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2015 MLB Draft Reviews – San Diego Padres

San Diego Padres 2015 MLB Draft Picks

I’m pretty sure I’ve made this (obvious) observation before, but there’s a big gap between the college game, especially at the non-D1 level, and pro baseball. The example of C Austin Allen (219) stands out. For me, there’s no surer way to convince somebody of the difficulty of pro ball than to point to the sometimes comical discrepancies between collegiate draft numbers and pro debuts. Allen went from hitting a somewhat decent .421/.473/.728 at Florida Tech to a less impressive .240/.315/.332 in the Northwest League. That’s not a knock on Allen in the slightest, by the way: though those raw stats don’t blow you away, it’s still fair to say he held his own while making a really big transition (on and off the field), plus any and all of his offensive production should be viewed through the prism of a hitter also starting 51 games behind the plate at a position he’s still learning the finer points of how to play. The defensive part is key, as getting as many reps donning the tools of ignorance should be the biggest point of emphasis early on in Allen’s pro development.

A second (obvious) observation: Allen’s upside (average or better hit, plus power, adequate catcher defense) is monstrous. There’s obviously a large gap between what the D-2 catcher/first baseman is and what he could be, but it’s a pretty clear all-star ceiling if it all works. There are worse ideas than bringing in such a boom/bust prospect in the fourth round.

Remember what I said about pro ball being trickier than college ball? C AJ Kennedy begs to differ. Kennedy went from hitting .171/.263/.217 (17 BB/42 K) in 152 junior year at bats at Cal State Fullerton (and .178/.268/.205 the year before) to hitting .276/.337/.345 (7 BB/16 K) in 100 PA against professional pitching. Does that make any sense to anybody out there outside of the San Diego front office or am I the crazy one? Either way, the bat doesn’t matter nearly as much as his outstanding defensive promise behind the dish. When the name Austin Hedges begins getting thrown out as a reference point for a guy’s all-around defensive game, you take notice. Kennedy could reach the big leagues as a backup backstop exclusively on his glove, arm, and mobility alone. I knocked the Danny De la Calle (a somewhat similar profile) pick by Tampa, so highlighting the clear difference in draft resource expenditures (30th round for Kennedy, 9th round for De la Calle) should clear up why I could not like one pick and approve the another. You take the defense-first potential backup in the thirtieth round all day.

(My pre-draft blurb on Kennedy: “plus defender; plus pitch-framer; strong arm; bag is a major question.” Probably one of my finer typos to date. I, for one, still have pretty major questions about Kennedy’s bag. Though now that I think of how that could be interpreted, I rescind my questions and hope only that he keeps his bag safely ensconced behind properly fitting protective gear. Also of note, his HS scouting blurb: “true plus arm; defensive tools are there, but needs reps; questionable upside with bat; swing needs work as it gets too long.” Typo aside, I love it when those things sync up over time.)

It’s cool to see the Padres give C Kyle Overstreet a shot behind the plate as a pro. Even if the Alabama second baseman doesn’t wind up a catcher full-time, the added defensive versatility will give his overall professional outlook a boost. I still think the bat might be a bit too light to call him much more than an org player at this point, but it’s a creative path for a player that many considered a worthy positional swap candidate while still a member of the Tide.

JR 2B Kyle Overstreet is the third Alabama position player with a shot to get drafted. He’s got decent power, a decent approach, and the chance to be a useful bench bat if used properly, especially if he can occasionally handle work behind the plate as speculated.

1B Brad Zunica is a big boy with big power and more feel for hitting than most big boys with big power. Getting a teenager with his pedigree in the fifteenth round is robbery. The fall of 3B Ty France (365) is equally odd. Getting a player as talented as France (365) in the 34th round confuses me, but I highly doubt the San Diego front office minds. As I mentioned pre-draft (below), few under-the-radar college players elicited as many unsolicited responses as France this spring. People who love hitting just wanted to talk about the guy.

San Diego State JR 3B Ty France has one of the draft’s most underrated bats, especially when his natural feel for hitting and functional strength (and subsequent power) are considered. Guys who really get excited about watching a young player swing at bat well come away raving about what France can do at the plate. I haven’t seen enough of him to get that feeling (also: I’m not a scout), but hearing it as often as I have from people who have been around the game forever definitely gets my attention.

The Padres played him almost exclusively at first base this summer (all but one start), so I’m unclear of their long-term intentions with his glove. I admittedly don’t have much to add to the conversation of his defensive future, but, man, getting a guy who can swing it like him with pick 1017 is a major scouting win. And he’s a local product to boot! Maybe one day we’ll see a Zunica/France platoon at Pecto.

Many of the pre-draft worries concerning OF Justin Pacchioli (304) — mainly that his questionable power would push his hit tool down against better pitching — seem to be showing up in pro ball so far, but the speedy, patient, and smart native of beautiful Allentown, Pennsylvania does enough well otherwise to stick as a big league prospect for years to come. I think there are some similarities between his game and that of 2012 Padres supplemental first round pick Travis Jankowski, who played his high school ball less than 90 minutes away from Pacchioli in the great city of Lancaster.

Topping him as a prospect is his own teammate at Lehigh, SR OF/C Justin Pacchioli. I stick the C in front of his name because he has seen some time behind the plate in the past and some think he could move back there as a pro, but since he’s athletic enough, quick enough, and instinctual enough to play average or better defense in center field then that’s probably the smartest path for now. As a hitter, I really like what Pacchioli can do going forward, so much so that I’ll be making the 90 minute trek without complaint to see him this year. His swing and feel for hitting check off all the boxes of what a “hitter” should look like for me, and his track record of success (especially from 2013 onward) is rock solid. I’m not sold on how much functional power he’ll ever hit for and lacking in that area can often cause a hit tool to play down once the competition improves, but I think there’s enough here to call for a steady organizational player with the ceiling of a useful backup outfielder at the highest level.

I’d personally like to see Pacchioli get converted to catcher because then he, Austin Allen, and Kyle Overstreet could race to see who could get improve the most defensively the quickest. That would be fun.

In some respects OF Josh Magee (332) brings a similar skill set to Pacchioli. He’s fast, above-average or better in center, and has a chance to be a high-contact hitter as he climbs the ladder. He also shares Pacchioli’s potential fatal flaw: a very low power ceiling. I tend to think of players like this as easy to like but tricky to love. The offensive margin for error is slim, but there’s more wiggle room for big league utility because of the speed and defense. A pet theory of mine that applies at least somewhat to Magee and Pacchioli (and circles back to Allen, Zunica, and France, all of whom fall under the first category: bat-first players get rewarded the most if they make it to the promised land, but advancement is difficult because it’s all-or-nothing; speed and defense players get more chances along the way, but have less ultimate ceiling (and are paid/generally valued accordingly) since, you know, hitting big is always going to be king. It’s worth pointing out that Magee was a multi-sport star in high school, so some of his rougher edges could get sanded away more quickly than assumed if he takes to the full-time baseball grind as hoped.

OF Aldemar Burgos is a well-rounded prospect with some pop who will take some time. The same could be said for OF Alan Garcia. That’s all I’ve got on them and I won’t pretend to know more.

SS Kodie Tidwell (296) is a good player. Getting a sure-handed middle infielder coming off a .300/.400/.500 (more or less) draft season in the 26th round shouldn’t happen. Some times I don’t really understand the MLB Draft process.

Louisiana-Monroe JR SS Kodie Tidwell is a patient, balanced hitter with all of the requisite defensive tools to stick at shortstop over the long haul. While Trahan was good from day one at Louisiana, Tidwell has slowly yet surely improved in all offensively phases since entering college.

I don’t know what the future holds for Tidwell any more than I do any other player, but the majority of his most favorable outcomes (in my view) feel realistic enough to make him a real prospect worth following as a pro. Maybe he winds up a capable enough shortstop to keep advancing as a utility infielder, maybe the bat plays enough that he’ll end up as an offensive second baseman, or maybe it doesn’t work much at all above AA. Even if you won’t give me equal odds on those outcomes and weight the last possibility more heavily, I’ll take my chances with that kind of player with his kind of track record. Huge steal in the 26th round.

On a similar note, I liked SS Peter Van Gansen (464) back in April…

As if this class needed another shortstop with the upside to one day start in the big leagues, here comes wildly underrated Cal Poly SS Peter Van Gansen and his steady glove, strong arm, and patient approach. He’s on the thin line between future utility player and potential regular right now, though his increased pop in 2015 could convince some teams he’ll hit enough to hold his own at the bottom of a lineup. I’m admittedly higher on him than most, but he checks enough of the boxes that teams like in potential backup infielders that I think he’ll wind up a valuable draft asset.

…and, wouldn’t you know, I still like him today. Relatively high-probability potential utility infielder with a little more upside than that if you believe in the bat, as I kind of do. Nice grab in the twelfth round.

LHP Nathan Foriest (60.3 GB%) is on the older side as a redshirt-senior out of Middle Tennessee State, but he’s missed enough bats in the past (10.41 K/9 his final college year) to have San Diego look past some of his run prevention flaws (9.00 ERA and 6.19 ERA his last two years of school) and believe his iffy control could be fixable with pro instruction. LHP Corey Hale checks both the big (6-7, 255) and ground ball inducing (50%) boxes that San Diego apparently was looking for.

Getting LHP Christian Cecilio back on the mound will be a nice boost for the Padres next season. The 22nd round pick brings a really strong college track record and enough stuff (upper-80s FB that looks faster thanks to a sneaky delivery) to track as a potential lefty reliever as a pro. Likewise, LHP Will Headean intrigues me as a potential back-end starting pitcher and/or middle reliever going forward. He fits the mold as a big (6-4, 200 pounds, slimmed down from 225ish) ground ball inducing (60.5 GB%) college arm. I had his fastball peaking at 89, but in short bursts it stands to add some real velocity, especially as he figures out how to better manipulate his “best shape of his life” body. His curve is already good enough to project as big league average, so you can see the pieces for a useful reliever coming into focus. LHP Jerry Keel has a similar story of getting himself into better shape as he’s now down to a fit and trim (such things are relative, right?) 6-6, 240 pounds. Brace yourselves: he also got a ton of ground ball outs (60.6 GB%) in his pro debut. Said ground ball outs fit in nicely with the scouting reports (86-92 FB with plus sink, good diving low-70s CB he keeps low in zone), so forecasting him as another potential middle relief piece only seems fair. RHP Phil Maton joins AJ Kennedy as a player who has made a mockery about the supposed difficulties of pro ball. That’s what a 16.0 K/9 (46 K%!) and 1.4 BB/9 in 32.2 IP (1.38 ERA) does. Maton had a solid track record to begin with (9.20 K/9 and 1.94 BB/9 in 88 senior year innings), so add him to the potential middle relief pile. RHP Braxton Lorenzini and RHP Elliot Ashbeck both could join the fun as sinker/slider relievers, though only the former has the early returns (54.8 GB%) to back up the reputed ground ball ways.

RHP Lou Distasio has his fans, but having seen him twice (one each the past two seasons) I don’t necessarily count myself as one of his bigger supporters. I’m not a scout, so consider that just one baseball fan’s take and nothing else. I only really bring it up to mention that, yes, he really does have his fans. Many more informed people than me think he could even keep starting as a pro. I guess I also bring it up as some kind of meta-commentary on the internet’s new weird obsession with seeing a player once (in this case twice, but still) and then declaring that what you saw is exactly what the guy is. There’s a reason why the real scouts make it a point to see a player multiple times across many months, internet. I’ve literally seen an internet scout argue with a quoted velocity figure from one of the reputable industry leaders because when he saw the guy he wasn’t throwing all that hard. Maybe instead of arguing and assuming nobody but yourself could possibly have accurate information, you ask questions and try to figure out why the pitcher wasn’t throw as hard as reported elsewhere on that given day? Anyway, I see Distasio as a big fastball-reliant future reliever who flashes big league stuff and, fan or not, is really nice value in the 32nd round.

RHP Blake Rogers in the 37th round (pick 1107!) feels like a steal. It also feels like another smart gamble for San Diego in grabbing a quality arm with control issues and having the confidence in their developmental staff to coach out the wild. Getting a college righthander with a fastball that can hit 94-95 this late (90-94 mostly) is worth it. Also: 65.5 GB% so far. RHP Nick Monroe (377) also falls under the legit stuff (88-92 FB, 94 peak; advanced CU; used to throw a nice CB, but ditched it in favor of a SL), but iffy control (4.83 BB/9 his junior year) player archetype. He also fits the “best shape of his life” type as he’s now down to 6-4, 235 (from 250ish).

I love the pick of RHP Trey Wingenter (139) in the 17th round; heck, I would have approved even if it was ten rounds higher. My stubborn insistence that big things are coming from him will now extend from before his junior year of college (below) to his first full pro season starting next spring…

Put me down as believing JR RHP Trey Wingenter is in store for a monster 2015 campaign. All of the pieces are there for a big season: legit fastball (88-94, 95/96 peak), a pair of breaking balls ranging from average (mid-70s CB) to better than that (mid-80s SL), an average or better CU, a very low-mileage arm (only 36 innings through two college seasons), and an imposing yet still projectionable 6-7, 200 pound frame.

His short-season debut was rough, but his peripherals were fine and he still managed to get those key ground ball outs (51.6 GB%) at a pace I’m sure the Padres liked to see. He’s still a baby when it comes to game experience on the mound with less than 100 innings on his right arm as a collegiate pitcher. Give him some time, coach him up, and let his natural talent shine through. Easy enough, right?

RHP Brett Kennedy is a personal favorite because it’s a law that I have to rep any pitcher born and raised in and around one of the finest beach towns in Jersey (Brigantine). It also doesn’t hurt his personal favorite status that I like him more today than I did pre-draft and I’m trying to make amends for underrating him then. The quick book on him: 90-94 FB, chance for above-average breaking ball, really good college track record (10.03 K/9 as junior), and good pro debut. Additionally, because I can’t resist keeping with the narrative, it should be noted that he’s one of the smaller guys drafted by the Padres (6-0, 200) and didn’t overwhelm with ground ball tendencies in his debut (46.7 GB%).

RHP Trevor Megill (227) is one of those just famous enough (been drafted and discussed before, high-profile Tommy John surgery survivor, brother also plays) college players that is easily identifiable to serious prospect fans as a draft sleeper. I get it: he’s big (6-8, 235…down from his college weight of 250, FWIW), throws a really tough to square up fastball (86-92, 94-95 peak) that he spots really well (especially for a big man), and has enough feel for a few secondary offerings (74-80 CB, 79-81 CU, 78-84 cut-SL) that you can see a starter’s future if it clicks. I think it adds up to a solid enough prospect that it’s fair value more than huge steal in the seventh round, but that’s not meant to take anything away from the promising big man. RHP Jordan Guerrero, the prospect drafted the round before Megill, is an arm strength pick that can miss bats with a heavy heater alone right now. He’s big (6-5, 260) and gets ground ball outs (57.8 GB%). Shocking, right?

We end with the two biggest names and best prospects selected by the Padres this year. While I’m not head-over-heels in love with either pick, both are damn solid additions and very fair values as second and third round picks. RHP Jacob Nix (75), the third rounder, is a sturdy, athletic potential mid-rotation workhorse who relies heavily on his 90-95 (97 peak) fastball. It’s a tad simplistic, but when he can command his best pitch, he’s very tough to hit…and when he can’t, fooling advanced hitters gets a whole lot harder. That’s true of any pitcher, but it’s more relevant for Nix than most. His fastball is lethal when on — enough smart people have said it elsewhere that I hesitate to call it underrated, but, man, fastball command is so damn important and so often breezed by when discussing pitching prospect futures — so he can almost (but not quite) get away with being a one-pitch starter. His fastball command is also really important to him at present because the big righty doesn’t have the kind of secondary stuff just yet to miss consistent bats, though I like his mid-80s changeup more than most neutral observers. I’m not sure what a potential plus fastball (with evolving command), an underrated but still underdeveloped changeup, and a chance for average breaking ball adds up to, but there’s enough natural talent here to dream on a solid number three starter or a late-inning relief ace.

San Diego’s first pick, RHP Austin Smith (84), set the tone for the type of pitcher the Padres seemed ready to target throughout the three day draft process. If you haven’t been beaten over the head at my subtle attempt at mentioning throughout, here you go: he’s big (6-4, 220) and capable of getting ground ball outs (56.5 GB%) at a premium clip. Much of what you’ve just read (hopefully) about Jacob Nix applies to Smith as well. Both guys have athletic, inning-eating frames that allow them to throw hard (88-94, 96 peak) while also showing off an impressive amount of feel for pitching. Smith has a a better breaking ball (77-81 CB with above-average upside), but not quite as polished a changeup at present. I’d hang similar ceilings on them as well, though there’s no trickier prospect for me to make guesses on than a young pitcher.

A full list of 2015 draft prospects selected by San Diego that fell in my pre-draft top 500…

75 – Jacob Nix
84 – Austin Smith
139 – Trey Wingenter
219 – Austin Allen
227 – Trevor Megill
296 – Kodie Tidwell
304 – Justin Pacchioli
332 – Josh Magee
365 – Ty France
377 – Nick Monroe
464 – Peter Van Gansen

SEC 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team – PITCHERS

First Team

Vanderbilt JR RHP Walker Buehler
Vanderbilt JR RHP Carson Fulmer
Kentucky JR RHP Kyle Cody
Auburn JR RHP Trey Wingenter
Texas A&M JR RHP Grayson Long

Second Team

Missouri JR RHP Alec Rash
Florida JR RHP Eric Hanhold
Arkansas JR RHP Trey Killian
Tennessee JR LHP Drake Owenby
Vanderbilt SO LHP John Kilichowski

Before we get to some updated stuff, here are a few words I’ve written about some of the SEC’s top pitching prospects (or so I thought…if I could get a do-over on some of those Second Team picks above, I sure would) from before the season…

Vanderbilt JR RHP Walker Buehler

Beyond his smarts, pitchability, command, athleticism, and groundball tendencies, Buehler sticks out to me for having two legitimate, distinct above-average to plus breaking balls. They can run into each other at times — I’ve seen an unhealthy amount of baseball in my life and consider myself reasonably bright, but distinguishing between curves, sliders, and even cutters isn’t a personal strength — especially when they are both in the low-80 MPH range, but there’s enough separation between his mostly upper-70s curve (77-83, really) and his “hard CB” from high school (then 78-82) that is now a fully formed 80-85 slider that both get swings and misses. I will say that in my experience viewing him and talking to smarter people who have seen him way more, the two pitches don’t often seem to be in that above-average to plus range within the same game. I’d like to chart a few of his starts to test the validity of this claim, but it’s been said to me that he’ll figure out which breaking ball is working early in the game and then lean on it almost exclusively as his breaker of choice throughout the game. The ability to spin two quality breaking balls on top of an impressive fastball (90-94, 96 peak) and average mid-80s sinking changeup that flashes much better on top of all of Buehler’s previous strengths and two arguable weaknesses (size and inconsistencies with his breaking balls) make him a difficult pitcher to find an instructive comparable player for. Some of the names I’ve tossed out as ceiling comparisons over the past few years include Roy Oswalt, Javier Vazquez, and Julio Teheran. All of those work and don’t work for various reasons, I think. I also think I like Buehler so much as a prospect that I’m cool with dropping the Zack Greinke with a harder curve comp that’s been on my mind with him for a while now. It’s not meant to be a comparison we all get crazy carried away with — Greinke was already in the big leagues at Buehler’s current age, after all — but in terms of the total present prospect package of stuff, pitchability, build, and frame, I think it works very well.

Vanderbilt JR RHP Carson Fulmer

Fulmer has had almost as much success as Buehler through two college seasons with their only significant difference coming in the former’s more common bouts of wildness. It’s not the kind of wildness that raises any kind of red flags, but rather something that falls somewhere between the typical developmental path of an electric young arm and the potential start of a long, fruitful run of being “effectively wild” from now until the day he retires. That aside, the biggest real question about Fulmer will be future big league role. I’d like to think I’ve long shown a willingness to allow players to play themselves from bigger roles (starting, up-the-middle defensive spots, etc.) to smaller roles, so it should be no shock that I’d run Fulmer out as a starter for as long as he shows he is capable of holding down the job in pro ball. A big part of believing in Fulmer as a starter is the fact that his stuff does not appear to appreciably suffer in longer outings. He has the three pitches he’ll need to go through lineups multiple times (mid-90s FB, honest 99 peak; plus low-80s breaking ball; mid-80s changeup with promise) and more than enough deception in his delivery to make him a tough matchup in almost any circumstance. There is some fair cause for concern that his delivery — I’m not expert on these things and I mostly only care that it’s repeatable, but it’s rough enough that even I can see what the fuss is about — won’t allow him to hold up throwing 200+ innings a season. This isn’t the only reason why Buehler is universally regarded as the better prospect (see the silly amount of fawning I do over him above for more), but it’s a big one. Not all drafts are created equal, but I have a hard time imagining Fulmer falling too far on draft day one year after a very similar pitcher in Grant Holmes went 22nd overall.

Auburn JR RHP Trey Wingenter

Put me down as believing JR RHP Trey Wingenter is in store for a monster 2015 campaign. All of the pieces are there for a big season: legit fastball (88-94, 95/96 peak), a pair of breaking balls ranging from average (mid-70s CB) to better than that (mid-80s SL), an average or better CU, a very low-mileage arm (only 36 innings through two college seasons), and an imposing yet still projectionable 6-7, 200 pound frame.

Missouri JR RHP Alec Rash

Rash has been a hot name in prospect circles (78th ranked prospect in 2012 here) since his high school days. He couldn’t come to terms with the Phillies that same year after being selected with the 95th overall pick. Things haven’t gone quite according to script for him at Missouri (less than 50 combined innings pitched to date), but he’s missed bats when called upon (8.15 K/9 last year) and still flashes pro-caliber stuff. The lack of innings only presents an issue in how it’s limited opportunities for him to further develop the third pitch he’d likely need to start as a professional. Nobody questions his fastball (90-95), slider (low-80s, flashes plus), frame (6-6, 200), athleticism, or work ethic, so it’ll mostly come down to how he looks in an expanded role and whether or not his mid-80s changeup impresses evaluators enough to project him in a starting role going forward. He’ll be a high pick either way, but showing he can start could mean the difference between a top three round selection and a top seven round selection.

Arkansas JR RHP Trey Killian

JR RHP Trey Killian’s performances through two year are confusing. His first year was quite strong (8.59 K/9 and 2.95 BB/9), but he did it in limited innings (36.2). Last year he proved to be more of a workhorse (94 IP) and he did a great job of keeping runs off the board (2.30 ERA), but he missed way less bats (5.94 K/9) yet wound up improving his control (1.72 BB/9). Good, less good, good, good, less good, good…you see how he can confuse even the most brilliant internet baseball writers, right? His track record, stuff (88-92 FB, 94 peak; good cutter; really good yet underused low-80s CU; above-average slider; usable curve), command, and athleticism all add up to strong back of the rotation starter material, so maybe I’m overthinking it with him anyway. Or maybe I’m still waiting on a year when he combines really good peripherals with really good run prevention and we all point to him as a guy who figured it out enough to get the bump to middle of the rotation material. That’s my hope — I want to say expectation, but I’m not quite there — for Killian in 2015. He’s the best returning arm on the Arkansas staff either way.

Tennessee JR LHP Drake Owenby

JR LHP Drake Owenby, the owner of one of the sport’s most difficult to scout fastballs, will need to reign in his serious control issues if he wants to get himself selected in a draft range commiserate with his considerable raw stuff. At his best, he’s got a big league fastball (more on that in a second), a well above-average mid-70s curve that flashes plus, and an underdeveloped but plenty intriguing changeup. His walks have been out of hand to date, but he’s missed bats along the way (8.53 K/9 in 25.1 IP last year) and he’s the kind of athlete you believe will figure out some of his mechanical issues (and corresponding control woes) along the way. As for that aforementioned confounding fastball: at least in my looks, Owenby has added and subtracted from his heater to a degree that I can’t recall an honest to goodness amateur prospect doing so before. My notes have his fastball at literally anywhere between 85-95 (most often 88-92ish, like about 95% of the pitchers I see), and there doesn’t appear to be any external cause (e.g. injury, game situation, weather conditions) for the fluctuations. Owenby is a weird, fun prospect who also just so happens to be, you guessed it, pretty good.

*****

I’ll personally champion Walker Buehler as a candidate to go 1-1 because there’s little in his profile to suggest anything but a consistently above-average big league starting pitcher. Zack Greinke Lite with a firmer curve was my original comparison for him, and I’m sticking with it. Though I’d be fairly surprised if the Diamondbacks of all teams considered either Vandy arm with their pick, I personally believe that Carson Fulmer deserves to be in the 1-1 on merit. There’s something about so many tripping over themselves to talk about Dillon Tate (who is also awesome, just so we’re clear), but unwilling to go there with Fulmer that makes me laugh a bit. Worst case scenario he’s a better version of Joel Peralta (and much quicker moving), middle ground has him becoming an impact reliever like David Robertson, and his ceiling could be a little bit like a (WARNING: weird comp not to be taken literally ahead!) righthanded Gio Gonzalez. Or, if you hate my comps, just think solid middle reliever or elite closer or electric if a tad wild above-average starter. It’s a fun spectrum with both a reasonably high floor and pretty thrilling ceiling.

The third member of the presumed Vanderbilt weekend rotation also happened to rank third on the pre-season version of this list. I had to make a rare edit, however, because keeping Tyler Ferguson that high just straight up makes no sense at all. I hate saying that because he’s a really talented young pitcher, but until he can figure out the root cause for his serious control problems (categorized by some as a case of the dreaded “yips”) then he’ll remain one of the draft’s most mysterious prospects. Area scouts will earn their money and then some if they can properly identify whether or not whatever Ferguson’s got going on is correctable because it’s a fantastic arm otherwise.

Kentucky JR RHP Kyle Cody takes Ferguson’s place in the three spot (jumping all the way up from four!), which is only right because he has been really good this year. Good year + big guy (6-7, 250) + big stuff (mid-90s FB peaking at 98, chance for two average or better offspeed pitches) = serious prospect. I’ve seen and heard some top ten talk for Cody, but that seems a little much. Still, he’s a good one. I go back and forth on him, Auburn JR RHP Trey Wingenter (covered above and having a solid year), and Texas A&M JR RHP Grayson Long for the best non-Vanderbilt pitching prospect in the conference. It’s Cody for now, but Long seems like the stiffest competition going forward.

As far as unsigned 2012 high school pitchers go, only Buehler, Hunter Virant, Kyle Twomey, Trey Killian, and Keaton Haack ranked ahead of Long. Right behind him were Fulmer, Justin Garza, Alec Rash, Ryan Burr, and Cody Poteet. I dug that up initially because of wanting to talk about Long, but look at those names again. Long is obviously in the SEC now, and check out the rest (in order): SEC, Pac-12, Pac-12, SEC, SEC (Haack started at Alabama), SEC, Big West, SEC, Pac-12, and Pac-12. As a dispassionate observer of who actually wins and loses these games, I stay out of the conference pissing contests…so draw your own conclusions there. As for Long, here’s what I wrote about him back in his HS days…

62. RHP Grayson Long (Barbers Hill HS, Texas): 88-91 FB, 93 peak; good 80 CU; 75-77 CB with upside; SL with plus upside, but still a really inconsistent pitch; delivery ready for the pros; similar prospect to Walker Weickel in many ways, for better or worse; love his FB – command and movement make it a plus pitch even without big present velocity; has fallen off in the eyes of many this spring, but the long-term value is still very high; 6-6, 190 pounds

I like the Weickel comparison not because it was particularly prescient or anything (at this point in each player’s respective development, who knows), but, assuming it has even the slightest shed of validity, we can then compare/contrast each player’s career as if they are the same person living alternate timelines. Or not. It’s an admittedly silly exercise because there are way too many factors to ever pull off a realistic enough experiment to draw conclusions, but I still find it amusing. Anyway….

Long hasn’t progressed quite as much as I was expecting back then, but that’s not to say he hasn’t progressed at all. It’s been a slow and steady climb for him, and the results so far this year indicate that real honest improvements have been made. Long lives 88-92, but can climb up to 94-95 when needed, though those mid-90s figures are an admittedly rare occurrence. The fact that the long and lean high school version of Long, thought for all the world to be full of projection and potentially of capable of eventually lighting up radar guns once he filled out, hasn’t added much to his fastball can be taken either as a negative (for obvious reasons) or a positive (he’s pitched damn well even without the big fastball and there could yet be some more in the tank coming) depending on your world view. All of those other extras that made me fall for his heater in the first place remain, and I’d call his fastball a plus pitch still even without the knockout velocity. There still isn’t one consistent offspeed pitch that he can lean on from start to start, but there are enough flashes of his change and slider that you can understand what the finished product could look like.

If Tyler Ferguson is one of this draft’s bigger mysteries, then Alec Rash and Florida JR RHP Eric Hanhold have to be right there with him. Rash (see above) might be my favorite pitcher who hasn’t actually pitched. Hanhold hasn’t pitched much either (12.1 IP as of 4/11) and been wild when given his shot (7 BB), but I still like the overall package. I’ll stubbornly hold out hope for both because the arm talent is hard to give up on, inconsistent college careers be damned.

Ferguson’s stumble this season has opened the door for draft-eligible sophomore (he’ll be 21 in May) LHP John Kilichowski to slide in as Vanderbilt’s third best 2015 pro pitching prospect. He was great as a freshman last year (8.61 K/9 and 1.57 ERA in 23 IP) and has continued to do good things in 2015 (44 K/11 BB in 37.2 IP). His fastball isn’t an overpowering pitch (86-92), so he wisely leans on a pair of average or better offspeed offerings (mid-70s CB, upper-70s CU) to help him miss bats. Good stuff, solid track record, relatively fresh arm, and plenty of size (6-5, 210) all coming in from the left side? Nice. Statistically he’s had a very similar season to teammate rJR LHP Philip Pfeifer, yet another potential early pick off the Commodores staff. Pfeifer can’t match Kilichowski’s size or track record as a starter, but his fastball is a tick faster (94 peak) and his curve a bit sharper. How much of that can be attributed to his fastball/curveball combo playing up in shorter outings – in fairness, though he’s pitched out of the bullpen exclusively this season he almost always goes multiple innings at a time – or just having flat better stuff is up for the smarter area guys to decide. I give Kilichowski the edge for now based on what I know, but I can see it being a coin flip for many.

Florida rSO RHP Mike Vinson is another pitcher who hasn’t pitched much, but when he has he’s had the chance to show off a nasty cutter that ranks as one of the nation’s best pitches of its kind. I’ve banged the drum for Mississippi rSR RHP Scott Weathersby before, so what’s one more bold statement with a ton of weird qualifiers: of all of college baseball’s current relievers who aren’t primary closing options for their team, he’s the safest bet to pitch in the big leagues.

Tennessee JR RHP/1B Andrew Lee is a fascinating two-way prospect currently killing it on both ends. When he finally gets a chance to concentrate full time on pitching then he could really take off. His teammate, LHP Andy Cox, is one of my favorite “sleepers,” thanks in part to his well-rounded arsenal (88-91 FB, average or better low-80s SL, average or better CU) that could make him an interesting relief to rotation project in the pro ranks.

There are a ton of pitchers that I don’t yet have the time to cover as much as they deserve, but rest assured all of the following have had really good starts to the season worthy of more attention than they are getting: Auburn rJR RHP Justin Camp, Florida SR LHP Bobby Poyner, LSU rSO RHP Hunter Newman, Mississippi rSO RHP Brady Bramlett, Georgia JR LHP Ryan Lawlor, Georgia JR RHP Sean McLaughlin, Georgia rJR RHP David Sosebee, Mississippi State SR RHP Trevor Fitts, Missouri JR RHP Peter Fairbanks, Missouri JR RHP Reggie McClain (the most famous name of the bunch and arguably the best), Missouri JR RHP Breckin Williams, South Carolina JR LHP Jack Wynkoop, Tennessee SR RHP Bret Marks, Texas A&M JR LHP Matt Kent, Texas A&M JR RHP Andrew Vinson, and Texas A&M LHP AJ Minter. All of those players will be higher on an updated ranking.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

  1. Vanderbilt JR RHP Walker Buehler
  2. Vanderbilt JR RHP Carson Fulmer
  3. Kentucky JR RHP Kyle Cody
  4. Auburn JR RHP Trey Wingenter
  5. Texas A&M JR RHP Grayson Long
  6. Missouri JR RHP Alec Rash
  7. Florida JR RHP Eric Hanhold
  8. Arkansas JR RHP Trey Killian
  9. Tennessee JR LHP Drake Owenby
  10. Vanderbilt SO LHP John Kilichowski
  11. Vanderbilt JR RHP Tyler Ferguson
  12. Missouri JR RHP Reggie McClain
  13. Florida rSO RHP Mike Vinson
  14. Mississippi rSR RHP Scott Weathersby
  15. Tennessee JR RHP/1B Andrew Lee
  16. Tennessee JR LHP Andy Cox
  17. Texas A&M JR LHP/OF AJ Minter
  18. Florida rJR RHP Aaron Rhodes
  19. Kentucky JR RHP Dustin Beggs
  20. Alabama rJR RHP Jake Hubbard
  21. Alabama JR RHP Ray Castillo
  22. Alabama JR RHP Will Carter
  23. Louisiana State rSO RHP Hunter Newman
  24. Mississippi rJR LHP Christian Trent
  25. Mississippi rSO RHP Brady Bramlett
  26. Texas A&M SO LHP Tyler Stubblefield
  27. Mississippi rSO RHP Jacob Waguespack
  28. Mississippi JR RHP Sean Johnson
  29. Auburn SR RHP Rocky McCord
  30. Missouri JR RHP Breckin Williams
  31. Texas A&M JR RHP/INF Andrew Vinson
  32. Texas A&M JR LHP Ty Schlottmann
  33. South Carolina JR LHP Jack Wynkoop
  34. Arkansas SR RHP Jacob Stone
  35. Tennessee SR RHP Bret Marks
  36. Mississippi State SR RHP Trevor Fitts
  37. Louisiana State SR RHP Zac Person
  38. Tennessee SR RHP Eric Martin
  39. Tennessee JR RHP Steven Kane
  40. South Carolina SR LHP Vincent Fiori
  41. Alabama SR LHP Taylor Guilbeau
  42. Louisiana State rSO RHP Russell Reynolds
  43. Tennessee SR RHP Peter Lenstrohm
  44. South Carolina SR RHP Cody Mincey
  45. Alabama SR LHP Jonathan Keller
  46. Mississippi SR RHP Sam Smith
  47. Kentucky rJR LHP Matt Snyder
  48. Alabama rSO LHP/OF Colton Freeman
  49. Alabama JR RHP/C Mitch Greer
  50. Georgia JR RHP/OF Sean McLaughlin
  51. Texas A&M SO RHP Cody Whiting
  52. Mississippi State rSO RHP Paul Young
  53. Missouri JR RHP Brandon Mahovlich
  54. Florida JR LHP Danny Young
  55. Missouri rJR RHP John Miles
  56. Florida SR LHP Bobby Poyner
  57. Texas A&M SR RHP Jason Freeman
  58. Kentucky JR LHP Dylan Dwyer
  59. Georgia SR RHP Jared Cheek
  60. Georgia rJR RHP David Sosebee
  61. Kentucky JR LHP Ryne Combs
  62. Georgia JR LHP Ryan Lawlor
  63. Georgia JR RHP David Gonzalez
  64. Florida JR RHP Taylor Lewis
  65. Auburn rJR RHP Justin Camp
  66. Kentucky SR RHP Andrew Nelson
  67. Vanderbilt rJR LHP Philip Pfeifer
  68. Mississippi State JR RHP Myles Gentry
  69. Kentucky SR RHP Spencer Jack
  70. Arkansas rSR RHP Jackson Lowery
  71. Auburn SR RHP Jacob Milliman
  72. Missouri JR RHP Peter Fairbanks
  73. Texas A&M JR LHP Matt Kent
  74. Louisiana State SR LHP Kyle Bouman
  75. Missouri SR RHP Jace James

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Auburn

JR RHP Trey Wingenter (2015)
SR RHP Rocky McCord (2015)
rJR RHP Justin Camp (2015)
SR RHP Jacob Milliman (2015)
rSO RHP Cole Lipscomb (2015)
JR SS Cody Nulph (2015)
JR OF Sam Gillikin (2015)
JR 3B/SS Alex Polston (2015)
JR 2B/SS Melvin Gray (2015)
JR OF/2B Jordan Ebert (2015)
JR 1B/OF Dylan Smith (2015)
SO OF JJ Shaffer (2016)
SO RHP Kevin Davis (2016)
SO 2B/SS Damon Haecker (2016)
SO RHP/1B Keegan Thompson (2016)
SO OF Anfernee Grier (2016)
SO C Blake Logan (2016)
SO 1B/OF Daniel Robert (2016)
FR OF/INF Hunter Tackett (2016)
FR OF Austin Murphy (2017)

Put me down as believing JR RHP Trey Wingenter is in store for a monster 2015 campaign. All of the pieces are there for a big season: legit fastball (88-94, 95/96 peak), a pair of breaking balls ranging from average (mid-70s CB) to better than that (mid-80s SL), an average or better CU, a very low-mileage arm (only 36 innings through two college seasons), and an imposing yet still projectionable 6-7, 200 pound frame. Despite coming to the close of what surely has not been the kind of college career he once dreamed of, I’m still all-in on SR RHP Rocky McCord. McCord, who has only throw 45.1 innings in three years at Auburn, seems destined to be a quality big league reliever thanks to impressive now-stuff (mid-90s FB peak, excellent CU, rapidly improving SL) and a cool name. rJR RHP Justin Camp (solid stuff), SR RHP Jacob Milliman (size), and rSO RHP Cole Lipscomb (if healthy) all could be draftable with strong seasons.

It’s really hard to get a feel for how the 2015 Auburn lineup will play. On paper there’s all kinds of power, speed, and athleticism scattered throughout the roster, but very little in the way of proven returning talent. The team’s best two ’15 prospects — JR SS Cody Nulph and JR OF Sam Gillikin — are both major question marks (not in a bad way) heading into the season. Nulph is largely unproven on the big stage, but the Pepperdine transfer should bring a steadying glove, strong arm, athleticism, and a mature approach with a chance for average power. If it all works out, that’s a player. Gillikin, like Nulph, has been a prospect of note going back years now, but has been held back by limited playing time (only 100 career AB) and below-average performance indicators. Betting on Gillikin is a bet that his speed, center field defense, athleticism, and big raw power will all come together one of these days. I’m incredulous at this point, but it doesn’t hurt to be patient with a still-developing player like him at this point.

The surest bet in the Auburn lineup is JR OF/2B Jordan Ebert. Ebert doesn’t get enough love as one of the college game’s best pure hitters. That above-average or better hit tool combined with enough pop and speed allow him to potentially profile as an above-average regular offensively. I think his glove will play at any of the spots he’s tried — 2B, 3B, OF — but think his value will likely lie in his ability to play multiple spots — especially those where he can show off his plus arm — well. If you only knew what I just wrote about Ebert, you’d surely think he’s a big-time 2015 draft prospect, but, at least for now, an overly aggressive approach at the plate (31 BB/54 K) holds back his appeal to a degree. I still like him quite a bit; quite simply, guys with hit tools like his are not to be dismissed. If Ebert can settle in to a spot defensively (likely a corner OF spot), flash a touch more power, and clean up his approach a bit, he’ll become a prime candidate to become one of college ball’s fastest risers in 2015. I still think a pro team will try to keep him in the dirt for as long as humanly possible after signing. As an outfielder, he profiles as a high-level backup, especially if he can hang in center a bit. As an infielder, however, he’s a potential everyday contributor.

I don’t know much about JR 1B/OF Dylan Smith, but what I do know (power, speed, athleticism, size) I like. He’s one to watch. JR 2B/SS Melvin Gray is another interesting new name to track. The future looks strong past the 2015 class with SO RHP/1B Keegan Thompson emerging as a potential star, SOs 2B/SS Damon Haecker, C Blake Logan, and 1B/OF Daniel Robert putting up decent freshman seasons, and potential breakout players like the upside-laden outfield group of in SO JJ Shaffer, SO Anfernee Grier, and FR Austin Murphy waiting for their shot.