2016 MLB draft: Early 30 college prospects

The 2015 MLB draft is still fresh in our minds as it just wrapped up three days ago. It’s never too early, however, to start looking ahead to next year’s draft prospects. With the Cape Cod League just getting underway, and many of the players on this list participating in it, I will be updating this list in August when the league wraps up, because some could see their stock slip, while others — some not even on this list — could see theirs rise. As of now, here are my early 30 college prospects for the 2016 MLB draft:

A.J. Puk is an early favorite for the first-overall pick next year. photo by Tim Casey
A.J. Puk is an early favorite for the first-overall pick next year.  (Tim Casey)

1. A.J. Puk, LHP/1B, Florida

Puk is 6’-7”, 235 pounds, left-handed and can touch 99 mph. That is a pretty good combo. He also can hit, but the mound is where he belongs, and Puk seemed to really figure things out late in the spring. Over his last six games heading into the College World Series, he has a 1.84 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 54 K/13 BB over 34.1 innings. He has been more aggressive, attacking hitters with his lively stuff. Aside from the plus fastball, he adds a mid-80s slider that flashes plus and a solid 84-86 mph change-up. There are still some inconsistencies, but with his size and stuff from the left side, the upside is silly.

2. Alec Hansen, RHP, Oklahoma

The top two are interchangeable, in my opinion, as Hansen is also 6’-7”, 235 pounds and can touch 99 mph. He does it from the right side, however, and he also adds a slider that shows plus with a solid change-up. He has seen a big spike in velocity since high school, and his command issues are a direct correlation of that as he is still trying to harness the juice. Over 15 starts this spring, he had a 3.95 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and 94 K/44 BB over 82 innings. If he puts it all together next year, enjoy the show.

3. Nick Banks, OF, Texas A&M

Banks will be one of the best power/speed guys available in the 2016 MLB draft. The 6’-0”, 200 pound left-hander has plus speed, excellent bat speed and the power is starting to come fast. After an impressive freshman campaign in which he hit .327/.386/.427 over 57 games, Banks was one of the best hitters in the country this spring, hitting .364/.450/.536 over 63 games with 11 doubles, eight home runs and nine stolen bases. There is some swing-and-miss to his game but it’s a sweet swing and his approach is improving. His arm also grades out to plus, and he can play all three outfield positions. He was a member of the 2014 Collegiate National Team.

4. Robert Tyler, RHP, Georgia

Yet another kid who can touch 99 mph, Tyler is a 6’-4”, 215 pound right-hander with an electric arm who missed some time this spring with a sore elbow but came back throwing gasoline late in the year. He adds a plus change-up, a solid curveball and he has shown good command of his stuff. As a freshman, he posted a 2.68 ERA, 1.02 WHIP over 12 starts with 64 K/22 BB over 80.2 innings. He had 29 K/11 BB over 23.2 innings this year. He is another kid with 1.1 potential, and you are starting to see the impressive amount of arms in this draft class.

5. Corey Ray, OF, Louisville

A quick-twitch athlete with above-average speed and good power from the left side, Ray put up some impressive numbers this spring for the Cardinals after finishing his freshman season hitting .421/.511/.553 over his final 13 games. The 5’-11” left-hander started out slow this year but hit .355/.426/.606 over his last 43 games with nine home runs and a silly 30 stolen bases. He’s got a right field arm and the power should keep coming. Along with Banks, he offers some of the best power/speed in the 2016 MLB draft and has put himself in first round talks with his play this year.

6. Zack Collins, C/1B, Miami (FL)

Collins was named Freshman of the Year by Baseball America after hitting .298/.427/.556 over 61 games with 14 doubles, 11 home runs and 54 RBI. He started his sophomore season off slow, hitting .237/.422/.412 through his first 28 games with just three home runs. Then something clicked and the 6’-3”, 220 pound left-handed hitter showed why he is considered one of the best available bats in the 2016 MLB draft. Over his last 35 games, he is hitting .351/.476/.724 with 12 home runs and has driven in a whopping 54 runs for the high-octane Hurricane offense. Scouts are split on whether he can remain behind the plate, but he still has time to convince them, and reports are his defense is going in the right direction. Even if he ends up at first base, his bat alone makes him a first round pick.

7. Cal Quantrill, RHP, Stanford

Quantrill underwent Tommy John surgery in March and will miss most of the 2016 college baseball season. Prior to the injury, he was seen as a possible 1.1 player as the 6’-3”, 200 pound right-hander features a classic three-pitch mix headlined by a plus change-up and 92-95 mph fastball. The curveball is solid and he has very good command of his stuff. He also has the whole bloodlines thing as his dad is Paul Quantrill, a former All-Star and 14-year MLB veteran. Cal posted a 2.68 ERA, 1.12 WHIP with 98 K/34 BB over 110.2 innings as a freshman and was the first pitcher to start opening day as a freshman since Mike Mussina in 1988. He totaled 20 K/8 BB over 18.2 innings this spring before the injury. Major league teams aren’t shy about selecting pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery in the first round anymore, and Quantrill should be back in time to impress scouts before the 2016 MLB draft.

8. Ryan Boldt, OF, Nebraska

A great athlete with plus speed, who has a legit shot to stick at center field at the next level, Boldt is an exciting player with an advanced approach and excellent bat speed from the left side. Most believe the power will come because of his size (6’-2”, 215) and smooth stroke. He has a strong arm, runs great routes and has good instincts in the field. Over 55 games this spring, he hit .344/.429/.408 with seven doubles, a home run, nine stolen bases and 27 walks to 27 strikeouts. If the in-game power shows up next season, he is the total package.

Chris Okey should be the first catcher off the board in next year's draft.
Chris Okey should be the first catcher off the board in next year’s draft.

9. Chris Okey, C, Clemson

Okey came to Clemson as a highly regarded recruit after a stellar prep career that included two gold medals with Team USA Baseball and countless appearances in big summer events and tournaments. An athletic catcher with all the tools to remain behind the dish, scouts wanted to see more power this season after hitting .248/.311/.350 over 61 games with nine doubles, one home run and 41 RBI as a freshman. He responded by hitting .315/.389/.545 over 61 games this spring with 16 doubles and 12 home runs. Most believe he will stick behind the plate, and that will play a huge role in where he gets drafted, but with his strong arm and athleticism, he could easily hold down a corner outfield spot at the next level.

10. Connor Jones, RHP, Virginia

After working out of the pen as a long reliever last season, Jones was in the weekend rotation this spring and posted a 2.96 ERA, 1.25 WHIP over 16 starts with 105 K/48 BB over 103.1 innings. He has a lively fastball that sits 92-95 mph and he adds a plus change-up and average slider. At 6’-3” and 200 pounds, the right-hander is a great athlete — which bodes well for development — but the one knock on him is command inconsistency. If he refines the command, he could be in top-5 talks.

11. Bobby Dalbec, 3B, Arizona

Dalbec is a 6’-4”, 215 pound right-hander who should be one of the premiere power bats in the 2016 MLB draft. Over 55 games this spring, he hit .319/.410/.601 with 11 doubles and 16 home runs. He did strikeout 60 times and there is swing-and-miss to his game, but the power is plus and he does have a good approach at the plate. Some question his ability to remain at the hot corner, but he could probably handle a corner outfield spot as he also pitches and had 48 K over 61.2 innings, hitting the low-90s on the bump.

12. Will Craig, 1B, Wake Forest

After hitting .280/.357/.439 with eight home runs over 54 games as a freshman, Craig kind of came out of nowhere and was one of the best hitters in the country this spring. The 6’-3”, 230 pound right-hander hit .382/.496/.702 over 53 games with 20 doubles, 13 home runs and drew 41 walks to just 24 strikeouts earning him ACC Player of the Year honors. He worked hard on his approach in the offseason and said he is now just taking what the pitchers give him, instead of chasing balls out of the zone. The power is real and you don’t put up those kind of numbers as a fluke. Scouts want to see him do it again as a junior and, even though he is likely relegated to first base at the next level, he showed enough bat this year to hold it down. He also pitches for the Demon Deacons and had 39 K/24 BB over 44.1 innings, but his bat is his calling card.

13. Logan Shore, RHP, Florida

Shore was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Minnesota as a senior for Coon Rapids HS and then garnered numerous All-Freshman awards as he went 7-4 with a 2.16 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 68 K/20 BB over 95.2 innings as a freshman for the Gators. He followed that up with another excellent season this spring posting a 2.50 ERA, 1.03 WHIP with 74 K/22 BB over 101 innings heading into the College World Series. The 6’-1”, 200 pound right-hander features a change-up with plus potential, a low-90s fastball and a solid slider. He commands all three well and should be the Friday night starter for a ridiculously loaded Florida team.

14. Matt Krook, LHP, Oregon

Krook was a late rising senior at St. Ignatius HS in California. The southpaw was touching 94 mph and showed a curveball and change-up that both looked like future above-average offerings. He was drafted 35th overall to the Marlins but opted to honor his commitment. He was having a brilliant freshman campaign, posting a 1.79 ERA, 0.91 WHIP with 60 K/19 BB over 45.1 innings before some shoulder stiffness led to Tommy John surgery. He missed all of this spring but should be back fully recovered to start next season. Another kid who could be in talks for 1.1 if he resumes the dominance he showed before the injury.

15. Mike Shawaryn, RHP, Maryland

After a sensational freshman campaign that saw him go 11-4 with a 3.12 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 72 K/24 BB over 92.1 innings, Shawaryn was once again one of the best arms in the country this spring. Over 17 starts, he went 13-2 with a 1.71 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 138 K/29 BB over 116 innings. The 6’-3”, 210 pound right-hander is a bulldog on the mound with a four-pitch mix, headlined by a low-90s fastball and a change-up that flashes plus. He has excellent command of his stuff and great mound presence.

16. Matt Crohan, LHP, Winthrop

If you are an athletic, 6’-4”, 200 pound southpaw who can touch 97 mph, you are going to get a lot of attention in your draft-eligible year. Crohan also shows solid secondary stuff and command as he posted 87 K/29 BB over 76.2 innings this spring. He won’t be facing elite bats next spring but the stuff is great and his numbers could look silly next season.

17. Willie Abreu, OF, Miami (FL)

At 6’-4” and 225 pounds, Abreu has a lot of raw power from the left side. It hasn’t shown up in games as much as scouts would like but he gives you glimpses of the player he can be. He profiles as a corner outfielder with his strong arm, but he’ll need to hit for more power next spring to remain a day one pick. Through 63 games this spring, he is hitting .300/.395/.433 with nine doubles, six home runs and has drawn 27 walks to 38 strikeouts, showing a solid approach at the plate.

18. Jake Fraley, OF, LSU

A great athlete with plus speed and a strong arm, Fraley has a legit shot to stick at center field. The 6’-0”, 190 pound left-hander has a mature approach at the plate, and most believe the power is coming soon. Through 55 games this spring, he is hitting .308/.371/.425 with 11 doubles, two home runs, 22 stolen bases and 19 walks to just 23 strikeouts. Like Boldt, if the in-game power comes next spring, he’ll have all five tools.

19. Zach Jackson, RHP, Arkansas

Jackson has been a dominant arm for the Razorbacks out of the pen his first two seasons. If he works his way into the rotation next spring, he could be a first-round pick. He had 87 K/37 BB over 56.2 innings and his 13.8 K/9 was among the leaders in the country. At 6’-4” and 215 pounds, the right-hander has the ideal size to take on a starter’s workload, and he features a 92-95 mph fastball to go along with an above-average curveball. He’ll need to refine his change-up, but he has good mechanics, repeating his delivery well. He was invited to play for The Collegiate National Team this summer.

20. Matt Thaiss, C, Virginia

Left-handed hitting catchers are always in high demand, and Thaiss enjoyed a breakout season offensively this spring. After getting just 68 at-bats as a freshman, Thaiss hit .332/.424/.528 over 60 games with 18 doubles, nine home runs and drew 32 walks to just 21 strikeouts, showing an advanced approach at the plate. Defensively, his arm is average, but he has quick feet and good receiving skills. He doesn’t offer much speed and, if he can’t stick behind the plate, his position is up in the air.

21. Wil Crowe, RHP, South Carolina

Like Quantrill, Crowe underwent Tommy John surgery this season and likely will miss most of next season, if not all. As a freshman, he went 8-3 with a 2.75 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 59 K/19 BB over 91.2 innings. Prior to the injury this spring, he had a 4.91 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and 59 K/19 BB over 51.1 innings. The 6’-2”, 240 pound right-hander features a fastball that sits 91-94 mph, a curveball that shows plus and a developing change-up and he has excellent command. In his senior season at Pigeon Forge HS, Crowe went 16-1 with a 0.64 ERA and 187 K/14 BB over 98 innings. He tossed 10 shutouts, four no-hitters and two perfect games, earning him Gatorade Player of the Year in Tennessee.

22. Jordan Sheffield, RHP, Vanderbilt

A 6’-0”, 185 pound right-hander who was touching 98 mph as a high school senior before needing Tommy John surgery. With his draft status up in the air, it all but sealed his commitment to Vanderbilt where he has been working his way back to top form while helping the ‘Dores try and win back to back National Championships this season. He adds a plus curveball and a solid change-up but his command needs work. Through 59 innings this spring, he has 53 K/43 BB. He is a great athlete, however, which always bodes well for development.

23. Stephen Wrenn, OF, Georgia

Wrenn was one of my favorite prospects from the 2013 draft. He hit .519/.649/.833 with 16 doubles, five home runs and stole 29 bases as a senior for Walton HS in Georgia but was overshadowed a bit by fellow Georgians Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows. He started all 55 games in center field for the Bulldogs as a freshman and led the team with 16 stolen bases but hit just .254/.337/.272. He improved his approach as a sophomore, as well as showing much more power as he hit .324/.400/.482 over 54 games with eight home runs and 28 stolen bases. The 6’-2”, 190 pound right-hander has plus speed, a strong arm and the instincts to hold down center field. He has a good feel for hitting and should hit for at least average power.

24. Daulton Jefferies, RHP, California

Jefferies will raise questions about his size (6’-0”, 180), but he can touch 95 mph with his fastball and adds a slider that shows plus along with a solid change-up. He also has above-average command, a loose arm and is a very good athlete. After logging a team-high 92 innings as a freshman, Jefferies posted s 2.92 ERA, 1.11 WHIP with 74 K/17 BB over 80 innings this spring. As a Friday night starter in the PAC-12, he will have some great match-ups next season.

25. Kel Johnson, OF/1B, Georgia Tech

Johnson will be a draft-eligible sophomore next season. The 6’-4”, 210 pound left-handed hitter was well-known in high school for his massive power, and he showed it right out of the gate for the Yellow Jackets, going 8-for-14 with three doubles and two home runs opening weekend. He finished the season hitting .298/.369/.570 with nine doubles and 10 home runs. He’s an aggressive hitter with some swing-and-miss to his game as he drew just 16 walks to 55 strikeouts. He is also pretty much all bat, and most feel he is likely a first baseman at the next level where the pressure would be on his bat.

26. Bryan Reynolds, OF, Vanderbilt

As a freshman, the 6’-2”, 210 pound switch-hitter hit .338/.395/.480 with 24 doubles, four home runs, 54 RBI and stole 14 bases, playing in every game while leading the ‘Dores batting average, RBI, total bases and SLG, earning numerous All-Freshman Teams along the way. This spring, he hit .311/.382/.455 with 17 doubles, five home runs and 17 stolen bases. He did strikeout 63 times, however, and the one knock on his offensive game is his K/rate. Defensively, he can play all three outfield spots and has a good shot to stick at center field. Scouts hope all of his doubles will start turning into more home runs in the future.

27. Keegan Thompson, RHP, Auburn

Thompson was a workhorse in high school, racking up 366 strikeouts over 223.1 innings his last three seasons for Cullman HS in Alabama. He was also a stud for several Team USA Baseball squads, including the 2011 U16 team, in which he tossed a shutout against Cuba in the gold-medal game. He maintained his reputation as a workhorse while a freshman with Auburn, logging 90 innings with a 2.01 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 73 K/23 BB, although his season was cut short when a line drive fractured a bone in his foot. He dealt with some shoulder tendonitis this spring and posted a 3.10 ERA, 1.11 WHIP with 62 K/16 BB over 69.2 innings. The 6’-1”, 215 pound right-hander features a low-90s fastball, plus curve, a developing change-up and superb command of all three. He’s a bulldog pitcher who has logged a lot of innings in his amateur career.

28. Ronnie Dawson, OF, Ohio State

Dawson didn’t have the season many expected after an excellent freshman season, in which he hit .337/.396/.454 over 55 games with 10 doubles, four home runs and 10 stolen bases. He was also tabbed as the best prospect at the 2014 Prospect League, hitting .303/.414/.540 over 211 at-bats with 17 stolen bases and a league-leading 11 home runs, so expectations were a bit high for him this spring. He finished his sophomore campaign hitting .279/.363/.465 over 55 games with 15 doubles, seven home runs and 16 stolen bases, although he was thrown out eight times. He showed more power, but some scouts noted there were times he looked like he lacked confidence at the plate. At 6’-2” and 225 pounds, the right-hander is built like a running back and his power/speed potential is very intriguing. A big junior season with work on his approach could have him in first round talks.

29. Cavan Biggio, 2B, Notre Dame

The name looks familiar for a reason. That is Craig’s kid, and there are a lot of similarities to the Hall of Fame, 20 year MLB veteran’s game. Cavan is a 6’-2”, 180 pound left-handed hitter who was considered one of the best hitters in his prep class. He struggled at the plate as a freshman, hitting just .246/.329/.353 over 53 games but showed an advanced approach and more power as a sophomore, hitting .258/.406/.462 over 60 games with nine home runs, 14 stolen bases and 50 walks to rank among the leaders in the country. He is a very good defensive second baseman with a high baseball IQ, having learned from one of the best to ever play the game.

30. J.B. Woodman, OF, Ole Miss

A great athlete who was a star quarterback in high school, Woodman is a 6’-2”, 210 pound left-handed hitter with above-average speed and a strong enough arm in the outfield. He has the tools to stick in center and his size suggests more power will come, making him a good fit in a corner outfield spot as well. Over 58 games as a freshman, he hit .298/.346/.429 with 15 extra-base hits and 10 stolen bases. He worked on his approach and drew three times as many walks as a sophomore while hitting .274/.386/.429 with seven home runs, seven stolen bases and 39 walks. Many believe more power will come due to his size. A breakout year is expected.

Next 10:

Jared Poche’, RHP, LSU
Dane Dunning, RHP, Florida
Preston Palmeiro, 1B, NC State
Anthony Kay, LHP, UConn
Peter Alonso, 1B, Florida
Ben Bowden, LHP, Vanderbilt
Tres Barrera, C, Texas
Stephen Alemais, SS, Tulane
Kyle Hendrix, RHP, Texas A&M
Andrew Knizner, C/3B, NC State

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @DanMKirby for 2016 MLB draft updates, high school and college news, as well as Chicago Cubs ramblings.

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