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2016 MLB Draft – American Athletic Conference

If you’re one of the small handful of daily readers, you can go ahead and skip this post. You’ve already seen it. Not that you needed my permission or anything, but you’re free to pass all the same. The intent here is to get all of the college content in one place, so below you’ll find everything I’ve written about the 2016 class of MLB Draft prospects currently playing in the AAC. Then I’ll have a college baseball master list post that will centralize everything I’ve written about the 2016 MLB Draft college class all in one place. It’s a rare bit of inspired organizational posting around here, so I’m trying to strike while motivated… 

American Athletic Conference Overview
Central Florida
Cincinnati
East Carolina
Houston
Memphis
South Florida
Tulane

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2016 MLB Draft Prospects – East Carolina

JR LHP Evan Kruczynski (2016)
JR LHP Jacob Wolfe (2016)
SR LHP Nick Durazo (2016)
JR LHP Luke Bolka (2016)
rSO RHP/INF Davis Kirkpatrick (2016)
SR RHP Jimmy Boyd (2016)
JR SS/RHP Kirk Morgan (2016)
SR OF Garrett Brooks (2016)
rJR C Travis Watkins (2016)
JR C/OF Eric Tyler (2016)
JR 2B/SS Charlie Yorgen (2016)
JR SS Wes Phillips (2016)
SR OF Jeff Nelson (2016)
JR 1B/LHP Bryce Harman (2016)
JR OF/RHP Zack Mozingo (2016)
SO RHP Joe Ingle (2017)
FR RHP Chris Holba (2018)
FR RHP Denny Brady (2018)
FR RHP Sam Lanier (2018)
FR OF Dwanya Williams-Sutton (2018)
FR OF Justin Dirden (2018)
FR SS Turner Brown (2018)
FR SS Kendall Ford (2018)
FR INF Brady Lloyd (2018)

This 2013 ranking of HS first basemen has held up surprisingly well so far. The only player not doing what was hoped so far is Ian Hagenmiller (10). Dominic Smith (1), Rowdy Tellez (2), Cody Bellinger (4), Nick Longhi (5), and Jake Bauers (8) have all had starts of their pro careers ranging from decent to damn good. Zack Collins and Pete Alonso are near the top of their class heading into this draft. Joe Dudek* (9) has a chance to join them with a big junior season. The same could be said for JR 1B/LHP Bryce Harman (6), the jumbo-sized (6-6, 240) slugger with raw power to match. Harman was known as a complete hitter (power and contact) throughout his prep career, but has struggled some in both areas so far at the college level. That’s not to say he’s been bad — he hasn’t — but just a suggestion that many talent evaluators will want to see more out of him this spring if he is to fulfill his top five round destiny. That might be too rich a forecast simply because college first basemen haven’t gone all that high in recent years — we only had eight college 1B go in the top ten rounds last year with only two of them in the top four rounds — but this class looks better at that position than it has been in a while. After going through the ACC teams with publicly posted rosters (i.e., no Louisville, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, or Virginia), I’d have Harman behind only Will Craig and Preston Palmeiro. A year like what many (myself included expect) — .500+ SLG, .200+ ISO, even BB/K ratio — would keep him moving up the board in the right direction.

(* 1/18/16 EDIT: Dudek is transferring to from North Carolina to Kentucky this season. He’ll sit out 2016 and have two years of eligibility remaining starting with the 2017 season. He’s still draft-eligible this year if a team fell enough in love with him this past year to make a run. Not likely — why go through the transfer process only to turn pro before getting on the field for your new team? — but possible.)

Harman is the best prospect on the team, but he’s not alone near the top. SR OF Garrett Brooks is my kind of senior sign: well-rounded, athletic, and patient at the plate. From last year…

JR OF Garrett Brooks could be on the verge of something, but after two highly underwhelming seasons I’m no longer sure what that something will look like. He’s got pro-caliber tools packed into his strong 5-9, 200 pound frame, but the results so far haven’t been pretty.

His 2015 was a lot prettier than the first two seasons (.270/.375/.357 with 21 BB/17 K in 126 AB), but showing a little more pop or in-game speed is the next step. I think he’ll take it and get himself drafted this June. JR SS Wes Phillips, an incoming transfer from Wichita State, could find himself in a similar spot. He’s likely to be joined in the middle of the Pirates infield with JR 2B/SS Charlie Yorgen, a steady glove with impressive plate discipline. I like him. Finally, East Carolina returns a pair of interesting catching prospects. Both rJR C Travis Watkins and JR C/OF Eric Tyler could play themselves into late-round draft consideration. Their most realistic outcome is senior-signs in 2017, but teams are always in the need for org catchers later in the draft.

JR LHP Evan Kruczynksi is my favorite thanks to his upper-80s fastball, pair of usable secondaries (CB and CU), and room to grow. A spike in missed bats in 2016 due in part to a few extra ticks on his fastball (maybe putting him in that 88-92 range) is my personal hope and expectation for his upcoming season. JR LHP Jacob Wolfe throws a mid- to upper-80s fastball with impressive sink. He had a fairly similar 2015 season to Kruczynski, but doesn’t quite offer the same growth potential physically. JR LHP Luke Bolka has the firmest fastball (88-94) and strongest track record of missing bats (10.35 K/9), but, like Wolfe, he lacks much projection. He’s also the most inexperienced of the trio: those peripherals came in just 11.1 IP last season. A case could be made for any of the three — the one with projection, the one with the sinker, the one with the heat — as the best long-term pro prospect depending on your personal tastes.

The top righthanded pitcher in ECU’s 2016 draft class is rSO Davis Kirkpatrick, who might just have a strong enough fastball (88-93) and breaking ball combo to rank as the top overall pitching prospect on the staff. He’ll have to overcome a year away from the mound and the inherent short righthander bias universal among all but the most open-minded of scouts, but I think he’s athletic enough to open some eyes. SR RHP Jimmy Boyd gets a special mention because his 0.76 BB/9 in 59.0 IP last season ranks as one of the lowest that I’ve come across so far. Keep on throwing strikes, Jimmy.

American Athletic Conference 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

Houston JR C Ian Rice
Central Florida SR 1B James Vasquez
Cincinnati JR 2B Ian Happ
Central Florida SR SS Tommy Williams
Connecticut JR 3B Brian Daniello
Houston JR OF Kyle Survance
Houston rJR OF Ashford Fulmer
Memphis JR OF Jake Little

Houston JR RHP Jacob Lemoine
Houston JR RHP Patrick Weigel
South Florida JR RHP Jimmy Herget
Connecticut rJR RHP Devin Over
Tulane JR RHP Ian Gibaut

I can’t speak for everybody in the college game, but I for one am very pleasantly surprised about the continued strength of the AAC. The conference is like a mutated version of a few different conferences, and the end results were better than anybody – well, at least I – could have hoped. Happ and Lemoine give the AAC two potential first round picks, Rice and Max McDowell stack up against any conference’s 1-2 catching punch, solid senior signs like Vasquez, Williams, Dylan Moore, Kyle Teaf, and Carson Cross lend surprising depth to an increasingly deep talent pool, and talented high upside wild cards like Ashford Fulmer, Weigel, and Over keep things interesting.

That’s the short version for the AAC this year. The much, much longer version (once you add everything up) can be found just a few clicks away. I wrote team profiles for all of the linked schools below. The two missing schools get their belated time in the sun below. Connecticut was one of the very last teams to post rosters online. Tulane had their roster up with time to spare, but I missed it in my first pass through the conference because I’m dumb. I might turn their team profiles into separate posts at some point, but until then I just copy/pasted what I had for you to read at your leisure.

Central Florida
Cincinnati 
Connecticut
East Carolina
Houston
Memphis
South Florida
Tulane

*****

Connecticut

I should really stop being surprised when I look up Connecticut’s talent. Every year I mentally subtract the players that they lost and every year I expect to see the cupboard too bare to care from a draft standpoint. Yet every darn year I find myself being in the same mental place, somehow unready to process the half-dozen or so honest to goodness prospects scattered across the team’s roster. This year’s club features a low-mileage pitcher with plus arm strength (rJR RHP Devin Over), a college ace returning from Tommy John surgery capable of throwing three average or better pitches for strikes (rSR RHP Carson Cross), and a changeup specialist with enough size and fastball (88-92ish) to get some late round consideration this June (rSR RHP Jordan Tabakman). Over in particular is a fascinating prospect due to his mid-90s fastball (97 peak) and impressive athleticism. The results have never matched his stuff (in terms of K/9), so scouts will have to really hone on him this spring to see why a guy with an arm like his has been unable to consistently miss bats. That might not be a particularly fair criticism considering his limited track record to date (30ish lifetime innings), but prospect evaluation ain’t always fair.

Offensively, two hitters stand out as particularly promising. SR 1B/OF Blake Davey and JR 1B Bobby Melley both have shown they possess the type of above-average raw power and measured approach to hitting that pro teams prioritize on draft day. Working against them, of course, is the likelihood that both players wind up as first basemen professionally. It’s a steep climb from nice college hitting prospect to legitimate potential big league first baseman. Two guys with lesser bats but greater positional value that could get drafted are JR OF Jack Sundberg and JR C Max McDowell. Sundberg is held back by a lack of any kind of meaningful pop, but he can run, throw, and defend well enough in center that a team might put up with some growing pains with the stick. He profiles better as a 2016 senior sign to me. McDowell, on the other hand, appears to be one of the nation’s most underappreciated catching prospects. He does the things you’d expect out of any real catching prospect (solid glove, interesting power upside) while also doing the extras (really nice runner for the position, more athletic than most backstops) that make him a legitimate top ten round sleeper. Houston’s Ian Rice is unabashedly one of my favorites in all of college baseball, so, naturally, taking his throne as top catching prospect in the AAC was never really going to happen for McDowell. Still, I like him so much that there really wasn’t much internal debate as to who would fill in the second spot, where McDowell sits ahead of the more famous and preferred option by many, Luke Lowery of East Carolina. JR 3B Brian Daniello might just be the top third base prospect in the conference, though that says at least as much about the dearth of talented third basemen in the AAC than anything about Daniello’s maybe/maybe not pro future. In any event, he’s a really solid college player who I’m happy to give a little recognition.

*****

Tulane

The practical logistics of moving a pitcher from the college bullpen (or an expected pro bullpen role) to a professional rotation is a hot topic every year at draft time. Everybody has a different opinion about what makes a starter a starter and a reliever a reliever. Some focus on one specific aspect of a pitcher’s game and use that as the determining factor when deciding on a future role. Too often this is a simple question of size — Is he 6’0″ or less? Stick him in the pen then! — which is obviously an unfortunate bout of reducing a complex (by baseball standards) decision into a binary yes/no that lacks the necessary nuance and ratiocination required. Thankfully there are others, more sensibly in my view, who take a holistic approach as they debate the merits of a pitcher’s depth of repertoire, ease of mechanical repeatability, physical stature (size is a factor, but not the factor) and conditioning, and ability to maintain high-quality stuff deep into outings as the pitch count climbs and fatigue sets in. Creating a dichotomy using short and tall as determining factors is bad process that occasionally will lead to positive results

Forgive me if I copy/paste that paragraph whenever Dillon Tate, Carson Fulmer, and Tyler Jay are brought up this spring. For now, the logic presented above applies to JR RHP Ian Gibaut, who has excelled as a college reliever since first stepping foot on campus at Tulane in 2013. There’s no reason to believe that Gibaut’s success as an amateur reliever would slow down in any way as he transitions to pro ball this summer. Still, I’d be tempted to stretch him out and see how his stuff holds up as a starter. My desire to see him work in a starter’s role isn’t so great that I’d kill a team for thinking he’ll be best in the bullpen as a professional; if anything, it’s more of a selfish curiosity to see what a college reliever with the build, arm action (in my amateur view), and diverse enough set of pitches (above-average 75-78 CB, upper-70s CU that flashes plus [others like it less and I’ll at least acknowledge it’s an inconsistent pitch at present], and hard mid-80s SL) could do in a more taxing role. I’ve heard but not seen firsthand that Gibaut’s velocity is the type that plays up in short bursts, so keeping him in the bullpen would seem to be a perfectly reasonable course of action. If that winds up being how it plays out, then don’t be surprised when Gibaut winds up as one of this year’s draft fastest moving college relief prospects.

I’ve always preferred JR RHP/OF Tim Yandel as a hitter to a pitcher, but the evidence is now stacked up too high against my original position to ignore. The light has never really gone on for Yandel as a hitter, but he’s emerged as a solid college arm with a chance to find work as a middle reliever type in the pros thanks to his plus 78-83 slider. rJR RHP Alex Massey has shown he can miss bats in his swingman role over his two plus years at Tulane. Given time in the bullpen exclusively should help his already solid fastball (88-92, 94-95 peak) play up a tick, all the better to complement his existing above-average slider. If you’re scoring at home, that’s three potential relievers that could come out of this year’s Tulane staff.

There’s less to love offensively, but it isn’t as though Tulane has no hitters worth keeping an eye on. SR 2B Garret Deschamp has flashed some power to the gaps and can field his position. I’ve heard nothing but positive things about SR 1B/3B Tyler Wilson’s bat, so hopefully we’ll get a chance to see what he can do with more than the 26 AB he received last season. JR OF Richard Carthon can run, but it remains to be seen if he’ll hit.

Tulane’s sophomore class is where it’s at. SO SS Stephen Alemais is a legit defensive shortstop with a big arm and serious wheels. He didn’t light the world on fire as a freshman, but he held his own. Same could be said for SO RHP JP France (but with standout peripherals), an undersized athletic fireballing righthander in the mold of Lance McCullers. C Jake Rogers, 3B Hunter Hope, OF Grant Brown, and RHP Corey Merrill are all also sophomores talented enough to finish as high picks.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Cincinnati JR 2B/OF Ian Happ
  2. Houston JR C Ian Rice
  3. Central Florida SR 1B/OF James Vasquez
  4. Central Florida SR 2B/SS Dylan Moore
  5. Houston JR OF Kyle Survance
  6. South Florida SR 2B/SS Kyle Teaf
  7. Houston rJR OF Ashford Fulmer
  8. Central Florida SR SS/3B Tommy Williams
  9. Connecticut JR 1B Bobby Melley
  10. Connecticut SR 1B/OF Blake Davey
  11. Houston JR 2B Josh Vidales
  12. Houston JR 1B Chris Iriart
  13. Memphis SR 1B/3B Tucker Tubbs
  14. South Florida SR OF Austin Lueck
  15. Memphis JR OF/1B Jake Little
  16. Connecticut JR C Max McDowell
  17. Memphis SR C/1B Carter White
  18. East Carolina JR C/1B Luke Lowery
  19. Memphis rJR SS Jake Overbey
  20. Central Florida SR OF Erik Barber
  21. South Florida rJR OF Buddy Putnam
  22. Tulane JR OF Richard Carthon
  23. Tulane SR 1B/3B Tyler Wilson
  24. Tulane SR 2B Garret Deschamp

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

  1. Houston JR RHP Jacob Lemoine
  2. Houston JR RHP Patrick Weigel
  3. South Florida JR RHP Jimmy Herget
  4. Connecticut rJR RHP Devin Over
  5. Tulane JR RHP Ian Gibaut
  6. Central Florida rJR RHP Mitchell Tripp
  7. Connecticut rSR RHP Carson Cross
  8. Tulane JR RHP/OF Tim Yandel
  9. Tulane rJR RHP Alex Massey
  10. Central Florida SR RHP Zach Rodgers
  11. South Florida rSR RHP/OF Casey Mulholland
  12. Central Florida rSR RHP Spencer Davis
  13. Connecticut rSR RHP Jordan Tabakman
  14. Cincinnati JR RHP Mitch Patishall
  15. East Carolina rJR RHP David Lucroy
  16. Houston SR RHP Jared Robinson
  17. Memphis rJR RHP Craig Caufield
  18. Houston SR RHP Aaron Garza
  19. East Carolina SR LHP/OF Reid Love
  20. Central Florida rJR RHP Ryan Meyer
  21. Houston JR RHP Bubba Maxwell
  22. Memphis SR RHP Dylan Toscano
  23. Central Florida SR RHP Tanner Olson
  24. Memphis JR LHP Colin Lee
  25. Memphis SR LHP Caleb Wallingford

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – American Athletic Follow List

Central Florida

SR 1B/OF James Vasquez (2015)
SR 2B/SS Dylan Moore (2015)
SR OF Derrick Salberg (2015)
SR SS/3B Tommy Williams (2015)
SR OF Erik Barber (2015)
SR OF Sam Tolleson (2015)
SR OF/LHP JoMarcos Woods (2015)
rSR RHP Spencer Davis (2015)
SR RHP Zach Rodgers (2015)
rJR RHP Ryan Meyer (2015)
rJR RHP Mitchell Tripp (2015)
SR RHP Tanner Olson (2015)
SO RHP Trent Thompson (2016)
SO RHP Robby Howell (2016)
SO C Matt Diorio (2016)
SO OF Eugene Vazquez (2016)
SO OF Dalton Duty (2016)
SO 3B/SS Kam Gellinger (2016)
FR RHP Cre Finfrock (2017)
FR RHP Kyle Marsh (2017)
FR RHP Pat Stephens (2017)
FR RHP Brad Rowley (2017)

Cincinnati

JR 2B/OF Ian Happ (2015)
JR C Woody Wallace (2015)
JR 1B Devin Wenzel (2015)
JR 2B Forrest Perron (2015)
JR RHP Mitch Patishall (2015)
rJR RHP Bryan Chenoweth (2015)
SR RHP Ryan Atkinson (2015)
rSO LHP Colton Cleary (2015)
SO RHP Andrew Zellner (2016)
SO INF Connor McVey (2016)
FR LHP Dalton Lehnen (2017)
FR 1B/OF Ryan Noda (2017)
FR 2B Kyle Mottice (2017)

Connecticut

rJR RHP Devin Over (2015):
rSR RHP Carson Cross (2015)
rSR RHP Jordan Tabakman (2015)
rSO RHP Ryan Radue (2015)
rJR RHP Max Slade (2015)
rSO RHP Callahan Brown (2015)
SR 1B/OF Blake Davey (2015)
JR 1B Bobby Melley (2015)
SR OF Eric Yavarone (2015)
SR OF Jon Testani (2015)
SR C Connor David (2015)
JR OF Jack Sundberg (2015)
JR 3B Vinny Siena (2015)
JR 3B Brian Daniello (2015)
JR C Max McDowell (2015)
JR 1B/OF Nico Darras (2015)
SO SS/2B Aaron Hill (2016)
SO LHP Anthony Kay (2016)
SO RHP Andrew Zapata (2016)
SO RHP Pat Ruotolo (2016)

East Carolina

JR C/1B Luke Lowery (2015)
JR OF Garrett Brooks (2015)
JR OF Jeff Nelson (2015)
SR SS/2B Hunter Allen (2015)
rJR RHP David Lucroy (2015)
SR LHP/OF Reid Love (2015)
JR RHP/OF Jimmy Boyd (2015)
SO 1B/LHP Bryce Harman (2016)
SO RHP/INF Davis Kirkpatrick (2016)
SO LHP Jacob Wolfe (2016)
SO SS Kirk Morgan (2016)
SO 2B/SS Charlie Yorgen (2016)
SO C Eric Tyler (2016)
SO LHP Luke Bolka (2016)
SO LHP Evan Kruczynski (2016)

Houston

JR OF Kyle Survance (2015)
rJR OF Ashford Fulmer (2015)
SR OF Michael Pyeatt (2015)
JR 3B/1B Justin Montemayor (2015)
JR 2B Josh Vidales (2015)
JR C Ian Rice (2015)
JR 1B Chris Iriart (2015)
JR RHP Patrick Weigel (2015)
SR RHP Aaron Garza (2015)
JR RHP Jacob Lemoine (2015)
SR RHP David Longville (2015)
SR RHP Jared Robinson (2015)
SR LHP Matt Locus (2015)
JR RHP Bubba Maxwell (2015)
SO 3B Connor Hollis (2016)
SO RHP Andrew Lantrip (2016)
SO RHP Marshall Kasowski (2016)
SO 3B Jordan Strading (2016)
FR SS Connor Wong (2017)
FR LHP Seth Romero (2017)

Memphis

JR OF/1B Jake Little (2015)
SR C/1B Carter White (2015)
SR 1B/3B Tucker Tubbs (2015)
rSR OF Kane Barrow (2015)
SR C Nate Rupiper (2015)
rJR SS Jake Overbey (2015)
SR RHP Dylan Toscano (2015)
rJR RHP Craig Caufield (2015)
JR LHP Colin Lee (2015)
SR LHP Caleb Wallingford (2015)
SO RHP Trevor Sutton (2016)
SO RHP Nolan Blackwood (2016)
SO OF Darien Tubbs (2016)
FR RHP Colton Hathcock (2017)

South Florida

JR RHP Jimmy Herget (2015)
SR RHP Jordan Strittmatter (2015)
rSO RHP Tommy Peterson (2015)
rSR RHP/OF Casey Mulholland (2015)
rJR OF Buddy Putnam (2015)
SR OF Austin Lueck (2015)
SR 2B/SS Kyle Teaf (2015)
JR C/3B Levi Borders (2015)
rJR SS/2B Nik Alfonso (2015)
JR OF Luke Maglich (2015)
SO OF Luke Borders (2016)
SO 2B Andres Leal (2016)
SO OF/RHP Daniel Portales (2016)
SO RHP Brandon Lawson (2016)
SO RHP Michael Farley (2016)
SO SS Clay Simmons (2016)

Tulane

JR RHP Ian Gibaut (2015)
rJR RHP Alex Massey (2015)
rSO RHP Daniel Rankin (2015)
JR RHP Emerson Gibbs (2015)
JR RHP/OF Tim Yandel (2015)
SR 2B Garret Deschamp (2015)
SR 1B/3B Tyler Wilson (2015)
JR OF Richard Carthon (2015)
SO SS Stephen Alemais (2016)
SO C Jake Rogers (2016)
SO RHP JP France (2016)
SO RHP Tyler Zamjahn (2016)
SO RHP Zach Flowers (2016)
SO 3B Hunter Hope (2016)
SO 1B/OF Lex Kaplan (2016)
SO OF Grant Brown (2016)
SO RHP Corey Merrill (2016)
SO RHP Patrick Duester (2016)
FR LHP Jackson Johnson (2017)

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – East Carolina

JR C Luke Lowery (2015)
JR OF Garrett Brooks (2015)
SR SS/2B Hunter Allen (2015)
rJR RHP David Lucroy (2015)
SR LHP/OF Reid Love (2015)
SO 1B/LHP Bryce Harman (2016)
SO RHP/INF Davis Kirkpatrick (2016)
SO LHP Jacob Wolfe (2016)
SO SS Kirk Morgan (2016)
SO 2B/SS Charlie Yorgen (2016)
SO C Eric Tyler (2016)

It’s amazing that JR C Luke Lowery can be considered a prospect at all with swing-and-miss in his game. Through two seasons at East Carolina the burly catcher has managed to have two productive offseason seasons (.304/.347/.489 and .287/.321/.400) while striking out 6.5 times per every walk (12 BB/78 K). If his largely successful first two collegiate years doesn’t underscore the importance of power, then I’m not sure what other proof is necessary. The approach is still concerning enough for me that I can’t overlook it (and I have some doubts about his glove as well), but teams that dig the long ball could be swayed by his above-average to plus raw power, physicality, and underrated athleticism. JR OF Garrett Brooks could be on the verge of something, but after two highly underwhelming seasons I’m no longer sure what that something will look like. He’s got pro-caliber tools packed into his strong 5-9, 200 pound frame, but the results so far haven’t been pretty. SR SS/2B Hunter Allen lacks Brooks’ physical gifts, but a better present hit tool, solid approach, and steady glove could make him a sneaky late senior sign.

SR LHP Reid Love is a good athlete with enough fastball (88-91) to do good things (3.02 ERA in 80.1 IP last year), but he’ll have to miss more bats (4.48 K/9) to become a real draft threat. rJR RHP David Lucroy has a long draft history, so this season is hardly a make-or-break campaign for him. It is, however, a prime opportunity to flash the kind of big arm (often up to mid-90s, has touched 97/98 in past) that has made him famous as an amateur. His impressive first season (10.45 K/9) is likely still on the minds of those who saw him, and a return to that level (rather than the 5.77 K/9 of last year) should make him a premium (top ten to fifteen round) selection.