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2016 "Very Luhnow" College Draft Prospects

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It's that time of year, when we do a deep dive to find hidden gems in the ranks of the four-year college players.

Where does Miami's Zack Collins, one of the top bats in the draft, come in on this year's list?
Where does Miami's Zack Collins, one of the top bats in the draft, come in on this year's list?
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

It's that time of year when we turn some of our attention to the upcoming 2016 MLB Draft. The past two years, I've published a list of draft-eligible players from four-year colleges who hold skills that I believe Houston Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow covets in his prospects.

As with previous lists, there are two caveats: A) This list is not meant to identify the "best" players in the draft. Many of these are unsexy, high-floor players. B) Scouting reports do not play into this list. This is purely based on age relative to league, difficulty of competition, and results compared to players' conferences.

Remember, this is still largely a thought exercise. Despite the provocative title, I'm not saying that these are players that the Houston Astros will or even should draft. But if I worked for the front office, these are players to whom I would be paying extra-special attention - many of whom could provide positive results from the middle and late rounds.

Consider this list to be a piece of a giant puzzle. Players who rate very highly here, and who also have excellent scouting reports (I'm looking at you, Kyle Lewis), should be rated overall more highly. Some players will not make this list because of injury, or lack of playing time, or any of a number of reasons. If I were to compile an overall draft list, I would start with this list and scout the players from there.

Now, then. On to the list:

1. Andrew Lantrip, RHP, Houston

Player Page

Height: 6'2"  Weight: 180  High School: Livingston High School (Livingston, TX)
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Date of Birth: May 11, 1995 (21.08 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: N/A

After an impressive sophomore year at Houston, Lantrip returned to the weekend rotation in 2016 and flat-out dominated. He finished the season with a WHIP under one (0.94, to be exact) and a K/BB of 16.8. That's a result of his walking just one batter every eighteen innings - five total walks issued in ninety innings of work. A lot of people are familiar with Anthony Kay, the lefty from UConn, but fewer know about Lantrip, his right-handed counterpart in the AAC. Low-nineties fastball that peaks at 94, so don't be surprised if he slides past the third round, but he can provide excellent value out of wherever he lands.

Matt Thaiss

2. Matt Thaiss, C, Virginia

Player Page

Height: 6'0"  Weight: 195  High School: Jackson Memorial (Jackson, NJ)
Bats/Throws: Left/Right
Date of Birth: May 6, 1995 (21.10 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: 2013 - 32nd round (953rd overall) - Boston Red Sox

Thaiss is currently predicted to go toward the end of the first round, so he's a guy who will likely be available to the Astros at pick #17. The first thing you have to do with him is eliminate the idea that he's a catcher; it's not that it's not a possibility - I'm sure whoever drafts him will start him out there - it's just that he hasn't been a stellar defender to this point. As a professional, I'd call it unlikely. But his bat. Well, now, his bat has been tremendous. After posting a 8.6% strikeout rate in 2015, he somehow got even better at making contact his junior year, striking out just 14 times in 264 plate appearances (5.30%). Contact skills are all well and good, of course, but unless you're doing something once the ball is in play, then they lose some of their luster... well, Thaiss exited the season with a .382/.477/.591 slash line, ten home runs, and a dozen doubles. The bat will definitely play.

3. Kyle Lewis, OF, Mercer

Player Page

Height: 6'4"  Weight: 210  High School: Shiloh High School (Snellville, GA)
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Date of Birth: July 13, 1995 (20.91 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: N/A

Lewis checks all the boxes. He's young for his draft class, he's got tools and projection, and he's had outstanding results, both with metal and with wooden bats. Depending on which mock draft you check, Lewis is going anywhere from the top three to the middle of the first round, but even in a best-case scenario, it's highly unlikely that he's available to the Astros. Which is a shame. After exploding onto the radar as a sophomore with a .367/.423/.677 slash line at Mercer, Lewis went to Orleans in the Cape Cod League, where he hit .300/.344/.500 with seven home runs. Then, this year, he turned it up even further, slashing .395/.535/.731 with an even twenty home runs and six stolen bases. Even more impressive might be his 21.93% walk rate, as Southern Conference pitchers just refused to pitch to him.

4. Mark Ecker, RHP, Texas A&M

Player Page

Height: 6'1"  Weight: 195  High School: Sandra Day O'Connor High School (Helotes, TX)
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Date of Birth: 6/27/95 (20.95 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: N/A

Ecker had an impressive sophomore campaign in 2015, and managed to improve on it in 2016, reducing his BB/9 from 3.55 to a stunning 0.86, and raising his K/9 from 9.82 to 10.15. Though he wasn't the Aggies' full-time closer in 2016, he was unquestionably their most-dominant reliever, by almost any measure. He isn't the biggest guy on the mound, but he does boast a mid-90s fastball (that's hit 98/99), a plus changeup at 83-85, and a breaking ball that's still something of a work-in-progress, but likely ends up being average.

5. Nick Senzel, 3B, Tennessee

Player Page

Height: 6'1"  Weight: 205  High School: Farragut High School (Farragut, TN)
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Date of Birth: 6/29/95 (20.95 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: N/A

MVP of the Cape Cod League last year, Senzel checks every box: Plate discipline, hit tool, developing power, a little bit of speed on the basepaths, enough defense to stay at third base, and something we rarely talk about - consistency. Many sources consider him one of the "safest" bats in this class, with a track record of consistent success in an elite conference.

6. Jameson Fisher, 1B, Southeastern Louisiana

Player Page

Height: 6'2"  Weight: 200  High School: Zachary High School (Zachary, LA)
Bats/Throws: Left/Right
Date of Birth: 12/18/93 (22.46 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: 2012 - 24th Round (734th overall) - Chicago Cubs

Fisher sat out in 2015, redshirting due to a labrum injury, so it was nice to see him bounce back in 2016, slashing .437/.564/.716 with 11 home runs, 15 stolen bases, and 50 walks to 29 strikeouts in the Southland Conference. Though he's still listed as a catcher, he moved to first base this season. As a professional, he's likely to start off in left field, where he's athletic enough and fast enough to stick.

7. Aaron Civale, RHP, Northeastern

Player Page

Height: 6'2"  Weight: 210  High School: Loomis Chaffee School (Windsor, CT)
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Date of Birth: 6/12/95 (20.99 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: N/A

Civale had a breakout performance in the Cape Cod League, where he threw 25 innings over 14 games, with a 0.84 WHIP, 0.36 ERA, 10.44 K/9, and 2.88 BB/9 against wooden bats. He went back to Northeastern in his junior year, where he pitched to the tune of 114.1 IP, 0.93 WHIP, 1.73 ERA, 9.52 K/9, 1.18 BB/9 in his first year as a starter. Low-nineties fastball and a slider in the upper eighties with movement. Civale has handled every challenge thrown his way so far, and there's little reason to think that he won't repeat that trend at the next level.

8. Daulton Jefferies, RHP, California

Player Page

Height: 6'0"  Weight: 180  High School: Buhach Colony High School (Atwater, CA)
Bats/Throws: Left/Right
Date of Birth: 8/2/95 (20.85 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: 2013 - 39th round (1162nd overall) - Miami Marlins

An injury derailed his spring, but Jefferies was cruising along before that, showing why many in the nation had him going in the top 10-15 picks. A power pitcher with a fastball in the mid-nineties, Jefferies went fifty innings this year, with a .185 BAA, 1.08 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and 53 strikeouts to just 8 walks in the Pac-12. He also had a strong summer in the Cape, with a 10.5 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, and 1.17 WHIP.

9. Eric Lauer, LHP, Kent State

Player Page

Height: 6'3"  Weight: 205  High School: Midview High School (Grafton, OH)
Bats/Throws: Right/Left
Date of Birth: 6/3/95 (21.02 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: 2013 - 17th round (505th) - Toronto Blue Jays

Lauer is tall, he's young, he's left-handed, he throws in the low nineties with three offspeed pitches including a plus slider, he had a breakout season in the Cape Cod League, and he followed it up by dominating his small conference (0.69 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 10.82 K/9 in the Mid-American Conference.) What more could you want? There's one catch - Lauer is likely a stretch at 1-17, and likely won't make it to their second-round pick. But if he falls, don't be surprised if the Astros pounce.

10. Clayton Daniel, 2B, Jacksonville State

Player Page

Height: 5'6"  Weight: 170  High School: Guntersville High School (Guntersville, AL)
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Date of Birth: 5/10/95 (21.08 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: N/A

Finally, our first undersized middle infielder! Traditionally, these guys have fared pretty well in the Very Luhnow list, and Daniel - a draft-eligible sophomore - is no exception. You won't find him on many prospect lists, but he does well in this ranking system. A .480 slugging percentage (on the strength of twenty doubles) and a .443 OBP (thanks in large part to a miniscule 4.38% strikeout rate in a conference that does it 18.31% of the time on average) will do that. A definite strong late-round contender.

11. Zac Gallen, RHP, North Carolina

Player Page

Height: 6'2"  Weight: 191  High School: Bishop Eustace Preparatory School (Pennsauken, NJ)
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Date of Birth: 8/3/95 (20.85 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: N/A

Gallen's second season in the Cape Cod League was a rousing success - 3.21 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 10.93 K/9 - and he followed that up with a solid junior campaign. The three-year starter used his low-nineties fastball and cutter to mow down ACC batters, to the tune of 9.43 K/9, 0.98 WHIP, and 2.68 ERA. He's rising up draft boards, and looks like a solid third-rounder at this point, if not a little higher. A solid track record of success

12. Boomer White, 3B, Texas A&M

Player Page

Height: 5'10"  Weight: 195  High School: Memorial High School (Houston, TX)
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Date of Birth: 7/28/93 (22.87 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: N/A

After transferring from TCU to his "dream school," Texas A&M, White sat out of the 2015 season, but put in some time in the Cape Cod League over the summer. This year, he made up for lost time, slashing .395/.471/.524. His power is largely to the gaps, and don't expect that to change as a professional, but a combination of his natural hit tool and his plate discipline (4.73% strikeouts to 10.91% walks) helps balance things out. There's some question on whether he will stick at third base, but thus far, he's been fine. Not a prototypical corner infield bat, and not a prototypical baseball body. All he does is hit.

Zack Burdi Jamie Rhodes - USA TODAY Sports

13. Zack Burdi, RHP, Louisville

Player Page

Height: 6'3"  Weight: 205  High School: Downers Grove South High School (Downers Grove, IL)
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Date of Birth: 3/9/95
Previously Drafted: N/A

Burdi and his older brother, Nick (currently in the Twins system,) may be the only brothers in the history of baseball who could both throw a baseball faster than a hundred miles an hour. Burdi the Younger pairs his fastball with a plus slider and an above-average changeup, which leads many to believe that despite being a college closer, he may be a rotation candidate as a professional. Burdi paired a 15 K/9 with a 2.33 BB/9 over 27 innings at Louisville this year, which helped put together a WHIP called 0.74.

14. Logan Shore, RHP, Florida

Player Page

Height: 6'3"  Weight: 215  High School: Coon Rapids High School (Coon Rapids, MN)
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Date of Birth: 12/28/94 (21.45 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: 2013 - 29th round (860th overall) - Minnesota Twins

A three-year weekend starter for the Gators boasts two plus-or-better pitches in his fastball and changeup, but it was his 1.36 BB/9 in the challenging SEC that the spreadsheet really loved. Despite facing one of the toughest schedules in the country (Warren Nolan has the Gators at third-toughest,) he put together a 0.97 WHIP and a 2.41 ERA over 86 innings of work.

15. Tim Lynch, 1B, Southern Miss

Player Page

Height: 6'2"  Weight: 220  High School: Dwyer High School (West Palm Beach, FL)
Bats/Throws: Left/Right
Date of Birth: 6/3/93 (23.02 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: N/A

Lynch went undrafted in 2015, despite hitting .313/.400/.510 with nine home runs. But in his senior year at Southern Miss, he somehow managed to improve on that - to the tune of .366/.465/.554. Easily one of the best senior bats in the draft, he drew 36 walks compared to just 13 strikeouts, and hit ten home runs - all after destroying the wood bat New England Collegiate Baseball League, to the tune of nine home runs and a .288/.376/.532 slash line.

16. Bryson Bowman, OF, Western Carolina

Player Page

Height: 6'0"  Weight: 200  High School: South Caldwell High School (Hudson, NC)
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Date of Birth: Unknown (1994)
Previously Drafted: N/A

Not a lot is known about Bowman, who sat out 2015 after transferring to Western Carolina, but his numbers as a redshirt junior this year were outstanding: .336/.457/.692 with nineteen home runs and ten stolen bases in fifteen attempts. He averaged 11.26 at-bats between home runs, second on this list after only fellow SoCon slugger Kyle Lewis, and yet struck out at just a 8.92% rate (almost a full ten percent lower than conference average, and roughly half as often as Lewis.) Primarily a right fielder at Western Carolina, Bowman presents an intriguing late-round small-college option.

17. Cavan Biggio, 2B, Notre Dame

Player Page

Height: 6'2"  Weight: 205  High School: St. Thomas Catholic High School (Houston, TX)
Bats/Throws: Left/Right
Date of Birth: 4/11/95 (21.16 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: 2013 - 29th round (871st overall) - Philadelphia Phillies

As a freshman, and again as a sophomore, Biggio made his name as an on-base machine for the Irish, with .329 and .406 OBPs respectively in those two years. In his junior campaign, Craig's youngest son caught up with the bat - upping his batting average to .311 and his OBP to an unsightly .473, on the heels of a 21.09% walk rate. For the first time in his college career, he drew more walks (54) than strikeouts (32), and he also matched his steal total from 2015 (14) without getting caught a single time. There's a lot to like about Cavan, even outside of his last name.

Bryan Reynolds Steven Branscombe - USA TODAY Sports

18. Bryan Reynolds, OF, Vanderbilt

Player Page

Height: 6'4"  Weight: 215  High School: Brentwood High School (Brentwood, TN)
Bats/Throws: Both/Right
Date of Birth: 1/27/95 (21.37 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: N/A

If I told you I had a 6'4", 215-pound switch-hitting center fielder with good speed, quick-twitch athleticism, above-average on-base skills, and the ability to barrel up the ball, how many times would you tell me to just shut up and give him to you? That's what Reynolds brings to the table: Size, the ability to (probably) stay in center as a defender, decent (if not stellar) plate discipline, and the likelihood of adding power to his frame. One of the "safest" college hitters in the draft, with a wide variety of skills.

19. Deion Tansel, SS, Toledo

Player Page

Height: 5'8"  Weight: 150  High School: Anthony Wayne High School (Whitehouse, OH)
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Date of Birth: 6/4/94 (22.00 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: N/A

Perhaps the least-sexy player on this entire list, Tansel is a four-year starter at Toledo (as a full-time shortstop in his final three years) with outstanding defensive acumen and a penchant for making contact: Over the last two seasons combined, he's struck out in just 17 of his 456 plate appearances. He went undrafted after missing part of 2015 with an injury, but this year he provides an interesting late-round option. He added a bit of power as a senior, though it's still not much (.080 ISO), and stole double-digits for the fourth time as a collegian (12-for-19).

20. A.J. Puckett, RHP, Pepperdine

Player Page

Height: 6'4"  Weight: 200  High School: De La Salle High School (Concord, CA)
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Date of Birth: 5/27/95 (21.04 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: 2013 - 35th round (1061st overall) - Oakland Athletics

With a mid-nineties fastball, slider, and changeup, Puckett has drifted onto the national radar after dominating West Coast Conference hitters in 2016 - to the tune of a 0.94 WHIP, 1.27 ERA, and 8.61 K/9. His 2.36 BB/9, however, may not be bad, but it's definitely not good - and it's among the highest on this list. If he can develop his offspeed repertoire further, and refine his command, he's got a nice career ahead of him.

21. Jeremy Martinez, C, USC

Player Page

Height: 5'11"  Weight: 200  High School: Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, CA)
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Date of Birth: 12/29/94 (21.45 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: 2013 - 37th round (1098th overall) - Chicago Cubs

Martinez was a well-regarded prep prospect out of Mater Dei in 2013, and a three-year starter at catcher in college. He was a consistent performer, both defensively and offensively, but he really took a leap forward in his junior year, slashing .376/.460/.563 in the competitive Pac-12, with six home runs. Another set of numbers that helps him get on this list: 71 and 43. Those are the numbers of walks and strikeouts, respectively, that he's registered over his college career. In fact, he has never had a season where he struck out more than he walked.

22. Chad Donato, RHP, West Virginia

Player Page

Height: 6'0"  Weight: 180  High School: Cypress Woods High School (Cypress, TX)
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Date of Birth: 6/3/95 (21.02 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: N/A

With a 10.37 K/9, 1.87 BB/9, and 1.10 WHIP, it's no surprise to find Donato on this list. He's quietly been one of the best pitchers to come through the Big 12 in years. So why aren't you hearing much about him? Because he's a "pitchability" guy. There's not much to like in the scouting profile: Only six feet tall, with an average fastball and three average offspeed offerings. But he's thrown 96 innings in each of the last two seasons, issuing exactly twenty walks in each of those two seasons, against 187 strikeouts.

23. Riley Delgado, SS, Middle Tennessee State

Player Page

Height: 5'10"  Weight: 175  High School: Palmetto High School (Miami, FL)
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Date of Birth: 2/22/95 (21.30 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: N/A

Delgado's brother, Casey, took an unconventional baseball route: junior college to four-year college to being undrafted to the independent Frontier League, and now he's a staple of the New York Mets' Double-A rotation. The younger Delgado, Riley (or Dustin, depending on your source), has shown no less tenacity. Like his brother, he began at Columbia State Community College before transferring to a four-year program. Delgado the Younger blew up in his third season at MTSU, batting .388/.492/.437 while playing a slick shortstop.

24. Shane Bieber, RHP, UC Santa Barbara

Player Page

Height: 6'3"  Weight: 195  High School: Laguna Hills High School (Laguna Hills, CA)
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Date of Birth: 5/31/95 (21.03 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: N/A

Bieber was one of the strongest performers on the spreadsheet in 2015, despite being just a sophomore, and it was more of the same in 2016, as he nearly matched his ERA, WHIP, IP, K/9, and BB/9 numbers exactly. Like Donato, he's not going to win over a lot of scouts with his stuff: a fastball in the 88-92 range with good movement, 79-81 slider, and a 79-83 changeup. He pitches efficiently and has eaten up innings in college.

25. Zack Collins, C/1B, Miami

Player Page

Height: 6'3"  Weight: 220  High School: American Heritage High School (Plantation, FL)
Bats/Throws: Left/Right
Date of Birth: 2/6/95 (21.34 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: 2013 - 27th round (825th overall) - Cincinnati Reds

For those who don't remember, the prep catching class of 2013 was pretty amazing. Two high school catchers (Reese McGuire and Nick Ciuffo) were taken in the first round, four taken in the first three rounds, and ten taken in the first five rounds. In all, 41 catchers from American high schools were taken in that draft. Compare that to 2015, when 31 were taken (and only three in the top five rounds). In 2014, 45 were drafted overall, but only 4 in the first five rounds. The class was so deep in 2013 that some very good ones - including Martinez and Okey from this list - fell down draft boards and went to college. Collins was one of them. A down high school senior year sent him to the 27th round, and ultimately to the University of Miami, where he immediately proceeded to rake, being named the Baseball America Freshman of the Year, and followed that up with All-American honors as a sophomore, posting a 1.032 OPS. This year, he picked up right where he left off, with a dozen home runs and a .363/.539/.625 slash line. Also, for the first time in his collegiate career, he drew more walks than strikeouts, as opposing teams began pitching around him. He's shown patience, discipline, and the ability to punish mistakes. Plus-grade left-handed power with an advanced approach doesn't come around every day, so don't be surprised if Collins is off the board well before the Astros pick at 1-17.

25 more "Very Luhnow" Players...

26. Zack Muckenhirn, LHP, North Dakota
27. Dillon Stewart, OF, UNC Greensboro
28. Blake Redman, RHP, Loyola Marymount
29. Heath Quinn, OF, Samford
30. Kramer Robertson, SS, LSU
31. Chris Okey, C, Clemson
32. Cord Cockrell, RHP, Southern Miss
33. Jake Fraley, OF, LSU
34. Brenn Conrad, 2B, Louisiana-Lafayette
35. Ky Parrott, OF, James Madison

36. J.D. Busfield, RHP, Loyola Marymount

Player Page

Height: 6'7"  Weight: 230  High School: Valencia High School (Valencia, CA)
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Date of Birth: 5/5/95 (21.10 on draft day)
Previously Drafted: N/A

I felt compelled to do a write-up for Busfield, because of how thrilled I was to find him on this list. In his senior year at Valencia High School, while scouting Arden Pabst and Jack Flaherty of Harvard-Westlake High School, I watched Busfield throw a one-hitter against Flaherty. I walked away much more interested in the tall, skinny pitcher from Valencia than I had been in the future first-rounder from Harvard-Westlake. I've been following Busfield's college career with a good deal of interest ever since. Busfield has worked his fastball up to the 90-94 range at Loyola Marymount, with a nice 79-83 slider and a really nice low-80s changeup with good late sink. A starter as a freshman, he became the Lions' closer as a sophomore, transitioning back to the starting rotation this year. And while he hasn't generated nearly enough strikeouts with his stuff (6.22 K/9 as a junior,) he commands all of his offerings well, and has avoided the free pass (1.02 BB/9, 61 strikeouts to just 10 walks). He's still a work-in-progress, but there are a lot of nice tools there to play with. I like him so much, in fact, that I forced Jason to write a profile on him.

37. Michael Tinsley, C, Kansas
38. Connor Justus, SS, Georgia Tech
39. Duncan Robinson, RHP, Dartmouth
40. Jon Duplantier, RHP, Rice
41. Tyler Ramirez, OF, North Carolina
42. Brian Kehner, LHP, Presbyterian
43. Shaun Anderson, RHP, Florida
44. Mike Shawaryn, RHP, Maryland
45. Corey Ray, OF, Louisville
46. Cody Sedlock, RHP, Illinois
47. Brad Haymes, RHP, Gardner-Webb
48. Cole Irvin, LHP, Oregon
49. Clay Chandler, RHP, Southeast Missouri State
50. Dustin Beggs, RHP, Kentucky