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2017 MLB Draft Preview: 2nd round college hitters

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For previous entries of BBB's 2017 draft preview, see the 2017 Draft Storystream

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With the Blue Jays being heavily linked to college position players, and having drafted three of them between the second and fifth rounds in 2016, this figures to be an area of renewed emphasis for the foreseeable future in a way it was not from 2010-15. Below are the usual summary backgrounds, rankings, and 2017 stats.

2017 college hitters 2nd

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Stuart Fairchild

Fairchild has been a solid three year performer at Wake Forest, taking a step forward in 2017 with 17 home runs after hitting just ten in the previous two years. The overall package of speed, hitting and power has him moving up, possibly to the back of the first round with Eric Longenhagen linking him to the Jays. That's where they'd have to take him, he likely won't be around when the Jays pick in the second round at this point.

Wake Forest plays in a very offensive ballpark, which inflates production and in particular power, so there's some concern about the power being something of a mirage. There's some swing-and-miss, and he didn't hit last summer in the wood bat Cape Cod League. He's not a lock to stick in CF, and moving to LF would put a lot of pressure on the bat.

Gavin Sheets

Sheets is another Wake Forest player who's had a monster spring with a power breaking, slugging 20 home runs including three in one game. Unlike Fairchild, there's little value beyond the bat as first baseman, so he really has to hit. There's significant questions about whether that will happen. His father was a major league outfielder, so there's big league bloodlines.

JJ Matijevic

Another bat first player as a likely first baseman, Matijevic was a highly regarded player out of high school who started to put things together last in 2016 as a catalst of Arizona's run to the College World Series final. He carried that over to showing more power in the Cape Cod League, and then into a breakout 2017. He showed more power, and the 30 doubles he hit suggests there's more in the tank than the 10 home runs he hit. Arizona hitters have also had a pretty good track record in pro ball recently.

Riley Adams

Adams presents an interesting profile, since his abilities and athleticism behind the plate are reasonably well regarded with a strong arm, but few 6'5" players stick behind home plate. He wouldn't necessarily have to go to first, as either an outfield corner or third base could be fits if not catcher. Offensively, he his considerable raw power that has progressively emerged in games. He also had a solid stint on the Cape Cod League.

Evan Skoug

Skoug was a highly ranked player out of high school, and stepped right into the lineup for TCU as a freshman and was a solid producer. He had a terrible start to 2017, dropping his draft status, but has been red hot since midseason and storming back up draft boards with 18 home runs.

There is skepticism about his ability to stay behind the plate, which would mean moving to first base. That draws comparisons to Matt Thaiss, a first rounder last year, but Skoug has more swing-and-miss offensively, which should drop him to the second round.

Drew Ellis

Ellis has been one of the most productive players for one of the most productive teams after not playing much over his first couple years. Louisville played a pretty weak schedule early, but he carried it over to ACC conference play, with an OPS over 1000. His primary position is third base, and he's an alright defender, but the calling card is bat. He's got the frame to hit for power, with good plate discipline.

Greg Deichmann

Deichmann is another player who had a power surge in 2017, anchoring LSU's lineup. His bat made him a highly ranked player out of high school, but it took him shortening his swing to tap into his power. He has limited defensive value as a corner outfielder without the tools to excel, and is also on the older side as he just turned 22. It's a bit of a tough profile, which should limit him to the late second or third round.

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College hitters have a way of climbing up draft boards, with established track records against a baseline of talent that can give a perception of safety. Especially if they get hot or show signs of breaking out in the run-up to the draft(see J.B. Woodman). Below are some players who aren't ranked as consensus second rounders, but could still go there or be options later on:

  • Kevin Smith, SS, Maryland: Smith came into 2017 with high expectations and first round buzz after a strong summer in the Cape Cod League but really struggled early. He rebounded some, has some pop but also a lot of swing-and-miss.
  • Luis Gonzalez, OF, New Mexico: A two-way player who was selected to the college national team, he's demonstrated and ability to hit for average and get on base, and has good speed to potential profile in CF.
  • Michael Gigliotti, OF, Lipscomb: Another player who has first round buzz coming into 2017 after a strong Cape, but didn't carry it over this spring. Best tool is his speed, and he remains intriguing.
  • Matt Whatley, C, Oral Roberts: One of the stronger defensive catchers, and a track record of hitting in a mid-major conference, but struggled last summer with wood bats on the Cape.
  • Connor Wong, C, Houston: A converted shortstop, Wong moved behind the plate and has the tools to be good there. He hit well on the Cape, though it's average over power.
  • Ernie Clement, SS, Virginia: A solid producer at a top program and one of the best contact hitters in the draft with just 31 strikeouts in 841 college plate appearances. Not expected to be an everyday shortstop, but utility profile.
  • KJ Harrison, 1B, Oregon State: A highly ranked hitter of out high school, Harrison has been solid producer at Oregon State as a three year starter, but without showing the level of power projected three years ago and has sort of stagnated.
  • Taylor Walls, SS, Florida State: Scuffled as a junior (including a short team suspension) after a huge sophomore season, but good plate discipline and potential to play around the infield.
  • Dalton Guthrie, SS, Florida: Three year starter for an elite program, son of Mark Guthrie, good defensive player but hasn't hit much. Darwin Barney light?
  • Riley Mahan, 2B, Kentucky: Has come on very strong late this year, showing increased power. Unlikely to stick on the middle infield.
  • Mike Rivera and David Banuelos, catchers, Florida/Long Beach: both are strong, defence-first catchers who should stick behind the plate. That tends to get players selected earlier rather than later, especially for a team that likes their bats a little bit.