We finally graduated from bonus pool talk and can shift over to talking about the sophomore players about to become juniors for next year’s MLB draft. Matt Powers wrote a fantastic article discussing a few of the top rated players that could become a good fit with the 9th overall pick. I won’t be rehashing an already good story. Instead, I’ll focus on 10 pitchers and 10 positional players that could make sense within the first few rounds of the draft. Of course any prospect could shoot up draft boards, but for now, most of these players are not rated near the top.
The task of selecting 20 total players was no easy feat as my current list includes over 50 hitters and 50 pitchers. I’ve purposely decided against using most players off any recent top 2019 draft prospect lists too. It would be downright boring to do so otherwise. There were also quite a few hard cuts like Brant Packard of ECU, whose coming off a year in which he hit .406. The reason for this is that I focused on positional players with better walk rates than strikeout rates, and Packard didn’t meet this requirement.
The list should be entirely new names for most of you reading. If any player is familiar, don’t worry, I haven’t talked in depth about them before. Without further ado, let’s play ball.
Kyle Brnovich, 6’3”, RHP, Elon – Fastball sits 89-92 and could add a couple ticks to that as he gets strong. Brnovich led all sophomore’s in strikeouts and was 4th overall behind some big names like Casey Mize and Logan Gilbert. The thing that stands out for Brnovich is his slider. It’s damn near unhittable. His 3rd pitch is a change and it’s already pretty solid. While he’s currently playing in the Cape Cod league, he’s only pitched twice, but both times were superb. His teammate George Kirby is quite good too, and will give Elon a killer one-two punch. Key 2018 stats: .159 BAA, 12.60 K/9, 3.09 BB/9, 0.89 WHIP.
Matt Canterino, 6’2”, RHP, Rice – Coupled with a low to mid 90’s fastball and knee buckling curve, it’s easy to see why he had such a successful season. There’s still room for growth though as his change lags behind, and he will give up some home runs. He’s also tinkering with different grips as he’s worked with Brnovich, Zach Hess and Jack Little on Team USA. Canterino is also having a solid Cape Cod. Key stats: 11.11 K/9, 2.11 BB/9, 0.93 WHIP.
Parker Brahms, 6’2”, RHP, Sacramento State – Commands his fastball, curve and change-up well. Brahms nearly doubled his strikeout rate while maintaining his walk rate year over year. He also cut down on home runs given up. These things combined elevated him to the teams ace as a sophomore. Could be in for a monster junior season. Key stats: 10.92 K/9, 2.42 BB/9, 1.12 WHIP.
Ken Waldichuk, 6’4”, LHP, Saint Mary’s – Transitioned beautifully from a reliever his freshman year to full time starter his sophomore season. Waldichuk has a 4 pitch mix with a fastball sitting in the low 90’s (max 94), a slider, curve and change. His slider was originally a cutter that just evolved, and likely his best secondary. Waldichuk is currently pitching in the Cape Code league and has been decent overall. His mechanics are similar to Sean Doolittle (his words too). Key stats: 11.53 K/9, 2.05 BB/9, 0.97 WHIP.
Jack Little, 6’4”, RHP, Stanford – Our first closer on the list, and a mighty good one too. Little finished the season with 16 saves as a sophomore and put up some stellar numbers. He’s racking up the strikeouts in the Cape Cod league, but is getting hit around a bit. He’s had a slider and change, but added a curve this past offseason. His fastball is 92-94 and is solid enough. Now that he’s closing, I’m not sure he’ll need 4 pitches. He’s definitely one of the best closers in the country. Key stats: 11.57 K/9, 1.60 BB/9, 0.75 WHIP, 0.60 ERA.
Mitchell Senger, 6’7”, LHP, Stetson – Senger won’t wow you with the fastball as it sits high 80’s to low 90’s. He does get excellent plane and extension though from his 6’7” frame. He also throws a curve, slider and change. The slider is his best secondary, a potential plus pitch. However, he doesn’t throw the change much so hopefully that’s something he works on improving. Overall, while not a great athlete, there’s still solid potential. Senger did throw a no hitter on 2/25 in which he struck out 15. Key stats: 11 K/9, 2.71 BB/9, 1.01 WHIP, only 2 HRs given up in 105 innings.
Andres Pallante, 6’0”, RHP, UC Irvine – Although undersized, Pallante has a fastball that sits 92-95, and he throws with some effort. He’ll pair that with a curve, slider and change; the curve being his 2nd best pitch. Since he does throw with effort, his future role is likely as a reliever. Key stats: 10.24 K/9, 2.67 BB/9, 1.06 WHIP.
Stephen Schoch, 6’5”, RHP, UMBC – This guy will be a fan favorite. Schoch is our 2nd closer on the list. What he lacks in top end velocity he makes up for in deception due to his unique submarine approach. Schoch is participating in the Cape Cod league and having excellent results there too. Should be a fun 2019 season. Key stats: 11.17 K/9, 2.99 BB/9, 1.07 WHIP, just 2 HRs in 57 innings.
Schoch certainly has a personality.
Drake Fellows, 6’5”, RHP, Vanderbilt – Not quite filled out, Fellows could add to a fastball that runs up to 94 mph. He throws a knockout slider (see video below) and a change. While he led the team in strikeouts he also led them in walks. Things are looking mighty good for Fellows, but to take that next step he’ll need to work on his control and developing his change-up. Key stats: 10.02 K/9, 3.28 BB/9, 1.14 WHIP.
And here’s the Drake Fellows slider...has been hellacious all game vs. hitters of either handedness. Can manipulate shape and land it for strike, adept at diving it under LHH hands as you see here. pic.twitter.com/4QgDH8ZgNq— Brian Sakowski (@B_Sakowski_PG) March 2, 2018
Alek Manoah, 6’6”, RHP, West Virginia – 2 potential plus pitches in a mid 90’s fastball and slider combo. What’s holding Manoah back is a 3rd pitch. This season, Manoah made 8 starts vs 15 relief appearances. He simply hasn’t really utilized a change-up, and that will have to be something he addresses if he wants to be a full time starter. Manoah is having one of the better pitching performances in the Cape Cod league this year too. Get ready for a possible break out year for the 2019 season. Key stats: 10 K/9, 4.67 BB/9, 1.50 WHIP
Cameron Cannon, 5’10”, 2B, Arizona – He has an interesting stance with his left leg way out in front and kinda leans back. His swing path has natural loft so he can get the ball in the air, and he can hit the ball hard. There are concerns about his bat speed, but the video below looked just fine (others videos can show a different story). Cannon hit well over .300 to go along with over 30 extra base hits. At some point Cannon switched from 2B to SS, maybe out of need, but he’s likely a 2B at the next level. He’s currently playing in the Cape Cod league where his performance has been sub par. Key stats: .976 OPS, 16% BB-rate, 9% K-rate, 8 HRs.
Davis Wendzel, 6’0”, IF, Baylor – Wendzel played 3B this past season, but as an older sophomore he was drafted in the 37th round by the Red Sox as a SS. He opted to head back to school to boost his stock. Like Cannon above, Wendzel had over 30 extra base hits on the season. His defense at 3B was pretty good as he committed just 3 errors all season. In the Cape Cod league right now, he’s played ok for the most part, so he certainly isn’t hurting his stock. Key stats: .967 OPS, 19% BB-rate, 15% K-rate, 8 HRs.
Matthew Barefoot, 6’0”, OF, Campbell – Barefoot was easily the Camel’s best hitter with a batting average almost 60 points higher than the 2nd best hitter on the team. The guy can rake. He’s also tearing up the Cape Cod league where he’s currently the top qualified hitter. And it’s not just the hitting ability. Barefoot has some speed to spare and can throw up to 93 mph. The interesting thing is that he was draft eligible but went undrafted. Seems crazy he wasn’t selected. Key stats: 33 SBs, 1.069 OPS, 20% BB-rate, 14% K-rate, 8 HRs.
Cory Wood, 5’9”, 2B, Coastal Carolina – Just like his last name suggests, Cory puts good wood on the ball. He’s a contact hitter and uses his speed to his advantage. There isn’t much power right now, and didn’t hit a home run all season. Wood could be next season’s DJ Artis, who went in the 7th round despite a 17% K-rate. He’s another playing in the Cape Cod league and not having a good go at it, which could impact his stock. Key stats: 17 SBs, .825 OPS, 20% BB-rate, 8% K-rate.
Kameron Misner, 6’4”, OF, Missouri – Originally drafted in the 33rd round (courtesy pick) back in 2016, Misner has certainly done enough to improve his stock. He did miss part of the 2nd half and playoffs due to a foot injury, but should be good to go for the start of the 2019 season. Don’t let his size fool you, because Misner has some speed by stealing 13 bases in 34 games (17 SBs his freshman year). Also, he had 9 OF assists and just 1 error. Key stats: 1.073 OPS, 21% BB-rate, 16% K-rate, 13 SBs, 9 OF assists.
Quin Cotton, 5’11”, OF, Grand Canyon – 1 of 2 players on Fangraphs 2019 prospect list, and Cotton comes in at #22. The main thing for Cotton is the bat speed along with strong hand and wrists. He also uses his legs well, but still has below average power. Despite that, the hit tool should play. What will determine Cotton’s draft stock the most is if he can stick in center. He has good speed, but it’s not elite so if he has to move to a corner his lack of power will hurt his value. Key stats: .390 avg, 1.035 OPS, 12% BB-rate, 11% K-rate, 13 SBs, 29 XBH (5 HRs).
Jonathan Embry, 5’11”, C, Liberty – A late bloomer, Embry was a walk on at Liberty and took over the starting role his sophomore year. When you look at Embry’s stat line, you’d think I was crazy for including him on the list. I just think there’s something there and he could be primed for a breakout in 2019. Embry had a low BABIP of .251 which likely resulted in his lower batting average; however, he also sported a .199 ISO. He has excellent pitch recognition and plate discipline. Since DJ Artis and Tre Todd got drafted, they’ll need Embry’s bat to pick up. Key stats: .836 OPS, 52% XBH%, 21% BB-rate, 12% K-rate, 45% CS-rate.
Logan Wyatt, 6’4”, 1B, Louisville – Wyatt is a 1B, which is a position the Braves really lack in the system. While I would not want a 1B in the 1st round, I wouldn’t be opposed to one after the first couple of rounds. Logan had a solid season overall, but he’s currently having a fantastic Cape Cod, keeping up with the likes of Spenser Torkelson and Andrew Vaughn. Key stats: 1.012 OPS, .490 OBP, 23% BB-rate, 12% K-rate.
Davis Sims, 6’5”, 3B,
Murray State Western Kentucky – Sims just announced that he’s transferring school for his final 2 years. There is power in his bat, but it didn’t materialize with home runs, although he did have 29 doubles. He not only hit for a high average, but kept his strikeout rate to a minimum too. It’s possible he’s a 1B at the next level so that would put more pressure on the bat. Key stats: .357 avg, 1.007 OPS, 13% BB-rate, 11% K-rate, 2nd in D1 with 29 doubles (36 XBH).
Michael Busch, 5’10”, 1B, North Carolina – #8 prospect according to Fangraphs. The the first thing you notice about him is the build. It really looks like Busch has tree trunks for legs. The young man can do it all with the bat, hit for average, hit for power and has excellent strike zone judgment and plate discipline. When you are relegated to 1B, you really do have to hit at a high level. Busch has average to below average speed, so he’ll be limited defensively, but he’s a smart baserunner. Fangraphs has him listed as a RF, but he only played 1B this season and mostly 1B his freshman year. They actually have him ranked higher than Andrew Vaughn. Key stats: .986 OPS, 13 HRs, 22% BB-rate, 10% K-rate.
Andre Nnebe, 6’6”, OF, Santa Clara – Due to his size and power potential, he was compared often to Aaron Judge. Nnebe only played in 5 games this past season, but whether that was due to injury or suspension I couldn’t uncover. One thing to note is that there is a lot of swing and miss right now, so that could become quite problematic. The power is real, and if he plays in 2019 he’ll be one to watch.
Blake Sabol, 6’4”, C, USC – Drafted in the 33rd round back in 2016, Sabol has been on team’s radars. His overall stat line doesn’t jump out at you and he has strikes out too much, but he’s currently the top catcher in the Cape Cod league with a batting average over .300 to go along with 7 HRs (2nd most too!). If he can carry over this success into next season, he’ll be another one to keep an eye on.
Trifecta of pitchers coming off TJS:
Dalton Feeney, 6’3”, RHP, NC State – Borderline top 100 in 2016, Feeney had TJS his freshman year and missed all of last season. I’d keep an eye on him for his junior season. Fastball in the mid 90’s before the injury with 2 above breaking balls and a decent change.
Jonathan Worley, 6’5”, RHP, Stanford
Connor Riley, 6’6”, RHP, Long Beach St – Before surgery his fastball was sitting low 90’s.
One Way Ticket Back To 2016, Please:
Jared Horn – A top 50 prospect heading into the draft, he’s had 2 very underwhelming seasons at California with 7K/9 and 5 BB/9.
I’d love to know your thoughts. Please share some college players you think we should all know too.