SS: Oscar Mercado, JP Crawford (2)
I’m on board with the Mercado as Elvis Andrus 2.0 comps and was out ahead of the “hey, he’s ahead of where Francisco Lindor was at the same stage just a few years ago” talk, so, yeah, you could say I’m a pretty big fan. That came out way smarmier than I would have liked – I’m sorry. The big thing to watch with Mercado this spring will be how he physically looks at the plate; with added strength he could be a serious contender for the top five or so picks, but many of the veteran evaluators who have seen him question whether or not he has the frame to support any additional bulk. Everything else about his game is above-average or better: swing, arm strength, speed, range, hands, release, pitch recognition, instincts. The way I feel about Mercado is how many of the professionals in the business feel about Crawford, a steady riser who now sits atop the majority of big league clubs’ middle infield boards. What’s funny about Crawford’s recent rise is that so much of it is predicated on his improved defense up the middle. In my first looks at Crawford last year, it was actually his defense at shortstop that stood out to me the most. Not for nothing, but I heard down in Florida that the Astros really, really, really like Crawford. Really.
SS: Andy McGuire, Chris Rivera, Riley Unroe, Connor Heady (4)
McGuire, Unroe, and Heady all look to have the defensive tools to stay at shortstop in pro ball. Rivera could also be included in that group, but I’m part of the growing contingent that would really like to see what he can do behind the plate between now and June. A big spring could propel any of the four into the first round.
Second base prospects don’t typically crash the first round party and 2013 looks to be no exception. We’ll look a few interesting names in the interest of thoroughness and, more honestly, more baseball talk is better than less baseball talk.
Anfernee Grier, Christian Arroyo, and Dalton Dulin are currently the best bets of this year’s prep second basemen to rise into the first round. In a way, that’s damning with faint praise as being the best of any year’s top prep second basemen list doesn’t guarantee much more than the cost of the electronic paper such proclamations are printed on. Thankfully, each player listed above has a contingency plan that you don’t typically see with second base prospects. Grier could wind up as an above-average glove in CF, Arroyo has an outside shot at sticking at shortstop, and Dulin, well, Dulin is pretty much a second baseman or bust but his makeup has been so universally lauded that you wonder if he may go a few spots earlier than his talent warrants. That last one is a bit of a stretch, but that’s what you do over seven months ahead of the draft in November.
Once again we get down to the college ranks where, once again, there isn’t a whole lot to get excited about. As covered with the other positions we’ve touched on, it wouldn’t be a shock to see half a dozen or more high school players off the board before the first college guy gets selected. I’ve previously written about my appreciation for Frazier, an underrated guy with just enough tools to profile as a big league player:”Frazier, yet another up the middle prospect, reminds me some of last year’s underrated all season (at least until draft day) Nolan Fontana. Frazier won’t wow you with the glove — some have him moving to 2B due mostly to an iffy arm, but I think he’s just steady enough to stick at SS for now — but he’s an on-base machine with a relatively high floor. Besides the potential switch off of shortstop, I do worry some about a lack of natural strength/in-game power.” I felt similarly about Mazzilli prior to the draft last year: “He has a little toe-tap timing mechanism that reminds me a little bit of Mark Reynolds’ swing, only without the swing-and-miss length. Good speed, good athleticism, and good hands should keep him up the middle, and a little physical maturation at the plate could help turn him into one of those super annoying scrappy middle infielders we all know and love (or hate, depending on the player).”
Kennedy has a little bit of breakout potential now that he’s finally on a big stage at Clemson, Riddle has a strong hit tool but may be better off at 3B down the line, and Henderson could be this year’s plus athlete who steps up with a big spring. Arguably the three biggest names on the list belong to Gonzalez, Asuaje, and Alvord. Gonzalez has been a consistent producer for a big time program with more raw power than your typical middle infield, Asuaje had a great showing on the Cape and has no real weaknesses to his game, and Alvord, an Auburn transfer, has been on the radar since his high school days.
- 2B Shane Kennedy (Clemson)
- 2B LJ Mazzilli (Connecticut)
- 2B JT Riddle (Kentucky)
- 2B Demarcus Henderson (Mississippi State)
- 2B Ross Kivett (Kansas State)
- 2B/SS Lonnie Kauppila (Stanford)
- 2B Carlos Asuaje (Nova Southeastern)
- SS Justin Gonzalez (Florida State)
- SS/2B Adam Frazier (Mississippi State)
- SS Brandon Trinkwon (UC Santa Barbara)
- SS Zach Shank (Marist)
- SS/2B Zach Alvord (Tampa)
- SS Zac LaNeve (Louisburg JC)
- SS Tim Anderson (East Central CC)