It will be a challenge for the 2015 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team (CNT) to match what the previous two editions of the club have achieved in terms of the draft. The 2014 CNT produced 10 first-rounders in this year’s draft, including five of the top six college players taken as well as four of the top six picks overall. The 2013 CNT also produced 10 first-rounders.
That’s why ranking the top-20 prospects on Team USA isn’t an easy exercise. The majority of the players have the tools to land in the first round, so there are a few places on this list where the talent runs together. Nevertheless, the obvious strength of this year’s team was power arms with pitchability. The weakness was the lack of impact middle infielders.
Because of the length of this feature, we decided to split the list into two parts. The top 10 prospects will be coming tomorrow.
Note: this ranking is based off my evaluations of each player’s long-term potential — not just their CNT performance — and doesn’t reflect Kiley’s opinions or the official FanGraphs draft rankings, which will be coming in about two weeks. (Kiley’s pre-summer rankings are here.) This ranking includes all players who appeared in a game for Team USA and not just the players who were selected for the final roster. As such, it also includes rising sophomores, or players who won’t become eligible for the draft until 2017.
11. K.J. Harrison, C/1B, Oregon State (2017)
His unimpressive summer line wouldn’t suggest it, but Harrison may have the best future hit tool on this list. He got off to a nice start for Team USA, but faded down the stretch and really struggled in the Cuba series, going 1-for-17 over those five games. His performance in the spring (.309/.401/.527) and natural hitting tools, however, paint a more complete picture of his offensive potential.
Harrison has an easy, fluid swing with an all-fields approach that — before his cold spell — at one point produced three opposite-field hits over a 14-inning stretch. Employing a wide setup deep in the box, he reduces wasted movement with a minimal hand load and hip coil. Those features have the unintended consequence of sapping some of the juice from his bat, although he still flashes above-average raw power in batting practice. Defensively, there’s still a lot of work to do if he’s going to stay behind the plate. He has at least above-average arm strength, but the actions and hands are just OK and he’ll probably never be anything better than average defensively. If catching doesn’t work out, the bat may be enough to play at first or left field where his below-average foot speed could be hidden from exposure.
Stats: 17 G, .182/.207/.218, 2 XBH, 2 BB, 13 K, 1.31 RC/9
12. Matt Crohan, LHP, Winthrop (2016)
Crohan entered the summer as a relative unknown, but then he made a three-inning start for Team USA against Taiwan in front of a few Carolina-area scouts and now the cat’s out of the bag. His fastball ranged between 92-94 mph that day but has registered as high as 97 in the spring. He throws a firm 86-88 mph changeup as well as a hard mid-80s slider, but it’s a flat offering that behaves less like a true slider and more as if he’s cutting his changeup. His velocity wasn’t as good in a subsequent outing for Team USA, so national scouts will need to circle back early in the spring to see which version shows up.
Despite the lack of natural movement on his pitches, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound southpaw flashes projectable pitching tools. Crohan combines athleticism with arm speed in his low-effort delivery, leaning on his glove side to raise his three-quarters slot. In my look, he showed good fastball command to his arm side against right-handed batters, but had trouble locating his secondaries for strikes. Though he’s a project compared to some of the more polished pitchers you’ll see on this list, his ceiling remains high as a durable, lefty power arm with nascent pitchability and a good chance of starting.
Stats: 3.2 IP, 7.36 ERA, 6 H, 2 BB, 5 K
13. Daulton Jefferies, RHP, California (2016)
Jefferies comes in a smaller package at 6-foot, 180 pounds, but shows intriguing upside as a starter with a quality three-pitch mix. In a four-inning start against Cuba, his fastball bumped 96 mph multiple times and settled in at 93-95 mph with sinking life that coaxed 19 groundouts this summer, tying Missouri right-hander Tanner Houck for the team lead. His curveball shows above-average potential with tight rotation and late three-quarters break at 78-79 mph. He also flashed the makings of an above-average changeup, thrown with good arm speed before diving to his arm side at 86-87 mph.
The delivery, which features a high back elbow and slight head whack, isn’t as clean as you’d like to see from someone without prototypical size. Still, there’s room to add durability in his lean, sloped-off frame, and the aforementioned kinks don’t prevent him from throwing enough strikes. Detractors of short right-handed starters will assert that he’s better suited for relief, but I think his combination of raw stuff and pitchability is too good to keep out of a rotation.
Stats: 14 IP, 2.57 ERA, 4 H, 4 BB, 12 K
14. Bobby Dalbec, 3B, Arizona (2016)
Confession: I moved Dalbec up and down this list before I landed on this spot, and I’m still not sure about it. His 65 raw power may be the best in the 2016 draft class, but there are major questions about the hit tool, so I plopped him here between a polished starter and a reliever with a lesser chance of starting.
It’s a delight to watch the 6-foot-4, 219-pounder take batting practice, as the ball jumps off the barrel and takes towering trajectories prolonged by abundant backspin. Despite the effortlessness of his right-handed power stroke, its length was partially to blame for him whiffing in 35 percent of his plate appearances. The other culprit was a suspect approach, as he’s still a pull-conscious fastball hitter who takes too many close pitches, particularly with two strikes. Below-average foot speed leaves him with a range deficit at third base, but he makes all the routine plays with adequate hands and plus arm strength, which he sometimes showcases on the mound. It’s his plate discipline, though, that will be under the most scrutiny this spring, as teams will slot him on their draft boards based on how functional they believe his game-changing power is.
Stats: 16 G, .174/.283/.348, 3 XBH, 6 BB, 18 K, 3.47 RC/9
15. Zach Jackson, RHP, Arkansas (2016)
Jackson pitched out of the bullpen for Team USA just as he has for Arkansas the last two seasons, but he may have a future in the rotation. In a one-inning appearance against the Peninsula Pilots of the Coastal Plain League, he worked mostly in the 92-94 mph range and touched 95 with solid angle. He also threw a power curveball at 83-85 mph, a true hammer with sudden break and plus potential.
Although there’s medium effort and stiffness in his three-quarters release, the overall motion is probably clean enough to graduate from the bullpen with a deep takeaway that leads to a full arm circle. He also has the dimensions for durability at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, with room still for adding muscle above his high waist. Much of Jackson’s prospect value hinges on whether a team bets on his physical attributes and raw stuff to start, but the alternative outcome of high-leverage power reliever isn’t a bad-case scenario.
Stats: 5.2 IP, 3.18 ERA, 5 H, 6 BB, 8 K
16. Zack Burdi, RHP, Louisville (2016)
Burdi has the most electric arm on this list, running his fastball up to 98 mph multiple times this summer and hitting triple-digits in the past. I first saw him in the spring against Duke when he was 96-98 mph with cut and run and a hard slider at 86-87 mph with vicious bite. Then I saw a lesser version of him with Team USA when he was 95-97 mph with a flat slider and 30 command. The athletic 6-foot-3, 209-pound righty has a low-three-quarters release point, generating his premium velocity with outstanding hip torque and arm speed. The temptation is there to give his live arm a chance in the rotation, but his spotty location belongs in the bullpen where he has a chance to become an elite closer.
Stats: 9.2 IP, 3.72 ERA, 10 H, 2 BB, 6 K, .294 BAA
17. Matt Thaiss, C, Virginia (2016)
Fresh off Virginia’s run to a national championship, Thaiss joined Team USA halfway through its schedule and showed a well-rounded skill set. The 6-foot, 195-pound backstop’s biggest strength is his plate discipline, evidenced by his one strikeout in 27 plate appearances this summer. That bat speed is just fair, but he works inside the ball, makes frequent contact and could hit for average power. He’s competent behind the plate, producing pop times between 1.9-2.0 with adequate receiving and blocking ability. None of the tools are particularly exciting, but it’s a starting catcher’s profile that probably belongs in the top two rounds.
Stats: 8 G, .208/.296/.250, 1 XBH, 3 BB, 1 K, 2.85 RC/9
18. David Peterson, LHP, Oregon (2017)
Peterson was the only player invited to Team USA’s training camp that I didn’t see in person, but a source showed me some video of the big-bodied lefty bumping 94 mph and showing a feel for offspeed, so I found a spot for him. His best secondary pitch is a slider that registers between 77 and 80 mph, a future 55 offering that he’s comfortable throwing to both righties and lefties. He also throws a curveball at 73-75 mph and a changeup at 82-84 mph. With little effort in his low-three-quarters release, the 6-foot-6, 235-pounder is a safe bet to remain a starter with a four-pitch mix that should tick up over his next two years at Oregon before he’s eligible for the draft.
Stats: 4.2 IP, 9.64 ERA, 7 H, 2 BB, 7 K, .280 BAA
19. Mike Shawaryn, RHP, Maryland (2016)
Shawaryn was very hittable this summer, which can be partially chalked up to fatigue as a result of having logged 116 innings this spring as Maryland’s Friday starter. From a whippy low-three-quarters slot, he worked in the low-90s and peaked at 94 mph for Team USA. In my look, his go-to secondary was a sweepy 79-81 mph slider with 10-to-4 break, and he has also thrown a 76-79 mph slurve in the past. His 82-83 mph changeup is merely a show-me offering at this stage of development. The command wasn’t as good as it had been in the spring, but when he’s right, you can see a back-end innings-eater with average or better stuff.
Stats: 10.1 IP, 5.23 ERA, 14 H, 4 BB, 11 K, .326 BAA
20. Bailey Clark, RHP, Duke (2016)
Limited to 58 innings this spring after his season was cut short by injury, Clark came back strong for Team USA and showed upside as a future starter. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound righty threw a heavy fastball at 91-94 mph, working in an 81-84 mph slider that showed above-average potential. He also throws a changeup, but I didn’t see one while he worked in shorter stints this summer. His workhorse specs and easy delivery bode well for his chances of sticking in the rotation, although he must prove that he’s capable of shouldering volume with a college track record that’s light on innings.
Stats: 5 IP, 1.80 ERA, 5 H, 2 BB, 8 K, .263 BAA
Bryson Brigman, 2B, San Diego (2017) Video: Advanced hitter with gap-to-gap approach and solid-average speed, but below-average game power. Fielding actions and hands are better suited for second base.
Tommy DeJuneas, RHP, N.C. State (2017): Mid-90s fastball with very good riding life and power slider. Bulldog mentality and high-effort motion fits in the bullpen.
Anfernee Grier, OF, Auburn (2016) Video: Made big offensive improvement as a sophomore, but still raw at the plate without much power. Just okay defensively in center field right now.
Garrett Hampson, 2B/SS, Long Beach State (2016) Video: Utility infielder profile with average hit tool, solid-average speed. Good hands, but not enough range for shortstop.
Ryan Hendrix, RHP, Texas A&M (2016) Video: Reached 94 mph with above-average curveball between 83-84 mph. Stiff, high-energy delivery better suited for relief.
Ryan Howard, SS, Missouri (2016) Video: Line-drive approach with maybe average power. Enough glove for shortstop, but questionable range.
Anthony Kay, LHP, Connecticut (2016) Video: Polished left hander worked in the 88-91 mph range, but threw harder in the spring. Above-average changeup at 83-84, fringy 74-76 mph CB. Back-end-starter ceiling.
Stephen Nogosek, RHP, Oregon (2016) Video: Runs fastball up to 94 mph, mixes in above-average curveball with tight rotation at 77-80 mph. Fast arm with deceptive, high-effort motion that fits best in relief.
Drew Rasmussen, RHP, Oregon State (2017) Video: Muscular, power righty touches 96 mph along with mid-80s slider. Some effort, but may have enough command to start.
Seth Romero, LHP, Houston (2017) Video: Soft, bulky lefty peaks at 95 mph, mixes in above-average 78-79 mph curveball. Delivery may be clean enough to start.
Colby Woodmansee, SS, Arizona State (2016) Video: Slick glove and fluid fielding actions, but range at shortstop becomes a bigger question mark as he matures physically. Bat could be average with modest pop.