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Top 500 Prospects Drafted by San Francisco in 2016
39 – Bryan Reynolds
96 – Heath Quinn
103 – Garrett Williams
191 – Nick Deeg
198 – Ryan Howard
208 – Matt Krook
319 – Gio Brusa
336 – Stephen Woods
344 – Jacob Heyward
348 – Jose Layer
2.59 – OF Brian Reynolds
Draft season comparison between Bryan Reynolds (39) and another famous Vanderbilt product…
.330/.461/.603 – 49 BB/58 K – 8/13 SB – 224 AB
.335/.423/.623 – 43 BB/54 K – 16/18 SB – 281 AB
That would be none other than 2015 first overall selection and 2017 Atlanta Braves starting shortstop Dansby Swanson at the bottom there. Is Reynolds the outfield version of Swanson? Let’s look at some career college numbers…
.329/.413/.508 – 103 BB/174 K – 39/52 SB – 791 AB
.330/.418/.541 – 84 BB/108 K – 39/47 SB – 579 AB
Not a terrible statistical comp, right? There’s clearly a little more swing-and-miss going on with Reynolds and the difference between shortstop and Reynolds’s likely corner outfield landing spot is no small thing, but there’s enough there to make this a conversation worth having. If you buy that the two have similar offensive ceilings, then the Giants getting Reynolds in the second round has to qualify as one of the draft’s easiest to identify sleepers. From October 2015…
Reynolds also reminds me somewhat of Kyle Lewis in the way that both guys have rapidly improved their plate discipline in ways that haven’t yet shown up consistently on the stat sheet. If or when it does, Reynolds could join Lewis as a potential future impact big league outfielder.
Reynolds didn’t quite have that same kind of junior year breakout, but the general point that both players received similar “he has a better approach that shows up in the box score” praise from scouts who saw them day in, day out. I thought that this sentiment would quiet down once pro scouts got their first looks at him, but I heard more of the same throughout the summer. That’s the bullish view on Reynolds: he’s good now as a hitter, but he has it in him to take it up a whole other notch once something in his approach clicks. The less optimistic but still plenty exciting view was laid out back in April 2016…
Bryan Reynolds’s physical tools are all at least average, though there are none that I’d hang a plus on without some serious cajoling first. If we compare him to the guy directly behind him in the rankings, Buddy Reed, he’ll lose any athletic head-to-head battle. Furthermore, his defense in center is a bit of a long-term concern for me, but smarter people than I have said he’s actually better – more instinctual, quicker reads, just more natural all-around – in center than he is in a corner. I haven’t seen enough of him to say either way, but it’s an interesting view to consider. Thankfully, despite those concerns, the man can flat hit. Speed, defense, and arm strength are all important, but the bat will forever be king.
Reynolds’s numbers – again, the ones on the bottom in the two comparisons above – are undeniably excellent. One of the few concerns I have about the Vanderbilt slugger is his propensity to end long at bats with short walks back to the dugout. Strikeouts at the big league level don’t bother me in the least, but they mean something more at the amateur and minor league level. Some of this concern is mitigated by Reynolds’s high walk totals, but the high strikeout/high walk college hitter archetype is one that has seen mixed result at the pro level in recent years. It’s also one that I still don’t know what to do with as an evaluator.
Reynolds looks like one of those hitters who can pile up both walks and strikeouts while also making a ton of good contact and hitting for average or better power. You know what we call guys like that? Well when they can also run, throw, and defend average or better, we tend to call them potential big league all-stars. As a ceiling, that’s exactly what you want out of your first pick. What makes Reynolds even more appealing is his high floor. When I think of high floor players, I think of guys who have clear baseball skills that are desirable to all thirty big league teams. The ability to play all three outfield spots is a clear baseball skill that is desirable to all thirty big league teams. The ability to switch-hit is a clear baseball skills that is desirable to all thirty big league teams. A track record of hammering righthanded pitching when hitting lefty is a clear baseball skill that is desirable to all thirty big league teams. You get the idea. As was written in June, Reynolds “looks like a long time future regular with a chance for flashes of greatness;” if he falls short of that, however, a career as an ace bench bat who wears out righthanded pitching and fourth outfielder who won’t hurt you in spot-duty in center is a fine backup option.
I still can’t believe Reynolds fell this far.
3.95 – OF Heath Quinn
College outfielders ranked ahead of Heath Quinn (96) by me in the 2016 MLB Draft: Lewis, Ray, Fisher, Reynolds, Fraley, Woodman, Grier, Thompson-Williams, Reed, Dawson. College outfielders selected ahead of Heath Quinn in the 2016 MLB Draft: Ray, Lewis, Grier, Reed, Boldt, Woodman, Reynolds, Dawson, Fraley, Call, Hays. I have no deeper point here. Never like to miss an opportunity to highlight this past draft’s crazy outfield depth, though. I stand by my rankings six months later (obviously) and don’t see a name in the second list that was drafted — maybe Boldt, but that’s stretching it some — ahead of Quinn that looks egregious in hindsight. That said, Quinn is an outstanding prospect who had a stellar debut in professional ball. I hope he starts his first full season in 2017 at the same level (A+) he ended 2016. On Quinn from October 2015…
Just what this class needed: another outfielder loaded with tools that comes with some question marks about the utility of his big-time power because he’s still learning how to hit against serious pitching.
Like Reynolds, Quinn’s approach took a step forward in 2016. It may not have been a Kyle Lewis size step, but progress is progress. Quinn improved his approach, upped his power output, and continued to show a well-rounded physical tool set that includes above-average speed underway, an above-average arm, and average or better range in a corner. A prospect who you can confidently project to giving you quality defense, positive value on the base paths, and potential above-average offensive contributions is just about all you can ask for; if Quinn can do all of those things, he has similar upside (“long time future regular with a chance for flashes of greatness”) to Reynolds. I’m bullish on both reaching that level. San Francisco did really well with these first two selections.
Of course, that’s the optimistic view. What happens if both players struggle with high-level pitching? One thing I particularly like about these first two picks is the high floor that I believe comes with them. The absolute worst case scenario for the Giants with their first two picks (barring major injury, naturally) could result in backing into a potentially dominant corner outfield platoon. The switch-hitting Reynolds has a history of killing righthanders while the righthanded hitting Quinn mauls lefthanders. I think the Giants got long-term future left and right fielders (really good ones at that), but even a hater of these picks would have to admit that the possibility of a timeshare between the two would be scary. Maybe using two picks to get one combined corner outfielder is a less than ideal outcome, but if you take a look at the actual success rate of picks past the first round in the draft then you’d take this “worst case scenario” every single time if it comes to it.
4.125 – LHP Matt Krook
The first night of the draft is a bit of a pain, what with the made-for-TV element slowing everything down. I won’t really complain about it too much because that kind of exposure is a really good thing for growing the draft beyond the niche audience that already exists, but, even as an apparently rare soul who enjoys MLB Network’s presentation (more or less) of the event, the first night drags. Day two is fantastic; this year I was able to speed home from work listening to the selections go by on the MLB At Bat app and then settle in with the computer for the rest of the late-afternoon’s selections. Day three is also a ton of fun, but the timing of this past year’s draft killed me. Instead of being at the home base with every electronic device available locked into tracking the draft, I was making the six hour trek to beautiful Cleveland, Ohio. It was tons of fun. You work all year towards a three-day event and you get to spend 75% away from a computer. Fantastic.
Long story short, even as I was driving 80ish MPH west on 76 (or 80, who can remember) it was easy to put together that the Giants were getting weird with their draft. Look at four of the five college pitchers taken by San Francisco in the top ten rounds…
Matt Krook: 6.18 BB/9
Garrett Williams: 7.52 BB/9
Stephen Woods: 7.01 BB/9
Alex Bostic: 8.10 BB/9
Those are college career walk rates. I started by doing just 2016 numbers, but so many of these guys pitched so infrequently in 2016 BECAUSE OF THEIR TERRIBLE CONTROL that using the larger sample felt like a fairer representation of their true abilities. I assumed the walk rates would go down some, but…nope. The Giants also took Reagan Bazar (5.71 BB/9), one of the mid-round poster boys for “big stuff, little control” in the seventeenth. If that’s not a pattern, then I give up. The next logical question is a simple one: why? The Giants clearly prioritized stuff over control in this draft. Do they think they have an organizational-wide coaching magic formula that can fix any young pitcher with control woes? Did they see something specific in each individual pitcher they selected that can turn each respective hurler’s control around? Do they simply not care about control as much as the rest of baseball? Or was this just a simple case of a good team realizing that picking in the late first round every year (or not even that depending on free agency) has limited their opportunities picking pitchers with “big stuff,” so they just went for it when they could with the idea that they’d figure out the “little control” stuff later?
I have no definitive answers. I do know that I’m a little surprised I didn’t give Matt Krook (208) the “first round stuff, tenth round command/control” tag prior to the draft. Here’s a little on Krook from April 2016…
And then there’s Matt Krook! I had him second only to Alec Hansen (whoops) in my overall college pitching rankings before the season and now he’s third in his own conference. You could look at that as me being wishy-washy (not really, but maybe), me not knowing what I was doing in the first place (always a possibility), or this year’s draft class being more talented than some would like you to believe (yes). Whatever the case may be, Krook remains a legitimate first round arm with as much upside as any college pitcher throwing. Here was the pre-season take that accompanied the aforementioned ranking…
This may be a touch more speculative that some of the other names on the list since Krook missed the 2015 season after Tommy John surgery, but I’m buying all the Krook shares I can right now. He came back and impressed on the Cape enough to warrant consideration as a potential 1-1 riser. There’s no squaring up his fastball and there’s more than enough offspeed (CB and CU) to miss bats (12 K/9 in 45 freshman innings). He’s not as physical as AJ Puk, but the more advanced secondaries give him the edge for now.
I stand by that today. His fastball velocity isn’t all the way back yet (more of a steady 88-92 than 90-94), but he still gets incredible movement on the pitch. His curve has morphed into something more like a slider (or something in-between), but remains a true plus offering. Both his command and his control remain works in progress as he pitches himself back into competitive shape. Picking Krook as early as I’d recommend would take a bit of a leap of faith in his command/control woes being remedied largely by the increased passage of time separating him from his surgery. Going Krook would not be for the faint of heart, but, hey, nothing venture nothing gained, right?
Needless to say, I’m on board with this pick. It’s scary, true, but sometimes moving away from what’s safe is what a franchise in need of another wave of high-impact talent needs. I’ll say something irresponsible about Krook that I honestly believe to be true: no amateur player I’ve ever seen pitch has had the kind of consistent natural and unnatural movement on his pitches as Krook. I think once pro scouts begin getting eyes on him and we start to see some internet chatter about him people will begin to realize that Krook is a rare bird. Everything he throws moves like crazy. His fastball, though still not completely back to its pre-injury velocity peaks, is an easy plus pitch even with spotty command. His slider and his curve run together at 78-84 MPH, but it doesn’t really matter what the pitch is called because it’s another offering that flashes plus more often than not. I even like his steadily improving mid-80s diving changeup more than most. Most guys simply don’t have the ability to throw three to four pitches (depending on if you want to give him credit it for an extra breaking ball or just call the pitch a curve) that dance like Krook’s fastball, breaking ball(s), and changeup do. If James Brown was a pitcher, he’d be Matt Krook. It’s special stuff, really. It’s hard to draw a straight line between stuff and stats at the minor league level, but check this out: 91 of the 118 balls in play against Krook this year were on the ground. That’s good for a 76.5% GB rate. If that doesn’t speak to Krook’s ability to get plus movement on damn near everything he throws, I’m not sure what else will. Plus fastball, plus breaking ball(s), and an average yet ascending change? That’s the kind of stuff only aces and $80 million closers possess.
Of course, without even a baseline amount of control the whole thing falls apart. A future without ever reaching the big leagues has to be in play for a college pitcher coming off a draft season where he walked 8.23 batters per nine. Krook is no sure thing, clearly. An honest worst case scenario is never getting his control woes figured out and topping out in AA. A more optimistic worst case would be following the up-and-down career arcs of guys like Jonathan Sanchez and Dontrelle Willis; bullpen, rotation, great years, not so great years, and everything in-between. Those two outcomes represent fair middle-tier paths for Krook if he can remain a starter with well below-average control. Just getting that control to slightly below-average would go a long way to putting Krook on the road to a future as a potential front line starting pitcher. I’ve mentioned more than once that I think Krook has the stuff to project as an ace or a star closer (Zach Britton 2.0?) if the rest of his game comes together. Names that fall just short of being called aces like Francisco Liriano and Matt Moore (but with ground balls) show that pitchers with wild backgrounds can make it. That’s probably where I’d place my bet now that I’ve had time to reflect: flashes of ace-like dominance with occasionally frustrating bouts of wildness that leave you with a pitcher who has defied the odds in a great way yet still disappointed just a touch at the same time.
5.155 – SS Ryan Howard
On Ryan Howard (198) from April 2016…
Ryan Howard is a nice prospect, but not the kind of guy who would crack the top five at short in a major college conference in most years. He does most everything fairly well – solid hitter, average raw power, dependable at short – but nothing so well that you’re pumped to call his name on draft day. Part of my reticence in buying in to Howard comes from what may be a silly place. There is far more to the position than speed, but Howard’s below-average foot speed has always struck me as a potential red flag when assessing his long-term defensive outlook. Maybe that’s being lazy by haphazardly using speed as a proxy for athleticism, but the solid yet unsexy profile that I seem to like at other positions doesn’t grab me the same way at shortstop.
Eight months later and I still feel a little bad about that. I guess I didn’t come right out and say it, but the implication there was that Howard, as a prospect, bored me. Still kind of does. He’s pretty good (arm, approach, instincts) to just all right (power, range, speed) across the board. That gives him a good chance of making it as a quality utility player — fair value in the fifth round if that’s indeed the outcome, by the way — but little shot at much more. I’ve used the comp a few times already over the years (most directly on Mikey White), but Howard could have a career similar to a player he shares a lot of common traits with in Jordy Mercer.
6.185 – OF Gio Brusa
On Gio Brusa (319) from March 2016…
Remember when Gio Brusa was a thing? This was his report from last year…
The appreciation for Brusa, however, is right on point. His above-average to plus raw power will keep him employed for a long time, especially combined with his elite athleticism and playable defensive tools (slightly below-average arm and foot speed, but overall should be fine in left field). Brusa going from good prospect to great prospect will take selling a team on his improved approach as a hitter; early returns are promising but a team that buys into his bat will do so knowing he’ll always be a player who swings and misses a lot. Whether or not he a) makes enough contact, and/or b) demonstrates enough plate discipline (strikeouts are easier to take when paired with an increased walk rate, like he’s shown so far this year) will ultimately decide his fate as a hitter and prospect. Before the season I would have been in the “think he’ll be drafted too high for my tastes, so let me just kick back and watch somebody else try to fix his approach” camp in terms of his draft value, but I’m slowly creeping towards “if he falls just a bit, I’d think about taking a shot on his upside over a few players with more certainty and less ceiling” territory. That’s a big step up for me, even if it doesn’t quite seem like it.
Almost exactly one year to the day, I can say that’s pretty much where I remain on Brusa as a prospect. There’s still upside in a player like him because his natural gifts are obvious – maybe all it will take is the right voice in his ear in pro ball – but the increasingly large sample of below-average plate discipline is getting harder and harder to ignore. I tried my best to do so last year when spinning his early season successes as a potential step in the right direction, but reading between the lines above should reveal what I really thought. Avoiding the urge to flat out say “I just don’t like this prospect” has cost me some credibility among some small pockets of the baseball world in the past, but I sleep a lot better knowing I skew positive publicly on this site. When it comes to writing about young men chasing their dreams in a game we all love, why wouldn’t you make the attempt to be positive if at all possible? Positive doesn’t mean ranking every player in a tie for best prospect, of course. Brusa finished last season as my 144th ranked draft prospect. For a variety of reasons, some because of baseball but most not (i.e., signability past a certain point), he fell to pick 701. I think his ranking this year could split the difference between the two spots…but with a slight edge to being closer to 144 than 701. Have to stay positive, after all.
Pick 422.5 splits the difference between 144 and 701. He wound up going at pick 185 after I ranked him 319th overall. Not sure what it all means, but there you go.
Despite dropping Brusa down the final draft board, I remain intrigued about how his physical abilities will translate to pro ball. From the scouting notes featured on this site back in his high school days…
OF Giovanni Brusa (St. Mary’s HS, California): above-average arm; above-average speed; great athlete; big power upside; raw hit tool; could be league average defender in RF; 6-3, 200 pounds
Sounds about right. Brusa’s power and athleticism are carrying tools that should give him enough chances to buy time while he figures out some of the more skill-based aspects of the game (“raw hit tool” remains relevant here). Interesting to note that he’s a switch-hitter who performed significantly better as a lefthanded hitter in his pro debut. Bryan Reynolds did similar things in his debut. Maybe we can upgrade the “worst case scenario” for those first two picks to include this one: Reynolds in one corner and Brusa/Quinn in the other. Feels a little rich to me — Brusa’s floor is minor league slugger who can’t figure out upper-level breaking balls enough to be counted on for anything but up-and-down duty — but it could happen.
7.215 – LHP Garrett Williams
I have no idea what to make of Garrett Williams (103). Or maybe I do. I don’t know what I don’t know at this point. The short version: above-average fastball (88-94), above-average curve (76-83) that flashes plus to plus-plus, intriguing hard changeup (85-90) that can get too firm for his own good, usable low-80s slider, and no idea where any of them are going. What do you do with a pitching prospect like that? There’s clearly enough there in raw stuff to thrive as a starting pitcher, but we all can agree it takes more than raw stuff to start. Williams’s control is a problem at present. I’d guess the only group that has a firm enough grasp on how correctable his control problems are would be those counted among the player development staff tasked to fix it. The only thing I know for sure here is taking a chance on an arm like this with mid-rotation or late-game reliever upside in the seventh round is worth the downside of getting nothing every single time.
8.245 – RHP Stephen Woods
I feel bad for quoting my past self so often, but these college pitchers are all the same. The same but different, I suppose. There are only so many ways to write “great stuff, not so great control” before thoughts of giving this all up and starting a mozzarella stick review website instead start creeping in. On Stephen Woods (336) from March 2016…
Right off the top, I’m fairly comfortable declaring that Stephen Woods is the most talented 2016 MLB Draft prospect in the America East. That may or may not be enough to make him the best prospect, but it certainly puts him in the mix. Woods has a big-time arm (95-96 peak) with an intriguing curve and an unusually firm yet effective changeup. All of that was enough to make him a sixth round pick out of high school. His biggest issue has always been control: he walked 9.9 batters per nine his freshman year, 7.0 batters per nine last year, and sits at 6.1 in the early going this season. Any team drafting Woods with a single-digit round pick will have to weigh his raw stuff against his wild ways. Look at his early 2016 line: 13.1 IP 16 H 11 ER 9 BB 25 K. What in the world do we make of that? Really good stuff + elite ability to miss bats + well below-average control + inconsistent (at best) track record of run prevention = I have no idea and I’m glad I’m not paid to make a definitive statement about his draft future. A selection anywhere from as high as round five to as low as the twenties wouldn’t surprise me at this point. When it doubt it never hurts to gamble on arm strength guys with pedigree like Woods, but know that his eventual pro future will be dictated far more on development than an accurate scouting report.
Huge arm, little control, and a chance for one of his offspeed pitches (hard curve, mid-80s change, and up-and-down cut-slider) to develop enough to make him a late-inning relief option. You take that all day in the eighth round. Based on little more than a hunch (which, in turn, is based off of doing this draft thing for years), I’m particularly bullish about Woods figuring things out in the pros.
9.275 – LHP Caleb Baragar
The one early-ish San Francisco draft pick that breaks that big stuff/little control mold is Caleb Baragar from Indiana. Baragar doesn’t wow you with stuff — he’s fastball, fastball, and fastball (88-92, mostly) with the occasional quality hybrid-breaking ball mixed in — but he pounds the strike zone and keeps the ball down. The Giants have had more look with players like this than they have had with the big stuff/little control types, so Baragar making it as something more than the middle relief matchup lefthander ceiling I’d put on him wouldn’t surprise me much. I mean, they did draft him in an even year, right? Has to count for something…
10.305 – LHP Alex Bostic
Fastball at 90-94 MPH. Above-average 78-83 MPH slider. Have seen a mid-70s curve and heard about a decent change. His control? Sit down for this one because you’re going to be shocked to hear that it’s not great. That’s Alex Bostic in fifty words or less.
12.365 – 1B Ryan Kirby
I’m not sure Ryan Kirby would have been my first choice when looking for a bat-first college prospect just outside of the top ten rounds, but I get what San Francisco was thinking here. Kirby has always flashed more power than he’s shown in-game — the HS notes on Kirby from this very site call his raw power “big” — so the potential for more than what we’ve seen makes him a fine developmental lottery ticket.
13.395 – OF Jose Layer
I like Jose Layer (348) just about as much as I do any other prep position player at this point in the draft. Nothing about him stands out per se, but I don’t think anybody would be shocked if he winds up as one of the better mid-tier high school outfielders from this class. Once you get past the first three rounds or so, personal preference takes over in an even more profound manner than with those first few thoroughly vetted and frequently cross-checked selections. Layer is a clear plus runner with potential standout ability in center field. That alone gives him some nice athleticism-based value that should prop up his career if his hitting lags behind. His small sample (61 PA) debut is a hopeful step in that not being a necessary fallback plan.
14.425 – LHP Conner Menez
On principle, It don’t enjoy seeing a team using two of its first nineteen selections on teammates from a semi-local (The Master’s College is in California, so, hey, it’s local…but California is a really big state, so semi-local it is) NAIA school. I’ve tried to explain my reasoning for this over the course of these draft reviews — seriously, just click any review and you’re almost certain to find me going into far greater deal about this silliness — so I’ll stick to the very short version here: it’s lazy. I’ve actually moved past the point of being annoyed at pro teams for doubling or tripling up at one school and am now focused on the know-it-alls of the sports media world who hide behind the idea that pro teams 100% absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt always know better than us fans. Pro teams do by and large know more than us, but at the end of the day they are working with finite resources, too. They don’t know everything. The only thing worse than those know-it-alls are the know-it-all draft guys who think they somehow have a better grasp on what teams should be doing on draft day than the teams themselves. Hey, wait a second…
So I shouldn’t like the Conner Menez pick, but, damn, I can’t help it. He’s a keeper. An excellent pro debut that included a whopping 27.1 IP at High-A (!) certainly helps his case. More importantly, it’s his stuff from the left side (low-90s heat, advanced change, solid slider) that make him so appealing. Great find by the Giants in the fourteenth round. Feels a little Cardinals-y to me.
15.455 – RHP DJ Myers
My notes on DJ Myers while at UNLV: “big guy, consistently solid peripherals.” He then went out and had one of the absolute best debuts of any pitcher in the 2016 MLB Draft class: 8.02 K/9, 0.77 BB/9, 1.70 ERA, 58.1 IP. He even got a successful one inning cameo in AAA at the end of the season. Not bad at all.
16.485 – LHP Chris Falwell
Size seems to be a common theme I’m picking up with San Francisco’s mid-round run of college pitchers. Chris Falwell fits that mold at 6-7, 210 pounds. He uses that size to get above-average extension and help his solid fastball (87-92) play up. Add in a quality curve and strong junior year results (9.14 K/9 and 3.01 BB/9), and you’ve got yourself a darn fine sixteenth round pick.
17.515 – RHP Reagan Bazar
I have always liked Reagan Bazar a little too much for my own good. Big guys with monster fastballs (90-96, 98-100 peak), nasty breaking stuff (when on), and little clue where the ball is going are my favorite. I can’t help it. Here’s what I wrote about Bazar back in October 2015…
Bazar is one of the bigger gambles to grace this list. He hasn’t done enough yet at Louisiana to warrant such a placement, but when he’s feeling it his stuff (mid- to upper-90s FB, promising low-80s SL) can suffocate even good hitting. Yes, I realize ranking the 6-7, 250+ pound righthander this high undermines a lot of what I said [about my historical tendency to overrate jumbo-sized pitchers] directly above. I’ll always be a sucker for big velocity and Bazar hitting 100+ certainly qualifies.
Even then I knew I was ranking him way too high and would regret it, but I just couldn’t help myself. One day I’ll learn…but probably not. His pro debut was pretty much perfect Bazar: plenty of strikeouts, walks, and ground balls. If coached up properly, the sky is the limit for Bazar. That much I’ll stand by. It’s just going to take a lot of work to get there. Not everybody makes it in the end.
18.545 – OF Jacob Heyward
Every draft class has one player I drag my feet on and delay writing about until the very end. I’ve gone from Bryan Reynolds to Chris Bono, but still find myself sitting here staring at an unfinished Jacob Heyward (344) section. I don’t know what it is about Heyward that renders me speechless, but here we are. Maybe looking back to last year will help. Here’s some Heyward notes from December 2015…
OF Jacob Heyward does a lot of the good things that his older brother does — defend, throw, run, work deep counts, hit for some pop — but not quite at the $184 hundred million level. He’s still a fine pro prospect and a potential top five round pick.
And here’s some from March 2016…
Steady year-to-year improvement has been the name of Heyward’s game as a Hurricane. It’s more of a fourth outfielder profile than a slam dunk future regular ceiling, but he’s a solid, well-rounded player capable of doing just enough of everything to keep you invested.
A late-season slump torpedoed Heyward’s chances at the top five rounds and negated that “steady year-to-year improvement” line; in fact, Heyward’s season total substantially dipped across the board from his sophomore year to his junior year. He still maintained interesting plate discipline indicators and flashed all the positive tools — above-average raw power, average speed, average or better arm, and quality defense in a corner — that made him a prospect in the first place. It feels like a nifty fourth outfielder package if his offense comes back to something resembling his second year output at Miami.
If the evaluation was that simple, then maybe this would have been written at a more reasonable hour of the night. Maybe I’m overreacting to a 143 PA sample, but Heyward’s professional debut was an offensive explosion that ranks among the very best of any 2016 draftee. In those 143 PA, Heyward hit .330/.483/.560 with 27 BB/33 K and 11/13 SB. If he would have done that as a junior, he would have been an easy top five round pick. Instead, we’re left with a confusing prospect with a future that can be spun any number of ways.
If you’re in on Heyward, then you cite the oft-repeated assertion that Heyward is just one of those guys who will be a better professional than collegiate athlete. His junior year was the real small sample size blip and his offensive growth can be measured more by his improved approach and steady power output (.146 ISO in 2015, .141 ISO in 2016) in the face of larger potentially BABIP-related struggles. He has a really well-rounded tool set and is at least average in just about every area of the game. If he can hang in center, then he could be an everyday asset; if not, then he’s on his way to a long, fruitful career as a well-paid fourth outfielder and spot starter.
If you’re cool on Heyward, then that down junior season is Exhibit A in explaining him being overrated for years. If he was Jacob Jones (or O’Brien or Miller or Ozga) and not Heyward, then he would never have gotten that top five round hype in the first place. He’s a classic tweener with not quite enough range to play center regularly and not enough thump in his bat to ride with him in a corner. He has no carrying tool that would propel him to a certain big league future. His small sample size debut was an aberration that we will look back and have no explanation for as he works himself into an up-and-down fill-in player who spends the majority of his time at AAA.
I try not to overreact to the small sample of a pro debut, but it’s hard not to get a little excited about what Heyward did. I don’t think it’s bad form to up his projection a bit based on a few hot months because only because he’s shown that kind of progress before. I’ll stand by the fourth outfielder projection for now, but the door is opened for more if what he did this summer is closer to the real Heyward than not.
19.575 – SS Brandon Van Horn
Here’s the second of the two prospects from The Master’s College referenced in the Conner Menez pick review five rounds above. I liked Menez quite a bit…maybe the Giants should have stopped there. Brandon Van Horn’s numbers in NAIA ball look fine enough on the surface (.280/.352/.567 with a less fine 17 BB/31 K ratio), but when the team as a whole combined for a .303/.377/.502 line, the luster begins to wear off just a touch. He’s a fine defender at short, so any path to the big leagues will be on the strength of his glove-first style of play appealing to the powers that be.
20.605 – RHP Justin Alleman
Justin Alleman, formerly of Michigan State, had a weird year at Division II Lee in 2016. His peripherals were as good as you’ll find (10.31 K/9 and 1.81 BB/9), but his run prevention (5.29 ERA) was ugly. Part of the reason for that looks to be some home run weirdness — Alleman allowed 12 dingers in 64.2 IP, over 35% of the team’s total in just 16% of the innings — so I’m not sure how much of a concern that should be going forward. Alleman’s stuff (90-94 FB, 96 peak; above-average breaking ball) suggest that those peripherals were a better reflection on his long-term ability than the ERA suggests. He’ll be 23-years-old to start his first full season, so he’ll need a hot start in pro ball to move as quickly as his scouting reports and track record warrant. I like this pick.
21.635 – C Will Albertson
Very boring trivia about me: for reasons unknown, I always associate Lonnie Chisenhall with Catawba. Seeing as he played at Pitt Community College and not Catawba, I have no idea why I think that. There’s yet to be a positive value player drafted out of Catawba. Jerry Sands has been the best so far. Maybe Will Albertson will be the first. In any event, writing this all out was done with the intent of finally getting the Chisenhall/Catawba out of my brain forever. Seeing it in writing helps me realize how wrong it all is.
Anyway, Will Albertson finished his season season with a disappointing .404/.494/.689 line with only 32 BB/19 K and a mere 7/10 SB. That was nothing compared to his junior season:.467/.531/.865 with 26 BB/21 K and 2/2 SB. Seeing a hugely productive hitter with athleticism capable of playing a premium defensive position like Albertson instantly made me think of the St. Louis draft (again) that I couldn’t write enough nice things about earlier this fall. Then I read this…
“I’m excited,” Albertson said. “They were one of the teams I has been talking to and they expressed a lot of interest. I knew if I team was going to take me, it was going to be them or St. Louis. St. Louis said I had a chance on being taken yesterday, but that didn’t happen.
Makes sense. Albertson is an accomplished Division II hitter with a decent arm (strong, but could use some quickening of his release to help it play up) and average speed. If he can keep developing defensively, then Albertson’s offensive blend of patience and pop could make him a real prospect with legitimate starting upside. I’m more than happy to drive this bandwagon.
22.665 – OF Malique Ziegler
I erroneously had Malique Ziegler in my notes as a 2017 draft-eligible incoming freshman at Northern Illinois earlier in the year. Imagine my surprise seeing him turn up as a signed 2016 draft pick of the Giants. If it helps set the stage, I was sitting at my computer with a slightly confused look on my face. I may or may not have said “Huh” to myself. Feels like you were there in the room with me, right? Ziegler left Northern Illinois to attend North Iowa Area Community College (or NIACC, which is all kinds of catchy) where he hit a robust .395/.490/.726 with 35 BB/43 K and 31/34 SB. He is a great athlete with plus speed who can more than hold his own in center. That sentence and his 2016 stats at NIACC are all I know about Ziegler, but that’s enough to make him a late-round name to watch going forward. I’m still not sure how I feel about the Giants drafting all those wild college pitchers, but just about everything else they’ve done gets an emphatic seal of approval from me.
23.695 – RHP Jacob Greenwalt
I’ll try to be brief here because I can only imagine how fans of 29 other teams are reacting to me loving all of these late-round Giants selections. Jacob Greenwalt is another outstanding find at this stage of the draft. Signing any prep prospect this late is an automatic win, but it becomes an even bigger WIN when the prep prospect in question has a quality fastball (88-92, 94 peak), commands two offspeed pitches (curve and change), is very athletic, and hails from one of my favorite states (Colorado) to unearth undervalued high school pitching. Greenwalt’s signing scout deserves a raise.
24.725 – C Jeffry Parra
I know very little about Jeffry Parra other than the fact that his name is not spelled Jeffery (as most of the internet claims), he’s a prep catcher from New York with a good chance to stick behind the plate, and he signed for the maximum bonus without penalty ($100,000) as a twenty-fourth round pick. You know what? Parra’s signing scout deserves a raise, too. Getting high school players signed past round twenty is a pretty big deal that should be celebrated more by prospect-obsessed fans.
26.785 – OF Nick Hill
Joe Lefebvre, Steve Balboni, and Jim Mecir were all drafted out of Eckerd College. Nick Hill will attempt to join them in the big league fraternity one day. His college draft year production (.391/.457/.590 and 12/15 SB) is strong yet not without red flags (10 BB/34 K). My notes on him that I was supposed to clean up, but it’s late so whatever: “size, decent start, idk.” Analysis like that is why they pay me the big bucks.
27.815 – RHP Pat Ruotolo
Whatever the maximum allowed amount of enjoyment can be derived from a team selecting an undersized college reliever from New England in the twenty-seventh round is, I’m there with Pat Ruotolo going off the board to the Giants here. Ruotolo is short and thick at 5-10, 220 pounds. His stuff is more ordinary (88-92 FB, 94 peak; mid-70s CB; CU) than amazing. His control has been up (2.35 BB/9 as a junior) and down (5.50 BB/9 as a sophomore, 4.70 BB/9 as a freshman). Through it all, Pat Ruotolo has missed bats. From 10.02 K/9 as a freshman to 12.89 K/9 as a sophomore to 10.58 K/9 as a junior, Ruotolo has gotten results out of the pen for the Huskies. In the pros, little changed: Ruotolo set down 15.75 batters per nine while walking 5.25 batters in the same stretch. I’m cool with going with either extreme in the mid- to late-rounds. Go get a guy with fantastic stuff and inconsistent results or a guy with questionable stuff and dominant results, but pick a lane and go hard with it. Ruotolo has been a great reliever for over three years now, and there’s no reason to doubt him going forward. The lack of knockout stuff puts a cap on his ultimate upside, but why can’t Ruotolo keep getting opportunities to impress the powers that be and eventually get his shot at middle relief?
29.875 – SS Mike Bernal
Already 24-years-old, Mike Bernal will have to get moving if he wants to fulfill his late-round utility guy upside. He played mostly second in his pro debut, but also managed to get a few innings in at short and third. I like him as a defender and athlete, so the possibility that he can keep rising as a defense-oriented backup exists. My lack of love for his offensive game has me bearish on him making it to the highest level.
30.905 – LHP Nick Deeg
Nick Deeg (191) has gotten a little bit better every season going back to his days as a Michigan prep star. You have to like that. From February 2016…
He’s third on my list only because of a lost coin flip to Deeg, another lefthander with above-average velocity (86-92, 94 peak) and an average or better breaking ball (his curve took off this summer after firming up from a loopier 71-74 to an improved 79-81 bender). Deeg got the edge over fellow lefty Akin despite the latter’s better peripherals to date because of a more advanced change (a low-80s offering with average or better upside) and an interesting but as yet underdeveloped mid-80s cutter. His size advantage (6-5, 220 for Deeg, 6-1, 200 for Akin) certainly didn’t hurt either.
I really don’t understand how Deeg fell to pick 905. I understand there was a velocity dip during the 2016 season from his usual upper-80s/low-90s down to mid-80s/upper-80s, but he was still effective throughout the year. I’d personally have a hard time knocking a prospect with as strong a track record as Deeg’s down for that unless I had been tipped off on whatever caused his velocity dip being permanent or not. Maybe teams know something I don’t here; 6-5, 220 pound lefthanders who have flashes his kind of stuff at his best don’t typically fall twenty plus rounds past their peak talent level without a decent reason. In the present absence of that missing piece of knowledge that may or may not actually exist, I’ll happily go on record calling Deeg one of the absolute biggest steals in this draft. Did you read all those word on Matt Krook earlier? The two are very different prospects with different degrees of upside and risk, but I ranked Deeg higher pre-draft than Krook. Pre-draft rankings lose a sliver of utility as every day past the end of the draft goes by, but still. This is a crazy steal by the Giants.
32.965 – RHP John Timmins
John Timmins does the power sinker/slider thing almost a little too well judging by how little present control he has on his darting stuff. In two years as a Bellevue Bruin, Timmins struck out 9.47 batters per nine while walking 5.08 batters in the same stretch. It was a small sample (26.2 total innings), but indicative of the kind of pitcher he is. The less said about his pro debut, the better. His arm is too good to dismiss based on 22.1 ugly innings, but it’s clear the big righthander has plenty to work on in pro ball.
34.1025 – RHP CJ Gettman
The Giants grab another big arm (90-94, 96 peak) from somewhat off the beaten path (Central Washington, home of just three MLB draft picks in twenty years) in CJ Gettman, a highly productive if effectively wild (13.85 K/9 and 5.19 BB/9) righthanded reliever with good size (6-5, 220). Feels like a slightly better version of John Timmins to me.
35.1055 – LHP Sidney Duprey
This is a fun one for a few reasons. First, Sidney Duprey is a native of Guayama, Puerto Rico. Didn’t see that one coming. Second, he’s a bonafide two-way prospect: his sophomore season at Kaskaskia CC in Illinois saw him hit .378/.471/.446 with 13 BB/13 K in 87 PA while also putting up outstanding numbers (9.71 K/9 and 1.99 BB/9 in 81.2 IP) on the mound. That leads us to our third fun fact about Sidney Duprey: the man can pitch a little bit. Duprey is typically 87-91 with his fastball and able to consistently command a decent breaking ball. If it all works out, maybe he can make it as a matchup lefty one day. If that’s the case, he’ll be MLB’s first Sidney since Sir Sidney Ponson retired back in 2009.
36.1085 – C Ryan Matranga
Any time you can select a local product coming off a .182/.237/.221 (8 BB/41 K) season, you pretty much have to do it. Matranga is a good defensive catcher, so it’s not like this is the worst pick in the entire draft or anything. I mean, it’s on the short list of worst picks and very much in the running, but it’s not definitively the worst pick. There are others that give it some stiff competition, I can assure you.
37.1115 – OF Chris Bono
I wouldn’t quite put the selection of Chris Bono in the worst draft pick mix, but he’s only about a tier away. Bono hit .183/.335/.266 as a redshirt-senior at UCLA. In his defense, he’s a better all-around prospect than can be summed up with his triple-slash. He’s a good athlete who can run, throw, and more than hold his own in center field. There are worse potential org guys to give opportunities to at this stage, I suppose.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Jason Delay (Vanderbilt), Mike Rescigno (Maryland), Jayden O’Dell (?), Adam Laskey (Duke), Jarrett Montgomery (Northwest Florida State JC), David Lee (Florida), Andrew DiPiazza (?), Nick Bennett (Louisville)
It’s Monday and I’m behind on some of the conference “preview” stuff I want to publish, so let’s take a quick look instead at some of the country’s top college hitters so far in 2016. There are an infinite number of ways to approach a topic like this, so I tried to make things easy on myself by coming up with some rules to make it manageable.
First, I used college stats from Friday to sort players into categories. That gave me a one-stop shop for all my stat needs, but it necessitated a look at individual team sites last night to update the numbers to get the most recent information. That’s why you’ll see some inconsistencies between the categories and the stats of the players found under each. Secondly, I decided to focus only on draft-eligible players. That eliminated most sophomores and all freshmen. Those guys will get their fair shake in the years to come. Finally, in what may seem like a direct contradiction to the above at first, I made the cruel executive decision to skip seniors for now. I promise that they’ll get their due in an exercise similar to this closer to the draft, but for now I wanted to hone in on the players seen as better prospects by the majority. I love me a good senior-sign, but that extra year of experience gives them a bit of an unfair statistical boost. So only juniors and draft-eligible sophomores for now.
OBP over .500 and SLG over .700
C/1B Jameson Fisher (Southeastern Louisiana) – .521/.626/.872 with 25 BB/10 K and 6/11 SB in 94 AB
C/1B Zack Collins (Miami) – .416/.581/.688 – with 34 BB/16 K in 77 AB
OF Kyle Lewis (Mercer) – .426/.555/.843 – with 33 BB/17 K and 4/7 SB in 108 AB
OF Adam Groesbeck (Air Force) – .447/.520/.671 with 11 BB/8 K and 12/14 SB in 85 AB
C Logan Ice (Oregon State) – .389/.495/.792 with 14 BB/3 K and 1/1 SB in 72 AB
C Brett Cumberland (California) – .425/.552/.904 with 15 BB/18 K and 3/3 SB in 73 AB
OF Anfernee Grier (Auburn) – .442/.535/.692 with 19 BB/23 K and 14/17 SB in 120 AB
OF Tyler Ramirez (North Carolina) – .394/.508/.670 with 22 BB/21 K and 6/9 SB in 94 AB
1B Dre Gleason (Austin Peay) – .390/.487/.680 with 17 BB/24 K in 100 AB
This is the category you want to be in as a hitter. It’s a spin-off of the .600+ SLG and BB> K group I had last year. On-base skills plus power potential equals big money come draft day. Tools will always matter, but results like the ones these players are putting up will get your foot in the door even if some scouts are dubious about other aspects of your game. Luckily, many of the names on this list are likely very familiar as big-time draft prospects who combine stellar performances with big league caliber tool sets.
I’m not sure anybody doubted Jameson Fisher’s bat coming into this season, but just in case he’s gone out and picked up where he left off in his last healthy season (2014)…and then some. We’re talking a 100 AB or so sample for all of the players listed, so let’s get that caveat out of the way right now. Still, Fisher’s start to the season has been positively Bonds-ian. I haven’t heard anything about his defense this season, but I do know scouts will want to see him behind the plate a little bit more before confidently projecting him as a pro-caliber defender. If he keeps hitting like he has, however, he might get himself into the top few round conversation much like the player one spot below him on the list. I still think Zack Collins is a catcher and I still think he should be talked about as a potential option for the Phillies at 1-1. Same thing with Kyle Lewis, minus the whole catching thing.
Adam Groesbeck, known more for his speed than his potent power/patience blend coming the season, has to be in the top ten round mix at this point. Logan Ice and Brett Cumberland are Pac-12 catchers with top two round bonafides. This class and catchers, man. It’s really unbelievable. Anfernee Grier has gotten some first round buzz of late and while I’m not sure I’d go that high on him yet, he’s certainly holding up his end of the bargain here in 2016. Tyler Ramirez could get dinged some by being an undersized tweener, but teams that believe in him in center should like the all-around offensive profile that comes with it. I don’t have much of a read on what those outside my own bubble think of Dre Gleason. I could see him as a surprising inclusion in the latter half of the draft’s single-digit rounds or being a mid- to late-round pick that winds up going back to school in an attempt to raise his stock as a 2017 senior-sign. I don’t know if teams are buying his bat as real just yet; hopefully he keeps hitting and quiets the doubters.
If we tease out the members who lost their spot over the weekend, we’re left with just three players currently in the .500/.700 club: Jameson Fisher, Kyle Lewis, and Brett Cumberland. Not a bad trio.
OBP over .500
2B Nick Solak (Louisville) – .455/.564/.623 with 19 BB/8 K and 7/8 SB in 77 AB
1B Carmen Benedetti (Michigan) – .372/.526/.570 with 24 BB/11 K and 6/7 SB in 86 AB
3B Sheldon Neuse (Oklahoma) – .392/.500/.686 with 22 BB/22 K and 8/8 SB in 102 AB
2B Cavan Biggio (Notre Dame) – .330/.527/.516 with 34 BB/14 K and 8/8 SB in 91 AB
2B/3B Nick Senzel (Tennessee) – .384/.504/.646 with 24 BB/12 K and 10/11 SB in 99 AB
Nick Solak can flat hit. I’d take him on my team anytime. He’s likely locked in at second in the infield, so I don’t know how high that profile can rise but I have a hunch he’ll be higher on my rankings than he winds up getting drafted in June. I’m more than all right with that. I have a hunch that Carmen Benedetti will go out as a pitcher in pro ball, but I like his bat too much to put it on ice. I like letting two-way players with split-decision futures start as hitters with pitching as a fallback rather than the other way around. Personal preference, obviously, but I think it’s easier to pick pitching back up on the fly. Sheldon Neuse is a deep fly or two away from being in the .500/.700 club. A lot has gone wrong for Oklahoma prospects this year, but Neuse has taken a step forward both at the plate and in the field. I think he’s solidly in the second round mix. Same for Cavan Biggio, the top-ranked college hitter on my way too early 2016 college preview back from March 2015. He was one spot ahead of Neuse. Before I start patting myself on the back too hard — something I really shouldn’t be doing in the first place considering that Biggio and Neuse, much as I love both, aren’t on anybody’s board as the top two college hitters — the next three hitters were Ryan Boldt, Nick Banks, and Chris Okey. Win some, lose some. Nick Senzel has been doing a lot of winning of late. I don’t know if Baseball America’s infatuation with him is more about them or about what they are hearing from big league front offices (my guess is the former in this case), but either way he’s a damn fine player and a legitimate top ten type. I’ve taken to comparing him to Anthony Rendon. That’s pretty special.
SLG over .700
OF Heath Quinn (Samford) – .330/.455/.679 with 22 BB/27 K
Like Neuse just missing the cutoff for .500/.700 by a few bombs, Quinn came into the weekend in need of just a few extra trips to first base (or any other base for that matter) to push his OBP over .500. Along the way his slugging dipped below the .700 line, but we’ll still count it since I used Friday’s numbers to originally sort (through the NCAA stats page) despite displaying stats as of the end of the weekend (via the more quickly updated team sites). Quinn is a physical 6-3, 220 pound outfielder with speed, power, and a solid approach. I’ve heard some speculate that he’s hurt some by the overwhelming presence of Kyle Lewis in his conference, but I think that’s nuts. There’s plenty of scouting love to go around, and the more general exposure the SoCon gets, the better it is for every team and every player.
I’m an unabashed Kyle Lewis fan. I’m also a fan of hitters who can control the strike zone, spoil pitchers’s pitches, work favorable counts, and punish baseballs when ahead. Right now, that description only partially describes Lewis…and even that requires a more optimistic outlook than some are willing to take at this point in time. So how can those two statements be reconciled? It’s a dangerous thing for my credibility to admit, but call it an educated hunch that the 20-year-old Lewis will figure things out as a hitter. It goes back to something I mentioned in the comments section a few weeks back: guys either learn to hit or they don’t. That’s my paraphrased take from this scout’s quote talking about the likelihood of Jahlil Okafor improving his outside shot as a professional: “He needs to become a better shooter and free throw shooter. He either will or he won’t.” Scouts work very hard evaluating amateur and minor league talent across the country, so their collective insight into projecting a young hitter’s future is not to be dismissed. But…can we ever really know how a guy is going to react when thrown into the professional environment? A 95 MPH fastball with movement is a 95 MPH fastball with movement at any level. Plus speed, outstanding glove work, and the ability to miss bats are all translatable skills when honed properly. Hitting is an entirely different animal.
A big part of what makes hitting unique is that it can mean different things to different evaluators. There’s no wrong way to define “hitting,” so long as it remains consistent report to report. When I personally talk hitting, I’m including everything that I think goes into what separates a good hitter from a not so good hitter. If that means there’s overlap with other tools (power, most notably) and abilities (athleticism, hand-eye coordination, work ethic), then so be it. Hitting can be broken up into all kinds of smaller sub-components, but the three central facets are “hitting” (contact skills, bat-to-ball ability, mechanics), power (fairly self-explanatory), and approach (having a plan at the plate, both early and late in counts). The hitting and power components are relatively easy to identify with practice — there’s a reason they are two of the oft-cited five tools — but approach has always been the great mystery of amateur scouting. This is problematic for guys like me who place a great deal of importance on the approach piece of the pie; without an approach up to a certain standard, the hit and power tools will suffer greatly. I know some scouts will argue for hit over power (i.e., the Kansas City and Pittsburgh approach to scouting and development) or power over hit (where many teams are still at as they struggle to adjust to a post-PED world), but I’ll always be approach over hit/power, with no real preference on the last decision.
So what do I look for in young hitters and what does this ultimately have to do with liking Kyle Lewis and his current sub-optimal (per performance metrics) approach so much? I want to see athleticism (both traditional and baseball-specific), ease of mechanical repeatability (swing path, pre-swing movements, and upper- to lower-half coordination are all interesting to me, but ultimately I’m pragmatic: don’t really care how it looks as long as the hitter is comfortable, productive against top competition, and able to consistently do the same thing over and over), a high frequency of “hard” contact (easier judged now thanks to new technology at the pro level, but still a subjective call at the amateur level), and evidence of a planned approach (more about “self-scouting” and less about trying to guess what the hitter is seeing out of the pitcher’s hand — often labelled “pitch recognition,” but a really hard thing for an outsider to claim in my opinion) with every single plate appearance.
The relative importance of hitting the ball to all fields is something I go back and forth on; it’s obviously a good thing, but I think there’s still room in our shift-filled game for a slugger with extreme pull-side power to succeed if he’s good enough at it. For now, I consider it a bonus and not a prerequisite for being an average or better pro hitter. I’m also somewhat divided in thought when it comes to bat speed. As somebody who grew up with a front row seat — well, upper-deck (sections 420/421!) but it still counts — to watching Chase Utley play every day, I’m not about to downplay the importance of swinging a quick bat. Bat speed is undeniably important, but damn hard to judge in a nuanced way. That could be a personal failing of mine and not a universal issue among real deal scouts, but I’m not sure how the human eye can possibly determine bat speed beyond differentiating between “whoa,” “decent,” and “slow.” Maybe you could attempt to circle back to existing scouting language and separate a bit more (plus, above-average, average, below-average), but even that only teases out one extra descriptive layer. Short of measuring bat speed electronically, we’re left at doing our best to approximate what we see in an instant.
There’s also always going to be the most basic aspect of scouting: how does he look when he’s doing what he does. Think of this as an informed “gut” instinct. That’s so much of what scouting is: educated guesses. I wish I had access to some kind of special proprietary video library of every hitter of the past few decades to compare what I’m seeing right this second to what has worked for others historically, but I don’t. Thankfully, our brains are designed to cycle through all that our eyes have perceived and form patterns based on positive outcomes. That magic video library is inside each and every one of us obsessives who watches baseball on a daily basis. This will always be the most subjective aspect of scouting — everybody has a “type” and we’re all preconditioned to prefer those who fit that mold — but that doesn’t mean it’s not without value. And, yes, Kyle Lewis is my type, thank you very much.
Acknowledging that we all have our own preconceived notions about what is best lends further credence to the idea that sweeping proclamations about whether or not a young guy will hit aren’t wise. We can all make our best guesses — some of us having to do so with millions of dollars on the line — but ultimately these hitters will or won’t hit as pros. There’s already some interesting “expert” noise out there about Florida OF Buddy Reed’s swing being unsuitable to the challenges of the pro game. That’s a fair criticism (when substantiated beyond the boring blanket statement of “I just don’t like that swing”), but consider me preemptively bummed out to read (in the event of him being a great pro) how it wasn’t a scouting miss per se but rather a developmental success. No way could it be that his swing wasn’t misidentified as a bad one. Nooo, it was the impossible to predict reworking of his swing as a pro that led to his (again, entirely hypothetical) pro success. In other words, be careful what you read about a young hitter’s ability to adjust to the pro game. Nobody on the outside really knows — heck, neither do the supposed insiders! — so beware anybody who claims to have some kind of soothsaying abilities when prognosticating raw amateur bats. These guys are often the first to explain away their misses under the guise of unforeseen pro development. Here I am thinking that making that determination was part of the scouting process — silly me!
Kyle Lewis hit .367/.423/.677 last year in a decent college conference. That’s good, clearly. His 19 BB/41 K ratio is less good. So why buy the bat? As a hitter, I like what I’ve seen and heard about his righthanded swing. I like that he seemingly improved his approach (aggressively hunting for “his” pitch showed good self-scouting while getting ahead more frequently late in the year demonstrated a fuller understanding of what it will take to succeed against top-level competition) and started chasing fewer pitchers’s pitches as the season went on. I like his physical projection, public and privately shared intel about his work ethic, bat speed (I’ve seen some “whoa” cuts from him), and how his athleticism allows his upper- and lower-body to work in concern with one another with each swing. Believe me, I understand doubting him now as a potential top ten pick and dark horse to go 1-1 in this draft based on a wait-and-see approach to his plate discipline; if improvements aren’t made in his draft year BB/K ratio, all the positive scouting buzz will matter a lot less to me come June. But part of college scouting early in the season is identifying players set to make the leap as juniors. I think Lewis’s leap as a more mature, thoughtful, and explosive hitter has already begun, and it’ll be reflected on the field this upcoming season. I’ve thrown out a Yasiel Puig comp in the past for his ceiling and I’m sticking with that for now. As an added prospect to prospect bonus, his game reminds me some of Anthony Alford. Your mileage might vary on how in the draft a player like that could go, but it sure sounds like a potential premium pick to me.
- Mercer JR OF Kyle Lewis
- Samford JR OF Heath Quinn
- East Tennessee State JR SS/RHP Chris Cook
- East Tennessee State SR 2B Trey York
- Mercer JR SS Matt Meeder
- Mercer JR C Charlie Madden
- East Tennessee State SR 1B/C Kevin Phillips
- Mercer JR 2B/SS Ryan Hagan
- East Tennessee State JR 3B Blake Rowlett
- East Tennessee State JR OF Lance Mays
- Furman SR 2B/SS Jordan Simpson
- East Tennessee State SR OF Jeremy Taylor
- Furman JR C Cameron Whitehead
- Mercer JR 3B Danny Edgeworth
- Western Carolina SR C Danny Bermudez
- Samford JR 1B/RHP Hunter Swilling
- Wofford JR 1B Brett Hash
- Samford SR 1B Alex Lee
- Samford rJR SS Danny Rodriguez
- East Tennessee State rJR 2B/SS Danny Carrier
- Furman JR OF Carter Grote
- Samford JR OF TJ Dixon
- Furman JR OF Sky Overton
- North Carolina Greensboro SR 3B Collin Woody
- Western Carolina JR OF/1B Matt Smith
- Wofford JR C Carson Waln
- Wofford JR OF Kody Ruedisilli
- Samford SR C Richard Greene
- Mercer rSR OF/1B Blaise Lezynski
- Western Carolina rSR OF Garrett Brown
- East Tennessee State JR 1B/RHP Zach Thompson
- Western Carolina SR 2B/3B Reece Strong
- Wofford SR 2B/SS Alec Paradowski
- Samford SR SS Frankie Navarette
- Wofford SR SS/2B Derek Hirsch
- Samford JR RHP Jared Brasher
- Wofford SR RHP Will Stillman
- Wofford JR RHP Jacob Condra-Bogan
- East Tennessee State SR RHP Griffin Krieg
- North Carolina Greensboro rJR RHP Hunter Smith
- East Tennessee State JR RHP Blake Smith
- VMI SR RHP Taylor Edens
- North Carolina Greensboro SR RHP Keaton Haack
- East Tennessee State rSO RHP Dillon Cate
- Western Carolina SR RHP Colton Davis
- VMI rSO RHP Jack Gomersall
- Western Carolina JR LHP Bryan Sammons
- Western Carolina SR LHP Taylor Durand
- East Tennessee State JR RHP Victor Gonzalez
- Mercer JR RHP Ryan Askew
- Wofford JR RHP John Caskey
- Mercer JR LHP Austin Lord
- Western Carolina JR RHP BJ Nobles
- Wofford SR RHP Matthew Milburn
- Samford SR RHP Parker Curry
rSO RHP Zach McKay (2016)
rJR RHP Zach Lavery (2016)
rJR LHP Nate Brecklin (2016)
SR 2B/3B Bret Hines (2016)
rJR OF Steven Hansen (2016)
rJR OF Jason Smith (2016)
JR OF Austin Mapes (2016)
SR C Stephen Windham (2016)
SR OF Mike Deese (2016)
SO LHP JP Sears (2017)
SO RHP Thomas Byelick (2017)
SO RHP/2B Jacob Watcher (2017)
SO 3B/SS William Kinney (2017)
SO 2B Philip Watcher (2017)
SO 1B Drew Ellis (2017)
FR 1B Ben Peden (2018)
High Priority Follows: Steven Hansen, Austin Mapes, Stephen Windham
East Tennessee State
SR RHP Griffin Krieg (2016)
rSO RHP Dillon Cate (2016)
SR LHP Josh Jacques (2016)
JR LHP Jamin McCann (2016)
JR RHP Blake Smith (2016)
JR RHP Victor Gonzalez (2016)
SR RHP Lee Haeberle (2016)
JR RHP Connor Bartow (2016)
JR RHP/1B Zach Thompson (2016)
JR SS/RHP Chris Cook (2016)
SR 1B/C Kevin Phillips (2016)
SR 2B Trey York (2016)
SR OF Jeremy Taylor (2016)
JR 3B Blake Rowlett (2016)
JR OF Lance Mays (2016)
JR 1B/OF Caleb Longley (2016)
rJR 2B/SS Danny Carrier (2016)
SO RHP Ryan Simpler (2017)
SO RHP Logan Gentry (2017)
FR RHP Dalton Long (2017)
SO OF Aaron Maher (2017)
SO C/INF Hagan Owenby (2017)
SO INF Christian Bailey (2017)
Highest Priority Follows: Griffin Krieg, Dillon Cate, Blake Smith, Victor Gonzalez, Zach Thompson, Chris Cook, Kevin Phillips, Trey York, Jeremy Taylor, Blake Rowlett, Lance Mays, Danny Carrier
SR RHP Steven Fondu (2016)
JR RHP Will Dvorak (2016)
SR RHP Ryan Griffith (2016)
JR RHP Matthew Quarles (2016)
JR LHP Billy Greenfield (2016)
JR C Cameron Whitehead (2016)
SR 2B/SS Jordan Simpson (2016)
JR OF Carter Grote (2016)
JR OF Sky Overton (2016)
SR OF Griffin Davis (2016)
SR INF Matt Towarnicky (2016)
SR C Andrew MacLatchie (2016)
SO RHP Will Gaddis (2017)
SO LHP Grant Schuermann (2017)
SO 1B/RHP Brandon Elmy (2017)
SO SS Sims Griffith (2017)
SO OF Landon Kay (2017)
FR RHP Rollin Layton (2018)
High Priority Follows: Matthew Quarles, Cameron Whitehead, Jordan Simpson, Carter Grote, Sky Overton, Griffin Davis
JR RHP Ryan Askew (2016)
JR RHP CJ Martin (2016)
JR LHP Austin Lord (2016)
JR OF Kyle Lewis (2016)
JR SS Matt Meeder (2016)
JR C Charlie Madden (2016)
JR 2B/SS Ryan Hagan (2016)
rSR OF/1B Blaise Lezynski (2016)
JR 1B Ben Upton (2016)
JR 1B Hunter Bening (2016)
JR INF Drew Lingo (2016)
JR 3B Danny Edgeworth (2016)
rJR 1B Howard Joe (2016)
SR C Jose Hernandez (2016)
SO LHP Conner Herd (2017)
SO RHP Carter Varga (2017)
SO OF Jackson Ware (2017)
SO OF Trey Truitt (2017)
FR RHP Kevin Coulter (2018)
FR RHP Andrew Kane (2018)
FR RHP Conrad Broom (2018)
High Priority Follows: Ryan Askew, Austin Lord, Kyle Lewis, Matt Meeder, Charlie Madden, Ryan Hagan, Blaise Lezynski, Danny Edgeworth
North Carolina Greensboro
rJR RHP Hunter Smith (2016)
SR RHP Keaton Haack (2016)
SR 3B Collin Woody (2016)
JR C Jake Kusz (2016)
JR OF Dillon Stewart (2016)
JR 1B Michael Goss (2016)
JR C/INF JoJo Underwood (2016)
JR 2B/OF Ben Spitznagel (2016)
rSR OF LJ Kalawaia (2016)
JR OF Ryne Sigmon (2016)
SO LHP Bryce Hensley (2017)
SO RHP Andrew Wantz (2017)
SO RHP Chad Sykes (2017)
SO OF Devin Ruiz (2017)
SO SS Tripp Shelton (2017)
FR RHP Matt Frisbee (2018)
FR OF Andrew Moritz (2018)
FR SS Cesar Trejo (2018)
High Priority Follows: Hunter Smith, Keaton Haack, Collin Woody, Jake Kusz, Dillon Stewart
SR RHP Parker Curry (2016)
JR RHP Jared Brasher (2016)
JR 1B/RHP Hunter Swilling (2016)
JR OF TJ Dixon (2016)
JR OF Heath Quinn (2016)
SR 1B Alex Lee (2016)
SR C Richard Greene (2016)
SR SS Frankie Navarette (2016)
rJR SS Danny Rodriguez (2016)
rSR OF Jared Watson (2016)
rSR OF Damon Waller (2016)
JR 3B/SS Anthony Gonzalez (2016)
SO RHP Jacob Greer (2017)
SO RHP Tristan Widra (2017)
SO RHP Wyatt Burns (2017)
SO 1B Austin Edens (2017)
FR RHP Connor Radcliff (2018)
High Priority Follows: Parker Curry, Jared Brasher, Hunter Swilling, TJ Dixon, Heath Quinn, Alex Lee, Frankie Navarette, Danny Rodriguez,
Virginia Military Institute
SR RHP Taylor Edens (2016)
JR LHP Austin Heenan (2016)
SR RHP Micah Gorman (2016)
rSO RHP Jack Gomersall (2016)
rJR RHP Ryan Bennett (2016)
JR OF Will Malbon (2016)
SR 3B David Geary (2016)
JR 1B Tyler Tharp (2016)
JR OF BJ Dudeck (2016)
SR OF Ray Lopez (2016)
SO LHP Brandon Barbery (2017)
SO RHP Jared Silva (2017)
SO RHP Matthew Eagle (2017)
SO SS Jacob Jye (2017)
SO C Peyton Maddox (2017)
SO OF/1B Collin Fleischer (2017)
SO OF Matt Dunlevy (2017)
FR RHP Josh Winder (2018)
High Priority Follows: Taylor Edens, Jack Gomersall
JR LHP Bryan Sammons (2016)
JR RHP Korey Anderson (2016)
SR LHP Taylor Durand (2016)
SR RHP Colton Davis (2016)
SR RHP Jonathan Waszak (2016)
JR RHP BJ Nobles (2016)
rJR LHP Dillon Bray (2016)
SR C Danny Bermudez (2016)
JR OF/1B Matt Smith (2016)
SR OF Kramer Ferrell (2016)
SR 2B/3B Reece Strong (2016)
rJR 3B/SS JD Long (2016)
rSR OF Garrett Brown (2016)
rJR OF Bryson Bowman (2016
rSO C Pierce Suttles (2016)
rJR 1B Jason Smith (2016)
SO LHP Brandan Nail (2017)
SO LHP Corey Sikes (2017)
SO SS/3B Brett Pope (2017)
SO OF Matthew Koehler (2017)
SO C Spencer Holcomb (2017)
FR LHP Tristan Baker (2018)
High Priority Follows: Bryan Sammons, Taylor Durand, Colton Davis, BJ Nobles, Danny Bermudez, Matt Smith, Kramer Ferrell, Reece Strong, Garrett Brown, Pierce Suttles
SR RHP Will Stillman (2016)
SR RHP Matthew Milburn (2016)
JR RHP Jacob Condra-Bogan (2016)
JR RHP Elliot Lance (2016)
JR RHP Spencer Kulman (2016)
SR LHP Connor Foltyn (2016)
JR RHP Jordan Accetta (2016)
JR RHP John Caskey (2016)
SR SS/2B Derek Hirsch (2016)
SR 2B/SS Alec Paradowski (2016)
SR OF/2B Demetrius Jennings (2016)
JR 1B Brett Hash (2016)
JR C Carson Waln (2016)
JR OF Kody Ruedisilli (2016)
JR INF Dylan May (2016)
SO LHP Adam Scott (2017)
SO 3B Max McDougal (2017)
SO OF McClain Bradley (2017)
SO C Mack Nathanson (2017)
SO C Cody Miller (2017)
FR RHP Reed Massey (2018)
FR LHP Austin Higginbotham (2018)
FR RHP Thomas Tatham (2018)
FR OF Chandler Engel (2018)
High Priority Follows: Will Stillman, Matthew Milburn, Jacob Condra-Bogan, John Caskey, Derek Hirsch, Alec Paradowski, Brett Hash, Carson Waln, Kody Ruedisilli
I don’t typically get into rankings this early in the process because doing it the right way as a research/writing staff of one takes me literally hundreds of hours. Realistically putting together what I feel is representative of my better stuff just hasn’t been possible in the past unless I pushed other micro baseball projects — for the site and elsewhere — aside and instead looked took the time to cover a nation’s worth of prospects on the macro level. Having a draft site that spends more time on players on the fringes who may or may not wind up drafted at all while failing to address the prospects at the top of the food chain seems a bit silly, so I’m trying to balance things out a little bit better this year. There will still be lots of the usual draft minutiae I enjoy so much, but a rededicated focus on the draft’s first day just makes sense. With all of this in mind I put other baseball duties on hold for the last ten or so days to put this list together. It’s imperfect, but I like it as a starting point. Some notes on what you’ll see below…
*** I didn’t include any non-D1 players at this point because I haven’t yet had the time to go as deep into other levels of competition and junior college ball just yet. Nick Shumpert would have made the top fifty for sure. Lucas Erceg likely would have been considered. After a quick skim of my notes, I’d say Kep Brown, Tekwaan Whyte, Ryan January, Ethan Skender, Liam Scafariello, Jesus Gamez, Curtis Taylor, Willie Rios, Shane Billings, Brett Morales, Hunter Tackett, Devin Smeltzer, and Tyson Miller would be just a few of the names also in the mix for me right now. I said it a lot last year, but it bears repeating: I’d love to find the time/energy to go deeper with non-D1 baseball this year. The finite number of hours I have to devote to this site might get in the way, but I’m going to try.
*** This is going to sound bad and I apologize in advance, but I don’t believe I left anybody off that I intended to include. It’s possible, of course, but I don’t think that’s the case here. A ton of really, really good prospects, many of whom will be future big league players, didn’t make the cut as of yet. It’s not personal, obviously. I would have loved to include any player that even remotely interested me, but I had to have a cut-off point somewhere. If you think I whiffed on somebody, I’m happy to listen. Reasonable minds can disagree.
*** There is no consensus top player in this college class. The hitter at the top could wind up out of the first round by June. The top pitcher listed has medical red flags reminiscent of Michael Matuella last season. And — SPOILER ALERT — the top overall player in this class isn’t included on the list below. There are players ranked in the twenties that may be in your top five and there are players in the thirties that may not crack somebody else’s top seventy-five. It’s a fun year that way.
*** If I had to predict what player will actually go number one this June, I’d piggy-back on what others have already said and put my vote in for AJ Puk. The Phillies are my hometown team and while I’m not as well-connected to their thinking as I am with a few other teams, based on the snippets of behind the scenes things I’ve heard (not much considering it’s October, but it’s not like they aren’t thinking about it yet) and the common sense reporting elsewhere (they lean towards a quick-moving college player, preferably a pitcher) all point to Puk. He’s healthy, a good kid (harmless crane climbing incident aside), and a starting pitcher all the way. Puk joining Alfaro, Knapp, Crawford, Franco, Williams, Quinn, Herrera, Altherr, Nola, Thompson, Eickhoff, Eflin, and Giles by September 2017 makes for a pretty intriguing cost-controlled core.
*** The words that go along with the rankings are a bit more positive than what long-time readers might be used to. My early take is that this appears to be an above-average draft, but a friend who saw an early draft (no pun intended) of this told me that 2016 must be an incredibly talented group of amateurs. He said that reading through led him to believe that every pitcher is a future big league starter and every hitter is a future above-average regular. Guilty. I admit that I generally skew positive at this site (elsewhere…not so much) because I like baseball, enjoy focusing on what young players do well, and believe highlighting the good can help grow the college game, but being fair is always the ultimate goal. That said, there will be plenty of time to get deeper into each prospect’s individual strengths and weaknesses over the next seven or so months. In October a little extra dose of positivity is nice.
With no further ado, here are the 2016 MLB Draft’s top fifty prospects (with a whole lot more names to know beyond that)…
(Fine, just a bit more ado: A very rough HS list and maybe a combined overall ranking will come after Jupiter…)
- Mercer JR OF Kyle Lewis
The popular comp for Lewis has been Alfonso Soriano (originated at D1 Baseball, I believe), but I see more of Yasiel Puig in his game. He’s an honest five-tool player with a rapidly improving approach at the plate. There’s still some roughness around the edges there, but if it clicks then he’s a monster. There’s obvious risk in the profile, but it’s easy to be excited by somebody who legitimately gets better with every watch.
- Oklahoma JR RHP Alec Hansen
Hansen would rank first overall (college, not overall) if not for some recent reports of forearm troubles. His injury history probably should have been enough to temper enthusiasm for his nasty stuff (huge FB and chance for two plus offspeed pitches), but the upside is just that exciting. The popular Gerrit Cole makes sense as Hansen is a big guy (6-7, 235) with outstanding athleticism who holds his plus velocity late into games.
- Florida JR OF Buddy Reed
Reed’s relative newness to playing the game full-time makes his already considerable upside all the more intriguing. More reps against quality pitching could turn the dynamic center fielder (plus range, plus speed, plus arm) into the top overall pick.
- Oregon rSO LHP Matt Krook
This may be a touch more speculative that some of the other names on the list since Krook missed the 2015 season after Tommy John surgery, but I’m buying all the Krook shares I can right now. He came back and impressed on the Cape enough to warrant consideration as a potential 1-1 riser. There’s no squaring up his fastball and there’s more than enough offspeed (CB and CU) to miss bats (12 K/9 in 45 freshman innings). He’s not as physical as AJ Puk, but the more advanced secondaries give him the edge for now.
- Florida JR LHP/1B AJ Puk
Extension, deception, and power would be three words that come immediately to mind when describing Puk. He’s every bit of 6-7, 225 with a delivery that hides the ball damn well. His power comes both with his left arm (92-96, 98 peak) and at the plate (he’d quickly be among the better hitting pitchers in the game), so it’s no big shock that some guy on the internet (that’s me) sees some similarities between him and the prospect version of Madison Bumgarner.
- Wake Forest JR 1B/RHP Will Craig
Do you like power? How about patience? What about a guy with power, patience, and the athleticism to pull off collegiate two-way duty? For everybody who missed on AJ Reed the first time around, Will Craig is here to give you a second chance. I won’t say he’ll be the first base prospect that finally tests how high a first base prospect can go in a post-PED draft landscape, but if he has a big enough junior season…
- Louisville JR OF Corey Ray
If you prefer Ray to Lewis and Reed, you’re not wrong. They are all different flavors of a similar overall quality. Like those guys, Ray can do enough of everything well on the diamond to earn the much coveted label of “five-tool player.” The most enthusiastic comp I got from him was a “more compact Kirk Gibson.” That’s a thinker.
- Arkansas JR RHP Zach Jackson
We’ll know a lot more about Buddy Reed (and other SEC hitters) by June after he runs the gauntlet of SEC pitching. In addition to teammate AJ Puk, I’ve got three other SEC arms with realistic top ten draft hopes. Jackson’s chance for rising up to the 1-1 discussion depends almost entirely on his delivery and command. If those two things can be smoothed out this spring — they often go hand-in-hand — then his fastball (90-94, 96 peak), curve (deadly), and change (inconsistent but very promising) make him a potential top of the rotation starting pitcher.
- Georgia JR RHP Robert Tyler
Just about everything said about Jackson can be said about Tyler. The Georgia righthander has the bigger fastball (90-96, 100 peak) and his two offspeed pitches are flip-flopped (love the change, still tinkering with his spike curve), so getting his delivery worked out enough to convince onlookers that he can hold up over 30 plus starts a year could make him the first college arm off the board.
- Mississippi State JR RHP Dakota Hudson
Hudson is the biggest mystery man out of the SEC Four Horsemen (TM pending…with apologies to all the Vandy guys and Kyle Serrano) because buying on him is buying a largely untested college reliever (so far) with control red flags and a limited overall track record. Those are all fair reasons to doubt him right now, but when Hudson has it working there are few pitchers who look more dominant. His easy plus 86-92 cut-slider is right up there with Jackson’s curve as one of the best breaking balls in the entire class.
- Tennessee JR 2B/3B Nick Senzel
Arguably the safest of this year’s potential first round college bats, Senzel has electric bat speed, a patient approach, and as good a hit tool as any player listed. His defensive gifts are almost on that same level and his power upside separates him from the rest of what looks like a pretty intriguing overall college group of second basemen.
- Notre Dame JR 2B/3B Cavan Biggio
Without having seen every Notre Dame game the past two years — I’m good, but not that good — one might be confused as to how a player with Biggio’s pedigree and collection of scouting accolades (“line drive machine; born to hit; great pitch recognition; great approach, patient and aggressive all at once”…and that’s just what has been written here) could hit .250ish through two college seasons. I say we all agree to chalk it up to bad BABIP luck and eagerly anticipate a monster junior season that puts him squarely back in the first round mix where he belongs.
- Nebraska JR OF Ryan Boldt
World Wide Wes said it best: “You can’t chase the night.” Of course that doesn’t stop me from trying to chase missed players from previous draft classes. Nobody was talking about Andrew Benintendi last year at this time — in part because of the confusion that comes with draft-eligible true sophomores, but still — so attempting to get a head-start on the “next Benintendi” seems like a thing to do. As a well-rounded center fielder with a sweet swing and impressive plate coverage, Boldt could be that guy.
- Vanderbilt JR OF/1B Bryan Reynolds
CTRL C “Ryan Boldt paragraph”, CTRL V “Ryan Boldt paragraph.” Reynolds also reminds me somewhat of Kyle Lewis in the way that both guys have rapidly improved their plate discipline in ways that haven’t yet shown up consistently on the stat sheet. If or when it does, Reynolds could join Lewis as a potential future impact big league outfielder.
- Virginia JR RHP Connor Jones
Jones, the number one guy on a list designed to serve the same purpose as the one created over seven months ago, hasn’t actually done anything to slip this far down the board; competition at the top this year is just that fierce. I like guys with fastballs that move every which way but straight, so Jones’s future looks bright from here. His mid-80s splitter has looked so good at times that he’s gotten one of my all-time favorite cross-culture comps: Masahiro Tanaka.
- Stanford JR RHP Cal Quantrill
A case could be made that Quantrill is the most complete, pro-ready college arm in this year’s class. The fact that one could make that claim even after losing almost an entire season of development speaks to the kind of mature talent we’re talking about. Pitchability is a nebulous thing that isn’t easy to pin down, but you know it when you see it. Quantrill has it. He also has a plus changeup and a fastball with serious giddy-up.
- Virginia JR C Matt Thaiss
Comps aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, but I’ve always defended them because they provide the needed frame of reference for prospects to gain some modicum of public recognition and leap past the indignity of being known only as soulless, nameless abstract ideas on a page until they have the good fortune of reaching the big leagues. Matt Thaiss played HS ball not too far off from where I live, so I saw him a few times before he packed things up and headed south to Virginia. I never could find the words to describe him just right to friends who were curious as to why I’d drive over an hour after work to see a random high school hitter. It wasn’t until Baseball America dropped a Brian McCann comp on him that they began to understand. You can talk about his power upside, mature approach, and playable defense all you want, but there’s something extra that crystallizes in your mind when a player everybody knows enters the conversation. Nobody with any sense expects Thaiss to have a carbon copy of McCann’s excellent professional career, but the comp gives you some general idea of what style of player is being discussed.
- Clemson JR C Chris Okey
Okey doesn’t have quite the same thunder in his bat as Thaiss, but his strong hands, agile movements behind the plate, and average or better arm give him enough ammo to be in the mix for first college catching off the board. The days of the big, strong-armed, plus power, and questionable contact catcher seem to be dwindling as more and more teams appear willing to go back to placing athleticism atop their list of desired attributes for young catching prospects. Hard to say that’s wrong based on where today’s speed and defense style of game looks like it’s heading.
- California JR RHP Daulton Jefferies
To have Jefferies, maybe my favorite draft-eligible college pitcher to watch, this low says way more about the quality at the top of this year’s class then his long-term pro ability. Jefferies brings three potential above-average to plus pitches to the mound on any given night. I like the D1 Baseball comparison to Walker Buehler, last year’s 24th overall pick. Getting Jefferies in a similar spot this year would be something to be excited about.
- LSU JR OF Jake Fraley
In a class with potential superstars like Lewis, Reed, and Ray roaming outfields at the top, it would be easy to overlook Fraley, a tooled-up center fielder with lightning in his wrists, an unusually balanced swing, and the patient approach of a future leadoff hitter. Do so at your own discretion. Since I started the site in 2009 there’s been at least one LSU outfielder drafted every year. That includes five top-three round picks (Mitchell, Landry, Mahtook, Jones, and Stevenson) in seven classes. Outfielder U seems poised to keep the overall streak alive and make the top three round run a cool six out of eight in 2016.
- Vanderbilt rSO RHP Jordan Sheffield
It’s a lazy comp, sure, but the possibility that Sheffield could wind up as this year’s Dillon Tate has stuck with me for almost a full calendar year. He’s undersized yet athletic and well-built enough to handle a starter’s workload, plus he has the three pitches (FB, CU, CB) to get past lineups multiple times. If his two average-ish offspeed that flash above-average to plus can more consistently get there, he’s a potential top ten guy no matter his height.
- Wright State JR C Sean Murphy
Watching Murphy do his thing behind the plate is worth the price of admission alone. We’re talking “Queen Bee” level arm strength, ample lateral quicks on balls in the dirt, and dependable hands with an ever-improving ability to frame borderline pitches. He’s second in the class behind Jake Rogers defensively — not just as a catcher, but arguably at any position — but with enough bat (unlike Rogers) to project as a potential above-average all-around regular in time. I expect the battle for top college catching prospect to be closely contested all year with Thaiss, Okey, and Murphy all taking turns atop team-specific draft boards all spring long.
- Texas A&M JR OF Nick Banks
If you’ve ever wondered what the right field prototype looked liked, take a gander at the star outfielder in College Station. The combination of speed, strength, power, and one of the country’s most accurate and formidable outfield arms make taking the chance on him continuing to figure things out as a hitter well worth a potential first round pick.
- Tennessee JR RHP Kyle Serrano
Serrano is the second guy on this list that reminds me of Walker Buehler from last year, though I still like my own Jarrod Parker comp best. He’s transitioned into more of a sinker/slider pitcher as he’s refined his breaking ball and lost some feel for his change over the years, but as a firm believer in the idea that once you have a skill you own it forever I remain intrigued as to how good he could be once he learns to effectively harness his changeup once again.
- Kentucky JR 2B/OF JaVon Shelby
In yet another weird example of an odd comp that I haven’t been able to shake all year, there’s something about JaVon Shelby’s game that takes me back to watching Ian Happ at Cincinnati. Maybe the offensive game isn’t as far along at similar developmental points, but Shelby’s odds at sticking in the dirt have always been higher.
- Miami JR 1B/C Zack Collins
If I had more confidence that Collins could play regularly behind the plate at the highest level, he’s shoot up the board ten spots (minimum) in a hurry. He’s a fastball-hunting power-hitting force of nature at the plate with the potential for the kind of prodigious home run blasts that make Twitter lose control of its collective mind. I stand by the Travis Hafner ceiling comp from last December.
- Arizona JR 3B Bobby Dalbec
The good popular comp here is Troy Glaus. The less good comp that I’ve heard is Chris Dominguez. The truth, as it so often does, will likely fall in the middle somewhere.
- Georgia JR OF Stephen Wrenn
Wrenn is a burner who has looked good enough in center field at times that you wonder if he could handle all three outfield spots by himself at the same time. He’s an athletic outfielder who remains raw at the plate despite two years of regular playing time — making him seemingly one of forty-five of the type in this year’s top fifty — so you’re gambling on skills catching up to the tools. The fact that his glove alone will get him to the big leagues mitigates some of the risk with his bat.
- Winthrop JR LHP Matt Crohan
Premium fastball velocity from the left side is always a welcomed sight. Crohan can get it up to the upper-90s (sits 90-94) with a pair of worthwhile offspeed pitches (mid-80s cut-slider and a slowly improving change). He’s got the size, command, and smarts to pitch in a big league rotation for a long time.
- Louisville SR RHP Kyle Funkhouser
Much electronic ink was spilled on Funkhouser last season, so I’ll be brief: he’s good. It’s unclear how good — I’d say more mid-rotation than ace, but reasonable minds may disagree — but he’s good. Of the many comps I threw out for him last year my favorite remains Jordan Zimmermann. If he can up his command and control game like Zimmermann, then he could hit that mid-rotation ceiling and keep pushing upwards.
- Louisville JR RHP Zack Burdi
Of all the rankings outside of the top ten, this is the one that could make me look dumbest by June. Burdi is a really tough evaluation for him right now because even after multiple years of being on the prospect stage it’s unclear (to me, at least) what role will eventually lead to him maximizing his ability. I’m reticent to throw him in the bullpen right away — many do this because of his last name, I think — because he’s shown the kind of diversity of stuff to stay in a rotation. Whether or not he has the command or consistency remain to be seen. Still, those concerns aren’t all that concerning when your fallback plan means getting to go full-tilt in the bullpen as you unleash a triple-digit fastball on hitters also guarding against two impressive offspeed pitches (CU, SL). It’s almost a win-win for scouting directors at this point. If he has a great spring, then you can believe him in as a starter long-term and grade him accordingly. If there’s still doubt, then you can drop him some but keep a close eye on his slip while being ready to pounce if he falls outside of those first few “don’t screw up or you’re fired” picks. You don’t want to spend a premium pick on a potential reliever, clearly, but if he falls outside of the top twenty picks or so then all of a sudden that backup bullpen plan is good enough to return value on your investment.
- Samford JR OF Heath Quinn
Just what this class needed: another outfielder loaded with tools that comes with some question marks about the utility of his big-time power because he’s still learning how to hit against serious pitching.
- Miami JR OF Willie Abreu
Nick Banks gets a lot of deserved attention for being a potential early first round pick — somebody even once called him the “right field prototype,” if you can believe it — but Willie Abreu’s tool set is on the same shelf. There’s power, mobility, arm strength, and athleticism to profile as a damn fine regular if it all clicks.
- TCU rJR RHP Mitchell Traver
Traver was featured plenty on this site last year as a redshirt-sophomore, so that gives me the chance to rehash the three fun comps I’ve gotten for him over the years: Gil Meche, Nick Masset, and Dustin McGowan. Based on years of doing this — so, entirely anecdotal evidence and not hard data — I’ve found that bigger pitchers (say, 6-6 or taller) have an equal (if not higher) bust rate when compared to the smaller guys (6-0ish) that are typically associated with being higher risk. There are always exceptions and years of scouting biases has created a flawed sample to choose from, but pitching seems like a chore best done for smaller bodies that are easier to consistently contort into the kind of unnatural throwing motions needed to withstand chucking balls 90+ MPH over and over and over again. Maintaining body control, tempo, and command at a certain size can be done, but it sure as heck isn’t easy. Like almost everybody, I see a big pitcher and get excited because with size also often comes velocity, extension, and the intangible intimidation factor. Maybe it’s time to start balancing that excitement with some of the known risks that come with oversized pitchers.
- Maryland JR RHP Mike Shawaryn
A long draft season could change this, but Shawaryn looks all the world to be a rock solid bet to wind up a mid-rotation big league starting pitcher. Never a star, but consistently useful for years going forward.
- Louisiana JR RHP Reagan Bazar
Bazar is one of the bigger gambles to grace this list. He hasn’t done enough yet at Louisiana to warrant such a placement, but when he’s feeling it his stuff (mid- to upper-90s FB, promising low-80s SL) can suffocate even good hitting. Yes, I realize ranking the 6-7, 250+ pound righthander this high undermines a lot of what I said directly above. I’ll always be a sucker for big velocity and Bazar hitting 100+ certainly qualifies.
- Rice rSO RHP Jon Duplantier
Athleticism, projection, and wildness currently define Duplantier as a prospect. Key elements or not, those facets of his game shouldn’t obfuscate how strong his big league starter stuff is. That’s a mixed bag of qualities, but there’s clearly more good than bad when it comes to his future.
- San Diego SO 2B/SS Bryson Brigman
Middle infielders are always a need for big league clubs, so it only makes sense that the better ones at the amateur level get pushed up ahead of where you might want to first slot them in when simply breaking down tools. The extra credit for Brigman’s smooth fielding action is deserved, as is the acclaim he gets for his mature approach and sneaky pop.
- Vanderbilt JR LHP John Kilichowski
Vanderbilt pumps out so much quality pitching that it’s almost boring to discuss their latest and greatest. Kilichowski (and Sheffield and Bowden and Stone) find themselves sandwiched between last year’s special group of arms and a freshman class that includes Donny Everett and Chandler Day. The big lefty has impeccable control, easy velocity (86-92, 94 peak), and the exact assortment of offspeed pitches (CB, SL, and CU, all average or better) needed to keep hitters off-balance in any count. It’s not ace-type stuff, but it’s the kind of overall package that can do damage in the middle of a rotation for a long time.
- Oklahoma State JR LHP Garrett Williams
The scene on Friday night for the Hansen/Williams matchup is going to be something special for college ball. Scouts in attendance will likewise be pretty pleased that they can do some one-stop shopping for not only a potential 1-1 guy in Hansen but also a real threat to wind up in the first round in Williams. Continued maturation of Williams’s curve (a weapon already), change (getting there), and control (work in progress) could get him there.
- Nevada JR OF/LHP Trenton Brooks
Brooks is a two-way athlete good enough to play center field or keep progressing as a lefthanded reliever with a plus approach and an all-out style of play. How can you not like a guy like that?
- Coastal Carolina JR SS/2B Michael Paez
Our first college shortstop, finally. Paez hasn’t yet gotten a lot of national prospect love that I know of, but he’s deserving. He can hit, run, and sneak the occasional ball over the fence all while being steady enough in the field that I don’t know why you’d have to move him off of shortstop. I wouldn’t quite call it a comp, but my appreciate for Paez resembles what I felt about Blake Trahan in last year’s draft.
- Oklahoma JR 3B/RHP Sheldon Neuse
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.
- Wake Forest JR 2B/OF Nate Mondou
Second basemen with power, feel for hitting, and an idea at the plate are damn useful players. The comp I got a few weeks ago on Mondou is about as topical as it gets: Daniel Murphy.
- Kent State JR LHP Eric Lauer
I loved Andrew Chafin as a prospect. Everybody who has been around the Kent State program for a while that I’ve talked to agree that Lauer is better. I can see it: he’s more athletic, has better fastball command, and comes with a cleaner medical history.
- Florida JR 1B Pete Alonso
The Gators have so much talent that it’s inevitable that even a top guy or three can lay claim to getting overlooked by the national media. Alonso, with plus bat speed and power to match, is that guy for me. The burgeoning plate discipline is the cherry on top. I’m not in the national media, but maybe I’ll look back and see how I overlooked him as he rises up boards next spring.
- Duke JR RHP Bailey Clark
Poised for a big potential rise in 2016, Clark has the kind of stuff that blows you away on his best days and leaves you wanting more on his not so best days. I think he puts it all together this year and makes this ranking look foolish by June.
- Louisville JR 2B/OF Nick Solak
The day you find me unwilling to champion a natural born hitter with a preternatural sense of the strike zone is the day I hang up the keyboard. Solak is a tough guy to project because so much of his value is tied up in his bat, but if he build on an already impressive first two seasons at Louisville in 2016 then he might just hit his way into the draft’s top two rounds.
- Ohio State JR OF Ronnie Dawson
You could say this about almost any of this year’s upper-echelon of college outfielders, but I saved it specifically for Ronnie Dawson: he’s a big-time prospect from the minute you spot him getting off the bus. He looks more like a baseball destroying cyborg sent from the past to right the wrongs of his fallen brothers who fell victim to offspeed pitches and high fastballs on the regular. Few of his peers can quite match him when it comes to his athleticism, hand-eye coordination, and sheer physical strength. As a member of this year’s college outfield class, however, he’s not immune from having to deal with the open question as to whether or not he can curb his overly aggressive approach at the plate enough to best utilize his raw talents.
- Kentucky SR RHP Kyle Cody
As an outsider with no knowledge of how Cody’s negotiations with Minnesota actually went down, I’m still surprised that a fair deal for both sides couldn’t be reached last summer. The big righthander (here we go again…) is what we thought he was: big, righthanded, erratic with his command, and an absolute handful for the opposition when his three pitches (mid-90s FB, average 76-82 kCB that flashes plus, hard CU with average upside) are working. There are no real surprises left in his amateur development, so the leap to the pro game seemed inevitable. Maybe he’s got a trick or two up his sleeve yet…
Best of the rest position players…
- Austin Peay JR SS/3B Logan Gray
- College of Charleston JR OF/SS Bradley Jones
- Oklahoma State JR OF Ryan Sluder
- Ohio State JR OF Troy Montgomery
- Virginia JR SS/3B Daniel Pinero
- Vanderbilt SO 3B/SS Will Toffey
- Auburn JR OF Anfernee Grier
- Tulane JR SS Stephen Alemais
- NC State JR C/3B Andrew Knizner
- Pacific SR OF Giovanni Brusa
- Hawaii JR 2B Josh Rojas
- Wisconsin-Milwaukee rJR SS/3B Eric Solberg
- Murray State JR C Tyler Lawrence
- Miami JR OF Jacob Heyward
- Louisville rSO 3B/SS Blake Tiberi
- Florida State JR OF/SS Ben DeLuzio
- Illinois SR C Jason Goldstein
- Texas JR C Tres Barrera
- Oregon State JR SS Trevor Morrison
- Missouri JR SS/3B Ryan Howard
- Mississippi State rSO OF Brent Rooker
- Stony Brook JR OF Toby Handley
- Virginia Commonwealth JR OF/2B Logan Farrar
- Belmont JR SS Tyler Walsh
- Southern Mississippi SR 1B Tim Lynch
- Old Dominion JR SS/OF Nick Walker
- Maryland JR C/1B Nick Cieri
- Coastal Carolina SO OF Dalton Ewing
- St. John’s JR OF Michael Donadio
- Stanford JR SS/2B Tommy Edman
- Arizona State JR SS/2B Colby Woodmansee
- Tulane JR C Jake Rogers
- Texas A&M JR 2B/OF Ryne Birk
- Mercer JR C Charlie Madden
- Saint Louis SR 3B Braxton Martinez
- UC Santa Barbara rJR OF Andrew Calica
- South Alabama rJR OF/LHP Cole Billingsley
- USC JR C/1B Jeremy Martinez
- Texas State JR OF/1B Granger Studdard
- Bradley JR 3B Spencer Gaa
- Long Beach State JR SS/2B Garrett Hampson
- Gonzaga SR 1B/RHP Taylor Jones
- NC State JR 1B Preston Palmeiro
- Mississippi State rJR OF Jacob Robson
- Jacksonville JR OF Austin Hays
- Louisiana Tech rSR SS/2B Taylor Love
- Oral Roberts JR C Brent Williams
- Southeast Missouri State JR OF Dan Holst
- Dallas Baptist SR OF Daniel Sweet
- St. John’s SR OF Alex Caruso
Best of the rest pitchers…
- Vanderbilt JR LHP Ben Bowden
- Central Michigan JR LHP/1B Nick Deeg
- Auburn JR RHP/1B Keegan Thompson
- Georgia JR LHP Connor Jones
- Illinois JR RHP Cody Sedlock
- Florida JR RHP Logan Shore
- Florida JR RHP Dane Dunning
- Florida JR RHP Shaun Anderson
- Sacred Heart JR RHP Jason Foley
- Michigan JR LHP/1B Carmen Beneditti
- Air Force JR LHP Jacob DeVries
- St. Mary’s JR RHP Corbin Burnes
- Albany JR RHP Stephen Woods
- Indiana rJR RHP Jake Kelzer
- Oregon JR RHP Stephen Nogosek
- Connecticut JR LHP Anthony Kay
- Oregon rJR LHP Cole Irvin
- Mississippi State JR LHP Daniel Brown
- Liberty JR RHP/OF Parker Bean
- Pacific JR RHP Vince Arobio
- Pittsburgh JR RHP TJ Zeuch
- Loyola Marymount JR RHP JD Busfield
- Washington State JR RHP Ian Hamilton
- Michigan State rJR LHP Cameron Vieaux
- Michigan JR LHP Brett Adcock
- Gonzaga JR RHP Brandon Bailey
- South Carolina JR RHP Wil Crowe