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2015 MLB Draft Reviews – San Diego Padres

San Diego Padres 2015 MLB Draft Picks

I’m pretty sure I’ve made this (obvious) observation before, but there’s a big gap between the college game, especially at the non-D1 level, and pro baseball. The example of C Austin Allen (219) stands out. For me, there’s no surer way to convince somebody of the difficulty of pro ball than to point to the sometimes comical discrepancies between collegiate draft numbers and pro debuts. Allen went from hitting a somewhat decent .421/.473/.728 at Florida Tech to a less impressive .240/.315/.332 in the Northwest League. That’s not a knock on Allen in the slightest, by the way: though those raw stats don’t blow you away, it’s still fair to say he held his own while making a really big transition (on and off the field), plus any and all of his offensive production should be viewed through the prism of a hitter also starting 51 games behind the plate at a position he’s still learning the finer points of how to play. The defensive part is key, as getting as many reps donning the tools of ignorance should be the biggest point of emphasis early on in Allen’s pro development.

A second (obvious) observation: Allen’s upside (average or better hit, plus power, adequate catcher defense) is monstrous. There’s obviously a large gap between what the D-2 catcher/first baseman is and what he could be, but it’s a pretty clear all-star ceiling if it all works. There are worse ideas than bringing in such a boom/bust prospect in the fourth round.

Remember what I said about pro ball being trickier than college ball? C AJ Kennedy begs to differ. Kennedy went from hitting .171/.263/.217 (17 BB/42 K) in 152 junior year at bats at Cal State Fullerton (and .178/.268/.205 the year before) to hitting .276/.337/.345 (7 BB/16 K) in 100 PA against professional pitching. Does that make any sense to anybody out there outside of the San Diego front office or am I the crazy one? Either way, the bat doesn’t matter nearly as much as his outstanding defensive promise behind the dish. When the name Austin Hedges begins getting thrown out as a reference point for a guy’s all-around defensive game, you take notice. Kennedy could reach the big leagues as a backup backstop exclusively on his glove, arm, and mobility alone. I knocked the Danny De la Calle (a somewhat similar profile) pick by Tampa, so highlighting the clear difference in draft resource expenditures (30th round for Kennedy, 9th round for De la Calle) should clear up why I could not like one pick and approve the another. You take the defense-first potential backup in the thirtieth round all day.

(My pre-draft blurb on Kennedy: “plus defender; plus pitch-framer; strong arm; bag is a major question.” Probably one of my finer typos to date. I, for one, still have pretty major questions about Kennedy’s bag. Though now that I think of how that could be interpreted, I rescind my questions and hope only that he keeps his bag safely ensconced behind properly fitting protective gear. Also of note, his HS scouting blurb: “true plus arm; defensive tools are there, but needs reps; questionable upside with bat; swing needs work as it gets too long.” Typo aside, I love it when those things sync up over time.)

It’s cool to see the Padres give C Kyle Overstreet a shot behind the plate as a pro. Even if the Alabama second baseman doesn’t wind up a catcher full-time, the added defensive versatility will give his overall professional outlook a boost. I still think the bat might be a bit too light to call him much more than an org player at this point, but it’s a creative path for a player that many considered a worthy positional swap candidate while still a member of the Tide.

JR 2B Kyle Overstreet is the third Alabama position player with a shot to get drafted. He’s got decent power, a decent approach, and the chance to be a useful bench bat if used properly, especially if he can occasionally handle work behind the plate as speculated.

1B Brad Zunica is a big boy with big power and more feel for hitting than most big boys with big power. Getting a teenager with his pedigree in the fifteenth round is robbery. The fall of 3B Ty France (365) is equally odd. Getting a player as talented as France (365) in the 34th round confuses me, but I highly doubt the San Diego front office minds. As I mentioned pre-draft (below), few under-the-radar college players elicited as many unsolicited responses as France this spring. People who love hitting just wanted to talk about the guy.

San Diego State JR 3B Ty France has one of the draft’s most underrated bats, especially when his natural feel for hitting and functional strength (and subsequent power) are considered. Guys who really get excited about watching a young player swing at bat well come away raving about what France can do at the plate. I haven’t seen enough of him to get that feeling (also: I’m not a scout), but hearing it as often as I have from people who have been around the game forever definitely gets my attention.

The Padres played him almost exclusively at first base this summer (all but one start), so I’m unclear of their long-term intentions with his glove. I admittedly don’t have much to add to the conversation of his defensive future, but, man, getting a guy who can swing it like him with pick 1017 is a major scouting win. And he’s a local product to boot! Maybe one day we’ll see a Zunica/France platoon at Pecto.

Many of the pre-draft worries concerning OF Justin Pacchioli (304) — mainly that his questionable power would push his hit tool down against better pitching — seem to be showing up in pro ball so far, but the speedy, patient, and smart native of beautiful Allentown, Pennsylvania does enough well otherwise to stick as a big league prospect for years to come. I think there are some similarities between his game and that of 2012 Padres supplemental first round pick Travis Jankowski, who played his high school ball less than 90 minutes away from Pacchioli in the great city of Lancaster.

Topping him as a prospect is his own teammate at Lehigh, SR OF/C Justin Pacchioli. I stick the C in front of his name because he has seen some time behind the plate in the past and some think he could move back there as a pro, but since he’s athletic enough, quick enough, and instinctual enough to play average or better defense in center field then that’s probably the smartest path for now. As a hitter, I really like what Pacchioli can do going forward, so much so that I’ll be making the 90 minute trek without complaint to see him this year. His swing and feel for hitting check off all the boxes of what a “hitter” should look like for me, and his track record of success (especially from 2013 onward) is rock solid. I’m not sold on how much functional power he’ll ever hit for and lacking in that area can often cause a hit tool to play down once the competition improves, but I think there’s enough here to call for a steady organizational player with the ceiling of a useful backup outfielder at the highest level.

I’d personally like to see Pacchioli get converted to catcher because then he, Austin Allen, and Kyle Overstreet could race to see who could get improve the most defensively the quickest. That would be fun.

In some respects OF Josh Magee (332) brings a similar skill set to Pacchioli. He’s fast, above-average or better in center, and has a chance to be a high-contact hitter as he climbs the ladder. He also shares Pacchioli’s potential fatal flaw: a very low power ceiling. I tend to think of players like this as easy to like but tricky to love. The offensive margin for error is slim, but there’s more wiggle room for big league utility because of the speed and defense. A pet theory of mine that applies at least somewhat to Magee and Pacchioli (and circles back to Allen, Zunica, and France, all of whom fall under the first category: bat-first players get rewarded the most if they make it to the promised land, but advancement is difficult because it’s all-or-nothing; speed and defense players get more chances along the way, but have less ultimate ceiling (and are paid/generally valued accordingly) since, you know, hitting big is always going to be king. It’s worth pointing out that Magee was a multi-sport star in high school, so some of his rougher edges could get sanded away more quickly than assumed if he takes to the full-time baseball grind as hoped.

OF Aldemar Burgos is a well-rounded prospect with some pop who will take some time. The same could be said for OF Alan Garcia. That’s all I’ve got on them and I won’t pretend to know more.

SS Kodie Tidwell (296) is a good player. Getting a sure-handed middle infielder coming off a .300/.400/.500 (more or less) draft season in the 26th round shouldn’t happen. Some times I don’t really understand the MLB Draft process.

Louisiana-Monroe JR SS Kodie Tidwell is a patient, balanced hitter with all of the requisite defensive tools to stick at shortstop over the long haul. While Trahan was good from day one at Louisiana, Tidwell has slowly yet surely improved in all offensively phases since entering college.

I don’t know what the future holds for Tidwell any more than I do any other player, but the majority of his most favorable outcomes (in my view) feel realistic enough to make him a real prospect worth following as a pro. Maybe he winds up a capable enough shortstop to keep advancing as a utility infielder, maybe the bat plays enough that he’ll end up as an offensive second baseman, or maybe it doesn’t work much at all above AA. Even if you won’t give me equal odds on those outcomes and weight the last possibility more heavily, I’ll take my chances with that kind of player with his kind of track record. Huge steal in the 26th round.

On a similar note, I liked SS Peter Van Gansen (464) back in April…

As if this class needed another shortstop with the upside to one day start in the big leagues, here comes wildly underrated Cal Poly SS Peter Van Gansen and his steady glove, strong arm, and patient approach. He’s on the thin line between future utility player and potential regular right now, though his increased pop in 2015 could convince some teams he’ll hit enough to hold his own at the bottom of a lineup. I’m admittedly higher on him than most, but he checks enough of the boxes that teams like in potential backup infielders that I think he’ll wind up a valuable draft asset.

…and, wouldn’t you know, I still like him today. Relatively high-probability potential utility infielder with a little more upside than that if you believe in the bat, as I kind of do. Nice grab in the twelfth round.

LHP Nathan Foriest (60.3 GB%) is on the older side as a redshirt-senior out of Middle Tennessee State, but he’s missed enough bats in the past (10.41 K/9 his final college year) to have San Diego look past some of his run prevention flaws (9.00 ERA and 6.19 ERA his last two years of school) and believe his iffy control could be fixable with pro instruction. LHP Corey Hale checks both the big (6-7, 255) and ground ball inducing (50%) boxes that San Diego apparently was looking for.

Getting LHP Christian Cecilio back on the mound will be a nice boost for the Padres next season. The 22nd round pick brings a really strong college track record and enough stuff (upper-80s FB that looks faster thanks to a sneaky delivery) to track as a potential lefty reliever as a pro. Likewise, LHP Will Headean intrigues me as a potential back-end starting pitcher and/or middle reliever going forward. He fits the mold as a big (6-4, 200 pounds, slimmed down from 225ish) ground ball inducing (60.5 GB%) college arm. I had his fastball peaking at 89, but in short bursts it stands to add some real velocity, especially as he figures out how to better manipulate his “best shape of his life” body. His curve is already good enough to project as big league average, so you can see the pieces for a useful reliever coming into focus. LHP Jerry Keel has a similar story of getting himself into better shape as he’s now down to a fit and trim (such things are relative, right?) 6-6, 240 pounds. Brace yourselves: he also got a ton of ground ball outs (60.6 GB%) in his pro debut. Said ground ball outs fit in nicely with the scouting reports (86-92 FB with plus sink, good diving low-70s CB he keeps low in zone), so forecasting him as another potential middle relief piece only seems fair. RHP Phil Maton joins AJ Kennedy as a player who has made a mockery about the supposed difficulties of pro ball. That’s what a 16.0 K/9 (46 K%!) and 1.4 BB/9 in 32.2 IP (1.38 ERA) does. Maton had a solid track record to begin with (9.20 K/9 and 1.94 BB/9 in 88 senior year innings), so add him to the potential middle relief pile. RHP Braxton Lorenzini and RHP Elliot Ashbeck both could join the fun as sinker/slider relievers, though only the former has the early returns (54.8 GB%) to back up the reputed ground ball ways.

RHP Lou Distasio has his fans, but having seen him twice (one each the past two seasons) I don’t necessarily count myself as one of his bigger supporters. I’m not a scout, so consider that just one baseball fan’s take and nothing else. I only really bring it up to mention that, yes, he really does have his fans. Many more informed people than me think he could even keep starting as a pro. I guess I also bring it up as some kind of meta-commentary on the internet’s new weird obsession with seeing a player once (in this case twice, but still) and then declaring that what you saw is exactly what the guy is. There’s a reason why the real scouts make it a point to see a player multiple times across many months, internet. I’ve literally seen an internet scout argue with a quoted velocity figure from one of the reputable industry leaders because when he saw the guy he wasn’t throwing all that hard. Maybe instead of arguing and assuming nobody but yourself could possibly have accurate information, you ask questions and try to figure out why the pitcher wasn’t throw as hard as reported elsewhere on that given day? Anyway, I see Distasio as a big fastball-reliant future reliever who flashes big league stuff and, fan or not, is really nice value in the 32nd round.

RHP Blake Rogers in the 37th round (pick 1107!) feels like a steal. It also feels like another smart gamble for San Diego in grabbing a quality arm with control issues and having the confidence in their developmental staff to coach out the wild. Getting a college righthander with a fastball that can hit 94-95 this late (90-94 mostly) is worth it. Also: 65.5 GB% so far. RHP Nick Monroe (377) also falls under the legit stuff (88-92 FB, 94 peak; advanced CU; used to throw a nice CB, but ditched it in favor of a SL), but iffy control (4.83 BB/9 his junior year) player archetype. He also fits the “best shape of his life” type as he’s now down to 6-4, 235 (from 250ish).

I love the pick of RHP Trey Wingenter (139) in the 17th round; heck, I would have approved even if it was ten rounds higher. My stubborn insistence that big things are coming from him will now extend from before his junior year of college (below) to his first full pro season starting next spring…

Put me down as believing JR RHP Trey Wingenter is in store for a monster 2015 campaign. All of the pieces are there for a big season: legit fastball (88-94, 95/96 peak), a pair of breaking balls ranging from average (mid-70s CB) to better than that (mid-80s SL), an average or better CU, a very low-mileage arm (only 36 innings through two college seasons), and an imposing yet still projectionable 6-7, 200 pound frame.

His short-season debut was rough, but his peripherals were fine and he still managed to get those key ground ball outs (51.6 GB%) at a pace I’m sure the Padres liked to see. He’s still a baby when it comes to game experience on the mound with less than 100 innings on his right arm as a collegiate pitcher. Give him some time, coach him up, and let his natural talent shine through. Easy enough, right?

RHP Brett Kennedy is a personal favorite because it’s a law that I have to rep any pitcher born and raised in and around one of the finest beach towns in Jersey (Brigantine). It also doesn’t hurt his personal favorite status that I like him more today than I did pre-draft and I’m trying to make amends for underrating him then. The quick book on him: 90-94 FB, chance for above-average breaking ball, really good college track record (10.03 K/9 as junior), and good pro debut. Additionally, because I can’t resist keeping with the narrative, it should be noted that he’s one of the smaller guys drafted by the Padres (6-0, 200) and didn’t overwhelm with ground ball tendencies in his debut (46.7 GB%).

RHP Trevor Megill (227) is one of those just famous enough (been drafted and discussed before, high-profile Tommy John surgery survivor, brother also plays) college players that is easily identifiable to serious prospect fans as a draft sleeper. I get it: he’s big (6-8, 235…down from his college weight of 250, FWIW), throws a really tough to square up fastball (86-92, 94-95 peak) that he spots really well (especially for a big man), and has enough feel for a few secondary offerings (74-80 CB, 79-81 CU, 78-84 cut-SL) that you can see a starter’s future if it clicks. I think it adds up to a solid enough prospect that it’s fair value more than huge steal in the seventh round, but that’s not meant to take anything away from the promising big man. RHP Jordan Guerrero, the prospect drafted the round before Megill, is an arm strength pick that can miss bats with a heavy heater alone right now. He’s big (6-5, 260) and gets ground ball outs (57.8 GB%). Shocking, right?

We end with the two biggest names and best prospects selected by the Padres this year. While I’m not head-over-heels in love with either pick, both are damn solid additions and very fair values as second and third round picks. RHP Jacob Nix (75), the third rounder, is a sturdy, athletic potential mid-rotation workhorse who relies heavily on his 90-95 (97 peak) fastball. It’s a tad simplistic, but when he can command his best pitch, he’s very tough to hit…and when he can’t, fooling advanced hitters gets a whole lot harder. That’s true of any pitcher, but it’s more relevant for Nix than most. His fastball is lethal when on — enough smart people have said it elsewhere that I hesitate to call it underrated, but, man, fastball command is so damn important and so often breezed by when discussing pitching prospect futures — so he can almost (but not quite) get away with being a one-pitch starter. His fastball command is also really important to him at present because the big righty doesn’t have the kind of secondary stuff just yet to miss consistent bats, though I like his mid-80s changeup more than most neutral observers. I’m not sure what a potential plus fastball (with evolving command), an underrated but still underdeveloped changeup, and a chance for average breaking ball adds up to, but there’s enough natural talent here to dream on a solid number three starter or a late-inning relief ace.

San Diego’s first pick, RHP Austin Smith (84), set the tone for the type of pitcher the Padres seemed ready to target throughout the three day draft process. If you haven’t been beaten over the head at my subtle attempt at mentioning throughout, here you go: he’s big (6-4, 220) and capable of getting ground ball outs (56.5 GB%) at a premium clip. Much of what you’ve just read (hopefully) about Jacob Nix applies to Smith as well. Both guys have athletic, inning-eating frames that allow them to throw hard (88-94, 96 peak) while also showing off an impressive amount of feel for pitching. Smith has a a better breaking ball (77-81 CB with above-average upside), but not quite as polished a changeup at present. I’d hang similar ceilings on them as well, though there’s no trickier prospect for me to make guesses on than a young pitcher.

A full list of 2015 draft prospects selected by San Diego that fell in my pre-draft top 500…

75 – Jacob Nix
84 – Austin Smith
139 – Trey Wingenter
219 – Austin Allen
227 – Trevor Megill
296 – Kodie Tidwell
304 – Justin Pacchioli
332 – Josh Magee
365 – Ty France
377 – Nick Monroe
464 – Peter Van Gansen


Big West 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

Cal Poly JR C Brian Mundell
UC Davis rSR 1B Nick Lynch
Cal Poly JR 2B Mark Mathias
Cal Poly JR SS Peter Van Gansen
Long Beach State JR 3B Zack Rivera
Cal State Northridge rJR OF Spencer O’Neil
UC Santa Barbara JR OF Dalton Kelly
Hawaii SR OF Keao Aliviado

UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Dillon Tate
Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Thomas Eshelman
Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Justin Garza
UC Santa Barbara JR LHP Justin Jacome
UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Dylan Hecht

I’ve written about Santa Barbara JR RHP Dillon Tate a bit before. One particularly pertinent excerpt…

Speaking of parallels, and I really hate to make this comparison because of how lazy it’ll appear, hear me out with this one. Long-time readers of the site know I do my best to look past player characteristics that don’t matter when it comes to developing comps, so hopefully I get the benefit of the doubt on this one. In all honesty, it makes a lot of baseball sense so whatever let’s just do it: Tate’s scouting profile looks a lot like Marcus Stroman’s coming out of Duke. The differences (mechanics aren’t similar at all [man, I loved Stroman’s] and Tate has a few inches on Stroman) are real, but the ties that bind the two are far more interesting. Both Tate and Stroman were primarily relievers through two years of college (Stroman made 13 starts out of his 34 games), both are/were great athletes with repeatable deliveries (even if you don’t love Tate’s, as I don’t, he is athletic enough to keep it up), and both clearly had the stuff to start once you looked past some of the superficial “he’s a reliever!” concerns (big fastballs, plus hard sliders/cutters, and underdeveloped changeups with big upside). I think it’s pretty cool that we’ve come far enough in just a few short years to better appreciate what a slightly non-conventional pitcher can do, and Tate should have no problem blowing past Stroman’s draft ceiling (22nd overall pick) this June. It helps that Tate has a little more size — Stroman being 5’9″ took the short righthander thing to a wonderful extreme — and a few additional contemporary examples of young big leaguers (Yordano Ventura) and minor league stars (Luis Severino) that helped crack the shorty righty glass ceiling. Speaking of Severino, I don’t know if that’s a terrible comparison for Tate, either. I prefer Stroman, but Severino, who dazzled me the two different times I got to see him this summer (93-96 FB, 98 peak; cartoonish mid-80s breaking ball, and a more advanced CU than most pitchers his age), isn’t a terrible name to be associated with.

I’d rather not use up all my words on Tate again because there are a ton of other quality arms in the Big West to get to, but suffice it to say that the fireballing righty from Santa Barbara is really, really good and all but a lock for the top ten of this year’s draft barring injury.

What a pleasant surprise it was to find Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Thomas Eshelman has a lot more fans among pro guys than I would have originally guessed. I’ve written about the different perception of college writers versus draft writers a few times over the years, and Eshelman seemed like a perfect case study as a dominant college starter unlikely to keep up his awesome results as a pro because of a lack of overpowering stuff. Thankfully, the majority of the smart people I asked about Eshelman couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about his professional future. Obviously expectations contextualize their enthusiasm – he’s not a first round prospect and not a future big league ace, two simple realities that ought to go without saying but might come as a surprise to the staunchest college only baseball fans – so we’re talking more about the better than expected chance that he’ll continue to stay in a rotation in the pros with the possibility of him reaching a mid- to back-end rotation starter status before long. Some draft guys dismiss Eshelman altogether as a future pro, but I don’t get why his strengths (plus-plus command, plus-plus control, and a variety of offspeed pitches designed to keep batters as off-balanced as a weeble who not only wobbles but has in fact fallen down) won’t translate to the pro game. Even his fastball velocity, his biggest perceived weakness coming into the season, has firmed up from the mid-80s (touching 90) to closer to the upper-80s (93 peak). That’s fast enough for me, especially when you consider his pinpoint command of the pitch and significant deception in his delivery. The deception in his motion in addition to the overall package and future pro outlook all bring to mind Ben Lively, a fourth round pick in 2013. That seems like a reasonable expectation for Eshelman at this point. Other big league names that I’ve heard Eshelman’s ceiling compared to include Aaron Harang, Brandon McCarthy, Tanner Roark, and Phil Hughes.

Eshelman’s teammate JR RHP Justin Garza is another unconventional pitching prospect with big league rotation stalwart upside. Unlike Eshelman, Garza’s got the classic stuff of a power pitcher: 90-94 FB (96 peak), above-average to plus 79-86 cut-SL, and an average 76-82 changeup that flashes better. It’s Garza’s slight 5-11, 165 pound frame that make him a bit of an anomaly. It’s imperfect as a comp, but I view Garza almost as a harder throwing version of former Fullerton ace Tyler Pill*, a fourth round pick in 2011. In terms of ceiling, I’d stay in California and use former USC star and current Padres pitcher, Ian Kennedy.

*There are 36 pitchers ahead of Pill on Baseball America’s Mets depth chart and 54 total prospects ahead of him at Fangraphs. I’m not sitting here projecting stardom for the guy, but too often floor is not valued nearly enough by the experts. I understand that prospect guys garner more acclaim for hitting on top names and being the first to identify a high-upside low-minors player that make good, but let’s give a little love for the cheap, useful, and competent role players and maybe/maybe not fifth starters. Going for the home run is more fun – heck, I do it all the time and would go to bat for upside over certainty if forced to choose – but ML-ready talent that can be used to patch holes on rosters right now are grossly undervalued on expert lists. Maybe this is just the native Philadelphian in me, but I’d kill for a guy with a solid draft pedigree, decent stuff, and consistently stellar minor league success like Tyler Pill right now on the Phillies roster.

JR LHP Justin Jacome, currently better known as Tate’s rotation-mate with UC Santa Barbara, deserves more draft love than he’s currently getting. Like Eshelman, he won’t overwhelm you with his velocity (85-90 FB, 92 peak) but the confidence he has in all five pitches (cutter, CB, CU, SL) makes it work. His size, athleticism, command, and changeup (my favorite of his secondaries) are all points in his favor. Next time anybody takes me too seriously, just remember that I had UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Dylan Hecht on my 2015 prospect to know list last year instead of Tate. I was buying him as the better bet to make the conversion to the rotation for reasons I don’t even remember. Now I can’t even find the guy on a roster. Anybody have any insight there? Ten minutes of Googling has me with more questions than answers.

Cal State Northridge JR RHP Calvin Copping is intriguing because of a fastball with more coming (86-92 now), occasional plus slider, and a changeup with promise. Cal State Fullerton SR LHP Tyler Peitzmeier is one of the country’s best relievers with the stuff (87-90 FB, plus CU) and deception to keep missing bats as a pro. UC Davis rJR RHP Max Cordy is a power arm with a plus fastball and not so plus control. As a high-profile transfer from Tennessee, UC Irvine JR RHP Matt Esparza was a name to watch coming into the season. He’s delivered so far as he’s ably mixed a solid fastball (88-93), plus hard splitter/slider thing, and flashed a truer breaking ball (upper-70s curve) with above-average upside.

The pitching in the Big West is deep and impressive, but what about the prospects tasked with hitting off these guys? The second base Big West prospect group for 2015 is a lot of fun. I could see up to a half-dozen future professional second basemen coming out of here. The obvious headliner is Cal Poly JR 2B/OF Mark Mathias. Mathias is a famous enough prospect by now that I probably don’t have to even mention this, but, man, can he hit. Mathias and hitter are basically synonymous at this point. He’s one of only two players in this year’s college class that I can put down plus for his hit tool and walk away feeling totally confident. A search of “plus hit” in my 130,000+ Word document produces only nine matches. Among them are UCLA JR OF Ty Moore, Mathias’s plus hit tool peer, and Notre Dame SO 2B/3B Cavan Biggio (a reasonable comp as a hitter for Mathias), as well as a few 2015 draft-eligible players I noted as having a chance for a plus hit tool in Cincinnati JR 2B/OF Ian Happ and Mississippi State rSO OF Jacob Robson. Other players in the mix for best hit tool in this class include obvious candidates like Arizona JR SS Kevin Newman, Vanderbilt JR SS Dansby Swanson, LSU JR 2B/SS Alex Bregman, and Florida State JR OF DJ Stewart. Dark horses I like more than others – and, again, we’re talking straight hit tool here only – are Auburn JR OF/2B Jordan Ebert and Ohio SR 1B Jake Madsen.

Some players engender more comps than others and for whatever reason Mathias is one of those guys. Baseball America has thrown out David Bell and Sam Travis as comparisons in the past. I’ve heard Placido Polanco, Howie Kendrick, and, my personal favorite (and, though he’s never told me why, one of my dad’s all-time favorite players) Mark Loretta.

UC Davis rSR 2B/OF Tino Lipson is a versatile defender (who happens to be really good at second) with plus speed and a patient approach. The buzz on Long Beach State rJR 2B Zach Domingues coming into the season shocked me in a good way. His bat has been slow to warm up so far this year, though he’s found a way to control the strike zone, one of the main selling parts of his game, despite his struggles. Cal State Fullerton JR 2B/SS Jake Jefferies is a quality all-around player who could see his stock rise if teams feel confident about his glove being able to hang at shortstop in small doses. Hawaii SR 2B Stephen Ventimilia isn’t big, but he’s a fantastic runner and athlete with a serious knack for getting on base.

As if this class needed another shortstop with the upside to one day start in the big leagues, here comes wildly underrated Cal Poly SS Peter Van Gansen and his steady glove, strong arm, and patient approach. He’s on the thin line between future utility player and potential regular right now, though his increased pop in 2015 could convince some teams he’ll hit enough to hold his own at the bottom of a lineup. I’m admittedly higher on him than most, but he checks enough of the boxes that teams like in potential backup infielders that I think he’ll wind up a valuable draft asset.

Cal Poly JR C Brian Mundell just keeps chugging along as one of the west coast’s most underrated catching prospects. All he’s done is produce since his first day on campus. I have him as a potential high-level backup catcher with the upside of starting in the big leagues with continued development. That’s aggressive, but, much like Van Gansen, I just like the way he plays the game.

UC Davis JR C Cameron Olson hasn’t been able to put it all together quite yet, but if he does then it’ll be worth the wait. His plus raw power and plus arm strength combination is what evaluators dream about. On the other end of the spectrum is the reliable yet unexciting profile of UC Irvine rSR C Jerry McClanahan. The veteran Anteater’s patient approach at the plate is my kind of prospect, but his lack of power and advanced age make him more organizational depth than future big league backup. Of course, the former can become the latter in certain cases, and there are all kinds of unseen advantages in bringing in quality workers like McClanahan to work with your minor league pitchers. I’d still have to take the upside play in Olson over the steady yet limited McClanahan, but I could understand why a team would want to use a late pick on a catcher that would put his pitchers first.

I’ve always been fond of Cal State Northridge rJR OF Spencer O’Neil’s physical ability, but his approach at the plate needs to change in a hurry if he’s to have the kind of pro future his raw talent suggests. UC Santa Barbara JR OF/1B Dalton Kelly has similar issues as a hitter, though he’s a really interesting athlete with serious speed and defensive tools varied enough to play both 1B and CF at a high level.


Back when I guess I thought I would physically be able to cover every team in college baseball I began working on previews for a few Big West schools. Since they’d never see the light of day otherwise, why not rescue these unfinished drafts from my Gmail archives with the adoring public? Keep in mind that these were all written back in December, so blame any stupidity you read on that fact and that fact alone.

Long Beach State

SO SS Garrett Hampson’s time under the draft microscope is still a year away, but that won’t stop scouts from honing in on him this spring. Part of that is because he’s a huge draw on his own (crazy speed, great athlete, all the defensive upside you could ask for) and part of that is because he’s one of the very few draws on the roster. That’s not to say that players won’t emerge or that I’m missing quality prospects hiding in plain sight, but I’m not sure there’s a sure-fire 2015 draft prospect on this roster. JR 3B Zack Rivera showed promise in 2013, but his production took a dive in a small sample last year. JR C Eric Hutting has professional backup catcher traits (arm, glove, athleticism), but, like Rivera, took too big a step back with the bat last year for me to be comfortable calling him a 2015 draft lock. rSR RHP Kyle Friedrichs, a Tommy John surgery survivor back in 2013, has always had nice peripherals and solid stuff. He’s probably my favorite of the upperclass pitching crop, but it’s an admittedly thin group at the moment.


There’s some nice talent scattered across the Hawaii lineup. You can point to just about any regular position player and identify a skill or tool that stands out enough to get on a follow list. There’s not much power on the roster, so scouts will key on players that could keep advancing levels by way of their speed, defense, and athleticism. The two players that best embody those physical attributes are SR OF Keao Aliviado and SR 2B Stephen Ventimilia. Both seniors are undersized (5-7ish, 160ish pounds) grinders with athleticism to spare. Ventimilia is the better runner and Aliviado has flashed a tiny bit more functional power, but those are two of the few separating characteristics here. Each guy has hit well in a wood bat league, each guy has walked as much as he’s struck out (more or less in Aliviado’s case), and each guy should have no problem hanging at an up-the-middle defensive position. Neither player profiles as anything close to a starter, but both should be late-round senior signs and strong organizational players with the kind of makeup that would give an organizational a net gain just by being around other young players.

Hawaii’s pitching looks decent enough that it’s not crazy to think a pitcher or two could get selected off the roster in June. I’m curious to see what JR RHP Tyler Brashears can do, hopeful that SR RHP Eric Gleese can put it all together in his last year, and fascinating to see what rSR LHP Jarrett Arakawa has left in the tank. Arakawa, a fifth-year senior who’s strong freshman season (7.43 K/9) got him early attention, has survived a missed season (2013) after having a procedure done on his labrum. What he lacks in stuff post-injury he makes up for in guile on the mound. His case may unfortunately wind up as a “what if” rather than a happy draft day ending, but just having the opportunity to convince scouts he’s got what it takes to pitch professionally one last time is a success for Arakawa at this point.

Cal State Northridge

I still have the quote saved from when rJR OF Spencer O’Neil left Oregon after the 2013 season: he “decided to pursue other opportunities” and that was that. Well he’s back playing D1 ball this year and I’m damn pleased to see it. There’s the big question as to whether his approach will remain a hindrance to his overall game, especially after a year at junior college that showed little to no gains from his freshman season at Oregon (from 6 BB and 32 K at Oregon to 8 BB and 30 K at Central Arizona). I liken him to a power pitcher capable of hitting the mid-90s with a darting fastball that he has no idea how to harness effectively. The raw talent is obvious, but bridging the gap from prospect to player is going to take a lot more work than your typical draftable college bat.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting

  1. Cal Poly JR 2B/OF Mark Mathias
  2. Cal Poly JR SS Peter Van Gansen
  3. UC Davis rSR 2B/OF Tino Lipson
  4. Long Beach State rJR 2B Zach Domingues
  5. Cal Poly JR C Brian Mundell
  6. Cal State Northridge rJR OF Spencer O’Neil
  7. UC Santa Barbara JR OF/1B Dalton Kelly
  8. Cal State Fullerton JR 2B/SS Jake Jefferies
  9. UC Davis JR C Cameron Olson
  10. Hawaii SR OF Keao Aliviado
  11. Cal State Fullerton JR 1B Tanner Pinkston
  12. Cal Poly SR OF Zack Zehner
  13. UC Davis rSR 1B/3B Nick Lynch
  14. Hawaii SR 2B Stephen Ventimilia
  15. UC Irvine rSR C Jerry McClanahan
  16. UC Riverside SR 2B/OF Joe Chavez
  17. UC Santa Barbara SR OF Cameron Newell
  18. Cal State Northridge SR C Nick Murphy

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

  1. UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Dillon Tate
  2. Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Thomas Eshelman
  3. Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Justin Garza
  4. UC Santa Barbara JR LHP Justin Jacome
  5. Cal State Northridge JR RHP Calvin Copping
  6. UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Dylan Hecht
  7. Cal State Northridge rSR RHP Kyle Ferramola
  8. Hawaii JR RHP Tyler Brashears
  9. Cal State Fullerton SR LHP Tyler Peitzmeier
  10. UC Davis rJR RHP Max Cordy
  11. UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Connor Baits
  12. Cal State Fullerton SR RHP Willie Kuhl
  13. Cal State Northridge SR LHP Jerry Keel
  14. UC Irvine JR RHP Matt Esparza
  15. UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Trevor Bettencourt
  16. UC Santa Barbara JR RHP James Carter
  17. UC Riverside JR RHP Keaton Leach
  18. Cal Poly SR LHP Taylor Chris
  19. Hawaii JR RHP LJ Brewster
  20. Cal Poly JR RHP Casey Bloomquist
  21. UC Santa Barbara JR RHP Kenny Chapman
  22. Hawaii SR RHP Eric Gleese
  23. UC Riverside SR LHP Kevin Sprague
  24. UC Santa Barbara JR RHP/3B Robby Nesovic
  25. Hawaii rSR LHP Jarrett Arakawa
  26. Hawaii JR RHP Josh Pigg
  27. Cal State Northridge JR RHP Rayne Raven