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Talent on display at Shriners College Classic

Scouts expected to flock to annual event at Minute Maid Park
MLB.com

The 16th annual Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic returns to Minute Maid Park this weekend, bringing some of the best college programs -- and Draft-eligible players -- under one roof.

Starting Friday and running through Sunday, the three-day, nine-game event is sure to attract college baseball fans and a ton of MLB scouts to Houston.

The 16th annual Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic returns to Minute Maid Park this weekend, bringing some of the best college programs -- and Draft-eligible players -- under one roof.

Starting Friday and running through Sunday, the three-day, nine-game event is sure to attract college baseball fans and a ton of MLB scouts to Houston.

The tournament will be televised regionally on ROOT Sports Southwest and on Cox Sports, and nationally on MLB Network.

This year's edition features several Top 25 programs, according to Baseball America. The University of Houston leads the way, coming in at No. 9 in the most recent rankings (Feb. 22). Lousiana-Lafayette is No. 10 and Texas Christian University is No. 17. Other major conferences, from the SEC (Arkansas) to Conference USA (Rice), will be represented, guaranteeing a high level of college competition at this very early stage of the 2016 season.

Action begins at 12:05 p.m. CT on Friday, with highly ranked Houston taking on Texas Tech. Lousiana-Lafayette meets TCU at 3:35 p.m., while Arkansas and Rice do battle at 7:05 p.m. The rest of the schedule:

Saturday
Texas Tech at UL-Lafayette, 12:05 p.m.
Houston at Arkansas, 3:35 p.m.
Rice at TCU, 7:05 p.m.

Sunday
Arkansas at Texas Tech, 11:05 a.m.
TCU at Houston, 2:35 p.m.
UL-Lafayette at Rice, 6:05 p.m.

In past years, the College Classic has brought some top-notch Draft talent to Minute Maid Park. In 2015, LSU and Alex Bregman -- who hopes to call the ballpark his home after the Astros selected him No. 2 overall in last June's Draft -- participated and went 3-0. Texas A&M also went 3-0 a year ago with starters AJ Minter and Grayson Long both pitching well. Minter was a second-round pick in 2015 (Braves), while Long went in the third round to the Angels.

Arkansas reliever Zach Jackson is the only member in attendance of MLBPipeline.com's Top 50 Draft Prospects list released last fall (coming in at No. 36).

But attending the Classic is more than just seeing top-tier guys. The Draft, after all, is 40 rounds deep, and it's not often possible for scouts to really dig deep into a college team. Even seeing Jackson, if he stays in the bullpen all season, can be tricky because it's not like his outings are scheduled. Camping out at Minute Maid allows evaluators a lot of looks.

"It affords a scout the chance to get deep into six Division I clubs' rosters and pitching staffs without having to leave the park," said one scout who attends the event annually.

In addition to Jackson, there is definitely some interesting talent on hand at Minute Maid this weekend. The other top names from this year's Draft class are also pitchers. Keep an eye out for:

Jon Duplantier, RHP, Rice
Chandler Eden, RHP, Texas Tech
Andrew Lantrip, RHP, Houston
Mitchell Traver, RHP, TCU

Looking a bit further into the future, Houston lefty Seth Romero and TCU catcher Evan Skoug are two of the top Draft prospects from the class of 2017, while TCU two-way player Luken Baker is considered by some to be the No. 1 prospect in the '18 class.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow @JonathanMayo on Twitter.