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Tag Archives: Travis Lakins
13 – Andrew Benintendi
93 – Logan Allen
95 – Austin Rei
122 – Marcus Brakeman
135 – Tate Matheny
241 – Tucker Tubbs
259 – Mitchell Gunsolus
265 – Kyri Washington
268 – Kevin Kelleher
353 – Travis Lakins
368 – Yomar Valentin
399 – Nicholos Hamilton
I’m not sure what to say about OF Andrew Benintendi (13) that hasn’t already been said. His sophomore season was insane. His pro debut was phenomenal. Literally everybody who has seen him play at Arkansas, Lowell, and Greenville in the last calendar year has walked away raving about him. I like the lefthanded AJ Pollock comp I threw on him before the draft as it pertains to his all-around game. Additionally, the fact that as a native Philadelphian I threw out a Chase Utley swing/body comp is serious business. I had somebody recently tell me that they think Benintendi is the best college bat since Anthony Rendon, a player (minus handedness) that he felt Benintendi could approximate in terms of total value as a hitter. So, if you’re scoring at home, that’s Pollock, Utley, and Rendon as possible comps with names like Mark Kotsay, Eric Byrnes, and David Dellucci (Baseball America) also mentioned as starting points. Not bad. Here’s a quick note from during the season just days before Benintendi’s stock began to soar in the public’s eye…
I never went back and mentioned Andrew Benintendi as being draft-eligible in 2015, but he is. That’s good news for me because Benintendi is awesome and getting him one step closer to pro ball makes me happy. He’s more ballplayer than tools freak, so teams that value big amateur production will have him higher than others. That said, he’s plenty talented: above-average or better hit tool, above-average or better speed, solid pop, enough range for center, and a disciplined approach at the plate. He’s really damn good. Baseball America has compared him to Austin Cousino in the past, but Benintendi’s huge sophomore season (.370/.475/.733 with 30 BB/24 K in 146 AB as of this edit) should vault him past Cousino’s 2014 draft spot (80th overall). I’ve heard from some that think I’m too rich on Benintendi’s tools and that’s fine, but I’m buying him as a prospect all the way.
Interestingly enough, I was able to dig up some older stuff on Benintendi in the archives. This was his quick HS scouting bio…
OF Andrew Benintendi (Madeira HS, Ohio): good speed; CF range; average arm; really smart player; above-average hit tool; FAVORITE; 5-10, 180 pounds
Hey, he was a FAVORITE back then! Always good to see.
I’m not a big fantasy guy — mostly out of the seemingly contradictory combination of general laziness and the fear of letting my over-competitive self getting sucked in too deep — but the one league I’ve been in forever allows the twelve owners to roster three minor league players at any given time. Having only thirty-six minor league prospects floating around the league at a time doesn’t exactly incite the most compelling post-draft scramble for new professional talent each June, but it always surprises me to see how long recent draftees sit around waiting for more casual minor league fans to buy in. Since I’m all about “drafting” my own hitters and figuring out pitching on the fly, I’d put Benintendi at or near the top of the 2015 MLB Draft in terms of fantasy value. Boston’s crowded outfield picture complicates things a bit and strong arguments could be made for others (Alex Bregman for sure, maybe Trenton Clark if you want to get crazy), but Benintendi could be on the Michael Conforto path to the big leagues. He’s really good at hitting baseballs. Pick him up in fantasy if you can.
The pre-draft stuff on C Austin Rei (95)…
I still think Rei gets picked way higher than anybody thinks because he’s coming into pro ball at the perfect time with plus pitch framing skills that match what teams want to see most in catching prospects. I’m a really big fan of Rei and think he’s one of the draft’s “safest” prospects with both a high ceiling (above-average regular) and high floor (elite defensive backup). Barring additional injuries, I don’t see how he doesn’t have some sort of big league career.
His defense is enough to keep him employed for a very long time and the flashes of above-average power could give him a chance to play regularly. I was hoping to see his approach take a step forward in 2015, but the torn thumb ligament made judging his actual progress at the plate this spring tricky. His free-swinging ways would still keep me from ranking among the minors best catching prospects, but there’s enough here to see him as a major league mainstay even if he doesn’t reach what some (like me) once considered his above-average regular ceiling.
Of all the players in this class, I might have been most surprised at the early pro struggles of OF Tate Matheny (135). Matheny, valued far more for his his patient approach as a hitter and well-rounded overall game than his raw tools, wasn’t able to do much offensively (9 BB/52 K) in his debut season. It’s only 213 PA, but the lack of raw power (body and swing) could prevent him from reaching an offensive ceiling heavily dependent on on-base skills. I was more willing to overlook the average at best power upside as a college player when he was racking up those .400+ OBPs, but time will tell if he’ll figure out away to adjust to how pro pitchers attack hitters like him at the higher levels.
The rise of many of this class’s toolsier players finally putting it together, especially among the outfield group, has taken some of the shine off of the more solid than spectacular types like Missouri State JR OF Tate Matheny. Matheny still looks like a good bet to fulfill his destiny as a fourth outfielder who won’t kill you in a starting role at times (especially if deployed properly), but teams in the market for upside plays will likely look elsewhere. Such is the life of a guy with no tool worse than average, but no carrying tool either.
OF Jagger Rusconi was called out as an outfielder on draft day, but was primarily a second baseman in high school and in his pro debut. His best offensive skill right now is his legs as the plus runner can wreak havoc on the base paths when given the opportunity. The rest of his offensive game is intriguing — feel for hit, sneaky pop, all kinds of athleticism — though understandably raw. I was set to call this an overdraft (if such things existed) to a degree, but I could see an alternate reality where Rusconi would have turned into a slam dunk top three round pick — maybe like an Andrew Stevenson? — if he had enrolled at USC instead of signing. A friend in Boston who knows me all too well told me that the hope within the Red Sox scouting staff is that Rusconi can be their version of Roman Quinn. Consider my interest piqued.
This was written here about 1B Tucker Tubbs (241) last December…
If SR 1B/3B Tucker Tubbs can rediscover his lost power stroke, he’s got a chance to get popped as a potential four-corners minor league bench bat.
Fast-forward six months and we see that Tubbs did exactly that. The Memphis slugger and the aforementioned Benintendi were two of the eight players that hit the 600 SLG and BB > K benchmarks at the D1 level back when I checked at the end of May. Tubbs wound up just short by the end of the season (.305/.393/.601 with 26 BB/27 K), but that’s still a heck of a senior season. Or, in other words: “He has power and doesn’t strike out much,” said Rikard. “That’s a pretty good formula for some level of success.” Straight from the Red Sox amateur scouting director’s mouth! Lefthanded hitting 3B Mitch Gunsolus (259) could form the other half of a fun platoon with Tubbs one day. While Tubbs missed out on the 600 SLG and BB> K Club by just one walk (or strikeout if you look at it that way), Gunsolus was just a few extra base hits off the mark (.556 SLG with 33 BB/32 K). I love watching Gunsolus hit and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the tenth rounder did enough at the plate to advance all the way up to the big leagues.
Even though the Red Sox went heavy on hitting with their top ten round picks, they found a way to really make it count with the three pitchers they selected in rounds six, seven, and eight. Getting LHP Logan Allen (93) in the eighth round is just silly value. Fast-rising high school arms who see a big uptick in stuff in a short amount of time typically scare me off, but Allen’s plus pitchability, really strong command (I’d go plus), and willingness to throw any of his four potentially average or better pitches (88-92 FB, 94 peak; mid-70s CB that flashes average or better; upper-70s cut-change thing that works; hard slider that might wind up the best of them all) in any count make him a fascinating potential big league starter who really had no business falling out of the top three rounds. RHP Travis Lakins (353) is an athletic young arm with less miles on it as a draft-eligible sophomore than many of his peers. I view him as a really good potential reliever, but I can see why one would look at his athleticism, frame with some projection left, and fastball command and think otherwise. RHP Ben Taylor lives 88-92 and can get it up to 93-94 with nice deception in his windup. Everything — the heater, his breaking ball, even a rarely used changeup — plays up in short bursts. His gigantic senior season (14.23 K/9 and 1.47 ERA in 42 IP) positioned him very nicely for a spot in the top ten rounds and the Red Sox wisely were the ones to give him a shot. Look out for him pitching the sixth innings at Fenway sooner rather than later.
I don’t know quite what it is about RHP Marc Brakeman (122), but something intuitively gives me pause when it comes to his long-term future. He’s got the stuff (88-93 FB, 95 peak; plus to plus-plus sinking low-80s CU; average or better mid- to upper-70s CB) and pedigree to start, but I always walk away from seeing him thinking the sum of the whole doesn’t quite add up. It’s especially hypocritical for me to not like him all that much because his best pitch — seriously, his changeup is as good as any in this class — just so happens to be my offspeed offering of choice. I touched briefly on the intuition thing before the season…
Stanford JR RHP Marc Brakeman is more of a two-pitch prospect (like Twomey) that I’ve referenced above. Armed with a nice albeit inconsistent heater (88-94, 95 peak – though I’ve seen him sit more on the low end of that range at times) and an outstanding low-80s changeup, Brakeman could move up boards quickly once he gets healthy again. I’ve been the low man on him in the past, but that’s more due to an intuition thing than anything I can reasonably express.
A part of me sees his stuff playing up in a big way out of the bullpen; that’s his most likely direct path to the big leagues. In that role, I don’t think it’s crazy to suggest he’s got legitimate late-inning upside on the continuum of Francisco Rodriguez, Tyler Clippard, or Kelvin Herrera, depending on how the fastball works in short bursts. If that’s the outcome, that’s a gigantic victory considering Brakeman’s 16th round standing (overslot bonus or not).
RHP Kevin Kelleher (268) had a slightly auspicious pro debut: 0.1 IP 0 H 4 ER 7 BB 0 K. Ouch. Now you, Mr./Mrs. Negative, could choose to focus on those four earned runs and seven walks, but I, uplifting soul that I am, think Kelleher should be lauded for getting an out. I mean, that’s one more than 99.9999% of the human population ever got, right? It’s also impressive that he’s literally never given up a pro hit yet. We’re all about the silver linings here.
I kid about Kelleher because I really do like him as a prospect. Wrote this about him before the year…
With a dominant FB/SL combination New Orleans JR RHP Kevin Kelleher has big league closer upside. That’s a bolder prediction that I intended to make, but the stuff seems in line with what we’ve come to expect out of late-inning relievers. Players who can get it up to 98 with a hard mid- to upper-80s slider to match aren’t easy to find.
Upside might be a bit rich there, but I don’t think it’s totally crazy. Even without working out the kinks needed to reach his considerable ceiling, I think he’s a big leaguer and surprisingly quick mover. Great pick in the twelfth round.
I almost always kick of my college draft coverage by writing about the ACC because I’m a creature of habit and the ACC is the first conference listed in my running draft Word document. As such, I tend to have more in the archives about ACC players. LHP Brad Stone (NC State) and RHP Trevor Kelley (North Carolina) both were “lucky” enough to get fairly extensive ramblings from me last spring. Here’s Stone…
JR LHP Brad Stone seems poised to take over the mantle as top pitching prospect, but, no knock against him, his stuff (upper-80s heat, usable change, pair of interesting breaking balls) is many steps down from Rodon on his worst day. He’s still the best of what’s around, and an arm worthy of serious draft consideration going forward.
And here’s Kelley…
On the opposite side of the spectrum there’s a guy who is so much what is great about the sport. SR RHP Trevor “Everyday” Kelley has more than lived up to his name this year. Kelley has appeared in 28 out of 39 games (72%) this year. That would come out to around 115 appearances in a 162 game season. To further put that into context, Kelley has more innings pitched right now than all but two Tar Heels pitchers. Guys with six (Hunter Williams) and seven (Moss) starts have significantly less innings than Kelley. One of the secrets of adulthood that I feel qualified to share with younger readers now that I’m a wizened old man less than seven months away from turning thirty is that just showing up is a huge part of getting by in this world. Trevor Kelley clearly has that covered. Some people prefer to do more than just get by, so it should be noted that it turns out you can get ahead by actually making a positive difference (or, you know, at least an effort) after you’ve shown up. I’d say pitching almost two innings per appearance (note: it’s closer to 1.2 innings per outing, but we can round up) with an ERA of 2.36 while striking out close to 7.5 batters per nine is a pretty strong impression to leave after each showing. Kelley’s stuff is more solid than spectacular (86-91 FB with sink, CB flashes plus) and he’s never truly dominated in a relief role, but I’d like to think there’s some draft value to be squeezed out of a reliable rubber-armed reliever who attacks hitters at a funky angle.
Kelley had an excellent senior season (8.19 K/9 and 2.31 BB/9 in 77 [!] relief innings) before doing more of the same upon joining the Red Sox organization. I’m frankly stunned that a player like him could fall to the 36th round. The Rob Wooten comp is easy and maybe even a bit lazy, but it fits. If anything, I think he could wind up having a better pro career thanks to a separating pitch (CB), rubber arm, and funky arm action. It’s a nice middle relief profile. Stone did not have an excellent senior season (7.80 K/9 and 10.80 BB/9 in 15 IP). That’s no reason to write him off as a viable prospect, of course. He changes speeds well and has always missed his fair share of bats. If the control gets in check and he continues to fill out, there could be something there.
On the opposite end of the physical spectrum, LHP Matt Kent, LHP Bobby Poyner, and LHP Logan Boyd are all undersized lefthanders with enough stuff to keep things interesting as they progress through the minors. Kent is a nice organizational arm, Poyner is a little bit better than that, and Boyd falls somewhere in between. I know little about RHP Danny Zandona except for the fact he put up eye-popping numbers (14.18 K/9 in 39 IP) in his senior year at Cal Poly. I’m similarly bereft of information on RHP Adam Lau, a two-way player at UAB who walked the effectively wild tightrope (11.81 K/9 and 5.06 BB/9 added up to a 1.69 ERA in 31 IP) in his junior season. RHP Nick Duron is the third player ever drafted out of Clark College and the first since Randy Myers (!) in 1982. RHP Max Watt, Trent Steele’s oldest and dearest friend, is another pitcher I don’t know much about. Wouldn’t bet against a name like that, though.
Much was written about OF Kyri Washington (265) on this site this past calendar year. Here’s one such excerpt…
JR OF Kyri Washington has as much a claim to the top position player spot in his conference as just about any prospect in the country. Evaluating amateur talent is sometimes only as hard as we make it. Your eyes eventually settle into seeing predictable patterns in the players you see and you find yourself getting unusually adept at recognizing the kind of ability that will become universally lauded as pro-caliber. “Always bet on ______” is more than just a snappy one-off line, but a mantra that serves those who watch a disproportionate amount of baseball well as they assess a prospect’s future. In Washington’s case, his athleticism and raw power qualify as abilities that stack up against almost any current big league player. If those are the traits that you value highly – and, really, who doesn’t? – then Washington is just about as good as it gets in college ball this year.
Conversely, anybody who watches a ton of amateur ball can quickly realize the holes in a mega-talented player’s game. If you’re an “always bet on the hit tool, including the consistent ability to make contact, the capacity to make adjustments within an at bat (or at least a game), and a seemingly innate overall feel for the strike zone and resourcefulness to spit on sometimes-strikes that he can’t do anything with,” well, then you might have some trepidation in championing a player who otherwise has first round tools. I’m on the fence as to whether or not how much of what we consider to fall under the plate discipline/approach to hitting umbrella can be taught, but I do believe that Washington is at the age in his baseball development when figuring it out – maybe not completely, but certainly to a degree – is well within the realm of possibility. That possibility on top of the prodigious raw power and plus athleticism is what makes the prospect of gambling on Washington so appealing. I get it. A comparison that I’ve heard and liked – though it admittedly stretches the limits of my personal firsthand baseball watching days – has stacked up Washington favorably to a young Richard Hidalgo.
I’m not sure I have much to add beyond that. Washington has huge raw power and loads of athleticism, but so many questions about his bat that it’s unclear if it’ll ever matter. “You remember Kentrail Davis? Kinda like that,” was how one scout put it to me when asking about Washington.
They don’t get much rawer than OF Nicholos Hamilton (399), a plus-plus running high schooler out of New York who is incredibly far away from what he’ll eventually be. I had somebody tell me rather prophetically that they’d rather take a chance on going overslot with Hamilton (Note: the Red Sox got him for $100,000, so they didn’t have to dip into their pool money) in the eleventh round than on risking a first round pick on Garrett Whitley.
OF Tyler Spoon, drafted just 1034 spots after his Arkansas teammate Andrew Benintendi, has long been mentioned as a potential professional second base project, but the Red Sox took the idea one step further by having him get some work in behind the plate a little in his debut season. If that experiment works, then Spoon might be a name worth keeping in mind. We’re talking the deepest darkest recesses of your mind, but at least he’d be in there. OF Jerry Downs hit really well in his pro debut. I don’t know much about him, but I’ll be rooting hard for him to become only the eighteenth big league player born in Colombia.
2B Yomar Valentin (368) is a steady glove up the middle with sneaky pop and a high baseball IQ. He was also a really young HS senior (18 this December), something that can also be said for Nick Hamilton. Could be a coincidence or could be that Boston wisely gives extra credit for guys who excel at a young age. 2B Chad De La Guerra has more pop than most middle infielders and picks his spots really well on the base paths. The approach leaves something to be desired, but if he can fake it at short then he might have a shot at working himself into a bat-first utility guy.
C Andrew Noviello is a fascinating player to close on. The local product from Bridgewater-Raynham HS (located just under an hour from Fenway) was a primary second baseman until his senior year of high school. That’s when he began giving catching an honest try in an attempt to make himself more appealing to pro and college teams alike. Good thinking. I also have him in my notes as capable of playing third base and being more than able to hold his own on the mound as a righthanded pitcher. The best part about this is the pick is far more than a team hooking up a local kid and getting some positive PR; Noviello can really hit. If he can show some growth behind the plate in the early going, he’s a real prospect.
Illinois JR C Jason Goldstein
Michigan State SR 1B Ryan Krill
Maryland rSO 2B Brandon Lowe
Illinois rSO SS Adam Walton
Michigan JR 3B Travis Maezes
Michigan State JR OF Cameron Gibson
Iowa JR OF Joel Booker
Michigan SR OF Jackson Glines
Illinois JR LHP Tyler Jay
Indiana rSO RHP Jake Kelzer
Indiana JR LHP Scott Effross
Iowa JR RHP/C Blake Hickman
Maryland JR LHP Jake Drossner
I’ve noticed that I sometimes struggle when writing about players, hitters especially, that I really like. It’s almost like I don’t know what to say other than I just really, really like him. I just really, really like Maryland rSO 2B Brandon Lowe. His tools don’t jump out at you, but they aren’t half-bad, either: lots of tools in the 45 to 55 range including his glove at second, arm strength, and foot speed. It’s the bat, of course, that makes him an all-caps FAVORITE. Lowe’s hit tool is no joke
Watching Lowe hit is a joy. There’s plenty of bat speed, consistent hard contact from barrel to ball, and undeniable plus pitch recognition. His ability to make adjustments from at bat to at bat and his impressive bat control make him a potentially well above-average big league hitter. And he just flat produces at every stop. He reminds me a good deal of an old favorite, Tommy La Stella. One scout who knew I liked Lowe to an almost unhealthy degree threw a Nick Punto (bat only) comp on him. Most fans would probably take that as an insult, but we both knew it was a compliment. Punto, love him or hate him, lasted 14 years in the big leagues and made over $20 million along the way. Punto’s best full seasons (2006 and 2008) serve as interesting goal posts for what Lowe could do if/when he reaches the top of the mountain. In those years Punto hit around .285/.350/.375. In today’s game that’s a top ten big league hitter at second base. Maybe I’m not crazy enough to project a top ten at his position future for Lowe, but he’ll make an outstanding consolation prize for any team who misses/passes on Alex Bregman, the consensus top college second base prospect, this draft. I’m also not quite crazy enough to think Lowe’s draft ceiling will match that of another similar prospect (Tony Renda of Cal, who went 80th overall in 2012), but the skill sets share a lot of commonalities. Lowe is a little bit like Houston C Ian Rice for me; both players are higher (and will continue to be higher) on my rankings than I’d imagine they’ll get selected in June. Getting one or both with a pick in the middle of the single-digit rounds would be a major victory.
Slow starts have plagued the rest of the top second base prospects in the conference. Minnesota JR 2B/SS Connor Schaefbauer is the consummate heady, athletic steady fielder that you like to see manning the keystone. Like Ohio State JR 2B/3B Troy Kuhn, his cleanest path to the big leagues would be as a utility player capable of manning all the important infield spots. Indiana SR 2B/OF Casey Rodrigue was a sleeper of mine heading into last year after transferring in from LSU-Eunice, but he hasn’t made quite the impact I thought his tools would allow. But back to Lowe: I stayed up about fifteen minutes past my bedtime on a school night (!) to think about and then write about Lowe. That’s how much I like him. You might say things are getting serious between us.
Illinois JR C Jason Goldstein has scuffled to start the year, but that doesn’t dissuade me (much) of pumping him up as a quality big league contributor as he continues to develop. He’ll never be a plus offensively (though there is some bat speed to like here), but should be good enough to allow his strong defensive gifts to play. Michigan State SR C/1B Blaise Salter reminds me a little bit of Alex Bregman. I’ll pause for a second and let that ridiculous statement sink in. I’ve mentioned this before, but so many college-oriented analysts are quite vocal in their belief that Bregman will be able to stick at shortstop in the pros; pro guys, on the other hand, can’t wait to get him off the six-spot. As for Salter, most college guys you read and listen to will push the “hey, he’s improved a lot behind the plate and, sure, he’s not the most agile guy back there, but he’s a leader and pitchers like him, so maybe it’ll work” agenda. That’s cool and all, but then pro guys, literally to a man, respond with NOPE. I have him listed as a catcher for now because I think his drafting team will at least give it a shot. That’s because he might – and I can’t emphasis might enough – be playable back there, but also because it’s a bit of a stretch to imagine his bat playing anywhere else. It’s catcher or bust for Salter if he wants to climb the pro ladder. I actually like the hit tool more than most and think he’s a better athlete than given credit for, but it’ll come down to whether or not he’ll make enough contact to allow his plus power to go to use.
There are no first basemen of note in the Big 10 this year. I hate saying that and you know I’m rooting for somebody to emerge, but it doesn’t look great right now. I’ve been a fan of Michigan State SR 1B Ryan Krill in the past, but supporting that cause is getting harder and harder to justify as the years pass. Krill was a member of the 2011 MLB Draft class of high school first basemen that has flopped in a big way so far. It’s up to Travis Harrison (who I absolutely loved) to rediscover his power and Dan Vogelbach* (who I liked a lot then and still like today) to stay in reasonably good shape to carry this sad group of first basemen out of the doldrums. Krill can still bring the thunder, but contact is a problem and he too often gets himself in bad hitting counts. Here was his HS report from this very site back in the day…
Krill is another prospect I was slow to come around on, but I’m buying into his mix of strong defensive tools, super athleticism, and big upside with the bat. Like Jacob Anderson before him, he’s got the wheels and instincts to play some outfield as a pro. There is enough to like about Krill that you can dream on him being a league average hitter and above-average glove at first down the line if everything works out. That may not sound all that sexy, and there is plenty of risk involved with assuming “everything works out,” but you have to remember how much you have to hit if you want to play first base in the bigs. As much as I like Krill now, I’ll be the first to admit that each and every one of these mid-round high school first basemen will all have to make major strides in pro ball (i.e. have “everything work out”) to begin to reach their upper level projections. Life is tough when you don’t have a fallback plan, I guess.
Ohio State JR 1B/OF Zach Ratcliff is another former big-time HS prospect that hasn’t delivered in college. These are typically the guys I cling to long after they’ve shown they are overmatched. I’m trying to hang in there, honest.
The shortstop group in the conference is similar to the second baseman if you allow for the omission of a Brandon Lowe type prospect at the top. Illinois rSO SS Adam Walton comes closest to taking on that role as a fellow third-year sophomore with clear professional tools (speed, glove). I’ve neither seen nor heard much about Walton as a pro prospect just yet, but players who look like safe bets to stay up the middle with his kind of wheels and pop tend to get noticed over time.
I’ve written about Michigan JR 3B/SS Travis Maezes already, so I’ll just give the short version here: his skill set reminds me of the 25th pick of last year’s draft, Matt Chapman. The biggest noticeable difference in their games comes down to arm strength. Maezes has an outstanding arm, but it’s not in the same class as Chapman’s; that’s how crazy Chapman’s arm is. Besides that, the similarities are striking. I think Maezes has a chance to put an average hit tool with average power (maybe a half-grade above in each area) to good use as a professional ballplayer. Even if he doesn’t hit as much as I’ll think, his defensive value (good at third and playable at short, with intriguing unseen upside at 2B and C) should make him a positive player. It’s not the typical profile we think of as “high-floor,” but it works. I’ve talked to a few people who think I’m overstating Maezes’ upside as a pro. That’s fine and it’s relevant and I’m happy to hear from dissenting viewpoints. What I often hear next is what interests me the most. The majority of those who say I’m too high on Maezes have gone on to praise either Maryland JR 3B Jose Cuas or Ohio State 3B/1B Jake Bosiokovic as the better prospect. It’s not this simplistic, but I feel like if we had to boil those conversations down it would be an upside vs certainty debate. I think Maezes’ upside rivals those guys and he’s far more certain to produce positive value going forward; they think Maezes’ upside is limited when compared to Cuas and Bosiokovic, and that he’s far less likely (relative to what I’ve said) to reach that lesser ceiling anyway. Maybe. I get the appeal of Cuas (big raw power and a world of defensive tools) and Bosiokovic (athletic 6-6, 220 pound men who can reasonably stick at third are a rare breed), but, despite what I’ve heard, my loyalty to Maezes is unwavering. (For the record, I realize I’m not going out on a limb here and I’m not patting myself on the back for liking a player who is the consensus top third basemen in the conference. I’m just trying to share some opposing views I’ve personally heard. Also, I do think I like him more than most, but arguing degrees of “like” is a pretty silly exercise.)
In this class I look at Michigan State JR OF Cameron Gibson and see a slam dunk top five round draft prospect with the chance to play his way even higher (round two?). Judged solely as a hitter, however, smart people I’ve talked to liken him more to recent college players like Greg Allen, Tyler Holt, Mark Payton, and Taylor Dugas. Those guys, all favorites of mine once upon a time, were drafted in the sixth, fifth, seventh, and eighth rounds, respectively. I’m not sure what that necessarily says about Gibson’s draft stock (if anything!), so I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. The “as a hitter” qualifier above is not to be missed. Gibson’s range in center isn’t nearly on the level of any of those players, with one scout simply telling me he was “fine in center, better in a corner.” That corners figures to be left field as his arm is his one clearly below-average tool. Everything else could play average or better making the strong, athletic Gibson a potential regular if he can stick in center. If not, then he could make it work as a regular left fielder in today’s new world order of reduced offense. A plus glove with upside at the plate in left is a property worth investing in these days. An unexpected but amusing comparison I’ve heard for Gibson’s ceiling is Brady Anderson (sans 50 HR season). I like it, though I’m not sure if projecting Anderson’s plate discipline (remember it being good, but shocked how good) on any young hitter is fair.
Iowa JR OF Joel Booker remains a bit of a mystery man to me, but crazy speed, premium athleticism, and considerable arm strength paint the picture of a strong overall prospect. Booker destroyed junior college ball the past two seasons (.403/.451/.699 last year) and has adjusted fairly well to big time college ball so far this year. The big question even as he was annihilating juco pitching was how his high-contact, minimal bases on ball approach would play as the competition tightened. It’s still a concern, but it might just be one of those tradeoffs we have to accept in a flawed prospect. Booker’s aggression nature defines him at the plate; pushing him into more of a leadoff approach could neuter his unusually adept bat-to-ball ability just as easily as it could take him to the next level as a prospect.
All of those names mentioned in the Cameron Gibson paragraph (Allen, Holt, Payton, Dugas) might better apply to Michigan SR OF Jackson Glines. Glines can chase balls down in center with the best of them where he is able to use his above-average foot speed and instincts to get balls others can’t. There aren’t too many senior signs in the country with his kind of future. Speed, CF range, patience, and pop = FAVORITE.
The next tier down of outfielders still has some players to watch. Maryland JR OF LaMonte Wade (arm, power, approach) has upside rivaled only by Cam Gibson among his outfield peers. Indiana rSR OF Scott Donley rolls out of bed ready to hit. Iowa SR OF/2B Eric Toole has speed, Maryland JR OF Anthony Papio has power, and Purdue JR OF Kyle Johnson has a little bit of everything, size included (6-5, 215).
I’m trying to find the right fact that shows how impressive the Big 10’s pitching this year is. Let’s see which sums it up the best…
The top ranked arm, Illinois JR LHP Tyler Jay, is an easy first round talent who could keep on striking guys out all the way into the top ten. That could be reason enough to be impressed with the Big 10’s pitching, but, wait, there’s more.
Jay is just one of literally a half-dozen lefthanded pitchers that I have at peaking with their fastballs at 94 or better. There’s Jay (97), Indiana JR LHP Scott Effross (94), Maryland JR LHP Jake Drossner (95), Maryland JR LHP Alex Robinson (96), Minnesota JR LHP Dalton Sawyer (94), and Illinois JR LHP Kevin Duchene (94).
One of my quick sorting tools when I’m looking at a class a year or more out (like I just finished up doing with the college class of 2016) is to start with any pitcher capable of throwing three average or better pitches. I had to do the same thing when figuring out how to prioritize this follow list. Jay, Indiana rSO RHP Jake Kelzer, Effross, Iowa JR RHP Blake Hickman, Drossner, Michigan JR RHP/3B Jacob Cronenworth, Duchene, Michigan State SR RHP Mick VanVossen, and Indiana JR RHP Christian Morris all fit the bill based on my notes.
The one-two-three punch of Jay, Hickman, and Cronenworth give the conference as much athleticism and theoretical two-way ability as any group of pitchers as you’d like to see. Jay is a plus athlete with legitimate plus speed, Hickman was once an honest to goodness catching prospect with big power and a plus arm (duh), and, despite a fascinating three-pitch mix (88-92, 94 peak; above-average breaking ball; above-average mid-80s split-CU) Cronenberg might currently be a better prospect as a position player (speed, arm strength, power). As somebody who values athleticism in pitchers very, very highly, this is some exciting stuff.
I’ve managed to namecheck eleven different pitchers so far without mentioning a certain SO RHP at Ohio State by the name of Travis Lakins. All Lakins is capable of is throwing darting mid-90s fastballs with above-average command, an average curve that flashes plus, and a raw but steadily improving changeup. No biggie.
To continue the “how can a guy this good be ranked so low?” theme, there’s are a pair of pitchers just outside of the top ten who have both hit as high as 97 with impressive breaking balls. That would be Maryland JR RHP Jared Price and Ohio State rSO RHP Shea Murray.
The aforementioned Duchene is next with his lively four-pitch mix and stellar track record of success. Then there’s Michigan State rSO LHP Cameron Vieaux, another southpaw who can get swings and misses both with the heat (88-92) and an above-average breaker (CB). It doesn’t hurt that he’s a 6-5, 200 pound athletic son of a gun, either.
I could go on and on and on. A few more quick notes…
I’m as shocked as anybody that I didn’t have Hickman, a massive personal favorite, behind Jay in the two spot. Those Indiana arms (Kelzer and Effross) just got too much love for the smart folks I talked to. Kelzer is the rare big pitcher (6-8, 235) with the fluidity and athleticism in his movements as a smaller man. I’ve yet to hear/see of a true offspeed pitch of note (he’s got the good hard slider and a promising slower curve), but something a touch softer (change, splitter) would be nice. Effross is a more traditionally easy to like prospect: lefthanded, damn good change, misses bats.
Maryland could stock a AA bullpen tomorrow. Jake Drossner has the stuff to start, but Alex Robinson, Kevin Mooney, Jared Price, and Zach Morris (and his comically oversized cell phone) all have at least the fastball/breaking ball combination that could get good pro hitters out right now.
(I wrote this about Jay earlier, but seeing as he’s the top guy I figure it didn’t hurt to run it again)
I guess I just find the case of Jay continuously flying just under the radar to be more bizarre than anything. I’m almost at the point where I’m starting to question what negatives I’m missing. A smart team in the mid- to late-first round is going to get a crazy value when Jay inevitably slips due to the unknown of how he’ll hold up as a starter. Between his extreme athleticism, a repertoire bursting at the seams with above-average to plus offerings (plus FB, above-average CB that flashes plus, above-average SL that flashes plus, average or better CU with plus upside), and dominant results to date at the college level (reliever or not), there’s little doubt in my mind that Jay can do big things in a big league rotation sooner rather than later. There two questions that will need to be answered as he gets stretched out as a starter will be how effective he’ll be going through lineups multiple times (with the depth of his arsenal I’m confident he’ll be fine here) and how hot his fastball will remain (and how crisp his breaking stuff stays) when pitch counts climb. That’s a tough one to answer at the present moment, but the athleticism, balance, and tempo in Jay’s delivery give me hope.
*I don’t know if this comp has ever been made – Google doesn’t seem to think so – but I see a lot of Brett Wallace, for better or worse, in Vogelbach. I say for better despite Wallace not working out professionally because I’m sure he was a well above-average first base bat in one of our world’s parallel universes. Or something like that. Anyway, Vogelbach’s minor league numbers to date: .285/.375/.481. Wallace is a career .304/.376/.480 minor league hitter. Hmm.
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting
- Michigan JR 3B/SS Travis Maezes
- Maryland rSO 2B Brandon Lowe
- Michigan State JR OF Cameron Gibson
- Maryland JR 3B Jose Cuas
- Iowa JR OF Joel Booker
- Illinois JR C Jason Goldstein
- Michigan SR OF Jackson Glines
- Maryland JR OF/LHP LaMonte Wade
- Illinois rSO SS Adam Walton
- Michigan State SR C/1B Blaise Salter
- Indiana rSR OF Scott Donley
- Michigan State SR 1B Ryan Krill
- Minnesota JR 2B/SS Connor Schaefbauer
- Ohio State JR 2B/3B Troy Kuhn
- Iowa SR OF/2B Eric Toole
- Nebraska SR C Tanner Lubach
- Maryland JR OF Anthony Papio
- Indiana SR C/OF Brian Hartong
- Purdue JR OF/RHP Kyle Johnson
- Minnesota SR OF Jake Bergren
- Nebraska SR OF Austin Darby
- Illinois SR 1B/SS David Kerian
- Nebraska SR 3B/1B Blake Headley
- Maryland JR C Kevin Martir
- Ohio State JR 3B/1B Jake Bosiokovic
- Northwestern rSR C Scott Heelan
- Minnesota rSR SS Michael Handel
- Rutgers SR OF Vinny Zarrillo
- Iowa JR 1B/RHP Tyler Peyton
- Indiana SR 2B/OF Casey Rodrigue
- Iowa SR OF Dan Potempa
- Illinois SR OF Casey Fletcher
- Ohio State SR C Aaron Gretz
- Nebraska JR 2B/SS Jake Placzek
- Nebraska SR SS Steven Reveles
- Iowa rSR 2B Jake Mangler
- Ohio State SR C Connor Sabanosh
- Penn State JR OF James Coates
- Ohio State JR 1B/OF Zach Ratcliff
- Michigan SR C/OF Kevin White
- Purdue JR 2B Michael Vilardo
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching
- Illinois JR LHP Tyler Jay
- Indiana rSO RHP Jake Kelzer
- Indiana JR LHP Scott Effross
- Iowa JR RHP/C Blake Hickman
- Maryland JR LHP Jake Drossner
- Ohio State SO RHP Travis Lakins
- Maryland JR LHP Alex Robinson
- Maryland JR RHP Kevin Mooney
- Minnesota JR LHP Dalton Sawyer
- Michigan JR RHP/3B Jacob Cronenworth
- Maryland JR RHP Jared Price
- Ohio State rSO RHP Shea Murray
- Illinois JR LHP Kevin Duchene
- Michigan State rSO LHP Cameron Vieaux
- Nebraska SR RHP Josh Roeder
- Michigan State SR RHP Mick VanVossen
- Minnesota rJR RHP Lance Thonvold
- Nebraska JR RHP Colton Howell
- Illinois rSR RHP Drasen Johnson
- Indiana SR RHP Luke Harrison
- Iowa JR RHP Calvin Mathews
- Michigan State JR LHP Anthony Misiewicz
- Indiana JR RHP Christian Morris
- Iowa JR RHP Tyler Radtke
- Maryland rJR LHP Zach Morris
- Ohio State SR RHP Trace Dempsey
- Illinois rSR RHP/2B Reid Roper
- Northwestern SR RHP Brandon Magallones
- Nebraska SR LHP Kyle Kubat
- Michigan JR LHP Evan Hill
- Ohio State SR LHP Ryan Riga
- Ohio State JR RHP Jake Post
- Rutgers JR LHP Mark McCoy
- Michigan State rSR LHP/OF Jeff Kinley
- Nebraska SR RHP Chance Sinclair
- Indiana JR LHP Will Coursen-Carr
- Iowa SR RHP Nick Hibbing
- Maryland SR RHP Bobby Ruse
- Minnesota SR RHP Ben Meyer
- Indiana JR LHP Sullivan Stadler
- Illinois JR LHP JD Nielsen
- Illinois rSR LHP Rob McDonnell
- Indiana rSO RHP Thomas Belcher
- Indiana JR RHP Evan Bell
- Indiana rJR LHP Kyle Hart
- Indiana rSR RHP Ryan Halstead
- Michigan rJR RHP Matthew Ogden
- Minnesota rJR LHP Jordan Jess
- Rutgers rSO LHP Max Herrmann
- Indiana rSO RHP Kent Williams
- Iowa JR LHP Ryan Erickson