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2019 Mariners draft preview: Missouri Valley & Southland Conference Draft-Eligible Prospects

Come for the scouting report. Stay for the hidden F•R•I•E•N•D•S reference.

As we close in on the 2019 MLB Draft, which takes place June 3-5, we’re taking you through draft-eligible players conference-by-conference. We’ve tackled some of the bigger conference in past weeks such as the SEC, ACC, Big 12, PAC-12, and Big Ten, and now we’re headed into some of the smaller conferences with the Missouri Valley Conference and Southland Conference today. The previews will get shorter from here on out as available info gets a little more scarce and draftable prospects get a little slimmer, but if there’s anyone under the radar you know about, drop a short scouting report in the comments.

Missouri Valley Conference

Dallas Baptist

The Patriots are flush with Jerry-type draft-eligible players this year as several upperclassmen are coming off of breakout seasons. Perhaps the most impressive pop-up prospect is RHP MD Johnson, who has made significant strides this year as a senior after three fairly non-noteworthy campaigns. Through 15 starts, the slim 6’5” slinger has nearly cut his ERA and WHIP in half from last year, posting a 2.46 ERA and 0.97 WHIP while also making drastic improvements to his walk and strikeout rates, posting marks of 2.3 BB/9 and 10.4 K/9. He apparently works with a low-90’s heater, low-80’s slider, and a change-up that’s also in the low 80’s; however his stuff seems to play up thanks to a fairly deceptive unorthodox delivery.

Joining Johnson in the rotation as a senior breakout has been LHP Jordan Martinson. He too has made drastic improvements this season, which have been on display in the form of a 2.50 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 10.4 K/9, and 2.4 BB/9. Standing a generous 6’0” 210, he looks the polar opposite of Johnson despite posting nearly identical numbers this year.

There’s a few interesting guys filling the DBU lineup as well, headed up by leading hitter OF Luke Bandy. Bandy, who has slashed .346/.432/.527 this year and stolen 22 bases, was drafted in the 32nd round by the Royals out of high school in 2016. This year was a massive success for him after he failed to eclipse a .250 average and narrowly OPS’d .700 last year. He doesn’t have the most refined of plate approaches, but his success during summer wood bat ball will undoubtedly please scouts. 6’6” 1B/DH Bryce Ball should draw some attention on the heels of a .308/.428/.603 season in which he slugged 17 home runs and walked (47) nearly as many times as he struck out (51) in his first season after transferring from North Iowa Area CC. Fellow transfer OF Augie Isaacson has found success with the Patriots after a two-year stint at literally Friends University where he batted north of .420 and stole 30+ bases in each season. In year one at DBU he has slashed .284/.369/.421 and stolen 27 bases.

Illinois State

Following a breakout sophomore season in 2018, OF John Rave has seen the strikeouts nearly double this year while seeing his slash line dip to .304/.384/.521. He projects as an average hitter with average power going forward, however he’s got plus speed and can likely stick in center field. Also to his credit is a strong performance in Cape Cod League play last summer where the strikeout issues didn’t appear to be much of an issue. OF Joe Aeilts has led the Redbirds in hitting this season, posting a line of .350/.408/.558 while hitting 10 homers and going 13-for-14 in stolen base attempts. He could stand to improve upon his plate approach a bit, but it’s hard to imagine him returning to school after tacking .300 points on to his OPS this season.

On the mound, 6’6” LHP Brent Headrick has flashed interesting upside this season after a down sophomore season last year. He’s rebounded in a big way, winning the MVC Pitcher of the Year Award while posting 10.1 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9, an ERA of 3.50 and a 1.09 WHIP. He’s got clean mechanics and a smooth delivery, although his arsenal—low-90’s heat, slider and change-up in the high-70’s—isn’t particularly anything to write home about. He’d make for an interesting addition to the Mariners complete lack of left-handed starting pitching depth in the system and could likely be had for the cost of a mid-Day 2 selection.

Indiana State

There’s been little in the way of draft-worthy talent for the Sycamores despite a fairly successful season in 2019. Left-handed hitting senior SS Clay Dungan has served as the club’s leadoff man for much of the season and has slashed a solid .298/.404/.489 with an even 35 walks and strikeouts and a personal best nine homers. He torched the Coastal Plan League last summer and combined with his consistent play over the last four seasons and expected easy signability, he could be a late-round selection for a team needing middle infield depth. LHP Tyler Grauer has been a relief ace through 33.1 innings, racking up 43 strikeouts while walking just seven. He posted a 2.16 ERA and 1.23 WHIP.

Bradley

The Braves offense was led by senior SS Luke Shadid in 2019, as he slashed .344/.421/.574 and hit 10 home runs. The power was a new development for Shadid, however he showcased a solid hit tool last season as a sophomore, however it didn’t show up during summer ball. Left-handed hitting OF Dan Bolt broke out this season, slashing .333/.459/.606 while walking 16.4% of the time. His 11 home runs was more than double last season’s total, and with a strikeout rate just a tick under 25%, he may hear his name called late on Day 3.

Bradley’s ace arm came in the form of RHP Mitch Janssen, who posted a 2.06 ERA and 1.20 WHIP despite lacking overpowering stuff. He struck out 71 in 74.1 innings of work, but showed signs of improved control that could lead some team to take a flier on him as a projectable body, standing 6’2” 190lb.

Evansville

The lone Evansville Ace with a strong chance to be selected next week is RHP Adam Lukas, who may encourage a team to draft him based off his potential rather than a track record of success. The 6’4” 210lb flamethrower possesses mid to high-90’s gas that sits regularly in the 94-96mph range in his starts. He also sport a mid-80’s slider, but struggles to find the zone with it at times, partially evidenced by his 5.3 BB/9 walk rate. He’s posted some ugly numbers—he finished the year with a 5.82 ERA and 1.46 WHIP—but should be drafted and likely groomed for a bullpen role based off his stuff alone.

Missouri State

He hasn’t been a standout bat, but C Drew Millas is expected to be selected in the first five rounds of the draft for his defensive abilities behind the plate, being regarded by Baseball America as one of the best defensive catchers in the draft. He’s got average arm strength but good accuracy and has shown an advanced ability to frame pitches. Scouts also think that the switch-hitter’s left-handed swing should produce more power going forward.

Valparaiso

Left-handed hitting 2B Chase Dawson is another late bloomer who has taken a huge step forward here as a senior. After slashing remarkably close to .260/.350/.350 in each of his first three seasons, he slashed .324/.390/.506 in 2019 with 20 walks and 17 strikeouts. The breakout came after a standout season in the Coastal Plain League last summer, where he batter nearly .400 and swiped 12 bags in 43 games.

RHP Easton Rhodehouse has a projectable frame at 6’3” 195, and also enjoyed a strong season out of the Valpo ‘pen, posting 11.2 K/9 and 3.3 BB/0 through 35.0 innings.


Southland Conference

Sam Houston State

Junior RHP Hayden Wesneski is the lone Bearkat listed on both Baseball America and Fangraphs’ draft board. He made 15 starts logging 105.2 innings this season, drastically improving his strikeout rate from 6.2 K/9 in 2018 to 9.4 K/9 in 2019. He also trimmed he walk rate, from 2.8 BB/9 to 1.8 BB/9. He currently sports mid-90’s heat and an average-ish slider and change-up that play well from his 34 arm slot, although some scouts have said that he’d likely stand to benefit from a switch to the bullpen eventually. If the M’s would like to add to their stash of standout sidearm relief options, Wesneski sometime late on Day 2 might be a strong option.

Aiding Wesneski in anchoring the Sam Houston rotation is RHP Nick Mikolajchak, who has experienced a strikeout bump of his own this season, posting a mark of 10.6 K/9. His 1.25 WHIP and 3.90 ERA were both improvements in a junior season in which he also improved his rate stats across the board.

Leading the offensive charge among the squad’s draft-eligible talent has been UTIL Jordan Cannon, who has slashed .372/.455/.521 and gone 14 of 18 in stolen base attempts. He’s split time between the corner outfield spots and the catching position, further making him a unique prospect and attractive to a team at the next level. He’s made improvements to both his walk and strikeout rates in the batter’s box, but he’s also seen is power dip slightly this year. Fourth year 1B/OF Hunter Hearn has also demonstrated a little positional flexibility while taking another step forward on offense. His 11 longballs were a new career-high, as was his .336/.382/.593 slash line. Like Cannon, he strikes out infrequently, but rarely walks as well.

Southeastern Louisiana

Control artist RHP Corey Gaconi jumps out as an Ljay Newsome-type who could couple elite control with the Mariners Gas Camp to create a beautiful masterpiece. The 6’4” 225lb hurler was roughed up a bit during Cape Cod League play, but is coming off a season in which he posted a line of 2.57 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 7.9 K/9, 0.91 WHIP and earned conference Pitcher of the Year honors.

Left-handed hitting 1B Kyle Schimpf has posted a career-best campaign in his senior year, fitting right into a trend of Mariners’ picks we’ve frequently seen out of Jerry. This year, he clubbed 10 homers and posted 34 walks and 31 strikeouts, OPSing nearly .900 through 224 at-bats.

Central Arkansas

Senior RHP Cody Davenport could be a solid draft candidate for a team wanting to add starting pitching depth to the organization at a low cost. He’s coming off career bests across the board, including his 1.98 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, and 1.8 BB/9.

Incarnate Word

With his .357/.431/.495 campaign this season, senior OF Eddy Gonzalez but a bow on a four-year career at UIW over which he slashed .330/.398/.423 and posted rate stats of 7.9 BB% and 6.5 SO%, although his success has been limited in summer wood bat ball. Unrelated to Gonzalez is senior SS Ryan Gonzalez, who slashed .347/.404/.574 to significantly improve his draft stock in his final season. He put himself on the map last summer by slashing .346/.404/.462 and striking out just one time in 57 plate appearances during play in the Northwoods League, and following that up with the 2019 season he just had may put him on some teams’ draft boards.

McNeese State

Fellow left-handed hitting outfielders Clayton Rasbeary and Jake Dickerson have been a driving force for the Cowboys this season. Both players joined McNeese State as JUCO transfers this year, however Rasbeary played his freshman year at Stephen F. Austin before moving down for the 2018 season. Rasbeary slugged 10 homers and slashed .311/.406/.521, although his strikeouts crept up over 20% for the first time. Dickerson hit for far less power, but posted a 35:33 walk-to-strikeout ratio while going 11-for-16 in stolen base attempts.

Stephen F. Austin

5’11” 155lb RHP Alex Palmer was impressive in his first year of NCAA ball, having transferred from Cisco Junior College for the 2019 season. He made 15 starts and posted a 2.27 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, and 2.6 BB/9. His video gives off extreme Tim Lincecum vibes.

Northwestern State

RHP Nathan Jones made 14 starts logging 81.0 innings and posted a 2.78 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 8.9 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. He was excellent in the collegiate summer Northwoods League back in 2016, but posted three sub-par seasons before breaking out as a senior.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

The Islanders have been carried by the two-man wrecking crew that is 3B Enrique Sanchez Jr. and UTIL Itchy Burts. Sanchez Jr. led the team in hitting and was third in the entire conference, slashing .377/.442/.485. One of the harder players to strike out that you’ll find, he did so just 16 times in 57 games in 2019. Burts, who is listed as 5’8”, swings it from the left side and has done so quite well for the last two years. After batting .401 last season as a sophomore, he posted a .356/.412/.494 slash line this season with 10 stolen bases.

New Orleans

Undersized RHP Reeves Martin just wrapped up conference Reliever of the Year honors, and deservedly so after posting a 1.03 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 14.1 K/9, and 2.3 BB/9. He’s only a junior, but appears to have little to prove on the college circuit and could sign even if he’s a Day 3 draftee.

Abilene Christian

Redshirt senior C Luis Trevino stole the show for ACU, leading the Southland Conference in all slash line stats, posting a line of .408/.504/.743 while also clubbing 15 homers en route to winning the conference Player of the Year Award.

Trevino transferred from Navarro College after raking for two years and setting the two-year hitter record. batting .388. He should hear his name called later on in the draft, and could be a great value and easily signable for whichever teams selects him.

Houston Baptist

6’3” 190lb RHP Kyle Gruller has been a welcome addition after transferring in this season and leading the staff with a 2.18 ERA, good for third in the conference. He struggled slightly with walks, posting 4.7 BB/9, but showed interesting upside in the form of 10.3 K/9.

Lamar

Lamar’s leading hitter was one with strong MLB ties—SS JC Correa slashed .332/.381/.529 with 10 home runs in his first year with the club after spurning his older brother’s Houston Astros, who drafted him out of Alvin Community College in the 33rd round last summer.

The pitching staff was led by senior LHP Jason Blanchard, who improved across the board from his junior season last year, his first with Lamar. He posted 8.8 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, a 3.12 ERA, and a 1.15 WHIP through 89.1 innings of work.