One of the most popular (fine, the only) question I’ve been emailed since starting this site up goes a little something like this: I’m going to see ____ University/College/State play this weekend and I was wondering if there was anybody with a professional future that would be worth watching. The College Team Profiles are designed to preemptively answer any and all questions about the prospects from a particular college team…or maybe just open up a whole new set of questions, we’ll see. The next three draft classes for one particular school are featured, with the players ranked in order (great to less great) within each class.
As always, whether you agree, disagree, or think I’m a dope who should leave this sort of stuff to the experts (thanks, Mom)…let’s hear it via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or in the comments section.
Typically, these College Team Profiles will have all the interesting prospects (including future classes), but we’ll stick with 2009 draft-eligible talent for now. Players are ranked based on my own personal board with drop-offs in prospect status after the first two (Belt and Wood) and then again after Boening. The 9 highest rated draft-eligible Longhorns after the jump…
- 2009: Brandon Belt – 1B
I’m a very big fan of the toolsy Belt, something that is easy to admit after he put it all together with a .342/.432/.582 season line in a pitcher’s park this past year. He has a pretty lefthanded swing that has a tendency to get too long at times. That same swing has a setup that resembles Jeff Bagwell’s right down to the deep crouch though I promise that the comparison is more of a fun frame of reference for nostalgia’s sake than any kind of baseball skills comp. Belt has good size (6-5, 205) with above-average power potential. In fact, he has already shown that his player plays with wood. He has a very good arm and is a plus athlete, two factors that had teams scouting him as a lefthanded pitcher out of high school and junior college. Belt is a fourth to eighth round possibility that will no doubt spend his draft day hoping to break his own personal 11th round curse – he’s twice been drafted in that very round. The aforementioned pitching experience is an added perk that could make him a realistic conversion candidate if hitting doesn’t work out professionally.
- 2009: Austin Wood (SR) – LHRP
A rubber-armed closer capable of pitching multi-inning games, Wood has a tremendous work ethic and plenty of big game experience. He doesn’t throw particularly hard and he doesn’t have have a shutdown breaking ball, but he throws from a modified sidearm slot that lefthanded batters have a very tough time dealing with. It’s easy to typecast Wood as a LOOGY and nothing more going forward, but his success as both a multi-inning closer and starting pitcher during his career at Texas should afford him the opportunity to at least get a chance in middle relief as a pro. He’s another mid-round candidate that will be drafted more for organizational depth than anything, but he has a shot at a big league career if drafted by the right team.
- 2009: Preston Clark (SR) – C
These little capsules are hard to write because I’m not a very good writer. For whatever reason I can’t seem to escape the same basic “here’s something good or bad about the player, BUT now here’s something that counterbalances it in some way.” Every single sentence I write has a “but” in it. I have no idea why, but (see?) I just can’t avoid it. I suppose I could actually edit my work and vary my sentence structure, but, come on, where’s the fun in that? Anyway, see my formulaic writing style up close and personal. Clark is coming off a miserable year with the bat (zero HRs after averaging 7/season his first three years at Texas), but he’ll get his chances as a heady senior sign mid- to late-round pick all the same. See? Power is down = bad. He’ll still get picked in the draft anyway = good. I do it again here, watch. A mysterious and slow to heal shoulder injury kept him from playing behind the plate with any regularity his senior year, but scouts who have seen him catch all seem to agree that he is an excellent defender. One more time to close things out…pay close attention, this one is a sneaky one. Clark hasn’t fulfilled the high expectations placed on him out of high school, but the flashes of potential he has shown when healthy combined with his extensive experience catching a championship-caliber pitching staff will help him on draft day. At worst, he’s a comparable player to former BC catcher Shawn McGill (23rd round pick in 2006) who should expect to hear his named called at or around (I’d guess a few rounds before) the same time this year.
- 2009: Russ Moldenhauer – OF
Texas-sized big things were expected out of Moldenhauer, a third round pick out of high school of the Angels. Unfortunately, things didn’t really work out for the lefthanded hitting outfielder this year. Some of his problems were circumstantial, including a patella injury suffered last postseason that hindered his offseason workouts leading into the season, but the biggest strikes agains Moldenhauer are his lack of defensive chops (he’s a converted catcher who is a butcher even in left) and his less than sculpted body. He is a gifted natural hitter who showed what he can do when healthy as a sophomore, but questions remain about his power development. The knee injury may make it impossible for him to ever go back to catching, but that’s really the only shot I see of him succeeding in professional ball. Poor defensive corner outfielders need to hit, and hit a ton, to advance. Moldenhauer may yet rediscover the stroke that made him a third round pick once upon a time, but he is going to have to do so in a hurry if he wants to make it as a pro.
- 2009: Riley Boening (SR) – LHP
Injuries are a part of the game, but they are really no fun at all. Boening’s 2006 shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff really messed up what could have been one heck of a promising career. He did recover enough to throw 44 iffy innings in 2008, but another shoulder surgery knocked him out of commission this past year. Once upon a time, Boening was a healthy high schooler tagged with the ubiquitous Tom Glavine comp due to a high-80s fastball and potential plus change. When healthy, Boening can still get it up to 91 on the gun (sitting high-80s) with a good curve and an effective change. The obvious question is when will he be healthy like that again, if it ever happens at all.
- 2009: Keith Shinaberry (SR) – LHRP
Shinaberry kept a web journal this year for Texas website and for that we (fine, just me) are very thankful. My favorite gem, talking about unseasonably chilly March weather: “Not only is it frustrating to be freezing but it makes it difficult to take full advantage of the blonde and brunette scenery around campus.” Blonde and brunette scenery. Funny guy. Shinaberry, the go-to quote for apparently all the papers covering Longhorns baseball, is a typical lefty reliever with a funky Mike-Myers style sidearm delivery featuring a pronounced high leg kick. Thanks to “bubears09″ for shooting this video:
There are more exciting LOOGYs in college baseball that have put up better numbers than Shinaberry, but he may be able to talk (type?) his way into a professional contract this June. There is little chance he goes before round 25-30, but he has shown just enough to deserve a chance as rookie ball roster filler.
- 2009: Michael Torres (SR) – 3B/2B
Torres has logged time at both the listed infield spots as well as a brief stint in the outfield. He’s coming off a gigantic 2008 season (.354/.436/.479 with 37 walks to 15 strikeouts), his first with Texas after getting intermittent playing time at Southern Cal for two years. Torres’ numbers dipped this year, but reports on his defense at third (his primary position this season) were mostly positive. He’s a utility guy at best as a pro, worth a mid- to late-round flier if you’re into that sort of thing. If you haven’t noticed, there are lots of mid- to late-rounds in the MLB Draft…
- 2009: David Hernandez – SS
Hernandez is little more than an organizational type, but only because of his ability to play shortstop. He doesn’t have it in him to contribute anything meaningful with the bat, but could develop with the glove to advance a level or two professional over time. Even though I don’t like him as a prospect, I think he’ll be a mid-round draft for a team in need of a rookie ball middle infielder. I’d put money on him returning to the Longhorns for his senior year.
- 2009: Travis Tucker (SR) – 2B/3B
I like him better than teammate Kyle Lusson. That may sound like a backhanded compliment, but, for some reason, Lusson has been mentioned as a potential late (very late) round pick. Sadly for Lusson, I just don’t see it at all. Fortunately for Lusson, my opinion doesn’t really matter so there is still hope that he’ll be drafted no matter what a hack like me says. Back on topic, I do think Tucker is marginally more interesting than Lusson, but still not a prospect worth going on about. He had a decent junior year (good on-base skills, tiny bit of pop, above-average baserunner), but his inability to play shortstop well will keep him as an organizational type at best.