While most of the draft coverage here for the 2017 MLB Draft at Minor League Ball is focused on the Division I and high school level, there is plenty to be found in DII.
Fresh off my return from the DII Baseball Championship in Grand Prairie, Texas, I made a list of some of the names to watch for in next week’s draft.
Garett King, RHP, Cal Baptist
King should be the first DII player taken. He has a good feel for his fastball, that hits 94 pretty regularly, and a curve in which he may be more comfortable.
"My curveball is my go-to pitch" King said. "It's kind of a plus-pitch that I've been known for the past couple of years to get people out. My fastball command has always been a strength of mine. I really rely heavily on those two things. I've got the slider to back it up and I actually started to work on a split-change in the bullpen. We'll see how that goes. It felt good in the pen, if I could translate that to the game it would be fantastic.”
King — a former Big 10 All-Freshman Teamer with Nebraska — went 7-1 this season, posting a 2.33 ERA. He struck out 9.93 batters-per-nine while walking just 1.98. His command does disappear on occasion, but when he’s on he is deadly. His March 23rd outing is a prime example. He tossed a no-hitter, striking out 15, needing just 92 pitches to do so.
Garrett Cave, RHP, Tampa
The 6-foot-4 right-hander wasn’t the ace Tampa had hoped for, but he turned out pretty deadly out of the bullpen.
Cave, who transferred from Florida, made 18 appearances. The first nine were out of the rotation where he struggled with inconsistencies. He was scored upon just once in his final nine appearances out of the bullpen, often going more than just one inning.
The junior is armed with a four-pitch arsenal. His mid-90s fastball and 12-6 curve are his most efficient and perhaps why he was at his best in the bullpen, needing less of his change and cutter.
"I throw a four-seam and two-seam fastball, a curveball, change-up, and a cutter,” Cave told me. “The pitch I really have all of my confidence and heart in is my fastball. It has been a pitch that has always worked for me, especially since God has blessed me with the ability to throw hard. I have great confidence in my off speed as well but when I know I can put away a batter with a well placed fastball, that’s what I love to do. The pitch that I need to keep working on is the cutter only because I started throwing it this summer. It has shown a lot of potential and I’m excited to start utilizing it.”
Cave is much more than a hard thrower as his mechanics have improved at both Florida and then with Sam Militello in Tampa. It will be interesting to see how pro teams envision his future as he still has plenty of starter potential.
Dalton Lehnen, LHP, Augustana
Jacob Black may have stolen the show as the Vikings ace, going 10-0 with a 0.78 ERA, striking out 86 in 69 innings, but scouts seems more privy to Lehnen’s future.
Like Cave and King, Lehnen was a DI transfer, coming from Cincinnati. He lost his spot in the rotation and was able to get it back in Augustana. He was impressive, going 3-3 with a 2.60 ERA and a 61-to-20 strikeout-to-walk rate over 52 innings.
Right now, Lehnen is a power pitcher, getting by on a fastball that hits 96. He has other offerings, but they are inconsistent and need work. Many see him in the bullpen, but he has the tools to work with, so it will be worth watching his development.
Kyle Goodbrand, RHP, UC San Diego
Goodbrand started his collegiate career at Arizona State before he found a home in DII. He’s going to get drafted on his rifle of an arm, but certainly comes with some work.
I saw Goodbrand pitch twice in the DII Baseball Championships. The first time, he came in to close out their first elimination game victory, earning his third save of the season. The second? In yet another elimination game, Goodbrand took the hill as a starter, going the distance in a complete game shutout.
There certainly isn’t any concern over his makeup.
The concern is in his breaking stuff. He can get by at the DII level with his 96-mph fastball, but his breaking and off speed offerings (a slider and change) need improvement. His fastball doesn’t look like it’s moving at 96 mph, which speaks a bit to his smooth delivery I suppose. The 6-foot-2 righty went 6-0, 2.32 in 10 starts (15 total appearances) walking 28 in 73.2 innings.
Brody Rodning, LHP, Minnesota State
Want to talk about make-up? Rodning made headlines in a late March start. The lefty took the mound not even 24 hours after his mother passed away from her fight with cancer and the junior responded with a complete game shutout. It was the second of three straight shutouts.
The 6-foot-1, 190 pound southpaw was part of a talented Mavericks rotation. His cohort Dalton Roach may also receive a call early next week after going 10-1 with a 1.56 ERA and 128 strikeouts and just 12 walks over 86.2 innings.
What makes Rodning so enticing is his arsenal. His stats — 6-4, 3.47 ERA and 77 strikeouts over 70 innings — were plenty good, but he has five pitches that he can throw for strikes. Unlike the others on this list, Rodning’s fastball only hits 91 and is more deception than power.
“I mainly throw a slider, and just recently learned a cutter, too," Rodning told me. "I have five pitches, and they all work decently. I feel like I have decent command on all of them. I can keep hitters off balance. I like to mix it up, see what the hitter's doing. Mess with their head a little bit.”
He will likely be a bullpen arm, but expect his name called in the later rounds.
Marshall Kasowski, RHP, West Texas A&M — Kasowski came from Houston after seeing most of his 2016 washed away from a scary car accident and then gall bladder surgery. But the 6-foot-4 righty brings the heat (mid-90s, but touches uppers) and was excellent as the ace of WTAMU’s staff. He went 9-5 with a 2.22 ERA, leading DII with 165 strikeouts in 93.1 innings, earning Golden Spikes watch honors.
Giovanni Dingcong, RF, St. Thomas Aquinas — The junior is a beast, standing at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds. The biggest takeaway for me at the DII Baseball Championship was that this guy was more than numbers, he has a natural athleticism that hopefully scouts paid attention.
Dingcong was hitting the cover off the ball the entire tournament, launching two of the biggest home runs over the nine days. He also made big, leaping plays in the outfield and showed the ability to work counts and get simple base hits. He hit .302/.403/.604 on the season with 20 home runs and 25 stolen bases. He has the tools, he just needs a chance.
Bligh Madris, OF, Colorado Mesa — Madris didn’t have a big Championship, but the home run he launched was a sight to see. The left-handed hitter had a huge season, hitting .422 with 14 doubles, 17 home runs and 14 stolen bases. He has skills in all five tools and should find a home in the minor leagues by the end of the draft. He can also pitch out of the bullpen, which won’t get him far in the minors per se, but shows his athleticism.
Zack Shannon, 1B, Delta State — Shannon was the DII Player of the Year, so he certainly garners some attention. Most DII hitters don’t go until very late and there is no reason to expect otherwise here. He hit .434 with 19 home runs and a .758 slugging percentage, leading DII with 88 RBI while scoring 63. The 6-foot-3, 230 pound righty also appeared out of the bullpen, showing he has skills far beyond contact hitting.
DII Baseball Championship stock watch: If people watched the DII Championships, two players improved their stock tremendously, although how their skills will transfer to the next level is a question mark. Josh McClain took home Most Outstanding Player honors, closing out two games with saves and winning another. He threw big innings (going four in the clincher) and never seemed to tire. He’s big (6-foot-4, 220) but the junior threw strikes overcoming early season inconsistencies.
Jack Larsen, outfielder from UC San Diego, was a hit machine. He had multiple four-hit performances, and was constantly on base. He also played solid defense in setting plenty of UCSD records along the way.
Other players that will go: Adrian Tovalin (3B), Azusa Pacific; Jeff Bain (RHP), Cal Poly Pomona; Ryan Garcia (1B), Point Loma.