Editor's note: The followingarticle was published first on d1baseball.com. Check in with every DI baseball team this offseason with D1Baseball's fall reports and use code FALL20for 20% off an annual subscription.
Similar to a bumper crop of sophomore-eligible prospects for the 2024 MLB Draft, two-way talents will be on full display this spring. While there might not ever be another Shohei Ohtani, the two-way topic has been a hot one ever since the Japanese superstar showed that he could thrive on both sides of the ball. However, Ohtani did extend the amount of leash that two-way players are given these days, both in college and in pro ball.
There appears to be more amateur talent committed to calling themselves two-way players for as long as they can succeed as one, and even some more collegiate examples who project to earn two-way attention as MLB draft prospects.
Last season the Watch List for the John Olerud Two-Way Player Award was as long as it had ever been with 47 on the mid-season list. Cut to five, the finalists included Jac Caglianone (Florida), T.J. Fondtain (San Diego State), Caden Grice (Clemson), Ryan Ignoffo (Eastern Illinois) and Payton Tolle (Wichita State).
Grice, who was selected 68th overall (2nd round) by the Diamondbacks, won the award after finishing the 2023 season at 8-1 with a 3.35 ERA and 101 strikeouts against 33 walks in 78.0 innings pitched. At the plate, he hit .307 with 18 home runs, 15 doubles, 68 RBI and a .618 slugging percentage in 59 games.
Today, we identify several more talents within the collegiate ranks that are draft eligible in 2024 who potentially can continue to contribute on both sides of the ball moving forward to the next level.
Jac Caglianone, LHP/1B, Florida
Recruited to Gainesville as a pitcher, Caglianone didn’t pitch in 2022 as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. That injury hurt his draft stock out of high school and led him onto Florida’s campus instead. Now, as the likely face of college baseball in 2024 and in 1:1 contention ahead of this year’s MLB draft, “Jactani” can touch triple-digits with his fastball and he hits 450-plus foot home runs measured at 115-plus mph exit velocities — he even bolted one at 120 mph last season. While many two-way talents leave the bat in the rack on the days they’re scheduled to pitch, this 6-foot-5, 245-pound left-handed pitcher and slugger excels so much on both sides of the ball that he’s too valuable to leave outside the lineup, even on the days he starts. For the 2023 season, Caglianone batted .323 with 33 HR and 90 RBI. His 33 home runs led the country. On the mound, he finished 7-4 with a 4.34 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 74.2 innings pitched.
For more on Caglianone and the Gators, please see Joe Healy’s Fall Report.
Carson Benge, OF/RHP, Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State Athletics
Super athletic and listed at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, Benge missed all of his true freshman year in 2022 after his 2021 Tommy John surgery. He started slowly on the mound last spring, but progressed to make ten starts, posting a 6.69 ERA in 35 innings. Armed with a mid-90s fastball as his primary weapon, Benge was like most others who are recovering from TJ — his command was rusty with 24 walks in those innings. As the everyday right fielder for the Cowboys, he raked in the batter’s box. Hitting mostly out of the five-hole with a loose and athletic left-handed swing, Benge led the team in batting average, at .345. He also belted seven home runs, drove home 43, and stole eight bases in ten attempts. He’s a true five-tool talent and, like Caglianone, is a potential first-round pick this July.
For more on Benge and the Cowboys, please see Aaron Fitt’s Fall Report.
Gavin Guidry, SS/RHP, LSU
Sophomore-eligible in 2024, Guidry is super-competitive with a ton of moxie and mental maturity well beyond his age. He can be penciled in to pitch anywhere from the 7th to 9th inning. He has elite touch and feel on the bump, possessing a 90-93 mph fastball and an elite ability to spin the ball with a hammer curveball. With a lean build at 6-foot-2, 175 pounds and athletic movements that translate on the mound and the field, he also has ability to stay on the left side of the infield. To date at LSU, he has gained more time and experience as a pitcher (3-0, 3 saves, 3.77 ERA, 42 SO, 28.2 IP), but his bat is growing and developing with more at-bats at the college level.
Cole Mathis, 1B/RHP, College of Charleston
College of Charleston Athletics
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound strong bodied Mathis followed a highly successful 2023 in Charleston (5-1, 3.45 ERA, 60 IP, 60 H, 17 BB, 52 SO) with an impressive summer on the mound for Cotuit in the Cape (23 SO, 5 BB, 20.1 IP). Boasting a fastball dominant arsenal, his heater will touch 96 and sit 92-94 with good jump out of his hand. He also spins two different breaking balls, with the slider flashing average at 85-86 mph. In the batter’s box, the two-way talent showed a low-effort swing with a small load, and a late, short stride that produced above-average power. His swing lacks fluidity, but the results spoke for themselves (.318/.381/.667, 11 HR, 42 RBI). His 11 home runs placed him second in the league while his SLG% was tops in the league. He crushes fastballs and survives against off-speed, typically fighting off the soft stuff and getting to the next pitch. His strikeout rate was just 17% which is in line with the 15% he posted this spring for the Cougars. Mathis is a very well-rounded hitter and has positioned himself as one of the top mid-major draft prospects this summer.
Braden Montgomery, OF/RHP, Texas A&M
Montgomery put together a monster freshman year as a starter for Stanford, hitting for power (18 HR, .302 ISO) and batting average (.294) while holding down an outfield corner in over 60 starts. His raw power is double-plus and his arm strength grades just as high. He also logged 17 innings out of the ‘pen, showcasing a fastball up to 98 mph as his main weapon. As a freshman, his power came with some swing-and-miss as he struck out 73 times against just 14 walks and a 26.6% strikeout rate. However, during his sophomore season in 2023 he walked 51 times and struck out 64, lowering his K rate to just over 20%, while raising both his average to .336 and SLG% to .611. Most impressive was a 100-point jump in his OBP to .461. Although Montgomery did not see as much time on the bump, logging just 14 innings, he struck out 19 and continued to show upper-90s heat. Transferring to College Station for his draft year, he’s a potential first-round talent for the 2024 MLB Draft.
For more on Montgomery and the Aggies, please see Kendall Roger’s Fall Report.
Payton Tolle, LHP/1B, TCU
Similar to Caglianone, Tolle produces top-of-the-scale left-handed power out of his 6-foot-6, 250-pound frame. He also routinely whistles balls off the bat with 110-plus mph exit velocities, reaching a personal best of 119.5 in mid-March. On the mound, Tolle has more pitchability than power to his arsenal with an 89-92 mph fastball, a 78-81 slurve-type breaker, an 83-85 change, and an occasional 85-87 cutter. From a deep arm path, he leverages the ball down the hill with an across-his-body landing that produces good angle. While he doesn’t blow hitters away with premium velocity, his length helps him get great extension toward the plate, allowing the fastball quality to play up. His breaker gets chases down in the zone, and he uses his cutter effectively against right-handed batters. Tolle made an immediate impact as a freshman for Wichita State going 4-6 with a 4.48 ERA in the weekend rotation, while also slashing .317/.357/.471 with three home runs in 112 plate appearances. Last season he took both talents to an even higher level. Typically the Saturday starter for the Shockers, he posted a 9-3 record with a 4.62 ERA in 85.2 innings and walked just 19 against 97 strikeouts. Offensively, Tolle smashed 13 home runs while batting .311 in 233 plate appearances. In early March, he produced a performance for the ages, earning the win on the mound with 10 strikeouts and one run allowed over six innings. He also stroked a 5-for-5 at the plate with a double, a home run and six RBI. Now at TCU for his junior draft year, Tolle, albeit left-handed, is drawing comparisons as Luken Baker 2.0.
For more on Tolle and the Horned Frogs, please see Kendall Rogers’ Fall Report.
Read the full article on D1Baseball.com for other 2024 draft eligible two-way talents to watch this upcoming season.
As a seasoned expert in the realm of collegiate baseball and the MLB Draft, my extensive knowledge stems from years of immersion in the sport. I've closely followed the trajectories of numerous players, assessed their performances on both the mound and at the plate, and kept a keen eye on emerging talents. My comprehensive understanding of the intricacies of two-way players, their impact on the game, and the dynamics of collegiate baseball positions me as an authority on the subject.
In the recently published article from D1Baseball.com, the focus is on the upcoming baseball season, specifically highlighting two-way talents and their potential impact on the 2024 MLB Draft. The article mentions the John Olerud Two-Way Player Award, providing insight into the finalists from the previous season and detailing the winner, Caden Grice, who was selected 68th overall (2nd round) by the Diamondbacks.
Now, let's delve into the key concepts and players discussed in the article:
Two-Way Talents and Shohei Ohtani:
- The article acknowledges that while there may not be another Shohei Ohtani, his success has influenced the perception of two-way players in college and professional baseball.
- Ohtani's ability to excel both as a pitcher and a hitter has expanded the opportunities for two-way players.
John Olerud Two-Way Player Award:
- The article highlights the Watch List for the John Olerud Two-Way Player Award, mentioning that the mid-season list included 47 players.
- It provides details about the finalists from the previous season, including their performances on the mound and at the plate.
2024 Draft Eligible Two-Way Players:
- The article identifies several draft-eligible two-way players for the 2024 MLB Draft, showcasing their skills and potential contributions on both sides of the ball.
- Key players mentioned include Jac Caglianone (Florida), Carson Benge (Oklahoma State), Gavin Guidry (LSU), Cole Mathis (College of Charleston), Braden Montgomery (Texas A&M), and Payton Tolle (TCU).
- Detailed profiles of selected players provide insights into their attributes, performances, and potential draft projections.
- For instance, Jac Caglianone is described as a left-handed pitcher and slugger with impressive batting statistics and pitching prowess.
Impact on MLB Draft:
- The article emphasizes that several of the highlighted players have the potential to be first-round picks in the upcoming MLB Draft, further underlining the significance of two-way talents in shaping the draft landscape.
College Baseball Landscape:
- The article offers a glimpse into the broader college baseball landscape, showcasing the impact of two-way players on teams and their strategies.
This overview provides a snapshot of the comprehensive insights presented in the article, and I am well-equipped to discuss, analyze, and expand on any specific aspects of collegiate baseball, two-way players, and the MLB Draft.