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Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Kansas City in 2016
123 – Chris DeVito
170 – Logan Gray
183 – Khalil Lee
201 – AJ Puckett
253 – Nicky Lopez
404 – Jace Vines
455 – Dalton Griffin
2.67 – RHP AJ Puckett
Not having a pick until after sixty-six prospects have already been chosen presents a unique challenge for any drafting team. The Royals opted to approach this conundrum by selecting a college performer with a long track record of success and a high probability of reaching his modest yet plenty useful ceiling. Fair enough. AJ Puckett (201) carved up hitters for three straight seasons at Pepperdine as one of the west coast’s most underappreciated collegiate arms. He’s been really good yet never dominant peripherally — 7.74 K/9, 7.52 K/9, and 8.61 K/9 — though his junior year dip in ERA to 1.27 after two seasons of 3.60 and 4.36 ball could obviously qualify as dominant run prevention in most quarters. Still, his good yet never dominant strikeout numbers dovetail nicely into a discussion about his good yet not dominant stuff. Puckett’s biggest strength is his ability to throw three average or better pitches for consistent strikes. His fastball ranges from 88 to 94 MPH (96 peak) with solid sink. His 73-78 MPH curve is an average pitch, but only in the sense that it sometimes flashes much better (above-average to plus) and sometimes has very little bend and gets hammered. Puckett’s changeup (79-85 MPH) isn’t all the way there yet, but shows signs of being an average to above-average pitch with continued use in the pros. With some projection left in his 6-4, 180 pound frame, a best case scenario could be a career not unlike what we’ve seen out of Alex Cobb to date.
3.103 – OF Khalil Lee
If you’re going to go safe with the first pick, then it only makes sense to swing for the fences with the next one. Highly athletic two-way prep star Khalil Lee (170) certainly qualifies as a big cut from the heels that could either result in a majestic home run or the cooling breeze of a major whiff and miss. Of course, that presupposes that boom/bust prospects result in all-or-nothing players; a swing for the fence can just as easily result in a double high off the wall or a sac fly. Prospect evaluation can mean many things to many people, but one thing it ain’t (or shouldn’t be) is an exercise in projecting binary outcomes. Anyway, Lee’s upside is considerable and the arrow on his likelihood of getting there is pointing up after a tremendous pro debut that saw him turn tools to skills quicker than just about anybody outside of the Kansas City front office could have anticipated.
Lee has the physical ability to be a star if he can remain in center feel as expected. He’d still have above-average regular upside in a corner — we know he has more than enough arm for right field — but the thought of him maintaining enough quickness and flexibility as he fills out to stick up the middle is particularly exciting. Offensively, Lee has the bat speed, swing plane, and muscle to hit for real power, average speed to do a little damage on the bases, and the keen understanding of the strike zone one might expect from a legitimate pitching prospect. There’s a lot to like when the overall package is taken into account.
4.133 – RHP Jace Vines
Draft-eligible sophomore Jace Vines (404) looks like a classic sinker/slider (88-92, 94 peak for the former; 83-86 and flashing plus for the latter) reliever to me with an outside shot at sticking in the rotation depending on how his changeup develops over time. I don’t hate it.
5.163 – SS Nicky Lopez
On Nicky Lopez (253) from March 2016…
Creighton’s best pro prospect for 2016 is Nicky Lopez, a slick fielding shortstop with plus speed and serious athleticism. Like the rest of the names at the top his bat might keep him as more utility player than starter. He’s a fine prospect in his own right, so hopefully this doesn’t come across the wrong way…but Lopez benefits greatly from being draft-eligible in 2016 and not 2015. Last year he might have gotten swept away with all the excellent college shortstop prospects getting popped early and often on draft day; this year, he stands out as one of the better options at the position for no other reason than the fact there’s little doubt he’ll stick there as a professional.
From that point on, Lopez grew on me a little bit with every passing day. Guys who hit .306/.417/.444 with twice as many walks (26) as strikeouts (13) in their draft year tend to do that. Beyond the obvious awesome plate discipline indicators, what I liked about Lopez is the steady increase in functional power (.038 ISO in 2014, .089 ISO in 2015, .138 ISO in 2016) and continued strong base running (83.3% career success rate). Those kind of secondary offensive skills and his longstanding quality defense at short — above-average range, plus arm, soft hands — elevate Lopez’s ceiling to a potential regular at short. If that’s too rich for you, then Lopez’s hot start should at least up the odds of him reaching his existing upside as a high-level utility guy.
6.193 – OF Cal Jones
Cal Jones is a classic, old school Royals draft pick. Take a special athlete with legit plus speed and more than enough range for center, and see if you can coach him up into a viable big league hitter. Great find by the Kansas City scouting staff. Now the really hard part comes for the development staff tasked with guiding Jones through the ups and downs of pro ball. I’m oddly optimistic on this one.
7.223 – RHP Travis Eckert
The Royals may have found themselves a late-bloomer in Travis Eckert, a steady yet unspectacular performer in two years at Oregon State who saw his stuff jump up across the board upon entering pro ball. What was once a fairly standard three-pitch command-oriented repertoire has been elevated to a slightly more interesting all-around profile thanks to a faster fastball (more flashes of mid-90s than his old 88-93 heat) and tighter 77-81 MPH breaking ball. Those two pitches combined with his solid 79-85 MPH changeup give him the requisite mix many teams require for a future in the rotation. I wouldn’t have put that that expectation on him six months ago — his immediate post-draft evaluation would have been something between unlikely middle relief help to minor league depth — but sometimes pro ball just agrees with a guy.
8.253 – 1B Chris DeVito
On Chris DeVito (123), the highest ranked player drafted by the Royals in this class, from March 2016…
I’m not yet sure what to make of Chris DeVito as an all-around prospect, but the confidence that he’ll hit as a pro grows by the week. The improvements he has made as a hitter, especially as he’s found a way to retain his big power while significantly decreasing the length of his swing, are real. One friend of mine affectionately refers to him as the “western Zack Collins.” My prospect love for Collins runs far too deep for me to go there, but I still like it. If DeVito can convince pro teams he can catch professionally, there’s no telling how high he can rise. I’m unsure if that’ll be the case – literally unsure: haven’t heard much in either direction about his glove, so I legitimately do not have an updated opinion on the matter – but I look forward to finding out more about his defense in the coming weeks. He’s a potentially great (top five round?) prospect – though I’d caution taking his offensive production with his offensive environments in mind — if he catch, and a good one (round six to ten?) if he’s forced to first base.
Of course, the Royals drafted DeVito, that same friend said after the fact, they already have his right-handed hitting counterpart in Chase Vallot. DeVito played exclusively first base in his pro debut, a sure sign that his number one job as a Royal will be to hit. Whether or not he’ll do so enough to be an everyday option going forward remains to be seen. I remain bullish on the Red Hercules as a plus power bat with patience and enough feel for contact to make a meaningful offensive impact at the highest level, so count me in on DeVito as a future regular.
9.283 – RHP Walker Sheller
Walker Sheller could be a quick-moving middle relief option for Kansas City as a funky strike-throwing fastball (87-93 MPH, 95 peak) and slider (low-80s, average but flashes better) righthander. It’s not the most explosive stuff or the highest ceiling, but it’s the kind of skill set that should play well in short bursts in the pros.
10.313 – LHP Richard Lovelady
It should be a pretty fun race to the big leagues between Walker Sheller and tenth rounder Richard Lovelady, a lefty reliever who can run it up to the mid-90s (sits 88-92ish) with a quality mid- to upper-70s breaking ball and usable upper-70s change. Good college numbers (10.26 K/9 and 4.93 BB/9) and a strong pro debut (10.80 K/9 and 3.24 BB/9) paint a pretty picture of a potential big league reliever.
11.343 – OF Vance Vizcaino
A big redshirt-sophomore season year at Stetson seemed to set Vance Vizcaino up for stardom at the college level, but his 2016 was a step back in just about every offensive area. That dip in production allowed the Royals to wait it out and and snag Vizcaino in the eleventh round. Getting someone closer to the 2015 version of Vizcaino would be a steal, but I can’t help but think that season will look more and more like an aberration the longer his career goes on. It isn’t that Vizcaino is a bad prospect — he isn’t — but he’s the epitome of an outfield tweener. He’s playable in center, sure, but much better in a corner. His speed is impressive, no doubt, but not quite on the level that I’d call it a clear carrying tool. His power is decent, yes, but not good enough to profile as a regular, especially in an outfield corner. Add it all up and the Tennessee transfer could be a useful backup outfielder in time if everything goes right. There’s no shame in profiling as a bench player, but I’d want a little more in a round that has turned into one where most teams target high upside, overslot gambles. That’s not Vizcaino.
12.373 – RHP Jeremy Gwinn
I was no Jeremy Gwinn expert in the spring and I’m no Jeremy Gwinn expert now. What I do know about him, however, I like. He’s got size at 6-5, 200 pounds. He’s got a good fastball at 90-94 MPH (95 peak). He can reach back and use one of three offspeed pitches (SL, CB, CU) in any count. His numbers at Colby CC this past year (11.85 K/9 and 2.39 BB/9 in 79.0 IP) were excellent. There is a lot to like here.
13.403 – 2B Logan Gray
Plate discipline is at or near the top of my list of required skills for any college hitter I’ll champion. It does seem, however, that every year there is a player or two who I can’t help but like in spite of consistently ugly BB/K ratios. One of those guys this year was Logan Gray (170). An optimistic take from April 2016…
All Logan Gray does is hit. There’s no point in me doubting him anymore. I’m sure there are scouts who don’t love every aspect of his swing or his bat speed or the way he circles the bases after hitting yet another home run, but at some point his extended run of hitting, hitting, and hitting some more has to matter. His athleticism and speed should translate to some steals (double-digits upside?) as he climbs the ladder and his power should play.
And a slightly more measured take from June 2016 right before the draft…
Logan Gray’s approach never took the step forward I was hoping to see (his sophomore to junior numbers are eerily similar), but he’s still so tooled up otherwise that he’s more than justified being a long-time FAVORITE. This class is dying for real third base prospects, so a raw yet highly athletic guy like Gray is very much welcomed.
There is so much about Gray’s game to like. He can run, he has power, he’s a great athlete, he’s capable of playing multiple spots…but the elephant in the room has been and figures to continue to be his approach. The downside to his game couldn’t have been made more clear in his 132 plate appearance debut in the Royals organization. Gray struggled to make contact (.187 BA), was unable to get into his plus raw power (.073 ISO), struck out a ton (34.8%), and barely walked at all (4.5 BB%). I’m not hopping off the bandwagon altogether after just 132 lousy plate appearances, but the fact that his struggles were so on the nose with what he’s had issues with in the past is more than a little concerning. Still, players with the kind of natural ability that Gray has shown don’t come around all that often, especially at the low low price of a thirteenth round pick. I had Gray valued at something closer to the fifth round — too early, probably, but defensible in this class when upside is taken into account — so it should go without saying that I love it in round thirteen. Whether or not Gray ever figures things out at the plate and gets past AA won’t make this pick any less clever to me. Process over results forever.
14.433 – RHP David McKay
David McKay joins a big group of relief prospects that could include every pitcher taken by Kansas City past their first overall selection. Competition for innings should be fierce in the early going, so McKay will need to impress as much as possible with his strong fastball (88-93) and breaking ball (once a plus slider, now far more of a curve as he’s adjusted to life post-Tommy John surgery) when called upon. So far, he’s done just that…
8.32 K/9 – 3.05 BB/9 – 44.1 IP – 2.64 ERA
7.96 K/9 – 3.14 BB/9 – 74.2 IP – 3.74 ERA
Top is what McKay did in his pro debut, bottom shows his redshirt-sophomore season at Florida Atlantic. Can’t knock the man for being consistent, that’s for sure. I like this pick a lot.
15.463 – LHP Mike Messier
I know it happened almost three weeks ago, but I still can’t get over Jaromir Jagr passing Mark Messier for second place on the all-time NHL points list. Jagr was old (but awesome) when I had the pleasure of watching him nightly with the Flyers and that was five years ago. This has nothing to do with Mike Messier and I apologize for that. Turning our attention back to baseball, kudos to the Royals for sticking with Messier despite a somewhat rocky junior season (4.75 ERA, highest among the three weekend starters) at Bellarmine. His peripherals remained solid (10.50 K/9 and 2.63 BB/9) and his stuff (88-92 FB) never wavered. Lefthanders with a certain baseline of velocity will always appeal to teams on draft day.
16.493 – OF Nick Heath
The pre-draft take on Nick Heath…
I like rJR OF Nick Heath as a potential high-contact, athletic, plus running center fielder, but the complete lack of power undermines what he does well otherwise. He’s more fun college player than serious pro prospect until he can start driving a few more balls to the gaps. They can’t all be power hitters, but the threat of power is a must in the pro game.
That feels pretty fair to me. Heath does enough well to potentially keep rising and make it as a reserve speed/defense outfielder, but the absence of power keeps his ceiling low. Solid depth piece at this point in the draft.
17.523 – RHP Dillon Drabble
A drabble is a short work of fiction of around one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is brevity, testing the author’s ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in a confined space. Sounds a little bit like Twitter on a slightly larger scale. I’m much too dumb to write fiction, but let’s try to write a drabble about Dillon Drabble.
Dillon Drabble was drafted in the seventeenth round by Kansas City out of Seminole State JC in Oklahoma. He pitched well as a sophomore (10.45 K/9 and 3.19 BB/9) using a solid fastball (88-92) and cut-slider combination to get more than his fair share of swings and misses and a boatload of ground ball outs. He kept it up in his pro debut, notable mostly for a whopping 65.15 GB% on all batted balls in his 60.1 innings pitched. One contact who saw them both pitch in 2016 said he preferred Drabble to Kansas City’s similarly skilled fourth round pick, Jace Vines.
102 words! So close! I didn’t even get to talk about the comic strip as planned. Can’t win ’em all.
18.553 – LHP Vance Tatum
Two players named Vance in one draft class has to be a record, right? Vance Tatum is a fine find this late in the draft. The big lefty from Mississippi State has always done the job when called upon (7.73 K/9 and 3.45 BB/9 in 96.2 career college IP) thanks to enough velocity (85-91 FB), a true plus changeup, and a usable 76-81 MPH breaking ball. An imperfect comp for him that may have some merit, especially if he picks up a little velocity: Luis Avilan.
19.583 – RHP Tyler Fallwell
No matter what Fangraphs says, it’s Tyler Fallwell and not Falwell. The real Fallwell had a final draft year at Cochise (10.96 K/9 and 3.62 BB/9) and throws three pitches (88-92 MPH fastball, up-and-down slider, decent changeup) for strikes.
20.613 – RHP Anthony Bender
With a 9.94 K/9, 2.76 BB/9, and 1.65 ERA, Anthony Bender made his abbreviated sophomore year (16.1 IP) at Santa Rosa count. Armed with a fastball that could flirt with triple-digits in time (up to 97 already), Bender is exactly what you want in a mid-round quick-moving potential reliever.
21.643 – OF Dalton Griffin
I like a lot of elements in Dalton Griffin’s (455) game. He’s a solid runner with a strong arm, enough range to handle all three outfield spots (not at the same time though, that would be nuts), and a mature approach at the plate. Or, if that one sentence synopsis of Griffin doesn’t do it for you, how about just celebrating the fact that literally any high school prospect signed this late is worth getting at least a little excited about.
22.673 – RHP Cody Nesbit
Sometimes, just knowing a guy’s numbers can be enough. Cody Nesbit dominated this past spring at San Jacinto JC to the tune of a 15.60 K/9 and 2.00 BB/9. Knowing nothing beyond that, I’d still say that’s enough for me.
The Royals gave Nesbit $100,000 to sign. For those new at this, that’s the maximum amount allowed to a draft pick past the tenth round without dipping into the bonus pool allotment. The fact that Nesbit, a dominant junior college arm, got one hundred grand is wholly unremarkable. The fact that Nesbit is the is the twelfth Royal in a row to get a real signing bonus — ten of whom got six-figure bonuses — is pretty damn great. I love that Kansas City threw around that extra cash to get the players they wanted. I also love that the players got some real money upfront to help supplement their meager minor league salaries. I know Major League Baseball isn’t a charity, but if I was in charge of the draft room I’d push hard to give literally every player taken past round ten the full $100,000. There’s no penalty to doing so with the only real cost being a few extra bucks missing from the owner’s bottom line. I know it’s easy to say since it’s not my money, but the amount of good will around the game and potential for positive PR could pay for itself in time. A relatively small investment — the Royals signed 27 guys past round ten, so that would be $2.7 million if they followed my plan to the letter — that opens up the talent pool and could engender good feelings that resonate for years to come? Seems like something you could sell an open-minded owner on to me.
23.703 – OF Kort Peterson
UCLA has a deserved reputation of being a pitching factory in recent years. Everybody knows the big names like Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, but the Bruins have put big league pitchers like Charles Brewer, Erik Goeddel, Matt Grace, Rob Rasmussen, and Adam Plutko in the big leagues since 2009. James Kaprielian will join those guys shortly — he’s far more Cole/Bauer than any of those others — with Griffin Canning, Jake Bird, Justin Hooper, and Kyle Molnar all waiting in the wings. But the Bruins deserve equal credit for recruiting, developing, and sending off a slew of interesting high-contact, well-rounded offensive players to the pro ranks of late.
Maybe the group of Eric Filia, Kevin Kramer, and Tyler Heineman doesn’t have quite the same star power of that Cole/Bauer/Kaprielian trio, but all three are professional hitters who could carve out long pro careers if things fall the right way for them. I’d put Kort Peterson in that same class. Peterson doesn’t have any clear standout tools, but he’s a smart hitter with enough speed, range, and power to make a little noise in pro ball. His biggest selling point is his athleticism, so there’s more growth potential here than his good but not great college track record might suggest. I think my own track record (such as it is) of being bearish on college players who haven’t put up great numbers as amateurs (like Peterson) should indicate that I like the former UCLA outfielder’s overall skill set more than most.
24.733 – C Mike McCann
A torn thumb ligament cut short Mike McCann’s breakout junior season at Seattle, but the Royals made him a twenty-fourth round pick anyway. I heartily approve. McCann’s bat is ahead of his glove for me, but I still think he has the smarts if not the physical gifts to remain a catcher for the foreseeable future. A case could certainly be made that you’d rather have the smart catcher who can think along with your young pitching in the middle rounds than a bigger armed, better all-around defensive player lacking in the baseball IQ department. I’d take the latter guy early — big league tools are big league tools, after all — but, knowing what we know about the realistic success rate of players drafted at this point, getting a guy who will help with the overall development of his teammates makes perfect sense to me. Make no mistake, McCann is no slouch as a prospect in his own right. In a class loaded with college catching, his half-season (.319/.491/.445 with 37 BB/19 K) stands up to almost anybody’s. Great value here.
25.763 – 1B Robby Rinn
Robby Rinn is an older prospect (turned 24 this past October) confined to first base, so he’ll have to hurry up and start hitting if he wants to keep getting steady playing time in pro ball. His pro debut was fine (.280/.341/.386, 109 wRC+), but it was all in the AZL. That’s not Rinn’s fault — you can only play where you’re assigned — but he has to hope now that the Royals move him a lot quicker than that starting next spring. I believe in him as a hitter, but acknowledge that the odds are against him for a whole bunch of reasons.
26.793 – 3B John Brontsema
I don’t really understand this one. John Brontsema was already in my 2017 MLB Draft notes as a potential senior-sign — he has a solid glove and can play multiple spots — because I figured his unexciting junior season (.289/.364/.389 with 16 BB/44 K) would cause him to go undrafted. The Royals saw differently. Brontsema has rewarded that faith so far with a .337/.386/.396 (13 BB/33 K) debut.
27.823 – LHP Rex Hill
Rex Hill fell a little bit further than a three-pitch lefthander with good size (6-3, 200) probably should have. Perhaps it has something to do with Hill’s upper-80s fastball not being what pro teams want. I’d take it when combined with two average or better offspeed pitches (77-81 change, upper-70s breaking ball) and the chance he’ll gain a tick or two of velocity in a more consistent relief role. Worth a shot.
28.853 – C Yordany Salva
Yordany Salva hit .276/.339/.429 with 15 BB/33 K and 12/14 SB in his sophomore season at Broward CC. That’s all I’ve got. Typically those numbers wouldn’t be enough to be on my draft list, but the Royals obviously like him. We’ll see. Early reports on his defense have been positive, so at least there’s that to build on.
1/17 EDIT: As Shaun Newkirk of Royals Review points out, Salva has already been released by the Royals. It was fun while it lasted.
29.883 – RHP Grant Gavin
From 10.29 K/9 and 3.53 BB/9 (2.64 ERA) in 30.2 IP at Central Missouri to 8.57 K/9 and 0.91 BB/9 (2.01 ERA) in 49.1 IP in his pro debut: not a bad spring and summer for Grant Gavin. With a fastball up to 94 MPH, emerging offspeed stuff (CB and CU), and plenty of athleticism, Gavin could wind up one of this draft’s sneakier quick-moving relief prospects.
30.913 – RHP Geoff Bramblett
An established workhorse pitcher from the SEC with solid stuff across the board — 87-93 fastball, good low-70s breaking ball, improving sinking changeup — and plus athleticism still on the board tor the Royals in the thirtieth round? This is a pick you run to the phone to make. Nice work here.
31.943 – RHP Malcolm Van Buren
There’s literally nothing not to like about Kansas City taking a shot on Malcolm Van Buren in the thirty-first round. Athleticism, velocity (low-90s, up to 93), intriguing assortment of offspeed stuff (CB, CU, SL), and a 6-4, 185 pound frame with plenty of growth potential. The only issue here is his recent Tommy John surgery, but teams knew about the heading into the draft. If anything, strictly from a draft value perspective from the Royals point of view, Van Buren’s injury can be considered a positive. A healthy Van Buren goes twenty rounds sooner. As if I didn’t like this pick enough, the selection of Van Buren gives me an excuse to link to the classic clip you see below. When (fine, if) I sit down and try to determine my favorite picks across baseball from this draft, it’ll be hard to leave this one off.
34.1033 – RHP Nathan Webb
Very cool piece from a story on Nathan Webb, a pitcher I pretty much know nothing else about…
Safe to say he is the only member of the draft class who already has been presented with a World Series ring from the team.
That’s right, Webb, a right-handed pitcher, is one of four members of his high school team who works on the Royals’ grounds crew. The crew received rings.
“More than a replica,” said Lee’s Summit North baseball coach Mike Westacott. “They were really nice.”
How great is that? Good for the Royals.
35.1063 – C MJ Sanchez
When I start compiling notes for these draft reviews, I do so by collecting any and all relevant links that can add to the discussion about a given player. For reasons not particularly clear to me now, I found this link and decided it was worth saving. I can only guess that it had something to do with correctly guessing that the Jets would trade up to take Mark Sanchez. From there I linked Mark Sanchez to MJ Sanchez since MJ’s given name is also Mark. This is what passes for analysis in the thirty-fifth round. For what it’s worth, Sanchez hit well (.323/.384/.455 with 13 BB/15 K) in his redshirt-junior season at California Baptist. Have to figure that experience catching Tyson Miller, the highest drafted player in Lancers history, doesn’t hurt, either. It certainly helped Sanchez get multiple looks from scouts when he might have otherwise been given just a passing glance. I love it when a big-time prospect helps draw in scouts and gives exposure to talented teammates. I’m convinced there are way more good players out there than there are scouts on the road capable of seeing everybody. If you’re good they’ll find you, but getting a little serendipitous help along the way makes things a lot easier.
36.1093 – RHP Alex Massey
Alex Massey going all the way back to 2012 (!) at Tulane…
2012: 8.06 K/9 – 2.45 BB/9 – 51.1 IP
2014: 9.92 K/9 – 4.13 BB/9 – 32.2 IP
2015: 7.47 K/9 – 4.70 BB/9 – 88.1 IP
2016: 7.89 K/9 – 3.11 BB/9 – 75.0 IP
Four pretty solid seasons, all in all. Massey did it with a good sinking fastball (88-92 as a starter, but can run it up to 94-95 in shorter outings) and an above-average slider. That’s more than enough to warrant inclusion in the great big future middle relief pile the Royals have assembled through this draft.
37.1123 – RHP Justin Camp
Justin Camp had a weird college career at Auburn. He was basically the same guy in 2013, 2014, and 2016, but something much more in 2015. What do you do with that? I guess if you’re the Royals you take it in the thirty-seventh round and hope for the best. Camp has good stuff — 90-93 FB, low-70s CU, low-80s breaking ball — with decent command. Tough to see him being much more than an organizational arm, but he’s a bit more talented than your typical bottom of the draft selection.
39.1183 – C Chase Livingston
Chase Livingston was drafted by a MLB baseball team — the defending champs no less! — and I was not, so he’s clearly got plenty going for him and doesn’t need my approval in any way whatsoever. That’s why I don’t feel bad in pointing out that he might have the worst body of work of any 2016 MLB Draft pick. Livingston hit .202/.273/.267 with 25 BB/86 K in 337 AB at Rhode Island. His big senior year saw him put up a career-best .309 SLG as he hit .216 with a .275 OBP (11 BB/39 K). Naturally, he turned into a much better hitter (or had a nice run of fortune on balls in play in a small sample) in pro ball as he hit .273/.375/.273 (8 BB/11 K) in 66 PA split between two levels of rookie ball. With college numbers like his, the only way I can begin to rationalize this pick is to assume Livingston is the world’s greatest defensive catcher. It’s basically Nichols’ Law of Catcher Defense come to life.
40.1213 – RHP Taylor Kaczmarek
Some teams end with pointless nepotism picks, others pick players they have developed lasting long-term relationships with — the Royals originally drafted Taylor Kaczmarek out of South Mountain CC in 2012 — battling their way back from beating acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Kaczmarek is a feel-good story to be sure, but he’s not some total charity case selection: the reliever from San Diego has been up to 90 MPH with his fastball in the past.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Luke Bandy (Dallas Baptist), Kam Misner (Missouri), Joey Fregosi (?)
The arms are the story in the West Coast Conference this year. What’s especially nice about the 2016 draft class is the variety: whether you like velocity, size, or polish, it’s all here. Of course, the best of the best seem to have a little bit of everything working for them. That would be Corbin Burnes. Velocity? How does a sinking 90-96 MPH fastball that has touched 98 sound? Size? A highly athletic 6-3, 200 pound frame ought to do it. Polish? Burnes, who just so happens to be one of the most adept pitchers at fielding his position in his class, can throw any of his four pitches for strikes including an average 80-86 slider (currently flashes better with above-average upside in time), an average or better 81-86 changeup, and a 76-78 curve that also will flash above-average. What Burnes lacks is consistent with what the rest of the pitchers at the top of this conference’s class seem to lack as well: a clear plus offspeed pitch. Missing one of those guys isn’t all that unusual at the amateur level, so it’s not wrong to weigh the overall package of secondary pitches instead. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I start to think Burnes has the all-around scouting profile to crack the draft’s first day. Personal preference ultimately dictates how those decisions are made: all else being equal (more or less), do you take the pitcher with a clear plus secondary pitch yet little else or the pitcher with two or three average or so offspeed offerings but no potential big league out-pitch? I’m sure there’s a better example of this that I’m not thinking of, but off the top of my head the decision amounts to do you prefer a guy like Robert Tyler or would you rather cast your lot with Burnes? This whole thought exercise strips away a lot of the nuance – to say nothing of the absence of how important self-scouting your organization’s development staff strengths and weaknesses — that makes the draft so much fun…but it’s still fun in its own way.
That paragraph is about as stream-of-consciousness-y as I’ve gotten around here in a while. Let’s get back on track. Michael Rucker checks two of our three boxes pretty easily: he’s 88-94 (96 peak) with his fastball while commanding three offspeed pitches (low-80s SL, low- to mid-80s CU, mid-70s CB) with a veteran’s mindset on the mound. He’s not particularly big (6-1, 185) nor does he have that plus offspeed pitch (slider comes closest), but it’s still a potential big league starter skill set. His former teammate at Gonzaga, Brandon Bailey, shares a reasonable resemblance, though Bailey has a little less size (5-10, 170) and utilizes his 78-82 MPH changeup as his go-to offspeed pitch.
JD Busfield has the size (6-7, 230) that gets him noticed as he steps off the bus. His fastball velocity ranges from the mid-80s all the way up to a mid-90s (94-95) peak, but those wild fluctuations are largely because of the big sink he’s able to get at varying velocities. That sink, his impressive low-80s slider, and the silly amount of extension he gets with every pitch put him on the (no longer) short list of pitchers I want to dig into available batted ball data on. Gary Cornish’s reputation for being a ground ball machine puts him on that very same list. His sinker, breaking ball, plus command, and track record of missing bats all up to a fine senior-sign candidate.
AJ Puckett could be the closest thing to Corbin Burnes in terms of hitting that velocity, size, and polish trifecta. If his curve was a little more consistent and his change a little more advanced, then he’d have a shot of co-headlining this class. Alas, if’s are if’s for a reason. Connor Williams is an age-eligible sophomore with a monster fastball (92-95, 97 peak) that could very well help him wind up the second highest drafted pitcher in the conference come June. Mitchell White is a redshirt-sophomore with a fastball that dances (87-93 with serious movement), an above-average slider, and an intriguing cutter. On his best days, the three pitches seem to morph into one unhittable to square up offering. I like him a whole heck of a lot right now.
Troy Conyers has been one of my favorite draft arms for what feels like a decade now. He’s got a lot of the elements for being a major draft sleeper who winds up a better pro than amateur: handedness (LHP), size (6-5, 225), history of playing both ways (41 AB in 2014 isn’t a ton, but it’s something), and a Tommy John surgery (2014) that slowed his ascent just enough (temporarily, we think/hope) to depress his draft stock. Anthony Gonsolin doesn’t fit each those categories, but offers similar intriguing upside as a highly athletic two-way prospect. His two-way bonafides are among the strongest in this class as those I’ve talked to have it as a pretty even split on what his best long-term position will be.
Cameron Neff might have both enough of a slider and a changeup to buck the trend of no plus pitches in the WCC this year. I need more information on him, but the vast majority I have is positive. Steven Wilson (96 MPH peak), Michael Silva (96-97), Anthony Gonsolin (95), Vince Arobio (96), and Gage Burland (94) all throw hard with varying degrees of wildness. Control inconsistencies or not, the fact that guys with arm strength of that caliber can be found so long on a conference list speaks to the outstanding depth the WCC enjoys in 2016. It really might be time for me to move to California.
Doing so would allow me to regularly see Bryson Brigman, a prospect that has begun to remind me a lot of Arizona’s Scott Kingery from last year’s draft. Kingery was a second round pick (48th overall) and I could see Brigman rising to a similar level by June. Like Kingery last year, Brigman’s defensive future remains a question for scouts. Fortunately for both, the question is framed more around trying him in challenging spots than worrying about having to hide him elsewhere on the diamond. Brigman has an above-average to plus defensive future at second back in his back pocket already, so his playing a solid shortstop in 2016 is doing so with house money. In much the same way that former second baseman Alex Bregman wore everybody down with consistent above-average play at short last college season, Brigman has proved to many that he has what it takes to stick at shortstop in pro ball. Brigman’s appeal at this point is pretty clear: tons of defensive potential in the middle infield, contact abilities that elicit the classic “he could find a hole rolling out of bed” remarks from onlookers, and enough of the sneaky pop/mature approach offensive extras needed to be an impactful regular in the big leagues. I’ll stick with the Kingery – who smart people told me here could play shortstop if needed, a position since corroborated by those who have seen him in the pros (I’ll be seeing him for myself on Saturday, FWIW) – comparison for now, but I wouldn’t object to somebody who offered up a mix of the best of both Kingery and his old double play partner Kevin Newman. That would obviously be some kind of special player, but Brigman doesn’t seem too far off. I’ve said before I hate when people throw around terms like “first round player” so loosely that you could count 100 first rounders in their eyes in the months leading up to June, but I’ll be guilty of it here and call Brigman a first round player as of now. I’ve really come to appreciate his game since the start of the season.
Taylor Jones is a risky pick behind Brigman as guys with long levers bring that boom/bust aspect to hitting. The boom of Jones’s power currently outweighs any bust I feel about his long-term ability to make consistent contact as a pro. The fact that he’s more than just a slugger helps give some wiggle room. Jones is an average runner who fields his position really well. He’s also capable of moonlighting on the mound thanks to an upper-80s fastball and up-and-down curve. Broken record alert, but he’s one of my favorite senior-sign hitters in this class. That makes about four dozen favorite senior-sign hitters; thankfully, nobody keeps track.
If not Jones, then either Brennon Lund or Steve Berman could have stepped in in the two spot behind Brigman. Lund is putting it all together this year for BYU. In his case, “all” refers to plus speed, easy center field range, a plus arm, and above-average raw power. My soft spot for Jones has to be evident because the player I just described in Lund sounds pretty damn exciting. I’d consider it a minor upset if he doesn’t overtake the field as the second highest WCC hitter drafted (and ranked by me) this June. Berman’s case is a little tougher to make, but he’s a dependable catcher with an above-average arm who puts his natural strength to good use at the plate. In a class loaded with noteworthy catchers, Berman flies comfortably under the radar. Feels like a potential steal to me.
Just behind Berman fall fellow catchers Aaron Barnett and Nate Nolan. Barnett can flat hit, so it’s no shock he got the FAVORITE tag from me a couple years back. I’m still on board, though I’ve heard from some smart people who question how his arm strength will be viewed by pro guys. Nolan doesn’t have that problem. He’s not a FAVORITE, but his offensive profile is still quite intriguing. He’s very different from Barnett in that he’s all about finding ways to make his plus raw power work for him, often at the expense of at bats ending with a short, disappointing walk back to the dugout. This goes back to another theoretical prospect debate that I know I’ve touched on in years past: do you like the well-rounded, athletic catcher with better contact skills and a more mature approach or would you rather gamble on the big-armed, plus raw power, rough around the edges offensive talent? It’s a chocolate or vanilla argument in the end. Everybody wins.
Remember when Gio Brusa was a thing? This was his report from last year…
The appreciation for Brusa, however, is right on point. His above-average to plus raw power will keep him employed for a long time, especially combined with his elite athleticism and playable defensive tools (slightly below-average arm and foot speed, but overall should be fine in left field). Brusa going from good prospect to great prospect will take selling a team on his improved approach as a hitter; early returns are promising but a team that buys into his bat will do so knowing he’ll always be a player who swings and misses a lot. Whether or not he a) makes enough contact, and/or b) demonstrates enough plate discipline (strikeouts are easier to take when paired with an increased walk rate, like he’s shown so far this year) will ultimately decide his fate as a hitter and prospect. Before the season I would have been in the “think he’ll be drafted too high for my tastes, so let me just kick back and watch somebody else try to fix his approach” camp in terms of his draft value, but I’m slowly creeping towards “if he falls just a bit, I’d think about taking a shot on his upside over a few players with more certainty and less ceiling” territory. That’s a big step up for me, even if it doesn’t quite seem like it.
Almost exactly one year to the day, I can say that’s pretty much where I remain on Brusa as a prospect. There’s still upside in a player like him because his natural gifts are obvious – maybe all it will take is the right voice in his ear in pro ball – but the increasingly large sample of below-average plate discipline is getting harder and harder to ignore. I tried my best to do so last year when spinning his early season successes as a potential step in the right direction, but reading between the lines above should reveal what I really thought. Avoiding the urge to flat out say “I just don’t like this prospect” has cost me some credibility among some small pockets of the baseball world in the past, but I sleep a lot better knowing I skew positive publicly on this site. When it comes to writing about young men chasing their dreams in a game we all love, why wouldn’t you make the attempt to be positive if at all possible? Positive doesn’t mean ranking every player in a tie for best prospect, of course. Brusa finished last season as my 144th ranked draft prospect. For a variety of reasons, some because of baseball but most not (i.e., signability past a certain point), he fell to pick 701. I think his ranking this year could split the difference between the two spots…but with a slight edge to being closer to 144 than 701. Have to stay positive, after all.
- San Diego SO SS/2B Bryson Brigman
- Gonzaga SR 1B/RHP Taylor Jones
- BYU JR OF Brennon Lund
- Santa Clara JR C Steve Berman
- Pacific SR OF Gio Brusa
- Pepperdine JR C Aaron Barnett
- St. Mary’s JR C Nate Nolan
- Pepperdine JR SS Manny Jefferson
- Loyola Marymount JR OF Austin Miller
- BYU SO 3B Nate Favero
- BYU SR SS Hayden Nielsen
- Gonzaga rJR OF Sam Brown
- San Diego JR OF Ryan Kirby
- San Diego rSO OF Hunter Mercado-Hood
- Pepperdine JR OF Brandon Caruso
- BYU JR SS/1B Tanner Chauncey
- San Francisco JR C Dominic Miroglio
- BYU JR C Bronson Larsen
- Pacific SR C JP Yakel
- BYU SR OF Eric Urry
- Portland SR 2B/OF Caleb Whalen
- Pepperdine SR 2B Chris Fornaci
- Pacific SR 2B/3B Louis Mejia
- Pepperdine JR OF Matt Gelalich
- Pepperdine SR 1B Brad Anderson
- San Diego JR C Colton Waltner
- Loyola Marymount JR C Cassidy Brown
- Loyola Marymount JR 3B/C Jimmy Hill
- Gonzaga SR C Joey Harris
- St. Mary’s SR 3B Anthony Villa
- San Francisco rJR OF Harrison Bruce
- St. Mary’s SR 2B/OF Connor Hornsby
- Loyola Marymount JR 3B/RHP Ted Boeke
- San Francisco JR SS Nico Giarratano
- Pacific SR 3B JJ Wagner
- Pacific JR 1B Dan Mayer
- Santa Clara SR C/3B Kyle Cortopassi
- San Diego rSR 2B/3B Jerod Smith
- St. Mary’s SR OF Davis Strong
- San Francisco JR 1B Manny Ramirez
- St. Mary’s JR RHP Corbin Burnes
- BYU JR RHP Michael Rucker
- Loyola Marymount JR RHP JD Busfield
- Gonzaga JR RHP Brandon Bailey
- Pepperdine JR RHP AJ Puckett
- BYU SO RHP/OF Connor Williams
- Santa Clara rSO RHP Mitchell White
- San Diego rJR LHP/1B Troy Conyers
- San Diego SR RHP Gary Cornish
- St. Mary’s JR RHP Cameron Neff
- Santa Clara rJR RHP Steven Wilson
- Loyola Marymount SR RHP Michael Silva
- St. Mary’s SR RHP/OF Anthony Gonsolin
- Pacific JR RHP Vince Arobio
- Gonzaga SO RHP Gage Burland
- San Diego SR LHP Jacob Hill
- San Diego rJR RHP Wes Judish
- Loyola Marymount JR RHP/SS Tyler Cohen
- Santa Clara SR RHP Jake Steffens
- San Diego JR RHP CJ Burdick
- Pacific JR RHP Will Lydon
- Pacific SR RHP Jake Jenkins
- BYU JR RHP Kendall Motes
- San Diego rSR RHP Drew Jacobs
- San Francisco rSO RHP Grant Goodman
- Santa Clara SR RHP Nick Medeiros
- Santa Clara JR LHP Jason Seever
- San Diego JR RHP Nathan Kuchta
- BYU rSO LHP Hayden Rogers
- Gonzaga JR RHP Wyatt Mills
- Gonzaga JR RHP Hunter Wells
- Santa Clara JR LHP Kevin George
- BYU JR RHP Mason Marshall
- San Francisco SR RHP Anthony Shew
- St. Mary’s JR LHP Johnny York
JR RHP Michael Rucker (2016)
JR RHP Kendall Motes (2016)
rSO LHP Hayden Rogers (2016)
JR RHP Mason Marshall (2016)
JR RHP Keaton Cenatiempo (2016)
SO RHP/OF Connor Williams (2016)
JR OF Brennon Lund (2016)
JR SS/1B Tanner Chauncey (2016)
SR OF Eric Urry (2016)
SR SS Hayden Nielsen (2016)
JR C Bronson Larsen (2016)
SO 3B Nate Favero (2016)
SO RHP Maverik Buffo (2017)
SO C/1B Colton Shaver (2017)
FR RHP Jordan Wood (2018)
FR OF Kyle Dean (2018)
FR SS Daniel Schneemann (2018)
FR 3B Jackson Cluff (2018)
FR OF Danny Gelalich (2018)
High Priority Follows: Michael Rucker, Kendall Motes, Hayden Rogers, Mason Marshall, Connor Williams, Brennon Lund, Tanner Chauncey, Eric Urry, Hayden Nielsen, Bronson Larsen, Nate Favero
JR RHP Brandon Bailey (2016)
SO RHP Gage Burland (2016)
JR RHP Hunter Wells (2016)
JR RHP Wyatt Mills (2016)
SR 1B/RHP Taylor Jones (2016)
rJR OF Sam Brown (2016)
SR 2B/OF Caleb Wood (2016)
SR C Joey Harris (2016)
SR C Jimmy Sinatro (2016)
JR OF Justin Jacobs (2016)
rJR SS Dustin Breshears (2016)
SO RHP Eli Morgan (2017)
SO LHP Calvin LeBrun (2017)
rFR RHP Dan Bies (2017)
SO RHP/OF Tyler Frost (2017)
SO OF Branson Trube (2017)
SO INF Nick Nyquist (2017)
High Priority Follows: Brandon Bailey, Gage Burland, Hunter Wells, Wyatt Mills, Taylor Jones, Sam Brown, Joey Harris, Justin Jacobs
JR RHP JD Busfield (2016)
SR RHP Michael Silva (2016)
JR LHP Brenton Arriaga (2016)
JR RHP Tim Peabody (2016)
JR RHP/SS Tyler Cohen (2016)
JR OF/LHP Kyle Dozier (2016)
SR OF Ryan Erickson (2016)
JR C Cassidy Brown (2016)
JR 3B/C Jimmy Hill (2016)
JR OF Austin Miller (2016)
JR 3B/RHP Ted Boeke (2016)
SO RHP Cory Abbott (2017)
SO RHP/OF Sean Watkins (2017)
SO OF Billy Wilson (2017)
SO 1B Jamey Smart (2017)
FR SS Niko Decolati (2018)
High Priority Follows: JD Busfield, Michael Silva, Brenton Arriaga, Tyler Cohen, Kyle Dozier, Ryan Erickson, Cassidy Brown, Jimmy Hill, Austin Miller, Ted Boeke
JR RHP Vince Arobio (2016)
SR RHP Jake Jenkins (2016)
JR RHP Will Lydon (2016)
JR RHP Jordon Gonzalez (2016)
SR RHP Sean Bennetts (2016)
SR OF Gio Brusa (2016)
JR 1B Dan Mayer (2016)
SR 3B JJ Wagner (2016)
SR 2B/3B Louis Mejia (2016)
SR C JP Yakel (2016)
SO 1B/OF Nate Verlin (2017)
SO C Lucas Halstead (2017)
High Priority Follows: Vince Arobio, Jake Jenkins, Will Lydon, Gio Brusa, Dan Mayer, JJ Wagner, Louis Mejia, JP Yakel
JR RHP Chandler Blanchard (2016)
JR RHP AJ Puckett (2016)
SR RHP Evan Dunn (2016)
JR C Aaron Barnett (2016)
JR SS Manny Jefferson (2016)
JR OF Jack Ross (2016)
JR OF Matt Gelalich (2016)
JR OF Brandon Caruso (2016)
SR 1B Brad Anderson (2016)
SR 2B Chris Fornaci (2016)
SO LHP Max Green (2017)
SO RHP Kiko Garcia (2017)
SO RHP Max Gamboa (2017)
SO LHP Ryan Wilson (2017)
SO OF/RHP Jordan Qsar (2017)
FR LHP Easton Lucas (2018)
High Priority Follows: Chandler Blanchard, AJ Puckett, Aaron Barnett, Manny Jefferson, Matt Gelalich, Brandon Caruso, Brad Anderson, Chris Fornaci
SR RHP Jackson Lockwood (2016)
SR RHP Billy Sahlinger (2016)
SR LHP Cole Doherty (2016)
SR RHP Jordan Wilcox (2016)
JR RHP/1B Davis Tominaga (2016)
SR OF/RHP Ryan Barr (2016)
JR C Devin Kopas (2016)
SR C Brady Kerr (2016)
JR C Cooper Hummel (2016)
SR 2B/OF Caleb Whalen (2016)
SO RHP Jake Hawken (2017)
FR OF Cody Hawken (2018)
High Priority Follows: Jackson Lockwood, Billy Sahlinger, Cole Doherty, Jordan Wilcox, Davis Tominaga, Cooper Hummel, Caleb Whalen
SR LHP Jacob Hill (2016)
SR RHP Gary Cornish (2016)
rJR RHP Wes Judish (2016)
JR RHP CJ Burdick (2016)
JR RHP Nathan Kuchta (2016)
rSR RHP Drew Jacobs (2016)
rJR LHP/1B Troy Conyers (2016)
SO SS/2B Bryson Brigman (2016)
rSR 2B/3B Jerod Smith (2016)
JR OF Ryan Kirby (2016)
rSO OF Hunter Mercado-Hood (2016)
JR C Colton Waltner (2016)
SO RHP Jonathan Teaney (2017)
SO C Riley Adams (2017)
FR LHP Nick Sprengel (2018)
FR OF Kevin Collard (2018)
High Priority Follows: Jacob Hill, Gary Cornish, Wes Judish, CJ Burdick, Nathan Kuchta, Drew Jacobs, Troy Conyers, Bryson Brigman, Jerod Smith, Ryan Kirby, Hunter Mercado-Hood, Colton Waltner
SR RHP Anthony Shew (2016)
rSO RHP Grant Goodman (2016)
rSO LHP Sam Granoff (2016)
JR RHP Mack Meyer (2016)
SR C Ryan Matranga (2016)
JR SS Nico Giarratano (2016)
JR 2B/OF Matt Sinatro (2016)
JR INF Dan James (2016)
JR 1B Manny Ramirez (2016)
JR C Dominic Miroglio (2016)
rJR OF Harrison Bruce (2016)
SO 3B Ross Puskarich (2017)
SO OF Brady Bate (2017)
FR RHP Thomas Pontcelli (2018)
FR 1B Matt Warkentin (2018)
High Priority Follows: Anthony Shew, Grant Goodman, Sam Granoff, Nico Giarratano, Manny Ramirez, Dominic Miroglio, Harrison Bruce
SR RHP Nick Medeiros (2016)
rJR RHP Steven Wilson (2016)
SR RHP Jake Steffens (2016)
SR RHP Peter Hendron (2016)
JR LHP Jason Seever (2016)
JR LHP Kevin George (2016)
JR RHP Max Kuhns (2016)
rSO RHP Mitchell White (2016)
SR C/3B Kyle Cortopassi (2016)
SR OF Kert Woods (2016)
JR C Steve Berman (2016)
SR OF TC Florentine (2016)
SR 3B Ryan Budnick (2016)
rFR OF Matt Smithwick (2017)
SO 2B/SS Austin Fisher (2017)
SO OF Grant Meylan (2017)
SO OF/3B Evan Haberle (2017)
SO 2B Joe Becht (2017)
SO 1B Jake Brodt (2017)
FR RHP Travis Howard (2018)
FR RHP Freddie Erlandson (2018)
FR 3B/SS John Cresto (2018)
FR 1B Austin Cram (2018)
High Priority Follows: Nick Medeiros, Steven Wilson, Jake Steffens, Jason Seever, Kevin George, Mitchell White, Kyle Cortopassi, Steve Berman
JR RHP Corbin Burnes (2016)
JR RHP Cameron Neff (2016)
SR RHP David Dellaserra (2016)
JR LHP Johnny York (2016)
SR RHP/OF Anthony Gonsolin (2016)
SR OF Davis Strong (2016)
SR 3B Anthony Villa (2016)
SR C Ian McLoughlin (2016)
SR 2B/OF Connor Hornsby (2016)
JR C Nate Nolan (2016)
SO RHP Drew Strotman (2017)
SO RHP Billy Oxford (2017)
rFR OF Eddie Haus (2017)
SO SS/3B Logan Steinberg (2017)
SO SS Austin Piscotty (2017)
SO 2B Zach Kirtley (2017)
SO INF Brett Rasso (2017)
SO C Jackson Thoreson (2017)
FR RHP Jonathan Buckley (2018)
FR RHP Tim Holdgrapher (2018)
FR RHP Conner Loeprich (2018)
FR LHP/OF Ty Madrigal (2018)
FR SS/C Charles Zaloumis (2018)
FR OF Matt Green (2018)
High Priority Follows: Corbin Burnes, Cameron Neff, Johnny York, Anthony Gonsolin, Davis Strong, Anthony Villa, Connor Hornsby, Nate Nolan