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2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – American

Much as I like him, I don’t necessarily view Anthony Kay as a first round arm. However, the second he falls past the first thirty or so picks he’ll represent immediate value for whatever team gives him a shot. He’s a relatively high-floor future big league starter who can throw four pitches for strikes but lacks that one true put-away offering. Maybe continued refinement of his low-80s changeup or his 78-84 slider gets him there, but for now it’s more of a steady yet unspectacular back of the rotation. Nathan Kirby (pick 40 last year) seems like a reasonable draft ceiling for him, though there are some similarities in Kay’s profile to Marco Gonzales, who went 19th in his draft year. I like Kay for his relative certainty depending on what a team does before selecting him; his high-floor makes him an interesting way to diversity the draft portfolio of a team that otherwise likes to gamble on boom/bust upside plays.

Kay is a lot more famous among college fans, but Andrew Lantrip in many ways resembles a righthanded alternative. Kay’s changeup is ahead and he has the added bonus of mixing in a curve every now and then, but Lantrip can really command his fastball (like Kay’s, 87-92 MPH peaking at 94) and his delivery gives him that little extra pop of deception that makes everything he throws play up. Needless to say, I’m a fan. Lantrip will surely be dinged for being a slight college righthander without premium fastball velocity, but, again like Kay, the combination of a deep enough reservioir of offspeed stuff and a long track record of missing bats makes him an interesting high-floor back-end starting pitching option.

If it’s Kay and Lantrip at the top, then it’s a long way down before you get to the third best pitching prospect in this conference. That’s not to say there aren’t quality arms to be found, but rather the number of question marks for each young pitcher seems to grow exponentially after the rock solid profiles of Kay and Lantrip. Devin Over, very much in the mix to finish in that third spot by the close of the season, exemplifies this well. Over has all kinds of arm strength (lives in the 90’s, up to 97), flashes a really intriguing low-80s slider, and has some of the most impressive athleticism of any pitcher in his class. If it all clicks, Over could be a fast-moving reliever with late-game upside. Getting a talent like him as a senior-sign is mighty enticing.

JP France isn’t a senior, but he is really talented. I flip-flopped him and Over a few times before settling on France in the three spot. Figured that makes more sense considering I’ve already declared myself “all-in” on France before the season began. His fastball, breaking ball, and athleticism make him a threat to crash the first few rounds. His question mark is experience; the only thing standing in the way of the redshirt-sophomore and an early round selection is innings. If he can continue to stay healthy and effective on the mound, he’s a keeper.

The Houston guys are both impressive in their own right. Marshall Kasowski has the chance for three average or better pitches (FB, CB, CU) and Bubba Maxwell’s stuff appears all the way back after going under the knife for Tommy John surgery last year. He’s undersized at 5-11, 200 pounds, but there’s enough to him that a solid pro reliever future feels realistic. I have a soft spot for David Kirkpatrick, another Tommy John surgery survivor. His athleticism is as good as it gets for a pitcher – is it just me or are the pitchers in the AAC unusually athletic? – and he’s flashed the kind of stuff (fastball up to 93, average or better breaker) to get on the prospect radar.

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. Peter Stzelecki gets a mention here even though he’ll miss the entire season after undergoing – you guessed it – Tommy John surgery. Athletes and TJ surgery are what the AAC is all about, I suppose. He’s still a high upside arm (90-93 FB, above-average SL) that I’d ask a lot of questions about, especially vis-à-vis his signability, if I was an area guy tasked with following him this spring.

The hitting prospects in the American mirror the pitchers: two clear cut names at the top and a mad scramble beyond that. The difference is there’s more certainty with the two hitters at the top. I recently wondered aloud whether the up-the-middle duo from Tulane (Stephen Alemais and Jake Rogers) or Oregon State (Trever Morrison and Logan Ice) would be selected higher this June. I think we could break that down further and wonder which of the Tulane prospects will go higher on draft day. In a roundabout way I attempted to do this two months ago

One of the easier comps in this year’s class is Rogers to Austin Hedges. It’s just too obvious to ignore. If you’re still on the Hedges bandwagon — I stayed off from the start — then you’re really going to like Rogers. If you value defense but also appreciate a guy who be a positive value player offensively — it doesn’t have to be an either/or! — then you might want to hold back for now. All bets are off if Rogers comes out swinging it this spring. If that’s the case (he’s got decent raw power and has held his own in terms of BB/K ratio, so don’t rule it out) then ignore everything you just read and mentally insert him into the first day of the draft. Pretty significant “if,” however. Alemais doesn’t have that “if” for me. I think he’s an honest big league hitter with continued development. There’s enough speed, pop, and approach to his offensive game that I’m comfortable calling him the best college shortstop profiled so far. That only includes most of the ACC and AAC, but it’s better than nothing. He’s a lock to finish as one of the country’s dozen best shortstops and has a strong case for remaining at the top spot come June.

Rogers has hit. Alemais has hit as well. Both guys have hit. Teams that like up-the-middle defenders who hit should be happy. That’s all I’ve got. Figured everybody would appreciate my special brand of hard-hitting analysis there. I think both guys are now squarely in the first day conversation, so there’s that.

Bobby Melley has his so far this year, too. Combine that with a consistent track record of patience (88 BB/80 K coming into the season) and flashes of power (his 2014 was legit) and you’ve got yourself a really underrated senior-sign slugging first base prospect. His strong glove and good size are nice perks, too. I maintain that Matt Diorio could really be something if teams buy into his defensive potential behind the plate. As a corner outfielder, his bat is a lot less thrilling yet still not without some promise. I wrote about Memphis OF Darien Tubbs, another guy with promise, in January…

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

Two months later, I still like him. A really interesting direct comparison on this list is Josh Vidales and Aaron Hill. Vidales has been my guy for a while: he’s small (5-8, 160), he can defend the heck out of second base, and he’s an on-base machine. It’s a scary profile to project to pro ball, but I’d still take him late in the draft as an org second baseman and let the chips fall where they may. Hill’s path to the bigs is a lot clearer: his glove, bat speed, foot speed, arm strength, and athleticism are all obvious pro tools. Unfortunately, he hasn’t hit yet. It’s an admittedly low-stakes version of a common theme, but the Vidales vs Hill comparison looks a lot like production vs projection. Vidales has hit, but there’s a perceived ceiling to his game. Hill hasn’t hit, but the physical gifts give a coaching and development staff more to work with. There’s no right answer here. Unless it’s maybe finding a player that slots in-between the two, like either of the East Carolina guys Charlie Yorgen or Wichita State transfer Wes Phillips.

Hitters

  1. Tulane JR SS Stephen Alemais
  2. Tulane JR C Jake Rogers
  3. Central Florida JR OF/1B Matt Diorio
  4. Memphis JR OF Darien Tubbs
  5. East Carolina JR 1B/LHP Bryce Harman
  6. Connecticut SR 1B Bobby Melley
  7. Tulane rJR C/1B Jeremy Montalbano
  8. Houston SR 2B Josh Vidales
  9. Connecticut JR SS/2B Aaron Hill
  10. East Carolina JR SS Wes Phillips
  11. East Carolina JR 2B/SS Charlie Yorgen
  12. Tulane JR 1B/OF Lex Kaplan
  13. Tulane JR 3B Hunter Hope
  14. Central Florida JR OF/LHP Luke Hamblin
  15. Houston SO OF Clay Casey
  16. Tulane JR OF Jarrett DeHart
  17. Central Florida JR OF Eli Putnam
  18. Houston JR SS Jose Reyes
  19. Central Florida JR SS Brennan Bozeman
  20. South Florida rSO SS Clay Simmons
  21. Tulane rSO 2B Matt Rowland
  22. Memphis SR OF/1B Jake Little
  23. Houston SR 3B/1B Justin Montemayor
  24. Cincinnati rSO 2B Connor McVey
  25. Central Florida JR 3B/SS Kam Gellinger
  26. East Carolina SR OF Garrett Brooks
  27. Connecticut SR OF Jack Sundberg
  28. East Carolina rJR C Travis Watkins
  29. South Florida JR OF/C Luke Borders
  30. Tulane rSO OF Grant Brown
  31. Tulane SR OF Richard Carthon
  32. Memphis rSR SS Jake Overbey
  33. East Carolina JR C/OF Eric Tyler
  34. Connecticut SR 1B Joe DeRoche-Duffin
  35. Connecticut SR 3B Brian Daniello
  36. South Florida SR OF Luke Maglich
  37. Houston SR C Jacob Campbell
  38. Memphis JR 3B Zach Schritenthal
  39. South Florida SR C/3B Levi Borders

Pitchers

  1. Connecticut JR LHP Anthony Kay
  2. Houston JR RHP Andrew Lantrip
  3. Tulane rSO RHP JP France
  4. Connecticut rSR RHP Devin Over
  5. South Florida rJR RHP Tommy Eveld
  6. Houston JR RHP Marshall Kasowski
  7. Houston rJR RHP Bubba Maxwell
  8. Tulane rSR RHP Alex Massey
  9. East Carolina JR LHP Luke Bolka
  10. Connecticut JR RHP Pat Ruotolo
  11. East Carolina rSO RHP/INF Davis Kirkpatrick
  12. Tulane SR RHP Emerson Gibbs
  13. Tulane JR RHP Corey Merrill
  14. Central Florida JR LHP Andrew Faintich
  15. Central Florida JR RHP Campbell Scholl
  16. Connecticut JR RHP Andrew Zapata
  17. Tulane rSO RHP Chris Oakley
  18. Central Florida JR RHP Robby Howell
  19. East Carolina SR RHP Jimmy Boyd
  20. Memphis JR RHP Nolan Blackwood
  21. Cincinnati SR RHP Mitch Patishall
  22. South Florida SR RHP/OF Ryan Valdes
  23. Tulane rSR RHP/OF Trevor Simms
  24. Tulane SR RHP Patrick Duester
  25. Tulane rJR RHP Daniel Rankin
  26. Tulane SR RHP/OF Tim Yandel
  27. East Carolina JR LHP Evan Kruczynski
  28. Cincinnati JR RHP Andrew Zellner
  29. Houston JR RHP Nick Hernandez
  30. Central Florida rSR LHP Harrison Hukari
  31. South Florida JR RHP Phoenix Sanders
  32. East Carolina SR LHP Nick Durazo
  33. East Carolina JR LHP Jacob Wolfe
  34. South Florida rJR RHP Brad Labozzetta
  35. Central Florida JR RHP Juan Pimentel
  36. Houston JR LHP Nathan Jackson
  37. South Florida rSO RHP Peter Strzelecki
  38. South Florida JR RHP Brandon Lawson
  39. Connecticut SR RHP Nico Darras
  40. Houston JR LHP John King

Central Florida

JR LHP Andrew Faintich (2016)
JR RHP Campbell Scholl (2016)
JR RHP Juan Pimentel (2016)
rSR LHP Harrison Hukari (2016)
JR RHP Robby Howell (2016)
JR RHP Trent Thompson (2016)
JR OF/LHP Luke Hamblin (2016)
JR OF/1B Matt Diorio (2016):
rSR 1B/OF Sam Tolleson (2016)
JR OF Eli Putnam (2016)
JR OF Eugene Vazquez (2016)
JR 3B/SS Kam Gellinger (2016)
JR SS Brennan Bozeman (2016)
SO RHP Brad Rowley (2017)
SO RHP Cre Finfrock (2017)
SO RHP/2B Kyle Marsh (2017)
SO C Logan Heiser (2017)
FR RHP Thaddeus Ward (2018)
FR INF Matthew Mika (2018)

High Priority Follows: Andrew Faintich, Campbell Scholl, Juan Pimentel, Harrison Hukari, Robby Howell, Luke Hamblin, Matt Diorio, Eli Putnam, Eugene Vazquez, Kam Gellinger, Brennan Bozeman

Cincinnati

SR RHP Mitch Patishall (2016)
rSR RHP Bryan Chenoweth (2016)
rJR LHP Colton Cleary (2016)
JR RHP Andrew Zellner (2016)
SR C Woody Wallace (2016)
SR 1B/3B Devin Wenzel (2016)
rSO 2B Connor McVey (2016)
SO LHP Dalton Lehnen (2017)
SO LHP JT Perez (2017)
SO RHP Tristan Hammans (2017)
SO 1B/OF Ryan Noda (2017)
SO SS Manny Rodriguez (2017)
SO 2B Kyle Mottice (2017)
FR RHP Cal Jarrett (2018)
FR LHP Cameron Alldred (2018)
FR OF AJ Bumpass (2018)
FR OF Vince Augustine (2018)

High Priority Follows: Mitch Patishall, Andrew Zellner, Woody Wallace, Devin Wenzel, Connor McVey

Connecticut

JR LHP Anthony Kay (2016)
rSR RHP Devin Over (2016)
rJR RHP Ryan Radue (2016)
rSR RHP Max Slade (2016)
SR RHP Nico Darras (2016)
JR RHP Andrew Zapata (2016)
JR RHP Pat Ruotolo (2016)
rSO RHP Trevor Holmes (2016)
JR SS/2B Aaron Hill (2016)
SR 1B Bobby Melley (2016)
SR OF Jack Sundberg (2016)
SR 3B Brian Daniello (2016)
SR 1B Joe DeRoche-Duffin (2016)
SR 1B/OF Nico Darras (2016)
JR C/OF Tyler Gnesda (2016)
SR 3B/OF Connor Buckley (2016)
SO RHP William Montgomerie (2017)
SO SS/3B Willy Yahn (2017)
FR RHP Ronnie Rossomando (2018)
FR LHP PJ Poulin (2018)
FR LHP Tim Cate (2018)
FR C Zac Susi (2018)
FR INF/RHP Randy Polonia (2018)

High Priority Follows: Anthony Kay, Devin Over, Nico Darras, Andrew Zapata, Pat Ruotolo

East Carolina

JR LHP Evan Kruczynski (2016)
JR LHP Jacob Wolfe (2016)
SR LHP Nick Durazo (2016)
JR LHP Luke Bolka (2016)
rSO RHP/INF Davis Kirkpatrick (2016)
SR RHP Jimmy Boyd (2016)
JR RHP/3B Kirk Morgan (2016)
SR OF Garrett Brooks (2016)
rJR C Travis Watkins (2016)
JR C/OF Eric Tyler (2016)
JR 2B/SS Charlie Yorgen (2016)
JR SS Wes Phillips (2016)
SR OF Jeff Nelson (2016)
JR 1B/LHP Bryce Harman (2016)
JR OF/RHP Zack Mozingo (2016)
SO RHP Joe Ingle (2017)
FR RHP Chris Holba (2018)
FR RHP Denny Brady (2018)
FR RHP Sam Lanier (2018)
FR OF Dwanya Williams-Sutton (2018)
FR OF Justin Dirden (2018)
FR SS Turner Brown (2018)
FR SS Kendall Ford (2018)
FR INF Brady Lloyd (2018)

High Priority Follows: Evan Kruczynski, Jacob Wolfe, Nick Durazo, Luke Bolka, Davis Kirkpatrick, Jimmy Boyd, Garrett Brooks, Travis Watkins, Eric Tyler, Charlie Yorgen, Wes Phillips, Bryce Harman

Houston

JR RHP Andrew Lantrip (2016)
JR RHP Marshall Kasowski (2016)
rJR RHP Bubba Maxwell (2016)
JR RHP Nick Hernandez (2016)
JR LHP John King (2016)
JR LHP Nathan Jackson (2016)
SR 3B/1B Justin Montemayor (2016)
SR C Jacob Campbell (2016)
rSO 3B/SS Connor Hollis (2016)
JR SS Jose Reyes (2016)
SO OF Clay Casey (2016)
JR 3B Jordan Strading (2016)
SR 2B Josh Vidales (2016)
SR 2B Robert Grilli (2016)
SO LHP Seth Romero (2017)
SO LHP Aaron Fletcher (2017)
SO OF/3B Corey Julks (2017)
SO C/SS Connor Wong (2017)
SO OF Zac Taylor (2017)
FR LHP Tanner Lawson (2018)
FR RHP Mitch Ullom (2018)
FR C/1B Joe Davis (2018)
FR OF Grayson Padgett (2018)
FR OF Caleb Morris (2018)
FR INF Wendell Champion (2018)

High Priority Follows: Andrew Lantrip, Marshall Kasowski, Bubba Maxwell, Nick Hernandez, John King, Nathan Jackson, Justin Montemayor, Jacob Campbell, Connor Hollis, Jose Reyes, Clay Casey, Jordan Strading, Josh Vidales

Memphis

rSO RHP Trevor Sutton (2016)
JR RHP Nolan Blackwood (2016)
JR RHP Blake Drabik (2016)
SR RHP Matt Ferguson (2016)
SR OF/1B Jake Little (2016)
rSR SS Jake Overbey (2016)
SR C Corey Chafin (2016)
JR OF Darien Tubbs (2016)
JR 3B Zach Schritenthal (2016)
JR OF Chris Carrier (2016)
JR INF Trent Turner (2016)
JR INF Brandon Grudzielanek (2016)
SO RHP Colton Hathcock (2017)
SO RHP Connor Alexander (2017)
FR INF Matthew Mika (2018)
FR OF Colton Neel (2018)

High Priority Follows: Nolan Blackwood, Blake Drabik, Jake Little, Jake Overbey, Darien Tubbs, Zach Schritenthal, Brandon Grudzielanek

South Florida

JR RHP Brandon Lawson (2016)
rJR RHP Tommy Eveld (2016)
JR RHP Phoenix Sanders (2016)
rJR RHP Brad Labozzetta (2016)
rSO RHP Peter Strzelecki (2016)
SR RHP/OF Ryan Valdes (2016)
JR OF/RHP Daniel Portales (2016)
SR C/3B Levi Borders (2016)
rSO SS Clay Simmons (2016)
JR OF/C Luke Borders (2016)
SO OF/1B Duke Stunkel (2016)
SR OF Luke Maglich (2016)
JR 2B Andres Leal (2016)
SO RHP Joe Cavallaro (2017)
SO 2B/OF Kevin Merrell (2017)
FR LHP Shane McClanahan (2018)
FR LHP Garrett Bye (2018)
FR LHP Andrew Perez (2018)
FR OF Garrett Zech (2018)
FR OF Chris Chafield (2018)
FR C/1B Joe Genord (2018)
FR SS Robert Montes (2018)
FR OF Cam Montgomery (2018)
FR 3B David Villar (2018)

High Priority Follows: Brandon Lawson, Tommy Eveld, Phoenix Sanders, Brad Labozzetta, Peter Strzelecki, Ryan Valdes, Levi Borders, Clay Simmons, Luke Borders, Luke Maglich

Tulane

SR RHP Emerson Gibbs (2016)
rJR RHP Daniel Rankin (2016)
rSR RHP Alex Massey (2016)
JR RHP Corey Merrill (2016)
SR RHP Patrick Duester (2016)
rJR RHP Eric Steel (2016)
rSO RHP JP France (2016)
SR RHP/OF Tim Yandel (2016)
rSR RHP Evan Rutter (2016)
rJR LHP Christian Colletti (2016)
rSO RHP Chris Oakley (2016)
rSO LHP Sam Bjorngjeld (2016)
rSR RHP/OF Trevor Simms (2016)
JR C Jake Rogers (2016)
JR SS Stephen Alemais (2016)
rSO OF Grant Brown (2016)
SR OF Richard Carthon (2016)
rJR C/1B Jeremy Montalbano (2016)
JR 1B/OF Lex Kaplan (2016)
JR 3B Hunter Hope (2016)
JR 1B Hunter Williams (2016)
JR OF Jarrett DeHart (2016)
rSO 2B Matt Rowland (2016)
rSR 2B/C Shea Pierce (2016)
JR 2B Jake Willsey (2016)
SO LHP Jackson Johnson (2017)
FR LHP Ross Massey (2018)
FR OF/LHP Grant Witherspoon (2018)
FR INF Cade Edwards (2018)
FR OF Anthony Forte (2018)

High Priority Follows: Emerson Gibbs, Daniel Rankin, Alex Massey, Corey Merrill, Patrick Duester, JP France, Tim Yandel, Christian Colletti, Chris Oakley, Trevor Simms, Jake Rogers, Stephen Alemais, Grant Brown, Richard Carthon, Jeremy Montalbano, Lex Kaplan, Hunter Hope, Jarrett DeHart, Matt Rowland

2016 MLB Draft Prospects – Houston

JR RHP Andrew Lantrip (2016)
JR RHP Marshall Kasowski (2016)
rJR RHP Bubba Maxwell (2016)
JR RHP Nick Hernandez (2016)
JR LHP Nathan Jackson (2016)
SR 3B/1B Justin Montemayor (2016)
SR C Jacob Campbell (2016)
rSO 3B/SS Connor Hollis (2016)
JR SS Jose Reyes (2016)
JR 3B Jordan Strading (2016)
SR 2B Josh Vidales (2016)
SR 2B Robert Grilli (2016)
SO LHP Seth Romero (2017)
SO LHP Aaron Fletcher (2017)
SO OF/3B Corey Julks (2017)
SO C/SS Connor Wong (2017)
SO OF Clay Casey (2017)
SO OF Zac Taylor (2017)
FR LHP Tanner Lawson (2018)
FR RHP Mitch Ullom (2018)
FR C/1B Joe Davis (2018)
FR OF Grayson Padgett (2018)
FR OF Caleb Morris (2018)
FR INF Wendell Champion (2018)

I’m all about SR 2B Josh Vidales. I can’t help it. Here’s what was written about him last year…

I wish JR 2B Josh Vidales had even a little bit of power (.327 and .306 slugging the past two seasons) because his approach (88 BB/51 K career), defense (plus) and speed (26/34 SB career, not a burner but picks his spots really well) all rate high enough to be an entertaining prospect to follow professionally. The fact that he’s currently seen as a second base or bust (though, again, he’s fantastic there) defensive prospect works against him, though I wonder — I honestly don’t know — if that’s something he can change minds about this spring. If he could be trusted on the left side of the infield, then we’re talking a strong potential utility future, even without the power. For all his flaws, I’d still want him to be a member of my organization.

He did up his SLG to .387 last year. That’s not great, but it’s an improvement. It also gave him his best ISO (.087) in his career. He kept getting on base with a .397 consistent to what he’s done in the past (now up to 123 BB/74 K career), swiped a few more bags (32/43 SB career), and played his usual brand of excellent defense at second. It’s not unusual to see spikes in production during a player’s senior season — far too often draft outlets overrate players on this basis, something I’ve been guilty of in the past — so hopefully Vidales enjoys the same fate this spring. If that’s the case, I think his consistent year-to-year output should get him drafted; this indirectly yet directly contradicts my previous point about overrating seniors, but this would be the case of a steady player having a better than usual senior year and not a guy having a breakout senior season out of nowhere. Consider the bigger than expected senior season prediction my attempt at wish-casting that others begin to see Vidales as I do. He’s an excellent college player and an honest pro prospect.

As much as I love Vidales, the clear top prospects on the Houston squad reside on the pitching staff. JR RHP Andrew Lantrip and JR RHP Marshall Kasowski both have very real chances of crashing the early round party. Kasowski has the more traditionally valued skill set — hard FB (up to 95), above-average mid-70s curve, rapidly improving change, and a sturdy yet athletic 6-3, 220 pound frame — while Lantrip nearly matches him in straight stuff (88-92 FB, 94 peak; above-average low-80s SL, rawer CU) but brings some of the best fastball command of this class to the mound each trip. The knock on him could be his size (6-1, 180), but that would be a silly thing to worry about considering the many positives already cited and his strong track record of striking men out and keeping runs off the board. I like both guys quite a bit could see one or both off the board much higher than many would presently believe. Two additional pitchers to know from the Houston staff include rJR RHP Bubba Maxwell (looking to find that 90-94 MPH heat he had pre-Tommy John surgery) and JR LHP Nathan Jackson (command lefty with a nice curve). Add those pitchers to SO LHP Seth Romero (2017) and you’ve got yourself one exciting group of arms.

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Houston

JR OF Kyle Survance (2015)
rJR OF Ashford Fulmer (2015)
SR OF Michael Pyeatt (2015)
JR 3B/1B Justin Montemayor (2015)
JR 2B Josh Vidales (2015)
JR C Ian Rice (2015)
JR RHP Patrick Weigel (2015)
SR RHP Aaron Garza (2015)
JR RHP Jacob Lemoine (2015)
SR RHP David Longville (2015)
SR RHP Jared Robinson (2015)
SR LHP Matt Locus (2015)
JR RHP Bubba Maxwell (2015)
SO 3B Connor Hollis (2016)
SO RHP Andrew Lantrip (2016)
SO RHP Marshall Kasowski (2016)
SO 3B Jordan Strading (2016)
FR INF Connor Wong (2017)

Houston returns three outfielders who all could get a shot at the pros come June. JR OF Kyle Survance is the best of the trio. His power is limited, but his speed and defense should keep him employed for at least a few years. If it clicks for him, it’s a big league skill set. rJR OF Ashford Fulmer is the most confounding player of the three. You could argue for his tools over Survance’s (very close call there, though I’m admittedly lower on Survance than most), but his average or better raw power hasn’t shown up in games yet while his overly aggressive approach leaves something to be desired. What SR OF Michael Pyeatt lacks in raw tools, he almost makes up for in baseball IQ. I have no feel on how teams currently feel about him — if they have a strong emotion on him either way — but he strikes me as the classic undersized battler who will grind out at bats and play beyond his physical limitations. I’d rank them as I discussed them (Survance, Fulmer, Pyeatt, with decent-sized gaps between each), but all three are draftable talents.

JR 3B/1B Justin Montemayor certainly looks the part, but, like Fulmer, he’s a young hitter who has been too aggressive at the plate for his own good to this point. I wish JR 2B Josh Vidales had even a little bit of power (.327 and .306 slugging the past two seasons) because his approach (88 BB/51 K career), defense (plus) and speed (26/34 SB career, not a burner but picks his spots really well) all rate high enough to be an entertaining prospect to follow professionally. The fact that he’s currently seen as a second base or bust (though, again, he’s fantastic there) defensive prospect works against him, though I wonder — I honestly don’t know — if that’s something he can change minds about this spring. If he could be trusted on the left side of the infield, then we’re talking a strong potential utility future, even without the power. For all his flaws, I’d still want him to be a member of my organization.

All of those players are established big time college baseball players; the fewest number of career at bats for any one of them is still over 300. The Cougar hitter I think has the best chance to be a quality pro (or at least the 1a to Survance’s 1b), however, is a guy without the same kind of major college track record. I’m sky high on JR C Ian Rice, a transfer by way of Chipola who can really, really hit. If he shows enough behind the plate to convince teams he’s a catcher long-term (as I do), there’s no telling how high he could rise by June. It’s just a hair too early to start stacking up prospects by position, but I’m very sure Rice will wind up higher on my board at that spot than anywhere else on the internet.

The two biggest arms on the staff belong to JR RHPs Jacob Lemoine and Patrick Weigel. The imposing pair combine big fastballs (both 88-94, peaking up near 96/97) with big frames (6-5, 220 for Lemoine and 6-6, 220 for Weigel). Lemoine’s big strength is his hard mid-80s slider, an average or better pitch at present with the chance to be a consistent plus offering in time. Weigel’s big weakness is his control. He walked over 7 batters per nine in his one year of big conference college ball at Pacific before upping that number to over one batter per inning at Oxnard CC last year. That’s scary. Even at his best, like last season when he struck out 12.39 batters per nine in 61 innings, he’s what could charitably be called “effectively wild.” In a way, Weigel is a tiny bit like the pitching version of Rice. Both are largely unproven talents with serious upside. We’ll have to wait and see as to how far along the well-traveled Weigel’s command and control (both need work) have developed, but the raw stuff is top two round quality. Lemoine is a more proven commodity after having spent two seasons putting up numbers ranging from solid (2013) to very good (2014) right here at Houston. If he takes that next step in terms of performance, it’s no stretch to envision him as a mid- to late-first round pick, especially if teams look at him as a starting pitcher going forward. I think his rapidly improving changeup and strong ground ball tendencies (allegedly…I have yet to check the numbers myself, but I will) give him a better than average shot at remaining in the rotation professionally. Both players have the potential to go very high this June, something that should come as no surprise in a sport that will always value power arms and power bats above most else.

SR RHP Aaron Garza is an excellent college pitcher who may not miss enough bats to be anything more than an excellent college pitcher. His consistent success at this level is pretty damn impressive considering said inability to miss bats (he’s gone from K/9’s of 6ish to 5ish to 4ish over the past three seasons, not exactly an inspiring trend) and his stuff is at least a little intriguing (CB, SL, and CU can all be throw for strikes AND flash above-average or better on any given day), so maybe he’s a whole is greater than the sum of parts kind of pitcher. The short fastball (mid- to upper-80s, 90 peak) is going to be held against him, but his secondaries, command, size (6-4, 200) and continued mastery of college competition against all logical odds demands some attention. Every year I do my best to track GB% for certain pitchers, and Garza could be a good candidate for this year’s exercise. I’m not sure what else we can attribute to his consistent run of success without being able to strike people out. Even his biggest fan wouldn’t call him a serious top five round pitching prospect, but he’s a fascinating player all the same. I know little to nothing about SR RHP Jared Robinson and JR RHP Bubba Maxwell, but the pair combined to strike out almost a batter per inning last season (61 K in 71.2 IP) with good control and shiny ERA’s. Both are undersized righthanded pitchers, so who knows what the future holds. SO RHP Marshall Kasowski is one to watch for the class of 2016.