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2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – Sun Belt

As we enter the fourth weekend of the college season, the charade of calling these “pre-season” lists grows sillier and sillier. As I’ve mentioned before, the rankings below are based off of pre-season evaluations while the commentary will occasionally venture over into updated real world happenings. This is done for two reasons: 1) consistency with other conference lists that actually were published before the season began, and 2) a not so subtle statement that two to three years of data and copious scouting notes far outstrips the importance of a few draft season plate appearances or innings pitched. I’ve seen some sites in the past update their draft rankings and talk lustily about college players rising and falling on draft boards based only on having “good” or “bad” outcomes in a given weekend – great moves for generating traffic, by the way – and all I can do is laugh.

So, once again, the rankings are left unchanged from where I had them six weeks or so ago when I put this together, but, after running this list by a few smart people and taking a quick peek at the Sun Belt stats page after three and a half weeks, there is certainly room for improvement.

The top two names on the hitting list are scuffling so far in the early going. Cole Billingsley, a favorite of mine thanks to outstanding athleticism, easy CF range, and above-average to plus speed, has had a slow start, but figures to get things rolling before too long. He’s a high-contact hitter who doubles as one of college ball’s best bunters. The entire package adds up to standout fourth outfielder if it all works in pro ball. Steven Sensley has less of a D1 track record, but he’s still been on the prospect map for years. With Sensley, you’re buying the bat coming alive in a big way because, outside of a strong arm, his tools outside of the batter’s box don’t excite. His ranking pretty clearly reflects what I think of his bat. The two are still my favorite position player prospects in the class, but the gap has admittedly closed some within this season’s first month.

Three names that have come up time and again when talking to those in the know are Ryan Scott, Joe Robbins, and Drew Labounty. The first two guys are off to scorching starts, so it’s no shock that I’ve heard a lot about them of late. My notes on Scott are sparse, but those who like his bat really seem to like it. I have a little more on Robbins – steady glove, can play multiple infield spots, average or better wheels – but nothing in his scouting dossier suggested an offensive breakout like the one he’s having. Is it a hot three weeks worth of games? Or a sign of real, sustainable growth? Beats me, but having one more prospect to follow with interest this spring is never a bad thing. LaBounty was the one player out of the trio that I heard a lot of positive things about all offseason. He received high praise for his glovework up the middle and I was partial to his impressive plate discipline (40 BB/38 K coming into the year). So far so good for LaBounty on both sides of the ball this spring. I write it often, so what’s one more time: in a draft short on college shortstop prospects of note, the opportunity is there for some of the currently less-heralded mid-major prospects to make some moves.

Granger Studdard is another personal favorite of mine out of the Sun Belt due to his power upside, athleticism, arm strength, and speed. The last three facets of his game are far stronger than you see out of a typical first base prospect, so it’s not shock that the majority of those I spoke to who like him as well prefer him as a corner outfielder. That defensive versatility only boosts his stock. The most interesting thing about Studdard to me is how scouts have raved about his approach since his first year at Texas State. Much like what has been said about Kyle Lewis at Mercer, the buzz surrounding Studdard has been about how he really knows how to hit and approaches every plate appearance like a seasoned veteran. Like Mercer, however, the results didn’t seem to back it up: Studdard hit well in both of his college seasons, but did so while putting up BB/K ratios of 19/42 and 20/62. The disconnect between the scouting take and the on-field indicators figured to come to a head in his draft season, and, so far, the scouts look like they know a thing or two about the game. SMALL SAMPLE SIZE, but Studdard has walked twelve times in 2016 with only five strikeouts to his name. If that’s real, then you can put his standing as one of the best under-the-radar mid-major bats in the county in ink.

On (kind of) the other end of the spectrum is Matt McLean of Texas-Arlington. McLean is a good runner and savvy all-around ballplayer who (to my knowledge) isn’t being talked up by anybody as a serious draft prospect. I’m not sure whether he is or isn’t, but the way he commands the strike zone has my respect. McLean is off to a similar start as Studdard (12 BB/4 K), but differs in that it’s part of a longer track record of doing so (40 BB/19 K last year). When looking to fill out rosters late during the draft, I’d recommend McLean to my scouting director every time. I’m high on the McLean’s on the world not only for what they could become in their own right – solid org guys can occasionally turn into useful pieces over time – but also because of the unseen positives that bringing players like this into an organization can provide. I don’t think McLean possesses any magic plate discipline dust that would rub off on his teammates, but having my young guys exposed to his consistent professional approach to the game, calculated plan of attack as a hitter, aggressive yet smart style of play in all phases, and determination to succeed no matter what couldn’t hurt.

I’ve used up most of my words on hitters (again), so I’ll be brief when it comes to the most interesting Sun Belt pitchers for 2016. The two arms that have gotten the most praise from those I’ve talked to are Kevin Hill and Brayden Bouchey.

Hill is the consummate college senior tearing up younger hitters with pinpoint command and stellar sequencing. He’s capable of tossing one of his three offspeed pitches in any count, and there’s now enough fastball (up to 88-92 this year, peaking at 93) to keep hitters from sitting on it. Smarts, plus command, and solid stuff make Hill a really good senior-sign, but it’s his fantastic athleticism that helps set him apart. The entire package makes him arguably one of the best potential senior-signs in the country. One scout referred to him as “store brand Aaron Nola.” I’m in.

(I wasn’t sure how to shoehorn this in without breaking up the flow otherwise, so a parenthetical aside will have to do. Tyler Zuber and Lucas Humpal are not entirely dissimilar to Hill as prospects. All have the high baseball IQ righthander thing down; Zuber and Humpal take it up a notch with advanced changeups good enough to be used as their primary out pitch. I guess the moral of this story is that if you miss out on the (slightly) more famous Hill, there are other appealing Sun Belt options with similar strengths to target on draft day.)

Bouchey came into the year with lackluster peripherals (3.75 K/9 and 4.00 BB/9 in 36.1 IP last year) despite intriguing stuff. In weighing performance vs projection, I tend to put more weight on the former when compared to “real” scouts. You can’t scout solely off of statistical output, but it’s a really big piece of the puzzle. This is where the internet can be a bit of a bummer. To get heard, you need to go to extremes. Whether that means extolling the virtues of a player who has put up big numbers with neutral or worse scouting reports (and getting blasted for scouting the box score and discounting projection as a factor) or holding on to beliefs formed in one short look at a player despite all statistical evidence to the contrary (and getting ripped by those who believe development is linear and Heisman Trophies equate to pro success), you need to be LOUD to get recognized. Moderate approaches that attempt to balance a multitude of factors are not nearly as fun to read about, I guess. There’s no need to constantly be hedging one’s bets along the way – that’s simply not realistic – but a little patience, humility, and self-awareness on the part of the evaluator can go a long way.

I personally don’t think there’s anything about baseball that’s all that complicated, at least outside of actually playing it well at a high level. Playing is hard, but watching and forming opinions about what you’ve watched is a pretty straightforward endeavor. With few exceptions, if a player has put up impressive numbers at every level of competition along the way, then said player deserves to keep getting chances until he doesn’t. Conversely, if a player have the kind of physical ability that is apparent to a five-year old on his or her first ever day at the park, he’s entitled to a few extra shots even after he’s shown he’s not yet ready to consistently produce. There’s no need to pick a side: the draft goes forty rounds deep every year for a reason, there’s room for all types to get their shot. Some guys produce and produce and produce without it ever looking like they should be able to do the things they do; others can keep it up against a certain level of competition before their fatal flaws are exploited. Some guys take a really long time to go from toolsy athlete to high-performing ballplayer; others never really get past just being bigger, faster, and more athletic than their peers enough to develop the necessary skills they’ll need later on.

With Bouchey you get the best (or worst, if you’re a glass half-empty type) of both worlds. Coming into the season, his numbers left little to get excited about. His scouting reports, however, were uniformly upbeat: his 88-92 fastball with real sink, promising curve, plus command, deception in his delivery, and intriguing size (6-6, 210) had those who had seen him up close encouraged about his future. In his case, projection appears to be winning out over prior production, at least now that the (small sample size!) results (12.15 K/9 and 3.31 BB/9 in 16.1 IP) have caught up to his talent level. It doesn’t always work out quite this well, so we’ll enjoy it for now…and hope that Bouchey has turned the corner as a prospect. As with Hill, I’m in.

I’m less in on Joel Kuhnel. The big righty from Texas-Arlington, who incidentally reminds me of one of the many flame-throwing Dallas Baptist relievers from last year, is a favorite of many I’ve spoken to, but, for reasons both on the scouting side and the numbers side, I’m not really feeling it. It’s very likely a reliever profile (to me), so some of his value is cut off at the legs already. I do think he can be a fine bullpen piece with continued refinement — starting with a fastball that touches 96-97 and a hard 86-87 MPH slider doesn’t hurt – so depending on where he falls on draft day he could be a nice value for a team searching for a potential late-inning arm. I’ve gotten a Toddy Coffey comp for him that works in a few different ways (though I’m unclear if Kuhnel’s mound entrance is as entertaining as Coffey’s), but I think that could wind up being a little light in the long run. Not that there’s anything wrong with an eight-year career that earns you just under seven million bucks, of course. I suppose part of my relative lack of love for Kuhnel is anticipating how highly others will value him come June. It’s not ideal logic, but it’s all I’ve got for now.

(Another parenthetical just because: Todd Coffey had such a great journeyman reliever career. Look at his ERA+ by season: 96, 131, 80, 101, 142, 85, 106, 83. The gold standard for that had always been Rheal Cormier’s run with the Phillies for me [101, 74, 235, 127, 75, 297], but I think Coffey tops it with his beautiful yo-yo run. It’s like if the Giants organization were embodied by one man.)

I wrote about Reagan Bazar back in October…

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.

He was ranked way too high on that list and arguably too high on this list, but I just can’t quit on his velocity. I might just have to accept the fact I’ll always rank him too high and move on. But if he does put it all together…

Hitters

  1. South Alabama rJR OF/LHP Cole Billingsley
  2. Louisiana rSO 1B/OF Steven Sensley
  3. Georgia State JR OF/3B Ryan Blanton
  4. Louisiana SR 1B/2B Stefan Trosclair
  5. Texas State JR OF/1B Granger Studdard
  6. Louisiana SR OF Kyle Clement
  7. South Alabama rSO SS Drew LaBounty
  8. Georgia Southern JR 1B Ryan Cleveland
  9. Georgia State SR C Joey Roach
  10. Texas-Arlington SR OF Matt McLean
  11. Arkansas State SR OF Austin Baker
  12. Louisiana-Monroe SR C Dalton Todd
  13. Louisiana SR C Nick Thurman
  14. Arkansas-Little Rock JR OF/1B Dalton Thomas
  15. Arkansas State JR OF Garrett Rucker
  16. Georgia Southern JR OF Jordan Wren
  17. Louisiana JR OF Ishmael Edwards
  18. South Alabama rSO C/OF Jared Barnes
  19. Louisiana JR SS/2B Brad Antchak
  20. Troy JR OF/1B Trevor Davis
  21. Texas-Arlington SR OF Cody Farrell
  22. Texas-Arlington SR 2B/SS Darien McLemore
  23. Louisiana JR 3B/2B Brenn Conrad
  24. Arkansas-Little Rock SR OF Ryan Scott
  25. Louisiana JR SS/3B Joe Robbins
  26. Arkansas State SR OF Ty White
  27. Louisiana JR 3B Alex Pinero
  28. Appalachian State JR OF Tyler Stroup
  29. South Alabama JR 1B/3B Edward Paparella
  30. Arkansas State JR 2B/3B Joe Schrimpf
  31. Texas-Arlington JR 2B/OF Quintin Rohrbaugh
  32. South Alabama JR 2B/OF Adam Wolfe
  33. Arkansas State JR 2B Eric Wilcoxson
  34. Texas State SR C/1B Tanner Hill
  35. Georgia Southern rSR OF Hunter Thomas
  36. Texas State SR OF/LHP Cory Geisler
  37. South Alabama SR SS Ryan Raspino
  38. South Alabama JR 2B Matt Bolger
  39. South Alabama SR 1B Daniel Martinez
  40. Troy SR 1B/RHP Austin Hulsey
  41. Troy rJR 3B/C TJ Binder

Pitchers

  1. Louisiana JR RHP Reagan Bazar
  2. Texas-Arlington JR RHP Joel Kuhnel
  3. Arkansas State JR RHP Tyler Zuber
  4. South Alabama rSR RHP Kevin Hill
  5. Texas State SR RHP Lucas Humpal
  6. Troy SR RHP Lucas Brown
  7. Arkansas State rSO RHP Brian Ayers
  8. Texas State rSR RHP Jeremy Hallonquist
  9. Arkansas State SR RHP/OF Adam Grantham
  10. Georgia Southern SR RHP Chris Brown
  11. South Alabama SR RHP Justin Flores
  12. Louisiana-Monroe JR RHP Brayden Bouchey
  13. Texas State rJR LHP Jonathan Hennigan
  14. Appalachian State JR RHP/OF Matt Brill
  15. Arkansas State SR RHP/3B Tanner Ring
  16. Georgia State JR RHP Bryce Conley
  17. Troy JR LHP Evan Hebert
  18. South Alabama rSO RHP Austin Geyer
  19. Arkansas-Little Rock JR RHP Cody McGill
  20. Georgia Southern JR RHP Landon Hughes
  21. Appalachian State JR RHP/OF Brian Bauk
  22. Louisiana-Monroe JR RHP/2B Anthony Herrera
  23. Louisiana JR RHP Chris Charpentier
  24. Troy SR RHP Grant Bennett
  25. Georgia State SR RHP Cole Uvila
  26. Georgia State SR RHP Clayton Payne
  27. Arkansas State SR RHP/OF Derek Birginske
  28. South Alabama rSR RHP Mike Dolloff
  29. Georgia State JR LHP Devin Vainer
  30. Troy JR RHP Marc Skinner
  31. Arkansas-Little Rock JR RHP Cody Daylor
  32. South Alabama rSR RHP Cody Van Aken
  33. Louisiana SR RHP Eric Carter
  34. Appalachian State JR LHP Dallas DeVrieze
  35. Georgia State SR LHP Wayne Wages
  36. Appalachian State SR RHP Caleb McCann
  37. Arkansas-Little Rock JR RHP Reed Willenborg
  38. Louisiana SR RHP Will Bacon
  39. Georgia Southern SR RHP Ryan Frederick
  40. Arkansas State JR LHP Coulton Lee
  41. Arkansas-Little Rock JR RHP Cory Malcom
  42. South Alabama SR RHP Hunter Soleymani
  43. South Alabama SR LHP Shane McKinley
  44. Georgia Southern SR LHP Anthony Paesano
  45. South Alabama SR LHP Austin Stephens

Appalachian State

SR RHP Caleb McCann (2016)
JR RHP Sean Mason (2016)
JR LHP Dallas DeVrieze (2016)
JR RHP/OF Brian Bauk (2016)
JR RHP/OF Matt Brill (2016)
JR OF Tyler Stroup (2016)
SR 1B Grayson Atwood (2016)
SO RHP Luke Watts (2017)
SO RHP Reed Howell (2017)
SO SS Henry Davis (2017)
SO INF Conner Leonard (2017)
SO OF Drake Zupcic (2017)

High Priority Follows: Caleb McCann, Sean Mason, Dallas DeVrieze, Brian Bauk, Matt Brill, Tyler Stroup, Grayson Atwood

Arkansas State

JR RHP Tyler Zuber (2016)
rSO RHP Brian Ayers (2016)
JR LHP Coulton Lee (2016)
SR RHP/OF Derek Birginske (2016)
SR RHP/OF Adam Grantham (2016)
SR RHP/3B Tanner Ring (2016)
SR 1B Matt Burgess (2016)
JR OF Garrett Rucker (2016)
SR OF Austin Baker (2016)
SR OF Ty White (2016)
JR 2B Eric Wilcoxson (2016)
JR 2B/3B Joe Schrimpf (2016)
FR RHP Peyton Culbertson (2018)

High Priority Follows: Tyler Zuber, Brian Ayers, Coulton Lee, Derek Birginske, Adam Grantham, Tanner Ring, Matt Burgess, Garrett Rucker, Austin Baker, Ty White, Eric Wilcoxson, Joe Schrimpf

Arkansas-Little Rock

JR RHP Cody McGill (2016
JR RHP Keenan Wingfield (2016)
JR RHP Cody Daylor (2016)
SR LHP Jarrid Garcia (2016)
JR RHP Cory Malcom (2016)
JR RHP Reed Willenborg (2016)
JR OF/1B Dalton Thomas (2016)
JR OF Nik Gifford (2016)
SR OF Ryan Scott (2016)
SR 3B Kyle Kirk (2016)
FR RHP Zach Ours (2018)
FR RHP Joe Corbett (2018)
FR OF Keegan Meyn (2018)
FR C Jonathan Davis (2018)
FR 1B/OF Riley Pittman (2018)
FR INF Christian Reyes (2018)

High Priority Follows: Cody McGill, Cody Daylor, Jarrid Garcia, Cory Malcom, Reed Willenborg, Dalton Thomas, Ryan Scott

Georgia Southern

JR RHP Landon Hughes (2016)
SR RHP Chris Brown (2016)
SR RHP Ryan Frederick (2016)
rJR LHP Evan Challenger (2016)
SR LHP Anthony Paesano (2016)
rSO RHP Adam Kelly (2016)
JR OF Jordan Wren (2016)
JR INF Evan McDonald (2016)
JR 1B Ryan Cleveland (2016)
rSR OF Hunter Thomas (2016)
JR 2B/SS Cal Baker (2016)
SO LHP Connor Simmons (2017)
FR RHP Chandler Newman (2018)
FR OF CJ Ballard (2018)

High Priority Follows: Landon Hughes, Chris Brown, Ryan Frederick, Evan Challenger, Anthony Paesano, Adam Kelly, Jordan Wren, Evan McDonald, Ryan Cleveland, Hunter Thomas, Cal Baker

Georgia State

SR RHP Clayton Payne (2016)
SR LHP Wayne Wages (2016)
SR RHP Cole Uvila (2016)
SR LHP Garrett Ford (2016)
JR LHP Devin Vainer (2016)
JR RHP Bryce Conley (2016)
SR RHP Marc-André Habeck (2016)
rSR RHP Alex Hegner (2016)
JR OF/3B Ryan Blanton (2016)
SR C Joey Roach (2016)
SR OF James Clements (2016)
JR OF Jaylen Woullard (2016)
JR 3B Jarrett Hood (2016)
SR OF Cam Sperry (2016)
SO RHP Logan Barnette (2017)
SO SS Justin Jones (2017)
SO 1B Jack Thompson (2017)
SO OF Will Johnson (2017)
SO 2B Will Kilgore (2017)
FR C Nick Gatewood (2018)

High Priority Follows: Clayton Payne, Wayne Wages, Cole Uvila, Devin Vainer, Bryce Conley, Alex Hegner, Ryan Blanton, Joey Roach

Louisiana

JR RHP Reagan Bazar (2016)
SR RHP Will Bacon (2016)
SR RHP Colton Lee (2016)
SR RHP Eric Carter (2016)
JR RHP Chris Charpentier (2016)
SR C Nick Thurman (2016)
SR 1B/2B Stefan Trosclair (2016)
JR 3B/2B Brenn Conrad (2016)
JR SS/2B Brad Antchak (2016)
SR OF Kyle Clement (2016)
JR OF Ishmael Edwards (2016)
rSO 1B/OF Steven Sensley (2016)
JR 3B Alex Pinero (2016)
JR SS/3B Joe Robbins (2016)
SR OF Derek Herrington (2016)
SO RHP Wyatt Marks (2017)
SO RHP Dylan Moore (2017)
SO RHP Evan Guillory (2017)
SO RHP Logan Stoelke (2017)
SO LHP/1B Gunner Leger (2017)
SO SS/OF Kennon Fontenot (2017)
FR RHP Jacob Norman (2018)
FR RHP Nick Lee (2018)
FR LHP Hogan Harris (2018)
FR C Ryne Ray (2018)
FR 2B/SS Hunter Kasuls (2018)
FR OF Johnny Rizer (2018)
FR SS Dylon Poncho (2018)

High Priority Follows: Reagan Bazar, Will Bacon, Eric Carter, Chris Charpentier, Nick Thurman, Stefan Trosclair, Brenn Conrad, Brad Antchak, Kyle Clement, Ishmael Edwards, Steven Sensley, Alex Pinero

Louisiana-Monroe

JR RHP Brayden Bouchey (2016)
rJR RHP Chase Cater (2016)
rSR RHP Brandon Bell (2016)
rJR RHP Josh Leone (2016)
JR RHP Derek Martin (2016)
JR RHP/2B Anthony Herrera (2016)
SR C Dalton Todd (2016)
rSR OF Jacob Stockton (2016)
SR 1B Danny Springer (2016)
JR OF Cade Stone (2016)
SR OF Nathan Pugh (2016)
SO RHP/OF Keegan Curtis (2017)
SO C Spencer Hemphill (2017)
FR LHP Ethan Daily (2018)

High Priority Follows: Brayden Bouchey, Anthony Herrera, Dalton Todd, Danny Springer

South Alabama

rSR RHP Cody Van Aken (2016)
rSR RHP Kevin Hill (2016)
rSR RHP Mike Dolloff (2016)
JR LHP Thomas Huston (2016)
JR RHP Randy Bell (2016)
rSR RHP Austin Bembnowski (2016)
SR LHP Shane McKinley (2016)
SR RHP Hunter Soleymani (2016)
SR LHP Austin Stephens (2016)
SR RHP Justin Flores (2016)
rSO RHP Austin Geyer (2016)
SR RHP Ryne Long (2016)
rJR OF/LHP Cole Billingsley (2016)
SR 1B Daniel Martinez (2016)
SR SS Ryan Raspino (2016)
rSO C/OF Jared Barnes (2016)
rSO SS Drew LaBounty (2016)
JR 1B/3B Edward Paparella (2016)
JR 2B/OF Adam Wolfe (2016)
SR 1B/3B Ben Gann (2016)
JR 2B Matt Bolger (2016)
JR C Tanner Halstead (2016)
JR OF Jalen Haskin (2016)
FR LHP/OF Travis Swaggerty (2018)
FR C Carter Perkins (2018)
FR OF Dylan Hardy (2018)
FR INF Wells Davis (2018)
FR 3B/OF Brendan Donovan (2018)

High Priority Follows: Cody Van Aken, Kevin Hill, Mike Dolloff, Shane McKinley, Hunter Soleymani, Austin Stephens, Justin Flores, Austin Geyer, Cole Billingsley, Daniel Martinez, Ryan Raspino, Jared Barnes, Drew LaBounty, Edward Paparella, Adam Wolfe, Matt Bolger

Texas-Arlington

JR RHP Joel Kuhnel (2016)
SR RHP Jacob Moreland (2016)
rSO LHP Adam Meyer (2016)
SR OF Cody Farrell (2016)
SR OF Matt McLean (2016)
SR 2B/SS Darien McLemore (2016)
SR 1B Jackson Morris (2016)
SR OF Caleb Koedyker (2016)
JR C Brady Cox (2016)
JR 2B/OF Quintin Rohrbaugh (2016)
SO RHP Reid Petty (2017)
SO RHP Daniel James (2017)
SO 3B/OF Christian Hollie (2017)
SO SS/OF RJ Williams (2017)
FR 1B Noah Vaughn (2018)
FR INF Josh Minjarez (2018)

High Priority Follows: Joel Kuhnel, Adam Meyer, Cody Farrell, Matt McLean, Darien McLemore, Jackson Morris, Quintin Rohrbaugh

Texas State

SR RHP Lucas Humpal (2016)
rSR RHP Jeremy Hallonquist (2016)
SR RHP Justin Dellinger (2016)
rJR LHP Jonathan Hennigan (2016)
rSR RHP Pasquale Mazzoccoli (2016)
SR OF/LHP Cory Geisler (2016)
JR OF/1B Granger Studdard (2016)
SR C/1B Tanner Hill (2016)
SO 3B Jaylen Hubbard (2017)
SO SS Luke Sherley (2017)
SO C/2B Jared Huber (2017)
FR 2B Jonathan Ortega (2018)
FR 1B Nick Perez (2018)

High Priority Follows: Lucas Humpal, Jeremy Hallonquist, Jonathan Hennigan, Cory Geisler, Granger Studdard, Tanner Hill

Troy

SR RHP Lucas Brown (2016)
SR RHP Grant Bennett (2016)
SR LHP Austin Crook (2016)
JR RHP Marc Skinner (2016)
JR LHP Evan Hebert (2016)
rSO RHP Jesse Nelson (2016)
SR 1B/RHP Austin Hulsey (2016)
rJR 3B/C TJ Binder (2016)
JR OF/1B Trevor Davis (2016)
SR C Tripp Calhoun (2016)
SO RHP Corey Childress (2017)
SO LHP Perez Knowles (2017)
SO OF/LHP Reid Long (2017)
FR C Chase Smartt (2017)
SO SS Matt Sanders (2017)
FR RHP Zack Lightsey (2018)
FR 2B Brandon Lockridge (2018)

High Priority Follows: Lucas Brown, Grant Bennett, Marc Skinner, Evan Hebert, Austin Hulsey, TJ Binder, Trevor Davis

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