This past weekend kicked-off the start of the Division I college baseball season, and so too does Baseball Prospectus’ prospect team kick-off our coverage of the 2015 draft with the first installment of our Draft Ten Pack series. Each week we will bring you updates on some of the top names and rising talents across the amateur landscape, beginning this week with updates from college baseball’s opening weekend and some prep notes from the Sunshine State and an early-season Midwest showcase.
Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville
Considered a potential top 10 entering the season, the Louisville ace started his 2015 campaign shoving in a big way against an overmatched Alabama State squad, matching his career high with 12 strikeouts, allowing just one walk and one hit, and at one point retiring 20 in a row over the course of seven shutout innings. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Funkhouser established his power fastball early, sitting 91 to 94 mph and touching 95 with some late life, throwing from a high three-quarters slot. He was able to command this pitch across the zone while painting the corners in spite of some effort in his delivery and some fall-off to his glove side.
Under cold and windy conditions, he struggled to find consistency in his 81-83 mph slider early on, showing soft spin and inconsistent shape. As the game progressed, his feel for the pitch improved and, at its best, Funkhouser was able to locate the offering to either side and with particular effect down and sweeping away from right-handed batters. While the fastball/slider combo was more than enough to dominate the Hornets lineup, Funkhouser showcased his full complement of secondaries, periodically mixing in his changeup and curve. The change was consistently average with good arm speed and a solid velocity differential off his heater, while the curve lagged some with big, looping action and below-average bite. Overall, it was a strong first outing for the 2014 USA Collegiate National Team standout and should serve as a solid building block as he works towards early-first round consideration. –Chris King
Brendan Rodgers, SS, Lake Mary HS (Lake Mary, FL)
A preseason favorite to be the first name called in the upcoming June draft, Rodgers has impressed in early-season action, including a head-to-head match-up with Hagerty High School and fellow early-round target Ryan Mountcastle.
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Rodgers appears to have added some strength since last summer, especially in his lower half, but still shows athletic actions and sound footwork in the field, and particularly around the bag while turning double plays. Ranging to his right, Rodgers was very smooth and displayed a natural feel for his backhand. His plus arm strength was on full display as well, easily playing across the diamond with solid accuracy, including on the run.
At the plate, Rodgers stands out for his easy bat speed and potential plus hit tool. The Florida State commit does a good job keeping the barrel on plane and the bat absolutely explodes through the zone. He projects to average or better pop thanks to the force he generates at contact, and he flexed that pop in game with a double and hard line out to left. With the potential for a plus hit tool and plus arm, and average or better grades on the power and glove, all wrapped into a future shortstop profile, he’ll be an evaluative focal point throughout the spring for clubs selecting at the top of the draft. –Chris King
Ryan Mountcastle, SS, Hagerty HS (Orlando, FL)
Though sharing the field with the heavily hyped Brendan Rodgers, Mountcastle did his part to stay out of the big shadow that Rodgers cast. The long and lanky UCF commit shows good extension with the bat, allowing him to deposit balls over the fence with ease, as evidenced by his loud BP session that included a handful of absolute bombs. With this type of pop already, it's scary to think what he might do once he adds bulk to his projectable 6-foot-4 frame. The swing is still raw in some aspects and with the length utilized to produce that impact leverage there might always be some swing and miss to his game.
In the field, Mountcastle moved surprisingly well for a kid that tall, showing more coordination and fluidity in action than I was expecting. He uses his length well and takes good angles when ranging to his left, adding to his effective range. He is probably not a future shortstop, with his arm shy of where it needs to be in order to make all the required plays, but with his size and athletic ability there won't be a problem finding a permanent position for him in the future at a corner.
There's a quiet confidence about him and his teammates seemed to really gravitate to him and take his lead. I love seeing that at the high-school level, and he's a kid I'm really looking forward to checking in on again later in the season. –Chris King
Ian Happ, OF, Cincinnati
After a breakout summer on the Cape in 2013, and a solid sophomore campaign last spring for the Bearcats, Happ established himself as one of the top collegiate position players in the draft class. He continued to grow his profile last summer with Harwich, hitting for average and solid power while showing above-average speed and flashing a little leather to boot.
Happ didn’t miss a beat as the 2015 season got underway for Cincy, going 7 for 16 over his first four contests, including a pair of home runs and doubles. He shows a compact stroke from both sides of the plate and has no issue driving the ball to all fields, helping him to project to average or better power to go with an above-average hit tool. A good athlete with above-average speed and arm strength, Happ profiles well to an outfield corner and also has a history at second base (though his actions weren’t ideal on the dirt). He could see a bump in his draft stock with teams willing to buy into the overall athleticism and allow him to make another run at the keystone in pro ball. –Nick J. Faleris
Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt
Swanson enters the season as the top collegiate position player in the draft class after a solid summer with the USA Collegiate National Team. After primarily playing second base on last year’s national championship squad, Swanson has transitioned to the other side of the bag in 2015, where he has shown solid arm strength, good lower-half agility, and an ability to convert at the edge of his zone, all cumulating in solid playable range.
The first weekend of Vanderbilt’s season was a productive one for the top five overall hopeful, as Swanson utilized a contact-friendly swing to spray the ball across the field, going 6-for-14 with a pair of doubles and a triple while walking twice in 16 plate appearances. The playable pop is below average, and doesn’t project to be an impact weapon, but he should have the ability to hit for average while providing a solid glove up the middle and positive value on the basepaths. Swanson’s draft day stock will likely be determined by his ability to convince evaluators his skill set plays at the six spot long term. Initial reviews have been positive, and he will look to build on that progress next weekend when Vandy hosts Illinois-Chicago. –Nick J. Faleris
Rhett Wiseman, OF, Vanderbilt
After an encouraging summer on the Cape with the Cotuit Kettlers in which Wiseman showed positive growth across his game, the former Cubs 25th rounder showed well through the fall and entered 2015 as potential single-digit round target thanks to a versatile profile that includes above-average speed, a quick stick, and good feel at the outfield corners. Additionally, Wiseman opened 2015 flashing a little bit of his developing raw pop, which he gets to honestly, thanks to good bat speed and solid strength, with three of his four hits going for extra bases over the course of the weekend (two triples and a homer).
Evaluators will look to see more in-game pop and consistent hard contact from Wiseman over the course of the year, as the Vandy outfielder has yet to put everything together at the collegiate ranks in spite of regularly flashing the ability to impact the game with his speed, glove, and bat. While the arm has improved over the past two seasons to the point where some evaluators grade it as above average, camps are still split as to whether Wiseman fits best in left or right field, long term. –Nick J. Faleris
Luke Shilling, RHP, Notre Dame Prep (Pontiac, MI)
Luke Shilling has only been putting in work on the mound full time since September and the fruits of his labor showed well at the Prep Baseball Report “Super-60” showcase in McCook, Illinois earlier this month. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Illinois commit has a broad frame, complete with a thick midsection and lower half. Utilizing a simple step-back into a low-effort delivery, Shilling throws out of a three-quarters arm slot with solid fluidity in his arm action and release.
He worked comfortably in the 93-95 range with his fastball during his bullpen session, showing late life on the offering. He also showcased a 77-78 mph 11-to-5 curve with good bite and a couple of 82-83 mph changeups that flashed solid fade. Recruited by the Illini as a two-way player, Shilling could be emerging as yet another potential impact arm on the mound in a talented crop of Midwest hurlers. With a limited track record to anchor the profile, evaluators are sure to be checking in on the big righty throughout the spring. –Mauricio Rubio
Bryce Denton, 3B, Ravenwood HS (Brentwood, TN)
Though he has played across the diamond and on the bump throughout the travel ball and showcase circuit, Denton didn’t take reps in the outfield and didn’t work on the mound during the Super 60, focusing instead on showing what he can do at the hot corner and at the plate. The Vandy commit’s batting-practice session highlighted how well the ball jumps off his bat; with his loose wrists and swing path resulting in hard contact to all fields. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Denton has a high-waisted, projectable, lithe athletic body, with a chance to add good weight and strength as he matures, which in turn could lead to more thunder in the bat.
Defensively, the Tennessee native showed well in the field, including a plus arm, clean actions, and enough lateral quickness to project well to third base long term. He even flashed some showcase “want” by diving into the bag on a backhand drill that pulled too far into foul territory. Denton didn’t run his best 60, clocking in at 6.95 (as opposed to prior showings in the 6.78 range). Even so, it was a good showing for the projectable talent, and has helped to solidify his name on follow lists throughout the region. –Mauricio Rubio
Seth McGarry, RHP, Florida Atlantic
An undersized righty with a lightning quick arm, McGarry followed up a strong but quiet 2014 season with an impressive stint on the Cape that saw his velocity tick up to elite levels. A reliever profile, he works his two-seam fastball comfortably at 92-93 mph with good arm-side run, and mixes in a four-seamer that touched as high as 96 mph in his early season appearance against Connecticut.
McGarry backed up the heater with a sharp, two-plane slider at 83-84 mph that he commanded well and generally kept down in the zone. The FAU power arm will be featured in the back end of the Owls bullpen this year, and if he is able to maintain his velocity throughout the season he could emerge as an early-round target come June. –Jeff Moore
Drake Owenby, LHP, Tennessee
Being a Saturday starter in the SEC is impressive, but commanding a three-pitch mix that includes two different breaking balls, might be even better. Owenby did just that on the opening weekend of the college season, keeping FIU hitters at bay by locating an 88-91 mph fastball with good arm-side run while keeping their bats off plane with a tilted 80 mph slider. The former reliever also demonstrated an ability to change speeds on the breaking ball, utilizing a softer curve as a de facto off-speed with similar break and plane but roughly 6-7 mph off the slider.
Owenby finished the day with seven strikeouts and zero walks over six shutout innings, holding FIU to just three hits (all singles). Generously listed at 6-foot-3 and working primarily off of an average fastball, he profiles as a command lefty whose multi-look breaking balls could give same-side bats fits in pro ball. –Jeff Moore
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