Keeping up with college baseball can be overwhelming, but pays major dividends during the draft when you get to become Extremely Outraged when a guy you have decided is your favorite player in the entire draft gets picked after some other chump. A while ago, John, Ben and I did a mock draft of our first-round favorites, which you can read here. That draft wound up being heavy on high school talent, which reflects how deep the talent pool is at the prep level this year, especially for arms. It’s good to know what’s available at the college level, however, especially since the Mariners have shown somewhat of a tendency to favor college-experienced players. Leading up to the draft, we’ll focus on covering some of the college talent available from each conference. Not all of these guys will be first-day selections, and several will have their fortunes ebb and flow over the grind of the college baseball season, but ideally this will give you some names to look out for in June as well as some players to get invested in during the long march to Omaha.
We’re starting with the top-ranked conferences and working our way down from there, with a little more time lavished on local conferences like the Pac-12 and WCC. First up is the stronghold of the ACC, which is divided into two divisions: Atlantic (FSU, Louisville, Clemson, NC State, Wake Forest, Boston College, and Notre Dame) and Coastal (UNC, Virginia, Duke, Miami, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Pitt). We’ll take half of each division at a time, starting with the Atlantic division, listed in order of projected standings So far we’ve completed the Atlantic division and the first half of the Coastal division; today we close out one of college baseball’s top conferences.
The biggest name here is Joey Bart, a catching prospect who MLB lists as the 18th-best player overall, and who is probably the most MLB-ready catching prospect in the draft. As a reminder, I took fellow Peach State baseball player prepster Will Banfield 13th overall when we mocked our first round; John followed soon after by selecting the collegiate Bart at 16 (I still like my pick, and if Bart had been there when I picked again right after John, I would have taken him). Bart is a big boy at 6’3”/225, but not so big as to impede his athletic ability behind the plate, although his receiving needs work and he’s not the pure physical catcher Banfield is (hence why I picked him higher). He is a free-swinger with big power and the accompanying big strikeouts.
Kel Johnson is a senior OF/1B who was a freshman Louisville Slugger All-American and has a number of other accomplishments dotting his resume, but whose draft stock fell off as his numbers declined through his college career, partly due to injury. Johnson was largely considered one of the better power hitters in the HS draft class back in 2014, but questions about his high K% and lack of defensive ability means he’s coming as a value buy in the 2018 draft. The raw talent is there, and he’d be a great under-the-radar pick for the new FO to prove they have the ability to add value in player development, if he’s a good fit for the system.
Fellow senior Wade Bailey doesn’t have Johnson’s pedigree, but the middle infielder makes a lot of contact, gets on base, and basically does what you’d want a utility infielder to do.
There are some interesting pitchers on Tech’s roster, but several of them (Tristin English, Jonathan Hughes, Patrick Wiseman) have all struggled with injury and might not leave school even if they were to be drafted. I am intrigued by Jared Datoc, a 5’9 pitcher in the mold of one Dan Altavilla:
Jared Datoc looks like an uncomfortable at bat (looks like he's going to throw 20' behind a RHB). Preseason Stopper of the Year Award, watch list. pic.twitter.com/rkrwA96KrI— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) February 18, 2018
Get thee to Driveline, young master Datoc.
University of Miami
Known as more of a football school, the U has churned out its fair share of MLB players, including Ryan Braun, Yasmani Grandal, and erstwhile Mariner Yonder Alonso. This year the ‘Canes are running out an underclassman-heavy lineup, including an all-freshman infield, and most of the standout pitchers (like Evan McKendry and Daniel Federman) are also concentrated in the lower levels. This leaves draft prospects fairly slim. The pitching staff is a little more draftable than the position players, although RHP Frankie Barstow is missing the year with injury. The improbably-named Jeb Bargfeldt is one to watch if you enjoy your lefties of the crafty variety. Fellow LHP Michael Mediavilla is also one to watch, and has a size advantage on Bargfeldt at 6’5”. The ‘Canes probably won’t make a splash in the draft this year, but keep an eye on them as their underclassmen move up.
Jesse Hahn, Chad Pinder, and Mark Zagunis are all former Hokies, as is current Mariner (? I think? He seems to have missed 2017 with an injury) Eddie Campbell. The Hokies are off to a somewhat rough start in a stacked ACC in 2018. No marquee names here, but there are some later-rounds possibilities. There are a few potentially draft-eligible infielders with decent numbers, but as redshirt juniors will probably stick around. Senior Sam Fragale (yes, I too say “Fra-jee-lay” like the dad in A Christmas Story) has improved every year, going from a freshman year where he batted below the Mendoza line to breaking .300 his junior year. The infielder has racked up a few accolades as well and gathers praise from coaches for his work ethic and leadership. Junior Stevie Mangrum was drafted by the Red Sox in 2015 but opted to stay in school; he’s off to a slow start this year and might decide to return for a senior season. Senior catcher Joe Freiday was named to the 2017 Johnny Bench Award watch list and is off to a strong start at the plate this year. He’s a Certified Big Boy (6’4”/220) with some power who’d be a good pick to help fill out the organization’s thin catching depth. Also, his name is Joe Freiday. That’s fun. Luke Horanski is another interesting prospect—a Canadian JuCo transfer who played for the Langley Blaze (Tyler O’Neill’s old team)—but as a redshirt junior, he will probably stay in school and work on improving his draft status.
Not known as one of the powerhouse programs of the ACC, Pitt got off to a strong start to its season. There are a lot of interesting storylines with the players here, including William Kirwan, a walk-on reliever with no college baseball experience. Another interesting reliever is senior TJ Pagan, who: a) doesn’t look like a guy named TJ Pagan; b) went to William Penn Charter, a Friends school in Philadelphia; c) then went the community college route; d) is a sidearmer with some funky movement:
Always great having alum stop by over winter break to put in some work. TJ Pagan (OPC '14) of @Pitt_BASE spotting up. #family #gocharter pic.twitter.com/dl47IXTbc7— PennCharter Baseball (@QuakersBaseball) December 22, 2017
Senior outfielder Frank Maldonado doesn’t have a ton of power but he’s a contact machine with a knack for coming up with clutch hits:
4⃣ Hits— Pitt Baseball (@Pitt_BASE) April 1, 2018
1⃣ Home run
Frank Maldonado is having an exceptional weekend.
: https://t.co/Vd2BmnTMwT #H2P #EarnIt pic.twitter.com/KGwothsvHG
There are a great many fun names in college baseball, but I particularly enjoy Yasin “Yaya” Chentouf, Pitt’s closer. So far he has amassed 22 Ks in 18.1 innings this year while issuing 9 walks (3 came in one game against a tough Duke squad).
Yaya Chentouf locks down the save as @Pitt_BASE beats No. 19 Duke for the Panthers' SECOND ACC win of the season. pic.twitter.com/92xJgdUWZG— Alan Saunders (@ASaunders_PGH) March 24, 2018
Awww I have a new favorite squad. Go Pitt.
#H2P #EarnIt pic.twitter.com/dfn35DMA3e— Pitt Baseball (@Pitt_BASE) April 2, 2018