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Hard-throwing Volunteers reliever Ben Joyce tops list of MLB Draft’s most polarizing players

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Less than a month away from the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, CBS Sports is in the process of previewing the upcoming class. Just last week we have presented our top 30 ranking as well as our original layout.

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Today, we will continue on this path by defeating five players who are considered “polarizers”. What, pray tell, does that mean? There is simply no consensus on when they should be picked due to some aspect (or aspects) of their game. To state the obvious, this doesn’t mean that these players are bad or that they don’t deserve to be picked early in the draft; it simply means that the scores of these players are subject to fluctuations.

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Please note that in the interest of keeping things fresh, we have chosen not to include any player that made it into our top 30, and that the players below are listed in order of their perceived polarity.

1. Ben Joyce, RHP, Tennessee

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Joyce is going to break some models and maybe some layouts. He has a monster fastball and slider, 43 of which have registered at or above 100 mph during the NCAA Tournament. (It hit, ahem, 105 mph during the regular season.) Its heater also has good lift and is delivered from a lower arm slot, which is a popular combination these days. Teams that are trying to quantify the materials—that is, all of them—will have trouble keeping their excitement at bay about what Joyce has on the table. He’s here anyway because there’s never been a consensus on how early to take a reliever, and because teams will have wildly different schedules for when they expect him to enter the Majors. Keep in mind that he’s only thrown 32 innings over the past two seasons due to his role and past Tommy John surgery. A team that thinks he’ll reach the majors soon, perhaps even this year, might be tempted to pick him before anyone else.

2. Jude Fabian, OF, Florida

Fabian returned to Gainesville for another season after a hectic 2021 campaign saw him drop to 40th overall in the draft last summer. He made the most of his second chance, raising his OPS by nearly 100 points and dropping his strikeout percentage from 29 percent to 22 percent. Combine his rising game with his skill set – he’s a good center fielder with plenty of stamina and a sharp eye – and he looks like he’s vying for a first-round selection. He’s here because there’s still something wrong with his game. Average has more predictive value at the collegiate level than at the majors, and Fabian’s .239 score is unthinkably low for a respected prospect. His average was also not the result of his environment; he ranked eighth out of 12 alligators who played at least 100 records. Fabian will most likely enter the top 40 due to his strengths, but there are more disadvantages than it seems.

3. Brock Jones, O.F., Stanford

Jones is a former football player whose game is characterized by great power and more than enough speed for the center of the field. Since the spring, he has been talked about as a potential first-round pick, with hopes that his game will improve. He did post top yearly marks in every slash statistic, but his strikeout rate increased from 22 percent to 24 percent. These estimates are worse than they might at first appear, given that the PAC-12 average was 19 percent. (By comparison, the SEC average was closer to 21 percent.) Jones has had ball-breaking fits, and it’s worth wondering if he can make enough adjustments to a professional ball to deliver on his huge promise. Expect some team to see the reward as worth the risk, so expect it to be off the board by the 40th of spades.

4. Josh Kasevich, SS, Oregon

Kasevich has struck out less than six percent of his games this season en route to a .301/.383/.445 slash and seven home runs. You might suspect that he is another Nick Madrigal or even Darwin Barney; this is not the case as its output speed hints at more juice here than is standard for a punch profile over power. Alas, Kasevich has a flat backswing trajectory and rarely lifts the ball, limiting the use of his aforementioned power. Teams will have to figure out if it’s worth trying to unlock some of his popularity, even if it means risking his elite contact abilities. (They will also have to answer which position they think he should play; he has proven to be a steady hand in short positions despite not being the most explosive player.)

5. Connor Prilipp, LHP, Alabama

There was an opinion in the industry that Prielipp could have claimed the top spot this summer if he had avoided Tommy John surgery last year. He didn’t, and so he didn’t. On paper, it would make sense to bet on Prylipp the same way the teams did on Cal Quantrill, JT Jinn, and Gunnar Hoglund—injured classmates who still rated their draft years highly. All of these pitchers had the best track record, however, as the pandemic and Prylipp’s injury limited him to just 28 pitches over the past three years. Scouts have recently seen him run sessions in the bullpen (in one of them he clocked 93 mph in rainy weather), but his stock hangs in the balance on how comfortable teams work on a small sample.



Source: www.cbssports.com

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