2017 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team Top Prospects
USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team typified the 2018 college draft class in many ways, in terms of both its strengths and weaknesses.
|College National Team Top Prospects|
|1. Nick Madrigal, 2B/SS (Jr., Oregon State)|
|2. Travis Swaggerty, OF (Jr., South Alabama)|
|3. Seth Beer, OF/1B (Jr., Clemson)|
|4. Casey Mize, RHP (Jr., Auburn)|
|5. Steele Walker, OF (Jr., Oklahoma)|
|6. Jeremy Eierman, SS/3B (Jr., Missouri State)|
|7. Konnor Pilkington, LHP (Jr., Mississippi State)|
|8. Tim Cate, lhp (Jr., Connecticut)|
|9. Cadyn Grenier, SS (Jr., Oregon State)|
|10. Steven Gingery, lhp (Jr., Texas Tech)|
|11. Grant Koch, c (Jr., Arkansas)|
|12. Tyler Holton, lhp (Jr., Florida State)|
|13. Nick Sprengel, lhp (Jr., San Diego)|
|14. Jake McCarthy, of (Jr., Virginia)|
|15. Sean Wymer, rhp (Jr., Texas Christian)|
|16. Andrew Vaughn, 1b/3b (So., California)|
|17. Gianluca Dalatri, rhp (So., North Carolina)|
|18. Dallas Woolfork, rhp (Jr., Mississippi)|
|19. Joey Bart, c (Jr., Georgia Tech)|
|20. Tyler Frank, ss/3b/of (Jr., Florida Atlantic)|
|21. Bryce Tucker, lhp (Jr., Central Florida)|
|22. Johnny Aiello, ss/3b (Jr., Wake Forest)|
|23. Patrick Raby, rhp (Jr., Vanderbilt)|
|24. Braden Shewmake, 2b/3b (So., Texas A&M)|
|25. Ryley Gilliam, rhp (Jr., Clemson)|
|26. Kenyon Yovan, rhp (So., Oregon)|
|27. Jackson Lueck, of (Jr., Florida State)|
|28. Will Wilson, 2b/ss (So., North Carolina State)|
|29. Hunter Gaddis, rhp (So., Georgia State)|
|30. Nick Meyer, c (Jr., Cal Poly)|
That’s often the case. Last year’s club featured the highest-drafted college player for 2017 in Louisville’s two-way star Brendan McKay and 11 of the 16 college players picked in the first round overall. This year’s club likely won’t produce 11 first-rounders, but it should come close with its clutch of the college game’s top position players and depth of lefthanded pitchers. That’s despite the fact that the top power arms in the college game—pitchers such as Florida righthanders Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar and South Florida lefthander Shane McClanahan—didn’t pitch this summer. And like the college class, USA Baseball’s position players were good—good enough to win the team’s three key series against Cuba, Japan and Taiwan—but flawed.
“This is pretty typical of the college classes these days,” one scouting director said. “The best players among the position players are the guys who were passed over for one reason or another out of high school.”
1. Nick Madrigal, 2B/SS (Jr., Oregon State) 📹
Just 5-foot-7, 161 pounds, Madrigal will face durability questions as a pro, and scouts don’t see him hitting for the kind of power that other stars at his size, such as Dustin Pedroia and Jose Altuve, have produced as big leaguers.
Madrigal’s other tools, his baseball skills and makeup give him a high floor and likelihood of being a big league regular, however. One of the stars of Oregon State’s 56-6 spring season, he took charge of Team USA upon arrival from Omaha, showing leadership on and off the field. He’s at least a plus runner with 70-grade times to first base (as good as 3.97 seconds), with excellent baserunning and basestealing instincts. He has enough arm strength and plus footwork for shortstop and will be a plus defender at second base if he winds up there. His hands are his best asset defensively and offensively, and he makes consistent contact, with some power to his pull side. Madrigal’s game awareness, instincts and feel also earn plaudits.
2. Travis Swaggerty, OF (Jr., South Alabama) 📹
Swaggerty plays with some of the swagger his name implies, confidently igniting Team USA’s lineup with patience (team-high 11 walks), speed (he’s a plus runner) and gap power. College outfielders with speed and hitting ability, particularly those who bat lefthanded, often earn comparisons to Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury, but those players were better runners than Swaggerty at their peaks.
Swaggerty has enough strength, though, to hit line drives to the gaps and to hit 11 homers in the spring, though he hit none with wood this summer. His speed and power potential make him a good fit in center field. He’ll have to make more consistent contact, however, with 94 strikeouts in 437 college at-bats to go with a team-high 18 in 64 at-bats this summer.
3. Seth Beer, OF/1B (Jr., Clemson) 📹
Beer will be one of the toughest players in the draft class to evaluate. All his value will have to come from his bat, because Beer lacks athleticism. He’s a baseclogging runner, often turning in 5.0-second times to first base. (A 4.6 from the left side is considered 20 on the 20-80 scale.) His poor gait and lack of speed likely will push him from outfield to first base as a pro, and he was almost strictly a DH for Team USA.
Few collegians have Beer’s track record of plate discipline (126 walks, 62 strikeouts), hitting (.333) and power (34 homers) at Clemson. However, Beer has now hit .208 with four extra-base hits in 101 at-bats for Team USA over the last two summers. His wood-bat track record, dating back to high school, provides more questions than answers.
“You have to give him credit for the track record with metal,” said one scout who has followed Beer since high school, “and the walks are for real. The analytics will go nuts over the walks. If he hits like he did as a freshman, he’ll be in the first 10 picks.”
4. Casey Mize, RHP (Jr., Auburn)
Team USA’s rotation lacked pure power arms in the volume of the 2016 staff (J.B. Bukauskas, Alex Faedo, Kyle Wright, etc.), in part because Mize had to leave the club early after just two outings due to muscle tightness in his forearm.
When healthy, Mize dominated like few other college pitchers in 2017, earning third-team All-America honors in an 8-2, 2.04 season with a 109-9 strikeout-walk ratio in 83.2 innings. The forearm issue affected Mize this spring as well as this summer, but when he’s healthy, he attacks hitters with a fastball in the 90-96 mph range that he commands well, a swing-and-miss split-finger fastball and a slider.
Whether it was due to his forearm or not, he threw very few sliders in his seven scoreless innings for Team USA this summer, striking out eight without a walk. Mize’s forearm will be watched as closely as any amateur pitcher in the country.
Prospect Pad: The Rise Of Nick Madrigal
From a national championship last year to Double-A this year, Nick Madrigal has been busy.
5. Steele Walker, OF (Jr., Oklahoma) 📹
Walker earns comparisons with big league corner outfielders of recent vintage such as David DeJesus and Kole Calhoun. Walker has modest size at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, and he lacks a true plus tool. But he has confidence in his hitting ability, with good reason—he hit better than .400 in the Northwoods League last summer, then hit .333/.417/.514 in 72 at-bats with a team-best eight extra-base hits this summer, including two of the team’s eight home runs.
Natural feel for hitting, good hand-eye coordination and solid pitch recognition help make Walker an above-average hitter with average power. The rest of his tools grade average at best, and he’ll need to improve his throwing mechanics. He played the outfield corners this summer and likely will for Oklahoma in the spring, which will put pressure on his power production.
6. Jeremy Eierman, SS/3B (Jr., Missouri State) 📹
Perhaps no player disappointed more in terms of performance this summer than Eierman, who ranked fifth in the nation this spring with 23 homers for Missouri State. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound righthanded batter struggled with wood, hitting just .125 (5-for-40) with 10 strikeouts. To his credit, he rallied with three homers in 20 at-bats (with seven strikeouts) in a short Cape Cod League stint.
Eierman lost confidence in his offense as the summer went on as his swing, which doesn’t incorporate his lower half much, left him coming up empty against a steady diet of offspeed stuff. Scouts still like Eierman’s tools, particularly his plus raw power and defensive tools. His footwork will keep him in the infield and his plus arm is well-suited for the left side of the infield. One scout predicted he’d become an elite defender at third base, while others weren’t ready to write him off at shortstop yet.
7. Konnor Pilkington, LHP (Jr., Mississippi State)
Pilkington is young for the draft class; he will turn 20 in September. The ace of Mississippi State’s team in the spring, he stood out among the CNT’s squad of lefthanders thanks to his heavy fastball and durable 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame. He’ll have to watch his conditioning, but he has the most upside of any starter other than Mize on the staff, with a ceiling as a No. 3 starter.
He shined last summer in the Cape Cod League, and he ranked second on Team USA with 17 innings after logging more 100 for the Bulldogs in the spring. Pilkington’s fastball often sits 91-92 mph, but he’ll reach 95 at his best and throws strikes with some plane, pitching off his heater more than any other CNT starter. His slider flashed above-average, but he didn’t use it much this summer, relying heavily on his fastball and the occasional, average changeup.
8. Tim Cate, lhp (Jr., Connecticut) 📹
At a listed 6-foot, 187 pounds, Cate doesn’t intimidate hitters physically, but he dominates them with a curveball that ranks among the best in college baseball. He has cracked the top 25 nationally in strikeouts per nine innings in each of the last two seasons and has averaged 11.6 per nine innings for the Huskies. He was even better this summer in the CNT bullpen, finishing with 20 strikeouts in 12 frames (15 per nine). Seven came in a four-inning stint in the Japan Series, when he showcased a fastball in the 90-93 mph range and hard (79-82 mph), plus curveball with a high spin rate in the range of 2,700 revolutions per minute.
Cate’s fastball command comes and goes. His high arm slot and head tilt are geared more toward throwing his curve than his fastball. His changeup made good progress from last summer, when he was a two-pitch pitcher. That and his toughness give him a chance to start, but his breaking ball gives him a high floor as a lefty reliever with a long shelf life.
9. Cadyn Grenier, SS (Jr., Oregon State) 📹
Madrigal and Grenier teamed all spring with Oregon State’s 56-6 squad, then came straight to the CNT from the Beavers’ stunning pair of College World Series losses to Louisiana State. The duo showed up and took over the Team USA middle infield, with Grenier reminding some scouts of Zack Cozart as a defensive asset at shortstop with present strength but some questions about his ultimate hitting ability.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Grenier shines defensively, where he makes every routine play and has the range, footwork and above-average arm to make some of the really tough ones, too. He’s an above-average runner as well with very good hands and infield actions. Grenier has plenty of confidence that took a bit of a ding with his early struggles with the bat, but he made some adjustments to shorten his swing as the summer went along and had four of his six hits in the Japan series.
“He’s a shortstop, so that’s going to buy his bat some time,” one CNT official said. “I don’t know if he’ll hit like Cozart or (Brandon) Crawford, but he’s that kind of player.”
10. Steven Gingery, lhp (Jr., Texas Tech) 📹
A first-team All-American this spring, Gingery followed his strong spring with a four quality outings this summer for the national team. Scouts see him as more of a back-of-the-rotation starter at present, but one who could move quickly through the minors.
A California native, Gingery features a changeup as his best pitch, earning consistent plus grades, and throws his breaking ball for strikes. His fastball life also earns plus grades, helping his 88-91 mph heater, which can touch 93, play up. He’s laconic off the field—to the point of earning the “flaky lefthander” descriptor—but a competitor on the mound. He’ll need to monitor his conditioning going forward.
11. Grant Koch, c (Jr., Arkansas) 📹
A 6-foot, 190-pounder, Koch hit 13 homers in the spring and continued to jump forward on scouts’ radar with a strong summer, leading the CNT with a .372 average (16-for-43) while tying for the lead with a pair of homers despite limited playing time. He also controlled the strike zone (10-11 BB-SO) and had the most consistent offensive approach of anyone on the team with the possible exception of Steele Walker. After battling an arm injury as a prep senior and as a freshman in college, Koch threw out 40 percent of basestealers this spring, then threw out four of seven this summer. HIs footwork and transfer improved to aid his average arm, but he has work to do receiving. HIs bat is ahead of his defense, but his arrow is pointed up.
12. Tyler Holton, lhp (Jr., Florida State)
An eligible sophomore in 2017, Holton was drafted in the 35th round but was never close to signing after helping lead Florida State to the College World Series. Statistically, Holton was Team USA’s best starter, giving up two runs (one earned) in 13 innings, going 2-0, 0.69 with a 14-2 strikeout-walk ratio. Holton has an athletic 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame, but his lack of arm speed leaves him with well below-average fastball velocity. While he can reach 90 mph, at times he pitches at 82-86, and some scouts put a 30 grade on his fastball.
Nevertheless, Holton spots his fastball well and plays off it with a plus changeup that at times is a 70 pitch. His curveball also showed improved spin this summer, and he’s a poised pitcher in command of his stuff and emotions. If he ever throws harder, Holton will be a big league starter.
13. Nick Sprengel, lhp (Jr., San Diego)
Another of Team USA’s passel of intriguing southpaws, Sprengel pitched exclusively out of the bullpen and showed swing-and-miss stuff, limiting opponents to an .067 average (2-for-30). Sprengel, who went 9-1, 3.29 in the spring as San Diego’s ace, pitched with above-average fastball velocity, sitting at 92 mph and reaching 95 regularly. His above-average slider flashed plus, pushing 83 mph and showing above-average spin rates.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Sprengel has altered his delivery since high school, lowering his slot to get more life on the fastball. It’s worked—he’s got plus life—but he has sacrificed command and walked eight in 9.1 innings. If his command and his changeup don’t improve, he may be consigned to the bullpen.
14. Jake McCarthy, of (Jr., Virginia) 📹
The younger brother of former Cavaliers outfielder Joe McCarthy (now a first baseman in the Rays system), Jake McCarthy is a very different kind of player, a speedster who played some center field and the corners for Team USA backing up Travis Swaggerty and Steele Walker. McCarthy’s swing-and-miss issues (16 strikeouts in 56 at-bats) and rotational swing cost him playing time with the CNT and hurt his prospect status, though he finished strong (12-for-31) in a late Cape Cod League stint.
McCarthy’s best present tool is his speed, a 70 tool on the 20-80 scale. His swing mechanics gave several scouts pause about whether or not he’ll get to his average raw power, but he’s strong enough through the zone to pound doubles to the gaps. He’s a capable defender in center field who could be plus with more experience.
15. Sean Wymer, rhp (Jr., Texas Christian) 📹
Wymer has pitched out of TCU’s bullpen for all but two of his 46 appearances in his first two seasons, but he was extended this summer for Team USA with three four-inning outings. While his 5.25 ERA was the worst on the staff, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Wymer intrigued scouts with a fairly clean delivery, athletic if average-sized frame and two above-average pitches. His fastball sat 91-94 this summer and touched 95 in the spring, and his slider also earns above-average grades. A move into the Horned Frogs’ rotation could push Wymer up draft boards significantly in 2018.
16. Andrew Vaughn, 1b/3b (So., California) 📹
A member of USA Baseball’s 15U national team in 2013, Vaughn pitched and hit for Cal in the spring and likely has the arm strength to handle a future move to third. The 5-foot-11, 208-pounder improved over the course of the summer, showing a feel for hitting that helped him overcome some less-than-ideal mechanics, including an arm bar and a hitch in his swing. Those issues make it hard for Vaughn to catch up to premium velocity, but he competes at the plate and has some present strength to punish mistakes. One of three freshmen who were on the team all summer, Vaughn is aggressive, at times to a fault, at the plate.
17. Gianluca Dalatri, rhp (So., North Carolina) 📹
At 6-foot-6, 238 pounds, Dalatri has excellent body control for his size and is more strike-thrower than power pitcher at this stage. He proved his durability this season, tossing 97 innings for the Tar Heels in the spring before throwing 11 more for Team USA. While Dalatri’s fastball has pedestrian 87-92 mph velocity, he locates it well and pitches with angle, while getting groundballs and swings and misses with his fastball and slider. Dalatri’s command could be true plus in the future as he continues to hone his fastball and delivery.
18. Dallas Woolfork, rhp (Jr., Mississippi)
Woolfork has physicality at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, and scouts worry about him maintaining his conditioning. He’s a power pitcher in a bullpen role, at times pitching at 94-95 mph and earning a team-best four saves. He was at his best late in the summer against Japan, hitting 97 and effectively pitching inside to lefthanded hitters better. He also throws a hard mid-80s slurve and a firm changeup. His command (seven walks in 10.1 IP) will have to improve to pitch at the back of a big league bullpen.
19. Joey Bart, c (Jr., Georgia Tech)
Bart did not have a good look with the CNT, going 0-for-7 with a pair of walks and pair of strikeouts. He’s got size and strength to catch at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds and was a 27th-round pick out of high school, but was coming off a late-season injury and didn’t play with energy for Team USA to earn a spot. He’s had swing-and-miss issues with Team USA and in the Cape this summer (11 strikeouts in 30 at-bats) after striking out 50 times in 186 spring at-bats for the Yellow Jackets. Bart’s body and swing could still push him high in the draft, perhaps into the first round.
20. Tyler Frank, ss/3b/of (Jr., Florida Atlantic) 📹
At 6-foot, 185 pounds, Frank is physically unremarkable, but he’s a grinder who can hit. His versatility earned him a spot with the CNT, as he’s caught and played shortstop for Florida Atlantic. He played third base and left field mostly for the CNT and was an emergency catching option, and his versatility could be his ticket as a pro as well. Frank can hit a bit, smashing 11 homers in the spring, and he’s controlled the strike zone (68 BB, 50 SO) in two seasons with the Owls. He competed at the plate with Team USA and drew six walks in limited duty, but scouts never saw him get into a rhythm at the plate. He hit better in a late Cape Cod stint, batting .262/.290/.431 with eight extra-base hits in 16 games and showing off a solid gap-to-gap approach.
21. Bryce Tucker, lhp (Jr., Central Florida)
Tucker struggled as a starter at Central Florida as a freshman, but he thrived in a closer role as a sophomore with a 1.66 ERA, 10 saves and 13 strikeouts per nine innings. Tucker was busy this summer with 10 outings (tied for most on the team) and used a mix of deception, a low-90s fastball and solid-average slider to strikeout 18, second on the team behind Tim Cate. He mixes in a changeup, but despite his three-pitch mix, most scouts see him sticking in a relief role.
22. Johnny Aiello, ss/3b (Jr., Wake Forest)
Aiello played only the first series for the CNT, and struggled offensively against Taiwan. Scouts are still intrigued by the infielder who plays shortstop and third base for the Demon Deacons and played first, second and third for Team USA. He has the footwork to stay at either second base or third base down the line and an above-average arm. The big question for Aiello will be getting to his above-average raw power—he posted the team’s second-highest peak exit velocity at over 107 mph—while making consistent contact.
23. Patrick Raby, rhp (Jr., Vanderbilt)
Raby, coming off a spring as the Commodores’ Friday starter, gave up only one run (unearned) in a team-high 19.1 innings while earning three victories. Performance-wise, he was Team USA’s best pitcher—just eight hits allowed and a 15-5 strikeout-walk ratio—but scouts weren’t impressed. The best compliment he got was that Raby is a “pitch-maker” who also does a lot of the little things well, such as fielding his position and controlling the running game. His physical 6-foot-3, 230-pound frame and delivery provided some deception that kept hitters off his 88-91 mph fastball. Scouts didn’t see an average major league pitch in his fastball, breaking ball or change.
24. Braden Shewmake, 2b/3b (So., Texas A&M) 📹
An All-Freshman choice this spring, Shewmake struggled this summer after making the national team but playing in a reserve role after the arrival of Oregon State’s Cadyn Grenier and Nick Madrigal. Shewmake led the team with four errors and looked uncomfortable defensively at second and third base. His hitting ability should carry him, as he has bat-to-ball skills and improving strength in his lanky 6-foot-4, 180-pound frame.
25. Ryley Gilliam, rhp (Jr., Clemson)
With three saves, Gilliam ranked second on the team in saves and struck out nine in 8.1 innings this summer. The quick-armed 5-foot-10, 175-pound righthander sits at 91-94 mph with his fastball, can reach 96 and has a high spin rate on an upper-70s curveball that flashes plus.
26. Kenyon Yovan, rhp (So., Oregon)
Yovan made four outings early in the summer for Team USA before going on to hit and pitch in the Northwoods League the rest of the summer, and hitting was a priority for him this summer. However, he’s better currently on the mound. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder flashed a 94 mph fastball and flashed a plus slider in the low 80s that had the highest spin rate (2801 revolutions per minute) any U.S. pitcher delivered at the National Training Complex, according to TrackMan.
27. Jackson Lueck, of (Jr., Florida State)
Lueck got limited playing time after coming from the College World Series to trials. Scouts see his hitting ability as the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder’s best tool.
28. Will Wilson, 2b/ss (So., North Carolina State) A .300 hitter who showed good gap power as a freshman, Wilson was an infield fill-in in the early part of the schedule who could return next summer after sliding to shortstop from second base for the Wolfpack in 2018. He’s a righthanded hitter with solid power potential and feel for hitting.
29. Hunter Gaddis, rhp (So., Georgia State)
At 6-foot-5, 202 pounds, Gaddis has good size and can spin a breaking ball, though his curve could use more power. His fastball sat around 90 mph and also could use more oomph.
30. Nick Meyer, c (Jr., Cal Poly) 📹
Meyer earned a spot on the roster for his catch-and-throw skills, but a back injury hindered him much of the summer, limiting him to 16 at-bats.