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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Arizona Diamondbacks

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Arizona in 2016

42 – RHP Jon Duplantier
60 – OF Anfernee Grier
194 – C Gavin Stupienski
227 – RHP Curtis Taylor
255 – 2B Manny Jefferson
279 – C Andy Yerzy
366 – C Ryan January
392 – OF Connor Owings
410 – LHP Colin Poche

Complete List of 2016 Arizona Diamondbacks Draftees

1.39 – OF Anfernee Grier

You’d think three years of SEC experience would have me reevaluating my original high school comp for Anfernee Grier (60), but I keep coming back to Devon White every time I see him play. Maybe the body types are a bit off — Grier is plenty graceful, but doesn’t quite give off the same gazelle-like movements of a young White — but I think they two share plenty of traits that could translate to a similar professional upside. Even his doubters would have to admit that Grier has star upside if it all comes together as a pro. It might be rich for some in certain areas, but I think putting above-average future grades on all five of his tools isn’t crazy. Even if you knock a few tools down to average (hit, power, arm), he’s still got a chance to be an outstanding regular and long-term fixture in center field.

If you didn’t know much about Grier until now, then I can imagine you sitting there wondering how a guy with tools like his fell to the thirty-ninth overall pick. Here you go: the aforementioned high school evaluation on this site contained this line — “questionable approach biggest current impediment to success as pro” — which remains as true now as it did then. Grier is such a naturally gifted talented young hitter — his “lightning quick wrists” were also mentioned in that report — that at times his approach at the plate looks like what one might expect out of a hitter unfamiliar with not being able to hit everything even remotely near the plate hard and far. I’m not sure this is a mainstream enough topic to qualify it as a #hottake, but I’ve wondered at times when watching Grier if he was too gifted a hitter for his own good. The confidence he has as a hitter made him a great amateur, but could keep him from being a great pro. Grier will have to learn that just because he can hit almost any pitch in any count it doesn’t necessarily mean that he should. More so than most early-round college draftees, Grier’s pro development is going to hinge greatly on his receptiveness to pro instruction, to say nothing of the quality and patience of those doing the instructing.

Of course, any attempt to change Grier too much could move him away from what made his approach work for him in the first place. The real challenge for Grier and the Diamondbacks going forward will be finding a happy medium between his natural inclination to swing at anything close and a more patient, nuanced approach at the plate. If that can be achieved, Grier is a star. If not, I think there’s still enough in the way of physical talent here to suggest Grier will have a long, fruitful career as a speed/defense backup outfielder. With a high ceiling and reasonable floor, Grier is a quality prospect and deserving first round pick.

2.52 – C Andy Yerzy

I believe in Andy Yerzy (279) as a hitter. I don’t believe in him as a catcher. That puts him in a really tough spot as the former belief isn’t nearly as strong as the latter. Yerzy will hit, sure, but will it be enough for first base? The most honest answer is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, but that’s not what you come here for. Forced to give a definitive answer on the long-term future of an 18-year-old hitter from York Mills Collegiate Institute in beautiful Ontario …I guess I’d take the easy way out and say he’s not likely to hit enough to hold down a job at first base at the highest level. That’s playing the percentages, after all. The honest answer remains the silly shrug. I don’t have nearly enough feel for Yerzy as a hitter — what I’ve seen and heard and read, I like — to give a more solid take on his future. I clearly love going on and on and on about players I think I have a good feel for — somebody on the internet recently dissed me as being “too wordy and authoritative,” so I guess that reputation as a know-it-all yakker precedes me — but I’d like to think I also know when to shut up about a guy I don’t have enough information on to give a meaningful opinion about. So I’m going to shut up now.

3.89 – RHP Jon Duplantier

“If Duplantier flops in the pros, I’m out on Rice pitchers forever,” was a thing written here back in April. It’s true. If Jon Duplantier (42) doesn’t make it due to either injury or reduced stuff caused from injury, then I’m swearing off Rice pitchers…until next June. If Duplantier does make it, however, then me calling this one of the best picks in the draft and arguably the best value of any drafted college arm will look pretty smart. On Duplantier from March 2016…

The good news for Rice is that their ace is very clearly the best pitching prospect in the conference. Jon Duplantier is awesome. There are only so many college baseball and draft writers out there and there are a ton of quality players to write about, but it still surprises me that Duplantier has managed to go (kind of) under the radar this spring. I mean, of course Duplantier has been written about plenty and he’s regarded by almost anybody who matters as one of the top college arms in this class – not to mention I’m guilty of not writing about him until now myself – but it still feels like we could all be doing more to spread the word about how good he really is. Here’s what I wrote about him in his draft capsule last year…

175. Rice SO RHP Jon Duplantier: 87-94 FB, 95 peak; good CU; good 73-75 CB; average 82-85 SL, flashes above-average when harder; good command; great athlete; fascinating draft case study as a hugely overlooked injured arm that one scout described to me as “every bit as good as Dillon Tate when on” and another said his injury was a “blessing in disguise” because it saved him from further abuse at the hands of Coach Graham; 6-4, 210 pounds

His fastball has since topped out as high as 97-98 and more consistently sits in the mid- to upper-band of that velocity range (90-94). His command has continued to improve and his breaking balls are both showing more consistency. I’ve heard his change has backed up some – more of a future average pitch at 82-84 than anything – but seeing as that’s just one of three usable offspeed pitches, it’s not the end of the world. Duplantier is big, athletic, and getting better by the day. I don’t know if that all adds up to a first round selection in this class, but it is damn close if not.

Duplantier finished his college season ranked 42nd on my board. The draft’s first round went 41 picks. Damn close to a first round pick indeed. I’m still hopeful that his history of nagging injuries turns out to be more of a blessing in disguise we all look back on and laugh about rather than an ongoing issue that plagues him in pro ball. Get him healthy, get him working on refining his offspeed stuff (average 82-84 CU, average 82-85 SL, average mid-70s CB), get him the reps he’ll need to bump that fastball (87-95, 98 peak) command up a grade, and watch him work. I called it “sneaky top of the rotation upside” back in April, and I think some of that is still there with Duplantier. It’s aggressive, I know, but I believe. There’s just something about pitchers from Rice that I like…

4.119 – RHP Curtis Taylor

I’m really excited to watch Curtis Taylor (227) pitch in the pros. If ninth round pick Tommy Eveld (we’ll get to him) is my Platonic Ideal of what a ninth round pick college pitcher should look like, then Taylor fits the bill for the fourth round. More accurately, he’s what I want in any college pitcher outside of the first few picks in the draft. Size (6-5, 210), projection (cold weather factor), present velocity (90-94, 96 peak), offspeed with promise (slider and splitter), results (11.10 K/9 and 2.16 BB/9 in 91.2 IP at the University of British Columbia), and ground balls (around 60% in his debut)…the guy checks every box. There’s number two starter upside here with Taylor.

5.149 – 3B Joey Rose

I heard really good college player and potential 2019 first day pick when asking around about Joey Rose for much of the spring. There’s plenty to like such as his easy above-average righthanded power and above-average arm strength at the hot corner, but he’s a long way away from what he could be. I still like Arizona taking a shot on him here in the fifth round. If you think he could be a first round pick in 2019, then why not grab him well before that in a much lower round? Why let college ball have all the fun developing him when you can do it yourself? Got a Matt Rose (Cubs) comp on him after signing, which amuses me because it wasn’t until I wrote it down right this very second that I realized the players had the same last name. They even each have four-letter first names. Could some subconscious association between the two young players be the root of that comparison? Maybe!

6.179 – LHP Mack Lemieux

LHP Mack Lemieux (Jupiter HS, Florida): 84-86 FB; 75-76 CU; 72-74 CB; good command; 6-3, 185 pounds

Those were my high school notes on Mack Lemieux from 2015. Baseball America (among others) have him peaking at 94 MPH after a season at Palm Beach State JC. Between that, his youth (just turned 20), his great pro debut (on the heels of a fine junior college season), significant athleticism, and a cool name, he’s one to watch closely.

7.209 – LHP Jordan Watson

Sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing in life until you’ve found it. I love this Jordan Watson guy. NAIA or not, striking out 176 batters in 104.2 innings is straight up awesome. And then to follow up that 15.14 K/9 with a 16.43 K/9 in his first 12.2 innings pitched as a pro? I’m firmly on the bandwagon.

Incidentally, Watson’s Science and Arts of Oklahoma baseball team also had a hitter named Yariel Gonzalez who did this as a senior: 457/.508/.796 with 24 BB/9 K and 12/14 SB. He latched on with the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent where he kept hitting as a pro. I like this guy, too. We’ll get to the Cardinals draft next Monday, so I won’t drone on and on and on about how well they identify quality amateur talent, but…man, they have a knack for this. Apologies to any Diamondbacks fan who feels slighted by St. Louis co-opting their draft review. You guys drafted well, too!

8.239 – C Ryan January

Recently got a text from a friend who saw Ryan January (366) for Missoula this summer that called him a “lefthanded Alex Jackson, but good.” I’m not necessarily throwing in the towel on the Mariners 20-year-old prep catcher to pro outfielder (and, for the record, neither was my friend), but that still made me laugh. Comparison to the currently stalled Jackson aside, the real takeaway here is that January can play. There are certainly some rough edges surrounding his bat and his overall approach as a hitter remains a work in progress, but there’s no doubting his bat speed, surprisingly deft feel for contact, and the special sound he’s capable of making on impact when he gets a hold of one.

The Alex Jackson mention was serendipitous (retroactively so since it’s been about two months since I got the text, but just go with it) as I’ve actually been thinking about him a lot as I type up these draft reviews. This is hardly groundbreaking stuff, but I’ll share it anyway. I champion future bench players and middle relievers on this site all the time. I think there’s tons of hidden value there, both on the field (duh) and on the margins of the payroll sheets (save money on those homegrown guys, spend savings on bigger stars). You can find these players all over the draft if you look hard enough. However, I don’t like when teams move a questionable defender off a tough defensive spot to an easier one when the player in question doesn’t have special upside with the bat. You’re more likely to get a good player that way, but far less likely to get a great player. That was my dilemma with Alex Jackson back when he was a draft prospect. As a catcher, sign me up. Even if the bat suffers some and he never becomes a great defensive player, it would have been worth it to me to see it through with him behind the plate. As an outfielder, conventional wisdom says that he can focus more clearly on his hitting and his overall offensive game will be the best that it can be. When the best that it can be is truly great, I get it. Bryce Harper is an all too obvious example of this. But a guy like Jackson was never Harper. A guy like Jackson was never all that likely (in my view) to ever be a top ten or so offensive player (at the position) as a corner outfielder. You’ve effectively downgraded the upside from a should-be major potential asset into just another interesting potential regular. You’ve gone from admittedly longer odds of maybe great to slightly better odds of maybe good. Jackson’s bat is good, but is it good enough to give up such a huge chunk of his potential defensive value to find out?

There are way more complicating factors than those stated above. Every player should be judged on his own specific strengths and weaknesses. And Alex Jackson the individual isn’t really the point here; I don’t know enough about him to say the M’s were wrong to move him or not, and I’m willing to defer judgment on their player development staff on that call. For me, moving him wasn’t the issue, but picking him where they did in the draft knowing that moving him was the likely plan was. I’m not saying never move a player from a position that you don’t think he can handle. That would obviously be ridiculous. Not everybody is a catcher or a center fielder or a shortstop. The previously mentioned Bryce Harper is just one of many times it does make sense to make such a switch. Maybe I’m just greedy. I don’t know. “Perfect is the enemy of the good,” they said. “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,” they said. Who knows what to think these days…

All of this somehow brings us back to Ryan January. As a catcher, he’d instantly be on the short list of highest upside players at the position in all of baseball. If forced to shift to the outfield, his odds of reaching the big leagues would go up — yes, there would be more pressure on the bat, but I think that would be counterbalanced (and then some) by the easier day-to-day existence of a corner outfielder versus a catcher — but the odds of him being a difference-making overall player would go down. I really can’t say for sure if a full-time move to the outfield is worth it in January’s specific case, but it does appear that the Diamondbacks are committed to doing what they can to exhaust all possibilities to find out what it takes to keep him behind the plate for as long as possible. I’m thankful for that. January as a catcher could be a star.

9.269 – RHP Tommy Eveld

I don’t know why I didn’t rank Tommy Eveld in the top 500 of this draft class. Arizona clearly did and they were very smart to do so. So much time and energy on this site has been spent preaching about the advantages athleticism gives young pitching prospects. Somehow Eveld, arguably the most athletic pitcher in this entire class, fell through the cracks. This is what I had on him in March…

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.

Time marched on and I never got around to filling in my Eveld knowledge gaps along the way. Extreme athleticism, a big-time arm (90-94) with plenty of bullets left in the chamber, a frame to dream on (6-5, 190), offspeed stuff that seemingly got better with every trip to the mound, and tons of missed bats (11.38 K/9 in 53.0 IP) along the way…I’m not really sure what more you could want. Fantastic pick by Arizona here. Eveld is worth getting excited about.

10.299 – OF Stephen Smith

What you see is what you get with Stephen Smith. There’s power, strength, and some athleticism. It’s a potential platoon bat in a corner if it really works and a 4A slugger if it doesn’t. If that worst case scenario comes to fruition, there’s always Japan.

11.329 – RHP Jake Polancic

Not too pleased that I whiffed so badly on Jake Polancic, a good looking Canadian arm up to 88-92 with his fastball with a promising curve to match. Few teams scout Canada as aggressively as Arizona and Tim Wilken’s arrival only upped the ante on getting as many eyes on prospects from the Great White North as possible.

12.359 – C Gavin Stupienski

Wrote this in March about Gavin Stupienski (194)…

Every June I kick myself for not writing more about unheralded players that I like more before the rest of the world catches on. There’s never enough time once the college season gets going and I always feel guilty about doing quick posts off the top of my head that would better suit the daily “hey, this guy is REALLY good” thoughts that have a habit of coming up about certain prospects. The premise of this post is goofy, but I’d like to think the content stands up enough to be taken seriously. That makes this the perfect platform to express again how much I like Gavin Stupienski. He’s hit during his summers, he hit as a redshirt-sophomore, he’s hitting so far this year…he can hit. There are no questions about his defense behind the plate and he’s a leader on one of the nation’s best mid-major teams. I’m not sure what more you could want. I’m all-in on Stupienski. Add him to the increasingly impressive top ten round catcher pile.

Getting a potential regular catcher (or high-level backup) with pick three hundred fifty-nine is a major win for the Diamondbacks. This really was a great year for college catching. Arizona got themselves a good one.

13.389 – 2B Manny Jefferson

I’m surprised more hasn’t been written about Manny Jefferson (255) on this site considering how much I like him. As a college hitter coming off a breakthrough draft season in spite of an ugly 25 BB/50 K ratio, Jefferson is not exactly my usual cup of tea. One line from my notes on him stands out: “best is yet to come as a hitter.” That’s always some cognitive dissonance when it comes to such claims. For high school players, sure why not. For college prospects carrying years of meaningful data, it’s tough to really buy into the persistent scout chatter about how close a guy is to flicking the switch. Too many smart people were in on Jefferson this spring, so I pushed him up the board here even with the scary BB/K ratio. We’ll see how it all turns out. The difference between real improvement there (long-time big league regular), moderate improvement (see below), and little improvement (AA washout) will make or break his career.

With that moderate improvement in approach, I could see Jefferson settling nicely into a bat-first (power-first, really) utility player role capable of holding his own at literally any spot on the diamond save catcher and probably center. I have a player in mind I really want to comp him too, but for some reason the name keeps escaping me. In lieu of that perfect comp, I’ll throw out a pretty good one instead. I’m thinking Jefferson’s upside is something not unlike former Brewer do-everything Bill Hall.

14.419 – LHP Colin Poche

Old comps die hard, so when Perfect Game busted out an Andy Pettitte comp for Colin Poche (410) many years ago it really stuck with me. Poche is very clearly not Pettitte — few are — but he’s still a solid prospect and a great get here in the fourteenth round. What works for Poche is really good command of a slew of decent to slightly better pitches he can throw in any count or game situation. His low-90s fastball hasn’t yet returned from the Tommy John surgery that knocked him out of the 2015 college season, but he can still be effective living in the upper-80s and occasionally touching 90. Deception, extension, and athleticism are all pretty big points in his favor as well. He’s a prospect teetering on that fifth starter/middle relief line with a chance for a little more if some of his pre-injury stuff ever comes back.

15.449 – RHP Tyler Keele

Tyler Keele is the first of three straight college relievers taken by Arizona known best by their propensity for sinking fastballs and generating ground balls. I have Keele’s breaking ball as more of an in-between slider/curve, but it serves a similar purpose as the slider thrown by both Nick Blackburn and Jake Winston. Keele has a chance to be the best of the trio thanks in part to a usable split-change. The limited batted ball pro data on the three is interesting. Keele did not get many ground ball outs in his debut. Blackburn didn’t pitch enough for it to matter. And Winston got a ton of ground ball outs. Small sample size caveats apply, but so far advantage Winston.

16.479 – RHP Nick Blackburn

These are written out of order, so the Jake Winston thing you’ll read below was actually finished before whatever it is I’m about to write about Nick Blackburn. You can skip to that to get some of my feelings on Blackburn, but the short version is this: sinker/slider college reliever with a chance to be a sinker/slider big league reliever with continued work.

17.509 – RHP Jake Winston

“Better stuff than he’s shown” was a common refrain from those who have seen Jake Winston do his thing over the years for Southern Mississippi. The sinker/slider reliever has solid stuff across the board (87-92, 94 peak with the sinker; above-average slider; good command of both pitches), but lacks that singular put-away pitch to make him much more than a potential mid-relief ground ball guy. There’s nothing wrong with that in the seventeenth round, of course. Winston leaves us wanting more, and that’s something that probably says more about us than it does him.

19.569 – SS Mark Karaviotis

It’s really easy to say you love a pick after said pick goes out and hits a combined .347/.491/.485 in 217 across two levels in his pro debut. Still, I really do love this pick. Mark Karaviotis is a really good prospect who suffered from “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome in his draft year at Oregon. You would think more teams would have been on a true shortstop who kicked off his college career with two seasons of fine on-base showings (.369 OBP in 2014, .407 OBP in 2015), but injuries kept him off the field enough in 2016 that he slipped through the cracks more than his talent should have allowed. He’s not a tools monster in any way — good arm, solid range, average speed, decent pop — but he’s shown a knack for getting on base, coming up with big hits when needed, and playing mistake-free ball. He won’t keep hitting as he did in his debut, but he could very well hit enough to wind up a big league utility guy with the chance to earn some run as a starter depending on his timing. Kudos to Arizona for staying with him and being willing to give him $100,000 to sign. The young college junior (20-years-old all season) had plenty of leverage if he wanted to go back to school.

20.599 – RHP Connor Grey

No reports here on Connor Grey’s stuff while at St. Bonaventure, but he did get a mention on the site for his standout senior year performance: 9.29 K/9 – 3.23 BB/9 – 92.0 IP – 2.84 ERA. He added an even 60.0 innings on quality pitching as a pro on top of that. That kind of workhorse behavior is doubly impressive when you consider Grey’s a compactly built 6-0, 180 pound guy who gets by more on guile than big raw stuff.

22.659 – RHP Kevin Ginkel

Kevin Ginkel has impressive size (6-5, 215) and a slider with serious upside. His pro start was better than his draft year at Arizona. Funny how that works sometimes. I didn’t have any reports on his velocity as an amateur, but apparently he was up to the mid- to upper-90s in his pro debut. Putting that and his slider together adds up to one serious late-round relief steal.

23.689 – C Luke Van Rycheghem

I know very little of Luke Van Rycheghem. The Canadian does have a name very well-suited for hockey. I could see it really working as a defenseman. Maybe I’m thinking of Luke Richardson (who, incidentally, I hadn’t thought of in at least a decade before now) combined with James van Reimsdyk. Anyway, Van Rycheghem is a big (6-3, 210) and strong former catcher now being asked to worry first and foremost about hitting it long and far as a first baseman.

24.719 – RHP Riley Smith

On Riley Smith from January 2016…

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.

The former LSU Tiger remains a big old wild card to me. His draft season was an unmitigated disaster (4.59 K/9 and 5.05 BB/9 in 19.2 IP), but the arm talent (89-93 FB, 95 peak; pair of interesting low-80s offspeed pitches) was obviously enough for Arizona to look past his struggles. So far, so good for Smith in the pros: 8.35 K/9 and 1.11 BB/9 in 32.1 IP (2.51 ERA).

25.749 – OF Myles Babitt

I love the MLB Draft. Where else do you see a player drafted from Cal State East Bay by way of the Academy of Art? Myles Babitt is a fascinating guy who has put up tons of weird, fun numbers over the years. His draft season saw him hit .308/.410/.400 with 22 BB and 5 K. That’s an insane BB/K ratio. He followed it up by hitting .300/.406/.322 with 16 BB/14 K in his pro debut. I don’t know what’s crazier there: is it the still great BB/K ratio or the comically small ISO? There’s no way that Babitt’s golden approach and whatever the opposite of golden (rusty? dull? Yahoo Answers says purple is the opposite color to gold, so maybe that?) power output can continue to coexist in pro ball, right? Or are we looking at the Willians Astudillo of the outfield? Either way, I’m excited to find out. Worth pointing out that Myles is the son of Shooty Babitt, a former Arizona and current New York Mets scout.

26.779 – 1B Tanner Hill

A friend of mine really likes Tanner Hill. He called him the next Tyler White. I don’t personally see it, but there you go.

27.809 – RHP Gabe Gonzalez

Gabe Gonzalez checks a lot of boxes: size (6-5, 220), fastball (90-94 FB, 95-96 peak), breaking ball (above-average yet inconsistent SL), and a track record of missing bats (8.11 K/9 in 2015, 10.41 K/9 in 2016). He’s still searching for a consistent slower third pitch to use — he’s used both a splitter and a forkball as a means of changing up speeds in the past — and his control remains spotty at best (4.77 BB/9 in 2015, 5.89 BB/9 in 2016), but there’s a lot to work with.

31.929 – RHP Williams Durruthy

Williams Durruthy has top ten round arm talent and undrafted free agent levels of control. The Diamondbacks split the difference with his thirty-first round selection. At his best, Durruthy is spotting a low-90s heater and a legitimate plus cutter. At his worst, he’s walking every hitter in sight. A phrase I heard more than once about Durruthy this spring: “too much movement for his own good.” If Arizona’s pro coaching can help him harness his stuff, he’s got real late-inning reliever upside. That’s a hefty “if,” admittedly, but betting on talent that can’t be taught in the latter stages of the draft is just good sense.

32.959 – RHP Trevor Simms

The highly athletic and well-traveled Trevor Simms has a good (90-95 MPH) yet wild right arm that should get him his share of chances over the next few seasons. He’ll need to act fast, however, as he’ll enter his first full year as a 25-year-old in A-ball.

33.989 – SS Paxton De La Garza

A very impressive debut for Paxton De La Garza has put the righthanded middle infielder from Angelo State on the deep sleeper map. His numbers as a Ram were good, so you can see what Arizona must have seen in him. I approve.

34.1019 – OF Connor Owings

Wow. A highly productive player from the national champions who can play multiple positions and run a little bit falling to the thirty-fourth round? Nice grab by Arizona here taking Connor Owings (392) this late. There’s a chance they only pulled the trigger because of the family ties at play — brother Chris is a 2B/SS/OF for the big club — but whatever the reason for taking Owens was, the fact remains he’s now part of the Diamondbacks organization and that’s a good thing for them.

35.1049 – OF Billy Endris

On Billy Endris from March 2016…

Further down the list is another Florida Atlantic product, Billy Endris. Endris is a good college player who has built a decent case over the last year plus that he’s got enough to warrant a late look in the draft.

His senior year was lackluster enough that I’m surprised that prediction came true. Still cool for him to be drafted. They can never take that away from him.

36.1079 – LHP Rob Galligan

Maybe a matchup lefty. Have him as a mid-80s guy with a nice curve and good size in my notes. Senior year numbers were wild (6.57 BB/9), but not really indicative of his decent overall control.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Jordan Wiley (San Jacinto), Nelson Mompierre (Missouri), Welby Malczewski (Auburn), Brandon Martorano (North Carolina), Hunter Kiel (LSU), Edmond Americaan (Chipola JC), Cameron Cannon (Arizona), Bowden Francis (Chipola JC), Jacob Olson (West Georgia Tech)

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2016 MLB Draft – May GB% Update

It’s been a month, so let’s update our batted ball findings…

Virginia RHP Connor Jones – 67.04%
Florida LHP AJ Puk – 37.88%
Oklahoma RHP Alec Hansen – 48.48% (*)
Mississippi State RHP Dakota Hudson – 68.22%
Cal RHP Daulton Jefferies – 52.63%
Florida RHP Logan Shore – 55.28%
Winthrop LHP Matt Crohan – 34.48%
Kent State LHP Eric Lauer – 45.92%
Vanderbilt RHP Jordan Sheffield – 51.28%
Connecticut LHP Anthony Kay – 47.18%
Rice RHP Jon Duplantier – 61.29%

And by request…

New Orleans RHP Shawn Semple – 43.44%

* Hansen’s numbers are from when he was a starter only. I’m here to help, but going through every single game to find data for relievers is too much even for me.

A full season (to date) line of 9.25 K/9, 3.25 BB/9, and 68.22 GB% is a pretty fascinating all-around statistical profile for Hudson. The only one that tops that is this mystery righthander’s 9.56 K/9, 1.88 BB/9, and 76.40 GB%. That’s the newest addition to our data set, Pittsburgh RHP TJ Zeuch. Short-lived mysteries are what I live for. It’s only been seven starts and I obviously don’t have data on every single draft-eligible arm in this class, but I’d have to imagine his impressive run since coming back from injury has to rank as one of, if not the very best, GB% in the country.

I’ve been low-key critical of Jones lately, but I think some of his underwhelming peripherals can be explained by his dominant ground ball tendencies. He could be one of those guys who learns how to sacrifice a few grounders for more swings and misses once he enters the pro game. He certainly has the stuff to do it, so perhaps getting away from the college environment — much as I like and respect Brian O’Connor and his staff — will help him unleash the beast that is his nasty mid-80s slider more regularly. Pitch to contact is a very amateur friendly concept, which is ironic considering the fielding quality (and, in some cases, field quality) at that level. Jones striking out more batters as a pro than as a college star might not seem like the most sensible gamble to take at face value, but the theories behind it are not without merit.

Does Puk’s heavy fly ball ways potentially scare off the Phillies some knowing that he’d pitch half his games at Citizens Bank Park? Philadelphia’s home park has a bit of an inflated reputation as a home run hitter’s haven, but it still averages eighth in baseball per ESPN’s HR park factor since 2011. This is the definition of a nitpick, but if you’re choosing between Puk and a similarly talented player, any tie-breaker can matter.

 

2016 MLB Draft Mock Draft – Territorial Rights

The 2016 MLB Draft will be here before we know it, so that can only mean one thing: it’s MOCK DRAFT season. It’s been a few years since I published a mock draft around here, but I figured it was finally time to get back in the game. Of course, since I can’t offer much in the way of insider intel — I’m not BA-era peak Jim Callis over here — putting together a mock would be pretty much pointless. With the proper analysis attached to each pick mock drafts can be fun and interesting reads, not to mention a great way of exposing casual fans — the number of people who Google “2016 mlb mock draft” that find this site is insane, at least relative to the four people who read on their own volition otherwise — to players they might have not yet heard of. I might attempt a mock like that between now and June. Or not. Either way, this ain’t it.

So until then (or not) we’ll have some fun and take the idea of a mock draft to the logical extreme. If “mock” means to make something seem laughably unreal or impossible, let’s make our mock draft as unreal or impossible as we can. Our fourth edition of this 2016 MLB Mock Draft is based on territorial rights. Teams can only draft a player that currently plays amateur ball in within the confines of their state. Easy enough, right? Unfortunately this means no Jay Groome, Nick Senzel, Riley Pint, Delvin Perez, Corey Ray, Alec Hansen, Connor Jones, Josh Lowe, Bryan Reynolds, Matt Krook, Dakota Hudson, Anthony Kay, Joe Rizzo, Jordan Sheffield, Will Craig…and on and on and on and on. It does, however, allow for some fun mid-first round steals and a few interesting decisions when picking players from states both big and small. Let’s do it…

1 – Philadelphia Phillies – Holy Ghost Prep SS/3B Nolan Jones

My home state of Pennsylvania has nine D1 schools with baseball programs covering five different conferences. I’ve seen four of the schools already — Penn, Lafayette, St. Joe’s, Villanova — and have a shot to see all nine by the end of the season if I plan my schedule out creatively. There are some solid prospects at those universities — David Bednar stood out so far — who will most definitely be drafted this June, but the real strength of the 2016 Pennsylvania draft class is in the prep talent. My very preliminary look at this year’s high school class has around a dozen names that could get drafted this year out of the state. The best is Nolan Jones, a prospect good enough to be on the short list of the Phillies in a non-nonsense mock draft (i.e., what we call “real life”). Jones has all the tools to be a plus defender at the hot corner with the raw power and aptitude for hitting that could make him one of the best all-around infielders to come out of this class. He’s a really exciting prospect…and a truer “local” prospect to Philadelphia than a certain Jersey lefty, if you’re into that sort of thing.

2 – Cincinnati Reds – Ohio State OF Ronnie Dawson

Cincinnati had a surprisingly high number of options despite being limited to picking only from Ohio. With eleven D1 schools to choose from — some of which were not instantly recognizable to me as Ohio schools, like Wright State and…fine, just Wright State — there was plenty of college talent to make up for the lack of interesting high school prospects. Ronnie Dawson barely beat out teammate Troy Montgomery, Sean Murphy, and the TBD eventual pick of the Indians below. I cringe a little when I hear some of the terms scouts use to describe players — a far worse practice in football than baseball, admittedly — but one of those terms I hate applies too well to Dawson to ignore: he’s a beast. Big, strong, athletic, powerful, fleet of foot…there’s no other way to put it, he’s a beast.

3 – Atlanta Braves – Mercer OF Kyle Lewis

Turns out Georgia, one of the strongest states for high school draft prospects in recent years, actually has less D1 schools that play ball (seven) than either Pennsylvania or Ohio. Go figure. Josh Lowe, Carter Kieboom, Will Benson, Taylor Trammel, and Alex Speas (among many others) keep that impressive prep tradition alive in 2016, but the Braves, long rumored to covet a college bat early on draft day, can’t pass up the biggest, baddest name in the college game. Locking down a future fixture in the middle of your order isn’t a bad way to accelerate the rebuild. Between those high school players and Lewis, Georgia just might be my favorite prospect state in this year’s class.

4 – Colorado Rockies – Air Force RHP Griffin Jax

I debated on a few high school arms before finally settling on Regis Jesuit RHP Bo Weiss as the pick here. Then I realized I totally blanked on Air Force being right around Colorado Springs. That made the selection a little bit easier and a little bit harder all at once. I’d take either Griffin Jax or Jacob DeVries over any of the admittedly intriguing group of 2016 Colorado prep pitchers (really like Paul Tillotson and Travis Marr is interesting, too), but choosing between the two Air Force co-aces isn’t easy. Jax gives you a little more certainty than DeVries — who might have a little bit of recently acquired Rockies closer Jake McGee in him now that I think about it — with the added benefit of being no slouch in the upside department in his own right. I really think Colorado is building something potentially special. While a rock solid mid- to late-rotation arm might seem like the sexiest pick, Jax is the kind of guy you can take for granted (in a good way) as a useful big league piece without worrying about him stalling out for anything but an injury.

5 – Milwaukee Brewers – Verona Area HS C Ben Rortvedt

Much has been made about this year’s high school class having talented players spring out of traditionally unconventional places. One of the better examples of that is how top-heavy the prep prospects in Wisconsin are this year. There’s depth to be sure, but it’s the top tier guys that really make the state stand out. As I cycled through names I kept finding myself saying “Oh yeah, it’ll be him,” before getting to the next name and reconsidering. Nate Brown and Gavin Lux, in particular, are players that would almost certainly be the best in their class in any other year. Instead, the Brewers attempt to get their catcher of the future in Ben Rortvedt, a wholly impressive defensive player who combines outstanding physical strength with above-average agility behind the dish.

6 – Oakland Athletics – La Costa Canyon HS OF Mickey Moniak

If the draft is held on a day that ends in a Y, then that must mean that California is loaded with pro prospects. This pick came down to Mickey Moniak vs Blake Rutherford, easily the most fascinating prospect head-to-head battle in this class right now. I’d get more enjoyment watching Moniak run down fly balls in Oakland’s big dumb ballpark than Rutherford hit balls out of it, so Moniak takes it.

7 – Miami Marlins – Miami C Zack Collins

I’ll keep banging the drum for Zack Collins as a legitimate top ten pick as long as it takes for somebody to take note. If Kyle Schwarber can go fourth overall, then why not Collins? If anything, I think Collins is the better draft prospect of the two.

8 – San Diego Padres – Chaminade Prep OF Blake Rutherford

The Padres might be best served by these rule changes than any other team in this mock. Their future real life haul should be pretty impressive — holding three picks in the top twenty-five makes them the envy of every scouting department — but the damage they could do just by poaching half of the top half-dozen prospects from California could wind up just as extensive. Whether you love Rutherford or still have reservations about his game (or find yourself gutless riding the fence…like me!), getting him with the eight overall pick is fun.

9 – Detroit Tigers – Michigan 1B/LHP Carmen Benedetti

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.

10 – Chicago White Sox – Illinois RHP Cody Sedlock

I appreciate that of the eleven schools that play D1 baseball in Illinois, eight have Illinois directly in the university name. That made my life a lot easier when searching my database. My mind still kept wanting to give the White Sox Corey Ray, but that would be against our hastily put together yet very important ironclad rules. Future big league starter Cody Sedlock isn’t a bad consolation prize. Bradley, Chicago State, and Northwestern are the three Illinois schools without Illinois in the name…just in case you were wondering.

11 – Seattle Mariners – Federal Way HS 1B/OF Christian Jones

It was a close call between Ian Hamilton and Christian Jones, but the bat trumped the arm in the end. That’s often my personal preference on these things. Jones has been on the radar for me as much for the sound he makes on contact than any visual observation I’ve made. If he can play the outfield professionally, as many are beginning to think, then so much the better.

12 – Boston Red Sox – Boston College RHP Justin Dunn

With apologies to the dynamic duo of Dustin Hunt and Aaron Civale at Northeastern, it’s Justin Dunn and his easy upper-90s heat that finds himself on the fast track to Fenway’s bullpen. If Dunn (or Jesse Adams, John Nicklas, Mike King, or any other Eagle) does get drafted by Boston this June, then he’ll be the first to turn the trick since Jed Rogers in 2001 and only the sixth BC to the Red Sox draft connection fo all-time. How about that? Dunn (and/or the rest) would also attempt to have a pro career that finished with positive bWAR, something that has been done only once (!) in school history so far. Of the six Boston College players to reach the big leagues, five had/have negative career bWAR. Only Tony Sanchez’s 0.4 figure is in the black.

13 – Tampa Bay Rays – Florida LHP AJ Puk

The Rays take advantage of our draft rules to land arguably this draft’s top college pitching prospect. Even coming off an aborted start due to a balky back, AJ Puk is currently trending up as he rides the rollercoaster that has taken him from underrated (this time last year) to overrated (much of the offseason) to potentially a tad underrated once again. He probably never should have been pushed so heavily as a potential 1-1 guy — in the mix, sure, but not as the favorite/co-favorite — but his value settling even just a few picks after feels about right. It sounds a bit superficial because maybe it is, but 1-1 guys get picked apart in a way that even potential top five candidates do not. The focus has been on Puk’s inconsistent slider, underwhelming change, and spotty command. That’s what he can’t do. What he does well — pitch off an explosive mid-90s fastball, flash a dominant mid-80s slider, and use his 6-7, 225 pound frame to every advantage possible — he does really darn well. Needless to say he’d be a steal at thirteen.

14 – Cleveland Indians – Kent State LHP Eric Lauer

I’ll quote myself on Lauer, if you’ll allow it…

There isn’t a box that he doesn’t check when looking for a potentially quick-moving above-average mid-rotation big league starting pitcher. He’s an athletic (like Plesac) lefthander (like Deeg/Akin), with good size (like Deeg/Plesac), very strong performance indicators (10.78 K/9 and 2.72 BB/9), above-average heat (88-94) that he commands like a pro, and a complete assortment of offspeed pitches (74-77 CB, 78-82 SL, emerging CU) he can throw in any count. One could quibble by noting there’s no singular knockout pitch here – maybe with continued work one of his secondaries can become a consistent plus pitch, but certainly not presently – so maybe Lauer’s best case scenario outcome isn’t quite that of some of his peers across the country, but that’s a nitpick for a still impressive ceiling/high floor starting arm. Maybe you don’t love him – I kind of do, clearly…but maybe you don’t – but he’s still a prospect that’s hard not to at least like.

15 – Minnesota Twins – Minnesota C Austin Athmann

There’s no young Joe Mauer hiding in the the Gopher State this year, but the Minnesota University battery of Dalton Sawyer to Austin Athmann gives the Twins two intriguing draft options right off the top. Again we go hitter over pitcher when the talent levels appear close from the outside looking in. Athmann has a strong arm and really solid 2016 numbers. Good enough for me.

16 – Los Angeles Angels – Cal RHP Daulton Jefferies

I like this pick because it helps make this feel more like a mock draft than a random assortment of players listed according to arbitrary rules. The Angels would have their pick from a ton of talented California prospects, but here they opt for the relatively safety of Daulton Jefferies. As much fun as going for a home run pick would be — Avery Tuck, one of the many prep arms, and Lucas Erceg all come to mind — the Angels simply can not afford to come away from this draft with a serious early round hit. Jefferies is as close to big league ready as any college starter in this class, so it’s a pretty perfect marriage.

17 – Houston Astros – Rice RHP Jon Duplantier

I’ve typed and deleted a few different variations of how down Texas is this year, but can’t bring myself to go through with it. There are a handful of high school prospects as always — less than usual it seems — and all of the college programs seem down. Those might be too broad generalizations — I’m waiting for a fan of one of the schools in Texas (not Dallas Baptist, though, because they are awesome and everybody should know that) to call me out any second now — but A&M (the best of the bunch), Baylor, Rice, TCU, Tech, and, most egregiously, Texas all seem down relative to the standards we’ve come to expect. None of that should diminish the accomplishments and credentials of Jon Duplantier, who has pitched his tail off all season long. Despite rarely mentioned as a potential first round pick, Duplantier has sneaky top of the rotation upside. The only red flag is the university he pitches for; thankfully, that risk is mitigated some by the fact his history of missing time with relatively minor injuries has prevented his coach from overworking him so far. Smaller injuries might have prevented him from getting overworked to the point of larger injuries. Ironic, right? If Duplantier flops in the pros, I’m out on Rice pitchers forever.

18 – New York Yankees – Shenendehowa HS RHP Ian Anderson

Fans of twenty-nine other teams would not like this one bit. Ian Anderson, a dark-horse 1-1 candidate, has everything you’d want to see in a high school righthander with worlds of projection left. He also helps my pet theory that there’s an easy shortcut to amateur scouting: just follow the recruits. If a player is committed to Vanderbilt, like Ian Anderson is, move him up ___ spots on your board. Let the college teams do the hard work for you! Vanderbilt, Florida, UCLA, LSU…if a guy has a commitment to a school on that level, then you should want to draft him. I loved Anderson as much as anybody as he began to put his name on the national map, but once he had that Vandy commit in his back pocket he started looking better than ever.

19 – New York Mets – Henninger HS LHP Jeff Belge

Jeff Belge would help replenish the Mets pitching pipeline. That’s about all I’ve got. Belge got off to a fast start as a prospect relative to his peers thanks to his imposing size (6-6, 240) and present arm strength (85-92 FB, up to 94-95). Others have caught and exceeded him in this class, but he’s still a talented young lefty capable of using three offspeed pitches and blowing fastballs by the opposition.

20 – Los Angeles Dodgers – Stanford RHP Cal Quantrill

Plus fastball, plus change, plus pitchability, and flashes of two different breaking balls with upside. Get Cal Quantrill back on a mound and watch him fly up boards as we get closer to June. Sight unseen from last spring, I’d still consider taking him just outside the top ten picks or so.

21 – Toronto Blue Jays – York Mills Collegiate Institute C Andy Yerzy

Covering the entire country is one thing, but trying to develop solid contacts in Canada and Puerto Rico gives me that extra degree of difficulty that makes me want to bang my head against the wall at times. I do like what I know about Andy Yerzy and Austin Shields. Are they the top two Canadian prospects for 2016? Beats me. But they are my favorites for now.

22 – Pittsburgh Pirates – Plum HS OF Alex Kirilloff

Pittsburgh opts to stay close to home with the nod going to the local prep star over the local college star. Even with the successful recent return to health of the very talented TJ Zeuch, the potential plus all-around bat of Alex Kirilloff is too tempting to pass up on. Hey, it worked with the Neil Walker pick, so why not go to the Pittsburgh high school baseball well again in the first round? As a hitter, Kirilloff can really do it all: big raw power, plus bat speed, a mature approach, and a hit tool so promising that almost every scout has agreed that he’s an advanced hitter who happens to hit for power rather than the other way around. He’s the rare high school prospect who could hit enough to have confidence in him as a pro even if eventually confined to first base.

23 – St. Louis Cardinals – Missouri SS Ryan Howard

The Cardinals can only hope that I still have the patience to do these silly mocks next year. Instead of trying to decide on which prospect to reach on like this, they’d have the luxury of debating between Tanner Houck and Jake Burger. Because it’s 2016 and not 2017, however, Ryan Howard resembles the most sensible pick. I think he probably tops out as a quality utility infielder in the big leagues, but focusing on the “in the big leagues” part rather than the “utility infielder” aspect makes it worthwhile.

24 – San Diego Padres – San Diego SS Bryson Brigman

I’m not sure I have much more to add on Brigman at the moment than what I wrote recently about him…

Doing so would allow me to regularly see Bryson Brigman, a prospect that has begun to remind me a lot of Arizona’s Scott Kingery from last year’s draft. Kingery was a second round pick (48th overall) and I could see Brigman rising to a similar level by June. Like Kingery last year, Brigman’s defensive future remains a question for scouts. Fortunately for both, the question is framed more around trying him in challenging spots than worrying about having to hide him elsewhere on the diamond. Brigman has an above-average to plus defensive future at second back in his back pocket already, so his playing a solid shortstop in 2016 is doing so with house money. In much the same way that former second baseman Alex Bregman wore everybody down with consistent above-average play at short last college season, Brigman has proved to many that he has what it takes to stick at shortstop in pro ball. Brigman’s appeal at this point is pretty clear: tons of defensive potential in the middle infield, contact abilities that elicit the classic “he could find a hole rolling out of bed” remarks from onlookers, and enough of the sneaky pop/mature approach offensive extras needed to be an impactful regular in the big leagues. I’ll stick with the Kingery – who smart people told me here could play shortstop if needed, a position since corroborated by those who have seen him in the pros (I’ll be seeing him for myself on Saturday, FWIW) – comparison for now, but I wouldn’t object to somebody who offered up a mix of the best of both Kingery and his old double play partner Kevin Newman. That would obviously be some kind of special player, but Brigman doesn’t seem too far off. I’ve said before I hate when people throw around terms like “first round player” so loosely that you could count 100 first rounders in their eyes in the months leading up to June, but I’ll be guilty of it here and call Brigman a first round player as of now. I’ve really come to appreciate his game since the start of the season.

25 – San Diego Padres – Santa Barbara HS RHP Kevin Gowdy

I haven’t been able to sneak Kevin Gowdy on to one of these mocks just yet, so it’s great that he finally made the cut. It wasn’t easy, what with guys like Matt Manning, Reggie Lawson, Nick Lodolo, Corbin Burnes, and Lucas Erceg all vying for the second to last California spot, but he made it. Since we’re firmly in the quote yourself section of the mock by now, here’s me from the comments section earlier this week on Gowdy: “Love Gowdy. Command, deception, and frame are all really promising. Puts his fastball where he wants it better than most of his college-aged peers. Velocity is good and breaking ball looks legit. And on top of all that, his delivery is a thing of beauty to me. I normally leave mechanics alone — don’t care what it looks long as long as the pitcher can repeat it consistently — but Gowdy’s stand out as being particularly efficient. I’m a big fan. Likely a top five prep pitcher in this class.”

26 – Chicago White Sox – Carmel Catholic HS C Cooper Johnson

I do not know if Cooper Johnson will hit enough to be a viable big league player. I do know that he can defend the heck out of his position. I had him on a Russell Martin (high), Francisco Cervelli (medium), and Austin Hedges (low) spectrum after seeing him over the summer. We’re getting late enough in this draft that even the low outcome for him would give you enough value back. Gambling on a defensive weapon behind the plate figuring things out just enough as a hitter seems like a smart bet to me.

27 – Baltimore Orioles – Maryland RHP Mike Shawaryn

Many words were written about Mike Shawaryn in yesterday’s post, so I’ll refer any new readers to that first and foremost. If you recall, my conclusions about Shawaryn centered on the idea that he has the chance to be one of the draft’s best undervalued assets, assuming his 2016 funk is attributable more to fatigue than anything else. Draft him in the second or third round — late first is pushing it, but so go the rules of the mock — and give him all the time off he needs to feel 100% again. There are lots of health-based assumptions here that I really shouldn’t be making, but I figure the underlying point is that the real Shawaryn is still really good when rested and ready gives me a little bit of moral leeway. Anyway, please don’t let this happen in real life. Shawaryn, a man (maybe) in need of a team with an expert minor league medical staff, should be kept as far a way as possible from whatever it is that’s causing all of Baltimore’s pitching prospects to fall apart.

28 – Washington Nationals – Georgetown RHP David Ellingson

This really isn’t fair to the team in our nation’s capital, but they had the top pick in back-to-back years with a generational talent waiting for them AND somehow got to watch a bunch of teams let a pair of injured stars fall into their laps. It’s only right that they get some bad draft luck for a change. The player pool is all but limited to George Washington, Georgetown, and a very small group of high school players. David Ellingson could give them some middle relief help in a few years. That’s literally better than passing on the pick, right?

29 – Washington Nationals – Georgetown RHP Matt Smith

What’s really messed up about the Nationals being stuck only picking players from DC is how close (yet so far) they are to an absolute hotbed of baseball talent. How nice would Connor Jones look in this spot? Or any one of the good to great high school prospects found in Virginia this year? We’re talking Joe Rizzo, Khalil Lee, Zach Hess, Noah Murdock, Bobby Nicholson…the list goes on. Like his once and future teammate Ellingson, Matt Smith could be a nice middle reliever down the line. That’s good, too!

30 – Texas Rangers – Alamo Heights HS RHP Forrest Whitley

A big Texan with power stuff going to the Rangers. Narratives everywhere! Though I guess he had to be a Texan automatically because that’s the whole point of the draft. And he’s the best of an underwhelming crop from the state. You could argue Nick Banks here, but I’ll go with a pitcher over the hitter to change things up. Can you tell that we’re only a few picks away from the finish line?

31 – New York Mets – Buffalo RHP Mike Kaelin

The Mets have cleaned up in some of the other drafts we’ve done so far, so I don’t feel too bad with them being challenged in our geographical version of things. Thomas Hackimer would be an equally fine pick to Mike Kaelin, but I have too much of a soft spot for the undersized reliever from Buffalo to pass on him now.

32 – Los Angeles Dodgers – Steele Canyon HS OF Avery Tuck

With all the talent in California this year — I named names in the last San Diego pick — some might be surprised to see Avery Tuck emerge as the final pick from the Golden State. I’m an unabashed fan of upside, what can I say?

33 – St. Louis Cardinals – De Smet Jesuit HS LHP Erik Miller

Making the best of being limited only to the great state of Missouri, the Cards nab the state’s best high school prospect in Erik Miller. A three-pitch lefthander with enviable size (6-5, 220), present velocity (88-93), and deception in his delivery isn’t a bad way to spend a first round pick.

34 – St. Louis Cardinals – Missouri RHP Reggie McClain

The Cardinals would have to be so jealous of the Padres in a draft like this. Reggie McClain as a consolation prize isn’t the worst thing in the world. In fact, I like the redshirt-senior quite a bit as a late single-digit round senior-sign option. Easy to love his changeup, control, and athleticism. It’s just that Howard, Miller and McClain isn’t exactly Rutherford, Brigman, and Gowdy.

2016 MLB Draft – GB%

It’s finally time for first edition of the MLB Draft Pitching Prospect GB% Index or: The Post You Make When Too Busy Driving Sixty Miles to See the Last Two Innings of Jay Groome’s 2016 Debut to Write a Few Thousand Words Otherwise. There’s more to life than keeping the ball down and getting outs on the ground, but I still think it’s interesting data to track as it provides a hint as to what type of pitcher stylistically each guy will be as a professional. Here’s what I’ve got so far…don’t read anything into the order.

Virginia RHP Connor Jones – 63.53%
Florida LHP AJ Puk – 36.73%
Oklahoma RHP Alec Hansen – 48.48%
Mississippi State RHP Dakota Hudson – 70.37%
Cal RHP Daulton Jefferies – 52.63%
Florida RHP Logan Shore – 51.47%
Winthrop LHP Matt Crohan – 34.48%
Kent State LHP Eric Lauer – 46.58%
Vanderbilt RHP Jordan Sheffield – 50.00%
Connecticut LHP Anthony Kay – 51.19%
Rice RHP Jon Duplantier – 60.49%

I wanted to include the Oregon rotation and Robert Tyler, but the box scores were a nightmare at those team sites. I think getting info on Krook and Tyler is important, so I’ll try to figure something out when I’m feeling a bit more motivated.

As for the actual data above, I’d say that Hudson’s number is eye-opening and wholly consistent with the kind of stuff he throws. Are we sure he isn’t the best college pitching prospect in the country? Crohan’s number could be considered noteworthy for teams that preach keeping the ball in the dirt, though any batted ball analysis by a big league front office would (hopefully) include more than just the difference between a ground ball out and an out recorded via the air. Take AJ Puk, for example. His number is low, but it doesn’t account for the relatively high number of infield pop-ups and weak fly balls that I’ve seen whenever I’ve watched him. It should also be noted that Crohan has pitched far less than the rest of the names on the list, so an already small sample gets even smaller. It’s all just something extra to consider when thinking about these pitchers anyway.

Who am I missing here? I’m happy to add a few more names to the list to track between now and June.

2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – Conference USA

Nothing against Conference USA, but putting this together was a lot more fun than it had any right to be. Looking at some of the individual teams had me putting this off for a bit, but it turns out that Conference USA has some really cool prospects this year. Case in point: the top tier hitting prospects – we’ll loosely define that as the first five, but it could be expanded to around nine if so inclined – all have clear top ten round upside. CJ Chatham is an intriguing modern shortstop who has opened eyes throughout the game with his huge start to 2016. In no means is it a direct comparison, but what he’s doing so far is similar to what Kyle Lewis has done at Mercer. Chatham, like Lewis, has done everything possible to turn a perceived weakness (approach) into a strength. Going from a 8 BB/39 K as a freshman and 10 BB/28 K as a sophomore to his draft year 10 BB/7 K ratio is something worth getting excited about. With Chatham’s seemingly improved approach, scouts can now freely focus on the other positives in his game (above-average range, above-average to plus arm, a 6-4, 185 pound frame to dream on) and begin forecasting a big league regular out of the overall package. In a class with a serious talent void at the top of the college shortstop rankings, Chatham has emerged as a legit contender to be the very first off the board and a top hundred pick. He’s that good.

Riley Delgado does it with far less size (and, for many, projection), but there’s no denying his consistent ability to grind out extended at bats that ultimately (more often than not) end with him on base. An approach like his matched with sneaky pop and steady defense makes him an easy draft target for me. Delgado gives me a lot of the same positive vibes that I felt with Dylan Bosheers last season. While I still hold out hope for Bosheers in 2016 and beyond, I think Delgado is both the better draft prospect and long-term professional player.

I believe in the bat of Nick Walker, so his prospect stock will come down more to learning more about his defensive future than anything else. The former shortstop is seen as a future outfielder by many, but if he can take the positive traits that made shortstop work for him in the first place – athleticism, arm strength, high baseball IQ – and turn into an above-average or better outfielder, then he remains plenty interesting as a prospect. A pair of senior-signs round out the top five in the persons of Danny Hudzina and Tim Lynch. I’ve long coveted the raw power of Lynch, one of this class’s most impressive hitters by any measure. His hot start to 2016 just makes me believe he’s even more underrated than I did a month ago; senior or not, all he does is crush baseballs.

Hudzina is a similarly talented hitter – more hit than power if we’re comparing him head-to-head with Lynch – who gets the edge because of his fascinating defensive versatility. I asked a few smart people about his long-term defensive home and each response gave me a new position to consider. Most preferred him at his present position of third base, a spot where he is really good already. Others thought he was athletic enough to handle short in a pinch, thus making his future position “utility infielder” more so than any one permanent spot. I also heard second base more than once, which made sense considering he has prior experience there. He also has experience behind the plate, so speculation that he’ll one day return to the catcher position will always be there. That was the most intriguing response, not only because of the idea itself (hardly a novel thought) but because of the conviction the friend who suggested it presented the thought (i.e., it wasn’t like he said that’s what should happen with him, he was saying that a switch to catcher will happen to him in the pros). Despite the certainty of that one friend, I’m still on the third base bandwagon with the idea of him being athletic enough to handle any infield spot (including third catcher duties) in play. All in all, offensively and defensively (wherever he may wind up), I think Hudzina has a big league skill set.

The run of Florida Atlantic prospects really begins just outside the top five. Chatham is the headliner now, but Stephen Kerr, Esteban Puerta, and Christian Dicks are all serious draft prospects in their own right. Kerr is a burner with plus to plus-plus speed and really intriguing defensive tools. Lack of a big-time arm might keep him at second rather than short as a professional, but the physical ability to be plus there in time helps soften the blow of a permanent position switch. A strong case could be made that Kerr is at least average or better in four of the five classic tools: in order, they’d go speed, glove (above-average to plus at second), hit tool (chance for above-average), and arm (plays up enough to call it average). The one obvious thing he lacks is power. Whether or not he continues to find ways to drive the occasional mistake pitch to keep the opposition honest could determine if his ceiling is honest big league regular or up-and-down utility guy. I’m bullish on his future.

Puerta is a fine young hitter with just the right blend of power and patience to make a mark on pro ball. Dicks doesn’t have a carrying tool, but has a card full of tools flirting in and around the average mark. He’s a well-rounded ballplayer with good athleticism and a track record of quality production. Further down the list is another Florida Atlantic product, Billy Endris. Endris is a good college player who has built a decent case over the last year plus that he’s got enough to warrant a late look in the draft.

Esteban Tresgallo, a Miami transfer, has seen his plate discipline indicators go backwards in the early going, but has enough of a track record, prospect pedigree, and favorable scouting notes (steady glove, nice power, enough athleticism) to deserve a mid- to late-round pick. Logan Sherer is a power bat who might finally be tapping into every bit of his 6-3, 250 pound frame. Taylor Love, Zach Rutherford, and Geonte Jackson all intrigue me as potential bat-first bench contributors capable of playing a multitude of defensive spots.

You’ll notice the cluster of Rice guys near the bottom of the hitter list. I did what I could to separate them, but no matter how often I left the list and came back to it, they always clumped together. Quite honestly, I’m sure what to say about that lineup right now. None of the 2016 draft-eligible guys are hitting. It’s ugly. They are like the anti-Florida Atlantic. No player exemplifies the frustration of what’s gone down with the Rice hitters as well as Hunter Kopycinski, a fine defender who came into the season with just enough of an offensive track record to get some late-round senior-sign org catcher love. He’s currently off to an oh-for-thirty start. Charlie Warren’s lack of pop clouds his pro future. Grayson Lewis and Conor Tekyl have the gloves to succeed, but time is running out on their bats. If you’re looking for a bat out of Rice good enough to contribute professionally, then you’re much better off waiting on Ryan Chandler (2017) and Ford Proctor (2018).

The good news for Rice is that their ace is very clearly the best pitching prospect in the conference. Jon Duplantier is awesome. There are only so many college baseball and draft writers out there and there are a ton of quality players to write about, but it still surprises me that Duplantier has managed to go (kind of) under the radar this spring. I mean, of course Duplantier has been written about plenty and he’s regarded by almost anybody who matters as one of the top college arms in this class – not to mention I’m guilty of not writing about him until now myself – but it still feels like we could all be doing more to spread the word about how good he really is. Here’s what I wrote about him in his draft capsule last year…

175. Rice SO RHP Jon Duplantier: 87-94 FB, 95 peak; good CU; good 73-75 CB; average 82-85 SL, flashes above-average when harder; good command; great athlete; fascinating draft case study as a hugely overlooked injured arm that one scout described to me as “every bit as good as Dillon Tate when on” and another said his injury was a “blessing in disguise” because it saved him from further abuse at the hands of Coach Graham; 6-4, 210 pounds

His fastball has since topped out as high as 97-98 and more consistently sits in the mid- to upper-band of that velocity range (90-94). His command has continued to improve and his breaking balls are both showing more consistency. I’ve heard his change has backed up some – more of a future average pitch at 82-84 than anything – but seeing as that’s just one of three usable offspeed pitches, it’s not the end of the world. Duplantier is big, athletic, and getting better by the day. I don’t know if that all adds up to a first round selection in this class, but it is damn close if not.

After Duplantier, you can pretty much put the next dozen or so names in a hat and hope for the best. I like the big arm of Nick Hartman (FB up to 96, good 76-78 CB), the projection left for Cody Crouse (6-6, 215 pounds with an intriguing split-change), and the potentially quick-moving reliever profiles of Garrett Ring, Adam Atkins, and David McKay. Sean Labsan is a good prospect as both a lefty pitcher and an outfielder with power; if nothing else, he deserves attention as one of the college game’s best true two-way players.

Ben Morrison does a lot of things really well – 90-94 FB, low-80s SL that flashes plus, shows both athleticism and deception in his delivery – but hasn’t had the chance to show it off in 2016. The curious case of Andrew Dunlap continues to leave me with more questions than answers about his pro future. The two-way prospect hasn’t had the chance to get back on the mound yet and is now listed solely as a DH on the Rice team site. I’m not sure whether it’s health-related or just stalled development, but my old notes on him and a fastball that flirted with triple-digits seem less relevant by the day. His teammate, the veteran Blake Fox, has been effective over the years despite not missing a ton of bats. The chance that he’ll begin to do so after making the switch to relief in the pros makes him an enticing mid- to late-round gamble. It wasn’t my intent to close out with so many Rice prospects; I guess it’s just a team filled with interesting – they may not be great, but they are certainly interesting – prospects. Josh Pettite falls into that very category. He’s recovering from a UCL injury that will force him to the bench all year long, but I could see a team doing their homework on his signability all the same. His freshman season was up and down, but the ups were enough when combined with his solid stuff and pro bloodlines to temp a team into taking him late if he’s ready to move on to pro ball.

Hitters

  1. Florida Atlantic JR SS/RHP CJ Chatham
  2. Middle Tennessee State JR SS Riley Delgado
  3. Old Dominion JR OF/SS Nick Walker
  4. Western Kentucky SR 3B Danny Hudzina
  5. Southern Mississippi SR 1B Tim Lynch
  6. Florida Atlantic JR 2B/SS Stephen Kerr
  7. Florida Atlantic rJR 1B/OF Esteban Puerta
  8. Florida Atlantic SR OF Christian Dicks
  9. UAB rSR C Esteban Tresgallo
  10. Charlotte JR 1B/RHP Logan Sherer
  11. Louisiana Tech rSR OF/SS Taylor Love
  12. Old Dominion SO SS Zach Rutherford
  13. Florida International JR C JC Escarra
  14. Middle Tennessee State JR OF Brad Jarreau
  15. Marshall JR OF Corey Bird
  16. Florida Atlantic SR OF Billy Endris
  17. Texas-San Antonio SR 3B/OF Geonte Jackson
  18. Texas-San Antonio SR C/OF Kevin Markham
  19. Texas-San Antonio SR OF Matt Hilston
  20. Florida International rJR C Zack Soria
  21. Southern Mississippi JR C Chuckie Robinson
  22. Old Dominion SR OF Connor Myers
  23. Louisiana Tech SR OF Bryce Stark
  24. Texas-San Antonio SR 3B/SS Tyler Straub
  25. Florida International SR 2B Austin Rodriguez
  26. Marshall SR 2B/3B Aaron Bossi
  27. UAB rSR OF Griffin Gum
  28. Florida Atlantic rSO OF Jose Bonilla Traverso
  29. Charlotte rJR 2B/SS Luke Gibbs
  30. Middle Tennessee State rSO 2B Aaron Aucker
  31. Southern Mississippi SR OF/3B Chase Scott
  32. Old Dominion rSR SS Jason McMurray
  33. Rice JR OF Charlie Warren
  34. Rice JR OF Dayne Wunderlich
  35. Rice SR 2B/3B Grayson Lewis
  36. Rice SR C Hunter Kopycinski
  37. Rice SR 1B Connor Tekyl
  38. Old Dominion rSR 3B/SS Nick Lustrino

Pitchers

  1. Rice rSO RHP Jon Duplantier
  2. Old Dominion JR RHP Nick Hartman
  3. Florida International JR RHP Cody Crouse
  4. Middle Tennessee State SR RHP Garrett Ring
  5. Florida Atlantic JR LHP/OF Sean Labsan
  6. Louisiana Tech SR RHP Adam Atkins
  7. Florida International JR RHP Williams Durruthy
  8. Florida Atlantic rSO RHP David McKay
  9. Florida Atlantic JR RHP Colyn O’Connell
  10. Western Kentucky JR RHP Ben Morrison
  11. Marshall SR RHP Chase Boster
  12. Marshall SR RHP JD Hammer
  13. UAB JR LHP Thomas Lowery
  14. Rice rSO RHP/C Andrew Dunlap
  15. Marshall JR RHP Burris Warner
  16. Southern Mississippi rSR LHP Cody Livingston
  17. Rice SR LHP Blake Fox
  18. Southern Mississippi SR RHP Jake Winston
  19. Marshall JR LHP Parker Danciu
  20. Rice SR LHP Austin Solecitto
  21. Charlotte SR RHP Micah Wells
  22. UAB rJR RHP Cory Eller
  23. Southern Mississippi SR RHP Nick Johnson
  24. Western Kentucky rJR RHP Kevin Elder
  25. Southern Mississippi SR RHP Connor O’Brien
  26. UAB rJR LHP Dylan Munger
  27. Old Dominion JR RHP Sam Sinnen
  28. Charlotte rJR LHP Sean Geoghegan
  29. Southern Mississippi rSR LHP Luke Lowery
  30. Charlotte rJR RHP Brandon Casas
  31. Middle Tennessee State rSO RHP Reid Clements
  32. Middle Tennessee State SR RHP Nate Hoffmann
  33. Middle Tennessee State JR RHP/OF Caleb Smith
  34. Rice SO RHP Josh Pettite
  35. Florida International rSR RHP Robby Kalaf
  36. Southern Mississippi rSR RHP Cord Cockrell
  37. Western Kentucky SR RHP Josh Bartley
  38. Old Dominion JR RHP Adam Bainbridge

Charlotte

rJR RHP Brandon Casas (2016)
rJR LHP Sean Geoghegan (2016)
SR RHP Micah Wells (2016)
rJR LHP JD Prochaska (2016)
SR RHP Nate Traugh (2016)
JR RHP Brandon Vogler (2016)
JR 1B/RHP Logan Sherer (2016)
rJR C Nick Daddio (2016)
rJR 2B/SS Luke Gibbs (2016)
JR OF TJ Nichting (2016)
JR C Derek Fritz (2016)
JR OF/1B Zach Jarrett (2016)
SO LHP Matt Horkey (2017)
SO LHP Jacob Craver (2017)
SO LHP Josh Maciejewski (2017)
SO 2B/OF Brett Netzer (2017)
FR OF Reese Hampton (2018)

High Priority Follows: Brandon Casas, Sean Geoghegan, Micah Wells, Luke Gibbs

Florida Atlantic

JR RHP Colyn O’Connell (2016)
SR RHP Robbie Coursel (2016)
SR LHP Brandon Rhodes (2016)
rSO RHP David McKay (2016)
rSR LHP Devon Carr (2016)
JR LHP/OF Sean Labsan (2016)
JR RHP/C Cameron Ragsdale (2016)
JR SS/RHP CJ Chatham (2016)
SR OF Billy Endris (2016)
SR OF Christian Dicks (2016)
rJR 1B/OF Esteban Puerta (2016)
SR 2B/1B Brett Lashley (2016)
rSO OF Jose Bonilla Traverso (2016)
JR C Kevin Abraham (2016)
JR 2B/SS Stephen Kerr (2016)
SO RHP Alex House (2017)
SO RHP Mark Nowatnick (2017)
SO RHP Marc Stewart (2017)
FR RHP Kyle Marman (2018)

High Priority Follows: Colyn O’Connell, David McKay, Devon Carr, Sean Labsan, Cameron Ragsdale, CJ Chatham, Billy Endris, Christian Dicks, Esteban Puerta, Brett Lashley, Jose Bonilla Traverso, Stephen Kerr

Florida International

JR RHP Cody Crouse (2016)
rSR RHP Robby Kalaf (2016)
JR RHP Williams Durruthy (2016)
JR RHP Chris Mourelle (2016)
JR RHP Michael Agis (2016)
JR LHP Alex Demchak (2016)
rJR C Zack Soria (2016)
SR SS/2B Rey Perez (2016)
JR C JC Escarra (2016)
JR 2B/SS Irving Lopez (2016)
JR OF Christian Khawam (2016)
JR OF Kenny Meimerstorf (2016)
JR INF Zack Files (2016)
JR 1B/3B Nick Day (2016)
SO RHP Garrett Cave (2017)
SO RHP Andres Nunez (2017)
SO OF Jack Schaaf (2017)
FR RHP Nate Pearson (2018)

High Priority Follows: Cody Crouse, Robby Kalaf, Williams Durruthy, Michael Agis, Alex Demchak, Zack Soria, Austin Rodriguez, Rey Perez, JC Escarra, Irving Lopez

Louisiana Tech

rJR LHP Phillip Diehl (2016)
SR RHP Adam Atkins (2016)
SR RHP Adam Derouen (2016)
JR LHP Mark Baughman (2016)
JR LHP Braden Bristo (2016)
SR LHP Tyler Clancy (2016)
JR LHP Jorge Flores (2016)
rSR OF/SS Taylor Love (2016)
SR OF Bryce Stark (2016)
SR OF JD Perry (2016)
SR 3B Mason Paxton (2016)
JR 2B Chandler Hall (2016)
JR 1B Marshall Boggs (2016)
JR C Jonathan Washam (2016)
JR INF Jordan Washam (2016)
rJR OF Sean Ullrich (2016)
SO C Brent Diaz (2017)
FR OF/RHP J’Mar Smith (2018)

High Priority Follows: Adam Atkins, Taylor Love, Bryce Stark, JD Perry

Marshall

SR RHP Chase Boster (2016)
SR RHP JD Hammer (2016)
SR LHP Caleb Ross (2016)
JR RHP Burris Warner (2016)
JR LHP Parker Danciu (2016)
SR RHP Heston Van Fleet (2016)
SR LHP Sam Hunter (2016)
rSO RHP Fernando Guerrero (2016)
JR OF Corey Bird (2016)
SR 1B Ryne Dean (2016)
JR C Sam Finfer (2016)
SR 2B/3B Aaron Bossi (2016)
rSO OF Cory Garrastazu (2016)
rJR OF Billy Sager (2016)
SR OF DJ Gee (2016)
SO 3B Tyler Ratliff (2017)
FR LHP Josh Shapiro (2018)

High Priority Follows: Chase Boster, JD Hammer, Caleb Ross, Burris Warner, Parker Danciu, Heston Van Fleet, Corey Bird, Ryne Dean, Aaron Bossi

Middle Tennessee State

SR RHP Garrett Ring (2016)
SR RHP Nate Hoffmann (2016)
SR RHP Sam Alton (2016)
SR LHP Tyler Troutt (2016)
rSO RHP Reid Clements (2016)
JR RHP/OF Caleb Smith (2016)
rSO 2B Aaron Aucker (2016)
JR SS Riley Delgado (2016)
JR OF Brad Jarreau (2016)
JR 1B Kevin Dupree (2016)
SO RHP Blake Stansbury (2017)
SO LHP Jake Wyrick (2017)
SO 2B Kevin Sullivan (2017)
FR RHP AJ Spencer (2018)
FR OF Austin Dennis (2018)

High Priority Follows: Garrett Ring, Nate Hoffmann, Reid Clements, Caleb Smith, Aaron Aucker, Riley Delgado, Brad Jarreau

Old Dominion

rJR LHP Jake Josephs (2016)
SR RHP Thomas Busbice (2016)
JR RHP Nick Hartman (2016)
JR LHP Turner Bishop (2016)
JR RHP Sam Sinnen (2016)
JR LHP Joey Benitez (2016)
JR RHP Adam Bainbridge (2016)
JR OF/SS Nick Walker (2016)
SR OF Connor Myers (2016)
SO SS Zach Rutherford (2016)
rSR 3B/SS Nick Lustrino (2016)
rSR SS Jason McMurray (2016)
JR C/1B Kurt Sinnen (2016)
JR C Kyle Beam (2016)
SO RHP Culver Lamb (2017)
SO LHP Nate Matheson (2017)
SO OF Justin Hayes (2017)
FR RHP Brett Smith (2017)
FR 3B Seth Woodard (2018)
FR OF Will Morgan (2018)

High Priority Follows: Nick Hartman, Sam Sinnen, Adam Bainbridge, Nick Walker, Connor Myers, Zach Rutherford, Nick Lustrino, Jason McMurray

Rice

rSO RHP Jon Duplantier (2016)
SR LHP Blake Fox (2016)
SR LHP Austin Solecitto (2016)
SO RHP Josh Pettite (2016)
rSO RHP/C Andrew Dunlap (2016)
SR 1B Connor Tekyl (2016)
JR OF Charlie Warren (2016)
SR 2B/3B Grayson Lewis (2016)
JR OF Dayne Wunderlich (2016)
SR C Hunter Kopycinski (2016)
SO RHP/3B Dane Myers (2017)
SO RHP Glenn Otto (2017)
SO RHP Ricky Salinas (2017)
SO RHP Willy Amador (2017)
SO OF Ryan Chandler (2017)
SO SS/OF Tristan Gray (2017)
FR RHP Zach Esquival (2018)
FR RHP Brent Schwarz (2018)
FR SS Ford Proctor (2018)
FR INF Kendal Jefferies (2018)
FR C Dominic DiCaprio (2018)
FR C Gavin Johnson (2018)
FR RHP Jackson Parthasarathy (2018)

High Priority Follows: Jon Duplantier, Blake Fox, Austin Solecitto, Josh Pettite, Andrew Dunlap, Connor Tekyl, Charlie Warren, Grayson Lewis, Dayne Wunderlich, Hunter Kopycinski

Southern Mississippi

rSR RHP Cord Cockrell (2016)
rSR LHP Luke Lowery (2016)
rSR LHP Cody Livingston (2016)
SR RHP Jake Winston (2016)
SR RHP Nick Johnson (2016)
SR RHP Connor O’Brien (2016)
SR 1B Tim Lynch (2016)
JR C Chuckie Robinson (2016)
SR OF/3B Chase Scott (2016)
SR 2B Nick Dawson (2016)
JR OF/1B Dylan Burdeaux (2016)
SO LHP Kirk McCarty (2017)
SO 3B/RHP Taylor Braley (2017)
SO OF Daniel Keating (2017)
rFR 1B Hunter Slater (2017)
FR RHP Walker Powell (2018)

High Priority Follows: Cord Cockrell, Luke Lowery, Cody Livingston, Jake Winston, Nick Johnson, Connor O’Brien, Tim Lynch, Chuckie Robinson, Chase Scott

UAB

rJR LHP Dylan Munger (2016)
rJR RHP Cory Eller (2016)
JR LHP Thomas Lowery (2016)
rJR LHP Adam Lamar (2016)
rSR C Esteban Tresgallo (2016)
rSR OF Griffin Gum (2016)
SR C Mitch Williams (2016)
SR 2B/3B Evan Peterson (2016)
SR 2B/SS Adam Smith (2016)
SO LHP Ryan Ruggles (2017)
FR RHP Tanner Graham (2018)
FR RHP Garrett Whitlock (2018)
FR RHP Kyle Davis (2018)

High Priority Follows: Dylan Munger, Cory Eller, Thomas Lowery, Esteban Tresgallo, Griffin Gum

Texas-San Antonio

SR RHP Patrick Herbelin (2016)
JR RHP Andre Shewcraft (2016)
SR LHP Nolan Trabanino (2016)
SR RHP Aaron Burns (2016)
SR 3B/OF Geonte Jackson (2016)
SR 3B/SS Tyler Straub (2016)
SR C/OF Kevin Markham (2016)
SR OF Matt Hilston (2016)
JR 3B/SS CJ Pickering (2016)
JR OF JT Gilmore (2016)
SO RHP Chance Kirby (2017)
SO INF/RHP Ben Brookover (2017)
SO OF Trent Bowles (2017)

High Priority Follows: Patrick Herbelin, Geonte Jackson, Tyler Straub, Kevin Markham, Matt Hilston, CJ Pickering, JT Gilmore

Western Kentucky

SR LHP John Harman (2016)
SR LHP Austin King (2016)
rJR RHP Kevin Elder (2016)
SR RHP Josh Bartley (2016)
JR RHP Cody Coll (2016)
JR RHP Sam Higgs (2016)
JR RHP Ben Morrison (2016)
JR LHP Ryan Thurston (2016)
SR 3B Danny Hudzina (2016)
rJR 3B/SS Leiff Clarkson (2016)
rJR 1B Thomas Peter (2016)
rJR OF Zach Janes (2016)
JR C Hunter Wood (2016)
JR OF Paul Murray (2016)
rSO OF Harrison Scanlon (2016)
SO OF Kaleb Duckworth (2017)
SO INF Steven Kraft (2017)
FR SS Steven DiPuglia (2018)

High Priority Follows: Kevin Elder, Josh Bartley, Cody Coll, Ben Morrison, Danny Hudzina, Leiff Clarkson

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

Conference USA 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

Rice SR C John Clay Reeves
Florida Atlantic rSO 1B Esteban Puerta
Charlotte SR 2B Brad Elwood
Louisiana Tech rJR SS Taylor Love
Florida International JR 3B Edwin Rios
Florida Atlantic JR OF Brendon Sanger
Florida Atlantic JR OF Roman Collins
Middle Tennessee State JR OF Ronnie Jebavy

Rice SO RHP Jon Duplantier
Rice rJR RHP Jordan Stephens
Texas-San Antonio JR RHP Brock Hartson
Florida Atlantic JR RHP Seth McGarry
Rice rFR RHP Andrew Dunlap

A pair of solid senior signs in John Clay Reeves (Rice) and Michael Adkins (Middle Tennessee State) highlight Conference USA’s 2015 crop of draft-eligible catchers. Reeves is a mature defender with enough pop to profile somewhere between a fringe starter or high-level backup. As an elite defender and light bat, Adkins fits the more traditional future backup catcher profile. A gamble on upside at the position could lead you to rJR C Esteban Tresgallo (UAB), a steady glove with as yet unrealized promise at the plate. The Miami transfer held his own as a freshman (.243/.335/.379 in 140 AB), but almost two years of lost developmental time make him a far bigger mystery at this point than most (maybe all) fourth-year college players. It could be a good year for Estebans in C-USA as another hitter by the same first name ranks as my favorite first base prospect in the conference. That would be rSO 1B Esteban Puerta (Florida Atlantic), a smart, patient hitter with breakout potential. He gets the nod over a thin overall group, though the power upsides of JR 1B Ryne Dean (Marshall) and SR 1B Ryan Church (Western Kentucky) are fun to dream on.

Neither SR 2B/OF Brad Elwood (Charlotte) nor SR 2B/SS Ford Stainback (Rice) experienced the breakthrough junior season that many (like me) expected in 2014. Both players seemed on the verge of finding a way to combine their steady defense, plate discipline, and emerging pop into something draft-worthy, but saw their numbers take a dive in their first year of collegiate draft-eligibility. Elwood missed a significant portion of the season due to injury, so his dip in production can be more easily explained away; the clearer explanation as to why he slumped in 2014 is partially why I have him ahead of Stainback on this list. Another more substantial reason is Elwood’s edge in power, though neither player figures to have anything but below-average power as a professional. We’re now at over 100 words on two players with utility infielder ceilings with very long roads ahead to even get to that point, so let’s call it a day and move on.

I’m a big fan of rJR SS/2B Taylor Love (Louisiana Tech) for his blend of patience, speed, defense, and sneaky pop. Along with JR SS/OF Leon Byrd (Rice), he’s probably the player with the highest probability of reaching his destiny as a big league utility infielder on the list. Byrd has a strong argument for top prospect in the middle infield group due to his plus speed and positional versatility (2B, SS, CF). He has the exact type of skill set that is easy to see working in the big leagues for years. In between Love and Byrd stands rJR SS Jason McMurray (Old Dominion), a speculative inclusion that ranks highly for the overwhelmingly positive things I’ve heard about his power/speed mix.

Then there’s SR SS Julius Gaines (Florida International), a player that ranks among the most famous in all of college baseball for those that obsessively follow this stuff as much as I assume anybody currently reading does. Gaines has been on the prospect radar for as long as my sleep-deprived mind can remember. I actually had Gaines ranked as high as fifth among all college shortstops on a mid-season shortstop follow list from last year. That’s after having him ranked fifth in the 2011 HS shortstop rankings. It should be mentioned, however, that said list turned out to be littered with busts from every angle. I don’t even know how I’d answer if somebody asked me how to retroactively rank the HS shortstops from 2011. It would go Francisco Lindor (big gap), Trevor Story (another gap), and…somebody else. Chris Mariscal, maybe? Anyway, I think a lot of what was said about Gaines back in high school holds true today…

There are about a dozen prep shortstops who can realistically lay claim to “potential big league shortstop,” a statement that is more about their defensive futures than any kind of upside at the plate. When projecting shortstops long-term, defense is king. If there is one thing we are sure Gaines can do, it’s defense. How the bat develops is a whole other story, but his range and hands at short are so good that his hit tool is almost an afterthought. Almost.

Gaines can still field, throw, and run (though not as efficiently as you’d like to see), but the jury remains out on how much upside he brings with the stick. The track record to this point suggests his bat will keep his ultimate ceiling in utility infielder territory, but a big senior season could change smart minds in a hurry. I can’t personally talk about Gaines without mentioning that he was part of what I have to believe will go down as a historically great 2011 Boston Red Sox draft class. Matt Barnes, Blake Swihart, Henry Owens, Jackie Bradley, and Mookie Betts were all taken within Boston’s first eight picks. Underrated and potentially useful big leaguers Travis Shaw and Noe Ramirez (also within those first eight picks) were also brought into the fold. That class also produced one of the stronger things written on this site, though I don’t personally take much credit for seeing great things ahead then as it didn’t take a genius to appreciate what the Sox were doing in real time.

I’m very curious to see what path JR 3B/2B Edwin Rios eventually takes as he embarks on a pro career. He’s a viable defensive option at third, second, or a corner outfield spot, and the ability to play all those spots could be his ticket to a long career. I’ve gotten mixed reviews on his glove at each spot as some have argued him as a third baseman only (too slow for an outfield corner, not athletic enough for second), some have said he could work as a “big second baseman,” and others have lobbied for him moving out of the dirt entirely in order to fast track a bat that they believe in more than most. I’d send him out as a primary third baseman for now, but not before working him out at second to see what he’s got going on at the keystone up close. The bat should play quite nicely at either infield spot; so much so, in fact, that the argument that he could even profile as an average or better hitter as a left fielder is not without merit. Rios has many fans who swear by his hit tool and raw physical strength, but I’m a little hesitant (as always) to prop up a guy with so much swing-and-miss to his game. If Rios can clean up his approach a bit, then he could find himself in the top five round mix as a power bat with the chance to play an important defensive position. If not, then he’ll fall back into the much larger collection of big power/questionable approach hitters who may be a good pro hitting instructor away from figuring it out or…not. I lean towards the former since I’m a sunny optimist (and, more honestly, because a lot of smart people I know have vouched for Rios blowing up this year), so stay tuned.

Rios’ teammate at Florida International rSR 3B Josh Anderson is a pretty darn solid ballplayer in his own right. I’d actually go so far as to call him one of my favorite under-the-radar prospects in college ball and a potential high-level senior sign come June. He’s a natural born hitter with average raw power, average defense at third, above-average athleticism and a really strong arm. I haven’t seen or read anything about this, so consider it entirely my own speculation but I wonder if a team might draft him somewhere between rounds six to ten with the dual purpose of saving a little bit of money and stealing an undervalued asset who could be a prime candidate to convert to catching. Anderson is already 22, so maybe he’s past the age when a difficult position switch makes sense – calling a 22-year old “past the age…” when I’m 10 months short of 30 pains me, if you were wondering – but the physical profile, current defense skill set, and makeup all add up to a potentially very rewarding gamble. A player who has made the opposite move over the years, but should still receive draft consideration as a senior sign is SR 3B/1B Bre’shon Kimbell (Louisiana Tech). The former acclaimed high school catcher has had a career that oddly parallels the aforementioned Julius Gaines. Both Kimbell and Gaines went from serious high school prospects to big fish in relatively small ponds (no offense intended towards FIU and La Tech) before underwhelming on the whole during their time at school despite showing flashes of what made them so highly sought after once upon a time. Like Gaines, the quick report on Kimbell from high school holds true today…

Kimbell is unusually strong, very athletic, and a gifted defender. He also has shown big raw power in the past, but inconsistencies with his swing mechanics make his trips to the plate hit or miss, no pun intended. Some good pro coaching could turn him into a high level pro prospect in short order. Also, BreShon – a fella with a name like that is obviously destined for greatness, even though I sometimes read it as Bre$hon.

I’d most like to see a team go all-in on Kimbell one way or another. If that means moving him back behind the plate and doing whatever possible to make catching work for him, so be it. If it means fully embracing his weird but wonderful defensive profile (C, 1B/3B, LF/RF), then even better. Interestingly enough, the two names below Kimbell on this list could experience similar professional fates. JR 3B PJ Higgins and rJR 3B/SS Nick Lustrino (Old Dominion, both) are both multi-talented defenders capable of playing a variety of spots around the diamond. Higgins is the closer comparison as he’s seen as a potential C/2B/3B/OF at the next level. Lustrino is more of an infielder at present, but I’ve heard from interested observers who saw him dating back to his Temple days that he could be an interesting catching conversion project if he finds a team willing to take a risk on him.

SR OF Connor Barron completes the triumvirate of top notch high school prospects from 2011 turned last chance senior sign types in 2015. Barron, like Julius Gaines and Bre’Shon Kimbell before him, was a high school prospect that everybody knew and loved. He was a primary shortstop back in the day who just so happened to fall one spot behind Gaines on the 2011 HS shortstop rankings. Back then I’m fairly sure I was the low man on him out of just about anybody, but that was mostly the byproduct of me getting to him as a prospect kind of late and having less information on him than most of his peers. Here’s the old report…

It is easy to see why Barron has been one of the draft’s fastest risers this spring. He has great speed, a strong arm, and a big league frame that makes projecting his bat an easy relative to many of his draft class peers. The Reid Brignac comps are popular, and with good reason.

There were two truly embarrassing typos in the three quoted sentences above. Both were legitimate typing errors rather than me being an ungood writing guy, but still. I debated on whether to leave them or not before deciding to save myself some shame by fixing them. ANYWAY. Barron remains as tooled-up as ever, but the results to date have simply not been good. All those who saw him this past summer came away encouraged, so there’s hope yet that he’ll fulfill at least some of the promise he showed as a teen. Right now he’s the classic do-everything player who literally can do it all as a ballplayer….except hit. Years of experience following baseball has me convinced that – you might want to sit down for this revelation – hitting is a really, really important part of the game. If Barron’s progress is real, watch out. If not, then I think the smart thing to do is to spend a little time appreciating how fantastic an athlete he is while also contemplating how even athletes in the top .001% of the country’s population can struggle with a skill that I maintain is the hardest repeatable act in sport. Hitting is really, really hard. Anthony Hewitt, a plus-plus athlete with all-world makeup, defines this line of thought perfectly. Reflecting on this is what makes baseball such a great game.

JR OF/2B Brandon Sanger (Florida Atlantic) is a lot of fun to watch as a hitter. He’s a high-contact bat with above-average raw power and average or better speed. Beyond that, Sanger is the kind of player that is tough for me to write about because he’s just so darn well-rounded that his game borders on boring at times. He gets on base so often that you begin to take for granted his outstanding plate discipline. He wears out the gaps as well as almost any other hitter in the country. If he could be counted on playing average or better defense at second base professionally – and I’m not ruling this out, but hedging my bets with the corner outfield projection because that’s what people who have seen him more than I have recommended – then he’d be at or near the top of my list of “Why are we not including this guy among the nation’s best position player prospects?” players. As a corner outfielder he’s a little less exciting, but still one of my favorite bats to watch this spring.

If you’ve read previous lists, you might have come to realize that I don’t fear recent transfers who haven’t proven anything at the D1 level. The fact that this list features JR OF Roman Collins (Florida Atlantic) and JR OF Ronnie Jebavy (Middle Tennessee State) in the all-prospect outfield should reinforce the point. Collins is a guy who falls out of bed ready to hit each morning. I don’t doubt that his big raw power will continue to play against more advanced arms. Jebavy is best known for his extreme athleticism, speed, arm strength, and center field range. Both players haven’t done it on the big stage yet, but have shown enough ability over the years to earn their spot here.

Rice has some pitching. Let’s get that out of the way first. The rest of the conference has some quality arms – JR RHP Brock Hartson (Texas-San Antonio), JR RHP Kyle Miller (Florida Atlantic), rSO LHP Dylan Munger (UAB), and rSO RHP Gianni Zayas (Florida International) stand out as favorites – but it’s still Rice’s world and every other pitching staff is playing for second. SO RHP Jon Duplantier (Rice) has all the elements of a big league starting pitcher: size (6-4, 210), arm speed (87-94 FB, 95 peak), a varied and effective offspeed mix (good CU and CB, average but improving SL), and developing command. His control is the only thing at this point holding him back. rJR RHP Jordan Stephens (Rice) doesn’t have that problem, but instead faces questions about his return from Tommy John surgery and his relative lack of size and physicality (6-1, 185 pounds). If his curve finds its way back as he returns to full health, he’s got a shot to overtake Duplantier as the conference’s highest drafted arm. rFR RHP Andrew Dunlap (Rice) makes up for his lack of height (5-11, 210 pounds) and relative inexperience on the mound with a blazing fastball (lives mid-90s, 97-98 peak) that has proven unusually difficult to square up. rJR RHP Matt Ditman (Rice) doesn’t bring the same heat (upper-80s, mostly), but consistently has put up video game numbers (10.04 K/9 and 1.57 BB/9 with a 1.83 ERA in 68 IP last year) while leaning on a nasty spike-curve. A little bit further down the list are JR LHP Blake Fox (Rice) and JR RHP Kevin McCanna (Rice), a pair of pitchers that fit the textbook definition of “crafty” (mid-to upper-80s FB, offspeed pitches for days, love to work backwards, stellar command) down to the letter. SR RHP Trevor Teykl (Rice) is the last Owl listed, but there’s really no shame in that since he’d be many schools’ top 2015 pitching prospect. His size (6-7, 225 pounds), fastball (88-92), and results (8.54 K/9 and 1.62 BB/9 in 77 IP) all reflect well on his pro prospects.

Lighting round for the non-Rice arms of note! Hartson has an outstanding mid-80s changeup and overall profile that reminds me some of my old favorite Nick Tropeano. JR RHP Seth McGarry (Florida Atlantic) should be a quick-moving reliever with his power stuff (mid-90s FB, 97 peak and plus low-80s SL). Miller is a two-way player who hasn’t pitched a ton but has a fresh arm, plenty of athleticism, and has flashes a legit fastball (mid-90s) when given a shot. Munger is another crafty lefty with a good frame and really strong first year numbers. Zayas might be a little lost in the shuffle as an incoming transfer from NC State, but the possibility of three above-average or better pitches with solid command is in play.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Florida Atlantic JR OF/2B Brendon Sanger
  2. Florida Atlantic JR OF Roman Collins
  3. Florida International JR 3B/2B Edwin Rios
  4. Middle Tennessee State JR OF Ronnie Jebavy
  5. Florida International rSR 3B Josh Anderson
  6. Western Kentucky JR OF/LHP Anderson Miller
  7. Louisiana Tech rJR SS/2B Taylor Love
  8. Rice SR C John Clay Reeves
  9. Old Dominion rJR SS Jason McMurray
  10. Rice JR SS/OF Leon Byrd
  11. Florida International SR SS Julius Gaines
  12. Southern Mississippi SR OF Connor Barron
  13. Florida Atlantic JR OF Christian Dicks
  14. Southern Mississippi JR 3B/1B Chase Scott
  15. Louisiana Tech SR 3B/1B Bre’shon Kimbell
  16. Old Dominion SR OF/1B Taylor Ostrich
  17. Western Kentucky SR SS Cody Wofford
  18. Middle Tennessee State SR C/RHP Michael Adkins
  19. UAB rJR C Esteban Tresgallo
  20. Florida International SR OF/1B Brian Portelli
  21. Old Dominion JR 3B PJ Higgins
  22. Old Dominion rJR 3B/SS Nick Lustrino
  23. Charlotte SR 2B/OF Brad Elwood
  24. Rice SR 2B/SS Ford Stainback
  25. Rice SR OF/1B Kirby Taylor
  26. Florida Atlantic SR SS Ricky Santiago
  27. Charlotte SR SS Derek Gallelo
  28. Florida Atlantic rSO 1B Esteban Puerta
  29. Marshall JR 1B Ryne Dean
  30. Western Kentucky SR 1B Ryan Church
  31. Middle Tennessee State SR SS Austin Bryant
  32. Western Kentucky rSR C Ryan Messex
  33. UAB JR C Mitch Williams
  34. Southern Mississippi SR C Austin Roussel
  35. Middle Tennessee State SR SS Dustin Delgado
  36. Southern Mississippi JR SS/1B Tim Lynch

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

  1. Rice SO RHP Jon Duplantier
  2. Rice rJR RHP Jordan Stephens
  3. Texas-San Antonio JR RHP Brock Hartson
  4. Florida Atlantic JR RHP Seth McGarry
  5. Rice rFR RHP/C Andrew Dunlap
  6. Rice rJR RHP Matt Ditman
  7. Florida Atlantic JR RHP Kyle Miller
  8. UAB rSO LHP Dylan Munger
  9. Rice JR LHP Blake Fox
  10. Rice JR RHP Kevin McCanna
  11. Middle Tennessee State SR LHP Johnathan Frebis
  12. Middle Tennessee State JR RHP/OF Heath Slatton
  13. Marshall JR RHP Chase Boster
  14. Rice SR RHP Trevor Teykl
  15. Southern Mississippi SR RHP Christian Talley
  16. Southern Mississippi rJR LHP Cody Livingston
  17. Marshall rSR RHP Kolin Stanley
  18. Marshall JR RHP Michael Taylor
  19. Florida International rSO RHP Gianni Zayas
  20. Middle Tennessee State JR RHP Garrett Ring
  21. Middle Tennessee State rSR RHP Keaton Baker
  22. Southern Mississippi rJR RHP/3B James McMahon
  23. Florida International JR LHP Brandon Diaz
  24. Middle Tennessee State rJR LHP Brandon Zajac
  25. Rice JR RHP Ryan McCarthy
  26. Charlotte JR RHP Brandon Casas
  27. Florida Atlantic SR RHP Drew Jackson
  28. Florida Atlantic SR RHP Cody Mizelle
  29. Charlotte rSO LHP Sean Geoghegan
  30. Charlotte JR RHP Micah Wells
  31. Florida Atlantic SR RHP Reily Monkman
  32. Florida Atlantic rSR LHP Bo Logan
  33. Marshall JR LHP Sam Hunter
  34. Rice JR RHP Austin Orewiler
  35. UAB SR RHP Alex Luna