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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Arizona Diamondbacks

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Arizona in 2016

42 – RHP Jon Duplantier
60 – OF Anfernee Grier
194 – C Gavin Stupienski
227 – RHP Curtis Taylor
255 – 2B Manny Jefferson
279 – C Andy Yerzy
366 – C Ryan January
392 – OF Connor Owings
410 – LHP Colin Poche

Complete List of 2016 Arizona Diamondbacks Draftees

1.39 – OF Anfernee Grier

You’d think three years of SEC experience would have me reevaluating my original high school comp for Anfernee Grier (60), but I keep coming back to Devon White every time I see him play. Maybe the body types are a bit off — Grier is plenty graceful, but doesn’t quite give off the same gazelle-like movements of a young White — but I think they two share plenty of traits that could translate to a similar professional upside. Even his doubters would have to admit that Grier has star upside if it all comes together as a pro. It might be rich for some in certain areas, but I think putting above-average future grades on all five of his tools isn’t crazy. Even if you knock a few tools down to average (hit, power, arm), he’s still got a chance to be an outstanding regular and long-term fixture in center field.

If you didn’t know much about Grier until now, then I can imagine you sitting there wondering how a guy with tools like his fell to the thirty-ninth overall pick. Here you go: the aforementioned high school evaluation on this site contained this line — “questionable approach biggest current impediment to success as pro” — which remains as true now as it did then. Grier is such a naturally gifted talented young hitter — his “lightning quick wrists” were also mentioned in that report — that at times his approach at the plate looks like what one might expect out of a hitter unfamiliar with not being able to hit everything even remotely near the plate hard and far. I’m not sure this is a mainstream enough topic to qualify it as a #hottake, but I’ve wondered at times when watching Grier if he was too gifted a hitter for his own good. The confidence he has as a hitter made him a great amateur, but could keep him from being a great pro. Grier will have to learn that just because he can hit almost any pitch in any count it doesn’t necessarily mean that he should. More so than most early-round college draftees, Grier’s pro development is going to hinge greatly on his receptiveness to pro instruction, to say nothing of the quality and patience of those doing the instructing.

Of course, any attempt to change Grier too much could move him away from what made his approach work for him in the first place. The real challenge for Grier and the Diamondbacks going forward will be finding a happy medium between his natural inclination to swing at anything close and a more patient, nuanced approach at the plate. If that can be achieved, Grier is a star. If not, I think there’s still enough in the way of physical talent here to suggest Grier will have a long, fruitful career as a speed/defense backup outfielder. With a high ceiling and reasonable floor, Grier is a quality prospect and deserving first round pick.

2.52 – C Andy Yerzy

I believe in Andy Yerzy (279) as a hitter. I don’t believe in him as a catcher. That puts him in a really tough spot as the former belief isn’t nearly as strong as the latter. Yerzy will hit, sure, but will it be enough for first base? The most honest answer is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, but that’s not what you come here for. Forced to give a definitive answer on the long-term future of an 18-year-old hitter from York Mills Collegiate Institute in beautiful Ontario …I guess I’d take the easy way out and say he’s not likely to hit enough to hold down a job at first base at the highest level. That’s playing the percentages, after all. The honest answer remains the silly shrug. I don’t have nearly enough feel for Yerzy as a hitter — what I’ve seen and heard and read, I like — to give a more solid take on his future. I clearly love going on and on and on about players I think I have a good feel for — somebody on the internet recently dissed me as being “too wordy and authoritative,” so I guess that reputation as a know-it-all yakker precedes me — but I’d like to think I also know when to shut up about a guy I don’t have enough information on to give a meaningful opinion about. So I’m going to shut up now.

3.89 – RHP Jon Duplantier

“If Duplantier flops in the pros, I’m out on Rice pitchers forever,” was a thing written here back in April. It’s true. If Jon Duplantier (42) doesn’t make it due to either injury or reduced stuff caused from injury, then I’m swearing off Rice pitchers…until next June. If Duplantier does make it, however, then me calling this one of the best picks in the draft and arguably the best value of any drafted college arm will look pretty smart. On Duplantier from March 2016…

The good news for Rice is that their ace is very clearly the best pitching prospect in the conference. Jon Duplantier is awesome. There are only so many college baseball and draft writers out there and there are a ton of quality players to write about, but it still surprises me that Duplantier has managed to go (kind of) under the radar this spring. I mean, of course Duplantier has been written about plenty and he’s regarded by almost anybody who matters as one of the top college arms in this class – not to mention I’m guilty of not writing about him until now myself – but it still feels like we could all be doing more to spread the word about how good he really is. Here’s what I wrote about him in his draft capsule last year…

175. Rice SO RHP Jon Duplantier: 87-94 FB, 95 peak; good CU; good 73-75 CB; average 82-85 SL, flashes above-average when harder; good command; great athlete; fascinating draft case study as a hugely overlooked injured arm that one scout described to me as “every bit as good as Dillon Tate when on” and another said his injury was a “blessing in disguise” because it saved him from further abuse at the hands of Coach Graham; 6-4, 210 pounds

His fastball has since topped out as high as 97-98 and more consistently sits in the mid- to upper-band of that velocity range (90-94). His command has continued to improve and his breaking balls are both showing more consistency. I’ve heard his change has backed up some – more of a future average pitch at 82-84 than anything – but seeing as that’s just one of three usable offspeed pitches, it’s not the end of the world. Duplantier is big, athletic, and getting better by the day. I don’t know if that all adds up to a first round selection in this class, but it is damn close if not.

Duplantier finished his college season ranked 42nd on my board. The draft’s first round went 41 picks. Damn close to a first round pick indeed. I’m still hopeful that his history of nagging injuries turns out to be more of a blessing in disguise we all look back on and laugh about rather than an ongoing issue that plagues him in pro ball. Get him healthy, get him working on refining his offspeed stuff (average 82-84 CU, average 82-85 SL, average mid-70s CB), get him the reps he’ll need to bump that fastball (87-95, 98 peak) command up a grade, and watch him work. I called it “sneaky top of the rotation upside” back in April, and I think some of that is still there with Duplantier. It’s aggressive, I know, but I believe. There’s just something about pitchers from Rice that I like…

4.119 – RHP Curtis Taylor

I’m really excited to watch Curtis Taylor (227) pitch in the pros. If ninth round pick Tommy Eveld (we’ll get to him) is my Platonic Ideal of what a ninth round pick college pitcher should look like, then Taylor fits the bill for the fourth round. More accurately, he’s what I want in any college pitcher outside of the first few picks in the draft. Size (6-5, 210), projection (cold weather factor), present velocity (90-94, 96 peak), offspeed with promise (slider and splitter), results (11.10 K/9 and 2.16 BB/9 in 91.2 IP at the University of British Columbia), and ground balls (around 60% in his debut)…the guy checks every box. There’s number two starter upside here with Taylor.

5.149 – 3B Joey Rose

I heard really good college player and potential 2019 first day pick when asking around about Joey Rose for much of the spring. There’s plenty to like such as his easy above-average righthanded power and above-average arm strength at the hot corner, but he’s a long way away from what he could be. I still like Arizona taking a shot on him here in the fifth round. If you think he could be a first round pick in 2019, then why not grab him well before that in a much lower round? Why let college ball have all the fun developing him when you can do it yourself? Got a Matt Rose (Cubs) comp on him after signing, which amuses me because it wasn’t until I wrote it down right this very second that I realized the players had the same last name. They even each have four-letter first names. Could some subconscious association between the two young players be the root of that comparison? Maybe!

6.179 – LHP Mack Lemieux

LHP Mack Lemieux (Jupiter HS, Florida): 84-86 FB; 75-76 CU; 72-74 CB; good command; 6-3, 185 pounds

Those were my high school notes on Mack Lemieux from 2015. Baseball America (among others) have him peaking at 94 MPH after a season at Palm Beach State JC. Between that, his youth (just turned 20), his great pro debut (on the heels of a fine junior college season), significant athleticism, and a cool name, he’s one to watch closely.

7.209 – LHP Jordan Watson

Sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing in life until you’ve found it. I love this Jordan Watson guy. NAIA or not, striking out 176 batters in 104.2 innings is straight up awesome. And then to follow up that 15.14 K/9 with a 16.43 K/9 in his first 12.2 innings pitched as a pro? I’m firmly on the bandwagon.

Incidentally, Watson’s Science and Arts of Oklahoma baseball team also had a hitter named Yariel Gonzalez who did this as a senior: 457/.508/.796 with 24 BB/9 K and 12/14 SB. He latched on with the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent where he kept hitting as a pro. I like this guy, too. We’ll get to the Cardinals draft next Monday, so I won’t drone on and on and on about how well they identify quality amateur talent, but…man, they have a knack for this. Apologies to any Diamondbacks fan who feels slighted by St. Louis co-opting their draft review. You guys drafted well, too!

8.239 – C Ryan January

Recently got a text from a friend who saw Ryan January (366) for Missoula this summer that called him a “lefthanded Alex Jackson, but good.” I’m not necessarily throwing in the towel on the Mariners 20-year-old prep catcher to pro outfielder (and, for the record, neither was my friend), but that still made me laugh. Comparison to the currently stalled Jackson aside, the real takeaway here is that January can play. There are certainly some rough edges surrounding his bat and his overall approach as a hitter remains a work in progress, but there’s no doubting his bat speed, surprisingly deft feel for contact, and the special sound he’s capable of making on impact when he gets a hold of one.

The Alex Jackson mention was serendipitous (retroactively so since it’s been about two months since I got the text, but just go with it) as I’ve actually been thinking about him a lot as I type up these draft reviews. This is hardly groundbreaking stuff, but I’ll share it anyway. I champion future bench players and middle relievers on this site all the time. I think there’s tons of hidden value there, both on the field (duh) and on the margins of the payroll sheets (save money on those homegrown guys, spend savings on bigger stars). You can find these players all over the draft if you look hard enough. However, I don’t like when teams move a questionable defender off a tough defensive spot to an easier one when the player in question doesn’t have special upside with the bat. You’re more likely to get a good player that way, but far less likely to get a great player. That was my dilemma with Alex Jackson back when he was a draft prospect. As a catcher, sign me up. Even if the bat suffers some and he never becomes a great defensive player, it would have been worth it to me to see it through with him behind the plate. As an outfielder, conventional wisdom says that he can focus more clearly on his hitting and his overall offensive game will be the best that it can be. When the best that it can be is truly great, I get it. Bryce Harper is an all too obvious example of this. But a guy like Jackson was never Harper. A guy like Jackson was never all that likely (in my view) to ever be a top ten or so offensive player (at the position) as a corner outfielder. You’ve effectively downgraded the upside from a should-be major potential asset into just another interesting potential regular. You’ve gone from admittedly longer odds of maybe great to slightly better odds of maybe good. Jackson’s bat is good, but is it good enough to give up such a huge chunk of his potential defensive value to find out?

There are way more complicating factors than those stated above. Every player should be judged on his own specific strengths and weaknesses. And Alex Jackson the individual isn’t really the point here; I don’t know enough about him to say the M’s were wrong to move him or not, and I’m willing to defer judgment on their player development staff on that call. For me, moving him wasn’t the issue, but picking him where they did in the draft knowing that moving him was the likely plan was. I’m not saying never move a player from a position that you don’t think he can handle. That would obviously be ridiculous. Not everybody is a catcher or a center fielder or a shortstop. The previously mentioned Bryce Harper is just one of many times it does make sense to make such a switch. Maybe I’m just greedy. I don’t know. “Perfect is the enemy of the good,” they said. “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,” they said. Who knows what to think these days…

All of this somehow brings us back to Ryan January. As a catcher, he’d instantly be on the short list of highest upside players at the position in all of baseball. If forced to shift to the outfield, his odds of reaching the big leagues would go up — yes, there would be more pressure on the bat, but I think that would be counterbalanced (and then some) by the easier day-to-day existence of a corner outfielder versus a catcher — but the odds of him being a difference-making overall player would go down. I really can’t say for sure if a full-time move to the outfield is worth it in January’s specific case, but it does appear that the Diamondbacks are committed to doing what they can to exhaust all possibilities to find out what it takes to keep him behind the plate for as long as possible. I’m thankful for that. January as a catcher could be a star.

9.269 – RHP Tommy Eveld

I don’t know why I didn’t rank Tommy Eveld in the top 500 of this draft class. Arizona clearly did and they were very smart to do so. So much time and energy on this site has been spent preaching about the advantages athleticism gives young pitching prospects. Somehow Eveld, arguably the most athletic pitcher in this entire class, fell through the cracks. This is what I had on him in March…

Tommy Eveld’s question marks fall more on me than him right now. He’s got a great frame, fantastic athleticism, and legitimate low-90s heat, but beyond that I don’t know a ton about him.

Time marched on and I never got around to filling in my Eveld knowledge gaps along the way. Extreme athleticism, a big-time arm (90-94) with plenty of bullets left in the chamber, a frame to dream on (6-5, 190), offspeed stuff that seemingly got better with every trip to the mound, and tons of missed bats (11.38 K/9 in 53.0 IP) along the way…I’m not really sure what more you could want. Fantastic pick by Arizona here. Eveld is worth getting excited about.

10.299 – OF Stephen Smith

What you see is what you get with Stephen Smith. There’s power, strength, and some athleticism. It’s a potential platoon bat in a corner if it really works and a 4A slugger if it doesn’t. If that worst case scenario comes to fruition, there’s always Japan.

11.329 – RHP Jake Polancic

Not too pleased that I whiffed so badly on Jake Polancic, a good looking Canadian arm up to 88-92 with his fastball with a promising curve to match. Few teams scout Canada as aggressively as Arizona and Tim Wilken’s arrival only upped the ante on getting as many eyes on prospects from the Great White North as possible.

12.359 – C Gavin Stupienski

Wrote this in March about Gavin Stupienski (194)…

Every June I kick myself for not writing more about unheralded players that I like more before the rest of the world catches on. There’s never enough time once the college season gets going and I always feel guilty about doing quick posts off the top of my head that would better suit the daily “hey, this guy is REALLY good” thoughts that have a habit of coming up about certain prospects. The premise of this post is goofy, but I’d like to think the content stands up enough to be taken seriously. That makes this the perfect platform to express again how much I like Gavin Stupienski. He’s hit during his summers, he hit as a redshirt-sophomore, he’s hitting so far this year…he can hit. There are no questions about his defense behind the plate and he’s a leader on one of the nation’s best mid-major teams. I’m not sure what more you could want. I’m all-in on Stupienski. Add him to the increasingly impressive top ten round catcher pile.

Getting a potential regular catcher (or high-level backup) with pick three hundred fifty-nine is a major win for the Diamondbacks. This really was a great year for college catching. Arizona got themselves a good one.

13.389 – 2B Manny Jefferson

I’m surprised more hasn’t been written about Manny Jefferson (255) on this site considering how much I like him. As a college hitter coming off a breakthrough draft season in spite of an ugly 25 BB/50 K ratio, Jefferson is not exactly my usual cup of tea. One line from my notes on him stands out: “best is yet to come as a hitter.” That’s always some cognitive dissonance when it comes to such claims. For high school players, sure why not. For college prospects carrying years of meaningful data, it’s tough to really buy into the persistent scout chatter about how close a guy is to flicking the switch. Too many smart people were in on Jefferson this spring, so I pushed him up the board here even with the scary BB/K ratio. We’ll see how it all turns out. The difference between real improvement there (long-time big league regular), moderate improvement (see below), and little improvement (AA washout) will make or break his career.

With that moderate improvement in approach, I could see Jefferson settling nicely into a bat-first (power-first, really) utility player role capable of holding his own at literally any spot on the diamond save catcher and probably center. I have a player in mind I really want to comp him too, but for some reason the name keeps escaping me. In lieu of that perfect comp, I’ll throw out a pretty good one instead. I’m thinking Jefferson’s upside is something not unlike former Brewer do-everything Bill Hall.

14.419 – LHP Colin Poche

Old comps die hard, so when Perfect Game busted out an Andy Pettitte comp for Colin Poche (410) many years ago it really stuck with me. Poche is very clearly not Pettitte — few are — but he’s still a solid prospect and a great get here in the fourteenth round. What works for Poche is really good command of a slew of decent to slightly better pitches he can throw in any count or game situation. His low-90s fastball hasn’t yet returned from the Tommy John surgery that knocked him out of the 2015 college season, but he can still be effective living in the upper-80s and occasionally touching 90. Deception, extension, and athleticism are all pretty big points in his favor as well. He’s a prospect teetering on that fifth starter/middle relief line with a chance for a little more if some of his pre-injury stuff ever comes back.

15.449 – RHP Tyler Keele

Tyler Keele is the first of three straight college relievers taken by Arizona known best by their propensity for sinking fastballs and generating ground balls. I have Keele’s breaking ball as more of an in-between slider/curve, but it serves a similar purpose as the slider thrown by both Nick Blackburn and Jake Winston. Keele has a chance to be the best of the trio thanks in part to a usable split-change. The limited batted ball pro data on the three is interesting. Keele did not get many ground ball outs in his debut. Blackburn didn’t pitch enough for it to matter. And Winston got a ton of ground ball outs. Small sample size caveats apply, but so far advantage Winston.

16.479 – RHP Nick Blackburn

These are written out of order, so the Jake Winston thing you’ll read below was actually finished before whatever it is I’m about to write about Nick Blackburn. You can skip to that to get some of my feelings on Blackburn, but the short version is this: sinker/slider college reliever with a chance to be a sinker/slider big league reliever with continued work.

17.509 – RHP Jake Winston

“Better stuff than he’s shown” was a common refrain from those who have seen Jake Winston do his thing over the years for Southern Mississippi. The sinker/slider reliever has solid stuff across the board (87-92, 94 peak with the sinker; above-average slider; good command of both pitches), but lacks that singular put-away pitch to make him much more than a potential mid-relief ground ball guy. There’s nothing wrong with that in the seventeenth round, of course. Winston leaves us wanting more, and that’s something that probably says more about us than it does him.

19.569 – SS Mark Karaviotis

It’s really easy to say you love a pick after said pick goes out and hits a combined .347/.491/.485 in 217 across two levels in his pro debut. Still, I really do love this pick. Mark Karaviotis is a really good prospect who suffered from “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome in his draft year at Oregon. You would think more teams would have been on a true shortstop who kicked off his college career with two seasons of fine on-base showings (.369 OBP in 2014, .407 OBP in 2015), but injuries kept him off the field enough in 2016 that he slipped through the cracks more than his talent should have allowed. He’s not a tools monster in any way — good arm, solid range, average speed, decent pop — but he’s shown a knack for getting on base, coming up with big hits when needed, and playing mistake-free ball. He won’t keep hitting as he did in his debut, but he could very well hit enough to wind up a big league utility guy with the chance to earn some run as a starter depending on his timing. Kudos to Arizona for staying with him and being willing to give him $100,000 to sign. The young college junior (20-years-old all season) had plenty of leverage if he wanted to go back to school.

20.599 – RHP Connor Grey

No reports here on Connor Grey’s stuff while at St. Bonaventure, but he did get a mention on the site for his standout senior year performance: 9.29 K/9 – 3.23 BB/9 – 92.0 IP – 2.84 ERA. He added an even 60.0 innings on quality pitching as a pro on top of that. That kind of workhorse behavior is doubly impressive when you consider Grey’s a compactly built 6-0, 180 pound guy who gets by more on guile than big raw stuff.

22.659 – RHP Kevin Ginkel

Kevin Ginkel has impressive size (6-5, 215) and a slider with serious upside. His pro start was better than his draft year at Arizona. Funny how that works sometimes. I didn’t have any reports on his velocity as an amateur, but apparently he was up to the mid- to upper-90s in his pro debut. Putting that and his slider together adds up to one serious late-round relief steal.

23.689 – C Luke Van Rycheghem

I know very little of Luke Van Rycheghem. The Canadian does have a name very well-suited for hockey. I could see it really working as a defenseman. Maybe I’m thinking of Luke Richardson (who, incidentally, I hadn’t thought of in at least a decade before now) combined with James van Reimsdyk. Anyway, Van Rycheghem is a big (6-3, 210) and strong former catcher now being asked to worry first and foremost about hitting it long and far as a first baseman.

24.719 – RHP Riley Smith

On Riley Smith from January 2016…

JR RHP Riley Smith is the biggest wild card on the staff. His raw ability suggests he could be the highest drafted arm off of this staff in 2016, but there’s always some risk in projecting a college arm who hasn’t done it at this level that high. I’ve always preferred talent to experience, so count me very much in on Smith heading into his draft year.

The former LSU Tiger remains a big old wild card to me. His draft season was an unmitigated disaster (4.59 K/9 and 5.05 BB/9 in 19.2 IP), but the arm talent (89-93 FB, 95 peak; pair of interesting low-80s offspeed pitches) was obviously enough for Arizona to look past his struggles. So far, so good for Smith in the pros: 8.35 K/9 and 1.11 BB/9 in 32.1 IP (2.51 ERA).

25.749 – OF Myles Babitt

I love the MLB Draft. Where else do you see a player drafted from Cal State East Bay by way of the Academy of Art? Myles Babitt is a fascinating guy who has put up tons of weird, fun numbers over the years. His draft season saw him hit .308/.410/.400 with 22 BB and 5 K. That’s an insane BB/K ratio. He followed it up by hitting .300/.406/.322 with 16 BB/14 K in his pro debut. I don’t know what’s crazier there: is it the still great BB/K ratio or the comically small ISO? There’s no way that Babitt’s golden approach and whatever the opposite of golden (rusty? dull? Yahoo Answers says purple is the opposite color to gold, so maybe that?) power output can continue to coexist in pro ball, right? Or are we looking at the Willians Astudillo of the outfield? Either way, I’m excited to find out. Worth pointing out that Myles is the son of Shooty Babitt, a former Arizona and current New York Mets scout.

26.779 – 1B Tanner Hill

A friend of mine really likes Tanner Hill. He called him the next Tyler White. I don’t personally see it, but there you go.

27.809 – RHP Gabe Gonzalez

Gabe Gonzalez checks a lot of boxes: size (6-5, 220), fastball (90-94 FB, 95-96 peak), breaking ball (above-average yet inconsistent SL), and a track record of missing bats (8.11 K/9 in 2015, 10.41 K/9 in 2016). He’s still searching for a consistent slower third pitch to use — he’s used both a splitter and a forkball as a means of changing up speeds in the past — and his control remains spotty at best (4.77 BB/9 in 2015, 5.89 BB/9 in 2016), but there’s a lot to work with.

31.929 – RHP Williams Durruthy

Williams Durruthy has top ten round arm talent and undrafted free agent levels of control. The Diamondbacks split the difference with his thirty-first round selection. At his best, Durruthy is spotting a low-90s heater and a legitimate plus cutter. At his worst, he’s walking every hitter in sight. A phrase I heard more than once about Durruthy this spring: “too much movement for his own good.” If Arizona’s pro coaching can help him harness his stuff, he’s got real late-inning reliever upside. That’s a hefty “if,” admittedly, but betting on talent that can’t be taught in the latter stages of the draft is just good sense.

32.959 – RHP Trevor Simms

The highly athletic and well-traveled Trevor Simms has a good (90-95 MPH) yet wild right arm that should get him his share of chances over the next few seasons. He’ll need to act fast, however, as he’ll enter his first full year as a 25-year-old in A-ball.

33.989 – SS Paxton De La Garza

A very impressive debut for Paxton De La Garza has put the righthanded middle infielder from Angelo State on the deep sleeper map. His numbers as a Ram were good, so you can see what Arizona must have seen in him. I approve.

34.1019 – OF Connor Owings

Wow. A highly productive player from the national champions who can play multiple positions and run a little bit falling to the thirty-fourth round? Nice grab by Arizona here taking Connor Owings (392) this late. There’s a chance they only pulled the trigger because of the family ties at play — brother Chris is a 2B/SS/OF for the big club — but whatever the reason for taking Owens was, the fact remains he’s now part of the Diamondbacks organization and that’s a good thing for them.

35.1049 – OF Billy Endris

On Billy Endris from March 2016…

Further down the list is another Florida Atlantic product, Billy Endris. Endris is a good college player who has built a decent case over the last year plus that he’s got enough to warrant a late look in the draft.

His senior year was lackluster enough that I’m surprised that prediction came true. Still cool for him to be drafted. They can never take that away from him.

36.1079 – LHP Rob Galligan

Maybe a matchup lefty. Have him as a mid-80s guy with a nice curve and good size in my notes. Senior year numbers were wild (6.57 BB/9), but not really indicative of his decent overall control.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Jordan Wiley (San Jacinto), Nelson Mompierre (Missouri), Welby Malczewski (Auburn), Brandon Martorano (North Carolina), Hunter Kiel (LSU), Edmond Americaan (Chipola JC), Cameron Cannon (Arizona), Bowden Francis (Chipola JC), Jacob Olson (West Georgia Tech)

2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – Missouri Valley

I had Darick Hall listed with the pitchers based on a tip from a pal who swears he’ll wind up on the mound in the pros, but this piece getting delayed a couple of days saved me from that potential gaffe. I’m not saying he’s wrong with that prediction, but after the last few days Hall’s had at the plate I’m not sure how we could make that projected switch just yet. The first baseman/righthanded pitcher’s excellence on the mound is still worth noting, of course, so we’ll do it right here: 33 K/5 BB in 35.1 IP (6 starts) of 2.55 ERA ball. That’s damn good. On the other hand, eleven homers in just ninety at bats is pretty special, too. Most of the scouting notes I have on him focus on his future as a position player – impressive hit tool for a power guy, solid glove at first, reasonably athletic for his size – so I’m pleased to have him listed as a primary first baseman for now. As a pitcher, all I have are his numbers. Either way, he’s a player I really want to learn more about the next few months.

Hall is just one of the many Dallas Baptist hitters that deserve attention in this draft class. That’s a lineup that rivals any in the Big 12. Daniel Sweet came into the season as the top Dallas Baptist hitting prospect for me and I don’t want to be reactionary by moving him off because of the hot starts of those around him, but some of his teammates have made things mighty crowded at the top. Sweet’s blend of power, speed, and athleticism have made him a favorite for years. I still believe in his bat enough to think he can make it as a future regular in center and potential big league leadoff hitter. In the event that doesn’t work out, his overall skill set lends itself to quality backup. I’ve compared him to a more powerful Andrew Toles in the past; Toles’s pro career hasn’t quite been all it was expected to be so far, so take that comparison with the requisite block of salt.

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. Arguably the most interesting player on the Patriots roster – a fascinating roster that includes the two-way sensation Hall and red hot Washington State transfer Luke Stratman — is Austin Listi. I can’t find anything online at the present moment to corroborate what I have in my notes, but I recall Listi leaving the team after the 2014 season with the stated intent to enroll in the military. Whatever happened there happened, but it was a pleasant surprise to this baseball fan to see him back on the Dallas Baptist squad this past fall and off to a solid start for the Patriots this spring. Losing a year of baseball growth at such a pivotal stage in his development is less than ideal, but his power and raw physical strength give him something to offer to interested pro teams. I think all of those guys (plus Camden Duzenack, a steady glove at short with sneaky pop and solid plate discipline) get drafted with Justin Wall and Trooper Reynolds potential late-round senior-signs if their bats get going again. If you’re not counting along at home, that’s six potential draftees with two maybe’s joining the field from one college lineup. Maybe I’m nuts or maybe that call will prove prophetic, but we won’t know either way for a few months so might as well enjoy the ride in the meantime.

I don’t have much on either Trey Hair or the aforementioned Stratman, but their early season successes make them hard to ignore, especially considering their listed positions on the diamond. Ryan Tinkham and Spencer Johnson are both easy power bats to like: both guys have size, production, and some positional flexibility on their side. I have no idea what to make of Tyler Leffler, a shortstop who looked poised for a breakout draft season last year only to see his batting average drop almost in half from his sophomore season. A year ago I would have considered him a promising bat-first prospect with serious questions about his long-term defensive future. Now his glove seems to have passed his bat – and not just because of his 2015 struggles – and his offensive game is what will determine if he can be a mid- to late-round sleeper future regular or more of a utility prospect at best. I give him a lot of credit for the defensive improvements and I’m anxious to see if a big senior season can get him back on the draft radar for most teams.

We’re almost a thousand words into this, so it’s as good a time as any to get to the man ranked number one. I waited a bit to get to him because a) Dallas Baptist being so loaded offensively felt like the easier hook, and b) I’m not really sure what to say about a guy so consistently solid across the board as Spencer Gaa. The Bradley third baseman has been a reliable contributor since the moment he stepped on campus. He showed off his above-average to plus speed as a freshman (15 SB) and his emerging raw power (.500 SLG) as a sophomore. If he can put it all together this year, then he’s a potential top five round prospect. Gaa checks every box.

I always make a point to say that these are conceived as pre-season rankings that attempt to reflect the larger body of work rather than recent performances. There are, however, exceptions to that rule. Sam Tewes is a walking, talking exception as he was dropped a whopping one whole spot after news broke that he’ll be undergoing Tommy John surgery on Wednesday (March 31, 2016). His immediate draft future is obviously in doubt as he’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of rehabbing as a professional versus doing so as a redshirt-junior next season at Wichita State. I wouldn’t consider him signable as of now – guys with multiple years of eligible left are challenges from the start and the injury clouds up his future even more – but I’d sure as heck be on him this spring trying to figure out if there’s a reasonable number he’d agree to. His ability is undeniable. Tewes feels like the kind of guy the Red Sox pick late and convince to sign an overslot deal on while fans of all other teams slap their heads thinking “Why couldn’t we have thought of that?”

It says something both about Tewes and the rest of the Missouri Valley 2016 collection of pitching that I’d still take him second out of the group even with the bum elbow. Tommy John surgery should really drop you more than one spot, right? Maybe I’m overrating Tewes, underrating the rest of the Missouri Valley pitching crop, or making too many assumptions about the simplicity of Tommy John surgery; I’d accept any arguments against his placement, but will hold firm on his ranking just off the top spot for now. In his stead, Matt Dennis takes over as the MVC BMOC. Truthfully, I would have strongly considered Dennis as the top arm in this class even with a healthy Tewes. Tewes is quite good, but Dennis is plenty deserving in his own right. He’s got enough fastball (88-92, 94 peak), a damn fine changeup (plus upside), and a solid low-70s curve. His command is good, he’s kept runs off the board (1.50 ERA last year), and his peripherals have always been where you want them. It’s not the kind of profile that blows you away at first look, but all of the individual components work well together. I’m a fan.

Things get a lot more muddled after the top two, so we’ll try to hit on as many as we can in the lightning round. Eric Scheuermann is a bit of a wild card pick as I don’t know a ton about him, but what I do know (big fastball and good numbers when healthy) are obvious positives. Sam Perez could work as a sinker/slider reliever, but I’m more intrigued at the thought of him as a potential four-pitch starting pitcher capable of piling up outs on the ground. Chase Williams has a big arm (90-95 FB) with a good breaking ball and intriguing size. If he can show some measure of control, he could rise this spring.

I’ve long liked Colin Poche, a Tommy John survivor himself, and his well-rounded arsenal of offspeed pitches seems to have helped assist him in making an effective recovery from injury so far. If he gets rolling as the year moves on (and as he gets further removed from his own surgery), he could shoot up boards around the league. Brent Jurceka has one of the class’s nastiest splitters and an enviable frame. Bryan Young may have enough of the classic deceptive sinker/slider reliever profile to make some headway in the pro game. Willie Schwanke has been a prospect for years thanks to his arm strength (up to 94) and athleticism. The Indiana State duo of Austin Conway and Greg Kuhlman intrigue me, but neither has the 2016 innings yet to make a move up the rankings. The group of Southern Illinois pitchers found near the bottom of the list includes pitchers with reasonably interesting scouting profiles, but, when looked at individually, either a lack of innings or ineffective performances for each young arm gives me pause.

A friend who helped with some of the information here wanted me to point out that Eric McKibban and Brett Synek, both of Evansville, are off to fine starts that have put both firmly in the mix for him as draftable seniors. Happy to oblige.

Hitters

  1. Bradley JR 3B Spencer Gaa
  2. Dallas Baptist SR OF Daniel Sweet
  3. Dallas Baptist JR OF/RHP David Martinelli
  4. Dallas Baptist JR 3B/OF Austin Listi
  5. Evansville JR 2B Trey Hair
  6. Dallas Baptist JR 2B/SS Luke Stratman
  7. Dallas Baptist JR1B/RHP Darick Hall
  8. Dallas Baptist JR SS/2B Camden Duzenack
  9. Wichita State SR 1B/C Ryan Tinkham
  10. Missouri State SR OF/1B Spencer Johnson
  11. Bradley SR SS Tyler Leffler
  12. Missouri State JR 1B Justin Paulsen
  13. Dallas Baptist rSR OF Justin Wall
  14. Evansville SR OF Josh Jyawook
  15. Illinois State rSR 2B Joe Kelch
  16. Evansville SR SS Shain Showers
  17. Dallas Baptist SR 1B/3B Trooper Reynolds
  18. Missouri State JR 2B/OF Aaron Meyer
  19. Indiana State SR 3B/OF Andy Young
  20. Wichita State SR 3B Chase Rader
  21. Evansville SR 3B Jonathan Ramon
  22. Illinois State SR OF Daniel Dwyer
  23. Indiana State rSR OF Andrew Gutierrez
  24. Wichita State rJR C Josh Whisler
  25. Missouri State JR OF Blake Graham
  26. Missouri State SR OF Matt Dezort

Pitchers

  1. Bradley JR RHP Matt Dennis
  2. Wichita State rSO RHP Sam Tewes
  3. Bradley rJR RHP Eric Scheuermann
  4. Missouri State SR RHP Sam Perez
  5. Wichita State rSR RHP Chase Williams
  6. Dallas Baptist rJR LHP Colin Poche
  7. Evansville SR RHP Brent Jurceka
  8. Missouri State rJR RHP Bryan Young
  9. Wichita State rJR RHP/3B Willie Schwanke
  10. Evansville JR RHP Patrick Schneiders
  11. Bradley rJR RHP Nate Stong
  12. Illinois State SR LHP Jacob Hendren
  13. Indiana State JR RHP Austin Conway
  14. Indiana State rSR LHP Greg Kuhlman
  15. Wichita State rSR RHP John Hayes
  16. Dallas Baptist JR RHP Trevor Conn
  17. Indiana State JR LHP Ryan Keaffaber
  18. Evansville SR RHP Connor Strain
  19. Missouri State JR LHP Jordan Knutson
  20. Missouri State SR LHP Andy Cheray
  21. Wichita State JR RHP Tyler Gibson
  22. Southern Illinois rJR RHP Connor McFadden
  23. Southern Illinois SR RHP Colten Selvey
  24. Southern Illinois JR RHP Austin McPheron
  25. Southern Illinois SR RHP Alex Lesiak
  26. Southern Illinois JR LHP Joey Marciano
  27. Wichita State SR RHP/OF Jon Ferendelli
  28. Wichita State JR LHP Reagan Biechler

Bradley

JR RHP Matt Dennis (2016)
SR LHP Brent Stong (2016)
rSR LHP Cameron Roegner (2016)
rJR RHP Nate Stong (2016)
rJR RHP Alex Doty (2016)
rJR RHP Peter Resnick (2016)
rJR RHP Eric Scheuermann (2016)
JR 3B Spencer Gaa (2016)
SR SS Tyler Leffler (2016)
SR OF Brady Wilkin (2016)
rSR 3B Paul Solka (2016)
JR OF Evan Gruener (2016)
JR C Zach Fairchild (2016)
SO RHP Allan Beer (2017)
SO C Ian Kristan (2017)
FR LHP Ben Olson (2018)
FR OF Jean-François Garon (2018)
FR OF Andrew Shadid (2018)

High Priority Follows: Matt Dennis, Brent Stong, Nate Stong, Eric Scheuermann, Spencer Gaa, Tyler Leffler, Paul Solka, Evan Gruener

Dallas Baptist

rJR LHP Colin Poche (2016)
rSR LHP Sean Stutzman (2016)
JR RHP Trevor Conn (2016)
JR OF/RHP David Martinelli (2016)
SR OF Daniel Sweet (2016)
SR 1B/3B Trooper Reynolds (2016)
rSR OF Justin Wall (2016)
JR SS/2B Camden Duzenack (2016)
JR 2B/SS Luke Stratman (2016)
JR 1B/RHP Darick Hall (2016)
JR 3B/OF Austin Listi (2016)
SO RHP Seth Elledge (2017)
SO RHP Dalton Higgins (2017)
SO LHP Landon Wilson (2017)
SO RHP Gavin Fritz (2017)
SO C Matt Duce (2017)
FR RHP Brett Gilchrist (2018)
FR RHP Jimmy Fouse (2018)
FR LHP Jordan Martinson (2018)
FR LHP Cody Weaver (2018)
FR RHP MD Johnson (2018)
FR OF Jameson Hannah (2018)
FR C Garrett Wolforth (2018)

High Priority Follows: Colin Poche, Trevor Conn, David Martinelli, Daniel Sweet, Trooper Reynolds, Justin Wall, Camden Duzenack, Luke Stratman, Darick Hall, Austin Listi

Evansville

SR RHP Brent Jurceka (2016)
SR RHP Alex Gould (2016)
SR RHP Connor Strain (2016)
JR RHP James Ward (2016)
JR RHP Patrick Schneiders (2016)
JR RHP Brian Jestice (2016)
SR 3B Jonathan Ramon (2016)
SR OF Josh Jyawook (2016)
SR SS Shain Showers (2016)
SR 1B/OF Eric McKibban (2016)
JR 2B Trey Hair (2016)
SR INF Brett Synek (2016)
SO RHP Ryan Brady (2017)
SO C Travis Tokarek (2017)
SO SS Stewart Nelson (2017)
SO OF Korbin Williams (2017)
FR RHP Brandon Gomer (2018)
FR OF Nate Reeder (2018)

High Priority Follows: Brent Jurceka, Connor Strain, Patrick Schneiders, Jonathan Ramon, Josh Jyawook, Shain Showers, Trey Hair

Illinois State

rJR RHP Jack Landwehr (2016)
SR LHP Jacob Hendren (2016)
SR RHP Steve Heilenbach (2016)
SR RHP Jake Sale (2016)
SR LHP/OF Jack Czeszewski (2016)
SR OF Daniel Dwyer (2016)
SR OF Sean Beesley (2016)
rSR 2B Joe Kelch (2016)
rSR 1B Brian Rodemoyer (2016)
SR OF Jared Hendren (2016)
rSR C Jean Ramirez (2016)
SO RHP Jeffrey Barton (2017)

High Priority Follows: Jacob Hendren, Jack Czeszewski, Daniel Dwyer, Joe Kelch, Brian Rodemoyer, Jared Hendren, Jean Ramirez

Indiana State

JR RHP Austin Conway (2016)
rSR LHP Greg Kuhlman (2016)
JR LHP Trent Lunsford (2016)
JR LHP Ryan Keaffaber (2016)
JR RHP Jeremy McKinney (2016)
SR RHP Ryan Cheek (2016)
rSR RHP Brad Lombard (2016)
rSR OF Andrew Gutierrez (2016)
SR 3B/OF Andy Young (2016)
SR 2B/SS Andy DeJesus (2016)
rJR 1B Hunter Owen (2016)
SR C Kaden Moore (2016)
SO RHP RHP Ethan Larrison (2017)
SO SS Tyler Friis (2017)
FR 1B/3B CJ Huntley (2018)
FR OF Chris Ayers (2018)
FR RHP/1B Evan Giles (2018)

High Priority Follows: Austin Conway, Greg Kuhlman, Ryan Keaffaber, Andrew Gutierrez, Andy Young, Hunter Owen

Missouri State

SR RHP Sam Perez (2016)
SR LHP Andy Cheray (2016)
rJR RHP Bryan Young (2016)
JR LHP Jordan Knutson (2016)
JR OF/LHP Alex Jefferson (2016)
SR OF/1B Spencer Johnson (2016)
JR 1B Justin Paulsen (2016)
JR OF Blake Graham (2016)
SR OF Matt Dezort (2016)
JR 2B/OF Aaron Meyer (2016)
SO RHP Brad Archer (2017)
rFR RHP Austin Knight (2017)
SO 3B Jake Burger (2017)
FR SS Jeremy Eierman (2018)
FR RHP Ryan Mantle (2018)
FR LHP Jake Lochner (2018)
FR OF Hunter Steinmetz (2018)
FR RHP/OF Dylan Coleman (2018)

High Priority Follows: Sam Perez, Andy Cheray, Bryan Young, Jordan Knutson, Spencer Johnson, Justin Paulsen, Blake Graham, Matt Dezort, Aaron Meyer

Southern Illinois

SR RHP Colten Selvey (2016)
SR RHP Alex Lesiak (2016)
rJR RHP Connor McFadden (2016)
rJR RHP Anthony Shimkus (2016)
rJR RHP Jacob Williams (2016)
JR RHP Austin McPheron (2016)
rSR RHP Bryce Sablotny (2016)
JR RHP Chad Whitmer (2016)
JR LHP Joey Marciano (2016)
JR 3B Will Farmer (2016)
rSO 2B Connor Kopach (2016)
rSO OF Drew Curtis (2016)
JR OF JC DeMuri (2016)
JR OF Dyllin Mucha (2016)
SO RHP Michael Baird (2017)
SO RHP Ryan Netemeyer (2017)
SO SS Chase Slone (2017)
SO 1B/3B Greg Lambert (2017)
SO 1B Logan Blackfan (2017)
FR LHP Mitch Townsend (2018)

High Priority Follows: Colten Selvey, Alex Lesiak, Connor McFadden, Anthony Shimkus, Joey Marciano, Drew Curtis, JC DeMuri

Wichita State

rSO RHP Sam Tewes (2016)
JR RHP Tyler Gibson (2016)
JR RHP Zach Lewis (2016)
rSR RHP Chase Williams (2016)
rSR RHP John Hayes (2016)
JR LHP Reagan Biechler (2016)
SR RHP/OF Jon Ferendelli (2016)
rJR RHP/3B Willie Schwanke (2016)
SR 3B Chase Rader (2016)
SR 1B/C Ryan Tinkham (2016)
rJR C Josh Whisler (2016)
rSR OF Zach Reding (2016)
SR SS Tanner Kirk (2016)
rSR OF Mikel Mucha (2016)
SO RHP Tyler Jones (2017):
SO OF/3B Keenan Eaton (2017)
SO C Taylor Sanagorski (2017)
SO C Gunnar Troutwine (2017)
rFR OF Bret Fehr (2017)
SO SS Trey Vickers (2017)
FR RHP Connor Lungwitz (2018)
FR RHP Cody Heuer (2018)
FR RHP Clayton McGinness (2018)
FR OF Dayton Dugas (2018)
FR 1B/3B Greyson Jenista (2018)
FR 1B/3B Alex Bohm (2018)
FR 2B/SS Luke Ritter (2018)

High Priority Follows: Sam Tewes, Tyler Gibson, Chase Williams, John Hayes, Reagan Biechler, Jon Ferendelli, Willie Schwanke, Chase Rader, Ryan Tinkham, Josh Whisler

Missouri Valley Conference 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

Dallas Baptist rJR C Daniel Salters
Missouri State JR 1B Spencer Johnson
Missouri State SR 2B Eric Cheray
Bradley JR SS Tyler Leffler
Wichita State JR 3B Chase Rader
Missouri State JR OF Tate Matheny
Dallas Baptist JR OF Daniel Sweet
Evansville rSR OF Kevin Kaczmarski

Missouri State JR RHP Jon Harris
Dallas Baptist JR RHP Brandon Koch
Dallas Baptist JR RHP Joseph Shaw
Missouri State JR LHP Matt Hall
Dallas Baptist JR RHP Drew Smith

The rise of many of this class’s toolsier players putting it together, especially among the outfield group, has taken some of the shine off of the more solid than spectacular types like Missouri State JR OF Tate Matheny. Matheny still looks like a good bet to fulfill his destiny as a fourth outfielder who won’t kill you in a starting role at times (especially if deployed properly), but teams in the market for upside plays will likely look elsewhere. Such is the life of a guy with no tool worse than average, but no carrying tool either.

I’ve always lumped Matheny together with Cameron Gibson of Michigan State for reasons I’ve never actually stopped and thought about. It probably has something do with their respective big league bloodlines, Midwestern roots (I don’t actually think of Michigan as being particularly Midwestern, but I’m an East Coast jerk so everything that’s not an hour drive from the ocean is Middle America to me), similar birthdays (Matheny is just three days older), similar summer paths (Northwoods in 2013, Cape in 2014), and the fact they both play for a MSU. The comp doesn’t hold up when you actually taken into account the stuff we’re supposed to care about on a baseball draft website (Gibson is a lefthanded hitter with more speed, Matheny is a righty bat who has flashed more pop), but the brain works in mysterious ways.

I’m not sure why Dallas Baptist JR OF Daniel Sweet hasn’t been in the lineup — I’m assuming injury, but two minutes of Google reveal nothing — but I’m hoping whatever it is he’ll be back at it soon. A fairly strong argument can be made for Sweet over Matheny based largely on the difference between Sweet’s consistently above-average tools (raw power, speed, range, arm) and Matheny’s average-ish across the board skill set. Matheny is the safer of the two, having proved he could produce at a high-level over his past three college seasons, but Sweet’s junior college track record is darn impressive in its own right. His two years at Polk State weren’t bad…

.307/.436/.419 – 29 BB/29 K – 30/37 SB – 179 AB
.411/.525/.565 – 42 BB/44 K – 30/33 SB – 209 AB

So between that and his silly athleticism, you see why he’s a highly regarded prospect, right? I have less of a clue than normal about where the industry views Sweet as a prospect, but I’m fairly sure I’ll wind up having him far above anybody else this June. I’m cool with that. Sweet is good.

I like Evansville rSR OF Kevin Kaczmarski a lot. He’s always been one of those guys that smart people have told me had an outstanding approach at the plate. He could hit in AA right now, they said. His ability to track the ball out of the pitcher’s hand is legendary around campus, they said. His plate discipline is what sets him apart, they said. I took all that in, but the cognitive dissonance when hearing that and looking at his BB/K numbers (never bad, but never particularly good, either) was palpable. Keeping in mind that a) it’s early yet, and b) Kaczmarski is a redshirt senior and older than the vast majority of his competition, the smart people who kept talking up his approach (13 BB/6 K in 64 AB) look really good. He’s always been able to hit, so the gains in plate discipline are a welcomed sight. His impressive gap power and above-average speed round out his offensive game nicely. It’ll be most interesting to me to see how pro teams view his range in the outfield. I’ve heard from those who think he’s a lock to play center at the next level. The majority, however, have told me that he’s not the kind of player you’d want out there over a full season and that an outfield corner, where he’d be quite good, is his most likely future home. Since his drafting team would probably select him with a backup future as their most realistic best case scenario for him in mind, I’d think just being able to hang in center without killing you for short stretches will be enough.

I had Dallas Baptist teammates rJR C/OF Daniel Salters and JR OF Daniel Sweet as the 24th and 25th ranked college hitters in the country before the season. We covered Sweet already, so let’s get into Salters. Simply put, things have not gone well for the divisive Patriot in 2015. It’s only been 76 at bats and his BB/K numbers remain encouraging (20/22), but it’s hard to put a happy face on a .171/.364/.250 start. Slow start or not, I still believe in the athletic, powerful (plus raw for me, others have it closer to average) backstop with tremendous arm strength. I’ve heard some smart people suggest it could be time to move him from out behind the plate to an outfield corner in order to jumpstart his bat, but I’m not there yet. I think he can catch as a pro, and I think he can hit enough to be an above-average starter in the big leagues. If vouching for a guy hitting .171 just two months away from the draft like that doesn’t show you I believe in his ability, then nothing will.

Illinois State rJR C/3B Paul DeJong is the gift that keeps giving to college ball. Few players can match his uniqueness as a hitter who flat mashes (.408/.491/.714 in 98 AB this year so far) while being defensively versatile enough to play every infield position but short. Unsurprisingly, I think the smartest play for his future is to keep trying to develop him as a catcher as long as possible. He’s got the athleticism, instincts, and hands for it, so making it work should be the top priority for his drafting team. There might be enough to him as a hitter to play elsewhere in a regular role, but his best fit professionally is as a super-utility player that floats mostly between second, third, and catcher.

The loss of Missouri State SR 2B/SS Eric Cheray to a fractured left ankle is one of this season’s biggest bummers from a draft prospective. He’ll still get his shot in pro ball, but won’t get to do so on the heels of what was starting off as a monster senior season (.474/.577/.737 with 6 BB/2 K in 19 AB). I honestly believe he could have hit his way into the draft’s top five rounds or so. Lost season or not, he’s still one of my favorite straight bats in the country. The fact that he can play a variety of positions – some think he’d take really well if he returns to catching full-time – only makes him a more fascinating prospect to me. There are obvious parallels between Cheray’s game and what Paul DeJong can do; I’ll take Cheray’s plus approach over DeJong’s power upside, but it’s a close call.

Bradley rJR 2B Chris Godinez is a plus runner with the chance to play well enough on the left side of the infield to be a potential utility infielder professionally. His double-play partner, JR SS Tyler Leffler, appeared poised for a big draft season (strong arm, improved glove, intriguing bat) but has stumbled some out of the gate. Evansville SR 2B Brett Synek controls the strike zone about as well as any player in the country.

Pitcher with projection left and a chance to be an above-average big league starter or pitcher who is what he is but what he is happens to be a ready-made high-leverage big league reliever with a mid-90s fastball (98 peak) and a wipeout slider that touches 90? Or, in other words, Missouri State JR RHP Jon Harris or Dallas Baptist JR RHP Brandon Koch? You can’t really go wrong either way, but, as always, I lean towards the future starter all else otherwise being close to equal. Harris throws four pitches for strikes (88-93 FB, 95 peak; above-average upper-70s CB; plus mid-80s SL; sinking CU) with the frame to add a bit more velocity as he fills out. He’s also pulled off the trick of being a reliable starter at Missouri State since day one while also getting slowly but surely more effective along the way. Meanwhile, all Koch is doing is striking out just under 19 batters per nine innings (18.98 as I write this). There are a lot of good, quick-moving relievers in college baseball – there always are – but Koch might be the best of the bunch when it’s all said and done.

Both Harris and Koch come from loaded pitching staffs chock full of potential pro arms. Joining Koch on the Dallas Baptist staff is JR RHP Joseph Shaw, a fastball-reliant (hard to blame him when he sits 90-95, hits 98) potential starting pitcher at the next level with the kind of workhorse frame that some teams prioritize with their pitching targets. There’s also JR RHP Drew Smith, the third Patriot that I have as capable of touching 98 (lives 90-96). Smith also mixes in an average or better mid-70s curve, plus a low-80s changeup and a slider of a similar speed. He’s particularly intriguing to me because he’s been exclusively a reliever this season despite possessing a repertoire capable of going through a lineup more than once. JR RHP Cory Taylor only throws as hard as 94 MPH (slacker), so he’ll have to make up for it with his plus slider. He’s had problems throwing strikes in the past, but seems to have smoothed things out mechanically this year which has in turn improved his control. Like Shaw, Taylor is a big boy (6-2, 250) and a rather intimidating presence on the mound. JR RHP Chance Adams (low-90s FB, great numbers) and SR RHP Jay Calhoun (88-91 FB with plus movement, SL flashes plus) are both also draftable talents. Throw in rSO LHP Colin Poche, a really talented arm to follow next year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, and that’s one incredible staff.

Missouri State isn’t quite as stacked in terms of pro prospects, but Harris’s running mate in the rotation, JR LHP Matt Hall, lines up with almost any other second tier arm in the conference. It’s a fairly typical lefty profile (86-90 FB, average or better CB and CU, good command) with enough of the extra stuff (pitchability, smarts, results) to warrant top ten round consideration.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Missouri State JR OF Tate Matheny
  2. Dallas Baptist JR OF Daniel Sweet
  3. Dallas Baptist rJR C/OF Daniel Salters
  4. Missouri State SR 2B/SS Eric Cheray
  5. Illinois State rJR C/3B Paul DeJong
  6. Bradley JR SS Tyler Leffler
  7. Evansville rSR OF Kevin Kaczmarski
  8. Bradley rJR 2B Chris Godinez
  9. Evansville SR 2B Brett Synek
  10. Wichita State JR 3B Chase Rader
  11. Wichita State JR 3B/RHP Willie Schwanke
  12. Evansville JR SS Shain Showers
  13. Illinois State JR OF Daniel Dwyer
  14. Illinois State JR OF Jack Czeszewski
  15. Missouri State JR 1B/OF Spencer Johnson
  16. Dallas Baptist SR 2B/SS Drew Turbin
  17. Dallas Baptist JR 1B/3B Trooper Reynolds
  18. Wichita State JR OF Daniel Kihle
  19. Indiana State SR OF Landon Curry
  20. Evansville JR 1B/OF Eric McKibban

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

  1. Missouri State JR RHP Jon Harris
  2. Dallas Baptist JR RHP Brandon Koch
  3. Dallas Baptist JR RHP Joseph Shaw
  4. Missouri State JR LHP Matt Hall
  5. Dallas Baptist JR RHP Drew Smith
  6. Dallas Baptist JR RHP Cory Taylor
  7. Evansville JR RHP Brent Jurceka
  8. Wichita State rSO RHP Chase Williams
  9. Indiana State rJR LHP Greg Kuhlman
  10. Wichita State JR RHP Isaac Anderson
  11. Wichita State rJR RHP John Hayes
  12. Bradley JR RHP Eric Scheuermann
  13. Southern Illinois JR RHP Colten Selvey
  14. Illinois State JR LHP Will Headean
  15. Bradley rJR RHP Steve Adkins
  16. Dallas Baptist rSO LHP Colin Poche
  17. Bradley JR RHP/1B Elliot Aschbeck
  18. Dallas Baptist JR RHP Chance Adams
  19. Dallas Baptist SR RHP Jay Calhoun
  20. Illinois State JR LHP Jacob Hendren
  21. Southern Illinois JR RHP Alex Lesiak
  22. Southern Illinois SO RHP Kyle Pruemer
  23. Southern Illinois rSR LHP Aaron Hauge
  24. Southern Illinois rSO RHP Connor McFadden
  25. Wichita State JR RHP/OF Jon Ferendelli

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Arkansas

JR RHP Trey Killian (2015)
rSR RHP Jackson Lowery (2015)
SR RHP Jacob Stone (2015)
rJR OF Tyler Spoon (2015)
JR 2B Max Hogan (2015)
rJR SS Brett McAfee (2015)
SR OF Joe Serrano (2015)
rJR 3B Mike Bernal (2015)
SR OF/C Krisjon Wilkerson (2015)
JR 3B Bobby Wernes (2015)
JR C Tucker Pennell (2015)
JR SS Matt Campbell (2015)
JR 2B/SS Rick Nomura (2015)
rFR C Carson Shaddy (2016)
SO INF Clark Eagan (2016)
SO LHP/INF Trent Hill (2016)
SO RHP Zach Jackson (2016)
SO RHP Dominic Taccolini (2016)
SO RHP Cannon Chadwick (2016)
SO RHP James Teague (2016)
SO OF Andrew Benintendi (2015)
FR OF Luke Bonfield (2016)
FR C Nathan Rodriguez (2017)
FR RHP Keaton McKinney (2017)
FR RHP Jonah Patten (2017)
FR 3B Blake Wiggins (2017)
FR C/1B Chad Spanberger (2017)
FR LHP Kyle Pate (2017)
FR OF Keith Grieshaber (2017)
FR LHP Ryan Fant (2017)

JR RHP Trey Killian’s performances through two year are confusing. His first year was quite strong (8.59 K/9 and 2.95 BB/9), but he did it in limited innings (36.2). Last year he proved to be more of a workhorse (94 IP) and he did a great job of keeping runs off the board (2.30 ERA), but he missed way less bats (5.94 K/9) yet wound up improving his control (1.72 BB/9). Good, less good, good, good, less good, good…you see how he can confuse even the most brilliant internet baseball writers, right? His track record, stuff (88-92 FB, 94 peak; good cutter; really good yet underused low-80s CU; above-average slider; usable curve), command, and athleticism all add up to strong back of the rotation starter material, so maybe I’m overthinking it with him anyway. Or maybe I’m still waiting on a year when he combines really good peripherals with really good run prevention and we all point to him as a guy who figured it out enough to get the bump to middle of the rotation material. That’s my hope — I want to say expectation, but I’m not quite there — for Killian in 2015. He’s the best returning arm on the Arkansas staff either way, though SR RHP Jacob Stone (capable of hitting the mid-90s and throws an occasional plus breaking ball) and rSR RHP Jackson Lowery both could get drafted afterwards. Stone (0.94 ERA in 38.1 IP) and Lowery (almost a strikeout per inning) boast strong numbers that help bolster their cause.

rJR OF Tyler Spoon and SR OF Joe Serrano, “eighth-year seniors” both, are talented guys who have yet to quite live up to the lofty expectations foisted upon them by no-nothing know-it-alls like myself. Spoon has a lot of 5’s on his scouting card, so it’s still possible he could get a look going forward as a backup outfielder type professionally. Neither Spoon nor Serrano has a strong arm, but they are solid all-around college players otherwise. The two were twins last year, by the way. They were so similar that I actually had to double-check the numbers because I assumed I had made a mistake…

Spoon: .256/.350/.363 – 29 BB/37 K – 5/7 SB – 234 AB
Serrano: .289/.366/.351 – 29 BB/37 K – 5/7 SB – 228 AB

Are we sure that Spoon and Serrano aren’t really just one outfielder somehow duping us into thinking it’s two guys? Joeler Spoonano? No? Stick to baseball and not awful, embarrassing attempts at humor? Fair enough. Moving on. Still kind of think Spoonano is funny, but whatever. I’m very interested to see what the double-play combination of JR 2B Max Hogan and rJR SS Brett McAfee can do in a full season together. Both could have utility futures in the big leagues with big junior seasons. There’s a lot of depth up the middle for Arkansas, as both JR SS Matt Campbell and JR 2B/SS Rick Nomura have gotten some positive buzz this fall. Much of the rest of the buzz coming out of Arkansas lately has been about the highly talented underclassmen coming up behind this year’s draft class. Big names like SO RHP Zach Jackson, SO RHP Dominic Taccolini, SO OF Andrew Benintendi lead the way while a loaded freshman class that includes OF Luke Bonfield, RHP Keaton McKinney, RHP Jonah Patten, 3B Blake Wiggins tops it off. I’m personally excited to see what less heralded prospects like SO INF Clark Eagan and FR C/1B Chad Spanberger have in store as well.

I’m still stunned that SO LHP Colin Poche left the program for Dallas Baptist over the summer. It’s great that he’s closer to home and I’m sure he has all kinds of reasons for doing what he’s doing — he’s set to miss the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery anyway, so not a bad time to transfer and miss a year — but it’s rare to see a player as talented as he is and as close to the draft finish line make such a big change. Really, really like that Dallas Baptist team this year, for what it’s worth. This is about Arkansas, however, so…they’re good, too! Really should have closed with me praising the underclass talent instead of whatever this was. At least I didn’t end with another Spoonano reference…

4/20/15 EDIT

I never went back and mentioned Andrew Benintendi as being draft-eligible in 2015, but he is. That’s good news for me because Benintendi is awesome and getting him one step closer to pro ball makes me happy. He’s more ballplayer than tools freak, so teams that value big amateur production will have him higher than others. That said, he’s plenty talented: above-average or better hit tool, above-average or better speed, solid pop, enough range for center, and a disciplined approach at the plate. He’s really damn good. Baseball America has compared him to Austin Cousino in the past, but Benintendi’s huge sophomore season (.370/.475/.733 with 30 BB/24 K in 146 AB as of this edit) should vault him past Cousino’s 2014 draft spot (80th overall). I’ve heard from some that think I’m too rich on Benintendi’s tools and that’s fine, but I’m buying him as a prospect all the way.