30. Howard JC SO 2B Marcellous Biggins – Raw on the bases, in the field, and at the plate, but when you are this far down the list a plus tool like Biggins’ speed is enough to get noticed.
29. Pacific JR 2B JB Brown – Above-average hitter in the mold of Josh Vitters, Howie Kendrick, and Placido Polanco. Of course, those three names were superior prospects at various points in their respective development; I’m talking about the type of hitter, not necessarily the quality of hitter. Brown is a notorious hacker, but has shown an uncanny ability to swing at pitches he can handle. Hitters like this are typically far too batting average dependent to emerge as successful professionals, but they make for interesting case studies as they progress through the minors.
28. Sam Houston State JR 2B Braden Riley – Another player with an interesting hit tool, but probably not enough power or patience to advance too far up the ladder professionally.
27. Kent State JR 2B Jared Humphreys – Really good athlete with plus speed and great baseball instincts who is capable of playing a variety of positions on the diamond. He’s probably best defensively in the outfield, but his bat players much better at second. Could be an organizational player who wears down a team over
26. Connecticut JR 2B Pierre LePage – Stock is lower here than in other spots, an opinion based largely on his groundball inducing swing plane and lack of meaningful physical strength. In his defense, LePage qualifies as the type of player who grows on you every time you watch him play; pro scouts love guys like that. He can do just enough of everything, and do it all pretty well, but his slap hitting style could get the bat knocked out of his hands as a pro.
25. North Carolina State SR 2B Dallas Poulk – Four years of starter’s at bats have finally paid off for the hard working Poulk. Long considered the inferior prospect to his cousin, Drew, Dallas’s ultra productive 2010 season has finally gotten the attention of area scouts. What they are seeing is another potential organizational player at second, but one with just enough juice in his bat to make a conversion to catching a worthwhile risk.
24. Arizona JR 2B Rafael Valenzuela – Less toolsy, less athletic version of Jared Humphreys, but similar defensive versatility and solid hit tool. What separates Valenzuela is a more professional approach at the plate and, despite less upside, a greater chance of helping a big league team someday.
23. St John’s JR 2B Greg Hopkins – A college third baseman better suited for second in the pros, Hopkins is a very well-rounded ballplayer who grades out with at least fringe average tools in all areas but foot speed. His 45 arm should be enough for second, and his gap power is better suited for the keystone sack than third. Looks like another organizational guy with the upside of a utility player.
22. Central Florida JR 2B Derek Luciano – His name makes me think slick fielding, speed middle infielder, but in reality Luciano is a below-average runner and inconsistent fielder who will have to rely on his lefthanded power if he wants to make it in pro ball. His good, but not great 2010 season has tempered some of the pre-season enthusiasm surrounding his prospect stock.
21. Florida JR 2B Josh Adams– Personal favorite heading into the year has struggled as one of the veteran anchors of a young Gators lineup. His scouting reports are largely favorable, despite the subpar junior season. Like a few other names below him on the list, Adams will be helped by his positional versatility as he tries to make it in the pros as a utility guy.
20. College of Charleston SR 2B Joey Bergman – Any regular reader should know that I wasn’t a Christian Colon fan coming into the year. To fill the void atop my shortstop rankings, I stubbornly tried to convince myself that there was somebody at the college level better. The one name that came up in conversations with people smarter than I am multiple times was Joey Bergman, but always with the caveat that he won’t stick at the position as a pro. Ultimately, nobody could vouch for any player over Colon at shortstop, but the positive vibes I kept hearing when discussing Bergman stuck with me. He’s another versatile defender who can play both up the middle spots, and his high contact rate bodes well going forward.
19. Georgia Southern SR 2B AJ Wirnsberger – The position-less Wirnsberger is on the second base list by default because, well, his bat is good enough to get him drafted, but his glove leaves much to be desired. Unlike a few other defensively flexible players on the list, Wirnsberger projects as a utility guy based more on a reputation as an iffy glove that needs to be hidden rather than a naturally versatile defender. The reason finding him a position is worth the trouble at all is the bat. A hotly recruited prep player, Wirnsberger has good loft on his swing and punishes mistakes, especially when he can get his hands extended. He could find a home behind the plate if a team believes his strong arm will play.
18. Miami SR 2B Scott Lawson – Lawson, Jemile Weeks’ successor at second for Miami, has done nothing but hit since stepping on campus. Above-average hit tool, fantastic plate discipline, ten homer pro pop, and strong defense across the board…can you tell he is a personal favorite? Lawson’s spot on the list begins a stretch of players that I think can play regularly in the big leagues if everything, and I mean everything, breaks right for them.
17. Clemson SR 2B Mike Freeman – Almost an identical player to Scott Lawson, but Freeman provides better footwork in the field and a smidge better speed on the bases. He also possesses one of the quietest, most compact swings I’ve seen at the college level in some time, and has a well earned reputation as a player who doesn’t go the plate without first knowing as much as possible about the opposition. Solid hit tool, above-average speed, good defender, efficient swing, veteran approach….obvious enough we have another personal favorite on our hands, right?
16. Canisius JR 2B Steve McQuail – McQuail has a pro body, pro power, and pro arm, but currently has too many holes in his long, loopy swing to profile as a regular. That said, McQuail’s tools are good enough to believe he has a chance to succeed professionally with the help of a good professional hitting instructor. I know I’m coming off like a broken record here, but when I read certain aspects of McQuail’s scouting reports (athletic, plus arm, only decent at second) I really can’t help but think some pro team has to think of him as a potential catching conversion.
15. Cal State Fullerton JR 2B Corey Jones – Jones is in pretty good company as the best 2010 draft-eligible Titan after a couple of guys named Christian Colon and Gary Brown. Live bat, power potential, and quickly maturing plate discipline, plus the possibility of some time back at his natural shortstop make for an intriguing pro prospect with more upside than your typical college athlete.
14. Southern JR 2B Curtis Wilson– Underrated player who is a good athlete with above-average speed and a really well rounded tool set. Biggest obstacle might be the lack of exposure and lack of one signature standout tool. Funny how a strength (no true weaknesses to his game) can be portrayed as a liability (no eye opening tool) in the next sentence. Speaking of second baseman from Southern, how awesome was Rickie Weeks? His junior year numbers: .500/.619/.987 with 27 steals in 27 tries. He’s probably the second baseman on my all-time favorite non-home team player team.
13. Kentucky JR 2B Chris Bisson– Steady enough to someday ascend to an everyday big league spot, but not currently in possession of any consistent standout tool. Noticing a trend yet? Bisson is lower here than ever I expected, but it’s more about liking the players ranked higher than disliking him. His upside is as a regular .275ish hitter (55) with low double digit homers (40) and above-average plate discipline. Add in a glove that borders on plus and you’ve got yourself a player that big league teams should start thinking about popping in the top ten rounds easy.
12. Kansas SR 2B Robby Price – Differences between Bisson and Price are more perception than reality at this point. Bisson offers up more speed and a little more power projection, but Price has the edge in the field and batting eye. For teams that go overslot both early (first 5 rounds) and late (round 25 and up) in the draft, the middle rounds — 10ish to 25ish — are an area where cheap organizational types are often gobbled up. Price fits that prototype, but is more talented than the typical fringe of the roster taken.
11. California JR 2B BJ Guinn – Might be good enough to hold an everyday job for a team that emphasizes speed and defense up the middle based on those two plus tools alone. The speed is very good, I don’t want to deemphasize his ability there, but it’s Guinn’s glove that really gets your attention. His arm may be a little short for the left side of the diamond, but his crazy range as second can’t help but make you wonder what kind of shortstop he’d be if given the chance.
10. Florida Southern JR 2B Wade Kirkland– For me, a better prospect than Robbie Shields, third rounder in 2009. Shields has more raw power and a better arm, but Kirkland has more present gap power and a more reliable glove.
9. Rutgers JR 2B Brandon Boykin– After excelling against relatively high level northeastern prep competition at Don Bosco Prep, Boykin has finally enjoyed a breakout season with the bat in year three at Rutgers. Friend of a friend of a friend told me the Phillies have him as a high priority mid-round middle infield target, no doubt because of his plus speed and surprisingly springy bat.
8. Cerritos CC SO 2B Joe Terry– The quintessential hitting machine who makes hard contact darn near every time he steps to the plate. He does more than just hit, however; Terry is also an above-average runner with a strong arm who, despite appearing to fight his body sometimes in the field, should settle in as at least an average second baseman with the help of professional coaching. He reinvented himself somewhat in 2010 sacrificing some power for a more patient approach, but the 19th round pick from 2010 has maintained that draft momentum all the same.
7. Alabama JR 2B Ross Wilson– Pretty clear scouting over statistics pick. Wilson has as much power potential and athleticism as any player below him on the list, but has disappointed scouts who expected much more with the bat this spring. His numbers all fall below the three magic thresholds (slugging below .550, more K’s than BB’s, way less than 20 steals), so his placement on this list is a testament to the confidence I have in a plus athlete figuring out how to apply his significant tools before long. High risk, high reward pick that could either emerge as a legit big league caliber starting player or flame out in AA.
6. Virginia JR 2B Phil Gosselin– Remains an average to slightly below-average infielder (capable of playing third and short in a pinch) with an average arm well suited for second base, who many believe may ultimately wind up in the outfield as a pro. That’s what I’ve heard, anyway. I’m not necessarily buying it; heck, his mere presence on this list indicates I think it would be best to keep Gosselin at second as long as possible professionally. He doesn’t have the glove/range for center, and doesn’t have the bat for a corner. If he isn’t a starting caliber outfielder, why not at least give him a shot in the infield? Coming into the year I thought his future was as a big league super-sub, but his big junior year has me thinking his bat could work at second if the glove cooperates.
5. Louisville SR 2B Adam Duvall – I’m as big a Louisville fan (prospect-wise) you’ll find outside of Kentucky, so take the Duvall ranking with a grain of salt. His speed and defense aren’t elite, but he’s strong enough in both areas. It’ll be his bat that gets him his shot as he rises to minor league prominence. Duvall reminds me a lot of great deal of 2009 fourth round pick Derek McCallum. Both players have really nice swings who should each hit for good averages with enough extra-base hits to keep pitchers honest.
4. Stanford JR 2B Colin Walsh – I wrote before the season that Walsh had a really pretty swing that caused scouts to project more power in his future. The future is now. Walsh’s excellent results on the field have finally caught up to his positive scouting reports. He also has an outstanding glove at second that may actually be good enough to work at shortstop, giving hope that he can be a utility infielder in the mold of Marco Scutaro someday. His offensive progression with Stanford actually reminds me of former Cardinal Cord Phelps, but, and this bears repeating, Walsh’s glove is outstanding. Phelps was a third rounder as a hitter with slightly less college production, a bit more physical projection, and a significantly lesser glove. 2010 is a really strong draft, especially near the top, but I’d still say that comparison bodes well for Walsh come draft day.
3. Chipola JC FR 2B LeVon Washington – Thought Washington wasn’t worth a first round grade in 2009, but the Tampa front office’s seal of approval is enough to make any good draft fan reconsider. His plus speed remains a major strength, as does his strong contact skills and intriguing power potential, but his post-injury noodle arm is a concern at any defensive position, even second. Even though I’m still not personally sold on the bat playing at higher levels, there is little denying Washington’s four-tool upside.
2. West Virginia JR 2B Jedd Gyorko – I’m not a scout, so I try not to pretend to be one if at all possible, but, if you’ll indulge me just this one, I have to point out the marked difference between Gyorko’s 2010 swing and his 2009 swing. The majority of his damage last season came on guesswork when he’d get nearly all his weight shifted up on his front foot and hack away. His stride is way more efficient this year, with a vastly improved, far more balanced load and launch. Very encouraging progress. Defensively, Gyorko will never be known for his range, but his soft hands should enable him to make all the plays at balls hit at or near him. The two most prevalent (and optimistic) comps are Kevin Youkilis and Dan Uggla, but ultimately Gyorko’s power upside pales in comparison. For me, Gyorko’s upside is that of the new Ben Zobrist.
1. Ball State JR 2B Kolbrin Vitek – Modest son of a gun I am, I’d never toot my own horn about getting out ahead of a prospect’s emergence, but, seeing as I’m wrong 95% of the time, give or take, I’d figure now is as good a time as any to point out this gem from early January: “Vitek’s tools all grade out similarly to fellow small school sensation Bryce Brentz. They both have plus bat speed, good plate discipline, and plus power potential. They are also both two-way players who have had success on the mound collegiately, though only Vitek could actually pull of the trick of being a legit draft prospect as either a hitter or pitcher. In addition to a glove/arm combination that will definitely play at third professionally, Vitek does all the little things well that make scouts (and wannabe’s like me) very happy. He is a sensational base runner, works deep counts, and has one of the coolest names this side of Yordy Cabrera. Vitek’s utter dominance of the Great Lakes League this past summer sealed the deal for me. He may not be a first rounder in June, but he is as good a bet as any college hitter in the 2010 to be an impact player in the big leagues.” Ha, I called him “Bryce Brentz without a publicist.” Genius prognosticating and comic gold. The myth of the next Jim Callis/Steve Martin super-hybrid has finally been realized.