I really enjoyed researching and writing the college outfield categories piece from Wednesday and appreciate all of the positive feedback. Can’t quite put my finger on why, but I’ve always been drawn to non-starting players, like utility infielders and fourth outfielders and I find it really interesting to see where they come from. Maybe it is a stretch to say, but I like the idea that one of those players could be the next Dave Sappelt, a personal favorite mid-round outfield target back in 2008 who is now on the cusp of the big leagues. I wish the same luck to a few highly regarded 2010 favorites Trent Mummey (4th round), Rico Noel (5th), Gauntlett Eldemire (6th), as well as some deeper sleepers that probably fit more into Wednesday’s no top 25 college outfield prospect parameters like Robert Maddox (18th), Dan Grovatt (11th), and the inexplicably underrated Tyler Holt (10th).
In a similar vein, I thought we’d take a closer look at three potentially undervalued 2011 draft righthanded pitching prospects today. I hate calling anybody a sleeper because, quite honestly, I have no idea what the term even means anymore. I’ve always felt that 9 out of 10 “sleepers” are downright insulting to even a casual draft fan’s intelligence. Maybe I’m just hyper-sensitive, who knows? Anyway, here are some potentially undervalued prospects who are definitely not “sleepers” in any way, shape, or form…
Kansas JR RHP Colton Murray
Tennessee JR RHP Matt Ramsey
It is entirely possible that both Murray and Ramsey were built in some kind of top secret lab designed with the intent of creating prototype amateur relief prospects. Mid-90s fastball? Murray’s peaks at an impressive 95 (sits 91-93), but plays up because of excellent movement. both of the sinking and cutting variety. Ramsey’s fastball doesn’t have quite the same movement, but clocks in with a peak of 96 (low-90s sitting). Plus breaking ball? Ramsey has a raw low-80s curveball that flashes plus while Murray already throws a consistently excellent low- to mid-80s slider. Busy mechanics with lots of moving parts and a listed height at or below 6’0″? Double check for both players, though I have heard Ramsey, who does double duty as a catcher for the Volunteers, has cleaned up his throwing motion a great deal since last summer.
Murray is the better prospect at this point because of his better fastball, breaking ball, and the existence of a usable (but no better at this point) third pitch, a changeup. He looks like a potential early round (maybe somewhere between 5 and 10?) prospect that could eventually pitch at the back end of ballgames at the next level. If a pro team thinks they can unlock a few extra ticks on the fastball by cleaning up his windup, the possibility of closing someday can’t be ruled out.
Two random points that I couldn’t figure out how to wedge in the above paragraphs, so I will just blurt them out here. First, I’ve heard tons of good things about Murray’s work ethic. That may or may not mean anything over the long haul, but all of the high makeup praise I’ve heard comes back to the way Murray has worked his tail off to improve his breaking pitch over the years. I try my best to stay away from nebulous terms like “makeup” that can mean just about anything on any given day, but even I can admit it pretty cool to see a positive tangible result come out of this supposed “great makeup leading to sweeping slurve-like curve turning into tight slider” cause and effect. Second, on Ramsey, I just wanted wanted to point out that Perfect Game compared his upside as a prep catcher to the good version of Russell Martin. No real commentary on that particular comp, other than to say I love reading old reports on prospects (and PG is right up there with the very best at churning them out) and seeing the different developmental paths prospects have taken over the years. I guess if you want to apply it to Ramsey’s current prospect stock, then you could spin it as a positive check in the “athleticism” ledger on his scouting report.
Mississippi State JR RHP Devin Jones
Jones is the only current college starter of the three. He strikes me as a borderline starting candidate in pro ball at this point. Like many young pitchers, it’ll be the development of an effective changeup that makes or breaks him as a high round prospect or not. I really like his present mix (low-90s four-seam, upper-80s two-seam with great sink, and a mid- to upper-80s slider with plus upside) and he has the frame pro teams like to see in a starter (6’3″, 180). I’m a bit biased in my appreciation for Jones, as I’ve always liked the classically built sinker/slider specialists. I like it even more when these classic sinker/slider guys go all out and embrace who they are, so, if I may, a quick suggestion for Jones: ditch whatever version of the change you are currently working on and go with a splitter instead. Pretty sure I can trace back my love of the sinker/slider/splitter righthander to Ryan Dempster, a long-time personal favorite. Mississippi JR RHP David Goforth is more similar in stuff to Murray and Ramsey (big fastball, SL that flashes plus), but I’ve always connected him with Jones because both players seem like they have the stuff to dominate college hitters, yet consistently put up mediocre numbers. Both are currently winning the “scouting over stats” debate that infuses itself into all of my traditionally statistically charged player rankings, but big junior years would go a long way towards making me confident in endorsing them as potential big league assets.