We are less than a month now until the 2019 MLB Draft. I’ve mentioned in the past that the Braves have had some success drafting JUCO players. Atlanta drafted five Junior College players in the 2018 draft with Trey Riley going the highest in the fifth round. However, the most recent success stories are guys like Tucker Davidson and C.J. Alexander.
Before we go any further, let’s get the basics out of the way.
J1 = Two-Year College 1st Year
J2 = Two-Year College 2nd Year
J3 = Two-Year College 3rd Year
This year’s crop of JUCO players has two stalworths at the top, but there are many intriguing players. Because there are 36 pitchers in total that I’d like to discuss, I’m breaking them out into two parts.
One of the more interesting stories is on San Jacinto-North. They have three starters that can throw mid 90s and the other two are not too shabby themselves. Unfortunately, due to scholarship violations, San Jacinto-North is on probation and will not be in the playoffs. This will end a streak of four straight years making the playoffs.
There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s get to it.
Jackson Rutledge, San Jacinto-North, 6’8” RHP (J2) - Rutledge leaped over Carter Stewart for the No. 1 ranked JUCO player. The 6’8, 255 lbs righty has a chance to squeak into the Top 10, but mostly likely is a middle to late first rounder. Armed with a four-pitch mix, the fastball tops out at 99 mph and sits mostly 93-96. He also throws a curve, slider and change, where the slider is his second best pitch that will flash plus and the curve is above average. However, currently, his change and control both need some work, but he’s just a big time talent. With 134 strikeouts on the season, Rutledge just missed out on setting the teams season strikeout record of 145 set back in 1989 by David Evans. Another thing to note is that Rutledge did have a hip injury in the past so we’ll see if that has any impact on his draft stock.
Key stats: 0.93 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 14.34 K/9, 4.20 BB/9, 9 games of 10+ K’s
San Jac RHP Jackson Rutledge with an easy 1st round look. Physical giant, outstanding size/physicality, low maintenance operation, FB sitting 93-97 (95), SL easily plus at 87-88, CB flashed plus as well at 81. Check out this SL for a whiff: #MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/zvZLXBphq2— Brian Sakowski (@B_Sakowski_PG) March 2, 2019
Dane Acker, San Jacinto-North, 5’10” RHP (J2) - Acker may be undersized, but he can sit in the 90-93 mph range. He compliments his fastball with four secondaries like Rutledge, where his slider is the next best pitch. While he most likely is a reliever at the next level, he should get every chance to start.
Key stats: 2.36 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 11.47 K/9, 4.02 BB/9
Mitchell Parker, San Jacinto-North, 6’3” LHP (J1) - The Cubs drafted Parkers out of HS last year, but he decided to head to not sign. Parker is on the skinny size, so if he can put on some muscle he should see a bump to his fastball that sits 88-90 (max 93). His curveball could be an above average pitch in time, but the change needs some refinement. Despite not having overpower stuff, Parker been able to work around such a high walk rate due to his incredible ability to get strikeouts and minimal contact (just 1 HR in 64 innings).
Key stats: 1.54 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 15.59 K/9, 6.74 BB/9, 14 wild pitches
Mitchell Parker LHP (San Jac) toeing the rubber in game 1 for the Gators. FB 88-89 CB 73-74 CH 77-78. pic.twitter.com/FTdjz5B6Up— PBR_Nevada (@PBR_Nevada) January 25, 2019
Jack Conlon, San Jacinto-North, 6’4” RHP (J2) - Conlon was considered a Top 200 prospect coming out of HS and was drafted by the Orioles back in 2017. He’s got a 91-93 mph fastball (max 95) and a slider that flashes above avg to plus at times. Yet his control keeps him from having any sort of success. Conlon even pitched in the Cape Cod, but suffered from poor control.
Key stats: 6.96 ERA, 2.04 WHIP, 10.44 K/9, 10.44 BB/9; BA ranked #345
Luke Little, San Jacinto-North, 6’8” LHP (J1) - Coming out of high school, Little was topping out at 93, and just a year later he’s topping out at 98 mph. He’ll sit mostly 92-95 though and pair it with a slider and change. Again, control is a major issue, but a lefty throwing high 90’s will always have value. He’s split time between starting and closing on the season, but he’ll likely get every chance to start at the next level even if he’s ultimately a reliever.
Key stats: 2.05 ERA, 1.82 WHIP, 17.69 K/9, 11.79 BB/9
Andrew Peters, John Logan, 5’10” RHP (J2) - Peters is really the next in line behind Rutledge and Stewart. Unfortunately, Peters suffered an injury in his first game. When he’s healthy, he has a 92-94 mph fastball to go with a slider and change. I’ve even seen it reported that he’s thrown a knuckleball. If he happens to get drafted and doesn’t sign, he’s committed to South Carolina.
Key stats: Two innings pitched; BA ranked No. 120
2/27/19...New Chapter. *Spoiler alert* Dream doesn’t change pic.twitter.com/esI2AgUGME— Andy Peters⚾️ (@AndrewP2211) February 28, 2019
Jason Rackers, Jefferson, 6’5” RHP (J2) - Rackers has great size and solid enough stuff. His fastball sits 90-94 and will top out of 95 mph. His slider and change should both be average pitches. Unlike some of the JUCO arms, Rackers does keep the ball around the strike zone.
Key stats: 3.64 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 11.27 K/9, 3.81 BB/9, BA ranked No. 167
Chad Bryant, Pensacola State, 6’0” RHP (J2) - Although Bryant is armed with a mid 90’s fastball, he doesn’t always know where it’s going. He’s essentially reduced his walk rate from almost 12 BB/9 to just under 8 BB/9. Not great by any means, but it’s progress. He’s a stocky guy too so it’s easy to see where he high end velo comes from. Baseball America has him ranked as the No. 243rd best prospect too. Bryant will also throw a 12-6 curve in the mid 70’s and change.
Key stats: 6.70 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, 6.91 K/9, 7.95 BB/9
Donavan Benoit, Santa Fe, 6’3” RHP (J2) - Pitched just 21 innings for Tennessee in 2018 before transferring to JUCO this year. The now Tulane commit has a fastball that sits low 90’s (max 95). He’s another guy with walk issues, but is also a big strikeout guy.
Key stats: 3.45 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 10.05 K/9, 6.45 BB/9; BA ranked No. 266
Hunter Perdue, State College of Florida, 6’3” RHP (J2) - What separates Perdue from some of the others is his curveball. It’s averaging 2600 RPMs and sits mid 70’s. It’s not the best curve in the JUCO class, but it’s still pretty good. The fastball will sit low 90’s (max 96). He hasn’t pitched since mid April, and I have no clue what kind of injury he’s sustained or how it’ll impact his draft status. He did have an ulnar collateral ligament strain back in 2017, so it could be the same type of injury or TJS.
Key stats: 2.38 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 9.39 K/9, 3.50 BB/9; BA ranked No. 318
Evan Reifert, North Iowa Area, 6’3” RHP (J2) - The great news is that Reifert struck out an amazing 16.90 batters per 9 innings. The bad news is that he also walked 16.90 batters per 9 innings. Back to the good news is that Reifert has a low 90’s fastball and a slider that runs average to plus. If he decides to stay in school, he’s committed to North Carolina.
Key stats: 6.66 ERA, 2.53 WHIP, 16.90 K/9, 16.90 BB/9; BA ranked No. 341
Evan Reifert 95 heather with 82 slide piece. pic.twitter.com/YlBVpRVKOE— Travis Hergert (@CoachHerg) January 23, 2019
Brannon Jordan, Cowley, 6’2” RHP (J2) - Yet another player that was selected by the Cubs out of HS. He spent one year at USF before transferring to the JUCO ranks. Jordan has been starting this season, but hasn’t been pitching deep into games only making to the seventh inning once. He’ll sit 92-93 mph and his slider flashes above average. He can throw strikes and has given up just 20 hits over 43.2 innings. While he’s a J2 player, his one year at USF makes him a junior.
Key stats: 1.87 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 13.33 K/9, 3.54 BB/9
A win over the 12th ranked team would have been good enough, but Cowley's Brannon Jordan went the extra mile to toss a no-hitter on his way to #NJCAABaseball DI Pitcher of the Week honors ⚡#NJCAAPOTW pic.twitter.com/wzyXLAOX4c— NJCAA Baseball (@NJCAABaseball) May 1, 2019
Orlando Ribalta, Miami-Dade CC, 6’7” RHP (J2) - The closer (and only closer for that matter) for Miami-Dade is physically imposing at 6’7” and has a fastball that can hit 97 mph. He has to improve his control and prove he can throw the curve for consistent strikes, but there’s no doubting he has talent.
Key stats: 4.08 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 9.23 K/9, 5.64 BB/9
6’7 RHP Ribalta Orlando(Miami Dade)closes out the game running his fastball up to 94. Final score Miami Dade 5 SPC 3 pic.twitter.com/RCzxyE0FhR— PBR Florida (@PBRFlorida) January 26, 2019
DJ Roberts, Wallace CC Dothan, 6’2” RHP (J2) - After tearing his labrum during his freshman year as USF, he sat out 2018 before transferring to Wallace CC Dothan. Roberts has been surprisingly good this season averaging over a strikeout per inning and keeping the walks in check. He’s shown no issues with the shoulder this season and his fastball is sitting 90-94 (max 95). His slider was inconsistent before the injury, but not sure about now.
Key stats: 2.57 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 9.48 K/9, 3.05 BB/9
I’ll start with Carter Stewart in part 2, but it’s not like he hasn’t been talked about to death. There are still other talented arms including a player that has the best fastball in the JUCO class. However, for now, let me know your thoughts on these guys.