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2018 MLB Draft Profile – Virginia

RHP Evan Sperling – good but wild
RHP Derek Casey – good, not wild

I’ve done this bit before, but I like it enough so I’m doing it again. Those were my placeholder notes on RHP Evan Sperling and RHP Derek Casey designed to serve as a jumping off point for a larger discussion about each young Virginia pitcher. If you’re not into a couple hundred words on each guy, then those quick synopses should work. If you want more…

Both Sperling and Casey were lumped together in my notes because they are both good (as one can plainly read in the exhaustive notes written above) and coming off of Tommy John surgery. Clever, right? Both guys also took their tags far more to the extreme last season than this current one. Sperling (“good but wild”) missed bats (10.34 K/9) but walked a ton of guys (7.05 BB/9) in his 38.1 shaky (7.51 ERA) innings. Casey (“good, not wild”) was good (3.79 ERA in 71.1 IP) and not wild (2.65 BB/9), but didn’t show quite the same strikeout stuff (7.32 K/9). Literally everything (outside of Casey’s slightly higher ERA, but there’s so much noise with these small sample ERA’s that I don’t sweat it) is better this year. Strikeouts are up (13.53 K/9 for Sperling, 12.06 K/9 for Casey) and walks are down (4.06 BB/9 for Sperling, 2.11 BB/9 for Casey). Weaknesses are shrinking and strengths are growing. Really can’t ask for much more than that.

Of course, looking up the stats is easy. Important, sure, but easy. You probably come here for the scouting reports, such as they are. Sperling has premium size (6-6, 215) and velocity (a wide range of 87-94 depending on health and role, but up to 96 in short bursts is eye-catching no matter what) with an average to above-average mid- to upper-70s breaker that goes between a curve and slider. He’s shown enough proof of a changeup existing in the past that keeping him in the rotation isn’t out of the question in pro ball. If that works, there’s enough here to be a big league starting pitcher. If not, Sperling’s stuff and effectively wild ways would play well in the bullpen. Casey, the more athletic of the two, can’t quite match that size (6-1, 200) or arm strength (though I have him up to 94-95 in the past, he was more 85-90ish in his return last season) but comes with a more pro-ready changeup (average or better) and a soft mid-70s curve that flashes average in its own right. Increased velocity — which may have already happened since, full disclosure, I don’t have anything from 2018 on him yet — would increase his ceiling, though I think the profile still makes a ton of sense as a backend big league starter if it all works out.

How does a 6-4, 200 pound lefthander with enough fastball (85-92, 94 peak) and a wide assortment of quality offspeed pitches (above-average 76-84 CU, average 75-83 CB, above-average 82-86 cut-slider) only miss 5.24 batters per nine in their sophomore season? I don’t know, but maybe LHP Daniel Lynch can fill us in one day. I’d only think to ask because those low strikeout numbers are but a thing of the past. As of this writing, he’s sitting at a far more fitting 10.45 K/9 through six starts. All is right in the world again. I like Lynch a lot as a potential big league starting pitcher. This year’s Virginia squad may be struggling by their admittedly high standard, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t like a ton of their pitching prospects.

LHP Bennett Sousa had a K/9 of exactly 12 last year in 33 innings pitched. Bennett Sousa has a K/9 of exactly 12 (as of this writing*) in 21 innings pitched this year. There should be no at this point that Sousa has the ability to miss bats. Limiting free passes? Now that’s an open question. As is whether or not his good yet not great stuff — namely a fastball between 88-92 MPH (94 peak) and a low-80s slider with promise — will continue to help him pile up strikeouts in the pros remains to be seen. The good news is the likely draft capital needed to find out what you really have in the senior lefthander figures to be well worth the risk. That’s a nice way of saying Sousa, though equipped with that low-90s heat and strong collegiate strikeout rate, figures to fall long enough on draft day to be considered good value when he’s eventually selected.

*Now that’s I’ve gone back to finish this and post it, I see his K/9 is up to 12.38 in 24 IP. I could just make the change in the original sentence, but let me have this little bit of cheap narrative heat. Also, for the sake of completeness, Lynch’s K/9 is up to 11.11 after his seventh start.

RHP Chesdin Harrington fits the polished lefty with an upper-80s fastball and above-average changeup player archetype like a glove. That glove, however, actually goes on Harrington’s left hand, so maybe we need to rethink the handedness requirement for this particular archetype. A healthy Harrington, who is currently on the shelf with a bum elbow, is a draft-worthy talent even without premium velocity. An injured one may be tougher to wrestle away from such a good school, especially if he has two years of eligibility remaining as expected. LHP Riley Wilson missed a lot of bats (12.95 K/9) while also missing the strike zone a lot (6.78 BB/9) in his 14.2 innings last season. The upper-80s lefty will probably have to come back for a senior season in 2019 to get more draft notice, though getting innings in an ever-crowded Cavalier bullpen is easier said than done. The same path seems likely for RHP Grant Donahue, a sinker/slider relief prospect that could work himself into the 2019 senior-sign mix if everything breaks right.

Injuries are the worst. OF/RHP Cameron Simmons was poised for a fantastic draft season, but a serious shoulder injury will wipe away his entire junior year. How big a blow is this to the top of this June’s draft? Those who have seen Simmons more than I have were adamant that he was ready to flip his 23 BB/40 K from last season all the way around as a junior. An athlete like Simmons who can run, throw, and hit for power with a cleaned up approach at the plate? That’s a potential first round sleeper. Alas, we’ll either have to wait a year for him to try it all again or see if a team that has really done its homework can draft him in a spot high enough to buy him out of those last two years of collegiate eligibility.

OF Jake McCarthy managed to get thirteen games in before going down with an injury of his own. A bum wrist has kept him out of the lineup since early March, though he could be in line to return before the close of the current month. Jake’s older brother Joe was a ridiculous steal by Tampa as a fifth round pick back in 2015. I don’t think Jake was going to fall that far and I still wouldn’t be surprised to see him taken earlier than that if deemed signable this spring. McCarthy is a legitimate four tool (only a lousy arm holds him back) potential impact player. He may never quite give you star-level offensive production, but his game-changing speed and above-average center field range should make him a potential regular regardless. I’ve been told “Kevin Kiermaier without the arm” as one frame of reference for McCarthy that makes some sense. I’m not about to project him as that kind of defender — those types of center fielders are rare — but I think it’s smart to think of McCarthy as being part of the larger Kiermaier, Pillar, Dyson, Bourjos, Inciarte, and Gentry prospect genus. There’s a wide range of ability within that group, so maybe putting him with all those guys doesn’t tell you as much as you’d like…but it’s better than nothing, at least as a starting point.

3B/1B Nate Eikhoff is easy to like as a steady bat who can hold his own at the hot corner. The lack of power and no clear carrying tool makes him tough to love. If teams think he can play up the middle at all, then his stock as a potential utility player goes up. That’s where 2B/SS Andy Weber is. Weber is a good athlete and capable defender at all of the infield spots. There might be just enough bat to work himself into regular time up the middle, but the strong backup infielder floor is intriguing enough if it doesn’t. If I was a little bolder, I’d make the same call for 2B Jack Gerstenmaier. From a tools standpoint, he’s rock solid: average or better hit tool, defense at second, and speed. It’s the lack of at bats and time away from the game hurts him. Also working against him is present unknowns about his ability to play effective defense anywhere but the keystone. If he can, then you can put Gerstenmaier and his 113 career at bats in your folder of deep deep deep long shot sleeper prospects. 3B/2B Justin Novak interests me more as a potential catcher conversion project than anything else. His bat is light, but there’s enough defensive versatility (experience at second, third, short, and catcher) to potentially get him a shot as a “seat filler” in pro ball. It’s not glamorous work, but somebody has to do it.

I still believe in OF/3B Charlie Cody as a potential big league player, but I can admit my conviction in that belief has been shaken quite a bit over the past calendar year. His early season power loss is notable as is the decreased likelihood he’ll get a shot to keep playing third base at the next level. A third baseman with power? Sign me up. A corner outfielder currently rocking a .026 ISO? Hard pass. I have a long enough memory to not totally bail on the Cody bandwagon — after all, I am the guy who had Cody as a fourth round value last year and one ranked him as a top five third base prospect coming out of high school — but I’ll admit it is getting a little lonely on this ride.

It appears I may have jumped the gun in busting out the HBP% stat on Notre Dame infielder Nick Podkul last week. C Caleb Knight may just be the one true king of getting hit by very fast baseballs after all. My rough math (as of this writing) has him at a whopping 9.6% career HBP rate. That is absolutely insane. If you include his two years at junior college (thus increasing the sample to an even meatier 697 collegiate PA), that figure drops down to a still wild 6.6%. No matter how you look at it, Knight knows how to take a pitch off the body like very few ballplayers before him. It’s worth noting that the Virginia catcher’s approach at the plate includes more than just “wait until something gets close and lean it.” Knight has a career 42 BB/43 K mark over two seasons as a Cavalier. With a little bit of pop to go with that, there’s enough offensively working for Knight that he could carve out a long career as a minor league catcher with a shot to one day reach the big leagues as a backup if you buy into his defense behind the plate.

As excited as I am about what RHP Bobby Nicholson and LHP Andrew Abbott have shown so far this year, I’m almost that nervous about the offensive future of the Virginia program. It’s tough to look too far ahead, but there isn’t a ton for me to get excited about offensively here. There’s certainly a lot of pressure on guys like SS/3B Tanner Morris and SS Andrew Papantonis to help prop up the offensive future of the team.

rSR RHP Mack Meyer (2018)
SR LHP Bennett Sousa (2018)
rJR RHP Derek Casey (2018)
JR LHP Daniel Lynch (2018)
rSO RHP Evan Sperling (2018)
JR RHP Grant Donahue (2018)
JR RHP Chesdin Harrington (2018)
rJR LHP Riley Wilson (2018)
JR OF/RHP Cameron Simmons (2018)
rSO OF Jake McCarthy (2018)
SR 3B/2B Justin Novak (2018)
SR C Caleb Knight (2018)
JR C Cameron Comer (2018)
JR 3B/1B Nate Eikhoff (2018)
JR 2B/SS Andy Weber (2018)
JR OF/3B Charlie Cody (2018)
SR 2B Jack Gerstenmaier (2018)
SO RHP Bobby Nicholson (2019)
SO RHP Noah Murdock (2019)
SO C Drew Blakely (2019)
SO SS Cayman Richardson (2019)
SO OF Jalen Harrison (2019)
FR RHP Griff McGarry (2020)
FR LHP Andrew Abbott (2020)
FR RHP Kyle Whitten (2020)
FR LHP Robb Adams (2020)
FR SS/RHP Devin Ortiz (2020)
FR SS Andrew Papantonis (2020)
FR 1B/OF Alex Tappen (2020)
FR OF Christian Hinka (2020)
FR C Brendan Rivoli (2020)
FR SS/3B Tanner Morris (2020)

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2017 MLB Draft Report – Virginia

The success of Adam Haseley this year has me kicking myself. I enjoyed writing those 2016 MLB Draft Reviews this past fall/winter a ton, so, you know, no regrets but…fine, there are always going to be some regrets. Opportunity cost is a very real thing. Spending all that time, effort, and energy on those reviews meant a later start than usual on writing about the upcoming draft. Being first in this line of “work” shouldn’t be as big a badge of honor as some make it out to be, but, why lie, there is something undeniably satisfying about being ahead of the curve on a prospect. If I would have ranked Haseley as high as I was going to back in October when I first decided he’d be a definite first rounder, I’d be sitting pretty right about now. I mean, maybe instead of being the nineteenth most influential internet baseball draft writer, I’d be eighteenth. Dare to dream, right? As it is, I’m just one of the many internet draft bros following the obvious trend that puts Haseley at or near the top of his position group. Kidding aside, at the end of the day as long as a great player like Haseley gets his due, I’m happy. All of the praise he’s gotten this spring is very well deserved. My ego will live to fight another day.

As for Haseley the actual draft prospect, my only question now is how high he can rise. I know I’m going to have him really, really high on my personal college draft rankings, but the decision on how high is still, pardon the pun, up in the air. I’m not 100% sure just yet, but it would seem awfully hard to justify any other college outfielder ahead of him at this point. Few players in the college game can match Haseley’s combination of hit tool (legit plus, a rarity at this level), raw power (above-average to all fields), and defensive future (sure-fire center fielder at the next level). There are some that can rival his upside in each individual area, but it’s the overall package in one player that makes Haseley stand out. To be as good as he is in the three most critical areas of the game is rare, and his speed and arm (both at least above-average for me) are pretty impressive in their own right. I get that he’s taken his game to another level in 2017, but acting like he’s come out of nowhere couldn’t be further from the truth. Dude hit .304/.377/.502 last year with 28 BB/28 K. So you’re not only getting the tools but also a lengthy track record to back it up. Or vice-versa (i.e., he’s more than just a college star but also a super projectable pro athlete) depending on where your scouting vs stats allegiances lie. It’s not a direct comparison per se, but watching Haseley in 2017 makes me think about what Mickey Moniak might have looked like after a couple of years at UCLA. Superstar upside.

Virginia being Virginia means that they not only have arguably the top outfielder in this class but also the top first baseman. That’s where I currently have Pavin Smith, the Cavaliers sweet-swinging junior slugger. Much like Haseley, the first thing to stand out about Smith is the hit tool. Smith has everything it takes to hit .300 or better in the big leagues. With above-average to plus raw power and a fantastic approach at the plate, he’s one of my favorite bats in this class. More on him from a few days ago…

As for Smith, I’m still not really sure what he doesn’t do well. It’s a true plus hit tool with a picture perfect swing, outstanding plate coverage, and standout pitch recognition. His raw power is above-average to plus and already showing up in games. He’s a well above-average glove at first with enough athleticism and arm strength (88-93 FB pre-TJ surgery) to at least give some teams pause when considering his long-term defensive position. Seriously, what’s not to like about him as an offensive player?

If we wanted to nitpick — and we DO — then it’s worth pointing out that there have been some whispers about less than ideal bat speed. Fine, I guess. I struggle with identifying bat speed outside of the extremes, so I’m happy to tip my cap to anybody who can tag a guy with an above- or below-average swing of the bat using only the naked eye. I can’t, so I try not to judge. Can’t say I’ve noticed anything all that remarkable — good or bad — about Smith’s bat speed, and at some point his outstanding three years of hitting high-level amateur pitching should win out anyway. It’s the current Rowdy Tellez argument manifesting itself in college ball. I like Tellez. I like Smith.

I’ve also heard some BASEBALL MEN chatter about Virginia hitters struggling to adjust to pro ball. Can’t say I really buy that one, though I suppose the murderer’s row of Phil Gosselin, Jarrett Parker, John Hicks, and Chris Taylor haven’t exactly lit the world on fire in the pros. Brandon Guyer, Ryan Zimmerman, and Mark Reynolds give the Cavaliers a little more clout, but that’s going way back. I remember liking guys like Tyler Cannon, Dan Grovatt, Steve Proscia, Stephen Bruno, and Reed Gragnani with little to nothing to show for it in terms of pro success. Mike Papi, Derek Fisher, and Daniel Pinero seem primed to turn the reputation around…if you think the reputation needed turning around in the first place. And then there’s this guy…

.338/.427/.518 with 74 BB/55 K and 4/5 SB in 554 AB
.323/.394/.515 with 78 BB/68 K and 5/12 SB in 637 AB

Top is Matt Thaiss’s career numbers at Virginia. Those were good enough to get him selected sixteenth overall last year. Bottom is what Smith has done so far. Feels like there’s a comparison to be made between the two hitters in there somewhere. Like Thaiss last year, mid-first round feels like a fair landing spot for Smith as of now.

No player was harder for me to rank on the position lists than Ernie Clement. The guy is just a weird prospect. That’s of course meant in the most flattering way possible. Clement excels at things that don’t typically get much scouting buzz except from the super old-school types. He’s among the best in the country at spoiling pitchers’s pitches, bunting both for hits and to move teammates over, and, above all else, making insane amounts of contact. Defensively, he’s great just about anywhere you put him. Response was split as to his best long-term position with half preferring him at second and the rest thinking he’d be best in center. Most agreed that he could even play a good shortstop if asked. Such defensive versatility opens up a whole world of fun comps for the weird and wonderful Clement.

I had to look it up to see if I have ever used David Eckstein as a comp before — for the curious, yes, once, Tyler Hanover — because I think it really fits Clement well. Eckstein with better speed feels about right. I’ve also heard Fernando Vina and Eric Young. Baseball America has offered Chris Taylor in the past. Interesting group on the whole. I’ll stick with speedier Eckstein for now. Just yesterday I got a Jose Peraza for him. I don’t hate that at all. Something on that spectrum would be a fine outcome for Clement, a high-floor prospect as a future utility guy with a ceiling limited much beyond that due to his serious lack of pop. Figuring out where to properly rate such a weird player like this is above my current pay grade.

(My goal was to use the word weird five times when describing Clement. Three will have to do. Until next time…)

Somebody shut me up before I write an extra thousand words about the rest of Virginia’s 2017 draft-eligible hitters. The short version: Robbie Coman, Charlie Cody, and even Caleb Knight all have flashed enough ability to warrant pro consideration this June. Coman is easy to like as a steady glove with a veteran’s approach to hitting. His arm strength, not particularly special to begin with, was sapped by last year’s Tommy John surgery, so he’ll have to prove to teams he has enough mustard on his throws to keep catching as a pro. Cody is a huge personal favorite who has his best ball ahead of him. DID YOU KNOW that Perfect Game once compared him to David Wright as a prep prospect? Pretty heady praise. He’s played intermittently through two and half years at Virginia, but a really strong start to 2017 has me all-in on the Charlie Cody bandwagon once again. Hope on that bandwagon while there’s still space left. I’m by no means an expert on Knight, but all the quiet buzz I’ve heard on him has been positive. Catchers who can stay catchers and can hit a bit will always get love from me, and Knight is no exception.

I like Justin Novak as a potential low-minors chess piece that can be moved all over the infield. I talk often about the utility of such players and Novak seems like a potentially useful one. Guys who can multiple spots like Novak can help protect other prospects by filling in defensively as needed. It also doesn’t hurt to show teams you have a diversified defensive skill set when it comes to making you more marketable, especially in the age of tiny benches.

I’m not sure why Tommy Doyle doesn’t get more love as one of the draft’s top college pitchers. Maybe it’s his usage out of the bullpen at Virginia that obscures the fact he’s got everything you’d want in an innings-eating big league starting pitcher. It’s not wise to chase the reliever to starter waterfall — former Cavaliers Nick Howard, Josh Sborz, and Branden Kline being three such recent flops — but Doyle has the stuff (88-94 FB with sink, 95-96 sink; 77-81 CB, flashes average; above-average 82-87 cut-SL; above-average split-CU) and frame (6-6, 225) to make the move. Whether or not he has the delivery or command remain open questions, but I think an early round pick on finding out firsthand is worth the investment. I’m of the opinion that just about any Virginia pitcher needs some mechanical tweaking anyway (hate the crouch), so knowing you’ve got a little work to do with his windup shouldn’t come as a surprise. Bet on the stuff, body, and results, and figure out the delivery later, I say.

(I did the UVA prospects in the pros thing for the hitters when I wrote about Pavin Smith a few days ago, so I won’t go into too much detail with the pitchers…but the recent track record of Virginia arms does not inspire much confidence. There have been 22 Cavalier pitchers drafted since 2009. Only three players [Tyler Wilson, Kyle Crockett, Kline] out of 22 [13.6%] have reached the big leagues. Not great.)

Pitchers besides Doyle looking to buck that parenthetical trend include Alec Bettinger, Jack Roberts, Derek Casey, and Bennett Sousa. Count me as a big fan of all of them. Bettinger is a personal favorite senior-sign with a potent sinker/slider mix and experience as a multi-inning reliever. His peripherals have always outstripped his run prevention ability, but smart teams will focus on all the positives he brings to the mound rather than the negatives (many of which are out of his control). From my notes on Roberts: “getting wild ways under control…but still pretty wild.” Seems fair for a guy with BB/9’s of 7.50, 8.86, and 6.29 over the last three seasons. When he throws strikes, his stuff (87-92 heat, 94 peak; average breaking ball, flashes better; average change) impresses. Casey flashes similar stuff along with far better control made all the more significant considering he’s on the road back from Tommy John surgery. Sousa is a lefty with above-average velocity (90-94) and a low-80s slider with serious promise. Can’t hate that.

*****

JR RHP Tommy Doyle (2017)
SR RHP Alec Bettinger (2017)
rSO LHP Riley Wilson (2017)
SR RHP Tyler Shambora (2017)
rJR RHP Jack Roberts (2017)
rSO RHP Derek Casey (2017)
JR LHP Bennett Sousa (2017)
JR OF/LHP Adam Haseley (2017)
JR 1B/OF Pavin Smith (2017)
JR 2B/OF Ernie Clement (2017)
JR SS/2B Justin Novak (2017)
rSR C Robbie Coman (2017)
JR 3B/OF Charlie Cody (2017)
JR C Caleb Knight (2017)
SO LHP Daniel Lynch (2018)
rFR RHP Evan Sperling (2018)
SO RHP Grant Donahue (2018)
SO LHP Connor Eason (2018)
SO RHP Chesdin Harrington (2018)
SO OF/RHP Cameron Simmons (2018)
SO 3B/1B Nate Eikhoff (2018)
SO C Cameron Comer (2018)
rFR OF Jake McCarthy (2018)
SO 2B/SS Andy Weber (2018)
FR RHP Noah Murdock (2019)
FR RHP Bobby Nicholson (2019)
FR SS Cayman Richardson (2019)
FR OF Jalen Harrison (2019)
FR C Drew Blakely (2019)

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – ACC Follow List

Boston College 

JR 1B/OF Chris Shaw (2015)
JR 3B/SS Joe Cronin (2015)
SR 2B/SS Blake Butera (2015)
SR RHP John Gorman (2015)
SR LHP Nick Poore (2015)
JR RHP Jeff Burke (2015)
JR LHP Jesse Adams (2015)
SO RHP Justin Dunn (2016)
SO RHP Mike King (2016)
SO C Nick Sciortino (2016)
SO SS/3B Johnny Adams (2016)
SO RHP Bobby Skogsbergh (2016)

Clemson

JR LHP Matthew Crownover (2015)
JR LHP Zack Erwin (2015)
JR RHP Clate Schmidt (2015)
rSO RHP Wales Toney (2015)
rJR RHP Patrick Andrews (2015)
rSR RHP Kevin Pohle (2015)
rSR RHP Jake Long (2015)
JR RHP Brady Koerner (2015)
rSR RHP Clay Bates (2015)
rSO RHP Garrett Lovorn (2015)
JR RHP/3B Jackson Campana (2015)
JR OF Steven Duggar (2015)
SR OF Tyler Slaton (2015)
rSO 1B/OF Andrew Cox (2015)
rSO OF Maleeke Gibson (2015)
JR SS/2B Tyler Krieger (2015)
SO C Chris Okey (2016)
SO LHP Pat Krall (2016)
SO 3B/SS Weston Wilson (2016)
SO SS/2B Eli White (2016)
SO LHP Alex Bostic (2016)
SO RHP Drew Moyer (2016)
rFR 3B Glenn Batson (2016)
rFR OF Reed Rohlman (2016)
FR OF KJ Bryant (2017)
FR LHP Charlie Barnes (2017)
FR OF Drew Wharton (2017)
FR OF Chase Pinder (2017)

Duke

JR RHP Michael Matuella (2015)
SR RHP Sarkis Ohanian (2015)
SR RHP Andrew Istler (2015)
SR LHP Trent Swart (2015)
rJR LHP Remy Janco (2015)
rJR RHP Conner Stevens (2015)
JR LHP Nick Hendrix (2015)
rSR LHP Dillon Haviland (2015)
rSO RHP James Marvel (2015)
JR RHP/SS Kenny Koplove (2015)
rSR C Mike Rosenfeld (2015)
rSO OF Jalen Phillips (2015)
SR 2B Andy Perez (2015)
SO RHP Bailey Clark (2016)
SO RHP Karl Blum (2016)
SO LHP Kevin Lewallyn (2016)
SO C Cristian Perez (2016)
FR 1B Justin Bellinger (2017)
FR LHP Chris McGrath (2017)
FR SS Ryan Day (2017)
FR 3B Jack Labosky (2017)
FR LHP Mitch Stallings (2017)

Florida State

JR OF DJ Stewart (2015)
rSR 1B Chris Marconcini (2015)
JR 2B/SS John Sansone (2015)
SR C Daniel De La Calle (2015)
SR OF Josh Delph (2015)
rJR RHP Mike Compton (2015)
SR LHP Bryant Holtmann (2015)
JR RHP/OF Jameis Winston (2015)
JR LHP Alex Diese (2015)
JR LHP Dylan Silva (2015)
SR LHP Billy Strode (2015)
SO RHP Taylor Blatch (2016)
SO LHP Alec Byrd (2016)
SO RHP Boomer Biegalski (2016)
rFR RHP Andy Ward (2016)
rFR RHP Ed Voyles (2016)
SO RHP Jim Voyles (2016)
SO OF/SS Ben DeLuzio (2016)
SO 1B/C Quincy Nieporte (2016)
SO C/OF Gage West (2016)
SO INF Hank Truluck (2016)
FR RHP Cobi Johnson (2017)
FR RHP Andrew Karp (2017)
FR RHP Drew Carlton (2017)
FR SS/3B Dylan Busby (2017)
FR SS/2B Taylor Walls (2017)
FR C/1B Darren Miller (2017)
FR OF/RHP Steven Wells (2017)

Georgia Tech

SR 1B/C AJ Murray (2015)
rJR OF Dan Spingola (2015)
JR 3B/SS Matt Gonzalez (2015)
rSO 1B Cole Miller (2015)
SR 2B/SS Thomas Smith (2015)
JR LHP/OF Jonathan King (2015)
SR RHP Cole Pitts (2015)
SO OF Ryan Peurifoy (2016)
SO RHP Zac Ryan (2016)
SO C Arden Pabst (2016)
SO OF Keenan Innis (2016)
SO 3B/RHP Brandon Gold (2016)
SO LHP Ben Parr (2016)
SO SS Connor Justus (2016)
FR OF/1B Kel Johnson (2017)
FR LHP Daniel Gooden (2017)
FR RHP Patrick Wiseman (2017)

Louisville

JR RHP Kyle Funkhouser (2015)
rSO LHP Josh Rogers (2015)
rSO LHP Robert Strader (2015)
JR RHP/1B Anthony Kidston (2015)
SR 2B/SS Zach Lucas (2015)
JR 1B/3B Dan Rosenbaum (2015)
SR OF Michael White (2015)
SR SS/2B Sutton Whiting (2015)
SO RHP Zack Burdi (2016)
SO LHP Drew Harrington (2016)
SO RHP Jake Sparger (2016)
SO OF Corey Ray (2016)
SO 2B Nick Solak (2016)
rFR 3B/SS Blake Tiberi (2016)
rFR OF/C Ryan Summers (2016)
SO OF Colin Lyman (2016)
SO C Will Smith (2016)
rFR OF Mike White (2016)
FR LHP/1B Brendan McKay (2017)
FR SS Devin Hairston (2017)
FR RHP Lincoln Henzman (2017)
FR RHP Kade McClure (2017)
FR C/1B Colby Fritch (2017)

Miami

JR 3B/1B David Thompson (2015)
JR 3B/OF George Iskenderian (2015)
SR C Garrett Kennedy (2015)
rSO 1B/OF Chris Barr (2015)
JR OF Ricky Eusebio (2015)
JR SS/RHP Brandon Lopez (2015)
rJR LHP Andrew Suarez (2015)
JR LHP Thomas Woodrey (2015)
JR RHP Enrique Sosa (2015)
SO 1B/C Zack Collins (2016)
SO OF Willie Abreu (2016)
SO RHP/1B Derik Beauprez (2016)
SO OF Jacob Heyward (2016)
SO LHP Danny Garcia (2016)
SO RHP Bryan Garcia (2016)
SO SS Sebastian Diaz (2016)
SO 2B Johnny Ruiz (2016)
SO RHP Cooper Hammond (2016)
rFR RHP Andy Honiotes (2016)
FR OF Carl Chester (2017)
FR OF Justin Smith (2017)
FR LHP Michael Mediavilla (2017)
FR RHP Jesse Lepore (2017)
FR RHP Keven Pimentel (2017)
FR LHP Luke Spangler (2017)
FR RHP Devin Meyer (2017)

North Carolina

SR RHP Benton Moss (2015)
JR RHP Reilly Hovis (2015)
JR RHP Trent Thornton (2015)
rJR RHP Chris McCue (2015)
SR RHP Trevor Kelley (2015)
JR RHP Taylore Cherry (2015)
JR OF Skye Bolt (2015)
JR OF Josh Merrigan (2015)
JR 3B/2B Landon Lassiter (2015)
JR C Korey Dunbar (2015)
JR SS/OF Alex Raburn (2015)
SO RHP/SS Spencer Trayner (2016)
SO RHP AJ Bogucki (2016)
SO RHP Zac Gallen (2016)
SO LHP Zach Rice (2016)
SO C Adrian Chacon (2016)
SO 1B Joe Dudek (2016)
SO 2B/SS Wood Myers (2016)
SO OF Tyler Ramirez (2016)
SO OF Adam Pate (2016)
FR 3B/RHP Ryder Ryan (2016)
FR 1B/LHP Hunter Williams (2017)
FR SS/3B Zack Gahagan (2017)
FR RHP JB Bukauskas (2017)
FR RHP Hansen Butler (2017)
FR RHP Jason Morgan (2017)
FR OF/2B Logan Warmoth (2017)
FR RHP Brett Daniels (2017)
FR INF Brooks Kennedy (2017)

North Carolina State

JR RHP Jon Olczak (2015)
JR RHP Curt Britt (2015)
rJR LHP Travis Orwig (2015)
JR RHP Karl Keglovits (2015)
JR LHP Brad Stone (2015)
rSO RHP Johnny Piedmonte (2015)
SR OF Jake Fincher (2015)
JR SS Ryne Willard (2015)
SR OF Bubby Riley (2015)
SR 2B/3B Logan Ratledge (2015)
SR 1B/OF Jake Armstrong (2015)
JR C Chance Shepard (2015)
SO RHP Cory Wilder (2016)
SO 3B Andrew Knizner (2016)
SO OF Garrett Suggs (2016)
SO 1B Preston Palmeiro (2016)
SO RHP Joe O’Donnell (2016)
SO LHP Ryan Williamson (2016)
SO LHP Cody Beckman (2016)
FR RHP/INF Tommy DeJuneas (2017)
FR RHP Evan Mendoza (2017)
FR OF Storm Edwards (2017)
FR 3B Joe Dunand (2017)

Notre Dame

rSR RHP Cristian Torres (2015)
JR RHP Nick McCarty (2015)
SR RHP Scott Kerrigan (2015)
JR RHP David Hearne (2015)
JR LHP Michael Hearne (2015)
JR LHP/OF Zac Kutsulis (2015)
SR OF/LHP Robert Youngdahl (2015)
SR 3B Phil Mosey (2015)
SR OF/1B Ryan Bull (2015)
SR OF Mac Hudgins (2015)
SR OF Blaise Lezynski (2015)
SR OF Conor Biggio (2015)
JR SS Lane Richards (2015)
JR C/OF Ricky Sanchez (2015)
SO RHP Ryan Smoyer (2016)
SO 2B/SS Kyle Fiala (2016)
SO 2B/3B Cavan Biggio (2016)
SO C Ryan Lidge (2016)
rFR OF Torii Hunter (2016)
FR RHP Peter Solomon (2017)
FR RHP Brad Bass (2017)
FR RHP Brandon Bielak (2017)
FR LHP Sean Guenther (2017)

Pittsburgh

SR OF Boo Vazquez (2015)
SR 1B Eric Hess (2015)
SR SS/2B Matt Johnson (2015)
JR C Alex Kowalczyk (2015)
JR RHP Marc Berube (2015)
JR RHP Aaron Sandefur (2015)
JR LHP/OF Aaron Schnurbusch (2015)
SR RHP Hobie Harris (2015)
SO RHP Sam Mersing (2016)
SO RHP TJ Zeuch (2016)
FR 3B/SS Charles LeBlanc (2017)

Virginia

JR OF Joe McCarthy (2015)
JR 2B/3B John LaPrise (2015)
SO SS/3B Daniel Pinero (2015)
SR 3B Kenny Towns (2015)
JR C/RHP Robbie Coman (2015)
JR LHP Brandon Waddell (2015)
JR LHP Nathan Kirby (2015)
JR RHP Josh Sborz (2015)
JR LHP David Rosenberger (2015)
SO RHP Connor Jones (2016)
SO C Matt Thaiss (2016)
SO RHP Jack Roberts (2016)
SO RHP Alec Bettinger (2016)
FR 2B Jack Gerstenmaier (2017)
FR 1B/RHP Pavin Smith (2017)
FR RHP Derek Casey (2017)
FR RHP Tommy Doyle (2017)
FR OF/LHP Adam Haseley (2017)
FR LHP Bennett Sousa (2017)
FR 3B Charlie Cody (2017)
FR C/2B Justin Novak (2017)
FR OF Christian Lowry (2017)
FR 2B/OF Ernie Clement (2017)

Virginia Tech

rSO OF Saige Jenco (2015)
SR 2B/SS Alex Perez (2015)
rSR OF Kyle Wernicki (2015)
rJR OF Logan Bible (2015)
SR 1B/RHP Brendon Hayden (2015)
rSO 1B/LHP Phil Sciretta (2015)
SR LHP/1B Sean Keselica (2015)
rSO LHP Kit Scheetz (2015)
rJR LHP Jon Woodcock (2015)
SO RHP Luke Scherzer (2016)
SO SS Ricky Surum (2016)
SO RHP Aaron McGarity (2016)
SO 3B Ryan Tufts (2016)
SO OF/LHP Tom Stoffel (2016)
SO 3B/OF Miguel Ceballos (2016)
SO RHP Ryan Lauria (2016)
FR C Joe Freiday (2017)
FR 3B Max Ponzurik (2017)

Wake Forest

JR RHP/C Garrett Kelly (2015)
SR RHP Matt Pirro (2015)
rSO LHP Max Tishman (2015)
rJR RHP Aaron Fossas (2015)
rSR OF Kevin Jordan (2015)
JR OF/2B Joey Rodriguez (2015)
JR OF Luke Czajkowski (2015)
SO C Ben Breazeale (2016)
rFR RHP Chris Farish (2016)
SO 2B/OF Nate Mondou (2016)
SO 3B/RHP Will Craig (2016)
SO RHP John McCarren (2016)
SO RHP Connor Johnstone (2016)
SO RHP Parker Dunshee (2016)
FR OF Stuart Fairchild (2017)
FR INF Bruce Steel (2017)
FR 1B Gavin Sheets (2017)
FR SS Drew Freedman (2017)

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Virginia

JR OF Joe McCarthy (2015)
JR 2B/3B John LaPrise (2015)
SO SS/3B Daniel Pinero (2015)
SR 3B Kenny Towns (2015)
JR C/RHP Robbie Coman (2015)
JR LHP Brandon Waddell (2015)
JR LHP Nathan Kirby (2015)
JR RHP Josh Sborz (2015)
JR LHP David Rosenberger (2015)
SO RHP Connor Jones (2016)
SO C Matt Thaiss (2016)
SO RHP Jack Roberts (2016)
SO RHP Alec Bettinger (2016)
FR 2B Jack Gerstenmaier (2017)
FR 1B/RHP Pavin Smith (2017)
FR RHP Derek Casey (2017)
FR RHP Tommy Doyle (2017)
FR OF/LHP Adam Haseley (2017)
FR LHP Bennett Sousa (2017)
FR 3B Charlie Cody (2017)
FR C/2B Justin Novak (2017)
FR OF Christian Lowry (2017):
FR INF/OF Ernie Clement (2017)

Virginia has spoiled us all when we look at the talent above and think “yeah, it’s good but I’m just not feeling blown away.” That was my initial reaction to seeing the team laid out like this, but then you start doing the math. We’ve got a super athletic corner outfielder with a plus approach and strong hit tool (JR OF Joe McCarthy), a 6-5, 210 pound defensively gifted middle infielder (SO SS/3B Daniel Pinero), a crafty lefty with a plus curve who struck out almost a batter an inning his last healthy season (JR LHP Brandon Waddell), and a power-armed potential professional closer who lives in the mid-90s with three average or better secondaries including a hard cut-SL that could be a major weapon in time (JR RHP Josh Sborz). Then there’s JR LHP Nathan Kirby. All he’s done since getting to Virginia is a) strike out a batter an inning while consistently shutting down some of the stronger lineups in the country each week, b) see his stuff tick up to where he’s now hitting 94/95 with a knuckle curve at 76-84 that is unhittable when on, and c) retain his always above-average or better athleticism and command. He also had that no-hitter with 18 strikeouts against Pittsburgh last season, a performance so dominating he now has his own Wikipedia page. I am far too lazy to do a comprehensive list of all 2015 college draft prospects with Wikipedia pages, so you’ll just have to buy that the only ones I found in my two minutes of research are Kirby, Alex Bregman, Carson Fulmer, and Phil Bickford, though I suppose once Brady Aiken is officially enrolled at a junior college he can be added to the mix. Add those players to a potential first round pick in Kirby (who could be joined in the first by McCarthy, it should be noted) and you’ve got yet another talented Virginia squad. What else is new?

Kirby fascinates me not only because he’s achieved my dream of someday being important enough to warrant a Wikipedia entry but also because I really don’t have a firm grasp on what he is nor what he will be. I mean, I think he’s a high-floor future big league starting pitcher, but I’m not quite sure how high I’m willing to go with his ceiling. Perhaps I’m waiting to see more out of the changeup, a pitch that, as mentioned, seems to get a little better looking every time out. I got a comp from an area guy who has seen Kirby pitch more than 99.99% of human beings on the planet who actually compared him to a lefthanded Ian Kennedy, but with the caveat that his changeup still had some improvement left to truly “earn” such a comp. In terms of repertoire only (future performance as well, I suppose), I see some Alex Wood in Kirby. That comes with the big difference of Kirby’s Danny Hultzen style delivery replacing Wood’s painful looking arm action. Hultzen, the most logical comparison, doesn’t really work because of their flip-flopped stuff (Hultzen had the plus change and emerging breaking ball, Kirby is the other way around) but it’s not the craziest thing in the world. It’s yet another imperfect comp — a familiar refrain if you’ve been paying attention — but of all the recent first round lefties you’ll read about below, I think the closest comp at the same developmental stage is Andrew Heaney.

That leads into the other reason why Kirby fascinates me so. College lefties are weird. College lefthanded pitchers have had a surprisingly (to me) spotty track record since I’ve started this site up in 2009. If we take a look back through the years, you’ll see what I mean. Off the top, let’s be clear that Carlos Rodon is a separate animal altogether. I haven’t written a ton about him because this was a quiet last year for me on the site, but he’s not a guy I’m willing to compare to any other young arm at this point. He’s a man on the mound, and trying to shoehorn him into this discussion would be fruitless. Last year we also saw Kyle Freeland, Sean Newcomb, and Brandon Finnegan off the board in the first fifteen picks. Marco Gonzales went 19th in 2013 while Sean Manaea fell to 34th overall albeit for unique (injury, bonus demands) circumstances. Heaney (9th overall) and Brian Johnson (31st) were first round picks in 2012. Hultzen, Jed Bradley, Chris Reed, Tyler Anderson, Sean Gilmartin, Andrew Chafin, and Grayson Garvin all went in what we now know as a highly disappointing first round (for lefthanded college pitchers, at least) in 2011. Drew Pomeranz and Chris Sale were both popped early in 2010. Mike Minor was the only real first round college lefty in 2009, but a run of ill-advised southpaws saw Rex Brothers (fine, he’s good), Aaron Miller, James Paxton (good, but unsigned), Mike Belfiore, Matt Bashore, and Tyler Kehrer all taken within the top fifty overall picks in the sandwich round.

We’ll leave the two most recent drafts alone because we need at least a little bit of time before rushing to crazy conclusions. So far, however, Rodon, Finnegan, and Gonzales all look good, as each guy is expected to play an important role in the big leagues at some point in 2015. Heaney, Johnson, and Paxton are all still probably too young to say, but each guy has done enough that I think we can call them successes at this point. Pomeranz appears to finally have something cooking with Oakland. Minor is an easy win. Brothers is a maybe, but I’ll be generous and say he’s shown enough at his best to be a positive. I guess that Chris Sale guy is pretty good, too. Not counting 2014 and 2013, that’s seven happy endings from the past four first and supplemental first rounds. On the downside, I count eight pitchers (Bradley, Reed, Anderson, Gilmartin, Miller, Belfiore, Bashore, Kehrer) that have disappointed, and that’s at least partly generous in some respects (still giving time to Hultzen, Chafin, Garvin). For the record, it’s really painful for me to call anybody a disappointment, but I’m trying to be as objective as I can here. I still have plenty of hope for Bradley, Anderson, and maybe even Reed to be average or better big leaguers. Anyway, by draft standards, even when taking into account we’re talking first round picks, that’s not necessarily a devastatingly low number of successes, but college pitching really should be a spot where you have a higher hit rate.

Anyway, diversion aside, I think a Kennedy, Wood, or Heaney type career path is well within reach for Kirby at this point. On the highest of high ends is a ceiling reminiscent of none other than Cliff Lee. We’re talking young Cliff Lee (i.e. before the plus command), so don’t think I’m 100% crazy (just 75% or so). Maybe you can bump that figure up a little higher, as I’ve previously compared two draft prospects (both righties, go figure) to Lee in the past: Chris Stratton (still love him, but whoops) and Trevor Bauer. That last comp remains one worth watching, I think. Bauer hit the big leagues before Lee, so we can’t do a straight age comparison but here’s a rough comparison by innings…

Lee: 7.9 K/9 – 4.1 BB/9 – 90 ERA+ – 241.2 IP
Bauer: 8.3 K/9 – 4.3 BB/9 – 85 ERA+ – 186.1 IP

We can’t finish up writing about Virginia by referencing two players with no connections to the program. That’s my stilted attempt at a transition to a quick discussion of the “other” UVA 2015 draft-eligible players and the many interesting Cavalier underclassmen. SR 3B Kenny Towns (steady glove, has flashed at times with the bat), JR C Robbie Coman (strong arm, good approach), and JR LHP David Rosenberger are all solid college role players that could sneak into the late round mix with bigger than anticipated seasons. The battery of SO RHP Connor Jones and SO C Matt Thaiss could both find themselves as first round picks in a year. SO RHP Alex Bettinger really impressed as a freshman (32 K in 36.2 IP) despite a less than stellar fastball. There are plenty of potential impact players in the freshman class, most notably 3B Charlie Cody, LHP Bennett Sousa, 1B/RHP Pavin Smith, and 2B Jack Gerstenmaier.

2012 MLB Draft: All-ACC Prospect Team (Honorable Mentions)

I really wanted to finish up those College World Series previews in time for the weekend, but pesky real work obligations got in the way. They wound up being a lot more time consuming than I had anticipated, so with great regret I’m ditching the rest of the time-sensitive stuff and instead focusing on a more general 2012 approach going forward. In an effort to spotlight some interesting names heading into next year, I’ll be putting together preseason All-Conference (2012 Draft) teams throughout the summer. Like much of the content you’ll see over the next ten weeks there is no schedule, so be sure to check in early and often to see if your favorite conference has gotten any love.

To start off, here are 5 interesting ACC infielders who didn’t actually make the cut for my preseason All-ACC (2012 Draft) team…

Source: leebecker.com

Clemson SO C Spencer Kieboom | .300/.382/.382 – 23 BB/12 K – 170 AB

There is a lot to like about Spencer Kieboom. First, he’s got a good approach at the plate. Next up, there is his even better defense behind the plate. Finally, and best of all, there is his name, Spencer Kieboom. The first two may be more important with respect to his future in baseball, but I’d say that last quality alone is more than enough to get him on every early 2012 watch list.

Wake Forest SO 1B Matt Conway |.272/.361/.451 – 27 BB/31 K – 195 AB

Conway has the size (6-7, 250 pounds), plus raw power, and solid approach to hitting that help make him Wake Forest’s best prospect since Allan Dykstra in 2008. He also dabbles on the mound for the Demon Deacons; that’s both a terrifying thought for an opposing batter (not sure I’d be feeling 6-7, 250 pound lefty heat coming at me…) and a feat worth noting to highlight Conway’s better than you’d think athleticism and arm strength.

Clemson SO 1B Richie Shaffer | .333/.459/.613 – 47 BB/50 K – 222 AB

It was incredibly difficult to leave Shaffer off the big boy list, but tough decisions sometimes come with the job. If we were to smartly ignore the artificial restraints that such a list presents, however, we could focus less on the list itself and more on Shaffer the good defender with plus to plus-plus raw power and a plus throwing arm capable of hitting the low-90s from the mound. We could also talk about his outstanding sophomore year – who couldn’t love a sophomore who slugged over .600 while going up against the likes of Virginia, North Carolina, Miami and Florida State? – as well as his above-average defense, solid athleticism, pro frame speedy recovery from a broken hamate bone.

North Carolina SO 2B Tommy Coyle | .337/.429/.451 – 37 BB/21 K – 19/25 SB – 255 AB

Coyle has above-average speed and athleticism, a really solid line drive swing, and an outstanding batting eye. It is still really early in the process, but I think we’re looking at a player with the ceiling of a big league regular with the possibility of a utility future a realistic backup option. The similarities between Tommy and his Red Sox prospect brother Sean are striking, with the younger Sean holding the slight advantage as a prospect because of a touch more power upside. How cool is it to think that there is a chance both Tommy and Sean could be big league starting second baseman some day?

Virginia SO SS Chris Taylor | .320/.397/.426 – 25 BB/39 K – 10/14 SB – 256

As an unheralded – though still heralded enough to land at UVA — high school recruit, Chris Taylor has had to work his way up the depth chart over time. He now finds himself firmly entrenched as the Cavaliers starting shortstop and leadoff hitter. His athleticism, defensive versatility, and plus arm are what really set him apart from the field at this point in his development.

Where The College Talent Is

I’m not well informed enough to make a controversial stance and say that the following universities have the “best” rosters (with regard to potential pro talent, not necessarily winning college talent), so I’ll totally wimp out and, for now anyway, call these rosters some of the most intriguing that I’ve seen so far. I’ve stuck to the big name conferences, but I’ll expand this list to some of the little guys as the offseason rolls along.

ACC – Virginia
Big East – South Florida
SEC – LSU/Georgia/Vanderbilt (even when being spineless, I can’t pick a favorite…)
Big 12 – Texas
Pac-10 – Oregon State
Big West – UC Riverside
West Coast – Gonzaga
Conference USA – Rice
Mountain West – Texas Christian