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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Tampa Bay Rays

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Tampa in 2016

9 – Josh Lowe
47 – Jake Fraley
136 – Zack Trageton
157 – Easton McGee
206 – JD Busfield
234 – Ryan Boldt
251 – Nathaniel Lowe
338 – Dalton Moats
401 – Austin Franklin

Complete List of 2016 Tampa Draftees

1.13 – 3B Joshua Lowe

I love Josh Lowe (9). There’s really no other way to put it. His collection of tools is unlike any other prospect in this year’s draft class. The power, speed, arm strength, and athleticism are all top shelf. That little (9) next to his name doesn’t do his upside justice; sifting through the top tier of this draft was a challenge, but that doesn’t mean I don’t already regret not ranking Lowe even higher than I did. Honestly, a few months of reflection on this draft’s top tier has me questioning if Lowe shouldn’t have been picked first overall. With so much confusion at the top, maybe pure straight unadulterated upside should have won out. That’s Lowe. More on him from May 2016 featuring some of my patented pre-draft hedging and a rather lofty comp…

He’s a little bit of a higher variance prospect than Jones – more upside if it all clicks, but less certainty he turns into a solid professional than I’d put on Jones – so if I was a real scouting director with real future earnings on the line, I’m not sure I’d take him quite as high as he could wind up on my final rankings. The possibility, however, that he winds up as the best player to come out of this class is very real. He reminds me just a little bit of an opposite-hand version of this guy

Bryant entered the summer with lofty expectations, but he often looked overmatched at the plate during the showcase circuit last summer. When he’s on, he’s a treat to watch. He has a lean, 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame and light-tower power that draws comparisons to a young Troy Glaus. The power, however, mostly shows up during batting practice or when he has a metal bat in his hands. There are a lot of moving parts to his swing and he has trouble barreling balls up with wood, so how much usable power he ends up having is a big question. He has a long, loopy swing and he never changes his approach when he’s struggling. He’s athletic for a big guy and may be able to handle third base. He has the arm for it, and some scouts said they wouldn’t be shocked if he eventually ended up on the mound. Some scouts love Bryant’s power enough to take him in the back half of the first round, while others turned him in as a token gesture and have little interest in him–especially for the price it will take to lure him away from his San Diego commitment.

I really, really like Josh Lowe, if that’s not already clear. I mean, I did once kind of compare him to Babe Ruth. I think a team would be justified taking either Lowe or Jones in the top ten…and quite possibly the top five…or maybe even top three. Let me stop now before I really get too far ahead of myself.

Give Lowe three years at Florida State and I have to believe he’d come out the other side as a draft prospect in the same 1-1 mix that Bryant was a few years back. Getting him at pick thirteen before he truly blows up as a prospect makes this pick as good as it gets. Whether he sticks at the hot corner or makes the predicted move to center, I think Lowe’s career trajectory will take him on a path to stardom. He’s the kind of talent who will compete for MVPs at the highest level. I really can’t say enough about how much I love this pick.

2.53 – OF Ryan Boldt

On Ryan Boldt (234) from October 2015…

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.

I should have listened! Why didn’t I listen? World Wide Wes is never wrong. Ryan Boldt is fine. He’s a good runner with legitimate center field range, so the speed/defense thing automatically gives him a long leash in the pro game. I genuinely believe in his hit tool — lots of line drives, advanced approach despite disappointing junior season BB/K, impressive plate coverage — playing at the highest level, but his lack of present functional power could keep him from being an above-average offensive contributor. Barring a breakthrough I’m no longer willing to predict for him, Boldt’s best case scenario outcome looks like an average regular in center with the more likely outcome being a high-level fourth outfielder and spot starter. It’s a reasonable enough floor with as yet untapped upside that I don’t hate it in the abstract, but there were plenty of college outfielders available here (Woodman, Reynolds, Dawson, Quinn, Fisher) that I would have personally preferred.

Oddly enough, the pro player comp I’ve used on Boldt over the years happens to be long-time (Devil) Ray Randy Winn. Maybe it was meant to be.

2.77 – OF Jake Fraley

In the pick analysis above, I mentioned a bunch of college outfielders I liked more than Ryan Boldt. One such outfielder is none other than the man Tampa took later that very same round, Jake Fraley (47). Nice little bit of redemption for the Rays, as if they cared. A very enthusiastic Fraley take from January 2016…

JR OF Jake Fraley is an outstanding prospect. I may have actually underrated him despite ranking him twentieth overall in the college class back in October. Here’s what was written then…

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.

That fact about the outfielders still blows my mind. Six out of eight years with a top three round outfielder is one heck of a run for any university. Anyway, peers ranked over Fraley this year (according to me back in October) included names like Lewis, Reed, Ray, Boldt, and Reynolds. Banks, Wrenn, Quinn, Abreu, Brooks, and Dawson came next. I think if I had to do it again today with a few more months of research and thought under my belt, I would have Fraley behind only Lewis, Reed, and Ray, and in as close to a tie as humanly possible with Reynolds. He’s really good. In what is surely an unfair thing to say based on the sheer awesomeness of this guy’s numbers last year, I can see some opportunity for a Benintendi-like breakout for Fraley in 2016.

As it turned out, the only college outfielders who finished above Fraley on my final rankings were Lewis, Ray, Fisher, and Reynolds. I stand by that, of course, but not without a little uneasiness. What Fraley does well, he does really well: hit, run, defend. Like Boldt (and any speed/defense type), those attributes will keep him gainfully employed — in as much as the pittance minor league players make can be called this — for as long as he’s willing to chase the big league dream. I prefer Fraley’s hit/run/defend tools all over Boldt’s, and think his clear edge in plate discipline makes him a much better option offensively going forward. The aforementioned uneasiness comes when looking at a problem all too common with players like Fraley: power, or, more specifically, a lack thereof. It isn’t so much Fraley’s lack of present power that troubles me, but the fact his power potential doesn’t figure to make him much of an extra base threat (speed-assisted gappers excepted) could alter how pro pitching approaches him. I still think Fraley’s strengths are strong enough to make him a big league regular in center, but the lack of thunder in his bat limits the likelihood just enough that I won’t call him the stone cold mortal lock future big league starting center fielder I’d like to. Going super obvious and comparing Fraley to former LSU teammate Andrew Stevenson doesn’t bother me at all. Sometimes obvious comps are obvious for a reason.

3.90 – RHP Austin Franklin

Due to a rumored strong to VERY strong Stanford commitment, I didn’t spend nearly as much time digging around for information on Austin Franklin (401) before the draft as I should have. As such, some of my pre-draft information on him (86-92 FB, 93 peak) was a little dated by June (similar sitting velocity, but more consistent mid-90s peaks). That fastball combined with his really good 78 MPH curve give him a really nice one-two punch to handle young pro hitters. Definitely get a mid-rotation starting pitching vibe from Franklin based on everybody I’ve checked in with these past few months. Nice work by Tampa getting him signed for a good price in the third round.

4.120 – RHP Easton McGee

Easton McGee (157) could very well be the poster prospect for my “big guy who pitches like a little guy before filling out and getting the best of both worlds at maturity” prep pitching archetype. McGee’s present stuff — 85-90 FB, 93 peak; pair of offspeed pitches (SL and CU) that flash above-average; usable low-70s CB — doesn’t blow you away, but the way he uses it shows an appreciation for his craft well beyond his years. You walk away thinking how impressive the 6-6, 200 pound high school prospect will look once his body more completely fills out, his fastball bumps up a few ticks, and his offspeed stuff sharpens. Well, the pros have him listed at 6-7, 220 pounds, so we’re on our way to finding out. I’m bullish on McGee’s future.

5.150 – RHP Mikey York

Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but Mikey York makes it three consecutive young righthanded pitchers selected by Tampa in a row that I can’t help but like. York is an athletic, quick-armed (89-93, 94-95 peak) Tommy John survivor coming off a monster year (11.28 K/9 and 2.96 BB/9 in 48.2 IP) at the College of Southern Nevada. His change is a solid present pitch already and his 72-75 MPH curve flashes plus. I could see him either being developed as a three-pitch starter or getting fast-tracked in relief depending on what the Rays prefer. Either option is a viable one, so I’d let York keep starting until he shows he can’t. Like Franklin and McGee, there’s mid-rotation upside if it keeps clicking.

6.180 – RHP Zack Trageton

Why not make it four straight quality righthanders in a row? Tampa stayed in Nevada but moved from the junior college ranks to high school to find Zack Trageton (136) from Faith Lutheran HS in Las Vegas. There’s a ton to like about Trageton’s game. As one of the youngest prospects in his class (only 18 as of September 2), Trageton brings a steadily improving fastball (88-92, 94 peak) with room to grow, a potentially above-average upper-70s breaking ball, and all kinds of athleticism to the mound. His changeup is behind the three righthanders picked directly in front of him, but that’s about the only thing you can ding him on at the moment. I think a clear case can be made that Trageton has the most upside of any pitcher taken by Tampa in this class.

7.210 – RHP JD Busfield

On JD Busfield (206) from March 2016…

JD Busfield has the size (6-7, 230) that gets him noticed as he steps off the bus. His fastball velocity ranges from the mid-80s all the way up to a mid-90s (94-95) peak, but those wild fluctuations are largely because of the big sink he’s able to get at varying velocities. That sink, his impressive low-80s slider, and the silly amount of extension he gets with every pitch put him on the (no longer) short list of pitchers I want to dig into available batted ball data on.

How do 71 ground balls compared to 40 combined fly balls, line drives, and pop ups sound? I don’t know about you, but it’s music to my ears. Busfield’s early ground ball tendencies (64%) line up perfectly with his plus sinker, above-average slider, and exceptional extension off the mound. If it all works out, then maybe Busfield can follow a path similar to Doug Fister’s and become a bowling bowl tossing rotation fixture. A more reasonable outcome could be something like what Jared Hughes has done out of the Pittsburgh bullpen. Either way, it’s the kind of profile that’s worth a shot in round seven.

8.240 – LHP Kenny Rosenberg

On Kenny Rosenberg from March 2016…

For Kenny Rosenberg, however, the simple phrase “VIDEO GAME” felt appropriate. He’s whiffed 57 guys with only 10 walks in 41.1 innings of 1.96 ERA ball. It’s the best strikeout rate of any pitcher on the team and his ERA is third among qualifiers (first among starters). He’s not doing it with junk, either: Rosenberg lives 87-92 and has shown above-average command of three offspeed pitches. I don’t know how high his upside is, but I’m willing to keep watching him sit hitters down until we figure it out.

Rosenberg kept on missing bats as a pro, going from 10.84 at Cal State Northridge to 10.49 across two levels in his debut. Solid heat (87-92 FB, 93 peak) and command of three offspeed pitches (curve, change, cutter) give him a shot to do a little damage in relief.

9.270 – RHP Peter Bayer

An outstanding pro debut (12.40 K/9, 0.83 BB/9, 0.83 ERA) has thrust Peter Bayer back into the prospect spotlight after a surprising (to me) transfer from Richmond to Cal Poly Pomona took him out of it. I honestly lost track of him after he left the Spiders. My last real notes on Bayer from the site commented on his strong freshman season at Richmond and a promising frame you could dream on. His bonkers senior season (14.13 K/9 and 5.63 BB/9) as a Bronco and increased fastball velocity — something he credits to his work with Kyle Boddy and the Driveline guys — got him a shot in pro ball, and so far he’s run with it. I’m intrigued. With that heat now into the mid-90s and projection left in his 6-4, 200 pound frame (to say nothing of what else he might be able to accomplish using the damn intriguing methods at Driveline Baseball), Bayer is one of the sneakier high ceiling draft prospects around.

10.300 – RHP Spencer Jones

Spencer Jones is not entirely different from the pitcher selected just one round ahead of him, Peter Bayer. Jones has size (6-5, 200), an improving heater, a plus change, and a strong recent college track record all working in his favor.

12.360 – RHP Brandon Lawson

Brandon Lawson’s jump from 2015 (9.40 K/9, 4.60 BB/9, 6.40 ERA) to 2016 (9.89 K/9, 2.67 BB/9, 2.50 ERA) was one of college ball’s most pleasant surprises. That performance boost was enough to get Lawson on my personal draft radar (and clearly more than enough to get the attention of Tampa’s front office), but his solid but unspectacular righthanded relief profile (88-92 FB, 94 peak; average SL) didn’t move the needle for me much beyond that.

13.390 – 1B Nathaniel Lowe

I jump around from player to player when writing these draft reviews, often saving the guys I have either little to say about or too much to say about until the end. It didn’t occur to me until this very moment that the last two Tampa prospects that I need to write about are the Lowe brothers. My problem with both Josh and Nathaniel is that there is there is too much to say about them both, almost all of it positive. Who wants to read about sunshine and lollipops and future baseball stars? No snark, no edge, no style. What a snooze. Anyway, here’s some words on Nathaniel Lowe (251) from April 2016…

Nathaniel Lowe is a legitimate FAVORITE who has exceeded my lofty hopes for his 2016 re-entry to major college ball. Lowe and the aforementioned Jack Kruger might just be brothers from different mothers. Lowe, like Kruger, spent a year at a D1 program (Mercer), transferred to a well-regarded junior college (St. Johns River), and then hit the ground running back in D1 at Mississippi State. I know I just published these rankings a few days ago, but he’s too low already. Lowe is an exciting power bat in a class that needs them.

I don’t know what else to add. Sometimes a guy can just hit. Lowe can hit. Being locked into first base makes breaking through at the big league level a challenge, but I truly believe Lowe can be enough of an offensive force to make it work. Nobody I talked to throughout the spring was nearly as high on Lowe as I was; the “positive” reports tended to be centered around forecasting a lefty bench bat future if he makes it at all. I never really saw that and am pleased the very early returns (63 AB) on Lowe as a bat in need of protection against lefthanded pitching seem misguided. Again, we’re talking just 63 AB, but the big lefty from Mississippi State hit .365/.488/.619 against same-sided pitching in his debut. Maybe that doesn’t mean as much as I think it does, but I think the ongoing adjustments that Lowe seems to make as a hitter speak well to his ability to grow as an all-around bat in the professional ranks. It’s a stretch for a variety of reasons, but I dream of a Lowe, Lowe, and (Brandon) Lowe infield one day in Tampa.

14.420 – 2B Miles Mastrobuoni

I like this one for both Tampa and Miles Mastrobuoni. The Rays get an interesting prospect in the fourteenth round and Mastrobuoni gets to go to an open-minded organization more likely to value his skill set than most. It’ll still be a tough climb for a prospect likely locked into second with below-average power, but Mastrobuoni’s approach, speed, and steadying defensive influence at the keystone make him more interesting than his any right to be. Bonus points for being one of the younger college prospects in this class.

15.450 – LHP Dalton Moats

The Rays potentially landed another major steal in the fifteenth round with Dalton Moats (338). It’s a bit of a leap of faith considering Moats’s one year at Coastal Carolina was an abject failure (2.77 K/9 and 6.46 ERA in 39.0 IP) and present upper-80s fastball, but two solid seasons at Delta State and intriguing offspeed stuff including a curve that flashes plus and a change with promise makes it a risk worth taking. Early pro returns have been encouraging both in terms of results (8.70 K/9 and 1.50 BB/9 in 30.0 IP) and an uptick in velocity (more frequent 92-93 peaks).

18.540 – LHP Sam Long

Have to like a live-armed lefthander with decent college results and enough stuff (86-92 FB, above-average CU) and command (above-average to plus) to keep starting in the pros. That’s what Tampa got when they paid Sam Long in the eighteenth round.

19.570 – 3B Jim Haley

Jim Haley has an odd profile at the hot corner — solid speed, minimal power — but he’s been a consistent producer at the college level with a history of making lots of quality contact. If he can prove to be a little more versatile defensively, then he’s got an outside shot to keep climbing the ladder and make it as a utility guy.

20.600 – SS Kevin Santiago

Kevin Santiago hit .303/.415/.504 with 19 BB/30 K in 149 PA as a freshman at Miami-Dade JC, where the Puerto Rico native wound up after turning down both Cincinnati (39th round pick) and the University of Miami (his original college commitment) after the 2015 MLB Draft. The tools are there, so polishing up some of the rough edges around his game (including a generally impatient approach at the dish) will be the developmental challenge of the Rays on-field staff.

23.690 – OF Isaac Benard

A better internet sleuth than I might find more on Isaac Benard. All I have are what I assume are incomplete numbers (.395/.484/.526 with 13 BB/6 K in 94 PA) from his most recent season at Mt. Hood JC in Oregon. Seems reasonably promising.

24.720 – RHP Joe Serrapica

Joe Serrapica has a good fastball (90-94) and a history of missing bats (9.86 K/9 in 84.0 IP as a senior) that has stayed true as a pro. That’ll work.

25.750 – RHP Matthew Vogel

After a blink and you’d miss it career at South Carolina, Matt Vogel will take his shot in the pros. So far, so good: the 28.0 innings Vogel threw in his debut were almost as many (38.1 IP) as he pitched in his three years at South Carolina. Combine that inexperience with his prep background as a cold-weather (New York) state prospect and some of his college wildness (41 career walks) begins to look a little more forgivable. Also working in his favor are below-average but not outright terrible summer league numbers (5.63 BB/9 in the Coastal Plains League). His wild ways are also easier to take when you see a guy flashing plus velocity (90-95, 97 peak) and a nasty breaking ball (when he can command it). The twenty-fifth round is the perfect time to roll the dice on a live arm with control issues, and I have a weird instinctual hunch that this one could work out for the Rays down the line.

27.810 – 2B Robbie Tenerowicz

“He’s way better than his numbers show” was a familiar refrain from scouts who saw Robbie Tenerowicz play this past spring. This came up for two reasons, one obvious and one unexpected. The obvious reason is that Tenerowicz has plenty of as yet unseen upside as a ballplayer. He’s a really good defender at second (with enough arm to potentially get some time on the left side of the infield and/or the outfield if needed), he’s an average or slightly above-average runner, and he’s got very real above-average raw power, a rarity for a second base prospect at any level. Tenerowicz was also one of those guys that I had contacts repeatedly tell me had a much better approach at the plate than was reflected in his numbers (12 BB/31 K).

The other reason why I had so many people warn me not to sleep on Tenerowicz was because of his personality. Every single contact I talked to mentioned how fascinating a guy he was. There’s a whole lot of love out there for Robbie Tenerowicz the person; if you think that doesn’t matter late in the draft, you’re badly mistaken. High makeup guys are important for what it means to their own careers, but also for how their personalities rub off on the clubhouse and other perhaps more talented prospects in the organization. This whole article is well worth a click, but I’ll highlight my two favorite parts. First, Tenerowicz on why he was leaning towards turning pro…

“I’m pretty sure I’m going to go,” Tenerowicz said. “It’s a good opportunity. You never know what happens. It’s probably — well, not probably — it’s the best job offer I’ll ever get, so I feel like I have to take it, and I want to take it, and I like the Rays. I like [area scout] Allen Hall. I talk to him a good amount before the draft, and I really like him, and I think I look good in their colors, too. It’ll make my eyes pop.”

And then on his likely replacement at Cal (Ripken Reyes) with a very much appreciated take on how he views the game…

“He’s good,” Tenerowicz said. “He’s the opposite of me. I look really lazy sometimes, and I’m not, and he looks like he’s moving at 100 miles an hour, and once he tones that down, he might be better than me. I tell him every day he’s never going to be better than me — jokingly — but I think keeping it loose like that, showing him that it’s not boot camp; we’re still playing baseball, that helped him a little bit. He’s going to be really good, though. I’ll tell you that.”

All in all, I don’t really know what to make of Tenerowicz. I’m rooting for him, clearly, but beyond that I don’t know what kind of player he’ll be. The tools and makeup are damn intriguing, but the overly aggressive approach at the plate has always been the deepest shade of offensive red flag for me. Some guys are talented enough to hit with an approach like that while others improve as they mature, but the vast majority of 21-year-old college hitters who come out of school with career marks of 36 BB to 92 K don’t make it all that far in the pro game. I wouldn’t bet on anybody with those odds, but I wouldn’t bet against Tenerowicz, either.

28.840 – C Jean Ramirez

I don’t have much love for a good but not great college catcher who will be 24-years-old going into his first full pro season, but I’m willing to acknowledge the Rays, who have actually seen Jean Ramirez play multiple times up close and personal (I have not), likely know more about the catcher from Illinois State than I do.

29.870 – 2B Trek Stemp

Much of the same logic applied towards my lukewarm feeling about the Jean Ramirez pick one round earlier applies to Trek Stemp as well. Tough for me to get too excited about a 23-year-old outfielder with underwhelming college numbers. Been wrong before, though.

31.930 – C Joey Roach

This class and college catching, man. So many quality options from round one all the way down to round forty. In this case, the Rays find a dependable college catcher with four legit years of big production for Georgia State in round thirty-one. Joey Roach may not be a star, but he’s an offensive backstop with power, a strong approach at the plate, and a steadying presence behind it. If he can hang on long enough and keep hitting, he’s got a shot to play in the big leagues. I like this one.

32.960 – SS Deion Tansel

I like this one, too. Deion Tansel is another dependable glove at an up-the-middle defensive spot with enough offensive upside to maybe carve out a big league role someday. If he does make it, it’ll be on the strength of his above-average to plus speed, outstanding approach (64 BB/42 K in his career at Toledo), and defensive versatility.

34.1020 – 1B Bobby Melley

All right, now this is just getting weird. First Joey Roach, then Deion Tansel, and now Bobby Melley. That’s three of my favorite college senior bats taken in a four-round stretch by Tampa. Really nice turnaround from the Jean Ramirez/Trek Stemp back-to-back. Here’s some love for Melley from March 2016…

Bobby Melley has his so far this year, too. Combine that with a consistent track record of patience (88 BB/80 K coming into the season) and flashes of power (his 2014 was legit) and you’ve got yourself a really underrated senior-sign slugging first base prospect. His strong glove and good size are nice perks, too.

Sounds about right. Like Roach and Tansel, Melley entered pro ball with a legitimate four-year track record of hitting at the college level. Worth noting that all three hitters had big senior seasons that included at least as many walks as strikeouts. In Massey’s case, he walked 12 more times than he whiffed (42 to 30) while piling up a .313/.436/.518 final season at Connecticut. At some point I think Melley’s hitting is going to be too much for the experts to ignore. I’m not an expert, but I do think Massey is a damn good ballplayer and a potential big leaguer.

35.1050 – LHP Alex Estrella

I don’t think Alex Estrella will be a star — see what I did there??? — but a low-90s lefty with a good changeup in the thirty-fifth round is nice value all the same. Matchup reliever upside.

36.1080 – RHP Anthony Parente

Can’t say I see the logic in picking Anthony Parente after his shaky sophomore season at Fullerton JC (5.54 K/9, 5.81 BB/9, 2.16 HBP/9), but the Rays must have seen something they liked. I can dig it.

38.1140 – RHP Brian McAfee

I’ll bury a quick rant against Baseball America here where nobody will likely ever read it. I like Baseball America a lot. Even with the brain drain of the last half-decade or so (countless good people lost to competing sites and MLB scouting staffs), the site remains a tremendous resource for anybody (such as myself) into amateur and minor league baseball. I use their publicly available information — mostly via their writers on Twitter — to help round out opinions on players I might not otherwise have a ton of my own notes for and make the full attempt to credit and link them whenever appropriate. I don’t steal from them and I certainly don’t copy their rankings; in fact, I literally haven’t looked at their pre-draft rankings in years.

HOWEVER, a friend of mine recently alerted me to Baseball America’s pre-draft ranking of Brian McAfee. BA ranked McAfee, a fine pitcher to be sure who is probably better at baseball than I am at any one thing, as the 355th best prospect in the 2016 MLB Draft class. In a word, that ranking is laughable. What kills me is the complete absence of evidence in McAfee’s “scouting report” that supports the ranking. That report literally contains this line: “he could be a fine organizational solider with the makeup to be more.” If organizational solider with a chance for more is what you are getting with the 355th best prospect in the draft, then there’s really no point in ranking 145 players past that point. So why was McAfee ranked where he was? The easy answer would be the North Carolina connection. BA may be staffed with plenty of Tar Heels, but the love for all local universities (BA’s offices are in Durham) is fairly easy to spot in their coverage. Proximity bias is real, and, honestly, it’s not that big a deal to me. You see a guy enough and you’re going to put him higher on your rankings, consciously or not, than a similarly talented player who is just a name on a page. Or maybe you throw some local coaches and contacts a bone by giving their guy a little extra love in the rankings if it means getting better information in the future. I get it. That’s not why I think McAfee was ranked where he was, though. McAfee was a Blue Devil for only one season. Prior to that, he was at Cornell. One of Baseball America’s draft writers just so happens to be a Cornell grad and unabashed homer for his alma mater. Sometimes 2 + 2 = 4 and that’s that. It’s a bummer for any fan of the draft that relies on Baseball America’s rankings and doesn’t have the time to sort out one draft writer’s weird, unprofessional desire to prop up one of his own, but something something state of modern journalism something something.

(I’m not a scout nor do I write for Baseball America, but I saw Brian McAfee when he was pitching for Cornell. I liked him as a potential sinker/slider middle relief prospect then. I still do today. Early returns on that sinker/slider combination are really encouraging: MLB Farm has his batted ball data at 72.41% ground balls through his first 28.2 pro innings. I don’t think he’ll ever miss enough bats to be much of a threat to ever pitch in the big leagues [his 6.36 K/9 at Duke was a college career high], but there’s a place in pro ball for a reliever with extreme ground ball tendencies. I love high GB% pitchers, so I’ll be rooting for him.)

(I should also add that Ben Badler is the best. He’s not a draft guy, but he’s still a must-read and easily the best thing the site has to offer. That’s not a knock on any of the other guys there, but rather a testament to his industry-leading excellence. If you’re here you probably know all this already, but had to add get this out there just in case.)

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Zach Thompson (Kentucky), Dominic Miroglio (San Francisco), Wyatt Mills (Gonzaga), John McMillon (Texas Tech), Freddy Villarreal (Houston), Justin Glover (Georgia), KV Edwards (Coastal Carolina), Ryan Zeferjahn (Kansas), Joshua Martinez (?), Andrew Daschbach (Stanford)

2016 MLB Draft – College Update

We’re now one month’s worth of games into the college season, so it feels like as good a time as any to take the temperature of the top college prospects in this class. All stats are updated as of games played on March 12 or March 13 depending on when the games ended yesterday. I used this post to frame the discussion.

Many, many, many players I like were not included in this update. I say this knowing full well how obnoxious it sounds, but trust that I know about your favorite player’s hot start. Neither malice nor ignorance is the cause of their exclusion. It’s simply a time and space thing. That said, feel free to bring up said favorite players’s hot starts in the comments. The more the merrier there, I say.

C Zack Collins – Miami – .400/.576/.733 – 19 BB/9 K – 0/1 SB – 45 AB
1B Will Craig – Wake Forest – .458/.581/1.021 – 10 BB/7 K – 48 AB
2B Nick Senzel – Tennessee – .393/.500/.589 – 14 BB/6 K – 7/8 SB – 56 AB
SS Michael Paez – Coastal Carolina – .328/.418/.483 – 6 BB/11 K – 0/2 SB – 58 AB
3B Bobby Dalbec – Arizona – .191/.350/.319 – 10 BB/17 K – 0/1 SB – 47 AB
OF Kyle Lewis – Mercer – .466/.581/.879 – 15 BB/8 K – 1/2 SB – 58 AB
OF Buddy Reed – Florida – .306/.411/.468 – 10 BB/12 K – 7/7 SB – 62 AB
OF Corey Ray – Louisville – .377/.452/.738 – 9 BB/6 K – 20/22 SB – 61 AB

We knew Collins could hit, so his great start is hardly a surprise. Still, those numbers are insane, very much under-the-radar nationally (source: my Twitter feed), and more than good enough to play at first base if you don’t think he’s worth trying behind the plate as a pro. It took Kyle Schwarber a long time to gain national acceptance as a potential top ten pick; I could see Collins following a similar path between now and June. He’s already very much in that mix for me.

Craig is a monster. The only note I’d pass along with his scorching start is that Wake Forest has played 12 of their first 17 games in the very friendly offensive confines of their home park. I still love the bat.

Senzel is yet another of the top prospect bats off to a wild start at the plate. Got an Anthony Rendon-lite comp on him recently that I think fits fairly well.

Much has been made about Ray’s start — rightfully so as he’s been awesome — that what Lewis has done so far has been overlooked some. I’m not blind to the fact that Ray’s functional speed and higher level of competition faced make him the preferred college outfielder for many, but no reason to sleep on Lewis.

RHP Alec Hansen – Oklahoma – 13.20 K/9 – 7.20 BB/9 – 6.00 ERA – 15.0 IP
LHP Matt Krook – Oregon – 14.32 K/9 – 7.67 BB/9 – 4.08 ERA – 17.2 IP
RHP Connor Jones – Virginia – 7.91 K/9 – 1.98 BB/9 – 1.98 ERA – 27.1 IP
LHP AJ Puk – Florida – 9.53 K/9 – 4.76 BB/9 – 2.65 ERA – 17.0 IP
RHP Dakota Hudson – Mississippi State – 12.20 K/9 – 5.72 BB/9 – 1.90 ERA – 23.2 IP

Funny how three of the top five have lines that line up similarly so far. I think Jones has shown the best mix of stuff and results out of this top tier this spring. I also think that right now there really isn’t a realistic college arm that can lay claim to being in the 1-1 mix. Early returns on the top of the 2016 college class: bats > arms.

C Sean Murphy – Wright State – .259/.429/.778 – 5 BB/5 K – 0/0 SB – 27 AB
1B Pete Alonso – Florida – .424/.493/.661 – 8 BB/4 K – 1/1 SB – 59 AB
2B JaVon Shelby – Kentucky – .341/.481/.756 – 8 BB/7 K – 2/2 SB – 41 AB
SS Logan Gray – Austin Peay State – .327/.450/.755 – 11 BB/16 K – 2/2 SB – 49 AB
3B Sheldon Neuse – Oklahoma – .340/.493/.698 – 16 BB/14 K – 6/6 SB – 53 AB
OF Bryan Reynolds – Vanderbilt – .345/.486/.618 – 14 BB/18 K – 2/5 SB – 55 AB
OF Jake Fraley – Louisiana State – .400/.500/.583 – 12 BB/7 K – 11/15 SB – 60 AB
OF Nick Banks – Texas A&M – .263/.317/.421 – 2 BB/6 K – 0/0 SB – 38 AB

While the First Team has had a few slow starters (Dalbec for sure, Paez if you’re picking nits about his BB/K), the Second Team is rolling from top to bottom. Murphy and Banks have been slowed some by injuries, but otherwise these guys are mashing.

It speaks to how great Lewis and Ray (and even Reed to an extent) have been this year that neither Reynolds nor Fraley have gained much traction as top outfield prospects in the national consciousness. Both are really good players who will make their drafting teams very happy in June.

It’s taken me a few years, but I finally realized who Banks reminds me of as a prospect: Hunter Renfroe. I’m not yet sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s a thing.

RHP Cal Quantrill – Stanford
LHP Matt Crohan – Winthrop – 9.95 K/9 – 0.47 BB/9 – 2.37 ERA – 19.0 IP
RHP Zach Jackson – Arkansas – 11.71 K/9 – 5.12 BB/9 – 2.19 ERA – 12.1 IP
RHP Robert Tyler – Georgia – 13.94 K/9 – 1.69 BB/9 – 3.38 ERA – 21.1 IP
LHP Garrett Williams – Oklahoma State

I really liked Keith Law’s Ryan Madson comp for Tyler. I’m high enough on Tyler to modify that and use it as a potential MLB floor because I think Tyler has a better chance to continue developing a good enough breaking ball to go through a lineup multiple times.

The relative struggles of some of the top college pitchers in this class leave the door wide open for a guy like Quantrill coming back from injury to seriously enter the 1-1 conversation.

C Matt Thaiss – Virginia – .361/.473/.541 – 12 BB/1 K – 0/1 SB – 61 AB
1B Carmen Beneditti – Michigan – .298/.452/.426 – 10 BB/4 K – 3/4 SB – 47 AB
2B Cavan Biggio – Notre Dame – .229/.448/.313 – 17 BB/10 K – 4/4 SB – 48 AB
SS Colby Woodmansee – Arizona State – .370/.486/.630 – 14 BB/9 K – 1/1 SB – 54 AB
3B Lucas Erceg – Menlo (CA) – .342/.378/.685 – 5 BB/6 K – 0 SB – 111 AB
OF Ryan Boldt – Nebraska – .318/.382/.424 – 6 BB/8 K – 7/12 SB – 66 AB
OF Stephen Wrenn – Georgia – .353/.424/.471 – 5 BB/9 K – 4/7 SB – 51 AB
OF Ronnie Dawson – Ohio State – .263/.354/.509 – 8 BB/9 K – 3/4 SB – 57 AB

Love Thaiss. Loved Biggio, but starting to re-calibrate my expectations a little. Same for Boldt. Never loved Woodmansee, but I’m beginning to get it. Erceg’s start confuses me. It’s excellent, obviously, but the numbers reflect a high-contact approach that doesn’t show up in any of the scouting notes on him. Consider my curiosity piqued.

LHP Eric Lauer – Kent State – 8.05 K/9 – 4.02 BB/9 – 1.82 ERA – 24.2 IP
RHP Michael Shawaryn – Maryland – 7.04 K/9 – 3.33 BB/9 – 3.33 ERA – 24.1 IP
RHP Daulton Jefferies – California – 11.42 K/9 – 1.73 BB/9 – 1.04 ERA – 26.0 IP
RHP Kyle Serrano – Tennessee – 3.2 IP
RHP Kyle Funkhouser – Louisville – 8.77 K/9 – 5.34 BB/9 – 4.18 ERA – 23.2 IP

When I re-do the college rankings (coming soon!), I think this is where we’ll see some serious movers and shakers. Things are wide open after the top eight or so pitchers as the conversation shifts move towards high-floor fourth/fifth starters rather than top half of the rotation possibilities. I’ve read and heard some of the Jefferies top half of the first round buzz, and I’ve been slow to buy in so far. I like him a lot, but that feels rich. Then I remember that Mike Leake climbed as high as eighth overall back in my first draft doing this, so anything is possible.

Now for some prospects that weren’t on the preseason teams that has caught my eye so far…

Logan Shore – Florida – 9.33 K/9 – 0.67 BB/9 – 2.00 ERA – 27.0 IP
Jordan Sheffield – Vanderbilt – 13.17 K/9 – 2.56 BB/9 – 1.09 ERA – 24.2 IP
Corbin Burnes – St. Mary’s – 11.20 K/9 – 2.32 BB/9 – 3.09 ERA – 23.1 IP
Bailey Clark – Duke – 10.50 K/9 – 2.63 BB/9 – 3.38 ERA – 24.0 IP

I’ve been slow to appreciate Sheffield, but I’m on board now. My lazy but potentially prescient comp to Dillon Tate is something I can’t shake. Clark vs Zach Jackson is a fun head-to-head prospect battle that pits two of my favorite raw arms with questions about long-term role holding them back.

Nick Solak – Louisville – .434/.563/.585 – 15 BB/5 K – 6/6 SB – 53 AB
Bryson Brigman – San Diego – .424/.472/.515 – 3 BB/4 K – 5/7 SB – 33 AB
Stephen Alemais – Tulane – .462/.477/.641 – 3 BB/6 K – 4/5 SB – 39 AB
Jake Rogers – Tulane – .302/.471/.547 – 13 BB/11 K – 5/5 SB – 53 AB
Errol Robinson – Mississippi – .226/.317/.358 – 7 BB/8 K – 2/2 SB – 53 AB
Logan Ice – Oregon State – .463/.520/1.024 – 5 BB/1 K – 0/0 SB – 41 AB
Trever Morrison – Oregon State – .400/.456/.600 – 5 BB/12 K – 0/1 SB – 50 AB

Solak’s start is a thing of beauty. Rogers and Ice add to the impressive depth at the top of the catching class. It’ll be interesting to see which C/SS combo gets drafted higher between Oregon State and Tulane.

2016 MLB Draft Prospects – LSU

SR LHP John Valek (2016)
rJR RHP Hunter Newman (2016)
JR LHP Jared Poche’ (2016)
SR LHP Hunter Devall (2016)
rJR RHP Russell Reynolds (2016)
JR RHP Parker Bugg (2016)
rSO RHP Jesse Stallings (2016)
JR RHP Alden Cartwright (2016)
JR RHP Collin Strall (2016)
JR RHP Riley Smith (2016)
JR OF Jake Fraley (2016)
SO 3B/2B Greg Deichmann (2016)
JR 2B Kramer Robertson (2016)
JR OF Cody Ducote (2016)
JR 2B Cole Freeman (2016)
JR C Jordan Romero (2016)
SO RHP Austin Bain (2017)
SO RHP Alex Lange (2017)
rFR LHP Jake Latz (2017)
SO RHP Doug Norman (2017)
SO OF Beau Jordan (2017)
SO C/1B Bryce Jordan (2017)
SO C Mike Papierski (2017)
FR RHP Cole McKay (2018)
FR RHP Caleb Gilbert (2018)
FR OF/LHP Brennan Breaux (2018)
FR 3B/SS O’Neal Lochridge (2018)
FR SS Trey Dawson (2018)
FR OF Antoine Duplantis (2018)
FR OF/1B Brody Wofford (2018)
FR 3B Chris Reid (2018)

JR LHP Jared Poche’ is a tough guy to peg as a pro prospect because so much of his value comes from what he is rather than what he could be. That’s antithetical to everything that those who cover the draft are all about! What he is should be enough to have a long pro career: upper-80s fastball that can sometimes sit as high as 88-92 (93 peak), above-average or better 73-78 CB that flashes plus, and a really good 78-82 CU that is at least average and probably better. Add that in to a good new-ish cutter and strong overall command, and you can see that Poche’ has what it takes to get pro hitters out. How dare he be so polished and composed at such a young age!

What keeps Poche’ from being a true threat to crash the draft’s early rounds is the lack of projection in his 6-1, 200 pound frame and decent but not exciting peripherals (5.11 K/9 and 5.94 K/9) through two college seasons. He’s been an absolute workhorse as a weekend starter for LSU since first stepping foot on campus and his outstanding college career should be celebrated whether it comes to a close this June or next, but the possibility that he’s more great college pitcher than big-time pro prospect feels very real to me. His is just a tough profile to find any reasonable recent draft contemporaries to compare against. We need a filled-out lefthander with average velocity (give or take), a nice assortment of offspeed stuff, and lots of high-level college success despite underwhelming peripherals. Many guys check all but one of those boxes (size and peripherals are often the missing piece), but it’s hard to find anybody who went in the top five rounds or so with the same background. Closest that I found include guys (listed in order of my pre-draft rankings last June) like Travis Bergen from Kennesaw State (7th), Kevin Duchene from Illinois (5th), Scott Effross from Indiana (15th), Christian Trent from Mississippi (24th), Bobby Poyner from Florida (14th), and Reid Love from East Carolina (10th). Bergen and Duchene give me some hope that there’s room in the first seven or so rounds for a competitor like Poche’. Of course, comparisons like these lean heavily on historical trends often at the expense of the individual in question. It only takes one player to rise above and break past the ceiling that others have put on them, much the same way that “(fill in the blank) has never happened” until the first time that it does. Maybe Poche’ is the one to crack the draft’s top five rounds and make the paragraph you’re reading right now seem silly. I think Poche’ falling somewhere between round six and ten is the most likely outcome, but we’ll see.

SR LHP John Valek takes his mid- to upper-80s fastball, solid change, and plus command from Akron to LSU for the upcoming season. A year of holding his own in the SEC could get him some looks as a potential late-round matchup lefty possibility for some teams. rJR RHP Russell Reynolds has shown slow yet steady improvement as he’s come back from a labrum injury in 2013. He could force his way back into the draft mix if his stuff returns to pre-surgery levels. JR RHP Parker Bugg has enticing size (6-6, 220) and a fastball/slider combination that works well in relief. I’m a big fan of rSO RHP Jesse Stallings, a hard thrower (88-94, 95 peak) with a deceptive delivery and a split-change he makes good use of.

It’s unclear what to make of JR RHP Alden Cartwright at this point. Reports on his stuff are pretty ordinary — upper-80s heat complemented with a nice upper-70s curve — and he’s not particularly big (6-0, 190), but his peripherals last season (13.05 K/9 and 1.80 BB/9) make him worth keeping in mind. rJR RHP Hunter Newman’s stuff is a tick better across the board — 88-92 FB with a 75-77 CB with plus upside — and his peripherals aren’t far off the mark (8.27 K/9). Judging by more conventional standards, such as ERA (an eye-popping 0.49 in 36.2 IP last year), makes him a clear cut relief arm to know. I’ll always have a soft sport for undersized (5-8, 180) SR LHP Hunter Devall, a quality arm from the left side who keeps getting batters out year after year.

JR RHP Riley Smith is the biggest wild card on the staff. His raw ability suggests he could be the highest drafted arm off of this staff in 2016, but there’s always some risk in projecting a college arm who hasn’t done it at this level that high. I’ve always preferred talent to experience, so count me very much in on Smith heading into his draft year.

JR OF Jake Fraley is an outstanding prospect. I may have actually underrated him despite ranking him twentieth overall in the college class back in October. Here’s what was written then…

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.

That fact about the outfielders still blows my mind. Six out of eight years with a top three round outfielder is one heck of a run for any university. Anyway, peers ranked over Fraley this year (according to me back in October) included names like Lewis, Reed, Ray, Boldt, and Reynolds. Banks, Wrenn, Quinn, Abreu, Brooks, and Dawson came next. I think if I had to do it again today with a few more months of research and thought under my belt, I would have Fraley behind only Lewis, Reed, and Ray, and in as close to a tie as humanly possible with Reynolds. He’s really good. In what is surely an unfair thing to say based on the sheer awesomeness of this guy’s numbers last year, I can see some opportunity for a Benintendi-like breakout for Fraley in 2016.

“If he’s not a star for this team, I’m quitting the internet draft game” – January 6, 2015. I said that about SO 3B/2B Greg Deichmann last year and I stand by it today. His first year at LSU didn’t end in stardom and as an older sophomore he’s able to leave after this year, so this could be do-or-die time for my sterling reputation as a prospect soothsayer. Of course, if Deichmann leaves LSU after this year then that almost certainly would mean he had a huge season that positioned himself to be drafted high enough to make turning pro a smart decision. If not, then I’ll at least get another year to tout him as the great prospect that I think he is. Deichmann completely won me over as a hitter in the year or so before he enrolled at LSU. Loved the swing, hands, bat speed, everything. His red flag during his prep days was his age, but that’s no longer a concern as a draft-eligible sophomore playing in the SEC. The new worry — or the old worry, if you weren’t sold on Deichmann as a hitter as I once was — is his approach. If said approach can move from “swing at anything that moves” to something slightly more refined, then he’ll take off as a hitter. That’s what I’m banking on in 2016.

I have Deichmann listed a primary 3B who can also play 2B; I’ve leaned toward him playing the latter position professionally, but a lot of smart people have finally convinced me that his long-term home is at third. JR 2B Kramer Robertson should have little difficulty staying at his position, so now the question will be whether or not he hits enough to make it worthwhile. On the surface he hasn’t done much in limited time, but despite his struggles making contact — he’s hit an empty .200 and .232 in his first two college seasons — he’s held his own in other ways (26 BB/30 K career). It’s a small thing, sure, but I like to see a guy battle like that in at bats even when things aren’t going great. From a tools standpoint, he’s still plenty intriguing: Robertson is a decent runner with pop and loads of athleticism, a steady glove, and a presence at the dish that makes his results to date all the more confusing. If the light bulb comes on — and there’s no guarantee he’ll even get the chance to keep working through things considering the depth that surrounds him on this roster — then he’s very much a draftable talent.

JR OF Cody Ducote (bat), JR 2B Cole Freeman (glove), and JR C Jordan Romero (arm) all do certain things well enough to be major players of interest to me this spring. Among the many, many underclass prospects to follow this spring are guys like SO RHP Austin Bain and SO RHP Alex Lange. I’d call them both future stars, but I think they are already there. Looking forward to seeing what rFR LHP Jake Latz and all of the true freshmen (McKay, Gilbert, Lochridge, Dawson, Duplantis, Wofford) do in their debuts.

2016 MLB Draft Preview – College Prospects

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…)

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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…

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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?

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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

2016 MLB Draft Preview – College Prospects

Click here for an UPDATED LIST (October 23, 2015) if you’re into that sort of thing…

The 2013 HS class was a really good one, so it’s no shock that the 2016 college group has a chance to be so exciting. One mostly clueless guy ranked the following unsigned 2013 HS prospects in his top 100 overall prospects that year: Kyle Serrano (20), Matt Krook (35), Chris Okey (39), Ryan Boldt (41), Cavan Biggio (42), Andy McGuire (52), Connor Jones (53), Brett Morales (58), Robert Tyler (68), Keegan Thompson (69), Cal Quantrill (70), Garrett Williams (73), Zack Collins (80), JB Woodman (89), Sheldon Neuse (92), Jordan Sheffield (93), and Connor Heady (96). Phil Bickford (34) and Francis Christy (100), both eligible for this year’s draft due to their decision to attend junior colleges in 2015, were also included within the top 100 prospects of 2013. Of that group listed above I’d say only McGuire (injured) and Heady (bat hasn’t come around) have hurt their draft stock. In fact, almost all of those names listed above can make realistic claims as first round picks next June. That’s awesome. A really quick top ten before I slip and say that it’s way way way too early to be ranking players…

  1. Virginia SO RHP Connor Jones
  2. Tennessee SO RHP Kyle Serrano
  3. Notre Dame SO 2B/3B Cavan Biggio
  4. Oklahoma SO 3B Sheldon Neuse
  5. Georgia SO RHP Robert Tyler
  6. Nebraska SO OF Ryan Boldt
  7. Texas A&M SO OF Nick Banks
  8. Oklahoma SO RHP Alec Hansen
  9. Stanford SO RHP Cal Quantrill
  10. Clemson SO C Chris Okey

ACC has the bats, SEC has the pitching

First, it’s way way way too early to be ranking players in the most honest sense of the word. I think grouping players and prioritizing the potentially great prospects over the good is appropriate, but even a crazy person like myself won’t yet attempt a strict ranking. If I were to do so, ranking the pitchers would be a much easier task at this point. There’s a much clearer line between the best and the rest for me there right now.

I do believe, per the subheading above, that the ACC has a chance to become the spot for crosscheckers on the hunt for above-average position players in next year’s draft. It might be a stretch, but I can see an argument for the ACC possessing three of next year’s draft top four college infielders. Clemson SO C Chris Okey, Miami SO 1B/C Zach Collins, and Notre Dame SO 2B/3B Cavan Biggio all have a chance to go very, very high in 2016’s first round. A snappier prediction would have been about the ACC having THE top three infield bats, but Oklahoma SO 3B/RHP Sheldon Neuse had to ruin those plans by being too darn good at baseball.

Still, Okey, Collins, and Biggio all have the chance to be long-term above-average regulars at demanding defensive positions; Okey and Biggio in particular could be major assets when you factor in their defensive value. I’m not sweating the relatively slow starts of Collins or Okey so far (Biggio has been great, which isn’t a shocker since he’s the most complete hitter of the trio), so you shouldn’t either. Collins has enough of the Kyle Schwarber/Travis Hafner power bat thing going on with a three-true outcomes approach to hitting that I think the bat plays at first if/when catching doesn’t work out. On the flip side, Okey moves so well behind the plate that Perfect Game compared him to a young Craig Biggio defensively back in 2013. His glove alone is almost reason enough to warrant a first day draft grade, and the fact that he could/should be a league average or better bat is what makes him a potential top ten pick in my eyes. Is it really any wonder why I like Biggio as much as I do? My old notes on him include the following: “born to hit,” “carries himself like a pro,” and “great pitch recognition.” Even better than that was the phrase “patient and aggressive all at once.” That’s my kind of hitter. It’s way too early to call it, but let’s do it anyway: Okey, Collins, and Biggio will all be first round picks in 2016.

The Hitters (including a return to gloves at short and catcher)

Keeping up with the ACC theme, Virginia SO C Matt Thaiss jumps out as another potential high round pick from looks like 2016’s best conference for bats. Thaiss is a rock solid defender who is starting to tap into his above-average raw power in a big enough way do his old Baseball America comps to Brian McCann justice. After Okey, Thaiss, and Texas SO C Tres Barrera, there’s still some quality depth. Some of the catchers from a bit off the beaten path (Santa Clara SO C Steve Berman, Grand Canyon SO C Josh Meyer) haven’t quite had the breakout second seasons I was hoping to see. Still, the overall depth at the position looks promising. Catchers are always in high demand in June, and I think this class will make many teams happy.

After Collins, first base looks grim. Two of my pre-season sleepers, Stony Brook SO 1B/OF Casey Baker and Texas State SO 1B Granger Studdard, have fallen flat so far this year. Thankfully East Carolina SO 1B/LHP Bryce Harman has come out of the gate mashing and Florida SO 1B Pete Alonso is coming off an impressive summer.

Once I figured out they weren’t the same guy, it was easy to like both Louisville SO 2B Nick Solak and Tennessee SO 2B Nick Senzel. Despite not yet making his college debut, I’m still sticking with the extremely promising LSU FR 2B/SS Greg Deichmann as the 1b to Biggio’s 1a at the position. The shortstops aren’t nearly on the level of what we have this year, but both Long Beach State SO SS Garrett Hampson and Tulane SO SS Stephen Alemais stand out as old-school defense-first prospects who could hit enough to still play every day. The aforementioned Neuse is the man at third base. Trailing him are names that include Vanderbilt FR 3B/SS Will Toffey, Clemson SO 3B/SS Weston Wilson, and Arizona SO 3B/RHP Bobby Dalbec, the closest current competitor to Neuse’s throne.

The real draw right now for fans of bad teams in search of offensive help will come in the outfield. Texas A&M SO OF Nick Banks and Nebraska SO OF Ryan Boldt appear set to battle back and forth throughout this season and next as the fight to see how high they can rise as first round picks. I’d have Boldt (who I comped to David Dahl back in HS) a tick above for the time being (better approach), but could see Banks closing the gap in short order thanks to a more impressive overall tool set (most notably raw power). Both look like safe first round picks as of now, good health pending.

The battle for the third spot is what interests me most right now. Many of the names expected to rise up (most notably Florida State OF/SS Ben DeLuzio) have taken a step back in the early going of 2015, but a lot of the athletic upside types like Florida OF Buddy Reed, Georgia SO OF Stephen Wrenn, LSU SO OF Jake Fraley, and Mississippi SO OF JB Woodman (hmm…SEC, SEC, SEC, and SEC) have stepped up in an even bigger way than hoped. Hey, did you catch that parenthetical note there? Might be time to amend one of the subheadings above…

ACC has the (infield) bats, SEC has the pitching (and outfielders)

That’s better. I’ll admit to not checking in on every single 2016 draft-eligible outfielder’s start to the 2015 season so far – I’m not even done previewing the current college season and we’re already over a month into things – but one favorite that I have noticed off to a hot start is St. John’s SO OF Michael Donadio, a really well-rounded player with an more advanced bat than most of his peers.

Power Pitchers from Power Conferences 

In what I’d consider my top tier of 2016 college pitchers, the SEC has three out of the top seven prospects. If I get a bit more inclusive and check in with the larger second tier (18 pitchers), then you’d see that an even two-thirds (12) come from the SEC. By complete luck that comes out to 25 total pitchers in the top two tiers with 15 able to call the SEC home. I’m pretty pleased with how this turned out, what with Carson Cistulli recently finding that the SEC has produced 23% of baseball’s “good pitchers” since 2010. For what it’s worth, the ACC is second (barely) only to the Pac-12 in terms of producing “good batters” since 2010. Since I amended my previous conclusion that’s no longer as relevant; not sure what the metrics say about infield prospects only. Anyway!

Power Pitchers with Changeups = $$$

One of the big early trends that pleases me to no end in college baseball in recent years is the rise of the changeup, arguably the finest offspeed pitch known to man. Virginia SO RHP Connor Jones – above-average, flashes plus. Tennessee SO RHP Kyle Serrano – inconsistent, but flashes plus when on. Florida SO RHP Brett Morales – above-average, flashes plus to plus-plus. Stanford SO RHP Cal Quantrill (RIP right elbow ligament) – plus. Those are just the righthanders from the top tier. Arkansas SO RHP Dominic Taccolini, Auburn SO RHP Keegan Thompson, Florida SO RHP Logan Shore, Mississippi State SO RHP Austin Sexton, Oklahoma State SO RHP Thomas Hatch, Maryland SO RHP Michael Shawaryn, and Alabama SO RHP Geoffrey Bramblett all throw consistently average or better changeups at present.

I think any number of the pitchers in my current top tier could make a run at 1-1 next June. Cal Quantrill’s shot is probably gone now that there’s word he’ll go under the knife for Tommy John surgery in the coming days. Connor Jones might now be the front-runner for me. Jones can get it up to the mid-90s with some of the craziest movement you’ll see, plus he can mix in three offspeed pitches (slider flashes plus, solid curve, and a hard splitter that acts as a potential plus changeup) with the know-how and ability to command everything effectively. Comps I’ve heard run the gamut from Jeff Samardzija to Dan Haren to Homer Bailey, but I’m partial to one that hit me when viewing his second start this season: Masahiro Tanaka. I’ve comped another pitcher in this class I love Kyle Serrano (ranked 20th overall in 2013) to Jarrod Parker, who once went 9th overall in the draft, in the past. Georgia SO RHP Robert Tyler throws really hard (mid-90s, 98-99 peak) with pair of secondary pitches with major upside. Brett Morales might not be on everybody’s list so close to the top, but his changeup is such a dominating pitch when on that he’s hard to leave off. Oklahoma SO RHP Alec Hansen and Oklahoma State SO LHP Garrett Williams have some fantastic Friday night showdowns ahead; Hansen’s the hard-thrower with the size scouts love while Williams is the more polished athlete with advanced offspeed stuff.

Quick, unfortunate aside not worthy of a subheading of it’s own: due to the unnatural nature of throwing a baseball at high speeds with crazy movement every year the topic of injuries has to be brought up. The 2016 MLB Draft college class is no different. Texas SO RHP Morgan Cooper, College of Charleston SO RHP Bailey Ober, and Cal Quantrill will all be closely monitored as they come back from injury that knocked out all or most of their 2015 seasons. Cooper and Ober should both be good to go relatively close to the start of the season while Quantrill will be lucky to be back by mid-season at the earliest. The upside of a healthy Quantrill and the timing of his injury put him on any short list of most fascinating draft prospects for 2016 right now. He was a top ten slam dunk for me pre-injury…and I wouldn’t rule him out from getting back there if he can avoid any immediate post-rehab setbacks.

Power Pitchers with Changeups from Power Conferences >>> Everybody Else 

A lot will happen between now and June of 2016 – I’ll no longer be in my twenties, for instance – so it’s foolhardy to suggest anything I say now should be written in ink. My one bummer of a prediction is that college baseball’s non-power conferences appear primed to take a backseat to the traditional powers in 2016. I say that as a long-time advocate for players who don’t get written about every single Thursday by every single national college baseball publication. The monster recruits of 2013 that went unsigned and went to big-time schools have almost all panned out, effectively crowding out the little guys in next year’s draft class. There is hope, however. Pitchers from Air Force, Central Michigan, and Kent State should rise way up boards. There are even guys from Northwestern State, Albany, High Point, and Sacred Heart that have top five round upside or better.

Way, way, way too early college follow lists that are unranked and as inclusive as possible. I left a lot of players on even though they are off to verrrrrry slow starts this year because at this point scouting reports trump performance by a silly margin. If I left off anybody (particularly if it’s a son/nephew/BFF/player on your favorite team), assume it’s a mistake and gently remind me in the comments or via email.

C

Clemson SO C Chris Okey
NC State SO C/3B Andrew Knizner
Virginia SO C Matt Thaiss
Tulane SO C Jake Rogers
Mississippi State SO C Gavin Collins
Texas SO C Tres Barrera
Furman SO C Cameron Whitehead
Murray State SO C Tyler Lawrence
USC SO C/1B Jeremy Martinez
Maryland SO C/1B Nick Cieri
Pepperdine SO C Aaron Barnett
Santa Clara SO C Steve Berman
Grand Canyon SO C Josh Meyer
Ball State SO C Jarett Rindfleisch

1B

Miami SO 1B/C Zack Collins
East Carolina SO 1B/LHP Bryce Harman
Florida SO 1B Pete Alonso
Stony Brook SO 1B/OF Casey Baker
Texas State SO 1B Granger Studdard

2B

Notre Dame SO 2B/3B Cavan Biggio
Louisville SO 2B Nick Solak
Notre Dame SO 2B/SS Kyle Fiala
Wake Forest SO 2B/OF Nate Mondou
LSU FR 2B/SS Greg Deichmann
Tennessee SO 2B/3B Nick Senzel
Texas A&M SO 2B/OF Ryne Birk
Columbia SO 2B Will Savage
Florida Atlantic SO 2B/SS Stephen Kerr

SS

Long Beach State SO SS Garrett Hampson
Virginia Tech SO SS Ricky Surum
Tulane SO SS Stephen Alemais
Mississippi FR SS/2B Tate Blackman
Mississippi SO SS/2B Errol Robinson
Arizona State SO SS/2B Colby Woodmansee
Sacred Heart SO SS Zack Short
Austin Peay State SO SS/3B Logan Gray
Stanford SO SS Tommy Edman
San Diego FR SS/2B Bryson Brigman
Central Michigan SO SS Alex Borglin
Coastal Carolina SO SS/2B Michael Paez

3B

Oklahoma SO 3B/RHP Sheldon Neuse
Clemson SO 3B/SS Weston Wilson
Louisville rFR 3B/SS Blake Tiberi
Vanderbilt FR 3B/SS Will Toffey
Texas A&M SO 3B/C Ronnie Gideon
Oklahoma State SO 3B Andrew Rosa
Texas SO 3B Andy McGuire
Arizona SO 3B/RHP Bobby Dalbec
Bradley SO 3B Spencer Gaa

OF

Texas A&M SO OF Nick Banks
Nebraska SO OF Ryan Boldt
Florida State SO OF/SS Ben DeLuzio
Louisville SO OF Corey Ray
Miami SO OF Willie Abreu
LSU SO OF Jake Fraley
Georgia SO OF Stephen Wrenn
Mississippi SO OF JB Woodman
Arkansas SO OF Andrew Benintendi
Arkansas FR OF Luke Bonfield
Vanderbilt SO OF/1B Bryan Reynolds
Florida SO OF Buddy Reed
Oklahoma SO OF Cody Thomas
Oklahoma State SO OF Ryan Sluder
St. John’s SO OF Michael Donadio
Mercer SO OF Kyle Lewis
Samford SO OF Heath Quinn
UCLA SO OF/2B Luke Persico
UCLA SO OF Brett Stephens
Washington State SO OF Cameron Frost
Ohio State SO OF Ronnie Dawson
Ohio State SO OF Troy Montgomery
Hawaii SO OF/2B Marcus Doi
UC Riverside SO OF Vince Fernandez
BYU SO OF Brennon Lund
Loyola Marymount SO OF Austin Miller
Ball State SO OF Alex Call
Jacksonville SO OF Austin Hays
Nevada SO OF/LHP Trenton Brooks

P

Virginia SO RHP Connor Jones
Tennessee SO RHP Kyle Serrano
Georgia SO RHP Robert Tyler
Florida SO RHP Brett Morales
Oklahoma SO RHP Alec Hansen
Oklahoma State SO LHP Garrett Williams
Stanford SO RHP Cal Quantrill
Arkansas SO RHP Dominic Taccolini
Auburn SO RHP/1B Keegan Thompson
South Carolina SO RHP Wil Crowe
Florida SO LHP/1B AJ Puk
Florida SO RHP Logan Shore
Mississippi State SO RHP Austin Sexton
Oklahoma State SO RHP Thomas Hatch
Texas SO RHP Morgan Cooper
Oregon SO LHP Matt Krook
Oregon State FR RHP Drew Rasmussen
Arkansas SO RHP Zach Jackson
Vanderbilt rFR RHP Jordan Sheffield
Maryland SO RHP Mike Shawaryn
College of Charleston SO RHP Bailey Ober
Louisiana SO RHP Reagan Bazar
Alabama SO RHP Geoffrey Bramblett
Connecticut SO LHP Anthony Kay
California SO RHP Daulton Jefferies
Boston College SO RHP Justin Dunn
Louisville SO RHP Zack Burdi
Louisville SO LHP Drew Harrington
Miami SO RHP/1B Derik Beauprez
Miami SO RHP Bryan Garcia
North Carolina SO RHP/SS Spencer Trayner
Pittsburgh SO RHP TJ Zeuch
Houston SO RHP Andrew Lantrip
Houston SO RHP Marshall Kasowski
Tulane SO RHP JP France
LSU SO LHP Jared Poche
South Carolina SO RHP Matt Vogel
Alabama SO RHP Nick Eicholtz
Georgia SO LHP Connor Jones
Vanderbilt SO RHP Hayden Stone
Florida SO RHP Dane Dunning
Mississippi State SO RHP Dakota Hudson
Texas A&M SO RHP Ryan Hendrix
Oklahoma SO RHP Jake Elliott
TCU SO RHP Brian Howard
Texas Tech SO LHP Ty Damron
Arizona SO RHP Austin Schnabel
Arizona State SO RHP Hever Bueno
Washington State SO RHP Ian Hamilton
Michigan SO LHP Brett Adcock
Nebraska SO RHP Derek Burkamper
Pacific SO RHP Vince Arobio
Wichita State SO LHP/1B Sam Hilliard
Air Force SO RHP/1B Griffin Jax
Central Michigan SO LHP/1B Nick Deeg
Kent State SO RHP Andy Ravel
Northwestern State SO RHP Adam Oller
Albany SO RHP Stephen Woods
Elon SO RHP/C Chris Hall
Stetson SO RHP Mitchell Jordan
High Point SO RHP Cas Silber
Longwood SO RHP Mitchell Kuebbing
Sacred Heart SO RHP Jason Foley

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Louisiana State

JR 2B/SS Alex Bregman (2015)
JR OF Andrew Stevenson (2015)
JR OF Mark Laird (2015)
JR C Chris Chinea (2015)
SR 1B Conner Hale (2015)
SR OF Jared Foster (2015)
SR C Kade Scivicque (2015)
SR OF Chris Sciambra (2015)
SR RHP Brady Domangue (2015)
SR RHP Zac Person (2015)
SR LHP Kyle Bouman (2015)
rSO RHP Hunter Newman (2015)
rSO RHP Russell Reynolds (2015)
JR LHP Hunter Devall (2015)
SO OF Jake Fraley (2016)
SO LHP Jared Poche (2016)
SO RHP Parker Bugg (2016)
SO 2B Danny Zardon (2016)
SO 2B Kramer Robertson (2016)
SO RHP Collin Strall (2016)
SO RHP Alden Cartwright (2016)
FR RHP Alex Lange (2017)
FR RHP Jake Godfrey (2017)
FR LHP Jake Latz (2017)
FR 2B/SS Greg Deichmann (2017)
FR C Mike Papierski (2017)
FR RHP Austin Bain (2017)
FR SS Grayson Byrd (2017)
FR RHP Doug Norman (2017)
FR OF Beau Jordan (2017)
FR C/1B Bryce Jordan (2017)

There seem to be a pair of highly defensive sides developing when it comes to making a definitive declaration about JR 2B/SS Alex Bregman’s eventual defensive home. One side — the college baseball writers — seem personally offended whenever the other side — the draft writers — suggest Bregman will have to play anything but shortstop as a professional. The whole disagreement speaks to the uneasy relationship so many — players, coaches, parents, fans — have with balancing enjoying the college game for what it is with understanding the different level of analysis needed to determine the likelihood a player’s tools will continue to grow into skills when bumped to the professional game. Part of the logic from the college baseball watching side makes sense to me — bat, ball, glove…baseball is baseball, so if you can play then you can play — but scouting strictly based on performance and outcomes is a very bad road to travel. In any given at bat, game, or season, sure, the outcome trumps all else. If you get the big hit, big run, or big win, then, in that defining moment, it only should matter that it happened, not how it happened. But when trying to make projections about an all too uncertain future, understanding why and how something happened is ultimately far more valuable. Sometimes a limited process can get you desirable outcomes, but eventually that’s going to catch up with you.

I’m not writing all this to say that Bregman’s current success at shortstop in college masks the physical limitations that scouts see when trying to project a big league future for him. That does seem to be the consensus view of those on the side who watch and follow college baseball solely to find the next generation of professional players, a group of which I’ve made no bones about being a part of. I, however, am not yet willing to go there because I honestly don’t yet know what to make of Bregman’s defense. The safe bet would be to write him off as a future shortstop and go forward thinking of him as a second baseman. Forced to guess, I’d say that’s his most likely outcome. That doesn’t mean I think it’s crazy to think he could start his career off at shortstop for a few cheap, cost-controlled seasons. Thank goodness we all have another season’s worth of games to evaluate him before making a “final” decision (note: this decision is in no way final and can and likely will be changed multiple times early on his pro career, if not on the actual field than certainly in the internal conversations had by the player development staff of whatever team selects him) on his future. Ultimately, I think his defensive future will come down to a fairly simple either/or: you can have a slightly below-average shortstop with the chance to play his way to average before his lack of foot speed necessitates a move back to second OR you can have an average to above-average second baseman with the chance to play his way to plus with continued work on developing the finer points (e.g., footwork around the bag on the turn, positioning with each hitter, improving the first step on a ball hit to either side of him) of the position.

Wherever he lands defensively, Bregman is going to hit. The ability to play one of the middle infield spots and hit while doing it is what makes him as close to a first round lock as there is in this college class. If that sounds like exceedingly simple analysis, well, that’s because it is. He has an easy to identify above-average or better hit tool, average to above-average speed that plays up due to his impressive feel for the game, average raw power with an emphasis on splitting the gaps, plenty of bat speed, and a consistently smart approach at the plate. There aren’t a lot of holes you can poke in his game from an offensive standpoint. One thing I’ve found particularly fascinating about Bregman as a prospect is the response you get when his name comes up within the game. I think I’ve heard more comps on Bregman than literally any player I can remember. Something about his game just evokes that “every man” feeling deep inside talent evaluators, I guess. Take a look at the list I currently have of comps I’ve personally heard for Bregman: Mike Lansing, Mark Ellis (BA has used this), Robby Thompson, Orlando Hudson, Tony Renda, Randy Velarde, Bill Mueller, Jose Vidro, Edgardo Alfonzo, Carlos Baerga, Ray Durham, Jhonny Peralta, and Mark DeRosa. There’s also the increasingly popular Dustin Pedroia comp, which makes sense on the surface but is a scary comparison for anybody due to the unique set of circumstances (or, more plainly, an obsessive/borderline maniacal drive to be great) that has led to Pedroia’s rise in the game. I’ve also heard the cautionary comp of Bobby Crosby, though I’m not sure I buy the two being all the similar at similar points in their respective development. A statistical look comparing Bregman and Crosby makes for an interesting conversation starter (if, you know, you’re friends with other obsessive college baseball/draft fans)…

AB: .344/.408/.504 – 51 BB/46 K – 28/35 SB – 526 AB
BC: .340/.417/.496 – 70 BB/103 K – 40/51 SB – 635 AB

Top is Bregman so far, bottom is Crosby’s career college numbers. It would have worked better if I had left out the BB/K ratios, but that would have been intellectually dishonest and I’m far too morally upstanding to stoop to statistical manipulation to make a point. I’d never dream of doing such a thing. Hey, look at this comparison…

AB: .369/.419/.546 – 25 BB/24 K – 17/18 SB – 282 AB
AH: .329/.391/.550 – 20 BB/20 K – 10/11 SB – 222 AB

The top is Bregman’s first year at LSU, the bottom is Aaron Hill’s first year at LSU. Notice how I didn’t say freshman year: Hill transferred from Southern Illinois to LSU after his freshman season. Since we’ve already gone down this dark and twisted road of statistical manipulation, let’s go even deeper…

AB: .316/.397/.455 – 27 BB/21 K – 12/18 SB – 244 AB
AH: .299/.375/.463 – 15 BB/27 K – 6/7 SB – 134 AB

Those would be Bregman and Hill’s “other” college season; more specifically, you’re looking at Hill’s freshman year at Southern Illinois and Bregman’s more recent season. I’m not sure what could be gained from comparing these two seasons, but, hey, look how similar! Jokes aside — though, seriously, those are some freaky similar numbers — I think the comparison between Alex Bregman and Aaron Hill is probably the most apt comp out there at this point. If the numbers don’t sway you, just check Hill’s playing card from his draft year at Baseball America

In a draft thin on shortstops, Hill is one of the few with legitimate offensive potential. There are questions as to whether he can handle that position all the way up to the majors, but he’ll get the shot to prove he can’t. His instincts and gritty makeup get the most out of his tools–which aren’t lacking. He has enough arm to make plays from the hole, along with range and quickness. He’s not flashy but gets the job done. At worst, the Southeastern Conference player of the year will be an all-around second baseman. Offensively, he has a beautiful swing, above-average speed and control of the strike zone. He doesn’t have plus home-run power, but he can hit the occasional longball and line balls into the gaps.

I don’t normally post full sections like that, but come on! Replace Hill for Bregman and that’s pretty much spot-on! Well, the bit about this being a draft thin on shortstops might not work that well — if the 2015 draft is strong at any one position player group in the college game, it’s shortstop — but still. Interesting to me that this quick scouting report glossed over Hill’s offensive promise much in the same way I coincidentally (I swear!) did with Bregman above. It’s almost as if it was a foregone conclusion that Hill would hit enough to play somewhere, just like how many, myself included, view Bregman today. I like Bregman to hit a little bit more than Hill, run a little bit better than Hill, and field a little bit better than Hill. Otherwise, I think the comparison is pretty damn good.

JR OFs Andrew Stevenson and Mark Laird are both elite runners and defenders in center field. I prefer Laird by the tiniest of margins (little more patience), but both have skill sets that will keep them employed for years in the minors, perhaps even long enough to one day break through at the big league level as a fourth/fifth outfielder. Stevenson might actually be the better bet going forward, but it’ll take flipping his BB/K numbers around (25 BB/53 K career mark) to really take off as a prospect. It’s incredibly difficult to predict a sudden jump in plate discipline, but I think there are some interesting indicators in Stevenson’s approach that could help get him where he needs to be. SR OF Jared Foster might get squeezed out in this crowded outfield yet again — SO OF Jake Fraley (.372/.419/.521 in 121 freshman AB) needs time, too — but he’s a great athlete who can really run and throw. It’s hard to imagine a better defensive outfield in the country than Stevenson, Laird, and Foster. For as much as I believe Stevenson is on the verge of a breakout season, JR C Chris Chinea’s expected 2015 should rival whatever he winds up doing. Chinea is a strong, mobile defender behind the plate who has held his own as a hitter in limited at bats to date. If he gets steady time — the underrated SR C Kade Scivicque could stand in his way — then I could see his patient approach and big raw power leading to big things at the plate. SR 1B Conner Hale had a similar offensive season to Scivicque’s 2014 and if the two build on those performances, it would be a surprise to see them passed over as senior signs this June.

There’s no Aaron Nola in this year’s pitching class, but rather a collection of good but not great arms with varying degrees of pro upside. If healthy, rSO RHP Russell Reynolds (88-93 FB, chance for two average or better offspeed pitches) might be the best prospect. A case could also be made for another inexperienced pitcher, rSO RHP Hunter Newman. Newman’s fastball is in that same range, but he’s flashes a better breaking ball (mid-70s CB with plus upside) and brings a frame with more projection (6-3, 185 pounds) to the mound. SR LHP Kyle Bouman and RHPs Brady Domangue and Zac Person all live in the mid- to upper-80s with nice offspeed stuff. Person’s numbers jump out (9.32 K/9 and 3.86 BB/9 in 28 IP) over the rest, but all have at least a chance to be senior signs with big years.

With Bregman this year and guys like SO 2B Danny Zardon, SO 2B Kramer Robertson, FR 2B/SS Greg Deichmann (if he’s not a star for this team, I’m quitting the internet draft game), and FR SS Grayson Byrd all in the pipeline, LSU has a chance to be known as “Middle Infield U” in the coming years. They’d have the chance to continue in the tradition of Ryan Schmipf, DJ LeMahieu, Tyler Hanover, Raph Rhymes, Austin Nola, and Jacoby Jones as recent Tiger middle infield prospects (yes, I realize I’m cheating some by including Rhymes and Jones) turned professional ballplayers. And even though the talent on the mound this year won’t blow you away, LSU also always seems to have a steady stream of useful arms coming through the program. Look at some the underclass talent poised to take over in the next year or three: SO LHP Jared Poche, SO RHP Parker Bugg, SO RHP Alden Cartwright, FR RHPs Alex Lange and Jake Godfrey, and FR LHP Jake Latz. This team is loaded.