College baseball starts in two weeks, and we’re five months away from draft day. Similarly to how a pro team would this far out — and before they’ve ran their final model — I’m highlighting who I’d be sending scouts out to see at the start of the spring. For simplicity, all of my ‘picks’ will be in the middle of each round at 15th overall.
Tier 1: Clearly a first rounder, could be available with first pick.
Arjun Nimmala, Strawberry Crest (HS)
Picturesque build, swing, and profile. He’s a really good athlete that should play up the middle and the swing is loft-centric with bat speed and the body will get stronger. I’d be looking at him in the top-5 right now. Probably one of the highest upside plays in the class given the tools and performance. Not a high-end hitter at his age and is more aggressive with breakers than he is with fastballs but that’s less of an issue and more of a low hanging fruit for the player development staff. Has his fair share of whiffs, which is expected given the extreme youth. It’s not the traditional high-floor profile but that’s how I see it, he can hit the ball hard and in the air, he’s a great athlete, and he’ll play a position in the field with a positive value. This far out he’d be the dream scenario at 15th overall.
Travis Honeyman, Boston College
Has battled with injuries for a few years now, most of them lower-body related. Missed portion of sophomore season due to an injury, didn’t play much his freshman year. He’s performed though and looks like an above-average defender in CF with speed and twitch. Has the potential to be the second-best college hitter in the class if he can put together a 60-game season as a junior. Makes hard contact and gets too it often while rarely whiffing. It’s an all-around offensive profile and he’s still got room to grow. Has 60-grade raw power, hardest hit batted ball is 111 mph. Rarely miss hits balls with attack angles > 5 mph, gets the most of his batted balls > 15 degrees, he just doesn’t lift the ball very often which is why he hasn’t hit for power in college.
On the Cape is where the power has looked better as has the entire offensive toolset. It’s the whole package with speed and low chase rates despite a very aggressive approach. I think the player he is now will look completely different in a few years. Has plus bat-to-ball skills. It’s due to his barrel feel and less so the path he takes, although the latter helps. Potential for more power if he gives up some contact in order to take steeper paths and create more balls with launch angles above 20 degrees. Could be a plus hit/power profile but for now it’s a 60 hit, 50 power with 60 raw.
Aidan Miller, JW Mitchell (HS)
Miller is looking like a top-14 guy right now, but if he’s there at pick 15, he’s a good get. His swing is one of the best in this class. Has a long hand load that will garner critics, but elite bat speed makes up for it. Might have some of the best bat speed of any prep hitter in recent years and also has an elite rotational acceleration, plus hand speed, and plus swing efficiency. Has very steep path, VBA gets as low as -42 degrees below the zone and he doesn’t flatten out at top, getting easy power with the positive attack angles and bat speed. Might have 25+ home run potential with a 55-grade power tool.
Looks like he can get to contact late leading to a lot of miss hits, doesn’t get to his pull side often. It’s a lot of projecting with the power, the angle/speed combination are just too good. His decisions aren’t anything other than average. He can hit his miss hits hard and looks like the type of player to outperform his expected stats due to the flush heavy contact quality he creates, lot of backspin. Average athlete, plus-plus arm, up to 95 on the mound, 50-grade at 3B, power-first profile, could see him having to move away from 3B long-term as he ages. The arm strength may allow player positioning to keep him at third for a bit, could see him in LF/RF, don’t see him as a 1B though. Has been good in front of scouts, performing down south at his Florida-based high school.
Jack Hurley, Virginia Tech
Hurley’s projected to go somewhere around this spot right now, though I don’t see him going in the mid-teens. There’s a scenario where he makes the ‘Hokie’ draft year jump like so many hitters have under Kurt Elbin, and in the case he does — that means much better swing decisions and more walks — he’s far too good of a power-hitter and defensive value to fall outside of the-10. The other scenario is that he doesn’t make the jump, and also becomes the focus of every pitching staff now that he’s the best hitter in the lineup and not the fourth-best. That means seeing more spin, less pitches in the zone (which would lead to lesser production because of the approach/decisions). I love his profile already and even if he put up a similar campaign in ’23 as he did in ’22 I’d be fine with him at 15th overall.
Tommy Troy, Stanford
Has incredible barrel feel, doesn’t whiff very often in the zone, but has well below-average swing decisions. Had a swing rate spike this year, which led to his walk rate getting cut in half, his chase rate getting near 30% and a large disparity between his whiff/zone-whiff rates. He’s been better on the Cape with regards to plate discipline, but his contact quality — which has never been an issue — has also trended up. He has 60-grade raw power; peaked at 110.5 mph in college. Had an an average EV above 90 mph and hit the ball hard often, he just rarely hit the ball hard and on the sweet spot at the same time. Hits his miss hits well; ran a .381 BABIP as a result.
Was a decent shortstop in high school, had him 92nd in ’20 because of the bat-to-ball skills. He’s a 2B-only pro prospect. Has played SS on the Cape and he makes plays there but it’s not a long-term fit with his 50 speed, 45 range. Has always hit on the Cape, and he’s been solid in college, we haven’t yet seen his Cape performance translate into the spring. Potential to be a 20+ home run hitter with Brian Dozier traits; essentially a low average, high slug type at 2B. Could play his way into the top-5 as a guy who racked with wood and has been getting draft looks since he was a junior in high school.
Tier 2: Probably goes between first and second picks but could play his way into first pick.
Walker Martin, Eaton (HS)
There are some similarities to Gunnar Henderson and Colson Montgomery out of high school. Walker’s bat-to-ball skills aren’t great but he makes up for it with good contact quality. He should end up being a high BABIP guy and he blasted his miss hits hard this summer; had a couple 30+ degree batted balls over 100 mph, including one of his home runs at the ACG. He’s a really good athlete and given the power from the left side it’s a profile you’d expect to be gone early. He’s from Colorado and will be 19 1/2 years old on draft day, both work against him, though the latter is the only relevant detail of the two because all he did this summer/fall was perform. It’s an average hit, plus power offensive profile with good enough swing decisions and the skills to stick at short.
Zion Rose, IMG Academy (HS)
Zion is right on the cusp of being a top-20 pick for me. This is a Harry Ford profile. He’s an elite athlete, maybe one of the best that’s come out of the draft in recent years. The athleticism plays a part in both his glove and above-average arm, but also his bat speed and explosiveness in the box. He can hit for power and there isn’t any red flag surrounding the hit tool though it isn’t a standout tool. He’s also extremely young and continues to trend up. He hasn’t been good against breaking balls, though it hasn’t been a swing and miss or chase issue. He’s just miss hitting them for weak contact. Has good control of body and isn’t leaning forward against spin. Steep VBA, he does serious damage on his barrels. Tooled up and a good performer.
Will Gasparino, Harvard-Westlake (HS)
Gasparino’s tooled up with physical traits and he’s trending up. He hasn’t performed the best against his peers but neither did James Wood during the summer of his draft year. It’s a profile that won’t reach its peak until he’s into his 20s. He’s a really good athlete that has already shown bat-to-ball skills with an unusual swing. It’s not an aesthetically pleasing offensive skillset but he’s an athlete with power, size, and bat speed. When it all comes together you could be looking at an all-star in RF with 30+ HR potential.
Colton Ledbetter, Mississippi State
Should end up playing CF this spring. If the past is any indication he’ll be a power-hitter with bat-to-ball skills, value in the field and a deep set of tools. He could be gone way before our second pick but he hasn’t shown enough yet to be a clear-cut first round guy. He flashed easy plus power at Samford last year with a max EV of 113 mph, a zone whiff at roughly 11% and a chase rate right around the college average. He’s a solid athlete but not a standout one, good enough to play it out in RF at the pro level. It’s an offensive profile with proven power/bat-to-ball at a small school and the chance to show it again with the best college has to offer. This is the type of profile you’d see a data-driven team take, meaning he could very well be a sandwich pick but some red flags could arise as he gets going into SEC play.
Tier 2: Somebody I want with my second pick.
Spencer Nivens, Missouri State
Nivens is the full package offensively, and that stands true regardless of the competition. In his 49 PA against power five schools last year he ran a .413 wOBA, 9% zone whiff rate, and a ~9% chase rate. He’s a better decision-maker than a power-hitter and runs low chase rates with a relatively high zone swing rate. It’s not plus raw power yet though the frame isn’t tapped out yet and there’s room for plus if he takes a jump forward in just his second healthy college spring.
He’s hit numerous batted balls above 105 mph, including one at 108 mph, and he’s hit every batted ball above 104 mph with a launch angle between 10 and 20 degrees. Part of his power comes from the pitch recognition and barrel accuracy that help him run low out-of-zone and in-zone whiff rates. He doesn’t chase spin though he whiffs at them, and he struggles to damage them. Part of the risk in the profile is a below-average defensive value, likely as a 55 in LF with time spent at 1B. Has a high leg kick, gets extended spinal tilt. Good-looking swing and an easy one.
Colin Houck, Parkview (HS)
Houck is a good athlete and has glove skills, an above-average arm, and should end up being a decent glove at third. Don’t see the frame sticking at short. His swing path works upwards and he can get to his power easy with the bat speed/attack angle combo. Hits breakers well, doesn’t chase them, whiffs are a non-concern. Most of his best contact is against spin. He hammers fastballs and is in hunt mode against them. Lot of well-hit fly balls and line drives. His power is pull-side only for now but he still hits the ball hard the other way, it’s just not done in the air as much. He’s probably an over-slot in the second and could be a lot of teams’ top option to over slot a prep in the second after saving in the first.
Chase Davis, Arizona
Sweet-swinging slugger with so much upside at the plate. He swings it like CarGo from the left side and has easy plus power to all fields. His EVs to the opposite field are actually higher on average than to his pull side but the damage done to his pull side is, of course, much better. His wOBA to pull was about 15 points higher and the majority of his 90th to 100th percentile EVs were to right field.
His swing is steep and he swings through pitches because of it which is why he’s ran such high K-rates in college despite at least average plate discipline. It’s something I don’t see changing and you’ll have to look for other tools capable enough to overcome said issues. I see those being his ability to hit for power and run high BABIPs because of his ability to hit his miss hits with authority as is the case with many steep AA/plus bat speed bats. If the whiffs are too much of an issue I see him being a 2nd/3rd rounder. Left-handed plus power at a non-1B/DH position doesn’t last very long.
John Peck, Pepperdine
There are very few college middle infielders with multiple batted balls above 110 mph and a 90th percentile EV above 105 mph. That list becomes even shorter when you included a zone whiff rate at or below 15%. Peck checks all three of those off and outside of a middling chase rate, he performed really well metrically last year. He had a 95.5 mph average EV to his pull side and he was extremely aggressive at pitches in the zone which is alright given the contact quality he’s producing. The approach isn’t great, and he doesn’t walk much while striking out a bit too much, but you don’t get plus raw power and in-game power from a 60 2B very often. His showing on the Cape was not good, but that’s why he’s not somebody I’d want with my first pick as of today.
Tier 4: Really like them but not enough conviction yet to take them with first two picks.
Jake Cunningham, Charlotte
Cunningham is another really good athlete that can defend in CF. You’re essentially hoping the bat-to-ball skills slowly improve over then next few years while the power continues to be a 60. He has bat speed, he can consistently hit the ball hard in games, and he gets his fair share of walks despite average swing decisions.
Being a mid major hitter and running a 25% K-rate isn’t going to look good, but likewise to every other hitter that whiffs a ton, they have to find another way to provide value and overcome them. I think the defense and power are his two avenues, and I’m not ruling out the hit tool becoming average (in which case it wouldn’t be a concern at all). He could honestly be a top-25 pick, or he could struggle and be a 6th round developmental ticket, the outcomes post-spring seem sporadic.
Andrew Wiggins, Heritage Christian (HS)
Wiggins is one of the best athletes in his class, and his approach is really good. Has 70-grade bat speed, though the swing path is flat and he isn’t hitting for power in games. That combination reminds me of Jordan Walker. The difference between them being the height and Walker having lesser pitch recognition and plate discipline. Wiggins takes a lot of walks, but he strikes out a good amount. He’s patient, doesn’t chase much. Does damage on his swings. He’ll have to tap into his power though and start hitting the ball in the air. He’s running a ground ball rate above 50%. This is very much a player you’re banking on a player development staff molding into a top-of-the-order guy that can walk and hit for some power.
Matthew Etzel, Southern Miss
Etzel came out of nowhere and tore up the draft league last year. Now he’s a potential All-American preseason candidate in his first year at Southern Miss. I had Eztel in the mid-100s last year, he was eligible out of Panola junior college. This was after seeing him test out as one of the better athletes out of college last year. He’s got power and looks like a plus-defender in the outfield. It’ll be interesting to see how the spring goes.
Brice Matthews, Nebraska
Matthews’ swing can get rough but the results generally are good. He’s a good athlete that will stick at short as a 50. He hits all of his hard hits above 5 degrees, and most are on a line. He had a 108 max EV last spring, nearly ran 106 mph 90th percentile EV. Lot of power relative to peers at his position. He struggles to hit the ball hard the other way which stems from the swing being eratic. He struggled with the K’s last spring, and his bat-to-ball skills are dragged down by an aggressive approach leading to a lot of chases. The upside in the profile is the power at short and athleticism. Some improvements with the decision-making and/or bat-to-ball skills and it looks like a first round profile. Otherwise it’s a Christian Franklin type of offensive profile in the 2nd or 3rd rounds.
Tier 5: Pitchers that I like, but they’re pitchers.
Justin Lee, Notre Dame (HS)
Really good mover, low release with lift and a hard slider with 8” of sweep, also kills lift on his offspeed pitch with less than 5” of lift and some fade. Clean fuego four-seam, great athlete, I think he’ll add velocity. About as good as it gets in terms of modern pitching profiles. You’re getting a guy who should add velocity that already has your ideal four-seam profile to go with two legit secondaries. I’d be looking at him with my second pick. Wouldn’t touch a pitcher not named Hurston Waldrep at 15th Overall.
Jackson Baumeister, Florida State
Baumeister’s velocity dropped off this summer but he’s been back to normal at Florida State. His four-seamer is the good ole high vert lowish release pitch at 92–96. His curveball has plenty of drop with some sweep in the mid-70s, and his change has a solid shape but he didn’t land it for strikes last spring. FF/CB college arms struggle to get swings because of the large separation — as is the case with Baumeister, he had a 16% chase rate last year. If he hasn’t already, he’ll add a slider in pro ball. The projection and future outlook is promising. Probably somebody I want in the third.
Grant Taylor, LSU
Taylor threw a ton of strikes this summer, and the stuff was already elite in ’22. If the two stay the same — or his control is only a 45 — he’s going to be a top-2 rounder. He’s 93–98 and touching 99 with his four-seamer that has slight ride and plays for whiffs. His curveball is a 70-grade pitch at 79–84 with 12" of sweep and heavy depth. His slider is just as good, and you’d think he’d be able to land it for more strikes than the curve but he he hasn’t. He throws it at 83–87 with slightly more sweep, another really good pitch. I wouldn’t call this a reliever profile even if he didn’t start this spring. So long as he’s throwing strikes and the stuff stays the same I view it as a starter profile in the fourth.
Jaxon Wiggins, Arkansas
Wiggins is probably more of a reliever because of no secondary feel, but I’m fine with drafting him for the velocity. He’s touched 100 in college with 17–18" of lift at a high release. His slider is a gyro-shape but he throws it at 84–87 which isn’t ideal given how hard the fastball is. He’s flashed a ‘get me over’ curve/slurve in the upper-70s. He’s landed the change for some strikes with an alright shape. He struggled for the Razorbacks as a weekend guy last year but the stuff is great and I like the fastball control, he just lacks secondary feel currently. He’s somewhat similar to Campbell’s Cade Kuehler — a guy getting top-30 buzz — but could be available a round later.
Brady Smith, Grainger (HS)
Smith has gone under-the-radar but I like him on day two. He’s a good mover, heavy shoulder layback at the point of his hip hinge. On time with arm, athletic and quick mover. He gets deep into his hinge and it helps him lower his release. Feel for pronation, high efficiency four-seamer. Got a ton of whiffs with it on the prep circuit despite only being 89–91 and hitting 92/93 a few times. His curveball is high efficiency like the heater with sweep/depth in the upper-70s. The stuff itself is only average to above today, but he’s got room for muscle and I could see him as a 93–95 starter with two plus pitches he can land in the zone. The SL/CH are rarely used, but both have decent shapes.
Carson Montgomery, Florida State
Carson’s fastball is clay for a player development staff. The likely avenue is turning it into a sinker that can be used up in the zone because of the release, more often it’ll be used down. It’s a dead zone pitch now that still works because of his low release and velocity. He’s hit 97, works 93–95. His secondaries are the attraction. It’s a modern pitching profile with a power-supination outlook, and he can still pronate pretty well too (which is why I think he can end up with a really good sinker). He’s shown a cutter in the upper-80s with slight cut, his slider in the mid-80s is his best pitch, a 60-grade with some sweep and really good command of it. He hasn’t thrown the change for strikes but he kills lift and gets fade with it. It’s looking like an early day two value. If he gains velocity and keeps landing sliders he’ll end up going earlier.