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2016 MLB Draft – SEC

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… 

Hitter Follow List
Hitters 2.0
Outfielders
Pitcher Follow List
Friday Night Arms 
AJ Puk

2016 MLB Draft – SEC Pitching 2.0

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.

Hudson, Sheffield, Tyler, Jackson, Shore, Webb…and Puk

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…

Dakota Hudson

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.

Jordan Sheffield

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.

Robert Tyler

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.

Zach Jackson

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.

Logan Shore

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

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.

AJ Puk

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.

AJ Puk

(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.)

2016 MLB Draft – SEC Hitting 2.0

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…

C

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.

1B

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.

2B

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.

SS

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.

3B

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.

OF

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.

2016 MLB Draft – SEC Outfielders

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.

2016

(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.

Track record

(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.

Tools

(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.

Defense

(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.

Physical Projection

(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.

2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – SEC Hitting

words

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…

  1. Tennessee JR 3B/2B Nick Senzel
  2. Vanderbilt JR OF/1B Bryan Reynolds
  3. Florida JR OF Buddy Reed
  4. LSU JR OF Jake Fraley
  5. South Carolina JR OF Dom Thompson-Williams
  6. Auburn JR OF Anfernee Grier
  7. Mississippi JR OF JB Woodman
  8. Texas A&M JR OF Nick Banks
  9. Auburn JR OF Josh Palacios
  10. Florida JR 1B Pete Alonso
  11. Kentucky JR 2B/OF JaVon Shelby
  12. Georgia JR OF Stephen Wrenn
  13. Missouri JR SS/3B Ryan Howard
  14. Mississippi State JR C Jack Kruger
  15. LSU SO 3B/2B Greg Deichmann
  16. Mississippi State rSO OF Brent Rooker
  17. Mississippi State rJR OF Jacob Robson
  18. Mississippi JR SS/2B Errol Robinson
  19. Mississippi SO SS/2B Tate Blackman
  20. Tennessee SR OF/LHP Vincent Jackson
  21. Texas A&M JR 2B/OF Ryne Birk
  22. South Carolina JR OF Gene Cone
  23. Missouri JR OF Jake Ring
  24. Mississippi JR C Henri Lartigue
  25. LSU JR C Jordan Romero
  26. LSU JR 2B/SS Kramer Robertson
  27. Arkansas SO OF Luke Bonfield
  28. Texas A&M JR 3B/C Ronnie Gideon
  29. Vanderbilt SO 3B/SS Will Toffey
  30. Arkansas rSO 3B/C Carson Shaddy
  31. Mississippi JR 3B/1B Colby Bortles
  32. Texas A&M SR 3B/OF Boomer White
  33. Vanderbilt JR C Jason Delay
  34. Mississippi State JR C/3B Gavin Collins
  35. Auburn SR OF/2B Jordan Ebert
  36. Auburn JR C Blake Logan
  37. Mississippi State JR 1B Nathaniel Lowe
  38. Auburn JR 1B Niko Buentello
  39. Kentucky rSO 1B Joe Dudek
  40. Tennessee SO C Benito Santiago
  41. Tennessee SR 3B/2B Jeff Moberg
  42. Alabama rSO OF Keith Holcombe
  43. Arkansas SR 2B/SS Rick Nomura
  44. Arkansas rSR 2B/SS Mike Bernal
  45. LSU JR 2B/3B Cole Freeman
  46. Texas A&M SR OF JB Moss
  47. Texas A&M SR 1B/RHP Hunter Melton
  48. Texas A&M SR C Michael Barash
  49. South Carolina SR SS Marcus Mooney
  50. Kentucky JR 1B Gunnar McNeill
  51. Georgia rJR 3B Trevor Kieboom
  52. Arkansas SR C Tucker Pennell
  53. Vanderbilt JR OF/2B Ro Coleman
  54. Texas A&M JR OF Walker Pennington
  55. Mississippi State rJR OF Cody Brown
  56. Arkansas JR 3B/1B Clark Eagan
  57. Alabama SR 3B/SS Chance Vincent
  58. Vanderbilt JR C Karl Ellison
  59. Texas A&M JR OF/1B Joel Davis
  60. Texas A&M JR SS Austin Homan
  61. Texas A&M JR OF/ SS Nick Choruby
  62. Texas A&M SR OF/1B Jonathan Moroney
  63. Kentucky SR OF Dorian Hairston
  64. Auburn SR SS/3B Cody Nulph
  65. Auburn JR 2B/OF Damon Haecker
  66. Mississippi State rSR 2B/3B John Holland
  67. Kentucky JR OF Marcus Carson
  68. Mississippi State JR OF Tanner Poole
  69. Mississippi SR OF Cameron Dishon
  70. Tennessee SR OF Chris Hall
  71. Tennessee SR OF Derek Lance
  72. Kentucky JR OF Zach Reks
  73. Mississippi State JR 3B Luke Reynolds
  74. Auburn SR 2B/SS Melvin Gray
  75. Mississippi SR OF Connor Cloyd
  76. Mississippi State SR OF/C Michael Smith
  77. Tennessee JR 3B Jordan Rodgers
  78. Georgia SR 1B Daniel Nichols
  79. Georgia JR C/OF Skyler Webb
  80. Auburn JR OF JJ Shaffer
  81. Alabama SR OF Ryan Blanchard
  82. Arkansas SR 1B Cullen Gassaway
  83. Alabama SR OF Georgie Salem
  84. Alabama JR C Will Haynie
  85. South Carolina SR 2B/SS DC Arendas
  86. Missouri SR 3B/1B Zach Lavy
  87. Kentucky rJR OF Storm Wilson
  88. Kentucky SR C Zach Arnold
  89. Georgia SR SS/2B Nick King
  90. Auburn rJR 2B/C Kyler Deese
  91. Kentucky JR SS Connor Heady
  92. Auburn JR 1B/OF Daniel Robert
  93. Florida JR OF Ryan Larson
  94. LSU JR OF Cody Ducote
  95. Tennessee JR OF Dathan Prewett
  96. Vanderbilt rSO OF/1B Tyler Green
  97. Vanderbilt SR 1B/OF Kyle Smith
  98. Vanderbilt JR OF/INF Nolan Rogers
  99. Georgia JR 3B/2B Mike Bell

2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – SEC Pitching

There’s so much talent in the SEC that trying to fit all of their 2016 MLB Draft prospects in one day’s worth of posts doesn’t make sense. The SEC deserves an entire week. To kick things off, a list of the incredibly deep group of pitching — seriously, there are players I legitimately love as prospects ranked down in the 35-40ish range — in the SEC this year…

  1. Florida JR LHP AJ Puk
  2. Mississippi State JR RHP Dakota Hudson
  3. Vanderbilt rSO RHP Jordan Sheffield
  4. Georgia JR RHP Robert Tyler
  5. Arkansas JR RHP Zach Jackson
  6. Florida JR RHP Logan Shore
  7. South Carolina FR RHP Braden Webb
  8. Auburn JR RHP Keegan Thompson
  9. Tennessee JR RHP Kyle Serrano
  10. Kentucky SR RHP Kyle Cody
  11. Florida JR RHP Shaun Anderson
  12. Florida JR RHP Dane Dunning
  13. Vanderbilt JR LHP Ben Bowden
  14. LSU SO RHP Austin Bain
  15. Vanderbilt JR LHP John Kilichowski
  16. Texas A&M SO RHP Brigham Hill
  17. Mississippi State JR LHP Daniel Brown
  18. Kentucky JR RHP Zack Brown
  19. Texas A&M JR RHP Mark Ecker
  20. Mississippi State JR RHP Austin Sexton
  21. Arkansas JR RHP Dominic Taccolini
  22. Texas A&M JR RHP Ryan Hendrix
  23. Georgia JR LHP Connor Jones
  24. Florida rSO LHP Scott Moss
  25. LSU JR LHP Jared Poche’
  26. South Carolina JR RHP Wil Crowe
  27. Texas A&M SR RHP Kyle Simonds
  28. Texas A&M SO RHP Jace Vines
  29. Alabama JR RHP Geoffrey Bramblett
  30. Kentucky SR RHP Dustin Beggs
  31. Texas A&M SR RHP Andrew Vinson
  32. Auburn rJR RHP Cole Lipscomb
  33. Alabama JR LHP Thomas Burrows
  34. LSU rSO RHP Jesse Stallings
  35. Mississippi State JR RHP Zac Houston
  36. Missouri rSR RHP Reggie McClain
  37. South Carolina JR RHP Taylor Widener
  38. Mississippi rJR RHP Brady Bramlett
  39. Vanderbilt JR RHP Hayden Stone
  40. Alabama rSR RHP Jake Hubbard
  41. LSU rJR RHP Hunter Newman
  42. LSU rJR RHP Russell Reynolds
  43. Mississippi JR RHP Chad Smith
  44. South Carolina rSO RHP Canaan Cropper
  45. Auburn JR RHP Gabe Klobosits
  46. Auburn JR LHP Ben Braymer
  47. LSU JR RHP Riley Smith
  48. Mississippi State JR RHP/OF Reid Humphreys
  49. Mississippi State rSO RHP Jacob Billingsley
  50. Alabama JR RHP Matt Foster
  51. LSU JR RHP Alden Cartwright
  52. Mississippi State JR LHP Vance Tatum
  53. Florida JR LHP Kirby Snead
  54. LSU JR RHP Parker Bugg
  55. Alabama rJR LHP/OF Colton Freeman
  56. Mississippi rJR RHP Sean Johnson
  57. Mississippi JR LHP Wyatt Short
  58. South Carolina JR RHP Matt Vogel
  59. Alabama JR RHP Nick Eicholtz
  60. Mississippi State rJR RHP Paul Young
  61. Texas A&M SR LHP Ty Schlottmann
  62. Arkansas JR RHP James Teague
  63. Arkansas JR RHP Cannon Chadwick
  64. Georgia rSR RHP Heath Holder
  65. Auburn JR LHP Octavio Rodriguez
  66. Alabama SR RHP Ray Castillo
  67. Auburn JR RHP Kevin Davis
  68. Georgia JR RHP Drew Moody
  69. Georgia rJR RHP David Gonzalez
  70. LSU SR LHP John Valek
  71. Tennessee SR LHP Andy Cox
  72. Kentucky SR LHP Dylan Dwyer
  73. Auburn rSR RHP Justin Camp
  74. Tennessee SR RHP Steven Kane
  75. South Carolina JR LHP Josh Reagan
  76. Alabama rSO RHP Tyler Adams
  77. Tennessee JR RHP Jon Lipinski
  78. Georgia JR LHP Andrew Gist
  79. Florida JR RHP Frank Rubio
  80. Texas A&M SR LHP/OF Blake Kopetsky
  81. Alabama SR LHP Jon Keller
  82. Mississippi State JR RHP Blake Smith
  83. Kentucky JR LHP Logan Salow
  84. Georgia rJR RHP Austin Wallace
  85. Missouri rSO RHP Cole Bartlett
  86. Missouri SR LHP Austin Tribby
  87. Kentucky rSR RHP Zach Strecker
  88. LSU JR RHP Collin Strall
  89. Tennessee JR RHP Hunter Martin
  90. LSU SR LHP Hunter Devall
  91. South Carolina JR LHP John Parke
  92. Arkansas rJR RHP Josh Alberius
  93. Vanderbilt rSO LHP Ryan Johnson
  94. Arkansas rSR RHP Doug Willey

SEC 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team – HITTERS

First Team

Louisiana State JR C Chris Chinea
South Carolina SR 1B Kyle Martin
Louisiana State JR 2B Alex Bregman
Vanderbilt JR SS Dansby Swanson
Florida SR 3B Josh Tobias
Florida JR OF Harrison Bader
Louisiana State JR OF Andrew Stevenson
Tennessee JR OF Christin Stewart

Second Team

Georgia JR C Zack Bowers
Vanderbilt rJR 1B Zander Wiel
South Carolina JR 2B Max Schrock
Georgia rSO 3B Trevor Kieboom
Florida SR 3B Josh Tobias
Tennessee JR OF/LHP Vincent Jackson
Vanderbilt JR OF Rhett Wiseman
Arkansas SO OF Andrew Benintendi

There are so many prospects here that I’m going to do my best to touch on as many as possible as we whip around the diamond. There are some quoted bits from previous entries when applicable so this isn’t entirely original content, but it’s over 6,000 words…and that’s before we get to the pitching. Buckle up.

LSU JR C Chris Chinea is a good athlete with a big raw power and a solid defensive reputation. His teammate SR C Kade Scivicque joins him in what has to be one of college ball’s top catching tandems. It would hardly be a surprise to see the talented Scivicque get selected before Chinea with the former’s senior sign status giving him the edge for teams that view them as comparable talents. I look at Texas A&M SR C Mitchell Nau in a similar way to Scivicque: both are solid senior signs that should come relatively cheaply, provide a steadying presence for young arms, and give you a chance at a big league backup catcher down the line.

Alabama SO C Will Haynie has obvious upside in his 6-5, 230 pound frame. Catchers built like that with plus raw power and plus arm strength get chances even when the overall package – Haynie struggled badly last season and has only made modest improvements in 2015 — doesn’t amount to what you’d expect. A team might bet on his tools higher than expected, but I think the most realistic outcome would be a return to Tuscaloosa in 2016. No need to rush Haynie just because he’s a draft-eligible sophomore, though I suppose the question as to whether or not his development would be better served in college or in the pros going forward is one worth asking. I typically side with the pro side on matters like these, but Haynie needs the kind of at bats that playing every day in the SEC would give him. He’s almost too raw a player to take on the pros right now; I’d worry that he’d get lost in the shuffle of pro ball as even the best player development staffs can only take on so many projects at any one time.

Georgia JR C Zack Bowers can’t match Haynie in terms of sheer mass (Bowers is listed at 6-1, 200), but offers a similarly appealing plus raw power/plus arm strength package. His glove remains a work in progress, but the strides he has made as a hitter this year have been encouraging. He’s still going to swing and miss more than you’d like, but there’s a chance with continued work he can get that aspect under enough control to put his big raw power to use. I’ve personally moved away from the arm/power catcher archetype in recent years (I know lean towards athleticism and plate discipline), but the upside of a player like Bowers is undeniable. To an extent, how much you like Bowers (and Haynie, for that matter) comes down to how much confidence you have in your player development staff working with these kinds of players. If you believe that you can coach up defense and approach, then the raw talent of the arm/power catchers supersedes any concerns. I can buy that defense can always be improved – the Cubs sure seem to think so – but changing a guy’s approach at the plate is a gigantic challenge.

If he can convince teams that he can work defensively as a four-corners (1B/3B/LF/RF) prospect, then South Carolina JR 1B Kyle Martin could wind up drafted higher than most other straight college first basemen in his class. He has the athleticism and arm strength to pull off such a move, though it remains to be seen if the primary first baseman can make the transition in pro ball. As a hitter he’s improved every season – especially in the power department – enough to make a case that he could just keep mashing enough to get a shot down the line even if he’s locked into first base only. Of course, we say it every year and it bears repeating yet again: the tremendous offensive demands of the position makes projecting any amateur first basemen as a regular a long shot. Guys who can play multiple spots – like Martin potentially, as well as LSU SR 1B Conner Hale (who has also seen time at 2B and 3B), Georgia JR 1B Morgan Bunting (3B/OF…when he plays), and Auburn JR 1B Dylan Smith (OF…when he plays) – tend to wind up the most interesting prospects on draft day.

I liked Vanderbilt rJR 1B Zander Wiel last season as a draft-eligible redshirt sophomore, so it should be no shock that I like him again as a draft-eligible redshirt junior. Power, strength, and enough patience make him one of college ball’s better first base prospects. When I wonder here about why certain guys don’t get talked about more, I sometimes stop and think, “Well, how much have I publicly praised the player?” Almost always, I haven’t. I’ve thought about him a lot and maybe fired off some behind-the-scenes type things about the guy, but never given him the public recognition he deserves. That’s one of the reasons I’m glad I did this conference previews even if they did monopolize much of my free time over the past few months. There are so many more players that aren’t projected to be top ten picks that baseball fans should know about, and a quality first base prospect at one of the best programs in the country is one of them.

And now for something totally different. Mississippi SR 1B Sikes Orvis is one of college ball’s most famous names. His colorful personality, noteworthy facial hair (since lopped off, sadly), egg-like bod, and near weekly appearances on ESPN’s coverage of the SEC make him a worthy ambassador for the game and one of the most well-known players to casual college baseball/draft fans (if you’re an athlete who my wife recognizes on TV as she flicks by, then you’re famous). On top of all that, he’s also a pretty good college baseball player. He’s a better athlete and defender than his body suggests, and his power bat is nothing to mess with. The profile is a long shot to ever top out as anything but a 4A slugger, but it’ll be a fun ride. Equally entertaining plus-sized Mississippi State rSR 1B Wes Rea is in the same boat. I don’t know how high he’ll climb in the minors, but all eyes will be on the 6-5, 275 pound ATHLETE at every minor league park he sets foot in. That’s more than most mid-round prospects can say, so I’d argue he’s already ahead of the game.

LSU JR 2B/SS Alex Bregman and South Carolina JR 2B Max Schrock have been covered already, so I’ll be brief with each here. On Bregman…DID YOU KNOW that as of 4/3/15, he has more home runs (7) than strikeouts (5)? That’s good, right? His defense has also universally lauded this spring, enough so that some smart people are starting to lead the Bregman as pro shortstop charge once again. Two things about that: 1) I think whatever team drafts him does so with playing him at shortstop for at least the remainder of 2015 and possibly even 2016. I’m not sure what happens after that, but my hunch is that he’ll be given every shot to stay at shortstop despite what haters like me write. I mean, if Corey Seager is still technically a shortstop, then why won’t a team stick with Bregman at the six-spot as long as possible? 2) As a “hater,” I’m encouraged about the positive reports about his defense, but more so because now I’m more sure than ever that he could be a plus glove at second rather than a future pro shortstop. Any way you look at it his improved defense is a good thing even if it does muddle the Bregman narrative up a bit.

That wasn’t particularly brief, so I’ll try again with Schrock. I’ve read in multiple places how Schrock has been a disappointment this year for South Carolina. We’re not talking from a draft perspective, but from a 2015 college production point of view. His batting average is over fifty points lower so far this year, so I guess that has to be why I keep hearing about his struggles this year. It’s certainly not about his OBP because, lower average or not, he’s getting on base at a higher clip this year (.379) than he did last year (.366). You could fairly point to his decrease in power so far this year, but it’s not so far off – especially with the added OBP value – to say he’s having a down year relative to what he’s done in the past. From a draft prospect perspective I was hoping for last year’s numbers plus improvements across the board (I’m selfish like that), but he’s hardly been disappointing through 105 at bats. I know this doesn’t have much to do with anything, but I feel better for getting that off my chest.

Alabama JR 2B/SS Mikey White’s power breakout has had many talking him up as a possible third baseman as a professional. I don’t think the power spike is real – he’s a really good hitter, but not somebody I would have had down for much more than average power going forward – but it’s the scouts he has to convince, not me. I had somebody smart (and, because I know he wouldn’t mind me saying this, also super old) recently compare him to a righthanded Graig Nettles. That feels a little rich for me – Nettles’ raw numbers don’t blow you away, but he’s a borderline HOF third baseman if going off of JAWS – but it’s an interesting comparison to a historically underrated player who once made the transition from second base to third. Lost in this whole conversation is White’s potential to remain at shortstop. Like those who will fight you to the death on Alex Bregman’s future position, there are some college baseball loyalists who will get very mad if you suggest White will have to move out of the six-spot as a pro. Believe it or not, I understand where those fans of White’s game are coming from: he’s as hard working as any prospect you’ll find, a tremendous team leader, and his baseball instincts are off the charts. Do those intangibles make up for average at best foot speed and suboptimal range? Despite the leading question, White has more of a shot to stick a shortstop for a few years than I had thought coming into the year. I still think either second or third makes more sense, and I’m not entirely sold on the bat being good enough to make him an everyday player, but the comparisons to former Alabama star Josh Rutledge…wait, this felt familiar so I searched my site for my last Rutledge reference and turns out I’ve written almost all this before. Turns out writing 10,000 words a week about college baseball for two months on end leaves you with mush for brains. Here’s my section on White from January…

It goes against a lot of what I’ve written previously, most notably in the LSU preview when discussing Alex Bregman, so don’t read too much into my listing of JR 2B/SS Mikey White’s two most likely pro positions in that precise (2B/SS) order. White could very well wind up sticking at short as a professional; in fact, I reserve the right to switch that up a half-dozen times in my mind (and in print!) over the next few months. Working very much for him are his tremendous instincts, which rank among the best I’ve seen at the amateur level. Though impossible for the amateur eye to quantify, he’s one of those players who always seems to be in the middle of the action on the field, almost always doing something positive after finding himself in the right place at the right time. Watch him for a game or even a series and you might chalk it up as a coincidence, but we’ve now got two years of college, plenty of high-level summer ball, and, depending on who you are lucky enough to talk to, a year or more of tracking him in high school to go off of at this point. If his preternatural ability to be at the right place at the right time is just a coincidence, then I no longer understand the meaning of the word.

There’s a perfectly reasonable and logical Josh Rutledge comp out there (can’t recall the origin) for White that I don’t hate, though I think White is a truer traditional middle infielder (better glove, less power) than Rutledge ever was. There’s also been a Nolan Fontana comparison floating around with Baseball America as the source. I think the Fontana comp is a little bit stronger (both players relying as much on smarts and positioning than raw athleticism as defenders), but, like all comps, it’s still imperfect: Fontana always had an elite approach as a hitter as well as, in my personal view, a surer path to remain at shortstop professionally. The best comparison that comes to mind for me is current Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer. Both guys have good size, strong arms, and have been universally praised over the years for having high baseball IQs. All that, and their sophomore year numbers aren’t all that far off…

JM: .299/.359/.481 – 15 BB/28 K – 5/7 SB
MW: .300/.399/.443 – 27 BB/44 K – 3/5 SB

Mercer followed that up with another quality season highlighted by a power spike significant enough to get him popped with the 79th overall pick in 2008. He then experienced a slow and steady climb through the Pirates minor league system before breaking through as a legitimate regular at short for Pittsburgh in 2013. If Mikey White follows the same path then we can pencil him as a third round pick this June with the chance to hit the big leagues by 2020. Doesn’t seem that unreasonable to me, though I think you could at least argue that he’ll be a faster riser but with more of a utility upside. The latter was often said about Mercer throughout the earliest portion of his career, so you never know.

White has blown past what Mercer did his junior season, especially from a power standpoint. I’ve touched on the veracity of the realness of that power before, but without much evidence against it I’m inclined to believe something good is going on with either his swing, strength, or some combination thereof. A third round selection might be a little light based on what White has done so far this year, though I remain skeptical of a heretofore non-power bat hitting for this kind of pop with the kind of plate discipline red flags evident in White’s game.

I’m about as confused on White as I’ve been on a college player so far this season. I’m no scout, but, as a baseball fan, he is exactly the kind of player I feel like I legitimately need to see more of with my own two eyes in order to better understand his strengths and weaknesses. I want to keep putting him into certain restrictive places in my mind – he’s a scrappy utility player with a “true middle infield” glove, he’s an underappreciated (by me!) power hitter who will be best at third, he’s an overrated mirage, he’s an underrated grinder – but he doesn’t seem to fit nicely in any one player archetype. Mikey White has broken me, and I think that’s a good thing. I lean towards him turning into a potential quality utility player with a chance to play regularly at second with continued progress, but will likely go back and forth a few more times between now and June.

I haven’t heard a player get the “he’ll be a better pro than college player” treatment in a long time quite like Tennessee JR SS AJ Simcox. I’m not sure how to take that exactly. It almost sounds like a dig on the Tennessee coaching staff, but I find that hard to believe knowing what I do about the people they have in place there. I think it’s more likely explained by the differences in the pro grind – all baseball, all the time – versus the multitude of various interested parties pulling one’s attention away from the day in college. I don’t know anything specific to Simcox here, for the record. He could be as focused as can be and simply in need of an all-encompassing baseball environment because of personal preference.

It’s just now occurred to me that the SEC shortstops have a pretty clear tier system. It gets even more clearly defined if we include maybe shortstops like Bregman and White. The top tier includes Vanderbilt JR SS/2B Dansby Swanson and Bregman, then there’s Florida JR SS/OF Richie Martin and White, then a big step down to Simcox, Auburn JR SS Cody Nulph, and Mississippi State SR SS Seth Heck, and a final tier of South Carolina JR SS Marcus Mooney, Arkansas rJR SS Brett McAfee, and whomever else I missed.

I’m still holding out on JR 3B Xavier Turner (formerly of Vanderbilt, though technically he’s still enrolled at school there and just not playing ball this year) as the conference’s best third base prospect. That’s as much as because of Turner’s talent (ample athleticism, bat speed in spades, and average or better raw power, speed, and arm strength) as it is the relative void at the position without him. I had Georgia rSO 3B Trevor Kieboom as the next in line, but his transition to the SEC hasn’t been all that it could be so far. He still gives you intriguing power, defensive upside, and size. Since it was a close battle for second pre-season anyway, I don’t’ feel too bad about editing my list a bit and flipping Florida SR 3B/2B Josh Tobias to the two spot for now. Tobias has always flashed talent (above-average speed, more pop than his size suggests, and a steady, versatile glove), so it’s been nice to see him put together a strong senior season. As a senior sign with a possible utility future (the approach keeps him from being a starter for me), he could find his way into the late single-digit rounds. Similar things apply to Texas A&M JR 3B/SS Logan Taylor, another versatile defender (potentially plus at third, average at both short and second) with some pop who could find a role off a big league bench one day.

I want to say that Florida JR OF Harrison Bader can do a little bit of everything, but that would be a lie. Harrison Bader can do a lot of everything. He’s a legitimate five-tool player and I’ll fight anybody who says otherwise. I’d take him over any bat in the conference not named Bregman or Swanson without a second thought. Above-average raw power, above-average to plus speed, and the ability to play center make him a lot like Vanderbilt JR OF Rhett Wiseman to me, but with a markedly better approach at the plate. If he’s there in the second, it’s an easy call. Also, I’m not a scout and smarter people have disagreed with me, but I love his swing. It’s not conventionally pretty, but his lower half and upper half are coordinated really well and there’s just enough of an uppercut (but not too much) to suggest his power surge is real.

LSU JR OF Andrew Stevenson could step into a AA lineup tomorrow (just in time for opening day!) because his defense in center (plus-plus), speed (plus), and hit tool (above-average) are all professional quality right now. He’s one of those players that it would be very hard to imagine not someday carving out a big league role for himself on the basis of his defensive prowess and game-changing speed on the base paths alone. When you add in that hit tool, his emerging pop, and an improved approach at the plate, it’s easy to envision him maturing into a table-setting leadoff hitter guaranteed to give you years of positive defensive and base running value in the bigs. I was high on Stevenson before writing this paragraph, but now I’m more pumped about him than ever.

Tennessee JR OF Christin Stewart just keeps getting better and better and better as a hitter. With an above-average hit tool and honest plus raw power, his breakout season (happening right now!) was only a matter of time. I’ve been hard on him in the past because of my perceived disconnect between his consistently praised approach at the plate and below-average BB/K ratios (1/2 for most of his first two seasons), but I’m starting to buy in. When I hear this is a below-average draft, I think of players like Stewart who have emerged as worthwhile top three round picks – not just in this draft, but in any draft – and smile. If a down draft means a few pitching prospect have gotten injured and no stone cold mortal lock for 1-1 exists, then I guess this draft isn’t very good. If it means that there will be future big league regulars selected out of college as late as the fifth round, then I feel like we’re not on the same page. I try not to cheerlead, but the bad draft stuff is just laziness from paid professionals who really ought to try digging a little deeper.

I’ve written a lot about many SEC prospects already (links to the teams that had rosters in early are found below), but there are a few players I’d like to quickly revisit based on updated information and performance. I didn’t realize it until after the fact that almost every blurb has a BUT in it, so I did my best to sneak one into each.

  • Tennessee JR OF/LHP Vincent Jackson – still love the tools, but where’s the power?
  • Vanderbilt JR OF Rhett Wiseman – status unchanged (solid tools across the board), but approach still holds him back
  • Auburn JR 2B/OF Jordan Ebert – hoping his early season struggles are more attributable to bad BABIP luck, but his BB/K is still strong enough to give me hope that he’ll hit
  • LSU JR OF Mark Laird – now view him as Stevenson without the ceiling, but still a ML player
  • Tennessee SR OF Jonathan Youngblood – tools remain elite, but hasn’t played at all; could see a fan raging about his IDIOT team drafting somebody with such “bad” college numbers without knowing how damn toolsy Youngblood actually is just as easily as he could go undrafted
  • Alabama JR OF Georgie Salem – had a hunch that he was in line for a breakout season, but I’ve been told (haven’t seen him in person this year) he’s actually regressed at the plate and looks lost at times

I didn’t get to a few SEC schools that were late to post rosters, so special mention should be made about outfielders from Arkansas, Kentucky, and Alabama. Here are their quick blurbs, all decidedly BUT free…

  • Arkansas SO OF Andrew Benintendi – well-rounded with above-average speed, solid pop, CF range, and a live bat; somehow leading the nation in homers as of this writing at only 5-10, 175 pounds, which says about his strength and swing
  • Alabama SO OF Casey Hughston – swings and misses too much for my taste, though he’s still one of the draft’s best athletes and power hitters who is having a giant second season
  • Kentucky JR OF Kyle Barrett – reminds me a little bit of Laird as a speedy center fielder with fourth outfielder upside, might be a better all-around player
  • Kentucky JR OF Ka’aI Tom – size and tools don’t blow you away, yet he’s found a way to produce at every stop

LSU

Wherever he lands defensively, Bregman is going to hit. The ability to play one of the middle infield spots and hit while doing it is what makes him as close to a first round lock as there is in this college class. If that sounds like exceedingly simple analysis, well, that’s because it is. He has an easy to identify above-average or better hit tool, average to above-average speed that plays up due to his impressive feel for the game, average raw power with an emphasis on splitting the gaps, plenty of bat speed, and a consistently smart approach at the plate. There aren’t a lot of holes you can poke in his game from an offensive standpoint. One thing I’ve found particularly fascinating about Bregman as a prospect is the response you get when his name comes up within the game. I think I’ve heard more comps on Bregman than literally any player I can remember. Something about his game just evokes that “every man” feeling deep inside talent evaluators, I guess. Take a look at the list I currently have of comps I’ve personally heard for Bregman: Mike Lansing, Mark Ellis (BA has used this), Robby Thompson, Orlando Hudson, Tony Renda, Randy Velarde, Bill Mueller, Jose Vidro, Edgardo Alfonzo, Carlos Baerga, Ray Durham, Jhonny Peralta, and Mark DeRosa. There’s also the increasingly popular Dustin Pedroia comp, which makes sense on the surface but is a scary comparison for anybody due to the unique set of circumstances (or, more plainly, an obsessive/borderline maniacal drive to be great) that has led to Pedroia’s rise in the game. I’ve also heard the cautionary comp of Bobby Crosby, though I’m not sure I buy the two being all the similar at similar points in their respective development. A statistical look comparing Bregman and Crosby makes for an interesting conversation starter (if, you know, you’re friends with other obsessive college baseball/draft fans)…

AB: .344/.408/.504 – 51 BB/46 K – 28/35 SB – 526 AB
BC: .340/.417/.496 – 70 BB/103 K – 40/51 SB – 635 AB

Top is Bregman so far, bottom is Crosby’s career college numbers. It would have worked better if I had left out the BB/K ratios, but that would have been intellectually dishonest and I’m far too morally upstanding to stoop to statistical manipulation to make a point. I’d never dream of doing such a thing. Hey, look at this comparison…

AB: .369/.419/.546 – 25 BB/24 K – 17/18 SB – 282 AB
AH: .329/.391/.550 – 20 BB/20 K – 10/11 SB – 222 AB

The top is Bregman’s first year at LSU, the bottom is Aaron Hill’s first year at LSU. Notice how I didn’t say freshman year: Hill transferred from Southern Illinois to LSU after his freshman season. Since we’ve already gone down this dark and twisted road of statistical manipulation, let’s go even deeper…

AB: .316/.397/.455 – 27 BB/21 K – 12/18 SB – 244 AB
AH: .299/.375/.463 – 15 BB/27 K – 6/7 SB – 134 AB

Those would be Bregman and Hill’s “other” college season; more specifically, you’re looking at Hill’s freshman year at Southern Illinois and Bregman’s more recent season. I’m not sure what could be gained from comparing these two seasons, but, hey, look how similar! Jokes aside — though, seriously, those are some freaky similar numbers — I think the comparison between Alex Bregman and Aaron Hill is probably the most apt comp out there at this point. If the numbers don’t sway you, just check Hill’s playing card from his draft year at Baseball America…

In a draft thin on shortstops, Hill is one of the few with legitimate offensive potential. There are questions as to whether he can handle that position all the way up to the majors, but he’ll get the shot to prove he can’t. His instincts and gritty makeup get the most out of his tools–which aren’t lacking. He has enough arm to make plays from the hole, along with range and quickness. He’s not flashy but gets the job done. At worst, the Southeastern Conference player of the year will be an all-around second baseman. Offensively, he has a beautiful swing, above-average speed and control of the strike zone. He doesn’t have plus home-run power, but he can hit the occasional longball and line balls into the gaps.

I don’t normally post full sections like that, but come on! Replace Hill for Bregman and that’s pretty much spot-on! Well, the bit about this being a draft thin on shortstops might not work that well — if the 2015 draft is strong at any one position player group in the college game, it’s shortstop — but still. Interesting to me that this quick scouting report glossed over Hill’s offensive promise much in the same way I coincidentally (I swear!) did with Bregman above. It’s almost as if it was a foregone conclusion that Hill would hit enough to play somewhere, just like how many, myself included, view Bregman today. I like Bregman to hit a little bit more than Hill, run a little bit better than Hill, and field a little bit better than Hill. Otherwise, I think the comparison is pretty damn good.

Tennessee

Of all the teams profiled so far, none have a 1-2 outfield punch of 2015 draft prospects quite like Tennessee’s duo of JR OFs Christin Stewart and Vincent Jackson. Neither are likely first round prospects, so there are imperfections in their respective games that will be watched closely this spring. Stewart betrayed his patient, pro-ready approach last season in an effort to produce gaudier power numbers. It’s hard to blame him what with power being the most coveted singular tool in baseball these days, but the cost might prove to be greater than what it winds up being worth. On one hand, the change in approach worked as Stewart’s slugging percentage jumped about one hundred points from his freshman season. Unfortunately, the major dip in plate discipline — Stewart’s K/BB almost doubled from his first season to his sophomore year (1.48 to 2.80) — now creates a new question in his game that will need to be answered on the field before June. If all of that sounds overly negative, well, it’s not supposed to. Consider it more of a reality check for a really strong prospect than anything else. I’m still very much a believer in Stewart’s raw power (legitimately plus), hit tool (solidly above-average), and overall approach to hitting, past year production be damned.

The current number two to the top ranked Stewart is Vincent Jackson. Jackson is an outstanding athlete with considerable tools — in particular, his power stacks up quite well with Stewart’s and his plus speed blows him away — who has yet to blow scouts away at Tennessee. Inconsistent performance or not, his size and skill set evoke comparisons to two-time All-Star Alex Rios, a lofty comp at first blush but a little more palatable when you remember Rios’ earliest scouting reports and slow to manifest power as a young professional. Jackson’s blend of size, speed, raw power, athleticism, and defensive upside (above-average arm and range at present) combine to make a pretty enticing prospect. In other words, he’s also pretty good.

Alabama
Georgia
Mississippi
Arkansas
Vanderbilt

Swanson broke out last season in a big, big way. His first real test at the college level was hardly a test at all as he hit .333/.411/.475 with 37 BB and 39 K in 282 AB. He also added 22 steals in 27 attempts for good measure. The numbers obviously speak for themselves, but it’s still nice when the scouting reports back it up. Swanson can really play. I’ll indirectly piggyback a bit on Baseball America’s Trea Turner (with less speed) comp and reuse one of my comps for Turner last year for Swanson. It actually fits a lot better now, so I don’t feel too bad going to the Brett Gardner well in back-to-back drafts. The package of athleticism, speed, defensive upside at a critical up-the-middle spot with an above-average hit tool and average-ish power (little less, probably) works out to a consistently above-average regular with the chance for stardom — certainly flashes of it — within reach.

There’s a bit of a gap between Vanderbilt’s (draft) class of 2015 and Wiseman, but that speaks to the strength of having four likely first round picks more so than any major deficits in Wiseman’s game. I’ve run into two interesting schools of thought about Wiseman while putting this together. The first, and I’ll admit that this was my initial view from the start, is that he’s still more tools than skills right now. The tools are quite strong, but the fact that they haven’t turned into the skills many expected by now gives some pause. Still, those tools that were clear to almost all going back to his high school days are still real and still worth getting excited about. The breakout could come any day now for him and when it does we’ll be looking at a potential first-division regular in the outfield. The opposing view believes that Wiseman’s development has gone as scripted and what we’re seeing right now is more or less what we’re going to get with him. He’s a great athlete and a far more cerebral hitter than given credit, but the tools were overstated across the board at the onset of his amateur career and now we’re seeing expectations for him correcting themselves based on what he really is. There really are no pluses in his game and no carrying tool that will help him rise above his future fourth outfielder station. I’m a believer that it’s always wise to bet on athletes having the light bulb turn on before too long, so count me in as still leaning closer to the former (and my original) position. I do understand the concerns about Wiseman potentially topping out as a “tweener” outfield prospect — he hasn’t shown the power yet to work in a corner, but that’s where he’s clearly best defensively — so going on the first day might be off the table. He’s still an intriguing blend of production (good, not mind-blowing) and tools (same) who could wind up a relative bargain if he slips much later than that. I could see him both being ranked and drafted in the same area that I had him listed (110th overall) out of Buckingham Browne & Nichols.

In any event, I don’t think Wiseman’s viewed by many as quite the prospect he was back in high school and a good part of that was the way many — me included — viewed his rawness, age, and relative inexperience as a New England high school product as positives. We all are guilty of assuming there are concretely meaningful patterns we can expect from prospect development and that all young players will continue to get better with age and experience. Development is not linear and can be wildly unpredictable. Some guys are as good as they are going to get at 17 while others don’t figure it out (unfortunately) until way after their physical peak. This speaks to the heart of what makes assessing and drafting amateurs so much fun. We’re all just trying to gather as much information on as many players as possible and then making the best possible guesses as to what we’ll wind up with.

Auburn

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.

Missouri

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting

(This was my pre-season list with a few minor tweaks where I could remember to update certain position rankings. Outside of the first five picks or so, it doesn’t really reflect where I’m at roughly three months after putting it together initially. I considered not publishing it at all and waiting until I have time to do a full revision to get it up, but so long as everybody understands it is already a bit dated I figured there’s no harm sharing. Consider it a glorified follow list, if nothing else.)

  1. Vanderbilt JR SS/2B Dansby Swanson
  2. Louisiana State JR 2B/SS Alex Bregman
  3. Florida JR OF Harrison Bader
  4. Louisiana State JR OF Andrew Stevenson
  5. Florida JR SS/OF Richie Martin
  6. Tennessee JR OF Christin Stewart
  7. South Carolina JR 2B Max Schrock
  8. Tennessee JR OF/LHP Vincent Jackson
  9. Alabama JR 2B/SS Mikey White
  10. Vanderbilt JR OF Rhett Wiseman
  11. Arkansas SO OF Andrew Benintendi
  12. Auburn JR OF/2B Jordan Ebert
  13. Louisiana State JR OF Mark Laird
  14. Alabama SO OF Casey Hughston
  15. Tennessee SR OF Jonathan Youngblood
  16. Kentucky JR OF Kyle Barrett
  17. Tennessee JR SS AJ Simcox
  18. South Carolina SR 1B Kyle Martin
  19. Vanderbilt rJR 1B Zander Wiel
  20. Florida SR 3B/2B Josh Tobias
  21. Auburn JR SS Cody Nulph
  22. Alabama JR OF Georgie Salem
  23. Alabama JR 2B/RHP Kyle Overstreet
  24. Louisiana State JR C Chris Chinea
  25. Alabama SO C Will Haynie
  26. Mississippi SR 1B/C Sikes Orvis
  27. Georgia rSO 3B Trevor Kieboom
  28. Kentucky JR OF Ka’ai Tom
  29. Texas A&M JR OF/1B Jonathan Moroney
  30. Arkansas rJR OF Tyler Spoon
  31. South Carolina JR SS Marcus Mooney
  32. South Carolina JR 2B/SS DC Arendas
  33. Georgia JR C Zack Bowers
  34. Louisiana State SR C Kade Scivicque
  35. Arkansas SR OF Joe Serrano
  36. Louisiana State SR 1B/3B Conner Hale
  37. Texas A&M SR 2B/SS Blake Allemand
  38. Texas A&M SR 3B/RHP Logan Nottebrok
  39. Arkansas rJR SS Brett McAfee
  40. Vanderbilt JR OF/RHP Kyle Smith
  41. Auburn JR OF Sam Gillikin
  42. Mississippi State rSR 1B Wes Rea
  43. Texas A&M JR C/OF Boomer White
  44. Georgia JR 1B Morgan Bunting
  45. Kentucky rSO OF Storm Wilson
  46. Auburn JR 1B/OF Dylan Smith
  47. Tennessee JR OF Chris Hall
  48. Mississippi State rSO OF Cody Brown
  49. Alabama JR 3B Daniel Cucjen
  50. Mississippi State SR SS Seth Heck
  51. Texas A&M JR 3B/SS Logan Taylor
  52. Texas A&M JR 1B/RHP Hunter Melton
  53. Texas A&M SR C Mitchell Nau
  54. Kentucky JR C Zach Arnold
  55. Texas A&M JR OF JB Moss
  56. Georgia SR OF/RHP Heath Holder

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – SEC Follow List

Louisiana State

JR 2B/SS Alex Bregman (2015)
JR OF Andrew Stevenson (2015)
JR OF Mark Laird (2015)
JR C Chris Chinea (2015)
SR 1B/3B Conner Hale (2015)
SR OF Jared Foster (2015)
SR C Kade Scivicque (2015)
SR OF Chris Sciambra (2015)
SR RHP Brady Domangue (2015)
SR RHP Zac Person (2015)
SR LHP Kyle Bouman (2015)
rSO RHP Hunter Newman (2015)
rSO RHP Russell Reynolds (2015)
JR LHP Hunter Devall (2015)
FR 2B/SS Greg Deichmann (2016)
SO OF Jake Fraley (2016)
SO LHP Jared Poche (2016)
SO RHP Parker Bugg (2016)
SO 2B/3B Danny Zardon (2016)
SO 2B Kramer Robertson (2016)
SO RHP Collin Strall (2016)
SO RHP Alden Cartwright (2016)
rFR RHP Jesse Stallings (2016)
FR RHP Alex Lange (2017)
FR RHP Jake Godfrey (2017)
FR LHP Jake Latz (2017)
FR C Mike Papierski (2017)
FR RHP Austin Bain (2017)
FR SS Grayson Byrd (2017)
FR RHP Doug Norman (2017)
FR OF Beau Jordan (2017)
FR C/1B Bryce Jordan (2017)

Tennessee

JR OF Christin Stewart (2015)
JR OF/LHP Vincent Jackson (2015)
SR OF Jonathan Youngblood (2015)
JR OF Derek Lance (2015)
JR SS AJ Simcox (2015)
SR C Tyler Schultz (2015)
JR C David Houser (2015)
SR 1B/OF Parker Wormsley (2015)
JR 3B/2B Jeff Moberg (2015)
JR OF Chris Hall (2015)
JR OF Derek Lance (2015)
JR RHP/1B Andrew Lee (2015)
JR LHP Drake Owenby (2015)
JR RHP Steven Kane (2015)
SR RHP Bret Marks (2015)
SR RHP Peter Lenstrohm (2015)
SR RHP Eric Martin (2015)
JR LHP Andy Cox (2015)
SO RHP Kyle Serrano (2016)
SO 1B/C Nathaniel Maggio (2016)
SO RHP Hunter Martin (2016)
SO 3B Jordan Rodgers (2016)
SO 2B/3B Nick Senzel (2016)
FR C Benito Santiago (2016)
FR LHP Zach Warren (2017)
FR SS/2B Brett Langhorne (2017)

South Carolina

SR 1B Kyle Martin (2015)
JR C Jared Martin (2015)
JR 1B Collin Steagall (2015)
SR OF/3B Elliot Caldwell (2015)
SR OF/2B Connor Bright (2015)
rSR C/OF Patrick Harrington (2015)
JR 2B Max Schrock (2015)
JR SS Marcus Mooney (2015)
JR 2B/SS DC Arendas (2015)
rSO 1B Weber Pike (2015)
SR LHP Vincent Fiori (2015)
SR RHP Cody Mincey (2015)
JR LHP Jack Wynkoop (2015)
SO OF Gene Cone (2016)
SO RHP Matt Vogel (2016)
SO RHP Wil Crowe (2016)
SO LHP John Parke (2016)
SO 1B/RHP Taylor Widener (2016)
rFR RHP Canaan Cropper (2016)
SO LHP Josh Reagan (2016)
SO RHP Reed Scott (2016)
SO SS/RHP Jordan Gore (2016)
SO C Logan Koch (2016)
FR OF Clark Scolamiero (2017)
FR LHP/OF Alex Destino (2017)
FR C Hunter Taylor (2017)
FR SS/3B Madison Stokes (2017)
FR RHP Brandon Murray (2017)
FR RHP Clarke Schmidt (2017)
FR INF Jared Williams (2017)
FR RHP Tyler Johnson (2017)

Alabama

JR OF Georgie Salem (2015)
JR 2B/SS Mikey White (2015)
SO OF Casey Hughston (2015)
SO C Will Haynie (2015)
JR 2B/RHP Kyle Overstreet (2015)
JR OF Ryan Blanchard (2015)
JR 3B Daniel Cucjen (2015)
rSO RHP Mike Oczypok (2015)
JR 3B/RHP Chance Vincent (2015)
JR RHP Will Carter (2015)
rJR RHP Jake Hubbard (2015)
SR LHP Taylor Guilbeau (2015)
SR LHP Jonathan Keller (2015)
JR RHP Ray Castillo (2015)
rSO LHP/OF Colton Freeman (2015)
JR RHP/C Mitch Greer (2015)
SO RHP Geoffrey Bramblett (2016)
SO RHP Nick Eicholtz (2016)
SO LHP Thomas Burrows (2016)
SO OF William Elliott (2016)
FR OF Jamal Howard (2017)
FR SS Chandler Avant (2017)
FR RHP Andrew Dipiazza (2017)
FR LHP Alex Watkins (2017)

Kentucky

JR RHP Kyle Cody (2015)
rJR LHP Matt Snyder (2015)
JR RHP Dustin Beggs (2015)
SR RHP Andrew Nelson (2015)
rJR RHP Taylor Martin (2015)
rJR RHP Zach Strecker (2015)
JR LHP Dylan Dwyer (2015)
JR LHP Ryne Combs (2015)
SR RHP Spencer Jack (2015)
JR OF Kyle Barrett (2015)
rJR C Greg Fettes (2015)
JR OF Dorian Hairston (2015)
rSO OF Storm Wilson (2015)
rSR 3B/1B Thomas Bernal (2015)
JR OF Ka’ai Tom (2015)
JR C Zach Arnold (2015)
SO 2B/OF JaVon Shelby (2016)
SO SS Connor Heady (2016)
SO OF Marcus Carson (2016)
SO RHP Zack Brown (2016)
SO RHP Robert Ziegler (2016)
SO LHP Logan Salow (2016)
FR RHP Zachary Pop (2017)

Georgia

JR 1B Morgan Bunting (2015)
JR C Zack Bowers (2015)
JR 1B David Nichols (2015)
rSO 3B Trevor Kieboom (2015)
JR SS/2B Nick King (2015)
SR OF/RHP Heath Holder (2015)
rSR C/RHP Brandon Stephens (2015)
SR 1B/LHP Jared Walsh (2015)
JR RHP/OF Sean McLaughlin (2015)
SR RHP Jared Cheek (2015)
rJR RHP Mike Mancuso (2015)
rJR RHP David Sosebee (2015)
JR LHP Ryan Lawlor (2015)
JR RHP David Gonzalez (2015)
rSO RHP Austin Wallace (2015)
SO RHP Robert Tyler (2016)
SO LHP Connor Jones (2016)
SO OF Stephen Wrenn (2016)
SO SS/2B Mike Bell (2016)
SO C/OF Skyler Webb (2016)
FR LHP Ryan Avidano (2017)
FR LHP Bo Tucker (2017)
FR OF Keegan McGovern (2017)
FR OF/3B Mitchell Webb (2017)

Mississippi

rJR LHP Christian Trent (2015)
rSO RHP Brady Bramlett (2015)
rSO RHP Jacob Waguespack (2015)
JR RHP Sean Johnson (2015)
SR RHP Sam Smith (2015)
rSR RHP Scott Weathersby (2015)
JR LHP Matt Denny (2015)
JR 1B Jack Kaiser (2015)
SR 1B/C Sikes Orvis (2015)
SR C Austin Knight (2015)
SO LHP Evan Anderson (2016)
JR OF Connor Cloyd (2015)
JR OF Cameron Dishon (2015)
rFR OF Peyton Attaway (2016)
FR SS/2B Tate Blackman (2016)
SO 3B/1B Colby Bortles (2016)
SO LHP Wyatt Short (2016)
SO SS/2B Errol Robinson (2016)
SO OF JB Woodman (2016)
FR RHP Will Stokes (2017)
FR RHP Calder Mikell (2017)
FR SS/2B Kyle Watson (2017)
FR 1B Joe Wainhouse (2017)
FR SS/2B Will Golsan (2017)
FR C Nic Perkins (2017)
FR RHP John Wesley Ray (2017)

Arkansas

JR RHP Trey Killian (2015)
rSR RHP Jackson Lowery (2015)
SR RHP Jacob Stone (2015)
rJR OF Tyler Spoon (2015)
JR 2B Max Hogan (2015)
rJR SS Brett McAfee (2015)
SR OF Joe Serrano (2015)
rJR 3B Mike Bernal (2015)
SR OF/C Krisjon Wilkerson (2015)
JR 3B Bobby Wernes (2015)
JR C Tucker Pennell (2015)
JR SS Matt Campbell (2015)
JR 2B/SS Rick Nomura (2015)
rFR C Carson Shaddy (2016)
SO INF Clark Eagan (2016)
SO LHP/INF Trent Hill (2016)
SO RHP Zach Jackson (2016)
SO RHP Dominic Taccolini (2016)
SO RHP Cannon Chadwick (2016)
SO RHP James Teague (2016)
SO OF Andrew Benintendi (2016)
FR OF Luke Bonfield (2016)
FR C Nathan Rodriguez (2017)
FR RHP Keaton McKinney (2017)
FR RHP Jonah Patten (2017)
FR 3B Blake Wiggins (2017)
FR C/1B Chad Spanberger (2017)
FR LHP Kyle Pate (2017)
FR OF Keith Grieshaber (2017)
FR LHP Ryan Fant (2017)

Vanderbilt

JR RHP Walker Buehler (2015)
JR RHP Carson Fulmer (2015)
rJR LHP Philip Pfeifer (2015)
SO LHP John Kilichowski (2015)
JR RHP Tyler Ferguson (2015)
JR OF/RHP Kyle Smith (2015)
JR SS/2B Dansby Swanson (2015)
JR OF Rhett Wiseman (2015)
rJR 1B Zander Wiel (2015)
JR 2B/SS Tyler Campbell (2015)
SO OF/1B Bryan Reynolds (2016)
SO C Jason Delay (2016)
SO OF/INF Nolan Rogers (2016)
SO RHP Hayden Stone (2016)
SO LHP Ben Bowden (2016)
rFR RHP Jordan Sheffield (2016)
FR 3B/SS Will Toffey (2016)
SO C Karl Ellison (2016)
SO RHP/LHP Aubrey McCarty (2016)
rFR OF/INF Tyler Green (2016)
rFR OF Drake Parker (2016)
SO OF/2B Ro Coleman (2016)
FR OF Jeren Kendall (2017)
FR RHP Brendan Spagnuolo (2017)
FR SS Liam Sabino (2017)
FR RHP Joey Abraham (2017)
FR RHP Matt Ruppenthal (2017)
FR RHP Collin Snider (2017)
FR RHP Kyle Wright (2017)
FR C Tristan Chari (2017)
FR 3B Joey Mundy (2017)

Auburn

JR RHP Trey Wingenter (2015)
SR RHP Rocky McCord (2015)
rJR RHP Justin Camp (2015)
SR RHP Jacob Milliman (2015)
rSO RHP Cole Lipscomb (2015)
JR SS Cody Nulph (2015)
JR OF Sam Gillikin (2015)
JR 3B/SS Alex Polston (2015)
JR 2B/SS Melvin Gray (2015)
JR OF/2B Jordan Ebert (2015)
JR 1B/OF Dylan Smith (2015)
SO OF JJ Shaffer (2016)
SO RHP Kevin Davis (2016)
SO 2B/SS Damon Haecker (2016)
SO RHP/1B Keegan Thompson (2016)
SO OF Anfernee Grier (2016)
SO C Blake Logan (2016)
SO 1B/OF Daniel Robert (2016)
FR OF/INF Hunter Tackett (2016)
FR OF Austin Murphy (2017)

Florida

JR SS/OF Richie Martin (2015)
JR OF Harrison Bader (2015)
SR 3B/2B Josh Tobias (2015)
JR RHP Eric Hanhold (2015)
rSO RHP Mike Vinson (2015)
JR RHP Taylor Lewis (2015)
rJR RHP Aaron Rhodes (2015)
SR LHP Bobby Poyner (2015)
JR LHP Danny Young (2015)
SO RHP Logan Shore (2016)
SO 3B John Sternagel (2016)
rFR LHP Scott Moss (2016)
SO RHP Shaun Anderson (2016)
SO LHP/OF Tyler Deel (2016)
SO OF Ryan Larson (2016)
SO RHP Frank Rubio (2016)
SO LHP Kirby Snead (2016)
SO 1B Pete Alonso (2016)
SO OF Buddy Reed (2016)
SO LHP/1B AJ Puk (2016)
SO RHP Dane Dunning (2016)
SO RHP Brett Morales (2016)
FR C JJ Schwarz (2017)
FR SS Dalton Guthrie (2017)
FR RHP Alex Faedo (2017)
FR C Michael Rivera (2017)
FR OF/LHP Logan Browning (2017)
FR SS Taylor Lane (2017)
FR 1B/OF Jeremy Vasquez (2017)
FR SS/3B Christian Hicks (2017)

Mississippi State

rJR 3B/2B John Holland (2015)
JR 1B Matt Spruill (2015)
SR C Cody Walker (2015)
rSR 1B Wes Rea (2015)
SR SS Matthew Britton (2015)
SR OF Jake Vickerson (2015)
SR SS Seth Heck (2015)
rSO OF Cody Brown (2015)
rSO OF Jacob Robson (2015)
rSR LHP Ross Mitchell (2015)
SR RHP Trevor Fitts (2015)
rJR RHP Preston Brown (2015)
rSO RHP Paul Young (2015)
SR LHP Lucas Laster (2015)
JR RHP Myles Gentry (2015)
SO RHP Austin Sexton (2016)
SO C Gavin Collins (2016)
SO LHP Daniel Brown (2016)
SO RHP Logan Elliott (2016)
SO 3B Luke Reynolds (2016)
rFR OF Joey Swinarski (2016)
SO RHP Dakota Hudson (2016)
SO OF/3B Reid Humphreys (2016)
SO RHP Zac Houston (2016)
rFR RHP Jacob Billingsley (2016)
FR RHP Jesse McCord (2017)
FR RHP Aaron Dominguez (2017)
FR RHP/1B Cole Gordon (2017)
FR INF Ryan Gridley (2017)
FR LHP Andrew Mahoney (2017)
FR LHP Paxton Stover (2017)

Missouri

JR RHP Alec Rash (2015)
rJR RHP John Miles (2015)
SR RHP Jace James (2015)
JR RHP Peter Fairbanks (2015)
JR RHP Breckin Williams (2015)
JR RHP Brandon Mahovlich (2015)
JR RHP Reggie McClain (2015)
JR LHP Austin Tribby (2015)
JR RHP Griffin Goodrich (2015)
JR 3B/1B Josh Lester (2015)
SR 2B/SS Brett Peel (2015)
JR 3B/1B Zach Lavy (2015)
JR 1B/OF Chris Akmon (2015)
SR C/OF Jake Ivory (2015)
SR OF Logan Pearson (2015)
SO OF Jake Ring (2016)
SO C Jack Klages (2016)
SO SS/3B Ryan Howard (2016)
FR RHP Bryce Montes de Oca (2017)
FR 3B/SS Shane Benes (2017)
FR RHP Tanner Houck (2017)
FR RHP/OF Zack Henderson (2017)
FR LHP Lake Dabney (2017)
FR INF/OF Trey Harris (2017)
FR RHP Liam Carter (2017)
FR C Brett Bond (2017)

Texas A&M

JR C/OF Boomer White (2015)
JR 3B/SS Logan Taylor (2015)
JR C Michael Barash (2015)
SR C Mitchell Nau (2015)
SR 2B/SS Blake Allemand (2015)
SR 1B/OF GR Hinsley (2015)
JR OF JB Moss (2015)
JR OF/1B Jonathan Moroney (2015)
SR OF Patrick McLendon (2015)
JR 3B Logan Taylor (2015)
JR 1B/RHP Hunter Melton (2015)
SR 3B/RHP Logan Nottebrok (2015)
JR LHP/OF AJ Minter (2015)
JR LHP Matt Kent (2015)
SO LHP Tyler Stubblefield (2015)
SR RHP Jason Freeman (2015)
JR RHP Grayson Long (2015)
JR RHP/INF Andrew Vinson (2015)
JR LHP Ty Schlottmann (2015)
JR RHP Kyle Simonds (2015)
SO RHP Cody Whiting (2015)
SO OF Nick Banks (2016)
SO RHP Ryan Hendrix (2016)
SO 2B/OF Ryne Birk (2016)
SO 3B/C Ronnie Gideon (2016)
SO RHP Mark Ecker (2016)
SO SS Nick Choruby (2016)
FR RHP Turner Larkins (2017)
FR RHP Brigham Hill (2017)
FR C Cole Bedford (2017)

SEC 2012 MLB Draft Pitching Potpourri

Kicking off the weekend with a little bit of stream of consciousness writing about the SEC, its players, and the 2012 MLB Draft. Despite being born and raised in Big East country (and the Atlantic 10 principality), I was a long-time loyalist of ACC baseball. Access to plenty of games while spending my late teenage summers running around the The Triangle down in North Carolina gave me the chance to see some really exciting players before they were known as prospects, if you catch my drift. Though come to think of it, many of the guys with “star” upside didn’t really make it. Still holding out hope for Andrew Miller, but I think that’s due mostly to the memory of his UNC era Blake Anderson mustache. My college years allowed me time to freeze my butt off (not literally, I still do in fact have a butt) while watching the best and the brightest pass through Boston College’s dual-purpose ballpark/parking lot (or, better yet, ballparking lot) to say nothing of that memorable day I saw the CAA’s finest prospect, Northeastern’s ace and the man who would become the school’s first ever big league pitcher Adam Ottavino, throw a no-hitter against a solid James Madison lineup. Ah, college. Such wild and crazy times.

Long story short, I’m now a full-fledged SEC homer. You can thank me having a brother in Nashville and the subsequent possibility of many Vanderbilt games in my future for the change in allegiance. See how easy I can be bought and sold? Special attention will be paid to the SEC this year due simply to the fact that I’ll likely be seeing more players from that conference than any other. After a few years of squeezing rocks to make milk (I swear this reference makes sense: it’s from a fable I was read in my youth, but Google seems to think I’m making it up) by watching Villanova play up (Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame!) and down (Georgetown, Seton Hall, and, even though I know they can’t technically play themselves, Villanova!) competition, I’m ready to enjoy getting the opportunity to see a slew of interesting games against my new “hometown” team. Of course, life would be a lot easier (and cost-effective) if only Penn, a pretty darn good looking club from both the competitive college team and draftable prospect standpoints, had a more interesting home conference schedule in 2012. Then I could enjoy good baseball within minutes of my apartment (cost of the walk: $0.00) instead of being forced to fly south every other weekend (cost of the flight: don’t even want to think about it), but what can you do, right? Maybe in 2013 when hopefully Princeton (Mike Fagan, maybe Matt Bowman), Harvard, and Dartmouth (Mitch Horacek, maybe Kyle Hunter) come to town. Then I’ll swap allegiances once again and become the world’s loudest and proudest Ivy League baseball backer.

So, where were we? SEC baseball and the 2012 MLB Draft? Ah, of course. Some general impressions on the state of the conference’s pitching as we fire up weekend number three of the college baseball season…

*** LSU SO RHP Kevin Gausman is pretty clearly at the top of the conference’s draft pitching pecking order, but who is number two? I’ve done the homework, talked to some smart people, read as much as a human can read, and watched whenever possible and I still don’t have a clue. I went into all this thinking fellow SO RHP Nolan Sanburn (Arkansas) would be the consensus pick, but of the four well-connected people I talked to, only one had him at the number two spot with any confidence. Of course, these people thought I was wasting my time trying to rank players within a conference (“What’s the big idea? You know players from every conference are eligible on draft day, right?”), but that’s besides the point. South Carolina rJR RHP Matt Price (battle-tested with big league stuff) got a vote, as did Vanderbilt JR LHP Sam Selman (upside) and, curiously enough, Florida JR RHP Hudson Randall (battle-tested without definite big league stuff). After careful consideration, I’m leaning a different way altogether. I reserve the right to change my mind (i.e. come to my senses) after one last weekend of thinking it all over, so check back in next week to see who is number two.

*** Speaking of Hudson Randall, is there really anything that separates him from a guy like, say, Georgia SR RHP Michael Palazzone? They both live in the upper-80s with their fastballs, both lean heavily on two-seamers, both have average-ish breaking balls (though in Randall’s case he has two), and both rely on precise command in the absence of dazzling raw stuff. Statistically, both had outstanding 2011 seasons, at least when looked at superficially. Randall went 11-3 with an ERA of 2.17 ERA while Palazzone went 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA. Not bad, right? And similar enough, yes? Digging a bit deeper reveals some questionable peripherals as well as starker similarities between the two. Randall’s K/9 in 124.1 IP: 5.65. Palazzone’s K/9 in 120.1 IP? 6.36. Their park/schedule adjusted FIP’s were nearly identical: Randall at 4.43 and Palazzone at 4.47. What does it all mean? Honestly, not a whole lot. I just think it is funny that Randall, a much bigger name in college baseball due in large part to his awesome production on some great Gators teams, is ranked by many as a far superior prospect to Palazzone, at one time a really well-regarded arm in his own right.

*** There are a lot of relievers primed to make an impact out of the SEC in this year’s draft. Some of the bigger names include the aforementioned Sanburn (whom I’m not convinced can’t start professionally, but we’ll see), Alabama JR RHP Ian Gardeck, Florida JR RHP Austin Maddox, Maddox’s teammate JR LHP Steven Rodriguez. It is also possible, or in some cases likely, that guys like Price, Selman, and Kentucky JR LHP Jerad Grundy wind up in the bullpen at the next level. My crystal ball is in the shop, but if I had to guess I’d say that Gausman looks like the only slam dunk guarantee to remain a starting pitcher in pro ball two or three years down the line.

*** I’m pretty sure I like Florida JR LHP/1B Brian Johnson more as a hitter than a pitcher. I’ve isolated myself somewhat from the experts so far this year — that will change soon because, quite frankly, reading Baseball America is too enjoyable to quit in the name of wanting to remain unsullied by industry approved opinions — so I’m out of the loop on what people think about his pro future. His performance in 2012 will go a long way in determining his future one way or another (there’s your obvious statement of the day…hope you enjoyed it), so this is a situation worth monitoring.

*** A few quick hits to wrap this up:

1) In a battle of two pitchers with similar stuff, I prefer Mississippi State JR RHP Chris Stratton to Arkansas JR RHP DJ Baxendale, though it is close. Again, I’m out of the loop here with what people are saying: is Stratton on the national draft radar or would he qualify as a sleeper? I never know what a “sleeper” is anymore. Whenever I see likely top three round prospects touted as sleepers, I die a little inside.

2) I’ll never be able to quit on long-time favorite South Carolina JR RHP Ethan Carter. It has been hard keeping up with him over the years (high school hot shot to surprise enrollee at South Carolina to sudden transfer to Louisburg JC to even bigger surprise reentry to South Carolina), but he’s too talented to ever really lose sight of. Great to see he’s off to a dominating start (9 K and only 3 base runners allowed in 8.1 scoreless innings) out of the Gamecocks pen so far.

3) The talent is really spread out on the pitching side in the SEC. My initial ranking of the top seven 2012 arms from the conference features pitchers from seven different schools. Expand the list to eleven names and then you’re up to nine different teams represented. Ten different teams have players in the top thirteen. Sorry, Mississippi and Auburn. I take it back: no apology needed for Ole Miss. Auburn, sure, we can apologize to Auburn. But Mississippi’s 2013 and 2014 draft class talent looks potentially devastating at this point. Alright, once we start talking about a draft 27 months away then we know it is time to stop rambling. Enjoy the games this weekend, everybody.