Summer Collegiate : : Rankings
Friday, September 29, 2017

Great Lakes top prospects

Patrick Ebert        
Photo: Michigan Athletics

2017 Summer Collegiate Top Prospect Index
Year Established: 1987
States represented: Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Ontario
No. of teams: 15
Regular season Champion (best overall record): Lima Locos (30-11)
Postseason Champion: Lima Locos

Player of the Year: Nate Grys, of, Lake Erie (Western Michigan/JR in 2018)
Pitcher of the Year: Aaron Ochsenbein, rhp, Southern Ohio (Eastern Kentucky/R-JR in 2018)

Top 5 Prospects

1. Jack Weisenberger, rhp/of, Lake Erie (Michigan/SO in 2018)
At 6-foot-3, 215-pounds Weisenberger certainly looks the part when he takes the mound, and while he didn’t pitch much during his freshman year at Michigan he did enjoy success, with a 3.18 ERA in 5 2/3 innings spanning four relief appearances. He carries that success over to the summer, going 5-0 with a 0.95 ERA in eight games, six of which were starts, striking out 33 and allowing just 16 hits in 28 1/3 innings. He did walk 17 batters in that time (and three others during the spring), as he needs to sharpen his control but the stuff is there with a 89-93 mph fastball to go with a breaking ball that shows promise and a changeup. While Weisenberger does have some two-way value at the college level he went hitless in seven at-bats this summer.

2. Tyler Tolbert, ss/2b, Lima (Alabama-Birmingham/ in 2018)
Speed is what stands out first and foremost with Tolbert, a rangy 5-foot-11, 150-pound middle infielder who can run the 60-yard dash in 6.4-6.5 seconds. He is a threat to advance every time he reaches base, stealing 19 bases for the league champions while hitting .354. There isn’t much to any power in his swing and that part of his game will depend entirely on what kind of strength he’s able to pack on to his frame. At UAB during the spring he hit .151 with a pair of doubles in 40 games, although he did steal 11 bases and committed only two errors up the middle on defense, another positive attribute to his profile.

3. Braden Niksich, rhp, Grand Lakes (Illinois State/SO in 2018)
Armed with a fastball that touched 96 mph over the summer and a breaking ball that flashes promise, Niksich has a live arm and a projectable 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame to match. Opposing hitters have difficulty catching up to his stuff when he’s throwing strikes, but that can be easier said than done. He did post encouraging numbers this summer, with a 27-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 24 innings of work, allowing only 15 base hits during the time, good for a 2.20 ERA. However, in the spring he posted a 17.36 ERA, albeit in only 4 2/3 innings. If he’s able to sustain the control/command aspect of his game he could be an interesting player to watch at Illinois State the next 2-3 years.

4. J.T. Thomas, c, Lima (Mercer/SR in 2018)
Thomas enjoyed an All-American campaign during his junior season, leading the powerful Mercer lineup in numerous offensive categories by hitting .357/.454/.624 with 20 doubles, 12 homers and 62 RBI. He wasn’t as productive over the summer, batting just .207 with seven RBI in 27 games, but he did pick it up a notch in the postseason for the league champion Lima Locos, hitting .350 with four RBI in five games. Thomas is somewhat undersized at 5-foot-10, 185-pounds and he split his time between catcher and DH in the spring, but he displays average catch-and-throw skills and a mature, disciplined approach at the plate. He’s a grinder whose productivity is more impressive than his tools, but that could be enough to garner a chance to prove his worth in pro ball as a senior sign next June.

5. Austin Gridley, lhp, Lima (Northwestern Ohio/SR in 2018)
While the pieces have been slow to develop for Gridley it’s hard to ignore an athletic 6-foot-2, 210-pound lefthander who has touched 95-96 mph with his fastball. He was injured for most of his junior season at UNOH, making just two relief appearances, but struck out 76, and walked 72, in 69 1/3 innings spanning two years at Marshalltown CC in Iowa prior to transferring. The profile is limited to the bullpen due to his high effort delivery, inconsistent breaking ball and his inability to throw consistent strikes, but his arm strength alone should give him a chance at the next level.

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