Padres 2019 MLB Draft Preview: Junior College Prospects

Credit: Georgia Athletics

Credit: MiLB

Taking a look at some Junior College possibilities for the San Diego Padres as they hold the sixth pick in the upcoming June MLB Amateur Draft.

The path to professional baseball isn’t always the one of least resistance.

When early June rolls around, all thirty MLB organizations will be seeking to select the best talent available, regardless of their educational background. If the player meets the criteria of the first-year player draft and rates highly enough talent-wise according to scouts, they’re assigned an identification number and placed into the pool of available players.

According to MLB.com, the basic categories of players eligible to be drafted are:

  • High school players, if they have graduated from high school and have not yet attended college or junior college;
  • College players, from four-year colleges who have either completed their junior or senior years or are at least 21 years old; and
  • Junior college players, regardless of how many years of school they have completed

For this article, we’ll focus on the junior college players that are eligible for 2019. Junior college players have long been an underrated, yet important part of the MLB draft process. Many familiar names have either been selected directly from the Juco ranks or spent time at a junior college and then moved on to a four-year institution. As mentioned in the previous article, the Padres first and only junior college player selected in the first round was Cory Spangenberg. A few notable MLB stars that were selected from the junior college ranks include Bryce Harper, Albert Pujols and Craig Kimbrel. So the talent is there if you’re willing to do the homework.

The 2019 class offers a sizeable group of players talented enough to be selected in the first round of this year’s draft. We’ll examine a few of the standout players from the Juco ranks that might be available to the Padres should they decide to explore this option.

Carter Stewart, RHP – Eastern Florida State Junior College

The 6-6 right-hander was selected 8th overall in 2018 out high school by the Atlanta Braves, but the two sides could not come to an agreement on a deal due to concerns over a right-wrist ailment discovered in the teams physical. His frame is athletic and projectable, although Stewart has been working hard to make adjustments to the deep arm action at the back of his motion. That was a common concern that scouts had discussed during his evaluations. His fastball regularly sits 93-95 mph and tops out at 98 mph on occasion. His power curve is one of the best breaking balls of any prospect on the board this year giving him two plus pitches in his arsenal. Stewart has been diligently working to improve his changeup, which remains below average. In my opinion, the Braves made a mistake in letting him walk and Stewart will absolutely be a top 10 pick in this year’s draft as well. This could be an excellent pick for the Padres if he’s available at number six.

Ivan Johnson, SS – Chipola Junior College

After spending one season at Georiga, Johnson decided to take his 6-0/190 lbs frame and soft hands to the perennial juco powerhouse in hopes of entering the 2019 draft. Johnson is a switch hitter with a line drive approach and his hit tool is what has the scouts raving. He offers plenty of arm strength to play the shortstop position at the next level, but his inconsistent footwork might force a move to second base over time. His foot speed is an interesting topic among scouts as it floats between above average and plus depending on the evaluator. Either way, it’s more than sufficient to make the jump to the professional ranks. Johnson also displays elite bat speed, which plays well with his advanced hit tool and plate discipline.

Jackson Rutledge, RHP – San Jacinto Junior College

Rutledge is an absolute monster on the mound, standing 6’8″ and weighing in at 255 pounds, his impressive appearance is matched by an overpowering arsenal.

Credit: NCAA

The transfer from Arkansas features a fastball that regularly touches 99 mph and flashes a plus breaking ball.

He also offers a slider and changeup that are close to being considered average for the next level. He’s committed to Kentucky for the 2020 season, but chances are he’ll never make it to Lexington.

His talent is top-half of the first round impressive and he will most likely be paid accordingly in June. Between the plus velocity and his height, it’s easy to see some similarities to Dellin Betances. Both are tall flame throwers who have an excellent breaking ball to lean on when needed.

Lucas Knowles, LHP – Central Arizona Junior College

Knowles is not a stranger to the bright lights, as he helped the Washington Huskies on their march to Omaha last season. Knowles missed his senior season and used a redshirt year as a freshman in 2017, while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but looks to be fully recovered as he’s allowed just one run in 23 innings pitched while racking up 30 strikeouts thus far. Knowles fastball sits 90-92, topping out at 93 and he utilizes a four-pitch mix, mixing in a cutter, curveball, and changeup as well. The Kentucky commit has plenty of room to add to his 6-foot-1, 175-pound frame, which should help him with not only added velocity but the strength and control to refine his breaking pitches.

Oraj Anu, OF – Wallace-Dothan Junior College

Credit: O.Anu

The switch-hitting outfielder looks to have his second go at the MLB draft, as he was selected by the Red Sox in the 28th round in 2017.

Plus speed, plus raw power and incredible bat speed from both sides are what Anu has to offer potential suitors.

The 6-3 power hitter uses his lower half extremely well and looks physically advanced compared to his peers. His 6.53 60 yard dash time adds to his excellent resume as an elite athlete who can play both corner outfield and infield positions.

Power hitting switch-hitters are rare and that’s why I believe he’ll ultimately end up as a high pick in June.

Luke Little, LHP – San Jacinto Junior College

Another giant pitching prospect from San Jacinto that throws gas. It can’t be any fun facing this team. Little stands 6-8 and weighs in at 230 pounds and has the projection and ceiling that scouts love. His long arm action and 3/4 slot adds to his overall imposing presence on the mound. The fastball sits 92-94 mph and reaches 96 at times while possessing late life. His slider is sharp and has decent tilt, while the changeup has fade and consistently sits 78-80. He’s a bit erratic at times but has the ability to throw all three pitches for strikes.

A few more junior college arms to keep an eye on this season:

Jason Rackers, RHP – Jefferson JC – 93-95 mph FB, developing slider and a 6-6 frame

Thomas Farr, RHP – Northwest Florida State JC – 6-1/205 lbs, FB tops at 96 mph, feel for SL & CH as well.

Orlando Ribalta, RHP – Miami-Dade JC – Up to 97 mph this past weekend.

Chase Webster, RHP – Chandler-Gilbert JC – Ran his fastball up to 96, sits 92-94. Heavy in the zone.

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Kurt Fremion
Kurt resides in Fort Wayne, Indiana with his wife and two boys. He enjoys attending TinCaps games and promises to deliver original, informative and sometimes analytical content as part of the EVT team.

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