We’re less than a month away from the big day! With the MLB First-Year Player Draft coming up June 9th, this week’s PG Draft Pack series features a durable 6’4″ shortstop who has the tools to stay at the position in the pros; a 6’4″ athletic righty with a full three-pitch arsenal who has come back strongly this year after being shut down with elbow issues as a sophomore in 2015; a projectable 6’6″ righty – who won’t turn 18 until June 10th – whose fastball velo spiked 10 mph from 2014-15 to the middle 90s, but whose best pitch might be his curveball; another righty whose versatility and solid three-pitch mix could work in a starting or bullpen role; and a power-hitting outfielder from Samford (17 homers, good for second in the country) who could profile best in right field thanks to his arm and athleticism. Jheremy Brown, Brian Sakowski, and David Rawnsley take us through the profiles in week eight of the PG Draft Pack!
C.J. Chatham, SS, Florida Atlantic Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/185 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 21y, 6m
Projected Draft Round: 1S-2
The first of two prospects from Conference USA to be detailed in this week’s edition of the draft pack, Chatham has benefitted greatly from a solid spring season and has ascended the ranks to challenge for the top collegiate shortstop in the country. Opening the year as one of about 5-7 shortstops noted for the draft, Chatham has continued to excel for the Owls while others who were ranked ahead of him have faltered some, paving the way for the Florida Atlantic product.
At first glance Chatham’s 6-foot-4 frame may suggest an imminent move to either either his right or left at the next level, and though he shows plenty of arm for third base, he has the instincts and lateral range to stay put at shortstop. As a pitching staff Florida Atlantic doesn’t necessarily put up big strikeout numbers as a collective unit, though they do collect outs at an alarming rate, several of which have come via ground balls which in turn has given scouts ample opportunities to see his prowess up the middle. Up to 89 mph on the mound during his prep days, with reports of low-90s coming his senior year, arm strength is an obvious tool for Chatham and one that allows him to finish the play from deep in the 5-6 hole.
Chatham is far from a one-dimensional player however and while his ability to stick up the middle has unequivocally impacted his draft standing, he’s equally as impressive in the right-handed batter’s box. Having added nearly 20 pounds of strength since arriving in Boca Raton during the fall of 2013, Chatham still has additional room to fill out, though it’s likely he’ll never bulk up and fully fill out his long 6-foot-4 frame.
Along with the added physicality, perhaps the single biggest area of improvement by Chatham in his three years on campus has been his overall approach in the box. A bit of a free swinger as a freshman with a near 5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, Chatham still managed to finish with a .300 average while showing some strength both to the gaps and over the fence with 11 doubles and four home runs. The following year the discrepancy in strikeouts to walks wasn’t as drastic as Chatham was able to cut it down to roughly 3-to-1 ratio before truly excelling this spring.
With a near 1-to-1 ratio this spring it’s of little surprise that his overall stat line has subsequently improved in nearly every statistic as he’s slashing a career best .391/.461/.603 over the first 42 games of the spring. Chatham possesses plenty of strength in his hands and wrists and his ability to understand the situation and see how opposing pitchers are attempting to work him in an at-bat is clear with his takes as well as his comfort working all fields. The hand eye coordination is noteworthy and a major factor in Chatham’s production, as is his durability.
Over his three years at Florida Atlantic Chatham has suited up and started 155 games for the Owls, missing just one game to this point. And it’s that type of durability that will suit him well with the rigors of minor league baseball and the day-to-day grind. –Jheremy Brown
Jon Duplantier, RHP, Rice Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/225 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 21y, 11m
Projected Draft Round: 1S-2
Duplantier has long been a name on the prospect scene as he made seven starts as a true freshman before truly exploding the summer that followed in the California Collegiate League. The stark difference in comparison of numbers from that spring and summer was Duplantier’s way of saying “I’m here” in terms of the prospect scene as he drastically cut down in his walks and continued to miss bats at a mind numbing rate while showing a fastball that bumped 95 mph during his time with the Santa Barbara Foresters.
When we at Perfect Game updated our top-100 collegiate sophomore list Duplantier understandably saw a healthy rise, all the way up to No. 20 on the list based largely off of his summer performance. And while the potential was there to keep climbing up draft boards last spring, as a draft-eligible sophomore, Duplantier battled inflammation in his throwing arm and was subsequently shut down for his entire sophomore season.
Back with something to prove this spring, not only in terms of draft stock but also as a leader of a Rice team that was projected in the preseason to win Conference USA once again, Duplantier has been absolutely fantastic despite what his 4-4 record may suggest. As you may expect with a pitcher who missed the entire prior season, Duplantier has continued to hone his craft and the impressive stat lines have followed.
With an ultra-athletic and already well-proportioned 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame, Duplantier’s long and broad frame readily suggests he’s capable of starting, something his arsenal further supports. The Rice ace is capable of comfortably working in the low- to mid-90s with this fastball over the course of an outing as he continues to show an increase in fastball command, as his most recent performance concluded with 10 punch-outs and just a single walk. His mechanics are relatively simple and clean as he strides on line towards the plate, giving him the ability to live down at the knees with solid life to the pitch.
He features a full three-pitch arsenal, all of which Duplantier shows comfort in throwing and have proven to be effective to both right-handed batters as well as lefties. With the breaking ball he shows the ability to add and subtract on the pitch with the harder version coming in the low-80s and featuring harder bite with quality depth. Duplantier’s changeup is a pitch that crosses the plate in the 82 to 84 mph range and shows late fading and diving life underneath barrels with the same loose and easy arm action. – Jheremy Brown
Nicolas Hanson, RHP, Prior Lake (Savage, MN)
Ht/Wt: 6’6”/210 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 18y, 0m
Projected Draft Round: 1S-2
Hanson may be least well-known player to draft fans who has a realistic chance to be selected on the first day of the upcoming draft. He has made himself very well known to scouts across the country over the last month, however.
The Kentucky signee has a well-proportioned 6-foot-6, 210-pound build that still has plenty of room to fill out and get stronger. Hanson is one of the youngest top prospects in the 2016 high school class and won’t turn 18 years old until June 10th. He looks young in the face and still has plenty of physical maturity and growth looming up in his future.
Part of the reason Hanson isn’t very well known to the general draft world is that he hasn’t circulated much at major events. He pitched at the 2015 Area Code Games and was rostered at 2015 WWBA World Championship after pitching for the Reds Midwest Scout Team at the 2015 WWBA Kernels Foundation Tournament last September, but did not pitch. Hanson plays for the Lake Prior American Legion team during the summers.
Another reason that Hanson has flown under the radar is that he saw his velocity spike about 10 mph from the summer of 2014 to last summer, going from working at 81-83 mph when Perfect Game saw him in 2014 to topping out at 94 mph at the Kernels Foundation Tournament. Hanson has been working consistently in the low-90s this spring while topping out at 96 mph according to scouts who have seen him.
For as impressive as that fastball velocity is on a 17-year old, the same scouts say that his curveball, thrown at 77-80 mph with a power downer break, is potentially his best pitch, one that led to many of his 87 strikeouts in 46 innings (5-0, 1.01) last season. Hanson also throws a changeup that is a present solid offering for a high school pitcher.
Hanson’s delivery also looks pretty solid. He starts with a high leg lift and creates big momentum to the plate, getting over his front side very well. There is a small early hitch in his arm action in back that acts as a timer to keep his fast arm in sync with his lower half. His release point is high three-quarters and Hanson does a very good job of staying on top of his curveball and creating leverage out front on release.
Prior Lake High School’s regular season schedule runs through May 25 before the state playoffs begin, with the team standing a good chance of making a long run in those playoffs. National level scouts will undoubtedly be using almost every day up until the draft to keep updating their evaluations on Hanson. – David Rawnsley
Thomas Hatch, RHP, Oklahoma State Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/191 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 21y, 8m
Projected Draft Round: 2-4
The Friday starter for a talented Oklahoma State squad, Hatch has taken huge steps forward throughout this spring and has vaulted himself into early round consideration as a result.
A bit undersized as far as right-handed starting pitchers go, Hatch still shows the kind of stuff you want to see in a starting pitcher, though it’s a fair question to ask if his delivery and size would be better suited long term coming out of the bullpen.
At his best, he shows three pitches with average-or-better potential, with good control but still developing command. He’s always been a sinker/slider guy, with his heavy sinking fastball working mostly in the 90-93 range but ticking up into the mid-90s in recent starts. He pounds the bottom of the zone with the pitch, more than content to limit his pitch count by getting weak contact than to go for swings and misses with the pitch.
The slider will show above average and has been more consistent as the spring has worn on, with late, sharp tilt that has the ability to miss bats. He has shown the ability to throw the pitch down and out of the strike zone to elicit whiffs, but can also throw it over the plate for a strike. The changeup, always one of the hinges upon which his future as a starter rested, has gotten better as well. While below average and nearly nonexistent in the start I saw in mid-March, over the past several starts it has been more and more consistently an average pitch, giving him a legitimate three-pitch arsenal at his disposal.
He’s likely to go in the 2-4 round range, but what will be interesting is how he is deployed in professional baseball. A team could see a back-end starter with three pitches and quality command, or they could also see a polished future reliever who could move quickly once into a minor league system. –Brian Sakowski
Heath Quinn, OF, Samford Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/220 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 21y, 0m
Projected Draft Round: 2-3
The second of two top prospects from the Southern Conference to be detailed in draft packs with Mercer’s Kyle Lewis (featured March 25), Heath Quinn has a chance to come off the board fairly early and would certainly be the highest Samford pick since Phillip Ervin back in 2013. It was in that same draft, coincidentally enough and 12 rounds later, that the Cleveland Indians selected Quinn out of Oak Mountain in Alabama.
That turned out to be a wise move as the powerful right-handed bat has emerged as one of the top home run hitters in the entire country. And it’s not as though his power has come out of nowhere as that was the key tool for his selection back in 2013 and was immediately put on display his freshman year, hitting nine home runs with 20 doubles and paving the way for the next two springs. His sophomore season wasn’t a breakout season so to speak, but rather it reaffirmed what we saw the previous spring.
Still, similar to Lewis, the questions remained about some swing-and-miss tendencies and how he would perform against top flight pitching like he’d see later that summer on the Cape. Suiting up for the Falmouth Commodores Quinn proved that both his hit and power tools play against some of the best pitching the country had to offer as he hit .317 with four home runs and eight doubles, all while swinging wood. Despite being 6-foot-3, the right-handed hitting Quinn offers a rather short and direct swing, as his hands are plenty quick and full of strength.
He also shows the comfort to shorten up with two-strikes, something that has helped limited the strikeouts this spring and see a rise in walks, with the 34 this spring being the most in his three-year career. Quinn’s ability to work the count in his favor and willingness to use all fields has worked mightily to his advantage, as does the power that’s proven time and time again to play to all fields. And if you need any other further evidence of Quinn’s power look no further than his 17 home runs, which is good for second best nationally heading into this weekend.
And while everything to this point paints Quinn as a big bat in the middle of the order, which of course he is, there’s more that he’s capable of bringing to the table. Despite what his size may suggest, Quinn is capable of giving you solid average run times that will flash better while showing an ability to accelerate well base-to-base once underway with long, balanced strides. Along with the power in his bat the Alabama native shows the arm strength that will profile well in right field while showing range and quickness to his footwork. –Jheremy Brown