MLB Draft Notes: A College Righty Just Touched 103.5 MPH(!), New Rankings, More

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MLB Draft Notes: A College Righty Just Touched 103.5 MPH(!), New Rankings, More

Chicago Cubs

I have some MLB Draft bits to get into, and I have to start with a guy who was not at all on my radar in the first round, and he may still not be a first rounder (much less a 7th overall pick for the Cubs). But man, I’m definitely paying attention to this dude now regardless.

⇒ Get a load of Tennessee righty Ben Joyce, who actually just touched 103.5 mph(!!!) in a FEBRUARY appearance:

⇒ And he paired with a 90 mph changeup (LOL):

⇒ Apparently people behind the scenes had been hearing about the explosion from Joyce, who’d had Tommy John surgery in late 2020, and is only just now fully back, but his coach was trying to keep things in check:

⇒ So, what now for Joyce, who may be viewed solely as a relief prospect? Well, there’s some Cubs context here, actually. As we saw with the Cubs and Burl Carraway a couple drafts ago, pure relief prospects – even ones who have off-the-charts pitch qualities – just don’t get drafted in the first round these days. The Cubs picking Carraway deep into the second round was not necessarily viewed as a reach, but it was definitely seen as VERY high for a pure relief prospect. Moreover, extreme velocity, alone, won’t get you drafted in the first round either. Remember Luke Little, who was showing this kind of velocity in workouts before the 2020 draft? The Cubs picked him a couple rounds after Carraway. So, for most teams, Joyce may stick around as a fun guy to follow for the 2nd to 4th rounds?

⇒ If Joyce slowly transitions into a starting role and there are some teams that can project him as a starter? Yeah, he might get some first round heat. And who knows? If he’s showing three quality pitches and holds his velo in 50+ pitch outings? Maybe he does go in the first half of the first round. I’m not sure how common it is for a guy like Joyce to come from almost entirely off the radar in college to become a top 10 pick (extraordinarily rare, right?). Mostly I just think this is a really fun thing to see. A college pitcher hitting 103.5 mph in February. Just nuts.

⇒ As for the top ten types who have been on the radar for a long time, ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel dropped his initial top draft prospects rankings, and you will mostly recognize the names in the top ten. Cam Collier, whom Bryan was talking about as a new riser recently, is at number 16. If the 17-year-old, who was in the 2023 class but decided to go to junior college this year so he could be drafted sooner (Bryce Harper may have been the last to do that?), keeps raking like he has been, there’s going to be a lot of top ten talk. The Cubs, of course, pick at number seven.

⇒ Some of McDaniel’s thoughts on Collier:

Collier is unique in this class, playing the summer like Ford as one of the elite members of the 2023 prep class, amid rumors he was going to reclassify to the 2022 class at the end of the summer. Collier went one better and is now 17 years old playing at one of the best junior college programs in the country. He’s an advanced hitter who has a shot for above-average power and to stick at third base; putting up numbers at 17 at a junior college after a good summer while playing solid defense will blow up some draft models in which those are literally the most important inputs.

Recent eyeball accounts are mixed, but Collier seems very likely to go somewhere in the first round. The last player I can remember doing this was Bryce Harper, but to be clear, Collier isn’t at that level. Choosing to do this when just being a top pick in 2023 would’ve been a totally fine option with little risk speaks his the appetite for taking on challenges and the confidence he has in his own abilities. He’s high on my list of priority guys to see multiple times this spring.

⇒ It’s a really beautiful swing, especially for a 17-year-old:

⇒ Some less-discussed names to dig in on if you just can’t get enough:

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.