One of my favorite quirks about the Rule 4 Draft is the “senior sign.” College players who have stayed in school all four years often don’t get actually do so on purpose. College baseball seniors are “forced” to stay in school by big league scouting directors because of one (or more) inherent flaws in their games. However, many of these players are also extremely skilled at certain areas of the game – take Scott Bittle’s cutter, Chris Dominguez’s power and throwing arm, and Matt Long’s plate discipline, for example. Of course, like any class of player, not all seniors are created equal. Some seniors are still in school due to injuries in previous seasons, some are very dedicated students chasing their degrees, and some remain in college on a mission after not getting the bonus they felt they deserved. Now what’s more interesting than flawed players with interesting backstories?
All of the best of the senior class is after the jump. We’re talking the finest bunch of backup catchers, utility infielders, fourth outfielders, bench bats, and bullpen arms you’ll ever see. I may sound like I’m making fun, but, as any good baseball fan knows, there is real value in developing your own peripheral talent. Saving money on these spots frees up money to pay for the special talents of the baseball universe. So, with no further ado (besides the minor hassle of clicking through), the senior class…
C – Preston Clark (Texas)
1B – Luke Anders (Texas A&M)
2B – Seth Henry (Tulane)
3B – Chris Dominguez (Louisville)
SS – Ben Orloff (UC Irvine)
OF – Cory Harrilchak (Elon)
OF – Ryan Lollis (Missouri)
OF – Matt Long (Santa Clara)
Filling this team took a little bit of stretching the limits of what we’d like to define as a “prospect,” but we have to work with what we’ve got, right?
Preston Clark is one of the most talented players on the list and his incremental production from year to year at Texas is a nice sign going forward. He’ll never hit for a high average, but his plate discipline (29 BB in 179 AB last season) is good and he has just enough juice in his bat to keep pitchers honest. His health is a major question mark, but a spring that sees Clark in the lineup (and behind the plate) on a consistent basis should solidify him as prospect with a better than average shot of someday developing into a strong big league backup backstop. Even if he doesn’t catch all that often — sophomore Cameron Rupp is in line to get plenty of reps behind the dish as well — Clark’s defensive versatility (he’s capable of playing third and the outfield, in addition to catching) is an added bonus to his game.
A quick glance around the infield reveals a mixed prospect bag – one potential high round pick, one very solid senior sign candidate, and a couple of middle infielders in need of big senior seasons if they want to hear their cell phone ring in the first fifteen rounds on draft day. We’ll start with that solid senior sign candidate – Luke Anders. Hard not to like the hulking (6-6, 220) three true outcome type. Nate Freiman (Duke) was another consideration, he’s a fine citizen who would be a welcome addition to any organization and his experience behind the plate gives him a little something special. If nothing else, the novelty of seeing a 6-7, 240 pound player donning the tools of ignorance would be worth a laugh. Anyway, Anders and Freiman – very similar numbers! I love statistical oddities like this:
|Player Name||Stat Type||Bavg||Obp||Slg||OPS||G||AB||R||H||2B||3B||HR||RBI||SB||CS||BB||SO||HR||2B||R||RBI||SB|
Freaky! Darin Ruf of Creighton is yet another interesting player option at first base. Good defense, gap power, and plate discipline should get him a long look.
The middle infield lacks talent in a big way. Orloff is a plus defender with literally no power to speak of, so his best case future is that of a utility guy at the big league level. Henry’s game is a little more well-rounded offensively, but his upside is ultimately the same as Orloff’s.
Chris Dominguez is an enigma, no two ways about it. Plenty will be written about him between now and the draft, you can be sure of that. Dominguez’s raw power is startling, but there are questions about how it will play as he advances towards a professional career. His swing is long and tailor-made for the college game, but he’s made strides in that area in the past so it’s not unreasonable to expect more improvement this spring. His defense has been spotty at third at times, but his arm strength and athleticism would make a move to rightfield an option. In fact, it could be argued that a move to the outfield might be just what he needs – playing a less demanding defensive position would allow for more time and energy to be spent cleaning up his swing mechanics. Any way you slice it, Dominguez is the most talented of the players listed and one of the best power hitting college options in the draft.
Cory Harrilchak is a criminally underrated ballplayer who does so much well that it’s hard to envision him not getting noticed this spring. Harrilchak has very good speed/baserunning ability, outstanding bat control, plus defensive skills in center, and a big league caliber throwing arm. If nothing else, he’ll be a good backup outfielder for a major league team someday. Lollis is another plus defender in centerfield, but his lack of power has held his prospect stock down thus far. Long is a similar player to Harrilchak in that both are well-rounded, fundamental sound college players. His power/speed blend, above-average defense, and ultra-patient approach at the plate (36 BB/24 K ratio last season) intrigue.
Brett Nommensen (Eastern Illinois) is a sleeper prospect with serious defensive skills in centerfield. Kyle Conley (Washington) is a fourth-year junior with big league possibilities if/when the tools come together.
RHP – Scott Bittle (Mississippi)
RHP – Preston Guilmet (Arizona)
RHP – Louis Coleman (Louisiana State)
Bittle and Coleman are both college relievers that are relatively safe bets to be effective middle relievers in the pros at some point. Bittle’s cutter is a truly special pitch and one that should consistently big league hitters out. He’ll probably fall a little later than where he went last year (2nd round to the Yankees), but he’ll still be a first day pick. If Coleman has another year like his junior season, he’ll be a sure-fire top ten round pick and one of the top senior signs around. Guilmet and North Carolina’s Adam Warren both profile as swingmen/bullpen arms as professionals because of deep, effective arsenals. Guilmet offers a funky delivery and a whole slew of offspeed offerings, plus outstanding peripheral numbers at the college level.
|Player Name||Stat Type||W||L||ERA||G||GS||CG||SHO||GF||SV||IP||H||R||ER||HR||BB||SO||WP||H/9||HR/9||BB/9||K/9||WHIP|
The previously mentioned Warren and Nate Newman (Pepperdine) are two other arms worth watching this spring. Warren’s track record is stellar, but iffy peripherals indicate he might not be much more than a better version of former Tar Heel (and current Padre) Robert Woodard – that’s not a bad thing per se, but it should be pointed out that Woodard went in the 20th round. Having seen both players pitch in person, I’d say Warren is the more talented pitcher. Newman’s big frame and pitchability might be enough for a team to take a chance on him as a starting pitcher (as opposed to as viewing him solely as a reliever), making him a rarity among senior signs.
LHP – Miers Quigley (Alabama)
LHP – Chris Rusin (Kentucky)
LHP – Wes Musick (Houston)
Quigley was a top prep arm up until injury woes his senior season dropped him to the 19th round. Quigley still has that talent, but needs to put it all together as Alabama’s Saturday starter to get picked in a round appropriate to his raw skills. Rusin has gotten better results in the SEC than Quigley, but he does it more on guile and guts. There’s a place for a lefty with a high-80s fastball and a crafty four-pitch mix. Musick has slightly better collegiate numbers than Rusin, but also slightly less talent – the proliferation of LOOGYs into the big league game is probably the best thing to happen to a guy like him.