2014 MLB Draft Reactions: Live Blog
2014 MLB Draft Rankings: The Draft Board
2014 MLB Draft Podcast: Jim Callis
I'll be brief with my thoughts and limited in the amount of names I list here as the first and biggest event of the 2015 MLB Draft showcase season, the PG National, starts in the morning. This is a grueling week of showcase baseball with the PG Junior National going 3 days with rain/lightning delays and 12+ hours days in the Florida summer heat in Fort Myers.
A top group of 4 arms had arguably already separated themselves before the event, but with the other candidate for the top group (Belge, mentioned below) not at the event while the other four, all local arms from Florida, all showed up and had scouts and recruiters buzzing.
1. RHP Austin Bergner (West Orange HS, FL) seems to have taken the momentum from Molina as the top player in this class and while he's a little old for the class (19.1 on draft day), he's so advanced and projectable that no one seems to care. He got pulled due to a lighting delay after 4 pitches (92-93 mph), though the PG staff passed along that he was lights out last weekend, showing that same velocity, hitting 94 with a better breaking ball than last fall to go with a good changeup and advanced feel. The delivery and body arm similar to Molina but better and Bergner also is surprisingly athletic playing shortstop, given his size (6'3/170) and age.
2. RHP Anthony Molina (Somerset Academy HS, FL, Miami commit) was the first player from this class to get a lot of attention, hitting 94 mph last summer and 96 mph this spring. He has a narrow build and may not add a lot more strength, though his long levers and 6'4/190 frame help generate a lot of arm speed. Molina was 88-92 here, an improvement after a mediocre outing last week but not quite as crisp as last fall. The curveball flashed solid average and the changeup was average at times, though there is a little length to the arm action that may be contributing to the inconsistency (along with being only 16).
3. LHP Cole Ragans (North Florida Christian HS, FL, Florida State commit) was just as good at the event as when I first saw him a few month ago. He sat 89-91 mph all three innings and flashed a solid average curveball from a smooth delivery and a 6'4/185 frame that has some projection left.
4. RHP Greg Veliz (Key West HS, FL, Miami commit) grabbed the headlines, sitting 92-95 in the first inning, though this isn't a case where the velocity tells the whole story. Veliz has a maxed-out frame at 6'0/185 and he's aged like a 2015 prospect (19.2 on draft day in the 2016 class), though he's decided to stick in the 2016 class. His curveball flashed above average potential but is still a good bit behind his fastball. Veliz has some value as a bat, though he's clearly better on the mound and is probably 4th in this group, but clearly in the top 5-7 of the 2016 class despite his age and size.
The back half of the event's top 10 arms is a mix of projection arms and more polished types, but all have shown ability that could get them into the top 3 rounds with continued development
RHP Tyler Benninghoff (Rockhurst HS, KS) has an older brother (Jack, a second baseman) headed to Arkansas in the fall and Tyler shows some ability to hit and field with a projectable 6'4/180 build that will add strength. He fits better on the mound right now, sitting 84-87 with one of the better breaking balls of the event and checking all the athleticism/delivery/feel boxes. RHP Dakota Donovan (Pine View HS, UT) was in the event last year and was in the mid-80's but still awkward in his 6'6/215 frame, but he took a step forward this year. Donovan sat 87-89 and hit 90 with above average life, a curveball and changeup that both flashed average potential. His fastball also played up due to his 7'0 extension per Trackman, which would make Donovan above average in the big leagues and a man amongst boys here when he kept his sinker down.
RHP Easton McGee (Hopkinsville HS, KY) is a 6'6/190 righty that sat 85-88 and flashed and above average curveball and changeup to go with a very projectable frame. RHP Noah Murdock (Colonial Heights HS, VA, Virginia commit) continued that trend, as he's also a lanky 6'6 righty that sat 85-88 with a solid-average curve, though his delivery wasn't as smooth as McGee. RHP Mark Potter (Melbourne Central Catholic HS, FL) is more filled out that McGee and Murdock at 6'6/240 and sat 85-88 with a solid-average changeup and curveball and some fluidity to his motion. Finally, RHP Kevin Gowdy (Santa Barbara HS, CA, UCLA commit) showed shades of last week's 61st overall pick Grant Hockin, sitting 86-89 mph with average off-speed and good command, though there have been reports of even crisper stuff from Gowdy earlier in the year.
Some top arms not in attendance were Jeff Belge (Henninger HS, NY, St. John's commit), Jonathan Gettys (Gainesville HS, GA) and Brian Brown (Countryside HS, FL). They all pitched in the last few weeks at notable events and are in the top 15 arms in the class. Gettys was 89-91 and hit 92 mph in a tournament last weekend (yes, the brother of Michael) while Belge, a 6'6 monster that hit 93 mph this spring in a matchup with Scott Blewett was 87-89 in a tryout for the northeast Area Code Games team this weekend.
This year's PGJN had a much deeper class of arms, with all kinds of mid-to-upper 80's arms with 6'3-6'6 projectable frames and some feel for off-speed. There were a half dozen that didn't make this top 10 but hit 90, all after their sophomore year in HS--another piece of evidence for the rising velocity and arm injuries around the game. Instead of listing every guy that showed some of the elements to go in the top 5 rounds, I'll pocket those names until later in the summer when the full picture of the 2016 class is clearer and I'll roll out a top 75 or so.
For the college fans looking for a taste of what's in that second tier of arms, the schools with commits from that group are the ones you would expect: North Carolina, Notre Dame and Vanderbilt each have one while Virginia and Florida State each had another one in addition to one in the top group. Less than half of the elite players in this class are committed and nearly every big time program had at least one coach at the event as it's about time for that number to increase. Typically, the class' top 100 players will be about 75% committed by the end of the summer or into the fall.
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