2017 Futures League Top 10 Prospects

Phil Clarke (Photo by Stacy Jo Grant)

Futures League Top Prospects
Phil Clarke, c, Martha’s Vineyard (Fr., Vanderbilt)
Jayson Gonzalez, inf, Bristol (Fr., Vanderbilt)
Tyler Hardman, inf, Martha’s Vineyard (Fr., Oklahoma)
Zack Martin, rhp, Brockton (So., Notre Dame)
Cade Cavalli, inf/rhp, Pittsfield (Fr., Oklahoma)
Joe Gobillot, lhp, Seacoast (Fr., Vanderbilt)
Aldirch De Jongh, of, Brockton (So., Florida Atlantic)
Billy DeVito, rhp, Worcester (Jr., Hartford)
Joe Simeone, rhp, Wachusett (Fr., Connecticut)
Garrett Blaylock, inf, Bristol (Fr., Vanderbilt)

SEE ALSO: Summer College League Top Prospects

Postseason Recap: For the second consecutive year and fourth time in the league’s seven-year history, the Nashua Sliver Knights claimed the Futures Collegiate Baseball League championship this summer. It seemed to be a case of deja vu for the Sliver Knights, who swept the Worcester Bravehearts in the best-of-three championship series for the second straight year.

Behind back-to-back strong pitching performances, the Silver Knights won Game 1 by a final score of 4-1 before clinching the championship with a 2-0 victory in Game 2. Righthanded reliever Kyle Murphy (Jr., Northeastern) won the 2017 FCBL Playoff MVP award, totaling four saves in four scoreless relief appearances during Nashua’s flawless postseason run.

Waschusett Dirt Dawgs first baseman Zach Tower (Sr., Franklin Pierce) won the FCBL regular season MVP award, leading the league in home runs (18), RBIs (50), slugging percentage (.676) and OPS (1.074). North Shore Navigators righthander Austen Michel (So., Darmouth) won the league’s pitcher of the year award, finishing the summer 2-0, 1.52, while striking out 50 and walking only seven in 47.1 innings.

1. Phil Clarke, C, Martha’s Vineyard (Fr., Vanderbilt)

Listed as the 167th-best draft prospect in this year’s BA Top 500, Clarke is a smooth-swinging, lefthanded-hitting catcher out of Nashville who is staying close to home. Consistently listed by Futures League observers as the top prospect in the league, Clarke has an above-average hit tool and at least average projected power as his two carrying tools. Several managers said Clarke was among the toughest outs in the league, with an advanced approach and excellent barrel awareness helping him hit .337/.427/.479.

While receiving several compliments on his work ethic and athleticism,Clarke’s defense is currently behind his bat. Mostly regarded as a solid receiver with room for improvement in regards to his arm strength, there seemed to be near consensus that three additional years to physically mature at Vanderbilt could have Clarke as one of the top college catchers in 2020.

2. Jayson Gonzalez, 3B/SS, Bristol (Fr., Vanderbilt)

Vanderbilt freshmen take the top two spots on this list, as the well-built Gonzalez slots in just behind his future Commodores teammate. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Gonzalez was one of the better power bats among high school hitters in the 2017 draft class and continued to show that this summer, winning the Futures League home run derby during this summer’s all-star break.

Despite excellent bat speed, consistent contact has been a point of concern for Gonzalez, who was ranked No. 242 in the BA 500. Playing for Bristol, which is home to one of the largest ballparks in the Futures League, Gonzalez hit .284/.392/.422 but also struck out 36 times in 102 at-bats. A prototypical third baseman who played some shortstop this summer, Gonzalez is an average runner, but he should be able to play any one of the four corner positions with a strong arm that would play above-average at the hot corner.

3. Tyler Hardman, 3B, Martha’s Vineyard (Fr., Oklahoma)

Drafted in the 37th round of the 2017 draft by the Rockies, Hardman (6-foot-3, 235 pounds) is another naturally strong infielder who flashes above-average power for his age. Batting from the right side of the plate, Hardman possesses a compact, yet powerful swing that results in many hard-hit balls in the air and a .269/.344/.516 slash line this summer.

Projected to be a hit-first player with above-average power, Hardman, who ranked No. 321 on the BA 500, currently looks to be an average defender with the arm strength to stick at third base. He may, however, move to first base if he continues to get bigger, stronger and thus compromises any of his lateral quickness.

4. Zack Martin, RHP, Brockton (So., Notre Dame)

The first prospect with any college experience on the list is Martin, who made nine relief appearances with a 1.50 ERA for Notre Dame last spring. Working with a great 6-foot-5, 224-pound frame, Martin has plus life on his fastball, sitting anywhere from 90-94 mph, and showed at least average command this summer.

In all, Martin finished this summer 3-2, 1.64 in 33 innings, starting four games and making five additional relief appearances. It appears Martin would have the arsenal to be a starter down the road, as he showed feel for a changeup and flashed a potential plus, high-70s curveball.

5. Cade Cavalli, 3B/RHP, Pittsfield (Fr., Oklahoma)

Described by one Futures League manager as having “the best arm in the league” with a prototypical baseball body, Cavalli is an interesting two-way prospect, at least for now, who was drafted in the 29th round by the Braves earlier this summer.

Cavalli can reach up to 94-95 mph with his fastball relatively easily, but his command remains questionable with both his fastball and high-70s curveball. Cavalli didn’t pitch much in high school because of back problems and only pitched 2.1 innings this summer, leaving him rather raw—but full of potential—on the mound. As a position player, Cavalli is a 6-foot-4, 220-pound third baseman who clearly possesses the arm strength to play the position, but it’s unclear if his bat is advanced enough to bypass his potential on the mound. Cavalli, listed as a pitcher, was ranked No. 295 on the BA 500.

6. Joe Gobillot, LHP, Seacoast (Fr., Vanderbilt)

Another pitcher with potential to dream on is Gobillot, a 6-foot-6 lefthander who was listed at No. 275 on the BA 500 earlier this year. While Gobillot’s numbers weren’t too impressive this summer—walking 26 batters in 13.1 innings—the raw stuff is there for Gobillot to one day succeed.

Routinely working between 92-95 mph with his fastball, Gobillot also flashes a potential plus slider at times. The biggest knock on Gobillot is his command, which seems to be the byproduct of a delivery that can leave him off balance and searching for the strike zone.

7. Aldirch De Jongh, OF, Brockton (So., Florida Atlantic)

A 5-foot-9, 160-pound lefthanded-hitting outfielder, De Jongh’s carrying tool is his plus speed, which some scouts timed at 6.4 seconds in the 60-yard dash. Able to cover an inordinate amount of space in the outfield, De Jongh also has a strong arm that makes him a plus defender at a premium position in center field.

De Jongh has more of a gap-to-gap approach at the plate that pairs well with his speed, although he did hit six home runs in 150 at-bats this summer, showing decent pop for his frame. After hitting .250/.357/.361 in 36 at-bats as a freshman at Florida Atlantic, De Jongh slashed .315/.400/.500 for Brockton.

8. Billy DeVito, rhp, Worcester (Jr., Hartford)

Although there were a handful in consideration, DeVito is the only upperclassman to make the Futures League top 10. At 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, DeVito will be draft eligible in 2018 after going 3-0, 2.47 in 54.2 innings this summer, striking out 59 batters and walking 23.

One of the more consistent pitchers in the Futures League, DeVito throws a fastball in the low 90s, which is paired with a low-80s breaking ball and an advanced feel for a mid-80s changeup. DeVito struggled last spring (2-2, 7.28), but showed the stuff necessary to be an important piece for Hartford this season.

9. Joe Simeone, rhp, Wachusett (Fr., Connecticut)

Simeone, like many others, had his Futures League summer cut short in order to get on campus at UConn and enroll in summer school. But before he left, Simeone left his mark on the league, striking out 31 hitters in 16.1 innings and allowing runs in only three of his 14 relief appearances.

Standing 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Simeone has a loose arm action, working mostly from 90-93 mph with his fastball, and has room to add at least a couple of ticks to his fastball as he continues to mature physically. Simeone also flashed above-average command, walking only seven hitters while throwing both his curveball and changeup for strikes consistently.

10. Garrett Blaylock, SS, Bristol (Fr., Vanderbilt)

This list ends the same way it began—with yet another appearance by a Vanderbilt freshman. Blaylock is a 6-foot-3, 210-pound infielder out of Asheville, N.C., who plays mostly shortstop now but might have to move over to third base as he continues to fill out his frame.

The potential move doesn’t mean Blaylock isn’t athletic enough, as he shows the lateral movement and arm strength to play either position well. His lefthanded bat was impressive this summer, hitting .354/.394/.434, and he projects for even more power than he showed this summer with plus bat speed.

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