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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 – Big South

Matt Crohan at the top of the Big South’s pitching pile is easy. He’s really good. I currently have him as the seventh best college arm in this class and a dark horse to crash the top half of the first round this June. It’s a minority opinion to be sure, but I still don’t see what separates him all that much from AJ Puk at this point. After Crohan, however, this list gets difficult to sort in a hurry. Thankfully, it’s not for lack of quality options. The top dozen or so names listed below are all really exciting pro prospects in their own ways.

Parker Bean and Andre Scrubb are both big guys (Bean a little leaner) with mid-90s fastballs and quality offspeed stuff to match. The former’s 2015 was one to forget, but I think his athleticism and the depth of his offspeed stuff (cut-SL, CB, CU) are enticing enough that I can forgive it. Scrubb’s heft and arm action have me leaning towards more of a bullpen future for him – fair or not – but he can throw two breaking balls for strikes, so starting as a pro shouldn’t be off the table. He’s coming off a really impressive 2015 season, so I could see teams that value performance giving him the edge.

The Big South has a pair of pitchers in Devin Gould and Jeremy Walker that had me questioning my own core pitching beliefs. Both are righthanded juniors with sturdy frames and some projection left. Both have fastballs that creep into the mid-90s. Both have average or better sliders with above-average promise. Gould has missed more bats, but has been far too wild. Walker has average to above-average control, but to date hasn’t lit the world on fire with his ability to get swings and misses. Their relative youth and similar stuff sets up an interesting (albeit admittedly flawed) study in what area is more “fixable” in pitching prospects. Is it easier to fix one’s control or the increase one’s ability to miss bats? I send this question around to three BASEBALL MEN. Two opted for the guy with the iffy control but better strikeout numbers while the third claimed the guy with better control and decent K/9 had an easier path towards overall improvement (he also said he’d pay to see a real study done on this…we both freely admitted we were too stupid to figure out the logistics – so many variables! – of such a thing). Anyway, this was one of my conclusions…

Control seems more fixable due to circumstantial stuff — improved mechanics, better/different coaching, having some baseball or non-baseball epiphany between the ears — so I think I’d take the wild guy over the lower-K/lower-BB option. The only thing that gives me pause is that spikes in K/9 (when they happen at all) — again, assuming quality stuff throughout — seem to come with incremental change rather than major overhauls. That 6.50 K/9 to 9.00 K/9 jump can come with just changing a grip on an existing cutter or something since the “new” pitch better complements what you’ve been doing already. Still going with the control guy over the alternative, but it’s close.

Of course, that conversation sent me down a rabbit hole that eventually led to an interesting discussion that expanded on the idea of what the least worrisome flaw a prospect can be. It reminded me of a football coach I once had who swore that he could fix any player’s – he specialized in QB’s, but said he could help anybody – footwork in a matter of weeks. Paxton Lynch, a potential early first round QB in this year’s NFL Draft, has been dinged by many for ugly footwork. When I see some draft experts call this a fatal flaw, I’m reminded of that coach. One man’s fatal flaw is another’s easily correctable foible. For the record, I don’t know nearly enough about correcting a quarterback’s footwork to add much to the Lynch conversation. On one hand, it does seem like something that can be retaught. On the other, I’ve heard and read elsewhere that bad footwork is more of a symptom of something larger (inability to make decisions and read defenses, for example) than a singular physical issue. Scouting and development is hard work, I guess.

Anyway, due to my current belief that below-average control at the amateur level, often stemming from inconsistent mechanics, ineffective coaching, or some unknowable to the outside world mental barrier, is the simpler of the two issues to improve on, the wild Devin Gould gets the edge over the ordinary K/9-ing Jeremy Walker…for now. Your mileage might vary.

Alex Cunningham is a good arm on a good team, so he’ll get plenty of deserved attention all spring long now that he’s fully recovered from a fractured elbow. His command of three pitches (88-95 FB, mid-70s CB, upper-70s CU) should allow him to stay in the rotation professionally. Austin Ross has more of a reliever feel (good FB, plus SL), but with the chance to be a damn fine one. Mitchell Kuebbing has a little less fastball than the aforementioned Gould, so teams might not be as willing to overlook his similar control issues. I’m just a guy on the internet with little to lose, so gambling on his impressive arm – 88-92 FB, breaking ball that flashes plus, changeup that improves with every outing – is a no-brainer for me. I switched the order of these three pitches about a dozen times before finally settling on the ranking you see below. That kind of waffling is indicative of the overall time spent on sorting through these arms. I can’t pinpoint the exact reason why, but Big South pitching has been the hardest conference/position group to organize so far. That’s probably bad news for the conference’s hitters…

I last took Spanish in school a dozen years ago, so forgive me for the few days of excitement when I thought I had a nickname for Michael Paez cued up and ready to leash on the unsuspecting world. Turns out that vocabulary, once my one and only language strength (boooo grammar), had let me down: country in Spanish is país and not paez. Turns out we can’t call him Little Country after all. What we can call him is a damn fine ballplayer, lame nickname or not. Paez was my preferred First Team All-Prospect college player from two weeks ago for a reason. My indirect comp for him — more about how I perceive him as a prospect than a tools/physical comparison — was Blake Trahan, a third round pick of Cincinnati last season. I don’t know that he’ll rise that high in the eyes of the teams doing the picking in June, but there’s nothing in his prospect profile to suggest he doesn’t have a chance to finish around the same range (early second round) on my final big board. In a draft severely lacking in two-way college shortstops, he’s as good as it gets.

Josh Greene uses his plus speed to his advantage both in tracking down balls in center and on the base paths. He’s also one of the many toolsy college outfielders in this class who scouts insist has a better approach at the plate than his BB/K ratios to date suggest. Speed, range for center, leadoff approach, and sneaky pop all add up to a quality prospect too good to be called a sleeper.

Connor Owings and Nate Blanchard are both solid second base prospects coming off good 2015 seasons. Owings has an impressive hit tool and a patient approach while Owings is a strong defender with a similarly keen batting eye. I’m intrigued by Roger Gonzalez, a plus defender behind the plate and a potential contributor at it. The Miami transfer had a fine junior season and now rates as one of this class’s better senior-signs at the position. Tyler Chadwick is a really fun college player who might get dinged by pro teams unsure what to do with him defensively at the next level. It’s hard to believe that being too versatile a player can be seen as a negative by some front offices in 2016, but that’s some of the feedback I’ve gotten on him as a prospect. It’s such a ridiculous notion to me that it feels like a strawman argument to otherwise – especially considering that Chadwick is a good athlete who legitimately can play multiple spots; it’s not like’s a future DH without a position – but here we are. Chadwick’s versatility make him a far more appealing to prospect to me than he otherwise might be for no other reason than the utility he could bring a low-level minor league roster in flux with promotions, demotions, and injuries. That in and of itself gives him value, and that’s even before we get to his sound approach at the plate, average speed, and the possibility he could be nurtured full-time behind the plate as a viable catching prospect.

My quick search didn’t find the whereabouts of former Big South prospects Connor Pate, Al Molina, and Cas Silber. If anybody knows anything – or knows how to Google better than I can, evidently – drop me a line. I did find Dalton Moats, formerly of Coastal Carolina, at Delta State. He’s a good name to know as a three-pitch lefty with projection and velocity.

Hitters

  1. Coastal Carolina JR SS/2B Michael Paez
  2. High Point JR OF Josh Greene
  3. Coastal Carolina SR 2B/OF Connor Owings
  4. Charleston Southern JR 3B/2B Nate Blanchard
  5. Winthrop SR C Roger Gonzalez
  6. Coastal Carolina SR 3B/C Tyler Chadwick
  7. High Point JR 2B/SS Chris Clare
  8. Radford SR OF Shane Johnsonbaugh
  9. High Point SO 1B/OF Carson Jackson
  10. Liberty SR SS Dalton Britt (2016)
  11. Coastal Carolina SR 3B Zach Remillard
  12. Liberty JR OF Will Shepherd
  13. Coastal Carolina JR C/1B GK Young
  14. Liberty JR 3B/1B Sammy Taormina
  15. Coastal Carolina SR OF Anthony Marks
  16. Gardner-Webb SR C Collin Thacker
  17. Radford SR SS/OF Chris Coia
  18. UNC Asheville JR OF/3B Joe Tietjen
  19. Campbell SR OF/RHP Cole Hallum
  20. Radford rSO OF Trevor Riggs
  21. Liberty JR 1B Andrew Yacyk
  22. Liberty JR 2B Eric Grabowski
  23. Radford JR C John Gonzalez
  24. Winthrop rSR OF Anthony Paulsen
  25. Winthrop JR OF/C Babe Thomas
  26. Longwood SR OF Colton Konvicka
  27. Charleston Southern SR OF Sly Edwards
  28. Coastal Carolina SR C/OF David Parrett
  29. Liberty SR OF Aaron Stroosma
  30. UNC Asheville JR OF Kyle Carruthers
  31. Presbyterian SR OF Weston Jackson
  32. UNC Asheville SR C Lucas Owens
  33. Charleston Southern SR SS Cole Murphy
  34. UNC Asheville SR C Pete Guy

Pitchers

  1. Winthrop JR LHP Matt Crohan
  2. Liberty JR RHP Parker Bean
  3. High Point JR RHP Andre Scrubb
  4. Coastal Carolina rJR RHP Alex Cunningham
  5. Longwood JR RHP Mitchell Kuebbing
  6. Radford JR RHP Austin Ross
  7. Coastal Carolina SR RHP Mike Morrison
  8. Longwood JR RHP Devin Gould
  9. Gardner-Webb JR RHP Jeremy Walker
  10. Coastal Carolina rSR RHP Tyler Poole
  11. Radford SR RHP Dylan Nelson
  12. Gardner-Webb SR RHP Brad Haymes
  13. High Point rSR RHP Scot Hoffman
  14. Liberty JR LHP Michael Stafford
  15. Gardner-Webb SR LHP Ryan Boelter
  16. Coastal Carolina JR RHP Andrew Beckwith
  17. Liberty JR RHP Caleb Evans
  18. Liberty SR LHP Victor Cole
  19. Coastal Carolina rSR RHP Adam Hall
  20. Coastal Carolina rSO RHP Nicholas Masterson
  21. Gardner-Webb rSO RHP Andrew Massey
  22. Winthrop rSR LHP Sam Kmiec
  23. Presbyterian JR RHP Ethan Wortkoetter
  24. Liberty JR RHP Jackson Bertsch
  25. Liberty JR RHP Thomas Simpson
  26. Coastal Carolina rSR RHP Patrick Corbett
  27. Liberty SR RHP Carson Herndon
  28. Radford JR RHP Kyle Zurak
  29. Charleston Southern SR LHP Alex Ministeri
  30. Winthrop rSO RHP Zach Cook
  31. Winthrop SR SS/RHP Kyle Edwards
  32. Radford JR RHP Nygeal Andrews
  33. High Point rSR RHP Joe Goodman
  34. Gardner-Webb rSO RHP Wil Sellers
  35. Charleston Southern rSO RHP Wil Hartsell
  36. Longwood JR RHP Ryan Jones
  37. Charleston Southern SR RHP Chayce Hubbard
  38. Longwood JR RHP Luke Simpson
  39. Presbyterian JR LHP Hayden Deal
  40. Charleston Southern rSR RHP Evan Raynor
  41. Radford SR RHP Daniel Bridgeman
  42. Charleston Southern SR RHP Jon Piriz
  43. Winthrop SR RHP Zach Sightler
  44. Radford JR LHP Kyle Palmer
  45. Campbell SR RHP Nick Thayer
  46. Presbyterian SR RHP David Sauer
  47. Campbell JR LHP Andrew Witczak
  48. UNC Asheville SR RHP Corey Randall

Campbell

SR RHP Nick Thayer (2016)
SR RHP Grant Yost (2016)
JR LHP Andrew Witczak (2016)
SR OF/RHP Cole Hallum (2016)
rSR OF/RHP Brian Taylor (2016)
SR C Matt Parrish (2016)
rSR OF Kyle Prats (2016)
SR 2B/SS Anthony Lopez (2016)
SO C JD Andreessen (2017)
FR 1B/OF Michael Van Degna (2018)

High Priority Follows: Nick Thayer, Grant Yost, Andrew Witczak, Cole Hallum

Charleston Southern

rSR RHP Evan Raynor (2016)
SR LHP Alex Ministeri (2016)
SR RHP Jon Piriz (2016)
SR RHP Chayce Hubbard (2016)
rSO RHP Wil Hartsell (2016)
SR OF Sly Edwards (2016)
SR 1B Bryan Dye (2016)
SR OF Brandon Burris (2016)
SR SS Cole Murphy (2016)
JR 3B/2B Nate Blanchard (2016)
SR OF Jack Crittenberger (2016)
SR 2B Ryan Maksim (2016)
SO RHP Tyler Weekley (2017)
SO OF Chris Singleton (2017)

High Priority Follows: Evan Raynor, Alex Ministeri, Jon Piriz, Chayce Hubbard, Wil Hartsell, Sly Edwards, Nate Blanchard

Coastal Carolina

rJR RHP Alex Cunningham (2016)
rSR RHP Tyler Poole (2016)
rSR RHP Adam Hall (2016)
rSR RHP Patrick Corbett (2016)
SR RHP Mike Morrison (2016)
rSO RHP Nicholas Masterson (2016)
JR RHP Andrew Beckwith (2016)
rJR SS/RHP Jordan Gore (2016)
JR C/1B GK Young (2016)
JR SS/2B Michael Paez (2016)
SR OF Anthony Marks (2016)
SR C/OF David Parrett (2016)
SR 3B Zach Remillard (2016)
SR 2B/OF Connor Owings (2016)
SR 3B/C Tyler Chadwick (2016)
SO OF Dalton Ewing (2016)
SO RHP Bobby Holmes (2017)
SO RHP Zack Hopeck (2017)
SO 2B/SS Seth Lancaster (2017)
SO 2B/OF Billy Cooke (2017)
SO 1B/3B Kevin Woodall (2017)
FR RHP Jason Bilous (2018)
FR SS/OF Cameron Pearcey (2018)
FR C Kyle Skeels (2018)

High Priority Follows: Alex Cunningham, Tyler Poole, Adam Hall, Patrick Corbett, Mike Morrison, Nicholas Masterson, Andrew Beckwith, Jordan Gore, GK Young, Michael Paez, Anthony Marks, David Parent, Zach Remillard, Connor Owings, Tyler Chadwick, Dalton Ewing

Gardner-Webb

JR RHP Jeremy Walker (2016)
rSO RHP Andrew Massey (2016)
SR LHP Ryan Boelter (2016)
SR RHP Brad Haymes (2016)
rSO RHP Wil Sellers (2016)
SR C Collin Thacker (2016)
SR 1B Patrick Graham (2016)
SR 2B Tyler Best (2016)
JR OF/3B Matt Simmons (2016)
JR OF Jacob Walker (2016)
SR OF Taylor Fisher (2016)
SR OF Evan Hyett (2016)
SO RHP Bradley Hallman (2017)
FR OF Chris Clary (2018)
FR OF Mason Fox (2018)

High Priority Follows: Jeremy Walker, Andrew Massey, Ryan Boelter, Brad Haymes, Wil Sellers, Collin Thacker

High Point

JR RHP Andre Scrubb (2016)
rSR RHP Scot Hoffman (2016)
SR RHP Michael Hennessey (2016)
rSR RHP Joe Goodman (2016)
SR RHP Tyler Britton (2016)
JR OF Josh Greene (2016)
JR 2B/SS Chris Clare (2016)
SO 1B/OF Carson Jackson (2016)
SR OF Tim Mansfield (2016)
SR C Dominic Fazio (2016)
JR OF Luke Parker (2016)
SO 2B Hunter Lee (2017)
FR RHP Andrew Gottfried (2018)
FR C Nick Blomgren (2018)
JR INF Nick Capra (2018)

High Priority Follows: Andre Scrubb, Scot Hoffman, Michael Hennessey, Joe Goodman, Josh Greene, Chris Clare, Carson Jackson

Liberty

SR LHP Victor Cole (2016)
SR RHP Carson Herndon (2016)
JR LHP Michael Stafford (2016)
JR RHP Jackson Bertsch (2016)
JR RHP Thomas Simpson (2016)
JR RHP Shane Quarterley (2016)
JR RHP Evan Mitchell (2016)
JR RHP Cody Gamble (2016)
JR RHP Jordan Scott (2016)
JR RHP Alex Clouse (2016)
JR RHP Caleb Evans (2016)
JR RHP Parker Bean (2016)
SR SS Dalton Britt (2016)
JR 3B/1B Sammy Taormina (2016)
JR OF Will Shepherd (2016)
rSO 3B Dylan Allen (2016)
JR 1B Andrew Yacyk (2016)
SR OF Aaron Stroosma (2016)
JR 2B Eric Grabowski (2016)
SO OF Josh Close (2017)
FR RHP Jack Degroat (2018)
FR RHP Zack Helsel (2018)
FR OF DJ Artis (2018)

High Priority Follows: Victor Cole, Carson Herndon, Michael Stafford, Jackson Bertsch, Thomas Simpson, Jordan Scott, Caleb Evans, Parker Bean, Dalton Britt, Sammy Taormina, Will Shepherd, Andrew Yacyk, Aaron Stroosma, Eric Grabowski

Longwood

JR RHP Devin Gould (2016)
SR RHP Allen Ellis (2016)
SR RHP Travis Burnette (2016)
JR RHP Mitchell Kuebbing (2016)
JR RHP Ryan Jones (2016)
JR RHP Luke Simpson (2016)
SR OF Colton Konvicka (2016)
SR 2B CJ Roth (2016)
JR OF Drew Kitson (2016)
SR 1B Connar Bastaich (2016)
JR C Mac McCafferty (2016)
JR 3B Alex Lewis (2016)
JR OF Janos Briscoe (2016): 6-2, 200 pounds
SO LHP Michael Catlin (2017)
SO RHP Zach Potojecki (2017)
SO SS Mike Osinski (2017)

High Priority Follows: Devin Gould, Mitchell Kuebbing, Ryan Jones, Luke Simpson, Colton Konvicka

Presbyterian

SR RHP David Sauer (2016)
rJR RHP Aaron Lesiak (2016)
JR RHP Ethan Wortkoetter (2016)
JR LHP Brian Kehner (2016)
JR LHP Hayden Deal (2016)
SR OF/1B Peter Johnson (2016)
SR 3B/2B Jacob Midkiff (2016)
JR OF Tyler Weyenberg (2016)
SR OF Weston Jackson (2016)
SO RHP Tanner Chock (2017)
SO RHP Russell Thompson (2017)
SO RHP/3B Ryan Hedrick (2017)
SO INF/OF AJ Priaulx (2017)
SO 1B Nick Wise (2017)

High Priority Follows: David Sauer, Ethan Wortkoetter, Hayden Deal, Jacob Midkiff, Tyler Weyenberg, Weston Jackson

Radford

SR RHP Dylan Nelson (2016)
JR RHP Austin Ross (2016)
SR LHP Mitchell MacKeith (2016)
SR RHP Daniel Bridgeman (2016)
JR LHP Kyle Palmer (2016)
SR LHP Tyler Swarmer (2016)
JR RHP Kyle Zurak (2016)
JR RHP Nygeal Andrews (2016)
SR OF Shane Johnsonbaugh (2016)
JR C John Gonzalez (2016)
SR SS/OF Chris Coia (2016)
SR C Jordan Taylor (2016)
JR INF Danny Hrbek (2016)
rSO OF Trevor Riggs (2016)
SO LHP Zack Ridgely (2017)
FR RHP Brandon Donovan (2018)
FR RHP Ryan Sande (2018)
FR 2B/SS Cody Higgerson (2018)
FR 3B Matt Roth (2018)
FR OF Adam Whitacre (2018)

High Priority Follows: Dylan Nelson, Austin Ross, Daniel Bridgeman, Kyle Zurak, Nygeal Andrews, Shane Johnsonbaugh, Jose Gonzalez, Chris Coia, Jordan Taylor, Danny Hrbek, Trevor Riggs

UNC Asheville

JR RHP Joe Zayatz (2016)
SR RHP Corey Randall (2016)
JR OF/LHP Tanner Bush (2016)
SR C Pete Guy (2016)
SR C Lucas Owens (2016)
JR OF Kyle Carruthers (2016)
JR OF/3B Joe Tietjen (2016)
JR SS Derek Smith (2016)
rJR INF Justin Woods (2016)
SO LHP Jordan Fulbright (2017)
SO RHP Ryan Tapp (2017)
FR LHP Jordan Carr (2018)
FR LHP Zach Greene (2018)

High Priority Follows: Joe Zayatz, Corey Randall, Pete Guy, Lucas Owens, Kyle Carruthers, Joe Tietjen

Winthrop

JR LHP Matt Crohan (2016)
rSR LHP Sam Kmiec (2016)
JR RHP Reece Green (2016)
SR RHP Zach Sightler (2016)
rSO RHP Zach Cook (2016)
SR SS/RHP Kyle Edwards (2016)
rSR OF Jayce Whitley (2016)
rSR OF Anthony Paulsen (2016)
rSR OF Tyler Asbill (2016)
JR OF/C Babe Thomas (2016)
SR C Roger Gonzalez (2016)
rSR 1B Mark Lowrie (2016)
rJR 2B CJ Hicks (2016)
SO LHP Riley Arnone (2017)
SO LHP Freddie Sultan (2017)
SO 2B/3B Mitch Spires (2017)
SO SS Jake Sullivan (2017)
FR RHP Nate Pawelczyk (2018)
FR LHP Thad Harris (2018)
FR OF Hunter Lipscomb (2018)
FR OF Matthew Mulkey (2018)

High Priority Follows: Matt Crohan, Sam Kmiec, Reece Green, Zach Sightler, Zach Cook, Kyle Edwards, Jayce Whitley, Anthony Paulsen, Babe Thomas, Roger Gonzalez

Big South 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

High Point SR C Spencer Angelis
Charleston Southern SR 1B Chase Shelton
Radford SR 2B Josh Gardiner
Coastal Carolina JR 3B Zach Remillard
Liberty JR SS Dalton Britt
Campbell JR OF Cedric Mullins
Longwood JR OF Kyri Washington
Liberty rSR OF Nick Paxton

Liberty SR RHP Ashton Perritt
Longwood SR RHP Aaron Myers
Radford JR LHP Michael Boyle
High Point SR RHP Conor Lourey
Coastal Carolina JR LHP Andrew Schorr

Going with a relative unknown like JR C Casey Schroeder (Coastal Carolina) over a proven bat like SR C Spencer Angelis (High Point) feels like a bit of a boom/bust prognostication at this point, but faith in the Kentucky transfers hit tool, athleticism, and slow yet steady defensive progression wins the day. The overall group of senior catchers in the conference – Angelis, Josh Spano (High Point), Josh Reavis (Radford), Andrew Widell (Charleston Southern) – present a unique and talented collection of potential money-saving signings for teams looking to cut costs while adding a potentially useful minor league contributor (everybody needs catching) with big league backup catching upside.

SR 1B/LHP Chase Shelton (Charleston Southern) might be a better fit in the outfield – he certainly has the arm for it – but that might be asking a bit too much out of a 6-5, 230 pound man. His bat looks pretty good either way. SR 1B Alex Close (Liberty) has been a favorite for some time – not a FAVORITE, but a favorite – because of his playable present power. If an area guy can sell his bosses on Close as a potential 1B/3B/C hybrid, then he could go higher than even I think. The breakout season for JR 3B Zach Remillard (Coastal Carolina) is coming. It has to be since it hasn’t happened yet. That’s infallible logic if I’ve ever heard it. Remillard is a really well-rounded talent who sometimes gets himself in trouble by expanding the zone and trying to do too much at the plate. If he can just ease up just a touch with his overly aggressive approach, then he could begin to produce enough overall offensive value to project as a potential regular at the hot corner. The more realistic forecast is as an offense-first utility player capable of playing 1B, 2B, 3B, and maybe the outfield corners. His teammate at Coastal Carolina, JR 3B/C Tyler Chadwick could eventually play a similar role but with even more positions (like, all of them) added to the mix. He might work better as a 2016 senior sign since many big league teams will ding him because of his lack of size (5-9, 180), but he’s handled the bat well when given a shot and the defensive versatility makes him an intriguing “hole-plugger” for an organization with a lot of minor league moving parts.

I’m not particularly enamored by any of the Big South 2015 shortstops at this point. Enough good things have been said about JR SS Dalton Britt (Liberty) that he takes the top spot over SR SS Ryan Hodge (Gardner-Webb), though I think both profile best as utility infielders/minor league depth in the long run. Britt has the better shot to change that perception if he can find a way to start doing some of the necessary secondary things offensively (pop, patience, speed) beyond hitting for average. The best middle infield prospect in the conference is SR 2B/OF Josh Gardiner (Radford), a strong athlete who does those secondary offensive things just well enough to profile as a sleeper big league talent. JR 2B Connor Owings (Coastal Carolina) could pass him by with a big junior year on the strength of his above-average hit tool.

JR OF Kyri Washington has as much a claim to the top position player spot in his conference as just about any prospect in the country. Evaluating amateur talent is sometimes only as hard as we make it. Your eyes eventually settle into seeing predictable patterns in the players you see and you find yourself getting unusually adept at recognizing the kind of ability that will become universally lauded as pro-caliber. “Always bet on ______” is more than just a snappy one-off line, but a mantra that serves those who watch a disproportionate amount of baseball well as they assess a prospect’s future. In Washington’s case, his athleticism and raw power qualify as abilities that stack up against almost any current big league player. If those are the traits that you value highly – and, really, who doesn’t? – then Washington is just about as good as it gets in college ball this year.

Conversely, anybody who watches a ton of amateur ball can quickly realize the holes in a mega-talented player’s game. If you’re an “always bet on the hit tool, including the consistent ability to make contact, the capacity to make adjustments within an at bat (or at least a game), and a seemingly innate overall feel for the strike zone and resourcefulness to spit on sometimes-strikes that he can’t do anything with,” well, then you might have some trepidation in championing a player who otherwise has first round tools. I’m on the fence as to whether or not how much of what we consider to fall under the plate discipline/approach to hitting umbrella can be taught, but I do believe that Washington is at the age in his baseball development when figuring it out – maybe not completely, but certainly to a degree – is well within the realm of possibility. That possibility on top of the prodigious raw power and plus athleticism is what makes the prospect of gambling on Washington so appealing. I get it. A comparison that I’ve heard and liked – though it admittedly stretches the limits of my personal firsthand baseball watching days – has stacked up Washington favorably to a young Richard Hidalgo.

With all that written on Washington, it seems only fair to spend at least a few words on the man ranked ahead of him. JR OF Cedric Mullins (Campbell) is a highly speculative pick on my end. I’ve never seen him, though, as I’ve said many times before, I’m not sure how much utility such a viewing would even bring. What I’ve heard about him, however, has been thrilling. Mullins has the chance to show premium tools as a defender in center (both range and arm) and on the base paths (plus speed and a great feel for the art of base stealing led to him going 55/59 on his career junior college attempts) this spring. He also brings a patient approach to hitting, both in how he happily accepts free passes (a walk doesn’t feel like such a passive thing when you know you’re taking second and maybe third once you are there) and works pitchers until he’s in counts favorable for fastball hunting. The only tool he ranks below Washington in is raw power, but, as covered above, the emphasis on the raw cannot be taken lightly. In terms of current functional power, the battle tightens quite a bit. It’s an imperfect comp for an imperfect world, but I can see Mullins approximating the value of another former junior college guy like Mallex Smith, though with a bit more pop and a fraction less speed.

One thing that stands out to me in my notes on SR RHP/OF Ashton Perritt (Liberty): “like him more than Aaron Brown.” Ignoring the fact that I don’t think Brown will ever hit enough to make his loud tools work – I much prefer him on the mound, but the Phillies never asked me – that’s still a nice little compliment. Whether I liked it or not (if it hasn’t come across yet, one last time: I really, really didn’t), the Pepperdine star showed enough to convince a team into selecting him with the 81st overall selection in last year’s draft. I suppose I’m not quite bold enough to predict the same draft outcome for the multi-talented Perritt, though I wouldn’t be surprised if a team fell in love with his talent as either a pitcher or hitter and took him earlier than the consensus industry opinion would have you think. I like him on the mound because he comes equipped with a relatively fresh arm capable of hitting the mid-90s,he throws two offspeed pitches with promise (82-84 split-CU and a separate quality low-80s breaking ball), and his athleticism is second to none in this year’s class of college pitching. That very same athleticism could convince a team to stick him in center, a position that would allow him to get the most out of his plus (some have it plus-plus) speed. Either way, he’s a good looking prospect and well worth seeing up close if you get the chance this spring.

The names that follow Perritt are a little less flashy, but no less promising. SR RHP Aaron Myers (Longwood) has gotten consistent results from day one thanks to an impressive blend of size (6-3, 225), pitchability, and stuff (88-92 sinking FB, average yet inconsistent CB, steadily improving CU that seems to get better every outing). JR LHP Michael Boyle (Radford) does man of the things successful young lefties do: spots an upper-80s FB (93 peak), leans on an impressive changeup, works from a deceptive delivery, and maintains good command of three pitches. SR RHP Conor Lourey might just qualify as flashy, but that assumes you’re into hard-throwing (94 peak) 6-7, 250 pound righthanders. JR LHP Andrew Schorr (Coastal Carolina) is a speculative addition, but what I’ve heard about his repertoire has me excited about his upcoming shot at D1 baseball.

Further down the line are names like SR RHP Heath Bowers (Campbell) and JR LHP Andrew Tomasovich (Charleston Southern). Bowers stands out to me for his fastball, a pitch that won’t wow you in terms of speed (mid- to upper-80s) but has enough sink to make good hitters make some really weak contact. I like Tomasovich for his funky lefthanded delivery that makes timing his stuff a task I’m glad I’ll never be asked to do. Mid-tier prospects like these guys need to find niches to survive in pro ball and both Bowers and Tomasovich seem up to the challenge.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Campbell JR OF Cedric Mullins
  2. Longwood JR OF Kyri Washington
  3. Radford SR 2B/OF Josh Gardiner
  4. Coastal Carolina JR 2B Connor Owings
  5. Coastal Carolina JR C Casey Schroeder
  6. High Point SR C/1B Spencer Angelis
  7. Coastal Carolina JR 3B Zach Remillard
  8. Liberty JR SS Dalton Britt
  9. Charleston Southern SR 1B/LHP Chase Shelton
  10. Liberty SR 1B Alex Close
  11. High Point SR C Josh Spano
  12. Coastal Carolina JR 3B/C Tyler Chadwick
  13. Radford SR 1B/3B Hunter Higgerson
  14. Liberty rSR OF Nick Paxton
  15. Radford SR OF Patrick Marshall
  16. UNC Asheville SR 3B/1B Hunter Bryant
  17. Gardner-Webb SR SS Ryan Hodge
  18. Radford rSR C Josh Reavis
  19. Charleston Southern SR C Andrew Widell
  20. Radford JR SS/OF Chris Coia
  21. Campbell rJR C Steven Leonard

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

  1. Liberty SR RHP/OF Ashton Perritt
  2. Longwood SR RHP Aaron Myers
  3. Radford JR LHP Michael Boyle
  4. High Point SR RHP Conor Lourey
  5. Coastal Carolina JR LHP Andrew Schorr
  6. Coastal Carolina JR RHP Mike Morrison
  7. Radford JR RHP Dylan Nelson
  8. Campbell SR RHP Heath Bowers
  9. Presbyterian SR LHP Beau Dees
  10. UNC Asheville JR RHP Corey Randall
  11. Charleston Southern JR LHP Andrew Tomasovich
  12. Coastal Carolina rJR RHP Tyler Poole
  13. Gardner-Webb SR RHP Matt Fraudin
  14. Coastal Carolina rJR RHP Patrick Corbett
  15. Liberty SR LHP Shawn Clowers
  16. Liberty SR RHP Carson Herndon
  17. Winthrop JR RHP Joey Strain
  18. Winthrop JR RHP Zach Sightler
  19. Liberty JR RHP Hayden White
  20. Longwood SR LHP Brandon Vick
  21. Coastal Carolina rSO RHP Alex Cunningham
  22. Gardner-Webb JR LHP Ryan Boelter
  23. High Point rJR RHP Scot Hoffman
  24. Presbyterian JR RHP David Sauer
  25. Coastal Carolina SR LHP Austin Kerr
  26. Gardner-Webb JR RHP Brad Haymes
  27. Radford JR RHP Ryan Meisinger
  28. Liberty SR LHP Jared Lyons
  29. Campbell SR RHP Bobby Thorson