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Ryan Rolison is Mississippi’s Top 2018 MLB Draft Prospect

1. Ryan Rolison, LHP, Mississippi (BA Rank: 21)
4YR • So. • 6-2 • 195 • R-L •

A talented high school lefthander out of Tennessee, Rolison ranked in the top half of the BA 500 in 2016, but was drafted in the 37th round by the Padres and chose to attend Mississippi. As a freshman, Rolison pitched in 19 games, posted a 3.06 ERA and was named to the SEC’s all-freshman team by the conference’s coaches. Rolison allowed just 23 runs in 61.2 innings in 2016, which was the third-best mark in the SEC and helped him earn a spot in the starting rotation toward the end of the season. Rolison carried that success to the Cape Cod League that summer, where he used a fastball in the 91-94 mph range and a wipeout curveball to pitch to a 1.93 ERA and strike out 35 batters in 28 innings. Rolison has impressed during his draft-eligible sophomore season with Ole Miss as well, increasing his strikeout rate and using a three-pitch mix, headlined by a fastball with plus life in the low 90s. Rolison is not afraid to throw his fastball, which has been up to 96 mph, inside to righthanded batters, while his breaking ball regularly gets swings and misses and is at least an above-average pitch with the potential to be a plus offering down the line. Rolison’s changeup should become a solid third pitch as well. What has worried scouts this spring is the direction the 6-foot-2 southpaw takes to the plate. Many evaluators have commented that Rolison has been coming across his body too much in his delivery, which has impacted his strike-throwing ability and caused his walk rate to tick up. That should be a relatively easy fix in player development and most scouts believe in his control, which has been solid in the Cape and at Ole Miss in the past. While his stuff isn’t as loud as some of the other pitchers in the class, Rolison still has the talent to become a No. 3 starter down the road. As one of the few lefthanded arms at the top of the class, Rolison figures to come off the board in the first round and become the first Ole Miss player to do so since Drew Pomeranz, who was taken fifth overall in the 2010 draft.

2. J.T. Ginn, RHP, Brandon (Miss.) HS (BA Rank: 39)
HS •  6-2 • 199 • R-R •

Ginn has one of the best arms in this year’s draft class, having lit up radar guns with a 93-99 mph fastball with well above-average life. The Mississippi State signee has done a good job this year of cleaning up his delivery, as he’s more flowing and fluid after being stiffer in the past. He also hides the ball well in his delivery, which makes it even harder to hit his excellent fastball. He throws both a slider and curveball but the two blend together. One or the other should end up as a plus pitch, but right now it’s his power curve that is the better of the two as it presently flashes plus. When he throws his changeup between innings in warm-ups, it looks to be potentially average, but he’s yet to need to throw it against Louisiana high school hitters. Ginn’s biggest hurdles are his body and the fact that scouts have rarely seen him work longer than four or five innings. He was even used as a reliever early in the season at Brandon (Miss.) High, as his coach wanted to give him a chance to break the state saves record. He’s listed at 6-foot-2, but is probably closer to 6-foot and he’s already physically mature. He could move quickly through the minors, although there’s a lot of debate whether it will ultimately mean he pitches the first through fifth innings or in the eighth or ninth.

3. Joe Gray, OF, Hattiesburg (Miss.) HS (BA Rank: 52)
HS •  6-3 • 195 • R-R •

So, scout, do you feel lucky? If it all clicks for Gray, he could be one of the better high school sluggers in this draft class, as he’s got a plus arm, currently turns in plus run times and can be an above-average defender in center field. And that’s before you even start to talk about Gray’s power. He has the size, frame and strength to be a future 25-30 home run hitter. Gray will likely trade some of that speed for size as he matures, which is why long term he’ll likely end up in right field. But with his arm, the former shortstop should remain a defensive asset as he gets good jumps and reads. What leaves many evaluators skittish about Gray is his struggles to make consistent contact. He swung and missed as much as any prominent high school prospect on the showcase circuit last summer. He kept tweaking his stance to improve and he did show better contact skills late last year at Jupiter’s World Wood Bat showcase. If Gray is a well below-average hitter, which some scouts see as his future, the rest of the tools won’t play nearly as much, but you can find evaluators who see him as a future average hitter with plenty of additional plus tools to dream on.

4. Konnor Pilkington, LHP, Mississippi State (BA Rank: 60)
4YR • Jr. • 6-3 • 225 • L-L •

Pilkington has established himself as a reliable starter throughout his college career at Mississippi State, in the Cape Cod League and with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. He shows an advanced understanding of pitching and what he needs to do to get outs. Pilkington is not overpowering and he typically pitches at 89-92 mph, but his fastball can reach 94 mph. His curveball has above-average potential and he has worked to improve his changeup to give him a third offering that is at least average. At his best, Pilkington can both land his curveball for strikes and make it a chase pitch out of the zone. He repeats his delivery well and can locate his fastball to both sides of the zone effectively. Pilkington is one of the youngest college players in the draft class and won’t turn 21 until September. Given his feel for pitching, size (listed at 6-foot-3, 228 pounds) and track record, he has the look of a solid starter at the pro level.

5. Jake Mangum, OF, Mississippi State (BA Rank: 134)
4YR • Jr. • 6-0 • 185 • B-L •

Mangum burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2016, when he hit .408 and helped Mississippi State to a Southeastern Conference title. Mangum, the son of former Chicago Bears and Alabama defensive back John Mangum, played through a broken left hand—his throwing hand—as a sophomore. He missed just two games all season and hit .324. A draft-eligible sophomore, he was a difficult sign and chose to return to school after being taken in the 30th round by the Yankees. After a solid summer in the Cape Cod League, Mangum is back to full health and has returned to his freshman form. His game is based around his contact ability and well above-average speed. The switch-hitter has exceptional bat-to-ball skills and takes full advantage of his speed at the plate, though to the detriment of hitting for power. He is an aggressive hitter and rarely walks as a result. Mangum’s speed also plays well in center field, where he is an above-average defender with a solid arm. His game is something of a throwback, but his feel for hitting, speed and defensive ability give him some sought-after tools.

6. Nick Sandlin, RHP, Southern Mississippi (BA Rank: 150)
4YR • Jr. • 5-11 • 170 • R-R •

After two excellent seasons as Southern Miss’ closer, Sandlin this spring moved to the front of the rotation with great success. His impressive season sent him shooting up draft boards despite his unusual profile. Listed at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, Sandlin is undersized and typically throws from a sidearm slot, though he’ll also raise it to more of a three-quarters look. He has shown the ability to hold his stuff deep in games and he can get both righthanders and lefthanders out. His fastball sits in the low 90s with plenty of run and sink. His slider is a wipeout pitch and he has also developed a solid changeup that gives him a weapon against lefthanded hitters. Sandlin has above-average command and stands out for his athleticism. He has tremendous feel for pitching and his performance this spring makes a case that he can be a starter, although his profile would suggest a return to the bullpen is a strong possibility. If he returns to relieving, Sandlin could shoot through the minor leagues and either work as a bullpen ace or in high-leverage situations.

7. Ryan Olenek, OF/2B, Mississippi (BA Rank: 159)
4YR • Jr. • 6-5 • 180 • R-R •

Olenek is a Swiss Army knife of a player whose value is in part based around versatility more than defensive excellence at any one position. He’s athletic and he’s an above-average runner who can play all three outfield spots, second or third base, and even shortstop in a pinch. He played all six of the aforementioned positions at Ole Miss. If Olenek was just versatile, it wouldn’t really matter, but he also has an above-average hit tool thanks to excellent hand-eye coordination. As of mid-May, Olenek led the Southeastern Conference with a .396 batting average. Olenek is officially 6-foot-5, 180 pounds, but scouts say they believe he’s closer to 200 pounds right now and won’t be surprised to see him add another 15-20 pounds as a pro. That frame leads them to believe his currently below-average power can improve as well.

8. Nick Fortes, C/1B, Mississippi (BA Rank: 191)
4YR • Jr. • 6-0 • 210 • R-R •

Fortes in 2015 was a well-regarded recruit coming out of high school but initially had some trouble carving out a role in the Mississippi lineup, splitting his time between catching and playing first base. He has largely taken over behind the plate and has continued to produce offensively. Fortes has excellent plate discipline and good barrel control, which has this season helped him walk nearly twice as often as he’s struck out. The righthanded hitter has solid power and gets to it well in games. Fortes is a sound defender, especially in terms of blocking and receiving, and has fringy arm strength. Fortes is an average runner and has above-average athleticism for a catcher.

9. Dexter Jordan, OF/3B, Hattiesburg (Miss.) HS (BA Rank: 250)
HS • – • 6-0 • 200 • R-R •

Jordan teamed with fellow draft prospect Joe Gray to lead Hattiesburg to the Mississippi 5A state championship this season with Jordan allowing one run in five innings to get the win while also providing three hits and three RBIs in the championship game. Jordan’s pro future will be as a position player, although what position that will be is much less clear. Jordan can play second or third base and left or right field. His best positional fit is probably third base where he has an average arm and average range. Scouts love Jordan’s mature makeup and intense on-field approach. Overall, there are a lot of average tools on Jordan’s scouting report. He is an average runner with an average arm, average defense and potentially average power. Like it is for many high school hitters, the big question is whether his hit tool will also get to average. Some scouts think it will, which is why he could hear his name called on day two of the draft.

10. Luke Reynolds, 3B, Southern Mississippi (BA Rank: 404)
4YR • Jr. • 6-2 • 180 • L-R •

Reynolds in 2014 began his college career at Hinds (Miss.) JC before transferring to Mississippi State for his sophomore season. He played one season for the Bulldogs before beginning a lengthy transfer process to Southern Miss, which cost him two seasons. He finally got on the field this year for the Golden Eagles and excelled, winning Conference USA player of the year honors. He is a disciplined hitter who has the power to drive the ball out to all fields. He is a solid athlete and plays third base well. Reynolds is already 23-years-old, a fact that weighs against him in evaluations and may make him more of a value pick.

11. Brady Feigl, RHP, Mississippi (BA Rank: 471)
4YR • RS-Jr. • 6-4 • 230 • R-R •

Feigl last season was drafted in the 35th round by the Angels as a redshirt sophomore but chose to return to Mississippi, where he has established himself as a key part of the Rebels’ rotation. He runs his fastball up to 96 mph and typically throws in the low 90s. His best secondary offering is a power breaking ball and he also mixes in a changeup. Feigl consistently throws all three offerings for strikes and takes advantage of his 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame to pound the bottom of the zone. Feigl’s stuff, size and control give him the look of a back-of-the-rotation starter in pro ball.

12. Will Freeman, RHP/OF, Jones County (Miss.) JC (BA Rank: 489)
JC • So. • 6-2 • 213 • R-R •

Freeman has been a standout for Jones County (Miss.) JC for two seasons and also impressed scouts in the Prospect League last summer. He has a useful four-pitch repertoire with a changeup he can mix in to keep lefties honest and a slider and curveball he uses to attack righthanders. Freeman’s velocity took a small step back this year, as he doesn’t touch 93-94 as often as he did in 2017, generally sitting in the 89-91 range this year. He’s signed to go to Alabama if he doesn’t sign with a pro team.

13. Drew Bianco, SS/3B, Oxford (Miss.) HS (BA Rank: 490)
HS •  6-0 • 200 • R-R •

The son of Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco, Drew is following in his father’s footsteps, but he’s not going to play for his dad. Instead he’s signed with Louisiana State, his father’s alma mater, as parents Mike and Camille decided long ago than if any of their sons were able to play college baseball, they’d play for someone other than Mike. Drew is a high school shortstop who will likely slide to third base in college and eventually in pro ball. His best attribute is his bat, as he has plenty of bat speed and an advanced approach that uses the whole field.

14. Regi Grace, RHP, Madison (Miss.) Central HS (BA Rank: 491)
HS •  6-2 • 215 • L-R •

After helping lead Madison (Miss.) Central High to a state title as a sophomore, Grace was shut down as a junior thanks to a back injury that required him to wear a back brace for months. He got back on the mound this year and showed no signs of rust. He sits 88-90 mph, but he can touch 92-93 right now with room for further velocity gains. His breaking ball has good spin but needs to get shorter and tighter. He’s signed with Mississippi State.

15. Simon Landry, 1B, Pearl River (Miss.) JC (BA Rank: 500)
JC • So. • 6-4 • 220 • R-R •

Every year, at least one player pops out of the Mississippi junior college circuit. Last year it was Rangers’ eighth-round pick Tyreque Reed. This year it’s likely to be Landry, who hit .392/.447/.880 with 19 home runs this spring for the Wildcats. Landry’s raw power earns 70 grades from scouts and he has a simple swing that gives him a chance to be an fringe-average hitter as well. Landry is a righthanded hitting first baseman who is a below-average runner and his below-average speed limits his ability to slide to the outfield, so there’s somewhat of a ceiling on how high he can be drafted, but his power is real, which could sneak him into the back of day two of the draft.

16. Brad Cumbest, 1B/OF, East Central HS, Moss Point, Miss. (BA Rank: N/A)
HS •  6-4 • 240 • R-R •

One of the best athletes in Mississippi, Cumbest is signed to play football at Mississippi State, although his power potential gives him a chance to play both sports if he chooses to. He’s a fascinating power-speed prospect.

16. James McArthur, RHP, Mississippi (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Jr. • 6-7 • 235 • R-R •

McArthur’s excellent body, durability and his 92-94 mph velocity could get him drafted on day three.

17. Brooks Warren, LHP, East Central (Miss.) JC (BA Rank: N/A)
JC • So. • 6-3 • 215 • L-L •

Warren is a lefty with an 89-91 mph fastball and a decent slider.

17. David Bradshaw, 3B/OF, Meridian (Miss.) JC (BA Rank: N/A)
JC • Fr. • 6-2 • 185 • L-R •

Bradshaw has plus-plus speed and some feel to hit.

18. Landon Jordan, SS/2B, Hancock HS, Kiln, Miss. (BA Rank: N/A)
HS • – • 6-0 • 190 • L-R •

19. Tyler Spring, RHP, Jones County (Miss.) JC (BA Rank: N/A)
JC • – • 6-4 • 202 • R-R •

21. Luke Hancock, C, Houston (Miss.) HS (BA Rank: N/A)
HS • – • 5-11 • 195 • L-R •

Hancock has the catch-and-throw skills to stay behind the plate.

22. Zach Shannon, 1B, Delta State (Miss.) (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Sr. • 6-3 • 220 • R-R •

Shannon is a all-bat first baseman, but his production can’t be entirely ignored. He hit .406/.504/.955 this year with 31 home runs after hitting .434/.498/.734 as a junior.

22. Ethan Small, LHP, Mississippi State (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • RE-So. • 6-3 • 208 • L-L •

Small had premium velocity before Tommy John surgery, but he’s now more of a pitchability lefty without top-shelf stuff.

23. Blake Johnson, C, Gulfport (Miss.) HS (BA Rank: N/A)
HS • – • 5-11 • 190 • R-R •

Johnson is one of the better defensive prep catchers in the Southeast.

24. Brandon Smith , RHP/INF, Richland (Miss.) HS (BA Rank: N/A)
HS • – • 6-3 • 190 • R-R •

25. Dallas Woolfolk, RHP, Mississippi (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Jr. • 6-2 • 225 • R-R •

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