Below are snippets of our notes from our in-person looks over the last few weeks, including thoughts on Rangers prospect Jack Leiter as well as six amateur prospects eligible for the 2022 draft. If a player’s ranking on The Board has been impacted by these looks, we’ve indicated that within the player’s writeup.
Leiter needs no introduction — he’s one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. He pitched two innings in relief of Cody Bradford (whose velo is up, by the way) last Friday against an upper-level Royals minor league contingent. Leiter had scattershot command of a 95-98 mph fastball that featured his trademark carry through the zone. His two breaking balls – a mid-80s slider and mid-70s curveball – had somewhat more distinct shape Friday than they did throughout most of his career at Vanderbilt, and he used his slider pretty frequently during this outing. The most striking aspect of Leiter’s look on this day was his changeup quality and velocity. Leiter’s cambio was in the 84-86 mph range during his draft spring at Vanderbilt but was 88-90 mph on Friday and had power tailing action. He ran a couple of them off the front hip of left-handed hitters and back into the zone for a looking strike. If he can do this consistently, it might become his best secondary weapon over time, though his curveball has that distinction for now, in part because of how well its shape pairs with his fastball. — EL Read the rest of this entry »
Every week, we will recap amateur baseball happenings in a post like this, with a focus on how the action impacts the next three draft classes, especially this year’s. You’ll find a primer on our approach, as well as our observations from Week 1, here. Now on to this past weekend’s notes.
Ben Joyce, RHP, Tennessee Volunteers: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K (Current Rank: College Pitcher of Note, 35+ FV)
That line next to Joyce’s name actually represents the composite of his Saturday and Sunday showings, as he faced just four batters combined. Joyce has become a Twitter darling by frequently getting into the triple-digits with a fastball that has touched an eye-popping 103 mph, but after missing the 2021 season due to Tommy John surgery, and with just three innings in the books so far this year, scouts are still very much in the to-be-determined phase of figuring out where to line him up on draft boards. While we haven’t seen this kind of velocity since early-career Aroldis Chapman, teams are still trying to determine what else Joyce can do. So far, he’s been hovering around 90% fastball usage while generally finding the zone with the pitch; maybe we’d all lean that heavily on our heater if we could throw it as hard as Joyce does. Still, while his low-to-mid-80s slider flashes solid sweeping action, of the four he had thrown on the season entering Sunday’s game, none were in the zone, and to be honest, they weren’t particularly close. Even at 100-plus mph, you can’t live on fastballs alone, and many will be watching Joyce for the remainder of the spring in an attempt to figure out exactly what the entire package looks like. –KG Read the rest of this entry »
The opening weekend of the NCAA season is in the books. Below, we have compiled a roundup of some of the players who sparked our interest, much like our weekly dispatches from last year. We’ll publish a post like this every week between now and either the draft or the end of the nation-wide amateur season, whichever comes first. We’ll also have a separate, more irregular series where we’ll accumulate our collective in-person scouting notes until we have enough for a post. Both of these series may lead to changes in our draft rankings on The Board, changes we’ll tend to note within the relevant player’s writeup.
Speaking of The Board, you’ll notice an update to the “Rank” column there. It’s a change inspired by a question: What is the right number of players to ultimately have ranked on the amateur section of The Board? Historically, our answer has been however many belong on the pro portion of The Board. This has tended to be about four rounds worth of players, though you could make an argument to go deeper, especially in our current era of player development. Read the rest of this entry »
We begin this year’s run of lists with an update to and expansion of the 2022 Draft rankings, which can now be found over on The Board. I’ll do the same for the next two draft classes later this week, and follow that with a fresh coat of paint on the International Players list, which was completed with the aid of Brendan Gawlowski, Kevin Goldstein, and Tess Taruskin. Team lists will start rolling out next week, beginning with the East Valley pod of teams (Angels, Cubs, A’s, and Brewers).
Before I talk about this draft class, here are a couple of process-oriented reminders and changes. The grading system we use here is called Future Value (you’ll typically see it abbreviated FV), which maps WAR production and player roles to the 20-80 scale. In short, a 50 FV prospect is the equivalent of a good everyday player (2-3 annual WAR), with grades above 50 telling you how good of an everyday player we expect the prospect to be. Grades below that either describe a role (for example, a 45 FV for a left-handed hitting corner platoon or set-up man, a 40 FV for fifth starters or stopgap first base sluggers, etc.) or are trying to balance upside and risk (for instance, a 50 FV talent with an injury history will get rounded down to account for that history). Read the rest of this entry »
These are notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.
With the college baseball postseason underway, today’s notes will be a mix of observations from conference tournament play and the minor leagues. We’ll begin…
In the SEC…
Top-10 nationally ranked teams Tennessee and Mississippi State both lost their opening round games; the two will square off in an elimination game today. Alabama’s win over Tennessee moves them closer to an at-large bid, though their chances of doing damage in June are hurt by the absence of lefty Connor Prielipp who will have Tommy John surgery today, as Kendall Rogers reported yesterday. Prielipp is a top 10 talent. The recovery time from TJ puts his 2022 college season in jeopardy, and the date of next year’s draft becomes significant for him as he has a better chance to throw in front of teams if it’s again in July. Read the rest of this entry »
If you missed yesterday’s post, I’m spending a few days this week focusing on the college postseason, which began yesterday. For those who missed yesterday’s action, this YouTube channel and many like it post “highlights” consisting of the end of each plate appearance. You get a good feel for the flow of the whole game in about 15 minutes. They’re a great resource if you want to follow college baseball and softball but don’t have ESPN+. Below I have brief previews for the tournaments that begin today. This is done with a focus on the groupings with prospects, and the ones people can watch on streaming services (again, mostly on ESPN+). I’ll also be citing work from D1Baseball and Baseball America a lot. They are both indispensable resources for college coverage.
The best reason to watch the Big 12 tournament is to see Jace Jung hit. The COVID freshman posted a .366/.496/.766 line this year, was tied for fifth in the country with 20 homers, and had 46 walks against 35 strikeouts. He’s built a lot like his brother, Josh, the top Rangers prospect, except he’s left-handed, has better feel for turning on pitches than Josh did at the same stage, and plays second base rather than third. Plus, the younger Jung’s style of hitting is cool, and totally his own. Tech catcher Braxton Fulford has rare power for the position, as does COVID freshman shortstop Cal Conley, who is college baseball’s version of Brad Miller. All three Red Raider home run leaders play up the middle positions. Righty Brandon Birdsell muscles up and sits 95-plus pretty consistently, too. Tech is fun and talented. Read the rest of this entry »
There are very few Monday games on the minor league baseball schedule this year, so when the opportunity presents itself, I plan on mixing it up for the Tuesday editions of Daily Prospect Notes. Today begins conference tournament play for a large portion of Division I baseball. Much of the week’s action can be seen if you have an ESPN+ subscription, which is $6 a month. Absent a cable subscription, I don’t think that gets you the SEC or ACC games until the last few make their way onto the main ESPN channels, but between what you will see of the conference tourneys plus the entirety of the College World Series, I think you’d get your money’s worth if you ponied up for the next two months, and I’m not paid to say that.
This is also a convenient time to direct your attention to college baseball. The regular-season narratives are now tied up in neat little packages that will be presented on the broadcasts throughout the week, so you’ll be brought up to speed and know what the stakes are pretty quickly. The conference tournaments will help shape the eventual field of 64 teams in national postseason play, and they’re also heavily-scouted events due to the high concentration of talent. The way players perform here and during the College World Series carries a little extra weight in the draft room because it’s the last time they’re seen before the draft, though that may be less true this year since the later draft dates leave room for more private workouts than in a typical year.
Below I have brief previews for the tournaments that begin today. I’ll have another edition tomorrow for the other conferences, with a focus on the groupings with prospects and the ones people can watch. I’ll also be citing work from D1Baseball and Baseball America a lot. They are both indispensable resources for college coverage. Read the rest of this entry »
With six weeks until the draft, things are more muddled than ever at the top. If anything, the range of possibilities is continuing to widen. There is still an entire college postseason left to go, as well as what are sure to be some difficult signability discussions that move individual needles significantly. In a dramatic turn of events, it suddenly looks as if the Pittsburgh Pirates are focused on positions players over pitchers with the first pick in the draft. Instead of doing a mock this early (we’ll have one soon, though more to share information than to try to pull a Kreskin with so much time until Day One), I decided to set the current odds for the first overall pick.
Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake HS (CA): 3-1
“Marcelo Mayer or Jordan Lawlar?” is the most pressing question for those considering the first pick in the draft, and when I polled top scouts and executives, there was a nearly 50/50 split in their responses. “Mayer should be 1-1, and I don’t think it should really be a conversation,” said one scouting executive. “In terms of pound-for-pound talent, he’s the number one guy. Left-handed, good stick, future power, and plays up the middle.” Among his detractors, there are some questions concerning the up-the-middle aspect of Mayer’s game. While he makes every play and at times can be a flashy defender with plus hands, smooth transfers, a well above-average arm and excellent instincts, he’s also a big-framed kid with below-average run times coming out of a slightly awkward gait. For scouts concerned about this, Mayer becomes a future third baseman; for those who believe in all of the defensive tools beyond the twitch, he’s more comparable to Carlos Correa or Corey Seager. Read the rest of this entry »
Prospect writers Kevin Goldstein and Eric Longenhagen will sometimes have enough player notes to compile a scouting post. This is one of those dispatches, a collection of thoughts after another weekend of college baseball, minor league spring training, and big league action. Remember, prospect rankings can be found on The Board.
Jonathan Cannon, RHP, Georgia: 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K
After throwing 11.2 scoreless innings out of the pen last spring as a freshman for Georgia, Cannon entered the year as a potential late-first round pick this summer, earning draft eligibility as a sophomore due to age. He’s had an up-and-down season, but was at his best over the weekend as he shutdown one of the top teams in the country in Vanderbilt, while throwing 75 of his 111 pitches for strikes. At 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds, Cannon has a classic starting pitcher’s frame to go with an on-line delivery and clean arm action. On the season his stats don’t impress, with a 4.35 ERA and 21 hits allowed in 20 innings, but with just three walks and 24 strikeouts, the numbers indicate an ability to locate, which is exactly what he did against the Commodores.
Cannon has decent velocity, with a fastball that averages 94 mph and touches 97, but his three-quarters arm angle produces less than desirable shape to the heater. His mid-80s slider isn’t a big breaker and his upper-80s changeup has decent fade but is a bit on the firm side. There’s nothing even bordering on nasty in the arsenal, but Cannon can locate any of his pitches in all four quadrants of the strike zone, and knows how to work outside it when looking for a chase. With continued success, he should return to those pre-season late first-round projections, and overall feels like a classic safety-over-upside pick. Read the rest of this entry »
Prospect writers Kevin Goldstein and Eric Longenhagen will sometimes have enough player notes to compile a scouting post. This is one of those dispatches, a collection of thoughts after another weekend of college baseball and week of spring training. Remember, prospect rankings can be found on The Board.
Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami (Ohio): 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K
Bachman has cross-checkers around the country Googling where the hell Oxford, Ohio is (it’s in the southwest part of the state; fly into Cincinnati and it’s about an hour drive north from there). He’s been getting into triple digits most weekends and touched 101 on Saturday against a sub-par Northern Illinois squad; his outing featured nine up, nine down, and nine strikeouts on 41 pitches. Bachman is being treated with kid gloves as a starter due to some early-season shoulder soreness, but most teams see him as a pure reliever due to an awkward, unathletic delivery. At 6-foot-1 and somewhere in the neighborhood of 235 pounds, he’s built like a linebacker, and he seems to throw like one as well. The scary thing about him is that his 96-100 mph fastball might not even be his best pitch. Of the 41 offerings on Saturday, he threw 24 sliders, and it’s a 70-grade pitch that features massive velocity and equally impressive break; in the end, it generated eight of his nine whiffs. Despite the concerns about his delivery and ultimate role, this is some of the best pure stuff in the draft and Bachman is starting to generate some mid-first-round buzz.
Jacob Campbell, C, Illinois: 4-for-7, 2B, HR, BB, K
I was talking to a front office person the other day when he suddenly stated, “Catching around the league is so awful.” It’s baseball’s most difficult position, and takes a physical toll that greatly limits backstops’ ability to perform at the plate. There are 30 everyday catching jobs, but there aren’t 30 everyday catchers. That forces teams to move catchers up on their draft boards, and Campbell could end up a beneficiary of that strategy. A 36th-round pick by the Cubs in 2018 out of a Wisconsin high school, he hit just .197 in his first two years at Illinois, but scouts remained optimistic because of his athleticism and power, though there was concern about the latter following offseason hamate surgery. He’s come out strong so far this spring, going 12-for-27 with three bombs, and he’s suddenly being talking about in the third round, give or take 30 picks. Campbell moves well behind the plate and has a plus arm, and while there’s some swing-and-miss in his game, he has a solid approach to go with sneaky pop. Catching around the league is awful and players like Campbell are in a good position to take advantage of that come July. Read the rest of this entry »