By now, most people following the 2013 MLB draft have a pretty good understanding of who the first-round talent is. Most of the mock drafts around the web, including mine, only cover the first round or the top 50 picks. But if you look at past drafts, a ton of talent has been found in later rounds. Baseball is the toughest sport to scout, and great talent often slips through the cracks. This will be the first in a series of articles highlighting players who may not be considered first-round talent today but could either play their way into the first round or make teams regret passing on them early. I’ll start with some college prospects.
Johnny Field, OF, Arizona
As a sophomore last season, Field hit .370 with 18 doubles, seven triples, three home runs and drove in 44 runs over 65 games for the Wildcats. He also scored 72 runs, stole 11 bases and drew 43 walks to just 28 strikeouts for a slash line of .476/.529/1.005. An electric player, the 5’-11” right-hander was the MVP of the Tucson Regional, hitting .533 with eight runs scored and 10 RBI over three games for the eventual National Champions. He also played for the 2012 Collegiate National Team, hitting .261 with nine RBI over 13 games.
Raph Rhymes, OF, LSU
There are hitters, and then there is Raph Rhymes. Few can put the ball in play the way the 6’-0” right-hander can. He led the nation in hitting last season with a .431 mark. He drew 22 walks and struck out just 13 times over 232 at-bats. He had a 34-game stretch in which he went 71-for-133 (.534). This is a kid who tried to walk on to LSU in 2008 but there wasn’t a roster spot for him. So, he went to play at LSU-Eunice, a Division II junior college, and was named the 2010 National Player of the Year after hitting .483 with 31 doubles, 12 home runs, 98 RBI and striking out just nine times over 238 at-bats. What I am trying to say here is this kid can hit a baseball. He was a 30th-round selection by the Yankees in the 2012 draft but decided to come back to LSU in hopes of improving his draft stock, and more importantly, help lead LSU to a national title.
Nick Petree, LHP, Missouri State
How do you toss 73 consecutive scoreless innings, as well as lead the nation with a 1.01 ERA, and not get much attention? Such was the case for Nick Petree last season. One of the best pitchers in all of college last season, the 6’-1” junior will now be the Friday-night starter for the Bears now that Pierce Johnson, a second-round pick by the Chicago Cubs, is a pro. Petree went 10-4 with 114 K/36 BB over 115.1 innings, often overshadowing Johnson to put together one of, if not the best, seasons in Missouri State history.
Nick Backlund, 1B, Mercer
Backlund made a mockery of the Atlantic Sun league during his first season at Mercer. The 6’-1”, 225-pound redshirt sophomore hit .381 with 16 doubles, 16 home runs, 58 RBI and drew 33 walks to 37 strikeouts, showing a very good approach at the plate. His slash line of .471/.668/1.139 ranked him among the nation’s leaders in all three categories, and he was named a Louisville Slugger first-team All-American for his efforts.
Boomer Collins, OF, Dallas Baptist
A Nebraska transfer, Boomer became the leader, both on the field and off, of a Dallas Baptist team that went 41-19 and made it to the NCAA Regionals last season. Over 60 games, the 5’-11”, 200-pound right-hander hit .374 with 23 doubles, 13 home runs, 58 RBI and had a slash line of .466/.647/1.113. He also drew 37 walks and was 15-for-18 in stolen base attempts.
Ty Young, 2B, Louisville
A 5’-10” left-hander, Young led the Cardinals with a .344 batting average and was named third team All-Big East Conference last season. He added nine doubles, four triples, six home runs, 42 RBI and stole 15 bases. He drew 23 walks and, showing he’ll do whatever it takes to help out his team, was plunked a whopping 21 times for a .467 OBP. Spent the summer playing for the Lakewood Chinooks of the Northwoods League, hitting .295 with two home runs and 16 RBI over 25 games.
Tyler Skulina, RHP, Kent State
Skulina, a 6’-6”, 235-pound right-hander, played a huge role in Kent State’s remarkable run to the College World Series last season. Over 18 starts, he went 11-3 with a 3.77 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 106 K/45 BB over 107.1 innings for a team that went 47-20 and wound up losing to Arkansas in the second round. In the Eugene Super Regional elimination game against Oregon, he pitched 5.2 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits in a game Kent State would end up winning 3-2 to advance to the CWS.
Tim Colwell, OF, North Dakota State
Like a lot of players on this list, Colwell has a great batting eye and can flat out hit a baseball. Over 60 games last season, the 5’-11”, left-hander hit .381 with 11 doubles, nine triples, one home run, 35 RBI and stole 12 bases. He drew 25 walks and struck out just 15 times over 244 at-bats for a .438 OBP. He reached base in 34 straight games and also had two five-hit games. Over four games during the Summit League Tournament, he went 10-for-18 (.556) and drew two walks.
Drew Bowen, RHP, Oral Roberts
Bowen was named MVP of the Summit League tournament, leading Oral Roberts to their 15th-consecutive league crown and an automatic bid in the CWS. He tossed 10.1 scoreless innings, striking out eight to no walks, including picking up a save in the title game against North Dakota State. For the season, the 6’-3”, 215-pound right-hander went 7-2 with a 1.95 ERA and 68 K/21 BB over 87.2 innings. As a junior, he went 6-2 and led the team with a 1.73 ERA while striking out 53 batters over 67.2 innings.
Jordan Hankins, 2B, Austin Peay
The preseason favorite to win the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year award, Hankins backed it up by hitting .336 over 66 games with 16 doubles, 10 home runs, 66 RBI and a slash line of .444/.544/.988 to capture the award. Owning an incredible batting eye, he only struck out 16 times over 250 at-bats while drawing 38 walks. He was selected to play for the Collegiate National Team over the summer.
Christian Stringer, 2B, Rice
Stringer, a 5’-11” left-hander, was named First Team All-Conference USA after hitting a team-high .343 over 59 games with 12 doubles, three home runs, 36 RBI and six stolen bases. He drew 38 walks to just 28 strikeouts for a .448 OBP. Showing a knack to be a rally starter, he had a .488 OBP (39-for-80) when leading off an inning. He reached base in 46 consecutive games and enjoyed a 17-game hitting streak.
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