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Top 500 Prospects Drafted by San Diego in 2016
20 – Cal Quantrill
52 – Eric Lauer
66 – Buddy Reed
83 – Reggie Lawson
134 – Mason Thompson
202 – Lake Bachar
248 – Hudson Sanchez
262 – Tre Carter
302 – Boomer White
417 – Ethan Skender
429 – David Bednar
1.8 – RHP Cal Quantrill
One team needed to be bold and take the chance on Cal Quantrill’s (20) surgically repaired right elbow in the first round. Good for San Diego for being that team. Getting a guy who would have been squarely in the 1-1 mix if healthy with the eighth overall pick is exactly the kind of draft day gamble a team like the Padres ought to be taking. There were safer players to be had when their spot in the first round came up, but they went big. I respect that. On Quantrill from April 2016…
On talent alone, Cal Quantrill deserves to be right there with Jefferies as a potential top ten overall pick contender. Last year’s Tommy John surgery and the subsequent lost time in 2016, however, complicate the matter, though it’s hard to say how much. Quantrill’s 77-81 MPH change-up is one of my favorite pitches in this entire class. Easy velocity (89-95, 96 peak), a pair of interesting breaking balls, all kinds of pitchability, and that change-up…what more could you want? Good health, I suppose. A few late season starts would go a very long way in easing the minds of big league scouting directors charged with making the decision whether or not to cut a multi-million dollar check (or cheque in the case of the Canadian born Quantrill) to the Stanford righthander. I recently wondered aloud about how teams will perceive Quantrill in this his draft year…
The attrition at the top of the college pitching pile has left Cal Quantrill, yet to pitch in 2016 as he recovers from last year’s Tommy John surgery, one of the college game’s most intriguing mound prospects. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? I wonder if the star student out of Stanford knew this and staged the whole elbow injury to allow time for his competition to implode all over the place. That’s a joke. Not a good one, but a joke all the same.
I also have said on the record that I’d consider taking him sight unseen (in 2016) with a pick just outside the draft’s top ten. You might say I’m bullish on Quantrill’s pro prospects.
The Padres went with Quantrill with a pick just inside the draft’s top ten, but otherwise we were on the same page here. Two small things from my pre-draft notes on Quantrill that I think are worth pulling out…
injury and a year’s lost development are factors to consider, but hardly deal-breakers;
This bears repeating as often as tolerated. Quantrill missed a whole damn season and still went eighth overall in the draft. Crazier yet, nobody around the game really batted an eye. I realize part of that was the relative weakness at the top of this year’s draft class pushing anybody who has ever showed any semblance of impact upside up the board, but still. A major injury and a critical year of development lost didn’t slow down the Quantrill hype train one iota. That has to mean something, right? Then there was this…
as much as I love him (easily the top arm in the college class if healthy), many focus on the injury red flag and gloss over his still underseasoned breaking ball
There’s my actual concern with Quantrill and the primary reason I dropped him a little bit lower on my board than I had originally anticipated I might. Quantrill’s fastball is legit: 90-96 MPH, mature command, serious movement. His changeup is, as I said in April, one of my favorite pitches in the entire class. At 77-81 MPH, it has tons of separation from his heater and comes out of his hand in much the same fashion. It’s also a bit of a diver, making it a really difficult pitch to square up if you’re willing and able to pull the trigger on it in the first place. Those two pitches give Quantrill a really high floor from the jump; it’s a tired comp that I use on all plus fastball/changeup righthanders with projection, but a successful career in relief a la Ryan Madson (sub in Joaquin Benoit, Tyler Clippard, or your favorite CU-heavy RP if you’re sick of me using Madson) seems like a more than respectable low-end outcome.
To achieve something more, however, Quantrill will have to do what Madson and so many others like him have failed to accomplish. Quantrill will have to master his breaking ball. For now, it’s a mid-70s curve that has slowly morphed into a harder 80-84 MPH slider. Whatever version you prefer, it’s really no more than an average at best pitch as of now. In Quantrill’s favor is time (especially when factoring in innings lost due to injury and the increased ease of throwing quality breaking balls the more distance is put between the present and a past elbow surgery), athleticism (it’s not an exact science, but better athlete = better delivery = more consistency = more frequent quality opportunities to work in breaking ball = better breaking ball), and makeup (bloodlines, work ethic, smarts, etc.). I’m willing to bet his slider becomes at least an average pitch for him, if not better. With his existing plus fastball/changeup combo, that would make him a potential game one playoff starting caliber pitcher. It’s not a perfect comp for a variety of reasons, but Quantrill’s upside could be just about a half-step down from what Zack Greinke has done in the big leagues so far.
1.24 – SS Hudson Potts
Fairly loud rumors of a pre-draft deal led Hudson Potts (née Sanchez) to going off the board to San Diego in the first round. Money saved with his selection was meant to go to Jay Groome earlier in the round, but Boston foiled those plans by taking the big prep lefty from Jersey with the twelfth overall pick. The Padres pressed on with their guy anyway and could be rewarded for their faith with a really solid all-around ballplayer. “Does so many things well” was the simple yet true line from Hudson Potts’s (248) pre-draft notes on the site. Chance for average hit, average to above-average power, average speed, average arm, well above-average (plus upside) defense at the hot corner…that’s pretty much the definition of a well-rounded prospect. His long-term defensive home will be something to monitor going forward — most thought third base (61.0 innings played there in his debut) for sure, but I know there are some who saw him this summer who think that short (210.2 IP) could work, not to mention a vocal minority who think his arm plays best at second (54.0 IP) — and his offensive game should take some time to mature (having played his entire first pro season at 17, Potts is one of the youngest prospects in this class), but a consistent above-average regular is an upside worth “overdrafting” in the first round.
1.25 – LHP Eric Lauer
On Eric Lauer (52) from February 2016…
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.
Very little to quibble with when it comes to Eric Lauer. I guess you could make a strained comparison between Lauer’s lack of a sure strikeout pitch and Hudson Potts’s lack of a clear carrying tool, but the former has two truly outstanding years at Kent State (and one merely very good one) under his belt to help assuage that concern. If a guy doesn’t have that one go-to pitch to sit opposing batters down, then how exactly do you explain 2015 (10.78 K/9, 1.99 ERA), 2016 (10.82 K/9, 0.69 ERA), and his pro debut (10.74 K/9, 2.03 ERA)? Even without premium velocity (88-92, 94 peak), Lauer misses bushels of bats with a full collection of offspeed offerings. His 72-78 curve is at least an average pitch, his 80-86 cut-slider is consistently above-average, and his 83-85 changeup should be at least an average pitch with continued work. That kind of diversity on top of pinpoint fastball command (easy above-average to plus) makes Lauer a damn near ideal candidate for a very long successful career as a mid-rotation starting pitcher. I’d put his ceiling at even higher than that: mid-rotation starting pitcher with flashes of greatness possible in any given season. Part of this enthusiasm stems from the perspective gained from being away from the pre-draft bubble — I can’t prove it, but stands to reason that prospects with flashier skill sets gain the edge on steadier performers in the immediate days before the draft; it’s as true in other sports as it is in baseball, there’s no shame in trying to hit a solid single rather than always swinging from the heels — and part of it comes from the steady stream of positive comments I’ve gotten on Lauer since turning pro. There’s something about Lauer that makes smarter baseball men and women than myself want to compare him to some really excellent big league pitchers. I’ve heard “bigger, badder Wei-Yin Chen,” “better conditioned Hyun-Jin Ryu,” and Jose Quintana (intrigued by this, though Quintana has all but ditched his slider/cutter now). I’ll throw out my own JA Happ comp. I’ll also throw out an almost certainly irresponsible comparison that even the person making didn’t want to tell me at first: Cliff Lee. A ceiling like any of those guys and a reasonable fifth starter/swingman floor (if healthy) make Lauer one of the draft’s most appealing low-risk/high-reward prospects. San Diego got him with a pick far more in line with his talent than my pre-draft ranking suggested.
2.48 – OF Buddy Reed
The evaluation on (66) Buddy Reed is refreshingly straight forward: plus to plus-plus speed, above-average to plus arm, easy plus center field range, and no idea whether or not he’ll hit enough to ever be more than a speed/defense fifth outfielder. I think his non-offensive skills are so impressive that he’ll be a big league player at some point regardless of what he does or doesn’t do at the plate. When you see guys like Tony Gwynn Jr., Sam Fuld, Leonys Martin, Juan Lagares, Kevin Pillar, Jarrod Dyson, Craig Gentry, Nyjer Morgan, and Peter Bourjos all compile over 1,000 plate appearances this decade without a single one of them putting up a wRC+ of 90 in that time span, it becomes pretty clear that center field defense and speed will always be a priority for some teams at the highest level. One contact put his floor as Justin Maxwell: good defender and useful in a platoon and off the bench against LHP (Reed is a switch-hitter). I can dig it.
If, however, Reed figures things out as a hitter, then watch out. An athlete like this with something going for him at the plate could be a potential superstar. Of course, there’s very little evidence in Reed’s scouting background and performance on the field that suggest a breakout is coming. This is where I respectfully bow out of the deep scouting conversation and leave it to those who want to break down his swing plane and pitch recognition and bat speed and bat control and whatever else they claim either held him back when he doesn’t make it or changed drastically if he does. Tossing around nebulous scouting terms is a fantastic way to cover yourself in whatever direction a player’s career takes him. “It wasn’t my evaluation that was wrong, it’s just that the player developed unexpectedly by changing his approach/swing/mechanics/whatever in the pros.” Pretty brilliant way to keep things as “inside baseball” as possible while propping yourself up as one of the few blessed souls capable of watching grown men play a sport with a critical eye. It’s all junk science and anybody who tells you differently is just fighting to protect their own self-interests. It’s the way the world works. You have to sound authoritative enough to keep an audience while being sure to speak the right insider language to keep all the dummies not smart enough to crack the inner-circle at bay. The most infuriating thing of all about this is how quickly an outsider assimilates to the inside. The example would be an internet nobody like me getting hired by a team and suddenly completing changing his position on how much smarter those IN THE INDUSTRY are about the game. Happens all the time. People go from being curious and asking questions and having fun on the internet to super serious bullies who mock those who show the same curiosity and joy for the game they once exhibited. Everybody wants to belong to something bigger, I guess. If that means turning their back on their actual beliefs to parrot the self-preserving company line, then so be it.
Anyway, I’ve used the shrugging emoticon ( ¯\_(ツ)_/¯) one time too many during these draft reviews, so I’ll stay away from it here. But if you asked me whether or not Reed would hit enough to be an above-average all-around contributor in the big leagues, that would be my honest answer. My instincts say probably not — despite some of the snark in the paragraph above the scouting buzz is not meaningless, plus the historical track record of college hitters with career .275/.353/.384 lines (84 BB/156 K) isn’t great — but spending a second round pick to find out feels well worth it, especially if your own scouts have seen something in Reed that others have not. He’s a big league player for me whether he hits or not; now we wait and see what kind of hitter he’ll turn out to be.
2.71 – RHP Reggie Lawson
This is a really cool draft by San Diego. They keep drafting players I like that I didn’t even know I liked as much as I do until thinking about them some more. I like players like that. Players like that tend to be players I’m particularly intrigued in, but would be too chicken to draft as high as necessary to actually land them. Reggie Lawson (83) is exactly like that. Crazy athletic, tremendous fastball movement, burgeoning power breaking ball, and inconsistent yet improved command. That’s a fun prospect.
A really off-the-wall comparison for Lawson that I think works: Tommy Greene. That may not be the most flattering of comps at first glance — on one hand, sure you’d take a guy good enough to start 97 games in the big leagues; on the other, only 97 games and a 93 ERA+ isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire — but peak healthy Tommy Greene was really good. In fact, I’d argue that Greene was legitimately great in 1993 — an admittedly magical year for a 7-year-old fan that has no doubt warped my own baseball worldview including defending Greene against all comers — and could have been on the verge of a major breakout (he was only 26 in 1993) if not for a string of unfortunate arm injuries that wound up ending his career in the big leagues shortly after his 30th birthday. You don’t have to take my word for it, though: “He could have been a great pitcher,’’ former major league advance scout Eddie Lyons told staff writer Chuck Carree. “He could have been another Catfish Hunter.’’ Or this…
“Believe me, it is easy to catch guys like this,” said cather Darren Daulton, who has seen Greene complete his last five games. “He reminds me of Doc Gooden. A power pitcher who’s developed breaking pitches and has command of them. Guys with stuff like that, they’re illegal in seven states.”
A healthy Greene shares that big fastball/power breaking ball starting point with Lawson — 88-94 and up to 96 with his heat; above-average mid-70s breaking ball that flashes plus when thrown with a little extra behind it — not to mention exceptional athleticism and a chance to be a non-zero at the plate. Toss in a usable change with a chance to be average in time and Lawson has the kind of upside that could give him a few seasons that resemble 1993 Tommy Greene.
3.85 – RHP Mason Thompson
From my notes on Mason Thompson (134): “if healthy, look out.” The third round feels like an opportune time for San Diego to bet on the return to full health of Thompson’s right arm. At his best (and healthiest), Thompson sits 88-92 (94 peak) with a quality mid-70s curve and a standout low-80s changeup that flashes plus. Thompson’s upside is high enough that he’s on the short list of players I’m most excited to see for myself in 2017. Between this pick, Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, Reggie Lawson, and Lake Bachar, San Diego low-key replenished their starting pitching depth before round five had the chance to wrap up. When you add in potential relief arms like Lucchesi, Stillman, Dallas, Sheckler, Scholtens, Galindo, Zimmerman, and Bednar, you can begin to see an argument for the Padres having one of if not the best pitching drafts in 2016.
4.144 – RHP Joey Lucchesi
Joey Lucchesi likes to throw fastballs. Joey Lucchesi has a really good fastball. Joey Lucchesi is really good at baseball…
12.08 K/9 – 3.00 BB/9 – 2.19 ERA – 111.0 IP
12.00 K/9 – 0.64 BB/9 – 1.29 ERA – 42.0 IP
Top is what he did at Southeast Missouri State as a senior and bottom is what he did in the pros after signing. The man can flat miss bats. Equipped with a quality heater (90-94) and decent curve coming out of a funky delivery, Lucchesi has a long career of big league relief work written all over him.
5.144 – RHP Lake Bachar
ABA: Always Bet on Athleticism. If you follow that rule during the MLB Draft, you’re more than likely to come out ahead, especially as it pertains to pitchers. Lake Bachar (202) is an athlete. He also throws a fastball that can get up to 95 (90-94 typically), a pair of average breaking balls (83-85 slider, mid-70s curve) with more upside than that, and a usable but raw low-80s change. I like this one a lot.
6.174 – RHP Will Stillman
This is not one of my better takes because the two have less in common the more you think about it, but here goes: Will Stillman is like the Eric Lauer of relievers. Ignoring all the obvious differences leaves us with two college pitchers who consistently produced with well-rounded arsenals but still have plenty of doubters in certain circles who think of them as “stat” picks and not “scout” picks. Stillman has long had a good fastball (88-92, 94 peak), but took it up a notch in the pros (more 92-96 than not). He leans on the heat, but can also throw a pair of quality offspeed pitches (curve, change). The 6-4, 180 pound righthander could still have a little more in the tank as he continues to fill out. Even slight improvements in control — Stillman walked 4.99 batters per nine in his senior season at Wofford (his best full season mark) and 4.89 batters per nine in his pro debut — would make him a potential late-inning option for San Diego down the line. I get that I’m repeating myself too often, but, man, I like this pick, too. The Padres big league pitching staff in 2017 might be one of the worst we’ve seen in some time, but the pitching depth they are accumulating in the minors could change that in a hurry.
7.204 – LHP Dan Dallas
Any lefthanded teenager capable of living in the low-90s (87-92, specifically) with his fastball who can also throw a decent low-70s curve is all right in my book. That’s Dan Dallas. There may not be a ton of projection left in his game, but his present stuff is solid enough to justify a seventh round shot.
8.234 – LHP Ben Sheckler
I won’t pretend to be an expert on Cornerstone University’s first ever MLB draft pick, but everything I’ve come to learn about Ben Sheckler since draft day sounds pretty good. The 6-8, 240 pound lefthander couldn’t be built much more differently than the pitching prospect taken just one round earlier (Dan Dallas), but similar relief upside with an outside shot to keep starting seems like a fair forecast for the pair. Sheckler is an ascending talent who gets major sink on a low-90s fastball (90-94), a pitch he used in tandem with an emerging slider to get ground balls on a whopping 71.15% of all batted balls against him in his debut.
Since I knew nothing of Sheckler as of a few weeks ago when I began writing this thing up, I asked around if there were any decent comps for him. I got three fun ones, but all came with qualifiers. Ben Sheckler reminded people of Brett Anderson (“but not quite that good”), Chad Qualls (“but lefthanded”), and Marc Rzepczynski (“but much bigger”). The Anderson career path seems only obtainable if Sheckler can improve either his curve or circle-change enough to give hitters something slower to think about. Landing on a career like Qualls’s or Rzepczynski’s wouldn’t be a bad outcome at all for an eighth round pick.
9.264 – RHP Jesse Scholtens
On Jesse Scholtens from March 2016…
Jesse Scholtens, a transfer from Arizona, can crank it up to the low-90s with his fastball, a pitch complemented nicely with an average or better breaking ball. There’s clear senior-sign reliever potential with him and perhaps a little bit more if his changeup continues to develop.
Sounds about right for Scholtens, a quality senior-sign that has enough stuff (sinking 88-94 FB, average to above-average cut-slider, usable changeup) to potentially remain in the rotation in pro ball. That puts his ceiling somewhere between future fifth starter and quality middle reliever. Could definitely see the whole relief thing working out for him in the long run. Another nice pitching addition here.
10.294 – 2B Boomer White
Boomer White (302) has been one of the tougher evaluations in this draft class for me going back quite some time. The handful of firsthand reports I’ve gotten on him over the years have been uniformly positive. From raves about his hit tool (plus for some!), above-average raw power, and defense at the hot corner, you would think that White would be an easy player to project as a future above-average regular. Add on a really strong track record of hitting with a dominant senior season (.398/.476/.533 with 33 BB/14 K and 10/14 SB) as the cherry on top, and there really shouldn’t have been anything all that tricky about any of this. Boomer White: future regular. Easy, right?
In the high-stakes world of internet draft guessing, nothing’s easy. I’m not a scout, but my own looks at White in 2016 were not quite what I was hoping to see. I think White will hit, so that’s good. Beyond that, I never saw the kind of power projection that I’d feel comfortable getting up to average at his peak and defense at third that bordered on unplayable in the pros. Again, I’m not a scout but seeing these things up close was discouraging enough I had a hard time forgetting them when it came time to finalize a ranking.
Two comps for White that come to mind that may have some utility for you: Hernan Perez (if you believe he can play a few non-OF spots effectively) and Robbie Grossman (without the switch-hitting). I’m partial to the Grossman comp; I could see White grinding for years in the minors like Grossman before finally getting a shot to play in his late-20s on a bad team willing to give him a shot. No telling if he’ll take the opportunity and run with it like Grossman has so far.
11.324 – OF Tre Carter
I’ve called a lot of eleventh round picks perfect fits for the eleventh round, but Trevyne Carter (262) might really be the one true perfect fit. The eleventh round is when you should be rolling the dice on the boom/bust prospect that may have priced himself out of a single-digit round. That may not exactly be what happened to Carter — his $100,000 bonus technically doesn’t make him an overslot signing — but the same logic applies to him as a boom/bust prospect with some of the most impressive athletic bona fides in this class and all kinds of speed on the bases and in center. Carter’s athletic profile and physical projection make him one of the draft’s most intriguing and overlooked outfield prospects. His pro debut — .298/.411/.383 with 9 BB/10 K in 56 PA — came in a small sample, but was chock full of encouraging signs. The intersection of Carter’s physical gifts and small sample on-field polish suddenly makes him one of the most interesting round eleven prospects to follow.
13.384 – RHP Joe Galindo
With a big fastball up to 98 MPH, above-average slider, and a 6-4, 225 pound frame, Joe Galindo is a college relief prospect straight out of central casting. Toss in stellar strikeout numbers (14.59 K/9) and a boatload of walks (7.45 BB/9) that led to the definition of effectively wild (2.48 ERA) in his junior season. A late-season broken hand at New Mexico State will keep him from debuting in the pros until 2017, but his ready-made late-inning stuff should make him a quick riser through the system if he can curb some of his wild ways.
15.444 – OF Jack Suwinski
Jack Suwinski, like Tre Carter another high school outfielder who got a six-figure signing bonus, can hit. That’s about all I’ve got on him, but it’s enough. Suwinski can hit (and throw and defend enough for a corner). He reminds me a little bit of Josh Stephen, eleventh round pick of the Phillies. The comp works both on the field (both are generally unheralded bat first prep outfield prospects) and with the checkbook (Stephen got $600,000 to sign while Suwinski got $550,000).
16.474 – C Chris Mattison
Chris Mattison hit .384/.447/.708 with 18 BB/39 K and 9/12 SB in his draft year at Southeastern. If he can keep catching in the pros — and the Padres internally believe he can — then he’s a reasonably interesting mid-round follow based on his position and power. I’m a bit scared off by his plate discipline, but it’s the sixteenth round so you can’t have it all.
17.504 – SS Chris Baker
The Padres deserve a ton of credit for their pre-draft evaluation on Chris Baker. They saw a sure-handed shortstop with solid pop and an improving approach at the plate that many others didn’t see. This cool article breaks it down…
“Our scouts had seen him play there plenty of times,” said Conner. “We had seen him in high school and some with the Huskies. That is a big thing in our organization, to have multiple looks at guys so we can see their progression or regression and have a more informed idea of the player.”
The whole article is worth a read, but this part also stood out to me as being particularly important…
“For me, I had one at-bat against UCLA when the pitcher threw me a fastball away, and even though I was thinking away, I still fouled it off,” he said on the moment when things began to turn around for him. “And I thought then that if I had so much time that I didn’t need to rush it. It’s strange, but certain things can just click for you.
Pretty neat that one foul ball can be the start of something much bigger. I’ve heard many similar stories like that — one that comes to mind is about a guy who took a close pitch (a strike, as it turned out) he’d normally have swung at and that became his moment of “Hey, I can do this” — and they never cease to bring me joy. My “nine to five” job allows me to be on the front lines of moments like that everyday, so getting to read about them in the sport I love is a pretty nice way to bridge the gap between my “real life” and whatever this site attempts to do.
Anyway, Chris Baker is a really good get this late in the draft. Any time you can nab a legitimate shortstop capable of hitting .299/.384/.432 with 14/18 SB in 264 AB in his pro debut — better marks across the board save a couple points of batting average than what he did as a junior at Washington — then that’s a win. I commend San Diego for sticking with Baker over the years and think they’ll be paid back with a high-level utility player who has a chance for more if his defense keeps progressing at short.
18.534 – 1B Jaquez Williams
There’s no such thing as a bad signed high school draft pick past round ten. Even when that signed high school draft pick strikes out in 40.8% of his first 98 professional turns at the plate. Jaquez Williams is a big lefthanded power bat with a strong track record catching up to velocity. It’s not the prospect archetype one might typically associate with a $100,000 post-tenth round bonus (i.e., I wouldn’t have targeted him specifically), but, hey, it’s only money, right? And, lest we’ve forgotten already, there’s no such thing as a bad signed high school draft pick past round ten.
19.564 – OF AJ Brown
I know nothing about AJ Brown, star two-sport athlete who will continue to do the two sport thing by playing both baseball with the Padres in the summer and football with Ole Miss in the fall. No word at this time on what job will pay better.
20.594 – RHP Dom DiSabatino
I saw Dominic DiSabatino twice in high school, once in a workout setting and again during game action in Delaware. He was a big human with a monster arm and not a ton of foot speed, so my brain automatically tied him to another oversized prep shortstop I once saw a lot of at Bishop Eustace HS in New Jersey. That would be one Billy Rowell, first round pick and pro flop with Baltimore. Rowell’s struggles don’t have anything to do with DiSabatino, not only because one man’s issues have no place handicapping another’s future but also because DiSabatino will start his pro career not at shortstop but on the mound. Fair enough, though DiSabatino’s sophomore season at Harford was a good deal more impressive with the bat (.411/.519/.738 with 48 BB/36 K and 13/19 SB) than as a pitcher (4.2 IP). I still like what the Padres are doing giving DiSabatino a shot pitching
21.624 – OF Taylor Kohlwey
There was lots of positive buzz on Taylor Kohlwey sent this way throughout the spring. He’s got size (6-3, 200), speed (plus), and, most compelling of all, a legit above-average hit tool. That’s not the type of overall tools package you typically see fall to the twenty-first round. There’s definite fourth outfielder upside with Kohlwey. One contact said that he thought Kohlwey could wind up as a similar player to current Padres center fielder Travis Jankowski. That would be a great potential outcome in the twenty-first round.
22.654 – RHP Evan Miller
Nice work by San Diego realizing that Evan Miller was draft-eligible as a sophomore after his second year at Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne. Miller’s two years as a Mastodon generated some fascinating numbers: 9.75 K/9, 6.09 BB/9, and 5.38 ERA in 152.1 IP. Miller also hit 19 batters and threw 37 wild pitches in those 31 career games (29 starts). If you know what to make of him going solely off those numbers, then you are far more attuned to the draft process than I am. Thankfully, we have a bit more than just the numbers to work with. We also know Miller throws hard (up to the mid-90s) with a nasty breaking ball that morphs between a truer hard slider and a variation on the traditional cut-fastball. He’s also been known to drop in a very occasional changeup. Getting locked in to just one key offspeed pitch — maybe the slider, maybe the cutter, maybe a cut-slider hybrid — should help him across the board (command, control, actual quality of stuff, etc.) in pro ball. I’m bullish on getting a pitcher with Miller’s arm talent this late.
23.684 – 2B Nate Easley
Nate Easley hit .403/.485/.655 with 36 BB/37 K and 29/36 SB in his draft year at junior college power and 2016 NJCAA Champion Yavapai College. He followed that up with a strong showing (.261/.385/.340 with 46 BB/59 K and 13/17 SB) in pro ball. Early returns on his conversion from center field to his father’s old position (second base) have been very encouraging. A patient approach, plus speed, and good defense up the middle could take him pretty far.
His dad made over $25 million in the big leagues and he started as a thirtieth round pick. The twenty-third round pick has a nice head start on his old man. My completely made up numbers — 25 million divided by 30 rounds times the difference of 7 rounds — means that Nate will finish his career with just under $31 million in the bank. Don’t argue with me, it’s math.
25.744 – C Luis Anguizola
Wisconsin-Whitewater, Cornerstone, Southeastern, Wisconsin-La Crosse, Chico State, and Baldwin-Wallace are just some of the universities that San Diego found prospects to their liking in the 2016 MLB Draft. That’s pretty badass. They dug particularly deep in finding Luis Anguizola out of Loyola University in New Orleans. Anguizola put up monster numbers (.428/.491/.738 with 26 BB/29 K) on a 22-33 NAIA squad. Context on those numbers matter. Anguizola’s BA was almost 200 points ahead of any other qualifier on the team. No other batter with more than eight at bats hit over .300. His OBP was 100 points better than anybody else. His SLG was almost 300 (!) points better than anybody else. Anguizola had a ridiculous offensive year any way you look at it. Good news about his pro debut: .279/.389/.356 with 17 BB/24 K and a 121 wRC+ may not be .428/.491/.738, but it’s not nothing. The less good news: Anguizola will be 23-years-old entering his first full pro season. That’s not a killer, but it does mean he has to get his rear in gear if he wants to establish himself as a debonair prospect. What’s a debonair prospect, you may be wondering. Well, Google didn’t recognize my original word choice of bonafide (written improperly as one word when it’s really two, so, hey, I’ve learned something new today), and for some reason wants to correct it to debonair. Debonair prospect should be a thing. Anyway, the even less good news: 23 of Anguizola’s 25 pro starts came at first base. He was announced as a catcher on draft day, but that dream seems less likely by the day. As a catcher, Anguizola would be a really REALLY interesting prospect. As a first baseman, he’s merely interesting. Still take that in a twenty-fifth round pick, of course.
27.804 – RHP Chasen Ford
I’ve seen Chasen Ford pitch at Yale. He’s looked good. Fastball ranging from 87 to 92 MPH, quality if still inconsistent breaking ball, good tempo on the mound, reasonably athletic, repeatable mechanics…all positive things. His results in the Ivy League, however…not so positive. Nobody really cares about twenty-seventh round picks as much as I do (or we do, assuming you’re reading this on your own volition), so this isn’t really true…but don’t late-round picks like Ford feel like mini-referendums on the age old scouts vs stats debate. If you only knew about Ford’s scouting report, you’d be on board. Bonus points for making the transition from standout California high schooler to star student-athlete at Yale, too. If you only knew the results of Ford’s time on the mound at Yale (4.65 K/9 and 3.05 BB/9 as a junior), then he’d be squarely in the middle of the UDFA pile. Since the debate isn’t really a debate at all — we all know this, but I’ll say it anyway: it’s not scouts vs stats, but rather scouts AND scouts working in harmony that make a front office tick — I’ll stay on the sidelines by coming down smack dab in the center. Ford’s scouting reports (including what I’ve personally seen) would have been enough for me to put him on my 40-round draft board at first, but his significantly below-average peripherals over the years would have bumped him off by the time I was ready to finalize the preference list. So I get why the Padres took him even if I wouldn’t have done so myself.
28.834 – SS Ethan Skender
I love this pick. Ethan Skender (417) won’t necessarily knock you over with loud tools, but the hoary cliché that I avoid on 99% of these pick reviews — “he’s a ballplayer” — rings true here. Skender can flat hit. That alone should make him interesting. Combine it with sneaky pop for a guy with his build and enough athleticism to stick up the middle (short for now, maybe second in the long run due to an average arm), and you’ve got yourself a keeper. I’m not quite ready to call a twenty-eighth round pick a future regular in the big leagues, but…fine, I’ll call it now. Skender is really good. Starter upside at second with a damn good shot to have a long, fruitful career in a utility role as a fallback.
30.894 – RHP Dalton Erb
Dalton Erb is a big guy (6-8, 250) with underwhelming velocity (but quality fastball movement) who pitched just all right at Chico State (7.68 K/9 and 3.62 BB/9) as a junior. He’s also “allergic to bees though his dad is a beekeeper.” Like rain on your wedding day, I guess.
31.924 – 1B GK Young
18 BB/38 K, 19 BB/50 K, and 23 BB/63 K. Those were GK Young’s K/BB ratios in his three years at Coastal Carolina. Not great. He’s got impressive present power and a strong arm, but the days of hoping he’d return to his catching roots have long since passed. That leaves us with an all-or-nothing first base prospect. Interestingly enough, Young’s junior year BB/K ratio (23/63) was almost identical to his professional debut BB/K ratio (23/63). A Chanticleer can’t change his spots.
33.984 – RHP Mark Zimmerman
Very cool pick here. Mark Zimmerman should be on any short list of most accomplished 2016 amateur baseball players. The two-way star at Baldwin-Wallace was second in the team in at bats and first in innings pitched. He made the most of both his time in the batter’s box (.368/.472/.540 with 30 BB/17 K and 17/17 SB) and on the mound (10.83 K/9 and 1.79 BB/9). Two draft rules I’ll always follow: bet big on athletes and, all else being equal, let the two-way guy pitch. Zimmerman’s athleticism is obvious to all who have seen him play up close — admittedly a very small number of people — so allowing him to concentrate full time on the mound could reap serious rewards. He’s already got a low-90s heater and quality slider, so a career in middle relief feels well within reach. Thirty-third round pick or not, I’m buying.
34.1014 – 3B Denzell Gowdy
I’m not an expert on Denzell Gowdy, but universal praise of his athleticism and work ethic make him a pretty interesting thirty-fourth round pick to track. His stellar draft season at Darton JC (.356/.473/.620 with 35 BB/37 K) certainly doesn’t hurt, either. Gowdy’s defensive versatility — he played second, third, and in the outfield in his debut — make him a worthwhile sleeper utility name to know.
35.1044 – RHP David Bednar
David Bednar is a really good looking arm that has the stuff to keep starting in pro ball. Not every team may be sold on his size or delivery as a starter, but he’s got the arm speed, depth of arsenal, and demeanor to stay in the rotation. I saw him throw at Penn and came away particularly impressed with his fastball (88-94, 96peak) and slider (above-average, flashed plus) combination. I’d love to see what kind of damage focusing in on those two pitches could produce coming in short bursts out of the bullpen. It’s silly to project any thirty-fifth round pick as a future big league player — the odds are decidedly stacked against such a prediction — but, in honor of my favorite stand-up comic, let’s get silly. David Bednar: future big league reliever.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Jamie Sara (William & Mary), Jared Poche’ (LSU), Hunter Bishop (Arizona State), Grae Kessinger (Mississippi), Collin Sullivan (South Florida), Ariel Burgos Garcia (Keiser), Quinn Hoffman (Harvard), Ryan Rolison (Mississippi), Will Solomon (?), JJ Bleday (Vanderbilt), Chris Burica (Creighton)
Louisiana State JR C Chris Chinea
South Carolina SR 1B Kyle Martin
Louisiana State JR 2B Alex Bregman
Vanderbilt JR SS Dansby Swanson
Florida SR 3B Josh Tobias
Florida JR OF Harrison Bader
Louisiana State JR OF Andrew Stevenson
Tennessee JR OF Christin Stewart
Georgia JR C Zack Bowers
Vanderbilt rJR 1B Zander Wiel
South Carolina JR 2B Max Schrock
Georgia rSO 3B Trevor Kieboom
Florida SR 3B Josh Tobias
Tennessee JR OF/LHP Vincent Jackson
Vanderbilt JR OF Rhett Wiseman
Arkansas SO OF Andrew Benintendi
There are so many prospects here that I’m going to do my best to touch on as many as possible as we whip around the diamond. There are some quoted bits from previous entries when applicable so this isn’t entirely original content, but it’s over 6,000 words…and that’s before we get to the pitching. Buckle up.
LSU JR C Chris Chinea is a good athlete with a big raw power and a solid defensive reputation. His teammate SR C Kade Scivicque joins him in what has to be one of college ball’s top catching tandems. It would hardly be a surprise to see the talented Scivicque get selected before Chinea with the former’s senior sign status giving him the edge for teams that view them as comparable talents. I look at Texas A&M SR C Mitchell Nau in a similar way to Scivicque: both are solid senior signs that should come relatively cheaply, provide a steadying presence for young arms, and give you a chance at a big league backup catcher down the line.
Alabama SO C Will Haynie has obvious upside in his 6-5, 230 pound frame. Catchers built like that with plus raw power and plus arm strength get chances even when the overall package – Haynie struggled badly last season and has only made modest improvements in 2015 — doesn’t amount to what you’d expect. A team might bet on his tools higher than expected, but I think the most realistic outcome would be a return to Tuscaloosa in 2016. No need to rush Haynie just because he’s a draft-eligible sophomore, though I suppose the question as to whether or not his development would be better served in college or in the pros going forward is one worth asking. I typically side with the pro side on matters like these, but Haynie needs the kind of at bats that playing every day in the SEC would give him. He’s almost too raw a player to take on the pros right now; I’d worry that he’d get lost in the shuffle of pro ball as even the best player development staffs can only take on so many projects at any one time.
Georgia JR C Zack Bowers can’t match Haynie in terms of sheer mass (Bowers is listed at 6-1, 200), but offers a similarly appealing plus raw power/plus arm strength package. His glove remains a work in progress, but the strides he has made as a hitter this year have been encouraging. He’s still going to swing and miss more than you’d like, but there’s a chance with continued work he can get that aspect under enough control to put his big raw power to use. I’ve personally moved away from the arm/power catcher archetype in recent years (I know lean towards athleticism and plate discipline), but the upside of a player like Bowers is undeniable. To an extent, how much you like Bowers (and Haynie, for that matter) comes down to how much confidence you have in your player development staff working with these kinds of players. If you believe that you can coach up defense and approach, then the raw talent of the arm/power catchers supersedes any concerns. I can buy that defense can always be improved – the Cubs sure seem to think so – but changing a guy’s approach at the plate is a gigantic challenge.
If he can convince teams that he can work defensively as a four-corners (1B/3B/LF/RF) prospect, then South Carolina JR 1B Kyle Martin could wind up drafted higher than most other straight college first basemen in his class. He has the athleticism and arm strength to pull off such a move, though it remains to be seen if the primary first baseman can make the transition in pro ball. As a hitter he’s improved every season – especially in the power department – enough to make a case that he could just keep mashing enough to get a shot down the line even if he’s locked into first base only. Of course, we say it every year and it bears repeating yet again: the tremendous offensive demands of the position makes projecting any amateur first basemen as a regular a long shot. Guys who can play multiple spots – like Martin potentially, as well as LSU SR 1B Conner Hale (who has also seen time at 2B and 3B), Georgia JR 1B Morgan Bunting (3B/OF…when he plays), and Auburn JR 1B Dylan Smith (OF…when he plays) – tend to wind up the most interesting prospects on draft day.
I liked Vanderbilt rJR 1B Zander Wiel last season as a draft-eligible redshirt sophomore, so it should be no shock that I like him again as a draft-eligible redshirt junior. Power, strength, and enough patience make him one of college ball’s better first base prospects. When I wonder here about why certain guys don’t get talked about more, I sometimes stop and think, “Well, how much have I publicly praised the player?” Almost always, I haven’t. I’ve thought about him a lot and maybe fired off some behind-the-scenes type things about the guy, but never given him the public recognition he deserves. That’s one of the reasons I’m glad I did this conference previews even if they did monopolize much of my free time over the past few months. There are so many more players that aren’t projected to be top ten picks that baseball fans should know about, and a quality first base prospect at one of the best programs in the country is one of them.
And now for something totally different. Mississippi SR 1B Sikes Orvis is one of college ball’s most famous names. His colorful personality, noteworthy facial hair (since lopped off, sadly), egg-like bod, and near weekly appearances on ESPN’s coverage of the SEC make him a worthy ambassador for the game and one of the most well-known players to casual college baseball/draft fans (if you’re an athlete who my wife recognizes on TV as she flicks by, then you’re famous). On top of all that, he’s also a pretty good college baseball player. He’s a better athlete and defender than his body suggests, and his power bat is nothing to mess with. The profile is a long shot to ever top out as anything but a 4A slugger, but it’ll be a fun ride. Equally entertaining plus-sized Mississippi State rSR 1B Wes Rea is in the same boat. I don’t know how high he’ll climb in the minors, but all eyes will be on the 6-5, 275 pound ATHLETE at every minor league park he sets foot in. That’s more than most mid-round prospects can say, so I’d argue he’s already ahead of the game.
LSU JR 2B/SS Alex Bregman and South Carolina JR 2B Max Schrock have been covered already, so I’ll be brief with each here. On Bregman…DID YOU KNOW that as of 4/3/15, he has more home runs (7) than strikeouts (5)? That’s good, right? His defense has also universally lauded this spring, enough so that some smart people are starting to lead the Bregman as pro shortstop charge once again. Two things about that: 1) I think whatever team drafts him does so with playing him at shortstop for at least the remainder of 2015 and possibly even 2016. I’m not sure what happens after that, but my hunch is that he’ll be given every shot to stay at shortstop despite what haters like me write. I mean, if Corey Seager is still technically a shortstop, then why won’t a team stick with Bregman at the six-spot as long as possible? 2) As a “hater,” I’m encouraged about the positive reports about his defense, but more so because now I’m more sure than ever that he could be a plus glove at second rather than a future pro shortstop. Any way you look at it his improved defense is a good thing even if it does muddle the Bregman narrative up a bit.
That wasn’t particularly brief, so I’ll try again with Schrock. I’ve read in multiple places how Schrock has been a disappointment this year for South Carolina. We’re not talking from a draft perspective, but from a 2015 college production point of view. His batting average is over fifty points lower so far this year, so I guess that has to be why I keep hearing about his struggles this year. It’s certainly not about his OBP because, lower average or not, he’s getting on base at a higher clip this year (.379) than he did last year (.366). You could fairly point to his decrease in power so far this year, but it’s not so far off – especially with the added OBP value – to say he’s having a down year relative to what he’s done in the past. From a draft prospect perspective I was hoping for last year’s numbers plus improvements across the board (I’m selfish like that), but he’s hardly been disappointing through 105 at bats. I know this doesn’t have much to do with anything, but I feel better for getting that off my chest.
Alabama JR 2B/SS Mikey White’s power breakout has had many talking him up as a possible third baseman as a professional. I don’t think the power spike is real – he’s a really good hitter, but not somebody I would have had down for much more than average power going forward – but it’s the scouts he has to convince, not me. I had somebody smart (and, because I know he wouldn’t mind me saying this, also super old) recently compare him to a righthanded Graig Nettles. That feels a little rich for me – Nettles’ raw numbers don’t blow you away, but he’s a borderline HOF third baseman if going off of JAWS – but it’s an interesting comparison to a historically underrated player who once made the transition from second base to third. Lost in this whole conversation is White’s potential to remain at shortstop. Like those who will fight you to the death on Alex Bregman’s future position, there are some college baseball loyalists who will get very mad if you suggest White will have to move out of the six-spot as a pro. Believe it or not, I understand where those fans of White’s game are coming from: he’s as hard working as any prospect you’ll find, a tremendous team leader, and his baseball instincts are off the charts. Do those intangibles make up for average at best foot speed and suboptimal range? Despite the leading question, White has more of a shot to stick a shortstop for a few years than I had thought coming into the year. I still think either second or third makes more sense, and I’m not entirely sold on the bat being good enough to make him an everyday player, but the comparisons to former Alabama star Josh Rutledge…wait, this felt familiar so I searched my site for my last Rutledge reference and turns out I’ve written almost all this before. Turns out writing 10,000 words a week about college baseball for two months on end leaves you with mush for brains. Here’s my section on White from January…
It goes against a lot of what I’ve written previously, most notably in the LSU preview when discussing Alex Bregman, so don’t read too much into my listing of JR 2B/SS Mikey White’s two most likely pro positions in that precise (2B/SS) order. White could very well wind up sticking at short as a professional; in fact, I reserve the right to switch that up a half-dozen times in my mind (and in print!) over the next few months. Working very much for him are his tremendous instincts, which rank among the best I’ve seen at the amateur level. Though impossible for the amateur eye to quantify, he’s one of those players who always seems to be in the middle of the action on the field, almost always doing something positive after finding himself in the right place at the right time. Watch him for a game or even a series and you might chalk it up as a coincidence, but we’ve now got two years of college, plenty of high-level summer ball, and, depending on who you are lucky enough to talk to, a year or more of tracking him in high school to go off of at this point. If his preternatural ability to be at the right place at the right time is just a coincidence, then I no longer understand the meaning of the word.
There’s a perfectly reasonable and logical Josh Rutledge comp out there (can’t recall the origin) for White that I don’t hate, though I think White is a truer traditional middle infielder (better glove, less power) than Rutledge ever was. There’s also been a Nolan Fontana comparison floating around with Baseball America as the source. I think the Fontana comp is a little bit stronger (both players relying as much on smarts and positioning than raw athleticism as defenders), but, like all comps, it’s still imperfect: Fontana always had an elite approach as a hitter as well as, in my personal view, a surer path to remain at shortstop professionally. The best comparison that comes to mind for me is current Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer. Both guys have good size, strong arms, and have been universally praised over the years for having high baseball IQs. All that, and their sophomore year numbers aren’t all that far off…
JM: .299/.359/.481 – 15 BB/28 K – 5/7 SB
MW: .300/.399/.443 – 27 BB/44 K – 3/5 SB
Mercer followed that up with another quality season highlighted by a power spike significant enough to get him popped with the 79th overall pick in 2008. He then experienced a slow and steady climb through the Pirates minor league system before breaking through as a legitimate regular at short for Pittsburgh in 2013. If Mikey White follows the same path then we can pencil him as a third round pick this June with the chance to hit the big leagues by 2020. Doesn’t seem that unreasonable to me, though I think you could at least argue that he’ll be a faster riser but with more of a utility upside. The latter was often said about Mercer throughout the earliest portion of his career, so you never know.
White has blown past what Mercer did his junior season, especially from a power standpoint. I’ve touched on the veracity of the realness of that power before, but without much evidence against it I’m inclined to believe something good is going on with either his swing, strength, or some combination thereof. A third round selection might be a little light based on what White has done so far this year, though I remain skeptical of a heretofore non-power bat hitting for this kind of pop with the kind of plate discipline red flags evident in White’s game.
I’m about as confused on White as I’ve been on a college player so far this season. I’m no scout, but, as a baseball fan, he is exactly the kind of player I feel like I legitimately need to see more of with my own two eyes in order to better understand his strengths and weaknesses. I want to keep putting him into certain restrictive places in my mind – he’s a scrappy utility player with a “true middle infield” glove, he’s an underappreciated (by me!) power hitter who will be best at third, he’s an overrated mirage, he’s an underrated grinder – but he doesn’t seem to fit nicely in any one player archetype. Mikey White has broken me, and I think that’s a good thing. I lean towards him turning into a potential quality utility player with a chance to play regularly at second with continued progress, but will likely go back and forth a few more times between now and June.
I haven’t heard a player get the “he’ll be a better pro than college player” treatment in a long time quite like Tennessee JR SS AJ Simcox. I’m not sure how to take that exactly. It almost sounds like a dig on the Tennessee coaching staff, but I find that hard to believe knowing what I do about the people they have in place there. I think it’s more likely explained by the differences in the pro grind – all baseball, all the time – versus the multitude of various interested parties pulling one’s attention away from the day in college. I don’t know anything specific to Simcox here, for the record. He could be as focused as can be and simply in need of an all-encompassing baseball environment because of personal preference.
It’s just now occurred to me that the SEC shortstops have a pretty clear tier system. It gets even more clearly defined if we include maybe shortstops like Bregman and White. The top tier includes Vanderbilt JR SS/2B Dansby Swanson and Bregman, then there’s Florida JR SS/OF Richie Martin and White, then a big step down to Simcox, Auburn JR SS Cody Nulph, and Mississippi State SR SS Seth Heck, and a final tier of South Carolina JR SS Marcus Mooney, Arkansas rJR SS Brett McAfee, and whomever else I missed.
I’m still holding out on JR 3B Xavier Turner (formerly of Vanderbilt, though technically he’s still enrolled at school there and just not playing ball this year) as the conference’s best third base prospect. That’s as much as because of Turner’s talent (ample athleticism, bat speed in spades, and average or better raw power, speed, and arm strength) as it is the relative void at the position without him. I had Georgia rSO 3B Trevor Kieboom as the next in line, but his transition to the SEC hasn’t been all that it could be so far. He still gives you intriguing power, defensive upside, and size. Since it was a close battle for second pre-season anyway, I don’t’ feel too bad about editing my list a bit and flipping Florida SR 3B/2B Josh Tobias to the two spot for now. Tobias has always flashed talent (above-average speed, more pop than his size suggests, and a steady, versatile glove), so it’s been nice to see him put together a strong senior season. As a senior sign with a possible utility future (the approach keeps him from being a starter for me), he could find his way into the late single-digit rounds. Similar things apply to Texas A&M JR 3B/SS Logan Taylor, another versatile defender (potentially plus at third, average at both short and second) with some pop who could find a role off a big league bench one day.
I want to say that Florida JR OF Harrison Bader can do a little bit of everything, but that would be a lie. Harrison Bader can do a lot of everything. He’s a legitimate five-tool player and I’ll fight anybody who says otherwise. I’d take him over any bat in the conference not named Bregman or Swanson without a second thought. Above-average raw power, above-average to plus speed, and the ability to play center make him a lot like Vanderbilt JR OF Rhett Wiseman to me, but with a markedly better approach at the plate. If he’s there in the second, it’s an easy call. Also, I’m not a scout and smarter people have disagreed with me, but I love his swing. It’s not conventionally pretty, but his lower half and upper half are coordinated really well and there’s just enough of an uppercut (but not too much) to suggest his power surge is real.
LSU JR OF Andrew Stevenson could step into a AA lineup tomorrow (just in time for opening day!) because his defense in center (plus-plus), speed (plus), and hit tool (above-average) are all professional quality right now. He’s one of those players that it would be very hard to imagine not someday carving out a big league role for himself on the basis of his defensive prowess and game-changing speed on the base paths alone. When you add in that hit tool, his emerging pop, and an improved approach at the plate, it’s easy to envision him maturing into a table-setting leadoff hitter guaranteed to give you years of positive defensive and base running value in the bigs. I was high on Stevenson before writing this paragraph, but now I’m more pumped about him than ever.
Tennessee JR OF Christin Stewart just keeps getting better and better and better as a hitter. With an above-average hit tool and honest plus raw power, his breakout season (happening right now!) was only a matter of time. I’ve been hard on him in the past because of my perceived disconnect between his consistently praised approach at the plate and below-average BB/K ratios (1/2 for most of his first two seasons), but I’m starting to buy in. When I hear this is a below-average draft, I think of players like Stewart who have emerged as worthwhile top three round picks – not just in this draft, but in any draft – and smile. If a down draft means a few pitching prospect have gotten injured and no stone cold mortal lock for 1-1 exists, then I guess this draft isn’t very good. If it means that there will be future big league regulars selected out of college as late as the fifth round, then I feel like we’re not on the same page. I try not to cheerlead, but the bad draft stuff is just laziness from paid professionals who really ought to try digging a little deeper.
I’ve written a lot about many SEC prospects already (links to the teams that had rosters in early are found below), but there are a few players I’d like to quickly revisit based on updated information and performance. I didn’t realize it until after the fact that almost every blurb has a BUT in it, so I did my best to sneak one into each.
- Tennessee JR OF/LHP Vincent Jackson – still love the tools, but where’s the power?
- Vanderbilt JR OF Rhett Wiseman – status unchanged (solid tools across the board), but approach still holds him back
- Auburn JR 2B/OF Jordan Ebert – hoping his early season struggles are more attributable to bad BABIP luck, but his BB/K is still strong enough to give me hope that he’ll hit
- LSU JR OF Mark Laird – now view him as Stevenson without the ceiling, but still a ML player
- Tennessee SR OF Jonathan Youngblood – tools remain elite, but hasn’t played at all; could see a fan raging about his IDIOT team drafting somebody with such “bad” college numbers without knowing how damn toolsy Youngblood actually is just as easily as he could go undrafted
- Alabama JR OF Georgie Salem – had a hunch that he was in line for a breakout season, but I’ve been told (haven’t seen him in person this year) he’s actually regressed at the plate and looks lost at times
I didn’t get to a few SEC schools that were late to post rosters, so special mention should be made about outfielders from Arkansas, Kentucky, and Alabama. Here are their quick blurbs, all decidedly BUT free…
- Arkansas SO OF Andrew Benintendi – well-rounded with above-average speed, solid pop, CF range, and a live bat; somehow leading the nation in homers as of this writing at only 5-10, 175 pounds, which says about his strength and swing
- Alabama SO OF Casey Hughston – swings and misses too much for my taste, though he’s still one of the draft’s best athletes and power hitters who is having a giant second season
- Kentucky JR OF Kyle Barrett – reminds me a little bit of Laird as a speedy center fielder with fourth outfielder upside, might be a better all-around player
- Kentucky JR OF Ka’aI Tom – size and tools don’t blow you away, yet he’s found a way to produce at every stop
Wherever he lands defensively, Bregman is going to hit. The ability to play one of the middle infield spots and hit while doing it is what makes him as close to a first round lock as there is in this college class. If that sounds like exceedingly simple analysis, well, that’s because it is. He has an easy to identify above-average or better hit tool, average to above-average speed that plays up due to his impressive feel for the game, average raw power with an emphasis on splitting the gaps, plenty of bat speed, and a consistently smart approach at the plate. There aren’t a lot of holes you can poke in his game from an offensive standpoint. One thing I’ve found particularly fascinating about Bregman as a prospect is the response you get when his name comes up within the game. I think I’ve heard more comps on Bregman than literally any player I can remember. Something about his game just evokes that “every man” feeling deep inside talent evaluators, I guess. Take a look at the list I currently have of comps I’ve personally heard for Bregman: Mike Lansing, Mark Ellis (BA has used this), Robby Thompson, Orlando Hudson, Tony Renda, Randy Velarde, Bill Mueller, Jose Vidro, Edgardo Alfonzo, Carlos Baerga, Ray Durham, Jhonny Peralta, and Mark DeRosa. There’s also the increasingly popular Dustin Pedroia comp, which makes sense on the surface but is a scary comparison for anybody due to the unique set of circumstances (or, more plainly, an obsessive/borderline maniacal drive to be great) that has led to Pedroia’s rise in the game. I’ve also heard the cautionary comp of Bobby Crosby, though I’m not sure I buy the two being all the similar at similar points in their respective development. A statistical look comparing Bregman and Crosby makes for an interesting conversation starter (if, you know, you’re friends with other obsessive college baseball/draft fans)…
AB: .344/.408/.504 – 51 BB/46 K – 28/35 SB – 526 AB
BC: .340/.417/.496 – 70 BB/103 K – 40/51 SB – 635 AB
Top is Bregman so far, bottom is Crosby’s career college numbers. It would have worked better if I had left out the BB/K ratios, but that would have been intellectually dishonest and I’m far too morally upstanding to stoop to statistical manipulation to make a point. I’d never dream of doing such a thing. Hey, look at this comparison…
AB: .369/.419/.546 – 25 BB/24 K – 17/18 SB – 282 AB
AH: .329/.391/.550 – 20 BB/20 K – 10/11 SB – 222 AB
The top is Bregman’s first year at LSU, the bottom is Aaron Hill’s first year at LSU. Notice how I didn’t say freshman year: Hill transferred from Southern Illinois to LSU after his freshman season. Since we’ve already gone down this dark and twisted road of statistical manipulation, let’s go even deeper…
AB: .316/.397/.455 – 27 BB/21 K – 12/18 SB – 244 AB
AH: .299/.375/.463 – 15 BB/27 K – 6/7 SB – 134 AB
Those would be Bregman and Hill’s “other” college season; more specifically, you’re looking at Hill’s freshman year at Southern Illinois and Bregman’s more recent season. I’m not sure what could be gained from comparing these two seasons, but, hey, look how similar! Jokes aside — though, seriously, those are some freaky similar numbers — I think the comparison between Alex Bregman and Aaron Hill is probably the most apt comp out there at this point. If the numbers don’t sway you, just check Hill’s playing card from his draft year at Baseball America…
In a draft thin on shortstops, Hill is one of the few with legitimate offensive potential. There are questions as to whether he can handle that position all the way up to the majors, but he’ll get the shot to prove he can’t. His instincts and gritty makeup get the most out of his tools–which aren’t lacking. He has enough arm to make plays from the hole, along with range and quickness. He’s not flashy but gets the job done. At worst, the Southeastern Conference player of the year will be an all-around second baseman. Offensively, he has a beautiful swing, above-average speed and control of the strike zone. He doesn’t have plus home-run power, but he can hit the occasional longball and line balls into the gaps.
I don’t normally post full sections like that, but come on! Replace Hill for Bregman and that’s pretty much spot-on! Well, the bit about this being a draft thin on shortstops might not work that well — if the 2015 draft is strong at any one position player group in the college game, it’s shortstop — but still. Interesting to me that this quick scouting report glossed over Hill’s offensive promise much in the same way I coincidentally (I swear!) did with Bregman above. It’s almost as if it was a foregone conclusion that Hill would hit enough to play somewhere, just like how many, myself included, view Bregman today. I like Bregman to hit a little bit more than Hill, run a little bit better than Hill, and field a little bit better than Hill. Otherwise, I think the comparison is pretty damn good.
Of all the teams profiled so far, none have a 1-2 outfield punch of 2015 draft prospects quite like Tennessee’s duo of JR OFs Christin Stewart and Vincent Jackson. Neither are likely first round prospects, so there are imperfections in their respective games that will be watched closely this spring. Stewart betrayed his patient, pro-ready approach last season in an effort to produce gaudier power numbers. It’s hard to blame him what with power being the most coveted singular tool in baseball these days, but the cost might prove to be greater than what it winds up being worth. On one hand, the change in approach worked as Stewart’s slugging percentage jumped about one hundred points from his freshman season. Unfortunately, the major dip in plate discipline — Stewart’s K/BB almost doubled from his first season to his sophomore year (1.48 to 2.80) — now creates a new question in his game that will need to be answered on the field before June. If all of that sounds overly negative, well, it’s not supposed to. Consider it more of a reality check for a really strong prospect than anything else. I’m still very much a believer in Stewart’s raw power (legitimately plus), hit tool (solidly above-average), and overall approach to hitting, past year production be damned.
The current number two to the top ranked Stewart is Vincent Jackson. Jackson is an outstanding athlete with considerable tools — in particular, his power stacks up quite well with Stewart’s and his plus speed blows him away — who has yet to blow scouts away at Tennessee. Inconsistent performance or not, his size and skill set evoke comparisons to two-time All-Star Alex Rios, a lofty comp at first blush but a little more palatable when you remember Rios’ earliest scouting reports and slow to manifest power as a young professional. Jackson’s blend of size, speed, raw power, athleticism, and defensive upside (above-average arm and range at present) combine to make a pretty enticing prospect. In other words, he’s also pretty good.
Swanson broke out last season in a big, big way. His first real test at the college level was hardly a test at all as he hit .333/.411/.475 with 37 BB and 39 K in 282 AB. He also added 22 steals in 27 attempts for good measure. The numbers obviously speak for themselves, but it’s still nice when the scouting reports back it up. Swanson can really play. I’ll indirectly piggyback a bit on Baseball America’s Trea Turner (with less speed) comp and reuse one of my comps for Turner last year for Swanson. It actually fits a lot better now, so I don’t feel too bad going to the Brett Gardner well in back-to-back drafts. The package of athleticism, speed, defensive upside at a critical up-the-middle spot with an above-average hit tool and average-ish power (little less, probably) works out to a consistently above-average regular with the chance for stardom — certainly flashes of it — within reach.
There’s a bit of a gap between Vanderbilt’s (draft) class of 2015 and Wiseman, but that speaks to the strength of having four likely first round picks more so than any major deficits in Wiseman’s game. I’ve run into two interesting schools of thought about Wiseman while putting this together. The first, and I’ll admit that this was my initial view from the start, is that he’s still more tools than skills right now. The tools are quite strong, but the fact that they haven’t turned into the skills many expected by now gives some pause. Still, those tools that were clear to almost all going back to his high school days are still real and still worth getting excited about. The breakout could come any day now for him and when it does we’ll be looking at a potential first-division regular in the outfield. The opposing view believes that Wiseman’s development has gone as scripted and what we’re seeing right now is more or less what we’re going to get with him. He’s a great athlete and a far more cerebral hitter than given credit, but the tools were overstated across the board at the onset of his amateur career and now we’re seeing expectations for him correcting themselves based on what he really is. There really are no pluses in his game and no carrying tool that will help him rise above his future fourth outfielder station. I’m a believer that it’s always wise to bet on athletes having the light bulb turn on before too long, so count me in as still leaning closer to the former (and my original) position. I do understand the concerns about Wiseman potentially topping out as a “tweener” outfield prospect — he hasn’t shown the power yet to work in a corner, but that’s where he’s clearly best defensively — so going on the first day might be off the table. He’s still an intriguing blend of production (good, not mind-blowing) and tools (same) who could wind up a relative bargain if he slips much later than that. I could see him both being ranked and drafted in the same area that I had him listed (110th overall) out of Buckingham Browne & Nichols.
In any event, I don’t think Wiseman’s viewed by many as quite the prospect he was back in high school and a good part of that was the way many — me included — viewed his rawness, age, and relative inexperience as a New England high school product as positives. We all are guilty of assuming there are concretely meaningful patterns we can expect from prospect development and that all young players will continue to get better with age and experience. Development is not linear and can be wildly unpredictable. Some guys are as good as they are going to get at 17 while others don’t figure it out (unfortunately) until way after their physical peak. This speaks to the heart of what makes assessing and drafting amateurs so much fun. We’re all just trying to gather as much information on as many players as possible and then making the best possible guesses as to what we’ll wind up with.
The surest bet in the Auburn lineup is JR OF/2B Jordan Ebert. Ebert doesn’t get enough love as one of the college game’s best pure hitters. That above-average or better hit tool combined with enough pop and speed allow him to potentially profile as an above-average regular offensively. I think his glove will play at any of the spots he’s tried — 2B, 3B, OF — but think his value will likely lie in his ability to play multiple spots — especially those where he can show off his plus arm — well. If you only knew what I just wrote about Ebert, you’d surely think he’s a big-time 2015 draft prospect, but, at least for now, an overly aggressive approach at the plate (31 BB/54 K) holds back his appeal to a degree. I still like him quite a bit; quite simply, guys with hit tools like his are not to be dismissed. If Ebert can settle in to a spot defensively (likely a corner OF spot), flash a touch more power, and clean up his approach a bit, he’ll become a prime candidate to become one of college ball’s fastest risers in 2015. I still think a pro team will try to keep him in the dirt for as long as humanly possible after signing. As an outfielder, he profiles as a high-level backup, especially if he can hang in center a bit. As an infielder, however, he’s a potential everyday contributor.
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting
(This was my pre-season list with a few minor tweaks where I could remember to update certain position rankings. Outside of the first five picks or so, it doesn’t really reflect where I’m at roughly three months after putting it together initially. I considered not publishing it at all and waiting until I have time to do a full revision to get it up, but so long as everybody understands it is already a bit dated I figured there’s no harm sharing. Consider it a glorified follow list, if nothing else.)
- Vanderbilt JR SS/2B Dansby Swanson
- Louisiana State JR 2B/SS Alex Bregman
- Florida JR OF Harrison Bader
- Louisiana State JR OF Andrew Stevenson
- Florida JR SS/OF Richie Martin
- Tennessee JR OF Christin Stewart
- South Carolina JR 2B Max Schrock
- Tennessee JR OF/LHP Vincent Jackson
- Alabama JR 2B/SS Mikey White
- Vanderbilt JR OF Rhett Wiseman
- Arkansas SO OF Andrew Benintendi
- Auburn JR OF/2B Jordan Ebert
- Louisiana State JR OF Mark Laird
- Alabama SO OF Casey Hughston
- Tennessee SR OF Jonathan Youngblood
- Kentucky JR OF Kyle Barrett
- Tennessee JR SS AJ Simcox
- South Carolina SR 1B Kyle Martin
- Vanderbilt rJR 1B Zander Wiel
- Florida SR 3B/2B Josh Tobias
- Auburn JR SS Cody Nulph
- Alabama JR OF Georgie Salem
- Alabama JR 2B/RHP Kyle Overstreet
- Louisiana State JR C Chris Chinea
- Alabama SO C Will Haynie
- Mississippi SR 1B/C Sikes Orvis
- Georgia rSO 3B Trevor Kieboom
- Kentucky JR OF Ka’ai Tom
- Texas A&M JR OF/1B Jonathan Moroney
- Arkansas rJR OF Tyler Spoon
- South Carolina JR SS Marcus Mooney
- South Carolina JR 2B/SS DC Arendas
- Georgia JR C Zack Bowers
- Louisiana State SR C Kade Scivicque
- Arkansas SR OF Joe Serrano
- Louisiana State SR 1B/3B Conner Hale
- Texas A&M SR 2B/SS Blake Allemand
- Texas A&M SR 3B/RHP Logan Nottebrok
- Arkansas rJR SS Brett McAfee
- Vanderbilt JR OF/RHP Kyle Smith
- Auburn JR OF Sam Gillikin
- Mississippi State rSR 1B Wes Rea
- Texas A&M JR C/OF Boomer White
- Georgia JR 1B Morgan Bunting
- Kentucky rSO OF Storm Wilson
- Auburn JR 1B/OF Dylan Smith
- Tennessee JR OF Chris Hall
- Mississippi State rSO OF Cody Brown
- Alabama JR 3B Daniel Cucjen
- Mississippi State SR SS Seth Heck
- Texas A&M JR 3B/SS Logan Taylor
- Texas A&M JR 1B/RHP Hunter Melton
- Texas A&M SR C Mitchell Nau
- Kentucky JR C Zach Arnold
- Texas A&M JR OF JB Moss
- Georgia SR OF/RHP Heath Holder