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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Oakland Athletics

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Oakland in 2016

12 – LHP AJ Puk
36 – C Sean Murphy
63 – RHP Daulton Jefferies
122 – RHP Logan Shore
159 – RHP Brandon Bailey
190 – RHP Mitchell Jordan
215 – OF Tyler Ramirez
222 – RHP Skylar Szynski
229 – 3B JaVon Shelby
283 – LHP Dalton Sawyer
304 – OF Kyle Nowlin
346 – OF Luke Persico
393 – 2B Nate Mondou
499 – OF Cole Gruber

Complete List of 2016 Oakland Athletics Draftees

1.6 – LHP AJ Puk

I vaguely remember writing a little bit about AJ Puk (12) somewhere along the line. Let’s check.

Ah, here’s something way back from June 2013…

LHP AJ Puk (Washington HS, Iowa): 85-90 FB, 91-92 peak; uses two-seam a lot; good 72-76 CB; shows 79-81 CU, pitch has improved some; hides ball well; emulates Sean Marshall; 6-6, 220 pounds

So young! And then again about a year ago from October 2015…

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.

I’ve stressed it plenty since then, but couldn’t hurt to do it again here: prospect version of Madison Bumgarner. Prospect version. Bumgarner the prospect turning Bumgarner the big league ace was an absolute best-case scenario outcome. Could it happen for Puk? It’s not an impossibility, no. Is it likely? Also no. Let’s move forward to February 2016…

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.

That was early in the season, but it sounds more or less like the Puk that we currently know and love. Another overview on Puk from April 2016…

The Rays take advantage of our draft rules to land arguably this draft’s top college pitching prospect. Even coming off an aborted start due to a balky back, AJ Puk is currently trending up as he rides the roller coaster that has taken him from underrated (this time last year) to overrated (much of the offseason) to potentially a tad underrated once again. He probably never should have been pushed so heavily as a potential 1-1 guy — in the mix, sure, but not as the favorite/co-favorite — but his value settling even just a few picks after feels about right. It sounds a bit superficial because maybe it is, but 1-1 guys get picked apart in a way that even potential top five candidates do not. The focus has been on Puk’s inconsistent slider, underwhelming change, and spotty command. That’s what he can’t do. What he does well — pitch off an explosive mid-90s fastball, flash a dominant mid-80s slider, and use his 6-7, 225 pound frame to every advantage possible — he does really darn well. Needless to say he’d be a steal at thirteen.

Is a steal at thirteen also a steal at six? With so little separation between prospects at the top of this class, I buy it. In fact, I think Puk’s placement on my final pre-draft ranking (12th) created that first giant tier of “elite” prospects, at least by the standards of this class. The dozen at the top included Groome, Pint, Moniak, Lewis, Perez, Collins, Senzel, Ray, Lowe, Jones, Rutherford, and Puk. Most were rumored as potential 1-1 considerations at one point or another, and all would have been justifiable picks by the Phillies, in my view. The drop began right after Puk with the second tier of prospects that included Craig, Kieboom, Kirilloff, Erceg, Anderson, and Garrett. So, does that make Puk a steal at six? Sure!

Next stop takes us to the early days of May 2016 when it was time to really hone in on Puk and offer some possible comps and career paths for the big lefty…

I’ve long been in the “like but not love” camp when it comes to Puk, partly because of my belief there were superior talents ahead of him in this class and partly because of the handful of red flags that dot his dossier. The three biggest knocks on Puk coming into the season were, in some order, 1) command, 2) inconsistent quality of offspeed offerings, and 3) good but not great athleticism. It says a lot about what he does well that he’s risen as a prospect in my mind despite not really answering any of the questions we had for him coming into the season. All of this has held up so far…

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.

I’ll be quick to point out again that it says “prospect version of Madison Bumgarner” without speaking to what the San Francisco ace grew into as a finished product in the big leagues. Bumgarner is a kind of special player who just kept adding on and getting better as he progressed up the chain. That’s not something that you can predict for any other prospect, though you can’t really rule it out either. You don’t know either way, is the point. Putting Bumgarner aside for now, I think there are two recent-ish draft lefthanders that can help create a basis for what to expect out of AJ Puk in the early stages of his pro career. In terms of a realistic prospect upside, Puk reminds me a great deal of recently promoted big league pitcher Sean Manaea.

Their deliveries are hardly identical – Puk is more over the top while Manaea slings it from more of an angle, plus Puk has a more pronounced step-back with his right foot at the onset and a longer stride, both aspects of his delivery that I personally like as it gives him better balance throughout – but they aren’t so different that you’d point to mechanics as a reason for tossing the comparison aside. They have similar stuff starting with fastballs close in velocity and movement (Puk has been 90-94 this year, up to 97), inconsistent yet promising low- to mid-80s sliders that flash above-average to plus (82-86 and more frequently showing above-average this year for Puk), and changeups still in need of development that clearly would be classified as distant third pitches (Puk’s has been 82-88 so far). Both have missed a lot of bats while also having their ups and downs in the control department with Puk being better at the former while Manaea maintained a slight edge at the latter. Both are also very well-proportioned, physical lefthanders with intimidating size with which they know how to use to their advantage.

A cautionary comparison for Puk might be current Mariners minor leaguer James Paxton. Paxton and Puk are closer mechanically – more similar with the height of their leg kick and overall arm action, though Paxton is more deliberate across the board — than Manaea and Puk, but the big difference between the former SEC lefthander and the current SEC lefthander is the breaking ball. Paxton’s bread and butter is a big overhand curve, a pitch that remains unhittable to this day when he can command it. Puk’s slider has its moments and it’s fair to expect it to develop into a true big league out-pitch (I do), but it’s not quite on that level yet. Paxton’s career has stalled for many of the same reasons some weren’t particularly high on Puk coming into the season: up and down fastball velocity partly attributable to a series of nagging injuries (also a problem of Manaea’s at times), an underdeveloped changeup, and consistently inconsistent command. I think Puk is ahead of where Paxton was at similar points in their development and prefer his ceiling to what we’ve seen out of Paxton to date, but the realistic floor comp remains in play.

One additional notable (or not) similarity between Puk, Manaea, Paxton, and Sean Newcomb, a fourth player often thrown into the mix as a potential Puk point of reference (it’s not bad, but Newcomb’s control issues are greater than anything Puk has dealt with), comes via each player’s respective hometown. We’ve got Cedar Rapids (IA), Valparaiso (IN), Ladner (BC), and Brockton (MA). That’s two raised in the Midwest, one in Canada, and one in New England. When you start to piece everything together, the similar career trajectories for each young pitcher (so far) begin to make some sense. All come from cold weather locales, all are large men with long limbs (thus making coordinating said limbs more of a challenge), and all are lefthanders, a fact that may or may not matter to you depending on your view of whether or not lefties really do develop later than their righthanded counterparts.

Put me down for a realistic Sean Manaea type of upside, a James Paxton floor, and the crazy pipe dream where literally everything works out developmentally ceiling of Madison Bumgarner. Do those potential career paths add up to a 1-1 draft pick? I’m not sure I have a good answer for that yet.

There’s more to judging a pitcher than K/9 and BB/9, but look at how similar Manaea (7.71 and 2.30) and Paxton (7.88 and 2.63) were in the respective age-24 seasons. That barely has anything to do with what we’re talking about, but I still think it’s cool. As for Puk, I’m sticking with those there names (plus a fourth to come) as possible career arcs for him to follow. He could come out and establish himself as a big league starter right away like Manaea seems to have done. He could have a few up-and-down seasons before settling in as a rotation fixture like Paxton. Or he could hit that 1% outcome (or whatever number you want to give it, this isn’t scientific), have some things click for him in the pros, and go full Bumgarner on the league. Or he could follow the path of this fourth guy we touched on later in May 2016…

I’m cheating and tacking Puk back on at the end here even after he got his own post last week. Like many draft-obsessed individuals, I watched his most recent start against South Carolina with great interest. I’ve seen Puk a few times in person and tons of times on the tube, but it wasn’t until Saturday night that the comparison between him and Andrew Miller really hit me. I saw about a dozen Miller starts in person back in his Tar Heel days (in a very different time in my life) and watching Puk throw brings back all kinds of memories, good and bad. The frustrating thing about this comp is that it doesn’t really tell us much. Maybe we can use it as a baseline floor for what Puk could become – though Miller’s dominance out of the pen is a tough expectation to put on anybody as a realistic worst case scenario – but pointing out the similarities between the two (size, length, extension, delivery, mound demeanor, fastball, slider, underdeveloped change…even similar facially minus Miller’s draft year mustache) hardly means that Puk is destined to the same failed starter fate. I mean, sure, maybe it does, but there’s so much more that goes into being a successful big league starter than what gets put down on a scouting card. I love comps, but they are meant to serve as a starting point to the conversation, not to be the parting shot. Every player is unique and whatever extra reasons are out there for Miller not making it in the rotation should not be held against Puk. Maybe that’s obvious, but it doesn’t hurt to say it again. I do think that Puk, barring injury, has a pretty clear big league skill set in some capacity (maybe not -0.15 FIP out of the bullpen good, but still good) even if he doesn’t reach his ultimate ceiling. In that way he is similar to Miller, so at least there’s that to fall back on. The odds that you get nothing out of Puk, again barring injury, are slim to none. For the risk-averse out there, that’s a comforting thought.

I’m 100% sure that nobody copied that thought from me, but the Puk/Miller comps started popping up left and right in the last few weeks heading into the draft in June. It was a weird coincidence (truly); that comp seemed to come together for a lot of the internet almost exactly at the same time. For good reason, too: Puk and Miller share a lot of similarities, as I attempted to outline above. There are certainly worse names to be compared to than Bumgarner, Miller, Manaea, and Paxton. Speaking of which, let’s see what Oakland scouting director Eric Kubota thinks

AF: So looking at this group of pitchers, is there anyone you might compare Puk to?

EK: For Puk, as a starting pitcher, I would say James Paxton, although physically he may be more Andrew Miller-ish. But his stuff I think is similar to Paxton.

Would you look at that? Turns out this Eric Kubota character is a pretty smart guy. I have a hunch he’s got a front office future if he’s interested.

1.37 – RHP Daulton Jefferies

If you follow the above link, you’ll see one of the best draft traditions the internet has to offer. Bill Moriarity of Athletics Farm has talked with A’s scouting director Eric Kubota about Oakland’s most recent draft for years now. His interview can also be found on Athletics Nation, my preferred landing spot due to the lively comment section that follows the piece. It’s a really well done interview (as always) and it gets the highest possible recommendation from me. Even if you’re not an A’s fan, you should check it out. If you did, you’d already know that Kupota compared Daulton Jefferies (63) to Mike Leake. That comparison was floating around pre-draft (via Perfect Game), as were comps to Walker Buehler (D1 Baseball) and Sonny Gray (PG again). Depending on how you feel about each guy, that could be a potential spectrum of outcomes for the young righthander out of Cal. In an odd coincidence, I actually gave Jefferies to Oakland in one of my weird mocks that wasn’t really a mock that everybody was confused by and/or hated…

A high performing college player who defies conventional scouting wisdom going to Oakland? That’ll work. Jefferies is really, really good.

Clearly, I’m a fan of Jefferies’s work. Before the season even began, I wrote this about him…

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.

And finally from April 2016…

Jefferies is a rock-solid future big league starting pitcher. I love Daulton Jefferies. An overly enthusiastic but well-meaning friend comped Jefferies to Chris Archer after seeing him this past summer. That’s…rich. It’s not entirely crazy, though. Velocity-wise, at his best, Jefferies can sit 90-94 and touch 97. He’s been more frequently in the 88-92 band this spring (94 peak). He’s also focused far more on his low- to mid-80s slider than his mid- to upper-70s curve. I thought both had the potential to be above-average breaking balls at the big league level, but I can’t blame him for going all-in on his potentially devastating slider. Then there’s the compact, athletic delivery and plus fastball command and above-average mid-80s change-up that flashes plus and…well, you can see why he’d get such a lofty comp. Lack of size or not, Jefferies has the kind of stuff that could make him a number two starter if everything goes his way developmentally. That’s big time. High ceiling + high floor = premium pitching prospect. I think Jefferies draft floor is where Walker Buehler, a player that D1 Baseball comped to him earlier this year, landed last year. That would be pick 24 in the first round for those of you who haven’t committed Walker Buehler’s draft position to memory yet. A case could be made (and it kind of has above, right?) that slipping any further than that would be ridiculous value for his new pro team. I think he’s worth considering in the top ten depending on how the rest of the board shakes out.

I wimped out on my final ranking of Jefferies because I was spooked by the combination of his slight build (I know, I know…), velocity loss, and reported shoulder soreness, so consider all the praise above valid even in the face of what could look to be a dumb ranking in time. If healthy, Jefferies is a big league starting pitcher. Done deal in my mind. The only question then becomes how high up the rotation he can rise. Can he be a two? I don’t see why not. Three potential plus pitches and standout control seem to help support that case. I agree with those who see some of the prospect version of Mike Leake in Jefferies right now, but I think the finished product will wind up a better all-around pitcher than the $85 million man. If that’s enough to be a two for you, then he’s a future two.

2.47 – RHP Logan Shore

Living in Philadelphia, I happen to know more than a few Phillies fans who were hoping to grab AJ Puk and Logan Shore (122) with their first two picks. I think most fans were fine landing Mickey Moniak and Kevin Gowdy instead, but there has to be some lingering jealousy that Oakland got to live the Puk/Shore dream from a few spots lower on the draft board. Some words on the “other” Florida ace from May 2016…

Logan Shore has made similar progress over the last few seasons: 6.37 K/9 to 6.75 K/9 to 9.05 K/9. He’s always had solid fastball velocity and a devastating changeup. This year he’s found a few more ticks with the heater (more so in how he maintains it rather than a peak velocity jump), gained a little more consistency with his breaking ball, and arguably improved that already potent circle-change into something even scarier to opposing hitters. He’s gotten stronger, smarter, and better. I mentally wrote him off as one of the draft’s most overrated arms coming into the spring – thankfully I never wrote that on the site, but I’m man enough to admit I’ve had those thoughts on more than one occasion – but now I see the error in my ways. When a young arm has big-time stuff and command beyond his years, be patient with his development and don’t rely on one metric to make an ultimate judgment on his future. Shore is good and quite possibly still getting better.

Love the changeup, question the rest. That’s where I eventually landed on Shore before the draft. He commands his fastball as well as anybody, but was too often upper-80s (87-91, 93 peak) rather than low-90s (89-93, 95 peak) this past season. I think I’ve come around to valuing fastball command and movement (he’s got that, too) so much (and rightfully so), that velocity gets taken for granted a little bit. Shore’s fastball is still at least an average pitch if not slightly better at the lower velocity, but every little bit less heat you throw with pushes the degree you can get away with mistakes down a notch. I’ll put on my own personal “not a scout” scout hat and question Shore’s breaking ball outright. I know some like it just fine, but I’ve never seen it as anything much more than flashing average on his best days. It’s a fifth starter or so profile as is, but with significant room to improve if he can get back to that low-90s range more consistently and/or he figures out how to tighten up that slider. Assigning starter number designations isn’t a perfect science (and I say that knowing I just threw a “number two starter” ceiling on Daulton Jefferies), but I think we can all understand the gap in value between a fifth starter type (Shore now) and a potential third starter (if he can fill in the gaps in his game).

For what it’s worth, Eric Kubota said that Shore “reminds [him] of Jake Peavy a little bit.” Young, San Diego Peavy? No way. Mid- to late-career White Sox/Red Sox/Giants Peavy? I can see it.

3.83 – C Sean Murphy

If Logan Shore might have gone a little high for my personal tastes, then Oakland made up for it and then some by getting a borderline first round talent all the way down in the third round. Sean Murphy (36) is really good. His defense alone should carry him to the upper-minors (if not the big leagues) and his offense has a chance to make him an all-around above-average impact player. I’ll throw out Jonathan Lucroy as a best-case scenario and Max Pentecost — a former first round pick, it should be noted — as a comparable prospect contemporary. The love of Murphy isn’t new, of course. Here we are from March 2016 (with an embedded quote from October 2015 thrown in for good measure)…

I think I was pretty optimistic about Sean Murphy in the pre-season…

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.

…but there’s a chance that even the praise and his lofty ranking (22nd among college prospects, top three college catcher) undersold how good a player he is. Murphy has a chance to be a game-changing talent defensively as well as a significant contributor offensively. If you ever sat down and counted up all of the players that various experts considered first rounders you’d wind up with a first round approaching triple-digit selections; for that reason, I hesitate to call Murphy a future first round pick. I think it’s much easier to identify him instead as a first round talent, a minor distinction that speaks more about his ability as a player than an attempt to explain the vagaries of how teams draft. I have no idea if Murphy will be a first round pick in June. I don’t even know if he’ll wind up as one of the top thirty or so (“first round”) players on my final big board before the draft. What I do know is that he’s talented enough to warrant a first round pick, so fans of any team picking him then should be pleased. I also know that college players I like in that late-first to mid-second round range have had a tendency of slipping some on draft day, what with there being so many talented players that sorting through the top 100 can produce lists with all kinds of different orders. Brandon Lowe (ranked him 24/drafted in the third), Scott Kingery (25/second), David Thompson (35/fourth), and Harrison Bader (42/third) are all examples of this kind of player from last year. Those were all serious value picks in my mind, and I can see Murphy’s (late-first to third round) selection being written about in much the same way in a few months.

I’ll say this about more than a few guys before June 9th, but Sean Murphy will become one of the draft’s best values the moment he falls out of the first round. I think he’s going to be a really good big league starting catcher for a long time.

There you go. A’s scouting director Eric Kubota called Murphy a “Mike Matheny type.” Matheny had a career .239/.293/.344 line, good for a wRC+ of 62. That’s…not good. My memory and the numbers at least back up the oft-held assertion that his defense was pretty darn great. Maybe that’s where Kubota was coming from. The one red flag with Murphy’s game is how much power he’ll be able to produce as a professional hitter. I think there’s enough here for double-digit homers and plenty of gappers, but the possibility that his power plays lighter than expected is out there. The fact that he hit for more power than ever as a junior recovering from a broken hamate is a good (if not confusing) point in his favor. A slightly less offensive Lucroy feels like a reasonable ceiling with a solid floor of useful backup (and future manager?) a la Matheny.

4.112 – RHP Skylar Szynski

I like Skylar Szynski (222) just fine. Good fastball (88-94, 95 peak), potential above-average 76-80 breaking ball, and a hard 84-86 changeup, all boosted some thanks to advanced command from a teenager. It’s a nice package. A future in the pen could be in the cards unless Szynski can introduce something a little softer into his repertoire, but time is very much on his side there. I also liked Eric Kubota’s honest answer when asked about a comp for Szynski: “I honestly didn’t have a great one, but one of my scouts said Collin McHugh.” Honesty AND trusting a comp a scout passed on? Nice.

5.142 – 3B JaVon Shelby

A year ago I was banging the JaVon Shelby (229) as the next Ian Happ drum. A mere 67 strikeouts in 198 junior year at bats later and I think that call might have been off just a bit. It was never a direct one-to-one comp, but it’s still not a good look today. My bad. Delusional Happ optimism aside, I remain a fan of Shelby’s game. Here was an April 2016 take on him…

JaVon Shelby is a good prospect who might suffer some from the expectation that he’d finish the year as a great prospect. His physical gifts – above-average to plus speed, ample bat speed, impressive arm strength, athleticism that has allowed him to play third, the outfield, and improve every game at second – and scorching junior year start were great, but now he’s settled more into a good range. Good is still good, of course…it just isn’t great. Maybe the heightened expectations and failure to live up to them says more about us – me, specifically – than him. I still like Shelby quite a bit, but the red flag that is his approach remains. He checks every other box, so I’d still give him a chance sooner rather than later on draft day to see if the pro staff could work with him to figure things out.

Figuring out a way to improve Shelby’s approach at the plate and minimize a hole or two in his swing will probably be the difference between him being a regular and potential star at third base or him trying to make it as a power over hit, free swinging super-sub.

6.172 – RHP Brandon Bailey

Daulton Jefferies to Logan Shore to Brandon Bailey (159) to Mitchell Jordan to Seth Martinez…the A’s have a type when it comes to college starting pitchers. The heavy emphasis on command and offspeed-heavy repertoires makes the AJ Puk look even funnier (though not in a bad way) as this draft drags on. Time will tell if Oakland’s overarching approach will pay off, but I know for sure that I like the singular selection of Bailey here a lot. The righthander from Gonzaga has everything you’d want in a pitching prospect. He has a solid fastball (88-94), above-average 78-81 changeup, a mid-70s curve that flashes above-average, and a usable low- to mid-80s slider. He commands all of those pitches beautifully and sets up opposing hitters with what looks like relative ease. The whole package reads like a potential first round pick, but two factors have held Bailey’s prospect stock back. When I said he had everything you’d want in a pitching prospect that also included a few red flags you don’t: an injury history (he’s a Tommy John survivor) and an underwhelming physical profile (listed at 5-10, 175). First round command + fifth round stuff + tenth round red flags = a rough average of around a fifth round selection. That’s about where I ranked him (159th is a late-fifth rounder) and about where the A’s took him in the early-sixth round. I think he’s a future big league starter and potentially a damn good one, height be damned.

7.202 – OF Tyler Ramirez

Sometimes it kind of sort of maybe feels like I know a little bit about what I’m talking about. On Tyler Ramirez (215) from March 2016…

Ramirez doesn’t have a carrying tool that makes him an obvious future big league player, but he does a lot of things well (power, speed, glove) and leverages an ultra-patient approach to put himself in consistently positive hitter’s counts. His profile is a little bit similar to his teammate Zac Gallen’s in that both are relatively high-floor prospects without the kind of massive ceilings one would expect in a first day pick. Gallen is the better prospect, but I think many of the national guys are sleeping on Ramirez. I’ve been guilty of overrating Tar Heels hitters in the past, but Ramirez looks like the real deal. Former Carolina outfielder Tim Fedroff, a seventh round pick in 2008, seems like a reasonable draft day expectation in terms of round selected. I’d happily snap up a guy like Ramirez in that range.

Boom! Seventh round! Lucky guess aside, I think the point that the seventh round would be a great time to take a chance on a bat like Ramirez’s is the more pertinent one. A few weeks before the draft I actually compared Ramirez’s production as a junior to that of Bryan Reynolds from Vanderbilt. At that point they were really close — Ramirez’s power started to sag down the stretch — and they finished with relatively similar final years. It probably means nothing — even a numbers guy like me knows there’s more to this whole player projection thing than that — but it still creates a fun comparison to track going forward. An actual comparison I’ve gotten for Ramirez since signing is Randy Winn. Checked my archives and it turns out that I’ve used that once before on Ryan Boldt. Since I was curious, it turns out that Ramirez finished 215th on my draft rankings and Boldt came in 234th. Stands to reason that both should have long, successful careers with sustained runs of above-average play as everyday guys before eventually being traded for an over-the-hill mentally checked out manager.

8.232 – LHP Will Gilbert

Every system needs a few potential matchup lefthanders. That’s my attempt at an explanation for the A’s going with Will Gilbert in the eighth round. That and him being a money-saving senior-sign, of course. Gilbert has always gotten results despite ordinary stuff (87-90 FB, average or better 80-84 SL) and size (5-11, 170 pounds). Not much of an upside play, but can’t argue with #results.

9.262 – LHP Dalton Sawyer

On Dalton Sawyer (283) from April 2016…

Sawyer seems destined for the bullpen, a spot where his fastball (up to 94), mid-70s breaker, and effectively wild ways could get him to the big leagues sooner rather than later.

Six months later and that still sounds about right to me. Wish I had something more insightful to add, but think past-me nailed it. Or, you know, not at all. This was Eric Kubota on Sawyer after the draft…

Well, he’s another tall lefty. We’ve seen him up to 93-94 mph. He definitely had a good year as a starter this year and he’s going to go out as a starter. He’s a left-handed pitcher who’s physically imposing with velocity and a good changeup, so we’ll see where that takes him. One of my scouts said Sawyer reminded him of Jim Kaat. So if any of your readers remember Jim Kaat…

So maybe he will remain a starter. I suppose this Kubota guy might know better than an internet nobody like me, though I at least have the benefit of not having to worry about being strategic about setting player expectations. And, whoa, a Jim Kaat reference! That’s pretty cool. We’ll see if Sawyer has a Gold Glove or sixteen in his future, too.

10.292 – RHP Mitchell Jordan

On Mitchell Jordan (190) from March 2016…

I can’t get enough of Mitchell Jordan. His command, control, pitchability, and willingness to throw any pitch in any count make him a lot of fun to watch at this level. There will be understandable questions about how his slightly below-average fastball velocity (upper-80s, though it can sit low-90s and hit 93 on his best days) will translate to the pro game, but put me down as a believer that his command of the pitch coupled with the unpredictability of his pitch selection (happy to go CB, SL, or CU in plus or minus counts) will make him a viable long-term big league starting pitcher with continued development. He reminds me some of Kyle Hendricks, an eighth round pick out of Dartmouth in 2011. Feedback on Jordan has returned a wide range of potential draft outcomes with some saying as high as the third and others insisting his ceiling as fifth starter/swingman puts him closer to the bottom of the single-digit rounds than the top. Hendricks lasting until the eighth round has turned out to be a great value, so we’ll see if teams learned their lesson and pop Jordan sooner in 2016.

Jordan didn’t quite match Hendricks’s eighth round outcome, but he didn’t quite match his draft year excellence, either. Fair enough, I figure. Jordan was still very good from both a peripheral and stuff standpoint, so that fifth starter/swingman ceiling remains. Anecdotally, Jordan feels like the kind of pitching prospect that Oakland seems to get the most out of. I’m far more bullish on Jordan seeing success in the big leagues than I probably should be for a tenth round pick.

11.322 – SS Eli White

On Eli White from August 2015…

A fourth college shortstop, draft-eligible sophomore Eli White, understandably couldn’t agree to terms as a 37th round pick and will head back to Clemson to try again this year. I’d be surprised if his stock didn’t jump thirty or so rounds before next June rolls around.

Round 37 to round 11 isn’t quite a thirty round jump, but it’s close. White’s athleticism, speed, range at short, and flashes of offensive promise give him a shot to play regularly at short. All those positives ticked off in the previous sentence are exactly what teams look for in utility guys, too. I think White is a big league player based on that alone. Just for fun, let’s go back again in the archives to December 2015…

White is a good athlete who can really run with tons of bat speed and a high probability of sticking at shortstop. I compared him to Daniel Pinero last year and think he could have a similar impact in 2016.

They came by it differently, but White and Pinero wound up having very similar offensive debuts if you’re willing to lean on wRC+ as the best all-encompassing offensive stat out there. Check it out…

.261/.371/.317 – 16.0 K% and 13.7 BB% – 114 wRC+ – 175 PA
.279/.348/.361 – 24.3 K% and 9.7 BB% – 115 wRC+ – 267 PA

Top is Pinero (ninth round pick), bottom is White (eleventh round pick). There’s really no point to this other than I thought it was cool. I guess we could stretch a little and say that both guys are maybe regulars on the left side of the infield, but certainly toolsy enough to have long careers as backups otherwise.

12.352 – OF Luke Persico

Despite piling up well over 700 PA during his three years at UCLA, Luke Persico (346) is almost closer to a high school position player prospect than a college guy. That’s both a good and bad thing, though I tend to lean to the positive with the former Bruin. Despite a rough debut with Vermont, I have little personal doubt that Persico will hit as a pro. His kind of polish at the plate is what you want when drafting a major college guy this early in the draft. The big offensive question for Persico has long been and will continue to be whether or not he can ever find a way to consistently tap into his huge raw power during game situations. The gap between his brand of raw power and what he’s shown to date is one more often seen in teenager hitters who haven’t yet faced consistent big-time competition. Persico is at least an average runner with an arm to match, so it’ll be interesting to see if Oakland decides to play around with him defensively in the coming years. He played exclusively in the outfield in his debut, but his experience in the infield (1B, 2B, 3B) make him an intriguing potential Swiss Army knife defender if the A’s deem him playable at those spots. That kind of defensive intrigue is something we see more often with high school prospects than established three-year college starters. You see where I’m getting the college prospect with high school questions narrative from now? My hunch here is that Oakland looks at Persico, one of the younger players in this year’s college class, as a hitter with enough upside to be a potential regular in the outfield — or at least a high-level reserve — that they’ll opt to keep him focused on hitting as his primary developmental task rather than try to force him back in the dirt.

13.382 – 2B Nate Mondou

On Nate Mondou (393) in January 2016…

I wanted to mention the Daniel Murphy comparison I got for JR 2B/OF Nate Mondou that I heard recently, but I couldn’t remember the major media outlet that had it first. I could have missed it elsewhere, but I think mentioning it again would be one of those instances where I plagiarize myself. I hit thirty a few months back and my memory has gone up in flames since. In addition to Murphy, I’ve also heard Todd Walker as a reference point for Mondou’s bat. Lefty bats who love to attack early in the count, provide average or better power, and can hang in at the keystone spot are always going to be valued highly by pro clubs. Or at least they should.

I first tossed that Daniel Murphy comp out for Mondou in October of last year. Safe to say that a lot has changed out Murphy’s perceived value in the last twelve months or so. Timing really is everything. Mondou’s 2016 season saw an uptick in plate discipline — few more walks, few less whiffs — at the expense of some power. It’ll be interesting if we see more of the same as a professional. So far, that’s exactly what he’s done at Vermont.

14.412 – RHP Nolan Blackwood

On Nolan Blackwood from January 2016…

JR RHP Nolan Blackwood intrigues the heck out of me as a big (6-6) lanky (175 pounds) submariner with a legit fastball (88-91) and sustained success keeping runs off the board. His peripherals aren’t anything to write home about (4.11 K/9 last year), but the shiny ERA (0.52) is fun. A few more whiffs and continued success doing whatever he’s doing to get guys out (I’d love to see the batted ball data on him as I suspect he’s getting his fair share of ground ball outs and weak contact) would help him move way up the rankings.

That last line issued a challenge to Blackwood (in a pretend universe where he read it, of course) and he rose to the occasion. Blackwood bumped that K/9 from 4.11 as a sophomore to 7.54 as a junior. He gave up a few more runs (3.76 ERA), but that’s forgivable as that shiny 2015 ERA looked unsustainable from the outside looking in. Even better, that high GB% suspicion seemed to be on the money as Blackwood’s batted ball breakdown at MLB Farm had him at a 62.7 GB% in his debut. On top of all that, his velocity bumped just a bit to a more consistent 88-92 with an increasing number of 93’s sprinkled in as the year went on. I think we’ve got a future big league reliever here. If that’s the case, Blackwood would attempt to be only the third positive value player to come out of Memphis since 1981. He’ll have a long way to go to top Memphis’s best ever alum, Dan Uggla. I had no idea that he went to Memphis. Learned something new today.

15.442 – LHP Ty Damron

I have Ty Damron as a potential back of the rotation arm lefthander with the chance for three average or better pitches in his 88-93 fastball, upper-70s breaking ball, and a workable change. Ultimately, it looks like underwhelming command and below-average control could push him to the pen. That might be a blessing in disguise assuming his stuff plays up in shorter bursts the way it does for most pitchers. Now we’ve got a power lefty coming out of the bullpen all of a sudden. Cool. Maybe not as cool as the guy I now always think of when I read his name, but cool nonetheless.

16.472 – OF Anthony Churlin

I have absolutely nothing on Anthony Churlin. He plays baseball. That’s all I know.

17.502 – RHP Seth Martinez

Seth Martinez is the quintessential undersized athletic college workhorse with limited pro projection. There’s a chance he can keep doing his four-pitch mix thing with above-average overall command in a professional rotation, but I think he might be best served shifting to relief. Martinez as a starter is the kind of up-and-down arm you have stashed in AAA as the unofficial seventh or eighth member of a rotation. Martinez doing the sinker/slider thing with the occasional change added in for good measure out of the bullpen could be a long-term bullpen fixture.

18.532 – C Skyler Weber

Skyler Weber is one of the many highly athletic, average or better running catchers that I’ve profiled from this draft class so far. Starting to sense a trend here. I don’t see him hitting enough to be a big leaguer, but I’m never opposed to betting on an athletic backstop.

19.562 – RHP Sam Gilbert

Sam Gilbert, a righthanded reliever coming off of two lackluster seasons with Kansas, is a prime example of the limits of this site. I do my best to cover as much as I can but, alas, I’m only one man (with a wife, a full-time job, a part-time job, etc.), so liberties — I won’t call them shortcuts, but you can if you want — have to be made at times. Seeing a 6-0, 185 pound college reliever from Kansas with a 5.84 K/9 (2015) and 6.12 K/9 (2016) is pretty close to an insta-skip. Well, maybe he has elite control, I think. Nah: 4.86 BB/9 (2015) and 4.81 BB/9 (2016). Fine, his peripherals are ugly but might he have magic run prevention skills? He might…not: 4.62 ERA (2015) and 6.10 ERA (2016). So what in the world was Oakland thinking here? Sam Gilbert is an outstanding athlete with a two-way background who is still relatively new to pitching. His fastball climbed from upper-80s to low-90s to mid-90s as his time in Lawrence rolled on. Mediocre numbers or not, you take a chance on a highly athletic fresh-armed mid-90s throwing righthander in the nineteenth round every single time. Sometimes I catch guys like this, sometimes I don’t.

(Gilbert didn’t pitch this year for Oakland and I couldn’t pin down an exact reason why. If anybody knows anything, I’m all ears.)

21.622 – OF Kyle Nowlin

Wrote about Kyle Nowlin (304) last June after the Phillies selected him in the thirtieth round in 2015…

The second player selected from the Ohio Valley after Bosheers, Nowlin is an honest five-tool outfielder with real power (.690 SLG), speed (18/24 SB), athleticism, and, keeping up with one of the new scouting director’s first rules, an average or better hit tool. Asking around after the draft resulted in a surprise admission from a contact who said he preferred the all-around offensive game of the 31st round pick Nowlin over that of Kyle Martin, the fourth round pick. He said that if he came back for a senior season he would have the chance to jump up twenty or more rounds and potentially get into the single-digit round range as a high-priority 2016 senior-sign.

Like the player taken a round after him (stay tuned for that!), I thought Nowlin had sneaky eighth/ninth/tenth round upside as a money-saving senior-sign. Baseball did not agree with me. During Nowlin’s senior season, I wrote this: “I’m fascinated to see how Nowlin’s high BB% and K% will translate to pro ball; maybe it’s a cop-out, but I think he’s either going to be a really good player or a total washout with little middle ground.” With the benefit of a little more time and reflection, I think there’s definitely more of an opportunity for some middle-ground outcomes for Nowlin. I think a “really good player” could mean a bench bat/platoon option, but, if you disagree with that verbiage, then there’s a potential middle-ground outcome that is neither “really good” nor a “total washout.” It might take some hanging around as a supposed AAAA hitter to reach those heights, so there’s another potential middle-ground outcome that makes sense to me. A perfect world outcome for Nowlin that became all the more fitting after we found out what team had drafted him: righthanded Matt Stairs.

22.652 – C Roger Gonzalez

On Roger Gonzalez from February 2016…

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.

As one might infer from the pre-draft take above, I thought Gonzalez could creep into the back of the top ten round mix as a money-saving senior-sign. He obviously didn’t, so getting him in the twenty-second round is a big win for Oakland. I’m a little surprised that he didn’t crack my top 500 heading into the draft. I think Gonzalez has a realistic big league backup backstop floor. He’s a legit defender, switch-hitter, and a good athlete with a history of taking good at bats and doing damage to pitches he can handle. Not sure what more you could want in a mid-round college catching prospect.

24.712 – OF Rob Bennie

Rob Bennie is an interesting power/speed guy with a good bit less in the way of plate discipline (22 BB/41 K as a redshirt-junior at East Stroudsburg) than one might expect from an Oakland draftee. The former Virginia Cavalier has a brother, Joe, who was drafted by Oakland in 2013. Joe has slowly but surely climbed the ladder, but has hit (or not hit, in a manner of speaking) a road block in his late-season promotion to AA. Rob should be so fortunate; hit your way to AA and then anything can happen.

25.742 – OF Jeramiah McCray

Listed as both Jeramiah McCray and Jeremiah McCray, but I’m pretty sure the former spelling is correct. That’s all I’ve got. Where’s Eric Kubota with a comp when you need him?

26.772 – 1B Charley Gould

Charley Gould can flat swing it. He was a far more interesting prospect as a catcher back in the day, but still should be a solid organizational masher at first base in the short-term. Whether or not he plays long enough to see that destiny through, however, remains to be seen. Turns out Gould is listed as being on the “voluntarily retired list” on his MiLB player page. Two minutes of searching couldn’t find anything out beyond that. If this is it for him in pro ball, we wish him luck on all future professional endeavors.

27.802 – OF Cole Gruber

I was 17-years-old when Moneyball came out. To say that Michael Lewis’s book shaped my baseball worldview would be an understatement. Still, I can admit that drawing a clear line between Oakland’s drafting in 2016 to those Moneyball days is a major stretch. But even with all the changes the last thirteen years have brought, the A’s seem to land a few personal favorite prospects of mine every draft. I can’t help that it makes me think we’re more on the same page than we probably are. Maybe I just want to believe. Anyway, Cole Gruber (499) joins Roger Gonzalez and Josh Vidales (below) as big-time favorites that Oakland managed to snag past round twenty. Here’s what was said about Gruber in March 2016…

Cole Gruber joins Taylor in what may be the country’s best pair of senior-sign hitters in one lineup. Gruber has always hit and has the bat speed to give confidence that he’ll keep doing so going forward, but his true calling card is his combination of speed and range in CF. When the first word out of one’s mouth after watching a prospect patrol center is “easy,” then you know you’ve got a keeper. Count me in as a big fan of his game, both aesthetically in the here and now and how it will translate to the pros.

And then in May 2016…

Cole Gruber will enter pro ball with two clear big league tools with his speed (43/50 SB this year) and CF range. I think he’s a solid mid- to late-round target.

Gruber finished his college career swiping 99 of 116 bases, good for an 85% success rate. He then went out and stole 28 of 30 bases (93%) in just 35 games in his debut. The guy knows how to steal a base. Between that skill and his range in the outfield, I think he can carve out a big league role down the line. And his name always makes me think of this.

28.832 – 2B Josh Vidales

Josh Vidales and this site go way back. Let’s take a quick tour through the years starting in December 2014…

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.

Then again in January 2016…

I’m all about SR 2B Josh Vidales. I can’t help it. He upped 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.

And finally in March 2016…

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.

I should have known that a team like Oakland would love Vidales as a player as I do. And, damn, did he go out and reward them (and me) for that love: how does .345/.437/.507 with 20 BB/16 K and 5/6 SB in 175 PA sound? Yes, he was a 22-year-old (he actually turned 23 in August) dominating teenagers in the AZL. But he still dominated! That has to count for something. Even if this is the peak of his pro career, I’ll take it. If he keeps hitting, well, that’s even better. There are few active players I root harder for than Vidales.

29.862 – RHP Matt Milburn

All I had on Matt Milburn before the draft were his consistently stellar numbers piled up over the years at Wofford. The guy got better every season before putting it all together for an outstanding (in terms of peripherals) senior season (9.40 K/9 and 2.65 BB/9 in 98.2 IP) with the Terriers. He then followed that up with a 10.82 K/9 and 0.49 BB/9 in 36.2 innings as a pro. The short-season competition wasn’t quite what it could have been for the 23-year-old, but standout peripherals are standout peripherals. I’ve made a point so far to mention that it’s his peripherals that are impressive…now why could that be? For whatever reason — and I honestly don’t know — his run prevention stats have always been pedestrian. His ERA as a senior with those great peripherals? 4.47. His awesome pro debut? 4.66 ERA. Weird, right?

30.892 – RHP Nick Highberger

Nick Highberger was always one of those “better stuff than results” guys while at Creighton. He has enough of the sinker/slider thing going to be an effective reliever, but he’s never been able to miss enough bats to have you feel really good about making that kind of actual prediction. I’m still on the fence because he still doesn’t miss those bats, but, man, can Highberger’s stuff kill some worms. His GB% could be so high that it wouldn’t surprise me if he became a bit of a cult favorite on certain corners of the internet who are into that sort of thing.

31.922 – RHP Sam Sheehan

Sam Sheehan (14.26 K/9, 5.35 BB/9, 1.48 ERA, 30.3 IP) was the closer this past spring for NAIA power Westmont. Solid, Still, I find the odds that the Oakland brass truly believes that two of the forty best amateur players available to them in the country came from Westmont to be quite long, but I’m just a guy on the internet. What do I know?

32.952 – C Colin Theroux

(Major copy/paste foul here. I have no idea how it happened. Only the second half of poor Colin Theroux’s draft profile was salvaged. Sorry, buddy. We join the second half already in progress…)

in his only year of D-1 ball (minus that one AB he had for Nevada as a freshman) will work out for the A’s. Maybe. In fairness, Collin Theroux did hit .273/.430/.500 with 39 BB/43 K in 202 PA at San Joaquin Delta in 2015 (with a successful run with the Madison Mallards in the Northwoods League to boot), so maybe there’s some hope after all. It would be a Disney-worthy story if he made it, I know that much.

33.982 – C Jarrett Costa

Jarrett Costa hit .333/.441/.492 with 27 BB/28 K in 183 AB for NAIA power Westmont this past spring. Solid. Still, I find the odds that the Oakland brass truly believes that two of the forty best amateur players available to them in the country came from Westmont to be quite long, but I’m just a guy on the internet. What do I know?

34.1012 – SS Casey Thomas

I’m sure Casey Thomas is a nice guy, but I’m not feeling this one. ISO in 2015: .046. ISO in 2016: .072. ISO in his pro debut: .017. Next!

40.1192 – 2B Brett Bittiger

Son of an A’s scout. Been around enough to have once been a forty-first (!) round pick of Oakland back in 2011. Hit .204/.252/.253 in his career at Division II Pace. I’m no fan of nepotism picks, but Pace is my sister’s alma mater so we’ll let it slide here.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Shane Martinez (Arizona), Matthew Fraizer (Arizona), Brady Schanuel (Mississippi), Michael Farley (San Jose State), Danny Rafferty (Bucknell), Christian Young (Niagara County CC), Brigham Hill (Texas A&M)

2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – ACC (PART TWO)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hitters

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

Pitchers

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

Boston College

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

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

Clemson

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

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

Duke

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

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

Florida State

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

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

Georgia Tech

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

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

Louisville

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

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

Miami

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

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

North Carolina

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

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

North Carolina State

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

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

Notre Dame

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

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

Pittsburgh

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

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

Virginia

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

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

Virginia Tech

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

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

Wake Forest

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

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

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

2016 MLB Draft 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

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Wake Forest

JR RHP/C Garrett Kelly (2015)
SR RHP Matt Pirro (2015)
rSO LHP Max Tishman (2015)
rJR RHP Aaron Fossas (2015)
rSR OF Kevin Jordan (2015)
JR OF/2B Joey Rodriguez (2015)
JR OF Luke Czajkowski (2015)
SO C Ben Breazeale (2016)
rFR RHP Chris Farish (2016)
SO 2B/OF Nate Mondou (2016)
SO 3B/RHP Will Craig (2016)
SO RHP John McCarren (2016)
SO RHP Connor Johnstone (2016)
SO RHP Parker Dunshee (2016)
FR OF Stuart Fairchild (2017)
FR INF Bruce Steel (2017)
FR 1B Gavin Sheets (2017)
FR SS Drew Freedman (2017)
FR 3B Justin Yurchak (2017)

I kept reading the names on the list above over and over trying to remember when I had written about them before. I swear I covered Wake Forest already. It had to be this year, right? Maybe last year, but this year made so much more sense. I guess I’m just losing it, I thought, so let’s jot down some quick notes on what I want to say about certain players…

SO 2B/OF Nate Mondou and SO 3B/RHP Will Craig are both names that all Brewers, Phillies, and any other team in the basement should know in advance of next year’s draft. Mondou can really hit, so the question about him will come down to his projected professional position. Craig is doing his best DJ Stewart impersonation so far at the plate: .396/.500/.758 with 31 BB/16 K in 149 AB.

JR OF/2B Joey Rodriguez isn’t big, but his tools are. If he can play second, he’s a real prospect. I keep reading his name as Joely Rodriguez, recently acquired Phillies minor league lefthanded pitcher. Edit that last sentence out before you publish.

SR RHP Matt Pirro has a good arm (88-93 FB, 95 peak) with a knuckle-curve that flashes plus, but his below-average control hasn’t gotten much better over the years. Feels like a late round flier on a guy with arm strength is his best bet. Wonder if his bad control stems from bad mechanics; if so, can it be fixed?

At this point, I got to JR RHP/C Garrett Kelly’s name in my notes. There is no way I didn’t write about him already this year. I couldn’t find the finished Wake Forest copy anywhere. Searched my site and found nothing. Searched my mail (where I write the occasional rough draft of these things) and found…

I’m a big fan of JR RHP/C Garrett Kelly. He’s a good ballplayer. He’s better at baseball than I ever was and better than 99.99% of the world’s population. Unfortunately, Kelly can’t hit. It was only 32 at bats, but his .094/.310/.125 line last season was not the kind of line you print out and stick on the fridge. That’s what makes his rumored full-time switch to the mound so anxiously awaited. Even though life as a hitter didn’t work out, there’s still a chance for him. As a pitcher, Kelly is a legit pro prospect. He’s already got that nice FB/SL relief combo going (already up to 93 with more likely coming), and the huge perk of being a low-mileage arm won’t go unnoticed by decision-makers this spring. I’ve long been been a sucker for players making the position player to pitcher switch and think Kelly could be a helium guy this spring. He’s joined in what could be one of the more underrated pitching staffs in the conference. SR RHP Matt Pirro finally started missing bats last season, a development that took longer than expected given his impressive stuff (88-92 FB, 94 peak, kCB that flashes plus) but is surely welcomed by the coaching staff all the same. rSO LHP Max Tishman is another arm with a better than 50/50 shot at being drafted this June.

There’s less to like on the hitting side, but that’s all right because of the mere presence of rSR OF Kevin Jordan running around the diamond. Jordan could still hit his way into draft consideration, but failing to do so wouldn’t be the end of the world. His story may not get that Disney ending of him finally climbing the big league mountain, getting a big hit, and then presenting the game ball to Tom Walter, his head coach that donated a kidney to him before his freshman season, but in the real world we can all accept that both he and his coach are already huge winners. I don’t know anybody in and around the game who isn’t rooting for him to succeed. A complete, healthy season where he can start to realize his substantial potential (speed, defense, power, smarts) is the current goal. JR OF/2B Joey Rodriguez’s story doesn’t carry the same weight, but his tools are pretty darn interesting in their own right. He’s still very raw and not particularly big, but a season where he puts it all together would be exciting. Guys like SO 2B/OF Nate Mondou, SO 3B Will Craig, and SO RHP John McCarren should make this a nice spot for scouts next spring.

Yesssss. I wrote those things on November 29, 2014. Let’s see how wrong they are now. First, the most wrong prediction of all: Garrett Kelly. His line so far this year: 9.68 ERA in 17.2 IP with 11 K and 16 BB. Not sure what the opposite of a helium guy would be, but pretty sure those are the numbers of what one would look like. Google says the opposite of helium is sulfur hexaflouride, by the way. The more you know. Pirro is still missing bats, but the aforementioned control woes undermine the rest of his game. Max Tishman hasn’t been able to get healthy, but I still like his arm if/when he gets back on the mound.

Kevin Jordan is a success even while hitting .167/.265/.333. He’s the kind of guy you keep as the last name on your draft board even through the struggles. Rodriguez has come pretty close to putting it all together this season. My only quibble is his still less than stellar BB/K ratio (17/33 as of now), but he’s done enough to get drafted in my view. Mondou and Craig have delivered, but McCarren, despite possessing the third best ERA on the squad, hasn’t missed bats as needed.