|Coastal Plain League Top Prospects|
|Andre Nnebe, of, Wilson (So., Santa Clara)|
|Nick Podkul, 2b, Morehead City (Jr., Notre Dame)|
|Matt Cronin, lhp, Holly Springs (So., Arkansas)|
|Will Matthiessen, RHP, Morehead City (So., Stanford)|
|Cory Wood, 2b/of, Holly Springs (So., Coastal Carolina)|
|Chris Chatfield, OF, Forest City (Jr., South Florida)|
|Connor Riley, RHP, Martinsville (So., Long Beach State)|
|Jamie Galazin, OF/RHP, Edenton (Sr., St. John’s)|
|Connor Grant, OF, Forest City (Jr., North Greenville (S.C.))|
|Tad Ratliff, RHP, Peninsula (Signed: Royals)|
Postseason Recap: The Gastonia Grizzlies claimed the 2017 Petit Cup after defeating Wilmington, 12-3, in Game 2 of a best-of-three series. Evan Wise’s squad entered the CPL playoffs as the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference but more than proved its dominance by sweeping through three different teams without a loss. Blake Waldren (Belmont Abbey, N.C.) proved crucial in Game 1 of the finals. He pitched five scoreless innings in a lightning-delayed game, which the Grizzlies went on to win, 7-4. The second game began with Gastonia jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first on a mess of errors and wild pitches, a lead that never changed hands—furnishing Gastonia with its second CPL championship. Chaz Davey (Erskine, S.C.), the first baseman and offensive MVP, finished the game with four hits, including a double.
1. Andre Nnebe, of, Wilson (So., Santa Clara)
Nnebe’s raw tools are off-the-charts and immediately apparent at one glance at his 6-foot-6, 230-pound frame. Coming out of high school, scouts compared the northern California native to Aaron Judge for his power antics, and coaches now note he might be even taller than his listed height. Despite his giant levers, Nnebe had a very successful freshman season at Santa Clara, batting .293 as their everyday center fielder. And while his plate discipline and swing mechanics have a ways to go—understandably given his body—his raw power is unrivaled in the league. To boot, he’s been clocked at as low as 6.5 seconds in a 60-yard dash. That speed plays well in the outfield, giving Nnebe a chance to stick in centerfield for now then slide over to left field as he adds mass and slows down. No matter where he plays, the tools are all there for Nnebe to become a first-round talent down the road.
2. Nick Podkul, 2b, Morehead City (Jr., Notre Dame)
Podkul’s experience in the Atlantic Coast Conference prepared him well for the Coastal Plain League, where numerous evaluators took notice of his decidedly professional at-bats. His defining characteristic is an above-average contact ability thanks to a solid approach at the plate and lightning-fast hands. He translated that approach into a .311 average and nine home runs this summer for Morehead City. His raw power and foot speed grade out as average. He could clean up his glove work and projects as a fringe-average defender at second base. The MVP of the CPL all-star game, Podkul’s entire package is a high-floor player who has a chance to be drafted higher than his predecessor Cavan Biggio.
3. Matt Cronin, lhp, Holly Springs (So., Arkansas)
The Arkansas southpaw came out of the bullpen for Holly Springs this summer, striking out 32 in 18.1 innings. Cronin’s able to run his fastball up to 96 mph but mainly sits in the 91-94 range while blowing the pitch past hitters. He mixes in a curveball with decent break in the lower 80s to finish batters off. Cronin, who struck out two and walked two in an inning against USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, has the finer aspects of pitching down already, as he knows how to sequence and pitch backwards when needed, an impressive accomplishment for a rising sophomore. He’s being considered for the Razorbacks rotation in 2018 but could be asked to hold down the closer role given his two current sizeable offerings.
4. Will Matthiessen, RHP, Morehead City (So., Stanford)
Despite seeing more time at both of the corner infield spots this summer, Matthiessen projects better on the mound, where his 6-foot-5, 205-pound frame supports an improving fastball/cutter combination. He pounds the zone with all of his pitches, including a fastball that sits between 87-90 mph. Even though he’s not lighting up any radars right now, his frame screams projectability, and his velocity should rise into the low 90s. Matthiessen’s cutter is his best pitch, as he’s able to command to both sides of the zone. His control is already superb for a young pitcher; he walked just nine in his first 38.2 innings of work at Stanford.
5. Cory Wood, 2b/of, Holly Springs (So., Coastal Carolina)
If a CPL coach were to describe the peskiest player they had to face the entire summer, the answer would always be Wood. He gets on base in part thanks to an advanced understanding of the strike zone, walking 48 times in 197 plate appearances for Holly Springs. He’s able to make frequent contact to every part of the field, and Wood’s plus speed gives him a boost on the basepaths. The extra speed is a needed trait because he often faces profile questions due to his diminutive 5-foot-8 stature. Wood’s arm limited him to second base when he was in the dirt for Coastal, but he’s been seeing time in both left and center field this summer. The power will never be there, but he does everything else well enough to drive opponents crazy.
6. Chris Chatfield, OF, Forest City (Jr., South Florida)
Chatfield was a high-end draft prospect in 2015 and hasn’t quite lived up to that promise in his first two years in college. However, there’s hope that the 6-foot-3, 194-pounder can turn a corner following this summer with Forest City. He possesses the above-average bat speed needed to barrel pitches but is often exposed by issues timing up the ball. As a result, Chatfield has dealt with strikeout concerns that will likely persist until he can recognize pitches more clearly. The redeeming feature here is his power potential, which has been prevalent since high school, as he’s able to launch balls over most any fence. He runs well for his size, posting average run times, but his fringy arm strength limits him to left field. If Chatfield’s able to correct the mental issues in his game and produce in his walk year, there could be reasonable interest.
7. Connor Riley, RHP, Martinsville (So., Long Beach State)
Riley exhibits all of the classic starter traits one could want in a rising sophomore. The 6-foot-6, 205-pound righthander pitches off of a 90-94 mph fastball that should only get faster over time because of his remaining projectability. Riley’s slider and changeup are both usable secondaries that flash average potential, giving him enough weapons to run through a lineup multiple times. The holdup is a lack of deception and worrying control, as he walked 16 over 24 innings as a freshman. As a result, Martinsville used the pliable pitcher in a set-up/closer role over the summer, as he struck out 19 and walked eight in 15 innings. If he’s able to harness his body and repeat better, Riley has a chance to be an impact college arm.
8. Jamie Galazin, OF/RHP, Edenton (Sr., St. John’s)
Galazin offers a surprising collection of tools for a rising senior. The St. John’s outfielder stands at an athletic 6-foot-4, 200 pounds and is a legitimate prospect both on the mound and at the plate. He’s a raw pitcher lacking repetition, but considering he only has eight collegiate innings under his belt, it’s enough to warrant interest. He sits in the low 90s with a usable slider. As a position player, Galazin’s swing presents issues to many scouts, with almost no weight transfer in his lower half. He’s been able to silence doubters in the Big East, but it’s questionable if his swing will work in pro ball. Consequently, there’s little power projection beyond what his three career home runs have shown. He parlays his 55-grade wheels on the 20-80 scale into a solid defensive range in center and his throws to the infield demonstrate plus velocity.
9. Connor Grant, OF, Forest City (Jr., North Greenville, S.C.)
A Division I transfer to North Greenville, Grant thoroughly impressed against tougher competition in the Coastal Plain League, boasting a .351 average with more walks than strikeouts. He’s an athletic defender capable of manning all three outfield positions, once racking up three diving catches in a single game. Grant’s a plus runner when under way and combines that speed with a sufficient right-field arm. Yet, what he lacks in power, he makes up for in contact, demonstrating a quick bat used to spray line drives across the field. It’s a slashing swing ill-suited for generating optimum launch angles and power, but Grant’s other tools make him a prospect.
10. Tad Ratliff, RHP, Peninsula (SIGNED: Royals)
Ratliff’s short stint in the Coastal Plain League was punctuated by an appearance out of the bullpen in an exhibition game against USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team in late June. Less than three days later, Ratliff, who pitched at Division II Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.), was signed by the Royals and sent out to Burlington, their affiliate in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. Ratliff attacks batters with a fastball that ranges from 90-94 mph from a maxed-out 6-foot-2, 240-pound frame, limiting his chance to add velocity. He throws three different secondaries, the best being a cutter in the upper 80s that he manipulates to both righties and lefties. A curveball and undeveloped changeup round out his arsenal, something he’d need to improve upon in order to get a look as a starter.