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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.

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.