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Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Minnesota in 2016
15 – Alex Kirilloff
108 – Akil Baddoo
120 – Ben Rortvedt
146 – Matt Albanese
154 – Jose Miranda
189 – Griffin Jax
244 – Jordan Balazovic
381 – Thomas Hackimer
436 – Brandon Lopez
476 – Tyler Benninghoff
1.15 – OF Alex Kirilloff
I don’t know if Alex Kirilloff (15) has a lucky number or not, but, if he didn’t before, he might have one now. His pre-draft ranking on this site? Fifteen. His ranking at Baseball America? Fifteen. And, of course, what pick did the Twins take him with in the 2016 MLB Draft? Doesn’t take a genius to figure out where I’m going with this. On Kirilloff from December 2015…
Alex Kirilloff is a clear step down athletically from the rest of the top tier, but, man, can he hit. If I would have kept him at first base on these rankings then there’s no question he would have finished atop that position list. He’s behind potential stars like Moniak, Rutherford, McIlwain, Benson, and Tuck for now, but that’s for reasons of defensive upside and athleticism more than anything. By June, Kirilloff’s bat might be too loud to be behind a few of those names.
Then again in April 2016…
As a hitter, Kirilloff can really do it all: big raw power, plus bat speed, a mature approach, and a hit tool so promising that almost every scout has agreed that he’s an advanced hitter who happens to hit for power rather than the other way around. He’s the rare high school prospect who could hit enough to have confidence in him as a pro even if eventually confined to first base.
A finally the longest look from about two weeks before the draft…
Another potential angle with this year’s prep outfielders is one that has been generally underplayed by the experts so far this spring. My sources, such as they are, have led me to believe that there is serious internal debate among many scouting staffs about the respective merits of Rutherford and Kirilloff. The idea that there’s a consensus favorite between the two among big league scouting departments is apparently way off the mark. This may surprise many draft fans who have read about 100x more on Rutherford this spring than Kirilloff, but I think the confusion at the top of the high school outfield class is real. I’d guess that most teams have either Moniak or Rutherford in the first spot; the teams that Moniak first, however, might not necessarily have Rutherford behind him at second. Kirilloff is far more liked by teams than many of the expert boards I’ve seen this spring.
It’s really hard to break down two different high school hitters from two different coasts, but I’ll do my best with what I have to compare Rutherford and Kirilloff. This is hardly a definitive take because, like just about any of my evaluations, I’m just one guy making one final call based on various inputs unique to the information I have on hand. I’m not a scout; I’m just a guy who pretends to know things on the internet. I give Kirilloff the slight edge in raw power, a definite arm strength advantage, and a very narrow lead in bat speed. Rutherford has the better swing (very close call), defensive upside (his decent chance to stay in center for a few years trumps Kirilloff’s average corner outfield/plus first base grades), and hit tool. The two are very close when it comes to approach (both plate discipline and ability to drive it to all fields), athleticism (another slight lean Rutherford, but Kirilloff is underrated here), and foot speed. I actually had Kirilloff ahead by a hair going into the NHSI, but Rutherford’s run of fantastic plate appearances on day two were too much to ignore. Both are great prospects and very much worth top half of the first round selections. I can’t wait to see how high they wind up on my final board.
It’s an imperfect comp, but I can see Kirilloff turning into a prospect on the same level (offensively) as Josh Bell. Great approach, big power upside, and as consistent a young hitter when it comes to hitting frozen ropes all over the field as you’ll see. Kirilloff is also an outstanding defender at first with enough speed (average) and plenty of arm (plus, but plays down for now) to roam the outfield for the foreseeable future. There’s very little reason to doubt Kirilloff as a hitter, so I won’t. He’s going to hit and he’s going to hit a lot. I think Kirilloff will be an excellent big league player for a long time. The Twins did quite well here, both for the player they drafted (clearly) and the overarching draft philosophy they seemed to kick into action.
2.56 – C Ben Rortvedt
On Ben Rortvedt (120) about a month ahead of the draft…
Ben Rortvedt has first round catcher tools; his defensive upside isn’t quite as high as Cooper Johnson’s – it’s close, but Johnson is in a league of his own – but his offensive edge more than makes up the difference. I’d say Rortvedt is the best bet of this group to be first off the board.
Not exactly a bold prediction at the end there as Rortvedt was at or near the top of any list of prep catchers the internet has to offer, but still interesting to see him go in the mid-second just a few picks after the first high school catcher (Andy Yerzy, who probably isn’t a catcher for long). In other words, I (and everybody) figured Rortvedt would go high, but he still managed to go higher (at least to me) than expected. That surprise isn’t so much about what Rortvedt can or can not do on the diamond, but rather a reflection on how risky I view high school catchers. I’m too lazy to link to my ramblings on the subject, but trust me (or not, it’s a free country) when I say that high school catchers are the highest risk of any level/position in recent history.
Of course, as I’ve also mentioned frequently in the past, draft trends can only tell us so much; it’s far more important to focus on individual player skill sets than historical precedent. Rortvedt’s skill set is that of a big league regular behind the plate. He’s a quality defender with both agility and sheer physical strength. As a hitter, he’s equal parts natural hitter and power threat with optimistic forecasts giving him a shot at being above-average in both areas. There just so happen to be loads of developmental landmines that could undermine Rortvedt between now and his hopeful big league debut that it’s really difficult to project any teenage catcher as a regular unless the tools are truly special. Rortvedt falls just short of that, but he’s close enough that you can see what the Twins were thinking here. The boom/bust prospect archetype is so often mischaracterized as a toolsy teenage center fielder/shortstop or a physically immature high school pitcher with an electric fastball, but I think a prep catcher like Rortvedt is the boom/bust poster child. If he can survive the minor league gauntlet, he could be an above-average regular at one of the most critically important positions on the diamond for a decade. If he can’t, then he’ll join the almost inconceivably long list of early round high school catchers who came up short.
2.73 – SS Jose Miranda
Jose Miranda (154) is on par with Ben Rortvedt as a talented natural hitter with average or better raw power that just so happens to come with the added bonus of being almost a year younger than his catching counterpart. Perhaps as impressive is Miranda’s mature approach at the plate that belies his age. He’s also shown enough arm to stick on the left side of the infield giving him a shot to potentially play a little bit of shortstop even as his body fills out. Still, it seems most likely that he’ll wind up at third base over the long haul, which is fine with me since I think he’s got a chance to be an impact defender. Miranda is also a little bit like Rortvedt in that he’s a bit of a boom/bust type at the hot corner (though there’s a shot he could be a bat-first utility infielder if he doesn’t make it as a regular), but if it works out then the Twins will have another talented infielder to add to the stable. Three for three in adding teenagers with advanced bats, too. Hmm…
2.74 – OF Akil Baddoo
You could point to a lot of fun things in Akil Baddoo’s (108) scouting report that explain his selection in the second round by Minnesota, but “chance for plus hit tool” is the line that I keep coming back to. Kirilloff to Rortvedt to Miranda to Baddoo: you can really see the emphasis Minnesota placed on advanced hit tools out of their early round high school position players. If this works out for them — and I’d consider hitting on two of the four as a big win — then this draft will be looked back with great fondness by those in the scouting over stats war. Is that even still a thing? Feel like we’ve moved past it (finally), but I’m not nearly as active on such things anymore. Anyway, I respect the heck out of Minnesota for going so high school heavy here. Whether it works out or not obviously remains to be seen, but the trust that the Twins showed in their scouting staff is admirable. The selection of Baddoo is a fine example of that trust in action. Natural hitting ability combined with above-average or better speed and athleticism earned Baddoo one of my favorite comps (Rondell White) from David Rawnsley of Perfect Game. I’m into it.
3.93 – RHP Griffin Jax
On Griffin Jax (189) from March 2016…
I’ve followed Jax with a little more interest than I might have otherwise due to the fact that he was originally drafted by my hometown team. The Phillies selected a pair of high school pitchers that they were prepared to go overslot with in 2013: the recently released Denton Keys and Jax. It’s easy to say with the benefit of hindsight that Philadelphia made the wrong call in going with Key, but that assumes that they were ever in a position to truly make said decision; after all, it takes two to sign a contract and talking a young man out of a commitment to Air Force can’t be easy. He’s strong, he throws hard (86-94, 96 peak), and he command both his curve and change for quality strikes. It’s a relatively safe mid- to late-rotation starter package with the added upside going forward of a) not having to worry about playing both ways at all (admittedly less of an issue this year, but last year he played some first on non-pitching days), b) shifting towards a pro future that makes baseball your number one priority professionally (for better or worse), and c) being viewed as a still ascending player figuring out just how good he can be on the mound full-time.
I’m still of two minds when it comes to Jax. He’s still the “relatively safe mid- to late-rotation starter” that I thought he could be back in March while also still somehow being an “ascending player figuring out how good he can be on the mound full-time.” How can that even be? Is it possible to be both? How much do I love asking rhetoretical questions?
As for Jax’s future, I’d lean more towards the former possibility — a fine outcome, no doubt — due to his current lack of a knockout offspeed pitch. That said, it wouldn’t be a shock if something clicked for him as a pro and he took off as a prospect sooner rather than later. That’s vague enough that you could probably say that about any prospect, but I think Jax’s unique set of extenuating circumstances make pointing out the wider range of potential outcomes for him more meaningful than it might for others. There’s such a fine line between back-end starter and something much more with Jax. Minnesota’s player development staff is going to really earn their keep here.
4.123 – RHP Thomas Hackimer
Wouldn’t it be something if Thomas Hackimer (381), the funky sinker/slider righthander out of St. John’s, winds up beating the cadre of fire-balling college relievers drafted by the Twins in recent years to the big leagues? They’ve got a head start, but it’s not totally inconceivable. Hackimer can flat pitch. Here are some words on him from March 2016…
The most famous pitcher in the Big East is Thomas Hackimer of St. John’s. The sub six-foot righthander (5-11, 200) has a long track record of missing bats coming out of the pen (9.84 K/9 in 2014, 9.52 K/9 last season) with all kinds of funky stuff (above-average low- to mid-80s SL and average CU) coming at you from an even funkier delivery. He clearly doesn’t fit the classic closer mold, but a recent uptick in velocity (92-93 peak this year, up from his usual 85-90 MPH range) could raise his prospect profile from generic college mid-round righty reliever to potential late-inning option if things keep clicking. I like guys like this a lot on draft day, so consider me a big Hackimer fan…as long as the price remains reasonable. At this rate, he could pitch his way right out of the “undervalued draft steal” category and into “fair value” territory.
The “bad” thing about this pick is the timing as I think the fourth round was about five rounds too early to be called “fair value,” but if the aim of the Twins was to take one of college ball’s “sure things” (scare quotes necessary because we all know there are no sure things in the draft) in order to mitigate some of the risk of their first four picks then mission accomplished. I won’t try to guess what the Twins have planned for Hackimer going forward, but I think he can be ready for the big leagues by the end of the upcoming season if that’s what they want to see. It’s what I want to see, but nobody has asked me.
5.153 – RHP Jordan Balazovic
It’s a strained comparison, but I’ll go there anyway: Jordan Balazovic (244) is the Jose Miranda of pitching prospects. Both guys are young for their class, possess enviable size for their positions (Miranda is 6-2, 180 and Balazovic is 6-4, 180), offer advanced skills (Miranda’s approach: Balazovic’s changeup), and come from elsewhere on the continent (Ontario for Balazovic and Puerto Rico for Miranda…though I guess PR isn’t “on the continent” but it’s late as I write this and you get what I’m saying). Strong present change aside, projection really is the name of the game for Balazovic. His fastball is good enough (88-92, 93 peak) for now (but not great) and his curve still needs work, but he has the size, athleticism, and work ethic to hit that three pitch threshold to be a ground ball heavy mid-rotation arm if it all clicks.
6.183 – RHP Alex Schick
Alex Schick had a really weird career at Cal. Take a look…
2014: 5.29 K/9 – 8.47 BB/9 – 17 IP – 3.18 ERA
2015: 11.50 K/9 – 5.25 BB/9 – 36.1 IP – 4.25 ERA
2016: 6.09 K/9 – 2.71 BB/9 – 13.1 IP – 2.03 ERA
8.47 BB/9 and a 3.18 ERA as a freshman? Weird. Then doubling that K/9 in his sophomore season? Promising! Then cutting it back in half but doing the same for walks in an abbreviated draft year? That’s just confusing. I’m not sure what we can read in to any of that, if anything at all. Maybe it’s best to instead focus on his stuff. At his best, Schick can throw low-90s (95 peak) darts with a power breaking ball capable of getting swings and misses in bunches. Between that and his imposing size (6-7, 210), I get the appeal even with the spotty college track record. It’s still a stunner to me to see him off the board in round six, but I get it. Minnesota likes to keep you on your toes with their early picks. The more I think about it, the weirder the Twins draft looks. I liked so many of their high school picks, but am less enamored with their college preferences. For a known college prospect lover like me, that’s a tough trick to pull off. Minnesota, I do not understand you. But I’m pretty intrigued at what you’ve done…
7.213 – OF Matt Albanese
The biggest selfish reason for doing these draft reviews is the enjoyment I get when looking up a temporarily forgotten draft favorite’s pro numbers. I loved Matt Albanese (146) at Bryant. See this pre-draft bullishness for proof…
Matt Albanese has average or better big league regular upside and should be in the conversation with the second tier of college outfielders with a chance to sneak into the draft’s top two or three rounds.
Falling to the seventh round makes him one of my favorite steals in the entire draft. I was excited to check back in with him and see how he handled the transition to the pro game. Then I remembered he broke his arm late in the college season. That injury kept him out of action after being drafted. Damn. Guess I’ll have to wait until next year to see how he takes to the pros. With his above-average speed, average raw power, strong arm, outstanding approach, and capable center field range, I think he has a chance to hit the ground running.
8.243 – OF Shane Carrier
Didn’t have anything on Shane Carrier before the draft, so you get his numbers at Fullerton CC: .387/.436/.694 with 15 BB/21 K in 204 PA. Not bad. He hit well in his pro debut, especially in the power department. Worth being a little intrigued about, I think.
9.273 – C Mitchell Kranson
Mitchell Kranson, a player I dubbed the “West Coast version of Gavin Collins” before the draft, split his time pretty evenly between catcher and third base in his pro debut. If he keeps getting time behind the plate, I could see him working his way into the backup catcher mix down the line. I think he’s got the glove, arm, and temperament to do just that with a high-contact approach at the plate that could make him a frustrating out for opposing pitchers.
10.303 – SS Brandon Lopez
On Brandon Lopez (436) from December 2015…
I thought that SR SS Brandon Lopez was a likely senior-sign at this time last year, so it’s not entirely shocking to see him back at Miami for one final year. Still, after the improvement he showed offensively in 2015 (.303/.417/.382 with 29 BB/26 K) it is a little bit surprising that a team wouldn’t be intrigued by the steady fielding, plus-armed, non-zero offensive shortstop. He’ll make whatever pro team drafts him this year very happy.
As you can read above, I had a hunch that Lopez would make his first pro team happy…and that was before he went out and hit like gangbusters his senior year at Miami. Still, even the most optimistic parts of my brain didn’t think it would happen this quickly for him in pro ball. Lopez’s debut was one of the best out of this entire 2016 class: .315/.438/.377 with 32 BB/35 K and 4/4 SB in 162 combined AB between rookie ball and Low-A. The lack of pop could keep him from ever being an everyday contributor, but between his glove, arm, and approach as a hitter, he could very well wind up as a ten-year big league utility infielder. Nabbing a money-saving senior-sign like this — you know, one who can actually play — is exactly why the tenth round exists.
11.333 – RHP Tyler Benninghoff
If injury had kept Tyler Benninghoff (476) from signing, he would have been a sure-fire projected first round pick down the line for me. So, in a way, the Twins nabbed themselves the equivalent of a potential first round pick with their overslot eleventh round selection. Nice work, Minnesota. A healthy Benninghoff is a low-90s fastball guy with a damn fine upper-70s hook and enough of a present changeup to think he might be on to something with the pitch down the line. He’s also got the ideal prep pitching build to dream on (6-4, 180) with all kinds of athleticism to tie the whole package together. Landing a high-ceiling overslot prep prospect like this is exactly why the eleventh round exists.
12.363 – OF Zach Featherstone
Zach Featherstone left NC State and never looked back. Or maybe he did, I don’t know him personally. What I do know is that he hit .320/.450/.563 with 70 BB/63 K and 5/7 SB across two seasons (300 AB) at Tallahassee CC. That would qualify as not looking back in a baseball-sense, I’d say. Solid runner, decent pop, and an impressive approach? I don’t hate it.
13.393 – RHP Ryan Mason
On Ryan Mason from April 2016…
Fellow senior Ryan Mason’s scouting dossier has always looked better than his peripherals: upper-80s heat (92 peak) with plus sink, a deceptive delivery, and lots of extension thanks to a 6-6, 215 pound frame should have resulted in better than a 3.69 K/9 last season. Of course, the ugliness of his peripherals was overshadowed by his consistently strong run prevention skills (2.97 ERA last season). It’s a really weird profile, but everything seems to have caught up this year: stuff, peripherals, and run prevention all are where you’d want them to be. I remain intrigued.
The weird profile followed Mason from his final months at Cal straight to the professional ranks. He feels like he should be better than he is, so you keep on thinking that maybe one day he will be. It’s probably time to accept him for what he is: a good arm capable of getting enough ground ball outs to be effective but without the necessary two-strike pitch to consistently miss bats. Into the middle relief battle royal he goes.
14.423 – SS Andre Jernigan
Andre Jernigan didn’t get a ton of ink on the main page of the site, but I wrote a good bit about him in the comments back in March 2016…
I love Jernigan as a college player, but I’m not sure his ultra-aggressive approach as a hitter will translate to the pro game. He can get away with it for now, but advanced pitching is a different animal. He’s defied the odds so far, so I’m not necessarily doubting him…but my hunch is that it’ll catch up to him in the pros. That doesn’t mean that he won’t get drafted, but rather I’m personally less high on him than others. Still probably a better bet than some of the guys in the same area of the hitting list even with the swing at everything approach.
The scouting buzz on him is probably stuff you already know: unusually physical (in a good way) for a middle infielder, very strong, solid athlete, and better defensively than he might look after a quick first impression (i.e., he grows on you). I know some have questioned his long-term future at short, but I wonder if that’s more on how he looks rather than how he plays, which isn’t particularly fair. One friend of mine affectionately calls him the Juan Uribe of college baseball. It’s not a pro comp per se, but still pretty fitting.
Jernigan stayed true to himself in his pro debut by staying the same low-average, solid pop, and lots of swing-and-miss kind of hitter he’s shown himself to be the past two seasons at Xavier. I’d write him off as an org guy, but for the tiny sliver of hope for his defense helping him climb the ladder going forward. The college shortstop played almost all of his innings at second base in his debut with the very notable exception being the one game he started behind the plate. As a catcher — or even a utility type capable of serving as a real honest to goodness catcher in a pinch — he has just a bit more of a shot than I would have thought a few months ago.
15.453 – RHP Tyler Wells
Tyler Wells, the big righthander (6-8, 265) out of Cal State San Bernardino, managed to do enough (8.71 K/9 and 3.72 BB/9) in his junior season to get himself on the draft map. Then he went out and kicked major tail in the pros to the tune of a 11.22 K/9 and 3.23 BB/9. Armed with imposing size, improved fastball command, a clear strikeout pitch (slider), and the momentum from a great debut, Wells is one to watch going forward.
16.483 – RHP Tyler Beardsley
Tyler Beardsley, owner of an explosive fastball that can hit the mid-90s, showed the Twins enough in rookie ball to get an audition in Low-A in his debut season in the organization. Not bad for a sixteenth round pick.
17.513 – C Kidany Salva
I’m stumped on Kidany Salva. I know nothing about him that you couldn’t also easily Google yourself.
19.573 – RHP Sean Poppen
Like Tyler Beardsley above, Sean Poppen showed enough in Elizabethton to warrant a closer look in Low-A before the close of his first season with the Twins. I love aggressive promotions like that. Whereas I see Beardsley as a definite reliever going forward, Poppen’s stuff (good slider, improved change) is well-rounded enough to keep him starting if that’s how the Twins want to use him.
21.633 – LHP Domenick Carlini
Domenick Carlini: 85-91 FB (93 peak), average or better SL, usable soft CB. That’s what I’ve got. That’s what you get.
22.663 – OF Hank Morrison
It’s a long way from Mercyhurst to the big leagues, but Hank Morrison has the power to give him an extended look in pro ball. He’ll look to become the fifth big league player in school history. If he makes it that far, he can then set his sights on matching David Lough’s career 3.6 fWAR, the best all-time of any Mercyhurst alum.
23.693 – SS Caleb Hamilton
Like Andre Jernigan, Caleb Hamilton was announced as a shortstop during the draft. Also like Jernigan, Hamilton played pretty much everywhere but shortstop in his debut. In the 45 games to kick off his pro career, Hamilton started games at 2B (6), 3B (12), LF (6), CF (13), RF (2), and SS (1). That kind of versatility speaks to his outstanding athleticism and sure-handedness. I don’t see enough offense coming from him to make it past the handy minor league do-everything type, but forecasting potential utility players is a tricky thing.
25.753 – RHP Colton Davis
The twenty-fifth round is the perfect spot to take a chance on a low- to mid-90s reliever with an extended track record of missing bats (10.09 K/9 in 2014, 10.93 K/9 in 2015, 12.05 K/9 in 2016) and iffy control (5.45 BB/9 in 2014, 8.04 BB/9 in 2015, 5.12 BB/9 in 2016) like Colton Davis.
28.843 – LHP Matt Jones
As one of the younger players in his class, Matt Jones, all of 18-years-old as of October 16, has plenty of time to make his mark on pro ball. He barely pitched in his debut, but that didn’t stop some the generating of some positive buzz About Jones’s stuff. He can presently pump up his fastball to the low-90s and has shown some early signs of command of both a curve and a circle-change. In one of the draft’s weirder coincidences (or was it…), Jones had a scholarship offer to play at Montevallo before opting to sign with Minnesota. The very next player selected by the Twins hailed from, you guessed it, Montevallo. Hmm…
29.873 – SS Dane Hutcheon
Dane Hutcheon hit pretty well — .365/.424/.468 with 24 BB/27 K and 16/17 SB — in his draft year at Montevallo. That’s where Rusty Greer went to school. He was pretty good. Turns out that he’s the only big league player to ever come out of Montevallo. Pretty interesting that their only big league player was a pretty darn good player. Wonder if he’s the best player to ever come out of a school that has only produced one big league player? That would be a fun research project…for somebody else. Anyway, Hutcheon will try to mess up that fact for Greer by becoming the second ever big league player to come out of Montevallo. He has a tough road ahead — drafted as a shortstop, he’s already been moved to second in the pros — but, hey, stranger things have happened, right?
30.903 – RHP Quin Grogan
Quin Grogan at Lewis-Clark: 9.14 K/9 and 4.36 BB/9. Quin Grogan in rookie ball: 9.73 K/9 and 4.26 BB/9 in rookie ball. If nothing else, you’ve got to respect the consistency. That’s all I’ve got. Sorry.
31.933 – C Juan Gamez
One can only assume Juan Gamez was amateur baseball’s best defensive catcher in 2016. That’s about the only way we can explain away a .197/.287/.268 (12 BB/28 K) hitter getting drafted and signed in the thirty-first round.
33.993 – RHP Clark Beeker
I didn’t have much on Clark Beeker before the draft, but he sure sounds like a typical effective college starter (decent heater, leans on offspeed) who has a chance of sneaking in some innings in middle relief one day if the stuff plays up in shorter outings as hoped.
34.1023 – SS Joe Cronin
Drafted as a shortstop, Joe Cronin played just about everywhere but short in his pro debut. The 3B/2B/1B/LF has proven himself to be a reliable defender at the hot corner, his primary position at Boston College, but I don’t see him having the bat to make it past “useful for his versatility” org player status.
35.1053 – LHP Austin Tribby
All I have on Austin Tribby are general “lefty with good size and numbers” platitudes. He’s been able to get by with heavy doses of offspeed stuff — curve and change, mostly — rather than an underwhelming upper-80s fastball.
36.1083 – RHP Patrick McGuff
Improved control has made Patrick McGuff, the sturdily built righthander from Morehead State, an interesting prospect. His fastball (88-92), changeup, and breaking ball work well together to miss bats (9.23 K/9 as a junior). He’s worth watching in as much a way as any thirty-sixth round pick is worth watching.
39.1173 – Casey Scoggins
Pushing a thirty-ninth round pick all the way to Low-A Cedar Rapids after signing is really cool. Good for the Twins for being aggressive with Casey Scoggins. And good for Scoggins for holding his own when faced with the challenge. His .243/.323/.282 line didn’t exactly light the world on fire, but just treading water for the season is some measure of an accomplishment. Scoggins is better than your typical second-to-last round pick, too. He is a good runner with center field instincts and a leadoff approach at the plate. He’s a long shot like any player drafted so late, but there are some usable tools to work with here.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
TJ Collett (Kentucky), Dan Mayer (Pacific), Brent Rooker (Mississippi State), Greg Deichmann (LSU), Matt Wallner (Southern Mississippi), Scott Ogrin (Cal Poly), Matt Byars (Michigan State), Timmy Richards (Cal State Fullerton), Shamoy Christopher (Roane State CC)
As one of my three “home” conferences, I see a whole lot of Big East baseball. Quick trips are already lined up to see Butler, St. John’s, Creighton, and Villanova, and that’s before traveling beyond twenty minutes from my apartment. Springtime travel often takes me to New York and DC, so I might be able to catch home games at St. John’s and Georgetown as well. There are pros and cons when it comes with attempting to meld nationwide coverage of the draft with first-person “scouting” accounts – we’ll get into that some later – but it’s worth mentioning now so that my pro-Big East agenda can get out there in the open. I’ve only ever lived in the northeastern part of the United States, so I’ll be damned if I’m not going to try to support baseball here any way that I can.
“There are no stars in the Big East, but still some nice players.” That’s my most heard – twice! – refrain from those in the know about this year’s crop of Big East talent. It currently holds up upon further review. Like everyone, I love star-caliber talent; missing out on it this year is a bummer, but that’s how it goes in certain years for mid-majors. Maybe not like everyone – certainly not like anybody who covers the draft publicly like this – I relish the opportunity to find potential fourth outfielders, utility infielders, backup catchers, fifth starters/swingmen, and middle relievers. If those are the kinds of guys you like, then the Big East in 2016 is for you.
Michael Donadio is a really well-rounded outfielder who has flashed at least average ability with all five tools. His power, CF range, and arm might make more bench bat/platoon player than future regular, but it’s still an enticing overall profile. His teammate, Alex Caruso, profiles similarly, though he’s cut more from the classic “fifth outfielder” cloth. He doesn’t have the same kind of pop as Donadio, but he’ll give you outstanding instincts that help him play above his physical tools in center and when running the bases. The outfield pair at Creighton rivals what St. John’s has. Daniel Woodrow and Kevin Connolly both have plus speed (Woodrow might be a touch faster) and easy CF range. Lack of power limits the ceiling for both players, but it’s not a stretch to have the same kind of fifth outfielder future in mind as Caruso.
Creighton’s best pro prospect for 2016 is Nicky Lopez, a slick fielding shortstop with plus speed and serious athleticism. Like the rest of the names at the top his bat might keep him as more utility player than starter. He’s a fine prospect in his own right, so hopefully this doesn’t come across the wrong way…but Lopez benefits greatly from being draft-eligible in 2016 and not 2015. Last year he might have gotten swept away with all the excellent college shortstop prospects getting popped early and often on draft day; this year, he stands out as one of the better options at the position for no other reason than the fact there’s little doubt he’ll stick there as a professional. Harrison Crawford, the man who lines up to Lopez’s right at Creighton, benefits similarly from a watered down third base class. I like him as a steady fielding senior-sign with some pop. I like Reagan Fowler, yet another Creighton infielder, for much the same reasons. Fowler is a prospect that I’ve long liked, so I’m not about to bail after his good (.319 BA with 23 BB/23 K) yet not great (.065 ISO for a 1B) redshirt-junior season. He’s probably a borderline draft pick if looking at things objectively, though a return to his 2014 form would almost certainly intrigue a team enough to give him a go. A friend who liked him said he could have a lefthanded Darin Ruf type of career, if the power comes back around. I apparently compared him to Casey Grayson as a draft prospect last year, so there’s that to consider as well.
Dan Rizzie and Chris Marras are both potential senior-sign catchers with legitimate big league backup upside. Had this to say about Rizzie last year…
Xavier JR C Dan Rizzie is a pro-level defensive player with enough bat speed, patience, and pop to work himself into a really good backup catcher/workable starting catcher profile.
Fair enough. I now like Chris Marras better than Butler’s other Chris M. (Chris Maranto) despite remaining a fan of the latter’s hit tool and approach. I may have expected too much too soon out of him last season, so a rebound year for the now redshirt-junior seems like a strong possibility.
The gap between Rizzie, Marras, and, the favorite of many I talked to, Troy Dixon is minuscule. Dixon is a good glove behind the plate with a strong arm, and early returns on both aspects of his game speak to even more improvement so far this year. Making your existing strengths even stronger is often easier than turning weaknesses into strengths, after all. I talked up the Seton Hall outfielders (Zack Weigel and Derek Jenkins) last year, so I won’t go into great detail this time around. Weigel and Caruso are very similar prospects while Jenkins remains the small, speedy center fielder who has yet to show he has enough power to keep pro pitchers honest.
Finally we get to the Villanova guys. As I’ve mentioned in the past, Villanova is one of the handful of schools within a twenty minute or so drive from my home base. I don’t think I overrate prospects from local schools because of that – maybe Penn a bit since I see them more than any other team – but seeing players over and over again in person is bound to alter the process in some way. I tend to rely on publicly available information and updates from friends in the game more than my own firsthand “scouting” observations, but I’ll maintain that any change in how I usually do things – such as seeing a player fifty times over three or four years versus seeing him five times or less – is going to produce some noise that has to be filtered out if I want to stay consistent with my approach. Being cognizant of the potential bias is important, and I think disclosing such things is helpful to understanding how I arrive at certain conclusions on players.
Of the notable Villanova prospects, I think the one prospect who might have me thinking more of them after seeing him in person a lot (rather than just being a name on a page) is Donovan May. Without having seen him firsthand, there’s little chance he would be included on the rankings below. High priority follow under the team listings? Sure, why not: it’s a fairly low bar and his obvious athleticism, bloodlines, and team-leading number of walks in 2015 are enough to warrant at least some casual interest heading into his draft year. Actually seeing him field, run, throw, and, yes, even hit in person, however, has me a little extra curious about his pro future. It’s not like it’s my first rodeo where I’m easily seduced by an athlete who cuts a fine figure in uniform, but human nature is undeniable: May looks the part, so he’ll get chances when others less suited to sell jeans will not. If he doesn’t start hitting, of course, then all of this is a moot point. I’ve bought in enough to rank him, true, but there’s a reason he’s placed where he is relative to his Big East peers.
Villanova’s best prospect, Todd Czinege, is somebody I very much look forward to honing in on this spring. I’m damn sure he can hit, so the focus will be on his approach, his defense, and how usable his power will be. If he doesn’t get any better, he’s still talented enough at the plate to warrant a draft pick. If he can improve in just one of those areas, I think he becomes a legitimate top ten round threat. And if he can improve two or more of those areas? It’s almost too wild a hypothetical to consider – good baseball player becomes GREAT baseball player overnight! – but rest assured he’d rise very, very high on draft boards around the league. As is, I’ve talked to a few people in the know who think he’s the best hitter in the conference with no real competition for second. That’s high praise.
Turns out there are also pitchers in the Big East this year, too. Hopefully we still have a few words left to spare on these fine young men. The most famous pitcher in the Big East is Thomas Hackimer of St. John’s. The sub six-foot righthander (5-11, 200) has a long track record of missing bats coming out of the pen (9.84 K/9 in 2014, 9.52 K/9 last season) with all kinds of funky stuff (above-average low- to mid-80s SL and average CU) coming at you from an even funkier delivery. He clearly doesn’t fit the classic closer mold, but a recent uptick in velocity (92-93 peak this year, up from his usual 85-90 MPH range) could raise his prospect profile from generic college mid-round righty reliever to potential late-inning option if things keep clicking. I like guys like this a lot on draft day, so consider me a big Hackimer fan…as long as the price remains reasonable. At this rate, he could pitch his way right out of the “undervalued draft steal” category and into “fair value” territory.
Danny Pobreyko isn’t the type to wow, but solid stuff across the board (88-92 FB, above-average breaking ball) and an ideal frame (6-5, 200) put him on the shortlist of top pitching prospects in this conference. For what it’s worth, I originally had him in the top spot before switching back to Hackimer at the last moment. David Ellingson brings similar stuff to the mound, but with less size (6-1, 200). Bigger arms like Matt Smith (93 peak), Ryan McAuliffe (94), and Curtiss Pomeroy (95) could continue to rise with strong springs.
- St. John’s JR OF Michael Donadio
- Creighton JR SS/2B Nicky Lopez
- St. John’s SR OF Alex Caruso
- Creighton SR 3B Harrison Crawford
- Creighton JR OF Daniel Woodrow
- Creighton JR OF Kevin Connolly
- Xavier SR C Dan Rizzie
- Creighton rSR 1B Reagan Fowler
- Butler SR C Chris Marras
- Villanova JR 2B/3B Todd Czinege
- St. John’s JR C Troy Dixon
- Butler rJR 2B/SS Chris Maranto
- Seton Hall SR OF Zack Weigel
- Creighton SR 2B/SS Ryan Fitzgerald
- Seton Hall SR OF Derek Jenkins
- Villanova SR 1B/RHP Max Beermann
- Creighton JR OF Riley Landuyt
- Villanova SR SS Eric Lowe
- Villanova SR OF/SS Adam Goss
- Xavier rJR SS/3B Andre Jernigan
- Creighton JR OF Riley Conlan
- Villanova JR OF Donovan May
- St. John’s SR RHP Thomas Hackimer
- Butler JR RHP Danny Pobereyko
- Georgetown JR RHP David Ellingson
- Georgetown SR RHP Matt Smith
- St. John’s JR RHP Ryan McAuliffe
- Georgetown SR RHP Curtiss Pomeroy
- Creighton rSO RHP Rollie Lacy
- Creighton SR RHP Nick Highberger
- St. John’s rJR RHP Michael Sheppard
- Butler JR LHP Jeff Schank
- Creighton SR RHP Taylor Elman
- Seton Hall JR RHP Zach Prendergast
- Seton Hall JR LHP Anthony Pacillo
- Creighton JR RHP Austin Stroschein
- Georgetown JR RHP Nick Leonard
- St. John’s SR RHP Joey Graziano
- Creighton SR RHP Matt Warren
- Creighton JR RHP David Gerber
- Xavier JR LHP Greg Jacknewitz
- St. John’s rSR RHP Joey Christopher
JR RHP Danny Pobereyko (2016)
rJR RHP Chris Myjak (2016)
SR LHP Nick Morton (2016)
JR LHP Jeff Schank (2016)
SR RHP Tyler Rathjen (2016)
rJR 2B/SS Chris Maranto (2016)
rJR OF Drew Small (2016)
SR C Chris Marras (2016)
SR OF Nick Bartolone (2016)
SO LHP Josh Goldberg (2017)
SO RHP Luke Johnson (2017)
SO SS Garrett Christman (2017)
SO OF Tyler Houston (2017)
SO OF Gehrig Parker (2017)
SO OF/2B Cole Malloy (2017)
FR RHP Quintin Miller (2018)
High Priority Follows: Danny Pobereyko, Jeff Schank, Chris Maranto, Drew Small, Chris Marras
SR RHP Nick Highberger (2016)
rSO RHP Rollie Lacy (2016)
JR RHP David Gerber (2016)
SR LHP John Oltman (2016)
SR LHP Will Bamesburger (2016)
SR RHP Matt Warren (2016)
JR RHP Austin Stroschein (2016)
SR RHP Taylor Elman (2016)
JR LHP Jeff Albrecht (2016)
SR RHP Connor Miller (2016)
rSR 1B Reagan Fowler (2016)
JR SS/2B Nicky Lopez (2016)
SR 2B/SS Ryan Fitzgerald (2016)
SR 3B Harrison Crawford (2016)
JR OF Kevin Connolly (2016)
JR OF Daniel Woodrow (2016)
JR OF Riley Conlan (2016)
JR OF Riley Landuyt (2016)
SR OF Brett Murray (2016)
SR C Matt Gandy (2016)
SO RHP Ethan DeCaster (2017)
SO RHP Keith Rogalla (2017)
FR RHP Ty Ramirez (2018)
High Priority Follows: Nick Highberger, Rollie Lacy, David Gerber, Matt Warren, Austin Stroschein, Taylor Elman, Connor Miller, Reagan Fowler, Nicky Lopez, Ryan Fitzgerald, Harrison Crawford, Kevin Connolly, David Woodrow, Riley Conlan, Riley Landuyt
JR RHP David Ellingson (2016)
SR RHP Curtiss Pomeroy (2016)
SR RHP Tim Davis (2016)
SR RHP Matt Smith (2016)
JR RHP Simon Mathews (2016)
JR RHP Nick Leonard (2016)
JR OF/RHP Beau Hall (2016)
JR 3B Jake Kuzbel (2016)
SO RHP Kevin Superko (2017
SO RHP Jimmy Swad (2017)
SO OF Austin Shirley (2017)
SO 2B Chase Bushor (2017)
SO 1B Bennett Stehr (2017)
High Priority Follows: David Ellingson, Curtiss Pomeroy, Tim Davis, Matt Smith, Simon Mathews, Nick Leonard
SR RHP Thomas Hackimer (2016)
rJR RHP Michael Sheppard (2016)
rSR RHP Joey Christopher (2016)
SR RHP Joey Graziano (2016)
JR RHP Ryan McAuliffe (2016)
JR LHP Joe Nellis (2016)
rJR RHP Dylan Drawdy (2016)
SR OF Alex Caruso (2016)
JR OF Michael Donadio (2016)
SR 2B Ty Blankmeyer (2016)
JR 3B Robbie Knightes (2016)
JR C Troy Dixon (2016)
rJR 1B Gui Gingras (2016)
SO LHP Kevin Magee (2017)
rFR 1B/RHP David Moyer (2017)
SO OF/3B Jamie Galazin (2017)
SO 2B/SS Jesse Berardi (2017)
SO OF Anthony Brocato (2017)
rFR OF Aidan McDermott (2017)
FR RHP Matthew Messier (2018)
FR RHP Cole Whitney (2018)
FR SS Josh Shaw (2018)
FR 1B Gavin Garay (2018)
High Priority Follows: Thomas Hackimer, Michael Sheppard, Joey Christopher, Joey Graziano, Ryan McAuliffe, Alex Caruso, Michael Donadio, Robbie Knightes, Troy Dixon
JR RHP Zach Prendergast (2016)
SR RHP Sam Burum (2016)
SR RHP Luke Cahill (2016)
JR LHP Anthony Pacillo (2016)
JR RHP Ryan Testani (2016)
SR OF Derek Jenkins (2016)
SR OF Zack Weigel (2016)
SR 2B Chris Chiaradio (2016)
JR 1B Mikael-Ali Mogues (2016)
JR SS Joe Poduslenko (2016)
SO RHP Chris Morris (2017)
SO RHP Zach Schellenger (2017)
SO RHP Shane McCarthy (2017)
SO RHP Matt Leon (2017)
SO OF Ryan Ramiz (2017)
FR RHP Billy Layne (2018)
FR LHP Cullen Dana (2018)
FR INF Sebastiano Santorelli (2018)
FR INF Anthony Scotti (2018)
High Priority Follows: Zach Prendergast, Sam Burum, Anthony Pacillo, Ryan Testani, Derek Jenkins, Zack Weigel, Mikael-Ali Mogues, Joe Poduslenko
JR LHP Hunter Schryver (2016)
SR 1B/RHP Max Beermann (2016)
SR C/OF Emmanuel Morris (2016)
SR 3B/1B Kevin Jewitt (2016)
SR SS Eric Lowe (2016)
SR OF/SS Adam Goss (2016)
JR 2B/3B Todd Czinege (2016)
JR OF Donovan May (2016)
JR C Zander Retamar (2016)
SO LHP Mike Sgaramella (2017)
SO RHP Ryan Doty (2017)
High Priority Follows: Hunter Schryver, Max Beermann, Emannuel Morris, Kevin Jewitt, Eric Lowe, Adam Goss, Todd Czinege, Donovan May
JR LHP Brad Kirschner (2016)
JR LHP Trent Astle (2016)
JR LHP Greg Jacknewitz (2016)
SR C Dan Rizzie (2016)
rJR SS/3B Andre Jernigan (2016)
JR 1B Ethan Schmidt (2016)
SR 2B David Morton (2016)
SO LHP Zac Lowther (2017)
SO RHP Garrett Schilling (2017)
SO 3B Rylan Bannon (2017)
SO C Nate Soria (2017)
SO OF Will LaRue (2017)
FR SS/2B Chris Givin (2018)
FR 2B Sam Flamini (2018)
High Priority Follows: Brad Kirschner, Trent Astle, Greg Jacknewitz, Dan Rizzie, Andre Jernigan, Ethan Schmidt