After looking at how the draft may impact the current roster in Part 1 of the MLB Draft Preview, we'll now take a look at LSU's Signing Class and how they may be impacted.
In each signing class, it seems that LSU will take at least one super prospect...a guy that will almost certainly end up a high draft choice and turn pro. Guys like Joey Gallo, Jake Cave and Johnny Eiermann come to mind. But occasionally something will happen, and the circumstances will allow someone like Alex Bregman to slide through and play college ball.
Any high schooler picked in the top five rounds is a near certainty to sign a pro contract. Last year, 84 high school players were selected in the top five rounds and only five did not sign a pro deal.
This year, I see just one guy who falls into that category. Terrebone High School's Justin Williams is one of the best power hitting prospects in this draft. The 6'2" 215 pounder has put on an absolute show at many of the prospect showcase events over the last two summers, and he was at one point thought to be picked in the top half of the first round. However, all that attention brought increased scrutiny, and it sounds like the scouts have been a bit disappointed with what they've seen of Williams this spring. So while many flaws in his swing have been identified, his natural talent and raw power remain among the best in the draft. Williams plays third base in high school and sometimes shortstop, but projects as a left fielder or first baseman for the future.
The latest Baseball America rankings have Williams as the #68 prospect in the draft. And while that's still likely high enough to ensure Williams signs a pro contract, it's not a total slam dunk like it was when everyone thought he'd be taken in the Top 15 picks...especially if Williams has his mind set on receiving Top-15 money. But the slot value for Pick #68 is $820,000, and that's still an awful lot of money to turn down. Here is a solid breakdown of Williams' game from our SB Nation friends at The Crawfish Boxes. At the end of the day, don't expect Williams to play at LSU.
The next guy off the board will likely be Florida first baseman Nick Longhi, who is another guy that flashes excellent power potential. Listed at 6'2" 210 pounds, Longhi has a unique make-up in that he throws left-handed but bats from the right side. He's also a decent prospect as a pitcher, touching the low 90s at times with his fastball. Baseball America does not list Longhi in their Top 250 prospects, but several other publications have him in the Top 100. Based purely on his talents, Longhi stands a very good chance of being drafted in the Top 5 rounds. If he indicates to teams that he covets playing college ball, then he could slide way down the board if he's not taken by a certain point. It all depends on what Longhi wants to do. Questions about his position could also drive his stock down a bit, and that seems to be the opinion of our friends at MLB Bonus Baby. He says that it will take a "life changing" amount of money for him to not attend LSU. But every prospect will say those things in order to drive their bonus up as high as possible. In an interview with Perfect Game from January, you really get the sense that Longhi could be leaning towards playing professionally. He says,
"It always creeps into your mind as a 17-year-old kid that you could be playing professional baseball as a job," he said while seeming to marvel at such a notion. "But you can't get too hyped about it because I've still got my senior year and I still have a lot of work to do before I get there."
My guess is that LSU stands about a 35% of keeping Longhi.
Rounding out the infielders are Kramer Robertson, Connor Hale, Danny Zardon and Dakota Dean, .
Robertson is the son of Baylor women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey and will likely settle into second base at the college level after playing shortstop in high school. He should compete immediately for that position with the very likely departure of Jacoby Jones. At 5'11" 170 pounds, Robertson has excellent fielding ability and better than average speed. He could potentially form a very nice double play combination with Alex Bregman for a couple of seasons. At the plate, Robertson drives the ball and shows decent power for his size, but will mostly be a guy that hits line drives and gets extra base hits when those balls find the gaps.
It seems likely that Robertson will end up at LSU. He's on the fringe of being taken in the Top-10 rounds, and he's probably not a guy that needs to make a decision based on money.
Perfect Game says the following about Robertson:
"Right handed hitter, quick swing with bat speed, aggressive approach, loose hands, hits against hard front side, some lift, ball comes off the barrel hard. Tall open stance at the plate, easy loose swing, squares the ball up, has deceiving strength and bat speed, can pull the ball out of the park. "
Connor Hale comes to LSU via the JUCO ranks from the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota which happens to be the same school that produced Nick Goody. Hale swings a pretty good bat, hitting .330 as a freshman and .358 as a sophomore. He doesn't have great speed from home to first, but has shown the ability to steal bases, swiping 23 of 28 in two years. He struck out just 20 times in 209 at-bats with an on base percentage of .408. Despite a decent frame of 6'2" 175 pounds, he doesn't hit for much power with just two homers in two seasons. However, he does show decent gap power with 21 extra base hits and a .488 slugging. He played third base in JUCO but could compete for a starting job at second base, assuming Christian Ibarra is back at third. If he doesn't win a job, he seems like a valuable utility guy on the infield that could break into the starting lineup as a senior. He was highly thought of by the scouts and could still go in the Top-10 rounds of the draft, but his lack of power seems to be driving his stock down the boards. Unless he's really anxious to start his pro career, it seems likely that Hale will be at LSU.
Danny Zardon is a 6'1" 185 pound third baseman from the Fort Lauderdale, FL area who is a very good overall athlete. He's got a big arm that's plenty good enough for third base at the college level and a solid bat. As a senior, he hit .505/.544/.948 with six home runs in just 77 at bats. Zardon seems open to signing and playing pro ball if the situation is right. However, my guess is that he won't be selected high enough and that his decision to go to LSU will be easy.
Dakota Dean is the younger brother of former Tiger and current assistant coach Blake Dean. He's got good size at 6'1" 195 pounds and like his brother, is a lefty at the plate, despite throwing right handed. Dean is listed as a middle infielder but probably doesn't have the range that a guy like Robertson has or that we've become accustomed to at LSU. If his bat is good enough, then obviously they'll find a spot for him. With his frame, an eventual move to first base is not out of the question, especially if Longhi ends up signing professionally. At this time, I don't think Dean is a threat to be drafted high and, it looks like he is a near certainty to play for LSU.
Michael Barash was originally a part of this signing class, but he finished high school a semester early and joined LSU's team in time for the season. He has shown a few nice things this year and should compete with Chris Chinea for the starting catcher's job next year, assuming Ty Ross leaves. Despite him already being on the team, I thought it worth a mention since he was once a part of this signing class.
LSU is also adding catcher Kade Scivicque, a native of Maurepas, who found a home at Southwest Mississippi Community College. As a sophomore, he's hitting .310 4 HRs and 37 RBIs in 46 games. In fact, his team only has five home runs, and Scivicque has four of them. He leads his team in nearly every offensive category. He also logged 15 innings from the mound with a nice K/BB ratio of 15/9. He'll join the mix with Chinea and Barash to battle for playing time at catcher, and I don't think the draft is in play.
In the outfield, you'll see a pattern which started with last year's signing class, and that is speed and athleticism. Paul Maineri loves what guys like Mark Laird and Andrew Stevenson have brought to the table with their speed and defense, and you're going to see more of it with this signing class.
Jarret Dehart hails from Medford, New Jersey and is cousins with former LSU great, Brett Laxton. He hopes to follow Laxton's same path to professional baseball...through LSU. Dehart is a big guy at 6'2" 205, very athletic and with an excellent bat from the left side. He shows off a very patient approach at the plate, often due to teams pitching around him at the high school level. Dehart is another guy that could potentially end up at first base, but his athleticism will be tough to pass up in the outfield. Opinions are mixed on Dehart's draft stock, and he doesn't have a real good feel himself for where he could go. Somewhere in the Top-10 rounds is very possible if not likely, but I like LSU's chances of having Dehart suit up next spring.
Jake Fraley is another speedy outfielder from the northeast, coming from Middleton, Deleware. Fraley's speed really stands out and is in the Mark Laird / Andrew Stevenson category. In fact, thinking about the three of those guys in the outfield together at the same time is fun. Like Dehart, Fraley also bats from the left side. He's got good size at 6'1" 185. Even if Fraley struggles with SEC pitching initially, a guy like Andrew Stevenson has shown that you can still make an impact on games with speed and defense. Fraley is highly thought of by the scouts and could very well end up signing pro instead of coming to LSU. He's definitely one of the names to circle as you follow the draft, and I'd put things right at 50/50 in terms of him ever playing at LSU.
Barbe High School's Charlie Yorks is another big outfielder at 6'1" 190. Yorks also has nice speed, though he's not in the same league as Fraley. But like the others, he's also a lefty at the plate. Yorks is not as highly regarded as Fraley and Dehart when it comes to the draft, but it may not matter. He seems genuinely excited to play baseball at LSU.
West Monroe's Cade Stone is another lefty outfielder with athleticism. Doubling as a safety for the football team, he ought to know what it's like to play in front of 10,000 people. I don't see the draft being an issue with Stone.
Just like the outfielders fit a mold, the pitchers in this class do too. You'll see a lot of big power pitchers that are very projectable. We saw this last year with Mitch Sewald (6'6"), Hunter Newman (6'3") and Russell Reynolds (6'1"), and see a lot more if with this group.
At 6'2" 195, lefty Tyler Allen fits the mold. Allen's fastball already touches 90 mph but sits at 87-89. He's also got a nice curveball and a slider. In 2012, Allen struck out 49 batters in 25 innings. He's a guy that could eventually be a weekend starter but could also compete for innings next year as a much needed lefty. With Cotton and Bonvillain moving on, LSU needs some bullpen arms from the left side. Of the pitchers LSU signed, Allen could be drafted the highest; however, I feel comfortable that it won't be high enough for him to sign.
Dylan Williams out of Cartersville, GA was a late addition to LSU's Signing Class after previously being committed to Georgia Tech. One visit to LSU was all it took for Williams to change his mind. At 6'4" 205 pounds, Williams' fastball tops out at 92 but with his frame, you can easily project that he'll get stronger and increase that velocity a bit. As a senior, he struck out 106 batters in 61.1 innings with a 1.14 ERA. However, he did walk 33 batters, too. His draft projection is on the fringe of being in the Top-10 rounds and losing him is a possibility though probably not a terribly strong one.
Lutcher High's Jared Poche could be another to watch during the draft. Poche just recently led his team to a state championship and was completely dominant in the playoffs and for most of his senior season. The 6'1" 195 left hander was 12-0 as a senior with a 0.61 ERA. He struck out 143 batters in 80 innings. His excellent senior season has increased his draft stock quite a bit, but he likely won't go high enough to warrant turning pro. Like Allen, Poche is a guy with the potential to eventually start for LSU but could lend help immediately from the pen.
Christian Palaez is a left hander from Miami, FL is 6'0" 175 pounds. Though his fastball isn't as powerful as some of the other signees, he's got good "stuff" and several sites comment on his smooth, consistent delivery. Palaez had offers from several top programs including Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Clemson. His name pops up in a few draft conversations, and he's on a couple of Top-500 lists which would put him in the Top-15 rounds. In this interview from October, he seems fairly open to skipping in college and playing pro ball. But in more recent interviews, he seems legitimately excited about going to LSU and playing college ball. The odds favor him playing in college, but it's not a certainty.
LSU went all the way to San Deigo, CA to land 6'6" 205 pound righty Parker Bugg. Bugg can already touch 90 on the gun, but with his frame, you'd expect him to increase that velocity in a couple of years with some added strength and some fine tuning of his mechanics. Bugg's numbers don't blow you away from a power standpoint. As a senior, Bugg struck out 39 batters in 39 innings and walked just seven. His ERA was 0.90 and batters hit just .150 against him. Scouts typically love a guy with Bugg's size and potential, but from everything I could find, I don't believe the draft will be an issue here.
Easton, Massachusetts right hander Troy Whitty is yet another tall pitcher with excellent power potential from the mound. Whitty checks in at 6'5" 230 pounds with a fastball that has maxed out at 91 and also has a change-up and curve ball in his bag. His name pops up in some draft discussion, but I can't find him on any Top-500 lists. So I suspect he'll end up at LSU. He has also played some ball with fellow signees Jake Fraley and Jarrett Dehart.
Paul Maineri will also be looking to the junior college ranks to help replenish the talent.
One of the most intriguing guys in this class is David Palladino who comes from Howard Junior College in Texas. Palladino is 6'9" 240 pounds. Not a typo....the guy is 6-foot freaking 9 inches tall! He was drafted in the 11th round a couple of years ago, based solely on potential but did not sign. He landed at South Carolina Upstate for a year before transferring to Howard. This spring, he has finally started to realize some of his enormous potential with a consistent fastball in the 92-93 range that has peaked at 95-96. At Howard this year, Palladino went 7-3 with 99 strikeouts and 31 walks in 70.1 innings. He also threw six complete games, three of which were shutouts, showing that he has starter potential. His ERA was 2.18. My guess is that Palladino has pitched himself back into the Top 10 rounds of the draft and that the chances of seeing him at LSU are not that great.
LSU has also signed a pair of pitchers from LSU Eunice, which has been very good to the Tigers in the past. Raph Rhymes, Trey Watkins and Joey Bourgeois have all come to Baton Rouge via LSU Eunice. Right hander Brady Domangue and lefty Zac Person are on their way this year.
Domangue originally played at Vandebilt Catholic . He's 6'0" tall and doesn't have the overpowering stuff that some of the other guys in this class have. But he does have some awfully good numbers for LSU Eunice. This season, he's 12-2 with a 1.36 ERA. In 92.2 innings, he has struck out 99, allowed 71 hits and walked 27.
Person is 8-0 on the season with a 3.14 ERA. He has 87 strikeouts in 71.2 innings while allowing just 51 hits. But he has walked 41 batters. He'll need to get his control straightened out, but those are otherwise some excellent numbers.
Neither of the LSU Eunice guys look to be threats as far as the draft is concerned.
Right handers Alden Cartwright (Runnels) and Jesse Stallings (Grant), along with lefty Andrew Mitchell (Jesuit) will also be coming to LSU, though the draft should not be a factor. Stallings is an interesting story because he suffered an injury early in his senior year, but Paul Mainieri still wanted him. So he's recovering from Tommy John surgery right now and may not be ready next season.
At the end of the day, it's safe to assume that LSU is going to lose Justin Williams. Then you've got Nick Longhi, Jake Fraley and David Palladino as toss ups. Jarrett Dehart is in that mix, too. You can probably assume that we'll see another surprise in there somewhere, similar to last year when Evangel's Hayden Jennings was unexpectedly taken in the sixth round.
The best case scenario for LSU is that they lose Justin Williams and that's it....and that's not totally unreasonable to see that situation unfold.