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2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – Sun Belt

As we enter the fourth weekend of the college season, the charade of calling these “pre-season” lists grows sillier and sillier. As I’ve mentioned before, the rankings below are based off of pre-season evaluations while the commentary will occasionally venture over into updated real world happenings. This is done for two reasons: 1) consistency with other conference lists that actually were published before the season began, and 2) a not so subtle statement that two to three years of data and copious scouting notes far outstrips the importance of a few draft season plate appearances or innings pitched. I’ve seen some sites in the past update their draft rankings and talk lustily about college players rising and falling on draft boards based only on having “good” or “bad” outcomes in a given weekend – great moves for generating traffic, by the way – and all I can do is laugh.

So, once again, the rankings are left unchanged from where I had them six weeks or so ago when I put this together, but, after running this list by a few smart people and taking a quick peek at the Sun Belt stats page after three and a half weeks, there is certainly room for improvement.

The top two names on the hitting list are scuffling so far in the early going. Cole Billingsley, a favorite of mine thanks to outstanding athleticism, easy CF range, and above-average to plus speed, has had a slow start, but figures to get things rolling before too long. He’s a high-contact hitter who doubles as one of college ball’s best bunters. The entire package adds up to standout fourth outfielder if it all works in pro ball. Steven Sensley has less of a D1 track record, but he’s still been on the prospect map for years. With Sensley, you’re buying the bat coming alive in a big way because, outside of a strong arm, his tools outside of the batter’s box don’t excite. His ranking pretty clearly reflects what I think of his bat. The two are still my favorite position player prospects in the class, but the gap has admittedly closed some within this season’s first month.

Three names that have come up time and again when talking to those in the know are Ryan Scott, Joe Robbins, and Drew Labounty. The first two guys are off to scorching starts, so it’s no shock that I’ve heard a lot about them of late. My notes on Scott are sparse, but those who like his bat really seem to like it. I have a little more on Robbins – steady glove, can play multiple infield spots, average or better wheels – but nothing in his scouting dossier suggested an offensive breakout like the one he’s having. Is it a hot three weeks worth of games? Or a sign of real, sustainable growth? Beats me, but having one more prospect to follow with interest this spring is never a bad thing. LaBounty was the one player out of the trio that I heard a lot of positive things about all offseason. He received high praise for his glovework up the middle and I was partial to his impressive plate discipline (40 BB/38 K coming into the year). So far so good for LaBounty on both sides of the ball this spring. I write it often, so what’s one more time: in a draft short on college shortstop prospects of note, the opportunity is there for some of the currently less-heralded mid-major prospects to make some moves.

Granger Studdard is another personal favorite of mine out of the Sun Belt due to his power upside, athleticism, arm strength, and speed. The last three facets of his game are far stronger than you see out of a typical first base prospect, so it’s not shock that the majority of those I spoke to who like him as well prefer him as a corner outfielder. That defensive versatility only boosts his stock. The most interesting thing about Studdard to me is how scouts have raved about his approach since his first year at Texas State. Much like what has been said about Kyle Lewis at Mercer, the buzz surrounding Studdard has been about how he really knows how to hit and approaches every plate appearance like a seasoned veteran. Like Mercer, however, the results didn’t seem to back it up: Studdard hit well in both of his college seasons, but did so while putting up BB/K ratios of 19/42 and 20/62. The disconnect between the scouting take and the on-field indicators figured to come to a head in his draft season, and, so far, the scouts look like they know a thing or two about the game. SMALL SAMPLE SIZE, but Studdard has walked twelve times in 2016 with only five strikeouts to his name. If that’s real, then you can put his standing as one of the best under-the-radar mid-major bats in the county in ink.

On (kind of) the other end of the spectrum is Matt McLean of Texas-Arlington. McLean is a good runner and savvy all-around ballplayer who (to my knowledge) isn’t being talked up by anybody as a serious draft prospect. I’m not sure whether he is or isn’t, but the way he commands the strike zone has my respect. McLean is off to a similar start as Studdard (12 BB/4 K), but differs in that it’s part of a longer track record of doing so (40 BB/19 K last year). When looking to fill out rosters late during the draft, I’d recommend McLean to my scouting director every time. I’m high on the McLean’s on the world not only for what they could become in their own right – solid org guys can occasionally turn into useful pieces over time – but also because of the unseen positives that bringing players like this into an organization can provide. I don’t think McLean possesses any magic plate discipline dust that would rub off on his teammates, but having my young guys exposed to his consistent professional approach to the game, calculated plan of attack as a hitter, aggressive yet smart style of play in all phases, and determination to succeed no matter what couldn’t hurt.

I’ve used up most of my words on hitters (again), so I’ll be brief when it comes to the most interesting Sun Belt pitchers for 2016. The two arms that have gotten the most praise from those I’ve talked to are Kevin Hill and Brayden Bouchey.

Hill is the consummate college senior tearing up younger hitters with pinpoint command and stellar sequencing. He’s capable of tossing one of his three offspeed pitches in any count, and there’s now enough fastball (up to 88-92 this year, peaking at 93) to keep hitters from sitting on it. Smarts, plus command, and solid stuff make Hill a really good senior-sign, but it’s his fantastic athleticism that helps set him apart. The entire package makes him arguably one of the best potential senior-signs in the country. One scout referred to him as “store brand Aaron Nola.” I’m in.

(I wasn’t sure how to shoehorn this in without breaking up the flow otherwise, so a parenthetical aside will have to do. Tyler Zuber and Lucas Humpal are not entirely dissimilar to Hill as prospects. All have the high baseball IQ righthander thing down; Zuber and Humpal take it up a notch with advanced changeups good enough to be used as their primary out pitch. I guess the moral of this story is that if you miss out on the (slightly) more famous Hill, there are other appealing Sun Belt options with similar strengths to target on draft day.)

Bouchey came into the year with lackluster peripherals (3.75 K/9 and 4.00 BB/9 in 36.1 IP last year) despite intriguing stuff. In weighing performance vs projection, I tend to put more weight on the former when compared to “real” scouts. You can’t scout solely off of statistical output, but it’s a really big piece of the puzzle. This is where the internet can be a bit of a bummer. To get heard, you need to go to extremes. Whether that means extolling the virtues of a player who has put up big numbers with neutral or worse scouting reports (and getting blasted for scouting the box score and discounting projection as a factor) or holding on to beliefs formed in one short look at a player despite all statistical evidence to the contrary (and getting ripped by those who believe development is linear and Heisman Trophies equate to pro success), you need to be LOUD to get recognized. Moderate approaches that attempt to balance a multitude of factors are not nearly as fun to read about, I guess. There’s no need to constantly be hedging one’s bets along the way – that’s simply not realistic – but a little patience, humility, and self-awareness on the part of the evaluator can go a long way.

I personally don’t think there’s anything about baseball that’s all that complicated, at least outside of actually playing it well at a high level. Playing is hard, but watching and forming opinions about what you’ve watched is a pretty straightforward endeavor. With few exceptions, if a player has put up impressive numbers at every level of competition along the way, then said player deserves to keep getting chances until he doesn’t. Conversely, if a player have the kind of physical ability that is apparent to a five-year old on his or her first ever day at the park, he’s entitled to a few extra shots even after he’s shown he’s not yet ready to consistently produce. There’s no need to pick a side: the draft goes forty rounds deep every year for a reason, there’s room for all types to get their shot. Some guys produce and produce and produce without it ever looking like they should be able to do the things they do; others can keep it up against a certain level of competition before their fatal flaws are exploited. Some guys take a really long time to go from toolsy athlete to high-performing ballplayer; others never really get past just being bigger, faster, and more athletic than their peers enough to develop the necessary skills they’ll need later on.

With Bouchey you get the best (or worst, if you’re a glass half-empty type) of both worlds. Coming into the season, his numbers left little to get excited about. His scouting reports, however, were uniformly upbeat: his 88-92 fastball with real sink, promising curve, plus command, deception in his delivery, and intriguing size (6-6, 210) had those who had seen him up close encouraged about his future. In his case, projection appears to be winning out over prior production, at least now that the (small sample size!) results (12.15 K/9 and 3.31 BB/9 in 16.1 IP) have caught up to his talent level. It doesn’t always work out quite this well, so we’ll enjoy it for now…and hope that Bouchey has turned the corner as a prospect. As with Hill, I’m in.

I’m less in on Joel Kuhnel. The big righty from Texas-Arlington, who incidentally reminds me of one of the many flame-throwing Dallas Baptist relievers from last year, is a favorite of many I’ve spoken to, but, for reasons both on the scouting side and the numbers side, I’m not really feeling it. It’s very likely a reliever profile (to me), so some of his value is cut off at the legs already. I do think he can be a fine bullpen piece with continued refinement — starting with a fastball that touches 96-97 and a hard 86-87 MPH slider doesn’t hurt – so depending on where he falls on draft day he could be a nice value for a team searching for a potential late-inning arm. I’ve gotten a Toddy Coffey comp for him that works in a few different ways (though I’m unclear if Kuhnel’s mound entrance is as entertaining as Coffey’s), but I think that could wind up being a little light in the long run. Not that there’s anything wrong with an eight-year career that earns you just under seven million bucks, of course. I suppose part of my relative lack of love for Kuhnel is anticipating how highly others will value him come June. It’s not ideal logic, but it’s all I’ve got for now.

(Another parenthetical just because: Todd Coffey had such a great journeyman reliever career. Look at his ERA+ by season: 96, 131, 80, 101, 142, 85, 106, 83. The gold standard for that had always been Rheal Cormier’s run with the Phillies for me [101, 74, 235, 127, 75, 297], but I think Coffey tops it with his beautiful yo-yo run. It’s like if the Giants organization were embodied by one man.)

I wrote about Reagan Bazar back in October…

Bazar is one of the bigger gambles to grace this list. He hasn’t done enough yet at Louisiana to warrant such a placement, but when he’s feeling it his stuff (mid- to upper-90s FB, promising low-80s SL) can suffocate even good hitting. Yes, I realize ranking the 6-7, 250+ pound righthander this high undermines a lot of what I said directly above. I’ll always be a sucker for big velocity and Bazar hitting 100+ certainly qualifies.

He was ranked way too high on that list and arguably too high on this list, but I just can’t quit on his velocity. I might just have to accept the fact I’ll always rank him too high and move on. But if he does put it all together…

Hitters

  1. South Alabama rJR OF/LHP Cole Billingsley
  2. Louisiana rSO 1B/OF Steven Sensley
  3. Georgia State JR OF/3B Ryan Blanton
  4. Louisiana SR 1B/2B Stefan Trosclair
  5. Texas State JR OF/1B Granger Studdard
  6. Louisiana SR OF Kyle Clement
  7. South Alabama rSO SS Drew LaBounty
  8. Georgia Southern JR 1B Ryan Cleveland
  9. Georgia State SR C Joey Roach
  10. Texas-Arlington SR OF Matt McLean
  11. Arkansas State SR OF Austin Baker
  12. Louisiana-Monroe SR C Dalton Todd
  13. Louisiana SR C Nick Thurman
  14. Arkansas-Little Rock JR OF/1B Dalton Thomas
  15. Arkansas State JR OF Garrett Rucker
  16. Georgia Southern JR OF Jordan Wren
  17. Louisiana JR OF Ishmael Edwards
  18. South Alabama rSO C/OF Jared Barnes
  19. Louisiana JR SS/2B Brad Antchak
  20. Troy JR OF/1B Trevor Davis
  21. Texas-Arlington SR OF Cody Farrell
  22. Texas-Arlington SR 2B/SS Darien McLemore
  23. Louisiana JR 3B/2B Brenn Conrad
  24. Arkansas-Little Rock SR OF Ryan Scott
  25. Louisiana JR SS/3B Joe Robbins
  26. Arkansas State SR OF Ty White
  27. Louisiana JR 3B Alex Pinero
  28. Appalachian State JR OF Tyler Stroup
  29. South Alabama JR 1B/3B Edward Paparella
  30. Arkansas State JR 2B/3B Joe Schrimpf
  31. Texas-Arlington JR 2B/OF Quintin Rohrbaugh
  32. South Alabama JR 2B/OF Adam Wolfe
  33. Arkansas State JR 2B Eric Wilcoxson
  34. Texas State SR C/1B Tanner Hill
  35. Georgia Southern rSR OF Hunter Thomas
  36. Texas State SR OF/LHP Cory Geisler
  37. South Alabama SR SS Ryan Raspino
  38. South Alabama JR 2B Matt Bolger
  39. South Alabama SR 1B Daniel Martinez
  40. Troy SR 1B/RHP Austin Hulsey
  41. Troy rJR 3B/C TJ Binder

Pitchers

  1. Louisiana JR RHP Reagan Bazar
  2. Texas-Arlington JR RHP Joel Kuhnel
  3. Arkansas State JR RHP Tyler Zuber
  4. South Alabama rSR RHP Kevin Hill
  5. Texas State SR RHP Lucas Humpal
  6. Troy SR RHP Lucas Brown
  7. Arkansas State rSO RHP Brian Ayers
  8. Texas State rSR RHP Jeremy Hallonquist
  9. Arkansas State SR RHP/OF Adam Grantham
  10. Georgia Southern SR RHP Chris Brown
  11. South Alabama SR RHP Justin Flores
  12. Louisiana-Monroe JR RHP Brayden Bouchey
  13. Texas State rJR LHP Jonathan Hennigan
  14. Appalachian State JR RHP/OF Matt Brill
  15. Arkansas State SR RHP/3B Tanner Ring
  16. Georgia State JR RHP Bryce Conley
  17. Troy JR LHP Evan Hebert
  18. South Alabama rSO RHP Austin Geyer
  19. Arkansas-Little Rock JR RHP Cody McGill
  20. Georgia Southern JR RHP Landon Hughes
  21. Appalachian State JR RHP/OF Brian Bauk
  22. Louisiana-Monroe JR RHP/2B Anthony Herrera
  23. Louisiana JR RHP Chris Charpentier
  24. Troy SR RHP Grant Bennett
  25. Georgia State SR RHP Cole Uvila
  26. Georgia State SR RHP Clayton Payne
  27. Arkansas State SR RHP/OF Derek Birginske
  28. South Alabama rSR RHP Mike Dolloff
  29. Georgia State JR LHP Devin Vainer
  30. Troy JR RHP Marc Skinner
  31. Arkansas-Little Rock JR RHP Cody Daylor
  32. South Alabama rSR RHP Cody Van Aken
  33. Louisiana SR RHP Eric Carter
  34. Appalachian State JR LHP Dallas DeVrieze
  35. Georgia State SR LHP Wayne Wages
  36. Appalachian State SR RHP Caleb McCann
  37. Arkansas-Little Rock JR RHP Reed Willenborg
  38. Louisiana SR RHP Will Bacon
  39. Georgia Southern SR RHP Ryan Frederick
  40. Arkansas State JR LHP Coulton Lee
  41. Arkansas-Little Rock JR RHP Cory Malcom
  42. South Alabama SR RHP Hunter Soleymani
  43. South Alabama SR LHP Shane McKinley
  44. Georgia Southern SR LHP Anthony Paesano
  45. South Alabama SR LHP Austin Stephens

Appalachian State

SR RHP Caleb McCann (2016)
JR RHP Sean Mason (2016)
JR LHP Dallas DeVrieze (2016)
JR RHP/OF Brian Bauk (2016)
JR RHP/OF Matt Brill (2016)
JR OF Tyler Stroup (2016)
SR 1B Grayson Atwood (2016)
SO RHP Luke Watts (2017)
SO RHP Reed Howell (2017)
SO SS Henry Davis (2017)
SO INF Conner Leonard (2017)
SO OF Drake Zupcic (2017)

High Priority Follows: Caleb McCann, Sean Mason, Dallas DeVrieze, Brian Bauk, Matt Brill, Tyler Stroup, Grayson Atwood

Arkansas State

JR RHP Tyler Zuber (2016)
rSO RHP Brian Ayers (2016)
JR LHP Coulton Lee (2016)
SR RHP/OF Derek Birginske (2016)
SR RHP/OF Adam Grantham (2016)
SR RHP/3B Tanner Ring (2016)
SR 1B Matt Burgess (2016)
JR OF Garrett Rucker (2016)
SR OF Austin Baker (2016)
SR OF Ty White (2016)
JR 2B Eric Wilcoxson (2016)
JR 2B/3B Joe Schrimpf (2016)
FR RHP Peyton Culbertson (2018)

High Priority Follows: Tyler Zuber, Brian Ayers, Coulton Lee, Derek Birginske, Adam Grantham, Tanner Ring, Matt Burgess, Garrett Rucker, Austin Baker, Ty White, Eric Wilcoxson, Joe Schrimpf

Arkansas-Little Rock

JR RHP Cody McGill (2016
JR RHP Keenan Wingfield (2016)
JR RHP Cody Daylor (2016)
SR LHP Jarrid Garcia (2016)
JR RHP Cory Malcom (2016)
JR RHP Reed Willenborg (2016)
JR OF/1B Dalton Thomas (2016)
JR OF Nik Gifford (2016)
SR OF Ryan Scott (2016)
SR 3B Kyle Kirk (2016)
FR RHP Zach Ours (2018)
FR RHP Joe Corbett (2018)
FR OF Keegan Meyn (2018)
FR C Jonathan Davis (2018)
FR 1B/OF Riley Pittman (2018)
FR INF Christian Reyes (2018)

High Priority Follows: Cody McGill, Cody Daylor, Jarrid Garcia, Cory Malcom, Reed Willenborg, Dalton Thomas, Ryan Scott

Georgia Southern

JR RHP Landon Hughes (2016)
SR RHP Chris Brown (2016)
SR RHP Ryan Frederick (2016)
rJR LHP Evan Challenger (2016)
SR LHP Anthony Paesano (2016)
rSO RHP Adam Kelly (2016)
JR OF Jordan Wren (2016)
JR INF Evan McDonald (2016)
JR 1B Ryan Cleveland (2016)
rSR OF Hunter Thomas (2016)
JR 2B/SS Cal Baker (2016)
SO LHP Connor Simmons (2017)
FR RHP Chandler Newman (2018)
FR OF CJ Ballard (2018)

High Priority Follows: Landon Hughes, Chris Brown, Ryan Frederick, Evan Challenger, Anthony Paesano, Adam Kelly, Jordan Wren, Evan McDonald, Ryan Cleveland, Hunter Thomas, Cal Baker

Georgia State

SR RHP Clayton Payne (2016)
SR LHP Wayne Wages (2016)
SR RHP Cole Uvila (2016)
SR LHP Garrett Ford (2016)
JR LHP Devin Vainer (2016)
JR RHP Bryce Conley (2016)
SR RHP Marc-André Habeck (2016)
rSR RHP Alex Hegner (2016)
JR OF/3B Ryan Blanton (2016)
SR C Joey Roach (2016)
SR OF James Clements (2016)
JR OF Jaylen Woullard (2016)
JR 3B Jarrett Hood (2016)
SR OF Cam Sperry (2016)
SO RHP Logan Barnette (2017)
SO SS Justin Jones (2017)
SO 1B Jack Thompson (2017)
SO OF Will Johnson (2017)
SO 2B Will Kilgore (2017)
FR C Nick Gatewood (2018)

High Priority Follows: Clayton Payne, Wayne Wages, Cole Uvila, Devin Vainer, Bryce Conley, Alex Hegner, Ryan Blanton, Joey Roach

Louisiana

JR RHP Reagan Bazar (2016)
SR RHP Will Bacon (2016)
SR RHP Colton Lee (2016)
SR RHP Eric Carter (2016)
JR RHP Chris Charpentier (2016)
SR C Nick Thurman (2016)
SR 1B/2B Stefan Trosclair (2016)
JR 3B/2B Brenn Conrad (2016)
JR SS/2B Brad Antchak (2016)
SR OF Kyle Clement (2016)
JR OF Ishmael Edwards (2016)
rSO 1B/OF Steven Sensley (2016)
JR 3B Alex Pinero (2016)
JR SS/3B Joe Robbins (2016)
SR OF Derek Herrington (2016)
SO RHP Wyatt Marks (2017)
SO RHP Dylan Moore (2017)
SO RHP Evan Guillory (2017)
SO RHP Logan Stoelke (2017)
SO LHP/1B Gunner Leger (2017)
SO SS/OF Kennon Fontenot (2017)
FR RHP Jacob Norman (2018)
FR RHP Nick Lee (2018)
FR LHP Hogan Harris (2018)
FR C Ryne Ray (2018)
FR 2B/SS Hunter Kasuls (2018)
FR OF Johnny Rizer (2018)
FR SS Dylon Poncho (2018)

High Priority Follows: Reagan Bazar, Will Bacon, Eric Carter, Chris Charpentier, Nick Thurman, Stefan Trosclair, Brenn Conrad, Brad Antchak, Kyle Clement, Ishmael Edwards, Steven Sensley, Alex Pinero

Louisiana-Monroe

JR RHP Brayden Bouchey (2016)
rJR RHP Chase Cater (2016)
rSR RHP Brandon Bell (2016)
rJR RHP Josh Leone (2016)
JR RHP Derek Martin (2016)
JR RHP/2B Anthony Herrera (2016)
SR C Dalton Todd (2016)
rSR OF Jacob Stockton (2016)
SR 1B Danny Springer (2016)
JR OF Cade Stone (2016)
SR OF Nathan Pugh (2016)
SO RHP/OF Keegan Curtis (2017)
SO C Spencer Hemphill (2017)
FR LHP Ethan Daily (2018)

High Priority Follows: Brayden Bouchey, Anthony Herrera, Dalton Todd, Danny Springer

South Alabama

rSR RHP Cody Van Aken (2016)
rSR RHP Kevin Hill (2016)
rSR RHP Mike Dolloff (2016)
JR LHP Thomas Huston (2016)
JR RHP Randy Bell (2016)
rSR RHP Austin Bembnowski (2016)
SR LHP Shane McKinley (2016)
SR RHP Hunter Soleymani (2016)
SR LHP Austin Stephens (2016)
SR RHP Justin Flores (2016)
rSO RHP Austin Geyer (2016)
SR RHP Ryne Long (2016)
rJR OF/LHP Cole Billingsley (2016)
SR 1B Daniel Martinez (2016)
SR SS Ryan Raspino (2016)
rSO C/OF Jared Barnes (2016)
rSO SS Drew LaBounty (2016)
JR 1B/3B Edward Paparella (2016)
JR 2B/OF Adam Wolfe (2016)
SR 1B/3B Ben Gann (2016)
JR 2B Matt Bolger (2016)
JR C Tanner Halstead (2016)
JR OF Jalen Haskin (2016)
FR LHP/OF Travis Swaggerty (2018)
FR C Carter Perkins (2018)
FR OF Dylan Hardy (2018)
FR INF Wells Davis (2018)
FR 3B/OF Brendan Donovan (2018)

High Priority Follows: Cody Van Aken, Kevin Hill, Mike Dolloff, Shane McKinley, Hunter Soleymani, Austin Stephens, Justin Flores, Austin Geyer, Cole Billingsley, Daniel Martinez, Ryan Raspino, Jared Barnes, Drew LaBounty, Edward Paparella, Adam Wolfe, Matt Bolger

Texas-Arlington

JR RHP Joel Kuhnel (2016)
SR RHP Jacob Moreland (2016)
rSO LHP Adam Meyer (2016)
SR OF Cody Farrell (2016)
SR OF Matt McLean (2016)
SR 2B/SS Darien McLemore (2016)
SR 1B Jackson Morris (2016)
SR OF Caleb Koedyker (2016)
JR C Brady Cox (2016)
JR 2B/OF Quintin Rohrbaugh (2016)
SO RHP Reid Petty (2017)
SO RHP Daniel James (2017)
SO 3B/OF Christian Hollie (2017)
SO SS/OF RJ Williams (2017)
FR 1B Noah Vaughn (2018)
FR INF Josh Minjarez (2018)

High Priority Follows: Joel Kuhnel, Adam Meyer, Cody Farrell, Matt McLean, Darien McLemore, Jackson Morris, Quintin Rohrbaugh

Texas State

SR RHP Lucas Humpal (2016)
rSR RHP Jeremy Hallonquist (2016)
SR RHP Justin Dellinger (2016)
rJR LHP Jonathan Hennigan (2016)
rSR RHP Pasquale Mazzoccoli (2016)
SR OF/LHP Cory Geisler (2016)
JR OF/1B Granger Studdard (2016)
SR C/1B Tanner Hill (2016)
SO 3B Jaylen Hubbard (2017)
SO SS Luke Sherley (2017)
SO C/2B Jared Huber (2017)
FR 2B Jonathan Ortega (2018)
FR 1B Nick Perez (2018)

High Priority Follows: Lucas Humpal, Jeremy Hallonquist, Jonathan Hennigan, Cory Geisler, Granger Studdard, Tanner Hill

Troy

SR RHP Lucas Brown (2016)
SR RHP Grant Bennett (2016)
SR LHP Austin Crook (2016)
JR RHP Marc Skinner (2016)
JR LHP Evan Hebert (2016)
rSO RHP Jesse Nelson (2016)
SR 1B/RHP Austin Hulsey (2016)
rJR 3B/C TJ Binder (2016)
JR OF/1B Trevor Davis (2016)
SR C Tripp Calhoun (2016)
SO RHP Corey Childress (2017)
SO LHP Perez Knowles (2017)
SO OF/LHP Reid Long (2017)
FR C Chase Smartt (2017)
SO SS Matt Sanders (2017)
FR RHP Zack Lightsey (2018)
FR 2B Brandon Lockridge (2018)

High Priority Follows: Lucas Brown, Grant Bennett, Marc Skinner, Evan Hebert, Austin Hulsey, TJ Binder, Trevor Davis

Sun Belt 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

Texas-Arlington SR C Eric Tate
Louisiana SR 1B Greg Davis
Texas-Arlington JR 2B Darien McLemore
Louisiana JR SS Blake Trahan
Georgia State JR 3B Matt Rose
Troy JR OF Logan Hill
Appalachian State JR OF Jaylin Davis
Texas-Arlington JR OF Cody Farrell

Arkansas State JR RHP David Owen
Louisiana SR RHP Greg Milhorn
Texas State JR RHP Lucas Humpal
Troy JR RHP Tucker Simpson
Texas State rJR RHP Jeremy Hallonquist

Writing about the Sun Belt is an excuse for me to write about a player who might literally be my favorite of all the FAVORITES I’ve written about so far. Everything about Louisiana JR SS Blake Trahan’s game appeals to me. He’s the kind of player I’m comfortable going all-in on and staking my flimsy at best internet reputation on.

I had Trahan only behind Dansby Swanson, Richie Martin, and CJ Hinojosa on my personal ranking of college shortstop prospects coming into the season, ahead of more famous names like Kevin Newman and Mikey White. I considered that fairly aggressive at the time, but, if anything, I might have underrated him; an argument could be made right now that he’s second only to Swanson as a pro prospect at the six-spot. If you’re picking high and you miss or pass on Swanson in the first round, then you might wind up getting the better end of the deal in the long run with Trahan in the second. He runs, fields, and hits for average as well as any shortstop in the class, and his intensity, aggressive style out of play (I love that Mike Rooney called it “almost out-of-control” as a positive), and on-field makeup bring that little something extra to his overall tools package.

There’s still the question of whether or not he’ll produce enough power as he begins to go head-to-head against pitching outside of the Sun Belt. I’d personally like to see him begin to make better use of his easy plus speed on the bases; if ever there was a prospect in need of a good base running coach like Davey Lopes, Trahan is it. Others don’t like his defense nearly as much as I do, though most think he at least has the hands, arm, and athleticism to start his pro career at short before potentially moving to second base down the line. Those are relatively minor concerns at this point, though I can at least understand how one might want to delve deeper into the level of competition point before investing a top fifty pick on him. I’m curious about that as well, but remain confident that his physical ability, feel for hitting, and disciplined approach (on the micro-level as a hitter and on the macro-level as a young man committed to getting the most out of his talent) is enough that he’d thrive in just about any situation. I’d draft him early, give him a little time to adjust to pro ball, coach him up a bit, and then sit back and relax as he became a fixture at shortstop for my franchise over the next half-decade.

I wrote briefly about Trahan almost exactly one year ago (today is 3/18 as I write this, but who knows when it’ll be published)…

Best tools/production combo right now is Alex Bregman with Blake Trahan not too far off the trail. I love that they are both in the same state, one at a traditional powerhouse and the other at an on-the-rise upstart; can’t wait to read the eventual Aaron Fitt feature on the two.

Still waiting on that Bregman/Trahan feature, college baseball writers! That thing practically writes itself, right? Almost everything I said about Trahan can be applied to another outstanding potential first day Sun Belt hitter in Georgia State JR 3B/RHP Matt Rose. In no way is this a direct comp by any stretch, but something about Rose’s profile reminds me former Washington star and current weirdly underrated Diamondbacks third baseman Jake Lamb. I liked Lamb a lot in his draft year (“above-average big league starter upside”) and I don’t see how anybody can objectively look at Rose and come up with too different a conclusion about his future (above-average big league starter upside). The tools are big league quality: above-average to plus raw power, really promising defensive gifts, and enough arm strength to throw 90-94 MPH fastballs off the mound. What I might like most about Rose is the persistent claim that from those who have seen him closest that he’ll be a really good big league hitter. I can’t tell you how often I heard how his approach at the plate is beyond his years. Fair and balanced to the scouting reports and statistics to the every end, I’d then look at his BB/K numbers over the years (13/37 last year, for example) and wonder what they were seeing that I never did (literally never did, by the way: I’m no scout so it might not matter, but, full disclosure, I have not yet seen Rose play at Georgia State). Well, though it may be early, Rose’s .306/.420/.722 line through 72 AB (13 BB/11 K) is a pretty nice start for those that have been on Rose since the start. He was always one of those players that seemed like he’d be better professionally – in part because he’d be away from the mound – than he looked in college, which ties us back to something frequently said about Lamb back in 2012. I’ve underrated Rose too long in the past, but no more.

(I have to point out that there are some really smart people who prefer Rose as a pitcher. That just makes him an even cooler prospect in my book. I get the appeal, too: he’s 90-94 with his fastball, shows two offspeed pitches with promise already, and has premium size (6-4, 200) and athleticism. Stretching him out as a starting pitcher in the pros would be really tempting to me if I wasn’t so confident that he’d hit (and hit with power) at third base.)

(I also have to point out – since it was pointed out to me – that perhaps my associating Matt Rose with Jake Lamb could be because they both have four letters in their first and last names. I didn’t realize that initially, so maybe that’s it. The next time somebody tries to dismiss a comp, feel free to use this awesome example as a reason to believe. Two guys with four letters in each their names have to be similar baseball players, right? That’s how this works, I’m pretty sure.)

There’s more to the Sun Belt shortstop position than just the aforementioned Trahan. Louisiana-Monroe JR SS Kodie Tidwell is a patient, balanced hitter with all of the requisite defensive tools to stick at shortstop over the long haul. While Trahan was good from day one at Louisiana, Tidwell has slowly yet surely improved in all offensively phases since entering college. Though not the same prospect as Trahan in my eyes, there’s still a pretty decent chance I would have written a few hundred words on him instead were it not for the possibility of Trahan sneaking into the draft’s first round. I also might have written more about Appalachian State JR SS/OF Dillon Dobson. The SS/OF positional designation doesn’t really do him justice as he has seen time at just about every position (1B, 2B, 3B) on the diamond as well. Between that defensive versatility, excellent athleticism, average speed, and above-average raw power (second in this area to only Matt Rose among Sun Belt infielders for me), you’ve got yourself a pretty intriguing professional prospect, especially if he can clean up his overly aggressive approach a bit.

Arkansas State rJR 3B Zach George is almost the Kodie Tidwell to Matt Rose’s Blake Trahan. He’s a really solid prospect with a really inspiring story (two torn ACLs) of perserverance. I actually had to not be lazy for a change and double-check that the two torn ACL thing was true (it is) because it’s so hard for me to fathom. I wish I had more of a platform to get George’s story out there, but, for now, just know that he’s a damn fine player and a legitimate pro prospect. Louisiana SR 3B Tyler Girouard’s 5-9, 180 pound frame doesn’t scream third base prospect, but he’s a good college hitter with an above-average approach. Louisiana-Monroe SR 3B/1B Keelin Rasch is yet another honest to goodness senior sign worth considering as a strong armed third baseman with a little thump.

There are some talented backstops in the Sun Belt this year. It speaks very well of the overall talent level of the league because, as I write all the time, quality catchers are always in demand in June. I think the odds are in your favor that when you go to a random conference game this season that you’ll see a future professional catcher or two. Louisiana SR C/3B Evan Powell (LSU transfer) and Georgia Southern SR C Chase Griffin (friend told me that Griffin is Luke Lowery if Luke Lowery hadn’t gone crazy with the bat this winter) are well-known to people who obsess about this stuff like you and I, but other catchers in the conference appear to be better bets as pros to me. Texas-Arlington SR C Eric Tate hit a ton last year and keeps on hitting this year. At some point that’ll get him noticed. Georgia State JR C Joey Roach has also hit, and the reports I have on his defense, especially in how he handles pitchers, are uniformly positive.

Texas-Arlington JR 2B/SS Darien McLemore can field his spot and give you some sneaky pop in his sturdy 5-9, 210 frame, so I’m still on him despite his slow start this season. Georgia State SR 2B/SS Caden Bailey is a player I expected to have a breakout junior season (didn’t happen), so it’s nice to see him get off to a hot start in his final year of school. I still like Bailey as a senior sign that could quickly go from organizational depth to big league utility prospect if everything breaks right. I don’t have much information yet on Appalachian State SR 2B/OF Michael Pierson, but his bat intrigues me enough to find out more.

I thought Texas-Arlington JR OF Cody Farrell had a chance to step into the Mavericks lineup and light the college world on fire. So far, that hasn’t exactly been the case. There are reasons why I liked him in the first place (athleticism, bat speed, and a well-rounded overall skill set), but he’ll have to pick it up at the plate if he wants to avoid being a 2016 senior sign breakout candidate to watch. Speaking of senior sign breakout candidates to watch, here’s Troy SR OF Jo-El Bennett. Bennett has not broken out yet, but that doesn’t stop people like me from keeping him higher in these kinds of rankings than his performance deserves. It goes to show what a cool name, impressive high school pedigree, and flashes of appealing tools can do for a player. No sense in hopping off the Bennett bandwagon now, but it’s getting pretty lonesome at this point. His teammate at Troy, JR OF Logan Hill, appears to have overtaken him in the prospect pecking order. I’m good with that because of Hill’s enormous raw power; hopefully his bandwagon still has room (a quick Google search indicates that I’m the only one on the planet writing about Logan Hill’s MLB draft stock, so, yeah, it does).

Appalachian State JR OF Jaylin Davis has as many 55’s on his card as any outfielder here. He’s above-average or better in center, throwing, and in terms of raw power, and just a touch above average as a runner. I think he’s smart enough, athletic enough, and in possession of a quick enough bat to hit enough to make all those tools work, so don’t forget the name. As a plus defender in center who has shown a little extra pop to go along with a patient approach so far this winter, South Alabama rSO OF/LHP Cole Billingsley is another name to store away.

I’ve spent a lot of words raving about many of the Sun Belt’s good looking position player prospects already, so I’ll keep my remarks about the pitching in the conference brief. It’s an interesting group when you look at the big picture: lots of undersized righthanders, not a ton of velocity (88-92 MPH fastballs are the norm), and a good number of unknowns (and transfers) with plenty to prove between now and June. Arkansas State JR RHP David Owen, one of those undersized righties at 6-0, 190 pounds, commands four pitches with impressive control of occasionally powerful (94-95 peak) stuff. Transfers Louisiana SR RHP Greg Milhorn (Arkansas) and Troy JR RHP Tucker Simpson (Florida) both hold promise beyond what they’ve shown so far. Milhorn has the stuff to start (88-94 FB, good CB and CU) and Simpson has tantalizing size (6-7, 220) and a fastball that works now (94-95 peak) with some thinking he has a little more to come. I’d like to see Texas State rJR RHP Jeremy Hallonquist (plus SL, CU with serious drop) get more innings, which I assume will happen as he puts even more time between himself and a past Tommy John surgery. Georgia Southern JR LHP Jason Richman is all kinds of funky with a mid-80s fastball, lots of sliders, and unmatched deception. It could take some time, but I could see him turning himself into an actual pro bullpen piece in time.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Louisiana JR SS/2B Blake Trahan
  2. Georgia State JR 3B/RHP Matt Rose
  3. Louisiana-Monroe JR SS Kodie Tidwell
  4. Troy JR OF Logan Hill
  5. Appalachian State JR OF Jaylin Davis
  6. Texas-Arlington JR OF Cody Farrell
  7. South Alabama rSO OF/LHP Cole Billingsley
  8. Appalachian State JR SS/OF Dillon Dobson
  9. Arkansas State rJR 3B Zach George
  10. Texas-Arlington JR 2B/SS Darien McLemore
  11. Georgia State SR 2B/SS Caden Bailey
  12. Troy SR OF Jo-El Bennett
  13. Troy SR OF David Hall
  14. Georgia Southern SR OF Aaron Mizell
  15. Louisiana SR 1B/3B Greg Davis
  16. Texas-Arlington SR C Eric Tate
  17. Louisiana SR 3B Tyler Girouard
  18. Arkansas State JR OF Austin Baker
  19. South Alabama rSR OF Garrett DeGallier
  20. Georgia State JR C Joey Roach
  21. Louisiana SR C/3B Evan Powell
  22. Louisiana-Monroe SR 3B/1B Keelin Rasch
  23. South Alabama SR OF Cole Gleason
  24. Louisiana SR OF Dylan Butler
  25. Georgia Southern SR C Chase Griffin
  26. Arkansas State SR C Stuart Levy
  27. Georgia Southern SR OF Kody Adams
  28. Georgia State JR OF James Clements
  29. Appalachian State SR 2B/OF Michael Pierson
  30. Georgia State SR 2B/SS David Levy
  31. Texas State SR OF Ben McElroy
  32. Georgia Southern SR 2B/SS Dalton Busby

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching 

  1. Arkansas State JR RHP David Owen
  2. Louisiana SR RHP Greg Milhorn
  3. Texas State JR RHP/C Lucas Humpal
  4. Troy JR RHP Tucker Simpson
  5. Texas State rJR RHP Jeremy Hallonquist
  6. South Alabama JR RHP Justin Flores
  7. South Alabama SR RHP Ben Taylor
  8. South Alabama SR RHP Kevin Hill
  9. Georgia State JR RHP Nathan Bates
  10. Georgia Southern JR RHP Chris Brown
  11. Louisiana-Monroe rJR RHP Alex Hermeling
  12. Georgia Southern SR RHP Tripp Sheppard
  13. Georgia Southern JR LHP Jason Richman
  14. Arkansas State SR LHP Chandler Hawkins
  15. Texas-Arlington SR RHP Chad Nack
  16. Arkansas State JR RHP/OF Adam Grantham
  17. Georgia State JR RHP Clayton Payne
  18. Arkansas State JR RHP/2B Tanner Ring
  19. Appalachian State SR LHP Jeffrey Springs
  20. Appalachian State SR RHP Jamie Nunn
  21. Appalachian State SR RHP Robert Whaley
  22. Troy JR RHP Lucas Brown
  23. Georgia State SR RHP Kevin Burgee
  24. South Alabama SR LHP James Traylor
  25. Troy rSR RHP Jeremy McGowan
  26. Arkansas-Little Rock SR RHP Dyllon Brownmiller
  27. Appalachian State SR RHP Taylor Thurber