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2011 Quick Draft Thoughts – Rutgers Scarlet Knights

SR OF Michael Lang’s scouting profile screams potential fourth outfielder. Above-average in many phases of the game (speed, arm strength, range) with consistent strong production at the plate (.378/.471/.700 – 27 BB/39 K – 11/15 SB – 230 AB), not to mention one of the finest people I’ve talked to/people who say ridiculously nice things about him ratios I’ve come across. Yes, Lang’s PITT/PWSRNTAH stat is simply off the charts. Regular readers of the site know I try to straddle that fine line when it comes to makeup – not wanting to be completely dismissive of it, not willing to use it to make blanket statements defending or denouncing any particular prospect’s ranking – but I do think it makes an interesting tie-breaker during equally talented player comparisons, especially for prospects who aren’t expected to be regulars in the big leagues. Call me naïve, but sometimes I like to think of the business of baseball like I would any other job market that exists in our world. If I had final say on draft day, I’d always stop and ask myself this very simple question: Do you feel confident hiring this man to join your company? Lang’s done enough on the field, shown enough of a projectable skill set, and is by all accounts a potential model employee.

JR RHP Charlie Law is a projection pick all the way at this point. The potential for three big league average or better pitches (88-92 FB with sink, above-average CU that really impressed me when I saw him in high school, raw CB with promise) and a great frame (6-7, 235) make him one of college baseball’s most intriguing mystery men. With only 36 innings pitched through his first two seasons as a Scarlet Knight, Law has a lot to prove in 2011. I personally find his height interesting because it is one of those rare attributes that is both very clearly a positive (downward plane, some potential for more heat, better suited for durability, etc.) and a negative. I haven’t seen him since high school, so don’t take this as gospel, but his height often appeared to throw his mechanics out of sync which in turn hurt the way he commanded his fastball.

I really, really liked SR OF Brandon Boykin last year, but the more time he spends away from the infield the less I seem to like his prospect stock. Despite his plus speed and impressive pop for his size, I’d still rank him behind Lang.  JR RHP Nathaniel Roe is well off the radar for many draft fans at this point, but he throws two good secondary pitches (low-70s CB and mid-70s CU) and might be able to get a look despite a below-average heater.

Those are the top four prospects on my Rutgers board at this point. Law and Lang are locks to get drafted. Boykin is a solid maybe. Despite my appreciation, Roe might be viewed as a 2012 senior sign more than anything else. After that, it’s lottery ticket time. The very athletic SR LHP Sean Campbell is probably the only other Rutgers pitcher with a shot to get drafted. Two grip and rip players, JR OF Ryan Kapp and JR 3B/1B Russ Hopkins, are both really strong college power hitters not exactly known for their plate discipline. Picking one over the other is tricky. I think Hopkins has a better chance of figuring things out at the plate, but the possibility he won’t stick at 3B in the pros is scary. Kapp’s strong track record with wood and enviable present power make me happy, but corner outfielders who can’t control the strike zone aren’t exactly in high demand these days, Dayton Moore excepted. Kapp by a hair, but the two are awfully close.

JR RHP Willie Beard, after throwing up a less than stellar 8.57 FIP in 35.2 IP last season, needs a better junior season to get back on the map. Insightful commentary, I know. The point I am clumsily trying to make is that Beard, a player who scouts actually said nice things about as a freshman, is not without talent despite his poor sophomore season. I don’t think he is a draftable talent – short righthanded pitchers either need above-average stuff, dominating numbers, or, in many instances, both to get noticed – but he can be filed away as a deep, deep, deep  sleeper if you’re into that sort of thing.

Lastly we come to two draft-eligible sophomores with enough untapped upside to deserve mention. SO OF/LHP Steven Zavala and SO C Justin Olsen both flashed enough talent as prep players to warrant some consideration here in 2011. The key word there is some; do keep in mind that non-premium draft-eligible sophomores typically don’t hear their names called on draft day

2011 MLB Draft Prognosis

Lang and Law are definites, Boykin is a strong maybe, Kapp and Hopkins are weak maybes, and Campbell, Roe, Olsen, and Zavala are long shots. That covers the prediction part of things. As far as my own prospect tastes, I’d personally rank them Law, Lang, Boykin, Roe, Kapp, Hopkins, Olsen, and Zavala, in order.

2011 Quick Draft Thoughts – Clemson Tigers

1. Clemson’s 2008 group of signees included Kevin Brady, David Haselden, Will Lamb, Brad Miller, Scott Weismann, Jason Stolz, Ethan Martin, and Chris Dwyer. I realize you can do that with the recruiting class of a major college program almost any year, but something about this class intrigued me. A college rotation of Dwyer, Martin (who I loved as a high school prospect), and Brady would have been fun.

2. SO RHP Kevin Brady confounds me. He’s good, no doubt, but I’m not yet sure how good. I’ve heard some smart people put forth convincing arguments against Brady as a premium draft arm (not enough movement on fastball, inconsistent slider, curve and change too far behind fastball/slider), but I’m leaning towards the thought that Brady is better than that. How good is it? I’m thinking really, really good (dominating numbers, good command of 90-92 FB that touches 94-95, good slider when he has it working, improving changeup) with the potential to vault into the top three rounds with a big spring.

3. The biggest reason why it took me so long to finish writing about Clemson is Brad Miller. See, I’m a big fan of his and I think he’s one of the best middle infield prospects in this year’s draft. Or that’s what I thought, at least. I thought he was one of the best and was going to write that, but then I figured, hey, it’s my site so why not put off finishing up the Clemson team report for a day while I put together my list of top college middle infield prospects. That way I can make a declarative statement about Brad Miller’s place on my personal middle infield rankings. As of now, I have Miller as college baseball’s best shortstop prospect and somewhere in the top three (with Kolten Wong and Levi Michael) when stacked against all college middle infielders.

Early 2011 Draft Guesses

The aforementioned Kevin Brady isn’t the only Clemson draft-eligible sophomore of note. SO LHP Joseph Moorfield hasn’t gotten a lot of notice outside of Pickens County, but lefties with low-90s and four usable pitches don’t often get overlooked for long. His control is probably his biggest question mark right now; it’ll probably be the key in determining his role for the upcoming season which in turn could be the key in determining his 2011 draft stock. JR RHP Scott Weismann is a big favorite of mine because of his strong power arsenal that I think will really play up pitching out of the bullpen professionally. From a filthy sinking low-90s fastball to a hard low-80s slider, every pitch that Weismann throws moves. Throw in a good splitter and you’ve got yourself a prospect to watch. Weismann might get downgraded by some teams turned off by classic short righthanded pitcher bias, but his stuff plays. As one of the smartest amateur pitchers you’d ever hope to see, JR RHP David Haselden has a chance to make a move this spring. I haven’t personally seen him throw, but I’ve heard his offspeed stuff is strong and his fastball command is even stronger. Interested in learning more about him in the coming months.

It’s a shame there are a lot more interesting outfielders to sort through than shortstops or else I would be able to make some kind of declaration about JR OF/LHP Will Lamb. I don’t know where he’ll eventual rank when compared to a pretty deep crop of college outfielders, but I do know it will darn high. He’s big and strong enough to drive balls out without necessarily having to try (always a good thing to look for in a young hitter), he has elite range and first step quickness in the outfield, and his arm is a legitimate weapon in center. The word is that the majority of scouts have told him they prefer his upside on the mound (6-5 projectable lefties with low-90s velocity and two present average secondary pitches), but I still like his upside as a position player. I think he’s got a chance to be this year’s Brett Eibner. If only SR OF Jeff Schaus pitched, he’d be Clemson’s carbon copy of Florida State’s Mike McGee, a senior who consistently produces at a level greater than the sum of his tools. There are a lot of averages in a Schaus scouting report — power and speed, to name two — but he’s a gifted natural hitter with a smart approach at the plate who possesses just enough of every relevant tool to remain intriguing. There’s definite fourth outfielder potential here.

JR 3B Jason Stolz has a strong reputation in scouting circles despite having no standout tools (his arm and defensive versatility are probably his two best attributes) and poor college production to this point. JR C Phil Pohl actually reminds me a lot of a catching version of Stolz; great promise once upon a time, but now relegated to backup duty. Either prospect could be drafted, but I think neither will leave Clemson until after their senior seasons. SR OF Addison Johnson is out until early 2011 with a torn ACL, a injury that is really a tough blow for a speed guy to take. Fellow SR OF Chris Epps is a nice college leadoff hitter, but his pro profile is a mess. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not sure even a fifty round draft will find room for a fast (but not plus) runner who is limited to a leftfield because of a weak arm and poor outfield instincts without power.

JR 3B John Hinson is a prospect I spent a lot of time thinking about last summer after he was drafted by the Phillies. Here’s some of what I said back then: Hinson was a highly touted prospect out of high school who was considered advanced enough after his freshman year to be asked to play for Hyannis in the Cape Cod League. Back surgery cost him all of his 2009 season, but the fully recovered version of Hinson put up a 2010 statistical line that reads a lot like Pittsburgh’s Joe Leonard’s work this season. A plus hit tool combined with above-average speed and power will get you far professionally, but people smarter than myself that I talked with told me some teams question his ability to play any one particular spot in the infield with the consistency needed of a regular. Based on the limited looks of Hinson that I’ve seen, I can’t say that I necessarily agree with that assessment, but his defensive skillset (good athlete, iffy arm) may make him better suited for second base than third. At either spot, he’s got the bat to make him a potential regular with a couple breaks along the way.

Early 2011 Draft Guesses…for real this time

Miller, Lamb, and Brady should be early round selections. Weismann, Schaus, and Hinson are also locks to get taken. After that, things aren’t so clear. I like Moorefield, but I’m not so sure about him to put him with the locks. Stolz and Pohl are both solidly in the maybe pile at this point with longer shots like Johnson, Epps, and Haselden next up. I’m putting fictional money on Miller, Lamb, Brady, Weismann, Schaus, Hinson, Stolz, and Pohl even though I prefer Moorefield as a prospect over the last two names on the list.

2011 Quick Draft Thoughts – Maryland Terrapins

1. Even for a guy like me who doesn’t quite know what’s up with college baseball, it’s plain to see the talent level at Maryland is on the rise. Former Vanderbilt assistant Erik Bakich has done an incredible job of recruiting since getting hired in 2009. Would you believe me if I told you there could be up to fifteen Terrapins taken in this June’s draft? That’s obviously a perfect world projection where no player gets hurt, stalls in his development, or just plain falls flat on his fast, but the downside (say, a half dozen?) is still a pretty impressive draft output for a school to produce. I’m happy for Maryland, yes, but I’m a little peeved at the timing. See, it wasn’t too long ago that I had all sorts of nice connections down in and around Washington DC. Now that the Maryland program has finally grown into something worth seeing, I’ve lost all but the most tenuous of holds on my one strong Beltway hookup. What a bummer. Timing is everything, I guess.

2. I’m really excited to see what JR 3B Tomo Delp does against ACC pitching this spring. Almost all of the fall buzz about Bryce Harper’s CSN teammate has been positive, especially on the offensive side of the coin. I’m confident his bat will open some eyes, so I’ll be focusing on his progress with the glove. Good things have also been said about JR OF Korey Wacker, a true plus-plus speed guy with good range and a strong arm for centerfield. Yet another transfer who could make an instant draft impact is JR 2B Ryan Holland. He’s similar to Delp in that his bat is his calling card, but it has also been said that Holland’s defense has been more than adequate at second. As an added bonus, he also has experience holding it down at third base and shortstop. The most highly regarded returning Terrapins prospect is JR SS Alfredo Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a really good defender who will definitely stick at short as a pro. He made strides with the bat last spring, but is still almost exclusively a singles hitter at this point. Needless to say, great defense or not, I’m not as high on him as I know some are. JR OF Brandon Padula also could get a shot with a big spring, but he strikes me more as a good college player without a standout tool than a legitimate pro prospect. A lot can change between now and June, however.

3. Five position players mentioned so far, yet not a word on JR OF Matt Marquis. This past summer, a summer forever to be known to many prospect watchers as “The Summer of Trout,” I had a conversation with a friend well connected in the business who told me, and I know he won’t mind me quoting him here, “Matt Marquis was Mike Trout before Mike Trout was Mike Trout.” Pretty cool statement if you ask me. Marquis was a highly sought after high school prospect from New Jersey. He had speed, power to all fields, a strong arm, and an even stronger commitment to a great baseball school in Vanderbilt. A common comparison for each player, as funny as it seems with the benefit of hindsight, was Aaron Rowand. Getting the Trout vibe yet? Fast forward to today. Trout has completely blown up as a professional while Marquis has lagged behind. The second-year Maryland outfielder still offers up that tantalizing blend of above-average speed and raw power, but the production, from Nashville to College Park, has never matched the hype. Teams still hold out hope that he’ll put it all together as an above-average corner outfielder. Count me in as a believer.

Early 2011 Draft Guesses

Delp, Marquis, and Rodriguez are the three surest Maryland position players to be drafted, I think. They are followed by a pair of 50/50 shots in Padula and Holland. Wacker is probably a guy I’ve overrating based on strong tools – reminds me of last winter’s infatuation with Ridge Carpenter – so I’d probably put his odds as the longest to get drafted this year.

SR RHP Brett Harman deserves to be at or near the top of any team’s list of top senior signs. His strong three pitch mix features an upper-80s fastball with sink and a changeup that flashes plus, but it is above-average slider that makes everything else work. He reminds me of a favorite undervalued but effective big leaguer, newly signed Mariner Justin Miller SR LHP Eric Potter should also receive some looks as a mid- to late-round senior sign. His size and stuff remind me a little of his teammate on last year’s squad, Adam Kolarek. Kolarek, an eleventh round pick of the Mets in 2010, was drafted despite some control issues because of his above-average lefty velocity (though he generally sits upper-80s, I’ve personally seen him top out at 93 and I have read he’s been as high as 94) and an above-average mid-80s slider. Potter throws a curve instead of a slider, but the similarities in overall quality of stuff are there if you squint really hard. JR RHP Chuck Ghysels will probably get pigeonholed as a reliever because of his size (5-11, 200), but his three-pitch mix is definitely good enough to get college hitters out multiple times through a lineup. JR RHP Sander Beck throws a knuckle curveball, so you know he’s awesome. I think if your first name is Sander and you throw a knuckle curve, then you should be allowed to skip the minors and go straight to the big leagues. In all seriousness, Beck could be Maryland’s best 2011 draft prospect, even though I have my doubts about his way too hittable straight moving fastball. We’ll see. That’s four interesting pitchers to watch already and I haven’t even mentioned JR RHP Creighton Hoke (two average at worst pitchers already with his low-90s FB and SL) and JR RHP David Carroll (by rule, all 6-8, 235 pound pitchers deserve some love in this space). JR RHP Michael Boyden reminds me of the pitching version of JR OF Brandon Padula, steady yet unspectacular. A pair of senior RHPs Matt Quinn (whoa, I was looking at old notes the other day and realized that I saw him pitch when he was in high school…I had forgotten all about it) and Blair Delean could both sneak into the last few rounds with strong 2010 seasons, though I’d bet on both guys being on the outside looking in come June.

By my count that makes Harman, Beck, Ghysels, Potter, Hoke, Carroll, Delp, Marquis, Rodriguez, and Holland as good bets or better to be drafted with Padula, Wacker, and Boyden as maybes. Very strong group.

 

2011 Quick Draft Thoughts – Florida State Seminoles

1. This list took me a really long time to put together because Florida State has a ton of mid-round draft candidates who are really, really hard to separate. It also took me a long time to complete because I kept getting sucked in to reading the commentary at the many devoted Florida State baseball websites out there. I’ve admitted my lack of knowledge about the actual ins and outs of college baseball already – embarrassing admission, but it would take me a minute to remember what two teams played for the championship last year – but I had no idea that so many fans see the Florida State program as one settling into second-tier baseball school status. Recruiting has slipped in the past few seasons and the star quality players that once beat a path to Tallahassee are now finding homes elsewhere. I think getting a pair of potential plus bats on campus in consecutive years (Jayce Boyd last year, Eric Arce this year) is noteworthy, but on the whole there does seem to be a pretty big gap between upperclassmen and underclassmen talent. Any Florida State fans out there able to confirm or deny any of what I’ve read?

2. How did Tyler Holt fall to the tenth round last year?

3. I’ve always considered this site to be somewhat unique in the way player statistics drive the way college prospects are evaluated. I wish I was motivated and/or smart enough to make a little table, but here’s the gist of the stats/scouting Punnett square that I consider every time I think about a college player:

  1. Good Numbers + Good Scouting Reports = BUY
  2. Good Numbers + Questionable Scouting Reports = HOLD
  3. Lackluster Numbers + Good Scouting Reports = HOLD
  4. Lackluster Numbers + Questionable Scouting Reports = SELL

Players that fall under the first or last categories above are easy to sort out. Anthony Rendon is really, really good and, though I suppose there is some sport in figuring out how good “really, really good” actually is, there isn’t much debate about players in this category beyond that. Prospects in the last category don’t really exist, at least not in a world where we are being picky about using the word “prospect” to describe them; these college players are better at baseball than 99% of the general population, but aren’t talented enough to even get mentioned by anybody outside of their immediate family. Players in the middle two categories are where guys like me earn our imaginary internet cash money. Typically, I’m more willing to give the players in group two the benefit of the doubt over group three, but there is no hard and fast rule. It all comes down to the scouting reports, really; where they are coming from, whether or not they are firsthand accounts, the particular tools being praised or knocked, reasons for the players better/worse than expected output, the list could go on forever. For example, let’s say there is a player at State University that you happen to see play and fall in love with. You are convinced he has what it takes to be a pro, but his numbers don’t match up with what you’ve witnessed in front of you. That’s great! Sure, our eyes fool us plenty and sometimes we only see what we want to see, but the opposite is absolutely true as well. It’s not quite scouts vs stats, but more like projection vs production. I’m straying too far from where I want to go with Florida State now, so I’ll close with what I hope is one last succinct thought: just because Player X has hit better than Player Y as an amateur doesn’t mean that he’ll continue to do so, or even get the chance to do so, as a professional.

When making any kind of ranking or list, I almost always start by leaning towards production, but ultimately wind up working my way back towards favoring upside projection. The reason why I bothered to rehash this tired “debate” in the first place is to say that Florida State has a ton of fascinating production vs projection draft battles currently on the roster. I guess that what happens when you rely so heavily on junior college transfers like they do. SR RHP Daniel Bennett has been counted on in many big spots (10.40 K/9; 3.22 BB/9; 3.49 FIP; 36.1 IP) as the Seminoles primary non-closer relief pitcher. Versatile JR LHP Brian Busch has always gotten good results (8.65 K/9; 3.62 BB/9; 4.40 FIP; 77 IP) when called on. SR RHP Tyler Everett offers more (8.32 K/9; 4.26 BB/9; 3.37 FIP; 44.1 IP) of the same. Last year alone, that veteran trio pitched over 150 effective major college innings. Production! Then you have three new Seminoles with a combined total of zero innings pitched for Florida State: JR LHP Connor Nolan, JR RHP Adam Simmons, and JR RHP Gary Merians. To claim any of the three “untested” pitchers should rank over any arm in the more established trio would be a pretty clear win for projection over production, right?

Nolan intrigues the heck out of me. His fastball sits in the upper-80s, touching 91. His slider is a potential plus pitch. He also throws a curveball for strikes. Equipped with a three-pitch mix of his own (low-90s fastball and a good changeup/slider combo) Simmons isn’t too far behind. Merians has been on the radar since his high school days and more recently his stay in junior college. He has the plus arm strength that teams covet in potential back of the bullpen arms. Projection! Meanwhile, Bennett’s biggest strength is his deceptive sidearm delivery, Everett is a pitchability guy all the way, and Busch’s decent curve grades out as his only present above-average offspeed offering. I currently have them ranked, in order: Nolan, Bennett, Simmons, Merians, Busch, and Everett. I think all six players have a reasonable shot to be drafted this June, with Busch, second to last on my personal list despite his likely status as Florida State’s Saturday starter, probably the safest bet once you take everything into account.

Early 2011 Draft Guesses

The biggest sure thing on Florida State’s roster heading into 2011 is JR LHP Sean Gilmartin, a four-pitch Friday night starter that I can’t help but consistently underrate. Even though he has a very good mid-70s changeup and an above-average low-70s curveball, his inconsistent fastball, both in terms of velocity (sits mid- to upper-80s, peaks at 91-92) and command, worries me against professional hitters. Does a so-so fastball really undo the positives that three other potentially average or better (his low-80s slider isn’t great presently, but has the upside as a usable fourth pitch) secondary pitches bring to the table? As a guy who championed the pre-velocity spike Mike Minor, I’m inclined to say no, yet my instincts keep me away from endorsing Gilmartin as a potential top three round prospect. JR RHP Hunter Scantling’s quick report from last year holds up pretty well today: Scantling is huge (6-8, 270 pounds) and athletic, but his stuff still doesn’t quite match his imposing frame. That could change in a hurry, but for now he’s still sitting in the same upper-80s with iffy breaking stuff that he was at back in high school. It’ll be interesting to see if he’ll get more consistent innings as a starter or if Florida State opts to keep him coming out of the bullpen in 2011.Since then, his fastball has upped a bit in velocity (peaking 91) and his slider has markedly improved. The lack of an effective third pitch ought to keep him in the bullpen for now. Those are the only two locks to get drafted on the pitching side, in my view. The six pitchers mentioned above (Nolan, Bennett, Simmons, Busch, and Everett) all will be in the draft mix, but a lot will come down to their usage this spring. Believing that, I’d say Busch is the most likely of the sextet to go after Gilmartin and Scantling, but don’t rule out a name like Merians or Nolan jumping all the way up and becoming the second or third Seminole pitcher drafted.

The hitters are a lot more difficult to judge. There could be as many as ten Florida State position players selected in this year’s draft, a crazy number for any college team but even crazier for a good but not great college team. SR OF/RHP Mike McGee is a lock to get redrafted, but it’s not yet known if teams will ultimately prefer him in the outfield (like I do) or on the mound (like in last year’s draft). Either way, he’s one of the country’s best college players and a lot of fun to watch play. JR 2B Sherman Johnson is a huge personal favorite because of his outstanding plate discipline and above-average defensive tools. A second Seminole infielder, SR 3B Stuart Tapley, could hear his name crackled over the speaker phone; he’s got the skill set that could work as a four-corners bench bat as a professional. Florida State’s senior catchers – Parker Brunelle and Rafael Lopez – have both played below expectations in Tallahassee, but each player has shown flashes of their high level prep ability at times. Instinctually, I prefer Brunelle to Lopez, but both guys have strong points (Brunelle: athleticism and defense; Lopez: quick bat and strong arm) in their favor. In addition to McGee, the Seminoles return two additional outfielders with a chance to get taken in the draft. JR OF Taiwan Easterling reportedly scared off a team interested in drafting him in the fourth last year because of his extravagant bonus demands. If that story is true, one can only imagine what kind of attention the super toolsy former football player could draw with a big spring on the diamond. As is, the plus runner is almost a complete tools gamble. On the opposite end of the spectrum we have JR OF James Ramsey. Ramsey’s only above-average tool is his bat, but his prowess at the plate (.307/.453/.560; 51 BB/41 K; 218 AB) isn’t so great that teams will see much value in this limited to leftfield prospect. I suppose the direct comparison of Easterling and Ramsey is yet another example of projection over production, huh? I’ve left off, for now, talented junior college transfer Taed Moses and JR UTIL Jack Posey. Moses has gotten lots of positive buzz since enrolling at FSU; unfortunately, that’s the limit on what I know about him to this point. Posey is a super duper darkhorse prospect who might get overlooked by some who see him simply as Buster’s younger brother. Posey could get drafted late in 2011 by, say, the defending World Series Champions for that reason alone, but he’s actually a skilled ballplayer in his own right who hasn’t had the chance to show his abilities because of injury.

2011 Quick Draft Thoughts – Miami Hurricanes

1. It’s funny to me that two schools with a pretty well established athletic rivalry would go to such great lengths to differentiate themselves from each other by coming up with two distinct hitting philosophies. That is what’s going on with Miami and Florida State, right? The two teams decided to employ completely different approaches to scoring runs in an effort to finally determine which offensive style leads to the most runs scored. In some seriousness, the current lineups at Miami and Florida State couldn’t be more different. Mike Martin’s Florida State squads are always at or near the top of the conference when it comes to displaying professional quality plate discipline. This year’s Miami team, a good hitting squad with the chance of having a half dozen position players drafted, sets out to hit any and all pitches that don’t actually hit themselves first. Not a single draftable Hurricanes hitter has a BB/K ratio close to 1:1. Of course, and this is hardly a scientific statement so don’t hold it against me later, it seems that many college prospects — legit prospects who are widely considered draftable by all the big boys in the industry — with poor plate discipline tend to be the toolsiest of the toolsy. A quick scan of my notes on Miami position players reveals this to be mostly true: plus raw power, plus-plus speed, plus range, plus athleticism, “serious tools, but very raw,” potential plus defender, above-average to plus arm, great range, plus arm, “big power, but very raw”…and it goes on like that. I realize the last three high profile Hurricane draft picks (Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso, and Jemile Weeks) don’t exactly fit the mold, but…alright, fine, I’m not sure how to finish this thought. Just thought the raw, toolsy, free swinging Hurricane subplot was worth pursuing…

2. A drawback or difficulty that is not readily evident. Something unspecified whose name is either forgotten or not known. Any clever maneuver. All definitions of the word gimmick, all definitions that make me wonder if I’ve been using the word incorrectly all my life. See, I wanted to use this space to talk about one of my favorite draft-related gimmicks, the “All [Fill-in-the-class/adjective/conference/whatever] Prospect Team” or “All Prospect [Fill-in-the-position-group].” In this particular instance, I was ready to marvel at Miami’s “All Prospect Outfield” of SR OF Chris Pelaez, JR OF Nate Melendres, and SO OF Zeke DeVoss. I was even going to remark on how cool it was that every member of Miami’s “All Prospect Outfield” comes from a different graduating class. I typically love gimmicks like this because, quite honestly, I hate writing and will look for any excuse to make the experience more bearable, for me and the unlucky saps who skim through these too long paragraphs until they get to the rankings. Now I have to reassess whether or not this is even a gimmick at all. It certainly doesn’t fit either of the first two definitions, and there is very little about prospecting that I’d ever call clever. Anyway, how about that “All Prospect Outfield” the Hurricanes will be trotting out in 2011?  Pelaez (what makes him stand out: OF defense) should be a late round senior sign, Melendres (OF defense, arm, speed) will be a little bit more than that, and DeVoss (crazy speed, fantastic range) could vault his way up to the top few rounds with a big spring.

3. Ignoring the advice of wizened baseball men all over the planet, I just can’t seem to quit player comps. Love two recent JR 3B Harold Martinez comps I’ve heard/completely pulled out of thin air over the past few weeks. First, I’ve heard Martinez’s upside compared to former Pirate Al Martin’s. Like that one if only for a reason to have Al Martin back in my life once again. The one I’ve come up with is a better, slightly more patient Jose Lopez. If we remix the two comps, we could be looking a player capable of putting up a line of .250/.335/.450 with league average defense at third base. A quick look of the state of third basemen around MLB shows that a player like that would be a pretty darn valuable asset. I’ve also heard — very quietly, I might add — some that believe Martinez has what it takes to catch at the next level. An OPS of .800ish as a catcher would work.

Early 2011 Draft Guesses

Martinez and DeVoss are both easy top five round candidates, with Martinez possessing an outside chance of slipping into the late first with a big spring. Melendres and Pelaez are both solidly in the mid-round range. JR C David Villasuso has the power teams often consider gambling on, but his defensive limitations keep him from being a definite draft selection for me. Same goes for JR INF Rony Rodriguez, a potential sleeper with raw power second only to Martinez, who can’t really get a high grade without a position. On the pitching side, I only see JR LHPs Daniel Miranda and Sam Robinson as candidates to get taken. Miranda’s three-pitch mix and excellent 2010 numbers (12.17 K/9; 2.09 BB/9; 3.68 FIP; 47.1 IP) get him on the radar. Robinson’s numbers aren’t quite as dominant ((8.26 K/9; 1.91 BB/9; 3.53 FIP; 28.1 IP), but his reputation as a lefty killer could get him some looks as a potential professional LOOGY. At this point I’ll say Miranda gets taken while Robinson has to wait it out until 2012 as a potential senior sign.

So, to recap, my personal ranking of potential Miami draft picks: Martinez, DeVoss, (big gap), Melendres, Pelaez, Miranda, and Villasuso. Rodriguez and Robinson, two players I think will be on the outside looking in come June, round out the list.

2011 Quick Draft Thoughts – Duke Blue Devils

1. The more college profiles I do, the less I realize I have to say about the actual college team being profiled. Duke will be competitive, I’m sure, but they won’t be close to a top division club in the perennially strong ACC. That’s about all I can really tell you about how the Blue Devils will do this year and even that “prediction” (if we can call my patented “maybe they’ll be good, maybe they’ll be beat…who knows?” line a prediction) is one made with limited confidence. What I can tell you, I hope, is that Duke has four players who look like better than average bets to get drafted this June. That has to be good for something, right?

The two best of the four are JR LHP Eric Pfisterer and JR OF Will Piwnica-Worms. Every year there are a number of pitchability lefthanders with three solid pitches and good command who get lost in the mid-round shuffle. Pfisterer, a big recruit two years ago who has lived up to the billing so far, could be part of that mix this year. Steven Proscia’s former high school teammate throws a high-80s/low-90s fastball (peaking at 92 MPH), good changeup, and decent low-70s curveball. Not sure if it is fair to call Piwnica-Worms a sleeper or not, but his combination of solid all around tools and quietly productive 2010 season (.323/.402/.530 – 21 BB/24 K – 217 AB) make him a potential top ten round player in my eyes. I once thought of players like Piwnica-Worms (tweeners who might not hit enough for a corner, but don’t quite have the glove for everyday play in center) as ideal fourth outfielder candidates, but the renewed vigor teams are emphasizing defensive skills makes me wonder. If Piwnica-Worms can play plus defense in a corner — and I’m not saying I know he can or can’t, I don’t know either way — then isn’t it possible a team might consider it worthwhile to play him out there every day?

2. The second quick thought almost always winds up being about a non-2011 draft prospect. Might as well continue the trend. It pains me to make the comparison because a) it’s been done before and b) it’s too easy from a race/build standpoint, but the idea of current Duke RHP/SS Marcus Stroman (2012) playing the role of late career Tom Gordon going forward makes a heck of a lot of sense any way you look at it. The Stroman/Gordon comparison has been bandied about since the former’s prep days, so I took it upon myself to find somebody willing to give me a different comp. I wanted something different not for the  sake of being different for difference’s sake — I love conformity far too much to ever go that route — but because at some point down the line I just got plain bored of hearing the same comp over and over again. Finally, after bothering way too many people, I heard a comp that makes some sense: current Astros reliever Brandon Lyon. Lyon’s a little bit bigger with a bit more mustard on his breaking ball, but it’s a decent starting point, especially for somebody who hasn’t seen Stroman throw.

I’d love to see Stroman continue to progress this year and next, especially as he tries to polish up a third pitch. If he can do that, then he can go into pro ball with the upside of early career Tom Gordon, i.e. a potential above-average professional starting pitcher. I should make clear I haven’t heard any updates on Stroman since last spring. He could be throwing a dynamite changeup, cutter, splitter, or slow curve for all I know, but, as of this moment, all I know is that he’s predominantly a two-pitch guy. I also love him as a middle infield prospect, by the way.

3. Of the teams profiled so far (Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech), I’d rank the current crop of draftable lefthanded pitchers, in order, as Jed Bradley (GT), Austin Stadler (WF), Eric Pfisterer, and Mark Adzick (WF). I’d rank the outfielders, in order, Steven Brooks (WF), Will Piwnica-Worms, and Brian Litwin. My goal is to keep a running list of certain positions of interest, so consider this last thought more for my own edification than anything else. Kind of a ripoff, come to think of it. I’ll make it up in the big finish…

Early 2011 Draft Guesses

The aforementioned Eric Pfisterer and Will Piwnica-Worms should be on many a draft board this spring. I worry each player could get pegged as “great college performer, limited pro upside” types, but big junior years from a scouting perspective (an extra mile or two on Pfisterer’s fastball, some time shaved of  the 60 for Piwnica-Worms, for example) could change it. The other two Duke prospects with a chance to get popped are JR RHP Ben Grisz and JR OF Brian Litwin. Grisz offers a similar repertoire to Pfisterer, but delivers his upper-80s fastball and good lower-80s slider from the right side. I like what I was recently told about Litwin, a player who is, and I’m quoting but really paraphrasing, “strong enough to hit for big power numbers without selling out like a typical slugger, but insistent on taking big hacks every time up all the same.” Litwin’s tools are as good or better than Piwnica-Worms’s across the board, with the great big exception being his hit tool. From a skills standpoint, he also currently falls way behind his buddy in the outfield in the plate discipline department. Few doubt Litwin’s ability, but a below-average present hit tool and a really poor approach to hitting both need to turn around quickly in 2011. As it stands, I think they go off the board in that order: Pfisterer, Piwnica-Worms, Grisz, and Litwin, but you can really flip a coin between the first two. Also can’t completely rule out the potential emergence of JR RHP David Putnam (three decent or better pitches, including a good upper-70s CB) and underrated two-way player SR RHP/INF Dennis O’Grady, a really interesting senior sign possibility who has consistently gotten results at the college level.

 

Quick 2011 MLB Draft Thoughts – Wake Forest Demon Deacons

1. Good college teams can sometimes have not so exciting pro prospects. Bad college teams can sometimes have really interesting pro prospects. That kind of cognitive dissonance can be hard for hard core — dare I say, homer? — college baseball fans to accept because the discrepancies between production and projection can be tricky to spot when emotionally invested. So what kind of team will Wake Forest be in 2011? I don’t know nearly enough about the year-to-year dynamics of college baseball to have an opinion about the Wake Forest team’s prospects heading into the 2011 season, but feel confident in declaring, at least on paper, there’s a good amount of talent on the Demon Deacon’s roster, especially on the pitching side. Will the 2011 Wake Forest team be remembered as a bad college group with good pro prospects? Or will those good pro prospects produce enough to make 2011 a season to talk about?

2. Winston-Salem will be home to two of the highest upside senior signs in 2011, OF Steven Brooks and LHP Mark Adzick. I actually am at a loss for why Steven Brooks doesn’t get more draft love — the Cubs took him in the 17th round last year, part of an overall trend of ACC outfielders (Holt, Grovatt, Rowland, and Schaus) falling way lower than expected — because he’s that rare mix of tools (plus speed, above-average raw power) and skill (great approach at plate, fantastic base runner, above-average range in CF). Adzick (upper-80s FB, very good low-70s CB, solid mid-70s CU) was seen as a potential top five round pick out of high school who fell because of a reported first round asking price. If he’s healthy and getting innings this spring, his stock could skyrocket.

3. The Demon Deacons also have two of the most intriguing 2011 two-way prospects, JR LHP/1B Austin Stadler and SO OF/RHP Mac Williamson. Stadler’s a pretty typical three pitch lefthander (upper-80s FB, CU, CB) who has a really strong track record of success (8.69 K/9 – 3.32 BB/9 – 3.79 FIP – 78.2 IP) pitching against high level competition. Williamson, a potential catching conversion candidate at the pro level, has serious power upside and a plus arm, but his swing at everything approach could prevent him from ever getting the chance to put his crazy raw tools to use. That’s one way to look at these prospects. Most teams, however, will probably wind up considering Stadler at first base due to his much improved glove, athleticism, approach at the plate, and untapped raw power. Williamson, on the other hand, could very well be viewed as a potential late inning relief prospect because of the reported mid-90s heat to go along with a solid sinker/slider mix.

Early 2011 Draft Guesses

Three bullet points and no mention of one of my favorite 2011 draft “sleepers,” SO RHP Daniel Marrs. Before injuring his labrum, Marrs was a prospect on the same level of current Phillies minor leaguer Jarred Cosart. His pre-injury power stuff (most notably a 92-94 FB peaking at 97 and a good splitter that worked as CU) could tempt a team into drafting him well before his present stuff (sinking upper-80s FB, rapidly improving cutter) would typically merit. Whether or not he ever recaptures that pre-surgery stuff remains to be seen, but Marrs is good enough to continue to expand his repertoire — the new cutter was a great fall ball surprise, I’m told — if that what it takes to succeed. After Marrs, I’d rank the Wake Forest pitching prospects, in order, JR RHP Michael Dimock (plus slider and strong performances to date), Stadler, Williamson, and Adzick.  A handful of Wake relievers could garner some interest, but, really, at this point we’re just throwing names against the wall and seeing what sticks. JR LHP Zach White has the classic “everything but the kitchen sink” arsenal of pitches, JR RHP Gabe Feldman has legitimately intriguing stuff (low-90s peak FB, good mid-70s CB, potential plus cutter) but iffy command and a limited track record keep him off the slam dunk draftable list for now, and SR LHP Eli Robins has good stuff, including a good slider, but poor control has held him back so far.

There is less to be excited offensively, as only the aforementioned Brooks is a lock to get redrafted in 2011. If you count him as a first baseman and not a pitcher, then Stadler would double the number of draftable Demon Deacon hitters. JR 3B/OF Carlos Lopez is my dark horse to go later in the draft to a team willing to bet on his interesting physical tools, including his very quick wrists.

2011 Quick Draft Thoughts – Virginia Tech Hokies

1. One of the interesting things about previewing college teams heading into 2011 draft season is getting the chance to review what actually went down in 2010. The transition from this year’s draft to the next happens so fast that it can be hard to process what exactly happened between draft day and signing day. To wit, I would have never guessed the Hokies had a whopping 8 players selected in last year’s draft. I see almost no way they match that number this year — honestly, getting  half the amount would be an accomplishment with the talent level of Virginia Tech’s upperclassmen — but that doesn’t take away from the really impressive group of talent that graduated to the professional ranks last year. There’s no Austin Wates, Jesse Hahn, or Mathew Price in this year’s class, but prospects like JR 3B Ronnie Shaban, SR SS Tim Smalling (unsigned 14th rounder last year), and JR RHP Jake Peeling could all go as early as round 7 or 8.

2. Pretty sure my favorite draft prospect on this year’s Virgina Tech team is a player who has yet to record his first plate appearance with the squad. FR C/OF Chad Morgan (2012 draft eligible after redshirting last season) should get all the at bats he can handle this upcoming year. Morgan has a strong bat, good pop, a plus arm, and enough athleticism to play multiple spots around the diamond. I’ve heard a “shorter Ryan Ortiz” comp that I think is appropriate. He’s one to watch.

3. It’s funny to see where my opinions diverge with the big boys in the industry because, for reasons I really can’t explain, there seems to be a weird pattern when it comes to our differences. Let me preface this by saying that those actually in the business have way better contacts, resources, and pooled brain power devoted to what they do, so, when in doubt, go with the experts you’ve come to know and trust. Anyway, it seems that there are certain colleges and geographical regions where I consistently fall in line with the experts and certain spots where there are bigger disagreements in player preferences. This year’s group of draft eligible Virginia Tech talent falls under the umbrella of big time divergent opinion. I’m relatively down on Virginia Tech compared to many of the smarter people actually in the business, so, like always, take all this for what really is.

Early 2011 Draft Guesses

I only see two solid bets I’d be willing to stick my neck out on to get drafted this year out of the Virginia Tech lineup: Ronnie Shaban and Tim Smalling. Both players are flawed — Shaban lacks a standout tool and Smalling’s approach at the plate leaves much to be desired — but each does enough well — Shaban’s bat could be an above-average tool and his arm is strong while Smalling’s similarly effective bat plays even bigger up the middle — that they should be off the board within the first fifteen rounds. Jake Peeling‘s flaw is more damning as teams tend to be very wary of pitchers coming off of labrum surgery, but an average fastball, above-average slider, and good size could get him back on the prospect radar this spring.  After those three, there is a noticeable gap in Hokie draft eligible talent. SO 1B Andrew Rash has huge righthanded power, but equally large holes in his swing (20 K’s in only 90 AB last year). SO RHP Charlie McCann could be on the outside looking in as he fights for meaningful innings in the early going, but his solid three pitch mix (upper-80s FB, effective slow CB, good CU) should get him on a few follow lists for 2012 and 2013.

2011 Quick Draft Thoughts – Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

1. JR LHP Jed Bradley is the obvious headliner. The Ramblin’ Wreck’s lefty ace has a shot to become Georgia Tech’s second straight Friday night starter to go in the top half in the first round in a row. I recently finished ranking 2011′s best college arms — coming soon! — with Bradley coming in as my sixth favorite college pitcher and second overall college lefthander. He’s also the highest ranked pitcher in the ACC and, with apologies to Brad Miller, Harold Martinez, and Levi Michael, the conference’s best overall prospect. In fact, now that I’m looking at my freshly completed rankings — again, coming soon! — I’m realizing that the ACC’s three best 2011 pitching prospects are all lefties. Right now it goes Bradley, Virginia’s Danny Hultzen, [big gap], and Florida State’s Sean Gilmartin. Hey, speaking of lefties…

2. One of the most interesting draft subplots of the upcoming Yellow Jacket season could be the usage of Tech’s trio of lefties who are all decidedly on the bubble — as far as I see it — when it comes to the 2011 draft. SR LHP Taylor Wood, SR LHP Zach Brewster, and JR LHP/1B Jake Davies will all be duking it out for key late inning relief appearances parceled out by the venerable Danny Hall. I thought Brewster, a potential professional LOOGY with some seriously deceptive funk in his delivery, would show enough to get popped late in the draft last year, but he turned out to be my one Georgia Tech swing-and-a-miss during my short-lived Who Will Be Drafted? series. Damn, my guesses on North Carolina were especially brutal. Only 1 out of 7 were correct AND I missed on a player who actually did get picked. Anyway, now that I’ve refreshed the readership on my sterling track record on stuff like this, let me just say that I currently like Davies’ stuff (upper-80s FB, good SL, usable but improving CU) the best of the three, but it’s hard to pick a favorite out of these tightly bunched trio.

3. In an effort to not overextend my reach this year, I’m focusing as much as possible on 2011 while trying to leave the great unknown of 2012 and 2013 alone. Therefore, anything I say about the next two years worth of draft eligible players ought to be taken with a gigantic chunk of salt. For example, if I were to say my favorite Georgia Tech 2012 is SO RHP Buck Farmer and my favorite Georgia Tech 2013 is FR RHP Deandre Smelter, then you might want to think to yourself, “Hey, it’s cool that I now have two names to store away in the back of my head for future drafts — even though I already know all about Smelter, some guy’s 17th highest rated prep player in 2010, from last year’s coverage — but I’ll be sure to do my own homework and/or check back in to this site in the future to learn more about each guy before coming up with any concrete opinions about either player.” Farmer’s low-90s fastball, potential plus breaking ball, and emerging changeup give him the look of a potential solid big league starter. Smelter’s upside is more tantalizing; it’s not crazy to think that he could leave school as a plus fastball, plus slider, plus splitter power pitching prospect in the mold of the player he’s received instruction from, Kevin Brown.

Early 2011 Draft Guesses

JR LHP Jed Bradley, JR RHP Mark Pope, JR 3B Matt Skole, and SR RHP Kevin Jacob (Josh Fields 2.0?) are all stone cold locks to see their names pop up on MLB.com’s Draft Tracker this June. I’m more bullish on JR 2B Connor Winn than most; assuming he has the year I believe he’s capable of having in 2011, he’d probably fall in after those four, but before potential high risk/high reward plays like JR OF Jarrett Didrick, JR RHP/2B Jacob Esch, and JR OF Roddy Jones on my personal rankings. After those eight prospects, we come to the three aforementioned lefthanded relievers, Wood, Brewster, and Davies. If all eleven players get popped, and keep in mind that’s obviously a gigantic if at this point in the process, then that would top last year’s remarkable ten Georgia Tech draft selections. If I was a gambling man, I’d bet on Bradley, Pope, Skole, and Jacob only, and opt to wait and see on how much playing time players like Winn, Didrick, Esch, Jones, Wood, Brewster, and Davies actually get this spring. If I was an optimistic fellow trying to sell you on these guys, I might rave about Didrick’s overflowing tool set (plenty of raw power, above-average speed and range, plus arm), Esch’s opportunity to show his quality stuff on the mound this spring after a disappointing 2010 at second base, and Jones’ borderline unfair NFL speed and athleticism. Since I’m an optimistic betting man, let’s say Bradley, Pope, Skole, Jacob, Winn, Didrick, Esch, Brewster, and Davies all get drafted this June.

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