Cape Cod Top Prospects: 2016 Class, 26-50
By our count, 424 different players took at least one at-bat or made an appearance on the mound in the Cape Cod League during the summer of 2015. That’s up from last year and it will likely continue to rise in 2016. Why point this out? Increasingly so, the rosters of the ten teams on the Cape are not so much a single collection of players, but instead are comprised of wave after wave of players.
The minimum requirement for hitters to be eligible for our list is for players to have participated in at least 20 games on the Cape. For pitchers, they had to have crossed a five appearance or 13 inning threshold. For perspective, 59 different pitchers and 89 different position players that played on the Cape in 2015 were not eligible for consideration.
Aside from explaining the process behind our list and providing further explanation as to why familiar star names like Zack Burdi, Bryson Brigman, Zack Collins, Robert Tyler, and many, many others are absent, understanding this revolving door of players is important to understanding what Cape Cod League baseball presently is. Scouts are often contending with shorter windows to evaluate some of the best players, but at the same time it’s giving us a look at more players playing on the Cape than ever before.
2015 was not a banner year in terms of top shelf, future superstar talent on the Cape. But, in terms of depth, the Cape was never better than it was this summer. Particularly since a number of players that also suited up for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team returned to action in mid-July after their tour, we saw a number of talented waves of player come through the league this year.
If you look beyond the slam dunk first round type of talent, the Cape League was simply brimming with players that teams could easily envision themselves taking in the top three to four round of next year’s draft. Kyle Lewis, Bryan Reynolds, Nick Senzel, as well as arms look like excellent bets to go in the that range, as do other hitters, but the pitching on the Cape came much more in the form of wildcard varieties. Matt Krook and Jordan Sheffield have monstrous talent, but did not dominate the league from a statistical standpoint. Arms like Dakota Hudson and Corbin Burnes broke out in a big way, but also still have something to proven in terms of consistency next spring.
The list of players who could further blossom into potential first round selections is a longer one than we usually see from a Cape League crop. The proven, college star commodities might have been in somewhat short supply, but the upside and depth still deserved to be marveled at.
Now, let’s take a closer look at part two of our top 50 draft eligible prospects from the Cape League in the 2016 class, focusing on players 26-50. We’ll continue our in-depth look at the Cape later this week with a breakdown of the league’s top 2017 prospects, as well as a “best of the rest” list, featuring even more talented names to keep a close eye on.
Note: John Kilichowski crosses the inning eligibility threshold via the innings accumulated in his exhibition outing against the Area Code Yankees‘ Scout Team.
26. Nick Solak, 2b, Louisville (Bourne)
Coupling speed with a highly advanced feel from the right side of the plate, Solak was a rock in the Braves’ lineup and showed off one of the most compact line drive strokes on the Cape. Showing an ability to shoot off-speed pitches to the opposite field and the bat speed to spin on a pitch inside, Solak is simply a very difficult out. He makes adjustments and has shown exceptional plate discipline. Solak can hunt fastballs and drive the ball, but as his .329 average on the Cape would attest to, this is a player with an advanced hit tool with excellent plate discipline. Second base is likely his long term home but his above average wheels could allow him to play some left field as well.
27. Shane Bieber, rhp, UC Santa Barbara (Yarmouth-Dennis)
Coming off what was a fabulous sophomore season behind Dillon Tate in the UCSB rotation, Bieber followed up with a superb showing on the Cape, albeit a shorter one due to an innings cap. The first thing you notice about Bieber is a compact, repeatable delivery and arm action. The second thing you notice is that his 90-91 mph fastball, which topped at 92 mph for the Y-D Red Sox, plays better than the radar gun would indicate. He’s difficult, particularly for righty batters, to pick up out of his three-quarter arm slot. A methodical worker, Bieber has a very surgical approach and picks at the corners with late two-seam sinking action to both sides of the plate. You could make the case that there was not a pitcher that worked more precisely east to west more effectively than Bieber. Bieber also expertly commands his slider at 79-81 mph, a pitch that has late 10-4 action. There are sequences where he’ll run a sinker in on a righty and then show pinpoint command with a front door slider for the strikeout. And, this is what nets Bieber most of his strikeouts – freezing hitters. Bieber also throws a 12-6, very late biting curveball at the same velocity, that is at times a swing and miss offering.
28. Keegan Akin, lhp, Western Michigan (Bourne)
Powerfully built lefties who can miss bats and attack the zone are and always will be hot commodities. And, with steadily improving performances throughout this summer, Keegan Akin (Western Michigan) began looking like an elite pitching prospect headed into the 2016 draft season. The 6-foot-1 southpaw fanned 39 batters in 33.1 innings for Bourne, and he made significant improvements in command from the beginning of the summer. Akin was dominant his last time out against Y-D, allowing just one hit over five innings, and striking out seven. But, it was the raw stuff that was most eye opening. Akin worked consistently at 90-93 mph with his fastball, and his shorter arm action seem to make it difficult for hitters to pick up out of his hand. Akin also missed bats with his 81-83 two plane breaking ball, which at times showed curveball depth but mostly showed true slider bite. He still generated good plane despite his less than prototypical height, and his angle was particularly tough on lefty batters.
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