The 2016 MLB draft is now just one week away, so having covered the college pitching options, it's time to turn to the college hitters. As with the college pitching class, the college position player class is not very highly thought of. There's a handful of players who will go well before the Blue Jays pick at 21st overall - namely Corey Ray, Nick Senzel, Kyle Lewis - but there's no can't miss elite prospects.
Likewise, the class is not very deep either, and lacks the up the middle talent last year's draft had. Consequently, this section of the draft preview will be quite short, which is just as well since this isn't a demographic the Jays have targeted recently, and I wouldn't be very impressed if they pivoted this year. Most of the names here were touched on in the review of mock drafts on Monday, though exclusively by Baseball America who essentially alone think the Jays want to go the college route.
Again, to start, some background info and 2016 stats from The Baseball Cube on the players profiles:
|Will Craig||3B||6'3||225||Wake For.||27||41||45||.417||.551||.826||13||34||23||0|
Zack Collins (video)
As with the pitching segment, this list starts with a player who is unlikely to still be on the board when the Blue Jays pick, as he's the kind of "safer" college performer that teams default to and it he should go in the teens if not higher if a team falls in love with his bat and cuts a deal. The first point to note is that he's listed and will be drafted as a catcher, and though he's improved defensively but the general consensus is at least highly skeptical he'll stick there. If he does, he could be be a star with his bat, but otherwise he's likely a 1B/DH.
The good news is, he can really hit. He hit .298/.427/.556 as a freshman in the ACC, and has only improved from there. He's lauded for his advanced approach (especially this year as he got pitched around a lot), as well as his power (at least 10 home runs and 20 extra base each year in college). In many ways, his profile is similar to Kyle Schwarber, who moved very quickly to producing in the big leagues.
Buddy Reed (video)
Of all the college hitters, Reed is the most likely I'd see as a fit with the Blue Jays. He's a great athlete with the type of body scouts love and plus defensive tools, but a big question mark about whether he'll hit. He's less experienced than many of his peers, as he was a multi-sport athlete who went attended an elite Rhode Island prep school on a hockey scholarship.
He took big steps forward in 2015, hitting .305 with moderate power and which put him in conversation for the top of the first round. But he did not build upon that this summer and has put him in the low first round range. He's a threat on the basepaths, with 24 steals this year without being caught. The Blue Jays have invested in toolsy, raw high school players who are not locks to hit but above average regulars if they do, and Reed is the college analogue of this profile.
Bryan Reynolds (video)
Reynolds was profiled in the mock draft review as Baseball America had him going to the Jays in their most recent version, so refer back there.
Matt Thaiss (video)
Thaiss is another player Baseball America mocked to the Jays, and was written about Monday, so there's no sense rewriting everything here. But Thaiss is another college catcher who probably doesn't stick there and moves to 1B/DH, which means his bat has to be really good.
Will Craig (video)
Craig is another player who probably doesn't stick at the position he played in college. His arm is not the problem, as Craig was a two way player who closed games for Wake Forest this year and started for them last year. In fact, he'd be a legitimate early round pick as a pitcher, with some actually seeing him as a better pitching prospect. If hitting doesn't work out, it's always a fall back option. But his range is not good and only going he get worse as he ages, which makes him another likely 1B/DH.
His calling card is his power (.700 and .800 SLG the last two years), with a patient approach at the plate. There are some questions about his contact ability, as he struck out 35 times in about 160 plate appearances in the Cape Cod League last summer, where he didn't perform very well. Again, if he ends up at 1B/DH, there's going to be a lot pressure on his bat. He's likely a reach for where the Jays are drafting.
Blue Jays trivia note: Craig attended the same high school as Daniel Norris and was his teammate on their baseball team.
Lastly a couple of others who would be reaches with the 21st overall pick, but are almost certain to be gone when the Blue Jays draft in the second round:
- Anfernee Grier, OF, Auburn - Grier has really come on strong the last couple years, improving his OPS from .654 as a freshman to .836 and then to 1.033. He's got very good speed, but his arm isn't great which means he could end up in LF where his bat wouldn't play as well. He has some swing and miss issues.
- Chris Okey, C, Clemson - another highly ranked player in 2013 out of high school, Okey is a good defensive catcher who should have o problems sticking. He's been a solid performer in the middle of Clemson's order, but he's expected to be an average at best offensive producer, which will likely keep him out of the first round.