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We’ve finally made it to the ACC, the last remaining division one baseball conference to get the draft “preview” treatment. Below you’ll find my “preseason” all-prospect teams for the conference as well as links (with brief commentary where applicable) to team previews for eleven of the fourteen teams in the ACC. I’d like to do quick write-ups for the three remaining teams (Louisville, North Carolina, Wake Forest) in the coming days (perhaps all at once in a post for tomorrow) because I’m a completist by nature.
Keep in mind that the preseason teams you see below were more or less decided on coming into the season. I made a few minor tweaks, especially on the pitching side (mostly the second team). The one glaring oddity on this list is John LaPrise hanging on to a first team spot despite missing almost the entire season so far, but there weren’t any alternatives that jumped off the page (senior sign Logan Ratledge makes the strongest case) so I let it stand. The outfield was an unexpected mess to figure out outside of the top four names. Talk about a top heavy position. I didn’t rank the pitchers yet within each team, so don’t take the Matuella, Kirby, and Funkhouser 1-2-3 as where I currently see them falling. I need to think on that a bit more.
North Carolina JR C Korey Dunbar
Boston College JR 1B Chris Shaw
Virginia JR 2B John LaPrise
Clemson JR SS Tyler Krieger
Miami JR 3B David Thompson
Florida State JR OF DJ Stewart
North Carolina JR OF Skye Bolt
Virginia JR OF Joe McCarthy
Duke JR RHP Michael Matuella
Virginia JR LHP Nathan Kirby
Louisville JR RHP Kyle Funkhouser
Miami rJR LHP Andrew Suarez
Clemson JR LHP Matthew Crownover
Miami SR C Garrett Kennedy
Florida State rSR 1B Chris Marconcini
North Carolina State SR 2B Logan Ratledge
Virginia SO SS Daniel Pinero
Miami JR 3B George Iskenderian
Clemson JR OF Steven Duggar
Georgia Tech rJR OF Dan Spingola
North Carolina State SR OF Jake Fincher
Clemson JR LHP Zack Erwin
Virginia JR RHP Josh Sborz
North Carolina SR RHP Benton Moss
Duke JR RHP/SS Kenny Koplove
North Carolina State rSO RHP Johnny Piedmonte
Includes comparing Chris Shaw to Ike Davis and Carlos Pena…
Does not include me comparing Matthew Crownover to Adam Morgan, so let me do that right here, right now. As somebody still holding out hope that Morgan can be a league average-ish big league starter, that’s a compliment.
Includes me comparing Michael Matuella tp Zack Wheeler and Kyle Gibson (and definitely NOT Roy Halladay…)
Includes comparing DJ Stewart to Matt Stairs, Billy Butler, Jeremy Giambi, and Carlos Santana…
Really nice college team, but nobody that moves the needle much for me as a pro prospect at the moment…
Includes some thoughts on their top bat (with apologies to SR C Garrett Kennedy, a guy I considered a sleeper last year who disappointed but has come back with a vengeance as an unstoppable force in the Hurricanes lineup and is now one of this class’s finest potential senior signs) and their top arm, both of which I’ve excerpted below to save you the trouble of clicking through…
Through all the ups and downs physically, his [David Thompson] 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.
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.
Includes an homage to Rick Pitino, which I stand by but admit could be a little harsh looking back on things. SR 2B/3B Logan Ratledge and rSO RHP Johnny Piedmonte aren’t Trea Turner and Carlos Rodon, but they aren’t half-bad, either.
Waiting on next year for 2B/3B Cavan Biggio…
(Also, a good college team like Georgia Tech. Not loaded with 2015 talent, but getting the job done all the same. That’s worth mentioning even as a cold-hearted fan of the pro game only…)
Waiting on next year for RHP TJ Zeuch…
(Not a very good college team like GT and ND, but not every team can be a winning team, right?)
I’m a little bit back and forth with LHP Nathan Kirby yet, though I think the recent overreaction to his below-average (for him) velocity and all-around stuff that can (maybe) be explained away (to a point) due to his recently diagnosed strained lat was a bit much. I still view him as a high-floor, TBD ceiling prospect worthy of the top half of the first round conversation.
rSO OF Saige Jenco’s year hasn’t gone quite the way I was hoping, but SR 2B/SS Alex Perez, SR 1B/RHP Brendon Hayden, and SR LHP/1B Sean Keselica have all done their part to pick up the slack.
JR OF DJ Stewart (2015)
rSR 1B Chris Marconcini (2015)
JR 2B/SS John Sansone (2015)
SR C Daniel De La Calle (2015)
SR OF Josh Delph (2015)
rJR RHP Mike Compton (2015)
SR LHP Bryant Holtmann (2015)
JR RHP/OF Jameis Winston (2015)
JR LHP Alex Diese (2015)
JR LHP Dylan Silva (2015)
SR LHP Billy Strode (2015)
SO RHP Taylor Blatch (2016)
SO LHP Alec Byrd (2016)
SO RHP Boomer Biegalski (2016)
rFR RHP Andy Ward (2016)
rFR RHP Ed Voyles (2016)
SO RHP Jim Voyles (2016)
SO OF/SS Ben DeLuzio (2016)
SO 1B/C Quincy Nieporte (2016)
SO C/OF Gage West (2016)
SO INF Hank Truluck (2016)
FR RHP Cobi Johnson (2017)
FR RHP Andrew Karp (2017)
FR RHP Drew Carlton (2017)
FR SS Dylan Busby (2017)
FR SS/2B Taylor Walls (2017)
FR C/1B Darren Miller (2017)
FR OF/RHP Steven Wells (2017)
Florida State is a machine. Star recruits in, high draft picks/future big leaguers out. This may be a bit of a down year on that future big league player side of the equation, but it’s more than made up for by the influx of star recruits armed and ready to lead the team back to the top. Since 2017 is over two years away, we’ll wait a bit on the young guys and focus on the slightly less young guys who are eligible to be drafted this June. The main attraction for scouts visiting Tallahassee this spring is quite clearly JR OF DJ Stewart. Let’s compare Stewart to another potential first round ACC outfielder, Joe McCarthy of Virginia. Here’s what they’ve done so far…
2013: .360/.469/.551 – 40 BB/38 K – 8/12 SB
2014: .351/.472/.557 – 40 BB/30 K – 4/5 SB
2013: .363/.495/.480 – 57 BB/31 K – 12/13 SB
2014: .301/.417/.449 – 35 BB/34 K – 11/12 SB
Both are likely left fielders professionally, though McCarthy has some chance at playing right (better arm) or even some center (more athletic, though Stewart is vastly underrated in this area in my view). Stewart has more raw power (above-average to plus compared to McCarthy’s average, though the latter may have untapped upside if the right swing adjustments are made), a fact that’s nicely reflected in their numbers so far. The same is true when speed is compared: McCarthy has more (above-average to plus) than Stewart (average at best), and it’s reflected in the stats to date. Both are big strong men (6-4, 225 for McCarthy, 6-0, 230 for Stewart) with pretty swings that should push them towards and above an average hit tool. A case could be made for either as top outfielder in the conference with much of the disagreement on the two coming down to personal preference (speed, approach, defense versus POWER), though there is a good bit of overlap between the two skill sets. I think the need for POWER in pro ball is great enough that Stewart will wind up the preferred prospect come June, a choice that I would not personally disagree with.
rSR 1B Chris Marconcini, a transfer from Duke, saw his power numbers slip enough last season that his prospect stock heading into this season is way down. There’s still some hope that his above-average raw power and a big senior season will help convince teams once again he can make it as a potential platoon player/bench bat. JR 2B/SS John Sansome has flashed some utility player upside and the Florida State staff seems willing to ride or die with him in the infield, but he’ll need a much better season across the board in 2015 to garner any meaningful draft buzz. For all the good things I’ve heard about him, he really needs to start showing something with the bat after almost 400 below-average at bats through his first two years on campus. The high hopes I had for SR C Daniel De La Calle heading into last year were quickly dashed by his struggles at the plate (.224/.315/.241). He’s still so good behind the dish that a professional future can’t be ruled out, but even a pro backup has to hit a little bit. SR OF Josh Delph has done FSU proud by consistently showing the kind of plate discipline (68 BB/46 K the last two seasons) the program values so highly, but a lack of power upside makes him more of a good college bat than a future professional contributor.
The Florida State 2015 pitching class lacks the star power of a DJ Stewart, but is otherwise very similar to the hitting group. There are lots of solid college pitchers, but no sure-fire future pros at this point. SR LHP Bryant Holtmann has the size teams covet (6-5, 200) and it doesn’t hurt that he’s coming off a nice junior season. He’s flashed some interesting stuff in the past (mid- to upper-80s fastball, good cutter), so a team could like him as a senior sign reliever this June. rJR Mike Compton is one of my favorite college pitchers to watch — there’s something especially entertaining about watching a man with plus FB command carve up jumpy college hitters — but he’s never shown the requisite bat-missing ability needed to thrive in pro ball. Another season removed from Tommy John surgery could help him see an uptick in that area because his pitchability, deception, and secondary stuff, especially his low-70s curve, is top notch. JR LHP Dylan Silva and SR LHP Billy Strode jumped out at me as statistically impressive, but I don’t have anything on either beyond that right now. Another player I don’t have much on but am very, very intrigued by is JR LHP Alex Diese. Diese has the secondary stuff (plus CU, above-average CB) and enough fastball (88-92) to do big things in his first year as a Seminole.
The only two underclassmen that I see that have performed well when given the chance so far are SO LHP Alec Byrd (13 K/8 BB in 15 IP) and SO OF/SS Ben DeLuzio (.281/.371/.398 in 171 AB). Byrd’s got some projection left in him (already upper-80s) and DeLuzio (speed, size, bat speed, defensive upside) is a potential star with a chance to go very high in 2016. rFR RHP Andy Ward is a name to watch as he returns to health after Tommy John surgery and SO C/OF Gage West feels like the next in line of patient Florida State hitters. The freshman class is particularly loaded with future first day pick RHP Cobi Johnson the headliner. There’s also high hopes for FR RHP Andrew Karp, a pitcher who, like Johnson, has the chance for three above-average or better pitches by the time his draft year comes back around. For as much upside as Karp has, the foremost concern for him and the program is working together to get him healthy after a recent accident.
Oh yeah, there’s also a QB/RHP on the roster that is a tad famous. JR Jameis Winston, the likely 1b to Marcus Mariota’s 1a on most NFL teams QB draft boards, is a very real MLB draft prospect in his own right. I won’t touch on his many off-field incidents because I can only judge a player based on what I know (or think I know) — at best he’s an immature kid, at worst he’s a criminal who should be behind bars — but there’s been nothing but positive things said about his on-field makeup. That’s not necessarily enough to sway me into using a valuable early pick on him (trust me when I say I don’t make light of some of the charges against him), but it does me make wonder why he can’t be given a fair shot like anybody else if all the background checks on him come out clean. If a team does their homework and deems him an unemployable candidate, so be it. Players are employees who must represent the company, after all. Speaking strictly about his ability on the diamond, however, he’s an easily identifiable draftable talent. Too many of the national draft pundits have completely dismissed him because they don’t seem to like the amount of hype he gets relative to his peers; I get that, and I’m preemptively frustrated for the aftermath of if/when he’s picked and he instantly becomes the draft’s top storyline on a national/casual fan level. I don’t think it’s fair, however, to besmirch the man’s talent because the media is likely to get carried away with him. He didn’t ask for the hype, so holding it against him personally is silly. There isn’t always a need for the push-back that counters the over-the-top reaction from one side because it often winds up being equal to or greater than the initial uproar.
There are real risks involved with selecting Winston, of course. The big one was outlined above: if he’s not the kind of person you want to employ, move on and don’t think twice about it. If my favorite team passed on him for that reason, I’d be proud. If my favorite team did as much homework on him as possible and determined he’s an individual worth taking a chance on, well, that’s fine, too. The other big risk with Winston is the obvious downside to drafting a player that will always put baseball second. I don’t mean that as a knock on Winston, as he’s indicated a genuine passion for baseball on multiple occasions. It’s just that football is his best sport and where he’ll make his millions. As a pitcher — a reliever at that — I think a two-way professional athlete can exist in today’s game. The lost developmental time isn’t as big a factor for a pitcher with limited bullets in the chamber as is.
It’s next to impossible to assign any player a round value at this point in the process. Winston’s unique situation makes it even more difficult. At this point, I think I’d be willing to use a late-single digit round pick (8th, 9th, 10th round) on Winston if he’d be willing to go underslot like a senior might. Figure that’s earlier than he’d expect to get selected, money won’t be that big an issue to him after getting his NFL bonus a month or so prior, and it’s not such a high pick that you’re passing up a surer thing. As a baseball player he’s not a projected star like in football (and even that’s up for debate at this point), but I’ll take an athletic 6-4, 220 pound righthanded pitcher who has hit 95/96 in the past (and shown a promising breaking ball) coming off a season like the one he just had (31 K and 7 BB in 33.1 IP) in any draft. If, and I can’t stress this enough, and only if the background checks on him come back 100% to my liking.