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Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Arizona in 2016
42 – RHP Jon Duplantier
60 – OF Anfernee Grier
194 – C Gavin Stupienski
227 – RHP Curtis Taylor
255 – 2B Manny Jefferson
279 – C Andy Yerzy
366 – C Ryan January
392 – OF Connor Owings
410 – LHP Colin Poche
1.39 – OF Anfernee Grier
You’d think three years of SEC experience would have me reevaluating my original high school comp for Anfernee Grier (60), but I keep coming back to Devon White every time I see him play. Maybe the body types are a bit off — Grier is plenty graceful, but doesn’t quite give off the same gazelle-like movements of a young White — but I think they two share plenty of traits that could translate to a similar professional upside. Even his doubters would have to admit that Grier has star upside if it all comes together as a pro. It might be rich for some in certain areas, but I think putting above-average future grades on all five of his tools isn’t crazy. Even if you knock a few tools down to average (hit, power, arm), he’s still got a chance to be an outstanding regular and long-term fixture in center field.
If you didn’t know much about Grier until now, then I can imagine you sitting there wondering how a guy with tools like his fell to the thirty-ninth overall pick. Here you go: the aforementioned high school evaluation on this site contained this line — “questionable approach biggest current impediment to success as pro” — which remains as true now as it did then. Grier is such a naturally gifted talented young hitter — his “lightning quick wrists” were also mentioned in that report — that at times his approach at the plate looks like what one might expect out of a hitter unfamiliar with not being able to hit everything even remotely near the plate hard and far. I’m not sure this is a mainstream enough topic to qualify it as a #hottake, but I’ve wondered at times when watching Grier if he was too gifted a hitter for his own good. The confidence he has as a hitter made him a great amateur, but could keep him from being a great pro. Grier will have to learn that just because he can hit almost any pitch in any count it doesn’t necessarily mean that he should. More so than most early-round college draftees, Grier’s pro development is going to hinge greatly on his receptiveness to pro instruction, to say nothing of the quality and patience of those doing the instructing.
Of course, any attempt to change Grier too much could move him away from what made his approach work for him in the first place. The real challenge for Grier and the Diamondbacks going forward will be finding a happy medium between his natural inclination to swing at anything close and a more patient, nuanced approach at the plate. If that can be achieved, Grier is a star. If not, I think there’s still enough in the way of physical talent here to suggest Grier will have a long, fruitful career as a speed/defense backup outfielder. With a high ceiling and reasonable floor, Grier is a quality prospect and deserving first round pick.
2.52 – C Andy Yerzy
I believe in Andy Yerzy (279) as a hitter. I don’t believe in him as a catcher. That puts him in a really tough spot as the former belief isn’t nearly as strong as the latter. Yerzy will hit, sure, but will it be enough for first base? The most honest answer is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, but that’s not what you come here for. Forced to give a definitive answer on the long-term future of an 18-year-old hitter from York Mills Collegiate Institute in beautiful Ontario …I guess I’d take the easy way out and say he’s not likely to hit enough to hold down a job at first base at the highest level. That’s playing the percentages, after all. The honest answer remains the silly shrug. I don’t have nearly enough feel for Yerzy as a hitter — what I’ve seen and heard and read, I like — to give a more solid take on his future. I clearly love going on and on and on about players I think I have a good feel for — somebody on the internet recently dissed me as being “too wordy and authoritative,” so I guess that reputation as a know-it-all yakker precedes me — but I’d like to think I also know when to shut up about a guy I don’t have enough information on to give a meaningful opinion about. So I’m going to shut up now.
3.89 – RHP Jon Duplantier
“If Duplantier flops in the pros, I’m out on Rice pitchers forever,” was a thing written here back in April. It’s true. If Jon Duplantier (42) doesn’t make it due to either injury or reduced stuff caused from injury, then I’m swearing off Rice pitchers…until next June. If Duplantier does make it, however, then me calling this one of the best picks in the draft and arguably the best value of any drafted college arm will look pretty smart. On Duplantier from March 2016…
The good news for Rice is that their ace is very clearly the best pitching prospect in the conference. Jon Duplantier is awesome. There are only so many college baseball and draft writers out there and there are a ton of quality players to write about, but it still surprises me that Duplantier has managed to go (kind of) under the radar this spring. I mean, of course Duplantier has been written about plenty and he’s regarded by almost anybody who matters as one of the top college arms in this class – not to mention I’m guilty of not writing about him until now myself – but it still feels like we could all be doing more to spread the word about how good he really is. Here’s what I wrote about him in his draft capsule last year…
175. Rice SO RHP Jon Duplantier: 87-94 FB, 95 peak; good CU; good 73-75 CB; average 82-85 SL, flashes above-average when harder; good command; great athlete; fascinating draft case study as a hugely overlooked injured arm that one scout described to me as “every bit as good as Dillon Tate when on” and another said his injury was a “blessing in disguise” because it saved him from further abuse at the hands of Coach Graham; 6-4, 210 pounds
His fastball has since topped out as high as 97-98 and more consistently sits in the mid- to upper-band of that velocity range (90-94). His command has continued to improve and his breaking balls are both showing more consistency. I’ve heard his change has backed up some – more of a future average pitch at 82-84 than anything – but seeing as that’s just one of three usable offspeed pitches, it’s not the end of the world. Duplantier is big, athletic, and getting better by the day. I don’t know if that all adds up to a first round selection in this class, but it is damn close if not.
Duplantier finished his college season ranked 42nd on my board. The draft’s first round went 41 picks. Damn close to a first round pick indeed. I’m still hopeful that his history of nagging injuries turns out to be more of a blessing in disguise we all look back on and laugh about rather than an ongoing issue that plagues him in pro ball. Get him healthy, get him working on refining his offspeed stuff (average 82-84 CU, average 82-85 SL, average mid-70s CB), get him the reps he’ll need to bump that fastball (87-95, 98 peak) command up a grade, and watch him work. I called it “sneaky top of the rotation upside” back in April, and I think some of that is still there with Duplantier. It’s aggressive, I know, but I believe. There’s just something about pitchers from Rice that I like…
4.119 – RHP Curtis Taylor
I’m really excited to watch Curtis Taylor (227) pitch in the pros. If ninth round pick Tommy Eveld (we’ll get to him) is my Platonic Ideal of what a ninth round pick college pitcher should look like, then Taylor fits the bill for the fourth round. More accurately, he’s what I want in any college pitcher outside of the first few picks in the draft. Size (6-5, 210), projection (cold weather factor), present velocity (90-94, 96 peak), offspeed with promise (slider and splitter), results (11.10 K/9 and 2.16 BB/9 in 91.2 IP at the University of British Columbia), and ground balls (around 60% in his debut)…the guy checks every box. There’s number two starter upside here with Taylor.
5.149 – 3B Joey Rose
I heard really good college player and potential 2019 first day pick when asking around about Joey Rose for much of the spring. There’s plenty to like such as his easy above-average righthanded power and above-average arm strength at the hot corner, but he’s a long way away from what he could be. I still like Arizona taking a shot on him here in the fifth round. If you think he could be a first round pick in 2019, then why not grab him well before that in a much lower round? Why let college ball have all the fun developing him when you can do it yourself? Got a Matt Rose (Cubs) comp on him after signing, which amuses me because it wasn’t until I wrote it down right this very second that I realized the players had the same last name. They even each have four-letter first names. Could some subconscious association between the two young players be the root of that comparison? Maybe!
6.179 – LHP Mack Lemieux
LHP Mack Lemieux (Jupiter HS, Florida): 84-86 FB; 75-76 CU; 72-74 CB; good command; 6-3, 185 pounds
Those were my high school notes on Mack Lemieux from 2015. Baseball America (among others) have him peaking at 94 MPH after a season at Palm Beach State JC. Between that, his youth (just turned 20), his great pro debut (on the heels of a fine junior college season), significant athleticism, and a cool name, he’s one to watch closely.
7.209 – LHP Jordan Watson
Sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing in life until you’ve found it. I love this Jordan Watson guy. NAIA or not, striking out 176 batters in 104.2 innings is straight up awesome. And then to follow up that 15.14 K/9 with a 16.43 K/9 in his first 12.2 innings pitched as a pro? I’m firmly on the bandwagon.
Incidentally, Watson’s Science and Arts of Oklahoma baseball team also had a hitter named Yariel Gonzalez who did this as a senior: 457/.508/.796 with 24 BB/9 K and 12/14 SB. He latched on with the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent where he kept hitting as a pro. I like this guy, too. We’ll get to the Cardinals draft next Monday, so I won’t drone on and on and on about how well they identify quality amateur talent, but…man, they have a knack for this. Apologies to any Diamondbacks fan who feels slighted by St. Louis co-opting their draft review. You guys drafted well, too!
8.239 – C Ryan January
Recently got a text from a friend who saw Ryan January (366) for Missoula this summer that called him a “lefthanded Alex Jackson, but good.” I’m not necessarily throwing in the towel on the Mariners 20-year-old prep catcher to pro outfielder (and, for the record, neither was my friend), but that still made me laugh. Comparison to the currently stalled Jackson aside, the real takeaway here is that January can play. There are certainly some rough edges surrounding his bat and his overall approach as a hitter remains a work in progress, but there’s no doubting his bat speed, surprisingly deft feel for contact, and the special sound he’s capable of making on impact when he gets a hold of one.
The Alex Jackson mention was serendipitous (retroactively so since it’s been about two months since I got the text, but just go with it) as I’ve actually been thinking about him a lot as I type up these draft reviews. This is hardly groundbreaking stuff, but I’ll share it anyway. I champion future bench players and middle relievers on this site all the time. I think there’s tons of hidden value there, both on the field (duh) and on the margins of the payroll sheets (save money on those homegrown guys, spend savings on bigger stars). You can find these players all over the draft if you look hard enough. However, I don’t like when teams move a questionable defender off a tough defensive spot to an easier one when the player in question doesn’t have special upside with the bat. You’re more likely to get a good player that way, but far less likely to get a great player. That was my dilemma with Alex Jackson back when he was a draft prospect. As a catcher, sign me up. Even if the bat suffers some and he never becomes a great defensive player, it would have been worth it to me to see it through with him behind the plate. As an outfielder, conventional wisdom says that he can focus more clearly on his hitting and his overall offensive game will be the best that it can be. When the best that it can be is truly great, I get it. Bryce Harper is an all too obvious example of this. But a guy like Jackson was never Harper. A guy like Jackson was never all that likely (in my view) to ever be a top ten or so offensive player (at the position) as a corner outfielder. You’ve effectively downgraded the upside from a should-be major potential asset into just another interesting potential regular. You’ve gone from admittedly longer odds of maybe great to slightly better odds of maybe good. Jackson’s bat is good, but is it good enough to give up such a huge chunk of his potential defensive value to find out?
There are way more complicating factors than those stated above. Every player should be judged on his own specific strengths and weaknesses. And Alex Jackson the individual isn’t really the point here; I don’t know enough about him to say the M’s were wrong to move him or not, and I’m willing to defer judgment on their player development staff on that call. For me, moving him wasn’t the issue, but picking him where they did in the draft knowing that moving him was the likely plan was. I’m not saying never move a player from a position that you don’t think he can handle. That would obviously be ridiculous. Not everybody is a catcher or a center fielder or a shortstop. The previously mentioned Bryce Harper is just one of many times it does make sense to make such a switch. Maybe I’m just greedy. I don’t know. “Perfect is the enemy of the good,” they said. “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,” they said. Who knows what to think these days…
All of this somehow brings us back to Ryan January. As a catcher, he’d instantly be on the short list of highest upside players at the position in all of baseball. If forced to shift to the outfield, his odds of reaching the big leagues would go up — yes, there would be more pressure on the bat, but I think that would be counterbalanced (and then some) by the easier day-to-day existence of a corner outfielder versus a catcher — but the odds of him being a difference-making overall player would go down. I really can’t say for sure if a full-time move to the outfield is worth it in January’s specific case, but it does appear that the Diamondbacks are committed to doing what they can to exhaust all possibilities to find out what it takes to keep him behind the plate for as long as possible. I’m thankful for that. January as a catcher could be a star.
9.269 – RHP Tommy Eveld
I don’t know why I didn’t rank Tommy Eveld in the top 500 of this draft class. Arizona clearly did and they were very smart to do so. So much time and energy on this site has been spent preaching about the advantages athleticism gives young pitching prospects. Somehow Eveld, arguably the most athletic pitcher in this entire class, fell through the cracks. This is what I had on him in March…
Tommy Eveld’s question marks fall more on me than him right now. He’s got a great frame, fantastic athleticism, and legitimate low-90s heat, but beyond that I don’t know a ton about him.
Time marched on and I never got around to filling in my Eveld knowledge gaps along the way. Extreme athleticism, a big-time arm (90-94) with plenty of bullets left in the chamber, a frame to dream on (6-5, 190), offspeed stuff that seemingly got better with every trip to the mound, and tons of missed bats (11.38 K/9 in 53.0 IP) along the way…I’m not really sure what more you could want. Fantastic pick by Arizona here. Eveld is worth getting excited about.
10.299 – OF Stephen Smith
What you see is what you get with Stephen Smith. There’s power, strength, and some athleticism. It’s a potential platoon bat in a corner if it really works and a 4A slugger if it doesn’t. If that worst case scenario comes to fruition, there’s always Japan.
11.329 – RHP Jake Polancic
Not too pleased that I whiffed so badly on Jake Polancic, a good looking Canadian arm up to 88-92 with his fastball with a promising curve to match. Few teams scout Canada as aggressively as Arizona and Tim Wilken’s arrival only upped the ante on getting as many eyes on prospects from the Great White North as possible.
12.359 – C Gavin Stupienski
Wrote this in March about Gavin Stupienski (194)…
Every June I kick myself for not writing more about unheralded players that I like more before the rest of the world catches on. There’s never enough time once the college season gets going and I always feel guilty about doing quick posts off the top of my head that would better suit the daily “hey, this guy is REALLY good” thoughts that have a habit of coming up about certain prospects. The premise of this post is goofy, but I’d like to think the content stands up enough to be taken seriously. That makes this the perfect platform to express again how much I like Gavin Stupienski. He’s hit during his summers, he hit as a redshirt-sophomore, he’s hitting so far this year…he can hit. There are no questions about his defense behind the plate and he’s a leader on one of the nation’s best mid-major teams. I’m not sure what more you could want. I’m all-in on Stupienski. Add him to the increasingly impressive top ten round catcher pile.
Getting a potential regular catcher (or high-level backup) with pick three hundred fifty-nine is a major win for the Diamondbacks. This really was a great year for college catching. Arizona got themselves a good one.
13.389 – 2B Manny Jefferson
I’m surprised more hasn’t been written about Manny Jefferson (255) on this site considering how much I like him. As a college hitter coming off a breakthrough draft season in spite of an ugly 25 BB/50 K ratio, Jefferson is not exactly my usual cup of tea. One line from my notes on him stands out: “best is yet to come as a hitter.” That’s always some cognitive dissonance when it comes to such claims. For high school players, sure why not. For college prospects carrying years of meaningful data, it’s tough to really buy into the persistent scout chatter about how close a guy is to flicking the switch. Too many smart people were in on Jefferson this spring, so I pushed him up the board here even with the scary BB/K ratio. We’ll see how it all turns out. The difference between real improvement there (long-time big league regular), moderate improvement (see below), and little improvement (AA washout) will make or break his career.
With that moderate improvement in approach, I could see Jefferson settling nicely into a bat-first (power-first, really) utility player role capable of holding his own at literally any spot on the diamond save catcher and probably center. I have a player in mind I really want to comp him too, but for some reason the name keeps escaping me. In lieu of that perfect comp, I’ll throw out a pretty good one instead. I’m thinking Jefferson’s upside is something not unlike former Brewer do-everything Bill Hall.
14.419 – LHP Colin Poche
Old comps die hard, so when Perfect Game busted out an Andy Pettitte comp for Colin Poche (410) many years ago it really stuck with me. Poche is very clearly not Pettitte — few are — but he’s still a solid prospect and a great get here in the fourteenth round. What works for Poche is really good command of a slew of decent to slightly better pitches he can throw in any count or game situation. His low-90s fastball hasn’t yet returned from the Tommy John surgery that knocked him out of the 2015 college season, but he can still be effective living in the upper-80s and occasionally touching 90. Deception, extension, and athleticism are all pretty big points in his favor as well. He’s a prospect teetering on that fifth starter/middle relief line with a chance for a little more if some of his pre-injury stuff ever comes back.
15.449 – RHP Tyler Keele
Tyler Keele is the first of three straight college relievers taken by Arizona known best by their propensity for sinking fastballs and generating ground balls. I have Keele’s breaking ball as more of an in-between slider/curve, but it serves a similar purpose as the slider thrown by both Nick Blackburn and Jake Winston. Keele has a chance to be the best of the trio thanks in part to a usable split-change. The limited batted ball pro data on the three is interesting. Keele did not get many ground ball outs in his debut. Blackburn didn’t pitch enough for it to matter. And Winston got a ton of ground ball outs. Small sample size caveats apply, but so far advantage Winston.
16.479 – RHP Nick Blackburn
These are written out of order, so the Jake Winston thing you’ll read below was actually finished before whatever it is I’m about to write about Nick Blackburn. You can skip to that to get some of my feelings on Blackburn, but the short version is this: sinker/slider college reliever with a chance to be a sinker/slider big league reliever with continued work.
17.509 – RHP Jake Winston
“Better stuff than he’s shown” was a common refrain from those who have seen Jake Winston do his thing over the years for Southern Mississippi. The sinker/slider reliever has solid stuff across the board (87-92, 94 peak with the sinker; above-average slider; good command of both pitches), but lacks that singular put-away pitch to make him much more than a potential mid-relief ground ball guy. There’s nothing wrong with that in the seventeenth round, of course. Winston leaves us wanting more, and that’s something that probably says more about us than it does him.
19.569 – SS Mark Karaviotis
It’s really easy to say you love a pick after said pick goes out and hits a combined .347/.491/.485 in 217 across two levels in his pro debut. Still, I really do love this pick. Mark Karaviotis is a really good prospect who suffered from “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome in his draft year at Oregon. You would think more teams would have been on a true shortstop who kicked off his college career with two seasons of fine on-base showings (.369 OBP in 2014, .407 OBP in 2015), but injuries kept him off the field enough in 2016 that he slipped through the cracks more than his talent should have allowed. He’s not a tools monster in any way — good arm, solid range, average speed, decent pop — but he’s shown a knack for getting on base, coming up with big hits when needed, and playing mistake-free ball. He won’t keep hitting as he did in his debut, but he could very well hit enough to wind up a big league utility guy with the chance to earn some run as a starter depending on his timing. Kudos to Arizona for staying with him and being willing to give him $100,000 to sign. The young college junior (20-years-old all season) had plenty of leverage if he wanted to go back to school.
20.599 – RHP Connor Grey
No reports here on Connor Grey’s stuff while at St. Bonaventure, but he did get a mention on the site for his standout senior year performance: 9.29 K/9 – 3.23 BB/9 – 92.0 IP – 2.84 ERA. He added an even 60.0 innings on quality pitching as a pro on top of that. That kind of workhorse behavior is doubly impressive when you consider Grey’s a compactly built 6-0, 180 pound guy who gets by more on guile than big raw stuff.
22.659 – RHP Kevin Ginkel
Kevin Ginkel has impressive size (6-5, 215) and a slider with serious upside. His pro start was better than his draft year at Arizona. Funny how that works sometimes. I didn’t have any reports on his velocity as an amateur, but apparently he was up to the mid- to upper-90s in his pro debut. Putting that and his slider together adds up to one serious late-round relief steal.
23.689 – C Luke Van Rycheghem
I know very little of Luke Van Rycheghem. The Canadian does have a name very well-suited for hockey. I could see it really working as a defenseman. Maybe I’m thinking of Luke Richardson (who, incidentally, I hadn’t thought of in at least a decade before now) combined with James van Reimsdyk. Anyway, Van Rycheghem is a big (6-3, 210) and strong former catcher now being asked to worry first and foremost about hitting it long and far as a first baseman.
24.719 – RHP Riley Smith
On Riley Smith from January 2016…
JR RHP Riley Smith is the biggest wild card on the staff. His raw ability suggests he could be the highest drafted arm off of this staff in 2016, but there’s always some risk in projecting a college arm who hasn’t done it at this level that high. I’ve always preferred talent to experience, so count me very much in on Smith heading into his draft year.
The former LSU Tiger remains a big old wild card to me. His draft season was an unmitigated disaster (4.59 K/9 and 5.05 BB/9 in 19.2 IP), but the arm talent (89-93 FB, 95 peak; pair of interesting low-80s offspeed pitches) was obviously enough for Arizona to look past his struggles. So far, so good for Smith in the pros: 8.35 K/9 and 1.11 BB/9 in 32.1 IP (2.51 ERA).
25.749 – OF Myles Babitt
I love the MLB Draft. Where else do you see a player drafted from Cal State East Bay by way of the Academy of Art? Myles Babitt is a fascinating guy who has put up tons of weird, fun numbers over the years. His draft season saw him hit .308/.410/.400 with 22 BB and 5 K. That’s an insane BB/K ratio. He followed it up by hitting .300/.406/.322 with 16 BB/14 K in his pro debut. I don’t know what’s crazier there: is it the still great BB/K ratio or the comically small ISO? There’s no way that Babitt’s golden approach and whatever the opposite of golden (rusty? dull? Yahoo Answers says purple is the opposite color to gold, so maybe that?) power output can continue to coexist in pro ball, right? Or are we looking at the Willians Astudillo of the outfield? Either way, I’m excited to find out. Worth pointing out that Myles is the son of Shooty Babitt, a former Arizona and current New York Mets scout.
26.779 – 1B Tanner Hill
A friend of mine really likes Tanner Hill. He called him the next Tyler White. I don’t personally see it, but there you go.
27.809 – RHP Gabe Gonzalez
Gabe Gonzalez checks a lot of boxes: size (6-5, 220), fastball (90-94 FB, 95-96 peak), breaking ball (above-average yet inconsistent SL), and a track record of missing bats (8.11 K/9 in 2015, 10.41 K/9 in 2016). He’s still searching for a consistent slower third pitch to use — he’s used both a splitter and a forkball as a means of changing up speeds in the past — and his control remains spotty at best (4.77 BB/9 in 2015, 5.89 BB/9 in 2016), but there’s a lot to work with.
31.929 – RHP Williams Durruthy
Williams Durruthy has top ten round arm talent and undrafted free agent levels of control. The Diamondbacks split the difference with his thirty-first round selection. At his best, Durruthy is spotting a low-90s heater and a legitimate plus cutter. At his worst, he’s walking every hitter in sight. A phrase I heard more than once about Durruthy this spring: “too much movement for his own good.” If Arizona’s pro coaching can help him harness his stuff, he’s got real late-inning reliever upside. That’s a hefty “if,” admittedly, but betting on talent that can’t be taught in the latter stages of the draft is just good sense.
32.959 – RHP Trevor Simms
The highly athletic and well-traveled Trevor Simms has a good (90-95 MPH) yet wild right arm that should get him his share of chances over the next few seasons. He’ll need to act fast, however, as he’ll enter his first full year as a 25-year-old in A-ball.
33.989 – SS Paxton De La Garza
A very impressive debut for Paxton De La Garza has put the righthanded middle infielder from Angelo State on the deep sleeper map. His numbers as a Ram were good, so you can see what Arizona must have seen in him. I approve.
34.1019 – OF Connor Owings
Wow. A highly productive player from the national champions who can play multiple positions and run a little bit falling to the thirty-fourth round? Nice grab by Arizona here taking Connor Owings (392) this late. There’s a chance they only pulled the trigger because of the family ties at play — brother Chris is a 2B/SS/OF for the big club — but whatever the reason for taking Owens was, the fact remains he’s now part of the Diamondbacks organization and that’s a good thing for them.
35.1049 – OF Billy Endris
On Billy Endris from March 2016…
Further down the list is another Florida Atlantic product, Billy Endris. Endris is a good college player who has built a decent case over the last year plus that he’s got enough to warrant a late look in the draft.
His senior year was lackluster enough that I’m surprised that prediction came true. Still cool for him to be drafted. They can never take that away from him.
36.1079 – LHP Rob Galligan
Maybe a matchup lefty. Have him as a mid-80s guy with a nice curve and good size in my notes. Senior year numbers were wild (6.57 BB/9), but not really indicative of his decent overall control.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Jordan Wiley (San Jacinto), Nelson Mompierre (Missouri), Welby Malczewski (Auburn), Brandon Martorano (North Carolina), Hunter Kiel (LSU), Edmond Americaan (Chipola JC), Cameron Cannon (Arizona), Bowden Francis (Chipola JC), Jacob Olson (West Georgia Tech)
The arms are the story in the West Coast Conference this year. What’s especially nice about the 2016 draft class is the variety: whether you like velocity, size, or polish, it’s all here. Of course, the best of the best seem to have a little bit of everything working for them. That would be Corbin Burnes. Velocity? How does a sinking 90-96 MPH fastball that has touched 98 sound? Size? A highly athletic 6-3, 200 pound frame ought to do it. Polish? Burnes, who just so happens to be one of the most adept pitchers at fielding his position in his class, can throw any of his four pitches for strikes including an average 80-86 slider (currently flashes better with above-average upside in time), an average or better 81-86 changeup, and a 76-78 curve that also will flash above-average. What Burnes lacks is consistent with what the rest of the pitchers at the top of this conference’s class seem to lack as well: a clear plus offspeed pitch. Missing one of those guys isn’t all that unusual at the amateur level, so it’s not wrong to weigh the overall package of secondary pitches instead. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I start to think Burnes has the all-around scouting profile to crack the draft’s first day. Personal preference ultimately dictates how those decisions are made: all else being equal (more or less), do you take the pitcher with a clear plus secondary pitch yet little else or the pitcher with two or three average or so offspeed offerings but no potential big league out-pitch? I’m sure there’s a better example of this that I’m not thinking of, but off the top of my head the decision amounts to do you prefer a guy like Robert Tyler or would you rather cast your lot with Burnes? This whole thought exercise strips away a lot of the nuance – to say nothing of the absence of how important self-scouting your organization’s development staff strengths and weaknesses — that makes the draft so much fun…but it’s still fun in its own way.
That paragraph is about as stream-of-consciousness-y as I’ve gotten around here in a while. Let’s get back on track. Michael Rucker checks two of our three boxes pretty easily: he’s 88-94 (96 peak) with his fastball while commanding three offspeed pitches (low-80s SL, low- to mid-80s CU, mid-70s CB) with a veteran’s mindset on the mound. He’s not particularly big (6-1, 185) nor does he have that plus offspeed pitch (slider comes closest), but it’s still a potential big league starter skill set. His former teammate at Gonzaga, Brandon Bailey, shares a reasonable resemblance, though Bailey has a little less size (5-10, 170) and utilizes his 78-82 MPH changeup as his go-to offspeed pitch.
JD Busfield has the size (6-7, 230) that gets him noticed as he steps off the bus. His fastball velocity ranges from the mid-80s all the way up to a mid-90s (94-95) peak, but those wild fluctuations are largely because of the big sink he’s able to get at varying velocities. That sink, his impressive low-80s slider, and the silly amount of extension he gets with every pitch put him on the (no longer) short list of pitchers I want to dig into available batted ball data on. Gary Cornish’s reputation for being a ground ball machine puts him on that very same list. His sinker, breaking ball, plus command, and track record of missing bats all up to a fine senior-sign candidate.
AJ Puckett could be the closest thing to Corbin Burnes in terms of hitting that velocity, size, and polish trifecta. If his curve was a little more consistent and his change a little more advanced, then he’d have a shot of co-headlining this class. Alas, if’s are if’s for a reason. Connor Williams is an age-eligible sophomore with a monster fastball (92-95, 97 peak) that could very well help him wind up the second highest drafted pitcher in the conference come June. Mitchell White is a redshirt-sophomore with a fastball that dances (87-93 with serious movement), an above-average slider, and an intriguing cutter. On his best days, the three pitches seem to morph into one unhittable to square up offering. I like him a whole heck of a lot right now.
Troy Conyers has been one of my favorite draft arms for what feels like a decade now. He’s got a lot of the elements for being a major draft sleeper who winds up a better pro than amateur: handedness (LHP), size (6-5, 225), history of playing both ways (41 AB in 2014 isn’t a ton, but it’s something), and a Tommy John surgery (2014) that slowed his ascent just enough (temporarily, we think/hope) to depress his draft stock. Anthony Gonsolin doesn’t fit each those categories, but offers similar intriguing upside as a highly athletic two-way prospect. His two-way bonafides are among the strongest in this class as those I’ve talked to have it as a pretty even split on what his best long-term position will be.
Cameron Neff might have both enough of a slider and a changeup to buck the trend of no plus pitches in the WCC this year. I need more information on him, but the vast majority I have is positive. Steven Wilson (96 MPH peak), Michael Silva (96-97), Anthony Gonsolin (95), Vince Arobio (96), and Gage Burland (94) all throw hard with varying degrees of wildness. Control inconsistencies or not, the fact that guys with arm strength of that caliber can be found so long on a conference list speaks to the outstanding depth the WCC enjoys in 2016. It really might be time for me to move to California.
Doing so would allow me to regularly see Bryson Brigman, a prospect that has begun to remind me a lot of Arizona’s Scott Kingery from last year’s draft. Kingery was a second round pick (48th overall) and I could see Brigman rising to a similar level by June. Like Kingery last year, Brigman’s defensive future remains a question for scouts. Fortunately for both, the question is framed more around trying him in challenging spots than worrying about having to hide him elsewhere on the diamond. Brigman has an above-average to plus defensive future at second back in his back pocket already, so his playing a solid shortstop in 2016 is doing so with house money. In much the same way that former second baseman Alex Bregman wore everybody down with consistent above-average play at short last college season, Brigman has proved to many that he has what it takes to stick at shortstop in pro ball. Brigman’s appeal at this point is pretty clear: tons of defensive potential in the middle infield, contact abilities that elicit the classic “he could find a hole rolling out of bed” remarks from onlookers, and enough of the sneaky pop/mature approach offensive extras needed to be an impactful regular in the big leagues. I’ll stick with the Kingery – who smart people told me here could play shortstop if needed, a position since corroborated by those who have seen him in the pros (I’ll be seeing him for myself on Saturday, FWIW) – comparison for now, but I wouldn’t object to somebody who offered up a mix of the best of both Kingery and his old double play partner Kevin Newman. That would obviously be some kind of special player, but Brigman doesn’t seem too far off. I’ve said before I hate when people throw around terms like “first round player” so loosely that you could count 100 first rounders in their eyes in the months leading up to June, but I’ll be guilty of it here and call Brigman a first round player as of now. I’ve really come to appreciate his game since the start of the season.
Taylor Jones is a risky pick behind Brigman as guys with long levers bring that boom/bust aspect to hitting. The boom of Jones’s power currently outweighs any bust I feel about his long-term ability to make consistent contact as a pro. The fact that he’s more than just a slugger helps give some wiggle room. Jones is an average runner who fields his position really well. He’s also capable of moonlighting on the mound thanks to an upper-80s fastball and up-and-down curve. Broken record alert, but he’s one of my favorite senior-sign hitters in this class. That makes about four dozen favorite senior-sign hitters; thankfully, nobody keeps track.
If not Jones, then either Brennon Lund or Steve Berman could have stepped in in the two spot behind Brigman. Lund is putting it all together this year for BYU. In his case, “all” refers to plus speed, easy center field range, a plus arm, and above-average raw power. My soft spot for Jones has to be evident because the player I just described in Lund sounds pretty damn exciting. I’d consider it a minor upset if he doesn’t overtake the field as the second highest WCC hitter drafted (and ranked by me) this June. Berman’s case is a little tougher to make, but he’s a dependable catcher with an above-average arm who puts his natural strength to good use at the plate. In a class loaded with noteworthy catchers, Berman flies comfortably under the radar. Feels like a potential steal to me.
Just behind Berman fall fellow catchers Aaron Barnett and Nate Nolan. Barnett can flat hit, so it’s no shock he got the FAVORITE tag from me a couple years back. I’m still on board, though I’ve heard from some smart people who question how his arm strength will be viewed by pro guys. Nolan doesn’t have that problem. He’s not a FAVORITE, but his offensive profile is still quite intriguing. He’s very different from Barnett in that he’s all about finding ways to make his plus raw power work for him, often at the expense of at bats ending with a short, disappointing walk back to the dugout. This goes back to another theoretical prospect debate that I know I’ve touched on in years past: do you like the well-rounded, athletic catcher with better contact skills and a more mature approach or would you rather gamble on the big-armed, plus raw power, rough around the edges offensive talent? It’s a chocolate or vanilla argument in the end. Everybody wins.
Remember when Gio Brusa was a thing? This was his report from last year…
The appreciation for Brusa, however, is right on point. His above-average to plus raw power will keep him employed for a long time, especially combined with his elite athleticism and playable defensive tools (slightly below-average arm and foot speed, but overall should be fine in left field). Brusa going from good prospect to great prospect will take selling a team on his improved approach as a hitter; early returns are promising but a team that buys into his bat will do so knowing he’ll always be a player who swings and misses a lot. Whether or not he a) makes enough contact, and/or b) demonstrates enough plate discipline (strikeouts are easier to take when paired with an increased walk rate, like he’s shown so far this year) will ultimately decide his fate as a hitter and prospect. Before the season I would have been in the “think he’ll be drafted too high for my tastes, so let me just kick back and watch somebody else try to fix his approach” camp in terms of his draft value, but I’m slowly creeping towards “if he falls just a bit, I’d think about taking a shot on his upside over a few players with more certainty and less ceiling” territory. That’s a big step up for me, even if it doesn’t quite seem like it.
Almost exactly one year to the day, I can say that’s pretty much where I remain on Brusa as a prospect. There’s still upside in a player like him because his natural gifts are obvious – maybe all it will take is the right voice in his ear in pro ball – but the increasingly large sample of below-average plate discipline is getting harder and harder to ignore. I tried my best to do so last year when spinning his early season successes as a potential step in the right direction, but reading between the lines above should reveal what I really thought. Avoiding the urge to flat out say “I just don’t like this prospect” has cost me some credibility among some small pockets of the baseball world in the past, but I sleep a lot better knowing I skew positive publicly on this site. When it comes to writing about young men chasing their dreams in a game we all love, why wouldn’t you make the attempt to be positive if at all possible? Positive doesn’t mean ranking every player in a tie for best prospect, of course. Brusa finished last season as my 144th ranked draft prospect. For a variety of reasons, some because of baseball but most not (i.e., signability past a certain point), he fell to pick 701. I think his ranking this year could split the difference between the two spots…but with a slight edge to being closer to 144 than 701. Have to stay positive, after all.
- San Diego SO SS/2B Bryson Brigman
- Gonzaga SR 1B/RHP Taylor Jones
- BYU JR OF Brennon Lund
- Santa Clara JR C Steve Berman
- Pacific SR OF Gio Brusa
- Pepperdine JR C Aaron Barnett
- St. Mary’s JR C Nate Nolan
- Pepperdine JR SS Manny Jefferson
- Loyola Marymount JR OF Austin Miller
- BYU SO 3B Nate Favero
- BYU SR SS Hayden Nielsen
- Gonzaga rJR OF Sam Brown
- San Diego JR OF Ryan Kirby
- San Diego rSO OF Hunter Mercado-Hood
- Pepperdine JR OF Brandon Caruso
- BYU JR SS/1B Tanner Chauncey
- San Francisco JR C Dominic Miroglio
- BYU JR C Bronson Larsen
- Pacific SR C JP Yakel
- BYU SR OF Eric Urry
- Portland SR 2B/OF Caleb Whalen
- Pepperdine SR 2B Chris Fornaci
- Pacific SR 2B/3B Louis Mejia
- Pepperdine JR OF Matt Gelalich
- Pepperdine SR 1B Brad Anderson
- San Diego JR C Colton Waltner
- Loyola Marymount JR C Cassidy Brown
- Loyola Marymount JR 3B/C Jimmy Hill
- Gonzaga SR C Joey Harris
- St. Mary’s SR 3B Anthony Villa
- San Francisco rJR OF Harrison Bruce
- St. Mary’s SR 2B/OF Connor Hornsby
- Loyola Marymount JR 3B/RHP Ted Boeke
- San Francisco JR SS Nico Giarratano
- Pacific SR 3B JJ Wagner
- Pacific JR 1B Dan Mayer
- Santa Clara SR C/3B Kyle Cortopassi
- San Diego rSR 2B/3B Jerod Smith
- St. Mary’s SR OF Davis Strong
- San Francisco JR 1B Manny Ramirez
- St. Mary’s JR RHP Corbin Burnes
- BYU JR RHP Michael Rucker
- Loyola Marymount JR RHP JD Busfield
- Gonzaga JR RHP Brandon Bailey
- Pepperdine JR RHP AJ Puckett
- BYU SO RHP/OF Connor Williams
- Santa Clara rSO RHP Mitchell White
- San Diego rJR LHP/1B Troy Conyers
- San Diego SR RHP Gary Cornish
- St. Mary’s JR RHP Cameron Neff
- Santa Clara rJR RHP Steven Wilson
- Loyola Marymount SR RHP Michael Silva
- St. Mary’s SR RHP/OF Anthony Gonsolin
- Pacific JR RHP Vince Arobio
- Gonzaga SO RHP Gage Burland
- San Diego SR LHP Jacob Hill
- San Diego rJR RHP Wes Judish
- Loyola Marymount JR RHP/SS Tyler Cohen
- Santa Clara SR RHP Jake Steffens
- San Diego JR RHP CJ Burdick
- Pacific JR RHP Will Lydon
- Pacific SR RHP Jake Jenkins
- BYU JR RHP Kendall Motes
- San Diego rSR RHP Drew Jacobs
- San Francisco rSO RHP Grant Goodman
- Santa Clara SR RHP Nick Medeiros
- Santa Clara JR LHP Jason Seever
- San Diego JR RHP Nathan Kuchta
- BYU rSO LHP Hayden Rogers
- Gonzaga JR RHP Wyatt Mills
- Gonzaga JR RHP Hunter Wells
- Santa Clara JR LHP Kevin George
- BYU JR RHP Mason Marshall
- San Francisco SR RHP Anthony Shew
- St. Mary’s JR LHP Johnny York
JR RHP Michael Rucker (2016)
JR RHP Kendall Motes (2016)
rSO LHP Hayden Rogers (2016)
JR RHP Mason Marshall (2016)
JR RHP Keaton Cenatiempo (2016)
SO RHP/OF Connor Williams (2016)
JR OF Brennon Lund (2016)
JR SS/1B Tanner Chauncey (2016)
SR OF Eric Urry (2016)
SR SS Hayden Nielsen (2016)
JR C Bronson Larsen (2016)
SO 3B Nate Favero (2016)
SO RHP Maverik Buffo (2017)
SO C/1B Colton Shaver (2017)
FR RHP Jordan Wood (2018)
FR OF Kyle Dean (2018)
FR SS Daniel Schneemann (2018)
FR 3B Jackson Cluff (2018)
FR OF Danny Gelalich (2018)
High Priority Follows: Michael Rucker, Kendall Motes, Hayden Rogers, Mason Marshall, Connor Williams, Brennon Lund, Tanner Chauncey, Eric Urry, Hayden Nielsen, Bronson Larsen, Nate Favero
JR RHP Brandon Bailey (2016)
SO RHP Gage Burland (2016)
JR RHP Hunter Wells (2016)
JR RHP Wyatt Mills (2016)
SR 1B/RHP Taylor Jones (2016)
rJR OF Sam Brown (2016)
SR 2B/OF Caleb Wood (2016)
SR C Joey Harris (2016)
SR C Jimmy Sinatro (2016)
JR OF Justin Jacobs (2016)
rJR SS Dustin Breshears (2016)
SO RHP Eli Morgan (2017)
SO LHP Calvin LeBrun (2017)
rFR RHP Dan Bies (2017)
SO RHP/OF Tyler Frost (2017)
SO OF Branson Trube (2017)
SO INF Nick Nyquist (2017)
High Priority Follows: Brandon Bailey, Gage Burland, Hunter Wells, Wyatt Mills, Taylor Jones, Sam Brown, Joey Harris, Justin Jacobs
JR RHP JD Busfield (2016)
SR RHP Michael Silva (2016)
JR LHP Brenton Arriaga (2016)
JR RHP Tim Peabody (2016)
JR RHP/SS Tyler Cohen (2016)
JR OF/LHP Kyle Dozier (2016)
SR OF Ryan Erickson (2016)
JR C Cassidy Brown (2016)
JR 3B/C Jimmy Hill (2016)
JR OF Austin Miller (2016)
JR 3B/RHP Ted Boeke (2016)
SO RHP Cory Abbott (2017)
SO RHP/OF Sean Watkins (2017)
SO OF Billy Wilson (2017)
SO 1B Jamey Smart (2017)
FR SS Niko Decolati (2018)
High Priority Follows: JD Busfield, Michael Silva, Brenton Arriaga, Tyler Cohen, Kyle Dozier, Ryan Erickson, Cassidy Brown, Jimmy Hill, Austin Miller, Ted Boeke
JR RHP Vince Arobio (2016)
SR RHP Jake Jenkins (2016)
JR RHP Will Lydon (2016)
JR RHP Jordon Gonzalez (2016)
SR RHP Sean Bennetts (2016)
SR OF Gio Brusa (2016)
JR 1B Dan Mayer (2016)
SR 3B JJ Wagner (2016)
SR 2B/3B Louis Mejia (2016)
SR C JP Yakel (2016)
SO 1B/OF Nate Verlin (2017)
SO C Lucas Halstead (2017)
High Priority Follows: Vince Arobio, Jake Jenkins, Will Lydon, Gio Brusa, Dan Mayer, JJ Wagner, Louis Mejia, JP Yakel
JR RHP Chandler Blanchard (2016)
JR RHP AJ Puckett (2016)
SR RHP Evan Dunn (2016)
JR C Aaron Barnett (2016)
JR SS Manny Jefferson (2016)
JR OF Jack Ross (2016)
JR OF Matt Gelalich (2016)
JR OF Brandon Caruso (2016)
SR 1B Brad Anderson (2016)
SR 2B Chris Fornaci (2016)
SO LHP Max Green (2017)
SO RHP Kiko Garcia (2017)
SO RHP Max Gamboa (2017)
SO LHP Ryan Wilson (2017)
SO OF/RHP Jordan Qsar (2017)
FR LHP Easton Lucas (2018)
High Priority Follows: Chandler Blanchard, AJ Puckett, Aaron Barnett, Manny Jefferson, Matt Gelalich, Brandon Caruso, Brad Anderson, Chris Fornaci
SR RHP Jackson Lockwood (2016)
SR RHP Billy Sahlinger (2016)
SR LHP Cole Doherty (2016)
SR RHP Jordan Wilcox (2016)
JR RHP/1B Davis Tominaga (2016)
SR OF/RHP Ryan Barr (2016)
JR C Devin Kopas (2016)
SR C Brady Kerr (2016)
JR C Cooper Hummel (2016)
SR 2B/OF Caleb Whalen (2016)
SO RHP Jake Hawken (2017)
FR OF Cody Hawken (2018)
High Priority Follows: Jackson Lockwood, Billy Sahlinger, Cole Doherty, Jordan Wilcox, Davis Tominaga, Cooper Hummel, Caleb Whalen
SR LHP Jacob Hill (2016)
SR RHP Gary Cornish (2016)
rJR RHP Wes Judish (2016)
JR RHP CJ Burdick (2016)
JR RHP Nathan Kuchta (2016)
rSR RHP Drew Jacobs (2016)
rJR LHP/1B Troy Conyers (2016)
SO SS/2B Bryson Brigman (2016)
rSR 2B/3B Jerod Smith (2016)
JR OF Ryan Kirby (2016)
rSO OF Hunter Mercado-Hood (2016)
JR C Colton Waltner (2016)
SO RHP Jonathan Teaney (2017)
SO C Riley Adams (2017)
FR LHP Nick Sprengel (2018)
FR OF Kevin Collard (2018)
High Priority Follows: Jacob Hill, Gary Cornish, Wes Judish, CJ Burdick, Nathan Kuchta, Drew Jacobs, Troy Conyers, Bryson Brigman, Jerod Smith, Ryan Kirby, Hunter Mercado-Hood, Colton Waltner
SR RHP Anthony Shew (2016)
rSO RHP Grant Goodman (2016)
rSO LHP Sam Granoff (2016)
JR RHP Mack Meyer (2016)
SR C Ryan Matranga (2016)
JR SS Nico Giarratano (2016)
JR 2B/OF Matt Sinatro (2016)
JR INF Dan James (2016)
JR 1B Manny Ramirez (2016)
JR C Dominic Miroglio (2016)
rJR OF Harrison Bruce (2016)
SO 3B Ross Puskarich (2017)
SO OF Brady Bate (2017)
FR RHP Thomas Pontcelli (2018)
FR 1B Matt Warkentin (2018)
High Priority Follows: Anthony Shew, Grant Goodman, Sam Granoff, Nico Giarratano, Manny Ramirez, Dominic Miroglio, Harrison Bruce
SR RHP Nick Medeiros (2016)
rJR RHP Steven Wilson (2016)
SR RHP Jake Steffens (2016)
SR RHP Peter Hendron (2016)
JR LHP Jason Seever (2016)
JR LHP Kevin George (2016)
JR RHP Max Kuhns (2016)
rSO RHP Mitchell White (2016)
SR C/3B Kyle Cortopassi (2016)
SR OF Kert Woods (2016)
JR C Steve Berman (2016)
SR OF TC Florentine (2016)
SR 3B Ryan Budnick (2016)
rFR OF Matt Smithwick (2017)
SO 2B/SS Austin Fisher (2017)
SO OF Grant Meylan (2017)
SO OF/3B Evan Haberle (2017)
SO 2B Joe Becht (2017)
SO 1B Jake Brodt (2017)
FR RHP Travis Howard (2018)
FR RHP Freddie Erlandson (2018)
FR 3B/SS John Cresto (2018)
FR 1B Austin Cram (2018)
High Priority Follows: Nick Medeiros, Steven Wilson, Jake Steffens, Jason Seever, Kevin George, Mitchell White, Kyle Cortopassi, Steve Berman
JR RHP Corbin Burnes (2016)
JR RHP Cameron Neff (2016)
SR RHP David Dellaserra (2016)
JR LHP Johnny York (2016)
SR RHP/OF Anthony Gonsolin (2016)
SR OF Davis Strong (2016)
SR 3B Anthony Villa (2016)
SR C Ian McLoughlin (2016)
SR 2B/OF Connor Hornsby (2016)
JR C Nate Nolan (2016)
SO RHP Drew Strotman (2017)
SO RHP Billy Oxford (2017)
rFR OF Eddie Haus (2017)
SO SS/3B Logan Steinberg (2017)
SO SS Austin Piscotty (2017)
SO 2B Zach Kirtley (2017)
SO INF Brett Rasso (2017)
SO C Jackson Thoreson (2017)
FR RHP Jonathan Buckley (2018)
FR RHP Tim Holdgrapher (2018)
FR RHP Conner Loeprich (2018)
FR LHP/OF Ty Madrigal (2018)
FR SS/C Charles Zaloumis (2018)
FR OF Matt Green (2018)
High Priority Follows: Corbin Burnes, Cameron Neff, Johnny York, Anthony Gonsolin, Davis Strong, Anthony Villa, Connor Hornsby, Nate Nolan