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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Pittsburgh Pirates

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Pittsburgh in 2016

13 – Will Craig
32 – Braeden Ogle
106 – Max Kranick
155 – Stephen Alemais
220 – Cam Vieaux
260 – Austin Shields
331 – Dylan Prohoroff
473 – Travis MacGregor

Complete List of 2016 Pittsburgh Draftees

1.22 – 3B Will Craig

I like everything about Will Craig (13) minus the position that comes before his name above. My #notascout observations of him over the years has me believing Craig, despite being blessed with a huge right arm, is not a third baseman. He’s a first baseman through and through. That bit of “bad” news out of the way allows to instead focus on what Craig does well. In short, the man can hit. From January 2016…

I think I’m going to keep touting JR 1B/RHP Will Craig as the righthanded AJ Reed until he starts getting some serious national recognition. I cited that name in the college draft preview from October, so might as well keep mentioning it over and over and over…

Do you like power? How about patience? What about a guy with power, patience, and the athleticism to pull off collegiate two-way duty? For everybody who missed on AJ Reed the first time around, Will Craig is here to give you a second chance. I won’t say he’ll be the first base prospect that finally tests how high a first base prospect can go in a post-PED draft landscape, but if he has a big enough junior season…

I love Craig. In past years I might back down some from the love from reasons both fair (positional value, certain scouty quibbles about bat speed and timing) and not (seeing him ignored by all the major media outlets so much that I start to question my own judgment), but I see little way that will be the case with Craig. Sure, he could force my hand by cratering out with a disappointing junior season (a la Ryan Howard back in the day), but that would only shift him from sleeper first round talent to sleeper fifth round value. His is a bat I believe in and I’m willing to ride or die with it.

I still like the righthanded AJ Reed comparison as a baseline for what Craig could be in pro ball. His power, smarts, and underrated athleticism make him the rare bat-first prospect to warrant a first round draft grade. His fit with the organization that drafted him, however, is a bit trickier to figure. Assuming the Pirates don’t keep trying to jam Craig’s round peg defense into the third base square hole, the long-term plan for the Wake Forest star in Pittsburgh seems muddled at best. Josh Bell seems like he has first base on lock for the foreseeable future, so where does that leave Craig? I know, I know…worrying about too much prospect depth at certain positions is a waste of time as these things tend to work themselves out on the diamond sooner rather than later. Still, Bell is really good and, even with the curious decision to have their first round pick avoid full-season ball in his debut, Craig doesn’t figure to be in the minors for long. I don’t think you draft a player with the twenty-second overall pick with the intention of developing him primarily as trade bait, but something has to give. Wherever he lands, I think his upside as a top ten player at first base makes this pick a worthwhile endeavor. I understand the value of accumulating young players on the happy side of the defensive spectrum, but there’s nothing wrong with betting on bats sometimes. Craig is a good one to bet on.

2.68 – RHP Travis MacGregor

I’ve got nothing on Travis MacGregor (473) that you can’t easily find elsewhere on the internet. Young, athletic, projectable righthander with the chance to remain a starter due to flashes of a solid yet unspectacular three-pitch mix. I’m not in love with it this early, but the Pirates are notorious for being of a handful of teams that draft “off the board” with no fear of public backlash. It’s commendable, really. I’m not sure it’ll necessarily work out here, but I still respect the process.

3.105 – SS Stephen Alemais

Stephen Alemais (155) has the look of a consistently above-average defensive shortstop with just enough offensive skill that you don’t feel terrible batting him eighth (NL) or ninth (AL) in the lineup because you know you’re not getting a total zero there. At worst, it’s a glove-first utility profile. It’s not a pick that gets you pumping your fist on draft day as a fan, but it’s fine enough for the third round — I had him as more of a fifth rounder, so it’s not crazy off — that you can’t kill it for being a gross draft day miscalculation. Neither great nor awful, this pick just is, man.

4.135 – LHP Braeden Ogle

It’s admittedly a bit difficult to qualify the pre-draft ranking gulf between Travis MacGregor and Braeden Ogle (32), so I’ll do my best and you can let me know if it makes any sense at all. First, the two prospects are very similar. We should get that out of the way early. The fact that Pittsburgh valued them so similarly on draft day — no matter the rankings of an internet draft guy like me — speaks to that. Both are high school pitching prospects with impressive college commitments, plenty of projection left, quality “now” velocity, and enough feel for their offspeed that staying in the rotation seems like a good bet going forward. Where Ogle wins for me is pretty simple: more heat (90-94 FB, 96 peak), more upside with his breaking ball (75-78 CB, could be above-average to plus in time), better present changeup (80-82), and an edge in handedness (lefty > righty, right or wrong). Are those advantages enough to explain the stark difference in pre-draft evaluation of each young pitcher relative to the rest of the class? Not really, no. Some of the mid-spring helium that floated Ogle as high as it did wound up doing the trick on me and I probably ranked him higher than his skill set warranted.

Long story short: both Ogle and MacGregor are solid prep pitching prospects worth gambling on within the draft’s top ten rounds. I overrated Ogle and underrated MacGregor before the draft, but the two are fairly similar prospects once you cut away all the excess fat. I still prefer Ogle for the reasons stated above — lefties with mid-90s velocity who have the depth of stuff to remain in the rotation aren’t typically around this late — but am open to reasonable arguments opting for MacGregor. Both have mid-rotation upside if it all works out with Ogle having both the higher probability of getting there and the better chance for more.

5.165 – RHP Blake Cederlind

The Pirates really like to make us internet draft guys work. Like many, I didn’t have much on Blake Cederlind prior to the draft. His stuff, namely mid-90s heat that moves, should have been enough to get him a mention on the site, but two years of scary control (9.58 BB/9 and 5.31 BB/9) kept me away. Obviously Pittsburgh was confident that they could fix Cederlind’s control once they got their hands on him, so taking a chance on a good relief prospect with a big arm and decent breaking ball works for me in the fifth round.

6.195 – LHP Cam Vieaux

On Cam Vieaux (220) from April 2016…

Vieaux throws hard, can spin two effective breaking balls, and knows when to drop in his improving low-80s change. I think he can remain in the rotation professionally.

I really like Vieaux as a potential back of the rotation big league starter. He checks all the familiar boxes: solid fastball (86-92, 94 peak), quality assortment of offspeed stuff (he’ll flash an above-average 75-78 CB, above-average 77-81 SL, and average 81-83 CU, though each pitch has seen some ups and downs over the years) that gives him options when one secondary offering is working better than the rest, sturdy frame (6-5, 200 pounds), solid athleticism, good control. Probably the biggest thing working against him — minus the absence of a singular consistent above-average to plus pitch he can rely on every trip to the mound — is his age. Vieaux will be 24-years-old at the onset of his first full pro season. If he is to achieve that fourth starter ceiling I think he’s capable of, then he needs to get moving fast.

7.225 – C Brent Gibbs

I’m not an expert on Brent Gibbs, but everything I know about him I like an awful lot. The Indiana transfer wound up hitting a ton (.396/.497/.590 with 15 BB/22 K) at Central Arizona for his redshirt-sophomore season. He’s got good size, a plus to plus-plus arm, and nothing but favorable reports about his defense behind the plate. Even if you’re not completely sold on the inflated junior college offensive onslaught, Gibbs is the kind of defensive asset at catcher that teams love to push up their system. If he hits, he can be a regular catcher in the big leagues. If not, he’s got enough going for him elsewhere to be a backup for years to come. Nice pick here.

8.255 – RHP Dylan Prohoroff

I had Dylan Prohoroff (311) listed as a high school pitcher to know back in 2013 when he was topping out at 87 MPH. Now he’s hitting 97 regularly. Pretty cool progress by him. Wrote some nice things about him almost three years later in March 2016…

Prohoroff’s game is a little more reliant on his fastball, a pitch that sits in the low-90s with the occasional forays to 95-96-97. His breaking ball isn’t as far along as you’d like, but the arm strength, size, and production all point toward a potential middle reliever future with continued growth.

I got some pretty good reports on his 78-83 hybrid breaking ball past that point, so the ingredients are certainly there for a long career in middle relief for Prohoroff if he can stay healthy and keep throwing strikes. The ceiling may not be all that exciting, but I think the certainty of his floor is a nice way to diversify the draft portfolio.

9.285 – OF Clark Eagan

Clark Eagan could be a lefthanded hitting four-corner (1B-3B-LF-RF) platoon player if he can keep hitting. He reminds me some of Matt Diorio, the Pirates sixteenth round pick profiled below. Eagan’s slight chance of playing some third base ups his value some in the same way that Diorio’s slight shot at catching helps his cause. Both have flashed contact skills, power, and some semblance of an approach in the past, but a lot of pressure will be on their bats going forward if they are to make it or not.

10.315 – RHP Matt Anderson

On Matt Anderson from May 2016…

Matt Anderson is a favorite that proved this year he’s ready for pro ball. With a solid fastball (88-92, 94 peak), plus change, and an average or better breaking ball, I think he can keep starting in the pros. He’s one of the best senior-sign out there from both a stuff and performance perspective.

He is what we thought he was. Matt Anderson by the numbers…

12.41 K/9 and 4.03 BB/9 in 29.0 IP
12.77 K/9 and 4.13 BB/9 in 91.2 IP

Top was Anderson in his debut for West Virginia, bottom was Anderson in his senior season at Morehead State. In a perfect world Anderson wouldn’t walk so many guys, but I can live with his wild ways so long as he keeps missing bats. My pre-draft evaluation pushed for him to remain a starter in the pros, something I still think he can do for the foreseeable future. If he has to make the move to relief, however, then I think his already potent changeup will look even better when paired up with a (hopefully) amped up fastball (88-92, 94 peak as a starter). The Pirates played the senior-sign game perfectly here by getting Anderson to sign for $10,000 here in the tenth round.

11.345 – RHP Max Kranick

I see a lot of local guys over the course of the winter/spring, but the schedule never worked out for me to make the two hour trek north to Valley View HS. If it had, I could have seen Max Kranick (106) up close and personal. I did, however, see him last summer and have plenty of notes on him otherwise, so I don’t feel too bad about the senior season whiff. On the plus side, I saved some money on gas and tolls. Anyway, Kranick is good. His fastball (87-93, 94-95 peak) has a shot to be a plus pitch even without overwhelming velocity (though he could still had a few tickets as he fills out) thanks to his ability to sink it, cut it, run it, and command it. His mid- to upper-70s breaking ball moves between a curve and a slider needs some polish, but flashes above-average enough to give you confidence it’ll be at least a consistent average pitch in time. I like what little I’ve seen out of his low-80s changeup, too. All in all, it’s the kind of three-pitch mix, command, and frame that strongly suggests a future pitching every fifth day. Between Kranick, Braeden Ogle, and Travis MacGregor, the Pirates may have landed two-fifths (pitcher attrition and all) of a future rotation.

12.375 – C Arden Pabst

Arden Pabst making it to the big leagues will be a success of scouting over stats. The scouts see a sure-handed catcher who has shown the ability to handle pro pitching defensively since his days as a teenage prospect at Harvard-Westlake HS. They also see a better hitter, both in terms of contact skills and power upside, than he’s shown thus far in his post-prep career. I get all that, and it wouldn’t surprise me (much…) if he had a long, successful career as a big league backup catcher for those reasons. The stats, however, are a concern. Pabst was a .234/.326/.333 hitter (44 BB/91 K) in 372 AB while at Georgia Tech. The gap between what the scouts see and what he’s done is fairly significant. Even if the former group is on to something, they’d have to REALLY be on to something if Pabst is going to go from .234/.326/.333 in college to the big leagues. I’ve liked him in the past for the scout-y reasons, but can’t vouch for the pick at this point. When a guy’s absolute best case scouting profile paints him as an average offensive player (admittedly at a premium defensive spot where he’s really good, but I’m trying to make a point here so let’s ignore that for now) then I’d really like to see an established, specific offensive skill already on the board before considering using a top 500 pick on him. Pabst didn’t show that in three years as a Yellow Jacket. No contact, no patience, no power. The light bulb could still go on, but I don’t think the eventual upside if it does makes it worth it to find out. If all that makes me a “box score scout,” the worst pejorative a wannabe scout on the internet can be called, then so be it.

13.405 – RHP John Pomeroy

Coincidentally or not, everything written about Arden Pabst above can be applied to John Pomeroy here. The scouts surely see Pomeroy and are intrigued because why wouldn’t a heavy mid-90s fastball (up to 98) and emerging low-80s slider get their attention? That potential late-game stuff has been seriously undermined by Pomeroy’s complete lack of control. In limited innings as a Beaver, Pomeroy has put up BB/9’s of 7.64 (10.2 IP) and 8.57 (6.1 IP). Those parenthetical innings totals are relevant, too: for better (fresh arm, small sample forgiveness) or worse (too wild to trust, needs more in-game experience to fairly assess), Pomeroy simply hasn’t gotten out onto a mound in a competitive environment enough since his senior year of high school. A 12.51 BB/9 in 13.2 IP during his pro debut doesn’t exactly help assuage concerns over his long-term future.

Still, I like this pick more than the one round earlier for a few small reasons. First, and maybe stupidly on my end, Pomeroy’s path to a big league role seems much shorter and simpler than Pabst’s. We’re comparing apples and oranges here (or pitchers and catchers, more accurately), but the market for relief pitching (590 pitchers came out of the bullpen at least once for MLB teams in 2016) is larger than the need for catchers (104 MLB players caught at least one inning in 2016). That’s a fairly obvious point, but sometimes obvious is all right. Second, I think the distance between what Pomeroy is and what he could be is shorter than Pabst’s. Pomeroy pretty clearly has the stuff to miss bats (11.85 K/9 in his small sample debut), but lacks the control. Pabst may or may not have the goods to play in the bigs depending on who you talk to and when. Pro coaching could be the key to unlocking Pomeroy’s upside; the same could be true for Pabst, but it seems less likely from where I’m sitting. Finally, Pomeroy’s track record, while bad, is short. That actually works in his favor here. I’d rather roll the dice on the guy with the bad but shorter track record than on a guy like Pabst, who has a bad but long track record. Pomeroy has the advantage of the unknown on his side. It’s not necessarily fair, but that’s the way life goes sometimes.

Pomeroy pitching to Pabst is a thing that will likely happen so if it hasn’t happened already. That’s cool.

15.465 – RHP Danny Beddes

Letting Danny Beddes loose in a professional bullpen seems like a very good idea to me. The hulking righthander (6-6, 240) has shown power stuff (90-95 FB, 85-87 cutter, 80-82 CB) as a college starter that could play up even more in shorter outings. I’m in on Beddes, pro relief prospect.

16.495 – OF Matt Diorio

On Matt Diorio from January 2016…

Diorio is a pretty straight forward prospect for me right now: he can really hit, but his defensive future is highly uncertain. As a catcher he could rise up as one of the handful of top names in this class, but the “as a catcher” qualifier is something easier said than done. The good news is that many who know Diorio better than I do have insisted to me that he’s athletic enough to play some corner outfield in the event the idea of catching goes belly up. Framed as a potential corner outfielder/first baseman who occasionally can catch, Diorio’s path to the big leagues suddenly gets a little clearer. In a perfect world he’s a backstop all the way, but a super-utility player who can hit is hardly without value.

Diorio didn’t catch in his debut with the Pittsburgh organization, but that won’t stop me from holding out hope that they’ll consider trying him behind the plate again someday. If not, his road to the big leagues could be a tough one to navigate. Diorio is a really interesting offensive player for me because I think he can hit, I think his approach his solid, and I think his power is intriguing. Checking all three of those offensive boxes should make him a slam dunk offensive prospect, but he’s not all that close to being at that level. I guess the easiest way to explain that is to say that he’s kind of a “master of none” type of hitter. He does everything fairly well, but nothing so well that he gives off any certain big league hitter vibes. He’s talented enough to get there in a backup role — especially if a big league team believes in him as a catcher who can do the job once or twice a week — but it’s going to take a whole lot of hitting at every level to get there.

17.525 – RHP Matt Frawley

Young for his class (turned 21 in August) and coming off a season more good than great (7.03 K/9 in 74.1 IP), Matt Frawley seemed more likely to be a potential premium 2017 MLB Draft senior-sign candidate to me than a signable 2016 pick. The Pirates did their homework and scooped up an interesting relief prospect capable of hitting the low-90s (up to 94) with a solid breaking ball for a $60,000 bonus in the seventeenth round. That’s probably more than Frawley would have gotten as a senior-sign, so win-win-win here. The third win goes to fans of the West Virginia Black Bears, who got to see Frawley mow down the competition (10.61 K/9 and 2.89 BB/9 in 28.0 IP) in his summer debut.

18.555 – SS Kevin Mahala

Concerns about how his defense and approach (10 BB/34 K) would translate to pro ball caused me to leave Kevin Mahala off my 2016 draft list even after his strong (.286/.326/.461) junior season at George Washington. That looks to be a mistake after his solid debut with the Pirates. I’m still not entirely sold, but I could be talked into Mahala, who played lots of second, some third, and a little bit of short in his debut, having some utility player appeal if he keeps hitting.

20.615 – RHP Adam Oller

On Adam Oller from February 2016…

Oller has really impressive stuff with three pitches profiling as average or better professionally, but the lackluster track record of missed bats (4.75 K/9 in 2015) is worrisome. If the breakout happens in 2016 we’ll know why. I’m cautiously optimistic.

Did the breakout happen? Oller upped his K/9 (5.99) and dropped his ERA (2.58 to 1.23), but still didn’t quite miss enough bats on the whole to qualify for true breakout status. Still, college ERAs of 2.44, 2.58, and 1.23 in three years carrying a heavy load for Northwestern State (92.1 IP, 108.1 IP, 109.2 IP) have to count for something. His pro debut saw his strikeout numbers go up (7.57 K/9) while his ERA did the same (4.45). That’s…confusing. Confused or not, I still like him as a potential relief option down the line for the Pirates. Oller has enough fastball (87-92), two quality offspeed pitches, and above-average command and control.

21.645 – RHP Matt Eckelman

Matt Eckelman is a quality senior-sign relief prospect with a solid fastball (87-92), a decent assortment of offspeed stuff, and good size. He’s actually a lot like the man picked one round ahead of him, Adam Oller. Go figure.

22.675 – RHP Brandon Bingel

I liked Brandon Bingel a little better as a position player (second base) than I did on the mound, so what do I know. The logic in turning out Bingel as a full-time pitcher makes sense, though. He’s an athletic, aggressive strike-thrower with velocity on the rise (88-92, 93 peak) and a hard mid-80s slider that flashes plus. I’m pro-athlete when it comes to pitchers and Bingel is as athletic as they come, so you could say I like this pro athlete. That was terrible and I am sorry.

23.705 – OF Garrett Brown

On Garrett Brown from March 2015…

SR OF Garrett Brown (Western Carolina) gets a spot on these rankings as long as he has college eligibility left. He’s a sensational athlete with plus-plus speed who brings a football mentality to the diamond. I could see the fans of the team that drafts him in June confused at what they are getting if they check the numbers, but if he ever devotes himself to baseball full-time then it’ll all make sense. I’m not prognosticating anything specific when it comes to Brown’s future, but rather pointing out how appealing a late round gamble he’ll be.

Fans would surely have been confused if Brown would have been drafted (he wasn’t) after his 2015 season (.206/.270/.206 with 1 BB/11 K in 34 AB), but I can’t imagine too many Pirates fans are all that puzzled by the team taking a shot on the crazy athletic former wide receiver coming off a .325/.374/.442 (11 BB/28 K) full season at Western Carolina. In terms of recent baseball experience, Brown might as well be considered a high school prospect rather than a redshirt-senior college graduate. He’ll be 23-years-old as he enters his first full pro season, but I don’t see his age being as much of an impediment to his long-term development than others might. Brown has clear big league traits (speed, defense, athleticism) with enough offensive upside to keep him employed for years to come. One contact of mine likened his upside and potential pro impact to that of Andrew Toles, an old draft favorite around here.

25.765 – OF Hunter Owen

Righthanded power will always be valued on draft day more than I anticipate. Hunter Owen delivers in that area. Without much to say beyond that, I’ll note that I found it interesting that Owen played a few innings each at both third base and second base in his debut. Left field was still his primary home, but it bears watching going forward. Could be that the Pirates needed a body in the infield on a few given days. We shall see.

26.795 – RHP Robbie Coursel

Despite two solid years of peripherals at Florida Atlantic, I don’t have much on Robbie Coursel. If I had to guess based on what the Pirates have done so far, I’d go with average velocity, decent offspeed, and above-average command. Add it up and it’s a potential middle relief option if everything breaks just so.

27.825 – SS Tyler Leffler

On Tyler Leffler from March 2016…

I have no idea what to make of Tyler Leffler, a shortstop who looked poised for a breakout draft season last year only to see his batting average drop almost in half from his sophomore season. A year ago I would have considered him a promising bat-first prospect with serious questions about his long-term defensive future. Now his glove seems to have passed his bat – and not just because of his 2015 struggles – and his offensive game is what will determine if he can be a mid- to late-round sleeper future regular or more of a utility prospect at best. I give him a lot of credit for the defensive improvements and I’m anxious to see if a big senior season can get him back on the draft radar for most teams.

Turns out I’ve spent a lot of time over the years pondering the future of a college baseball player from Bradley with a utility infielder perfect world ceiling in pro ball. In fairness, check out Leffler by the numbers during his college run…

2013: .298/.372/.377 – 13 BB/28 K – 4/5 SB – 151 AB
2014: .354/.464/.470 – 16 BB/25 K – 2/6 SB – 181 AB
2015: .193/.308/.255 – 23 BB/35 K – 4/6 SB – 192 AB
2016: .313/.402/.474 – 17 BB/25 K – 1/1 SB – 192 AB

You can see why one might look at those lines and see an ascending hitter ready to break out in a major way heading in his first college draft year (2015), right? He then fell on his face as a junior before going right back to his sophomore year production as a senior. On top of that, the tone of the buzz of Leffler has been comically up-and-down going back to his freshman year. He went from “bat-first prospect destined for the outfield” to “who the heck knows what’s up with him as a hitter, but pretty solid in the infield” in a flash. A friend who has seen a lot of Leffler over the years called him a “college version of Ryan Rua.” Did that mean that he felt Leffler had the upside of Rua or what? Asked to clarify, he said that, no, he meant Leffler was the literal college version of a player like Rua in the pros. I’m not sure if I explained it well, but in any event that’s a vote against Leffler having much of a professional career. I tend to agree. Leffler was still one of the most fascinating college players I can remember following, so at least there’s that.

29.885 – RHP Geoff Hartlieb

Geoff Hartlieb has the hard sinker (up to 95) and impressive slider combination to keep on getting ground ball outs and soft contact as a pro. Between Adam Oller, Brandon Bingel, and Hartlieb, I think the Pirates scooped up at least one future big league reliever past the twentieth round. That’s not super exciting, but there’s value there.

31.945 – LHP Jordan Jess

You can add Jordan Jess to that maybe/maybe not future big league reliever pile. The big (6-3, 240) lefthander has the fastball (88-92) and recent track record of missing bats (8.65 K/9 in 2015, 11.71 K/9 in 2016) to keep getting innings in the pros. He’s taken full advantage of his early opportunities (9.85 K/9, 2.55 BB/9, 2.55 ERA in 24.2 IP), though it should be noted that he’ll have to move quickly as a prospect set to begin his first full season in 2017 at the age of 24.

33.1005 – RHP Austin Shields

LOVE this one for the Pirates. Austin Shields (260) may or may not work out over the long run, but the idea behind this pick makes it a winner in my book no matter the outcome. Shields is a big (6-6, 240) Canadian righthander with a fastball already up to 95 MPH (88-93 usually) and a low-80s slider that flashes. He could be a nice starting pitching prospect if he develops a third pitch and improves his command. He could be a big-bodied reliever with power stuff that nobody likes to face late in games. He could never make it out of Low-A if his progress stalls as a pro. Nothing would really surprise me with a prospect like Shields — and that’s more about the archetype we’ve seen before (big, cold weather, good fastball, inconsistent breaking ball, nothing soft, iffy command) than the specific player — but why not take a chance on a guy already showing you the kind of stuff Shields has flashed way down in the thirty-third round? For only about $100,000 over slot, too. Great gamble by Pittsburgh at this point.

35.1065 – RHP Pasquale Mazzoccoli

The last two seasons for Pasquale Mazzoccoli fascinate me. Maybe they’ll interest you as well. Maybe not. Maybe I needed a hook for the last Pirates prospect to find and decided to go with this. Take a look…

2015: 5.55 K/9 – 4.40 BB/9 – 47.0 IP – 4.02 ERA
2016: 10.64 K/9 – 4.43 BB/9 – 40.2 IP – 4.43 ERA

Same walks, similar innings, similar earned runs allowed…but he almost doubled his strikeout rate. That’s weird, right? Doubling one’s strikeout rate is odd enough (IMO), but doing so while just about everything else in your game remains the same is downright wacky. You’d think the ERA would have dropped some if nothing else. My mother’s maiden name is Paladino, so seeing Pasquale Mazzoccoli, up to 94 MPH with his fastball this past season at Texas State, succeed in the pros would be pretty cool. As one of the draft’s oldest prospects, he’ll have to get busy in a hurry. Mazzoccoli will be 25-years-old (!) when his first full season kicks off. Bryce Harper, big league veteran of 657 games played through five MLB seasons, is seven months younger than Mazzoccoli. Age isn’t everything, but…I don’t know how to finish that in a way that’s all that complimentary to Mazzoccoli’s chances at ever seeing the big leagues.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Nick Lodolo (TCU), Hagen Owenby (East Tennessee State), Pearson McMahan (St. John’s River State JC), Austin Bodrato (Florida), Michael Danielak (Dartmouth), Chris Cook (East Tennessee State), Ben Miller (Nebraska), Craig Dedelow (Nebraska), Dustin Williams (Oklahoma State), Colin Brockhouse (Ball State), Aaron Maher (East Tennessee State), Harrison Wenson (Michigan), Bret Boswell (Texas)

2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – American

Much as I like him, I don’t necessarily view Anthony Kay as a first round arm. However, the second he falls past the first thirty or so picks he’ll represent immediate value for whatever team gives him a shot. He’s a relatively high-floor future big league starter who can throw four pitches for strikes but lacks that one true put-away offering. Maybe continued refinement of his low-80s changeup or his 78-84 slider gets him there, but for now it’s more of a steady yet unspectacular back of the rotation. Nathan Kirby (pick 40 last year) seems like a reasonable draft ceiling for him, though there are some similarities in Kay’s profile to Marco Gonzales, who went 19th in his draft year. I like Kay for his relative certainty depending on what a team does before selecting him; his high-floor makes him an interesting way to diversity the draft portfolio of a team that otherwise likes to gamble on boom/bust upside plays.

Kay is a lot more famous among college fans, but Andrew Lantrip in many ways resembles a righthanded alternative. Kay’s changeup is ahead and he has the added bonus of mixing in a curve every now and then, but Lantrip can really command his fastball (like Kay’s, 87-92 MPH peaking at 94) and his delivery gives him that little extra pop of deception that makes everything he throws play up. Needless to say, I’m a fan. Lantrip will surely be dinged for being a slight college righthander without premium fastball velocity, but, again like Kay, the combination of a deep enough reservioir of offspeed stuff and a long track record of missing bats makes him an interesting high-floor back-end starting pitching option.

If it’s Kay and Lantrip at the top, then it’s a long way down before you get to the third best pitching prospect in this conference. That’s not to say there aren’t quality arms to be found, but rather the number of question marks for each young pitcher seems to grow exponentially after the rock solid profiles of Kay and Lantrip. Devin Over, very much in the mix to finish in that third spot by the close of the season, exemplifies this well. Over has all kinds of arm strength (lives in the 90’s, up to 97), flashes a really intriguing low-80s slider, and has some of the most impressive athleticism of any pitcher in his class. If it all clicks, Over could be a fast-moving reliever with late-game upside. Getting a talent like him as a senior-sign is mighty enticing.

JP France isn’t a senior, but he is really talented. I flip-flopped him and Over a few times before settling on France in the three spot. Figured that makes more sense considering I’ve already declared myself “all-in” on France before the season began. His fastball, breaking ball, and athleticism make him a threat to crash the first few rounds. His question mark is experience; the only thing standing in the way of the redshirt-sophomore and an early round selection is innings. If he can continue to stay healthy and effective on the mound, he’s a keeper.

The Houston guys are both impressive in their own right. Marshall Kasowski has the chance for three average or better pitches (FB, CB, CU) and Bubba Maxwell’s stuff appears all the way back after going under the knife for Tommy John surgery last year. He’s undersized at 5-11, 200 pounds, but there’s enough to him that a solid pro reliever future feels realistic. I have a soft spot for David Kirkpatrick, another Tommy John surgery survivor. His athleticism is as good as it gets for a pitcher – is it just me or are the pitchers in the AAC unusually athletic? – and he’s flashed the kind of stuff (fastball up to 93, average or better breaker) to get on the prospect radar.

Tommy Eveld’s question marks fall more on me than him right now. He’s got a great frame, fantastic athleticism, and legitimate low-90s heat, but beyond that I don’t know a ton about him. Peter Stzelecki gets a mention here even though he’ll miss the entire season after undergoing – you guessed it – Tommy John surgery. Athletes and TJ surgery are what the AAC is all about, I suppose. He’s still a high upside arm (90-93 FB, above-average SL) that I’d ask a lot of questions about, especially vis-à-vis his signability, if I was an area guy tasked with following him this spring.

The hitting prospects in the American mirror the pitchers: two clear cut names at the top and a mad scramble beyond that. The difference is there’s more certainty with the two hitters at the top. I recently wondered aloud whether the up-the-middle duo from Tulane (Stephen Alemais and Jake Rogers) or Oregon State (Trever Morrison and Logan Ice) would be selected higher this June. I think we could break that down further and wonder which of the Tulane prospects will go higher on draft day. In a roundabout way I attempted to do this two months ago

One of the easier comps in this year’s class is Rogers to Austin Hedges. It’s just too obvious to ignore. If you’re still on the Hedges bandwagon — I stayed off from the start — then you’re really going to like Rogers. If you value defense but also appreciate a guy who be a positive value player offensively — it doesn’t have to be an either/or! — then you might want to hold back for now. All bets are off if Rogers comes out swinging it this spring. If that’s the case (he’s got decent raw power and has held his own in terms of BB/K ratio, so don’t rule it out) then ignore everything you just read and mentally insert him into the first day of the draft. Pretty significant “if,” however. Alemais doesn’t have that “if” for me. I think he’s an honest big league hitter with continued development. There’s enough speed, pop, and approach to his offensive game that I’m comfortable calling him the best college shortstop profiled so far. That only includes most of the ACC and AAC, but it’s better than nothing. He’s a lock to finish as one of the country’s dozen best shortstops and has a strong case for remaining at the top spot come June.

Rogers has hit. Alemais has hit as well. Both guys have hit. Teams that like up-the-middle defenders who hit should be happy. That’s all I’ve got. Figured everybody would appreciate my special brand of hard-hitting analysis there. I think both guys are now squarely in the first day conversation, so there’s that.

Bobby Melley has his so far this year, too. Combine that with a consistent track record of patience (88 BB/80 K coming into the season) and flashes of power (his 2014 was legit) and you’ve got yourself a really underrated senior-sign slugging first base prospect. His strong glove and good size are nice perks, too. I maintain that Matt Diorio could really be something if teams buy into his defensive potential behind the plate. As a corner outfielder, his bat is a lot less thrilling yet still not without some promise. I wrote about Memphis OF Darien Tubbs, another guy with promise, in January…

JR OF Darien Tubbs leaps past the field as Memphis’s best position player prospect. He’s got the type of build (5-9, 190) that inspires the “sneaky pop” disclaimer in my notes, but his days of catching opposing pitchers by surprise might be over after his breakout sophomore campaign. Tubbs can run, defend in center, work deep counts, and knock a ball or ten to the gaps when you’re not careful. Tubbs isn’t quite a FAVORITE yet, but he’s as close as you can get without tempting me into holding down the shift key. A friend who knows how much I went on about Saige Jenco over the past year reached out to me to let me know that he believed Tubbs was a better version of the same guy. Fun player.

Two months later, I still like him. A really interesting direct comparison on this list is Josh Vidales and Aaron Hill. Vidales has been my guy for a while: he’s small (5-8, 160), he can defend the heck out of second base, and he’s an on-base machine. It’s a scary profile to project to pro ball, but I’d still take him late in the draft as an org second baseman and let the chips fall where they may. Hill’s path to the bigs is a lot clearer: his glove, bat speed, foot speed, arm strength, and athleticism are all obvious pro tools. Unfortunately, he hasn’t hit yet. It’s an admittedly low-stakes version of a common theme, but the Vidales vs Hill comparison looks a lot like production vs projection. Vidales has hit, but there’s a perceived ceiling to his game. Hill hasn’t hit, but the physical gifts give a coaching and development staff more to work with. There’s no right answer here. Unless it’s maybe finding a player that slots in-between the two, like either of the East Carolina guys Charlie Yorgen or Wichita State transfer Wes Phillips.

Hitters

  1. Tulane JR SS Stephen Alemais
  2. Tulane JR C Jake Rogers
  3. Central Florida JR OF/1B Matt Diorio
  4. Memphis JR OF Darien Tubbs
  5. East Carolina JR 1B/LHP Bryce Harman
  6. Connecticut SR 1B Bobby Melley
  7. Tulane rJR C/1B Jeremy Montalbano
  8. Houston SR 2B Josh Vidales
  9. Connecticut JR SS/2B Aaron Hill
  10. East Carolina JR SS Wes Phillips
  11. East Carolina JR 2B/SS Charlie Yorgen
  12. Tulane JR 1B/OF Lex Kaplan
  13. Tulane JR 3B Hunter Hope
  14. Central Florida JR OF/LHP Luke Hamblin
  15. Houston SO OF Clay Casey
  16. Tulane JR OF Jarrett DeHart
  17. Central Florida JR OF Eli Putnam
  18. Houston JR SS Jose Reyes
  19. Central Florida JR SS Brennan Bozeman
  20. South Florida rSO SS Clay Simmons
  21. Tulane rSO 2B Matt Rowland
  22. Memphis SR OF/1B Jake Little
  23. Houston SR 3B/1B Justin Montemayor
  24. Cincinnati rSO 2B Connor McVey
  25. Central Florida JR 3B/SS Kam Gellinger
  26. East Carolina SR OF Garrett Brooks
  27. Connecticut SR OF Jack Sundberg
  28. East Carolina rJR C Travis Watkins
  29. South Florida JR OF/C Luke Borders
  30. Tulane rSO OF Grant Brown
  31. Tulane SR OF Richard Carthon
  32. Memphis rSR SS Jake Overbey
  33. East Carolina JR C/OF Eric Tyler
  34. Connecticut SR 1B Joe DeRoche-Duffin
  35. Connecticut SR 3B Brian Daniello
  36. South Florida SR OF Luke Maglich
  37. Houston SR C Jacob Campbell
  38. Memphis JR 3B Zach Schritenthal
  39. South Florida SR C/3B Levi Borders

Pitchers

  1. Connecticut JR LHP Anthony Kay
  2. Houston JR RHP Andrew Lantrip
  3. Tulane rSO RHP JP France
  4. Connecticut rSR RHP Devin Over
  5. South Florida rJR RHP Tommy Eveld
  6. Houston JR RHP Marshall Kasowski
  7. Houston rJR RHP Bubba Maxwell
  8. Tulane rSR RHP Alex Massey
  9. East Carolina JR LHP Luke Bolka
  10. Connecticut JR RHP Pat Ruotolo
  11. East Carolina rSO RHP/INF Davis Kirkpatrick
  12. Tulane SR RHP Emerson Gibbs
  13. Tulane JR RHP Corey Merrill
  14. Central Florida JR LHP Andrew Faintich
  15. Central Florida JR RHP Campbell Scholl
  16. Connecticut JR RHP Andrew Zapata
  17. Tulane rSO RHP Chris Oakley
  18. Central Florida JR RHP Robby Howell
  19. East Carolina SR RHP Jimmy Boyd
  20. Memphis JR RHP Nolan Blackwood
  21. Cincinnati SR RHP Mitch Patishall
  22. South Florida SR RHP/OF Ryan Valdes
  23. Tulane rSR RHP/OF Trevor Simms
  24. Tulane SR RHP Patrick Duester
  25. Tulane rJR RHP Daniel Rankin
  26. Tulane SR RHP/OF Tim Yandel
  27. East Carolina JR LHP Evan Kruczynski
  28. Cincinnati JR RHP Andrew Zellner
  29. Houston JR RHP Nick Hernandez
  30. Central Florida rSR LHP Harrison Hukari
  31. South Florida JR RHP Phoenix Sanders
  32. East Carolina SR LHP Nick Durazo
  33. East Carolina JR LHP Jacob Wolfe
  34. South Florida rJR RHP Brad Labozzetta
  35. Central Florida JR RHP Juan Pimentel
  36. Houston JR LHP Nathan Jackson
  37. South Florida rSO RHP Peter Strzelecki
  38. South Florida JR RHP Brandon Lawson
  39. Connecticut SR RHP Nico Darras
  40. Houston JR LHP John King

Central Florida

JR LHP Andrew Faintich (2016)
JR RHP Campbell Scholl (2016)
JR RHP Juan Pimentel (2016)
rSR LHP Harrison Hukari (2016)
JR RHP Robby Howell (2016)
JR RHP Trent Thompson (2016)
JR OF/LHP Luke Hamblin (2016)
JR OF/1B Matt Diorio (2016):
rSR 1B/OF Sam Tolleson (2016)
JR OF Eli Putnam (2016)
JR OF Eugene Vazquez (2016)
JR 3B/SS Kam Gellinger (2016)
JR SS Brennan Bozeman (2016)
SO RHP Brad Rowley (2017)
SO RHP Cre Finfrock (2017)
SO RHP/2B Kyle Marsh (2017)
SO C Logan Heiser (2017)
FR RHP Thaddeus Ward (2018)
FR INF Matthew Mika (2018)

High Priority Follows: Andrew Faintich, Campbell Scholl, Juan Pimentel, Harrison Hukari, Robby Howell, Luke Hamblin, Matt Diorio, Eli Putnam, Eugene Vazquez, Kam Gellinger, Brennan Bozeman

Cincinnati

SR RHP Mitch Patishall (2016)
rSR RHP Bryan Chenoweth (2016)
rJR LHP Colton Cleary (2016)
JR RHP Andrew Zellner (2016)
SR C Woody Wallace (2016)
SR 1B/3B Devin Wenzel (2016)
rSO 2B Connor McVey (2016)
SO LHP Dalton Lehnen (2017)
SO LHP JT Perez (2017)
SO RHP Tristan Hammans (2017)
SO 1B/OF Ryan Noda (2017)
SO SS Manny Rodriguez (2017)
SO 2B Kyle Mottice (2017)
FR RHP Cal Jarrett (2018)
FR LHP Cameron Alldred (2018)
FR OF AJ Bumpass (2018)
FR OF Vince Augustine (2018)

High Priority Follows: Mitch Patishall, Andrew Zellner, Woody Wallace, Devin Wenzel, Connor McVey

Connecticut

JR LHP Anthony Kay (2016)
rSR RHP Devin Over (2016)
rJR RHP Ryan Radue (2016)
rSR RHP Max Slade (2016)
SR RHP Nico Darras (2016)
JR RHP Andrew Zapata (2016)
JR RHP Pat Ruotolo (2016)
rSO RHP Trevor Holmes (2016)
JR SS/2B Aaron Hill (2016)
SR 1B Bobby Melley (2016)
SR OF Jack Sundberg (2016)
SR 3B Brian Daniello (2016)
SR 1B Joe DeRoche-Duffin (2016)
SR 1B/OF Nico Darras (2016)
JR C/OF Tyler Gnesda (2016)
SR 3B/OF Connor Buckley (2016)
SO RHP William Montgomerie (2017)
SO SS/3B Willy Yahn (2017)
FR RHP Ronnie Rossomando (2018)
FR LHP PJ Poulin (2018)
FR LHP Tim Cate (2018)
FR C Zac Susi (2018)
FR INF/RHP Randy Polonia (2018)

High Priority Follows: Anthony Kay, Devin Over, Nico Darras, Andrew Zapata, Pat Ruotolo

East Carolina

JR LHP Evan Kruczynski (2016)
JR LHP Jacob Wolfe (2016)
SR LHP Nick Durazo (2016)
JR LHP Luke Bolka (2016)
rSO RHP/INF Davis Kirkpatrick (2016)
SR RHP Jimmy Boyd (2016)
JR RHP/3B Kirk Morgan (2016)
SR OF Garrett Brooks (2016)
rJR C Travis Watkins (2016)
JR C/OF Eric Tyler (2016)
JR 2B/SS Charlie Yorgen (2016)
JR SS Wes Phillips (2016)
SR OF Jeff Nelson (2016)
JR 1B/LHP Bryce Harman (2016)
JR OF/RHP Zack Mozingo (2016)
SO RHP Joe Ingle (2017)
FR RHP Chris Holba (2018)
FR RHP Denny Brady (2018)
FR RHP Sam Lanier (2018)
FR OF Dwanya Williams-Sutton (2018)
FR OF Justin Dirden (2018)
FR SS Turner Brown (2018)
FR SS Kendall Ford (2018)
FR INF Brady Lloyd (2018)

High Priority Follows: Evan Kruczynski, Jacob Wolfe, Nick Durazo, Luke Bolka, Davis Kirkpatrick, Jimmy Boyd, Garrett Brooks, Travis Watkins, Eric Tyler, Charlie Yorgen, Wes Phillips, Bryce Harman

Houston

JR RHP Andrew Lantrip (2016)
JR RHP Marshall Kasowski (2016)
rJR RHP Bubba Maxwell (2016)
JR RHP Nick Hernandez (2016)
JR LHP John King (2016)
JR LHP Nathan Jackson (2016)
SR 3B/1B Justin Montemayor (2016)
SR C Jacob Campbell (2016)
rSO 3B/SS Connor Hollis (2016)
JR SS Jose Reyes (2016)
SO OF Clay Casey (2016)
JR 3B Jordan Strading (2016)
SR 2B Josh Vidales (2016)
SR 2B Robert Grilli (2016)
SO LHP Seth Romero (2017)
SO LHP Aaron Fletcher (2017)
SO OF/3B Corey Julks (2017)
SO C/SS Connor Wong (2017)
SO OF Zac Taylor (2017)
FR LHP Tanner Lawson (2018)
FR RHP Mitch Ullom (2018)
FR C/1B Joe Davis (2018)
FR OF Grayson Padgett (2018)
FR OF Caleb Morris (2018)
FR INF Wendell Champion (2018)

High Priority Follows: Andrew Lantrip, Marshall Kasowski, Bubba Maxwell, Nick Hernandez, John King, Nathan Jackson, Justin Montemayor, Jacob Campbell, Connor Hollis, Jose Reyes, Clay Casey, Jordan Strading, Josh Vidales

Memphis

rSO RHP Trevor Sutton (2016)
JR RHP Nolan Blackwood (2016)
JR RHP Blake Drabik (2016)
SR RHP Matt Ferguson (2016)
SR OF/1B Jake Little (2016)
rSR SS Jake Overbey (2016)
SR C Corey Chafin (2016)
JR OF Darien Tubbs (2016)
JR 3B Zach Schritenthal (2016)
JR OF Chris Carrier (2016)
JR INF Trent Turner (2016)
JR INF Brandon Grudzielanek (2016)
SO RHP Colton Hathcock (2017)
SO RHP Connor Alexander (2017)
FR INF Matthew Mika (2018)
FR OF Colton Neel (2018)

High Priority Follows: Nolan Blackwood, Blake Drabik, Jake Little, Jake Overbey, Darien Tubbs, Zach Schritenthal, Brandon Grudzielanek

South Florida

JR RHP Brandon Lawson (2016)
rJR RHP Tommy Eveld (2016)
JR RHP Phoenix Sanders (2016)
rJR RHP Brad Labozzetta (2016)
rSO RHP Peter Strzelecki (2016)
SR RHP/OF Ryan Valdes (2016)
JR OF/RHP Daniel Portales (2016)
SR C/3B Levi Borders (2016)
rSO SS Clay Simmons (2016)
JR OF/C Luke Borders (2016)
SO OF/1B Duke Stunkel (2016)
SR OF Luke Maglich (2016)
JR 2B Andres Leal (2016)
SO RHP Joe Cavallaro (2017)
SO 2B/OF Kevin Merrell (2017)
FR LHP Shane McClanahan (2018)
FR LHP Garrett Bye (2018)
FR LHP Andrew Perez (2018)
FR OF Garrett Zech (2018)
FR OF Chris Chafield (2018)
FR C/1B Joe Genord (2018)
FR SS Robert Montes (2018)
FR OF Cam Montgomery (2018)
FR 3B David Villar (2018)

High Priority Follows: Brandon Lawson, Tommy Eveld, Phoenix Sanders, Brad Labozzetta, Peter Strzelecki, Ryan Valdes, Levi Borders, Clay Simmons, Luke Borders, Luke Maglich

Tulane

SR RHP Emerson Gibbs (2016)
rJR RHP Daniel Rankin (2016)
rSR RHP Alex Massey (2016)
JR RHP Corey Merrill (2016)
SR RHP Patrick Duester (2016)
rJR RHP Eric Steel (2016)
rSO RHP JP France (2016)
SR RHP/OF Tim Yandel (2016)
rSR RHP Evan Rutter (2016)
rJR LHP Christian Colletti (2016)
rSO RHP Chris Oakley (2016)
rSO LHP Sam Bjorngjeld (2016)
rSR RHP/OF Trevor Simms (2016)
JR C Jake Rogers (2016)
JR SS Stephen Alemais (2016)
rSO OF Grant Brown (2016)
SR OF Richard Carthon (2016)
rJR C/1B Jeremy Montalbano (2016)
JR 1B/OF Lex Kaplan (2016)
JR 3B Hunter Hope (2016)
JR 1B Hunter Williams (2016)
JR OF Jarrett DeHart (2016)
rSO 2B Matt Rowland (2016)
rSR 2B/C Shea Pierce (2016)
JR 2B Jake Willsey (2016)
SO LHP Jackson Johnson (2017)
FR LHP Ross Massey (2018)
FR OF/LHP Grant Witherspoon (2018)
FR INF Cade Edwards (2018)
FR OF Anthony Forte (2018)

High Priority Follows: Emerson Gibbs, Daniel Rankin, Alex Massey, Corey Merrill, Patrick Duester, JP France, Tim Yandel, Christian Colletti, Chris Oakley, Trevor Simms, Jake Rogers, Stephen Alemais, Grant Brown, Richard Carthon, Jeremy Montalbano, Lex Kaplan, Hunter Hope, Jarrett DeHart, Matt Rowland

2016 MLB Draft – College Update

We’re now one month’s worth of games into the college season, so it feels like as good a time as any to take the temperature of the top college prospects in this class. All stats are updated as of games played on March 12 or March 13 depending on when the games ended yesterday. I used this post to frame the discussion.

Many, many, many players I like were not included in this update. I say this knowing full well how obnoxious it sounds, but trust that I know about your favorite player’s hot start. Neither malice nor ignorance is the cause of their exclusion. It’s simply a time and space thing. That said, feel free to bring up said favorite players’s hot starts in the comments. The more the merrier there, I say.

C Zack Collins – Miami – .400/.576/.733 – 19 BB/9 K – 0/1 SB – 45 AB
1B Will Craig – Wake Forest – .458/.581/1.021 – 10 BB/7 K – 48 AB
2B Nick Senzel – Tennessee – .393/.500/.589 – 14 BB/6 K – 7/8 SB – 56 AB
SS Michael Paez – Coastal Carolina – .328/.418/.483 – 6 BB/11 K – 0/2 SB – 58 AB
3B Bobby Dalbec – Arizona – .191/.350/.319 – 10 BB/17 K – 0/1 SB – 47 AB
OF Kyle Lewis – Mercer – .466/.581/.879 – 15 BB/8 K – 1/2 SB – 58 AB
OF Buddy Reed – Florida – .306/.411/.468 – 10 BB/12 K – 7/7 SB – 62 AB
OF Corey Ray – Louisville – .377/.452/.738 – 9 BB/6 K – 20/22 SB – 61 AB

We knew Collins could hit, so his great start is hardly a surprise. Still, those numbers are insane, very much under-the-radar nationally (source: my Twitter feed), and more than good enough to play at first base if you don’t think he’s worth trying behind the plate as a pro. It took Kyle Schwarber a long time to gain national acceptance as a potential top ten pick; I could see Collins following a similar path between now and June. He’s already very much in that mix for me.

Craig is a monster. The only note I’d pass along with his scorching start is that Wake Forest has played 12 of their first 17 games in the very friendly offensive confines of their home park. I still love the bat.

Senzel is yet another of the top prospect bats off to a wild start at the plate. Got an Anthony Rendon-lite comp on him recently that I think fits fairly well.

Much has been made about Ray’s start — rightfully so as he’s been awesome — that what Lewis has done so far has been overlooked some. I’m not blind to the fact that Ray’s functional speed and higher level of competition faced make him the preferred college outfielder for many, but no reason to sleep on Lewis.

RHP Alec Hansen – Oklahoma – 13.20 K/9 – 7.20 BB/9 – 6.00 ERA – 15.0 IP
LHP Matt Krook – Oregon – 14.32 K/9 – 7.67 BB/9 – 4.08 ERA – 17.2 IP
RHP Connor Jones – Virginia – 7.91 K/9 – 1.98 BB/9 – 1.98 ERA – 27.1 IP
LHP AJ Puk – Florida – 9.53 K/9 – 4.76 BB/9 – 2.65 ERA – 17.0 IP
RHP Dakota Hudson – Mississippi State – 12.20 K/9 – 5.72 BB/9 – 1.90 ERA – 23.2 IP

Funny how three of the top five have lines that line up similarly so far. I think Jones has shown the best mix of stuff and results out of this top tier this spring. I also think that right now there really isn’t a realistic college arm that can lay claim to being in the 1-1 mix. Early returns on the top of the 2016 college class: bats > arms.

C Sean Murphy – Wright State – .259/.429/.778 – 5 BB/5 K – 0/0 SB – 27 AB
1B Pete Alonso – Florida – .424/.493/.661 – 8 BB/4 K – 1/1 SB – 59 AB
2B JaVon Shelby – Kentucky – .341/.481/.756 – 8 BB/7 K – 2/2 SB – 41 AB
SS Logan Gray – Austin Peay State – .327/.450/.755 – 11 BB/16 K – 2/2 SB – 49 AB
3B Sheldon Neuse – Oklahoma – .340/.493/.698 – 16 BB/14 K – 6/6 SB – 53 AB
OF Bryan Reynolds – Vanderbilt – .345/.486/.618 – 14 BB/18 K – 2/5 SB – 55 AB
OF Jake Fraley – Louisiana State – .400/.500/.583 – 12 BB/7 K – 11/15 SB – 60 AB
OF Nick Banks – Texas A&M – .263/.317/.421 – 2 BB/6 K – 0/0 SB – 38 AB

While the First Team has had a few slow starters (Dalbec for sure, Paez if you’re picking nits about his BB/K), the Second Team is rolling from top to bottom. Murphy and Banks have been slowed some by injuries, but otherwise these guys are mashing.

It speaks to how great Lewis and Ray (and even Reed to an extent) have been this year that neither Reynolds nor Fraley have gained much traction as top outfield prospects in the national consciousness. Both are really good players who will make their drafting teams very happy in June.

It’s taken me a few years, but I finally realized who Banks reminds me of as a prospect: Hunter Renfroe. I’m not yet sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s a thing.

RHP Cal Quantrill – Stanford
LHP Matt Crohan – Winthrop – 9.95 K/9 – 0.47 BB/9 – 2.37 ERA – 19.0 IP
RHP Zach Jackson – Arkansas – 11.71 K/9 – 5.12 BB/9 – 2.19 ERA – 12.1 IP
RHP Robert Tyler – Georgia – 13.94 K/9 – 1.69 BB/9 – 3.38 ERA – 21.1 IP
LHP Garrett Williams – Oklahoma State

I really liked Keith Law’s Ryan Madson comp for Tyler. I’m high enough on Tyler to modify that and use it as a potential MLB floor because I think Tyler has a better chance to continue developing a good enough breaking ball to go through a lineup multiple times.

The relative struggles of some of the top college pitchers in this class leave the door wide open for a guy like Quantrill coming back from injury to seriously enter the 1-1 conversation.

C Matt Thaiss – Virginia – .361/.473/.541 – 12 BB/1 K – 0/1 SB – 61 AB
1B Carmen Beneditti – Michigan – .298/.452/.426 – 10 BB/4 K – 3/4 SB – 47 AB
2B Cavan Biggio – Notre Dame – .229/.448/.313 – 17 BB/10 K – 4/4 SB – 48 AB
SS Colby Woodmansee – Arizona State – .370/.486/.630 – 14 BB/9 K – 1/1 SB – 54 AB
3B Lucas Erceg – Menlo (CA) – .342/.378/.685 – 5 BB/6 K – 0 SB – 111 AB
OF Ryan Boldt – Nebraska – .318/.382/.424 – 6 BB/8 K – 7/12 SB – 66 AB
OF Stephen Wrenn – Georgia – .353/.424/.471 – 5 BB/9 K – 4/7 SB – 51 AB
OF Ronnie Dawson – Ohio State – .263/.354/.509 – 8 BB/9 K – 3/4 SB – 57 AB

Love Thaiss. Loved Biggio, but starting to re-calibrate my expectations a little. Same for Boldt. Never loved Woodmansee, but I’m beginning to get it. Erceg’s start confuses me. It’s excellent, obviously, but the numbers reflect a high-contact approach that doesn’t show up in any of the scouting notes on him. Consider my curiosity piqued.

LHP Eric Lauer – Kent State – 8.05 K/9 – 4.02 BB/9 – 1.82 ERA – 24.2 IP
RHP Michael Shawaryn – Maryland – 7.04 K/9 – 3.33 BB/9 – 3.33 ERA – 24.1 IP
RHP Daulton Jefferies – California – 11.42 K/9 – 1.73 BB/9 – 1.04 ERA – 26.0 IP
RHP Kyle Serrano – Tennessee – 3.2 IP
RHP Kyle Funkhouser – Louisville – 8.77 K/9 – 5.34 BB/9 – 4.18 ERA – 23.2 IP

When I re-do the college rankings (coming soon!), I think this is where we’ll see some serious movers and shakers. Things are wide open after the top eight or so pitchers as the conversation shifts move towards high-floor fourth/fifth starters rather than top half of the rotation possibilities. I’ve read and heard some of the Jefferies top half of the first round buzz, and I’ve been slow to buy in so far. I like him a lot, but that feels rich. Then I remember that Mike Leake climbed as high as eighth overall back in my first draft doing this, so anything is possible.

Now for some prospects that weren’t on the preseason teams that has caught my eye so far…

Logan Shore – Florida – 9.33 K/9 – 0.67 BB/9 – 2.00 ERA – 27.0 IP
Jordan Sheffield – Vanderbilt – 13.17 K/9 – 2.56 BB/9 – 1.09 ERA – 24.2 IP
Corbin Burnes – St. Mary’s – 11.20 K/9 – 2.32 BB/9 – 3.09 ERA – 23.1 IP
Bailey Clark – Duke – 10.50 K/9 – 2.63 BB/9 – 3.38 ERA – 24.0 IP

I’ve been slow to appreciate Sheffield, but I’m on board now. My lazy but potentially prescient comp to Dillon Tate is something I can’t shake. Clark vs Zach Jackson is a fun head-to-head prospect battle that pits two of my favorite raw arms with questions about long-term role holding them back.

Nick Solak – Louisville – .434/.563/.585 – 15 BB/5 K – 6/6 SB – 53 AB
Bryson Brigman – San Diego – .424/.472/.515 – 3 BB/4 K – 5/7 SB – 33 AB
Stephen Alemais – Tulane – .462/.477/.641 – 3 BB/6 K – 4/5 SB – 39 AB
Jake Rogers – Tulane – .302/.471/.547 – 13 BB/11 K – 5/5 SB – 53 AB
Errol Robinson – Mississippi – .226/.317/.358 – 7 BB/8 K – 2/2 SB – 53 AB
Logan Ice – Oregon State – .463/.520/1.024 – 5 BB/1 K – 0/0 SB – 41 AB
Trever Morrison – Oregon State – .400/.456/.600 – 5 BB/12 K – 0/1 SB – 50 AB

Solak’s start is a thing of beauty. Rogers and Ice add to the impressive depth at the top of the catching class. It’ll be interesting to see which C/SS combo gets drafted higher between Oregon State and Tulane.

2016 MLB Draft Prospects – Tulane

SR RHP Emerson Gibbs (2016)
rJR RHP Daniel Rankin (2016)
rSR RHP Alex Massey (2016)
JR RHP Corey Merrill (2016)
SR RHP Patrick Duester (2016)
rJR RHP Eric Steel (2016)
rSO RHP JP France (2016)
SR RHP/OF Tim Yandel (2016)
rSR RHP Evan Rutter (2016)
rJR LHP Christian Colletti (2016)
rSO RHP Chris Oakley (2016)
rSO LHP Sam Bjorngjeld (2016)
rSR RHP/OF Trevor Simms (2016)
JR C Jake Rogers (2016)
JR SS Stephen Alemais (2016)
rSO OF Grant Brown (2016)
SR OF Richard Carthon (2016)
rJR C/1B Jeremy Montalbano (2016)
JR 1B/OF Lex Kaplan (2016)
JR 3B Hunter Hope (2016)
JR 1B Hunter Williams (2016)
JR OF Jarrett DeHart (2016)
rSO 2B Matt Rowland (2016)
rSR 2B/C Shea Pierce (2016)
JR 2B Jake Wilsey (2016)
SO LHP Jackson Johnson (2017)
FR LHP Ross Massey (2018)
FR OF/LHP Grant Witherspoon (2018)
FR INF Cade Edwards (2018)

Quantity and quality. Tulane has both in spades. I’m starting the SEC team profiles as soon as I finish this so maybe I’m being influenced by my dumb brain making patterns when it shouldn’t, but Tulane has both the depth and high-end talent typically found in an SEC school. Or an ACC school. Or a Pac-12 school. I mention those three conferences specifically because Tulane’s blend of first day pick quality and chance for double-digit draftee quantity inspired me to take a closer look at schools that have managed to have two or more players selected in the first round (including supplemental) AND a total of seven or more total draftees in the same year. I went back to my first year at the site (2009) to see what teams and conferences (without accounting for realignment) have done the trick. Unsurprisingly, the SEC, ACC, and Pac-12 are well represented…

2009: Boston College (2 first rounders, 4 total picks), Southern Cal (2, 6), Indiana (3, 7), Kennesaw State (2, 6), and North Carolina (2, 7)
2010: Cal State Fullerton (2, 9)
2011: Connecticut (2, 10), Vanderbilt (2, 12), and UCLA (2, 9)
2012: Texas A&M (2, 7), Florida (2, 9), and Stanford (2, 8)
2013:
2014: Virginia (3, 8) and North Carolina State (2, 7)
2015: Vanderbilt (3, 9)

This year it seems likely that a few more teams join the mix. Florida seems like a lock with Louisville right there with them and Virginia and Oklahoma just a step behind. Then you have maybes in Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, Miami, and Kentucky, plus teams with an outside chance like Oregon, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Clemson, Stanford, Louisiana State, Texas A&M, and Wake Forest (as well as any other team I’m forgetting). There’s also Tulane. Now we’re finally full circle. I’m not predicting that JR C Jake Rogers and JR SS Stephen Alemais are first day draft prospects, but the possibility certainly exists. Both Rogers and Alemais have similar general profiles as players: premium defensive talent at incredibly important spots on the diamond. Rogers is good enough defensively that his glove alone should keep getting him promoted even if he never hits. Alemais isn’t quite on that level, but he’s a legitimate shortstop with the athleticism, arm strength, and range to stick for a long time. The fact that he’s the better current hitter of the two makes up for the difference in my mind.

One of the easier comps in this year’s class is Rogers to Austin Hedges. It’s just too obvious to ignore. If you’re still on the Hedges bandwagon — I stayed off from the start — then you’re really going to like Rogers. If you value defense but also appreciate a guy who be a positive value player offensively — it doesn’t have to be an either/or! — then you might want to hold back for now. All bets are off if Rogers comes out swinging it this spring. If that’s the case (he’s got decent raw power and has held his own in terms of BB/K ratio, so don’t rule it out) then ignore everything you just read and mentally insert him into the first day of the draft. Pretty significant “if,” however. Alemais doesn’t have that “if” for me. I think he’s an honest big league hitter with continued development. There’s enough speed, pop, and approach to his offensive game that I’m comfortable calling him the best college shortstop profiled so far. That only includes most of the ACC and AAC, but it’s better than nothing. He’s a lock to finish as one of the country’s dozen best shortstops and has a strong case for remaining at the top spot come June.

Rogers and Alemais cover the quality at the top. Now let’s get to that depth. Assuming the two defensive stars have big junior season, these are the players that could push Tulane to join those schools listed about in my newly created (2, 7) club.

There are a ton of strikeouts found on the résumés of many of the returning Green Wave hitters, but also a lot of enticing tools that could have a few of these prospects in line for drastic improvements in 2016. SR OF Richard Carthon (40 K), JR 1B/OF Lex Kaplan (59 K), JR 3B Hunter Hope (73 K), and rSO OF Grant Brown (12 K in 35 AB) all have their issues, but not without also flashing pro ability at times. As the only senior listed, Carthon is obviously the only one in the do-or-die draft situation. Being a senior can work for and against you; in Carthon’s case, I think it might ultimately benefit him. His status as a potential money-saver combined with a few clear big league tools (speed, CF range) could get him a shot in the pros. Hope is steady enough defensively at third that I could see a team being intrigued by him as well. Kaplan, arguably the best hitter of the bunch, has a tougher hill to climb without that positional edge. Brown still has three years of eligibility if he wants it, so we’ll call the fascinating power/speed athlete a wild card at this point in the process. He’d be the easiest bet to identify as a breakout candidate in 2016 if you’re into that sort of thing.

Transfers from Louisville (rSO 2B Matt Rowland), Louisiana State (JR OF Jarrett DeHart), and Texas (rJR C/1B Jeremy Montalbano) add to the existing hitting surplus. All look promising in their own way. Rowland is known for a patient approach at the plate, DeHart is a great athlete who can really run, and Montalbano has as much raw power as nearly any 2016 draft peer. The only thing stopping me from hyping up Montalbano more than I will is the nagging belief that his C/1B position designation should be flipped. If he proves he can play even a slightly below-average catcher this spring, he’ll shoot up boards assuming the bat cooperates. If not, then he still has a chance as a pro prospect at first if he hits as many believe he can.

Transfers from West Virginia (rSR RHP/OF Trevor Simms), Connecticut (rJR LHP Christian Colletti), and Rice (rSR RHP Evan Rutter) add to the existing pitching surplus. The best of the incoming transfers should be rSO RHP Chris Oakley (North Carolina), big man with a bad fastball (90-94 with sink). I saw him back in his high school days when he was also flashing a pair of average or better secondaries (hard CB and split-CU), but I haven’t gotten any updates on him in a long while. As such, I’m looking forward to seeing him back on a mound this spring.

Those transfers will join experienced holdovers like rSR RHP Alex Massey (88.1 IP), SR RHP Emerson Gibbs (79.0 IP), JR RHP Corey Merrill (102.0 IP), SR RHP Patrick Duester (70.0 IP), and SR RHP Tim Yandel (56.1 IP). That’s a crazy amount of innings returning. I have all of those pitchers in my notes (save Duester since I don’t have gun readings on him) sitting 88-92 with their fastballs with Massey hitting higher (94-95). In fact, all of the pitchers that I have notes on at Tulane seem to have velocities that fall in that 88-92 range. That’s also where rJR RHP Daniel Rankin and rSO JP France are at, though both can get it up to the mid-90s like Massey. The similarities in sitting fastball velocity is kind of nice to see because it allows us to look beyond the obvious — admittedly to the slightly less obvious, but still — to differentiate the prospects.

Massey has that extra gear with his heater and an above-average slider that gives him a reasonable relief prospect floor if he can’t keep starting. Gibbs and his outstanding control, command, and sink on his fastball help him stand out among the rest. Merrill has a little more size (6-4, 230) and a good sinker. Yandel and France are old favorites who might be moving in different directions. The former, once a highly touted enough guy that Perfect Game compared him to Hunter Renfroe, hasn’t live up to his promise from both a performance perspective and from an evaluation of his stuff (lost velocity + the move away from a slider that flashed plus = not great). France, once compared to Lance McCullers by me, had a nice freshman season (9.26 K/9 and 1.80 BB/9 in 35 IP) and should enter the 2016 season ready to go. Between that old comp (rich in hindsight, but as draft prospects I stand by it) and France’s super talented right arm (90-94 FB and chance for two plus breaking balls), I’m all-in on France this year. That would leave me with a ranking of France, Massey, Gibbs, Merrill, (Oakley), Rankin, Duester, and Yandel. The fact that all have or are close to draftable grades is pretty impressive. I’d be surprised if Tulane doesn’t have at least five pitchers drafted this year.

2016 MLB Draft Preview – College Prospects

Click here for an UPDATED LIST (October 23, 2015) if you’re into that sort of thing…

The 2013 HS class was a really good one, so it’s no shock that the 2016 college group has a chance to be so exciting. One mostly clueless guy ranked the following unsigned 2013 HS prospects in his top 100 overall prospects that year: Kyle Serrano (20), Matt Krook (35), Chris Okey (39), Ryan Boldt (41), Cavan Biggio (42), Andy McGuire (52), Connor Jones (53), Brett Morales (58), Robert Tyler (68), Keegan Thompson (69), Cal Quantrill (70), Garrett Williams (73), Zack Collins (80), JB Woodman (89), Sheldon Neuse (92), Jordan Sheffield (93), and Connor Heady (96). Phil Bickford (34) and Francis Christy (100), both eligible for this year’s draft due to their decision to attend junior colleges in 2015, were also included within the top 100 prospects of 2013. Of that group listed above I’d say only McGuire (injured) and Heady (bat hasn’t come around) have hurt their draft stock. In fact, almost all of those names listed above can make realistic claims as first round picks next June. That’s awesome. A really quick top ten before I slip and say that it’s way way way too early to be ranking players…

  1. Virginia SO RHP Connor Jones
  2. Tennessee SO RHP Kyle Serrano
  3. Notre Dame SO 2B/3B Cavan Biggio
  4. Oklahoma SO 3B Sheldon Neuse
  5. Georgia SO RHP Robert Tyler
  6. Nebraska SO OF Ryan Boldt
  7. Texas A&M SO OF Nick Banks
  8. Oklahoma SO RHP Alec Hansen
  9. Stanford SO RHP Cal Quantrill
  10. Clemson SO C Chris Okey

ACC has the bats, SEC has the pitching

First, it’s way way way too early to be ranking players in the most honest sense of the word. I think grouping players and prioritizing the potentially great prospects over the good is appropriate, but even a crazy person like myself won’t yet attempt a strict ranking. If I were to do so, ranking the pitchers would be a much easier task at this point. There’s a much clearer line between the best and the rest for me there right now.

I do believe, per the subheading above, that the ACC has a chance to become the spot for crosscheckers on the hunt for above-average position players in next year’s draft. It might be a stretch, but I can see an argument for the ACC possessing three of next year’s draft top four college infielders. Clemson SO C Chris Okey, Miami SO 1B/C Zach Collins, and Notre Dame SO 2B/3B Cavan Biggio all have a chance to go very, very high in 2016’s first round. A snappier prediction would have been about the ACC having THE top three infield bats, but Oklahoma SO 3B/RHP Sheldon Neuse had to ruin those plans by being too darn good at baseball.

Still, Okey, Collins, and Biggio all have the chance to be long-term above-average regulars at demanding defensive positions; Okey and Biggio in particular could be major assets when you factor in their defensive value. I’m not sweating the relatively slow starts of Collins or Okey so far (Biggio has been great, which isn’t a shocker since he’s the most complete hitter of the trio), so you shouldn’t either. Collins has enough of the Kyle Schwarber/Travis Hafner power bat thing going on with a three-true outcomes approach to hitting that I think the bat plays at first if/when catching doesn’t work out. On the flip side, Okey moves so well behind the plate that Perfect Game compared him to a young Craig Biggio defensively back in 2013. His glove alone is almost reason enough to warrant a first day draft grade, and the fact that he could/should be a league average or better bat is what makes him a potential top ten pick in my eyes. Is it really any wonder why I like Biggio as much as I do? My old notes on him include the following: “born to hit,” “carries himself like a pro,” and “great pitch recognition.” Even better than that was the phrase “patient and aggressive all at once.” That’s my kind of hitter. It’s way too early to call it, but let’s do it anyway: Okey, Collins, and Biggio will all be first round picks in 2016.

The Hitters (including a return to gloves at short and catcher)

Keeping up with the ACC theme, Virginia SO C Matt Thaiss jumps out as another potential high round pick from looks like 2016’s best conference for bats. Thaiss is a rock solid defender who is starting to tap into his above-average raw power in a big enough way do his old Baseball America comps to Brian McCann justice. After Okey, Thaiss, and Texas SO C Tres Barrera, there’s still some quality depth. Some of the catchers from a bit off the beaten path (Santa Clara SO C Steve Berman, Grand Canyon SO C Josh Meyer) haven’t quite had the breakout second seasons I was hoping to see. Still, the overall depth at the position looks promising. Catchers are always in high demand in June, and I think this class will make many teams happy.

After Collins, first base looks grim. Two of my pre-season sleepers, Stony Brook SO 1B/OF Casey Baker and Texas State SO 1B Granger Studdard, have fallen flat so far this year. Thankfully East Carolina SO 1B/LHP Bryce Harman has come out of the gate mashing and Florida SO 1B Pete Alonso is coming off an impressive summer.

Once I figured out they weren’t the same guy, it was easy to like both Louisville SO 2B Nick Solak and Tennessee SO 2B Nick Senzel. Despite not yet making his college debut, I’m still sticking with the extremely promising LSU FR 2B/SS Greg Deichmann as the 1b to Biggio’s 1a at the position. The shortstops aren’t nearly on the level of what we have this year, but both Long Beach State SO SS Garrett Hampson and Tulane SO SS Stephen Alemais stand out as old-school defense-first prospects who could hit enough to still play every day. The aforementioned Neuse is the man at third base. Trailing him are names that include Vanderbilt FR 3B/SS Will Toffey, Clemson SO 3B/SS Weston Wilson, and Arizona SO 3B/RHP Bobby Dalbec, the closest current competitor to Neuse’s throne.

The real draw right now for fans of bad teams in search of offensive help will come in the outfield. Texas A&M SO OF Nick Banks and Nebraska SO OF Ryan Boldt appear set to battle back and forth throughout this season and next as the fight to see how high they can rise as first round picks. I’d have Boldt (who I comped to David Dahl back in HS) a tick above for the time being (better approach), but could see Banks closing the gap in short order thanks to a more impressive overall tool set (most notably raw power). Both look like safe first round picks as of now, good health pending.

The battle for the third spot is what interests me most right now. Many of the names expected to rise up (most notably Florida State OF/SS Ben DeLuzio) have taken a step back in the early going of 2015, but a lot of the athletic upside types like Florida OF Buddy Reed, Georgia SO OF Stephen Wrenn, LSU SO OF Jake Fraley, and Mississippi SO OF JB Woodman (hmm…SEC, SEC, SEC, and SEC) have stepped up in an even bigger way than hoped. Hey, did you catch that parenthetical note there? Might be time to amend one of the subheadings above…

ACC has the (infield) bats, SEC has the pitching (and outfielders)

That’s better. I’ll admit to not checking in on every single 2016 draft-eligible outfielder’s start to the 2015 season so far – I’m not even done previewing the current college season and we’re already over a month into things – but one favorite that I have noticed off to a hot start is St. John’s SO OF Michael Donadio, a really well-rounded player with an more advanced bat than most of his peers.

Power Pitchers from Power Conferences 

In what I’d consider my top tier of 2016 college pitchers, the SEC has three out of the top seven prospects. If I get a bit more inclusive and check in with the larger second tier (18 pitchers), then you’d see that an even two-thirds (12) come from the SEC. By complete luck that comes out to 25 total pitchers in the top two tiers with 15 able to call the SEC home. I’m pretty pleased with how this turned out, what with Carson Cistulli recently finding that the SEC has produced 23% of baseball’s “good pitchers” since 2010. For what it’s worth, the ACC is second (barely) only to the Pac-12 in terms of producing “good batters” since 2010. Since I amended my previous conclusion that’s no longer as relevant; not sure what the metrics say about infield prospects only. Anyway!

Power Pitchers with Changeups = $$$

One of the big early trends that pleases me to no end in college baseball in recent years is the rise of the changeup, arguably the finest offspeed pitch known to man. Virginia SO RHP Connor Jones – above-average, flashes plus. Tennessee SO RHP Kyle Serrano – inconsistent, but flashes plus when on. Florida SO RHP Brett Morales – above-average, flashes plus to plus-plus. Stanford SO RHP Cal Quantrill (RIP right elbow ligament) – plus. Those are just the righthanders from the top tier. Arkansas SO RHP Dominic Taccolini, Auburn SO RHP Keegan Thompson, Florida SO RHP Logan Shore, Mississippi State SO RHP Austin Sexton, Oklahoma State SO RHP Thomas Hatch, Maryland SO RHP Michael Shawaryn, and Alabama SO RHP Geoffrey Bramblett all throw consistently average or better changeups at present.

I think any number of the pitchers in my current top tier could make a run at 1-1 next June. Cal Quantrill’s shot is probably gone now that there’s word he’ll go under the knife for Tommy John surgery in the coming days. Connor Jones might now be the front-runner for me. Jones can get it up to the mid-90s with some of the craziest movement you’ll see, plus he can mix in three offspeed pitches (slider flashes plus, solid curve, and a hard splitter that acts as a potential plus changeup) with the know-how and ability to command everything effectively. Comps I’ve heard run the gamut from Jeff Samardzija to Dan Haren to Homer Bailey, but I’m partial to one that hit me when viewing his second start this season: Masahiro Tanaka. I’ve comped another pitcher in this class I love Kyle Serrano (ranked 20th overall in 2013) to Jarrod Parker, who once went 9th overall in the draft, in the past. Georgia SO RHP Robert Tyler throws really hard (mid-90s, 98-99 peak) with pair of secondary pitches with major upside. Brett Morales might not be on everybody’s list so close to the top, but his changeup is such a dominating pitch when on that he’s hard to leave off. Oklahoma SO RHP Alec Hansen and Oklahoma State SO LHP Garrett Williams have some fantastic Friday night showdowns ahead; Hansen’s the hard-thrower with the size scouts love while Williams is the more polished athlete with advanced offspeed stuff.

Quick, unfortunate aside not worthy of a subheading of it’s own: due to the unnatural nature of throwing a baseball at high speeds with crazy movement every year the topic of injuries has to be brought up. The 2016 MLB Draft college class is no different. Texas SO RHP Morgan Cooper, College of Charleston SO RHP Bailey Ober, and Cal Quantrill will all be closely monitored as they come back from injury that knocked out all or most of their 2015 seasons. Cooper and Ober should both be good to go relatively close to the start of the season while Quantrill will be lucky to be back by mid-season at the earliest. The upside of a healthy Quantrill and the timing of his injury put him on any short list of most fascinating draft prospects for 2016 right now. He was a top ten slam dunk for me pre-injury…and I wouldn’t rule him out from getting back there if he can avoid any immediate post-rehab setbacks.

Power Pitchers with Changeups from Power Conferences >>> Everybody Else 

A lot will happen between now and June of 2016 – I’ll no longer be in my twenties, for instance – so it’s foolhardy to suggest anything I say now should be written in ink. My one bummer of a prediction is that college baseball’s non-power conferences appear primed to take a backseat to the traditional powers in 2016. I say that as a long-time advocate for players who don’t get written about every single Thursday by every single national college baseball publication. The monster recruits of 2013 that went unsigned and went to big-time schools have almost all panned out, effectively crowding out the little guys in next year’s draft class. There is hope, however. Pitchers from Air Force, Central Michigan, and Kent State should rise way up boards. There are even guys from Northwestern State, Albany, High Point, and Sacred Heart that have top five round upside or better.

Way, way, way too early college follow lists that are unranked and as inclusive as possible. I left a lot of players on even though they are off to verrrrrry slow starts this year because at this point scouting reports trump performance by a silly margin. If I left off anybody (particularly if it’s a son/nephew/BFF/player on your favorite team), assume it’s a mistake and gently remind me in the comments or via email.

C

Clemson SO C Chris Okey
NC State SO C/3B Andrew Knizner
Virginia SO C Matt Thaiss
Tulane SO C Jake Rogers
Mississippi State SO C Gavin Collins
Texas SO C Tres Barrera
Furman SO C Cameron Whitehead
Murray State SO C Tyler Lawrence
USC SO C/1B Jeremy Martinez
Maryland SO C/1B Nick Cieri
Pepperdine SO C Aaron Barnett
Santa Clara SO C Steve Berman
Grand Canyon SO C Josh Meyer
Ball State SO C Jarett Rindfleisch

1B

Miami SO 1B/C Zack Collins
East Carolina SO 1B/LHP Bryce Harman
Florida SO 1B Pete Alonso
Stony Brook SO 1B/OF Casey Baker
Texas State SO 1B Granger Studdard

2B

Notre Dame SO 2B/3B Cavan Biggio
Louisville SO 2B Nick Solak
Notre Dame SO 2B/SS Kyle Fiala
Wake Forest SO 2B/OF Nate Mondou
LSU FR 2B/SS Greg Deichmann
Tennessee SO 2B/3B Nick Senzel
Texas A&M SO 2B/OF Ryne Birk
Columbia SO 2B Will Savage
Florida Atlantic SO 2B/SS Stephen Kerr

SS

Long Beach State SO SS Garrett Hampson
Virginia Tech SO SS Ricky Surum
Tulane SO SS Stephen Alemais
Mississippi FR SS/2B Tate Blackman
Mississippi SO SS/2B Errol Robinson
Arizona State SO SS/2B Colby Woodmansee
Sacred Heart SO SS Zack Short
Austin Peay State SO SS/3B Logan Gray
Stanford SO SS Tommy Edman
San Diego FR SS/2B Bryson Brigman
Central Michigan SO SS Alex Borglin
Coastal Carolina SO SS/2B Michael Paez

3B

Oklahoma SO 3B/RHP Sheldon Neuse
Clemson SO 3B/SS Weston Wilson
Louisville rFR 3B/SS Blake Tiberi
Vanderbilt FR 3B/SS Will Toffey
Texas A&M SO 3B/C Ronnie Gideon
Oklahoma State SO 3B Andrew Rosa
Texas SO 3B Andy McGuire
Arizona SO 3B/RHP Bobby Dalbec
Bradley SO 3B Spencer Gaa

OF

Texas A&M SO OF Nick Banks
Nebraska SO OF Ryan Boldt
Florida State SO OF/SS Ben DeLuzio
Louisville SO OF Corey Ray
Miami SO OF Willie Abreu
LSU SO OF Jake Fraley
Georgia SO OF Stephen Wrenn
Mississippi SO OF JB Woodman
Arkansas SO OF Andrew Benintendi
Arkansas FR OF Luke Bonfield
Vanderbilt SO OF/1B Bryan Reynolds
Florida SO OF Buddy Reed
Oklahoma SO OF Cody Thomas
Oklahoma State SO OF Ryan Sluder
St. John’s SO OF Michael Donadio
Mercer SO OF Kyle Lewis
Samford SO OF Heath Quinn
UCLA SO OF/2B Luke Persico
UCLA SO OF Brett Stephens
Washington State SO OF Cameron Frost
Ohio State SO OF Ronnie Dawson
Ohio State SO OF Troy Montgomery
Hawaii SO OF/2B Marcus Doi
UC Riverside SO OF Vince Fernandez
BYU SO OF Brennon Lund
Loyola Marymount SO OF Austin Miller
Ball State SO OF Alex Call
Jacksonville SO OF Austin Hays
Nevada SO OF/LHP Trenton Brooks

P

Virginia SO RHP Connor Jones
Tennessee SO RHP Kyle Serrano
Georgia SO RHP Robert Tyler
Florida SO RHP Brett Morales
Oklahoma SO RHP Alec Hansen
Oklahoma State SO LHP Garrett Williams
Stanford SO RHP Cal Quantrill
Arkansas SO RHP Dominic Taccolini
Auburn SO RHP/1B Keegan Thompson
South Carolina SO RHP Wil Crowe
Florida SO LHP/1B AJ Puk
Florida SO RHP Logan Shore
Mississippi State SO RHP Austin Sexton
Oklahoma State SO RHP Thomas Hatch
Texas SO RHP Morgan Cooper
Oregon SO LHP Matt Krook
Oregon State FR RHP Drew Rasmussen
Arkansas SO RHP Zach Jackson
Vanderbilt rFR RHP Jordan Sheffield
Maryland SO RHP Mike Shawaryn
College of Charleston SO RHP Bailey Ober
Louisiana SO RHP Reagan Bazar
Alabama SO RHP Geoffrey Bramblett
Connecticut SO LHP Anthony Kay
California SO RHP Daulton Jefferies
Boston College SO RHP Justin Dunn
Louisville SO RHP Zack Burdi
Louisville SO LHP Drew Harrington
Miami SO RHP/1B Derik Beauprez
Miami SO RHP Bryan Garcia
North Carolina SO RHP/SS Spencer Trayner
Pittsburgh SO RHP TJ Zeuch
Houston SO RHP Andrew Lantrip
Houston SO RHP Marshall Kasowski
Tulane SO RHP JP France
LSU SO LHP Jared Poche
South Carolina SO RHP Matt Vogel
Alabama SO RHP Nick Eicholtz
Georgia SO LHP Connor Jones
Vanderbilt SO RHP Hayden Stone
Florida SO RHP Dane Dunning
Mississippi State SO RHP Dakota Hudson
Texas A&M SO RHP Ryan Hendrix
Oklahoma SO RHP Jake Elliott
TCU SO RHP Brian Howard
Texas Tech SO LHP Ty Damron
Arizona SO RHP Austin Schnabel
Arizona State SO RHP Hever Bueno
Washington State SO RHP Ian Hamilton
Michigan SO LHP Brett Adcock
Nebraska SO RHP Derek Burkamper
Pacific SO RHP Vince Arobio
Wichita State SO LHP/1B Sam Hilliard
Air Force SO RHP/1B Griffin Jax
Central Michigan SO LHP/1B Nick Deeg
Kent State SO RHP Andy Ravel
Northwestern State SO RHP Adam Oller
Albany SO RHP Stephen Woods
Elon SO RHP/C Chris Hall
Stetson SO RHP Mitchell Jordan
High Point SO RHP Cas Silber
Longwood SO RHP Mitchell Kuebbing
Sacred Heart SO RHP Jason Foley

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Tulane

JR RHP Ian Gibaut (2015)
rJR RHP Alex Massey (2015)
rSO RHP Daniel Rankin (2015)
JR RHP Emerson Gibbs (2015)
JR RHP/OF Tim Yandel (2015)
SR 2B Garret Deschamp (2015)
SR 1B/3B Tyler Wilson (2015)
JR OF Richard Carthon (2015)
SO SS Stephen Alemais (2016)
SO C Jake Rogers (2016)
SO RHP JP France (2016)
SO RHP Tyler Zamjahn (2016)
SO RHP Zach Flowers (2016)
SO 3B Hunter Hope (2016)
SO 1B/OF Lex Kaplan (2016)
SO OF Grant Brown (2016)
SO RHP Corey Merrill (2016)
SO RHP Patrick Duester (2016)
FR LHP Jackson Johnson (2017)

The practical logistics of moving a pitcher from the college bullpen (or an expected pro bullpen role) to a professional rotation is a hot topic every year at draft time. Everybody has a different opinion about what makes a starter a starter and a reliever a reliever. Some focus on one specific aspect of a pitcher’s game and use that as the determining factor when deciding on a future role. Too often this is a simple question of size — Is he 6’0″ or less? Stick him in the pen then! — which is obviously an unfortunate bout of reducing a complex (by baseball standards) decision into a binary yes/no that lacks the necessary nuance and ratiocination required. Thankfully there are others, more sensibly in my view, who take a holistic approach as they debate the merits of a pitcher’s depth of repertoire, ease of mechanical repeatability, physical stature (size is a factor, but not the factor) and conditioning, and ability to maintain high-quality stuff deep into outings as the pitch count climbs and fatigue sets in. Creating a dichotomy using short and tall as determining factors is bad process that occasionally will lead to positive results

Forgive me if I copy/paste that paragraph whenever Dillon Tate, Carson Fulmer, and Tyler Jay are brought up this spring. For now, the logic presented above applies to JR RHP Ian Gibaut, who has excelled as a college reliever since first stepping foot on campus at Tulane in 2013. There’s no reason to believe that Gibaut’s success as an amateur reliever would slow down in any way as he transitions to pro ball this summer. Still, I’d be tempted to stretch him out and see how his stuff holds up as a starter. My desire to see him work in a starter’s role isn’t so great that I’d kill a team for thinking he’ll be best in the bullpen as a professional; if anything, it’s more of a selfish curiosity to see what a college reliever with the build, arm action (in my amateur view), and diverse enough set of pitches (above-average 75-78 CB, upper-70s CU that flashes plus [others like it less and I’ll at least acknowledge it’s an inconsistent pitch at present], and hard mid-80s SL) could do in a more taxing role. I’ve heard but not seen firsthand that Gibaut’s velocity is the type that plays up in short bursts, so keeping him in the bullpen would seem to be a perfectly reasonable course of action. If that winds up being how it plays out, then don’t be surprised when Gibaut winds up as one of this year’s draft fastest moving college relief prospects.

I’ve always preferred JR RHP/OF Tim Yandel as a hitter to a pitcher, but the evidence is now stacked up too high against my original position to ignore. The light has never really gone on for Yandel as a hitter, but he’s emerged as a solid college arm with a chance to find work as a middle reliever type in the pros thanks to his plus 78-83 slider. rJR RHP Alex Massey has shown he can miss bats in his swingman role over his two plus years at Tulane. Given time in the bullpen exclusively should help his already solid fastball (88-92, 94-95 peak) play up a tick, all the better to complement his existing above-average slider. If you’re scoring at home, that’s three potential relievers that could come out of this year’s Tulane staff.

There’s less to love offensively, but it isn’t as though Tulane has no hitters worth keeping an eye on. SR 2B Garret Deschamp has flashed some power to the gaps and can field his position. I’ve heard nothing but positive things about SR 1B/3B Tyler Wilson’s bat, so hopefully we’ll get a chance to see what he can do with more than the 26 AB he received last season. JR OF Richard Carthon can run, but it remains to be seen if he’ll hit.

Tulane’s sophomore class is where it’s at. SO SS Stephen Alemais is a legit defensive shortstop with a big arm and serious wheels. He didn’t light the world on fire as a freshman, but he held his own. Same could be said for SO RHP JP France (but with standout peripherals), an undersized athletic fireballing righthander in the mold of Lance McCullers. C Jake Rogers, 3B Hunter Hope, OF Grant Brown, and RHP Corey Merrill are all also sophomores talented enough to finish as high picks.