With Ethan tackling some of the more well-known prospects for the 2017 draft, I’m going to cover some deeper possible picks, especially in the realm of Division II pitching. Each year, between 30-50 D-II players are drafted, and the Mariners usually select one or two players. The success of Dan Altavilla (5th round in 2014, Mercyhurst) and solid performance so far in the minors by Brandon Miller (6th round in 2016, Millersville), both of whom were Division II standouts, might tempt Jerry to dip back into that pool in this year’s draft. I’m going to work my way through the divisions, highlighting the most intriguing names from each school. So far I’ve tackled the Atlantic Region, which includes powerhouse Mercyhurst ;the Central/East regions; and the Midwest/West regions. The series concludes today with a tour through the southern part of the country, although Colorado schools are in this division so I’m not exactly sure how we’re defining “south” here.
Bligh Madris, OF, Colorado Mesa (So.)
I’ve so far tried to restrict myself to just profiling upperclassmen, but I couldn’t pass up a chance to talk about Bligh (and mention his brother, STYLE JR.). Madris is a extreme super-utility player who can hit, play the outfield and infield, and even pitch in relief; in 8 IP this year he has a 2.16 ERA. But his real calling card is the bat. After a sparkling freshman season that saw him named RMAC Freshman of the Year, Madris suffered a hand injury that kept him out of 2016. He’s roared back in 2017, hitting .438 this year with 14 doubles and 16 home runs in about 200 ABs. He also walked 42 times while only striking out 13 times (6.5%!). The local television station profiled Madris here; he has a nice, easy swing and shows an ability to spray the ball around the field. The 6’2” Madris also has plus speed, which helps him in the outfield, where he makes fine running catches. He’s also on the all-region academics team. A speedy outfielder with excellent plate discipline and a high baseball IQ who coaches glow about? That’s some Jerry catnip right there.
Kyle Leahy, RHP, Colorado Mesa (So.)
Again, another young guy, but I wanted to highlight Colorado Mesa, which has been playing spectacular baseball this year and doing so with a heavy heart. Right before the season started, they lost third baseman Ryan Teixeira to his battle with cancer. The team has taken “17 Strong” as a rallying cry this year, honoring Teixeira with both his number on the field and their strong play on it. Anyway, about Leahy: he sports a perfect 4.0 GPA, which earned him the NCAA Elite 90 award this year. The 6’4” sophomore also sports a 1.22 ERA. He’s not a huge strikeout pitcher (89 in 103 innings) but batters don’t make a lot of hard contact off him: he allowed just nine doubles this year, no triples, and only three home runs. A Pars fracture in high school cost him playing time and maybe caused him to slip under some DI colleges’ radars. His 1.22 ERA is the second-lowest in all of DII baseball, and he’s a finalist for the Brett Tomko award.
Marshall Kasowski, RHP, West Texas A&M (Jr.)
In December of 2015, the car Marshall Kasowski was driving was struck by a driver doing 100 mph and thrown across the highway on impact. His car came to a rest facing oncoming traffic. He describes the experience of sitting on the highway, dazed, waiting for another car to hit and kill him him in a powerful video here. After this harrowing experience and missing most of 2016 with an injury, Kasowski has rebounded in a tremendous way this year. He was electric for the Buffs, striking out 165 batters in 93.1 innings. 165. Not a typo. He allowed 50 BBs, just four doubles and seven homers, for an ERA of 2.22. His 165 strikeouts is a new Lone Star conference record and passes Placido Torres (drafted by the Mets last year and 2016’s Brett Tomko Award winner) for 10th-highest in DII baseball history. Kasowski, also a finalist for this year’s Tomko award, was the only DII player selected to the midseason Golden Spikes watch list. He reminds me of a taller Altavilla—he’s 6’2” and 220, with a strong, muscular frame, and a shift to the bullpen might help his stuff play up.
Garrett Cave, RHP, Tampa (Jr.)
Garrett Cave was the recipient of a ton of preseason hype, with Baseball America tabbing him as number 56 on their top draft prospects list. There’s an extensive piece on him on Minor League Ball that also came out prior to the start of the season. This year, however, Cave’s stat line is middling, with a 4.23 ERA and a 12 K/9 (Kasowski’s K/9, in contrast, is 16). But he’s got the big velocity, able to not only touch but maintain 97/98, so expect to hear Cave’s name called on draft day, even if he misses out on some of these other accolades.
Zack Shannon, RHP/OF, Delta State (Jr.)
While in high school, Shannon received praise from none other than ESPN’s Jim Bowden, who called him a “must-draft.” He was not drafted, however, and instead attended Wabash State Community College for his first two years after a scholarship offer from OSU fell through (academics are not Shannon’s strong suit). You can see footage from his perfect game (and him pitching to Alex Jackson!) here; you can see how the command can be an issue. Shannon transferred to Delta State for his junior year, where this year he focused less on pitching (only 6 IP) and more on being a position player. The focus paid off as he slashed .442/.506/.779 with 11 doubles and 19 HRs, and collected a heap of accolades: he’s been named the 2017 GSC Player of the Year, NCBWA South Region Player of the Year, and as a finalist for the Tino Martinez award. 6’3” and 230 with power to spare, Shannon would be an intriguing project for an NL team who might be interested in continuing to develop him as a two-way player, but it seems like focusing on the bat is the best move for him going forward.