Home » 2013 MLB Draft » 2013 MLB Draft Conference Preview: Pac-12

2013 MLB Draft Conference Preview: Pac-12

Time for the Pac-12′s time in the sun. From where I’m sitting, the conference looks a little light in position players but plenty strong in arms. There are a few impact, early-round talents to account for in the position player group (Austin Wilson very clearly leading the way, trailed by Brian Ragira and Andrew Knapp) and some nice depth thereafter, but most of the talent in the 2013 draft class will be found on the mound. Mark Appel headlines the pitching talent with over a dozen names in serious competition to be selected second from the group. Should be a fun, competitive year with talent fairly evenly spread throughout the league. The one thing that shocked me when going through the Pac-12 rosters was the lack of interesting talent on what tends to be a traditionally strong Arizona State squad. Stanford, UCLA, Oregon, and Oregon State look to be the class of the conference, at least in terms of future professional talent. Alright, enough of that…let’s get to some 2013 MLB Draft talk.

Here’s the key for the player lists:

  • Bold = locks to be drafted
  • Italics = definite maybes
  • Underlined = possible risers
  • Plain text = long shots

Here we go…

C

  • California JR C Andrew Knapp
  • Oregon State JR C Jake Rodriguez 
  • Washington State JR C Collin Slaybaugh
  • Arizona State SR C Max Rossiter 
  • Southern California JR C Jake Hernandez
  • Washington JR C Ryan Wiggins
  • Stanford JR C Brant Whiting

Without giving it a ton of thought, I think it is fair to include Andrew Knapp on any short list of best draft-eligible college catching prospects in the country. He made a really nice jump between his freshman and sophomore seasons, and I expect more of the same heading into his junior year. It is probably unfair to peg him as a “breakout” candidate for 2013 — he’s too big a name for that, I think — but a .300/.400/.500 season with improved defense behind the plate doesn’t seem out of the question. Neither Jake Rodriguez nor Collin Slaybaugh profile as everyday catchers, but both guys do enough well at the plate that their defensive versatility (infield for Rodriguez, outfield for Slaybaugh) means something beyond just a novelty. Rodriguez, who probably has the tools to play any spot on the diamond in a pinch, is especially intriguing thanks to his speed, arm, power to the gaps, and better by the day defense behind the plate. Max Rossiter and Jake Hernandez are both really good defenders who can give you a little something at the plate as well; Rossiter in particular looks like a really strong senior sign this year.

1B

  • Oregon JR 1B Ryon Healy
  • Oregon State SR 1B Danny Hayes
  • Washington State rJR 1B Adam Nelubowich
  • California rJR 1B Devon Rodriguez 
  • Arizona JR 1B Brandon Dixon
  • Stanford SR 1B Justin Ringo
  • California JR 1B Jacob Wark
  • UCLA JR 1B Pat Gallagher
  • Oregon JR 1B Jake Jelmini
  • Arizona JR 1B Sam Parris

Healy in a nutshell, from my notes: “loved him out of HS, but now a 1B only [was a 3B in HS] so he’ll have to hit a ton to make it.” I still believe in the bat, but admit to liking Healy a little bit more than your usual 1B prospect thanks to the “break glass in case of emergency” option that is his right arm. His most direct path to the big leagues is via his bat, obviously, though his mid-90s fastball past could give him an alternate route if necessary. Danny Hayes is a legitimately great college hitter. His ability to control the strike zone, hit for power, and do it all while operating at far less than 100% physically makes him one of my favorite 2013 prospects to watch. Still, the road to the upper-levels of professional ball is littered with great college hitters who can’t replicate their success enough to make it once hitting becomes a full-time job. Adam Nelubowich has a lot of fans in the scouting community, but I’m still reticent to go all-in on him as a prospect. For all the beauty of his swing and the clearly evident raw power, he hasn’t had a whole lot of positive outcomes as a college player. I think most of his backers would also argue fairly strongly against his placement on the 1B list, citing his decent foot speed, solid reactions, and overall improved defense at the hot corner. As even a slightly below-average 3B, I’d put him on top of the list of eligible PAC-12 prospects, but, for now, I’ll stick with my perhaps overly conservative approach.

2B

  • Stanford JR 2B Lonnie Kauppila
  • UCLA JR 2B Kevin Williams
  • Arizona State JR 2B Mike Benjamin 
  • Stanford JR 2B Brett Michael Doran
  • Oregon JR 2B Aaron Payne
  • Southern California SR 2B Adam Landecker

Lonnie Kauppila should be listed with the shortstops — he’s very good there — but I like his defense so much at second base, where he has the potential to be at or near the top of whatever league ranking he’s in, that he stays here for now. Ultimately, his value will likely come as a defense-first backup middle infielder, so it won’t really matter what position is his primary spot going forward. Kevin Williams is enough middle infielder with legitimate plus defensive ability and outstanding athleticism in the conference. Mike Benjamin has the most pop out of the group, so consider his a name to follow this spring. Fun line on Brett Michael Doran, from my notes: “walks and talks like a big league veteran.” So, if nothing else, he’s got that going for him.

3B

  • Oregon State JR 3B Jerad Casper
  • UCLA SR 3B Cody Regis
  • Southern California JR 3B Kevin Swick
  • Utah JR 3B Trey Nielsen

Third base is easily the weakest position group in the conference with a strong likelihood that no Pac-12 prospect manning the hot corner will get drafted this June. The steady fielding Jerad Casper has the best chance at the moment, though much remains to be seen in how his bat will translate to major college ball. Cody Regis will likely play little to no 3B this spring for UCLA, but has shown enough there to warrant a switch back if he gets a shot in pro ball. Swick gets high marks for his instincts and intelligence on the diamond, and his power upside remains intriguing, but he’ll have to come a long way with the bat to get noticed in time for the draft this summer. The only thing I have on Nielsen in my notes outside of basic biographical information is that he can spin a good breaking ball. That’s a positive to be sure, but not exactly what you want your calling card to be as a third base prospect.

SS

  • Oregon State SR SS Tyler Smith
  • Oregon SR SS JJ Altobelli
  • Oregon State JR SS Kavin Keyes
  • UCLA JR SS Pat Valaika
  • Southern California JR SS Jimmy Roberts
  • California JR SS Derek Campbell
  • Washington State rSO SS Trace Tam Sing
  • Stanford JR SS Danny Diekroeger
  • Oregon State JR SS Andy Peterson

I’d say it isn’t every season that a team finds itself with three draft-eligible shortstop prospects of note, but Oregon State has managed to pull off the trick in 2013. Tyler Smith is a steady glove with enough range and arm for the left side who is coming off an unexpected power explosion in 2012. Kavin Keyes can play average defense at short, third, and second, but will need to show a little more with the bat in 2013 to get more pro attention. Andy Peterson is coming off of two productive years at Santa Ana JC and comes highly regarded, though he’ll have to do his best to get at bats when he can behind both Smith (SS) and Keyes (2B). JJ Altobelli, Derek Campbell, and Trace Tam Sing can all more than hold their own in the field. I think it is worth mentioning that there were plenty of rumblings out of Stanford last spring that Danny was the better ballplayer than his older brother Kenny. Not necessarily the better prospect — though I’m sure some were willing to go that far — but the better ballplayer. Many casual draft fans get angry at this kind of logic — if he’s better now, how can he not be the better prospect? — but projection is king in the world of prospecting.

OF

  • Stanford JR OF Austin Wilson
  • Stanford JR OF Brian Ragira
  • UCLA SO OF Eric Filia-Snyder
  • Washington State JR OF Jason Monda
  • Arizona JR OF Johnny Field
  • UCLA JR OF Brenton Allen
  • Washington JR OF Will Sparks
  • Oregon SR OF Andrew Mendenhall 
  • Utah JR OF Braden Anderson
  • Oregon JR OF Connor Hofmann
  • Southern California SR OF Greg Zebrack
  • Oregon JR OF Kyle Garlick
  • Washington SR OF Michael Camporeale
  • California SR OF Vince Bruno
  • Oregon JR OF Brett Thomas
  • Southern California JR OF Omar Cotto Lozada
  • Oregon SR OF/RHP Ryan Hambright
  • Oregon State SR OF Ryan Barnes
  • Oregon State SR OF Joey Matthews
  • Utah SR OF Connor Eppard
  • Arizona State JR OF Kasey Coffman
  • Arizona State JR OF James McDonald
  • Arizona State rSO OF Trever Allen
  • Washington SR OF Jayce Ray
  • UCLA JR OF Brian Carroll
  • Oregon JR OF Tyler Baumgartner
  • Stanford JR OF Brian Guymon
  • Washington State rJR OF Brett Jacobs

There are some things to work on with Austin Wilson — a few swing issues that need ironing out, specifically his comically high back elbow that slows the whole operation down, and pitch recognition problems that may or may not be fixable with more at bats — but few amateur players across this country possess his blend of plus-plus power, much of it already present in-game, plus-plus arm strength, and above-average athleticism all wrapped up in a tight end strong 6-5, 250 pound frame.  I do find it interesting — not good, not bad, just interesting — that after two years of college we’ve learned so little about Wilson as a prospect. He’s pretty much the same player he was as a senior in high school that he is now. Here’s what I wrote about him then:

The comps for Wilson range from silly (Dave Winfield) to topical (Andre Dawson) to “man, I feel old comparing high school kids to players I loved when I was 10″ (Juan Gonzalez, Moises Alou) to intriguingly ultra-modern and therefore ultra-hip (Mike Taylor, Mike Stanton) all the way to completely made up by me just now (Shawn Green, Ellis Burks). It goes without saying that Wilson hitting his ceiling would be blessed to have a career like any of the players listed above (minus the minor leaguers, I suppose), but they do provide some context into what has been said about Wilson’s upside as a prospect so far. The two current minor league comps stick out to me as particularly interesting; Mike Stanton is a comp that mixes Wilson’s most immediate “realistic” upside as top minor league prospect with an equally plausible estimation of his tools (power, arm, good enough speed, should be good defenders in the corner), and Mike Taylor’s name serves as a reminder that Stanford commits like Wilson are always a pain in the neck to get signed.

Power, arm, good enough speed (especially for his size), should be good defender in a corner (RF)…I’d say all that holds true today. We still don’t know for sure about his plate discipline, other than what he’s actually done on the field thus far (7 BB/53 K as freshman, 25 BB/42 K as sophomore) and what little has been observed about his inability to pick up and hit good breaking stuff. One comp that I didn’t mention back in his high school days that I think makes a world of sense now, at least in terms of hitting style and build (especially if you don’t love his plate discipline outlook): former National and current Mariner Michael Morse. I think Morse represents a fairly realistic baseline for Wilson, if/when Wilson makes it as a big league regular.

Wilson’s teammate, Brian Ragira, is a hard player to figure defensively. As great as Ragira is at first base, his offensive profile fits much, much nicer in right field. I think he has the athleticism for it, but the emergence of Dominic Smith, first base defensive whiz at the high school level, has me reconsidering my view a bit. See, Smith is such an excellent glove at first that I wouldn’t want to move him off the position even if I thought he could become an average or better glove (I do think this, by the way) in an outfield corner. If Ragira can offer the same defensive upside at first base — and many think his glove at first is on par with Smith’s for best overall in the class — then maybe you keep him there, reap the defensive rewards, and pray that the bat can at least become average or even slightly below-average for the position in time. I’d still roll the dice on him in right field — he was an excellent defender in CF as a high schooler, if memory serves — and wait out his plus raw power, mature approach (which I could see really taking a leap forward in BB/K results this year), and quick bat developing over time.

The two UCLA prospects are exactly that: prospects. If the high ranking seems unusually aggressive, then, well, it probably is. Eric Filia-Snyder has all of 53 college at bats to his name. Brenton Allen has 24 total at bats in two post-high school years. A lot of faith is being put in Filia-Snyder’s advanced hit tool and Allen’s raw speed/power combination, doubly so when you combine the lack of experience with the unfortunate truth that both guys have below-average arms that will likely limit them to LF professionally. Jason Monda remains too aggressive for his own good at the plate, but flashes enough speed, arm, power, and athleticism to remain interesting. Johnny Field is totally different: his physical tools are all underwhelming, but he can roll out of bed ready to hit line drives. If he can play 2B, as some believe, he could be a fast riser this spring.

Where things get really interesting is the next tier down. The Pac-12 is absolutely loaded with plus running athletes up and down the league. With most of these guys you’re trading some degree of refinement and experience for said speed and athleticism, but if you gamble and wind up taking the right one, you’ll be sitting pretty.  Sparks, Mendenhall, Anderson, and Hofmann all have the sheer physical skills to rank third behind only the two Stanford standouts in terms of ceiling.  Sparks showed well in limited chances last year, and has the best raw power of the bunch. Mendenhall remains intriguing because of the relative low price tag the senior sign figures to jump at, not to mention his higher than usual ceiling for a fourth year player. Anderson is the best runner of the group and Hofmann, the rawest of the four, offers the widest range of current tools (arm, speed, hit, range). Then there’s Omar Cotto Lozada, a player described in my notes as “if Usain bolt played baseball.” I think that comparison is probably more true than even Cotto Lozada would like: you love the plus-plus-plus speed he brings, but his current skill level at the plate is closer to what you’d expect from a real deal non-baseball player like Bolt. Greg Zebrack doesn’t fit this speed/athleticism mold — his game is more power, smarts, and approach — but he’s a fun story to watch (started at USC, then went to Penn, where I saw him, and now back at USC for grad school) as a potential late-round senior sign.

SP

  • Stanford JR RHP Mark Appel
  • Oregon rJR LHP Christian Jones
  • UCLA JR RHP Adam Plutko
  • Stanford JR RHP AJ Vanegas
  • UCLA JR RHP Zack Weiss
  • UCLA JR RHP Nick Vander Tuig
  • Arizona State JR RHP Trevor Williams
  • Oregon JR RHP Jimmie Sherfy
  • Oregon State JR RHP Dan Child
  • Oregon rSO RHP Clayton Crum
  • Arizona JR RHP Konner Wade
  • Oregon State SR LHP Matt Boyd
  • Washington SR RHP Josh Fredendall
  • Oregon State JR LHP Ben Wetzler 
  • Oregon State SR RHP Cole Brocker 
  • Oregon State SR RHP Tony Bryant 
  • California JR LHP Mike Theofanopoulos
  • Oregon JR RHP Brando Tessar
  • Utah SR RHP Zach Adams
  • Arizona State SR RHP Alex Blackford
  • California SR LHP Justin Jones
  • Washington State JR RHP JD Leckenby
  • Oregon rJR RHP Jeff Gold
  • Washington rJR RHP Nick Palewicz 
  • Washington JR RHP Austin Voth
  • Oregon State rSR RHP Taylor Starr
  • Arizona SR RHP Tyler Hale
  • Arizona JR RHP James Farris
  • Oregon State JR RHP Scott Schultz
  • Stanford rJR LHP Garrett Hughes
  • California rSO RHP Dylan Nelson
  • UCLA rJR RHP Ryan Deeter
  • Arizona SR RHP Nick Cunningham
  • California rJR RHP Seth Spivack
  • Utah JR RHP Ben Mordini 
  • California JR LHP Kyle Porter
  • Washington JR RHP Tyler Kane
  • Stanford SR RHP Dean McArdle 
  • Southern California JR LHP Kyle Richter
  • Washington JR RHP Trevor Dunlap
  • Oregon State JR RHP Clay Bauer
  • Oregon State rSO LHP Tyler Painton
  • California SR RHP Ryan Wertenberger 
  • Southern California JR RHP James Guillen
  • Arizona State SR LHP Matt Dunbar
  • Washington JR RHP Jeff Brigham
  • Southern California SR RHP Matt Munson
  • Arizona SR LHP Vince Littleman
  • Utah SR RHP Brock Duke
  • Utah SR RHP Joe Pond 
  • California SR RHP Logan Scott
  • Utah SR RHP Chase Rezac
  • Southern California JR LHP Bobby Wheatley
  • Washington State JR RHP Kellen Camus
  • Washington JR RHP Zach Wright
  • Washington State rSO RHP Scott Simon
  • Utah JR LHP Tanner Banks
  • Stanford SR RHP Sahil Bloom

Here’s what we said about Appel last June, no reason to switch it up now (updated only to indicate change in year and height/weight):

Stanford SR RHP Mark Appel: sits 93-97 with four-seamer, hitting 99; holds velocity late: still at 94-95 in ninth innings; all FBs typically between 90-95; 88-92 two-seam FB with excellent sink; excellent FB command, but gets in trouble with too many hitter’s strikes – almost a little bit of a great control vs. good command situation; FB also gets in trouble at higher velocity when it flattens out and comes in too straight, especially when he forgets about two-seamer; sat consistently 96-98 with FB in summer 2011; easiest high velocity arm in class by a wide margin; rarely dips below 92; opening start 2012: 91-95 FB, 97 peak; above-average 82-84 SL that remains inconsistent; low-80s CU; for me, he’s at his best when he is 92-94 with plus sink and throwing lots of SL, sometimes gets too dependent on FB and overthrows it causing him to miss up in the zone; as the spring moved on, his SL improved considerably, though it lacks the sharpness and break of a true SL (it is more of a hybrid-breaking ball at this point) – now it is a more consistent, though still not reliable, 82-85 pitch with plus upside that can reach even higher (86-87 when he rears back); 80-85 circle CU with very good sink is currently an average big league pitch with plus upside – it is currently his best swing and miss pitch and my favorite of his offspeed offerings; can get in trouble showing too much of the ball in his delivery; no denying his raw stuff – taken individually, each pitch grades out as above-average to plus down the line, but the inability to throw all three pitches for strikes on any given day continues to be his downfall; downfall is, of course, relative – he still has the upside to be a frontline starter with the realistic floor of big league innings eater; 6-5, 215 pounds

He’s good. The gap between Appel and the next best pitching prospect in the conference is immense. That’s not to say there aren’t other high upside arms to be found — a quick glance at the UCLA roster disproves this notion in a hurry — but rather demonstrates the wonderful high ceiling/high floor projection that Appel carries with him. The aforementioned UCLA staff is so deep that my favorite pro arm can’t currently crack the weekend rotation. Zack Weiss has had an up and down career for the Bruins thus far, but possesses the three above-average pitches (FB/CB/SL) that could help him take off once given a more consistent opportunity.  Adam Plutko and Nick Vander Tuig, in line to start Friday and Saturday respectively this spring, are no prospect slouches in their own right. Plutko doesn’t blow his fastball by hitters, but the pitch still grades out as a consistent plus offering thanks to pinpoint command and exceptional late movement.  He’ll also flash a plus low-70s curve and work in solid but unspectacular changeups and sliders. I’m pretty sure just reviewing my notes and typing this out has convinced me to swap the two guys on my list. Just goes to show how important the fastball extras (command and movement) can be, especially when joined with beautiful, consistent mechanics. Vanegas, recently shut down due to injury, has back of the bullpen stuff that should help him take a huge step up in 2013, if his health allows it. The previously mentioned Vander Tuig and Trevor Williams feel like kindred spirits from a scouting perspective:  underwhelming performances, but optimism going forward thanks to fastballs with good sink, changeups that flash plus, and occasionally impressive breaking stuff. Lost in this discussion thus far is the man ranked one spot below Appel, Christian Jones. If Jones returns to even 80% of his pre-injury form before draft day, a team would be wise taking a chance on him early on. Jimmy Sherfy will be an interesting draft day case in that his numbers are second to none (14.38 K/9 in 2012) while his stuff is far more good than dominant. Dan Child fits the power-armed relief ace role more easily with a more consistently hot fastball and intimidating size (6-5, 225 pounds to Sherfy’s 6-0, 180), but hasn’t had quite the same kind of oppressive strikeout totals to date.

The overall depth of this year’s group of Pac-12 arms is quite impressive. I’m stuck wanting to talk about just about every name listed. For the sake of brevity I’ll just highlight a few interesting cases. Guys who stand out to me at this moment include Konner Wade (so well-rounded, plus sinking fastball), Matt Boyd (lefty, deep arsenal, good deception, very smart), Josh Fredenhall (everything down in zone, always), Zach Adams (inconsistent velocity, more inconsistent control, but electric when everything is working), JD Leckenby (underwhelming numbers but good stuff and excellent competitor), Taylor Starr (been in school for what seems like a decade, has endured multiple health challenges but shown good stuff when right), and Ben Mordini (one of the few players with an element of his game so bad I’d use the adjective “horrible” [control] but still flashes good stuff and can strike batters out). I feel bad leaving so many deserving pitchers without comments, so feel free to drop me a line via email or in the comments if there’s anything else that you’d like to see unearthed. One last name because I can’t help myself: Austin Voth (think I may be badly underrating him, but he throws strikes and has really good feel for his offspeed stuff, especially the change).

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2 Comments

  1. Joann Bryant says:

    What about Tony Bryant?

    • Rob Ozga says:

      Big fan of Tony Bryant, he’s definitely a draft-worthy talent. Love his changeup. Look for him on the soon to be updated pitching prospect list. Best of luck on draft day(s)!

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