2017 Prospect League Top Prospects

Prospect League Top Prospects
Will Freeman, rhp, Kokomo (So., Jones County (Miss.) CC)
Connor Coward, rhp, Butler (Sr., Virginia Tech)
Connor Curlis, lhp, Champion City (Jr., Ohio State)
Brad Depperman, rhp, Lafayette (Sr., North Florida)
Pat Ferguson, if, Butler (So., Kent State)
Nic Laio, rhp, Chillicoche (Jr., Western Michigan)
Seth Gray, if, Champion City (So., Wright State)
Tanner Murphy, of, Butler (So. North Florida)
Tanner Piechnick, c, Chillicothe (So., Ohio)
Nic Webre, of, Danville (Fr. Louisiana State)

SEE ALSO: Summer College League Top Prospects

Postseason Recap: After suffering a blowout loss at home in Game 1 of the Prospect League championship series, the Lafayette Aviators stormed back on the road to take Games 2 and 3 from the Butler Blue Sox to capture the league crown. Lafayette’s championship run culminated in a 10-run ninth inning during the third game of the series, solidifying a 12-0 trouncing to end the season. Lafayette surrendered 22 runs over the first two games of the series but limited Butler to just five hits in Game 3 thanks in large part to Butler’s Sam Hubbe, who tossed three hitless innings and earned the win. Hubbe tallied 11 shutouts innings throughout the TPL playoffs.

1. Will Freeman, RHP, Kokomo (So., Jones County, Miss., JC)

A 6-foot-2, 213-pound righthander, Freeman featured one of the Prospect League’s best fastballs this summer, according to coaches in the league, and he impressed with his ability to command four pitches. Freeman’s four-seam fastball sat 90-92 mph most of the summer, coaches said, and approached 94 mph on occasion. Freeman used an 83-84 mph slider and a curveball at 79-81 mph to collect 59 strikeouts in just 45.1 innings for Kokomo. He also showed good feel for a two-seam fastball and a changeup to lefthanded hitters. Coaches described Freeman, who went 4-1, 2.58 overall,  as a big, strong kid who “dominated this league.”

2. Connor Coward, RHP, Butler (Sr., Virginia Tech)

Coward turned in a solid summer for the BlueSox after logging 12 starts for Virginia Tech this spring. Coaches described him as a live arm from the right side who primarily used a 90-93 mph fastball and a good slider to have success, including a 4-1, 2.96 mark with a 42-5 strikeout-walk ratio in 30.1 innings. At 6-foot, 200 pounds, Coward also flashed good feel for a changeup and was praised for showing command of his offspeed pitches throughout the summer. Coward relies on a strong demeanor in high-pressure situations and split his summer with four starts and four appearances out of the bullpen.

3. Connor Curlis, LHP, Champion City (Jr., Ohio State)

Curlis made nine starts for Champion City this summer and commanded an 88-91 mph fastball alongside what multiple coaches described as a wipeout slider. He hides the ball well in his delivery, according to one coach, and benefits from some added deception because of it. Curlis struck out 82 Prospect League hitters in just 58 innings and was more effective out of the bullpen when his fastball and slider both played up. Curlis is listed at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds and could take a step forward going into his junior year by adding to his frame.

4. Brad Depperman, RHP, Lafayette (Sr., North Florida)

Depperman led the Prospect League in strikeouts this summer and did so with a fastball in the low 90s that touched 94 mph during the league’s scout day, according to coaches. At 6-foot, 190 pounds, Depperman has a strong 6-foot, 190-pound frame and a quick arm and featured a hard, tight slider that gave hitters a lot of trouble. He struck out 108 batters in just 59.2 innings for Lafayette while posting a 2.11 ERA. Depperman was described as a competitive guy on the mound who is confident in his stuff and uses that to his advantage.

5. Pat Ferguson, 1B, Butler (So., Kent State)

Ferguson is a big, strong lefthanded hitter that showed serious power this summer (.216/.325/.506) and made the transition to a wood bat look easy. He is 6-foot-1, 230 pounds and showed an ability to hit the ball to all fields while leading the Prospect League with 15 home runs. Coaches described Ferguson as a work in progress, though. His swing, they said, is still raw and results in a high rate of swings and misses, making Ferguson strikeout prone—88 in 176 at-bats while batting just .216. But, as one coach described him, the power tool is there and it’s not going anywhere.

6. Nic Laio, RHP, Chillicoche (Jr., Western Michigan)

Laio features a quick arm from the right side and pitched in the low-to-mid 90s throughout the summer, approaching 95 mph at times, according to coaches. He threw out of the bullpen most of the summer and commands his big, 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame well. He showed a clean delivery with a quick arm but was described by a few coaches as still being a bit raw, with an occasional slider that will unravel and lack bite. When everything was clicking, Laio made use of a heavy fastball and a tight, downward slider to rack up 51 strikeouts in 35.2 innings.

7. Seth Gray, 3B, Champion City (So., Wright State)

Gray stood out this summer as a solid hitter from the left side who showed a consistent ability to put the ball in play in any situation. At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Gray has a strong frame with room to grow. He showed gap-to-gap power, collecting eight doubles and three home runs for the Kings while hitting .316/.404/.441. Gray also features some mobility in the infield with a strong arm and a reliable glove. Heading into his sophomore year after starting 59 Wright State games as a freshman, Gray could continue to add some strength.

8. Tanner Murphy, OF, Butler (So., North Florida)

Murphy put together an impressive summer (.316/.480/.421) and used a combination of good speed and pull-side power to his advantage. A 6-foot-3, 185-pound righthanded hitter, Murphy certainly has room to grow. Coaches praised his quickness out of the box as a strong tool and said his raw speed even plays up a tick on the basepaths, where he went 22-for-24 on steals. Murphy is short to the baseball and makes consistent contact. He was described by multiple coaches as a tough out but could improve his ability to hit the ball to the opposite field.

9. Tanner Piechnick, C, Chillicothe (So., Ohio)

Despite having his summer cut short due to an injury, Piechnick was applauded for having grown a tremendous amount over the course of the summer. At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, the physical tools are there—he was described by one Prospect League coach as a “physical specimen”—but his experience may be lacking. He showed good raw power from the right side of the plate and developed as a game manager behind the plate. Piechnick will need to continue to refine his tools, but as one coach put it, “When he hits the ball, it just sounds different.”

10. Nic Webre, OF, Danville (Fr., Louisiana State)

Webre put together an impressive summer (.324/.427/.525) in the Prospect League this summer, a full year before even logging his first college game. Coaches described him as a solid hitter from the left side of the plate, favoring the pull side over the opposite field. Webre showed good speed, collecting 20 stolen bases over the course of the summer, but struggled somewhat defensively, where coaches suggested he may just be inexperienced. At 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, Webre is a bit undersized but showed pop with nine homers in a .324/.425/.527 season. He will have plenty of time to develop more strength and consistency over the next few years.

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