Since I missed last week’s article due to spending a huge chunk of time writing my latest mock, I decided to do an extended version of the risers this week and go deeper. Here are 20 guys who have impressed me all season and will hear their names early in the 2014 MLB draft:
Trea Turner, SS, North Carolina State
Turner has been showing all the tools that had him projected as a top-five pick before the season started. Over his last 15 games, he is hitting .407/.527/.678 with five doubles, a triple, three home runs and 15 walks. He also has stolen 10 bases, showing off his plus/plus speed and great instincts on the base paths. For the season, he is up to .330/.424/.523 with nine doubles, seven home runs, 21 stolen bases and 30 walks to 21 strikeouts. He has the speed, an advanced approach and now has started to show the power everyone has been waiting for. Some scouts still question his hit tool. I think a team is going to get a steal if he lands in the 8-12 range.
Jake Stinnett, RHP, Maryland
Stinnett continues to dominate. In his last start against Notre Dame on May 2, he struck out 13 to three walks in a four-hit shutout. He now has a 2.63 ERA, 0.91 WHIP through 12 starts with 107 K/24 BB, holding opponents to a .178 batting average. At 6’-4” and 215 pounds, he has a great pitcher’s body and has a fresh arm as he split time as a spot starter/reliever as a sophomore and played mostly third base as a freshman. His fastball can touch 95 mph and sits 90-93, and he adds a slider and change-up — both quality offerings. He has been able to maintain velocity deep into games and he has great control of his stuff. Could be gone on day one.
Conner Joe, C/1B, San Diego
Joe has shown an advanced approach at the plate, a good hit tool and some serious pop in his bat this year. If teams believe he can stick behind the plate, he becomes a very intriguing prospect. Through 48 games, he is hitting .376/.469/.619 with 20 doubles, eight home runs and 28 walks to 23 strikeouts. He is relatively new to catching, but even if he ends up at first base or the outfield, his bat is his meal ticket.
Zac Curtis, LHP, Middle Tennessee State
Listed at 5’-9” and 175 pounds, Curtis may be the hardest thrower — pound-for-pound — in college. He can zip his fastball up to 95 mph with late life and he commands both sides of the plate with it. He adds a change-up and slider, both average, and still needs to refine those offerings. He leads the nation in strikeouts this season and has posted a 1.99 ERA, 1.04 WHIP with 110 K/23 BB over 90.1 innings. Some feel he is headed to the bullpen as a power arm from the left side. Others feel like he can remain a starter due to his ability to maintain velocity and command deep into games. Wherever he ends up, the arm is electric.
Ben Wetzler, LHP, Oregon State
It’s hard not to root for Wetzler. He was suspended for 20 games to start the season due to violating a rule by talking to an agent on deciding whether to sign with the Phillies or go back to school. He chose going back to school and the Phillies called him out on it, creating a messy situation for all involved. He has been pitching with the biggest chip on his shoulder this year and has been dominating his peers. Through 10 appearances, he has a miniscule 0.78 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 51 K/23 BB over 69 innings. He is holding opponents to a paltry .140 batting average. Not a power arm, his fastball sits in the 89-91 mph range and he adds a slider and change-up — both quality offerings. He attacks hitters and mixes his pitches well, commanding all three. His decision to go back to school will pay great dividends.
Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State
Conforto leads the nation in OBP and he has been showing more power as the season goes on. Through 43 games, he is hitting .407/.552/.627 with 14 doubles and five home runs, and he has drawn a silly 41 walks to just 26 strikeouts. He has also been plunked 10 times, showing he’ll do whatever it takes to get on base. The 6’-3” left-hander is maybe the most advanced bat in the draft and could rise quickly to the majors. Should go in the 15-20 range.
Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Wichita State
It’s a down year for college bats. The ones at the top, however, can really hit. Gillaspie is one of those and the 6’-4”, 240 pound switch-hitter is getting a lot of first-round love due to his ability to hit nearly every ball thrown to him.Through 49 games, he is hitting .401/.511/.698 with 13 doubles, 13 home runs and a whopping 41 walks to just 20 strikeouts. He also is a perfect 8-for-8 in stolen bases, showing great instincts on the base paths. He, too, is a first baseman, but there shouldn’t be any concerns about his bat.
Kyle Schwarber, C/1B, Indiana
Schwarber has the power, approach and track record that will make him a likely first-round pick. Through 44 games, he is hitting .345/.452/.598 with 12 doubles, four triples, eight home runs and 32 walks to just 23 strikeouts. The 6’-0”, 240 pound left-hander has a chance to remain behind the plate, but even if he ends up at first base, the bat is his calling card. He has massive power potential and should hit for a high average due to his patient approach. In his three year career, he is hitting .336/.431/.585 over 165 games with 34 home runs.
Mac James, C, Oklahoma
Having shown one of the more advanced approaches at the plate this year, James has been putting up big numbers for the Sooners and has a chance to stick behind the plate as he has been getting good reviews for his receiving skills. Through 48 games, he is hitting .356/.429/.522 with 15 doubles, five home runs and has drawn 20 walks. He also has only struck out eight times over 180 at-bats. At 6’-1” and 200 pounds, the right-hander shows good power and the lack of college bats should benefit him this year, especially if teams believe he can stick at catcher.
A.J. Reed, 1B/LHP, Kentucky
No one has dominated college baseball this year the way reed has. Whether he is hitting bombs out of the park or tossing gems on the mound, he seems to be a runaway for National Player of the Year. Some still like his potential as a left-handed power arm more, but the way he has been hitting this year, he will probably start out as a first baseman in the pros. He leads the nation in home runs, SLG and OPS as he is hitting .358/.486/.786 with 20 home runs and 62 RBI through 47 games. He has drawn 33 walks to 35 strikeouts, showing a good approach, as well. On the mound, he is 8-2 with a 2.20 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 58 K/23 BB over 82 innings. At 6’-4” and 240 pounds, the southpaw can do whatever he wants. He will be gone on day one and the team who lands him will have options.
Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville
After striking out 48 to just four walks over 40 innings in the Cape Cod League over the summer, Freeland has continued to show unreal command while racking up the strikeouts. Through 11 starts, he has a 1.90 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 106 K/7 BB over 80.2 innings. He has yet to allow a home run this year. The 6’-4” southpaw can touch 96 with his fastball, and he adds a plus slider and a solid change-up. Could go as high as 10.
Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford
Newcomb has been overpowering his opponents this season as he is holding them to a .148 batting average and has allowed just four extra-base hits (all doubles) over 73.1 innings. His command has been the one knock on him as he has averaged 3.8 walks per nine innings, but few can make bats miss the way he does. The 6’-5”southpaw can touch 98 mph with his fastball and his slider has plus potential. With his size and stuff from the left side, he will go in the first round.
Daniel Mengden, RHP, Texas A&M
With very good arm speed, and the ability to hit 96 mph with his fastball, Mengden still has projection left as he could add a bit more velocity as he matures. His change-up is an above-average offering and his slider shows good potential. At 6’-1” and 210 pounds, he has a durable frame and a compact delivery. Through 12 starts, he has a 3.78 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 80 K/22 BB over 81 innings. He has worked hard on his command this year, and he has also yet to allow a home run. He is projected to go in the 2nd-3rd round range. He also is known to sport a glorious moustache.
Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State
Pentecost is currently riding a 26-game hitting streak in which he has is hitting .473/.521/.736 with 12 doubles, five home runs and seven stolen bases. The 6’-1” right-hander was regarded as one of the best bats in the draft prior to the season and has exceeded expectations the way he has performed. He has shown power, an advanced approach and the speed that would play well in the outfield if he end up there, although he has all the tools to stick behind the plate. A for sure first-rounder and could go top-15.
Julian Service, OF, Howard College
I haven’t spent too much time talking about JUCO players but Service is an interesting prospect with upside. At 6’-3” and 190 pounds, the right-hander shows above-average bat speed and developing power. His strong arm projects well for right field, as does his above-average speed (6.8/60). Through 48 games this season, he is hitting .386/.476/.654 with 14 doubles, six triples, five home runs and 14 stolen bases. He has been drafted by the Orioles and Twins the last two seasons and should go in the top-10 rounds this year.
Austin Byler, 1B/3B, Nevada
I wrote up Byler in my last riser article, and he has continued to mash at the plate and is now generating some late first-round/comp buzz. Over his last 10 games, he has gone 21-for-42 (.500) with three doubles, five home runs and is now hitting .351/.431/.684 over 45 games with 12 doubles, 12 home runs and seven stolen bases. At 6’-3” and 225 pounds, he is a very good athlete who has a chance to stick at third base but could end up at first where his bat would play well. He has good bat speed and power potential from the left side.
Michael Katz, 1B, William & Mary
When first basemen pop up more often than any other position when talking bats, you know it’s a bit of a weak class. Having said that, the first basemen this year can rake and Katz is another one who has been displaying his hitting abilities all season. Through 45 games, he is hitting .403/.487/.743 with 23 doubles, 14 home runs and 71 RBI. He has drawn 29 walks to 29 strikeouts, showing a good approach, as well. He likely isn’t going to go on day one, but at 6’-3” and 220 pounds, his power and overall hitting abilities can’t be overlooked.
Jordan Luplow, OF, Fresno State
A breakthrough player this year, Luplow hit just .275/.325/.395 over 96 games as a freshman and sophomore with just four home runs and 23 BB/76 K. This year, he is hitting .386/.473/.630 through 49 games with 20 doubles, eight home runs and 27 BB/20 K. He is a terrific athlete with good speed and a strong arm suited for right field. He generates good bat speed and his raw power has shown through this year. He could hear his name on day one on potential alone.
Sam Travis, 1B, Indiana
Like his teammate Schwarber, the power, approach and track record is all there. Travis has shown over the last three years that he can flat out hit and he rarely misses a pitch. Through 44 games, he is hitting .372/.434/.568 with 11 doubles, seven home runs and has struck out just 17 times. He has added seven stolen bases, showing good instincts on the base paths and athleticism. He is a first baseman, and there is always going to be pressure on the bat. His bat is very good, however, and he should be gone on day one. In his carrer, he is a .332/.415/.539 hitter over 169 games.
Nick Burdi, RHP, Louisville
If a team in contention needs to bolster their bullpen for the playoffs, as well as the next decade, they could do worse than select Burdi. The 6’-4” right-hander can touch triple-digits with his fastball and adds an 88-91 mph power slider that wipes out hitters. Through 26.2 innings, he has a 0.68 ERA, 0.83 WHIP with 45 K/8 BB. He has allowed just one extra-base hit and is holding opponents to a .143 batting average. His 15.2 K/9 ratio shows how filthy his stuff is.
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