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2016 MLB Draft Prospects – Georgia Tech

JR LHP Ben Parr (2016)
JR RHP Matthew Gorst (2016)
SR LHP/OF Jonathan King (2016)
JR RHP/3B Brandon Gold (2016)
JR RHP Zac Ryan (2016)
rSR RHP Cole Pitts (2016)
JR LHP Tanner Shelton (2016)
JR RHP Matt Phillips (2016)
JR OF Keenan Innis (2016)
JR OF Ryan Peurifoy (2016)
JR C Arden Pabst (2016)
JR SS Connor Justus (2016)
SR 3B/SS Matt Gonzalez (2016)
SO OF/1B Kel Johnson (2016)
SO RHP Patrick Wiseman (2017)
SO 2B Wade Bailey (2017)
FR RHP Jonathan Hughes (2018)
FR RHP Tristin English (2018)
FR RHP Bobby Gavreau (2018)
FR RHP Keyton Gibson (2018)
FR RHP Jake Lee (2018)
FR RHP Micah Carpenter (2018)
FR C Joey Bart (2018)
FR OF/1B Brandt Stallings (2018)
FR 2B/SS Carter Hall (2018)
FR 2B/SS Jackson Webb (2018)

JR OF Ryan Peurifoy has made enough incremental progress as a hitter over the past few years that I’m buying him as a potential 2016 breakout prospect. He’s an unusually instinctual player with above-average range and foot speed that both play up even more than that thanks to his innate feel for the game. His best physical tool has always been his arm, a real weapon that is plus in both strength and accuracy. He still might wind up a tweener who doesn’t quite have the power for a corner or the quicks for center, but that’s not the kiss of death that it was once. In today’s testing world, a “tweener” can do quite well for himself with teams who put a premium on outfield defense in left and right field. Put me down for thinking Peurifoy has a reasonable fourth outfielder floor with the chance to be one of those plus glove/decent bat starting corner outfielders if it all breaks right. He’s joined in the outfield by JR OF Keenan Innis, a decent runner with some power who could also enjoy a breakout junior season of sorts.

The infield has three potential draft picks in JR C Arden Pabst, JR SS Connor Justus, and SR 3B/SS Matt Gonzalez. Pabst is the most interesting to me at this moment because of a steady defensive presence and as yet untapped raw power. Justus is an outstanding defender who will need to do more at the plate to creep up into the early round draft conversation. Gonzalez is another gifted defensive player who has to show a lot more offensively to be thought of as a viable draft prospect. He checks many of the physical boxes, but his approach (13 BB/52 K) is holding him back in a major way.

I’m less enthusiastic about Georgia Tech’s pitching prospects, but there are still a few potential relief arms to track this spring. My favorite Georgia Tech arm is attached to the body of JR RHP/3B Brandon Gold. Gold is a good athlete — no surprise coming from a two-way talent who might be seen as a primary third baseman by some teams — with the kind of stuff that you wonder if it might play up once asked to focus on pitching full-time. He’s been up to the low-90s with a nice changeup and average or better command, so there’s a good base to work with here.

JR LHP Ben Parr looked promising after an impressive freshman season, but things went completely off the tracks for him last year. He’s maintained the same mid- to upper-80s fastball with advanced command profile, so a return to his debut year form ought to get him in the draft conversation once more. JR RHP Zac Ryan has the one-two punch (FB/CB) and enough of a track record to get a look in pro ball. SR LHP Jonathan King has decent stuff, but no real projection left and a three year run of declining strikeout numbers. rSR RHP Cole Pitts is a Tommy John survivor with inconsistent control, but the kind of size (6-5, 235) that could interest teams.

I don’t think I have much in the way of biases when it comes to liking or not liking college teams, but re-reading this quickly before hitting publish has me thinking this skews a little bit negative. I swear it’s not personal, though I suppose my dislike for bees might be subconsciously torpedoing things. So, in the spirit of positivity , allow me to say that the future at Georgia Tech looks quite bright thanks to a loaded freshman class. I don’t think it’s premature to have RHP Tristin English, RHP Jonathan Hughes, OF/1B Brandt Stallings, and C Joey Bart as the top four prospects on the team (apologies to OF/1B Kel Johnson, who is a fine prospect and exactly what many of us thought he was, good and bad) before they’ve played their first college game. We’ll wait to figure out the order of those four until we get a bit closer to 2018…

1/5/15 EDIT

Slipped my mind that Kel Johnson is a draft-eligible sophomore. Here are his HS scouting notes…

OF/1B Kel Johnson (Home School, Georgia): above-average to plus power upside, easy power during BP; sprays ball all over; more power than hit tool; slow; below-average arm; uncanny similarities to Hunter Pence physically; 6-4, 215 pounds

The Pence comparison was and is physical only; like, the two look similar but don’t have the same game. As a freshman Johnson did pretty much as expected: tons of power with lots of swing and miss. I’d actually say his contact skills were better than what we could have hoped. I’m cautiously optimistic heading into his second college season though the aforementioned swing and miss issues and defensive questions (maybe a LF, likely a 1B) are red flags.

Stacked up against ACC prospects from teams profiled as of this edit, I’d tentatively have him behind teammate Ryan Peurifoy as well as Willie Abreu (Miami), Jacob Heyward (Miami), Ben DeLuzio (FSU), and Saige Jenco (Virginia Tech). Could probably argue him all the way up to second on that list if so inclined.


2015 MLB Draft: HS First Basemen (May Update)

Canadian sluggers who have drawn comparisons to Dan Vogelbach (Perfect Game) and Prince Fielder (everybody) because of a wildly impressive natural gift for hitting, easy plus raw power, and an uncommon body type (not small) tend to get the imagination going. It is very possible – by the odds, almost a certainty – that another player will overtake Naylor at the top of this list by draft season’s end, but, as a player that breaks many of the molds we’ve grown accustomed to as baseball fans, Naylor will remain a favorite.

Everything I said about Josh Naylor (St. Joan of Arc SS, Ontario) back in September applies today. He’s such a fun prospect and very easy to root for. His time on the Canadian Junior National Team has reinforced much of what was seen as good about his game last summer, enough so that I think it’s fair to say he’s beat the odds and will remain the top name on the prep first base rankings for many clubs. There are arguments for others, as you’ll see below, but Naylor’s blend of present ability, upside (young for class), and experience against high-level competition make him the current frontrunner to go off the board first.

You hear so often about that different sound off the bat that certain hitters are able to consistently produce. I’m not entirely sure about the consistent part just yet, but even the amateur amateur scout in me is sold that both Luken Baker (Oak Ridge HS, Texas) and Joe Davis (Bowie HS, Texas) have made that sound. The phrase “hard contact” is in my notes on both guys, repeatedly and enthusiastically (underlined, exclamation points, circled). Both guys have big league power.

Baker is typically listed as a primary righthanded pitcher who moonlights as a hitter, but I prefer him as the hulking slugger with plus to plus-plus raw power that whatever maker created his 6-4, 250 pound frame was hoping he’d turn out to be. I don’t know if he’s fleet of foot enough to handle even faking it as an outfielder over the long haul, but he’s a reasonably good athlete with the kind of plus arm strength you’d expect out of player ranked by most as a potential first-day pitcher.

Davis has a swing geared towards power (slight uppercut, but it looks natural), incredible physical strength (plus to plus-plus if you were to grade it as a tool) to muscle up balls he doesn’t completely get, and a patient approach at the plate. There’s a lot to like about his offensive profile. I’ve tried to think of a better comp for him than Perfect Game’s initial Billy Butler offering, but I think that one is really tough to top. Physically, it just fits. The closest I’ve come to an alternative is Dmitri Young, which I like because I think they share some similarities as hitters but also because Young was an underrated athlete and defender in his younger years. Davis might not have the ideal jeans salesman physique, but he’s lighter on his feet than you’d expect on first sight. That kind of underrated athleticism makes sense since he’s seen as a passable defender at both catcher and third base by some teams.

I ultimately prefer Baker out of the two Texas mashers for a few reasons. Two relatively easy to explain ones: Baker carries his weight better – the extra height helps, but he appeared to be in better shape on top of that – and he has the fallback of stepping back on to a mound where he can fire 88-94 MPH fastballs (95 peak) with a good low-80s breaking ball and interesting low-80s changeup. I also think he has a touch more power upside and is the better all-around athlete.

If pure uncut bat speed is what you’re looking for, then Devin Davis (Valencia HS, California) is your guy. He’s also a really slick defender at first – without too much thought I’d say he’s the best glove out of the top guys listed – with more than enough power to profile as a regular if it all works out. He also has a little bit of growth left (potentially), so an uptick in his existing physical profile, especially in terms of power, remains possible. Projecting high school first base prospects is a dangerous game because out of any HS position group what you see is what you get with the heavy hitters at first, but Davis could have a little bit left in the tank that could help him eventually overtake Naylor or Baker as the best long-term player in this class.

Michael Hickman (Seven Lakes HS, Texas) has comparable bat speed and loads of lefthanded power, so consider him right up there with the top of this class in both categories. Tyrone Perry (Avon Park HS, Florida) has his fans as a big, strong 6-1, 240 pound power-hitting mountain of a man. Brandt Stallings (Kings Ridge Christian HS, Georgia) is a little bit lost in the shuffle as a second-tier prospect at his position and in his loaded home state, but he remains a prospect I’m cool with liking more than most. The swing works, he’s got a loose, athletic build, there’s bat speed, and he’s arguably the best athlete (average or better speed, very fluid movements in all phases of the game) of the first base class. He might be too good an athlete to restrict to first base, but I think that’s his best long-term spot right now. He’s far too well known to be a sleeper, but he’d still be my pick for player who provides the most value relative to his likely draft position in this year’s class.

1B Josh Naylor (St. Joan of Arc SS, Ontario)
1B/RHP Luken Baker (Oak Ridge HS, Texas)
1B Devin Davis (Valencia HS, California)
1B/C Joe Davis (Bowie HS, Texas)
1B/C Michael Hickman (Seven Lakes HS, Texas)
1B/OF Brandt Stallings (Kings Ridge Christian HS, Georgia)
1B Tyrone Perry (Avon Park HS, Florida)
1B Chad Spanberger (Granite City HS, Illinois)
1B Curtis Terry (Archer HS, Georgia)
1B Cade Sorrells (George Walton Academy, Georgia)
1B/3B Kolton Kendrick (Loranger HS, Louisiana)
1B James Monaghan (La Plata HS, Maryland)
1B Chris Gesell (St. Augustine, California)
1B Christian Steele (Lebanon HS, Ohio)
1B/OF Jason Heinrich (River Ridge HS, Florida)
1B Seamus Curran (Agawam HS, Massachusetts)
1B Jaxxon Fagg (Williams Field HS, Arizona)
1B Jacob Corso (Lake Mary HS, Florida)
1B Brennan McKenzie (Walnut HS, California)
1B Nick Patten (IMG Academy, Florida)