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2016 MLB Draft Prospects – Tulane
SR RHP Emerson Gibbs (2016)
rJR RHP Daniel Rankin (2016)
rSR RHP Alex Massey (2016)
JR RHP Corey Merrill (2016)
SR RHP Patrick Duester (2016)
rJR RHP Eric Steel (2016)
rSO RHP JP France (2016)
SR RHP/OF Tim Yandel (2016)
rSR RHP Evan Rutter (2016)
rJR LHP Christian Colletti (2016)
rSO RHP Chris Oakley (2016)
rSO LHP Sam Bjorngjeld (2016)
rSR RHP/OF Trevor Simms (2016)
JR C Jake Rogers (2016)
JR SS Stephen Alemais (2016)
rSO OF Grant Brown (2016)
SR OF Richard Carthon (2016)
rJR C/1B Jeremy Montalbano (2016)
JR 1B/OF Lex Kaplan (2016)
JR 3B Hunter Hope (2016)
JR 1B Hunter Williams (2016)
JR OF Jarrett DeHart (2016)
rSO 2B Matt Rowland (2016)
rSR 2B/C Shea Pierce (2016)
JR 2B Jake Wilsey (2016)
SO LHP Jackson Johnson (2017)
FR LHP Ross Massey (2018)
FR OF/LHP Grant Witherspoon (2018)
FR INF Cade Edwards (2018)
Quantity and quality. Tulane has both in spades. I’m starting the SEC team profiles as soon as I finish this so maybe I’m being influenced by my dumb brain making patterns when it shouldn’t, but Tulane has both the depth and high-end talent typically found in an SEC school. Or an ACC school. Or a Pac-12 school. I mention those three conferences specifically because Tulane’s blend of first day pick quality and chance for double-digit draftee quantity inspired me to take a closer look at schools that have managed to have two or more players selected in the first round (including supplemental) AND a total of seven or more total draftees in the same year. I went back to my first year at the site (2009) to see what teams and conferences (without accounting for realignment) have done the trick. Unsurprisingly, the SEC, ACC, and Pac-12 are well represented…
2009: Boston College (2 first rounders, 4 total picks), Southern Cal (2, 6), Indiana (3, 7), Kennesaw State (2, 6), and North Carolina (2, 7)
2010: Cal State Fullerton (2, 9)
2011: Connecticut (2, 10), Vanderbilt (2, 12), and UCLA (2, 9)
2012: Texas A&M (2, 7), Florida (2, 9), and Stanford (2, 8)
2014: Virginia (3, 8) and North Carolina State (2, 7)
2015: Vanderbilt (3, 9)
This year it seems likely that a few more teams join the mix. Florida seems like a lock with Louisville right there with them and Virginia and Oklahoma just a step behind. Then you have maybes in Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, Miami, and Kentucky, plus teams with an outside chance like Oregon, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Clemson, Stanford, Louisiana State, Texas A&M, and Wake Forest (as well as any other team I’m forgetting). There’s also Tulane. Now we’re finally full circle. I’m not predicting that JR C Jake Rogers and JR SS Stephen Alemais are first day draft prospects, but the possibility certainly exists. Both Rogers and Alemais have similar general profiles as players: premium defensive talent at incredibly important spots on the diamond. Rogers is good enough defensively that his glove alone should keep getting him promoted even if he never hits. Alemais isn’t quite on that level, but he’s a legitimate shortstop with the athleticism, arm strength, and range to stick for a long time. The fact that he’s the better current hitter of the two makes up for the difference in my mind.
One of the easier comps in this year’s class is Rogers to Austin Hedges. It’s just too obvious to ignore. If you’re still on the Hedges bandwagon — I stayed off from the start — then you’re really going to like Rogers. If you value defense but also appreciate a guy who be a positive value player offensively — it doesn’t have to be an either/or! — then you might want to hold back for now. All bets are off if Rogers comes out swinging it this spring. If that’s the case (he’s got decent raw power and has held his own in terms of BB/K ratio, so don’t rule it out) then ignore everything you just read and mentally insert him into the first day of the draft. Pretty significant “if,” however. Alemais doesn’t have that “if” for me. I think he’s an honest big league hitter with continued development. There’s enough speed, pop, and approach to his offensive game that I’m comfortable calling him the best college shortstop profiled so far. That only includes most of the ACC and AAC, but it’s better than nothing. He’s a lock to finish as one of the country’s dozen best shortstops and has a strong case for remaining at the top spot come June.
Rogers and Alemais cover the quality at the top. Now let’s get to that depth. Assuming the two defensive stars have big junior season, these are the players that could push Tulane to join those schools listed about in my newly created (2, 7) club.
There are a ton of strikeouts found on the résumés of many of the returning Green Wave hitters, but also a lot of enticing tools that could have a few of these prospects in line for drastic improvements in 2016. SR OF Richard Carthon (40 K), JR 1B/OF Lex Kaplan (59 K), JR 3B Hunter Hope (73 K), and rSO OF Grant Brown (12 K in 35 AB) all have their issues, but not without also flashing pro ability at times. As the only senior listed, Carthon is obviously the only one in the do-or-die draft situation. Being a senior can work for and against you; in Carthon’s case, I think it might ultimately benefit him. His status as a potential money-saver combined with a few clear big league tools (speed, CF range) could get him a shot in the pros. Hope is steady enough defensively at third that I could see a team being intrigued by him as well. Kaplan, arguably the best hitter of the bunch, has a tougher hill to climb without that positional edge. Brown still has three years of eligibility if he wants it, so we’ll call the fascinating power/speed athlete a wild card at this point in the process. He’d be the easiest bet to identify as a breakout candidate in 2016 if you’re into that sort of thing.
Transfers from Louisville (rSO 2B Matt Rowland), Louisiana State (JR OF Jarrett DeHart), and Texas (rJR C/1B Jeremy Montalbano) add to the existing hitting surplus. All look promising in their own way. Rowland is known for a patient approach at the plate, DeHart is a great athlete who can really run, and Montalbano has as much raw power as nearly any 2016 draft peer. The only thing stopping me from hyping up Montalbano more than I will is the nagging belief that his C/1B position designation should be flipped. If he proves he can play even a slightly below-average catcher this spring, he’ll shoot up boards assuming the bat cooperates. If not, then he still has a chance as a pro prospect at first if he hits as many believe he can.
Transfers from West Virginia (rSR RHP/OF Trevor Simms), Connecticut (rJR LHP Christian Colletti), and Rice (rSR RHP Evan Rutter) add to the existing pitching surplus. The best of the incoming transfers should be rSO RHP Chris Oakley (North Carolina), big man with a bad fastball (90-94 with sink). I saw him back in his high school days when he was also flashing a pair of average or better secondaries (hard CB and split-CU), but I haven’t gotten any updates on him in a long while. As such, I’m looking forward to seeing him back on a mound this spring.
Those transfers will join experienced holdovers like rSR RHP Alex Massey (88.1 IP), SR RHP Emerson Gibbs (79.0 IP), JR RHP Corey Merrill (102.0 IP), SR RHP Patrick Duester (70.0 IP), and SR RHP Tim Yandel (56.1 IP). That’s a crazy amount of innings returning. I have all of those pitchers in my notes (save Duester since I don’t have gun readings on him) sitting 88-92 with their fastballs with Massey hitting higher (94-95). In fact, all of the pitchers that I have notes on at Tulane seem to have velocities that fall in that 88-92 range. That’s also where rJR RHP Daniel Rankin and rSO JP France are at, though both can get it up to the mid-90s like Massey. The similarities in sitting fastball velocity is kind of nice to see because it allows us to look beyond the obvious — admittedly to the slightly less obvious, but still — to differentiate the prospects.
Massey has that extra gear with his heater and an above-average slider that gives him a reasonable relief prospect floor if he can’t keep starting. Gibbs and his outstanding control, command, and sink on his fastball help him stand out among the rest. Merrill has a little more size (6-4, 230) and a good sinker. Yandel and France are old favorites who might be moving in different directions. The former, once a highly touted enough guy that Perfect Game compared him to Hunter Renfroe, hasn’t live up to his promise from both a performance perspective and from an evaluation of his stuff (lost velocity + the move away from a slider that flashed plus = not great). France, once compared to Lance McCullers by me, had a nice freshman season (9.26 K/9 and 1.80 BB/9 in 35 IP) and should enter the 2016 season ready to go. Between that old comp (rich in hindsight, but as draft prospects I stand by it) and France’s super talented right arm (90-94 FB and chance for two plus breaking balls), I’m all-in on France this year. That would leave me with a ranking of France, Massey, Gibbs, Merrill, (Oakley), Rankin, Duester, and Yandel. The fact that all have or are close to draftable grades is pretty impressive. I’d be surprised if Tulane doesn’t have at least five pitchers drafted this year.
2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Tulane
JR RHP Ian Gibaut (2015)
rJR RHP Alex Massey (2015)
rSO RHP Daniel Rankin (2015)
JR RHP Emerson Gibbs (2015)
JR RHP/OF Tim Yandel (2015)
SR 2B Garret Deschamp (2015)
SR 1B/3B Tyler Wilson (2015)
JR OF Richard Carthon (2015)
SO SS Stephen Alemais (2016)
SO C Jake Rogers (2016)
SO RHP JP France (2016)
SO RHP Tyler Zamjahn (2016)
SO RHP Zach Flowers (2016)
SO 3B Hunter Hope (2016)
SO 1B/OF Lex Kaplan (2016)
SO OF Grant Brown (2016)
SO RHP Corey Merrill (2016)
SO RHP Patrick Duester (2016)
FR LHP Jackson Johnson (2017)
The practical logistics of moving a pitcher from the college bullpen (or an expected pro bullpen role) to a professional rotation is a hot topic every year at draft time. Everybody has a different opinion about what makes a starter a starter and a reliever a reliever. Some focus on one specific aspect of a pitcher’s game and use that as the determining factor when deciding on a future role. Too often this is a simple question of size — Is he 6’0″ or less? Stick him in the pen then! — which is obviously an unfortunate bout of reducing a complex (by baseball standards) decision into a binary yes/no that lacks the necessary nuance and ratiocination required. Thankfully there are others, more sensibly in my view, who take a holistic approach as they debate the merits of a pitcher’s depth of repertoire, ease of mechanical repeatability, physical stature (size is a factor, but not the factor) and conditioning, and ability to maintain high-quality stuff deep into outings as the pitch count climbs and fatigue sets in. Creating a dichotomy using short and tall as determining factors is bad process that occasionally will lead to positive results
Forgive me if I copy/paste that paragraph whenever Dillon Tate, Carson Fulmer, and Tyler Jay are brought up this spring. For now, the logic presented above applies to JR RHP Ian Gibaut, who has excelled as a college reliever since first stepping foot on campus at Tulane in 2013. There’s no reason to believe that Gibaut’s success as an amateur reliever would slow down in any way as he transitions to pro ball this summer. Still, I’d be tempted to stretch him out and see how his stuff holds up as a starter. My desire to see him work in a starter’s role isn’t so great that I’d kill a team for thinking he’ll be best in the bullpen as a professional; if anything, it’s more of a selfish curiosity to see what a college reliever with the build, arm action (in my amateur view), and diverse enough set of pitches (above-average 75-78 CB, upper-70s CU that flashes plus [others like it less and I’ll at least acknowledge it’s an inconsistent pitch at present], and hard mid-80s SL) could do in a more taxing role. I’ve heard but not seen firsthand that Gibaut’s velocity is the type that plays up in short bursts, so keeping him in the bullpen would seem to be a perfectly reasonable course of action. If that winds up being how it plays out, then don’t be surprised when Gibaut winds up as one of this year’s draft fastest moving college relief prospects.
I’ve always preferred JR RHP/OF Tim Yandel as a hitter to a pitcher, but the evidence is now stacked up too high against my original position to ignore. The light has never really gone on for Yandel as a hitter, but he’s emerged as a solid college arm with a chance to find work as a middle reliever type in the pros thanks to his plus 78-83 slider. rJR RHP Alex Massey has shown he can miss bats in his swingman role over his two plus years at Tulane. Given time in the bullpen exclusively should help his already solid fastball (88-92, 94-95 peak) play up a tick, all the better to complement his existing above-average slider. If you’re scoring at home, that’s three potential relievers that could come out of this year’s Tulane staff.
There’s less to love offensively, but it isn’t as though Tulane has no hitters worth keeping an eye on. SR 2B Garret Deschamp has flashed some power to the gaps and can field his position. I’ve heard nothing but positive things about SR 1B/3B Tyler Wilson’s bat, so hopefully we’ll get a chance to see what he can do with more than the 26 AB he received last season. JR OF Richard Carthon can run, but it remains to be seen if he’ll hit.
Tulane’s sophomore class is where it’s at. SO SS Stephen Alemais is a legit defensive shortstop with a big arm and serious wheels. He didn’t light the world on fire as a freshman, but he held his own. Same could be said for SO RHP JP France (but with standout peripherals), an undersized athletic fireballing righthander in the mold of Lance McCullers. C Jake Rogers, 3B Hunter Hope, OF Grant Brown, and RHP Corey Merrill are all also sophomores talented enough to finish as high picks.