Feature Photo: Ryan January, C, San Jacinto College
(Photo by Rob Vanya, S.J.C.)
Here’s a quick look at some of the top bats from the junior college ranks that should come off the board during the first two days of the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft, being held Thursday, June 9th.
Lancaster’s stock has been steadily rising all season thanks to his offensive game that’s starting to catch up with his catch and throw skills. He’s a strong bodied, left-handed hitting catcher that stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 220 pounds, and it’s a lean frame that allows him to stay loose and not play stiff. His swing can get long at times, but he boasts very strong pitch recognition skills and strike zone awareness that leads some scouts to believe that the hit tool has a chance to be above average, which would pair up nicely with his natural physical strength and raw power. Behind the plate, the Clemson University commit possesses soft, sure hands to go along with a strong and accurate arm with carry to the bag. While there is plenty of risk here, you still have a left-handed hitting catcher who has a chance to be above average on both sides of the field.
I saw Skender early on in the season and came away very impressed with his all-around skillset. He has soft hands with clean actions and knows how to use his feet around the bag. His future is likely at second base, but he can play short if need be. He’s a strong kid with natural feel for the game and a high baseball IQ. His bat-to-ball skills are advanced, which helps with his aggressive approach at the plate. There is some sneaky pop in the bat as well. A future 10-home run guy in pro ball seems like a likely scenario when it’s all said and done. Teams looking for a gamer with some position versatility and a potentially above-average hit tool should take a long, hard look at Skender.
D.J. Peters, OF, Western Nevada College (Carson City, NV)
Quite possibly the most physical and toolsy player in the country, Peters brings a lot to the table that scouts will drool over. He’s a physical specimen standing 6-foot-6 and weighing 225 pounds, while being a 6.7 runner in the 60. As you’d expect, the ball is loud off the bat and there is power to all fields. Peters also possesses a rocket for an arm and has been clocked up to 98 mph throwing from the outfield. The most impressive part of his game this season has been his much-improved plate discipline. His newly found selectiveness has allowed him to cut his strikeout total in half from last season, and propelled him to being named the 2016 Scenic West Athletic Conference Player of the Year. He hit .401 for the season with a conference-record 14 home runs and .727 SLG for the Wildcats.
Drafted out of Wando H.S. (SC) last season by the Cardinals in the 10th round, and coming off an Achilles tendon injury, Brown decided to go the JUCO route to maintain his draft eligibility for this season. In 40 games, Brown put up a respectable .279/.359/.559 slash line with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs. Blessed with a plus arm and plus raw power in his bat, the 6-foot-5, 210 pound Brown has great size while maintaining a good amount of athleticism. He’s got a quick bat and can drive the ball to all fields. Tapping into the raw power is the key for Brown at the next level. The hit tool has some scouts divided on just how much contact he can make against premier pitching, but with his natural tools and strong work ethic, the odds are in his favor to be successful.
Cory Voss, C, McLennan Community College (Waco, TX)
Drafted out of Pueblo South H.S. (CO) by the Rockies in the 34th round in 2014, Voss did not sign and instead went to the University of New Mexico, where he was a .345 hitter his freshman season for the Lobos, before transferring to a very strong JUCO program at McLennan for the 2016 season. There has never really been much of a question on whether or not this kid can hit, and if he will continue to hit as a professional. After posting a .384 average with 11 bombs at McLennan this season, his offensive stock has only gotten stronger. At 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, Voss isn’t the biggest guy in the world, but he has present strength in the frame that carries over to his bat. With solid hand/eye skills, and a disciplined eye at the plate, Voss has made many scouts believers in his future hit tool being able to carry him in the pros. Defensively, there are some questions about his future. His arm is fringe average at best, and it may not be enough to stick behind the plate as a professional. Whether or not he remains a catcher, whatever team takes a shot on him this week will be betting on the bat to be the carrying tool.
Playing most of the season with a broken thumb on his glove hand, January was relegated to a DH role for most of the season, but that wasn’t much of an issue because it really allowed him to showcase his offensive skills. January is well known as a very athletic kid with a plus arm, so a move to right field is quite possible at the next level, but wherever he ends up playing, the bat will play. He has an advanced two-strike approach, which is somewhat of a lost art these days. With the raw pop in the bat that’s graded as an easy plus tool, January can take a pitcher deep in any count and to any part of the park. If January does remain behind the plate in the pros, he will bring with him not only the strong right arm of his, but also a highly regarded instinctual ability to call a game and take control of the game behind the plate. He can keep pitchers locked in and focused on the batters while he controls the run game. Heading into the JUCO World Series, January had some nice helium, and he only added to that by hitting .350 with four home runs in the six games played.