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When I think of Florida State, I think hitting. The Seminoles routinely rank among the nation’s best in OBP and their position player prospects consistently arrive in pro ball as some of the most mature, patient hitters in the country. I love Florida State hitters. But should I? Is gaudy college production blinding me to more meaningful scouting concerns that have held back recent Florida State bats?
The days of JD Drew, Stephen Drew, Buster Posey (and Paul Sorrento and Doug Mientkiewicz before that) may be over, but picks going back to since I’ve started here in 2009 such as Tyler Holt, James Ramsey, Devon Travis, Jayce Boyd, DJ Stewart, and Ben DeLuzio (an unsigned FA) have carried on the Seminole tradition. Kind of. Of those six names only Travis (when healthy) has made a mark on the big leagues. There’s still time for Stewart and DeLuzio, but, much as I’ve liked both guys in the past, it’s more than fair to point out that neither rank particularly high on present prospect lists. The group of less than impressive Florida State alums in the pros probably doesn’t mean anything in a big picture sense — it’s neither all that large a sample nor all that damning a hit/miss rate in the first place — but it makes me a little curious about whether my own appreciation for Seminole hitters at the college level gets in the way of fairly evaluating them as potential professionals.
For the record, I don’t think a prospect should be judged by the players who came before him at the same school. So maybe this analysis is all for naught. It is, however, interesting to me to look at Florida State hitters specifically because the approach taught in Tallahassee is an outlier in the same way the Virginia crouch and the Stanford swing have proven to be. Here’s the six aforementioned recent Seminole bats with the initial number being my pre-draft ranking and the second number being where they were eventually selected…
38 – Holt – 300
86 – Ramsey – 23
240 – Travis – 424
193 – Boyd – 200
26 – Stewart – 25
343 – DeLuzio – 1217
Loved Holt, Travis, and DeLuzio way more than the pros did. So far only Travis has justified that love. Lower on Ramsey than the pros and about the same for Boyd and Stewart. So do I have a history of overranking Florida State hitters? Maybe! I honestly went into this thinking it would be a definitive yes and that the conclusion would actually tell me something useful about my own scouting proclivities. No such luck, but I’m not about to dump a half-hour of work for nothing.
Anyway, the 2018 Florida State team is loaded with pitching. How’s that for a segueway? As of this writing the Florida State staff has struck out 13.57 batters per nine innings. Damn. The two biggest arms coming into the year were LHP Tyler Holton and RHP Cole Sands. Unfortunately, Holton went down early in the season with an injury that necessitated Tommy John surgery. He’ll be a fascinating player to watch this June as teams make their best educated guesses about his signability. A top junior going down just 4.2 innings into the season is interesting in its own right, but Holton was a draft-eligible sophomore last season and selected in the 35th round by Miami. Stands to reason that teams got a pretty good feel for his signability based on that, but who really knows. A healthy Holton is a top prospect Holton. What he lacks in velocity (85-90 FB, 92 peak) he more than makes up for with pitchability, command, athleticism, and a pair of quality offspeed pitches (average upper-70s breaking ball, above-average 76-80 changeup that flashes plus). I had a dream — seriously — that Cleveland drafted and signed Holton last year (probably because they one drafted Tyler Holt), so, you know, if that happens then don’t forget you heard it here first.
Sands, a more conventionally appealing prospect than Holton, is healthy and throwing really well for Florida State to kick off his 2018. He’ll run his fastball up to the mid-90s (89-94, 96 peak) and features a breaking ball (78-82) that will flash above-average. Toss in a changeup and a mid-80s cut-slider and it’s easy to see why he’s considered an intriguing potential big league starting pitcher.
RHP Andrew Karp was really good last year despite a less than great ERA. He’s got the build, fastball (up to 94), and putaway offspeed pitch (above-average 79-82 changeup, flashes plus) to go far. The way 2018 has started for RHP Cobi Johnson is comical. No lie, I literally laughed out loud when I saw his numbers so far. As of this writing, he’s struck out 22 batters in 8.2 innings pitched. Johnson throws about as hard as Karp, but features a plus low-70s curveball as his go-to offspeed pitch. He can also mix in an average changeup and an interesting low-80s cut-slider. With numbers like that and the knowledge he’s not doing it with smoke and mirrors, Johnson has a rocket ship strapped to his prospect stock in my eyes.
(As I post this, Johnson’s sitting at 24 strikeouts in 10.1 innings pitched. He’s already slowing down!)
Neither RHP Ed Voyles nor RHP Will Zirzow has pitched yet this year, but both have the stuff and track record to get drafted by teams willing to take the long view on their respective prospect stocks. RHP Chase Haney, like Holton out for the year after Tommy John surgery, is a fun sidearming sinkerballer who could pitch his way to senior-sign status down the line.
I know a few individuals who have OF/RHP Steven Wells as a pitcher first and foremost on their boards. Most of my notes on him detail his ability on the mound (89-93 FB, mid-70s CB), so I guess there’s some logic to it. Four innings and 170+ at bats in his college career later, it’s pretty clear Wells should be judged as a hitter. A hot start to his 2018 — his 17 BB/8 K mark is notable even for a Seminole — is a point in his favor. He’s like a less accomplished version of former Seminole Mike McGee.
Finally, after a million words and a misleading introduction, we’ve finally gotten to a big-time hitting prospect. Simply put, C Cal Raleigh has star upside. I had him as a potential first rounder and the first college catcher off the board back when I did my initial 2018 MLB Mock Draft back in October. I stand by it. Raleigh’s blend of power, patience, and high likelihood of sticking behind the plate (where he’s admittedly more good than great and perhaps not for everyone) is tough to top. Let the overrating of another Florida State batter begin!
In all honesty, Raleigh is a tough player to overrate. Catchers on the whole are tough to overrate. A more fitting candidate to be overranked by me is OF/C Jackson Lueck. Lueck doesn’t have a true carrying tool, but is a well-rounded switch-hitter who has hit a ton since day one. If a team buys into him as a potential catching conversion, he’ll shoot up boards. As an outfielder he’s a bit of a tweener in almost every respect, for better or worse.
Auburn transfer C/1B Jonathan Foster is a steady hand behind the plate with enough power at it to be worth a follow. 1B/OF Rhett Aplin has some pop and plenty of arm strength, so a team that still sees him as a primary outfielder could take a chance on him late. How much SS Mike Salvatore will show with the bat remains to be seen, but his glove is solid enough to get him a look in a class weak in true shortstops. 2B Rafael Bournigal was a classic Florida State hitter even before setting foot on campus. The former Belmont Bruin has great patience at the plate and is a reliable defender at the keystone. His path to the big leagues will be tough as a second baseman with limited experience elsewhere (note: I’m unsure if he can play elsewhere, just pointing out that he hasn’t), but he makes a lot of sense to me as a late-round senior-sign based on his track record as a hitter. I mean, somebody has to play second base for you in the minors, right? Might as well be a patient, mature hitter with big league bloodlines.
Looking ahead, there’s predictably a lot to like in the 2019 and 2020 classes. 3B Drew Mendoza = superstar. OF/RHP JC Flowers isn’t too far behind. I really like LHP/OF Drew Parrish, RHP CJ Van Eyk, and LHP Austin Pollock as well. The Florida State machine rolls on and I can’t wait to overrate every last prospect here.
rJR RHP Andrew Karp (2018)
JR LHP Tyler Holton (2018)
rJR RHP Cobi Johnson (2018)
JR RHP Cole Sands (2018)
rSR RHP Ed Voyles (2018)
rSR RHP Will Zirzow (2018)
JR RHP Chase Haney (2018)
rJR RHP Alex Carpenter (2018)
rSO RHP Ronnie Ramirez (2018)
SR OF/RHP Steven Wells (2018)
JR C Cal Raleigh (2018)
JR OF/C Jackson Lueck (2018)
JR C/1B Jonathan Foster (2018)
JR SS Mike Salvatore (2018)
SR 1B/OF Rhett Aplin (2018)
rSR 1B Kyle Cavanaugh (2018)
rSR 2B Rafael Bournigal (2018)
SO LHP Clayton Kwiatkowski (2019)
SO LHP/OF Drew Parrish (2019)
SO OF/RHP JC Flowers (2019)
SO 3B Drew Mendoza (2019)
SO 2B/OF Nick Derr (2019)
SO SS Tyler Daughtry (2019)
FR LHP/OF Jonah Scolaro (2020)
FR LHP Shane Drohan (2020)
FR RHP CJ Van Eyk (2020)
FR LHP Austin Pollock (2020)
FR RHP Tyler Ahearn (2020)
FR RHP Conor Grady (2020)
FR SS Cooper Swanson (2020)
FR OF Reese Albert (2020)
Brendan McKay, Adam Haseley, Pavin Smith, and Drew Ellis are the four clear top tier ACC hitting prospects in the 2017 MLB Draft. I’m not sure anybody would quibble with the first three — though you’re free to do so, of course — so that leaves Ellis as the only somewhat controversial pick. I’d like to think my love for him is pretty well established by now, so I won’t go into too much detail why I think the present .405/.500/.759 hitter with plus raw power and more walks than strikeouts deserves serious first round consideration. Some clarity on his long-term defensive home would be nice, but I’m not sure it’s necessarily needed with how he’s hitting. As a third baseman, he’s a potential star. Same for a corner outfield spot. At first base, the bar is raised high enough that you’d have to knock him down the board just a bit, but not all that far considering the confidence I have in him continuing to hit past the necessary threshold to start in the big leagues there. There’s more to player evaluation than college production (duh), but worth pointing out that Ellis and McKay, more likely to go out as a hitter with every passing four homer day, have very similar 2017 numbers. If the latter is a slam dunk starter at first at the next level, then why couldn’t Ellis do the same if that’s what it comes down to?
Beyond that foursome, things are wide open. I’d be willing to hear arguments on any of the following seven players being tier one prospects: Taylor Walls, Brian Miller, Colby Fitch, Gavin Sheets, Stuart Fairchild, Logan Warmoth, and Devin Hairston. That’s six up-the-middle prospects plus the seemingly unstoppable bat of Sheets. The next tier down includes too many players to even bother listing at this point. I mean, I’ll do it anyway because writing more than necessary is true to my #brand, but it’s almost too many names to derive much meaning beyond “damn, the ACC is stacked this year.” There are consensus favorites with impressive tools who have underwhelmed (note: we’re only using “underwhelmed” in the context of incredibly high expectations of on-field numbers; none of these guys are having bad years by any stretch, it’s just that they are showing one or more flaws that would need to be addressed by any interested front office) from a performance standpoint to date (Evan Mendoza, Logan Taylor, Carl Chester, Kyle Datres, Joe Dunand) as well as personal favorites like Rhett Aplin, Wade Bailey, Reed Rohlman, Trevor Craport, Cody Roberts, Ben Breazeale, Robbie Coman (who, incidentally, I’ll be very glad once he’s drafted and gone from my life since my fingers want to spell his last name “Comand” every single time), Ernie Clement, Tyler Lynn, Bruce Stell, and Charlie Cody…damn, the ACC really is stacked this year.
Here are some All-Draft Prospect Teams that I whipped up while my computer was dead last week. I’m going to try to do these for as many conferences as I can squeeze in. The depth of the ACC let me go three teams deep. Here’s the first team…
C – Colby Fitch
1B – Pavin Smith
2B – Taylor Walls
SS – Logan Warmoth
3B – Drew Ellis
OF – Adam Haseley, Brian Miller, Stuart Fairchild
I think every one of these guys has been covered by now with the exception of Stuart Fairchild. The Wake Forest center fielder has one of this year’s most well-rounded skill sets. Averages dot his card with above-averages within range (perhaps a plus for speed) depending on how much you like him. Fairchild is also one of this class’s “great approach, hasn’t really shown it” types. Everybody who has seen him has raved to me about his pitch recognition, ability to spoil good pitchers’s pitches, and general knowledge of the strike zone, but his BB/K ratios have been up (39/42 last year) and down (18/40 as a freshman, 22/37 so far this year) throughout his college career. Count me in as a believer that the results will catch up to his talent in pro ball. Fairchild has the ceiling of a first-division regular in center with a mature enough present skill set that seems too strong across the board to result in a complete flame out. In English, I like both his ceiling and floor quite a bit.
What you think about Taylor Walls‘s defense should dictate how high you’re willing to run him up your board. Indecisive internet draft writer that I am, I vacillate between shortstop and second base on him far more often than I’d like to admit. Case in point: when I wrote this last night, I decided on second base for him. The logic there was simple: his arm may be a bit light for short and erring on the side of caution in cases like these (i.e, if there’s debate on whether or not an amateur guy will stick at a position, chances are he won’t) often proves the smartest strategy in the long run. On the other hand, his range is great, he’s an above-average runner (a solid proxy for athleticism), and some of the mixed opinions on his arm have it closer to playing plus than anything. So…I don’t know. I’m leaning shortstop today after having him as a second baseman yesterday. Ask me again tomorrow and I might make him a free safety. Wherever he plays, he’s a keeper. Maybe you don’t see a regular when looking at him (or maybe you do), but it’s hard not to see a big league player in some capacity.
I’m still not convinced Adam Haseley isn’t a top ten player in this class. Maybe I’m nuts. I can live with that. I also don’t see why the aforementioned Drew Ellis can’t crack the top thirty. These are really good players. The feeling I get about Ellis reminds me a little bit how I felt about Edwin Rios, sixth round steal by the Dodgers in 2015. I loved Rios then (ranked 119, drafted 192) and I love Ellis even more now. The second he inevitably falls out of the first round, he’ll then become one of this draft’s best value picks.
C – Cody Roberts
1B – Brendan McKay
2B – Wade Bailey
SS – Devin Hairston
3B – Charlie Cody
OF – Tyler Lynn, Logan Taylor, Carl Chester
Happy to keep banging the drum for Charlie Cody from now until draft day. He can hit. Putting him back at his high school position of third base in the pros takes a significant leap of faith after he’s spent the past three years splitting time between DH and LF, but I’m enough of a believer in his bat that moving him to an outfield corner wouldn’t torpedo his value altogether. I like Wade Bailey a lot as well; his stock should keep rising considering the general dearth of quality middle infielders in this college class.
I’ve mentally gone back and forth between Pavin Smith and Brendan McKay a dozen times this spring with the expectation I do it another half-dozen times between now and the draft. I’m not really sure you can go wrong with either at this point. Smith feels like the better all-around hitter (by a razor thin margin), but McKay has more present functional power. Add in McKay’s ability as a pitcher and it’s hard to argue he’s the better (and safer) overall prospect. I still like Smith a bit more as a position player, so that’s what gives him the nod over McKay for this particular exercise.
Logan Taylor and Carl Chester are cut from the same cloth. We’re talking speed, defense, and minimal pop. It’s a prospect profile I’ve never been able to quit even as I see players like this get exposed in pro ball year after year. The floor makes it worth it at a certain point in the draft, but I need to stop overrating these types. Will I? Stay tuned!
C – Robbie Coman
1B – Gavin Sheets
2B – Ernie Clement
SS – Bruce Steel
3B – Joe Dunand
OF – Rhett Aplin, Reed Rohlman, Jonathan Pryor
I wrote about Wake Forest in an as yet unpublished piece that will likely never see the light of day. It was half-finished, so I didn’t get to all of the big names on this year’s Demon Deacons team…but I did get to Bruce Steel. Here’s what I wrote about him about three weeks ago…
Bruce Steel makes my head hurt as a low-average, high-OBP, shockingly high-power potential middle infielder. His limited experience as a redshirt-sophomore after tearing ligaments in his thumb in 2016 just makes it all the more confusing. I’m super intrigued by Steel and think he’s getting slept on pretty heavily within the industry. His power and makeup are both legit (first two things I hear about when asking about him), reports about his defense this year at shortstop have been far more good than bad, and he’s young for his class (turns 21 in December). Did I just talk myself into making him a rare in-season FAVORITE? You bet.
Also wrote this about Jonathan Pryor with an lead-in about Ben Breazeale, who was narrowly edged out for this third catcher spot by Robbie Coman…
Ben Breazeale’s hot start brings me great joy. I thought a big year was coming last season, but better late than never. He’s an outstanding senior-sign catcher with more than enough glove to stick behind the plate and enough offensive punch to profile as a big league backup. Jonathan Pryor could do similar things as an outfielder who can hang in center and provide a little something with the stick. It’s early yet, but his 15/20 BB/K ratio is cool to see from somebody who put up an impossibly ugly 5/40 ratio just two seasons ago.
Pryor’s BB/K is now at 23/32 for those of you scoring at home.
Then there’s Gavin Sheets. I have no idea what to do with Gavin Sheets. I think he hits enough to play regularly in the big leagues. As a first baseman, that means I think he’ll hit a whole heck of a lot. If he can do that, he’ll become only the third ever Gavin (Floyd and Cecchini beat him) to play in the majors. I’m leaning towards Sheets as the fifth best draft-eligible bat in the conference and think he’ll represent great value to teams if he winds up sliding on draft day as expected. I know teams pay a premium for up-the-middle talent, but sometimes the allure of a big bat is just too strong to ignore.
Others receiving consideration…
C – Ben Breazeale, Chris Williams, Ryan Lidge
1B – Sam Fragale, Quincy Nieporte, Justin Bellinger, Kel Johnson
2B – Jack Owens, Jake Palomaki, Johnny Ruiz, Kyle Fiala
SS – Justin Novak, Liam Sabino
3B – Trevor Craport, Ryan Tufts, Jack Labosky, Evan Mendoza, Kyle Datres, Dylan Busby, Zack Gahagan
OF – Jacob Wright, Chase Pinder, Coleman Poje, Ryan Peurifoy, Hunter Tackett, Adam Pate, Josh McLain, Brock Deatherage, Mac Caples, Rahiem Cooper
I like Taylor Walls a lot. I think there’s a good chance he can keep playing shortstop in the pros. If that’s the case, then he has a chance to go much higher than wherever I’m likely to end up ranking him. That potential relatively low ranking stems from the fact that I’m far less than certain than many seem to be about his chances of developing into an everyday shortstop. In all honesty, I don’t really know what to make of his defense just yet. My eyes say “sure why not,” my ears (i.e., contacts I know and trust) say “nope,” and BIG DRAFT (BA, PG, D1) collectively seem to think of him as a lock to stick at short. That’s confusing. It adds up to “inconclusive, needs more evidence” for me, so I guess that’s my official position for now. Feel free to draw your own conclusions as you see fit. Frankie Piliere, who has been pumping out great stuff for some time now but has taken it to another level so far in 2017, compared Walls to Brock Holt earlier this year. I like that a lot. I’ve gotten two comps for him — Walls, not Piliere — that I like for the throwback vibes if nothing else: the young versions of Mark McLemore and Luis Alicea. Between those three comps — long-term big league role players with flashes of starting-caliber output, all — and the generally positive scouting notes on Walls (great glove at second, good glove at short; enough arm strength for the left side of the infield; above-average speed; typical Florida State approach as a hitter), it’s fair to think of him as a relatively high-floor prospect with starting middle infielder upside. The higher the odds you place on him remaining at shortstop, the higher he should be on your board.
This is a completely anecdotal statement based largely on the recent memory of Ben DeLuzio wearing the gold and garnet, but it feels like Florida State, a school famous for piling up free passes on the offensive side of the ball, has a big-time hitter every season who completely bucks the extreme patience trend. Enter Dylan Busby, the proud owner of a 49/167 (and counting!) career BB/K ratio. Athletically gifted enough to play anywhere on the diamond — 50/50 split on first or third (my preference as to not waste his above-average arm) as his long-term spot based on info I received — and capable of some of most majestic home runs (easy plus raw power) in all the land, Busby has a lot going for him. He’s not my kind of prospect, but the power/speed athletic profile will surely entice teams willing to overlook his present free-swinging ways.
Rhett Aplin has been really strong in his Florida State debut. There’s power, arm strength, and the usual Seminole emphasis on plate discipline there. I know some that are excited at the prospect of him getting on the mound eventually, but I think his offensive game is plenty to be happy about for now. Quincy Nieporte didn’t have the breakout 2016 some (me) were expecting, but he’s been damn good to start his final season in Tallahassee. The world will always need senior-signs with power, so keep Nieporte on your draft radar. “Strong and slow” was how one contact described him. I like that.
There are probably enough decent middle infielders in this class to keep Matt Henderson from getting a chance in pro ball. That’s a shame if only for the fact Henderson might be the weirdest player in college baseball. If I told you that there was a quality glove at second (playable at short) with above-average to plus speed putting up on-base percentages of .420 (in 2016) and .397 (so far in 2017) in one of college ball’s best lineups, then you’d be sold on that as a sure-fire draft target, right? But what if that guy also hit just .230 (in 2016) and is hitting .204 (so far in 2017) with dangerously little power? Bit of a tougher sell, I’m guessing. I’d begrudgingly remove Henderson from my hypothetical draft board even before taking into account the likelihood that his one offensive strength (taking four balls and walking to first) would get weakened in a hurry once pro pitchers got wise to his total lack of sock. It still doesn’t hurt to point out how weird and wonderful Henderson is in the college setting. He could play for my college team anytime.
I think all nine of the draft-eligible Florida State arms listed below could be drafted this June. That’s a ton of picks off of one staff. Let’s rank them based on that very likelihood…
9 – Ed Voyles – Good 2016, slow start in 2017; changeup (flashes plus) and size (6-7, 200) both working in his favor
8 – Alec Byrd – long track record of success should matter more than his ugly 2017 to date; decent velocity (86-91) from the left side with some projection left (6-4, 180)
7 – Steven Wells – argument could be made he could be ranked lower due to relative inexperience on the mound, but stuff (89-93 FB, mid-70s CB) and athleticism make him a project worth taking on
6 – Will Zirzow – misses bats with a well-rounded repertoire (good 73-76 CU, 73-74 CB) without premium velocity (86-88 FB)
5 – Cobi Johnson – a true wild card as he comes back from last April’s Tommy John surgery; at his best, arguably the best stuff of any draft-eligible pitcher here (87-92 FB, 94 peak; plus 73-74 CB; average CU; 81-83 cut-SL)
4 – Jim Voyles – more success than his brother with a more relief friendly featured offspeed pitch (plus 78-80 SL)
3 – Drew Carlton – floor of an effective sinker/slider reliever with the ceiling of a useful back of the rotation starter thanks to a quality if underutilized 79-82 MPH changeup
2 – Andrew Karp – the template for Johnson as he returns from injury; like Johnson, a big HS recruit known for legit stuff (87-92 FB, 94 peak; 84-86 SL; 77-81 CB; good 79-82 CU); finally putting it all together
1 – Tyler Holton – just about everything written about Charlie Barnes of Clemson earlier in the week — 85-90 FB (92 peak), 75-79 breaking ball with promise, nasty 76-78 changeup, command for days — applies to Holton with a strong case to be made that the Seminoles draft-eligible sophomore is the better long-term prospect; big fan of this guy and his expert pitchability
For the record, that countdown is less about my own personal feelings about each than guesses about draftability. My prep love of Johnson might push him all the way to the top of a straight ranking by personal preference. Wouldn’t argue with anybody who had Holton, Karp, or Carlton in the top spot, however. All are really good pro prospects.
JR RHP Cobi Johnson (2017)
JR RHP Drew Carlton (2017)
rSO RHP Andrew Karp (2017)
SR LHP Alec Byrd (2017)
rJR RHP Ed Voyles (2017)
SR RHP Jim Voyles (2017)
rJR RHP Will Zirzow (2017)
SO LHP/OF Tyler Holton (2017)
JR RHP/OF Steven Wells (2017)
JR OF/LHP Rhett Aplin (2017)
SR 1B Quincy Nieporte (2017)
JR 2B/SS Taylor Walls (2017)
SR C Bryan Bussey (2017)
JR 3B/1B Dylan Busby (2017)
SR 2B/SS Matt Henderson (2017)
SR OF/3B Hank Truluck (2017)
SO RHP Cole Sands (2018)
SO RHP Chase Haney (2018)
rFR RHP Alex Carpenter (2018)
SO RHP Ronnie Ramirez (2018)
rFR RHP Dillon Brown (2018)
SO C Cal Raleigh (2018)
SO OF/C Jackson Lueck (2018)
SO OF Donovan Petrey (2018)
FR LHP Clayton Kwiatkowski (2019)
FR RHP Brandon Reitz (2019)
FR RHP Justin Sorokowski (2019)
FR LHP/OF Drew Parrish (2019)
FR OF/RHP JC Flowers (2019)
FR 3B Drew Mendoza (2019)
FR 2B/OF Nick Derr (2019)
FR SS Tyler Daughtry (2019)
FR OF Ryan Mejia (2019)