Prep Baseball Report

2024 Impact JUCO Talents

David Seifert
Director of College Scouting

Every year hundreds of Juco players transfer to Division I four-year colleges around the country looking to make an impact. Last season, Sabin Ceballos (Oregon) was a prime example of what an immediate and profound impact a Juco transfer can make on a program. After batting in the middle of the Ducks’ lineup and slashing .333/.426/.643 Ceballos was selected in the 3rd round by the Atlanta Braves last summer. Kiko Romero (Arizona) and Matthew Etzel (Southern Miss) are two more examples. Romero slashed .345/.441/.724 with 21 home runs in his lone season for the Wildcats before his selection in the 7th round by the Yankees. Etzel started slow for the Golden Eagles before finishing strong. He ended with a .317/.381/.472 line and was selected in the 10th round by the Orioles.

No Juco transfer had a greater impact on the mound than Hunter Hollan (Arkansas). The left-hander was already a prospect coming out of San Jacinto JC (Tex.), and immediate success in the SEC boosted his draft value to the third round by the Cincinnati Reds.

For further review, here are last season’s Top 50 Impact Juco Transfers.

As we move into the 2024 college season, here are a dozen potential impact Juco transfers that we’ll be watching this spring:

Gavin Adams, RHP, Florida State- Ranked as Prep Baseball’s No. 4 overall JC prospect from Indian River State College (Fla.), Adams was drafted in the 11th round by the Washington Nationals in 2023. Lean and loose at 6-4, 195 pounds, Adams pumps 96-100 cheese with two above-average secondary pitches (SL and CH). His heater also has ride up in the zone and he’s getting better at harnessing his fastball command. Penciled in as the Seminoles No. 3 starter this spring, Adams has top three round potential.

Sam Antonacci, INF, Coastal Carolina- A five-tool talent, Antonacci is a natural shortstop who showed elite defensive skills and plus arm strength at third base this fall for the Chants. Ranked as JUCO’s No. 8 prospect for the 2023 draft by Prep Baseball Juco Wire, the left-handed hitter was the NJCAA-D2 Player of the Year last spring after posting ridiculous numbers (.515 batting average, 32 2B, 14 HR, 103 RBI, 33 SB) for National Champion Heartland College (Ill.) Hawks. Antonacci will hit in the middle of an already dangerous offense, including D1 Baseball preseason All-Americans Derek Bender and Cadine Bodine. At the plate, Antonacci uses the whole field with plus bat speed and low swing/miss. He can hit for both power and average while also being a threat on the bases with his above-average speed.

Carter Frederick, OF, Oklahoma- A five-tool athlete with a physical presence in the box at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Frederick also runs well for his size. The right-handed batter clubbed 14 home runs and drove home 53 while batting .463 for Snead State CC (Ala.) last season. He’s a good outfield defender with arm strength and projects to start in right field this spring for the Sooners.

Herick Hernandez, LHP, Miami (Fla.)- A key piece to the Hurricane’s pitching staff this spring, Hernandez is a strike-throwing lefty with advanced pitchability, deception and movement. Last season at Miami-Dade College he posted a 2.86 ERA in 78 innings to go along with 90 strikeouts against 32 walks. A 19th-round pick by the Reds last summer, expect the 5-foot-10, 205-pound left-hander to serve as a weekend rotation workhorse this spring.

Jaxon Jelkin, RHP, Houston- Jelkin began his college career at Nebraska before transferring to South Mountain CC (Ariz.) for his sophomore season. A 14th round pick by the Dodgers last summer, Jelkin has electric stuff with a slider that will flash 70-grade on a major league scale and a fastball up to 96. Having the ability to harness the stuff and utilize it efficiently is a work-in-progress for the projectable 6-foot-5, 190-pounder. He looked the part of Friday night ace while striking out the side this past fall in a scrimmage against Texas A&M. He’s a must-see prospect for the upcoming MLB draft and will likely begin the season as the Saturday starter for the Cougars.

Dylan King, RHP, Troy- An emerging prospect, King is a guy who is just figuring out how good he can be on a daily basis. Beginning his college career at Charleston Southern in 2022, then on to Dyersburg State (Tenn.) last year, the athletic right-hander shows an easy high three-quarters arm action that produces mid-90s heat. It’s higher spin as well, into the 2400 rpm range with induced vertical break around 21”, giving his fastball good ride up in the zone. King will also flash a filthy slider at 82-84 with sharp bite, and his 78-82 changeup will also show flashes of being a very good pitch. The 6-foot-4, 190-pounder will likely begin the season out of the pen as a high-leverage reliever, but his role will likely expand as he gains innings and experience.

Alexander Meckley, RHP, Coastal Carolina- The Chants brought in not one, but two impact Juco talents. This one from WVU-Potomac State College is an arm talent who runs his fastball up to 98. It’s a high-ceiling arm that reminds the Coastal staff of Michael Knorr, a third-rounder in 2022. If Meckley can improve his secondary offerings he has a chance to be selected in the top three-to-four rounds this summer. For now, he will begin the season as the Chants Saturday starter.

Theo Millas, RHP, Nevada- Millas pitched at LSU as a true freshman, attended West Virginia as a sophomore and then transferred to Central Arizona CC for his redshirt sophomore season. He went 9-2 with a 2.02 ERA. A premium strike-thrower, the 6-foot-4 right-hander walked 18 and struck out 54 in 71 innings last spring. He features an 88-92 mph fastball and a four-pitch mix. Millas will begin the season as the Wolf Pack’s Saturday starter, but his blend of experience and talent should make him a candidate to pitch on Fridays.

Wilson Perkins, RHP, Davidson- A transfer from Northwest Florida State, Perkins offers four pitches for strikes with a fastball that touches 93. Last season, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound right-hander posted a 2.93 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 40 innings. He’s slated to begin the season as Davidson’s Friday night ace.

Marcus Phillips, RHP/OF, Tennessee- Standing 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, Phillips is, to say the least, an imposing presence on the mound. Recruited as a two-way player from Iowa Western CC, he is now regarded as a pitcher-first after a highly successful fall on the bump. He has not put down the bat for good, which can be dynamic with 70-grade raw power, but he’s become so valuable to the Vols pitching staff with his ability to fill any role. Projected to begin the season as closer, Phillips cuts his fastball loose in the mid-90s and has touched 99. His heater cuts, rides and in general shows explosive life. There is more polish needed for sure, but it’s a dynamic arsenal, and nothing is straight. He doesn’t have much of a track record after redshirting due to injury in junior college last season, but his arm is too good not to be a part of the Vols’ plans this spring.

Kade Snell, 1B/LHP, Alabama- Snell began his college career at Auburn before moving to Wallace-Dothan (Ala.) last season. More of a position player for the Tide this fall after raking in the Cape this summer (.342/.435/.456), Snell posted elite numbers on the mound last spring (1.86 ERA, 77.1 IP, 87 SO) and also batted .396 with 13 home runs en route to earning the NJCAA-D2 Player of the Year award. Due to recently removed bone spurs, he did not pitch this fall for the Tide, but time on the mound is in the plans for this spring. At the plate, Snell shows elite zone discipline and good bat-to-ball skills with the ability to drive the baseball. He is slated to start at first base.

Derek Vartanian, RHP, Campbell- The 6-foot-4 slender-bodied right-hander was always a low-90s strike-thrower with a short cutter/slider at Gaston College, N.C., where he struck out 76 and walked just nine in 76 innings. He also helped lead the Rhinos to a 50-win season and a spot at the 2023 NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction. Upon completion of his Juco season, Vartanian arrived early to Buies Creek and went to work in the weight room, got on a throwing program and dedicated himself to development. The results so far have been amazing and the Camels look to have yet another top round arm talent in their caravan. With a compact arm path in back, the fast-armed hurler now sits 93-96 with his fastball, occasionally touches 98 and shows feel for four pitches. Best of all he can really pitch, mixing his heater, two different breaking balls and a split-change. He will begin the season as Campbell’s Friday night ace.

Dylan Watts, RHP, Auburn- Selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 18th round of the 2023 MLB Draft, Watts transferred to the Plains after just one season at Tacoma CC (Wash.) where he went 3-0 with a 0.23 ERA in 14 appearances over 38.1 innings. Loose and lanky at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, the right-hander is a tremendous athlete on the mound. He cuts it loose with a fastball into the mid-90s and complements his No. 1 with a short 82-84 slider. He also shows strong feel for a mid-80s changeup. Just a sophomore and not eligible for the draft until 2025, Watts is a potential rotation arm this spring but is likely to begin the 2024 season out of the Tiger pen.

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