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 debate full of new, even more confusing questions. We’ll see. The next three draft classes for one particular school are featured, with the players ranked in order (from greatest to least greatest) 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 (you can use either robozga at gmail dot com or thebaseballdraftreport at gmail dot com) or in the comments section.
FR 3B/1B Johnny Coy (2010) has taken a long, strange trip to get to this point, but the eventual payoff could very well make it all worth it. Coy’s story began as a two-sport high school star, regarded by many as a better basketball prospect than baseball. After getting drafted by the Phillies in the 7th round, protracted and sometimes testy (allegedly) negotiations between player and team led to the two sides opting to go their separate ways. Coy’s older brother was reportedly heavily involved with negotiations, strongly pushing his bro to either a) get every last penny from the Phillies as possible (making him a greedy villain to many) or b) go to school and get a quality education. Coy wound up enrolling at Arizona State, but never made it to baseball season. He left the Sun Devils to move closer to home after his father suffered a stroke in late 2008. That led him to Wichita State. As a Shocker, Coy can now focus on honing his considerable baseball skills. All of his raw tools grade out as average or better – 55 speed, 60 arm, 65-70 raw power, average hit tool, and, perhaps most controversially, above-average upside with the glove at third. I remember not believing for a second that he’d ever stick at third after seeing video of him in high school, but all of the noise regarding his defensive progress coming out of Wichita has been positive. I’m a big believer in the big (6-8, 210 pound) righthanded freshman. As mentioned, Coy was a 7th round pick by the Phillies back in 2008. A good spring will get him three or four rounds higher than that, I think. All the typical signability concerns apply (Coy has three more seasons of eligibility left after this one), but the timing seems right for Coy to jump to pro ball, especially if his raw tools come together as quick as I believe.
SO RHP Jordan Cooper (2011) is coming off a fantastic freshman season and should once again thrive as Wichita State’s Saturday starter. His hard work on campus has helped him further develop his pro body and clean up his loose, easy, and repeatable throwing mechanics. He has a low-90s fastball, decent slider, an emerging changeup, and a curve still in its infancy. There isn’t a standout pitch in his arsenal just yet, but the ability to throw four (though closer to three and a half) pitches for strikes make him appealing as a potential back of the rotation starter. Another big year in 2010 ought to get him consideration as a top-five round pick, but, again, I’m not sure his limited upside will quite warrant such a lofty draft pick.
JR 1B Preston Springer (2010) is a big-time breakout candidate heading into 2010. In a year bereft of interesting college bats, Springer is a certifiable sleeper, a junior college transfer with a pro frame, above-average lefthanded power, and impressive plate discipline. He’ll play first base this spring for the Shockers, but he has defensive experience all over the diamond. If his defense is even passable at third (something scouts may need to find out through pre-game infield practice, talking to former coaches, referencing old reports, or good old fashioned guesswork), then we’ve got ourselves a prospect worth getting excited about. I know his arm strength will play at the position, but his hands, range, and footwork are all question marks at this point. I’m out on an island putting Springer this high up on the list, but I believe in his bat.
SR OF Ryan Jones (2010) heads into the 2010 season with much to prove after a disappointing junior season knocked him all the way down to the 39th round of the 2009 MLB Draft. Jones’s season wasn’t terrible by any stretch, but it is fair to point out that he didn’t make the substantial gains from sophomore to junior year that many had hoped to see. He’s back for his senior year and primed for a season that could shoot him into the first fifteen rounds of the draft. Jones is an outstanding corner outfielder (typically playing right), athletic enough to get by when needed in center. He fits the mold as one of those smartly aggressive hitters, a player happy to spit on pitches he knows he can’t handle while not being bashful with his cuts on balls in his wheelhouse. This approach got him in trouble last year as he began to rapidly expand his idea of what pitch types and locations he could handle, but coaches close to him believe they have themselves a more patient, more mature, and, hopefully, more dangerous hitter now that he has another year of at bats under his belt. I like him as yet another tweener, a player who maybe shouldn’t play center regularly but who also doesn’t have the power bat needed to play a corner every day; tweeners have value when used properly, but the limited big league ceiling of guys with fourth outfielder upside tends to give many scouting staffs’ pause. Betting on college seniors to go early in the draft and then eventually reach the big leagues isn’t the smartest thing to do, but Jones has enough untapped upside to at least consider him as one of the select few within the group who has a shot to do both.
SR RHP Cobey Guy (2010) has some serious sleeper potential. His low-90s fastball and above-average slider give him the two strong pitch base that any good reliever needs. Guy’s swing-and-miss stuff has worked at every level (starting at Arkansas Fort Smith, relieving in limited innings last year at Wichita State), striking out 196 batters in just 154 innings pitched. If he can quickly lay claim to a key spot in the Wichita pen, then the exposure could help scouts take notice of his raw stuff and get him picked late this June.
JR RHP/OF Mitch Caster (2010) is a two-way prospect coming off a season where he did very little of note (.231/.308/.265 in 117 at bats, only 5.1 innings pitched) either way, but his scouting reports have remained positive all the same. He is a far better prospect as a pitcher than as a hitter due in large part to a fastball peaking at 92 MPH and a slider that flashes plus when on. He’s also a fine athlete capable of consistently repeating his loose and easy delivery. Like so many other prospects profiled thus far, Caster has the makings of two above-average or better pitches and thus has to be taken at least somewhat seriously as a potential middle relief piece going forward. Unlike a lot of those prospects, however, Caster gets a little extra credit for the potential for untapped pitching ability because of his time spent moonlighting in the outfield for the Shockers.
JR RHP Tim Kelley (2010), the ace of the Shockers staff, typically sits in the high-80s with an average changeup. He has a well earned reputation as a strike thrower with plus command. Kelley is a bit of enigma, a guy with the size scouts want (6-6, 215), but not the velocity. He looks like he should throw harder, but so far the guns haven’t exactly been lit up when he takes the bump. That’s not to say he still can’t be a pro prospect, but it does put a pretty tight cap on his upside. Armed with a below-average velocity fastball and no real plus breaking ball, Kelley might have to hope a professional conversion to middle relief will unlock enough of a bump in his stuff to keep food on his table. Check out the comparison between Kelley and Saturday starter Jordan Cooper’s 2009 numbers. They are some bizarrely close statistics:
Player ERA W-L APP GS CG SHO/CBO SV IP H R ER BB SO 2B 3B HR AB B/Avg WP HBP BK SFA SHA 11 Cooper, Jordan... 2.78 8-6 15 13 3 0/3 0 97.0 87 35 30 20 91 9 1 7 351 .248 6 15 0 2 10 36 Kelley, Tim...... 2.86 5-4 14 14 3 1/0 0 94.1 83 40 30 22 102 20 0 8 356 .233 11 10 0 3 5
If we arbitrarily lump WPs and HBPs together as something called “uncontrollable pitches,” they are even more similar. Weird. Keep in mind Kelley is a year ahead of Cooper from an experience standpoint. Also keep in mind that Kelley redshirted his first season as a Shocker, so he actually is two calendar years older than Cooper.
SO RHP Remington Johnson (2010) was arguably the Shockers most dominant reliever last year, striking out 33 batters in only 21.1 innings pitched. He enters 2010 as a prime candidate to get saves out of the Wichita State bullpen. He is draft-eligible after redshirting in 2008, but probably won’t get a serious look from scouts until 2011 or 2012 due to his lack of overwhelming size (6-0, 198), stuff, and a non-stuffy old white guy first name.
SR 1B/RHP Clint McKeever (2010) has one of the best stories in all of college baseball, going from a walk-on cut from his dream school (Oklahoma State), to transferring to Wichita State, to then hitting an extra inning grand slam to beat – who else? – the OK State Cowboys. Seriously, how cool is that? McKeever’s bat makes him a darn fine college ballplayer, but it’ll probably his arm that gets him a shot in pro ball. With a fastball that touches the low-90s and a pretty good slider, McKeever has an outside shot to make it as a reliever down the line. As a huge fan of former big league two-way guy Brooks Kieschnick, I’d like nothing more than to see a player with legitimate talent both ways get a chance professionally. McKeever may not have the ability to do it — his fastball velocity has remained more or less stagnant since high school and his hitting, while impressive for a college player, won’t play as a big league starting position player – but it’ll happen somewhere, someday.
SO RHP Grant Muncrief (2010) will reportedly be ready for the start of the season after having Tommy John surgery this past April. The ten month recovery is one of the fastest that I can remember, so please excuse me if I’m not entirely sold on the idea that he’ll be game-ready from the get-go. The draft-eligible sophomore has generated some good buzz from the coaching staff, but it’s really hard to get a read on his long-term potential due to the injury. I’d guess he is a player we’ll be talking about again next year after an up-and-down sophomore year convinces him to stick around Wichita for at least another season.
JR RHP Justin Kemp (2010) made one of the best catches of the…wait, wrong sport…and wrong Justin Kemp. Sorry. The baseball playing Kemp isn’t likely to achieve the same level of athletic success as his namesake. The lightly recruited righthander is coming off a year of low-leverage relief innings for the Shockers, striking out 16 batters in 25.2 innings pitched.
SR RHP Tyler Fleming (2010) will be 24 years old by the time of the draft. What’s with Wichita State and all of these old guys? I know a lot are due to medical redshirts, but some of the ages on this club make it seem like a AAA roster. Fleming shouldn’t be a prospect, but he was drafted by the Rangers twice (20th round in 2006, 39th round in 2007) out of junior college, so you never know. If totally recovered from shoulder surgery, you’ll be able to find him pitching out of the back of the Shockers bullpen and moonlighting as the team’s backup infielder in 2010.
SR OF Travis Bennett (2010) comes to Wichita State from Northern Iowa (RIP) with the reputation of a player with a solid-average hit tool and an iron glove. He’s currently angling for some time in the outfield for the Shockers, but I’ve got a hunch he’ll settle in as the team’s primary DH once the season gets rolling. Without any real positional value, he’s not a pro prospect.
SR 2B Will Baez (2010) has a father named Wilson and a sister named Wilcania. Will’s full first name is Wilsisky. How about that? His first year playing major college ball went well enough for the Shockers (.275/.425/.368), but it is hard to project a player with only 12 extra base hits in 182 at bats as a pro prospect, especially for a middle infielder coming off a year of shaky defense at second base. I do appreciate the additional 52 times on base (42 BBs, 10 HBPs) and the guts it takes a converted catcher to give it a go at second, but without any power he won’t get drafted.
SR LHP Logan Hoch (2010) currently is on the mend after shoulder surgery sidelined him in 2009. He’s a good college lefthanded reliever (52 K’s in 45.1 IP during his last healthy year, 2008) with limited upside professionally. As a redshirt senior he’ll be 23 years old by draft day. Old college lefty relievers have to be outstanding to get a look professionally, something Hoch is not.
SO OF Kevin Hall (2010) writes a weekly column about life as a college ballplayer that is probably worth checking out on a regular basis. I mean, sure, he’s no Michael Schwimer, but Hall’s blog is off to a pretty solid start. I like his future as a writer a little more than as a prospect, despite the fact that Hall has a lot of the skills needed to be a solid college leadoff hitter; in fact, he hits a lot of the right notes (good speed and good range in center) in that respect. Unfortunately, there are centerfields with leadoff hitter profiles with far better tools out there.
SR OF Bret Bascue (2010) turned 23 this past December. He hasn’t shown much in his college career – little to no power, poor plate discipline, and average at best outfield defense. He’ll battle for time in Wichita State’s crowded outfield this spring, but he isn’t a pro prospect.
SR C Cody Lassley (2010) doesn’t have what it takes to be considered a pro prospect. To his credit, he has made significant improvements since signing with Wichita State, enough so to now be able to call himself a decent college catcher. Plus, he has somebody writing about him on the internet. That’s kind of cool, right?
JR UT Ryan Engrav (2010) should help Wichita State with his ability to play multiple positions, but his bat isn’t strong enough to make him a pro prospect. He should settle in as the Shockers’ primary rightfielder to start the season.
SR INF Taylor Gilmore (2010) will be the Shockers four-corners (1B/3B/LF/RF) utility guy in 2010. He doesn’t have a pro future.
SO SS Tyler Grimes (2011) has spent the offseason working on a pretty nifty trick. He’s learning how to switch hit. That’s a far more impressive feat that whatever the heck I did between my freshman and sophomore years of college. That reminds me of a funny story…[story edited in order to maintain appearance that, yes, this is a family friendly website]…and that was the summer we learned a valuable lesson about Jon Favreau, organic peaches, nasty sunburns, and the power of love. Anyway, Grimes is coming off a darn fine freshman campaign. College numbers don’t tell the whole story, but a quick comparison between the freshman year numbers of the Wichita State shortstop and the consensus top college shortstops of 2009 and 2010 is interesting. Last season Grimes hit .294/.399/.467. In his freshman year, Grant Green, the top college shortstop off the board in 2009, hit .316/.388/.491. In Christian Colon’s first season, he hit .329/.406/.444. This ignores park factors, competition, and a slew of other important things to consider, but the raw rate stats are all pretty similar. Again, college numbers don’t tell the whole story. Grimes’s tools don’t match up with either Green’s or Colon’s, but he does appear to be a legitimate pro prospect in his own right. Grimes’s plus defense (good hands, great range, plus arm) will get him looks regardless of his development with the bat.
FR 3B Nate Goro (2012) has a quick bat, a little bit of pop (he’s no power hitter, but he did break Ryan Howard’s Missouri state high school homerun record), and exciting instinctual actions in the field. He received rave reviews on his defense throughout the fall, pulling himself into a tight battle with Johnny Coy for the starting job at the hot corner. It’s hard to project him for more than 10-15 homerun upside as a professional, but a lot of that will depend on how he fills out in school. If the bat catches up to the glove, he is a top five round player by 2012. If he’s seen as more of a defensive whiz than a complete starting caliber player, downgrade him another five rounds or so. Either way, he has three seasons to improve. I like his chances.
FR 2B Walker Davidson (2012) injured his knee in the fall, so the amount of playing time he’ll get this spring is up in the air. He has received praise from the coaching staff for his defense, but the bat currently lags behind. He’s currently the leading candidate to replace Will Baez as the Shockers starting second baseman in 2011.