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2017 MLB Draft Report – Miami

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)

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2016 MLB Draft Prospects – Miami

SR LHP Thomas Woodrey (2016)
JR RHP Cooper Hammond (2016)
JR RHP Bryan Garcia (2016)
JR LHP Danny Garcia (2016)
SR RHP Enrique Sosa (2016)
rSO RHP Andy Honiotes (2016)
JR RHP/1B Derik Beauprez (2016)
JR C/1B Zack Collins (2016
JR OF Willie Abreu (2016)
JR OF Jacob Heyward (2016)
SR SS Brandon Lopez (2016)
rJR 1B/OF Chris Barr (2016)
JR 2B Johnny Ruiz (2016)
JR INF Randy Batista (2016)
SO LHP Michael Mediavilla (2017)
SO RHP Jesse Lepore (2017)
rFR RHP Keven Pimentel (2017)
rFR RHP Devin Meyer (2017)
rFR LHP Luke Spangler (2017)
SO OF Carl Chester (2017)
SO OF Justin Smith (2017)
FR RHP Andrew Cabezas (2018)
FR 3B Romy Gonzalez (2018)

I love JR C/1B Zack Collins as a prospect. His brand of power isn’t typically seen in amateur prospects. His approach, which will always include lots of swings and misses especially on the slow stuff, has matured enough that I think he’ll post average or better on-base numbers as a pro. He’s what we would charitably call a “work in progress” behind the plate, but all of the buzz out of fall practice (always positive and player-friendly, it should be noted) seems to indicate he may have turned the corner defensively. The comparisons to Kyle Schwarber make all the sense in the world right now: they are both big guys who move better than you’d think with defensive questions at their primary position, massive raw power, the ability to unleash said power in game action, and a patient approach that leads to loads of walks and whiffs. The edge for Schwarber comes in his hit tool; I think Schwarber’s was and will be ahead of Collins’s, so we’re talking the difference between above-average to average/slightly below-average. That hit tool combined with plus raw power, an approach I’m fond of, and the chance of playing regularly behind the plate (with an all-around offensive profile good enough to thrive elsewhere) make Collins one of my favorite 2016 draft prospects.

In what has to be a sign that I’ve been doing this too long (and/or I’m getting old and my brain is turning into mush), I kept coming back to a lefthanded hitting Mike Napoli comparison for Collins. I remembered seeing that for Kyle Schwarber (first mentioned by Aaron Fitt, I believe) and liking it, so the continued connection made sense. What I didn’t remember was this…

1B/C Zack Collins (American Heritage HS, Florida): impressive bat speed; good approach; really advanced bat, close to best in class; above-average to plus raw power; really good at 1B; might be athletic enough for corner OF; much improved defender behind plate; Mike Napoli comp by me; FAVORITE; 6-3, 215 pounds

That was from June of 2013. I had no idea I went with the Napoli comparison already. I’m plagiarizing myself at this point. Speaking of things I’ve written about Collins in the past…

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.

Hinting at a comparison to a Hall of Very Good player like Teixeira was jumping the gun a little, but I’m as bullish on Collins’s future than ever after his strong sophomore season at the plate. Here’s the same comparison as above updated with sophomore season statistics…

Kris Bryant: .366/.483/.671 – 39 BB/38 K – 213 AB
Michael Conforto: .328/.447/.526 – 41 BB/47 K – 247 AB
Colin Moran: .365/.434/.494 – 21 BB/24 K – 170 AB
ZACK COLLINS: .302/.445/.587 – 57 BB/64 K – 242 AB
Kyle Schwarber: .366/.456/.647 – 42 BB/37 K – 235 AB
Casey Gillaspie: .299/.447/.517 – 62 BB/35 K – 234 AB
DJ Peterson: .419/.490/.734 – 33 BB/29 K – 248 AB
Hunter Dozier: .357/.431/.595 – 29 BB/42 K – 227 AB
Max Pentecost: .302/.374/.410 – 22 BB/27 K – 212 AB

Just going off of raw numbers, I’d put Collins fourth out of this group in 2014. Using the numbers above, I’d probably knock him down to the fifth spot with a couple of new names now ahead of him. Also, I erroneously claimed that all those guys were taken in the draft’s first dozen picks when Casey Gillaspie didn’t get selected until the twentieth pick. Doesn’t change the premise, but still worth noting. If we go back to the first dozen picks as a cut-off, then we’d have to add these guys from 2015…

Dansby Swanson: .333/.411/.475 – 37 BB/49 K – 22/27 SB – 282 AB
Alex Bregman: .316/.397/.455 – 27 BB/21 K – 12/18 SB – 244 AB
Andrew Benintendi: .376/.488/.717 – 50 BB/32 K – 24/28 SB – 226 AB
Ian Happ: .322/.443/.497 – 32 BB/35 K – 19/24 SB – 171 AB
ZACK COLLINS: .302/.445/.587 – 57 BB/64 K – 7/8 SB – 242 AB

Seeing Swanson and Bregman at the top like that makes you appreciate how historically significant having so many college shortstops go early last really was. If we expanded this to the top twenty, we’d have to add fellow shortstops Kevin Newman and Richie Martin. Having players with real defensive value skews the data some, but if we all agree to put it in context in our own terms then we should be fine. Long story short here: Zack Collins is in very good company when stacked up against peers who went very high in the draft. As a first baseman only, I’d predict (maybe boldly, maybe not) that he still would be selected on the draft’s first day. If his rumored improvements behind the plate are real, then I don’t see why he can’t keep mashing his way into top ten consideration just like Kyle Schwarber before him.

The analysis — such as it is — above covers recent trends, but ignores potential 2016 draft peers. That’s less than ideal, but I’m only one man and time is unyielding. Thankfully, this stuff gets me going enough that I don’t mind carving out some extra time to do a very quick look at the top bats in the 2016 draft by the numbers. All I’m doing here is sorting hitters in my (admittedly unfinished) database by power numbers and then making subjective calls on plate discipline. Keeping in mind that I’m still in the process of inputting a lot of the rising junior class’s stats, here are the 2016 draft-eligible prospects who hit on all the statistical targets I searched for…

Juniors: Zack Collins, Matt Thaiss, Pete Alonso, Carmen Beneditti, Trenton Brooks, Blake Butler, Gavin Stupienski, Michael Paez, Alex Stephens, Logan Gray, Jose Rojas (JC)

Seniors: Donnie Walton, Jason Goldstein, Taylor Jones, Tim Lynch, Esteban Tresgallo, Danny Hudzina, Ryan Tinkham, Chad Sedio, Jack Parenty, Shane Johnsonbaugh, Kevin Phillips, Collin Woody, Larry Barraza, Jose DeLa Torre, Buck McCarthy, Robby Rinn, Joe Ogren, Stefan Trosclair, Kyle Clement, Nick Rivera, Tyler Fullerton, Kyle Nowlin, Charley Gould

Just Missed: Ryan Sluder, Giovanni Brusa, Tyler Lawrence, Lucas Erceg

I’m not sure what to say about these lists exactly, but I’m glad they are out there publicly for anybody who finds this to make their own conclusions. I do know that you’ll be reading a lot about these guys in this space over the next few months. Sure, there are big names here that don’t need much in the way of introductions — Collins, Thaiss, Alonso, plus a few notable seniors if you’re really into college ball — but some of the others are personal favorites who deserve way more attention than they are currently getting. In due time, fellas.

As it relates to Collins specifically, I think it’s a means of pumping the breaks some. I think Collins is a first round talent. I think Collins has the kind of production through two seasons that is consistent with first round college players of the past few drafts. But Collins is not alone as a 2016 draft prospect with his kind of production. While it’s theoretically possible that Thaiss, Alonso, Brooks, Paez, and the rest of those players listed above also wind up as first day picks, it’s a serious long shot. There’s no magic formula or mystical statistical benchmark that turns a college player’s production into an early round draft spot. But when we combine production and scouting observations then we can begin to piece together what a potential first round college player typically looks like. That’s what Collins appears to be.

I recently had a conversation with somebody (note: this chat may or may not have been with myself in the car while stuck in traffic one day) about OF Willie Abreu and his prodigious raw power. We went back and forth a bit about how he ranks in the power department judged against his collegiate peers before settling on the top ten with a case for top five. Of course, one of the names that is ahead of him on any list of amateur power is his teammate Zack Collins. I can’t imagine how it would feel to have easy plus raw lefthanded power and still come in second on your own team. I’m sure he doesn’t mind being teammates with a slugger equally feared — protection may be a myth, but it’s a fun one — and on a squad with designs on playing deep into June.

For all the talk about Abreu’s raw power, there is still some question about how much he’ll ever be able to utilize it in game action. His power numbers through two years are much closer to good than great and there’s the predictable swing-and-miss aspect to his game present, so there’s some pressure on him to put turn some of his raw ability into tangible skills in 2016. I’m bullish on him doing just that, but your mileage might vary.

OF Jacob Heyward does a lot of the good things that his older brother does — defend, throw, run, work deep counts, hit for some pop — but not quite at the $184 hundred million level. He’s still a fine pro prospect and a potential top five round pick. I feel like I’m saying that more than usual this year: “potential top five round pick.” There’s a lot of depth in this class and a lot of players who have the upside of average or better regular if everything works out. 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. rJR 1B/OF Chris Barr is a standout defender with enough patience and power to the gaps to be interesting if a team thinks he can handle the outfield corners in addition to his work at first.

RHP Derik Beauprez comes with a lot of “if’s” — if he can get his control in check, if he can find some feel for an improved but still in need of improvement upper-70s breaking ball, if he can tweak his delivery to help unlock a little more velocity (already an impressive 90-95) and gain some consistency with his command — but the overall package is fascinating. If it clicks for him the upside is tremendous.

There will always be a place in my heart for guys like RHP Cooper Hammond, Hammond chucks up upper-70s to low-80s sinkers all day from a submarine delivery that hitters can’t stand to see coming. Modern evaluators are less dismissive of pitchers like Hammond than they might have been in the past, so I’ll hold out hope that a forward-thinking team gives him a shot at pro ball in the next year or two. College competition and funky delivery or not, Hammond gets guys out. If he can keep doing that for another season or two at Miami, then who am I to say he can’t keep doing it for a spell in the pros? I’m in on Hammond.

LHP Thomas Woodrey doesn’t have anywhere near the same delivery of Hammond — not many guys do, after all — but shares a good bit of similarities otherwise. I think many would categorize both as good college pitchers and just that. That’s not entirely unfair as Woodrey gets by more on deception and guile than stuff (low- to mid-80s heat supplemented by a good slow — it would have to be, wouldn’t it? — change), but I’m inclined to wait and see on Woodrey’s senior season before tagging him with the NP label. He’s obviously a long shot, but that’s what makes it fun. If nothing else, his college career has been excellent and deserves all the attention he can handle. Here’s to Thomas Woodrey: a great college pitcher and a future 40th round pick of my hypothetical pro team.

LHP Danny Garcia has a fastball that has been clocked in the 88-92 range with an average or better breaking ball and a splitter with a similar grade. JR RHP Bryan Garcia has a fastball that has been clocked in the 88-94 range with upper-90s peaks (though his velocity was down some in 2015 compared to 2014) with an average or better breaking ball. Danny has the edge in control (and handedness, if you’re into that sort of thing) while Bryan tops him in stuff on days when both guys have their best going. A case could be made for liking either guy more than the other, but I think the higher velocity of Bryan has him ahead by a little bit right now. Not the most detailed analysis ever, but sometimes a few ticks on the fastball can make all the difference.

RHP Enrique Sosa improved his control enough last year that I could see him being a viable senior-sign reliever (solid FB/CB combo) with another good spring. Tommy John survivor RHP Andy Honiotes could also be a relief prospect of interest thanks to a sinker/slider mix.