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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – New York Yankees

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by New York in 2016

11 – Blake Rutherford
37 – Nick Solak
65 – Dominic Thompson-Williams
117 – Nolan Martinez
214 – Mandy Alvarez
295 – Tim Lynch
371 – Joe Burton
375 – Connor Jones
384 – Taylor Widener
449 – Keith Skinner

Complete List of 2016 New York Yankees Draftees

1.18 – OF Blake Rutherford

Delvin Perez and Nolan Jones were the only players on my board that I would have considered over Blake Rutherford (11) where the Yankees selected him. That makes this a slam dunk pick for New York. Whatever trepidation there was before the draft about staying away from anointing Rutherford a real deal 1-1 candidate ceased to matter the moment he started falling past the first handful of picks. Rutherford at 1-1 (or the surrounding area) was justifiable, but admittedly tough to swallow. Rutherford at 1-18 is flat robbery. A quick look at the timeline that got us here beginning in December 2015…

Despite some internet comparisons that paint him as the Meadows, I think the better proxy for Rutherford is Frazier. Issues with handedness, height, and hair hue aside, Frazier as a starting point for Rutherford (offensively only as Frazier’s arm strength blows the average-ish arm of Rutherford away) can be used because the two both have really good looking well-balanced swings, tons of bat speed, and significant raw power. The parallel gets a little bit of extra juice when you consider Frazier and Rutherford were/are also both a little bit older than their draft counterparts.

Pretty cool that Rutherford is now teammates with Clint Frazier with the Yankees. Well, I guess they aren’t technically teammates yet but rather organization-mates. You get the idea. Here are their respective professional debuts with Frazier on top and Rutherford on the bottom…

.297/.362/.506 – 31.1 K% and 8.7 BB% – 196 PA
.351/.415/.570 – 23.1 K% and 10.0 BB% – 130 PA

Not a bad start for the Yankees latest potential star prospect. We’ll jump now to April 2016 to see what was said about Rutherford then…

At some point it’s prudent to move away from the safety of college hitters and roll the dice on one of the best high school athletes in the country. Blake Rutherford is just that. Him being older than ideal for a high school senior gives real MLB teams drafting in the top five something extra to consider, but it could work to his advantage developmentally in terms of fantasy. He’s a little bit older, a little bit more filled-out, and a little bit more equipped to deal with the daily rigors of professional ball than your typical high school prospect. That’s some extreme spin about one of Rutherford’s bigger red flags — admittedly one that is easily resolved within a scouting department: either his age matters or not since it’s not like it’s changing (except up by one day like us all) any time soon — but talking oneself into glossing over a weakness is exactly what fantasy drafting is all about. I like Rutherford more in this range (ed. note: For the sake of context, this was originally written in a mock that had Rutherford going 11th) in the real draft than in the mix at 1-1.

There’s a bit of a fantasy spin to that, but the larger point about Rutherford being better equipped to deal with the minor league grind straight away better than many of his high school class peers held up in his debut. When Rutherford starts next season in Charleston as a 19-year-old (20 in May, but still), nobody will be talking about his age relative to the competition anymore. That doesn’t change the pre-draft evaluation where his age most certainly should have been factored in as he was doing his thing against younger pitchers, but that’s all old news by now. Outside of the potential desire to track certain developmental progress indicators, those pre-draft evaluations can more or less be thrown out now that he’s 130 plate appearances into his pro career.

It took me until May 2016 before I managed to succinctly describe how I viewed Rutherford as a prospect…

His upside is that of a consistently above-average offensive regular outfielder while defensively being capable of either hanging in center for a bit (a few years of average glove work out there would be nice) or excelling in an outfield corner (making this switch early could take a tiny bit of pressure off him as he adjusts to pro pitching). His floor, like almost all high school hitters, is AA bat with holes in his swing that are exploited by savvier arms.

I’d update that now to raise Rutherford’s ceiling (above-average regular, sure, but some years of star quality output seem well within reach) and more or less nix the idea of him playing center much longer (pro guys were a lot harder on his defense than the amateur evaluators) while keeping the floor basically the same (maybe bump him up to AAA, but the difference there is minute). No player in this class save AJ Puk has been picked apart in quite the same way as Rutherford. I’m not absolving myself from guilt as I know I’ve done the same over the past year or so. So much time and energy have been spent trying to talk ourselves out of him being the type of prospect that could go first overall that his combination of polished skills and toolsy upside, a blend of talent unique to him in this entire class of hitters, has gone underappreciated. This pick really is as good as it gets in the draft’s first round.

2.62 – 2B Nick Solak

Nick Solak (37) in three quotes…

October 23, 2015

The day you find me unwilling to champion a natural born hitter with a preternatural sense of the strike zone is the day I hang up the keyboard. Solak is a tough guy to project because so much of his value is tied up in his bat, but if he build on an already impressive first two seasons at Louisville in 2016 then he might just hit his way into the draft’s top two rounds.

April 4, 2016

Nick Solak can flat hit. I’d take him on my team anytime. He’s likely locked in at second in the infield, so I don’t know how high that profile can rise but I have a hunch he’ll be higher on my rankings than he winds up getting drafted in June. I’m more than all right with that.

April 21, 2016

Nick Solak is an outstanding hitter. He can hit any pitch in any count and has shown himself plenty capable of crushing mistakes. His approach is impeccable, his speed above-average, and his defense dependable. I think he’s the best college second baseman in this class.

If you’re getting the impression that I think Nick Solak is a good hitter, then you’re on the right track. I straight up LOVE this pick for New York. I got a recent DJ LeMahieu (shorter version) comparison for Solak that I think is pretty smart. Yankees would surely be thrilled with getting that kind of hitter in the second round.

3.98 – RHP Nolan Martinez

I loved the Blake Rutherford pick. I loved the Nick Solak pick. I love the Nolan Martinez (117) pick. Three for three for the Yankees so far. Martinez is all about projection at this point. The 6-2, 165 pound righthander has a fastball (87-94, 96 peak) with crazy movement and a low- to mid-70s breaking ball with above-average upside. Those two pitches alone could be enough for him to get pro hitters out right now. It’s a lot of fun to imagine what they could do with a few years of growth behind them. Further development of a low- to mid-80s changeup could make Martinez a long-term fixture in a big league rotation. It’s not hard to imagine some good weight being added to his frame, a few extra ticks added to his fastball (could see him sitting mid-90s by the time he’s in his early-20s), a little more power added to his slider, and overarching improvements in command as the highly athletic two-way high school star begins to devote himself full-time to pitching. Martinez is a really tough player to put a ceiling on right now. I’m honestly not sure how good he can be. I’m not even sure he even realizes just yet how good he can be. Tremendous pick by New York.

4.128 – RHP Nick Nelson

I didn’t necessarily love the Nick Nelson pick, but that doesn’t stop me from loving this quote from his 2015 player page at Gulf Coast State JC. His answer to”Best Sports advice given to you” was “To be the best…you have to be the best!” Could be wrong, but I think something got lost in translation there. Typo or not, I think I actually like this version better. Sometimes direct and literal is the way to go. All advice should be so pointed. Maybe if somebody had given me this advice as a younger man, I’d be the best. Maybe…

As for Nelson the ballplayer, I wasn’t as up on him before the draft as I could have been. I can see what the Yankees liked about him: he’s an athletic, sturdily built guy coming from a two-way background with plenty of arm strength. If you’re buying him, you’re thinking that some of his issues — control and underdeveloped offspeed stuff — can be ironed out with full-time dedication to working out on the mound. I’m not quite there, but it’s easy to be incredulous without having seen him. On paper, it sure seems like he has a long ways to go before he’ll provide the value I’d want from a fourth round pick.

I can’t prove it, but players like Nelson strike me as the type that area scouts are willing to pound the table on. The pieces are there, but he hasn’t come all that close to putting it together yet. I think many scouts actually prefer guys like this. I sounds mean even though it’s not the intent, but I think players like this make some scouts feel more important in their role. It’s “easy” to point to a finished product and say “yeah, get him” because anybody who has seen a ballgame or two can likely do the same. Players like Nelson are the hidden gems of the industry that separate the “real” scouts from the wannabes. Hitting on an established name is never a bad thing, but getting a player like Nelson right is a true notch on the belt worth bragging about. I don’t know, maybe I’m projecting too much. Just a theory.

5.158 – OF Dominic Thompson-Williams

The college outfielders ranked third through ninth on my final board all came out of the SEC. That is some seriously useless trivia. It is somewhat topical here, however, in that Dominic Thompson-Williams (65), the man ranked eighth on said list, had this written about him at the time of said ranking: “lost some in the SEC shuffle, but raw tools stack up with anybody here.” Nothing has changed over the summer, so consider that statement a true testament to Thompson-Williams’s obvious physical gifts. His athleticism, speed, and center field range are enough to get him to the big leagues, and his burgeoning pop and approach at the plate give him a chance at a future much greater than that. As my pre-draft ranking can attest, I’m a believer in Thompson-Williams finding a way to continually get better as he figures out how good he can really be. Tremendous value pick here by the Yankees.

6.188 – RHP Brooks Kriske

Brooks Kriske has the goods to pitch out of a big league bullpen one day. His fastball (88-94, 96 peak) and slider (low-80s) both have the chance to be above-average offerings and his mid-80s changeup could be serviceable assuming he doesn’t scrap it completely in the pros. A good frame (6-3, 190) and strong senior season (10.71 K/9 in 35.1 IP) bolster his case. The sixth round feels a bit early to me for these kind of guys, but a quick look at league-wide drafting trends shows that rounds five to ten are the college reliever sweet spot. Fair enough.

7.218 – C Keith Skinner

Nobody cares, but Keith Skinner (449) going in the top ten rounds helped me win a bet. He’s now one of my favorite players in pro ball. Those two things may or may not be related. Skinner’s glove behind the plate leaves some to be desired, but his power and approach at it make a seventh round pick worth it. I’m not that complicated a guy sometimes; if you hit .382/.466/.486 with 36 BB/14 K in a college season, you get noticed.

8.248 – 1B Dalton Blaser

Dalton Blaser, a highly productive college performer known best for a measured approach at the plate, went one pick before a similarly productive college performer known best for a measured approach at the plate. I’m less enthused about the Yankees eighth round pick than the guy who comes next, but can respect the rationale behind the pick.

9.278 – 1B Tim Lynch

Here he is! Tim Lynch (295) was a damn fine pick in the ninth round. He’s got a disciplined approach with legitimate big league thunder in his bat. The first base only profile makes the road to the highest level predictably challenging, but his brand of lefty power could help get him there. I think he’s got a very realistic shot to be at least a productive platoon bat with a real chance for more than that. For the cost of a ninth round pick and ten grand, that’s a steal.

10.308 – LHP Trevor Lane

Effectively wild and athletic. Those were the three pertinent words most often used to describe Trevor Lane to me. His pro debut also pointed to something else interesting about his profile: ground balls everywhere. So an effectively wild, athletic, ground ball inducing lefthanded reliever. That’s Trevor Lane.

11.338 – LHP Connor Jones

Connor Jones (375) was the man behind this should have been bold prediction that didn’t quite get there because I wimped out with all kinds of qualifying language…

It may be a little out there, but a case could be made that the other Connor Jones actually has more long-term upside than the righthanded Virginia ace. This Jones has gotten good yet wild results on the strength of an above-average or better fastball from the left side and a particularly intriguing splitter.

There’s a lot to like when it comes to Jones’s raw stuff. His fastball flirts with plus from the left side (88-94, 95 peak), his breaking ball (78-81 CB) flashes average or better, and a newly refined splitter could act as a needed strikeout pitch at the pro level. He’s also a really good athlete coming off a nice season at Georgia and a very nice trial in the GCL.

12.368 – RHP Taylor Widener

If a fast-moving reliever drafted outside of the top ten rounds is your thing, look no further than Taylor Widener (384). Check what the former Gamecock did in his pro debut: 13.86 K/9, 1.64 BB/9, 0.47 ERA in 38.1 IP. Those numbers aren’t all that out of line with what he did in his final year at South Carolina: 10.94 K/9, 2.12 BB/9, 4.06 ERA in 51.0 IP. His fastball/cut-slider combination is obviously good enough to miss bats, and his athleticism and command are on point. I like getting Widener here a heck of a lot more than I do getting Nelson and Kriske where they did. Heck, draft position aside, I just plain like Widener better. Great pick.

13.398 – RHP Brian Trieglaff

Armed with a fastball that’s been up to 96 and an above-average low-80s slider, Brian Trieglaff has the stuff to move relatively quickly in relief. His control has been inconsistent over the years and his 6-1, 190 pound frame is far from the classic intimidating late-game mound presence, but the good outweighs the bad for this thirteenth rounder. I’ll take this Widener/Trieglaff back-to-back over Nelson (fourth round) and Kriske (sixth round).

14.428 – OF Jordan Scott

There are two Jordan Scott’s on the Minor League Players section of Fangraphs when you search the name. One was born in 1991, the other in 1997. Knowing that this Jordan Scott had the latter birthday instantly gave me a dozen more gray hairs. I also got a gray hair — the disappointment kind, not the old man variety — when I realized that the only Jordan Scott I’ve written about on the site was a different Jordan Scott altogether. Decent righthanded pitcher from Liberty aside, this Jordan Scott had a solid debut in the Gulf Coast League, a not unfamiliar theme shared by many of the younger 2016 Yankees draftees. His would-be college coach seemed to offer high praise for the one who got away…

“Jordan may be the best athlete in this class,” Mountaineers head coach Randy Mazey said after Scott signed a letter of intent with WVU in November. “He can play multiple positions, hit home runs, steal bases and is also a great defender.”

Jordan Scott is now officially on my radar.

15.458 – LHP Tony Hernandez

I’ve got next to nothing on Tony Hernandez, fifteenth round pick of the Yankees. “Big fastball from the left side” is all I’ve got. I can at least note that his two junior college teams both have ties to the organization. Hernandez was first at Lackawanna College in Scranton, home of the Yankees AAA affiliate. He was most recently at Monroe College in Rochester. I do realize New York is a big state and that Rochester is over five hours away from Yankee Stadium, but when you’ve got no pre-draft notes on a guy you have to find a way to make connections when you can. Turns out a few extra seconds of exhaustive investigating reporting (some might call it Googling), makes this connection get a little better. Hernandez apparently attended the New Rochelle campus at Monroe (about thirty minutes from the Stadium), so all’s well that ends well. Here’s a quick piece from the Monroe website that caught my eye…

Hernandez, who idolized former Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez and Red Sox ace Jon Lester, was a member of this season’s Mustangs baseball team that went 38-16 overall and won a Regional Championship before being eliminated in the Eastern District final.

Either they know something we don’t or they meant Alex Fernandez, who retired from baseball when Hernandez was four-years-old. I really like to think that somebody at Monroe has a time machine or something and just broke a major offseason scoop. Probably not, though. Stupid boring reality.

(Damn. I do these draft reviews in stops and starts, so this particular player capsule was written in early September. Puts the Fernandez mistake “joke” in a totally different light. Stupid boring reality? More like stupid awful reality. Wild how the death of somebody you’ve never met can still make you feel physically ill just thinking about it a month after the fact.)

17.518 – 3B Mandy Alvarez

The Yankees challenged seventeenth round pick Mandy Alvarez (214) with an aggressive assignment to Low-A Charleston shortly after signing and he responded with a solid run in the South Atlantic League. Such a run wasn’t totally unexpected for the mature . I think he’s just good enough in all other phases of the game to stick at third base; if that’s the case, I believe in Alvarez’s bat enough to think he could be right around a league average big league player in time. I’ll even go a step further and say that I think his realistic floor is that of a quality bat-first utility guy. Getting a player with that kind of range of outcomes with pick 518 is nothing short of tremendous value for the Yankees.

Tangential thought alert! Drafting can be as hard as you make it sometimes. The Yankees made it look pretty easy in 2016. Look at their college position player picks in the top ten rounds: Solak, Thompson-Williams, Keith Skinner, Blaser, and Lynch. The combined collegiate BB to K ratio for those players (at the time of the draft) was 167 to 114. Think they have a type? In the interest of full disclosure, all but the ultra-athletic rangy in center Thompson-Williams from this group can be called bat-first prospects, so, yeah, there could be some defensive growing pains along the way, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Yankees clearly went out of their way to target prospects with above-average feel for hitting, average or better pop for their respective positions, and highly advanced plate discipline. Kudos to them for that. If you’re curious like I was, that 167 to 114 combined walk to strikeout ratio turned into a still solid 109 to 142 mark in the pros. I’d put the over/under of future big league players out of that group at 2.5 and still be inclined to bet the over with little hesitation.

18.548 – RHP Greg Weissert

On Greg Weissert from February 2016…

Greg Weissert can throw three pitches for strikes – 88-93 FB, 78-79 CU, mid-70s CB – and has missed bats at the kind of clip (10.45 K/9) to warrant his spot at the top [of the Atlantic 10].

Sounds about right. And he’s a local product (Fordham!) to boot. Weissert will attempt to be the best modern Fordham alum since Pete Harnisch. I didn’t know that Pete Harnisch was a Ram. How about that? Don’t ever let it be said that this site doesn’t teach you something new every now and then. If you knew that already then at least this site taught me something.

19.578 – OF Evan Alexander

Evan Alexander got $100,000 to sign as a nineteenth round pick. That alone makes him a name worth watching. Beyond that, all I know is that the Yankees have liked him for a long time going back to seeing him up close and personal in Jupiter of last season. That’s all I’ve got.

20.608 – RHP Miles Chambers

Miles Chambers is one of a handful of Yankees draftees with nice peripherals and ugly run prevention stats in their debuts. The righthander from Cal State Fullerton has fairly generic potential middle relief stuff (88-92 FB, SL that comes and goes). Could be better, could be worse.

21.638 – OF Timmy Robinson

I don’t always quote myself in these things, but I liked the Timmy Robinson passage from April 2016…

Timmy Robinson‘s tools are really impressive: above-average to plus raw power, average to above-average speed, above-average to plus arm, above-average to plus range, and all kinds of physical strength. That player sounds incredible, so it should be noted that getting all of his raw ability going at the same time and translating it to usable on-field skills has been a challenge. He’s gotten a little bit better every season and now looks to be one of the draft’s most intriguing senior-signs.

There’s no telling if Robinson will amount to anything more than a slightly too aggressive tooled-up just-missed ballplayer, but his physical gifts more than warrant a gamble in the twenty-first round. I like this pick.

23.698 – RHP Braden Bristo

For whatever reason I had Braden Bristo as a lefthander in my notes. Don’t let that stupid inaccuracy on my part obscure the real deal part of his quick scouting blurb. Bristo has a really fast arm that has been up to 96 in the past (90-94 generally). Both his command and control have seen ups and downs, but getting a fastball like that — lefthanded, righthanded, anyhanded — in the twenty-third round is a pretty good deal. I also had an honest to goodness dream the night after finishing this that I can’t really remember anything from except for stopping in the Braden Bristo Bistro for a glass of water. Guess the “joke” popped into my head when seeing his name (boo), I forgot about it (thankfully), and then recovered it (noooo) from deep down in the stupidest recesses of my brain while sleeping. That’s how dreams work, right?

24.728 – OF Joe Burton

Having already picked off my tenth ranked college first baseman, the Yankees go back and grab number twelve in big Joe Burton (371). Burton, the rare junior college player that I got a chance to see in person (albeit in a workout session and not a real game), is a mountain of a man with underrated athleticism, a quick bat, and a chance to hang in left field professionally. That’s exactly where he played exclusively in his debut run with the Yankees, so maybe they’ll find a way to make it work. There’s still considerable swing-and-miss to his game, but Burton’s encouraging start in pro ball reinforces his standing on the prospect map.

25.758 – OF Edel Luaces

I had nothing on Edel Luaces prior to the draft. I have nothing on Edel Luaces now. I can tell you he’s now one of four players with the given name Edel to have played professional baseball. There’s also been an Edelano (Long), Edelkis (Reyes), and Edelyn (Carrasco). No idea if any of those gentlemen went by Edel. Anyway, here’s a nice interview with Luaces via Robert M. Pimpsner.

27.818 – LHP Phillip Diehl

Thanks to above-average control and an average or better slider, Phillip Diehl is a better version of Tyler Honahan, another college lefty taken nine rounds later by New York. Both guys have enough fastball — 88-91 in the case of Diehl — to make it as a lefty specialist if the chips fall in their favor.

28.848 – RHP Will Jones

I’ve got nothing on Will Jones. Good peripherals in his debut. Not so much in the runs allowed department. Points for being an athletic two-way standout at Lander University with a low-90s heater and rapidly improving cutter. An athletic Yankee reliever known best for sawing off bats with nasty cutters? You don’t think? Nahhh…

30.908 – OF Ben Ruta

I’ve long been in favor of going with what you know in later rounds. I assume the Yankees know the prospects at Wagner College, a school that plays their home games in the very same park as the Staten Island Yankees. Ruta has pro size, a strong arm, and solid speed. He also has the exact kind of approach (college career 77 BB to 83 K) that seemingly all Yankees draftees must have to warrant draft consideration. You could do a lot worse in the thirtieth round.

36.1088 – LHP Tyler Honahan

Here’s another example of going what you know. Tyler Honahan played his collegiate home games just ninety minutes east of Yankee Stadium at Joe Nathan Field. In this case, going with what they know could result in a useful lefty reliever down the road. Honahan has always had solid stuff from the left side — 88-93 FB, 77-83 CU with upside — and his track record of missing bats is strong, so it was no shock to see him pitch effectively in his first shot at pro ball. The odds are against any thirty-sixth round pick, but Honahan can at least point to clearly defined big league skills to help his cause.

39.1178 – RHP Brian Keller

An excellent senior season (8.91 K/9, 1.80 BB/9 and 2.88 ERA in 100.0 IP), above-average command, and a fastball up to 93 were enough to get Brian Keller drafted. I would have guessed that combination would have been enough to get him drafted ahead of the thirty-ninth round (“mid-rounds” was my prediction during the season), but that’s neither here nor there at this point. It was enough to get him his chance at pro ball and he is more than making the most of it so far. Improving on all of your impressive senior season stats is good, right? Because Keller’s debut did just that: 11.20 K/9, 1.54 BB/9, and 0.88 ERA in 41.0 IP. Keller has a chance to be Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s first big league player. Very easy player to root for.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Miles Sandum (San Diego), Nate Brown (Florida), Zack Hess (LSU), Juan Cabrera (?), Bo Weiss (North Carolina), Blair Henley (Texas), Zach Linginfelter (Tennessee), Sam Ferri (Arizona State), David Clawson (BYU), Corey Dempster (USC), Bryson Bowman (Western Carolina), Gage Burland (Gonzaga)

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2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – Conference USA

Nothing against Conference USA, but putting this together was a lot more fun than it had any right to be. Looking at some of the individual teams had me putting this off for a bit, but it turns out that Conference USA has some really cool prospects this year. Case in point: the top tier hitting prospects – we’ll loosely define that as the first five, but it could be expanded to around nine if so inclined – all have clear top ten round upside. CJ Chatham is an intriguing modern shortstop who has opened eyes throughout the game with his huge start to 2016. In no means is it a direct comparison, but what he’s doing so far is similar to what Kyle Lewis has done at Mercer. Chatham, like Lewis, has done everything possible to turn a perceived weakness (approach) into a strength. Going from a 8 BB/39 K as a freshman and 10 BB/28 K as a sophomore to his draft year 10 BB/7 K ratio is something worth getting excited about. With Chatham’s seemingly improved approach, scouts can now freely focus on the other positives in his game (above-average range, above-average to plus arm, a 6-4, 185 pound frame to dream on) and begin forecasting a big league regular out of the overall package. In a class with a serious talent void at the top of the college shortstop rankings, Chatham has emerged as a legit contender to be the very first off the board and a top hundred pick. He’s that good.

Riley Delgado does it with far less size (and, for many, projection), but there’s no denying his consistent ability to grind out extended at bats that ultimately (more often than not) end with him on base. An approach like his matched with sneaky pop and steady defense makes him an easy draft target for me. Delgado gives me a lot of the same positive vibes that I felt with Dylan Bosheers last season. While I still hold out hope for Bosheers in 2016 and beyond, I think Delgado is both the better draft prospect and long-term professional player.

I believe in the bat of Nick Walker, so his prospect stock will come down more to learning more about his defensive future than anything else. The former shortstop is seen as a future outfielder by many, but if he can take the positive traits that made shortstop work for him in the first place – athleticism, arm strength, high baseball IQ – and turn into an above-average or better outfielder, then he remains plenty interesting as a prospect. A pair of senior-signs round out the top five in the persons of Danny Hudzina and Tim Lynch. I’ve long coveted the raw power of Lynch, one of this class’s most impressive hitters by any measure. His hot start to 2016 just makes me believe he’s even more underrated than I did a month ago; senior or not, all he does is crush baseballs.

Hudzina is a similarly talented hitter – more hit than power if we’re comparing him head-to-head with Lynch – who gets the edge because of his fascinating defensive versatility. I asked a few smart people about his long-term defensive home and each response gave me a new position to consider. Most preferred him at his present position of third base, a spot where he is really good already. Others thought he was athletic enough to handle short in a pinch, thus making his future position “utility infielder” more so than any one permanent spot. I also heard second base more than once, which made sense considering he has prior experience there. He also has experience behind the plate, so speculation that he’ll one day return to the catcher position will always be there. That was the most intriguing response, not only because of the idea itself (hardly a novel thought) but because of the conviction the friend who suggested it presented the thought (i.e., it wasn’t like he said that’s what should happen with him, he was saying that a switch to catcher will happen to him in the pros). Despite the certainty of that one friend, I’m still on the third base bandwagon with the idea of him being athletic enough to handle any infield spot (including third catcher duties) in play. All in all, offensively and defensively (wherever he may wind up), I think Hudzina has a big league skill set.

The run of Florida Atlantic prospects really begins just outside the top five. Chatham is the headliner now, but Stephen Kerr, Esteban Puerta, and Christian Dicks are all serious draft prospects in their own right. Kerr is a burner with plus to plus-plus speed and really intriguing defensive tools. Lack of a big-time arm might keep him at second rather than short as a professional, but the physical ability to be plus there in time helps soften the blow of a permanent position switch. A strong case could be made that Kerr is at least average or better in four of the five classic tools: in order, they’d go speed, glove (above-average to plus at second), hit tool (chance for above-average), and arm (plays up enough to call it average). The one obvious thing he lacks is power. Whether or not he continues to find ways to drive the occasional mistake pitch to keep the opposition honest could determine if his ceiling is honest big league regular or up-and-down utility guy. I’m bullish on his future.

Puerta is a fine young hitter with just the right blend of power and patience to make a mark on pro ball. Dicks doesn’t have a carrying tool, but has a card full of tools flirting in and around the average mark. He’s a well-rounded ballplayer with good athleticism and a track record of quality production. Further down the list is another Florida Atlantic product, Billy Endris. Endris is a good college player who has built a decent case over the last year plus that he’s got enough to warrant a late look in the draft.

Esteban Tresgallo, a Miami transfer, has seen his plate discipline indicators go backwards in the early going, but has enough of a track record, prospect pedigree, and favorable scouting notes (steady glove, nice power, enough athleticism) to deserve a mid- to late-round pick. Logan Sherer is a power bat who might finally be tapping into every bit of his 6-3, 250 pound frame. Taylor Love, Zach Rutherford, and Geonte Jackson all intrigue me as potential bat-first bench contributors capable of playing a multitude of defensive spots.

You’ll notice the cluster of Rice guys near the bottom of the hitter list. I did what I could to separate them, but no matter how often I left the list and came back to it, they always clumped together. Quite honestly, I’m sure what to say about that lineup right now. None of the 2016 draft-eligible guys are hitting. It’s ugly. They are like the anti-Florida Atlantic. No player exemplifies the frustration of what’s gone down with the Rice hitters as well as Hunter Kopycinski, a fine defender who came into the season with just enough of an offensive track record to get some late-round senior-sign org catcher love. He’s currently off to an oh-for-thirty start. Charlie Warren’s lack of pop clouds his pro future. Grayson Lewis and Conor Tekyl have the gloves to succeed, but time is running out on their bats. If you’re looking for a bat out of Rice good enough to contribute professionally, then you’re much better off waiting on Ryan Chandler (2017) and Ford Proctor (2018).

The good news for Rice is that their ace is very clearly the best pitching prospect in the conference. Jon Duplantier is awesome. There are only so many college baseball and draft writers out there and there are a ton of quality players to write about, but it still surprises me that Duplantier has managed to go (kind of) under the radar this spring. I mean, of course Duplantier has been written about plenty and he’s regarded by almost anybody who matters as one of the top college arms in this class – not to mention I’m guilty of not writing about him until now myself – but it still feels like we could all be doing more to spread the word about how good he really is. Here’s what I wrote about him in his draft capsule last year…

175. Rice SO RHP Jon Duplantier: 87-94 FB, 95 peak; good CU; good 73-75 CB; average 82-85 SL, flashes above-average when harder; good command; great athlete; fascinating draft case study as a hugely overlooked injured arm that one scout described to me as “every bit as good as Dillon Tate when on” and another said his injury was a “blessing in disguise” because it saved him from further abuse at the hands of Coach Graham; 6-4, 210 pounds

His fastball has since topped out as high as 97-98 and more consistently sits in the mid- to upper-band of that velocity range (90-94). His command has continued to improve and his breaking balls are both showing more consistency. I’ve heard his change has backed up some – more of a future average pitch at 82-84 than anything – but seeing as that’s just one of three usable offspeed pitches, it’s not the end of the world. Duplantier is big, athletic, and getting better by the day. I don’t know if that all adds up to a first round selection in this class, but it is damn close if not.

After Duplantier, you can pretty much put the next dozen or so names in a hat and hope for the best. I like the big arm of Nick Hartman (FB up to 96, good 76-78 CB), the projection left for Cody Crouse (6-6, 215 pounds with an intriguing split-change), and the potentially quick-moving reliever profiles of Garrett Ring, Adam Atkins, and David McKay. Sean Labsan is a good prospect as both a lefty pitcher and an outfielder with power; if nothing else, he deserves attention as one of the college game’s best true two-way players.

Ben Morrison does a lot of things really well – 90-94 FB, low-80s SL that flashes plus, shows both athleticism and deception in his delivery – but hasn’t had the chance to show it off in 2016. The curious case of Andrew Dunlap continues to leave me with more questions than answers about his pro future. The two-way prospect hasn’t had the chance to get back on the mound yet and is now listed solely as a DH on the Rice team site. I’m not sure whether it’s health-related or just stalled development, but my old notes on him and a fastball that flirted with triple-digits seem less relevant by the day. His teammate, the veteran Blake Fox, has been effective over the years despite not missing a ton of bats. The chance that he’ll begin to do so after making the switch to relief in the pros makes him an enticing mid- to late-round gamble. It wasn’t my intent to close out with so many Rice prospects; I guess it’s just a team filled with interesting – they may not be great, but they are certainly interesting – prospects. Josh Pettite falls into that very category. He’s recovering from a UCL injury that will force him to the bench all year long, but I could see a team doing their homework on his signability all the same. His freshman season was up and down, but the ups were enough when combined with his solid stuff and pro bloodlines to temp a team into taking him late if he’s ready to move on to pro ball.

Hitters

  1. Florida Atlantic JR SS/RHP CJ Chatham
  2. Middle Tennessee State JR SS Riley Delgado
  3. Old Dominion JR OF/SS Nick Walker
  4. Western Kentucky SR 3B Danny Hudzina
  5. Southern Mississippi SR 1B Tim Lynch
  6. Florida Atlantic JR 2B/SS Stephen Kerr
  7. Florida Atlantic rJR 1B/OF Esteban Puerta
  8. Florida Atlantic SR OF Christian Dicks
  9. UAB rSR C Esteban Tresgallo
  10. Charlotte JR 1B/RHP Logan Sherer
  11. Louisiana Tech rSR OF/SS Taylor Love
  12. Old Dominion SO SS Zach Rutherford
  13. Florida International JR C JC Escarra
  14. Middle Tennessee State JR OF Brad Jarreau
  15. Marshall JR OF Corey Bird
  16. Florida Atlantic SR OF Billy Endris
  17. Texas-San Antonio SR 3B/OF Geonte Jackson
  18. Texas-San Antonio SR C/OF Kevin Markham
  19. Texas-San Antonio SR OF Matt Hilston
  20. Florida International rJR C Zack Soria
  21. Southern Mississippi JR C Chuckie Robinson
  22. Old Dominion SR OF Connor Myers
  23. Louisiana Tech SR OF Bryce Stark
  24. Texas-San Antonio SR 3B/SS Tyler Straub
  25. Florida International SR 2B Austin Rodriguez
  26. Marshall SR 2B/3B Aaron Bossi
  27. UAB rSR OF Griffin Gum
  28. Florida Atlantic rSO OF Jose Bonilla Traverso
  29. Charlotte rJR 2B/SS Luke Gibbs
  30. Middle Tennessee State rSO 2B Aaron Aucker
  31. Southern Mississippi SR OF/3B Chase Scott
  32. Old Dominion rSR SS Jason McMurray
  33. Rice JR OF Charlie Warren
  34. Rice JR OF Dayne Wunderlich
  35. Rice SR 2B/3B Grayson Lewis
  36. Rice SR C Hunter Kopycinski
  37. Rice SR 1B Connor Tekyl
  38. Old Dominion rSR 3B/SS Nick Lustrino

Pitchers

  1. Rice rSO RHP Jon Duplantier
  2. Old Dominion JR RHP Nick Hartman
  3. Florida International JR RHP Cody Crouse
  4. Middle Tennessee State SR RHP Garrett Ring
  5. Florida Atlantic JR LHP/OF Sean Labsan
  6. Louisiana Tech SR RHP Adam Atkins
  7. Florida International JR RHP Williams Durruthy
  8. Florida Atlantic rSO RHP David McKay
  9. Florida Atlantic JR RHP Colyn O’Connell
  10. Western Kentucky JR RHP Ben Morrison
  11. Marshall SR RHP Chase Boster
  12. Marshall SR RHP JD Hammer
  13. UAB JR LHP Thomas Lowery
  14. Rice rSO RHP/C Andrew Dunlap
  15. Marshall JR RHP Burris Warner
  16. Southern Mississippi rSR LHP Cody Livingston
  17. Rice SR LHP Blake Fox
  18. Southern Mississippi SR RHP Jake Winston
  19. Marshall JR LHP Parker Danciu
  20. Rice SR LHP Austin Solecitto
  21. Charlotte SR RHP Micah Wells
  22. UAB rJR RHP Cory Eller
  23. Southern Mississippi SR RHP Nick Johnson
  24. Western Kentucky rJR RHP Kevin Elder
  25. Southern Mississippi SR RHP Connor O’Brien
  26. UAB rJR LHP Dylan Munger
  27. Old Dominion JR RHP Sam Sinnen
  28. Charlotte rJR LHP Sean Geoghegan
  29. Southern Mississippi rSR LHP Luke Lowery
  30. Charlotte rJR RHP Brandon Casas
  31. Middle Tennessee State rSO RHP Reid Clements
  32. Middle Tennessee State SR RHP Nate Hoffmann
  33. Middle Tennessee State JR RHP/OF Caleb Smith
  34. Rice SO RHP Josh Pettite
  35. Florida International rSR RHP Robby Kalaf
  36. Southern Mississippi rSR RHP Cord Cockrell
  37. Western Kentucky SR RHP Josh Bartley
  38. Old Dominion JR RHP Adam Bainbridge

Charlotte

rJR RHP Brandon Casas (2016)
rJR LHP Sean Geoghegan (2016)
SR RHP Micah Wells (2016)
rJR LHP JD Prochaska (2016)
SR RHP Nate Traugh (2016)
JR RHP Brandon Vogler (2016)
JR 1B/RHP Logan Sherer (2016)
rJR C Nick Daddio (2016)
rJR 2B/SS Luke Gibbs (2016)
JR OF TJ Nichting (2016)
JR C Derek Fritz (2016)
JR OF/1B Zach Jarrett (2016)
SO LHP Matt Horkey (2017)
SO LHP Jacob Craver (2017)
SO LHP Josh Maciejewski (2017)
SO 2B/OF Brett Netzer (2017)
FR OF Reese Hampton (2018)

High Priority Follows: Brandon Casas, Sean Geoghegan, Micah Wells, Luke Gibbs

Florida Atlantic

JR RHP Colyn O’Connell (2016)
SR RHP Robbie Coursel (2016)
SR LHP Brandon Rhodes (2016)
rSO RHP David McKay (2016)
rSR LHP Devon Carr (2016)
JR LHP/OF Sean Labsan (2016)
JR RHP/C Cameron Ragsdale (2016)
JR SS/RHP CJ Chatham (2016)
SR OF Billy Endris (2016)
SR OF Christian Dicks (2016)
rJR 1B/OF Esteban Puerta (2016)
SR 2B/1B Brett Lashley (2016)
rSO OF Jose Bonilla Traverso (2016)
JR C Kevin Abraham (2016)
JR 2B/SS Stephen Kerr (2016)
SO RHP Alex House (2017)
SO RHP Mark Nowatnick (2017)
SO RHP Marc Stewart (2017)
FR RHP Kyle Marman (2018)

High Priority Follows: Colyn O’Connell, David McKay, Devon Carr, Sean Labsan, Cameron Ragsdale, CJ Chatham, Billy Endris, Christian Dicks, Esteban Puerta, Brett Lashley, Jose Bonilla Traverso, Stephen Kerr

Florida International

JR RHP Cody Crouse (2016)
rSR RHP Robby Kalaf (2016)
JR RHP Williams Durruthy (2016)
JR RHP Chris Mourelle (2016)
JR RHP Michael Agis (2016)
JR LHP Alex Demchak (2016)
rJR C Zack Soria (2016)
SR SS/2B Rey Perez (2016)
JR C JC Escarra (2016)
JR 2B/SS Irving Lopez (2016)
JR OF Christian Khawam (2016)
JR OF Kenny Meimerstorf (2016)
JR INF Zack Files (2016)
JR 1B/3B Nick Day (2016)
SO RHP Garrett Cave (2017)
SO RHP Andres Nunez (2017)
SO OF Jack Schaaf (2017)
FR RHP Nate Pearson (2018)

High Priority Follows: Cody Crouse, Robby Kalaf, Williams Durruthy, Michael Agis, Alex Demchak, Zack Soria, Austin Rodriguez, Rey Perez, JC Escarra, Irving Lopez

Louisiana Tech

rJR LHP Phillip Diehl (2016)
SR RHP Adam Atkins (2016)
SR RHP Adam Derouen (2016)
JR LHP Mark Baughman (2016)
JR LHP Braden Bristo (2016)
SR LHP Tyler Clancy (2016)
JR LHP Jorge Flores (2016)
rSR OF/SS Taylor Love (2016)
SR OF Bryce Stark (2016)
SR OF JD Perry (2016)
SR 3B Mason Paxton (2016)
JR 2B Chandler Hall (2016)
JR 1B Marshall Boggs (2016)
JR C Jonathan Washam (2016)
JR INF Jordan Washam (2016)
rJR OF Sean Ullrich (2016)
SO C Brent Diaz (2017)
FR OF/RHP J’Mar Smith (2018)

High Priority Follows: Adam Atkins, Taylor Love, Bryce Stark, JD Perry

Marshall

SR RHP Chase Boster (2016)
SR RHP JD Hammer (2016)
SR LHP Caleb Ross (2016)
JR RHP Burris Warner (2016)
JR LHP Parker Danciu (2016)
SR RHP Heston Van Fleet (2016)
SR LHP Sam Hunter (2016)
rSO RHP Fernando Guerrero (2016)
JR OF Corey Bird (2016)
SR 1B Ryne Dean (2016)
JR C Sam Finfer (2016)
SR 2B/3B Aaron Bossi (2016)
rSO OF Cory Garrastazu (2016)
rJR OF Billy Sager (2016)
SR OF DJ Gee (2016)
SO 3B Tyler Ratliff (2017)
FR LHP Josh Shapiro (2018)

High Priority Follows: Chase Boster, JD Hammer, Caleb Ross, Burris Warner, Parker Danciu, Heston Van Fleet, Corey Bird, Ryne Dean, Aaron Bossi

Middle Tennessee State

SR RHP Garrett Ring (2016)
SR RHP Nate Hoffmann (2016)
SR RHP Sam Alton (2016)
SR LHP Tyler Troutt (2016)
rSO RHP Reid Clements (2016)
JR RHP/OF Caleb Smith (2016)
rSO 2B Aaron Aucker (2016)
JR SS Riley Delgado (2016)
JR OF Brad Jarreau (2016)
JR 1B Kevin Dupree (2016)
SO RHP Blake Stansbury (2017)
SO LHP Jake Wyrick (2017)
SO 2B Kevin Sullivan (2017)
FR RHP AJ Spencer (2018)
FR OF Austin Dennis (2018)

High Priority Follows: Garrett Ring, Nate Hoffmann, Reid Clements, Caleb Smith, Aaron Aucker, Riley Delgado, Brad Jarreau

Old Dominion

rJR LHP Jake Josephs (2016)
SR RHP Thomas Busbice (2016)
JR RHP Nick Hartman (2016)
JR LHP Turner Bishop (2016)
JR RHP Sam Sinnen (2016)
JR LHP Joey Benitez (2016)
JR RHP Adam Bainbridge (2016)
JR OF/SS Nick Walker (2016)
SR OF Connor Myers (2016)
SO SS Zach Rutherford (2016)
rSR 3B/SS Nick Lustrino (2016)
rSR SS Jason McMurray (2016)
JR C/1B Kurt Sinnen (2016)
JR C Kyle Beam (2016)
SO RHP Culver Lamb (2017)
SO LHP Nate Matheson (2017)
SO OF Justin Hayes (2017)
FR RHP Brett Smith (2017)
FR 3B Seth Woodard (2018)
FR OF Will Morgan (2018)

High Priority Follows: Nick Hartman, Sam Sinnen, Adam Bainbridge, Nick Walker, Connor Myers, Zach Rutherford, Nick Lustrino, Jason McMurray

Rice

rSO RHP Jon Duplantier (2016)
SR LHP Blake Fox (2016)
SR LHP Austin Solecitto (2016)
SO RHP Josh Pettite (2016)
rSO RHP/C Andrew Dunlap (2016)
SR 1B Connor Tekyl (2016)
JR OF Charlie Warren (2016)
SR 2B/3B Grayson Lewis (2016)
JR OF Dayne Wunderlich (2016)
SR C Hunter Kopycinski (2016)
SO RHP/3B Dane Myers (2017)
SO RHP Glenn Otto (2017)
SO RHP Ricky Salinas (2017)
SO RHP Willy Amador (2017)
SO OF Ryan Chandler (2017)
SO SS/OF Tristan Gray (2017)
FR RHP Zach Esquival (2018)
FR RHP Brent Schwarz (2018)
FR SS Ford Proctor (2018)
FR INF Kendal Jefferies (2018)
FR C Dominic DiCaprio (2018)
FR C Gavin Johnson (2018)
FR RHP Jackson Parthasarathy (2018)

High Priority Follows: Jon Duplantier, Blake Fox, Austin Solecitto, Josh Pettite, Andrew Dunlap, Connor Tekyl, Charlie Warren, Grayson Lewis, Dayne Wunderlich, Hunter Kopycinski

Southern Mississippi

rSR RHP Cord Cockrell (2016)
rSR LHP Luke Lowery (2016)
rSR LHP Cody Livingston (2016)
SR RHP Jake Winston (2016)
SR RHP Nick Johnson (2016)
SR RHP Connor O’Brien (2016)
SR 1B Tim Lynch (2016)
JR C Chuckie Robinson (2016)
SR OF/3B Chase Scott (2016)
SR 2B Nick Dawson (2016)
JR OF/1B Dylan Burdeaux (2016)
SO LHP Kirk McCarty (2017)
SO 3B/RHP Taylor Braley (2017)
SO OF Daniel Keating (2017)
rFR 1B Hunter Slater (2017)
FR RHP Walker Powell (2018)

High Priority Follows: Cord Cockrell, Luke Lowery, Cody Livingston, Jake Winston, Nick Johnson, Connor O’Brien, Tim Lynch, Chuckie Robinson, Chase Scott

UAB

rJR LHP Dylan Munger (2016)
rJR RHP Cory Eller (2016)
JR LHP Thomas Lowery (2016)
rJR LHP Adam Lamar (2016)
rSR C Esteban Tresgallo (2016)
rSR OF Griffin Gum (2016)
SR C Mitch Williams (2016)
SR 2B/3B Evan Peterson (2016)
SR 2B/SS Adam Smith (2016)
SO LHP Ryan Ruggles (2017)
FR RHP Tanner Graham (2018)
FR RHP Garrett Whitlock (2018)
FR RHP Kyle Davis (2018)

High Priority Follows: Dylan Munger, Cory Eller, Thomas Lowery, Esteban Tresgallo, Griffin Gum

Texas-San Antonio

SR RHP Patrick Herbelin (2016)
JR RHP Andre Shewcraft (2016)
SR LHP Nolan Trabanino (2016)
SR RHP Aaron Burns (2016)
SR 3B/OF Geonte Jackson (2016)
SR 3B/SS Tyler Straub (2016)
SR C/OF Kevin Markham (2016)
SR OF Matt Hilston (2016)
JR 3B/SS CJ Pickering (2016)
JR OF JT Gilmore (2016)
SO RHP Chance Kirby (2017)
SO INF/RHP Ben Brookover (2017)
SO OF Trent Bowles (2017)

High Priority Follows: Patrick Herbelin, Geonte Jackson, Tyler Straub, Kevin Markham, Matt Hilston, CJ Pickering, JT Gilmore

Western Kentucky

SR LHP John Harman (2016)
SR LHP Austin King (2016)
rJR RHP Kevin Elder (2016)
SR RHP Josh Bartley (2016)
JR RHP Cody Coll (2016)
JR RHP Sam Higgs (2016)
JR RHP Ben Morrison (2016)
JR LHP Ryan Thurston (2016)
SR 3B Danny Hudzina (2016)
rJR 3B/SS Leiff Clarkson (2016)
rJR 1B Thomas Peter (2016)
rJR OF Zach Janes (2016)
JR C Hunter Wood (2016)
JR OF Paul Murray (2016)
rSO OF Harrison Scanlon (2016)
SO OF Kaleb Duckworth (2017)
SO INF Steven Kraft (2017)
FR SS Steven DiPuglia (2018)

High Priority Follows: Kevin Elder, Josh Bartley, Cody Coll, Ben Morrison, Danny Hudzina, Leiff Clarkson