Compiled by Kendall Rogers and Frankie Piliere
The 2014 college baseball season might still be three months away, but it’s never too early to dissect some of the nation’s elite prospects for next summer’s MLB draft.
The list order is very likely to change between now and next June, and there are some players who will increase their stock enough over the next few months to vault into the discussion of the nation’s elite collegiate prospects. But without further ado, we take an inside look at an early College Top 50 prospects list with some analysis included.
In not exactly a surprise, North Carolina State hard-nosed lefthanded pitcher Carlos Rodon spearheads the list of top college prospects. Meanwhile, East Carolina hard-throwing righthanded pitcher Jeff Hoffman left a strong impression at the Cape Cod League this past summer and is close behind at No. 2.
Every summer there seems to be a strong group of players that greatly increase their draft stock. Mississippi State’s Hunter Renfroe vaulted a strong showing at the Coastal Plains League last summer and for the Bulldogs this past spring into a San Diego Padres first-round selection.
Who could be that player, or players, for the ’14 draft? Kennesaw State’s Max Pentecost, our College Summer Player of the Year, showed a complete skill set at the Cape Cod League this past summer, while Mississippi’s Chris Ellis and Evansville’s Kyle Freeland also left strong impressions, with Freeland joining Southern Illinois flame-throwing righty Sam Coonrod on the list.
Perhaps most interesting about our post-fall College Top 50 is the overall team breakdown. Oregon State, Virginia, Cal State Fullerton and Florida State are some of the main teams vying for the No. 1 spot in the Perfect Game Preseason College Top 25 in February. Interestingly, the Cavaliers lead those teams with four prospects on the list, including outfielders Derek Fisher, Brandon Downes and Mike Papi. Meanwhile, OSU has three players on the list, including outfielder Michael Conforto, two-way talent Dylan Davis and rising lefthanded pitcher Jace Fry, who had a very good fall for the Beavers after returning to action from an injury at the end of the ’13 campaign.
Though the situation possibly could change, everyone, for now, continues to chase Rodon — with Hoffman gaining some serious steam — as the nation’s top college prospect.
1. Carlos Rodon, lhp, North Carolina State — Rodon is everything you want in a pitcher. Big-time fastball, hard-nosed attitude, extra durable frame, and of course lefthanded.
2. Jeff Hoffman, rhp, East Carolina — Following up on an electric summer performance, Hoffman continue to keep the heat on Rodon for the top spot in the 2014 draft class.
3. Trea Turner, ss, North Carolina State — Opinions on future position differ, but Turner has a good bat, good frame, along with excellent speed and awareness.
4. Brandon Finnegan, lhp, Texas Christian — Finnegan isn’t a physical specimen like some on this list, but has a big-time fastball with rapidly developing secondary offerings.
5. Tyler Beede, rhp, Vanderbilt — Command is a concern at times, but the former first-round pick has a 90-95 fastball, good curveball and the changeup continues to improve.
6. Derek Fisher, of, Virginia — Fisher makes a case for being the best pure hitter in the college class, and a solid summer on the Cape did nothing to dispel that reputation.
7. Kyle Schwarber, c, Indiana — Schwarber has the reputation of a slugger, but many scouts also make the case that he’s one of the best all around hitters in recent years in college ball.
8. Max Pentecost, c, Kennesaw State — The Kennesaw State standout leapt into first round consideration with a monster summer on the Cape, and has the look of an offensive standout with the defensive skills to match.
9. Nick Burdi, rhp, Louisville — The righty is the exception to the recent trend of relievers only going outside the top 10 picks. Burdi sits mid-to-upper 90s with his fastball, while also flashing an upper 80s slider. Burdi also has a strong, durable frame.
10. Michael Cederoth, rhp, San Diego State — A right-hander with a fastball known to hit triple digits, Cederoth’s draft stock will be largely contingent on how consistent he can be come spring time.
11. Aaron Nola, rhp, Louisiana State — The righty has an 89-93 fastball that he typically commands exceptionally well. Also utilizes a quality changeup, along with a curveball.
12. Luke Weaver, rhp, Florida State — The righty has a big-time arm, flashing a fastball anywhere from 93-97 this past summer with Team USA, along with a quality changeup.
13. Bradley Zimmer, of, San Francisco — All Zimmer seems to do is hit, and hit some more and he’s convincing more and more scouts he can be an athletic big league outfielder with power yet to come.
14. Chris Ellis, rhp, Mississippi — With a consistent and strong spring, Ellis clearly has the stuff, the frame, and and the easy delivery to find his way into the top half of the first round in June.
15. Sean Newcomb, lhp, Hartford — The scouting world is eagerly awaiting see what this power armed 6-foot-5 lefty can do in a fully healthy spring, and he has the chance to be one of the biggest movers on this list.
16. Kyle Freeland, lhp, Evansville — Freeland has grown in leaps and bounds in the last year, becoming a pitcher scouts could view as a potential future starter with two plus pitches.
17. Michael Conforto, of, Oregon State — Has all the necessary tools. Conforto has good raw power and a strong arm in the outfield. Must continue to improve recognizing off speed pitches at the plate.
18. Alex Blandino, 3b, Stanford — Blandino is Mr. Reliable in the scout world, as they know exactly what they are getting from his fluid right-handed power stroke and solid defensive profile.
19. Matt Chapman, 3b/rhp, Cal State Fullerton — Chapman still needs to morph into an elite hitter, but is a solid defender with a plus arm. Could evolve as a reliever for the Titans, much like first-rounder Michael Lorenzen this past season.
20. Erick Fedde, rhp, UNLV — Armed with a low to mid 90s fastball and a plus slider, Fedde continues to pile up an excellent track record.
21. Brian Anderson, of, Arkansas — Although the numbers wouldn’t agree, Anderson established himself as one of the elite all around player in the country this summer.
22. Dylan Davis, of/rhp, Oregon State — Davis erupted with the bat this summer, showing big power and exceptional bat speed, but his 97 mph fastball gives scouts something to think about as well.
22. J.D. Davis, rhp/1b, Cal State Fullerton — A powerful right-handed batter, Davis comes with a built in backup plan on the mound, where he lives consistently at 93-94 mph with his fastball.
23. Chad Sobotka, rhp, USC-Upstate — The 6-foot-7 righty has the potential for two plus pitches, including a 92-94 mph fastball, and will reportedly have the opportunity to start this spring.
24. Zech Lemond, rhp, Rice — There’s a lot to like about Lemond, who has a fastball 92-95 and a plus spiked curveball. The righty also has much deception in his delivery.
25. Brandon Downes, of, Virginia — An athlete with the body type and tools to intrigue any scout, Downes has a power/speed combination that could allow him to rocket up draft boards in the spring.
26. Taylor Sparks, 3b, UC Irvine — He’s a solid overall hitter with above-average power. Had a reputation in the spring as a good defender.
27. Daniel Mengden, rhp, Texas A&M — The hard-nosed righty typically sits anywhere from 91-93 with his fastball, with the ability to get up to 94. Changeup/slider combination makes him a bonafide SEC ace pitcher and elite prospect.
28. Matt Imhof, lhp, Cal Poly — The talented lefthander has a durable 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame, along with a fastball up to 94 and a good changeup. Imhof appears to be next in line when it comes to great Cal Poly arms.
29. Dillon Peters, lhp, Texas — Peters’ not only showed a masterful feel for all his pitches that summer but saw a spike in his velocity, living at 90-93 mph by summer’s end.
30. Joey Pankake, ss/3b, South Carolina — Pankake is determined to have a huge 2014 campaign, but where in the field? The powerful junior could very well play the outfield or third base in addition to shortstop in the spring.
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