a transfer from Vanderbilt (never a bad thing when they’ve recruited you), an above-average runner and athlete, and a capable enough defender to stick at shortstop (or, at worst, not slide down the defensive spectrum too far). This is a really, REALLY intriguing prospect. The strikeouts keep me from going all-in on Sabino as a prospect (though I’m close…), but as a draft curiosity he’s second to none.

SS/2B David Yanni is a really interesting young hitter who is likely to use at least one of his two remaining years of eligibility. Admittedly, Yanni’s numbers are what I find most interesting about him considering my present scouting notes on him are sparse. 1B/3B Nick Banman has size and power but also strikeouts and dangerously low contact rates. Unfortunately, the latter is too much to make the former worthwhile as a draft prospect.

Quality stuff, low- to mid-90s velocity, more than enough strikeouts, and questionable control. Now you know about RHP RJ Freure, RHP Blair Calvo, and RHP Derek West. Each guy obviously brings his own individual strengths and weaknesses to the mound, but that’s still the general gist.

RHP RJ Freure is the shortest at 6-1, 200 pounds, and the easiest to project to pro ball. He’s a reliever, he’s always been a reliever, he has the delivery and lack of a third pitch to remain a reliever, and he’s really good at being a reliever. If Freure can soften some of the rough edges around his game (namely his control, or lack thereof) then it’s not much of a stretch to imagine his deceptive low-90s heat continuing to pile up swings and misses in the pros. Much of that also applies to RHP Derek West, though his build (6-5, 225 pounds) and more diverse offspeed repertoire (cutter, curve, change) at least gives him some hope of transitioning to the rotation as he gains more experience. That last part is another big difference between him and Freure: West is a redshirt-sophomore coming off of two straight seasons lost due to injury while Freure is a draft-eligible true sophomore based on age with over fifty extra college innings to his name. West also has a couple extra present ticks of velocity (up to 95) working for him.

Then there’s RHP Blair Calvo, who is sort of a mix between the two. He’s got an up-and-down track record on the mound (very good year in junior college in 2016, missed all of 2017 coming back from Tommy John surgery) that combines the past of both Freure and West (more or less) with velocity (also up to 95) and a depth of secondary stuff (average slider, occasional curve and change) to match West. His size (6-3, 200) puts him smack dab in the middle of the two. Interestingly, Calvo has started seven games so far but has only gone 24.1 innings. West has a similar ratio of starts (4) to innings pitched (14.1). It’s still kind of early in the season so maybe there’s nothing to it, but it sure seems like a potential hint that the bullpen is where all three of these guys will wind up in the pros. Assuming that’s the case, I’d rank them Freure, Calvo, and West.

I don’t have much on RHP Matt Pidich, but the 2018 results to date speak for themselves. I’m intrigued to find out more about him, though I’ll admit that the clock is ticking mighty fast as we approach early June. There may not be enough time left to circle back. Hopefully pro teams do a better job than me investigating how Pidich is doing what he’s doing because he deserves some notice. RHP/OF Yaya Chentouf has been good on the mound in the past, but it took until this year for his peripherals to catch up. Now that he’s striking out a batter per inning, the small (5-9, 190) yet highly athletic Chentouf becomes far more appealing. There’s no denying his arm strength (up to 94). That should lead to some fun conversations in draft rooms come the late rounds. “He’s up to 94,” he says. “Yeah, but he’s 5-9,” they’ll counter. In a battle of You Can’t Teach Natural Arm Strength vs Short Righthanders are the Worst, who will win the day?

SO RHP RJ Freure (2018)
rJR RHP Blair Calvo (2018)
rSO RHP Derek West (2018)
rSR RHP Matt Pidich (2018)
SR RHP TJ Pagan (2018)
JR RHP/OF Yaya Chentouf (2018)
rJR SS Liam Sabino (2018)
rSR OF Frank Maldonado (2018)
rSO SS/2B David Yanni (2018)
JR OF Connor Perry (2018)
SR 1B/3B Nick Banman (2018)
rSR C Caleb Parry (2018)
SO RHP Dan Hammer (2019)
SO RHP Chris Gomez (2019)
rFR LHP Peyton Reesman (2019)
SO 2B Alex Amos (2019)
SO OF Nico Popa (2019)
FR LHP Chris Cappas (2020)
FR OF Ron Washington (2020)

2018 MLB Draft Profile – Notre Dame

I’m a big fan of OF/RHP Matt Vierling, though I think it’s time we put the pitching side of his game to bed. Vierling’s stuff — 88-92 FB (up to 94) with a nasty (occasionally) hard cut-slider — should be good enough to make him a viable two-way performer, but the results simply haven’t been there on the mound. Thankfully, Vierling can really hit. And run. And throw. The well put together 6-3, 200 pound athlete has above-average speed, a strong arm befitting a part-time pitcher, and enough range to dabble in center. It’s easy to put a backup outfielder — a good one, to be fair — ceiling on him and call it a day, but I’m not ready to rule out Vierling as being skilled enough to play regularly if the power plays in the pros.

3B/2B Nick Podkul is really appealing as a bat-first utility type who can play just about every defensive spot but catcher and short. He’s steady but not spectacular at multiple positions with enough of a power/patience blend to potentially profile as a regular if his hot hitting to start 2018 is for real. I’ve been burned by Notre Dame infielders before, but am happy to go back to the well one more time with Podkul. No mention of this Notre Dame infielder is complete without bringing up his propensity for getting plunked. Quick math has Podkul’s career college HBP% at 5.4. That would put him second all time in ML history (1921 on) behind Brandon Guyer, who is now sitting at 5.8% for his career. Lots of black and blue for the guy in blue and gold.

2B/SS Cole Daily doesn’t have quite the same track record of hitting (or getting hit) as Podkul, but his 2018 has been really good so far. He holds the edge over his infield mate when it comes to athleticism and ability to play a credible shortstop, neither of which being a small thing when it comes to forecasting success of likely bench players.

OF Eric Gilgenbach is a small sample three-true-outcome poster boy who is more interesting to me than he probably ought to be. We’ll wait to check back on him until we get closer to the 2019 draft.

LHP Scott Tully hits all the undersized pinpoint command/plus control lefty archetype boxes without having the pinpoint command/plus control.

rSR LHP Scott Tully (2018)
SR RHP Charlie Vorscheck (2018)
JR OF/RHP Matt Vierling (2018)
JR 3B/2B Nick Podkul (2018)
JR 2B/SS Cole Daily (2018)
SR OF Jake Johnson (2018)
JR OF Eric Gilgenbach (2018)
rSO OF Eric Feliz (2018)
JR 3B Jake Singer (2018)
SR OF Alex Kerschner (2018)
SO RHP Zack Martin (2019)
SO RHP Anthony Holubecki (2019)
SO RHP Cameron Junker (2019)
SO RHP Andrew Belcik (2019)
SO LHP Cameron Brown (2019)
SO RHP Patrick McDonald (2019)
SO 1B/OF Daniel Jung (2019)
FR RHP Joe Boyle (2020)
FR RHP Brian Morrell (2020)
FR LHP Tom Sheehan (2020)
FR LHP Tommy Vail (2020)
FR LHP Brandon Knarr (2020)
FR OF Niko Kavadas (2020)
FR C David LaManna (2020)
FR 1B/LHP Cole Kmet (2020)
FR 3B Jared Miller (2020)

2018 MLB Draft Profile – North Carolina State

You wait and you wait and you wait for a player to take that next step, and then it finally happens and it’s hard to know how to react. OF Brett Kinneman always had the tools to be an early round prospect, but it took until this spring to see the total package of power, patience, and athleticism begin to show up on a nightly basis. Kinneman’s improved selectivity at the plate has helped him not only to get on base more and strikeout less (duh) but also do more damage with the pitches he knows he can drive. Defensively, he can fake it in center but is best in a corner. That was a small albeit fair concern coming into the year, but his jump in offensive production now makes his long-term defensive home less of an issue. If he continues to rake, Kinneman will be looked at as a potential everyday option in either left (most likely) or right (if you believe in his arm as I do). There’s still the risk that comes from any bat-first prospect, but Kinneman’s athleticism, speed (average), and arm (average) are all good enough that he should provide some value even if his offensive game backslides a touch.

That same leap hasn’t happened for the ultra-toolsy OF Brock Deatherage. There’s no denying his speed, arm, and range in center, but counting on him to hit more than what you’d want out of a fifth outfielder seems like a stretch. There’s no real kind way of saying it, but his approach is simply a mess. The preferred senior-sign contender in the NC State outfield is OF Josh McLain, an athlete with many of the same strengths as Deatherage (speed, range, pop) but without the same arm strength. That one negative is more than made up for with a superior approach at the plate. I’m not sure the ceiling is much more than org guy/fifth outfielder, but pro ball needs org guys/fifth outfielders so he’ll get his shot.

1B Evan Edwards is slick around the bag and powerful at the plate. A “better, more athletic” Jake Adams (sixth round pick out of Iowa last year) was one way he was described to me. Edwards has certainly impressed in the early going and is now firmly in the top ten round power bat conversation. Contact remains an issue for SR 1B/OF Shane Shepard, but his power and patience are strong enough to make him a viable late round draft prospect even as his average hovers around the .250 mark. It was a minor upset to see 2B Stephen Pitarra return to Raleigh for his senior season. I had thought his mix of defensive versatility and just enough offensive skill would get him an early shot in pro ball. He now needs to get healthy and back in the lineup to fulfill that senior-sign destiny. C Jack Conley is another guy who needs to get on the field to show off his interesting and thoroughly under-the-radar mix of defense behind the plate, solid athleticism, and sneaky offensive upside.

LHP Brian Brown is awesome. The changeup, the command, the deception, the four years of collegiate dominance…all awesome. His fastball is his fastball (mid-80s, though it’s been clocked as high as 89 MPH), so you have to take the less awesome with the awesome. Still, the overall package is a lot of fun and well worth using some draft capital on. D1 Baseball has comped him to a lefty Preston Morrison (8th round pick) and the first name I come back to is Michael Roth (9th round), so somewhere between rounds eight and ten make sense as the time to strike if you want to add a money-saving senior-sign with the stuff (not just raw stuff in a conventional way, but the “extra stuff” that goes beyond fastball/changeup/breaking ball quality) and drive to pitch in the big leagues one day. For what it’s worth, I’ve run the Michael Roth comparison by a few smart people and the consensus there is that he’s a “way better” prospect than Roth. Considering Roth reached the big leagues in his first full professional season, I’d say that’s a nice compliment even after taking into account how the former Gamecock has struggled at the highest level to date.

RHP Johnny Piedmonte is a large human (6-8, 240) who has been through a lot (most notably Tommy John surgery). As a senior-sign relief prospect with a decent fastball (87-92, 93 peak) and breaking ball (both a mid-70s CB and a low-80s SL, curve currently the better offering) combination, he should get a shot in pro ball. Another redshirt-senior, RHP Joe O’Donnell, should also get a chance to pitch in the pros this June. His stuff is generally similar (same velo, hybrid-breaking ball, occasional change) with slightly more advanced secondary offerings. Everything he threw was down across the board last year, but he still managed to strike out a ton of hitters (10.99 K/9 in 48.1 IP). No word yet on what he’s tossing in 2018, but the results have been encouraging. RHP Austin Staley and RHP Nolan Clenney are both redshirt-juniors with decent fastballs (88-91 for Staley, 89-93 for Clenney) and average or better breaking balls.

RHP Dalton Feeney makes for one fascinating draft case study. I can’t think of too many other draft-eligible sophomores coming off of Tommy John surgery with the kind of stuff good enough to entice pro teams despite only having 21.1 college innings to his name. Can you? For real though, I can’t imagine Feeney is signable but making a run on an arm of his caliber (88-94 fastball that touches 96, above-average 79-82 breaking ball, working on both a change and a cutter) seems like a small risk, high reward gamble worth taking.

SS Will Wilson is a potential monster 2019 draft prospect. C Brad Debo could very well join him in the early round party. And North Carolina State has SS David Vazquez and C Patrick Bailey right behind them ready to keep things rolling. That’s some seriously enviable long-term up-the-middle depth.

SO RHP Dalton Feeney (2018)
SR LHP Brian Brown (2018)
rSR RHP Joe O’Donnell (2018)
rJR RHP Austin Staley (2018)
rJR RHP Nolan Clenney (2018)
rSR RHP Johnny Piedmonte (2018)
JR OF Brett Kinneman (2018)
SR OF Brock Deatherage (2018)
SR OF Josh McLain (2018)
JR C Jack Conley (2018)
SR 2B Stephen Pitarra (2018)
SR 1B/OF Shane Shepard (2018)
JR 1B Evan Edwards (2018)
rSO 3B Dillon Cooper (2018)
SO RHP Mathieu Gauthier (2019)
SO RHP Michael Bienlien (2019)
rFR LHP James Ferguson (2019)
rFR RHP James Vaughn (2019)
SO LHP Kent Klyman (2019)
SO SS Will Wilson (2019)
SO C Brad Debo (2019)
FR LHP David Harrison (2020)
FR LHP Nick Swiney (2020)
FR RHP/OF Reid Johnston (2020)
FR OF Terrell Tatum (2020)
FR SS David Vazquez (2020)
FR C Patrick Bailey (2020)
FR 2B/SS JT Jarrett (2020)

2018 MLB Draft Profile – North Carolina

No pitcher in the 2018 class at North Carolina has an upside that can match RHP Austin Bergner‘s. Upside is what you get when you come equipped with a big fastball (87-95, up to 97), an inconsistent yet very promising 83-89 MPH changeup, and a solid if unspectacular mid- to upper-70s breaking ball. The ceiling of two plus pitches (and an average one) with the floor of three average ones makes the athletic, deceptive draft-eligible sophomore one of the most intriguing starting pitching prospects in this class. I’ll admit that I’ve long had a strange intuitive feel on Bergner that has warned me away from building up his draft stock too much, but the early jump in strikeout stuff in 2018 (12.52 K/9) has me trying to fight off that pesky gut feeling. Still, his control needs serious fine-tuning and he needs to show that he can handle a starter’s workload over a full season.

RHP Rodney Hutchison has exciting stuff, but has had some difficulties over the years keeping runs off the board. I’ll admit that I’m honestly not so sure how much that last part matters when projecting prospects; in fact, I typically care so little about ERA that I don’t even check it when quickly scanning the college player stat pages. That said, there’s something about Hutchison’s career 4.65 ERA, mostly out of the bullpen, that makes me a little uneasy. The weirdest part here is that a 4.65 ERA isn’t even THAT bad! So what does it bother me here when it wouldn’t for other prospects? It could have something to do with Hutchison lacking dominating peripherals to go with the less than ideal ERA. His 7.94 K/9 and 3.01 BB/9 career numbers are fine enough, but hardly the mark of an elite college relief prospect. Anyway, I know most don’t come here to read about me talking in circles about stats. Hutchison’s stuff is quality. His low-90s fastball (94 peak) moves, his changeup is a clear out pitch (flashes plus), and he’ll mix in an average low-80s slider. Those three pitches were enough to convince North Carolina to shift Hutchison to the rotation last month. And wouldn’t you know that his ERA in his first three starts is 1.84? What does it all mean? I have no idea. But Hutchison is a solid mid-round prospect likely best suited to relief…though if his last two starts are the beginning of a run of success as a starter then who knows.

I don’t follow college ball closely enough to know this for sure, but it certainly seems that North Carolina targets undersized righthanders during recruiting because they know the odds those players will eventually make it to campus is high. Listed at 5-11, 190 pounds, RHP Josh Hiatt is one example. RHP Taylor Sugg (6-1, 175) is another. Same with RHP Hansen Butler (5-11, 180) and RHP Brett Daniels (6-0, 200). This strategy — if it is actually a strategy at all — has worked out for Carolina. Hiatt’s ERA last year was 1.90. Sugg’s was 1.95. Butler missed last season, but had a 2.00 ERA in 2016. Daniels put up a 2.68 ERA in 2017. Of course, college production is one thing but we’re here to talk about what kind of pro prospects these players have. Of that group, I really REALLY like RHP Josh Hiatt. A compelling case could be made for his plus 82-88 split-change as the singular best pitch in college baseball. His fastball won’t blow anybody away at 88-93 MPH, but, again, that changeup is just so damn good. Hiatt also has an average 77-81 MPH slider with more upside than that, but, really, all he needs is that split-change. It’s a true offspeed difference-maker and enough to make him one of this draft’s best relief prospects. Just have to be sure he doesn’t face off against any Seminoles once he reaches pro ball…

RHP Taylor Sugg is a sinker/slider type who also comes with a decent changeup because he’s a pitcher at North Carolina and by rule that means you have to throw at least an average changeup. RHP Hansen Butler needs innings and to get less wild. That was what I originally wrote as a placeholder for Butler before I was going to go back and add something more substantive, but I think it works pretty well without much else. Also, “get less wild” makes me laugh for some reason. Butler’s stuff is really good, so the impetus to get him those innings and improve his control is even greater than if he was just a short righthander with pedestrian talent. At his best, Butler can reach the mid-90s (94-95 mostly) with a pair of offspeed pitches that will show above-average (78-80 slider, 79-82 change). Stop me if you’ve heard this already, but RHP Brett Daniels makes up for his decent heat (87-92) with an above-average 79-84 changeup that flashes plus. He also throws two distinct breaking balls (71-75 CB, 80-81 SL) well enough that the odds are good at least one is working on any given day. As the only senior on the list below, Daniels has an outside shot to get drafted sooner than the rest as a money-saving top ten round senior-sign, though the mid- to late-rounds feels like a more realistic landing spot.

Neither RHP Jason Morgan nor RHP Cooper Criswell has stepped foot on the mound so far in 2018. Morgan’s stuff fits in nicely with all of the short righthanders profiled above, but comes with a 6-6, 215 pound frame and three years of underwhelming peripherals. Criswell is another big guy (6-6, 200) who does the sinker/slider thing well. My quick research into what’s up with both pitchers revealed nothing on Morgan — I think he’s injured, but Google only wants to tell me about a character on General Hospital so I’m getting nowhere fast — and that I somehow missed Criswell pitching 18.2 innings and counting so far in 2018. Whoops. Can we chalk that up to only getting a chance to write these up on the small breaks I get from chasing around a suddenly very mobile ten-month-old? The good news is that Criswell’s 18.2 innings have been super. He’s a draft-worthy arm for sure.

RHP Trevor Gay is not listed on the North Carolina roster. He is featured in the team photo. He’s listed on the UNC stats page as having thrown 2.2 innings this year, but when you click on his name for more information the screen just loads and loads and loads. After an exhaustive thirty second search, I found this tweet…

So there you go. Mystery solved. I like Gay as a sinker/slider relief prospect with loads of deception as he comes at you from a funky sidearm delivery. The Charlotte transfer was good (12.33 K/9) but wild (6.16 BB/9) in his short stint as a Tar Heel (14.2 IP). Assuming the reason for his dismissal isn’t all that serious, I’d take a shot on him.

I’m sure there is a more eloquent way to put this, but I’m a huge sucker for C/RHP Cody Roberts. Logic goes a bit out the window when it comes to his prospect stock because I enjoy watching him play so damn much. Roberts has arguably the best arm strength in this entire class of any position player, flirts with above-average raw power, and is as athletic as any catcher you’d hope to find.

There’s an obvious big league backup catcher floor here that feels to me like almost a sure thing. I know he’s not a sure thing to be a big league backup because there’s truly no such thing as a sure thing in this line of work, but catchers with his kind of arm/athleticism combination are hard to deny. This sent me down a rabbit hole to find some catching prospects of recent drafts with similar defensive tools. The first name that came to mind was a poor man’s Taylor Ward…

.288/.384/.437 – 13.7 K% and 12.1 BB% – 652 PA
.271/.361/.356 – 14.0 K% and 9.9 BB% – 537 PA

Top is Ward at Fresno State, bottom is Roberts at Carolina to date. Ward is clearly ahead, but there are enough similarities between the two that I don’t think the comparison is nuts. Plus, the stats are park/schedule neutral, so you’d have to think the gap would close some once those factors were taken into account. In any event, the comparison was originally based on tools and projection, and I think it holds up. Other names to come up were Sean Murphy, Cooper Johnson, Brent Gibbs, Reese McGuire, Austin Hedges, and Jacob Stallings. If we focus on just the college guys who signed, that leaves us with Ward, Murphy, Gibbs, and Stallings. There was also Garrett Custons and Michael Williams, though those two players were profiled on the site back when I was a little more generous with tool grades. The rounds those players were drafted in: one, three, seven, seven, ten, and thirty. That comes out to an average round of about 9.5. It moves way up to 5.5 if we toss out the outlier in Williams. That feels like a fair range (rounds 5-9) to project Roberts. I’d personally be very happy to get a high-floor, solid-ceiling (plus the pitching fallback with his low- to mid-90s fastball) talent like Roberts at that point in the draft.

Both 2B/3B Zack Gahagan and 2B/3B Kyle Datres feel like they’ve been prospects forever. Datres is a legitimate FAVORITE due to his defensive versatility (in addition to being pretty good at second and third, he can also play a credible shortstop), average or better power and speed, and elite athleticism. I think he has an honest floor as a bat-first utility infielder with the shot to hit himself into a larger role in pro ball. Gahagan has many of the same strengths, but without the same feel for hitting.

As of this writing, OF Brandon Riley has a truly bizarre .202/.385/.393 line through 84 AB. It would be easy to knock him for the low batting average, but the fact that the overall triple slash is about one hundred points off across the board from his full season 2017 line probably says something about his luck with balls in play. As it turns out, The Baseball Cube keeps track of such things. Wouldn’t you know it but Riley’s BABIP last year finished at .340. His current BABIP? .240. I swear I didn’t plan to bring that up when I started this paragraph. In fact, I was only on Riley’s Baseball Cube page in the first place because I wanted to compare his college production to his predecessor in center field for the Tar Heels. Here’s what we’ve got…

.322/.419/.453 – .121 ISO – 10.8 K% and 12.3 BB% – 55/68 SB
.290/.384/.450 – .160 ISO – 14.3 K% and 13.6 BB% – 15/21 SB

That’s Brian Miller, 36th overall pick in last year’s draft, on top. Riley is on bottom. Miller is better, yes, but by how much? Riley lacks Miller’s speed and center field range, but has managed to perform at a similarly high level offensively over the years. Of course, when you’re built up as a speed and defense prospect first and foremost — as both Riley and Miller are — then I suppose glossing over a full grade or more difference in each area is a tad disingenuous. Still, Riley can hit. Feedback on his draft stock has been pretty lukewarm, but I’d be pleased to scoop up the store brand version of Miller ten rounds later than the original this June. Maybe you’re not getting starter upside, but a good backup outfielder ain’t nothing.

OF/1B Jackson Hesterlee has the size, power, and early season production (super small sample size alert!) to at least get him on the “hey, I’d love to know more about this guy” radar. Same with 2B/OF Dylan Enwiller, an above-average to plus runner who is solid at both second and center, if you subtract the part about early season production. Both seem like 2019 senior-signs at this point, though you never know what can happen if they are caught by the right person on the right day.

RHP Luca Dalatri is a great college pitcher and a good pro prospect. RHP Tyler Baum is a good college pitcher and a great pro prospect. Figure that one out. The hype on OF/1B Ashton McGee winding up as one of 2019’s top college bats was really loud all offseason. Twenty games into his sophomore year and that talk has quieted way down. I still believe, though it’s admittedly a tough path to the top of the draft when you’re billed as a bat-first player and your bat refuses to cooperate. The good news for the Tar Heels is that the buzz about a sophomore hitting his way into the early rounds of 2019 may still apply. 1B Michael Busch had a much better freshman season than his .215 batting average suggests, and so far in 2018 all he’s done is hit.

SO RHP Austin Bergner (2018)
rSO RHP Josh Hiatt (2018)
JR RHP Rodney Hutchison (2018)
JR RHP Taylor Sugg (2018)
rJR RHP Hansen Butler (2018)
rJR RHP Jason Morgan (2018)
JR RHP Cooper Criswell (2018)
SR RHP Brett Daniels (2018)
JR C/RHP Cody Roberts (2018)
SR 2B/3B Zack Gahagan (2018)
JR 2B/3B Kyle Datres (2018)
JR OF Brandon Riley (2018)
JR OF/1B Jackson Hesterlee (2018)
JR 2B/OF Dylan Enwiller (2018)
rSO SS/2B Dallas Tessar (2018)
JR C Brendan Illies (2018)
JR OF Josh Ladowski (2018)
SO RHP Luca Dalatri (2019)
SO RHP Tyler Baum (2019)
SO RHP Bo Weiss (2019)
SO OF/1B Ashton McGee (2019)
SO OF/1B Kip Brandenburg (2019)
SO 2B/SS Ike Freeman (2019)
SO C/OF Brandon Martorano (2019)
SO 1B Michael Busch (2019)
FR RHP Joe Lancelotti (2020)
FR RHP/3B Ben Casparius (2020)
FR OF/LHP Angel Zarate (2020)
FR SS Satchel Jerzembeck (2020)
FR 3B Clemente Inclan (2020)
FR OF Earl Semper (2020)

2018 MLB Draft Profile – Louisville

The first thing that jumps out when looking through the Louisville roster is the size of the Cardinals top 2018 pitching prospects. Look at some of these monsters: 6-4, 210 pounds, 6-6, 225 pounds, 6-6, 240 pounds, 6-6, 220 pounds, and 6-8, 240 pounds. Maybe you’re one super tall rim protector short, but otherwise that’s a pretty fun starting five for a modern day position-less basketball team. Let’s take a closer look at each…

RHP Riley Thompson (6-4, 210 pounds)

In terms of raw stuff, there are few better prospects in the country than Thompson. Armed with an electric fastball (90-96, 98 peak), consistently average or better breaking ball (78-86, will flash plus), and a solid if firm 84-88 MPH changeup, Thompson has the three pitches, imposing size, and prospect pedigree (if not for Tommy John surgery two weeks before the 2015 MLB Draft, he’d likely be well into a pro career by now) to jump into the draft’s first round. Unfortunately, the aforementioned size and injury past has made his developmental path a bumpy one. Since arriving at Louisville, Thompson has missed a season while recovering from his Tommy John and thrown 15.2 innings of good (13.27 K/9), bad (5.19 BB/9), and fine (4.02 ERA) ball as a redshirt-freshman. He’s currently five starts into a season showing more of the same as he did last year. The stuff remains top notch, but his control (not good) and command (below-average, believed to be equal parts from searching for a consistent release point and still working himself back into top shape after the surgery) have limited his overall effectiveness. If you know where Thompson will be valued by draft day, then let me know. I’m still trying to piece it all together. I think he might be looked at as one of those “first round stuff with tenth round pitchability” types who winds up splitting the difference draft-wise.

RHP Bryan Hoeing (6-6, 225 pounds)

You could make a strong case for Hoeing over Thompson as Louisville’s top 2018 pitching prospect. Though I currently like Thompson a hair more, I’ll give it a shot. What Hoeing lacks in Thompson’s top end velocity he makes up for with a better present breaking ball (78-80) and a much more promising low-80s changeup (above-average, plus upside). And that fastball that doesn’t quite match up to Thompson’s is still pretty damn good. At full health, Hoeing sits 88-94 MPH and can hit 95. On top of all that, he has great size and plenty of athleticism. There’s a lot to like here. Like Thompson, he’ll have to answer questions about his own recovery from Tommy John surgery as well as whether or not he can master the finer parts of pitching to allow his big stuff to work against pro bats.

RHP Sam Bordner (6-6, 240 pounds)

Bordner, Louisville’s closer, is one of my favorite 2018 college reliever to professional starter conversion projects. With a quality fastball (88-94, 95 peak) and a pair of average or better offspeed offerings (80-84 MPH breaking ball and changeup), he’s certainly got the assortment of pitches to make the switch. Whether or not he’s got the delivery and arm action to hold up to the rigors of a starter’s workload is in the eye of the beholder, but I’d at least try to get a guy with his size, athleticism, and track record of success stretched out to see what you have firsthand once he enters pro ball. Of course, it’s easy to like the idea of Bordner as a starter when you know you have the safety net of Bordner as a reliever reliever as a backup. That aforementioned track record of success comes exclusively in relief and includes a silly 0.41 ERA in 43.2 IP last season and a pristine 0.00 ERA through ten innings to start this season. That’s pretty good.

LHP Adam Wolf (6-6, 220 pounds)

The fact that we’ve been through three really good names already — though, to be fair, names chosen in in no particular order besides the fact this is the way they are listed in my notes — before getting to Wolf, potentially the best 2018 prospect on the Louisville team, says something about the depth the Cardinals have built up on this roster. Wolf’s velocity is more good than great, so it’s his plus cutter and average to above-average breaking ball (with a chance to be plus as well) that make him the dominant college pitcher that he is. Tack on an interesting low-80s changeup and a delivery with ample deception, and you can understand why Wolf has emerged as the Cardinals best starter in 2018. Like literally every other pitcher on this list, I’ve heard from smart people in the know who believe that Wolf’s long-term home is the bullpen. I get it — his fastball would play up in shorter outings and his changeup isn’t quite where it needs to be yet to get through a pro lineup multiple times — but, as you may have picked up on already, I think almost all pitchers deserve their shot to keep starting until they prove outright they can’t do the job any longer. As a matchup lefty reliever Wolf could be deadly, but I’d still much rather see what he could be pitching every fifth day in the pros.

RHP Liam Jenkins (6-8, 240 pounds)

It’s been all good news so far, but, in the interest of remaining fair and balanced, there is some less than good news to report on. Jenkins is a really talented young pitcher, but the big righty hasn’t gotten a chance to show it off just yet. Control remains the well-traveled Jenkins’s fatal flaw. His fastball (up to 97 at its best) and slider (mid-80s and impressive when on) are enough to get him noticed, but control has been a problem for years. The former Arizona State Sun Devil walked over five batters per nine in junior college last season (also over a strikeout per inning and a good ERA) and has almost doubled that figure in his admittedly small sample start for Louisville. On the plus side, the stuff and size remain so intriguing that a late round pick on Jenkins (if signable) still seems like a smart investment. Betting on big arms (and bodies) to turn the corner with daily pro instruction from experienced coaches will still give you more misses than hits, but the hits are often big enough to make it all worth it.

LHP Rabon Martin isn’t one of the Louisville giants and his stuff is far from overwhelming (86-90 heat, decent 75-79 breaking ball), but the man has gotten results. RHP Austin Conway is a little bigger with stuff both a little firmer (89-92 FB, 94 peak) and crisper (his 78-84 breaking ball flashes above-average to plus). With a strikeout rate over one per inning spanning his entire college career, the Indiana State transfer has an even more accomplished track record than Martin. Both pitchers are good enough to play professionally

OF Josh Stowers has the most upside of any 2018 Cardinal position player. He’s often referred to as a five-tool player, so he has that going for him. I’m not quite so sure — yes, he has all five tools but none stand out in the way I’ve come to expect out of a true “five-tool player” — but that doesn’t mean I don’t like him a lot. Stowers is coming off a .300/.400/.500 season (.313/.422/.507 to be exact…you know, I’ve always thought there should be a catchy name for a triple-slash line like that) where he walked almost as much as he struck out (31 BB/33 K) while flashing power, athleticism, and enough range to hang in center. The last point is one that’s up for debate depending on what day you see Stowers. His best present tool (speed that plays above-average to plus) makes him a natural fit up the middle, but there is still some question as to whether his arm (inconsistent, though mostly around average) and instincts are suited for the task. Considering my ceiling for Stowers is more fourth outfielder (but a good one!) than everyday player, the ability to play a credible center is a little less important for me. As long as he can play it well enough — and he can — then I’m good. His speed, pop, and patience will do the rest.

There’s little not to like about 2B/3B Devin Mann‘s offensive profile. He makes decent contact, flashes some pop, and is opportunistic on the bases. There’s little to love there as well — no carrying tool, some question how much his present decent contact projects, he’s awkward fit defensively as an infielder who looks like a third baseman but throws like a second baseman — so the math probably adds up to a bat-first utility upside…if you believe in the bat.

1B Logan Wyatt has all the ingredients necessary to be the latest Louisville hitter I’m willing to look past some positional issues with and rank higher than most. OF Drew Campbell sure seems like he has the skill to be the next exciting Cardinals center field prospect of note. 2B/OF Jake Snider can hit. SS/3B Tyler Fitzgerald and 3B/SS Justin Lavey both need a hefty dose of polish, but offer serious upside. RHP Shay Smiddy, RHP Michael McAvene, and LHP Nick Bennett all are intriguing names to know heading into 2019. RHP Bobby Miller and LHP Reid Detmers are both really high follows for 2020.

rSO RHP Riley Thompson (2018)
rSO RHP Bryan Hoeing (2018)
JR RHP Sam Bordner (2018)
JR LHP Adam Wolf (2018)
rSR RHP Austin Conway (2018)
rSO RHP Liam Jenkins (2018)
SR LHP Rabon Martin (2018)
JR 2B/3B Devin Mann (2018)
JR OF Josh Stowers (2018)
JR C Zeke Pinkham (2018)
rJR C Pat Rumoro (2018)
SO RHP Shay Smiddy (2019)
SO RHP Michael McAvene (2019)
SO LHP Nick Bennett (2019)
SO LHP/OF Adam Elliott (2019)
SO SS/3B Tyler Fitzgerald (2019)
SO 3B/SS Justin Lavey (2019)
SO 1B Logan Wyatt (2019)
SO OF Dan Oriente (2019)
SO OF Drew Campbell (2019)
SO OF Ethan Stringer (2019)
SO 2B/OF Jake Snider (2019)
FR RHP Bobby Miller (2020)
FR LHP Reid Detmers (2020)
FR LHP Michael Kirian (2020)
FR RHP Glenn Albanese (2020)
FR OF/RHP Lucas Dunn (2020)
FR C/OF Zach Britton (2020)
FR OF Tey Leonard (2020)
FR 3B/1B Cameron Masterman (2020)
FR C Ben Bianco (2020)

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