I’ve said this before, in the professional scouting community a true “sleeper” doesn’t really exist…at least not for any amount of time. With MLB teams putting together draft boards 2,000+ players deep, it’s safe to say that all the best players are known. While even the most casual of fan may know the names Buster Posey or Pedro Alvarez and every hard core draft-nik knows of Eric Thames’ and David Cooper’s amazing seasons, I aim to highlight some of those talents who have remained in the shadows.
There are a few guys I had planned to write about who are now receiving a lot of attention and as such won’t be the focus of this article.
Daniel Schlereth RP Arizona
The southpaw son of former NFLer, Mark, Daniel Schlereth may have more helium than anyone in the draft right now. I’ve heard a crazy rumor about him going in the top 10 overall. While I think he’ll be a good pro that is flat out nuts. His stuff has always been good and his control keeps getting better since his recovery of Tommy John surgery. A pretty safe bet as a late-inning reliever, Schlereth could turn to starting if his change continues to improve. I think Schlereth will be a good value as a supplemental round pick or early second rounder.
Tyler Ladendorf SS Howard CC
I had the pleasure of working with Laddy this past summer, and knew then that he was the best JuCo player in the country. He’s one of the few guys I can say with first-hand knowledge is a class act, with tremendous makeup. A former two-sport star – he was Illinois State Mr. Football as a junior – Ladendorf twice turned down six figure bonus money in the draft and looks poised to go much higher. Finally healthy from a knee injury he suffered before his senior year of high school, Ladendorf has 5-tool potential at a premium position and takes another step closer to his potential everyday. A veteran scout told me last summer that as a junior in high school, Ladendorf was the best high school shortstop he’d seen since Derek Jeter.
Brad Holt SP UNC Wilmington
While I was able to snag Holt in the 3rd round of our Mock Draft, he’s going much higher on the 5th of June. In a relatively down year for pitchers across the board, Holt is one of the few college hurlers with a sizeable upside. Holt as plus velocity from an almost effortless motion and has struck out hitters in droves this spring.
Now onto the guys that fewer people are talking about. There will be a few names on here you may be familiar with, and likely a few that you are not.
Shane Peterson 1B/OF Long Beach State
Not only is this draft top heavy in college corner sluggers, but there is sizeable depth as well. Peterson is hitting .401/.513/.609 for the Dirt Bags – who played the 9th most difficult schedule in the land this summer according to Boyd's World. While an 1122 OPS is certainly good, in the metal bat world of college baseball it doesn’t quite rank up there with the elites until you factor in LBSU’s home park. The pitcher’s haven (78 PF) Peterson has to hit in would make his OPS equal to 1369 in an equal field, and that’s a number that turns heads. Peterson’s a plus athlete who has solid range as a corner outfielder is a benefit on the base paths (10/13 stolen bases). He does have an unorthodox stance, holding the bat close to his ear and bends his right wrist before he starts his swing. He has a very slow load but when he actually swings he has very good bat speed generates significant loft. Peterson could come off the board in the late second but more than likely will wait until the 3rd or 4th rounds to see his name called.
Blake Tekotte CF University of Miami
While infielders Yonder Alonso and Jemile Weeks get most of the attention and even outfielder Dennis Raben got more buzz early in the draft process, Tekotte has drawn plenty of his own acclaim from scouts. A natural burner who has gone 26-for-32 on steal attempts this year, Tekotte is in the words of more than one scout I talked to, “the best defensive player in college.” The prototype leadoff hitting center fielder is sporting a .371/.480/.607 line on the season. Don’t be surprised if your favorite team snags him in the 3rd-4th round area and a few years down the line he’s starting for you, or at least contributing as a 4th outfielder.
Johnny Giavotella 2B New Orleans
I’ve written about Giavotella in the Hot/Cold series before and he remains one of my favorite draft sleepers, even after ending the season on a mild cold streak. Listed at 5-foot-8-inches tall and a 185 pounds, what Giavotella lacks in physicality he makes up for with a fantastic combination of personal grit and – more importantly – baseball skill. Giavotella has struck out just 8% of the time this season while walking in nearly 18% of his plate appearances. While he may not hit for as much power as he has in college (.237 IsoP, 35.7% XBH), he is strong and reminds me more than a little bit of Dustin Pedroia.
Kyle Colligan CF Texas A&M
Colligan has a fairly rare combination of power, speed and defense at a premium position. His quick, short stroke generates enough power to take pitches on the outer third out to the opposite field. His numbers aren’t fantastic and his strikeout rate is too high – I actually would have his eyes checked as he seems to recognize breaking balls very late – but after watching him close to a dozen times this year, Colligan just makes big play after big play.
Louis Coleman RP/SP LSU
Coleman’s a side-armer with fantastic movement on all his pitches and pin-point control. Working primarily off a 92-93 fastball with sharp late movement away from righties and in on lefties, Coleman has struck out nearly 30% of batters he has faced this season while sporting a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 7-to-1, and FIP of just 1.73. He does have a plus slurvy breaking ball but his lack of a change may force him into relief work full time as professional. There could be five or six college relievers taken in the first round of the draft but I like Coleman a couple hundred picks later as a great value selection.
Blake Murphy C Western Carolina
Blake Murphy is the best player in the nation who no one knows about. Highly thought of out of high school, Murphy has quietly developed into a really special player. The Catamounts – cool nickname, huh? – backstop hit .358/.531/.740 this season with 51 walks, 32 strikeouts and went 22 for 28 stealing, again as a catcher. While Western Carolina plays in the Southern Conference they played a respectable non-conference schedule – including a game against Rice in which Murphy hit 2 of his 16 home runs – and ended up with the 119th strongest schedule (out of 293) and they play in a slight pitchers park (92 PF). Murphy has added a little more power to his game from last season (54.9 XBH% from 45.7%) while increasing in walk rate (21.3% from 18.2%) and decreasing his strikeout rate (13.4% from 15.8%).
Sawyer Carroll OF Kentucky
Carroll’s name is familiar to most big college baseball fans, as the Kentucky outfielder had one of the best all-around seasons in the nation this year (.416/.510/.756). Carroll is a great contact hitter – just 11.2 strikeout percentage – with better speed and athleticism than he is sometimes given credit for (11/11 steals). He’s not a stellar defender and scouts have questioned his power but this year Carroll hit 16 home runs with a .340 IsoP and 42.5 XBH%. At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds he has the frame to add more power and the track record to say he can produce. I see Carroll as a bit of a poor man’s Conner Gillespie – who I really like and think I have underestimated – in that he’s a corner guy with great natural hitting skills but questionable power. While Gillespie should be a guaranteed first rounder, Carroll may have to get lucky to be taken before the 5th.
Andy Dirks CF Wichita State
It’s odd which guys fall thru the cracks, Dirks leads a 40+ win team in OBP, walks, homers, doubles, and steals and plays a premium defensive position. On the year, Dirks is hitting .386/.502/.623 with 9 homers, 18 doubles, and is 24 of 29 attempting to steal. He’s struck out in less than 12% of his plate appearances while walking in 15% and playing good defense.
Anthony Capra SP Wichita State
Lefties who compete well and rack up solid strikeout numbers at a high level of competition will always garner interest. Capra is part of arguably the best weekend rotation in college and this season struck out 29.5% of batters he faced while walking just 9.3%. Capra missed a couple of starts during the season but still posted an impressive 2.65 FIP for the Shockers.
Anthony Shawler SP Old Dominion
Shawler has been one of the better two-way players in the country over the past couple of seasons. Shawler’s season was viscerally disappointing with just a 5-3 record and a rather robust 5.38 ERA. However, Shawler has now posted consecutive seasons striking out over a batter an inning – whiffing nearly 28% of batters faced this season. Shawler has been the victim of an aberrantly high .387 BABIP this season and as he turns his full-time attention to pitching professionally still has some upside.
Lincoln Hamilton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.