2016 Draft: Connor Jones

Connor Jones | RHP

Background
The 21-year-old Jones is from Chesapeake and he currently pitches for Virginia. He spent his freshman year in the bullpen before moving into the rotation as a sophomore. This spring Jones has a 2.05 ERA with 65 strikeouts and 33 walks in 92 1/3 innings. He was a possible first round pick out of high school in 2013 had he been considered signable. A strong college commitment caused Jones to slide to the 21st round (Padres).

Scouting Report
Jones, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 200 lbs., pitches off a heavy sinker with a ton of movement in the 88-95 mph range. He’s thrown even harder out of the bullpen. The sinker moves so much that he has trouble locating it. It’s one of those pitches you can just throw down the middle and let the movement do the rest. Jones also throws an inconsistent mid-80s slider that looks like a true out pitch on its best days. His changeup is just okay. Between his work out of the bullpen as his freshman and his two years as a workhorse starter, Jones has earned the bulldog label.

Miscellany
MLB.com and Baseball America ranked Jones as the 16th and 22nd best prospect in the draft class, respectively. Keith Law (subs. req’d) is not as high on him. He had him 57th. The Yankees pick 18th and 62nd. It’s worth noting Virginia pitchers have a poor track in pro ball. Recent high picks like Nathan Kirby (40th overall in 2015), Nick Howard (19th in 2014), Branden Kline (65th in 2012), and Danny Hultzen (2nd in 2011) all got hurt and/or saw their performance take a big step back after leaving Virginia. That doesn’t mean Jones is doomed to fail, but that track record could scare some teams away.

DotF: A-Rod begins rehab assignment; Sanchez hurt in AAA

The day’s notes:

  • LHP Phil Coke has accepted his outright assignment rather than elect free agency, reports Chad Jennings. Coke is going to start for Triple-A Scranton tomorrow. The Yankees want to keep him stretched out, apparently.
  • RHP Eric Ruth has been sent from Scranton down to Double-A Trenton, per Shane Hennigan. The move clears a roster spot for Coke. The RailRiders will need to clear a spot for the recently claimed RHP Layne Somsen soon too.
  • UTIL Jose Rosario needs surgery to repair fractures in his face near his right eye, reports Matt Kardos. Rosario was hit by a pitch the other day. Ouch. Sounds like he escaped without any serious eye or neurological damage. All things considered, it could have been worse.

Triple-A Scranton (5-3 loss to Louisville)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 0-4 — 8-for-45 (.178) since being sent back down
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-3, 1 BB, 2 K
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-2, 1 K — left the game after taking a foul tip to the hand, according to Hennigan … Sanchez did try to make some throws to see if he could stay in, but no dice … needless to say, hopefully it’s just a bruise
  • 1B Nick Swisher: 2-4 — odds his agent has called the Mets after the Lucas Duda injury? probably 99%
  • LF Jake Cave: 3-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 K — ten extra-base hits (five doubles, three triples, two homers) in 12 games with the RailRiders
  • DH Cesar Puello: 1-3, 1 R, 1 H, 3 RBI, 1 K
  • RHP Brady Lail: 6 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 6/5 GB/FB — 66 of 103 pitches were strikes (64%)
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 16 of 25 pitches were strikes (64%) … 4/4 K/BB in six innings since being sent down

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2016 Draft: Braxton Garrett

Braxton Garrett | LHP

Background
The 18-year-old Garrett attends Florence High School in Alabama. So far this spring he has a 0.56 ERA with 125 strikeouts and only 15 walks in 62.1 innings, and he’s also hitting .392/.455/.503 in 47 games. Garrett is a pitcher all the way in pro ball though. He’s yet another Vanderbilt commit. Seems to be a lot of them this draft.

Scouting Report
Few draft prospects have improved their stock as much as Garrett this spring. He worked in the upper-80s with Team USA’s 18-and-under team last fall before seeing his velocity jump into the 90-94 mph range this year. He’s held that velocity all spring too. Garrett’s calling card is a hammer 12-to-6 curveball that rates among the best breaking balls in the class. He also throws a promising changeup, though it lags well behind his heater and curve. Garrett, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 190 lbs., does not have the prettiest delivery, but he locates well and shows a plan on the mound. It’s not true ace upside, but Garrett has the potential to be more than a mid-rotation starter long-term.

Miscellany
Keith Law (subs. req’d), Baseball America, and MLB.com ranked Garrett as the sixth, tenth, and 16th best prospect in the draft class in their latest rankings, respectively. The Yankees hold the 18th pick. The Yankees are said to have their eye on a variety of high school arms and Garrett is one of the best available in the draft class. That said, there’s a decent chance he doesn’t make it out of the top ten, so New York is unlikely to have a crack at him. And, even if they do, they might not have the draft pool space to buy him away from Vandy, which historically is a tough commitment to break.

DotF: Holder extends hitting streak in Charleston’s win

Chad Jennings spoke to farm system head Gary Denbo about a bunch of minor league pitchers and position players, so make sure you check that out. Here are some other notes to pass along:

  • IF Billy Fleming has been promoted to Double-A Trenton and IF Thairo Estrada has been moved up to High-A Tampa, the Tampa Yankees announced. With Estrada joining Tampa, it leads me to believe SS Jorge Mateo won’t be there much longer. Estrada, Mateo, 3B Miguel Andujar, and IF Abi Avelino are all at that level now.
  • The Yankees have released OF Jared Mitchell and signed LHP Zak Wasserman out of the independent Frontier League, reports Matt Eddy. Mitchell’s a former first rounder who fizzled out and the Yankees picked up as a minor league free agent over the winter. Wasserman, 25, was a position player at Louisville before converting to the mound in indy ball a few years ago.
  • Following his strong outing last night, RHP Vicente Campos made an appearance in today’s Prospect Report, so check that out. It’s not behind the paywall. Also, LHP Nestor Cortes was named the Low-A South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week. Congrats to him.

Triple-A Scranton had a scheduled off-day.

Double-A Trenton (7-6 win over New Hampshire)

  • CF Dustin Fowler: 0-5, 2 K
  • LF Mark Payton: 1-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
  • DH Tyler Austin: 2-2, 2 R, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 1 SB — got picked off first … he had three walks total in his previous eleven games
  • 2B Billy Fleming: 1-3,1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — he was up here for a few games last season, so this is not his Double-A debut
  • SS Cito Culver: 2-4, 1 R — his excellent month of May continues
  • RHP Cale Coshow: 4 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 3 K, 6/1 GB/FB — 51 of 91 pitches were strikes (56%) … 32/27 K/BB in 49 innings this year after 97/28 K/BB in 114 innings last year

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2016 Draft: Zack Collins

Zack Collins | C

Background
Collins, 21, is a Florida kid from the Miami area who now plays for the Hurricanes. He’s a career .321/.470/.591 hitter at Miami, including a .381/.552/.645 batting line with eleven homers, 62 walks, and 39 strikeouts in 51 games this spring. Collins turned down the Reds as the 27th round pick out of high school in 2013.

Scouting Report
Collins is very much a bat first prospect. He’s a left-handed hitter with arguably the best approach in college baseball, one that not only allows him to get on base at a high rate, but also do damage against both righties and lefties. Collins has 20+ homer power in addition to the potential for hit for average, though there is some question whether pro pitchers will be able to beat him inside with fastballs. Right now he can fight those pitches off with metal bats. Behind the plate Collins has a barely average arm and he moves just okay with his 6-foot-3, 220 lb. frame. The Miami pitching staff is always loaded with pro prospects, so he has experience catching high-end stuff, but the fact there’s already talk about moving him to first base is not good. Collins is going to get drafted because of his bat, not his glove. Plain and simple.

Miscellany
In their most recent draft rankings, Baseball America ranked Collins as the 16th best draft prospect in the country, while Keith Law (subs. req’d) and MLB.com had him 18th and 20th, respectively. The Yankees pick 18th. Left-handed hitters with power and patience are a Yankee trademark, and for what it’s worth, the team has had some success developing iffy catchers into strong defenders. Francisco Cervelli and John Ryan Murphy developed into great defenders, Luis Torrens took the position quickly, and even Gary Sanchez has improved a lot over the years. Collins may not be salvageable behind the plate though. As long as the bat works out, he’ll be fine anywhere.

2016 Draft: MLB.com Mock Draft v2.0

Late last week Jim Callis posted MLB.com’s second mock draft of the season. He and Jonathan Mayo seem to be alternating weeks. Anyway, Callis has the Phillies taking Florida LHP A.J. Puk with the top pick. That appears to be the most likely outcome at the moment. Figuring out what happens after the Phillies take Puk is where it gets interesting.

As for the Yankees, Callis has them selecting Vanderbilt RHP Jordan Sheffield with their first round pick, No. 18 overall. The Yankees were connected to Sheffield in Baseball America’s most recent mock draft as well. These mock drafts aren’t guesswork. They’re a reflection of what Callis and Baseball America (and Keith Law) are hearing. They’re informed speculation. Chances are the Yankees are indeed in on Sheffield. Here’s a piece of MLB.com’s scouting report:

Of all the pitching prospects in the 2016 Draft, Sheffield may have the best chance to develop three plus offerings. His fastball can sit at 94-96 mph and reach 98, and he has maintained his velocity in the late innings of his starts. Both Sheffield’s hard three-quarters breaking ball (which is more likely to become a slider than a curveball) and his circle changeup can be out pitches at times.

Within the write-up Callis seems to indicate the Yankees are targeting a high school arm first and foremost. We’ve heard them connected to California HS RHP Kevin Gowdy more than anyone these last few weeks — here’s my write-up on Gowdy — though he’s far from the only first round caliber prep arm. Last year the Yankees reportedly grabbed RHP James Kaprielian only after all the high school bats they wanted were off the board.

The 2016 draft begins two weeks from Thursday, so at this point teams have their boards pretty well established. They’re now getting their final looks at players and tweaking their preference lists, not overhauling them. It’ll take an injury to change things significantly at this point.

DotF: Sanchez takes Glasnow deep in Scranton’s win

Triple-A Scranton (2-0 win over Indianapolis)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
  • DH Aaron Judge: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K
  • C Gary Sanchez: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 K, 1 SB, 1 PB — hit a two-run home run off Pirates RHP Tyler Glasnow, who Baseball America ranked as the sixth best pitching prospect in baseball before the season
  • LF Jake Cave: 1-4, 2 K
  • LHP Richard Bleier: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 12/1 GB/FB, 1 E (throwing) — 54 of 83 pitches were strikes (65%) … he’s pitched really well so far, well enough that he’s at least in the conversation for a spot start should the need arise
  • LHP Neal Cotts: 1 IP, zeroes, 1/1 GB/FB — eleven pitches, eight strikes … first appearance since signing a minor league deal a few days ago
  • LHP James Pazos: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — seven of 13 pitches were strikes
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — ten of 15 pitches were strikes

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