2015 MLB draft: 10 college players on the rise — week 2
Week two was a bit marred by injuries to a few big names in the 2015 MLB draft. Duke ace Michael Matuella and Vanderbilt ace Walker Buehler both were scratched due to arm soreness. Neither seems like a major issue, but theses are arms we’re talking about so we just have to wait and see. Despite that, arms continue to be the strength of the draft, and even a few more names had coming out parties, including a kid who has thrust himself into top-five talks. Here are 10 players who impressed me during week two of the 2015 college baseball season:
Dillon Tate, RHP, UC Santa Barbara
No one is generating more early buzz than Tate, a 6’-2”, 190 pound right-hander who has been flashing a plus slider and mid-90s fastball. A closer last season, Tate was finally moved to the starting rotation this season and has dominated. So much so that Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) at FanGraphs said he looks like a top-five pick right now. In his last start against Kentucky on Saturday, he tossed seven shutout innings, striking out nine with two walks. He touched 97 mph with his fastball and was sitting 92-94 late in the game. He also showed off his plus slider and adds a solid change-up. The 2015 MLB draft is heavy on college arms and Tate is now at the top of that list.
Preston Morrison, RHP, TCU
Aside from Tate, the talk of the weekend was Morrison’s performance against Arizona State. The 6’-2”, 185 pound right-hander needed just 88 pitches to shutout the Sun Devils in a 3-0 win. He allowed just three hits and struck out five and walked one over nine innings. Known for his superb command and ability to switch speeds, he looked like Greg Maddux on the mound. While he doesn’t have overpowering stuff as his fastball tops out at 89 mph, he uses his mid-70s slider and 78-80 mph change-up with precision to keep hitters off balance. Coming into this season, the senior had a 25-9 record with a 1.62 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 231 K/51 BB over 349.1 innings.
Kyle Twomey, RHP, USC
Many saw a huge year coming from Twomey this season. He has been putting it all together and impressed with his command at the Cape Cod League over the summer. The 6’-3” right-hander has a smooth, easy delivery and great mound presence. His fastball sits in the low-90s and can touch 94 mph. The pitch has good movement and he keeps it down. He adds a change-up that flashes plus and his breaking stuff is rapidly improving. Through his first two starts, he is 2-0 and has allowed one run on six hits over 14 innings, striking out 13 to four walks.
Ian Happ, OF, Cincinnati
Happ’s calling card is his ability to hit a baseball. So far this season, he has done that pretty, pretty good. He went 10-for-14 over the weekend against Santa Clara and is now 17-for-30 (.567) on the season with four doubles, two home runs and three walks through seven games. The 6’-0”, 205 pound right-hander might be the best college hitter in the 2015 MLB draft and could benefit from a lack of premium bats this year.
John Kilichowski, LHP, Vanderbilt
Hey look, another Vandy player soaring up draft boards. That’s so weird. With Buehler out for the time being, it allowed Kilichowski to show his stuff. A big-bodied southpaw at 6’-5” and 210 pounds, Kilichowski isn’t overpowering as he sits in the low-90s with his fastball, but he has plus command of his stuff and just knows how to pitch. A draft-eligible sophomore, he posted a 1.57 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 22 K/8 BB over 23 innings as a freshman out of the pen. High-character kid.
Taylor Ward, C, Fresno State
Although Ward has a plus arm, many believe his future is in a corner outfield spot rather than behind the plate where his developing raw power and athleticism would play well. The 6’-1”, 190 pound right-hander has been showing improved power early on as he has four doubles, a triple and two home runs through seven games for the Bulldogs. He has a mature approach at the plate and hit .320/.395/.438 as a sophomore with 28 walks to 29 strikeouts over 57 games. If scouts believe he can stick behind the plate, his stock obviously goes up.
Ben Johnson, OF, Texas
A quick-twitch athlete with plus speed (6.4/60) and a plus arm (93 mph from outfield), Johnson is an exciting player who I was expecting a breakout season from. He currently leads the nation in hits (20) and is batting .476 through nine games with two stolen bases and four extra-base hits. The 6’-1”, 190 pound right-hander has excellent bat speed and good pop from the right side. As a sophomore, he hit .263/.367/.405 over 67 games with 11 doubles, six home runs and 21 stolen bases for the Longhorns.
Matt Rose, 3B, Georgia State
A two-way player, Rose has more upside on offense where his plus arm and immense raw power would profile well at the hot corner. The 6’-4”, 200 pound right-hander leads the nation in home runs with five and has shown a much-improved approach at the plate by drawing six walks to five strikeouts through eight games. He’s mostly a pull-hitter but power is always an asset, and Rose has plenty of it. As a sophomore, he hit .312/.358/.535 over 52 games with 12 doubles, 11 home runs and 13 walks to 37 strikeouts.
Phil Bickford, RHP, Southern Nevada (JUCO)
Bickford continues to put up silly numbers for the Coyotes as he struck out 13 over five shutout innings against Southern Idaho on February 19. He was hitting the mid-90s with his fastball and continues to show his plus command of his stuff. He now has 40 K/6 BB over 20.1 innings, allowing four runs on 11 hits. The 6’-3” right-hander is a likely first-round pick, and the continued development of his secondary stuff, as well as consistently maintaining the velocity, will determine just how high he will go.
Luke Gillingham, LHP, Navy
With all of the stud arms in this year’s class, no one has been better — at least statistically — than Gillingham, a 6’-3” southpaw for Navy. His first two starts of the season are as follows:
7 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 16 K/0 BB
7 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 14 K/1 BB
Those are silly numbers and have earned him back-to-back Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week honors. There isn’t a lot of scouting info on him but that should change very quickly. As a sophomore, he had 59 K/21 BB over 67.2 innings.
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