Prospect Digest A Sabermetric Look At The Minor Leagues 2017-07-19T11:45:55Z http://www.prospectdigest.com/feed/atom/ WordPress Joseph Werner <![CDATA[Tigers Raise the White Flag, Not Enough Comes Back]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5545 2017-07-19T11:45:55Z 2017-07-19T11:45:55Z

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Like writing on a graffiti-tagged freight car, the time finally came for the Tigers to throw up the proverbial white flag and start dealing away some of their costly, aging veterans. Detroit agreed to ship All-Star outfielder J.D. Martinez, a free agent at the conclusion of the season, to the resurgent Diamondbacks for a trio of infield prospects: Dawel Lugo, pint-sized shortstop Sergio Alcantara, and baby-faced middle infielder Jose King.

Lugo, the centerpiece of the return for GM Al Avila, was originally acquired by Arizona for replacement level veteran Cliff Pennington less than two years ago. However, since then his offensive production has continued to steady as he’s moved through the low- to mid-levels of the minor leagues.

I’ve always been a rather big fan of Lugo’s. Here’s what I wrote about him in my 2015 book while he was still in the Blue Jays’ organization:

“Lugo had a fine showing in the Appalachian League two years ago, hitting .284/.301/.437 with 15 doubles, a pair of triples, and seven homeruns while posting a 122 wRC+. The problem, however, are the seasons that end-cap his 2013. He batted .224/.275/.329 in the Gulf in 2012 and followed that up with a .259/.286/.329 triple-slash line last year. He definitely doesn’t walk much and the hit tool seems questionable right now. But, again, he put together three steady months in the Midwest League at 19, that can’t be overlooked.”

I followed a year later with this – after Toronto aggressively, and wrongly, pushed him up to High Class A:

“Let’s pretend for a moment that Lugo was simply a 20-year-old shortstop prospect making his debut in the Midwest League. Had he hit .335/.358/.419 he’d likely be the talk of the town. But, unfortunately, his failings the previous season – as well as the ill-timed move of bumping him up to High Class A – dampen his shine a bit. And that’s not including a BABIP hovering around .400. It’s still a tremendous value for what amounted to a couple weeks of Cliff Pennington and cash. Lugo shows six- to eight-HR potential, no patience, very little speed, and strong contact skills.”

Lugo promptly went out and slugged .314/.348/.514 in a return to High Class A, though he spent half of his time in the hitter-friendly confines of Visalia. But he continued to mash as Arizona moved him up to the Southern League in the second half of the year, batting .306/.322/.451.

And here’s what I wrote in last year’s book when I ranked him as the seventh best prospect in the Diamondbacks’ system:

“Needless to say, the shine is back – and brighter than ever. So let’s take a deeper look into his numbers, shall we?
It’s important to recognize that the majority of Lugo production – including 14 of his 23 doubles and 13 of his 17 dingers – came during his tenure in High Class A. He, of course, spent half of his time playing in a notoriously hitter-friendly ballpark: Rawhide Ballpark.
Adjusting for his favorable home field, his triple-slash line goes from .314/.348/.514 to .300/.332/.484. Again, still strong production for a 22-year-old infielder in High Class A.
Outside of that, Lugo’s walk rates are terrible. The hit tool – and BABIP – seems repeatable. But he was shifted from shortstop to third base, where the offense clearly doesn’t play as well.
He is a fringy big league shortstop (with defensive woes) and a career minor league third baseman. Hopefully the franchise’s new regime realizes that too. “

Well, the new Arizona front office did realize that. I just expected them to move him back to shortstop, not trade him away.

Anyway, Lugo is having another Lugo-like year in a return to the Southern League, hitting .282/.325/.428 with 21 doubles, four triples, and seven homeruns en route to topping the league average production by 16%. Defensively, according to Clay Davenport’s metrics, he continues to be average-ish at the hot corner and slightly worse at shortstop.

I’m going to stick with my 2017 pre-season analysis: he looks like a fringy big league regular at shortstop and a career minor league third baseman.

The second piece in the deal was young shortstop Sergio Alcantara, a former highly touted international amateur free agent who just can’t seem to consistently solve low level minor league pitching. After struggling in 2014 and 2015, the 5-foot-9, 168-pound prospect looked strong in a 15-game return to short-season ball before struggling a bit upon his promotion to the Midwest League.

His calling card has been tremendous defense: he’s been a (+7) defender throughout his minor league career. If you squint hard enough you might be able to see a quasi-useful big league shortstop here. But there’s definitely a lot of risk involved. If I was the Tigers’ front office, I would have insisted that Alcantara was the third piece of the deal, not the second.

The final piece is teenage second base/shortstop – and complete wild card – Jose King. Like so many other notable – and too often irrelevant – prospects in the Dominican Summer League, King ripped through the level as he slugged a robust .350/.402/.413 last season. This year he’s walked up to the plate just 51 times in the Arizona Summer League, compiling a .261/.333/.348 triple-slash line.

King swings it from the left side without much pop year. And his only standout tool, thus far, has been his speed.

In the end, it just doesn’t seem like the Tigers got enough of a return for J.D. Martinez – even if the rental is only for a couple months. On one hand it makes complete sense that Detroit targets middle infielders, as they’re usually less risk involved, but they all just seem…a bit underwhelming.

 

 

 

 

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[Thoughts From the First Round of the 2017 Draft]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5542 2017-06-13T16:34:33Z 2017-06-13T16:34:33Z

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Hard to believe that the first round – as well as second and both compensation rounds – have come and gone. So here’s some quick hits on my thoughts about the first 30 picks in the draft. Enjoy!

 

#1. Royce Lewis, SS, Minnesota Twins – It didn’t take long for nearly every mock draft in America to get screwed up thanks to the Twins’ selection of the JSerra Catholic High School shortstop. It’s difficult to not slot the #1 overall pick at the top of any organization’s minor league rankings, but Nick Gordon’s looking like a budding star this season thanks to his developing power. It’ll be interesting to see if Gordon, an above-average defender at shortstop, gets moved to his brother’s position or if Lewis gets moved to center field in the coming years.

#2. Hunter Greene, RHP, Cincinnati Reds – One of the worst kept secrets in all of baseball, the Reds’ front office coveted the triple-digit throwing fire-baller for quite some time now. Again, as was the case with Lewis at #1, it’s difficult to not slot the second overall pick atop the Cincinnati’s farm system. But…Nick Senzel, the second overall pick in last year’s draft, isn’t far away from reaching Class AA. Right now, Senzel still gets the nod as the system’s top prospect due to Greene’s youth and potential for future injury.

#3. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, San Diego Padres – With Anderson Espinoza’s elbow flaring up – he hasn’t thrown a meaningful pitch in the minor leagues this year – the lanky lefty out of Whiteville High School becomes the Padres’ top pick, something that wasn’t as easy as you’d expect with former Stanford righty Cal Quantrill dominating High Class A.

#4. Brendan McKay, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays – A big, big fan of the Louisville star. McKay, a multiple John Olerud Award winner, has been stellar on the mound and at first base in each of his three collegiate seasons. He was announced as “Brendan McKay, Louisville, First Baseman,” so that should settle any debate about the Rays’ intentions. A lot of Tampa Bay’s top prospects have struggled this season – Jose De Leon has thrown just 20 innings; Willy Adames got off to a terrible start but has turned it around the last month or so; and Casey Gillaspie, another former collegiate first baseman, looks atrocious in Class AAA. Adames still gets the nod as the system’s top prospect, though McKay isn’t far behind.

#5. Kyle Wright, RHP, Atlanta Braves – In terms of talent vs. draft slot, I thought the Braves reached a little bit with the selection of Wright as the fifth overall pick. Coming from Pitcher U. – a.k.a. Vanderbilt – certainly helps, but he looks more like a nice safe bet to reach his mid-rotation ceiling rather than stardom. I had a few collegiate players ahead of him on my big board including: Adam Haseley, Jake Burger, and UNC hurler J.B. Bukauskas.

#6. Austin Beck, OF, Oakland A’s – Oakland hasn’t picked this high since 1995 when they took Ariel Prieto. This also marks the first time the club’s taken a prep prospect with their first selection since Billy McKinney in 2013. The North Davidson High School product’s ceiling likely tops that of underrated third baseman Matt Chapman and sparkplug infielder Franklin Barreto.

#7. Pavin Smith, 1b, Arizona Diamondbacks – This one was a shocker to me. Not that Smith isn’t worth of a first round selection, but his lack of above-average power at a run producing position should have been enough to push him out of the Top 10. Hell, maybe even the Top 20. His strong nose for first base will help mitigate some of that loss, but will it be enough?

#8. Adam Haseley, CF, Philadelphia Phillies – Tied with Jake Burger as my top collegiate bat in this year’s draft class. As I noted in his pre-draft evaluation, here’s a list of collegiate hitters to slug at least .380/.470/.650 with a K-rate below 10% and a BB-rate north of 14% (minimum of 200 PA) between 2011 and 2016: no one. Haseley accomplished that feat this year. Stud. Pure…stud.

#9. Keston Hiura, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers – Staring at the TV as the Brewers’ selection began, I just had a gut feeling that Hiura had a pretty good shot to go to the Brew Crew with the ninth overall pick. Should’ve tweeted that out. The UC Irvine slugger is one of the top collegiate hitters available. He’s a polished bat who has a little Rickie Weeks in him – if his wonky elbow allows him to man the keystone. He’s going to hit – no matter where they put him.

#10. Jo Adell, OF, Los Angeles Angels – The organization’s caught in a no man’s land scenario where they have a once-in-a-generation talent in Mike Trout and some solid players to round out the roster. But it’s simply not enough to consistently contend. The pitching staff is a bit thin – as always. So the Angels had one of two choices to make: #1 take the most talented prospect, regardless of risk, on the board or #2 grab a polished collegiate arm that could be rushed through the minors to help reinforce the big league club. They opted for Choice #1. According to reports, there’s some huge potential and huge questions about his bat. Maybe he hits early on and the front office could flip him for some big league help.

#11. Jake Burger, 3B, Chicago White Sox – Love, love, love this pick. Chicago’s front office has been pulling a lot of the right strings over the past couple years and I had the third baseman tied with Virginia outfielder Adam Haseley as the top bats in the collegiate class. Big time power at a premium defensive position? Yes please. He cooled considerably over the past couple weeks, but he has the potential to develop into an All-Star.

#12. Shane Baz, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates – It’s hard to believe that the it’s been seven years already since the Pirates grabbed Jameson Taillon with the second overall pick. But Baz, another Texas-born prep prospect, could follow in his Taillon’s shoes as a hard-throwing right-hander with a big ceiling.

#13. Trevor Rogers, LHP, Miami Marlins – Not surprising to see the Marlins grab a high reward high school prospect with their first overall selection. Rogers, the cousin of former big leaguer Cody Ross, was the second left-hander to go off the board yesterday. He’s big and lanky – he stands 6-foot-6 and 185 pounds – so there’s plenty of projection left to unlock.

#14. Nick Pratto, 1B, Kansas City Royals – Always a risky proposition to take a prep first baseman. But some considered the young first baseman’s bat as the purest among the high school ranks. Kansas City has burned through their once vaunted farm system, so it’s imperative that the Royals hit a homerun with Pratto.

#15. J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, Houston Astros – Talk about value vs. selection. I had the UNC righty as the fourth best collegiate prospect available – ahead of Pavin Smith, Kyle Wright, and Brendan McKay. There will always be concerns about his generously listed 6-foot, 195-pound frame. But you get the sense that there’s alittle Marcus Stroman

#16. Clarke Schmidt, RHP, New York Yankees – Again, another homerun pick by an increasingly savvy front office. Schmidt underwent Tommy John surgery, but I still opined that “it wouldn’t be surprising to see Schmidt go in the Top 20 picks to an aggressive, forward-thinking team [that] could sign him to a below slot-deal.” Schmidt would look awfully good next to James Kaprielian in the middle of the Yankees’ rotation – assuming both can move beyond their respective injury issues.

#17. Evan White, 1B, Seattle Mariners – Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto loves production over projection, so it’s not surprising to see him take Kentucky first baseman Evan White with their first selection. White doesn’t showcase the typical above-average power typically required at the position, but he consistently makes hard contact, shows a little bit of speed, and has the potential to develop into a 15- to 20-homer threat.

#18. Alex Faedo, RHP, Detroit Tigers – Once thought to be a lock for the Top 10, Florida RHP Alex Faedo dropped down to the late teens where the Tigers were happily waiting with arms wide open. He’s a better, more talented version of former Gator/Detroit first rounder Jonathon Crawford. Faedo has the makings of a mid-rotation caliber arm.

#19. Heliot Ramos, OF, San Francisco – It wasn’t too long ago that the Giants’ were being lambasted for reaching in the first round on infielder Christian Arroyo, who would eventually blossom into one of their top prospects. So San Francisco deserves more than the benefit of doubt when it comes to their selection on high risk/high reward Puerto Rican outfielder Heliot Ramos. The organization does a fantastic job developing players, so it wouldn’t be surprising to look back in a few years and call this pick a homerun either.

#20. David Peterson, LHP, New York Mets – Easily my favorite pick of the entire draft. Peterson has been, arguably, the top collegiate pitcher this season. The lanky left-hander out of the University of Oregon piles up strikeouts like very few pitchers in this year’s class. Throw in some impeccable pinpoint control and Peterson has the makings of a quality big league starting pitcher. And one that could potentially move quickly. The Mets’ calling card has been their starting pitching. Peterson is just the latest in what’s becoming an impressively long line.

#21. D.L. Hall, LHP, Baltimore Orioles – The last two times the Orioles nabbed prep pitchers with their first selections in the draft were two kids by the name of Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey in 2011 and 2013, respectively. You would have to go all the way back to 2002 to find the a High School southpaw taken in the first round (Adam Loewen). Here’s hoping that Hall turns into something like Bundy.

#22. Logan Warmoth, SS, Toronto Blue Jays – Death, taxes, and a Mark Shapiro-led organization taking a safe, low ceiling collegiate player with a first round pick. Out of the University of North Carolina, Warmoth has the defensive chops to stick at shortstop and he can swing it a little bit too. Again, safe and sound – like Shapiro always drafts ‘em.

#23. Jeren Kendall, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers – In the conversation for the best athlete in the draft, the Vanderbilt outfielder can do a little bit of everything: hit for power, run well, and chase it down in the outfield. The lone issue: his propensity to swing and miss. He punched out in more than 25% of his plate appearances for the Commodores last season. Ouch.

#24. Tanner Houck, RHP, Boston Red Sox – Mark Shapiro loves safe college guys. Dave Dombrowski loves collegiate power pitchers. I assumed the Sox would be in on a power arm, so it made sense when they grabbed Houck with the 24th overall pick. His career numbers are pretty close to that of Aaron Nola’s college stats. Houck has a chance to develop into a mid-rotation arm. Maybe a little better.

#25. Seth Romero, LHP, Washington Nationals – Never afraid to take risks in the draft, the Nationals grabbed the highly immature, and often times problematic, southpaw out of Houston. He would have been my top pick, but the question will come down to the organization’s ability to control him. Because, clearly, he can’t control himself.

#26. Bubba Thompson, OF, Texas Rangers – The organization doesn’t get enough credit for their ability to develop raw, toolsy players into viable big leaguers. Expect that from Thompson. Speed, speed, speed.

#27. Brendon Little, LHP, Chicago Cubs – For as well as the Cubbies churn out big boppers, the opposite can be said about their ability to develop starting pitching. Power-armed southpaw with a good build? Yeah, that should help improve their odds.

#28. Nate Pearson, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays – This one shocked me because it’s more about projection than production. And we all know that’s not how Mark Shapiro drafts (see above). Pearson’s a late riser, thanks in large part to his ability to hit triple-digits on the radar gun. They’ve been able to harness Aaron Sanchez’s control issues. Let’s see how Pearson turns out.

#29. Christopher Seise, SS, Texas Rangers – Athletic prospect? Check. High school? Check? Texas Rangers? Makes sense. Again. And again. And again.

#30. Alex Lange, RHP, Chicago Cubs – LOVE this pick. Lange has the potential to move quickly. If the control proves to be repeatable he has a chance as a starting pitcher. Tremendous pickup in the last part of the first round.

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[2017 College Draft Profile: Daulton Varsho]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5539 2017-06-12T16:07:39Z 2017-06-12T16:07:39Z

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School: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Class: Junior

Position: C; B/T: L/R

Height: 5-10; Weight: 200

Previously Drafted: N/A

 

Background: Fun Fact Part I: Daulton’s dad, Gary Varsho, was a fifth round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates all the way back in 1982. Fun Fact Part II: The elder Varsho’s best big league showing came in 1991 when he batted .273/.344/.417 in part-time action for the Pirates, a club that won 98 games that season. Fun Fact Part III: Gary made slightly less than $1.5 million over his eight-year career, a number that his son will surpass with his first professional contract.

The younger Varsho, who received little attention from top college programs coming out of Marshfield High School three years ago, has – quietly – been one of the most productive Division I bats over the past two seasons. After showing flashes of promise during his freshman season – he batted .238/.315/.433 for Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers – Varsho’s numbers exploded during his sophomore campaign.

In 57 games for Head Coach Scott Doffek, the lefty-swinging backstop battered and bruised the opposition to the tune of .381/.447/.610 with 17 doubles, six triples, and eight homeruns. Oh, and just for good measure, he went a perfect 16-for-16 in the stolen base department as well.

This season, the stocky backstop turned in another fine campaign: in 54 games, he slugged .362/.490/.643 with 11 doubles, six triples, and a career best 11 homeruns. And, of course, he once again remained perfect on the base paths – he swiped 10 bags in as many tries.

For his career, Varsho the Younger is sporting a .335/.428/.572 tripe-slash line with 37 doubles, 16 triples, and 24 homeruns all the while stealing 32 bags in 32 attempts.

 

Projection: The collegiate catching position in this year’s draft class remains precariously thin. TCU’s Evan Skoug looked to be the frontrunner entering the season, but his strikeout rate spiked to nearly 30%, which will likely cause several teams to pause. So it’s Varsho who could hear his name called first at the position in the draft.

Now with that being said, it’s important to recognize that the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee isn’t exactly a top-notch baseball program and the Horizon League doesn’t exactly offer the best level of Division I competition either. Meaning: Varsho’s explosive offensive production needs to be put into a little bit of context.

Consider the following:

  • Between 2011 and 2016, just four players in the Horizon League have batted .350/.440/.600 (minimum 200 PA): Jeff Boehm, Jake Hibberd, Sam Koenig, and, of course, Daulton Varsho (who accomplished the feat in 2016 and 2017).

So, even compared to his peers, Varsho stands out – easily.

He has double-digit power, an average eye at the plate, and strong contact skills – all wrapped up at a premium position.

 

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Floor: 1.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

Grade: First/Second Round

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[2017 College Draft Profile: J.J. Matijevic]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5537 2017-06-12T02:04:15Z 2017-06-12T02:04:15Z

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School: University of Arizona; Class: Junior

Position: IF/OF; B/T: L/R

Height: 6-0; Weight: 199

Previously Drafted: Boston Red Sox, 22nd round, 2014

 

Background: The Red Sox took a late round flier on Matijevic coming out of Norwin High School three years ago, drafting him in the 22nd round, 674th overall. And Matijevic proved that he could hold his own against elite collegiate competition.

The defensive vagabond batted a respectable .238/.317/.406 with 13 doubles, one triple, and three homeruns in 49 games for former Head Coach Andy Lopez. Matijevic, who’s bounced around the infield and outfield, improved – greatly – during his first taste of the Cape Cod League that summer: in 38 games for the Falmouth Commodores, the 6-foot, sub-200-pound slugger batted .333/.353/.479 with nine doubles, four homeruns, and a trio of stolen bases (though it took him seven attempts). On the downside, he posted a problematic 25-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Matijevic continued to improve during his sophomore season as well, batting .287/.332/.414 with 17 doubles, a pair of triples, and four more long balls. His plate discipline, 47-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio, still lacked. He also appeared in 23 games for the Commodores in the Cape once again, batting a scorching .376/.449/.553 in 85 at bats.

This season, Matijevic finally put it all together for the Wildcats.

In 56 games, the slight-framed bopper finished in the Top 20 among all Division I hitters in batting average with a .385 mark to go along with a .440 OBP and a .650 slugging percentage. He posted career highs in doubles (29), homeruns (10), RBI (64), walks (22), and stolen bases (nine).  

 

Projection: A man without a position. Matijevic, for all his offensive prowess, doesn’t pack enough wallop for a first baseman. His bat profiles much better as a second baseman, a position he flirted with as a sophomore. And his sub-6-foot frame doesn’t offer up a whole lot of projection either.

Matijevic shows a little bit of speed, solid-average power, and the potential to develop a better-than-average bat. His lack of patience – it’s suboptimal, at best – also cuts into his ceiling as well. If a team’s sold on his ability to play second base, Matijevic could hear his name being called in the middle of the second round.

 

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Floor:  1.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

Grade: Second Round

 

 

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[2017 College Draft Profile: Gavin Sheets]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5535 2017-06-12T02:03:04Z 2017-06-12T02:03:04Z

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School: Wake Forest; Class: Junior

Position: 1B; B/T: L/L

Height: 6-5; Weight: 235

Previously Drafted: Atlanta Braves, 37th round, 2014

 

Background: Fun Fact Part I: Sheets’ old man, Larry, was drafted in the second round by the Baltimore Orioles out of Lee High School all the way back in 1978. Fun Fact Part II: The elder Sheets paced the 1987 Orioles in long balls and overall production, beating a pair of eventual Hall of Famers (Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr.) as well as an aging former All-Star in Fred Lynn. Fun Fact Part III: according to Baseball-Reference.com, Larry earned a little less than $2.2 million during his eight-year Major League career – a number that’s likely going to be surpassed by Gavin’s first contract in professional ball.

Gavin, a smooth-swinging first baseman out of Wake Forest University, has turned himself into a viable first round candidate over the past three seasons. Originally drafted by the Braves in the 37th round coming out of high school, Sheets had a nice little freshman year for the Demon Deacons: in semi-regular action, he batted .250/.319/.336 with five doubles and a pair of homeruns. He would spend the following summer playing for the Baltimore Redbirds in the Cal Ripken League, hitting .267/.336/.317 – though he managed to squeak out just six extra-base hits in 35 games (all doubles, by the way).

His numbers took a noticeable uptick during his sophomore campaign for Wake Forest. In a career best 62 contests, the younger Sheets battered the opposition to the tune of .326/.395/.496 with 13 doubles, nine homeruns, and a 31-to-24 strikeout-to-walk ratio. And, once again, he found himself playing for the Redbirds during the summer where he looked a little more comfortable in the non-NCAA league (.280/.370/.376).

This season Sheets’ power has exploded as he’s slugged nine doubles, one triple, and a career best 19 homeruns en route to batting .321/.424/.646. The best part of his success? He’s sporting an impressive 31-to-40 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

 

Projection: So there’s some interesting things going on with Sheets:

  • Between 2011 and 2016, there’s only been one ACC hitter – former Miami third baseman David Thompson – that has slugged at least 19 homeruns in a season. Thompson, by the way, was a fourth round pick by the Mets in 2015 and didn’t have nearly the track record of success that Sheets has/had.
  • Again, between 2011 and 2016, only one other ACC hitter has posted a walk rate north of 15%, a strikeout rate below 12.5%, and slug 15 homeruns in season: Seth Beer. Sheets would be the second to achieve the feat.
  • Between the same data set, only six other ACC hitters have batted .300/.400/.600 in a season (minimum 250 PA): Seth Beer, Zack Collins, Chris Okey, Daniel Palka, James Ramsey and David Thompson. Collins was the 10th overall pick last year. Okey was taken one round later by the Reds. Palka was a third rounder in 2013. And Ramsey was a first round pick by the Cardinals in 2012.

Sheets is essentially limited to first base – or maybe a corner outfield position. The power is an above-average or slightly better skill. The patience and contact rates will be average in professional baseball. And he has the size that scouts crave.

There’s been a noticeable downturn among collegiate hitters in this year’s draft class. So it wouldn’t be surprising to see and/or hear Sheets’ name get called sometime between picks 20 and 40.

At his peak, he looks like a .280/.340/.460-type hitter, capable of slugging 15- to 20-homeruns.

 

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Floor: 1.0- to 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

Grade: First Round

 

 

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[2017 College Draft Profile: Tanner Houck]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5533 2017-06-12T02:01:43Z 2017-06-12T02:01:43Z

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School: University of Missouri; Class: Junior

Position: RHP; B/T: R/R

Height: 6-5; Weight: 218

Previously Drafted:  Toronto Blue Jays, 12th round, 2014

 

Background: According to an article by Tod Palmer for the Kansas City Star, Houck said the following: “No matter what [I] did, I wanted it to be motivation, whether I signed or went to college. I wanted it to be motivation, because I was drafted 354th. That means they thought 353 people were better than me in that year.” That year, of course, was 2014 when the Blue Jays grabbed Illinois native in the 12th round following his senior year at Collinsville High School.

Houck politely declined the opportunity to turn pro, opting instead to ply his trade for the Tigers of Missouri. And it was definitely the right move.

The 6-foot-5, 218-pound right-hander sparkled during his freshman season, throwing 100.2 innings with a team-leading 91 strikeouts and just 12 free passes. His walk rate that season, 1.07 BB/9, also lead the club for any pitcher that threw at least 2.0 innings. Houck continued that momentum for Team USA during the summer as well: he paced the national team in innings pitched (16.2) and strikeouts (14) while issuing just one base-on-balls.

Houck’s production took a noticeable tick upwards in 2016, his sophomore season, as threw 105.1 innings for Head Coach Tim Jamieson’s club, averaging 9.06 K/9 and 2.31 BB/9 with a 2.99 ERA. And, of course, he competed for Team USA during that summer as well. His production there, however, took a noticeable downturn: he threw a team-leading 23.2 innings but managed to just fan eight and walk five to go along with the fourth worst ERA on the club – though it was just a modest 2.66.

This season, through his first 12 starts, Houck’s record stands a disappointing 3-7 – despite sporting a career best 2.88 ERA to go along with another impeccable 81-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 81.1 innings of work.

 

Projection: Just how good was the hard-throwing right-hander during his freshman season? Well, consider the following:

  • Between 2011 and 2016, only six Division I pitchers have thrown 100+ innings with a strikeout rate above 8.0 K/9 and a walk rate below 1.11 BB/9: Taylor Clarke, Thomas Eshelman, Kyle Friedrichs, Reggie McClain, Cameron White, and Houck.
  • The difference: Houck was the only pitcher to accomplish the feat during his freshman season.

Houck’s been an exceptionally productive starter for the Tigers throughout his tenure at the school. He’s shown a tremendous ability to help himself by keeping runners off base via the free pass. And his homerun rates have been trending in the right direction in each of the past two seasons.

Consider the following comparison:

Player IP K/9 BB/9
Tanner Houck 287.1 8.72 1.85
Aaron Nola 332 9.35 1.41

Houck’s never been as consistently dominant as Nola, the seventh overall pick in 2014 draft. But the overall numbers are relatively close. The Missouri star should move quickly through the minor leagues with the ceiling as a good #2/#3 caliber big league starter.

 

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Floor:  2.0-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

Grade: First Round

 

 

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[2017 College Draft Profile: J.J. Schwarz]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5531 2017-06-12T02:00:14Z 2017-06-12T02:00:14Z

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School: University of Florida; Class: Junior

Position: C/; B/T: R/R

Height: 6-2; Weight: 215

Previously Drafted: Milwaukee Brewers, 17th round, 2014

 

Background: Just one of a surprising number of collegiate hitters to struggle during their junior seasons, Schwarz was originally drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 17th round coming out of Palm Beach Gardens High School three years ago. Instead of signing, he opted to ply his craft for Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan – a move that clearly looked like the right decision just one year later.

Schwarz, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound backstop who currently moonlights as a first baseman, got off to a torrid start to his collegiate career, bashing the opposition to the tune of .332/.398/.629 with a whopping 37 extra-base knocks (16 doubles, three triples, and 18 homeruns). He also managed to post a relatively solid strikeout-to-walk ratio, 46-to-28, for a power-hitting teenage bat in the SEC.

That production earned him a litany of awards including:

  • SEC All-Freshman Team
  • All-SEC Second Team
  • Perfect Game First-Team Freshman All-American
  • NCBWA First-Team Freshman All-American
  • Louisville Slugger First-Team Freshman All-American
  • D1Baseball First-Team Freshman All-American
  • Baseball America First-Team Freshman All-American
  • NCBWA Third-Team All-American
  • Baseball America Third-Team All-American
  • Perfect Game Second-Team All-American
  • D1Baseball Second-Team All-American
  • ACBA Second-Team All-American
  • NCBWA Freshman Hitter of the Year
  • Louisville Slugger Co-Freshman of the Year

Schwarz also earned a spot on the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team – where he promptly struggled in limited action. In 34 at bats, he batted a lowly .118/.167/.235 with just one extra-base knock (a double) and a putrid 9-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

And, unfortunately, that seemed to be a harbinger of things to come for the UF backstop.

Schwarz’s offensive production took a steep decline during his sophomore year as he batted – a still respectable – .290/.397/.456 with 15 doubles, three triples, and seven homeruns. His strikeout-to-walk ratio did improve, going from 46-to-28 to 54-to-45.

This season Schwarz, who looked poised to establish himself as the preeminent collegiate hitter in the draft class, more or less maintained status quo: he hit .282/.378/.466 with 11 doubles and nine homeruns to go along with a 48-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

 

Projection: It’s always a concern when a prospect’s production not only declines during their junior year, but also for the second consecutive season. Add in the fact that Schwarz lost considerable time behind the plate – once again – to teammate Mike Rivera, and his draft status looks a bit murky.

He does have solid bloodlines – his father Jeff pitched in the big leagues for two seasons – and a solid enough foundation that could entice teams in the second round.

The younger Schwarz has solid average or slightly better power, though it grades out far better behind the plate. He’s willing to take more than the occasional free pass (he’s walked in 12.4% of his career plate appearances). And he’s made significant strides this season in trimming his rather large swing-and-miss tendencies.

Simply put, there’s some risk involved in drafting Schwarz. He hasn’t hit enough for first base. But he wasn’t good enough to beat out a teammate in order to stay behind the dish. He’s a man without a home. In that respect, he’s like a poor man’s Kyle Schwarber.  In terms of offensive peak, think .260/.320/.430. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him go to the A’s either.

 

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Floor:  0.5-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

Grade: Second/Third Round

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[2017 College Draft Profile: Evan Skoug]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5529 2017-06-12T01:58:59Z 2017-06-12T01:58:59Z

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School: Texas Christian; Class: Junior

Position: C; B/T: L/R

Height: 5-11; Weight: 200

Previously Drafted: Washington Nationals, 34th round, 2014

 

Background: A mainstay in the middle of the Horned Frogs’ lineup throughout the duration of his career, Skoug, a 34th round pick by the Washington Nationals coming out of high school, is poised to be one of the first – if not the first – collegiate backstop taken in June. The lefty-swinging backstop made the transition to the collegiate level with relative ease: in 66 games as a true freshman, Skoug slugged .285/.365/.426 with 15 doubles and seven homeruns. He spent the summer playing for the Falmouth Commodores, hitting a respectable – especially for someone his age – .258/.301/.351 in 24 games.

Skoug had a massive breakout the following season, bashing and battering the opposition to the tune of .301/.390/.502 with a team-leading 21 doubles, one triple, and nine long balls. That production earned him on Team USA’s roster – where he batted .263/.364/.474 with a pair of doubles and two homeruns in 19 games.

This season, despite a slow start, Skoug’s production rebounded back closer to his career norms: he hit .278/.387/.547 with nine doubles and a team-leading 18 homeruns. For his career, Skoug’s sporting a solid .288/.380/.490 triple-slash line, with 45 doubles, one triple, and 34 homeruns in 865 total trips to the plate.

 

Projection: There is very, very little collegiate catching depth in this year’s draft class. So Skoug could hear his name called sooner than expected. He plays a premium position well enough with offensive promise, but he comes with a rather large red flag:

  • Between 2011 and 2016, there are 90 instances in which a hitter bashed at least 18 homeruns in a season, at any collegiate level. Only four of those hitters – Chris Cowell, Paul Hoilman, Gary Russo, and Matthew Scruggs – posted a strikeout rate north of 27%. This season Skoug has punched out in nearly 30% of his plate appearances.

Skoug has always had some semi-questionable swing-and-miss tendencies, but this year’s explosion in his K-rate easily overshadows his developing power. It’s difficult to imagine a player who fans in 30% of his collegiate plate appearances won’t struggle with the same issue in the minor leagues.

With that being said, MLB is lacking some serious catching talent, especially in the power-hitting department. At worst, he’s a platoon guy with power and the ability to catch. At best, he’s a nice little mid-second round talent who develops into a league average starter.

 

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Floor:  1.0-win player

Risk: High

Grade: Second/Third Round

 

 

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[2017 College Draft Profile: J.P. Sears]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5527 2017-06-12T01:57:36Z 2017-06-12T01:57:36Z

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School: The Citadel; Class: Junior

Position: LHP; B/T: L/L

Height: 5-11; Weight: 178

Previously Drafted: N/A

 

Background: One of the most intriguing collegiate prospects in this year’s draft class. Sears, an underwhelming physical specimen that stands generously at 5-foot-11 and 178 pounds, quietly turned in two solid – and overlooked – seasons at The Citadel between 2015 and 2016. As a true freshman, the little lefty out of Sumter, South Carolina, made 17 appearances, 13 of which were starts, throwing 75.2 innings with an impressive 82-to-24 strikeout-to-walk ratio – numbers that were betrayed by his modestly successful 4.28 ERA.

Sears followed that up with an equally impressive, yet once again easily dismissed, sophomore campaign the next year.

In a career high 15 starts for the Bulldogs, the young southpaw tossed 82.0 innings with a 93-to-36 strikeout-to-walk ratio. But his unsightly 5.27 ERA combined with a downturn in his control marred his season. This season, though, all things seemed to click for Sears: in 14 starts Sears averaged career bests in strikeouts, 13.41 K/9, and walks, 2.55 BB/9, with an impressive 2.64 ERA.

For his career, he’s sporting a solid 387-to-87 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 253.0 innings.

 

Projection: So, I did a little digging on the little lefty. According to former big league pitcher – and current pitching coach for The Citadel – Britt Reames, in an article on the PostandCourtier, Sears “has two solid secondary pitches that might be average at the next level, but are good at this level. And his changeup has become a weapon for him this year.” His fastball sits only in the upper 80s.

But…production is production.

And Sears has produced – a lot of strikeouts.

In fact, since 2011, there’s just two other pitchers – at any collegiate level – to throw more than 90 innings and average at least 13 strikeouts and fewer than 2.60 walks every nine innings: Trevor Bauer and Kyle Kinman.

Sears is very similar to former Middle Tennessee State southpaw Zac Curtis: a smallish left-hander with big time collegiate strikeout numbers who transitioned to a relief role upon entering professional ball. Sears is very likely to take a similar path, though he needs to keep his homerun totals in check.

 

Ceiling: 1.0-win player

Floor:  0.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

Grade: Fifth/Sixth Round

 

 

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[2017 College Draft Profile: Colton Hock]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5525 2017-06-12T01:56:19Z 2017-06-12T01:56:19Z

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School: Stanford University; Class: Junior

Position: RHP; B/T: R/R

Height: 6-5; Weight: 220

Previously Drafted: N/A

 

Background: One of the top collegiate relievers available in this draft class, Hock, a native of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, has been a mainstay at the backend of the Cardinal bullpen during his three-year tenure. As a true freshman, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-hander made 23 appearances for the school in 2015, throwing 36.0 innings but finished with an unsightly 5.25 ERA thanks in large part to a 24-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Hock spent the following summer working out of the Newport Gulls’ rotation in the New England Collegiate League, making eight appearances, six of which were starts, with far better results: 32.2 IP, 3.86 ERA, 22 K, and 12 BB.

The hard-throwing reliever blossomed in his second season with Stanford as he found the plate with higher regularity: he threw 57.2 innings of work while fanning 61 and walking just 24 en route to saving six games. And, once again, Hock found himself in the New England area during the summer – though this time he was working out of the rotation for the Cotuit Kettleers in the Cape Cod League. He would toss another 36.2 innings, finishing with an impressive 31-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

This season for the Cardinal, Hock has saved a career best 14 games, currently tied for the fourth best mark in NCAA Division I baseball. And while his walk rate continues to trend in the right direction – he’s averaging just 2.32 BB/9 so far – his strikeout rate took a huge dive. Through his first 42.2 innings, Hock’s managed to record just 31 punch outs, or an average of just 6.54 K/9.  

 

Projection: Risky proposition. If the idea is to draft a polished, near big league-ready closer early and push him up through the minors, Hock isn’t your guy. Sure the control has slowly morphed from an abhorrent skill to an above-average one, but the fact that his strikeout rate is far below-average for any college pitcher, let alone a short reliever, raises more than a few red flags. Glaring. Red. Flags.

And just to add a little additional context, consider the following:

  • Between 2011 and 2016, here’s a list of pitchers to save at least 10 games with a strikeout rate below 7.0 K/9 and a walk rate between 2.0 BB/9 and 2.5 BB/9: David Bigelow, Nolan Blackwood, Mike Bradstreet, Caleb Dudley, Clint Freeman, Matt Hicks, Karch Kowlaczyk, Matt Lees, Sutter McLoughlin, Cody Peterson, Wyatt Short, and Kurt Spomer.

Not exactly an inspiring mix of names, is it?

I could see a team using a third round pick on the Stanford closer, hoping to potentially unlock his previous form. But something just seems to be off with Hock currently and the reward doesn’t seem to outweigh the risk.

 

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player

Floor:  0.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

Grade: Third Round

 

 

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[2017 College Draft Profile: Wil Crowe]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5523 2017-06-12T01:54:44Z 2017-06-12T01:54:44Z

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  • 2016 Draft Profile: Robert Tyler School: University of Georgia; Class: Junior Position: RHP; B/T: L/R Height: 6-4; Weight: 226 Previously Drafted: Baltimore Orioles, 28th round, 2013   Background: After missing the majority of the 2015 season due to injury – forearm…
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School: University of South Carolina; Class: Junior

Position: RHP; B/T: R/R

Height: 6-2; Weight: 245

Previously Drafted: Cleveland Indians, 21st round, 2014

 

Background: A late round flier by the Cleveland Indians coming out of Pigeon Forge High School three years ago, Crowe, who was the 632nd pick that year, opted to ply his trade for Head Coach Chad Holbrook instead. Crowe immediately made waves for the Gamecocks during his freshman season, pairing with Yankees youngster Jordan Montgomery and Rockies MiLB pinpoint artist Jack Wynkoop to give the club a trio of dominant starters.

Crowe, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound right-hander out of Sevierville, Tennessee, finished the year with 2.75 ERA, 59 strikeouts, and 19 walks across 91.2 innings of work. Baseball America named the hard-throwing hurler as a second-team Freshman All-American.

Needless to say, there was plenty of hype surrounding the budding ace heading into the 2016 season. And he struggled – mightily – before succumbing to Tommy John surgery. Just nine starts into his sophomore season, Crowe’s UCL tore in a start against the Florida Gators. He opted for surgery, rather than take the rehab route. He would finish the year with an impressive 59-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 51.1 innings. The surgery – and subsequent rehab – knocked him out for the remainder of 2015 as well as the entire 2016 collegiate season.

Crowe came back strong for the Lexington County Blowfish in the Coastal Plain League last summer, throwing 18.0 innings while fanning 24 and walking just four. So far he’s been able to carry that momentum into his redshirt junior year as well: through his first 13 starts, Crowe’s punched out 72 and walked 27 to go along with a 3.50 ERA.

 

Projection:  So…there’s a lot of things going on here.

  • During his freshman season with the Gamecocks Crowe was a curmudgeon when it came to issuing free passes and coughing up long balls: he averaged just 1.87 BB/9 and 0.20 HR/9. But he simply didn’t miss enough bats either (5.79 K/9). That punch out rate, by the way, was lowest mark by any pitcher with at least 14 innings pitched that year for the school.
  • During his injury-shortened sophomore campaign he started missing a surprising amount of sticks: 10.34 strikeouts every nine innings, to be exact. But his once-stellar walk rate ballooned up to 3.33 BB/9.
  • Now in his third collegiate season, Crowe’s strikeout rate has declined down to 8.13 K/9, which is still a solid mark, though far from dominant, and he’s trimmed his walk rate down to 3.05 BB/9.
  • Then, of course, there’s the injury. Not only did it stunt his development, but he’s now entering the draft as a 22-year-old – essentially putting him in the “senior draft class.”

Add it all up and Crowe has the makings of a late first/early second round pick. Just to add a little additional context, consider this: Since 2011, just three SEC pitchers have thrown at least 75 with a strikeout rate between 7.5 and 8.5 K/9 and a walk rate between 2.75 and 3.25 BB/9. Those three pitchers: Jonathon Crawford, Kyle Cody, and Conner Kendrick.

Crawford, the 20th overall pick in the 2013 draft, has struggled to make it above High Class A and will likely be ticketed for a relief role soon. Cody, who was nabbed by the Twins in the second round but didn’t sign to only go four rounds later as a senior, has looked decent in the low levels of the minors. And Kendrick petered out of baseball after a few years as a ninth round pick.

As for Crowe, he looks like a potential backend starter with the floor of a good reliever.

 

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Floor:  1.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

Grade: First/Second Round

 

 

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[2017 College Draft Profile: Kevin Smith]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5521 2017-06-12T01:53:29Z 2017-06-12T01:53:29Z

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  • 2017 College Draft Profile: J.J. Matijevic School: University of Arizona; Class: Junior Position: IF/OF; B/T: L/R Height: 6-0; Weight: 199 Previously Drafted: Boston Red Sox, 22nd round, 2014   Background: The Red Sox took a late round flier on Matijevic coming…
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  • 2017 College Draft Profile: Pavin Smith School: University of Virginia; Class: Junior Position: RHP; B/T: L/L Height: 6-2; Weight: 210 Previously Drafted: Colorado Rockies, 32nd round, 2014   Background: Just the latest bopper to come out of the University of Virginia,…
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School: Maryland; Class: Junior

Position: SS; B/T: R/R

Height: 6-0; Weight: 188

Previously Drafted: N/A

 

Background: A three-year starter for Head Coach John Szefc at the University of Maryland, Smith, who was bypassed by every MLB club coming out of high school, has developed into a solid second or third round pick. As a true freshman, the 6-foot, 188-pound shortstop established himself as a promising professional prospect, hitting a steady .273/.358/.422 with 14 doubles, a triple, and seven homeruns while tying eventual third rounder Brandon Lowe for the team lead in stolen bases with 11.

Smith, a native of East Greenbush, New York, saw a noticeable downturn in production during his sophomore season: in 57 games, he batted .259/.308/.409 with nine doubles, one triple, and eight homeruns. He also failed to record a stolen base. Not deterred by the decline, the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox reached out to the young shortstop and invited him to the Cape Cod League for the summer. Smith responded by slugging .301/.348/.427 with 12 doubles and a pair of homeruns to go along with seven stolen bases.

This season, the Columbia High School product batted a solid .268/.323/.552 with 10 doubles, three triples, and 13 long balls while going 4-for-4 in the stolen base department.

For his career, Smith’s sporting a .267/.331/.455 triple-slash line in 776 total plate appearances.

 

Projection: The production itself isn’t necessarily noteworthy: he’s never batted above .273 during his tenure with the Terrapins; his once promising patience at the plate has dwindled down to red flag territory; and his strikeout rates/contact skills are questionable – at best. But in a draft class lacking a whole lot of offensive depth at the collegiate level, Smith could hear his name called between rounds two and three.

The power – as well as the likelihood that he stays at shortstop – are his redeeming qualities.

A team may convince themselves that they might be able to unlock the plate discipline he showcased as a true freshman – he walked in 10% of his plate appearances and fanned just 11.9% of the time – but he hasn’t shown anything near that level since then.

At his peak, Smith looks like .250/.290/.400-type hitter. Throw in some solid defense and he has the makings of a potential super-sub and/or starter on a non-contending team.

 

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Floor:  0.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

Grade: Second/Third Round

 

 

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[2017 College Draft Profile: Wyatt Marks]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5519 2017-06-12T01:48:23Z 2017-06-12T01:48:23Z

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  • 2017 College Draft Profile: Eli Morgan School: Gonzaga University; Class: Junior Position: RHP; B/T: R/R Height: 5-10; Weight: 185 Previously Drafted: N/A   Background: A smallish right-hander, Morgan, who according to reports didn’t even receive a Division III offer until his…
  • 2017 College Draft Profile: David Peterson School: University of Oregon; Class: Junior Position: LHP; B/T: L/L Height: 6-6; Weight: 235 Previously Drafted: Boston Red Sox, 28th round, 2014   Background: The big lefty built in the same mold physical mold as…
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School: University of Louisiana at Lafayette; Class: Junior

Position: RHP; B/T: R/R

Height: 6-3; Weight: 205

Previously Drafted: N/A

 

Background: After two impressive stints in the Cajuns’ rotation – both of which were marred a touch of poor luck – Head Coach Tony Robichaux pushed the hard-throwing right-hander into a fulltime relief role this season. And he’s simply been unhittable. Marks, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound hurler out of Lafayette, Louisiana, began his collegiate career on a high note. Working between the school’s rotation and bullpen, he posted a 68-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio while going 6-1 with a save in 66.2 aggregate innings.

Marks followed that up with a similar season during his sophomore campaign: in a career-high 15 starts, he threw 76.0 innings with an 80-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio – though an unlucky 4.50 ERA marred his actual dominance.

This season, his first time acting as the team’s fulltime closer, Marks has been absolutely absurd: he’s struck out 100 and walked 25 en route to tallying a 2.28 ERA.

 

Projection:  Just to put his dominance into perspective, consider the following little tidbits:

  • Only one pitcher – Jacob Lindgren – at any level of college baseball has struck out at least 100 hitters in fewer than 60.0 innings since 2011. Lindgren, by the way, was second round pick of the Yankees, 55th overall, in 2014.
  • Marks’ K-rate this season, 15.17 K/9, easily led all Division I baseball.
  • Since 2011, there’s been only two other pitchers – at any collegiate level – to average more than 15.0 punch outs every nine innings: Lindgren and former Michigan State closer Dakota Mekkes.

As good as Marks has been working out of the pen this season, he still deserves a chance to develop into a starting pitcher. His combined numbers his previous two seasons – 142.2 innings of work, 148 strikeouts, and just 39 walks – suggest that he may have the ceiling as a nice mid-rotation ceiling. The long ball at various points has plagued him throughout his collegiate career, so he’s going to have to do a better job pitching down in the zone – or avoid the middle of the plate. If he’s drafted solely as a relief pitcher, Marks has the chance to move quickly through the minor leagues. He’s likely to hear his name called at some point in the early to middle of the second round.

 

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Floor:  1.0- to 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

Grade: Second Round

 

 

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[2017 College Draft Profile: Taylor Walls]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5517 2017-06-12T01:46:38Z 2017-06-12T01:46:38Z

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School: Florida State; Class: Junior

Position: SS; B/T: R/R

Height: 5-10; Weight: 180

Previously Drafted: N/A

 

Background: After looking overwhelmed for the majority of his true freshman season three years ago, Walls, who batted a lowly .220/.373/.247 with just five extra-base hits in 65 games, came out swinging in 2016. And when the dust settled, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound middle infielder was sporting a .355/.479/.516 triple-slash line with 20 doubles, one triple, and six homeruns to go along with 14 stolen bases (in just 16 attempts). The best part: the scrappy shortstop finished the year with an impressive 45-to-59 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

That production, of course, earned him a spot on Team USA’s roster.He posted a lowly .208 batting average and an equally depressing .282 slugging percentage. His only saving grace: a .415 OBP.

Regardless, Walls seemed poised to become a mid-first round selection heading into the year. And, once again, he promptly fell flat on his face. The Georgia-born infielder batted a mediocre .262/.401/.393 with eight doubles, three triples, six homeruns, and 10 stolen bases (in 12 attempts). Walls did manage to post another impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio: 43-to-57.

 

Projection: So let’s take a look at just how good Walls was two years ago during his breakout sophomore campaign:

  • Between 2011 and 2016, only six Division I hitters – Kyle Lewis, Max Pentecost, James Ramsey, Travis Jankowski, Johnny Field, and, of course, Taylor Walls – have batted at least .350/.475/.500 (minimum 300 plate appearances).
  • Lewis, Pentecost, Ramsey, and Jankowski were all first round selections. Fields was a fifth round selection by the Rays in 2013.

Again, Walls looked like a surefire bet to become a first round selection heading into 2017, but his stumble – as well as a brief suspension for violating team rules – definitely clouds his big league prospects a bit.

His bread-and-butter ability is his ability to work the count and find first base via the free pass. His power is average, but he’s shown enough pop to keep defenses honest. Whether he sticks at shortstop is an entirely different question. At worst he’s a decent Quad-A/role player. At his best, he’s a nice little shortstop who could hit somewhere in the neighborhood of .290/.360/.370.

 

Ceiling: 2.0 to 2.5-win player

Floor:  1.0-win player

Risk: High

Grade: Second Round

 

 

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[2017 College Draft Profile: Greg Deichmann]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5515 2017-06-12T01:44:24Z 2017-06-12T01:44:24Z

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School: LSU; Class: Junior

Position: 1B/OF; B/T: L/R

Height: 6-2; Weight: 209

Previously Drafted: Minnesota Twins, 26th round, 2016

 

Background: After appearing in just 10 games – and earning just 11 trips to the plate – as a true freshman, Deichmann was a pleasant surprise for LSU Head Coach Paul Mainieri during his follow-up season two years ago. In 64 games for the Tigers, the 6-foot-2, 209-pound corner infielder/outfielder slugged a solid .288/.346/.513 with 14 doubles, three triples, 11 homeruns, and five stolen bases (in 11 attempts). The lefty-swinging Deichmann finished the year with a 41-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Minnesota Twins took a late round flier on the draft-eligible sophomore – though he bypassed a chance to enter pro ball as a 26th round pick and headed back to school.

And it’s proving to be a wise decision.

In 63 games for one of college baseball’s preeminent programs, Deichmann has set several career bests including: average (.322), on-base percentage (.430), slugging percentage (.614), homeruns (19), walks (47), and walk rate (16.4%). He also tied a career best with five stolen bases (in eight total attempts).

 

Projection: Deichmann has put together a nice little career for the Tigers. He’s performed well for a powerhouse program. His power has developed into an above-average skill. His plate discipline has dramatically improved. And he shows a smattering of speed. And just to put his breakout 2017 season into perspective, consider the following anecdote:

That’s obviously a list littered with top prospects.

Deichmann doesn’t profile as well at first base as he does in a corner outfield spot. He has the makings of a league average-type hitter, capable of posting a .260/.330/.440-type line.

 

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Floor:  1.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

Grade: Second/Third Round

 

 

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Joseph Werner <![CDATA[2017 College Draft Profile: Stuart Fairchild]]> http://www.prospectdigest.com/?p=5513 2017-06-12T01:42:41Z 2017-06-12T01:42:41Z

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School: Wake Forest University; Class: Junior

Position: OF; B/T: R/R

Height: 6-0; Weight: 205

Previously Drafted: Washington Nationals, 38th round, 2014

 

Background: Fairchild, who was drafted by the Nationals in the 38th round coming out of Seattle Prep High School, instantly became of the club’s most dominant offensive sluggers: he tore up the opposition to the tune of .349/.429/.497 with 14 doubles and five homeruns while going 12-for-14 in the stolen base department. That offensive prowess continued during the summer as well as he batted a more-than-respectable .307/.428/.425 for the Baltimore Redbirds in the Cal Ripken League.

And then he crashed…

In 62 contests for Coach Walter, Fairchild’s offensive numbers digressed down to .293/.403/.470, though that did come with far better plate discipline. And he looked terrible in the Cape Cod League that summer as well, hitting a lowly .232/.323/.330 in 34 games for the Chatham Anglers.

Wake Forest University Head Coach Tom Walter, who piloted the club to a spot in the playoffs and saw third baseman Will Craig get plucked out the first round last year, had this to say about his current center fielder: “Stu is coming off back to back all-conference seasons and is a preseason All-American. He is exactly what you want your center fielder to be – a plus defender with tremendous range and a good throwing arm. He’ll hit third in our lineup and be as tough an out as there is in college baseball.”

High praise – clearly.

And Fairchild exceeded those expectations easily. Through the Demon Deacons’ first 55 games, the 6-foot, 205-pound outfielder is slugging an impressive .350/.430/.602 with 16 doubles, one triple, and career bests in homeruns (13) and stolen bases (16). The lone red flag on his otherwise impeccable season is his step backward in plate discipline: his strikeout-to-walk rate, which peaked at 42-to-39 during his sophomore season, is currently at a disappointing 46-to-26.

For his career, Fairchild is sporting a .329/.420/.524 triple-slash line with 50 doubles, four triples, 23 homeruns, and 42 stolen bases (in 52 total attempts).

 

Projection: The immediate comparison that jumps into my mind is for Texas A&M center fielder – and current Indians outfielder – Tyler Naquin. Consider the following comparison:

Player PA AVG OBP SLG SB CS
Stuart Fairchild 775 0.329 0.420 0.524 42 10
Tyler Naquin 809 0.346 0.420 0.486 33 14

While it looks like Fairchild’s overall production is superior, it’s important to remember that Naquin was ridiculous over his last two seasons, batting at least .380. Anyway, the Demon Deacon center fielder showcases a fairly well-rounded offensive toolkit: above-average or better speed, a strong hit tool, and 15-homer potential with wood bats. His contact ability is firm, but the decline in his walk rate is a little troublesome.

Overall, Fairchild looks like a solid professional bat with the ability to blossom into an above-average regular if his defensive ability grades out as well as Coach Walter describes.

 

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Floor:  2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

Grade: First Round

 

 

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