We are now hours away from the 2016 Amateur Draft, and I have just a few final notes to pass along before it starts.
Late rising catcher Will Smith
No player has probably had more helium on media draft boards in the last two weeks than Louisville catcher Will Smith. The slender 6'0 190 lbs. catcher has hit his way into first day consideration, currently sitting at .380/.476/.573 for the College World Series contending Cardinals. Smith has only struck out twelve times this season while walking eighteen times and being hit by sixteen pitches.
Finding enough information to evaluate Smith's tools has proven difficult enough that I did not put him on my big board. Smith has a good reputation as both a receiver and in controlling the run game. He's more athletic than most catchers, with some considering his run tool a plus, and he's stolen nine bags in ten attempts.
I'm a little skeptical of his overall power potential. Smith's swing looks relatively flat with no load, and he's not overly projectable physically. His low load and swing plane has allowed him to hit for average this season despite no previous college average higher than .240, but that might be attributable to some physical maturity.
Still, Smith's average isn't entirely empty, and his plate discipline and barrel control should make him attractive to teams. If I had to grade him out for the big board, I would likely give him a 50 grade for overall, risk, and ceiling, putting his ranking between fifty and sixty on the board. He has starting potential but probably not star potential. If you're a huge believer in Smith, than you probably see a Jeff Kendall type career, but I see someone similar to Austin Barnes but less power, and Barnes' receiving ability is already a known quality.
Underrated college arm to Watch: Brigham Hill, RHP, Texas A&M
Hill is like a Sonny Gray starter kit; highly competitive, undersized, plus fastball, and enticing secondaries. He has the leverage of a draft eligible sophomore, so some media reports question his signability, but it wouldn't surprise me if he's taken ahead of my 124th ranking for him.
Despite his small frame, Hill gets good plane on his pitches from a high slot, and he's athletic with a quick arm to deliver electric stuff consistently for Texas A&M. Both his change-up and slider have strikeout potential, and he can pitch off a plus fastball with late life.
With smaller pitchers, there's always a risk that they cannot hold up in starting and need to move to relief. However, Hill's athleticism and solid command make him a worthwhile starting prospect and his performance in big spots in the SEC may have convinced some team to take him early.
Underrated college hitter to watch: Colby Woodmansee, SS, Arizona State
It's a down year for college infielders, and Colby Woodmansee likewise didn't take as big a step forward as many may have hoped he would. That being said, Woodmansee has a little bit of projection left as a good bodied shortstop. Woodmansee is a capable defender that may not be flashy but shouldn't have to move off the position. He has power but it's not currently consistent, and the same could be said for his hit tool.
It's odd to consider a player that has yet to tap into his full potential underrated, but Woodmansee has enough tools to become a better pro than collegian. While he has the upside of a starting shortstop, Woodmansee might also have value as an infield utility player with some pop.
Underrated prep pitcher to watch: Charles King, RHP, Coppell HS
I'm not sure there necessarily is an "underrated" high school pitcher, as I think the media consensus has been pretty solid on these guys, but Charles King has quite a bit of upside down the draft board. King has a 6'6 frame and a low arm slot that will make him tough on right handed batters, but comes with the drawback of command and inconsistencies spinning a breaking ball. King's delivery gives him excellent sink and run on the fastball that he can run into the mid 90's, and should give him the framework of a solid change-up.
King has some stiffness in his delivery, but is a solid athlete with a loose arm. He might be a tough sign as a Texas Christian commit, especially if he slides out of the first few rounds. King's command and secondaries may ultimately lead him to relief in the pro game, but his arm is electric and could fit in the late innings if it came to that. Any drafting team would likely develop him as a starter with mid rotation upside.
Underrated prep hitter to watch: Tyler Fitzgerald, SS, Rochester HS
I touched on Fitzgerald a bit in my mock draft, so it should be obvious I'm a bigger fan of the player than most. From a physical standpoint, Fitzgerald's tools aren't too dissimilar to higher rated prep players like Nolan Jones or Nonie Williams. However, Fitzgerald might be a more natural fit at shortstop with less a likelihood of a position switch.
Fitzgerald has a little more stiffness in his swing than a player like Jones, and won't have the same raw power, but he might still have 15 home run potential at the next level. His hit tool and plus speed should make him a contributor at the plate, potentially as a table setter in his prime.
Several shortstops could have received consideration here (Grae Kessinger and Ben Baird), but Fitzgerald's athleticism/size combination doesn't come around often at the position and I'm buying in on his potential.