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2017 America East All-Draft Team (Hitters)

C – Erik Ostberg
1B – Casey Baker
2B – Ben Prada
SS – Ben Bengtson
3B – TJ Ward
OF – Toby Handley, CJ Krowiak, Andrew Casali

The only tier one player in the conference this year is Erik Ostberg, a hitting machine with a strong arm behind the plate and solid speed on the basepaths. The man is currently hitting an even .500, so any questions about his bat can be referred right back to that nice round figure. I feel a little bit about Ostberg as I do Drew Ellis of Louisville. In both cases, the bat is so appealing that I’m willing to overlook some of the defensive questions. If Ostberg can catch — I think he can, for what it’s worth — then he’s a slam dunk top hundred prospect for me (probably…I shouldn’t say things like that without actually beginning to set up a board). If he can’t, then he’s strong enough with the stick to remain a viable prospect somewhere lower (first base, presumably) on the defensive spectrum. I’m all-in on Ostberg.

In almost any other year, a player like Hunter Dolshun would get the honors as top catcher in the conference. Again, it may be a bit too early to make such broad proclamations, but I feel good about the claim that Dolshun is one of the physically strongest players in his class. You know you’re getting that tremendous strength, plus raw power, and a patient hitter when taking a shot on Dolshun. You may or may not know what you’re getting defensively; some I’ve chatted up are sold that he can make it work behind the plate while others think he’s a little too stiff. I think he’s good enough back there, but, really, it may not matter all that much depending on how far he drops. At some point in the draft you know you’re getting imperfect prospects and I think that’s the range when Dolshun will likely go off the board. Can he catch? Don’t know for sure, but I’ll sure as heck not stress about it either way once he slips past the first few rounds (or later if a team doesn’t buy him as a high-value senior-sign in rounds eight/nine/ten).

I know little about both Christopher Bec and Zack Bright, but both had the kind of draft year production that gets you on the radar. Evan Harasta, Jason Agresti, and David Real are all quality mid- to late-round options as well. Harasta has more power than he’s shown, Agresti is a good albeit too aggressive hitter, and Real, a transfer from Arizona, shows strong control of the strike zone.

Casey Baker gets the nod over some stiff competition in an unusually deep year of America East first base prospects. Justin Yurchak is the clear 1b to Baker’s 1a, but the latter narrowly edges out the former on the basis of slightly more interesting raw power. You really can’t go wrong with either pick, though. I’ve long been a fan of David MacKinnon for similar reasons (hit tool, approach, athleticism, defense) while also being a little wary of him going forward for the same potential fatal flaw (lack of pop for the position). I’m more excited to take natural hitters with some power upside rather than huge power guys without much of a clue how to consistently make contact, so keep that potential bias in mind as you peruse my rankings.

Ben Bengtson (1-1 potential if draft standing was based on likelihood I spell your name wrong between now and June) has a long history of big offense with more than enough athleticism and bat speed (plus a fine approach) to give confidence he’s more than beating up on inferior pitching. The high level of certainty he sticks at shortstop — as close to a lock as it gets in this college class for me — is icing on the cake. Ben Prada takes second base based on the two sweetest words in the English language; I couldn’t find any other noteworthy 2017 America East middle infielders outside of Prada, Bengtson, and Paul Rufo, but I’m open to suggestions if you know of anybody I’m missing. TJ Ward could belong with that group if a team believes he can play shortstop in the pros. I like him best at third, clearly.

I know I’ve referenced this before, but I can’t help but do it again.

Toby Handley has always been known as a quality runner who could catch and throw in center field. His senior year power spike is something smart teams should be looking into as much as feasible this spring. Change in approach? Change in swing? Change in body? Or just a combination of a smaller sample and advanced age working in concert to inflate his output? I don’t have the answers yet. In the past I’ve been incredulous about big senior season jumps like this (.089 ISO to .235 ISO), but I randomly happened to look back at what I wrote about Garrett Stubbs, a huge pro favorite at the moment, when he was a senior at USC. I had the same questions about his senior year power boost; no two players follow identical developmental paths so maybe this isn’t as instructive a flashback as I’d like to think, but so far so good with the “realness” of Stubbs’s growth. Handley isn’t Stubbs 2.0, of course; I’m just saying that dismissing a senior year bump, something I’ve done too readily in the past, can cause you to miss out on some pretty good players. Don’t sleep on Handley just because he’s a senior is the overarching message, I suppose.

Andrew Casali hasn’t made quite the same senior season power gains — if anything he’s showing less this year — but he offers a similar package of speed and defense in center field. Casali also makes a ton of contact and has a keen awareness of what constitutes a ball vs a strike. Everything good about Casali applies just as easily to CJ Krowiak. A pre-season FAVORITE, Krowiak is an easy plus runner and defender in center who is both a sensational athlete and a true student of the game. I think the best is yet to come for him.

Other prospects that received consideration…

C – Hunter Dolshun, Christopher Bec, Evan Harasta, Jason Agresti, David Real, Zack Bright
1B – Justin Yurchak, Jamie Switalski, David MacKinnon, Andrew Gazzola, Brendan Skidmore
2B – N/A
SS – Paul Rufo
3B – N/A
OF – Connor Powers, Tyler Schwanz, Colby Maiola, Nick Campana, Collin Stack

2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – America East

Five America East players were drafted in last year’s MLB Draft. Thirty players from the America East have been selected over the past five years. Draft trends aren’t typically my preferred entry point when discussing a conference’s present talent levels, but, lacking a hook otherwise, let’s focus in on the five or six top names that could wind up repping the conference this June.

Right off the top, I’m fairly comfortable declaring that Stephen Woods is the most talented 2016 MLB Draft prospect in the America East. That may or may not be enough to make him the best prospect, but it certainly puts him in the mix. Woods has a big-time arm (95-96 peak) with an intriguing curve and an unusually firm yet effective changeup. All of that was enough to make him a sixth round pick out of high school. His biggest issue has always been control: he walked 9.9 batters per nine his freshman year, 7.0 batters per nine last year, and sits at 6.1 in the early going this season. Any team drafting Woods with a single-digit round pick will have to weigh his raw stuff against his wild ways. Look at his early 2016 line: 13.1 IP 16 H 11 ER 9 BB 25 K. What in the world do we make of that? Really good stuff + elite ability to miss bats + well below-average control + inconsistent (at best) track record of run prevention = I have no idea and I’m glad I’m not paid to make a definitive statement about his draft future. A selection anywhere from as high as round five to as low as the twenties wouldn’t surprise me at this point. When it doubt it never hurts to gamble on arm strength guys with pedigree like Woods, but know that his eventual pro future will be dictated far more on development than an accurate scouting report.

In addition to Woods, I count no less than a dozen 2016 draft prospects that throw 90 MPH or better. That benchmark alone isn’t enough to get a player drafted these days, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Cameron Stone (plus CU), Mike Bunal (athleticism), David Drouin (above-average CB), Tyler Honahan (lefty pitchability), and Kyle Gauthier (plus command) are just some of the young arms that throw hard and bring something else impressive to the table. An argument could be made that Jeff Gelinas, the projectable righty out of Maine, has the most upside out of any draft-eligible arm in the conference. I bring it up because, as luck would have it, a baseball friend of mine based out of the Boston area actually made that argument to me when I was asking around about this list. Gelinas has a big arm (up to 94) and plenty of untapped upside, but many of the same issues as Woods (control, obviously) without the same offspeed refinement.

Still lacking an obvious angle to discuss the America East hitting prospects, let’s go with a quick breakdown of the three outfielders at the top. Here’s where I have Toby Handley, Ian Strom, and Jack Parenty…

Hit: Handley, Parenty, Strom
Power: Parenty, Strom, Handley
Speed: Strom, Handley, Parenty
Glove: Strom, Handley, Parenty
Arm: Strom, Handley, Parenty

If you’ve come to this site knowing nothing about these three players, which guy do you like best? Handley is the hitter, Parenty has the most pop, and Strom brings the most appealing all-around athletic profile. A case could be made for any of the three as the conference’s top hitting prospect in 2016. I went with the hitter for now, but reserve the right to make the swap for the athlete with the funky swing who glides around in center with the best that college ball has to offer.

Hitters

  1. Stony Brook JR OF Toby Handley
  2. UMass-Lowell JR OF/LHP Ian Strom
  3. Stony Brook SR OF Jack Parenty
  4. Hartford JR 1B/3B David MacKinnon
  5. Stony Brook JR 1B/OF Casey Baker
  6. Maine JR OF Tyler Schwanz
  7. UMBC JR C Hunter Dolshun
  8. Maine SR C Kevin Stypulkowski
  9. Albany rJR C/1B Evan Harasta
  10. Binghamton JR OF/1B Brendan Skidmore
  11. UMBC SR SS Kevin Lachance
  12. UMBC JR OF Andrew Casali
  13. Binghamton rSO INF Justin Yurchak
  14. UMBC rSR 1B Anthony Gatto
  15. Maine SR 3B/SS Brett Chappell
  16. Binghamton SR 2B Reed Gamache
  17. Hartford SR OF Chris DelDebbio
  18. Albany SR OF Will Miller
  19. Hartford SR 2B/SS Aaron Wilson
  20. Albany SR SS Trevor DeMerritt
  21. Albany JR OF Eric Mueller
  22. UMBC rJR OF/RHP Tim Kelly
  23. Stony Brook rJR C David Real
  24. Albany rJR 3B Matt Hinchy
  25. UMass-Lowell SR OF Joe Consolmagno
  26. Stony Brook SR 3B Johnny Caputo
  27. Binghamton JR C Edward Posavec
  28. Maine SR 1B Brenden Geary
  29. UMBC rSR OF Nick Naumann
  30. UMBC rSO 3B Mitchell Carroll
  31. Binghamton JR OF Darian Herncane
  32. UMass-Lowell JR 1B/3B Zack Tower

Pitchers

  1. Albany JR RHP Stephen Woods
  2. Stony Brook JR RHP Cameron Stone
  3. Binghamton SR RHP/OF Mike Bunal
  4. Hartford rSO RHP David Drouin
  5. Stony Brook SR LHP Tyler Honahan
  6. Hartford SR RHP Kyle Gauthier
  7. Maine JR RHP Jeff Gelinas
  8. Hartford JR RHP John LaRossa
  9. Hartford SR RHP Jacob Mellin
  10. Hartford JR RHP Brian Stepniak
  11. UMBC SR RHP Conrad Wozniak
  12. Maine SR RHP Charlie Butler
  13. Albany JR RHP JT Genovese
  14. UMBC rSO RHP Patrick Phillips
  15. UMBC SR RHP Denis Mikush
  16. Albany JR RHP Joe Romero
  17. Binghamton rSO RHP Jacob Wloczewski
  18. Hartford SR RHP Brian Murphy
  19. Binghamton rJR RHP Jake Cryts
  20. Maine SR RHP Logan Fullmer
  21. UMass-Lowell JR RHP Steve Xirinachs
  22. UMBC JR RHP Cory Callahan
  23. Maine SR RHP Jake Marks
  24. Hartford SR RHP Sam McKay

Albany

JR RHP Stephen Woods (2016)
rJR RHP Ryan Stinar (2016)
JR LHP Marcus Failing (2016)
JR RHP Joe Romero (2016)
JR RHP JT Genovese (2016)
SR SS Trevor DeMerritt (2016)
SR 2B Karson Canaday (2016)
rJR 3B Matt Hinchy (2016)
SR OF Will Miller (2016)
rJR C/1B Evan Harasta (2016)
JR OF Eric Mueller (2016)
FR 2B Pat Lagravinese (2018)
FR SS Kevin Donati (2018)
FR C Matt Codispoti (2018)

High Priority Follows: Stephen Woods, Joe Romero, JT Genovese, Trevor DeMerritt, Karson Canaday, Matt Hinchy, Will Miller, Evan Harasta, Eric Mueller

Binghamton

rJR RHP Jake Cryts (2016)
rSO RHP Jacob Wloczewski (2016)
SR RHP/OF Mike Bunal (2016)
JR OF/1B Brendan Skidmore (2016)
rSO INF Justin Yurchak (2016)
SR 2B Reed Gamache (2016)
SR 3B David Schanz (2016)
JR C Edward Posavec (2016)
JR OF Darian Herncane (2016)
SO RHP Jake Erhard (2017)
SO LHP/1B Nick Wegmann (2017)
SO C/1B Jason Agresti (2017)
SO OF Chris McGee (2017)
SO OF/2B CJ Krowiak (2017)
SO 3B/1B Luke Tevlin (2017)
FR RHP Nick Gallagher (2018)

High Priority Follows: Jake Cryts, Jacob Wloczewski, Mike Bunal, Brendan Skidmore, Justin Yurchak, Reed Gamache, Edward Posavec, Darian Herncane

Hartford

SR RHP Sam McKay (2016)
SR RHP Brian Murphy (2016)
SR RHP Kyle Gauthier (2016)
SR RHP Jacob Mellin (2016)
JR RHP John LaRossa (2016)
rSO RHP David Drouin (2016)
JR RHP Brian Stepniak (2016)
JR 1B/3B David MacKinnon (2016)
SR 2B/SS Aaron Wilson (2016)
SR OF Chris DelDebbio (2016)
SR C/1B Billy Walker (2016)
JR 2B/3B Dalton Ruch (2016)
SO RHP Kevin Tise (2017)
SO C Erik Ostberg (2017)
SO 3B/SS TJ Ward (2017)
SO SS/3B Ben Bengtson (2017)
SO OF Nick Campana (2017)
FR RHP Justin Cashman (2018)
FR RHP Billy Devito (2018)
FR RHP Seth Pinkerton (2018)
FR OF Ashton Bardzell (2018)
FR 3B Chris Sullivan (2018)

High Priority Follows: Sam McKay, Brian Murphy, Kyle Gauthier, Jacob Mellin, John LaRossa, David Drouin, Brian Stepniak, David MacKinnon, Aaron Wilson, Chris DelDebbio

Maine

JR RHP Zach Winn (2016)
SR RHP Logan Fullmer (2016)
SR RHP Jake Marks (2016)
SR RHP Charlie Butler (2016)
JR RHP Jeff Gelinas (2016)
JR OF Tyler Schwanz (2016)
SR C Kevin Stypulkowski (2016)
SR 3B/SS Brett Chappell (2016)
SR 1B Brenden Geary (2016)
SR 2B Shane Bussey (2016)
SO RHP Chris Murphy (2017)
SO RHP Justin Courtney (2017)
SO RHP John Arel (2017)
SO LHP Connor Johnson (2017)
SO RHP Clay Conaway (2017)
SO 2B Alex Cabrera (2017)
FR SS Jeremy Pena (2018)
FR 2B Danny Casals (2018)

High Priority Follows: Logan Fullmer, Jake Marks, Charlie Butler, Jeff Gelinas, Tyler Schwanz, Kevin Stypulkowski, Brett Chappell, Brenden Geary

Stony Brook

SR LHP Tyler Honahan (2016)
SR RHP Tim Knesnik (2016)
SR RHP Chad Lee (2016)
JR RHP Cameron Stone (2016)
JR OF Toby Handley (2016)
SR 3B Johnny Caputo (2016)
SR OF Jack Parenty (2016)
JR 1B/OF Casey Baker (2016)
rJR C David Real (2016)
SO C Drew Bene (2017)
SO 1B Malcolm Nachmanoff (2017)
SO 1B/3B Andruw Gazzola (2017)
SO 2B/SS Bobby Honeyman (2017)
SO SS Jeremy Giles (2017)
FR RHP Bret Clarke (2018)

High Priority Follows: Tyler Honahan, Cameron Stone, Toby Handley, Johnny Caputo, Jack Parenty, Casey Baker, David Real

Massachusetts – Lowell

JR RHP Steve Xirinachs (2016)
JR OF/LHP Ian Strom (2016)
JR 1B/3B Zack Tower (2016)
SR OF Joe Consolmagno (2016)
SO RHP Andrew Ryan (2017)
SO RHP Nick Kuzia (2017)
SO RHP Tim Fallon (2017)
FR OF Michael Young (2018)
FR OF Chris Sharpe (2018)
FR 1B/OF Steve Passatempo (2018)

High Priority Follows: Steve Xirinachs, Ian Strom, Zack Tower, Joe Consolmagno

UMBC

rSR LHP Joe Vanderplas (2016)
SR LHP Kevin Little (2016)
SR RHP Conrad Wozniak (2016)
JR RHP Cory Callahan (2016)
SR RHP Denis Mikush (2016)
rSO RHP Patrick Phillips (2016)
rJR OF/RHP Tim Kelly (2016)
JR 1B/LHP Connor Hax (2016)
SR SS Kevin Lachance (2016)
rSR 1B Anthony Gatto (2016)
JR C Hunter Dolshun (2016)
JR OF Andrew Casali (2016)
rSR OF Nick Naumann (2016)
rSO 3B Mitchell Carroll (2016)
SO RHP Matt Chanin (2017)
SO C Zack Bright (2017)
SO 1B Jamie Switalski (2017)
FR 3B AJ Wright (2018)

High Priority Follows: Joe Vanderplas, Conrad Wozniak, Cory Callahan, Denis Mikush, Patrick Phillips, Tim Kelly, Kevin Lachance, Anthony Gatto, Hunter Dolshun, Andrew Casali, Nick Naumann, Mitchell Carroll

2016 MLB Draft Preview – College Prospects

Click here for an UPDATED LIST (October 23, 2015) if you’re into that sort of thing…

The 2013 HS class was a really good one, so it’s no shock that the 2016 college group has a chance to be so exciting. One mostly clueless guy ranked the following unsigned 2013 HS prospects in his top 100 overall prospects that year: Kyle Serrano (20), Matt Krook (35), Chris Okey (39), Ryan Boldt (41), Cavan Biggio (42), Andy McGuire (52), Connor Jones (53), Brett Morales (58), Robert Tyler (68), Keegan Thompson (69), Cal Quantrill (70), Garrett Williams (73), Zack Collins (80), JB Woodman (89), Sheldon Neuse (92), Jordan Sheffield (93), and Connor Heady (96). Phil Bickford (34) and Francis Christy (100), both eligible for this year’s draft due to their decision to attend junior colleges in 2015, were also included within the top 100 prospects of 2013. Of that group listed above I’d say only McGuire (injured) and Heady (bat hasn’t come around) have hurt their draft stock. In fact, almost all of those names listed above can make realistic claims as first round picks next June. That’s awesome. A really quick top ten before I slip and say that it’s way way way too early to be ranking players…

  1. Virginia SO RHP Connor Jones
  2. Tennessee SO RHP Kyle Serrano
  3. Notre Dame SO 2B/3B Cavan Biggio
  4. Oklahoma SO 3B Sheldon Neuse
  5. Georgia SO RHP Robert Tyler
  6. Nebraska SO OF Ryan Boldt
  7. Texas A&M SO OF Nick Banks
  8. Oklahoma SO RHP Alec Hansen
  9. Stanford SO RHP Cal Quantrill
  10. Clemson SO C Chris Okey

ACC has the bats, SEC has the pitching

First, it’s way way way too early to be ranking players in the most honest sense of the word. I think grouping players and prioritizing the potentially great prospects over the good is appropriate, but even a crazy person like myself won’t yet attempt a strict ranking. If I were to do so, ranking the pitchers would be a much easier task at this point. There’s a much clearer line between the best and the rest for me there right now.

I do believe, per the subheading above, that the ACC has a chance to become the spot for crosscheckers on the hunt for above-average position players in next year’s draft. It might be a stretch, but I can see an argument for the ACC possessing three of next year’s draft top four college infielders. Clemson SO C Chris Okey, Miami SO 1B/C Zach Collins, and Notre Dame SO 2B/3B Cavan Biggio all have a chance to go very, very high in 2016’s first round. A snappier prediction would have been about the ACC having THE top three infield bats, but Oklahoma SO 3B/RHP Sheldon Neuse had to ruin those plans by being too darn good at baseball.

Still, Okey, Collins, and Biggio all have the chance to be long-term above-average regulars at demanding defensive positions; Okey and Biggio in particular could be major assets when you factor in their defensive value. I’m not sweating the relatively slow starts of Collins or Okey so far (Biggio has been great, which isn’t a shocker since he’s the most complete hitter of the trio), so you shouldn’t either. Collins has enough of the Kyle Schwarber/Travis Hafner power bat thing going on with a three-true outcomes approach to hitting that I think the bat plays at first if/when catching doesn’t work out. On the flip side, Okey moves so well behind the plate that Perfect Game compared him to a young Craig Biggio defensively back in 2013. His glove alone is almost reason enough to warrant a first day draft grade, and the fact that he could/should be a league average or better bat is what makes him a potential top ten pick in my eyes. Is it really any wonder why I like Biggio as much as I do? My old notes on him include the following: “born to hit,” “carries himself like a pro,” and “great pitch recognition.” Even better than that was the phrase “patient and aggressive all at once.” That’s my kind of hitter. It’s way too early to call it, but let’s do it anyway: Okey, Collins, and Biggio will all be first round picks in 2016.

The Hitters (including a return to gloves at short and catcher)

Keeping up with the ACC theme, Virginia SO C Matt Thaiss jumps out as another potential high round pick from looks like 2016’s best conference for bats. Thaiss is a rock solid defender who is starting to tap into his above-average raw power in a big enough way do his old Baseball America comps to Brian McCann justice. After Okey, Thaiss, and Texas SO C Tres Barrera, there’s still some quality depth. Some of the catchers from a bit off the beaten path (Santa Clara SO C Steve Berman, Grand Canyon SO C Josh Meyer) haven’t quite had the breakout second seasons I was hoping to see. Still, the overall depth at the position looks promising. Catchers are always in high demand in June, and I think this class will make many teams happy.

After Collins, first base looks grim. Two of my pre-season sleepers, Stony Brook SO 1B/OF Casey Baker and Texas State SO 1B Granger Studdard, have fallen flat so far this year. Thankfully East Carolina SO 1B/LHP Bryce Harman has come out of the gate mashing and Florida SO 1B Pete Alonso is coming off an impressive summer.

Once I figured out they weren’t the same guy, it was easy to like both Louisville SO 2B Nick Solak and Tennessee SO 2B Nick Senzel. Despite not yet making his college debut, I’m still sticking with the extremely promising LSU FR 2B/SS Greg Deichmann as the 1b to Biggio’s 1a at the position. The shortstops aren’t nearly on the level of what we have this year, but both Long Beach State SO SS Garrett Hampson and Tulane SO SS Stephen Alemais stand out as old-school defense-first prospects who could hit enough to still play every day. The aforementioned Neuse is the man at third base. Trailing him are names that include Vanderbilt FR 3B/SS Will Toffey, Clemson SO 3B/SS Weston Wilson, and Arizona SO 3B/RHP Bobby Dalbec, the closest current competitor to Neuse’s throne.

The real draw right now for fans of bad teams in search of offensive help will come in the outfield. Texas A&M SO OF Nick Banks and Nebraska SO OF Ryan Boldt appear set to battle back and forth throughout this season and next as the fight to see how high they can rise as first round picks. I’d have Boldt (who I comped to David Dahl back in HS) a tick above for the time being (better approach), but could see Banks closing the gap in short order thanks to a more impressive overall tool set (most notably raw power). Both look like safe first round picks as of now, good health pending.

The battle for the third spot is what interests me most right now. Many of the names expected to rise up (most notably Florida State OF/SS Ben DeLuzio) have taken a step back in the early going of 2015, but a lot of the athletic upside types like Florida OF Buddy Reed, Georgia SO OF Stephen Wrenn, LSU SO OF Jake Fraley, and Mississippi SO OF JB Woodman (hmm…SEC, SEC, SEC, and SEC) have stepped up in an even bigger way than hoped. Hey, did you catch that parenthetical note there? Might be time to amend one of the subheadings above…

ACC has the (infield) bats, SEC has the pitching (and outfielders)

That’s better. I’ll admit to not checking in on every single 2016 draft-eligible outfielder’s start to the 2015 season so far – I’m not even done previewing the current college season and we’re already over a month into things – but one favorite that I have noticed off to a hot start is St. John’s SO OF Michael Donadio, a really well-rounded player with an more advanced bat than most of his peers.

Power Pitchers from Power Conferences 

In what I’d consider my top tier of 2016 college pitchers, the SEC has three out of the top seven prospects. If I get a bit more inclusive and check in with the larger second tier (18 pitchers), then you’d see that an even two-thirds (12) come from the SEC. By complete luck that comes out to 25 total pitchers in the top two tiers with 15 able to call the SEC home. I’m pretty pleased with how this turned out, what with Carson Cistulli recently finding that the SEC has produced 23% of baseball’s “good pitchers” since 2010. For what it’s worth, the ACC is second (barely) only to the Pac-12 in terms of producing “good batters” since 2010. Since I amended my previous conclusion that’s no longer as relevant; not sure what the metrics say about infield prospects only. Anyway!

Power Pitchers with Changeups = $$$

One of the big early trends that pleases me to no end in college baseball in recent years is the rise of the changeup, arguably the finest offspeed pitch known to man. Virginia SO RHP Connor Jones – above-average, flashes plus. Tennessee SO RHP Kyle Serrano – inconsistent, but flashes plus when on. Florida SO RHP Brett Morales – above-average, flashes plus to plus-plus. Stanford SO RHP Cal Quantrill (RIP right elbow ligament) – plus. Those are just the righthanders from the top tier. Arkansas SO RHP Dominic Taccolini, Auburn SO RHP Keegan Thompson, Florida SO RHP Logan Shore, Mississippi State SO RHP Austin Sexton, Oklahoma State SO RHP Thomas Hatch, Maryland SO RHP Michael Shawaryn, and Alabama SO RHP Geoffrey Bramblett all throw consistently average or better changeups at present.

I think any number of the pitchers in my current top tier could make a run at 1-1 next June. Cal Quantrill’s shot is probably gone now that there’s word he’ll go under the knife for Tommy John surgery in the coming days. Connor Jones might now be the front-runner for me. Jones can get it up to the mid-90s with some of the craziest movement you’ll see, plus he can mix in three offspeed pitches (slider flashes plus, solid curve, and a hard splitter that acts as a potential plus changeup) with the know-how and ability to command everything effectively. Comps I’ve heard run the gamut from Jeff Samardzija to Dan Haren to Homer Bailey, but I’m partial to one that hit me when viewing his second start this season: Masahiro Tanaka. I’ve comped another pitcher in this class I love Kyle Serrano (ranked 20th overall in 2013) to Jarrod Parker, who once went 9th overall in the draft, in the past. Georgia SO RHP Robert Tyler throws really hard (mid-90s, 98-99 peak) with pair of secondary pitches with major upside. Brett Morales might not be on everybody’s list so close to the top, but his changeup is such a dominating pitch when on that he’s hard to leave off. Oklahoma SO RHP Alec Hansen and Oklahoma State SO LHP Garrett Williams have some fantastic Friday night showdowns ahead; Hansen’s the hard-thrower with the size scouts love while Williams is the more polished athlete with advanced offspeed stuff.

Quick, unfortunate aside not worthy of a subheading of it’s own: due to the unnatural nature of throwing a baseball at high speeds with crazy movement every year the topic of injuries has to be brought up. The 2016 MLB Draft college class is no different. Texas SO RHP Morgan Cooper, College of Charleston SO RHP Bailey Ober, and Cal Quantrill will all be closely monitored as they come back from injury that knocked out all or most of their 2015 seasons. Cooper and Ober should both be good to go relatively close to the start of the season while Quantrill will be lucky to be back by mid-season at the earliest. The upside of a healthy Quantrill and the timing of his injury put him on any short list of most fascinating draft prospects for 2016 right now. He was a top ten slam dunk for me pre-injury…and I wouldn’t rule him out from getting back there if he can avoid any immediate post-rehab setbacks.

Power Pitchers with Changeups from Power Conferences >>> Everybody Else 

A lot will happen between now and June of 2016 – I’ll no longer be in my twenties, for instance – so it’s foolhardy to suggest anything I say now should be written in ink. My one bummer of a prediction is that college baseball’s non-power conferences appear primed to take a backseat to the traditional powers in 2016. I say that as a long-time advocate for players who don’t get written about every single Thursday by every single national college baseball publication. The monster recruits of 2013 that went unsigned and went to big-time schools have almost all panned out, effectively crowding out the little guys in next year’s draft class. There is hope, however. Pitchers from Air Force, Central Michigan, and Kent State should rise way up boards. There are even guys from Northwestern State, Albany, High Point, and Sacred Heart that have top five round upside or better.

Way, way, way too early college follow lists that are unranked and as inclusive as possible. I left a lot of players on even though they are off to verrrrrry slow starts this year because at this point scouting reports trump performance by a silly margin. If I left off anybody (particularly if it’s a son/nephew/BFF/player on your favorite team), assume it’s a mistake and gently remind me in the comments or via email.

C

Clemson SO C Chris Okey
NC State SO C/3B Andrew Knizner
Virginia SO C Matt Thaiss
Tulane SO C Jake Rogers
Mississippi State SO C Gavin Collins
Texas SO C Tres Barrera
Furman SO C Cameron Whitehead
Murray State SO C Tyler Lawrence
USC SO C/1B Jeremy Martinez
Maryland SO C/1B Nick Cieri
Pepperdine SO C Aaron Barnett
Santa Clara SO C Steve Berman
Grand Canyon SO C Josh Meyer
Ball State SO C Jarett Rindfleisch

1B

Miami SO 1B/C Zack Collins
East Carolina SO 1B/LHP Bryce Harman
Florida SO 1B Pete Alonso
Stony Brook SO 1B/OF Casey Baker
Texas State SO 1B Granger Studdard

2B

Notre Dame SO 2B/3B Cavan Biggio
Louisville SO 2B Nick Solak
Notre Dame SO 2B/SS Kyle Fiala
Wake Forest SO 2B/OF Nate Mondou
LSU FR 2B/SS Greg Deichmann
Tennessee SO 2B/3B Nick Senzel
Texas A&M SO 2B/OF Ryne Birk
Columbia SO 2B Will Savage
Florida Atlantic SO 2B/SS Stephen Kerr

SS

Long Beach State SO SS Garrett Hampson
Virginia Tech SO SS Ricky Surum
Tulane SO SS Stephen Alemais
Mississippi FR SS/2B Tate Blackman
Mississippi SO SS/2B Errol Robinson
Arizona State SO SS/2B Colby Woodmansee
Sacred Heart SO SS Zack Short
Austin Peay State SO SS/3B Logan Gray
Stanford SO SS Tommy Edman
San Diego FR SS/2B Bryson Brigman
Central Michigan SO SS Alex Borglin
Coastal Carolina SO SS/2B Michael Paez

3B

Oklahoma SO 3B/RHP Sheldon Neuse
Clemson SO 3B/SS Weston Wilson
Louisville rFR 3B/SS Blake Tiberi
Vanderbilt FR 3B/SS Will Toffey
Texas A&M SO 3B/C Ronnie Gideon
Oklahoma State SO 3B Andrew Rosa
Texas SO 3B Andy McGuire
Arizona SO 3B/RHP Bobby Dalbec
Bradley SO 3B Spencer Gaa

OF

Texas A&M SO OF Nick Banks
Nebraska SO OF Ryan Boldt
Florida State SO OF/SS Ben DeLuzio
Louisville SO OF Corey Ray
Miami SO OF Willie Abreu
LSU SO OF Jake Fraley
Georgia SO OF Stephen Wrenn
Mississippi SO OF JB Woodman
Arkansas SO OF Andrew Benintendi
Arkansas FR OF Luke Bonfield
Vanderbilt SO OF/1B Bryan Reynolds
Florida SO OF Buddy Reed
Oklahoma SO OF Cody Thomas
Oklahoma State SO OF Ryan Sluder
St. John’s SO OF Michael Donadio
Mercer SO OF Kyle Lewis
Samford SO OF Heath Quinn
UCLA SO OF/2B Luke Persico
UCLA SO OF Brett Stephens
Washington State SO OF Cameron Frost
Ohio State SO OF Ronnie Dawson
Ohio State SO OF Troy Montgomery
Hawaii SO OF/2B Marcus Doi
UC Riverside SO OF Vince Fernandez
BYU SO OF Brennon Lund
Loyola Marymount SO OF Austin Miller
Ball State SO OF Alex Call
Jacksonville SO OF Austin Hays
Nevada SO OF/LHP Trenton Brooks

P

Virginia SO RHP Connor Jones
Tennessee SO RHP Kyle Serrano
Georgia SO RHP Robert Tyler
Florida SO RHP Brett Morales
Oklahoma SO RHP Alec Hansen
Oklahoma State SO LHP Garrett Williams
Stanford SO RHP Cal Quantrill
Arkansas SO RHP Dominic Taccolini
Auburn SO RHP/1B Keegan Thompson
South Carolina SO RHP Wil Crowe
Florida SO LHP/1B AJ Puk
Florida SO RHP Logan Shore
Mississippi State SO RHP Austin Sexton
Oklahoma State SO RHP Thomas Hatch
Texas SO RHP Morgan Cooper
Oregon SO LHP Matt Krook
Oregon State FR RHP Drew Rasmussen
Arkansas SO RHP Zach Jackson
Vanderbilt rFR RHP Jordan Sheffield
Maryland SO RHP Mike Shawaryn
College of Charleston SO RHP Bailey Ober
Louisiana SO RHP Reagan Bazar
Alabama SO RHP Geoffrey Bramblett
Connecticut SO LHP Anthony Kay
California SO RHP Daulton Jefferies
Boston College SO RHP Justin Dunn
Louisville SO RHP Zack Burdi
Louisville SO LHP Drew Harrington
Miami SO RHP/1B Derik Beauprez
Miami SO RHP Bryan Garcia
North Carolina SO RHP/SS Spencer Trayner
Pittsburgh SO RHP TJ Zeuch
Houston SO RHP Andrew Lantrip
Houston SO RHP Marshall Kasowski
Tulane SO RHP JP France
LSU SO LHP Jared Poche
South Carolina SO RHP Matt Vogel
Alabama SO RHP Nick Eicholtz
Georgia SO LHP Connor Jones
Vanderbilt SO RHP Hayden Stone
Florida SO RHP Dane Dunning
Mississippi State SO RHP Dakota Hudson
Texas A&M SO RHP Ryan Hendrix
Oklahoma SO RHP Jake Elliott
TCU SO RHP Brian Howard
Texas Tech SO LHP Ty Damron
Arizona SO RHP Austin Schnabel
Arizona State SO RHP Hever Bueno
Washington State SO RHP Ian Hamilton
Michigan SO LHP Brett Adcock
Nebraska SO RHP Derek Burkamper
Pacific SO RHP Vince Arobio
Wichita State SO LHP/1B Sam Hilliard
Air Force SO RHP/1B Griffin Jax
Central Michigan SO LHP/1B Nick Deeg
Kent State SO RHP Andy Ravel
Northwestern State SO RHP Adam Oller
Albany SO RHP Stephen Woods
Elon SO RHP/C Chris Hall
Stetson SO RHP Mitchell Jordan
High Point SO RHP Cas Silber
Longwood SO RHP Mitchell Kuebbing
Sacred Heart SO RHP Jason Foley