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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Cleveland

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Cleveland in 2016

10 – Nolan Jones
43 – Logan Ice
51 – Aaron Civale
57 – Will Benson
95 – Ulysses Cantu
138 – Michael Tinsley
149 – Conner Capel
176 – Andrew Lantrip
195 – Trenton Brooks
226 – Shane Bieber
250 – Gavin Collins
356 – Zach Plesac

Complete List of 2016 Cleveland Draftees

1.14 – OF Will Benson

The draft works in funny ways. Will Benson (57) going in the first round (pick 14) seemed like a bit of a reach to me on draft day. Not a bad pick by any stretch and easily justifiable (huge raw power, electric bat speed, solid runner, built like a tank, huge arm…yeah, I get it), but not a pick I might have made when Cleveland made it. I probably would have gone with a different high school hitter with that first round pick. Maybe somebody like Nolan Jones, a prospect I ranked tenth overall yet inexplicably (well, money explains some of it) fell all the way to pick 55…when Cleveland snapped him up with their second rounder. If I knew nothing of how draft day played out and you told me that Cleveland landed both Jones and Benson at the conclusion of the first two rounds, it would be cause for major celebration. Choosing to look at their first two picks that way makes me feel better about Cleveland’s draft — and I already really, really like this draft — so that’s exactly what I’ll do. I’ll also look at what Benson and Jones did in their pro debuts…

.209/.321/.424 – 12.0 BB% and 32.6 K% – 184 PA – 112 wRC+
.257/.388/.339 – 17.2 BB% and 36.6 K% – 134 PA – 118 wRC+

…to note the similarities between the two teenagers. They aren’t twins, but there’s no denying certain commonalities. No overarching attempt at a point here, just thought it was neat. Neat is a fine word to describe a bunch of words about Benson from this past spring. First, from April 2016…

The name Will Benson brings about all kinds of colorful opinions from those paid to watch him regularly. To call him a divisive prospect at this point would be an understatement. If you love him, then you love his power upside, defensive aptitude, and overwhelming physicality. If you’re cool on him, then he’s more of a future first baseman with a questionable hit tool, inconsistent approach, and overrated athleticism. I’m closer to the love side than not, but I think both the lovers and the haters can at least agree that his bat speed is explosive, his frame is intriguing, and his sheer strength as a human being should beget some monstrous BP performances. He’d be the rare type of hitter who could make Petco look small.

Then again from May 2016…

I never really got the Jason Heyward comp for Benson – the most Heyward thing about Heyward is his plus defense, something that Benson is a long way from, if he ever gets there at all – but I like the connection between him and Kyle Lewis. I don’t think he lasts until the second, but he would make for an excellent consolation prize for a team picking at the top of the first round that misses out on the Mercer star with their first pick. Or just grab them both and begin hoping that you’ve just taken care of your outfield corners for the next decade.

I’ll toot my own horn on the Kyle Lewis/Will Benson connection. I think that’s a good one. A riskier Lewis with considerable upside and a very real bust factor. In isolation, that’s probably too risky a pick for me in the mid-first; thankfully, drafts run longer than one round and all subsequent selections are connected thanks to the current (stupid) draft bonus system. Underslot deals in round one (Benson!), two (supplemental), three, four, seven, eight, nine, and ten helped pay the overslot bonus second round pick Jones required. Beyond just dollars and cents, drafts have to be viewed as complete entities because (smart) teams draft with talent diversification (position, level of competition, age, etc.) in mind. Cleveland went relatively safe with their pitching (college-heavy, emphasis on command over stuff) while taking bigger swings on offensive guys (lots of high variance prep and juco talent). The overall portfolio is one of my favorites across the league and that’s with a first round pick I didn’t love. The draft works in funny ways.

2.55 – 3B Nolan Jones

I saw a lot of Nolan Jones (10) over the last eighteen months or so. I’ve written about Jones a lot in that same time span. I’m not sure what else I have to add, so I’ll let the pre-evaluation stand on its own…

First off, I’m incredibly biased when it comes to Jones. I’m pleased to admit that out front because said admission of bias was well worth getting to watch him play a bunch this spring at Holy Ghost Prep. Getting the chance to see a young man with his kind of talent thirty minutes play his home games thirty minutes from the office was an incredible experience. Jones is an electrifying player who really can do it all as a prospect. In about twenty minutes of game time in his most recent appearance, he was able to hit a homer (one of two on the day), swipe a bag, and turn a slick double play at short. That run was topped only by an earlier game when he smoked the ball every time up before ending the game in extras with an opposite field rocket that cleared the fence in left. He’s outstanding. I think the sky is the limit for him as a professional ballplayer. I’ve seen him more frequently than any other top prospect in this class, which gives me a little more insight to his strengths and weaknesses as a player (whether or not said insight should be trusted is up to the reader) but also presents a challenge in fighting human nature. It’s only natural to want to see a player you’ve come to watch and appreciate throughout the past year succeed going forward. My assessment of him as a player won’t help him or hurt him in any conceivable way, but there’s definitely some subconscious work going on that pushes players we’re more familiar with up the board.

Of course, all of those firsthand observations can be a double-edged sword when it comes down to doing what I attempt to accomplish with this site. My process for evaluating players here includes all kinds of inputs, the least critical of which being what I see with my own two eyes. It’s not that I lack confidence my own personal evaluations; quite the opposite, really, so realizing that my ego needs to be in check brings me to not wanting to fall into the trap that has led to more botched first round picks than any other singular mistake. The easiest way to ruin all the hard work of so many is to have one supposed “expert” come in and make decisions with little regard to the opinions of the group. When a general manager overrules the collective decision of the scouting staff to select a first round player that he has fallen in love with after just a few short views, the resulting pick is almost always a disaster. It’s admittedly a rare occurrence – there’s a reason real analysis of a team’s drafting record gets pinned on the scouting director and not the general manager – but it does happen. Whether it’s ego, pressure to find a quick-mover to potentially save jobs (including his own), or actual conviction in the prospect (the most palatable option for sure, but still tough to stomach when dealing with small firsthand scouting samples), it happens.

Long story short: I don’t want to be like one of those GM’s. I like trusting what I read and hear, both publicly and privately, because those are the closest analogues to a “scouting staff” that any one outsider like me can hope to assemble. That will never stop me from going to games and showcases to form my own opinions, but I’d prefer to use those to supplement the larger scouting dossier assembled than to make up the basis of it. In many ways I consider what I see up close as a tie-breaker and not much more.

It is, however, quite nice when what I’ve heard is backed up by what I’ve seen. That’s exactly what has happened with Jones this spring. The total package is awfully enticing: chance for a legit plus hit tool (lightning fast hands, advanced pitch recognition, consistent hard contact), plus arm strength (confirmed via the eye and the low-90s fastballs on the gun) that is also uncannily accurate, average or better run times, prodigious raw power (have seen him go deep to all fields this spring), and loads of athleticism. I’d even go so far as to suggest he’s shown enough in the way of shortstop actions to at least get certain teams thinking about letting him try to stay up the middle for a bit, but that might be pushing it. Recent big shortstops like Carlos Correa and Corey Seager have reversed the trend somewhat, but I still think Jones would be best served getting third base down pat as a pro.

Finding reasonable comps for a lefthanded hitting third baseman – which, naturally, just so happens to be what our top three prospects here happen to be – is unreasonably challenging. I’ll start with the WHOA (not to be confused with wOBA, BTW) comp and work backwards.

One older fan – not a scout, not a Holy Ghost Prep booster, but just a fan of the game – was at frequent games this spring. I got friendly enough with the gentleman, around the same age (late-60s) as my father if I had to guess, over the course of the spring that he felt good about dropping an Eddie Mathews comp on Jones as an all-around player. Now that’s a name that gets your attention. My dad raves about Mathews’s physical tools to this day. All of the numbers suggest that he’s on the very short list of best lefthanded third basemen ever to play the game, so that’s not a comparison to be taken lightly. I’ll repeat that it was coming from a fan – though, again, not one with a vested interest in the team or the player, only the sport – and I’m nowhere near qualified to say whether or not he was on the right path with such a lofty comp, but, hey, Hall of Fame comps are fun, so there you go.

Two additional names that came up that I think fit the lefthanded hitting third base profile pretty well were Hank Blalock (strictly as a hitter, though I think the raw power difference between the two makes this one questionable) and Corey Koskie. The Koskie comparison is one I find particularly intriguing. Koskie, a criminally underrated player during his time, was good for a career 162 game average of .275/.367/.458 with 20 HR, 12 SB, and 75 BB/130 K. We’re totally pulling numbers out of thin air with any amateur prospect projection – doubly so with teenagers – but that seems like a reasonable hope based on what I’ve seen out of Jones. Offense like that combined with plus defense at third would make one heck of a player in today’s game. For reference’s sake, that’s almost like a better version of late-career Adrian Beltre. Of course, the mention of Beltre is not meant to serve as a direct comparison but rather a potential production comp.

Now if I wanted to drop a righthanded hitting third baseman comparison on Jones that wasn’t Beltre, I think I’d go with a young Ryan Zimmerman. His 162 game average to date: .282/.347/.473 with 25 HR, 5 SB, and 64 BB/124 K. Not entirely dissimilar to Koskie, right? A young Zimmerman/Koskie type is a tremendously valuable player, with those two each clocking in right around 4.0 fWAR average (Zimmerman a bit more, Koskie a hair less) during years of club control. Going back to our lefthanded third base comp in Koskie brings us to this final “hey, maybe Jones should be a top five pick in this class” moment of the day. Koskie, the 715th overall pick in 1994, finished his career with 24.6 rWAR. That total would have placed him fourth behind only Javier Vazquez (46.0), Nomar Garciaparra (44.2), and Paul Konerko (27.6) in his draft class. He’s just ahead of Jason Varitek (24.3) and AJ Pierzynski (24.0). My non-comprehensive look on the Fangraphs leaderboards has him ahead of all but Vazquez and Garciaparra. We live in a world where Corey Koskie ranked in the top three (or four) in a given draft class, so why not Nolan Jones?

Why not Nolan Jones, indeed.

2.72 – C Logan Ice

On Logan Ice (43) back in April 2016…

.365/.460/.533 – 22 BB/5 K
.360/.483/.697 – 20 BB/5 K

Top is Matt Thaiss this year, bottom is Logan Ice so far. It’s no wonder that a friend of mine regularly refers to Ice as “Pacific NW Thaiss.” That sounds so made up, but it’s not. Anyway, Ice is a really good prospect. He’s received some national acclaim this season, yet still strikes me as one of the draft’s most underrated college bats. There are no questions about his defense behind the plate – coming into the year many considered him to be a catch-and-throw prospect with a bat that might relegate him to backup work – and his power, while maybe not .700 SLG real, is real. I don’t think a late-first round selection is unrealistic, but I’ll hedge and call him a potential huge value pick at any point after the draft’s first day. I can’t wait to start stacking the college catching board; my hunch is that prospect who comes in tenth or so would be a top three player in most classes. My only concern for Ice – a stretch, admittedly – is that teams will put off drafting college catchers early because of the belief that they can wait and still get a good one later.

Let’s update that Thaiss/Ice comparison with their final junior year stats…

.375/.473/.578 – 39 BB/16 K – 232 AB
.310/.432/.563 – 37 BB/25 K – 174 AB

Pretty close! Thaiss went sixteenth overall and was transitioned immediately to first base in the pros. Ice fell to the seventy-second pick and remains a catcher. I still think Thaiss is the better hitter and the better all-around prospect by a hair — and I think he should continue to catch, but nobody asked me — but the non-theoretical defensive differences between the two certainly gives fans of Ice a legitimate claim that he’s the more valuable asset going forward. Being better than Matt Thaiss isn’t what will make or break Ice’s career (obviously), but it’s a fun benchmark to come back to as the two young men embark on what should be long, successful pro careers.

3.92 – RHP Aaron Civale

As a world-renowned internet draft writer, I’d like to think my credibility is such that any and all accusations of bias can easily be refuted by my sterling track record of good old fashioned tellin’-it-like-it-is-ness. I’m practically perfect, really. One teeny tiny dark spot on my record is a strange affinity for pitchers out of Northeastern. It’s the baseball life debt I owe former Husky Adam Ottavino that I pledged to him — unbeknownst to him, naturally — after witnessing my first and only live no-hitter above the high school level. Maybe that explains why I liked Aaron Civale (51) as much as I do. Or maybe it’s because he’s an outstanding young pitcher who can throw four pitches for strikes with the kind of pitchability more typically seen in ten-year big league veterans. Civale’s assortment of hard stuff (upper-80s two-seam, low-90s four-seam up to 95, and above-average to plus upper-80s cutter/slider hybrid) beautifully complements his slightly softer stuff (above-average 78-82 curve with plus upside, occasional changeup, and he has a long track record of sterling command and control (1.93 BB/9 in 2015, 1.18 BB/9 in 2016). Civale is what you get when you combine a traditional Cleveland amateur draft pitching prospect (command! control!) with the big-time stuff the 29 other teams seemingly prioritize.

4.122 – RHP Shane Bieber

Consistency is a good thing when you’re consistently good. That’s a saying I heard once that I thought was kind of stupid, but it seems applicable here. Look at these numbers…

7.57 K/9 – 1.04 BB/9 – 112.2 IP – 2.23 ERA
7.22 K/9 – 1.13 BB/9 – 119.2 IP – 2.86 ERA
7.88 K/9 – 0.75 BB/9 – 24.0 IP – 0.38 ERA

That’s Shane Bieber (226) as a sophomore, Shane Bieber as a junior, and Shane Bieber in his pro debut. I’d say consistently good is an apt qualifying remark. If you knew nothing of his stuff, I think you’d get some idea of what kind of pitcher he was just by looking at that line and knowing that Cleveland, the most command loving drafting team around, identified him as a pitcher of interest. Thankfully, we don’t have to sit around and guess at his stuff. Here’s some Bieber chatter from March 2016…

This post would have been lengthier, but a way too long love letter to Justin Bieber’s latest album has been deleted. After a few drinks I might share my working theory on how Bieber is the evolutionary Justin Timberlake, but we’ll table that for now. We’ll actually go a step further and declare this site a NO BIEBER joke zone henceforth. That’s the first last time I’ll connect Justin to Shane Bieber all spring. Shane is a fascinating enough prospect to talk about even without the musical interludes.

He was a pre-season FAVORITE who hasn’t yet missed a ton of bats at the college level, but I’ll continue to tout his 85-90 (92 peak) sinking fastball, above-average yet still frustratingly inconsistent 79-85 changeup, and true hybrid 78-81 breaking ball as the right type of mix of a big league starting pitcher. We’ve seen college righthanders with below-average fastball velocity, intriguing offspeed stuff, plus command, and above-average athleticism and deception go high on draft day before, and Bieber could follow suit. I’d feel a lot more comfortable if he was missing more bats, but the overall package is still enticing. It’s the Thomas Eshelman starter kit.

First, I kept my word and avoided any and all Justin Bieber mentions from that point on. Feel good about that. Second, I stand by Bieber being on the Thomas Eshelman path. If anything, I’m encouraged that a smart front office like Cleveland’s would place the same kind of premium on Bieber’s strengths as I do. I’d like to think it’s pretty clear I’m cool doing my own thing here in this tiny corner of the internet, but a little validation never hurts every now and then. Cleveland clearly targeted a certain type of pitcher this year in prioritizing command/control over gun-popping velocity. Aaron Civale, Bieber, and Andrew Lantrip all fit that mold. Maybe that’s two-fifths of a rotation one day. Maybe it’s one starter and one reliever. Maybe you really hit the jackpot and all three are quality big leaguers. That’s clearly the preferred option, but even getting hitting on one of the three would be a win. It goes back to the idea of doubling (or, in this case, tripling) down on a position or archetype of interest. If you keep trying, eventually you’ll get it right.

5.152 – OF Conner Capel

I didn’t remember that Baseball America had compared Conner Capel (149) to Tyler Naquin before the draft before I wrote the Trenton Brooks pick review below. I’ll save you the trouble of scrolling down. This is what I wrote about Brooks, Cleveland’s seventeenth round pick: “I’ll throw out a maybe irresponsible (depending on how “real” you think his rookie season was…) comparison to Tyler Naquin with a bit less power upside.” So does that make Brooks a reasonable comp for Conner Capel? Sure, why not! The lefty from Texas is an excellent athlete with a well-rounded skill set (above-average arm and speed) and an advanced hit tool. He’s a bit of a tweener as only a “maybe” center fielder with average at best power for a corner, but I like Cleveland betting on a guy who has shown he can make consistent hard contact against quality prep pitching.

Two more Capel facts before we call it a day. First, I just noticed I had him ranked one spot behind Nick Banks on my overall pre-draft list. That’s not particularly noteworthy but for the fact that D1 Baseball had compared Banks to Tyler Naquin at some point during the season. I didn’t really see that one personally — I went with Hunter Renfroe, for what it’s worth — but still funny to see Naquin’s name popping up everywhere. Secondly, I had Conner Capel listed as Connor Capel in my notes. I hate messing up names. Not only is it disrespectful to the player (if you write about a guy, you should have the right name), but it also makes searching for him years later a chore. Sorry, Conner.

6.182 – 3B Ulysses Cantu

A quick timeline of Ulysses Cantu (95) thoughts over the past year. First, from December 2015…

You want some really high praise for Cantu as a hitter? I’ve now heard the name Youkilis mentioned twice in conversations about him. That’s big time. Kevin Millar was another name that came up, as did a fun blast from the past Conor Jackson. I really like the Jackson comp and not just because I really liked him as a player. When was the last time you heard his name mentioned? He was a pretty interesting player for a while there. I liked that guy. Good talk.

And then from May 2016…

Ulysses Cantu is Joe Rizzo’s mirror image. Almost everything written above about the lefthanded Rizzo applies to righty swinging Cantu. I’m even less bullish on Cantu sticking anywhere but first base as a professional, so the pressure will be on for him to hit early and often upon signing his first contract. I see a little less hit tool, similar power, and an arguably better (trying to sort this out in limited PA for HS hitters is damn near impossible) approach. I think all that adds up to an overall offensive edge for Rizzo, but it’s really close.

After much industry chatter about Cantu playing just about anywhere but first base in the pros, he debuted with Cleveland at…first base. His strong arm is wasted a bit there, but it’s still probably the best fit for him in the long run. Playing first base should also have the added bonus of allowing more time for him to focus on his hitting, his once and future meal ticket to the big leagues. His pro debut saw him struggle at the plate for what I have to imagine was the first time ever. I think his natural gifts take over next spring and he emerges as one of the minors most interesting righthanded hitting first base prospects.

7.212 – C Michael Tinsley

Cleveland signed three college catchers. I love the idea of teams loading up on one spot in the draft. There’s a certain organizational piece of mind that comes with solidifying depth at one position over the course of one weekend’s worth of work. But trying to do that with three similarly aged catching prospects is better in theory than in practice. Where are these guys all going to play? Cleveland answered that by keeping Logan Ice behind the dish (duh) and moving both Michael Tinsley (138) and Gavin Collins to other defensive spots. Collins playing third is hardly a surprise — it’s where he played the majority of his draft year, after all — but Tinsley starting his pro career as a left fielder came out of, well, left field. Time will tell if this is part of a larger plan by Cleveland or merely a short-term fit to get everybody their rookie ball plate appearances. In any event, Tinsley certainly has the athleticism to thrive in a corner outfield spot. That same athleticism is what made him such an intriguing catching prospect to me. The lefthanded hitting Tinsley is a great athlete with average or better speed, arm strength, and mobility behind the plate. His approach as a hitter has long been a strength (63 BB/44 K in his three years at Kansas). He’s a keeper at any position, though it goes without saying that a return to catching would make Tinsley that much more appealing as a prospect.

8.242 – RHP Andrew Lantrip

On Andrew Lantrip (176) from March 2016…

Kay is a lot more famous among college fans, but Andrew Lantrip in many ways resembles a righthanded alternative. Kay’s changeup is ahead and he has the added bonus of mixing in a curve every now and then, but Lantrip can really command his fastball (like Kay’s, 87-92 MPH peaking at 94) and his delivery gives him that little extra pop of deception that makes everything he throws play up. Needless to say, I’m a fan. Lantrip will surely be dinged for being a slight college righthander without premium fastball velocity, but, again like Kay, the combination of a deep enough reservoir of offspeed stuff and a long track record of missing bats makes him an interesting high-floor back-end starting pitching option.

Andrew Lantrip walked 1.28 batters per nine in his 246.2 innings at Houston. That’s 35 walks in 246.2 innings. That’s good. A 1.28 BB/9 would have put him second in baseball this past year among qualified pitchers. The one pitcher with a better BB/9? Josh Tomlin. Hmm. I understand plus control not being something that seems all that exciting, but Lantrip’s never-ending story of strike after strike after strike is fun to watch. And it’s not just his expert control, either: Lantrip’s command of his fastball, a pitch he leans on heavily (and wisely), is exceptional. Watching him do this thing on the mound is a lot of fun. Will that fun translate in pro ball? Cleveland sure seems to think so. And I’d agree.

My “not a scout” observations on Lantrip showed me a quality breaking ball — not sure what it was exactly, but he threw it mostly 77-81 and when ahead in the count — and a usable change as at least a “show-me” pitch. That’s not anything to write home about, but, as we’ve covered, fastball command is so damn important and Lantrip has it in spades. Honestly, his profile would otherwise be pretty ordinary — fringe fifth starter type, maybe a middle reliever — were it not for his fastball command. It’s good enough I’ll bump everything up one step on the projection ladder: Lantrip could be a mid-rotation starter (closer to a fifth than a third, but still) with a pretty safe mid-relief floor. Barring another injury setback, I think he’s a sure-fire big leaguer. Josh Tomlin 2.0.

9.272 – OF Hosea Nelson

Huge raw power, good runner, great athleticism, and tons of swing-and-miss. Now you know what I know about Hosea Nelson. At Clarendon JC, Nelson hit .531/.606/1.020 with 27 BB/30 K and 17/21 SB in 237 PA. That 1.020 slugging isn’t a typo. It is, however, such a crazy number that my fingers don’t know how to type it. Muscle memory keeps getting in the way of putting the decimal where it should be. Nelson hit 20 homers in 196 AB, an impressive enough feat on its own made all the better when you realize his teammates combined for 14 total home runs in their aggregate 1630 AB. I have no idea how to project a guy like this, but I’m damn sure going to move heaven and earth to find a way to see him play in person in 2017.

10.302 – SS Samad Taylor

I had nothing on Samad Taylor before the draft, but everything I’ve heard and read since then has been fantastic. The only knock that I’ve heard was about his arm making him a more likely second baseman than a shortstop, something that played out as predicted in his debut season. Beyond that, his game is incredibly well-rounded for the mature beyond his years 17-year-old draftee with a chance for average (hit, power, arm) or better (speed, glove) tools across the board. Some might say TINSTAA2BP and maybe they are right, but, if you’re part of the 2B prospects are people too crowd (as I am), then Taylor should instantly move near the top of the list of most interesting second base prospects in the game.

11.332 – OF Andrew Calica

Andrew Calica’s .382/.474/.556 in 178 AB to start his pro career puts him on the short list of best 2016 debuts across baseball. Add in stealing 15 of 19 bags for good measure and Calica’s case as having the very best debut grows. The genius you’re reading right now didn’t rank him in the pre-draft top 500 despite going on and on and on about him back in March…

Of all the non-obvious (say, those unlikely to be first day selections) prospects in this class, Calica might be the guy closest to the Platonic ideal of what it means to be a FAVORITE on this site. Calica’s impressive hit tool, easy center field range, above-average to plus speed, and solid arm strength all give him the look of at least a potential quality backup at the pro level. I’d go a step further: Calica has consistently shown every tool save power throughout his career, and even his weakest area isn’t all that weak. He’s able to put himself into enough advantageous hitting counts to allow his sneaky pop (“burgeoning” is how it was recently described to me) to make him some degree of a threat to opposing pitchers who think they can sneak good fastballs by him. Center field tools, an advanced approach, and just enough pop all add up to a pretty intriguing talent.

I’m hopeful that not ranking Calica was an oversight — like my Dane Dunning omission that drives me nuts — but considering Calica was included on the “Draft Note Resource” pages I published meant to catch all the non-top 500 guys, I’d say it was just a major whiff. Is this an overreaction to a small (but undeniably awesome) sample to start his pro career? Maybe a little, I can admit that much. But Calica is legit. It’s a very strong backup outfielder profile with the chance for more if his recent power bump is real.

12.362 – RHP Zach Plesac

On Zach Plesac (356) back in February 2016…

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.

For whatever reason, Plesac never seemed to get the kind of credit he deserved for his outstanding junior season. He struck out more batters than ever (9.07 K/9), walked fewer guys (2.96 BB/9), and saw an uptick in stuff across the board. Assuming a return to full health after this past May’s Tommy John surgery, I think Plesac could move quickly as a potential mid-rotation starting pitcher. That’s typically what I see when I see an exceptionally athletic righthander with projection left who is already capable of throwing three pitches (86-92 FB, 94 peak; above-average low-80s CU; 75-77 CB, average upside) for strikes.

13.392 – C Gavin Collins

The vote of confidence in Gavin Collins (250) before the draft from me was predicated on the idea that his drafting team would move him back behind the plate. Here’s what I wrote about that in April 2016…

Gavin Collins has played third base the bulk of the season – very well, I should note – but still profiles best as a potential above-average defender as a professional catcher. My notes on him include one of the better lines I’ve gotten this year: “big arm, loves to show it off.” How can you not like a catcher like that?

Well, 41 of his 42 starts in the field in his debut with the Cleveland organization were at third base. I don’t know if that’s indicative of the long-term defensive plan for Collins or what, but it’s certainly a strong hint that they believe his best fit in the pros is at the hot corner. It’s also possible that he was playing third only in deference to second round pick Logan Ice, though that theory is cloudy at best when you factor in the two prospects having similar timetables going forward. I think he has the chance to be an average hit/average power type of bat (.250ish hitter with 15 homers?) with solid defense at either third or catcher. Depending on how offense continues to climb, that could be a potential regular. Falling short of that ceiling could still produce a useful bench asset. One name that comes to mind there is Adam Rosales without the middle infield versatility.

14.422 – OF Mitch Longo

The pre-season take on Mitch Longo back in February 2016…

Longo has some “scouty” questions to answer this spring, but I’m sold on the bat.

And how can you not be sold on Longo as a hitter? Seriously, all the guy does is hit. I don’t often do this, but, come on, look at the college production…

2014: .346/.416/.474 – 13 BB/13 K – 7/12 SB – 133 AB
2015: .357/.421/.498 – 22 BB/16 K – 10/13 SB – 241 AB
2016: .360/.438/.467 – 25 BB/19 K – 12/17 SB – 214 AB

That’s really good stuff right there. I got some answers on those “scouty” questions during his junior season — namely he’s a legit above-average runner who knows how to pick his spots and his arm can now be upgraded to “good enough,” which is, you know, good enough — but there were still some I talked to who think he’s a great college player who will be in over his head in pro ball. Too dependent on the admittedly solid hit tool with questionable power, speed, and defensive value, they say. Maybe, though I’d at least counter with pointing out that maybe those were fair reasons why he fell to the the fourteenth round but now that he’s actually in pro ball — and off to a fine start, I should add — anything you get from him is gravy. I don’t personally see why he can’t hit his way to the big leagues, fourteenth rounder or not.

16.482 – LHP Ben Krauth

Just about all I had on Ben Krauth heading into the draft were his numbers. That’s not entirely a bad thing for him as those numbers were really damn impressive: 10.08 K/9, 2.93 BB/9, 3.33 ERA in 92.0 IP. The notes portion for Krause was a bit less kind: “backwards pitching junk-thrower.” Pretty good debut for a backwards pitching junk-thrower, I’d say: 10.89 K/9, 1.66 BB/9, 1.66 ERA in 38.0 IP. I enjoy rooting for non-traditional players to succeed, and Krauth’s steady diet of offspeed stuff would certainly qualify him for that mantle.

17.512 – OF Trenton Brooks

On Trenton Brooks (195) from March 2016…

Trenton Brooks has gotten off to a relatively slow start at the plate so far, but I remain firmly on his bandwagon heading into June. His athleticism, defensive upside (CF range and a strong arm befitting a two-way player), and flashes of offensive promise make him a really intriguing future pro, especially if you believe (as I do) that focusing solely on one side of the ball will help take his game to the next level professionally. Between that belief and the possibility he could always be shifted back to the mound down the line if need be – two points that are almost but not quite contradictory – Brooks has a chance to be a better pro than what he’s shown at Nevada.

I’m still very much a believer in Trenton Brooks, future big league player. The ceiling may now be more fourth outfielder/spot starter than potential regular, but that’s still some serious value down in the seventeenth round. I’ll throw out a maybe irresponsible (depending on how “real” you think his rookie season was…) comparison to Tyler Naquin with a bit less power upside.

18.542 – LHP Raymond Burgos

Really nice work by Cleveland here in getting Raymond Burgos signed and on board in the eighteenth round. I write that knowing very little about Burgos as a pitcher. What I do know, I like: his pre-draft notes here had him up to 89 MPH with his fastball and in the mid-70s with his breaking stuff. He’s also listed at 6-5, 175 pounds, lefthanded, athletic, and, by all accounts, a hard worker. Toss in the fact that he’s really young for his class — he won’t turn 18 until the end of November — and all the ingredients here are for a major draft sleeper. It would be completely irresponsible (again) to compare him to a lefty version of Triston McKenzie in any way other than their relative youth and frames to dream on, so I won’t.

19.572 – RHP Dakody Clemmer

I really like this one. Dakody Clemmer is a potential surprise quick-moving reliever. Armed with a power sinker/slider mix, the strong righthander has a chance to shoot through the Cleveland system in a hurry if allowed to focus on keeping the ball down with his low-90s heat and above-average slider. The only thing that could slow him down is needing some time to find a way to more consistently harness his stuff; plus movement can be a blessing and a curse for young pitchers sometimes.

23.692 – RHP Mike Letkewicz

Mike Letkewicz had himself an interesting senior season at Augustana. His final year stats (7.76 K/9 and 3.59 BB/9) dropped his career strikeout mark to 9.46 (boo) but came with the added benefit of dropping his career walks to 4.62 (progress!). He’s a middling middle relief prospect unafraid to throw back-to-back changeups when needed. That’s all I’ve got.

24.722 – LHP Skylar Arias

Searched “Skylar Arias” on my site not expecting to find anything (name wasn’t ringing a bell and it’s the kind of name that ought to, right?), but, lo and behold, some notes on him from his HS days…

LHP Skylar Arias (Oakleaf HS, Florida): 86-88 FB; CB; CU; 6-3, 165 pounds

His year at Tallahassee CC was a successful one with the young lefty sitting down 10.82 batters per nine. There’s some funk to his delivery that is either appealing or not (I’m into it) and the projection left in his 6-3, 190 pound frame (note the positive weight gain since his time at Oakleaf) suggest even more velocity to come. The only negative on his ledger for now is the 56-game suspension handed to him after testing positive to Nandrolone in August. That’s a bummer.

25.752 – 3B Jonathan Laureano

Jonathan Laureano had about as bad a debut as you can have after putting up a -14 wRC+ in his first 86 PA. Fortunately, that small sample nightmare came on the heels of an excellent freshman season at Connors State: .347/.472/.595 with 39 BB/33 K in 218 PA. I don’t have anything on him beyond that other than to say that somebody out there has his last name wrong. He’s listed as Laureno as Baseball Reference, but Laureano at both MiLB.com and his Connors State player page. I tend to think that the latter spelling is likely correct, but admitting that means I’m saying B-R is wrong and that makes me sad. Love you, Baseball Reference.

26.782 – LHP Tanner Tully

By law, Cleveland is required to draft at least one Ohio State player every year. Ignore the fact that they haven’t drafted anybody from the Buckeyes since 2004; can’t let that get in the way of a good narrative. Tanner Tully is a solid pick on merit, Ohio State connection aside. I like Tully even though I can’t quite figure him out. His stuff is solid — 88-92 FB, 93 peak; nice low-80s SL — and both his command and control are exceptional, but he’s never been able to miss bats even as he puts up sterling run prevention numbers. He kept up his confusing ways as a pro: 5.09 K/9 and a 1.17 ERA in 46.0 IP. Years of watching the numbers have me convinced he can’t keep this up forever, but strike-throwing lefties with decent stuff and good athleticism are tough guys to figure.

28.842 – SS Jamal Rutledge

I take it back. Jonathan Laureno is off the hook. Turns out you can have an ever worse debut as Jamal Rutledge managed a -18 wRC+ in the 48 PA to begin his pro career. This came after hitting .267/.295/.336 with 5 BB/27 K in 126 PA at Contra Costa as a freshman. The small sample size pro debut isn’t that big a deal — more of a “fun fact” than anything, and one I hope becomes but a footnote in his long, successful pro career — but that junior college line has me scratching my head a bit. If Rutledge makes it, I think we could chalk this up as one of the bigger mid-round scouting over stats wins of all-time.

30.902 – RHP Ryder Ryan

As an age-eligible two-way prospect with virtually no competitive innings played the last two seasons, Ryder Ryan ranked as one of the draft’s bigger mysteries heading into June. Older scouting reports were favorable — most notably those citing a big-time arm capable of living 90-94 MPH and touching 96 — and his obvious athleticism as a legit power-hitting prospect make this a chance well worth taking by Cleveland. Ryder is as strong a candidate of any as becoming one of this year’s “where did HE come from” thirtieth round picks.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Austin Shenton (Washington), Spencer Steer (Oregon), Mike Amditis (Miami), Blake Sabol (USC), Zack Smith (Charlotte), Pedro Alfonseca (Black Hawk CC), Armani Smith (UC Santa Barbara), Dan Sinatro (Washington State), Ben Baird (Washington), Andrew Baker (Florida), Nelson Alvarez (Miami-Dade CC), Mason Studstill (Miami), Kramer Robertson (LSU), Jacob DeVries (Air Force), Chris Farish (Wake Forest), Wil Crowe (South Carolina)

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2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – American

Much as I like him, I don’t necessarily view Anthony Kay as a first round arm. However, the second he falls past the first thirty or so picks he’ll represent immediate value for whatever team gives him a shot. He’s a relatively high-floor future big league starter who can throw four pitches for strikes but lacks that one true put-away offering. Maybe continued refinement of his low-80s changeup or his 78-84 slider gets him there, but for now it’s more of a steady yet unspectacular back of the rotation. Nathan Kirby (pick 40 last year) seems like a reasonable draft ceiling for him, though there are some similarities in Kay’s profile to Marco Gonzales, who went 19th in his draft year. I like Kay for his relative certainty depending on what a team does before selecting him; his high-floor makes him an interesting way to diversity the draft portfolio of a team that otherwise likes to gamble on boom/bust upside plays.

Kay is a lot more famous among college fans, but Andrew Lantrip in many ways resembles a righthanded alternative. Kay’s changeup is ahead and he has the added bonus of mixing in a curve every now and then, but Lantrip can really command his fastball (like Kay’s, 87-92 MPH peaking at 94) and his delivery gives him that little extra pop of deception that makes everything he throws play up. Needless to say, I’m a fan. Lantrip will surely be dinged for being a slight college righthander without premium fastball velocity, but, again like Kay, the combination of a deep enough reservioir of offspeed stuff and a long track record of missing bats makes him an interesting high-floor back-end starting pitching option.

If it’s Kay and Lantrip at the top, then it’s a long way down before you get to the third best pitching prospect in this conference. That’s not to say there aren’t quality arms to be found, but rather the number of question marks for each young pitcher seems to grow exponentially after the rock solid profiles of Kay and Lantrip. Devin Over, very much in the mix to finish in that third spot by the close of the season, exemplifies this well. Over has all kinds of arm strength (lives in the 90’s, up to 97), flashes a really intriguing low-80s slider, and has some of the most impressive athleticism of any pitcher in his class. If it all clicks, Over could be a fast-moving reliever with late-game upside. Getting a talent like him as a senior-sign is mighty enticing.

JP France isn’t a senior, but he is really talented. I flip-flopped him and Over a few times before settling on France in the three spot. Figured that makes more sense considering I’ve already declared myself “all-in” on France before the season began. His fastball, breaking ball, and athleticism make him a threat to crash the first few rounds. His question mark is experience; the only thing standing in the way of the redshirt-sophomore and an early round selection is innings. If he can continue to stay healthy and effective on the mound, he’s a keeper.

The Houston guys are both impressive in their own right. Marshall Kasowski has the chance for three average or better pitches (FB, CB, CU) and Bubba Maxwell’s stuff appears all the way back after going under the knife for Tommy John surgery last year. He’s undersized at 5-11, 200 pounds, but there’s enough to him that a solid pro reliever future feels realistic. I have a soft spot for David Kirkpatrick, another Tommy John surgery survivor. His athleticism is as good as it gets for a pitcher – is it just me or are the pitchers in the AAC unusually athletic? – and he’s flashed the kind of stuff (fastball up to 93, average or better breaker) to get on the prospect radar.

Tommy Eveld’s question marks fall more on me than him right now. He’s got a great frame, fantastic athleticism, and legitimate low-90s heat, but beyond that I don’t know a ton about him. Peter Stzelecki gets a mention here even though he’ll miss the entire season after undergoing – you guessed it – Tommy John surgery. Athletes and TJ surgery are what the AAC is all about, I suppose. He’s still a high upside arm (90-93 FB, above-average SL) that I’d ask a lot of questions about, especially vis-à-vis his signability, if I was an area guy tasked with following him this spring.

The hitting prospects in the American mirror the pitchers: two clear cut names at the top and a mad scramble beyond that. The difference is there’s more certainty with the two hitters at the top. I recently wondered aloud whether the up-the-middle duo from Tulane (Stephen Alemais and Jake Rogers) or Oregon State (Trever Morrison and Logan Ice) would be selected higher this June. I think we could break that down further and wonder which of the Tulane prospects will go higher on draft day. In a roundabout way I attempted to do this two months ago

One of the easier comps in this year’s class is Rogers to Austin Hedges. It’s just too obvious to ignore. If you’re still on the Hedges bandwagon — I stayed off from the start — then you’re really going to like Rogers. If you value defense but also appreciate a guy who be a positive value player offensively — it doesn’t have to be an either/or! — then you might want to hold back for now. All bets are off if Rogers comes out swinging it this spring. If that’s the case (he’s got decent raw power and has held his own in terms of BB/K ratio, so don’t rule it out) then ignore everything you just read and mentally insert him into the first day of the draft. Pretty significant “if,” however. Alemais doesn’t have that “if” for me. I think he’s an honest big league hitter with continued development. There’s enough speed, pop, and approach to his offensive game that I’m comfortable calling him the best college shortstop profiled so far. That only includes most of the ACC and AAC, but it’s better than nothing. He’s a lock to finish as one of the country’s dozen best shortstops and has a strong case for remaining at the top spot come June.

Rogers has hit. Alemais has hit as well. Both guys have hit. Teams that like up-the-middle defenders who hit should be happy. That’s all I’ve got. Figured everybody would appreciate my special brand of hard-hitting analysis there. I think both guys are now squarely in the first day conversation, so there’s that.

Bobby Melley has his so far this year, too. Combine that with a consistent track record of patience (88 BB/80 K coming into the season) and flashes of power (his 2014 was legit) and you’ve got yourself a really underrated senior-sign slugging first base prospect. His strong glove and good size are nice perks, too. I maintain that Matt Diorio could really be something if teams buy into his defensive potential behind the plate. As a corner outfielder, his bat is a lot less thrilling yet still not without some promise. I wrote about Memphis OF Darien Tubbs, another guy with promise, in January…

JR OF Darien Tubbs leaps past the field as Memphis’s best position player prospect. He’s got the type of build (5-9, 190) that inspires the “sneaky pop” disclaimer in my notes, but his days of catching opposing pitchers by surprise might be over after his breakout sophomore campaign. Tubbs can run, defend in center, work deep counts, and knock a ball or ten to the gaps when you’re not careful. Tubbs isn’t quite a FAVORITE yet, but he’s as close as you can get without tempting me into holding down the shift key. A friend who knows how much I went on about Saige Jenco over the past year reached out to me to let me know that he believed Tubbs was a better version of the same guy. Fun player.

Two months later, I still like him. A really interesting direct comparison on this list is Josh Vidales and Aaron Hill. Vidales has been my guy for a while: he’s small (5-8, 160), he can defend the heck out of second base, and he’s an on-base machine. It’s a scary profile to project to pro ball, but I’d still take him late in the draft as an org second baseman and let the chips fall where they may. Hill’s path to the bigs is a lot clearer: his glove, bat speed, foot speed, arm strength, and athleticism are all obvious pro tools. Unfortunately, he hasn’t hit yet. It’s an admittedly low-stakes version of a common theme, but the Vidales vs Hill comparison looks a lot like production vs projection. Vidales has hit, but there’s a perceived ceiling to his game. Hill hasn’t hit, but the physical gifts give a coaching and development staff more to work with. There’s no right answer here. Unless it’s maybe finding a player that slots in-between the two, like either of the East Carolina guys Charlie Yorgen or Wichita State transfer Wes Phillips.

Hitters

  1. Tulane JR SS Stephen Alemais
  2. Tulane JR C Jake Rogers
  3. Central Florida JR OF/1B Matt Diorio
  4. Memphis JR OF Darien Tubbs
  5. East Carolina JR 1B/LHP Bryce Harman
  6. Connecticut SR 1B Bobby Melley
  7. Tulane rJR C/1B Jeremy Montalbano
  8. Houston SR 2B Josh Vidales
  9. Connecticut JR SS/2B Aaron Hill
  10. East Carolina JR SS Wes Phillips
  11. East Carolina JR 2B/SS Charlie Yorgen
  12. Tulane JR 1B/OF Lex Kaplan
  13. Tulane JR 3B Hunter Hope
  14. Central Florida JR OF/LHP Luke Hamblin
  15. Houston SO OF Clay Casey
  16. Tulane JR OF Jarrett DeHart
  17. Central Florida JR OF Eli Putnam
  18. Houston JR SS Jose Reyes
  19. Central Florida JR SS Brennan Bozeman
  20. South Florida rSO SS Clay Simmons
  21. Tulane rSO 2B Matt Rowland
  22. Memphis SR OF/1B Jake Little
  23. Houston SR 3B/1B Justin Montemayor
  24. Cincinnati rSO 2B Connor McVey
  25. Central Florida JR 3B/SS Kam Gellinger
  26. East Carolina SR OF Garrett Brooks
  27. Connecticut SR OF Jack Sundberg
  28. East Carolina rJR C Travis Watkins
  29. South Florida JR OF/C Luke Borders
  30. Tulane rSO OF Grant Brown
  31. Tulane SR OF Richard Carthon
  32. Memphis rSR SS Jake Overbey
  33. East Carolina JR C/OF Eric Tyler
  34. Connecticut SR 1B Joe DeRoche-Duffin
  35. Connecticut SR 3B Brian Daniello
  36. South Florida SR OF Luke Maglich
  37. Houston SR C Jacob Campbell
  38. Memphis JR 3B Zach Schritenthal
  39. South Florida SR C/3B Levi Borders

Pitchers

  1. Connecticut JR LHP Anthony Kay
  2. Houston JR RHP Andrew Lantrip
  3. Tulane rSO RHP JP France
  4. Connecticut rSR RHP Devin Over
  5. South Florida rJR RHP Tommy Eveld
  6. Houston JR RHP Marshall Kasowski
  7. Houston rJR RHP Bubba Maxwell
  8. Tulane rSR RHP Alex Massey
  9. East Carolina JR LHP Luke Bolka
  10. Connecticut JR RHP Pat Ruotolo
  11. East Carolina rSO RHP/INF Davis Kirkpatrick
  12. Tulane SR RHP Emerson Gibbs
  13. Tulane JR RHP Corey Merrill
  14. Central Florida JR LHP Andrew Faintich
  15. Central Florida JR RHP Campbell Scholl
  16. Connecticut JR RHP Andrew Zapata
  17. Tulane rSO RHP Chris Oakley
  18. Central Florida JR RHP Robby Howell
  19. East Carolina SR RHP Jimmy Boyd
  20. Memphis JR RHP Nolan Blackwood
  21. Cincinnati SR RHP Mitch Patishall
  22. South Florida SR RHP/OF Ryan Valdes
  23. Tulane rSR RHP/OF Trevor Simms
  24. Tulane SR RHP Patrick Duester
  25. Tulane rJR RHP Daniel Rankin
  26. Tulane SR RHP/OF Tim Yandel
  27. East Carolina JR LHP Evan Kruczynski
  28. Cincinnati JR RHP Andrew Zellner
  29. Houston JR RHP Nick Hernandez
  30. Central Florida rSR LHP Harrison Hukari
  31. South Florida JR RHP Phoenix Sanders
  32. East Carolina SR LHP Nick Durazo
  33. East Carolina JR LHP Jacob Wolfe
  34. South Florida rJR RHP Brad Labozzetta
  35. Central Florida JR RHP Juan Pimentel
  36. Houston JR LHP Nathan Jackson
  37. South Florida rSO RHP Peter Strzelecki
  38. South Florida JR RHP Brandon Lawson
  39. Connecticut SR RHP Nico Darras
  40. Houston JR LHP John King

Central Florida

JR LHP Andrew Faintich (2016)
JR RHP Campbell Scholl (2016)
JR RHP Juan Pimentel (2016)
rSR LHP Harrison Hukari (2016)
JR RHP Robby Howell (2016)
JR RHP Trent Thompson (2016)
JR OF/LHP Luke Hamblin (2016)
JR OF/1B Matt Diorio (2016):
rSR 1B/OF Sam Tolleson (2016)
JR OF Eli Putnam (2016)
JR OF Eugene Vazquez (2016)
JR 3B/SS Kam Gellinger (2016)
JR SS Brennan Bozeman (2016)
SO RHP Brad Rowley (2017)
SO RHP Cre Finfrock (2017)
SO RHP/2B Kyle Marsh (2017)
SO C Logan Heiser (2017)
FR RHP Thaddeus Ward (2018)
FR INF Matthew Mika (2018)

High Priority Follows: Andrew Faintich, Campbell Scholl, Juan Pimentel, Harrison Hukari, Robby Howell, Luke Hamblin, Matt Diorio, Eli Putnam, Eugene Vazquez, Kam Gellinger, Brennan Bozeman

Cincinnati

SR RHP Mitch Patishall (2016)
rSR RHP Bryan Chenoweth (2016)
rJR LHP Colton Cleary (2016)
JR RHP Andrew Zellner (2016)
SR C Woody Wallace (2016)
SR 1B/3B Devin Wenzel (2016)
rSO 2B Connor McVey (2016)
SO LHP Dalton Lehnen (2017)
SO LHP JT Perez (2017)
SO RHP Tristan Hammans (2017)
SO 1B/OF Ryan Noda (2017)
SO SS Manny Rodriguez (2017)
SO 2B Kyle Mottice (2017)
FR RHP Cal Jarrett (2018)
FR LHP Cameron Alldred (2018)
FR OF AJ Bumpass (2018)
FR OF Vince Augustine (2018)

High Priority Follows: Mitch Patishall, Andrew Zellner, Woody Wallace, Devin Wenzel, Connor McVey

Connecticut

JR LHP Anthony Kay (2016)
rSR RHP Devin Over (2016)
rJR RHP Ryan Radue (2016)
rSR RHP Max Slade (2016)
SR RHP Nico Darras (2016)
JR RHP Andrew Zapata (2016)
JR RHP Pat Ruotolo (2016)
rSO RHP Trevor Holmes (2016)
JR SS/2B Aaron Hill (2016)
SR 1B Bobby Melley (2016)
SR OF Jack Sundberg (2016)
SR 3B Brian Daniello (2016)
SR 1B Joe DeRoche-Duffin (2016)
SR 1B/OF Nico Darras (2016)
JR C/OF Tyler Gnesda (2016)
SR 3B/OF Connor Buckley (2016)
SO RHP William Montgomerie (2017)
SO SS/3B Willy Yahn (2017)
FR RHP Ronnie Rossomando (2018)
FR LHP PJ Poulin (2018)
FR LHP Tim Cate (2018)
FR C Zac Susi (2018)
FR INF/RHP Randy Polonia (2018)

High Priority Follows: Anthony Kay, Devin Over, Nico Darras, Andrew Zapata, Pat Ruotolo

East Carolina

JR LHP Evan Kruczynski (2016)
JR LHP Jacob Wolfe (2016)
SR LHP Nick Durazo (2016)
JR LHP Luke Bolka (2016)
rSO RHP/INF Davis Kirkpatrick (2016)
SR RHP Jimmy Boyd (2016)
JR RHP/3B Kirk Morgan (2016)
SR OF Garrett Brooks (2016)
rJR C Travis Watkins (2016)
JR C/OF Eric Tyler (2016)
JR 2B/SS Charlie Yorgen (2016)
JR SS Wes Phillips (2016)
SR OF Jeff Nelson (2016)
JR 1B/LHP Bryce Harman (2016)
JR OF/RHP Zack Mozingo (2016)
SO RHP Joe Ingle (2017)
FR RHP Chris Holba (2018)
FR RHP Denny Brady (2018)
FR RHP Sam Lanier (2018)
FR OF Dwanya Williams-Sutton (2018)
FR OF Justin Dirden (2018)
FR SS Turner Brown (2018)
FR SS Kendall Ford (2018)
FR INF Brady Lloyd (2018)

High Priority Follows: Evan Kruczynski, Jacob Wolfe, Nick Durazo, Luke Bolka, Davis Kirkpatrick, Jimmy Boyd, Garrett Brooks, Travis Watkins, Eric Tyler, Charlie Yorgen, Wes Phillips, Bryce Harman

Houston

JR RHP Andrew Lantrip (2016)
JR RHP Marshall Kasowski (2016)
rJR RHP Bubba Maxwell (2016)
JR RHP Nick Hernandez (2016)
JR LHP John King (2016)
JR LHP Nathan Jackson (2016)
SR 3B/1B Justin Montemayor (2016)
SR C Jacob Campbell (2016)
rSO 3B/SS Connor Hollis (2016)
JR SS Jose Reyes (2016)
SO OF Clay Casey (2016)
JR 3B Jordan Strading (2016)
SR 2B Josh Vidales (2016)
SR 2B Robert Grilli (2016)
SO LHP Seth Romero (2017)
SO LHP Aaron Fletcher (2017)
SO OF/3B Corey Julks (2017)
SO C/SS Connor Wong (2017)
SO OF Zac Taylor (2017)
FR LHP Tanner Lawson (2018)
FR RHP Mitch Ullom (2018)
FR C/1B Joe Davis (2018)
FR OF Grayson Padgett (2018)
FR OF Caleb Morris (2018)
FR INF Wendell Champion (2018)

High Priority Follows: Andrew Lantrip, Marshall Kasowski, Bubba Maxwell, Nick Hernandez, John King, Nathan Jackson, Justin Montemayor, Jacob Campbell, Connor Hollis, Jose Reyes, Clay Casey, Jordan Strading, Josh Vidales

Memphis

rSO RHP Trevor Sutton (2016)
JR RHP Nolan Blackwood (2016)
JR RHP Blake Drabik (2016)
SR RHP Matt Ferguson (2016)
SR OF/1B Jake Little (2016)
rSR SS Jake Overbey (2016)
SR C Corey Chafin (2016)
JR OF Darien Tubbs (2016)
JR 3B Zach Schritenthal (2016)
JR OF Chris Carrier (2016)
JR INF Trent Turner (2016)
JR INF Brandon Grudzielanek (2016)
SO RHP Colton Hathcock (2017)
SO RHP Connor Alexander (2017)
FR INF Matthew Mika (2018)
FR OF Colton Neel (2018)

High Priority Follows: Nolan Blackwood, Blake Drabik, Jake Little, Jake Overbey, Darien Tubbs, Zach Schritenthal, Brandon Grudzielanek

South Florida

JR RHP Brandon Lawson (2016)
rJR RHP Tommy Eveld (2016)
JR RHP Phoenix Sanders (2016)
rJR RHP Brad Labozzetta (2016)
rSO RHP Peter Strzelecki (2016)
SR RHP/OF Ryan Valdes (2016)
JR OF/RHP Daniel Portales (2016)
SR C/3B Levi Borders (2016)
rSO SS Clay Simmons (2016)
JR OF/C Luke Borders (2016)
SO OF/1B Duke Stunkel (2016)
SR OF Luke Maglich (2016)
JR 2B Andres Leal (2016)
SO RHP Joe Cavallaro (2017)
SO 2B/OF Kevin Merrell (2017)
FR LHP Shane McClanahan (2018)
FR LHP Garrett Bye (2018)
FR LHP Andrew Perez (2018)
FR OF Garrett Zech (2018)
FR OF Chris Chafield (2018)
FR C/1B Joe Genord (2018)
FR SS Robert Montes (2018)
FR OF Cam Montgomery (2018)
FR 3B David Villar (2018)

High Priority Follows: Brandon Lawson, Tommy Eveld, Phoenix Sanders, Brad Labozzetta, Peter Strzelecki, Ryan Valdes, Levi Borders, Clay Simmons, Luke Borders, Luke Maglich

Tulane

SR RHP Emerson Gibbs (2016)
rJR RHP Daniel Rankin (2016)
rSR RHP Alex Massey (2016)
JR RHP Corey Merrill (2016)
SR RHP Patrick Duester (2016)
rJR RHP Eric Steel (2016)
rSO RHP JP France (2016)
SR RHP/OF Tim Yandel (2016)
rSR RHP Evan Rutter (2016)
rJR LHP Christian Colletti (2016)
rSO RHP Chris Oakley (2016)
rSO LHP Sam Bjorngjeld (2016)
rSR RHP/OF Trevor Simms (2016)
JR C Jake Rogers (2016)
JR SS Stephen Alemais (2016)
rSO OF Grant Brown (2016)
SR OF Richard Carthon (2016)
rJR C/1B Jeremy Montalbano (2016)
JR 1B/OF Lex Kaplan (2016)
JR 3B Hunter Hope (2016)
JR 1B Hunter Williams (2016)
JR OF Jarrett DeHart (2016)
rSO 2B Matt Rowland (2016)
rSR 2B/C Shea Pierce (2016)
JR 2B Jake Willsey (2016)
SO LHP Jackson Johnson (2017)
FR LHP Ross Massey (2018)
FR OF/LHP Grant Witherspoon (2018)
FR INF Cade Edwards (2018)
FR OF Anthony Forte (2018)

High Priority Follows: Emerson Gibbs, Daniel Rankin, Alex Massey, Corey Merrill, Patrick Duester, JP France, Tim Yandel, Christian Colletti, Chris Oakley, Trevor Simms, Jake Rogers, Stephen Alemais, Grant Brown, Richard Carthon, Jeremy Montalbano, Lex Kaplan, Hunter Hope, Jarrett DeHart, Matt Rowland

2016 MLB Draft Prospects – Houston

JR RHP Andrew Lantrip (2016)
JR RHP Marshall Kasowski (2016)
rJR RHP Bubba Maxwell (2016)
JR RHP Nick Hernandez (2016)
JR LHP Nathan Jackson (2016)
SR 3B/1B Justin Montemayor (2016)
SR C Jacob Campbell (2016)
rSO 3B/SS Connor Hollis (2016)
JR SS Jose Reyes (2016)
JR 3B Jordan Strading (2016)
SR 2B Josh Vidales (2016)
SR 2B Robert Grilli (2016)
SO LHP Seth Romero (2017)
SO LHP Aaron Fletcher (2017)
SO OF/3B Corey Julks (2017)
SO C/SS Connor Wong (2017)
SO OF Clay Casey (2017)
SO OF Zac Taylor (2017)
FR LHP Tanner Lawson (2018)
FR RHP Mitch Ullom (2018)
FR C/1B Joe Davis (2018)
FR OF Grayson Padgett (2018)
FR OF Caleb Morris (2018)
FR INF Wendell Champion (2018)

I’m all about SR 2B Josh Vidales. I can’t help it. Here’s what was written about him last year…

I wish JR 2B Josh Vidales had even a little bit of power (.327 and .306 slugging the past two seasons) because his approach (88 BB/51 K career), defense (plus) and speed (26/34 SB career, not a burner but picks his spots really well) all rate high enough to be an entertaining prospect to follow professionally. The fact that he’s currently seen as a second base or bust (though, again, he’s fantastic there) defensive prospect works against him, though I wonder — I honestly don’t know — if that’s something he can change minds about this spring. If he could be trusted on the left side of the infield, then we’re talking a strong potential utility future, even without the power. For all his flaws, I’d still want him to be a member of my organization.

He did up his SLG to .387 last year. That’s not great, but it’s an improvement. It also gave him his best ISO (.087) in his career. He kept getting on base with a .397 consistent to what he’s done in the past (now up to 123 BB/74 K career), swiped a few more bags (32/43 SB career), and played his usual brand of excellent defense at second. It’s not unusual to see spikes in production during a player’s senior season — far too often draft outlets overrate players on this basis, something I’ve been guilty of in the past — so hopefully Vidales enjoys the same fate this spring. If that’s the case, I think his consistent year-to-year output should get him drafted; this indirectly yet directly contradicts my previous point about overrating seniors, but this would be the case of a steady player having a better than usual senior year and not a guy having a breakout senior season out of nowhere. Consider the bigger than expected senior season prediction my attempt at wish-casting that others begin to see Vidales as I do. He’s an excellent college player and an honest pro prospect.

As much as I love Vidales, the clear top prospects on the Houston squad reside on the pitching staff. JR RHP Andrew Lantrip and JR RHP Marshall Kasowski both have very real chances of crashing the early round party. Kasowski has the more traditionally valued skill set — hard FB (up to 95), above-average mid-70s curve, rapidly improving change, and a sturdy yet athletic 6-3, 220 pound frame — while Lantrip nearly matches him in straight stuff (88-92 FB, 94 peak; above-average low-80s SL, rawer CU) but brings some of the best fastball command of this class to the mound each trip. The knock on him could be his size (6-1, 180), but that would be a silly thing to worry about considering the many positives already cited and his strong track record of striking men out and keeping runs off the board. I like both guys quite a bit could see one or both off the board much higher than many would presently believe. Two additional pitchers to know from the Houston staff include rJR RHP Bubba Maxwell (looking to find that 90-94 MPH heat he had pre-Tommy John surgery) and JR LHP Nathan Jackson (command lefty with a nice curve). Add those pitchers to SO LHP Seth Romero (2017) and you’ve got yourself one exciting group of arms.

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Houston

JR OF Kyle Survance (2015)
rJR OF Ashford Fulmer (2015)
SR OF Michael Pyeatt (2015)
JR 3B/1B Justin Montemayor (2015)
JR 2B Josh Vidales (2015)
JR C Ian Rice (2015)
JR RHP Patrick Weigel (2015)
SR RHP Aaron Garza (2015)
JR RHP Jacob Lemoine (2015)
SR RHP David Longville (2015)
SR RHP Jared Robinson (2015)
SR LHP Matt Locus (2015)
JR RHP Bubba Maxwell (2015)
SO 3B Connor Hollis (2016)
SO RHP Andrew Lantrip (2016)
SO RHP Marshall Kasowski (2016)
SO 3B Jordan Strading (2016)
FR INF Connor Wong (2017)

Houston returns three outfielders who all could get a shot at the pros come June. JR OF Kyle Survance is the best of the trio. His power is limited, but his speed and defense should keep him employed for at least a few years. If it clicks for him, it’s a big league skill set. rJR OF Ashford Fulmer is the most confounding player of the three. You could argue for his tools over Survance’s (very close call there, though I’m admittedly lower on Survance than most), but his average or better raw power hasn’t shown up in games yet while his overly aggressive approach leaves something to be desired. What SR OF Michael Pyeatt lacks in raw tools, he almost makes up for in baseball IQ. I have no feel on how teams currently feel about him — if they have a strong emotion on him either way — but he strikes me as the classic undersized battler who will grind out at bats and play beyond his physical limitations. I’d rank them as I discussed them (Survance, Fulmer, Pyeatt, with decent-sized gaps between each), but all three are draftable talents.

JR 3B/1B Justin Montemayor certainly looks the part, but, like Fulmer, he’s a young hitter who has been too aggressive at the plate for his own good to this point. I wish JR 2B Josh Vidales had even a little bit of power (.327 and .306 slugging the past two seasons) because his approach (88 BB/51 K career), defense (plus) and speed (26/34 SB career, not a burner but picks his spots really well) all rate high enough to be an entertaining prospect to follow professionally. The fact that he’s currently seen as a second base or bust (though, again, he’s fantastic there) defensive prospect works against him, though I wonder — I honestly don’t know — if that’s something he can change minds about this spring. If he could be trusted on the left side of the infield, then we’re talking a strong potential utility future, even without the power. For all his flaws, I’d still want him to be a member of my organization.

All of those players are established big time college baseball players; the fewest number of career at bats for any one of them is still over 300. The Cougar hitter I think has the best chance to be a quality pro (or at least the 1a to Survance’s 1b), however, is a guy without the same kind of major college track record. I’m sky high on JR C Ian Rice, a transfer by way of Chipola who can really, really hit. If he shows enough behind the plate to convince teams he’s a catcher long-term (as I do), there’s no telling how high he could rise by June. It’s just a hair too early to start stacking up prospects by position, but I’m very sure Rice will wind up higher on my board at that spot than anywhere else on the internet.

The two biggest arms on the staff belong to JR RHPs Jacob Lemoine and Patrick Weigel. The imposing pair combine big fastballs (both 88-94, peaking up near 96/97) with big frames (6-5, 220 for Lemoine and 6-6, 220 for Weigel). Lemoine’s big strength is his hard mid-80s slider, an average or better pitch at present with the chance to be a consistent plus offering in time. Weigel’s big weakness is his control. He walked over 7 batters per nine in his one year of big conference college ball at Pacific before upping that number to over one batter per inning at Oxnard CC last year. That’s scary. Even at his best, like last season when he struck out 12.39 batters per nine in 61 innings, he’s what could charitably be called “effectively wild.” In a way, Weigel is a tiny bit like the pitching version of Rice. Both are largely unproven talents with serious upside. We’ll have to wait and see as to how far along the well-traveled Weigel’s command and control (both need work) have developed, but the raw stuff is top two round quality. Lemoine is a more proven commodity after having spent two seasons putting up numbers ranging from solid (2013) to very good (2014) right here at Houston. If he takes that next step in terms of performance, it’s no stretch to envision him as a mid- to late-first round pick, especially if teams look at him as a starting pitcher going forward. I think his rapidly improving changeup and strong ground ball tendencies (allegedly…I have yet to check the numbers myself, but I will) give him a better than average shot at remaining in the rotation professionally. Both players have the potential to go very high this June, something that should come as no surprise in a sport that will always value power arms and power bats above most else.

SR RHP Aaron Garza is an excellent college pitcher who may not miss enough bats to be anything more than an excellent college pitcher. His consistent success at this level is pretty damn impressive considering said inability to miss bats (he’s gone from K/9’s of 6ish to 5ish to 4ish over the past three seasons, not exactly an inspiring trend) and his stuff is at least a little intriguing (CB, SL, and CU can all be throw for strikes AND flash above-average or better on any given day), so maybe he’s a whole is greater than the sum of parts kind of pitcher. The short fastball (mid- to upper-80s, 90 peak) is going to be held against him, but his secondaries, command, size (6-4, 200) and continued mastery of college competition against all logical odds demands some attention. Every year I do my best to track GB% for certain pitchers, and Garza could be a good candidate for this year’s exercise. I’m not sure what else we can attribute to his consistent run of success without being able to strike people out. Even his biggest fan wouldn’t call him a serious top five round pitching prospect, but he’s a fascinating player all the same. I know little to nothing about SR RHP Jared Robinson and JR RHP Bubba Maxwell, but the pair combined to strike out almost a batter per inning last season (61 K in 71.2 IP) with good control and shiny ERA’s. Both are undersized righthanded pitchers, so who knows what the future holds. SO RHP Marshall Kasowski is one to watch for the class of 2016.