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As of this writing, RHP Griffin Roberts has a K/9 of 12.70. That’s slightly down from his 2017 peak (13.51), but still an elite mark for a starting pitcher. Also down from 2017 is his walk rate per nine: his 2017 (5.40) number has dipped to a far more palatable 3.38 here in 2018. That’s really good news. Most encouragingly, however, is the number seven. That’s exactly how many innings Roberts has averaged per start so far in 2018. He’s currently sitting at 56 innings in 8 starts. For a converted reliever trying to convince the baseball world he has the stuff and stamina to make it in a professional rotation, it’s hard to overstate how huge that seven really is.
Pitching deep into games is one thing; maintaining premium stuff, missing bats, and keeping runs off the board while doing so is an entirely different beast. So far in 2018, Roberts has done all that and more. The highly athletic 6-3, 210 pound righthander will enter the draft as one of this year’s surest things. His floor — late-inning relief weapon capable of going multiple frames as needed — is clearly evident with every low- to mid-80s breaking ball (more slider than curve) that darts by the opposition. That one pitch alone will lead to tons of success as a pro for Roberts. My mind goes right to a spectrum of bullpen outcomes that includes successful relievers like David Robertson, Greg Holland, AJ Ramos, Drew Storen, and Shawn Kelley. When paired with a sinking fastball at 88-94 MPH (96 peak), Robert’s one-two pitch combination goes to another level. Between those pitches, the aforementioned plus athleticism, and college track record of swings and misses, I could easily see Roberts continuing to start in pro ball. Predicting any young pitcher can remain in a rotation with only two pitches is admittedly a little out there — among qualified 2017 pitchers, only Chris Archer, Patrick Corbin, and Luis Perdomo threw a third pitch less than 10% of the time — but I think the way pitcher usage is evolving (namely how starters aren’t expected to go as deep) could allow Roberts to get away with it. He does have a third pitch — an 81-85 MPH changeup — that he has shown enough command of to think more work will get it to at least serviceable with daily pro instruction/repetition (this is where I should point out I’m bullish on the pitch developing into even more of that based on what I’ve personally seen, what I’ve heard, and what I’ll project thanks to Roberts’s elite athleticism and reported work ethic), so it isn’t as if there isn’t a building block for Roberts to begin.
If it all comes together for Roberts in pro ball as a starter, the name I keep coming back to as a potential comp, both as a draft day standard (42nd overall pick in 2009) and potential pro production arc (minus the injuries, hopefully) is Garrett Richards. Interestingly enough, Richards has been cited as a comp four times on the site over the past decade. Ashe Russell (Dayton Moore), Kyle Serrano (BA), Kyle Funkhouser (me), and Jonathan Gray (consensus) were all compared to Richards at one point or another. Toss out Serrano (injuries) as an outlier and you’ve got the 21st, 115th, and 3rd overall picks respectively. That comes out to around a 46th overall pick average, not too far off from where Richards once went. All of this is to say that I really, really like Roberts (hence the Richards starter comp, plus all those fun reliever comps) and think that if my totally non-scientific guess is anywhere close to accurate, Richards will wind up great value if picked anywhere from around pick forty on.
Quick quiz: RHP Rayne Supple has a) electric stuff, b) little to know idea where the ball is going once it leaves his hand, c) one of this year’s best names, or d) all of the above. His control has gotten better (14.09 BB/9 coming into the year) in 2018 (5.25 BB/9) to the point where we can now call it “effectively wild,” so that’s a big win for Supple’s draft stock. His brand of fastball velocity (88-94, 95 peak) and breaking ball quality (77-78 hybrid, flashes plus) is what teams look for in relief prospects. If pro ball doesn’t work out, there’s always the Novel Sport Mouthguard Device. According to the outstanding Wake Forest team site, Supple holds a United States design patent for that very product. Pretty cool.
LHP Tyler Witt has my full attention as another (we’ll get to some more later) Wake Forest pitching prospect who breaks the mold a bit. Typically when we think sinker/slider relief prospects, we think righthanded pitchers on the shorter end of the spectrum. Witt happens to be a 6-5, 215 pound lefthander. Count me as a big fan…or at least as big a fan as any one draft prospect writer can be of a middle reliever on a below .500 college team can be. For the record, it’s bigger than you’d think.
I hate the expression “it is what it is,” but damn if it doesn’t fit sometimes. Having seen him a bunch at Germantown Academy and one time in each two of the last three seasons at Wake Forest, I feel pretty confident in saying 3B/SS John Aiello is what he is. Aiello has above-average to plus power. Aiello has above-average to plus arm strength when healthy. Aiello has more feel for hitting than often given credit and is a good enough athlete to play above-average defense at the hot corner while being able to fake it at shortstop as needed. Those are all really great qualities to see in a young position player prospect. Aiello’s potential fatal flaw has always been his plate discipline. For all the natural hitting ability, Aiello strikes out a ton. Always has. His first two years at Wake Forest led to this: 29.7 K% and 8.8 BB%. The question scouts will have to answer is whether or not he always will. His early 2018 smaller sample numbers are encouraging: 23.0 K% and 11.2 BB%. His career to date totals look like this…
.287/.381/.527 – 28.1 K% and 9.4 BB%
.282/.374/.468 – 26.7 K% and 11.9 BB%
That’s Aiello on top. The numbers on the bottom belong to 2011 fourth round pick Bobby Dalbec. The two aren’t quite twins, but there are enough similarities in both the numbers and their scouting profiles to make you go “hmm.” I’d give Aiello the edge as a hitter and defender while Dalbec bests him in the power department and as a thrower. Dalbec holds small advantages in both K% and BB% cited above, though it’s worth repeating that Aiello is at least trending the right direction there. I wound up ranking Dalbec about one hundred spots lower (213) than Boston ultimately selected him (118), a decision I obviously stand by. That feels like a similar area where I’m likely to rank Aiello in this class, and I think around round seven or so is when his upside begins to start making sense on the risk/reward matrix every pick is run through. In much the same way I would have stayed away from Dalbec until a few rounds after he was actually selected, Aiello’s swing-and-miss would scare me from popping him too early. At some point, however, Aiello’s makeup, athleticism, and power would all be too much to ignore, strikeouts be damned.
SS/2B Bruce Steel, OF/1B Keegan Maronpot, and RHP Chris Farish are all still suspended indefinitely for violating athletics department rules. Without any more information than that, it’s very difficult to ascertain the extent of damage done to each player’s respective prospect stock. If it’s a dumb NCAA thing, then I’d venture most teams won’t care but for the loss of developmental time and scouting opportunities. If it’s something deeper, all bets are off. As is, I think Maronpot stands to lose the most. The senior .202/.293/.386 career hitter (33.3 K% and 10.3 BB%) was probably not going to get drafted anyway, but now whatever little shot you’d have given him before the year — disappointing numbers aside, Maronpot had a tiny shot as a good athlete with a pro build who can play all four of the corner spots — seems gone. That’s rough, but that’s the way life goes.
Pro ball will likely be inclined to be more forgiving to better prospects Steel and Farish. I’ve liked Steel for a while as a legitimate shortstop with above-average pop, speed, and arm strength. If the approach comes around, I think he can be a potential regular in the big leagues one day. If not, then his defensive versatility makes him a nice bet to get plenty of chances to make it as a utility infielder along the way. Farish has the size (6-4, 220), velocity (88-94, 96 peak), and breaking ball (an average or better 78-82 CB that morphed into a more dangerous mid-80s SL in 2017) to fit in a big league bullpen one day. A 12.98 career K/9 certainly doesn’t hurt the cause. Best not to mention his career 9.47 BB/9, though, since we’re already mentioning it, it’s worth pointing out he did at least drop it down to 4.43 in his 18.1 innings last season. Baby steps.
Circling back to the question about who gets hurt the most by these suspensions, I’ll stick with Maronpot as the answer because going from maybe drafted to definitely not drafted has to sting in a special kind of way. However, thinking this over a bit has me believing that all three guys are really going to get hurt by this. Steel and Farish are both talented prospects who had a ton to prove this spring. Being unable to do so on the field is a killer for their long-term chances at pro success. I would have boldly guessed that Steel could have played his way into the top five rounds as one of the country’s best shortstop prospects and Farish would have been a stone cold mortal lock to be a true senior-sign that saves a team money in the top ten rounds while also being a damn good prospect in his own right. With both being out of sight and out of mind this spring, I honestly have no idea how pro teams will consider them come June.
2B Jake Mueller is a good athlete who can both defend and hit. If a team talks themselves into his potential on the left side of the infield as well, then he has a shot to get drafted higher than most think as a potential backup infielder. Even if that’s not the case — I’ve heard his arm would be too far stretched at short and third — he’s still a damn intriguing second base prospect. That may be an oxymoron to some, but not for me. C Logan Harvey is a good enough defender to work himself into the 2019 senior-sign mix.
SS/OF Patrick Frick is very high on my list of players I know little about but want to learn everything about this upcoming summer. OF/SS DJ Poteet and OF Chris Lanzilli seem like interesting follows for 2020. Same goes for 1B Bobby Seymour. LHP Carter Bach is a really weird prospect in that he’s a lefty who relies more on good offspeed stuff than premium fastball velocity (88-92) yet is still ridiculously wild. Like, if RHP Colin Peluse was that wild then it would make a little more sense. Big righthanders with big fastballs (Peluse is up to 95) fit that high velocity/high walk rate pitching prospect archetype more easily in my brain, but it’s very much not the case here. RHP Morgan McSweeney gets us closer to said archetype, but is too good to get stuck with that tag. Any narrative you want to attach to it, the Demon Deacons have a nice foursome (the aforementioned three plus RHP Rhyse Dee) of sophomore arms to build on.
JR RHP Griffin Roberts (2018)
rSR RHP Chris Farish (2018)
JR RHP Rayne Supple (2018)
JR LHP Tyler Witt (2018)
JR 3B/SS John Aiello (2018)
rJR SS/2B Bruce Steel (2018)
JR 2B Jake Mueller (2018)
JR C Logan Harvey (2018)
SR OF/1B Keegan Maronpot (2018)
SO LHP Carter Bach (2019)
SO RHP Colin Peluse (2019)
SO RHP Morgan McSweeney (2019)
SO RHP Rhyse Dee (2019)
SO OF Nick DiPonzio (2019)
SO SS/OF Patrick Frick (2019)
SO SS/3B Chase Mascolo (2019)
SO OF Christian Long (2019)
FR RHP/1B Cole McNamee (2020)
FR LHP/OF Jared Shuster (2020)
FR C/RHP Shane Muntz (2020)
FR OF/LHP Michael Ludowig (2020)
FR OF/SS DJ Poteet (2020)
FR OF Chris Lanzilli (2020)
FR 1B Bobby Seymour (2020)
SR RHP/C Garrett Kelly (2016)
JR RHP Parker Dunshee (2016)
rSO RHP Chris Farish (2016)
JR RHP Connor Johnstone (2016)
JR RHP John McCarren (2016)
rSO RHP Parker Johnson (2016)
JR 1B/RHP Will Craig (2016)
JR C Ben Breazeale (2016)
SR OF/2B Joey Rodriguez (2016)
JR 2B/OF Nate Mondou (2016)
rSR OF Kevin Conway (2016)
JR OF Jonathan Pryor (2016)
SO RHP Drew Loepprich (2017)
SO OF Stuart Fairchild (2017)
SO 1B Gavin Sheets (2017)
SO OF Keegan Maronpot (2017)
SO SS/2B Drew Freedman (2017)
SO SS/2B Bruce Steel (2017)
FR LHP Tyler Witt (2018)
FR RHP Griffin Roberts (2018)
FR RHP Rayne Supple (2018)
FR 3B/SS John Aiello (2018)
I think I’m going to keep touting JR 1B/RHP Will Craig as the righthanded AJ Reed until he starts getting some serious national recognition. I cited that name in the college draft preview from October, so might as well keep mentioning it over and over and over…
Do you like power? How about patience? What about a guy with power, patience, and the athleticism to pull off collegiate two-way duty? For everybody who missed on AJ Reed the first time around, Will Craig is here to give you a second chance. I won’t say he’ll be the first base prospect that finally tests how high a first base prospect can go in a post-PED draft landscape, but if he has a big enough junior season…
I love Craig. In past years I might back down some from the love from reasons both fair (positional value, certain scouty quibbles about bat speed and timing) and not (seeing him ignored by all the major media outlets so much that I start to question my own judgment), but I see little way that will be the case with Craig. Sure, he could force my hand by cratering out with a disappointing junior season (a la Ryan Howard back in the day), but that would only shift him from sleeper first round talent to sleeper fifth round value. His is a bat I believe in and I’m willing to ride or die with it.
I wanted to mention the Daniel Murphy comparison I got for JR 2B/OF Nate Mondou that I heard recently, but I couldn’t remember the major media outlet that had it first. I could have missed it elsewhere, but I think mentioning it again would be one of those instances where I plagiarize myself. I hit thirty a few months back and my memory has gone up in flames since. In addition to Murphy, I’ve also heard Todd Walker as a reference point for Mondou’s bat. Lefty bats who love to attack early in the count, provide average or better power, and can hang in at the keystone spot are always going to be valued highly by pro clubs. Or at least they should. The only thing that may knock Mondou down is the competition at the spot; we’ve only just begun, but he’s joined at the top of his own position ranking by the Notre Dame pair (Cavan Biggio and Kyle Fiala) profiled earlier. I’d put him between the two for now with the chance to rise as he keeps mashing. There’s some concern about his overly aggressive approach getting exposed along the way, so I guess consider that a second potential way that Mondou slips some this spring.
If you read the site regularly then you know that I like few things more than mid-round college catchers that look like sleeper big league backups to me. JR C Ben Breazeale fits the bill. He’s got a sturdy frame, plenty of strength, and is a steadying presence behind the dish defensively. Offensively he does enough to get by. Sounds like a potential backup catcher to me. SR OF/2B Joey Rodriguez began to put his considerable talent to work last year (.305/.411/.468), so making the call that he’ll have a big senior season is a prediction that comes about a year too late. A repeat of last year — or, better yet, continued improvement — should get him drafted as a senior sign that will do more for you than just save some draft cash. JR OF Jonathan Pryor had a nice year by most accounts last season (.316/.366/.384) while managing a tough to look at 5 BB/40 K ratio. It’s not exactly the formula for sustained success, but it worked last year. I don’t know enough about him from the scouting side to say if he’s a prospect or not, but that kind of approach is terrifying. Still, there’s something oddly pleasing about a player like Pryor finding college success with an approach to hitting antithetical to what many (myself very much included) believe is the preferred path.
It’s not personal, but I’ve been burned by SR RHP Garrett Kelly once too many times to continue touting him as a serious pro prospect. Draftable talent? Most definitely. But the upside I droned on and on about last year…
I’m a big fan of JR RHP/C Garrett Kelly. He’s a good ballplayer. He’s better at baseball than I ever was and better than 99.99% of the world’s population. Unfortunately, Kelly can’t hit. It was only 32 at bats, but his .094/.310/.125 line last season was not the kind of line you print out and stick on the fridge. That’s what makes his rumored full-time switch to the mound so anxiously awaited. Even though life as a hitter didn’t work out, there’s still a chance for him. As a pitcher, Kelly is a legit pro prospect. He’s already got that nice FB/SL relief combo going (already up to 93 with more likely coming), and the huge perk of being a low-mileage arm won’t go unnoticed by decision-makers this spring. I’ve long been been a sucker for players making the position player to pitcher switch and think Kelly could be a helium guy this spring.
…didn’t quite materialize in the form of on-field results in 2015. Of course, we’re nitpicking 11.2 disappointing innings here. That’s unfair no matter how much you’d like to justify it. I mean, Kelly still throws hard (up to 94 now) with an emerging slider and a relatively fresh arm. I’ve twisted my own arm enough here. I’m back in on Kelly as a serious pro prospect. His breakout senior season is coming, just you watch.
I’d move JR RHP Parker Dunshee to the top of the 2016 Demon Deacons (pitching) draft class (co-headlining with Kelly now that we’re cool again) because I think he has the stuff to potentially keep starting as a pro if he can improve his control and keep making strides with his low-80s change, but there’s something about rSO RHP Chris Farish that I keep coming back to. Maybe it’s his size (6-4, 210), maybe it’s his fastball (88-93, mid-90s peak), or maybe it’s the fact he he’s still largely a blank slate that hasn’t yet had the chance to experience the tough times that come with pitching in a major college conference, but I think he’s got a real chance to wind up the highest drafted pitcher off this staff come June. So that’s three co-headliners that I’m too dumb to separate beyond saying “hey, they’re all pretty promising!” I think I can live with that in January. JR RHP Connor Johnstone (coming off an ugly sophomore season, but with a nice fastball and good change) and JR RHP John McCarren (another nice fastball at 88-92) could factor into the draft mix as well.
As a program, Wake Forest is in pretty good shape. I actually don’t know if that’s true or not, but from a selfish draft perspective it certainly looks that way. You’ve got Craig/Mondou this year, SO OF Stuart Fairchild (an all-caps FAVORITE already) next year, and FR 3B/SS John Aiello for 2018. I know I’m higher on Craig than most, plus making long-term predictions about future classes almost always ends ugly, but this year’s Wake Forest team could have three potential first round caliber hitters in the regular lineup. Not bad.