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2018 MLB Draft Notebook 2.0

* I can’t get the list done for Monday if I’m going to stop every last time I see a pitcher with crazy numbers, but a special exception has to be made for TCU JR RHP Durbin Feltman. Look at these numbers: 15.93 K/9, 2.22 BB/9, 0.74 ERA. Small sample size (24.1 IP), sure, but, again, did you look at those numbers? And Feltman is pretty famous, too! That’s kind of what happen when you dominate for three years at one of the best programs in the country while flirting with triple-digit velocity (91-96 FB, 98-99 peak) with a nasty above-average power breaking ball (84-87) that flashes plus. I don’t know how high he’ll go — though I’ll admit I peeked at his ranking at BA (94th for the curious) to see if I was nuts thinking he should go in the first few rounds — but I’m pretty damn sure that you’re looking at a player who could provide damn near immediate value at the big league level.

* Fellow Long Star Stater JR RHP Beau Ridgeway (Texas) had a year that can be charitably be called the opposite of what Feltman did. There’s no use in breaking it down as Ridgeway, despite decent stuff (88-92 FB with sink, 77-80 CU, mid-70s CB), will almost certainly go undrafted. So why bring him up? Google has failed me, but I have in my notes that somebody at D1 Baseball, the best college baseball site on the planet, once compared Ridgeway to Max Scherzer. I don’t know who it was or to what extent the comparison was made or if I just fever dreamed the whole thing, but it’s staring my in the face in my notes and I just can’t believe that a college junior coming off a season with these numbers — 4.81 K/9 and 6.55 BB/9 to add up to a 11.32 ERA — could have ever been compared to Scherzer in any way. Again, this isn’t meant to be a knock on D1 Baseball and I’m certainly not trying to disparage Ridgeway, a man far better at baseball than I am at any one thing I can think of, but rather a way of highlighting how crazy and unpredictable this sport can be, especially when trying to forecast at the amateur level. Not for nothing, but Ridgeway did have an awesome 1.89 ERA last season (admittedly with middling peripherals), so a senior season rebound is definitely within range.

* Speaking of Texas, I counted nine pitchers for them that could at least be considered draftable if you’re willing to be a little bit generous with the word. That’s the high water mark so far, though I still have an intimidatingly large number of teams to go before I’m done sorting through all my college notes.

* No team has given me the authority to draft for them yet, but if I had any say in what my team did this year I’d be pushing hard for a late (fortieth?) round pick on Winthrop rSR LHP Matt Crohan. The odds of him ever pitching effectively again don’t seem all that high, so this would be a pick made with Crohan’s next career move in mind. I have no knowledge of what that might be, but I’d love to bring him on board to discuss what he may be considering. The perspective of Crohan, a one-time top prospect who has had to endure some of the most grueling recovery imaginable after his shoulder exploded a few years back, would be something I’d love to be able to share with the 39 other players drafted along with him. And on that one-in-a-million chance he wakes up one day and his arm doesn’t feel as terrible as it has…

* I’m also drafting Long Beach State JR OF/LHP Clayton Andrews. Honestly, how have I not written about him before? He was somewhat on my radar coming into the season, but now I’m kicking myself for not delving deeper into him as a prospect sooner. What do I like about Andrews? First, he’s tiny. Long Beach lists him at 5-6, 160 pounds. That alone makes him stand out to me. It’s also cool — perhaps only to me, I’ll admit — that prior to coming to Long Beach Andrews played at Carrillo HS and then Cabrillo College. That’s kind of fun, right? What I like best about Andrews is that he’s really good at baseball. Last year at Cabrillo, Andrews did this: 15.68 K/9 and 0.45 BB/9 in 39.2 IP (0.91 ERA). He also did this: .399/.483/.528 with 26 BB/5 K in 178 AB. You might think that moving up a level in competition would slow him down, but nope. He hit .302/.382/.377 with 25 BB/6 K in 215 AB while doing this (10.66 K/9 – 1.54 BB/9 – 99.2 IP – 1.99 ERA) on the mound. The whole “video game numbers” line is a tired cliche — one that I’m guilty of using plenty in the past, FWIW — but if those aren’t Create A Player mode stats then I’m not sure what qualifies. Since the scouting stuff matters too, it should be noted that Andrews is a gifted defender in center with lots of speed and athleticism. He’s also been 87-90 MPH with his fastball while throwing a quality 75-77 changeup and a usable 73-75 breaking ball. In other words, he has the scouting chops to back up those wild stats. I’m all in on Andrews as a fun late round pick. Now the question is whether or not I can sneak him into my top 500…

(Spoiler: probably not. This draft class isn’t a great one — which for an “every draft class is full of players if you’re willing to dig deep” type like myself is as close as I’ll come to saying it’s a down year — but it’s shocking how quickly a top 500 can fill up with names once you get down to it. It’s a great big country, I guess.)

* I don’t think we can talk about crazy strikeout pitchers without mentioning Cole Knetz, a righthander from Miami (Ohio). The stuff is really good (plus CU, average or better SL) despite a lack of knockout velocity (89-91) and the numbers are insane. Again, we’re dealing with a really small sample (19.1 IP) and there are reasons for concern beyond the whiffs (notably a 6.99 BB/9 and a 5.59 ERA), but a 17.25 K/9 is a 17.25 K/9. That’s easily the highest I’ve seen so far out of potential 2018 draftees.

* A post that I’ll almost certainly never have the time to write would be based around the premise of my favorite college programs to a) watch/follow as a fan, and b) develop interesting pro prospects. If I had to pick one off the top of my head, I might go Dallas Baptist. Daniel Salters, Daniel Sweet, Darick Hall, and David Martinelli (sad face emoji here) were all hitters in recent years I particularly liked. Austin Listi has been great even if too old for his level so far. They always seem to churn out fun, hard throwing relief prospects. This year’s team will sent into pro ball favorites like Jameson Hannah, Devlin Granberg (another guy with a first name starting with D…), and Kody Funderburk (Hall 2.0?), not to mention a pair of quality catchers in Matt Duce and Garrett Wolforth. I also have nine different pitchers with draftable grades for 2018.  They’ve only produced two big leaguers in the decade I’ve been doing this — three if you add Brandon Bantz’s whole two at bats to what Ryan Goins and Vic Black have done so far — but there are a few guys on the cusp of the highest level that should bump that number up. Honestly, I’ll still love what Dallas Baptist does even if some of their guys stall in the pros. Good recruiting, good coaching, good prospects.

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2016 MLB Draft – May GB% Update

It’s been a month, so let’s update our batted ball findings…

Virginia RHP Connor Jones – 67.04%
Florida LHP AJ Puk – 37.88%
Oklahoma RHP Alec Hansen – 48.48% (*)
Mississippi State RHP Dakota Hudson – 68.22%
Cal RHP Daulton Jefferies – 52.63%
Florida RHP Logan Shore – 55.28%
Winthrop LHP Matt Crohan – 34.48%
Kent State LHP Eric Lauer – 45.92%
Vanderbilt RHP Jordan Sheffield – 51.28%
Connecticut LHP Anthony Kay – 47.18%
Rice RHP Jon Duplantier – 61.29%

And by request…

New Orleans RHP Shawn Semple – 43.44%

* Hansen’s numbers are from when he was a starter only. I’m here to help, but going through every single game to find data for relievers is too much even for me.

A full season (to date) line of 9.25 K/9, 3.25 BB/9, and 68.22 GB% is a pretty fascinating all-around statistical profile for Hudson. The only one that tops that is this mystery righthander’s 9.56 K/9, 1.88 BB/9, and 76.40 GB%. That’s the newest addition to our data set, Pittsburgh RHP TJ Zeuch. Short-lived mysteries are what I live for. It’s only been seven starts and I obviously don’t have data on every single draft-eligible arm in this class, but I’d have to imagine his impressive run since coming back from injury has to rank as one of, if not the very best, GB% in the country.

I’ve been low-key critical of Jones lately, but I think some of his underwhelming peripherals can be explained by his dominant ground ball tendencies. He could be one of those guys who learns how to sacrifice a few grounders for more swings and misses once he enters the pro game. He certainly has the stuff to do it, so perhaps getting away from the college environment — much as I like and respect Brian O’Connor and his staff — will help him unleash the beast that is his nasty mid-80s slider more regularly. Pitch to contact is a very amateur friendly concept, which is ironic considering the fielding quality (and, in some cases, field quality) at that level. Jones striking out more batters as a pro than as a college star might not seem like the most sensible gamble to take at face value, but the theories behind it are not without merit.

Does Puk’s heavy fly ball ways potentially scare off the Phillies some knowing that he’d pitch half his games at Citizens Bank Park? Philadelphia’s home park has a bit of an inflated reputation as a home run hitter’s haven, but it still averages eighth in baseball per ESPN’s HR park factor since 2011. This is the definition of a nitpick, but if you’re choosing between Puk and a similarly talented player, any tie-breaker can matter.

 

2016 MLB Draft – GB%

It’s finally time for first edition of the MLB Draft Pitching Prospect GB% Index or: The Post You Make When Too Busy Driving Sixty Miles to See the Last Two Innings of Jay Groome’s 2016 Debut to Write a Few Thousand Words Otherwise. There’s more to life than keeping the ball down and getting outs on the ground, but I still think it’s interesting data to track as it provides a hint as to what type of pitcher stylistically each guy will be as a professional. Here’s what I’ve got so far…don’t read anything into the order.

Virginia RHP Connor Jones – 63.53%
Florida LHP AJ Puk – 36.73%
Oklahoma RHP Alec Hansen – 48.48%
Mississippi State RHP Dakota Hudson – 70.37%
Cal RHP Daulton Jefferies – 52.63%
Florida RHP Logan Shore – 51.47%
Winthrop LHP Matt Crohan – 34.48%
Kent State LHP Eric Lauer – 46.58%
Vanderbilt RHP Jordan Sheffield – 50.00%
Connecticut LHP Anthony Kay – 51.19%
Rice RHP Jon Duplantier – 60.49%

I wanted to include the Oregon rotation and Robert Tyler, but the box scores were a nightmare at those team sites. I think getting info on Krook and Tyler is important, so I’ll try to figure something out when I’m feeling a bit more motivated.

As for the actual data above, I’d say that Hudson’s number is eye-opening and wholly consistent with the kind of stuff he throws. Are we sure he isn’t the best college pitching prospect in the country? Crohan’s number could be considered noteworthy for teams that preach keeping the ball in the dirt, though any batted ball analysis by a big league front office would (hopefully) include more than just the difference between a ground ball out and an out recorded via the air. Take AJ Puk, for example. His number is low, but it doesn’t account for the relatively high number of infield pop-ups and weak fly balls that I’ve seen whenever I’ve watched him. It should also be noted that Crohan has pitched far less than the rest of the names on the list, so an already small sample gets even smaller. It’s all just something extra to consider when thinking about these pitchers anyway.

Who am I missing here? I’m happy to add a few more names to the list to track between now and June.

2016 MLB Draft – College Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – Big South

Matt Crohan at the top of the Big South’s pitching pile is easy. He’s really good. I currently have him as the seventh best college arm in this class and a dark horse to crash the top half of the first round this June. It’s a minority opinion to be sure, but I still don’t see what separates him all that much from AJ Puk at this point. After Crohan, however, this list gets difficult to sort in a hurry. Thankfully, it’s not for lack of quality options. The top dozen or so names listed below are all really exciting pro prospects in their own ways.

Parker Bean and Andre Scrubb are both big guys (Bean a little leaner) with mid-90s fastballs and quality offspeed stuff to match. The former’s 2015 was one to forget, but I think his athleticism and the depth of his offspeed stuff (cut-SL, CB, CU) are enticing enough that I can forgive it. Scrubb’s heft and arm action have me leaning towards more of a bullpen future for him – fair or not – but he can throw two breaking balls for strikes, so starting as a pro shouldn’t be off the table. He’s coming off a really impressive 2015 season, so I could see teams that value performance giving him the edge.

The Big South has a pair of pitchers in Devin Gould and Jeremy Walker that had me questioning my own core pitching beliefs. Both are righthanded juniors with sturdy frames and some projection left. Both have fastballs that creep into the mid-90s. Both have average or better sliders with above-average promise. Gould has missed more bats, but has been far too wild. Walker has average to above-average control, but to date hasn’t lit the world on fire with his ability to get swings and misses. Their relative youth and similar stuff sets up an interesting (albeit admittedly flawed) study in what area is more “fixable” in pitching prospects. Is it easier to fix one’s control or the increase one’s ability to miss bats? I send this question around to three BASEBALL MEN. Two opted for the guy with the iffy control but better strikeout numbers while the third claimed the guy with better control and decent K/9 had an easier path towards overall improvement (he also said he’d pay to see a real study done on this…we both freely admitted we were too stupid to figure out the logistics – so many variables! – of such a thing). Anyway, this was one of my conclusions…

Control seems more fixable due to circumstantial stuff — improved mechanics, better/different coaching, having some baseball or non-baseball epiphany between the ears — so I think I’d take the wild guy over the lower-K/lower-BB option. The only thing that gives me pause is that spikes in K/9 (when they happen at all) — again, assuming quality stuff throughout — seem to come with incremental change rather than major overhauls. That 6.50 K/9 to 9.00 K/9 jump can come with just changing a grip on an existing cutter or something since the “new” pitch better complements what you’ve been doing already. Still going with the control guy over the alternative, but it’s close.

Of course, that conversation sent me down a rabbit hole that eventually led to an interesting discussion that expanded on the idea of what the least worrisome flaw a prospect can be. It reminded me of a football coach I once had who swore that he could fix any player’s – he specialized in QB’s, but said he could help anybody – footwork in a matter of weeks. Paxton Lynch, a potential early first round QB in this year’s NFL Draft, has been dinged by many for ugly footwork. When I see some draft experts call this a fatal flaw, I’m reminded of that coach. One man’s fatal flaw is another’s easily correctable foible. For the record, I don’t know nearly enough about correcting a quarterback’s footwork to add much to the Lynch conversation. On one hand, it does seem like something that can be retaught. On the other, I’ve heard and read elsewhere that bad footwork is more of a symptom of something larger (inability to make decisions and read defenses, for example) than a singular physical issue. Scouting and development is hard work, I guess.

Anyway, due to my current belief that below-average control at the amateur level, often stemming from inconsistent mechanics, ineffective coaching, or some unknowable to the outside world mental barrier, is the simpler of the two issues to improve on, the wild Devin Gould gets the edge over the ordinary K/9-ing Jeremy Walker…for now. Your mileage might vary.

Alex Cunningham is a good arm on a good team, so he’ll get plenty of deserved attention all spring long now that he’s fully recovered from a fractured elbow. His command of three pitches (88-95 FB, mid-70s CB, upper-70s CU) should allow him to stay in the rotation professionally. Austin Ross has more of a reliever feel (good FB, plus SL), but with the chance to be a damn fine one. Mitchell Kuebbing has a little less fastball than the aforementioned Gould, so teams might not be as willing to overlook his similar control issues. I’m just a guy on the internet with little to lose, so gambling on his impressive arm – 88-92 FB, breaking ball that flashes plus, changeup that improves with every outing – is a no-brainer for me. I switched the order of these three pitches about a dozen times before finally settling on the ranking you see below. That kind of waffling is indicative of the overall time spent on sorting through these arms. I can’t pinpoint the exact reason why, but Big South pitching has been the hardest conference/position group to organize so far. That’s probably bad news for the conference’s hitters…

I last took Spanish in school a dozen years ago, so forgive me for the few days of excitement when I thought I had a nickname for Michael Paez cued up and ready to leash on the unsuspecting world. Turns out that vocabulary, once my one and only language strength (boooo grammar), had let me down: country in Spanish is país and not paez. Turns out we can’t call him Little Country after all. What we can call him is a damn fine ballplayer, lame nickname or not. Paez was my preferred First Team All-Prospect college player from two weeks ago for a reason. My indirect comp for him — more about how I perceive him as a prospect than a tools/physical comparison — was Blake Trahan, a third round pick of Cincinnati last season. I don’t know that he’ll rise that high in the eyes of the teams doing the picking in June, but there’s nothing in his prospect profile to suggest he doesn’t have a chance to finish around the same range (early second round) on my final big board. In a draft severely lacking in two-way college shortstops, he’s as good as it gets.

Josh Greene uses his plus speed to his advantage both in tracking down balls in center and on the base paths. He’s also one of the many toolsy college outfielders in this class who scouts insist has a better approach at the plate than his BB/K ratios to date suggest. Speed, range for center, leadoff approach, and sneaky pop all add up to a quality prospect too good to be called a sleeper.

Connor Owings and Nate Blanchard are both solid second base prospects coming off good 2015 seasons. Owings has an impressive hit tool and a patient approach while Owings is a strong defender with a similarly keen batting eye. I’m intrigued by Roger Gonzalez, a plus defender behind the plate and a potential contributor at it. The Miami transfer had a fine junior season and now rates as one of this class’s better senior-signs at the position. Tyler Chadwick is a really fun college player who might get dinged by pro teams unsure what to do with him defensively at the next level. It’s hard to believe that being too versatile a player can be seen as a negative by some front offices in 2016, but that’s some of the feedback I’ve gotten on him as a prospect. It’s such a ridiculous notion to me that it feels like a strawman argument to otherwise – especially considering that Chadwick is a good athlete who legitimately can play multiple spots; it’s not like’s a future DH without a position – but here we are. Chadwick’s versatility make him a far more appealing to prospect to me than he otherwise might be for no other reason than the utility he could bring a low-level minor league roster in flux with promotions, demotions, and injuries. That in and of itself gives him value, and that’s even before we get to his sound approach at the plate, average speed, and the possibility he could be nurtured full-time behind the plate as a viable catching prospect.

My quick search didn’t find the whereabouts of former Big South prospects Connor Pate, Al Molina, and Cas Silber. If anybody knows anything – or knows how to Google better than I can, evidently – drop me a line. I did find Dalton Moats, formerly of Coastal Carolina, at Delta State. He’s a good name to know as a three-pitch lefty with projection and velocity.

Hitters

  1. Coastal Carolina JR SS/2B Michael Paez
  2. High Point JR OF Josh Greene
  3. Coastal Carolina SR 2B/OF Connor Owings
  4. Charleston Southern JR 3B/2B Nate Blanchard
  5. Winthrop SR C Roger Gonzalez
  6. Coastal Carolina SR 3B/C Tyler Chadwick
  7. High Point JR 2B/SS Chris Clare
  8. Radford SR OF Shane Johnsonbaugh
  9. High Point SO 1B/OF Carson Jackson
  10. Liberty SR SS Dalton Britt (2016)
  11. Coastal Carolina SR 3B Zach Remillard
  12. Liberty JR OF Will Shepherd
  13. Coastal Carolina JR C/1B GK Young
  14. Liberty JR 3B/1B Sammy Taormina
  15. Coastal Carolina SR OF Anthony Marks
  16. Gardner-Webb SR C Collin Thacker
  17. Radford SR SS/OF Chris Coia
  18. UNC Asheville JR OF/3B Joe Tietjen
  19. Campbell SR OF/RHP Cole Hallum
  20. Radford rSO OF Trevor Riggs
  21. Liberty JR 1B Andrew Yacyk
  22. Liberty JR 2B Eric Grabowski
  23. Radford JR C John Gonzalez
  24. Winthrop rSR OF Anthony Paulsen
  25. Winthrop JR OF/C Babe Thomas
  26. Longwood SR OF Colton Konvicka
  27. Charleston Southern SR OF Sly Edwards
  28. Coastal Carolina SR C/OF David Parrett
  29. Liberty SR OF Aaron Stroosma
  30. UNC Asheville JR OF Kyle Carruthers
  31. Presbyterian SR OF Weston Jackson
  32. UNC Asheville SR C Lucas Owens
  33. Charleston Southern SR SS Cole Murphy
  34. UNC Asheville SR C Pete Guy

Pitchers

  1. Winthrop JR LHP Matt Crohan
  2. Liberty JR RHP Parker Bean
  3. High Point JR RHP Andre Scrubb
  4. Coastal Carolina rJR RHP Alex Cunningham
  5. Longwood JR RHP Mitchell Kuebbing
  6. Radford JR RHP Austin Ross
  7. Coastal Carolina SR RHP Mike Morrison
  8. Longwood JR RHP Devin Gould
  9. Gardner-Webb JR RHP Jeremy Walker
  10. Coastal Carolina rSR RHP Tyler Poole
  11. Radford SR RHP Dylan Nelson
  12. Gardner-Webb SR RHP Brad Haymes
  13. High Point rSR RHP Scot Hoffman
  14. Liberty JR LHP Michael Stafford
  15. Gardner-Webb SR LHP Ryan Boelter
  16. Coastal Carolina JR RHP Andrew Beckwith
  17. Liberty JR RHP Caleb Evans
  18. Liberty SR LHP Victor Cole
  19. Coastal Carolina rSR RHP Adam Hall
  20. Coastal Carolina rSO RHP Nicholas Masterson
  21. Gardner-Webb rSO RHP Andrew Massey
  22. Winthrop rSR LHP Sam Kmiec
  23. Presbyterian JR RHP Ethan Wortkoetter
  24. Liberty JR RHP Jackson Bertsch
  25. Liberty JR RHP Thomas Simpson
  26. Coastal Carolina rSR RHP Patrick Corbett
  27. Liberty SR RHP Carson Herndon
  28. Radford JR RHP Kyle Zurak
  29. Charleston Southern SR LHP Alex Ministeri
  30. Winthrop rSO RHP Zach Cook
  31. Winthrop SR SS/RHP Kyle Edwards
  32. Radford JR RHP Nygeal Andrews
  33. High Point rSR RHP Joe Goodman
  34. Gardner-Webb rSO RHP Wil Sellers
  35. Charleston Southern rSO RHP Wil Hartsell
  36. Longwood JR RHP Ryan Jones
  37. Charleston Southern SR RHP Chayce Hubbard
  38. Longwood JR RHP Luke Simpson
  39. Presbyterian JR LHP Hayden Deal
  40. Charleston Southern rSR RHP Evan Raynor
  41. Radford SR RHP Daniel Bridgeman
  42. Charleston Southern SR RHP Jon Piriz
  43. Winthrop SR RHP Zach Sightler
  44. Radford JR LHP Kyle Palmer
  45. Campbell SR RHP Nick Thayer
  46. Presbyterian SR RHP David Sauer
  47. Campbell JR LHP Andrew Witczak
  48. UNC Asheville SR RHP Corey Randall

Campbell

SR RHP Nick Thayer (2016)
SR RHP Grant Yost (2016)
JR LHP Andrew Witczak (2016)
SR OF/RHP Cole Hallum (2016)
rSR OF/RHP Brian Taylor (2016)
SR C Matt Parrish (2016)
rSR OF Kyle Prats (2016)
SR 2B/SS Anthony Lopez (2016)
SO C JD Andreessen (2017)
FR 1B/OF Michael Van Degna (2018)

High Priority Follows: Nick Thayer, Grant Yost, Andrew Witczak, Cole Hallum

Charleston Southern

rSR RHP Evan Raynor (2016)
SR LHP Alex Ministeri (2016)
SR RHP Jon Piriz (2016)
SR RHP Chayce Hubbard (2016)
rSO RHP Wil Hartsell (2016)
SR OF Sly Edwards (2016)
SR 1B Bryan Dye (2016)
SR OF Brandon Burris (2016)
SR SS Cole Murphy (2016)
JR 3B/2B Nate Blanchard (2016)
SR OF Jack Crittenberger (2016)
SR 2B Ryan Maksim (2016)
SO RHP Tyler Weekley (2017)
SO OF Chris Singleton (2017)

High Priority Follows: Evan Raynor, Alex Ministeri, Jon Piriz, Chayce Hubbard, Wil Hartsell, Sly Edwards, Nate Blanchard

Coastal Carolina

rJR RHP Alex Cunningham (2016)
rSR RHP Tyler Poole (2016)
rSR RHP Adam Hall (2016)
rSR RHP Patrick Corbett (2016)
SR RHP Mike Morrison (2016)
rSO RHP Nicholas Masterson (2016)
JR RHP Andrew Beckwith (2016)
rJR SS/RHP Jordan Gore (2016)
JR C/1B GK Young (2016)
JR SS/2B Michael Paez (2016)
SR OF Anthony Marks (2016)
SR C/OF David Parrett (2016)
SR 3B Zach Remillard (2016)
SR 2B/OF Connor Owings (2016)
SR 3B/C Tyler Chadwick (2016)
SO OF Dalton Ewing (2016)
SO RHP Bobby Holmes (2017)
SO RHP Zack Hopeck (2017)
SO 2B/SS Seth Lancaster (2017)
SO 2B/OF Billy Cooke (2017)
SO 1B/3B Kevin Woodall (2017)
FR RHP Jason Bilous (2018)
FR SS/OF Cameron Pearcey (2018)
FR C Kyle Skeels (2018)

High Priority Follows: Alex Cunningham, Tyler Poole, Adam Hall, Patrick Corbett, Mike Morrison, Nicholas Masterson, Andrew Beckwith, Jordan Gore, GK Young, Michael Paez, Anthony Marks, David Parent, Zach Remillard, Connor Owings, Tyler Chadwick, Dalton Ewing

Gardner-Webb

JR RHP Jeremy Walker (2016)
rSO RHP Andrew Massey (2016)
SR LHP Ryan Boelter (2016)
SR RHP Brad Haymes (2016)
rSO RHP Wil Sellers (2016)
SR C Collin Thacker (2016)
SR 1B Patrick Graham (2016)
SR 2B Tyler Best (2016)
JR OF/3B Matt Simmons (2016)
JR OF Jacob Walker (2016)
SR OF Taylor Fisher (2016)
SR OF Evan Hyett (2016)
SO RHP Bradley Hallman (2017)
FR OF Chris Clary (2018)
FR OF Mason Fox (2018)

High Priority Follows: Jeremy Walker, Andrew Massey, Ryan Boelter, Brad Haymes, Wil Sellers, Collin Thacker

High Point

JR RHP Andre Scrubb (2016)
rSR RHP Scot Hoffman (2016)
SR RHP Michael Hennessey (2016)
rSR RHP Joe Goodman (2016)
SR RHP Tyler Britton (2016)
JR OF Josh Greene (2016)
JR 2B/SS Chris Clare (2016)
SO 1B/OF Carson Jackson (2016)
SR OF Tim Mansfield (2016)
SR C Dominic Fazio (2016)
JR OF Luke Parker (2016)
SO 2B Hunter Lee (2017)
FR RHP Andrew Gottfried (2018)
FR C Nick Blomgren (2018)
JR INF Nick Capra (2018)

High Priority Follows: Andre Scrubb, Scot Hoffman, Michael Hennessey, Joe Goodman, Josh Greene, Chris Clare, Carson Jackson

Liberty

SR LHP Victor Cole (2016)
SR RHP Carson Herndon (2016)
JR LHP Michael Stafford (2016)
JR RHP Jackson Bertsch (2016)
JR RHP Thomas Simpson (2016)
JR RHP Shane Quarterley (2016)
JR RHP Evan Mitchell (2016)
JR RHP Cody Gamble (2016)
JR RHP Jordan Scott (2016)
JR RHP Alex Clouse (2016)
JR RHP Caleb Evans (2016)
JR RHP Parker Bean (2016)
SR SS Dalton Britt (2016)
JR 3B/1B Sammy Taormina (2016)
JR OF Will Shepherd (2016)
rSO 3B Dylan Allen (2016)
JR 1B Andrew Yacyk (2016)
SR OF Aaron Stroosma (2016)
JR 2B Eric Grabowski (2016)
SO OF Josh Close (2017)
FR RHP Jack Degroat (2018)
FR RHP Zack Helsel (2018)
FR OF DJ Artis (2018)

High Priority Follows: Victor Cole, Carson Herndon, Michael Stafford, Jackson Bertsch, Thomas Simpson, Jordan Scott, Caleb Evans, Parker Bean, Dalton Britt, Sammy Taormina, Will Shepherd, Andrew Yacyk, Aaron Stroosma, Eric Grabowski

Longwood

JR RHP Devin Gould (2016)
SR RHP Allen Ellis (2016)
SR RHP Travis Burnette (2016)
JR RHP Mitchell Kuebbing (2016)
JR RHP Ryan Jones (2016)
JR RHP Luke Simpson (2016)
SR OF Colton Konvicka (2016)
SR 2B CJ Roth (2016)
JR OF Drew Kitson (2016)
SR 1B Connar Bastaich (2016)
JR C Mac McCafferty (2016)
JR 3B Alex Lewis (2016)
JR OF Janos Briscoe (2016): 6-2, 200 pounds
SO LHP Michael Catlin (2017)
SO RHP Zach Potojecki (2017)
SO SS Mike Osinski (2017)

High Priority Follows: Devin Gould, Mitchell Kuebbing, Ryan Jones, Luke Simpson, Colton Konvicka

Presbyterian

SR RHP David Sauer (2016)
rJR RHP Aaron Lesiak (2016)
JR RHP Ethan Wortkoetter (2016)
JR LHP Brian Kehner (2016)
JR LHP Hayden Deal (2016)
SR OF/1B Peter Johnson (2016)
SR 3B/2B Jacob Midkiff (2016)
JR OF Tyler Weyenberg (2016)
SR OF Weston Jackson (2016)
SO RHP Tanner Chock (2017)
SO RHP Russell Thompson (2017)
SO RHP/3B Ryan Hedrick (2017)
SO INF/OF AJ Priaulx (2017)
SO 1B Nick Wise (2017)

High Priority Follows: David Sauer, Ethan Wortkoetter, Hayden Deal, Jacob Midkiff, Tyler Weyenberg, Weston Jackson

Radford

SR RHP Dylan Nelson (2016)
JR RHP Austin Ross (2016)
SR LHP Mitchell MacKeith (2016)
SR RHP Daniel Bridgeman (2016)
JR LHP Kyle Palmer (2016)
SR LHP Tyler Swarmer (2016)
JR RHP Kyle Zurak (2016)
JR RHP Nygeal Andrews (2016)
SR OF Shane Johnsonbaugh (2016)
JR C John Gonzalez (2016)
SR SS/OF Chris Coia (2016)
SR C Jordan Taylor (2016)
JR INF Danny Hrbek (2016)
rSO OF Trevor Riggs (2016)
SO LHP Zack Ridgely (2017)
FR RHP Brandon Donovan (2018)
FR RHP Ryan Sande (2018)
FR 2B/SS Cody Higgerson (2018)
FR 3B Matt Roth (2018)
FR OF Adam Whitacre (2018)

High Priority Follows: Dylan Nelson, Austin Ross, Daniel Bridgeman, Kyle Zurak, Nygeal Andrews, Shane Johnsonbaugh, Jose Gonzalez, Chris Coia, Jordan Taylor, Danny Hrbek, Trevor Riggs

UNC Asheville

JR RHP Joe Zayatz (2016)
SR RHP Corey Randall (2016)
JR OF/LHP Tanner Bush (2016)
SR C Pete Guy (2016)
SR C Lucas Owens (2016)
JR OF Kyle Carruthers (2016)
JR OF/3B Joe Tietjen (2016)
JR SS Derek Smith (2016)
rJR INF Justin Woods (2016)
SO LHP Jordan Fulbright (2017)
SO RHP Ryan Tapp (2017)
FR LHP Jordan Carr (2018)
FR LHP Zach Greene (2018)

High Priority Follows: Joe Zayatz, Corey Randall, Pete Guy, Lucas Owens, Kyle Carruthers, Joe Tietjen

Winthrop

JR LHP Matt Crohan (2016)
rSR LHP Sam Kmiec (2016)
JR RHP Reece Green (2016)
SR RHP Zach Sightler (2016)
rSO RHP Zach Cook (2016)
SR SS/RHP Kyle Edwards (2016)
rSR OF Jayce Whitley (2016)
rSR OF Anthony Paulsen (2016)
rSR OF Tyler Asbill (2016)
JR OF/C Babe Thomas (2016)
SR C Roger Gonzalez (2016)
rSR 1B Mark Lowrie (2016)
rJR 2B CJ Hicks (2016)
SO LHP Riley Arnone (2017)
SO LHP Freddie Sultan (2017)
SO 2B/3B Mitch Spires (2017)
SO SS Jake Sullivan (2017)
FR RHP Nate Pawelczyk (2018)
FR LHP Thad Harris (2018)
FR OF Hunter Lipscomb (2018)
FR OF Matthew Mulkey (2018)

High Priority Follows: Matt Crohan, Sam Kmiec, Reece Green, Zach Sightler, Zach Cook, Kyle Edwards, Jayce Whitley, Anthony Paulsen, Babe Thomas, Roger Gonzalez

1-1

I really like Zack Collins, Will Craig, Pete Alonso, Nick Senzel, Bryan Reynolds, and Jake Fraley. Garrett Williams, Eric Lauer, Mike Shawaryn, Daulton Jefferies, Bailey Clark, and the Kyle’s (Funkhouser, Serrano, and Cody) are all pretty great, too. Delvin Perez, Josh Lowe, Nolan Jones, Mickey Moniak, and Blake Rutherford all could be high school hitters that realistically enter the 1-1 conversation. Ian Anderson, Kevin Gowdy, Alex Speas, and Forrest Whitley, among others, could join the race as well. All, however, are a tier below the group of players I feel currently have the best shot to go 1-1 to the Philadelphia Phillies this June. With apologies to all the aforementioned names — one of those guys is going to fall to the second round or later, by the way…that’s crazy! — the focus here is on the early front-runners to go 1-1 . Let’s see what they’ve been up to lately…

Jay Groome has been my stated preference since last summer. Performance-wise, I’m not sure if Groome can lose the top spot between now and June. He looked great during his workout at Maplezone in beautiful Garnet Valley — located a very convenient 21 miles from my apartment — and figures to show the premium stuff (mid-90s FB, plus mid-70s kCB, rapidly improving CU) and “extras” (beautiful delivery/command/frame) all spring. That leaves major injury (Brady Aiken 2.0) or the ascent of one of the players listed on this very page (or somebody unlisted, but if that’s the case then I really haven’t done my job here) being the realistic avenues to knock Groome off the 1-1 perch.

Groome’s co-headliner in the high school class is Riley Pint for me. I know there are questions about a prep righthander going first overall (silliness, I think) and questions about his delivery and command making an eventual move to the bullpen a necessity (fair, but up for debate yet), but there’s still so much to like about him that I can’t see him leaving the potential 1-1 tier any time soon.

I have a hard time separating the three top college outfielders, so spring performances will weigh heavy on on evaluators minds as they decide on nailing down a proper order of Kyle Lewis, Buddy Reed, and Corey Ray. My semi-fearless prediction: for as much hype — deservedly — as those three outfielders have gotten to date, they won’t wind up as the first three outfielders drafted this June. Maybe that’s not particularly bold considering we’re talking three high variance outcome prospects, but I can see a future where one blows up this spring (Lewis or Reed), one struggles relative to expectations (Reed?), and one remains more or less where he was in the eyes of most teams when the season started.

Kyle Lewis had a very good weekend. Buddy Reed had a less good weekend. Corey Ray was on an different planet altogether. In a whopping three-game sample, Ray hit .667/.714/1.444. I keep mistyping his SLG for the weekend because I’m not used to typing anything with a digit in front of the decimal. If his performance with the bat wasn’t enough, Ray chipped in with six (six!) stolen bases in six tries. We won’t get carried away with one weekend’s worth of games, but that’s not a bad way to get things started, especially for the guy with the most to prove on-field out of the three. That last bit is obviously debatable, but there’s a school of thought that says Ray should be the best present performer out of the three considering he has the most limited physical projection of the trio. I’m not sure that’s entirely fair — punishing Ray by expecting more now seems a bit counterproductive if the aim is projecting his future — but maybe there’s something to it. Either way, I think the jumble of guys in contention for 1-1 leaves things wide open enough for any of these three to rise up to that level; for now, Ray’s loud opening weekend helps him takes the lead.

If Ray’s opening weekend was loud, then what does that make Alec Hansen‘s? The less said about Hansen’s hushed debut, the better. His 22 ball/14 strike performance included four walks, one wild pitch, and one poor plunked hitter. One bad start wouldn’t be too concerning in the big picture (still isn’t, really), but on the heels of a fall season marred by a sore forearm…I don’t know. Maybe we laugh about this come June when a healthy Hansen is the top ten pick his talent warrants…or maybe he’s this year’s Michael Matuella.

Matt Krook and AJ Puk are the top two lefties in this college class, so it works out quite nicely that the two of them had such similar 2016 debuts. My non-scout view on Puk hasn’t changed much since he’s debuted as a Gator: he’s an excellent prospect who has always left me wanting after seeing him pitch up close. I wasn’t up close this past weekend, but I did check out his start against Florida Gulf Coast via the magic of the internet. Again, for all of Puk’s strengths he’s still not the kind of college prospect that gives off that 1-1 vibe when watching him. Even when he was cruising — 11 pitch first inning, 19 total pitches through two (15 strikes), and a 1-2-3 swinging strikeout to end the second that went slider, fastball, change — it was still on a very fastball-heavy approach with little evident feel for his offspeed stuff. His slider picked up from there and he mixed in a few nice changeups, but neither offering looked like a potential big league out-pitch.

In the third inning his defense let him down — literally and figuratively, as he made one of the two errors in the inning — but what really hurt him was his command falling apart. These are all players learning on the job so I don’t want to sound too negative, but he failed to locate an 0-2 pitch and that was what really led to his undoing. On the plus side, his velocity was good for a first start (90-94, 96 peak), his delivery looks better, the aforementioned handful of nice changeups were encouraging, and he responded really well in the fourth inning after losing his way in the third. I still struggle with his underdeveloped offspeed stuff, inconsistent command, and puzzling lack of athleticism (where did it go from HS?), but 6-7, 225 pound lefthanders who can hit 96 (98 at times last year) are worth being patient with.

With Pat Gillick, Johnny Almaraz, and two other scouts in attendance, the Phillies, owners of the first pick in this year’s draft, were well-represented in Gainesville over the weekend. Much has been made of this and rightly so as the Gators are stacked, obviously, though I’m sure it didn’t hurt that they only had to ride 2.5 hours north from Clearwater. They obviously have heavy interest in Puk and will have plenty of opportunities to get to know him inside and out as the spring progresses.

Meanwhile, Krook matched Puk in innings (4), hits (4), and strikeouts (6). While shaky glovework and command did Puk in, Krook’s issue was iffy control. Three walks, two wild pitches, and one hit batter ended his day early, but some rust was to be expected as he continues the comeback path from Tommy John surgery. No worries here.

Speaking of returning from Tommy John surgery, Cal Quantrill is still on the way back from his procedure. I really think he could pitch his way into the 1-1 conversation once healthy.

The two best 1-1 candidate performances came from Connor Jones and Robert Tyler. Both young righthanders faced only one batter over the minimum in their respective seven and five inning debuts. Tyler stole most of the headlines with his dominant performance on Friday. His win came against a weak Georgia Southern lineup — I like Ryan Cleveland, but there’s not a ton there otherwise — but striking out the last ten batters you face in a given outing is something. I’m 100% buying what Connor Jones — the Virginia one, not Tyler’s lefthanded Georgia teammate — is selling. I’ve mentioned it before, but I get an unusually high number of comps on him from enthusiastic scouts. My hunch is that it has something to do with his exciting mix of ceiling (number two starter?) and certainty (very polished, very professional) that gets those guys going. I still love the cross-cultural Masahiro Tanaka comp for him.

Dakota Hudson quietly pitched well in his debut. Matt Crohan did the same, but with an interesting fly ball tendency that could be worth tracking. Both are longer shots to crash the 1-1 party, but I have them on the board for a reason. One guy who might need to move off the board is Zach Jackson. His slip has nothing to do with talent — I’ve said it before, but his curve might be the best singular pitch in this class — but more about the logistics of trying to scout him this spring. As the only present college reliever on this list, it’s a guessing game as to whether or not you’ll see him in any given outing. That’s a damn shame because developmentally Jackson could really use innings to improve both his delivery and command, but Arkansas has to do what Arkansas has to do, I suppose. It could wind up costing Jackson a pretty penny, unfortunately. For now, I think he’s not a realistic 1-1 candidate due to the (rightful) fear of the unknown.

Everything written above is based largely on what my board would look like if I was holding the first pick in June. Below is my best guess — remember, I know nothing — as to what the Phillies could be thinking about that first pick as of now. Players are separated into four potential tiers…

Groome
Pint – Puk – Hansen – Ray
Jones – Quantrill – Lewis
Tyler – Reed

I think Groome is the lean as of today with Pint, Puk, and Ray all close behind. Hansen is right there, but it’ll take a clean bill of health to solidify that spot. Jones is an interesting case as a prospect who has been on the radar nationally for years, but still entered his college draft year underrated by many. The Phillies have only drafted one player from the University of Virginia since 2010 (Neal Davis), but they have leaned on their area guys in that part of the country more recently, especially when picking out of Virginia Tech. I certainly wouldn’t rule him out right now, especially if you buy the talk — I don’t — that the Phillies want a quick-mover to help accelerate their rebuild timeline. If Puk doesn’t dominate and Hansen remains injured/ineffective, then somebody will have to rise up as a potential college threat to the Groome’s and Pint’s of the world, right? If not Jones, maybe it’ll be Quantrill, son of former Phillie Paul, once he gets right. Should be fun.

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