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Brendan McKay, Adam Haseley, Pavin Smith, and Drew Ellis are the four clear top tier ACC hitting prospects in the 2017 MLB Draft. I’m not sure anybody would quibble with the first three — though you’re free to do so, of course — so that leaves Ellis as the only somewhat controversial pick. I’d like to think my love for him is pretty well established by now, so I won’t go into too much detail why I think the present .405/.500/.759 hitter with plus raw power and more walks than strikeouts deserves serious first round consideration. Some clarity on his long-term defensive home would be nice, but I’m not sure it’s necessarily needed with how he’s hitting. As a third baseman, he’s a potential star. Same for a corner outfield spot. At first base, the bar is raised high enough that you’d have to knock him down the board just a bit, but not all that far considering the confidence I have in him continuing to hit past the necessary threshold to start in the big leagues there. There’s more to player evaluation than college production (duh), but worth pointing out that Ellis and McKay, more likely to go out as a hitter with every passing four homer day, have very similar 2017 numbers. If the latter is a slam dunk starter at first at the next level, then why couldn’t Ellis do the same if that’s what it comes down to?
Beyond that foursome, things are wide open. I’d be willing to hear arguments on any of the following seven players being tier one prospects: Taylor Walls, Brian Miller, Colby Fitch, Gavin Sheets, Stuart Fairchild, Logan Warmoth, and Devin Hairston. That’s six up-the-middle prospects plus the seemingly unstoppable bat of Sheets. The next tier down includes too many players to even bother listing at this point. I mean, I’ll do it anyway because writing more than necessary is true to my #brand, but it’s almost too many names to derive much meaning beyond “damn, the ACC is stacked this year.” There are consensus favorites with impressive tools who have underwhelmed (note: we’re only using “underwhelmed” in the context of incredibly high expectations of on-field numbers; none of these guys are having bad years by any stretch, it’s just that they are showing one or more flaws that would need to be addressed by any interested front office) from a performance standpoint to date (Evan Mendoza, Logan Taylor, Carl Chester, Kyle Datres, Joe Dunand) as well as personal favorites like Rhett Aplin, Wade Bailey, Reed Rohlman, Trevor Craport, Cody Roberts, Ben Breazeale, Robbie Coman (who, incidentally, I’ll be very glad once he’s drafted and gone from my life since my fingers want to spell his last name “Comand” every single time), Ernie Clement, Tyler Lynn, Bruce Stell, and Charlie Cody…damn, the ACC really is stacked this year.
Here are some All-Draft Prospect Teams that I whipped up while my computer was dead last week. I’m going to try to do these for as many conferences as I can squeeze in. The depth of the ACC let me go three teams deep. Here’s the first team…
C – Colby Fitch
1B – Pavin Smith
2B – Taylor Walls
SS – Logan Warmoth
3B – Drew Ellis
OF – Adam Haseley, Brian Miller, Stuart Fairchild
I think every one of these guys has been covered by now with the exception of Stuart Fairchild. The Wake Forest center fielder has one of this year’s most well-rounded skill sets. Averages dot his card with above-averages within range (perhaps a plus for speed) depending on how much you like him. Fairchild is also one of this class’s “great approach, hasn’t really shown it” types. Everybody who has seen him has raved to me about his pitch recognition, ability to spoil good pitchers’s pitches, and general knowledge of the strike zone, but his BB/K ratios have been up (39/42 last year) and down (18/40 as a freshman, 22/37 so far this year) throughout his college career. Count me in as a believer that the results will catch up to his talent in pro ball. Fairchild has the ceiling of a first-division regular in center with a mature enough present skill set that seems too strong across the board to result in a complete flame out. In English, I like both his ceiling and floor quite a bit.
What you think about Taylor Walls‘s defense should dictate how high you’re willing to run him up your board. Indecisive internet draft writer that I am, I vacillate between shortstop and second base on him far more often than I’d like to admit. Case in point: when I wrote this last night, I decided on second base for him. The logic there was simple: his arm may be a bit light for short and erring on the side of caution in cases like these (i.e, if there’s debate on whether or not an amateur guy will stick at a position, chances are he won’t) often proves the smartest strategy in the long run. On the other hand, his range is great, he’s an above-average runner (a solid proxy for athleticism), and some of the mixed opinions on his arm have it closer to playing plus than anything. So…I don’t know. I’m leaning shortstop today after having him as a second baseman yesterday. Ask me again tomorrow and I might make him a free safety. Wherever he plays, he’s a keeper. Maybe you don’t see a regular when looking at him (or maybe you do), but it’s hard not to see a big league player in some capacity.
I’m still not convinced Adam Haseley isn’t a top ten player in this class. Maybe I’m nuts. I can live with that. I also don’t see why the aforementioned Drew Ellis can’t crack the top thirty. These are really good players. The feeling I get about Ellis reminds me a little bit how I felt about Edwin Rios, sixth round steal by the Dodgers in 2015. I loved Rios then (ranked 119, drafted 192) and I love Ellis even more now. The second he inevitably falls out of the first round, he’ll then become one of this draft’s best value picks.
C – Cody Roberts
1B – Brendan McKay
2B – Wade Bailey
SS – Devin Hairston
3B – Charlie Cody
OF – Tyler Lynn, Logan Taylor, Carl Chester
Happy to keep banging the drum for Charlie Cody from now until draft day. He can hit. Putting him back at his high school position of third base in the pros takes a significant leap of faith after he’s spent the past three years splitting time between DH and LF, but I’m enough of a believer in his bat that moving him to an outfield corner wouldn’t torpedo his value altogether. I like Wade Bailey a lot as well; his stock should keep rising considering the general dearth of quality middle infielders in this college class.
I’ve mentally gone back and forth between Pavin Smith and Brendan McKay a dozen times this spring with the expectation I do it another half-dozen times between now and the draft. I’m not really sure you can go wrong with either at this point. Smith feels like the better all-around hitter (by a razor thin margin), but McKay has more present functional power. Add in McKay’s ability as a pitcher and it’s hard to argue he’s the better (and safer) overall prospect. I still like Smith a bit more as a position player, so that’s what gives him the nod over McKay for this particular exercise.
Logan Taylor and Carl Chester are cut from the same cloth. We’re talking speed, defense, and minimal pop. It’s a prospect profile I’ve never been able to quit even as I see players like this get exposed in pro ball year after year. The floor makes it worth it at a certain point in the draft, but I need to stop overrating these types. Will I? Stay tuned!
C – Robbie Coman
1B – Gavin Sheets
2B – Ernie Clement
SS – Bruce Steel
3B – Joe Dunand
OF – Rhett Aplin, Reed Rohlman, Jonathan Pryor
I wrote about Wake Forest in an as yet unpublished piece that will likely never see the light of day. It was half-finished, so I didn’t get to all of the big names on this year’s Demon Deacons team…but I did get to Bruce Steel. Here’s what I wrote about him about three weeks ago…
Bruce Steel makes my head hurt as a low-average, high-OBP, shockingly high-power potential middle infielder. His limited experience as a redshirt-sophomore after tearing ligaments in his thumb in 2016 just makes it all the more confusing. I’m super intrigued by Steel and think he’s getting slept on pretty heavily within the industry. His power and makeup are both legit (first two things I hear about when asking about him), reports about his defense this year at shortstop have been far more good than bad, and he’s young for his class (turns 21 in December). Did I just talk myself into making him a rare in-season FAVORITE? You bet.
Also wrote this about Jonathan Pryor with an lead-in about Ben Breazeale, who was narrowly edged out for this third catcher spot by Robbie Coman…
Ben Breazeale’s hot start brings me great joy. I thought a big year was coming last season, but better late than never. He’s an outstanding senior-sign catcher with more than enough glove to stick behind the plate and enough offensive punch to profile as a big league backup. Jonathan Pryor could do similar things as an outfielder who can hang in center and provide a little something with the stick. It’s early yet, but his 15/20 BB/K ratio is cool to see from somebody who put up an impossibly ugly 5/40 ratio just two seasons ago.
Pryor’s BB/K is now at 23/32 for those of you scoring at home.
Then there’s Gavin Sheets. I have no idea what to do with Gavin Sheets. I think he hits enough to play regularly in the big leagues. As a first baseman, that means I think he’ll hit a whole heck of a lot. If he can do that, he’ll become only the third ever Gavin (Floyd and Cecchini beat him) to play in the majors. I’m leaning towards Sheets as the fifth best draft-eligible bat in the conference and think he’ll represent great value to teams if he winds up sliding on draft day as expected. I know teams pay a premium for up-the-middle talent, but sometimes the allure of a big bat is just too strong to ignore.
Others receiving consideration…
C – Ben Breazeale, Chris Williams, Ryan Lidge
1B – Sam Fragale, Quincy Nieporte, Justin Bellinger, Kel Johnson
2B – Jack Owens, Jake Palomaki, Johnny Ruiz, Kyle Fiala
SS – Justin Novak, Liam Sabino
3B – Trevor Craport, Ryan Tufts, Jack Labosky, Evan Mendoza, Kyle Datres, Dylan Busby, Zack Gahagan
OF – Jacob Wright, Chase Pinder, Coleman Poje, Ryan Peurifoy, Hunter Tackett, Adam Pate, Josh McLain, Brock Deatherage, Mac Caples, Rahiem Cooper
Carl Chester is a special athlete with game-changing plus-plus speed, insane range in center, and a damn strong arm to boot. Those three premium tools will keep him employed for a long time to come. I still have a few doubts about how much he’ll hit, but many people smarter than I believe in both the hit tool and power playing at or around the average range at maturity. If that comes to fruition, Chester would be a superstar. Even something less — as I’d forecast, knowing full well the odds are clearly in my favor by going the pessimistic route on any player’s hopeful ceiling — could put Chester somewhere between an average big league center fielder and a potential all-star in any given year. I got a Charlie Tilson draft comp on him recently that I don’t hate. I like Tilson just fine, but at first glance that seems a little light in terms of upside for a tooled-up player like Chester. When you consider the draft version of Tilson, a second round pick in 2011, however, the comparison comes together a bit. Chester in round two seems like a thing that could happen this June.
Johnny Ruiz will find a home in pro ball based on his speed and above-average defense in the middle infield. The way he plays the game reminds me of a guy who should be playing about seven hours northwest (ed. note: Florida is a gigantic state) in Tallahassee. He has some utility player upside if it breaks right. Chris Barr is a joy to watch defensively, but hasn’t been able to get the bat going again after what looked like a breakout 2015 season. Michael Burns and JD Davison can both run, but that’s all they’ve shown so far. Brandon Gali is at least a interesting as another potential utility infielder. Hunter Tackett was expected to transition smoothly back to D1 ball after some time in junior college, but things don’t always go according to plan. His above-average power and considerable bat speed keep him very much on the draft radar, slow start or not.
Miami’s rotation has three draft-worthy arms at the top. Both Michael Mediavilla and Jeb Bargfeldt do the crafty lefthander thing pretty well. Both guys live in the upper-80s with average or better changeups. Mediavilla has both the edge in size (6-5, 225 to Bargfeldt’s 6-0, 175) and track record, so he wins this semi-final matchup to face off with teammate Jesse Lepore for top 2017 Hurricanes pitching prospect. Lepore has a tick more velocity (85-92) with a pair of solid offspeed pitches (74-76 breaking ball, 77-78 changeup) with comparable size (6-4, 215) to Mediavilla. In the end, I’d go with the big lefty in a narrow victory by virtue of handedness, deception, and performance to date.
Cooper Hammond and his 78-82 MPH sinkers from a wacky submarine delivery that brings back fond memories of Chad Bradford remains on the shelf after last May’s Tommy John surgery. I’d put him on my personal board assuming he comes back healthy, but that could be a minority view. Enrique Sosa, another Hurricane arm working his way back from an arm injury (shoulder in his case), is probably the more conventionally appealing prospect at full health. Amazing what an extra ten miles per hour will do for a guy’s prospect stock. There is no such thing as a sleeper, but if there was then Kevin Pimentel might qualify. He’s healthy and performing well for a second straight year. At his best, Pimentel is 88-92 (94 peak) with his fastball and capable of throwing two impressive offspeed pitches (average change, low-80s breaker that flashes plus). I’m excited for what he’s done so far this year and for what he’s capable of going forward.
JR LHP Michael Mediavilla (2017)
JR RHP Jesse Lepore (2017)
rJR RHP Cooper Hammond (2017)
rSR RHP Enrique Sosa (2017)
rSO RHP Keven Pimentel (2017)
rSR RHP Ryan Guerra (2017)
JR LHP Jeb Bargfeldt (2017)
rJR RHP Mike Perez (2017)
JR OF Carl Chester (2017)
SR C Joe Gomez (2017)
SR 2B Randy Batista (2017)
rSR 3B/1B Edgar Michelangeli (2017)
SR 2B/SS Johnny Ruiz (2017)
rSR 1B/OF Chris Barr (2017)
JR OF Hunter Tackett (2017)
JR OF JD Davison (2017)
rSO C Alex Sanchez (2017)
JR SS/2B Brandon Gali (2017)
rJR OF Michael Burns (2017)
SR OF Barry Buchowski (2017)
FR RHP/1B Greg Veliz (2018)
SO RHP Andrew Cabezas (2018)
SO RHP Frankie Bartow (2018)
SO 3B/SS Romy Gonzalez (2018)
FR RHP Mason Studstill (2019)
FR RHP Evan McKendry (2019)
FR RHP Connor Manous (2019)
FR RHP Daniel Rivero (2019)
FR C Mike Amditis (2019)
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.