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Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Chicago in 2016
6 – Zack Collins
33 – Zack Burdi
38 – Jameson Fisher
64 – Alec Hansen
94 – Luis Curbelo
266 – Alex Call
357 – Ian Hamilton
418 – Mitch Roman
And now a few words on some White Sox draft picks…
1.10 – C Zack Collins
The quick ascension of Zack Collins (6) to High-A ball got me curious as to how often a player reaches that level in his draft year. I decided to look back on every high profile college hitter drafted in the first round since this site started up in 2009 to see which hitters, if any, pulled off the same feat. The last college hitter that I found to get any High-A time in his draft season was Kyle Schwarber, who got 120 PA at levels below A+ before getting 191 PA in the Florida State League. I suppose the Cubs figured that Schwarber could handle a path similar to the one they had Kris Bryant embark on the year before. Bryant, the second overall pick in 2013, got 84 PA at levels below A+ before getting 62 PA at High-A. Pittsburgh’s Tony Sanchez also played at High-A in his rookie year, though his appearance at the level amounted to little more than a late season taste (13 PA). Three additional cases jumped out as particularly unique. Mike Zunino got 133 PA in Low-A before skipping High-A altogether and getting 57 PA in AA during his draft year. Then there’s Christian Colon and Grant Green. Both of the alliterative middle infielders were skipped immediately to High-A after their drafts concluded; Colon played the whole year there while Green, a later sign, managed to get his name on a contract just in time to get his first 20 professional PA there. Then there’s Corey Ray, fifth overall pick in the very same draft as Collins (and a native Chicagoan to boot!), who went right from signing to High-A right around the same time Collins was pulling it off. So, you know, maybe it’s not THAT rare after all, but it’s still kind of cool.
Anyway, Zack Collins! I’ve written a lot about this guy here over the years. Lots of love letters and poetry, but some actual baseball analysis mixed in as well. My favorite two blurbs…
I’m close to out of superlatives for Zack Collins’s bat. If he can catch, he’s a superstar. If he can’t, then he’s still a potential big league power bat capable of hitting in the middle of the championship lineup for the next decade. I realize first basemen aren’t typically sought after at the top of the draft. There are perfectly valid reasons for that. But any time you have the chance at a potential top five bat at any given position, I think it’s all right to bend the rules a little. Positional value is important, but so is premium offensive production. Collins hitting and hitting a lot as a professional is one of the things I’m most sure about in this draft class.
He’s the one I’ve comped to Schwarber stylistically. I actually think Collins is the better catcher and could stick there as a pro. Still might be best moving him out from behind the plate. I’ve just come up with a terrifying comp for him…Joey Votto. Maybe he’s one of those hitters that we shouldn’t compare young guys to, but then again…at the same age, Votto hit .256/.330/.425 with 52 BB/122 K in A+ ball. I could see Collins going to A/A+ this year after the draft and doing similar stuff.
As it turns out, we now know that Collins did go to A+ and do similar stuff! Here we go…
.258/.418/.467 – 25.5 K% and 21.6 BB% – 153 PA
.256/.330/.425 – 23.1 K% and 9.8 BB% – 529 PA
Top was Collins, bottom was Votto. Both were 21-years-old at High-A. Votto obviously had more pro time under his belt being a high school draftee. Votto is also obviously Votto. He’s one of a kind. It’s silly to compare anybody to him. But here we are. If moved to first base, I think Collins can be about 90% as good as Votto as a hitter. As a full-time catcher (give or take), I could see him being 80% as good a hitter as Votto. That’s enough for either a .280/.380/.480 line or a .250/.340/.425 line. The former is a little like 2016 Paul Goldschimdt (minus the steals) and the latter is something akin to fellow Hurricane Yasmani Grandal. That’s not Votto, but it’s still a tremendously valuable hitter.
I wrestled with whether or not there was enough value in the following sentence to bother including it here, but why not…I mean, we’re all pals here, right? My gut still says that Collins has a chance to go full Votto performance-wise if things break right. I just have to get that in writing to see how crazy it looks. I don’t know. I’m leaving it. My takes are typically fairly restrained around here, so I think I’m entitled to a scorcher every now and then. I love Zack Collins as a hitter. I can’t hide it.
1.26 – RHP Zack Burdi
On Zack Burdi (33) from October 2015…
Of all the rankings outside of the top ten, this is the one that could make me look dumbest by June. Burdi is a really tough evaluation for him right now because even after multiple years of being on the prospect stage it’s unclear (to me, at least) what role will eventually lead to him maximizing his ability. I’m reticent to throw him in the bullpen right away — many do this because of his last name, I think — because he’s shown the kind of diversity of stuff to stay in a rotation. Whether or not he has the command or consistency remain to be seen. Still, those concerns aren’t all that concerning when your fallback plan means getting to go full-tilt in the bullpen as you unleash a triple-digit fastball on hitters also guarding against two impressive offspeed pitches (CU, SL). It’s almost a win-win for scouting directors at this point. If he has a great spring, then you can believe him in as a starter long-term and grade him accordingly. If there’s still doubt, then you can drop him some but keep a close eye on his slip while being ready to pounce if he falls outside of those first few “don’t screw up or you’re fired” picks. You don’t want to spend a premium pick on a potential reliever, clearly, but if he falls outside of the top twenty picks or so then all of a sudden that backup bullpen plan is good enough to return value on your investment.
I actually try not to quote older stuff in these draft reviews (fine, that’s a lie…), but this felt like a special case to me. Despite a wildly successful junior season at Louisville, I approached Burdi with much the same confusion in June as I did way back in fall ball of last year. Here I sit staring at updated scouting reports and 38.0 quality pro innings (mostly in AA and AAA), and I still don’t know what to make of Burdi. At this rate he’ll be kicking back on a beach somewhere long retired before I make any kind of definitive statement about what kind of pitcher Burdi will be. Thankfully, we don’t have to know anything concrete at this stage of his development; all we need to know is that he’s really good at pitching. That last sentence from October summed it up then as it sums it up now: “You don’t want to spend a premium pick on a potential reliever, clearly, but if he falls outside of the top twenty picks or so then all of a sudden that backup bullpen plan is good enough to return value on your investment.” Even with Burdi’s potentially translatable gifts working in a starting role, I would have been way too risk-averse to draft a future reliever early in the draft to make a move on him in the top twenty or so picks. The White Sox took him at twenty-six, a spot that felt just about right — I had him 33rd — when it came to balancing the pros and cons of his two potential career paths.
It occurs to me now that Burdi will enter 2017 in a fairly similar position to the one Edwin Diaz of Seattle came into this present season. Hmm…
2.49 – RHP Alec Hansen
On Alec Hansen (64) from April 2016…
The biggest current question mark in the college game has to be Alec Hansen. He’s steadily pitched his way from the 1-1 conversation to the top five to the top ten to potentially all the way out of the first round. I’m no doctor — just a man who loves him some unsourced speculation — but the dots that connect Hansen’s summer away from the mound (forearm tightness) to his dreadful 2016 start are enough to raise an eyebrow. Truthfully, disclosure of a potential injury might just be the best thing that could happen to his draft stock at this point. I’ve linked Hansen’s rise and (as it has turned out) fall to that of Michael Matuella’s from last year. Still think that’s likely how this all plays out come June, but we’ll see. A healthy Hansen with the right kind of professional coaching could front a rotation.
Both the lack of an officially diagnosed injury and the delightfully aggressive drafting of the White Sox kept Hansen from falling quite as far as Matuella did (78th overall in 2015). I’d imagine Chicago was pretty pleased with that turn of events. All Hansen did after inking his name to a pro contract was pitch his ass off: 13.35 K/9 and 3.30 BB/9 in 54.2 IP (1.32 ERA). Hindsight is a beautiful thing and 54.2 knockout innings do not a career make, but I have a sneaking suspicion that many, many, many teams will regret not risking a second round pick on a talent like Hansen. Heck, I ranked him 64th and I’m kicking myself over not being more daring on draft day right there with them. As we said in April: “A healthy Hansen with the right kind of professional coaching could front a rotation.” We might be seeing that transformation take place right in front of our faces. Good for Hansen and good for the White Sox.
3.86 – OF Alex Call
The White Sox liked Alex Call (266) about six more rounds than I did, and the early returns have made them look smarter than some weird guy on the internet. Good work, Chicago. Call destroyed opposing pitching while at Ball State to the tune of a .358/.443/.667 line with 29 BB/29 K and 17/21 SB in 243 AB. He then went out and hit .308/.394/.445 with 34 BB/58 K and 14/20 SB in 337 PA split between the Pioneer League and Low-A. Not a bad little pro debut for the well-rounded righthander. Whenever I’m off with a guess like Call’s pre-draft ranking, I like to reach out to smarter people than myself to get more information and create a fuller picture of the player I whiffed on. One person said they “couldn’t see Call not” (quoting this part to point out I’m innocent of the questionable yet emphatic grammar choice) being a useful big league player; his floor is a Ryan Raburn type, a handy fourth outfielder who can knock around lefthanded pitching as well as anybody. The most optimistic comp I got for Call was former White Sox outfielder Nick Swisher, minus the switch-hitting. A comp like that warrants a closer look…
.348/.470/.620 with 43 BB/33 K in 184 AB
.358/.443/.667 with 29 BB/29 K in 243 AB
Top was Swisher’s junior season at Ohio State, bottom was Call at Ball State. I wouldn’t have guessed them as being that close going off of memory. Here’s more…
.242/.360/.410 with 39 BB/59 K in 274 PA (majority in High-A)
.308/.394/.445 with 34 BB/58 K in 337 PA (majority in Low-A)
Top was Swisher’s pro debut, bottom was Call’s pro debut. How about that? Call is a fine prospect that I overlooked to a degree because of this year’s loaded college outfield class. When a guy has his kind of approach with average or better tools across the board, you take notice. I’m noticing later than I would have liked, but still early enough in his pro career that I’ll be ready to bust out the extra obnoxious told-you-so’s if he takes off. That’s one of the joys of having a website, after all. I’m only in it for the sweet sweet told-you-so’s.
4.116 – OF Jameson Fisher
I liked Jameson Fisher (38) enough to rank him in my top 500 — 499th, to be fair — in 2015 even as he was coming off an entire season lost to injury. Now that he’s put together an excellent final season at Southeastern Louisiana and a highly successful run in the Pioneer League, I like him even more. A little history, first going back to March 2015…
In fairness, Southeastern Louisiana JR C Jameson Fisher is a really, really good prospect. The injury is an undeniable bummer not only because it’s a year of lost development in a critical time for a player’s long-term future but also because it brings further into question his long-term defensive home (even more than his raw glove originally did). If Fisher can’t catch, I don’t know what to think about him as a pro prospect. Like many college backstops, so much is dependent on how long and how well they can hold up defensively behind the dish. I believe in Fisher’s bat as being potentially league average or better both in terms of contact rates and power upside, but the doubt about his defense is an issue not to be taken lightly. I know nothing about Fisher’s mindset heading into June, but if I had to guess I’d assume that it’s very unlikely that a team will draft him high enough (and offer enough cold hard cash) to get him to leave college after a year away from the field. If that’s the case, we’re in for another year’s worth of “can he or can’t he” defensive debate. Can’t wait.
And then about a year later in February 2016…
I’ve been on record as being a big C/1B Jameson Fisher fan, so consider me damn excited for his return to the field in 2016. If his arm allows him to show off behind the plate this spring, I could see him rising up into that round five to ten area where he belongs.
So much of the conversation about Fisher on this site has been about his glove that I can only explain the lack of chatter about his bat as proof that I never wavered about it being big league quality. Fisher can flat hit. In a perfect world he’d be healthy and a catcher and one of the best prospects in baseball. In reality, he’s an outfielder with enough stick to be a fixture in a big league club’s lineup. That’ll play. Incidentally, I really like my pre-draft comp to Mark Zagunis, especially now that the two are on crosstown rivals.
5.146 – RHP Jimmy Lambert
A weird line in Low-A is what initially caught my eye about Jimmy Lambert: good peripherals (9.10 K/9 and 3.34 BB/9), iffy run prevention (5.76 ERA), and some rotten luck with his record (0-5 in just 29.2 IP). Losing five games in 29.2 innings of work seems kind of hard to do, no? Whatever. Since none of that tells us all that much about his future, let’s get into what convinced Chicago to take him in this past year’s fifth round. Lambert has a live arm (88-92, 94 peak), plenty of baseball smarts (high degree of pitchability, if you care for the term), and solid control. It’s a back-end starter strike-throwing profile that could ultimately prove more effective in a relief role. That’s where I see Lambert making it, if he does in fact make it at all. I’m bearish on his future. Baseball is hard, you know?
6.176 – SS Luis Curbelo
Luis Curbelo (94), drafted as a shortstop, was expected by many (including me) to make the transition to third base sooner rather than later as a pro. So far, that hasn’t been the case as the native Puerto Rican has instead played predominantly short and second in his young career. You never know what you’re going to get with a high school hitter due to the varying levels of competition, so the narrative on Curbelo isn’t entirely dissimilar to many of his 2016 prep peers. The tools — power and arm strength, most notably — are impressive, as is the very high likelihood that he’ll remain an infielder in some capacity be it second, third, or maybe against all odds short. Whether or not he can hit advanced pitching, however, will remain a question until it’s not. There was enough good in his rocky debut to keep the same hope felt pre-draft alive for now.
(I wasn’t sure where to wedge this in above because I’m a bad/lazy writer, so I’ll do it parenthetically after the fact: one of the post-draft comps I got on Curbelo is former third round pick and current Phillies minor leaguer Jan Hernandez. Do what you will with that.)
7.206 – LHP Bernardo Flores
For some players, timing is everything. Bernando Flores, a lefty with plenty of good days and plenty of not so good days this past spring at USC, is one of those players. On his best days, Flores threw darts. We’re talking consistent low-90s heat (up to 95) with a pair of average or better offspeed pitches. On those not so good days, he was more mid- to upper-80s with his fastball with little to no confidence in his otherwise solid changeup. On a good day, that’s an arm worth a top five round pick. On a less good day, it’s a profile more typical of a mid-teens lottery ticket. The White Sox split the difference (favoring the good) and popped Flores in the seventh round. If he can achieve his back-end starting pitcher destiny, then he’ll have done more than enough to justify Chicago’s faith in him. Even if he has to transition to the pen at some point — a distinct possibility as shorter outings could lead to more consistency stuff-wise from game to game — Flores remains talented enough to bring back more than his share of value. I’ll borrow from the White Sox thinking and split the difference: I see him as a fifth starter/swingman good enough to reach the highest level, though perhaps not without a few ups and downs (and maybe a different organization or two) along the way.
8.236 – C Nate Nolan
I say it often, but one of the few pieces of interesting constructive criticism I frequently get here is that I’m too positive. Anybody who knows me in real life would surely disagree with such claims, but when it comes to talking on the internet about young baseball players chasing a dream, I suppose I can get a little too “best case scenario” at times. Well, there’s no way to sugarcoat Nate Nolan’s start in pro ball. The former St. Mary’s catcher had just about as bad a debut as possible. The most depressing thing about his bad start is that it was wholly predictable; there’s a reason why he didn’t crack my top 500 (and landed 66th among college catchers), so when the White Sox took him at 236 I was a little taken aback. There’s no questioning Nolan’s plus raw power and above-average or better arm strength. Those two factors alone are enough to get a chance in pro ball. His approach, however, is a mess.
Nolan hit .264/.364/.481 as a junior at St. Mary’s with 28 BB and 81 (!) K. His college career BB to K ratio was 47 to 167. Then he went out and hit .138/.241/.203 with 14 BB and 62 K in his pro debut. That’s 61 BB to 229 K total. There isn’t a baseball fan among us who doesn’t enjoy catchers with big power and strong arms, but that approach is too much to get past. I don’t understand this pick at all.
9.266 – SS Max Dutto
Everybody who’s into this draft thing knows about Lucas Erceg going from Cal to Menlo College. Few realized (myself included) that he wasn’t the only Golden Bear to jump ship. Max Dutto went from hitting .222/.411/.346 with 22 BB/28 K in 81 AB in the PAC-12 to a far more robust .276/.456/.594 with 44 BB/56 K in 170 AB in the Golden State Athletics Conference. I’ll be honest: his pop, glove, and plate discipline make me mad that I missed on him this past spring. He’s interesting.
10.296 – 3B Zach Remillard
The White Sox continue to be one of the most refreshingly aggressive franchises when it comes to where they opt to place their most recent class of draftees. Getting a tenth round pick like Zach Remillard up to full-season ball (Kannapolis in the South Atlantic League) for 116 PA is Exhibit Z for supporting said aggression. One might wonder about the wisdom of pushing a guy like Remillard — ironically enough, “too aggressive for his own good” was a phrase used in his pre-draft report here — but I support the decision. There are no rules that can’t be broken, but, generally speaking, if you think enough of a college prospect to draft him in the first place, then he should be ready enough to spend at least a little time outside of short-season ball in his debut. Major college players, especially hitters, don’t need to go to rookie ball. Good for Chicago for realizing this.
As for Remillard the player and not the abstract organizational concept, not much has changed from when I wrote about him way back in January 2015…
The breakout season for JR 3B Zach Remillard (Coastal Carolina) is coming. It has to be since it hasn’t happened yet. That’s infallible logic if I’ve ever heard it. Remillard is a really well-rounded talent who sometimes gets himself in trouble by expanding the zone and trying to do too much at the plate. If he can just ease up just a touch with his overly aggressive approach, then he could begin to produce enough overall offensive value to project as a potential regular at the hot corner. The more realistic forecast is as an offense-first utility player capable of playing 1B, 2B, 3B, and maybe the outfield corners.
Still waiting on a true breakout season, so it seems like it is time to accept the reality that he’s a bat-first utility guy if he makes it all. I’m less hopeful than I’d like to be based on his approach, but his physical gifts give him a shot.
11.326 – RHP Ian Hamilton
I’m pretty comfortable with where I finished with Ian Hamilton (357) back in April…
It’s back of the rotation type starter stuff if it continues to come back. Ian Hamilton could have similar upside (or better) if you’re the type who believes in him as a starter at the next level. He’s got the offspeed stuff (above-average 80-86 SL that flashes plus and an average 80-84 CU) to go through a lineup multiple times. He’s also highly athletic. Those are the points in his favor if you like him as a starter. I’m willing to be talked into it, but the way his fastball plays up in short bursts (consistently 92-96, up to 99) as opposed to the 90-93 he sits as a starter has me still liking him more as a fireman out of the pen.
The White Sox had him get a few starts in at Low-A before the season finished, so clearly they want to see him starting up close and personal before making any long-term change to his role. I can certainly appreciate that. It could be because I recently finished up a draft review for Philadelphia, but I can’t help but see some similarities between Hamilton and Grant Dyer, formerly of UCLA and currently part of the Phillies organization. Both profile best (to me) as pro relievers, but were pushed into starting roles by their PAC-12 school for the good of the team. I could see both having long fruitful careers pitching out of big league bullpens, with Dyer being more the middle innings type and Hamilton potentially working the late inning relief. I don’t question Chicago doing everything in their power to make it work in the rotation first, but I still see Hamilton eventually becoming a reliever, though potentially a very good one. All else being equal, give me upper-90s in relief over low-90s as a starter.
12.356 – SS Mitch Roman
Mitch Roman (418) played SS and 2B after signing and pretty well at both spots. As a potential high-contact, solid fielding, above-average to plus running utility infielder, the former Wright State standout was very good value in the twelfth round. I approve.
13.386 – C Michael Hickman
Michael Hickman is living proof that sometimes players fall through the cracks here. That’s the downside of this being a one-man show. Hickman went from being ranked 242 out of high school in 2015 to being unranked after a solid junior college season (.345/.442/.610 with 17 BB/38 K in 177 AB) at powerhouse Chipola in 2016. Technically he was only unranked nationally on the final board; he came in 48th on my college catcher list. Buying Hickman is buying his lefthanded power and impressive bat speed while living with some swing-and-miss and rough defensive edges. At this point in the draft, that trade-off is well worth a shot.
14.416 – RHP Bryan Saucedo
I had nothing on Bryan Saucedo before the draft. Big, Canadian, and a Hard Thrower. That’s what should go on Saucedo’s business cards. He was one of four player selected out of Davenport University, a NAIA school in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Davenport University! Of course! I really should have seen it coming. I’ll do better next year.
15.446 – RHP Jake Elliott
The White Sox drafted both Alec Hansen and Jake Elliott from the Sooners staff, so that makes the following from April all the more relevant…
I had some friends come into the season armed and ready with a Jake Elliott is the better long-term prospect than Alec Hansen take. That talk has quieted down as Elliott’s start has just about equaled Hansen’s…and not in a good way. His arm talent is still really impressive: 86-92 FB (94 peak), average 75-80 breaking ball, and a 77-80 change that borders on plus.
Elliott’s disastrous 2016 season at Oklahoma knocked him way down draft boards this spring. The White Sox had him fall into their laps in round fifteen. I’ll bust out the all-caps to announce this pick as one of the draft’s biggest STEALS. There’s no other way to look at it. Elliott has a great arm, great frame, and has shown flashes of great all-around stuff. Whatever issues he had in his draft year — I know nothing concrete, but one source said it was nothing more than “draft year-itis” — seem well on their way to getting sorted out in the professional ranks. Things fell apart quickly for Elliott in the college half of his 2016. Things appeared to come back together just as quickly on the pro side. Things could swing back the other way at some point in the near future. Nobody knows. But gambling on a talent like Elliott figuring things out (again, so far so good here) for the low low price of a fifteenth round pick and $100,000? That’s a no-brainer. This isn’t just one of my favorite Chicago picks, this is one of my favorite picks in the entire 2016 MLB Draft. If the breaking ball doesn’t improve, then stick him in the bullpen and let him do his best Ryan Madson impression.
16.476 – RHP Ben Wright
Ben Wright was challenged with an assignment to Low-A. Ben Wright succeeded in said challenge, holding his own in 30.2 solid if unspectacular innings for the Intimidators. I can’t quite say for sure what drew the White Sox to Ben Wright in the first place (I have no scouting buzz to offer on him and his 2016 college stats were #bad), but, hey, so far so good.
17.506 – RHP Brad Haymes
Upper-80s fastball that can scrape 90, a decent curve, and good size. Those are the things a scout might use to try to sell his or her team on Brad Haymes. A more analytically motivated thinker could point to his outstanding four years at Gardner-Webb, a run that culminated in a year-long stretch of ace-level pitching as a senior. Put those two approaches together and you’ve got yourself a seventeenth round draft pick.
18.536 – RHP Lane Hobbs
I’m not a Lane Hobbs expert. I could pretend, but that would only kill whatever shred of credibility I still possess. I do know that he had a good debut. I also know that the White Sox saw enough in him coming out of Concordia (where I know he had an awesome junior year) to give him a nifty little $80,000 bonus. I know that he’s big. If you didn’t know those things, well, now you do. If you did know them, then maybe it’s time to start your own draft site. I’d read it.
19.566 – 1B Anthony Villa
A fine if otherwise nondescript debut for Anthony Villa’s pro career was made notable (for me) by his starting four games at the hot corner in addition to his regular duty at first base. If he can handle third, a position he does have experience at going back to his days at St. Mary’s (second Gael taken by the White Sox, if you’re scoring at home), then he’s got a sliver of a shot of making it. As a first baseman only, however, it would be a steep uphill battle.
20.596 – RHP Matt Foster
Size doesn’t really seem to matter much to the White Sox as they continue to tick off college relievers with the selection of Matt Foster. What Foster lacks in size, he makes up for with an above-average fastball (90-94) and breaking ball mix. It’s rare that a pitcher from the SEC with good stuff and great results (11.03 K/9 and 2.92 ERA in 40.0 IP) could be this overlooked. Nice work by Chicago here as Foster did more of the same (12.47 K/9 and 0.61 ERA in 29.2 IP) as a pro.
21.626 – LHP Michael Horejsei
Michael Horejsei is on the older side for a recent draft pick — he turned 24-years-old about a month into his pro career — but there’s no denying his effectiveness. His final year at Ohio State: 11.32 K/9 and 2.61 BB/9 in 31.0 IP (2.61 ERA). His first year in the pros, the majority of which was spent in Low-A: 9.23 K/9 and 2.48 BB/9 in 40.0 IP (0.90 ERA). I’ve heard from a source who told me that the White Sox believe Horejsei is more or less ready to pitch in the big leagues now (in part because he’s done developing and is what he is at this point) and expect him to potentially get a shot at doing just that as early as mid-season next year. There’s nothing sexy about taking an undersized matchup lefty lacking premium stuff, but that’s a pretty damn sexy potential outcome for a twenty-first round pick.
22.656 – OF Joel Booker
On Joel Booker from March 2015…
Iowa JR OF Joel Booker remains a bit of a mystery man to me, but crazy speed, premium athleticism, and considerable arm strength paint the picture of a strong overall prospect. Booker destroyed junior college ball the past two seasons (.403/.451/.699 last year) and has adjusted fairly well to big time college ball so far this year. The big question even as he was annihilating juco pitching was how his high-contact, minimal bases on ball approach would play as the competition tightened. It’s still a concern, but it might just be one of those tradeoffs we have to accept in a flawed prospect. Booker’s aggression nature defines him at the plate; pushing him into more of a leadoff approach could neuter his unusually adept bat-to-ball ability just as easily as it could take him to the next level as a prospect.
He wound up struggling for much of his junior season at Iowa before taking off as a senior in 2016. He kept those positive vibes going with a really strong debut pro season. His approach is still a little too aggressive for his own good and his in-game power remains a bit of a question mark, but, as I said back in the day, crazy speed, premium athleticism, and considerable arm strength paint the picture of a strong overall prospect. There’s enough here to think of him as a potential quality backup outfielder.
23.686 – SS Sam Dexter
The pride of Southern Maine, Sam Dexter is now one of the four players named Dexter to get a mention on this site. Previously, they’ve all been first names: Dexter Kjerstad, Dexter Spitsnogle, and Dexter Bobo. Sam Dexter, announced as a shortstop at the time of the draft, played exclusively second and third in his pro debut. He’s also just one of an even dozen players to be drafted out of Southern Maine in the school’s history.
24.716 – 3B Brady Conlan
I didn’t have have Brady Conlan in my notes prior to the draft, but if I had I think I would have championed his cause leading up to the big day. His numbers at Cal State Dominguez were excellent (.413/.469/.550 with 14 BB/12 K in 189 AB), though the usual caution that comes with senior season stats applies for the 23-year-old third baseman. “Older, but a little interesting” is how I jotted down my feelings on Conlan as the draft concluded. Sounds about right.
27.806 – RHP Mike Morrison
I don’t quite know how one of college baseball’s best relievers lasted past pick eight hundred. Mike Morrison has come up huge on the biggest stages of college ball, put up consistently stellar strikeout rates (10.04 K/9 in 2014, 11.37 K/9 in 2015, 12.81 K/9 in 2016), and improved his control with every season at Coastal Carolina. That’s all well and good, one might think, but maybe he’s one of those great college pitchers who lack the stuff to make it in the pros. Lots of guys can get by with junk right up until the exact moment that they can’t. Morrison isn’t that kind of guy. Nobody will tell you he has big league closer stuff (nobody I know, anyway) and nor should they, but what Morrison brings to the mound is more than enough to get pro hitters swinging and missing. Morrison’s average fastball (87-92) plays up thanks to good command, and his 75-78 curve is a potential out pitch against even the most advanced hitting. I’ll admit that it’s at least possible that Morrison will be one of those guys consistently gets results at lower-levels until the moment opposing offenses begin to outclass his stuff (some guys sell their souls for college magic and can never replicate that success in the pros…I get it), but I’m not going to be the one to bet against him. Mike Morrison: twenty-seventh round pick and future big league pitcher.
28.836 – OF Aaron Schnurbusch
It’s hard not to be a little intrigued at Aaron Schnurbusch after his outstanding debut. He gets even more appealing when you consider his two-way past. The big (6-5, 235), athletic, power-hitting lefty could be set to take off now that he can focus 100% of his attention on the finer aspects of mashing taters. Or he could just be another mid-round slugger taking advantage of younger competition in a relatively small sample. Hopefully, some of those questions will begin to be answered next spring. Like Fisher and Booker, Schnurbusch should get a chance to go right to High-A next season. All of these guys will be 23-years-old, so the clock is ticking a little louder than it would normally be for such recent picks. Between those three and Alex Call, the Winston-Salem outfield could be quite interesting next season. I had initially worried that there could be a logjam there, but it should work out. Landon Lassiter and Michael Suiter should both move to AA while Louie Lechich, one of my all-time biggest draft whiffs, could be heading towards unemployment. Micker Adolfo could join the aforementioned four to start the year in the Carolina League, as could Tyler Sullivan. All in all, it’s a fun group. Knowing the White Sox, it wouldn’t be a shocker if one (Call) or more (Fisher) either start the year in AA or move there very quickly.
30.896 – RHP Pat Cashman
Undersized righthander with a nice fastball (up to 93) coming off a senior season with strong peripherals (9.13 K/9 and 2.68 BB/9). That’s Pat Cashman.
32.956 – RHP Sean Renzi
I think the White Sox did very well for themselves as they shopped for late-round senior-sign relief help. The odds against any of these guys making it are obviously quite long, but it seems to me they took some smart chances. Perhaps more importantly, they took a lot of chances. You have to play to win, they say, and more lottery tickets equals more chances at that jackpot. In this case, the big money prize likely amounts to a decent middle reliever, but every little bit of cheap, homegrown talent helps in the big picture. Anyway, Sean Renzi is a big guy with a good arm (low-90s heat) and a delivery that’s tough on righthanders to pick up. He’s got some wildness to overcome, but the raw arm talent is appealing.
33.986 – LHP Ryan Boelter
I’m not sure he has the potential to move quite as quick as Michael Horejsei (see my slightly informed speculation about that above), but Ryan Boelter seems to have the two-pitch combo working enough for him that a quick rise up the chain wouldn’t come as much of a shock. With a solid fastball (86-91) and a similarly useful change, the big lefty can miss bats. He’s the second pitcher selected by the White Sox out of Gardner-Webb here in 2016. That makes the White Sox guilty of doubling up at six different universities this spring: Chipola JC, Coastal Carolina, Gardner-Webb, Oklahoma, Southeastern Louisiana, and St. Mary’s. That means 30% of their total 2016 MLB Draft picks came from just six schools. Around 300 universities play DI baseball. Around 500 schools offer junior college baseball. Out of 800+ D1 and junior college schools (to say nothing of the roughly 800 or so combined D2, D3, and NAIA baseball schools), the White Sox found 40% of their college talent from six schools. I don’t know what to make of that. 30% total and 40% college, all from six schools. Are pro teams really doing all that they can be doing to cover as much ground as possible in 2016? Or are we still taking shortcuts and relying too much on narrow views and old school connections?
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Caleb Henderson (New Mexico State), Reese Cooley (Miami), Drew Puglielli (Barry), Tyler Gordon (Prairie View A&M), Zach Farrar (Oklahoma), Leo Kaplan (Northwestern), Justin Lavey (Louisville), Brandon Bossard (Heartland CC), Garrett Acton (Saint Louis), Charlie Madden (Mercer)
Typically we start with the hitters because I’m an incredibly biased baseball fan and “writer” who grew up during the steroid era predisposed, right or wrong, to love offense. There’s no way we can do that with this year’s collection of MAC prospects. The top four pitchers in the conference – Eric Lauer, Nick Deeg, Zach Plesac, and Keegan Akin – are all fantastic draft prospects. The only difficulty here is picking a favorite.
Akin, the lefty with an above-average slider, deceptive delivery, and up-and-down control, might fit best in the bullpen over the long haul. Or maybe he’s the guy you view as having the highest ceiling thanks to a fastball that he can dial up to 95 when needed. Plesac has the obvious bloodlines working in his favor, but it’s his unusual athleticism and deep reservoir of offspeed pitches that make him a favorite of mine. He’s third on my list only because of a lost coin flip to Deeg, another lefthander with above-average velocity (86-92, 94 peak) and an average or better breaking ball (his curve took off this summer after firming up from a loopier 71-74 to an improved 79-81 bender). Deeg got the edge over fellow lefty Akin despite the latter’s better peripherals to date because of a more advanced change (a low-80s offering with average or better upside) and an interesting but as yet underdeveloped mid-80s cutter. His size advantage (6-5, 220 for Deeg, 6-1, 200 for Akin) certainly didn’t hurt either.
As much as I like all three of those pitchers, there’s still a decent-sized gap between Eric Lauer and the field. Lauer, the third lefthander in my MAC top four, combines the best of all of the prospects below him on the rankings. There isn’t a box that he doesn’t check when looking for a potentially quick-moving above-average mid-rotation big league starting pitcher. He’s an athletic (like Plesac) lefthander (like Deeg/Akin), with good size (like Deeg/Plesac), very strong performance indicators (10.78 K/9 and 2.72 BB/9), above-average heat (88-94) that he commands like a pro, and a complete assortment of offspeed pitches (74-77 CB, 78-82 SL, emerging CU) he can throw in any count. One could quibble by noting there’s no singular knockout pitch here – maybe with continued work one of his secondaries can become a consistent plus pitch, but certainly not presently – so maybe Lauer’s best case scenario outcome isn’t quite that of some of his peers across the country, but that’s a nitpick for a still impressive ceiling/high floor starting arm. Maybe you don’t love him – I kind of do, clearly…but maybe you don’t – but he’s still a prospect that’s hard not to at least like.
Lauer, Deeg, Plesac, and Akin are the four best prospects here, but they are far from the only prospects of note. I’m 100% ready to invest in all the Mike Kaelin stock I can afford. How can you not love a big fastball (up to 95) from a smaller righty (5-9, 185) who happens to be coming off a season where he whiffed 12.14 batters per nine? Beyond even those five, there are plenty of other pitching prospects worth knowing, especially those with advanced changeups. For whatever reason, the change seems like the pitch in the MAC this year. Nick Jensen-Clagg, Steven Calhoun (who also happens to be 6-7, 205 pounds), and Adam Aldred all throw really good ones. Sam Delaplane (94 peak and good SL, listed at 5-11, 175 pounds, and 10.80 K/9 last season) is a little bit like the Michigan version of Kaelin. I happen to like Sean Renzi and deep sleeper Kyle Slack as big men with some upside left to be unsheathed.
Despite the emphasis on pitching here, there are a handful of interesting MAC position players in need of more attention at the national level. Jarett Rindfleisch is a steady defender with a big arm, real power upside, and a decent approach at the plate. I’m not yet sure what exactly to make of Alex Borglin, but everything I know about him I like. He’s a great athlete who can run (but hasn’t done much of it yet), and flash some impressive leather at short. I’ve heard his arm could necessitate a move to second or possibly even center, so that’s something to watch. Mitch Longo has some “scouty” questions to answer this spring, but I’m sold on the bat. A little bit further down the list are names like Manny DeJesus (two plus tools in his CF range and speed, not to mention an ideal leadoff approach), Deion Tansel (handles the bat well and makes all the plays at short), and Zach McKinstry (draft-eligible sophomore with an advanced hit tool, ample speed, and impressive defensive gifts) , each intriguing in his own right.
- Ball State JR C Jarett Rindfleisch
- Central Michigan JR SS Alex Borglin
- Ohio JR OF Mitch Longo
- Miami (Ohio) SR 3B/OF Chad Sedio
- Ball State JR OF Alex Call
- Ohio SR OF Manny DeJesus
- Toledo SR SS/2B Deion Tansel
- Northern Illinois SR SS Brian Sisler
- Central Michigan SO SS Zach McKinstry
- Eastern Michigan JR 1B John Montgomery
- Central Michigan SR OF Logan Regnier
- Western Michigan JR 3B Grant Miller
- Miami (Ohio) JR 2B Steve Sada
- Miami (Ohio) rJR 3B Adam Yacek
- Ball State SR 2B Ryan Spaulding
- Miami (Ohio) SR OF Jake Romano
- Eastern Michigan rJR C/OF Michael Mioduszewski
- Eastern Michigan rJR SS/OF Marquise Gill
- Kent State SR 1B/3B Zarley Zalewski
- Kent State JR 1B/OF Conner Simonetti
- Central Michigan rSR SS Joe Houlihan
- Buffalo SR SS Bobby Sheppard
- Ohio rSR C Cody Gaertner
- Buffalo rSO 2B Ben Haefner
- Ohio SR 1B John Adryan
- Ball State JR 1B/C Caleb Stayton
- Northern Illinois SR C Johnny Zubek
- Eastern Michigan SR 1B/3B Mitchell McGeein
- Toledo rSR OF/SS Dan Zuchowski
- Ball State JR SS/RHP Alex Maloney
- Central Michigan SR 1B Zack Fields
- Kent State JR LHP Eric Lauer
- Central Michigan JR LHP Nick Deeg
- Ball State JR RHP Zach Plesac
- Western Michigan JR LHP Keegan Akin
- Buffalo rJR RHP Mike Kaelin
- Kent State JR RHP Andy Ravel
- Kent State SR RHP Nick Jensen-Clagg
- Eastern Michigan JR RHP Sam Delaplane
- Toledo JR LHP Steven Calhoun
- Miami (Ohio) rJR LHP Ryan Marske
- Central Michigan SR LHP Adam Aldred
- Western Michigan SR RHP Gabe Berman
- Central Michigan SR RHP Sean Renzi
- Bowling Green rJR LHP Andrew Lacinak
- Central Michigan JR RHP Jordan Grosjean
- Miami (Ohio) JR RHP Jacob Banks
- Ohio JR RHP Jake Rudnicki
- Toledo SR RHP Kyle Slack
- Western Michigan SR LHP Derek Schneider
- Ball State JR RHP BJ Butler
- Buffalo JR RHP Alec Tuohy
- Northern Illinois JR RHP Andrew Frankenreider
- Buffalo JR RHP Brent Cleland
- Eastern Michigan JR RHP Kevin Shul
- Ohio SR RHP Jake Miller
JR RHP Zach Plesac (2016)
JR RHP BJ Butler (2016)
rJR LHP Kevin Marnon (2016)
JR SS/RHP Alex Maloney (2016)
JR C Jarett Rindfleisch (2016)
JR OF Alex Call (2016)
SR 2B Ryan Spaulding (2016)
JR 3B Sean Kennedy (2016)
JR 1B/C Caleb Stayton (2016)
SR OF Scott Tyler (2016)
JR OF Matt Eppers (2016)
SO RHP/3B Colin Brockhouse (2017)
SO RHP Brendan Burns (2017)
SO LHP Trevor Henderson (2017)
High Priority Follows: Zach Plesac, BJ Butler, Alex Maloney, Jarett Rindfleisch, Alex Call, Ryan Spaulding, Sean Kennedy, Caleb Stayton, Matt Eppers
rJR LHP Andrew Lacinak (2016)
SR RHP Devin Daugherty (2016)
SR OF Matt Smith (2016)
SR OF Kory Brown (2016)
rJR C Tyler Greiner (2016)
rJR 3B/1B Nick Glanzman (2016)
SO RHP Zac Carey (2017)
SO LHP Kody Brown (2017)
SO 3B/RHP Cody Callaway (2017)
SO 1B Randy Righter (2017)
FR OF Blake Jenkins (2018)
FR 1B/OF Logan Giddings (2018)
FR 3B/OF Cameron Daugherty (2018)
FR RHP Matt Szabo (2018)
FR RHP Chase Antle (2018)
FR RHP Brad Croy (2018)
High Priority Follows: Andrew Lacinak, Matt Smith
rJR RHP Mike Kaelin (2016)
SR LHP Ben Hartz (2016)
JR RHP Brent Cleland (2016)
JR RHP Alec Tuohy (2016)
SR SS Bobby Sheppard (2016)
JR 3B Chris Kwitzer (2016)
JR OF Vinny Mallaro (2016)
SR OF Mike Abrunzo (2016)
rSO 2B Ben Haefner (2016)
SO 1B Charlie Sobieraski (2017)
SO INF Ben Vey (2017)
High Priority Follows: Mike Kaelin, Ben Hartz, Brent Cleland, Alec Tuohy, Bobby Sheppard, Ben Haefner
JR LHP Nick Deeg (2016)
SR LHP Josh Pierce (2016)
SR RHP Connor Kelly (2016)
SR LHP Adam Aldred (2016)
SR LHP Jimmy McNamara (2016)
SR RHP Sean Renzi (2016)
SR RHP Jason Gamble (2016)
JR RHP Jordan Grosjean (2016)
rSR SS Joe Houlihan (2016)
SR OF Logan Regnier (2016)
SR 1B Zack Fields (2016)
SR C Dylan Goodwin (2016)
rJR OF Adam Colllins (2016)
JR SS Alex Borglin (2016)
SO SS Zach McKinstry (2016)
JR C Robert Greenman (2016)
SR INF Morgan Oliver (2016)
rFR RHP Patrick Leatherman (2017)
SO RHP Sean Martens (2017)
SO OF/1B Daniel Jipping (2017)
rFR OF/C Dazon Cole (2017)
FR LHP Grant Wolfram (2018)
FR OF Daniel Robinson (2018)
FR RHP Michael Brettell (2018)
FR C Evan Kratt (2018)
FR INF Jarrod Watkins (2018)
FR INF Jason Sullivan (2018)
High Priority Follows: Nick Deeg, Connor Kelly, Adam Aldred, Sean Renzi, Jordan Grosjean, Joe Houlihan, Logan Regnier, Zack Fields, Alex Borglin, Zach McKinstry, Robert Greenman, Morgan Oliver
SR LHP Devon Bronson (2016)
SR LHP Michael Marsinek (2016)
JR RHP Sam Delaplane (2016)
JR RHP Matthew Beaton (2016)
JR RHP Kevin Shul (2016)
SR 1B/3B Mitchell McGeein (2016)
SR RHP Nick Jensen-Clagg (2016)
rSO RHP Zach Spangler (2016)
rSR RHP Eli Martin (2016)
rSR LHP Tim Faix (2016)
JR LHP Jared Skolnicki (2016)
SR 1B/3B Zarley Zalewski (2016)
JR 2B Dom Iero (2016)
JR 1B/OF Conner Simonetti (2016)
rJR C/OF Michael Mioduszewski (2016)
JR C/OF Jeremy Stidham (2016)
rJR SS/OF Marquise Gill (2016)
SR OF Jordan Peterson (2016)
JR 1B John Montgomery (2016)
SR OF Jackson Martin (2016)
SO RHP Brent Mattson (2017)
SO RHP Antonio Jacobs (2017)
SO OF Brennan Williams (2017)
FR LHP Tyler Butzin (2018)
High Priority Follows: Sam Delaplane, Matthew Beaton, Kevin Shul, Mitchell McGeein, Michael Mioduszewski, Marquise Gill, Jordan Peterson, John Montgomery
JR LHP Eric Lauer (2016)
JR RHP Andy Ravel (2016)
SR RHP Nick Jensen-Clagg (2016)
rSO RHP Zach Spangler (2016)
rSR RHP Eli Martin (2016)
rSR LHP Tim Faix (2016)
JR LHP Jared Skolnicki (2016)
SR 1B/3B Zarley Zalewski (2016)
JR 2B Dom Iero (2016)
JR 1B/OF Conner Simonetti (2016)
rSR OF Alex Miklos (2016)
JR 2B/SS Sam Hurt (2016)
rJR OF Luke Burch (2016)
JR 2B/SS Zach Beckner (2016)
rSR OF Jacob Neuschaefer (2016)
SO RHP Zach Willeman (2017)
SO RHP Chris Martin (2017)
SO LHP Eli Kraus (2017)
SO 3B Dylan Rosa (2017)
FR C Peter Schuler (2018)
FR SS Josh Hollander (2018)
FR LHP Connor Wollersheim (2018)
FR RHP Joey Murray (2018)
FR RHP Austin Havekost (2018)
High Priority Follows: Eric Lauer, Andy Ravel, Nick Jensen-Clagg, Jared Skolnicki, Zarley Zalewski, Conner Simonetti, Luke Burch
rJR LHP Ryan Marske (2016)
JR RHP Brad Schwartz (2016)
JR RHP Jacob Banks (2016)
SR 3B/OF Chad Sedio (2016)
SR OF Jake Romano (2016)
SR OF Gary Russo (2016)
rJR 3B Adam Yacek (2016)
JR 2B Steve Sada (2016)
rSO C Spencer Dull (2016)
SO RHP Gus Graham (2017)
FR LHP Zach Spears (2018)
FR RHP Cole Gnetz (2018)
FR RHP Michael Hendricks (2018)
FR C Hayden Senger (2018)
FR OF Dallas Hall (2018)
High Priority Follows: Ryan Marske, Jacob Banks, Chad Sedio, Jake Romano, Adam Yacek, Steve Sada, Spencer Dull
JR RHP Andrew Frankenreider (2016)
rJR LHP Jordan Ruckman (2016)
SR LHP Ryan Olson (2016)
SR SS Brian Sisler (2016)
SR OF Stephen Letz (2016)
rSR C Tony Brandner (2016)
SR C Johnny Zubek (2016)
rSR OF Alex Smith (2016)
rJR OF Brandon Mallder (2016)
rJR 3B/OF Tommy Hook (2016)
SR 2B Justin Fletcher (2016)
SO RHP Donovin Sims (2017)
SO SS/2B Brad Wood (2017)
FR 3B Joseph Boyle (2017)
FR OF Malique Ziegler (2017)
High Priority Follows: Andrew Frankenreider, Brian Sisler, Stephen Letz, Tony Brandner
SR RHP Jake Miller (2016)
rSO RHP Jake Roehn (2016)
JR RHP Jake Rudnicki (2016)
rSO LHP Gerry Salisbury (2016)
SR RHP Connor Sitz (2016)
JR RHP Tom Colletti (2016)
SR OF Manny DeJesus (2016)
JR OF Mitch Longo (2016)
rSR C Cody Gaertner (2016)
SR 1B John Adryan (2016)
rJR OF Nate Squires (2016)
JR 3B Ty Black (2016)
FR 1B Rudy Rott (2018)
High Priority Follows: Jake Miller, Jake Rudnicki, Tom Colletti, Manny DeJesus, Mitch Longo, Cody Gaertner, John Adryan
SR RHP Kyle Slack (2016)
SR RHP Caleb Schillace (2016)
JR RHP Sam Shutes (2016)
JR LHP Steven Calhoun (2016)
SR LHP Ross Achter (2016)
SR RHP/OF John Martillotta (2016)
JR RHP/OF Jordan Kesson (2016)
SR SS/2B Deion Tansel (2016)
rSR OF/SS Dan Zuchowski (2016)
SR OF Ryan Callahan (2016)
JR OF Jake Krupar (2016)
SO OF AJ Montoya (2017)
SO C/1B Dalton Bollinger (2017)
High Priority Follows: Kyle Slack, Steven Calhoun, Ross Achter, Jordan Kesson, Deion Tansel, Dan Zuchowski
JR LHP Keegan Akin (2016)
SR LHP Derek Schneider (2016)
SR RHP Pat Haynes (2016)
SR RHP Gabe Berman (2016)
JR 3B Grant Miller (2016)
JR SS Steve Pastora (2016)
SR C Mitchell Ho (2016)
SO LHP Jacob Piechota (2017)
SO LHP/OF Tanner Allison (2017)
FR OF Nate Grys (2018)
FR INF Connor Smith (2018)
High Priority Follows: Keegan Akin, Derek Schneider, Gabe Berman, Grant Miller