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Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Milwaukee in 2016
8 – Corey Ray
16 – Lucas Erceg
31 – Braden Webb
44 – Corbin Burnes
140 – Mario Feliciano
180 – Zack Brown
249 – Francisco Thomas
257 – Trever Morrison
311 – Zach Clark
313 – Daniel Brown
397 – Chad McClanahan
465 – Payton Henry
470 – Trey York
1.5 – OF Corey Ray
I remember checking the early pro progress of Corey Ray (8) and being surprised both at his aggressive assignment (surprised AND delighted) and his struggles transitioning to pro ball (just surprised, maybe a little bummed). Checking back in at the end of the season gave me another surprise, but this one was once again on the positive side of the ledger: Ray’s season line (.247/.307/.385) might not look like much, but from where he started and within the context of the league (101 wRC+) it’s a pretty nice start to a pro career. The fleet-footed outfielder is now in line to start his first full season at AA with the chance for a big league cameo at some point during the 2017 season. What kind of player might he be when he does make that MLB debut? So glad you asked. From April 2016 (with updated college stat lines for Ray included)…
I really do like Corey Ray: he can run, he has pop, his approach has taken a major step forward, and he should be able to stick in center for at least the first few years of club control. I mean, you’d be a fool not to like him at this point. But liking him as a potential top ten pick and loving him as a legit 1-1 candidate are two very different things.
I don’t have much to add about all of the good that Ray brings to the field each game. If you’ve made your way here, you already know. Instead of rehashing Ray’s positives, let’s focus on some of his potential weaknesses. In all honesty, the knocks on Ray are fairly benign. His body is closer to maxed-out than most top amateur prospects. His base running success and long-term utility in center field may not always be there as said body thickens up and loses some athleticism. Earlier in the season Andrew Krause of Perfect Game (who is excellent, by the way) noted an unwillingness or inability to pull the ball with authority as often as some might like to see. Some might disagree that a young hitter can be too open to hitting it to all fields – my take: it’s generally a good thing, but, as we’ve all been taught at a young age, all things in moderation – but easy pull-side power will always be something scouts want to see. At times, it appeared Ray was almost fighting it. Finally, Ray’s improved plate discipline, while part of a larger trend in the right direction, could be a sample size and/or physical advantage thing more than a learned skill that can be expected each year going forward. Is he really the player who has drastically upped his BB% while knocking his K%? Or is just a hot hitter using his experience and intimidating presence – everybody knows and fears Corey Ray at the college level – to help goose the numbers? It should also pointed out that Ray’s gaudy start only ranks him seventh on the Louisville team in batting average, fourth in slugging, and ninth in on-base percentage. I’m not sure what that means, but it’s worth noting.
(I mentioned weaknesses I’ve heard, so I think it’s only fair to share my thoughts on what they mean for him going forward. I think he’s a center fielder at least until he hits thirty, so that’s a non-issue for me. The swing thing is interesting, but it’s not something I’m qualified to comment on at this time. And I think the truth about his plate discipline likely falls in between those two theories: I’d lean more towards the changes being real, though maybe not quite as real as they’ve looked on the stat sheet so far this year.)
So what do we have with Ray as we head into June? He’s the rare prospect to get the same comp from two separate sources this spring. Both D1Baseball and Baseball America have dropped a Ray Lankford comp on him. I’ve tried to top that, but I think it’s tough to beat, especially if you look at Lankford’s 162 game average: .272/.364/.477 with 23 HR, 25 SB, and 79 BB/148 K. Diamond Minds has some really cool old scouting reports on Lankford including a few gems from none other than Mike Rizzo if you are under thirty and don’t have as clear a picture of what type of player we’re talking about when we talk about a young Ray Lankford. One non-Lankford comparison that came to mind – besides the old BA comp of Jackie Bradley and alternatives at D1 that include Carlos Gonzalez and Curtis Granderson – was Charlie Blackmon. It’s not perfect and I admittedly went there in part because I saw Blackmon multiple teams at Georgia Tech, but Ray was a harder player than anticipated to find a good comparison for (must-haves: pop, speed, CF defense; bonus points: lefthanded hitter, similar short maxed-out athletic physique, past production similarities) than I initially thought. I think Blackmon hits a lot of the targets with the most notable difference being body type. Here’s a quick draft year comparison…
.396/.469/.564 – 20 BB/21 K – 25/30 SB – 250 AB
.319/.396/.562 – 35 BB/39 K – 44/52 SB – 260 AB
Top is Blackmon’s last year at Georgia Tech, bottom is Corey Ray (so far) in 2016. Here is Blackmon’s 162 game average to date: .287/.334/.435 with 16 HR, 29 SB, and 32 BB/98 K. Something in between Lankford (great physical comp) and Blackmon (better tools comp) could look like this: .280/.350/.450 with 18 HR, 27 SB, and 50 BB/120 K. That could be AJ Pollock at maturity. From his pre-draft report at Baseball America (I’d link to it but BA’s site is so bad that I have to log in and log out almost a half-dozen times any time I want to see old draft reports like this)…
Pollock stands out most for his athleticism and pure hitting ability from the right side. He has a simple approach, a quick bat and strong hands. Scouts do say he’ll have to stop cheating out on his front side and stay back more on pitches in pro ball…He projects as a 30 doubles/15 homers threat in the majors, and he’s a slightly above-average runner who has plus speed once he gets going. Pollock also has good instincts and a solid arm in center field.
Minus the part about the right side, that could easily fit for Ray. For good measure, here’s the Pollock (top) and Ray (bottom) draft year comparison…
.365/.445/.610 – 30 BB/24 K – 21/25 SB – 241 AB
.319/.396/.562 – 35 BB/39 K – 44/52 SB – 260 AB
Not too far off the mark. I’m coming around on Pollock as a potential big league peak comp for Ray. I think there are a lot of shared traits, assuming you’re as open to looking past the difference in handedness as I am. A friend offered Starling Marte, another righthanded bat, as an additional point of reference. I can dig it. Blackmon, Pollock, and Marte have each had above-average offensive seasons while showing the physical ability to man center field and swipe a bunch of bags. I also keep coming back to Odubel Herrera as a comparable talent, but I’m not sure I’m ready to go there just yet. He fits that overall profile, though. A well-rounded up-the-middle defender with above-average upside at the plate and on the bases who has the raw talent to put up a few star seasons in his peak: that’s the hope with Ray. The few red flags laid out above are enough to make that best case scenario less than a certainty than I’d want in a potential 1-1 pick, but his flaws aren’t so damning that the top ten (possibly top five) should be off the table.
I’d like to think that was a fairly comprehensive look at what kind of player I think Ray can be, but I’d still like to address two quick things before we move on. First, it’s worth acknowledging that there was some degree of pre-draft chatter about Ray’s ability to consistently hold his own against lefthanded pitching. Those in favor admit that it’ll take time while those opposed think he’ll always struggle against same-siders. So far, both look more right than wrong. Ray had his issues with lefthanded arms in his debut. An optimist might argue that this is just the opening serve in the “it’ll take time” long game. A pessimist might be ready to bust out the “told you so’s” already. We’ll see.
Second, much has been made about Ray’s long-term defensive home. I still think he’s too athletic, too fast, and too hard working to not wind up at least an average defender in center field. I’m intrigued at the thought that the ability to play center isn’t totally something that can be taught — you’re either born with the instincts or not, so all it takes is five minutes of watching a guy out there to know — and can admit that maybe Ray isn’t hard-wired to play the position, but, like the aforementioned issues with southpaws, we’re in “wait and see” mode until we know more. In fairness, concerns about Ray’s defense weren’t new. From his HS blurb on this very site: “plus range in corner, solid in CF.” You can quibble with the exact qualifiers, but the larger point that he’s long been viewed as more of a natural corner outfielder remains. Still, a guy with his quicks should really be able to make it work in center. Anyway, the reason I bring up his defense at all comes back to this maybe being one of the last times we can talk about it with any on-field relevance for a while. The Brewers acquisition of Lewis Brinson, a glider in center often described as a “natural” at the position (if having instincts is an either/or proposition that can’t be taught, Brinson is well taken care of), this past season should push Ray to a corner by the time he’s ready to make his mark on the big leagues. Funny how that has worked out so far.
I’m 100% ready for an outfield of Braun, Brinson, and Ray. Or, in the event of a trade, something like Ray, Brinson, and Trent Clark would be pretty damn nice too. Hard to say quite how that outfield would stack up in terms of on-field value a few years down the road, but in terms of sheer entertainment value it would be really tough to top.
2.46 – 3B Lucas Erceg
In many ways, Lucas Erceg (16) reminds me of second overall pick Nick Senzel. Maybe not Senzel exactly, but the store brand version of him. And not just any old store brand, either; maybe something like the Kirkland Signature version. We’re talking really high-quality stuff that’s almost as good as the real thing and only costs a fraction of the price. Connecting a line between Senzel and Erceg leads to my own speculation that the Brewers may have liked the Tennessee star with their first pick, but managed to fall into Senzel-Lite in the second round as Erceg slipped down the board. Can’t imagine too many front office staffers in Milwaukee were all that upset with the one-two punch of Corey Ray and Erceg at the top of their draft.
As for Erceg the draft prospect, well, he can really play. I had him as a mid-first round talent going into June and even that might wind up underselling his ceiling. The fact that I got lefthanded Josh Donaldson and Nolan Arenado comparison for him this spring should tell you something. Whether that’s DAMN this Erceg kid could be one special player or DAMN this Baseball Draft Reporter guy needs to stop listening to the voices in his head is entirely up to you. I obviously think Erceg can and will be a star — if you hate my comps, I’ll point you in the direction of Sam Monroy’s Matt Carpenter comp that I liked a lot as well — due to his impressive athleticism (enough to play short in a pinch), plus raw power, monster right arm, and ever-improving defense at the hot corner. A mature approach to hitting (love his two-strike approach specifically) is the cherry on top of that delicious toolsy sundae. With a recommitted focus on the game and a seriousness to putting in the work to be the best player he can be, the sky is the limit for Erceg. I’m all in.
2.75 – C Mario Feliciano
I went with a risk-averse ranking of Mario Feliciano (140) before the draft. Why? I don’t know. The track record of high school catchers doing anything in pro ball is fairly pitiful, so maybe that subconsciously seeped into my brain. In any event, I had a lot of nice things to say about Feliciano, the young man from Puerto Rico who one mealy-mouthed draft writer (me) said “might be the highest upside catcher in the HS class,” back in May 2016…
Mario Feliciano has huge power, a cannon for an arm, and legitimate questions about his ability to stick behind the plate. I err on the side of positivity when it comes to teenagers, but that’s a philosophy admittedly grounded more on silly youthful ideals than empirical evidence. In Feliciano’s case, there’s enough positive buzz that he can work his way to an average defensive future than not. His issues right now stem largely from inexperience at the position rather than inability to do the job. The fact that youth is firmly on his side – he’ll play his entire first full season at 18-years-old next year, assuming he signs – only adds to his appeal. Writing and then re-reading this paragraph alone has kind of sold me on Feliciano as a potential top three to five prep catcher in this class…and even that might be underselling him.
If any dynasty fantasy types happen to stumble across this, I’d recommend buying up all possible shares of Feliciano available. He has the power (plus raw), he has the arm (above-average to plus, plays down at times due to footwork slowing down his release), he has the makeup, he has the athleticism, he even has the speed (average-ish)…we could keep going if you want. On top of that, Feliciano has the time to get better. As of this writing, Feliciano has only been 18-years-old for three days. He held his own in his pro debut at just 17-years-old with a .265/.307/.359 (90 wRC+) line in the AZL.
Generally speaking, high school catching prospects are a terrible investment. There’s more than enough recent data on this site that demonstrates that idea. There’s a reason that only six prep catchers (two by the Brewers!) were selected in the draft’s first 450 picks. Teams are getting wise to the difficulties of moving a teenage catcher from crawling to sprinting. But draft trends, while helpful to a point, shouldn’t dictate the terms of a singular prospect’s evaluation. Factoring in the risk of a certain prospect demographic should be part of the big picture view of projecting an individual prospect’s future, not the basis for eliminating a player from the board altogether. In other words, long live Mario Feliciano, the great young hope for high school catchers everywhere.
3.82 – RHP Braden Webb
In my pre-draft notes on Braden Webb (31), I mention that his already strong low- to mid-80s changeup is a pitch that “keeps improving.” That simple phrase stood out to me as a fine way of describing Webb’s game as a whole. From May 2016…
Braden Webb doesn’t have the track record of many of his SEC peers, but the man does not lack for arm talent. Explosive heat (90-94, up to 96-97), an easy above-average to plus 73-79 curve, and a rapidly improving 80-85 change. All of the ingredients of a big league starting pitcher are here. Grabbing Webb at any point past round one would be a major coup for whatever team is lucky/smart enough to do so.
Webb is a really difficult guy to fairly rank considering his age (22 in April) and lack of a college track record (93.1 IP in just one year at South Carolina), but the three-pitch upside he shows at his best is really exciting. I think Milwaukee got themselves a steal here. Future mid-rotation arm with a chance for more; failing that, a potential shutdown closer.
4.111 – RHP Corbin Burnes
Though it wouldn’t have been my exact pick, it’s difficult to rightfully complain about Milwaukee getting Corey Ray with the fifth overall pick. Getting a mid-first round hitter like Lucas Erceg in the second round was nothing short of brilliant. I had Braden Webb as a late-first round talent. The Brewers got him in the third. And here we have Corbin Burnes (44), an early- to mid-second round prospect, on my board, available to the Brew Crew all the way down in round four. Toss in the super high upside of Mario Feliciano (also in round two), and you’ve got yourself one of, if not THE best first five picks by any one team in this year’s draft. I’m really digging the direction of this franchise.
On Burnes from March 2016…
The arms are the story in the West Coast Conference this year. What’s especially nice about the 2016 draft class is the variety: whether you like velocity, size, or polish, it’s all here. Of course, the best of the best seem to have a little bit of everything working for them. That would be Corbin Burnes. Velocity? How does a sinking 90-96 MPH fastball that has touched 98 sound? Size? A highly athletic 6-3, 200 pound frame ought to do it. Polish? Burnes, who just so happens to be one of the most adept pitchers at fielding his position in his class, can throw any of his four pitches for strikes including an average 80-86 slider (currently flashes better with above-average upside in time), an average or better 81-86 changeup, and a 76-78 curve that also will flash above-average. What Burnes lacks is consistent with what the rest of the pitchers at the top of this conference’s class seem to lack as well: a clear plus offspeed pitch. Missing one of those guys isn’t all that unusual at the amateur level, so it’s not wrong to weigh the overall package of secondary pitches instead. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I start to think Burnes has the all-around scouting profile to crack the draft’s first day.
As with Webb, the upside with Burnes is a damn fine mid-rotation arm that will show you flashes of better at times. Burnes is an excellent athlete with Gold Glove potential as a defender. Everything he throws moves — sinker/slider/splitter/bender — and he should continue to pile up ground ball outs as he progresses through the minor leagues. The Brewers were wonderfully aggressive with Burnes, giving him 28.2 innings in Low-A after a quick three game stint in rookie ball. I don’t know how aggressive the overarching plan for Burnes will be — or if Burnes will follow the timeline as he has so far — but the bold early decision by the Milwaukee front office should allow the big righthander from St. Mary’s a chance to see AA at some point in his first full pro season. That in turn could give him a shot at the big leagues as soon as 2018. That excites me.
5.141 – RHP Zack Brown
On Zack Brown (180) from March 2016…
Brown is a college righty with the three pitches to keep starting but questionable command that could necessitate a move to relief down the line. There are a lot of guys like him in every class, but I like Brown’s steady improvement across the board over the years as the tie-breaker.
Betting on Brown is a bet on a great athlete with a great arm figuring out a way to miss enough bats to start getting great results. For all his stuff — 90-94 sinking FB, up to 96; average or better low-80s CB; average mid-80s CU with upside — Brown’s best K/9 at Kentucky came in his sophomore season when he put up a pedestrian 6.87 figure. So far, the bet looks to be paying off for Milwaukee. Both Brown’s strikeout rate (7.99) and walk rate (2.35) were better than anything he had ever shown at Kentucky in his 38.1 inning pro debut. This makes Brown less of an outlier than maybe he ought to be; I haven’t crunched the numbers yet, but from doing a lot of these draft reviews the past few months it sure seems that there a lot more college players putting up better results in the pros than at school than ever before. Maybe it shouldn’t come as such a surprise considering we know we’re dealing with unfinished talents who see their entire lifestyle change upon signing a pro contract, but it still weirds me out a little bit. It’s neither good nor bad; it’s just weird.
Anyway, a large part (33.0 IP) of Brown’s successful first season in the pros came in Low-A. All of my logic about Corbin Burnes’s timeline moving up ever so slightly due to the head start Milwaukee wisely gave their early round college players this year applies to Brown as well. He’s a little more likely to have to transition to the bullpen than his fellow college draftees Braden Webb and Burnes, though with three quality pitches and the uptick in pro peripherals so far, such a move is hardly a sure thing. I loved the mix of position player talent in the Milwaukee system heading into the draft (and loved it ever more after), but felt that the pitching, both in terms of star power and depth, was a little lacking. They may have to wait another draft or two to find those future stars, but with additions like Webb, Burnes, and Brown all in the first five rounds (to say nothing of what the Brewers have done over the past year or so via trade) there’s a whole lot more quality depth to be found scattered from top to bottom across the organization’s pitching depth chart.
6.171 – C Payton Henry
I’m still a little surprised that Payton Henry (465) signed, but BYU’s loss is Milwaukee’s gain. The burly catcher from Pleasant Grove HS in Utah has above-average raw power and a really strong arm capable of hitting the low-90s from the mound. Big picture, Milwaukee went bold to double-dip with high school catching this early. It’ll be interesting to see how it pays off for them in the long run. Like Mario Feliciano earlier, Henry held his own at the plate in the AZL (.256/.333/.341 and 98 wRC+ in 93 PA) as a teenager. Unlike Feliciano, Henry is old for his class (turned 19 just a few weeks after the draft) so time is slightly less on his side. It’s a relatively minor thing in the grand scheme of it all, but something worth considering as the two will likely be compared side-by-side as peers when Feliciano is really almost a full year and a half younger than Henry. The potential age and physical maturity gap could also play a role in separating the two as they both rise through the system. The pair managed to split starts behind the plate almost exactly evenly this year, but doing the same thing going forward would be a less than ideal course of development for all involved. Should be really fascinating to see how Milwaukee handles their dynamic catching duo in the years to come.
7.201 – LHP Daniel Brown
As a 5-10, 180 pound college reliever (signing a pro contract actually caused him to drop an inch down to 5-9), Daniel Brown (313) is what he’ll be. Chances are that’s a handy middle reliever or matchup lefty. That’s what lefthanders with solid heat (88-92, 94 peak) and consistent above-average cut-sliders (78-84) tend to be. I’ve also seen Brown mix in an impressive low-80s changeup and a softer curve, but both could go the wayside in pro ball; I’d personally keep the change, but that’s just me.
8.231 – SS Francisco Thomas
A rough 88 PA debut for Francisco Thomas (249) doesn’t change the evaluation on him; in fact, if anything, I think it makes more sense to at least try to find some of the positives out of his first season in pro ball rather than dwell on the negatives. A 14.8 BB% is nothing to sneeze at. And…well, that’s it. But seriously, the evaluation remains the same: good approach (which we’ve seen some of already), interesting righthanded power, average runner, and more than enough athleticism to stick on the left side for a long time to come.
9.261 – 2B Trey York
On Trey York (470) from March 2015…
JR 2B Trey York (East Tennessee State) got the nod as the top second baseman on the this list because of his game-changing speed and above-average or better glove work. I had no idea that the guy who hit .231/.305/.349 last season would start this year hitting .469/.532/.922. It’s only 64 AB, but I’d take hot hitting over cold hitting in any sample. I have a hunch he won’t keep slugging .900+ the rest of the way, though he’s been praised for being stronger with a swing built for more power than most college middle infield prospects in the past. Once the power surge ends you’ll still have a capable defender with plus to plus-plus speed and good size. There’s something work watching in York.
“There’s something work watching” is a thing I wrote. The perils of literally never proofreading this thing. York cooled down somewhat after that scorching start to his junior year to finish the season at .355/.437/.611. Then he did more of the same as a senior by hitting .348/.431/.648. The nicest difference between the two seasons were the improvements made to his approach: York went from 25 BB/44 K to 30 BB/35 K in that time. Then he hit .289/.393/.407 with 33 BB/42 K in 194 minor league at bats split between the AZL and the Florida State League. A more fair and balanced site might point that he only spent about 10% of his season in the FSL, but I’m clearly on Team York here so pretend you didn’t just read that part. Before my stupid “work watching” typo way back in early 2015, I said this: “Once the power surge ends you’ll still have a capable defender with plus to plus-plus speed and good size.” Add on an increasingly interesting approach and mounting evidence that supports the idea that some of his power is real (if nothing else, he’s got enough pop to keep pitchers honest), and you’ve got yourself a legit pro prospect. Not bad for a money-saving ninth round senior-sign from East Tennessee State.
10.291 – LHP Blake Fox
On Blake Fox from March 2016…
His teammate, the veteran Blake Fox, has been effective over the years despite not missing a ton of bats. The chance that he’ll begin to do so after making the switch to relief in the pros makes him an enticing mid- to late-round gamble.
Fox saw his K/9 leap from 5.59, 5.91, and 5.81 in his first three seasons at Rice all the way up to 8.11 as a senior. I could see him staying around that mark as a pro assuming he does in fact make the full-time switch to the bullpen. That would make him a unique four-pitch reliever with command and size. I could get behind rooting for a pitcher like that. If he sticks in the rotation, then we’re looking at a fifth starter/swingman at best. I’m all for letting him start as long as he proves capable, but sometimes fast-tracking a guy in the bullpen just makes the most sense. I think that’s the case with Fox.
11.321 – 3B Chad McClanahan
Chad McClanahan (397) is a no doubt about it (for the next few seasons anyway) third baseman defensively with solid power and decent wheels. Lefthanded thump from a 6-5, 200 pound physical specimen is always worth taking a shot on.
12.351 – SS Trever Morrison
Doing these draft reviews gives me a little perspective about my own ranking tendencies (or biases if you’d prefer). This year I was generally hard on shortstops, a sentiment that may have been rooted in an overall dissatisfaction with the talent level of the position group as a whole. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on the site, I probably went too far downgrading the few up-the-middle infielders projected to a) actually stick defensively, and b) hit enough to be potential big league contributors.
For those precise reasons, I was expecting to see a much lower ranking for Trever Morrison (257) than what you see in the parentheses besides his name. That ranking puts him in the eighth/ninth/tenth round mix, a spot not too far off from his eventual twelfth round landing spot with Milwaukee; as such, I like the value Milwaukee got here quite a bit. Morrison’s hands, range, arm, foot speed, and reactions all more than qualify him for a shot to play above-average defense at shortstop going forward. That takes care of the first criterion (actually stick defensively up the middle) above. The second qualifier (bat) is where I have my doubts. Enough so, in fact, that my pre-draft ranking still feels a little higher than expected. A quick look back on some Morrison takes before the draft, first from March 2016…
Morrison came into the year known more for his glove than his bat, but the junior’s hot start had many upgrading his ceiling from utility guy to potential regular. He’s cooled off a bit since then, but his glove, arm, and speed all remain intriguing above-average tools. I think really good utility guy is a more appropriate ceiling for him at the moment, but there’s still a lot of season left to play. Morrison is a surprisingly divisive prospect among those I’ve talked to, so any guesses about his draft range would be nothing more than guesses.
And then from April 2016…
I like Morrison’s glove at short a lot and his physical gifts (above-average arm and speed) are impressive. I’m less sure about him hitting enough to profile as a regular than most.
Morrison is unique in that he’s a non-elite (by draft position) legitimate shortstop prospect who may not hit enough to play regularly. In this class, I’d peg the majority of the non-elite shortstop prospects as being more advanced offensively than defensively; their questions tend to be more about whether or not they have the goods to stick at short full-time than whether or not they can meaningfully contribute with the bat. I understand the bar is low for big league offense at shortstop, so maybe Morrison can get there. Questions about his approach and in-game power have me more bearish on that outcome than most. Still, a glove-first utility option with even a slight chance of starting — and I admit that Morrison’s is higher than that — is still excellent value at any point past the draft’s first handful of rounds.
13.381 – RHP Thomas Jankins
The pre-draft view on Thomas Jankins…
Thomas Jankins doesn’t have that velocity (he’s 88-90), but the confidence he has in his three offspeed pitches makes him a damn fine mid-round prospect.
Getting a guy with such an advanced idea on how to pitch, with a decent heater (Jankins upped his velo to the 88-92 range by the end of the season), and a history of getting outs on the ground in the thirteenth round qualifies as a win for me. I was surprised to see there have been only eight players named “Jenkins” in big league history. I was not surprised to see that we’ve yet to have our first “Jankins.” I think Thomas will be our first.
14.411 – C Gabriel Garcia
Pro ball is hard. I’m not sure anybody would argue that point, but the statement has almost become the punchline of a running joke here during these draft reviews. For every player who follows the Zack Brown path (see above), a dozen guys follow this pattern. Player tears up college ball, often at a lower level of competition. Player then struggles in his pro debut. Small samples are noted, conversation shifts to the prospect’s still promising future (tools!), and we all move on with our lives. It’s a decent bit, all in all.
Well, Gabriel Garcia has very rudely set out to ruin it. Garcia laughed at the notion that pro ball would be a challenge as he seamlessly went from .263/.387/.537 (31 BB/47 K) in junior college to .300/.393/.500 (17 BB/34 K) in the pros. That’s one heck of a transition; the man didn’t miss a darn beat. Garcia is young for his class, reasonably athletic, and a strong 6-3, 185 pound presence in the batter’s box. Some of the “scouty” things I’ve heard on him since the draft are mixed — love it when a fourteenth round pick can generate such divisive opinions — so I’ll be honest and say I really don’t know what to make of him just yet. Encouraging start is nice, though.
15.441 – RHP Scott Serigstad
Typical heat (88-92), above-average low- to mid-80s breaking ball, and stellar junior year production (10.03 K/9 and 1.09 ERA in 49.1 IP) was enough to get Scott Serigstad his shot in pro ball. He’s now one of hundreds of minor league relievers hoping to pitch well enough to keep surviving and advancing through the system. It may be hard to love this kind of profile, but it’s equally difficult for me to dislike it. Serigstad has a chance.
17.501 – 3B Weston Wilson
You wait and you wait and you wait and you wait for a player who has flashed big tools to finally put it together as a draft prospect only to roll into June of his junior season without ever having seen it happen. I won’t lie: it’s a bummer. But why? Why does a player not living up to expectations — expectations often created by outside observers (fans, media, internet draft dorks) disassociated with the deeply personal ebbs and flows of attempting to break into a high-profile profession in the public eye felt by the player — bum us out? The unfortunate answer is that it will make us look bad. We talk up a player and he disappoints, and we look like we don’t know what we were talking about in the first place. The in-between answer is that we are disappointed (sort of selfishly…and sort of not) in the loss for our game. Baseball is a great sport full of great players. We were hoping to see one more great player join our great sport, and are sad that it didn’t work out. Since we all share in our love of baseball, there’s some small degree of selflessness in wanting to improve the greater good at play here. So that one isn’t all bad. The best answer is the simplest: we’re all human beings. As human beings, seeing any individual fall short of achieving what has amounted to their life’s work to date isn’t a whole lot of fun.
I’ve waited a long time for Weston Wilson, a guy I thought had close to first round talent once upon a time, to break out as a draft prospect. There was this when he was back in high school…
3B/SS Weston Wilson (Wesleyan Christian Academy, North Carolina): really good defender; average speed; really intrigued by bat; easy frame to dream on, if he grows into it as hoped he could be a monster; FAVORITE; 6-4, 180 pounds
Every season I thought the big Wilson breakout was coming. Never really happened. Don’t get me wrong; Wilson was a really good college player who did a lot of positive things during his time with the Tigers. It’s just that we (fine, I) wanted more from a guy who had flashed such intriguing tools (above-average power, bat speed, athleticism) and defensive versatility (any infield spot in a pinch) at times. Part of this came from my usual brand of internet draft writer information accumulation, but my affection for Wilson ran deeper than that due to seeing him play in person more than a few times over the years. As an internet draft guy who prides himself on utilizing as many public and private sources as possible to paint the picture of what a player might be, I try my best not to let my amateur eye play too strong a role in my evaluations. Sometimes, as was the case with Wilson, my own eye (and ego) are too much to ignore. I loved Wilson and never really stopped believing, but…well, after a good but not great career at Clemson, I could understand why we’d arrived at a point where giving up on Wilson as a serious future big league player started to make sense. He fell off the top 500 and that was that. In my heart, however, he was the unofficial 501st prospect.
Then a funny thing happened in pro ball. Remember what I wrote about Gabriel Garcia three rounds ago? Weston Wilson managed to pull the same trick off. His junior year at Clemson was good (.279/.343/.434 with 26 BB/42 K), but not as impressive as his first 269 PA in pro ball (.318/.390/.498 with 23 BB/33 K). Maybe all it took for Wilson to break out was signing his name on a pro contract. It wouldn’t shock me at all if he could keep it up to some extent as he rises through the system. He’s a really talented guy. I’m thrilled that he can keep his dream alive for at least another couple seasons.
I should also point out that multiple players improving upon their college stats is a really good sign for both the decision-makers doing the drafting for Milwaukee and the on-field developmental staff. Players with tools beyond what the numbers had shown were identified and coaches worked their tails off to help the new hires maximize their abilities. This mini-trend would give me a lot of optimism if I was a fan of the Brewers.
18.531 – C Cooper Hummel
Cooper Hummel was the first of two Portland players drafted by the Brewers in 2016. Nice bat, nice glove, nice athlete. Nice player. This draft was packed with college catching.
19.561 – OF Zach Clark
Any mention of Zach Clark (311) has to start with the hobbies he listed on his bio page at Pearl River. Clark is a fan of kayak fishing, video games, music, hibachi, and coolin’. All apologies to ZWR, but I think I’d rather Go Coolin’ with Zach Clark. Anyway, Clark is one of the most fun boom/bust prospects in this draft. Or is he? As I’ve stated in a few draft reviews already, the traditional idea of a boom/bust type being the ultra-toolsy raw athletic prospect seems out of date to me. Clark’s speed, athleticism, and defensive value (the Brewers wisely made him a full-time outfielder this summer) put a reasonable floor as a speedy, athletic, valuable defensive backup. Funny how that works out. What makes Clark so exciting is the upside he’s flashed at the plate. It’s difficult to overstate how much development he’ll need to turn into an effective offensive force, but patience with him could lead to serious rewards. Here’s an incomplete list of top 2016 draft prospects that can match Clark’s power/speed mix: Delvin Perez, Josh Lowe, Will Benson, Buddy Reed, JB Woodman, Ronnie Dawson, Heath Quinn, Brandon Marsh, and Taylor Trammel. That’s not everybody, but it’s not a very long list. Finding a player with that kind of physical ability in the nineteenth round doesn’t happen every draft. Plus-plus speed, plus raw power, and a better feel for contact than many of the names on the list above give him close to a limitless ceiling. That sounds way more dramatic than intended, so take it more to mean that I personally do not know how to put a ceiling on Clark’s game. I’m sure somebody out there is more comfortable doing so than I am, but if everything works out for Clark then he would have a chance to be one of the better players in all of baseball. Maybe that’s his ceiling. I don’t know. There’s still a massive delta between Clark’s ceiling (superstar) and his realistic hopeful floor (fifth outfielder/pinch-runner), but I think there are more positive outcomes in-between to outweigh the chances he doesn’t make it. This may be my favorite singular pick in the entire draft.
21.621 – C Nathan Rodriguez
My only notes on Nathan Rodriguez go back to his high school days at El Dorado. He was a helium guy that year, as his once-questionable bat seemed to get better with every trip to the plate. That solidified him as a legit draft prospect, though his quality arm, above-average defensive tools, and solid power were probably enough for some teams already. His prep pre-draft ranking on this site put him between a pair of good looking 2017 catching prospects in Riley Adams (San Diego) and Handsome Monica (Louisiana). A .311/.395/.402 (24 BB/11 K) redshirt-freshman year line at Cypress College is just icing on the cake at this point. Rodriguez has many of the traits teams look for in long-time backup catchers with enough offensive promise (especially if his power starts showing up again) to maybe turn into a little more.
22.651 – LHP Cam Roegner
Cam Roegner is a lot of things. He’s a big (6-6, 210) lefthander from Bradley University. He’s a Tommy John surgery survivor. He’s a quality college pitcher (2.56 ERA as a redshirt-senior) with underwhelming peripherals (6.94 K/9 in 2014, 5.40 K/9 in 2015, 6.70 K/9 in 2016). He’s also capable of hitting 92 MPH (88-90 typically) with his fastball, so he’ll get his shot.
23.681 – 1B Ronnie Gideon
Ronnie Gideon had more extra base hits (17 HR and 20 2B) than singles (35) in his pro debut in Helena. That’s pretty good. It’s also good that his scouting reports — plus raw power — match the results so far. Nobody expects him to keep mashing as he did, but it’s more than just a small sample mirage. Gideon has serious power. From April 2016…
Gideon has the massive raw power and arm strength befitting a man his size (6-3, 240 pounds) who once made his bones as a catching prospect. I know next to nothing about his glove at third other than some scout rumblings that indicate he’s better than you’d think for a guy his size. That doesn’t mean he’s good (or bad) at third, just more nimble than one might expect.
It’s up to you whether you want to keep some of those notes about his defense stored away in the back of your head just in case or just throw it all away. I couldn’t fault you for either approach as Gideon played exclusively at first base in his debut. That doesn’t he’ll be a first baseman forever and always, but it’s a really strong hint about what the Brewers think about his long-term defensive home. Crazy as it might be, I think it could still work for Gideon. His power is no joke, he has a history of destroying lefthanded pitching, and he’s a quality defender at first. There’s tons of pressure on his bat, but I still think he could mash his way to a big league role one day.
24.711 – RHP Michael Gonzalez
“He’s probably looking at, I would say, anywhere between the 15th to 30th round,” said Mike Porzio, a scout with the Milwaukee Brewers and owner of The Clubhouse, Gonzalez’s current travel club in Fairfield. “He’s very appealing. One of his biggest assets is youth, so this is an exciting opportunity for Mike. He’s very projectable.”
And wouldn’t you know it, but Michael Gonzalez went almost perfectly smack dab in the middle of that 15th to 30th round “guess.” Porizio’s familiarity with Gonzalez could really pay off for Milwaukee. The young righthander from Connecticut can crank it up to 95 (88-93 typically). That boosted velocity is nice, but it has come at the cost of some control. If Gonzalez can continue to evolve as a pitcher, then the Brewers might be on to something with him. Time is certainly on his side.
25.741 – LHP Blake Lillis
Whatever you feel about the particular players picked, you have to love Milwaukee identifying two signable high school pitchers in back-to-back rounds at this point in the draft. Blake Lillis, a lefty best known for a nice changeup, joins Michael Gonzalez as another prep pitcher who should give the system some nice depth on the mound in the low-minors.
26.771 – SS Nick Roscetti
Nick Roscetti played both shortstop and third base in his professional debut. That makes sense as the infielder from Iowa has a legitimate plus arm — up to 92 MPH off the mound — and a steady glove wherever you put him. His defense will have to carry him, however, as I don’t see him hitting enough in the long run.
27.801 – OF Nick Cain
Nick Cain’s selection in the twenty-seventh round this year made him the first of three prospects from Faulkner to be drafted in 2016. That ups the total to 11 drafted Eagles since this site started in 2009. Pretty damn impressive for a NAIA school. Undrafted this past year was David Palenzuela, an infielder who hit .352/.455/.546 with 41 BB/18 K this past spring. BRB adding that name to my database ASAP.
Not to be outdone, Cain hit .351/.443/.722 with 33 BB/52 K and 20/20 SB in 205 AB. He’s got size, pop, and speed, all things that come in handy if you want to be a professional ballplayer. I think his ultra-aggressive approach could be his undoing, but we shall see. I can respect taking a shot on a power/speed 6-4, 215 pound outfielder even with some red flags.
28.831 – RHP Andrew Vernon
I’ve talked up Andrew Vernon multiple times since early 2015. The most recent example came a few days ahead of this past draft…
Andrew Vernon is legit. Good fastball, good slider, and great results. Love him as a mid- to late-round reliever.
Vernon kept missing bat (11.72 K/9) in the pros. It’s what he does. Future big league reliever. Great pick.
30.891 – RHP Dalton Brown
Dalton Brown is a large human with a low-90s fastball (up to 95) and quality breaking ball. He hasn’t pitched a whole lot over the years at Texas Tech, but he’s been pretty effective when on the mound. More relevant: 95 is 95. Velocity is king, don’t you forget it.
31.921 – 1B Ryan Aguilar
As a college senior first base prospect lacking big power selected in the thirty-first round, Ryan Aguilar shouldn’t register as much of a prospect. You see the name, you see his college stats (damn solid, but not otherworldly), and you move on. Or do you…
(Imagine a Lee Corso NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND photo that wouldn’t load here)
Aguilar spent most of his debut season split between the three outfield spots, but also saw time at his senior year position of first base. That presents an interesting conundrum for Milwaukee going forward. Aguilar is a fine defensive outfielder, especially in a corner, but his glove at first has a chance to be special. Choosing one spot for him now is probably a moot point as his future is as a utility player who will need reps at all four positions anyway, but it does raise the question: knowing what we think we know about positional adjustments, would you rather have a plus defender at first or a solid defender in an outfield corner? I’m sure we could make reasonable guesses as to what the better option would be using publicly available information (feels like something Fangraphs has well taken care of), but I like it better as one of those “unknowable” baseball questions of my youth. I think you can make a case for it as “unknowable” if you want to add in the potential offensive boost a player like Aquilar might get from playing a less physically stressful position. Fangraphs is great, but I have no idea how you’d even attempt to quantify that. Was it a coincidence that Aguilar broke out as a hitter in the very same college year he began playing first base consistently for the first time in his life? I have no idea!
So what does Aguilar have going for him besides his defensive value? Well, he showed some promise with the stick in 2016, he’s a solid runner, and a good all-around athlete. And, really, “besides his defensive value” downplays how important that element of his game truly is. Versatility is the key to getting playing time in the low-minors for many late-round picks. Playing time in the low-minors is the best way to eventually get playing time in the upper-minors. And playing time in the upper-minors can lead to…you know. I’m not calling Aguilar a future big league bench player — the odds are long, clearly — but he’s a better bet than many of the other players drafted this late.
32.951 – RHP Wilson Adams
The University of Alabama in Huntsville (cool name for a school, IMO) is still looking for its first big league player. Maybe it’ll be Wilson Adams. I mean, probably not but maybe! A 9.79 K/9 and 3.63 BB/9 in two years as a Charger — I was really hoping the school nickname was the Cerulean Tide or something, but alas — certainly help his case. Even better numbers in his pro debut (8.28 K/9 and 0.36 BB/9) don’t hurt. His stuff doesn’t scream future big league pitcher, but you never know.
33.981 – RHP Emerson Gibbs
I recently finished the Cleveland draft review. Maybe it’s recency bias or maybe it’s real, but Emerson Gibbs feels like a player who should have been picked by Cleveland. David Stearns only worked in Cleveland for eleven months and surely didn’t have any direct input into the selection of a thirty-third round pick, but I’m still going to stick with my newly created “Stearns’s Cleveland influence rubbing off on his new organization” narrative to explain this pick. If true, that’s a great thing for Milwaukee as Cleveland is one of my favorite drafting teams in all of baseball. And Gibbs is one of my favorite late-round college arms. Getting an experienced pitcher with legitimate plus control AND plus command this late is a major coup. Gibbs’s stuff won’t blow you away — 88-92 fastball with sink, average 77-82 knuckle-curve that will flash better, occasional change — but it is undeniably solid. Paired with his exquisite command/control and encouraging ground ball tendencies and you’ve really got something. I’m not sure what exactly — fifth starter maybe, middle reliever more likely — but it’s a big league something for me.
34.1011 – RHP Matt Smith
Like Emerson Gibbs one round earlier, Matt Smith is a low-90s command guy. He’s not as exciting as Gibbs, so he gets less words. I feel kind of bad about that, but I’m sure Matt Smith will be fine. My approval is not something he likely seeks.
35.1041 – RHP Chase Williams
And now for something totally different. After two command-oriented college righthanders, the Brewers take a stab on the live arm of Chase Williams from Wichita State. During the season this was written about the Shocker pitcher…
Chase Williams has a big arm (90-95 FB) with a good breaking ball and intriguing size. If he can show some measure of control, he could rise this spring.
A 7.05 BB/9 in 38.1 IP equated neither to a measure of control nor a rise during the spring. But a hard fastball, hard breaking ball, and plenty of size (6-5, 225) give Williams obvious appeal. He’s a project worth trying to fix in the low-minors.
36.1071 – RHP Parker Bean
Out with the command trend, in with the big guys with big stuff and small control phase of the Brewers draft. The selection of Parker Bean one round after Chase Williams makes this an official run — two picks in a row is a run, right? — on that size (X), stuff (X), and control (_) type. We speak a lot about diversifying your assets during the draft, and, despite taking the seemingly boring route of going with five straight college seniors (all righthanded, too!) in a row, Milwaukee deserves credit here for doing just that. Take enough command guys, maybe one shows enough stuff to make it work. Take enough stuff guys, maybe one shows enough control to make it work. That one could be Bean, though his BB/9 of 11.47 makes Williams look like Bart Colon. A 6-5, 225 pound righthander with athleticism, a fastball up to 95 (88-94 typically), and a pair of promising secondaries (77-83 cut-slider, changeup) and questionable control is a fine investment here. It’s worth noting that Bean’s BB/9 as a college player hasn’t always been a disaster. Going back from his junior year, it’s come in at 11.47, 6.38, and 2.42. If the Brewers can figure out whatever mojo Bean had going in his freshman season at Liberty (9.17 K/9 and 2.42 BB/9 in 52.0 IP), then this could be a major steal. This is one of my favorite picks of the entire draft for any team.
37.1101 – SS Jomar Cortes
Jomar Cortes is young for his class. He now plays baseball for a living. That’s all I’ve got.
38.1131 – OF Caleb Whalen
Caleb Whalen might be the son of a Brewers scout, but that alone wasn’t the reason why he was drafted this year. Nepotism certainly didn’t hurt, obviously, but neither does hitting .309/.399/.551 in your senior season. I don’t think the approach is enough for him to make it as an outfielder, his primary position in pro ball to date. I can’t love every late pick, right?
39.1161 – OF Jose Gomez
It’s not my business who you root for, but you should probably make some room in your heart to root for Jose Gomez. How couldn’t you pull for a 5-3, 184 pound NAIA outfielder taken in the second-to-last round? Gomez hit .383/.481/.523 with 29 BB/29 K and 17/21 SB in his junior season at St. Thomas. He then more than held his own in rookie ball (.280/.372/.348, 113 wRC+), though he was admittedly older than most of the competition. To my knowledge, there has never been a big league player with the name “Jose Gomez.” That’s shocking to me. And did I mention he’s listed at 5-3, 184 pounds?
I’ll sneak a future lineup for the Brewers in here just because I can. Milwaukee could have this core coming together within the next three years…
C – Susac
2B – Villar
SS – Arcia
3B – Erceg
LF – Braun
CF – Brinson
RF – Ray
With offensive players and prospects like Nottingham, Feliciano, Henry, Diaz, Thomas, Morrison, York, McClanahan, Gatewood, Santana, Broxton, Cordell, Phillips, T. Clark, Harrison, Walker, Coulter, Taylor, and Z. Clark almost all at AA or higher by then. Three year forecasts are bogus, I know, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fun. Dream big, Brewers fans.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Kyle Serrano (Tennessee), Brennan Price (Felician), Jared Horn (California), Louis Crow (San Diego)
Look at the first seven names on this list. That’s an incredible amount of talent. Weird stuff can happen to pitchers, but I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to claim that all seven will be big league arms within a few seasons after getting drafted. We’ll hit on the pitchers ranked second through seven and a few more after that. Number one was already taken care of here. Let’s see what else we’ve got…
No comp is perfect, but I still like the Taijuan Walker ceiling on Hudson. I don’t know if he hits the same peaks as Walker – the Seattle star is the better athlete, plus took full advantage of the strength training, pro coaching, and King Felix good vibes osmosis available to him after signing as a teenager – but the two share a lot of stuff similarities.
For as much as we as fans, writers, and/or internet scouts want to believe otherwise, prospects don’t really have anything to prove to anybody. Control what you can control on the field and let the chips fall where they may beyond that. Having said that, the young Vanderbilt righthander has done just about everything I had hoped to see out of him in 2016. Others may still have questions about how his command and smaller stature will hold up pitching every fifth day professionally – perfectly valid concerns, for what it’s worth – but I’m personally all-in on Sheffield as a starting pitching prospect. He knows how to pitch off the fastball (if anything you can make the case he falls in love with it at times), his curve and/or his change can serve as an above-average to plus pitch on any given day, and his junior year leap can’t be ignored. Let’s look at the pre-season take…
It’s a lazy comp, sure, but the possibility that Sheffield could wind up as this year’s Dillon Tate has stuck with me for almost a full calendar year. He’s undersized yet athletic and well-built enough to handle a starter’s workload, plus he has the three pitches (FB, CU, CB) to get past lineups multiple times. If his two average-ish offspeed that flash above-average to plus can more consistently get there, he’s a potential top ten guy no matter his height.
…so that we can revisit that lazy comp. By the numbers, here’s what we’ve got…
11.09 K/9 – 3.31 BB/9 – 2.29 ERA – 70.2 IP
9.67 K/9 – 2.44 BB/9 – 2.26 ERA – 103.1 IP
Top is Sheffield so far, bottom is Tate’s draft year. I asked around and nobody particularly liked the Tate comparison, but more because of the belief that Sheffield is a fairly unique pitcher than that it’s a bad comp. The only alternate name I heard was a tepid Edinson Volquez 2.0 endorsement. I actually kind of dig that one. At the same age, Volquez was listed at a mere 6-1, 160 pounds, a far cry from his current listed 6-0, 220 pounds. He was known back then for his electric fastball (check), plus changeup (check), and above-average slider, a pitch that eventually morphed into his present above-average curve (check). I can definitely some young Volquez in Sheffield’s game.
I didn’t intend for this to be an all comp all the time post, but I can’t get the Ryan Madson comparison (first noted by Keith Law) out of my head whenever I think about Tyler. I really want to believe in his breaking ball being good enough to let him be the starting pitcher that Madson never could be, but nobody I’ve spoken to seems to think he can stay in the rotation as a big leaguer. That won’t stop me from stubbornly continuing to believe Tyler, one of the youngest players in his class, won’t find a way to harness his spike-curve more effectively more often. He has the size, command, ability to hold his velocity, and smarts to make it as a starter. I’d be willing to spend a second round pick – maybe a late first depending on how the board breaks – to get him signed, sealed, delivered, and working with my pro staff (coaching and medical) to see firsthand whether or not a more consistent breaker is in that electric right arm of his.
We’ll go with the pre-season evaluation on Jackson to hammer an old point home…
One of my favorite snippets of my notes comes in the Jackson section: “if he fixes delivery and command, watch out.” Well, duh. I could have said that about just about any upper-echelon arm in this age demographic. With Jackson, however, it reinforces just how special his stuff is when he’s right. I don’t think this college class has a pitch better than his curveball at its best.
I think Jackson’s delivery has made strides in 2016 – if not smoother, then certainly more repeatable – but questions about his command can now be partnered with similar concerns about his control. First round stuff + fifth round command/control = ultimate third round landing spot? I don’t know if the math checks out there, but I think the conclusion might wind up being correct. I also think that the scouting on Jackson can more or less be wrapped up for the season – we know what he is by now – so the attention of anybody assigned to watch him between now and June should be on determining if whatever is getting in the way of his stalled command progress and backwards trending control can be fixed through pro instruction and repetition. Jackson is the kind of maddening talent that can get an area scout promoted or canned, but his success or failure from this point forward is all about how he adapts to the pro development staffers tasked with guiding him along.
I have a friend who leans very heavy on statistics when it comes to his personal brand of minor league prospect evaluation. I consider myself a little more balanced between scouting reports and certain performance indicators (with a slight statistical lean if anything), but his approach works for him and I let him do his thing. If nothing else, our shared view on what stats matter for young players means we rarely disagree on general prospect valuation. One recent spat, however, highlights the danger of immersing oneself too deep in one side of the stats vs scouts “debate.” This friend was a very vocal critic of Phillies minor league pitcher Zach Eflin and his long history of underwhelming strikeout numbers. I’ve liked Eflin for over four years now – you can check the archives – and have obviously stayed with him despite the lack of standout peripherals as a young pro. Be patient, I told him. He’s working on things, I told him. Don’t count him out just yet, I told him. Now despite being in AAA, Eflin still has plenty to work on once he lands in the big leagues. But only the most stubborn critic would deny that he’s finally on the final stage of development – refinement – and well past the “will he or won’t he?” bit of prospect purgatory. His more consistent premium velocity combined with his newfound curve has helped him go from 5.14 K/9 to 6.52 K/9 to 6.54 K/9 to 4.65 K/9 (first year with the Phillies with a heavy emphasis on working through some stuff) to his current 7.52 K/9 through four starts in 2016. He’s slowly but surely gotten stronger, smarter, and better, and the results have finally begun to caught up. It’s a beautiful thing.
Logan Shore has made similar progress over the last few seasons: 6.37 K/9 to 6.75 K/9 to 9.05 K/9. He’s always had solid fastball velocity and a devastating changeup. This year he’s found a few more ticks with the heater (more so in how he maintains it rather than a peak velocity jump), gained a little more consistency with his breaking ball, and arguably improved that already potent circle-change into something even scarier to opposing hitters. He’s gotten stronger, smarter, and better. I mentally wrote him off as one of the draft’s most overrated arms coming into the spring – thankfully I never wrote that on the site, but I’m man enough to admit I’ve had those thoughts on more than one occasion – but now I see the error in my ways. When a young arm has big-time stuff and command beyond his years, be patient with his development and don’t rely on one metric to make an ultimate judgment on his future. Shore is good and quite possibly still getting better.
Braden Webb doesn’t have the track record of many of his SEC peers, but the man does not lack for arm talent. Explosive heat (90-94, up to 96-97), an easy above-average to plus 73-79 curve, and a rapidly improving 80-85 change. All of the ingredients of a big league starting pitcher are here. Grabbing Webb at any point past round one would be a major coup for whatever team is lucky/smart enough to do so.
I’m cheating and tacking Puk back on at the end here even after he got his own post last week. Like many draft-obsessed individuals, I watched his most recent start against South Carolina with great interest. I’ve seen Puk a few times in person and tons of times on the tube, but it wasn’t until Saturday night that the comparison between him and Andrew Miller really hit me. I saw about a dozen Miller starts in person back in his Tar Heel days (in a very different time in my life) and watching Puk throw brings back all kinds of memories, good and bad. The frustrating thing about this comp is that it doesn’t really tell us much. Maybe we can use it as a baseline floor for what Puk could become – though Miller’s dominance out of the pen is a tough expectation to put on anybody as a realistic worst case scenario – but pointing out the similarities between the two (size, length, extension, delivery, mound demeanor, fastball, slider, underdeveloped change…even similar facially minus Miller’s draft year mustache) hardly means that Puk is destined to the same failed starter fate. I mean, sure, maybe it does, but there’s so much more that goes into being a successful big league starter than what gets put down on a scouting card. I love comps, but they are meant to serve as a starting point to the conversation, not to be the parting shot. Every player is unique and whatever extra reasons are out there for Miller not making it in the rotation should not be held against Puk. Maybe that’s obvious, but it doesn’t hurt to say it again. I do think that Puk, barring injury, has a pretty clear big league skill set in some capacity (maybe not -0.15 FIP out of the bullpen good, but still good) even if he doesn’t reach his ultimate ceiling. In that way he is similar to Miller, so at least there’s that to fall back on. The odds that you get nothing out of Puk, again barring injury, are slim to none. For the risk-averse out there, that’s a comforting thought.