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Atlanta Braves 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Atlanta Braves 2011 Draft Selections

Florida State LHP Sean Gilmartin is definitely a grower. I saw him his freshman year, and thought he was a pretty good prospect. Then during his sophomore year, he improved to the point I was ready to drop the “pretty” qualifier and just call him a good prospect. When I saw him this past year, I was pretty damn impressed with the pitcher in front of me. By that logic, you’d think I’d be on board with the Braves popping the Florida State ace in the first round, right? Not so fast, my friend. His progression, in the eyes of this amateur evaluator, went from 10th rounder (freshman year) to 5th rounder (sophomore year) to 3rd rounder (draft day 2011).Gilmartin’s final destination as a first rounder was a legitimate surprise.

Most seem willing to give Atlanta the benefit of the doubt in taking the polished college lefty in the first round (something most did not do at the time of the Mike Minor selection, by the way), but it is a real head scratcher for me. My rankings are far from the final word in prospect evaluation, but I have to believe there was more value (value being an interesting topic in its own right) to be had with the 28th overall pick than my 53rd ranked pitcher. I loved the Minor selection at the time and have heard some compare the two college lefties, a comparison I don’t think I can get behind. At his best, Gilmartin throws four pitches for strikes — average FB, good CU, average SL, occasional above-average CB — and profiles as a solid back of the rotation arm. I’d want more upside out of my first round pick than that. However, and this is the fun part where I willing completely blow up my whole argument, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this year about value. Value in a draft where picks cannot be traded is entirely up to the drafting team. If the Braves really liked Gilmartin and didn’t think he’d be there at their next pick, they did the smart thing in selecting him when they could. That may come off as a tad simplistic, but I think it is true. Trust your scouts, create your board, and get to picking. Haters (such as yours truly) are going to hate.

Florida State JR LHP Sean Gilmartin: 87-89 FB, peak 91-92; sweeping 73-77 above-average CB that he has deemphasized in favor of CU and SL; very good 74-76 CU that keeps improving; 80-81 SL could be average pitch with time; good athlete; good hitter; 6-2, 190

The biggest sure thing on Florida State’s roster heading into 2011 is JR LHP Sean Gilmartin, a four-pitch Friday night starter that I can’t help but consistently underrate. Even though he has a very good mid-70s changeup and an above-average low-70s curveball, his inconsistent fastball, both in terms of velocity (sits mid- to upper-80s, peaks at 91-92) and command, worries me against professional hitters. Does a so-so fastball really undo the positives that three other potentially average or better (his low-80s slider isn’t great presently, but has the upside as a usable fourth pitch) secondary pitches bring to the table? As a guy who championed the pre-velocity spike Mike Minor, I’m inclined to say no, yet my instincts keep me away from endorsing Gilmartin as a potential top three round prospect. 

Connecticut SS Nick Ahmed is a favorite of mine who certainly looks the part of a big league ballplayer. His ceiling is an above-average regular at shortstop (plus bat, average at best glove) or third base/center field (average bat, above-average or better glove). Worst case scenario would be a utility player capable of playing literally anywhere on the field (yes, I’ve heard the rumors that some teams like him pre-draft as a catcher) or a potential mound conversion with the three pitches and athletic delivery to someday start in the big leagues.

I try not to let a quick look at a player influence my opinion on him too much, but Nick Ahmed gave off that somewhat silly yet undeniable big league look when I see him play earlier this year. He’s got an easy plus arm, strong defensive tools and athleticism that should play at multiple spots, and enough bat speed to drive good fastballs to the gaps. My only “concern,” if you even want to call it that, is that he’ll outgrow shortstop. The reason why I’m not ready to call that a legitimate concern just yet is because, based on his current tall and lanky frame, I would hope any physical growth he experiences professionally would be accompanied by additional strength, especially in his upper body, to help his eventual power output. In other words, if he gets too big for shortstop then at least he’ll then have the chance of having the power bat needed to play elsewhere.

The Braves made it hard on me this year by selecting so many early round college guys that I’ve run out of things to say about. Texas State 3B Kyle Kubitza is a gifted natural hitter whose success will be defined by his ability to stick at third base. There is also the added bonus of Kubitza’s affiliation with Texas State, a school with a coaching staff that has received a lot of positive chatter about the way they prepare players for the pros.

Kubitza has many of the key attributes you’d want in a third base prospect – good raw power, solid arm strength, and a patient approach at the plate. The biggest question he’ll have to answer is on the defensive side, but I’m on board with the idea that good pro coaching can help him through some of his concentration lapses in the field.

Strikeouts and groundballs are a recipe for success in pro ball. Santa Clara RHP JR Graham gets both in bunches. I love seeing future relievers get starting pitcher workloads early on (doubly so when they excel in said role), but concerns about his frame (6-0, 180 pounds) and delivery temper some of the recent enthusiasm that he might stick as a starter. From a stuff standpoint, I think he can do it: he has the plus “rising” four-seamer, nasty sinking two-seamer, and enough of a head start on developing his slider (flashes plus, but inconsistent) and changeup (much improved in last calendar year). As I’m reviewing this year’s draft I’m beginning to wonder if college relievers, once overdrafted with alarming regularity, are now a sneaky undervalued draft commodity. I understand the relative value of relievers to other players, but also think a bullpen with three or four top ten round college arms with middle relief floors has value in a) the joys of a quick return on the investment, and b) cost certainty at a spot so many teams pay far more than necessary. If a fourth round pick like Graham winds up as a pitcher the manager trusts to pitch the seventh inning, you’ve got yourself three dirt cheap years of service and an increased opportunity to spend on any of the 24 other spots on the roster.

Santa Clara JR RHP JR Graham: 94-98 peak; average 83-85 SL with plus potential but still very inconsistent like the Billy Wagner get me over slider; developing sinker; has hit 100-101; really shown improvement with CU; 6-0, 180

Blinn JC (TX) C Nick DeSantiago can hit a little bit, but I’m not sure he’ll catch. The former Longhorn has gotten off to a rocky start as a pro.

Fifth-year senior Vanderbilt RHP Mark Lamm was 100% a signability pick, but that doesn’t make him a bad prospect. The sixth round still feels a little rich for a guy who wasn’t the best senior sign pitcher on his college team (Taylor Hill) or the best Vanderbilt reliever drafted by Atlanta (Navery Moore).

My notes on Lamm were short and sweet: 90-94 FB; Tommy John survivor. The development of a pair of above-average offspeed pitches — a slider and a change — got him drafted way ahead of where I would have guessed. He’s up there as one of the top senior signs around and could be a quick mover through the system.

Remember what I said about drafting college relievers early on becoming the new market inefficiency? Yeah, the Braves went a little overboard with that strategy. Gonzaga RHP Cody Martin is yet another senior sign reliever. He’s a physically mature righthander with a chance to pitch in a big league bullpen someday. Stop me if you’ve heard that one before.

Gonzaga SR RHP Cody Martin (2011): 88-90 FB, sitting 92-93 out of bullpen; good 70-75 slurve-like CB that is much better as firmer mid-70s CB in 2011; good 86 CU

This is a little bit like the Matt Harvey to the Mets thing from a few years ago; it is such a pain in the neck seeing prospects I’ve invested so much time covering wind up with hated division rivals. I had Coastal Carolina 2B Tommy La Stella as a fifth rounder, yet am already kicking myself for having him so low. There are at least a half dozen college second base prospects with the chance to start in the big leagues someday, La Stella included. If he can handle the position defensively, he has star upside.

The number one knock I heard on La Stella heading into the season was his tendency to get too anxious at the plate and swing at pitcher’s pitches too often. This clearly wasn’t reflected in the numbers — notice the awesome batting averages and BB/K ratios — but it was a concern from smart people who had seen him often. When I receive scouting tips that contradict what the numbers reflect, I get dizzy. Trust the reports from people who are paid to this, banking on the idea that sometimes a scouting observation shows up before a dip in on-field production? Or acknowledge that sometimes even the best see things that sometimes aren’t really there? In La Stella’s case, I’m inclined to go with the latter. La Stella’s pure hit tool is on par with darn near any college prospect in this year’s draft.

Tough to make it in this world as an all-bat prospect, but Cameron OF Chase Larsson has a chance. As good a natural hitter as he is, this is a worthy gamble at this point in the draft.

I never really followed up on Western Kentucky SS Logan Robbins despite jotting his name down as an interesting 2011 college shortstop to follow. He has the classic speed/range/arm trio that will get a guy plenty of middle infield looks professionally, but I’m less certain than most that he’ll ever figure it out at the plate. He’s a little bit like the Bizzaro-La Stella in that way.

Atlanta’s most significant late round addition was Vanderbilt RHP Navery Moore (Round 14). He is another player that I’m all out of original thoughts on, so I’ll do an ugly grammatical recap: love his never straight plus fastball, don’t love his control or lack of a reliable second pitch, still think he is smart and athletic enough to thrive in a big league bullpen after a year or three working on his breaking ball in the minors. Writing is much easier when you don’t have to worry about following the rules.

Vanderbilt JR RHP Navery Moore: 92-96 plus FB, 99 peak; plus 81-84 SL that comes and goes; flashes plus CB; iffy control; Tommy John survivor; very occasional CU; “Intergalactic” is his closer music; has the stuff to start, but teams might not risk it from a health and delivery standpoint; 6-2, 205

Moore’s velocity was down late in the year. That’s a significant problem when your most marketable skill is a big fastball. That said, I still think he’s a good bet to settle in as a big league reliever someday due to his good athleticism and above-average raw stuff. The drop in velocity has to be addressed, however, whether or not it turns to be a mere matter of fatigue (treatment: rest, rest, more rest…and perhaps a tweak or two to his delivery) or a more serious health concern (treatment: shut him down, get him to a top surgeon, and hope he comes out healthy on the other side).

Like Moore, Arizona LHP Matt Chaffee (Round 12) is another solid relief prospect coming off an injury plagued college career. His raw stuff isn’t as good as Moore’s, but he gets a boost for his consistency and for being lefthanded. If healthy I’d like to see him get a chance to start, but his future is likely in the middle innings.

Arizona JR RHP Matt Chaffee (2011): 89-92 FB; average CU; mid-70s CB

I’ve always liked Oklahoma City SS Kirk Walker (Round 26). He may be limited to second base professionally as he lacks the foot speed for shortstop and the arm for third. If a pro training program can tick up both areas just a notch, he could have a future as a utility infielder.

Oklahoma City SR 3B Kirk Walker: gap power; average arm; slow; good athlete; could play 2B

The Braves only signed one player past the 37th round. We’ll save ourselves a little bit of time and not focus on all of the ones who got away, and instead focus on two of the bigger names that didn’t sign. Iolani HS (HI) LHP Carlos Rodriguez (Round 20) had an up and down spring and a strong commitment to Oregon State, so he was considered a tough sign to begin with. He’ll wisely take his intriguing three-pitch mix and skinny frame to college. Another really tough sign was Army RHP Kevin McKague (Round 50). It should come as no surprise that an agreement wasn’t reached between the Army man and Atlanta. A return to health and a more clearly defined outlook on his military future could have the nearly big league ready McKague shooting up draft boards next year.

Army SR RHP Kevin McKague: 92-96 FB; mid-80s SL; great splitter; missed most of 2011 due to back injury; 6-5, 230 pounds

Late edit! I missed the 37th round selection of Austin Peay RHP Ryne Harper. He’s got the fastball/slider needed to make it as a bullpen contributor if he gets the proper breaks.

Austin Peay SR RHP Ryne Harper (2011): 94 peak FB; very good SL; had offer from Vanderbilt out of high school

Los Angeles Angels 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Los Angeles Angels 2011 Draft Selections

(I’m away on my first non-baseball trip in way too long, but there are a few more 2011 draft reviews in the can for when I get back. Next up is Atlanta (Friday or Monday, break in travel schedule Thursday night pending), followed by the White Sox next week. As always, thanks for reading…)

I’m not even an Angels fan, but I sure do miss Eddie Bane. I do not understand what the Angels did on draft day this year. If I had to guess, here are my three principles of Los Angeles’ 2011 drafting philosophy: 1) say yes to junior college guys and no to high school prospects, 2) pitchers without arm strength need not apply, and 3) stick to scouting the big three – Texas, California, and, most noticeably, Florida. Let’s dive in deeper with a look at their top ten rounds and beyond…

Good to start off with a player that totally contradicts my opening paragraph, I think. Keeps the readers on their toes. Utah 1B CJ Cron (29th ranked draft prospect) is a college position player from the great state of Utah. He’s not a juco or prep player, not a pitcher with a plus arm (in fact, a shoulder injury has kept him from throwing for most of 2011), and not from Texas, California, or Florida. Cron’s scouting profile is eerily reminiscent to former catcher Paul Konerko, a popular comp for a reason. I’ve also heard Cron compared to a righthanded hitting version of Texas’ Mitch Moreland. He’ll hit enough to be, at worst, a league average bat at first.

Cron’s numbers sync up well with his scouting reports. I may be in the minority, but I actually like his pure hit tool more than I like his power. Either way, both are above-average tools. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they are his only above-average tools. Again, I find myself in the minority in thinking he could at least be a passable catcher at the next level, but I’ll concede to the experts on that one. Looks like Cron will be the first first baseman off the board, college or high school. His well above-average hit tool and present power make him a safe bet to become a starting first baseman and middle of the lineup bat

If the opening paragraph wasn’t enough, another warning: there are very few positives forthcoming. An exception comes with the selection of Florida LHP Nick Maronde (80th ranked draft prospect), an outstanding prospect. My only hope is that Los Angeles continues to give Maronde the opportunity to start as he progresses through the system. The former Florida reliever has the three pitches needed to start in the big leagues, but it will take time for him to get back into the starting pitching mindset.

Florida JR LHP Nick Maronde: 90-91 FB, peak 93 as starter; now sitting 93-95, 96 peak out of bullpen; plus low-80s SL that he doesn’t use enough; CB; good 81 CU; relieved in college, but I like him as a starter; 6-3, 200

Seminole State JC (FL) RHP Mike Clevinger hits on all three of the Angels criteria listed above. He’s an arm strength reliever all the way. Northeast Texas CC (TX) OF Andrew Ray was a curious underslot signing who profiles as a backup outfielder and/or four corners utility guy. Grayson County CC (TX) C Abel Baker makes three junior college players drafted in the top seven rounds by the Angels. Of the three, Baker is my favorite by far. His raw power, arm strength, and makeup are all exactly what you’d like to see in a catching prospect. He was pretty far under the radar this spring – a genius like me missed him, for example – but the Angels know Grayson County CC prospects (John Lackey and Jordan Walden) better than anybody.

Southern California RHP Austin Wood (50th ranked draft prospect) is like a more experienced (as a starter) righthanded version of Nick Maronde. His inconsistency is maddening, but the raw stuff is good enough to start at the highest level. Settling on a breaking ball would be a great first step for Wood’s professional career.  Wood’s teammate Southern California RHP Logan Odom has the size of a power pitcher, but not the stuff. I know I’m just one list crazy guy, but Odom didn’t crack the top 400 on my pre-draft top college pitchers list. He wasn’t even my favorite Odom (I liked JT of Mercer) in this year’s class. Needless to say, the Angels like Logan way more than I do.

Southern California JR RHP Austin Wood: 92-94 FB, 95-96 peak; interesting SL; emerging 80-82 CU that still needs work; average CB; 6-4, 215

California prospect RHP Nick Mutz is a scout’s dream. Without an organized team to call his own, Mutz got himself noticed by throwing bullpens for teams on request. I lost track of him after he left Dakota State, but my old notes mentioned a Jason Motte comp that I think holds up pretty well. Memphis OF Drew Martinez is a nice little player who gives you exactly what you’d expect: defense, speed, and patience. He might not be the burner some teams want in the role of fifth outfielder/pinch runner, but his instincts, both in the outfield and on the bases, make me think he’d thrive in the role.

Memphis JR OF Drew Martinez (2011): outstanding CF defense; plus speed; below-average arm; no power; average at best bat; great base runner; FAVORITE; 5-10, 170 pounds; (392/445/469 – 25 BB/27 K – 20/30 SB – 260 AB)

College baseball fans have to be pretty pleased with the way the Angels whiffed on signing a quartet of interesting mid-round high school draftees. Boca Raton (FL) HS OF Domonic Jose (Round 15), Bell HS (TX) C Hunter Lockwood (Round 17), Tunkhannock Area HS (PA) OF Mike Papi (Round 30 and my 181st draft prospect), and West HS (WA) SS Erik Forgione (Round 33) all could emerge as single digit round selections in three years. Jose was a worthy gamble for a fifteenth rounder with a strong Stanford commitment; no harm in trying with the toolsy outfielder, but it is probably the best for all involved for him to head to school and work on his swing. Lockwood will head to Oklahoma and could step in right away by getting some at bats at first, designated hitter, and behind the plate. Offensively, he reminds me a bit of the fan he could be replacing at catcher (Tyler Ogle), but whether or not the direct catcher to catcher comparison can be made depends on Lockwood’s defense. Papi, who I consistently referred to as Matt for unexplained reasons prior to the draft, could be Virginia’s starting right fielder from day one. Forgione is ready for full-time shortstop duty defensively and could get the chance if the Washington coaching staff can live with the growing pains that will come as his bat develops.

No weaknesses in Lockwood’s game, just a really solid, well-rounded skill set.

Another player with a better than average shot at winding up in class this fall, Matt Papi’s solid across the board tool set could get him drafted early enough to keep him away from enrolling at Virginia. His best tool is an electric right arm, a true plus tool that helps the still raw defender compensate for his occasional defensive shortcomings.

One of my favorite sleepers from the Pacific Northwest, Forgione is a plus runner with great range and athleticism.

The Angels didn’t just fail when it came time to sign their mid-round high school prospects. They also dropped the ball on getting anything done with Florida RHP Greg Larson (Round 29) and Fresno State C Trent Garrison (Round 50). I’m inclined to give them a mulligan on these instances, as Larson made it known early on he wanted to head back to Florida and Garrison, one of the very last overall picks of the entire draft, was a really tough sign as he rehabbed from injury. Larson reminds me a great deal of recently promoted Phillies reliever and one-time fourteenth round pick Michael Schwimer. A good senior year could get him selected up in a similar draft range. Garrison, who I foolishly removed my personal board due to injury, is an elite defender with enough upside at the plate to shoot up draft boards with a healthy senior season. I actually give the Angels a lot of credit for staying with him this spring and taking a chance on him signing on.

Florida JR RHP Greg Larson (2011): 87-88, 90 peak FB; 81-82 SL with upside

Fresno State JR C Trent Garrison: solid defender; above-average arm

UC Riverside SS Trevor Hairgrove (Round 18) has a slick glove at short, but very limited upside with the bat. UC Irvine 3B Brian Hernandez (Round 27), as you can read from his pre-draft report below, is cut from a very similar cloth. With an intriguing hit tool and little else, Arizona State OF Andy Workman (Round 34) goes the other way. All three make for good organizational players. One college prospect from out west that I think can be more than an organizational player is Arizona C Jett Bandy (Round 31). I’m shocked that Bandy fell all the way to the 31st round and even more surprised to see he signed a contract. There’s no denying that Bandy’s stock took a nosedive in 2011, but it is highly unlikely that whatever skills he showed as a sophomore disappeared. In addition to his rough junior year, I think he lost some points with scouting departments because he is more of a well-rounded catcher who doesn’t wow in either the power or arm strength department. It may take some time and perhaps a few different organizations, but I’m not giving up hope of seeing Bandy emerge as a big league backstop somewhere down the line.

Last year I wrote: “he’s [Hernandez] your typical ‘whole is greater than the sum of his parts’ kind of prospect, with the upside of a big league bench bat if everything breaks right.” I stand by that today (some pop, some speed, some plate discipline), with one additional comment I’ll present straight from my notes: “PLUS fielder.” All caps means you know I’m serious. Hernandez can really pick it at third.

Arizona State JR OF Andy Workman (2011): best tool is hit tool; fantastic base runner; gap power, but could develop more; slightly below-average arm; LF future; good OF range; 6-2, 180 pounds

Hard to explain Bandy’s 2011 collapse, especially when you consider there has been no news of any down tick in his scouting reports. I’m not super concerned about the dip in production for that reason, but Bandy’s signability could become a question if he slips past the first five rounds as expected. He is still exactly the player I’d target past round ten. Even without knowing why he slipped so badly this year, I still think it is safe to say that he didn’t completely forget how to play baseball.

Eastern Illinois OF Zach Borenstein (Round 23) does everything well, but nothing in his scouting profile portends big things to come. As a lefty with some pop and a history of playing all over the iamond, he’ll get his chances. Southeastern Louisiana RHP Brandon Efferson (Round 37) was a favorite during his college days, but I never came away after watching him thinking that I just saw a big league caliber arm. He’s way more talented than I’d ever dream to be, of course, but with a lackluster fastball and a lack of quality secondary stuff I don’t see how he can successfully hang in pro ball.

Eastern Illinois JR OF Zach Borenstein: good speed; good power; leadoff profile; (353/438/575 – 26 BB/36 K – 12/15 SB – 207 AB)

Southeastern Louisiana SR RHP Brandon Efferson (2011): sits high-80s, 92 peak FB; good cutter; CB; CU

It wouldn’t be a fair and balanced evaluation if I didn’t mention the one late round overslot deal that could work out for the Angels. Hillsborough CC (FL) LHP Michael Johnson (Round 46) getting six figures was a surprise to many, this writer included. Nothing stands out in terms of Johnson’s junior college stats, stuff, or frame, but perhaps the Angels know something I don’t. A big summer for the Utica Brewers might have been what convinced Los Angeles to take the plunge.

Last and almost certainly least, we have the time honored baseball tradition of nepotism. Round 44 would have been preposterously early. Round 46 could have hurt his ego. Round 45 was just right. Notre Dame C Matt Scioscia (Round 45) joins the same organization as his father, but I hear there could be trouble brewing already. Seems Matt hasn’t taken to kindly to being the third wheel to Mike’s adopted son, Jeff Mathis.

Chicago Cubs 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Chicago Cubs 2011 Draft Selections

Despite some tense moments on deadline day the Cubs managed to knock out a deal with Arlington County Day HS (FL) SS Javier Baez (25th ranked draft prospect). It was a bit of a surprise to see him selected in the top ten, but Tim Wilkin and his staff couldn’t pass up the change of a dreamy potential Starlin Castro/Javier Baez left side of the infield. Still loving that Michael Young comp, but, as with any comp, your mileage might vary.

From watching Baez a good bit this spring, scouts are pretty confident that can run, throw, and hit for power. Much of his projection revolves around his defensive upside. Considering many think he has the requisite footwork and quick release to catch and perhaps the agility and range for shortstop, I have to believe he’ll be just fine at third base as a pro. A pretty cool outside the box comp I’ve heard on Baez is current Rangers infielder Michael Young.

Baez might someday be found chucking throws across the diamond at Wrigley to Bishop Verot HS (FL) 1B Dan Vogelbach (60th ranked draft prospect). Care of a scouting report on Vogelbach? How about this: power…and lots of it. Original, I know.

The popular comparison for Dan Vogelbach these days seems to be Prince Fielder. Now I’m as big a fan as comps as you’ll find and I think I get the basic idea behind this particular one – both guys showed plus to plus-plus power and minus to minus-minus (I just made that up…clever, right?) body types as prep stars – but the only way I could get behind comparing Vogelbach to Fielder would be if we specified that it is a “very poor man’s Fielder” comp. Maybe my hesitation to use Fielder as a comp for anybody has to do with using him as a point of reference for what I thought Bryce Harper can and will do as a pro. As a jumping off point for conversation, however, the Fielder comp is very interesting. Vogelbach does have tremendous raw power. He also has a distressingly large body that does not fit what most teams look for in a high school draft pick. Some (but not all) concerns about his body have been put to rest by a combination of his major weight loss in the past year (he’s no longer pushing three bills, so that’s a plus) and his outstanding makeup that has some teams believing he’ll do anything it takes (i.e. continue to work on reshaping his body) to succeed in pro ball. It is easy to envision Vogelbach as a 1B/DH capable of hitting 30 homers if everything goes to plan, but the risk factor here is high.

Miami OF Zeke DeVoss (127th ranked draft prospect) is one of my absolute favorite players in his draft class, so I’m pretty thrilled to see him drafted even higher than my generous (or so I thought) pre-draft ranking. Speedy defensive center fielders with pop and patience often find their way to the big leagues.

Miami SO OF Zeke DeVoss: plus to plus-plus speed; plus range; average at best arm; very raw with bat; 5-9, 170

I’m biased against college relievers, but even I can admit Louisville RHP Tony Zych (164th ranked draft prospect) is a good one. Though I tend to side with those who think of him more as a setup man than a closer, it is pretty undeniable Zych has the two plus pitches needed to get big league hitters out when on.

Louisville JR RHP Tony Zych: heavy 90-93 FB with sink, 95-98 peak; velocity up and sitting 93-96 now; plus 84-87 SL; violent delivery; good athlete; 6-3, 190

Notre Dame Prep (AZ) RHP Tayler Scott (214th ranked draft prospect) is the quintessential lottery ticket. Relatively new to baseball: check. Crazy athletic: check. Blessed with an arm that sits comfortably in the low-90s with limited coaching: check. There are issues here, to be sure, but the upside makes Scott’s lack of a consistent quality secondary offering worth it.

RHP Tayler Scott (Notre Dame Prep, Arizona): 90-92 FB; flashes plus CB but below-average on balance; very raw; plus athlete; 6-2

Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (PR) C Neftali Rosario was a fast rising prospect this spring who, stop me if you’ve heard this before, has shown impressive arm strength and raw power. He wasn’t a favorite for me in what turned out to be a good year for prep catching depth.  Fellow fast rising prospect Oaks Christian HS (CA) 1B Trevor Gretzky deserved better than the way the national media treated him this spring. I understand being the son of an all-time great athlete can bring undeserved media attention (and, thus, backlash) in the name of making a big story out of a lesser talent, but the onslaught of coverage cuts both ways. Gretzky was seen by too many as a novelty prospect destined to college and disappear after a few disappointing seasons. The kid can play, as his amateur career and lofty draft standing show. He’s not the next Great One or anything, and I actually think three years at San Diego State would have helped, but he’s still as worthy a gamble as any outside of the top few rounds.

I feel like this ranking might catch some heat because so many have completely written off Gretzky as a prospect propped up solely due to his famous father. I think there is something there with the bat, and his athleticism, second only to Wallace Gonzalez’s in this group, will really help in the transition to pro ball. The backlash he’s received in some scouting circles makes me think he’d be a better ballplayer to some if only his name was Trevor Smith.

Alabama OF Taylor Dugas (76th ranked draft prospect) is really good at playing baseball. Most scouts won’t put a plus grade on any of Dugas’ tools, but I’m confident that his quick hands, sweet swing, and outstanding approach add up to plus. The biggest issue with Dugas’ future is his eventual position; he’s a classic tweener who might not quite have the speed for center (though his instincts and first step quickness could make it work), the arm for right, or the power for left. As much as I like him, I’m not sure how he’ll get himself picked before round eight next year.

Alabama JR OF Taylor Dugas: advanced idea of strike zone; above-average speed; good athlete; gap power; good friends with Mikie Mahtook; by no means a tools guy, but ultimate grinder; plus hit tool for me; 5-7, 165 pounds

As a future pro left fielder, Waterloo HS (IL) OF Garrett Schlecht didn’t show enough this spring to warrant much consideration as an early round pick for me. I was equally unimpressed with Hebron Christian Academy (GA) SS Daniel Lockhart, a curious pick to net close to $400,000 in bonus money as the son of current Cubs scout Keith Lockhart. These iffy picks aren’t that big of a deal for two reasons. First, the obvious: I could very well be wrong on either or both players. It has happened before, believe it or not. The other, better reason: the Cubs opened up their wallets in a big way for some young talent later in the draft. Do I smell a segue?

The signings of Valley Christian HS (CA) OF Shawon Dunston Jr. (Round 11 and my 206th ranked draft prospect) and Pinecrest HS (NC) RHP Dillon Maples (Round 14 and my 65th ranked draft prospect) go a long way in making this one of the league’s stronger drafts. The signing of overslot high school talent goes such a long way with me that I’ll just look past the fact the both Dunston and Maples are flawed prospects. Both are talented young men, but Dunston’s below-average hit tool and Maples’ spotty command and inability to hold his velocity are major red flags. Considering the two prospects signed for a combined total of less than 4 million bucks (roughly less than one year of John Grabow), neither player needs to hit their ceiling to be a worthwhile investment. If Dunston winds up an athletic defensive whiz of a backup outfielder in the mold of, say, Endy Chavez, and Maples shows himself capable of “only” handling a relief role, then you’ve still worked the system and received a pretty nice, cost-controlled return. I think Dunston would be fortunate to hit that ceiling, and wish, for purely selfish reasons, he enrolled at Vanderbilt instead of signing. Maples, on the other hand, has many of the things you want to see in a young pitcher: flashes of a plus fastball/plus curveball combo, great athleticism, good size, and a well-earned reputation as a bat breaker. Outside of the Cubs first two picks, he’s the guy with the most upside and not nearly as much of a lock to relieve as many might lead you to believe. Any talk about messing with his throwing motion scare me, but I’ve long been a proponent of the old “if it feels good, do it” chestnut. Find the kid a consistent release point and let him fire away.

OF Shawon Dunston (Valley Christian HS, California): plus athlete; plus speed; plus range; iffy arm; limited power, but has shown more pop to gaps this spring; super raw

RHP Dillon Maples (Pinecrest HS, North Carolina): 90-93 FB, peak 94-96; velocity will sometimes dip to upper-80s; potential plus 77-82 CB that is already above-average pitch; 80-81 SL; iffy command; emerging CU that still needs work; bat breaker; good athlete: latest: great athlete; spotty FB command; 6-3, 195

The Cubs also landed State JC of Florida (FL) 1B Rock Shoulders (Round 25), a player considered my many a difficult sign. It’ll be interesting to see how the Cubs plan on divvying up playing time between Shoulders and Vogelbach as they advance through the minors together in the coming years.

I wonder if Franklin HS (TX) RHP Ricky Jacquez (Round 39 and my 193rd ranked draft prospect) was selected as an insurance policy in case a deal couldn’t get worked out with Maples. There are some similarities between the two prospects – most notably the big FB/CB pairing – but Jacquez’ size, or lack thereof, was a deterrent for many clubs. I’ve mentioned many times that I have no qualms showing some love to a short righthander and Jacquez is no exception. He reminds me a great deal of current Duke closer and 2012 draft early round prospect Marcus Stroman.

RHP Ricky Jacquez (Franklin HS, Texas): 90-93 FB, 95-97 peak; potential plus 78 CB that is already very effective pitch; promising CU; great athlete; 5-9, 160

From Seminoles to Cubs, Florida State C Rafael Lopez (Round 16) and Florida State OF Taiwan Easterling (Round 27) won’t have to go through that pesky adjustment period of playing on separate teams after college. Lopez’ big senior year with the bat has upgraded him from ceiling of backup catcher to ceiling of damn good backup catcher, if he gets the proper organizational breaks in pro ball. Easterling got six figures after reportedly turning down top five round money last year; as a 27th rounder, he makes a lot more sense than he would have in the top five. Good to see the Cubs realized that toolsy outfielders can be found later in the draft almost as easily as they can at the onset.

Lopez is a really good defender with a strong throwing arm, but little projection with the bat makes his best case scenario that of a backup catcher. 

JR OF Taiwan Easterling reportedly scared off a team interested in drafting him in the fourth last year because of his extravagant bonus demands. If that story is true, one can only imagine what kind of attention the super toolsy former football player could draw with a big spring on the diamond. As is, the plus runner is almost a complete tools gamble. 

I didn’t go in to the year expecting to be impressed with Connecticut OF John Andreoli (Round 17), but a few weekend series later and I was won over. A potential backup outfielder (some speed, good defense, strong arm, solid approach) is good value in the 17th round.

He’s no speed demon on the basepaths, he won’t approach double digit homers as a pro, and he’s not build like a prototypical professional outfielder, but, boy, JR OF John Andreoli can swing the bat. The way he controls the bat through the zone is a sight to behold. Some of the guy’s hits couldn’t have been rolled by hand into holes any better than he hits them. Beyond the pure hit tool, I asked around about certain players before the game, and almost to a man I was told to watch out for Andreoli’s bunting. One gorgeous second inning push bunt for a single might not be stone cold proof of anything, but it gave the pregame prognostication a little extra weight. He’s a well above-average defender in a corner that might be stretched some in center, though I’m not so sure his 55ish speed wouldn’t also work up the middle. Andreoli is probably nothing more than a late round organizational player at this point, but he could make for an interesting senior sign in 2012.

East Tennessee State 1B Paul Hoilman (Round 19) is a three true outcomes hero who is mashing right now for Boise. The real challenge will come as he moves up, of course, but I like what Chicago did in bringing in three potential big league first basemen (Hoilman, Shoulders, Vogelbach) at three different levels of play (college, junior college, high school). Sometimes it pays to play the odds and overload at one spot with the hopes of finding that one viable keeper. This isn’t a direct comparison, but Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks has given more hope than ever to guys like Hoilman.

Hoilman’s raw power is undeniable, but that’s about all he brings to the table. Over half of his senior year plate appearances ended in either a strikeout, walk, or homer. That’s fun.

Kent State OF Ben Klafczynski (Round 20) has scuffled badly in pro ball thus far, a big surprise for a senior sign expected by many to hit the ground running. I like him a lot as a prospect because of the way he got better as a player every time I saw him play. He’s a good athlete with a patient approach to hitting geared towards finding that one pitch to drive in every at bat. There’s not enough hear to project him as a starter, but he joins fellow draftees Easterling and  Andreoli as potential big league backup outfielders.

Kent State SR OF Ben Klafczynski: big power; really good athlete; really refined approach junior season; more raw talent than most; average speed; good arm

The stories of TCU RHP Steven Maxwell (Round 37) and College of Charleston RHP Casey Lucchese (Round 38) are sad ones, far as I can tell. Both pitchers were senior signs with some big league bullpen upside, but it seems neither will get the chance to show what they can do in pro ball. Hopefully the door isn’t shut forever for either talented guy. If baseball isn’t in the cards, best of luck in the real world. A healthy reliever prospect who did sign is Texas LHP Andrew McKirahan (Round 21). My notes on him after seeing him throw a few times: “LOOGY.” I think specialization will help him a great deal as a professional; it isn’t proof either way, but his pro numbers so far are leaps and bounds ahead of what he did at Texas in the spring.

TCU SR RHP Steven Maxwell (2011): Tommy John surgery survivor; 88-94 FB; above-average power 78-82 CB

College of Charleston SR RHP Casey Lucchese: 88-92 FB, 93 peak; good CB; 6-2, 210; has shrunk since entering school (was once listed as 6-4); never added third pitch to start, reliever all the way

Brookwood HS (GA) OF Trey Martin (Round 13) has the athleticism and center field range to play every day, but much of his development will come down to his currently below-average bat. La Jolla HS (CA) OF Bradley Zimmer (Round 23) is a similarly raw prospect, but will matriculate at South Florida in the fall with the hopes of getting popped early in 2014. I prefer the unsigned Zimmer’s upside (if he adds some strength he could hit in the middle of a lineup) to the signed Martin’s (more of a gap to gap leadoff type of hitter).

I have a really tough time ranking Canadian and Puerto Rican prospects. Power/St. Joseph HS (ON) C Justin Marra (Round 15), a complete pre-draft miss by me who will stick behind the plate and has shown enough of a hit tool to be interesting, is a prime example. If baseball ever moves towards a worldwide draft, I quit. Junior college prospects: another frequent blind spot of mine. The evidence to support this assestion: Hartnell JC (CA) RHP Michael Jensen (Round 26), Lamar CC (CO) RHP Arturo Maltos-Garcia (Round 30), and Des Moines Area CC (IA) RHP Austin Urban (Round 41). Little to nothing was written about these guys prior to the draft, but they all flash big league quality stuff. Jensen and Maltos-Garcia (a recent victim to Tommy John) both feature good bullpen approved fastball/curveball mixes. Urban, who I saw in person during his high school days, is my favorite long-term bet of the bunch and the most likely to remain a starting pitcher in pro ball.

Clemson RHP Scott Weismann (Round 46) and the Cubs had me on the edge of my seat as I waited to see whether or not my pre-season Clemson prediction (“Weismann, Schaus, and Hinson are also locks to get taken.”) would come to fruition or not. I’ve made many bad guesses over the years, including a few in the post that quote was taken from, but I’m happy for both myself and Weismann to have nailed that one. I guess I should talk about the prospect and not myself, huh? Weismann was a good college sinker/slider pitcher who will likely struggle to make it past AA as a pro.

I like to end on a high note when possible, so join me in recognizing Central Florida OF Ronnie Richardson (Round 31 and my 167th ranked draft prospect) as one of the three undersized college outfielders (along with DeVoss and Dugas) taken by the Cubs. The smallish outfielder thing could be part of a larger pattern, or it could have been just how the draft fell. I suppose it would be a little silly to think it part of a trend, especially considering Chicago failed to sign two of their three mighty mini outfielders. I’m a little bit out on an island with my love of Richardson, but I’m always happy to defend a great defensive center fielder with speed and pop. Devoss is probably the better version of Richardson, so you can’t fault the Cubs on leaving Ronnie unsigned. Their loss is Central Florida’s gain.

Central Florida SO OF Ronnie Richardson: plus athlete; plus arm; plus-plus runner; potential for some pop; plus defensive tools; 5-7, 175

Baltimore Orioles 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Baltimore Orioles 2011 Draft Selections

Owasso HS (OK) RHP Dylan Bundy (3rd ranked draft prospect) is an elite prospect who, along with last year’s top pick shortstop Manny Machado, gives Baltimore one of baseball’s top pitcher/position player combinations. Bundy has long shown a devastating plus fastball/plus curveball pairing and outstanding top to bottom command, but the progress made with his above-average (at times) changeup (usable as a show-me pitch at the start of the season) and plus cutter (formerly an average slider) is what really stands out for me. The biggest (only?) questions with the former Oklahoma prep star stem from his lack of size, but, as I’ve mentioned here more times than I can count, I don’t give a hoot about size. This is especially true when a “short” (hey, I’m 5’8”…size is relative, you know?) righthander has none of the issues short righthanders supposedly suffer from: his mechanics are consistent, he throws strikes like a pitching machine, he holds his velocity deep into starts, he has plenty of arm strength, and his injury history is clean. So, basically, he’s not 6’5”. Everything else about him indicates greatness ahead. Unfortunately for Baltimore, there isn’t much in the way of potential greatness to be found after their first pick. That’s not to say there are some solid prospects sprinkled throughout, but rather an admission that Baltimore went for high floors over high ceilings this year.

RHP Dylan Bundy (Owasso HS, Oklahoma): 94-95 sitting velocity, 96-97 peak; good to plus 77-82 CB; CU with average upside at start of spring, may have surpassed that already; 85-87 SL that might have been the cutter; really like the FB/CB combo; smooth mechanics; plus 86-89 cutter; Dylan Covey comp?; extreme strike thrower, great control; now sitting 92-96, 97 peak; holds velocity late; 6-1, 205

Sometimes I like high floor picks. Vanderbilt 3B Jason Esposito (55th ranked draft prospect) and his potential plus defense is a nice example of a high floor selection working for me. A floor of a defense-first utility player – he’s already shown he can hold his own up the middle in a pinch – isn’t a terrible investment for a team with so many young arms, some who could use the confidence boost a strong infield defense would provide, in the pipeline.

Esposito’s defense is big league ready, and his hit tool, raw power, and speed all grade out as average future tools at the next level. I swear I was ready to mention Matt Dominguez as a potential comp before reading Baseball America beat me to the punch, but it is a good enough comp that I don’t mind repeating it. If my instincts count for anything, allow me to go on record as a believer in Esposito. As impressive a college career as he has had so far, I think he goes on to show more at the next level with the bat. Additionally, while his glove at third may not be Adrian Beltre good, he has the chance to be a top five defensive third baseman in the big leagues in very short order. That glove alone will give him very good value for a Baltimore team stocked with a bunch of interesting young arms.

Sometimes I don’t like high floor picks. East Carolina RHP Mike Wright and Arizona RHP Kyle Simon are both considered relatively safe bets to pitch in the big leagues someday, but I’m not so sure on either. I didn’t profile either before the draft because neither cracked my list of top 125 college pitching prospects. Then, lo and behold, Baltimore takes them both within the first 125 picks of the entire draft. I don’t think that makes my pre-draft ranking wrong, nor do I think it makes Baltimore stupid for taking their guys where they did; just differing opinions, that’s all. I do give credit to Baltimore for identifying the type of pitcher they wanted: Simon and Wright are two very, very similar pitching prospects, as you can see from my previously unpublished pre-draft notes on each below.

There isn’t a plus pitch between the two strapping young righties, but both young men have a lot of guts and are unafraid to pitch inside or challenge hitters when necessary. I prefer Wright’s four-seamer, slider and changeup. Simon gets the edge on his sinker, control, and delivery. Neither guy looks like much more than a potential middle reliever to me. Both Wright and Simon have made good use of their time in pro ball by already advancing to Baltimore’s Low A affiliate.

East Carolina JR RHP Mike Wright (2011): 90-92 FB, touching 93 with lots of sink; good but inconsistent SL; average at best CU; shows CB; delivery a concern; 6-5, 195 pounds; (6.93 K/9 – 2.61 BB/9 – 3.73 FIP – 100 IP)

Arizona JR RHP Kyle Simon (2011): 89-91 FB with plus sink, 92-93 peak; good splitter that works well off fastball; inconsistent SL with some promise; very good control; 6-5, 220 pounds; (6.28 K/9 – 0.77 BB/9 – 3.91 FIP – 129 IP)

Baltimore rounded out their top ten with six prospects I like. Middle Georgia JC LHP Matt Taylor brings good velocity from the left side and enough in the way of secondary offerings to profile as a potential back of the rotation arm. Ahead of him for me is Central Michigan LHP Trent Howard, a prospect who had only the following blurb in my notes: “plus-plus command of four otherwise unremarkable pitches.” Considering my love of lefties with the ability to put the ball wherever they want, I think I may have shortchanged him in my pre-draft rankings.

The two college righties selected in back-to-back rounds that have received the most ink are the 3rd/4th round duo of Wright and Simon, but I prefer the 9th/10th round coupling of Mississippi State RHP Devin Jones and Virginia RHP Tyler Wilson (219th ranked draft prospect). I’ve written a good bit about both guys over the past two seasons, so I’ll let past me take it away for a bit:

He [Jones] 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. 

Mississippi State JR RHP Devin Jones: low-90s FB, peaking at 93; 87-88 two-seamer with great sink; 82-84 SL could be plus pitch; CU is work in progress; breaking stuff hasn’t quite developed as hoped, but still peaks 94-95 with FB; 6-4, 180 pounds

Virginia SR RHP Tyler Wilson: Wilson’s solid three-pitch mix (88-90 fastball, good sinking 80-82 change, average low-80s slider) gives credence to the idea he has value either in the bullpen or as a starter. Fastball plays up in short bursts (94 peak). 6-2, 190

Not much has changed since the time of those pieces: Jones is a better version of the sinker/slider arms taken a few rounds ahead of him, and Wilson’s versatility (stuff is good enough to start, but plays up nicely in relief) continues to make him a favorite.

Farragut HS (TN) 3B Nicky Delmonico (94th ranked draft prospect) was considered a difficult sign heading into the draft and questions about his signability pushed him down the board. I like his bat a lot more as a catcher than as a third baseman, and something about him rubs me the wrong way (though no real fault of his own…it’s just an instinctual thing, I guess), but there’s some power there.

Delmonico is another player who could realistically sneak into the first round who I’m not quite as high on as others. He’ll get the last laugh on draft day, so I don’t feel too bad breaking him down now. In Delmonico, I don’t see a standout tool. His arm works alright and there is some power upside, but there is no one part of his game that makes you stand up and take notice. In his defense, well, I like his defense. So many had written him off as a catcher, but in my brief looks and the scouting reports I’ve read, I don’t see anything that makes me think he’ll have to move to first anytime soon.

It was pretty considerate for Baltimore to draft both Arizona State OF John Ruettiger (169th ranked draft prospect) and TCU OF Jason Coats (Round 12 and my 114th ranked draft prospect) considering the two college outfielders were featured in a “Mystery Player” piece I did in early March. Not much has changed on either guy since then. The signed Ruettiger is a contact oriented leadoff type with a chance to stick in center professionally. The unsigned Coats has more thump and a quicker bat, but limited athleticism will keep him in a corner at the next level. I wrote a good bit on both players, so bear with me here. First, on Ruettiger:

[plus athlete; big hit tool; line drive machine; gap power at best; leadoff man profile; good patience; average to plus speed; good defender; iffy arm, more accurate than powerful; strong experience with wood; love the way he plays within himself; great athlete, great body; 6-2, 175 pounds]

Half Glass Full: Capable center fielder and irritating (to the opposition, naturally) leadoff man with double digit home run pop

Half Glass Empty: Modest power upside fails to manifest professionally; as a result, overall hit tool and plate discipline suffer against professional pitching

And now on Coats:

[plus athlete; very strong; special bat speed; decent to average speed; average arm; plus raw power; corner outfielder with good range; pitch recognition could make or break him; 6-2, 195 pounds]

Half Glass Full: Pitch recognition and overall approach at plate improves to the point his plus power allows him blossom as an above-average everyday corner outfielder

Half Glass Empty: Awesome power goes to waste as 4A slugger due to Jeff Francoeur-level plate discipline

Washington State OF Derek Jones (Round 13) is a similar, if slightly watered down, prospect to Coats. He’s strong (like Coats), a probable left fielder in the pros (like Coats), and has power to spare (like Coats. He also didn’t sign (like Coats!).

Washington State JR OF Derek Jones (2011): very strong, good speed, strong arm, best future tool is power; great athlete; holes in swing; stuck in LF; 6-1, 205 pounds

Illinois C Adam Davis (Round 11) can really catch. He won’t hit enough to warrant consideration for an everyday job, but catchers who can catch quickly become favorites within minor league coaching circles. South Carolina OF Adam Matthews (Round 23) will return to South Carolina next year with the inside track on the starting job in center field left vacant by Jackie Bradley Jr. TCU 2B Jerome Pena (Round 38) has decent pop for a middle infielder, but a lack of contact will be a problem.

Illinois JR C Adam Davis (2011): plus arm; very quick release; above-average defender; line-drive swing; 6-0, 205 pounds

South Carolina JR OF Adam Matthews (2011): plus speed; great athlete; good defender

As a speed guy first and foremost, Matthews’s battles with hamstring injuries all season long were a shame to see. 

Temple JC (TX) RHP Mark Blackmar (Round 16) has the chance for three average or better pitches, so there is some hope that he could make it as a starter in pro ball. I view him more as a fastball/slider relief option, but to each his own. Ten rounds later Baltimore took a chance on Mesquite HS (AZ) RHP Zach Davies (Round 26), much to my delight. Davies has that short righthander who can spot four pitches and knows when to use them thing going for him. The Orioles then went shopping right in their backyard as they nabbed Maryland RHP Sander Beck (Round 33). Beck was number one hundred on my list of 2011 college pitchers and will head back to College Park to improve that ranking in 2012. If he can find a way to make his fastball dance just a little bit more (cut it, sink it, float it, whatever) while also drastically improving his control, then he’s a legit prospect. It also wouldn’t hurt if he maintains the gains made improving his secondary offerings, a spike curve and straight change.

RHP Zach Davies (Mesquite HS, Arizona): 90 FB; CB; SL; CU; good athlete; 6-0, 170

Maryland JR RHP Sander Beck: straight 88-92 FB with good command; improving spike CB that I really like; solid straight CU; SL; control an issue; 6-3, 200 pounds

Wetumpka HS (AL) 3B Brad Roney (Round 18) has a scouting profile that reads a lot like 2011 third round pick BA Vollmuth. I’m not just saying that because he just so happens to be off to Southern Mississippi to replace Vollmuth on the left side of the infield either. Also unsigned is Clovis North HS (CA) SS Chris Mariscal (Round 41). Mariscal has gotten a lot of hype as a potential 2014 first rounder, but the concerns about his power upside are grounded in truth. I realize not every player has to be a power hitter, but the threat of an extra base hit goes a long way in how pitchers approach a given hitter. I’ll hedge my bets and say I think he’ll be a top five round prospect after three years at Fresno State.

Broken record alert: Mariscal has really good defensive tools at short, a plus arm, above-average speed, a solid hit tool, and not a whole lot of power. In other words, he is pretty much exactly what you’d expect out of a non-first round high school shortstop prospect. Sorting out these players is something I do for fun here in this low-stakes couple thousands hits a day website; I can’t imagine how difficult it is to do it with literally millions of dollars of future player value at stake.

Last but not least, Virginia Tech RHP Ronnie Shaban (Round 49) deserves a mention as a solid college infielder drafted with the intention of moving him to the mound. He’ll be back at Virginia Tech for his senior season.

Virginia Tech JR SS Ronnie Shaban: strong arm; good pop; good defensive tools; average runner; 6-1, 195 pounds

Arizona Diamondbacks 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Arizona Diamondbacks 2011 Draft Selections

I probably shouldn’t have started with Arizona because starting with Arizona doesn’t give me any real perspective on how they did when compared with the 29 other teams. This would obviously be a problem with whatever team I chose to begin with, but Arizona’s draft was so strong that I’d really like to be in a position to call it one of my favorites. In a vacuum, however, I can freely say that Arizona did an excellent job selecting a mix of players, especially on the pitching side, that fill up that sweet spot on the high upside/high probability of reaching upside matrix.

UCLA RHP Trevor Bauer (4th ranked draft prospect), a future top of the rotation arm already at AA and on the verge of a big league promotion, is emblematic of that high upside/high probability of reaching upside sweet spot. Broken Arrow HS (OK) RHP Archie Bradley (6th ranked draft prospect) is less of a sure thing, but offers similar top of the rotation upside.

UCLA JR RHP Trevor Bauer: 88-92 FB, peak 93-94; began to hit 95-96 this past fall, has said he’ll hit 98 at some point; currently sitting 91-93, 95 consistent peak; plus 72-78 CB that he leans on heavily; good 80-84 CU; any one (and often more than one) of his 78-82 SL, cutter, 84-89 screwball/reverse slider, or 84-86 splitter is a plus pitch on a given day

RHP Archie Bradley (Broken Arrow HS, Oklahoma): 89-93 FB, hitting 94-97; power knuckle CB 80-86 with plus potential that improved drastically throughout spring; good SL; emerging circle CU; very easy 95 peak every outing; rumors of a 101 one-time peak in state title game; 6-4, 220 pounds

Kent State LHP Andrew Chafin (19th ranked draft prospect) has the three pitch mix, delivery, and frame to start as a big leaguer, with the fallback plan as a shutdown fastball/slider reliever. If you’re scoring at home, and, really, why wouldn’t you be, that’s three top 20 draft prospects selected with Arizona’s first three picks. Having two picks in the top seven help, no doubt, but nabbing Chafin with pick 43 could make the Arizona scouting department look really, really smart in short order.

You can certainly make the argument that focusing on so much pitching early in a pitching rich draft makes the Diamondbacks susceptible to a draft that winds up short on hitting talent. I get that, but ultimately think the opportunity to add three arms of this quality was just the talent/excitement infusion the franchise needed back in June. It also doesn’t hurt that all three players will probably take different routes to the big leagues: Bauer should move quickly, Bradley will take the typical elite prep arm path (maybe a touch quicker), and Chafin could either come quickly or slowly, depending on how Arizona views his progress from last year’s Tommy John surgery. I might be alone in thinking any of that is important, but I like the idea of staggering the arrival of young arms when possible.

Kent State SO LHP Andrew Chafin: missed 2010 after Tommy John surgery; 89-93 FB, 94-95 peak; potential plus 81-83 SL that is a big league ready pitch; very good CU; command slowly coming on after surgery

And that’s not all! Arizona landed a fourth premium pitching prospect in as many picks by selecting Coastal Carolina RHP Anthony Meo (130th ranked draft prospect) in the second round. I’m typically of the “start him until he proves he’s a bullpen arm” mindset, but Meo’s stuff and delivery are tailor-made for relief work.

Coastal Carolina JR RHP Anthony Meo: last summer showed 89-94 FB with good life; now sitting 92-93, 96-97 peak that comes often; flashed plus 78-85 SL that is now plus-plus SL up to 87-90; 82-86 CB; occasional average straight 84-85 CU; 6-2, 185

I wonder if Justin Bianco’s third round selection was impacted in some part of a cross promotion with famous Phoenix pizza joint Pizzeria Bianco. Terrible joke aside, Bianco’s lack of a clear plus tool makes me less than enthused to see the high school outfielder go so early. Important note: this isn’t a bad pick just because I don’t like it. I know full well I’m just a guy with a laptop and some free time who cannot compete with the depth and scope of their resources. Every team picks players they know way more about than I could possibly imagine, and I respect even apparent “overdrafts” because often teams know things – including information about the individual prospect in question as well as intel on what other teams think of their guy and where he is likely to be drafted – the general public (like me!) is not privy to. That said, I still wouldn’t have taken Bianco in the third and don’t like the pick. Wish him well, as always, but don’t like the pick.

Kansas State RHP Evan Marshall was one of the many Big 12 relievers to go off the board early, and his future as a potential plus fastball/plus slider bullpen arm seems like one he’s got a good shot to achieve. Marshall has gotten off to a very fast start as a pro, striking out a batter an inning and getting groundballs consistently. Colegio Vocacional Para Adultos (PR) C Michael Perez was a pre-draft miss on my end. He has two things that all teams look for in young catchers: above-average athleticism and a strong, accurate arm. I don’t love the bat, but the defense profiles well.

Kansas State JR RHP Evan Marshall: 93-94 FB, 96 peak; plus SL; 6-1, 210

I’ve never really bought into South Carolina RHP Matt Price as a prime pro prospect, even though I enjoy watching him close out games for the Gamecocks. Sentinel HS (MT) OF Ben Roberts (101st ranked draft prospect) was obviously strong value in round 7 (pick 214), but part of that undoubtedly had to do with eventually unsigned outfielder’s signability. Three years at Washington State will go a long way in determining whether or not the raw (no surprise there, right?) Roberts has the speed and arm to stick in center (as I believe) or if he is destined to play left field or first base long-term. If nothing else, I’ll always remember Roberts as being one of the pioneers of what looks like a promising few years – 2012 looks stacked, relatively speaking – of Montana prep prospects. Who would have thought?

South Carolina SO RHP Matt Price: no plus pitch; really like his low-80s SL; CB; 89-92 FB; also like his CU quite a bit

OF Ben Roberts (Missoula Sentinel HS, Montana): plus speed; plus arm; CF defense; 6-4, 200 pounds

Fresno Pacific RHP Jesse Darrah is another potential reliever for me, but could have the three pitches (FB/CU/CB) to work as a starter. He’s done a good job as a pro so far (56 K in 51 IP), so, sample sized be damned, there is some sleeper upside here. I’m pretty stunned Connellsville HS (PA) SS John Leonard signed; guess I’ll need to fire one of my tipsters as pre-draft insider scoop on his signability was apparently way off the mark.

TCU RHP Kyle Winkler (78th ranked draft prospect) is a legit steal as a 10th rounder (304th overall). Health concerns and rumored bonus demands dropped him down draft boards, but plus pitchability, crazy fastball movement, and an array of quality offspeed offerings (I’m partial to the slider and changeup, but I know some think he should rely more heavily on the cutter) make him the poor man’s Trevor Bauer. For the record, we’re talking super-duper poor bordering on foreclosure here: Bauer is a potential ace and Winkler’s ceiling ranges from mid-rotation innings eater to late inning (but likely not ninth inning) reliever.

TCU JR RHP Kyle Winkler: 89-92 FB; peak 93-94; FB is plus pitch because of movement; loses velocity early, falling to upper-80s; good deception in delivery; plus 86-88 sinker; decent 88 cutter; decent 75-76 CB that has largely been phases out in favor of cutter and SL; 81-83 SL that needs tons of work; SL gained velocity and now flashes plus-plus at 85-89; quality low-80s CU with plus upside, now more consistently plus; 5-11, 195 pounds

Illinois SS Josh Parr (Round 12) has the speed and defensive chops to sneak his way into the big leagues as a utility infielder someday. I’m still not a fan due to his penchant for high strikeouts and low walk totals, but there are some physical tools to work with here.

Parr is a really good athlete with plus defensive tools, but his inability to control the strike zone presents a concern going forward. There is enough rawness in his hitting approach to think he is due for that big sophomore to junior year breakout at the plate. He definitely has the potential to make me look stupid for not finding a spot for him earlier. 

Early on in a pitching-rich draft, Arizona focused on pitching. In the middle rounds of a draft with an unusually high number of quality west coast college position player prospects, the Diamondbacks focused on, you guessed it, mid-round west coast college position player prospects. The odds of landing an above-average big league player from a four-year college are obviously not high, but there are always some solid depth pieces to be found that could serve a role in professional ball down the line. Players such as UCLA C Steve Rodriguez (Round 15), Fresno State SS Garrett Weber (Round 22), Oregon State 3B Carter Bell (Round 29), Cal Poly 2B Matt Jensen (Round 31), and Stanford C Zach Jones (Round 34) all qualify as high character, potential big league backup types. I’ve never been crazy about Rodriguez (pro: very good defender who has handled big league quality pitching/con: anemic bat), but Weber and Bell (pro: potential late bloomer/con: not enough range for short) offer enough defensive versatility to give off a slight glimmer of a bench role. Of the group, oddly enough, I prefer the two players drafted past the thirtieth round, Jensen and Jones. As you’ll see in my pre-draft note below, I thought Jensen could come back for a senior try and become a top ten round player in 2012. That’s not bad value for a 31st round pick. Jones may not be a “good” prospect by most traditional measures, but I value uniqueness in ballplayers and he is certainly a catcher who breaks the mold.

I really wish I could explain what happened to Jensen this year, but I’ve got nothing. Still really like his bat speed and power upside, and he has apparently made strides as a defender. A big senior season, either back at second or on the mound, could get him drafted in the top ten rounds like his talent probably warrants.

JR C Zach Jones (2010) is a bit of an enigma – a potential above-average defender behind the plate who doubles as an outstanding athlete and fantastic baserunner. I like guys who break the mold, and players who can legitimately catch AND steal double digit bases are a rarity. I also like guys who can hit, something Jones hasn’t proven he can do. His defense may be enough to get him drafted, but it won’t be until very late…and it may not be until his senior year.

North Carolina State OF Brett Williams (Round 25) will return to what is looking like a potentially dangerous Wolfpack squad. I’ve always had a soft spot for both junior college studs (like Williams before transferring to Raleigh) and underdog universities (so tough to compete in the shadow of those other Triangle schools), so I’ll be watching the well-rounded (and much discussed in the comments section) Williams’ 2012 performance with great interest. An outfielder from a southern school that did sign is Vanderbilt OF Joe Loftus (Round 46). From a tools standpoint I prefer Loftus to Williams, but Williams clearly outperformed Loftus on the field in 2011. In a somewhat unexpected wrinkle, Loftus is expected to see time at third base as a pro.

Not sure how signable Loftus is as a 46th rounder because his blend of arm strength, athleticism, and untapped raw power make him an unusually talented late round pick. If he returns to school, he could easily jump up 25+ rounds with a big senior season.

Liberty 3B Tyler Bream (Round 42) is another surprise junior sign who seemed likely to test the waters again as a senior in 2012. Disappointing junior year aside, the above-average raw power and strong arm play. I’m not sold on his future at the hot corner, and there are already rumors (unconfirmed!) that he’s seen as a potential catching convert within the organization, if he shows quick enough feet this fall and winter. Late in the draft it makes sense to take fliers on tough signs out of high school (which almost every team does) and college performers with interesting tools coming off down years (still not enough love for these guys). I liked Central Florida 3B Derek Luciano (Round 44) a lot more a few years ago when I thought he could stick up the middle. Luciano’s college teammate Central Florida 1B Jonathan Griffin (Round 21)

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.

The Diamondbacks top two picks (Bauer and Bradley) look like slam dunks to start in the big leagues someday. After that, however, there is a lack of starter quality arms. Chafin is a good bet to start and Winkler has a shot, but Meo, Marshall, and Darrah look like relievers to me. Of those seven arms, only one (Bradley) is a high schooler. Surely Arizona took some gambles on a few high upside prep pitchers, right? Meet Ryan HS (TX) LHP Adam Choplick (Round 17) and Steele Canyon HS (CA) RHP Michael Cederoth (Round 41 and my 147th ranked draft prospect). Unfortunately for the D’Backs, neither signed. Choplick is a monster with stuff that didn’t wow this spring on account of his recovery from Tommy John surgery. He seemed like a worthwhile risk in the 17th round, but will head off to Oklahoma in the fall. Cederoth is another talented but raw arm trying to make his way back from some high school injuries. I’d love to know what his price tag was and what Arizona wound up offering because arms like Cederoth’s don’t grow on trees. Thank goodness for that…just thinking about trees with arms for branches creeps me out. Arizona did manage to ink Holy Cross LHP John Pedrotty (Round 13), a crafty lefty who looks more like a middling relief piece than a future starter to me. His lack of a true out pitch is my biggest hang up.

RHP Michael Cederoth (Steele Canyon HS, California): 87-90 FB jumped up to 90-93 with 95-96 peak; average CB; 72 SL; good 86-88 cutter; very raw; violent delivery; 6-5, 185

Signing Day

Chicago, San Diego, and now back to the dreary reality of signing day. Coincidence that three of the biggest days of the draft season fell on three consecutive days? Either way, it has certainly pulled my focus in all kinds of competing directions of late. We could talk about the wildest comp I’ve ever heard in my life — what high school outfielder’s swing had a salty veteran scout muttering the name of a Hall of Fame third baseman as an honest to goodness comp? — or we could talk about how I couldn’t place Lance McCullers similarity to somebody I “knew” (turned out to be pretty embarrassing, but the rising senior looks a lot like the actor Penn Badgley in a certain light) until well after the fact. I suppose we could also talk about who will sign, who won’t sign, or why Major League Baseball allows this entire joke of a mid-August signing day to exist in the first place. Or we could just delay all of that time-sensitive stuff by going on aimlessly about what we could discuss but never actually get to the discussing. Good times.

In the coming days and weeks we’ll tackle all those subjects and more, with the heaviest emphasis on recapping everything that needs to be recapped about the 2011 draft. It’ll be your typical “how did my team do/how did these players do/how did that college do” thing with my silly pre-draft lists and rankings as fun a jumping off point for discussion as I can come up with. We’ll also bring the 2012 draft back into focus as we finally go back and talk about what in the world I was thinking when I put this beast together: there will be explanations, justifications, rationalizations, and, of course, updates(-tions) to the high school rankings, though I don’t think the college side of the equation will be altered much at all. Then we’ll kill some time in the fall between working full-time and grad school (can’t wait!) by chatting about the upcoming college baseball season. Next thing you know it’ll be Spring 2012 and we’ll be on the precipice of another crazy draft season. Like I said, good times.

The Trouble With Draft-Eligible Sophomores (starring Jack Marder!)

One of the few downsides of running this quaint little one man operation is the occasional embarrassing misidentification of a prospect’s draft year. I had a big swing and a miss this year with a personal favorite of mine (though admittedly not as much of a favorite of the consistently excellent John Klima), Oregon’s Jack Marder. The draft-eligible sophomore went in the 16th round to Seattle, and can now been seen (not literally now, as he’s currently on the disabled list…and also not literally now because it is 5:30 AM local time in High Desert and, as wonderful a work ethic as I’m sure Marder has, I doubt he’s in the cage at this very moment) hitting an impressive .320/.382/.460 through 50 High A at bats for the High Desert Mavericks. He’s also apparently one of the ten Jewish ballplayers selected in the 2011 draft, as defined by the fine people of Jewish Baseball News. Feel free to use that fun fact to impress guests at your next soiree, free of charge. I’m in the process of eliminating 2011 draft guys from my 2012 college follow lists, so consider this Marder’s last stand here on the Baseball Draft Report. Pretend I was smart enough to publish my notes on him before the draft, please. I bet they would have looked exactly like this:

SO 2B Jack Marder (2012): average runner; legit plus bat speed; very instinctual, high energy, just a fun player to watch; plus defender at 1B, one of the best I’ve seen at college level; has experience playing every position on diamond; with time should be above-average at either second, third, or an outfield corner, as well as average at shortstop; strong arm; will be tried at C this spring (5/11 update: soft hands, plus mobility, well above-average pop times, natural footwork, accurate arm, positive reports on feel for pitch sequencing and leadership of staff); great line drive producing swing, textbook front shoulder rotation that I love; above-average athleticism; easy top ten round guy, could go as high as round five; 6-0, 180 pounds; R/R

Good luck in pro ball, Jack.

Draft Retrospective: 2009 MLB Draft Top Fifteen High School RHP (11-15)

I haven’t seen this year’s college guys perform at a showcase environment for the obvious reason that such events don’t exist, but, boy, after getting the chance to watch some of this year’s high school class up close and personal, I just don’t see how the 2012 college players can stack up. More on this to come, of course, but now back to our regularly scheduled retrospective posting…

We’ve done this before, so you know the drill. Prospects 1-10 can be found at the links below while prospects 11-15 can be found below the links. I’ve also included every high school righthander selected in the 2009 Draft’s first ten rounds…

Matt Hobgood – Zack Wheeler – Jacob Turner – Shelby Miller – Brooks Pounders – Garrett Gould – Bryan Berglund – Tanner Bushue – Jake Barrett – Keyvius Sampson – Matt Heidenreich – Brooks Hall – Daniel Tuttle – Nicholas McBride – Damien Magnifico – James Needy – Zack Von Rosenberg – Matt Graham – Steven Inch – Branden Kline – Daniel Reynolds – Trent Stevenson – Brandon Martinez – Josh Hodges – Brody Colvin – Madison Younginer – Aaron Northcraft – Tom Lemke

…as well as a few interesting names of note taken later in the draft:

Mark Appel – Drew Hutchison – Dane Williams – Pierce Johnson – Luke Bard – Jordan Cooper – Dylan Floro – Michael Heller – Scott Griggs – Tanner Poppe – Matt Koch – Justin Bellez – Keifer Nuncio – Michael Morin – Kyle Hansen – Jeff Soptic – Kenny Giles – Hudson Randall – Jeff Ames – Jeff Gibbs – Buck Farmer – Vince Spilker

I think the trio of Miller, Turner, and Wheeler, plus guys like Gould, Sampson, Colvin, and Younginer combine to give the pro prospects of 2009 a leg up on their 2012 college prospect counterparts, but it is closer than I would have initially guessed. There is still enough untapped upside in the arms of Griggs, Barrett, Hansen, Gibbs, Heller, and Jenkins that the gap between the two classes (well, one class really with two divergent paths), though I suppose you could say the same about a half dozen of the underperforming pros on that last, too. The 2012 college guys have their clear star in Appel, as well as complementary parts that sure seem like good bets to be solid pros in guys like Farmer, Stroman, Kline, Morin, Floro, and, yes, even Randall. It should be noted that this analysis of the 2012 college class does not include any prospect not selected as part of the 2009 Draft. That excludes the undrafted Michael Wacha and the drafted in 2010 Kevin Gausman.

11. Michael Heller | Cardinal Mooney HS (FL) | Pittsburgh Pirates | 29th Round (2009)

After a season lost to injury in 2011, Heller’s biggest challenge in 2012 will be getting enough innings to show big league teams that he is a) 100% healthy and b) still in possession of the big league stuff he showed as a high school standout. This could be nothing more than a passing notion, but lately I’ve been thinking of Heller, through no real fault of his own, as a guy who will show a lot more as a pro than he ever did/will do in college. In other words, I’m still on the bandwagon.

Your scorecard may have a different winner than mine, but here’s how it breaks down.

  • Colvin has two inches and ten pounds on Heller (6-4, 190 vs. 6-2, 180)
  • The differences in sitting velocity depend on the day – both sit in the low 90s, but Heller’s peak is a little higher than Colvin’s
  • Both throw straight mid-70s changeups that show promise, but need real work
  • Both feature curves as their top breaking pitch, but Heller’s is a smidge more refined at this point
  • They are both plus athletes and good high school hitters, but Heller is better in both phases of the game

12. Brody Colvin | St. Thomas More HS (LA) | Philadelphia Phillies | 7th Round (2009)

3.87 ERA – 79 IP – 56 K/27 BB – 1.52 GO/AO

More was expected of Colvin in 2011, and justifiably so, but he is still holding his own in High A as a 20 year old. Colvin has also not experienced any kind of dip in stuff as he still throws in the low-90s with two above-average secondary pitches. Recent rumblings out of Clearwater point to a possible return engagement in High A next year.

Colvin’s fastball sits comfortably in the low 90s with potential for growth. His arsenal also features a fairly tight 10-4 curve and an effective straight change. He is a strong commit to LSU and many in the know seem to believe Colvin has a better than average shot at winding up in Baton Rogue. However, like every player on the list, strong college commitments can weaken very quickly once high six figure bonuses (or more) are promised. What I think makes pursuing a prospect like Colvin worthwhile for a team is his promising blend of plus athleticism and strong present stuff.

13. Chris Jenkins | Westfield HS (NJ)

I’m not really sure what has happened to Jenkins since we saw him last, but I’ll play the role of irresponsible journalist and go ahead and assume he was injured in 2011. He heads back to Stanford as a draft-eligible sophomore in 2012. The talent remains, but, unfortunately, so do the questions — command, delivery, injury risk, possibility he’ll stick with Stanford for another year — that held him back as a prep star. One player does not a trend make, but I’m starting to grow increasingly wary of big guys with iffy mechanics. I know, not exactly a bombshell of a revelation on my part, but as somebody who was tantalized by the promise of good Andrew Brackman back in his Wolfpack days (when he was right, he looked soooooo good), it is the first step to admitting that I’m finally on my way to overcoming my “big pitcher = big upside” obsession.

There is plenty to like about Chris Jenkins, namely a heavy fastball that touches 94 MPH and sits in the low 90s, a potential low 80s MPH power slider, a gigantic frame (6-7, 235), and interest from schools like Stanford and Duke. There is also plenty to dislike about Chris Jenkins, namely his spotty command, and high effort delivery. Jenkins’ raw potential is undeniable, but he is a long way away from unlocking it. I know I previously compared Ethan Carter to Jordan Cooper, but perhaps the better comparison is between the two big righties, Carter and Jenkins. Carter has a touch more polish at present, but very few pitchers, Carter included, stack up with Jenkins when it comes to upside.

14. Ethan Carter | Menchville HS (VA)

1.75 ERA – 77 IP – 78 K/9 BB

Carter has arguably had as eventful a two year run as any other pitcher on this list. He was first kicked off the team at South Carolina (note that in his pre-draft report I mentioned his “sterling makeup” – without knowing all the facts, I’ll just say that this scouting business isn’t easy) following his freshman year. Then he enrolled at Louisburg College, where you can see his 2011 numbers above. Getting the boot from your championship winning college team stinks for a lot of reasons, but it must be especially painful to then see said college team win a second straight national championship without you on the team. Now, and this is the fun twist to our tale, the last I’ve heard is that he has been given the green light to head back to South Carolina for his junior year. Whether or not this comes to fruition remains to be seen, but that’s the very latest information I have on the ongoing Ethan Carter soap opera. Lost in all this is that Carter has really interesting stuff, impeccable control, and a big league ready frame.

Truth be told, his stuff is probably a tick better across the board than Cooper’s – slightly better present fastball heat, more advanced and varied breaking stuff, and a real changeup. Carter has a chance to fly up this list with a good spring, something that is easy to envision this big righty with sterling makeup doing.

15. Jordan Cooper | Shelbyville Central HS (TN)

8.76 ERA – 12.1 IP – 8 K/6 BB – 1.33 GO/AO

Cooper went undrafted in 2009, instead opting to follow through on his very strong commitment to Kentucky. It was a surprise (at least to me) to see that he signed this year as a 23rd round choice of the Pittsburgh Pirates as a draft-eligible sophomore. He’s currently making the transition to pro ball as a 21 year old in Short Season ball where early reports cite an improved fastball, the tightening of that slurve (now considered a pretty good slider), and more refined change as reasons why his upside as a big league starting pitcher remains within reach.

Cooper doesn’t possess quite the talent of last year’s prized University of Kentucky recruit and Red Sox draftee Alex Meyer, but his own commitment to join Meyer on the Wildcats staff is one to take seriously. He won’t be an easy sign, but armed with a fastball topping out at 91 MPH, a power breaking ball equal parts CB and SL, and a very strong academic record, it figures a team will still make a strong run at him in the first few rounds if they can think they can work out a deal. As much as teams will be working towards gauging Cooper’s signability, the bigger concern over his eventual draft position may be the injury that caused him to miss his sophomore year. Expect to see Cooper’s medical records getting a very close look this spring.

Draft Retrospective: 2009 MLB Draft Top Fifteen High School RHP (6-10)

We started this thing on Monday, so let’s keep it rolling with the next five prospects today. I appreciate the patience — good Wi-Fi seemingly comes and goes with no respect for logic — while I’m on the road doing the whole watching high school players at showcase thing for little to no money. Same basic caveats as last time: Links to the old scouting reports, such as they were, can be found along the way. New commentary is in black, old commentary is in navy blue, and statistics are all current within the last week. Prospects 1-10 are up now, the rest will come shortly.

6. Keyvius Sampson | Ocala Forest HS (FL) | San Diego Padres | 4th Round (2009)

2.95 ERA – 85.1 IP – 98 K/30 BB – 0.72 GO/AO

Not much to add to the line above other than to just reiterate that Sampson is just plain killing it in Low A as a 20 year old. There is still work to be done here — sharpen up fastball command, show more consistency with secondary stuff — but nothing outside the usual when it comes to any talented young hurler.

Sampson is one of the most athletic pitchers in the draft with a sharp curve that has the potential to be a plus pitch. His fastball sits in the low 90s and has peaked at 95 MPH. That 95 MPH is his peak thus far; it would be a big upset if he doesn’t top that over and over again as his wiry frame fills out. Sampson’s plus athleticism leads to a very fluid, repeatable delivery (see for yourself above). He also features a good curve (80-81 MPH). I’m comfortable slapping a first round grade on him at this point.

7. Brooks Pounders | Temecula Valley HS (CA) | Pittsburgh Pirates | 2nd Round (2009)

4.02 ERA – 53.2 IP – 59 K/9 BB – 1.02 GO/AO

Pounders is pitching quite well out of the bullpen for Pittsburgh’s Low A team at just 20 years of age. His size (6’4″, 270 pounds) is a concern going forward, but as long as he keeps from getting any wider, expect to hear the inevitable Bobby Jenks comps before long. I’m traditionally biased against wide-body pitchers — note the absence of Matt Hobgood, the high school righthander who went fifth overall in 2009, from these rankings, though in fairness he did finish the year as my 50th overall draft prospect, 10th highest among prep righthanders — but I think I still like Pounders more than Baseball America apparently does. They left him off of the Pirates preseason top 30 altogether.

The first thing to jumps out about Pounders is his size; he has a gigantic frame (6-5, 220), but, more than just that, he really knows how to use his size and strength to his advantage on the mound. He pitches from a downward plane with a heavy fastball (90-94 MPH) that he can put anywhere he wants.

I also love the prep archetype that Pounders fits to a tee. My favorite story about a young pitcher is the one about the guy who “really knows how to pitch,” but then suddenly sees his velocity jump. It’s tricky to find a young pitcher who can be effective without his best stuff, so the players who learned how to pitch before developing the plus stuff can be extremely valuable properties. Pounders showed that advanced feel for pitching back when he was topping out in the mid-80s; now that he throws in the low- to mid-90s, he can apply the lessons he has learned with his new found ace stuff. In Pounders’ case, true ace stuff equals the aforementioned plus fastball, a true spinning slider with plus potential, a curveball that should at least be an above-average pitch, and an effective sinking changeup.

8. Daniel Tuttle | Randleman HS (NC) | Cincinnati Reds | 5th Round (2009)

4.59 ERA – 80.1 IP – 85 K/30 BB – 1.36 GO/AO

Tuttle seemed to be pitching effectively through 11 starts in Low A. That’s the good news. The bad news is he is currently on the Restricted List for the Reds Rookie League team as he serves his 50-game suspension for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program for a second for testing positive for a second time for a “drug of abuse” on July 19th.

Finally, some real separation. The pitchers from this point on all offer something unique that sets them apart from the rest of the field. Tuttle’s breaking ball, a plus 10-4 slider with tight spin, is the pitch that sets him apart. The slider/sinker combo should serve him in inducing groundballs going forward, and a solid changeup makes for a usable fourth pitch. Prep pitchers with two plus pitches (the slider and a fastball that sits 90-94 MPH) tend to go high on draft day, and Tuttle should be no exception.

9. Mark Appel | Monte Vista HS (CA) 

3.56 FIP – 110.1 IP – 7.42 K/9 – 2.20 BB/9

Mark Appel…for some reason that name rings a bell. Couldn’t be that he is considered the current favorite to land atop Houston’s draft board as the 2012 MLB Draft’s first overall pick, could it? Appel’s plus-plus fastball, plus slider, and emerging changeup, all in addition to a big league frame, repeatable delivery, and great athleticism, help build him a case as the top pitching prospect to come out of this class. I’d have him ahead of a few big names like Wheeler, Sampson, and, yes, Hobgood and at least as high as third best at this point, but would find it very difficult to pass on either Miller or Turner if given the choice between the three.

Appel’s strong verbal commitment to Stanford will drop him down draft boards, but he is a great athlete, with a wiry frame with room to fill out, an impressive hard slider, solid change, and the ability to play around with his fastball (mostly by cutting and sinking it). The Cardinal normally get their man, so Appel’s signability will be something to keep on eye on.

10. Matt Graham | Oak Ridge HS (TX) | San Francisco Giants | 6th Round (2009)

7.34 ERA – 41.2 IP – 23 K/29 BB – 2.13 GO/AO

Graham was, to literally put it as nicely as I can think of, pitching not so well in both Low A and then back down in Short Season ball. His fall from grace reminds me a bit of a more extreme version of what happened to current Royals prospect and fellow one-time draft favorite Tim Melville. On the bright side, there’s still plenty of time for Graham to turn it all around!

Matt Graham holds a special place in my heart as the most difficult player to find a spot for in the rankings. Last year at this time it wasn’t strange to see Graham listed on lists of the top ten amateur players in the country. Fast forward twelve months and it is debatable as to whether or not he is a top ten righthanded high school pitcher. Graham’s slide coincided with the disappearance of his good stuff, most notably a big decline in fastball velocity. He followed the disappointing end to his junior season with a strong rebound on the summer showcase circuit. If his resurgence continues into the spring, expect to hear a lot of buzz surrounding the sturdy Texan with a potential plus fastball, good curve, and a heavy sinker.

Draft Retrospective: 2009 MLB Draft Top Fifteen High School RHP (1-5)

Much has changed in my life since 2009. When I started the site I was fresh out of college, back at home for a brief stay (no, not in my mother’s basement…we don’t have a basement, so there!), and looking for work. I enjoyed working on the site in my ample free time and was generally a pretty happy camper. Now I sit here gainfully employed, paying rent as often as I remember to, and, against all odds, still quite happy to while away my rare scraps of free time trying to put up something interesting to read on the site. The more things change, the more things stay the same, you know?

One thing that has definitely changed, both with the site and in my life in general, has been the degree of wimpiness I approach “scary” things with. The older, wiser me has no time to waste on self-doubt anymore. I would once freak out if Baseball America didn’t rank a guy I had in my top twenty in their top hundred, choosing to assume that, as the industry leaders, they obviously knew something I didn’t. Honestly, with their resources and collective brain power, they often do know something I don’t. Often is the operative word there; often is much different than always. Nowadays I’m less inclined to automatically jump to the conclusion that they have to be right and I have to be wrong. It is much more fun to take position that, hey, maybe I’ve heard something that hasn’t yet made it to the mainstream than always assuming the other way around.

These were good rankings and I wish I had stuck with them more than I did. Instead, I waffled and switched things up without really thinking things over, at least not in the way I do so now. My top 13 high school RHSPs by draft day were, in order: Jacob Turner – Shelby Miller – Zack Wheeler – Garrett Gould – Brody Colvin – Madison Younginer – Keyvius Sampson – Jake Barrett – Zack Von Rosenberg – Matt Hobgood – Ryan Buch – Michael Heller – Scott Griggs. A solid list, sure, but not one that I could justify to my liking if ever called out on it. How much did I really know about Garrett Gould, outside of the fact both Baseball America and Perfect Game had him as a late rising helium guy, before I shot him up my draft board? Why not stick to my guns a little bit more and stand by the prospects that I did the legwork on myself? I’m not saying it pays to be stubborn and ignore new information as it comes — that’s ridiculous, obviously — but I do think the rush to alter rankings based on what the industry leaders put out is a temptation that did me far more harm than good back in the day. I remember specifically boosting Gould and Younginer, deserving prospects both by the way, based almost exclusively on what I read about them from Baseball America in the two weeks leading up to draft day. I’m transparent enough to admit I’m still a huge fan of the work done by the team at Baseball America (and Perfect Game…and countless other excellent independent sites run in a similar fashion to this one) and consider their scouting updates an invaluable resource that helps confirm or deny reports I’ve put together myself. I guess that right there is progress in and of itself; using Baseball America as a last resort to confirm or deny original reports I’ve worked to obtain is a step above relying on them as my sole provider for information (with ample citing, of course!) like I used to.

Links to the old scouting reports, such as they were, can be found along the way. New commentary is in black, old commentary is in navy blue, and statistics are all current within the last week. Prospects 1-5 are up now, the rest will come as the week progresses.

1. Shelby Miller | Brownwood HS (TX) | St. Louis Cardinals | 19th Overall (2009)

2.57 ERA – 112 IP – 139 K/38 BB – 0.77 GO/AO

Miller had an even split of 53 innings in High A and 53 innings in AA when I sat down to write the first draft of this piece. It takes very little to amaze a simple fellow like me, so I was pretty geeked to use that perfectly equal innings comparison as a jumping off point in the Miller discussion. Sadly, that original draft is in the internet ether somewhere, on account of WordPress not being able to handle switching from Full Screen mode to whatever they call it when you aren’t in Full Screen mode. I was so mad that I lost an hour’s worth of work that I put this on the shelf for a few days, only to return to see Miller now has a much less exciting to compare 53 innings in High A and 59 innings in AA.

There might be a team or two in the minors  that can look at the Cardinals minor league pitching depth with a feeling other than outright envy, but no more than that. Miller’s development from stud prep arm to stud pro arm makes him one of the crown jewels of St. Louis’ minor league staff. He joins Carlos Martinez and Tyrell Jenkins in the system as potential top of the rotation starting pitchers. His fastball has jumped in velocity (as expected) and is now seen as a plus-plus pitch, and both his curve and change look like legit big league out pitches at times. The competition for best high school pitching prospect rages on to this day, but Miller remains the best long-term bet from where I’m sitting (a bright red IKEA couch I kind of hate).

Miller’s fastball sits between the upper 80s and the low 90s (88-92), and he is capable of dialing it up to 93/94 MPH when necessary. His frame is reminiscent of those of Matt Graham, Scott Griggs, Daniel Tuttle, and Zack Wheeler (remember how there is a thin line separating all of these righties?), so everything positive suggested about those other players’ bodies filling out accompanied by velocity pick-me-ups apply to Miller as well. This is a pretty good class of high school pitching when it comes to velocity, so it’s easy to lose sight of how rare it is to see a high schooler with such a fine combo of mid-90s heat, workable (or better) secondary stuff, and better than average command. Take a look at big league starting pitchers with legit mid-90s peak velocities some time. I bet you’ll be surprised at the disparity between fastball speed perception and reality. I know I was.

His offspeed stuff is quality, with a mid-70s curveball (potential plus pitch alert) and an 80 MPH changeup. I’ve heard of a slider being worked on, but don’t have any concrete information to actually comment on it. His command is good, not great, but good command out of a high school pitcher is a fine jumping off point.

Miller’s delivery looks clean and his arm action loose and easy, but what stands out about his mechanics is his tremendous balance. His excellent mechanics help lead to one of Miller’s standout attributes – his uncanny ability to hold velocity late into ballgames. Reports have Miller hitting his peak velocities (93/94 MPH) even as his pitch counts vaulted past the century mark late in the season. We talked earlier about having a special skill that helps you stand out – great velocity and the ability to muscle up enough to hold it late into games is one of Miller’s defining characteristics as a young prospect.

2. Jacob Turner | Westminster Academy (MO) | Detroit Tigers | 9th Overall (2009)

3.48 ERA – 113.2 IP – 90 K/32 BB – 1.22 GO/AO

Turner is sort of the anti-Shelby Miller. Before jumping all over me for that, I promise the comparison is not based on anything between the lines. As outlined above, Miller is but one part of the Cardinals three-headed monster of potential big league impact righthanded starting pitchers. Turner, on the other hand, is the cheese that stands alone in a Detroit farm system bereft of anything resembling a righthanded starting pitching prospect. The numbers above show what Turner has accomplished in his Age 20 season in AAA. They numbers don’t reflect how well he acquitted himself (5.1 IP 3 H 2 ER 3 BB 6 K) in his big league debut on Saturday in a loss to the Angels. His repertoire is similar to Miller’s, from the plus-plus fastball to the promising curve and change. Come to think of it, not much has changed from Turner’s high school days, at least in terms of future stuff grades: fastball has always been a weapon, curve still has plus upside, and change is well on its way to becoming a nasty third offering.

Also, and please don’t judge me, I couldn’t help but notice that Turner’s full name is Jacob Edward Turner. If nothing else, he’ll have a built-in tween audience once he reaches the big leagues to stay. For now, he’ll head to AAA.

  • Good size? Is 6-4, 205 good enough? Check.
  • Good athlete? Solid, if not spectacular. Check.
  • Clean mechanics out of a ¾ delivery? Check.
  • Fastball velocity? How does a peak velocity of 93-94 MPH sound?
  • Good command? Check.
  • Off-speed repertoire? Curveball is already a plus pitch and circle change should be an average big league offering, at worst.
  • College scholarship from a school that knows pitching? If North Carolina wants you to pitch for them, you’re probably a good one. If you decided to Carolina only after turning down Vanderbilt, you’re almost certainly a good one. Those two universities have coaching staffs that really know their pitching. Check.

3. Mychal Givens | Plant HS (FL) | Baltimore Orioles | 2nd Round (2009)

.231/.298/.282 – 372 AB – 24 BB/55 K – 13/21 SB

It’s probably a bit premature to say I was wrong for ranking Givens the third best high school pitching prospect in the country back in 2009, but…alright, I’m not sure how to finish this sentence. There’s still ample time for Givens to turn it around, either as a middle infielder or after a conversion to the mound (fingers crossed!), but his first two pro seasons have been undeniably rough.

His first full year was all but lost due to a busted thumb. This year he flunked in a trial at Low A to start the season, but is now doing better in Short Season ball where he is back playing SS after sliding to 2B in deference to better prospects Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop while playing for Delmarva. The positive spin here is that, due to his injury in 2010, he’s developmentally right where he should be, despite being older than you’d like in Short Season ball.

I can’t help but wonder what kind of prospect Givens would be if given the chance to develop as a professional pitcher instead of a position player. His fastball made such an impression on me when I saw him in high school, I thought it could almost single-handedly get him to the big leagues, at least as a reliever.

Givens has arguably the top fastball in this year’s high school class. His speedball has been clocked anywhere from 96-98 MPH. The beautiful thing is that his best pitch defines the term “velocity” in that the vector physical quantity of the pitch covers both the speed and direction of the baseball. Givens’ fastball isn’t just fast, it sinks and moves all over the place. Givens’ slider and change both need much refinement, but his overwhelming fastball and overall pitching aptitude — he plays short when not pitching and may be the top prep middle infielder in his class, yet still shows good feel on the mound – make him a premium prospect. As of now, Givens’ reminds me a little bit of Kyle Drabek, minus Drabek’s excellent spike curve.

4. Zack Wheeler – East Paulding HS (Texas) | San Francisco Giants | 6th Overall (2009)

3.99 ERA – 88 IP – 98 K/47 BB – 1.35 GO/AO

The numbers are from Wheeler’s time with the Giants High A team. He’s now with the Mets organization after being dealt by San Francisco for star outfielder Carlos Beltran. Beltran is an awesome talent and an excellent pickup for the offensive starved Giants, but Wheeler was a pretty price to pay for a two plus month rental. In what seems typical of high round prep pitchers, Wheeler’s fastball is already a well above-average big league offering, but his secondary stuff (curve looks alright, change/splitter has a ways to go) has stagnated as a pro. I’ve always been bullish on young pitchers with outrageous athleticism and plus fastballs, so consider me a fan of the newest member of the New York Mets family.

Zack Wheeler has the kind of frame that scouts everywhere love to dream on. He’s a lanky 6-4, 180 (lanky, but athletic – Wheeler can get above the rim and throw down 360 dunks) with plenty of room to fill out, and, if things go according to plan, capable of adding some serious velocity. If Wheeler was throwing in the high-80s, he’d be a very intriguing prospect based on the prospect of physical maturity and increased heat alone. However, the kid is already sitting comfortably in the low-90s (91-92) and has hit 94-95 MPH on the gun out of the bullpen at the summer showcases. Add a couple of ticks to that fastball and you are really on to something. Wheeler’s very good curve, power slider, and burgeoning splitter all complement the fastball well.

5. Scott Griggs | San Ramon Valley HS (CA) | Seattle Mariners | 34th Round (2009)

2.44 FIP – 17.2 IP – 11.21 K/9 – 10.19 BB/9

Griggs is one of my favorite college arms eligible for the 2012 Draft, but even I have to admit that his generous placement on my big board is highly speculative at this point. He’s currently 43rd on said list of top 2012 MLB Draft talents. His fastball remands an explosive pitch, and both his curve and change — apparently FB/CB/CU were the cool pitches back in 2009 — flash above-average (or better in the case of the change) at times. Funny that I praised his command back in high school when one of the biggest concerns about him after two years of college is whether or not he’ll throw enough strikes as a pro. I realize command and control are different things, but, hey, still funny to me.

Scott Griggs pitches in the low-90s, peaking at 95 MPH, with an above-average change that should be a plus pitch before long. What makes Griggs stand apart from the rest of the crowd (besides the big-time heater) is his impeccable command. This isn’t run of the mill “good for a high schooler” command, this is major league quality, plus potential command. Another quality that I like about Griggs is his sneaky, deceptive delivery. He hides the ball well allowing his already fast fastball to appear, well, even faster.

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