Keegan Curtis Stands Tall In Jayhawk League

Jayhawk League Top Prospects
Keegan Curtis, rhp, Hays (Jr., Louisiana-Monroe)
Mike Mioduszewski, of, Hays (R-Sr., Eastern Michigan)
Chase Calabuig, of, Dodge City (Jr., San Diego State)
Tanner Buxton, rhp, Haysville (R-Jr., Texas Tech)
Tony Kjolsing, 3b, El Dorado (Jr., South Dakota State)
J.B. Olson, rhp, Liberal (Sr., Oklahoma)
Brady Cox, c, Liberal (Sr., Texas-Arlington)
Austin O’Brien, 1b, Hays (Sr., Oklahoma)
Kyrell Miller, rhp, Haysville (R-Fr., Sam Houston State)
Daniel James, rhp, Hays (Jr., Texas-Arlington)

SEE ALSO: Summer College League Top Prospects

Postseason Recap: The Hays Larks dominated the Jayhawk League in the regular season, going 33-10 to post the league’s best record by 7 1/2 games. The Larks got a scare from the Dodge City A’s in the first game of the Jayhawk League championship series, trailing 2-1 after eight innings before rallying to tie it in the ninth and win it in the 10th. Dodge City took an early 3-0 lead in the second game as well, but the Larks stormed back to win 6-3 and take the title, led by a 4-for-4 game from Jacob Boston (Mesa, Ariz., CC). The Larks went on to finish as runners up in the National Baseball Congress World Series, only losing in the title game to the Santa Barbara Foresters of the California Collegiate League.

1. Keegan Curtis, rhp, Hays (Jr., Louisiana-Monroe)

Curtis became a full-time starter late in the spring with Louisiana-Monroe, averaging 7 strikeouts per nine innings and posting a 1.12 ERA after being moved off the closer’s role. He continued that success into the Jayhawk League, where he averaged 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings and had a 1.05 ERA in four appearances. The 5-foot-11, high-kicking righty attacked hitters from a three-quarters arm slot with three pitches. His fastball sits at 90-92 mph with some arm-side run. He throws two breaking balls, the best of which is a 76-78 mph offering that he can throw for strikes or get hitters to chase out of the zone. While closing last season, he was able raise his fastball velocity into the 93-95 mph range.

2. Mike Mioduszewski, of, Hays (R-Sr., Eastern Michigan)

The 6-foot-4, 240-pound outfielder brings one big trait to the plate—raw power from a quick bat. In his first two seasons at Eastern Michigan, he hit three home runs in 338 plate appearances. In his junior year, he hit nine home runs and eight more in the Jayhawk League for the second-highest league total behind teammate Austin O’Brien. He continued to show his power by winning the NBC World Series home run derby. The raw home run power is also where the good traits start to end. At best, he is a corner outfielder on the defensive spectrum. Every time he huffed it to first base, he was a below-average runner. The other issue was a high strikeout rate, but he is getting it under control. He’s lowered it from 23 percent (’14 and ’15 combined) to 21 percent (’16) to 18 percent (Jayhawk) to 15 percent (NBC World Series). This type of true raw power is hard to come by and if he can harness it, he’ll attract plenty of interest.

3. Chase Calabuig, of, Dodge City (Jr., San Diego State)

Calabuig had a great freshman season, hitting .305/.417/.369, but struggled this past season, hitting just .221/.329/.282. Both of the slash lines point to a good and bad trait. First, the bad. He has problems hitting for power, with an on-base percentage higher than his slugging. Only 17 of his 102 college hits (just two home runs) so far have gone for extra bases. The good aspect is his exceptional eye, which allows him to get on base even if some batted balls aren’t falling for hits. In the Jayhawk League, the athletically built Calabuig began to show some signs of power. Using a short, compact swing, the lefty sprayed line drives around the field. He led the league in average (.421) and on-base (.481) while also swiping 11 of 12 bags (he’s just 14-for-24 in his SDSU career). He was able to hit four home runs and post a slugging of .628 to pair with his on-base abilities. Since he plays a passable college center field, he isn’t a defensive liability. Whether he can continue the power production he showed this summer will bear watching as he enters his junior year.

4. Tanner Buxton, rhp, Haysville (R-Jr., Texas Tech)

Buxton redshirted for the Red Raiders last season and missed out on their run to the College World Series. While the Raiders were in Omaha, the junior was pitching for Haysville. The 6-foot-1 righty played his 2014 and 2015 season for Northeast Texas JC, where he averaged 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings and mainly threw out of the bullpen. For the Aviators, he threw six games and made four starts, striking out 25 in 26 innings to go with a 3.80 ERA. He throws from a three-quarters release point and his fastball sits at 87-88 mph with a 75-76 mph slider. He had decent command and was able to get hitters off-balance. What role the Red Raiders use him in and how he responds next spring will bear watching.

5. Tony Kjolsing, 3b, El Dorado (Jr., South Dakota State)

Kjolsing is starting to show some improved signs after struggling with the bat at South Dakota State. He’s moved around from the outfield to third base to second base with South Dakota State and played third for the Broncos this summer. In his first two collegiate seasons, he hit just .223/319/.351 but came on late in 2016, hitting .438 over his last nine games and .366 this summer (fifth-best in the Jayhawk League). The 6-foot, 175-pound righthanded hitter has a nice line-drive swing and can spray the ball to all fields. He’s also a stolen base threat, going 17-for-22, but lacks the raw power to be an extra-base threat. He played solid defense at third base and with his athleticism, it was apparent why he’d been deployed at so many different positions.

6. J.B. Olson, rhp, Liberal (Sr., Oklahoma)

Olson dominated this summer as the BeeJays’ closer before he was shut down. In 11.1 innings of work, he had 13 strikeouts, six saves and a 0.00 ERA. He started his career at Seward County (Kan.) CC, where he was a starter. At Oklahoma, he was converted to a reliever, where he posted a 2.03 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 53 innings. Olson throws from a low three-quarters slot with an 89-91 fastball, a wipeout slider, and a usable changeup. He can throw all three pitches for strikes. With Sheldon Neuse getting drafted, Olson should be in the running to be the Sooners’ closer for 2017.

7. Brady Cox, c, Liberal (Sr., Texas-Arlington)

Cox was the heart and soul of the BeeJays team trying to put the death last year of bat boy Kaiser Carlyle behind them. Cox is a standout defensive catcher and this was validated by being the first team all-conference catcher in the Sun Belt and a Johnny Bench Award semifinalist for Texas-Arlington. Cox knows how to handle a pitching staff and get the best out of his pitchers. Additionally, he has a great eye at the plate, drawing more walks (15) than he had strikeouts (14) this summer. He makes a ton of contact but is primarily a singles hitter, with just six extra-base hits to his credit in 31 Jayhawk League games. He had a .365 average at UTA but hit .261 for the BeeJays, as his lack of speed—typical of a catcher—doesn’t help him.

8. Austin O’Brien, 1b, Hays (Sr., Oklahoma)

O’Brien was the top offensive force in the Jayhawk League, hitting 410/.479/.687 with a league-leading nine home runs. A regular for three years at Oklahoma, O’Brien played first base and DH and hit .267/.342/.424.
The righthanded hitter is limited to first base defensively, so he is going to need his bat to get draft recognition. He’ll need to be more productive at OU, where he’s just a .252 career hitter with 10 homers in three years, but he owned the Jayhawk with a league-best 1.166 OPS. One coach said his team never could find a weakness in his swing. His swing is short and compact and he has a good eye, drawing 20 walks in 40 games. After going undrafted as a junior, he’ll need to keep the momentum going as a senior in 2017.

9. Kyrell Miller, rhp, Haysville (R-Fr., Sam Houston State)

Miller’s 6-foot-6, 210-pound frame screams future starter, but his exposure has been limited after he redshirted in the spring and made eight appearances in the summer for Haysville. At this point, he’s still more of a thrower, with his fastball sitting at 88-90 mph with good movement. As he worked to develop his breaking pitches, he struck out 31 batters in 35 innings for the Aviators. The problem is he doesn’t command his secondary stuff at all and walked 27 batters in the same 35 innings, leading to an inflated 5.14 ERA this summer. He is a work in progress, but if he keeps making continual improvements at Sam Houston State, he should have a chance to pitch at the pro level.

10. Daniel James, rhp, Hays (Jr., Texas-Arlington)

James made just three appearances for Hays during the Jayhawk regular season but became a great option out of its bullpen on the way to a second-place finish in the NBC World Series. His coming-out party was when he threw the final eight innings of a 17-inning game against the Kansas Stars, the team composed of ex-major leaguers. He struck out six of them and didn’t allow a run. The righthander throws three pitches, an 88-90 mph fastball, an 81-83 mph change and a low to mid-70s curveball. He has just a 4.81 ERA in two years working mostly as a reliever at UTA but will be worth keeping an eye on entering his draft year.

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