(Photo Credit: USA Baseball, @USABaseballCNT)
As the 2017 summer league season comes to an end, it is time to roll out CBBSN’s collegiate summer league updates from around the country. Over the next several weeks, our scouts will be sharing how their school’s players have fared over the season, and how they look to project going into fall practice.
After coming off a breakout 2017, 11 Tigers dispersed across the country for the summer league season to log some extra innings and build on the success of the spring. The Auburn name was represented in nine leagues, spanning coast-to-coast, as seven of last season’s roster played in six of the top summer baseball destinations in the country, highlighted by junior RHP Casey Mize’s selection to the USA Collegiate National Team.
RHP Casey Mize—USA CNT
Mize spent his summer in the red, white and blue for Team USA, where he made two appearances and totaled seven innings. His first outing came in-relief against the Catawba Valley Stars, where he went three-scoreless innings, giving up three hits with six strikeouts. The 6-foot-3 righty continued to impress with a four-inning start against Chinese-Taipei, giving up just two hits with two strikeouts.
Mize will head into his draft-eligible season at the top of MLB clubs’ watch list, as he possesses two plus pitches, highlighted by a fastball that sits mid-90s, with the ability to touch 97-plus in early innings. His secondary offering is an 85-89 mph splitter, which showed plenty of deception out of his hand and late movement. A promising 85-90 mph slider rounds out the repertoire. The righty led all of SEC arms in strikeouts during the spring, but with it came a couple bouts of arm fatigue and missed starts. If Mize can stay healthy and work on his efficiency, his loose, long arm action and easy power look to play at the next level.
RHP Davis Daniel—Brewster Whitecaps, Cape Cod Baseball League
Highly touted freshman, Davis Daniel, came off his first season with the Tigers seeing several starts on some big stages, including conference games against South Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and a start in the Tallahassee Regional, to name a few. He continued to build on his spring–where he showed flashes of high upside, for the reigning CCBL Champion Brewster Whitecaps. Daniel threw 15 1/3 innings over four starts, with his best outing being a one-hit, six-inning win against Falmouth, where he racked up seven strikeouts. He ended the summer with a 5.28 ERA, 13 strikeouts, eight walks and 18 hits.
The Cape was a nice reinforcement to complement Daniel’s 70-inning workload this spring, where he finished with a 5.89 ERA. Standing right at 6-feet, Daniel relies on deception and his ability to generate run on his fastball/slider combo from his low, three-quarter arm slot. He also has a mid-70s curveball and low-80s changeup. The free-and-easy arm action continues to make him an intriguing prospect as a draft-eligible sophomore. But there are still areas for improvement, including his ability to stay low in the zone and hit his spots, as he tends to get into the most trouble when he starts to elevate his low-90s fastball.
OF Jeremy Johnson—Chugiak Eagle-River Chinooks, Alaska Baseball League
After capping off his redshirt freshman year seeing time at both corners of the outfield, Jeremy Johnson headed west to play for the Chinooks. Johnson played in 39 games this summer, and finished the season with a .273 batting average, 16 RBIs, 13 walks, 17 strikeouts and 10 stolen bases in 139 at-bats.
Johnson profiles as a prototypical leadoff man. He has a hit-for-average bat and plus speed. His plate discipline and pitch identification leave room for improvement, but when he does make contact, the ball comes off the bat with some line-drive power. Consistent playing time in one of the top summer leagues could lead to a breakout year if he shows well in the fall. The outfield looks to be another competitive area for the Tigers’ 2018 club, but Johnson has the raw ability to make a case for a starting position.
RHP Calvin Coker—Willmar Stingers, Northwoods League
Coker decided to forego the 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft and return to Auburn for his senior season. He continued to work on his craft in a closer role for the Stingers, throwing 16 innings, giving up 14 hits, five earned runs, three walks with 18 strikeouts and five saves.
Coker came off his first year with the Tigers filling in as an innings eater for much of the second-half of the season. He proved to be a key piece out of the bullpen as his fastball snuck up on hitters with his above-average velocity on his sidearm delivery. Coker’s sling-style arm action continued to generate swing-and-misses as head coach Butch Thompson relied on him more heavily later into SEC play, when several key arms went down heading into the home stretch of the regular season. Look for Coker to resume a similar role from 2017.
1B/OF Conor Davis—Peninsula Pilots, Coastal Plain League
Davis impressed in his 52 games during his freshman season. However, his time in the Tidewater area does not reflect his offensive potential, where he posted a .235 average in 26 games and 85 at-bats. The 6-foot-3 first baseman/outfielder showed glimmers of his power at the plate, knocking three doubles, two triples and five home runs for the Pilots.
Back on the Plains, Davis will see more time in the outfield, with several candidates profiling as power-hitting first basemen and will saturate an already popular position on the Tiger roster. He is coming off a strong freshman campaign, as he made a name for himself during the South Carolina series, hitting a three-run walk-off home run to seal a series win. Like most freshman, Davis’ plate discipline was an issue throughout his 163 at-bats, where he struck out 43 times and walked only 18. Some of this could be because of his spot down in the order, but it is still an area for improvement as his role grows as a sophomore. Keep an eye on number 24 as he settles into an everyday player in the Tiger lineup. If he can prove he has the tools to man a corner outfield spot, and further develop the potential power in his bat this fall, he’ll be one of the most toolsy sophomores in the SEC.
INF Will Holland—Amsterdam Mohawks, Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League
Similar to Davis, Holland came into the summer season seeing a lot of action in his freshman year. The middle infielder traveled up to the PGCBL to play for one of the best teams in the league in the Mohawks. While up in the Albany area, Holland continued to impress scouts with his range at short and consistent hit-for-average bat. He is another emerging sophomore still developing his power potential, which he showed off as an All-Star selection by hitting a solo home run. He ended the PGCBL regular season with a .298 average, four doubles, one triple and a home run in 31 games and 104 at-bats.
Going into the fall, Holland looks to be taking the most reps at short, where he shared time with rising senior Luke Jarvis in 2017. His plus range combined with his emerging bat and speed is a much-needed combo in the prospective lineup, with Jarvis most likely moving over to second. Incoming freshman shortstop, Cade Evans, possesses some impressive speed and base running instincts, but having at-bats against SEC pitching makes Holland the frontrunner, if there is any competition.
LHP Elliott Anderson—Amsterdam Mohawks, Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League
Anderson joined fellow freshman Holland on the Mohawks for a short stint, throwing 19 1/3 innings with a line of 15 hits, 10 runs with eight earned, 15 walks, 20 strikeouts and a 3.72 ERA.
Anderson found himself as a reliever in the 2017 bullpen, with several strong appearances against SEC clubs. The lefty did have some rough patches, mostly during non-conference play, but showed promise as he came in in tight spots later down the stretch. His three-pitch mix was a valuable commodity from the left side, and will continue to be a key piece in 2018.
1B Brendan Venter—Harrisonburg Turks, Valley Baseball League
A fresh face to the Auburn program, Venter is a JuCo transfer from McLennan CC, looking to take over the every day first base job for the 2018 season. Venter prepped for fall ball with the Turks, where he hit .205 in 88 at-bats. The 6-foot-1 corner infielder played much of his time at third for McLennan, as well as for his 23 games with the Turks. He earned one of the highest honors by representing the Valley League on the VBL Southern Collegiate Showcase roster. The All-Star game equivalent was held in Charlotte, North Carolina and hosted the Southern Collegiate Baseball League, Valley League, Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League, Sunbelt League and Florida Collegiate Summer League.
He manned the hot corner well this summer, with a .982 fielding percentage over 203 2/3 innings, but will most likely transition to first and add additional power to Auburn’s lineup. The first team all-conference selectee led the Highlanders in home runs, with 15, and knocked in 69 RBIs in 60 games last spring. If he can translate those stats to the SEC, look for Venter to bring the thump to the lineup.
C Steven Williams—Gaithersburg Giants, Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League
Williams’ first taste of college ball came over the summer in the D.C. area where he played for the Gaithersburg Giants. The incoming freshman hit .211 in 18 games with one double and a home run. Williams saw time both behind the plate and at first this summer, but is a primary catcher coming out of high school ranked as the No. 3 overall receiver in the 2017 class by Perfect Game.
As a freshman, Williams has the opportunity to be an impact player and will be in competition for the starting catching job. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder creates a solid backstop, but his left-handed bat is what made him a possible early-round draft pick this past June. Williams will most likely stay as a catcher and further develop his blocking and receiving skills over the fall, although he is able to play the outfield. If he can refine some of his skills behind the plate, his profile as a catcher with left-handed pop could prove to be a highly coveted combo moving forward.
LHP Jack Owen—Victoria HarbourCats, West Coast League
Owen is another incoming freshman who decided to log some innings against college bats before heading across the country to Auburn. The lefty impressed, as he started seven of his eight games, finished seventh in strikeouts (48) and allowed just 29 hits, all while leading the league with a 1.01 ERA in 44 1/3 innings. In his last five starts, he went seven innings in three outings, and six innings in his other two starts. Owen was recognized for his performance with an All-Star selection and 2017 WCL Pitcher of the Year honors.
Alongside No.1 overall pick of the 2017 MLB Draft, Royce Lewis, Owen is another talented prospect coming out of JSerra High School. The 6-foot-2 lefty comes onto an Auburn staff in need of additional left-handed reinforcement out of the ‘pen. Owen has two-way ability as an outfielder, but his three-pitch mix of an upper-80s fastball, changeup and curve will be hard not to take advantage of in 2018. This summer only helped solidify Owen’s place on the Tiger staff, as his pitchability showed in the WCL it can translate to the next level in college ball.
C Chase Hall—Nationals, Montgomery Metro Baseball League
Hall is an incoming JuCo transfer from Southern Union who will add depth and options behind the plate for Thompson. This was a lean spot in 2017 and continues to hold questions marks. It looks Hall will be the third receiver, with junior Mike Rojas and Williams already in place. He is coming off his freshman season across town seeing action in 35 games where he accrued a .221 average with a home run and 16 RBIs in 104 at-bats. The fall season will be a major determining factor for how the catching line will shake out. There are always surprise performances come fall ball, and Hall might be this year’s JuCo transfer to impress the Auburn coaching staff.
As another summer season has run its course, Auburn welcomes a promising roster onto the Plains as it turns the page on 2017. While most of the regulars from the spring remain, the program did lose key pieces in RHPs Keegan Thompson, Cole Lipscomb, 1B/OF Daniel Robert, OF Jonah Todd and a veteran presence behind the plate in Blake Logan. However, the 2018 roster looks restocked and ready to compete. With a balance of familiar faces, mixed with some dynamic fresh ones ready to make an impact, Thompson and the Tigers head into their second full fall together equipped to build on the foundation laid during the first two seasons. Keep an eye on this team, with one of Thompson’s first full recruiting classes on the Plains, mixed with an already talented returning roster, the Tigers look ready to make noise in 2018.