Alhambra HS (CA) RHP Robert Stephenson (18th ranked draft prospect) is everything you’d want in a late first round high school pitching prospect. I’m not feeling super creative with the whole writing thing today, so let’s just list off the positives: 1) great, but not out of nowhere, spring, 2) amble projection in his frame, 3) repeatable mechanics that appear both natural and expertly “coached-up” all at once, 4) plus fastball, 5) breaking ball (curve) flashes plus, 6) making of good changeup (love his arm action on it), 7) no questions with makeup and/or intelligence. It has been reported that Atlanta had Stephenson atop their attainable late first round draft board. So much has been made of the college pitching class – and rightfully so, I should say – that the high school arms were ignored by know it all self-proclaimed experts like me. With a little time and perspective on my side, I’m not sure there is too much separating Stephenson from any of the hugely hyped 2009 high school arms. If I had to pick one such arm to compare Stephenson to, I’d go with the high school version of Shelby Miller: similar quality fastball and curve, frame, smooth mechanics, and ability to hold velocity late. More plainly, like Miller, Stephenson is a stud prospect with top of the rotation upside.
RHP Robert Stephenson (Alhambra HS, California): 92-93 FB with great movement, 94-95 peak; plus 77-80 CB; 78-80 raw CU; has been seen sitting 94-97 early in games, still holding low-90s velocity late while hitting upwards of 94; 6-3, 185
Colegio Hector Urdaneta (PR) OF Gabriel Rosa (239th ranked draft prospect) does a lot of things well – there’s some power, good speed, athleticism – but lacks that one standout tool that would make him an elite prospect. Guessing what any prospect will be in five years is hard work, but it is made even harder by lanky, raw, toolsy, position switching types like Rosa. Intuitively I’m not a fan of Rosa (not sold on his bat and don’t think his other tools can carry him), but with time and patience the Reds might have something worthwhile on their hands.
Gabriel Rosa: good raw power; good speed; average arm; swing is a mess; may or may not stick in CF as converted SS
Rice LHP Tony Cingrani (198th ranked draft prospect) and Villanova RHP Kyle McMyne (202nd ranked draft prospect) both went a bit earlier than I would have guessed. If you believe in Cingrani’s senior year breakout and McMyne harnessing his quality stuff better as a pro than a college pitcher, that’s fine. Good news, Reds fans: I believe in both. Cingrani has most, though not all, of the ingredients of a legit starting pitching prospect. The fastball, change, and frame all work, but a better third pitch is a must. Bear with me as I extrapolate a bit here, but I’m betting on Cingrani, a willing student who trusted the Rice staff to completely revamp his delivery this past year, finding that third pitch in pro ball. I saw a lot of McMyne this past year and, as much as it pains me to admit it, think he profiles much better in the bullpen than as a starter. He has two average or better breaking balls (hard slider is nasty when on, slower curve works as a de facto change rather than a swing-and-miss pitch) and plenty of fastball, but his breaking stuff flattens out as the game goes on and he becomes a fastball only pitcher into the late innings. If teams still employed relief aces, pitchers capable of going two or three innings at a time during big spots in games (i.e. not just standard long relief), McMyne would be a perfect fit for the job. As it is, he’ll get every chance to start with the fallback floor of above-average big league middle reliever.
Rice SR LHP Tony Cingrani: was 88-90 FB, now sitting low-90s with revamped delivery with 94-96 peak; plus CU; above-average at times CB; 6-4, 190 pounds
Villanova RHP Kyle McMyne: 92-94 FB, peak 96; above-average 82-84 SL that he relies on; sitting 94-96 in early going of 2011; flashes above-average 75-78 CB that works best as show-me pitch; occasional CU; 6-0, 210 pounds
Louisville 2B Ryan Wright (132nd ranked draft prospect) is a player who has gotten a lot of electronic ink on this site. The bolded pre-draft section below should handle much of the analysis. I will share a skill set/career path comp for Wright that I like: Detroit LF/2B/RF Ryan Raburn. No comp is perfect, but that one is pretty good, right?
Wright’s case is a unique one because, even though his numbers dipped slightly from 2010 to 2011, his stock improved. The smarter people I talked to all came away more impressed with his 2011 approach to the new bats than they were with his “sell out for power” approach with the old aluminum. That sounds like a good sign as he makes the transition to wood. I mentioned Joe Panik, Wright’s Big East buddy, as having arguably the most raw power for a college second baseman, but you could probably flip a coin and be happy with either him or Wright at the top of that list. The difference there is that Panik has tapped into his power and shown pretty much all he can do in that area of his game; Wright, on the other hand, still has just enough untapped raw power that I sometimes wonder if the right organization could help him unlock the key (I use that phrase a lot — “unlock the key” — even though it makes no sense and isn’t listed as a real idiom anywhere. Sounds cool to me, though…) to a 20 homer season down the road. Even if his present gap power is all that we see at the next level, Wright’s solid glove, average foot speed, and promising hit tool will keep getting him chances.
I get the positive spin on St. Petersburg JC (FL) 3B Sean Buckley, but, come on, this was at least five rounds too high for the kid. He’s a good prospect who had a chance to go in the top ten rounds on merit, but there is no way I’ll ever be convinced his connection with the Cincinnati organization (his dad is only the Reds scouting director, no big deal) didn’t earn him an extra couple rounds and subsequent bonus dollars. As a prospect, he reminds me a little bit of a physically mature version of second rounder Rosa (good power and athleticism), minus Rosa’s speed. If he sticks at third, he’s a prospect. If he’s a right fielder, the expectations on his bat might be too much for him to reach.
Kansas State RHP James Allen has a strong track record of success, but is a little short on pro quality stuff for my liking. It may be only rookie ball, but Allen’s fast start as a professional (strikeouts and groundballs, baby) is impressive. St. Petersburg JC (FL) RHP Jon Matthews is an athlete who can run really fast, and is thus a worthy gamble in the eighth round. Texas RHP Cole Green will put up really good minor league numbers (a la recently promoted lefties Eric Surkamp and Tom Milone) and get some fans really worked up, but will settle in as either a solid fifth starter or middle reliever in the end. I’ve heard a Josh Towers comp on him that makes sense; that might not sound like much, but, as bad a big league pitcher Towers was, he still pitched over 700 innings and made north of six million dollars in his career.
Texas SR RHP Cole Green: 87-91 FB; plus command; great sinker; plus control; plus SL; really good 79-81 CU that comes and goes; 75-77 CB
Baylor RHP Brooks Pinckard’s name has shown up on follow lists for both college pitchers and college outfielders over the years. As an outfielder, Pinckard is super fast with a strong arm and legit center field range. As a pitcher he’s more or less fastball only at the moment, but it’s a good enough pitch that he can live off it while his slider and change come around. I’ve said before that I love uniqueness, so I’m 100% on board with Pinckard as a reliever who can be used as a pinch runner/defensive replacement on days he is unavailable. Better yet, Pinckard could pitch to a righty, move to the outfield while a LOOGY comes in for a lefty, and then move back to the mound for another righthanded hitter. That’s exactly what I’ll be rooting for, though I suspect a managerial change for the big league club may be in order for my plan to ever come to fruition.
Baylor JR RHP/OF Brooks Pinckard (2011): 92-93, 95 peak FB with sink; 93-95 out of bullpen; have unconfirmed 97-97 peak; 78-80 SL; CU; plus speed; strong arm; 6-1, 175 pounds; (4.91 K/9 – 4.36 BB/9 – 4.80 FIP – 33 IP)
Killarney SS (BC) RHP Vaughn Covington (Round 11) and Henderson International School (NV) LHP Amir Garrett (Round 22) are a fine pair of high upside, high risk overslot pitching prospects. Both have great size, flash plus fastballs, promising curves, and considerable risk. Covington was wise to sign as he’ll now have the opportunity to work with a professional medical staff as he recovers from last September’s Tommy John surgery. Garrett’s upside is tantalizing and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt due to his obvious natural talent (crazy I know, but not just anybody can throw 90+ lefthanded) and ridiculous athleticism. Many have dismissed him as a prospect due to his limited high school experience, but for the price of a 22nd round pick and a cool million bucks, why not roll the dice? A third overslot prep arm, Southington HS (CT) RHP Sal Romano (Round 23) also offers projection, a pro body (6-4, 220 pounds), and a good starting point in terms of stuff (low-90s FB and flashes of quality offspeed pitches).
RHP Vaughn Covington (Killarney SS, British Columbia): 90-92 FB with good sink, 93-94 peak as starter and 96 peak in short bursts; promising CB; recovering from Tommy John surgery in September; 6-5
LHP Amir Garrett (Leuzinger HS, California): 88-94 FB. 96 peak; very interesting low-80s CB; raw CU; very athletic; 6-5, 175
Texas A&M RHP Nick Fleece (Round 13) throws a really heavy ball and profiles as a potential power sinker/slider bullpen piece. Fellow Lone Star state college arm Texas Christian RHP Erik Miller (Round 31) has a similar sinker/slider pairing, but also throws a good low-80s curve and a useable change. Four pitch pitchers who throw strikes tend to get shots starting in the pros, but Miller could be the exception. Boston College RHP Mike Dennhardt (Round 32) could also wind up an intriguing bullpen candidate (strong fastball/curve combo) if he returns to health from early season Tommy John surgery.
TCU JR RHP Erik Miller: 87-91 at new arm angle, 93-94 peak; good sink; good SL; good 81 CB; average CU; strong three year track record; has relieved, but could be seen as starter; 6-3, 210; Tommy John survivor
Minnesota 1B Nick O’Shea (Round 24) and Cal State Fullerton 3B Joe Terry (Round 30) are both long shots to contribute, but not without some upside. O’Shea would look a lot better if he can hack it behind the plate as some suggest. Terry’s success or failure may come down to how well he recovers from his 2011 hamate injury.
O’Shea does a little bit of everything quite well, but nothing exceptionally well besides perhaps his defense. Still think there is some untapped upside here with the bat and I intuitively just like him as a prospect.
Joe Terry: The much-hyped (by me) hitting machine who last year made hard contact in just about every at bat failed to live up to his Bill Hall (my comp for him last year) billing in 2011. I still like the rest of his skills — good enough speed, loads of arm strength, unconventional fielding motions but underrated at second — and I’m willing to bet that bat wakes up next year. Whether the bat rises and shines in pro ball or back at Fullerton for a senior season remains to be seen.
Plano East HS (TX) 2B Ty Washington (Round 43) joins Covington, Garrett, and Romano as big money later round splurges by Cincinnati. He could be an outstanding defender at second with enough reps, but the viability of his hit tool remains a bit of a mystery to me.
Washington is a very signable prospect best known for his excellent defensive tools and good speed. He had a reputation coming into the year as a guy who too often attempted to do too much at the plate, but patience has been a virtue for him so far this season.
Tampa 2B Taylor Wrenn (Round 27), Arizona OF Steve Selsky (Round 33), and Florida OF Bryson Smith (Round 34) make up the last of Cincinnati’s noteworthy signed prospects. I like Wrenn a lot, an opinion largely founded on his plus defensive tools, good speed, and longstanding status as a prospect (thrice drafted). Selsky uttered one of my favorite 2011 draft prospect quotes: “But I don’t think I’m like any Vladimir Guerrero or Jayson Werth or big-ass guys, I think I’m an average-sized guy who can hit the ball a little bit.” He’s a better hitter than fellow outfielder Smith, but the Florida product and former third baseman gets bonus points for his defensive versatility.
Arizona JR OF Steve Selsky (2011): gap power at present, average or slightly better raw power; good speed; good range in corner; strong arm; similar to FSU guy Ramsey; might be wise to alter approach this year to show more power
Smith has a big league body, intriguing pop, useful positional versatility, but has been held back by injuries in 2010. Injury induced subpar seasons for mid- to late-round underclassman prospects are normally a recipe for a senior season return engagement, but Smith may be a victim of his own college team’s success. Playing time in 2011 looks to be very hard to come by on a young, stacked Florida starting nine, so Smith may try his luck professionally if a team is willing to bet that a return to health will bring him closer to the player he was at junior college than he was as a Gator.
The Reds went above and beyond to sign guys like Covington, Garrett, Romano, Miller, and Washington. They couldn’t reach deals with top 20 round high school picks Joe Serrano, Conor Costello, and Morgan Phillips. They also missed the boat on a bunch of late round fliers, many of whom were presumably insurance in case the players on that first list didn’t sign. Critics could look at the talented group of unsigned Reds and get worked up over the lost opportunity, but no team, not even the Nationals, have infinite draft budgets. The Reds drafted a bunch of good players; many were signed, some got away. For the sake of brevity, we’ll focus on three college and four high school guys.
Coastal Carolina OF Daniel Bowman (Round 38) is often too aggressive at the plate, but his raw power is up there with any college player in America. He’ll return to school as a promising senior sign for 2012. Louisville RHP Justin Amlung (Round 39) is a really strong Friday night starter, but his underwhelming stuff currently fits a lot better at the college game than as a professional. North Carolina C Jacob Stallings (Round 42) will have to split time with Matt Roberts next year in Chapel Hill; he deserved better than his 42nd round selection.
Daniel Bowman: impressive plus raw power, but it may be his only real tool; strong enough arm for RF; decent speed; hacker; too many K’s; underrated athlete; 6-1, 210 pounds
There is no question about Stallings’s plus defense; that alone could be his ticket to the show as a backup catcher. Like Kometani, there’s more raw power here than he has shown so far. Stallings isn’t really talked about as a top college catching prospect, but he’s a really talented prospect with a plus-plus arm that could make him an interesting mound conversion if things don’t work out behind the dish.
The top unsigned pitcher of this class: Parkway HS (LA) RHP Carson Baranik (Round 41). Baranik has an explosive fastball (when healthy), emerging offspeed stuff (when healthy), and a world of potential (if healthy).
RHP Carson Baranik (Parkway HS, Louisiana): 87-89 FB, 90-92 peak; improved conditioning now has him sitting 91-93, 95 peak; 73-74 CB; 77-78 SL that needs tightening; low-70s CU; 6-3, 205
The top unsigned position player of this class: Lake City HS (SC) OF Shon Carson (Round 44). Carson’s sushi grade raw as a prospect and probably a better player on the gridiron at this point. There is no questioning his speed, athleticism, and physical strength, but it’ll be up to the coaching staff of the two-time national champion Gamecocks to transform him into a ballplayer.
Carson is an easy player to write about because his strengths and weaknesses are so clearly delineated at this point. Obvious strengths include his plus-plus speed, absurd athleticism, and football star strong. His biggest weakness is most often cited as his inability to play baseball all that well, also known as a cute way of saying he is a very raw prospect with a long way to go. If those are his easily recognized pros and cons, I’d like to throw in one additional strength to his game that I feel often goes unnoticed: Shon Carson understands what kind of player he is. Sounds almost silly to say that, but Carson plays within himself in a way that is mature beyond his years. He doesn’t try to do too much at the plate, will happily take a walk when the situation calls for it (probably doesn’t hurt to know that a walk is as good as a triple with the way he steals bags), and makes every attempt to utilize his potentially game changing speed.
Oaks Christian HS (CA) LHP Travis Radke (Round 45) and Notre Dame HS (LA) RHP Austin Robichaux (Round 50) round out Cincinnati’s late round unsigned haul. Radke’s fastball won’t wow you, but good command of a pair of solid offspeed pitches (curve and change) make him a fun pitchability guy to track in college. Robichaux has a classic Louisiana name, so it stands to reason he’ll be a great fit pitching for his dad at Louisiana-Lafayette. Mashing up his improved fastball, good curve, projectable frame, and lifetime spent around the game gives you the Ragin’ Cajuns best prospect since Jonathan Lucroy.
LHP Travis Radke (Oaks Christian HS, California): 86-88 FB, 90 peak; good 74-75 CB; emerging 70-72 CU; low-70s SL that needs tons of work
RHP Austin Robichaux (Notre Dame HS, Louisiana): 87-89 FB, 90 peak; now sits 91-93 with lots of movement; good 75 CB; 6-5, 180