Ed. Note: Today we’re happy to welcome Burke Granger as a new contributor to 2080 Baseball. Located in Columbus, OH, Granger travels the Midwest to evaluate amateur talent in preparation for the MLB Draft, while also covering the Triple-A International and Class A Midwest Leagues. In 2010, he launched prospectjunkies.com, a site devoted to scouting, analyzing, and evaluating the top prospects in baseball. Granger also works as a scout, consultant, and advisor for Premier Scouting Service, LLC, where he connects college coaches with student athletes seeking athletic scholarships. His work has been featured on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, and we’re happy to have him share his insights at 2080 heading into the 2017 season.
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Alex Faedo, RHP, Univ. of Florida
Ht/Wt: 6’5”/220 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 6m
Perhaps the best Sunday starter in country last season, Faedo pitched behind a couple of 2016 Oakland Athletics draftees in left-hander A.J. Puk (first round, sixth overall) and right-hander Logan Shore (second round, 47th overall) while relegating Nationals draftee Dane Dunning (first round, 29th overall – since traded to the White Sox) to the bullpen. At 6’5” and 220 pounds, Faedo stands out for his XL physical stature. Working off an above-average fastball that sits at 91-to-93 mph, Faedo also features a plus slider with bite and two-plane break. His changeup is presently an inconsistent and underutilized offering, but it’s a pitch he should have little trouble developing as a future pro given his arm action. Combining a prototypical starter’s body and stuff, Faedo could be the first arm drafted among a deep collegiate pitcher class. He finished his 2016 campaign with a 13-3 record, 3.17 ERA, and 1.03 WHIP while striking out 11.40/9 and walking just 1.80/9.
Brendan McKay, LHP/1B, Univ. of Louisville
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/212 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 5m
Twice a recipient of the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award, McKay is a legitimate professional prospect as both a polished left-handed starter and as a sweet-swinging first basemen. On the mound, McKay has a heavy fastball that sits at 90-to-92 mph that he can locate well to both sides of the plate, along with a 1-to-7 curveball with good depth. Like Alex Faedo, McKay’s changeup needs further development to become an effective third offering. At the plate, McKay barrels the ball with regularity, showing an aptitude for barrel control and a smooth, line-drive oriented stroke. McKay possesses good strike zone judgment and sees his share of pitches, which is evident in his career 1.21 K/BB ratio and his .416 OBP. After his spring season, he shined with the Team USA Collegiate National Team, hitting .326 with a .434 OBP at the plate, while also posting a 1.35 ERA and .140 BAA on the mound.
J.J. Schwarz, C/DH, Univ. of Florida
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/215 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 1m
The son of former big league pitcher Jeff Schwarz (RHP, 1993-94), J.J. was a 17th-round selection by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2014 MLB Draft out of Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) high school. Following through on his commitment to Florida, Schwarz burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2015, producing a .332/.398/.629 slash line while belting 18 home runs on his way to being named to multiple Freshman All-American teams. Though his numbers backed up a bit as a sophomore (.290/.397/.456; 7 home runs), Schwarz did increase his walk rate from 9.5% to 14.7% year-over-year. Schwarz doesn’t get a lot of reps behind the plate, as teammate Mike Rivera is a better receiver, which makes the bat Schwarz’ carrying tool. With a sound approach at the plate, Schwarz has shown the ability use the whole field, and his solid build and broad frame contributes to his double-plus raw power.
Pavin Smith, 1B/OF, Univ, of Virginia
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/210 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 4m
A high school teammate of Schwarz at Palm Beach Gardens, Smith was a 2014 draft pick by the Colorado Rockies (32nd round) before attending Virginia. Like J.J. Schwarz, Smith has been producing since stepping on campus, earning Freshman All-American honors with a .307/.373/.467 slash line, while starting all 68 games and leading the team in hits (86) for the National Champion Cavaliers. Smith built upon that success with an even more impressive encore, slashing .329/.410/.513 while his 0.64 K/BB ratio suggests an advanced approach at the plate. After splitting starts evenly between the outfield and first base as a freshman, Smith settled into first base more regularly last season, where his athleticism can play up.
Dalton Guthrie, SS, Univ. of Florida
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/175 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 5m
Like Schwarz, Guthrie is the son of a major leaguer as his father Mark Guthrie pitched for eight teams in a 15-year career before coaching his son at Venice (Fla.) high school. The younger Guthrie plays like the son of a big leaguer, too, with notable instincts, leadership, and feel for the game. While he may not have an impact bat, Guthrie makes consistently solid contact, and he also walked as much as he struck out last season. Guthrie moves well to either side, with soft hands and an average arm that plays up a bit because of his accurate throws. He has the instincts, quickness, and ability to make all the throws at shortstop as a pro, but his ultimate ceiling will be determined by whether his hit tool will be enough to be an everyday player, or whether he profiles better in a utility role.
Evan White, 1B/OF, Univ. of Kentucky
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/200 B/T: R/L Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 1m
White is that rare bird who throws left-handed but bats from the right side. He controls the barrel with quick hands and a swing path that’s geared more toward line drives than home runs. While White is an aggressive hitter, he’ll still take what the pitcher gives him and use the entire field. Like Pavin Smith, White is more athletic than most collegiate first basemen, but the bat may profile better in the outfield, where he also saw some time last summer.
Mike Rivera, C, Univ. of Florida
Ht/Wt: 5’10”/200 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 21y, 5m
Rivera teamed with Guthrie at Venice high school and, like Guthrie, he passed on an opportunity to turn pro when Oakland make him a 33rd-round selection in 2014, heading instead to campus in Gainesville. While he may be regarded as a glove-first catcher, Rivera contributes both behind the plate in the batter’s box. Rivera excels at receiving and blocking, and also owns an accurate arm with a quick release. Rivera has pop offensively, as evidenced by his nine home runs last spring. Having a good knowledge of the strike zone, Rivera has a 1.14 K/BB ratio for his collegiate career. With his balance of offensive and defensive upside, Rivera could be one of the first few college catchers to come off the board in June.
Deacon Liput, SS/2B, Univ. of Florida
Ht/Wt: 5’10”/190 B/T: L/R Age (as of 2017 MLB Draft): 20y, 11m
One of the youngest college players in the 2017 MLB Draft class, Liput won’t turn 21 years old until June 27th. He held his own as a freshman, hitting .270/.363/.398 and handling second base duties for the Gators. Liput has good first-step quickness and is sure handed, making only five errors in 67 starts last season for the Gators. As a draft-eligible sophomore, Liput will have additional negotiating leverage throughout the draft process, choosing between signing with a club, or returning to the Gators for the 2018 season, where he could increase his draft stock by maturing at the plate while being a candidate to take over at shortstop for the departing Dalton Guthrie. Liput did see an increase in his slugging percentage playing in the wood bat Cape Cod League this summer, bumping it from .398 to .438, while hitting the same number of home runs on the Cape (three) in less than one third of the plate appearances as he had in the spring.