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2013 MLB Draft Preview: Marshall Thundering Herd

Marshall University

Most Intriguing Pre-Season 2013 MLB Draft Prospect(s)

1. JR RHP Aaron Blair
2. rSR OF Isaac Ballou
3. SR 1B Nathan Gomez
4. SR 3B/OF Gray Stafford

I have to imagine it is nice playing for a school that isn’t necessarily a traditional baseball power during the same stretch as a hotly scouted prospect in his draft year. Scouts will beat a path to Huntington, West Virginia all year long to see potential first round pick Aaron Blair. In the process, chances are they’ll see a handful of interesting draft prospects that are more than worthy of their time.

Joining Blair on the Thundering Herd pitching staff will be JR RHP Josh King, SR LHP Wayland Moore, and rJR RHP Ryan Hopkins. King, whose numbers intrigue me even though I don’t know much about him from a scouting standpoint, is probably the best draft prospect of the bunch, but I’d call them all long shots at this juncture. Draft prospects aside, the Marshall staff figures to be supported just fine by a strong, veteran core of returning hitters. It’ll be fun to see if any of Marshall’s returning big three bats – rSR OF Isaac Ballou, SR 1B Nathan Gomez, and SR 3B/OF Gray Stafford – emerge as sure-fire June draft picks. All are clearly talented enough to warrant consideration, but none are stone cold mortal locks. I’ve long been a fan of Ballou, so it should come as no surprise that I think he’s the closest thing to a position player lock as there is on the Marshall roster. He’s a really pesky hitter (.397 OBP in 2011, .450 in 2012) with an approach that fits well at the top of a lineup. He’s got enough speed and instincts to keep the “leadoff hitting CF” narrative alive, and there could be some yet unseen power in his sturdy 6-2, 200 pound frame.  I like simplicity in my notes, so I can admit to being drawn to Gomez’ short and sweet entry: “he can really swing it.” All the more impressive is the fact that note came about after his disappointing sophomore season (.252/.384/.387) and not his improved junior year (.320/.414/.447). Like Ballou, there are some physical indicators that point to more power to come, but it is now or never for both guys, at least at the amateur level. Gomez should still get some late-round consideration even if he remains a gap power, good approach, smooth defender kind of player. A little more over the fence pop would be icing on the cake.  Stafford stands out as perhaps the toolsiest of the senior trio. He has an interesting blend of power, speed, and plus arm strength that give him the look and feel of a professional ballplayer. Unfortunately, he’s the least likely of the three to reach his ultimate ceiling. Unlike Ballou and Gomez, Stafford’s approach at the plate is a total mess. His defense is also a bit of a question mark going forward, as there is some debate on whether or not his long-term home is third base or right field.

We buried the lede a bit here by not talking about Blair as much as his prospect status warrants. It may not be the most descriptive adjective around, but the word “good” can be found throughout Blair’s scouting notes in my Word doc: good command of a 87-92 FB (93 peak) with good sink; good 74-78 CB; 81-85 CU thrown with good looking arm action; good, sturdy frame (6-5, 220 pounds); good numbers (8.42 K/9 in 2011, 9.04 K/9 and 3.37 FIP in 2012). If you didn’t know any better, you’d think Blair is a pretty darn good prospect, right? At this moment, he looks like a really strong bet to keep progressing until settling into his eventual role as big league mid-rotation starting pitcher. He’s a safe — well, as safe as any inherently risky amateur prospect can be — prospect, not a sexy one. Good across the board, neither great nor lacking in any one area. I liken him to a sturdier version of former Long Beach State and current Milwaukee Brewer RHP Drew Gagnon, a third round pick back in 2011. His profile also reminds me a little bit of Matt Barnes before Barnes velocity spike. I’m not enough of a scout (or a scout at all, really) to place odds on Blair experiencing  a similar increase in stuff — I’m not sure any scout can actually predict this stuff, short of noticing a body desperately in need of better strength and conditioning and/or a major mechanical overhaul — but recognizing the possibility helps me cover myself just in case. Anyway, Blair looks like a good starting pitching prospect with the chance to go pretty good in this June’s draft. Good pitcher, good analysis.

2014 MLB Draft Name(s) to Know

1. FR RHP Michael Taylor

Marshall’s best pro prospect hasn’t officially stepped on the field yet. Incoming freshman RHP Michael Taylor, eligible for the draft next year due to his 3/3/93 birthdate, is like Randy Moss, Chad Pennington, and Byron Leftwitch all rolled into one. Hyperbole aside, he’s a legitimate early round pick in 2014 with the chance to contribute immediately this spring. He has three pitches that all could be average or better in time: 88-92 FB (94 peak), good low-70s CB, and raw but promising low-80s CU. Another 2014 to watch is light-hitting, steady fielding middle infielder Andrew Dundon. The sophomore 2B/SS held his own at the plate last year (.270/.371/.305) and could keep moving in the direction as a potential utility infielder if he keeps doing what he does best. I also wouldn’t sleep on SO RHP Lance Elder: good size, decent freshman showing, and a cool baseball name.

Finally, and mostly because I’m a sick person who just can’t help himself, a quick note on the really promising pitching-heavy crop of 2015 talent brought in by Jeff Waggoner. Taylor was the big get, but LHP Micah Dunn, FR RHP Brandyn Sittinger, and FR LHP Zach Shockley all have the talent to be drafted in three years. Sittinger’s youth and quick arm will get him looks, and Shockley’s mature three-pitch mix ought to get him some innings right off the bat. Marshall reloaded at catcher, a traditionally strong spot at Marshall thanks to years of Victor Gomez and Thor Meeks, with a pair of highly regarded transfers, but there’s a chance that all four freshman pitchers could wind up throwing to fellow frosh David Diaz-Fernandez sooner rather than later. Future looks good at Marshall.

2013 MLB Draft Preview: Cal State Northridge Matadors

Most Intriguing Pre-Season 2013 MLB Draft Prospect(s)

1. rSO RHP Kyle Ferramola
2. JR OF Miles Williams

In my perfect world I’d have the time and patience to do a draft preview for every college team in the country. Life in this perfect world would be better because I could justify the time spent reviewing teams that have no future big league players. Even worse are the teams that seem 50/50 at best when it comes to whether or not there is even a draftable talent on hand. As it is, forty minutes of my daily allowance of baseball draft website time, time that could have been spent in a million other more relevant, marketable (mock draft!) ways, has now been lost researching and writing about Cal State Northridge. I’m quite happy with the decision, but that’s because I’m a crazy person who a) is a self-proclaimed completest (ignore my shoddy track record finishing what I start, please), and b) cares just as much about the prospects at the Cal State Northridges of the world as I do at any traditional SEC or Big 12 powerhouse. Knowing going in that the only people who will care enough about what I’ve written are the fellow draft-obsessed and the friends/family members of players on the team gives me comfort.

JR RHP Harley Holt is a really sound college pitcher known for his excellent pitchability and above-average command. He likely lacks the strikeout stuff – upper-80s FB, no true go-to secondary offering – to warrant much draft consideration. rSO RHP Kyle Ferramola, a Washington transfer, has a really quick arm (95-96 peak) and has flashed a plus breaking ball in the past. If his command comes around and/or he refines a third pitch, preferably something even more offspeed, then he could get looks as a potential starting pitcher. If not, he has enough arm talent to become a useful bullpen piece down the line. The Cal State Northridge offense will be carried by a veteran outfield headlined by their best 2013 position player prospect JR OF Miles Williams. I think Williams will likely be the Matadors’ best 2014 position player prospect after going undrafted this June, but his combination of pop and arm strength may be enough to tempt a team if he puts together a big junior campaign. I see a corner outfielder with decent tools and an approach that needs a lot of work. He’s still the pick as the most likely Matador bat to get drafted this June, but senior sign fits his profile a lot better in my view.

2014 MLB Draft Name(s) to Know

1. SO RHP Jordan Johnson

There’s no 2014 prospect that currently jumps off the page, but that doesn’t mean Cal State Northridge doesn’t have a few intriguing names to watch, at least on the college stage. Relatively unproven hard throwers Jordan Johnson and Kyle Ferramola, both sophomore righthanders, make up for their lack of command and overall polish with mid-90s heat, promising breaking stuff, and ample athleticism. Both guys very clearly have professional upside, but it will take time for them to get acclimated – or re-acclimated in the case of Ferramola, a Washington transfer — to college ball. [EDIT: After a little bit more digging, it appears that Ferramola is draft-eligible in 2013. I added him to the list above.] rFR RHP Louis Cohen and SO RHP Brandon Warner bring more experience than most second-year college pitchers (close to 100 IP last year combined), but neither currently has the stuff to help them separate from the herd. SO LHP Jerry Keel deserves mention both for his work eating innings as a freshman (91.1 IP in 2012) and for his [insert obvious joke here] as he tips in the scales at 6-6, 280 pounds. He’s worth watching.

(Ed. Note: I received an email asking about RHP Shay Maltese. I’m very much an outsider, so most of my roster information comes from surfing official team websites and whatever random newspaper clippings I can Google my way towards. As far as I can tell, Maltese is currently on Cal State Stanislaus’ 2013 roster. I know Perfect Game has Maltese listed on Northridge’s squad, so it could very well be that the more plugged-in staffers there know something I don’t. It’s worth noting that Cal State Northridge’s team page lists only returning players on the Fall roster, i.e. there are no freshman or transfers listed. If Maltese is a Matador this spring, you can put him at the top of the 2013 draft list, narrowly beating out a very similarly talented prospect in Ferramola.)

2013 MLB Draft Preview: West Virginia Mountaineers

Most Intriguing Pre-Season 2013 MLB Draft Prospect(s)

1.  SR OF/2B Brady Wilson
2. rJR OF Matt Frazer

West Virginia has some work to do if they want to field a competitive program in the Big 12. That’s hardly a bold statement, but I feel, after looking over the prospects on this current WVU squad’s roster, it needed to be said. The cupboard isn’t necessarily bare, but we’ve eaten all the Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Cocoa Pebbles and are left with trying to figure out what recipe consists of breadcrumbs, vanilla pudding mix, and the free sample of 5-hour energy that has been in there for a year and a half.

From a prospect standpoint, those checking out West Virginia this year would be wise to focus their attention on the Mountaineers outfield. Depending on your taste in prospects, an argument could be made for either SR OF Brady Wilson or rJR OF Matt Frazer as worthy mid- to late-round draft picks. Wilson’s speed makes him an intriguing player to track, especially if his drafting team believes he has the hands and feet to handle second base on a regular basis. His dip in production from his sophomore reason to his junior year cost him last June, so you have to think he’ll need a big bounce back year in 2013 to hear his name called on draft day.

Frazer’s calling card is his tremendous size (6-5, 260 pounds). For a man build like a tank, he’s surprisingly athletic in his actions, both in the field and at the plate. Unsuprisingly, he offers more in the way of power projection than the 5-11, 175 pound Wilson; by the same token, he’s no where near as speedy as the Mountaineers fleet of foot outfield prospect. So, again, pick your favorite based on personal preference: do you like the foot speed and defense (potentially a big boon if he can play 2B) of Wilson or is the power projection and physical presence of Frazer more your cup of tea? No wrong answer at this point, I’d say. JR 1B Ryan McBroom and rSR OF Chris Rasky round out the list of upperclassman expected to contribute that caught my eye, but neither player currently makes sense as a potential June draft pick.

There’s really not much to discuss on the mound, despite the presence of a fairly experienced group of college arms. I’d be happy to go into a season with SR RHP Dan Dierdorff, rJR LHP Marshall Thompson, and rSO LHP Harrison Musgrave (returning from 2012 Tommy John surgery) headlining my pitching staff, but can’t really go the next step and declare any single Mountaineers pitcher a legitimate pro prospect. Based largely on numbers alone, JR RHP Ryan Tezak stands out as perhaps the most appealing professional candidate: in limited innings, he’s been able to knockout batters at a strong rate (9.53 K/9 in 28.1 IP in 2011, 8.10 K/9 in 26.2 IP last year).

2014 MLB Draft Name(s) to Know

1. SO OF Bobby Boyd

I like SO OF Bobby Boyd as a more refined version of Wilson. He’s a player to watch due to his plus speed, leadoff approach, and impressive range in center field. It’ll be interesting to see if he can grow into some power over the next two or three seasons at WVU. Fellow sophomore 2B Billy Fleming is more of a sleeper, but I like him as a grinder-type who might be able to make some inroads with scouts who dig his gritty style of play.

2013 MLB Draft Preview: Purdue Boilermakers

Most Intriguing Pre-Season 2013 MLB Draft Prospect(s)

1. rJR RHP Brad Schreiber
2. JR OF Stephen Talbott
3. JR C/1B Sean McHugh

Last year’s postseason run was a magical one for Purdue, so it should come as no shock to fans of the program that 2013 is set up as a “nowhere to go but down” kind of season. There is little doubt that times will be tough in the Boilermaker lineup, at least initially. Of the nine qualified batters listed on Purdue’s College Splits page, only two return in 2013. That includes nobody in the top four (sorted by wOBA): JR OF Stephen Talbott is fifth, SR 1B Angelo Cianfrocco ninth. Only two of the seven qualified pitchers (sorted by innings) return: rSR RHP Robert Ramer (fourth) and SO RHP Connor Podkul (fifth). Last year’s banner crop of hitters – Kevin Plawecki, Cameron Perkins, and Eric Charles – must be replaced, as will a number of solid arms off the pitching staff.

One notable exception to the returning pitchers note is rJR RHP Brad Schreiber, who, due to injury, isn’t included as a returning player but arguably has the greatest pro upside as any pitcher who did throw for Purdue in 2012. The strapping righthander’s return from the last year’s Tommy John surgery that wiped out his entire junior season will be interesting to watch for a few reasons.

It is widely accepted that command takes longer than velocity to come back after a procedure on the elbow. That bit of information is part of what makes Schreiber’s return so fascinating. The Boilermaker’s potential 2013 ace was never known for his command before the injury, so could it be that his return to full form will be an ever greater challenge? A more positive, and more likely, take would simply be you can’t long for what you’ve never known. Command was never what made Schreiber a prospect, so a lack of it due to the operation can’t be held too harshly against him, right? It’s a theory, at least. At his best, Schreiber relies on fastball after fastball after fastball, often without knowing quite sure each pitch is heading. His pre-injury peak velocities (94-96) jibe with his back of the bullpen profile, but what makes his heater really stand out is the explosive movement he gets on it. His is a fastball that may actually have too much movement for his own good at times. Better command and a more reliable breaking ball would help him shoot up boards.

Outside of Schreiber, there’s not a lot to currently love about future Boilermakers’ draft prospects. Admittedly, this is at least in part to the huge unknown that is the composition of this upcoming year’s team. I like Stephen Talbott as a speedy, high-contact organizational outfielder, and strong JR C/1B Sean McHugh has shown enough promise in the eyes of the Purdue coaching staff to assume the job of Plawecki’s successor behind the plate. Robert Ramer is probably the next best arm after Schreiber, but his game is built more on outstanding control – his 0.36 BB/9 in 50.1 IP last year has been the best I’ve noticed so far – than pro-caliber stuff. The betting man in me would probably only put my hard earned cash on Schreiber being drafted this year, with Talbott the next most likely name down the line and McHugh a close third.

I don’t mean to be all gloom and doom about Purdue’s prospects’ prospects going forward. I’m far from a college baseball expert, but it doesn’t take a well-compensated insider to see how good a job that Doug Schreiber has done turning around the program. Once game action begins I have little doubt that we’ll see some worthwhile names begin to pop up among the freshman and sophomore classes, and I wouldn’t completely rule out a “coached-up” existing upperclassman emerging from the current roster. There’s also the possibility that one of Purdue’s incoming junior college players – Conner Hudnall, perhaps – will prove himself draftable in the next few months.

2014 MLB Draft Name(s) to Know

1. FR LHP Jordan Minch
2. SO RHP Connor Podkul

The top returning prospect to watch for in 2014 is probably Connor Podkul, a righthander with good size (6-4, 200), good breaking stuff, and a steady freshman season under his belt. Getting incoming freshman LHP Jordan Minch, last year’s 298th best prospect according to the fool in charge of this site, is quite the coup for the Purdue program. He’ll be draft-eligible again in two years, so the pressure will be on to see if he can hone his three potential above-average pitches (upper-80s FB, mid-70s CB, and low-70s CU) in short order. I don’t know what Purdue has planned for the young lefty, but his advanced pitchability and superior command, to say nothing of his already solid stuff for a lefthanded pitcher, seem well-suited for the college game. With holes littering the Boilermakers pitching staff, I see no reason why he shouldn’t get opportunities to pitch from February on. The ability to convince a player of Minch’s caliber to turn down pro ball and come to West Lafayette is just one of many indicators that make it clear that Coach Schreiber has this program in excellent hands.

Week Ahead

The last full work week before some time off for the holidays (always a crazy time) coincides with the impending due date of a grad school project or three, so I’m loading up on some relatively easy to produce content this week. I want to finish off the First Round “Locks” thing, but going through all the pitchers is such a daunting task that I think it ought to wait until I have a little more time/patience. Quick spoiler on that, just  because: Sean Manaea is officially my endorsed candidate for first overall pick this year. His picture on the sidebar was a bit of a giveaway — thanks to my pals at ISU for providing the great shot — and I think he’s in store for a junior season that will have us all wondering why he wasn’t the consensus top guy six months before the draft to begin with. More to come on that, obviously, but let’s get back to sweet, sweet schedule talk for now. Everybody loves chatting about logistics, right?

I have always loved doing college prospect previews and never seem to get to nearly as many teams as I’d like, so this year I’m making a point to highlight some of the more interesting non-traditional baseball schools across the country. These schools may not have quite the depth of talent as some of the big boys in the college scene, but, if following the draft over the years has taught me anything, there are good prospects to be found scattered across the land. If you’re a fan of a a big-time program and/or just want to hear about the best and the brightest prospects out there (really can’t blame you for that, by the way), then don’t worry:  the Vanderbilts, Floridas, North Carolinas, Stanfords, UCLAs, and, yeah, Louisvilles will be profiled before long.  Until then, however, we’ll shine the light on some of the players that too often are ignored by the “eh, I’m a prospect expert who feels like covering the draft from mid-May to early June” types who can’t be bothered with any non-first round pick caliber players.

The schools I picked were completely random. Normally I scan down my Word document and just go from Page 1 until I run out of time — long-time readers might now realize that my Word doc starts with the ACC schools, hence the heavy exposure of those lucky schools over the years — but this year it made sense to spread the love a little bit. As always, requests are welcomed…the ability to honor reader requests is one of the perks of the no pay, no boss setup.  Here’s the current exciting schedule that I’m printing publicly in an attempt to force myself to honor my commitment:

Tuesday: Iowa Purdue
Wednesday: Georgetown West Virginia
Thursday: Cal Poly Cal State Northridge
Friday:  Memphis Houston

(EDIT: I hate having to edit this just a few hours after originally publishing, but my inability to save as frequently as I should + a possessed computer that is compelled to restart for pointless updates every seemingly every other day = a few days worth of lost data. Not sure what happened to the autosave feature, but what’s done is done. All of the work I did on the four schools above is gone, as is the work done on next week’s schools (Northwestern, Portland, UNLV, Louisiana Tech, and Wright State). Since I’m venting anyway, I’m also pissed that my down arrow key snapped off a few weeks ago. That was a pain, but this morning the nub that let me still use the key popped off as well. You never realize how often you use that damn key until you no longer have the ability to do so.  The minor setbacks may led to a change in schedule…I’ll try to stick with a team a day throughout the week, but I may mix up the teams. Going back and writing about teams I’ve already covered doesn’t sit well with me right now…eventually we’ll get back to the teams listed above, but I may need a few weeks to forget what I wrote about them originally so I can subsequently go back and enjoy writing about them again. I think I’ll just swap out new teams based on conferences. Schedule will be updated shortly to reflect the changes. Apologies to anybody who had their heart set on hearing about Georgetown’s prospects!) 

Projecting the First Round: MLB Draft 2013 Outfield Prospects

“Locks” (6)

  • Stanford OF Austin Wilson
  • OF Austin Meadows
  • OF Clint Frazier
  • OF Ryan Boldt
  • OF Trey Ball
  • OF Justin Williams

These were among the easiest players to lock in as first round picks next June. I thought Wilson looked particularly great this summer on the Cape. The only thing that could potentially knock Wilson down a bit on draft day — well, not the only thing, but rather among the most likely — is the very same thing that caused him to tumble in 2010: bonus demands and signability. Meadows and Frazier are both outstanding prospects that really don’t need much extra pontification. There will be plenty of discussion over the next six months fixated on the Meadows v Frazier debate at the top of the draft, and I look forward to really delving into each player’s pros and cons. Boldt is just a step behind the big two for me at this point, and he gives off a distinct David Dahl vibe every time I see him.

Ball is a first round pick either as an outfielder or lefthanded pitcher, so he makes for an easy inclusion on this list. I originally had Williams heading up the Definite Maybes category, but the combination of raw power, keen batting eye, easy swing, and, perhaps most importantly, his relative newness to the game makes him a great bet to land in the draft’s first round. The logic is fairly simple: Williams already possesses first round tools and impressive baseball skills, all without the benefit of the same formal instruction and experience of many of his peers. It takes a little extra extrapolation than I’d like, but I don’t think it is crazy to believe Williams’ growth over the next few months will exceed that of any other top player in this class. He reminds me of a little bit of a bigger, stronger, more powerful Zach Collier, who went 34th overall in 2008.

Definite Maybes (5)

  • Fresno State OF Aaron Judge
  • Samford OF Phillip Ervin
  • OF Josh Hart
  • OF Terry McClure
  • OF Matthew McPhearson

I really, really want to put Judge in the lock category because I think he’s primed for a huge junior season, but couldn’t in good conscious make such a bold proclamation — because what I say here is soooo important, you see — due to his funky (the history of 6-7 outfielders in the pro ball isn’t all that extensive) scouting profile. I think Judge will be a first round pick because I value him as a first round caliber talent. I also realize that sometimes my personal tastes diverge quite a bit from big league scouting trends. That’s why he’s not a lock. I’m lightly a little bit light on Ervin a this point, but I think a lack of a carrying tool might knock him down a few teams’ boards. Hart, McClure, and McPhearson can all run with any player in this year’s class. Tracking which of the three rises up above the rest will be one of this spring’s most enjoyable draft subplots. All have plus speed (at minimum) and each knows how to utilize it to produce big results. I think both Hart and McPhearson look like future big league regulars in CF (as a fan of the team who just traded for Ben Revere, I’m really trying to talk myself into players with the speed/defense CF skill set), but it’s McClure’s added dimension of power upside that gives him the highest overall ceiling as of now.

*****

The list of outfielders who just missed the cut is long and chock full of big-time names. So long and chock full of big-time names, in fact, that I think it makes sense to break it down a little bit further. The first five college guys who missed:

  • LSU OF Jacoby Jones
  • Vanderbilt OF Conrad Gregor
  • Mississippi OF Hunter Renfroe
  • Kansas State OF Jared King
  • Cal State Fullerton OF Michael Lorenzen

I have Jones listed with the outfielders because of his strong showing in CF, a position where he has the potential to be an above-average defender in time. That’s the reason, for sure. It definitely isn’t because I forget to include him in any of the potential infield positions (2B, 3B, SS) where he might fit best. He looked pretty darn good at both CF and SS on the Cape, so I’m inclined to take a wait-and-see approach to his future defensive home. Same deal with his bat, a tool that he hasn’t shown to be big league quality through two years at LSU. Renfroe and Lorenzen are both toolsy outfielders with plus-plus arm strength and major pitch recognition issues. Gregor and King aren’t particularly toolsy outfielders, but each guy can really hit.

Five more college outfielders of note:

  • Georgia Tech OF Brandon Thomas
  • Virginia Tech OF Tyler Horan
  • Florida State OF Marcus Davis
  • Vanderbilt OF Tony Kemp
  • Pepperdine OF Aaron Brown

We’re deep enough into this list to streamline our focus. Or I’m getting lazy and want to finish this up before the end of the year. Either way, let’s quickly chat about Marcus Davis. Watch Davis, a junior college transfer, very closely this spring at Florida State. He’s going to hit. He might even hit a lot. Alright, good chat.

****

Finally, we’ve reached the lightning round name only portion of our program. These are the players that may not necessarily be the best current prospects, but, for a variety of reasons known only to me (for now…), they rank among my very favorites. High school guys first, then more college names to know…

  • OF Stephen Wrenn
  • OF William Abreu
  • OF Johnshwy Fargas
  • OF Jason Martin
  • OF Billy McKinney
  • OF Billy Roth
  • Wake Forest OF Kevin Jordan
  • Miami OF Dale Carey
  • Maryland OF Mike Montville
  • South Florida OF James Ramsay
  • Mississippi OF Tanner Mathis
  • Arkansas OF Jacob Morris
  • Vanderbilt OF Connor Harrell
  • Texas OF Mark Payton
  • Texas A&M OF Krey Bratsen
  • UCLA OF Brenton Allen
  • UCLA OF Eric Filia-Snyder
  • Stanford OF Brian Ragira
  • Washington State OF Jason Monda
  • Arizona OF Johnny Field
  • Michigan OF Michael O’Neill
  • San Diego OF Louie Lechich
  • James Madison OF Johnny Bladel
  • Rhode Island OF Jeff Roy
  • Florida Gulf Coast OF Sean Dwyer
  • Liberty OF Ryan Cordell
  • Jacksonville State OF Coty Blanchard
  • Southern New Hampshire OF Jon Minucci
  • Grossmont JC OF Billy Flamion
  • Polk State JC OF Daniel Sweet
  • Santa Fe CC OF Jamal Martin

Projecting the First Round: MLB Draft 2013 Third Base Prospects

“Locks”

3B: San Diego 3B Kris Bryant and North Carolina 3B Colin Moran (2)

Third base is the one position so far that an argument could be made has more star power at the top in the college ranks than it does at the high school level. This isn’t meant to disparage the above-average group of prospects that make up the cream of the prep crop, but is instead designed to shed some much needed positive light on what looks to be an all-around lackluster year for college position players. The outlook is bleak for teams looking for a quick fix bat at catcher, first, second, or short, but third base could provide up to a half-dozen regular big league third basemen from the college game alone. The two names that jump out as likely first round talents are Bryant and Moran. I no longer doubt Bryant’s future as a big league power hitter, but his defense at third remains a work in progress. He’s more athletic than often given credit, so, if nothing else, he should have a home in RF if his drafting team deems his glove at the hot corner unplayable. In many ways I feel like Moran has been put on the draft landscape just for me. That’s mostly because I’m an unrepentant egotist, but also because I a) love guys who consistently play above their tools, b) am a complete sucker for a pretty lefthanded swing, and c) have the importance of plate discipline, having a plan prior to every at bat, and generally taking a measured yet violent approach to hitting ingrained deep into my pitch black soul. Moran offers up a resounding check mark for each of those qualifications. I think he’s a better version of last draft’s Matt Reynolds with the upside of San Diego 3B Chase Headley.

*****

Definite Maybes

Virginia Tech 3B Chad Pinder, Arkansas 3B Dominic Ficociello, Texas 3B Erich Weiss, Stephen F. Austin State 3B Hunter Dozier, College of the Canyons 3B Trey Williams, 3B Cavan Biggio, 3B Travis Demeritte, 3B Wesley Jones, 3B Jan Hernandez (9)

The next tier down includes guys like Pinder, Ficociello, Weiss, Dozier, and Williams. It’s a fairly tight bunch, so my advice is to pick your favorite and run with it. I wouldn’t rule out any of those names making a run at the first round, but I also wouldn’t count on it either. Analysis! Pinder’s tools and I think he could grow into a plus defensive player, but he’s got plenty to prove at the plate, especially with respect to his approach. I’ve always personally viewed Weiss as a poor man’s Moran, but a few friends in the game I’ve spoken to actually prefer the junior from Texas. Dozier reminds me of a less heralded version of Pinder. I currently prefer Dozier – more physical, better approach, similar athleticism, maybe a touch less defense but not far off — over the Virginia Tech third baseman, but the two are fairly close in my mind. Ficociello has a really intriguing hit tool, but offers less overall upside than the rest of the bunch for me.

Finally, we come to Williams. Williams, for the 99.9% of the readership unfamiliar of anything written here before this precise point in time, was a huge favorite last year. Like, highest rated third baseman in the entire 2012 MLB Draft huge. I preferred him over Richie Shaffer, Joey Gallo, and Addison Russell, among hundreds of others. Nothing has changed since last June and now, so here’s a reprint of my notes on him then:

1. 3B Trey Williams (Valencia HS, California): big hit tool; potential plus to plus-plus raw power; advanced idea of how to hit, e.g. big opposite field power threat; strong arm often categorized as plus; potential star defensively at third base; great reactions and instincts; outstanding athlete; plus bat speed; plus hit tool; slightly above-average speed; very strong; has that special sound; pitch recognition to be monitored; super quick bat, solid approach: very patient, lightning in wrists; swing needs some work, but what is there is a fine building block; strong arm, steady defender; below-average speed, but quick feet and reactions at third; should be an average defender at worst with much more upside than that; big-time raw power, personally I’m a believer; 6-2, 210 pounds; R/R

Notes distilled for the present day: above-average power, hit tool, arm, and defensive tools. I’m really looking forward to seeing what kind of damage he can do in junior college this year.

On the high school side, I think you’re looking at a similar group of steady potential regulars at third. I don’t see any of the names below as having superstar upside — think I’d only hang that on Bryant out of this entire third base class, maybe Moran — but there are still some damn fine players worth getting to know. I’ll wimp out and not declare any of the prep guys locks to go in the first, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. After all, shocking though it may be, I’m not clairvoyant. Wasting my life savings on Power Ball tickets pretty much hammered that point home.

Biggio and Demeritte are the two rock solid prospects that best fit this steady potential regular archetype: good defensive tools (great in Demeritte’s case), line drive machine, advanced approach to hitting, and professional mindsets. Jones has a higher ceiling if you buy into his power upside. I’m not there yet (wasn’t impressed in my one firsthand view, haven’t heard from enough credible sources who like him, and think his approach is way, way too aggressive to put whatever power he may or may not have to use), but I’m but one tiny ripple in the vast ocean of internet draft experts. Hernandez may split the difference between steady and risky: he’s advanced as a power hitter for a high school player and I’ve heard some Javier Baez comps very quietly whispered in his direction.

*****

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with third base prospects. Part of that is likely due to the fact that my favorite team hasn’t had a good third base prospect since Scott Rolen almost twenty years ago. I’ve seen so many quality third basemen enter the league over the past two decades and I want so badly to finally call one my own. The depths of my third base lust reached dangerously low levels in 2005 when I developed one of my first “deep down I know he’s no good, but he’s on my team so I’ll love him unconditionally” affections for Welinson Baez. I talked myself out of “Mike Costanzo Superstar” and began hoping for a next generation Russell Branyan or, failing that, Greg Dobbs 2.0. Had unreasonably high hopes for Travis Chapman turning into something of value, to say nothing of my love for Travis Mattair. There was even a week or so after the draft that I tried to convince myself that Anthony Hewitt could stick in the infield. The Phillies system is deeper at third than I remember them being in years, so I don’t think I’m crazy for believing that one of Maikel Franco, Mitch Walding, Cody Asche, Tyler Greene, Cameron Perkins, or Zach Green will eventually break through and give me the homegrown third baseman I’ve been waiting for. Or perhaps they’ll draft one of the fine gentleman featured on this page next June…

Of course, the obsession goes beyond my Phillies fandom. Part of my third base weirdness is because of a harrowing experience in little league that occurred while I made a rare appearance at third. That was the day I caught a screaming line drive hit right back at me only to have the ball get stuck in the webbing of my busted old glove. The third base coach was a smart guy and he saw the difficulty I had getting the ball out. The man on third broke for home. I raced after him, quickly realizing his two step lead couldn’t be overcome. I ripped my glove off my hand and threw it in the general direction of the catcher. Too late. We went on to lose by a run. I went on to write about third base prospects on the internet for free. Life, man. Anyway, here are a bunch of other intriguing amateur third basemen, some of whom I’ve chosen to write something on and some of whom are note-less names on a screen…

Best of the Rest: 3B Ryan McMahon, 3B Joseph Martarano, 3B Dylan Manwaring

McMahon, Martarano, and the oddly underrated Manwaring all have last names that begin with the letter M. Beyond that, they are all pretty darn different. McMahon, from California, has been on the map for years as a standout performer at baseball factory Mater Dei. Martarano, from Idaho, is exactly the kind of fun prospect you’d expect from Idaho: mysterious, athletic, powerful, and raw. Manwaring, from New York, has a blend of tools and skills that match up with any prep third baseman in this class.

More Guys I Like, Lightning Round Edition 

  • 3B John Sternagel – hitting machine, but questions on defense and power upside
  • 3B Blake Tiberi – nifty glove, like the bat, underrated athlete despite shorter stature
  • 3B Tucker Neuhaus – especially strong arm, yet doesn’t always know where the ball is heading after it leaves his hand
  • 3B Lachlan Fontaine – so much more than this year’s token Canadian import, rock solid prospect with better than you’d think baseball skills and plenty of untapped upside
  • Duke 3B Jordan Betts
  • Miami 3B Brad Fieger
  • Miami 3B Tyler Palmer
  • Auburn 3B Damek Tomscha
  • Florida 3B Zack Powers
  • Texas Tech 3B Jake Barrios
  • Long Beach State 3B Michael Hill
  • East Carolina 3B Zach Houchins
  • Southern Illinois 3B Donny Duschinsky
  • Texas-Pan American 3B Alberto Morales
  • Everett JC 3B Dylan LaVelle
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