2015 MLB draft: Early 30 college prospects

The 2014 MLB draft is history and, after a couple of weeks off to clear the mind of hundreds of prospects, it’s time to start looking at several hundred more. The 2014 college baseball season is in the books and a tip of the cap to Vanderbilt for taking home their first CWS title in what was a great battle with Virginia. Both teams are loaded for next season, and seven players from both teams made my initial top prospect list. It’s very early, but here are my top 30 college prospects for the 2015 MLB draft:

Michael Matuella gets the early nod as the top college prospect in the 2015 MLB draft.
Michael Matuella gets the early nod as the top college prospect in the 2015 MLB draft.

1. Michael Matuella, RHP, Duke

Matuella burst onto the scene earlier this year, thanks in part to Frankie Piliere at Perfect Game, who tweeted out that Matuella was a potential 1.1 for next year. The 6’-6”, 225 pound right-hander proceeded to make Piliere look like a genius as he showed everything you want in a first-overall pick. Obviously, he has the ideal size you want in an ace. He also showed the stuff, headlined by fastball that can touch 97 mph and sits 93-96. He adds two potential plus off-speed pitches in a 79-82 mph, 12-6 curveball with great depth and an 83-86 mph slider with tight spin. His change-up sits 87-89 and is a decent offering already. He has great command of his pitches and finished the season with a 2.78 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 69 K/15 BB over 58.1 innings. Opponents hit just .190 against him, he allowed just one home run and only hit two batters — pretty good for a power arm like his. All eyes will be on him next year and the upside is silly.

2. Nathan Kirby, LHP, Virginia

With a plus curveball and a fastball that sits 91-94 mph with great movement, the 6’-3”, 190 pound southpaw has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the country this season. Over 18 starts, he had a 2.06 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 112 K/33 BB over 113.1 innings, holding opponents to a .175 BAA. He struggled at times down the stretch, but he logged a lot of innings and was facing some great competition in the College World Series. He was expected to put up some impressive numbers coming into the year after dominating the New England Collegiate Baseball League, striking out 81 over 54 innings with a 2.32 ERA. On April 8, he tossed what most consider the best game of the season, striking out 18 to one walk in a no-hitter against Pittsburgh. He has some of the best swing-and-miss stuff in the 2015 MLB draft and still has projection left.

3. Alex Bregman, SS, LSU

I could talk about Bregman all day. I have been a fan since his Team USA Baseball days in high school, and you aren’t going to find a better leader and person out there — on and off the field. Aside from his intangibles and instincts for the game, he also happens to be a damn good player. After a freshman season in which he hit 369/.417/.546 over 67 games with 18 doubles, seven triples, six home runs and 16 stolen bases, the 6’-1” right-hander put up impressive numbers again this year. Over 63 games, he hit .316/.397/.455 with 16 doubles, six home runs and 12 stolen bases. He has drawn 51 walks to just 46 strikeouts over 130 career games, showing an advanced approach at the plate. More power should come as he matures, and he has all the tools to stick at shortstop but could end up at second base at the next level.

4. Ian Happ, 2B, Cincinnati

Happ is going to get Chase Utley comps for his hit tool, speed and developing power at second base. The switch-hitter has excellent bat speed and raw power. Over 56 games as a freshman, he hit .322/.451/.483 with six home runs, 25 stolen bases and a whopping 47 walks to 32 strikeouts. He was named to the Cape Cod League All-Star team after hitting .293/.359/.469 over 39 games with five home runs and 13 stolen bases, drawing rave reviews from scouts for his all-around play and IQ for the game. He put up nearly identical numbers as sophomore as he did his freshman year, hitting .322/.443/.497 through 51 games with 13 doubles, five home runs and 19 stolen bases. He drew 32 walks to 35 strikeouts, showing a solid approach at the plate. Happ is currently hitting .300 with six walks and five stolen bases through 15 games in the Cape Cod League.

5. D.J. Stewart, OF, Florida State

Stewart may be the best overall college bat in the 2015 MLB draft. The 6’-0”, 230 pound left-handed hitter has an advanced approach at the plate, can hit to all fields and has tremendous power. As a freshman, he hit .364/.469/.560 over 60 games with 25 doubles and five home runs. He is a very good athlete for his size and was clocked at 6.83 in the 60 as a senior in high school and his arm at 90 mph from the outfield. Over 53 games this year, he hit .351/.472/.557 with 19 doubles, seven home runs and 40 walks to 30 strikeouts. He most likely will play left field at the next level and the bat is elite.

6. Walker Buehler, RHP, Vanderbilt

A 6’-1”, 180 pound right-hander with a four-pitch mix, Buehler was simply dazzling this season. Over 16 starts, he had a 2.64 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 111 K/31 BB over 102.1 innings. His fastball sits 92-94 mph with late life and his curveball is an above-average offering with great depth and bite. He adds a slider and change-up and has great command off all four. He has great mound presence and never rattles. Will likely battle Carson Fulmer for the Friday night starter role next season, and Vanderbilt is loaded with first-round talent — as you will see.

7. James Kaprelian, RHP, UCLA

As a freshman, Kaprielian posted a 1.55 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and allowed just 19 hits over 40.2 innings with 53 K/24 BB. He then went to the Cape Cod League and had 38 K/6 BB over 26 innings, wowing scouts with his stuff and command. The 6’-4”, 200 pound right-hander sits 91-94 mph with his fastball and his slider sits 81-84 mph with sharp bite. His change-up is coming fast, rounding out a classic three-pitch mix and he has good command of his stuff. Over 15 starts this year, he had a 2.29 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 108 K/35 BB over 106 innings, holding opponents to a .201 BAA. He will be playing for the Collegiate National Team this summer.

8. Dansby Swanson, 2B/SS, Vanderbilt

Swanson has dealt with some injuries over his short career at Vanderbilt. As a freshman, he suffered a broken foot that caused him to miss six weeks. Then, in the offseason, he had shoulder surgery, forcing him to miss all of the summer leagues. This year, he didn’t miss a game for the Dores and was one of the best hitters on the team. Over 72 games, he hit .333/.410/.475 with 27 doubles, three home runs, 22 stolen bases and 37 walks to 49 strikeouts. The 6’-0”, 180 pound right-hander has plus speed and he can hit the ball to all fields with his line-drive stroke. Defensively, he makes highlight reel plays at second and has enough range and arm to move over to shortstop, which he will next season.

9. Carson Fulmer, RHP, Vanderbilt

After being the closer for the first year and a half of his career at Vanderbilt, Fulmer made a smooth transition into the starting rotation. Over 10 starts, he posted a 2.00 ERA, 1.18 WHIP with 57 K/28 BB over 63 innings, holding opponents to a .192 BAA. He can dial up his fastball to 98 mph, and he adds a power slider that shows plus. His change-up is still developing and he has good command of his stuff despite the high walk totals as he is still getting used to the starter role. Like Brandon Finnegan this year, Fulmer will raise questions about his size (5’-11”, 195 pounds) next year and many will question his ability to remain a starter. He has effort to his delivery but tones it down a bit when starting.

10. Josh Staumont, RHP, Asuza Pacific

It’s not easy to get first-round attention playing for a Division II school, but when you hit 98-99 mph and sit in the mid-90s with your fastball, people are going to notice. The 6’-2”, 200 pound right-hander put his name on the map when he was hitting those velocities in January and, even though he wasn’t dominant this season, not many can throw as hard as he can. Over 15 starts, he had a 4.24 ERA, 1.58 WHIP and 89 K/46 BB over 80.2 innings. His command needs some work but he also shows a potential plus curveball. He will be closely watched next year and has a ton of upside.

11. Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville

A big, durable right-hander at 6’-3” and 225 pounds, Funkhouser’s fastball sits 92-94 mph and can touch 97 mph. His slider is a solid offering and his change-up is still developing but there is still upside due to his size and easy delivery. Command has been an issue for him this year but the deception in his delivery makes it hard for hitters to pick up his stuff as he is holding opponents to a .198 batting average. Over 18 starts. He was 13-3 with a 1.94 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 122 K/65 BB over 120.1 innings. With continued work on his command, he could be rated much higher.

12. Riley Ferrell, RHP, TCU

A lot of Ferrell’s draft stock will be determined by his role next year. He has worked out of the pen his first two seasons and has been dominant. Over 31 appearances this season, he had a 0.79 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and 70 K/14 BB over 45.1 innings. He held opponents to a silly .132 BAA and had a 13.9 K/9 ratio as his fastball has great life and he has very good command of the pitch. The 6’-1”, 200 pound right-hander turned heads when he was sitting 95-98 mph with Collegiate Team USA over the summer. His secondary stuff is still developing and the progress of those offerings will decide his starter/reliever role.

Skye Bolt has all the tools to be a high draft pick next year.
Skye Bolt has all the tools to be a high draft pick next year.

13. Skye Bolt, OF, North Carolina

After a sensational freshman campaign in which he hit .321/.418/.491 over 54 games with 14 doubles, six home runs, 51 RBI and 10 stolen bases, Bolt had a sub-par sophomore season. Over 61 games he put up a .257/.373/.353 line with nine doubles, four home runs and 11 stolen bases. The 6’-2”, switch-hitter should develop more power, and his athleticism, strong arm and instincts allow him to play all three outfield spots. Bolt also shows an advanced approach at the plate having drawn 70 walks to just 58 strikeouts over 115 career games. He has it all, including the name. If he puts it all together next season, he could soar up draft boards.

14. Thomas Eshelman, RHP, Cal State Fullerton

Eshelman has made 32 starts in his two year career at Cal State. He is 20-6 with a 1.69 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and seven complete games. He also has an eye-popping 182 strikeouts to just 11 walks and he has allowed just three home runs. He’s arguably the most efficient pitcher in the country with off-the-charts command. The only knock is his velocity on his fastball. The 6’-3”, 190 pound right-hander sits 86-89 mph with it and the track record for guys who don’t regularly top 90 mph isn’t great. He does, however, get a lot of movement on the pitch and locates it as well as anyone. He adds a change-up and curveball — both solid offerings — and again, can put them wherever he wants.

14. Blake Trahan, SS, Louisiana Lafayette

Trahan was a main cog for the Ragin’ Cajuns as they came within one game of reaching the College World Series in Omaha. The slick fielding shortstop, who seems to slow the game down, should be able to stick at a premium position due to his arm, range and soft hands. Offensively, he has a mature approach and is more of a line-drive hitter. Over 68 games, the 5’-11”, 180 pound right-hander hit .355/.455/.465 with 12 doubles, four home runs and 44 walks to 37 strikeouts. He stole 15 bases but was thrown out 12 times, showing needed improvement in his base stealing.

15. Taylor Ward, C, Fresno State

An athletic catcher with above-average speed, Ward showed improved power this season. The 6’-2”, 185 pound right-hander hit .320/.395/.438 over 57 games with eight doubles, six home runs and drew 28 walks to 29 strikeouts, showing a very good approach at the plate. He has a plus arm and could make the transition to the outfield if teams don’t believe he can stick behind the plate. He could have a breakout season much like Max Pentecost did this past season.

16. Kyle Cody, RHP, Kentucky

At 6’-7” and 245 pounds, Cody is an intimidating figure on the mound and he can touch 97 mph with his fastball. He adds a 78-82 mph slider and shows a good feel for a change-up but his secondary stuff still needs some refining. His raw stuff, live arm and size make for some serious upside. As a freshman, he had 47 K/20 BB over 57.2 innings. This year, as a spot starter/reliever, he had a 2.84 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 20 K/13 BB over 38 innings, showing improved command of his stuff. With continued work on his secondary stuff, he should be a huge name next year.

17. Josh Sborz, RHP, Virginia

Sborz is a power arm who can dial up his fastball to 96 mph. The 6’-3”, 215 pound right-hander adds a nasty, mid-80s slider and a solid change-up. Over 15 starts this season, he posted a 2.92 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 72 K/44 BB over 77 innings. His command needs a little work but the stuff is there, along with the size. He has great mound presence and knows how to mix his pitches well. Virginia will be loaded again in the pitching department next year, and Sborz will see his share of scouts at every outing.

18. Jake Lemoine, RHP, Houston

AT 6’-5” and 220 pounds, the right-hander has great size and a power arm, sitting 91-93 mph with his fastball and can touch 96. He needs to refine his change-up but his slider is a plus offering, sitting 82-86 mph with great depth and bite. Over 17 starts, he had a 2.87 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 87 K/29 BB over 106.2 innings, showing improvement in his command. Playing for The Collegiate National Team, he will get plenty of exposure this summer.

19. Steven Duggar, OF, Clemson

A plus runner with developing power, the 6’-2”, 190 pound left-handed hitter is an electric player with great bat speed who could have a breakout season as a junior. Over 61 games this season, he hit .294/.368/.378 with 11 doubles, three triples, a home run and stole 25 bases for the Tigers. He has great range in the outfield, as well as a canon arm. He is currently hitting .357 with nine walks and six stolen bases through 12 games in the Cape Cod League.

20. Tyler Ferguson, RHP, Vanderbilt

Vandy is loaded for next year, especially in the pitching department as Ferguson is the third rotation guy on this list. The 6’-3”, 215 pound right-hander sits 92-96 mph with his fastball and he adds a slider and change-up — both solid offerings. His command got him into trouble at times this season, but he is a power arm with great size and good secondary stuff. Over 15 starts, he had a 2.69 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 65 K/30 BB over 77 innings, holding opponents to a .201 BAA.

21. Joe McCarthy, OF, Virginia

A three-sport star in high school, the 6’-3”, 215 pound left-hander is a terrific athlete and runs a 6.69/60. As a freshman, he hit .336/.469/.453 with 10 doubles, four home runs, 51 RBI and 11 stolen bases over 60 games. He also drew 54 walks to just 32 strikeouts, showing an advanced approach at the plate. He followed that up with another impressive season this year, hitting .301/.417/.449 over 69 games, helping lead the Cavaliers to within one game of a College World Series title. He added 16 doubles, six home runs, 11 stolen bases and drew 35 walks to 34 strikeouts. His size and left-handed stroke suggest more power will come.

22. Brett Lilek, LHP, Arizona State

At 6’-4” and 195 pounds, the southpaw has a great pitcher’s body and good stuff. His health, however, has been a concern as he has dealt with arm soreness and biceps issues over the past couple of years. When healthy, he sits 90-93 mph with his fastball and adds an above-average, mid-80s slider. His offspeed stuff still needs work and his command can get erratic at times, but there is still a lot to like about him, and an injury-free junior season could see him go on day one of the 2015 MLB draft. Over 15 starts this season, he had a 2.68 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 79 K/39 BB over 84 innings, holding opponents to a .203 BAA.

23. Kyle Twomey, LHP, USC

At 6’-3” and 170 pounds, the right-hander has a projectable frame and he has a good feel for the mound. With a smooth, easy delivery, his fastball sits 91-94 mph and there is still room for more in the tank with his minimal effort. He adds a change-up that shows plus potential, and his curveball is solid and getting better. He impressed scouts at the Cap Cod League last summer, striking out 31 over 23 innings. As a sophomore for the Trojans, he posted a 3.11 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 50 K/20 BB over 55 innings as a spot starter. He will be a weekend starter next season and should put up big strikeout numbers. Twomey currently has 13 K/3 BB over 12.1 innings at the Cape Cod League.

24. C.J. Hinojosa, SS, Texas

I’m betting on Hinojosa having a breakout year offensively next season. The 5’-11”, 195 pound right-hander already is an above-average defender and has a real shot to stick at shortstop at the next level. While his power hasn’t shown up in games to this point, he has plenty of it, as well as very good bat speed. Over 67 games this season, he hit .298/.373/.376 with 13 doubles, two home runs and 29 walks to 32 strikeouts, showing an advanced approach at the plate.

25. Grayson Long, RHP, Texas A&M

With a loose arm and repeatable delivery, the 6’-5”, 210 pound right-hander can touch 96 mph with his fastball and sits 90-93. He adds a mid-80s slider with two-plane break that shows flashes of plus but it is inconsistent. His change-up is still developing, but he has good command of his stuff. Over 15 starts this season, he had a 3.12 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and 55 K/28 BB over 89 innings. There is some work to be done but he has a lot of upside.

26. Cody Poteet, RHP, UCLA

Poteet was a big name during his high school career at Christian HS in California and impressed at every tournament and showcase. He is a little undersized at 6’-1” and 190 pounds, but the right-hander can dial his fastball up to 96 mph and he adds a 78-80 curveball that shows plus. His change-up is an average offering and he has a lot of deception in his delivery. He showed his potential on March 2 against Michigan when he tossed a two-hit shutout, striking out 13 to no walks. Over 15 starts this season, he posted a 4.46 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 49 K/16 BB over 78.2 innings, showing great command of his stuff.

27. Mikey White, SS, Alabama

While he doesn’t have a standout tool, White should be able to stick at shortstop at the next level, and he has a very high baseball IQ. He had a decorated high school career, is an alumnus of Team USA Baseball and has started every game of his college career. The 6’-1”, 205 pound right-hander has a mature approach at the plate, developing pop and good speed (6.82/60.) Over 61 games this season, he hit .300/.399/.443 with nine doubles, seven home runs and was hit by a pitch a whopping 14 times.

28. Ben Johnson, OF, Texas

A plus runner (6.4/60) with a plus arm (92 mph from outfield), Johnson is a quick-twitch athlete who should stick at center field. Over 67 games this season, he hit .263/.367/.405 with 11 doubles, six home runs and 21 stolen bases for the Longhorns. He has excellent bat speed and can spray the ball to all fields with hard contact. The 6’-1”, 190 pound right-hander has all the tools and a breakout season is looming.

29. Garrett Cleavinger, LHP, Oregon

Like Ferrell, a lot of Cleavinger’s stock depends on whether he gets into the rotation next season. Strongly built at 6’-1” and 215 pounds, the southpaw sits 91-94 mph with his fastball and adds solid secondary stuff in a curveball and change-up — although the change-up is still developing. Over 35 appearances this season, he had a 3.34 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 49 K/17 BB over 32.1 innings for a 13.65 K/9. There is a lot of upside here, but if he stays in the pen, his stock drops a bit. Even if he does remain a closer, however, he should be one of the premier ones in the country.

30. Cole Irvin, LHP, Oregon

Irvin had Tommy John surgery on February 3 and missed the entire 2014 season. His upside is high but will obviously depend on his rehab. At 6’-4” and 190 pounds, the southpaw is a workhorse pitcher who can touch 94 mph with his fastball and sits 89-92. He adds a plus change-up and his slider flashes plus potential, sitting 81-83. His curveball is an average offering right now but looks to be a solid offering, giving him four quality pitches. As a freshman, he went 12-3 with a 2.48 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 60 K/22 BB over 116 innings, completing a team-high four games. Irvin is a big-game pitcher who is an alumnus of Team USA Baseball and played in countless tournaments/events during his decorated career at Servite HS in California.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @DanMKirby for MLB draft updates, high school and college news, as well as Chicago Cubs ramblings.

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