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MLB Draft 2015 Preview: College edition

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After the Blue Jays drafted college players with their first two picks last year, we can no longer ignore the college side of the draft in our previews. Therefore, today we'll look at what college ball has to offer the draft class this year, and what kind of players might slip to the Blue Jays.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

For a nice overview on this year's draft, click this link.

College Pitchers

We've already talked a bit about Nate Kirby, Virginia's injured southpaw, and outside of him there aren't any likely Jays picks among college southpaws. So we're quickly moving on the right-handers, putting them into a historical perspective by inserting them into a table with other high-profile right-handed pitchers from college:

Right-handed college pitchers, junior year:

Name K-rate
Trevor Bauer 39,1%
Carson Fulmer 33,8%
Marcus Stroman 33,7%
Jonathan Gray 30,2%
Jon Harris
28,8%
Dillon Tate
27,5%
Kevin Gausman
26,7%
Mark Appel 26,2%
James Kaprielian 26,0%
Michael Wacha 25,5%
Gerrit Cole 25,4%
Sonny Gray 25,1%
Walker Buehler 23,9%
Braden Shipley 23,2%
Kyle Funkhouser
22,0%

This year's pitchers are a decent crop, even after the loss of Matuella and the recent regression of Funkhouser and Kirby. The smallish Fulmer will undoubtedly go high with the success of Stroman in mind, and Tate will probably go in the top 10 as well. Harris, Kaprielian, Buehler and Funkhouser are all supposed to in the first round, before the Jays can select them. Of the four, Funkhouser's stock seems to be in danger the most, as his velocity has been down and some teams apparently wonder if he's injured (source: Kiley McDaniel). All in all it seems quite unlikely the Jays will pick a college pitcher this year, but keep an eye out for Funkhouser, and of course Matuella and Kirby.

College Hitters

We know the Blue Jays focus on position players who play premium defensive positions (C, CF, SS and sometimes 2B and 3B). This college class is however very light on center fielders and catchers, so we'll focus on the middle infielders. We'll compare this year's crop with that of the 2011 draft which, already viewed at the time as a very strong draft class, seems to have been a very successful one for college middle infielders. At the time, it wasn’t expected to have a good class of hitters, as its perceived strength was pitching (hard to argue with arms like Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer, Archie Bradley, Dylan Bundy, Sonny Gray and Jose Fernandez in the class).

Besides being loaded with talent, the 2011 class is also of note as the first class of college players that played with the new bats, the BBCOR certified bats, which reduced offensive production in NCAA baseball. Because of that drastic change, it makes little sense to compare pre-2011 college hitters with the ones from this draft class, while the 2012 class and later have not had much time to get to the majors yet. But since he’s a Blue Jay, and Jays fans will be looking for the "next Devon Travis", I’ll include mr. Travis as a 2012 draftee exception.

College MIF, 2011/2014, junior year, sorted by isolated power (ISO):

Name BB% K% ISO BABIP Slash
Dansby Swanson 13,7 14,7 .304 .356 .350/.438/.654
Ian Happ 19,7 19,7 .303 .428 .369/.492/.672
Tommy LaStella 11,9 6,7 .281 .382 .398/.476/.680
Joe Panik 15,8 8,6 .243 .412 .398/.509/.642
Alex Bregman 12,9 7,2 .234 .315 .323/.430/.557
Mikey White 11,8 17,9 .197 .409 .339/.444/.537
Kolten Wong 16,2 7,7 .182 .387 .378/.492/.560
Devon Travis 9,9 13,2 .179 .356 .325/.400/.504
Scott Kingery 3,6 7,2 .169 .440 .392/.423/.561
Brad Miller 16,8 14,3 .164 .453 .395/.498/.559
Levi Michael 16,0 15,4 .145 .337 .289/.434/.434
Marcus Semien 12,1 15,2 .140 .315 .275/.371/.415
Jace Peterson 15,8 10,3 .138 .372 .335/.449/.473
Kyle Holder 7,6 7,6 .134 .368 .348/.418/.482
Richie Martin 12,0 11,6 .129 .314 .290/.397/.420
Kevin Newman 7,9 5,9 .119 .446 .370/.426/.489
Nick Ahmed 12,0 8,3 .115 .355 .333/.432/.448
Blake Trahan 12,8 10,0 .097 .494 .332/.442/.429

As you can see, this is a good draft for middle infield power, but Swanson, Bregman and Happ all figure to be long gone by the time the Blue Jays make their first pick. Mikey White and Scott Kingery come closest to deserving a "potential next Devon Travis" label, as second basemen with some power. The other players fall more in the Nick Ahmed/Jace Peterson category, light-hitting defense first middle infielders. That doesn't seem like the Blue Jays kind of pick, and as MjwW has shown, the Anthopoulos regime has not been focusing college position players at all.

And yet the experts continue to link the Blue Jays to light-hitting shortstop Richie Martin from the University of Florida. One reason for that could be his performance in the Cape Cod League, where Martin hit .364/.420/.469. Joe Panik hit .276/.361/.372 in that same league, as a comparison. Kolten Wong hit .341/.418/.452 in the highly regarded summer league. With the Blue Jays picking Cape Cod performer Max Pentecost last year, perhaps the thought is they'll go for another Cape Cod standout in Richie Martin this year. Pentecost was hitting on a whole other level in the Cape though, with a .346/.412/.538, showing a lot more power.

Another, perhaps better, comparison to Pentecost's performance with the wooden bats of the Cape would be that of outfielder Donnie Dewees. The North Florida outfielder hit .340/.410/.473 on the Cape last year, and .422/.483/.749 in a weak conference this spring. As a very impressive statistical performer but not a standout player from a scouting perspective, Dewees is often predicted to be picked up at number 20 by the Oakland Athletics. In real life, of course, anything can happen and Dewees could definitely slip and be available to be picked by the Toronto Blue Jays at number 29.