Feature Photo: Jared Horn, RHP, Vintage (Napa, CA)
With the Florida Gators sporting three possible first-rounders in their rotation (A.J. Puk and Logan Shore in 2016, Alex Faedo in 2017), what’s RHP Dane Dunning to do? Whatever is asked of him: spot-starter, reliever, or closer. His performance this year could land him as a second-round pick the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
PG’s Andrew Krause profiles Dunning, and David Rawnsley and Jheremy Brown profile four others that could also go in the top rounds this year as part of their PG Draft Pack – Week Nine.
Dane Dunning, RHP, Univ. of Florida
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/205 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 21y, 5m
Projected Draft Round: 2-3
Much ado has been made this spring about the depth of the University of Florida’s pitching staff. Some would say that perhaps it has been discussed to the point of overkill, but it at least bears mentioning one more time when discussing junior righty Dane Dunning.
Dunning would almost certainly be a weekend starter at any other school in the country, but with three possible first round picks in the Gator rotation (A.J. Puk and Logan Shore in 2016, Alex Faedo in 2017), Dunning has had the bulk of his work come out of the bullpen with a few spot starts on the weekend (when Puk was injured) and in various midweek games. Still, he’s had plenty of opportunities to pitch as Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan smartly gives his bullpen plenty of work, and Dunning has even racked up a couple of saves over the course of the spring when subbing for usual closer Shaun Anderson.
Dunning has certainly filled out some, adding good weight and muscle mass to his large, athletic frame since arriving to Gainesville. One can still envision him adding another 10 to 20 pounds over the next few years without it being a hindrance to his overall athleticism and fluidity. As with most Gator arms, his pure stuff is electric as his heater shows some of the best sink and run in the country and can be very difficult for opposing hitters to square up, especially when it is located in the bottom half of the strike zone.
While Dunning’s 92 to 95 mph sinker is his go-to offering, he has flashed some feel for both a changeup and slider. Finding consistency with either pitch has been a small issue for him at times, but he does a good enough job of replicating his arm speed and arm action with both pitches. Throughout most of his collegiate career the changeup has been the better pitch, showing solid fading action off of his fastball, but he’s made progress with his slider this season and it has a chance to be a solid offering at maturity.
The raw stuff, large pitcher’s frame and overall athleticism have long been in place for Dunning, but this spring he truly began to show improved control and in-zone command. While fastball command wasn’t a huge area of concern, it was still a small issue nonetheless that could give some evaluators pause when trying to determine if he could profile as a starting pitcher in professional baseball. This season, Dunning has been more aggressive in the zone and showed an improved ability to spot up his fastball, which coincides with a walk rate that has been more than cut in half. He may not have started much this spring, but he’s certainly shown that he has the arsenal and skills to do so at the next level, which should help him be selected pretty early come June. –Andrew Krause
John Flowers, OF/RHP, Trinity Christian Acad. (Jacksonville, FL)
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/175 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 18y, 0m
Projected Draft Round: 2-4
Flowers isn’t a well-circulated name outside of the scouting community but he could go surprisingly high in this year’s draft. He’s improved significantly in the last year as his long and lean body has started to get stronger. His athleticism is easily shown in how different people want him to do different things at the next level.
Football coaches around the ACC, SEC and other conferences wanted Flowers to come to their school to play wide receiver. He’s signed with Kentucky for baseball but plans on playing both sports there should he make it to campus.
There are scouts who like him more as a right-handed pitcher. Flowers topped out at 90 mph at the PG National Showcase last June with a slurvy 74 mph breaking ball from an extended three-quarters arm action that creates good angle to the plate. He upped his velocity to 92 mph at the WWBA World Championship in October and incorporated an 81 mph slider into his mix that was a quality pitch, and he has been up to 95 mph this spring with heavy sinking life on his fastball.
However, most teams like Flowers more as a very projectable outfielder with pure center field tools and skills. Interestingly, Flowers only ran the 60-yard dash in 6.75 seconds at the PG National, a relatively slow time for a high-level wide receiver prospect, but he plays the game fast and has lots of range in the outfield with advanced footwork and a plus throwing arm.
Offensively is where the risk in Flowers’ evaluation lies. He has a simple and fundamentally sound approach and works gap to gap in his swing approach, but is just developing the strength and raw bat speed to drive the ball hard. Scouts have not seen him hit against top level pitching as much as some of his peers in the 2016 draft class and he is very similar in a number of ways to South Carolina prep outfielder Thomas Jones in that regard and in his overall athleticism and tool package. –David Rawnsley
Jared Horn, RHP, Vintage (Napa, CA)
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/215 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 17y, 10m
Projected Draft Round: 1-2
Horn is one of the increasingly rare three-sport athletes left at the elite level of any of the major sports. He’s an all-league quarterback and punter on the football field and also plays basketball during the winter. And not only does he pitch, he’s also hitting .338 with three home runs at the plate this spring, his third year as a full-time position starter in high school.
That does go a long way to explain why Horn had practically no national baseball resume heading into this spring. He threw at last year’s Area Code Games and was very impressive in his first inning of work, topping out at 93 mph with good life and snapping off a few hard curveballs that had big depth to them. His next two innings were not as noteworthy, as he quickly dipped into the upper-80s and his command left him as well.
In retrospect, Horn was probably taking a day off from football two-a-days to come down to Long Beach from the Bay Area to take his turn on the mound.
Horn has gone from no resume to being inundated with upper level scouts coming in to see him this spring. He’s gone 8-1 with a 0.46 ERA in 61 innings, striking out 103 hitters while only walking 11, putting himself firmly in position to be drafted as early as late in the first round.
Horn’s delivery is a bit multi-piece and fast-paced with medium effort at release, but his arm is lightning fast from an extended three-quarters arm slot. That arm slot and the timing in his delivery will make him pull the ball down glove side at times when his front side is too early, but it also gives his upper-70s curveball a big sweeping shape that is tough on both right-handed and left-handed hitters. Horn’s fastball has regularly been sitting at 94 to 95 mph and has been as high as 97 to 98 mph. He also throws a fairly decent sinking changeup.
The trade off for scouts is having an accomplished athlete with a low-mileage arm on one side versus having a short resume and young mechanics on the other. In Horn’s case, the former, plus his two plus pitches and high-level performance, have carried their opinion. –David Rawnsley
Kyle Muller, LHP, Jesuit College Prep (Dallas, TX)
Ht/Wt: 6’5”/225 | B/T: R/L | Age (as of draft date): 18y, 8m
Projected Draft Round: 1S-2
Muller has been on the national prospect radar for a couple of years and even played in the 2014 Area Code Games after his sophomore year, a rare achievement. He has always looked like a top prospect, with a long limbed 6-foot-5 frame, and has very athletic and easy actions on the baseball field in everything he does.
However, Muller had appeared to plateau on the mound in the 86 to 88 mph area on his fastball, and his arm, while being loose and easy, didn’t have the real speed and acceleration that you’d want to see in a young pitcher who was primed for a big step forward in his stuff.
Muller threw at the 2015 Perfect Game National Showcase, working in that 86-88 mph area and throwing a 74 mph curveball and 75 mph changeup. Here are PG’s raw scouting notes on him from that performance:
“Outstanding size, highly projectable, deliberate windup, all arms and legs which adds significant deception; curveball is very big with excellent depth and 1-to-7 shape, very deceptive pitch that is hell on lefties; very physical kid and presence, creates outstanding angle to plate from extended three-quarters slot, pounding his fastball at the knees to both sides of the plate at his best; inconsistent command but generally around the plate, very slow-paced delivery but throws easy, despite crossfire he shows ability to get to both sides of the plate with command.”
This scout saw Muller two other times during the summer and those performances were consistent with what happened at the National.
This spring Muller has got off that plateau he lived at for two years and moved solidly into elite prospect territory. He’s been throwing consistently in the low-90s, topping out at 93 to 94 mph, and continued to throw both his fastball and big-breaking curveball for strikes. In fact, scouts have been as impressed with Muller’s maturity and pitchability on the mound almost as much as they have with his raw stuff.
In addition to his scouting evaluation, Muller has to be at the very top of the short list for any National Player of the Year awards. His numbers at Dallas Jesuit High School cross the border into the truly absurd. One the mound, Muller is 7-0 with a 0.26 ERA and has struck out 100 hitters in 53 innings while allowing only 12 hits and six walks. Included in that strikeout total are a national record 36 consecutive punchouts earlier this year. At the plate, the right-handed hitter has a .442-15-49 line, with 15 stolen bases thrown in for good measure. Jesuit is 27-5 as of May 10 and ranked 10th nationally in the PG high school rankings.
Muller’s season, his overall athletic and baseball profile and his rise into top prospect status mirrors that of Kansas lefthander Joey Wentz very closely. Wentz has a slight edge in present stuff and future projectability, which seems likely to get him into the first round in June. Muller won’t be far behind that, however. –David Rawnsley
Jake Rogers, C, Tulane Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/185 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 21y, 1m
Projected Draft Round: 2-3
You can try to scour the country to find a more polished amateur catcher in the country and odds are you’re going to come up short. And it’s not that he is just an excellent receiver with an average arm, or a fringe defender with above average arm strength, he’s a combination of the two as his mechanics behind the dish are extremely refined and his pure arm strength would rival any in the draft class.
Though he came out of a Texas high school undrafted back in 2013 he received plenty of attention, especially late in the process, before deciding it would be the college route he’d ultimately take. And it’s safe to say he made the right decision as Rogers has seen his offensive game take several steps in the right direction since his freshman year at Tulane, which only increases the value to his overall draft profile.
A true plus defender at perhaps the most premium position on the field, Rogers exhibits the type of receiving skills you don’t typically find in an amateur prospect as his footwork is extremely light and his hands are even softer. His catch-and-throw skills may be unrivaled in this draft class and just last year he set the Tulane school record for runners caught stealing with 33, which also led the NCCA, a school record he had previously set during his freshman year. And through 46 games this spring runners have been a little more hesitant to run, and rightfully so, as he’s thrown out another 18 in just 29 attempts.
With defense behind the plate always put on a higher pedestal when compared to any of the other eight positions, at either the collegiate or professional level, offensive output is almost put to the side when looking at a player with such high-end capabilities. But then when you look at what Rogers has been able to do at the plate and the growth he’s exhibited during his three years, scouts begin to realize that there might be more to the profile than just defense.
Last summer on the Cape served as a sort of coming out party for Rogers as he connected for a couple home runs, while swinging a wood bat, after not hitting any out his first two years on campus. Those home runs have continued to show up this spring, and while he’s cooled after a hot start, he’s still put five balls over the fence, accounting for nearly half of his extra-base hits. Hitting just .256 this spring, Rogers has continued to make improvements and shows a smooth swing path from the right side with projectable bat speed.
Catchers typically come off the board earlier than expected, especially when they project to stick behind the plate, and if teams feel the bat will continue to improve with Rogers then he could very well be gone close to the start of day two. –Jheremy Brown