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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Los Angeles Dodgers

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Los Angeles in 2016

34 – Jordan Sheffield
41 – Will Smith
73 – Gavin Lux
173 – Dustin May
238 – Devin Smeltzer
303 – DJ Peters
322 – Kevin Lachance
447 – Andre Scrubb
463 – Errol Robinson

Complete List of 2016 Los Angeles Dodgers Draftees

1.20 – SS Gavin Lux

(This is one of my more meandering first round pick breakdowns, so bear with me here. Something about Gavin Lux has me more turned around than I’m used to. Let’s try to figure this one out together…)

Many smart people were on Gavin Lux (73) going back well over a year. I wish I had listened to them. If not them, I should have at least listened to myself…

I’m a huge fan of Gavin Lux and think he could wind up in the first round conversation come June.

That was me in December 2015. Then six months later…

Lux is a really intriguing young hitter with the chance to come out of this draft as arguably the best all-around hitter (contact, pop, patience) in this high school class. That may be a bit rich, but I’d at least say his straight hit tool ranks only below Mickey Moniak, Carlos Cortes, and Joe Rizzo. If his bat plays above-average in all three phases – he could/should be there with contact and approach while his raw power floats somewhere in that average to above-average range – then he’d certainly be in the mix. A fun name that I’ve heard on Lux that may or may not have been influenced by geography: a bigger, stronger Scooter Gennett. Here’s some of what Baseball America had on Gennett in his draft year…

He profiles as an offensive second baseman, while Florida State intends for him to start at shortstop as a freshman. He’s a grinder with surprising power and bat speed for his size (a listed 5-foot-10, 170 pounds), and though he can be streaky, his bat is his best tool. He’s a better runner on the field than in showcase events, but he’s closer to average than above-average in that department. Defensively he gets the most of his ability, with his range and arm better suited for the right side of the infield than the left. He’s agile, though, and a solid athlete. Gennett would be a crucial get for Florida State, if he gets there. Most scouts consider him a third-to-fifth round talent.

A bigger, stronger, and arguably better (especially when likelihood to stick at short is factored in) Gennett feels about right, both in terms of draft stock (second to fourth round talent, maybe with a shot to sneak into the late first) and potential pro outcome. It should be noted that Lux’s defensive future is somewhat in flux. I think he’s athletic enough with enough arm to stick at short for a while, but there are many others who think he’s got second base written all over him. A lot of that likely has to do with his arm – it’s looked strong to me with a really quick release, but there’s debate on that – so I’d bet that there’s little consensus from team to team about his long-term position. Teams that like him to pick him high in the draft will like him best as a shortstop, so it’s my hunch that he’ll at least get a shot to play in the six-spot as a pro to begin his career.

Because I’m a completist, here’s a Gennett (top) and Lux (bottom) first year in pro ball comparison…

.309/.354/.463 with 5.9 BB% and 17.3 K% in 525 PA
.296/.375/.399 with 11.1 BB% and 20.2 K% in 253 PA

This doesn’t tell you much as we’re comparing Gennett’s first full year in low-A as a 20-year-old (he didn’t play after signing late in 2009) with Lux’s age-18 season in rookie ball, but, like I said, I’m a completist. Now that’s complete, at least for now.

As for Lux, the guy checks every box from a physical standpoint and his feel for hitting is damn impressive. He’s a deceptively high floor player (a 2016 MLB Draft theme I’ve been pushing of late) because his defense is either going to be good enough for shortstop or very good at second or possibly center. There’s really nothing not to like here. I’m trying to go back and audit my rankings some to figure out why I did what I did in some spots, and all I can figure with Lux is that the general dearth of quality shortstops in this class actually caused me to move everybody at short down rather than push up the top guys. Lux wound up ranking behind only Delvin Perez and Carter Kieboom among all shortstops in this class, yet he still barely cracked my top 75. Seems silly in hindsight considering the importance of the position. Another reason why I think Lux fell on my board is because I saw that top 75 or so as particularly strong. There were a few drop-off points that you could make into separate tiers along the way, but I think the truly elite draft prospects began to peter out right around 75. I don’t know what it means exactly, but players ranked 71st (Christian Jones), 72nd (TJ Collett), 74th (Austin Bergner), Charles King (75), Jeff Belge (78), Tyler Lawrence (80), Nick Lodolo (84), and Roberto Peto (85) all can be found at a local college near you this spring. I switched what went in the parentheses mid-sentence there, but I think the confusion fits the general feeling of this section so I’ll leave it. Plus, I’m lazy.

Of course, I’m not trying to completely walk back the ranking. I think the Dodgers made a good pick here because a) there were close to fifty players (at least) available at pick 20 that would have been easily justifiable in that spot, and b) I can admit that my evaluations, while obviously brilliant, are not the final word. I’m still not entirely sold on Lux hitting enough to be an impact regular and much of the feedback I’ve gotten on his arm puts him as a second baseman over the long haul. Part of what I missed in my pre-draft evaluation was that Lux could be a pretty useful player — and a guy worthy of a pick in the mid- to late-first round — even if the bat isn’t all it can be and he has to move off of shortstop. That’s big. High ceiling/moderate floor hitters typically find a home in the mid-first round, just as Lux did. I get it now.

1.32 – C Will Smith

If you toss out Zack Collins and Matt Thaiss for defensive reasons, you could make a case for Will Smith (41) as the draft’s top college catching prospect. I had him right behind Sean Murphy (longer track record), but it was pretty much a coin flip. Slick grab by Los Angeles here to nab their catcher of the future. Still, it’s a little odd to me to see the Dodgers use a premium pick on a player with a profile so similar to a minor league player they seem unwilling to give extended playing time at the big league level — note to 29 MLB teams: trade for Austin Barnes while you can — but what do I know. Let’s look at some college numbers for fun…

.308/.379/.429 with 30 BB/29 K in 312 AB
.291/.392/.410 with 48 BB/50 K in 412 AB

Top was Barnes at Arizona State, bottom was Will Smith at Louisville. Smith went off in his junior year in a way that Barnes never did — .382/.480/.567 with 19 BB/14 K — and is the better all-around defensive player, but the numbers are still pretty interesting. Also interesting was the way Smith was used by the Dodgers in his debut: 39 games at catcher, 8 games at third, and 6 games at second. That usage feels a little Austin Barnes-ish, doesn’t it? Clearly Los Angeles values that skill set. Something to consider going forward.

As for Smith, that aforementioned junior year explosion clearly paid a large part in his selection. That’s a good thing, clearly, but also a bit of a red flag. Most college hitters taken in the top one hundred picks or so have extended track records of success. Smith didn’t do much his freshman year in 77 AB, upped his power slightly in 2015, and then had the monster junior season. That’s one concern. Another would be Smith’s lack of a clear carrying tool. He’s a really good runner — and not just for a catcher! — and his approach is beyond reproach, but you’re probably hoping for an average hit/average power offensive game at best. That’s the negative portion of our Will Smith section. I mean, it’s not even all that negative — who wouldn’t be intrigued by an average offensive catcher? — but it’s negative by my alleged Pollyanna standards. Now let’s get into some good news.

I’ve heard three names for Smith that could make for intriguing career arcs. I think the first two work best when combined: Jason Kendall and Brad Ausmus. I’d put Smith in between those two in terms of physical ability, so maybe something like .275/.350/.375 with around a dozen steals a year (or a Kendall/Ausmus 162-game average middle ground) would be a fair ceiling. That’s not entirely dissimilar to what Carlos Ruiz has done in his career. Ruiz with speed is something I could buy. A little more power that pushes him to that .275/.350/.400 range feels right to me. The third comp besides Kendall/Ausmus was fellow prospect Chance Sisco. You’d get more speed and less hit with Smith, but it’s not too far off the mark. A .260ish hitter with double-digit homers (close to that 50 hit/50 power expectation) and steals with crazy athleticism behind the plate is a really nice player.

1.36 – RHP Jordan Sheffield

On Jordan Sheffield (34) from May 2016…

For as much as we as fans, writers, and/or internet scouts want to believe otherwise, prospects don’t really have anything to prove to anybody. Control what you can control on the field and let the chips fall where they may beyond that. Having said that, the young Vanderbilt righthander has done just about everything I had hoped to see out of him in 2016. Others may still have questions about how his command and smaller stature will hold up pitching every fifth day professionally – perfectly valid concerns, for what it’s worth – but I’m personally all-in on Sheffield as a starting pitching prospect. He knows how to pitch off the fastball (if anything you can make the case he falls in love with it at times), his curve and/or his change can serve as an above-average to plus pitch on any given day, and his junior year leap can’t be ignored. Let’s look at the pre-season take…

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.

…so that we can revisit that lazy comp. By the numbers, here’s what we’ve got…

11.09 K/9 – 3.31 BB/9 – 2.29 ERA – 70.2 IP
9.67 K/9 – 2.44 BB/9 – 2.26 ERA – 103.1 IP

Top is Sheffield so far, bottom is Tate’s draft year. I asked around and nobody particularly liked the Tate comparison, but more because of the belief that Sheffield is a fairly unique pitcher than that it’s a bad comp. The only alternate name I heard was a tepid Edinson Volquez 2.0 endorsement. I actually kind of dig that one. At the same age, Volquez was listed at a mere 6-1, 160 pounds, a far cry from his current listed 6-0, 220 pounds. He was known back then for his electric fastball (check), plus changeup (check), and above-average slider, a pitch that eventually morphed into his present above-average curve (check). I can definitely some young Volquez in Sheffield’s game.

Again, as a completist I’m obligated to update you on Sheffield’s final 2016 numbers…

10.00 K/9 – 3.54 BB/9 – 3.01 ERA – 101.2 IP

Similar strikeouts to Tate with an extra walk per nine and a little less in the way of run prevention. It was an imperfect comp from the start, so, you know, no harm no foul. I still like the Volquez the comp, especially the 2008 version of Volquez. You could also draw some parallels between Sheffield and Volquez’s teammate in Kansas City, Yordano Ventura. Electric fastball, two offspeed pitches he can get swings and misses with, and inconsistent at best command of it all. Sheffield will be a good, if occasionally frustrating, pitcher to watch over the next decade plus.

2.65 – RHP Mitchell White

Let’s talk a little about how amazing Mitchell White’s debut with the Dodgers organization turned out. First, the most basic of exciting peripherals: White struck out 12.27 batters per nine and walked 2.45 batters per nine in 22.0 innings across three levels, the majority of which were spent in Low-A. His combined WHIP during those 22.0 IP: 0.59. That’s seven hits allowed to go along with those six walks in his twenty-two innings. Via the great MLB Farm, 31 of the 44 (70.45%) recorded batted balls against him as a pro were hit on the ground. Also via MLB Farm, White threw 278 pitches in his 22.0 innings. That’s 12.64 pitches thrown per inning worked. Only one qualified pitcher in baseball (Ivan Nova at 14.26 P/IP) came within two pitches of that. I don’t really know what that means or if there’s any predictive value there, but it’s pretty cool to me.

That was fun. Now for something less fun. Let’s talk about why Mitchell White, the sixty-fifth player selected in the 2016 MLB Draft, didn’t make my top 500. Off the top, I’ll admit that I goofed. What I had on his stuff — 87-93 FB, above-average SL, above-average cutter — and his size (6-4, 210) and his track record (11.25 K/9 in 2015, 11.54 K/9 in 2016) all should have been enough to get ranked. Heck, I even wrote this about him back in March…

Mitchell White is a redshirt-sophomore with a fastball that dances (87-93 with serious movement), an above-average slider, and an intriguing cutter. On his best days, the three pitches seem to morph into one unhittable to square up offering. I like him a whole heck of a lot right now.

Not ranking him was a clear oversight on my part. That said, I also missed on him in part because what I had on him was increasingly dated information. Every start White made from about midway through the year onward revealed something new about his repertoire. I literally couldn’t keep up with him past a certain point in the season. If that’s not the definition of an ascending talent, then I’m not sure what is. Dodgers fans should be really excited about this guy.

3.101 – RHP Dustin May

If you can tell me what 6-6, 180 pound righthander Dustin May (173) is going to look like three to five years down the line, then do yourself a favor and play your lucky numbers in tonight’s lottery. If I’ve learned but one thing in the eight drafts I’ve covered since starting this site, it’s that the path for any prep righthander from boy to man is rife with twists and turns. Figuring out which young pitcher is going to blossom into an effective professional — let alone a star — can feel like equal parts art, science, and fortune. Sometimes it feels like the only way you can guarantee success in the high school pitching racket is to try, try, try and then try again. Little of this has to do with Dustin May specifically, save for the fact that the long and lean Texan’s listed 6-6, 180 pound frame makes him the unofficial poster boy for non-first round but still early round high school projection picks.

May’s awesome start to his pro career (10.09 K/9 and 1.19 BB/9 in 30.1 IP) and quality present stuff that includes an already solid fastball (87-91, 93 peak) and a pair of breaking balls with promise (79-81 SL, 72-76 CB) gives him a fantastic starting point to work from even if some of that promised projection never quite comes as hoped. May was described to me over the summer as a prospect who might be little more than a consistent refined breaking ball, effective changeup, and a few ticks on the fastball away from really skyrocketed up prospect lists. Well, sure, is that all it will take? I mean, just give me those three things and I guarantee I’d be a #1 starter. But the reason why it makes sense to set such a lofty goal for May is that those benchmarks are well within his reach. He’s really, really close to potentially putting it all together. And, if he doesn’t put it ALL together, then he’s still got a great shot of putting most of it together. Or at least some of it.

As I wrote about in the Brandon Marsh section in the Angels review, I think boom/bust prospects — a designation often ascribed to prep pitchers — aren’t quite as boom/bust as they may seem at face value. Guys are typically called boom/bust types when they have obvious physical gifts and equally obvious distance to cover in putting those gifts to use on the diamond. What is often missed is that just having those gifts in the first place can literally be enough to get you to the big leagues; we can crack wise about how velocity-obsessed we are now, but if you can hit upper-90s (even if it’s straight and your secondaries are iffy and your control isn’t great) then your chances of at least reaching AAA, a level you’re literally just a phone call from the big leagues, are high. Same thing if you’re like the aforementioned Marsh (or any other toolsy prep position player prospect who can run and defend): you don’t have to profile as a .300 hitter or a 20+ homer threat if you can do other valuable things that fill a role.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I think Dustin May, assuming decent health, will pitch in the big leagues in some capacity before he decides to hang up his cleats. A perfect outcome could lead to him starting playoff games at or near the top of a rotation. A more likely outcome would be a long career as a mid-rotation starter with flashes of better mixed in along the way. A less good (but still fine!) outcome would be pitching out of the bullpen or as an up-and-down fifth starter who teases with his stuff but is never fully able to have everything working for him at the same time for an extended stretch.

(This ridiculous tweet was supposed to be linked to that #1 starter joke above, but WordPress embedded it instead. You get the idea.)

4.131 – OF DJ Peters

Hold on, let me write an email real quick to a buddy of mine who is always on the lookout for some minor league fantasy sleepers. Don’t mind me, it’ll only take a minute…

Here’s a guy you might like. DJ Peters from Western Nevada CC. Fourth round pick of the Dodgers. Great size (6-6, 225), good approach, solid defender in a corner, plus arm, average speed, and at least above-average raw power. Hit .419/.510/.734 with 34 BB/33 K and 7/10 SB in 203 AB at Western Nevada. Then he hit .351/.437/.615 with 11.6 BB% and 21.9 K% in 302 PA in rookie ball. He’ll be 21-years-old in December and should start next season in the Midwest League. Looks like the prototypical right field prospect to me and potentially a really good one at that. Kicking myself for ranking him so low (303) back in June.

Back! Fantasy is fantasy, but there’s obviously some real crossover when it comes to assessing a player’s future value. My friend in particular is always on the hunt for the three P’s: power, patience, and position. Peters hits on all three. And his name begins with a P! Illuminati? Probably. I like this pick a lot.

5.161 – LHP Devin Smeltzer

If deception is your thing, then prepare to enjoy the work of Devin Smeltzer (238) quite a bit. The 6-2, 180 pound lefthander has a delivery that makes it really tough to pick up the ball until it’s almost too late. Smeltzer also has outstanding command of his fastball, a pitch that he’ll throw at any speed between 85-91 with very rare dalliances all the way up to the mid-90s. He throws both a mid-80s cut-slider (flashes plus) and an average or better true slider (76-82), as well as a slower curve and a low-80s change. I’ve been slow to embrace Smeltzer in the past, but I think I’m ready now. Streamlining his repertoire and continuing to put good weight on could make him a potential mid-rotation arm in the big leagues.

6.191 – SS Errol Robinson

The tools are clearly there for Errol Robinson (463) to have a long, successful big league career. Knowing that makes this pick worth it right off the top. Having a developmental plan in place to help Robinson bridge the gap from said tools to consistent effective on-field performances could make this pick a smashing success. I have little doubt that Robinson can at least have a long career in pro ball due to the strength of his glove, speed, athleticism, and willingness to work deep counts, but assessing his upside is tricky from the outside looking in. It’s a cop-out to be sure, but so much of what will happen next with Robinson will depend on Robinson. Well, Robinson and Los Angeles’s minor league staff tasked with working with Robinson. This is obviously true of any draft pick — attempting to tease out the amateur evaluation side of drafting with eventual pro development is impossible, a conclusion that makes grading drafts years after the fact an exercise in missing information — but I think it’s more true of some guys, like Robinson for one, than others.

Lack of pop could mean the difference between a potential career arc of utility work versus getting regular time up the middle, but I keep coming back to Robinson’s pro debut (.282/.336/.395) as a potential sign of things to come. Predicting a player’s rookie ball stats will wind up aligning with his upside as a big league hitter might be silly, but, if you’re willing to go out on that limb with me, projecting a future somewhere in the Jordy Mercer universe (more speed, less strength) doesn’t feel out of line.

7.221 – OF Luke Raley

Luke Raley was a career .379/.471/.654 (56 BB/42 K) hitter at Lake Erie College with 27/33 SB. That line included a junior year that saw him hit a robust .424/.528/.747 (28 BB/11 K) in 158 AB. He seemed to come by those numbers honestly, too: his average led the team by 45 points and his OBP was best by 99 points. Guys who hit like Raley did at whatever level they are at deserve attention, so I’m glad the Dodgers dug deep in finding him. And I’m a little annoyed I missed on him. I’ll be watching his career closely. Incidentally, I really wanted Lake Erie College to be super close to the Dodgers low-A affiliate (Great Lake Loons), but, alas, my geographical hunch proved incorrect. The two locations are almost five hours apart. Would have been nice for him to get some “home” games in after being drafted. “I like him better than [Ryan] Rua,” was the only bit of info I could grab on Raley post-draft outside of the quoted stats above.

8.251 – RHP Andre Scrubb

Andre Scrubb (447) has it in him to be a quick-moving reliever now that he’s entered pro ball. From February 2016…

Scrubb’s heft and arm action have me leaning towards more of a bullpen future for him – fair or not – but he can throw two breaking balls for strikes, so starting as a pro shouldn’t be off the table. He’s coming off a really impressive 2015 season, so I could see teams that value performance giving him the edge.

He followed up his strong 2015 with a very interesting 2016 campaign. His strikeouts were up (11.43 K/9 from 8.00 K/9), his walks were up (6.57 BB/9 from 3.17 BB/9, though closer to his freshman year mark of 6.25 BB/9), and his ERA just about doubled (2.50 ERA to a 4.86 ERA). So, some good and some not so good there. Most importantly, his stuff remained strong. His heater continued to be a weapon (88-94, up to 96 in relief) and his breaking ball flashes plus (hard curve that might as well be a slider at this point). It’s easy to see it all working as an effective yet frustrating big league reliever. You’ll get your strikeouts, ground balls, and walks as Scrubb does the tightrope thing for years to come.

9.281 – RHP Anthony Gonsolin

Two-way players have always fascinated me. Good two-way players that profile both offensively and on the mound in the pros are even better. That’s Anthony Gonsolin, a righthanded pitcher/outfielder from St. Mary’s that generated as close to a 50/50 split among those “in the know” I talked to pre-draft as to what side of the ball he’d play as a pro. As a position player, Gonsolin could run, throw, and hit a mistake a long way. That’s all on the back burner for now as the Dodgers made the wise choice to see what he’s got on the mound first. With a fastball up to 95 (90-94 mostly) and a quality upper-70s curve, he’s got the one-two punch needed to pitch in middle relief someday. It’s not a thrilling profile at face value, but the hope that comes with any two-way player giving up hitting for pitching (the preferred two-way move, all else being equal) taking a leap forward on the mound could mean there’s still some hidden value left in Gonsolin’s right arm.

10.311 – SS Kevin Lachance

Kevin Lachance (322) is a quality senior-sign who agreed to terms with the Dodgers for the low low price of $2,500. I’m a little skeptical that his senior year power spike was anything more than a typical senior year power spike (ISO by year: .098, .044, .085, .166), but that doesn’t mean Lachance can’t have a long pro career as a utility infielder who can run, capably defend multiple spots (arm is a touch stretched for the left side, but it should do in a pinch), and sneak his fair share of mistakes into the gaps.

11.341 – RHP AJ Alexy

AJ Alexy played his high school ball about 45 minutes west of me at Twin Valley HS. I saw him throw once in January and then again during the spring season. He’s pretty good. The 164-Pitch Man has an upper-80s fastball (up to 92), a low-70s curve that steadily improved as the season went on, and a usable changeup that could be a decent third pitch in time. I didn’t see him drop the occasional knuckleball in, but I certainly heard plenty about it. All in all, Alexy is your typical high school righthander with solid present stuff, a frame (6-4, 190) you can project some additional growth on, and a cold weather/non-baseball background that could indicate some hidden value to come.

13.401 – OF Cody Thomas

On Cody Thomas from April 2016…

When it comes to straight draft intrigue, few players in this class can match Oklahoma outfielder Cody Thomas. With Thomas you’d essentially be drafting a high school player in terms of experience and present skill levels, but the upside is very real. Size, athleticism, power, arm strength, speed…if he can hit, a significant if, then he’s a potential monster.

His pro debut was Cody Thomas in a nutshell: prodigious power, impressive speed, lots of swing-and-miss. He’s still a big project, but the payoff could be huge.

14.431 – RHP Dean Kremer

Dean Kremer’s unspectacular sophomore year (5.03 K/9 and 2.50 BB/9) at UNLV felt like it could be enough to keep him in school another year, but the Dodgers clearly felt differently. If his pro debut is any indication (9.97 K/9 and 1.99 BB/9), then they know what they are doing. Perhaps they focused more on his emerging velocity (low-90s, up to 95), depth of offspeed stuff (CB, SL, CU), and relative youth (he won’t turn 21 until January) than his iffy peripherals. He’ll have the advantage (and pressure) of a built-in fan base in pro ball as Kremer is the first Israeli citizen drafted and signed by a MLB team. I’m personally looking forward to dropping that fact on my Jewish in-laws at Thanksgiving this year. Or not, if they read the site between now and then. They don’t, though. Let’s not kid ourselves.

15.461 – OF Brayan Morales

Brayan Morales hit .354/.425/.566 with 19 BB/28 K and 24/32 SB in 218 PA at Hillsborough CC this past spring. That’s all I’ve got.

16.491 – OF Darien Tubbs

Fun little tidbit (in bold for you convenience) from the January 2016 piece on Darien Tubbs…

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

The Dodgers went on to draft Jenco eight rounds later! Neat. Tubbs went on to have a junior season just a hair worse across the board than his breakout sophomore season, but he still flashed all the of the positive traits (speed, range, occasional pop) that made him a noteworthy prospect in the first place. Fourth outfielder upside if it all keeps clicking for him.

19.581 – RHP Chris Mathewson

This one makes me mad. I wrote 3811 words about the Big West’s 2016 MLB Draft prospects this past March. I felt really good about it. The piece originally was a few hundred words longer, but I cut out a section on Chris Mathewson. Despite hearing that he was 2016 draft-eligible (forget where I heard it, but I know I did), I cut him out. The reason for this was simple: I reached out to a pretty solid contact who absolutely should have known definitively one way or another about Mathewson’s draft eligibility, and was told he was a 2017 guy. I was still skeptical because I knew I had heard otherwise (really wish I could remember where), so I checked into it myself. He was drafted in 2014 out of high school. He spent two years at Long Beach State without redshirting. He wouldn’t be turning 21-years-old until a month before the 2017 MLB Draft, much like many of his age-appropriate sophomore year classmates. What was I missing? Heck, what am I currently missing? I can’t figure out for the life of me why Chris Mathewson was eligible for the 2016 MLB Draft. Anybody?

Anyway, Mathewson is a good pitching prospect and an absolute steal at this stage in the draft. His fastball is all over the place — I have readings that hit every number from 85-95, though I’d put him in the 86-90 (92 peak) range for now if I had to make a judgment call on the pitch — and his 78-82 MPH breaking ball could be a real weapon in time. Add in an average or so changeup and a sturdy (if not filled out already) 6-1, 200 pound frame, and you’ve got a potential average big league starter. I forget the exact nature of the comp, but I recall Sam Monroy dropping Vicente Padilla’s name when writing about Mathewson this past spring. I like that one.

20.611 – 3B Brock Carpenter

There’s a lot to like about Brock Carpenter’s game. His strong arm is the first thing that jumps out at you with his intriguing power upside and physical 6-3, 200 pound frame coming in neck-and-neck for second. He’ll work lots of deep counts and pile up the walks (and strikeouts) that come with such an approach. All in all, it’s a nice package in the twentieth round, especially if you’re a believer in him as a long-term defender at third.

21.641 – RHP James Carter

On James Carter from March 2016…

James Carter brings pinpoint fastball command of a pitch that also hits 94 (88-92 otherwise); he’s still on the mend from 2015 Tommy John surgery, but I could see a team that’s done a deep dive on him prior to the elbow explosion keeping interest in him through the ups and downs of recovery.

It only makes sense that a team based out of Los Angeles would take a talented but underexposed (15.2 college IP since start of 2015) pitching prospect out of UC Santa Barbara. Sometimes geographical proximity can be a really good thing. A healthy Carter could move very quickly through the low-minors.

22.671 – RHP Jeff Paschke

From UC Santa Barbara to USC, the Dodgers stay at home with the selection of Jeff Paschke in the twenty-second round. Paschke, a legit two-way prospect in his high school days, is still in the early stages of his pitching development, but any pro coach would be happy to work with a 6-5, 215 pound righthander with a fastball up to 95 (87-93 normally), a steadily improving low-80s slider, and plenty of athleticism. It’s another homer pick by the Dodgers, but, like the James Carter selection one round earlier, it’s another good one.

24.731 – OF Saige Jenco

Saige Jenco just missed out on the top 500 this year, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a big personal favorite. Jenco, the 494th ranked draft prospect in the 2015 MLB Draft per this very site, is a lot of fun to watch. Here’s some history on him, first going back to December 2014…

rSO OF Saige Jenco is a really good ballplayer. His plus to plus-plus speed is a game-changing tool, and, best of all, his understanding of how and when to utilize his special gift helps it play up even more. It’s rare to find a young player who knows what kind of player he truly is; the ability to play within yourself is so often overlooked by those scouring the nation for potential pros, but it can be the difference between a guy who gets by and a guy who gets the most out of his ability. Jenco knows how and when to use his speed to every advantage possible. From running down mistakes in the outfield, swiping bags at a solid rate, working deep counts and driving pitchers to frustration (40 BB/23 K), to knowing adopting the swing and approach of a power hitter would lead to ruin, Jenco fully understands and appreciates his strengths and weaknesses. While it’s true the lack of present power is a significant weakness (.032 ISO is mind-boggling low), Jenco’s strengths remain more interesting than what he can’t do well. A career along the lines of Ben Revere, Juan Pierre, Dee Gordon, or Craig Gentry, who had an ISO of just .087 in his junior year at Arkansas before returning for a senior season that helped him show off enough of a power spike (.167 ISO) to get drafted as a $10,000 senior sign, is on the table with continued growth.

We checked back in on Jenco again in January 2016…

Jenco followed the Gentry college career path fairly well by putting up an improved .136 ISO last year. The Red Sox couldn’t get him to put his name on a pro contract last summer and their loss is the Hokies gain. Not much has changed in his overall profile from a year ago — he’s still fast, he still has an advanced approach, he can still chase down deep flies in center — so the ceiling of a fourth outfielder remains. Of course, guys with fourth outfielder ceilings with similar skill sets (speed, patience, defense) have turned into starting players for some teams as the dearth of power in the modern game has shifted the balance back to the Jenco’s of the world.

Not all of these guys are great examples of that archetype, but a quick search of 2015 seasons of corner outfielders (200 PA minimum) who slugged less than .400 but still finished with positive fWAR includes Brett Gardner, Nori Aoki, Jarrod Dyson, Ben Revere, Delino Deshields, Rusney Castillo, and Chris Denorfia. David DeJesus, a pretty good tweener who feels like a really good fourth outfielder or a competent starting corner guy that is often one of the first names I think of when I think of this type, fell just short of the list. I’m not necessarily comparing Jenco to any of those guys — while some of those guys are great in a corner and stretched in center, Jenco is really good as a CF — so consider this more of an exercise in theoretical player comparisons as we attempt to define the various types of players that teams seem to like these days. As far as comps go, I’ll stick with my Gentry one for now.

Let’s check on that Craig Gentry comp now that Jenco has some pro data to go on…

.308/.395/.422 in 248 PA with 22/23 SB (11.7 BB% and 16.5 K%)
.281/.350/.385 in 246 PA with 20/26 SB (3.7 BB% and 15.0 K%)

Top was Jenco’s debut, bottom was Gentry’s. Jenco did his while younger and at a level higher than Gentry, FWIW. I still think a career approximating Gentry’s would be a more than acceptable outcome for the perpetually underrated Jenco. After all, Gentry has played over 450 games in the big leagues and pocketed over $5 million for his hard work. If the Dodgers get that out of a twenty-fourth round pick, then that’s a major win.

25.761 – RHP Chandler Eden

There are notes on the site that follow Chandler Eden from high school to junior college to his final stop at a four-year college. A well-traveled arm like his — Oregon State to Yavapai to Texas Tech — can sometimes be viewed in one of two ways. The pessimistic view is that all that movement means Eden’s never been able to settle down in one spot and make one school his true home away from home. Without knowing the exact reasons for a given player’s thought processes that lead them to each transfer, it’s useless to speculate. That’s why I opt for the optimistic view: three college stops just means that Eden is a talented guy that’s frequently in demand. From a straight stuff standpoint, such a description certainly fits the thrice-drafted Eden. His fastball is a knockout offering (90-95, 97 peak), his 75-80 MPH breaking ball is easily above-average when right (often better than that, too), and he can even mix in a usable change when he’s really feeling it.

So, how does a player like that wind up in a round like this? Control, or a serious lack thereof. Eden’s busiest year was his 2015 season at Yavapai. That year he tossed 41 innings with a BB/9 of 7.90. Yikes. He followed that up with an insane season line at Texas Tech: 9 IP 8 H 8 ER 7 BB 10 K. But that’s not all! He also threw 12 wild pitches, hit 8 batters, and even added in a balk for good measure. I’m not even mad at that line; that’s amazing. A complete overhaul of Eden at the pro level that magically fixes his control woes (an obvious super-duper long shot) would be fantastic, but it doesn’t even have to be that drastic. Just a little bit more control would still make him a potentially lethal late-inning option. Easy to say here, but far more difficult to actually pull off with a real living breathing human baseball player. I would have loved to have been there for the first conversation between the amateur draft side of the Dodgers organization and the lucky player development staffers tasked with “fixing” Eden. Whether or works out or not — I’m oddly bullish, for what it’s worth — those coaches all deserve a raise.

26.791 – 2B Brandon Montgomery

Love this one. Brandon Montgomery makes a ton of contact. Brandon Montgomery has some serious juice in his bat. Brandon Montgomery can run. That’s a heck of an enticing prospect starter’s kit, especially in round twenty-six. Montgomery played both second base and center field in his debut. Keeping him in the infield is obviously ideal, but the thought of him using his plus speed to run down balls in center is a pretty appealing fallback plan.

27.821 – LHP Austin French

I have a side gig where I see players sometimes and share those thoughts with somebody willing to pay me a few bucks for those observations. I saw Austin French pitch this past year for Brown and came away with a positive report. Secondaries remain underdeveloped and his control isn’t great, but his size (6-4, 215) and fastball (87-92, 94 peak) were worth a mid-round draft pick. Glad the Dodgers pulled the trigger on him. I’ll be rooting for it to work out.

28.851 – RHP Jake Perkins

Jake Perkins was off my radar, but the righthander from Ferrum College pitched really well (10.64 K/9 and 3.62 BB/9 in 77.0 IP) as a senior. Results like that and a low-90s fastball (up to 93) are a pretty nice combination to land in the twenty-eighth round.

30.911 – C Ramon Rodriguez

“Very young for his class” was all I had on Ramon Rodriguez prior to the draft. Baseball Reference lists 17 players named Ramon Rodriguez who have played pro ball; none, unbelievably enough, have reached the big leagues. This Ramon Rodriguez got one hundred grand to sign, so it stands to reason he’s got a shot.

31.941 – C Steve Berman

Love this one. Maybe even LOVE it, in as much as anybody can love a thirty-first round pick. Steve Berman can play. From March 2016…

Berman’s case is a little tougher to make, but he’s a dependable catcher with an above-average arm who puts his natural strength to good use at the plate. In a class loaded with noteworthy catchers, Berman flies comfortably under the radar. Feels like a potential steal to me.

Give me a potential big league backup catcher in the thirty-first round any time. Berman can throw, defend, work a count, and drive a mistake. Works for me.

32.971 – RHP Conor Costello

If you wanted to call Conor Costello a rich man’s version of ninth round pick Anthony Gonsolin, I wouldn’t stop you. From March 2015…

Oklahoma State is loaded in its own right with draft-eligible pitchers. rJR RHP/OF Conor Costello has the depth of stuff to start and the athleticism to repeat his delivery through long outings. He’s also a decent enough hitter that letting him start in the National League could lead to some fun at bats.

Costello went on to hit more than pitch in 2016, though he didn’t do a whole lot of either (111 AB and 6.1 IP) on a stacked Cowboys squad. He made more of an impression as a hitter, but one look at him on the mound (92-96 fastball, quality upper-80s cutter, effective 78-82 spike-curve) is enough to realize the Dodgers were wise to start him out as a pitcher. That’s not to say he’s not a fine position player in his own right — good runner, solid approach, big raw power, and all the arm strength you’d expect — but his fastest path to the big leagues looks to be from the starting position of the bullpen. Maybe I’m just too optimistic about draft prospects — if all the players I liked actually made it, they’d need to expand by a few teams to fit everybody — but I can’t deny a strong instinctual hunch with Costello. Good arm, good athlete, not a lot of wasted bullets, growth potential from finally devoting himself full-time as a pitcher…those are all things to be excited about.

33.1001 – SS Zach McKinstry

Seeing Zach McKinstry sign with the Dodgers was a pleasant surprise. I was excited to see if because it meant that I’d get one last chance to write about him. Of course, it’s a slight bummer that he won’t be around Central Michigan to do his thing for another year in college ball, but onward and upward, I say. McKinstry has an undeniable hit tool, above-average speed, and a rock solid glove wherever you put him in the infield. The Dodgers played him primarily at second in his debut with some shortstop sprinkled in. I think he showed enough as a Chippewa to get an honest shot at shortstop in the pros, but showing multi-position versatility is likely his most direct line to the big leagues anyway. A lack of pop could ultimately be his undoing, but he’ll do his part to fight the good fight for high-contact, patient, speedy middle infielders everywhere.

34.1031 – RHP Joel Toribio

Here’s a really sweet article that includes the fun anecdote about Joel Toribio’s barber being the one to break the news to him that he was drafted by the Dodgers. How can you not love that? Also lovable for Dodgers fans should be Toribio’s fastball (my not super helpful notes: “throws hard”) and success missing bats (13.16 K/9) at Western Oklahoma State. Iffy control (5.03 BB/9) and underdeveloped secondary stuff explain how a big arm with a fun backstory fell to the thirty-fourth round.

35.1061 – OF Nick Yarnall

If you can grab an ACC outfielder in the thirty-fifth round coming off back-to-back excellent seasons (.330/.436/.580 in 2015, .309/.439/.556 in 2016), you do it.

38.1151 – RHP Kevin Malisheski

A torn ACL kept Kevin Malisheski under the radar this past spring, but the Dodgers stuck with him, gave him close to a quarter million bucks, and could soon begin to reap the rewards. He’s a great athlete with a promising breaking ball and as much upside as anybody signed in the thirty-eighth round. That’s only a pool of nine guys, but still. Malisheski is legit.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Graham Ashcraft (Mississippi State), Dillon Persinger (Cal State Fullerton), Cole Freeman (LSU), Bailey Ober (College of Charleston), Cal Stevenson (Arizona), Enrique Zamora (?), Zach Taglieri (The Citadel), Will Kincanon (Triton JC), Ryan Watson (Auburn)

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.

 

Hudson, Sheffield, Tyler, Jackson, Shore, Webb…and Puk

Look at the first seven names on this list. That’s an incredible amount of talent. Weird stuff can happen to pitchers, but I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to claim that all seven will be big league arms within a few seasons after getting drafted. We’ll hit on the pitchers ranked second through seven and a few more after that. Number one was already taken care of here. Let’s see what else we’ve got…

Dakota Hudson

No comp is perfect, but I still like the Taijuan Walker ceiling on Hudson. I don’t know if he hits the same peaks as Walker – the Seattle star is the better athlete, plus took full advantage of the strength training, pro coaching, and King Felix good vibes osmosis available to him after signing as a teenager – but the two share a lot of stuff similarities.

Jordan Sheffield

For as much as we as fans, writers, and/or internet scouts want to believe otherwise, prospects don’t really have anything to prove to anybody. Control what you can control on the field and let the chips fall where they may beyond that. Having said that, the young Vanderbilt righthander has done just about everything I had hoped to see out of him in 2016. Others may still have questions about how his command and smaller stature will hold up pitching every fifth day professionally – perfectly valid concerns, for what it’s worth – but I’m personally all-in on Sheffield as a starting pitching prospect. He knows how to pitch off the fastball (if anything you can make the case he falls in love with it at times), his curve and/or his change can serve as an above-average to plus pitch on any given day, and his junior year leap can’t be ignored. Let’s look at the pre-season take…

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.

…so that we can revisit that lazy comp. By the numbers, here’s what we’ve got…

11.09 K/9 – 3.31 BB/9 – 2.29 ERA – 70.2 IP
9.67 K/9 – 2.44 BB/9 – 2.26 ERA – 103.1 IP

Top is Sheffield so far, bottom is Tate’s draft year. I asked around and nobody particularly liked the Tate comparison, but more because of the belief that Sheffield is a fairly unique pitcher than that it’s a bad comp. The only alternate name I heard was a tepid Edinson Volquez 2.0 endorsement. I actually kind of dig that one. At the same age, Volquez was listed at a mere 6-1, 160 pounds, a far cry from his current listed 6-0, 220 pounds. He was known back then for his electric fastball (check), plus changeup (check), and above-average slider, a pitch that eventually morphed into his present above-average curve (check). I can definitely some young Volquez in Sheffield’s game.

Robert Tyler

I didn’t intend for this to be an all comp all the time post, but I can’t get the Ryan Madson comparison (first noted by Keith Law) out of my head whenever I think about Tyler. I really want to believe in his breaking ball being good enough to let him be the starting pitcher that Madson never could be, but nobody I’ve spoken to seems to think he can stay in the rotation as a big leaguer. That won’t stop me from stubbornly continuing to believe Tyler, one of the youngest players in his class, won’t find a way to harness his spike-curve more effectively more often. He has the size, command, ability to hold his velocity, and smarts to make it as a starter. I’d be willing to spend a second round pick – maybe a late first depending on how the board breaks – to get him signed, sealed, delivered, and working with my pro staff (coaching and medical) to see firsthand whether or not a more consistent breaker is in that electric right arm of his.

Zach Jackson

We’ll go with the pre-season evaluation on Jackson to hammer an old point home…

One of my favorite snippets of my notes comes in the Jackson section: “if he fixes delivery and command, watch out.” Well, duh. I could have said that about just about any upper-echelon arm in this age demographic. With Jackson, however, it reinforces just how special his stuff is when he’s right. I don’t think this college class has a pitch better than his curveball at its best.

I think Jackson’s delivery has made strides in 2016 – if not smoother, then certainly more repeatable – but questions about his command can now be partnered with similar concerns about his control. First round stuff + fifth round command/control = ultimate third round landing spot? I don’t know if the math checks out there, but I think the conclusion might wind up being correct. I also think that the scouting on Jackson can more or less be wrapped up for the season – we know what he is by now – so the attention of anybody assigned to watch him between now and June should be on determining if whatever is getting in the way of his stalled command progress and backwards trending control can be fixed through pro instruction and repetition. Jackson is the kind of maddening talent that can get an area scout promoted or canned, but his success or failure from this point forward is all about how he adapts to the pro development staffers tasked with guiding him along.

Logan Shore

I have a friend who leans very heavy on statistics when it comes to his personal brand of minor league prospect evaluation. I consider myself a little more balanced between scouting reports and certain performance indicators (with a slight statistical lean if anything), but his approach works for him and I let him do his thing. If nothing else, our shared view on what stats matter for young players means we rarely disagree on general prospect valuation. One recent spat, however, highlights the danger of immersing oneself too deep in one side of the stats vs scouts “debate.” This friend was a very vocal critic of Phillies minor league pitcher Zach Eflin and his long history of underwhelming strikeout numbers. I’ve liked Eflin for over four years now – you can check the archives – and have obviously stayed with him despite the lack of standout peripherals as a young pro. Be patient, I told him. He’s working on things, I told him. Don’t count him out just yet, I told him. Now despite being in AAA, Eflin still has plenty to work on once he lands in the big leagues. But only the most stubborn critic would deny that he’s finally on the final stage of development – refinement – and well past the “will he or won’t he?” bit of prospect purgatory. His more consistent premium velocity combined with his newfound curve has helped him go from 5.14 K/9 to 6.52 K/9 to 6.54 K/9 to 4.65 K/9 (first year with the Phillies with a heavy emphasis on working through some stuff) to his current 7.52 K/9 through four starts in 2016. He’s slowly but surely gotten stronger, smarter, and better, and the results have finally begun to caught up. It’s a beautiful thing.

Logan Shore has made similar progress over the last few seasons: 6.37 K/9 to 6.75 K/9 to 9.05 K/9. He’s always had solid fastball velocity and a devastating changeup. This year he’s found a few more ticks with the heater (more so in how he maintains it rather than a peak velocity jump), gained a little more consistency with his breaking ball, and arguably improved that already potent circle-change into something even scarier to opposing hitters. He’s gotten stronger, smarter, and better. I mentally wrote him off as one of the draft’s most overrated arms coming into the spring – thankfully I never wrote that on the site, but I’m man enough to admit I’ve had those thoughts on more than one occasion – but now I see the error in my ways. When a young arm has big-time stuff and command beyond his years, be patient with his development and don’t rely on one metric to make an ultimate judgment on his future. Shore is good and quite possibly still getting better.

Braden Webb

Braden Webb doesn’t have the track record of many of his SEC peers, but the man does not lack for arm talent. Explosive heat (90-94, up to 96-97), an easy above-average to plus 73-79 curve, and a rapidly improving 80-85 change. All of the ingredients of a big league starting pitcher are here. Grabbing Webb at any point past round one would be a major coup for whatever team is lucky/smart enough to do so.

AJ Puk

I’m cheating and tacking Puk back on at the end here even after he got his own post last week. Like many draft-obsessed individuals, I watched his most recent start against South Carolina with great interest. I’ve seen Puk a few times in person and tons of times on the tube, but it wasn’t until Saturday night that the comparison between him and Andrew Miller really hit me. I saw about a dozen Miller starts in person back in his Tar Heel days (in a very different time in my life) and watching Puk throw brings back all kinds of memories, good and bad. The frustrating thing about this comp is that it doesn’t really tell us much. Maybe we can use it as a baseline floor for what Puk could become – though Miller’s dominance out of the pen is a tough expectation to put on anybody as a realistic worst case scenario – but pointing out the similarities between the two (size, length, extension, delivery, mound demeanor, fastball, slider, underdeveloped change…even similar facially minus Miller’s draft year mustache) hardly means that Puk is destined to the same failed starter fate. I mean, sure, maybe it does, but there’s so much more that goes into being a successful big league starter than what gets put down on a scouting card. I love comps, but they are meant to serve as a starting point to the conversation, not to be the parting shot. Every player is unique and whatever extra reasons are out there for Miller not making it in the rotation should not be held against Puk. Maybe that’s obvious, but it doesn’t hurt to say it again. I do think that Puk, barring injury, has a pretty clear big league skill set in some capacity (maybe not -0.15 FIP out of the bullpen good, but still good) even if he doesn’t reach his ultimate ceiling. In that way he is similar to Miller, so at least there’s that to fall back on. The odds that you get nothing out of Puk, again barring injury, are slim to none. For the risk-averse out there, that’s a comforting thought.

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 – College Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016 MLB Draft 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