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, Kate 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. So far we’ve covered the heavy-hitters of the ACC, the SEC, and the Big 12; now we’ll work through a few of the lower-RPI conferences. The Mariners haven’t been super-active in the ASUN, but it’s a conference that’s produced some of MLB’s brightest stars and has one of the best arms in the class.
Disclaimer: There is really no way to scout without actually being there in person to see how a player goes about an at-bat, how a pitcher reacts to adversity; to hear the sound of loud, solid contact or watch how quickly a player hustles back to the field. I’m relying on stat lines, grainy Twitter videos, and word of mouth from people who have seen these players in action, and casting a net that isn’t as fine as I’d like. If there’s someone interesting I’ve missed, please drop a line about them in the comments.
The Hatters, who sit atop the Atlantic Sun Conference standings, also boast the conference’s top draft-eligible player in RHP Logan Gilbert. Gilbert uses a four pitch mix featuring both a slider and curve in addition to his change-up to overpower opposing hitters, which he’s done with ease throughout his time at Stetson. Preseason reports were that the 6’5” righty saw his velocity dip slightly over the summer, but he appears to have corrected course, as he’s running a career-best 13.0 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9.
With a big league body, the ability to reportedly touch 97 mph, and a nice four pitch arsenal, Gilbert figures to be a lock to go off the board in the first round. He’s been projected to be available near the Mariners’ selection at 14, and was even mentioned as a possibility in the 2018 MLB Mock Draft v 2.0 over at FanGraphs. Teams have struck gold with tall right handers out of Stetson in the not-too-distant past, including 6’4” RHP’s Corey Kluber and Jacob deGrom.
RHP Joey Gonzalez joined Gilbert to form a dynamic 1-2 punch at the front end of the Hatters’ rotation, and while he lacks the elite strikeout stuff of his rotation-mate—although his 9.4 K/9 is nothing to sneeze at—Gonzalez has shut down opposing offenses, allowing just 13 earned runs over 65.0 innings this season, good for a 1.79 ERA. Listed at just 5’11”, he seems like a likely candidate to become a day three pick. Gilbert and Gonzalez were joined in the weekend rotation by RHP Jack Perkins, who checked in as the Atlantic Sun’s #2 draft eligible prospect enter the year according to Baseball America. While he failed to post electric strikeout numbers, the 6’4” 200lb right hander has been excelled as a member of the Hatters’ rotation the last two seasons after a rough freshman season in 2016. 6’3” RHP/IF Brooks Wilson might just be the conference’s most intriguing player in that he’s made a big impact on both sides of the ball this season. In 28 appearances out of the Hatters bullpen spanning 51.0 innings, Wilson posted a line of 1.76 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 11.3 K/9, 0.4 HR/9, 3.2 BB/9. Offensively, he compiled 149 at-bats after totaling two, one, and 16 his first three seasons and he went on to slash .275/.390/.430, walking 20.9% of the time and striking out at a rate of just 15.8%. Despite throwing right-handed, he swings it from the left side, and can do so for power—he racked up 16 extra-base hits including three homers—and can even do damage on the basepaths, where he was 7-8 stealing bases. After declining to sign with the Texas Ranger upon being selected by them last June in the 24th round, Wilson should hear his name called much earlier this summer, and it may be well be as a two-way player. Hatters leadoff man OF Jacob Koos possesses a pair of interesting tools in his plus speed—he’s closing in on 20 stolen bases for the second consecutive season—and his ability to put bat to ball. His .282/.367/.361 career slash line isn’t much to get excited about, but his 11.4% walk rate looks nice next to his 9.7% career strikeout rate.
Baseball America deemed Jacksonville RHP Chris Gau the top non-Stetson prospect in the conference, checking in at #4. Despite his 6’4” 205lb frame, Gau profiles as a control pitcher, issuing fewer than 2.0 BB/9 each of the past two seasons. His K/9 dipped down to 7.3 this season, but he managed to cut his ERA and WHIP to 2.56 and 0.99, down from 3.96 and 1.32 a year ago. It’s worth noting that Gau was absolutely lit up in 28.0 innings for the Harwich Mariners of the Cape Cod League last summer, where he posted an 8.04 ERA and 1.68 WHIP thanks to allowing 12.9 H/9. Hopefully for his case, his junior season with the Dolphins made some scouts forget about his struggles in the Cape. Dolphins 1B Angel Camacho leads the team with 51 RBI in his junior season and despite his 6’4” frame and .444 slugging percentage, demonstrates a patient approach at the plate, boasting a 20:25 BB:SO rate.
Owls 2B Grant Williams has been an on-base machine and model of consistency since setting foot on the Kennesaw State campus. In four seasons of full-time duty, his batting average has ranged only .012 points (.294 - .306) and his OBP just .045 points (.357 - .402). The lefty-swinging infielder proved himself against the game’s best last summer in the Cape Cod League, where he was named an all-star following a .326/.410/.378 campaign and continued a career-long trend of walking more than he whiffs. While his slight 5’10” 175lb frame will likely limit his power output, he increased his career high home run mark from one to five this season.
UNF RHP Frank German is giving Setson righty Logan Gilbert a run for his money for Conference Pitcher of the Year, but also joined the Hatters’ ace as one of 25 finalists for the Golden Spikes Award on account of his big time breakout junior season. German made huge strides from his 2016 freshman season to last year, and doubled down on the feat by leveling up again for 2018. Through 13 starts, he’s logged 82.0 innings of 1.64 ERA, 0.83 WHIP ball while striking out 10.7 and walking just 1.5 per nine.
Florida Gulf Coast
The same school that produced Red Sox ace Chris Sale appears to be churning out another tall (6’5”) slender southpaw in LHP Josh Dye, who has put up a successful junior season for the Eagles. Like his more famous fellow alum, Dye’s got an almost sidearm delivery that mimics Sale’s strangely closely; however he uses control and command rather than elite strikeout stuff to shut down opposing offenses.
He’s accumulated just 74 strikeouts over 93.2 innings this season, but has allowed just one home run and 16 walks.
The Spartans have arguably the top offensive prospect in the conference in C Charlie Carpenter, who returned to USC-Upstate after being selected in the 26th round by the Atlanta Braves last June. The 6’6” 215lb backstop finished 2017 second in the Atlantic Sun in batting (.357) and slugging (.592) and has been nearly as impressive this season, slashing .323/.445/.464 while gunning down 17 of 33 attempted base stealers. He also posted a respectable .269/.329/.433 line in the collegiate wood bat Northwoods League over last summer.
RHP Blake Whitney had a comeback season that nobody expected in 2018, posting a 2.81 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 0.37 HR/9, and 10.0 K/9 after never posting an ERA under 5.48 or WHIP under 1.52 any season before. He showed signs of a potential breakout in the New England Collegiate League last summer when he posted a 2.08 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and 13.9 K/9 over 52.0 innings. His limited track record of success makes him something of a risk, but he’ll likely be priced accordingly and could be an interesting day three guy.