15 college prospects who stood out at Desert Invitational

February 19th, 2024

College baseball returned in resounding fashion over the weekend with a flurry of action from coast-to-coast. While talent popped -- and got plunked -- during various season-opening tournaments, the fifth annual MLB Desert Invitational offered a handful of clubs the opportunity to showcase their skills on national television while playing inside big league Spring Training parks.

Competition was fierce across Arizona, with the field expanded to eight teams for the first time. Let’s take a look at the top performers (listed in alphabetical order).

Kuhio Aloy, DH, BYU
The true freshman from Maui kicked off his collegiate career in style with homers in each of his first two games for the Cougars. With another base knock Monday, he finished 5-for-10 with four RBIs and a 1.645 OPS.

Beau Ankeney, DH, Grand Canyon
After playing sparsely as a freshman in 2022 (and redshirting last year), Ankeney made his presence felt with a two-homer performance vs. USC on Saturday. Equipped with a powerful right-handed swing that allows him to spray the ball to all fields, GCU’s designated hitter finished the opening series with a .545 average and 1.797 OPS.

Vince Cimini, 2B, Boston College
There was something in the Arizona air that allowed multiple hitters to go deep while MLB Network had special guests on the air, with Cimini the first to benefit Friday. He added a grand slam Saturday, before making a pair of game-saving defensive plays Sunday to assist in the Eagles departing the Desert Invitational with a 2-1 mark.

Kaelen Culpepper, SS, Kansas State
After a breakout sophomore campaign that launched him into national conversations, the fervor around Culpepper potentially being the first Wildcats position player selected in the first round in school history will only percolate after a strong showing at the Desert Invitational. Narrowly missing a homer Friday, MLB Pipeline’s No. 28 Draft prospect fully connected Sunday en route to finishing the weekend eight total bases and a perfect fielding percentage in his first taste of shortstop at the collegiate level.

Blake Dean, RHP, Kansas State
While teammate Jackson Wentworth drew notoriety for his unique bullpen entrance, Dean made waves by dominating Boston College on Saturday with three no-hit frames to earn his first collegiate save. The freshman righty racked up six strikeouts and saw just one ball leave the infield.

Michael Farinelli, RHP, Boston College
Whereas not much went Farinelli’s way last season with Northwestern, the grad transfer did a complete 180-degree turn in his Eagles debut, spinning four scoreless frames during a seesaw offensive battle. While he did scatter two hits and three walks, he racked up seven strikeouts for the fourth time at the D1 level and retired nine of his first 11 batters.

Rodney Green Jr., OF, Cal
Few players in the country boast the power/speed upside of the Golden Bears junior. MLB Pipeline’s No. 96 Draft prospect got to show off his power (422-foot homer Saturday), bat speed (four hits all north of 99.5 mph exit velocity) and wheels (one steal, two sprint speeds above 29 ft/sec) while hitting .308 with a 1.015 OPS.

Brendan Jones, OF, Kansas State
Named an all-Big 12 honorable mention last year, the left-handed-hitting junior is off to a torrid start in 2024 with all four of his hits going for extra bases. It took Jones 15 games to put up a crooked number in the homer column last year; he’s already reached that mark after a pair of key roundtrippers this past weekend for the Wildcats.

Caleb Lomavita, C, Cal
The highest-ranked player in attendance at the Desert Invitational (No. 21 Draft prospect), Lomavita arguably looked like the most polished. He homered (452 feet!), stole a bag, ripped off near elite sprint speeds, managed his pitching staff and went 5-for-13 in his second go-round of the MLB-led event.

PJ Moutzouridis, SS, Cal
Equipped with a last name tough to spell and say, Moutzouridis was also armed with a bat tough to retire as he went 6-for-9 with a tournament-leading seven RBIs, all while hitting in the ninth spot of the order. Cal head coach Mike Neu talked about his confidence in the true freshman coming into the year and he appears to have found a sparkplug in the San Jose native.

Tyler Mudd, LHP, Boston College
Five innings, no hits, five strikeouts. Simple math earned Mudd a spot among this year’s standout performers, as he provided a shutdown relief effort that earned him a win in his BC debut. The junior southpaw worked quickly and peppered the strike zone (42 of 66 pitches for strikes) with his upper-80s heater and upper-70s slider to mow through the Ohio State order.

Grant Richardson, LHP/Isaac Lyon, RHP, Grand Canyon
The Antelopes are off to a roaring 3-0 start primarily on the back of their bats, but don’t discount their shutdown bullpen, which was led by a pair of masterful scoreless efforts from local products. Richardson dominated over three frames Saturday, whiffing six of the 10 batters he faced, while Lyon, the son of former big league Brandon Lyon, posted six strikeouts over four scoreless frames of two-hit ball Monday.

Josh Rolling, 2B, Georgetown
The middle-infield grad transfer was having himself a solid weekend but secured a spot on this list by virtue of his final plate appearance -- a two-run homer off Kansas State closer Tyson Neighbors (No. 69 Draft prospect) on Sunday. Drafted in the 39th round by Atlanta in 2019, Rolling took a circuitous route to the tournament, having appeared for three schools prior to arriving on campus with the Hoyas.

Nick Wang, 3B, Boston College
With the Eagles losing key contributors in their lineup to the Draft last year (Travis Honeyman, Joe Vetrano), opportunity loomed for a new face to ascend: enter Wang, who slugged a 444-foot homer on Day 1 before adding a two-run shot Sunday. He also showed off a polished eye, adding four walks in addition to his pair of stolen bases.

Zach Yorke, 1B, Grand Canyon
Heralded as one of the top bats in the 2025 Draft, Yorke kickstarted the GCU bats with a prodigious three-run swat in his first plate appearance of the year. Armed with a disciplined eye at the dish, the younger brother of Red Sox prospect Nick Yorke walked four times over the weekend and played a solid first base.