Image credit: Alek Manoah (Photo by John Williamson)
With two weekends in the books in college baseball, there’s been plenty of movement across the country as it relates to the 2019 draft.
Here at Baseball America, we regularly track how the top players in the country are doing by watching games and talking to scouts around the nation as we update our draft rankings which eventually turns into the BA 500 in May.
However, as we take note of interesting players who are climbing up draft boards or sliding down them, we figured it would be worth checking into why certain players are moving up and why others are trending in the wrong direction.
Today, we’ll take a look at the college class specifically, though if you need to get some high school draft nuggets in your life, a number of high-profile prep prospects took the field last week at PBR’s Florida Preseason Classic and we also released a 1-10 Mock Draft last Friday.
Here’s a list of previous stock watches:
Let’s dive right in, with the caveat that small sample sizes absolutely apply to every player listed below:
Alek Manoah, RHP, West Virginia
Manoah has impressed in both of his first two starts this season, starting with a 13-strikeout game against Kennesaw State on Feb. 15 and followed up with a second strong outing against Georgia Southern last Friday, when he went 6.1 innings and fanned eight batters, while walking just two. On the season, Manoah has 21 strikeouts to just two walks, with a 0.78 ERA over 12.1 innings. One of the big items for Manoah to check off his to-do list this spring was to cut down on his walks and work deeper into games. It’s just two starts, but he’s started off on the right track, working at least six innings in both outings with a 1.46 BB/9 compared to a 5.34 BB/9 mark in 2017 and 4.67 BB/9 in 2018. Through Sunday’s games, Manoah is tied for fourth in the country in strikeouts, along with Elon righthander George Kirby (who we touched on last week), Texas A&M lefthander Asa Lacy, and Sam Houston State righthander Hayden Wesneski.
Kameron Misner, OF, Missouri
Misner is off to a hot start, hitting .440/.588/.760 through his first seven games against North Florida, Florida A&M, Northeastern and Rhode Island. After injuries limited Misner to just 34 games last season, scouts will look for him to showcase his hit tool over a full season and cut down his strikeouts. The important games in the SEC have yet to come, but so far Misner has more than held his own, with nine walks to five strikeouts and a pair of home runs—both of which came in a 5-4 win over North Florida on Feb. 16.
Erik Miller, LHP, Stanford
College lefthanders are always a coveted demographic in the draft, and Miller has boosted his stock with a pair of impressive starts to begin the season. On Feb. 17 against Wichita State, Miller went five innings and struck out nine batters, then followed that up with a Feb. 24 start against Nevada-Las Vegas in which he fanned six more in six innings of work. He faced UNLV shortstop Bryson Stott (No. 27) in that matchup and struck him out in his first at-bat before surrendering a home run in the fourth and then walking him intentionally in the fifth. Miller’s big question with scouts entering the season was in regards to his control and mechanics. His current 3.27 BB/9 is a big improvement from the 4.25 mark he posted in 13 starts a year ago and will see him rise on boards if he keeps that kind of strike-throwing ability up.
Josh Smith, SS, Louisiana State
Smith entered the season outside of the top-tier group of college shortstops, ranked No. 76 in the country, but is making his case to join that group with a torrid start to the season. He has multi-hit games in five of his first seven games, including a four-hit game with two doubles against Air Force on Feb. 17, good for a .522/.577/.652 slash line through games before Tuesday. He’s been the catalyst at the top of 7-0 LSU’s lineup, and he leads the team with 11 runs. We’ll check back once Smith gets a taste of conference play, because an SEC shortstop hitting at a high level goes quickly on draft day.
Ivan Johnson, SS/2B, Chipola JC
Johnson’s 2018 SEC numbers are going to allow teams plenty of room to criticize his hit tool—he posted a .239/.314/.283 line in 46 at-bats with Georgia before transferring out of the program—but he’s doing a lot to prove he’s better than that with a loud start this season. The switch-hitting middle infielder has loosened up his body since last year and is currently hitting .456/.530/.719 with three home runs and as many walks (9) as strikeouts (9) through 17 games this season. Johnson has been one of the few early bright spots for a Chipola team that has struggled out of the gate, and he showcased his impressive raw power from both sides of the plate at a heavily scouted PBR Florida Preseason Classic game last week, with multiple national crosscheckers in attendance. Against State JC of Florida, Johnson went 4-for-6 with a double and a massive home run that almost cleared the batter’s eye in dead-center field at IMG Academy. You can check out Johnson’s home run, a pair of his singles as well as batting practice and infield footage in the video below.
Logan Davidson, SS, Clemson
One of the more polarizing players in the class, Davidson needs to show a more consistent hit tool and cut down his strikeouts this spring. Scouts are still waiting for both of those to happen, as the tooled-up shortstop has gone 6-for-23 with a team-high nine strikeouts and five walks over his first seven games against South Alabama, Charlotte and VMI. When he has hit, Davidson has managed to hit for power, with a pair of home runs and two doubles already on the resume, but his power has never been questioned, only how frequently he might be able to get to that power against higher-quality pitching. It’s early, but there’s still a lot to prove if the First-Team Preseason All-American is going to actually be the first college shortstop off the board.
Tyler Dyson, RHP, Florida
Florida’s Friday starter will always have lofty expectations to live up to, and while the degree of fairness that entails is up for debate, Dyson has missed the mark after two starts to begin the season. He debuted with a 3.1-inning outing against Long Beach State Feb. 15, when he struck out four batters and walked four and followed it up with a four-inning start last Friday against Miami in a 5-2 loss to the Hurricanes. In his second outing, Dyson reigned in the walks—issuing just one free pass—but surrendered six hits and needed 92 pitches to record 12 outs.
Will Holland, SS, Auburn
Holland entered the season as the top-ranked college shortstop in the class (No. 17 overall), but has gone just 3-for-21 through his first six games this season against Georgia Southern, Alabama A&M and Central Florida. A proclivity for drawing walks has salvaged his offensive line, as he’s drawn eight free passes to help boost an otherwise underwhelming line of .143/.379/.190 with four strikeouts. Holland impressed in both the spring and summer in 2018, hitting 12 home runs with Auburn and posting a career-high .936 OPS and posting an .863 OPS in 13 games in the Cape Cod League. The 2019 season hasn’t started as smoothly with the bat.
Pat DeMarco, OF, Vanderbilt
Demarco has struggled out of the gate for Vanderbilt, going 3-for-25 (.120) with nine strikeouts and just two walks in his first six games. Among Vanderbilt’s regular hitters, DeMarco is at the bottom of the table with a .120/.179/.160 slash line. That’s not going to cut it, regardless of whether or not a team thinks he’s going to stick in center field at the next level. He’s shown a proclivity for the bat previously, both as a freshman in the SEC and as a high school hitter, but he’ll need to get things rolling to standout in a deep Vanderbilt lineup in his draft-eligible sophomore season.
Shea Langeliers, C, Baylor
This is more a product of not playing than poor performance, but that’s still factored into the rising/falling calculations, especially for a player like Langeliers who had something to prove this season with the bat. Last year an injury to Oregon State second baseman Nick Madrigal didn’t affect his stock in the slightest because of his well-established track record of hitting at an exceptional level, but Langeliers entered 2019 needing to bounce back from a .252/.351/.496 line to go within the top-10 picks. His toolset is still well-rounded and college catchers with his talent go quickly, but he now has fewer at-bats to convince crosscheckers and scouting directors that his talent is more in line with the 2017 hitter who posted a .313/.388/.540 slash line as a freshman in the Big 12.