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2018 USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team Top 25 Prospects

Image credit: Adley Rutschman (Photo Courtesy USA Baseball)

USA Baseball’s College National Team (CNT) had another successful summer, winning its series against Japan and Cuba as it went 12-3 overall. 

The following rankings and reports were developed after consulting with coaches and scouts who followed Team USA this summer.

1. Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State (Jr.)

After leading the College World Series-champion Beavers in hitting across a full season, Rutschman made his way to Team USA, where he also paced the CNT in each triple slash category, hitting .355/.432/.516 in nine games.

The consensus top prospect in the college game and, increasingly, for the 2019 draft class, Rutschman has all of the traits scouts look for in a college catcher. He handles his pitching staff well and is a natural leader off the field. He also has plus defensive tools in his receiving and throwing ability, to go along with solid power from both sides of the plate and a hit tool with a long track record of success. The draft is still nine months away, but Rutschman is the favorite to go No. 1 overall.

2. Shea Langeliers, C, Baylor (Jr.)

The college class is strong at catcher, as Langeliers’ standing on this list indicates. The Baylor backstop has solid all-around tools, just like Rutschman, even if his aren’t quite as loud across the board. Langeliers went in the wrong direction offensively in the Big 12 Conference during the spring, and scouts are less excited about his hit tool than Rutschman’s.

However, the balance in his swing should allow him to be at least an average hitter with solid-average pull power. Langeliers is a strong defender with above-average receiving and blocking ability as well as a strong and accurate arm that he showed off regularly before Rutschman joined the team and got a majority of the playing time. Langeliers was second on the team with a .346 average through eight games with a .393 on-base percentage and .500 slugging.

3. Andrew Vaughn, 1B, California (Jr.)

The 2018 Golden Spikes award winner didn’t hit as well with Team USA as he did in a banner year with California. Scouts and coaches still raved about his hitting ability despite a .224/.316/.367 line through 49 at-bats. A 5-foot-11 first baseman, Vaughn has short arms to go along with easy power and the chance to become a plus hitter down the line, which should allow him to get to his above-average power in games. He has an advanced approach at the plate, and while he struck out three times as frequently as he walked over the summer, he’s coming off a spring in which he drew 44 walks against 18 strikeouts.

A solid defender at first base, Vaughn could be one of the first bats off the board next June, though his lack of track record with wood bats might give teams pause.

Spencer Torkelson (Photo courtesy of USA Baseball)

4. Graeme Stinson, LHP, Duke (Jr.)

A big-bodied, 6-foot-5, 215-pound southpaw, Stinson was the most impressive arm on the CNT this summer and has some of the best pure stuff of any pitcher in the 2019 class. He showed a 92-95 mph fastball, but his bread and butter is a low- to mid-80s slider with exceptional depth and movement. The pitch is routinely talked about as one of the best breaking balls in the class and some scouts have graded it as a 70 on the 20-80 scale. During one outing against Taiwan, Stinson struck out five straight batters with his slider and recorded seven strikeouts in total—all coming via the pitch.

He faces starter-versus-reliever questions, but his walk rate (2.8 per nine innings as a Duke sophomore in 2018) is an encouraging sign for teams who envision him fitting in a pro rotation.

5. Spencer Torkelson, 1B/OF, Arizona State (So.)

It’s obvious that Torkelson brings massive power to the table. You could look at the 25 home runs he hit as a freshman at Arizona State—breaking Barry Bonds’ school record for a freshman of 11—or simply watch how far and listen to how loud the ball travels off of his bat in any game. Scouts credited Torkelson with the most raw power of any player on the CNT, and that should continue to be his calling card after leading Division I in long balls this spring. However, he tallied only one extra-base hit in 35 at-bats this summer.

Torkelson spent most of his time in the outfield, where he was solid, though he should have a chance to stick at third base—at least initially—in pro ball. Wherever he winds up defensively, his power will profile.

6. Josh Jung, 3B, Texas Tech (Jr.)

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Jung had a strong summer with the CNT, leading Team USA in at-bats and hitting .283/.377/.377 with eight walks and 12 strikeouts. Scouts were impressed with the adjustments they saw him make within at-bats and throughout the summer and spoke highly of his ability to keep his hands inside the ball with a backside-oriented approach. Jung has plenty of strength and bat speed, and should hit for more in-game power in the future as he pulls the ball more regularly.

His defense at third base draws grades from scouts ranging from solid-average to plus. He lacks lateral quickness and speed but has solid hands and a good arm.

7. Zack Thompson, LHP, Kentucky (Jr.)

After throwing just 31 innings this spring because of an elbow injury, Thompson pitched well in three appearances with the CNT, striking out seven batters without allowing a run in 8.2 innings of work. Thompson sat in the low 90s early in outings but dipped into the upper 80s as the game progressed, and he complemented his fastball with a tight, 82-84 mph slider that had one of the highest spin rates on the team. Thompson also threw a changeup in the same velocity range that has a similar look to his slider.

He’ll need to put together a healthy season in the spring, but in a down year for college pitchers he has the stuff—being lefthanded doesn’t hurt—to become a first-round pick.

8. Tanner Burns, RHP, Auburn (So.)

After turning in one of the most impressive freshman seasons by a pitcher this spring with Auburn, where he pitched alongside No. 1 overall pick Casey Mize, Burns joined the CNT and recorded a 5.87 ERA in 7.2 innings. He notched six strikeouts and a walk. Despite his poor summer ERA, scouts rave about his three-pitch mix and feel for spotting each of them. Burns throws a 91-95 mph fastball that has glove-side cut, an 80-82 mph slider and a changeup a tick higher than his slider.

He might not ooze upside as a stocky, 6-foot, 210-pound righthander without much physical projection, but his makeup and above-average control of a wide repertoire gives him a solid floor. Some scouts believe Burns has more power in the tank than what he showed this summer, and he has an extra year to prove it before he’s eligible for the draft again in 2020. The Yankees drafted him in the 27th round in 2017 out of Decatur (Ala.) High.

9. Zack Hess, RHP, Louisiana State (Jr.)

Hess’ first season as a starter this spring didn’t go too smoothly. The 6-foot-6, 216-pound righthander posted a 5.05 ERA with 4.8 walks per nine innings. He looked much more comfortable on the mound this summer, however, with improved command. Hess struck out six batters and walked none through nine innings of work without allowing a run and holding opposing batters to a .097 average. Hess throws from the extreme first-base side of the rubber with a long, sweeping arm action and three-quarters arm slot. He mostly works off a fastball in the low to mid-90s and a low-80s slider with good tilt and late bite.

Scouts believe Hess will wind up in the bullpen because of his pronounced head whack and his track record of below-average control, but he made progress developing a third pitch this summer—a low-80s changeup with natural sink—and could change a few minds with continued progress in 2019.

10. Bryson Stott, SS, Nevada-Las Vegas (Jr.)

Stott entered the summer with some real questions about how he would handle the shortstop position, but he earned the starting job there for the CNT over a handful of other strong options, including Auburn’s Will Holland and Texas A&M’s Braden Shewmake. The Team USA coaching staff was thrilled with how the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Stott handled the glove. Head coach Paul Mainieri was impressed with his hands and arm strength, while noting the improvement Stott made in speeding up his footwork. In addition, he showed body control and a solid internal clock on throws to first base.

Stott hit .262/.340/.333 in 42 plate appearances after a breakout sophomore season in which he hit .365/.442/.556 in the hitter-friendly Mountain West Conference. Scouts liked his feel for the barrel, but some questioned his impact potential because of his slap-heavy hitting approach at times.

11. Braden Shewmake, INF, Texas A&M (Jr.)

One of the more interesting hitter profiles in the 2019 class, Shewmake is a 6-foot-4, 190-pound infielder who spent most of his time at first base with the CNT, but can play all across the infield. He didn’t stand out offensively this summer—hitting .136/.205/.250 in 15 games—but scouts believe there is more potential in the bat, and his track record with the Aggies in the SEC backs that up as a career .327/.384/.492 hitter in two seasons. If he fills out his frame and adds more strength, Shewmake could profile as a third baseman, where scouts like his glovework and defensive ability, though evaluators note he’s had a wiry-frame for years now and wonder how much weight he’ll be able to maintain over a full pro season.

Shewmake can play shortstop in a pinch, but his size will likely push him to a corner infield or outfield spot, where he could cover ground with above-average speed. His junior season will be crucial as scouts try to peg his future defensive home and find out just how much impact is in his lefthanded bat.

12. Daniel Cabrera, OF, Louisiana State (So.)

A member of Baseball America’s Freshman All-America team, Cabrera led Louisiana State in both on-base percentage (.405) and slugging percentage (.525) this spring before joining the CNT this summer, where he hit .300/.375/.445 over 14 games. A 6-foot, 180-pound outfielder who fits best in a corner, Cabrera is developing an extensive history of hitting ability which dates back to his time as a high schooler, when he ranked No. 82 on the 2017 BA 500. With short arms and impressive feel for the barrel from the left side, Cabrera should be one of the top college bats of the 2020 draft class, as he doesn’t swing and miss often and has the ability to make adjustments in the box.

His lack of supplemental tools—he is just an average runner—might limit his overall ceiling barring a jump in power over the next few seasons, but scouts seem to think of him similarly to former Oklahoma outfielder Steele Walker, who was drafted by the White Sox in the second round this past June thanks to his hittability.

13. Mason Feole, LHP, Connecticut (Jr.)

After this spring becoming the first Husky to notch 120 strikeouts in a season since 1979, Feole was one of the most effective pitchers with the CNT, striking out nine batters in 11 innings and holding opponents to a .097 average. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound lefty throws with a funky, unorthodox delivery that translates to above-average deception, but can also hold him back in regards to repeating his delivery and arm slot consistently. This summer, Feole pitched in the 89-93 mph range with his fastball and complemented it with a mid-70s, 12-to-6 curveball that has the makings of a plus breaking ball but remains inconsistent, mostly thanks to his issues getting on top of the pitch consistently.

Without some combination of quieting his head whack, improving his walk rate and developing a consistent third pitch—he seldomly throws a changeup—Feole is destined for the bullpen at the next level, but his present two-pitch mix is intriguing.

14. Will Wilson, 2B, North Carolina State (Jr.)

A member of the all-ACC first team after a .307/.376/.588 spring season with 15 home runs for the Wolfpack, Wilson is an intriguing offensive-oriented second baseman with more power than his 6-foot, 175-pound frame would suggest. A pure hitter with an impressive track record dating back to his high school days, Wilson has good bat-to-ball skills and instincts at the plate that should allow him to provide value as a bat in the middle of the infield.

Despite good glove actions, Wilson likely isn’t a fit at shortstop thanks to his below-average speed, which is an area scouts are hoping he can improve this spring. Even without excellent range, Wilson picks the ball well at second base and should profile well at the position moving forward with solid power potential.

15. Kenyan Yovan, RHP, Oregon (Jr.)

A two-way player for the Ducks during the spring, Yovan was exclusively used on the mound with the CNT this summer, where he showed a solid four-pitch mix, though none of his offerings are currently seen as plus pitches. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound righthander has an athletic delivery with a long stride and pitches off of an above-average, low-90s fastball that he locates effectively to both sides of the plate. Yovan complimented the fastball with a trio of solid secondaries, including a curveball, slider and a changeup.

After splitting time between the bullpen and the rotation this spring—as well as his duties as a hitter—scouts are excited to see what Yovan can do with a full season in the rotation. He has a number of starter traits, although some evaluators are concerned with the effort level in his arm stroke. Yovan’s stuff ticks up in the bullpen, but with his size, athleticism and pitchability most teams will want to run him out as a starter—and more could be in the tank once he puts the bat away for good.

16. Ryan Zeferjahn, RHP, Kansas (Jr.)

Zeferjahn has some of the best pure stuff in the 2019 draft class between a mid-90s fastball that touched 96-97 mph this summer and a power slider in the mid-80s which scouts grade as plus. Part of a loaded 2016 Kansas prep class that also included Riley Pint and Joey Wentz, Zeferjahn was a tall, high-upside, hard-throwing righty out of Seaman High (Topeka, Kan.) who has filled out his frame at Kansas, now standing a solid 6-foot-4, 215 pounds.

The consistency of Zeferjahn’s slider has improved in that time, but scouts are less excited about the development of his athleticism and strike-throwing ability. He’s walked more than 4.3 batters per nine innings while serving predominantly as a starter for the Jayhawks, so he’s a high-risk reliever at the moment until something changes. If he improves the quality of his strikes, he could go in the top two rounds next spring as a big-armed, high-ceiling starter, but there’s a lot of work that remains to be done.

17. Matt Cronin, LHP, Arkansas (Jr.)

A 6-foot-2, 190-pound lefthander, Cronin has been a reliable presence in Arkansas’ bullpen since his freshman season in 2017, when he led all Razorback relievers in ERA (2.00). He profiles as a reliever at the pro level as well thanks to a high-effort delivery with a stiff arm, recoil and significant head whack. However, Cronin is athletic and has impressive arm speed that should allow him to succeed out of bullpen at the next level with a fastball in the low to mid-90s as well as a breaking ball that’s above-average or plus.

Cronin made big strides lowering his walk rate from 6.00 walks per nine in 2017 to 2.61 walks per nine during SEC play in 2018, and he could further improve his draft stock with more of the same during his upcoming junior campaign. Although his ceiling may be limited with no obvious path as a starter, that’s not as big of a knock as it has been previously given the landscape of the major league game today.

18. C.J. Van Eyk, RHP, Florida State (So.)

After a sterling freshman campaign in the ACC (7-0, 2.86 with 71 strikeouts in 56.2 innings) Van Eyk continued to impress this summer with the CNT, setting himself up as one of the top arms in the 2020 draft class. While not immensely projectable at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, Van Eyk has some room to add weight to his frame, though he’s already in the low to mid-90s with a fastball that features solid arm-side run.

His loudest pitch is a sharp, 79-84 mph curveball that flashes two-plane break, which Van Eyk locates well. His feel for spin has been evident since he made a name for himself as one of the top high school arms out of Florida in 2017. With continued success—and health—Van Eyk has a chance to be a first-round selection in the 2020 draft.

19. Max Meyer, RHP, Minnesota (So.)

The third of a trio of talented 2020 arms to showcase on this summer’s CNT, Meyer has significant upside if he’s able to carve out a starting role for himself with Minnesota over the next two years. After posting a 2.06 ERA while throwing 43.2 innings in the Big 10 out of the bullpen, Meyer led the CNT with 15 strikeouts in just eight innings this summer. A 6-foot, 165-pound righthander, Meyer’s fastball has surprising velocity given his size and sat in the mid-90s in short stints, coming out of a low, three-quarter arm slot.

Meyer also has a firm, power slider in the 86-90 mph range that occasionally looks more like a cutter and generated plenty of whiffs. The pitch is a plus offering and one of the better amatuer sliders that some scouts have seen in several years. With improved pitchability and some success in the rotation, Meyer could fly off the board in two years.

20. Matt Canterino, RHP, Rice (Jr.)

One of the few pitchers on the 2018 CNT who already has a strong starting track record, Canterino is one of the more polarizing players of the group, as his resume is impressive but his stuff leaves something to be desired. A solid athlete with a four-pitch mix across the board (fastball, slider, curveball and changeup) and strong strike-throwing ability, some scouts see Canterino as a player who’s greater than the sum of his parts and could become a back-of-the-rotation arm at the next level.

He threw only briefly for the collegiate team this summer, but could go well in this draft class with many of the top 2019 arms having significant reliever questions that Canterino does not. If his stuff takes a step forward he could rapidly improve his stock, but even without that his back-to-back years of 90-plus innings with a 3.60 ERA, 10.75 K/9 and 3.36 BB/9 with Rice should provide him with a reasonably high floor if not an exciting ceiling.

21. Dominic Fletcher, OF, Arkansas (Jr.)

Fletcher plays above his 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame and after coming off of a .288/.338/.468 line with Arkansas this spring, impressed coaches and scouts alike with his hitting ability and the strength he packs into his shorter frame. Put together well with strong forearms, Fletcher has a plus arm in the outfield. And while he makes solid reads and takes good routes in the outfield, he is destined for a corner spot thanks to fringe-average speed that has trended in the wrong direction since high school as he’s added more strength.

That means more pressure is on his bat, which some scouts see as fringe-average—though he hits for solid power, with double-digit home runs in each of his first two seasons with Arkansas. If he were more projectable or had louder supplemental tools, Fletcher might project as a first-rounder, but without a massive improvement in his hittability he’ll be on the board later as a unique right field profile.

22. John Doxakis, LHP, Texas A&M (Jr.)

A funky lefthander out of Texas A&M, Doxakis is a 6-foot-3, 185-pound pitcher who gets by more with deception and solid command than overwhelming stuff. Aside from a solid changeup, Doxakis’ individual offerings are fringe-average, starting with a fastball that mostly sits in the upper 80s and leaves much to be desired. He throws a slider that’s also fringe-average, and while his size might initially seem to offer some projection down the road, he has short, rigid actions and an arm stroke that could prohibit him in the future as well.

Still, Doxakis posted a 2.70 ERA with respectable strikeout and walk numbers in the SEC and several evaluators saw better looks at him during the spring than this summer. If his stuff ticks up next spring, his stock could rise rapidly.

23. Bryant Packard, OF, East Carolina (Jr.)

A late addition to the CNT, Packard finished third on the team in hitting (.333) in just six games this summer, giving scouts a brief look at the 6-foot-3, 210-pound outfielder’s only standout tool. Packard’s bat speed was obvious back in high school, when he played third base and might have given teams a faint hope that he could stick there. After two years at East Carolina, where he’s hit .360/.415/.576, Packard seems best suited for a corner outfield spot or first base as a below-average runner with a below-average arm.

The bat is what will get Packard drafted, though, with plus raw power from the lefthanded side and an all-fields approach. He’ll need to work on improving his plate discipline next spring as well, with very little room for error offensively with no supplemental tools to speak of.

24. Kyle Brnovich, RHP, Elon (Jr.)

One of the more interesting pitchers in the 2019 draft class, Brnovich is coming off a season with Elon where he struck out 147 batters—fourth among Division I arms—in just 105 innings with a 1.71 ERA. The 6-foot-2, 179-pound righthander fanned 10 batters in 6.2 innings this summer with the CNT, showing a low-90s fastball with solid arm-side run as well as a plus slider in the mid-80s with tight spin that he was able to manipulate well inside and outside of the zone. Brnovich has an unconventional delivery with a short arm action, delivering the ball from right behind his ear with plus arm speed but significant head whack and recoil as well.

Despite the delivery, Brnovich showed impressive body control and feel to locate both of his offerings while consistently repeating his release point. The jury is still out on whether he’s a starter or a reliever—improving a low-80s changeup that showed flashes this summer could help—but the tremendous amount of swing-and-miss that Brnovich generates should have scouts at Elon frequently next spring either way.

25. Jake Agnos, LHP, East Carolina (Jr.)

A short, 5-foot-11, 197-pound lefthander, Agnos pitched in the 90-94 mph range this summer and also showed off a solid, upper-70s curveball, giving him a pair of solid-average pitches to work with. Some also liked Agnos’ feel for a slider that could be a plus pitch, but he threw it infrequently. Presently, Agnos looks like an arm-strength, lefthanded reliever thanks to his size, lack of a consistent changeup and below-average control and command. He also has two years of a poor strike-throwing track record with East Carolina, walking 70 batters in 127.1 innings—4.92 walks per nine innings.

Barring an improvement in both Agnos’ strike-throwing and a third pitch that could be effective against righthanders, teams will likely turn him in as a middle reliever and potential mid-round draft pick.

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