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2018 MLB Draft Profile – Florida State

When I think of Florida State, I think hitting. The Seminoles routinely rank among the nation’s best in OBP and their position player prospects consistently arrive in pro ball as some of the most mature, patient hitters in the country. I love Florida State hitters. But should I? Is gaudy college production blinding me to more meaningful scouting concerns that have held back recent Florida State bats?

The days of JD Drew, Stephen Drew, Buster Posey (and Paul Sorrento and Doug Mientkiewicz before that) may be over, but picks going back to since I’ve started here in 2009 such as Tyler Holt, James Ramsey, Devon Travis, Jayce Boyd, DJ Stewart, and Ben DeLuzio (an unsigned FA) have carried on the Seminole tradition. Kind of. Of those six names only Travis (when healthy) has made a mark on the big leagues. There’s still time for Stewart and DeLuzio, but, much as I’ve liked both guys in the past, it’s more than fair to point out that neither rank particularly high on present prospect lists. The group of less than impressive Florida State alums in the pros probably doesn’t mean anything in a big picture sense — it’s neither all that large a sample nor all that damning a hit/miss rate in the first place — but it makes me a little curious about whether my own appreciation for Seminole hitters at the college level gets in the way of fairly evaluating them as potential professionals.

For the record, I don’t think a prospect should be judged by the players who came before him at the same school. So maybe this analysis is all for naught. It is, however, interesting to me to look at Florida State hitters specifically because the approach taught in Tallahassee is an outlier in the same way the Virginia crouch and the Stanford swing have proven to be. Here’s the six aforementioned recent Seminole bats with the initial number being my pre-draft ranking and the second number being where they were eventually selected…

38 – Holt – 300
86 – Ramsey – 23
240 – Travis – 424
193 – Boyd – 200
26 – Stewart – 25
343 – DeLuzio – 1217

Loved Holt, Travis, and DeLuzio way more than the pros did. So far only Travis has justified that love. Lower on Ramsey than the pros and about the same for Boyd and Stewart. So do I have a history of overranking Florida State hitters? Maybe! I honestly went into this thinking it would be a definitive yes and that the conclusion would actually tell me something useful about my own scouting proclivities. No such luck, but I’m not about to dump a half-hour of work for nothing.

Anyway, the 2018 Florida State team is loaded with pitching. How’s that for a segueway? As of this writing the Florida State staff has struck out 13.57 batters per nine innings. Damn. The two biggest arms coming into the year were LHP Tyler Holton and RHP Cole Sands. Unfortunately, Holton went down early in the season with an injury that necessitated Tommy John surgery. He’ll be a fascinating player to watch this June as teams make their best educated guesses about his signability. A top junior going down just 4.2 innings into the season is interesting in its own right, but Holton was a draft-eligible sophomore last season and selected in the 35th round by Miami. Stands to reason that teams got a pretty good feel for his signability based on that, but who really knows. A healthy Holton is a top prospect Holton. What he lacks in velocity (85-90 FB, 92 peak) he more than makes up for with pitchability, command, athleticism, and a pair of quality offspeed pitches (average upper-70s breaking ball, above-average 76-80 changeup that flashes plus). I had a dream — seriously — that Cleveland drafted and signed Holton last year (probably because they one drafted Tyler Holt), so, you know, if that happens then don’t forget you heard it here first.

Sands, a more conventionally appealing prospect than Holton, is healthy and throwing really well for Florida State to kick off his 2018. He’ll run his fastball up to the mid-90s (89-94, 96 peak) and features a breaking ball (78-82) that will flash above-average. Toss in a changeup and a mid-80s cut-slider and it’s easy to see why he’s considered an intriguing potential big league starting pitcher.

RHP Andrew Karp was really good last year despite a less than great ERA. He’s got the build, fastball (up to 94), and putaway offspeed pitch (above-average 79-82 changeup, flashes plus) to go far. The way 2018 has started for RHP Cobi Johnson is comical. No lie, I literally laughed out loud when I saw his numbers so far. As of this writing, he’s struck out 22 batters in 8.2 innings pitched. Johnson throws about as hard as Karp, but features a plus low-70s curveball as his go-to offspeed pitch. He can also mix in an average changeup and an interesting low-80s cut-slider. With numbers like that and the knowledge he’s not doing it with smoke and mirrors, Johnson has a rocket ship strapped to his prospect stock in my eyes.

(As I post this, Johnson’s sitting at 24 strikeouts in 10.1 innings pitched. He’s already slowing down!)

Neither RHP Ed Voyles nor RHP Will Zirzow has pitched yet this year, but both have the stuff and track record to get drafted by teams willing to take the long view on their respective prospect stocks. RHP Chase Haney, like Holton out for the year after Tommy John surgery, is a fun sidearming sinkerballer who could pitch his way to senior-sign status down the line.

I know a few individuals who have OF/RHP Steven Wells as a pitcher first and foremost on their boards. Most of my notes on him detail his ability on the mound (89-93 FB, mid-70s CB), so I guess there’s some logic to it. Four innings and 170+ at bats in his college career later, it’s pretty clear Wells should be judged as a hitter. A hot start to his 2018 — his 17 BB/8 K mark is notable even for a Seminole — is a point in his favor. He’s like a less accomplished version of former Seminole Mike McGee.

Finally, after a million words and a misleading introduction, we’ve finally gotten to a big-time hitting prospect. Simply put, C Cal Raleigh has star upside. I had him as a potential first rounder and the first college catcher off the board back when I did my initial 2018 MLB Mock Draft back in October. I stand by it. Raleigh’s blend of power, patience, and high likelihood of sticking behind the plate (where he’s admittedly more good than great and perhaps not for everyone) is tough to top. Let the overrating of another Florida State batter begin!

In all honesty, Raleigh is a tough player to overrate. Catchers on the whole are tough to overrate. A more fitting candidate to be overranked by me is OF/C Jackson Lueck. Lueck doesn’t have a true carrying tool, but is a well-rounded switch-hitter who has hit a ton since day one. If a team buys into him as a potential catching conversion, he’ll shoot up boards. As an outfielder he’s a bit of a tweener in almost every respect, for better or worse.

Auburn transfer C/1B Jonathan Foster is a steady hand behind the plate with enough power at it to be worth a follow. 1B/OF Rhett Aplin has some pop and plenty of arm strength, so a team that still sees him as a primary outfielder could take a chance on him late. How much SS Mike Salvatore will show with the bat remains to be seen, but his glove is solid enough to get him a look in a class weak in true shortstops. 2B Rafael Bournigal was a classic Florida State hitter even before setting foot on campus. The former Belmont Bruin has great patience at the plate and is a reliable defender at the keystone. His path to the big leagues will be tough as a second baseman with limited experience elsewhere (note: I’m unsure if he can play elsewhere, just pointing out that he hasn’t), but he makes a lot of sense to me as a late-round senior-sign based on his track record as a hitter. I mean, somebody has to play second base for you in the minors, right? Might as well be a patient, mature hitter with big league bloodlines.

Looking ahead, there’s predictably a lot to like in the 2019 and 2020 classes. 3B Drew Mendoza = superstar. OF/RHP JC Flowers isn’t too far behind. I really like LHP/OF Drew Parrish, RHP CJ Van Eyk, and LHP Austin Pollock as well. The Florida State machine rolls on and I can’t wait to overrate every last prospect here.

rJR RHP Andrew Karp (2018)
JR LHP Tyler Holton (2018)
rJR RHP Cobi Johnson (2018)
JR RHP Cole Sands (2018)
rSR RHP Ed Voyles (2018)
rSR RHP Will Zirzow (2018)
JR RHP Chase Haney (2018)
rJR RHP Alex Carpenter (2018)
rSO RHP Ronnie Ramirez (2018)
SR OF/RHP Steven Wells (2018)
JR C Cal Raleigh (2018)
JR OF/C Jackson Lueck (2018)
JR C/1B Jonathan Foster (2018)
JR SS Mike Salvatore (2018)
SR 1B/OF Rhett Aplin (2018)
rSR 1B Kyle Cavanaugh (2018)
rSR 2B Rafael Bournigal (2018)
SO LHP Clayton Kwiatkowski (2019)
SO LHP/OF Drew Parrish (2019)
SO OF/RHP JC Flowers (2019)
SO 3B Drew Mendoza (2019)
SO 2B/OF Nick Derr (2019)
SO SS Tyler Daughtry (2019)
FR LHP/OF Jonah Scolaro (2020)
FR LHP Shane Drohan (2020)
FR RHP CJ Van Eyk (2020)
FR LHP Austin Pollock (2020)
FR RHP Tyler Ahearn (2020)
FR RHP Conor Grady (2020)
FR SS Cooper Swanson (2020)
FR OF Reese Albert (2020)

2017 MLB Draft Report – Florida State

I like Taylor Walls a lot. I think there’s a good chance he can keep playing shortstop in the pros. If that’s the case, then he has a chance to go much higher than wherever I’m likely to end up ranking him. That potential relatively low ranking stems from the fact that I’m far less than certain than many seem to be about his chances of developing into an everyday shortstop. In all honesty, I don’t really know what to make of his defense just yet. My eyes say “sure why not,” my ears (i.e., contacts I know and trust) say “nope,” and BIG DRAFT (BA, PG, D1) collectively seem to think of him as a lock to stick at short. That’s confusing. It adds up to “inconclusive, needs more evidence” for me, so I guess that’s my official position for now. Feel free to draw your own conclusions as you see fit. Frankie Piliere, who has been pumping out great stuff for some time now but has taken it to another level so far in 2017, compared Walls to Brock Holt earlier this year. I like that a lot. I’ve gotten two comps for him — Walls, not Piliere — that I like for the throwback vibes if nothing else: the young versions of Mark McLemore and Luis Alicea. Between those three comps — long-term big league role players with flashes of starting-caliber output, all — and the generally positive scouting notes on Walls (great glove at second, good glove at short; enough arm strength for the left side of the infield; above-average speed; typical Florida State approach as a hitter), it’s fair to think of him as a relatively high-floor prospect with starting middle infielder upside. The higher the odds you place on him remaining at shortstop, the higher he should be on your board.

This is a completely anecdotal statement based largely on the recent memory of Ben DeLuzio wearing the gold and garnet, but it feels like Florida State, a school famous for piling up free passes on the offensive side of the ball, has a big-time hitter every season who completely bucks the extreme patience trend. Enter Dylan Busby, the proud owner of a 49/167 (and counting!) career BB/K ratio. Athletically gifted enough to play anywhere on the diamond — 50/50 split on first or third (my preference as to not waste his above-average arm) as his long-term spot based on info I received — and capable of some of most majestic home runs (easy plus raw power) in all the land, Busby has a lot going for him. He’s not my kind of prospect, but the power/speed athletic profile will surely entice teams willing to overlook his present free-swinging ways.

Rhett Aplin has been really strong in his Florida State debut. There’s power, arm strength, and the usual Seminole emphasis on plate discipline there. I know some that are excited at the prospect of him getting on the mound eventually, but I think his offensive game is plenty to be happy about for now. Quincy Nieporte didn’t have the breakout 2016 some (me) were expecting, but he’s been damn good to start his final season in Tallahassee. The world will always need senior-signs with power, so keep Nieporte on your draft radar. “Strong and slow” was how one contact described him. I like that.

There are probably enough decent middle infielders in this class to keep Matt Henderson from getting a chance in pro ball. That’s a shame if only for the fact Henderson might be the weirdest player in college baseball. If I told you that there was a quality glove at second (playable at short) with above-average to plus speed putting up on-base percentages of .420 (in 2016) and .397 (so far in 2017) in one of college ball’s best lineups, then you’d be sold on that as a sure-fire draft target, right? But what if that guy also hit just .230 (in 2016) and is hitting .204 (so far in 2017) with dangerously little power? Bit of a tougher sell, I’m guessing. I’d begrudgingly remove Henderson from my hypothetical draft board even before taking into account the likelihood that his one offensive strength (taking four balls and walking to first) would get weakened in a hurry once pro pitchers got wise to his total lack of sock. It still doesn’t hurt to point out how weird and wonderful Henderson is in the college setting. He could play for my college team anytime.

I think all nine of the draft-eligible Florida State arms listed below could be drafted this June. That’s a ton of picks off of one staff. Let’s rank them based on that very likelihood…

9 – Ed Voyles – Good 2016, slow start in 2017; changeup (flashes plus) and size (6-7, 200) both working in his favor
8 – Alec Byrd – long track record of success should matter more than his ugly 2017 to date; decent velocity (86-91) from the left side with some projection left (6-4, 180)
7 – Steven Wells – argument could be made he could be ranked lower due to relative inexperience on the mound, but stuff (89-93 FB, mid-70s CB) and athleticism make him a project worth taking on
6 – Will Zirzow – misses bats with a well-rounded repertoire (good 73-76 CU, 73-74 CB) without premium velocity (86-88 FB)
5 – Cobi Johnson – a true wild card as he comes back from last April’s Tommy John surgery; at his best, arguably the best stuff of any draft-eligible pitcher here (87-92 FB, 94 peak; plus 73-74 CB; average CU; 81-83 cut-SL)
4 – Jim Voyles – more success than his brother with a more relief friendly featured offspeed pitch (plus 78-80 SL)
3 – Drew Carlton – floor of an effective sinker/slider reliever with the ceiling of a useful back of the rotation starter thanks to a quality if underutilized 79-82 MPH changeup
2 – Andrew Karp – the template for Johnson as he returns from injury; like Johnson, a big HS recruit known for legit stuff (87-92 FB, 94 peak; 84-86 SL; 77-81 CB; good 79-82 CU); finally putting it all together
1 – Tyler Holton – just about everything written about Charlie Barnes of Clemson earlier in the week — 85-90 FB (92 peak), 75-79 breaking ball with promise, nasty 76-78 changeup, command for days — applies to Holton with a strong case to be made that the Seminoles draft-eligible sophomore is the better long-term prospect; big fan of this guy and his expert pitchability

For the record, that countdown is less about my own personal feelings about each than guesses about draftability. My prep love of Johnson might push him all the way to the top of a straight ranking by personal preference. Wouldn’t argue with anybody who had Holton, Karp, or Carlton in the top spot, however. All are really good pro prospects.

*****

JR RHP Cobi Johnson (2017)
JR RHP Drew Carlton (2017)
rSO RHP Andrew Karp (2017)
SR LHP Alec Byrd (2017)
rJR RHP Ed Voyles (2017)
SR RHP Jim Voyles (2017)
rJR RHP Will Zirzow (2017)
SO LHP/OF Tyler Holton (2017)
JR RHP/OF Steven Wells (2017)
JR OF/LHP Rhett Aplin (2017)
SR 1B Quincy Nieporte (2017)
JR 2B/SS Taylor Walls (2017)
SR C Bryan Bussey (2017)
JR 3B/1B Dylan Busby (2017)
SR 2B/SS Matt Henderson (2017)
SR OF/3B Hank Truluck (2017)
SO RHP Cole Sands (2018)
SO RHP Chase Haney (2018)
rFR RHP Alex Carpenter (2018)
SO RHP Ronnie Ramirez (2018)
rFR RHP Dillon Brown (2018)
SO C Cal Raleigh (2018)
SO OF/C Jackson Lueck (2018)
SO OF Donovan Petrey (2018)
FR LHP Clayton Kwiatkowski (2019)
FR RHP Brandon Reitz (2019)
FR RHP Justin Sorokowski (2019)
FR LHP/OF Drew Parrish (2019)
FR OF/RHP JC Flowers (2019)
FR 3B Drew Mendoza (2019)
FR 2B/OF Nick Derr (2019)
FR SS Tyler Daughtry (2019)
FR OF Ryan Mejia (2019)

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Florida State

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…

DJ Stewart

2013: .360/.469/.551 – 40 BB/38 K – 8/12 SB
2014: .351/.472/.557 – 40 BB/30 K – 4/5 SB

Joe McCarthy

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.