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Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Philadelphia in 2016
3 – Mickey Moniak
22 – Kevin Gowdy
152 – Cole Stobbe
175 – Jake Kelzer
182 – Josh Stephen
216 – David Martinelli
219 – Darick Hall
289 – Cole Irvin
316 – JoJo Romero
457 – Danny Zardon
And now a few words on some Phillies draft picks…
1.1 – OF Mickey Moniak
Ten thoughts on Mickey Moniak (3)…
1. This was not a good year to have the first overall pick.
2. I actually think that the Phillies looked at this past year’s draft landscape, saw a disappointing lack of high-end talent, and decided to “settle” for a guy they considered to be the safest bet to be a long-term quality big league player. If that decision came at the expense of some star upside, so be it. That belief runs seemingly counter to the fact that they took a 17-year-old hitter with marginal power as a “safe” choice, but this was a weird year. I think they viewed Moniak’s package of speed (above-average to plus), center field range (same), and arm (average) as being enough to get him to the big leagues. Beyond that, his feel for hitting, bat speed, and textbook swing mechanics would make up for any supposed offensive deficiencies. Moniak may never be a conventional star, but he stands as good a chance as any other prospect in this class to be an above-average offensive contributor at a premium defensive position. An Adam Eaton who can play a credible center isn’t the kind of flashy upside (or topside, as Marti Wolever used to say) typically associated with 1-1, but it’s still pretty damn valuable. The risk-benefit ratio makes sense here. Better chance to hit than Kyle Lewis or Corey Ray, fewer defensive questions than Zack Collins and Nick Senzel* (it’s my own list, but this is the only one I’d quibble with myself on…), no red flags like Delvin Perez, not a pitcher like AJ Puk, not a HIGH SCHOOL pitcher like Jay Groome or Riley Pint…there’s a clear reason for preferring Moniak and his relative certainty over just about any of his peers.
* Going back to Senzel a bit, I wonder if the Phillies liked him — he checks many of the boxes we’ve seen appeal to Johnny Almaraz since he took over drafting in Philadelphia — but didn’t like him so much more than a guy like Moniak that putting up with the eventual positional traffic jam would be worth it. It’s silly to pretend in 2016, a year in which we’ve seen many fast-rising college bats reach the big leagues at unprecedented speeds for the modern game, that need should be completely ignored in the MLB Draft. Should you go best player available (whatever that means) when there’s a clear best player available sitting on your board? Of course. But if things are muddled and different voices are championing different prospects, the composition of your big league club and organizational depth chart absolutely should come into play. Why shouldn’t it matter? I know the situation is very different, but it brings to mind what has happened to one of the other rebuilding teams in Philadelphia in recent years. I’m one of those Cult of Hinkie devotees (shocker, right?), but even I can’t fully understand how he (if it was him…still not entirely convinced there wasn’t strong ownership pressure that led him to Okafor, but maybe that’s just me being an apologist) thought the accumulation of assets (a good thing) could withstand the real life consequences of drafting three straight centers. Now they are left with a problem that can only be solved via trading a depressed asset (bad) or watching attrition and/or injury work things out for them (also bad). The Phillies could have put themselves in a similar spot with a potential Senzel, Maikel Franco, and Scott Kingery playing time triangle. The counter to all of this is that projecting a ballplayer’s future is hard and patience will eventually win out. Since June, Franco has struggled, Senzel has taken off, and Kingery has been up and down (more up than down, though he ended on a relative low note in AA). Maybe you’d be forced to move Franco for less than he’s worth a year from now when Senzel is ready to take over, but you’d a) still be getting something for Franco, and b) you’d have the guy you want playing third every day after all. Would a team with Senzel and whatever they got for Franco be better in the long run than a team with Franco and Moniak? We’ll see.
3. I still would have taken Groome with the first pick. As frustrating as he was to watch at times this past spring, it was still clear that what he has you just can’t teach. My alternate timeline has Groome and Nolan Jones as the 1-2 high school punch at the top of the draft for the Phillies. Shockingly enough, nobody from the Phillies asked my opinion on the matter. Hopefully, Moniak, Kevin Gowdy, Groome, and Jones go on to long, successful big league careers, rendering this entire hypothetical moot.
4. The player Moniak was most compared to during the draft process, Christian Yelich, was six months older than Moniak when drafted. Yelich went on to spend his entire first season tearing up Low-A. That got him recognized as a top fifty or so prospect (on average) on a combined ranking from Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com. If Moniak does what Yelich did in his full season debut, I don’t know how you could reasonably keep him out of the top ten heading into 2018. Not that prospect rankings matter all that much, but national recognition certainly doesn’t hurt. That’s especially true when it comes to a player’s trade value…which we’ll get to later. Anyway, from that point in his career on Yelich was a level-to-level player before skipping AAA altogether and making the leap to the big leagues in his age-21 season. That would mean Lakewood for Moniak in 2017, Clearwater in 2018 (AFL after that), and a half-season in Reading before getting the call to Philadelphia in July 2019. Aggressive to be sure and yeah yeah yeah I know that’s not how comps work, but still fun to dream on. Clock is ticking, Mickey.
5. Speaking of minor league assignments, the same glut you’ll read about below concerning starting pitchers in the system also applies to outfielders. Moniak is a lock to begin next year in Lakewood, but figuring out the pieces around him takes some serious mental gymnastics. Moniak should presumably be flanked by his former GCL teammates, Jhailyn Ortiz and Josh Stephen. That part is easy enough, at least from where I’m sitting. They’ll also have to find at bats for Jesus Alastre and Malvin Matos. Then there’s sixth round pick David Martinelli, a quality hitter potentially capable of double-jumping his way to Clearwater. Those plans might have been foiled, however, by Martinelli’s lackluster pro debut in short-season ball. That might be for the best considering the glut of talent in High-A. Cornelius Randolph, Jose Pujols, and Jiandido Tromp are the headliners, but guys like Cord Sandberg and Herlis Rodriguez are still interesting enough to warrant steady time if possible. Then there’s the question of figuring out what to do with Zack Coppola and Mark Laird, two players seen as organizational types at the onset of their careers who have hit their way (albeit with no power) into some degree of meaningful prospect consideration. You could bump one or both of those guys to a thin Reading outfield (Carlos Tocci, Aaron Brown, Joey Curletta, Derek Campbell) depending on their apparent readiness this spring. There’s a refreshing amount of options for the Phillies for the first time in what feels like a lifetime.
6. Adam Eaton and Christian Yelich were some of the pre-draft names mentioned when discussing Moniak. Some post-draft digging revealed three additional comps worth passing along. These are from two different sources who saw Moniak play down in Florida this summer. One called him a “Jackie Bradley/Andrew Benintendi type,” but with more functional speed on offense. Bold. The other one was a lefthanded AJ Pollock, a somewhat ironic comp (or not, I give up on knowing what that word really means anymore) because that was one of the ideas I threw out there for Benintendi in his draft year. Would you take that for a first overall pick? I think it’s an emphatic YES, caveats about the imperfect nature of comps and all expected developmental trials and tribulations acknowledged.
7. You can search the site for updated information — or just look below to see the final pre-draft notes piece I wrote about Moniak in June — but I thought it would be more interesting to look back at the first time I wrote about Moniak here. The following is from December 2015 just before the Moniak vs Blake Rutherford battles began…
The extra bit of youth isn’t what gives Moniak the edge for me, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. What separates Moniak at this present moment is his ability to hit the ball hard everywhere. Sometimes simplistic analysis works. The manner in which Moniak sprays line drives and deep flies to all fields resembles something a ten-year veteran who flirts with batting titles season after season does during BP. Trading off a little bit of Rutherford’s power for Moniak’s hit tool and approach (both in his mindfulness as a hitter and his plate discipline) are worth it for me. Of course, check back with me in a few months…I had Meadows ahead of Frazier for a long time before giving in to the latter’s arm, power, and approach (as a whole-fields power hitter, not necessarily as an OBP machine). History may yet repeat itself, but I’ll take Moniak for now.
8. It’s fun to imagine a future outfield in Philadelphia with Cornelius Randolph, Moniak, and Dylan Cozens (note: this is for entertainment purposes only and not a prediction as the Phillies are currently well-stocked with high-variance outfielders, so predicting which three will make it is damn near impossible at this point) where one outfielder (Cozens) stands to double up the combined power output of his outfield partners. I wonder how many times one outfielder had twice the total home runs of the other two starting outfielders in big league history. Probably more than I think. Barry Bonds hit 3.65 times as many homers as Calvin Murray and Armando Rios in 2001. It dips to around 2.5 times if you sub in Marvin Bernard for Murray. All of Bonds’s fellow outfielders (starter, backup, whatever) combined for 51 dingers that year. 73 for Bonds, 51 for all other Giants outfielders. That seems crazy to me. Turns out my hunch that it’s not all that rare to have one outfielder double up on two outfielders is correct, so feel free to email me about a full refund for the thirty seconds of reading you’ve just wasted. If you’re the curious type, you might be interested in my quick research focused on the best power season for outfielders on the all-time top ten home run list. Turns out every one of them doubled up their outfield mates at least once in their career. Hank Aaron did it in 1969 (44 HR to 21 HR), Babe Ruth did in 1927 (60 to 14), Mays did it in 1965 (52 to 13), Griffey did it in 1998 (56 to 27), and Sosa also did it in 1998 (66 to 33). Some of those figures are dependent on which player Baseball Reference deemed the starter at a position, but the general idea remains the same. Now obviously all of those players were literally the very best at hitting home runs in the history of the sport, so, yeah, keep that in mind as well. Wait, what were we talking about again? Right, Mickey Moniak…
9. Here’s the last thing I posted about the eventual first overall pick before the draft got rolling…
OF Mickey Moniak (La Costa Canyon HS, California): plus bat speed; legit plus hit tool; above-average to plus speed; pretty swing; average raw power; great approach; hits it everywhere; average arm; massive improvements to arm and bat this spring; ESPN comp: Trenton Clark; BA comp: Christian Yelich and Steve Finley; have heard Adam Eaton; really like Sam Monroy’s Joe Mauer swing comp; defense and hit tool make him a very good prospect, development of functional power and a more refined approach (with a great willingness to work deeper counts) could make him a star; FAVORITE; LHH; 6-2, 190 pounds
10. I made a non-public prediction last year via email to a pal that Cornelius Randolph would grow up to be the centerpiece of a trade to Oakland. The Phillies would land one of the final pieces needed in their return to glory, staff ace Sonny Gray. That prediction now seems…off. You might think that would discourage me from trading away another recent first round pick, but my deep love of making terrible roster predictions simply can not be stopped. So, here we go: the Angels will make Mike Trout available next offseason and, thanks in large part to his Philadelphia or bust request, Mickey Moniak becomes the big piece sent to the Angels to make it work.
2.42 – RHP Kevin Gowdy
A minor injury cost Kevin Gowdy (22) some time in his debut run as a professional, but his out-of-sight first few months in the organization should not diminish any of the excitement Phillies fans had for this guy back in early June. Gowdy is the real deal. The pre-draft report on him sums up why…
RHP Kevin Gowdy (Santa Barbara HS, California): 86-92 FB with sink, 94-95 peak; plus FB command; average 78-82 CU, above-average upside; well above-average 77-84 CB/SL, plus upside; ample deception; very good overall command; love his delivery; wise beyond his years on the mound, can look like a college pitcher mowing down overmatched competition on his best days; FAVORITE; 6-4, 170 pounds
In April, I went in on Gowdy a little bit in the comments…
Love Gowdy. Command, deception, and frame are all really promising. Puts his fastball where he wants it better than most of his college-aged peers. Velocity is good and breaking ball looks legit. And on top of all that, his delivery is a thing of beauty to me. I normally leave mechanics alone — don’t care what it looks long as long as the pitcher can repeat it consistently — but Gowdy’s stand out as being particularly efficient. I’m a big fan. Likely a top five prep pitcher in this class.
He wound up as my sixth overall high school pitching prospect in this class. Only Jay Groome, Riley Pint, Ian Anderson (a similar prospect to Gowdy in many ways), Braxton Garrett, and Alex Speas finished higher. Getting the sixth best high school pitching prospect in this class with the forty-second overall pick is a very good thing for Philadelphia. Whatever games they had to play with wink-wink signing bonus agreements was worth it. Gowdy has future postseason starter upside.
It’ll be fascinating to see where many of the experts rank Gowdy and Sixto Sanchez this offseason on Phillies lists. Franklyn Kilome is pretty obviously the best pitching prospect in the system — this felt obvious to me even before the Jake Thompson promotion, but what do I know — so the real battle will be for second place in the Philadephia pitching prospect pipeline pecking order. I think I might go full hypocrite and give Gowdy the edge based largely on the height/weight bias that I’ve tried to fight for years on this site. Sanchez has the bigger fastball (92-96, 99 peak), the more advanced present changeup (close call), and arguably the more impressive breaking ball (a POWER slider deserving of all CAPS that has been up to 92) at times. He also has the benefit of a season of dominant stateside ball in his back pocket. Gowdy gets the obvious edge in frame (6-4, 170ish), amateur pedigree (though it’s fair to ask how much this matters once pro games begin), fastball command, and mechanics (something I only point out in extreme cases…I think Gowdy’s delivery, in terms of both his ability to repeat it and the extra layer of deception it causes hitters to contend with, is that nice). I’d like to conclude that it’s ultimately a matter of preferring ceiling (Sanchez) or floor (Gowdy), but I think doing so undersells the other guy in each facet of his game. Assuming reasonably good health, Sanchez is a guy you can easily begin to dream on excelling in a late-inning relief role. Gowdy, meanwhile, is no slouch in the upside department; he’s a little bit light on velocity to perhaps think of him as a future ace, but believing in him as a future excellent number two doesn’t seem crazy to me. Maybe that’s the real conclusion here: both guys are potentially great, so let’s just enjoy the ride.
3.78 – SS Cole Stobbe
If you’re the type who values comps, then Cole Stobbe (152) is your man. Perfect Game dropped pre-draft comps of Jed Lowrie and Mark Ellis on him. I’ve always gotten a Brian Dozier vibe, though, to be fair, that was before 40-homer Brian Dozier came into our lives. Stobbe’s relatively high floor (for a HS hitter, anyway) fits a larger Phillies draft trend of selecting exactly this kind of player in 2016. Obviously Mickey Moniak got it started, but later picks like Stobbe and eleventh rounder Josh Stephen officially make the high character, advanced hit tool, well-rounded high school prospect a thing with the Phillies. Stobbe’s card is full of future five’s: hit tool, power, speed, and arm (maybe a touch more here) are all right around average tools. Many overlook the value of what an average tool really is; in Stobbe’s case, the idea of him being a well-rounded high floor prospect (again, relative to his teenage peers) sells his actual ceiling short. There’s a reason that Stobbe’s game elicited comparisons to so many above-average big league infielders. He brings an unusually mature whole-field approach to the table and a great deal of strength is packed into his 6-1, 200 pound frame. His intriguing defensive skill set makes him playable at short for now, but I see him as being particularly interesting at either third or second, my preferred long-term destination for him. Depending on where you slot him on the diamond, he’s either the best (3B) or second-best (SS behind JP Crawford, 2B behind Scott Kingery) prospect at that position in the system.
4.107 – LHP JoJo Romero
The Phillies won big betting on Yavapai Roughrider Kenny Giles in the seventh round in 2011. They’ve gone back to the well in selecting JoJo Romero (316) in 2016. The two young pitchers are about as different as can be. Romero is a highly athletic lefthander who gets by with a pair of average offspeed pitches (slider and change) that can flash better when his back is against the wall. His fastball velocity doesn’t quite reach the same heights as “100 Miles Giles,” but it’s average to above-average (88-92, 94 peak) for a lefty with his build. I didn’t have Romero as a fourth round value on my personal board (saw him more as a potential slightly overslot eleventh round type), but the logic behind the pick is sound. Romero has the stuff, pitchability, and track record to suggest he can continue to start as a professional. Whether he eventually has to shift to the pen or not remains to be seen, but I’m coming around to liking his chances to fulfill his back of the rotation destiny.
Romero’s long-term prospects are one thing, but I’m just as intrigued about his 2017 assignment. It’s easy to mentally pair him with Cole Irvin — “college” lefties with fairly similar stuff selected in back-to-back rounds (same bonus!) who both started together in Williamsport — but that ignores the fact that Romero is a whopping 2.5 years younger than Irvin. Pushing him to Clearwater would be exciting, but it seems more likely he’ll get treated more like a high school draftee and begin at Lakewood. Although, even that could pose a problem. Simply put, something has to give when it comes to the Phillies low-minors pitching surplus. By my preliminary count, there are 21 potential starting pitching options ready for full-season ball that will need to find a way to share ten to twelve potential rotation openings to start the year. Clearwater (High-A) could have Franklyn Kilome, Alberto Tirado, Drew Anderson, Cole Irvin, Shane Watson, Jose Taveras, Harold Arauz, Tyler Gilbert, and Luke Leftwich. Lakewood (Low-A) is even more loaded. They’ll have to find homes for names like Sixto Sanchez, Kevin Gowdy, Adonis Medina, Edgar Garcia, Bailey Falter, Seranthony Dominguez, Nick Fanti, Mauricio Llovera, Julian Garcia, Ranger Suarez, and Felix Paulino. I don’t think this is pie-in-the-sky local guy optimism, either. All of these names are legitimate prospects, though admittedly some at the back end of each list might be best served switching to relief down the line.
Even if they get aggressive with some of the Clearwater guys (Anderson, Watson, and Tirado?), there’s no real clear place to put them yet in AA where Tyler Viza, Thomas Eshelman, and Elniery Garcia, among others, are set to begin the year. The bullpen is always an option for some, as is being left behind in extended for some of the younger arms (a less than ideal solution to be sure), but this pile-up is real. So squeezing Romero into either rotation is going to be a challenge. His stuff and draft pedigree make it extremely likely (99%, give or take) that they’ll find a way, but I couldn’t tell you at which pitcher’s expense. Too many prospects for the Phillies…who would have ever thought?
5.137 – LHP Cole Irvin
Cole Irvin (289) does a lot of things well but no one thing exceptionally well. Players of this ilk are often undervalued on draft day — I’ve certainly been guilty of underrating them in the past, though I’m not sure that’s necessarily something to amend going forward — but the Phillies obviously liked what they saw out of the Oregon lefthander enough to pop him in the fifth round. As much as I personally like to see a knockout pitch (or exceptional command or athleticism or performance indicators), I can at least see the merit of taking a well-rounded veteran arm like Irvin. We’ve seen a lot of guys with similar scouting profiles wind up as better big league players than minor league prospects due in large part to making their “jack of all trades, master of none” tag obsolete through hard work, the right coaching, and unlocked physical gifts. If you can be a “jack of all trades, master of one” pitcher, then you’ve got a chance to outplay expectations at every turn.
Maybe that’ll be Irvin. Maybe not. His debut was certainly encouraging. In fact, it brought to mind a decent little organizational comp. To the numbers…
7.21 K/9 and 2.35 BB/9 in 53.2 IP (2.01 ERA)
7.29 K/9 and 1.58 BB/9 in 45.2 IP (1.97 ERA)
Adam Morgan’s debut is on top, Irvin’s debut is on bottom. Morgan was the 120th pick in the draft. Irvin was selected with pick 137. If we take the comparison to the next logical step, it’s worth noting that Morgan made a very successful double-jump to Clearwater in his first full season. I think there’s little chance Morgan doesn’t start next season with the Threshers as well.
Here’s a quick take on Irvin from April 2016 that gets to the heart of what kind of pitcher I think he’ll be…
Krook’s teammate with the Ducks, Cole Irvin, has seen his stuff rebound this year close to his own pre-TJ surgery levels. I was off Irvin early last season when he was more upper-80s with a loopy curve, but he is now capable of getting it back up to 92 (still sits 85-90) with a sharper upper-70s slider that complements his firmer than before curve and consistently excellent 78-81 change. It’s back of the rotation type starter stuff if it continues to come back.
6.167 – OF David Martinelli
David Martinelli (216) got off to a surprisingly slow start to his pro career, but that doesn’t obscure the fact that he’s one of this draft’s finer mid-tier (18th at the position here) college outfield prospects. His scouting blurb on this site said this about his game: “shows all five tools as consistently as almost any college hitter in this class.” Now that’s a fairly bold claim — albeit one with a key qualifier snuck in there — but it speaks to Martinelli’s extremely well-rounded game. Athletically, he checks every box with four of the five tools consistently showing at least average or better. His lone underwhelming tool has been his raw hit tool. Fortunately, he’s made some very encouraging progress in the batter’s box over the years: his BB/K ratios have moved from 28/59 to 22/67 to 24/30 from freshman to sophomore to junior year. If those gains can be maintained and he can keep up his brand of hard contact at the next level, Martinelli could have a long, fruitful career as a fourth outfielder.
Also, his name makes me want apple juice. So that’s reason enough to root for him.
Final tangential thought that can be skipped if you’re more into learning about what players the Phillies drafted than whatever it is we’ll categorize this as: Martinelli is the first of three Dallas Baptist Patriots selected by the Phillies in this draft. It seems that taking multiple players from the same school is something done by just about every team at some point in every draft. Logically, it makes sense: good teams have good players that are covered more frequently than other less good teams with less good players. I won’t dispute any of that. However, it does get me a little bit curious about the actual amount of canvassing that goes on by big league clubs tasked with covering as much ground as possible. My weird analogy for this takes us to Hollywood. I find acting silly. It’s pretending to be somebody else, something I considered a lot of fun when I was four but quickly grew out of. I can still enjoy a great performance, so maybe I’m just a big old hypocrite but I generally don’t respect the profession. One of the many gripes about acting is how actors are chosen for given roles. Nine times out of ten, it’s more about getting the right “look” rather than finding the “best” actor. That’s why I like sports: they might not perfect, but they represent the closest thing to a meritocracy in our present day society. If you’re good, you play. Anyway, Hollywood doesn’t feel the same way to me. Consider the top twenty most famous actors in the world. How many would you consider great at what they do? How many would actually rank in the top twenty solely on merit? Take somebody like Scarlett Johansson. Or a Gerard Butler. You really mean to tell me that they are two of the very best actors in a world of over seven billion people? There’s no way. They had the opportunity and the look, they took advantage of an opportunity (fair or not), and they let inertia do the rest. I’m very confident when I’m watching Major League Baseball that I’m watching 750 of the very best people on the planet doing their thing. Can’t feel the same way about TV or movies.
All of this gets us back to the idea of how odd spending 7.5% of your draft on players from one university comes across. I like Martinelli. I like Darick Hall. I like the unsigned Camden Duzenack. I have no problem with each individual pick. I understand the reality (good players, good team, trust in area scout, more frequent looks, etc.) that led the Phillies to tripling up at a school, too. However, I find it hard to believe that they deemed Martinelli, Hall, and Duzenack three of their forty favorite realistic targets in this draft. It’s just a little bit of a wake-up call to counter those who often speak about how infallible pro teams are in their amateur scouting process. Teams have tons of information at their disposal, but it is a a finite amount. There are limits to what they can possibly cover and sometimes shortcuts are taken. This isn’t a knock on the Phillies (or every other MLB team that does the same thing), but rather a tiny attempt to chip away at the long-standing logical fallacy that bogs down many conversations about sports. So many rush to appeal to authority when it comes to any sports-related disagreement — if the pro team thinks so, then it must be true — instead of trying to understand individual situations on a deeper level. Pro teams know a lot, obviously, but if you’re only argument to defend a specific move is “well, they must know what they are doing…” then maybe it’s all right to wonder if they actually do know in this singular instance. Nobody likes the smug know-it-all sports analyst who insists at every turn that he or she is more qualified to run a team than those who actually do so. But those who defend pro teams on the basis of “well, THEY are the professionals so they are automatically smarter, cooler, and handsomer than you nerds who dare question them” need to chill out, too.
Anyway, since I feel guilty my tangent is longer than the actual Martinelli content above, here’s a quick note on him from March 2016…
David Martinelli is another quality Dallas Baptist outfielder who has shown all five tools and plenty of athleticism. His power has always been the main draw, but his improved approach makes him even more appealing. I’m in on Martinelli.
7.197 – C Henri Lartigue
Criticizing a team’s selections in the MLB Draft is a tricky thing. Scouting amateur talent is a challenging endeavor, and one that ultimately generates more opinions about more players than any rational human being could ever effectively process. This country (plus Canada and Puerto Rico!) is just too big to have a strong opinion about every draft-worthy player, yet that’s exactly what weirdos like me set out to do. I don’t think it’s wrong to at least try to have some general feelings about as many players as possible, so long as one understands the limitations inherent in the process. This is a long way of saying that I wasn’t all that enamored with the Philadelphia Phillies seventh round pick. Lartigue is fine — he’s a good athlete for the position with a strong arm and some power upside who’s better days could very well be ahead of him — but he was the 29th ranked college catcher on my board for a reason. Tyler Lawrence, Michael Tinsley, Gavin Stupienski, Jack Kruger, and Tyler Lancaster, among others, would have been my preferred choice. Heck, even Keith Skinner and his $10,000 price tag might have been the better option.
That said, I don’t think it was a “bad” pick. I don’t think Lartigue is a “bad” prospect. It’s not what I would have done based on what I’ve seen, heard, and read, but, let’s be real, that doesn’t amount to much in the grand scheme of things. Firm opinions on seventh round picks are part of what make following the draft fun (if you can’t have an opinion, then what’s the point of all this, right?), but unflinching priggish opinions are a bummer. Acceptance that different sets of eyes can see two entirely different futures for a young ballplayer is a freeing thing. Maybe I’m right. Maybe the Phillies, a team with far more combined resources, brain power, and experience than myself are right. Maybe the very idea of “right” is off the mark here; the blurred lines between a singular amateur evaluation and all subsequent professional development muddle the process/results matrix a great deal. As a native Philadelphian and a fan of literally all draft prospects, I hope it works out for the Phillies and Lartigue.
8.227 – RHP Grant Dyer
I like the pick of Grant Dyer a lot and not just because of a pro debut as good as any reliever in this class. Dyer checks a lot of college draft sleeper boxes that are often overlooked (I speak from experience here) when trying to find a college draft sleeper: early contributor (69 IP as freshman), lots of big game experience (UCLA is pretty good, I’ve heard), and, most interesting to me, a draft year shift in role that benefited the team but not the player’s pro prospects. Dyer’s stuff took a predictably dip in 2016 as he was asked to do more than he’d ever done before by pitching out of the rotation rather than the bullpen. This turned some short-sighted thinkers off from him — I’ll note that he wasn’t ranked in my top 500, so feel free to do with that what you may — but those, like the Phillies front office, who stuck with him look pretty smart after his sterling debut back in his comfortable relief role. Dyer’s stuff jumps from 88-92 as a starter to 92-94 in relief (up to 95) with an outstanding curve (flashes plus) holding up no matter how he’s used. I thought his mid-80s changeup had a chance to develop into a pretty nice third pitch with continued use, but the firmness of the pitch combined with his diminished velocity as a starter caused him to more or less scrap it at UCLA. Changeup or not, Dyer’s 1-2 punch of two above-average pitches and impressive command should be his ticket to a long, successful career of middle relief.
9.257 – RHP Blake Quinn
I write these out of order for some reason and the Trevor Bettencourt pick has already been written, so feel free to scan down a little bit and read that one as a reasonable substitute for what I think about Blake Quinn. Both guys have missed bats in the past (9.32 K/9 for Quinn in 2016 at Cal State Fullerton), both guys have gone from one good baseball school to another (Quinn started at Fresno State), both guys sat out the 2015 season, both guys have had their bouts of wildness (4.32 BB/9 for Quinn this past college year), and both are fastball-leaning relief arms. Quinn was taken sixteen rounds ahead of Bettencourt for some good reasons — better stuff, better body (6-5, 210), longer track record — but the two are closer than that gap might suggest.
10.287 – RHP Julian Garcia
I knew very little about Julian Garcia before the draft, so learning more about him in the months that followed has been a lot of fun. I’m in on this guy. Garcia has a starter’s repertoire and a history of backing it up on the mound. My only concern about him at this point is finding him innings in the Phillies crowded low minors. Very slick pick in the tenth round.
11.317 – OF Josh Stephen
I don’t know what to make of Josh Stephen (182), one of the 2016 MLB Draft’s most divisive prospects. Those who like him point to his above-average or better speed, mature approach at the plate, burgeoning lefthanded pop, and solid chance to remain a center fielder over the long haul. Those who are more bearish on him paint him as more of a future reserve outfielder good enough to hang in center only occasionally with not quite the kind of all-around offensive game (average speed, power, and on-base skills) to make it in a corner. Most, however, do agree that Stephen can really hit. I’ve had more than one contact tell me he’s a future .300 hitter in the big leagues. If that’s the case, almost all of that other stuff won’t matter beyond being icing on the cake; a .300 hitter in a corner with modest power and speed is still pretty damn useful. If you’re a believer in the rest of his game coming through, then an above-average regular with sneaky star upside isn’t out of the question.
12.347 – RHP Justin Miller
Coincidental or not, the Phillies selection of Justin Miller is the first of a back-to-back run on high school pitchers out of California with only junior college commitments keeping them from the pros. Miller has an upper-80s fastball that has gotten better over the years, plus a 6-4, 180 pound frame; both of those things suggest more growth to come, at least potentially. He’s a long way away and a long shot even if things break right, but a worthwhile shot in round twelve.
13.377 – RHP Andrew Brown
Andrew Brown is a little bit of a post-tenth round $100,000 bonus prep pitching oddity in that he’s got more present stuff than long-term projection. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is somewhat unusual. Look no further than the pick directly above this one for a small slice of evidence. We spend so much time talking up teenage arms with physical upside remaining (with good reason, I should add; scouting and development is all about playing the long game) that the guys with more of the “now” stuff can get overlooked. That’s part of my rationale for personally overlooking Brown before the draft. Now that I am looking at him, I see a fairly generic (a term many assume is a slight, but not necessarily so) righthanded pitching prospect — his present 88-92 fastball MPH band is by far the most common in my scouting notes — with average or slightly below height, some room to fill out his 180 pound frame, and underdeveloped yet playable secondary stuff. The good news for Brown is that the opportunity is going to be there, at least in the short-term. International prospects and 2017 draftees will make the short-season leagues a lot more crowded next summer than they currently look now, but it still has to be nice for some of the youngest prospects in the system to see very little in their way presently at the GCL and New York-Penn League levels. Innings will be there for Brown, Kyle Young, and Justin Miller for the taking.
14.407 – 1B Darick Hall
I really like Philadelphia’s selection of Darick Hall (219) in the fourteenth round. It might be asking for too much, but a breakout at Lakewood a la Rhys Hoskins in early 2015 is within the realm of possibility for the former Dallas Baptist two-way star. Hoskins kept it going at Clearwater later that season and then cemented his status as a “real” prospect in Reading this year, so the bar for Hall is high but not completely unreachable. For entertainment purposes only, here’s what Hall (top) and Hoskins (bottom) did as college juniors…
.298/.417/.615 with 30 BB/49 K in 218 AB
.319/.428/.573 with 39 BB/31 K in 213 AB
Hall gets the slight edge in power (plus raw), though the Hoskins of today would surely give that a run for its money. I’m inclined to give Hoskins the edge as a hitter, but it’s really close. Approach is a win for Hoskins, but with the caveat that the move away from the mound could help Hall see some gains in this area. On balance, I like the Hoskins of 2014 a little more than I do Hall today, but it’s close enough that the wishful thinking that Hall can be one of baseball’s next under-the-radar first base prospects feels warranted.
16.467 – C Brett Barbier
If Brett Barbier can catch, he’s worth following. If he can hang in the outfield, he’s still fairly intriguing. If he’s a first baseman, he’ll need to find an extra offensive gear to keep climbing the ladder. The reports I have on his glove behind the dish are mixed, so we’ll have to wait and see what his defensive future holds. I do like his bat, wherever he winds up. He’s a little like Danny Zardon in that his most realistic outcome is as an organizational player capable of playing a variety of spots while piling up big hits to help his minor league clubs win games. You need guys like that.
17.497 – 3B Danny Zardon
My preliminary notes on Danny Zardon (457) after his first professional season wrapped up: “great debut, wish he did it in Williamsport.” With a few more days to reflect on his year, I’d say…well, pretty much the same thing. Zardon’s tools (average power and speed, solid glove with an above-average arm), pedigree (one-time LSU recruit), and junior year performance (.318/.420/.613 with 39 BB/45 K in 217 AB at Nova Southeastern) add up to make him far more interesting than your typical seventeenth round selection. There’s a chance he makes it as a bat-first utility infielder and a smaller chance he keeps hitting enough to be a league average starting third baseman. If neither upside is ultimately reached, he should still serve a very useful purpose as a quintessential minor league “professional hitter” capable of filling in at multiple spots on the diamond.
18.527 – RHP Jake Kelzer
The run on righthanded relievers started very strong for the Phillies with the selection of Jake Kelzer (175) in the eighteenth round. My very aggressive pre-draft ranking (sixth round equivalency) speaks to what I believe is major upside as a reliever. Beware the too tall pitcher, they say. It took me too long, but I’ve finally listened. Big guys jump out at you in person, on the tube, and on the listed roster, but the track record for pitchers over 6-6 isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. That’s all based on observation and not data, so feel free to dismiss those conclusions if you like. Tall pitchers tend to have more difficulty coordinating their bodies and uncoordinated bodies tend to have command issues. It’s practically science, right? Beware the too tall pitcher.
But this time it’ll be different! In all seriousness, Kelzer is such a great athlete that many of the concerns associated with too tall pitchers are less likely to come into play. Apparently I’ve been banging this drum for a while…
Kelzer is the rare big pitcher (6-8, 235) with the fluidity and athleticism in his movements as a smaller man. I’ve yet to hear/see of a true offspeed pitch of note (he’s got the good hard slider and a promising slower curve), but something a touch softer (change, splitter) would be nice.
Jake Kelzer is an incredible athlete who just so happens to be 6-8, 235 pounds. Those two things alone are cool, but together are really damn exciting. Enough of a fastball (88-92, 94 peak…but could play up in shorter bursts) and a nasty hard slider (87-88) give him a chance to be a quick-moving reliever, but the overall package could be worth trying as a starter first.
I don’t know if the Phillies plan to try Kelzer as a starter. Doing the math on their current starting pitching, I think it’s probably doubtful. A pessimist would be bummed at this likely development, but I’ll choose to look on the bright side and champion Kelzer as a potential surprisingly swift mover through the system as a reliever. My pre-draft infatuation with him looks a bit silly in hindsight, but a quality reliever is a quality reliever.
19.557 – RHP Will Hibbs
From one tall rightander to another, the Phillies go from Jake Kelzer to Will Hibbs. The Lamar product stands in at 6-7, 235 pounds — a whole inch shorter than Kelzer, so he’s basically tiny, right? — with a solid heater (88-93), better than expected change, and a pair of usable breaking balls. His senior year was strong (9.07 K/9 and 2.73 BB/9 in 96.IP of 3.27 ERA ball) and his pro debut kept it going. This is about all you can ask for in a nineteenth round middle relief prospect.
20.587 – 1B Caleb Eldridge
Caleb Eldrige, a big first baseman from Cowley County CC (via Oklahoma State), has the power you’d hope for in a 6-4, 235 pound human with more speed than you’d expect. Copious amounts of swing-and-miss keep him from being much more than a lottery ticket, but power is always worth gambling on.
21.617 – LHP Jonathan Hennigan
I wouldn’t call any of the late-round lefthanders signed by the Phillies better than top five round selections JoJo Romero and Cole Irvin, but I think it’s fair to say they are more intriguing on the whole. Kyle Young (6-10), Alexander Kline (6-5), and Jonathan Hennigan (6-4) all have enough height to be Sixers. Hennigan’s frame (6-4, 180 with room to fill out), present fastball (88-92), and ever-improving breaking ball make him a particularly worthwhile mid-round get. My semi-bold prediction for the Hennigan-Young-Kline triumvirate: two of the three will pitch in the big leagues one day.
22.647 – LHP Kyle Young
A 6-10, 220 pound overslot lefthander who already lives 87-91 with impressive athleticism, repeatable mechanics, and unusually strong early control (2 BB in 27 IP)? Consider my interest sufficiently piqued.
24.707 – RHP Tyler Hallead
The Phillies have liked guys from College of Southern Nevada in the past. That’s all I’ve got to explain the otherwise underwhelming Tyler Hallead pick.
25.737 – RHP Trevor Bettencourt
The well-traveled Trevor Bettencourt — UC Santa Barbara by way of Tennessee — is your fairly typical low-90s reliever capable of cranking it a little bit higher than that in big moments. His final college year showed the kind of impressive strikeout rate (9.66 K/9) and questionable control (5.21 BB/9) that have been a part of his up-and-down college career going back to 2013. A long shot reliever like this is fine in the twenty-fifth round.
26.767 – OF Tyler Kent
Tyler Kent retired after hitting .333/.333/.444 in 9 PA. If you’re going to go out, that’s not a bad way to do it. Get a little bonus, play in a couple games, knock two singles and a double, and leave on a high note. He now has something interesting to point to on future résumés and a fun bar story.
28.827 – RHP Jordan Kurokawa
His last name makes me think of this. That’s something, I guess.
29.857 – LHP Alexander Kline
I didn’t have anything on Alexander Kline, the big lefty from Nova Southeastern (same school as Danny Zardon, FWIW), before the draft. Between June and right this very second, however, public reports on his velocity have trickled in and almost all are positive. Getting ai power-armed lefthanded big league reliever, as many I’ve checked in with see Kline developing into, in the twenty-ninth round would be a coup.
31.917 – RHP Tyler Frohwirth
23-year-old righthander Tyler Frohwirth had ten saves in his debut season in the Gulf Coast League. If you can figure out the good and the bad found in that sentence, then you know a little something something about prospecting. I’m personally still scratching my head a bit about what the Phillies could have seen out of an overaged college reliever with a career 6.75 K/9 and 4.50 ERA in 32.0 career innings at Minnesota State. I’m hoping they saw something special in his funky delivery and didn’t burn a thirty-first round pick on a legacy guy — father Todd was a thirteenth round pick of the Phillies in 1984 — but I suppose only time will tell. Between Frohwirth and Alex Wojciechowski, really great year for the area guy in Minnesota, though.
32.947 – C Daniel Garner
Big power, big arm. That’s the short version of Daniel Garner’s game. Interesting (or not), one-time Mississippi State Bulldog Garner is the second Phillies draft pick that transferred out of an SEC school.
34.1007 – OF Luke Maglich
Luke Maglich has too much swing-and-miss for me, but his size, power, and arm strength give him some universal appeal. He’s about as long as any of the late-round long shots signed by the Phillies this year.
For fun, here’s a Phillies top thirty with 2016 draftees showing up in bold…
- SS JP Crawford
- OF Mickey Moniak
- C Jorge Alfaro
- OF Dylan Cozens
- OF Roman Quinn
- 1B Rhys Hoskins
- SP Franklyn Kilome
- OF Jhailyn Ortiz
- OF Cornelius Randolph
- 2B Scott Kingery
- SP Sixto Sanchez
- SP Kevin Gowdy
- OF Nick Williams
- SS Cole Stobbe
- SP Nick Pivetta
- C Deivi Grullon
- C Andrew Knapp
- SP Drew Anderson
- OF Andrew Pullin
- SP Bailey Falter
- SP Alberto Tirado
- SP Edgar Garcia
- OF Josh Stephen
- SP Elniery Garcia
- SP Mark Appel
- SP Ricardo Pinto
- SP Adonis Medina
- SP Thomas Eshelman
- OF Jose Pujols
- SS Jonathan Guzman
Just missing the cut were names like Cole Irvin, Arquimedes Gamboa, Victor Arano, Ben Lively, Tyler Viza, Jose Taveras, David Martinelli, and JoJo Romero. What the system might lack for sure-thing future stars it makes it up in crazy depth. I’ll take it.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Alex Wojciechowski (FA), Carter Bins (Fresno State), Dante Baldelli (Boston College), Trevor Hillhouse (Auburn), Logan Davidson (Clemson), Trey Morris (TCU), James Ziemba (Duke), Mac Sceroler (Southeastern Louisiana), Jack Klein (Stanford), Davis Agle (Spartanburg Methodist CC)
The original plan was to go team-by-team for the biggest and baddest conferences around, but the narratives that developed organically when compiling the overall Pac-12 prospect list were too good to ignore. Look at some of the decisions that teams will have to make on just the position player prospects in this conference this year…
Logan Ice OR Colby Woodmansee
Brett Cumberland OR Jeremy Martinez OR Brian Serven
Trever Morrison OR Tommy Edman
David Greer OR Eric Filia
Cody Ramer OR Mitchell Kranson OR Timmy Robinson
And then on the pitching side we start with what has to rank among the most fascinating trios of arms in any conference in college ball: Daulton Jefferies and Cal Quantrill and Matt Krook. All three guys have legitimate arguments for the top spot. It’s not a bad year for amateur baseball fans who have smartly opted to settle in the western part of the country. We’ll get back to those three co-headliners shortly (those more interested in the pitchers can skip to the bolded parenthetical below), but first let’s get into the hitters.
.365/.460/.533 – 22 BB/5 K
.360/.483/.697 – 20 BB/5 K
Top is Matt Thaiss this year, bottom is Logan Ice so far. It’s no wonder that a friend of mine regularly refers to Ice as “Pacific NW Thaiss.” That sounds so made up, but it’s not. Anyway, Ice is a really good prospect. He’s received some national acclaim this season, yet still strikes me as one of the draft’s most underrated college bats. There are no questions about his defense behind the plate – coming into the year many considered him to be a catch-and-throw prospect with a bat that might relegate him to backup work – and his power, while maybe not .700 SLG real, is real. I don’t think a late-first round selection is unrealistic, but I’ll hedge and call him a potential huge value pick at any point after the draft’s first day. I can’t wait to start stacking the college catching board; my hunch is that prospect who comes in tenth or so would be a top three player in most classes. My only concern for Ice – a stretch, admittedly – is that teams will put off drafting college catchers early because of the belief that they can wait and still get a good one later.
Those who prefer Colby Woodmansee to Ice as the Pac-12’s best position player prospect have an equally strong case. Like Ice, Woodmansee is a near-lock to remain at a premium defensive position in the pros with enough offensive upside to profile as a potential impact player at maturation. Early on the process there were some who questioned Woodmansee’s long-term defensive outlook – shortstops who are 6-3, 200 pounds tend to unfairly get mentally moved off the position to third, a weird bit of biased thinking that I’ve been guilty of in the past – but his arm strength, hands, and first-step quickness all should allow him to remain at his college spot for the foreseeable future. Offensively there may not be one particular thing he does great, but what he does well is more than enough. Woodmansee has average to above-average raw power and speed, lots of bat speed and athleticism, and solid plate discipline. For the exact opposite reason why I think Ice and others like him might slip some on draft day, the all-around average to above-average skill set of Woodmansee at shortstop, a position as shallow as any in this draft, should help him go off the board earlier than most might think.
The trio of catchers after Ice all offer something a little bit different; for that reason, I could see them ending up in any order on any random team’s draft board. Brett Cumberland primary claim to fame is and will be his bat. His hit tool is legit and his power is really appealing. He’s also been described to me as a guy who can be pitched to while also being the kind of smart, naturally gifted hitter who can then make adjustments on the fly. His glove is more “good enough” than good, but there’s enough there that you can work with him to make it work. Jeremy Martinez is another catcher who has been described to me as “good enough” defensively, but that’s an opinion my admittedly non-scout eyes don’t see. I wrote about him briefly last month…
I’ve long thought that Jeremy Martinez has been underrated as a college player, so I’m happy to get a few sentences off about how much I like him here. Martinez was born to catch with a reliable glove and accurate arm. His offensive game is equally well-rounded with the chance for an average hit tool and average raw power to go along with his standout approach. His ceiling may not be high enough for all teams to fall in love, but he’s as good a bet as any of the college catchers in this class to have a long big league career in some capacity or another.
Martinez might not be the most exciting catcher in this class, but he’s at or near the top in terms of well-roundedness for me. It’s an imperfect comp to be sure, but he reminds me some of a less athletic version of James McCann coming out of Arkansas. While some scouts disagree about the defensive utility of Cumberland and Martinez, there are no such rumblings about the glove and arm of Brian Serven. Blessed with an arm both strong and accurate, Serven’s strong hands and plus mobility behind the plate make him a defensive weapon. Whether or not he’ll keep hitting enough to play regularly remains an open question for me – all I have on him offensively are his numbers and that he’s got average or better raw power – but the present defensive value is enough to last a long time in pro ball.
Choosing between Trever Morrison or Tommy Edman might seem easy at first, but the two Pac-12 middle infield standouts are closer in value for me than one might expect. I like Morrison’s glove at short a lot and his physical gifts (above-average arm and speed) are impressive. I’m less sure about him hitting enough to profile as a regular than most. Edman’s bat is more my speed thanks to his strong hit tool, good understanding of the strike zone, and ability to make consistent contact even when down in the count. I’ve given in to those who have long tried to convince me he’s more second baseman than shortstop, but there’s still a part of me who thinks he’s good enough to play short. For a guy with realistic ceiling of big league utility man, I can more than live with that kind of defensive future. If I really stuck to my guns here then you’d see Edman over Morrison, but for now I’ll defer to the overwhelming consensus of smarter people out there who let me know (nicely, mostly) that I was nuts for considering it. I guess the big takeaway here for me is that either player would be great value at any point after the first five rounds.
I’ve lumped David Greer and Eric Filia together because both guys can really, really hit. I think both guys can work themselves up the minor league ladder based on the strength of their hit tool (plate discipline included) alone. Defensive questions for each hitter put a cap on their respective ceilings (Greer intrigues me defensively with his plus arm and experience at 1B, 2B, 3B, and in the OF; Filia seems like left field or first base all the way), but, man, can they both hit.
The last group is probably the weirdest: we have a utility guy finally hitting after three lackluster offensive seasons, a college baseball folk hero with a fascinating defensive profile, and a powerful, tooled-up outfielder who has made slow yet steady improvements over the years. Cody Ramer is an athletic second baseman/shortstop/third baseman/outfielder with average speed and some pop having a major offensive breakout in his final season in the desert. Mitchell Kranson impressed me as the rare college catcher capable of calling his own game; now that he’s been moved to third base, I don’t know what to make of his long-term defensive prospects. His high-contact approach still intrigues me, however. Timmy Robinson‘s tools are really impressive: above-average to plus raw power, average to above-average speed, above-average to plus arm, above-average to plus range, and all kinds of physical strength. That player sounds incredible, so it should be noted that getting all of his raw ability going at the same time and translating it to usable on-field skills has been a challenge. He’s gotten a little bit better every season and now looks to be one of the draft’s most intriguing senior-signs.
There are a ton of players uncovered above that deserve more space than they’ll wind up getting here between now and June. Aaron Knapp fascinates me as an athlete with easy center field range and impact speed, but with such little power that the profile might wind up shorting before he even gets a real chance in pro ball. Mark Karaviotis would have been much higher on this list coming into the year, but a lost junior season puts his stock in limbo. Corey Dempster is one of the many Pac-12 hitters with limited track records prior to 2016 that have come alive this season. His power/speed combination and ability to man center make him intriguing. Then there’s Darrell Miller, the UCLA catcher who would have added to the already stacked group of catchers in the conference if he would have stayed healthy. Even after missing this season with a labrum injury, it still might be worth it for area guys to gauge his interest in leaving college behind for the pros. Those four are just a small taste of the depth of the conference in 2016: there are dozens of other names outside of the top ten or so that deserve draft consideration. Fun year.
(Here is the stuff on Jefferies, Quantrill, and Krook mentioned in the introduction)
Jefferies, Quantrill, and Krook in some order. That’s the limit of what I know for sure about the top of the Pac-12 pitching prospect pile. I’m not sure you could come up with an order that I’d disagree with.
Jefferies is a rock-solid future big league starting pitcher. I love Daulton Jefferies. An overly enthusiastic but well-meaning friend comped Jefferies to Chris Archer after seeing him this past summer. That’s…rich. It’s not entirely crazy, though. Velocity-wise, at his best, Jefferies can sit 90-94 and touch 97. He’s been more frequently in the 88-92 band this spring (94 peak). He’s also focused far more on his low- to mid-80s slider than his mid- to upper-70s curve. I thought both had the potential to be above-average breaking balls at the big league level, but I can’t blame him for going all-in on his potentially devastating slider. Then there’s the compact, athletic delivery and plus fastball command and above-average mid-80s change-up that flashes plus and…well, you can see why he’d get such a lofty comp. Lack of size or not, Jefferies has the kind of stuff that could make him a number two starter if everything goes his way developmentally. That’s big time. High ceiling + high floor = premium pitching prospect. I think Jefferies draft floor is where Walker Buehler, a player that D1 Baseball comped to him earlier this year, landed last year. That would be pick 24 in the first round for those of you who haven’t committed Walker Buehler’s draft position to memory yet. A case could be made (and it kind of has above, right?) that slipping any further than that would be ridiculous value for his new pro team. I think he’s worth considering in the top ten depending on how the rest of the board shakes out.
On talent alone, Cal Quantrill deserves to be right there with Jefferies as a potential top ten overall pick contender. Last year’s Tommy John surgery and the subsequent lost time in 2016, however, complicate the matter, though it’s hard to say how much. Quantrill’s 77-81 MPH change-up is one of my favorite pitches in this entire class. Easy velocity (89-95, 96 peak), a pair of interesting breaking balls, all kinds of pitchability, and that change-up…what more could you want? Good health, I suppose. A few late season starts would go a very long way in easing the minds of big league scouting directors charged with making the decision whether or not to cut a multi-million dollar check (or cheque in the case of the Canadian born Quantrill) to the Stanford righthander. I recently wondered aloud about how teams will perceive Quantrill in this his draft year…
The attrition at the top of the college pitching pile has left Cal Quantrill, yet to pitch in 2016 as he recovers from last year’s Tommy John surgery, one of the college game’s most intriguing mound prospects. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? I wonder if the star student out of Stanford knew this and staged the whole elbow injury to allow time for his competition to implode all over the place. That’s a joke. Not a good one, but a joke all the same.
I also have said on the record that I’d consider taking him sight unseen (in 2016) with a pick just outside the draft’s top ten. You might say I’m bullish on Quantrill’s pro prospects.
And then there’s Matt Krook! I had him second only to Alec Hansen (whoops) in my overall college pitching rankings before the season and now he’s third in his own conference. You could look at that as me being wishy-washy (not really, but maybe), me not knowing what I was doing in the first place (always a possibility), or this year’s draft class being more talented than some would like you to believe (yes). Whatever the case may be, Krook remains a legitimate first round arm with as much upside as any college pitcher throwing. Here was the pre-season take that accompanied the aforementioned ranking…
This may be a touch more speculative that some of the other names on the list since Krook missed the 2015 season after Tommy John surgery, but I’m buying all the Krook shares I can right now. He came back and impressed on the Cape enough to warrant consideration as a potential 1-1 riser. There’s no squaring up his fastball and there’s more than enough offspeed (CB and CU) to miss bats (12 K/9 in 45 freshman innings). He’s not as physical as AJ Puk, but the more advanced secondaries give him the edge for now.
I stand by that today. His fastball velocity isn’t all the way back yet (more of a steady 88-92 than 90-94), but he still gets incredible movement on the pitch. His curve has morphed into something more like a slider (or something in-between), but remains a true plus offering. Both his command and his control remain works in progress as he pitches himself back into competitive shape. Picking Krook as early as I’d recommend would take a bit of a leap of faith in his command/control woes being remedied largely by the increased passage of time separating him from his surgery. Going Krook would not be for the faint of heart, but, hey, nothing venture nothing gained, right?
There’s a steep decline after those top three names, but worry not as there are still quality arms to be had scattered across the rest of the conference. Krook’s teammate with the Ducks, Cole Irvin, has seen his stuff rebound this year close to his own pre-TJ surgery levels. I was off Irvin early last season when he was more upper-80s with a loopy curve, but he is now capable of getting it back up to 92 (still sits 85-90) with a sharper upper-70s slider that complements his firmer than before curve and consistently excellent 78-81 change. It’s back of the rotation type starter stuff if it continues to come back. Ian Hamilton could have similar upside (or better) if you’re the type who believes in him as a starter at the next level. He’s got the offspeed stuff (above-average 80-86 SL that flashes plus and an average 80-84 CU) to go through a lineup multiple times. He’s also highly athletic. Those are the points in his favor if you like him as a starter. I’m willing to be talked into it, but the way his fastball plays up in short bursts (consistently 92-96, up to 99) as opposed to the 90-93 he sits as a starter has me still liking him more as a fireman out of the pen.
If it’s a true college reliever you want, then Stephen Nogosek out of Oregon is your best bet. He’s a little bit like Hamilton in that he’s got the raw stuff to start – an honest four-pitch mix seems wasted some in relief – but his command would make longer outings untenable at this time. As a reliever, however, he’s effectively wild. Pitching out of the pen also puts him on the short list of fastest potential movers. Chris Viall seems like another reliever all the way. With lots of heat (up to 96-97) and intimidating size (6-9, 230 pounds), he could be a good one.
A pair of seniors that have intrigued me for years have put it all together in their last year of eligibility. Kyle Davis, a prospect I once thought would wind up better as a catcher than as a pitcher, has compiled strong numbers since almost his first day on campus. As I’ve said a lot in the preceding paragraphs, a big point in his favor is that he has the requisite three to four pitches needed to start. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll continue to hold down a rotation spot in the pros, but it gives him a shot. Fellow senior Ryan Mason’s scouting dossier has always looked better than his peripherals: upper-80s heat (92 peak) with plus sink, a deceptive delivery, and lots of extension thanks to a 6-6, 215 pound frame should have resulted in better than a 3.69 K/9 last season. Of course, the ugliness of his peripherals was overshadowed by his consistently strong run prevention skills (2.97 ERA last season). It’s a really weird profile, but everything seems to have caught up this year: stuff, peripherals, and run prevention all are where you’d want them to be. I remain intrigued.
I forgot I had started going team-by-team before I went to my usual overarching view of the conference. Here’s what I had on Bobby Dalbec of Arizona…
Bobby Dalbec continues to confound. More and more people I’ve spoken to are becoming open to the idea of sending him out as a pitcher in pro ball. As frustrating as he can be at the plate, I don’t think I could throw his kind of power away that easily, even if only on a temporary basis. I also don’t think I’d touch him in the first five rounds. The comparison shared with me before the season to Chris Dominguez feels more and more prescient by the day.
I had Dominguez ranked 41st on my final board back in 2009 before he was drafted 86th overall by the Giants. I’m not sure what it says (if anything) about my own evolving view on prospecting or how the industry itself has changed or how the game has shifted, but I can say with 100% certainty that Dalbec won’t rank anywhere close to where Dominguez once landed on my personal ranks. I can also say with about 95% certainty that he won’t be drafted as high as Dominguez was in 2009. Of course, a player’s draft ranking ultimately is not about where he falls on the average of all teams’ boards but rather where he eventually falls on the board of the one team that drafts him. That’s where that 5% uncertainty comes in: all it takes is one team to look at Dalbec’s two clear plus tools (raw power, arm strength) and believe they can tweak his swing to make enough contact to allow his natural ability to shine through. His upside is very real, as is the possibility he tops out as an all-or-nothing AA power hitter. I’m out on him for now, but I understand the appeal. Chicks dig the long ball.
Then I started very briefly in on Arizona State…
David Greer is one of college baseball’s best, most underrated hitters. I’d put his hit tool on the short list of best in this college class. With that much confidence in him offensively, the only real question that needs to be answered is what position he’ll play as a pro. Right now it appears that a corner outfield spot is the most likely destination, but his prior experience at both second and third will no doubt intrigue teams willing to trade a little defense for some offense at those spots.
RJ Ybarra has had a good year, a bad year, a good year, and is now in the midst of another bad year. By that logic, teams should be hot to draft him so that he has a big full season debut in 2017, right?
And then I gave up on the team-by-team approach and went back to the usual way and here we are.
- Oregon State JR C Logan Ice
- Arizona State JR SS/2B Colby Woodmansee
- California SO C Brett Cumberland
- USC JR C/1B Jeremy Martinez
- Oregon State JR SS Trever Morrison
- Stanford JR 2B/SS Tommy Edman
- Arizona JR 3B/RHP Bobby Dalbec
- Arizona State JR C Brian Serven
- Arizona State JR OF/1B David Greer
- UCLA rSR OF Eric Filia
- Arizona SR 2B/SS Cody Ramer
- California SR 3B/C Mitchell Kranson
- UCLA JR OF/2B Luke Persico
- USC SR OF Timmy Robinson
- Oregon JR OF Austin Grebeck
- California JR OF Aaron Knapp
- Oregon JR SS/2B Mark Karaviotis
- Utah SR SS/2B Cody Scaggari
- Arizona SR OF Zach Gibbons
- USC JR OF Corey Dempster
- USC SR OF David Oppenheim
- UCLA rJR C Darrell Miller
- Arizona SR 1B/OF Ryan Aguilar
- Arizona SR OF Justin Behnke
- UCLA JR OF Brett Stephens
- California SR OF Devin Pearson
- Stanford JR OF Jackson Klein
- Oregon SR 1B/OF Phillipe Craig-St. Louis
- Oregon rSO OF/1B AJ Balta
- Oregon SR 3B/SS Matt Eureste
- Oregon JR OF Nick Catalano
- Oregon State JR 3B Caleb Hamilton
- USC rJR SS Reggie Southall
- UCLA JR OF Kort Peterson
- Utah SR 1B Kellen Marruffo
- Stanford SR 1B/C Austin Barr
- California SR OF/1B Nick Halamandaris
- USC SR OF/1B AJ Ramirez
- USC rSO 2B/SS Frankie Rios
- Oregon State JR OF Kyle Nobach
- Oregon State JR 1B/OF Billy King
- UCLA rSR OF Christoph Bono
- Utah rJR 3B Dallas Carroll
- Washington JR OF Jack Meggs
- Washington JR 1B Gage Matuszak
- Washington State JR OF Cameron Frost
- California rSR 1B Brenden Farney
- UCLA SR 2B Trent Chatterdon
- Washington JR SS Chris Baker
- Arizona State SR C RJ Ybarra
- California JR 2B/OF Robbie Tenerowicz
- Arizona JR SS Louis Boyd
- California rSR OF Brian Celsi
- Utah SR 2B Kody Davis
- Utah SR C AJ Young
- Washington JR OF MJ Hubbs
- Stanford SR OF Jonny Locher
- Washington JR OF Josh Cushing
- Utah JR OF Josh Rose
- Utah JR SS Ellis Kelly
- California JR RHP Daulton Jefferies
- Stanford JR RHP Cal Quantrill
- Oregon rSO LHP Matt Krook
- Oregon rJR LHP Cole Irvin
- Washington State JR RHP Ian Hamilton
- Oregon JR RHP Stephen Nogosek
- Stanford JR RHP Chris Viall
- USC SR RHP Kyle Davis
- Arizona State JR RHP Hever Bueno
- California SR RHP Ryan Mason
- Arizona State JR RHP Seth Martinez
- USC JR RHP/3B Jeff Paschke
- USC JR LHP Bernardo Flores
- UCLA JR RHP Grant Dyer
- Stanford JR RHP Tyler Thorne
- UCLA rJR RHP Tucker Forbes
- USC SR RHP Brooks Kriske
- Arizona State JR RHP Eder Erives
- Oregon State JR RHP Jake Thompson
- Oregon State SR RHP Travis Eckert
- Arizona SR LHP Cody Moffett
- USC rJR RHP Joe Navilhon
- Arizona SR RHP Nathan Bannister
- Washington SR RHP Troy Rallings
- Arizona JR RHP Austin Schnabel
- Washington SR RHP Spencer Jones
- Oregon State JR RHP John Pomeroy
- UCLA rJR RHP Nick Kern
- Oregon State rJR LHP Max Engelbrekt
- Stanford SR RHP Daniel Starwalt
- California JR RHP Alex Schick
- USC SR RHP Brent Wheatley
- Washington JR RHP Westin Wuethrich
- USC SR LHP Marc Huberman
- Washington SR RHP Alex Nesbitt
- California JR RHP Trevin Haseltine
- Stanford JR RHP/3B Brett Hanewich
- USC JR LHP/OF Andrew Wright
- Utah SR RHP Dalton Carroll
- Washington SR LHP Will Ballowe
- Arizona State SR RHP Eric Melbostad
- Arizona rSO LHP Rio Gomez
- Washington SR RHP Ryan Schmitten
- Utah JR LHP Dylan Drachler
- UCLA JR RHP Moises Ceja
- UCLA JR RHP Scott Burke
- Washington JR LHP Henry Baker
- UCLA rJR LHP Hunter Virant
- Arizona rSO RHP Robby Medel
- Arizona JR RHP Kevin Ginkel
- UCLA rJR RHP Chase Radan
- Stanford JR LHP Chris Castellanos
- Utah SR RHP Nolan Stouder
- Arizona JR LHP JC Cloney
- Oregon JR RHP Cooper Stiles
- Arizona State SR RHP/2B Jordan Aboites
rSO LHP Rio Gomez (2016)
SR RHP Nathan Bannister (2016)
SR LHP Cody Moffett (2016)
JR RHP Austin Schnabel (2016)
rSO RHP Robby Medel (2016)
JR RHP Kevin Ginkel (2016)
JR LHP JC Cloney (2016)
JR 3B/RHP Bobby Dalbec (2016)
SR OF Zach Gibbons (2016)
SR OF Justin Behnke (2016)
SR 2B/SS Cody Ramer (2016)
SR 1B/OF Ryan Aguilar (2016)
JR SS Louis Boyd (2016)
JR 1B Michael Hoard (2016)
SO RHP Matt Hartman (2017)
SO LHP Cameron Ming (2017)
SO OF Jared Oliva (2017)
SO 1B/OF JJ Matijevic (2017)
SO C Ryan Haug (2017)
FR RHP Austin Rubick (2018)
FR RHP Cody Deason (2018)
FR RHP Michael Flynn (2018)
FR LHP/OF Randy Labaut (2018)
FR OF Alfonso Rivas (2018)
FR C Cesar Salazar (2018)
High Priority Follows: Rio Gomez, Nathan Bannister, Cody Moffett, Austin Schnabel, Robby Medel, Kevin Ginkel, JC Cloney, Bobby Dalbec, Zach Gibbons, Justin Behnke, Cody Ramer, Ryan Aguilar, Louis Boyd, Michael Hoard
JR RHP Hever Bueno (2016)
JR RHP Seth Martinez (2016)
JR RHP Eder Erives (2016)
SR RHP Eric Melbostad (2016)
SR RHP/2B Jordan Aboites (2016)
JR SS/2B Colby Woodmansee (2016)
JR OF/1B David Greer (2016)
SR C RJ Ybarra (2016)
JR C Brian Serven (2016)
SR OF/1B Chris Beall (2016)
JR OF Daniel Williams (2016)
JR C Zach Cerbo (2016)
SO RHP Ryan Hingst (2017)
SO LHP Tucker Baca (2017)
SO LHP/OF Andrew Shaps (2017)
SO LHP Reagan Todd (2017)
SO RHP Grant Schneider (2017)
SO LHP Eli Lingos (2017)
SO OF Coltin Gerhart (2017)
SO SS/3B Ryan Lillard (2017)
SO OF/1B Sebastian Zawada (2017)
SO 2B Andrew Snow (2017)
FR RHP Giovanni Lopez (2018)
FR RHP Garvin Alston (2018)
FR RHP Fitz Stadler (2018)
FR RHP Liam Jenkins (2018)
FR LHP Connor Higgins (2018)
FR LHP Zach Dixon (2018)
FR OF Tyler Williams (2018)
FR OF Gage Canning (2018)
High Priority Follows: Hever Bueno, Seth Martinez, Eder Erives, Eric Melbostad, Jordan Aboites, Colby Woodmansee, David Greer, RJ Ybarra, Brian Serven, Daniel Williams, Zach Cerbo
JR RHP Daulton Jefferies (2016)
JR RHP Alex Schick (2016)
SR RHP Ryan Mason (2016)
rJR RHP Jordan Talbot (2016)
JR RHP Trevin Haseltine (2016)
rSR RHP Keaton Siomkin (2016)
SR RHP/C Jesse Kay (2016)
JR OF Aaron Knapp (2016)
JR 2B/OF Robbie Tenerowicz (2016)
SR 3B/C Mitchell Kranson (2016)
rSR OF Brian Celsi (2016)
SR OF Devin Pearson (2016)
SR OF/1B Nick Halamandaris (2016)
SO C Brett Cumberland (2016)
rSR 1B Brenden Farney (2016)
SO RHP Jeff Bain (2017)
SO LHP Matt Ladrech (2017)
SO RHP Erik Martinez (2017)
SO SS Preston Grand Pre (2017)
SO 3B Denis Karas (2017)
FR RHP/OF Tanner Dodson (2018)
FR RHP Jake Matulovich (2018)
FR RHP Aaron Shortridge (2018)
FR RHP Connor Jackson (2018)
FR 2B/SS Ripken Reyes (2018)
FR OF Lorenzo Hampton (2018)
FR OF Jeffrey Mitchell (2018)
FR OF Jonah Davis (2018)
FR C Tyrus Greene (2018)
FR OF Cole Lemmel (2018)
High Priority Follows: Daulton Jefferies, Alex Schick, Ryan Mason, Trevin Haseltine, Aaron Knapp, Robbie Tenerowicz, Mitchell Kranson, Brian Celsi, Devin Pearson, Nick Halamandaris, Brett Cumberland, Brenden Farney
rJR LHP Cole Irvin (2016)
rSO LHP Matt Krook (2016)
JR RHP Stephen Nogosek (2016)
JR RHP Cooper Stiles (2016)
JR OF Austin Grebeck (2016)
JR OF Nick Catalano (2016):
JR SS/2B Mark Karaviotis (2016)
rSO OF/1B AJ Balta (2016)
SR 1B/OF Phillipe Craig-St. Louis (2016)
SR 3B/SS Matt Eureste (2016)
SO LHP David Peterson (2017)
SO RHP Brac Warren (2017)
SO C Tim Susnara (2017)
SO OF Jakob Goldfarb (2017)
SO SS/2B Daniel Patzlaff (2017)
rFR C/OF Slade Heggen (2017)
rFR SS Carson Breshears (2017)
SO INF Kyle Kasser (2017)
FR RHP Isaiah Carranza (2018)
FR RHP Cody Deason (2018)
FR RHP Jacob Bennett (2018)
FR RHP/C Parker Kelly (2018)
FR RHP/INF Matt Mercer (2018)
FR SS/2B Travis Moniot (2018)
FR 3B Matt Kroon (2018)
High Priority Follows: Cole Irvin, Matt Krook, Stephen Nogosek, Cooper Stiles, Austin Grebeck, Nick Catalano, Mark Karaviotis, AJ Balta, Phillipe Craig-St. Louis, Matt Eureste
SR RHP Travis Eckert (2016)
JR RHP John Pomeroy (2016)
rJR LHP Max Engelbrekt (2016)
JR RHP Jake Thompson (2016)
JR SS Trever Morrison (2016)
JR C Logan Ice (2016)
JR 3B Caleb Hamilton (2016)
JR OF Kyle Nobach (2016)
JR 1B/OF Billy King (2016)
SO RHP Drew Rasmussen (2017)
SO RHP Mitch Hickey (2017)
SO RHP Luke Heimlich (2017)
rFR LHP Christian Martinek (2017)
SO LHP Ryan Mets (2017
SO 1B/C KJ Harrison (2017)
SO 2B/SS Christian Donahue (2017)
SO OF Elliott Cary (2017)
SO 3B/SS Joe Gillette (2017)
SO SS Michael Gretler (2017)
FR LHP Eric Parnow (2018)
FR LHP Jordan Britton (2018)
FR SS Cadyn Grenier (2018)
FR SS Nick Madrigal (2018)
FR OF Steven Kwan (2018)
FR OF Trevor Larnach (2018)
FR 3B Bryce Fehmel (2018)
FR C Alex O’Rourke (2018)
High Priority Follows: Travis Eckert, John Pomeroy, Max Engelbrekt, Jake Thompson, Trever Morrison, Logan Ice, Caleb Hamilton, Billy King
SR RHP Brent Wheatley (2016)
SR LHP Marc Huberman (2016)
SR RHP Brooks Kriske (2016
JR LHP Bernardo Flores (2016)
rJR RHP Joe Navilhon (2016)
SR RHP Kyle Davis (2016)
JR LHP/OF Andrew Wright (2016)
JR RHP/3B Jeff Paschke (2016)
JR C/1B Jeremy Martinez (2016)
SR OF Timmy Robinson (2016)
rJR SS Reggie Southall (2016)
SR OF David Oppenheim (2016)
SR OF/1B AJ Ramirez (2016)
JR OF Corey Dempster (2016)
rSO 2B/SS Frankie Rios (2016)
JR C AJ Fritts (2016)
SO RHP Mitch Hart (2017)
SO RHP Brad Wegman (2017)
rFR RHP Bryce Dyrda (2017)
SO RHP Mason Perryman (2017)
SO 3B/SS Adalberto Carrillo (2017)
SO SS Angelo Armenta (2017)
SO INF Stephen Dubb (2017)
FR RHP Marrick Crouse (2018)
FR RHP Soloman Bates (2018)
FR LHP Quentin Longrie (2018)
FR 1B Dillon Paulson (2018)
FR INF Lars Nootbaar (2018)
FR C/RHP Cameron Stubbs (2018)
High Priority Follows: Brent Wheatley, Marc Huberman, Brooks Kriske, Bernardo Flores, Joe Navilhon, Kyle Davis, Andrew Wright, Jeff Paschke, Jeremy Martinez, Timmy Robinson, Reggie Southall, David Oppenheim, AJ Ramirez, Corey Dempster, Frankie Rios
JR RHP Cal Quantrill (2016)
JR RHP Chris Viall (2016)
SR RHP Daniel Starwalt (2016)
JR RHP Tyler Thorne (2016)
JR LHP Chris Castellanos (2016)
rSR LHP John Hochstatter (2016)
JR RHP/3B Brett Hanewich (2016)
SR OF Jonny Locher (2016)
SR SS Bobby Zarubin (2016)
JR OF Jackson Klein (2016)
JR 2B/SS Tommy Edman (2016)
SR 1B/C Austin Barr (2016)
JR C Alex Dunlap (2016)
FR RHP Tristan Beck (2017)
SO RHP Keith Weisenberg (2017)
SO RHP Colton Hock (2017)
SO LHP Andrew Summerville (2017)
SO LHP John Henry Styles (2017)
SO LHP/OF Quinn Brodey (2017)
SO C Bryce Carter (2017)
SO SS/2B Beau Branton (2017)
SO 3B Mikey Diekroeger (2017)
SO SS Jesse Kuet (2017)
SO OF/1B Matt Winaker (2017)
FR LHP Kris Bubic (2018)
FR RHP Ben Baggett (2018)
FR SS Nico Hoerner (2018)
FR OF Brandon Wulff (2018)
FR OF/1B Nickolas Oar (2018)
FR OF Alec Wilson (2018)
FR SS Peter McEvoy (2018)
FR SS Duke Kinamon (2018)
FR 3B Nick Bellafronto (2018)
High Priority Follows: Cal Quantrill, Chris Viall, Daniel Starwalt, Tyler Thorne, Chris Castellanos, John Hochstatter, Brett Hanewich, Jonny Locher, Jackson Klein, Tommy Edman, Austin Barr, Alex Dunlap
JR RHP Grant Dyer (2016)
rJR RHP Tucker Forbes (2016)
rJR LHP Hunter Virant (2016)
rJR RHP Nick Kern (2016)
rJR RHP Chase Radan (2016)
JR RHP Scott Burke (2016)
JR RHP Moises Ceja (2016)
JR OF/2B Luke Persico (2016)
rSR OF Eric Filia (2016)
JR OF Kort Peterson (2016)
rSR OF Christoph Bono (2016)
JR OF Brett Stephens (2016)
rJR C Darrell Miller (2016)
SR 2B Trent Chatterdon (2016)
SR 2B/OF Brett Urabe (2016)
SO RHP Griffin Canning (2017)
SO RHP Matt Trask (2017)
SO RHP Jake Bird (2017)
rFR RHP Nathan Hadley (2017)
rFR LHP Garrett Barker (2017)
rFR 1B Zander Clarke (2017)
rFR SS Scott Jarvis (2017)
SO SS/2B Nick Valaika (2017)
SO 3B/1B Sean Bouchard (2017)
FR RHP Kyle Molnar (2018)
FR LHP Justin Hooper (2018)
FR RHP Brian Gadsby (2018)
FR RHP Jonathan Olsen (2018)
FR RHP Jack Ralston (2018)
FR OF Daniel Amaral (2018)
FR INF Dayton Provost (2018)
FR 1B Jake Pries (2018)
FR OF Jordan Myrow (2018)
FR C Jake Hirabayshi (2018)
High Priority Follows: Grant Dyer, Tucker Forbes, Hunter Virant, Nick Kern, Chase Radan, Scott Burke, Moises Ceja, Luke Persico, Eric Filia, Kort Peterson, Christoph Bono, Brett Stephens, Darrell Miller, Trent Chatterdon, Brett Urabe
SR LHP Will Ballowe (2016)
JR RHP Westin Wuethrich (2016)
SR RHP Ryan Schmitten (2016)
SR RHP Alex Nesbitt (2016)
SR RHP Troy Rallings (2016)
SR RHP Spencer Jones (2016)
JR LHP Henry Baker (2016)
JR OF Jack Meggs (2016)
JR 1B Gage Matuszak (2016)
JR OF MJ Hubbs (2016)
JR OF Josh Cushing (2016)
JR SS Chris Baker (2016)
SO RHP Noah Bremer (2017)
SO 3B Nyles Nygaard (2017)
SO C Joey Morgan (2017)
FR RHP Joe DeMers (2018)
FR SS/2B AJ Graffanino (2018)
FR C Willie MacIver (2018):
FR OF Rex Stephan (2018)
FR 3B/OF Peyton Lacoste (2018)
FR 2B Dallas Tessar (2018)
FR 2B/OF Karl Kani (2018)
High Priority Follows: Will Ballowe, Westin Wuethrich, Ryan Schmitten, Alex Nesbitt, Troy Rallings, Spencer Jones, Henry Baker, Jack Meggs, Gage Matuszak, MJ Hubbs, Josh Cushing, Chris Baker
JR RHP Ian Hamilton (2016)
JR LHP Layne Bruner (2016)
JR OF Cameron Frost (2016)
rJR 2B Shea Donlin (2016)
rJR OF Trek Stemp (2016)
SO RHP Ryan Walker (2017)
SO LHP Scotty Sunitsch (2017)
SO RHP Colby Nealy (2017)
rFR RHP Nick Leonard (2017)
SO INF Shane Matheny (2017)
SO OF Derek Chapman (2017)
SO C/OF JJ Hancock (2017)
FR RHP Parker McFadden (2018)
FR RHP Ryan Ward (2018)
FR SS Justin Harrer (2018)
High Priority Follows: Ian Hamilton, Cameron Frost, Trek Stemp
SR RHP Dalton Carroll (2016)
rJR LHP Hunter Rodriguez (2016)
SR RHP Nolan Stouder (2016)
JR LHP Dylan Drachler (2016)
SR C AJ Young (2016)
JR SS Ellis Kelly (2016)
SR SS/2B Cody Scaggari (2016)
rJR 3B Dallas Carroll (2016)
SR 2B Kody Davis (2016)
SR OF Wyler Smith (2016)
SR 1B Kellen Marruffo (2016)
JR OF Josh Rose (2016)
JR C Max Schuman (2016)
SO LHP Josh Lapiana (2017)
SO RHP Tanner Thomas (2017)
SO RHP Andre Jackson (2017)
SO RHP/OF Jayson Rose (2017)
FR RHP Riley Ottesen (2018)
FR OF DaShawn Keirsey (2018)
FR C Zach Moeller (2018)
High Priority Follows: Dalton Carroll, Hunter Rodriguez, Nolan Stouder, Dylan Drachler, AJ Young, Ellis Kelly, Cody Scaggari, Dallas Carroll, Kody Davis, Wyler Smith, Kellen Marruffo, Josh Rose, Max Schurman
The 2016 MLB Draft will be here before we know it, so that can only mean one thing: it’s MOCK DRAFT season. It’s been a few years since I published a mock draft around here, but I figured it was finally time to get back in the game. Of course, since I can’t offer much in the way of insider intel — I’m not BA-era peak Jim Callis over here — putting together a mock would be pretty much pointless. With the proper analysis attached to each pick mock drafts can be fun and interesting reads, not to mention a great way of exposing casual fans — the number of people who Google “2016 mlb mock draft” that find this site is insane, at least relative to the four people who read on their own volition otherwise — to players they might have not yet heard of. I might attempt a mock like that between now and June. Or not. Either way, this ain’t it.
So until then (or not) we’ll have some fun and take the idea of a mock draft to the logical extreme. If “mock” means to make something seem laughably unreal or impossible, let’s make our mock draft as unreal or impossible as we can. Our second edition of this 2016 MLB Mock Draft is based on the top 34 teams (by pre-tournament seeding) in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The top 34 schools (listed below) are the only universities that teams were allowed to draft from in this mock. Unlike last week’s, however, there is no limit to how many players can be drafted off of any one school. That means some teams get nobody selected while others have multiple picks to celebrate. It’s not fair, but it’s life. Here were the universities eligible for this mock listed in descending order based on their pre-tournament seeding…
32. St. Joseph’s
29. Texas Tech
28. Oregon State
24. Seton Hall
22. Notre Dame
16. Iowa State
12. Texas A&M
10. Miami (FL)
9. West Virginia
5. Michigan State
2. North Carolina
Any 2016 MLB draft-eligible player from any of those schools is up for grabs. Let’s get mocking…
1 – Philadelphia Phillies – Miami C Zack Collins
The Phillies would be tasked from picking from an impressive group of college talent if forced to comply with these ridiculous rules. Three of the arms rumored to be in the 1-1 mix in the real world — Matt Krook, Alec Hansen, and Connor Jones — would all be available to them thanks to the impressive basketball being played at Oregon, Oklahoma, and Virginia, respectively. Interestingly enough, all three are plagued with the same general concern: wildness. Jones has the most complete résumé and the least overall concern about his control (4.03 BB/9 last year, down to 2.11 BB/9 so far this year). Much has been made about Hansen’s consistently inconsistent start (6.99 BB/9) while Krook’s wild ways (7.92 BB/9) have largely been glossed over. Part of that is likely due to giving Krook an early season mulligan as he makes his way back from last year’s Tommy John surgery and part is probably due to Hansen being the higher profile player nationally, but the fact that some of the most talented arms in this college class come with major control (and command and consistency and changeup) questions can’t be ignored. The risk with either at 1-1 is just too high. As mentioned, Jones is the less risky play, but, as so often happens, comes with a little less upside. Much as I like Jones, if I’m going with a college arm with the first overall pick in a draft I want a guy I can confidently project as a potential ace. He may show enough to reach that point in the coming months, but as of today I can’t do it.
With the top pitchers out of the running, Collins becomes the clear pick. His bat is too special to pass up. The pick is made easier when you factor in the Phillies being particularly deep as an organization behind the plate. With Andrew Knapp and Jorge Alfaro set to begin the year at AAA and AA respectively, there would be little pressure for the Phils to play Collins as a catcher if they deemed him unlikely to remain there over the long haul. Ideally he’d impress as a catcher and they’d have the great eventual problem of having too many catchers — a predicted problem for hundreds of teams throughout the history of the game that has not once come to fruition — but shifting him to first and letting him know his job is to hit, hit, and hit some more isn’t the worst idea in the world. Knapp/Alfaro, Collins, Kingery, Crawford, Franco, Randolph, Herrera/Quinn, and Williams may not quite rival the Cubs young core, but it’s not half-bad either.
(I have this very underdeveloped idea about how taking Collins at 1-1 in a real draft wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world based on a comparison of using a top ten pick in the NFL Draft on a running back like Ezekiel Elliott. New conventional wisdom says you don’t draft a 1B or a HB early in the draft because you can find good ones later on, but if it’s a guy who projects to be well above-average at the position and a long-term fixture for you that you don’t have to worry about replacing otherwise…then you have to at least consider it, right? I say this as a dumb Eagles fan who has convinced himself that Elliott with the eighth pick is an attractive option depending on who else is there. With no clear cut college player emerging at 1-1 besides Corey Ray and Kyle Lewis, maybe Collins isn’t the worst idea in the world. I know I’m out on an island with that one, but so be it.)
2 – Cincinnati Reds – Oregon LHP Matt Krook
Everything written about Krook above still applies. He’s been very wild, his command still isn’t back to his pre-injury self, and his velocity (topping at 92, down from his younger peak of 95) remains a work in progress. But he’s still a lefty with a devastating slider, good size (6-3, 200), and a history of missing bats (12.00 K/9 in 2014, 13.33 K/9 this year). When part of the reason for the walks can be explained by throwing a ball that just moves so damn much naturally, it’s a little bit easier to take. At his best (healthiest), Krook features three clearly above-average pitches and the wise beyond his year’s mound savvy to allow you to dream on him heading a rotation for a long time. Adding him to Stephenson, Reed (who Krook shares some similar traits with), and Garrett (among others) would be a lot of fun.
3 – Atlanta Braves – Virginia RHP Connor Jones
Krook to the Braves would have made more sense, what with MLB’s secret mandate that Atlanta collect as many Tommy John reclamation projects as possible. Maybe having Hansen fall past them is a blessing for his formerly tight right forearm. As it is, Jones gets the call. A consistent performer like Jones with a ready-made big league out-pitch (mid-80s cut-slider) would serve as a nice balance to the mix of boom/bust pitching prospects acquired by Atlanta over the past year or two.
4 – Colorado Rockies – Oklahoma RHP Alec Hansen
Because taking just one top-four righthander from Oklahoma within a five year stretch just isn’t enough. Hansen’s fastball is an explosive enough pitch that maybe he’d be a good fit for Coors Field.
5 – Milwaukee Brewers – Virginia C Matt Thaiss
Not everybody is convinced that Thaiss is the real deal, but I am. His one big remaining question heading into the year (defense) has been answered in a decidedly positive manner this spring. He showed enough in high school to garner Brian McCann comps from Baseball America, he hit as a sophomore, and he’s off to a blistering start (including a nifty 15 BB/2 K ratio) in 2016. He’s going early in this draft due in part to our odd rules, but he’s a first round selection on merit. The Brewers have done an excellent job in the early stages of their rebuild and adding a backstop like Thaiss to push Jacob Nottingham (and perhaps make trading Jonathan Lucroy easier to sell to the fans) gives them even more options going forward.
6 – Oakland Athletics – California RHP Daulton Jefferies
A high performing college player who defies conventional scouting wisdom going to Oakland? That’ll work. Jefferies is really, really good.
7 – Miami Marlins – Kentucky 2B JaVon Shelby
I’ve mentioned the comparison before, but Shelby’s prospect profile reads similarly to me to Ian Happ’s. Happ went ninth overall last year, so Shelby going seventh in our weird little mock seems fair. Shelby is also really, really good.
8 – San Diego Padres – Notre Dame 2B Cavan Biggio
Sometimes I feel as though I’m the last remaining Cavan Biggio fan. I know that’s not literally true, but I do still believe in him as a potential long-time big league regular. Offensively he strikes me as the kind of player who will hit better as a pro than he ever did as a college player. I don’t have much of anything to back that opinion up, but this is a mock draft so unsubstantiated claims are part of the deal.
9 – Detroit Tigers – Oregon State C Logan Ice
This pick works on multiple levels for me. Most obviously, Ice’s fast start at the plate and well-established reputation behind it warrants a top ten pick in this draft over some other higher profile college peers. It also works because Detroit seems to have a thing for college catchers. As somebody with a similar thing, I get it. In recent years they’ve plucked James McCann, Bryan Holaday, Kade Scivicque, Grayson Greiner, and Shane Zeile from the college ranks, aggressively promoting many of them along the way. Holaday, a sixth rounder back in 2010, was the only one of that bunch not picked within the draft’s first five rounds. That’s where Ice was expected to land coming into the year, but he could rise up to McCann draft levels (second round) if he keeps mashing.
10 – Chicago White Sox – Oklahoma 3B Sheldon Neuse
Recently got a Mike Olt draft comparison for Sheldon Neuse. Thought that was a pretty strong comp. Also liked that it was a draft comparison and not necessarily a pro prospect match. Olt’s big league disappointments don’t change the fact that he’s a really talented ballplayer capable of looking really good for long stretches at a time. Players develop in all kinds of different ways, so expecting one guy to follow another’s path is unwise. Maybe Neuse will fulfill his promise professionally in a way that Olt wasn’t able. Maybe he’ll experience similar developmental road blocks and see his game stall in a similar manner. Olt went 49th overall in the 2010 MLB Draft; snagging Neuse at any point after that would be a steal in 2016.
11 – Seattle Mariners – Arizona 3B Bobby Dalbec
Dalbec deserves a lot of credit for battling back from a slow start to now have a more than respectable 2016 overall batting line. He also deserves respect for being one of the realest 2016 MLB Draft prospects out there. What you see is what you get with Dalbec: massive power, lots of whiffs, and a fair amount of walks. His arm and athleticism help make up for a lack of easy lateral quickness at the hot corner, so sticking at third should remain an option for the foreseeable future. The older, popular, and common comp for him has been Troy Glaus; on the flip side, I’ve heard Chris Dominguez as a possible outcome. The Glaus ship appears to have sailed, so something in between that and Dominguez would be a fine professional result.
12 – Boston Red Sox – North Carolina RHP Zac Gallen
It’ll be really interesting to see how high Gallen will rise in the real draft come June. He’s the kind of relatively safe, high-floor starting pitching prospect who either sticks in the rotation for a decade or tops out as a sixth starter better served moving to the bullpen to see if his stuff plays up there. This aggressive (pretend) pick by Boston should point to what side of that debate I side with. Gallen doesn’t do any one thing particularly well — stellar fastball command and a willingness to keep pounding in cutters stand out — but he throws five (FB, cutter, truer SL, CB, CU) pitches for strikes and competes deep into just about every start. There’s serious value in that.
13 – Tampa Bay Rays – Duke RHP Bailey Clark
On the other end of the spectrum is a guy like Bailey Clark. Clark has dynamite stuff: 90-96 FB (98 peak), mid-80s cut-SL that flashes plus, and an extra firm 87-90 split-CU with some promise. The fastball alone is a serious weapon capable of getting big league hitters out thanks the combination of velocity and natural movement. What continues to hold Clark back is pedestrian command: having great stuff is key, but falling behind every hitter undercuts that advantage. Questions about his delivery — I personally don’t stress about that so much, but it’s worth noting — and that inconsistent command could force him into the bullpen sooner rather than later. He’d be a knockout reliever if that winds up being the case, but the prospect of pro development keeping him as a starter is too tantalizing to give up on just yet.
14 – Cleveland Indians – Kentucky RHP Kyle Cody
There’s a reason Clark and Cody are back-to-back here. Just about everything written about Clark above can apply to Cody here. The big righthander from Kentucky also has the natural comparison to fellow big righthander from Kentucky Alex Meyer looming over him. I did the Twins a favor by having him go off the board one pick before they could get tempted all over again.
15 – Minnesota Twins – Kentucky RHP Zack Brown
Brown is a college righty with the three pitches to keep starting but questionable command that could necessitate a move to relief down the line. There are a lot of guys like him in every class, but I like Brown’s steady improvement across the board over the years as the tie-breaker.
16 – Los Angeles Angels – Oregon LHP Cole Irvin
Irvin is living proof that the second full year back from Tommy John surgery is when a pitcher really starts to get it all back. I can only hope that teammate Matt Krook is noticing. I guess it would be weird if he wasn’t, right? Irvin has his velocity back (88-92), his changeup remains a weapon, and the results (5.01 K/9 last year up to 9.10 K/9 this year) are trending in the right (healthy) direction.
17 – Houston Astros – USC C Jeremy Martinez
I’ve long thought that Jeremy Martinez has been underrated as a college player, so I’m happy to get a few sentences off about how much I like him here. Martinez was born to catch with a reliable glove and accurate arm. His offensive game is equally well-rounded with the chance for an average hit tool and average raw power to go along with his standout approach. His ceiling may not be high enough for all teams to fall in love, but he’s as good a bet as any of the college catchers in this class to have a long big league career in some capacity or another.
18 – New York Yankees – Texas A&M OF Nick Banks
Hunter Renfroe went thirteenth overall in the 2013 MLB Draft, so his 2016 doppelganger Nick Banks going a few spots later seems appropriate. Banks is one of the many hitters with questionable BB/K marks before the season that scouts insisted had more mature approaches at the plate than the raw numbers suggested. The scouts have been redeemed by most of those hitters — Kyle Lewis most famously — but Banks has continued to struggle (5 BB/10 K) out of the gate so far. He could still have a fine pro career without polishing up his approach — he’s a legit five-tool guy with no singular grade falling below average on most scout cards — but plugging that last remaining hole could mean the difference between good and great. Apologies here to Boomer White and JB Moss, two excellent senior-sign outfield prospects out of A&M that have decidedly outperformed Banks so far in the early going. Both guys may have hit their way into top ten round money saving pick consideration.
19 – New York Mets – Texas A&M Ryan Hendrix
Zach Jackson out of Arkansas has consistently been mentioned as my favorite college reliever who might just be able to start in the pros, but Ryan Hendrix is coming on really fast. He’s got the heat (mid-90s peak), breaking ball (low- to mid-80s CB flashes plus), and enough of a changeup (83-86) to potentially make the switch to the rotation at the next level. If not, he’s a potential quick-moving reliever with late-inning upside. Win-win!
20 – Los Angeles Dodgers – Maryland RHP Mike Shawaryn
Few players have seen their stock dip as much as Shawaryn has so far this spring. Considered by many (or just me, who can remember…) to be on the same tier as the Daulton Jefferies’ of the world coming into the season, Shawaryn has struggled with pitching effectively while dealing with a decrease in fastball velocity and flattened out offspeed stuff. He’s still a top five round prospect with big league starter upside, but no longer the potential first day pick many were hoping to see coming into the year. The positive spin is that it’s entirely possible he’s just going through a bit of a dead arm period brought about by general fatigue right now and that a little bit of rest after the draft in June will bring back the kind of stuff that looked more mid-rotation caliber than fifth starter. If that’s the case, the moment he slips out of the top two rounds would represent major value for whatever team takes a shot on him.
21 – Toronto Blue Jays – Oregon RHP Stephen Nogosek
Another college reliever! Stephen Nogosek is one of the most interesting of his kind in this year’s class. He’s not the two-pitch fire-balling righthander with the plus breaking ball that teams view as a classic late-inning type. Nogosek commands four pitches for strikes, relying more on the overall depth of his repertoire than any one singular go-to offering. Many speculate that his delivery lends itself to shorter outings, but I’m not convinced that a pro team won’t at least consider using him in the rotation at some point.
22 – Pittsburgh Pirates – Oregon State SS Trever Morrison
Morrison came into the year known more for his glove than his bat, but the junior’s hot start had many upgrading his ceiling from utility guy to potential regular. He’s cooled off a bit since then, but his glove, arm, and speed all remain intriguing above-average tools. I think really good utility guy is a more appropriate ceiling for him at the moment, but there’s still a lot of season left to play. Morrison is a surprisingly divisive prospect among those I’ve talked to, so any guesses about his draft range would be nothing more than guesses. He does feel like the kind of guy who would wind up a Pirate, so at least we’ve got that going for us.
23 – St. Louis Cardinals – Miami OF Willie Abreu
The Cardinals throw caution to the wind and bet big on tools by selecting Abreu and his ugly 7 BB/25 K ratio here in the first round. With three picks in the first, you can take a gamble like this. Abreu’s raw power is at or near the top of this class, so the logic in such a pick is easy to see.
24 – San Diego Padres – California C Brett Cumberland
I’m not sure too many casual prospect fans realize that true sophomore Cumberland, set to turn 21 on June 25, is eligible for this year’s draft. I know I have a lot less scouting notes on him than I’d typically have for a draft-eligible prospect in the midst of one of the best seasons of any position player in college baseball. The steady receiver hit really well as a freshman last year (.429 SLG with 33 BB/41 K), but has taken it to the next level so far in 2016. Good defense, very real power, and success at the college level from day one? Just what this class needs, one more top five round college catcher.
25 – San Diego Padres – Indiana RHP Jake Kelzer
The real draft will no doubt be much kinder to the Padres, but grabbing Biggio, Cumberland, and Kelzer in this universe’s draft isn’t anything to be disappointed in. Two mature bats at up-the-middle defensive positions would help San Diego continue their stated goal of building that way (the return for trade backs that up) and Kelzer, a highly athletic 6-8, 235 pound righthander with a nasty hard slider, would be a fine addition to their growing collection of arms.
26 – Chicago White Sox – Texas Tech RHP Ryan Moseley
Much like the Willie Abreu pick above, taking Moseley this high is gambling on tools over performance. I’ve long been a fan of the sinker/slider archetype and Moseley does it about as well as any pitcher in this class. When I start digging into batted ball data to find GB% in the coming weeks, he’ll be the first name I look up. On physical ability, a case could be made that Moseley deserves this first round spot. If we’re talking early season production…not so much. As we mentioned before, some young pitchers throw with so much natural movement that they are unable to effectively harness the raw stuff with which they’ve been blessed. Moseley’s track record suggests just that. Taking him this high would be a gamble that the developmental side of your organization can straighten him out. There are too many teams besides the White Sox that I’d be so confident they could pull off the trick.
27 – Baltimore Orioles – Baylor LHP Daniel Castano
I haven’t heard Daniel Castano’s name mentioned as a top ten round pick much this spring, but I don’t see why he wouldn’t be in the mix. He’s a big lefty with three average or better pitches who has made the long-awaited leap (8.51 K/9 this year, up from the 5 or so K/9 of his first two seasons). I’m in.
28 – Washington Nationals – Michigan State LHP Cameron Vieaux
Everything written about Castano above applies to Vieaux here. The only notable difference is that Vieaux’s jump in performance is a little less pronounced (8.61 K/9 this year, up from the 7 or so K/9 the two previous seasons) yet no less impressive. Vieaux also have the chance to be a four-pitch lefty in the pros, so I guess that makes two differences.
29 – Washington Nationals – Texas A&M 2B Ryne Birk
Birk has worked his tail off to become a competent defender at the keystone, so selecting him this early is a vote of confidence in his glove passing the professional barrier of quality in the eyes of his first wave of pro coaches. I think he’s more than good enough at second with an intriguing enough upside as a hitter to make a top five round pick worth it. Offensively he’s shown average power, above-average speed, and good feel for contact. Sorting out his approach will be the difference between fun utility option or solid starter once he hits pro ball. He reminds me a good bit of Trever Morrison as a prospect, right down to the slightly off spellings of their respective first names.
30 – Texas Rangers – North Carolina OF Tyler Ramirez
Ramirez doesn’t have a carrying tool that makes him an obvious future big league player, but he does a lot of things well (power, speed, glove) and leverages an ultra-patient approach to put himself in consistently positive hitter’s counts. His profile is a little bit similar to his teammate Zac Gallen’s in that both are relatively high-floor prospects without the kind of massive ceilings one would expect in a first day pick. Gallen is the better prospect, but I think many of the national guys are sleeping on Ramirez. I’ve been guilty of overrating Tar Heels hitters in the past, but Ramirez looks like the real deal. Former Carolina outfielder Tim Fedroff, a seventh round pick in 2008, seems like a reasonable draft day expectation in terms of round selected. I’d happily snap up a guy like Ramirez in that range.
31 – New York Mets – Miami OF Jacob Heyward
Steady year-to-year improvement has been the name of Heyward’s game as a Hurricane. It’s more of a fourth outfielder profile than a slam dunk future regular ceiling, but he’s a solid, well-rounded player capable of doing just enough of everything to keep you invested.
32 – Los Angeles Dodgers – Miami RHP Bryan Garcia
Garcia has late-game reliever stuff (mid-90s FB, good SL) and pedigree (15.88 K/9 this year) to get himself drafted as one of the first true college relievers in his class.
33 – St. Louis Cardinals – Michigan State RHP Dakota Mekkes
If you read this site and/or follow college ball closely, this might be the first pick to surprise in some way, shape, or form. Mekkes wasn’t a pitcher mentioned in many 2016 draft preview pieces before the start of the season, but the 6-7, 250 pound righty has opened plenty of eyes in getting off to a dominant (16.36 K/9) albeit wild (7.16 BB/9) start to 2016. His stuff backs it up (FB up to 94, interesting SL, deceptive delivery), so he’s more than just a large college man mowing down overmatched amateurs. He’s a top ten round possibility now.
34 – St. Louis Cardinals – Duke LHP Jim Ziemba
A 6-10, 230 pound lefthander who goes after hitters from a funky sidearm delivery is a great way to cap this weird mock off. The obvious Michael Freeman comp is too good to ignore here.
UCLA JR RHP James Kaprielian
USC JR LHP Kyle Twomey
Arizona State JR LHP Brett Lilek
Oregon rSO LHP Cole Irvin
UCLA JR RHP Cody Poteet
Stanford JR RHP Marc Brakeman
Arizona State JR LHP Ryan Kellogg
Arizona State JR RHP Ryan Burr
Oregon JR LHP Garrett Cleavinger
Oregon State JR RHP Andrew Moore
I’m oddly fascinated at the idea of a pitcher with a “four-pitch mix” because I feel like that phrase almost exclusively is thrown around at the amateur level. Maybe you’ll hear it at times for minor leaguers, but depth of repertoire is not something discussed much in the big leagues. Obviously this is because we’ve got a self-selecting sample and pitchers without the requisite three or four pitches needed to run through lineups multiple times have already been converted to relief, but I still think there’s perhaps something to the way evaluators overrate prospects with a ton of decent pitches (who must be starters then!) and underrate young arms with two knockout pitches (relief all the way!) without factoring in that pitchers can in fact develop additional effective pitches along the way. I’m not saying a young guy who can’t throw a curve will one day wake up finding one in his wrist, but there have been enough recent examples of pitchers tinkering around the edges with grips that help previously unusable pitches (changeups, cutters, occasionally sliders) suddenly work to help get advanced hitters out. Even my old notes on Michael Wacha, a player that I think compares in certain respect to the guy we’re eventually going to talk about, make mention of this phenomena…
Texas A&M JR RHP Michael Wacha: big velocity jump during college tenure – once peaked only as high as 92, but now regularly sits 90-95 FB, hitting 96-97; like many young arms, can get himself in trouble when he overthrows fastball and it begins to straighten out; somewhat similar to Kyle Zimmer in the way he relied on excellent fastball command before seeing a velocity spike; holds velocity well, very rarely dipping below 90; have heard he’ll throw his legitimate plus to plus-plus CU with two distinct grips: one at 82-85 with the circle change grip, the other more of an upper-70s straight change; either way, the CU should be a weapon from day one on; occasional 81-85 SL with cutter action; also will go with a very rare upper-70s CB that could be the breaking pitch he’ll be asked to run with as a pro; neither breaking ball is pro-ready, but both have flashed enough that it is easy to imagine a pro staff believing it can coach him up; natural comparison is Ryan Madson, especially if Wacha never develops a consistent third pitch and is used out of the bullpen; as a starter, I think there are some similarities in terms of stuff when you compare him to Braves prospect Julio Teheran; 6-6, 200 pounds
Wacha wasn’t quite a two-pitch guy in college, but he was close. The idea that a player capable of hitting the mid-90s with an easy plus change, clean mechanics, and a prototypical starter’s frame would be relegated to the bullpen because of an iffy present third pitch was silly at the time and downright preposterous in hindsight. Thankfully, it also represents a learning experience and the chance to reevaluate what elements are most crucial when projecting pitchers into the future. Going back to the idea that amateurs need three or four pitches to start spurred me to look up what big league arms actually throw four quality pitches. The only three starting pitchers I found with positive pitch values (per Fangraphs) for each of the four pitches in the classic “four-pitch mix” (FB/CU/CB/SL) last season were Felix Hernandez, Anibal Sanchez, and Tanner Roark. If you expand it to include relievers, then Danny Farquhar, Tom Wilhelmsen, and Zach Duke join the fun. If you let David Price’s cutter in stand in for a slider, then you can add him to the starter party. Many players were close (Clayton Kershaw, Julio Teheran, Matt Garza, and Scott Kazmir to name a few) and the whole thing is about as unscientific as you can get, but I found it interesting and a fine use of five spare minutes.
This whole discussion goes back to a “four-pitch mix,” which admittedly is a bit of a strawman of a premise in the first place. I don’t know of anybody who says you NEED four pitches to make it as a starting pitcher in the big leagues. Three pitches is the most common baseline and a quick spin around Fangraphs Pitch Type leaderboard validates this idea. The only two pitchers you could even make a flimsy argument for being two-pitch starters (out of the 88 player sample of 2014 qualified pitchers) are Bartolo Colon (11.8% SL, 5.6% CU) and Lance Lynn (10.2% SL, 8.4% CB, 2.4% CU). Those two might be closest, but neither is what I’d expect anybody to call a two-pitch pitcher. Lynn, who is literally (!) a four-pitch pitcher, being included in this conversation at all is somehow both absurd (he throws four pitches!) and justified (showing a pitch and throwing a pitch aren’t the same, right?), but the whole thing is still a stretch. The three pitch minimum lives on.
That was a lot of words when I could have simply said that even though years of being in and around the game have conditioned me to want to see three usable big league pitches on any amateur (college, especially) before feeling confident enough to project him as a big league starter pitcher, I’ve come around to the idea that young guys with two above-average or better pitches can be just as likely to develop a usable third pitch as a more advanced at present peer. Even shorter still: give me the pitcher with two nasty pitches over the one with four average pitches, assuming all else (delivery, athleticism, command, control, etc.) is equal.
This all brings me to the guy I think Wacha compares to on some level, UCLA JR RHP James Kaprielian. Draft people like me who sometimes try to get too cute for own good have fought it in the past, but there’s no denying that Kaprielian warrants a first round grade this June. Well-built righthanders with four pitches (ding!) and consistently excellent results in a tough conference profile as big league starting pitchers more often than not. I’m going to just go with an excerpt of some of my notes on Kaprielian because they are among the longest running that I have on any player in this college class…
JR RHP James Kaprielian (2015): 87-92 FB, 94-95 peak; potential plus 79-84 CB, commands it well; potential plus 80-85 CU with serious sink; above-average 79-85 SL; good athlete; excellent overall command; 2014 Summer: 88-92 FB, 93 peak; above-average to plus or better 75-79 CB with plus command, still gets it up to 85 depending on situation; average or better upside with 79-82 SL; FAVORITE; average or better upside with mid-80s CU with splitter action; UPDATE: 83-85 SL, flashes above-average; average 78-80 CB with above-average to plus upside; good athlete; commands both breaking balls well; 2015: 89-94 FB; above-average 78-81 CB flashes plus; above-average 83-85 SL; above-average mid-80s CU, flashes better; 6-4, 200 pounds (2013: 12.39 K/9 | 5.09 BB/9 | 2.20 FIP | 40.2 IP) (2014: 9.17 K/9 – 2.97 BB/9 – 106 IP – 2.29 ERA)
The UPDATE and 2015 sections give the most pertinent information (88-94 FB, 95 peak; above-average 78-81 CB, flashes plus; average 83-85 SL, flashes above-average; above-average mid-80s CU with drop, flashes plus; good athleticism; commands both breaking balls ably; plus overall command), but I like including the whole thing (or as much as can be published) to highlight the growth he’s made. Kaprielian is damn good and smart team picking in the latter half of the first round will get a quick-moving mid-rotation arm who still might have a bit of upside left in him beyond that.
On the other end of the spectrum (kind of) is USC JR LHP Kyle Twomey. Twomey has long been a favorite thanks to a fastball/changeup combination (just two pitches, gasp!) good enough to get big league swings and misses within the year. His fastball doesn’t have premium velocity (87-92, 94 peak), but the heaps of movement he gets on it make it a consistent above-average to plus offering. His change does a lot of the same things from the same arm speed, making the 78-82 MPH pitch above-average with plus upside. Those two pitches and room to grow on a 6-3, 170 pound frame make him a very appealing prospect. There are some issues that will need ironing out at the pro level – deciding on whether to further refine his cutter/slider hybrid or tightening up his soft curve, plus improving his overall control and offspeed command – but the pieces are there for him to make it as a big league starting pitcher.
I was all about UCLA rSO LHP Hunter Virant heading into the season as a prospect with no college track record storming up boards and claiming his spot in the first round. I think on the original iteration of this list he was in the top five. Whoops. His situation in school isn’t exactly the same as Matt Purke’s, but there are enough depressing similarities to the two that I think citing their stories might give the push to recommend pro ball to any young arm. That’s not to say that anything specifically done to Virant while at UCLA has damaged his pro prospects; pitchers get hurt no matter the time and place. Heck, if anything you could argue that Virant is better off with (presumably) three years of coursework towards a degree at a fine university than he would have been taking bonus money out of high school and flaming out of pro ball by now. Other HS arms I loved once upon a time that have fallen into hard times collegiately include the Stanford duo of JR RHP Freddy Avis and JR RHP Daniel Starwalt. I still have hope for all these players, but every day that passes without them pitching effectively on the mound (or pitching at all, really) makes it a little tougher to justify the faith.
In happier news, Oregon rSO LHP Cole Irvin’s return from injury (Tommy John) has gone fairly well to date. I’d say he’s done enough to show he should be in the top five round mix this June, especially when his pre-injury talent level, athleticism, control, and plus-plus pickoff move are all taken into account.
Somebody at Perfect Game (I believe) compared Arizona State JR LHP Brett Lilek to a lefty Phil Bickford. I can buy it to some degree as their stuff (and frame and command) isn’t too far off, but Lilek has never shown the same ability to miss bats as Bickford, admittedly at a different level, right now. He’s still a lefthander with size (6-4, 200), velocity (90-94, 95 peak), and three offspeed pitches each with a varying degree of promise (I’d rank them slider, curve, change). Yes, I fully understand the irony of pumping up Lilek, a potential four-pitch pitcher (though more likely three-pitch) with a prospect status built more on the strength of a high likelihood of at least some success (league average starter?) rather than sheer upside, right after my weird little tangent about no longer wanting to overrate prospects just like him. Maybe every prospect should be evaluated on their own merits or something? Lilek’s teammate JR LHP Ryan Kellogg is a similar prospect (size, command, smarts) but has neither the same fastball (87-92) nor the same quality of offspeed stuff. That’s not meant to diminish his ability as he still has a chance (just slightly less so than Lilek for me) to make it as a back-end big league starter.
I swear I’m not making this up, but my notes on UCLA JR RHP Cody Poteet include this exact phrase: “legit four-pitch mix.” I mean, it is true after all. What Poteet lacks in physicality he more than makes up for with the depth of his stuff. I like more than love him as a prospect, but his slider has the makings of a really good pro pitch. USC JR RHP/C Kyle Davis and Oregon State JR RHP Andrew Moore (easy plus command and control guy) give the class two additional short righthanders with well-rounded stuff and strong track records.
Stanford JR RHP Marc Brakeman is more of a two-pitch prospect (like Twomey) that I’ve referenced above. Armed with a nice albeit inconsistent heater (88-94, 95 peak – though I’ve seen him sit more on the low end of that range at times) and an outstanding low-80s changeup, Brakeman could move up boards quickly once he gets healthy again. I’ve been the low man on him in the past, but that’s more due to an intuition thing than anything I can reasonably express.
Arizona State JR RHP Ryan Burr and Oregon JR LHP Garrett Cleavinger stand together as the two best 2015 relief prospects likely to come out of the conference. Burr has gotten some recent love as a possible starter at the next level, but I don’t really see it. Been there, done that. He has the stuff (90-96 FB, above-average low-80s SL, ability to mix in raw yet intriguing mid-80s CU and upper-70s CB) to pull it off, but the delivery, control (though improved), and command all scream reliever to me. I haven’t heard anybody mention Cleavinger as a potential pro starter. Keeping him in the pen also makes sense to me because, though he has the pitches (90-96 FB, above-average breaking ball, average CU) to face a lineup multiple times through, he has the arm action and stamina (stuff plays way up in short bursts) to thrive in the relief role in the pros. There has been some market correction on how teams value college relievers in recent drafts, but I still expect to see Burr go higher than he’ll wind up on my personal board this June. He’s really good, so it isn’t as though that will be a horrible mistake…but assuming Cleavinger (and other “second tier” college relievers) wind up going multiple rounds lower, that’s the value play I’d lean towards.
I’ve said many times I don’t believe in sleepers. I find the whole concept a tad demeaning to all involved. To call somebody a sleeper insults the player, the audience, and the profession (or, if you’d prefer, industry). If you’re any good, somebody somewhere knows who you are, so you’re not a sleeper by my own personal, admittedly crazy narrow, definition. Still, insults might be too strong a word because I don’t take any of this stuff that seriously – I do this entirely for fun, I acknowledge that my influence is nonexistent, I don’t buy into scouting as some sacred insider only thing that only real baseball men can participate in, I actively root for all prospects (even the ones I “miss” on) to do well and make millions and live out all their dreams, etc. – but few things bug me more when reading draft or prospect stuff than really famous players being called “sleepers.” I realize the interest in the MLB Draft isn’t on par with the NFL or NBA counterparts, but when actual paid professional draft writers start with the assumption that their audience only knows players expected to go in the top five picks and then pat themselves on the back years later when their draft “sleeper” (picked, like, fourteenth overall) winds up a great player, a little part of me dies inside. Another example of this is the way that most publications write up at least thirty prospects per organization, but then the one that limits it to ten has the gall to name an additional prospect from each system a “sleeper” and crow when that player — nominally the eleventh ranked player in the system — has a good year. Come on.
I guess instead of sleepers I can just call them players I think I’ll wind up having ranked higher than where they’ll be drafted. Even then, if I like a guy more than most right now and wind up “right” about him as pro teams get wise to his ability/upside, then judging by that standard doesn’t seem particularly fair. Calling them guys I like more than the consensus isn’t very meaningful when most draft rankings only go about fifty deep (if that) up until the week leading up until the draft.
This tangent doesn’t really apply here since many of my potential sleepers (there’s that word again) haven’t quite lived up to expectations so far this year, but there are a few guys that will be drafted fairly late that I like quite bit. I like Arizona State SR RHP Darrin Gillies as a sinker/slider guy with size, Washington SR RHP Brandon Choate for similar reasons (90-94 FB, 96 peak; SL flashes plus; lots of ground balls), Oregon JR RHP Conor Harber (who might be too good to be a sleeper…I have no idea anymore) for his untapped upside, athleticism, and fresh arm, and, in the most decidedly non-sleeper of them all, UCLA SR RHP David Berg, who is just plain fun to watch carve up good hitters in high pressure situations with mid-80s fastballs and impeccable control. If I updated this list today rather than just reusing my existing preseason list with Virant dropped a dozen spots from his original lofty perch, all four guys would be higher than they are below. Harber would be much higher. I also try to tack on a few speculative picks at the end of these rankings when I can (the bottom quarter of many of these lists are mostly a combination of players with clearly defined potential big league roles — like a future lefty specialist or something — or players I don’t know much about with about much of a track record but with substantial upside), so don’t sleep on UCLA rSO RHP Tucker Forbes.
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching
- UCLA JR RHP James Kaprielian
- USC JR LHP Kyle Twomey
- Arizona State JR LHP Brett Lilek
- Oregon rSO LHP Cole Irvin
- UCLA JR RHP Cody Poteet
- Stanford JR RHP Marc Brakeman
- Arizona State JR LHP Ryan Kellogg
- Arizona State JR RHP Ryan Burr
- Oregon JR LHP Garrett Cleavinger
- Oregon State JR RHP Andrew Moore
- Arizona rJR RHP Matthew Troupe
- UCLA rSO LHP Hunter Virant
- USC JR RHP/C Kyle Davis
- Oregon JR RHP/OF Conor Harber
- Arizona State SR RHP Darin Gillies
- Stanford JR RHP Freddy Avis
- Stanford JR RHP Daniel Starwalt
- Arizona JR RHP Nathan Bannister
- Washington SR RHP Brandon Choate
- Washington State rSR RHP Scott Simon
- California JR RHP Ryan Mason
- UCLA rSO RHP Nick Kern
- Arizona State JR RHP/OF David Graybill
- California rSR RHP Dylan Nelson
- Arizona JR LHP Cody Moffett
- Washington JR RHP Troy Rallings
- UCLA SR RHP David Berg
- UCLA SR LHP Grant Watson
- UCLA rSO RHP Tucker Forbes
- Washington rSR RHP Josh Fredendall
- Stanford JR LHP Logan James
- USC JR LHP Marc Huberman
- Stanford SR RHP David Schmidt
- Washington JR RHP Alex Nesbitt
- Utah JR RHP Dalton Carroll
- Utah JR RHP Bret Helton
- Washington State SR RHP Sam Triece
- Arizona State JR RHP/2B Jordan Aboites
- Arizona SR LHP Tyler Crawford
- Arizona JR RHP Tyger Talley
- USC JR LHP Tyler Gilbert
- Washington State SR RHP Sean Hartnett
- USC JR RHP Brooks Kriske
- USC JR RHP Brent Wheatley
- Washington SR RHP Tyler Davis
- Stanford SR LHP Jonathan Hochstatter
- Washington JR RHP Ryan Schmitten
- Washington State JR LHP Matt Bower