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If you’re one of the small handful of daily readers, you can go ahead and skip this post. You’ve already seen it. Not that you needed my permission or anything, but you’re free to pass all the same. The intent here is to get all of the college content in one place, so below you’ll find everything I’ve written about the 2016 class of MLB Draft prospects currently playing in the SEC. Then I’ll have a college baseball master list post that will centralize everything I’ve written about the 2016 MLB Draft college class all in one place. It’s a rare bit of inspired organizational posting around here, so I’m trying to strike while motivated…
After we get past the Magnificent Seven of the SEC, we get to a tier of pitchers with tons of promise but with compelling questions that will need answering at the pro level. Check the whole list here and then swing back below for some actual analysis — an attempt, at least — of some of the standout pitchers who didn’t make the cut in the top tier yet still have big potential pro futures. Let’s first look at some of the talented guys with question marks that kept them just out of that top tier…
Keegan Thompson and Kyle Serrano are both very talented, but how will they bounce back from Tommy John surgeries that cost them (or are in the process of costing them) a full year of development? Wil Crowe, the talented righthander from South Carolina, is in the same boat a little bit further down the list. Kyle Cody’s stuff has always outstripped his results on the field. Is he destined to forever be a consistently inconsistent professional in the mold of fellow Wildcat Alex Meyer or is there something more in his game that can be unlocked with the right coaching? Is the fact that you could say similar things about his teammate Zack Brown a good thing (get them out of Kentucky and watch them flourish) or a not so good thing (these are just the types they recruit and develop)? Shaun Anderson and Dane Dunning have flashed outstanding stuff in their own right, but do they have what it takes to transition back to the rotation after spending so much time pitching out of the bullpen as part of the ridiculously deep Florida staff? You could ask the same question of Ben Bowden of Vanderbilt, though I think his body of work is proof enough that his pitching style and far more explosive fastball in shorter bursts make sticking in the bullpen a very attractive long-term plan. What do we do with Austin Bain and Brigham Hill, a pair of draft-eligible sophomores with less of a track record than many of their 2016 draft class counterparts?
The list just keeps going. Look at the lefthanders alone: John Kilichowski, Daniel Brown, Connor Jones, Scott Moss, Jared Poche’. All of those young pitchers have considerable pro upside, yet the likelihood of more than two landing in the top five rounds next month feels like a long shot. Kilichowski excelled last season with nearly a strikeout per inning thanks to a legit four-pitch mix, above-average command, and impressive size on the mound. He’s only pitched 11.0 innings so far in 2016, so evaluating him will necessitate taking the long view of his development over the past few seasons. Brown doesn’t have the same imposing frame at just 5-10, 180 pounds, but, like Kilichowski, he can miss bats with a solid fastball and three average or better offspeed pitches. It may be a little out there, but a case could be made that the other Connor Jones actually has more long-term upside than the righthanded Virginia ace. This Jones has gotten good yet wild results on the strength of an above-average or better fastball from the left side and a particularly intriguing splitter. Moss is a wild card as another good yet wild performer with the size (6-5, 215) and stuff (90-94 FB, solid breaking ball and low-80s CU) to make a big impact at the end of games as a professional. The further he gets from his own Tommy John surgery, the better he’s been. Then there’s Poche’, the LSU lefty who fits in some with our Logan Shore discussion from yesterday with a K/9 that has gone from 5.11 to 5.94 to 7.52 in his three years as a Tiger. I still think of him more as a really good college pitcher than a premium pro prospect, but that progress is at least somewhat encouraging. At his best, Poche’ is more than capable of offspeeding a lineup to death. There’s some fifth starter/solid matchup reliever upside with him.
There are also a host of fascinating relievers that could go off the board sooner than many currently would guess. Mark Ecker has dominated this year to the tune of 28 K and 3 BB in 25.0 innings of 0.36 ERA ball. With a fastball capable of hitting the upper-90s and a mid-80s changeup with plus upside, he’s an honest big league closer candidate with continued development. His teammate Ryan Hendrix hasn’t been quite as good – more whiffs, more walks, and a lot more runs allowed – but remains a good bet to go high in the draft because of his premium stuff (94-98 FB, 83-86 breaking ball that flashes plus) and correctable flaws. I have no feel at all how the industry will come down on Hayden Stone on draft day, but I’ve personally gone back and forth on him as a pro prospect more times than I can remember. If you want him twenty spots higher on this list, I wouldn’t argue. Working against Stone is a lack of knockout velocity, his relatively small stature, and an injury history that includes last year’s Tommy John procedure. In his favor is a special mid-80s breaking ball – consistently plus, flashing plus-plus – and a very strong track record of success coming out of the Vandy bullpen. It seems like there are handful of college relievers without mid- to upper-90s fastballs that sneak their way to the big leagues quicker than their flame-throwing peers every season, and Stone is as good a bet as any to be one of those guys in 2016.
Look at the first seven names on this list. That’s an incredible amount of talent. Weird stuff can happen to pitchers, but I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to claim that all seven will be big league arms within a few seasons after getting drafted. We’ll hit on the pitchers ranked second through seven and a few more after that. Number one was already taken care of here. Let’s see what else we’ve got…
No comp is perfect, but I still like the Taijuan Walker ceiling on Hudson. I don’t know if he hits the same peaks as Walker – the Seattle star is the better athlete, plus took full advantage of the strength training, pro coaching, and King Felix good vibes osmosis available to him after signing as a teenager – but the two share a lot of stuff similarities.
For as much as we as fans, writers, and/or internet scouts want to believe otherwise, prospects don’t really have anything to prove to anybody. Control what you can control on the field and let the chips fall where they may beyond that. Having said that, the young Vanderbilt righthander has done just about everything I had hoped to see out of him in 2016. Others may still have questions about how his command and smaller stature will hold up pitching every fifth day professionally – perfectly valid concerns, for what it’s worth – but I’m personally all-in on Sheffield as a starting pitching prospect. He knows how to pitch off the fastball (if anything you can make the case he falls in love with it at times), his curve and/or his change can serve as an above-average to plus pitch on any given day, and his junior year leap can’t be ignored. Let’s look at the pre-season take…
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.
…so that we can revisit that lazy comp. By the numbers, here’s what we’ve got…
11.09 K/9 – 3.31 BB/9 – 2.29 ERA – 70.2 IP
9.67 K/9 – 2.44 BB/9 – 2.26 ERA – 103.1 IP
Top is Sheffield so far, bottom is Tate’s draft year. I asked around and nobody particularly liked the Tate comparison, but more because of the belief that Sheffield is a fairly unique pitcher than that it’s a bad comp. The only alternate name I heard was a tepid Edinson Volquez 2.0 endorsement. I actually kind of dig that one. At the same age, Volquez was listed at a mere 6-1, 160 pounds, a far cry from his current listed 6-0, 220 pounds. He was known back then for his electric fastball (check), plus changeup (check), and above-average slider, a pitch that eventually morphed into his present above-average curve (check). I can definitely some young Volquez in Sheffield’s game.
I didn’t intend for this to be an all comp all the time post, but I can’t get the Ryan Madson comparison (first noted by Keith Law) out of my head whenever I think about Tyler. I really want to believe in his breaking ball being good enough to let him be the starting pitcher that Madson never could be, but nobody I’ve spoken to seems to think he can stay in the rotation as a big leaguer. That won’t stop me from stubbornly continuing to believe Tyler, one of the youngest players in his class, won’t find a way to harness his spike-curve more effectively more often. He has the size, command, ability to hold his velocity, and smarts to make it as a starter. I’d be willing to spend a second round pick – maybe a late first depending on how the board breaks – to get him signed, sealed, delivered, and working with my pro staff (coaching and medical) to see firsthand whether or not a more consistent breaker is in that electric right arm of his.
We’ll go with the pre-season evaluation on Jackson to hammer an old point home…
One of my favorite snippets of my notes comes in the Jackson section: “if he fixes delivery and command, watch out.” Well, duh. I could have said that about just about any upper-echelon arm in this age demographic. With Jackson, however, it reinforces just how special his stuff is when he’s right. I don’t think this college class has a pitch better than his curveball at its best.
I think Jackson’s delivery has made strides in 2016 – if not smoother, then certainly more repeatable – but questions about his command can now be partnered with similar concerns about his control. First round stuff + fifth round command/control = ultimate third round landing spot? I don’t know if the math checks out there, but I think the conclusion might wind up being correct. I also think that the scouting on Jackson can more or less be wrapped up for the season – we know what he is by now – so the attention of anybody assigned to watch him between now and June should be on determining if whatever is getting in the way of his stalled command progress and backwards trending control can be fixed through pro instruction and repetition. Jackson is the kind of maddening talent that can get an area scout promoted or canned, but his success or failure from this point forward is all about how he adapts to the pro development staffers tasked with guiding him along.
I have a friend who leans very heavy on statistics when it comes to his personal brand of minor league prospect evaluation. I consider myself a little more balanced between scouting reports and certain performance indicators (with a slight statistical lean if anything), but his approach works for him and I let him do his thing. If nothing else, our shared view on what stats matter for young players means we rarely disagree on general prospect valuation. One recent spat, however, highlights the danger of immersing oneself too deep in one side of the stats vs scouts “debate.” This friend was a very vocal critic of Phillies minor league pitcher Zach Eflin and his long history of underwhelming strikeout numbers. I’ve liked Eflin for over four years now – you can check the archives – and have obviously stayed with him despite the lack of standout peripherals as a young pro. Be patient, I told him. He’s working on things, I told him. Don’t count him out just yet, I told him. Now despite being in AAA, Eflin still has plenty to work on once he lands in the big leagues. But only the most stubborn critic would deny that he’s finally on the final stage of development – refinement – and well past the “will he or won’t he?” bit of prospect purgatory. His more consistent premium velocity combined with his newfound curve has helped him go from 5.14 K/9 to 6.52 K/9 to 6.54 K/9 to 4.65 K/9 (first year with the Phillies with a heavy emphasis on working through some stuff) to his current 7.52 K/9 through four starts in 2016. He’s slowly but surely gotten stronger, smarter, and better, and the results have finally begun to caught up. It’s a beautiful thing.
Logan Shore has made similar progress over the last few seasons: 6.37 K/9 to 6.75 K/9 to 9.05 K/9. He’s always had solid fastball velocity and a devastating changeup. This year he’s found a few more ticks with the heater (more so in how he maintains it rather than a peak velocity jump), gained a little more consistency with his breaking ball, and arguably improved that already potent circle-change into something even scarier to opposing hitters. He’s gotten stronger, smarter, and better. I mentally wrote him off as one of the draft’s most overrated arms coming into the spring – thankfully I never wrote that on the site, but I’m man enough to admit I’ve had those thoughts on more than one occasion – but now I see the error in my ways. When a young arm has big-time stuff and command beyond his years, be patient with his development and don’t rely on one metric to make an ultimate judgment on his future. Shore is good and quite possibly still getting better.
Braden Webb doesn’t have the track record of many of his SEC peers, but the man does not lack for arm talent. Explosive heat (90-94, up to 96-97), an easy above-average to plus 73-79 curve, and a rapidly improving 80-85 change. All of the ingredients of a big league starting pitcher are here. Grabbing Webb at any point past round one would be a major coup for whatever team is lucky/smart enough to do so.
I’m cheating and tacking Puk back on at the end here even after he got his own post last week. Like many draft-obsessed individuals, I watched his most recent start against South Carolina with great interest. I’ve seen Puk a few times in person and tons of times on the tube, but it wasn’t until Saturday night that the comparison between him and Andrew Miller really hit me. I saw about a dozen Miller starts in person back in his Tar Heel days (in a very different time in my life) and watching Puk throw brings back all kinds of memories, good and bad. The frustrating thing about this comp is that it doesn’t really tell us much. Maybe we can use it as a baseline floor for what Puk could become – though Miller’s dominance out of the pen is a tough expectation to put on anybody as a realistic worst case scenario – but pointing out the similarities between the two (size, length, extension, delivery, mound demeanor, fastball, slider, underdeveloped change…even similar facially minus Miller’s draft year mustache) hardly means that Puk is destined to the same failed starter fate. I mean, sure, maybe it does, but there’s so much more that goes into being a successful big league starter than what gets put down on a scouting card. I love comps, but they are meant to serve as a starting point to the conversation, not to be the parting shot. Every player is unique and whatever extra reasons are out there for Miller not making it in the rotation should not be held against Puk. Maybe that’s obvious, but it doesn’t hurt to say it again. I do think that Puk, barring injury, has a pretty clear big league skill set in some capacity (maybe not -0.15 FIP out of the bullpen good, but still good) even if he doesn’t reach his ultimate ceiling. In that way he is similar to Miller, so at least there’s that to fall back on. The odds that you get nothing out of Puk, again barring injury, are slim to none. For the risk-averse out there, that’s a comforting thought.
(I originally wrote JA Puk in the title before noticing it and correcting it shortly before posting. That’s unremarkable except for the fact that I recently was given a Pirates JA Happ as a stylistic comp for Puk — more fastballs, more sliders/less curves, more changeups — that I had completely forgotten about until I made that typo. Funny how the brain works sometimes…)
I’ve been tough on AJ Puk in the past, but I think I’m finally ready to give in. I’m at peace with him being the first overall pick in this year’s draft. I mean, we all knew the Phillies were all over him going back to when Pat Gillick went south down to Gainesville to watch him throw during fall ball, but only know am I ready to accept it as a good thing. Or, perhaps more accurately, I can now accept it at least as a non-bad thing. This was written here back in October…
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.
(It’s pretty great for Phillies fans that they can now swap out Giles’s name for Velasquez, Appel, and Eshelman. I’ve saved this analysis for friends and family I like to annoy with this sort of thing via email, but there are so many Cubs/Phillies rebuild parallels that it’s freaky. The only bummer is that there is no Kris Bryant in this class and that the Phillies might be too good in 2016 to land a Kyle Schwarber type next June. Still, where the Cubs were last year, I expect the Phillies to be in 2018. Enjoy this down time while you can, Mets and Nationals. The Phillies are coming fast.)
Now that May is here it’s time to accept the inevitability of Puk wearing red pinstripes…or, more immediately, Clearwater Thresher red and blue. I’ve long been in the “like but not love” camp when it comes to Puk, partly because of my belief there were superior talents ahead of him in this class and partly because of the handful of red flags that dot his dossier. The three biggest knocks on Puk coming into the season were, in some order, 1) command, 2) inconsistent quality of offspeed offerings, and 3) good but not great athleticism. It says a lot about what he does well that he’s risen as a prospect in my mind despite not really answering any of the questions we had for him coming into the season. All of this has held up so far…
Extension, deception, and power would be three words that come immediately to mind when describing Puk. He’s every bit of 6-7, 225 with a delivery that hides the ball damn well. His power comes both with his left arm (92-96, 98 peak) and at the plate (he’d quickly be among the better hitting pitchers in the game), so it’s no big shock that some guy on the internet (that’s me) sees some similarities between him and the prospect version of Madison Bumgarner.
I’ll be quick to point out again that it says “prospect version of Madison Bumgarner” without speaking to what the San Francisco ace grew into as a finished product in the big leagues. Bumgarner is a kind of special player who just kept adding on and getting better as he progressed up the chain. That’s not something that you can predict for any other prospect, though you can’t really rule it out either. You don’t know either way, is the point. Putting Bumgarner aside for now, I think there are two recent-ish draft lefthanders that can help create a basis for what to expect out of AJ Puk in the early stages of his pro career. In terms of a realistic prospect upside, Puk reminds me a great deal of recently promoted big league pitcher Sean Manaea.
Their deliveries are hardly identical – Puk is more over the top while Manaea slings it from more of an angle, plus Puk has a more pronounced step-back with his right foot at the onset and a longer stride, both aspects of his delivery that I personally like as it gives him better balance throughout – but they aren’t so different that you’d point to mechanics as a reason for tossing the comparison aside. They have similar stuff starting with fastballs close in velocity and movement (Puk has been 90-94 this year, up to 97), inconsistent yet promising low- to mid-80s sliders that flash above-average to plus (82-86 and more frequently showing above-average this year for Puk), and changeups still in need of development that clearly would be classified as distant third pitches (Puk’s has been 82-88 so far). Both have missed a lot of bats while also having their ups and downs in the control department with Puk being better at the former while Manaea maintained a slight edge at the latter. Both are also very well-proportioned, physical lefthanders with intimidating size with which they know how to use to their advantage.
A cautionary comparison for Puk might be current Mariners minor leaguer James Paxton. Paxton and Puk are closer mechanically – more similar with the height of their leg kick and overall arm action, though Paxton is more deliberate across the board — than Manaea and Puk, but the big difference between the former SEC lefthander and the current SEC lefthander is the breaking ball. Paxton’s bread and butter is a big overhand curve, a pitch that remains unhittable to this day when he can command it. Puk’s slider has its moments and it’s fair to expect it to develop into a true big league out-pitch (I do), but it’s not quite on that level yet. Paxton’s career has stalled for many of the same reasons some weren’t particularly high on Puk coming into the season: up and down fastball velocity partly attributable to a series of nagging injuries (also a problem of Manaea’s at times), an underdeveloped changeup, and consistently inconsistent command. I think Puk is ahead of where Paxton was at similar points in their development and prefer his ceiling to what we’ve seen out of Paxton to date, but the realistic floor comp remains in play.
One additional notable (or not) similarity between Puk, Manaea, Paxton, and Sean Newcomb, a fourth player often thrown into the mix as a potential Puk point of reference (it’s not bad, but Newcomb’s control issues are greater than anything Puk has dealt with), comes via each player’s respective hometown. We’ve got Cedar Rapids (IA), Valparaiso (IN), Ladner (BC), and Brockton (MA). That’s two raised in the Midwest, one in Canada, and one in New England. When you start to piece everything together, the similar career trajectories for each young pitcher (so far) begin to make some sense. All come from cold weather locales, all are large men with long limbs (thus making coordinating said limbs more of a challenge), and all are lefthanders, a fact that may or may not matter to you depending on your view of whether or not lefties really do develop later than their righthanded counterparts.
Put me down for a realistic Sean Manaea type of upside, a James Paxton floor, and the crazy pipe dream where literally everything works out developmentally ceiling of Madison Bumgarner. Do those potential career paths add up to a 1-1 draft pick? I’m not sure I have a good answer for that yet.
I think it is fair to say that the Puk to Philadelphia movement is propped up in part by the simple notion that somebody has to go first in this draft. There’s an undeniable element of winning the 1-1 race by default at play here – some players have risen to at least get their names in the conversation, but, no matter how much I’ve tried to will it to happen, that obvious 1-1 player does not yet exist in this class – so that should be something taken into consideration when putting Puk’s potential pro prospect status in context. You won’t be able to look at him as being the kind of slam dunk impact talent that many expect to see at the top of a major sport’s draft board, but perhaps that expectation shouldn’t exist for the baseball draft in the first place. My first two drafts with this site active had true “can’t miss” guys in Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, but has any draft from 2011 to the present day really had a first overall pick that felt like a sure thing? Maybe Brady Aiken in 2014, but that’s a hard claim to put on a high school pitcher by definition. Carlos Rodon, the third pick that year, felt surer, but even he had a draft season when he was picked apart for things such as fastball command, a dip in velocity, an underdeveloped changeup, average athleticism, and spotty control. Hey, am I nuts or are do those concerns remind you of anybody from this class? Kris Bryant was absolutely that guy in 2013, but the Astros confused us all by going with Mark Appel in the top spot. Carlos Correa, the actual 1-1 in 2012, was pretty close to that level, as was Lucas Giolito, the number two prospect even with the injury red flag (behind Correa) on my board. Both were high school prospects with at least some doubt – health for Giolito, slightly underscouted summer and spring for Correa – so I could go either way on them. You could argue for Gerrit Cole in 2011 as well, but there’s a little bit of hindsight bias there as he’s closer to a present day Puk as a college prospect than many want to remember. Not that I’m the one true authority on these things, but I actually had Anthony Rendon ahead of Cole in that class, so that’s a potential argument against Cole being a clear-cut number one from day one.
Long stroll through recent draft history short, I don’t think the fact we have uncertainty at the top of this year’s draft is all that rare. Puk might feel a bit underwhelming, but that’s selling his flashes of dominance on the mound short. When he’s right, he’s a worthy 1-1 pick. He’s got a big fastball he can lean on through skillful adding and subtracting, a slider that he can throw for strikes or bury depending on the situation, and a good enough changeup that keeps hitters from sitting on the breaking ball. Getting him right more consistently and for longer stretches of time will be the challenges he and his pro developmental staff will have to overcome.
(For as much as I’ve come around on Puk, I still think Jay Groome is the best prospect in this class and the closest thing to the classic 1-1 type available.)
There are a lot of prospects in the SEC. Let’s spend 4,000 words talking about them. For more on some of the top outfielders, go here. For the complete list of 2016 SEC hitting prospects, go here. And for a little more detail…stay here. We’ll go position by position and try to hit on as many of the top guys as possible. Let’s do it…
There are no standout catching prospects in the SEC this year – at least if we limit our search to 2016 prospects only; I see you, JJ Schwarz – but there are a lot of solid ones who could be big league contributors in time. Jack Kruger, the best of the bunch, is an advance bat and consistently reliable defender behind the plate. He’s got the best shot at playing regularly in the big leagues, especially if you’re buying into his hit tool and power both playing average or better. I think I do, but his “newness” as a prospect works against him some. Of course, like almost all real draft prospects, Kruger isn’t new. Here was his quick report written on this very site back in 2013…
C Jack Kruger (Oaks Christian HS, California): outstanding defensive tools, very strong presently; gap power
For area guys covering him this spring, however, he’s “new.” From limited at bats as a freshman at Oregon to solid but unspectacular junior college numbers at Orange Coast to his solid and borderline spectacular start to 2016 at Mississippi State, there’s not the kind of extended track record that some teams want to see in a potential top ten round college bat. Maybe I’m overstating that concern – he was a big HS prospect, Orange Coast College is a juco that gets lots of scout coverage, he played well last summer in the California Collegiate League, and both Oregon and Mississippi State are big-time programs – but players have slipped on draft day for sillier reasons. Any potential fall – no matter the reason — could make Kruger one of the draft’s better catching value picks.
After Kruger, the SEC has a lot of rock solid potential big league backup types. Henri Lartigue is extremely well-rounded and steady defensively. Jordan Romero has a big arm and intriguing defensive upside. Jason Delay is a highly respected catch and throw guy, but is limited as a hitter with a highly aggressive approach. Gavin Collins has played third base the bulk of the season – very well, I should note – but still profiles best as a potential above-average defender as a professional catcher. My notes on him include one of the better lines I’ve gotten this year: “big arm, loves to show it off.” How can you not like a catcher like that? I’ve liked Blake Logan since his freshman season at Auburn. He controls the strike zone as a hitter and can be counted on to do what’s asked defensively. Benito Santiago is a boom/bust option as a draft-eligible sophomore. His notes from HS…
C Benito Santiago (Coral Springs Christian Academy, Florida): good behind plate; strong arm; good athlete; average speed; don’t think he hits; 5-9, 165 pounds
He has hit for more power than I would have guessed, but his approach is still a mess and contact will always be an issue. If he’s willing to sign, I could see a pro team taking a gamble on him with the logic being they’d grab him a year before a potential college breakout season moves him up ten rounds or so in the eyes of the rest of the league. Better to draft a player like this a year early than a year too late. Or something like that. Michael Barash is a borderline prospect, but he’s been a reliable senior who has produced some both at the plate and behind it over the years. Karl Ellison intrigues me just enough defensively to get the nod here as the last real potential SEC catcher with 2016 draft aspirations.
On Pete Alonso back in October…
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.
His ranking in the ten spot might be an example of a chump like me still finding a way to overlook Alonso. All the guy does is hit. Working against him is his handedness: nobody gets excited for a righthanded hitting prospect limited to first base, fair or not. Working for him is everybody’s desire – think it peaked last year, but I still hear about it from time to time – to find the next Paul Goldschmidt. Alonso isn’t the runner or athlete that Goldschmidt has proven to be nor is it likely he’ll ever hit like the Arizona superstar. It’s still nice that we now live in a baseball universe where Goldschmidt has made it cool to be a righthanded hitting power bat again.
(Wasn’t sure where to wedge this in, so parenthetical reference it is: Miguel Cabrera, Paul Goldschmidt, Edwin Encarnacion, Chris Colabello, Jose Abreu, and Jason Rogers [!?!] were the six righthanded hitting first basemen to rank in the top twenty wRC+ [100 PA minimum] in the big leagues last year. That’s technically six of the top eighteen. Not quite half, but a third isn’t too shabby. I’m not sure what this means exactly, if anything meaningful at all.)
Nathaniel Lowe is a legitimate FAVORITE who has exceeded my lofty hopes for his 2016 re-entry to major college ball. Lowe and the aforementioned Jack Kruger might just be brothers from different mothers. Lowe, like Kruger, spent a year at a D1 program (Mercer), transferred to a well-regarded junior college (St. Johns River), and then hit the ground running back in D1 at Mississippi State. I know I just published these rankings a few days ago, but he’s too low already. Lowe is an exciting power bat in a class that needs them.
Niko Buentello can join the Lowe/Kruger family as well. His path: Oklahoma to Grayson to Auburn. His approach is a little bit behind Lowe’s and his age is a little ahead, but he’s still a decent mid-round power prospect. Gunnar McNeill (Florida International to Chipola to Kentucky) joins the brotherhood. I knew a lot of these prospects were incoming transfers, but had no idea how many there were until I started writing. It’s kind of crazy, right? Anyway, McNeill has some pop and a decent if inconsistent approach, so his righty stick getting him some late-round love on draft day would not be a surprise. That came out way dirtier than intended, but I’m keeping it. As a transfer from North Carolina to Kentucky with no junior college stop in between, Joe Dudek might be a part of the growing Lowe/Kruger/McNeill family but only as a distant cousin. I like his bat a lot, but the odds of him leaving Kentucky before ever playing a game for them seem long. I’d hope my area guy did a lot of research on that before finalizing my board in either direction.
Turns out I don’t have a hook for Hunter Melton, so we’ll focus on his interesting power, positional versatility (some think he could still play some 3B if need be), and intriguing track record with wood. In the late rounds, it all could be worth investigating.
I still think Nick Senzel can play second base in the pros. Let’s get that out of the way first. Everybody has already locked him in to third base and I’ll begrudgingly go along with it, but the range I’ve seen out of Senzel up the middle trumps letting his impressive arm do more damage (the good kind of damage) at third. With that out of the way, let’s talk second base prospects.
JaVon Shelby is a good prospect who might suffer some from the expectation that he’d finish the year as a great prospect. His physical gifts – above-average to plus speed, ample bat speed, impressive arm strength, athleticism that has allowed him to play third, the outfield, and improve every game at second – and scorching junior year start were great, but now he’s settled more into a good range. Good is still good, of course…it just isn’t great. Maybe the heightened expectations and failure to live up to them says more about us – me, specifically – than him. I still like Shelby quite a bit, but the red flag that is his approach remains. He checks every other box, so I’d still give him a chance sooner rather than later on draft day to see if the pro staff could work with him to figure things out.
A lot of what was written about Shelby could apply to Ryne Birk, at least in a poor man’s version kind of way. Birk might be a little ahead in terms of power and approach, but Shelby beats him everywhere else. I’ve gotten positive reviews on his glove at second this year, but there are still a few who maintain that his speed (good not great) and arm (neither good nor great) will force him to left field in the pros. For those reasons and more, I’ve gotten a fun and somewhat obscure Andrew Pullin comp for him this spring.
Kramer Robertson keeps getting better and better. I think this ranking will look too low by June. It’s probably too low already. Robertson doesn’t have a clear carrying tool, but he can run some, he’s got pop, he’s steady in the field, and his swing is geared towards making a ton of solid contact. Throw in some plus athleticism and you’ve got yourself a player.
Both Arkansas infielders, Rick Nomura and Mike Bernal, could be well-rounded enough to make it as utility infielders. The fact both guys have experience on the left side of the infield is a big point in their favor. Cole Freeman is a good fielder with speed. He’s a guy I’d like to get to know more about between now and June. Damon Haecker and John Holland are both versatile defenders with my kind of plate discipline but not quite enough power to give much confidence they’ll keep getting on base enough to make it all work professionally. Melvin Gray’s easy plus speed could give him a late round shot.
The shortstops in the SEC this year are a decent microcosm for what’s going on across college baseball this year. Certain positions ebb and flow, and this year’s definitely a low-water mark for the six-spot. Ryan Howard is a nice prospect, but not the kind of guy who would crack the top five at short in a major college conference in most years. He does most everything fairly well – solid hitter, average raw power, dependable at short – but nothing so well that you’re pumped to call his name on draft day. Part of my reticence in buying in to Howard comes from what may be a silly place. There is far more to the position than speed, but Howard’s below-average foot speed has always struck me as a potential red flag when assessing his long-term defensive outlook. Maybe that’s being lazy by haphazardly using speed as a proxy for athleticism, but the solid yet unsexy profile that I seem to like at other positions doesn’t grab me the same way at shortstop.
The two Mississippi shortstop prospects grab me, but for very different reasons. Robinson’s relatively low ranking here is for the exact opposite reason of what I just dinged Howard for. He’s a really good athlete with lots of upside defensively, more than enough speed, and sneaky pop packed into his 5-11, 180 pound frame, but at the end of the day I’m not all that confident he’ll hit enough to profile as a big league regular. Howard could get there, but I’d question his defense along the way. Robinson’s defense is up to the task, but I don’t love the bat. Put the two together and you’d really have something. As it is, I think bat-first utility guy (Howard) and glove/speed focused utility guy (Robinson) represent the most likely paths for the two prospects. Draft-eligible sophomore Tate Blackman, Robinson’s teammate at Ole Miss, could potentially be the combination of Howard and Robinson I’m looking for. I stress potentially because, quite honestly, I don’t yet know enough about Blackman to say one way or another. For now I know I like his athleticism, speed, and power upside, all of which give him the best of both Howard and Robinson. I’m not sure how his defense would look at short everyday – his range and arm would both be tested, to be sure – but I’d be intrigued enough by his other abilities to find out. My lack of knowledge about the finer details of Blackman’s game had me hedging with his ranking somewhat, but my gut instinct says he could be a big riser by the time my final board hits in June.
Nick Senzel is really good. I’ve compared him to Anthony Rendon in the past – the exact phrasing from my notes is “Rendon lite?” – and I think he’ll have a good long career as an above-average big league player. He also reminds me a little bit of this guy…
.338/.452/.561 – 31 BB/14 K – 16/17 SB – 148 AB
.393/.487/.592 – 45 BB/38 K – 13/14 SB – 262 AB
Top is Senzel, bottom is Kyle Seager. I’ve used the Seager comp a few (too many) times over the years, most recently on Max Schrock last season. Speaking of Schrock, how did he fall as far as he did last year? That one still blows my mind. Anyway, in an attempt to move away from the tired Seager comp, another name popped up…
.338/.452/.561 – 31 BB/14 K – 16/17 SB – 148 AB
.351/.479/.530 – 46 BB/26 K – 11/14 SB – 185 AB
Top is still Senzel. Mystery bottom guy was written up like so by Baseball America after his pro debut…
“He has a short, compact swing and hits the ball to all fields, and he handles breaking pitches well because of strong balance. Though he’s a physical 6-foot-1 and has good strength, [REDACTED] has a line-drive swing that doesn’t produce natural loft, leading some to project him to have below-average power. He earns high marks for his defense, with good feet and hands to go with an above-average arm at third base. He’s also versatile enough to have played second base, shortstop and left field for Team USA. He’s a good athlete and a solid-average runner.”
I would have linked his pre-draft report from BA, but they have the absolute worst log-in page on the entire internet. Anyway, the passage above was typed up from the 2009 Prospect Handbook. We’re talking about a guy who once played infield in the SEC. He had a similar draft year statistically. And he’s really broken out in his late-20s. Any guesses? When I’ve done mystery comps like this in the past I wouldn’t reveal the player. Then I’d search my site about a different player years later, come across the mystery comp post, and have no idea myself who I was talking about. So, yeah, it’s Logan Forsythe. My future self thanks my present self. I like Senzel to hit the big leagues running a bit more easily than Forsythe (i.e., I don’t think Senzel will enter his age-28 season with an OPS+ of 85), so maybe that would bump Senzel up over Forsythe as a guy with a higher floor. A couple of peak years like Forsythe’s seems like a reasonable ceiling projection. That’s a damn fine player. Supports the original claim: Nick Senzel is really good.
(I typed the following up before realizing it doesn’t quite apply to Senzel in the way I first thought it might, but damned if I’m going to spend time on a paragraph and let it go to waste. Here it is: If we’re being fair, then it’s worth pointing out that some of the same team-based criticisms levelled at Corey Ray apply to Nick Senzel as well. If you recall, we knocked Ray’s outstanding 2016 performance some [just some] by pointing out that he had teammates who outdid him in just about every offensive category. Senzel has been great as well, but he’s only fourth on his own team in qualified batting average, second in on-base percentage, and first in slugging. It’s a weird and arguably unnecessary bar to hold college prospects to, but it’s a small point to potentially consider, at least in terms of player dominance and potentially enhanced hitting environments and/or scheduling softness.)
Let’s talk about Greg Deichmann. This is me from the past…
“If he’s not a star for this team, I’m quitting the internet draft game” – January 6, 2015. I said that about SO 3B/2B Greg Deichmann last year and I stand by it today. His first year at LSU didn’t end in stardom and as an older sophomore he’s able to leave after this year, so this could be do-or-die time for my sterling reputation as a prospect soothsayer. Of course, if Deichmann leaves LSU after this year then that almost certainly would mean he had a huge season that positioned himself to be drafted high enough to make turning pro a smart decision. If not, then I’ll at least get another year to tout him as the great prospect that I think he is. Deichmann completely won me over as a hitter in the year or so before he enrolled at LSU. Loved the swing, hands, bat speed, everything. His red flag during his prep days was his age, but that’s no longer a concern as a draft-eligible sophomore playing in the SEC. The new worry — or the old worry, if you weren’t sold on Deichmann as a hitter as I once was — is his approach. If said approach can move from “swing at anything that moves” to something slightly more refined, then he’ll take off as a hitter. That’s what I’m banking on in 2016.
.276/.329/.497 with 9 BB/23 K and 4/8 SB in 145 AB is not a star quality turn for Deichmann. I might just barely be off the hook thanks to his power – his slugging is second on the team, which makes up for his ninth place standing in terms of batting average – but the approach is still terrifying. I won’t rule out Deichmann turning things around in a hurry, but I suppose the teeny tiny possibility that I might have overrated him as a hitter once upon a time could exist.
I don’t look too deeply at positions when I rank players, so it was a fun surprise to see that I had unknowingly put five consecutive third basemen together in the rankings. Ronnie Gideon, Will Toffey, Carson Shaddy, Colby Bortles, and Boomer White are all very, very different players, but each guy does enough well to warrant serious draft consideration at the hot corner all the same. Gideon has the massive raw power and arm strength befitting a man his size (6-3, 240 pounds) who once made his bones as a catching prospect. I know next to nothing about his glove at third other than some scout rumblings that indicate he’s better than you’d think for a guy his size. That doesn’t mean he’s good (or bad) at third, just more nimble than one might expect. Toffey might be the weirdest player in all of college baseball. It’s not every day you see a player with 5 extra base hits (all doubles) and 42 walks. It makes his 2016 pretty easy to distill into one quick pithy remark: love the approach, don’t love the power. Thankfully, Toffey has shown power in the past (.420 SLG as a freshman) and is generally considered to have around average raw power, so the down draft season shouldn’t drop him as far as one might otherwise believe. The bigger draft question surrounding Toffey will be his willingness (or lack thereof) to leave Nashville after just two seasons. Deichmann seems slightly more likely to sign than Toffey, but that’s just one man making an educated guess on the internet.
Shaddy, yet another draft-eligible sophomore at third base (not for age, but for a year missed due to Tommy John), is a special defensive player. That’s a big statement, but I feel comfortable saying it about a guy who can legitimately play catcher, third, and center field. That’s a unique skill set. His approach, power, and athleticism are all average or better, so Shaddy should hear his name called early enough on draft day to have a tough decision about where he’ll play ball next year. Bortles is a big man with big power that is hard to imagine holding his own at third. He’s not entirely dissimilar to Gideon in that way. White is fascinating for his power/speed combination and ability to play multiple spots on the diamond. I had assumed he’d be a left fielder all the way in the pros, but some pretty persuasive friends in the game convinced me that most teams see him as an infielder first and foremost. Fine by me.
Jeff Moberg wasn’t ranked with those five, but he’s not too far off the pack. He’s had a checkered at best college career, but a breakout final season has many – myself included – scrambling to see if there’s more to his game than first meets the eye. The interesting bat combined with the well-known strength in his glovework make him a sneaky utility infielder prospect at the next level.
The big names were more or less covered, so let’s look at a few outfield prospects a bit further down the line. I really liked Jordan Ebert heading into last season…
The surest bet in the Auburn lineup is JR OF/2B Jordan Ebert. Ebert doesn’t get enough love as one of the college game’s best pure hitters. That above-average or better hit tool combined with enough pop and speed allow him to potentially profile as an above-average regular offensively. I think his glove will play at any of the spots he’s tried — 2B, 3B, OF — but think his value will likely lie in his ability to play multiple spots — especially those where he can show off his plus arm — well. If you only knew what I just wrote about Ebert, you’d surely think he’s a big-time 2015 draft prospect, but, at least for now, an overly aggressive approach at the plate (31 BB/54 K) holds back his appeal to a degree. I still like him quite a bit; quite simply, guys with hit tools like his are not to be dismissed. If Ebert can settle in to a spot defensively (likely a corner OF spot), flash a touch more power, and clean up his approach a bit, he’ll become a prime candidate to become one of college ball’s fastest risers in 2015. I still think a pro team will try to keep him in the dirt for as long as humanly possible after signing. As an outfielder, he profiles as a high-level backup, especially if he can hang in center a bit. As an infielder, however, he’s a potential everyday contributor.
That didn’t work out. I still think backup outfielder is a solid potential outcome for him. There’s a gigantic gap between what Keith Holcombe is and what he could be, but the upside is tantalizing. It’s not a stretch to call him one of the best athletes at any position in this class. JB Moss is one of about fifty Aggies prospects that could hear his name called on draft day. He can really run and throw. Ro Coleman has always been an underdog due to his diminutive stature; he seems likely to wind up back at Vanderbilt for a senior year after a down junior season. I still think there’s a role in pro ball for a high character guy like him. We’ll see.
There are too many quality outfielders in the SEC in 2016 that my tiny brain can’t process them all. Hopefully you don’t have that same problem, but on the off chance that we’re all in this together I’ve assembled a very quick, very unofficial, and very rudimentary scoring system that can help us understand these 2016 SEC outfielders a little bit better. The full list of SEC hitting prospects can be found here, but today we’ll focus on the players ranked second through nine. We’re going to make up some arbitrary categories, give out some points, and see if we can get to the bottom of the SEC outfielder pile.
(3) Reynolds, Thompson-Williams, Palacios, Cone
(2) Robson, Fraley, Grier, Jackson, Woodman, Reed
(1) Banks, Bonfield, Rooker, Ring, Wrenn
Fairly self-explanatory, right? All we’ve done is group each player by how he has performed the 2016 so far. You can quibble with these placements if you want, but you’d be wrong. It should be noted that this is the only part of this exercise that has rankings within the rankings, i.e., Palacios has been better than Cone but not quite as good as Thompson-Williams. Speaking of those three, I’m not sure how many people outside of SEC country fully realize how good they have been this year.
(3) Reynolds, Fraley, Woodman, Banks
(2) Reed, Grier, Wrenn, Robson, Jackson, Cone, Ring
(1) Thompson-Williams, Palacios, Rooker, Bonfield
Same idea as above, but stretched out to include the player’s overall body of work at the college level. This is a little bit trickier because it’s not solely performance-based. Guys like Thompson-Williams and Palacios get dinged for having done it less at the D1 level than some of the players above them. So you get points both for production and longevity. I don’t love it because it ignores junior college numbers, but I think it more closely mirrors how these players will be evaluated by pro teams this June.
(3) Reed, Thompson-Williams, Grier, Wrenn, Robson
(2) Reynolds, Fraley, Woodman, Banks, Rooker, Jackson
(1) Palacios, Cone, Ring, Bonfield
This is obviously the most subjective category one could come up with. You can quibble with these placements if you want…and I wouldn’t argue too much. My emphasis was on finding guys with multiple plus tools (e.g., Reed’s easy plus CF range and plus to plus-plus speed) who stood out for having athleticism that separated them from the rest. If it helps, think of this category more of the raw power/speed/arm/athleticism subsection of a larger tool-based evaluation.
(3) Buddy Reed, Jake Fraley, Dom Thompson-Williams, Anfernee Grier, JB Woodman, Stephen Wrenn, Jacob Robson, Gene Cone, Jake Ring
(2) Bryan Reynolds, Brent Rooker, Vincent Jackson
(1) Nick Banks, Josh Palacios, Luke Bonfield
Three for being a sure-thing center fielder, two for being a likely center fielder (with lots of upside in a corner if it comes to it), and one for being locked into a corner from the start. This was pretty simple. Reynolds and Jackson were the toughest guys to bump down a level, but both have just enough whispers about their long-term defensive homes that I swallowed hard and knocked them to the two-point group. Plus I didn’t want Rooker to be lonely.
(3) Reed, Grier, Wrenn, Robson
(2) Reynolds, Fraley, Thompson-Williams, Woodman, Cone, Ring
(1) Banks, Palacios, Rooker, Jackson, Bonfield
I wanted one more category, but couldn’t think of one good enough to include. After reaching out to a few people with the annoyingly vague question of “hey, what characteristics would you use to separate a bunch of similarly talented 21-year-old outfield prospects?,” the best I could come up with was a kind of all-encompassing category we’ll call physical projection. Physical projection can mean a lot of things to many different people; solely for the purpose of today’s exercise, we’ll define it simply as “capacity for growth.” In other words, which player has the most room to grow from whatever they are now to whatever they may eventually be. There’s some overlap here with the tools category, but the way we’re defining projection corrects for that to a certain degree. There’s also some correlation between projection and defense, though that probably comes from using athleticism as a proxy for both larger categories.
If we add up our points from each category, we get three pretty clear prospect tiers. Going off this data alone, we get the following…
Tier 1: Reynolds, Reed, Fraley, Robson
Tier 2: Fraley, Thompson-Williams, Woodman, Wrenn, Cone
Tier 3: Jackson, Ring, Banks, Palacios, Rooker, Bonfield
If I were to look at my rankings from yesterday – done before this silly little exercise – and put players into tiers, I’d go with the following…
Tier 1: Reynolds, Reed, Fraley
Tier 2: Thompson-Williams, Grier, Woodman
Tier 3: Banks, Palacios, Wrenn, Rooker, Robson
Tier 4: Vincent, Cone, Ring, Bonfield
I cheated by adding a fourth tier, but I feel pretty good about that tiered list. It kind of works out in terms of round value, too: Tiers 1 and 2 align with rounds 1 and 2, respectively; Tier 3 fits in that round 3 through 5 range; Tier 4 is more of the round 6 through 10 range. It’s not perfect, but it’s not terrible. The one name that sticks out as being particularly tough to place is Cone; he has likely played his way into the third tier and will probably be there before June rolls around.
I’d like to spend more words on the outfielders ranked three through nine, but not before getting a little more in-depth on the top name in the top tier. Bryan Reynolds’s physical tools are all at least average, though there are none that I’d hang a plus on without some serious cajoling first. If we compare him to the guy directly behind him in the rankings, Buddy Reed, he’ll lose any athletic head-to-head battle. Furthermore, his defense in center is a bit of a long-term concern for me, but smarter people than I have said he’s actually better – more instinctual, quicker reads, just more natural all-around – in center than he is in a corner. I haven’t seen enough of him to say either way, but it’s an interesting view to consider. Thankfully, despite those concerns, the man can flat hit. Speed, defense, and arm strength are all important, but the bat will forever be king. Offensively, Reynolds actually reminds me a lot of a far less heralded 2016 draft prospect…
.348/.481/.582 – 37 BB/36 K – 9/12 SB – 141 AB
.331/.463/.608 – 36 BB/38 K – 4/8 SB – 148 AB
Bottom is Reynolds. Top is none other than Tyler Ramirez. I’m not sure what that means – besides the unsaid obvious that I can’t not say any longer: Ramirez is wildly underrated nationally – but it’s interesting to me. Another fun yet ultimately pointless (or not) comparison…
.350/.438/.654 – 38 BB/41 K – 14/16 SB – 237 AB
.331/.463/.608 – 36 BB/38 K – 4/8 SB – 148 AB
Bottom is still Reynolds. Top is star of last year’s Vanderbilt team and eventual first overall pick, Dansby Swanson. I’m not sure what this means – if anything – but it felt close enough to point out. Even if the takeaway is something as simple as “damn, Vandy sure knows how to recruit and coach up hitters!,” then I’ll consider this worth the twenty seconds it took to look it up.
Reynolds’s numbers – again, the ones on the bottom in the two comparisons above – are undeniably excellent. One of the few concerns I have about the Vanderbilt slugger is his propensity to end long at bats with short walks back to the dugout. Strikeouts at the big league level don’t bother me in the least, but they mean something more at the amateur and minor league level. Some of this concern is mitigated by Reynolds’s high walk totals, but the high strikeout/high walk college hitter archetype is one that has seen mixed result at the pro level in recent years. It’s also one that I still don’t know what to do with as an evaluator. There are four basic types of hitters when it comes to strikeouts and walks…
High strikeout and high walk
High strikeout and low walk
Low strikeout and low walk
Low strikeout and high walk
This obviously ignores a middle ground, but sometimes sacrifices must be made in the name of simplicity. Reynolds obviously falls in that first category. As would DJ Stewart, perhaps a cautionary tale from last year’s draft. But then we have the Dansby Swanson example staring us in the face just a few centimeters above as a potential counterpoint. Kevin Newman and Scott Kingery did it in different ways, but both would ultimately fall in the low strikeout and low walk group. Same with Kyle Holder. Perhaps there’s a pattern there – hint: all are middle infielders – that can be applied going forward. Donnie Dewees, decidedly not a middle infielder, stands out as one of the rare low strikeout and high walk prospects from last year. Brendon Sanger, an outfielder like Dewees, also fits. There aren’t too many low strikeout and high walk prospects out there, so finding ones with solid tools like Dewees and Sanger last year is pretty exciting. For as much as I like this class, there aren’t a ton of examples of the low K/high BB hitters as of yet. We’ll see if some hit their way into that discussion over the final few weeks of the college regular season.
Brief (arguably unnecessary) diversion aside, I have long wondered which of the two middle-ground approaches (high strikeout and high walk versus low strikeout and low walk) lays the groundwork for the best long-term hitting prospect. We know high K/low BB is scary. We know low K/high BB is exciting. But what of the high K/high BB and low K/low BB prospect archetypes? The former speaks to the ability to work deep counts, a comfort level hitting with two strikes, and the obvious on-base skills that come with piling up free passes. The latter is indicative — not always, but generally – with hitters who make lots of good contact, attack early in the count, and have confidence in their wheels to help steal some hits and extra bases along the way. Again, we’re generalizing (or, more accurately, theorizing), but I think the high K/BB players tend to be the ones we associate with better plate discipline (and often power along with it) while the low K/BB players tend to be contact kings with higher batting averages and better speed. Two different paths to prospectdom, I suppose.
The above was my placeholder until I could add to this, but I’m leaving it because I forgot about it and find it funny just sitting there all alone. The players ranked two through nine on this list are all outfielders. That’s crazy. I’ll have more on the conference’s potentially historic class soon. I dislike that I have so many players lumped up by school — Rooker and Robson, Robinson and Blackman, three A&M players in a row followed soon after by four A&M players in a row — but it’s honestly how things shook out. Makes the list feel inauthentic, but whatever. I find it interesting looking at some of the top names in the conference how little in the way of breakout performances we’ve had this year. Senzel is the only player who came into the year on the “good with the hope he’d be great” range who actually delivered. Maybe Woodman. Lots of guys have continued to be good, some have taken a half-step back, and others have had really nice years without much in the way of pre-season pressure. I would listen to an argument that Grier has had that good to great breakout, but many of the same red flags in his game that existed before 2016 — namely his plate discipline — remain open questions going forward, increased production otherwise or not. Lots to consider with this group…
- Tennessee JR 3B/2B Nick Senzel
- Vanderbilt JR OF/1B Bryan Reynolds
- Florida JR OF Buddy Reed
- LSU JR OF Jake Fraley
- South Carolina JR OF Dom Thompson-Williams
- Auburn JR OF Anfernee Grier
- Mississippi JR OF JB Woodman
- Texas A&M JR OF Nick Banks
- Auburn JR OF Josh Palacios
- Florida JR 1B Pete Alonso
- Kentucky JR 2B/OF JaVon Shelby
- Georgia JR OF Stephen Wrenn
- Missouri JR SS/3B Ryan Howard
- Mississippi State JR C Jack Kruger
- LSU SO 3B/2B Greg Deichmann
- Mississippi State rSO OF Brent Rooker
- Mississippi State rJR OF Jacob Robson
- Mississippi JR SS/2B Errol Robinson
- Mississippi SO SS/2B Tate Blackman
- Tennessee SR OF/LHP Vincent Jackson
- Texas A&M JR 2B/OF Ryne Birk
- South Carolina JR OF Gene Cone
- Missouri JR OF Jake Ring
- Mississippi JR C Henri Lartigue
- LSU JR C Jordan Romero
- LSU JR 2B/SS Kramer Robertson
- Arkansas SO OF Luke Bonfield
- Texas A&M JR 3B/C Ronnie Gideon
- Vanderbilt SO 3B/SS Will Toffey
- Arkansas rSO 3B/C Carson Shaddy
- Mississippi JR 3B/1B Colby Bortles
- Texas A&M SR 3B/OF Boomer White
- Vanderbilt JR C Jason Delay
- Mississippi State JR C/3B Gavin Collins
- Auburn SR OF/2B Jordan Ebert
- Auburn JR C Blake Logan
- Mississippi State JR 1B Nathaniel Lowe
- Auburn JR 1B Niko Buentello
- Kentucky rSO 1B Joe Dudek
- Tennessee SO C Benito Santiago
- Tennessee SR 3B/2B Jeff Moberg
- Alabama rSO OF Keith Holcombe
- Arkansas SR 2B/SS Rick Nomura
- Arkansas rSR 2B/SS Mike Bernal
- LSU JR 2B/3B Cole Freeman
- Texas A&M SR OF JB Moss
- Texas A&M SR 1B/RHP Hunter Melton
- Texas A&M SR C Michael Barash
- South Carolina SR SS Marcus Mooney
- Kentucky JR 1B Gunnar McNeill
- Georgia rJR 3B Trevor Kieboom
- Arkansas SR C Tucker Pennell
- Vanderbilt JR OF/2B Ro Coleman
- Texas A&M JR OF Walker Pennington
- Mississippi State rJR OF Cody Brown
- Arkansas JR 3B/1B Clark Eagan
- Alabama SR 3B/SS Chance Vincent
- Vanderbilt JR C Karl Ellison
- Texas A&M JR OF/1B Joel Davis
- Texas A&M JR SS Austin Homan
- Texas A&M JR OF/ SS Nick Choruby
- Texas A&M SR OF/1B Jonathan Moroney
- Kentucky SR OF Dorian Hairston
- Auburn SR SS/3B Cody Nulph
- Auburn JR 2B/OF Damon Haecker
- Mississippi State rSR 2B/3B John Holland
- Kentucky JR OF Marcus Carson
- Mississippi State JR OF Tanner Poole
- Mississippi SR OF Cameron Dishon
- Tennessee SR OF Chris Hall
- Tennessee SR OF Derek Lance
- Kentucky JR OF Zach Reks
- Mississippi State JR 3B Luke Reynolds
- Auburn SR 2B/SS Melvin Gray
- Mississippi SR OF Connor Cloyd
- Mississippi State SR OF/C Michael Smith
- Tennessee JR 3B Jordan Rodgers
- Georgia SR 1B Daniel Nichols
- Georgia JR C/OF Skyler Webb
- Auburn JR OF JJ Shaffer
- Alabama SR OF Ryan Blanchard
- Arkansas SR 1B Cullen Gassaway
- Alabama SR OF Georgie Salem
- Alabama JR C Will Haynie
- South Carolina SR 2B/SS DC Arendas
- Missouri SR 3B/1B Zach Lavy
- Kentucky rJR OF Storm Wilson
- Kentucky SR C Zach Arnold
- Georgia SR SS/2B Nick King
- Auburn rJR 2B/C Kyler Deese
- Kentucky JR SS Connor Heady
- Auburn JR 1B/OF Daniel Robert
- Florida JR OF Ryan Larson
- LSU JR OF Cody Ducote
- Tennessee JR OF Dathan Prewett
- Vanderbilt rSO OF/1B Tyler Green
- Vanderbilt SR 1B/OF Kyle Smith
- Vanderbilt JR OF/INF Nolan Rogers
- Georgia JR 3B/2B Mike Bell