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2023 MLB Draft Preview: College Outfielders Part Two

COLLEGE BASEBALL: APR 14 Duke at Boston College Photo by Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome back LL readers! In today’s edition of our draft previews, we finish up with our college outfielders. This year’s class is incredibly deep, with many guys projected to be draft far too high for the M’s to get a shot at selecting them. That said, today’s players are making headlines of their own this year and have carved themselves into first round territory. While they may not be locks to go in the first thirty picks, both of these players have some exciting upside and provide their own unique combination of upside and floor. To kick things off, let’s take a look at Virginia Tech’s superstar Jack Hurley,

Jack Hurley

If you enjoy loud, impact tools that produce against the top competition of the ACC, Jack Hurley is your prospect of choice. Hurley boasts some of the nuttiest tools in all of college baseball. With incredibly loud exit velocities from the left side, Hurley possesses one of the quickest bats in all of college baseball. He whips his bat through the zone like few can and demolishes baseballs because of it. In the clip below, Hurley hits what appears to be a pop out to the third baseman, and instead decides that he should just send it over the left field wall instead.

Outside of his prodigious power, Hurley possesses exceptional tools in the outfield. With an above average arm and plus speed in the outfield, Hurley is expected to stick in center field. Should he need to move to a corner, his excellent speed and arm will comfortably play in either corner, a spot where he would almost certainly excel at the professional level. Hurley isn’t much of a base stealer in his current form, but should he opt to do so in the future, the speed is there.

From strictly a production standpoint, not many people can outshine Hurley. With a slash line of .343/.431/.769/1.200 playing in the always formidable ACC, Hurley has more than shown he’s capable of producing against excellent “stuff”. Hurley employs an aggressive approach at the plate, walking just under 10% of the time. Despite his approach, he strikes out at an excellent rate, with a sub 18% K rate over the course of the season. As a pro, Hurley’s success will come down to his hit tool, as is the case with nearly every hitter on the planet. I’m confident the power/speed combination is here to stay, and should he be able to produce quality contact on a regular basis with a wood bat, Hurley becomes one of the more exciting players to root for.

I believe there is a real possibility of Hurley being available at either pick 29 or 30 in the first round and could provide an excellent ball of clay for their development program. Do I expect them to take him? Realistically not. He’s a rare combination of loud tools with high level production against premium competition, however he struggled in the Cape Cod league and doesn’t necessarily “C the Z”. I would have no complaints if the M’s were to select Hurley in the first round, but he’s historically not the type of player Seattle has coveted with their higher round draft picks and he’s probably not saving you any money either. That said, should they opt to buck their status quo, Hurley would be one of the guys I would love to see in Northwest green come July.

Travis Honeyman

I like to think of Travis Honeyman as an assassin that works a day job as an accountant. You look at the guy and don’t think twice. He doesn’t have some overly loud tool that flies him up prospect rankings. He’s just an accountant! Next thing you know, he’s dismantling you’re favorite team, ripping a double into the gap and stealing one away from you the next half inning. You might think of him as a boring college centerfielder, I see him as the killer he is, doing anything and everything there is to do on a baseball field at a high level.

Honeyman reportedly posts excellent exit velocities and has lightning quick hands, enabling him to make tons of quality contact all over the field. Here he is poking a grand slam against the aforementioned Jack Hurley’s Hokies earlier this season.

The Boston College centerfielder hits for average and has solid power, both of which I would grade out as average at the next level. That said, there is definitely room to add some extra pop, an encouraging aspect you don’t typically get out of college players. Currently slashing .304/.383/.534/.917 with a K rate just north of 11%, there aren’t many holes to poke in Honeyman’s game. He doesn’t walk all that much, with a 7% walk rate being a little low for elite college talent, however his lack of strikeouts somewhat alleviates that problem. Ideally, Honeyman would use his discerning eye to draw more walks or punish the ball a bit more and sacrifice some of the outstanding K rate, elevating his upside as a professional.

Outside of the bat, Honeyman possesses above average speed, an average arm, and solid outfield instincts. I think there’s a shot he can play centerfield, but ultimately I think he’d be best as a corner outfielder that can cover some serious ground. Honeyman can run a bit as well, stealing 10 bases with only one caught stealing thus far. There’s exciting traits all over, but none that will blow anyone off the field, giving him sneaky potential.

Honeyman is someone that could make a lot of sense in various scenarios for the M’s. He was an elite performer in the Cape Cod league, posting a .930 OPS with a wood bat in his latest season. Historically, performance on the cape has been important to Seattle evaluators and could indicate an increased interest in Honeyman. Plus, there is at least some rapport with the Honeyman family as his brother Bobby was a Mariner draft pick in 2018. I ultimately think the Mariners fall in an awkward spot to land Honeyman, but it would not shock me if they needed to save a chunk of change to afford a premiere prep prospect and saved some pool money on a player of Honeyman’s ilk.

That wraps up this week’s edition. Next week we’ll pivot off of the position player ranks and check out some interesting arms Seattle could ultimately look to insert into their critically acclaimed Gas Camp.