Thursday, July 10, 2014

The 2015 Draft: An Early Look at the Top 10 College Players

With the various college summer leagues and high school showcases in full swing, it's a good time to give a lightning quick preview of the players already on scouts' radar for next year's draft, which is "only" 330 days away. 

At this early juncture, it appears as if college pitchers and high school position players will dominate the first round.  However, keep in mind how early it is and that we'll probably see a lot of volatility over the next 11 months.

Today we'll feature the top ten college players -- eight of whom are pitchers -- and later in the week you'll be able to check out the top ten guys from the high school ranks.  And tune in to Infield Chatter throughout the summer to receive periodic updates as the summer leagues and showcases continue.

Here are the top ten rising college juniors at the start of the summer:

1) Mike Matuella, RHP, Duke University -- Physical specimen at 6-06, 225 pounds with ace-type stuff, including a 95-97 mph fastball that doesn't lose velocity or movement in the last innings.  Perhaps the best college pitcher since Stephen Strasburg.

2) James Kaprielian, RHP, UCLA -- Big kid with quality four-pitch mix, including a heater than hits 94 mph and two above-average breaking pitches.  Thinking man pitcher who's able to execute his game plan every time out.

3) Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville -- A near carbon copy of Tigers' ace Max Scherzer at the same stage of development.  Funky delivery, but he can dial his fastball up to 96 mph, and his vicious mid-80's slider makes him nearly unhittable against righties.

4) Carson Fulmer, RHP, Vanderbilt -- The frontman for Vandy's heralded troika going into 2015, his 94-96 mph fastball darts all over the strike zone and is virtually impossible to square up.  He complements his heater with an equally devastating slider that sits 84-87 mph.  His changeup is his weakest offering.

5) Nate Kirby, LHP, Virginia -- Has a picture perfect motion, which results in exceptional command of three above-average pitches, a 91-93 mph fastball, tight curveball, and circle change.  The young southpaw also has an exceptional pick-off move and fields his position well.

6) Alex Bregman, 2B/SS, LSU -- A fine shortstop but could evolve into a Craig Biggio clone on the other side of the keystone.  At the plate, he's got a short, compact swing with enough juice to one day produce a .300 average and 15 home runs.  Also boasts exceptional plate discipline.

7) Jake Lemoine, RHP, Houston -- At 6-05, 220 lbs, hehas a major league body but still needs to work on his stuff.  He can dial his fastball up to 94 mph, but the offering has a lot more movement when it's 90-92.  He can throw his slider in the mid-80's, but the pitch tends to flatten out. 

8) Walker Buehler, RHP, Vanderbilt -- Not a huge guy at 6-01, 170 lbs, but his stuff is electric.  His 92-94 mph fastball has exceptional tailing action, and his 12-to-6 curveball could be the best in college baseball next year.

9) Dansby Swanson, SS-2B, Vanderbilt -- Better known for his fantastic defense when he showed up in Nashville, he's improved his offensive game dramatically and now projects as a bona fide two-hole hitter in the major leagues.  Exceptional range and arm at shortstop.

10) Brett Lilek, LHP, Arizona State -- This projectable lefty has a loose arm and the makings of four quality pitches, including a fastball he can run up to 94 mph.  He displayed a much smoother delivery this past season.

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