As a lifelong resident of the northeastern corner of the United States, I’ve got nothing but love for cold weather college baseball. The Big 10 is always good for a few quality prospects each year (19 players were drafted in 2011), but rarely do we see any impact (i.e. early round) prospects pass through the conference. That’s likely the case once again in 2012, though the first name you’ll read below (or not, if you stop reading right…now) has the best chance of slipping into the draft’s first day than any other Big 10 player. Below you’ll find what I’m sure is an incomplete list (in a somewhat odd twist I find that the fewer legitimate prospects are in a conference, the more I tend to overlook/overrate) of this year’s most interesting Big 10 position player follows. There are surely some players who slipped through the cracks, so feel free to yell at me in the comments or via email if something seems off.
- Purdue JR C Kevin Plawecki
- Nebraska JR C Richard Stock
- Michigan SR C Coley Crank
- Iowa JR C Dan Sheppard
- Michigan rSO C Zach Johnson
Plawecki has gotten attention from smart fans of cold weather college ball for starting the season white hot, but he’s due for some additional national exposure, especially as we get closer to draft day. There are definite faults to his game – he’s still raw behind the plate and his power upside has been questioned by scouts smarter than me – but I’m a believer in his improved footwork and quick release, as well as the way his selective approach helps him key on pitches he can drive to the gaps. In other words, what he lacks in certain raw tools (arm strength, power) he makes up for in other ways. There’s a lot to like here. I’ve heard mixed reports on Stock’s defense this spring, though it doesn’t appear that he has had much of an opportunity to show off behind the plate given Nebraska’s depth at the position. If pro teams think he can catch – he certainly has the arm strength for it – then he’s an interesting mid-round upside pick due to his intriguing raw power. If he’s limited to first base, then he’ll face a much tougher road. Crank’s defense has never been his forte and reports on his ability to hit anything but meatballs are not encouraging.
- Northwestern SR 1B Paul Snieder
- Penn State SR 1B Joey DeBernardis
Snieder is a really good college player, but his tools are all a little light to profile as a big league player. He might have just enough pop to get drafted, and his defense and arm are both clear strengths.
- Michigan State rJR 2B Ryan Jones
- Indiana JR 2B Micah Johnson
- Purdue rSR 2B Eric Charles
- Ohio State JR 2B Kirby Pellant
- Nebraska JR 2B Bryan Peters
- Ohio State JR 2B Ryan Cypret
Jones, Johnson, and Charles all make up one of the most intriguing below the radar position groups that we’ve profiled so far. Jones may not have a singular standout tool, but, outside of a lack of big raw power, he is more or less average across the board, including being above-average defensively at both second and third. As much as it pains me to resort to such an empty cliché, Jones is a ballplayer, plain and simple. Johnson has more raw power, but isn’t quite the defender that Jones is. Charles may not profile as quite the offensive player as either Jones or Johnson, but his defense at second is outstanding.
- Michigan JR SS Derek Dennis
- Minnesota rJR SS Troy Larson
- Michigan State SR SS Justin Scanlon
At some point we’re all going to collectively give up on Dennis as a pro prospect, but his well-rounded tools – I’ll believe in his ability to defend at a high level up the middle from now until forever – keep him on the radar even thought his college performances have been one disappointment after another.
- Purdue JR 3B Cameron Perkins
- Illinois rSO 3B Jordan Parr
- Penn State SR 3B Jordan Steranka
- Ohio State JR 3B Brad Hallberg
- Purdue SR 3B Barrett Serrato
- Minnesota SR 3B Kyle Geason
- Nebraska JR 3B Kurt Farmer
- Michigan SR 3B John Lorenz
- Minnesota rJR 3B Matt Puhl
Perkins is the clear BMOC of the Big 10 third base group due to his above-average raw power, quick wrists, and sturdy big league frame. He might be best served working out as a four-corners (LF-RF-3B-1B) role player at the next level. Like Perkins, Parr is a free swinger with power, but his athleticism and versatility on defense are what endear him most to scouts.
- Michigan State JR OF Torsten Boss
- Nebraska rSO OF Kash Kalkowski
- Michigan JR OF Patrick Biondi
- Illinois SR OF Willie Argo
- Indiana JR OF Justin Cureton
- Nebraska JR OF Josh Scheffert
- Minnesota rSO OF Dan Olinger
- Illinois JR OF Davis Hendrickson
- Nebraska SR OF Khiry Cooper
- Nebraska SR OF Kale Kiser
- Ohio State rSO OF Mike Carroll
- Minnesota JR OF Ryan Abrahamson
- Michigan State JR OF Jordan Keur
- Penn State SR OF Sean Deegan
- Penn State JR OF Ryan Clark
- Purdue SR OF Tyler Spillner
- Purdue JR OF Stephen Talbott
The top two names on the list, Boss and Kalkowski, are both former and, depending on who winds up drafting them, future infielders. Boss, a converted third baseman, has acquitted himself quite well in center despite not being a classic burner with plus range. His bat might be strong enough even if pushed to a corner at the next level. Kalkowski is a great athlete with good raw power who could be tried at second base in the pros. Biondi is a three-true outcomes player, but only if you doctor the definition to include walks, strikeouts, and stolen bases. Without actually doing the research, I’d wager that Biondi’s 31 combined walks and strikeouts rank up at or near the top of all of college baseball. He’s reached based 46 times so far in 2012 and has stolen a base almost one out of every three times he’s done so. Without any type of context I can’t be sure that those numbers are special in any particular way, but they sure do seem impressive. Those last three sentences almost certainly qualify as only interesting to me, and I apologize. As a prospect, Biondi gives you lots of speed and all kinds of range in center. He won’t hit enough to be a regular, but those two carrying tools could carry him right into a fifth outfielder’s job someday. Argo offers a similar skill set (less arm strength, more physical strength), as does Cureton. Scheffert’s hot start has some believing he is finally beginning to turn his considerable tools into something while Olinger keeps hitting despite not being super toolsy himself. Khiry Cooper gets the last spot even though he has given up baseball for football. Hard to find his brand of athleticism on the diamond, so I could see a team taking a flier on him late.