Prospects In Person: Rutgers University

March 20, 2024

In an area that typically hasn’t provided a ton of must-watch college baseball, Rutgers University has bucked the trend to emerge as both a program that’s on the rise and one that’s shown it can produce legitimate talent for the MLB Draft.

Ryan Lasko went No. 41 overall to the Oakland Athletics just last year, and the Scarlet Knights have seen 11 players taken over the last decade, including future big leaguer Brian O’Grady back in 2014. They may have at least one more player who could be headed to “The Show” on the current roster, although the evaluation process wasn’t the easiest on Wednesday at Bainton Field.

Between a cold, windy and even rainy day and the opposition coming in the form of a Patriot League opponent in Lafayette College that consistently flashed only mid to high 80’s arms in a game that came to a sudden conclusion after both teams mutually agreed to end it with Rutgers up 18-6 after six and a half innings, it wasn’t the easiest to judge given the circumstances, to the focus was on tools and tendencies more than anything.

Shortstop Josh Kuroda-Grauer is typically considered a player worthy of selection in the first five rounds or so, as reflected by FSS Plus Senior Analyst Joe Doyle putting him at No. 157 in his recently updated Top 300 board for the 2024 MLB Draft. The USA Baseball College National Team invitee and Somerset, NJ native has been a stalwart and steady producer since he set foot on campus in Piscataway and, as Doyle notes, has one of the best eyes in college baseball with a steady penchant to draw walks to get on base.

“JKG” is the reigning Big 10 player of the week, and stayed hot on Tuesday with a two-hit night with a double, a run scored, a walk, a hit by pitch and a stolen base. Box score filler. Seemingly easy power to the pull side gap from the right side with some average at best pop that’s produced three homers so far this year. Aggressive and smart (11/13 SB in 2024) on the basepaths, but likely not better than a slightly above average runner right now. Defensively, I’m not sure JKG makes enough of the tough plays at short, nor does he necessarily have the arm, to stay there long-term, but would profile fine at second base, where he played his freshman year. Bat-first profile with the standout tool showing no signs of slowing down. May not necessarily be an impact player at the big league level, but could certainly hit his way there in several years.

Tony Santa Maria was ranked as the No. 140 collegiate prospect for the 2024 MLB Draft in Doyle’s February update to that list, and has done little to hurt that status since the season has begun. The redshirt sophomore infielder has something of a smaller frame at five-foot-11 and 195 pounds, but generates plenty from it; he has two multi-homer games this year and seven longballs overall on the season, and looks to take an extra-bases approach the plate, producing a long double and long triple on Wednesday afternoon. Good timing at the plate, is looking to do damage every time up. Solid defender at third.

There’s a hell of a lot to like with Trevor Cohen, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by Doyle, who has him at No. 116 on the list of top available college prospects in the 2025 MLB Draft. A very athletic, six-foot-one, 190-pound outfielder, Cohen earned Big 10 All-Freshman Team honors last year, and is another Scarlet Knight who has done nothing but hit since he got to campus. Can play anywhere in the outfield, including center, but the bat from the left side is what has impressed the most.

Cohen paced Rutgers with three hits on Wednesday, as well as a stolen base and three RBI. He’s shown little in the way of any sort of power thus far in his collegiate frame, but there’s room to add on the frame without necessarily losing that athleticism. No reason to think he couldn’t handle a top of the order role as an on-base machine at the next level.

Cameron Love is a bit more overshadowed and under the radar given the team he’s on. A senior infielder who can also play the corner outfield spots when needed, Love was used sparingly in his first two years with the program, but broke out to an extent with a big junior year. Perhaps a diamond in the rough for a club looking for value in the final few rounds of the Draft or even on the UDFA market, Love could profile as an interesting utility player at the next level, and showed his value on both sides of the ball on Wednesday; he ranged to his left for a dazzling diving catch early in the game, and ended it 1-for-2 with a double and a walk at the plate.

Of the others who stood out, Ben Gorski is deserving of some shine. Six-foot-two, 215-pound pitchability senior righty who was a three-pitch guy and was mostly 88-91 with the fastball. Short, mostly strong outing against a subpar lineup, but he did what he was supposed to do and was fairly efficient in doing so. Not sure where he fits at the next level, but competes enough to where there could be a chance to see it.

Mike Ashmore
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