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From a stuff standpoint Tommy John surgery survivor RHP/1B Tristin English profiles very similarly to RHP Jonathan Hughes. Both guys have fastballs that can hit 96 MPH (87-94 regularly) with average or better sliders. Hughes has the edge with his third pitch, another average or better offering (changeup), but English’s top tier athleticism tip the scales back to him. There are some who prefer English as a hitter, but I think his future, as is the case with most guys who can throw mid-90s heat, is on the mound. Like Hughes there are still plenty of kinks to be worked out, but the upside is considerable. For what it’s worth, I LOVED English coming out of Pike County HS in 2015. The love has cooled a bit — two years away from the mound will do that — but remembering why he was considered such a big-time prospect in the first place can help rekindle those old feelings. A young, healthy English flashed a plus slider, promising curve, and usable changeup, all in addition to that fastball that topped out in the mid-90s. If he can get back to that just a little bit — he’s already there with the aforementioned fastball and slider — then he has a chance to be pretty special.
Patience is needed with Hughes as he also works himself back from Tommy John surgery. Patience and understanding. Hughes’s raw stuff (good!) has long outpaced his peripherals (bad!) all while putting up impressive run prevention stats (good…but maybe not all that predictive). It’s a damn confusing overall package. His return to the mound so far in 2018 just muddles the waters even more. Hughes has upped his K/9 to a still below-average 6.28 while his BB/9 has rocketed to 9.42. It’s a really small sample, but the fact he’s done that and still has an ERA of just 2.08 is pretty wacky. I have no idea what to make of Hughes just yet. The good news is we might not need to make any grand conclusions on him considering his three years of eligibility left. It would be a major upset if he used all three years, but certainly not a stretch to see him back at a fine academic institution like Georgia Tech for his academic senior year in 2019.
RHP Patrick Wiseman is a super deep sleeper who hasn’t pitched much at all since enrolling due to a variety of injuries. When healthy, the 6-5, 225 pound hurler can run his fastball up to 95 MPH. RHP Bailey Combs, RHP Jake Lee (16.45 K/9 + 1.94 BB/9 = 11.57 ERA in 9.1 IP, somehow), and RHP Micah Carpenter all live in the upper-80s with decent secondary stuff. RHP Keyton Gibson is a half-grade ahead in both velocity (89-93) and overall prospect stock.
C/1B Joey Bart is really good. I know a lot of people who think he’s the best college catching prospect and a potential first round pick. I can’t disagree. He’s part of the large group of college catchers all battling it out to be the first of their kind off the board. Bart’s power and arm strength are exactly what teams are drawn to at the position. His approach has taken a big step forward early this season — something many smart onlookers (i.e., not me but the people who occasionally tell me things) expected on some level — and if it’s a real change and not a small sample blip, then his already high stock will shoot up even higher. I still think there are some rough edges defensively that need polishing, but the same can honestly be said of just about any 21-year-old catching prospect with the offensive talent to start in the big leagues.
It’s stunning to me to see 2B/SS Wade Bailey back at Georgia Tech after the junior season he had. Pro ball’s loss is our gain (temporarily) as we get to talk about Bailey for another few months before losing him to minor league prospect writers who specialize in super duper deep sleepers. Bailey is good at second, playable at short, and has hit every single season of his life. I like prospects like that.
SS/OF Carter Hall is a lot of fun for a lot of reasons. My favorite reason is that I honestly don’t know what to make of him yet. He’s a redshirt-sophomore who figures to remain in school at least another year and likely longer than that — guys who go to school to play for their dad don’t tend to leave early — so we at least have a year or three to figure it out. Hall is also fun because he’s a blazing fast runner with the kind of defensive chops to handle both middle infield spots and chase down balls in the gaps in center. A player like that who has impressed in his small sample opportunities at the plate gets interesting in a hurry. I’m here for Carter Hall even if it means waiting a year or two until his signability comes into clearer focus.
I’m just about out of words to say about 1B/OF Kel Johnson. He’s a really good college player who was burdened with outsized expectations going back to his prep days, but he’s now settled into a really tough 1B/LF only righthanded power bat with way too much swing-and-miss in his game. That’s a really, really tough profile to love.
The ultra-athletic OF Chase Murray is a really good looking young hitter who can run and defend. The leap he’s made in his approach is really exciting as Murray has gone from striking out in 20.5 % of his plate appearances to doing the same in just 8.8% of his plate appearances so far in 2018. It’s a really small sample (25 AB), but C Kyle McCann hitting .400/.583/1.120 is so good that I can’t not mention it. I have a weird suspicion that those numbers will dip some as the year progresses, but with two carrying tools (above-average power, plus arm) he’s a fun backstop to track heading into next year’s draft. RHP Garrett Gooden and LHP Connor Thomas are good 2019 prospects, but RHP/SS Xzavion Curry is potentially a great one.
rSO RHP Jonathan Hughes (2018)
rSO RHP/1B Tristin English (2018)
SR RHP Patrick Wiseman (2018)
rSR RHP Ben Schniederjans (2018)
SR RHP Jared Datoc (2018)
JR RHP Robert Winborne (2018)
JR RHP Micah Carpenter (2018)
JR RHP Jake Lee (2018)
JR RHP Keyton Gibson (2018)
JR RHP Bailey Combs (2018)
JR C/1B Joey Bart (2018)
SR 1B/OF Kel Johnson (2018)
SR 2B/SS Wade Bailey (2018)
rSO SS/OF Carter Hall (2018)
SO RHP Garrett Gooden (2019)
SO LHP Connor Thomas (2019)
SO RHP/SS Xzavion Curry (2019)
SO RHP/2B Austin Wilhite (2019)
SO LHP/OF Nick Wilhite (2019)
SO C Kyle McCann (2019)
SO OF Chase Murray (2019)
FR RHP Hugh Chapman (2020)
FR LHP Brant Hurter (2020)
FR LHP/OF Will Shirah (2020)
FR SS/RHP Oscar Serratos (2020)
FR OF Colin Hall (2020)
FR OF Baron Radcliff (2020)
FR INF Luke Waddell (2020)
FR OF Michael Guldberg (2020)
FR OF Colin Hall (2020)
Brendan McKay, Adam Haseley, Pavin Smith, and Drew Ellis are the four clear top tier ACC hitting prospects in the 2017 MLB Draft. I’m not sure anybody would quibble with the first three — though you’re free to do so, of course — so that leaves Ellis as the only somewhat controversial pick. I’d like to think my love for him is pretty well established by now, so I won’t go into too much detail why I think the present .405/.500/.759 hitter with plus raw power and more walks than strikeouts deserves serious first round consideration. Some clarity on his long-term defensive home would be nice, but I’m not sure it’s necessarily needed with how he’s hitting. As a third baseman, he’s a potential star. Same for a corner outfield spot. At first base, the bar is raised high enough that you’d have to knock him down the board just a bit, but not all that far considering the confidence I have in him continuing to hit past the necessary threshold to start in the big leagues there. There’s more to player evaluation than college production (duh), but worth pointing out that Ellis and McKay, more likely to go out as a hitter with every passing four homer day, have very similar 2017 numbers. If the latter is a slam dunk starter at first at the next level, then why couldn’t Ellis do the same if that’s what it comes down to?
Beyond that foursome, things are wide open. I’d be willing to hear arguments on any of the following seven players being tier one prospects: Taylor Walls, Brian Miller, Colby Fitch, Gavin Sheets, Stuart Fairchild, Logan Warmoth, and Devin Hairston. That’s six up-the-middle prospects plus the seemingly unstoppable bat of Sheets. The next tier down includes too many players to even bother listing at this point. I mean, I’ll do it anyway because writing more than necessary is true to my #brand, but it’s almost too many names to derive much meaning beyond “damn, the ACC is stacked this year.” There are consensus favorites with impressive tools who have underwhelmed (note: we’re only using “underwhelmed” in the context of incredibly high expectations of on-field numbers; none of these guys are having bad years by any stretch, it’s just that they are showing one or more flaws that would need to be addressed by any interested front office) from a performance standpoint to date (Evan Mendoza, Logan Taylor, Carl Chester, Kyle Datres, Joe Dunand) as well as personal favorites like Rhett Aplin, Wade Bailey, Reed Rohlman, Trevor Craport, Cody Roberts, Ben Breazeale, Robbie Coman (who, incidentally, I’ll be very glad once he’s drafted and gone from my life since my fingers want to spell his last name “Comand” every single time), Ernie Clement, Tyler Lynn, Bruce Stell, and Charlie Cody…damn, the ACC really is stacked this year.
Here are some All-Draft Prospect Teams that I whipped up while my computer was dead last week. I’m going to try to do these for as many conferences as I can squeeze in. The depth of the ACC let me go three teams deep. Here’s the first team…
C – Colby Fitch
1B – Pavin Smith
2B – Taylor Walls
SS – Logan Warmoth
3B – Drew Ellis
OF – Adam Haseley, Brian Miller, Stuart Fairchild
I think every one of these guys has been covered by now with the exception of Stuart Fairchild. The Wake Forest center fielder has one of this year’s most well-rounded skill sets. Averages dot his card with above-averages within range (perhaps a plus for speed) depending on how much you like him. Fairchild is also one of this class’s “great approach, hasn’t really shown it” types. Everybody who has seen him has raved to me about his pitch recognition, ability to spoil good pitchers’s pitches, and general knowledge of the strike zone, but his BB/K ratios have been up (39/42 last year) and down (18/40 as a freshman, 22/37 so far this year) throughout his college career. Count me in as a believer that the results will catch up to his talent in pro ball. Fairchild has the ceiling of a first-division regular in center with a mature enough present skill set that seems too strong across the board to result in a complete flame out. In English, I like both his ceiling and floor quite a bit.
What you think about Taylor Walls‘s defense should dictate how high you’re willing to run him up your board. Indecisive internet draft writer that I am, I vacillate between shortstop and second base on him far more often than I’d like to admit. Case in point: when I wrote this last night, I decided on second base for him. The logic there was simple: his arm may be a bit light for short and erring on the side of caution in cases like these (i.e, if there’s debate on whether or not an amateur guy will stick at a position, chances are he won’t) often proves the smartest strategy in the long run. On the other hand, his range is great, he’s an above-average runner (a solid proxy for athleticism), and some of the mixed opinions on his arm have it closer to playing plus than anything. So…I don’t know. I’m leaning shortstop today after having him as a second baseman yesterday. Ask me again tomorrow and I might make him a free safety. Wherever he plays, he’s a keeper. Maybe you don’t see a regular when looking at him (or maybe you do), but it’s hard not to see a big league player in some capacity.
I’m still not convinced Adam Haseley isn’t a top ten player in this class. Maybe I’m nuts. I can live with that. I also don’t see why the aforementioned Drew Ellis can’t crack the top thirty. These are really good players. The feeling I get about Ellis reminds me a little bit how I felt about Edwin Rios, sixth round steal by the Dodgers in 2015. I loved Rios then (ranked 119, drafted 192) and I love Ellis even more now. The second he inevitably falls out of the first round, he’ll then become one of this draft’s best value picks.
C – Cody Roberts
1B – Brendan McKay
2B – Wade Bailey
SS – Devin Hairston
3B – Charlie Cody
OF – Tyler Lynn, Logan Taylor, Carl Chester
Happy to keep banging the drum for Charlie Cody from now until draft day. He can hit. Putting him back at his high school position of third base in the pros takes a significant leap of faith after he’s spent the past three years splitting time between DH and LF, but I’m enough of a believer in his bat that moving him to an outfield corner wouldn’t torpedo his value altogether. I like Wade Bailey a lot as well; his stock should keep rising considering the general dearth of quality middle infielders in this college class.
I’ve mentally gone back and forth between Pavin Smith and Brendan McKay a dozen times this spring with the expectation I do it another half-dozen times between now and the draft. I’m not really sure you can go wrong with either at this point. Smith feels like the better all-around hitter (by a razor thin margin), but McKay has more present functional power. Add in McKay’s ability as a pitcher and it’s hard to argue he’s the better (and safer) overall prospect. I still like Smith a bit more as a position player, so that’s what gives him the nod over McKay for this particular exercise.
Logan Taylor and Carl Chester are cut from the same cloth. We’re talking speed, defense, and minimal pop. It’s a prospect profile I’ve never been able to quit even as I see players like this get exposed in pro ball year after year. The floor makes it worth it at a certain point in the draft, but I need to stop overrating these types. Will I? Stay tuned!
C – Robbie Coman
1B – Gavin Sheets
2B – Ernie Clement
SS – Bruce Steel
3B – Joe Dunand
OF – Rhett Aplin, Reed Rohlman, Jonathan Pryor
I wrote about Wake Forest in an as yet unpublished piece that will likely never see the light of day. It was half-finished, so I didn’t get to all of the big names on this year’s Demon Deacons team…but I did get to Bruce Steel. Here’s what I wrote about him about three weeks ago…
Bruce Steel makes my head hurt as a low-average, high-OBP, shockingly high-power potential middle infielder. His limited experience as a redshirt-sophomore after tearing ligaments in his thumb in 2016 just makes it all the more confusing. I’m super intrigued by Steel and think he’s getting slept on pretty heavily within the industry. His power and makeup are both legit (first two things I hear about when asking about him), reports about his defense this year at shortstop have been far more good than bad, and he’s young for his class (turns 21 in December). Did I just talk myself into making him a rare in-season FAVORITE? You bet.
Also wrote this about Jonathan Pryor with an lead-in about Ben Breazeale, who was narrowly edged out for this third catcher spot by Robbie Coman…
Ben Breazeale’s hot start brings me great joy. I thought a big year was coming last season, but better late than never. He’s an outstanding senior-sign catcher with more than enough glove to stick behind the plate and enough offensive punch to profile as a big league backup. Jonathan Pryor could do similar things as an outfielder who can hang in center and provide a little something with the stick. It’s early yet, but his 15/20 BB/K ratio is cool to see from somebody who put up an impossibly ugly 5/40 ratio just two seasons ago.
Pryor’s BB/K is now at 23/32 for those of you scoring at home.
Then there’s Gavin Sheets. I have no idea what to do with Gavin Sheets. I think he hits enough to play regularly in the big leagues. As a first baseman, that means I think he’ll hit a whole heck of a lot. If he can do that, he’ll become only the third ever Gavin (Floyd and Cecchini beat him) to play in the majors. I’m leaning towards Sheets as the fifth best draft-eligible bat in the conference and think he’ll represent great value to teams if he winds up sliding on draft day as expected. I know teams pay a premium for up-the-middle talent, but sometimes the allure of a big bat is just too strong to ignore.
Others receiving consideration…
C – Ben Breazeale, Chris Williams, Ryan Lidge
1B – Sam Fragale, Quincy Nieporte, Justin Bellinger, Kel Johnson
2B – Jack Owens, Jake Palomaki, Johnny Ruiz, Kyle Fiala
SS – Justin Novak, Liam Sabino
3B – Trevor Craport, Ryan Tufts, Jack Labosky, Evan Mendoza, Kyle Datres, Dylan Busby, Zack Gahagan
OF – Jacob Wright, Chase Pinder, Coleman Poje, Ryan Peurifoy, Hunter Tackett, Adam Pate, Josh McLain, Brock Deatherage, Mac Caples, Rahiem Cooper
The 2017 pitching crop at Georgia Tech is fairly uninspired. If/when Patrick Wiseman gets on the mound for some steady innings, that could change. He’s got imposing size (6-5, 230) and a big fastball (88-93, 95 peak) when right. Jonathan King is yet another ACC crafty lefty who might appeal to some — upper-80s fastball, two quality offspeed pitches, deceptive, athletic — but as a 24-year-old (in a week) redshirt-senior coming off an arm injury who didn’t miss a ton of bats when healthy…I mean, there’s no nice way to really finish that story. Ben Parr (85-90 FB) and Zac Ryan (85-92 FB, good 78-80 CB/SL) could get looks as relief prospects in the pros; I give the edge to Parr as a lefty with better size and a more impressive track record.
On the other side of the ball, the name that jumps out right away is Trevor Craport. I really like Trevor Craport. I like him so much that we’re almost at the point where I’m actively seeking out bad news about him to temper my expectations for him. Craport had a quietly great 2016 season and is doing more of the same so far in 2017. His power, arm strength, and athleticism are all average or better. He’s a competent glove at third base who also has intriguing upside as a catching conversion project if his drafting team so desires. There’s just a ton to like about his game. In a lackluster third base college class, he has a great shot to rise way up boards this spring.
Wade Bailey is a rock solid middle infielder in a class in need of some good prospects there. He’s a good defender at second with solid speed, quick hands, and a little more pop than his frame might suggest. I approve. I also approve (to a slightly lesser degree) of Ryan Peurifoy, a personal favorite heading into last year who completely fell apart in all phases of the game. He’s rebounded just enough in the early going this year that I’m comfortable vouching for him as a draft-worthy potential big league backup outfielder. He’s got the speed, arm, and defensive instincts for the job, so it’ll be up to him to continue to be a non-zero offensively to get his shot or not. Coleman Poje is only in my notes because of 28 reasonably interesting at bats last year (.214/.314/.429 for those curious). His power and manageable BB/K ratio so far in 2017 has me thinking he’s done a better Kel Johnson impression than Kel Johnson himself. I’m intrigued.
Speaking of Kel Johnson, it’s about time we addressed the biggest name in the Ramblin’ Wreck 2017 draft universe. Johnson’s plus power puts him among a select group of amateur prospects in this class. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, impressive as that power might be, he’s looking more and more like a one-tool prospect with every empty plate appearance. All the power in the world can’t help you when you swing and miss like he does. Toss in a highly questionable defensive forecast and I think you’re looking at a platoon player/bench bat at best. He’d be an undeniably fun one of those, so at least there’s that. I’m out on him unless he comes much cheaper than anticipated on draft day. Or he starts socking dingers left and right between now and June. Either way.
SR LHP Ben Parr (2017)
SR RHP Zac Ryan (2017)
JR RHP Patrick Wiseman (2017)
rJR RHP Ben Schniederjans (2017)
JR RHP Jared Datoc (2017)
rSR LHP/OF Jonathan King (2017)
JR 3B/C Trevor Craport (2017)
JR 2B/SS Wade Bailey (2017)
JR 1B/OF Kel Johnson (2017)
SR OF Ryan Peurifoy (2017)
SR OF Keenan Innis (2017)
rSR OF Coleman Poje (2017)
SO RHP Jonathan Hughes (2018)
SO RHP Tristin English (2018)
SO RHP Burton Dulaney (2018)
SO RHP Micah Carpenter (2018)
SO RHP Jake Lee (2018)
SO RHP Keyton Gibson (2018)
SO RHP Bailey Combs (2018)
SO RHP Robert Winborne (2018)
SO C Joey Bart (2018)
SO OF/1B Brandt Stallings (2018)
SO SS/2B Carter Hall (2018)
FR RHP Garrett Gooden (2019)
FR LHP Connor Thomas (2019)
FR LHP Jay Shadday (2019)
FR RHP/SS Xzavion Curry (2019)
FR RHP/2B Austin Wilhite (2019)
FR LHP/OF Nick Wilhite (2019)
FR C Kyle McCann (2019)
FR OF Chase Murray (2019)
FR 2B/SS Parker McCoy (2019)