Thus far, the Today’s Knuckleball MLB Draft profiles have taken a look at ten players projected to go inside the top ten, as well as one wild card in the Florida Gators Buddy Reed.
But what about those names right on the cusp? What about those guys that people murmured about in February but had huge springs and are now in the top-ten conversation?
Here are three names to keep an eye on as Thursday’s MLB Draft quickly approaches.
ZACH COLLINS – MIAMI (FL.)
Collins is currently having a big College World Series for The U. As a matter of fact, he went 2-for-3 with two walks and his 13th home run of the year in Sunday’s regional-clinching game. The problem with Collins isn’t his bat, but he may be a man without a position.
Collins was drafted in the 27th round by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2013 draft coming out of American Heritage High School in Florida. At the age of 18, he was seen as a top-five-round talent because of his big bat, but teams were scared off by his commitment to Miami, and rightfully so.
The now-21-year-old stands at 6-foot-3 and 220 lbs. with a left-handed bat and a right-handed throwing arm. It isn’t just that Collins is a big bat; he may be the most disciplined bat in the draft.
Last season he broke out in a big way, hitting .302 with 14 doubles and 15 home runs. This season has been more of the same. He is currently hitting .358, but the most impressive part is his .534 on base percentage. That is because he has an unbelievable patience at the plate, drawing 67 walks compared to just 48 strikeouts on the season. That stuff simply isn’t taught.
The problem is that no one thinks he can stick at catcher. While he has improved greatly — posting a .989 fielding percentage this season — he is still slow behind the plate and doesn’t have the strongest arm. He has trimmed down his passed balls — only three this season — which shows he is understanding the instincts required behind home plate, but only threw out 36 percent of attempted base thieves (9-for-25).
Drafting Collins on his bat alone — a bat clearly ready for the next level — makes him a top-ten pick, but the concerns that he may have to learn a new position may make teams hesitant to pull the trigger so quickly.
BRAXTON GARRETT – FLORENCE HIGH SCHOOL (AL)
Brax is another one of the stud pitchers from the gold-medal-winning Team USA U18 team this past summer. The senior left-hander from Florence High School in Alabama has been making some noise since his junior season; an unbelievable senior campaign has him in top-ten conversations.
Garrett stands at 6-foot-3 and 190 lbs., the cliche “projectable frame” that allows room for growth that scouts and front offices drool over. He has three above-average pitches already that can only be improved. His fastball hits as high as 96, while his upper-70s curveball is considered the best of the high schoolers in the draft. His changeup is his “worst” offering, but is still effective.
He had a monster junior season, going 7-1 with a 0.75 ERA, striking out 141 batters in 66.2 innings pitched, walking just 11 and allowing 17 hits all season. This year was no different, seeing Garrett lower his ERA to 0.56. He struck out 125 in 62.1 innings and limited opponents to a .140 batting average. A large part of that is that high school hitters simply aren’t advanced enough to handle Garrett’s nasty breaking stuff. He is also an athlete, hitting .392 with 33 RBI on the season.
Why is Garrett not a sure-fire top-ten pick, then? Any time a young pitcher is committed to Vanderbilt, a small red flag waves.
FORREST WHITLEY – ALAMO HEIGHTS HIGH SCHOOL (TX)
Many people will tell you that Matt Manning has made the biggest jump of the high school pitchers and climbed into the top-ten conversations. You simply can’t rule out an 18-year old that has Whitley’s raw talent and imposing presence.
Whitley hails from Alamo Heights High School in Texas. He hit a growth spurt his sophomore year that helped him add some velocity to his arsenal while also allowing him to grow into a frame and gain control of his once-awkward mechanics. The big righty now stands at 6-foot-7 and 225 pounds. He is simply a beast.
He has a three-pitch arsenal that he can expand to a fourth pitch. His fastball has sharp cutting action and hits as high as 97 mph on the radar gun. Whitley has a tight curve that sits in the low-80s, but he can also fool batters by throwing it as a slider, although a bit less effectively. His changeup needs work, but is considered above-average and has a nasty drop.
For videos on all three and more analysis, head on over to Today’s Knuckleball for the full article by clicking the link below!