Hitting the Trail: Draft-Eligible SEC Talent

A.J. Puk, LHP, Univ. of Florida (Photo by Tim Casey)

Feature Photo: A.J. Puk, LHP, University of Florida
(Photo courtesy of The Independent Florida Alligator)

2080 Baseball’s Corey Turner has been spending a fair amount of time in Gainesville recently. Below he provides in-person reports on several SEC players as the season gets into full swing down south, as part of our ongoing Hitting the Trail series focusing on 2016 MLB draft-eligible prospects.

Logan Shore, RHP, Univ. of Florida
Ht/Wt: 6’2″/215 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 21y, 5m

Despite a less-than-ideal performance on Friday against Texas A&M, Shore has still been one of the most consistent arms in the country. In three looks this spring, he has been 88-to-91 mph, and touching 92 from a high three-quarters slot that bores in to the arm-side with plus command. It’s enough to make the pitch play up to above average. His 79-to-82 changeup that he throws with fade in any count, to any batter, is far and away his best secondary pitch, and a current plus offering. The only question for Shore is going to be whether or not his slider can be effective enough to plays as an adequate third pitch. At present, his high-70’s slider is loose in shape and lacks big tilt, though hit has flashed average at times. At the end of the day, Shore is a strong, durable college arm with a high floor and low ceiling, who likely fits in the back of rotation. He projects as a potential selection late on Day 1 or early on Day 2.

Shaun Anderson, RHP, Univ. of Florida
Ht/Wt: 6’5”/230 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 21y, 7m

With five saves through the first three SEC weekends (three vs. Missouri and two vs. Texas A&M) and six overall, it appears Coach O’Sullivan has found his closer. Although he has an above-average fastball at 91 to 93 mph that he throws with sink, Anderson favors his two breaking balls—a power slider and curveball. The slider, which is his go-to breaking ball, is thrown with tight, two-plane movement in the 83-to-85 band. Couple that with a 78-to-81 curveball with sharp, downer action and you have two above-average breaking balls to go with his quality heater. Anderson boasts a three-pitch mix, a large, big league-ready build and above-average command, giving him the potential to pitch in the back end of a rotation if his drafting team is so inclined. Otherwise, he’s got back of the bullpen upside. His draft stock will likely hinge on whether a team selects him with the rotation or the bullpen in mind.

Kirby Snead, LHP, Univ. of Florida
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/190 | B/T: L/L | Age (as of draft date): 21y, 7m

Snead has frequently been the first guy out of the pen in high-leverage situations for the Gators this spring. While he certainly isn’t as sexy as the two guys listed above, he uses his low three-quarters arm slot and crossfire delivery to create a significant amount of deception and run, which allows his otherwise below-average fastball, at 87 to 89 mph, to play up to average. Additionally, he features a 77-to-79 slider that has flashed above-average and a changeup at 81 to 83 that he folds in as his second pitch to righties. While the velocity separation from his fastball isn’t huge, there is enough separation and fade to play as at least an average offering. Snead’s value lies in his deception, however, his value can significantly increase if he can prove he can get righties out like he did last Friday night against Texas A&M, where he located his fastball and changed speeds well enough to put away righties. If not, it’s likely a capable lefty-specialist profile.

Reggie McClain, RHP, Univ. of Missouri
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/ 195 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 23y, 7m

McClain, a redshirt senior, doesn’t fit the typical SEC Friday night starter profile. He has a long, athletic build with a loose arm action from a high three-quarters slot, but lacks elite stuff. In the SEC opener against Florida, he relied on a heavy, sinking fastball at 88 to 90 mph to weak contact and awkward swings. His secondary pitches — a 78-to-81 changeup and high-70’s slider — showed above average with the same arm-side sink as his fastball and soft, loose action, respectively. The plus control (24 balls in 106 pitches) and command will undoubtedly play at the next level. The question is going to be whether he can miss enough bats with his secondary pitches. He would make for an interesting senior sign, but the ceiling is likely no more than that of a spot starter.

Dane Dunning, RHP, Univ. of Florida
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/205 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 21y, 5m

Dunning who was once the Gators Sunday arm, has been relegated to a few weekday starts and middle relief work during weekend series. In several viewings out of the bullpen this spring, his fastball has been consistently 92 to 94 mph, touching 95 with late life. His secondary offerings include an 81-to-83 slider with late, hard bite from a high three-quarters slot and an 82-to-85 changeup that is a little firm at times, but does show some late fade. He uses an up-tempo delivery, but there is a slight hitch which may affect his timing and ability to locate his pitches. If Dunning can continue to develop his changeup, he stands a shot to land in a rotation at the next level, but it seems more likely he ends up in the bullpen at this point.

Buddy Reed, CF, Univ. of Florida
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/210 | B/T: S/R | Age (as of draft date): 21y, 1m

It’s easy to see why Reed is a potential first rounder. He has the type of profile evaluators dream about—long, athletic build with plus plus speed, plus arm, plus glove, and above-average raw power from both sides of the plate. His biggest issue is the ability to put the ball in play with frequency. While he has looked more comfortable at the plate as of late—turning ordinary singles into doubles and shooting the ball in the gaps for extra bases, he still looks raw at times. He has often been late on fastballs in obvious fastball counts (ex. 2-1 count, runners on 1st and 2nd) with three-hole hitter on deck. If he can learn to put the ball in play more often and lay off the spin, you’re looking at an above-average regular center fielder profile in the big leagues.

Nick Banks, RF, Texas A&M
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/215 | B/T: L/L | Age (as of draft date): 21y, 6m
Banks was also considered by some evaluators to go as high as the first round, but may have seen his stock drop due to his sluggish start this spring. He squared up several balls last Friday including two first-pitch sliders off Shore and an opposite field double that was inches from a home run, which suggests he has adequate bat-to-ball skills. His plate discipline and pitch recognition skills will need to improve if he wants to reach the average hit tool projection, however. He moved well in the outfield—tracked fly balls toward the wall with good routes—and has enough arm strength and carry on the ball to stick in right field. With that said, you’re looking at a prototypical first division right field profile—above-average raw power with an above-average arm and an average glove.