The Spitter’s 2016 MLB Draft Watch List

With the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft coming up this Thursday, I assumed that Twitter would be flooded with talent evaluators tweeting their 20-80 scouting grades for prospects everywhere. But all I found were tweets containing links to the same ol’ story lines we see each spring:

  • which high school hurlers are billed as “The Next Great Thing”
  • the college fireballer who scouts claim is superior to the rest (Florida’s A.J. Puk)
  • that sweet-swinging kid who’s labeled 5-tool, but really isn’t (Blake Rutherford)
  • the heralded catcher who’ll likely change positions as a pro (Miami’s Zack Collins)
  • sons following their MLB father’s footsteps (Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio)
  • that risky prospect whose stuff has him rated Top 100 by Baseball America even though his wildness clearly spells “career minor leaguer” (High Point’s Andre Scrubb)

What’s different this year is that ESPN’s Keith Law has Louisville outfielder Corey Ray rated as the draft’s best player. However, I’m inclined to temper Law’s assessment even though Ray possesses an enticing speed-power combo.

Corey Ray 1

Louisville outfielder Corey Ray is ESPN’s top-rated 2016 prospect.

I’ve noticed some mechanical flaws in Ray’s swing that must be fixed in the minors. So, I project him developing into a .240-.245 Major League hitter posting 20-22 homers with strikeout numbers in the 150+ range. His raw power at the plate is impressive, but he doesn’t make consistent enough contact for me to feel like he’ll beast outside of the 6th or 7th slot as a pro.

Nevertheless, Ray is one of a group of solid prospects that Louisville has to offer and I’m inclined to believe that the school is on the cusp of becoming a talent factory much like Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, LSU and Long Beach State.

Since nobody else in the baseball world has ever bothered to post their prospect scouting grades on Twitter, I decided to be a pioneer of sorts by tweeting my ratings for Corey Ray and other prospects who’ve been anointed by the media. So, let it be written that I’m the first.

There are very few players I’m crazy about in 2016. The following is my short list of blue chips that I’ll be watching in this year’s draft and beyond in their progression:

Zack Burdi, RHR – University of Louisville

Burdi-3

Future big-league closer Zack Burdi

Despite his quirky delivery, I love this kid. He’s got good control, an electric fastball that consistently touches 99-100 mph, and a hellacious 87-88 mph splitter. For the next few years, I’ll be tracking Burdi’s progression with the franchise that selects him as their future closer.

Eric Lauer, LHP – Kent State University

Eric Lauer 2

The smooth-delivery of Kent’s Eric Lauer

Eric Lauer is an intriguing prospect who excelled in the Cape Cod league with a fastball that tops out at 94 mph and a decent 84-86 mph slider. He’s got a smooth delivery that disrupts opposing hitters, a la Madison Bumgarner. Unlike most amateur hurlers, he keeps his pitches consistently around the strike zone and is crafty at painting the plate’s outer edges. Though his delivery is a bit slow from the stretch, his pickoff move nevertheless is excellent and will keep baserunners honest.

Kyle Lewis, OF – Mercer University

Scouts have knocked his small school pedigree, but his performance in the Cape Cod league is evidence that this high ceiling kid is likely for real. I’m concerned that the moving parts in his stance won’t translate well at the pro level, especially with mediocre bat speed and a pronounced uppercut. But Lewis has superior plate discipline and I envision him as a .280+ hitter with 35+ homer power if he pans out. Defensively, he plays all three outfield spots. Rumored to have 6.5-6.6 speed, he hasn’t quite developed into the base stealing threat one would expect with such wheels.

Jason Groome, LHP – Barnegut (Barnegut, NJ)

The Vandy commit is the latest hard-throwing southpaw to have scouts drooling. He generates lots of swinging strikes from his 96 mph heater and wicked biting curve, both of which stay down in the zone.

Delvin Perez, SS – Int’l. Baseball Academy (PR)

You’ll often hear him mentioned in the same sentence with Carlos Correa. But they’re very different players. Perez is a lanky line drive hitter that must bulk up and generate more torque in order to unlock his full power potential. His swing also isn’t as refined or quick as Correa’s despite the ball exploding off his bat even when using wood. Any weight increase might affect Perez’s 6.53 speed, but he’s already gold glove caliber with a rocket arm.

Mickey Moniak, OF – La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, CA)

A fundamentally strong player with a powerful arm and tremendous bat speed that causes the ball to explode upon contact. He’s currently a line drive hitter, but I see him developing into a major power hitter if he learns to balance his front foot throughout the swing. With 6.58 speed, the UCLA commit could someday be a 20-20 player.

Forrest Whitley, RHP – Alamo Heights (San Antonio)

This Florida State commit is raw, but only needs a good pitching coach to fulfill his promise. Whitley’s big body generates immense power, as evidenced by his 95-96 mph heater and hard-biting slider that hitters struggle reacting to. Unfortunately, he doesn’t watch the catcher throughout his delivery, resulting in subpar command.

Justin Dunn, RHP – Boston College

I won’t venture to call Dunn a future Hall of Famer just yet, but there’s much about the 6’2”, 184-pounder that reminds me of Pedro Martinez. With a fastball that sits between 93-95 mph and registers up to 99 mph, he’s shown great stamina as a starter as well as the flexibility to relieve. Dunn has excelled against premium college hitters by using a four-pitch arsenal that also includes a majestic 12-to-6 curve, slider, and change up – all of which he’s willing to throw on any count.

Carlos Cortes, 2B/OF – Lake Howell (Winter Park, FL)

A versatile, ambidextrous player. Has great bat speed that generates impressive power for his 5’9,” 185-pound frame and carries over to wooden bats even though he doesn’t plant his front leg enough to completely drive the ball. Defensively, the South Carolina commit is sure-handed, but his fundamentals are lacking. He doesn’t charge grounders well, is slow transferring the ball from glove to hand on the move, and has an erratic outfield arm.

Fred Villarreal, RHP – Veterans (Brownsville, TX)

There really should be more buzz surrounding a guy whose 92 mph fastball enabled him to toss four no-hitters this season. But, for some odd reason, this University of Houston commit has flown under the radar despite posting an 11-1 record with a 0.50 ERA and 124 strikeouts in just over 69 innings as a senior. Don’t worry, kid — I see you.

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