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College Pitching, Bryce Harper, and Scheduling

The Week Ahead

GO/AO College Data Update
2010 MLB Draft: Top 30 College Third Base Prospects
2010 MLB Draft: Top 100 College Outfield Prospects
2010 MLB Draft: College Position Player Big Board
Reader Suggestion?…

I’m really excited about the college third baseman list, so that’ll probably be the first thing published. I’d like to start rolling out the college pitching lists, but that may be something that won’t be ready to see the light of day until next week. Also coming next week will be a whole slew of high school position lists. As they get wrapped up in the next two weeks, so will updated big boards and expanded mock drafts. Two weeks and counting until draft day…

Bryce Harper

There are no words left to appropriately describe what Bryce Harper has done so far in 2010, but, with the help of a good thesaurus, I’ve managed to come up with a handful of words that at least begin to approach his insanely high level of play: Astonishing, Inconceivable, Outlandish, Staggering, Unimaginable, Prodigious, Stunning. This past weekend Harper was positively phantasmagorical in leading his Coyotes to the Junior College World Series. In admittedly ideal hitting conditions, Harper managed to overshadow a 6-7 performance (highlighted by everybody’s favorite statistical oddity, the cycle) on Friday with a 6-6, 4 homer day on Saturday. With Harper more of a lock than ever to go number one overall to Washington, we’re left with precious little top of the draft drama to chat about between now and the big day. Thankfully, there are plenty of other Harper related topics to consider between now and August 17th. These include, but are certainly not limited to, the following: 1) Harper’s potential signing bonus, 2) Harper’s minor league timeline, 3) Harper’s ultimate big league upside with the bat, 4) Harper’s long-term big league defensive position. Looking forward to delving into each and every one of these topics in depth in the weeks to come.

A quick look at the weekend in college baseball prospect pitching. The groupings for each set of pitchers was done really quickly, so don’t read too much into the particular designations if you disagree with them. If you agree, however, then it was most definitely by design; feel free to praise my genius if this is the case.

Friday

Second Tier 2010 Arms

Seth Blair: 7 IP 8 H 4 ER 2 BB 9 K (W-L is overrated, no doubt, but I can’t not point out that the guy is now 10-0 after getting the win against Oregon State)
Sam Dyson: 6.2 IP 5 H 4 ER 1 BB 7 K
Barret Loux: 5.2 IP 6 H 6 ER 5 BB 8 K
Kyle Blair: 7 IP 6 H 5 ER 0 BB 8 K

Third Tier 2010 Arms

Colin Bates: 6 IP 3 H 0 ER 0 BB 7 K
Austin Ross: 7 IP 4 H 3 ER 0 BB 8 K
Robert Morey: 7 IP 3 H 1 ER 4 BB 5 K
Chris Hernandez: 5.2 IP 5 H 1 ER 5 BB 9 K

Relievers

Chance Ruffin: 2 IP 1 H 0 ER 0 BB 6 K
Kevin Arico: 1 IP 1 H 0 ER 0 BB 1 K
Dan Klein: 1.2 IP 3 H 2 ER 0 BB 0 K (W-L is overrated, no doubt, as Klein’s iffy outing resulted in what is categorized as a “win”)
Brett Eibner: 1 IP 2 H 2 ER 0 BB 2 K (Saves are overrated, no doubt, as Eibner’s iffy outing resulted in what is categorized as a “save”)
Chris Manno: 3 IP 1 H 0 ER 1 BB 6 K

2011/2012 Names to Remember

Taylor Jungmann: 7 IP 9 H 2 ER 1 BB 9 K
Gerrit Cole: 7.1 IP 9 H 5 ER 2 BB 7 K
Brett Mooneyham: 7.2 IP 8 H 1 ER 2 BB 4 K
Kurt Heyer: 7 IP 8 H 3 ER 1 BB 7 K
John Stilson: 3.1 IP 5 H 0 ER 1 BB 5 K

Saturday

First Tier 2010 Arms

Jesse Hahn: 4.1 IP 9 H 5 ER 1 BB 4 K
Anthony Ranaudo: 1 IP 0 H 0 ER 0 BB 1 K
Sammy Solis: 6 IP 4 H 2 ER 1 BB 4 K
Alex Wimmers: 6 IP 5 H 1 ER 3 BB 8 K

Second Tier 2010 Arms

Cole Green: 5.2 IP 8 H 4 ER 1 BB 3 K
John Gast: 2.2 IP 4 H 6 ER 3 BB 3 K
Dixon Anderson: 7.1 IP 6 H 5 ER 5 BB 4 K
Cole Cook: 9 IP 8 H 3 ER 3 BB 4 K
Bryan Morgado: 0.2 IP 3 H 5 ER 3 BB 1 K
Logan Darnell: 3 IP 9 H 2 ER 0 BB 2 K

Relievers

Chance Ruffin: 1.2 IP 0 H 0 ER 0 BB 2 K
Kevin Arico: 1.1 IP 3 H 0 ER 0 BB 1 K

2011/2012 Names to Remember

Danny Hultzen: 5 IP 4 H 2 ER 5 BB 7 K
Trevor Bauer: 7 IP 8 H 2 ER 1 BB 7 K
Jack Armstong: 2.1 IP 5 H 4 ER 2 BB 3 K
Taylor Rogers: 4 IP 6 H 4 ER 3 BB 1 K
Ryan Carpenter: 6 IP 6 H 2 ER 2 BB 2 K

Sunday

First Tier 2010 Arms

Brandon Workman: 6 IP 5 H 4 ER 2 BB 5 K

Second Tier 2010 Arms

Rob Rasmussen: 6.2 IP 2 H 1 ER 2 BB 6 K

Relievers

John Stilson: 1 IP 0 H 0 ER 0 BB 2 K

2011/2012 Names to Remember

Dylan Floro: 6 IP 12 H 5 ER 1 BB 8 K

2010 MLB Mock Draft 2.0

Photo Credit: Ball State Athletics

1.1 Washington Nationals: CC of Southern Nevada FR C Bryce Harper
1.2 Pittsburgh Pirates: The Woodlands HS (Texas) RHP Jameson Taillon
1.3 Baltimore Orioles: Brito Private HS (Florida) SS Manny Machado
1.4 Kansas City Royals: Mississippi JR LHP Drew Pomeranz
1.5 Cleveland Indians: Ball State JR 2B Kolbrin Vitek
1.6 Arizona Diamondbacks: Florida Gulf Coast JR LHP Chris Sale
1.7 New York Mets: Chipley HS (Florida) RHP Karsten Whitson
1.8 Houston Astros: UT-Arlington JR OF Michael Choice
1.9 San Diego Padres: Georgia Tech JR RHP Deck McGuire
1.10 Oakland Athletics: Harvard Westlake HS (California) Austin Wilson
1.11 Toronto Blue Jays: Oviedo HS (Florida) RHP AJ Cole
1.12 Cincinnati Reds: Arkansas SO 3B Zack Cox
1.13 Chicago White Sox: Texas JR RHP Brandon Workman
1.14 Milwaukee Brewers: Bishop Blanchett HS (Washington) OF Josh Sale
1.15 Texas Rangers: East Coweta HS (Georgia) Cam Bedrosian
1.16 Chicago Cubs: Louisiana State JR RHP Anthony Ranaudo
1.17 Tampa Bay Rays: Miami JR C Yasmani Grandal
1.18 Los Angeles Angels: Archbishop McCarthy HS (Florida) 3B Nick Castellanos
1.19 Houston Astros: Tattnall Square Academy (Georgia) RHP DeAndre Smelter
1.20 Boston Red Sox: Cowan HS (Indiana) SS/C Justin O’Conner
1.21 Minnesota Twins: Cal State Fullerton JR SS Christian Colon
1.22 Texas Rangers: Kentucky/Grand Prairie AirHogs LHP James Paxton
1.23 Florida Marlins: Maranatha  HS (California) RHP Dylan Covey
1.24 San Francisco Giants: Middle Tennessee State JR OF Bryce Brentz
1.25 St. Louis Cardinals: North Carolina JR RHP Matt Harvey
1.26 Colorado Rockies: Dana Hills HS (California) RHP Peter Tago
1.27 Philadelphia Phillies: Lakeland HS (Florida) 3B Yordy Cabrera
1.28 Los Angeles Dodgers: Grandview HS (Colorado) RHP Kevin Gausman
1.29 Los Angeles Angels: Virginia Tech JR RHP Jesse Hahn
1.30 Los Angeles Angels: San Diego SO LHP Sammy Solis
1.31 Tampa Bay Rays: St Edward HS (Ohio) RHP Stetson Allie
1.32 New York Yankees: Cook County HS (Georgia) RHP/3B Kaleb Cowart

There will be full commentary added as the day goes along, but for now check out comments on the top ten after the jump…

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2010 MLB Draft: Top 30 College Catching Prospects

30. Pittsburgh JR C Kevan Smith

The former Panthers quarterback is a plus athlete with a strong arm who is still understandably raw in some phases of the game. He was a highly regarded prospect coming out of high school who was at one point seen as a potential top five round pick, but was downgraded because of his strong commitment to the gridiron. There’s already some speculation that he’ll stick around for his senior year to further showcase his skills.

29. Louisville SR C Jeff Arnold

Arnold is good enough defensively to stick behind the plate, but his above-average speed could tempt a pro team into moving him off the position into a super-sub role. He’s always had a keen batting eye and a solid hit tool, but the lack of power should limit him to backup work going forward.

28. New Mexico JR C Rafael Neda

Neda’s strong statistical profile syncs up well with the increasingly positive scouting reports thrown his way this spring. He came into the year with a solid defensive reputation and above-average power to the gaps, but now has some scouts thinking he could grow into a decent regular with double digit homerun totals.

27. Texas Tech JR C Jeremy Mayo

Reminds me a lot of Jeff Arnold in that both players are above-average runners with solid gloves, but Mayo’s edge in power makes him the better prospect.

26. Ohio State JR C Dan Burkhart

Despite being a legitimate pro prospect in his own right, his biggest claim to fame may be convincing best friend and potential first rounder Alex Wimmers to join him for three years in Columbus. Burkhart is yet another good defensive catcher with a good batting eye and a questionable power ceiling. His scouting reports and his numbers come very close to Kevan Smith’s, but Burkhart’s higher probability of contributing gives him the edge over Smith’s higher upside. Burkhart also receives high marks for being one of the few catchers in the college game trusted to call his own pitches.

25. Rice SR C Diego Seastrunk

I haven’t seen or heard this comp elsewhere, so take it for what it’s worth (not much), but Seastrunk’s scouting profile and video remind me of a lesser version of Ryan Doumit. That’s high praise. Seastrunk is the kind of player who’s overall package exceeds the sum of his parts. Of course, it’s not exactly like his parts are all that shabby. I love, love, love the way Seastrunk has transitioned to the role of full-time catcher this spring. Seastrunk’s combination of an above-average arm, gap power, and plus makeup (he’s a tireless worker and a great team player) has me believing his tools will play as a professional. He isn’t a natural behind the plate, but the instincts I’ve seen from him in going down to get balls in the dirt lead me to believe he’ll be an above-average defender before long. I eventually can see Seastrunk filling a supersub role (not unlike Doumit before he broke out).

The majority of catchers at this point in the ranking fall into one of three categories: 1) high ceiling, low floor (could be a starting catcher with all the right breaks, but doesn’t have the customary skill set big league clubs like in backup catchers), 2) low ceiling, high floor(ready-made big league backup skill set, especially defensively, but without the offensive upside to start) , 3) supersub upside (capable of contributing at first, third, and/or the outfield corners). Seastrunk has a throwing arm that flashes plus (great raw strength, improving pop times), gap power (notice this commonality among the back half of the top 30?), and good patience at the plate. He also has experience at all of the supersub positions listed above. He may never be a big league starting catcher, nor may he be a primary backup, but his versatility should be a boon for whatever pro team takes the chance on him.

24. Oklahoma State JR C Kevin David

On paper, David is a top ten college catching prospect, but his results through three years at Oklahoma State have been more good than great. There’s not much to quibble with when it comes to his excellent athleticism, strong throwing arm, and above-average glove, but all of that untapped potential needs to turn into production before long. His relatively low placement on the list — it’s possible he goes somewhere between round 5-10 — is more about the players ahead of him than anything else; if that’s a cop-out, so be it.

23. Embry-Riddle SR C Austin Goolsby

Besides having a fun name to say, Austin Goolsby is an intriguing NAIA catching prospect with elite defensive potential, good pro size, and power to the gaps. His skills as an economist, however, are at this point unknown.

22. Southern Illinois SR C Tyler Bullock

Bullock possesses the best present power of any player in the bottom half of the top thirty, no real shock when you consider his classic big bopper (6-4, 275) build. He’s a lesser version of one of my 2009 favorites, Purdue’s Dan Black, another large man with prodigious power potential. Like Black, Bullock’s defense is passable and his arm strength is above-average. Like Black, Bullock’s professional future is that of a versatile backup catcher capable of filling in at first base (Bullock and Black) and/or third base (Black only).

21. Western Kentucky JR C Matt Rice

Average hit tool, slightly above-average power, solid defender = mid-round pick with big league backup upside.

20. Georgia Tech JR C Cole Leonida

As one of the spring’s fastest rising prospects, Cole Leonida does a lot of little things very well. His defense around the plate is a strength, and his power potential is second only to Tyler Bullock’s here on the latter half of the top thirty. Leonida’s impressive throwing arm, while at least big league average in strength and above-average in accuracy, could really stand to benefit from some mechanical adjustments to help with his release point. With good coaching that big league average arm could easily become consistently above-average. As a hitter he’ll probably never hit at or near .300 professionally, but his raw power could translate into double digit homeruns if given enough playing time.

19. Virginia JR C Kenny Swab

Here’s what was said here about Mr. Swab back before the season started:

He’s got a live bat with above-average power potential, but it’ll take some serious lineup juggling from Brian O’Connor to get him the at bats he’ll need to boost his draft stock. As is, Swab is a potential 10-20th round player based on upside alone.

Not a bad preseason prediction on a fairly unheralded junior college transfer, right? In the at bats Swab’s earned this year, he’s impressed. Good power, good patience, good defender, good arm, and good positional versatility. He’s not a star by any means, but he’s a good player. That sounds pretty good to me.

18. Missouri JR C Brett Nicholas

Similar to Swab in that both are junior college transfers with solid hit tools capable of playing a variety of positions, but Nicholas’ greater power potential and more intriguing secondary position (Nicholas is at least passable on the hot corner) gives him the advantage.

17. Arizona State JR C Xorge Carrillo

Carrillo’s placement this high is largely speculative, but, hey, isn’t that really what a list like this is all about? Carrillo has missed almost all of the season with a bum forearm, but when healthy showed off impressive power to all fields and much improved athleticism behind the plate. That last reason is why I’m comfortable keeping the twice drafted Carrillo this high on the list despite the injury. The improvements in his body and subsequent uptick in footwork behind the plate indicate a dedication to getting better that makes me think his injury is just a minor blip on his path towards getting drafted a third time.

16. Lewis-Clark State JR C Kawika Emsley-Pai

Emsley-Pai’s injury history, most notably a stress fracture of his L5 veterbra that occurred in high school, could keep some teams away, but as a switch-hitter with patience and really good defensive tools he should get plenty of looks this June. Recent back tightness is a bit of a red flag, but, again, if his medicals check out then the former Longhorn will finally get his chance in pro ball.

15. North Carolina State JR C Chris Schaeffer

Good defensively? Check. Above-average power production? Check. Mature approach at the plate? Check. There really aren’t a lot of obvious chinks in Schaeffer’s prospect armor, especially when stacked up against his draft-eligible college catching competition. Biggest knock on Schaeffer that I’ve heard revolves around his swing. His experience with wood in the past hasn’t inspired a great deal of confidence that his power is more than an aluminum bat mirage. Even if we adjust for a loss of power, Schaeffer’s other aforementioned skills make him an attractive mid-round candidate as a developmental backup catcher type.

14. North Carolina JR C Jesse Wierzbicki

Wierzbicki’s tools grade out as solid across the board, especially if you’re like me and willing to grade a catcher’s running speed on a curve. I tend to think of backup catchers falling into one of three general archetypes. The first group of backups are the sluggers (big raw power, capable of popping an extra base hit or two in that one start a week), the second are the defensive aces (nothing mesmerizes big league coaching staffs more than a catching with a plus arm), and the third are the players that do everything pretty well, but nothing great. Wierzbicki falls squarely in with that last category of player. He’s known for having power to the gaps, a consistent line drive generating swing, and a solid arm. He’s also a tireless worker who knows his own athletic limitations, two of those tricky intangible qualities that either mean a lot to a team or nothing at all.

13. Santa Clara SR C Tommy Medica

Medica was profiled last year:

Tommy Medica brings tons of experience with 92 starts behind plate in his first two years at Santa Clara. He offers up good size (6-1 215), gap power, a very fine throwing arm, above-average athleticism (he’s played a decent LF in the past), and a classic sounding baseball player name, but he hasn’t seen live action since leaving a game with what has been since diagnosed  as a separated shoulder on March 7th. That makes Medica a unique prospect to evaluate – what do we make of a solid mid-round catcher considered by many to have untapped potential with the bat (good!) who is on the mend rehabbing a pretty serious injury (bad!)?

He doesn’t necessarily have a standout tool (though his arm is darn good), but he also doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. I think I remember coming to the conclusion that catchers who are billed as solid players unspectacular in any one area tend to disappoint, yet I still can’t help but like Medica’s game. I need to fight that like and go with what my hastily thrown together research told me – Medica fits the profile of a player who faces a long climb towards attaining the ultimate goal of making himself a useful big leaguer.

He’s healthy this year and producing at about the level expected of his tools. The outfield experiment hasn’t gone quite as well as it has in the past, but the positional versatility still helps his stock. Teams that were in on him last year before the injury should probably be after him in the mid-rounds once again in 2010.

12. TCU SR C Bryan Holaday

Off the charts leadership, plus raw strength, excellent gap power, elite defender, and a plus arm. That description immediately makes me think of the guy ranked number four on this list. Quick conclusion: Bryan Holaday is about 90% of the player Micah Gibbs is with only about 9% of the hype. Of course, their respective placement on the list makes me guilty of overlooking Holaday as well. He’s a relatively safe investment in the mid-rounds for a team in need of a high floor backup with the upside of a solid second division starting player.

11. Coastal Carolina SR C Jose Iglesias

Iglesias started 2009 with as much helium as any college catcher in the country. I remembered talking to a scout really early in the season about Iglesias. He told me that from a body/tools/projection standpoint, Iglesias was as good a bet as any college catcher in the country, Tony Sanchez included. His junior season (.306/.381/.570) was a letdown for many, but only because of the tremendous expectations placed on his head during the winter. His numbers in 2010 are better across the board, and his skills, especially his batting eye and power potential, remain strong. As much as any catcher on the list so far, Iglesias has what it takes to be a big league starter behind the plate.

10. Tennessee JR C Blake Forsythe

As one of my favorite players in the country heading in the year, Forsythe, no doubt already feeling the heat as a key bat on a top SEC school expected to compete in 2010, had the added pressure of keeping this faceless internet stranger happy with a big season at and behind the plate. He’s responded with a season reminiscent of Jose Iglesias’s 2009 – good, but certainly not top five round worthy like many had hoped. Like Iglesias, it may be in his best interest to return for a senior season to rehabilitate his slipping draft stock. As it stands, his stock isn’t completely down the tubes; legit power potential and super plate discipline will get a guy chances, down year or not. I also think he’s a better athlete and runner than he often gets credit for, but those skills aren’t going to be what gets him paid. If he hits like expected, he’s a big leaguer.

9. Vanderbilt JR C Curt Casali

Casali has an almost perfect big league body, incredible athleticism for a catcher, and great physical strength. That’s all well and good (and I don’t say that derisively, it really is both well and good), but can he play baseball? Well, he’s an above-average defender who has caught a wide array of pitchers while at Vanderbilt, and his throwing arm has made a slow, but steady recovery from Tommy John surgery. His bat has some serious juice (near-plus power may be the tool that comes most naturally to him) and his patient approach makes him a legit candidate to play every day professionally.

8. Texas JR C Cameron Rupp

Now we’re finally getting to some college catching prospects with legit plus tools. In Rupp’s case, it’s plus raw power and a plus throwing arm. The raw power is hard to argue with, though there is some concern it’s more of a pure physical strength power rather than quick wrists and a classic swing kind of power. Rupp’s arm strength has been called above-average in some places, but, for me, his arm becomes a plus tool when you combine that above-average throwing power with his incredibly precise throwing accuracy. Arm and power, check. As for the other three tools, well, that’s more of a mixed bag. His running speed is well below-average and his long swing has enough holes against breaking pitches to keep him from ever having anything more than a league average bat. His defense, however, gives him a third above-average tool, especially his surprisingly nimble lateral movement behind the plate.

7. UNC Wilmington JR C Cody Stanley

Stanley gets the edge over Rupp due to better athleticism, but, really, the two are similar prospects in many respects. Both have plus power potential, both have plus throwing arms (Stanley’s isn’t as strong, but better footwork and a quicker release helps narrow the gap), and both profile as solid big league defenders behind the plate. Pretty similar, right? So what exactly gives Stanley the advantage as a prospect? Well, we’ve already covered Stanley’s superior athleticism, but the UNC Wilmington catcher also bests his Texas counterpart in baserunning (Stanley has great instincts and is an average runner for a catcher) and track record with a wood bat (Stanley killed it on the Cape this past summer). Stanley over Rupp by a hair; the proof is in the parentheses.

6. UC Riverside SO C Rob Brantly

Originally my favorite four-year college in the 2010 class, Brantly’s sophomore season hasn’t really done too much to hurt his stock, but has nonetheless seen his spot in the rankings slip as other college guys have simply done more. The one and only time (maye) I’ll lift something directly from the always wonderful Baseball America comes now:

[Redacted] has a strong, compact swing and the ability to make consistent, hard contact to all fields. He has a mature, patient offensive approach, excellent pitch recognition and advanced strike-zone awareness. He has above-average power to the pull side and also good power the other way.

That could very easily be written about Rob Brantly, but it was actually the most recent scouting report on Washington’s Derek Norris. The comparison isn’t perfect, but I think it works as a general outline – big bat, professional strike-zone awareness, solid defensive tools, but not yet a reliable backstop. Norris was a fourth round steal out of high school in 2007; Brantly could be the college equivalent, in round and value, here in 2010.

5. Villanova SO C Matt Szczur

I can’t really defend the last two biases on the list, but the first three are things that I know I’m not alone in looking out for. Szczur’s scouting credentials include the following: really impressive hit tool, good speed (not just good for a catcher, either), plus arm, plus athleticism, rapidly emerging power, championship pedigree, worthwhile positional versatility (3B and corner OF collegiate experience, above-average at all three spots), and, as a long-time two-sport star conditioned to split his training two ways since junior high, vast untapped potential on the diamond. I won’t profess to know Szczur’s ultimate upside as a ballplayer, but I have a hard time watching him play and seeing anything but a young man on the cusp of a long big league career. These rankings have been more or less surprise free to this point, but Szczur’s high placement is something I’m willing to roll the dice on.

4. Louisiana State JR C Micah Gibbs

Previously on Micah Gibbs

JR C Micah Gibbs (2010) is currently a potential late first round pick who, even with a subpar junior season, still ought to hear his name called in the first three rounds of the 2010 Draft. Offensively he is more solid than spectacular, though his plate discipline (career 69/76 BB/K ratio) is a skill worth getting somewhat excited about. Scouts have long pegged him as a player with big raw power, especially from the left side, but in two years at LSU he hasn’t been able to show off that batting practice thunder in game situations. Gibbs’ leadership is praised far and wide and his defense is beyond reproach, so expect Gibbs to get a ton of ink as one the chosen players MLB decides to “talk up” with positive press heading into the June draft.

Next week on Micah Gibbs

Unfunny joke aside, not much has really changed from Gibbs’ preseason outlook to now. Only the emergence of his in-game power qualifies, and even that’s a stretch when you consider said emergence was predicted by many heading into the year. Gibbs’ defensive skills make him a solid bet to reach the big leagues in some capacity. His power/speed combination makes him a pretty good bet to reach the big leagues ready to start and put up league average or better numbers for the position. In other words, Gibbs is a relatively safe player with a high floor worth betting on having some semblance of a successful big league career.

3. Minnesota JR C Mike Kvasnicka

I try my best to balance reading as much as possible about the draft as I can while also not allowing any one publication’s rankings influence my own. Kvasnicka at third overall on the list of top college catchers seemed so clever before checking one of the big boys’ lists (ESPN, I think) and seeing Kvasnicka up at the top as well. Oh well, clever doesn’t really suit me all that well anyway. Kvasnicka’s spot near the top is incredibly well deserved. Here’s what was said about him in the preseason:

JR OF/C Mike Kvasnicka (2010) possesses one of the longest swings of any major prospect in the 2010 draft. This is a good thing when he makes contact (I’ve heard both the thwack! of the bat in the Northwoods League and the ping! at Minnesota, both very impressive), but a very bad thing when up against pitchers with effective offspeed stuff. Kvasnicka has struck out 103 times in 438 college at bats. Any regular reader knows that I’m firmly entrenched in the strikeouts are no worse than any other kind of out camp, but that only really applies to big leaguers. There is something to be said for high-K rates being an indicator of poor contact abilities for minor leaguers and amateurs.  If I was told I’d be drafting the current iteration of Kvasnicka, then I’m not sure I’d be too happy selecting a hitter who I won’t think will make enough contact to be a regular. Luckily, nobody is drafting the February version of any potential draft pick. Any team drafting Kvasnicka isn’t getting the Kvasnicka of February, 2010; they’ll get the player he will be someday down the line. Given the fact that Kvasnicka is a plus athlete with a well-rounded toolset (good speed, decent arm, plus raw power), there should be plenty of teams interested to see if he can figure it all out professionally, long swing and strikeouts be damned. His draft stock (already pretty solid – round 4-7 is my current guess) gets a bump if teams buy into his defensive abilities behind the plate.

To recap: February Kvasnicka, the free swinging outfielder with the long swing, was an intriguing draft prospect, but May Kvasnicka, the catcher with the revamped swing and more mature approach, is a potential big league star. Again, all the positives from the preseason remain; his speed, arm, and power will all work at the big league level. That’s the good news. The better news is the way Kvasnicka has worked to improve across the board this spring. The swing itself is so much better than the last time I saw it. Equally important, however, is the process that went into correcting his long, loopy swing in the first place. The realization of the existence of a correctable problem, implementation of a plan to fix said problem, and successful execution through hard work and practice is exactly what teams are looking for. Remember, most amateur players that are drafted high aren’t prospects that came out of nowhere; these guys have been on the radar for years. Teams spend a lot of time, money, and energy trying to figure out which players in the draft pool have what it takes to successfully adjust their game over time. Kvasnicka’s phenomenal transformation from intriguing draft prospect to potential big league star ought to give big league scouting staffs all over the country confidence that he is one of those players capable of constantly working to improve his game.

2. Miami JR C Yasmani Grandal

From my notes on Grandal: “big lefty power, but with from right side.” If anybody can explain what the heck I was trying to say there, I’d love to know. The part that’s easy to decipher is the “big lefty power” part; the data from College Splits via Jonathan Mayo backs that scouting idea up with empirical evidence: “The left-handed hitting backstop has feasted off of righties to the tune of .485/.592/.897. Southpaws have been a little more challenging: .328/.488/.508.” Can you use a semicolon and a colon in the same sentence? Darned if I know, but I just did. You know who might know? Yasmani Grandal. Why? Well, the guy is on such a roll in 2010 that there’s no reason to put anything past him at this point. Plus lefty power, hit tool with league average potential, above-average throwing arm, and defense that won’t hurt you (the accomplished salsa dancer has shown off some really fancy footwork behind the dish this year) combine to give you a prospect with four potential big league average minimum tools. Sure, there are some things that need to be cleaned up (swing can get long, inconsistent release point on throws to second, etc.) once he gets going in pro ball, but Grandal very clearly has what it takes to be an above-average big league starting catcher from a tools/production standpoint.

1. Community College of Southern Nevada FR C Bryce Harper

.417/.509/.917. With wood. At 17 years old. Even BB/K ratio. 42 extra base hits. No discernable platoon split. I’m only now starting to come around to the idea that moving him off of catcher may give him the best chance to unlock all of the professional potential he has with the bat, but, man, I really do love his defensive tools behind the plate. That’s honestly my biggest question with him right now – will he wind up a great hitting catcher or a really great hitting right fielder? With that as the biggest question about his future, there’s no wonder he’s atop this particular list. Bryce Harper is good.

Bryce Harper – The Importance of Makeup

There have been whispers out of Las Vegas for months now that presumptive first overall pick Bryce Harper’s, shall we say, “intensively competitive” and “self-assured” manner wasn’t playing all that well with the scouts assigned to watch his every step. This past week, however, those whispers grew just a teensy bit louder after Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus dropped the following in a piece about the lingering questions some talent evaluators still have about Harper’s lock on the top overall spot in the draft:

The Makeup: This should not be underrated. It’s impossible to find any talent evaluator who isn’t blown away by Harper’s ability on the field, but it’s equally difficult to find one who doesn’t genuinely dislike the kid. One scout called him among the worst amateur players he’s ever seen from a makeup standpoint, with top-of-the-scale arrogance, a disturbingly large sense of entitlement, and on-field behavior that includes taunting opponents. “He’s just a bad, bad guy,” said one front-office official. “He’s basically the anti-Joe Mauer.” How this plays into the negotiation or future evaluation is yet to be determined, as history has shown us that the bigger talent a player is, the more makeup issues teams will deal with. Bench players can’t afford to be problems, but plenty of teams happily put up with difficult superstars.

One of the most interesting and underrated aspects of the entire draft process is the depth in which area scouts go to uncover as much information about the prospects they are assigned to cover. If the NFL Scouting Combine really is the “world’s largest job interview,” as I’ve heard it referred to in the past, then the amateur scouting period in baseball is certainly in the running for the longest. Major League Baseball is a billion dollar industry with a finite number of job openings. Before investing large sums of money in a new employee, you’d better be darn sure you’ve done everything in your power to ensure that you are hiring a person you trust can get the job done. To that end, I have no qualms whatsoever with the abstract idea of “makeup.” Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of a player’s performance on the field is priority one, but that same evaluation of a player’s on-field abilities must be weighed against certain general personality parameters (“makeup”), especially traits that are believed could potentially alter future job performance.

Deciding on what traits could potentially alter job performance is entirely up to the individual doing the evaluating, I suppose. For me, “makeup” boils down to two main sets of questions. I first want to know whether or not the player is receptive to coaching. Will he put in the work to improve his game? Is he willing to listen when asked to consider trying a different approach or technique? Can he subjugate his ego long enough to take legitimate instruction from somebody paid to help him succeed? I then want to know how the player will react when things don’t go well. A large number of top amateur players, especially the high schoolers, have never experienced any kind of sustained stretch of significant athletic failure. How does the high school star who only knows the ups of hitting .600 and being the big man on campus react when suddenly hitting under .200 while riding lonely buses from Danville to Pulaski? This concern doubles back into the initial set of questions; when a player struggles, and it truly is a matter of when and not if, can he accept the professional coaching and support designed to help him become a big leaguer?

As far as the actual quotes cited in Goldstein’s piece, well, it appears to me as though an opportunity was missed. To the front-office official who called Harper “a bad, bad guy,” I’d really want to know if, based on the perceived seriousness of such an accusation, he would have the fortitude to go to his boss and recommend another player over Harper atop the draft board. Do these talent evaluators so willing to go on record about Harper’s makeup genuinely believe his “bad, bad” personality to be such a potential problem to his development that they would not want their employer to draft him? Are these personality issues so severe that the unnamed front-office officials don’t believe Harper will ever be able to fully harness his immense physical gifts? Or do the makeup concerns represent something closer to an annoyance, one not quite large enough to prevent Harper from superstardom on the field, but always lurking on the periphery as a warning not to do anything to upset the mercurial franchise player? I’d like to ask the front-office official whether he thought Harper’s makeup concerns were closer stylistically to Barry Bonds’ (entitled jerk off the field, destroyer of opposing teams’ dreams on it) or somebody like Darryl Strawberry’s (victimized by personal demons so severe that his on-field play suffered despite unrivaled physical talent)? As much as I think I know the answer to those questions already, I’d genuinely like to know how the front-office official would respond when pressed. Of course, that will never happen.

As someone who follows the draft almost exclusively as an outsider in the industry, I’m not privy to the kind of front-office member chatter that others can claim. I’m left to make the majority of my judgments on publicly available information. I won’t ever profess to having any insider knowledge about Bryce Harper’s personality or general on-field temperament other than what anybody else out there can read or see with their own two eyes. That said, Harper’s performance both on and off the field this season serves as a pretty strong argument in his favor. If I’m going on facts alone, the simple fact is Bryce Harper is having one heck of a year playing baseball. To accomplish all that has done on the field against players sometimes three or four years older while simulatenously dealing with the biggest amateur baseball media circus since, well I guess since Stephen Strasburg last season, but before that since as long as anybody can remember, is truly a remarkable feat. His on-field performance has exceeded even the most optimistic of projections and the coaching staff at Southern Nevada has been effusive in their praise of the kid. Really, what more can anybody realistically ask for a 17 year old catching prospect already dubbed the LeBron James of baseball playing wood bat junior college ball with the eyes of the industry watching his every move?

Since the article was published, by the way, Harper has put up the following batting line while splitting time in right field and behind the plate:

7-14, 4 HR, 2B, 13 RBI, 8 R, 2 SB, 1 BB, 1 K

That’s good for a weekend line of .500/.533/1.429. If Washington could fast forward the next six weeks and take Harper first overall tomorrow, they’d do it.

Updated Top Fifty 2010 MLB Prospect Big Board

1. Bryce Harper – C – College of Southern Nevada
2. Jameson Taillon – RHSP – The Woodlands HS (TX)
3. AJ Cole – RHSP – Oviedo HS (FL)

It would take something pretty funny to happen this spring to knock either Harper or Taillon off of their comfortable 1-2 perch in my rankings. Harper’s numbers (.362/.426/.681 at CSN through 47 at bats) don’t even begin to tell the whole story of how damn impressive he has looked so far. I mean, come on, have you seen the triple yet? Kid can move a little bit for a big guy, right? All of the backlash against Harper so far has been founded entirely on one of two premises – 1) no 17 year-old should be getting this kind of ridiculous hype, and/or 2) in a given year there are close to 1500 prospects drafted, so why is that the only player I ever read about on the websites for ESPN/SI/MAJOR SPORTS MEDIA GIANT OF YOUR CHOOSING is this Bryce Harper kid? Overexposed is not a synonym for overrated. That’ll be my non-stop mantra until June, especially so long as Harper throws up a .350/.425/.600+ line, so better get used to it now.

Hey, remember the last time we had pre-draft scouting reports on a high school pitcher with the last name Cole? Plus fastball, plus potential breaking ball, average change, projectable frame? All of that applies to AJ Cole as well, I think. Harper and Taillon get the majority of the attention at the top of the draft (and rightfully so), but Cole’s upside makes him the third best prospect in the draft by a good measure.

4. Nick Castellanos – 3B – Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL)
5. Austin Wilson – OF – Harvard Westlake HS (CA)

I’m unabashedly in love with the potential Castellanos has shown at the plate. With the way he has dropped down the experts’ boards this winter, I’m starting to feel all alone in my adoration. Wouldn’t be the first time. Reservations about his defense keep me from fawning incessantly about his pro potential — obviously his stock takes a dip if he is a 1B and not a 3B, a judgment that I’m not really qualified to make at this point in time — but I’m otherwise blinded by the beauty of his swing. I feel similarly about Wilson’s five-tool upside. As I said in the January Mock, Wilson could be this year’s Donovan Tate or Wilson could be this year’s Brian Goodwin. Too early to tell at this point, though my aggressive ranking tips my hand a bit.

6. Deck McGuire – RHSP – Georgia Tech
7. Brandon Workman – RHSP – Texas
8. James Paxton – LHSP – Kentucky?

Three college arms (or “college,” in Paxton’s case) above Anthony Ranaudo? What’s up with that? McGuire has the best three-pitch mix of any 2010 pitcher, Workman has an elite fastball and curve combination with room to grow, and Paxton possesses the best lefthanded stuff in the class.

9. Zack Cox – 3B – Arkansas
10. Chris Sale – LHSP – Florida Gulf Coast
11. Kyle Blair – RHSP – San Diego

Sale and Blair ranked over Ranaudo is a little harder to understand than McGuire, Workman, and Paxton, but let me try to explain the rationale. Sale’s another pitcher with a quality three-pitch mix and plus fastball command. Blair is similar to Workman in that both pitchers have already flashed special stuff, but still have huge amounts of untapped potential. As for Ranaudo, well, here is a quick breakdown on his stuff, based on what I’ve seen: fastball – good velocity, very good command, too straight at times; changeup – good velocity separation, good sink, underutilized; curveball – very good pitch when it is good, very hittable pitch when it isn’t, inconsistent velocity, shape, and command, but definite plus potential. Here’s something on Ranaudo I’ve been meaning to publish in the College Team Profile: LSU. It still needs some editing, but here goes nothing:

Everybody saw him when he was at his relative worst, completely worn down and exhibiting diminished velocity during the College World Series. His heater was sitting only in the upper-80s and the sharpness on his 12-6 curveball, the secondary offering generally considered his finest, was noticeably absent. I caught Ranaudo for the first time during the middle of conference play last season and came away impressed. His fastball was 91-93 MPH consistently, hitting as 94 at its peak. Many outlets regard his curve as a superior pitch to his change, but Ranaudo’s 82-84 MPH sinking changeup impressed as much as his high-70s curve, a pitch that flattened out too often and stayed consistently up in the zone.

In fact, the one thing I’d love to see first addressed with Ranaudo as a professional is his tendency to leave balls up. Darn near everything he threw, especially his fastballs and curves, were left up. Ranaudo is 6-7, 220 pounds and should be able to us e his frame to his advantage when attempting to generate a more favorable downward plane on his pitches. In fact, don’t be shocked to hear many of the experts assume that the big righty gets that great downward movement and the ensuing groundball outs that come with it. It’s a fine theory and one that will be correct more often than not, but in this instance it’s wrong. My quick 2009 GO/AO ratio using the publicly available data for Ranaudo is 0.71. That number would be best compared against all pitchers that make up the college ball landscape, but, alas, we’re stuck making an assumption of our own in lieu of spending far too much time and energy ginning up all that data. The assumption here is that 0.71, a number that more or less says Ranaudo induced 100 air outs for every 71 groundball out, makes the big LSU righty a pretty clear flyball pitcher.

All of the “non-skill” stuff with Ranaudo grades out as excellent. He gets high praise for his competitive makeup, he is an above-average athlete who prides himself on staying in tremendous baseball shape, and the LSU coaching staff has widely acknowledged his receptiveness to learning as much as possible about what it takes to be a big game pitcher. He had a healthy sophomore year, but it is still possible questions linger in the minds of clubs worried about the two missed months his freshman year due to tendinitis in his right elbow. Another season of healthy, dominant baseball in the SEC should put a lot of the haters’ (like me) doubts to bed.

It isn’t that I don’t like Ranaudo as a prospect, it’s just that I like a few of the other prospects in his class a little bit better.

12. Anthony Ranaudo – RHSP – LSU
13. Jesse Hahn – RHSP – Virginia Tech
14. Drew Pomeranz – LHSP – Mississippi

Hahn is only this high up based on the assumption/belief that he’ll continue to pitch well as a starter this spring. His performance as a starter on the Cape probably shouldn’t overshadow two iffy seasons out of the bullpen collegiately, but I’m a sucker for big fastballs, projectable frames, and high-K guys. Pomeranz isn’t particularly similar to Andy Oliver from last year, but I could see the lefthander having a draft day drop reminiscent to Oliver’s fall to the second round in 2009.

15. Cam Bedrosian – RHSP – East Coweta HS (GA)
16. Bryce Brentz – RF – Middle Tennessee State
17. Dylan Covey – RHSP – Maranatha HS (CA)
18. Kaleb Cowart – RHSP/3B – Cook County HS (GA)
19. Stetson Allie – RHSP – St. Edward HS (OH)
20. Karsten Whitson – RHSP – Chipley HS (FL)

The Top 20 is rounded out by a grouping that includes five of the best young righthanded amateur arms in the country. I love Bedrosian, ranking him higher than just about anybody and happy to have him as my third highest ranked prep righty after Taillon and Cole. His power stuff and potential for a decent change make me a believer. As for the other pitchers, here’s something grom my look at the Top 10 High School Righthanded Pitching Prospects back in December. Not a whole lot has changed my mind about them one way or another at this point, except for maybe beginning to wonder if Cowart’s future is not on the mound. I still think he has more upside as a pitcher than as a third baseman, but that’ll be worked out in the spring.

Covey, Cowart, Allie, and Whitson form a pretty logical quartet of high school arms. All four are big fellas (Covey is the shrimp of the group at a round, but athletic 6-2, 200 pounds), with big fastballs (all four have hit at least 95 on the gun at one point or another), and big questions that could define them come draft day. Covey, my current favorite of the four, has the easiest questions (inconsistent mechanics and command, plus a less than idea young pitcher body type) to answer going forward, especially when you consider how far he has come to answer one of those questions (his command has looked sharper every time I’ve seen him) already. Whitson, currently ranked fourth in this little subgroup, has a potential dynamite 1-2 punch with his fastball (sitting 91-93, hitting 95-96) and slider (works best in the mid-80s, but has shown up as a less effective slurvy high-70s CB at times), but I think his mechanics will need something pretty close to a complete overhaul as a professional. Cowart has grown on me just as much as a hitter than as a pitcher lately, but his potential on the mound is still vast. Cowart is as likely as anybody on the list to shoot up to the top of the subgroup and could, I stress could, actually challenge the more established top two if everything breaks right. Everything Cowart throws moves downward, from his sharp high-80s slider to his low-80s split-fingered changeup. Allie has the most electric arm of the foursome, but has been plagued by up and down command and control throughout his career on the high school showcase circuit. He also doesn’t have quite the secondary stuff as some of his contemporaries.

21. Matt Harvey – RHSP – North Carolina

I was stubborn with both Sean Black and Robert Stock last year, keeping their rankings higher than most had them because I couldn’t let go of the upside they had once shown as high schoolers. If I swing and miss with my equally stubborn Harvey ranking this year, I think it’ll be time to rethink my stance on prep stars turned disappointing college players. For now, however, I’ll remain blockheaded enough to keep Harvey up near the Top 20. I need college prospects to show three average or better big league pitches to convince me that they can start professionally. Harvey has shown, at various points in his development, that he has an above-average to plus fastball, an above-average to plus curve, and an average to above-average sinking changeup. Of course, he has also shown below-average fastball velocity, inconsistent curves, and a babied change. I said this during the January Mock and it holds up pretty well now – “If the right scouting director sees him on the right day, he’ll go high. If not, he’ll be lumped in with the rest of the college guys who project as relievers hoping to get a spot in the first five rounds.” I’ve been lucky to personally see him throw on the right days, but I’m not about to turn a blind eye toward his inconsistency.

22. Tony Wolters – SS – Rancho Buena Vista HS (CA)
23. Stefan Sabol – C – Aliso Niguel HS (CA)

Two prep players currently at the top of their respective position lists. Many downgrade the pair because they don’t think either will last in their spots defensively, but not me.

24. Sammy Solis – LHSP – San Diego
25. Alex Wimmers – RHSP – Ohio State

The strength of the draft really comes through when you see players of this quality falling this far down the list. It’s not hard to envision a slew of high school players performing well enough this spring to push some of the quality college talent out of the back of the first round. What a coup that would be for the teams drafting in the supplemental first and/or early second round.

26. LeVon Washington – CF – Chipola College
27. Christian Colon – SS – Cal State Fullerton

Wolters and Sabol are a pair that I have higher than most; Washington and Colon represent the opposite end of that spectrum. I love Washington’s tools (plus speed, plus arm, plus range in CF), but still question the long-term prognosis with the stick. Colon is more good than great across the board, and I’d prefer a higher upside prospect if I was drafting high in the first round. Again, I should point out that I’m probably underrating how valuable a potentially league average (or even better, according to those higher on his tools than I) shortstop really is.

28. Justin O’Conner – SS/C – Cowan HS (IN)
29. Manny Machado – SS – Brito Private HS (FL)

Of all the players here in the bottom half of the Top 30, O’Conner has the best chance of any prospect to rise up into the top half. Even now I’m wondering why it is I had Wolters above him in the first place. I’m really late to taking a liking to Machado because, quite honestly, I view him as being pretty close to a high school version of Colon. High probability of sticking at short, but no ridiculous tools that make you stand up and take notice. Steady, not spectacular. I’m beginning to come around and see the value in steady, but I’ll never totally stop lusting after spectacular.

30. Jarrett Parker – CF – Virginia
31. Rob Brantly – C – UC Riverside

Two college guys with legit production against high-level competition, in addition to impressive toolsets. Toolsy + Productive = First Round Grade. I also like my comps on each player, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise coming from an egomaniac such as myself. Jarrett Parker = Lastings Milledge. Rob Brantly = Derek Norris. Genius!

32. AJ Vanegas – RHSP – Redwood Christian HS (CA)
33. DeAndre Smelter – RHSP – Tatnall Square Academy (GA)
34. Brian Ragira – OF – James Martin HS (TX)

Ragira is a volatile prospect with loads of upside who should have enough defensive value to remain worthwhile even if the bat doesn’t develop as expected. He also has the best full name in the entire draft – Brian Aosa Mogaka Ragira. Vanegas can throw four pitches for strikes, a rare and beautiful thing for a high schooler. The Smelter = Kevin Brown comp is beginning to gain steam, based largely on Smelter’s outstanding power arsenal highlighted by Brown’s signature pitch, a deadly 82-84 MPH splitter.

35. Justin Grimm – RHSP – Georgia
36. Sam Dyson – RHSP – South Carolina
37. Gary Brown – CF – Cal State Fullerton

I’m almost done a brief writeup on Gary Brown for the Top 2010 Draft-Eligible Big West Outfielder piece, but I’ll throw out some of my unedited notes to fill the void until I polish everything up. Here’s the basic idea, in wonderful comp form. As you can see, I’m pretty high on the guy…

Watching Brown play reminds me of watching any number of successful big league players. He resembles Shane Victorino for his defensive range in center, plus speed, and intriguing power/speed combo; I see some Chone Figgins (pre-2009 breakout, mostly) in the way he’ll be an incredibly valuable player due to defensive versatility despite having only an average arm; at his very best, I see some young Johnny Damon, especially if his power potential comes around the way I expect.

I had Dyson 19th on my personal Big Board heading into the 2009 draft, by the way.

38. Drew Cisco – RHSP – Wando HS (FL)
39. Leon Landry – CF – LSU
40. Rick Hague – SS – Rice
41. Aaron Sanchez – RHSP – Barstow HS (CA)

Love Hague’s defense, but still see too many holes in his bat to envision him putting up consistently acceptable contact rates professionally. Landry could be 2009 first round pick Jared Mitchell with more power. Cisco’s bloodlines give him a huge leg up on the mental side of pitching, a nice advantage to have when many of the high school righthanders are so tightly bunched. Cisco’s cerebral approach, plus command, and, you guessed it, above-average potential with three different pitches make him a prospect worth watching. Many scoff at his underwhelming present fastball velocity, however. We’ll see.

42. Kevin Jacob – RHRP – Georgia Tech
43. Derek Dietrich – 3B – Georgia Tech

A pair of Yellow Jackets with solid upsides and reasonably high floors; Jacob is the top ranked pure reliever on the list, and Dietrich is a good bet to be a steady everyday third baseman professionally. Natural comparisons between Dietrich and former Georgia Tech third baseman Wes Hodges make sense, but, despite very similar production, I think Dietrich has superior tools.

44. Kris Bryant – 3B – Bonanza HS  (NV)
45. Kolbrin Vitek – 3B/2B – Ball State
46. Josh Sale – OF – Bishop Blanchet HS (WA)
47. Rob Segedin – 3B – Tulane

Including Dietrich, this now makes 4 of the last 5 players on the list third basemen. Weird. Bryant gets compared often to Troy Glaus, a really good comp based on body type, raw power potential, and defensive skillset. Offensively, however, I think the player his absolute ceiling professionally matches up closest with is Arizona’s Mark Reynolds. That’s some serious upside, but the gap between where Bryant currently is and where he needs to be is gigantic. Vitek reminds me of Bryce Brentz without a publicist, but another big college season will finally get the kid his proper due. Segedin will get his fair share of digital ink this spring, beginning with a nice little writeup on this very site in Friday’s Draft Notebook.

48. Blake Forsythe – C – Tennessee
49. Yordy Cabrera – SS – Lakeland HS (FL)
50. Victor Sanchez – 3B – San Diego

Forsythe is my kind of player – patience and power combined with more power and a little extra patience. Anecdotally it seems that teams tend to reach on third basemen on draft day (no idea if this is true or not, I need to check recent draft history one of these days), so Sanchez could hear his name called a round or two earlier than many currently project. I like him as a draft prospect more than most, but that goes back to my undying love of highly skilled prep players with disappointing college resumes. I actually got some really positive news on Yordy Cabrera this very morning, so now I’m already regretting dropping him this far down. If there is one high school player in the draft I’d love to see play in person, it would be Yordy.

The Debut of Bryce Harper

Source: SI.com

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Overexposed is not a synonym for overrated. Profound, huh? That’s my one sentence summary of Bryce Harper’s debut weekend. I guess I get some of the resentment of a player with such limited experience getting so much attention this early in his career, but I don’t see how anybody could let such a trivial emotion get in the way of objective analysis. Don’t hate the player because of the over-the-top media coverage of his debut; “hate” him for something meaningful in a baseball sense, like maybe because he still doesn’t have a true defensive home, or because he still hasn’t shown the ability to play up to his level of competition, or because he’s still so darn young that it is hard to project some of his growth dependent skills like 1) Will his still growing frame keep him from catching?, 2) Will he lose athleticism and foot speed as he bulks up?, and 3) Will his throwing mechanics, already seen as shaky by some, get worse with time?

Hey, speaking of media coverage…

Las Vegas Review-Journal

“I can’t say anything about Bryce Harper,” said Zona, one of five members of the Nationals organization on hand to scout Harper and others in the Coyote Border Battle tournament.

Washington assistant general managers Bob Boone and Roy Clark and scouting director Kris Kline also attended CSN’s opener, witnessed by the largest crowd in the program’s 11-year history, about 1,300. Kline also declined comment about Harper.

Bob Boone, Roy Clark, Kris Kline, Jeff Zona, and one mystery man. It’s not quite Obama, Biden, Emanuel, and Axelrod, but it’s a pretty powerful Washington contingent all the same.

Harper capped his night by hitting a sacrifice fly to left field in the eighth inning during an attempted intentional walk. He reached out and poked the opposite-field drive for his second RBI.

Do we like this? I think I do, but I can very easily see this as evidence for the Harper haters as proof that he thinks he is bigger than the game or other such nonsense. Am I being paranoid with that “Harper haters” crack? Probably, but my crystal ball does show a growing storm of Harper backlash building up steam between now and June…

CSN raised its ticket prices this season, to $8 for a single game (from $5) and to $12 for a doubleheader (from $8). The school also raised prices for the tournament to $8 per game and $25 for a tournament pass (from $20).

Somebody at CSN has a pretty good idea of how to run a business. I’m fairly certain I’ve never paid more than $8 for a college game, but most of the games I’ve attended have either a) been in non-elite stadiums (like Boshamer pre-renovation), b) been in the northeast (in my experience, every university north of DC has been free), or c) been paid for by a student at the university (man, I miss my college discounts). Back on topic…

Las Vegas Sun

Pretty sure that this deserves to be posted without any further comment…

He knows what to expect; he had to close off practice in the fall because of interruptions caused by autograph hounds. A Harper autograph on auction site eBay.com is listed at $299. His autograph on the Sports Illustrated cover has been sold for $800.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Ah, finally the “big” Harper news of the weekend. Never in my life have I seen such an innocent comment misconstrued so badly by so many people. How can anybody read this…

“He’s getting a lot of hype,” Huntington said. “We will scout Bryce Harper. But we’re not going to select him because somebody thinks he’s the best prospect in the history of the game and we think he’s the 10th-best.”

…and come away with the conclusion that the Pirates currently have Bryce Harper tenth or lower on their organizational big board? Pittsburgh will pick the player they believe is the best fit for the franchise, nothing more and nothing less. The insane Harper hype will have no impact on their decision to draft or not draft him. Pressure from the fans won’t matter. Pressure from the media won’t matter. Evaluations from big league front offices besides Pittsburgh’s won’t matter. The only thing that will matter is whether or not the player is the best fit for the franchise. Will that be Bryce Harper? I still doubt they’ll ever get the chance to decide.

Through four games, Harper is hitting .263/.364/.474, good for an OPS of 838. He’s 5 for 19 with 1 HR, 1 2B, 4 RBI, 2 R, and 3 BB.

2010 MLB Mock Draft 1.0

1.1 Washington Nationals: C Bryce Harper – College of Southern Nevada

Steven Strasburg is going first overall in this draft. Book it. One man by his lonesome may not be able to turn a baseball team’s on-field fortunes around, but it only takes one superstar to revive public interest in a moribund franchise. If nothing else, Strasburg has the kind of arm that makes every fifth day a must-see event. He’s got the oft-cited, but impossible to quantify “it”…wait, whoops. This was the intro to my first mock of 2009. Luckily it still works with a couple of easy tweaks. Let’s try it out…

Bryce Harper is going first overall in this draft. Book it. Two men may not be able to turn a baseball team’s on-field fortunes around, but it only takes one superstar position player and one superstar starting pitcher to revive interest in a moribund franchise. Harper has such a head start on gaining the national media’s attention that he’ll be sure to draw fans ranging from obsessively devoted to insouciantly (ooo…all that SAT vocab studying from five years ago paid off!) indifferent to the ballpark, for curiosity’s sake if nothing else. Heck, I’d go.

I realize I may be 100% crazy with this theory, but here goes nothing. The signing of Ivan Rodriguez is a strong data point indicating the Nationals already have made up their mind about the number one pick. Clearly the timeline doesn’t quite work out just right (nearly impossible Rodriguez is still be on the team by the time Harper joins), but it is possible somebody in the Washington front office thinks it would be swell if Harper could spend time with Rodriguez in his first spring training as a professional in 2011. Maybe I’m just trying too hard to wrap my head around the incomprehensible…

Special power, special arm, above-average contact skills, above-average potential as a receiver, and average running speed. That’s Bryce Harper.

1.2 Pittsburgh Pirates: RHSP Jameson Taillon – The Woodlands HS (TX)

There are plenty of different ways to approach a given pick in a mock draft. You can look at a team’s recent drafting history in an attempt to discern notable patterns and trends. You can look at organizational strengths and weaknesses to help partially rule out or narrow down certain positions of interest, e.g. knowing with a high degree of certainty that Houston wasn’t taking a catcher, especially a college catcher, in the first couple of rounds last year. You can also just look at the draft board, check what individual talent is there, and just line up the best player available with whatever team happens to be picking. I try to combine all three components in every mock I do, but I’m slowly coming to realize the last part, the one about staying true to the draft board and slotting players in that way, is probably the surest way to get a mock draft looking like the eventual real deal in June.

That’s why Taillon to Pittsburgh makes sense to me. He’s currently the second highest ranked draft-eligible player on the board. If Pittsburgh sees that the same way, they’ll take Taillon without hesitation, Tony Sanchez signability pick be damned.

I love the willingness of the Pirates to take high upside fliers late in the draft. I go back and forth too much on these things to really have a meaningful draft philosophy of my own, but, if I had to align myself with a pro club’s approach to drafting, I think there would be a lot of similarities between what I would do and what the Huntington Pirates have done over the past two years. Then again, I’ve never been a Tony Sanchez guy at all, dating back to watching him play extensively over the past three years in person along the parking garage ramp at Boston College. Guess that just goes to show how hard it is to really understand what certain clubs will wind up doing on draft day.

1.3 Baltimore Orioles: RHSP AJ Cole – Oviedo HS (FL)

I promise I won’t quote myself all that much going forward, but my positive feelings towards the direction of the Orioles have only gone stronger in the past year. Here’s what I said in last year’s first mock:

Matt Weiters, Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, and the fifth pick in the draft. That’s a foundation for something; I don’t know what exactly, but something.

We now know who that fifth pick turned out to be (Matt Hobgood) and we can count newly added and/or 2009 breakthrough prospects like Josh Bell, Zach Britton, Brandon Erbe (he’s more of a reemergence than a breakthrough guy, actually), and a decent haul from outside the first round including Mychal Givens, Justin Dalles, Ryan Berry, Jake Cowan, and Mike Ohlman all as part of the core of the next great Orioles team. On top of all that, of course, is the pick that will produce the highest drafted O’s prospect since Ben McDonald (my goal is to mention him as often as possible, apparently) in 1989. Since 2001, Baltimore has averaged roughly the seventh overall pick in the draft, but they’ve never been higher than 4th. Those two number four overall picks were LHSPs Brian Matusz and Adam Loewen. Ole Miss lefthander Drew Pomeranz and Florida Gulf Coast lefty Chris Sale are potential candidates to uphold my worthless trend of Baltimore taking lefthanded pitchers when they get top four draft picks, but I’m thinking they eschew any kind of recent drafting trends and go for broke by picking the top available talent on the board. AJ Cole, come on down.

1.4 Kansas City Royals: RHSP Kaleb Cowart – Cook County HS (GA)

The Royals always seem like a wild card at the top of the draft, a team willing to go in whatever direction the available talent dictates. 2010 looks to be a draft top heavy in pitching. Cowart has the greatest likelihood of rising up the draft boards of all the “big name” prep arms this side of the Taillon/Cole duo. The vicious movement he gets on his two offspeed offerings (high-80s slider, low-80s split-fingered change) combined with his plus athleticism make him a solid bet to stave off his prep righty competition and claim a spot in the top ten.

1.5 Cleveland Indians: LHSP Drew Pomeranz – Ole Miss

I concede. I have a very hard time seeing Pomeranz as a top half of the first round caliber prospect, let alone a top five pick at this point, but so many publications have him in the top ten that I think I have to relent. I swear I’m not trying to lose whatever renegade street cred I’ve built up (if any), but one of the stated goals for this site was to act as a resource in consensus building when it comes to draft prognostications across the internet. I want to drop Pomeranz, but that wouldn’t be a true reflection of where his present stock stands. If everybody wants to call Pomeranz an elite prospect, fine. I figure the very least I can do is keep his name up high until I can do some more homework on him and definitely say, one way or another, that he will or won’t be picked within the first X number of picks.

In other Indians related news, I ripped the franchise’s 2001-2005 drafts to shreds in this space last year, ending with this conclusion that still makes me laugh to this day (yes, I’m that egotistical):

Soooo…what am I doing wasting my time with this site anyway? Perhaps a better question is what are you doing wasting your time reading this site? Turns out the best way to attempt to rebuild a franchise isn’t though the draft; no, who has the time to go through all that trouble scouting and signing a bunch of kids? All you really have to do is haven an extra Bart Colon hanging around to trade and, poof, you’ve got a farm system to be proud of.

I didn’t hate the top of Cleveland’s draft last year, but, man, did they go heavy with college guys or what? Anyway, I just found it a little funny that the Indians have dealt three Bart Colon’s (CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and Victor Martinez) in the past two seasons at least in part to replenish a farm system that has been handicapped by poor drafting year after year. Santana, Hagadone, Brantley, Carrasco, Knapp, Marson, Todd, Barnes, Donald, LaPorta, Masterson…all players acquired in one trade or another in recent seasons. They’ve done a commendable job with their international scouting, but, jeez louise, there isn’t a whole lot of drafted talent to be found in any of their published top prospect lists.

1.6 Arizona Diamondbacks: RHSP Kyle Blair – San Diego

My favorite draft-eligible college prospect had to find a way to get himself into the top ten, right? An above-average fastball that sits in the low-90s, a plus mid-70s curve, and a good low-80s change make for a potent mix in my book. Blair was a big recruit coming out of high school who hasn’t disappointed since joining the Toreros. Love the USD staff, by the way. Blair, Sammy Solis (another potential first rounder), and AJ Griffin (my favorite senior sign, by far) make up one heck of a three-headed monster. Or three-armed monster. Six-armed monster? As for Blair, yes, this is a generous placement on the mock, but it’s defensible not only because of that present three pitch mix but also the chance his peak fastball velocity perks up in the spring. If he is topping out at 94-95 once the season starts, watch out.

1.7 New York Mets: RHP Jesse Hahn – Virginia Tech

Hahn has a huge heater that has helped him hike up his heretofore humble hold amidst fellow hurlers in the draft hierarchy. The best fastball in the 2010 class has been clocked a steady 96-98 with true plus life. Unfortunately for Hahn, there isn’t a whole lot else in his bag of tricks at this point in his development. To his credit, he does throw a curve and a change that both have average potential down the line. Additionally, he has thrown both a slider and a cutter at intermittent points in the past. Neither pitch caught on, but it’s nice to know that Hahn has experience messing around with them at the very least. If one of those four pitches develops into at least a big league average pitch this spring, Hahn will assure himself a spot in the first round as a reliever. If he shows enough with two of those pitches (at least proving they have the potential to be league average weapons, even if they aren’t quite there by June), he’ll go even higher still. Aroldis Chapman has a slider that is already better than any of Hahn’s secondary stuff and a change has shown a ton of potential, but if you squint really hard you can begin to see some similarities between the two.

1.8 Houston Astros: RHSP Deck McGuire – Georgia Tech

Possessing truly one of the great baseball names of the 2010 MLB Draft, Deck McGuire’s scouting profile reads a lot like the man picked two spots ahead of him. His fastball sits 88-91 MPH (peaks at 93) with enough great sink that makes it an above-average pitch despite the less than thrilling velocity. His out pitch is a hard high-70s CB that is in the running for best curve in the college class. His impressive change makes for a fantastic third option, especially when stacked against the typical so-so third pitches you see from amateur prospects at his level. McGuire’s biggest flaws are his off-and-on control and his iffy mechanics, two issues that are very commonly seen in tandem. If a team sees a way to clean up his arm action and help him gain a more consistent release point, he’ll hear his name called in the top fifteen picks on draft day.

1.9 San Diego Padres: RHSP Brandon Workman – Texas

2010 = Year of the College Curveball. First Blair, then McGuire, now Workman. Workman’s version of the pitch is another plus offering, a 77-78 MPH nasty 12-6 hook. His fastball isn’t too shabby either, comfortably sitting in the low-90s with a pretty consistent peak of 95 MPH and has reached 98 in the past. The only issue I have with Workman are the similarities between how he looked as a high school senior and how he looks today. Coming out of high school he had a high velocity fastball and a curve with plus potential. That’s good. What he didn’t have was a quality third pitch and non-cringe worthy throwing mechanics. There has been some noise about a changeup being worked on, but I haven’t personally seen enough proof of the pitch to give it the Baseball Draft Report stamp of approval. There has also been some reports that Workman has cleaned up his mechanics a little bit since enrolling at Texas. If he has, I’m not seeing it. That’s not to say he hasn’t, I’m literally just saying that I can’t really tell the difference between the video I saw of him as a prep player and the real life version of Workman I saw pitch live last year. I’m neither trained to notice such things nor do I worry too much about mechanics in general (remember my mechanics creed – so long as it is repeatable, I’m happy), but I figured it was worth mentioning. Flaws from high school shouldn’t still exist after two full years in college, right? Could be a red flag, could be nothing.

Also, I learned today that one of the Padres team colors is officially called “sand.” Can’t decide if that’s awesome or sad. Because it’s the Padres and I already sort of pity them a little bit, I think I’m going with awesome.

1.10 Oakland Athletics: 3B Nick Castellanos – Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL)

Arguably the best high school position player in this year’s class winds up joining up with one of baseball’s premier farm systems. Castellanos is the first high school bat off the board for a lot of reasons. He reminds me a lot of Josh Vitters, but with easier to project power potential and a better, more professionally approach at the plate. So, he is like Vitters, a former third overall pick in the draft, but better in the two biggest areas of concern on his game. He’s Super Vitters.

Total unsubstantiated rumor department brings us this little tidbit – Oakland has a thing for Brandon Workman. Just throwing that out there.

1.11 Toronto Blue Jays: SS Christian Colon – Cal State Fullerton

I’m not quite stubborn/bold enough to put Colon where I really think he’ll wind up in June, so I’ll defer to the experts and keep Colon in the first half of the first round for now. I guess that sort of makes Colon the Drew Pomeranz of position player prospects, huh?  Everything I said a few months ago holds up today:

I guess my lack of love for his game comes from me severely underrating the value of a league average big league shortstop (a rookie mistake on my part, I admit) and also being less than impressed when seemingly every scouting report about Colon begins and ends with talk about his personality, leadership, and the way he makes the most of his average at best tools. No doubt Colon’s makeup is totally off the charts and his defensive chops make him a slam dunk to stick at short professionally, but I tend to focus more on the “average at best tools” part of that discussion than the “personality” and “leadership.” I’m both ready and willing to convinced I’m totally wrong on Colon, but that’s where things stand now. For what it’s worth, I’ve only seen Colon play once since watching him in person in high school, so maybe I’m judging him unfairly based on my limited and outdated memory of his skills. Also, for what it’s worth, I have a scouting buddy who has seen Colon play a ton from his junior year of high school until this past summer and he absolutely loves everything about Colon’s game.

I’m totally nuts for maybe possibly almost thinking Gary Brown, Colon’s teammate at Fullerton, is the better pro prospect, right? Brown’s gigantic edge in speed and added pop might just make up for Colon’s clear advantage in both overall defense upside and contact skills, but your mileage might vary.

1.12 Cincinnati Reds: OF Austin Wilson – Harvard Westlake HS (CA)

Honest to goodness, I had a dream last night that I finally published this mock. It was marvelous. After staring at this Word document for over ten days, it was a joy to finally rid my brain of the incessant, nagging thoughts of “who goes where?” and “is this guy ?” and “what’s the damn point of doing a mock over six months and a full amateur season before the actual event?” I hit the tiny PUBLISH button and breathed the sweetest sigh of relief known to man. Then, without warning, my dream turned into terrifying nightmare. The delight my dream-time self was feeling over getting this stinking mock done quickly turned to dread as I realized I forgot to include Austin Wilson. I checked, double-checked, triple-checked…and he was nowhere to be found. Apparently there was neither an edit nor a delete feature in my nightmare, so the omission of Wilson was forced to stand as an ugly black mark against my draft forecasting soul for all of eternity. Maybe I take all this draft stuff too seriously…

Wilson could be this year’s Donovan Tate. Wilson could be this year’s Brian Goodwin. I obviously lean much closer to the Tate side of things, but I’m a sucker for 6-4, 200 pound outfielders rocking the plus power/plus arm combo. 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.

I was looking over the Cincinnati organizational depth chart to see what kind of future lineup the Reds could throw out if they decided to add Wilson into the mix. They’ve gotten so much good press this offseason as a team on the rise that I was curious to see what kind of future starting 8 they might be able to field. Instead of fleshing out the idea, I became distracted by one name. Todd Frazier. Now I’ve seen a lot of Mr. Frazier over the years, from his high school days right on through his junior year at Rutgers. Through those years, one thing in particular stood out to me about Frazier’s game. Get ready for some seriously hard hitting prospect analysis here. Ready? Sure? Todd Frazier could be Peyton Manning’s body double, if the need for such a thing ever arises. Saw him in high school, remember thinking he looked like he could be the long lost missing Manning brother. By his last year at Rutgers, he was no longer just a random no-name honorary Manning. No, he was Peyton Manning. He is Peyton Manning.

The Ohio high school pitcher I have going fourteenth overall may also make sense if you’re into regional ties impacting drafting strategy. If I had realized the connection beforehand, maybe I would have made Stetson Allie the pick here for the Reds. Maybe next time.

1.13 Chicago White Sox: RHSP Dylan Covey – Maranatha HS (CA)

Remember how my angle for the Cincinnati pick was going to be about the way they are suddenly a team getting a ton of positive buzz? I really can’t tell you how many different places have come out and said the Reds are the Central’s second best team heading into 2010, as well as the team best positioned to take over St Louis when the Cardinals realize spending 98% of your payroll (figure may not be exact) on two players. I’m not necessarily disputing either idea, just pointing out that it has been interesting to see so many sources from all across the baseball landscape (from analytical types to scouty types) all hyping up the Reds lately. Well…

Covey is a little bit like the Reds. He’s the prospect that has gotten a huge groundswell of support over the past few weeks from just about everybody with a keyboard and an opinion on amateur baseball. Just wait, they said. Watch him pitch, they said. His stock will soar, they said. Good call, internet. Covey could have very easily been swapped with Cowart at the number four spot in this draft. If we accept that all pitching prospects come with major questions, maybe we should work towards finding the prospect with the easiest questions to answer. This isn’t a great strategy in general as I tend to be more of a “focus on what a player can do rather than what he can’t do” kind of fellow, but it does serve a useful purpose when comparing so many similarly talented players like the ones featured in this year’s prep righthanded pitching crop. Covey’s questions include inconsistent in-game mechanics, inconsistent command start to start, and a body type that doesn’t inspire much projection going forward. Mechanics can always be tweaked, his command has looked sharper every time I’ve seen him, and the body isn’t anywhere close to Sir Sidney Ponson levels of bad.

1.14 Milwaukee Brewers: RHSP Stetson Allie – St Edward HS (OH)

Back to Gary Brown and Christian Colon for a minute because a couple of comps occurred to me today. How about Brown as Shane Victorino and Christian Colon as a slightly less hacktastic Placido Polanco capable of playing shortstop? Neither comp is perfect, but I think the tools of each player matches up pretty well with their respective big league comparisons.

The ghost of Jack Z would be very proud of this Allie pick for Milwaukee. Big, hard throwing, erratic, and a difficult sign. Sounds about right.

1.15 Texas Rangers: RHSP Cam Bedrosian – East Coweta HS (GA)

I only quote myself because I know 95% of readers only come to check out the mock drafts anyway:

I’ll willingly admit I like Bedrosian more than most talent evaluators do a the moment. One of the reasons I think I like him more than others is simple – short righties don’t scare me. I know I’ve made the Bedrosian/Kyle Drabek comparison before, and I’m happy to mention again in print here. Bedrosian’s 6-0, 195 pound frame doesn’t bother me much at all because it is compact and muscular in all the right places, most notably the legs. His arm action is a thing of beauty with a consistent landing spot and a very smooth, repeatable delivery. Bedrosian’s fastball is a potential plus big league offering, already sitting 90-93 and hitting 95-96, and his curve is on the very short list of the very best high school secondary pitches I’ve had the pleasure of watching. Beyond those two plus/potential plus pitches, Bedrosian can mix in a mid-70s CU and a really exciting high-80s splitter that could grow into a big league strikeout pitch in time. Power stuff (FB, hard CB, SF) combined with at least the occasional appearance of that changeup makes Bedrosian a rare bird among young pitchers. I’m often quick to dismiss bloodlines as a reason for liking one prospect over another, but Bedrosian’s cerebral approach to pitching has pretty clearly been influenced by having a former professional ballplayer as a father.

Drabek had the off the field issues to contend with, but it makes me a little concerned that I have Bedrosian, a wonderful prospect but one with a lesser grade than Drabek at similar points in their development, going higher than Drabek did in his draft year. This one may be a case of letting my own personal take get in the way of making the most accurate mock possible. Oh well, I love this guy. I think he makes some sense for the Rangers here as they continue to build up their young pitching stockpile. In some ways a pick like this is reminiscent of the Michael Main selection in 2007. In other ways, it so totally isn’t. Yeah, think about that one for a while. It’s like a paradox wrapped in poor grammar wrapped by questionable syntax wrapped in a vest.

1.16 Chicago Cubs: RHSP Alex Wimmers – Ohio State

I saw Wimmers a lot last year and every time I saw him I had a similar thought – “hey, this guy is better than I thought coming in.” Good fastball, good sinking changeup, and a plus curve make him a good bet as a first rounder. Speaking of good bets, I made my first group of tiers today while at a meeting at work. This was newsworthy for a couple different reasons. First, while paying more attention on sketching out my rankings than I did on what the presenter was telling me about various co-teaching models, I technically got paid to write about baseball. I’m a professional baseball writer! Second, and actually somewhat seriously, there are a lot of talented players at the top of this year’s draft class. The “lock” group for first rounders was bigger than I remember it being last year, as was the “very likely” group. Without spoiling any surprises, Wimmers was just barely on the outside looking in on that “very likely” to go in the first round group. I’d say that’s a pretty strong indication that the first round isn’t as barren as some have claimed.

1.17 Tampa Bay Rays: LHSP Chris Sale – Florida Gulf Coast

I’d love to check in on Sale’s actual groundball numbers. Every scouting report him mentions his ability to induce weak contact for easy ground outs. That’s an excellent trait for a pitcher to have. Do the scouting reports jive with’s really happening on the field? I mentioned how everybody considers Ranaudo a groundball pitcher because he is big guy who throws on what appears to be a downward plane, but the numbers don’t support it. Sale’s reports mention the groundballs specifically, so I’m way more inclined to believe that he has the skill. Time to start digging through the game logs!

This may be as low as we see Sale on a mock on this site all year. His stuff is going to be too good to keep him from suffering from any post-helium backlash.

1.18 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: RHSP Karsten Whitson – Chipley HS (FL)

It took seventeen full picks to get here, but we made it. The Angels taking Karsten Whitson is the first pick that I can look at and honestly say I have nothing of value to add with my commentary. Whitson has a definite first round fastball, but closer to tenth round caliber secondary stuff and throwing mechanics. The Angels can afford to gamble on such a player with the first of their nine (again, the numbers may not be accurate) first round picks.

1.19 Detroit Tigers (just kidding, it’s now the Houston Astros): 3B Zack Cox – Arkansas

It feels almost dirty not giving Detroit a hard throwing high school righthander, especially in a year with plenty of worthy candidates at this spot. Allie and Whitson both could be possibilities, as could college righthanders Hahn, Workman, and Matt Harvey. Luckily, I can now guarantee Detroit won’t be picking a hard throwing righty in this spot. No way, no how. Now I’m looking for players that would make sense for Houston that won’t screw up any picks later in the first round. Zack Cox makes some sense, but the added leverage the draft-eligible sophomore has makes me a little leery of keeping in this spot. LeVon Washington maybe? Could Ed Wade overrule Bobby Heck’s team of scouts and demand a guy like Kevin Jacob here? They’ve had some success with two-way players before, so maybe Bryce Brentz could fit?

1.20 Boston Red Sox: SS Yordy Cabrera – Lakeland HS (FL)

Is it too late to change this pick to Rob Brantly? I really wanted to include him in the mock so I could make my Rob Brantly = Derek Norris comp that I’ve been so eagerly waiting to unveil. Oh well. I’ve also heard a completely unsubstantiated rumor that links Boston to Virginia outfielder Jarrett Parker, a player with scouting reports that sort of remind me of a poor man’s Ryan Westmoreland. Justin O’Conner could also be a name that makes sense in this spot. I wouldn’t have matched the Red Sox up with Rey Fuentes last year, so I’m not even sure I’m qualified to comment on this pick any furt…

Anyway, let’s talk Yordy. I have to admit that while he isn’t one of my favorite prep bats in this class, I’d be happy to see my favorite team draft Yordy if given the chance. Why? Come on! Yordy! Who among us could possibly resist rooting for a Yordy? It’s impossible question to answer because nobody has ever even tried. I’m powerless to not root for a Yordy. I’d never buy a jersey of a player from a team I didn’t root for (that’s a lie…I’d never buy a jersey period, regardless of team), but I’d definitely consider getting a snazzy Yordy! t-shirt if/when he makes it to the show AND successfully petitions MLB to allow him to just put Yordy on the back of his jersey.

1.21 Minnesota Twins: Anthony Wolters – Rancho Buena Vista HS (CA)

Finally, one that feels right. A first round grade player that fits a position of need for an organization with a track record of drafting guys with similar skill sets early in the draft. A far more advanced Dustin Pedroia is the most commonly used comp. It works in a lot of ways, I think. Wolters has an advanced approach at the plate, phenomenal hands, an accurate arm, and well above-average range. Many are already moving him off of short as a professional, but I haven’t seen anything in his game to think he can’t at least start his career off as at least a league average shortstop defensively. Again, Justin O’Conner also fits the bill here.

1.22 Texas Rangers: Stefan Sabol – Aliso Niguel HS (CA)

Still not sure what position Sabol will eventually call home, but he’ll be a good one wherever he winds up. Actually, that first part is a lie. I do that a lot, apparently. Anyway, it’s not a total lie, but more of a nod to the scouting world consensus that seems to go back and forth on Sabol’s most likely eventual position. So allow me to amend that sloppy opening sentence by changing it up to say while many aren’t sure what position Sabol will play as a professional, I, however would bet a good chunk of change he sticks behind the plate for a good long while. His speed and athleticism (Sabol possesses arguably the best body of any amateur, college guys included) have already earned him Jason Kendall comps, but a comp like that ignores his significantly higher ultimate upside in the power department. The very same speed and athleticism are the reasons why I think so many want to prematurely move him out from behind the dish. True, he is athletic enough to play a variety of different positions, but, like Bryce Harper, his value is highest staying right where he is until he proves he can’t handle catching. He has a true plus arm that will play anywhere, above-average speed that could serve him well in the outfield (you know, just in case), and average to above-average big league power potential.

1.23 Florida Marlins: RHSP Deandre Smelter – Tattnall County HS (GA)

It would be easy to lose track of a player like Smelter in the midst of so many other similarly talented prep righties, but that would be a mistake. Smelter can do just about everything you want to see out of a young pitching prospect. His fastball sits 89-93 MPH with a peak velocity of 97. I’ve seen that peak a lot lower in some places, but I trust the number. Of course, and this is huge, always remember that high school peak velocities almost always come from one inning relief showcase outings. It goes without saying that the 97 wouldn’t hold up as a starter, but nobody does that anyway. Tangent aside, let’s just settle on the fact that Smelter has a strong enough present fastball that he’s actually been criticized for being too reliant on it at times. When he isn’t just blowing it by hitters, he throws an excellent splitter (82-84 MPH) that could be a big league out pitch in time. To go a step further, I’d go out on the limb and say that Smelter’s splitter has the potential to be one of the signature pitches of this year’s draft class; it reminds me a little bit of the split Kevin Brown used to throw to lefties. His repertoire also features a low-80s changeup and a high-70s slider. The slider is currently the better pitch, but it needs serious tightening up going forward.

He is a legitimate three sport high school star (baseball, football, and basketball), a fact that is readily apparent the first time you see him pitch. It’s clear just from watching him that his overall athleticism is off the charts, but it’s just as clear that his delivery and arm action are all kinds of raw. His herky jerky delivery will almost certainly need some polish as a professional. And, yes, herky jerky is the professional term, thankyouverymuch. Anyway, since I’m not an expert on pitching mechanics in the least, here’s my basic theory on what I personally look for out of a pitcher’s throwing motion, reprinted from the first mock I did last year:

A pet scouting theory on mechanics of mine can be summed up like this: The most direct path to smooth, consistent, and repeatable delivery is through outstanding athleticism. Anecdotally, it seems that plus athletes tend to “figure things out” mechanically more often than other pitchers. It could be an offshoot of the great size debate – again, anecdotally it seems pitchers in the 6-0 to 6-3 range tend to be more athletic than the larger, “classic” pitcher’s frame guys (pitchers 6-4 and up). The scouting bias against short pitchers, righthanders especially, has turned them into a valued underappreciated commodity. It’s more than just that, however; these shorter pitchers, once more anecdotally, seem to have better control of their more athletic bodies, and thus smoother, easier to repeat deliveries. Smooth, easy to repeat deliveries lead not only to cleaner injury records but also increased velocity.

Just a pet theory, nothing more. Honestly, my knowledge of pitching mechanics isn’t really at the level where I should be coming up with any half-baked theories. All I look for (or, more honestly, all I really know how to look for) in a young pitcher is repeatability. Even if the motion looks weird and, in some extreme cases, painful, the question I always come back to is can he repeat it every time? If he can, sign him up. If not, back to the drawing board.

So there you have it. Herky jerky delivery or not, Smelter’s outstanding athleticism gives him a better than average chance at figuring things out as a professional. So says me, anyway.

1.24 San Francisco Giants: OF Brian Ragira – Martin HS (TX)

They have to continue their attempts to balance out the arms with some bats in the system, right? Ragira offers up a similar skill set to Anthony Wolters: above-average speed, professional approach at the plate, legit up the middle defense, and a better than average arm. Future Kevin Goldstein Top 11 Fun Fact about Brian Ragira (pick one, or combine two or more for added fun!): his full name is Brian Aosa Mogaka Ragira, he is of Kenyan descent, and his father lived in the next tribe over from where Barak Obama’s father grew up. I’d bet money on it. As awesome a name as Brian Aosa Mogaka Ragira is, can we all agree that it is simply no match for the greatest name in the history of names, Mr. Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo?

1.25 St Louis Cardinals: LHSP Sammy Solis – San Diego

Brian Matusz-lite. The four-pitch mix (low-90s fastball, plus change, above-average slider and curve) is extremely enticing, as is his frame and the low mileage on his arm. The bulging disc in his lower back that knocked him out for most of the 2009 season is just about the only reason why I can see him flying under the radar at this point because he has everything you’d want in a pitching prospect otherwise.

1.26 Colorado Rockies: OF Josh Sale – Bishop Blanchett HS (WA)

Too low? Probably, but I’m still having a hard time getting an actual read on where Sale’s prospect stock currently stands. What I do know is that the man is a hitter. He hits, hits, hits, and hits. He isn’t a slug in the field, but many scouts still believe that he probably profiles best as a big league leftfielder. Boy, first Ragira and now Sale; I’m starting to realize that Goldstein is going to have it really easy with this year’s high school class. If he needs a head start on his fun facts for Sale’s future top 11 piece, he can take the following tidbits free of charge: Sale’s full name is Joshua Ezkiel Gasu Sale and his dad is a native Samoan famous for being a champion power lifter.

1.27 Philadelphia Phillies: 3B Victor Sanchez – San Diego

As a Phillies fan, I can’t help but wonder if sometimes I lean closer towards wishful thinking than objective analysis when it comes time to making a pick for the hometown team. I probably have no business giving the Phillies a college bat in the first round, but, really, I probably have no business making any of these guesses and you’re still reading all the way down here at pick 27, right?

In order for Sanchez to go in the first he is going to have to put together a big junior year. Now that’s true of just about any guy on the mock, doubly so for any player projected to go here at the back end of the first, but Sanchez is facing a more critical 2010 season than most after missing the majority of the 2009 season with a shoulder injury. He’ll need to build on his strong 2009 start if he wants to showcase his considerable talents. At his best Sanchez displays plus raw power, a good offensive approach, and enough defensive abilities to stick at third long-term.

1.28 Los Angeles Dodgers: RHSP Matt Harvey – North Carolina

After Harvey’s hot start last season, I wrote the following on March 1, 2009:

[W]hat is the likelihood, if it exists at all, that Matt Harvey reaches the same level of hype other elite college pitchers (Strasburg, Price, and Prior, to name a few) had heading into his draft year?

Uhh, I’m going to have to go out on a limb here and say that the likelihood isn’t all that good. Controversial answer, I know. It’s probably weird having Matt Harvey in the first round at this point, but, if anything, I actually feel weird about having him this low. A really, really good rule to follow when tracking draft prospects is to remember that once a player shows you a skill, it is his to own. There are obvious exceptions to this, major injuries being the most obvious, but good players just don’t plain forget how to do good things on the field. Elite prospects who don’t sign out of high school tend not to drop too far after three years of college, even if those three years are so-so.

The most recent reports on Harvey have been largely positive: 90-93 sitting velocity with fastball, 94-95 peak velocity, plus 77-80 CB, and a solid sinking low-80s change. The biggest problem with Harvey’s game seems to be his bizarre velocity inconsistency with his fastball. One day you’ll see him pitching in the mid-90s, the next he’ll be down to maxing out at 86 (86!), and then he’ll be back up to sitting 88-90, but still not hitting 96 like before…until the next time out when he suddenly has regained those lost 10 MPH on the fastball. What the heck is that? It’s not even a start-to-start phenomenom, either; Harvey has experienced sudden velocities dips and gains in-game as well. I have no idea what to make of Harvey. If the right scouting director sees him on the right day, he’ll go high. If not, he’ll be lumped in with the rest of the college guys who project as relievers hoping to get a spot in the first five rounds.

I like the idea of the Dodgers taking Harvey one pick before the Angels, the team that couldn’t get him signed back in 2007. I wonder what Harvey’s career would have looked like so far if he would have signed out of high school. He’s a prime candidate for an Alternate Reality Crystal Ball…

1.29 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: LHSP James Paxton – Kentucky

Pretty uneventful past couple of months for Paxton, huh? As we wait and see whether Paxton’s legal team decides to appeal to NCAA’s decision to keep him off the Kentucky roster in 2010, we can take some time to speculate on his professional future. I know I already made the comparison earlier in the mock with Jesse Hahn, but Paxton and Aroldis Chapman probably match up better from an overall talent perspective. Like Chapman, Paxton’s realistic floor is that of a late inning, shutdown reliever. That’s clearly not a floor to be taken lightly. Paxton’s current two-pitch combo (fastball at 92-98 MPH, low-80s plus slider) make him a good enough to pitch in the big leagues right now. The issues with Paxton come down to fastball command and the lack of a consistent third pitch (the change is a work in progress). Getting a chance to address those issues in the SEC this upcoming season could potentially do Paxton’s draft stock a world of good, especially considering the way he directly addressed one of the biggest concerns to his game (control) in 2009 by nearly cutting his BB/9 in half.

If Paxton’s floor is a big league reliever, his upside is a front of the rotation anchor, especially if he shows progress with the changeup this season. I’m always in favor of trying pitchers as starters first and position players at more demanding defensive positions before moving them elsewhere. Paxton’s ability to hold his velocity late (I’ve seen him hitting the high-90s as late as the sixth inning, for what it’s worth) make him worth trying as a starter until he proves that his stuff plays better in the bullpen…or not.

1.30 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 3B/2B Kolbrin Vitek – Ball State

Vitek’s tools all grade out similarly to fellow small school sensation Bryce Brentz. They both have plus bat speed, good plate discipline, and plus power potential. They are also both two-way players who have had success on the mound collegiately, though only Vitek could actually pull of the trick of being a legit draft prospect as either a hitter or pitcher. In addition to a glove/arm combination that will definitely play at third professionally, Vitek does all the little things well that make scouts (and wannabe’s like me) very happy. He is a sensational base runner, works deep counts, and has one of the coolest names this side of Yordy Cabrera. Vitek’s utter dominance of the Great Lakes League this past summer sealed the deal for me. He may not be a first rounder in June, but he is as good a bet as any college hitter in the 2010 to be an impact player in the big leagues.

I only have the Angels taking one high school player out of their three first round picks. That seems like a mistake now, but I tried to err on the side of sure-fire signability. That is something that will almost certainly be adjusted in future mocks. In a strange twist, this is the second year in a row the Angels have had back-to-back picks in the first round. Stranger still, I “drafted” for the Angels in last year’s MVN MLB Outsider: 2009 Mock Draft. My picks last year were Tyler Skaggs and Everett Williams – two high school players! You would think I wouldn’t stray too much from the formula that worked last year, but I’m just not that smart. Next mock for the Angels will be better, I promise.

Speaking of my picks last year for the now-defunct MVN site, check it out:

A closing thought as I run up against the maximum word threshold – watch out for the Angels popping University of Washington OF/QB Jake Locker with an early mid-round pick (early as round 4, late as round 7). Adenhart, Trumbo, and Walden were all risky signability picks, but Eddie Bane and his staff did their homework to know exactly how much each player needed to sign on the dotted line. Locker’s commitment to football and time away from baseball make him as risky a signability pick as any player in the draft, but his raw tools are good enough that some team will call an all-out blitz in an attempt to get him signed. That team will be the Angels, you heard it here first.

The Angels took him in the tenth round. That led to this, probably the coolest bit of mainstream exposure the site has enjoyed since starting up early last year. I’ve long daydreamed of being referred to as “this guy here” and now I can say I’ve truly accomplished something in my life.

1.31 Tampa Bay Rays: OF Bryce Brentz – Middle Tennessee State

Super Nintendo numbers (.465/.535/.930) and comparisons to Nick Markakis’s two-way skill set have gotten Brentz a disproportionate amount of pub when compared to other draft prospects, but, hey, any time a casual baseball fan knows the name of  a draft prospect months in advance we have to consider that a strong indicator of the rapid growth of MLB draft coverage. Brentz has special bat speed and should be an above-average defender in right field professionally. I’d love to take closer look at the game-by-game breakdown of Brentz’s ’09 numbers to see the types of pitchers he is doing the most of his damage off of, though the sample sizes involved may not yield any kind of meaningful conclusions. With six months between now and then draft, I’m sure I’ll be able to delve a little deeper into Brentz’s numbers one way or another.

1.32 New York Yankees: SS Garin Cecchini – Barbe HS (LA)

Always important to end on a high note, and I like this match between team and player. Cecchini is an outstanding athlete with a good arm, above-average speed, and very impressive lefthanded power. If you believe he’ll stick at short, then the Yankees can finally claim to have a worthy successor to Derek Jeter in the pipeline. Robbie Aviles, a New York native, is another name that fits here quite well.

2010 MLB Draft Prospect: Jameson Taillon

RHP Jameson Taillon (The Woodlands HS, Texas)

  • heavy 92-94 FB; also seen at easy 93-95; most recently hit 96-97
  • plus 77-84 CB; 75-76 maybe?
  • underutilized 76 CU with real potential
  • 83-84 with SF
  • plus command
  • 6-7, 230 pounds
  • popular comps include Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Josh Beckett, and, wait for it, Roger Clemens…

[Before I get to all of the drawn out prose I had originally planned, let me add this late edit that doesn't really fit in with the rest of the piece, but was too good to let pass. Random Anonymous Scout (so take it for what it's worth) told me the other day that Jameson Taillon could currently pitch out of a big league bullpen and hold his own. Pretty high praise, I thought. It also reinforces the idea in my head that Taillon is the 2010 version of Tanner Scheppers, another talented fastball/power curve guy that I thought could pitch out of the bullpen from day one if called upon. For the record, I don't advocate either guy pitching exclusively out of the bullpen professionally, although I get why it makes sense for Scheppers to go that route. Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled Taillon scouting profile...]

The first sentence in my entirely hypothetical yet undoubtedly terrible essay entitled “Why I Love Following Pro Sport Draft(s)” might go a little something like this: “There’s a very obvious thrill that comes in forever chasing the next big thing…” One of my favorite parts of following the respective drafts in all of the major sports is the lack of and/or conflicting information out there about certain players. This isn’t so much a problem with NBA and NFL draft coverage where the college game is televised seemingly every day of the calendar year, and I can never personally name more than 3 players in a given NHL Draft, but the Rule 4 MLB Draft is different. Sure, baseball’s draft coverage has become more prevalent what with the rise of many quality rogue handsome bloggers — which reminds me that I have to update the sidebar links in the coming days — in conjunction with increased output from the major media standbys (BA/Kevin Goldstein/Keith Law), but information regarding the skills of specific draft prospects, high school guys mostly, can be very, very hard to find, especially outside of the top handful of big name prospects. I like that. I like the mystery that comes with nobody having a 100% idea of the ins and outs of a player’s particular skill set.

(Incidentally, one of my ideas for “proving” the NBA and NFL Drafts get more coverage than the MLB counterpart was by comparing Google hits for each phrase. I figured “NFL Draft” would have the most by far, “NBA Draft” would be a clear second, and either “MLB Draft” or “NHL Draft” would bring up the rear. How wrong I was. “MLB Draft” produced more hits than any of the others. Go figure.)

The lack of concrete information regarding specific players makes following the baseball draft all the more rewarding in the end. You can really come up with just about any wacky justification about why you prefer Player X over Player Y as long as you can back it up with some kind of reasoned argument. It’s damn hard to say with any kind of certainty that any one player is definitely, absolutely, positively a better prospect than another; there are too many variables at play. Prefer Player X? Fine, but tell me why. Hope your team drafts Player Y? Alright by me, so long as you can explain the relative pros and cons of the two.

There normally is more exposure given to college athletes and certainly more of a significant statistical base to draw from, so arguments over which college players make the best pro prospects have more of a “right/wrong” feel to them. Arguments about prep players, however, can be spun in any number of directions. With limited and/or conflicting information to go off of, it’s inevitable that personal preferences will come into play. If you are predisposed to believing the changeup is the neatest pitch around, then chances are high you are going to elevate the ranking of a pitcher with a plus change. I watched a college game a few years ago next to a scout that told me that his scouting director was only interested in college pitchers with at least two above-average to plus pitches. Another scout chimed in that his scouting director told him that any prep pitchers taken by his time were required to at least show three different pitches, no matter the quality. We all look for different ways to differentiate the good prospects from the so-so prospects, and, perhaps more importantly, the great prospects from the good prospects.

There are a lot of different ways one can evaluate high school pitching prospects, with no real right way or wrong way of reaching a conclusion.  Of course, let’s be honest here – there is little accountability on my end when it comes to how I rank these guys. I take pride in my work and am ridiculously appreciative of every single reader who stops by, but I understand my job isn’t on the line when I endorse one player over another.  One of the things that really stood out to me in really digging deep into the high school pitching prospect ranks last year was how rare finding a high school pitching prospect with two present plus pitches is. Jameson Taillon has those two pitches.

Taillon will easily sit in the low-90s as a professional, with a peak fastball that has already reached the high-90s. He is close to a finished product coming out of high school as I can remember in recent years, a fact that will unbelievably work against him as draft day draws closer. The comparisons to fellow top high school righthander AJ Cole are inevitable. AJ Cole has a plus fastball and a potential plus curve; Jameson Taillon has a plus fastball and a present plus curve. Taillon also has the current leg up with his changeup, although he hasn’t really shown the pitch off in real game situations just yet.

It’ll be really interesting to see if the Cole vs Taillon storyline emerges as a viable draft subplot this spring. The two young arms are a study in contrast, despite sporting similar high end velocities and offspeed stuff. Additionally, both young righties have top of the rotation upside. Cole may ultimately have more upside, but there is little arguing he is currently further from reaching it. Taillon is the more finished product, but some scouts worry he is currently throwing better than he’ll ever throw professionally. In a world that encourages controversy by demanding that all things boil down to building up one side of an argument while simultaneously tearing down the other, it would not be the least bit surprising to see plenty of people frame the Cole vs Taillon debate in this way. There is no problem with picking a favorite horse in the race, heck it’s part of the whole reason this site is around. Building up one player is appreciated, but I don’t see why it has to come at the expense of another. I guess it’s just the subtle different between Cole over Taillon (or vice versa) and Cole vs Taillon; I’m hoping for the former, but I fear we’ll see more of the latter.

The consensus on Taillon’s mechanics seems to indicate there is more good than bad with his delivery. Repeated looks at Taillon have me believing that the scouts know what they are talking about here. I think Taillon’s shoulder looks a little stiff, and he takes too short a stride on his follow through, but I like his consistent release point and the powerful high leg kick. He has a tendency to drift toward the 1st base side, but it’s hardly a cause for concern because he manages to drift off in almost the exact same manner every time he does it. That seems to be the overarching theme with Taillon’s mechanics. Even if an individual aspect of his delivery is unconventional looking, it at least remains the same with every pitch he throws. Taillon’s massive frame and unique arm action enable him to keep nearly everything he throws down in the zone. Righties have taken some ridiculously bad swings against him, repeatedly banging his sinking fastball/slider combo into the ground for routine outs.

I can’t really speak to the rather generous comps to Strasburg, Beckett, and Clemens, but I think it’s pretty clear that Taillon is a far more well-rounded prospect than Gerrit Cole was coming out of high school in 2008. To take it a step further, Taillon’s scouting profile reminds me a little bit of what scouts said about Josh Johnson as he was coming up through Florida’s system. While I’m not brave enough to claim Taillon will ever have a pro season quite like the one Johnson just had, I have no problem pointing out that Taillon is currently a better prospect than Johnson ever was. Taillon has a better overall fastball, better secondary offering (though Johnson’s slider has turned into a real weapon professionally), and eerily similar command, makeup, and mound presence. The light clearly went on for Johnson enough to turn him from a good prospect to a great pitcher, a perfect example of how different developmental paths can be for different players. There’s no telling what kind of path Taillon will actually take, but the fact that he even has the chance to follow in the footsteps of a guy like Johnson is darn exciting.

A thought just occurred to me. I may be a bit overzealous with some of my comps, but let’s go with what I’ve got so far, for argument’s sake if nothing else. If AJ Cole is Justin Verlander and Jameson Taillon is Josh Johnson, and neither player is excepted to go number one overall in this draft, then what is there really left to say about what kind of prospect Bryce Harper is?

Top 50 2010 MLB Draft Prospects – Expanded Version

I had way too difficult a time attempting to group the top 50 2010 MLB Draft prospects into meaningful tiers, so instead I grouped them in a way that made it easier for me to come up with common things to talk about under each tier. I’ve been gone a few months, but I’m still as lazy a writer as ever.

While reading my off the cuff blurbs, please do keep in mind that I’m way behind on my college coverage right now. Anything I say about a college prospect should be taken with a humongous block of salt. Conversely, I’ve done my homework on these high school guys. So you should listen to me there, if you know what’s good for you. Or not. Your call. It’s just that last year I was way ahead on college players vs. high school players, and this year I wanted to make a concerted effort to focus more on the more mysterious side of the draft spectrum first. I’ve spent a lot of my time “off” going through high school scouting reports, watching video, checking out showcases, and talking to people in baseball way more well connected about this stuff than I’ll ever be. All of that has been done with an emphasis on this year’s group of high school prospects. Hopefully, some of that knowledge will come across in the coming days, weeks, and months. Alright, enough about me…let’s talk about the prospects.

C Bryce Harper

The Harper backlash has already begun in some corners of the internet, but I’m going to be oh so bold and stick with him as the top draft prospect heading into 2010. Keep in mind this is coming from the same guy who totally called Stephen Strasburg as the top pick last year. Amazing prediction, am I right? Now you see why I have to disappear for months at a time during the draft offseason – I’m working hard coming up with such bold, innovative predictions that allow me to stand out amongst the crowd of all the other amateur draft prognosticators. I should really start charging for my brilliant insight…

RHP Jameson Taillon
3B Nick Castellanos
RHP AJ Cole
OF Austin Wilson

Picking Harper for the top spot was a piece of cake. Picking Taillon right behind him is almost as easy. A piece of pie, if you will. Taillon’s extensive arsenal of quality pitches (heavy FB, nasty low-80s SL, near-plus high-70s CB, occasional splitters and CUs) and high level of high school competition put him above the rest of this year’s impressive crop of teenage righthanded pitching. After last year’s lackluster prep position player class, I’m admittedly a little bit desperate for some exciting high school bats to emerge this spring. To that end, I throw my full support behind both Castellanos and Wilson as legit high first round caliber talents. By the way, I hate pie. I don’t mean I hate Taillon – I’m through with that lame metaphor. I mean actual pie. Apple is alright, I guess. Lemon meringue is probably my favorite. The rest? No, thank you. Makes Thanksgiving dessert a bit of a downer for me, but, on the bright side, it allows me more freedom to eat as much of the dinner portion of the meal as I can possibly stuff down my throat.

RHP Anthony Ranaudo
RHP Karsten Whitson
LHP Drew Pomeranz
RHP Brandon Workman
RHP Stetson Allie

Ranaudo is lower here than even I expected, but the upside of the five names in front of him partially explains his low standing. I also have personal reservations about big guys that don’t throw nearly as hard as expected. There is plenty of tape on him floating around, so I’ll need to take a closer look and break him down in the near future. Workman has been a fascination of mine since the Phillies failed to sign him coming out of high school, so I feel confident in his placement based on his outstanding raw stuff and physical build. Allie is ahead of Whitson on talent alone at this point, but the up and down results that Allie puts up make him a very difficult player to accurately access.

INF/OF/RHP Yordy Cabrera
RHP Deck McGuire
3B Zack Cox

Something about those draft eligible sophomores always intrigues me. I haven’t talked to many people who think Cabrera will stick at shortstop professionally, but he’s so darn talented across the board that I’d be willing to gamble on him being productive wherever he winds up on the diamond.

RHP Jesse Hahn
LHP Chris Sale

The two big names from the Cape are still a mystery to me as far as their prospect standing goes. They are both very good prospects, of course, but the question of how good remains to be answered. Yes, I realize I could write that exact same blurb about every player on this list, especially the college guys. I may have worked too hard to cover up my high school blindspots. Time to get back to studying the college game for a bit, starting with the high upside, high flameout possibilities listed above.

RHP Cameron Bedrosian
RHP Kyle Blair
RHP Matt Harvey

Undersized righthander with a hot fastball and an excellent curve with big league bloodlines? If it hasn’t been made before, I’m happy to be the first to throw out the Kyle Drabek/Cameron Bedrosian comparison. Blair and Harvey have seen their respective stocks drop a ton in the past calendar year. I’m a believer in the rule that once you show a skill, you own that skill. Neither Blair nor Harvey has been seriously injured. Neither Blair nor Harvey has forgotten how to throw a baseball with nasty stuff.

RHP Dylan Covey
RHP Kaleb Cowart
MIF Anthony Wolters
C/OF Stefan Sabol
OF Bryce Brentz
LHP James Paxton

Wolters and Sabol could both be impact players at up the middle defensive positions as professionals, with Wolters having a chance to be a truly special defender at second base in time. Brentz and Paxton might have cases as having the highest upsides of any position player and pitcher in the collegiate ranks, respectively.

RHP Zach Lee
RHP Peter Tago
RHP Jesus Valdez
RHP AJ Vanegas
RHP Justin Grimm
OF Angelo Gumbs
OF Brian Ragira
C Rob Brantly

Valdez doesn’t have quite the velocity of some pitchers in his class, but the movement he gets on his fastball makes it a legit plus pitch going forward. Vanegas may be a quick riser as a professional; prep pitchers that can throw four pitches for consistent strikes tend to move fast. I think I have Ragira too low in this spot. He is a legit CF prospect with an above-average big league quality arm, in addition to a mature beyond his years approach at the plate. Brantly is another draft-eligible sophomore with tremendous upside; in a pretty good year for college catching, he’s the top four-year college backstop on my board.

OF Levon Washington
SS Rick Hague
SS Christian Colon

Let’s talk Christian Colon for a minute, shall we? I guess my lack of love for his game comes from me severely underrating the value of a league average big league shortstop (a rookie mistake on my part, I admit) and also being less than impressed when seemingly every scouting report about Colon begins and ends with talk about his personality, leadership, and the way he makes the most of his average at best tools. No doubt Colon’s makeup is totally off the charts and his defensive chops make him a slam dunk to stick at short professionally, but I tend to focus more on the “average at best tools” part of that discussion than the “personality” and “leadership.” I’m both ready and willing to convinced I’m totally wrong on Colon, but that’s where things stand now. For what it’s worth, I’ve only seen Colon play once since watching him in person in high school, so maybe I’m judging him unfairly based on my limited and outdated memory of his skills. Also, for what it’s worth, I have a scouting buddy who has seen Colon play a ton from his junior year of high school until this past summer and he absolutely loves everything about Colon’s game.

RHP Kevin Gausman
RHP DeAndre Smelter
RHP Tyrell Jenkins
OF Leon Landry
3B Victor Sanchez

Keyvius Sampson was my guy from day one last year. This year’s version might be Tyrell Jenkins. Jenkins has a lot of nice things going for him on paper – good velocity, sharp breaking ball (slider), very athletic, and a great amount of projection going forward. Sanchez seems like he is getting lost in the shuffle as another formerly highly touted high school prospect who has battled injuries and inconsistency at the college level. Since I love making unfounding comparisons, let’s call Sanchez the hitting equivalent of the previously mentioned Matt Harvey and Kyle Blair combo platter. Landry is a total upside play here, but I trust the LSU coaching staff like few others.

1B Christian Yelich
SS Sean O’Brien
1B/3B Kris Bryant
RHP Aaron Sanchez
RHP Nick Tepesch
INF Zach Alvord

If I had to pick one guy on my list to drop off over the course of the season, I’d probably go with Yelich. That naturally begs the question of why he is on the list in the first place. Yelich is like the hitting version of Stetson Allie, an up and down prospect that can look like a late first rounder one day and a fifth round lottery ticket on the next. It gets repeated every year, but it’s important: prep players limited to first base need to be able to hit, hit, and hit some more to be taken seriously as a draft prospect. I realize I have O’Brien lower than Colon on this list, but I’m not quite sure why. I’m a man who loves upside, and O’Brien’s ceiling is higher than just about any other shortstop in this year’s class. Of course, I’m also a realistic enough fellow who can readily admit that Colon is a much more certain bet to reach his upside than O’Brien. In one of the most spot-on comps of the year, scouts have compared Kris Bryant to a young Troy Glaus on more than one occasion. It’s only been 24 hours since I posted this list, but I think I’m already ready to knock Alvord off…

RHP Robbie Aviles
C Micah Gibbs
SS/RHP Justin O’Conner
LHP Jessie Biddle

I think Justin O’Conner could wind up as this year’s Casey Kelly, a ridiculously talented two-way player picked late in the first round by a team willing to pony up the big bucks for his services. In the end, however, I think O’Conner will deviate from the Kelly plan by proving himself to be a better hitter than pitcher. Biddle is the token prep lefthanded pitcher on the list. I felt bad about not including any young lefties on the 2010 list after the totally stacked 2009 class, so I threw lefties everywhere a bone with Biddle’s inclusion.

Big Board 1.0: Top 50 2010 MLB Draft Prospects

I know this qualifies as a way, way, way too early look at the top 50 2010 MLB Draft prospects, but it seems like as good a way as any to get back into the swing of things here as we begin to prepare for another exciting draft season. This list is extremely preliminary (especially the rankings of the collegiate players and the prep righthanded pitchers), but I needed to get something down in print to better organize myself going forward. Next on the agenda, modifying this list by adding in player value tiers and brief commentary justifying some of the rankings. Stay tuned for that…
  1. C Bryce Harper
  2. RHP Jameson Taillon
  3. 3B Nick Castellanos
  4. RHP AJ Cole
  5. OF Austin Wilson
  6. RHP Anthony Ranaudo
  7. RHP Karsten Whitson
  8. LHP Drew Pomeranz
  9. RHP Brandon Workman
  10. RHP Stetson Allie
  11. INF/OF/RHP Yordy Cabrera
  12. RHP Deck McGuire
  13. 3B Zack Cox
  14. RHP Jesse Hahn
  15. LHP Chris Hale
  16. RHP Cameron Bedrosian
  17. RHP Kyle Blair
  18. RHP Matt Harvey
  19. RHP Dylan Covey
  20. RHP Kaleb Cowart
  21. MIF Anthony Wolters
  22. C/OF Stefan Sabol
  23. OF Bryce Brentz
  24. LHP James Paxton
  25. RHP Zach Lee
  26. RHP Peter Tago
  27. RHP Jesus Valdez
  28. RHP AJ Vanegas
  29. RHP Justin Grimm
  30. OF Angelo Gumbs
  31. OF Brian Ragira
  32. C Rob Brantly
  33. OF Levon Washington
  34. SS Rick Hague
  35. SS Christian Colon
  36. RHP Kevin Gausman
  37. RHP DeAndre Smelter
  38. RHP Tyrell Jenkins
  39. OF Leon Landry
  40. 3B Victor Sanchez
  41. 1B Christian Yelich
  42. SS Sean O’Brien
  43. 1B/3B Kris Bryant
  44. RHP Aaron Sanchez
  45. RHP Nick Tepesch
  46. INF Zach Alvord
  47. RHP Robbie Aviles
  48. C Micah Gibbs
  49. SS/RHP Justin O’Conner
  50. LHP Jessie Biddle

Bryce Harper

That draft in 2009? Old news. Stephen Strasburg? Forget about him. We have seen the suddenly surprisingly near future – all Bryce Harper, all the time.

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

I’m not a fan of writing about straight “news” pieces (there are literally thousands of better websites to go to for that), but I’ve publicly ignored Bryce Harper long enough. The big story that broke over the weekend is that, yes, Nevada high school catcher Bryce Harper has taken the first steps towards locking up his place atop 2010 draft boards everywhere by registering for classes at the College of Southern Nevada. Harper has stated his desire to begin courses at CSN in August, earn his GED in the fall, play for the CSN baseball squad in the spring of 2010, and then, assuming everything goes according to plan, get picked number one overall by the Washington Nationals (thus earning more money in his signing bonus than my overpriced college educated behind will make in a lifetime, by the way) next June. Consider that last bit a sneak preview at the upcoming first edition of the 2010 mock…

One little thing from all the articles re: Harper that have broke over the past few days has left me a bit confused. I’m not quite sure how he plans to attend junior college classes beginning in August before trying to get his GED sometime in the fall. That’s the timeline presented in everything I’ve read about Harper’s story, but it doesn’t seem to add up. What am I missing here? Can you really attend junior college classes before getting a high school diploma (or equivalency)?

[UPDATE - After deciding to be proactive for once, I did about two minutes of Googling in an attempt to answer my own questions. It appears that in many states you can enroll at junior colleges (or in some cases four-year colleges) without first obtaining a high school degree. Interesting. It's true what they say, you really do learn something new every day.]

Photo Credit: Palm Goon

Photo Credit: Palm Goon

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