While the name may not carry the same weight as the Southeastern Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference or the Pac-12, the Big West has become as prominent of a league as any with recent success and involvement in NCAA Baseball’s postseason. Another aspect of the conference’s aptitude is the number of MLB players it has produced. Today, Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowitzki, Chris Devenski and Marco Estrada among others adorn the big leagues and continue to make an impact for their organizations.
In the 2017 First-Year Player Draft, the Big West had two players drafted in the first two rounds with Keston Hiura as the eighth overall pick out of UC Irvine and Spencer Howard with the 45th overall pick out of Cal Poly. With the 2018 MLB Draft next week, here is a breakdown of CBBSN’s top-five draft prospects from the Big West Conference.
Colton Eastman, Cal State Fullerton, RHP
9-3, 2.26 ERA, 103.2 IP
Just being announced as the conference pitcher of the year, Colton Eastman is now ready to make an impact for any organization at the next level. After bursting on the scene as a freshman in 2016, he missed out on most of the 2017 season with elbow tightness. He was able to return to the team in the last week of the season and helped CSUF reach the College World Series with great starts in both the regional and super regional against rival Long Beach State.
The man is one of the staunchest competitors I have ever seen on a baseball field and you can tell he hates losing even a single pitch. That is his biggest weapon and it is one of the intangibles that scouts drool over, especially out of a pitcher. Eastman’s fastball velocity range fluctuates but mostly sits 88-91 mph. He can rev it up when needed but will have to add to his wiry frame if he’s to see the average velo rise. He was the workhorse of the conference with 103 1/3 IP and has proven that he can handle the strenuous load of a long season.
The secondary stuff is good enough to play up the fastball, throwing sharp and steep breaking balls from two different release points. Eastman’s purest swing-and-miss pitch is the changeup, which looks developed enough now to give big league bats fits. He’s shown that he can throw it at will in any count and give problems to both right and left handed hitters. Eastman chose to go to CSUF instead of sign for 30th round money from Minnesota. I think he’ll be a lock for a late third round to early fourth round selection.
Alex McKenna, Cal Poly, CF
.339/.424/.506, 5 HRs, 39 RBI, 51 R, 6 SBs
The conferences top offensive producer, McKenna became a blip on many a scouts radars after a stellar season for the Mustangs in 2017. He came into this season after being named a preseason third team All-American by BaseballAmerica.com. He affirmed the hype with a strong year in which he was top-10 in the conference in 12 offensive categories. Of those 12, he lead in plate appearances, at bats, runs (51) and hits (81). The 6-foot-2, 200-pound center fielder is from Canyon Country, CA and was drafted in 38th round by Minnesota out of Alemany high school. McKenna is now touted by many as a third round prospect.
He has a short, linear swing with a direct bat path to the baseball and shows great barrel control. The power flashes thanks to a quick lower half and extension through pitches. McKenna has a very athletic build and moves well in the outfield although he lacks pure speed. The arm strength isn’t one of the best tools he possesses either.
McKenna tops the list of prospects from the Big West because of his undeniable ability to produce offense. The offensive tools will easily translate to the next level and he could be selected as early as the third round.
Nick Meyer, Cal Poly, C
.344/.408/.428, 42 R, 27 2Bs
The Mustangs backstop has been a constant behind the plate after playing over 50 games in each of his three seasons at Cal Poly. He was just dubbed the Big West’s defensive player of the year after a .984 fielding percentage, catching 9-of-32 base stealers. He’s an advanced catcher who’s defensive tools will translate immediately. Meyer is even trusted to call his own game behind the plate which is rare at the college level.
He also kept up with the best bats in the conference, his .344 batting average good for third in the Big West. The power tool has been pretty non-existent in his Cal Poly career with only three career long balls. He gets a slight edge over Trevor Casanova of CSU Northridge who hit .345 as the Matadors when it comes to catching prospects in the Big West. The defensive expert Meyer is will allow him to make his living in professional baseball for a long time.
Jarren Duran, Long Beach State, 2B
.302/.380/.392, 22 RBI, 42 R, 17 SB
If there’s one tool that Duran can ride to the big leagues, it’s his above average speed. Many haved graded it a legit 70 on the 20-80 prospect scale and it helped him lead the league in stolen bases with 17. He can take extra bases on hits not many else can and he does it with ease. He put on about 15 pounds from 2017 to 2018 which has translated into a bit more power at the plate, but his approach seems inconsistent from game to game. Duran is at his best at the top of a lineup where the focus is getting on base and then causing havoc.
At the keystone, he’s an average defender and uses his supreme athletic ability to make some impressive stops. He’s never played a game at shortstop for the Dirtbags but some say the defensive tools could transfer into center field with some guidance. The speed and ability to get on base should be all Duran needs to be picked in a late third round to early fifth.
Andrew Quezada, Cal State Fullerton, RHP
4-5, 3.90 ERA, 83.0 IP
Turning down 20th round money from Tampa Bay after a year of junior college didn’t work out exactly as planned with a mediocre year with the Titans. Many evaluators were excited to see how his stuff played at the division one level, but he struggled early giving up 14 runs through his first four starts.
It’s the way Quezada finished that has brought him up and back into the 6-7th round conversation. He threw two complete game shutouts in conference play in the final month of the season to help the Titans reach the Corvallis regional where they’ll try to upset the Oregon State Beavers. In the occasions I saw Quezada, I was intrigued by his frame standing 6-foot-1 with plenty of room to fill out. The fastball sits in the low 90’s range but he, like his teammate Eastman, isn’t shy about reaching back for a little extra and can ramp up to 96. He’s very hittable when his fastball gets flat which happened more often than not in 2018. He also showed a lack of control the past season, but the upside from the right hander has had teams interested in him as high as the fifth round.