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2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – West Coast Conference

The arms are the story in the West Coast Conference this year. What’s especially nice about the 2016 draft class is the variety: whether you like velocity, size, or polish, it’s all here. Of course, the best of the best seem to have a little bit of everything working for them. That would be Corbin Burnes. Velocity? How does a sinking 90-96 MPH fastball that has touched 98 sound? Size? A highly athletic 6-3, 200 pound frame ought to do it. Polish? Burnes, who just so happens to be one of the most adept pitchers at fielding his position in his class, can throw any of his four pitches for strikes including an average 80-86 slider (currently flashes better with above-average upside in time), an average or better 81-86 changeup, and a 76-78 curve that also will flash above-average. What Burnes lacks is consistent with what the rest of the pitchers at the top of this conference’s class seem to lack as well: a clear plus offspeed pitch. Missing one of those guys isn’t all that unusual at the amateur level, so it’s not wrong to weigh the overall package of secondary pitches instead. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I start to think Burnes has the all-around scouting profile to crack the draft’s first day. Personal preference ultimately dictates how those decisions are made: all else being equal (more or less), do you take the pitcher with a clear plus secondary pitch yet little else or the pitcher with two or three average or so offspeed offerings but no potential big league out-pitch? I’m sure there’s a better example of this that I’m not thinking of, but off the top of my head the decision amounts to do you prefer a guy like Robert Tyler or would you rather cast your lot with Burnes? This whole thought exercise strips away a lot of the nuance – to say nothing of the absence of how important self-scouting your organization’s development staff strengths and weaknesses — that makes the draft so much fun…but it’s still fun in its own way.

That paragraph is about as stream-of-consciousness-y as I’ve gotten around here in a while. Let’s get back on track. Michael Rucker checks two of our three boxes pretty easily: he’s 88-94 (96 peak) with his fastball while commanding three offspeed pitches (low-80s SL, low- to mid-80s CU, mid-70s CB) with a veteran’s mindset on the mound. He’s not particularly big (6-1, 185) nor does he have that plus offspeed pitch (slider comes closest), but it’s still a potential big league starter skill set. His former teammate at Gonzaga, Brandon Bailey, shares a reasonable resemblance, though Bailey has a little less size (5-10, 170) and utilizes his 78-82 MPH changeup as his go-to offspeed pitch.

JD Busfield has the size (6-7, 230) that gets him noticed as he steps off the bus. His fastball velocity ranges from the mid-80s all the way up to a mid-90s (94-95) peak, but those wild fluctuations are largely because of the big sink he’s able to get at varying velocities. That sink, his impressive low-80s slider, and the silly amount of extension he gets with every pitch put him on the (no longer) short list of pitchers I want to dig into available batted ball data on. Gary Cornish’s reputation for being a ground ball machine puts him on that very same list. His sinker, breaking ball, plus command, and track record of missing bats all up to a fine senior-sign candidate.

AJ Puckett could be the closest thing to Corbin Burnes in terms of hitting that velocity, size, and polish trifecta. If his curve was a little more consistent and his change a little more advanced, then he’d have a shot of co-headlining this class. Alas, if’s are if’s for a reason. Connor Williams is an age-eligible sophomore with a monster fastball (92-95, 97 peak) that could very well help him wind up the second highest drafted pitcher in the conference come June. Mitchell White is a redshirt-sophomore with a fastball that dances (87-93 with serious movement), an above-average slider, and an intriguing cutter. On his best days, the three pitches seem to morph into one unhittable to square up offering. I like him a whole heck of a lot right now.

Troy Conyers has been one of my favorite draft arms for what feels like a decade now. He’s got a lot of the elements for being a major draft sleeper who winds up a better pro than amateur: handedness (LHP), size (6-5, 225), history of playing both ways (41 AB in 2014 isn’t a ton, but it’s something), and a Tommy John surgery (2014) that slowed his ascent just enough (temporarily, we think/hope) to depress his draft stock. Anthony Gonsolin doesn’t fit each those categories, but offers similar intriguing upside as a highly athletic two-way prospect. His two-way bonafides are among the strongest in this class as those I’ve talked to have it as a pretty even split on what his best long-term position will be.

Cameron Neff might have both enough of a slider and a changeup to buck the trend of no plus pitches in the WCC this year. I need more information on him, but the vast majority I have is positive. Steven Wilson (96 MPH peak), Michael Silva (96-97), Anthony Gonsolin (95), Vince Arobio (96), and Gage Burland (94) all throw hard with varying degrees of wildness. Control inconsistencies or not, the fact that guys with arm strength of that caliber can be found so long on a conference list speaks to the outstanding depth the WCC enjoys in 2016. It really might be time for me to move to California.

Doing so would allow me to regularly see Bryson Brigman, a prospect that has begun to remind me a lot of Arizona’s Scott Kingery from last year’s draft. Kingery was a second round pick (48th overall) and I could see Brigman rising to a similar level by June. Like Kingery last year, Brigman’s defensive future remains a question for scouts. Fortunately for both, the question is framed more around trying him in challenging spots than worrying about having to hide him elsewhere on the diamond. Brigman has an above-average to plus defensive future at second back in his back pocket already, so his playing a solid shortstop in 2016 is doing so with house money. In much the same way that former second baseman Alex Bregman wore everybody down with consistent above-average play at short last college season, Brigman has proved to many that he has what it takes to stick at shortstop in pro ball. Brigman’s appeal at this point is pretty clear: tons of defensive potential in the middle infield, contact abilities that elicit the classic “he could find a hole rolling out of bed” remarks from onlookers, and enough of the sneaky pop/mature approach offensive extras needed to be an impactful regular in the big leagues. I’ll stick with the Kingery – who smart people told me here could play shortstop if needed, a position since corroborated by those who have seen him in the pros (I’ll be seeing him for myself on Saturday, FWIW) – comparison for now, but I wouldn’t object to somebody who offered up a mix of the best of both Kingery and his old double play partner Kevin Newman. That would obviously be some kind of special player, but Brigman doesn’t seem too far off. I’ve said before I hate when people throw around terms like “first round player” so loosely that you could count 100 first rounders in their eyes in the months leading up to June, but I’ll be guilty of it here and call Brigman a first round player as of now. I’ve really come to appreciate his game since the start of the season.

Taylor Jones is a risky pick behind Brigman as guys with long levers bring that boom/bust aspect to hitting. The boom of Jones’s power currently outweighs any bust I feel about his long-term ability to make consistent contact as a pro. The fact that he’s more than just a slugger helps give some wiggle room. Jones is an average runner who fields his position really well. He’s also capable of moonlighting on the mound thanks to an upper-80s fastball and up-and-down curve. Broken record alert, but he’s one of my favorite senior-sign hitters in this class. That makes about four dozen favorite senior-sign hitters; thankfully, nobody keeps track.

If not Jones, then either Brennon Lund or Steve Berman could have stepped in in the two spot behind Brigman. Lund is putting it all together this year for BYU. In his case, “all” refers to plus speed, easy center field range, a plus arm, and above-average raw power. My soft spot for Jones has to be evident because the player I just described in Lund sounds pretty damn exciting. I’d consider it a minor upset if he doesn’t overtake the field as the second highest WCC hitter drafted (and ranked by me) this June. Berman’s case is a little tougher to make, but he’s a dependable catcher with an above-average arm who puts his natural strength to good use at the plate. In a class loaded with noteworthy catchers, Berman flies comfortably under the radar. Feels like a potential steal to me.

Just behind Berman fall fellow catchers Aaron Barnett and Nate Nolan. Barnett can flat hit, so it’s no shock he got the FAVORITE tag from me a couple years back. I’m still on board, though I’ve heard from some smart people who question how his arm strength will be viewed by pro guys. Nolan doesn’t have that problem. He’s not a FAVORITE, but his offensive profile is still quite intriguing. He’s very different from Barnett in that he’s all about finding ways to make his plus raw power work for him, often at the expense of at bats ending with a short, disappointing walk back to the dugout. This goes back to another theoretical prospect debate that I know I’ve touched on in years past: do you like the well-rounded, athletic catcher with better contact skills and a more mature approach or would you rather gamble on the big-armed, plus raw power, rough around the edges offensive talent? It’s a chocolate or vanilla argument in the end. Everybody wins.

Remember when Gio Brusa was a thing? This was his report from last year…

The appreciation for Brusa, however, is right on point. His above-average to plus raw power will keep him employed for a long time, especially combined with his elite athleticism and playable defensive tools (slightly below-average arm and foot speed, but overall should be fine in left field). Brusa going from good prospect to great prospect will take selling a team on his improved approach as a hitter; early returns are promising but a team that buys into his bat will do so knowing he’ll always be a player who swings and misses a lot. Whether or not he a) makes enough contact, and/or b) demonstrates enough plate discipline (strikeouts are easier to take when paired with an increased walk rate, like he’s shown so far this year) will ultimately decide his fate as a hitter and prospect. Before the season I would have been in the “think he’ll be drafted too high for my tastes, so let me just kick back and watch somebody else try to fix his approach” camp in terms of his draft value, but I’m slowly creeping towards “if he falls just a bit, I’d think about taking a shot on his upside over a few players with more certainty and less ceiling” territory. That’s a big step up for me, even if it doesn’t quite seem like it.

Almost exactly one year to the day, I can say that’s pretty much where I remain on Brusa as a prospect. There’s still upside in a player like him because his natural gifts are obvious – maybe all it will take is the right voice in his ear in pro ball – but the increasingly large sample of below-average plate discipline is getting harder and harder to ignore. I tried my best to do so last year when spinning his early season successes as a potential step in the right direction, but reading between the lines above should reveal what I really thought. Avoiding the urge to flat out say “I just don’t like this prospect” has cost me some credibility among some small pockets of the baseball world in the past, but I sleep a lot better knowing I skew positive publicly on this site. When it comes to writing about young men chasing their dreams in a game we all love, why wouldn’t you make the attempt to be positive if at all possible? Positive doesn’t mean ranking every player in a tie for best prospect, of course. Brusa finished last season as my 144th ranked draft prospect. For a variety of reasons, some because of baseball but most not (i.e., signability past a certain point), he fell to pick 701. I think his ranking this year could split the difference between the two spots…but with a slight edge to being closer to 144 than 701. Have to stay positive, after all.

Hitters

  1. San Diego SO SS/2B Bryson Brigman
  2. Gonzaga SR 1B/RHP Taylor Jones
  3. BYU JR OF Brennon Lund
  4. Santa Clara JR C Steve Berman
  5. Pacific SR OF Gio Brusa
  6. Pepperdine JR C Aaron Barnett
  7. St. Mary’s JR C Nate Nolan
  8. Pepperdine JR SS Manny Jefferson
  9. Loyola Marymount JR OF Austin Miller
  10. BYU SO 3B Nate Favero
  11. BYU SR SS Hayden Nielsen
  12. Gonzaga rJR OF Sam Brown
  13. San Diego JR OF Ryan Kirby
  14. San Diego rSO OF Hunter Mercado-Hood
  15. Pepperdine JR OF Brandon Caruso
  16. BYU JR SS/1B Tanner Chauncey
  17. San Francisco JR C Dominic Miroglio
  18. BYU JR C Bronson Larsen
  19. Pacific SR C JP Yakel
  20. BYU SR OF Eric Urry
  21. Portland SR 2B/OF Caleb Whalen
  22. Pepperdine SR 2B Chris Fornaci
  23. Pacific SR 2B/3B Louis Mejia
  24. Pepperdine JR OF Matt Gelalich
  25. Pepperdine SR 1B Brad Anderson
  26. San Diego JR C Colton Waltner
  27. Loyola Marymount JR C Cassidy Brown
  28. Loyola Marymount JR 3B/C Jimmy Hill
  29. Gonzaga SR C Joey Harris
  30. St. Mary’s SR 3B Anthony Villa
  31. San Francisco rJR OF Harrison Bruce
  32. St. Mary’s SR 2B/OF Connor Hornsby
  33. Loyola Marymount JR 3B/RHP Ted Boeke
  34. San Francisco JR SS Nico Giarratano
  35. Pacific SR 3B JJ Wagner
  36. Pacific JR 1B Dan Mayer
  37. Santa Clara SR C/3B Kyle Cortopassi
  38. San Diego rSR 2B/3B Jerod Smith
  39. St. Mary’s SR OF Davis Strong
  40. San Francisco JR 1B Manny Ramirez

Pitchers

  1. St. Mary’s JR RHP Corbin Burnes
  2. BYU JR RHP Michael Rucker
  3. Loyola Marymount JR RHP JD Busfield
  4. Gonzaga JR RHP Brandon Bailey
  5. Pepperdine JR RHP AJ Puckett
  6. BYU SO RHP/OF Connor Williams
  7. Santa Clara rSO RHP Mitchell White
  8. San Diego rJR LHP/1B Troy Conyers
  9. San Diego SR RHP Gary Cornish
  10. St. Mary’s JR RHP Cameron Neff
  11. Santa Clara rJR RHP Steven Wilson
  12. Loyola Marymount SR RHP Michael Silva
  13. St. Mary’s SR RHP/OF Anthony Gonsolin
  14. Pacific JR RHP Vince Arobio
  15. Gonzaga SO RHP Gage Burland
  16. San Diego SR LHP Jacob Hill
  17. San Diego rJR RHP Wes Judish
  18. Loyola Marymount JR RHP/SS Tyler Cohen
  19. Santa Clara SR RHP Jake Steffens
  20. San Diego JR RHP CJ Burdick
  21. Pacific JR RHP Will Lydon
  22. Pacific SR RHP Jake Jenkins
  23. BYU JR RHP Kendall Motes
  24. San Diego rSR RHP Drew Jacobs
  25. San Francisco rSO RHP Grant Goodman
  26. Santa Clara SR RHP Nick Medeiros
  27. Santa Clara JR LHP Jason Seever
  28. San Diego JR RHP Nathan Kuchta
  29. BYU rSO LHP Hayden Rogers
  30. Gonzaga JR RHP Wyatt Mills
  31. Gonzaga JR RHP Hunter Wells
  32. Santa Clara JR LHP Kevin George
  33. BYU JR RHP Mason Marshall
  34. San Francisco SR RHP Anthony Shew
  35. St. Mary’s JR LHP Johnny York

Brigham Young

JR RHP Michael Rucker (2016)
JR RHP Kendall Motes (2016)
rSO LHP Hayden Rogers (2016)
JR RHP Mason Marshall (2016)
JR RHP Keaton Cenatiempo (2016)
SO RHP/OF Connor Williams (2016)
JR OF Brennon Lund (2016)
JR SS/1B Tanner Chauncey (2016)
SR OF Eric Urry (2016)
SR SS Hayden Nielsen (2016)
JR C Bronson Larsen (2016)
SO 3B Nate Favero (2016)
SO RHP Maverik Buffo (2017)
SO C/1B Colton Shaver (2017)
FR RHP Jordan Wood (2018)
FR OF Kyle Dean (2018)
FR SS Daniel Schneemann (2018)
FR 3B Jackson Cluff (2018)
FR OF Danny Gelalich (2018)

High Priority Follows: Michael Rucker, Kendall Motes, Hayden Rogers, Mason Marshall, Connor Williams, Brennon Lund, Tanner Chauncey, Eric Urry, Hayden Nielsen, Bronson Larsen, Nate Favero

Gonzaga

JR RHP Brandon Bailey (2016)
SO RHP Gage Burland (2016)
JR RHP Hunter Wells (2016)
JR RHP Wyatt Mills (2016)
SR 1B/RHP Taylor Jones (2016)
rJR OF Sam Brown (2016)
SR 2B/OF Caleb Wood (2016)
SR C Joey Harris (2016)
SR C Jimmy Sinatro (2016)
JR OF Justin Jacobs (2016)
rJR SS Dustin Breshears (2016)
SO RHP Eli Morgan (2017)
SO LHP Calvin LeBrun (2017)
rFR RHP Dan Bies (2017)
SO RHP/OF Tyler Frost (2017)
SO OF Branson Trube (2017)
SO INF Nick Nyquist (2017)

High Priority Follows: Brandon Bailey, Gage Burland, Hunter Wells, Wyatt Mills, Taylor Jones, Sam Brown, Joey Harris, Justin Jacobs

Loyola Marymount

JR RHP JD Busfield (2016)
SR RHP Michael Silva (2016)
JR LHP Brenton Arriaga (2016)
JR RHP Tim Peabody (2016)
JR RHP/SS Tyler Cohen (2016)
JR OF/LHP Kyle Dozier (2016)
SR OF Ryan Erickson (2016)
JR C Cassidy Brown (2016)
JR 3B/C Jimmy Hill (2016)
JR OF Austin Miller (2016)
JR 3B/RHP Ted Boeke (2016)
SO RHP Cory Abbott (2017)
SO RHP/OF Sean Watkins (2017)
SO OF Billy Wilson (2017)
SO 1B Jamey Smart (2017)
FR SS Niko Decolati (2018)

High Priority Follows: JD Busfield, Michael Silva, Brenton Arriaga, Tyler Cohen, Kyle Dozier, Ryan Erickson, Cassidy Brown, Jimmy Hill, Austin Miller, Ted Boeke

Pacific

JR RHP Vince Arobio (2016)
SR RHP Jake Jenkins (2016)
JR RHP Will Lydon (2016)
JR RHP Jordon Gonzalez (2016)
SR RHP Sean Bennetts (2016)
SR OF Gio Brusa (2016)
JR 1B Dan Mayer (2016)
SR 3B JJ Wagner (2016)
SR 2B/3B Louis Mejia (2016)
SR C JP Yakel (2016)
SO 1B/OF Nate Verlin (2017)
SO C Lucas Halstead (2017)

High Priority Follows: Vince Arobio, Jake Jenkins, Will Lydon, Gio Brusa, Dan Mayer, JJ Wagner, Louis Mejia, JP Yakel

Pepperdine

JR RHP Chandler Blanchard (2016)
JR RHP AJ Puckett (2016)
SR RHP Evan Dunn (2016)
JR C Aaron Barnett (2016)
JR SS Manny Jefferson (2016)
JR OF Jack Ross (2016)
JR OF Matt Gelalich (2016)
JR OF Brandon Caruso (2016)
SR 1B Brad Anderson (2016)
SR 2B Chris Fornaci (2016)
SO LHP Max Green (2017)
SO RHP Kiko Garcia (2017)
SO RHP Max Gamboa (2017)
SO LHP Ryan Wilson (2017)
SO OF/RHP Jordan Qsar (2017)
FR LHP Easton Lucas (2018)

High Priority Follows: Chandler Blanchard, AJ Puckett, Aaron Barnett, Manny Jefferson, Matt Gelalich, Brandon Caruso, Brad Anderson, Chris Fornaci

Portland

SR RHP Jackson Lockwood (2016)
SR RHP Billy Sahlinger (2016)
SR LHP Cole Doherty (2016)
SR RHP Jordan Wilcox (2016)
JR RHP/1B Davis Tominaga (2016)
SR OF/RHP Ryan Barr (2016)
JR C Devin Kopas (2016)
SR C Brady Kerr (2016)
JR C Cooper Hummel (2016)
SR 2B/OF Caleb Whalen (2016)
SO RHP Jake Hawken (2017)
FR OF Cody Hawken (2018)

High Priority Follows: Jackson Lockwood, Billy Sahlinger, Cole Doherty, Jordan Wilcox, Davis Tominaga, Cooper Hummel, Caleb Whalen

San Diego

SR LHP Jacob Hill (2016)
SR RHP Gary Cornish (2016)
rJR RHP Wes Judish (2016)
JR RHP CJ Burdick (2016)
JR RHP Nathan Kuchta (2016)
rSR RHP Drew Jacobs (2016)
rJR LHP/1B Troy Conyers (2016)
SO SS/2B Bryson Brigman (2016)
rSR 2B/3B Jerod Smith (2016)
JR OF Ryan Kirby (2016)
rSO OF Hunter Mercado-Hood (2016)
JR C Colton Waltner (2016)
SO RHP Jonathan Teaney (2017)
SO C Riley Adams (2017)
FR LHP Nick Sprengel (2018)
FR OF Kevin Collard (2018)

High Priority Follows: Jacob Hill, Gary Cornish, Wes Judish, CJ Burdick, Nathan Kuchta, Drew Jacobs, Troy Conyers, Bryson Brigman, Jerod Smith, Ryan Kirby, Hunter Mercado-Hood, Colton Waltner

San Francisco

SR RHP Anthony Shew (2016)
rSO RHP Grant Goodman (2016)
rSO LHP Sam Granoff (2016)
JR RHP Mack Meyer (2016)
SR C Ryan Matranga (2016)
JR SS Nico Giarratano (2016)
JR 2B/OF Matt Sinatro (2016)
JR INF Dan James (2016)
JR 1B Manny Ramirez (2016)
JR C Dominic Miroglio (2016)
rJR OF Harrison Bruce (2016)
SO 3B Ross Puskarich (2017)
SO OF Brady Bate (2017)
FR RHP Thomas Pontcelli (2018)
FR 1B Matt Warkentin (2018)

High Priority Follows: Anthony Shew, Grant Goodman, Sam Granoff, Nico Giarratano, Manny Ramirez, Dominic Miroglio, Harrison Bruce

Santa Clara

SR RHP Nick Medeiros (2016)
rJR RHP Steven Wilson (2016)
SR RHP Jake Steffens (2016)
SR RHP Peter Hendron (2016)
JR LHP Jason Seever (2016)
JR LHP Kevin George (2016)
JR RHP Max Kuhns (2016)
rSO RHP Mitchell White (2016)
SR C/3B Kyle Cortopassi (2016)
SR OF Kert Woods (2016)
JR C Steve Berman (2016)
SR OF TC Florentine (2016)
SR 3B Ryan Budnick (2016)
rFR OF Matt Smithwick (2017)
SO 2B/SS Austin Fisher (2017)
SO OF Grant Meylan (2017)
SO OF/3B Evan Haberle (2017)
SO 2B Joe Becht (2017)
SO 1B Jake Brodt (2017)
FR RHP Travis Howard (2018)
FR RHP Freddie Erlandson (2018)
FR 3B/SS John Cresto (2018)
FR 1B Austin Cram (2018)

High Priority Follows: Nick Medeiros, Steven Wilson, Jake Steffens, Jason Seever, Kevin George, Mitchell White, Kyle Cortopassi, Steve Berman

St. Mary’s

JR RHP Corbin Burnes (2016)
JR RHP Cameron Neff (2016)
SR RHP David Dellaserra (2016)
JR LHP Johnny York (2016)
SR RHP/OF Anthony Gonsolin (2016)
SR OF Davis Strong (2016)
SR 3B Anthony Villa (2016)
SR C Ian McLoughlin (2016)
SR 2B/OF Connor Hornsby (2016)
JR C Nate Nolan (2016)
SO RHP Drew Strotman (2017)
SO RHP Billy Oxford (2017)
rFR OF Eddie Haus (2017)
SO SS/3B Logan Steinberg (2017)
SO SS Austin Piscotty (2017)
SO 2B Zach Kirtley (2017)
SO INF Brett Rasso (2017)
SO C Jackson Thoreson (2017)
FR RHP Jonathan Buckley (2018)
FR RHP Tim Holdgrapher (2018)
FR RHP Conner Loeprich (2018)
FR LHP/OF Ty Madrigal (2018)
FR SS/C Charles Zaloumis (2018)
FR OF Matt Green (2018)

High Priority Follows: Corbin Burnes, Cameron Neff, Johnny York, Anthony Gonsolin, Davis Strong, Anthony Villa, Connor Hornsby, Nate Nolan

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