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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Houston Astros

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Houston in 2016

26 – Forrest Whitley
82 – Ronnie Dawson
88 – Jake Rogers
200 – Carmen Benedetti
230 – Ryne Birk
265 – Stephen Wrenn
327 – Dustin Hunt
478 – Taylor Jones
488 – Brett Adcock
498 – Chad Donato

Complete List of 2016 Houston Draftees

1.17 – RHP Forrest Whitley

On Forrest Whitley (26) from April 2016…

You really shouldn’t have a first round mock draft that doesn’t include at least one big prep righthander from Texas. It just doesn’t feel right. Whitley, standing in at a strapping 6-7, 240 pounds, has the requisite fastball velocity (88-94, 96 peak) to pair with a cadre of power offspeed stuff. We’re talking a devastating when on upper-80s cut-slider and an average or better mid-80s split-change that has been clocked as high as 90 MPH. I’m not sure how power on power on power would work against pro hitters — this is NOT a comp, but I guess Jake Arrieta has found a way to do it — but I’m looking forward to finding out.

Honestly, not a whole lot has changed from the pre-draft evaluation on Whitley to now. There’s a ton to like with him: big fastball that went on to hit 97 MPH later in the spring (his weight was down to 225 by then, too), nasty hard cut-slider, power split-change that is lethal when on, and a truer breaker that lives somewhere between a curve and a slider at around 76-81 MPH. Whitley carries all the risk that big teenage pitchers bring to the table, but the upside here is immense. He has the kind of talent that makes you think putting a ceiling on what he can do is a waste of time. I’ll do it anyway and say that Whitley’s upside looks a lot like what we’ve seen so far out of Gerrit Cole.

2.61 – OF Ronnie Dawson

On Ronnie Dawson (82) from October 2015…

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.

A final spring at Ohio State didn’t quite answer the question about Dawson’s approach, but the incremental improvements he’s made in that area of his game over the years gives hope that he’s a young hitter who gets it. I think Dawson is a long-term regular in an outfield corner with flashes of all-star season upside. His improved approach combined with the existing physical tool set (above-average power, speed, arm, and range in a corner) should get him where he wants to go. It’s not a direct one-to-one comparison, but there are a lot of similarities between Dawson and future Houston teammate George Springer when the latter was coming out of Connecticut.

3.97 – C Jake Rogers

Jake Rogers (88) to Houston makes so much sense. A team that values defense behind the plate, especially the previously “hidden” (i.e., not publicized) advantages of such things as pitch-framing, taking one of the amateur rank’s best defensive catchers to enter pro ball in years. It would be terrible for his own development, but I wonder what kind of defensive numbers Rogers could put up jumping straight to the big leagues in year one. Just tell him to hit .200 and play the kind of defense that impressed me so much that I compared his all-around game behind the plate to the Florida State version of Buster Posey. It’ll never happen (thankfully), but it would be kind of fun.

With Rogers being a stone cold mortal lock to provide tremendous defensive value going forward (top five defensive catcher in baseball by the end of his rookie year?), the question then moves to how much you’ll get out of him as a hitter. There are a few different ways we can approach Rogers as a hitter, but, for the sake of brevity, let’s hone in on his power upside. Rogers has more raw power (average to above-average) than he’s shown, which can be looked at either as a positive (it’s in there, we just have to find a way to unlock it!) or a negative (raw power is great, but if he hasn’t figured out how to tap into it by now then it doesn’t do us any good). I tend to side with the positive thinkers there if only because the day-to-day hands-on teaching that goes on in pro ball (especially in an organization like Houston that takes the long view with player development) is so different than what amateur prospects get in college, high school, or on the showcase circuit (LOL). Dedicated time, effort, and energy of pro instruction needs to at least be given a chance before writing off any particular amateur’s odds of improvement. Rogers getting into a little more power would hardly qualify as a shocker, and the overall bump of such a development would make him more of a complete prospect. I think 2016 Russell Martin (.231/.335/.398, 99 wRC+) is probably Rogers’s ceiling as a hitter, though I could be talked into bumping that up to Martin’s current career mark (.254/.350/.404, 106 wRC+) if we wanted to keep these optimistic vibes going. Approaching that kind of offensive output with his brand of defensive brilliance would make Rogers a very valuable player and a very rich man. Consider former Astros catcher and current Twin Jason Castro (.232/.309/.390, 94 wRC+) and his recent three-year contract worth $24.5 million. No reason that Rogers can’t have a similar career or better.

4.127 – LHP Brett Adcock

On Brett Adcock (488) from April 2016…

Brett Adcock doesn’t have the size as Vieaux, Sawyer, or his teammate Hill, but his stuff is no less impressive. Lefties that can throw four pitches for strikes with his kind of track record of success, both peripherally (10.29 K/9 in 2014, 9.50 K/9 in 2015) and traditionally (2.87 ERA in 2014, 3.10 ERA in 2015), have a tendency to get noticed even when coming in a 6-0, 215 package. I had somebody describe him to me as “Anthony Kay without the killer change,” an odd comparison that kind of works the less you think about it. Adcock has a good fastball (88-92, 94 peak) and two average or better breaking balls (77-81 SL is fine, but his 75-78 CB could be a big league put away pitch) in addition to an upper-70s changeup that is plenty usable yet hardly on par with Kay’s dominant offering. If Kay is a borderline first round talent (he is), then surely Adcock could find his way into the draft’s top five or so rounds. That might be too aggressive to some, so I’ll agree to knocking down expectations to single-digit rounds and calling it even.

From about the time of that writing on, Adock’s control went from iffy to downright scary. That leaves us with a short lefthander that can really only command two pitches (fastball and 75-82 spike-curve) who will need a lot of work in pro ball. I don’t love it. If his delivery can be tweaked enough to see a return to his freshman year control (3.38 BB/9), then we can get back to thinking about him as a potential fifth starter candidate. If not, then effectively wild lefthanded reliever it is.

5.157 – 3B Abraham Toro-Hernandez

The Astros must have been cussing out the Royals in their draft room when Kansas City stole Seminole State RHP Dillon Drabble away from them in the seventeenth round. The lousy Royals foiled Houston’s plan of drafting not one, not two, not three, but four prospects from one junior college in Oklahoma. I’ve discussed my distaste for loading up on players from one school too many times to count during these draft reviews, so we’ll instead focus on the actual player drafted by Houston here. That would be Abraham Toro-Hernandez, a third baseman coming off a season so good (.439/.545/.849 with 38 BB/18 K and 8/9 SB in 205 AB) that I literally had to check his state page multiple time to be sure I didn’t mess up somehow. Pro ball was slightly more challenging (.254/.301/.322 with 10 BB/31 K in 193 PA) for the 19-year-old, but I’m still liking Houston’s willingness to put real stock in players coming off of exceptional amateur careers. Toro-Hernandez is a solid athlete who has already shown elite plate discipline and power potential. That’s a great starting point to build from.

6.187 – OF Stephen Wrenn

I’ve been writing about the MLB Draft on the internet for long enough now to develop enough of a core audience that I feel comfortable sharing my inner-most secrets with you. Ready for this one? I’m not sure I’ve ever really realized that Stephen Wrenn (265) and Steven Duggar, former Clemson star and Giants draft pick from 2015, were actually different people. I mean, sure, I knew there were not the same literal person, but the two prospects were so similar to me that my brain just melded them into one player and I think that thought may have bled into some of the analysis for both guys. Making matters more confusing (and validating my apparent stupidity), Wrenn went off the board to Houston in the sixth round with the 187th overall pick. San Francisco took Duggar last year in the sixth round with the 186th overall pick. I swear I didn’t realize that before writing the first four sentences of this intro. Life is weird, man.

Whatever similarity the two players once shared went by the wayside in 2016, draft position oddity aside. Duggar really began to click as a hitter during his junior year at Clemson; Wrenn went backwards in his final season at Georgia. The fact that the latter still got picked in the same spot as the former should speak to Wrenn’s upside. Unfortunately, said upside has only ever manifested itself in flashes. His speed, glove, and baseball instincts should all help keep him employed a long time, but his approach at the plate keeps him from being the star (or at least slam dunk potential regular) that he should be. I’ve gotten comps on him that range from Leonys Martin to Kevin Pillar to Adam Jones. That’s a fairly broad spectrum, but certain traits (CF range, athleticism, evidence of more physical gifts than baseball skills at times) are fairly consistent throughout. Personally, I see him as a potential (more naturally gifted) Juan Lagares type at the next level: plus defender, intermittent power, positive on the base paths. Peak Lagares (2014) with the most recent version’s power (2016) would give you around a .280/.320/.420 hitter. That seems like a reasonable offensive ceiling for Wrenn. Even getting near that with his glove would make for a really useful player. If you’re picking up on some similarities between the questionable bat/standout defensive up-the-middle profiles of Wrenn and Jake Rogers, then we’re on the same wavelength.

8.247 – RHP Nick Hernandez

One outstanding year at Houston (11.75 K/9 and 1.93 BB/9 in 43.2 IP) was more than enough evidence to convince the Astros to pluck Nick Hernandez out of their own backyard. The power-armed righthander (88-92 FB, 94 peak; above-average low-80s SL) kept right on rolling in pro ball after signing (10.38 K/9 and 3.12 BB/9 in 26.0 IP). Curiously, Hernandez finished his (small sample) debut with one of the lowest GB rates (28.6%) out of any pitcher I’ve come across in organized ball. No idea if that’s an aberration or part of a larger trend, but it’s something to keep in mind going forward.

9.277 – LHP Ryan Hartman

NAIA competition or not, a 0.64 ERA in 98 innings pitched with standout peripherals (11.85 K/9 and 1.10 BB/9) is something special. Ryan Hartman put up those awesome senior year stats thanks to a solid heater (87-91, up to 93) and a really good changeup he’s not afraid to double up on when needed. An improving curve could give him a shot to remain in the rotation as a professional, but for now his clearest path to the big leagues looks to come as a fast-tracked reliever. I like it.

10.307 – RHP Dustin Hunt

Dustin Hunt (327) is a fine project to take on at this stage in the draft. His size (6-5, 200), fastball (87-93, 94-95 peak), and track record (the three-year rotation mainstay put up a 9.04 K/9 and 3.02 BB/9 in almost 250 total college innings) stack up against just about any college pitching prospect you’ll find past the first few rounds of the draft. I’m less enamored with his offspeed stuff than most, but the good outweighs the bad and time is still on his side anyway. Nice pick.

11.337 – RHP Chad Donato

Chad Donato’s (498) future remains somewhat cloudy after being red flagged by many teams after being diagnosed with a strained UCL just a few days before the draft. Donato wound up needing Tommy John surgery; he underwent the procedure on July 1, the same day as three other professional pitchers according to this wonderful resource that I can’t believe I’m only now seeing for the first time. If Donato can return to 100% health, then the Astros may have stolen a future quality big league reliever in the eleventh round. With a fastball up to 94 (88-92 typically), an above-average to plus curve, and standout control, Donato was able to dominate (10.37 K/9 and 1.87 BB/9) college competition in his junior year in Morgantown.

There are too many cool anecdotes in this story on Donato’s draft day experience that I couldn’t pick just one to share. Read it yourself and see. I’m such a sucker for these types of stories.

And for the millionth time this draft review season, THIS is what the eleventh round is all about. Well, kind of. Even though Donato’s $100,000 bonus wasn’t technically an overslot deal that counted against Houston’s allotted bonus pool, the eleventh round was still the perfect time to give a talented but risky guy like Donato six-figures. Use the last few single-digit rounds for cheaper senior-signs — like Houston did with Ryan Hartman in round nine — to give yourself flexibility elsewhere.

12.367 – LHP Carmen Benedetti

Though announced as a pitcher on draft day, Carmen Benedetti (200) played almost every inning of his rookie pro season in right field. This decision pleases me greatly. If you’re a regular reader, you know why. If not, you’ll learn. On Benedetti from April 2016…

Carmen Benedetti is such a favorite of mine that I didn’t even bother with dropping the FAVORITE designation in my notes on him; it’s just assumed. He’s not the best prospect in this class, but he has a case for being one of the best players. I’ve compared him to Florida’s Brian Johnson (now with the Boston Red Sox) in the past and I think he’s legitimately good enough both as a pitcher and a hitter to have a pro future no matter what his drafting team prefers. As with Johnson, I prefer Benedetti getting his shot as a position player first. I’m a sucker for smooth fielding first basemen with bat speed, above-average raw power, and the kind of disciplined approach one might expect from a part-time pitcher who can fill up the strike zone with the best of them. If he does wind up on the mound, I won’t object. He’s good enough to transition to the rotation professionally thanks to a fine fastball (90-94), above-average 77-80 change, a usable curve, and heaps of athleticism. I get that I like Benedetti and this draft class more than most, but the fact that a prospect of his caliber isn’t likely to even approach Johnson’s draft position (31st overall) says something about the quality and depth of the 2016 MLB Draft.

And again later that same month…

Search for “Carmen Benedetti” on this site. I’ve written a lot about him lately. Assuming you don’t — and good for you not being bossed around by some baseball nerd on the internet — the quick version is he’s really good at baseball, both the hitting/fielding part and the pitching part. I’ve likened him to Brian Johnson more than once, and I think he’s shown enough as a position player to get a shot in the field first. The raw power might not scream slam dunk future big league regular at first base, but the overall offensive and defensive profile could make him an above-average regular for a long time.

I really like Benedetti. I think I’ve made that clear. Now let me pump the breaks a little bit. Here’s a topical comparison to consider…

.323/.410/.485 (56 2B, 4 3B, 10 HR) with 83 BB/76 K in 549 AB
.327/.444/.446 (45 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR) with 127 BB/100 K in 626 AB

Top was Benedetti in his three years at Michigan, bottom was what Houston prospect Conrad Gregor did in his three years at Vanderbilt. Gregor was a FAVORITE who I thought would up his offensive game to another level in the pros. Hasn’t happened. So many of the notes I have on Benedetti match up with what I once had on Gregor. Here’s a sampling of some older Gregor notes: “plus defender at first, pretty good in outfield; average speed once he gets a full head of steam; good arm, but slow release; very strong hit tool; great approach; physically strong; smart hitter, but still chases too many bad balls; plus bat speed; can get pull happy; pretty swing; that raw power is still there, but has been slow to manifest.” Every player is different and should be assessed independent of whatever his peer has done, but there’s no harm in attempting to find patterns in player archetypes that work or don’t work within your own organization. Gregor hasn’t worked out to date; that can be attributed to him, the Astros, or (most likely) the nature of the challenge that is professional ball. Hopefully Benedetti can avoid the pitfalls that have ensnared Gregor to this point. If not, hey, there’s always the option of moving back to the mound.

I should close with that rare snappy line, but I can’t help myself; I’m pulling a reverse Costanza here. The college stat comparison game is one I enjoy even though I freely admit that stats can sometimes be used to create false equivalencies and lead to faulty conclusions. I mean, I don’t do that — or at least I try not to — but it can be done. For example, maybe you really like Benedetti and you take exception to the Gregor comparison above. You might pull this guy’s numbers to use as a basis of comparison instead…

.323/.410/.485 (56 2B, 4 3B, 10 HR) with 83 BB/76 K in 549 AB
.341/.410/.466 (42 2B, 4 3B, 12 HR) with 62 BB/68 K in 689 AB

Top is still Benedetti at Michigan, but the bottom is now Cardinals standout Stephen Piscotty’s career numbers at Stanford. Pretty damn similar, right? So maybe Benedetti is Gregor or maybe he’s Piscotty. Or maybe he’s just Benedetti. I keep looking up at his college numbers and thinking that some slightly scaling back — about 50 points of everything, give or take — could represent a reasonable pro ceiling for him. So that would be something like .280/.360/.430 at his peak. Those numbers would make him almost an exact duplicate of 2016 Odubel Herrera. That’s…unexpected but great. Other 2016 outfielders with a similar line include Adam Eaton, Kole Calhoun, and Stephen Piscotty (!). The closest 2016 first base facsimiles are Adrian Gonzalez and Eric Hosmer. You’d take the 2016 version of any of those hitters out of a plus defender at first or a strong-armed right fielder. Maybe Benedetti won’t have to hop back on the mound after all…

13.397 – 2B Ryne Birk

Ryne Birk (230) has always hit, so it wasn’t a huge shock to many long-time observers of his game that he kept right on hitting in pro ball after signing. Even better than the hitting (for me) was the apparent commitment by Houston to give Birk an honest shot to stick in the dirt going forward. From March 2016…

Birk has worked his tail off to become a competent defender at the keystone, so selecting him this early is a vote of confidence in his glove passing the professional barrier of quality in the eyes of his first wave of pro coaches. I think he’s more than good enough at second with an intriguing enough upside as a hitter to make a top five round pick worth it. Offensively he’s shown average power, above-average speed, and good feel for contact. Sorting out his approach will be the difference between fun utility option or solid starter once he hits pro ball. He reminds me a good bit of Trever Morrison as a prospect, right down to the slightly off spellings of their respective first names.

And then again in April 2016…

A lot of what was written about Shelby could apply to Ryne Birk, at least in a poor man’s version kind of way. Birk might be a little ahead in terms of power and approach, but Shelby beats him everywhere else. I’ve gotten positive reviews on his glove at second this year, but there are still a few who maintain that his speed (good not great) and arm (neither good nor great) will force him to left field in the pros. For those reasons and more, I’ve gotten a fun and somewhat obscure Andrew Pullin comp for him this spring.

As much as I like Birk’s bat independent of where he plays, even I have to admit that the offensive bar in left field would be tough for him to clear enough to be considered a legitimate prospect at the position. At second, a position where I’ll go down believing he can play until he’s long retired, he’s instantly one of the most interesting prospects of his kind in baseball. I mentioned comps to both Trever Morrison and Andrew Pullin in the months leading up to the draft, but it now occurs to me that Birk could be a little bit like this draft’s version of Max Schrock. Coincidentally (I swear!), both Birk and Schrock fell to the thirteenth round in their respective drafts. Hmm.

14.427 – RHP Carson LaRue

A 11.28 K/9 and 2.79 BB/9 for Carson LaRue at Cowley County CC looks pretty good from where I’m sitting. The former Oklahoma State pitcher has the low-90s fastball/weaponized slider one-two punch to get a potential look in relief down the line.

15.457 – SS Alex DeGoti

Alex DeGoti could be another one of Houston’s patented non-D1 college finds. The middle infielder hit .404/.492/.694 with 27 BB/22 K in 193 AB at Barry after three lackluster years at Long Beach State. He then followed it up with a .228/.320/.329 (99 wRC+) pro debut. Not too shabby.

16.487 – OF Spencer Johnson

Spencer Johnson has been a consistently impressive power/speed threat going back to his high school days. I’ve always been surprised at the lack of hype the 6-4, 215 pound physical specimen has received over the years. Of course, I’m guilty of this as well if you want to check the archives. There’s no time like the present to talk a guy up, so that’s what we’ll do with Johnson now. Houston got themselves a really interesting player in the draft’s sixteenth round. From a strictly physical standpoint, Johnson is one of the draft’s best looking prospects. He has huge raw power, decent speed (admittedly not quite as much as he had in his younger days), and is unafraid to grip it and rip it in any count. That aggressive style works for him more often than not, but an avalanche of strikeouts is never that far away. If he can limit the empty swings in pro ball, he’s got a chance to do some damage in a bench role.

18.547 – RHP Colin McKee

Colin McKee dominated at Mercyhurst in his redshirt-junior season to the tune of a 13.50 K/9 and 1.82 ERA in 94.0 IP. His first 8.1 IP as a pro weren’t quite as magical unless you consider 7 BB, 2 HBP, 7 WP, and an ERA of 11.88 a good time. At least his FIP was just 8.58. Those 8.1 innings were obviously a less than ideal way to make a first impression, but McKee still has plenty going for him. He’s got the track record, stuff (88-92 FB, 94 peak; good 76-81 SL), and build (6-3, 225) to pitch his way back into the future middle relief mix for Houston.

19.577 – 1B Taylor Jones

I like this one. On Taylor Jones (478) from March 2016…

Taylor Jones is a risky pick behind Brigman as guys with long levers bring that boom/bust aspect to hitting. The boom of Jones’s power currently outweighs any bust I feel about his long-term ability to make consistent contact as a pro. The fact that he’s more than just a slugger helps give some wiggle room. Jones is an average runner who fields his position really well. He’s also capable of moonlighting on the mound thanks to an upper-80s fastball and up-and-down curve. Broken record alert, but he’s one of my favorite senior-sign hitters in this class. That makes about four dozen favorite senior-sign hitters; thankfully, nobody keeps track.

One day I’ll stop getting sucked into believing that the next giant hitter — Jones is 6-7, 225 pounds — will find a way to make enough contact to be a star in the pros. One day…

(Jones hit really well in his pro debut, BTW. Still a huge fan of him as a potential big league contributor. Super pick. Just when I think I’m out…)

20.607 – 2B LP Pelletier

The LP in LP Pelletier’s name stands for Louis-Phillippe. That seems like good information to have in the back pocket going forward for some reason. Also good information: Pelletier hit .445/.504/.873 with 18 BB/18 K and 16/19 SB in 229 AB for Seminole State JC this past spring. The team hit .380/.469/.684, so this is similar to the Raymond Henderson deal you’ll read about two rounds below. As with Henderson, Pelletier still gets credit from me for going out and hitting. The advantages are all well known, but you still have to do your job. Pelletier did that and then some this past spring. It didn’t quite work as well for him in a small sample over the summer, but time is on his side.

21.637 – C Chuckie Robinson

You’re getting power, a big arm, and sheer physical strength with Chuckie Robinson. He can get a little too aggressive at the plate for his own good at times and not everybody you talk to is convinced he’s a catcher long-term, but the righthanded power should be enough to keep him employed for the foreseeable future.

22.667 – C Raymond Henderson

In his two years at Grayson County CC, Raymond Henderson did this…

.374/.451/.663 – 30 BB/26 K – 190 AB
.452/.541/.782 – 40 BB/17 K – 188 AB

Damn. Some of those offensive numbers should be taken with a grain of salt — the team as a whole hit .354/.445/.551 in 2016, so, yeah, but there are still many positives to be gleaned from his time as a Viking. Even with an inflated scoring environment, questionable competition, and juggernaut lineup accounted for you still have to go out there and actually do the hitting. Henderson certainly did that, and he did it while also showing off a stellar approach at the plate. Pro ball was a bit more challenging (.223/.292/.394 with 9 BB/24 K in 106 PA), but I’d be willing to give a guy who has shown that kind of college production a bit more time to make his adjustments to pro ball. I’ll be watching Henderson closely. There’s some sneaky forward-thinking (catcher/second base/third base) utility guy upside here.

23.697 – RHP Tyler Britton

A 13.83 K/9 and 2.63 BB/9 in 41.0 IP puts Tyler Britton near the top of the hill when it comes to 2016 MLB Draft pro pitching debuts. The undersized (5-11, 190) righthander from High Point (9.60 K/9 and 1.63 BB/9 in 55.1 IP as a senior) isn’t flashy, but there’s little doubt he’ll keep getting chances as long as he can keep missing bats.

24.727 – 1B Troy Sieber

Even though plenty of quality articles on the subject have been written, I’m still baffled how the Astros identified Tyler White, the fifty-first best college first base prospect in 2013 according to some internet hack, as a potential big league player after a really good but not mind-blowing (.361/.420/.630 with 17 BB/25 K) final season at Western Carolina. That’s why I’m absolutely taking notice of Troy Sieber, Houston’s twenty-fourth round pick out of St. Leo College down in Florida. Sieber entered pro ball sporting a .381/.489/.738 (64 BB/60 K) career college line that included a .457/.553/.873 (31 BB/26 K) junior season. That’ll work. He kept right on mashing in the GCL (.289/.449/.474 in 49 PA) before running into his first challenge at Greeneville (.242/.356/.339 in 146 PA, down across the board but still good for a 102 wRC+). Like White, Sieber will have to keep hitting at every level to get his shot. Like White, he’s got a chance to do just that.

25.757 – RHP Kevin Hill

On Kevin Hill from March 2016…

Hill is the consummate college senior tearing up younger hitters with pinpoint command and stellar sequencing. He’s capable of tossing one of his three offspeed pitches in any count, and there’s now enough fastball (up to 88-92 this year, peaking at 93) to keep hitters from sitting on it. Smarts, plus command, and solid stuff make Hill a really good senior-sign, but it’s his fantastic athleticism that helps set him apart. The entire package makes him arguably one of the best potential senior-signs in the country. One scout referred to him as “store brand Aaron Nola.” I’m in.

I’m sure it’s just because I finished writing their draft review recently, but it’s shocking to me that Hill wasn’t drafted by Cleveland this year. He’s the embodiment of the command/athleticism aesthetic they seem to be going for of late. Houston snapped him up in the twenty-fifth round and could get a big league pitcher for their trouble. Working strongly against Hill is his age (already 24!) and lack of projection, but his present ability could be enough to challenge him with an aggressive AA assignment to start his first full season. Whether he starts there or elsewhere (High-A, most likely), the goal for all involved should be to get Hill to AAA by the end of the season. If he can do that, then he’s got a shot to fulfill his fifth starter/middle relief destiny.

27.817 – LHP Nathan Thompson

I’m not sure if this is noteworthy or not, but eight pitchers handled 454 innings in 56 games for the Bison in 2016. Seems like they kept that staff busy. I like it. One of those eight pitchers was Nathan Thompson. The lefthander leaned on an upper-80s fastball (90 peak) to strike out 11.81 batters per nine in his final season at Oklahoma Baptist. There’s some matchup relief upside here if it works.

30.907 – 3B Brody Westmoreland

It’s impossible for me to mention Brody Westmoreland without also mentioning his awesome high school. Before a quick stop at San Diego State and a year at the College of Southern Nevada, Westmoreland played ball for the ThunderRidge HS Grizzles. ThunderRidge! Anyway, Westmoreland is a reasonably interesting four-corners (1B/3B/LF/RF) utility prospect with a strong arm, solid athleticism, and legit power. There’s probably too much swing-and-miss in his game to do a whole lot, but it’s a reasonable gamble here all the same.

31.937 – LHP Howie Brey

As a semi-local prospect (Rutgers!) to me, I’ve seen a fair amount of Howie Brey over the past four college seasons. I can’t lie and say that I ever came away from watching him thinking he had a future in pro ball, but I’ve been wrong plenty before. Rooting for him.

34.1027 – SS Stijn van der Meer

Pre-draft take on Stijn van der Meer…

SS Stijn van derMeer can field his position and do enough with the bat to rank as one of my favorite senior shortstops in this class. Fair or not, I can’t help but think of him as a potential Die Hard villain whenever I read his name.

I’ve seen his name spelled just about every way imaginable, so we’ll go with the Baseball-Reference approved Stijn van der Meer for now. Speaking of B-R, this is well worth a read. I would have loved to sum it up, but I didn’t know where to begin. Stijn van der Meer has already had a damn fascinating baseball existence and he’s only a few months into minor league career. At least this pre-draft report on him sums up his skills on the diamond nicely…

Lamar SR SS Stijn van derMeer: really strong glove; very little power; patient, pesky hitter; adept at working long counts, hitting with two strikes, and fouling tough pitches off; fun comp from his college coach: Ozzie Guillen; 6-3, 170 pounds

Pretty simple package here: defense, patience, and no power. The defensive aspect won’t take a hit in pro ball, so it’ll be worth watching to see if he can still play his style of offensive game against pro pitching more adept at exploiting punchless hitters’ weaknesses. Early pro returns were encouraging (.301/.386/.370 with 8.2 BB% and 14.1 K%), but he has a long way to go. Best case scenario could see him following a fairly similar career arc as a player I haven’t yet given up on. Look at these draft year numbers…

.376/.471/.441 – 38 BB/15 K – 7/12 SB – 213 AB
.309/.429/.512 – 43 BB/21 K – 12/12 SB – 207 AB

Top is what van der Meer did his last year at Lamar, bottom is what Nolan Fontana did his final season at Florida. Not exactly the same — note the significantly higher ISO for Fontana — but not completely out of line. Even with that difference in mind, I think you’d take your chance on van der Meer looking even a little bit like Fontana considering the former prospect was selected 966 picks after the latter.

36.1087 – RHP Ian Hardman

I knew I hadn’t written about Ian Hardman without even checking because I’m 100% certain his is a name I would have remembered. He’s definitely my favorite Mega Man villain ever drafted. I typically shy away from name-related “humor,” but it’s actually relevant in the case of Hardman. Or Harman, as the official National Junior College Athletic Association page would have you believe. Whoops. Hardman had a very eventful year for Seminole State: 15.12 K/9 and 6.33 BB/9 in 25.2 IP. Knowing nothing of his stuff, I’m intrigued. Previously unknown (to me) junior college guys with cool names, tons of strikeouts, and lots of walks always rank among my favorites.

38.1147 – OF Chaz Pal

Chaz Paul hit .363/.438/.583 with 49 BB/65 K in 424 AB over two seasons as a USC-Aiken Pacer. That’s all I’ve got. It does occur to me that Houston drafted both a Chuckie (Robinson) and a Chaz (Pal).

39.1177 – INF Tyler Wolfe

Tyler Wolfe, long a reliable defender at multiple infield spots, hit just enough as a senior to hear his name called on draft day. He then went on to split his time in the pros between second, third, and short with the vast majority of his work during his debut coming at the hot corner. He also managed to get two innings in on the mound. Considering they were good innings — two hits, one walk, and three whiffs — maybe the Astros ought to think about letting him give it a shot full-time.

40.1207 – RHP Lucas Williams

This is such a good story. Since I know about one in a hundred people actually click these links, here’s my favorite part…

“I was umping a 9-year-old game on the day of the draft, when my friend Brad Wilson (a former University of Central Missouri All-American baseball player) got my attention,” said Williams, a 2012 graduate of Grain Valley High School who starred on the mound for the Mules Division II World Series team this past season.

“He said my phone was buzzing and going crazy and I looked at it and found out I’d been drafted by the Houston Astros.”

So, what did Williams do?

“I had four more innings to ump in that game and another game after that – so I didn’t get to do a lot of celebrating.”

Don’t know much about Williams (8.40 K/9 and 2.80 BB/9 in 45.0 IP at Central Missouri) otherwise, but I’m rooting for him now. As a one-time terrible work-study intramural referee in college, we’ve got to stick together.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Tyler Buffett (Oklahoma State), Brian Howard (TCU), Avery Tuck (San Diego State), Johnny Ruiz (Miami), Elliott Barzilli (TCU), Darius Vines (?), Toby Handley (Stony Brook), Nick Slaughter (Houston)

2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – American

Much as I like him, I don’t necessarily view Anthony Kay as a first round arm. However, the second he falls past the first thirty or so picks he’ll represent immediate value for whatever team gives him a shot. He’s a relatively high-floor future big league starter who can throw four pitches for strikes but lacks that one true put-away offering. Maybe continued refinement of his low-80s changeup or his 78-84 slider gets him there, but for now it’s more of a steady yet unspectacular back of the rotation. Nathan Kirby (pick 40 last year) seems like a reasonable draft ceiling for him, though there are some similarities in Kay’s profile to Marco Gonzales, who went 19th in his draft year. I like Kay for his relative certainty depending on what a team does before selecting him; his high-floor makes him an interesting way to diversity the draft portfolio of a team that otherwise likes to gamble on boom/bust upside plays.

Kay is a lot more famous among college fans, but Andrew Lantrip in many ways resembles a righthanded alternative. Kay’s changeup is ahead and he has the added bonus of mixing in a curve every now and then, but Lantrip can really command his fastball (like Kay’s, 87-92 MPH peaking at 94) and his delivery gives him that little extra pop of deception that makes everything he throws play up. Needless to say, I’m a fan. Lantrip will surely be dinged for being a slight college righthander without premium fastball velocity, but, again like Kay, the combination of a deep enough reservioir of offspeed stuff and a long track record of missing bats makes him an interesting high-floor back-end starting pitching option.

If it’s Kay and Lantrip at the top, then it’s a long way down before you get to the third best pitching prospect in this conference. That’s not to say there aren’t quality arms to be found, but rather the number of question marks for each young pitcher seems to grow exponentially after the rock solid profiles of Kay and Lantrip. Devin Over, very much in the mix to finish in that third spot by the close of the season, exemplifies this well. Over has all kinds of arm strength (lives in the 90’s, up to 97), flashes a really intriguing low-80s slider, and has some of the most impressive athleticism of any pitcher in his class. If it all clicks, Over could be a fast-moving reliever with late-game upside. Getting a talent like him as a senior-sign is mighty enticing.

JP France isn’t a senior, but he is really talented. I flip-flopped him and Over a few times before settling on France in the three spot. Figured that makes more sense considering I’ve already declared myself “all-in” on France before the season began. His fastball, breaking ball, and athleticism make him a threat to crash the first few rounds. His question mark is experience; the only thing standing in the way of the redshirt-sophomore and an early round selection is innings. If he can continue to stay healthy and effective on the mound, he’s a keeper.

The Houston guys are both impressive in their own right. Marshall Kasowski has the chance for three average or better pitches (FB, CB, CU) and Bubba Maxwell’s stuff appears all the way back after going under the knife for Tommy John surgery last year. He’s undersized at 5-11, 200 pounds, but there’s enough to him that a solid pro reliever future feels realistic. I have a soft spot for David Kirkpatrick, another Tommy John surgery survivor. His athleticism is as good as it gets for a pitcher – is it just me or are the pitchers in the AAC unusually athletic? – and he’s flashed the kind of stuff (fastball up to 93, average or better breaker) to get on the prospect radar.

Tommy Eveld’s question marks fall more on me than him right now. He’s got a great frame, fantastic athleticism, and legitimate low-90s heat, but beyond that I don’t know a ton about him. Peter Stzelecki gets a mention here even though he’ll miss the entire season after undergoing – you guessed it – Tommy John surgery. Athletes and TJ surgery are what the AAC is all about, I suppose. He’s still a high upside arm (90-93 FB, above-average SL) that I’d ask a lot of questions about, especially vis-à-vis his signability, if I was an area guy tasked with following him this spring.

The hitting prospects in the American mirror the pitchers: two clear cut names at the top and a mad scramble beyond that. The difference is there’s more certainty with the two hitters at the top. I recently wondered aloud whether the up-the-middle duo from Tulane (Stephen Alemais and Jake Rogers) or Oregon State (Trever Morrison and Logan Ice) would be selected higher this June. I think we could break that down further and wonder which of the Tulane prospects will go higher on draft day. In a roundabout way I attempted to do this two months ago

One of the easier comps in this year’s class is Rogers to Austin Hedges. It’s just too obvious to ignore. If you’re still on the Hedges bandwagon — I stayed off from the start — then you’re really going to like Rogers. If you value defense but also appreciate a guy who be a positive value player offensively — it doesn’t have to be an either/or! — then you might want to hold back for now. All bets are off if Rogers comes out swinging it this spring. If that’s the case (he’s got decent raw power and has held his own in terms of BB/K ratio, so don’t rule it out) then ignore everything you just read and mentally insert him into the first day of the draft. Pretty significant “if,” however. Alemais doesn’t have that “if” for me. I think he’s an honest big league hitter with continued development. There’s enough speed, pop, and approach to his offensive game that I’m comfortable calling him the best college shortstop profiled so far. That only includes most of the ACC and AAC, but it’s better than nothing. He’s a lock to finish as one of the country’s dozen best shortstops and has a strong case for remaining at the top spot come June.

Rogers has hit. Alemais has hit as well. Both guys have hit. Teams that like up-the-middle defenders who hit should be happy. That’s all I’ve got. Figured everybody would appreciate my special brand of hard-hitting analysis there. I think both guys are now squarely in the first day conversation, so there’s that.

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. I maintain that Matt Diorio could really be something if teams buy into his defensive potential behind the plate. As a corner outfielder, his bat is a lot less thrilling yet still not without some promise. I wrote about Memphis OF Darien Tubbs, another guy with promise, in January…

JR OF Darien Tubbs leaps past the field as Memphis’s best position player prospect. He’s got the type of build (5-9, 190) that inspires the “sneaky pop” disclaimer in my notes, but his days of catching opposing pitchers by surprise might be over after his breakout sophomore campaign. Tubbs can run, defend in center, work deep counts, and knock a ball or ten to the gaps when you’re not careful. Tubbs isn’t quite a FAVORITE yet, but he’s as close as you can get without tempting me into holding down the shift key. A friend who knows how much I went on about Saige Jenco over the past year reached out to me to let me know that he believed Tubbs was a better version of the same guy. Fun player.

Two months later, I still like him. A really interesting direct comparison on this list is Josh Vidales and Aaron Hill. Vidales has been my guy for a while: he’s small (5-8, 160), he can defend the heck out of second base, and he’s an on-base machine. It’s a scary profile to project to pro ball, but I’d still take him late in the draft as an org second baseman and let the chips fall where they may. Hill’s path to the bigs is a lot clearer: his glove, bat speed, foot speed, arm strength, and athleticism are all obvious pro tools. Unfortunately, he hasn’t hit yet. It’s an admittedly low-stakes version of a common theme, but the Vidales vs Hill comparison looks a lot like production vs projection. Vidales has hit, but there’s a perceived ceiling to his game. Hill hasn’t hit, but the physical gifts give a coaching and development staff more to work with. There’s no right answer here. Unless it’s maybe finding a player that slots in-between the two, like either of the East Carolina guys Charlie Yorgen or Wichita State transfer Wes Phillips.

Hitters

  1. Tulane JR SS Stephen Alemais
  2. Tulane JR C Jake Rogers
  3. Central Florida JR OF/1B Matt Diorio
  4. Memphis JR OF Darien Tubbs
  5. East Carolina JR 1B/LHP Bryce Harman
  6. Connecticut SR 1B Bobby Melley
  7. Tulane rJR C/1B Jeremy Montalbano
  8. Houston SR 2B Josh Vidales
  9. Connecticut JR SS/2B Aaron Hill
  10. East Carolina JR SS Wes Phillips
  11. East Carolina JR 2B/SS Charlie Yorgen
  12. Tulane JR 1B/OF Lex Kaplan
  13. Tulane JR 3B Hunter Hope
  14. Central Florida JR OF/LHP Luke Hamblin
  15. Houston SO OF Clay Casey
  16. Tulane JR OF Jarrett DeHart
  17. Central Florida JR OF Eli Putnam
  18. Houston JR SS Jose Reyes
  19. Central Florida JR SS Brennan Bozeman
  20. South Florida rSO SS Clay Simmons
  21. Tulane rSO 2B Matt Rowland
  22. Memphis SR OF/1B Jake Little
  23. Houston SR 3B/1B Justin Montemayor
  24. Cincinnati rSO 2B Connor McVey
  25. Central Florida JR 3B/SS Kam Gellinger
  26. East Carolina SR OF Garrett Brooks
  27. Connecticut SR OF Jack Sundberg
  28. East Carolina rJR C Travis Watkins
  29. South Florida JR OF/C Luke Borders
  30. Tulane rSO OF Grant Brown
  31. Tulane SR OF Richard Carthon
  32. Memphis rSR SS Jake Overbey
  33. East Carolina JR C/OF Eric Tyler
  34. Connecticut SR 1B Joe DeRoche-Duffin
  35. Connecticut SR 3B Brian Daniello
  36. South Florida SR OF Luke Maglich
  37. Houston SR C Jacob Campbell
  38. Memphis JR 3B Zach Schritenthal
  39. South Florida SR C/3B Levi Borders

Pitchers

  1. Connecticut JR LHP Anthony Kay
  2. Houston JR RHP Andrew Lantrip
  3. Tulane rSO RHP JP France
  4. Connecticut rSR RHP Devin Over
  5. South Florida rJR RHP Tommy Eveld
  6. Houston JR RHP Marshall Kasowski
  7. Houston rJR RHP Bubba Maxwell
  8. Tulane rSR RHP Alex Massey
  9. East Carolina JR LHP Luke Bolka
  10. Connecticut JR RHP Pat Ruotolo
  11. East Carolina rSO RHP/INF Davis Kirkpatrick
  12. Tulane SR RHP Emerson Gibbs
  13. Tulane JR RHP Corey Merrill
  14. Central Florida JR LHP Andrew Faintich
  15. Central Florida JR RHP Campbell Scholl
  16. Connecticut JR RHP Andrew Zapata
  17. Tulane rSO RHP Chris Oakley
  18. Central Florida JR RHP Robby Howell
  19. East Carolina SR RHP Jimmy Boyd
  20. Memphis JR RHP Nolan Blackwood
  21. Cincinnati SR RHP Mitch Patishall
  22. South Florida SR RHP/OF Ryan Valdes
  23. Tulane rSR RHP/OF Trevor Simms
  24. Tulane SR RHP Patrick Duester
  25. Tulane rJR RHP Daniel Rankin
  26. Tulane SR RHP/OF Tim Yandel
  27. East Carolina JR LHP Evan Kruczynski
  28. Cincinnati JR RHP Andrew Zellner
  29. Houston JR RHP Nick Hernandez
  30. Central Florida rSR LHP Harrison Hukari
  31. South Florida JR RHP Phoenix Sanders
  32. East Carolina SR LHP Nick Durazo
  33. East Carolina JR LHP Jacob Wolfe
  34. South Florida rJR RHP Brad Labozzetta
  35. Central Florida JR RHP Juan Pimentel
  36. Houston JR LHP Nathan Jackson
  37. South Florida rSO RHP Peter Strzelecki
  38. South Florida JR RHP Brandon Lawson
  39. Connecticut SR RHP Nico Darras
  40. Houston JR LHP John King

Central Florida

JR LHP Andrew Faintich (2016)
JR RHP Campbell Scholl (2016)
JR RHP Juan Pimentel (2016)
rSR LHP Harrison Hukari (2016)
JR RHP Robby Howell (2016)
JR RHP Trent Thompson (2016)
JR OF/LHP Luke Hamblin (2016)
JR OF/1B Matt Diorio (2016):
rSR 1B/OF Sam Tolleson (2016)
JR OF Eli Putnam (2016)
JR OF Eugene Vazquez (2016)
JR 3B/SS Kam Gellinger (2016)
JR SS Brennan Bozeman (2016)
SO RHP Brad Rowley (2017)
SO RHP Cre Finfrock (2017)
SO RHP/2B Kyle Marsh (2017)
SO C Logan Heiser (2017)
FR RHP Thaddeus Ward (2018)
FR INF Matthew Mika (2018)

High Priority Follows: Andrew Faintich, Campbell Scholl, Juan Pimentel, Harrison Hukari, Robby Howell, Luke Hamblin, Matt Diorio, Eli Putnam, Eugene Vazquez, Kam Gellinger, Brennan Bozeman

Cincinnati

SR RHP Mitch Patishall (2016)
rSR RHP Bryan Chenoweth (2016)
rJR LHP Colton Cleary (2016)
JR RHP Andrew Zellner (2016)
SR C Woody Wallace (2016)
SR 1B/3B Devin Wenzel (2016)
rSO 2B Connor McVey (2016)
SO LHP Dalton Lehnen (2017)
SO LHP JT Perez (2017)
SO RHP Tristan Hammans (2017)
SO 1B/OF Ryan Noda (2017)
SO SS Manny Rodriguez (2017)
SO 2B Kyle Mottice (2017)
FR RHP Cal Jarrett (2018)
FR LHP Cameron Alldred (2018)
FR OF AJ Bumpass (2018)
FR OF Vince Augustine (2018)

High Priority Follows: Mitch Patishall, Andrew Zellner, Woody Wallace, Devin Wenzel, Connor McVey

Connecticut

JR LHP Anthony Kay (2016)
rSR RHP Devin Over (2016)
rJR RHP Ryan Radue (2016)
rSR RHP Max Slade (2016)
SR RHP Nico Darras (2016)
JR RHP Andrew Zapata (2016)
JR RHP Pat Ruotolo (2016)
rSO RHP Trevor Holmes (2016)
JR SS/2B Aaron Hill (2016)
SR 1B Bobby Melley (2016)
SR OF Jack Sundberg (2016)
SR 3B Brian Daniello (2016)
SR 1B Joe DeRoche-Duffin (2016)
SR 1B/OF Nico Darras (2016)
JR C/OF Tyler Gnesda (2016)
SR 3B/OF Connor Buckley (2016)
SO RHP William Montgomerie (2017)
SO SS/3B Willy Yahn (2017)
FR RHP Ronnie Rossomando (2018)
FR LHP PJ Poulin (2018)
FR LHP Tim Cate (2018)
FR C Zac Susi (2018)
FR INF/RHP Randy Polonia (2018)

High Priority Follows: Anthony Kay, Devin Over, Nico Darras, Andrew Zapata, Pat Ruotolo

East Carolina

JR LHP Evan Kruczynski (2016)
JR LHP Jacob Wolfe (2016)
SR LHP Nick Durazo (2016)
JR LHP Luke Bolka (2016)
rSO RHP/INF Davis Kirkpatrick (2016)
SR RHP Jimmy Boyd (2016)
JR RHP/3B Kirk Morgan (2016)
SR OF Garrett Brooks (2016)
rJR C Travis Watkins (2016)
JR C/OF Eric Tyler (2016)
JR 2B/SS Charlie Yorgen (2016)
JR SS Wes Phillips (2016)
SR OF Jeff Nelson (2016)
JR 1B/LHP Bryce Harman (2016)
JR OF/RHP Zack Mozingo (2016)
SO RHP Joe Ingle (2017)
FR RHP Chris Holba (2018)
FR RHP Denny Brady (2018)
FR RHP Sam Lanier (2018)
FR OF Dwanya Williams-Sutton (2018)
FR OF Justin Dirden (2018)
FR SS Turner Brown (2018)
FR SS Kendall Ford (2018)
FR INF Brady Lloyd (2018)

High Priority Follows: Evan Kruczynski, Jacob Wolfe, Nick Durazo, Luke Bolka, Davis Kirkpatrick, Jimmy Boyd, Garrett Brooks, Travis Watkins, Eric Tyler, Charlie Yorgen, Wes Phillips, Bryce Harman

Houston

JR RHP Andrew Lantrip (2016)
JR RHP Marshall Kasowski (2016)
rJR RHP Bubba Maxwell (2016)
JR RHP Nick Hernandez (2016)
JR LHP John King (2016)
JR LHP Nathan Jackson (2016)
SR 3B/1B Justin Montemayor (2016)
SR C Jacob Campbell (2016)
rSO 3B/SS Connor Hollis (2016)
JR SS Jose Reyes (2016)
SO OF Clay Casey (2016)
JR 3B Jordan Strading (2016)
SR 2B Josh Vidales (2016)
SR 2B Robert Grilli (2016)
SO LHP Seth Romero (2017)
SO LHP Aaron Fletcher (2017)
SO OF/3B Corey Julks (2017)
SO C/SS Connor Wong (2017)
SO OF Zac Taylor (2017)
FR LHP Tanner Lawson (2018)
FR RHP Mitch Ullom (2018)
FR C/1B Joe Davis (2018)
FR OF Grayson Padgett (2018)
FR OF Caleb Morris (2018)
FR INF Wendell Champion (2018)

High Priority Follows: Andrew Lantrip, Marshall Kasowski, Bubba Maxwell, Nick Hernandez, John King, Nathan Jackson, Justin Montemayor, Jacob Campbell, Connor Hollis, Jose Reyes, Clay Casey, Jordan Strading, Josh Vidales

Memphis

rSO RHP Trevor Sutton (2016)
JR RHP Nolan Blackwood (2016)
JR RHP Blake Drabik (2016)
SR RHP Matt Ferguson (2016)
SR OF/1B Jake Little (2016)
rSR SS Jake Overbey (2016)
SR C Corey Chafin (2016)
JR OF Darien Tubbs (2016)
JR 3B Zach Schritenthal (2016)
JR OF Chris Carrier (2016)
JR INF Trent Turner (2016)
JR INF Brandon Grudzielanek (2016)
SO RHP Colton Hathcock (2017)
SO RHP Connor Alexander (2017)
FR INF Matthew Mika (2018)
FR OF Colton Neel (2018)

High Priority Follows: Nolan Blackwood, Blake Drabik, Jake Little, Jake Overbey, Darien Tubbs, Zach Schritenthal, Brandon Grudzielanek

South Florida

JR RHP Brandon Lawson (2016)
rJR RHP Tommy Eveld (2016)
JR RHP Phoenix Sanders (2016)
rJR RHP Brad Labozzetta (2016)
rSO RHP Peter Strzelecki (2016)
SR RHP/OF Ryan Valdes (2016)
JR OF/RHP Daniel Portales (2016)
SR C/3B Levi Borders (2016)
rSO SS Clay Simmons (2016)
JR OF/C Luke Borders (2016)
SO OF/1B Duke Stunkel (2016)
SR OF Luke Maglich (2016)
JR 2B Andres Leal (2016)
SO RHP Joe Cavallaro (2017)
SO 2B/OF Kevin Merrell (2017)
FR LHP Shane McClanahan (2018)
FR LHP Garrett Bye (2018)
FR LHP Andrew Perez (2018)
FR OF Garrett Zech (2018)
FR OF Chris Chafield (2018)
FR C/1B Joe Genord (2018)
FR SS Robert Montes (2018)
FR OF Cam Montgomery (2018)
FR 3B David Villar (2018)

High Priority Follows: Brandon Lawson, Tommy Eveld, Phoenix Sanders, Brad Labozzetta, Peter Strzelecki, Ryan Valdes, Levi Borders, Clay Simmons, Luke Borders, Luke Maglich

Tulane

SR RHP Emerson Gibbs (2016)
rJR RHP Daniel Rankin (2016)
rSR RHP Alex Massey (2016)
JR RHP Corey Merrill (2016)
SR RHP Patrick Duester (2016)
rJR RHP Eric Steel (2016)
rSO RHP JP France (2016)
SR RHP/OF Tim Yandel (2016)
rSR RHP Evan Rutter (2016)
rJR LHP Christian Colletti (2016)
rSO RHP Chris Oakley (2016)
rSO LHP Sam Bjorngjeld (2016)
rSR RHP/OF Trevor Simms (2016)
JR C Jake Rogers (2016)
JR SS Stephen Alemais (2016)
rSO OF Grant Brown (2016)
SR OF Richard Carthon (2016)
rJR C/1B Jeremy Montalbano (2016)
JR 1B/OF Lex Kaplan (2016)
JR 3B Hunter Hope (2016)
JR 1B Hunter Williams (2016)
JR OF Jarrett DeHart (2016)
rSO 2B Matt Rowland (2016)
rSR 2B/C Shea Pierce (2016)
JR 2B Jake Willsey (2016)
SO LHP Jackson Johnson (2017)
FR LHP Ross Massey (2018)
FR OF/LHP Grant Witherspoon (2018)
FR INF Cade Edwards (2018)
FR OF Anthony Forte (2018)

High Priority Follows: Emerson Gibbs, Daniel Rankin, Alex Massey, Corey Merrill, Patrick Duester, JP France, Tim Yandel, Christian Colletti, Chris Oakley, Trevor Simms, Jake Rogers, Stephen Alemais, Grant Brown, Richard Carthon, Jeremy Montalbano, Lex Kaplan, Hunter Hope, Jarrett DeHart, Matt Rowland

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 – Tulane

SR RHP Emerson Gibbs (2016)
rJR RHP Daniel Rankin (2016)
rSR RHP Alex Massey (2016)
JR RHP Corey Merrill (2016)
SR RHP Patrick Duester (2016)
rJR RHP Eric Steel (2016)
rSO RHP JP France (2016)
SR RHP/OF Tim Yandel (2016)
rSR RHP Evan Rutter (2016)
rJR LHP Christian Colletti (2016)
rSO RHP Chris Oakley (2016)
rSO LHP Sam Bjorngjeld (2016)
rSR RHP/OF Trevor Simms (2016)
JR C Jake Rogers (2016)
JR SS Stephen Alemais (2016)
rSO OF Grant Brown (2016)
SR OF Richard Carthon (2016)
rJR C/1B Jeremy Montalbano (2016)
JR 1B/OF Lex Kaplan (2016)
JR 3B Hunter Hope (2016)
JR 1B Hunter Williams (2016)
JR OF Jarrett DeHart (2016)
rSO 2B Matt Rowland (2016)
rSR 2B/C Shea Pierce (2016)
JR 2B Jake Wilsey (2016)
SO LHP Jackson Johnson (2017)
FR LHP Ross Massey (2018)
FR OF/LHP Grant Witherspoon (2018)
FR INF Cade Edwards (2018)

Quantity and quality. Tulane has both in spades. I’m starting the SEC team profiles as soon as I finish this so maybe I’m being influenced by my dumb brain making patterns when it shouldn’t, but Tulane has both the depth and high-end talent typically found in an SEC school. Or an ACC school. Or a Pac-12 school. I mention those three conferences specifically because Tulane’s blend of first day pick quality and chance for double-digit draftee quantity inspired me to take a closer look at schools that have managed to have two or more players selected in the first round (including supplemental) AND a total of seven or more total draftees in the same year. I went back to my first year at the site (2009) to see what teams and conferences (without accounting for realignment) have done the trick. Unsurprisingly, the SEC, ACC, and Pac-12 are well represented…

2009: Boston College (2 first rounders, 4 total picks), Southern Cal (2, 6), Indiana (3, 7), Kennesaw State (2, 6), and North Carolina (2, 7)
2010: Cal State Fullerton (2, 9)
2011: Connecticut (2, 10), Vanderbilt (2, 12), and UCLA (2, 9)
2012: Texas A&M (2, 7), Florida (2, 9), and Stanford (2, 8)
2013:
2014: Virginia (3, 8) and North Carolina State (2, 7)
2015: Vanderbilt (3, 9)

This year it seems likely that a few more teams join the mix. Florida seems like a lock with Louisville right there with them and Virginia and Oklahoma just a step behind. Then you have maybes in Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, Miami, and Kentucky, plus teams with an outside chance like Oregon, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Clemson, Stanford, Louisiana State, Texas A&M, and Wake Forest (as well as any other team I’m forgetting). There’s also Tulane. Now we’re finally full circle. I’m not predicting that JR C Jake Rogers and JR SS Stephen Alemais are first day draft prospects, but the possibility certainly exists. Both Rogers and Alemais have similar general profiles as players: premium defensive talent at incredibly important spots on the diamond. Rogers is good enough defensively that his glove alone should keep getting him promoted even if he never hits. Alemais isn’t quite on that level, but he’s a legitimate shortstop with the athleticism, arm strength, and range to stick for a long time. The fact that he’s the better current hitter of the two makes up for the difference in my mind.

One of the easier comps in this year’s class is Rogers to Austin Hedges. It’s just too obvious to ignore. If you’re still on the Hedges bandwagon — I stayed off from the start — then you’re really going to like Rogers. If you value defense but also appreciate a guy who be a positive value player offensively — it doesn’t have to be an either/or! — then you might want to hold back for now. All bets are off if Rogers comes out swinging it this spring. If that’s the case (he’s got decent raw power and has held his own in terms of BB/K ratio, so don’t rule it out) then ignore everything you just read and mentally insert him into the first day of the draft. Pretty significant “if,” however. Alemais doesn’t have that “if” for me. I think he’s an honest big league hitter with continued development. There’s enough speed, pop, and approach to his offensive game that I’m comfortable calling him the best college shortstop profiled so far. That only includes most of the ACC and AAC, but it’s better than nothing. He’s a lock to finish as one of the country’s dozen best shortstops and has a strong case for remaining at the top spot come June.

Rogers and Alemais cover the quality at the top. Now let’s get to that depth. Assuming the two defensive stars have big junior season, these are the players that could push Tulane to join those schools listed about in my newly created (2, 7) club.

There are a ton of strikeouts found on the résumés of many of the returning Green Wave hitters, but also a lot of enticing tools that could have a few of these prospects in line for drastic improvements in 2016. SR OF Richard Carthon (40 K), JR 1B/OF Lex Kaplan (59 K), JR 3B Hunter Hope (73 K), and rSO OF Grant Brown (12 K in 35 AB) all have their issues, but not without also flashing pro ability at times. As the only senior listed, Carthon is obviously the only one in the do-or-die draft situation. Being a senior can work for and against you; in Carthon’s case, I think it might ultimately benefit him. His status as a potential money-saver combined with a few clear big league tools (speed, CF range) could get him a shot in the pros. Hope is steady enough defensively at third that I could see a team being intrigued by him as well. Kaplan, arguably the best hitter of the bunch, has a tougher hill to climb without that positional edge. Brown still has three years of eligibility if he wants it, so we’ll call the fascinating power/speed athlete a wild card at this point in the process. He’d be the easiest bet to identify as a breakout candidate in 2016 if you’re into that sort of thing.

Transfers from Louisville (rSO 2B Matt Rowland), Louisiana State (JR OF Jarrett DeHart), and Texas (rJR C/1B Jeremy Montalbano) add to the existing hitting surplus. All look promising in their own way. Rowland is known for a patient approach at the plate, DeHart is a great athlete who can really run, and Montalbano has as much raw power as nearly any 2016 draft peer. The only thing stopping me from hyping up Montalbano more than I will is the nagging belief that his C/1B position designation should be flipped. If he proves he can play even a slightly below-average catcher this spring, he’ll shoot up boards assuming the bat cooperates. If not, then he still has a chance as a pro prospect at first if he hits as many believe he can.

Transfers from West Virginia (rSR RHP/OF Trevor Simms), Connecticut (rJR LHP Christian Colletti), and Rice (rSR RHP Evan Rutter) add to the existing pitching surplus. The best of the incoming transfers should be rSO RHP Chris Oakley (North Carolina), big man with a bad fastball (90-94 with sink). I saw him back in his high school days when he was also flashing a pair of average or better secondaries (hard CB and split-CU), but I haven’t gotten any updates on him in a long while. As such, I’m looking forward to seeing him back on a mound this spring.

Those transfers will join experienced holdovers like rSR RHP Alex Massey (88.1 IP), SR RHP Emerson Gibbs (79.0 IP), JR RHP Corey Merrill (102.0 IP), SR RHP Patrick Duester (70.0 IP), and SR RHP Tim Yandel (56.1 IP). That’s a crazy amount of innings returning. I have all of those pitchers in my notes (save Duester since I don’t have gun readings on him) sitting 88-92 with their fastballs with Massey hitting higher (94-95). In fact, all of the pitchers that I have notes on at Tulane seem to have velocities that fall in that 88-92 range. That’s also where rJR RHP Daniel Rankin and rSO JP France are at, though both can get it up to the mid-90s like Massey. The similarities in sitting fastball velocity is kind of nice to see because it allows us to look beyond the obvious — admittedly to the slightly less obvious, but still — to differentiate the prospects.

Massey has that extra gear with his heater and an above-average slider that gives him a reasonable relief prospect floor if he can’t keep starting. Gibbs and his outstanding control, command, and sink on his fastball help him stand out among the rest. Merrill has a little more size (6-4, 230) and a good sinker. Yandel and France are old favorites who might be moving in different directions. The former, once a highly touted enough guy that Perfect Game compared him to Hunter Renfroe, hasn’t live up to his promise from both a performance perspective and from an evaluation of his stuff (lost velocity + the move away from a slider that flashed plus = not great). France, once compared to Lance McCullers by me, had a nice freshman season (9.26 K/9 and 1.80 BB/9 in 35 IP) and should enter the 2016 season ready to go. Between that old comp (rich in hindsight, but as draft prospects I stand by it) and France’s super talented right arm (90-94 FB and chance for two plus breaking balls), I’m all-in on France this year. That would leave me with a ranking of France, Massey, Gibbs, Merrill, (Oakley), Rankin, Duester, and Yandel. The fact that all have or are close to draftable grades is pretty impressive. I’d be surprised if Tulane doesn’t have at least five pitchers drafted this year.

Junior College 2009: All Prospect Team

We’ve covered a litle bit of high school so far. We have a lot more prep coverage in the works. We’ve covered a tiny, tiny bit of college ball so far. There will be a ton more of that to come. What we’ve ignored thus far, unintentionally of course, is the all too often ignored grey area of draft prospecting. I mean, and let’s be honest here, who among us can truly say that he or she knew the 2009 junior college baseball season has already started? We shall ignore the juco ranks no longer! After the jump, enjoy the best prospects — by position, naturally — currently on junior college rosters.

Reuters Pictures

Photo Credit: Reuters Pictures

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