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Five College Hitters Rising On Draft Boards

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Florida third baseman Jonathan India

The college season is about six weeks old and several players have made the most of the first half of the season to impress scouts. We highlight five hitters here who have used a strong start to the season to move up on draft boards.

Alec Bohm, 3B, Wichita State

The numbers: .333/.450/.605, 5 home runs, 7 doubles, 18 walks, 8 strikeouts

What’s changed: Bohm has some of the best raw power in the class and has always a good track record of having that play in games in the past, but he’s taken a step forward across the board so far this spring. Each of his triple slash numbers are markedly improved from his freshman and sophomore seasons with Wichita State, and both his isolated power and walk rates have improved each season while he’s cut his strikeout rate every year as well. Perhaps the biggest change in Bohm’s statistical profile is that he’s now walking more than he’s striking out. Cynics might point to him doing it against lesser nonconference opponents, but if you compare Bohm’s first 22 games each of the past three seasons there’s still an obvious trend in the right direction. In 2016, Bohm had a 12-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio through his first 22 games. That improved to 16-to-12 during 2017 and the ratio is currently 8-to18 this season. There’s not a huge change with Bohm that’s shooting him up boards—it’s simply the fact that he continues to improve year after year in addition to his extremely impressive wood bat track record (.351/.399/.513 with 5 home runs in the Cape Cod League and .330/.407/.552 with 11 home runs in the Coastal Plain League).

Where he stands: Bohm entered the year as a back-of-the first-round caliber talent, but he’s moving himself into the middle or even top of the first round, with some teams with picks in the 10-15 range wondering if he’ll make it to them.

Gage Canning, OF, Arizona State

The numbers: .460/.518/.770, 12 walks, 18 strikeouts

What’s changed: Canning was Arizona State’s leading hitter last year as a sophomore, hitting .332/.366/.538 with six home runs. But he also struck out 41 times and walked just 12 in 55 games. This year, Canning has cut down on his strikeout rate and dramatically increased his walk rate, equaling last year’s total in less than half the plate appearances. As a result, Canning is putting more balls into play and taking advantage of his well above-average speed. He is a streaky hitter normally, but his hot streak to start the season is attributable to more than just a good run at the plate. Canning has also this season moved from right field to center and is showing his speed plays just as well in the outfield as it does on the bases.

Where he stands: Canning is listed at 5-foot-11, 178 pounds and does not project to hit for above-average power, somewhat limiting his potential. But by proving he can play center field and cutting down his strikeouts, he is showing he can fit the profile of a speedy, top-of-the-order center fielder. If he continues his strong start, he figures to fit somewhere in the second or third round.

Brett Kinneman, OF, North Carolina State

The numbers: .340/.413/.774, 12 home runs, 14 walks, 21 strikeouts

What’s changed: With Atlantic Coast Conference big boppers like Griffin Conine and Seth Beer drawing most of the scouting buzz coming into this season, it may be a surprise to see Kinneman’s name at the very top of the home run leaderboard—both in the ACC and nationally. Tied for first in Division I with 12 homers, the thick 6-foot, 197-pound lefthanded hitter has opened the 2018 season on a tear and has shown no signs of slowing down. Just this past weekend against Georgia Tech, Kinneman launched a 420-foot bomb to his pull-side—a towering shot well into the pines above the right-field wall at Doak Field. He’s hit his 12 homers in just 106 at-bats after hitting only 10 homers in 209 at-bats last season. A steady hitter since stepping on campus (.282/.372/.502 in 2017), Kinneman this year has been walking more and striking out less after he led the Wolfpack with 64 strikeouts a year ago. He’s always possessed raw power, but his more disciplined approach has allowed him to get to it more often in games and punish pitchers’ mistakes. Batting in the No. 2 hole in a deep Wolfpack lineup has also afforded him plenty of protection and has forced pitchers to throw him strikes more often than they’d probably like.

Where he stands: Kinneman profiles best as a corner outfielder and has been playing left field for the Wolfpack, which limits his overall upside and places the onus on his bat. A proven hitter in a Power-5 conference, Kinneman was likely already on most teams’ boards as a Day 2 pick, but his power surge has him soaring. As it stands, Kinneman could go in the third round or higher, depending on his next two months of play and whether evaluators are sold on his power playing at the next level. If he maintains consistency and limits his swing-and-miss, his stock could continue to rise.

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Jonathan India, 3B, Florida

The numbers: .430/.538/.899, 9 home runs, 18 walks, 15 strikeouts

What’s changed: India has always been a well-regarded prospect – he ranked No. 82 on the 2015 BA 500 coming out of American Heritage High in Delray Beach, Fla., has been a regular in the Gators lineup since arriving in Gainesville and was voted a third-team Preseason All-American by major league scouting directors in each of the last two years. But this season India has taken his game to another level. He is hitting for more power this season and has nearly equaled his home run total his first two seasons (10) in just 24 games. He also has a more mature approach at the plate. His walk rate has about doubled this year and he is already approaching a career-high in walks. That approach has helped India tap into his power and start matching his production with his tools. India also got some time at shortstop and while he’s unlikely to play there in pro ball, it helped showcase some positional versatility.

Where he stands: India came into the season as a likely late second round or early third round pick. He’s played himself about a round higher and now projects as a late first rounder or early second rounder. If he continues this surge, India could cement himself as a first round pick, though it will be difficult for him to push his way into the top half of the first round.

Trevor Larnach, OF, Oregon State

The numbers: .362/.465/.776, 6 home runs, 4 doubles, 12 walks, 15 strikeouts

What’s changed: A big, 6-foot-4, 210 pound lefthanded hitting outfielder, Larnach has long been a player who scouts have thought could one day hit for big power. Until the 2018 season though, Larnach had hit just three home runs through 249 at-bats with Oregon State in two seasons and two home runs in two summers (184 at-bats) with Falmouth in the Cape Cod League. This spring, that power is finally showing up in-game, and evaluators now have to project much less than they have in the past. His home run percentage (HR/PA) is up from 1.21 percent in 2017 to 8.45 percent this spring, and that power is playing to all fields—not just the pull side. Larnach is letting the ball travel more and staying within his legs rather than getting jumpy and out in front of the ball like he has at times in previous years. By leveraging the natural strength in his lower half more efficiently this season, Larnach’s power has surfaced in a big way.

Where he stands:  After being thought of as a third- or fourth-round player prior to the season by some scouts, Larnach’s power surge this spring has put him in consideration for the back end of the first round or the supplemental round.

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