Feature Photo: Matt Manning at the
2015 PG All-American Classic (Photo by Perfect Game)
Beginning this week, 2080 Baseball will be promoting our collaboration with Perfect Game USA to share profiles of some of the top prospects in the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft. The series will be running every Thursday, all the way up to the June 9th draft.
Matt Manning, RHP, Sheldon (Sacramento, CA)
Ht/Wt: 6’6″/195 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 18y, 4m
Commitment: Loyola Marymount
Perfect Game Projected Draft Round: 1-1S
Late last spring there were the some threads of rumor going around about a 2016 righthanded pitcher in Northern California who was a potential elite level prospect. Late in the spring is a particularly sensitive time for Perfect Game as we are trying very hard to maximize the talent for the mid-June PG National Showcase. It is also a time of year when professional scouts, college coaches and advisors – three important sources of information – could care less about the next year’s class. Their minds are firmly on the present.
So it took a bit more digging than usual to come up with Matt Manning’s name. He had pitched at the 2014 California World Series (Underclass) for NorCal and thrown in the upper-80s but aside from that he seemed to be off the radar.
That would quickly change, of course. Manning’s first appearance in front of PG scouts was at the 2015 17u PG World Series and he was electric that day, topping out at 95 mph and maintaining his stuff and composure for five innings in the 110 degree Arizona summer heat. He pitched in the Perfect Game All-American Classic in August and was the Most Valuable Pitcher at the WWBA World Championship in October for the champion EvoShield Canes. He is presently ranked as the No. 6 prospect in the 2016 PG class rankings.
Two things stand out about Manning as a pitching prospect. The first is his overall athleticism. The 6-foot-6, 195-pound Manning is a high-level basketball player who averaged 19.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game as a senior and scored 1,266 points in his three-year varsity hoops career. His father Rich Manning played in the NBA for a couple of years as a 6-foot-11 power forward. That athleticism is evident when Manning is on the mound and is the basis, with his size, for his high level of physical projection.
The second thing is that Manning might have the best fastball in the 2016 class. Yes, Riley Pint especially, and also Forrest Whitley and Alex Speas, throw harder. Jason Groome and Reggie Lawson can spot their heater more consistently and Ian Anderson’s might have better life. But Manning’s combination of consistent 92-94 mph velocity, the heavy late boring life he gets on the pitch and his somewhat deceptive cross-body three-quarters arm action and release create a pitch that the best high school hitters in the country have been consistently unable to handle.
The success that Manning has had getting outs with his fastball has led him to be extremely fastball centric in his pitch selection and he rarely throws an off-speed pitch. When he does it is a upper-70s slurve type breaking ball that will flash good spin and some bite but which is hampered by his cross-body release. The potential is there with repetitions, adjustments and with Manning’s aforementioned athleticism, but it will have to be further developed. That will be something that scouts will be looking at very carefully this spring. —David Rawnsley
Bryan Reynolds, OF, Vanderbilt Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’4″/215 | B/T: B/R | Age (as of draft date): 21y, 4m
Perfect Game Projected Draft Round: 1
One of the top prospects coming out of Tennessee in the 2013 high school class, Reynolds has continued to evolve his game and has gone from undrafted out of high school to a likely first round pick this spring. Since stepping foot on campus Reynolds has done nothing but perform at the highest level, which in turn has vaulted his draft stock as he continues to produce wherever he goes.
As a true freshman Reynolds was the leading hitter on a Commodores squad that was able to go the distance to capture the national crown, hitting .338 over a 72 game stretch with 24 doubles and 54 RBI. For an encore to the freshman campaign Reynolds joined up with the Collegiate National Team, where he joined Vanderbilt teammates Carson Fulmer, Dansby Swanson, and Walker Buehler, and served as an everyday regular upon his arrival. A switch-hitter with natural feel and fluidity from both sides of the plate, Reynolds possesses a keen eye at the dish, a discipline that has helped him consistently hit above the .300 mark.
While the collegiate crop offers plenty of depth in the outfield, Reynolds has positioned himself in the top handful of prospects, evidenced by his No. 8 preseason ranking among college juniors. Having made the transition from left field to center rather easily, thanks to his athleticism and above average run tool, Reynolds has continued to add physical strength to his frame which scouts are monitoring to see if it develops into more home run type power, which most believe it will.
Through 17 games this spring Reynolds continues to show off the advanced hit tool with quickness to the barrel – a majority of the reps coming from the left side – that he’s been long renowned for as he’s hitting .339 on the year and has already connected for two home runs. The long ball total may be a sign of that physical strength playing in game as he connected for four and five during his first two seasons. His approach continues to show as it’s virtually a 1-to-1 ratio in regards to strikeouts and walks this spring as his Vanderbilt squad is about to dive head first into SEC competition.
Reynolds’ game is rather polished on every front and if he continues to handle the barrel and show strength he should solidify himself as a first round selection and one of the first outfielders to come off the board. —Jheremy Brown
Alex Speas, RHP, McEachern (Powder Springs, GA)
Ht/Wt: 6’4″/190 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 18y, 3m
Perfect Game Projected Draft Round: 1-1S
If you designed the ideal body of an 18-year-old pitching prospect, you’d likely come up with an athlete who looks just like Georgia righthander Alex Speas. Of course, that applies to many of the top pitchers in the 2016 high school class, which is shaping up to be an above average group.
Speas’ extra long and loose 6-foot-4, 190-pound build is fast-twitch with athletic smoothness in his actions on the field. He’s followed a very steady projection path since he first started pitching at Perfect Game events in the summer of 2013. Pitching for the Atlanta Blue Jays that year, Speas generally topped out in the mid-80s with an upper-60s curveball, eye-catching velocity from a 15-year old. He bumped that up to the low-90s with more power on his curveball in 2014, then was consistently topping out in the mid-90s with an upper-70s curveball that would flash both power and big vertical depth at major national level events last summer.
Speas has been very solid so far this spring, working in the 93-97 range and showing a marked improvement in his feel and release on his curveball, often snapping off plus breaking balls in the low-80s. He’s maintained that fastball velocity throughout extended pitch counts, something very notable in a young pitcher, and shown an improved ability to throw his knee-buckling curveball for strikes.
And that final aspect, to throw consistent strikes, is what will or will not enable Speas to be a first round draft pick in June. Long arms and legs with a full delivery, all of which Speas features to the extreme, often make it hard for a young pitcher to have a consistent release point and that is what consistently plagued Speas last summer. The stuff was elite level and all the components behind producing it pass every check mark for scouts, but there were too many innings when the wheels looked like they were coming off and just throwing strikes was a challenge.
Comparing young pitchers to Dwight Gooden is a difficult and generally inadvisable thing to do because Gooden was simply one of the best teenage pitchers ever, even if he did last until the fifth pick of the 1982 draft. But Speas comes as close to warranting that comp across the board than any pitcher in many, many years. Learning to repeat his mechanics and release point better and continuing to get stronger will keep him on that path, at least as a potential first round pick. —David Rawnsley
Taylor Trammell, OF, Mt. Paran Christian (Kennesaw, GA)
Ht/Wt: 6’2″/195 | B/T: L/L | Age (as of draft date): 18y, 9m
Commitment: Georgia Tech
Perfect Game Projected Draft Round: 1S-2
The two consensus top outfield prospects in the 2016 high school class are the Southern California duo of Blake Rutherford and Mickey Moniak, who check in at second and seventh in the PG class rankings. If early spring conversations with national level scouts are any indicator, Georgia’s Taylor Trammell isn’t far behind those two.
“Trammell’s physical tools are on par with Rutherford and Moniak,” said one cross-checker. “The hit tool isn’t quite at Moniak’s level but then no one’s is. And the power doesn’t play yet like Rutherford’s. But it might only be a matter of repetitions before Trammell catches up with them.”
The main obstacle for Trammell getting baseball repetitions is that, with fellow outfielder Brandon McIlwain graduating from high school early to attend South Carolina this spring, the dual sport standout might be the best football player among the top baseball prospects nationally. Trammell was named the Georgia Class A Offensive Player of the Year this past fall after rushing for 2,479 yards and 36 touchdowns and catching 17 passes for four additional scores. While he is signed with Georgia Tech for baseball, there are published reports saying that the Tech football team is interested in his playing as well.
The first time this scout saw Trammell was at last summer’s Tournament of Stars in Cary, North Carolina. My notes afterwards read: The revelation of the event, has top round tools, very athletic, 6.62 in the 60, put on show in BP, hit well in games, hard contact, plays hard, scouts will love him.
Trammell’s physical tools are indeed first rate. His plus speed is a factor both offensively, where he runs consistent 4.0 to 4.1’s from the left side of the plate, and on defense, where he has big range in center field and is particularly adept at back peddling on balls instead of turning his body, probably a result of years of playing defensive back as well as running back.
And at 6-foot-2, 195-pounds, Trammell has real present bat speed and the ability to put a charge in the ball. He has more of a slashing gap-to-gap swing approach now that will pick up plenty of doubles and triples, but the potential is there for some lift in the future as well.
In addition to the impression his physical tools leave, it’s hard to watch Trammell play and not appreciate how much fun it looks like he’s having on the baseball field. He plays with energy and he plays with confidence and maturity, despite his relative lack of repetitions. —David Rawnsley
Robert Tyler, RHP, Univ. of Georgia
Ht/Wt: 6’4″/226 | B/T: L/R | Age (as of draft date): 20y, 11m
Perfect Game Projected Draft Round: 1-1S
Similar to Tennessee’s Nick Senzel (as detailed here) Robert Tyler won’t turn 21 until after the June draft which means he’s always been playing up against older competition. The age difference hasn’t ever held Tyler back though as he earned a spot on the East Squad in the 2012 Perfect Game All-American Classic and finished as the No. 78 prospect in the 2013 high school rankings.
Up to 94 as a rising high school senior at the 17u WWBA National Championship, Tyler hit the ground running in Athens and immediately was tabbed as a potential first-rounder, especially after his stint with Team USA the following summer. Although he wasn’t ultimately on the final roster, Tyler made his impression felt on the scouting community as he worked in the 94-98 mph range with his fastball during his first outing and showed the potential for a plus changeup once he began to throw it with a bit more conviction. Statistically speaking, his freshman season has been his best season so far, but then again, he was only able to make six starts as a sophomore after working through an injury early in the spring.
Coming off the injury last year the long, loose and still projectable Tyler showed little fatigue as the first four pitches out of his hand were 98, 98, 99 and 98 mph as he returned against the University of Kentucky before going on to play for the Red, White, and Blue, this time making the final roster. With Team USA he continued to show perhaps the easiest velocity from the collegiate side for this June’s draft, and it’s been the same story this spring as the ace righthander has shown both command and exceptional feel of his fastball, adding and subtracting velocity at will while living down in the zone with intent.
Currently 1-1 on the year over four starts, Tyler has impressed with his command as he’s walked just four batters in 21 1/3 inning while striking out 33. Just for a numbers comparison, Tyler threw 23 2/3 innings last spring and punched out 29 with 11 walks. And though the command appears to have improved, it’s the development and consistency of his breaking ball that may be the biggest takeaway from the early returns this spring. Showing enough differential between his fastball and changeup, Tyler’s low-80s breaking ball features big depth and it gives him a viable three-pitch mix, only adding to his overall draft value.
At the end of the day, whoever drafts Tyler is getting not only some of the biggest fastball velocity with the least needed effort, but also one of the top changeups in the class, and he’s figured out how to sequence and pitch, something that doesn’t bode well for the opposition. —Jheremy Brown