Savannah Nowak | University of Rochester
The Kettleers dominated their first eight matchups of the season, thanks in part to a star-studded roster of potential draft picks. With players projected to be selected throughout all rounds, this team showcased many different types of talent. This year’s draft starts on Sunday, July 17th, and the Ketts are projected to have a few former members of their 2022 club join the newest draft class.
Cam Collier, 3B, Chipola College
Coming in as one of the youngest but most sought-after players in the Cape League this summer, Collier held his own against the older competition. After batting .333 at Chipola College this past spring, the 17 year old brought his talent to the Cape, showing off his maturity at the plate and confidence in the field. While Collier did not have the average to show for it, batting .217, his at-bats showcased his great approach and patience from the left side. When Cam did attack pitches, it was easy to see his potential, with incredibly quick hands and a powerful lower half.
In the field, Collier kept his cool at the hot corner. He moved very well at third and was able to make throws across the diamond easily. Collier is expected to go early in the first round of the draft. With his powerful swing, solid defense, and development at such a young age, he has caught the interest of many teams.
Chandler Simpson, 2B, Georgia Tech
In his time in Cotuit, Chandler Simpson was an on-base machine. After transferring from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Simpson led the nation in batting average, hitting .433 with a .506 on-base percentage. From the left side of the plate, Simpson knows how to read defenses incredibly well. He is not afraid to leg out a bunt single and consistently works the middle of the field. Once Simpson is on first, his speed acts as an automatic double. At Georgia Tech this season, Simpson recorded 27 stolen bases. While he only played in 12 games with the Kettleers, Simpson registered 20 hits in 44 at-bats, batting .455 with 8 stolen bases. In that stretch, Simpson only struck out twice, showing his ability to make consistent contact with great bat control. Defensively, Simpson played second base with Cotuit. He does not have the strongest arm, but he was smooth fielding ground balls.
Simpson is projected to be drafted in the third or fourth rounds. There is no denying that speed kills, and that is exactly what Chandler Simpson has the power to do. As one of Cotuit’s leadoff hitters this summer, he was a guaranteed runner in scoring position over half of the time. Simpson is already a highly valued second baseman because of his speed and athleticism. If the team that drafts him helps strengthen his arm, he could also fill an outfield position, making him even more valuable.
Ryan Ritter, SS, Kentucky
After winning the Rawlings Gold Glove Award at shortstop for Kentucky this spring, Ryan Ritter proved his award-winning defense with the Kettleers. Ritter’s range to both his forehand and backhand sides are above average and his arm is very consistent and strong across the diamond. He is incredibly smooth and has great mobility in all directions, and on top of that, he has great instincts, which make him very efficient in the field.
At the plate for Kentucky this spring, Ritter hit .283 with a .838 OPS, and with Cotuit, he hit .262 with a .861 OPS. His righty bat has a lot of potential, hitting for more power on the Cape than his college numbers would have anticipated. Ritter can hit for contact and for power, making him a plus hitter, especially for such a solid defensive shortstop. Ritter is projected to be selected within the third or fourth rounds. His fluid defensive skills at short and potential at the plate make him an easy sell.
Victor Scott II, OF, West Virginia
Victor Scott was another great player who had a quiet summer on the Cape. This spring at West Virginia, Scott batted .278 with a .397 on-base percentage and 38 stolen bases. With Cotuit, he batted .173 with a .368 on-base percentage and added 11 stolen bases. From the left side of the plate, Scott can make consistent sharp contact and sometimes showcases flashes of power. He also has a very patient approach at the plate, getting deep into counts and drawing 14 walks this summer. Once Scott is on-base, he is a major threat to steal with plus speed and great instincts.
In the outfield, Scott was one of the premier defenders on the Cape. Scott’s speed allowed for him to have incredible range, and his instincts right off the bat help him read fly balls at a very high level. He also has a very strong and accurate lefty throw, elevating his defense even more. Scott’s natural quickness and athleticism shine through in the outfield, making him a potential fourth or fifth round pick this year. Scott has a lot of great tools, which have helped prove his potential to many teams.
Kenya Huggins, RHP, Chipola College
Kenya Huggins, another star prospect from Chipola College, showcased his arm speed and velocity this summer on the Cape. Huggins’ fastball-slider combination left hitters guessing at the plate. His fastball averaged about 95 mph, hitting a high of 98 mph, while his slider sat around 88 mph. In 6 innings pitched, Huggins struck out 8, leaving with a 1.5 ERA. At Chipola College this spring, he had 97 strikeouts in 73 innings pitched, with a 2.96 ERA.
Huggins is projected to be drafted in the fourth or fifth rounds. In his time in the Cape League, Kenya occasionally struggled with his command and locating pitches. Still, with his athleticism and lively arm, scouts believe he will be able to develop and mature on the hill. Huggins’ youth coupled with his high velocity makes him a projectible pick as either a potential starter or reliever.
Dalton Rogers, LHP, Southern Mississippi
Dalton Rogers is one of the top left-handed pitchers in this year’s draft. With a solid three-pitch mix, Rogers gained interest from many teams and is anticipated to be selected in the fifth or sixth rounds. While he is not the tallest pitcher (5’ 11”), he compensates with a very quick arm. Rogers’ fastballs sit in the low nineties (91/93), which is complemented by his changeup (82/83) and slider (76/77). His fastball has a lot of carry, making it his strongest pitch, inducing a lot of swings and misses.
At Southern Mississippi this spring, he struck out 57 in just 37 innings of work. The reliever ended the year with an impressive 1.95 ERA. With Cotuit, Rogers made two starts, striking out 8 in just 6 innings. These starts proved his ability to pitch deeper into games, showcasing his ability to be more than just a reliever. As a lefty throwing from a unique arm slot, Rogers will be a valuable addition to any roster.
Brooks Baldwin, IF/OF, UNC Wilmington
Brooks Baldwin played seven positions for the Kettleers, giving a full display of his versatility as a position player. As a switch hitter, Baldwin was incredibly consistent from both sides of the plate, hitting line drives to all fields. When he found gaps, his speed allowed for him to leg out extra-base hits, and occasionally, he showed power for his smaller frame. This year at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Baldwin batted .347 while stealing 16 bases, earning him CAA Player of the Year. He carried this momentum into Cape League play, batting .361 with 11 stolen bases. He was very smooth in the infield and the outfield, using his natural instincts to make tough plays look like routine ground balls, and registering outfield assists.
With all of that being said, Baldwin is projected to be taken anywhere between the fifth and seventh rounds. His his speed and instincts on the base paths, solid mechanics from both sides of the plate, and versatility make Baldwin a potentially high-impact player.
Jackson Kelley, RHP, Mercer
Jackson Kelley had one of the most unique pitching motions on the Cape, and he also put up some of the best pitching numbers of the summer. The reliever pitched at Mercer this spring, throwing a total of 60 innings. In those appearances, Kelley only allowed 9 earned runs and struck out 82 for the second-best ERA in Division I baseball. Kelley pitched 16 total innings for Cotuit, striking out 25 for a 0.56 ERA during the regular season.
Kelley’s pitching motion would differ from pitch to pitch. He would throw some pitches sidearm, while others would come straight over the top, which made hitting his pitches even more challenging for opposing batters. Kelley’s different arm angles, combined with his curveball (77/78) and sinker (89/91) made him nearly untouchable on the Cape. Since he was under the radar prior to the Cape League, pitching at a lesser-known school, it is hard to tell exactly when he will be drafted, but Kelley’s performance this summer supported his stock as potentially a solid day two or three draft pick.
Tyler Johnson, 1B, Coastal Carolina
22 year old Tyler Johnson, one of the older prospects from this year’s draft class, turned a lot of heads at Coastal Carolina and carried this momentum to the Cape League. This past spring, Johnson batted .357 with 19 home runs and slugged .754. With Cotuit, Johnson hit .322 with 6 home runs and a 1.081 OPS. His natural power from the left side against both right and left handed pitching was on full display with the Kettleers.
The weaker parts of Johnson’s game are his strikeout rate and fielding. While he is a hitter with plus power, Johnson has a relatively high strikeout rate, striking out 21 times in 59 at-bats on the Cape. In the field, he is a solid first baseman consistently making routine plays, but he has a weaker yet accurate arm. Johnson is expected to be taken around the tenth or eleventh round. If his natural power can show more consistently, Johnson will be an incredible power threat for any team that takes him in the later rounds.
TJ Brock, RHP, Ohio State
TJ Brock was one of the most electrifying relievers playing in the Cape League this summer, coming in for the final three or four outs for the Kettleers. It was easy to notice the speed on his fastball (96/97), but his slider (86/88) allowed for his fastball to be even more effective. At Ohio State, Brock made 11 appearances totaling 16 innings, striking out 23 and walking 10 (2.16 ERA). This summer, Brock was the closer in 8 games, striking out 15 and walking 2 (3.78 ERA) over 8 innings.
Brock’s reputation prior to this summer was how fast he threw his fastball, but after seeing the success he had with his slider, it added a new dimension to him as a future farm system prospect. The combination of the pitches kept hitters off-balance because they could not sit on one of his pitches. Brock trusted both his fastball and slider if he needed a strike, and he kept hitters guessing. He also had some control issues in the spring, but this summer, he was able to locate both of his pitches well. Since Brock is a true reliever or closer, it is hard to know exactly where he will be drafted, but whoever picks him up is getting a very confident pitcher with two solid pitches.
Zach Cole, OF, Ball State
Zach Cole is as fundamentally sound as they come. At Ball State, Cole hit .361 with a .449 on-base percentage. Cole consistently hit line drives that found gaps and used his speed to leg out extra-base hits. As a lefty, Cole was able to power the ball into the right field gap and led D1 baseball with nine triples. This summer, Cole could not find his groove at the plate, batting only .161, with an on-base percentage below .300. He struggled against the competitive pitching the Cape League had to offer, but with more experience, his fundamentally sound swing will have its chance to shine.
In the outfield, Cole is a very solid defender. He reads the ball well and has good range. Cole also had a few outfield assists with Cotuit, as teams continued to test his arm; his fielding is strong and accurate, continuing with the trend of very solid fundamentals. He has great tools that teams will find promising, which could make him a late day two or day three draft pick.
Harrison Cohen, RHP, Virginia
In his third summer with the Kettleers, Harrison Cohen has put together a three-pitch mix that has induced a lot of soft contact. His fastball (92/94), slider (82/84), and changeup (80/82) all compliment each other very well. Cohen consistently threw strikes and attacked the zone, not allowing many free passes. This season with the Kettleers, he had 18 strikeouts and 3 walks in 22 innings pitched. This past spring at George Washington, he walked 28 and struck out 93 in 87 innings.
This summer, Harrison has shown that he has a lot of potential to strengthen his pitches. His changeup and slider have developed as the season has progressed, with his changeup becoming one of his best pitches, and the velocity on his fastball has increased from the beginning of the summer. With these advancements, Cohen could be drafted on day three or signed after the draft.
Justin Miknis, C, Kent State
Justin Miknis is another name to watch out for on day three of the draft. Miknis is a very versatile defender with an advanced approach at the plate. At Kent State, he showed versatility as a catcher, corner infielder, and corner outfielder. With the Kettleers, Miknis only appeared behind the plate, but he still showcased his athleticism and solid defense.
At the plate this spring, Miknis hit .293 with a .393 on-base percentage. He had a great approach, working counts and not being afraid to use the opposite field. Miknis did not expand the zone and was great at getting to contact. While these numbers did not transfer to the Cape League, as Miknis struggled, hitting .163, his athleticism and defensive versatility are likely what have him on teams’ radars.