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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Chicago Cubs

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Chicago in 2016

102 – Bailey Clark
104 – Thomas Hatch
158 – Michael Rucker
236 – Tyson Miller
326 – Duncan Robinson
332 – Chad Hockin
374 – Dakota Mekkes
415 – Delvin Zinn
435 – Zack Short
448 – Michael Cruz

Complete List of 2016 Chicago Cubs Draftees

3.104 – RHP Thomas Hatch

That check from Chicago should be coming in the mail any day now as the Cubs first overall pick, Thomas Hatch (104), was selected in the exact same spot one clever, handsome internet draft writer ranked him on his final board. Good work, Cubs. Took me a while, but now I get why you’re the National League Champions. Needless to say, I like this pick. Hatch is a live arm (88-94 FB, 96 peak) with an effective 78-82 circle-change that drops like a splitter, and a pair of above-average sliders (a cut-slider in the mid- to upper-80s and a truer slider anywhere from 77-85).

His college coach has compared him to Tim Hudson; I’ve heard another former name with Oakland ties evoked in Bob Welch, a pitcher who came and went before my baseball watching time. Hearing that name caused me to dig out the old Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, a task once as simple as going to a nearby bookshelf but, after moving over the summer, now a twenty minute odyssey deep into the three giant storage bins filled with books now in my basement. Worth it. Welch is listed as having thrown a fastball, cutter, curve, change, and a forkball. Most modern pitching coaches will flat out refuse to teach a young arm a forkball these days, but Hatch’s funky circle-change/splitter hybrid is as close a proxy as we’re likely to find in this draft class. The genesis for that comp is realized. I feel better now.

The Cubs would have to be thrilled with getting a Hudson or a Welch or even just a best-case Thomas Hatch out of their third round pick. If his elbow stays intact, Hatch has a bright future on the mound. Even if he does need surgery sooner rather than later, I like the gamble here. Getting an extreme ground ball pitcher like Hatch* to play on one of the few teams that properly values defense (in practice, not just in theory) seems like as good a marriage as any pick to player in this draft.

* I went and did the math on Hatch’s ground ball ways while a Cowboy. The OK State ace had more ground ball outs than fly ball outs in 17 of his 19 starts this past season. Add it all up and his GB% was a robust 68.3%. Ground ball suspicions confirmed.

4.134 – RHP Tyson Miller

Tyson Miller (236) confuses me. His stuff is wholly impressive — 87-94 FB, 96 peak; above-average 77-84 SL; usable 82-86 CU — but his performance (7.74 K/9) at the Division II level didn’t quite match the arm talent. That may seem unduly harsh for a righthander with supposed ground ball stuff and impressive control (1.93 BB/9) coming off a 2.27 ERA stretch in 107.0 IP, but, hey, the bar is high for prospects taken in the draft’s top handful of rounds. Miller kept up his confusing ways in his brief pro debut by striking out only 5.34 batters per nine in his first 28.2 inning as a Cub. That would be far more forgivable if his batted ball data matched the ground ball praise he seems to get in every scouting report, but MLB Farm only had him 43.96% ground balls in his overall batted ball profile. See what I mean by Miller being a confusing prospect? Thankfully, confusing or not, the big righthander’s stuff remains strong and his future projection as a potential back-end starting pitcher remains in reach. I’m less bullish on him than most, but I can see the appeal if he can ever put it all together and become the power sinker/slider ground ball guy that many allege he already is.

5.164 – RHP Bailey Clark

Bailey Clark (102) is what many think Tyson Miller is. The big righthander who misses bats (9.71 K/9 as a junior at Duke), gets ground balls (60.61% in his debut), and flashes elite stuff (90-94 FB, 96 peak; nasty mid-80s cut-slider; hard upper-80s split-change) was the best prospect drafted by the Cubs in 2016. I’ll go bold on Clark and say that if it doesn’t work out as a starter for him, then he has honest to goodness Andrew Miller upside in relief. A righthanded Andrew Miller as the Chicago’s next relief ace? That’s not even fair. A quick timeline on how we got to this point. We’ll start a fully calendar year ago in October 2015…

Poised for a big potential rise in 2016, Clark has the kind of stuff that blows you away on his best days and leaves you wanting more on his not so best days. I think he puts it all together this year and makes this ranking [47th among college prospects] look foolish by June.

And now let’s jump ahead to December 2015…

…and obviously not much has changed in the two months since. Clark pitched really well last year (2.95 ERA in 58 IP), but fell just short in terms of peripherals (7.60 K/9 and 3.26 BB/9) where many of the recent first day college starting pitchers have finished in recent years. That’s a very simplistic, surface-level analysis of his 2015 performance, but it runs parallel with the scouting reports from many who saw him this past spring. Clark is really good, but still leaves you wanting more. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — being a finished product at 20-years-old is more of a negative than a positive in the eyes of many in the scouting world — but it speaks to the developmental challenges facing Clark if he wants to jump up into the first round mix. The fastball (88-94, 96 peak) is there, the size (6-5, 210) is there, and the athleticism is there, so it’ll come down to gaining more command and consistency on his mid-80s cut-SL (a knockout pitch when on) and trusting his nascent changeup in game action enough to give scouts an honest opportunity to assess it. Even if little changes with Clark between now and June, we’re still talking a top five round lock with the high-floor possibility of future late-inning reliever. If he makes the expected leap in 2016, then the first round will have to make room for one more college arm.

Here was an update from March 2016…

On the other end of the spectrum is a guy like Bailey Clark. Clark has dynamite stuff: 90-96 FB (98 peak), mid-80s cut-SL that flashes plus, and an extra firm 87-90 split-CU with some promise. The fastball alone is a serious weapon capable of getting big league hitters out thanks the combination of velocity and natural movement. What continues to hold Clark back is pedestrian command: having great stuff is key, but falling behind every hitter undercuts that advantage. Questions about his delivery — I personally don’t stress about that so much, but it’s worth noting — and that inconsistent command could force him into the bullpen sooner rather than later. He’d be a knockout reliever if that winds up being the case, but the prospect of pro development keeping him as a starter is too tantalizing to give up on just yet.

The final breakdown from April 2016…

Bailey Clark could keep starting, but most of the smarter folk I talk to seem to think he’ll fit best as a closer in the pros. At his best his stuff rivals the best Jones has to offer, but the Virginia righthander’s command edge and less stressful delivery make him the better bet to remain in the rotation. I personally wouldn’t rule out Clark having a long and fruitful career as a starting pitcher, but I’ll concede that the thought of him unleashing his plus to plus-plus fastball (90-96, 98 peak and impossible to square up consistently) over and over again in shorter outings is mighty appealing.

You can see the pretty clear “maybe he can start, but, damn, he’d be something special in relief” narrative play out as the year went on. In either role, Clark is an exciting talent with some of the best raw stuff of any college pitcher in this class. I’ll close with thinking relief is the most likely option. Any one of his issues — iffy command, questionable mechanics, and the lack of a necessary soft pitch to keep hitters consistently off the hard stuff — could be sorted out independently if that was all he had to worry about as he made his transition to pro ball, but when you combine all three…relief just feels like the safest projection. It bears repeating that Clark in the bullpen would not be seen as a negative outcome here; as a reliever, he has a chance to flat out dominate in a way not too many pitchers in baseball can. I’m all-in on Clark.

6.194 – RHP Chad Hockin

It took four picks to get a dummy like me to see it, but we’ve officially got a Cubs draft trend going here. Chad Hockin (332) makes it four straight college righthanded pitchers lauded for power sinkers and ground ball tendencies. Specifically, Hockin can crank in anywhere from 92-97 in relief with an above-average mid-80s cut-slider (83-87) that flashes plus. Depending on how aggressive the Cubs want to be with him, Hockin could be ready to see some big league action by next September. That’s what you get when you take one of college ball’s nastiest relievers. Of course, Chicago could surprise us all and opt to give Hockin a shot as a starter. I mentioned this possibility back in March…

Then there’s Hockin, the Fullerton arm who really is deserving of all the attention he’s gotten so far this spring. The sturdy righthander was seen by some I talked to back in day as having an impressive enough overall repertoire to get consideration as a starting pitching conversion project in the pros. While that talk has died down – maybe he could pull it off, but Hockin’s stuff plays way up in short bursts – the fact that it was mentioned to me in the first place speaks to his well-rounded offspeed arsenal and craftiness on the mound. Hockin leans on his mid-90s fastball (87-93 in longer outings turned into 94-96 with every pitch as a reliever) and a power 83-87 cut-slider that frequently comes in above-average. Those two pitchers alone make him a legitimate late-inning prospect, but the promise he once displayed with both a low-80s change and an upper-70s curve could give him that softer little something extra. I’ve heard he’s ditched both during games, but still toys with them in practice. It bears repeating that he’s a fine prospect pumping fastballs and sliders all day, but knowing he could mix in a third pitch in time is a nice perk.

It wouldn’t be crazy to give it a go — wild postseason aside, starters > relievers — but Hockin has demonstratively shown a major uptick in stuff while in relief already. The starters > relievers math changes a bit when it moves towards fifth starter/swingman vs late-inning, high-leverage reliever. The latter is what you hope Hockin will be when you take him in the sixth round.

7.224 – C Michael Cruz

I thought I liked Michael Cruz (448), but turns out the Cubs really liked him. I obviously get the appeal: Cruz is crazy young for his class (not 21-years-old until January), has flashed some defensive upside (still a long way to go, to be fair), and was once called a “certified hitting machine” by one draft writer (me). What’s not to like here? The Cubs went very light on position player talent in the 2016 MLB Draft — far too light, in my view, even understanding the relative strengths and weaknesses in their organization — but they at least get my stamp of approval with their first 2016 foray into the offensive side of the diamond. The lefthanded hitting Cruz could make a fine backup and complementary player to righthanded hitting Willson Contreras one day.

8.254 – RHP Stephen Ridings

Haverford College is about thirty minutes from my old apartment. Haverford College is also about a fifteen minute walk from Tired Hands Brewery. Coincidentally, I really, really like it when Haverford College has a prospect worth checking out. I was limited with what I could say about Stephen Ridings, the second straight eighth round pick out of baseball hotbed Haverford after Tommy Bergjans was selected by the Dodgers last year, this past spring for, you know, #reasons, but my quick scouting report on him is fair game now. Really, it’s simple: huge arm (low-90s typically, with 96’s, 97’s, and even a 98 at his peak), inconsistent secondary stuff (CB, SL, CU), and a delivery that managed to somehow come across as both rushed and too deliberate that pretty clearly hindered both his command and control. So we’ve got the good (velocity!), the bad (my amateur eye didn’t see an offspeed pitch good enough to get pro hitters out just yet, especially with his two breaking balls running into each other as often as they did), and the uncertain (mechanics). That uncertain is what intrigues me the most about Ridings. My “not a scout” observations saw his wonky mechanics as workable in the pros; in all honesty, his mechanics weren’t particularly “bad” but more the kind of inconsistent slightly awkward kind of mechanics that appeared to be the byproduct of what happens when a young pitcher attempts to figure out his growing body on the fly. That’s something I think time and quality coaching can improve, but we’ll have to wait and see. I didn’t expect Ridings to go off the board when he did, but I probably should have guessed: after all, you can’t teach 98 and 6-8, 220.

Spencer Sohmer and Justin Herring are my Haverford guys to watch next year, BTW.

9.284 – RHP Duncan Robinson

Back to back players I’ve seen multiple times. OK, Cubs. I see you. I really like Duncan Robinson (326). Let’s go back and see how much. We can start in March 2015…

Dartmouth JR RHP Duncan Robinson isn’t just a good pitching prospect for the Ivy League; he’s a good pitching prospect full stop. Guys with his size (6-6, 220 pounds), fastball (consistently low-90s), and breaking ball (have it listed as an in-between pitch in my notes; I’d call it a slider, but think folks at Dartmouth call it a curve) are easy to get excited about. The mechanics and control both check out for me, so his chance at crashing the draft’s top tier of pitching prospects will largely come down to the development of a softer offspeed pitch that will keep hitters off his fastball/breaking ball combo and enable him to start as a pro.

And jump a year into the future to March 2016…

Forget the Ivy League, Duncan Robinson is one of the best senior-sign pitchers in all of college ball. He’s a power righthander with size (6-6, 220) capable of beating you with a low-90s fastball and average or better slider. As his changeup develops he’ll become an even more attractive prospect, what with the standard starter ceiling that typically comes with three usable pitches, size, clean mechanics, and a good track record of amateur success. If the change lags, then he’s still got the solid middle relief starter pack to fall back on.

Finally, the pre-draft one line summary…

I’m 100% all-in on Duncan Robinson. He’s a big-time talent who seems to get better with every start. Definitely one of this class’s top senior-signs.

Love this pick. I think Duncan Robinson can pitch in the big leagues. I think he can even pitch in the big leagues as a starter. I won’t go the super obvious Kyle Hendricks (same school, one round off, both Cubs eventually) comparison here (in part because I used it already on Oakland sixth rounder Mitchell Jordan), but…I mean it’s sitting right there.

10.314 – RHP Dakota Mekkes

Dakota Mekkes (374) is the truth. Striking out 15.16 batters per nine as a redshirt-sophomore was only beginning for the 6-7, 250 pound righthander. His first 20 pro innings: 12.15 K/9 and 1.80 BB/9. How does he do? I have no idea! Or, more honestly, I can only make guesses on what I’ve seen, heard, and read. Mekkes’s stuff is what you’ll see out of literally dozens of mid-round college relievers (88-92 FB, 94 peak; average 82-84 SL), but the results point very strongly to their being more to the story. That’s where we start to see what separates Mekkes from the rest. Before we get to that, some earlier praise beginning with this from March 2016…

If you read this site and/or follow college ball closely, this might be the first pick to surprise in some way, shape, or form. Mekkes wasn’t a pitcher mentioned in many 2016 draft preview pieces before the start of the season, but the 6-7, 250 pound righty has opened plenty of eyes in getting off to a dominant (16.36 K/9) albeit wild (7.16 BB/9) start to 2016. His stuff backs it up (FB up to 94, interesting SL, deceptive delivery), so he’s more than just a large college man mowing down overmatched amateurs. He’s a top ten round possibility now.

Hey, he went in the tenth round! Neat. We got a little bit bolder by April 2016…

Any pre-draft list of “fastest moving” potential draftees that doesn’t include Dakota Mekkes is one I’ll look at with a suspicious eye. Mekkes may not be one of the biggest names in college relief, but he’s one of the best. I’ll go closer upside with him while acknowledging his most likely outcome could be a long career of very effective, very well-compensated middle relief. Either way, I think he’s as close to a lock to be a useful big league pitcher as any reliever in this class.

With Mekkes, it’s really about how how he maximizes his size and delivery to create all kinds of extension and deception. As he continues to figure out how to repeat that delivery, his command will only keep getting better. I think Mekkes can pitch in a big league bullpen in 2017 if that’s how the Cubs decide that’s what’s best for his development. I stand by that “as close to a lock to be a useful big league pitcher as any reliever in this class” comment.

11.344 – RHP Michael Rucker

On Michael Rucker (158) in March 2016…

Michael Rucker checks two of our three boxes pretty easily: he’s 88-94 (96 peak) with his fastball while commanding three offspeed pitches (low-80s SL, low- to mid-80s CU, mid-70s CB) with a veteran’s mindset on the mound. He’s not particularly big (6-1, 185) nor does he have that plus offspeed pitch (slider comes closest), but it’s still a potential big league starter skill set.

That sounds about right to me. Rucker is on that fifth starter/middle reliever line that could still go either way for him. If he can get one of those offspeed pitches to creep to average or slightly above-average, then he might have the all-around package (adding in his fastball, command, and control) to keep starting. His pre-draft ranking feels a little rich in hindsight, though that’s far less about Rucker than it is about the realization that there are A LOT of pitchers like him in this class.

13.404 – LHP Wyatt Short

To the WABAC machine to talk about Wyatt Short from January 2015…

I’m particularly looking forward to talking more about the aptly named Short, as any discussion about a 5-8, 160 pound lefthander capable of hitting the low- to mid-90s is all right in my book.

As it turned out, we never really got around to talking more about Short. Life just got in the way, I guess. We got older, got jobs, met that special someone, and next thing we knew we woke up one morning with a serious lack of Wyatt Short in our lives. It’s a pity, really. Thankfully, the show went on for Short, who followed up his good freshman season with a great sophomore season (10.15 K/9 and 1.38 ERA in 39.0 IP) before coming back to earth some in his junior season. The Cubs still thought enough of the diminutive lefty to pop him in the thirteenth round. Can’t argue with that based on his overall body of work, 88-94 MPH fastball, and low-80s slider he can both consistently get over and use as a chase pitch.

15.464 – RHP Jed Carter

I’ll hide my lack of Jed Carter knowledge by pointing out his crazy debut stats instead. In 9.2 innings of work, Carter struck out 17 batters. That’s great. He also walked 6 guys and threw 3 wild pitches. That’s less great. 60% ground balls, too. That’s so Cubs.

16.494 – RHP Holden Cammack

I like taking a shot on a catcher turned reliever type in Holden Cammack here. What he lacks in refinement he makes up for with arm strength.

17.524 – SS Zack Short

On Zack Short (435) from February 2016…

Short should be on any short list (no pun intended) of best college shortstop prospects in this class. He’s really, really good. Offensively he’s a high-contact hitter with an above-average blend of patience and pop. As a defender, he’s capable of making all the plays at short with range that should have him stick at the spot for years to come. There simply aren’t many two-way shortstops as good as him in this class. He’s an easy top ten round player for me with the chance to rise as high as around the fifth round (reminiscent of Blake Allemand last year) and a realistic draft floor of where Dylan Bosheers (round fifteen) eventually fell.

Short didn’t quite land in that five to fifteen round range, but the seventeenth isn’t that far off. I love this pick. Everything from February stands today, even after Short’s down junior season forced me to swallow hard and drop him lower on my final draft list than I would have liked. I think he’s a future big league player. My one note of caution with Short comes from the name drop of Dylan Bosheers in the pre-season paragraph above. Short and Bosheers aren’t the same guy and the disappointing pro career of the latter shouldn’t be put on the former, but the two players are cut from a similar prospect cloth. Something to consider. If Short busts, it’ll be time for me to reconsider how much I personally value these types of players. Hope it doesn’t come to that.

18.554 – LHP Marc Huberman

Marc Huberman was described to me as the perfect guy to watch if you want to see a “good command, bad control” pitcher in action. Huberman can spot his solid for a lefthander stuff (86-92 FB, 94 peak; good 76-82 CU; usable 75-78 CB) in the zone to keep hitters guessing, but can’t consistently find the strike zone enough to keep from issuing hitters who would struggle squaring him up otherwise off base via the free pass. In other words, many of Huberman’s strikes are quality strikes, but he just doesn’t throw enough of them right now to be considered anything other than effectively wild, for better or worse.

19.584 – RHP Matt Swarmer

You can’t say that Matt Swarmer didn’t get results in his career at Kutztown. His senior year K/9: 13.12. His career K/9: 11.79. Good numbers, good size, and a good enough head on his shoulders to bank a fine education to fall back on just in case — my mom has literally never read this site, but I’ll still shout out her alma mater — make him a worthy pick here.

20.614 – LHP Colton Freeman

If deep cuts are your thing, then hop on the Colton Freeman bandwagon while you can. The 6-1, 200 pound lefthander has a good fastball (up to 93), above-average slider, and impressive athleticism. He also pitched just 9.2 innings at Alabama in 2016. In those 9.2 innings, Freeman struck out 18 batters (16.88 K/9) while walking only 3 (2.81 BB/9) and keeping the opposition entirely off the board (0.00 ERA). Fun guy to follow professionally if you’re into the deepest of draft sleepers. Or if you’re just a generally obsessed baseball fan. Know anybody like that? Me neither.

21.644 – C Sam Tidaback

Sam Tidaback is a lifelong Cubs fan who grew up an hour from Wrigley Field. That’s enough to get you drafted by Chicago these days. And in the twenty-first round, no less.

25.764 – 2B Trent Giambrone

Trent Giambrone was off my radar in June, but looks like a nice value pick at this point in the draft. My only pre-draft notes on him were “good but not earth shattering numbers” and first-hand source who told me flatly that Giambrone “can’t play shortstop except in a pinch, but good anywhere else you stick him.” Those two things more or less disqualified him from any additional research (time and energy are finite, after all), but his intriguing pro debut at the plate has me feeling some regret. Cubs could have something with Giambrone. If it all keeps working, maybe you’ve turned a twenty-fifth round pick into a bat-first utility guy.

23.704 – SS Delvin Zinn

Few players from the entire 2016 MLB Draft class intrigue me quite as much as Delvin Zinn (415). I have no idea what to make of him. He’s as good an athlete as you’ll now find in pro ball with a big arm and enough range to hang at short (he split his time at SS and 2B evenly in his debut) for the foreseeable future. He’s also a smart hitter who makes a ton of contact with enough patience to put himself into favorable counts more often than not. His current issues are about the kind of contact he makes and what he does when he’s up in the count. At present, Zinn has true 20 power. He could grow into some as he puts on some good weight and tweaks his swing, but he’s currently a long way from being an extra base threat in the professional ranks. Thankfully, he has a long way before he’ll have to be a finished product. The 19-year-old infielder has enough positives on his side that he should get plenty of opportunities over the next few years to sink or swim in pro ball. A player with that kind of unpredictable but intriguing future is exactly who you should target when still available in the twenty-third round.

27.824 – OF Connor Myers

Connor Myers is way more talented than your typical twenty-seventh round senior-sign. His approach at the plate needs a good bit of tightening up if he wants to advance past AA, but his physical gifts (speed, arm, athleticism) are enough to keep him employed long enough to potentially figure things out as a hitter.

29.884 – RHP Tyler Peyton

Tyler Peyton has long frustrated me as a pitcher with the kind of stuff (88-94 FB, intriguing SL, average CU that flashes better) to be a true impact college performer who never quite got there. That doesn’t give me a ton of hope he’ll suddenly start missing more bats in the pros (his junior year 7.01 K/9 was a college career high), but you never know with two-way players like him. Maybe complete dedication to pitching will help him unlock the secret to getting more whiffs. It’s worth a twenty-ninth round pick to find out.

32.974 – OF Zach Davis

I don’t know what to make of the Zach Davis pick. I’m not one to toot my own horn, but if you’re stumping me with a power conference D1 prospect then you’re really digging deep for a player. Chicago must have seen more out of his 30 AB in 2014, 98 AB in 2015, and 39 AB in 2016 than most.

33.1004 – RHP Nathan Sweeney

A six-figure bonus ($100,000) for a low-90s (92-93 in my notes) righthander with size (6-4, 185) out of a state with an unusually high success rate (same HS as Brad Lidge!) of producing successful amateur pitchers? I’m in on Nathan Sweeney. Nice pick by Chicago here.

38.1154 – OF Tolly Filotei

The Cubs drafted and signed a player coming off a .268/.373/.338 season (71 AB) at Faulkner State. Could there possibly be more to the story than that? Probably not. In totally unrelated news, Tolly is the son of Cubs regional crosschecker Bobby Filotei. In fairness, Filotei was drafted out of high school by Colorado in 2014. I don’t believe that Bobby was employed by Colorado at that time (or ever), so, at least there’s that.

All in all, the Cubs drafted 38 guys. Only 11 were hitters. Of that 11, only 8 signed. Their college hitters came from these schools: Chipola, Delta State, North Georgia, Bethune-Cookman, Faulkner State, Texas Tech, Old Dominion, Itawamba, and Sacred Heart. Throw out North Georgia and Texas Tech, and I’d put the “guess what state the school is in” over/under for the casual fan at 1.5. Drafting players from all over isn’t a bad thing. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to draft.

Still, something seems off to me about Chicago’s draft. I don’t think they drafted well just because they are the Cubs and can do no wrong. I also don’t think they drafted poorly because I have different opinions about the players they selected. They clearly went all-in on pitching, but did so with a hyper-focused attention to pitchers with ground ball statistics and/or stuff. I don’t hate that one bit, especially when you see how all the ground ball pitching fits with their emphasis on building an outstanding defensive infield. One thing I didn’t like about their draft was the lack of offense. I know the big league team is loaded with young hitting. I know the strength of the system tilts overwhelmingly towards bats. An important draft rule, however, is that you don’t just draft for yourself but rather for each of the twenty-nine other teams in baseball. Mixing in a few quality bats with the bushel of relatively high-floor pitchers would have at least given Chicago a chance to replenish the (admittedly still stacked) lower-levels with potential easier to identify and develop trade assets. Or maybe the Cubs just had more confidence in their ability to identify and develop pitching than I do.

Either way, I went from not understanding this draft at all, to understanding it and not particularly liking it, to understanding it and talking myself into it. I still don’t love it, but if you can get one or two of Hatch, Miller, Robinson, or Rucker to stay in the rotation (either in Chicago or elsewhere if dealt) and then get valuable quick-moving bullpen pieces like Clark, Hockin, and Mekkes up for a team very much in win-now mode, you’re on to something. It was too conservative an approach for a team with as good a present and future as the Cubs seem to have — swing for the fences at least once, Cubbies! What do you have to lose? — but it was an approach and that matters. I mean, say what you want about the conservative approach the Cubs took, Dude, at least it’s an ethos. Or maybe a logos? I don’t know. This wasn’t my best work.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Reynaldo Rivera (Chipola), Montana Parsons (Baylor), Austin Jones (Wisconsin-Whitewater), Rian Bassett (?), Parker Dunshee (Wake Forest), Trey Cobb (Oklahoma State), Ryan Kreidler (UCLA), Jake Slaughter (LSU), DJ Roberts (South Florida), Davis Moore (Fresno State), AJ Block (Washington State), Davis Daniel (Auburn), Brenden Heiss (Arkansas), Dante Biasi (Penn State)

2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – Ivy League

I’m bad at writing introductions because I’m bad at writing, so I’ll just pop down a few words here that surely interest me and me alone and get on with it. It’s my 2016 “scouting” goal to see every Ivy League team play at least one series this upcoming (Ed. Note: now ongoing) season. Teams that are locked in include Penn, Brown, Yale, Cornell, and Columbia, so I’m already more than halfway there all without having to go beyond a fifteen minute walk from my apartment. I’m an easy drive from a bunch of other schools, so I might just reach my goal. If I do, I think I’ll throw a little party for myself. Balloons, cake, maybe a few small presents…the works. It’s important to have goals in life, after all.

Rob Henry is the only 2016 Ivy Leaguer to get the FAVORITE treatment in my notes heading into the season. He’s a true center fielder with arm strength, athleticism, and intriguing righthanded pop. There’s clear fourth outfielder/platoon bat upside with him. I like him a lot as a mid- to late-round Ivy League value pick, but his signability, like just about any non-senior in this conference, figures to be up in the air.

Thomas Roulis is an old favorite – but not a FAVORITE, apparently – who has hit well when healthy. The “when healthy” part has been the problem. Roulis has missed the majority of two seasons already (2013 and 2015), so staying on the field is goal number one in 2016. Assuming he can do that, he’ll have the chance to show off an impressive feel for contact, a balanced swing, and an approach that utilizes the whole field effectively. I’m confident that he’ll hit, so reports on his glove and arm strength will what can separate him from other college middle infielders in this class. Most think he’s a second baseman only, but it only takes one to believe in him enough to be a stand-in at shortstop to get him popped higher than most think in June. Very similar things could be written about Will Savage, an athletic second baseman for Columbia. I like Savage by a hair thanks to his even more advanced hit tool and better speed.

Ryan Mincher and Billy Arendt are senior shortstops on different sides of the classic Penn/Princeton Ivy rivalry. Both guys are steady fielders and disciplined hitters. Dan Hoy is deceptively strong with the kind of sneaky pop one might expect (or not expect…) from somebody described as deceptively strong. Joe Purritano likely being a first baseman or bust hurts his prospect stock some, but he can really hit. Same goes for Nick Maguire, a hulking first baseman from Columbia who runs damn well for his size.

Forget the Ivy League, Duncan Robinson is one of the best senior-sign pitchers in all of college ball. He’s a power righthander with size (6-6, 220) capable of beating you with a low-90s fastball and average or better slider. As his changeup develops he’ll become an even more attractive prospect, what with the standard starter ceiling that typically comes with three usable pitches, size, clean mechanics, and a good track record of amateur success. If the change lags, then he’s still got the solid middle relief starter pack to fall back on.

Jake Cousins caught my eye last year as part of a crowded Penn pitching staff that has already gone on to put one starter (Ronnie Glenn) in the pros. Cousins could join him by mid-June on the strength of a good fastball (88-93), promising curve, and exactly the type of athleticism and projection (6-4, 180) that scouts want to see. He’s been a run prevention star (1.59 ERA in 2014, 2.34 ERA last year) despite not missing a ton of bats (5.56 K/9 and 5.94 K/9), so some degree of needing the scouting reports and the positive outcomes to start matching up with the peripherals is in play. His placement on this list suggests he’ll bridge that gap.

Austin French is a lefty with size (6-4, 215) who can dial it up to 94 when needed. George Thanopoulos is a classic sinker/slider guy who could soak up enough low-minors innings to buy the time needed to earn fans in high organizational places. There are hundreds of pitchers like him between amateur ball and the minor leagues and predicting which ones can take their sinker/slider blend to big league bullpens is anybody’s guess.

A pair of transfers from big-time schools (Virginia and Miami, respectively) round out Penn’s interesting staff: Adam Bleday and Jesse Roth. I’m really curious to see Bleday throw this spring after hearing nice things about him throughout the entirety of last season. Michael Byrne is a lefty with solid stuff and knockout peripherals (11.25 K/9 last year) who could shape up as a deep sleeper thanks to an unsightly 2015 ERA (7.25). Chasen Ford and Cameron Mingo are names that come up over and over when talking to those who see these guys even more than I do. Both have cool names, but I think there’s more to it than that. Both can reach the low-90s with interesting breaking balls. The cool names certainly don’t hurt, of course.

Hitters

  1. Brown JR OF Rob Henry
  2. Columbia JR 2B Will Savage
  3. Dartmouth rSR 2B/SS Thomas Roulis
  4. Penn SR SS Ryan Mincher
  5. Princeton SR SS Billy Arendt
  6. Princeton SR 2B Dan Hoy
  7. Brown SR OF/2B Jake Levine
  8. Columbia rSR OF Robb Paller
  9. Penn SR OF Matt Greskoff
  10. Dartmouth SR 1B Joe Purritano
  11. Columbia SR C/OF Logan Boyher
  12. Cornell JR 1B Cole Rutherford
  13. Cornell JR C/1B CJ Price
  14. Columbia rSR 1B Nick Maguire
  15. Cornell JR 2B/SS Frankie Padulo
  16. Harvard SR C DJ Link
  17. Harvard JR SS Drew Reid
  18. Yale JR 3B Richard Slenker
  19. Penn SR OF Gary Tesch

Pitchers

  1. Dartmouth SR RHP Duncan Robinson
  2. Penn JR RHP Jake Cousins
  3. Brown SR LHP Austin French
  4. Columbia SR RHP George Thanopoulos
  5. Penn JR LHP Mike Reitcheck
  6. Brown JR RHP Christian Taugner
  7. Cornell SR LHP Michael Byrne
  8. Penn JR LHP Adam Bleday
  9. Cornell JR RHP Paul Balestrieri
  10. Cornell JR RHP Peter Lannoo
  11. Yale JR RHP Chasen Ford
  12. Penn JR RHP Andrew Burnick
  13. Penn JR RHP Jesse Roth
  14. Princeton SR RHP Cameron Mingo
  15. Harvard SR RHP Nick Scahill
  16. Columbia SR RHP Adam Cline
  17. Harvard SR RHP Sean Poppen
  18. Princeton JR LHP Keelan Smithers
  19. Cornell JR RHP Tim Willittes
  20. Dartmouth JR RHP Chris Burkholder
  21. Yale SR RHP Chris Lanham
  22. Penn SR RHP Mitch Holtz
  23. Columbia SR RHP Kevin Roy

Brown

SR LHP Austin French (2016)
JR RHP Christian Taugner (2016)
JR RHP Max Ritchie (2016)
JR OF Rob Henry (2016)
SR OF/2B Jake Levine (2016)
SR 1B Kevin Guthrie (2016)
JR 3B Marc Sredojevic (2016)
SR 2B Noah Shulman (2016)
JR C Josh Huntley (2016)
SO RHP Reid Anderson (2017)
SO OF Sam Grigo (2017)
SO SS Brian Ginsberg (2017)
FR 3B Willy Hozman (2018)

High Priority Follows: Austin French, Christian Taugner, Rob Henry, Jake Levine, Kevin Guthrie

Columbia

SR RHP Adam Cline (2016)
SR RHP George Thanopoulos (2016)
SR RHP Matt Robinson (2016)
SR RHP Kevin Roy (2016)
SR LHP Thomas Crispi (2016)
SR RHP Willis Robbins (2016)
JR LHP Ryan Marks (2016)
JR RHP Ty Wiest (2016)
rSR 1B Nick Maguire (2016)
rSR OF Robb Paller (2016)
SR C/OF Logan Boyher (2016)
SR 3B John Kinne (2016)
JR 2B Will Savage (2016)
JR OF Shane Adams (2016)
SO 3B/SS Randell Kanemaru (2017)
FR SS Joe Engel (2018)

High Priority Follows: Adam Cline, George Thanopoulos, Matt Robinson, Thomas Crispi, Nick Maguire, Robb Paller, Logan Boyher, John Kinne, Will Savage

Cornell

SR LHP Michael Byrne (2016)
JR RHP Paul Balestrieri (2016)
JR RHP Scott Soltis (2016)
JR RHP Peter Lannoo (2016)
JR RHP Tim Willittes (2016)
JR 1B Cole Rutherford (2016)
JR C/1B CJ Price (2016)
SR OF Jordan Winawer (2016)
JR 2B/3B Tommy Wagner (2016)
JR 2B/SS Frankie Padulo (2016)
SO C Ellis Bitar (2017)
FR RHP/1B Mark Fraser (2018)
FR OF/RHP Parker Morris (2018)
FR C Will Simoneit (2018)

High Priority Follows: Michael Byrne, Paul Balestrieri, Peter Lannoo, Tim Willittes, Cole Rutherford, CJ Price, Tommy Wagner, Frankie Padulo

Dartmouth

SR RHP Duncan Robinson (2016)
SR RHP Beau Sulser (2016)
SR RHP Adam Charnin-Aker (2016)
JR RHP Mike Concato (2016)
JR RHP Jackson Bubala (2016)
JR RHP Chris Burkholder (2016)
SR OF Nick Ruppert (2016)
SR 1B Joe Purritano (2016)
JR 1B/3B Michael Ketchmark (2016)
JR OF Ben Socher (2016)
SR C Adam Gauthier (2016)
rSR 2B/SS Thomas Roulis (2016)
SO RHP Patrick Peterson (2017)
SO RHP Sam Fichthorn (2017)
SO OF/2B Kyle Holbrook (2017)
FR C Rob Emery (2018)

High Priority Follows: Duncan Robinson, Chris Burkholder, Joe Purritano, Thomas Roulis

Harvard

SR RHP Sean Poppen (2016)
SR RHP Nick Scahill (2016)
SR RHP TJ Laurisch (2016)
JR LHP Greg Coman (2016)
JR RHP Nick Gruener (2016)
SR LHP Sean O’Neill (2016)
SR C DJ Link (2016)
SR 2B/3B Mitch Klug (2016)
JR 1B Matt Hink (2016)
JR SS Drew Reid (2016)
SO LHP Dylan Combs (2017)
SO RHP Ian Miller (2017)
SO OF Conor Quinn (2017)
SO 2B/OF Matt Rothenberg (2017)
SO 3B John Fallon (2017)
FR 1B Parker McColl (2018)

High Priority Follows: Sean Poppen, Nick Scahill, Greg Coman, DJ Link

Penn

JR LHP Adam Bleday (2016)
SR RHP Mitch Holtz (2016)
JR RHP Andrew Burnick (2016)
JR RHP Jesse Roth (2016)
JR RHP Jake Cousins (2016)
JR LHP Mike Reitcheck (2016)
JR RHP Nick Pedalino (2016)
SR SS Ryan Mincher (2016)
SR OF Matt Greskoff (2016)
SR OF Gary Tesch (2016)
JR C Tim Graul (2016)
SR OF Jonah Campbell (2016)
SO RHP Billy Lescher (2017)
SO 2B Ryan Schroth (2017)
FR RHP Jake Nelson (2018)
FR C Matt O’Neill (2018)
FR 3B/SS Matt Tola (2018)
FR 1B Sean Phelan (2018)

High Priority Follows: Adam Bleday, Andrew Burnick, Jesse Roth, Jake Cousins, Mike Reitcheck, Ryan Mincher, Matt Greskoff, Gary Tesch

Princeton

SR RHP Cameron Mingo (2016)
SR RHP Luke Strieber (2016)
SR LHP Chris Bodurian (2016)
JR LHP Keelan Smithers (2016)
JR RHP/INF Chad Powers (2016)
SR 2B Dan Hoy (2016)
SR SS Billy Arendt (2016)
JR OF Danny Baer (2016)
JR OF Paul Tupper (2016)
JR 1B/OF Nick Hernandez (2016)
SO RHP Nick Brady (2017)
SO SS/RHP Asher Lee-Tyson (2017)
FR OF Chris Davis (2018)

High Priority Follows: Cameron Mingo, Keelan Smithers, Dan Hoy, Billy Arendt

Yale

SR RHP Chris Moates (2016)
SR RHP Chris Lanham (2016)
JR RHP Chasen Ford (2016)
SR OF Nate Adams (2016)
JR SS Derek Brown (2016)
JR 3B Richard Slenker (2016)
JR INF Harrison White (2016)
SO RHP Drew Scott (2017)
SO RHP Eric Brodkowitz (2017)
SO RHP Mason Kukowski (2017)
SO C Alex Boos (2017)
FR RHP/1B Benny Wanger (2018)
FR 1B/RHP Griffin Dey (2018)

High Priority Follows: Chris Lanham, Chasen Ford, Richard Slenker

Ivy League 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

Penn SR C Austin Bossart
Dartmouth JR 1B Joe Purritano
Dartmouth SR 2B Thomas Roulis
Penn JR SS Ryan Mincher
Dartmouth SR 3B Nick Lombardi
Harvard SR OF Mike Martin
Columbia SR OF Jordan Serena
Penn rJR OF Jeff McGarry

Dartmouth JR RHP Duncan Robinson
Cornell JR LHP Michael Byrne
Penn SR LHP Ronnie Glenn
Cornell SR RHP Roberto Suppa
Harvard SR RHP Tanner Anderson

With one of the finer institutions of the Ancient Eight within walking distance from my apartment, it should come as no great shock that I’ve seen an alarmingly high number of Ivy League games over the past decade. Sure, I’d love to live in a more deeply talented amateur baseball part of the country, but defending the talent in the Ivy League has almost become a point of weird pride for me, so much so that I think I’d miss regularly attending games if I ever move too far away. On the rare occasions I’ll get contacted by pro teams to share some firsthand insight on guys I’ve seen a lot of, it’s almost always in relation to whatever player is regarded as the Ivy’s top prospect that year. Typically, that guy is one of if not the only player in the conference expected to consider leaving before using up all of his eligibility. That’s one of the reasons I like following the Ivy Leagues as closely as I do. It’s a rare and beautiful world of senior signs as far as the eye can see. In true brainiac Ivy League fashion, it seems like the ones that stay all four seasons tend to be the hitters. The pitchers, very wisely, are more apt to leave for the professional ranks when called upon perhaps in part because of the knowledge that their arms only have so many bullets available for use in a lifetime.

There is plenty of competition this year for top Ivy League senior sign. Penn SR C Austin Bossart might head into the year as the favorite thanks to his strong defensive chops and steadily improving bat. It’s not a sexy all-around profile, but a smart, dependable veteran catcher with a good track record of working with all kinds of different pitchers should have value to a team as the draft winds down. Bossart strikes me as a player who will have a minor league job for as long as he’s willing to stick it out. I have him ranked directly behind two plus speed, above-average or better center field defenders in Harvard SR OF Mike Martin and Columbia SR OF Jordan Serena. The two are very, very similar prospects for me, but I like Martin’s defense, athleticism, and approach at the plate all just a touch better than Serena’s.

A pretty compelling case could be made for Dartmouth SR 2B/SS Thomas Roulis as the conference’s top senior sign. He would have likely been in the top spot on this very ranking were it not for the forthcoming lost developmental time (all of 2015) he’s expected to miss due to injury. Complicating things just a smidge is the fact that, despite his senior year status as a student, he could potentially return to play baseball at Dartmouth in 2016. The Ivy League does not allow “redshirts” in the same way many other conferences do, but exceptions to the rule can be gained by working with the fine folks in the compliance department. Roulis could apply for a Fifth Year Waiver exception if he so chooses. I have no idea if they’d be more willing to grant Roulis a fifth year since he missed so much of his sophomore season in addition to what will likely be his entire senior year. In any event, he’s a player that I’d follow very closely all spring in order to best determine what he’d like to do with his immediate future. He’s a really talented natural hitter with a whole-fields approach and a pretty swing. Outside of the hit tool, nothing physically stands out about his skill set but his high baseball IQ and instincts for the game allows him to work around his modest tools. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of what he has to offer yet, and now we’re left to just wait and hope that he’ll return to health hitting like he’s capable.

In addition to all the names listed above, I’m excited to watch Dartmouth JR 1B Joe Purritano, Columbia rJR 1B Nick Maguire, Cornell SR 1B/OF Ryan Karl, Penn JR SS Ryan Mincher, and Columbia SR OF Gus Craig particularly closely as this year unfolds.

Dartmouth JR RHP Duncan Robinson isn’t just a good pitching prospect for the Ivy League; he’s a good pitching prospect full stop. Guys with his size (6-6, 220 pounds), fastball (consistently low-90s), and breaking ball (have it listed as an in-between pitch in my notes; I’d call it a slider, but think folks at Dartmouth call it a curve) are easy to get excited about. The mechanics and control both check out for me, so his chance at crashing the draft’s top tier of pitching prospects will largely come down to the development of a softer offspeed pitch that will keep hitters off his fastball/breaking ball combo and enable him to start as a pro.

Robinson isn’t the only big Ivy arm angling for a 2015 draft selection this June. My very rudimentary convassing of the conference unearthed close to a dozen draft-eligible pitchers capable of hitting 90 MPH or above. Cornell SR RHP Roberto Suppa might have the hardest fastball in the conference. Paired with his good changeup, usable low-70s curveball, and 6-5, 200 pound frame, Suppa has a backend starting pitcher starter kit ready to go. He’s been reasonably effective in limited innings, but control remains his biggest bugaboo. Harvard SR RHP Tanner Anderson has similar stuff (88-92 FB, 94 peak; mid-70s CB; low-80s CU) with better control, more athleticism, and perhaps (I go back and forth here) a little more projection left in the tank. Then there are the two top lefthanders in the conference, Cornell JR LHP Michael Byrne and Penn SR LHP Ronnie Glenn. Both have had plenty of success to date by pitching off their 88-92 MPH fastballs and working in a collection of average or better secondary offerings. Upside plays like Harvard JR RHP Sean Poppen and Princeton JR RHP Cameron Mingo give the league better depth than many located outside of the northeastern part of the country might expect. Or maybe that’s not true and I’m just getting all preemptively defensive about the Ivy League again.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Harvard SR OF Mike Martin
  2. Columbia SR OF/SS Jordan Serena
  3. Penn SR C Austin Bossart
  4. Penn JR SS Ryan Mincher
  5. Penn rJR OF/RHP Jeff McGarry
  6. Dartmouth SR 2B/SS Thomas Roulis
  7. Dartmouth JR 1B Joe Purritano
  8. Dartmouth SR 3B Nick Lombardi
  9. Columbia SR OF Gus Craig
  10. Princeton JR 2B Dan Hoy
  11. Columbia rJR 1B Nick Maguire
  12. Columbia rJR OF Robb Paller
  13. Cornell SR 1B/OF Ryan Karl
  14. Columbia SR 3B David Vandercook
  15. Cornell SR OF JD Whetsel
  16. Cornell JR OF Jordan Winawer

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

  1. Dartmouth JR RHP Duncan Robinson
  2. Cornell JR LHP Michael Byrne
  3. Penn SR LHP Ronnie Glenn
  4. Cornell SR RHP Roberto Suppa
  5. Harvard SR RHP Tanner Anderson
  6. Columbia JR RHP George Thanopoulos
  7. Penn SR RHP Connor Cuff
  8. Harvard JR RHP Sean Poppen
  9. Brown SR RHP David St. Lawrence
  10. Cornell JR LHP Matt Horton
  11. Yale JR RHP Chris Lanham
  12. Princeton JR RHP Cameron Mingo
  13. Brown SR RHP Eddie Fitzpatrick
  14. Penn SR RHP Dan Gautieri
  15. Columbia JR RHP Adam Cline
  16. Dartmouth JR RHP Beau Sulser
  17. Yale JR RHP Chris Moates