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Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Miami in 2016
18 – Braxton Garrett
184 – Thomas Jones
377 – Chad Smith
466 – Jarett Rindfleisch
471 – Sean Reynolds
479 – Eric Gutierrez
1.7 – LHP Braxton Garrett
Time will tell, of course, but the Miami 2016 MLB Draft class looks really thin on paper. Thankfully for fans of the Marlins, the MLB Draft — all drafts, really — can be analyzed until we’re blue in the face, but, more often than not, can ultimately be assessed as no more than a simple first pick pass/fail. If you hit on your first pick, then you’ve passed almost regardless of what transpires later. From this vantage point, it sure as heck looks like the Marlins have hit on their first round pick. Braxton Garrett (18) is a serious talent with true top of the rotation upside. He’s exactly the kind of high impact prospect that can make a draft. Garrett doesn’t have the velocity (87-92, 94 peak) that blows hitters away (yet), but he more than makes up for it with some of the best command you’ll find out of a teenage arm anywhere in the world. Garrett also have above-average control, tons of pitchability, and a pair of stellar offspeed pitches that include a legit plus curveball best in the low-80s and a mid-80s changeup that is already an average pitch with above-average to plus upside. There’s a reason ESPN compared the guy to both Jon Lester and Cole Hamels this past spring. Two additional names that I’ve heard include Rich Hill and Steven Matz. That’s a heck of a list of comps, something that ought to come as no surprise as Garrett is a heck of a prospect.
3.84 – OF Thomas Jones
After getting a deal done with Vanderbilt commit Braxton Garrett in the first round, Miami ensured they’d stay off Tim Corbin’s Christmas card list by by signing Thomas Jones (184) away from the Commodores in round three. Vandy’s loss is the Marlins gain as Jones checks just about every box you’d want to see in a young outfield prospect. He can run (above-average), throw (above-average), and hit for power (plus raw). Like any teenage position player there’s a big gap between what he is and what he could be, but favorable comps ranging from Devon White (Perfect Game), 39th overall pick Anfernee Grier (my own), and Carlos Gomez (heard this from a pro guy over the summer) are certainly intriguing.
4.113 – OF Sean Reynolds
The good news here is that my pre-draft positional designation of RHP/1B for Sean Reynolds undersold his athleticism and arm strength. Despite being a big guy (6-7, 200), he’s good enough in the outfield to project as a solid right fielder going forward. Reynolds is also still just a teenager (19 in April) who is only now focusing on hitting full-time for the first time in his life. He also has a quality fastball (85-90, 92 peak) and that aforementioned size to fall back on as a pitcher if hitting doesn’t work out in the long run. That leads us to the bad news. In his debut, Reynolds hit .155/.262/.196 with 37.0 K% and 12.7 BB% in 173 PA. That’s not the end of the world, but it does highlight some of the red flags I had heard pre-draft about Reynolds as a hitter, mainly the standard long-levers leading to big holes in his swing theory and general power over hit worries.
5.143 – RHP Sam Perez
On Sam Perez from March 2016…
Sam Perez could work as a sinker/slider reliever, but I’m more intrigued at the thought of him as a potential four-pitch starting pitcher capable of piling up outs on the ground.
Perez wound up being one of the rare college sinker/slider types (88-92 two-seam with plus sink/average or better slider) who didn’t produce expected results (45.16 GB% in his debut) after signing. Somewhat curious for a pitcher with “lots of ground balls” in his scouting notes. Still, Perez is a really capable pitcher who is clever on the mound when it comes to mixing that fastball, slider, average low-80s changeup, and average upper-70s curve. He’s a decent bet as a fifth starter type with some swingman upside out of the pen.
6.173 – RHP Remey Reed
The Marlins are known for loving their Oklahoma and Texas prospects, so taking the plunge with Remey Reed in round six is something that makes all the sense in the world. His fastball can get up to 94 MPH and he’ll throw an average or better changeup. That and the possibility of a better breaking ball coming together — he’s thrown both a slider and curve in the past — plus imposing size (6-5, 225), a big junior year as a Cowboy (11.22 K/9), and a name perfectly suited for middle relief all add to the appeal. Though I realize I’m starting to sound like a broken record, this one feels a bit early to me.
7.203 – OF Corey Bird
Fairly straightforward package here with Corey Bird: above-average to plus speed that plays up, elite center field defense, solid contact skills, patient approach, and literally no power. I won’t say that last part completely invalidates all the good that came before it, but…well, it kind of does. I appreciate what Bird does well and can see him carving out a big league role for himself if literally everything goes right in his development, but what’s his realistic upside? Fifth outfielder?
8.233 – OF Aaron Knapp
On Aaron Knapp from April 2016…
Aaron Knapp fascinates me as an athlete with easy center field range and impact speed, but with such little power that the profile might wind up shorting before he even gets a real chance in pro ball.
Remember what we said about Corey Bird one round earlier? It all applies to Aaron Knapp, too. Love the athleticism, speed, and range, but can’t see a guy with such little pop making serious noise in the pros. Knapp might be a good enough natural hitter to adjust somewhat, but it’s a long shot proposition. Marlins could have some fun backup outfielders soon, though. At least there’s that.
9.263 – C Jarett Rindfleisch
All Jarett Rindfleisch (466) did for three years at Ball State was hit. I like guys like that. He’s a capable defender behind the dish with a strong arm and the athleticism to stick. Likely a backup catcher ceiling, but could be a good one.
10.293 – LHP Dylan Lee
Dylan Lee is a more than acceptable senior-sign in the tenth round. Big lefties with velocity (88-93 FB) will always have a place in pro ball. Again, I’m not sure you’re getting anything more than a bullpen arm (sub in bench piece for the hitters), but that’s better than nothing. If you’re picking up on the fact I just don’t like this draft at all and I’m trying to be as nice as I can about it, you’re on to something.
11.323 – RHP Chad Smith
A draft pick spent on Chad Smith (377) is one made entirely with upside in mind. What Smith is — a one-pitch reliever with control woes — is nowhere near what he could be. The finished product could be a starting pitcher with three quality pitches and decent enough command to make it all work. The big selling point for Smith is his fastball, an explosive 90-95 MPH (97 peak) pitch that hitters can know is coming and still swing through. That pitch alone could get him to the high-minors. Certainly Smith and the Marlins have larger aspirations than that, and it’ll take improving his two present below-average offspeed pitches — an appealing yet inconsistent low-80s breaking ball that presently flashes both plus and minus in seemingly equal turns and a changeup that’s just sort of there — to get there. The gap between now and then is larger for Smith than most prospects coming out of a major college program like Ole Miss, but as far as lumps of clay go he’s a really interesting one to work with.
12.353 – RHP Mike King
Whenever I have something I think is interesting from the past to bring up when discussing a player’s future, I do so. Even when I’m saying dumb stuff like this excerpt from my Boston College preview back in December 2015…
For as much as I personally like [Justin] Dunn, others have JR RHP Mike King as Boston College’s top prospect (pitching or otherwise) heading into 2016. Frankly, it’s hard to argue. I mean, I had planned to do just that in this very space, but have mentally backtracked before I even got the chance to start. King has a solid heater (88-92, 93 peak), above-average low-80s changeup, and outstanding overall command. If one of his two breaking pitches sharpens up, then he’s a threat to crash the top five rounds just like Dunn. If you’re keeping score, I’d give the advantages of command, control, frame, and track record to King. It also shouldn’t be discounted that his name sounds like “viking” when said quickly. Dunn gets the edge in fastball velocity, all-around bat-missing stuff (this is double-counting his fastball some, but I’d say his slider is more of a strikeout pitch than King’s change, even while acknowledging that they are both more or less equally effective pitches) and athleticism. I’ll stick with the claim that both have top five round upside, but hedge some and say it’s more likely they wind up in the six to ten round range, where they’d be potential steals. Bonus prediction: Dunn gets drafted higher this June, but King winds up the (slightly) better long-term professional player.
I’m going to slowly walk away from that “(slightly) better long-term professional player” remark if it’s all the same to you. King might not have had the junior year bump — both in stuff and performance — as Dunn, but he’s still a solid get in the twelfth round. All of the things that made King a potential single-digit round prospect one year ago hold true today. He’s got pinpoint command, a quality sinker, and a fine assortment of offspeed pitches (79-83 CU, 80-85 cut-SL, 72-76 CB) that he can go to in any count. His best bet to make it at this point might be by embracing the sinker/slider/command aspects of his game in relief, though I still hold out a tiny sliver of hope that his well-rounded game could play as a starter.
14.418 – RHP Michael Mertz
I don’t like saying stuff like this because there’s an implication associated with it that I don’t care for (e.g., deficiencies in makeup, intelligence, work ethic), but Michael Mertz feels like one of those players who should be better than he is. It sounds like a bad thing — and, on balance, I suppose it is — but it’s actually a compliment to Mertz as a player. He’s really talented. He could see it all come together one day. It just hasn’t happened just yet.
The talent with Mertz begins with his outstanding mid-70s changeup, one of the best of its kind in this class. He also throws a really good 78-83 slider that can flash plus and a decent fastball at 88-92 (94 peak). What hurts him most is an inability to consistently command his breaking ball and an overall lack of control. If pro instruction can tighten up those two problem spots even a little, then the Marlins might have something with Mertz.
15.443 – SS James Nelson
James Nelson is a fascinating prospect that flew very much under my radar prior to the draft. Off the top, his given name of James is what he’s listed at just about everywhere, but he prefers to go by Ryan, his middle name. So Ryan Nelson it is. Ryan Nelson hit .434/.468/.796 with 14 BB/43 K in his freshman season at Cisco College. That’s really impressive even with the BB/K red flag staring us in the face. Of course, as we always try to remember, context matters: the Cisco team as a whole hit .388/.461/.634 in 2016. That’s incredible. Still, nobody was out there getting those hits for Nelson but Nelson himself, so that has to count for something; I’d rather have a guy hit big on a team with inflated offensive numbers than a guy not hit big on a team with inflated offensive numbers. Bold take, I know. Nelson’s draft day announcement had him called out as a shortstop, but he played every inning in his pro debut at third. Said pro debut went pretty well: .284/.344/.364 with 14 BB/30 K in 162 AB looks good to me. Remember what we said about how context matters? Those numbers look even better when you consider that Nelson was very young for his class. Even after a full year of college, Nelson played his entire pro debut at just 18-years-old. That makes him a full six months younger than prep to pros 2016 first round pick Blake Rutherford.
Put it all together and you’ve got a young infielder capable of playing the left side who has already been drafted twice (18th round by Boston in 2015) coming off a great yet flawed junior college season and a pro debut that showed growth in some of his seemingly weaker offensive areas. Having known little to nothing about Ryan Nelson as of about ten minutes ago, I can now say that he officially has my attention. Any port in the storm that is this year’s Marlins draft class.
16.473 – RHP Dustin Beggs
If you liked Mike King, then you’ll like Dustin Beggs. Both are highly competitive college righthanders from power conferences who get by more on the strength of stellar command, control, and guile than overwhelming stuff. Beggs doesn’t have enough fastball (87-91) to get picked by everybody, but Miami will happily bank on his well-rounded repertoire of offspeed pitches (upper-70s CB, low-80s SL, CU) and pitching acumen carrying him beyond what the grade on his heater would suggest. Only Ryan Nelson has interrupted the Marlins going with a different college pitcher archetype with every other pick here: Smith (intriguing stuff, iffy command), King (huge command, decent stuff), Mertz (intriguing stuff, iffy command), and Beggs (huge command, decent stuff). If the pattern holds then the Marlins will draft an intriguing stuff/iffy command guy next…
17.503 – RHP Brent Wheatley
Brent Wheatley isn’t quite the same type of intriguing stuff/iffy command guy the Marlins drafted in rounds eleven and fourteen, but he’s pretty close. He’s got size (6-4, 210), a long college track record that includes both good (9.71 K/9 as a senior) and bad (5.77 BB/9 and 6.03 ERA that same year), and solid stuff (88-93 FB, 82 cut-SL, 74-75 CB, 80 CU) that plays down due to his inability to throw consistent quality strikes. Unlike Chad Smith and Michael Mertz, I’m not sure the upside with Wheatley is quite high enough to warrant the longer than ideal developmental time likely required to turn him around, but we’ll see.
18.533 – C David Gauntt
Three really great years in a row at Washburn got David Gauntt noticed by Miami in round eighteen in 2016. An awesome senior year (.353/.518/.739 – 44 BB/45 K – 11/12 SB – 184 AB) helped boost his college career stats to an outstanding .304/.452/.611 lifetime mark. Also noteworthy are Gauntt’s career HBP totals (51 in 578 AB) and stolen base rate (21/25). Since I don’t have much on Gauntt beyond the numbers and it’s been a while since we’ve done one of these fun little “Where were you when it happened?” moments…
“I was in the middle of Walmart with my girlfriend, and when they called me we both got really happy and probably turned a couple heads,” Gauntt said. “People in the store probably thought we were crazy.”
Love that stuff.
19.563 – LHP Shane Sawczak
Here’s what Shane Sawczak did at Coastal Carolina in 2015, Palm Beach State in 2016, and his professional debut this past summer…
5.50 K/9 and 3.67 BB/9 in 54.0 IP
9.66 K/9 and 3.47 BB/9 in 59.2 IP
7.02 K/9 and 4.42 BB/9 in 34.2 IP
Nothing particularly interesting about those numbers, but I looked them up from three different places so you can be damn sure I was going to use them. This is what you do when you don’t know much else about a team’s nineteenth round pick.
20.593 – 1B Eric Gutierrez
It’s tough out there for righthanded hitting first base prospects lacking the classic size/strength profile of the position. Eric Gutierrez (479) will continue his attempt at being the exception to the rule in pro ball. From March 2015…
Texas Tech JR 1B/LHP Eric Gutierrez is one of my favorite power hitters in a class desperately in need of some good ones. Some teams might be turned off than his less than ideal frame (5-10, 205), but so long as he keeps mashing he has a better than average shot to hear his name called in a signable range this June.
A year later and now much changed with Gutierrez. He returned to Lubbock and had a monster senior season .333/.465/.581 with 42 BB/37 K in 234 AB), but questions about his long-term pro utility remain. You can hit and hit and hit, but sometimes being a 5-10, 200 pound righthanded hitting first baseman is too much to overcome. I still like the pick as Gutierrez should at least provide value as an org bat with some lefty-mashing bench upside.
21.623 – SS Luis Pintor
Miami presumably saw fifteenth round pick Ryan Nelson and twenty-first round pick Luis Pintor square off on May 13, 2016 as Nelson’s Cisco College squad squared up against New Mexico JC in the same town (Lubbock, Texas) that twentieth round pick Eric Gutierrez played his college home games at Texas Tech. That all has to mean something, right? Anyway, Pintor hit a single and scored a run in five at bats. Nelson…didn’t play. Probably should have checked that first before writing that opener, huh? Pintor’s 1 for 5 outing dragged down his season line all the way to .389/.484/.730 with 35 BB/26 K and 32/36 SB in 211 AB. His New Mexico JC team as a whole hit .377/.475/.691 on the season, so, you know, context. Still, Pintor hit a bunch in college and hit pretty well in his debut, so my interest is piqued. If you can squeeze out one potential utility player out of him and Nelson, that’s a win.
22.653 – RHP Alex Mateo
I don’t have much on Alex Mateo. Him winding up at Nova Southeastern by way of Point Park University in Pittsburgh, a school I don’t recall ever mentioning on this site before, is pretty interesting. Good but not great final year numbers at Nova Southeastern (7.69 K/9 and 2.16 BB/9) are a little less interesting. I got nothing.
23.683 – RHP Hunter Wells
Back-to-back picks where I’m bringing little to no scouting notes to the table. I’m clearly losing my touch. Hunter Wells out of Gonzaga had a decent junior year (9.13 K/9 and 4.63 BB/9 in 68.0 IP) with the Zags. He wasn’t as successful in his limited pro debut (4.50 K/9 and 3.21 BB/9 in 14.0 IP). That’s all I’ve got.
24.713 – SS JJ Gould
JJ Gould is a fun utility prospect with experience at second, short, and third and a nice power/patience blend at the plate. There’s probably too much swing-an-miss in his game to keep climbing the ladder barring a real chance in approach, but what he does well is interesting enough to warrant a twenty-fourth round shot all the same.
25.743 – 2B Mike Garzillo
I’ve seen a good amount of Mike Garzillo over the years. He’s not quite a JJ Gould clone, but the back-to-back college middle infielders share a lot of similar traits. On Garzillo from February 2016…
Garzillo has more tools than you’d expect out of a typical Patriot Leaguer, so it’s expected that his speed, arm strength, and pop should get him drafted as a senior-sign even if he doesn’t clean up his approach this spring.
And then again from May 2016…
We know what Mike Garzillo is by now as a draft prospect: real power, useful speed, a strong arm, and a “grip it and rip it” approach. It’s not my favorite profile, but there’s a place for it in pro ball.
Power and patience for a price (strikeouts) in addition to solid speed and arm strength give Garzillo a shot to make something of himself as a utility player if he can be trusted enough to play on the left side defensively.
26.773 – C Gunner Pollman
Gunner Pollman has outstanding arm strength, well above-average accuracy, a lightning quick release, and nimble footwork behind the plate. He also can’t hit even a little. Feels like a decent fit for an organization that employed Jeff Mathis the past four seasons.
27.803 – RHP Parker Bugg
It’s never quite this simple, but Parker Bugg’s success/failure in the pros always felt like it would come down to his ability to keep the ball on the ground with his sinker/slider combo playing up thanks to his 6-6, 210 pound frame giving him plenty of extension. Very early pro returns (34.74 GB%) are not super encouraging. He still has a long way to go, so we’ll see.
28.833 – 1B Colby Lusignan
Colby Lusignan is pretty much what you’d expect out of a 6-4, 230 pound lefthanded slugger from a Division II school like Lander: lots of power, lots of walks, lots of strikeouts. He mashed as a 23-year-old in the GCL but struggled in his small sample cameo in the slightly more age-appropriate NYPL. It’s an uphill battle for any first base only prospect, but I don’t hate betting on one with Lusignan’s type of power if you’re inclined to try.
29.863 – OF Walker Olis
Seeing a player put up big numbers at Pacific who completely flew under my radar confused me. As much as I like to pretend, I’m not all-knowing…but a guy hitting .415/.544/.711 with 44 BB/22 K and 28/29 SB is not one who typically escapes my attention. Finding out that Walker Olis put up those PlayStation numbers as a Pacific Boxer at a Division III school in Oregon and not as a Tiger in the West Coast Conference makes me feel a bit better for missing, but I’m still plenty intrigued about Olis’s brand of plus speed, advanced plate discipline, and sneaky pop.
31.923 – RHP Preston Guillory
Really nice pickup of a potential quick-moving middle reliever here in the thirty-first round with the selection of Preston Guillory of TCU. There’s no standout velocity or a go-to offspeed pitch here, but Guillory has enough (88-90 MPH heat, quality change, funky delivery) to consistently sit hitters down. I think he’s a big leaguer, thirty-first round pick or not.
32.953 – RHP Chevis Hoover
One of the coolest things about this whole draft review undertaking is getting to dive a little deeper into the backgrounds of prospects chosen in the later rounds. I had never heard of Chevis Hooper before two minutes ago (proof of that comes via the typo: his name is Chevis HOOVER not HOOPER) but now I’m genuinely pumped for his pro future. Chevis Hoover was a certified NAIA superstar in his senior year at Tennessee Wesleyan. He contributed both on the mound (11.87 K/9, 3.30 BB/9, and 3.13 ERA in 54.2 IP) and at the plate (.342/.435/.605 with 13 BB/18 K in 76 AB). With obvious athleticism and a fastball up to 94 MPH, Hoover is a pretty darn intriguing get this late. It’s a little reminiscent of something the Cardinals might have done. Needless to say, I approve.
33.983 – 1B Branden Berry
On Branden Berry from March 2016…
On the other end of the defensive spectrum is Branden Berry, the transfer from Washington. Berry’s early season offensive explosion may just be the case of an older guy picking on younger competition – his first three seasons were remarkably consistent in a good college player kind of way – but in a class thin on big bats, he could have scouts doing a double-take.
As is the case with most proper explosions, Berry’s turned out to be as brief as it was impressive. The Cal State Northridge slugger finished the year with a good but not great (in pro prospect terms; it’s a pretty great college season by any measure) .294/.403/.508 line with 22 BB/36 K. The bar is just so high for a first base prospect like Berry that it’s hard to think of him as much more than an org player at this stage. It is round thirty-three, though, so guess that makes sense.
34.1013 – LHP Trenton Hill
I liked Trenton Hill a bit more as a hitter than a pitcher, but I understand wanting to give a lefthander with size, athleticism, and deception a shot on the mound. If he can curb some of his wild ways, then his stuff (88-92 FB, 77-83 SL with promise) should keep him getting chances for years to come. Heck, as a low-90s lefty he’s got a shot to pitch forever even if he stays wild. Not for nothing, but Chevis Hoover, thirty-second round pick, was teammates with Hill at Lee in 2015.
35.1043 – 2B Matthew Brooks
Matthew Brooks was really good in his two years at Monroe College, assuming you agree that .353/.480/.538 with 58 BB/43 K and 29/39 SB in 275 AB is really good. His first shot at pro ball was a bit tougher, but those two good seasons are enough to give him one more go in 2017.
37.1103 – OF Zach Daly
The Marlins go back to Lander University to take Zach Daly because how else would you finish up a weak draft than driving me crazy with the small school double-dip? Daly comes with some pedigree as a former Tar Heel, but his impressive at first glance (.291/.397/.614 with 7/10 SB) senior season is undermined by a not insignificant plate discipline (24 BB/78 K) red flag.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Nick Eicholtz (Alabama), Garrett Suchey (Alabama), Matt Popowitz (Penn), Dustin Demeter (Hawaii), Caleb Scires (Navarro JC), Evan Douglas (Lewis-Clark)
On Sheldon Neuse before the season…
Neuse could still fulfill the promise many (myself included) saw in him during his excellent freshman season back when he looked like a potential Gold Glove defender at third with the kind of bat you’d happily stick in the middle of the order. He could also get more of a look this spring on the mound where he can properly put his mid-90s heat and promising pair of secondary offerings (SL, CU) to use. Or he could have something of a repeat of his 2015 season leaving us unsure how good he really is and thinking of him more of a second to fifth round project (a super talented one, mind you) than a first round prospect.
So far, so good on the whole fulfilling that promise thing: Neuse has hit .383/.483/.692 through 32 games with 23 BB/26 and 8/9 SB. On the mound, he’s been just as good: 16 K in 16.2 IP of 1.62 ERA ball. He’s now firmly back on the first round bubble and one of this draft’s quintessential first round talents that might get squeezed out of the top thirty or so picks because of the impressive depth at the top of this class.
There are plenty of candidates to wind up as the second highest drafted position player from the Big 12 come June. Ryan Sluder seemed primed to turn a big corner in his draft year, but it hasn’t happened for him. He still has a classic right fielder tool set – legit plus raw power, above-average to plus arm strength, a potent speed/strength blend – but his overly aggressive approach, which for all the world looked to be improving last season, holds him back. Then there’s his teammate with the Cowboys, Donnie Walton. Walton is pretty much exactly what you’d expect out of the son of a coach: there’s nothing flashy to his game, but he ably fields his position, runs well, and can make just about all the throws from short. It might be a utility player profile more so than a future regular ceiling, but it’s relatively safe and well worth a top ten round pick.
A pair of catchers could also wind up at or near the top of the Big 12 hitter rankings by the end of the season. I really, really like Michael Tinsley, a highly athletic lefthanded bat with impressive wheels and solid pop. Tres Barrera’s ordinary start – his approach has taken a big step back – knocks him down from his clear perch in the two spot to closer to the middle of the pack. Despite seeing some time at third base this year for the Longhorns, I still like him behind the plate over the long haul. His above-average raw power keeps him in the top ten round mix despite the aforementioned backslide in approach.
Tyler Neslony, the top returning position player prospect in the conference per this very site (he peaked at third CJ Hinojosa and Ben Johnson last year), is hurt by the strong likelihood that he’ll be confined to the corners as a pro. I still like his power and plate discipline combination as a mid- to late-round senior sign. Scouts who saw a lot of him during his awesome sophomore season will likely give him more of the benefit of the doubt than those in the national media who consider going fifty deep with a draft list an exhausting task.
Elliott Barzilli is off to a scorching start. He’s a fine athlete and a versatile defender in the infield. He’s as much of a threat of any of these players to follow Neuse off the board. Cory Raley is another extremely athletic infielder who can play any spot on the diamond. Raley’s start has not been nearly as impressive as Barzilli’s, but his speed and pop are awfully intriguing. When it comes to straight draft intrigue, few players in this class can match Oklahoma outfielder Cody Thomas. With Thomas you’d essentially be drafting a high school player in terms of experience and present skill levels, but the upside is very real. Size, athleticism, power, arm strength, speed…if he can hit, a significant if, then he’s a potential monster.
Jake Scudder, Jack Flansburg, and Ryan Merrill all stand out as players who will see big jumps on the next (and final) version of these rankings. I’m looking forward to learning more about all three.
I love the Big 12 pitchers this year because I’m a guy talking to himself in front of a computer and not one of the thirty scouting directors charged with actually finding an arm from this conference you’d feel confident about taking commensurate with their talent. There’s uncertainty everywhere you turn. Alec Hansen, who remains the best pitching prospect in the conference despite a dreadful first half of the season, exemplifies the boom/bust nature of the Big 12’s pitching. In fact, it even goes beyond boom/bust; the conference is loaded with players with huge stuff but limited track records and little to no extended periods of success.
Mitchell Traver has yet to pitch in 2016. Garrett Williams has barely pitched. Same for Chandler Eden. Jake Elliott and Ryan Moseley have both drastically underperformed. You could argue that my rankings are nonsense – again, these are more about the larger body of work and long-term projection than two months’ worth of 2016 results – but the list from one to six goes bad, injured, injured, good (thank you, Trey Cobb), injured, and bad. All of these players have their merits, of course. Traver is up to 96 with serious sink and a plus low- to mid-80s slider. Williams is a four-pitch lefty with an outstanding curve and one of the more unusually effective hard changeups in the college game. Eden can be effectively wild when actually on the mound. His plus fastball (90-95, 97 peak) and above-average to plus breaking ball (with an average change that could help convince some teams that he’s a starter professionally) are good enough to make hitters very uncomfortable. I had some friends come into the season armed and ready with a Jake Elliott is the better long-term prospect than Alec Hansen take. That talk has quieted down as Elliott’s start has just about equaled Hansen’s…and not in a good way. His arm talent is still really impressive: 86-92 FB (94 peak), average 75-80 breaking ball, and a 77-80 change that borders on plus.
The disappointments at the top of this class have opened the door for a few solid yet unspectacular names to barge through. There’s something to be said for consistently productive pitchers, after all. Daniel Castano is a lefthander with size, some present velocity (87-92), and a pair of offspeed pitches (78-83 CU and 72-76 CB) that could be average or better pitches at the pro level. Thomas Hatch isn’t a lefthander and doesn’t have that size, but he possesses more fastball (88-94, up to 96) and a similarly impressive mix of offspeed stuff (78-82 CU, 77-82 SL, 85-88 cutter). Brian Howard is an impossibly long and lean man (6-9, 185) who pounds the strike zone with a solid fastball (87-92, 94 peak) and cut-slider (anywhere from 81-88, flashes plus when firmer) combination that gets on hitters quick. Morgan Cooper appears to have bounced back nicely from the Tommy John surgery that cost him all of last season. He’s got the frame, command, and requisite three pitches (88-93 FB, low-70s CB that flashes plus, solid CU) to stick in a pro rotation.
- Oklahoma JR 3B/RHP Sheldon Neuse
- Kansas JR C Michael Tinsley
- Oklahoma State JR OF Ryan Sluder
- Oklahoma State SR SS/2B Donnie Walton
- Texas JR C/3B Tres Barrera
- TCU JR 3B/SS Elliott Barzilli
- Texas Tech SR OF Tyler Neslony
- Texas Tech rJR SS/2B Cory Raley
- Texas Tech JR OF Stephen Smith
- Baylor JR OF Darryn Sheppard
- Kansas JR OF Joven Afenir
- Oklahoma JR OF Cody Thomas
- Texas Tech SR 1B Eric Gutierrez
- Oklahoma State JR 1B/OF Dustin Williams
- Texas rSO SS/3B Bret Boswell
- Baylor rJR C Matt Menard
- Baylor rSO OF/LHP Kameron Esthay
- Kansas State JR 1B Jake Scudder
- Oklahoma JR 2B/3B Jack Flansburg
- Kansas rJR 1B Marcus Wheeler
- TCU JR SS Ryan Merrill
- Kansas State SR SS Tyler Wolfe
- Kansas State SR C Tyler Moore
- Texas JR OF/3B Zane Gurwitz
- Kansas SR 2B/SS Colby Wright
- TCU SR OF Nolan Brown
- Oklahoma SR OF Hunter Haley
- Kansas rSR OF Joe Moroney
- Oklahoma State rSO 3B Andrew Rosa
- Baylor SR 2B/3B West Tunnell
- Baylor JR C/1B Aaron Dodson
- Texas JR 1B/RHP Kacy Clemens
- TCU SR OF Dane Steinhagen
- Texas Tech rJR C Kholeton Sanchez
- TCU JR 2B Mason Hesse
- Oklahoma State SR OF Corey Hassell
- Oklahoma JR C Renae Martinez
- TCU JR 3B/2B Cam Warner
- West Virginia JR 1B/RHP Jackson Cramer
- West Virginia rSR OF KC Huth
- Texas Tech JR OF Anthony Lyons
- Kansas SR 2B/SS Tommy Mirabelli
- Kansas State rJR 2B/SS Jake Wodtke
- Baylor SR 2B/SS Justin Arrington
- Kansas State rJR 3B/C Steve Serratore
- Oklahoma State SR 2B Kevin Bradley
- Kansas State SR OF Clayton Dalrymple
- Texas Tech SR C Tyler Floyd
- Kansas rSR OF Steve Goldstein
- Oklahoma JR RHP Alec Hansen
- TCU rJR RHP Mitchell Traver
- Oklahoma State JR LHP Garrett Williams
- Oklahoma State JR RHP Trey Cobb
- Texas Tech JR RHP Chandler Eden
- Oklahoma JR RHP Jake Elliott
- Baylor JR LHP Daniel Castano
- Oklahoma State JR RHP Thomas Hatch
- Texas Tech JR RHP Ryan Moseley
- Oklahoma State JR RHP Remey Reed
- TCU JR RHP Brian Howard
- Texas rSO RHP Morgan Cooper
- Oklahoma State JR RHP Tyler Buffett
- TCU rSO LHP Ryan Burnett
- Baylor JR RHP Drew Tolson
- TCU rJR RHP Brian Trieglaff
- Oklahoma State rSR RHP/OF Conor Costello
- TCU JR RHP Mitch Sewald
- TCU JR LHP Rex Hill
- Texas Tech JR LHP Ty Damron
- Oklahoma State SR RHP Michael Mertz
- West Virginia rSO RHP Nick Wernke
- West Virginia SR RHP Blake Smith
- Oklahoma State JR RHP Blake Battenfield
- West Virginia SR RHP Jeff Hardy
- Kansas JR RHP Sean Rackoski
- West Virginia JR RHP Chad Donato
- Texas Tech JR LHP Hayden Howard
- Texas SR LHP Ty Culbreth
- Texas JR LHP Josh Sawyer
- TCU SR RHP Preston Guillory
- Kansas State rJR RHP Colton Kalmus
- Kansas SR RHP Hayden Edwards
- Oklahoma SR RHP Keaton Hernandez
- Kansas State SR RHP Levi MaVorhis
- Texas Tech SR RHP Dalton Brown
- Texas Tech JR LHP Dylan Dusek
- Oklahoma State rSO LHP Matt Wilson
- Oklahoma JR LHP Austin Kerns
- Kansas State JR LHP Jordan Floyd
- Oklahoma State SR LHP Alex Hackerott
- Kansas rSO RHP Jon Hander
- Kansas JR RHP Stephen Villines
- West Virginia rSR LHP Ross Vance
- Texas JR LHP Jon Malmin
- Texas SR LHP Travis Duke
- Kansas State SR RHP Corey Fischer
- Kansas SR LHP Ben Krauth
- Kansas State rSR RHP Lucas Benenati
JR LHP Daniel Castano (2016)
JR RHP Drew Tolson (2016)
JR RHP Nick Lewis (2016)
JR RHP Alex Phillips (2016)
rSO OF/LHP Kameron Esthay (2016)
SR 2B/3B West Tunnell (2016)
SR 2B/SS Justin Arrington (2016)
rJR C Matt Menard (2016)
rJR 3B Ben Carl (2016)
JR OF Darryn Sheppard (2016)
JR C/1B Aaron Dodson (2016)
rSO C/1B Cameron Miller (2016)
SO OF Levi Gilcrease (2017)
SO 3B Jonathan Ducoff (2017)
FR RHP Andrew McInvale (2018)
FR 2B Josh Bissonette (2018)
High Priority Follows: Daniel Castano, Drew Tolson, Kameron Esthay, West Tunnell, Justin Arrington, Matt Menard, Darryn Sheppard, Aaron Dodson, Cameron Miller
JR RHP Sean Rackoski (2016)
SR RHP Hayden Edwards (2016)
SR LHP Ben Krauth (2016)
rSO RHP Jon Hander (2016)
JR RHP Stephen Villines (2016)
SR RHP Sam Gilbert (2016)
JR RHP Tyler Davis (2016)
JR OF Joven Afenir (2016)
rSR OF Joe Moroney (2016)
rSR OF Steve Goldstein (2016)
SR 2B/SS Colby Wright (2016)
SR 2B/SS Tommy Mirabelli (2016)
SR 1B/3B Ryan Pidhaichuk (2016)
rJR 1B Marcus Wheeler (2016)
JR C Michael Tinsley (2016)
SO LHP Blake Weiman (2017)
SO LHP Ryan Jackson (2017)
SO RHP Ryan Ralston (2017)
SO SS/3B Matt McLaughlin (2017)
SO 1B Owen Taylor (2017)
SO C TJ Martin (2017)
FR RHP Jackson Goddard (2018)
FR RHP Zach Leban (2018)
FR INF Ty Denzer (2018)
FR OF Devin Foyle (2018)
FR 3B David Kyriacou (2018)
High Priority Follows: Sean Rackoski, Hayden Edwards, Ben Krauth, Jon Hander, Stephen Villines, Joven Afenir, Joe Moroney, Steve Goldstein, Colby Wright, Tommy Mirabelli, Marcus Wheeler, Michael Tinsley
rSR RHP Lucas Benenati (2016)
rJR RHP Colton Kalmus (2016)
SR RHP Corey Fischer (2016)
SR RHP Levi MaVorhis (2016)
JR LHP Jordan Floyd (2016)
SR RHP Brandon Erickson (2016)
SR OF Clayton Dalrymple (2016)
rJR 2B/SS Jake Wodtke (2016)
SR SS Tyler Wolfe (2016)
JR 1B Jake Scudder (2016)
rJR 3B/C Steve Serratore (2016)
SR C Tyler Moore (2016)
SR OF Danny Krause (2016)
FR RHP John Boushelle (2018)
FR RHP Jacob Ruder (2018)
FR C Josh Rolette (2018)
High Priority Follows: Lucas Benenati, Colton Kalmus, Corey Fischer, Levi MaVorhis, Jordan Floyd, Clayton Dalrymple, Jake Wodtke, Tyler Wolfe, Jake Scudder, Steve Serratore, Tyler Moore
JR RHP Alec Hansen (2016)
JR RHP Jake Elliott (2016)
SR RHP Keaton Hernandez (2016)
JR LHP Austin Kerns (2016)
JR 3B/RHP Sheldon Neuse (2016)
SR OF Hunter Haley (2016)
JR 1B Austin O’Brien (2016)
SR 1B/OF Alex Wise (2016)
JR C Renae Martinez (2016)
JR OF Cody Thomas (2016)
JR 2B/3B Jack Flansburg (2016)
SO 3B Quin Walbergh (2017)
SO 2B Kyle Mendenhall (2017)
FR RHP Jake Irvin (2018)
FR RHP Kyle Tyler (2018)
FR RHP Austin Hansen (2018)
FR RHP Connor Berry (2018)
FR RHP/1B Chris Andritsos (2018)
FR RHP/1B Ryan Madden (2018)
FR INF/RHP Thomas Hughes (2018)
FR C Domenic DeRenzo (2018)
FR OF Steele Walker (2018)
FR INF Cade Harris (2018)
FR 2B/SS Kyler Murray (2018)
FR C/OF Hunter Southerland (2018)
High Priority Follows: Alec Hansen, Jake Elliott, Keaton Hernandez, Austin Kerns, Sheldon Neuse, Hunter Haley, Renae Martinez, Cody Thomas, Jack Flansburg
Just five second year players and four in their last year of eligibility
rSR RHP/OF Conor Costello (2016)
JR RHP Remey Reed (2016)
JR LHP Garrett Williams (2016)
SR RHP Michael Mertz (2016)
JR RHP Tyler Buffett (2016)
JR RHP Trey Cobb (2016)
JR RHP Thomas Hatch (2016)
JR RHP Blake Battenfield (2016)
SR LHP Alex Hackerott (2016)
rSO LHP Matt Wilson (2016)
SR SS/2B Donnie Walton (2016)
JR OF Ryan Sluder (2016)
JR 1B/OF Dustin Williams (2016)
SR OF Corey Hassell (2016)
SR 2B Kevin Bradley (2016)
JR 2B JR Davis (2016)
JR C Collin Theroux (2016)
SR 3B/2B David Petrino (2016)
rSO 3B Andrew Rosa (2016)
SO LHP/OF Garrett McCain (2017)
SO 3B/1B Garrett Benge (2017)
SO SS/2B Jacob Chappell (2017)
SO OF Jon Littell (2017)
SO 1B Mason O’Brien (2017)
FR RHP Jensen Elliott (2018)
FR RHP Ben Leeper (2018)
FR C Collin Simpson (2018)
High Priority Follows: Conor Costello, Remey Reed, Garrett Williams, Michael Mertz, Tyler Buffett, Trey Cobb, Thomas Hatch, Blake Battenfield, Alex Hackerott, Matt Wilson, Donnie Walton, Ryan Sluder, Dustin Williams, Corey Hassell, Kevin Bradley, Collin Theroux, David Petrino, Andrew Rosa
rJR RHP Mitchell Traver (2016)
JR RHP Brian Howard (2016)
rSO LHP Ryan Burnett (2016)
SR RHP Preston Guillory (2016)
rJR RHP Brian Trieglaff (2016)
JR RHP Mitch Sewald (2016)
JR LHP Rex Hill (2016)
SR OF Dane Steinhagen (2016)
SR OF Nolan Brown (2016)
JR 3B/SS Elliott Barzilli (2016)
JR 3B/2B Cam Warner (2016)
JR 2B Mason Hesse (2016)
JR SS Ryan Merrill (2016)
SO 1B/OF Connor Wanhanen (2017)
SO C Evan Skoug (2017)
SO C Zack Plunkett (2017)
FR RHP/1B Luken Baker (2018)
FR RHP Devon Roedahl (2018)
FR RHP Sean Wymer (2018)
FR RHP Dalton Brown (2018)
FR LHP Dalton Horton (2018)
FR C/RHP Durbin Feltman (2018)
FR OF Ryan Johnson (2018)
FR OF Joshua Watson (2018)
High Priority Follows: Mitchell Traver, Brian Howard, Ryan Burnett, Preston Guillory, Brian Trieglaff, Mitch Sewald, Rex Hill, Dane Steinhagen, Nolan Brown, Elliott Barzilli, Cam Warner, Mason Hesse, Ryan Merrill
rSO RHP Morgan Cooper (2016)
JR LHP Josh Sawyer (2016)
SR LHP Ty Culbreth (2016)
SR LHP Travis Duke (2016)
JR LHP Jon Malmin (2016)
JR 1B/RHP Kacy Clemens (2016)
JR C/3B Tres Barrera (2016)
rSO SS/3B Bret Boswell (2016)
JR OF/3B Zane Gurwitz (2016)
SO RHP Kyle Johnston (2017)
SO RHP Connor Mayes (2017)
SO RHP Tyler Schimpf (2017)
SO RHP Jake McKenzie (2017)
rFR RHP Parker Joe Robinson (2017)
FR LHP Nick Kennedy (2017)
SO C Michael Cantu (2017)
SO OF Patrick Mathis (2017)
SO 2B/SS Joe Baker (2017)
SO SS/3B Travis Jones (2017)
rFR OF Kaleb Denny (2017)
FR RHP Nolan Kingham (2018)
FR RHP Beau Ridgeway (2018)
FR RHP/OF Chase Shugart (2018)
FR LHP James Nittoli (2018):
FR RHP Blake Wellmann (2018):
FR 3B/2B Kody Clemens (2018)
FR OF Tyler Rand (2018)
FR 3B Matt Schmidt (2018)
FR OF Brady Harlan (2018)
High Priority Follows: Morgan Cooper, Josh Sawyer, Ty Culbreth, Travis Duke, Jon Malmin, Kacy Clemens, Tres Barrera, Bret Boswell, Zane Gurwitz
JR RHP Chandler Eden (2016)
JR RHP Ryan Moseley (2016)
JR LHP Dylan Dusek (2016)
JR LHP Ty Damron (2016)
JR RHP Sean Thompson (2016)
JR LHP Hayden Howard (2016)
SR RHP Dalton Brown (2016)
SR OF Tyler Neslony (2016)
SR 1B Eric Gutierrez (2016)
SR OF Zach Davis (2016)
SR C Tyler Floyd (2016)
rJR SS/2B Cory Raley (2016)
rJR C Kholeton Sanchez (2016)
JR 3B Ryan Long (2016)
JR OF Stephen Smith (2016)
JR OF Hunter Hargrove (2016)
JR OF Anthony Lyons (2016)
SO LHP Jacob Patterson (2017)
SO RHP/OF Pat Mahomes (2017)
SO LHP/1B Parker Mushinski (2017)
SO SS/OF Tanner Gardner (2017)
SO SS Orlando Garcia (2017)
SO 2B Michael Davis (2017)
FR LHP Erikson Lanning (2018)
FR RHP Davis Martin (2018)
FR RHP Ty Harpeneau (2018)
FR RHP Ryan Shetter (2018)
FR LHP Steven Gingery (2018)
FR OF Cody Farhat (2018)
FR 2B/SS Trey Ochoa (2018)
High Priority Follows: Chandler Eden, Ryan Moseley, Dylan Dusek, Ty Damron, Hayden Howard, Dalton Brown, Tyler Neslony, Eric Gutierrez, Tyler Floyd, Cory Raley, Kholeton Sanchez, Stephen Smith, Hunter Hargrove, Anthony Lyons
rSO RHP Nick Wernke (2016)
SR RHP Blake Smith (2016)
rSR LHP Ross Vance (2016)
SR RHP Jeff Hardy (2016)
JR RHP Chad Donato (2016)
rSR OF KC Huth (2016)
rSO 2B Shaun Corso (2016)
JR 1B/RHP Jackson Cramer (2016)
SO RHP BJ Myers (2017)
SO RHP Conner Dotson (2017)
SO RHP Shane Ennis (2017)
SO 3B/OF Kyle Davis (2017)
SO OF Caleb Potter (2017)
FR RHP Braden Zarbnisky (2018)
FR RHP Tanner Campbell (2018)
FR RHP Michael Grove (2018)
FR 2B Cole Austin (2018)
FR C Ivan Vera (2018)
High Priority Follows: Nick Wernke, Blake Smith, Ross Vance, Jeff Hardy, Chad Donato, KC Huth, Shaun Corso, Jackson Cramer
Oklahoma JR C Chris Shaw
Texas Tech JR 1B Eric Gutierrez
Kansas JR 2B Colby Wright
Texas JR SS CJ Hinojosa
Oklahoma JR 3B Kolbey Carpenter
Texas JR OF Ben Johnson
Texas Tech JR OF Tyler Neslony
Kansas State SR OF Max Brown
Texas Christian JR LHP Alex Young
Texas Christian JR RHP Riley Ferrell
Texas Christian rSO RHP Mitchell Traver
Oklahoma rJR LHP Adam Choplick
Texas SR RHP Parker French
I normally start with the hitters here because I’m a creature of habit bound by my small-minded attempt at maintaining some semblance of consistent order in an otherwise chaotic world. Today we’re breaking that habit not because of personal growth, but simply because the pitching in the Big 12, most notably at TCU, is worth talking about. I’m way late to the party, I know, but the collection of arms they have in Fort Worth is something to be celebrated.
Oklahoma rJR LHP Adam Choplick is a 6-8, 260 pound lefthander who can reach the mid-90s and for whatever reason very little has been written about him nationally. My contribution to help remedy that: he’s really good. I’d love to know more about Texas SR RHP Parker French’s batted ball data. He has some serious worm-killing stuff (88-94 FB with sink, 97 peak; good 78-84 CU with sink; good mid-80s cut-SL) and has succeeded over the years without striking out a ton of hitters. That last bit is a tad worrisome because pro hitters are not college hitters, but if he can be a 60% groundball guy in the pros then who knows.
Oklahoma State is loaded in its own right with draft-eligible pitchers. rJR RHP/OF Conor Costello has the depth of stuff to start and the athleticism to repeat his delivery through long outings. He’s also a decent enough hitter that letting him start in the National League could lead to some fun at bats. JR RHP Koda Glover uses a 92-95 MPH fastball and intriguing offspeed stuff (no, that’s not just that code that I need more info on him…except I do, which must be an incredible coincidence) to miss bats at a high rate. SO RHP Trey Cobb comes from a star-studded Oklahoma high school class with a sinker/slider mix that should keep him employed for a long time. SR RHP Jon Perrin could be a good bang for your buck as a potential fifth starter/middle relief type available on the cheap come drat day.
I’ve written all that (and my brief note on Choplick, can’t forget that beauty) while totally forgetting I’ve covered Kansas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State already. So, read those if you want more on any of those schools. I think we’ve waited long enough to finally get to the main event that is Texas Christian University. They might not be able to match Vanderbilt in terms of pure ceiling (Buehler and Fulmer are tough to beat), but their balance of star power, hard throwers, polished veterans, and Preston Morrison (he gets his own category) is special.
I think you almost need to find a rare three-headed coin to determine the best pitcher from TCU (and thus the best in the conference) between JR LHP Alex Young, JR RHP Riley Ferrell, and rSO RHP Mitchell Traver. All three guys fit nice neat little archetypes, so they make for a fun and relatively easy group to discuss. Young is the sure-fire starter going forward with a legit classic four-pitch mix (FB, CU, CB, SL), average overall command (above-average FB command, which is nice) and solid athleticism/size. He’s also put up numbers since day one on campus (8.41 K/9 in 2013, 8.37 K/9 in 2014), so there’s not too much need to project some kind of crazy unrealistic future where he turns into something that he’s not. The delta between his ceiling and floor is a tiny one as at his best he’s probably a mid-rotation workhorse and at his worst he figures to be a fifth starter/bullpen weapon. He’d fit in as a really swell second or third pick for a team that would prefer to reach for the stars with their first rounder. He has to be on the short list as one of the “safest” draft prospects or “quickest movers” to the big leagues. Ferrell is the future back end of the bullpen stalwart with closer upside. Like Young (and most big-time college relief prospects) Ferrell has a small gap between his dream scenario (elite closer) and his most likely scenario (good reliever who gets to the big leagues in a hurry). Also like Young, Ferrell’s track record at TCU is impeccable; with a trail of missed bats lying in his wake (11.02 K/9 in 2013, 13.90 K/9 in 2014, 14.50 K/9 so far this year), what you see is what you get. At his best he’s in the upper-90s with the heat and a plus mid-80s slider as the putaway pitch; at his less than best (like, say, on the second half of a back-to-back), his fastball sits low-90s with a slider that flashes but doesn’t have quite the same shape. I think he likely will fall in somewhere between last year’s top two relievers, Nick Burdi (pick 46) and Michael Cederoth (pick 79), were drafted last year. That seems fair for now. Traver is the wild card. His health has held up so far this year and his stuff has been as advertised. If you can’t get excited for a 6-7, 250 pound capable of hitting the mid-90s (90-94, 96 peak) with a plus mid-80s slider and a usable changeup who is finally healthy after missing the better part of two seasons with arm injuries (Tommy John back in 2013 did a number on him), then you’re reading the wrong site. I’ve gotten an interesting range of comps for Traver including a solid starter (Gil Meche), a quality reliever (Nick Masset), and a personal favorite of mine that will go down as a starting member of the what could have been team (Dustin McGowan). I like to occasionally look a comparison cousins, my lame turn of phrase for two prospects connected by being once compared to the same player. The only other time I’ve used a Dustin McGowan comp was when it was mentioned to me last year as a possible outcome for Tyler Kolek. That’s…interesting.
Those are the top names at TCU, but far from the only ones. SO LHP Tyler Alexander is a potential back of the rotation starter who has good stuff with excellent command. rSO RHP Brian Trieglaff can get it up to 94, SR LHP Travis Evans throws three pitches for strikes (including a good breaking ball), and rSR RHP Trey Teakell is an outstanding senior sign with the size (6-5, 175), repertoire (87-92 FB, low-80s CU, upper-70s CB, hard splitter), and, big shocker, sterling track record to warrant top ten round consideration. Finally we get to SR RHP Preston Morrison, college baseball’s weirdest pitcher. Morrison gets results with a mid-80s fastball with serious sink and a variety of offspeed offerings (72-74 CB, 69-74 SL, 76-81 CU) that comes in from a funky sidearm but not quite sidearm angle. I rule nothing out when it comes to Morrison’s pro future, though I think a middle relief ceiling as a guy who gives hitters a totally different look from most big league relievers feels like a fair best case scenario right now.
I’m still holding out hope that we see Oklahoma JR C Chris Shaw get going on the big stage, especially after the tremendous power displays he put on after relatively slow starts the past two seasons in junior college. Truthfully, the question as to whether or not he’ll hit for power isn’t a debate; Shaw’s success or failure going forward will be determined by the adjustments in approach he is able to make. He’s always been a touch too aggressive for his own good, but his power could mask some of the deficiencies he’s shown at lower-levels. More experienced arms will keep exploiting the holes in his approach unless he makes some changes. The power alone still makes him a high follow, but much of the optimism I felt in January has eroded under the rocky shores of reality.
I won’t move Shaw off the top spot out of a combination of wanting to keep these lists consistent with my pre-season thoughts and the prospect of him still having high-level power at the next level, but one of the two Cowboys right behind him would give him a run for his money in a revised ranking. I wish SR C/OF Gage Green was more of a sure thing to stay behind the plate because his offensive game has shown a lot of growth over the years. I also really like SR C Bryan Case, the much better glove of the two, though he’s a tough player to fairly judge due to his lack of playing time. When given a chance to play he’s hit, so I think there’s something there. After a bit more thought, I’d say that Oklahoma JR C Anthony Hermelyn would also be right up there near the top of this list in a re-ranking. His hit tool is interesting, he has a strong defensive profile with no doubts about his arm strength (been clocked as high as 94 MPH off the mound), and his plate discipline is trending in the right direction. All in all, not a bad group of catchers
Texas Tech JR 1B/LHP Eric Gutierrez is one of my favorite power hitters in a class desperately in need of some good ones. Some teams might be turned off than his less than ideal frame (5-10, 205), but so long as he keeps mashing he has a better than average shot to hear his name called in a signable range this June. Kansas State rSR 1B/LHP Shane Conlon has always intrigued me due to his reasonable power upside, average speed, and plus glove. It’s a a fun profile and one I hope we get a chance to keep following in pro ball.
Kansas JR 2B/SS Colby Wright has been a baseball magnet this season (11 HBP in 65 official AB!). I liked his pop, patience, and glove combination coming into the year, and nothing has moved me off that as of yet. I think he’s the best of a lackluster group of Big 12 second basemen. At shortstop it’s still Texas JR SS/3B CJ Hinojosa’s top spot to lose. Much has been written on these very pages already about Hinojosa, so I’ll spare you any needless rehashing and just leave you with my Marco Scuatro comp and call it a day. Almost. We’re now far enough along with the season (20 games in already, time flies), so it’s silly for me to keep pretending that these are strictly previews and not, at least in part, ongoing assessments. The rankings are more or less unchanged from where I stood pre-season, but I do try to pepper the commentary with some updates where applicable. Hinojosa’s slow start (.197/.337/.310) is notable, though it’s a) only 71 AB, and b) not as bad when you look at some underlying numbers (most notably 14 BB/11 K). I’m a little bit concerned and would consider dropping him in future overall prospect rankings, but he still is a good prospect with top five round upside.
Texas Tech rSO SS/2B Cory Raley could be a fascinating utility player prospect with the chance for more. He has the ability to be really good at second and playable at short with enough speed, athleticism, and size to buy him time as he figures out how to hit. So far so good as hitter for Raley this winter, so consider me sufficiently intrigued at what now appears to be a lower than deserved ranking. I also have to mention TCU rJR SS Keaton Jones, a player so good with the glove that he’ll get drafted almost no matter what he does at the plate this spring. The fact that he’s more than holding his own as a hitter for the first time collegiately is icing on the mid-round cake. I’m glad I went with Oklahoma JR 3B Kolbey Carpenter as the conference’s top third baseman. He impressed all those I talked to last spring with his power upside and steady glove, so it’s nice to see him off to a hot start this season. Like second base, however, it’s worth noting that he’s the best of a very thin group of potential future pros. That in no way detracts from his underrated play, of course. I have a good intuitive feeling about Carpenter as a draft prospect.
The outfield is where things get really interesting in the Big 12. I know I say this about so many prospects that it probably renders the distinction meaningless, but Texas JR OF Ben Johnson has to be one of this year’s draft’s most fascinating prospects. Johnson’s name has come up over and over again so far this season as a tooled-up prospect finally turning into a deeply skilled player. Or so I thought. All of the chatter over Johnson excited me because I had assumed he was finally doing the things that he’ll need to do to be a better pro. Full disclosure: I haven’t gotten any updates about him this season (since the fall) from anybody I know who has seen him and (I’M NOT A SCOUT) I’ve only personally seen him twice this year on the tube. So I’m not working with all the needed info to make any overarching statements that should be taken as fact. I’m just theorizing that maybe college analysts (and perhaps certain pro scouting staffs that weigh projection significantly ahead of production [they aren’t wrong for this, by the way]) are getting a little ahead of themselves in proclaiming this to be the start of Johnson’s ascension to day one of the 2015 MLB Draft. Johnson has been absolutely phenomenal this season by most every measure: .432/.463/.659 is damn good work in 88 at bats. Maybe he’s made adjustments as a hitter that the public will hear about as some of the best prospect writers begin doing some digging. Maybe (hopefully) I’ll hear something from one of my contacts sooner rather than later that brings some good news on his outburst. Until then, however, I think Ben Johnson is just doing Ben Johnson things. I won’t say that I anticipated this kind of start, but his numbers aren’t out of line with what you’d expect from a player with his kind of tools at the college level. It’s not crazy to say that he, like about a dozen or so players in this and every class, is too physically gifted for the college game. Johnson is a pro-level glove in center with an average or better arm, average or better raw power, and, most interestingly, the kind of jaw-dropping athleticism and game-changing speed that puts the whole package over the top.
Again, Johnson is putting up a ridiculous .432/.463/.659 line so far this year. That’s really great. With only 2 walks to 12 strikeouts, however, I’m not sure how all his considerable offensive gifts will continue to play as he climbs the ladder. For all the positives he brings to the table he still looks like a very high potential pick since athletes like him often provide value well beyond what they do at the plate (running, defending, you get it). That relatively high floor makes Johnson extra appealing; using a supplemental first, second, or third round pick on him is not likely to completely blow up in your face simply because he’s almost too damn athletic to do nothing. On the off chance he puts it together, watch out. If that paragraph reads like I’m hedging my bets on him, then you’re on the right track.
Hot start or not, I still lump Johnson in with fellow toolsy outfield peers like Florida JR OF Harrison Bader and Clemson JR OF Steven Duggar for the moment. Just because those guys rank 5-6-7 (further down if you consider any of Ian Happ, Richie Martin, or BC’s Chris Shaw outfielders) on my “current” (as current as anything draft-related can be that’s three weeks old) college outfield list does not mean I view them as ordinary, mid-round prospects. I didn’t write nearly enough about last year’s draft than I would have liked, but I’ll say this without the benefit of hindsight (not that a few weeks of pro ball should change anybody’s mind about anybody): I’d take this year’s toolsy outfielders above any college outfielder from last year with the exception of Michael Conforto, Bradley Zimmer, Mike Papi, and maybe (if he’s really an OF, which I’m still unsure of) Connor Joe. That’s above last year’s 37th overall pick, Derek Fisher, for what it’s worth.
In other non-Ben Johnson Big 12 outfield news, Texas Tech JR OF Tyler Neslony’s positive approach and power upside make him a strong bat worth knowing. His plate discipline has backed up a bit since last year here in the early going, so almost all caveats with such players apply. Same with Kansas State SR OF Max Brown, a rare senior sign that doubles as one of the draft’s finer physical specimens. The 6-5, 200 pound plus runner showed well in limited at bats last year, but, stop me if you’ve heard this before, his approach at the plate needs significant work. A crazy argument could be made that he might be the most valuable draft property of the three already mentioned Big 12 outfielders based solely on his talent (below Johnson to be sure, but he’s no slouch), projected round (no idea, but I’d be surprised if it was all that high), and potential bonus demands (no leverage).
The only draft-eligible outfielder listed below having an above-average season by my measures – I mean, Johnson clearly is and I’m being way too hard on him so pay no mind to the only part – is Oklahoma JR OF Craig Aikin, an above-average runner and glove with an interesting leadoff approach to hitting. Since we scratched the “only” from the previous sentence allow me to also recognize TCU SR OF Cody Jones as having a fine start to his 2015 season. He’s an even more interesting senior sign with his blazing speed, plus CF range, strong arm, and very selective approach. I don’t see enough power out of him to profile as more than a backup, but you could do worse when looking for a future speed and defense fourth or fifth outfielder.
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting
- Texas JR SS/3B CJ Hinojosa
- Texas JR OF Ben Johnson
- Texas Tech JR OF Tyler Neslony
- Kansas State SR OF Max Brown
- Oklahoma JR C Chris Shaw
- Oklahoma JR OF Hunter Haley
- Kansas SR OF/RHP Dakota Smith
- Oklahoma State JR SS/2B Donnie Walton
- Texas Tech JR 1B/LHP Eric Gutierrez
- Kansas rJR OF Steve Goldstein
- Kansas SR OF Connor McKay
- Oklahoma State SR C/OF Gage Green
- Oklahoma State SR C Bryan Case
- Kansas JR 2B/SS Colby Wright
- Texas Tech SR SS Tim Proudfoot
- Texas Christian SR OF Cody Jones
- Oklahoma JR 3B Kolbey Carpenter
- Oklahoma JR OF Craig Aikin
- Texas Christian JR OF Nolan Brown
- Texas SR OF Collin Shaw
- Texas Christian SR 3B/2B Derek Odell
- Kansas State rSR 1B/LHP Shane Conlon
- Oklahoma JR C/RHP Anthony Hermelyn
- Kansas State SR 2B/OF Carter Yagi
- Oklahoma State SR 2B/OF Tim Arakawa
- Texas SR 2B Brooks Marlow
- Kansas SR 2B/SS Justin Protacio
- Texas Tech rSO SS/2B Cory Raley
- Texas Christian JR 2B Garrett Crain
- Kansas rJR OF Joe Moroney
- Texas Tech JR C Kholton Sanchez
- Texas Tech JR C Tyler Floyd
- Baylor JR 1B Mitch Price
- Texas Tech SR 2B Bryant Burleson
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching
- Texas Christian JR LHP Alex Young
- Texas Christian JR RHP Riley Ferrell
- Texas Christian rSO RHP Mitchell Traver
- Oklahoma rJR LHP Adam Choplick
- Texas SR RHP Parker French
- Texas Tech JR RHP Matt Withrow
- Oklahoma State rJR RHP/OF Conor Costello
- Baylor SR RHP Austin Stone
- Oklahoma State JR RHP Koda Glover
- Oklahoma State SO RHP Trey Cobb
- Texas Christian SO LHP Tyler Alexander
- Texas Christian rSO RHP Brian Triegflaff
- Texas Christian SR LHP Travis Evans
- Texas Christian rSR RHP Trey Teakell
- Texas rSR RHP Ty Marlow
- Oklahoma JR LHP/1B Jacob Evans
- Kansas JR RHP Hayden Edwards
- Oklahoma JR RHP Blake Rogers
- Oklahoma State SR RHP Jon Perrin
- Baylor rSR LHP Brad Kuntz
- Texas Tech JR RHP/OF Quinn Carpenter
- Kansas State rJR RHP Nate Williams
- Oklahoma rSR RHP Robert Tasin
- Baylor rJR RHP Ryan Smith
- Texas JR RHP Chad Hollingsworth
- Texas Tech SR RHP Dominic Moreno
- Texas JR LHP Travis Duke
- Oklahoma JR RHP RHP Corey Copping
- Texas Christian SR RHP Preston Morrison
- Kansas State rSO RHP Nate Griep
- Oklahoma State rSR LHP Tyler Nurdin
- Kansas State JR RHP Levi MaVorhis
- Kansas State rSO RHP Colton Kalmus
- Oklahoma State JR LHP Alex Hackerott
- Texas JR LHP Ty Culbreth
- Texas Tech SR LHP Cameron Smith
- Texas Tech SR RHP Corey Taylor
- West Virginia JR RHP Jeff Hardy
- Texas Tech JR RHP Dalton Brown
- Baylor SR RHP Sean Spicer
- Kansas State rSO RHP Blake McFadden
- Oklahoma JR LHP Jeffrey Curran
- West Virginia rJR LHP Ross Vance