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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Detroit Tigers

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Detroit in 2016

23 – Matt Manning
105 – Kyle Funkhouser
130 – Daniel Pinero
133 – Zac Houston
169 – Brady Policelli
284 – Mark Ecker
318 – Jacob Robson
363 – Will Savage
387 – Bryan Garcia
486 – Austin Athmann

Complete List of 2016 Detroit Draftees

1.9 – RHP Matt Manning

High school prospects are risky. High school pitching prospects are riskier. Righthanded high school pitching prospects are riskiest. That’s about the only mean thing I can say about Detroit taking Matt Manning (23) with the ninth overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. Manning is really, really good. If you had to draw up the perfect righthanded high school pitching prospect, Manning would be it. I love his athleticism, easily some of the very best of any player at any position in this class. I love the way he pitches off his electric darting fastball, commanding it to all four corners with relative ease. I love the upside his breaking ball has shown even as it runs between a mid-70s curve and an upper-70s to low-80s slider. I love that he’s shown a changeup with promise even when he knows his fastball is all he ever needed against teenage competition. The only thing I don’t love about Manning is the inherent risk that comes with any high school pitching prospect. If you can get over that as I have, then you can fall in love with Manning, too. Love this pick. Detroit only signed three high school prospects, but Manning has a chance to be so good that no other selection in their draft will really matter.

4.115 – RHP Kyle Funkhouser

I’ve been as all over the place trying to figure out Kyle Funkhouser (105) as I have any other prospect in recent memory. I even devoted an entire post to him back in April 2015. Here’s a quick timeline of events from that post to the present day beginning in May 2015…

I’ve written about why Kyle Funkhouser intrigues me the way he does before, though I still will likely remain the low man on him as he enters pro ball. The narrative on him was kind of weird this spring as he was kind of the guy we all thought he was coming into the year, but the spin — and I was guilty of doing some of this myself — was that he was answering some of the pre-season questions about his game. I worried about his command, control, and third pitch coming into the season, and I still have worries about each of those areas today.

You know what, I think that’s a pretty fair summation of Funkhouser. Shut it down, we don’t need to go any further. I mean, we will because that’s just what we do, but this really does sum the big righthander from Louisville well. Command? Not great. Control? Definitely a concern. Unsure about the development of a third pitch? Heck, you could make a case that he needs to develop a more consistent second pitch right now. Let’s see what we saw in Funkhouser a few months later in October 2015…

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.

From a stuff standpoint, I don’t think the Zimmermann comp is that bad. The command and control development, however, lag behind what Zimmermann showed at a similar age. This was the specific passage about Zimmermann that I was referring to…

I bring up Zimmermann not as a direct comp per se, but as a potential developmental path that Funkhouser could mirror once he hits the pro ranks. I think Funkhouser’s change should be given room to grow rather than ditched, but Zimmermann’s below average change was once said to have “promising action,” so what do any of us really know?

Predicting improvements in command and control is difficult for even the most seasoned scouts. Lots of time and effort spent breaking down a guy’s mechanics, athletic ability, aptitude for learning, willingness to receive instruction, and where/why he’s currently missing his spots go into it. Good command requires physical and mental strength, and finding an evaluator able to consistently read a young pitcher in both departments is a rare, if not impossible, thing. I’ve read just about everything written on Cliff Lee’s mid-career transformation and I still have no idea why he suddenly found command like he did. It’s a little bit like what I’ve been told about high school hitters: you can scout them as much as humanly possible, but nothing you’ll ever see them do as a teenage amateur can possibly equate to the day-to-day roller coaster ride of pro ball. They’ll either learn to hit in the pros or not. Same thing with a young guy and command: he’ll either learn it or he won’t. That’s what makes scouting more of an art than a science, and that’s what makes the mystic around it so appealing and frustrating all at once.

Anyway, back to Funkhouser. This time we jump to April 2016…

I hold out some hope that he’ll be a better pro than college pitcher because his raw stuff at its best is really that good, but there’s just so much inconsistency to his game that I can’t go all-in on him again. Maybe he’s fulfills the promise he showed last year, maybe he winds up more of a consistently inconsistent fifth starter/swingman type, or maybe he’s destined to a life of relief work. I no longer have any clue where his career is heading. I feel liberated.

I settled on this non-answer, and I think I’m really at peace with it all now. Funkhouser has flashed truly dominant stuff at times: 87-94 MPH (96-97 peak) fastball that moves, above-average 79-84 MPH slider, above-average 75-80 MPH curve, average mid-80s changeup, all commanded well enough in spurts. His biggest problem has been a longstanding inability to get all those pitches going at the same time. Some days he’ll scrap the slider for the curve entirely, other days the reverse will be true. On either day, there’s no guarantee that he can throw whatever breaking ball he’s going with for strikes. His changeup has steadily gotten firmer over the years; when his fastball is closer to the upper edge of his velocity band (90-95, 97 peak) then it can work as a nice timing disruptor, but when he’s more 87-91 (92-93 peak) with his heat then the changeup looks more like a batting practice pitch.

The massive deltas in his stuff on an outing by outing basis makes Funkhouser a really tough pitcher to make any bold predictions about. Instinctually, he feels like the kind of guy who just needs to find the right pitching coach at the right time to have the light bulb go off and become the long-time big league starting pitcher that his peak stuff suggests he could be. Or maybe not. Maybe he remains in the rotation, but has a career built on potential more than production; maybe he turns into an innings-eater who flashes upside but can never put it all together, a career path reminiscent of Brett Tomko’s. Or maybe he winds up in the bullpen and is allowed to focus on his fastball and one breaking ball, and his career takes off as a late-inning star. Or he’s more good than great in relief, but still has a long career pitching the sixth and seventh innings for a half-dozen different teams.

5.145 – RHP Mark Ecker

I love Mark Ecker (284). Every draft I struggle with where to rank college relievers and every year it feels like I get it wrong. Not so much with the individual evaluations, but definitely with where to rank straight relievers within the larger draft prospect landscape. One year I’ll overvalue them, the next year I’ll vow to never do that again and undervalue them, the next year I’ll go right back to overvaluing them, then I’ll overvalue just the top tier guys and ignore the next rung…it’s a mess. I think ranking Ecker as a tenth round prospect (give or take) undersells how good he is right now. It wouldn’t shock me at all to see him in the big leagues this upcoming year if that’s what Detroit needs. To make up for my underrating him in June, let’s write way too much about a fifth round college reliever…

Finding a comparable reliever to Ecker is surprisingly difficult. Did you know there are very few plus fastball/plus control relievers in Major League Baseball? It’s true! I’m using arbitrary standards here — more than 8.00 K/9, less than 2.00 BB/9, average fastball velocity 93+ MPH — and the pool of qualified relievers this decade comes out to just eleven possibilities. Of that eleven, none give me the kind of stuff close enough to Ecker to convince me to throw that comp on him. Liam Hendriks has ditched the change as he’s made the full-time transition to relief, Sean Doolittle is lefthanded and throws almost 90% fastballs, Rafael Betancourt is just short on velocity but not a terrible comp otherwise, and Robert Osuna relies more on his slider than his changeup. Junichi Tazawa might be the closest, but he technically throws a splitter rather than a changeup. The pitch serves a similar purpose, so maybe we should just allow it and call it a day. Mark Melancon would be perfect, but he almost literally never throws his changeup these days. Tony Watson is lefthanded, but fits the mold pretty well otherwise. Kelvin Herrera is a little too small and probably throws too many breaking balls, but he’s a decent facsimile for Ecker’s stuff/control combination otherwise. He might be the closest thing to Ecker that I can think of, though I’d be remiss to not at least mention Ryan Madson, my go-to fastball/changeup/control comp in these situations. Some combination of Herrera, Madson, and Melancon would be one heck of a reliever. That’s the kind of impact I think Ecker can have in the big leagues. In fact, there’s this from May 2016…

With a fastball capable of hitting the upper-90s and a mid-80s changeup with plus upside, he’s an honest big league closer candidate with continued development.

Sounds about right. Getting an arm with closer upside in the fifth round is a win every single time for me. Nice work by Detroit here.

6.175 – RHP Bryan Garcia

The Tigers pretty clearly went into this draft with the idea of adding players who will be ready quickly enough to help prop their present window of contention open a little bit longer. Outside of their first round pick (who happens to be a really good prospect and excellent trade capital if they go that route), every other selection all the way through round twenty-two was a college prospect. No snapshot of their draft better exemplifies their win-now philosophy than the back-to-back selections of Mark Ecker and Bryan Garcia (387). Like Ecker one round earlier, Bryan Garcia has the ability to pitch in the big leagues sooner rather than later. From March 2016…

Garcia has late-game reliever stuff (mid-90s FB, good SL) and pedigree (15.88 K/9 this year) to get himself drafted as one of the first true college relievers in his class.

His K/9 dipped all the way down to 13.03 by the end of the season and his low-80s slider morphed more into a curve, but Garcia finished the year more than holding up his end of the bargain. There’s a chance Garcia could be tried in the rotation — a pro contact who saw him this summer came away far more impressed with his changeup than I would have guessed — but letting him fire away in the bullpen with his mid-90s heat and potential plus breaking ball seems like the way to go. Like Ecker, I think he could pitch in the big leagues in 2017 if that’s how the Tigers want to play it.

7.205 – LHP Austin Sodders

Got a Matt Imhof comp for Austin Sodders late in the spring that I think is pretty fair. I don’t love the pick, but can appreciate the logic behind it. Sodders is a big lefthander with solid velocity (88-92), above-average deception and command, and the chance for two average offspeed pitches (CB, CU). If it all comes together for him, that’s a pretty valuable skill set.

8.235 – OF Jacob Robson

I like this one probably more than I should. Every team I’ve written about the past two weeks or so seems to draft at least two college center fielders known for their speed, defense, and minimal pop. I’ve always liked that profile, but lately am beginning to realize that the power component is even more important than conventional wisdom — which believes it to be very, very important, for the record — suggests. I’m sick of writing it, so I can only assume you’re sick of reading it, but the threat of power is an absolute necessity for any young hitter with the hopes of being an above-average offensive contributor in professional ball. Not everybody has to be a power hitter, but if you can’t hit for at least some power then you’re going to have a bad time in pro ball. The threat of an extra base hit changes the way you’re approached as a hitter.

That in mind, Jacob Robson’s (318) lack of pop is concerning. It limits his ceiling dependent on how you feel about his hit tool playing in the pros; you can talk yourself into him being more than a fifth outfielder if you believe, but he’s close to a “what you see is what you get” otherwise. I happen to like him and this pick a ton. That’s the power of the hit tool, I guess. Some guys just have a knack for consistent hard contact. That’s Robson. I’m not a scout so I lack some (but not all) of the reverence to the 20-80 scale that the pros share for it, but tossing around plus grades on an amateur’s hit tool is something even I don’t take lightly. I think Robson might have it. He might be able to hit enough singles and hustle doubles/triples to overcome his lack of power and become a starting quality player. His athleticism, speed, and center field range will also certainly help in that quest, but it’ll be the hit tool that separates him from so many similar players bouncing around the minor leagues. I’d call many players like Robson low-ceiling/moderate-floor types, but Robson himself gets a moderate-ceiling/moderate-floor tag. That’s not a whole lot better, but it is better.

9.265 – SS Daniel Pinero

There is no version of me in any alternate timeline who doesn’t appreciate a 6-5, 210 pound shortstop prospect. It should be no shock then that I’m an unabashed Daniel Pinero (130) fan. Pinero got better every season at Virginia while flashing big league tools across all areas of the game. I like his defense at shortstop more than anybody I’ve spoken to or read, so take the claim that he can stay at his college position in the pros with that in mind. Even if he has to move off short, he’s got all the skills needed (quick reactions, strong arm, body control) to excel at the hot corner. Offensively, Pinero will always have some swing-and-miss in his game (long levers will do that) and his speed has slowed down to average at best as he’s filled out over the years, but his power is on the rise, his approach is sound, and he goes into every at bat with a plan. I don’t think he’s a future star at the plate, but the chance to be an average offensive player with either average (shortstop) or above-average (third base) defense makes him a really nice prospect.

As far as value goes, it’s worth noting that I ranked Pinero only 54 spots lower than CJ Chatham, Red Sox second round pick who went 214 picks earlier. That may or may not mean something to you, but I look at it as Detroit getting a comparable talent much later in the draft. I think Pinero is a potential regular on the left side of the infield with a very realistic floor as a big league utility guy.

10.295 – OF Sam Machonis

Two years at Polk State (including this sophomore year: .310/.406/.470 with 20 BB/43 K and 14/15 SB in 200 AB) and two years at Florida Southern (combined .365/.443/.607 line with 38 BB/71 K and 26/32 SB in 394 AB) led Sam Machionis to Detroit on draft day 2016. Without being an expert on him from a scouting perspective, I’ll point out that his numbers, while very good on the whole, come with the glaring BB/K red flag that would scare me off using a top ten round pick on him. The scouting notes on him I do have — “strong arm, decent runner, can play all three outfield spots and first base, hits from both sides of the plate, handles velocity” — lean towards a potential bench contributor if he can curb some of his overly aggressive tendencies at the plate.

11.325 – RHP Zac Houston

Zac Houston (133) and his explosive 90-95 FB (97 peak) fastball is a pretty perfect fit in the eleventh round. He’s a live arm with college experience at Mississippi State that has seen ups (11.53 K/9 in 2015, 9.79 K/9 in 2016) and downs (6.47 BB/9 in 2015, 4.43 BB/9 in 2016). He did more of the same in his pro debut (14.90 K/9 and 4.56 BB/9 in 29.2 IP) while dominating on the scoreboard (0.30 ERA). It’s an imperfect comparison, but you can draw a shaky line between Houston and fourth round pick Kyle Funkhouser. Like the former Louisville star, Houston’s future role is as yet undetermined. His fastball will play in any role and his low-80s slider is quickly coming on as a potential second weapon, but the rest of his offspeed spread (cutter, curve, change) remain a work in progress. I think the bullpen is his best bet. If that’s the case, then a long career filled with strikeouts and walks could make him a very fun/frustrating reliever to watch.

With Funkhouser, Ecker, Garcia, Houston, Schreiber, Sittinger, and Schmidt all taken by Detroit in the draft’s top twenty rounds, the Tigers could have just formed the core of a young, electric, and cheap bullpen that will supplement their next contending team. It’s not sexy, but nailing down three or four knockout relievers in one draft class would be a major scouting and development win for a farm system in need of a W or two.

12.355 – OF Daniel Woodrow

Though long a prospect archetype I’ve enjoyed, I’ve grown suspicious of rangy center fielders with plus speed and no power of late. The “no power” thing is just too much of an offensive hurdle to jump; as we often say, it’s not so much the actual lack of power but the lack of power being a credible threat against bigger, smarter, better pitching. Of the many potential backup outfielders that follow the speed/defense/no power pattern in this class, I happen to like Daniel Woodrow of Creighton more than many of the others. There’s such a fine line between no power and very little power, but I think the small difference matters when it comes to how pitchers approach the opposition. Woodrow has just enough pop to continue being an effective table setter in the pros. He makes a ton of contact, has a decent approach, and provides all the aforementioned speed/defense (and arm strength). The upside isn’t huge, but Woodrow has a shot to make it as a fifth outfielder.

13.385 – C Brady Policelli

I’m an absolute sucker for Brady Policelli’s (169) defensive versatility, athleticism, and ability to excel at all of the little things. It’s dangerous territory for me because I’ve fallen in love with prospects like Policelli before with many topping out as fun college players and little more, but I can’t help but appreciate a legitimate defensive catcher with a really strong arm and footwork good enough to play shortstop for his college team in his draft year. I’ll go bold and say that Policelli has a long big league career as a standout defensive catcher with enough thump in his bat to have a few years worthy of being an everyday player.

14.415 – C Austin Athmann

This year’s college class has a chance to be viewed as one of the best of all-time. The talent level at the position . Detroit waited it out and landed a top ten round talent in most years all the way down in round fourteen. Austin Athmann (486) is a lock to stay behind the plate thanks to solid mobility, an average or better arm (more accurate than strong), and pro-level smarts in knowing how to handle a pitching staff. That alone gives him value this late in the draft, but Athmann adds on to it as a more than capable hitter with a chance for topping out as an average hitter with average power. The very optimistic forecast calls for starting catcher upside, but I’m more comfortable calling him a potential quality backup. That’s really nice value this late in the draft.

15.445 – RHP John Schreiber

John Schreiber dominated at Northwestern Ohio as a senior using a nasty fastball (90-95 MPH) and slider one-two punch. Definite middle relief upside here. Is this my shortest prospect breakdown so far? I think it is. Only problem is every word I write now artificially inflates the total. If you just skimmed through this and saw this nice little block of text, you’d have no real idea that the only bit of analysis I had to share on Schreiber this year.

16.475 – 2B Will Savage

As an self-proclaimed Ivy League baseball aficionado, I’ve seen a lot of Will Savage (363) over the years. Without fail, I’ve come away impressed with his game. There’s little flashy about Savage, but he’s got a knack for hard contact, above-average speed, and a chance to be a solid defender at second with more work. The problem with Savage is that he’s likely a second baseman and second baseman only in the pros; his arm and range are both stretched considerably on the left side of the infield. As much as I like him as a college hitter, I’m not sure the bat will be enough to carry him if his only path to the big leagues is as a second baseman. If Detroit can squeeze even a little defensive versatility out of him, then he’ll be in a much better position to climb the ladder.

17.505 – RHP Brandyn Sittinger

Brandyn Sittinger dominated at Ashland as a junior using a low- to mid-90s fastball and little else. He’s a consistent second pitch away from having the same middle relief upside as fellow state of Ohio product John Schreiber.

18.535 – 1B Niko Buentello

Niko Buentello as a lefthanded power bat with a decent approach and a shot to destroy righthanded pitching in the pros is enough for me to buy into him as a viable eighteenth round pick. It’s tough sledding making it as a first base only prospect, but, hey, somebody has to man the position, right?

19.565 – OF Dustin Frailey

I really like Dustin Frailey, a Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunner by way of Mt. San Antonio College who stayed under my radar until fairly late in the draft process. His draft year was outstanding by any measure (.376/.479/.593 with 30 BB/19 K and 23/27 SB) and his offensive game is a well-rounded blend of average power and above-average speed. There’s some sneaky fourth outfielder upside with Frailey.

20.595 – RHP Clate Schmidt

On Clate Schmidt from December 2015…

SR RHP Clate Schmidt has overcome a great deal to get back to position himself to a return to the mound this spring. His athleticism, fastball (90-94, 96 peak), and impressive low-80s slider make him a prospect to watch, and his story of perseverance makes him a player to appreciate. If the return to health in 2016 has him feeling more like himself this spring (i.e., he’s more 2014 than 2015), then his feel-good story should end with a potential top ten round draft selection and honest shot in pro ball.

Schmidt finished his final season at Clemson with the following numbers: 7.15 K/9, 2.21 BB/9, 4.83 ERA, 85.2 IP. I’d say that definitely puts him closer to the 2014 version (7.23 K/9 and 3.82 BB/9) than the 2015 version (5.54 K/9 and 3.98 BB/9), and that’s an encouraging sign for Schmidt’s career going forward. His stuff wasn’t quite back to what he showed at 100% — he was more 86-91 MPH with his fastball in 2016, though his 78-82 MPH changeup remained outstanding and his low-80s slider solidified itself as a solid third offering — but it’s still good enough to make a little noise in the pros. Giving him the ball in shorter outings with the instructions to let it fly (and sink) might prove to be the best move for him and the Tigers. As a reliever, I think Schmidt could pile up ground balls and miss enough bats to be really effective. That upside combined with the hidden value of bringing such a hard worker and positive influence like Schmidt into the organization makes this one of my favorite picks in the whole draft.

21.625 – RHP Joe Navilhon

The first of back-to-back undersized college righthanders taken by Detroit, Joe Navilhon has a decent fastball (88-92) that he dresses up with a highly effective low-80s changeup. Toss in a mid-70s breaking ball and the Tommy John survivor has enough going for him to get his chances as a potential middle relief prospect. I’m bearish on his odds of breaking through compared to some of the other intriguing relief arms stockpiled by Detroit in this class, but you never know.

22.655 – RHP Burris Warner

I’m always happy to see an undersized flame-thrower like Burris Warner get his shot in pro ball. Even if things don’t work out for Warner in the long run, remember that Detroit got an established college reliever capable of hitting the mid-90s (seen him up to 95 personally) with his fastball in the twenty-second round next time one of the national guys refuses to rank more than fifty or so prospects in a given class.

23.685 – C Bryan Torres

The Tigers signed only three high school prospects in this class. Matt Manning is the obvious headliner, but getting deals done with Bryan Torres here and Geraldo Gonzalez later is a nice little bonus. A really rough small sample debut doesn’t change the fact that Torres was a worthwhile gamble here in the twenty-third round.

24.715 – LHP Evan Hill

On any given outing you might see Evan Hill hit just about every single 80-something MPH with his fastball. At his best, Hill is more mid- to upper-80s (up to 92-93 peaks at his bestest best), but the long and lean lefthander could have more in the tank (or at least more consistency in what he’s already flashed) with pro strength training and instruction ahead of him. He could use the extra tick or two on his fastball because of his offspeed stuff is more functional than fabulous. I like what I’ve seen out of a mid- to upper-70s breaking ball that’ll flash above-average at times, but his cutter and changeup are nothing to write home about. A shift to the bullpen could accelerate some of those hopeful velocity gains and potentially sharpen up his breaking ball. That feels like his best shot at an extended pro career.

25.745 – RHP John Hayes

Joe Navilhon and Burris Warner were back-to-back undersized college righthanders taken by Detroit in rounds twenty-one and twenty-two. Now the Tigers go back-to-back with big college righthanders with John Hayes leading off. Hayes missed bats as a redshirt-senior at Wichita State (10.57 K/9), but didn’t quite get the job done when it came to run prevention (7.12 ERA). I’m glad Detroit saw past his struggles to see the good (88-93 FB, quality CU, usable SL) in Hayes.

26.775 – RHP Colyn O’Connell

Colyn O’Connell has the fastball (89-93, 95 peak) and frame (6-5, 215) to excite, but his junior year at Florida Atlantic (6.33 K/9 and 3.33 BB/9) was mostly underwhelming. To his credit, O’Connell did keep runs off the board (2.00 ERA in 27.0 IP). Things took a turn for the better in pro ball (8.40 K/9 and 3.60 BB/9) even as the ERA climbed a bit (3.90 in 30.0 IP). You’ll make that trade-off any day when it comes to projecting a pitcher’s future.

27.805 – SS Chad Sedio

The Tigers gave Chad Sedio an honest shot to play shortstop in pro ball and the early buzz on his defense there — in as much as there can ever be buzz about Chad Sedio’s glove — has been positive. The versatile defender also has experience at second, third (where I listed him pre-draft), and in the outfield, so a future as a bat-first utility player isn’t out of the question.

29.865 – 3B Hunter Swilling

Two big power years in a row at Samford (.324/.415/.622 and .292/.393/.557) were enough to get Hunter Swilling his shot in pro ball. His combined walk to strikeout ratio during that same stretch (60 BB/124 K) probably would have kept me away, but I understand the inclination to buy power when you can. To his credit, Swilling can do more than just swing for the fences. The righthanded power bat is also a pretty solid athlete with a strong arm well-suited for third base. I had him as a first base prospect in my notes (with some upside on the mound), but early returns on his glove at third in the pros have been decent. The overall package is still not really my cup of tea, but in the twenty-ninth round sometimes you have to open your mind to players you might not have considered otherwise.

30.895 – LHP Dalton Lundeen

Dalton Lundeen’s pro debut (6.48 K/9 and 2.52 BB/9) looked a whole heck of a lot like his senior season at Valparaiso (6.65 K/9 and 1.91 BB/9). That should give some indication as to what kind of pitcher he is, but I’ll do my part to paint a fuller picture by noting that Lundeen’s fastball lives mostly in the mid- to upper-80s and his slider is his primary out-pitch.

31.925 – SS Dalton Britt

First time in MLB Draft history a team has drafted back-to-back Dalton’s. Or so I’ll assume, anyway. Dalton Britt joins Dalton Lundeen in the Tigers organization after going off the board in the thirty-first round. Britt has always been one of those guys described to me as a better potential pro hitter than what he ever showed at Liberty. That persistent noise was what had me continuing to push the “strong hit tool” scouting note for Britt even as the college shortstop hovered just below a .300 batting average (.299 in 2014, .294 in 2015, .292 in 2016) during his last three college seasons. Of course there’s more to projecting a hit tool than just looking at past performance, but ignoring what has actually happened on the field isn’t a very sound evaluation strategy, either. Britt hasn’t been so bad that I’d toss out the positive scouting notes, so we’re more in the “wait and see” stage of his larger evaluation as he transitions to pro ball. If the scouting reports prove true, then the Tigers got themselves a really nice potential steal this late. Britt can certainly hold up his end of the bargain defensively (steady work at 2B, 3B, and SS), so even a slightly below-average big league bat would make him an interesting utility option down the line.

34.1015 – SS Gerardo Gonzalez

Finally, we get to the third signed high school prospect. I’ll admit that I was a little bit more excited about this one when I mistyped Gerardo Gonzalez’s first name as Geraldo, the name most of the internet has him listed under. Pro ball could really use a star named Geraldo. Gerardo Gonzalez had a rough debut, but he earned his fair share of walks, played solid defense at second, and finished the season as one of the younger 2016 draftees (not 18 until 12/21/16). There’s no such thing as a bad high school signing past round ten, so no shame in focusing on his modest strengths for now.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Alex Cunningham (Coastal Carolina), Conner O’Neill (Cal State Northridge), Keegan Thompson (Auburn), Jacob White (Weatherford JC), Drew Mendoza (Florida State), David Fleita (Cowley County JC), Josh Smith (LSU), Garrett Milchin (Florida), Dalton Feeney (North Carolina State)

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2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – ACC (PART TWO)

For Part One, see there. For Part Two, see…here.

Zack Collins over Corey Ray won’t happen on draft day and that’s fine. I’m taking the man who might have the best all-around offensive profile of any amateur hitter in the country if my neck is on the line. That was not intended to rhyme, but we’ll let it stand. I really do like Corey Ray: he can run, he has pop, his approach has taken a major step forward, and he should be able to stick in center for at least the first few years of club control. I mean, you’d be a fool not to like him at this point. But liking him as a potential top ten pick and loving him as a legit 1-1 candidate are two very different things.

I don’t have much to add about all of the good that Ray brings to the field each game. If you’ve made your way here, you already know. Instead of rehashing Ray’s positives, let’s focus on some of his potential weaknesses. In all honesty, the knocks on Ray are fairly benign. His body is closer to maxed-out than most top amateur prospects. His base running success and long-term utility in center field may not always be there as said body thickens up and loses some athleticism. Earlier in the season Andrew Krause of Perfect Game (who is excellent, by the way) noted an unwillingness or inability to pull the ball with authority as often as some might like to see. Some might disagree that a young hitter can be too open to hitting it to all fields – my take: it’s generally a good thing, but, as we’ve all been taught at a young age, all things in moderation – but easy pull-side power will always be something scouts want to see. At times, it appeared Ray was almost fighting it. Finally, Ray’s improved plate discipline, while part of a larger trend in the right direction, could be a sample size and/or physical advantage thing more than a learned skill that can be expected each year going forward. Is he really the player who has drastically upped his BB% while knocking his K%? Or is just a hot hitter using his experience and intimidating presence – everybody knows and fears Corey Ray at the college level – to help goose the numbers? It should also pointed out that Ray’s gaudy start only ranks him seventh on the Louisville team in batting average, fourth in slugging, and ninth in on-base percentage. I’m not sure what that means, but it’s worth noting.

(I mentioned weaknesses I’ve heard, so I think it’s only fair to share my thoughts on what they mean for him going forward. I think he’s a center fielder at least until he hits thirty, so that’s a non-issue for me. The swing thing is interesting, but it’s not something I’m qualified to comment on at this time. And I think the truth about his plate discipline likely falls in between those two theories: I’d lean more towards the changes being real, though maybe not quite as real as they’ve looked on the stat sheet so far this year.)

So what do we have with Ray as we head into June? He’s the rare prospect to get the same comp from two separate sources this spring. Both D1Baseball and Baseball America have dropped a Ray Lankford comp on him. I’ve tried to top that, but I think it’s tough to beat, especially if you look at Lankford’s 162 game average: .272/.364/.477 with 23 HR, 25 SB, and 79 BB/148 K. Diamond Minds has some really cool old scouting reports on Lankford including a few gems from none other than Mike Rizzo if you are under thirty and don’t have as clear a picture of what type of player we’re talking about when we talk about a young Ray Lankford. One non-Lankford comparison that came to mind – besides the old BA comp of Jackie Bradley and alternatives at D1 that include Carlos Gonzalez and Curtis Granderson – was Charlie Blackmon. It’s not perfect and I admittedly went there in part because I saw Blackmon multiple teams at Georgia Tech, but Ray was a harder player than anticipated to find a good comparison for (must-haves: pop, speed, CF defense; bonus points: lefthanded hitter, similar short maxed-out athletic physique, past production similarities) than I initially thought. I think Blackmon hits a lot of the targets with the most notable difference being body type. Here’s a quick draft year comparison…

.396/.469/.564 – 20 BB/21 K – 25/30 SB – 250 AB
.331/.398/.611 – 18 BB/20 K – 31/36 SB – 157 AB

Top is Blackmon’s last year at Georgia Tech, bottom is Corey Ray (so far) in 2016. Here is Blackmon’s 162 game average to date: .287/.334/.435 with 16 HR, 29 SB, and 32 BB/98 K. Something in between Lankford (great physical comp) and Blackmon (better tools comp) could look like this: .280/.350/.450 with 18 HR, 27 SB, and 50 BB/120 K. That could be AJ Pollock at maturity. From his pre-draft report at Baseball America (I’d link to it but BA’s site is so bad that I have to log in and log out almost a half-dozen times any time I want to see old draft reports like this)…

Pollock stands out most for his athleticism and pure hitting ability from the right side. He has a simple approach, a quick bat and strong hands. Scouts do say he’ll have to stop cheating out on his front side and stay back more on pitches in pro ball…He projects as a 30 doubles/15 homers threat in the majors, and he’s a slightly above-average runner who has plus speed once he gets going. Pollock also has good instincts and a solid arm in center field.

Minus the part about the right side, that could easily fit for Ray. For good measure, here’s the Pollock (top) and Ray (bottom) draft year comparison…

.365/.445/.610 – 30 BB/24 K – 21/25 SB – 241 AB
.331/.398/.611 – 18 BB/20 K – 31/36 SB – 157 AB

Not too far off the mark. I’m coming around on Pollock as a potential big league peak comp for Ray. I think there are a lot of shared traits, assuming you’re as open to looking past the difference in handedness as I am. A friend offered Starling Marte, another righthanded bat, as an additional point of reference. I can dig it. Blackmon, Pollock, and Marte have each had above-average offensive seasons while showing the physical ability to man center field and swipe a bunch of bags. I also keep coming back to Odubel Herrera as a comparable talent, but I’m not sure I’m ready to go there just yet. He fits that overall profile, though. A well-rounded up-the-middle defender with above-average upside at the plate and on the bases who has the raw talent to put up a few star seasons in his peak: that’s the hope with Ray. The few red flags laid out above are enough to make that best case scenario less than a certainty than I’d want in a potential 1-1 pick, but his flaws aren’t so damning that the top ten (possibly top five) should be off the table.

So if Ray is worth a potential top five/ten pick, then what does that mean for the player ranked ahead of him? I’m close to out of superlatives for Zack Collins’s bat. If he can catch, he’s a superstar. If he can’t, then he’s still a potential big league power bat capable of hitting in the middle of the championship lineup for the next decade. I realize first basemen aren’t typically sought after at the top of the draft. There are perfectly valid reasons for that. But any time you have the chance at a potential top five bat at any given position, I think it’s all right to bend the rules a little. Positional value is important, but so is premium offensive production. Collins hitting and hitting a lot as a professional is one of the things I’m most sure about in this draft class.

Nick Solak is an outstanding hitter. He can hit any pitch in any count and has shown himself plenty capable of crushing mistakes. His approach is impeccable, his speed above-average, and his defense dependable. I think he’s the best college second baseman in this class. His teammate Blake Tiberi is just as exciting to me. I think there’s a legit plus hit tool there and his athleticism is fantastic for an infielder. Every other physical tool should be at least average. I think Tiberi could be a future big league regular at third. These Louisville hitters are really, really good.

Chris Okey’s play isn’t the cause for his drop in stock, but rather the stellar work of almost every single catcher at the top of this class previously thought to be either slightly ahead of him or behind him. If he’s still a top five college catcher, then maybe he’s fifth. I’d have a hard time putting him ahead of Collins, Matt Thaiss, Logan Ice, and Jake Rogers, so fifth seems like his new draft ceiling. Again, not an indictment of his season per se but merely the reality that others have held serve or passed him by. Meanwhile Preston Palmeiro hasn’t lit the world on fire so much that his stock should rise, but the shallowness of this year’s first base class helps him stay firmly in the top five mix at the position.

Kel Johnson and Willie Abreu are similar prospects who have gone in different directions this spring. Both have massive raw power with massive holes in their swings. Johnson, the “newer” of the two prospects, is seen as the ascending hitter while Abreu, after three long years at Miami, is a victim of prospect fatigue. They make for a fascinating draft day pair.

Ben DeLuzio and Jacob Heyward are like the anti-Johnson/Abreu pair. This year they’ve shown impressive plate discipline while underwhelming in the power department. They have both flashed average or better raw power in the past, so the hope that they will eventually put it all together remains.

There were a few players I thought could do big things before the season that have not done big things this year. That’s about the least eloquent thing I’ve ever written, but you know what I mean. My anticipated breakout for Kyle Fiala has not come. I don’t know what to make of him right now. Nate Mondou’s approach has stepped forward, but his power has fallen back. That’s confusing. And the two Clemson bats I’ve long liked, Weston Wilson and Eli White, still have lots to work on. A little bit of late season magic would do all of these players some good. I’ll be rooting for them.

Meanwhile, Connor Jones, TJ Zeuch, and Zac Gallen are the only names among the elite pitchers in the conference that I think are sure-fire professional starting pitchers over the long haul. I’m bullish on Justin Dunn being able to remain in the rotation and Kyle Funkhouser still has that upside, but that’s about it beyond the obvious names. That sums up the ACC in 2016 pitching for me: few starting pitching locks, tons of relievers, and no real consensus after the top guy…who I actually am less sure about than most.

I’ve gone back and forth on Jones a few times throughout the draft process. For as much as I like him, there’s something about his game doesn’t quite add up just yet. He checks every box you’d want in a near-ML ready starting pitching prospect, but it’s hard to get too excited about a pitcher who has never truly dominated at the college level. My big question about Jones is whether or not he has that second gear that will allow him to consistently put away big league hitters in times of trouble. His stuff is perfectly suited to killing worms; in fact, his sinker, slider, and splitter combination has resulted in an impressive 65.25 GB% in 2016. But he’ll have to miss more bats to be more than a back of the rotation starter at the highest level. His K/9 year-by-year at Virginia: 6.55, 8.77, and 6.79. Those aren’t the kinds of numbers you’d expect out of a guy being talked up in some circles as a potential top ten pick and first college pitcher selected in the draft. This evaluation of Jones is a little bit like the scattered thoughts on Corey Ray shared above in that it highlights how tough it can be when you’re one of the top prospects in the country. Potential top half of the first round prospects get nitpicked in a way that mid-round players never will. Jones, like Ray, is an excellent prospect, but because a) everybody already knows the top two dozen or so “name” draft prospects are excellent and continuously talking about how great they are is tired, and b) the greater investment in top prospects necessitates a more thorough examination of their total game, getting picked apart more than most comes with the territory.

TJ Zeuch has come back from injury seemingly without missing a beat. I’m a big fan of just about everything he does. He’s got the size (6-7, 225), body control, tempo, and temperament to hold up as a starting pitcher for a long time. He’s also got a legit four-pitch mix that allows him to mix and match in ways that routinely leave even good ACC hitters guessing.

Even though North Carolina posts their rosters so late in the winter that I can’t give them a proper preview, I still managed to touch on Zac Gallen some…

It’ll be really interesting to see how high Gallen will rise in the real draft come June. He’s the kind of relatively safe, high-floor starting pitching prospect who either sticks in the rotation for a decade or tops out as a sixth starter better served moving to the bullpen to see if his stuff plays up there. This aggressive (pretend) pick by Boston should point to what side of that debate I side with. Gallen doesn’t do any one thing particularly well — stellar fastball command and a willingness to keep pounding in cutters stand out — but he throws five (FB, cutter, truer SL, CB, CU) pitches for strikes and competes deep into just about every start. There’s serious value in that.

That holds up today. Gallen’s profile seems like the type who gets overlooked during the draft, overlooked in the minors, and overlooked until he’s run through a few big league lineups before people begin to get wise. That’s all entirely anecdotal, but sometimes you’ve got to run with a hunch.

I came very close to putting Justin Dunn in the top spot. If he continues to show that he can hold up as a starting pitcher, then there’s a chance he winds up as the best pitching prospect in this conference by June. I’d love to see a better change-up between now and then as well. I’m pretty sure I’m out of words when it comes to Kyle Funkhouser. I hold out some hope that he’ll be a better pro than college pitcher because his raw stuff at its best is really that good, but there’s just so much inconsistency to his game that I can’t go all-in on him again. Maybe he’s fulfills the promise he showed last year, maybe he winds up more of a consistently inconsistent fifth starter/swingman type, or maybe he’s destined to a life of relief work. I no longer have any clue where his career is heading. I feel liberated.

If either Funkhouser or Dunn winds up in the bullpen over the long haul, they’ll join a whole bunch of other ACC arms who might fit best as late-inning relievers in the pro ranks. Bailey Clark could keep starting, but most of the smarter folk I talk to seem to think he’ll fit best as a closer in the pros. At his best his stuff rivals the best Jones has to offer, but the Virginia righthander’s command edge and less stressful delivery make him the better bet to remain in the rotation. I personally wouldn’t rule out Clark having a long and fruitful career as a starting pitcher, but I’ll concede that the thought of him unleashing his plus to plus-plus fastball (90-96, 98 peak and impossible to square up consistently) over and over again in shorter outings is mighty appealing. Truer relievers like Zack Burdi (who I think I like better than his brother), AJ Bogucki, Bryan Garcia, Spencer Trayner, and Jim Ziemba will all be valued in different ways come draft day, but all have the present ability to be quick movers and early contributors.

I don’t normally say stuff like this, but here we go: I really like how the ACC hitting list came out. If you listen to me about any one specific list this spring, this should probably be the one.

Hitters

  1. Miami JR C/1B Zack Collins
  2. Louisville JR OF Corey Ray
  3. Virginia JR C Matt Thaiss
  4. Wake Forest JR 1B/RHP Will Craig
  5. Louisville JR 2B/OF Nick Solak
  6. Louisville rSO 3B/SS Blake Tiberi
  7. Notre Dame JR 2B/3B Cavan Biggio
  8. Clemson JR C Chris Okey
  9. North Carolina State JR C/3B Andrew Knizner
  10. North Carolina JR OF Tyler Ramirez
  11. North Carolina State JR 1B/OF Preston Palmeiro
  12. Georgia Tech SO OF/1B Kel Johnson
  13. Miami JR OF Willie Abreu
  14. Virginia JR SS/3B Daniel Pinero
  15. Georgia Tech JR SS Connor Justus
  16. Florida State JR OF/SS Ben DeLuzio
  17. Miami JR OF Jacob Heyward
  18. Notre Dame JR 2B/SS Kyle Fiala
  19. Wake Forest JR 2B/OF Nate Mondou
  20. Clemson JR 3B/SS Weston Wilson
  21. Clemson JR SS/2B Eli White
  22. Wake Forest JR C Ben Breazeale
  23. North Carolina JR OF Tyler Lynn
  24. Virginia Tech rJR OF Saige Jenco
  25. Florida State SR 2B/SS John Sansone
  26. Florida State JR 1B/C Quincy Nieporte
  27. Louisville JR C Will Smith
  28. Louisville JR OF Logan Taylor
  29. Clemson rSO OF/1B Reed Rohlman
  30. Miami SR SS Brandon Lopez
  31. Boston College SR 3B/SS Joe Cronin
  32. North Carolina JR OF Adam Pate
  33. Georgia Tech JR OF Ryan Peurifoy
  34. Georgia Tech JR C Arden Pabst
  35. Florida State JR C/OF Gage West
  36. Miami JR 2B/SS Johnny Ruiz
  37. North Carolina SR SS/2B Eli Sutherland
  38. Florida State JR SS/2B Matt Henderson
  39. Georgia Tech JR OF Keenan Innis
  40. Boston College JR SS/3B Johnny Adams
  41. Boston College JR C Nick Sciortino
  42. Duke JR C Cristian Perez
  43. Notre Dame SR SS Lane Richards
  44. Georgia Tech SR 3B/SS Matt Gonzalez
  45. Virginia SR C Robbie Coman
  46. Wake Forest SR OF/2B Joey Rodriguez
  47. Notre Dame SR OF/LHP Zac Kutsulis
  48. Louisville JR OF Colin Lyman
  49. Duke rJR OF/1B Jalen Phillips
  50. Notre Dame JR C Ryan Lidge
  51. North Carolina State SR C Chance Shepard
  52. Pittsburgh SR OF/LHP Aaron Schnurbusch
  53. Pittsburgh JR OF Nick Yarnall
  54. Pittsburgh JR C Caleb Parry
  55. Notre Dame rSO OF Torii Hunter
  56. North Carolina State SR 3B/SS Ryne Willard
  57. Louisville SR 1B/3B Dan Rosenbaum
  58. Miami rJR 1B/OF Chris Barr
  59. Clemson rSO 3B Glenn Batson
  60. Clemson rJR OF Maleeke Gibson

Pitchers

  1. Virginia JR RHP Connor Jones
  2. Pittsburgh JR RHP TJ Zeuch
  3. Boston College JR RHP Justin Dunn
  4. Duke JR RHP Bailey Clark
  5. Louisville JR RHP Zack Burdi
  6. North Carolina JR RHP Zac Gallen
  7. Louisville SR RHP Kyle Funkhouser
  8. North Carolina JR RHP AJ Bogucki
  9. Miami JR RHP Bryan Garcia
  10. North Carolina JR RHP Spencer Trayner
  11. Clemson SR RHP Clate Schmidt
  12. Louisville JR LHP Drew Harrington
  13. Wake Forest JR RHP Parker Dunshee
  14. Clemson rSO LHP Alex Bostic
  15. Duke rSO LHP Jim Ziemba
  16. Boston College JR RHP Mike King
  17. Wake Forest SR RHP/C Garrett Kelly
  18. Virginia JR RHP Alec Bettinger
  19. North Carolina State JR RHP Joe O’Donnell
  20. North Carolina State JR LHP Ryan Williamson
  21. Georgia Tech JR RHP/3B Brandon Gold
  22. Florida State JR LHP Alec Byrd
  23. Florida State rSO RHP Ed Voyles
  24. Florida State rSR RHP Tyler Warmoth
  25. Clemson rSR RHP Patrick Andrews
  26. Duke rSO RHP Karl Blum
  27. Georgia Tech JR RHP Matthew Gorst
  28. North Carolina SO RHP/1B Ryder Ryan
  29. Miami SR RHP Enrique Sosa
  30. North Carolina State rSR RHP Kyle Smith
  31. Miami JR LHP Danny Garcia
  32. North Carolina rSR RHP Chris McCue
  33. Virginia Tech JR RHP Aaron McGarity
  34. North Carolina State JR RHP Cory Wilder
  35. Virginia rSO RHP Jack Roberts
  36. North Carolina State rJR RHP Johnny Piedmonte
  37. Clemson JR LHP Pat Krall
  38. Boston College SR LHP Jesse Adams
  39. Duke rSR RHP Brian McAfee
  40. North Carolina State SR LHP Will Gilbert
  41. Louisville JR RHP Jake Sparger
  42. Georgia Tech rSR RHP Cole Pitts
  43. Georgia Tech JR RHP Zac Ryan
  44. Boston College SR RHP John Nicklas
  45. Georgia Tech SR LHP/OF Jonathan King
  46. Florida State rJR LHP Alex Diese
  47. Virginia rJR LHP/OF Kevin Doherty
  48. Pittsburgh SR RHP Aaron Sandefur
  49. Florida State rSO RHP Andy Ward
  50. Wake Forest rSO RHP Chris Farish
  51. North Carolina State rJR RHP Karl Keglovits
  52. Virginia Tech JR RHP Luke Scherzer
  53. Virginia Tech rSO RHP Ryan Lauria
  54. North Carolina State rSR LHP Travis Orwig
  55. North Carolina JR LHP Zach Rice
  56. Notre Dame SR RHP David Hearne
  57. Miami rSO RHP Andy Honiotes
  58. Florida State rSO RHP Taylor Blatch
  59. Duke rSR RHP Kellen Urbon
  60. Clemson rSO RHP Drew Moyer
  61. Clemson rJR RHP Wales Toney
  62. Clemson rJR RHP/1B Jackson Campana
  63. North Carolina State rJR LHP Sean Adler
  64. Wake Forest JR RHP Connor Johnstone
  65. Florida State rSR RHP Mike Compton
  66. Duke rSR LHP Trent Swart
  67. Louisville SR RHP Anthony Kidston
  68. Wake Forest JR RHP John McCarren
  69. Virginia JR RHP Tyler Shambora
  70. Miami SR LHP Thomas Woodrey
  71. Virginia Tech rJR LHP Kit Scheetz
  72. Virginia SR LHP David Rosenberger
  73. Notre Dame JR RHP Ryan Smoyer
  74. Virginia JR RHP Holden Grounds
  75. Notre Dame SR LHP Michael Hearne
  76. Pittsburgh JR RHP Matt Pidich
  77. Florida State rSO RHP Will Zirzow
  78. Duke SR LHP Nick Hendrix
  79. Notre Dame SR RHP Nick McCarty
  80. Miami JR RHP Cooper Hammond
  81. Pittsburgh JR RHP Sam Mersing
  82. North Carolina State rSO LHP Cody Beckman
  83. Virginia Tech rSR LHP Jon Woodcock
  84. Georgia Tech JR LHP Ben Parr
  85. Wake Forest rSR RHP Aaron Fossas
  86. North Carolina State rSR RHP Chris Williams

Boston College

SR LHP Jesse Adams (2016)
SR RHP John Nicklas (2016)
JR RHP Justin Dunn (2016)
JR RHP Mike King (2016)
JR RHP Bobby Skogsbergh (2016)
SR 3B/SS Joe Cronin (2016)
SR OF Logan Hoggarth (2016)
SR C Stephen Sauter (2016)
JR SS/3B Johnny Adams (2016)
JR C Nick Sciortino (2016)
JR OF/RHP Michael Strem (2016)
SO RHP Brian Rapp (2017)
SO RHP/OF Donovan Casey (2017)
SO 2B/3B Jake Palomaki (2017)
FR RHP Jacob Stevens (2017)
FR C Gian Martellini (2018)

High Priority Follows: Jesse Adams, John Nicklas, Justin Dunn, Mike King, Joe Cronin, Johnny Adams, Nick Sciortino, Michael Strem

Clemson

SR RHP Clate Schmidt (2016)
rSR RHP Patrick Andrews (2016)
rJR RHP Wales Toney (2016)
rJR RHP Garrett Lovorn (2016)
rSO LHP Alex Bostic (2016)
JR LHP Pat Krall (2016)
JR LHP Andrew Towns (2016)
rSO RHP Drew Moyer (2016)
rJR RHP/1B Jackson Campana (2016)
JR C Chris Okey (2016)
JR SS/2B Eli White (2016)
JR 3B/SS Weston Wilson (2016)
rSO OF/1B Reed Rohlman (2016)
rSO 3B Glenn Batson (2016)
rJR OF Maleeke Gibson (2016)
rJR 1B/OF Andrew Cox (2016)
FR LHP Jake Higginbotham (2017)
SO LHP Charlie Barnes (2017)
rFR RHP Alex Eubanks (2017)
SO RHP Paul Campbell (2017)
SO 3B/2B Adam Renwick (2017)
SO OF Chase Pinder (2017)
rFR OF KJ Bryant (2017)
SO SS Grayson Byrd (2017)
SO OF Drew Wharton (2017)
SO C Robert Jolly (2017)
SO C/1B Chris Williams (2017)
FR RHP Ryley Gilliam (2018)
FR RHP Zach Goodman (2018)
FR RHP Graham Lawson (2018)
FR RHP/1B Brooks Crawford (2018)
FR RHP Tom Walker (2018)
FR RHP Andrew Papp (2018)
FR C Jordan Greene (2018)
FR SS/2B Grant Cox (2018)
FR OF Seth Beer (2018)

High Priority Follows: Clate Schmidt, Patrick Andrews, Wales Toney, Alex Bostic, Pat Krall, Drew Moyer, Jackson Campana, Chris Okey, Eli White, Weston Wilson, Reed Rohlman, Glenn Batson, Maleeke Gibson

Duke

JR RHP Bailey Clark (2016)
rSO RHP Karl Blum (2016)
rSO LHP Jim Ziemba (2016)
rSR RHP Brian McAfee (2016)
SR LHP Nick Hendrix (2016)
rSR RHP Conner Stevens (2016)
JR LHP Kevin Lewallyn (2016)
rSR LHP Trent Swart (2016)
rSR RHP Kellen Urbon (2016)
rJR OF/1B Jalen Phillips (2016)
JR C Cristian Perez (2016)
SO LHP Chris McGrath (2017)
SO LHP Mitch Stallings (2017)
SO RHP/SS Ryan Day (2017)
SO 3B/RHP Jack Labosky (2017)
SO 1B Justin Bellinger (2017)
SO 3B/SS Max Miller (2017)
SO 2B/OF Peter Zyla (2017)
SO OF Michael Smicicklas (2017)
SO OF Evan Dougherty (2017)
FR RHP Al Pesto (2018)
FR OF Keyston Fuller (2018)
FR OF Kennie Taylor (2018)
FR OF Jimmy Herron (2018)
FR SS Zack Kone (2018)
FR SS Zack Kesterson (2018)
FR OF Griffin Conine (2018)

High Priority Follows: Bailey Clark, Karl Blum, Jim Ziemba, Brian McAfee, Nick Hendrix, Conner Stevens, Trent Swart, Kellen Urbon, Jalen Phillips, Cristian Perez

Florida State

rSR RHP Mike Compton (2016)
rJR LHP Alex Diese (2016)
rSO RHP Taylor Blatch (2016)
JR LHP Alec Byrd (2016)
rSO RHP Andy Ward (2016)
rSO RHP Ed Voyles (2016)
JR RHP Jim Voyles (2016)
rSO RHP Will Zirzow (2016)
rSR LHP Matt Kinney (2016)
rSR RHP Tyler Warmoth (2016)
JR OF/SS Ben DeLuzio (2016)
JR 1B/C Quincy Nieporte (2016)
SR 2B/SS John Sansone (2016)
JR C/OF Gage West (2016)
JR 1B/OF Hank Truluck (2016)
JR SS/2B Matt Henderson (2016)
JR C Bryan Bussey (2016)
FR LHP/OF Tyler Holton (2017)
SO RHP Cobi Johnson (2017)
rFR RHP Andrew Karp (2017)
SO RHP Drew Carlton (2017)
SO OF/RHP Steven Wells (2017)
SO C/1B Darren Miller (2017)
SO SS/3B Dylan Busby (2017)
SO SS/2B Taylor Walls (2017)
FR RHP Cole Sands (2018)
FR LHP Jared Middleton (2018)
FR RHP Chase Haney (2018)
FR RHP Ronnie Ramirez (2018)
FR RHP Dillon Brown (2018)
FR C Caleb Raleigh (2018)
FR C/OF Jackson Lueck (2018)
FR OF Donovan Petrey (2018)

High Priority Follows: Mike Compton, Alex Diese, Taylor Blatch, Alec Byrd, Andy Ward, Ed Voyles, Jim Voyles, Will Zirzow, Matt Kinney, Tyler Warmoth, Ben DeLuzio, Quincy Nieporte, John Sansome, Gage West, Hank Truluck, Matt Henderson

Georgia Tech

JR LHP Ben Parr (2016)
JR RHP Matthew Gorst (2016)
SR LHP/OF Jonathan King (2016)
JR RHP/3B Brandon Gold (2016)
JR RHP Zac Ryan (2016)
rSR RHP Cole Pitts (2016)
JR LHP Tanner Shelton (2016)
JR RHP Matt Phillips (2016)
SO OF/1B Kel Johnson (2016)
JR OF Keenan Innis (2016)
JR OF Ryan Peurifoy (2016)
JR C Arden Pabst (2016)
JR SS Connor Justus (2016)
SR 3B/SS Matt Gonzalez (2016)
SO RHP Patrick Wiseman (2017)
SO 2B Wade Bailey (2017)
SO 3B/C Trevor Graport (2017)
FR RHP Jonathan Hughes (2018)
FR RHP Tristin English (2018)
FR RHP Bobby Gavreau (2018)
FR RHP Keyton Gibson (2018)
FR RHP Jake Lee (2018)
FR RHP Micah Carpenter (2018)
FR RHP Burton Dulaney (2018)
FR C Joey Bart (2018)
FR OF/1B Brandt Stallings (2018)
FR 2B/SS Carter Hall (2018)
FR 2B/SS Jackson Webb (2018)

High Priority Follows: Ben Parr, Matthew Gorst, Jonathan King, Brandon Gold, Zac Ryan, Cole Pitts, Kel Johnson, Keenan Innis, Ryan Peurifoy, Arden Pabst, Connor Justus, Matt Gonzalez

Louisville

SR RHP Kyle Funkhouser (2016)
JR RHP Zack Burdi (2016)
JR LHP Drew Harrington (2016)
SR RHP Anthony Kidston (2016)
JR RHP Jake Sparger (2016)
rSR RHP Ryan Smith (2016)
JR RHP Shane Hummel (2016)
JR OF Corey Ray (2016)
rSO 3B/SS Blake Tiberi (2016)
JR 2B/OF Nick Solak (2016)
JR OF Logan Taylor (2016)
JR OF Colin Lyman (2016)
JR C Will Smith (2016)
SR 1B/3B Dan Rosenbaum (2016)
rSO OF/C Ryan Summers (2016)
SO RHP Kade McClure (2017)
SO RHP Lincoln Henzman (2017)
SO RHP Sean Leland (2017)
SO LHP/1B Brendan McKay (2017)
SO C Colby Fitch (2017)
SO SS/2B Devin Hairston (2017)
FR RHP Riley Thompson (2017)
FR RHP Sam Bordner (2018)
FR RHP Bryan Hoeing (2018)
FR RHP Noah Burkholder (2018)
FR LHP Adam Wolf (2018)
FR OF Josh Stowers (2018)
FR INF Devin Mann (2018)
FR OF Chris Botsoe (2018)
FR C Zeke Pinkham (2018)
FR SS Daniel Little (2018)
FR 3B Drew Ellis (2018)

High Priority Follows: Kyle Funkhouser, Zack Burdi, Drew Harrington, Anthony Kidston, Jake Sparger, Corey Ray, Blake Tiberi, Nick Solak, Logan Taylor, Colin Lyman, Will Smith, Dan Rosenbaum, Ryan Summers

Miami

SR LHP Thomas Woodrey (2016)
JR RHP Cooper Hammond (2016)
JR RHP Bryan Garcia (2016)
JR LHP Danny Garcia (2016)
SR RHP Enrique Sosa (2016)
rSO RHP Andy Honiotes (2016)
JR C/1B Zack Collins (2016)
JR OF Willie Abreu (2016)
JR OF Jacob Heyward (2016)
SR SS Brandon Lopez (2016)
rJR 1B/OF Chris Barr (2016)
JR 2B/SS Johnny Ruiz (2016)
JR INF Randy Batista (2016)
JR 1B Edgar Michelangeli (2016)
SO LHP Michael Mediavilla (2017)
SO RHP Jesse Lepore (2017)
rFR RHP Keven Pimentel (2017)
rFR RHP Devin Meyer (2017)
rFR LHP Luke Spangler (2017)
SO OF Carl Chester (2017)
FR RHP Andrew Cabezas (2018)
FR RHP Frankie Bartow (2018)
FR 3B Romy Gonzalez (2018)

High Priority Follows: Thomas Woodrey, Cooper Hammond, Bryan Garcia, Danny Garcia, Enrique Sosa, Sandy Honiotes, Zack Collins, Willie Abreu, Jacob Heyward, Brandon Lopez, Chris Barr, Johnny Ruiz

North Carolina

JR RHP AJ Bogucki (2016)
JR RHP Zac Gallen (2016)
JR LHP Zach Rice (2016)
rSR RHP Chris McCue (2016)
JR RHP Spencer Trayner (2016)
SO RHP/1B Ryder Ryan (2016)
JR OF Tyler Ramirez (2016)
JR OF Tyler Lynn (2016)
JR OF Adam Pate (2016)
SR SS/2B Eli Sutherland (2016)
SO RHP JB Bukauskas (2017)
SO RHP Jason Morgan (2017)
SO RHP Hansen Butler (2017)
SO RHP Brett Daniels (2017)
SO LHP/1B Hunter Williams (2017)
SO OF/1B Brian Miller (2017)
SO 3B/SS Zack Gahagan (2017)
SO SS/2B Logan Warmoth (2017)
FR 3B/RHP Kyle Datres (2017)
FR LHP Brendon Little (2018)
RHP Taylor Sugg (2018)
FR RHP Cole Aker (2018)
FR RHP Rodney Hutchison (2018)
FR C/RHP Cody Roberts (2018)
FR C Wyatt Cross (2018)
FR C Brendan Illies (2018)
FR OF Josh Ladowski (2018)
FR SS Utah Jones (2018)
FR OF Brandon Riley (2018)

High Priority Follows: AJ Bogucki, Zac Gallen, Zach Rice, Chris McCue, Spencer Trayner, Ryder Ryan, Tyler Ramirez, Tyler Lynn, Adam Pate, Eli Sutherland

North Carolina State

JR RHP Joe O’Donnell (2016)
rJR LHP Sean Adler (2016)
rJR RHP Johnny Piedmonte (2016)
JR RHP Cory Wilder (2016)
rSR LHP Travis Orwig (2016)
SR LHP Will Gilbert (2016)
rJR RHP Karl Keglovits (2016)
rSR RHP Kyle Smith (2016)
rSR RHP Chris Williams (2016)
rSO LHP Cody Beckman (2016)
JR LHP Ryan Williamson (2016)
JR C/3B Andrew Knizner (2016)
JR 1B/OF Preston Palmeiro (2016)
SR 3B/SS Ryne Willard (2016)
SR C Chance Shepard (2016)
rSO OF Garrett Suggs (2016)
SO LHP Brian Brown (2017)
SO RHP Evan Brabrand (2017)
SO RHP/3B Evan Mendoza (2017)
SO RHP/INF Tommy DeJuneas (2017)
rFR OF Storm Edwards (2017)
SO OF Josh McLain (2017)
SO 3B/SS Joe Dunand (2017)
SO 2B Stephen Pitarra (2017)
SO OF Brock Deatherage (2017)
SO OF Shane Shepard (2017)
FR SS/OF Xavier LeGrant (2018)

High Priority Follows: Joe O’Donnell, Sean Adler, Johnny Piedmonte, Cory Wilder, Travis Orwig, Will Gilbert, Karl Keglovits, Kyle Smith, Chris Williams, Cody Beckman, Ryan Williamson, Andrew Knizner, Preston Palmeiro, Ryne Willard, Chance Shepard,

Notre Dame

SR RHP Nick McCarty (2016)
SR RHP David Hearne (2016)
SR LHP Michael Hearne (2016)
JR RHP Ryan Smoyer (2016)
JR LHP Jim Orwick (2016)
JR LHP Scott Tully (2016)
SR RHP Connor Hale (2016)
SR OF/LHP Zac Kutsulis (2016)
JR 2B/3B Cavan Biggio (2016)
JR 2B/SS Kyle Fiala (2016)
SR SS Lane Richards (2016)
JR C Ryan Lidge (2016)
rSO OF Torii Hunter (2016)
SR C/OF Ricky Sanchez (2016)
SO RHP Brad Bass (2017)
SO LHP Sean Guenther (2017)
SO RHP Brandon Bielak (2017)
SO RHP Peter Solomon (2017)
SO RHP Evy Ruibal (2017)
SO OF Jake Johnson (2017)
FR RHP Connor Hock (2018)
FR RHP Chris Connolly (2018)
FR OF/RHP Matt Vierling (2018)
FR 3B Jake Singer (2018)
FR OF Connor Stutts (2018)

High Priority Follows: Nick McCarty, David Hearne, Michael Hearne, Ryan Smoyer, Scott Tully, Zac Kutsulis, Cavan Biggio, Kyle Fiala, Lane Richards, Ryan Lidge, Torii Hunter, Ricky Sanchez

Pittsburgh

JR RHP TJ Zeuch (2016)
SR RHP Aaron Sandefur (2016)
JR RHP Sam Mersing (2016)
rSO LHP Josh Mitchell (2016)
JR RHP Matt Pidich (2016)
SR OF/LHP Aaron Schnurbusch (2016)
SR C Alex Kowalczyk (2016)
rJR OF Jacob Wright (2016)
JR INF Ron Sherman (2016)
JR OF Nick Yarnall (2016)
JR C Caleb Parry (2016)
JR C Manny Pazos (2016)
rSO OF Frank Maldonado (2016)
SO RHP Isaac Mattson (2017)
SO 3B/SS Charles LeBlanc (2017)
FR LHP Clayton Morrell (2018)
FR RHP Derek West (2018)
FR OF Yasin Chentouf (2018)

High Priority Follows: TJ Zeuch, Aaron Sandefur, Sam Mersing, Matt Pidich, Aaron Schnurbusch, Alex Kowalczyk, Jacob Wright, Ron Sherman, Nick Yarnall, Caleb Parry, Frank Maldonado

Virginia

JR RHP Connor Jones (2016)
JR RHP Alec Bettinger (2016)
rSO RHP Jack Roberts (2016)
SR LHP David Rosenberger (2016)
JR RHP Tyler Shambora (2016)
JR RHP Holden Grounds (2016)
rJR LHP/OF Kevin Doherty (2016)
JR C Matt Thaiss (2016)
SR C Robbie Coman (2016)
JR SS/3B Daniel Pinero (2016)
SO RHP Tommy Doyle (2017)
SO RHP Derek Casey (2017)
SO LHP Bennett Sousa (2017)
SO OF/LHP Adam Haseley (2017)
SO 3B Charlie Cody (2017)
SO 2B/OF Ernie Clement (2017)
SO 2B Jack Gerstenmaier (2017)
SO C/2B Justin Novak (2017)
SO 1B/RHP Pavin Smith (2017)
FR OF Doak Dozier (2017)
FR RHP Evan Sperling (2018)
FR LHP Daniel Lynch (2018)
FR LHP Connor Eason (2018)
FR RHP Grant Sloan (2018):
FR OF/RHP Cameron Simmons (2018)
FR 3B Ryan Karstetter (2018)
FR 2B/SS Andy Weber (2018)
FR 3B/1B Nate Eikhoff (2018)
FR OF Jake McCarthy (2018)
FR INF Jon Meola (2018)

High Priority Follows: Connor Jones, Alec Bettinger, Jack Roberts, David Rosenberger, Tyler Shambora, Holden Grounds, Kevin Doherty, Matt Thaiss, Robbie Coman, Daniel Pinero

Virginia Tech

rJR LHP Kit Scheetz (2016)
rSR LHP Jon Woodcock (2016)
JR RHP Aaron McGarity (2016)
JR RHP Luke Scherzer (2016)
rSO RHP Ryan Lauria (2016)
rJR 1B/LHP Phil Sciretta (2016)
rJR OF Saige Jenco (2016)
rSR OF Logan Bible (2016)
JR OF Mac Caples (2016)
JR 3B/SS Ryan Tufts (2016)
SR C Andrew Mogg (2016)
rSO OF Nick Anderson (2016)
rSO OF/LHP Tom Stoffel (2016)
SO LHP Packy Naughton (2017)
SO OF/3B Max Ponzurik (2017)
SO C Joe Freiday (2017)
FR RHP Nic Enright (2018)
FR RHP Culver Hughes (2018)
FR RHP Cole Kragel (2018)
FR RHP Payton Holdsworth (2018)
FR LHP/1B Patrick Hall (2018)
FR RHP Tim Salvadore (2018)
FR OF/1B Stevie Mangrum (2018)
FR C/OF Stephen Polansky (2018)

High Priority Follows: Kit Scheetz, Jon Woodcock, Aaron McGarity, Luke Scherzer, Ryan Lauria, Phil Sciretta, Saige Jenco, Mac Caples, Ryan Tufts, Nick Anderson

Wake Forest

SR RHP/C Garrett Kelly (2016)
rSR RHP Aaron Fossas (2016)
JR RHP Parker Dunshee (2016)
rSO RHP Chris Farish (2016)
JR RHP Connor Johnstone (2016)
JR RHP John McCarren (2016)
rSO RHP Parker Johnson (2016)
JR 1B/RHP Will Craig (2016)
JR C Ben Breazeale (2016)
SR OF/2B Joey Rodriguez (2016)
JR 2B/OF Nate Mondou (2016)
rSR OF Kevin Conway (2016)
JR OF Jonathan Pryor (2016)
SO RHP Drew Loepprich (2017)
SO RHP Donnie Sellers (2016)
SO OF Stuart Fairchild (2017)
SO 1B Gavin Sheets (2017)
SO OF Keegan Maronpot (2017)
SO SS/2B Drew Freedman (2017)
SO SS/2B Bruce Steel (2017)
FR LHP Tyler Witt (2018)
FR RHP Griffin Roberts (2018)
FR RHP Rayne Supple (2018)
FR 3B/SS John Aiello (2018)

High Priority Follows: Garrett Kelly, Aaron Fossas, Parker Dunshee, Chris Farish, Connor Johnstone, John McCarren, Parker Johnson, Will Craig, Ben Breazeale, Joey Rodriguez, Nate Mondou, Kevin Conway, Jonathan Pryor

EDIT: Sellers is a 2016 draft-eligible sophomore. Fastball up to 95 with a solid slider. He’ll be included on future lists.

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

Site Update…and Random ACC Notes

I’m 41% finished with updating my college database. Without context that sounds neither good nor bad, but it’s something. Putting together the database is a long, tedious process that I start off enjoying (that first 10% flies by!), come to hate as the monotony and pointlessness of the whole endeavor sets in (this is reserved for those last thoughts as I drift to bed each night), begin to enjoy again after getting a weird rush of adrenaline that defies reason (every percentage point closer pumps me up…the human brain is weird), all before getting to the annual slog once I’m through doing all the big-time conferences until that one night when there’s no turning back in the work where I catch myself staying up well past my bedtime as I update players in the SWAC wondering how my life has come to this. What kills me about the whole thing is that every waking minute I’m not updating the database feels like a wasted opportunity. That’s sick. I need help. Any and all of those pesky non-essential yet obviously essential day-to-day tasks like eating, showering, commuting to/from work, and sleeping just get in the way of getting this whole thing over with. It shouldn’t be something to endure because I’m choosing to do it at no financial gain, but I’m human and sometimes combing through old box scores and obsessively checking my phone to hear back from somebody and finding old game recaps that I’ve saved since February but never got around to read feels like a silly way to spend one’s energy. But then, finally, it’s done and I’m happy and I get a million mean comments and emails and I’m still happy but in a different “haters gonna hate” kind of way and then the draft comes and goes and I go to sleep for the rest of June.

I broke my finger at around this time last year and it made updating the site nearly impossible for a few weeks — what would normally take me hours would have taken me days, and this info is time-sensitive after all — so I choose to embrace the craziness of the next few days and be thankful I’m in a position to have enough free time to pursue a hobby that I enjoy this much. I really hope that everybody else can get even a fraction of the enjoyment from reading that I do from putting this information together. Drafts really are the best, once you get past how arbitrary and anti-employee they are. I’m morally bankrupt, so I’m good to go.

The reason for those two paragraphs is to say that I’ll be pretty quiet with daily posts until that update is complete. My current personal deadline is by the end of this week. The dream is to wake up on June 1, one week before draft day, with all of my information and notes as finalized as humanly possible. That’ll give me the full week to roll out my final rankings and player notes. I’ll still respond to comments/emails and update the non-D1 player lists, so don’t take the absence of daily content as me falling off the face of the earth. I’m still here and willing to chat, so drop me a line whenever. I’ll probably also chime back in at some point with the updated list for high school outfielders (still working on that) and a great big thing on high school pitching that is just so massive I can’t even process how to relay the intel. It might just be me throwing down my notes on the page and leaving it up to you to decide from there. That could be fun. We’ll see.

(Seconds after scheduling this post, I remembered this. One of the reasons for writing this was to pose a question that has bugged me for months: who is the draft’s second best high school pitching prospect? I like Kolby Allard a ton, so he’s my number one. Don’t think I’m budging on that in the next two weeks. After that I’ve got nothing. Nikorak is probably the consensus choice, I like Hooper way more than most (saw him on his best days, I guess…though I’m not sure I like him $4 million worth), and Everett/Burrows/Russell all have really good cases. Is it crazy to pump up one of the projection righthanders all the way up to the second spot? I’m thinking somebody like Chandler Day, Jackson Kowar, Triston McKenzie, Tristan Beck, or Brady Singer here. I don’t think I’d look at a ranking with any of those guys in the top three and automatically dismiss it. Not nearly enough has been mentioned about how crazy this year’s HS pitching class is. There is no consensus. It’s going to be chaos. I can’t wait. Except, you know, if I was drafting I’d do just that: wait. Think of the quality of arm that could be had in the second, third, or even fourth rounds.)

Now for some actual (non-parenthetical) baseball talk. I haven’t looked at a single draft ranking other than my own rough drafts, but I think I consume enough college/draft content on the whole to have some feel for where the consensus seems to lean. Keep that in mind when I talk about underrated or overrated players. I don’t literally no where players are rated elsewhere, so I’m kind of arguing against a strawmaw each time. I think I’m a bit more informed than most who rant and rave about imaginary points of view, but that’s up to you to decide.

Anyway, since I loathe going meta with site updates without providing any additional content while I’m bitching and whining about how hard life running a draft website for fun is, here are a few scattered thoughts about a few draft prospects from a few college teams. We’re hitting Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Louisville today. These teams were chosen for the ultra-scientific reason that they are literally the first six teams that I have in my Word document. I’d love to do these for every single college team (and with a little more depth, too), but that’s just not feasible between now and June 8. I mean, the goal for today was to get a paragraph going for every team in the ACC, but I couldn’t even do that before tiring out. This will have to do for now…

Chris Shaw is really good. I keep going back and forth with whether or not he’s better than Casey Gillaspie. My gut feel was yes, but my more measured take was not quite. I’m not sure what that means, if anything. I remain weirdly into Blake Butera as a late-round senior that could hang around pro ball a few years based on his glove, approach, and makeup. There are also a host of interesting late-round relief types like John Gorman, Jeff Burke, Jesse Adams, and John Nicklas that I’d give draftable grades to.

Clemson’s top guys are all not talked about for my liking. Steven Duggar, Tyler Krieger, and the top of their rotation (Matthew Crownover and Zack Erwin) are all fine players. I get the reasons for the relative quiet for each — Duggar is a tools guy who some tired of waiting on, Krieger is swallowed up by the weird and wonderful (and out of nowhere…seriously, it’s been years since we’ve seen an American group of legitimate future big league shortstops all enter pro ball at once) college shortstop class that surrounds him, and the two lefties are both low-velocity arms compared to comparable pro prospect peers — but each player has big league ability. Eli White is another intriguing draft name for Clemson that I’m not sure many realize is a draft-eligible sophomore this season.

Like everybody else, I have no idea what to make of Michael Matuella right now. I’ve heard (and made) a lot of the comparisons to previously injured amateur arms that were still drafted high in the first round, but I don’t think any truly fit. Matuella is a favorite, obviously, but the injury and the lack of a track record make him a very scary (and unique) selection if you’re considering him in the draft’s first dozen picks. After that point, I think the gamble makes a lot more sense. A good 2015 MLB Draft prop bet would be which side accumulates more career WAR: Matuella or the rest of the current Duke roster eligible to be picked this year. Sarkis Ohanian (nasty cutter) and Andrew Istler (will throw any pitch in any count) are two of the better non-closing relievers out there, plus Kenny Koplove has the stuff, athleticism, and funky arm action to miss bats at the highest level. I’d still take Matuella over three relievers and a collection of other parts, but it’s not crazy to go with the latter package considering the boom/bust nature of Matuella’s future.

I’ve mentioned a lot of comps for DJ Stewart in the past, so I’ll just throw out a “Matt Olson level production” comparison I got on him recently and leave it at that. I believe in that bat and the rankings will reflect that. After Stewart there is a pretty steep drop in terms of prospect quality on the Florida State roster. Chris Marconcini is probably my second favorite hitter on the Seminoles. Mike Compton, who I love watching, is more of a great college starter than a viable pro prospect, but he does enough well (movement, deception, command) that a team that prioritizes those things, as well as certain performance indicators, could give him an honest shot. I know he’s not going to get the chance to play pro ball, but I’d be surprised if Jameis Winston isn’t drafted at some point. Though I’m on record of believing in him as a real prospect, I think the novelty factor is why he’ll wind up being taken late.

Matt Gonzalez was never a favorite of mine, but it’s still a bummer to see him struggle in his first draft-eligible season at Georgia Tech. The tools are solid and the glove is legit, but without major changes to his approach I’m not sure he’s worth burning an early pick on.

I’ve written about why Kyle Funkhouser intrigues me the way he does before, though I still will likely remain the low man on him as he enters pro ball. The narrative on him was kind of weird this spring as he was kind of the guy we all thought he was coming into the year, but the spin — and I was guilty of doing some of this myself — was that he was answering some of the pre-season questions about his game. I worried about his command, control, and third pitch coming into the season, and I still have worries about each of those areas today.

2015 GB% Mid-May Update

In what will probably the last one of these we do before draft day, here are some notable pitching prospects GB% through the most recent weekend of the college season.

Walker Buehler: 63.7%
Nathan Kirby: 64.0%
Kyle Funkhouser: 55.4%
Dillon Tate: 68.4%
Carson Fulmer: 46.1%
Phil Bickford: 53.2%
Kyle Twomey: 58.0%

I dropped Lemoine and Young out of laziness, but I can go back and do the math on either if anybody is curious. I didn’t include Matuella since he hasn’t thrown a pitch since the last update. In a shocking upset, his GB% (55.8) remains unchanged since then. Amazing how that worked out.

One of the interesting things about this list is the actual makeup of the players chosen. If you recall, I chose the names for this list by simply going down the rankings of my top college pitchers from before the season. The order then was Brady Aiken, Kirby, Matuella, Buehler, Tate, Fulmer, Jay, Funkhouser, Bickford, Lemoine, and Twomey. Tyler Ferguson was next, but his unpredictable usage made him too difficult to track. I haven’t gone back and updated my college rankings yet — that’ll come after I finish up the HS prospects, possibly as soon as mid-way through next week — but I think the original list has held up fairly well. I know there are questions about many of the top guys, but I’m still a pretty firm believer in Buehler (top ten or so), Kirby (mid-first), and Twomey (late-first/supplemental) despite some of the concerns. Everybody loves Tate (and rightfully so), I’m higher on Fulmer than most (but not all), and Funkhouser, despite my trying to talk myself into him a few weeks ago, remains a guy I’m lower on than most.

While I can defend the names on the initial list, there are a few omissions that I really would like to have back. In fact, I might go through and grab some data on these players later and update this one last time before June. I’m particularly curious to see the numbers of James Kaprielian, Cody Ponce, and Thomas Eshelman. If I had to choose just one name to have back, however, it would without a doubt be Jon Harris. I liked Harris plenty before the season…

Harris throws four pitches for strikes (88-93 FB, 95 peak; above-average upper-70s CB; plus mid-80s SL; sinking CU) with the frame to add a bit more velocity as he fills out. He’s also pulled off the trick of being a reliable starter at Missouri State since day one while also getting slowly but surely more effective along the way.

…but still feel like having him as low as I did (27th) on the aforementioned college pitching list didn’t do my appreciation for him justice. It’s a pre-season miss that will be rectified in the updated rankings.

I admittedly haven’t given this a ton of thought just yet, but I think Harris would crack my top five college pitchers with relative ease right now. My current working order would go Jay (top overall pitcher), Tate, Buehler, Harris, and Fulmer.

Kyle Funkhouser

I’ve resisted writing about Louisville baseball for a while. It started months ago, but back then it wasn’t my fault: the Cardinals were one of the last teams in all of college ball to release their updated roster, so I had to wait anyway. Staying away even once the roster was published can be explained away to a point (even a patient guy like me has to move on eventually), but the most honest reason why I didn’t write about Louisville before today is because I didn’t know what to say about their star player and potential top ten pick, JR RHP Kyle Funkhouser. I still don’t.

I’ve personally seen Funkhouser twice. The first was way back in Louisville’s Big East days on 5/4/13. It was a blink and you’d miss it appearance with Funkhouser only pitching to two batters. He threw more balls than strikes that day while allowing a single and a walk. It wasn’t the kind of outing that had you walking away thinking you just saw a future lock first round pick, but there were indicators (arm speed, delivery, frame) that better days were ahead. Most of the scouts around me that day — and there were about a half-dozen or so, a pretty good crowd for any Villanova home game — didn’t pay much attention to Funkhouser’s appearance, busying themselves instead with their guarded chats about the starting pitchers they were here to say who just exited (Pat Young and Jeff Thompson) and the relief ace yet to come (Nick Burdi, who struck out two in getting his tenth save of the season). They also talked — far more openly and enthusiastically — about the forthcoming annual BBQ planned by one of the local veteran scouts in attendance. Thought long and hard about trying to angle for an invite to crash that party, but I would have been the youngest guy there by about thirty years so I opted to stay in my lane.

The next time I saw Funkhouser he was pitching for a team now in the AAC against Temple in one of the Owls last ever games. He was a little better this time out: 8 IP 4 H 0 ER 1 BB 12 K. The game also featured another shot at seeing Nick Burdi up close and personal (two strikeouts again) and an impressive complete game loss thrown by future Phillies ninth round pick Matt Hockenberry. I don’t recall if the scouts had a BBQ planned that weekend or not, but I do remember hearing from many that only a nasty injury would keep Funkhouser out of the 2015 first round. I also remember an older gentleman — not a scout as far as I could tell — refer to the pitcher having his way with Temple that day as Doogie Howser, so, all in all, it was a pretty good day.

Even for a prospect that I’ve seen multiple times (pro tip: multiple is almost always used to mean twice, at least when I use it) and have gotten a lot of feedback on from actual baseball men, I still don’t know what to say about him. He’s really good, obviously, but I’m not sure what I can add to the conversation beyond that. The fastball has a chance to be a plus pitch that he can lean on heavily when the offspeed isn’t working (and even when it is) due to premium velocity (90-95, 97-98 peak) and movement. The missing component there is command, an area of Funkhouser’s game that remains inconsistent despite the progress he’s made there this spring. He’s overall command has improved (fastball more so than offspeed, which I’d rather see if forced to choose), but it’s still not much better than average on his best day. I don’t see why he couldn’t make a jump in his command grade in the future because his delivery is clean and repeatable (I’m far from an expert, but I personally really like his motion — really well-balanced with outstanding tempo — minus the rushed finish), he’s reasonably athletic, and he’s already shown the capacity for improvement going back to his high school days in Illinois. The assortment of secondary offerings (SL, CB, and CU) speaks to the relatively high floor that a strapping four-pitch righthander with a track record of striking out a batter an inning at a big-time baseball school is expected to bring to the pro ranks.

I personally really like his slider (80-86) because it’s a pitch that he can throw down for swinging strikes and backdoor it to get guys looking and/or set up the next (better) pitch. It’s been consistently above-average for me and (reportedly) often gets better as the game goes on and he gets a better feel for it. His curve is still a pitch in progress, but I’ve been told that he’s firmed it up enough (73-77 when I saw him, 75-82 this year) that I should consider bumping up my average upside for the pitch (usable currently, but more of a “wasted” show-me pitch at the moment) to slightly more than that. His change ranged from 80-87 in my look and has varied this year from outing to outing (80-84 one week, 85-89 the next, then back to the low-80s again, etc.). I actually prefer his a little bit on the firm side because I don’t really see the pitch ever becoming a consistent swing and miss offering for him. The added firmness should encourage him to use the pitch earlier in counts when velocity separation isn’t as big a deal, and hopefully the pitch will help him get some nice, quick ground ball outs in the process. My 100% “not a scout, just a fan” observation after watching nine innings of him in person (and a bunch on video, but mostly just for fun) is that the arm action on Funkhouser’s change seems quite consistent with his heater, a fact that, again, could have something to do with the fact he can throw it close to as hard as where certain unnamed big league pitchers get their fastballs. I’m more bullish on it becoming at least an average pitch before too long with even more upside as he begins to use it more, which will hopefully be the case if he pumps it in there within the first few pitches of every few at bats.

Add it all up and you get a pitcher with a fine delivery, solid athleticism, inconsistent yet improving command and control, a clear plus fastball (with plus-plus upside if he learns to better command it), an above-average slider, and a raw curve/firm changeup combination that should produce at least another average or better pitch but should at least give him two additional usable pitches that hitters will have to at least mentally account for. A few pitching prospects came to mind when watching him that I feel are worth sharing with the group. In addition to my own potential comps, I also asked around and got two names from smart people. I like this because these guys are all peers of Funkhouser, so, hopefully, one of the bigger criticisms of comps that I hear (they create unfair expectations for players!) can be bypassed this time. One cautionary name that Funkhouser’s game brings to mind is Kyle Crick. Cautionary is perhaps a tad harsh sounding because there’s really nothing wrong with Crick, a fine pitching prospect with the Giants with the chance to be a very good big league pitcher. Check Kiley McDaniel’s report on him from earlier this month, mentally sub in Funkhouser’s name for Crick’s, and tell me they don’t share some similarities…

Crick has electric #2/3 starter stuff, is still only 22 and is in the upper levels of the minors, but his command has never been strong. Some guys with big stuff just take time to develop the feel and find consistency in their delivery, so the Giants will give Crick more innings to figure it out…At his best, Crick sits 94-97, hits 99 mph and will show heavy sink down in the zone. His mid-80’s slider flashes plus with hard cutting action, he mixes in an average curveball to change eye levels, and his changeup is above average when he throws it perfectly. Crick’s feel still wanders a lot, affecting the crispness and consistency of his off-speed stuff and command.

Again, Crick is really good, so getting a guy with his kind of talent in the draft is a wonderful thing. It’s just the uncertainty over a guy like Crick’s (and potentially Funkhouser’s) future role — many, as McDaniel alludes to in his full article, think of Crick as a potential closer — and his persistent control problems combine to make it a dicey gamble within the draft’s top ten picks. Another interesting comp (and I guy I completely whiffed on) is Jake Thompson. This would be another “cautionary” comp only because of the potential you’re drafting a guy too early that is destined to get stuck in the bullpen due to below-average command. I like this comp a little less because Thompson is more of a classic “whoa, this stuff is suddenly GREAT in short bursts” future reliever, and that’s an issue that Funkhouser simply doesn’t share. Joe Ross, formerly of San Diego and currently with Washington, came up as a point of comparison as well. Funkhouser and Ross share explosive fastballs, strong sliders, athletic builds, and a reputation for spotty command. That’s not a bad one (Ross is a little leaner and a better athlete), and I could see the two having similar pro ceilings. Finally, there’s Chris Anderson. Here’s what I wrote about him in his draft year…

Jacksonville JR RHP Chris Anderson: 88-92 FB; good breaking ball; Cape 2012: 88-92 FB, 93 peak; good 75-76 CB; SL; 79-81 split-CU; held velocity well; iffy control; FB up to 94-95 at times; 2013: 89-95 FB, 96-97 peak; above-average to plus 80-85 SL; 78-84 CU with above-average upside; average to good 77-80 CB; sinker; holds velocity late; Matt Garza and Andy Benes comps; 6-4, 225 pounds; (2011: 7.11 K/9 | 50.2 IP) (2012: .273/.346/.339 – 8 BB/28 K – 0/0 SB – 121 AB) (2012: 7.13 K/9 | 3.97 BB/9 | 4.36 FIP | 88.1 IP) (2013: 8.86 K/9 | 2.24 BB/9 | 3.64 FIP | 104.2 IP)

I don’t love how the Anderson report is organized with the most recent stuff (at the time) at the end, but if you look at the draft year (2013) update you see this: 89-95 FB, 96-97 peak; above-average to plus 80-85 SL; 78-84 CU with above-average upside; average to good 77-80 CB; sinker; holds velocity late. Again, not entirely dissimilar to the Funkhouser package. Funkhouser (9.04 K/9 and 4.39 BB/9 in 242 IP) has performed at a higher level than Anderson (7.71 K/9 and 3.73 BB/9 in 244 IP) against better competition, plus he gets bonus points (from me) for being a fairly well-known prospect for the better part of the past two seasons. Funkhouser has been picked apart by just about everybody with a vested interest in this stuff by now; Anderson was a bit more under the radar, so the newness of his prospect status engendered a feeling of untold possibility for dopes like me who can get fatigued by talking about the same old prospects for years on end. Here’s Kiley McDaniel again with an update on what Anderson has done since his draft days…

Anderson popped up in his draft year (2013) out of Jacksonville U. in Florida, going in the middle of the first round after delivering on his physical projection by flashing a plus fastball and slider with starter traits. Anderson’s changeup was average in most outings in his draft year, but it’s coming and going in pro ball. His command also wandered a bit and it showed in his numbers, but getting out of the hitter-friendly Cal League for 2015 should help in that regard. Anderson made a mechanical change late in 2014 to revert back to his pre-draft mechanics and it looked to help both issues. There’s #3 starter upside if it all comes together and a 2015 campaign in Double-A could be the place that happens.

Sounds about right for Funkhouser’s pro projection, though, now that he’s the “new” prospect to talk about (always funny how pro guys get excited about all the college/HS prospects we were once thrilled to cover at the start of their amateur journeys) it’s understandable and perhaps even reasonable to think there’s a little more ceiling to Funkhouser. When it comes to ceiling, I do like to talk in terms of big league comparisons. This is where those who hate comps for the unrealistic expectations they create — one of my favorite lines I heard on this is “Just let (Blank Player) be the first (Blank Player)!” Sure, sure. Thankfully, I don’t think that will be a problem here as there very clearly can be one, and only one, FUNKHOUSER — can tune me out. Crick, Ross, and Thompson are all tough players to compare to Funkhouser as prospects because a) they are themselves still prospects and comparing unfinished things to fellow unfinished things is a sure way to drive yourself mad, and b) comparing prospect peers currently on different developmental paths can be quite messy, what with attempting (and, in my case, failing) to define similar points of development and getting all turned around when looking at HS prospects (like the aforementioned group) with college guys (like Funkhouser). As the lone college product Anderson is probably the closest of the four previous comps (I think). Anderson was selected 18th overall in 2013, so it only makes sense that the superior Funkhouser would go higher in an inferior draft talent-wise.

Beyond the prospects we’ve covered, three big league stars (and all college guys) came up in conversations (both with real life talent evaluators smarter than myself and in my own head because, yeah, I sometimes talk to myself about this stuff) centered around trying to find an honest comparison for Funkhouser. The first mystery comp can be found below with his pre-draft (2009) scouting report excerpted from Baseball America as his only identifier…

He routinely sits at 93-95 mph with life on his fastball and touched 98 in a relief outing against Wichita State. He has a mid-80s slider with bite that peaked at 89 mph against the Shockers. And if that’s not enough, he has a power curveball and flashes an effective changeup. He has a quick arm, a strong 6-foot-2, 217-pound build and throws on a downhill plane with little effort…He has the raw ingredients to become a frontline starter, and on the rare occasions when he has command, he looks like an easy first-round pick.

Next we have a heavily redacted college pick from 2007…

[His] stuff was improving as the season went on, and he was consistently working in the low 90s and showing a quality slider as [his team] entered the [conference/division/league] playoffs. He also throws a changeup with promising action and uses a loopy curveball as a fourth pitch. [He] regularly touched 93-95 in the Northwoods League, and scouts expect him to show that velocity more often as he adds more strength to his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame.

And finally we have a player with a pre-draft scouting report that looks so goofy now that I won’t even quote it. Fine, fine…you’ve twisted my arm. Here it is

[He] has pitched more at 91-92 mph, often peaking at 95. While he has one of the best pure arms in the draft, he doesn’t consistently have a second plus pitch. His slider is effective but usually rates as a 50 or 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He has added a wide-grip changeup and a two-seam fastball in the last year, and he’s still refining his secondary pitches. While he has toned down his delivery in college, he still throws with more effort than Joba Chamberlain or Luke Hochevar.

Ironically enough, the pitcher in question directly above was the highest (11th) player selected out of the three pitchers we’re talking about. Needless to say, he has surpassed the expectations that BA had for him pre-draft back in 2006 (they strongly suggested he’d be in the bullpen before long) by a healthy margin. I think we can more or less throw this one out because I think of him as a pretty big outlier in terms of player development. In other words, thanks for playing Max Scherzer. Comping anybody to the $210 million man is probably a mistake anyway, but it was largely based on Scherzer’s incredibly effective fastball/slider usage and slowly improving change that he’s relied on a bit more almost every year since hitting the majors.

The top scouting note from above refers to Garrett Richards. Richards is another fastball/slider pitcher, but what makes him most like Funkhouser (potentially) is the way he has overcome his command issues and while drastically improving his control. The notion of Funkhouser being all stuff with little touch is perhaps a bit unfair and outdated since, again, he’s improved his command in small measures every year since enrolling at Louisville, but it’s still his closest player archetype in my mind because, as much credit as I give him for improving this year, we’re talking going from below-average to average at times and not some miraculous leap just yet. Literally just had a conversation with the wife where she bragged about filling up the PUR water pitcher more than she used to. That’s all well and good, I say, but when filling it up more means doing it once a month instead of never, then I’m not sure how much love should be given for that improvement. In other words, both command and control are still issues for Funkhouser, though neither look like a potential fatal flaw. Or, alternatively, just sub out shoe shining for command and you get the idea…

I don’t love the Richards comparison for a few reasons (stylistically, the two couldn’t have deliveries that look more different to my eye), though statistically the two put up some interestingly close numbers. Take it with the same grain of salt you would whenever stats are used to compare amateurs, but Richards at Oklahoma did this (9.07 K/9 and 4.93 BB/9) compared to Funkhouser at Louisville doing this (9.04 K/9 and 4.39 BB/9) so far. Hmm. In terms of career path and ultimate value, maybe it’s a fit. Finally, there’s the man behind the second scouting blurb: Jordan Zimmermann. He’s yet another fastball/slider big league pitcher with little time for much else. He uses the curve as a de facto changeup because, quite honestly, like the other two stars mentioned, his change isn’t very good. I bring up Zimmermann not as a direct comp per se, but as a potential developmental path that Funkhouser could mirror once he hits the pro ranks. I think Funkhouser’s change should be given room to grow rather than ditched, but Zimmermann’s below average change was once said to have “promising action,” so what do any of us really know?

One last bonus comp came to mind as I was working my way through this piece. Before I get to it, an obvious disclaimer that I’d feel guilty leaving unwritten: these are all extreme ceiling comparisons and the likelihood of all but the surest of sure thing amateur prospects (Stephen Strasburg comes to mind) becoming a consistent above-average or better big league pitcher on the level of any of those star players isn’t all that high. This whole profile may not do a great job of getting this point across, but I like Funkhouser more than love him. That’s based on a nagging intuitive feel more than anything concrete, so don’t take it as too big of a knock. I still would strongly consider him with a top ten selection, but I don’t think he’s the slam dunk single-digit pick that many have made him out to be. A guy that was just compared to Richards, Scherzer, and Zimmermann should really be a lock to go 1-1, but that’s why I want it to be clear that I’m only trying to compare elements of his game (and, in some cases, potential best case scenario career paths) to those guys. No literal comps here today. Anyway, the last pitcher that jumped out at me when thinking about Funkhouser had this written about him pre-draft by Baseball America

He pitches at 90-91 mph, touching 94, and his delivery is clean. The strong-bodied Texan has an intimidating presence on the mound, and he pounds the zone with four pitches. His slider is the better of his two breaking balls, and he features an average changeup.

Funkhouser has a little more present velocity, but otherwise the stuff matches up fairly well to a young Corey Kluber. This article makes plenty of interesting points, but what caught my eye was the mention that Kluber’s fastest and slowest pitches fall within a narrow range of velocity. That’s something I can see Funkhouser eventually doing as he finds his way and adjusts his arsenal to the pro gram. It isn’t something you’d typically consider a good thing for a pitcher, but certain guys can take this perceived negative into a positive. The smaller velocity gap allows the hard stuff to work without a major change of speed because so much of that hard stuff is moving every which way before it gets to the catcher. Timing velocity is one thing, but timing velocity that comes in various shapes is a whole other challenge for a hitter. Movement is paramount, and Funkhouser has the fastball movement and hard breaking ball (slider) to potentially pull off this trick. Like Scherzer, Kluber is a unique developmental case so convincing somebody that you’ve found the “next Kluber” is a justifiably challenging uphill battle. Other fine examples of articles well worth your time can be found here and here; the latter is the best one out there, I think, and reading about Kluber’s impossible to classify breaking ball is something I could do all day. There’s really only one Kluber, just like there’s only one Scherzer, Zimmermann, and Richards, but Funkhouser, at his best, shows elements of each that make him an undeniably intriguing prospect.

*****

If you’ve made it this far, thank you. If you skimmed to the last paragraph to see if I made an attempt to wrap everything up with a pithy conclusion, you’re in luck. Kyle Funkhouser is a really talented young pitcher with the fastball/slider combination that rivals similar one-two punches thrown by some of the game’s best starters. Both his command and control will need to be closely monitored as he transitions to pro ball, but there appears to be no real indication that he is physically or mentally incapable of improving in those areas going forward. There are no concerns about his mechanics nor is their any doubt about his ability to mix his pitches to get through lineups multiple times, so a move to the bullpen doesn’t appear necessary. He’s a future big league two hundred inning workhorse with the ability, especially with improved control and feel for pitching, to one day pitch in a team’s postseason rotation. He should be off the board within the draft’s first dozen or so picks.