Juco : : Rankings
Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Top 100 Junior College Prospects

Allan Simpson        
Photo: Blinn College

Blinn’s Dickey Holds Top Spot, Though
Uncertainty Prevails Again in JC Ranks

Throughout the 48-year history of the baseball draft, some of the most significant adjustments to the process have been made to simplify the procedure as it relates to junior college talent.

In 1986, the draft was condensed from four phases annually to a single, all-encompassing June phase through the elimination of the regular and secondary phases of the January draft, along with the secondary phase in June. Those extraneous phases were historically the domain of junior college players.

Two decades later, a further streamlining of the process eliminated the draft-and-follow rule, a provision that enabled teams to draft players in June and follow their progress until a week prior to the following year’s draft before determining whether to sign them—provided the player was enrolled in a junior college.

Despite all the measures taken, junior college talent is still a significant wild card in the baseball draft process and remains the most difficult demographic in any draft to quantify. While the eligibility of college and high school players is governed by fairly stringent guidelines, there is significant latitude in the rules that govern junior college players—the most liberal being that any player enrolled in a junior college is automatically eligible for selection each year.

A majority of junior college players enroll right out of high school, but a significant number are bounce backs from four-year schools. Those players are free to transfer almost at will, and many do switch schools midway through the academic year, at the Christmas break.

Not only are they eligible to play immediately (subject to meeting minimum academic standards), but they are instantly eligible for the upcoming draft. The only restriction that Major League Baseball has is that the players be enrolled in a junior college a minimum of 75 days before the draft.

So while Perfect Game has taken strides to assemble a list of the nation’s Top 100 junior college Prospects for the 2014 draft, it has done so with the disclaimer that the list may experience significant changes by the time junior colleges re-enroll for the spring semester. It happens every year that a handful of the nation’s top freshmen and sophomores, currently enrolled at four-year colleges and otherwise ineligible for the 2014 draft, suddenly become eligible by transferring to a junior college.

For now, our list is confined to players who were actually enrolled in junior college this fall, and even those players have varied backgrounds. Of the top 20 prospects, 10 are players who spent the 2013 season at a four-year school and subsequently elected to transfer to a junior college.

At this stage of the proceedings, it is safe to say there are no players of Bryce Harper’s stature in the junior college ranks, nor any players with aspirations or expectations of even going in the first round of the 2014 draft – unlike a year ago when East Central (Miss.) outfielder Tim Anderson was taken by the Chicago White Sox with the 17
th pick overall.

Anderson was the lone JC player to go in the first round in 2013, but three more were scooped up in the second round and a total of 29 junior college prospects were selected in the first 10 rounds—or about 9.2 percent of all players.

So while it remains rare for the junior college ranks to impact the draft in a meaningful way, they are still a significant dynamic in the entire draft process.

Harper is the most acclaimed junior college player of all-time after being taken by the Washington Nationals with the first overall pick in the 2010 draft out of the College of Southern Nevada—though only after some creative, behind-the-scenes machinations that made him draft-eligible a year ahead of schedule.

Blinn (Texas) Junior College righthander Robbie Dickey holds the distinction of being the nation’s top-ranked junior college player in the current class—at least, as the current class presently stands.

A relative unknown in 2013 after posting a modest 6-6, 3.82 record with 63 strikeouts in 73 innings as a freshman at Blinn, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Dickey became a marked man among Texas-based scouts this fall when the velocity on his fastball, typically in the 89-91 mph range last spring, spiked to the mid-90s. With greater arm speed in a loose, easy delivery, his secondary pitches also became much sharper.

Dickey is projected to become a second- or third-round pick in next year’s draft, and two other righthanded pitchers have similar expectations of being selected in that range. They are Seminole State (Fla.) red-shirt freshman righthander Jake Cosart and Oxnard (Calif.) sophomore righthander Patrick Weigel, both of whom are transfers from four-year schools. Cosart is a transfer from Duke, Weigel from Pacific.

Initially recruited to Duke as an athletic, two-way player with significant arm strength, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Cosart (younger brother of Houston Astros righthander Jarred Cosart) left that program without even playing a game as a freshman. He has since focused on pitching only in junior college, and his fastball velocity saw a steady climb to 93-96 mph this fall, topping at 98, though his secondary stuff needs refining.

Weigel went 0-2, 8.02 while pitching in a variety of roles as a freshman at Pacific, but made huge strides with both his stuff and command during the summer for the California Collegiate League’s Santa Barbara Foresters, working mostly as a closer. He soon began throwing strikes with a 93-97 mph fastball and 80-83 mph slider, and his overnight transformation into a coveted prospect prompted him to transfer to a nearby junior college. The 6-foot-6, 210-pound righthander still has plenty of work to do in refining an inconsistent delivery, but his size and impressive stuff should make him a hot commodity for California scouts this spring.

While righthanded pitchers appear most in demand with the 2014 draft still six months away, two athletic outfielders from Nevada—Southern Nevada’s Grant Heyman, a transfer from Miami, and Western Nevada’s Conor Harber, a returning sophomore—also warrant close scrutiny. And the list of top hitting prospects includes none other than Indian River State (Fla.) first baseman Ryan Ripken, son of Hall of Famer Cal.

The younger Ripken chose to go the junior college route after he didn't make the 35-man spring roster as a freshman at South Carolina in 2013, and subsequently taking a red-shirt. He has since grown out of his once-lanky 6-foot-5 frame to become a solid 225 pounds, and his raw power has evolved in the process. Ripken now hits balls to all fields with a lot more hard contact and more disciplined approach at the plate. He’s also a Gold Glove-caliber defender at first base.

So while Dickey currently sits at No. 1—and the high-profile Ripken at No. 6—on the list of top junior college prospects, those rankings are tenuous, at best, and almost certain to be impacted by the anticipated transfer of a handful of elite, but as yet undetermined players from the four-year college ranks that will infiltrate the junior college ranks by the start of the 2014 season.

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