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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Chicago Cubs

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Chicago in 2016

102 – Bailey Clark
104 – Thomas Hatch
158 – Michael Rucker
236 – Tyson Miller
326 – Duncan Robinson
332 – Chad Hockin
374 – Dakota Mekkes
415 – Delvin Zinn
435 – Zack Short
448 – Michael Cruz

Complete List of 2016 Chicago Cubs Draftees

3.104 – RHP Thomas Hatch

That check from Chicago should be coming in the mail any day now as the Cubs first overall pick, Thomas Hatch (104), was selected in the exact same spot one clever, handsome internet draft writer ranked him on his final board. Good work, Cubs. Took me a while, but now I get why you’re the National League Champions. Needless to say, I like this pick. Hatch is a live arm (88-94 FB, 96 peak) with an effective 78-82 circle-change that drops like a splitter, and a pair of above-average sliders (a cut-slider in the mid- to upper-80s and a truer slider anywhere from 77-85).

His college coach has compared him to Tim Hudson; I’ve heard another former name with Oakland ties evoked in Bob Welch, a pitcher who came and went before my baseball watching time. Hearing that name caused me to dig out the old Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, a task once as simple as going to a nearby bookshelf but, after moving over the summer, now a twenty minute odyssey deep into the three giant storage bins filled with books now in my basement. Worth it. Welch is listed as having thrown a fastball, cutter, curve, change, and a forkball. Most modern pitching coaches will flat out refuse to teach a young arm a forkball these days, but Hatch’s funky circle-change/splitter hybrid is as close a proxy as we’re likely to find in this draft class. The genesis for that comp is realized. I feel better now.

The Cubs would have to be thrilled with getting a Hudson or a Welch or even just a best-case Thomas Hatch out of their third round pick. If his elbow stays intact, Hatch has a bright future on the mound. Even if he does need surgery sooner rather than later, I like the gamble here. Getting an extreme ground ball pitcher like Hatch* to play on one of the few teams that properly values defense (in practice, not just in theory) seems like as good a marriage as any pick to player in this draft.

* I went and did the math on Hatch’s ground ball ways while a Cowboy. The OK State ace had more ground ball outs than fly ball outs in 17 of his 19 starts this past season. Add it all up and his GB% was a robust 68.3%. Ground ball suspicions confirmed.

4.134 – RHP Tyson Miller

Tyson Miller (236) confuses me. His stuff is wholly impressive — 87-94 FB, 96 peak; above-average 77-84 SL; usable 82-86 CU — but his performance (7.74 K/9) at the Division II level didn’t quite match the arm talent. That may seem unduly harsh for a righthander with supposed ground ball stuff and impressive control (1.93 BB/9) coming off a 2.27 ERA stretch in 107.0 IP, but, hey, the bar is high for prospects taken in the draft’s top handful of rounds. Miller kept up his confusing ways in his brief pro debut by striking out only 5.34 batters per nine in his first 28.2 inning as a Cub. That would be far more forgivable if his batted ball data matched the ground ball praise he seems to get in every scouting report, but MLB Farm only had him 43.96% ground balls in his overall batted ball profile. See what I mean by Miller being a confusing prospect? Thankfully, confusing or not, the big righthander’s stuff remains strong and his future projection as a potential back-end starting pitcher remains in reach. I’m less bullish on him than most, but I can see the appeal if he can ever put it all together and become the power sinker/slider ground ball guy that many allege he already is.

5.164 – RHP Bailey Clark

Bailey Clark (102) is what many think Tyson Miller is. The big righthander who misses bats (9.71 K/9 as a junior at Duke), gets ground balls (60.61% in his debut), and flashes elite stuff (90-94 FB, 96 peak; nasty mid-80s cut-slider; hard upper-80s split-change) was the best prospect drafted by the Cubs in 2016. I’ll go bold on Clark and say that if it doesn’t work out as a starter for him, then he has honest to goodness Andrew Miller upside in relief. A righthanded Andrew Miller as the Chicago’s next relief ace? That’s not even fair. A quick timeline on how we got to this point. We’ll start a fully calendar year ago in October 2015…

Poised for a big potential rise in 2016, Clark has the kind of stuff that blows you away on his best days and leaves you wanting more on his not so best days. I think he puts it all together this year and makes this ranking [47th among college prospects] look foolish by June.

And now let’s jump ahead to December 2015…

…and obviously not much has changed in the two months since. Clark pitched really well last year (2.95 ERA in 58 IP), but fell just short in terms of peripherals (7.60 K/9 and 3.26 BB/9) where many of the recent first day college starting pitchers have finished in recent years. That’s a very simplistic, surface-level analysis of his 2015 performance, but it runs parallel with the scouting reports from many who saw him this past spring. Clark is really good, but still leaves you wanting more. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — being a finished product at 20-years-old is more of a negative than a positive in the eyes of many in the scouting world — but it speaks to the developmental challenges facing Clark if he wants to jump up into the first round mix. The fastball (88-94, 96 peak) is there, the size (6-5, 210) is there, and the athleticism is there, so it’ll come down to gaining more command and consistency on his mid-80s cut-SL (a knockout pitch when on) and trusting his nascent changeup in game action enough to give scouts an honest opportunity to assess it. Even if little changes with Clark between now and June, we’re still talking a top five round lock with the high-floor possibility of future late-inning reliever. If he makes the expected leap in 2016, then the first round will have to make room for one more college arm.

Here was an update from March 2016…

On the other end of the spectrum is a guy like Bailey Clark. Clark has dynamite stuff: 90-96 FB (98 peak), mid-80s cut-SL that flashes plus, and an extra firm 87-90 split-CU with some promise. The fastball alone is a serious weapon capable of getting big league hitters out thanks the combination of velocity and natural movement. What continues to hold Clark back is pedestrian command: having great stuff is key, but falling behind every hitter undercuts that advantage. Questions about his delivery — I personally don’t stress about that so much, but it’s worth noting — and that inconsistent command could force him into the bullpen sooner rather than later. He’d be a knockout reliever if that winds up being the case, but the prospect of pro development keeping him as a starter is too tantalizing to give up on just yet.

The final breakdown from April 2016…

Bailey Clark could keep starting, but most of the smarter folk I talk to seem to think he’ll fit best as a closer in the pros. At his best his stuff rivals the best Jones has to offer, but the Virginia righthander’s command edge and less stressful delivery make him the better bet to remain in the rotation. I personally wouldn’t rule out Clark having a long and fruitful career as a starting pitcher, but I’ll concede that the thought of him unleashing his plus to plus-plus fastball (90-96, 98 peak and impossible to square up consistently) over and over again in shorter outings is mighty appealing.

You can see the pretty clear “maybe he can start, but, damn, he’d be something special in relief” narrative play out as the year went on. In either role, Clark is an exciting talent with some of the best raw stuff of any college pitcher in this class. I’ll close with thinking relief is the most likely option. Any one of his issues — iffy command, questionable mechanics, and the lack of a necessary soft pitch to keep hitters consistently off the hard stuff — could be sorted out independently if that was all he had to worry about as he made his transition to pro ball, but when you combine all three…relief just feels like the safest projection. It bears repeating that Clark in the bullpen would not be seen as a negative outcome here; as a reliever, he has a chance to flat out dominate in a way not too many pitchers in baseball can. I’m all-in on Clark.

6.194 – RHP Chad Hockin

It took four picks to get a dummy like me to see it, but we’ve officially got a Cubs draft trend going here. Chad Hockin (332) makes it four straight college righthanded pitchers lauded for power sinkers and ground ball tendencies. Specifically, Hockin can crank in anywhere from 92-97 in relief with an above-average mid-80s cut-slider (83-87) that flashes plus. Depending on how aggressive the Cubs want to be with him, Hockin could be ready to see some big league action by next September. That’s what you get when you take one of college ball’s nastiest relievers. Of course, Chicago could surprise us all and opt to give Hockin a shot as a starter. I mentioned this possibility back in March…

Then there’s Hockin, the Fullerton arm who really is deserving of all the attention he’s gotten so far this spring. The sturdy righthander was seen by some I talked to back in day as having an impressive enough overall repertoire to get consideration as a starting pitching conversion project in the pros. While that talk has died down – maybe he could pull it off, but Hockin’s stuff plays way up in short bursts – the fact that it was mentioned to me in the first place speaks to his well-rounded offspeed arsenal and craftiness on the mound. Hockin leans on his mid-90s fastball (87-93 in longer outings turned into 94-96 with every pitch as a reliever) and a power 83-87 cut-slider that frequently comes in above-average. Those two pitchers alone make him a legitimate late-inning prospect, but the promise he once displayed with both a low-80s change and an upper-70s curve could give him that softer little something extra. I’ve heard he’s ditched both during games, but still toys with them in practice. It bears repeating that he’s a fine prospect pumping fastballs and sliders all day, but knowing he could mix in a third pitch in time is a nice perk.

It wouldn’t be crazy to give it a go — wild postseason aside, starters > relievers — but Hockin has demonstratively shown a major uptick in stuff while in relief already. The starters > relievers math changes a bit when it moves towards fifth starter/swingman vs late-inning, high-leverage reliever. The latter is what you hope Hockin will be when you take him in the sixth round.

7.224 – C Michael Cruz

I thought I liked Michael Cruz (448), but turns out the Cubs really liked him. I obviously get the appeal: Cruz is crazy young for his class (not 21-years-old until January), has flashed some defensive upside (still a long way to go, to be fair), and was once called a “certified hitting machine” by one draft writer (me). What’s not to like here? The Cubs went very light on position player talent in the 2016 MLB Draft — far too light, in my view, even understanding the relative strengths and weaknesses in their organization — but they at least get my stamp of approval with their first 2016 foray into the offensive side of the diamond. The lefthanded hitting Cruz could make a fine backup and complementary player to righthanded hitting Willson Contreras one day.

8.254 – RHP Stephen Ridings

Haverford College is about thirty minutes from my old apartment. Haverford College is also about a fifteen minute walk from Tired Hands Brewery. Coincidentally, I really, really like it when Haverford College has a prospect worth checking out. I was limited with what I could say about Stephen Ridings, the second straight eighth round pick out of baseball hotbed Haverford after Tommy Bergjans was selected by the Dodgers last year, this past spring for, you know, #reasons, but my quick scouting report on him is fair game now. Really, it’s simple: huge arm (low-90s typically, with 96’s, 97’s, and even a 98 at his peak), inconsistent secondary stuff (CB, SL, CU), and a delivery that managed to somehow come across as both rushed and too deliberate that pretty clearly hindered both his command and control. So we’ve got the good (velocity!), the bad (my amateur eye didn’t see an offspeed pitch good enough to get pro hitters out just yet, especially with his two breaking balls running into each other as often as they did), and the uncertain (mechanics). That uncertain is what intrigues me the most about Ridings. My “not a scout” observations saw his wonky mechanics as workable in the pros; in all honesty, his mechanics weren’t particularly “bad” but more the kind of inconsistent slightly awkward kind of mechanics that appeared to be the byproduct of what happens when a young pitcher attempts to figure out his growing body on the fly. That’s something I think time and quality coaching can improve, but we’ll have to wait and see. I didn’t expect Ridings to go off the board when he did, but I probably should have guessed: after all, you can’t teach 98 and 6-8, 220.

Spencer Sohmer and Justin Herring are my Haverford guys to watch next year, BTW.

9.284 – RHP Duncan Robinson

Back to back players I’ve seen multiple times. OK, Cubs. I see you. I really like Duncan Robinson (326). Let’s go back and see how much. We can start in March 2015…

Dartmouth JR RHP Duncan Robinson isn’t just a good pitching prospect for the Ivy League; he’s a good pitching prospect full stop. Guys with his size (6-6, 220 pounds), fastball (consistently low-90s), and breaking ball (have it listed as an in-between pitch in my notes; I’d call it a slider, but think folks at Dartmouth call it a curve) are easy to get excited about. The mechanics and control both check out for me, so his chance at crashing the draft’s top tier of pitching prospects will largely come down to the development of a softer offspeed pitch that will keep hitters off his fastball/breaking ball combo and enable him to start as a pro.

And jump a year into the future to March 2016…

Forget the Ivy League, Duncan Robinson is one of the best senior-sign pitchers in all of college ball. He’s a power righthander with size (6-6, 220) capable of beating you with a low-90s fastball and average or better slider. As his changeup develops he’ll become an even more attractive prospect, what with the standard starter ceiling that typically comes with three usable pitches, size, clean mechanics, and a good track record of amateur success. If the change lags, then he’s still got the solid middle relief starter pack to fall back on.

Finally, the pre-draft one line summary…

I’m 100% all-in on Duncan Robinson. He’s a big-time talent who seems to get better with every start. Definitely one of this class’s top senior-signs.

Love this pick. I think Duncan Robinson can pitch in the big leagues. I think he can even pitch in the big leagues as a starter. I won’t go the super obvious Kyle Hendricks (same school, one round off, both Cubs eventually) comparison here (in part because I used it already on Oakland sixth rounder Mitchell Jordan), but…I mean it’s sitting right there.

10.314 – RHP Dakota Mekkes

Dakota Mekkes (374) is the truth. Striking out 15.16 batters per nine as a redshirt-sophomore was only beginning for the 6-7, 250 pound righthander. His first 20 pro innings: 12.15 K/9 and 1.80 BB/9. How does he do? I have no idea! Or, more honestly, I can only make guesses on what I’ve seen, heard, and read. Mekkes’s stuff is what you’ll see out of literally dozens of mid-round college relievers (88-92 FB, 94 peak; average 82-84 SL), but the results point very strongly to their being more to the story. That’s where we start to see what separates Mekkes from the rest. Before we get to that, some earlier praise beginning with this from March 2016…

If you read this site and/or follow college ball closely, this might be the first pick to surprise in some way, shape, or form. Mekkes wasn’t a pitcher mentioned in many 2016 draft preview pieces before the start of the season, but the 6-7, 250 pound righty has opened plenty of eyes in getting off to a dominant (16.36 K/9) albeit wild (7.16 BB/9) start to 2016. His stuff backs it up (FB up to 94, interesting SL, deceptive delivery), so he’s more than just a large college man mowing down overmatched amateurs. He’s a top ten round possibility now.

Hey, he went in the tenth round! Neat. We got a little bit bolder by April 2016…

Any pre-draft list of “fastest moving” potential draftees that doesn’t include Dakota Mekkes is one I’ll look at with a suspicious eye. Mekkes may not be one of the biggest names in college relief, but he’s one of the best. I’ll go closer upside with him while acknowledging his most likely outcome could be a long career of very effective, very well-compensated middle relief. Either way, I think he’s as close to a lock to be a useful big league pitcher as any reliever in this class.

With Mekkes, it’s really about how how he maximizes his size and delivery to create all kinds of extension and deception. As he continues to figure out how to repeat that delivery, his command will only keep getting better. I think Mekkes can pitch in a big league bullpen in 2017 if that’s how the Cubs decide that’s what’s best for his development. I stand by that “as close to a lock to be a useful big league pitcher as any reliever in this class” comment.

11.344 – RHP Michael Rucker

On Michael Rucker (158) in March 2016…

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.

That sounds about right to me. Rucker is on that fifth starter/middle reliever line that could still go either way for him. If he can get one of those offspeed pitches to creep to average or slightly above-average, then he might have the all-around package (adding in his fastball, command, and control) to keep starting. His pre-draft ranking feels a little rich in hindsight, though that’s far less about Rucker than it is about the realization that there are A LOT of pitchers like him in this class.

13.404 – LHP Wyatt Short

To the WABAC machine to talk about Wyatt Short from January 2015…

I’m particularly looking forward to talking more about the aptly named Short, as any discussion about a 5-8, 160 pound lefthander capable of hitting the low- to mid-90s is all right in my book.

As it turned out, we never really got around to talking more about Short. Life just got in the way, I guess. We got older, got jobs, met that special someone, and next thing we knew we woke up one morning with a serious lack of Wyatt Short in our lives. It’s a pity, really. Thankfully, the show went on for Short, who followed up his good freshman season with a great sophomore season (10.15 K/9 and 1.38 ERA in 39.0 IP) before coming back to earth some in his junior season. The Cubs still thought enough of the diminutive lefty to pop him in the thirteenth round. Can’t argue with that based on his overall body of work, 88-94 MPH fastball, and low-80s slider he can both consistently get over and use as a chase pitch.

15.464 – RHP Jed Carter

I’ll hide my lack of Jed Carter knowledge by pointing out his crazy debut stats instead. In 9.2 innings of work, Carter struck out 17 batters. That’s great. He also walked 6 guys and threw 3 wild pitches. That’s less great. 60% ground balls, too. That’s so Cubs.

16.494 – RHP Holden Cammack

I like taking a shot on a catcher turned reliever type in Holden Cammack here. What he lacks in refinement he makes up for with arm strength.

17.524 – SS Zack Short

On Zack Short (435) from February 2016…

Short should be on any short list (no pun intended) of best college shortstop prospects in this class. He’s really, really good. Offensively he’s a high-contact hitter with an above-average blend of patience and pop. As a defender, he’s capable of making all the plays at short with range that should have him stick at the spot for years to come. There simply aren’t many two-way shortstops as good as him in this class. He’s an easy top ten round player for me with the chance to rise as high as around the fifth round (reminiscent of Blake Allemand last year) and a realistic draft floor of where Dylan Bosheers (round fifteen) eventually fell.

Short didn’t quite land in that five to fifteen round range, but the seventeenth isn’t that far off. I love this pick. Everything from February stands today, even after Short’s down junior season forced me to swallow hard and drop him lower on my final draft list than I would have liked. I think he’s a future big league player. My one note of caution with Short comes from the name drop of Dylan Bosheers in the pre-season paragraph above. Short and Bosheers aren’t the same guy and the disappointing pro career of the latter shouldn’t be put on the former, but the two players are cut from a similar prospect cloth. Something to consider. If Short busts, it’ll be time for me to reconsider how much I personally value these types of players. Hope it doesn’t come to that.

18.554 – LHP Marc Huberman

Marc Huberman was described to me as the perfect guy to watch if you want to see a “good command, bad control” pitcher in action. Huberman can spot his solid for a lefthander stuff (86-92 FB, 94 peak; good 76-82 CU; usable 75-78 CB) in the zone to keep hitters guessing, but can’t consistently find the strike zone enough to keep from issuing hitters who would struggle squaring him up otherwise off base via the free pass. In other words, many of Huberman’s strikes are quality strikes, but he just doesn’t throw enough of them right now to be considered anything other than effectively wild, for better or worse.

19.584 – RHP Matt Swarmer

You can’t say that Matt Swarmer didn’t get results in his career at Kutztown. His senior year K/9: 13.12. His career K/9: 11.79. Good numbers, good size, and a good enough head on his shoulders to bank a fine education to fall back on just in case — my mom has literally never read this site, but I’ll still shout out her alma mater — make him a worthy pick here.

20.614 – LHP Colton Freeman

If deep cuts are your thing, then hop on the Colton Freeman bandwagon while you can. The 6-1, 200 pound lefthander has a good fastball (up to 93), above-average slider, and impressive athleticism. He also pitched just 9.2 innings at Alabama in 2016. In those 9.2 innings, Freeman struck out 18 batters (16.88 K/9) while walking only 3 (2.81 BB/9) and keeping the opposition entirely off the board (0.00 ERA). Fun guy to follow professionally if you’re into the deepest of draft sleepers. Or if you’re just a generally obsessed baseball fan. Know anybody like that? Me neither.

21.644 – C Sam Tidaback

Sam Tidaback is a lifelong Cubs fan who grew up an hour from Wrigley Field. That’s enough to get you drafted by Chicago these days. And in the twenty-first round, no less.

25.764 – 2B Trent Giambrone

Trent Giambrone was off my radar in June, but looks like a nice value pick at this point in the draft. My only pre-draft notes on him were “good but not earth shattering numbers” and first-hand source who told me flatly that Giambrone “can’t play shortstop except in a pinch, but good anywhere else you stick him.” Those two things more or less disqualified him from any additional research (time and energy are finite, after all), but his intriguing pro debut at the plate has me feeling some regret. Cubs could have something with Giambrone. If it all keeps working, maybe you’ve turned a twenty-fifth round pick into a bat-first utility guy.

23.704 – SS Delvin Zinn

Few players from the entire 2016 MLB Draft class intrigue me quite as much as Delvin Zinn (415). I have no idea what to make of him. He’s as good an athlete as you’ll now find in pro ball with a big arm and enough range to hang at short (he split his time at SS and 2B evenly in his debut) for the foreseeable future. He’s also a smart hitter who makes a ton of contact with enough patience to put himself into favorable counts more often than not. His current issues are about the kind of contact he makes and what he does when he’s up in the count. At present, Zinn has true 20 power. He could grow into some as he puts on some good weight and tweaks his swing, but he’s currently a long way from being an extra base threat in the professional ranks. Thankfully, he has a long way before he’ll have to be a finished product. The 19-year-old infielder has enough positives on his side that he should get plenty of opportunities over the next few years to sink or swim in pro ball. A player with that kind of unpredictable but intriguing future is exactly who you should target when still available in the twenty-third round.

27.824 – OF Connor Myers

Connor Myers is way more talented than your typical twenty-seventh round senior-sign. His approach at the plate needs a good bit of tightening up if he wants to advance past AA, but his physical gifts (speed, arm, athleticism) are enough to keep him employed long enough to potentially figure things out as a hitter.

29.884 – RHP Tyler Peyton

Tyler Peyton has long frustrated me as a pitcher with the kind of stuff (88-94 FB, intriguing SL, average CU that flashes better) to be a true impact college performer who never quite got there. That doesn’t give me a ton of hope he’ll suddenly start missing more bats in the pros (his junior year 7.01 K/9 was a college career high), but you never know with two-way players like him. Maybe complete dedication to pitching will help him unlock the secret to getting more whiffs. It’s worth a twenty-ninth round pick to find out.

32.974 – OF Zach Davis

I don’t know what to make of the Zach Davis pick. I’m not one to toot my own horn, but if you’re stumping me with a power conference D1 prospect then you’re really digging deep for a player. Chicago must have seen more out of his 30 AB in 2014, 98 AB in 2015, and 39 AB in 2016 than most.

33.1004 – RHP Nathan Sweeney

A six-figure bonus ($100,000) for a low-90s (92-93 in my notes) righthander with size (6-4, 185) out of a state with an unusually high success rate (same HS as Brad Lidge!) of producing successful amateur pitchers? I’m in on Nathan Sweeney. Nice pick by Chicago here.

38.1154 – OF Tolly Filotei

The Cubs drafted and signed a player coming off a .268/.373/.338 season (71 AB) at Faulkner State. Could there possibly be more to the story than that? Probably not. In totally unrelated news, Tolly is the son of Cubs regional crosschecker Bobby Filotei. In fairness, Filotei was drafted out of high school by Colorado in 2014. I don’t believe that Bobby was employed by Colorado at that time (or ever), so, at least there’s that.

All in all, the Cubs drafted 38 guys. Only 11 were hitters. Of that 11, only 8 signed. Their college hitters came from these schools: Chipola, Delta State, North Georgia, Bethune-Cookman, Faulkner State, Texas Tech, Old Dominion, Itawamba, and Sacred Heart. Throw out North Georgia and Texas Tech, and I’d put the “guess what state the school is in” over/under for the casual fan at 1.5. Drafting players from all over isn’t a bad thing. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to draft.

Still, something seems off to me about Chicago’s draft. I don’t think they drafted well just because they are the Cubs and can do no wrong. I also don’t think they drafted poorly because I have different opinions about the players they selected. They clearly went all-in on pitching, but did so with a hyper-focused attention to pitchers with ground ball statistics and/or stuff. I don’t hate that one bit, especially when you see how all the ground ball pitching fits with their emphasis on building an outstanding defensive infield. One thing I didn’t like about their draft was the lack of offense. I know the big league team is loaded with young hitting. I know the strength of the system tilts overwhelmingly towards bats. An important draft rule, however, is that you don’t just draft for yourself but rather for each of the twenty-nine other teams in baseball. Mixing in a few quality bats with the bushel of relatively high-floor pitchers would have at least given Chicago a chance to replenish the (admittedly still stacked) lower-levels with potential easier to identify and develop trade assets. Or maybe the Cubs just had more confidence in their ability to identify and develop pitching than I do.

Either way, I went from not understanding this draft at all, to understanding it and not particularly liking it, to understanding it and talking myself into it. I still don’t love it, but if you can get one or two of Hatch, Miller, Robinson, or Rucker to stay in the rotation (either in Chicago or elsewhere if dealt) and then get valuable quick-moving bullpen pieces like Clark, Hockin, and Mekkes up for a team very much in win-now mode, you’re on to something. It was too conservative an approach for a team with as good a present and future as the Cubs seem to have — swing for the fences at least once, Cubbies! What do you have to lose? — but it was an approach and that matters. I mean, say what you want about the conservative approach the Cubs took, Dude, at least it’s an ethos. Or maybe a logos? I don’t know. This wasn’t my best work.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Reynaldo Rivera (Chipola), Montana Parsons (Baylor), Austin Jones (Wisconsin-Whitewater), Rian Bassett (?), Parker Dunshee (Wake Forest), Trey Cobb (Oklahoma State), Ryan Kreidler (UCLA), Jake Slaughter (LSU), DJ Roberts (South Florida), Davis Moore (Fresno State), AJ Block (Washington State), Davis Daniel (Auburn), Brenden Heiss (Arkansas), Dante Biasi (Penn State)

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2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – Big 12

On Sheldon Neuse before the season…

Neuse could still fulfill the promise many (myself included) saw in him during his excellent freshman season back when he looked like a potential Gold Glove defender at third with the kind of bat you’d happily stick in the middle of the order. He could also get more of a look this spring on the mound where he can properly put his mid-90s heat and promising pair of secondary offerings (SL, CU) to use. Or he could have something of a repeat of his 2015 season leaving us unsure how good he really is and thinking of him more of a second to fifth round project (a super talented one, mind you) than a first round prospect.

So far, so good on the whole fulfilling that promise thing: Neuse has hit .383/.483/.692 through 32 games with 23 BB/26 and 8/9 SB. On the mound, he’s been just as good: 16 K in 16.2 IP of 1.62 ERA ball. He’s now firmly back on the first round bubble and one of this draft’s quintessential first round talents that might get squeezed out of the top thirty or so picks because of the impressive depth at the top of this class.

There are plenty of candidates to wind up as the second highest drafted position player from the Big 12 come June. Ryan Sluder seemed primed to turn a big corner in his draft year, but it hasn’t happened for him. He still has a classic right fielder tool set – legit plus raw power, above-average to plus arm strength, a potent speed/strength blend – but his overly aggressive approach, which for all the world looked to be improving last season, holds him back. Then there’s his teammate with the Cowboys, Donnie Walton. Walton is pretty much exactly what you’d expect out of the son of a coach: there’s nothing flashy to his game, but he ably fields his position, runs well, and can make just about all the throws from short. It might be a utility player profile more so than a future regular ceiling, but it’s relatively safe and well worth a top ten round pick.

A pair of catchers could also wind up at or near the top of the Big 12 hitter rankings by the end of the season. I really, really like Michael Tinsley, a highly athletic lefthanded bat with impressive wheels and solid pop. Tres Barrera’s ordinary start – his approach has taken a big step back – knocks him down from his clear perch in the two spot to closer to the middle of the pack. Despite seeing some time at third base this year for the Longhorns, I still like him behind the plate over the long haul. His above-average raw power keeps him in the top ten round mix despite the aforementioned backslide in approach.

Tyler Neslony, the top returning position player prospect in the conference per this very site (he peaked at third CJ Hinojosa and Ben Johnson last year), is hurt by the strong likelihood that he’ll be confined to the corners as a pro. I still like his power and plate discipline combination as a mid- to late-round senior sign. Scouts who saw a lot of him during his awesome sophomore season will likely give him more of the benefit of the doubt than those in the national media who consider going fifty deep with a draft list an exhausting task.

Elliott Barzilli is off to a scorching start. He’s a fine athlete and a versatile defender in the infield. He’s as much of a threat of any of these players to follow Neuse off the board. Cory Raley is another extremely athletic infielder who can play any spot on the diamond. Raley’s start has not been nearly as impressive as Barzilli’s, but his speed and pop are awfully intriguing. When it comes to straight draft intrigue, few players in this class can match Oklahoma outfielder Cody Thomas. With Thomas you’d essentially be drafting a high school player in terms of experience and present skill levels, but the upside is very real. Size, athleticism, power, arm strength, speed…if he can hit, a significant if, then he’s a potential monster.

Jake Scudder, Jack Flansburg, and Ryan Merrill all stand out as players who will see big jumps on the next (and final) version of these rankings. I’m looking forward to learning more about all three.

I love the Big 12 pitchers this year because I’m a guy talking to himself in front of a computer and not one of the thirty scouting directors charged with actually finding an arm from this conference you’d feel confident about taking commensurate with their talent. There’s uncertainty everywhere you turn. Alec Hansen, who remains the best pitching prospect in the conference despite a dreadful first half of the season, exemplifies the boom/bust nature of the Big 12’s pitching. In fact, it even goes beyond boom/bust; the conference is loaded with players with huge stuff but limited track records and little to no extended periods of success.

Mitchell Traver has yet to pitch in 2016. Garrett Williams has barely pitched. Same for Chandler Eden. Jake Elliott and Ryan Moseley have both drastically underperformed. You could argue that my rankings are nonsense – again, these are more about the larger body of work and long-term projection than two months’ worth of 2016 results – but the list from one to six goes bad, injured, injured, good (thank you, Trey Cobb), injured, and bad. All of these players have their merits, of course. Traver is up to 96 with serious sink and a plus low- to mid-80s slider. Williams is a four-pitch lefty with an outstanding curve and one of the more unusually effective hard changeups in the college game. Eden can be effectively wild when actually on the mound. His plus fastball (90-95, 97 peak) and above-average to plus breaking ball (with an average change that could help convince some teams that he’s a starter professionally) are good enough to make hitters very uncomfortable. I had some friends come into the season armed and ready with a Jake Elliott is the better long-term prospect than Alec Hansen take. That talk has quieted down as Elliott’s start has just about equaled Hansen’s…and not in a good way. His arm talent is still really impressive: 86-92 FB (94 peak), average 75-80 breaking ball, and a 77-80 change that borders on plus.

The disappointments at the top of this class have opened the door for a few solid yet unspectacular names to barge through. There’s something to be said for consistently productive pitchers, after all. Daniel Castano is a lefthander with size, some present velocity (87-92), and a pair of offspeed pitches (78-83 CU and 72-76 CB) that could be average or better pitches at the pro level. Thomas Hatch isn’t a lefthander and doesn’t have that size, but he possesses more fastball (88-94, up to 96) and a similarly impressive mix of offspeed stuff (78-82 CU, 77-82 SL, 85-88 cutter). Brian Howard is an impossibly long and lean man (6-9, 185) who pounds the strike zone with a solid fastball (87-92, 94 peak) and cut-slider (anywhere from 81-88, flashes plus when firmer) combination that gets on hitters quick. Morgan Cooper appears to have bounced back nicely from the Tommy John surgery that cost him all of last season. He’s got the frame, command, and requisite three pitches (88-93 FB, low-70s CB that flashes plus, solid CU) to stick in a pro rotation.

Hitters

  1. Oklahoma JR 3B/RHP Sheldon Neuse
  2. Kansas JR C Michael Tinsley
  3. Oklahoma State JR OF Ryan Sluder
  4. Oklahoma State SR SS/2B Donnie Walton
  5. Texas JR C/3B Tres Barrera
  6. TCU JR 3B/SS Elliott Barzilli
  7. Texas Tech SR OF Tyler Neslony
  8. Texas Tech rJR SS/2B Cory Raley
  9. Texas Tech JR OF Stephen Smith
  10. Baylor JR OF Darryn Sheppard
  11. Kansas JR OF Joven Afenir
  12. Oklahoma JR OF Cody Thomas
  13. Texas Tech SR 1B Eric Gutierrez
  14. Oklahoma State JR 1B/OF Dustin Williams
  15. Texas rSO SS/3B Bret Boswell
  16. Baylor rJR C Matt Menard
  17. Baylor rSO OF/LHP Kameron Esthay
  18. Kansas State JR 1B Jake Scudder
  19. Oklahoma JR 2B/3B Jack Flansburg
  20. Kansas rJR 1B Marcus Wheeler
  21. TCU JR SS Ryan Merrill
  22. Kansas State SR SS Tyler Wolfe
  23. Kansas State SR C Tyler Moore
  24. Texas JR OF/3B Zane Gurwitz
  25. Kansas SR 2B/SS Colby Wright
  26. TCU SR OF Nolan Brown
  27. Oklahoma SR OF Hunter Haley
  28. Kansas rSR OF Joe Moroney
  29. Oklahoma State rSO 3B Andrew Rosa
  30. Baylor SR 2B/3B West Tunnell
  31. Baylor JR C/1B Aaron Dodson
  32. Texas JR 1B/RHP Kacy Clemens
  33. TCU SR OF Dane Steinhagen
  34. Texas Tech rJR C Kholeton Sanchez
  35. TCU JR 2B Mason Hesse
  36. Oklahoma State SR OF Corey Hassell
  37. Oklahoma JR C Renae Martinez
  38. TCU JR 3B/2B Cam Warner
  39. West Virginia JR 1B/RHP Jackson Cramer
  40. West Virginia rSR OF KC Huth
  41. Texas Tech JR OF Anthony Lyons
  42. Kansas SR 2B/SS Tommy Mirabelli
  43. Kansas State rJR 2B/SS Jake Wodtke
  44. Baylor SR 2B/SS Justin Arrington
  45. Kansas State rJR 3B/C Steve Serratore
  46. Oklahoma State SR 2B Kevin Bradley
  47. Kansas State SR OF Clayton Dalrymple
  48. Texas Tech SR C Tyler Floyd
  49. Kansas rSR OF Steve Goldstein

Pitchers

  1. Oklahoma JR RHP Alec Hansen
  2. TCU rJR RHP Mitchell Traver
  3. Oklahoma State JR LHP Garrett Williams
  4. Oklahoma State JR RHP Trey Cobb
  5. Texas Tech JR RHP Chandler Eden
  6. Oklahoma JR RHP Jake Elliott
  7. Baylor JR LHP Daniel Castano
  8. Oklahoma State JR RHP Thomas Hatch
  9. Texas Tech JR RHP Ryan Moseley
  10. Oklahoma State JR RHP Remey Reed
  11. TCU JR RHP Brian Howard
  12. Texas rSO RHP Morgan Cooper
  13. Oklahoma State JR RHP Tyler Buffett
  14. TCU rSO LHP Ryan Burnett
  15. Baylor JR RHP Drew Tolson
  16. TCU rJR RHP Brian Trieglaff
  17. Oklahoma State rSR RHP/OF Conor Costello
  18. TCU JR RHP Mitch Sewald
  19. TCU JR LHP Rex Hill
  20. Texas Tech JR LHP Ty Damron
  21. Oklahoma State SR RHP Michael Mertz
  22. West Virginia rSO RHP Nick Wernke
  23. West Virginia SR RHP Blake Smith
  24. Oklahoma State JR RHP Blake Battenfield
  25. West Virginia SR RHP Jeff Hardy
  26. Kansas JR RHP Sean Rackoski
  27. West Virginia JR RHP Chad Donato
  28. Texas Tech JR LHP Hayden Howard
  29. Texas SR LHP Ty Culbreth
  30. Texas JR LHP Josh Sawyer
  31. TCU SR RHP Preston Guillory
  32. Kansas State rJR RHP Colton Kalmus
  33. Kansas SR RHP Hayden Edwards
  34. Oklahoma SR RHP Keaton Hernandez
  35. Kansas State SR RHP Levi MaVorhis
  36. Texas Tech SR RHP Dalton Brown
  37. Texas Tech JR LHP Dylan Dusek
  38. Oklahoma State rSO LHP Matt Wilson
  39. Oklahoma JR LHP Austin Kerns
  40. Kansas State JR LHP Jordan Floyd
  41. Oklahoma State SR LHP Alex Hackerott
  42. Kansas rSO RHP Jon Hander
  43. Kansas JR RHP Stephen Villines
  44. West Virginia rSR LHP Ross Vance
  45. Texas JR LHP Jon Malmin
  46. Texas SR LHP Travis Duke
  47. Kansas State SR RHP Corey Fischer
  48. Kansas SR LHP Ben Krauth
  49. Kansas State rSR RHP Lucas Benenati

Baylor

JR LHP Daniel Castano (2016)
JR RHP Drew Tolson (2016)
JR RHP Nick Lewis (2016)
JR RHP Alex Phillips (2016)
rSO OF/LHP Kameron Esthay (2016)
SR 2B/3B West Tunnell (2016)
SR 2B/SS Justin Arrington (2016)
rJR C Matt Menard (2016)
rJR 3B Ben Carl (2016)
JR OF Darryn Sheppard (2016)
JR C/1B Aaron Dodson (2016)
rSO C/1B Cameron Miller (2016)
SO OF Levi Gilcrease (2017)
SO 3B Jonathan Ducoff (2017)
FR RHP Andrew McInvale (2018)
FR 2B Josh Bissonette (2018)

High Priority Follows: Daniel Castano, Drew Tolson, Kameron Esthay, West Tunnell, Justin Arrington, Matt Menard, Darryn Sheppard, Aaron Dodson, Cameron Miller

Kansas

JR RHP Sean Rackoski (2016)
SR RHP Hayden Edwards (2016)
SR LHP Ben Krauth (2016)
rSO RHP Jon Hander (2016)
JR RHP Stephen Villines (2016)
SR RHP Sam Gilbert (2016)
JR RHP Tyler Davis (2016)
JR OF Joven Afenir (2016)
rSR OF Joe Moroney (2016)
rSR OF Steve Goldstein (2016)
SR 2B/SS Colby Wright (2016)
SR 2B/SS Tommy Mirabelli (2016)
SR 1B/3B Ryan Pidhaichuk (2016)
rJR 1B Marcus Wheeler (2016)
JR C Michael Tinsley (2016)
SO LHP Blake Weiman (2017)
SO LHP Ryan Jackson (2017)
SO RHP Ryan Ralston (2017)
SO SS/3B Matt McLaughlin (2017)
SO 1B Owen Taylor (2017)
SO C TJ Martin (2017)
FR RHP Jackson Goddard (2018)
FR RHP Zach Leban (2018)
FR INF Ty Denzer (2018)
FR OF Devin Foyle (2018)
FR 3B David Kyriacou (2018)

High Priority Follows: Sean Rackoski, Hayden Edwards, Ben Krauth, Jon Hander, Stephen Villines, Joven Afenir, Joe Moroney, Steve Goldstein, Colby Wright, Tommy Mirabelli, Marcus Wheeler, Michael Tinsley

Kansas State

rSR RHP Lucas Benenati (2016)
rJR RHP Colton Kalmus (2016)
SR RHP Corey Fischer (2016)
SR RHP Levi MaVorhis (2016)
JR LHP Jordan Floyd (2016)
SR RHP Brandon Erickson (2016)
SR OF Clayton Dalrymple (2016)
rJR 2B/SS Jake Wodtke (2016)
SR SS Tyler Wolfe (2016)
JR 1B Jake Scudder (2016)
rJR 3B/C Steve Serratore (2016)
SR C Tyler Moore (2016)
SR OF Danny Krause (2016)
FR RHP John Boushelle (2018)
FR RHP Jacob Ruder (2018)
FR C Josh Rolette (2018)

High Priority Follows: Lucas Benenati, Colton Kalmus, Corey Fischer, Levi MaVorhis, Jordan Floyd, Clayton Dalrymple, Jake Wodtke, Tyler Wolfe, Jake Scudder, Steve Serratore, Tyler Moore

Oklahoma

JR RHP Alec Hansen (2016)
JR RHP Jake Elliott (2016)
SR RHP Keaton Hernandez (2016)
JR LHP Austin Kerns (2016)
JR 3B/RHP Sheldon Neuse (2016)
SR OF Hunter Haley (2016)
JR 1B Austin O’Brien (2016)
SR 1B/OF Alex Wise (2016)
JR C Renae Martinez (2016)
JR OF Cody Thomas (2016)
JR 2B/3B Jack Flansburg (2016)
SO 3B Quin Walbergh (2017)
SO 2B Kyle Mendenhall (2017)
FR RHP Jake Irvin (2018)
FR RHP Kyle Tyler (2018)
FR RHP Austin Hansen (2018)
FR RHP Connor Berry (2018)
FR RHP/1B Chris Andritsos (2018)
FR RHP/1B Ryan Madden (2018)
FR INF/RHP Thomas Hughes (2018)
FR C Domenic DeRenzo (2018)
FR OF Steele Walker (2018)
FR INF Cade Harris (2018)
FR 2B/SS Kyler Murray (2018)
FR C/OF Hunter Southerland (2018)

High Priority Follows: Alec Hansen, Jake Elliott, Keaton Hernandez, Austin Kerns, Sheldon Neuse, Hunter Haley, Renae Martinez, Cody Thomas, Jack Flansburg

Just five second year players and four in their last year of eligibility

Oklahoma State

rSR RHP/OF Conor Costello (2016)
JR RHP Remey Reed (2016)
JR LHP Garrett Williams (2016)
SR RHP Michael Mertz (2016)
JR RHP Tyler Buffett (2016)
JR RHP Trey Cobb (2016)
JR RHP Thomas Hatch (2016)
JR RHP Blake Battenfield (2016)
SR LHP Alex Hackerott (2016)
rSO LHP Matt Wilson (2016)
SR SS/2B Donnie Walton (2016)
JR OF Ryan Sluder (2016)
JR 1B/OF Dustin Williams (2016)
SR OF Corey Hassell (2016)
SR 2B Kevin Bradley (2016)
JR 2B JR Davis (2016)
JR C Collin Theroux (2016)
SR 3B/2B David Petrino (2016)
rSO 3B Andrew Rosa (2016)
SO LHP/OF Garrett McCain (2017)
SO 3B/1B Garrett Benge (2017)
SO SS/2B Jacob Chappell (2017)
SO OF Jon Littell (2017)
SO 1B Mason O’Brien (2017)
FR RHP Jensen Elliott (2018)
FR RHP Ben Leeper (2018)
FR C Collin Simpson (2018)

High Priority Follows: Conor Costello, Remey Reed, Garrett Williams, Michael Mertz, Tyler Buffett, Trey Cobb, Thomas Hatch, Blake Battenfield, Alex Hackerott, Matt Wilson, Donnie Walton, Ryan Sluder, Dustin Williams, Corey Hassell, Kevin Bradley, Collin Theroux, David Petrino, Andrew Rosa

Texas Christian

rJR RHP Mitchell Traver (2016)
JR RHP Brian Howard (2016)
rSO LHP Ryan Burnett (2016)
SR RHP Preston Guillory (2016)
rJR RHP Brian Trieglaff (2016)
JR RHP Mitch Sewald (2016)
JR LHP Rex Hill (2016)
SR OF Dane Steinhagen (2016)
SR OF Nolan Brown (2016)
JR 3B/SS Elliott Barzilli (2016)
JR 3B/2B Cam Warner (2016)
JR 2B Mason Hesse (2016)
JR SS Ryan Merrill (2016)
SO 1B/OF Connor Wanhanen (2017)
SO C Evan Skoug (2017)
SO C Zack Plunkett (2017)
FR RHP/1B Luken Baker (2018)
FR RHP Devon Roedahl (2018)
FR RHP Sean Wymer (2018)
FR RHP Dalton Brown (2018)
FR LHP Dalton Horton (2018)
FR C/RHP Durbin Feltman (2018)
FR OF Ryan Johnson (2018)
FR OF Joshua Watson (2018)

High Priority Follows: Mitchell Traver, Brian Howard, Ryan Burnett, Preston Guillory, Brian Trieglaff, Mitch Sewald, Rex Hill, Dane Steinhagen, Nolan Brown, Elliott Barzilli, Cam Warner, Mason Hesse, Ryan Merrill

Texas

rSO RHP Morgan Cooper (2016)
JR LHP Josh Sawyer (2016)
SR LHP Ty Culbreth (2016)
SR LHP Travis Duke (2016)
JR LHP Jon Malmin (2016)
JR 1B/RHP Kacy Clemens (2016)
JR C/3B Tres Barrera (2016)
rSO SS/3B Bret Boswell (2016)
JR OF/3B Zane Gurwitz (2016)
SO RHP Kyle Johnston (2017)
SO RHP Connor Mayes (2017)
SO RHP Tyler Schimpf (2017)
SO RHP Jake McKenzie (2017)
rFR RHP Parker Joe Robinson (2017)
FR LHP Nick Kennedy (2017)
SO C Michael Cantu (2017)
SO OF Patrick Mathis (2017)
SO 2B/SS Joe Baker (2017)
SO SS/3B Travis Jones (2017)
rFR OF Kaleb Denny (2017)
FR RHP Nolan Kingham (2018)
FR RHP Beau Ridgeway (2018)
FR RHP/OF Chase Shugart (2018)
FR LHP James Nittoli (2018):
FR RHP Blake Wellmann (2018):
FR 3B/2B Kody Clemens (2018)
FR OF Tyler Rand (2018)
FR 3B Matt Schmidt (2018)
FR OF Brady Harlan (2018)

High Priority Follows: Morgan Cooper, Josh Sawyer, Ty Culbreth, Travis Duke, Jon Malmin, Kacy Clemens, Tres Barrera, Bret Boswell, Zane Gurwitz

Texas Tech

JR RHP Chandler Eden (2016)
JR RHP Ryan Moseley (2016)
JR LHP Dylan Dusek (2016)
JR LHP Ty Damron (2016)
JR RHP Sean Thompson (2016)
JR LHP Hayden Howard (2016)
SR RHP Dalton Brown (2016)
SR OF Tyler Neslony (2016)
SR 1B Eric Gutierrez (2016)
SR OF Zach Davis (2016)
SR C Tyler Floyd (2016)
rJR SS/2B Cory Raley (2016)
rJR C Kholeton Sanchez (2016)
JR 3B Ryan Long (2016)
JR OF Stephen Smith (2016)
JR OF Hunter Hargrove (2016)
JR OF Anthony Lyons (2016)
SO LHP Jacob Patterson (2017)
SO RHP/OF Pat Mahomes (2017)
SO LHP/1B Parker Mushinski (2017)
SO SS/OF Tanner Gardner (2017)
SO SS Orlando Garcia (2017)
SO 2B Michael Davis (2017)
FR LHP Erikson Lanning (2018)
FR RHP Davis Martin (2018)
FR RHP Ty Harpeneau (2018)
FR RHP Ryan Shetter (2018)
FR LHP Steven Gingery (2018)
FR OF Cody Farhat (2018)
FR 2B/SS Trey Ochoa (2018)

High Priority Follows: Chandler Eden, Ryan Moseley, Dylan Dusek, Ty Damron, Hayden Howard, Dalton Brown, Tyler Neslony, Eric Gutierrez, Tyler Floyd, Cory Raley, Kholeton Sanchez, Stephen Smith, Hunter Hargrove, Anthony Lyons

West Virginia

rSO RHP Nick Wernke (2016)
SR RHP Blake Smith (2016)
rSR LHP Ross Vance (2016)
SR RHP Jeff Hardy (2016)
JR RHP Chad Donato (2016)
rSR OF KC Huth (2016)
rSO 2B Shaun Corso (2016)
JR 1B/RHP Jackson Cramer (2016)
SO RHP BJ Myers (2017)
SO RHP Conner Dotson (2017)
SO RHP Shane Ennis (2017)
SO 3B/OF Kyle Davis (2017)
SO OF Caleb Potter (2017)
FR RHP Braden Zarbnisky (2018)
FR RHP Tanner Campbell (2018)
FR RHP Michael Grove (2018)
FR 2B Cole Austin (2018)
FR C Ivan Vera (2018)

High Priority Follows: Nick Wernke, Blake Smith, Ross Vance, Jeff Hardy, Chad Donato, KC Huth, Shaun Corso, Jackson Cramer

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 – Oklahoma State

rJR RHP/OF Conor Costello (2015)
JR RHP Koda Glover (2015)
rSR LHP Tyler Nurdin (2015)
SR RHP Jon Perrin (2015)
JR LHP Alex Hackerott (2015)
SR LHP Michael Freeman (2015)
JR SS/2B Donnie Walton (2015)
JR 2B Kevin Bradley (2015)
JR 3B David Petrino (2015)
SR OF/2B Tim Arakawa (2015)
SR 3B Hunter Hagler (2015)
SR C Bryan Case (2015)
SR OF/C Gage Green (2015)
SO LHP Garrett Williams (2016)
SO RHP Tyler Buffett (2016)
SO RHP Blake Battenfield (2016)
SO RHP Thomas Hatch (2016)
SO RHP Remey Reed (2016)
SO RHP Trey Cobb (2016)
SO LHP Matt Wilson (2016)
SO OF Ryan Sluder (2016)
SO 3B Andrew Rosa (2016)
SO 1B/OF Dustin Williams (2016)
FR OF Jon Littell (2017)
FR 1B/OF Caleb Eldridge (2017)
FR SS Jacob Chappell (2017)
FR LHP/OF Garrett McCain (2017)
FR RHP Carson LaRue (2017)
FR 1B Mason O’Brien (2017)

I feel bad for saying it, but I didn’t expect to like the Oklahoma State lineup nearly as much as I do. Maybe it has something to do with the lull in bats to come out of the school in recent years. Their best pro hitter since the glory days of the 80’s (Ventura, Tettleton, Incaviglia, Burnitz) is…Luke Scott? Jordy Mercer? Part of it probably has me associating pitching with the program. Since I’ve started the site the Cowboys have had Andy Oliver, Tyler Blandford, Tyler Lyons, Chris Marlowe, Andrew Heaney, and Jason Hursh all go in the top ten rounds. Oliver, Heaney, and Hursh were all pretty big deals as prospects, too. Oklahoma State hasn’t had a bat in years that has grabbed me like any of those guys. In all honesty, this year isn’t any different, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a fun collection of potential pro hitters to talk about. JR SS/2B Donnie Walton is a more than capable defender with the speed and patience of a professional leadoff hitter. He’s one of my favorite mid-round 2015 college middle infielders. Though his lack of pop limits his ceiling, SR OF/2B Tim Arakawa has a carrying tool (speed) strong enough to get a second look this spring as a senior sign. There’s been lots of nice things said about JR 2B Kevin Bradley (coming off injury, but defensive versatility makes him intriguing if he hits), JR 3B David Petrino, and SR 3B Hunter Hagler. Hagler is my favorite of the trio right now (hasn’t shown it yet, but I believe in the hit tool), but all three could take steps forward this spring. SR C Bryan Case might also have enough of an arm strength/raw power blend to get drafted.

Associating pitching with the Oklahoma State program ultimately works out yet again this year as the Cowboys have a high number of high follows on staff. The theme here would be talented arms with plenty to prove. The poster boys for said theme are rJR RHP/OF Conor Costello and JR RHP Koda Glover. Costello has consistently shown more as a hitter than on the mound, but he’s still a high upside arm to watch. Athletic righties with size and velocity (low-90s, 95/96 peak) tend to be worth paying attention to, no matter the previous year’s production. Glover is another young guy with size (6-4, 200 pounds) and arm strength (95 peak) to track. rSR LHP Tyler Nurdin, SR RHP Jon Perrin, and JR LHP Alex Hackerott have all shown more at the college level. Nurdin’s control left him last year, but when he’s on he’s a capable three-pitch potential professional starter. Perrin, the most consistently reliable of the three, can spot a good low-90s fastball with darn near anybody in the conference. Hackerott has been arguably as good as Perrin in his career — the arguably is only there due to the innings gap between him and Perrin (the latter has a lot more) — while showing good enough stuff from the left side to warrant late-round pro consideration this summer. He probably fits in better as a 2016 senior sign candidate, but that remains to be seen.

Internal pressure to finish as many as these previews as possible before the season starts has me trying to limit what I say about future draft classes, but Oklahoma State’s group of underclassmen tests my ability to do so. The school’s strong reputation of turning out quality pitching is in very capable hands with guys like SO LHP Garrett Williams (star upside), SO RHP Blake Battenfield, and SO RHP Thomas Hatch poised to build on strong freshman seasons. I limited myself to just spotlighting those three names, but every underclass arm you see listed above has recognizable pro talent. SO 3B Andrew Rosa and FR SS Jason Chappell could combine at some point to share the nation’s fastest left side of the infield, if that’s the direction the coaching staff so chooses. SO OF Ryan Sluder (a huge favorite) and FR OF Jon Littell appear set to do so some serious mashing in short order. I’ve said it before, but for as much as I try to keep up with the college baseball landscape year-round, I’m often surprised to see certain teams’ rosters when they are all laid out like this. Just seeing all these names and getting the reminder that this kind of talent is in the pipeline at OK State has me more pumped for the upcoming season than ever before. This is a really good team right now with the potential to be great in the not too distant future.