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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Kansas City Royals

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Kansas City in 2016

123 – Chris DeVito
170 – Logan Gray
183 – Khalil Lee
201 – AJ Puckett
253 – Nicky Lopez
404 – Jace Vines
455 – Dalton Griffin

Complete List of 2016 Kansas City Draftees

2.67 – RHP AJ Puckett

Not having a pick until after sixty-six prospects have already been chosen presents a unique challenge for any drafting team. The Royals opted to approach this conundrum by selecting a college performer with a long track record of success and a high probability of reaching his modest yet plenty useful ceiling. Fair enough. AJ Puckett (201) carved up hitters for three straight seasons at Pepperdine as one of the west coast’s most underappreciated collegiate arms. He’s been really good yet never dominant peripherally — 7.74 K/9, 7.52 K/9, and 8.61 K/9 — though his junior year dip in ERA to 1.27 after two seasons of 3.60 and 4.36 ball could obviously qualify as dominant run prevention in most quarters. Still, his good yet never dominant strikeout numbers dovetail nicely into a discussion about his good yet not dominant stuff. Puckett’s biggest strength is his ability to throw three average or better pitches for consistent strikes. His fastball ranges from 88 to 94 MPH (96 peak) with solid sink. His 73-78 MPH curve is an average pitch, but only in the sense that it sometimes flashes much better (above-average to plus) and sometimes has very little bend and gets hammered. Puckett’s changeup (79-85 MPH) isn’t all the way there yet, but shows signs of being an average to above-average pitch with continued use in the pros. With some projection left in his 6-4, 180 pound frame, a best case scenario could be a career not unlike what we’ve seen out of Alex Cobb to date.

3.103 – OF Khalil Lee

If you’re going to go safe with the first pick, then it only makes sense to swing for the fences with the next one. Highly athletic two-way prep star Khalil Lee (170) certainly qualifies as a big cut from the heels that could either result in a majestic home run or the cooling breeze of a major whiff and miss. Of course, that presupposes that boom/bust prospects result in all-or-nothing players; a swing for the fence can just as easily result in a double high off the wall or a sac fly. Prospect evaluation can mean many things to many people, but one thing it ain’t (or shouldn’t be) is an exercise in projecting binary outcomes. Anyway, Lee’s upside is considerable and the arrow on his likelihood of getting there is pointing up after a tremendous pro debut that saw him turn tools to skills quicker than just about anybody outside of the Kansas City front office could have anticipated.

Lee has the physical ability to be a star if he can remain in center feel as expected. He’d still have above-average regular upside in a corner — we know he has more than enough arm for right field — but the thought of him maintaining enough quickness and flexibility as he fills out to stick up the middle is particularly exciting. Offensively, Lee has the bat speed, swing plane, and muscle to hit for real power, average speed to do a little damage on the bases, and the keen understanding of the strike zone one might expect from a legitimate pitching prospect. There’s a lot to like when the overall package is taken into account.

4.133 – RHP Jace Vines

Draft-eligible sophomore Jace Vines (404) looks like a classic sinker/slider (88-92, 94 peak for the former; 83-86 and flashing plus for the latter) reliever to me with an outside shot at sticking in the rotation depending on how his changeup develops over time. I don’t hate it.

5.163 – SS Nicky Lopez

On Nicky Lopez (253) from March 2016…

Creighton’s best pro prospect for 2016 is Nicky Lopez, a slick fielding shortstop with plus speed and serious athleticism. Like the rest of the names at the top his bat might keep him as more utility player than starter. He’s a fine prospect in his own right, so hopefully this doesn’t come across the wrong way…but Lopez benefits greatly from being draft-eligible in 2016 and not 2015. Last year he might have gotten swept away with all the excellent college shortstop prospects getting popped early and often on draft day; this year, he stands out as one of the better options at the position for no other reason than the fact there’s little doubt he’ll stick there as a professional.

From that point on, Lopez grew on me a little bit with every passing day. Guys who hit .306/.417/.444 with twice as many walks (26) as strikeouts (13) in their draft year tend to do that. Beyond the obvious awesome plate discipline indicators, what I liked about Lopez is the steady increase in functional power (.038 ISO in 2014, .089 ISO in 2015, .138 ISO in 2016) and continued strong base running (83.3% career success rate). Those kind of secondary offensive skills and his longstanding quality defense at short — above-average range, plus arm, soft hands — elevate Lopez’s ceiling to a potential regular at short. If that’s too rich for you, then Lopez’s hot start should at least up the odds of him reaching his existing upside as a high-level utility guy.

6.193 – OF Cal Jones

Cal Jones is a classic, old school Royals draft pick. Take a special athlete with legit plus speed and more than enough range for center, and see if you can coach him up into a viable big league hitter. Great find by the Kansas City scouting staff. Now the really hard part comes for the development staff tasked with guiding Jones through the ups and downs of pro ball. I’m oddly optimistic on this one.

7.223 – RHP Travis Eckert

The Royals may have found themselves a late-bloomer in Travis Eckert, a steady yet unspectacular performer in two years at Oregon State who saw his stuff jump up across the board upon entering pro ball. What was once a fairly standard three-pitch command-oriented repertoire has been elevated to a slightly more interesting all-around profile thanks to a faster fastball (more flashes of mid-90s than his old 88-93 heat) and tighter 77-81 MPH breaking ball. Those two pitches combined with his solid 79-85 MPH changeup give him the requisite mix many teams require for a future in the rotation. I wouldn’t have put that that expectation on him six months ago — his immediate post-draft evaluation would have been something between unlikely middle relief help to minor league depth — but sometimes pro ball just agrees with a guy.

8.253 – 1B Chris DeVito

On Chris DeVito (123), the highest ranked player drafted by the Royals in this class, from March 2016…

I’m not yet sure what to make of Chris DeVito as an all-around prospect, but the confidence that he’ll hit as a pro grows by the week. The improvements he has made as a hitter, especially as he’s found a way to retain his big power while significantly decreasing the length of his swing, are real. One friend of mine affectionately refers to him as the “western Zack Collins.” My prospect love for Collins runs far too deep for me to go there, but I still like it. If DeVito can convince pro teams he can catch professionally, there’s no telling how high he can rise. I’m unsure if that’ll be the case – literally unsure: haven’t heard much in either direction about his glove, so I legitimately do not have an updated opinion on the matter – but I look forward to finding out more about his defense in the coming weeks. He’s a potentially great (top five round?) prospect – though I’d caution taking his offensive production with his offensive environments in mind — if he catch, and a good one (round six to ten?) if he’s forced to first base.

Of course, the Royals drafted DeVito, that same friend said after the fact, they already have his right-handed hitting counterpart in Chase Vallot. DeVito played exclusively first base in his pro debut, a sure sign that his number one job as a Royal will be to hit. Whether or not he’ll do so enough to be an everyday option going forward remains to be seen. I remain bullish on the Red Hercules as a plus power bat with patience and enough feel for contact to make a meaningful offensive impact at the highest level, so count me in on DeVito as a future regular.

9.283 – RHP Walker Sheller

Walker Sheller could be a quick-moving middle relief option for Kansas City as a funky strike-throwing fastball (87-93 MPH, 95 peak) and slider (low-80s, average but flashes better) righthander. It’s not the most explosive stuff or the highest ceiling, but it’s the kind of skill set that should play well in short bursts in the pros.

10.313 – LHP Richard Lovelady

It should be a pretty fun race to the big leagues between Walker Sheller and tenth rounder Richard Lovelady, a lefty reliever who can run it up to the mid-90s (sits 88-92ish) with a quality mid- to upper-70s breaking ball and usable upper-70s change. Good college numbers (10.26 K/9 and 4.93 BB/9) and a strong pro debut (10.80 K/9 and 3.24 BB/9) paint a pretty picture of a potential big league reliever.

11.343 – OF Vance Vizcaino

A big redshirt-sophomore season year at Stetson seemed to set Vance Vizcaino up for stardom at the college level, but his 2016 was a step back in just about every offensive area. That dip in production allowed the Royals to wait it out and and snag Vizcaino in the eleventh round. Getting someone closer to the 2015 version of Vizcaino would be a steal, but I can’t help but think that season will look more and more like an aberration the longer his career goes on. It isn’t that Vizcaino is a bad prospect — he isn’t — but he’s the epitome of an outfield tweener. He’s playable in center, sure, but much better in a corner. His speed is impressive, no doubt, but not quite on the level that I’d call it a clear carrying tool. His power is decent, yes, but not good enough to profile as a regular, especially in an outfield corner. Add it all up and the Tennessee transfer could be a useful backup outfielder in time if everything goes right. There’s no shame in profiling as a bench player, but I’d want a little more in a round that has turned into one where most teams target high upside, overslot gambles. That’s not Vizcaino.

12.373 – RHP Jeremy Gwinn

I was no Jeremy Gwinn expert in the spring and I’m no Jeremy Gwinn expert now. What I do know about him, however, I like. He’s got size at 6-5, 200 pounds. He’s got a good fastball at 90-94 MPH (95 peak). He can reach back and use one of three offspeed pitches (SL, CB, CU) in any count. His numbers at Colby CC this past year (11.85 K/9 and 2.39 BB/9 in 79.0 IP) were excellent. There is a lot to like here.

13.403 – 2B Logan Gray

Plate discipline is at or near the top of my list of required skills for any college hitter I’ll champion. It does seem, however, that every year there is a player or two who I can’t help but like in spite of consistently ugly BB/K ratios. One of those guys this year was Logan Gray (170). An optimistic take from April 2016…

All Logan Gray does is hit. There’s no point in me doubting him anymore. I’m sure there are scouts who don’t love every aspect of his swing or his bat speed or the way he circles the bases after hitting yet another home run, but at some point his extended run of hitting, hitting, and hitting some more has to matter. His athleticism and speed should translate to some steals (double-digits upside?) as he climbs the ladder and his power should play.

And a slightly more measured take from June 2016 right before the draft…

Logan Gray’s approach never took the step forward I was hoping to see (his sophomore to junior numbers are eerily similar), but he’s still so tooled up otherwise that he’s more than justified being a long-time FAVORITE. This class is dying for real third base prospects, so a raw yet highly athletic guy like Gray is very much welcomed.

There is so much about Gray’s game to like. He can run, he has power, he’s a great athlete, he’s capable of playing multiple spots…but the elephant in the room has been and figures to continue to be his approach. The downside to his game couldn’t have been made more clear in his 132 plate appearance debut in the Royals organization. Gray struggled to make contact (.187 BA), was unable to get into his plus raw power (.073 ISO), struck out a ton (34.8%), and barely walked at all (4.5 BB%). I’m not hopping off the bandwagon altogether after just 132 lousy plate appearances, but the fact that his struggles were so on the nose with what he’s had issues with in the past is more than a little concerning. Still, players with the kind of natural ability that Gray has shown don’t come around all that often, especially at the low low price of a thirteenth round pick. I had Gray valued at something closer to the fifth round — too early, probably, but defensible in this class when upside is taken into account — so it should go without saying that I love it in round thirteen. Whether or not Gray ever figures things out at the plate and gets past AA won’t make this pick any less clever to me. Process over results forever.

14.433 – RHP David McKay

David McKay joins a big group of relief prospects that could include every pitcher taken by Kansas City past their first overall selection. Competition for innings should be fierce in the early going, so McKay will need to impress as much as possible with his strong fastball (88-93) and breaking ball (once a plus slider, now far more of a curve as he’s adjusted to life post-Tommy John surgery) when called upon. So far, he’s done just that…

8.32 K/9 – 3.05 BB/9 – 44.1 IP – 2.64 ERA
7.96 K/9 – 3.14 BB/9 – 74.2 IP – 3.74 ERA

Top is what McKay did in his pro debut, bottom shows his redshirt-sophomore season at Florida Atlantic. Can’t knock the man for being consistent, that’s for sure. I like this pick a lot.

15.463 – LHP Mike Messier

I know it happened almost three weeks ago, but I still can’t get over Jaromir Jagr passing Mark Messier for second place on the all-time NHL points list. Jagr was old (but awesome) when I had the pleasure of watching him nightly with the Flyers and that was five years ago. This has nothing to do with Mike Messier and I apologize for that. Turning our attention back to baseball, kudos to the Royals for sticking with Messier despite a somewhat rocky junior season (4.75 ERA, highest among the three weekend starters) at Bellarmine. His peripherals remained solid (10.50 K/9 and 2.63 BB/9) and his stuff (88-92 FB) never wavered. Lefthanders with a certain baseline of velocity will always appeal to teams on draft day.

16.493 – OF Nick Heath

The pre-draft take on Nick Heath…

I like rJR OF Nick Heath as a potential high-contact, athletic, plus running center fielder, but the complete lack of power undermines what he does well otherwise. He’s more fun college player than serious pro prospect until he can start driving a few more balls to the gaps. They can’t all be power hitters, but the threat of power is a must in the pro game.

That feels pretty fair to me. Heath does enough well to potentially keep rising and make it as a reserve speed/defense outfielder, but the absence of power keeps his ceiling low. Solid depth piece at this point in the draft.

17.523 – RHP Dillon Drabble

A drabble is a short work of fiction of around one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is brevity, testing the author’s ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in a confined space. Sounds a little bit like Twitter on a slightly larger scale. I’m much too dumb to write fiction, but let’s try to write a drabble about Dillon Drabble.

Dillon Drabble was drafted in the seventeenth round by Kansas City out of Seminole State JC in Oklahoma. He pitched well as a sophomore (10.45 K/9 and 3.19 BB/9) using a solid fastball (88-92) and cut-slider combination to get more than his fair share of swings and misses and a boatload of ground ball outs. He kept it up in his pro debut, notable mostly for a whopping 65.15 GB% on all batted balls in his 60.1 innings pitched. One contact who saw them both pitch in 2016 said he preferred Drabble to Kansas City’s similarly skilled fourth round pick, Jace Vines.

102 words! So close! I didn’t even get to talk about the comic strip as planned. Can’t win ’em all.

18.553 – LHP Vance Tatum

Two players named Vance in one draft class has to be a record, right? Vance Tatum is a fine find this late in the draft. The big lefty from Mississippi State has always done the job when called upon (7.73 K/9 and 3.45 BB/9 in 96.2 career college IP) thanks to enough velocity (85-91 FB), a true plus changeup, and a usable 76-81 MPH breaking ball. An imperfect comp for him that may have some merit, especially if he picks up a little velocity: Luis Avilan.

19.583 – RHP Tyler Fallwell

No matter what Fangraphs says, it’s Tyler Fallwell and not Falwell. The real Fallwell had a final draft year at Cochise (10.96 K/9 and 3.62 BB/9) and throws three pitches (88-92 MPH fastball, up-and-down slider, decent changeup) for strikes.

20.613 – RHP Anthony Bender

With a 9.94 K/9, 2.76 BB/9, and 1.65 ERA, Anthony Bender made his abbreviated sophomore year (16.1 IP) at Santa Rosa count. Armed with a fastball that could flirt with triple-digits in time (up to 97 already), Bender is exactly what you want in a mid-round quick-moving potential reliever.

21.643 – OF Dalton Griffin

I like a lot of elements in Dalton Griffin’s (455) game. He’s a solid runner with a strong arm, enough range to handle all three outfield spots (not at the same time though, that would be nuts), and a mature approach at the plate. Or, if that one sentence synopsis of Griffin doesn’t do it for you, how about just celebrating the fact that literally any high school prospect signed this late is worth getting at least a little excited about.

22.673 – RHP Cody Nesbit

Sometimes, just knowing a guy’s numbers can be enough. Cody Nesbit dominated this past spring at San Jacinto JC to the tune of a 15.60 K/9 and 2.00 BB/9. Knowing nothing beyond that, I’d still say that’s enough for me.

The Royals gave Nesbit $100,000 to sign. For those new at this, that’s the maximum amount allowed to a draft pick past the tenth round without dipping into the bonus pool allotment. The fact that Nesbit, a dominant junior college arm, got one hundred grand is wholly unremarkable. The fact that Nesbit is the is the twelfth Royal in a row to get a real signing bonus — ten of whom got six-figure bonuses — is pretty damn great. I love that Kansas City threw around that extra cash to get the players they wanted. I also love that the players got some real money upfront to help supplement their meager minor league salaries. I know Major League Baseball isn’t a charity, but if I was in charge of the draft room I’d push hard to give literally every player taken past round ten the full $100,000. There’s no penalty to doing so with the only real cost being a few extra bucks missing from the owner’s bottom line. I know it’s easy to say since it’s not my money, but the amount of good will around the game and potential for positive PR could pay for itself in time. A relatively small investment — the Royals signed 27 guys past round ten, so that would be $2.7 million if they followed my plan to the letter — that opens up the talent pool and could engender good feelings that resonate for years to come? Seems like something you could sell an open-minded owner on to me.

23.703 – OF Kort Peterson

UCLA has a deserved reputation of being a pitching factory in recent years. Everybody knows the big names like Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, but the Bruins have put big league pitchers like Charles Brewer, Erik Goeddel, Matt Grace, Rob Rasmussen, and Adam Plutko in the big leagues since 2009. James Kaprielian will join those guys shortly — he’s far more Cole/Bauer than any of those others — with Griffin Canning, Jake Bird, Justin Hooper, and Kyle Molnar all waiting in the wings. But the Bruins deserve equal credit for recruiting, developing, and sending off a slew of interesting high-contact, well-rounded offensive players to the pro ranks of late.

Maybe the group of Eric Filia, Kevin Kramer, and Tyler Heineman doesn’t have quite the same star power of that Cole/Bauer/Kaprielian trio, but all three are professional hitters who could carve out long pro careers if things fall the right way for them. I’d put Kort Peterson in that same class. Peterson doesn’t have any clear standout tools, but he’s a smart hitter with enough speed, range, and power to make a little noise in pro ball. His biggest selling point is his athleticism, so there’s more growth potential here than his good but not great college track record might suggest. I think my own track record (such as it is) of being bearish on college players who haven’t put up great numbers as amateurs (like Peterson) should indicate that I like the former UCLA outfielder’s overall skill set more than most.

24.733 – C Mike McCann

A torn thumb ligament cut short Mike McCann’s breakout junior season at Seattle, but the Royals made him a twenty-fourth round pick anyway. I heartily approve. McCann’s bat is ahead of his glove for me, but I still think he has the smarts if not the physical gifts to remain a catcher for the foreseeable future. A case could certainly be made that you’d rather have the smart catcher who can think along with your young pitching in the middle rounds than a bigger armed, better all-around defensive player lacking in the baseball IQ department. I’d take the latter guy early — big league tools are big league tools, after all — but, knowing what we know about the realistic success rate of players drafted at this point, getting a guy who will help with the overall development of his teammates makes perfect sense to me. Make no mistake, McCann is no slouch as a prospect in his own right. In a class loaded with college catching, his half-season (.319/.491/.445 with 37 BB/19 K) stands up to almost anybody’s. Great value here.

25.763 – 1B Robby Rinn

Robby Rinn is an older prospect (turned 24 this past October) confined to first base, so he’ll have to hurry up and start hitting if he wants to keep getting steady playing time in pro ball. His pro debut was fine (.280/.341/.386, 109 wRC+), but it was all in the AZL. That’s not Rinn’s fault — you can only play where you’re assigned — but he has to hope now that the Royals move him a lot quicker than that starting next spring. I believe in him as a hitter, but acknowledge that the odds are against him for a whole bunch of reasons.

26.793 – 3B John Brontsema

I don’t really understand this one. John Brontsema was already in my 2017 MLB Draft notes as a potential senior-sign — he has a solid glove and can play multiple spots — because I figured his unexciting junior season (.289/.364/.389 with 16 BB/44 K) would cause him to go undrafted. The Royals saw differently. Brontsema has rewarded that faith so far with a .337/.386/.396 (13 BB/33 K) debut.

27.823 – LHP Rex Hill

Rex Hill fell a little bit further than a three-pitch lefthander with good size (6-3, 200) probably should have. Perhaps it has something to do with Hill’s upper-80s fastball not being what pro teams want. I’d take it when combined with two average or better offspeed pitches (77-81 change, upper-70s breaking ball) and the chance he’ll gain a tick or two of velocity in a more consistent relief role. Worth a shot.

28.853 – C Yordany Salva

Yordany Salva hit .276/.339/.429 with 15 BB/33 K and 12/14 SB in his sophomore season at Broward CC. That’s all I’ve got. Typically those numbers wouldn’t be enough to be on my draft list, but the Royals obviously like him. We’ll see. Early reports on his defense have been positive, so at least there’s that to build on.

1/17 EDIT: As Shaun Newkirk of Royals Review points out, Salva has already been released by the Royals. It was fun while it lasted.

29.883 – RHP Grant Gavin

From 10.29 K/9 and 3.53 BB/9 (2.64 ERA) in 30.2 IP at Central Missouri to 8.57 K/9 and 0.91 BB/9 (2.01 ERA) in 49.1 IP in his pro debut: not a bad spring and summer for Grant Gavin. With a fastball up to 94 MPH, emerging offspeed stuff (CB and CU), and plenty of athleticism, Gavin could wind up one of this draft’s sneakier quick-moving relief prospects.

30.913 – RHP Geoff Bramblett

An established workhorse pitcher from the SEC with solid stuff across the board — 87-93 fastball, good low-70s breaking ball, improving sinking changeup — and plus athleticism still on the board tor the Royals in the thirtieth round? This is a pick you run to the phone to make. Nice work here.

31.943 – RHP Malcolm Van Buren

There’s literally nothing not to like about Kansas City taking a shot on Malcolm Van Buren in the thirty-first round. Athleticism, velocity (low-90s, up to 93), intriguing assortment of offspeed stuff (CB, CU, SL), and a 6-4, 185 pound frame with plenty of growth potential. The only issue here is his recent Tommy John surgery, but teams knew about the heading into the draft. If anything, strictly from a draft value perspective from the Royals point of view, Van Buren’s injury can be considered a positive. A healthy Van Buren goes twenty rounds sooner. As if I didn’t like this pick enough, the selection of Van Buren gives me an excuse to link to the classic clip you see below. When (fine, if) I sit down and try to determine my favorite picks across baseball from this draft, it’ll be hard to leave this one off.

34.1033 – RHP Nathan Webb

Very cool piece from a story on Nathan Webb, a pitcher I pretty much know nothing else about…

Safe to say he is the only member of the draft class who already has been presented with a World Series ring from the team.

That’s right, Webb, a right-handed pitcher, is one of four members of his high school team who works on the Royals’ grounds crew. The crew received rings.

“More than a replica,” said Lee’s Summit North baseball coach Mike Westacott. “They were really nice.”

How great is that? Good for the Royals.

35.1063 – C MJ Sanchez

When I start compiling notes for these draft reviews, I do so by collecting any and all relevant links that can add to the discussion about a given player. For reasons not particularly clear to me now, I found this link and decided it was worth saving. I can only guess that it had something to do with correctly guessing that the Jets would trade up to take Mark Sanchez. From there I linked Mark Sanchez to MJ Sanchez since MJ’s given name is also Mark. This is what passes for analysis in the thirty-fifth round. For what it’s worth, Sanchez hit well (.323/.384/.455 with 13 BB/15 K) in his redshirt-junior season at California Baptist. Have to figure that experience catching Tyson Miller, the highest drafted player in Lancers history, doesn’t hurt, either. It certainly helped Sanchez get multiple looks from scouts when he might have otherwise been given just a passing glance. I love it when a big-time prospect helps draw in scouts and gives exposure to talented teammates. I’m convinced there are way more good players out there than there are scouts on the road capable of seeing everybody. If you’re good they’ll find you, but getting a little serendipitous help along the way makes things a lot easier.

36.1093 – RHP Alex Massey

Alex Massey going all the way back to 2012 (!) at Tulane…

2012: 8.06 K/9 – 2.45 BB/9 – 51.1 IP
2014: 9.92 K/9 – 4.13 BB/9 – 32.2 IP
2015: 7.47 K/9 – 4.70 BB/9 – 88.1 IP
2016: 7.89 K/9 – 3.11 BB/9 – 75.0 IP

Four pretty solid seasons, all in all. Massey did it with a good sinking fastball (88-92 as a starter, but can run it up to 94-95 in shorter outings) and an above-average slider. That’s more than enough to warrant inclusion in the great big future middle relief pile the Royals have assembled through this draft.

37.1123 – RHP Justin Camp

Justin Camp had a weird college career at Auburn. He was basically the same guy in 2013, 2014, and 2016, but something much more in 2015. What do you do with that? I guess if you’re the Royals you take it in the thirty-seventh round and hope for the best. Camp has good stuff — 90-93 FB, low-70s CU, low-80s breaking ball — with decent command. Tough to see him being much more than an organizational arm, but he’s a bit more talented than your typical bottom of the draft selection.

39.1183 – C Chase Livingston

Chase Livingston was drafted by a MLB baseball team — the defending champs no less! — and I was not, so he’s clearly got plenty going for him and doesn’t need my approval in any way whatsoever. That’s why I don’t feel bad in pointing out that he might have the worst body of work of any 2016 MLB Draft pick. Livingston hit .202/.273/.267 with 25 BB/86 K in 337 AB at Rhode Island. His big senior year saw him put up a career-best .309 SLG as he hit .216 with a .275 OBP (11 BB/39 K). Naturally, he turned into a much better hitter (or had a nice run of fortune on balls in play in a small sample) in pro ball as he hit .273/.375/.273 (8 BB/11 K) in 66 PA split between two levels of rookie ball. With college numbers like his, the only way I can begin to rationalize this pick is to assume Livingston is the world’s greatest defensive catcher. It’s basically Nichols’ Law of Catcher Defense come to life.

40.1213 – RHP Taylor Kaczmarek

Some teams end with pointless nepotism picks, others pick players they have developed lasting long-term relationships with — the Royals originally drafted Taylor Kaczmarek out of South Mountain CC in 2012 — battling their way back from beating acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Kaczmarek is a feel-good story to be sure, but he’s not some total charity case selection: the reliever from San Diego has been up to 90 MPH with his fastball in the past.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Luke Bandy (Dallas Baptist), Kam Misner (Missouri), Joey Fregosi (?)

2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – Big East

As one of my three “home” conferences, I see a whole lot of Big East baseball. Quick trips are already lined up to see Butler, St. John’s, Creighton, and Villanova, and that’s before traveling beyond twenty minutes from my apartment. Springtime travel often takes me to New York and DC, so I might be able to catch home games at St. John’s and Georgetown as well. There are pros and cons when it comes with attempting to meld nationwide coverage of the draft with first-person “scouting” accounts – we’ll get into that some later – but it’s worth mentioning now so that my pro-Big East agenda can get out there in the open. I’ve only ever lived in the northeastern part of the United States, so I’ll be damned if I’m not going to try to support baseball here any way that I can.

“There are no stars in the Big East, but still some nice players.” That’s my most heard – twice! – refrain from those in the know about this year’s crop of Big East talent. It currently holds up upon further review. Like everyone, I love star-caliber talent; missing out on it this year is a bummer, but that’s how it goes in certain years for mid-majors. Maybe not like everyone – certainly not like anybody who covers the draft publicly like this – I relish the opportunity to find potential fourth outfielders, utility infielders, backup catchers, fifth starters/swingmen, and middle relievers. If those are the kinds of guys you like, then the Big East in 2016 is for you.

Michael Donadio is a really well-rounded outfielder who has flashed at least average ability with all five tools. His power, CF range, and arm might make more bench bat/platoon player than future regular, but it’s still an enticing overall profile. His teammate, Alex Caruso, profiles similarly, though he’s cut more from the classic “fifth outfielder” cloth. He doesn’t have the same kind of pop as Donadio, but he’ll give you outstanding instincts that help him play above his physical tools in center and when running the bases. The outfield pair at Creighton rivals what St. John’s has. Daniel Woodrow and Kevin Connolly both have plus speed (Woodrow might be a touch faster) and easy CF range. Lack of power limits the ceiling for both players, but it’s not a stretch to have the same kind of fifth outfielder future in mind as Caruso.

Creighton’s best pro prospect for 2016 is Nicky Lopez, a slick fielding shortstop with plus speed and serious athleticism. Like the rest of the names at the top his bat might keep him as more utility player than starter. He’s a fine prospect in his own right, so hopefully this doesn’t come across the wrong way…but Lopez benefits greatly from being draft-eligible in 2016 and not 2015. Last year he might have gotten swept away with all the excellent college shortstop prospects getting popped early and often on draft day; this year, he stands out as one of the better options at the position for no other reason than the fact there’s little doubt he’ll stick there as a professional. Harrison Crawford, the man who lines up to Lopez’s right at Creighton, benefits similarly from a watered down third base class. I like him as a steady fielding senior-sign with some pop. I like Reagan Fowler, yet another Creighton infielder, for much the same reasons. Fowler is a prospect that I’ve long liked, so I’m not about to bail after his good (.319 BA with 23 BB/23 K) yet not great (.065 ISO for a 1B) redshirt-junior season. He’s probably a borderline draft pick if looking at things objectively, though a return to his 2014 form would almost certainly intrigue a team enough to give him a go. A friend who liked him said he could have a lefthanded Darin Ruf type of career, if the power comes back around. I apparently compared him to Casey Grayson as a draft prospect last year, so there’s that to consider as well.

Dan Rizzie and Chris Marras are both potential senior-sign catchers with legitimate big league backup upside. Had this to say about Rizzie last year…

Xavier JR C Dan Rizzie is a pro-level defensive player with enough bat speed, patience, and pop to work himself into a really good backup catcher/workable starting catcher profile.

Fair enough. I now like Chris Marras better than Butler’s other Chris M. (Chris Maranto) despite remaining a fan of the latter’s hit tool and approach. I may have expected too much too soon out of him last season, so a rebound year for the now redshirt-junior seems like a strong possibility.

The gap between Rizzie, Marras, and, the favorite of many I talked to, Troy Dixon is minuscule. Dixon is a good glove behind the plate with a strong arm, and early returns on both aspects of his game speak to even more improvement so far this year. Making your existing strengths even stronger is often easier than turning weaknesses into strengths, after all. I talked up the Seton Hall outfielders (Zack Weigel and Derek Jenkins) last year, so I won’t go into great detail this time around. Weigel and Caruso are very similar prospects while Jenkins remains the small, speedy center fielder who has yet to show he has enough power to keep pro pitchers honest.

Finally we get to the Villanova guys. As I’ve mentioned in the past, Villanova is one of the handful of schools within a twenty minute or so drive from my home base. I don’t think I overrate prospects from local schools because of that – maybe Penn a bit since I see them more than any other team – but seeing players over and over again in person is bound to alter the process in some way. I tend to rely on publicly available information and updates from friends in the game more than my own firsthand “scouting” observations, but I’ll maintain that any change in how I usually do things – such as seeing a player fifty times over three or four years versus seeing him five times or less – is going to produce some noise that has to be filtered out if I want to stay consistent with my approach. Being cognizant of the potential bias is important, and I think disclosing such things is helpful to understanding how I arrive at certain conclusions on players.

Of the notable Villanova prospects, I think the one prospect who might have me thinking more of them after seeing him in person a lot (rather than just being a name on a page) is Donovan May. Without having seen him firsthand, there’s little chance he would be included on the rankings below. High priority follow under the team listings? Sure, why not: it’s a fairly low bar and his obvious athleticism, bloodlines, and team-leading number of walks in 2015 are enough to warrant at least some casual interest heading into his draft year. Actually seeing him field, run, throw, and, yes, even hit in person, however, has me a little extra curious about his pro future. It’s not like it’s my first rodeo where I’m easily seduced by an athlete who cuts a fine figure in uniform, but human nature is undeniable: May looks the part, so he’ll get chances when others less suited to sell jeans will not. If he doesn’t start hitting, of course, then all of this is a moot point. I’ve bought in enough to rank him, true, but there’s a reason he’s placed where he is relative to his Big East peers.

Villanova’s best prospect, Todd Czinege, is somebody I very much look forward to honing in on this spring. I’m damn sure he can hit, so the focus will be on his approach, his defense, and how usable his power will be. If he doesn’t get any better, he’s still talented enough at the plate to warrant a draft pick. If he can improve in just one of those areas, I think he becomes a legitimate top ten round threat. And if he can improve two or more of those areas? It’s almost too wild a hypothetical to consider – good baseball player becomes GREAT baseball player overnight! – but rest assured he’d rise very, very high on draft boards around the league. As is, I’ve talked to a few people in the know who think he’s the best hitter in the conference with no real competition for second. That’s high praise.

Turns out there are also pitchers in the Big East this year, too. Hopefully we still have a few words left to spare on these fine young men. The most famous pitcher in the Big East is Thomas Hackimer of St. John’s. The sub six-foot righthander (5-11, 200) has a long track record of missing bats coming out of the pen (9.84 K/9 in 2014, 9.52 K/9 last season) with all kinds of funky stuff (above-average low- to mid-80s SL and average CU) coming at you from an even funkier delivery. He clearly doesn’t fit the classic closer mold, but a recent uptick in velocity (92-93 peak this year, up from his usual 85-90 MPH range) could raise his prospect profile from generic college mid-round righty reliever to potential late-inning option if things keep clicking. I like guys like this a lot on draft day, so consider me a big Hackimer fan…as long as the price remains reasonable. At this rate, he could pitch his way right out of the “undervalued draft steal” category and into “fair value” territory.

Danny Pobreyko isn’t the type to wow, but solid stuff across the board (88-92 FB, above-average breaking ball) and an ideal frame (6-5, 200) put him on the shortlist of top pitching prospects in this conference. For what it’s worth, I originally had him in the top spot before switching back to Hackimer at the last moment. David Ellingson brings similar stuff to the mound, but with less size (6-1, 200). Bigger arms like Matt Smith (93 peak), Ryan McAuliffe (94), and Curtiss Pomeroy (95) could continue to rise with strong springs.


  1. St. John’s JR OF Michael Donadio
  2. Creighton JR SS/2B Nicky Lopez
  3. St. John’s SR OF Alex Caruso
  4. Creighton SR 3B Harrison Crawford
  5. Creighton JR OF Daniel Woodrow
  6. Creighton JR OF Kevin Connolly
  7. Xavier SR C Dan Rizzie
  8. Creighton rSR 1B Reagan Fowler
  9. Butler SR C Chris Marras
  10. Villanova JR 2B/3B Todd Czinege
  11. St. John’s JR C Troy Dixon
  12. Butler rJR 2B/SS Chris Maranto
  13. Seton Hall SR OF Zack Weigel
  14. Creighton SR 2B/SS Ryan Fitzgerald
  15. Seton Hall SR OF Derek Jenkins
  16. Villanova SR 1B/RHP Max Beermann
  17. Creighton JR OF Riley Landuyt
  18. Villanova SR SS Eric Lowe
  19. Villanova SR OF/SS Adam Goss
  20. Xavier rJR SS/3B Andre Jernigan
  21. Creighton JR OF Riley Conlan
  22. Villanova JR OF Donovan May


  1. St. John’s SR RHP Thomas Hackimer
  2. Butler JR RHP Danny Pobereyko
  3. Georgetown JR RHP David Ellingson
  4. Georgetown SR RHP Matt Smith
  5. St. John’s JR RHP Ryan McAuliffe
  6. Georgetown SR RHP Curtiss Pomeroy
  7. Creighton rSO RHP Rollie Lacy
  8. Creighton SR RHP Nick Highberger
  9. St. John’s rJR RHP Michael Sheppard
  10. Butler JR LHP Jeff Schank
  11. Creighton SR RHP Taylor Elman
  12. Seton Hall JR RHP Zach Prendergast
  13. Seton Hall JR LHP Anthony Pacillo
  14. Creighton JR RHP Austin Stroschein
  15. Georgetown JR RHP Nick Leonard
  16. St. John’s SR RHP Joey Graziano
  17. Creighton SR RHP Matt Warren
  18. Creighton JR RHP David Gerber
  19. Xavier JR LHP Greg Jacknewitz
  20. St. John’s rSR RHP Joey Christopher


JR RHP Danny Pobereyko (2016)
rJR RHP Chris Myjak (2016)
SR LHP Nick Morton (2016)
JR LHP Jeff Schank (2016)
SR RHP Tyler Rathjen (2016)
rJR 2B/SS Chris Maranto (2016)
rJR OF Drew Small (2016)
SR C Chris Marras (2016)
SR OF Nick Bartolone (2016)
SO LHP Josh Goldberg (2017)
SO RHP Luke Johnson (2017)
SO SS Garrett Christman (2017)
SO OF Tyler Houston (2017)
SO OF Gehrig Parker (2017)
SO OF/2B Cole Malloy (2017)
FR RHP Quintin Miller (2018)

High Priority Follows: Danny Pobereyko, Jeff Schank, Chris Maranto, Drew Small, Chris Marras


SR RHP Nick Highberger (2016)
rSO RHP Rollie Lacy (2016)
JR RHP David Gerber (2016)
SR LHP John Oltman (2016)
SR LHP Will Bamesburger (2016)
SR RHP Matt Warren (2016)
JR RHP Austin Stroschein (2016)
SR RHP Taylor Elman (2016)
JR LHP Jeff Albrecht (2016)
SR RHP Connor Miller (2016)
rSR 1B Reagan Fowler (2016)
JR SS/2B Nicky Lopez (2016)
SR 2B/SS Ryan Fitzgerald (2016)
SR 3B Harrison Crawford (2016)
JR OF Kevin Connolly (2016)
JR OF Daniel Woodrow (2016)
JR OF Riley Conlan (2016)
JR OF Riley Landuyt (2016)
SR OF Brett Murray (2016)
SR C Matt Gandy (2016)
SO RHP Ethan DeCaster (2017)
SO RHP Keith Rogalla (2017)
FR RHP Ty Ramirez (2018)

High Priority Follows: Nick Highberger, Rollie Lacy, David Gerber, Matt Warren, Austin Stroschein, Taylor Elman, Connor Miller, Reagan Fowler, Nicky Lopez, Ryan Fitzgerald, Harrison Crawford, Kevin Connolly, David Woodrow, Riley Conlan, Riley Landuyt


JR RHP David Ellingson (2016)
SR RHP Curtiss Pomeroy (2016)
SR RHP Tim Davis (2016)
SR RHP Matt Smith (2016)
JR RHP Simon Mathews (2016)
JR RHP Nick Leonard (2016)
JR OF/RHP Beau Hall (2016)
JR 3B Jake Kuzbel (2016)
SO RHP Kevin Superko (2017
SO RHP Jimmy Swad (2017)
SO OF Austin Shirley (2017)
SO 2B Chase Bushor (2017)
SO 1B Bennett Stehr (2017)

High Priority Follows: David Ellingson, Curtiss Pomeroy, Tim Davis, Matt Smith, Simon Mathews, Nick Leonard

St. John’s

SR RHP Thomas Hackimer (2016)
rJR RHP Michael Sheppard (2016)
rSR RHP Joey Christopher (2016)
SR RHP Joey Graziano (2016)
JR RHP Ryan McAuliffe (2016)
JR LHP Joe Nellis (2016)
rJR RHP Dylan Drawdy (2016)
SR OF Alex Caruso (2016)
JR OF Michael Donadio (2016)
SR 2B Ty Blankmeyer (2016)
JR 3B Robbie Knightes (2016)
JR C Troy Dixon (2016)
rJR 1B Gui Gingras (2016)
SO LHP Kevin Magee (2017)
rFR 1B/RHP David Moyer (2017)
SO OF/3B Jamie Galazin (2017)
SO 2B/SS Jesse Berardi (2017)
SO OF Anthony Brocato (2017)
rFR OF Aidan McDermott (2017)
FR RHP Matthew Messier (2018)
FR RHP Cole Whitney (2018)
FR SS Josh Shaw (2018)
FR 1B Gavin Garay (2018)

High Priority Follows: Thomas Hackimer, Michael Sheppard, Joey Christopher, Joey Graziano, Ryan McAuliffe, Alex Caruso, Michael Donadio, Robbie Knightes, Troy Dixon

Seton Hall

JR RHP Zach Prendergast (2016)
SR RHP Sam Burum (2016)
SR RHP Luke Cahill (2016)
JR LHP Anthony Pacillo (2016)
JR RHP Ryan Testani (2016)
SR OF Derek Jenkins (2016)
SR OF Zack Weigel (2016)
SR 2B Chris Chiaradio (2016)
JR 1B Mikael-Ali Mogues (2016)
JR SS Joe Poduslenko (2016)
SO RHP Chris Morris (2017)
SO RHP Zach Schellenger (2017)
SO RHP Shane McCarthy (2017)
SO RHP Matt Leon (2017)
SO OF Ryan Ramiz (2017)
FR RHP Billy Layne (2018)
FR LHP Cullen Dana (2018)
FR INF Sebastiano Santorelli (2018)
FR INF Anthony Scotti (2018)

High Priority Follows: Zach Prendergast, Sam Burum, Anthony Pacillo, Ryan Testani, Derek Jenkins, Zack Weigel, Mikael-Ali Mogues, Joe Poduslenko


JR LHP Hunter Schryver (2016)
SR 1B/RHP Max Beermann (2016)
SR C/OF Emmanuel Morris (2016)
SR 3B/1B Kevin Jewitt (2016)
SR SS Eric Lowe (2016)
SR OF/SS Adam Goss (2016)
JR 2B/3B Todd Czinege (2016)
JR OF Donovan May (2016)
JR C Zander Retamar (2016)
SO LHP Mike Sgaramella (2017)
SO RHP Ryan Doty (2017)

High Priority Follows: Hunter Schryver, Max Beermann, Emannuel Morris, Kevin Jewitt, Eric Lowe, Adam Goss, Todd Czinege, Donovan May


JR LHP Brad Kirschner (2016)
JR LHP Trent Astle (2016)
JR LHP Greg Jacknewitz (2016)
SR C Dan Rizzie (2016)
rJR SS/3B Andre Jernigan (2016)
JR 1B Ethan Schmidt (2016)
SR 2B David Morton (2016)
SO LHP Zac Lowther (2017)
SO RHP Garrett Schilling (2017)
SO 3B Rylan Bannon (2017)
SO C Nate Soria (2017)
SO OF Will LaRue (2017)
FR SS/2B Chris Givin (2018)
FR 2B Sam Flamini (2018)

High Priority Follows: Brad Kirschner, Trent Astle, Greg Jacknewitz, Dan Rizzie, Andre Jernigan, Ethan Schmidt