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Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Minnesota in 2016
15 – Alex Kirilloff
108 – Akil Baddoo
120 – Ben Rortvedt
146 – Matt Albanese
154 – Jose Miranda
189 – Griffin Jax
244 – Jordan Balazovic
381 – Thomas Hackimer
436 – Brandon Lopez
476 – Tyler Benninghoff
1.15 – OF Alex Kirilloff
I don’t know if Alex Kirilloff (15) has a lucky number or not, but, if he didn’t before, he might have one now. His pre-draft ranking on this site? Fifteen. His ranking at Baseball America? Fifteen. And, of course, what pick did the Twins take him with in the 2016 MLB Draft? Doesn’t take a genius to figure out where I’m going with this. On Kirilloff from December 2015…
Alex Kirilloff is a clear step down athletically from the rest of the top tier, but, man, can he hit. If I would have kept him at first base on these rankings then there’s no question he would have finished atop that position list. He’s behind potential stars like Moniak, Rutherford, McIlwain, Benson, and Tuck for now, but that’s for reasons of defensive upside and athleticism more than anything. By June, Kirilloff’s bat might be too loud to be behind a few of those names.
Then again in April 2016…
As a hitter, Kirilloff can really do it all: big raw power, plus bat speed, a mature approach, and a hit tool so promising that almost every scout has agreed that he’s an advanced hitter who happens to hit for power rather than the other way around. He’s the rare high school prospect who could hit enough to have confidence in him as a pro even if eventually confined to first base.
A finally the longest look from about two weeks before the draft…
Another potential angle with this year’s prep outfielders is one that has been generally underplayed by the experts so far this spring. My sources, such as they are, have led me to believe that there is serious internal debate among many scouting staffs about the respective merits of Rutherford and Kirilloff. The idea that there’s a consensus favorite between the two among big league scouting departments is apparently way off the mark. This may surprise many draft fans who have read about 100x more on Rutherford this spring than Kirilloff, but I think the confusion at the top of the high school outfield class is real. I’d guess that most teams have either Moniak or Rutherford in the first spot; the teams that Moniak first, however, might not necessarily have Rutherford behind him at second. Kirilloff is far more liked by teams than many of the expert boards I’ve seen this spring.
It’s really hard to break down two different high school hitters from two different coasts, but I’ll do my best with what I have to compare Rutherford and Kirilloff. This is hardly a definitive take because, like just about any of my evaluations, I’m just one guy making one final call based on various inputs unique to the information I have on hand. I’m not a scout; I’m just a guy who pretends to know things on the internet. I give Kirilloff the slight edge in raw power, a definite arm strength advantage, and a very narrow lead in bat speed. Rutherford has the better swing (very close call), defensive upside (his decent chance to stay in center for a few years trumps Kirilloff’s average corner outfield/plus first base grades), and hit tool. The two are very close when it comes to approach (both plate discipline and ability to drive it to all fields), athleticism (another slight lean Rutherford, but Kirilloff is underrated here), and foot speed. I actually had Kirilloff ahead by a hair going into the NHSI, but Rutherford’s run of fantastic plate appearances on day two were too much to ignore. Both are great prospects and very much worth top half of the first round selections. I can’t wait to see how high they wind up on my final board.
It’s an imperfect comp, but I can see Kirilloff turning into a prospect on the same level (offensively) as Josh Bell. Great approach, big power upside, and as consistent a young hitter when it comes to hitting frozen ropes all over the field as you’ll see. Kirilloff is also an outstanding defender at first with enough speed (average) and plenty of arm (plus, but plays down for now) to roam the outfield for the foreseeable future. There’s very little reason to doubt Kirilloff as a hitter, so I won’t. He’s going to hit and he’s going to hit a lot. I think Kirilloff will be an excellent big league player for a long time. The Twins did quite well here, both for the player they drafted (clearly) and the overarching draft philosophy they seemed to kick into action.
2.56 – C Ben Rortvedt
On Ben Rortvedt (120) about a month ahead of the draft…
Ben Rortvedt has first round catcher tools; his defensive upside isn’t quite as high as Cooper Johnson’s – it’s close, but Johnson is in a league of his own – but his offensive edge more than makes up the difference. I’d say Rortvedt is the best bet of this group to be first off the board.
Not exactly a bold prediction at the end there as Rortvedt was at or near the top of any list of prep catchers the internet has to offer, but still interesting to see him go in the mid-second just a few picks after the first high school catcher (Andy Yerzy, who probably isn’t a catcher for long). In other words, I (and everybody) figured Rortvedt would go high, but he still managed to go higher (at least to me) than expected. That surprise isn’t so much about what Rortvedt can or can not do on the diamond, but rather a reflection on how risky I view high school catchers. I’m too lazy to link to my ramblings on the subject, but trust me (or not, it’s a free country) when I say that high school catchers are the highest risk of any level/position in recent history.
Of course, as I’ve also mentioned frequently in the past, draft trends can only tell us so much; it’s far more important to focus on individual player skill sets than historical precedent. Rortvedt’s skill set is that of a big league regular behind the plate. He’s a quality defender with both agility and sheer physical strength. As a hitter, he’s equal parts natural hitter and power threat with optimistic forecasts giving him a shot at being above-average in both areas. There just so happen to be loads of developmental landmines that could undermine Rortvedt between now and his hopeful big league debut that it’s really difficult to project any teenage catcher as a regular unless the tools are truly special. Rortvedt falls just short of that, but he’s close enough that you can see what the Twins were thinking here. The boom/bust prospect archetype is so often mischaracterized as a toolsy teenage center fielder/shortstop or a physically immature high school pitcher with an electric fastball, but I think a prep catcher like Rortvedt is the boom/bust poster child. If he can survive the minor league gauntlet, he could be an above-average regular at one of the most critically important positions on the diamond for a decade. If he can’t, then he’ll join the almost inconceivably long list of early round high school catchers who came up short.
2.73 – SS Jose Miranda
Jose Miranda (154) is on par with Ben Rortvedt as a talented natural hitter with average or better raw power that just so happens to come with the added bonus of being almost a year younger than his catching counterpart. Perhaps as impressive is Miranda’s mature approach at the plate that belies his age. He’s also shown enough arm to stick on the left side of the infield giving him a shot to potentially play a little bit of shortstop even as his body fills out. Still, it seems most likely that he’ll wind up at third base over the long haul, which is fine with me since I think he’s got a chance to be an impact defender. Miranda is also a little bit like Rortvedt in that he’s a bit of a boom/bust type at the hot corner (though there’s a shot he could be a bat-first utility infielder if he doesn’t make it as a regular), but if it works out then the Twins will have another talented infielder to add to the stable. Three for three in adding teenagers with advanced bats, too. Hmm…
2.74 – OF Akil Baddoo
You could point to a lot of fun things in Akil Baddoo’s (108) scouting report that explain his selection in the second round by Minnesota, but “chance for plus hit tool” is the line that I keep coming back to. Kirilloff to Rortvedt to Miranda to Baddoo: you can really see the emphasis Minnesota placed on advanced hit tools out of their early round high school position players. If this works out for them — and I’d consider hitting on two of the four as a big win — then this draft will be looked back with great fondness by those in the scouting over stats war. Is that even still a thing? Feel like we’ve moved past it (finally), but I’m not nearly as active on such things anymore. Anyway, I respect the heck out of Minnesota for going so high school heavy here. Whether it works out or not obviously remains to be seen, but the trust that the Twins showed in their scouting staff is admirable. The selection of Baddoo is a fine example of that trust in action. Natural hitting ability combined with above-average or better speed and athleticism earned Baddoo one of my favorite comps (Rondell White) from David Rawnsley of Perfect Game. I’m into it.
3.93 – RHP Griffin Jax
On Griffin Jax (189) from March 2016…
I’ve followed Jax with a little more interest than I might have otherwise due to the fact that he was originally drafted by my hometown team. The Phillies selected a pair of high school pitchers that they were prepared to go overslot with in 2013: the recently released Denton Keys and Jax. It’s easy to say with the benefit of hindsight that Philadelphia made the wrong call in going with Key, but that assumes that they were ever in a position to truly make said decision; after all, it takes two to sign a contract and talking a young man out of a commitment to Air Force can’t be easy. He’s strong, he throws hard (86-94, 96 peak), and he command both his curve and change for quality strikes. It’s a relatively safe mid- to late-rotation starter package with the added upside going forward of a) not having to worry about playing both ways at all (admittedly less of an issue this year, but last year he played some first on non-pitching days), b) shifting towards a pro future that makes baseball your number one priority professionally (for better or worse), and c) being viewed as a still ascending player figuring out just how good he can be on the mound full-time.
I’m still of two minds when it comes to Jax. He’s still the “relatively safe mid- to late-rotation starter” that I thought he could be back in March while also still somehow being an “ascending player figuring out how good he can be on the mound full-time.” How can that even be? Is it possible to be both? How much do I love asking rhetoretical questions?
As for Jax’s future, I’d lean more towards the former possibility — a fine outcome, no doubt — due to his current lack of a knockout offspeed pitch. That said, it wouldn’t be a shock if something clicked for him as a pro and he took off as a prospect sooner rather than later. That’s vague enough that you could probably say that about any prospect, but I think Jax’s unique set of extenuating circumstances make pointing out the wider range of potential outcomes for him more meaningful than it might for others. There’s such a fine line between back-end starter and something much more with Jax. Minnesota’s player development staff is going to really earn their keep here.
4.123 – RHP Thomas Hackimer
Wouldn’t it be something if Thomas Hackimer (381), the funky sinker/slider righthander out of St. John’s, winds up beating the cadre of fire-balling college relievers drafted by the Twins in recent years to the big leagues? They’ve got a head start, but it’s not totally inconceivable. Hackimer can flat pitch. Here are some words on him from March 2016…
The most famous pitcher in the Big East is Thomas Hackimer of St. John’s. The sub six-foot righthander (5-11, 200) has a long track record of missing bats coming out of the pen (9.84 K/9 in 2014, 9.52 K/9 last season) with all kinds of funky stuff (above-average low- to mid-80s SL and average CU) coming at you from an even funkier delivery. He clearly doesn’t fit the classic closer mold, but a recent uptick in velocity (92-93 peak this year, up from his usual 85-90 MPH range) could raise his prospect profile from generic college mid-round righty reliever to potential late-inning option if things keep clicking. I like guys like this a lot on draft day, so consider me a big Hackimer fan…as long as the price remains reasonable. At this rate, he could pitch his way right out of the “undervalued draft steal” category and into “fair value” territory.
The “bad” thing about this pick is the timing as I think the fourth round was about five rounds too early to be called “fair value,” but if the aim of the Twins was to take one of college ball’s “sure things” (scare quotes necessary because we all know there are no sure things in the draft) in order to mitigate some of the risk of their first four picks then mission accomplished. I won’t try to guess what the Twins have planned for Hackimer going forward, but I think he can be ready for the big leagues by the end of the upcoming season if that’s what they want to see. It’s what I want to see, but nobody has asked me.
5.153 – RHP Jordan Balazovic
It’s a strained comparison, but I’ll go there anyway: Jordan Balazovic (244) is the Jose Miranda of pitching prospects. Both guys are young for their class, possess enviable size for their positions (Miranda is 6-2, 180 and Balazovic is 6-4, 180), offer advanced skills (Miranda’s approach: Balazovic’s changeup), and come from elsewhere on the continent (Ontario for Balazovic and Puerto Rico for Miranda…though I guess PR isn’t “on the continent” but it’s late as I write this and you get what I’m saying). Strong present change aside, projection really is the name of the game for Balazovic. His fastball is good enough (88-92, 93 peak) for now (but not great) and his curve still needs work, but he has the size, athleticism, and work ethic to hit that three pitch threshold to be a ground ball heavy mid-rotation arm if it all clicks.
6.183 – RHP Alex Schick
Alex Schick had a really weird career at Cal. Take a look…
2014: 5.29 K/9 – 8.47 BB/9 – 17 IP – 3.18 ERA
2015: 11.50 K/9 – 5.25 BB/9 – 36.1 IP – 4.25 ERA
2016: 6.09 K/9 – 2.71 BB/9 – 13.1 IP – 2.03 ERA
8.47 BB/9 and a 3.18 ERA as a freshman? Weird. Then doubling that K/9 in his sophomore season? Promising! Then cutting it back in half but doing the same for walks in an abbreviated draft year? That’s just confusing. I’m not sure what we can read in to any of that, if anything at all. Maybe it’s best to instead focus on his stuff. At his best, Schick can throw low-90s (95 peak) darts with a power breaking ball capable of getting swings and misses in bunches. Between that and his imposing size (6-7, 210), I get the appeal even with the spotty college track record. It’s still a stunner to me to see him off the board in round six, but I get it. Minnesota likes to keep you on your toes with their early picks. The more I think about it, the weirder the Twins draft looks. I liked so many of their high school picks, but am less enamored with their college preferences. For a known college prospect lover like me, that’s a tough trick to pull off. Minnesota, I do not understand you. But I’m pretty intrigued at what you’ve done…
7.213 – OF Matt Albanese
The biggest selfish reason for doing these draft reviews is the enjoyment I get when looking up a temporarily forgotten draft favorite’s pro numbers. I loved Matt Albanese (146) at Bryant. See this pre-draft bullishness for proof…
Matt Albanese has average or better big league regular upside and should be in the conversation with the second tier of college outfielders with a chance to sneak into the draft’s top two or three rounds.
Falling to the seventh round makes him one of my favorite steals in the entire draft. I was excited to check back in with him and see how he handled the transition to the pro game. Then I remembered he broke his arm late in the college season. That injury kept him out of action after being drafted. Damn. Guess I’ll have to wait until next year to see how he takes to the pros. With his above-average speed, average raw power, strong arm, outstanding approach, and capable center field range, I think he has a chance to hit the ground running.
8.243 – OF Shane Carrier
Didn’t have anything on Shane Carrier before the draft, so you get his numbers at Fullerton CC: .387/.436/.694 with 15 BB/21 K in 204 PA. Not bad. He hit well in his pro debut, especially in the power department. Worth being a little intrigued about, I think.
9.273 – C Mitchell Kranson
Mitchell Kranson, a player I dubbed the “West Coast version of Gavin Collins” before the draft, split his time pretty evenly between catcher and third base in his pro debut. If he keeps getting time behind the plate, I could see him working his way into the backup catcher mix down the line. I think he’s got the glove, arm, and temperament to do just that with a high-contact approach at the plate that could make him a frustrating out for opposing pitchers.
10.303 – SS Brandon Lopez
On Brandon Lopez (436) from December 2015…
I thought that SR SS Brandon Lopez was a likely senior-sign at this time last year, so it’s not entirely shocking to see him back at Miami for one final year. Still, after the improvement he showed offensively in 2015 (.303/.417/.382 with 29 BB/26 K) it is a little bit surprising that a team wouldn’t be intrigued by the steady fielding, plus-armed, non-zero offensive shortstop. He’ll make whatever pro team drafts him this year very happy.
As you can read above, I had a hunch that Lopez would make his first pro team happy…and that was before he went out and hit like gangbusters his senior year at Miami. Still, even the most optimistic parts of my brain didn’t think it would happen this quickly for him in pro ball. Lopez’s debut was one of the best out of this entire 2016 class: .315/.438/.377 with 32 BB/35 K and 4/4 SB in 162 combined AB between rookie ball and Low-A. The lack of pop could keep him from ever being an everyday contributor, but between his glove, arm, and approach as a hitter, he could very well wind up as a ten-year big league utility infielder. Nabbing a money-saving senior-sign like this — you know, one who can actually play — is exactly why the tenth round exists.
11.333 – RHP Tyler Benninghoff
If injury had kept Tyler Benninghoff (476) from signing, he would have been a sure-fire projected first round pick down the line for me. So, in a way, the Twins nabbed themselves the equivalent of a potential first round pick with their overslot eleventh round selection. Nice work, Minnesota. A healthy Benninghoff is a low-90s fastball guy with a damn fine upper-70s hook and enough of a present changeup to think he might be on to something with the pitch down the line. He’s also got the ideal prep pitching build to dream on (6-4, 180) with all kinds of athleticism to tie the whole package together. Landing a high-ceiling overslot prep prospect like this is exactly why the eleventh round exists.
12.363 – OF Zach Featherstone
Zach Featherstone left NC State and never looked back. Or maybe he did, I don’t know him personally. What I do know is that he hit .320/.450/.563 with 70 BB/63 K and 5/7 SB across two seasons (300 AB) at Tallahassee CC. That would qualify as not looking back in a baseball-sense, I’d say. Solid runner, decent pop, and an impressive approach? I don’t hate it.
13.393 – RHP Ryan Mason
On Ryan Mason from April 2016…
Fellow senior Ryan Mason’s scouting dossier has always looked better than his peripherals: upper-80s heat (92 peak) with plus sink, a deceptive delivery, and lots of extension thanks to a 6-6, 215 pound frame should have resulted in better than a 3.69 K/9 last season. Of course, the ugliness of his peripherals was overshadowed by his consistently strong run prevention skills (2.97 ERA last season). It’s a really weird profile, but everything seems to have caught up this year: stuff, peripherals, and run prevention all are where you’d want them to be. I remain intrigued.
The weird profile followed Mason from his final months at Cal straight to the professional ranks. He feels like he should be better than he is, so you keep on thinking that maybe one day he will be. It’s probably time to accept him for what he is: a good arm capable of getting enough ground ball outs to be effective but without the necessary two-strike pitch to consistently miss bats. Into the middle relief battle royal he goes.
14.423 – SS Andre Jernigan
Andre Jernigan didn’t get a ton of ink on the main page of the site, but I wrote a good bit about him in the comments back in March 2016…
I love Jernigan as a college player, but I’m not sure his ultra-aggressive approach as a hitter will translate to the pro game. He can get away with it for now, but advanced pitching is a different animal. He’s defied the odds so far, so I’m not necessarily doubting him…but my hunch is that it’ll catch up to him in the pros. That doesn’t mean that he won’t get drafted, but rather I’m personally less high on him than others. Still probably a better bet than some of the guys in the same area of the hitting list even with the swing at everything approach.
The scouting buzz on him is probably stuff you already know: unusually physical (in a good way) for a middle infielder, very strong, solid athlete, and better defensively than he might look after a quick first impression (i.e., he grows on you). I know some have questioned his long-term future at short, but I wonder if that’s more on how he looks rather than how he plays, which isn’t particularly fair. One friend of mine affectionately calls him the Juan Uribe of college baseball. It’s not a pro comp per se, but still pretty fitting.
Jernigan stayed true to himself in his pro debut by staying the same low-average, solid pop, and lots of swing-and-miss kind of hitter he’s shown himself to be the past two seasons at Xavier. I’d write him off as an org guy, but for the tiny sliver of hope for his defense helping him climb the ladder going forward. The college shortstop played almost all of his innings at second base in his debut with the very notable exception being the one game he started behind the plate. As a catcher — or even a utility type capable of serving as a real honest to goodness catcher in a pinch — he has just a bit more of a shot than I would have thought a few months ago.
15.453 – RHP Tyler Wells
Tyler Wells, the big righthander (6-8, 265) out of Cal State San Bernardino, managed to do enough (8.71 K/9 and 3.72 BB/9) in his junior season to get himself on the draft map. Then he went out and kicked major tail in the pros to the tune of a 11.22 K/9 and 3.23 BB/9. Armed with imposing size, improved fastball command, a clear strikeout pitch (slider), and the momentum from a great debut, Wells is one to watch going forward.
16.483 – RHP Tyler Beardsley
Tyler Beardsley, owner of an explosive fastball that can hit the mid-90s, showed the Twins enough in rookie ball to get an audition in Low-A in his debut season in the organization. Not bad for a sixteenth round pick.
17.513 – C Kidany Salva
I’m stumped on Kidany Salva. I know nothing about him that you couldn’t also easily Google yourself.
19.573 – RHP Sean Poppen
Like Tyler Beardsley above, Sean Poppen showed enough in Elizabethton to warrant a closer look in Low-A before the close of his first season with the Twins. I love aggressive promotions like that. Whereas I see Beardsley as a definite reliever going forward, Poppen’s stuff (good slider, improved change) is well-rounded enough to keep him starting if that’s how the Twins want to use him.
21.633 – LHP Domenick Carlini
Domenick Carlini: 85-91 FB (93 peak), average or better SL, usable soft CB. That’s what I’ve got. That’s what you get.
22.663 – OF Hank Morrison
It’s a long way from Mercyhurst to the big leagues, but Hank Morrison has the power to give him an extended look in pro ball. He’ll look to become the fifth big league player in school history. If he makes it that far, he can then set his sights on matching David Lough’s career 3.6 fWAR, the best all-time of any Mercyhurst alum.
23.693 – SS Caleb Hamilton
Like Andre Jernigan, Caleb Hamilton was announced as a shortstop during the draft. Also like Jernigan, Hamilton played pretty much everywhere but shortstop in his debut. In the 45 games to kick off his pro career, Hamilton started games at 2B (6), 3B (12), LF (6), CF (13), RF (2), and SS (1). That kind of versatility speaks to his outstanding athleticism and sure-handedness. I don’t see enough offense coming from him to make it past the handy minor league do-everything type, but forecasting potential utility players is a tricky thing.
25.753 – RHP Colton Davis
The twenty-fifth round is the perfect spot to take a chance on a low- to mid-90s reliever with an extended track record of missing bats (10.09 K/9 in 2014, 10.93 K/9 in 2015, 12.05 K/9 in 2016) and iffy control (5.45 BB/9 in 2014, 8.04 BB/9 in 2015, 5.12 BB/9 in 2016) like Colton Davis.
28.843 – LHP Matt Jones
As one of the younger players in his class, Matt Jones, all of 18-years-old as of October 16, has plenty of time to make his mark on pro ball. He barely pitched in his debut, but that didn’t stop some the generating of some positive buzz About Jones’s stuff. He can presently pump up his fastball to the low-90s and has shown some early signs of command of both a curve and a circle-change. In one of the draft’s weirder coincidences (or was it…), Jones had a scholarship offer to play at Montevallo before opting to sign with Minnesota. The very next player selected by the Twins hailed from, you guessed it, Montevallo. Hmm…
29.873 – SS Dane Hutcheon
Dane Hutcheon hit pretty well — .365/.424/.468 with 24 BB/27 K and 16/17 SB — in his draft year at Montevallo. That’s where Rusty Greer went to school. He was pretty good. Turns out that he’s the only big league player to ever come out of Montevallo. Pretty interesting that their only big league player was a pretty darn good player. Wonder if he’s the best player to ever come out of a school that has only produced one big league player? That would be a fun research project…for somebody else. Anyway, Hutcheon will try to mess up that fact for Greer by becoming the second ever big league player to come out of Montevallo. He has a tough road ahead — drafted as a shortstop, he’s already been moved to second in the pros — but, hey, stranger things have happened, right?
30.903 – RHP Quin Grogan
Quin Grogan at Lewis-Clark: 9.14 K/9 and 4.36 BB/9. Quin Grogan in rookie ball: 9.73 K/9 and 4.26 BB/9 in rookie ball. If nothing else, you’ve got to respect the consistency. That’s all I’ve got. Sorry.
31.933 – C Juan Gamez
One can only assume Juan Gamez was amateur baseball’s best defensive catcher in 2016. That’s about the only way we can explain away a .197/.287/.268 (12 BB/28 K) hitter getting drafted and signed in the thirty-first round.
33.993 – RHP Clark Beeker
I didn’t have much on Clark Beeker before the draft, but he sure sounds like a typical effective college starter (decent heater, leans on offspeed) who has a chance of sneaking in some innings in middle relief one day if the stuff plays up in shorter outings as hoped.
34.1023 – SS Joe Cronin
Drafted as a shortstop, Joe Cronin played just about everywhere but short in his pro debut. The 3B/2B/1B/LF has proven himself to be a reliable defender at the hot corner, his primary position at Boston College, but I don’t see him having the bat to make it past “useful for his versatility” org player status.
35.1053 – LHP Austin Tribby
All I have on Austin Tribby are general “lefty with good size and numbers” platitudes. He’s been able to get by with heavy doses of offspeed stuff — curve and change, mostly — rather than an underwhelming upper-80s fastball.
36.1083 – RHP Patrick McGuff
Improved control has made Patrick McGuff, the sturdily built righthander from Morehead State, an interesting prospect. His fastball (88-92), changeup, and breaking ball work well together to miss bats (9.23 K/9 as a junior). He’s worth watching in as much a way as any thirty-sixth round pick is worth watching.
39.1173 – Casey Scoggins
Pushing a thirty-ninth round pick all the way to Low-A Cedar Rapids after signing is really cool. Good for the Twins for being aggressive with Casey Scoggins. And good for Scoggins for holding his own when faced with the challenge. His .243/.323/.282 line didn’t exactly light the world on fire, but just treading water for the season is some measure of an accomplishment. Scoggins is better than your typical second-to-last round pick, too. He is a good runner with center field instincts and a leadoff approach at the plate. He’s a long shot like any player drafted so late, but there are some usable tools to work with here.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
TJ Collett (Kentucky), Dan Mayer (Pacific), Brent Rooker (Mississippi State), Greg Deichmann (LSU), Matt Wallner (Southern Mississippi), Scott Ogrin (Cal Poly), Matt Byars (Michigan State), Timmy Richards (Cal State Fullerton), Shamoy Christopher (Roane State CC)
JR 3B/1B David Thompson (2015)
JR 3B/OF George Iskenderian (2015)
SR C Garrett Kennedy (2015)
rSO 1B/OF Chris Barr (2015)
JR OF Ricky Eusebio (2015)
JR SS/RHP Brandon Lopez (2015)
rJR LHP Andrew Suarez (2015)
JR LHP Thomas Woodrey (2015)
JR RHP Enrique Sosa (2015)
SO 1B/C Zack Collins (2016)
SO OF Willie Abreu (2016)
SO RHP/1B Derik Beauprez (2016)
SO OF Jacob Heyward (2016)
SO LHP Danny Garcia (2016)
SO RHP Bryan Garcia (2016)
SO SS Sebastian Diaz (2016)
SO INF Johnny Ruiz (2016)
SO RHP Cooper Hammond (2016)
rFR RHP Andy Honiotes (2016)
FR OF Carl Chester (2017)
FR OF Justin Smith (2017)
FR LHP Michael Mediavilla (2017)
FR RHP Jesse Lepore (2017)
FR RHP Keven Pimentel (2017)
FR LHP Luke Spangler (2017)
FR RHP Devin Meyer (2017)
I have zero rooting interest when it comes to college baseball, but isn’t it nice when Miami is stocked with talent? There’s something about having those traditional powers of your youth remain a constant that just make you feel better about everything. My earliest baseball memories go back to 1992, the very same year that Miami began a stretch of seven College World Series appearances in eight years and twelve in seventeen years. I’m sure there’s some obvious underlying point there, but we’ll save the therapy session for another day. The strength of this year’s team appears to be found in the potential of the underclassmen dotted throughout the roster, but there’s still some players of note ready for June 2015 to quickly get here. Outside assessments of his raw talent, physical abilities, and professional baseball projection aside, JR 3B/1B David Thompson is a really easy person to root for. Hey, I said I don’t root for teams, but I certainly root for players. I’ve not once heard a negative word uttered about his makeup, both on-field and off, and the hard work and perseverance he’s demonstrated in repeatedly battling back from injuries, including remaking his swing after tearing his right labrum in high school, are a testament to his desire to make it no matter the cost. The fact that he went down from surgery to correct complications from thoracic outlet syndrome in late March of last year only to come back to finish the season by mid-May (he even had a huge hit in their Regional matchup against Texas Tech) tells you a lot about his will to compete. Through all the ups and downs physically, his upside on the diamond remains fully intact from his HS days — I had him ranked as the 56th best overall prospect back then — and a big draft season is very much in play if he can stay healthy throughout the year. The bat will play at the next level (above-average raw power, plenty of bat speed, physically strong, plus athleticism, knows how to use the whole field), so the biggest unknown going into this season is where he’ll eventually call home on the defensive side. I’ve liked his chances to stick at third since his prep days; failing that, I’d prioritize a home in the outfield (he’s not known for his speed, but the athleticism and arm strength should make him at least average in a corner) over going to first, where, overall loss of defensive value aside, at least he’s shown significant upside. His strong showing at the end of the summer on the Cape is an encouraging way to get back into the grind of college ball, though he did appear to sacrifice some patience at the plate for power down the stretch. If he can find a way to marry his two existences — college (approach: 35 BB/45 K in his career) and Cape (power) — in this upcoming season (like in his healthy freshman season), Thompson should find himself off the board early this June.
I’m more excited than I probably should be to see what JR 3B/OF George Iskenderian will do on the big stage this year. I tend to overrate the big program (South Carolina) to junior college (Indian River) back to big program (Miami, obviously) prospects (there are more of these guys than you’d think), so I’m trying to tone it down with Iskenderian. I believe there’s power in his bat that hasn’t really shown up yet and his defensive upside at third base intrigues me. He didn’t exactly tear it up at the juco level, so he’s a wait-and-see guy for me right now. That’s me at my tempered enthusiastic best. SR C Garrett Kennedy was a massive sleeper catcher of mine last year, but fell off big time (.290/.430/.395 to .231/.336/.308) and now has to hit his way back into late-round draft consideration as a senior. JR SS Brandon Lopez has been nothing if not consistent (.249/.330/.271 in year one, .233/.320/.275 in year two), but without any semblance of power he looks more like a senior sign type than a worthwhile junior draft. His defense is good enough that that projection could change in a hurry if he shows any kind of improvement with the stick in 2015.
JR LHP Andrew Suarez has the raw stuff to find himself selected once again in the top two rounds this June, but the peripherals leave something to be desired after two seasons (6.33 K/9 in 2013, 7.16 K/9 in 2014). Still, he’s a rapidly improving arm (especially his changeup) who throws a pair of quality breaking balls and can hit 94/95 from the left side. His control has also been really good and he’s been a workhorse for the Hurricanes after labrum surgery (believed to be as minor as a shoulder surgery can get, for what it’s worth) two years ago. He’s a reasonable ceiling (mid-rotation starting pitcher) prospect with a high floor (if healthy, he’s at least a quick-moving reliever). It’s a profile that’s really easy to like, but fairly difficult to love. JR LHP Thomas Woodrey reminds me some of a lefty version of Florida State pitcher Mike Compton: fastball doesn’t blow you away, but good secondaries and deception in the delivery make them both fun crafty college arms to watch. JR RHP Enrique Sosa does not remind me of Mike Compton at all. Sosa throws hard, but all over the place. Control issues and slight build (5-10, 180) aside, he’s a big enough arm to track this spring.
Impact players are coming in the form of SO 1B/C Zack Collins (listed as only a catcher on the Miami website, for what it’s worth), SO OF Willie Abreu, SO RHPs Derik Beauprez and Bryan Garcia, FR OFs Carl Chester and Justin Smith, and your freshman pitcher of choice (I’ll say LHP Michael Mediavilla and RHP Keven Pimentel for now). Collins’ monster freshman season has me reevaluating so much of what I thought I knew about college hitters. I see his line (.298/.427/.556 with 42 BB/47 K in 205 AB) and my first instinct is to nitpick it. That’s insane! In the pre-BBCOR era, you might be able to get away with parsing those numbers and finding some tiny things to get on him about, but in today’s offensive landscape those numbers are as close to perfection as any reasonable human being could expect to see out of a freshman. Player development is rarely linear, but if Collins can stay on or close to the path he’s started, he’s going to an unholy terror by the time the 2016 draft rolls around. Here’s a quick look at what the college hitters taken in the first dozen picks in the BBCOR era (and Collins) did as freshmen (ranked in order of statistical goodness according to me)…
Kris Bryant: .365/.482/.599 – 33 BB/55 K – 197 AB
Michael Conforto: .349/.437/.601 – 24 BB/37 K – 218 AB
Colin Moran: .335/.442/.540 – 47 BB/33 K – 248 AB
ZACK COLLINS: .298/.427/.556 – 42 BB/47 K – 205 AB
Kyle Schwarber: .300/.390/.513 – 30 BB/24 K – 230 AB
Casey Gillaspie: .274/.378/.442 – 34 BB/43 K – 215 AB
DJ Peterson: .317/.377/.545 – 15 BB/52 K – 246 AB
Hunter Dozier: .315/.363/.467 – 12 BB/34 K – 197 AB
Max Pentecost: .277/.364/.393 – 21 BB/32 K – 191 AB
I’d say Collins stacks up pretty darn well at this point. Looking at this list also helps me feel better about their being a touch too much swing-and-miss in Collins’ game (see previous heretofore ignored inclination to nitpick). It is also another data point in favor of that popular and so logical it can’t be ignored comparison between Collins and fellow “catcher” Kyle Schwarber. Baseball America also threw out a Mark Teixeira comp, which is damn intriguing. I won’t include Teixeira’s freshmen numbers because that was back in the toy bat years, but from a scouting standpoint it’s a comp that makes a good bit of sense. Fine, you’ve twisted my arm. Here are Teixeira’s freshmen numbers: .387/.478/.640 with 39 BB and 27 K in 225 AB. Damn. The comp to Schwarber really works well; so much so, in fact, that I think using some of Schwarber’s old comps can work for Collins as well. My favorite of those for Collins are a lefty Paul Konerko and, my favorite of the favorites, Travis Hafner. I like that one a lot. Heck, I like Collins a lot. Heck again, I like this Miami team a lot. I have no insight as to what the Hurricanes are planning on doing with their 1-9 this season, but the fact you could send out a lineup with Kennedy, Barr, Diaz, Lopez, Thompson, Iskenderian, Chester, Abreu, and Collins on a daily basis if you wanted to is pretty fun to think about from a prospect standpoint. Put Suarez on the mound and that’s a fine looking team of prospects.