5 Collegiate Hitters to Watch in the MLB Draft
In case you hadn't heard, there's this little ol' thing called the MLB Draft happening this week, starting today. While this event may not have the hype of the NFL Draft (although there may still be booing Jets fans in the MLB Network studios), it has all of the intrigue for those that follow the game.
Let's do a little role play. I'm going to pretend to be Moneyball's Paul DePodesta (or Jonah Hill/Peter Brand in the movie version). I say "pretend" because he's pretty much a genius, and I'm pretty much an idiot. It's a match made in heaven.
The reason we turn to DePodesta here is because of his infatuation with the statistics of collegiate MLB Draft prospects. He and Beane believed that collegiate prospects were safer bets when it came to the draft because they provided a larger statistical sample size from which to evaluate. It means, in this situation, we get more numbers to play with, so I'm just smitten.
Let's take a look at some of the top collegiate hitters in this year's MLB Draft class. It's not going to be anything near comprehensive, and these guys aren't necessarily the top position-player prospects. It's just some dudes that put up silly stats in college that could make an impact for your favorite team in the near future. If you want a more complete list, Baseball America has a complete list of the top 500 draft prospects because they are disgustingly awesome. Now let's get to it.
A.J. Reed, 1B, Kentucky
Errrybody, strap in, because we're not starting it off easily with this stats thing. If you're prone to drooling, heart arrhythmia, or unexpected bowel movements upon seeing disgusting stats, please stop reading now. I warned you.
Reed was named Collegiate Baseball's Player of the Year largely because he posted numbers more reminiscent of an entire team than an individual. He leads all of Division-I with 23 bombs, which was more than the total number of jacks that 193 schools hit. That ain't right, doe. He also leads the nation in slugging percentage at .735 and recorded a .336 average with a .476 on-base percentage. If you were to project his 73 RBI's over 162 games, he'd be at 191. In addition to all of this, he still walked more times (49) than he struck out (48).
Oh, I forgot to mention. He can also pitch, and he chucks it like a beast. Reed finished the year with a 2.09 ERA over his 16 starts, going at least eight innings eight times and at least seven innings 12 times. He's (I'd assume) not going to pitch at the next level, but this man is talented.
Trea Turner, SS, North Carolina State
Turner finished the season with an impressive .321 average and .418 on-base percentage for a shortstop, but that's not what landed him on this list. In addition to that, Turner blasted eight bombs, recorded a .516 slugging percentage, and stole 26 bases on 30 attempts. Tools on tools on tools.
In his three years with the Wolfpack, Turner stole 113 bases, setting a program record for stolen bases in only his 94th game. His .418 on-base was the lowest of his three years after posting marks of .432 and .455 his freshman and sophomore seasons respectively. Translation: he's not too bad at this baseball thing. Some team is going to get a bonafide stud at short in this guy.
Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State
If you are the type of person that enjoys surfing the NCAA Baseball statistical leaderboards instead of, you know, having a life, you're probably familiar with this name. Pentecost didn't just lead the nation in hits at 110. He had nine percent more hits than any other player in the entire nation. Jake Noll of Florida Gulf Coast was second with 101. Only three players had 100 or more (Jacksonville State's Griff Gordon being the other), and Pentecost had 110. Sweet.
Pentecost used those 110 hits to post the second-highest batting average in the nation at .423. He was also in the top 10 nationally in doubles with 23. This earned him the Louisville Slugger First-Team All-American nod over Indiana's Kyle Schwarber (who easily could have been on this list, as well) and has made Pentecost one of the top catching prospects in quite some time.
Beyond the hits and batting average, Pentecost also clubbed nine home runs and stole 17 bases in 19 attempts. His final slash of .423/.483/.631 is the stuff of dreams, and he should see his fulfilled as a first round pick Thursday.
Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Wichita State
Even though he's the younger brother of White Sox third-baseman, Conor Gillaspie, Casey may already be the best hitter from the Gillaspie household. Dude posted some ill numbers this year at Wichita State, hitting .389/.520/.682 with 15 doubles, 15 home runs and eight stolen bases. He also walked 30 more times than he struck out (58 to 28)! Get it, son! The best part? He's a switch hitter with pop from both sides.
Gillaspie has continued his dominance even against the stiffest of competition. Playing for the Falmouth Commodores in the Cape Cod Baseball League last summer, Gillaspie was named to the CCBL All-Star team. He led the league in home runs with eight during the regular season and banged one in the playoffs as well. He finished with a .321/.402/.521 slash in a league notorious for its pitching. Not too shabby, young pup. It shouldn't take too long for this guy to climb the ranks and join Conor in the big leagues after he's drafted.
Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State
After being named a Perfect Game First Team All-American and the Pac-12 Player of the Year as a sophomore, expectations were high for Conforto heading into 2014. I think you could say he met those expectations.
This year, Conforto was a fixture on the base-paths. In 272 plate appearances, Conforto reached safely 137 times, giving him an on-base percentage of .504. His 20.2 percent walk-rate makes him a guy that the afore-mentioned DePodesta would slobber all over. Add in his 16 doubles, 2 triple and 7 home runs to go with 52 runs scored, and you've got yourself a baller.
To go with all of this, Conforto also has a hose in the outfield. He picked up nine outfield assists as a sophomore in 65 games and seven more this year in 59 games. This, combined with his delectable on-base percentage, made Conforto another All-American nod this year, and should make him a tasty addition to any team's farm system.