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2018 MLB Draft Profile – Virginia Tech

If you’re looking for a quality senior who has fallen through the cracks a little, then RHP Connor Coward might just be your guy. He may get dinged by the scouts for a lack of big velocity (88-92, 93 peak) and less than ideal size (6-0, 200). He may get dinged by the analytics side for not being a big-time college performer (5.23 career ERA). I think he makes up for the lack of fastball/size with a full assortment of intriguing offspeed pitches including an above-average low-80s breaking ball (plus upside), an average mid-80s change, and an emerging cutter. I also think he makes up for the lackluster college stats by trending in the right direction — admittedly not out of the ordinary for any soon-to-be 22-year-old senior — in all the relevant public facing metrics (he’s posting career bests in ERA, K/9, BB/9, BAA). All in all, Coward’s stuff and performance should be enough to get him a chance in pro ball.

RHP Nic Enright throws a little harder (88-92, up to 94) with a quality changeup, pro size (6-3, 215), and a little more youth (or, put another way, a little less experience) on his side (redshirt-sophomore). RHP Andrew McDonald fits somewhere in between Coward and Enright. He’s always missed bats, but it’s taken until his redshirt-senior season before showing he can keep runs off the board. Is that just a 23-year-old doing his thing against younger competition or has the big (6-6, 240) righty with decent stuff (90-93 FB, usable SL and CU) turned a corner? It’s likely the former, but lesser arms get drafted late every year so I wouldn’t count McDonald out.

RHP Joey Sullivan is a sinker/slider reliever with enough to warrant an honest pro look. I’ve long been a fan of RHP Luke Scherzer, an easy guy to root when you consider the hard work and dedication needed to get back on the mound after two full seasons away. I’m not sure pro ball is in the cards for him considering the many red flags (injury history, Short Righthander Bias, underwhelming results) he’ll have to confront in draft rooms, but, if healthy, he deserves a shot. His stuff at his best — 88-93 FB, 80-81 SL with above-average promise — is solid.

Both C Joe Freiday and C Luke Horanski are intriguing college backstops in a class in need of them. Freiday has a long track record of flashing power and athleticism, but his size (6-4, 240 and hacktastic ways (23 BB/110 K coming into the year) cast some doubt about both his future behind the plate and standing next to it. He’s still striking out too much (20.0 K%), but nowhere near the 30%+ rate of recent years. He’s also walking a touch more (10.0%). If you believe in him defensively, then Freiday deserves a spot in any conversation about top senior-sign catchers. Horanski, a transfer from Creighton, has gotten off to a great start in 2018. The big Canadian mashed last season at Cisco JC, so it’s not like there isn’t some track record beyond his hot small sample start this year. I’m sufficiently intrigued. If you can catch, you’re a prospect. If you can catch and hit a little bit, you’re a candidate for the top ten rounds.

2B Jack Owens has been hit by a pitch in 5.9% of his collegiate plate appearances. He’s also a career .342/.430/.479 hitter in 390 PA between his time at East Carolina (all two games there) and Virginia Tech. I don’t have much on him in the way of scouting notes, but those are certainly the type of offensive numbers that will get you noticed. SS Nick Owens (no relation) is a steadying presence in the middle infield with just enough offensive skills (little pop, little patience) to fit as a late round prospect this year or senior-sign next year.

OF/LHP Tom Stoffel is one of my favorite college players. He’s been a productive two-way player going back to 2014 (note: I’m old) topping out with last year’s magnificent redshirt-junior season. For all that college success, however, it is difficult to imagine a path to the big leagues for him. Still, there are worse org guys to bring into the fold with a late round pick or undrafted free agent contract.

1B/3B Sam Fragale has real power but an even realer swing and miss problem. The latter keeps the former from making him much of a prospect. JR OF/1B Stevie Mangrum‘s coach has compared him (via D1) to Marty Costes. That’s…no. I can appreciate a coach pumping up his own guy and there may even be some similarities from a body type and/or tools standpoint, but Mangrum has one walk to nineteen strikeouts so far in 2018. That puts his three year total at 15 BB/71 K. Costes is at 75 BB/105 K. Even if the two were physical clones that gap in plate discipline is too much for Mangrum to overcome to be anything but a “wait-and-see” 2019 potential senior-sign for me. That doesn’t sound great, I’ll admit, but there are still worse things to be at this point in the draft process.

SR RHP Connor Coward (2018)
rSO RHP Nic Enright (2018)
rSR RHP Andrew McDonald (2018)
SR RHP Joey Sullivan (2018)
rSR RHP Luke Scherzer (2018)
JR LHP/1B Paul Hall (2018)
rSR OF/LHP Tom Stoffel (2018)
rJR 2B Jack Owens (2018)
rSR 1B/3B Sam Fragale (2018)
JR OF/1B Stevie Mangrum (2018)
rJR C Luke Horanski (2018)
rJR SS Nick Owens (2018)
SR C Joe Freiday (2018)
SO RHP Dylan Hall (2019)
rFR RHP Connor Yoder (2019)
SO RHP Graham Seitz (2019)
SO 1B JD Mundy (2019)
FR LHP Ryan Okuda (2020)
FR LHP Ian Seymour (2020)
FR RHP Gavin Hinchliffe (2020)
FR OF Darion Jacoby (2020)

2016 MLB Draft Prospects – 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 Ryan Tufts (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)

Last year around this time I was all over rJR OF Saige Jenco…

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

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

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

JR OF Mac Caples hasn’t done it yet, but those who have seen him more than I have insist he’s set for a big junior season. He’s a really smart young hitter with plenty of power and solid speed. His impressive summer showings the past two years give those that are bullish about his future a strong leg to stand on when arguing on his behalf. The same people who (wisely) turned me on to Jenco are the ones talking up Caples this year; take that however you’d like. I’m excited to see what he does in 2016.

Despite the eye-catching last name JR RHP Luke Scherzer (no relation) hasn’t received much (if any) attention at the national level. That’s not unusual for a college reliever without knockout stuff, but I still think many will regret not tracking him more closely as we get closer to the draft this June. He’s got good stuff (88-93 FB, low-80s SL with promise) and a knack for getting swings and misses when it counts. The college closer profiles more comfortably as a potential middle reliever as a pro, but that’s still a fine outcome for a pitcher not expected to go until the mid-rounds. JR RHP Aaron McGarity has similar stuff, better command and control, and a bit more projection, but hasn’t missed bats at the same rate of Scherzer. rSO RHP Ryan Lauria, a Louisville transfer, could be a quick riser as he continues to make the comeback from Tommy John surgery. His pinpoint command of a low-90s fastball make him a nice sleeper name to remember. rJR LHP Kit Scheetz and his upper-80s fastball could eventually work himself into a late-round relief prospect. That’s what he looked like over the summer for Orleans on the Cape.

rSO OF/LHP Tom Stoffel is a new name for me to follow, but there’s been some positive buzz on him as a hitter. I like his on-base skills (.412 OBP last year in limited PA), but a little more power would go a long way in getting him noticed. rJR 1B Phil Sciretta showed well with the bat in limited opportunities in 2014, but couldn’t follow it up in even more limited at bats in 2015. What trend is real: will he show improvement because it’s another even-numbered year or continue his decline by slipping a bit once again? All depends on what narrative you’re into, I guess. Or, you know, how he’s looked to those who have seen him up close. I haven’t, so I’m stuck making bad narrative jokes. There’s a reason why this site is free to read, after all.