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Washington Nationals 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Nationals 2011 MLB Draft Selections

I admit that I don’t read much post-draft reaction (proof that you can love something like crazy and still get burnt out on it), but the overall enthusiasm for what Washington did on draft day was loud enough that it seeped into the general baseball content that I digested in mid-June. Those first four picks are a thing of beauty, no doubt about it. Each of Washington’s first four picks are flashy names that come with enough of a human interest angle (one-time consensus first overall pick! giant right with giant stuff trying to make giant leap! college star to juco star! former first rounder trying to bounce back from injury!) to hook casual baseball fans – that’s probably why I heard the positive feedback despite avoiding post-draft coverage. Each guy has serious questions, sure, but the talent is clearly evident. Trusting guy that I am, I, well, trusted those who said Washington had a great draft. Outside of their first four picks, however, I’m not sure there is too much to be excited about here. The Nationals signed one and only one high school prospect. The Nationals drafted righthanded college relievers with five straight picks from round six to round ten.

The star quality of Rice 3B Anthony Rendon makes up for a lot of Washington’s lackluster drafting past the third round. This is hardly an original thought, and I know I repeat it more than I should, but it is really tricky finding interesting things to say about the draft’s best prospects. There are only so many ways you can say “yeah, he’s really good at X, Y, and Z, perhaps a bit lacking or flawed in A and B, but, on balance, he should be a really good big league player assuming good health, a typical developmental curve, and the continuation of the existence of mankind after 2012.”

Consider the narrative for Anthony Rendon. If you didn’t know any better you’d think he really “struggled” through a “down” junior season, right? Questions about his long-term health and his power upside with the new bats were quite popular all spring. Fun story, but little about it meshes with reality. After park/schedule adjustments, Anthony Rendon got on base over 53% of the time he came to the plate. The man walked in over a quarter of his overall plate appearances. When he wasn’t patiently waiting out pitchers too afraid/smart to pitch to him, he was putting up a park/schedule adjusted slugging percentage of .537 that, while not mind-blowing, still answers plenty of questions about his ability to hit with the unfortunate combination of a balky wrist and the limp new bats. I’m all for being critical about the prospects at the top, but there is something to be said about not wanting to create weaknesses that just aren’t there. Rendon isn’t a good runner. That’s the biggest negative I can honestly say about his game right now. No prospect is a sure thing, but Rendon is as close of a lock to an above-average big league regular as any player in this draft class. Combine that safety with his legitimate all-star upside, and it is easy to see why Washington was willing to draft Rendon despite the fact he happens to play the same spot as their current best everyday hitter. Speaking of which, I really hope that Washington comes up with some kind of solution that allows Rendon to play third base in the big leagues. He’s just too damn good at the hot corner to move elsewhere. I’m not saying they should move Ryan Zimmerman for Rendon’s sake – if Rendon turns into 3/4th the player Zimmerman has turned out to be, that would be a huge win for all involved. I just want to see some kind of happy solution where all of my selfish needs are met. Not sure I’m being overly demanding in suggesting that having great players playing their best positions is a good thing for the game.

There are a lot of amazing young arms in this year’s draft class, but Rendon is still the top prospect in 2011. There is not a single legitimate concern about his on-field performance. Despite his lack of size and some nagging injuries that held back his numbers some this year, there is little doubt that his power upside is substantial. His defensive tools are outstanding. The hit tool is well above-average and his approach to hitting is special. The two most popular comps thrown his way are Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria. I like the Zimmerman comp a lot, but I’ll toss another two names out there as well. Rendon’s play reminds me of a mix of a less physical, righthanded version of peak years Eric Chavez and current Boston third baseman Kevin Youkilis, minus the unorthodox swing setup. Can’t blame the Pirates for going with the rare commodity that is a potential ace with the first overall pick, but if I was in charge — and thank goodness for Pittsburgh or every other franchise I’m not — then Rendon would be the pick without thinking twice.

Kentucky RHP Alex Meyer would be a fun prospect to do a crystal ball report on because his future can conceivably go in so many different directions. He could be a top of the rotation arm, a lockdown reliever, or a total washout incapable of getting past AA. I’m a believer because I think the gains he made in 2011 are real based on the introduction of his sinker and more consistent softer stuff. His biggest issues are almost exactly what you’d expect from a 6’9” 220 pound behemoth: repeating his mechanics and release point and the subsequent inconsistencies with both command and control. I’m banking on his better than given credit for athleticism and hoping that a good pro pitching coach will get through to him, but there’s really no way of knowing which way Meyer’s future will turn out. Ah, the joys of prospecting.

Having seen both young starters in person collegiately, I must say that Aaron Fitt’s comp of Meyer to Andrew Brackman really made me think. Despite what those who only deal with the benefit of hindsight say, Brackman was an outstanding looking amateur prospect. He was at least as highly thought of as Meyer and was quite possibly a better long-term prospect. To put it in some context, the Pirates, the team that picked fourth in Brackman’s draft year, had front office higher-ups (e.g. Ed Creech and Dave Littlefield) in regular attendance at every Brackman start I saw that year. I’m on record as loving Meyer’s raw stuff and I believe he’ll be a top of the rotation anchor once he figures it all out, but the story of Brackman’s pro struggles should serve as a cautionary tale.

Kentucky JR RHP Alex Meyer: sitting 93-97 FB, dips closer to 92-94 later in games; inconsistent but plus 84-86 spike CB that works like a SL; 79-86 CU that flashes above-average when he throws it with more velocity; 92-93 two-seamer; all about command and control – if it is on, he’s incredibly tough to hit; FB is plus-plus down in zone, very hittable when left up; mechanical tweaks are likely needed; 6-9, 220

I heard a pretty crazy comp on Miami Dade JC OF Brian Goodwin that I will share knowing full well it is about as “out there” as any comp you’ll hear. It comes from somebody close to Goodwin – not friend/family close, but more like somebody local to him who has tracked him since his high school days – so take it with a block of salt. I’d imagine that Washington fans would be pretty thrilled if Goodwin can even scrape the ceiling of this Bernie Williams comp. I like the old faster Austin Kearns comp I heard back in the day, but anytime we can make comparisons to a potential Hall of Famer is a good time. Goodwin looked much better as the year went on, so I’m hopeful he’ll continue to show all five tools as a pro. His broad set of tools should make him a solid regular in due time.

[well-rounded with average at worst tools across board; average present power with plus-plus upside; above-average to plus-plus (70) speed; strong arm; fantastic athlete; update: plus athlete; very explosive; some question his swing; 10-20 homer upside as pro; above-average (55) runner; average arm for CF; raw fielder, but all the tools are there; 6-1, 190; DOB 11/2/90]

Texas Christian LHP Matt Purke ranks as one of this draft’s men of mystery. Injuries are the root cause of much of the uncertainty. Without access to his medical records, there is really no way of making a confident prediction about Purke’s future. At his healthiest he throws three plus (or almost plus) pitches: fastball, change, and slider. When banged up, he simply isn’t very good. There’s not much middle ground here.

TCU SO LHP Matt Purke: originally ranked 8th overall, but injury scare drops him; at his best throws 91-95 FB, 96-97 peak; command of FB needs work; potential plus 77-79 CU; solid CB; has shown plus 76-83 SL, but doesn’t use it anymore; SL was inconsistent, but best in upper-80s; plus makeup; sat 88-92 to start 2011, now down to upper-80s; loses feel for offspeed stuff quickly; 6-4, 180

Santa Barbara CC LHP Kylin Turnbull is a tough nut to crack. On the surface, his skill set paints the picture of a really good potential reliever. Case in point: he has an excellent fastball for a lefty, but struggles with velocity loss as innings pile up. Knife to your throat – I prefer my own grislier imagery to the played out “guy to your head” trope – I’m betting that “good lefty reliever” would be the consensus on Turnbull’s ceiling. A more daring prognosticator – or, simply, one without the fear of death driving the prediction – might look at Turnbull’s pro-caliber size, hard splitter with promise, and a slider that could be kind of sort of maybe decent after tons of reps and believe he could hold his own as a backend starter down the line. I’m hesitant about making such a bold claim (he’s more of a maybe reliever for me), but lefties with size and velocity are always in demand.

Santa Barbara CC SO LHP Kylin Turnbull: 88-92 FB, 94 peak; loses velocity early; above-average low-80s splitter; SL need work; 6-4, 200

Poor Georgia Tech 3B Matt Skole. You are in the wrong organization, my friend. If we’re talking about the possibility of Anthony Rendon moving off third or even picturing a world where a franchise player like Ryan Zimmerman moves on via trade or free agency, then what hope is there that things will work out just so and allow Skole to play third base in Washington. Like Rendon, I hope Skole gets the chance to man the hot corner somewhere, someday. His defensive tools (arm, athleticism, footwork, etc.) are better than his current ability, so one would think, given time and reps, that he could at least become average at the position. Adding the value of average defense at third on top of his existing patient and powerful bat would make him a good bet to become a solid regular down the line.

It took me a while to warm up to Skole, but I’d rather be late to the party than too stubborn to change my mind. The plus power bat should play wherever you put him (first base is a safe fall back option, catcher is the riskier but more appealing choice), though it would obviously be preferable if he can continue to work to turn his surprisingly strong defensive tools (good arm, decent foot speed, quality athleticism) into at least league average caliber third base defense.

Vanderbilt RHP Taylor Hill was my seventh favorite senior sign in 2011, but you could make a really strong argument that he’s the senior with the highest ceiling. Hill takes the notion that keeping the ball down is good and turns it up to 11. His sinker/slider combo is deadly when on, and his split-change drops clear out of the strike zone when he has it working. I tend to think of him as more of a groundball specialist reliever (his stuff definitely plays up in short bursts), but continued improvement in pro ball could allow him to start.

Vanderbilt SR RHP Taylor Hill: 88-91 FB with plus sink, 93-94 peak that I’ve seen with my own two eyes, have heard rumors of him hitting 95; 79-85 plus SL; very good 78-83 sinking CU also called a splitter; mechanics need smoothing out; 6-4, 225 pounds

I’ve seen more of Notre Dame RHP Brian Dupra over the years than I’ve seen certain members of my own immediate family. His fastball gets there in a hurry, but it flattens out badly when he either a) overthrows it, or b) gets deep into his pitch count. His slider is a good enough second pitch that he still has a chance to contribute as a relief arm at some point. Also helping his cause is his newfound upper-80s cutter that could become a weapon with continued use. He’s a better shot than many to help a big league pitching staff, but still a long shot.

Notre Dame SR RHP Brian Dupra: 91-95 FB; 88-91 cutter; good 79-81 SL; CU; 6-3, 205 pounds

Alright, now this is just getting ridiculous. I get that Washington spent so big on their first four picks that they had to dip into federal funds to pay everybody off – so that’s why my district keeps closer schools! – but are you really telling me they had to completely ignore the high school ranks and go back-to-back-to-back with college seniors in rounds 6, 7, and 8? One or the other, maybe, but doing both is no way to build up the kind of organizational depth an emerging franchise like Washington needs to keep the big league roster fresh. North Carolina RHP Greg Holt, come on down. Like new UNC reliever Derrick Bleeker (we’ll get to him soon), Holt has been known as much for his raw power at the plate as his pitching prowess. He has the fastball/slider thing down pat, so there is a chance he’ll pop up in a few years as a viable relief option. I’d rank the three seniors in the same order Washington drafted them with a really large gap between Hill and Dupra, and then a slightly smaller gap between Dupra and Holt.

Now Holt is a relief prospect with a fastball that sits 88-91 (93 peak) and a good low-80s slider.

I once had such high draft hopes for California RHP Dixon Anderson. Alexander, a fourth-year junior, was in line for a big 2011 season, but never found the velocity he lost from the previous season. He once showed the power stuff – mid-90s fastball, above-average low-80s breaking ball, and an emerging splitter – needed to excel in a relief role, but may have to reinvent himself as a sinker/slider/cutter guy if his four-seam heat doesn’t return. All in all, Anderson is a worthy gamble at this point in the draft.

California SO RHP Dixon Anderson: 92-94 FB; 96 FB peak; very good low-80s SL; splitter; 6-5, 225 pounds (4.89 FIP; 5.68 K/9; 3.55 BB/9)

Cuban born Barry RHP Manny Rodriguez, yet another older righthanded relief prospect from college (that’s five in a row!), impressed in his first taste of pro ball. His fastball was more consistently hitting his mid-90s peak, and the upside shown with his curve has some thinking it could be an above-average pitch in time. A nascent change gives his supporters hope he can stick in the rotation, but I believe Rodriguez would be best served airing it out in shorter outings. As much as I don’t approve of Washington using five straight early picks on college righthanders likely destined to the pen, getting one (likely), two (maybe), three (probably pushing it, but who knows) cost-controlled big league relievers out of it would help alleviate the temptation to go out and spend big bucks on volatile veteran bullpen pieces. As one of the great philosophical minds of our time once said, “that ain’t not bad!”

I always have admired Houston OF Caleb Ramsey’s (Round 11) approach to hitting, but fear he is too much of a tweener both offensively and defensively to ever rise above a AAA depth ceiling.

Great to see oft-injured Indiana LHP Blake Monar (Round 12) get the chance to give pro ball an honest shot. He’s a soft-tosser known for a big plus curve who has battled back valiantly from injuries.

mid- to upper-80s FB, peak at 87-88; plus CB; SL; injury set back progress in 2010; 6-2, 185 pounds

I can’t wait to see Walters State CC OF Cody Stubbs (Round 14) back on the field playing against major college opposition this spring. Going from Tennessee to Walters State to North Carolina certainly qualifies as the road less traveled, but Stubbs’ nomadic existence is not due to a lack of on-field talent. He has a chance to rise way up draft boards and get early round consideration in a year with little in the way of impact college bats.

Due to a similar positional reclassification (OF to 1B), Stubbs’ prospect stock gets the same artificial boost as fellow first baseman Jacob Anderson’s. Easy to like Stubbs’ power to all fields and above-average athleticism for a big man (6-4, 225). I remember thinking he could be a top five round prospect after three years at Tennessee. Things obviously didn’t work out for Stubbs as a Volunteer, but the talent that led me to that original conclusion hasn’t evaporated. If he slips past round five, as I think he will, you could wind up with a player with high round ability at the cost of a low round pick.

Biloxi HS (MS) RHP Hawtin Buchanan (Round 19) is upside personified. He’s big, he throws hard, and, due to the fact that he is big and already throws hard, he could very well throw very hard down the line. The reports on his curve improving as his senior season went on are really encouraging. That kind of aptitude will serve him well as he tries to put everything together and get himself a first round grade in a few years.

RHP Hawtin Buchanan (Biloxi HS, Mississippi): 89-91 FB with room to grow, 93-94 peak; good command; raw CB, but much improved as year went on; strong Mississippi commit; 6-8, 230

Tennessee 2B Khayyan Norfork (Round 23) was a favorite in college, but a long shot to contribute anything at the big league level. Somebody I know in the know dropped a Junior Spivey comp on him. That got a good laugh out of me, but not because it is a silly comp or anything. Who in their right mind would comp a player now or ever to Junior Spivey?

I wanted so badly to include Norfork on my preseason list, but chickened out at the last minute for reasons still unknown to me. He’s got the prerequisite leadoff man skill set — plus speed, great jumps from first, good bunting skills, some patience, some hit tool — and the defensive versatility to play around the infield. I don’t think he has the bat to ever log consistent starter’s at bats, but unlike a few of the guys chained to 2B now and forever, Norfork should be able to move around the infield in a backup’s role with success.

The comment from last year (below) on Arizona State LHP Kyle Ottoson (Round 24) holds true today. He’ll head back for one last year at one of America’s most entertaining campuses to continue to build his junkballing crafty lefty street cred. (EDIT: Ottoson’s senior year will be at Oklahoma State, not Arizona State. Totally forgot about this.)

Ottoson’s strong commitment to Arizona State makes him another difficult sign. He doesn’t have a present above-average pitch, but throws three pitches (85-88 FB; 76-79 KCB; low-70s CU) for strikes.

You have to believe Washington scouts saw local product Georgetown C Erick Fernandez (Round 25) plenty over the years. Fernandez went to Georgetown despite being recruited by schools like NC State and Miami out of high school. He has retained much of the athleticism from his days as a middle infielder and his defense is top notch. All told he isn’t likely to be more than an organizational player, but he could hit his way into a backup role someday, especially if Washington likes how he works with some of their young organizational pitching talent.

He’s more than just a courtesy draft, I swear! South Carolina LHP Bryan Harper (Round 30), older brother of Bryce, has good enough stuff from the left side to hang around pro ball for at least a couple years. His size and mature, if still inconsistent, offspeed stuff are plusses. His upside is obviously limited and he’ll have to keep proving himself for years in the minors, but Harper has more of a shot than other older brothers of more famous top draft picks ever did. Jake Mauer, I’m talking about you.

Harper: 88-92 FB; solid 76-78 CB; emerging CU; 6-5, 190 pounds

If Southeast Guilford HS (NC) SS Josh Tobias (Round 31) can handle the defensive responsibilities at either center field or second base, he’s a potential early round pick in 2014. His raw power is exceptional for a man his size and his speed is at least an average tool (potentially much better than that depending on what day you see him run). I’d almost always err on the side of pro instruction over college, but spending three years working with the brains behind the resurgence of Florida baseball works just fine. Like a few of the other “ones that got away” you’ll read about below, Tobias has first round potential in 2014.

[above-average to plus-plus speed; very strong; plus raw power; leadoff profile; ability to stick in CF will make or break him]

San Diego RHP Calvin Drummond (Round 34) has always had better stuff than results, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can put it all together this season for the Toreros.

San Diego SO RHP Calvin Drummond: 91-93 FB, 94 peak; 84-87 cutter/SL; 78-79 CB; 83-84 CU

Howard JC RHP Derrick Bleeker (Round 37) could really turn heads this spring as a late-inning relief option for the Tar Heels. He fits the reliever mold in all your typical ways: he throws hard (mid-90s peak), shows a breaking ball, and has intimidating size (6-5, 220 pounds). Bleeker is also a talented hitter with massive raw power who should get more and more at bats as the season unfolds.

Stanford LHP Brett Mooneyham (Round 38) is a little bit like a less famous Matt Purke. Both guys were big stars in high school that turned down sizable bonuses to play college ball. Both guys saw their stuff drop drastically because of a multiple injuries. And both guys were drafted by Washington in 2011. They are like twins! Purke signed, but Mooneyham will give it one more shot for Stanford this spring. He has the size and offspeed repertoire (love the cutter, like his change and breaking ball) to succeed, but his draft stock and pro future will be determined by his ability to reclaim his once above-average low-90s fastball. In this year’s so-so college class, Mooneyham has top three round stuff if healthy.

Stanford JR LHP Brett Mooneyham: 88-90 FB, 91-92 peak; sits 90-92 now; also seen 87-91; weak FB this summer at 86-88, 90 peak; average 78-80 SL; good 75-78 CB; good CU; 6-5; improved cutter; missed 2011 season due to finger injury

Mississippi 1B Matt Snyder (Round 44) is an all-bat prospect who faces very long odds if he hopes to play in the big leagues. That doesn’t take away from him being an excellent college slugger. Ole Miss is loaded with future talent, so Snyder will get his chances to impress scouts from the first pitch to the last out this season.

Positive reports on Snyder’s bat this spring had me give him a slight boost, but his defense, speed, and arm are all really weak. I’ve heard through the grapevine that he is likely to be back for his senior season.

Georgia OF Peter Verdin (Round 39) has set himself up to become one heck of a 2012 senior sign. He’s a great athlete with plenty of speed for center field and intriguing raw power. There has been some talk in the past about his defensive skill set working behind the plate. All that is missing is the teeny tiny matter of actually putting those tools to use on the field. Guys are senior signs for a reason, after all. If Verdin can put it all together, he could jump up close to 30 rounds next year.

Dorman HS (SC) 3B Hunter Cole (Round 49) will join Verdin in the Georgia lineup this spring. He could also play alongside Verdin in the Bulldogs outfield if the coaching staff prefers the incoming freshman there instead of at third. If he stays at the hot corner, I think he has the offensive upside and defensive tools to become a first round pick.

Cole is another really tough sign (strong Georgia commit) with loads of raw power and good defensive tools. His bat is currently way more advanced than his glove, so maybe part of the idea of heading to Athens is to polish up his overall game and help him pop up as a first rounder in 2014.

Milwaukee Brewers 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Brewers 2011 MLB Draft Selections

I think Texas RHP Taylor Jungmann unfairly got lost amongst the collection of so many talented 2011 college arms. I think his fastball command is so good that he’ll have early enough pro success to buy him some time to sharpen up his inconsistent offspeed stuff. I think the Jared Weaver comp – made by Baseball America, if memory serves – is a good approximation for his ceiling. So concludes three things I think I think about Taylor Jungmann.

Texas JR RHP Taylor Jungmann: has touched 96-99, but regularly sits low-90s (91-93); new reports have him 92-95; can still reach back and crank upper-90s (like on opening day 2011), but sits most comfortably 92-93, occasionally dipping to 89-91; plus FB command; good sink on FB; plus 75-78 CB; plus CB command; good 85-87 CU; good SL; love the Jered Weaver comp

The parallel careers of Georgia Tech LHP Jed Bradley and new Seattle Mariner LHP Danny Hultzen will be fascinating to watch. Bradley can do many of the same things that caused so many to fall in love with Hultzen this past spring. Hultzen dominated the college game in a way Bradley didn’t, but, from a stuff perspective, the two lefties are much closer than you might think. Bradley’s fastball might even be a tick better than Hultzen’s, though his secondary offerings are nowhere near as consistent. There are days, however, that his change and slider look just as good as Hultzen’s top two offspeed pitches.

Georgia Tech JR LHP Jed Bradley: 88-92 FB with plus life and good sink, pretty steady peak up at 94-96; loves to cut the FB; has sat 91-93 at times; holds velocity late; good sink on FB; average 80-84 SL that flashes plus when velocity gets up to 86-87; good 77-79 CB; plus 79-83 CU that he has worked very hard on, but sometimes goes away from for too long; both the SL and CB are very inconsistent offerings; 6-4, 200 pounds

Academia de Milagrosa (PR) HS RHP Jorge Lopez is a really intriguing mix of polished present stuff and long-range upside. He currently can throw three pitches for strikes – fastball, curve, change – and there’s a chance each pitch winds up big league average or better. He’s also a great athlete with exactly the kind of projectable frame that gets the scouts hot and bothered.

RHP Jorge Lopez (Academia la Milagrosa, Puerto Rico): 88-91 FB with good command, 93 peak; very good 73-75 CB; plus CU; 6-5, 175

The early pro reports on Long Beach State RHP Drew Gagnon’s velocity are promising (e.g. fewer pitches in the upper-80s, peaking at 95), but I’m still lukewarm about any pitcher without one clear knockout pitch. His slider (82-85) shows the most promise, but he leaves it up too often and has difficulty putting it in a spot where hitters will consistently chase it. There remains value in Gagnon’s steady three-pitch assortment (he still throws the curve, a fourth pitch, but that should be scrapped going forward) and his plus fastball command, like Jungmann, is attractive, but limited upside keeps me from loving the pick. I do appreciate the stacking of starting pitchers early, however; it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that the Brewers added four big league starting pitchers with their first four picks in the draft.

Long Beach State JR RHP Andrew Gagnon: 89-91 FB, has hit 93-94; once promising slurvy breaking ball has turned into above-average 82-85 SL; rapidly improving 85-86 CU that is now at least an average pitch; plus command; 78-82 CB; breaking ball command an issue; 6-2, 188 pounds

Lefthanded power and good defense does not a star first base prospect make. Cal State Fullerton 1B Nick Ramirez can hit it out of the park and shows no problems fielding his position, but the expectations for a first base prospect are likely too high for him to ever provide value as an everyday player. I don’t think he’ll struggle so much as a hitter that he’ll ever be tempted to return to pitching, but the thought of him someday holding down a lefthanded reliever/power bench bat role makes me happy. For me, Nick Ramirez is the next step of the evolution that began the post-injury version of Joe Savery.

Ramirez has a well-deserved reputation as a power hitting first baseman with a plus throwing arm, but what I think I enjoy most about his game is his quality defense. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: no matter what becomes of Ramirez as a pro, he’ll go down as one of my favorite college players to watch.

Overslot fifth round pick Leander HS (TX) OF Michael Reed is a toolsy yet raw athlete from Texas. He looks great in a uniform and possesses the strength you’d normally see from a star football player, but there are legitimate questions about how he’ll bat will play as a pro. The fifth round is as good a time as any to start taking chances on prospects like this.

[strong; plus arm; average speed; raw bat; shows all five tools]

Most high school athletes are raw. That’s a fairly uncontroversial statement that we can all agree to, right? There are, of course, degrees of rawness, but the gap between what a player shows as a teenager to what he’ll hopefully show once he’s on the precipice of becoming a big league ballplayer is immense. The following might be a little bit more subjective, but hear me out: Like Michael Reed, Newbury Park HS (CA) RHP Daniel Keller is another raw prospect with big tools, but, as a pitcher, has upside that can be more reasonably met with good instruction. At one point or another, Keller has shown all of the things you’d want to see in a future big league pitcher: his fastball sits between 88-92 (peaking 93-94) with occasionally impressive sink, his change has shown flashes of being an above-average pitch, and both his curve and slider look like usable pitches on his best day. The problem with Keller is that he’s never really had all of his pitches going at the same time. That, combined with a delivery befitting a pitcher as raw as he is, makes Keller a long-term project. The abilities that go into throwing hard, locating pitches, and spinning breaking balls strike me as skills that you own forever (more or less) once you’ve shown that you can do them. Figuring out how to hit all these crazy pitches, like Reed will have to do, requires a far steeper learning curve. In other words, all else being equal, I’ll take the raw pitcher over the raw position player.

RHP Danny Keller (Newbury Park HS, California): 88-92 FB, 94 peak; good sinker; raw but interesting CU; good 79-80 CB; 75 SL; raw; violent delivery; 6-5, 185

Mississippi RHP David Goforth throws very, very hard. That’s good. David Goforth also throws the ball very, very straight. That’s less good. Pro hitters don’t have as much trouble squaring up on straight fastballs as their SEC counterparts. Upper-90s heat can work even without a ton of movement when complemented with a consistent, well-placed offspeed pitch. When on, Goforth’s slider qualifies and, though it isn’t offspeed per se, the new and improved cutter could also work. Big fastball plus the potential for an interesting secondary plus a max effort delivery all adds up to a future big league reliever.

Mississippi JR RHP David Goforth: 93-96 straight FB; has hit 97-99 in relief; average 79-83 SL that flashes plus; occasional CU; max effort delivery; good athlete; poor command; new 88-91 cutter has been effective; has been up to 98-100 in 2011; 5-11, 185

Biggest thing working in Brookswood SS (BC) C Dustin Houle’s favor is time. He’s young enough that he’ll have plenty of time to show that he can hit professional pitching and defend at either third or behind the plate. I know it is a lazy comp and I apologize, but I’m a lazy apologetic man: Houle’s perfect world upside sounds a lot like fellow Canadian Russell Martin to me.

Houle probably fits best behind the plate, but I’m sticking with him as a third baseman for now. He is a talented player who will need a lot of minor league reps. That shouldn’t be a problem for him because, as one of the youngest draft-eligible players this year, youth is on his side.

I’ve heard the Brewers were pleasantly surprised at how good La Grange HS (GA) OF Malcolm Dowell looked in his first shot at pro ball. They knew he was a great athlete who would steal bases and cover a lot of ground in center, but his approach to hitting was far more refined than expected. If everything works out, he has leadoff hitter upside. Not a bad potential outcome for a player I personally badly missed on leading up to the draft.

I honestly can’t remember why I cooled on Oklahoma State LHP Mike Strong this past spring; reports on his stuff were somewhat down in 2011, but his results remained as strong as ever. He succeeds with a good fastball and a better curve. A new cutter and better conditioning helped him pitch deeper into games, but his iffy control might not be what the pros want out of a starting pitcher. As a lefty with three usable pitches, he’ll get his chances even if he moves to the bullpen in the not so distant future.

Oklahoma State SR LHP Mike Strong (2011): 88-92 FB; holds velocity late; plus hammer mid-70s CB; cutter; developing CU; 6-0, 180 pounds; (9.65 K/9 – 4.90 BB/9 – 4.42 FIP – 64.1 IP)

Florida RHP Tommy Toledo (Round 11) is an intriguing sleeper that could emerge as a legit starting pitching prospect if his arm checks out. When he commands his low-90s fastball, he’s tough to hit. If the starting experiment doesn’t work, Toledo can always move back to the bullpen into the role he played so well while at Florida.

Florida JR RHP Tommy Toledo: coming back from arm injury; 88-91 FB; took line drive off of face in 2010; 91-93 back and healthy; command comes and goes; really nice breaking stuff

Neither UNC Wilmington OF Andrew Cain (Round 12) nor Holly Springs HS (NC) LHP Carlos Rodon (Round 16) signed with Milwaukee, so both will head back to the great state of North Carolina to play college ball. In the case of Cain, he’s taking his pro grade speed, raw power, and size back to UNC Wilmington. An improvement to his offensive approach would go a long way towards getting him picked where the rest of his talent – we’re talking top five tools – warrants. Rodon will give it the old college try at North Carolina State. He’s flashed well above-average stuff across the board, but inconsistency rightfully knocked him down on draft day. Those three potential pro pitches – fastball, slider, and change – make him a potential first day pick next time around.

LHP Carlos Rodon (Holly Springs HS, North Carolina): 87-89 FB, peak 92-93; loses velocity early; 75-76 CB; good 76-80 SL; emerging CU; raw enough that he may be better off at NC State; inconsistent offspeed stuff; spotty command; good athlete; 6-2, 210

Outside of the three pitchers taken by Milwaukee in the first two rounds, Lufkin HS (TX) SS Chris McFarland (Round 18) is the best long-range prospect selected in 2011. All of his tools work really well at third, and I believe in his bat in a big way. Reagan HS (FL) C Mario Amaral (Round 17) got away, but he’ll be a fun prospect to watch develop at Florida State.

The 2014 draft class might wind up loaded with premium third base prospects if all of the supposed difficult signs wind up at their respective universities. McFarland’s down senior year has many thinking he’ll wind up at Rice this fall. That’d be great news for college baseball, but a bummer for the fans of whatever team drafts him. They’d be missing out on an excellent athlete with five-tool upside at third. McFarland’s lightning quick bat is his best tool, followed closely behind by his well above-average raw power and aided by his discerning eye at the plate. His speed, size, and arm are all exactly what you’d want out of a potential big league regular.

I’m a huge sucker for hitters who know the strike zone better than the umpire, so count me in as a fan of Connecticut 1B Michael Nemeth (Round 21). Unfortunately, I’m more of a fan of Nemeth the player rather than Nemeth the prospect, if that makes sense. It’s really hard to hitch your wagon to a first base only prospect without neither a plus hit tool nor plus power. Patient hitters with gap power who play above-average or better defense are not without value, but those guys face a pretty massive uphill slog to legit prospectdom in today’s game.

Nemeth’s name kept coming up in discussions with people in the know leading up to the publication of this list. He was admittedly off my radar heading into the year, but those 2011 plate discipline numbers are eye popping. After having seen him myself a few times this year, I can say he looked to me like a guy with good power to the gaps with the chance to be an average hitter and above-average defender down the line.

I’ve long been a fan of Florida C Ben McMahan (Round 23), and see no reason why he won’t turn up as a big league backup catching option a few years down the line. He won’t hit enough to play every day, but his defense is top notch.

There is still a part of me that thinks McMahan could surface a few years down the line as a big league backup, based largely on the strength of his plus defensive tools.

Georgia RHP Michael Palazzone (Round 24) doesn’t wow you with the fastball (sits upper-80s, 92 peak), but his top two secondary pitches are good ones. A good final season for the Bulldogs could get him taken in the top ten rounds.

Georgia JR RHP Michael Palazzone: 92 peak FB; plus CU; solid CB

If Orange Coast CC RHP Chad Thompson (Round 27) is healthy, then the Brewers got a major steal this late in the draft. He’s got the size, heat, and upside of a prospect who typically would be selected within the first five rounds. In a weak Brewers farm system, Thompson could rise up into their top ten by season’s end. Or his stuff, slow to recover from Tommy John surgery so far, never returns to his high school level. If that’s the case, the Crew are out a 27th round pick. Classic low risk, high reward pick. Either way, great gamble by Milwaukee at this stage in the draft.

Thompson is huge (6-8, 215) with an explosive low-90s FB (90-93) peaking at 94-95, nasty splitter, upper-70s circle change with serious sink, and a raw mid-70s curve that needs polish. There are also rumblings that he now throws a good forkball, but, haven’t not seen him personally since high school, I can neither confirm nor deny its existence. If Thompson’s elbow is structurally sound after last May’s Tommy John surgery, the Phillies have a major sleeper on their hands.

On top of being a pretty darn fine draft prospect, Mesquite HS (TX) C BreShon Kimbell also deserves credit for being a man of many names. Baseball America has him listed incorrectly as “Kimbrell” in their draft database and the Louisiana Tech website lists his first name as Bre’shon. I personally like Bre$hon, but just because I think it looks cool. The unsigned Kimbell has a heck of a chance to become Louisiana Tech’s best draft prospect since Brian Rike in 2007. If/when he reaches the bigs, he’ll have his sights set on David Segui, currently the most accomplished Bulldog of all time. Kimbell has the raw talent to do big things in college, but he has a long way to go.

Kimbell is unusually strong, very athletic, and a gifted defender. He also has shown big raw power in the past, but inconsistencies with his swing mechanics make his trips to the plate hit or miss, no pun intended. Some good pro coaching could turn him into a high level pro prospect in short order. Also, BreShon – a fella with a name like that is obviously destined for greatness, even though I sometimes read it as Bre$hon.

You know Maryland SS Alfredo Rodriguez (Round 32) must really, really, really be able to pick it at short if he pulled off getting drafted despite a 2011 slugging percentage less than Ravens tackle Michael Oher’s listed (313 pounds) weight.

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. 

Born, raised, educated, and now a professional ballplayer, all in the great state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin-Milwaukee RHP Chad Pierce (Round 38) is just a bit more than a feel-good local pick, however; his fastball peaks at 92 and he’s got the athleticism you’d expect from a converted college catcher.

Connecticut LHP Elliott Glynn (Round 39) is a crafty lefty with a mid-80s fastball that dances low in the zone often enough to get him way more groundballs than your typical crafty lefty. He also has two solid secondaries (slider and change) that he’ll throw at any point in the count. There’s some relief upside here which, for a 39th rounder, makes Glynn more interesting than most. Connecticut C Doug Elliot (Round 35), Glynn’s college battery mate, is a solid defender with interesting but undeveloped power. Seems like a handy org guy to me.

Connecticut SR LHP Elliot Glynn (2011): upper-80s FB with good movement; 82-83, peak at 86; solid SL; plus CU

I’ve heard conflicting reports on whether or not we’ll be seeing Trinity Christian Academy (FL) SS Ahmad Christian (Round 46) play baseball for the Gamecocks this spring. He’s such a good athlete that the NFL is a possibility down the line, but I still hope he gives baseball a shot. His defense at short is already professional quality. In reading up on both Christian and new teammate/fellow two-way athlete Shon Carson, I stumbled upon a fact that I feel like the last person on the planet to either know or care about. Sheldon Brown, former Eagle and current Brown defensive back, was a part-time outfielder for the USC baseball team?

It sure doesn’t seem like Christian will sign a pro contract this year, but his crazy athleticism, great range, and plus glove are all too good to leave him off this list. In the likely event he’ll wind up at South Carolina, it’ll be interesting to track his development as a dual-sport (the other being football) prospect. Like Hunter Cole before him, going off to school could be a blessing in disguise for his long-term outlook. There are still many concerns about Christian’s offensive ability and three years in the SEC will provide a clearer picture of his skills.

Kansas City Royals 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Royals 2011 MLB Draft Selections

How can you be a fan of the MLB Draft and not love the Royals picking local hero Gardner-Edgerton HS (KS) OF Bubba Starling with their first round pick? It really is a tremendous story. I can’t even begin to imagine how much Starling’s development is going to be scrutinized by obsessive fans (that’s said with much love, by the way) of the minor leagues. It’ll be like Aaron Hicks times one billion…

I’ll be honest and admit that I don’t have a great feel for what kind of player Bubba Starling is at this point. In many ways, his scouting report reads as Generic High School Dual-Sport Five-Tool Centerfielder/Pitcher, if that makes sense. He runs, he throws, he shows classic light tower power, and he catches anything and everything hit to him in center. Even his much discussed (alright, much maligned) hit tool improved a ton over the past year. As the pre-draft note says, Starling is “everything you’d look for in a prep player.” What worries me are the reports already trickling out of instructs that the Royals have had to make drastic changes to both his swing and throwing mechanics. Said reports are often spun in a positive light – after the changes were made, Starling looked great! What a quick study! – but the thought of investing $7.5 million on a high school player and then almost immediately changing some of the fundamental ways he plays the game makes raises a teeny tiny red flag for me. This hardly qualifies as hard-hitting analysis, but I’ll say it anyway: no player in this year’s draft has as drastic a difference between best-case and worst-case scenario as Bubba Starling. He is the quintessential boom/bust prospect. I realize there’s a chance he’ll have value almost no matter what based on his speed and defense alone (pretty sure first round prep outfielders with other worldly tools have to actively go out of their way to keep from advancing through a system…as a Phillies fan, I present you Exhibit A and Exhibit B), but I’m talking “boom” with respect to his draft position. If Starling isn’t an everyday player, he’s a major bust in the eyes of the majority. If he’s not a middle of the lineup fixture, he’ll always be known to fans as an underachiever. If he’s not a consistent All Star performer, his name will always be spoken with a ting of regret that he never was able to truly put it all together. The expectations are sky high for the young Kansas, and rightfully so.

[plus speed; really good bat speed; patient approach; plus raw power; 88-93 FB; very good 73-76 CB that could be plus in time; 6-4, 180; plus CF range; hit tool is legit; everything you’d look for in a prep player, including rapid improvement in last year]

Plus raw power, good arm, and physically strong: that’s Manheim Township HS (PA) C Cameron Gallagher in less than ten words.

The “local” guy that I’ve seen this year a few times – 90 minutes away is local, right? – has had himself an oddly inconsistent year for a potential top five round draft prospect. He reminds me a good bit of Tyler Marlette, except with a tiny bit (we’re talking teeny tiny) less arm strength and a good bit more raw power and physical strength. So, basically, he reminds me of Marlette except for three pretty big differences – maybe that’s not the best comp after all. Gallagher is still a very raw defender, but steady improvement throughout the spring has led me to believe he can remain a catcher, assuming he doesn’t experience another growth spurt. The raw power is undeniably his biggest strength and there are some who think he’s got enough bat to handle first base if the whole catching thing doesn’t pan out. Not sure I’m buying into the bat that hard, but also not sure he’ll be moving to first any time soon.

Maybe it is just a byproduct of my simple mind making the association between fellow The Woodlands alum, but The Woodlands HS (TX) RHP Bryan Brickhouse’s scouting profile reminds me a little bit of a less athletic Kyle Drabek.

RHP Bryan Brickhouse (The Woodlands HS, Texas): 88-92 FB, 94-95 peak; 75-77 knuckle CB; solid 80-85 SL with upside; emerging low-80s CU; good athlete; 6-2, 190

Some versions of my pre-draft high school pitching rankings had Santaluces HS (FL) RHP Kyle Smith in the back end of the top ten. Getting him this late is a major coup for Kansas City. His secondary stuff is as good as any non-first round prep arm in the country, and his fastball, athleticism, quick tempo, and, yes, intangibles all point him in the direction of becoming a very good big league starting pitcher.

RHP Kyle Smith (Santaluces HS, Florida): 88-92 FB with late burst, 93-95 peak; potential plus CU; excellent 77-78 CB; great pitchability; quick worker; good athlete; 6-0, 170

I like the move by Kansas City to get St. Thomas HS (TX) OF Patrick Leonard away from the infield, so he can instead concentrate on hitting. Leonard should be fine defensively in right field; his chances of showing a bat capable of handling the demands of a corner outfield spot are less than fine. Funny how a position switch can totally flip a player’s future: Leonard went from an interesting hitter with defensive questions at third to a prospect likely good enough to handle right field who might not have the bat to carry him in the outfield.

Leonard has a fun mix that includes an above-average hit tool, impressive power upside, good athleticism, and above-average arm strength. Questions about his defensive future keep him lower than his bat warrants, at least for now.

I have to give it to Kansas City for unearthing Caribbean JC LHP Cesar Ogando. Even with a few thousands of names in my files, Ogando slipped through the cracks. He’s got his youth, size, and a fastball peaking at 94 at the wonderfully named Excellence Games (per Baseball America), but was scary wild (24 BB in 31.2 IP) in his pro debut. That kind of thing happens when you are nineteen and trying to figure out how to get your 6’3”, 210 pound body familiar with throwing a baseball harder than 99.999999999% of the planet consistently in the strike zone for the first time as a professional. Or so I would guess.

There’s definitely some sleeper potential with Oregon RHP Kellen Moen. The former Ducks reliever was tried as a starter after signing because he has shown the makings of three solid pitches, but I think the difference between his upper-80s fastball (90ish peak) and the low-90s fastball (93-94 peak) makes him a better option in the bullpen, now and in the future. His breaking ball looks better in relief as well: we’re talking a mid-70s loopy curve compared to a much tighter upper-70s breaker. I understand the Royals wanting to get him as many innings in as possible, but he’s a reliever all the way for me.

I’m looking forward to seeing the big, talented South County HS (VA) RHP Evan Beal pitch for the two-time defending national champs in the future. College was a good choice for him. Assuming he stays injury free, he’s got the chance to be a very early pick in 2014.

I’m not sure what the Royals see in Cal State Bernardino RHP Aaron Brooks that I’m missing, but I would have rather targeted another bullpen senior sign (e.g. Kellen Moen) for half the price than spend close to six figures on a pitcher without an above-average offering. Of course, what do I know? Brooks was outstanding in his debut, getting that sexy mix of strikeouts and groundballs that drives all the real baseball groupies wild. Brooks was just far enough off the beaten path as a college prospect that we’re free to speculate that his signing scout must have really fought for him during pre-draft meetings.

The numbers that Brooks (73 K in 79.2 IP, 2.74 GO/AO) were more in line with what I expected out of Georgia Southern RHP Matt Murray’s debut. Murray’s numbers were fine (58 K in 53 IP), but it was a surprise to see his nasty sinker/slider combo get as few groundball outs as it did. I remain intrigued at his upside, either as a back of the rotation starter or a steady, groundball inducing (hopefully) 7th inning reliever.

Georgia Southern JR RHP Matt Murray: 88-92 FB with heavy sink; ground ball machine; solid upper-70s SL; better than solid CU that has come on a lot since getting to school; CB; 6-4, 240 pounds

I’m all in on incoming Louisville freshman Park Hill South HS (MO) LHP Adam Schemenauer (Round 12). A 6’9” lefthander with a fastball that hits 93 MPH and above-average athleticism? Sold! He’s a long way away from being what he’ll eventually be (if you follow), and the track record for jumbo-sized prep pitchers isn’t as strong as the handful of pro outliers might have you think, but I’m a sucker for upside and Schemenauer has it in spades.

Hey, speaking of upside… American LHP Stephen Lumpkins (Round 13) is a 6’8″ lefthander with a fastball that hits 92 MPH and above-average athleticism. Bonus points for being the rare college prospect to come out of a family member’s alma mater. My three siblings and I all went to private universities in the northeast (sure, DC stretches the limits of “northeast,” but let me have this one), never once considering the potential ramifications to our baseball prospect watching. Ah, to be eighteen again to go back and realize the importance of spending four years somewhere warm. Lumpkins, like Ogando, struggled with control in his debut, but, also like Ogando, his struggles can be forgiven for now.

I would have bet anything that UCLA 1B Dean Espy (Round 15) would wind up back in sunny Southern California for another year after his disappointing junior year. He found his missing power stroke after signing, but there’s still not enough power upside or plate discipline to envision him as a big league player. He’s yet another prospect in purgatory: a first baseman only without the bat to carry him there. Sad.

Deltona (FL) HS SS Jack Lopez (Round 16) might have been one of those players who benefited from my pet theory that defensive studs up the middle, especially at shortstop, benefit from three years of college more than any other type of prep prospect. If Lopez had decided to attend Miami and showed himself to be competent with the bat over a few seasons, his standing as a plus defender with a playable bat could have made him a first rounder. Then again, by bypassing school, Lopez wound up getting the same bonus as second rounder Cameron Gallagher. Maybe it’s for the best for all involved (except Miami, but they at least already have the college version of Lopez, Stephen Perez, in tow) that Lopez is getting an early start on the pros.

Plus defensive tools will keep Lopez at short until the day he retires from the game to go sell life insurance (or whatever it is ex-ballplayers do these days).

I have a hard time explaining why, but I just plain like Virginia C Kenny Swab (Round 21). He does everything pretty well, but nothing so spectacularly that you’d notice a specific play he was involved in during the course of a game. At the end of that game, however, when you think back to what players could help a big league club someday, you remember the athletic, confident, strong armed Swab and come away impressed with his righthanded pop and balanced swing. I’d love to see Kansas City get creative and get the most out of Swab’s athleticism by using him at a variety of positions.

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.

Louisiana Tech 3B MarkThrelkeld (Round 25) gives you just about what you’d expect from a pla…you know what? Just check the pre-draft notes on Threlkeld below. That says it all, I think.

Threlkeld gives just about what you’d expect from a player this far down the ranking: huge raw power and a strong arm. The reason Steranka gets the one spot edge over him is because of Threlkeld’s questionable defensive ability.

The Royals convinced Chris Dwyer, draft-eligible Clemson lefty, to sign a few years ago, but couldn’t come to terms with Clemson LHP Joseph Moorefield (Round 26) this time around. Moorefield will take his low-90s heat and intriguing four-pitch mix back to Clemson rather than make the jump to pro ball. He’ll be joined on a stacked Clemson staff featuring a slew of future pros like Kevin Brady, Dominic Leone, Scott Firth, David Haselden, Mike Kent, Jonathan Meyer, Kevin Pohle, Matt Campbell, Daniel Gossett, Patrick Andrews, and Kyle Bailey. Not bad.

SO LHP Joseph Moorefield 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. 

I was so sure that Rock Falls (IL) HS RHP Jake Junis (Round 29) would end up at North Carolina State that I recently had to delete his name of their roster in my college draft follow list. Junis has the three pitches – solid upper-80s fastball, good hard curve, and a solid change – to start as a pro and should go down as one of the great overslot signings of this year’s draft. Well done, Royals. Brickhouse, Smith, and Junis is a heck of a trio to build on.

RHP Jake Junis (Rock Falls HS, Illinois): 88-91 FB; good upper-70s CB with plus upside; solid CU; great athlete; 6-3, 200

Seems like the Royals like to gamble on size when it comes to their overslot late round high school pitching picks, no? 6’7” Mercersburg Academy (PA) RHP Christian Binford (Round 30) certainly fits the bill. Binford was below the radar for much of the spring, but has shown flashes of three average pitches in the past. Child of the 90’s that I am, I always think of Binford Tools and JTT (so dreamy!) when I hear his name.

Despite missing the entire 2011 season with a broken wrist, Southern Illinois 1B Chris Serritella (Round 31) went ahead and got himself drafted. That’s pretty badass. I’m just crazy enough to think that another year or two at Southern Illinois could turn Serritella into a viable righty mashing platoon bat at first base.

An unfortunate wrist injury has knocked Serritella out of action. Luckily, he retains two full years of draft eligibility to help rebuild his depressed stock. I still might take a chance on him this year because of his phenomenal track record against righthanded pitching.

There was lots of positive buzz surrounding the well-traveled Nova Southeastern OF/RHP Andrew Durden (Round 38) as a hitter this spring, so it came as no surprise that Durden was announced as an outfielder on draft day. However, his only pro experience so far is made up of 6.1 innings pitched for the AZL Royals. I’m intrigued and confused all at once; call it intfusion or, better yet, I’m contrigued.

South Carolina 3B Adrian Morales (Round 49) was first mentioned on this site back in February of 2009. Ah, memories. Morales should serve a purpose as an organizational soldier capable of helping out young pitchers by playing solid defense anywhere in the infield. Any upside with the bat is a bonus.

Morales’ best tool is probably his defense, but a lack of offensive upside slots him in as an organizational player at the next level. 

New York Mets 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Mets 2011 MLB Draft Selections

After consensus top two prep outfielders Bubba Starling and Josh Bell, East HS (WY) OF Brandon Nimmo stands alone as the draft’s third best young outfield prospect. Nimmo’s asencion to the upper half of the first round wasn’t always a forgone conclusion; it took almost the entire spring for the prep outfield picture to develop, as early favorites like Derek Fisher and Larry Greene slipped and late risers such as Granden Goetzman and Senquez Golson couldn’t quite reach the loftiest of draft heights. Nimmo was left standing as the clear third best prep outfielder for very good reason. For as much praise as his raw tools received leading up to the draft, Nimmo showed in his brief pro outing that he’s more than that. There have been equal amounts of plaudits for his present skills, most notably his far better than expected plate discipline. When you combine an advanced approach with his existing tools (most notably his arm, speed, and hit tool), it is easy to envision a potential above-average regular in right. I’m pretty good at separating draft stuff from personal rooting interests (five years of development time gives some perspective, I think), but the Phillies fan in me is annoyed to have to “root against” such a compelling prospect in Nimmo. My annoyance is doubled when I think back to last year’s draft when the Mets grabbed personal favorite Matt Harvey. Annoyance is tripled (and then some) with the realization that, for as much justified criticism as the Mets have received for their thrifty drafting ways of recent years, they managed to undo a good bit of recent damage with what I consider to be a pretty darn strong 2011 try. Nimmo, Phillip Evans, and maybe Brad Marquez all have the potential to be well above-average regulars, and New York’s balanced approach to adding arms in the first ten rounds or so (figure at least one of the college guys wind up a steady starting pitcher, as well as one of the two overslot prep righties). If New York winds up with either Nimmo/Marquez (starting OF) and Evans (starting 2B) offensively, and, going off my own pre-draft list, Logan Verrett and Christian Montgomery in a future rotation, they will have done quite well for themselves.

[good athlete; above-average arm well suited for RF; above-average speed would work in CF; good approach; gifted natural hitter; gap power; 6-3, 185]

The first big overslot prep arm selected by the Mets was Deer Creek HS (OK) RHP Michael Fulmer. Fulmer’s big fastball is already a plus pitch and his hard slider is well on its way. Those two pitches, combined with a mature frame with little growth potential, have many thinking future reliever. As always, it comes down to the development of a usable third offering. If Fulmer’s changeup, splitter, or whatever, turns into a quality pitch, his ceiling gets elevated. Without having any knowledge of if or how he’ll manage that third pitch, he’s a future reliever.

RHP Michael Fulmer (Deer Creek HS, Oklahoma): 90-94 FB, 97 peak; 83-85 SL; CU needs work; 6-2, 200

Solid. That’s the word I’ve heard used most often to describe North Carolina State RHP Cory Mazzoni. He throws three pitches for strikes, showed steady improvement in three years in the ACC, and has the control to be trusted as a reliever if that’s where he ultimately winds up. He pitched well in limited pro innings, but continued to have difficulties keeping the ball on the ground. Not all successful pitchers get groundballs and not all groundball pitchers are successful, but the ability to keep the ball out of the air is really important for pitchers who lack premium stuff. Remember, Mazzoni’s repertoire is solid…not premium. Also, for what it’s worth, I’ve had people I trust tell me that all of Mazzoni’s reported mid- to upper-90s peak heat was all recorded on hot guns. Baseball America, based out of nearby (to Raleigh) Durham and likely to have had multiple staffers on site who have seen Mazzoni throw over the years, says he’s hit 97 MPH. I don’t know who to believe, but I figured I’d pass along my info and let you, John Q. Public, decide on whether or not to trust the industry leader or some fool with a free WordPress blog. Choose wisely!

North Carolina State JR RHP Cory Mazzoni: 88-91 FB, touching 92; SL; good 70-76 CB; emerging splitter used as CU; good command; 6-1, 200 pounds

Baylor RHP Logan Verrett is sandwiched between Mazzoni and Fullerton RHP Tyler Pill in terms of draft round, but I like him a good deal more than either guy. Verrett has shown the ability to spin two above-average breaking balls (curve and slider) in addition to an inconsistent fastball that sits in the low-90s and a good changeup. For his junior year, however, Verrett scrapped the curve. I didn’t like the decision to abandon the pitch then and I don’t like it now, but the new Mets prospect still has the requisite three pitches necessary to start as a professional. He’ll need to throw his upper-70s fading change more going forward, but that’ll come as he learns he can no longer rely exclusively on his fastball/slider combo as he so often did in college. Like Mazzoni, Verrett draws praise for his competitiveness and fearlessness on the mound; also like Mazzoni, Verrett’s occasional overreliance on his too-straight fastball gets him into trouble. When he’s at his best, he’s mixing his pitches and staying low in the zone. On those days, he looks like a good big league starting pitcher.

Baylor JR RHP Logan Verrett: very good command when on; sitting 89-91, 92-94 peak FB with sink; good 77-79 CU with fade; big-time CB; uses 82-85 SL with plus potential more in 2011; good athlete; relies most heavily on FB/SL, with occasional CU and very rare CB; 6-3, 185

I love the Baseball America comp of Cal State Fullerton RHP Tyler Pill to current Diamondbacks RHP Ian Kennedy. As amateur prospects, their backgrounds align really nicely: fastball reliant (Kennedy ranked in the top twenty of fastball usage, per Fangraphs) command righties capable of throwing at least three other pitches (curve, change, slider for Kennedy as an amateur; curve, change, cutter for Pill) for strikes at any point in the count. Kennedy’s success as a pro skyrocketed once he more or less ditched his ineffectual slider in favor of a much more promising cutter. Pill made that same switch as an amateur, so, if you’re on board with the comp, he’s ahead of the curve there.

Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Tyler Pill: 89-92 FB; very good 77-78 CB; plus command; quality 82 CU; great athlete; holds velocity well, 88-89 late; 6-1, 185 pounds

Massachusetts-Lowell LHP Jack Leathersich didn’t warrant a high ranking from me prior to the draft, but that was mainly because of my personal aversion to future relievers. The Mets using a fifth round selection on him seems a bit rich for my blood. Lefties with low-90s velocity and flashes of a plus breaking ball (slider) don’t go on trees, so I can at least see the logic here. His early pro returns (26 K in 12.2 IP for Brooklyn) are encouraging.

UMass-Lowell JR LHP Jack Leathersich (2011): 89-93 FB; plus SL; decent slow CB; 6-0, 190 pounds

Northern HS (PA) OF Joe Tuschak is a lottery ticket, plain and simple. He’s a rawer version of Brad Marquez, though his elite athleticism and well above-average speed give him a strong tool base to build on.

Like so many players we’ve talked about before, Arizona 1B Cole Frenzel’s greatest challenge will be hitting enough to warrant playing time at a position that demands consistent offensive excellence. A baseball pal who has seen Frenzel play a lot compared him to a poor man’s Jeff Cirillo at the plate. If he can play a few other positions passably, he could have a future as a four-corners utility guy. Also, there’s no way I’m the only guy who reads his name and immediately thinks of this guy, right?

Fresno State SS Danny Muno has good plate discipline, a little bit of speed, and enough defensive chops to hang at any infield spot, though I prefer him at second. He absolutely destroyed New York-Penn League pitching – compared to all Mets minor leaguers, he came in first in both BA and OBP and second in SLG – and likely positioned himself to start next season at St. Lucie. Considering their long-standing devotion to putting together strong teams in Brooklyn, the Mets must have been thrilled to have Muno tear it up for the Cyclones. Expectations have risen some, but if this is Muno’s peak, I’m sure the Mets could live with the return they’ve already enjoyed on their $10,000 investment.

Florida LHP Alex Panteliodis is like the anti-Jack Leathersich. Besides both players profiling best in relief and having ridiculously awesome names, they couldn’t be less alike. Leathersich is all fastball with an inconsistent slider that looks great when on, awful when off. Panteliodis is more command-oriented and better equipped to throw softer stuff for strikes when backed into a corner. The latter could get a chance to start, but is likely a LOOGY at best in pro ball.

He faces off against the Florida lefthander Panteliodis, another pitcher without overpowering stuff but with good enough command and solid complementary stuff (CU/CB) to get by.

Florida JR LHP Alex Panteliodis (2011): good CU; good CB; not overpowering; great FB command

Woodbridge HS (CA) RHP Matt Budgell throws a sinker, curve, and change. His curve is presently his best pitch, but he has plenty of room to add weight to his crazy thin 6’2”, 150 pound and add some ticks to his upper-80s fastball. There’s some concern about his lack of dominance at the high school level, but I’d again point to that frame and note that he’s a pick for the future, not for the now.

Lawrence HS (IN) RHP Christian Montgomery (Round 11) formed a darn good one-two punch with incoming Louisville freshman RHP Jared Ruxer in high school. With Montgomery it all comes down to which version of the hefty righthander you’re going to get. The Mets are obviously banking on the showcase circuit version of Montgomery showing up to instructs (see below to read what his stuff was like then) next season. If his stuff stays down, then we might have to acknowledge the reality that pitchers don’t always follow a typical developmental path; sometimes guys peak as high school juniors, hard as it is to admit.

RHP Christian Montgomery (Lawrence Central HS, Indiana): 89-93 FB, 95 peak; potential plus 72-81 CB that goes both hard and soft; low-80s CU; plus pitchability; 6-1, 240

Even if Arizona State C Xorge Carrillo (Round 14) couldn’t play, I’d have to mention him here for his name alone. Xorge, Leathersich, and Panteliodis = one heck of a draft from a name standpoint. Besides the plus name, Carrillo is a good defender with interesting power upside. The Sun Devils have become pretty good at pumping out pro catching prospects in recent years; they’ve had a catcher taken in each of the past four drafts from Austin Barnes (’11) and Carrillo (11 and ’10) to Carlos Ramirez (’09) and Petey Paramore (’08).

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 [2010] 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.

Now this is how you draft, at least in the world of the old CBA. La Costa Canyon HS (CA) SS Phillip Evans (Round 15) was a borderline first round prospect who fell all the way to the fifteenth round and then signed for a fairly reasonable $650,000. A comp that I like for Evans is current Rays infielder Sean Rodriguez, a former third round pick (probably where Evans would have gone on talent alone) of the Angels.

It isn’t easy finding high school middle infielders who project to second baseman in the pros who are also worthy of first round consideration, but this year’s class has a couple players that fit the bill. With three plus future tools (defense, arm, raw power), Phillip Evans is one of those guys. In addition to those three projected plus tools, Evans can also run and hit a bit. His speed is average at best, but great instincts and exceptional first step quickness help him both in the field and on the bases. I love his approach at the plate, especially with two strikes. I also love his ability to hit for power to all fields. If you’re counting at home, that’s now five tools that Evans possesses with the potential to be around average (speed), above-average (bat), and plus (defense, arm, power).

The advantage that Evans holds over Johnny Eierman, a similarly talented prospect in many ways and the prospect ranked just below him on this very list, is in present defensive value. Evans is already an outstanding middle infielder while Eierman merely looks the part. Eierman’s edge over Evans is probably in present power. It is expected that both players should close the respective gaps — i.e. Eierman turning his intriguing defensive tools into more useful skills, and Evans learning to more consistently give his line drive approach loft to generate more in-game power — but I think Evans is the safer play to do so. Eierman may have more long range upside, but Evans has a significantly higher floor.

Odessa HS (TX) OF Brad Marquez (Round 16) is a ton of fun to watch play baseball. He’s as fast as a hedgehog – hedgehogs are fast, right? Sega wouldn’t like to me, would they? – and one of the five best athletes in the entire draft pool. Best of all, Marquez understands that he’s a speed-first guy who can hit a little and doesn’t try to do anything more than that. With any minimal power prospect there’s some risk – why throw anything but stuff in the zone to a hitter incapable of driving anything? – but Marquez’s speed and athleticism should enable him to get chances as a rangy center fielder.

I’m not a scout nor do I try to play one on the internet. Scouts do time-consuming work for very little money and public notoriety. Like any profession, there are good scouts, medium scouts, and bad scouts. Despite being an outsider to that world, I think it is fair to say that one of the trickier aspects of the job is trying to be as objective as possible even when your livelihood is dependent on subjective decisions. This is something that I’m fairly certain even the best scouts struggle with. It is really difficult assessing an individual’s baseball talents without first passing his abilities through one’s own personal scouting worldview. Bias exists, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If a scout is predisposed to favor a player with loud tools, for example, then he will likely not come away as impressed with George County HS (MS) OF Mason Robbins (Round 20) as, say, a scout that values a well-developed, differentiated skill set. Robbins is the kind of player who grows on you with every viewing. The words and phrases “underrated,” “better than given credit,” and “surprisingly” pepper his scouting reports because, at first glance, he’s a solid ballplayer with some room to grow and not much more. The more you watch him play, the more you grow to appreciate his tools. Robbins should hit the ground running just fine this spring at Southern Miss.

[well-rounded five-tool player with no standout tool; underrated  arm; average speed; interesting gap power that has plus upside; fantastic approach; likely LF in pros; better athlete than given credit]

Wiregrasss Ranch HS (FL) RHP John Gant (Round 21) and Cranston West HS (RI) C Jeff Diehl (Round 23) both received overslot cash from New York, a beautiful and rare treat for Mets fans. Gant’s stuff (upper-80s fastball, mid-70s curve, low-70s change) needs refinement, but, like Budgell, there’s a good deal of projection. Diehl has great size and above-average raw power, but his value going forward will be tied into his ability to stick behind the plate or not. Some believe he has the bat to sustain a position switch, but he’s a catcher or nothing for me at this point.

Unsigned Terre Haute South HS (IN) LHP AJ Reed (Round 25) gets a mention because, judging from his high school, he might just be the next Larry Bird. He’ll head to Kentucky where he might get the chance to play both ways. Fellow unsigned prospect Miami Dade JC RHP Jharel Cotton (Round 28) takes his low-90s fastball (93-94 peak) to what should be a very competitive East Carolina squad. Cotton also throws a change and a slider that will both flash plus.

Miami-Dade CC SO RHP Jharel Cotton: low-90s FB; very good to plus 80-81 CU; good CB; turned down low six-figures from Dodgers last year; native of Virgin Islands; 5-11, 190

I kind of like South Florida RHP Randy Fontanez (Round 27) as a sleeper relief prospect, though the reports that I have on his “sinking FB” don’t jive with his 0.90 GO/AO as a pro. I know it’s only 38.1 innings, but, hey, I’m a worrier by nature. Fontanez is a long shot to pitch in the big leagues, but I needed somebody to write about as a post-25 round steal, so…

South Florida SR RHP Randy Fontanez (2011): 88-91 sinking FB; quality CB and SL; splitter; great control; 6-1, 200 pounds

Memphis SS Chad Zurcher (Round 31) didn’t have quite the pro start as fellow middle infielder Danny Muno, but profiles similarly (potential utility guy) in the future. Texas-San Antonio 1B Ryan Hutson (Round 36) controls the strike zone well and flashes some intriguing power, but the former college middle infielder’s move to an infield corner ends almost any chance he has of breaking through as a pro.

In a draft of great names, Santa Fe CC RHP Malcolm Clapsaddle (Round 48) wins the prize. Follow all of Clapsaddle’s wacky adventures this spring at High Point.

Seattle Mariners 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Mariners 2011 MLB Draft Selections

Polish. That’s the word that first came to mind as I sat watching Seattle’s draft last June. In an attempt to preempt any confusion, no, the Mariners didn’t draft a bunch of players from Poland. They did draft a player from nearby Germany, but we’ll get to him in a bit. I’m talking about polish in the highly refined baseball skill sense. Let’s talk polish…

Everything interesting about Virginia LHP Danny Hultzen’s amateur career has already been written, so let’s take a more timely approach and discuss his most recent body of work with a little help from a pair of authors from two of the best Seattle sites in the universe. The esteemed Jeff Sullivan’s hot sexy update of Hultzen’s AFL progress confirms that the young lefty’s velocity has maintained his junior year gains (92.5 MPH average, 95.1 MPH peak) while marc w provides interesting details on the progress of his change (spoiler: sharp as ever) and slider (spoiler 2: shows flashes of greatness, but inconsistent). It is silly to compare every lefty with a great changeup to Cole Hamels, but that’s a pretty logical ceiling here, at least in terms of potential performance.

Virginia JR LHP Danny Hultzen: plus command of all pitches; 88-91, will definitely touch 94; velocity jump due to 20 pounds of added muscle since high school, currently sitting 91-93, peaking 94-95; will throw upper-80s two-seam FB with good sink; 77-78 CB; plus 78-82 CU; quality 82-85 SL that he leans on at times

I can really appreciate the types of middle infield draft prospects that Seattle seems to target each year: athletic, versatile defensively, known to have a good approach to hitting. Clemson SS Brad Miller is/does all of those things, plus comes with a little bonus pop. In a weak class of college bats, Miller has the chance to really stand out as a middle infielder with starter’s upside. He’s Kyle Seager with more defensive upside.

Miller goes coast to coast as this season’s top collegiate shortstop prospect, beginning the year at the top spot and very deservedly finishing at number one as well. I’ve long held the position that the current Clemson shortstop has what it takes to stick at the position, an opinion tied far more closely to his defensive tools — most notably the speed and athleticism that give him well above-average range up the middle — than his present, sometimes erratic, ability. At the plate, he’s done everything expected of him and more. I’m admittedly more bullish on his power upside than most and can see him further tapping into said upside to the tune of 15+ homers annually. Even if the power doesn’t quite reach those levels, Miller’s consistent hard contact and good approach should help keep his batting average and on-base percentage at more than acceptable numbers for a starting middle infielder. It may be a popular comp for a lot of players, but I think a comparison between Brad Miller and former ACC star and current Oriole Brian Roberts is apt.

Mountain Pointe HS (AZ) 1B Kevin Cron is now at TCU after a deal with Seattle fell through. As a prospect, his power will define him…but you knew that already. What may or may not be known is what position he’ll be playing by the time his name is called again in 2014. Whispers about a potential position switch – I’ve heard both 3B and RF mentioned as possibilities – linger, but any defensive change would be contingent on his college conditioning program helping him firm up and shed some weight. Luckily for Cron, first base might be alright for him if his bat takes care of its end of the bargain. As mentioned in the pre-draft profile posted below, I can’t wait to compare and contrast Kevin’s college performance with his older brother CJ’s.

Cron has made headlines this spring, first as the younger brother of the amazing CJ Cron and then as a pretty damn good draft power hitting draft prospect himself. He’ll likely be picked too high to honor his commitment to TCU, but, man, I’d love to see him take a crack at the college game – the direct statistical comparison you could then make to his brother would be fascinating, I think. Cron the younger caught some in high school, but, like his bro, probably doesn’t have the requisite athleticism to catch at the next level. I’ve heard some quiet buzz about an attempted move to third, but I think that is probably from people who would hate to see his plus arm go to waste at first. Even working under the likely assumption he’s a first baseman in pro ball, Cron is a top five round prospect due to his highly advanced hit tool and gigantic raw power.

A copy/past fail left Mount Olive RHP Carter Capps off my list of the draft’s Top 250 prospects, but I’m sure the third round selection and half a million bucks helped him get over the unintentional snub. Capps is one of those guys – Stanford/Dodgers LHP Chris Reed is another – with both the frame and stuff to start, but, who, for some reason or another, looks so much better in shorter outings. I know almost all pitchers look better out of the bullpen, but Capps looks like a different pitcher altogether. At his best he’ll throw two plus pitches including a fastball that approaches triple digits (in short stints only) and an upper-70s to low-80s slider that flashes plus. He’s far too young to label him a reliever now and forever, but I do think the bullpen is his eventual home…and that’s a good thing.

Mount Olive FR RHP Carter Capps (2011): 94-96 FB with good movement; more commonly 87-91; saw him 90-92; 84-86 SL with plus upside that has lost some velocity, now upper-70s; upper-70s CU; 6-5, 220

There is no question Seattle went into the draft hoping to bolster their organizational depth behind the plate. Selecting Virginia C John Hicks was a good first step of the plan. He has above-average power upside and a knack for hitting the ball hard. I think his defense is fine, but if catching doesn’t work out he might be athletic enough to contribute defensively at a few other (corner outfield and first base most likely) spots.

Not too long ago I compared Hicks to teammate Kenny Swab and said I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take a similar career path, i.e. become an unsignable mid-round pick and go back to school as a senior to boost his stock. I was obviously wrong as it now seems Hicks’ athleticism, plus arm, and emerging power could make him a top ten round selection.

I’ve talked about draft stacking™ before, but I like discussing the idea so much that I’m going to repeat it here. Draft stacking occurs when a team drafts multiple prospects from the same position (pitchers excluded) within five rounds of each other. Bonus points when the prospects come from different places (i.e. one is from college and the other from high school). Double bonus points when the prospects are selected in back-to-back rounds. After selecting college catcher Hicks in the fourth round, Seattle turned right back around and nabbed Hagerty HS (FL) C Tyler Marlette in the fifth. Well done, Mariners. The only thing holding me back from publicly declaring my undying love to the Seattle front office is Marlette’s questionable future behind the plate. Draft stacking doesn’t work if one of the players is going to switch positions! Hopefully Marlette’s substantial defensive tools are actualized so that last summer’s breakout star can continue his ascension from showcase standout to big league catcher.

Marlette has as much upside at the plate as any high school catcher sans Swihart, but questions about his defense continue to suppress his stock. The shame of it is that he has above-average defensive tools – he’s surprisingly natural behind the plate – but lacks the polish that comes with years of practice at the position. The aforementioned upside as a hitter works in much the same way. In batting practice Marlette is a monster, but he’s more of a gap-to-gap hitter in game action thus far. A solid defensive catcher with plus power is a heck of a prospect, of course. An iffy defensive catcher who may or may not stick with gap power is less exciting. This is where teams who have seen Marlette multiple times over a couple of years have a huge leg up on what I do.

I had Rancho Cucamonga HS (CA) OF James Zamarripa down as a college guy, so I lost track of him somewhat this past spring. He’s more advanced than a typical prep prospect, but his ceiling (fourth outfielder) isn’t that exciting.

Virginia 3B Steven Proscia also isn’t especially exciting, but he’s a solid prospect with the chance to be a starter down the line. His strengths – arm, athleticism, power – mesh well with what most teams look for out of a third baseman.

Most people love coffee. Every few months I’ll try a little sip, but it just doesn’t work for me. So many people enjoy it every day that I’m smart enough to know that it isn’t “bad” per se, but rather a specific taste that I just don’t enjoy as much as others. Proscia is a little bit like coffee for me. His defense at third is very good, he’ll show you a nice potential power/speed combo most days, and his athleticism is well above-average for the position. He’s a good prospect by any measure. Yet somehow after taking everything I’ve heard about him and having seen him play a few times myself, I remain unmoved by his upside. Solid player, no doubt; he wouldn’t be on this list otherwise. I just see him as much more likely to wind up a potential four-corners utility player than a starting third baseman.

Texas State RHP Carson Smith is similar in many ways to Carter Capps. I prefer Smith, however, due to his more impressive fastball (the movement he gets on the pitch gives him the edge), more consistent third pitch (a changeup that could be quite good with some work), and better command of his breaking stuff. The eighth rounder is my second favorite prospect taken by Seattle this year.

Texas State JR RHP Carson Smith: very good athlete; 91-93 FB with great sink, 94-95 peak; sits 95-98 out of bullpen, 91-94 as starter; above-average potential with SL; CU with plus potential; commands CB well; 6-5, 215

Patch HS (Germany) SS Cavan Cohoes is a great story (Germany!) and a fun gamble for the Mariners to take. He’s also super raw at the plate, tremendously athletic, and really, really fast. Any more info than that would be me making stuff up because I’ve never seen the guy play and haven’t talked directly with anybody who has seen him either.

Tenth round pick Siena 2B Dan Paolini wound up beating my Dan Uggla draft comp (see below) by an entire round. I have a friend who has seen Paolini a lot who compares him to former big leaguer Mike Stanley as a hitter. Weird comp, right? My friend does this for a living – the baseball evaluating part, not the comp making part – so I’m not quite ready to say he’s crazy for the Stanley/Paolini comp but…well, let’s just say that I’m here to reiterate that I’m not the one going out on a limb suggesting a tenth round pick will play 15 seasons and hit close to 200 home runs. I’d take my Uggla anecdote to heart (again, see below) before getting too worked up about Paolini’s future one way or another, though I do want to profess my love of watching Paolini swing the bat.

Paolini has more present power than any college middle infielder. The question that remains to be answered is whether or not his long swing will lead to enough hits to make that power useful at the next level. If he doesn’t hit, he’s in trouble – only his power rates as above-average at this point, with the potential for an average hit tool down the road his only other tool of note. There’s a little sleeper Dan Uggla upside here, if everything breaks right. Of course, think about the original Uggla before getting too excited – how many things had to break exactly right for him to become the Dan Uggla we know and love (even as a long-time fan of a rival division team I have to admit his uppercut corkscrew swing is fun to watch) today? Paolini will probably start out around the same place as Uggla, a former 11th round pick.

Dayton LHP Cameron Hobson (Round 11) is hot and cold from outing to outing. When he’s going well, his fastball sits in the low-90s and he’s able to throw three pitches for strikes. It’ll be interesting to see if the Mariners view him as a starter or a reliever in the long run.

Dayton JR LHP Cameron Hobson: 87-91 FB with movement, sitting closer to 90-92 this year; good SL; solid CB; developing CU with potential; plus makeup; 6-1, 205 pounds

Franklin Pierce C Mike Dowd (Round 12) is fairly simple to understand. His arm is big league quality, but his other tools all come up a little bit short. In completely unrelated news, Henry Blanco has played 900 career games with an OBP of .293. Alright, back to Dowd: if he hits even a little bit, he’s a legitimate backup catching prospect.

Dowd, our lone Division II star on the list, has managed the strike zone brilliantly for Franklin Pierce while also ranking second among qualifiers in both BA and SLG. His arm may be his only above-average tool, but his bat, gap power, and defense should all play just fine at the next level.

UAB OF Jamal Austin (Round 13) can run, field, and take a pitch. I like that skillset. For as much shit as Juan Pierre has gotten from fans over his career (most, but not all of it justified), he’s now at the tail end of a twelve year career that has made him over fifty million bucks. Jamal Austin would be incredibly lucky to have anywhere close to as good a pro run. My worry with Austin remains the same as it has always been: will his inability to drive the ball prevent pitchers from throwing him anything but strikes? If that’s the case, I worry about him losing his greatest offensive asset, patience.

Love his speed/defense/approach, but do have some doubts about his almost complete lack of power and questionable arm. He sort of reminds me of a college-aged version of Juan Pierre and I’m not sure how his game will translate to the pros. The higher up you go, the more difficult it is to get away with having little power. 

Local (to me) product LaSalle RHP Cody Weiss (Round 14) has a fastball that touches 93 and an upper-70s curve that comes and goes as an effective second pitch. His spotty command and lack of physicality limit his upside, so, um, consider his upside limited.

SO RHP Cody Weiss (2011): 90-92 FB, peak 93; high-70s CB; iffy command; 6-0, 195

Loyal readers know by now that I have a huge weak spot for college seniors with outstanding four year track records at the plate. Florida State OF Mike McGee (Round 15) might be stretched in center, but he’s a good defender in either corner, and his elite plate discipline should make him a favorite to many as he rises up Seattle’s organizational chain. Whether or not Mike McGee makes it in pro ball is irrelevant to me; the guy has proven time and time again that he is, and please excuse me for the terrible cliché, a ballplayer. I hate that I’ve been reduced to such a hacky turn of phrase, but that’s what Mike McGee does to me. Check him out if he visits a minor league ballpark near you and you’ll understand. You can break down his individual tools and try to project what kind of player he’ll be once fully developed, or you can just watch him and appreciate that he plays the sport the way it ought to be played. Hey, better yet: do both! Or neither, whatever, do what what you want: it’s a free country.

[great approach; average speed; 88-90 FB, 92-93 peak; very good upper-70s SL; CU; drafted as a pitcher last year; good CB]

I devoted an entire post to Oregon C Jack Marder (Round 16) after the draft, so, yeah, you could say I like him. I was totally on board with Billy Beane when he made his “not selling jeans” comment – good players come in all shapes and sizes, after all – but I also think athleticism, and more specifically how athleticism relates with mechanics, muscle memory, and coordination is important. You don’t need to look good in a uniform to be a good athlete, but athleticism as a whole shouldn’t be ignored. Marder is an outstanding athlete, but more impressive is how he is able to channel his athleticism towards relevant baseball skills. His athleticism helps his defense behind the plate, his swing, and his throws to second and third. I’m intrigued.

SO 2B Jack Marder (2012): average runner; legit plus bat speed; very instinctual, high energy, just a fun player to watch; plus defender at 1B, one of the best I’ve seen at college level; has experience playing every position on diamond; with time should be above-average at either second, third, or an outfield corner, as well as average at shortstop; strong arm; will be tried at C this spring (5/11 update: soft hands, plus mobility, well above-average pop times, natural footwork, accurate arm, positive reports on feel for pitch sequencing and leadership of staff); great line drive producing swing, textbook front shoulder rotation that I love; above-average athleticism; easy top ten round guy, could go as high as round five; 6-0, 180 pounds; R/R

Miami OF Nathan Melendres (Round 17) has the tools to be remembered someday as a complete steal who had no business being taken as late as the seventeenth round. He can run, throw, and defend as well as any college outfielder in his class, but his crude approach to hitting has kept him from being labeled a legit five-tool player by the experts. He’ll need to work on his plate discipline – not just taking more pitches, but swinging at better pitches – if he hopes to be remembered at all.

[serious tools, but very raw; potential plus defender in CF; hacker; plus speed; above-average to plus arm; 5-11, 185 pounds]

Horizon HS (AZ) LHP Nick Valenza (Round 18) reminds me a little bit of Indians draft pick Dillon Peters. He’s short, throws hard, and shows the makings of enough pitchers to start at the next level. Once you get past his lack of physical stature, you can see that his stuff is pretty interesting. His biggest bugaboo at the pro level may be his inconsistent control.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Palm Beach CC C Luke Guarnaccia (Round 19) is a Mariners draft pick with good athleticism and a strong defensive reputation. Picking a favorite out of Hicks, Dowd, Marder, and Guarnaccia comes down to little more than personal preference at this point, as all four share fairly similar strengths and weaknesses as prospects.

Did I get carried away after three weeks of performances from Emporia State 2B Dillon Hazlett (Round 20) or what? Whenever anybody starts thinking I know what I’m talking about, I’m going to refer them to the passage below. Silly hyperbole aside, Hazlett is a nice prospect who can handle the bat just fine. Not Ackley-level fine, of course, but good enough to consider his bat, defensive versatility (like Ackley, I think he’s best in CF), and speed/base running instincts worth following through his minor league travails.

Name to know = North Carolina JR 1B Dillon Hazlett. I first heard the poor man’s Dustin Ackley comps coming out of Chapel Hill a few months ago, but dismissed them as nothing more than a coaching staff excited about a junior college transfer ready to step in and help fill the gigantic hole left behind by Ackley’s departure. The comp, like most are, was built on convenience – both players are way too athletic to be college first basemen, run well, and have questionable power upsides. That’s what the comp was trying to express, I think. Nobody actually meant that Hazlett would step in and show off a hit tool quite like the one Ackley had shown. Hazlett, though impressive so far, has a long way to go to even enter Ackley’s prospect stratosphere. Then again, Ackley’s final junior year line was .417/.517/.763. SMALL SAMPLE SIZE ALERT, but Hazlett has put up a .467/.541/.700 line through 9 games. Just store the name way, way, way in the back of your mind.

Stanford RHP Jordan Pries (Round 30) is a pitchability righthander who relies heavily on a near-plus upper-70s breaking ball. That makes sense because his mid-80s fastball alone wouldn’t cut it. I hadn’t expected Pries to be a high draft pick or anything, but it was a surprise to see him fall all the way to the thirtieth round. Used as a starter at Stanford, Pries could experience enough of a boost in stuff pitching in relief to make him interesting. His numbers were better across the board in six long relief outings than they were in his six pro starts, whatever that means.

Stanford JR RHP Jordan Pries: 86-87 FB; very good 76-78 breaking ball

Kansas State LHP Kyle Hunter (Round 31) is easy to lose among the influx of college pitchers with the same first name/last initial combination. There’s Kyle Hallock, Kyle Hald, Kyle Hendricks…and Kyle Hunter. Hunter has been on the prospect radar for years as a lefthander with solid stuff. He mixes his pitches well and has above-average command. With luck, he’ll carve out a home as a lefty reliever somewhere, someday.

I was happy to see Seattle give a chance to Miami C David Villasuso (Round 42). His power could help him sneak into the big leagues as a backup, but only if can first convince teams he can handle quality pitching behind the plate.

SR 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.

Los Angeles Dodgers 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Dodgers 2011 MLB Draft Selections

As one of the most divisive 2011 MLB Draft prospects, Stanford LHP Chris Reed will enter his first full season of pro ball with plenty to prove. He could make me look very stupid for ranking him as low as I did before the draft (200th overall prospect) by fulfilling the promise of becoming a serious starting pitching prospect as a professional. I don’t doubt that he can start as he has the three-pitch mix, frame, and mechanics to do so; I just question whether or not he should start. Advocating for time spent in the bullpen is not something I often do, but Reed’s stuff, especially his fastball, just looks so much better in shorter stints. Of course, he might grow into a starter’s role in time. I like that he’s getting innings to straighten out his changeup and command sooner rather than later. Ultimately, however, Reed is a reliever for me; a potentially very good reliever, mind, but a reliever all the same. Relievers are valuable, but the demand for their work shouldn’t match up with the sixteenth overall pick in a loaded draft.

Stanford JR LHP Chris Reed: 89-92 FB, sits 92-94 as reliever; good low-80s SL; emerging CU; 6-4, 205

Mariner HS (FL) 3B Alex Santana intrigues me for his athleticism and projectable frame. I’m not yet convinced he’ll ever hit enough to put those positives to good use, but time is definitely on the youthful (he’ll be 18 the vast majority of his first full pro season) Santana’s side. It should also be noted that Santana signed right away and was thus able to log professional at bats in his draft year. I know it is silly to get worked up over a draftee’s performance in such a limited sample, but I wonder if there is any correlation between early playing time and long-term success. Is there any truth to the idea that a prospect is better off forgoing a few extra bonus bucks if it means they can get back to game action (if the theory that the more pro at bats early in a career the better holds true this would increase future earnings) as quickly as possible? Do those extra at bats translate to better long-term performances?

As a plus athlete with above-average speed, Santana is a bit of an anomaly in this year’s high school class. Some question his power upside, but there is a long way to go before his body (6-4, 190) fills out.

My biggest worry about North Carolina State C Pratt Maynard is his defense. He isn’t quite a non-prospect if he can’t catch regularly, but his stock would take a drastic hit if he’s forced to move to a corner. Bat looks good for a backstop, though.

In an effort to show more power, Maynard’s been more aggressive at the plate this year. I wonder if his positional versatility will help or hurt him in the eyes of pro scouts. He reminds me a little bit of a less athletic Ryan Ortiz, former Oregon State star and current A’s prospect. Ortiz was a sixth rounder in his draft year; that seems like a plausible outcome for Maynard at this point.

I really like the pick of Oklahoma City RHP Ryan O’Sullivan. He comes equipped with a darting low-90s fastball that is tough to square up on and a low-80s curve with plus upside. If his mind’s right (a bigger if with O’Sullivan than for most prospects), he has a shot to outperform the much wealthier Chris Reed, especially if pro coaching can help him develop a third usable pitch.

Oregon RHP Scott McGough has a fastball with excellent life, a much improved slider that has become an interesting future strikeout pitch, and enough of a low- to mid-80s changeup that leaves you thinking it could be a consistent above-average offering in due time. His profile reminds me a bit of former Angels reliever Scot Shields, but with a better fastball. Having seen both McGough and Reed pitch a few times each in conference play, I’m sticking with my belief that McGough has the brighter professional future.

Oregon JR RHP Scott McGough: 90-92 FB, peak 94-95; 78-79 CB; raw 83 CU; above-average 78-83 SL that flashes plus; potential plus 82-85 CU that is still very raw; working on splitter; great athlete; 6-1, 185

I had Golden Valley HS (CA) RHP Scott Barlow pegged as a college guy because of the general lack of polish to his game. He’s a project with some upside, but I’ve heard from somebody who watched him multiple times in high school that there is a worry lefthanded hitters are going to eat him up in pro ball.

Coastal Carolina OF Scott Woodward’s versatility is his ticket to the bigs. He played both third base and the outfield in his first pro season, but also could handle second in a pinch. His value isn’t entirely tied to his defense; Woodward’s speed and plate discipline are also above-average aspects of his game. This pick is also noteworthy because it marks the third straight Scott drafted by the Dodgers. That’s a big deal!

It’s very easy to envision Scott Woodward playing in the big leagues someday. He’s got an outstanding approach to hitting, a discerning batting eye, and a really good idea of his fundamental strengths and weaknesses at the plate. Woodward ably uses his plus-plus speed to leg out infield hits, turn balls driven to the gaps into triples, and steal bases at a great success rate. Home runs will likely never be a big part of his game, but his is a game based more on speed and plate discipline anyway. He could have the type of career many once projected for former Dodgers prospect Joe Thurston. Another comp that I like a lot is Phillies minor leaguer Tyson Gillies, a comparison made more interesting due to the fact both players are hearing impaired, but one not at all dependent on that fact as the basis of the comp. When I first thought of it a few weeks ago the connection didn’t even occur to me, but the two players share enough distinct offensive similarities to make it work.

The budget-conscious Dodgers grabbed their second college senior in a row with the selection of Utah LHP Rick Anton. His fastball isn’t anything special, but lefties who throw four pitches for strikes – in addition to his upper-80s heater he throws a low-80s change, upper-70s curve, and mid-80s cutter – get chances in pro ball. I think his best chance is to continue to focus on his newly learned cutter, pick an offspeed pitch (curve, probably), and hope he can consistently hit the low-90s coming out of the bullpen. If he can do all that, then maybe he’ll grow up to be a big league reliever.

Utah SR LHP Rick Anton (2011): 87-90 FB, 91 peak; 82 CU; 75-78 CB; leans on 85-86 cutter; 6-0, 190; FAVORITE; (6.67 K9 – 2.57 BB/9 – 4.10 FIP – 87.2 IP*)

Though he lacks a standout tool, Oklahoma C Tyler Ogle’s ability to do everything pretty well make him an interesting catcher to track in pro ball. His outstanding junior production doesn’t hurt, either.

Big, big season so far for the very well-rounded Ogle. Pro-caliber defense, good arm, level line drive swing, and gap power. The only thing that could ding Ogle (and Bandy, a similarly talented prospect) is the lack of a standout tool. Many teams look for a plus tool — often arm strength or raw power — when they are in the market for college catching. Players who are solid across the board sometimes get overlooked. Ogle’s very consistent college production could help him appeal to more stat-oriented clubs picking in the top ten rounds.

Westchester HS (CA) LHP Jamaal Moore was a surprise top ten round selection who spurned the Dodgers to instead attend baseball hotbed Los Angeles Harbor College. He throws a low-90s fastball, changeup, curve, and a splitter. He’ll be draft-eligible once again next spring. There’s enough present stuff and athleticism here to follow him closely this year.

South Carolina 2B Scott Wingo (Round 11) reminds me of another college middle infielder who won back-to-back championships before being drafted to the pros. It’s not perfect, but I see a lot of Darwin Barney in Wingo’s game.

I underrated Wingo all year long, and feel pretty guilty about it now. He had an excellent year at the plate (.329/.463/.419 – 45 BB/31 K – 7/8 SB – 222 AB) and is an outstanding defender at second.

The dearth of quality middle infield prospects throughout the minor leagues makes Southeastern Louisiana SS Justin Boudreaux (Round 14) a name worth stashing somewhere deep in the back of your mind. He’s not a star, and almost certainly not a starter, but his bat isn’t inept and he can field his position (and, if not, he’ll be fine at second), so there’s a chance he can find a role on a big league roster somewhere down the line. Standards for quality shortstopping are low, after all.

Boudreaux has a strong arm, above-average range, and steady hands. All in all, his defense works. That said, his best tool could be his wonderfully appropriate name; have to love a Boudreaux playing for Southeastern Louisiana.

There are a lot of averages in a Clemson OF Jeff Schaus (Round 16) 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.

[pretty swing; good natural hitter; average power; average speed, more quick than fast; inconsistent arm strength, but flashes plus; top ten round possibility last year who fell due to bonus demands]

I prefer Oxnard JC 3B Jesus Valdez (Round 17) on the mound, but the Dodgers didn’t consult me when they decided to move Valdez to the hot corner for regular duty. By all accounts he’s a good defender with solid power upside. Valdez the pitcher is athletic, projectable, and has shown flashes of a good slider and changeup to go along with his low-90s fastball.

Oxnard CC FR RHP Jesus Valdez: 90-92 FB, 94 peak; good SL; emerging CU; 6-3, 180

Wichita State C Chris O’Brien (Round 18) was almost always the last cut whenever I made up a list of top 2011 college catching prospects. It sounds silly to put this much of an emphasis on makeup, but I’ve had scouts tell me that O’Brien’s leadership skills behind the plate and in the clubhouse could be enough to make him a ten-year big league backup catcher. I’ll just say that if there is one position on the diamond where I’d emphasis intangibles it would be catcher…and leave it at that. If intangibles aren’t your thing, then the strong start to his pro career lends credence to the idea that his breakout 2011 season with the bat wasn’t a mirage.

I know I’m not alone in being excited to see what kind of year Johnson County CC RHP Vince Spilker (Round 20) has in store in 2012. I wasn’t sure where I’d be able to follow him this spring, but after some digging I found out he’ll be suiting up for the University of Central Missouri. He should get the chance to start there, a role well-suited for his plus fastball and pair of solid or better secondary offerings (curve and change).

Johnson County CC SO RHP Vince Spilker: 96 peak FB; good CB; solid or better CU

Oklahoma State OF Devin Shines (Round 38) gets a mention because of the overall weakness of the Dodgers late round picks. True, the crazy athletic Hamilton HS (AZ) 2B Malcolm Holland (Round 33) got overslot cash to sign, but beyond him there’s not much to talk about. Enter Shines, a player with big league bloodlines, solid speed, and more pop than his 5-8, 180 pound frame suggests. When drafting on a budget like the Dodgers, you have to take what you can get in the later rounds.

I’m really excited to see Bolles School (FL) SS Austin Slater (Round 44) play college ball this upcoming season for Stanford. I like his long-term upside a lot and believe there’s a chance he’ll wind up closer to the player many thought new teammate Kenny Diekroeger would be.

I don’t often account for signability in these rankings unless something obvious is up. That’s exactly the case with Slater, a player who would be ranked higher on merit (really like the bat) but dinged for being a 99% slam dunk to attend Stanford (their new strategy targeting top prep stars named Austin has now worked two years in a row) after hobbling through an injury plagued senior season of high school. He could reemerge in three years as a premium pick once again.

New York Yankees 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Yankees 2011 Draft Selections

I like what New York does more than most people because I have a lot of respect for the way they let their strong scouting staff do the job they were hired to do. There isn’t a lot of upper-management meddling and nobody within the organization seems to worry about what the national pundits seem to say about the players they select. I do my best to not talk about “value” or “overdrafts” when discussing top ten picks because, in baseball more than any other sport, beauty is in the eye of the beholder on draft day. Maybe the Yankees could have waited until their second or perhaps third round pick before taking Dante Bichette; if they could have pulled that off, nobody would have claimed he was overdrafted and instead they would have praised the excellent value the Yankees got with their pick. At some point on draft day, however, you have to take the players you love. My one cross-sport reference of the day harkens back to last year’s NFL Draft when the Vikings “overdrafted” QB Christian Ponder. I didn’t particularly love Ponder as a prospect, but Minnesota did. If he was the highest rated player on their board and they had even the slightest doubt he’d be around for their next pick, then they were wise to take their guy, value be damned. The comparison isn’t perfect – the ability to trade down in football’s version of the draft complicates things a bit – and I realize they’ll always be an opportunity cost with taking players a round or two “earlier” than projected, but the point of the draft is to come away with as many players you love as possible. Draft who you want, ignore the haters.

Alright, now time for me to start hating…

The fact that Orangewood Christian HS (FL) 3B Dante Bichette hit really well during his first taste of pro ball is great. Even better are the reports on how quickly he adjusted his swing (shortened to help find consistency and designed to help him hit to all fields more effectively) and better than expected defense at the hot corner. Makes the pre-draft notes on him (below) seem downright prophetic, right? There is still a Dante Bichette Sr. sized gap between what Junior is and what he might be, and I’d be lying if I said I felt good about his future from an instinctual standpoint, but, hey, so far so good.

I’ve gone back and forth on Bichette for over a year now. The first thing I noticed when watching him hit is how his inside-out swing looks a lot like his father’s. This is a positive when he’s going well, as it is a really good looking swing that helps him generate plus bat speed and well above-average raw power. It is a negative when he is going poorly because, as much as I like the swing for an experience professional, it may have a little too much length and too many moving parts to allow him to pull it off consistently. I can’t help but wonder what his first pro hitting instructor’s advice will be. I should also note that I’ve slowly come around to the idea that Bichette might be able to stick at third base professionally because of his much improved athleticism and surprising nimbleness.

Not signing Texas LHP Sam Stafford is a serious black eye for the Yankees draft. It can be excused somewhat because of the reason behind it (a pre-signing physical showed something that scared the Yankees off from offering even slot money), but the final result of not signing a pick in the top 100 is bad news any way you slice it. Stafford has been a frustrating prospect to follow because of his general inconsistencies and lapses in command. If his stuff wasn’t so good, you might be inclined to write him off as a first day prospect altogether. Lefthanders with great size who hit the mid-90s and show the makings of two average or better offspeed pitches (love his low-80s power curve/slider hybrid, still hopeful the change gets better) get every chance to convince teams that they’ll figure out that pesky command thing in pro ball someday.

Texas JR LHP Sam Stafford: 88-92 FB, peak 94-95; FB command issues hold him back; holds velocity well; good 80-85 SL; 73-78 CB is ahead of SL; average 83-85 CU; 6-4, 190

Winnisquam HS (NH) RHP Jordan Cote was a surprise pick this early in the draft. The Yankees place a lot of trust in their area scouts, especially those based in or close to New York, to advocate for players they love. Somebody must have really gone to bat, so to speak, for Cote. That doesn’t mean Cote wasn’t deserving of a third round pick. His fastball is fine, he’s shown some aptitude with a pair of breaking balls, and his size and relatively fresh arm both hint at more velocity to come.

RHP Jordan Cote (Winnisquam HS, New Hampshire): 88-90 FB, 92-93 peak; good CB; SL; raw CU; 6-5, 200

If Cote represented the Yankees willingness to trust their scouts based in and around New York, the selection of New Rochelle HS (NY) 3B Matt Duran takes it up a notch. Not only is Duran a native New Yorker, but he’s also one of the draft’s youngest prospects. In addition to drafting heavily from the Northeast, New York has focused on another of the draft market’s inefficiencies: age. Duran, like last year’s first pick and fellow New York resident Cito Culver, is very young for a high school senior. He has but one plus tool, though, as said many times before, if you’re going to have only one tool, it might as well be power. I for one find it pretty nuts that the Yankees drafted three of the draft’s most interesting prep first base prospects (Bichette, Duran, and Rookie Davis), as well as the promising Austin Jones. New York could have a fun problem on their hands in a few years if Bichette, Duran, and Davis don’t take to their new positions.

If Grandview HS (CO) C Greg Bird can catch, his massive power makes him a big-time prospect. If he can’t, then he’ll join the potential logjam of Yankees first base prospects taken in this year’s draft. I had a scout compare him to Jesus Montero, but with a few huge caveats. First, he only made the comparison after the Yankees drafted Bird and admitted the appeal of comparing two players in the same organization influenced his typically stellar (right…) decision making. Second, he only was talking power upside and defensive ineptitude. That’s all. To build on that, he backtracked even more by saying Montero is way ahead of Bird as a hitter, in terms of both contact ability and plate discipline. In other words, Bird and Montero aren’t all that alike besides the fact they both play “catcher,” they both have ample present power (a rarity for young hitters more than people think – big difference between present power and raw power), and they are both Yankees. I love comps.

Bird came into the year a big prospect, but much of the hype that came with catching Kevin Gausman last year seems to have disappeared after Gausman went off to LSU. The Colorado high school catcher has a little bit of Cameron Gallagher to his game. Both prospects are raw defensively with impressive raw power that has been seen firsthand by area scouts at the high school level. That’s an important thing to note, I think. We hear so much about raw power, so it is worth pointing out when a player has plus raw power and average present power. That’s where I think Bird is currently at. There might not be a ton of projection to him, for better or worse.

I almost always guess wrong on what position a two-way prospect will play professionally, so it’s nice to see the Yankees think the same way I do about Kecoughtan HS (VA) LHP Jake Cave. True, almost everybody thought Cave would be a pitcher, but I’ll take any tiny victory I can get. On the mound he’ll give you an excellent fastball (93-94 peak), a potential plus mid- to late-70s change, and a breaking ball that has shown flashes but needs significant work. The reason I like Cave a lot more than even his raw stuff suggests is his elite athleticism. Long-time readers of the site know that I value athleticism (and all the ancillary benefits, most notably the ability to repeat one’s delivery) in young pitchers very, very highly.

LHP Jake Cave (Kecoughtan HS, Virginia): 88-91 FB, peak 93-94; 75-77 SL or CB; potential plus 74-79 CU; good athlete; power potential; good speed; strong LSU commit; 6-1, 180

Edmonds-Woodway HS (WA) 1B Austin Jones is a little bit like a less publicized version of Greg Bird. Bird received more pre-draft ink because he’s been on the radar longer due mostly to catching Kevin Gausman in high school. Bird also received more pre-draft love because, quite honestly, he’s a better prospect than Jones. Think of Jones as Bird-lite: not quite as much power, not quite as good defensively. That second reason has already been put into practice by New York as the Yanks have moved Jones out from behind the plate and made him a full-time first baseman.

Western Kentucky RHP Phil Wetherell has the two pitches needed to succeed in a bullpen and an arm with minimal wear and tear, but his pedestrian performance at the college level left me lukewarm about his pro prospects. Then he went out and dominated (41 K in 30 IP) for Staten Island. I’m not one to put too much weight in rookie ball stats, but you’d still rather see a guy perform well than not.

Like Wetherell, Lewis-Clark State RHP Zach Arneson is a reliever all the way due to a limited arsenal of pitches and questionable arm action. Also like Wetherell, Arneson put up good numbers (17 K in 17.2 IP) for Staten Island. I prefer Arneson’s fastball to Wetherell’s, but Wetherell has the better secondary pitch (his splitter). Both guys are iffy bets to pitch in the big leagues, but because quality relievers are always in demand, you just never know. I might not be getting paid to write this, but that’s some professional quality hedging right there.

Lewis-Clark State RHP Zach Arneson (2011): 96 peak FB

Eastern Oklahoma State JC RHP Jonathan Gray also fits the Wetherell/Arneson mold. As an unsigned prospect, he’ll have another year of development to mature into something more. He has the fastball/slider combo needed to at least get a look as a potential reliever at some point.

My favorite college relief prospect drafted by New York is Longwood RHP Mark Montgomery (Round 11). Montgomery has been overlooked in the past due to his lack of size and physicality, but he’s close to big league ready with his fastball and plus low- to mid-80s slider. All Montgomery has done is perform at a high level (48 K in 30.1 college IP) everywhere he’s been (41 K in 24.1 IP in the Sally). If he keeps pitching this well next year at Tampa, he’ll officially be a relief sleeper per the national pundits. Get on the ground floor with him now.

Longwood JR RHP Mark Montgomery: 88-92 FB; peak 94; hard 82-84 SL with plus upside; really consistent numbers over three years; 6-0, 205 pounds

Remember when I said I always guess wrong on what position a two-way prospect will play professionally? Come on down, Dixon HS (NC) RHP Rookie Davis! I would almost always rather a young prospect try hitting first – seems to be less variability in development and can get a young arm through the injury nexus in the event he moves back to the mound later on – but I can see why the Yankees prefer Davis, what with his potential for two solid pitches and imposing size, as a pitcher. I like him more as an athletic first base prospect with plus raw power, but I get it.

My biggest concern with ranking Rookie Davis this high is based on the nagging thought some team will pop him as a pitcher instead of a hitter. Currently equipped with two above-average future pitches (good low-90s fastball and an emerging mid-70s curve), Davis’ future could be on the mound. Like most two-way prospects, I think he’d be best served by giving hitting a go from the start. If that’s the case, then his plus raw power, classic slugger’s frame (6-5, 220), and strong track record hitting with wood could help him get drafted in the first few rounds and give him a chance to become pro baseball’s first ever Rookie.

For what it’s worth, I prefer unsigned Northridge HS (CA) RHP Mathew Troupe (Round 17) to the signed third rounder Jordan Cote. Troupe’s secondary pitches rank as some of the better offerings of this year’s high school class. His curve is a really good pitch when he commands it, and his changeup, thrown with the same arm speed as his fastball, flashes plus. His strong commitment to Arizona and fluctuating fastball velocity kept him from going earlier, but he could pop up as an early round pick in three years.

RHP Matt Troupe (Northridge HS, California): 90-92 FB, 94 peak; very good CB; plus CU; SL; inconsistent FB velocity so he sometimes sits 87-88, peak 91

The trio of Morris HS RHP Hayden Sharp (Round 18), Cathedral Catholic HS (CA) LHP Daniel Camarena (Round 20), and Bedford HS (NH) RHP Joey Maher (Round 38) make for an impressive compilation of late round big money prep pitching prospects. For good reason, the athletic lefty Camarena got the biggest bucks. His three pitch mix should help him adjust to a full-time starting pitching load as a professional. Of the three, he’s probably the safest bet going forward. The pitcher with the most upside of the troika is Sharp. His big fastball (upper-90s peak), plus athleticism, and pro body are all easy to dream on. Lacking the security of Camarena’s well-honed secondary stuff and the razzle dazzle of Sharp’s heat, Joey Maher is the least impressive prospect of the three. The raw righty from New Hampshire is a long way away from even reaching his modest (fifth starter?) big league upside.

LHP Daniel Camarena: high-80s FB with late life, 90-91 peak; above-average future 70-73 CB; average 70-75 CU; line drive hitter; good approach; power upside, but hasn’t shown too much yet; RF arm; 6-0, 200 pounds

Memphis RHP Ben Paullus (Round 19) is interesting for a couple reasons. First and foremost, his stuff (good low-90s fastball and plus hard curve) is big league quality. Second and not foremost, his delivery, while sometimes so herky jerky that it is hard to watch, gives him tremendous deception and makes him very tough to hit. Texas A&M RHP Adam Smith (Round 25) reminds me some of Robert Stock. I really liked Stock as a catcher and have been happy to see St. Louis stick with him behind the plate so far, despite the growing sentiment that wants his plus arm on the mound. Smith played third base for Texas A&M, but is expected to pitch full-time going forward for the Yankees. I wish he’d get a chance to put his awesome physical tools to use as an infielder – remember, he could always move to the mound in a year or three if needed – but, again, I get why New York would want to put an arm like Smith’s on the mound from the start.

At some point, he has to do it on the field, right? Adam Smith is such a force of nature from a tools standpoint that you have to believe someday he’ll put it all together and show why so many have touted his ability for so long. He has the plus arm and plus defensive tools you’d expect from a former pitcher/shortstop, and his pro frame (6-3, 200) generates plenty of raw power on its own. What he doesn’t have is a good idea of the strike zone or a consistent at bat to at bat swing that can help him put said raw power to use. I’d love for my favorite team to take a chance on him after round ten (tools!), but probably couldn’t justify popping him much sooner than that (production…). One thing that would make gambling on Smith the third baseman a little less risky: if he doesn’t work out as a hitter, his plus arm could be put to good use back on the mound.

Arizona State 1B Zach Wilson (Round 21) is a gifted natural hitter, but the bar is simply too high at first base and/or the corner outfield to ever expect him to earn consistent playing time in the big leagues. His professional future could evolve into a career path along the lines of “professional hitters” Dave Hansen’s or Mark Sweeney’s.

[very talented natural hitter; average power; average runner; no real defensive home]

Now that we’ve watched out last meaningful pro game until the spring, it is time to turn our attention to baseball’s next opening day. No sense waiting until April for the pros to start up again when college starts six weeks sooner, right? The Yankees couldn’t come to terms with three players expected to play major roles on some of college baseball’s finest teams this spring. Louisiana State SS Tyler Hanover (Round 40), Rice OF Jeremy Rathjen (Round 41), and Missouri 3B Conner Mach (Round 46) all return to school with plenty to prove. What Hanover lacks in physical tools he makes up for in plus plate discipline and veteran-level defensive positioning. I love him as a potential utility guy down the road and think he could have a career similar to – deep gulp – David Eckstein. Rathjen is the anti-Hanover, but still a really good prospect. He gets himself into trouble by being too aggressive at the plate and on the bases, but his tools rank up near any other right fielder in all of college baseball. If he returns healthy in 2012 as expected, he could wind up a top three round selection. Mach is a personal favorite as an above-average hitter with some defensive versatility.

Hanover: above-average speed, but more impressive as an instinctual base runner; very good defender – arguably his best present tool; competition for best tool includes a shocking plus-plus arm from his smaller frame; just enough pop to keep a pitcher honest, but mostly to the gaps; size gets him in trouble (attempts to do much), but this is inarguably a good college player; little bit of Jimmy Rollins to his game in that he is a little man with a big swing – again, this often gets him in more trouble than it should, as he is far, far less talented than Rollins on his worst day; great range to his right; definite utility future due to experience on left side; can get too jumpy at plate and swing at pithes outside the zone, but generally a patient hitter; 5-6, 155

Rathjen: [above-average speed, raw power, and arm; too aggressive at plate; good defensive feel; average range in corner; gap power at present that could turn into HRs in time; 6-6, 200 pounds]

Detroit Tigers 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Detroit 2011 Draft Selections

I’ve done enough of these draft reviews that I’m starting to repeat my repeats. I no longer can keep track of all of the silly claims (best draft, worst draft, whatever) that I’ve made so far. As I’ve surely said before, I’m not a huge fan of a team like Detroit taking so many college guys early on in the draft. When your first high school prospect is drafted in the fifteenth round, you’re doing it wrong.

Of course, you can always redeem yourself by simply drafting well. Whether we’re talking prospects from college, high school, junior college, or Cuba (looking in your direction, Onelki Garcia), the most important part of picking players is picking good players. I don’t like a college heavy approach, but if you are picking quality college players then who am I to complain?

That takes care of the top of Detroit’s draft. The back end was a mess. Brett Harrison, an overslot prep signing in the eighteenth round, was the last high school prospect signed by the Tigers. This probably doesn’t need to be said, but it isn’t good when you essentially stop drafting after round 18. Detroit managed to land a couple potential relief arms and a few org bats, but outside of intriguing 22nd round pick Tommy Collier, there is no impact upside. When you combine that with a college-heavy approach early on, you’re limiting the chances of landing a player who might contribute at or close to a star level in a big time way.

All I can do is throw up my hands and admit defeat when it comes to the Tigers first pick, Arkansas C James McCann. I figured teams would like him a lot more than I did, but never in my wildest fantasies did I think he’d crack the top two rounds. In my pre-draft comment (below), I said I’d spend upwards of a seventh rounder on him, but no more. Detroit obviously thought differently. Luckily for me, this is just the beginning. McCann’s pro career can go a lot of different ways from this point forward, so the jury is far from out when it comes time to determining whether or not this was a smart pick. Despite not being his biggest fan – from a prospect only and nothing personal standpoint – I’ll be rooting for him to exceed my expectations because by all accounts he is a really great guy. Still think he has a really good chance to become a steady professional backup catcher, though playing time might be hard to come by in an organization that has spent five picks in the draft’s top ten rounds over the past two years on catchers. They also have a pretty good young catcher at the big league level who figures to have a lock on the starting job for the foreseeable future.

I was impressed with the much discussed McCann’s well above-average athleticism and solid speed (for a catcher) in my admittedly quick look at him. His hit tool and power tool both project to around average (45 to 55, depending on the day) and his defense is already professional quality. I know I’ve been considered a McCann hater at times, but I think his relatively high floor (big league backup) makes him a worthy pick within the first seven to ten rounds.

There isn’t much to add about Vanderbilt 1B Aaron Westlake that hasn’t already been said. He has one clear big league tool (power) and a second that is average or better (hit), but is held back by the position he plays. If he hits in the minors, he’ll rise up. If he doesn’t hit, he’s sunk. There isn’t much of a speed/defense safety net, though there are some who think he is just athletic enough to be tried at various odd spots (corner OF, 3B, even C) around the diamond. His handedness (left) works in his favor in that he could potentially get platoon/pinch hit at bats against righthanded pitchers.

Westlake is going to hit as a professional, I’m sure of that much. Will he hit enough to hold down an everyday job at first? That’s the million dollar question, I suppose. He should be able to hit well enough against righthanded pitchers to at least work his way into a platoon role down the line. It could also be possible that his drafting team gets creativity with him, and tries him at a few different spots (corner OF, maybe a little third, perhaps some time behind the plate) a la Baltimore’s Jake Fox.

Can’t say I completely understand the selection of Kansas State 3B Jason King this early on (137th overall), but what do I know? King put up good numbers for the Wildcats and has ample power upside, but I don’t think he’ll hit enough to be a regular in an outfield corner, his likely landing spot down the line.

Texas SS Brandon Loy’s defense is big league quality already, so it really is just a matter of whether or not he can do enough damage with the stick to be a regular. With their 5th round pick (159th overall) in 2009, the St. Louis Cardinals took Miami SS Ryan Jackson. Loy, a player with a similar college background, also went off the board in the 5th round (167th overall). As Peter King might say the kids might say, “Just sayin’.”

Loy is a standout defensive player who makes up for his average foot speed with tremendous instincts and a plus arm that helps him execute all of the necessary throws from deep in the hole at short. He’s also a great athlete with awesome hand-eye coordination; that coordination is never more apparent than when he is called on to bunt, something he already does as well as the best big leaguer. I was slow to come around to Loy as a top prospect heading into the year, but the improvements with the bat have me thinking of him in a new light. Like Taylor Motter ranked one spot above him, Loy’s awesome defense should be his ticket to the big leagues, perhaps as a Paul Janish type down the road.

Howard JC OF Tyler Collins is similar from a basic scouting vantage point to Jason King. Both guys have big power, but project best as outfielders unable to play center. Guys like have to, wait for it, hit a ton to keep advancing in pro ball. I do like Collins’ pure hit tool over King’s and he is more of a natural in the outfield, so, you know, there’s that.

I was impressed Detroit got a deal done with Wichita State LHP Brian Flynn, a draft-eligible sophomore that many had pegged as likely to return for one more season with the Shockers. Lefties who are 6-8, 240ish pounds and can reach the mid-90s don’t come around too often, but it wasn’t just Flynn’s questionable signability that dropped him to the 7th round. At this precise moment in time, Flynn is a one-pitch pitcher. Even that one pitch, his fastball, isn’t that great an offering when you factor in his inconsistent ability to harness it. If the slider keeps developing and he shows he can work in the occasional change, then we might have a dark horse starting pitching prospect. If not, Flynn will try to make it in the competitive world of professional relief pitching.

Wichita State SO LHP Brian Flynn: 86-90 FB, peak 92; new peak of 94; command needs work; 6-8, 245 pounds

I lost track of Dallas Baptist OF Jason Krizan from early last season to just this very moment, so I’m pleasantly surprised to see he hit a Division I record for doubles this past year. Considering the only notes I had on him at the start of the year were “big power to gaps,” I can’t help but laugh. Krizan’s 2011 numbers have a distinct video game feel, but his lack of big tools – remember, a comment about his gap power was about the most positive thing said about him from a scouting perspective this past spring – keep him from being as good a prospect as his numbers might have you think. His inability to play center hurts him as well because, stop me if you’ve heard this before, if you want to play a big league corner outfield spot then you have to be able to hit, hit, and hit some more. With the right breaks Krizan could make it as a backup outfielder/pinch hitter, but he’d be stretched as an everyday player.

Kentucky OF Chad Wright profiles very similarly to the guy drafted one round ahead of him. He’s a “jack of all trades, master of none” prospect who is just good enough at everything to be interesting, but not quite good enough at any one thing to be a regular.

Kentucky JR OF Chad Wright (2011): average all around

I’ve written a lot about Vanderbilt C Curt Casali over the years, so I’ll make this brief: Curt Casali is going to play in the big leagues. I’ll go a step further and say he’s a better than 50/50 bet to outproduce the other SEC catcher taken by Detroit in the second round. I know I’m alone on this, but he reminds me a good bit of one-time catcher Josh Willingham at the plate. One thing that could definitely hold him back: I don’t know if he’s athletic enough to move out behind the plate if such a move is necessitated by his surgically reconstructed elbow.

Every game Casali plays is one game further removed from 2009 Tommy John surgery. The difference it has made in his defense behind the plate (more than just big league ready – he’d be in the upper half defensively of pro catchers) and his offense at the plate (near-plus raw power and a phenomenal whole field approach) give him the look of a future big leaguer to me. It is a rare senior that warrants draft consideration before round five, but Casali is an exception. Love this guy.

Barry 1B Dean Green (Round 11) got lost in the shuffle after transferring to Barry from Oklahoma State, but he’s a solid hitter with decent power. Michigan State OF Jeff Holm (Round 12) was a slick pick as one of the nation’s most intriguing senior signs. He has a long track record of excellent production, good speed, a great approach to hitting, and some defensive versatility (he plays a mean first base as well as average D in the outfield corners).

Michigan State SR OF Jeff Holm (2011): great approach; above-average to plus speed; gap power; average arm; average range in corner; has played 1B, but enough foot speed for corner; (340/411/534 – 28 BB/15 K – 22/25 SB – 206 AB)

I wanted all spring to champion Alabama-Birmingham RHP Ryan Woolley (Round 13), but his production (roughly 6 K/9) kept me from throwing any weight behind an endorsement. Down senior year aside, Woolley is a solid relief prospect with a good fastball that plays up in the bullpen and two offspeed pitches (slider and hard change) that flash above-average.

UAB SR RHP Ryan Woolley (2011): 90-91, topping at 92 with FB; has been up to 93-96 with FB; good 12-6 75-77 SL; power 82-83 CU; 6-1, 195 pounds; (6.75 K/9 – 4.64 BB/9 – 4.87 FIP – 64 IP*)

Stratford Academy (GA) OF Tyler Gibson (Round 15) might only have one plus tool, but it’s the right one to have. His big raw power gives him a chance to someday start in a corner, but he’s a long way away from being the player he’ll eventually be.

Green Valley HS (NV) 3B Brett Harrison (Round 18) got six figures mostly for his plus defensive upside and chance for a league average bat. I thought he could stick up the middle, but the Tigers prefer him at third.

My first draft originally had Harrison with the second base prospects, but a quick word from a smart guy suggested I was underselling his defensive upside. I believe a sampling of that quick word included the phrase “unbelievably light on his feet, like he is fielding on a cloud” or something weirdly poetic like that. There isn’t a whole lot there with the bat just yet, but after being told he had a “criminally underrated pure hit tool” I reconsidered and relented. Still not sold on the power ever coming around, but if he can combine an above-average hit tool with solid defense and a good arm, then we’ve got ourselves a nice looking prospect. There is an outside shot Harrison could go undrafted if teams are as convinced as my smart guy seems to be about his commitment to Hawaii.

If one player stands out as a potential late round steal for Detroit, it’s San Jacinto JC RHP Tommy Collier (Round 22). Collier throws two plus pitches already, and, if healthy, has the chance to unleash his nasty slider once again. He has the repertoire to start, but his health might necessitate a full-time switch to the bullpen. Mississippi LHP Matt Crouse (Round 24) is another arm with upside signed later on in the draft. His stuff was down this past spring, but he shows three average or better pitches when right and a projectable frame that could lead to a touch more velocity going forward. Southern California RHP Chad Smith (Round 17), who is equipped with a tidy low-90s heater/low-80s slider combo, could also make it as a reliever in pro ball

Mississippi JR LHP Matt Crouse: 86-88 FB, rare 91-92 peak; above-average CB that he leans on heavily; good CU; very projectable, but mechanics need cleaning up; 6-4, 185 pounds; stuff down this spring

Southern Cal JR RHP Chad Smith (2011): 90-92 FB; 93 peak; 80-84 SL; 6-3, 210

I can’t wait to see what Wichita State has planned for returning senior RHP Mitch Mormann (Round 25). He already has a plus fastball, both in terms of velocity and movement, and a slider that works as a solid second pitch in the bullpen. If his changeup shows progress, he could start this spring. If not, he could be on the short list of top college relievers for the 2012 Draft.

SR RHP Mitch Mormann (2012): 93-95 FB with great sink, 96 peak; average 83-85 SL; raw CU; 6-6, 255 pounds

Minnesota RHP Scott Matyas (Round 27) retired after just four rocky pro appearances, so, yeah, that’s that. He was going to be my sleeper pick, too. Glad I double-checked!

Minnesota SR RHP Scott Matyas: sits 88-91, 94 peak FB; above-average low-70s CB; good cutter; good command; mixes in upper-70s CU; really good athlete; 6-4, 220; Tommy John survivor

Missouri State RHP Dan Kickham (Round 33) might be the best of the sorry lot of players signed by Detroit after the 25th round. His fastball is too straight and his slider more good than great, but he has a chance to rise up in the system with some early pro successes.

Missouri State JR RHP Dan Kickham: 88-92 FB without much movement; average 81-83 SL; reliever; 6-4, 210

Portage HS (MI) 1B Ryan Krill (Round 40) is off to Michigan State. Well, I suppose he’s already there (it is almost November, after all), but you know what I mean. He has the chance to hit right away for a Spartans team that looks pretty decent on paper.

Krill is another prospect I was slow to come around on, but I’m buying into his mix of strong defensive tools, super athleticism, and big upside with the bat. Like Jacob Anderson before him, he’s got the wheels and instincts to play some outfield as a pro. There is enough to like about Krill that you can dream on him being a league average hitter and above-average glove at first down the line if everything works out. That may not sound all that sexy, and there is plenty of risk involved with assuming “everything works out,” but you have to remember how much you have to hit if you want to play first base in the bigs. As much as I like Krill now, I’ll be the first to admit that each and every one of these mid-round high school first basemen will all have to make major strides in pro ball (i.e. have “everything work out”) to begin to reach their upper level projections. Life is tough when you don’t have a fallback plan, I guess.

Boston Red Sox 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Boston 2011 Draft Selections

Without having any knowledge of what actually goes on inside Boston’s draft room, it sure seems like the Red Sox general approach to drafting is simple: find the best guy, offer fair amounts of money, and let the chips fall where they may. Four years of college in Boston turned me off to the Red Sox – it was more the oversaturated coverage and delusional fan base (you guys are New England’s Yankees, not some scrappy underdog that all of America roots for, alright?) than a commentary on the job the front office was doing – but I still greatly admire the way they draft. Quibble with the names at the top of the draft if you’d like, but the plan there is undeniably awesome. Here’s what they came up with on the draft’s first day: a good college arm who has shown flashes of greatness, arguably the top prep bat who slipped because of defense and signability, a high school lefthander who might as well be twins with Tyler Skaggs in terms of long-term projection, and a key cog from the two-time defending national champions who also happens to be a plus defender at a critical position. That’s an easy to like quartet from a talent perspective alone, but what I admire most there is the way Boston knowingly diversified their investment. They hit four different demographics (high school bat, high school arm, college bat, college arm) with their first four picks. As Bart Simpson once said, “that ain’t not bad.”

Connecticut RHP Matt Barnes gets a little bit of a bad rap as a “safe” college choice with the ceiling of a mid-rotation arm. Being a safe prospect with mid-rotation upside isn’t typically a bad thing, but Barnes has the chance for four above-average pitches. I wouldn’t disagree with somebody who believed Barnes most likely positive outcome was a solid mid-rotation starting pitcher, but his ceiling is closer to a frontline big leaguer in the mold of Daniel Hudson.

Connecticut JR RHP Matt Barnes: 90-93 FB, 95-96 peak; has hit 97-98 in past; great movement on FB; great FB command; holds velocity well, still hitting 90-92 late; good 82-84 CU that gets better every time out; 72-76 CB that is now firmed up enough that  it is a potential plus 75-80 CB; 78-83 SL with plus upside, but doesn’t use it often; work needs to be on delivery and command of offspeed stuff; some debate on whether CB or SL is better breaking pitch, a good sign; uses CB more to get outs on balls in play, SL for swings and misses; 6-4, 200

Much of Cleveland HS (New Mexico) C Blake Swihart’s value is tied up in whether or not he’s equipped to handle full-time catching duties going forward. For what it’s worth, I’ve heard from those in the know that Boston is 100% committed to keeping him behind the plate and won’t even entertain a “Wil Myers” (their words) type move to right field. He might not be a natural behind the plate, but his elite athleticism and arm strength are exactly the kind of defensive tools a good coaching staff can build on. There’s not nearly as much doubt about his ability to hit because, well, he can really, really hit.

The hardest prospects to write about are the ones at the top of lists like this. What more can be said about Swihart that hasn’t already been said? The Texas commit has shown all five tools (hit, power, defense, arm, and speed) this spring, an extreme rarity for a catcher at any level. I realize speed is easily the least important tool you’d need to see in a catching prospect, but Swihart’s average running ability works as a proxy for his outstanding athleticism. In that way, Swihart is the prototype for the next generation of catchers. After an almost decade long flirtation with jumbo-sized backstops (e.g. Joe Mauer and Matt Wieters), baseball is going back towards an emphasis on athleticism and defense behind the dish.

A no-brainer to stick behind the plate (the aforementioned athleticism and reported 95 MPH-caliber arm from the mound will help), Swihart’s biggest tool is his bat. Plus opposite field power and consistent line drives are not the norm for a typical prep prospect, but Swihart’s hit and power tools both project as plus in the future.  I stand by my belief that Swihart will catch for a long time as a professional, but his great athleticism and plus bat might convince a team to fast track Swihart’s development by switching him to third base or right field. It should also be noted that Swihart has a little extra leverage because he’ll be draft-eligible again in 2013 after his sophomore season.

Forgive me if I’m a tad over the top in my praise of Edison HS (CA) LHP Henry Owens, but the guy embodies everything that I want in a pitching prospect. In a word, Henry Owens is projection. He has a good fastball, a curve that looks a little like a young Zito’s, and enough other fun secondaries (flashes of a plus change, a much improved cutter, a slider that gets swings and misses when on) to think he has the chance to be an above-average starting pitcher at the professional level.

LHP Henry Owens (Edison HS, California): 88-92 FB with more coming, 93-94 peak; crazy FB movement; plus FB command; plus control; potential plus 67-72 CB with big break, getting stronger each start; strong 77-79 CU with plus upside; shows 74-77 SL, but still a raw pitch; new cutter shows more promise; holds velocity well; Tyler Skaggs comp?; 6-5, 185 last summer, now up to 6-6, 200

I can get comp crazy when I’m at a loss for in-depth analysis, so can we all agree that South Carolina OF Jackie Bradley is the American version of Leonys Martin and move on? I’m far from sold on Bradley’s bat, but his defense in center should make him at least an average regular during his peak years.

[special defensive tools in CF, plus to plus-plus ability; interesting hit tool; above-average to plus speed, closer to plus; good athlete; above-average to plus arm; legit pro power potential with average upside; gap power for now; very quick bat; gifted across the board; mature approach; fully recovered from broken hamate bone; 20/20 upside; 5-10, 175; DOB 4/19/90]

As much as I hate to say it, I’m definitely getting a Greg Golson vibe from Grand Street HS (NY) OF Williams Jerez. Jerez looks rather dashing in uniform and possesses certain tools – most notably his eye-popping arm strength – that really stand out, but he’s so far away from being a good ballplayer that I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around what exactly it would take, not to mention how long it would take, for him to reach his ceiling. There’s a part of me that would love to see what his arm, size, and athleticism would look like when put on the mound, but that’s coming from a guy who swore Anthony Gose would be a fireballing relief prospect by now.

[plus athlete; good speed, but might not have instincts for CF; plus arm; extremely raw; average raw power; 6-4, 190]

Columbus HS (GA) C Jordan Weems seemed like an odd selection at the time, but different teams value different things, especially when it comes to catchers. I just think there is too much work to be done at the plate (though, admittedly, his swing looks fine and his whole fields approach is nice to see from a young hitter) to justify taking him over more advanced catching prospects. He’s already a solid defender with a legit plus arm, so there is something to work with here even if the bat never develops into what you’d want from a starter.

My favorite pitch in baseball is the changeup, so it should come as no surprise that I’m rooting extra hard for Cal State Fullerton RHP Noe Ramirez. I’ve already been obnoxious with the comps, so why not go the extra mile and mention a changeup-based comparison between Ramirez and Phil Humber? When Ramirez has command of his slider, he’s tough to hit.

Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Noe Ramirez: once straight 85-90 FB with occasional hard sink is now more consistently 88-92 (93 peak) with more consistent, more drastic sink; delivery is deceptive and adds miles to the FB; plus FB command; plus-plus 82-84 CU learned from Ricky Romero; paid it forward by helping Gerrit Cole with his CU grip; emerging 75-80 SL that has put on velocity and is now 82-85; SL is good but inconsistent; shaky command of offspeed pitches; 6-3, 180

Besides being an accomplished bowler, Overton HS (TN) SS Mookie Betts is also a pretty talented baseball player. He’s probably not a shortstop over the long haul, but his athleticism and sure hands should play at any number of spots on the diamond. His progress with the bat should be interesting to watch; there isn’t much power upside, but those who saw him in high school came away with his approach to hitting and patience at the plate.

I liked San Jacinto JC LHP Miguel Pena out of high school. I still liked him after his first year at San Jacinto. Now I’m not sure how I feel about him. He has the three pitches needed to start, but the lack of a big league out pitch hurts.

87-90 FB, peak 92; hard thrower with right hand as well; really good CU; plus control; lots of positive word of mouth has me sold, but admittedly little is still known about Pena relative to other names on list

Free State HS (KS) LHP Cody Kukuk has all the makings of a frontline big league pitcher. Whether or not he gets there is anybody’s guess, but there’s no questioning the upside his projectable frame, above-average fastball, and solid upper-70s slider give him a chance to do some major damage to big league bats.

LHP Cody Kukuk (Free State HS, Kansas): 88-91 FB, 93 peak; good 78 SL; CB; CU; good athlete; 6-4, 185

Playing football and baseball for Ole Miss trumped a big contract with the Red Sox, at least in the mind of Pascaquola HS (MS) OF Senquez Golson. As a big fan of the tradition and atmosphere of SEC sports (not to mention the “scenery,” if you catch my drift), I can’t really fault Golson for picking The Grove over bus rides to and from Lowell. It remains unclear if Golson will ever really emerge as an early round pick because, by all accounts, his heart belongs to the gridiron. That would be a shame because he’s a really good baseball prospect. I’m often slow to come around to raw but toolsy high school outfielders, but Golson’s five tool ability was too great to ignore. He’s obviously a sensational athlete with legitimate plus-plus speed who is able to translate at least some of that athleticism (mostly in the way he defends in center, but also in a hard to describe swing that just looks like something only a great athlete could pull off) to the diamond. His other tools – most notably above-average raw power and a stronger than expected arm – make him a potential middle of the order possibility down the line. If Jake Locker can get picked in the tenth round, then surely Golson, who figures to play more baseball than Locker at the college level, will get early round consideration in three years as well.  If, and that’s a Todd Coffey sized if right there, if Golson gets enough at bats at the college level, I genuinely think he’s a potential top ten overall pick as the first college bat off the board.

[great athlete; plus-plus speed; plus defensive upside in CF; strong arm; Jared Mitchell comp; quick bat; above-average raw power; 6-0, 180]

If Kent State 3B Travis Shaw can stick at the hot corner, he’s an interesting prospect. As a likely 1B/3B/DH long-term, however, expectations with the bat rise above what he might be capable of at the plate.

Lacking lateral quickness and agility, Shaw’s future at third base is a major question as he enters pro ball. If he can stay at third base — good pre-pitch positioning and quicker than you’d expect reactions give him his best shot — then his big power, great approach, and strong track record with wood would make him a fast riser on draft boards. Most of the industry leaders are already moving him off of third, however, so perhaps I’m being unrealistic in thinking he could someday grow into an average-ish fielder there. Probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: if he is a first baseman at the next level, his value takes a big hit.

Scouts that saw Wisconsin-Stevens Point OF Cody Koback this past spring came away talking about his potential as a lefty bashing righthanded backup outfielder with speed. Not having seen him myself, that assessment sounds about right to me. A best case scenario comp that I heard through the grapevine was fellow small school double digit round prospect Matt Joyce. It’s far from perfect – Joyce has more power and bats lefty, Koback hits righty and is more of a speedster – but comps rarely are. I still love ‘em…

We’ll start our look at players of note taken after the top ten rounds with some “bad” news: the talented unsigned players. When you draft as aggressively as Boston does, you do so knowing there is little to no chance every player you draft will sign a pro contract. The group of prospects signed by Boston is excellent. The group of prospects Boston wasn’t able to sign is also pretty damn impressive. The high school trio of Menchville HS (VA) RHP Deshorn Lake (Round 12), Byrnes HS (SC) RHP Daniel Gossett (Round 16), and Don Bosco Prep (NJ) LHP Jordan Gross (Round 40) all went unsigned but all should reemerge in three years as big-time draft prospects. Lake is very raw, but showed enough present stuff to go along with his well above-average athleticism to qualify as a very interesting follow at East Carolina. Gossett has quality ACC reliever stuff at the ready should he find himself in position to get innings early on in his stay at Clemson. Gross doesn’t have quite the stuff as Lake or Gossett, but offers plenty of projection as a lefthander capable of approaching 90 MPH with the makings of a pair of quality offspeed pitches (mid-70s change and a low-70s curve).

RHP Deshorn Lake (Menchville HS, Virginia): 88-91 FB, 93-94 peak; good 77-82 SL; 80-81 CU with upside, but needs reps; raw, but lots of projection; 6-2, 180 pounds

Maybe I’m nuts, but seeing Louisiana State RHP Matty Ott (Round 13) sign a pro contract really surprised me. Matty Ott just felt like a player who would play college baseball forever. His fastball is a bit short, but he gets enough consistent movement on it to make it an above-average pitch on balance. His slider can get big league hitters out, but seems to have regressed some since his spectacular freshman season. I’d still like to see him get a chance to start, but questions of health, lack of a third pitch, and Boston’s organizational starting pitching depth might keep that from happening.

Louisiana State JR RHP Matty Ott: 87-89 FB; does a lot with the FB, cutting it and sinking it very effectively; very inconsistent 78-81 SL; great command and deception; plus control; big problem is lack of an out pitch; 6-2, 200 pounds

SO RHP Matty Ott (2011) is exactly the kind of player that makes following the sport fun. He somehow pulls off always appearing both fiery and cool while on the mound, he gets big time results (69 K to 6 BB in 50.1 IP) through unconventional means (his funky low ¾ delivery is only a hair or two from dropping officially down to sidearm), and he is by all accounts a wonderful example of what a student-athlete ought to be. His hard, sinking high-80s fastball works really well in concert with a high-70s big league ready slider that makes life miserable for both lefties and righties alike. Ott’s prospect stock is in limbo because he doesn’t fit any kind of traditional baseball archetype. He hasn’t currently shown the stuff needed to start (although I’ll happily go on record in saying I think he’d blossom if given the opportunity to refine a third pitch), and he doesn’t have the knockout fastball that so many teams require out of their late inning aces. Maybe it is a personal blind spot of mine, but, archetypes be damned, I like players like Ott that get just get guys out. He has two big league pitches at present (fastball is a little short, but the movement bumps it up a grade) and has time to polish up a third offering. He won’t be a first rounder, heck he may not even be a candidate to go in the top 150 or so picks, but he could wind up his college career as a high floor, close to the majors kind of prospect. If you read this thing regularly you know I value upside and star potential very highly, but in a world that Brandon Lyon can get a $15 million contract, you’d better believe there is value in locking in a player like Ott for six cost-controlled big league years.

Kentucky RHP Braden Kapteyn (Round 15) has the stuff (good FB, hard SL, flashes an above-average CU) to start, but will likely remain a reliever in pro ball due to a funky delivery that he has difficult repeating. If you didn’t know any better, you’d say he looked like a position player trying to pitch. Oh, wait. If he ever makes it as a starting pitcher I hope it’ll be with a National League club because watching him swing the bat every fifth day would be a lot of fun. He hasn’t had the health issues of Joe Savery, but a similar career path (iffy run as starter, brief but promising return to hitting, return to pitching in a more comfortable relief role) is one possible outcome.

Kentucky JR RHP Braden Kapteyn: 89-94 FB; hard 88 SL; potential above-average CU; lots of moving parts in delivery; great hitter; 6-4, 215 pounds

My notes on Liberty RHP Blake Foslund (Round 17) say a lot without saying much. His fastball is big league quality, but the breaking stuff, command, and control are all not where they need to be. A year of success at Liberty could get him drafted on the first day next June. Arm strength like his don’t come around too often, so I’m betting on a huge junior season for the former prep star.

Liberty SO RHP Blake Forslund: 92-95 FB, 97-98 peak

JC of Southern Nevada RHP Sam Wolff (Round 47) should get the chance to start this upcoming season at New Mexico. If that’s the case, I like him to emerge as one of college baseball’s biggest “out of nowhere” success stories and become a top fifteen round pick next June. He started his college career at San Diego, but it wasn’t until junior college where his fastball, and subsequently his prospect stock, really picked up. I had him at maxing out at 91-92 out of high school, but Baseball America’s draft update had him peaking at 95 this past spring. He’s always been an unusually polished young pitcher with excellent command and an above-average breaking ball. Added growth to the fastball makes him a dangerous three-pitch prospect with the chance to do some very interesting things this fall for the Lobos.

Oxnard HS (CA) 2B Austin Davidson (Round 21) has the defensive tools to work himself into a good defender at either third base or second base. His bat profiles a lot better at second as he’s a player with a well-rounded skill set rather than an athlete with a plus tool or two. Guys without loud tools are smart to go to college where production is weighted more heavily than it is at the high school level. If a non-tools guy produces for three years in college, certain teams will take notice. Davidson will get noticed in three years.

Davidson’s down senior season will probably cost him some cash in the short-term, but his solid blend of tools will still get him noticed on draft day. I think he has the chops to be a good defender at third base, but his lack of power upside may keep him from ever holding down an everyday spot. It is tough to project a utility player on a high school prospect, but Davidson’s skill set — average arm, average speed, cerebral player — seems well suited for spot duty.

I don’t like Deven Marrero quite as much as I’m supposed to. I also didn’t like Christian Colon (prior to his draft year) as much as others. My small sample size (the first round shortstops of 2002 also come to mind) conclusion: college shortstops who are projected to stay at shortstop for defensive reasons tend to be overrated. That’s a good thing for Luella HS (GA) SS Julius Gaines (Round 32), a player I really happen to like as a defensive prospect. I don’t think he’ll ever be an early first rounder like Colon was and Marrero will likely be, but three years impressing scouts with his range and arm at Florida International could get him picked much earlier than anybody would currently guess.

There are about a dozen prep shortstops who can realistically lay claim to “potential big league shortstop,” a statement that is more about their defensive futures than any kind of upside at the plate. When projecting shortstops long-term, defense is king. If there is one thing we are sure Gaines can do, it’s defense. How the bat develops is a whole other story, but his range and hands at short are so good that his hit tool is almost an afterthought. Almost.

St. Xavier HS (KY) RHP Matt Spalding (Round 29) is a short righthander with a big fastball, hard slider, and violent delivery. If that sounds like a future reliever, then you’ve been paying careful attention.

RHP Matt Spalding (St. Xavier HS, Kentucky): 91-94 FB, 95-96 peak; 73-77 SL; violent delivery; 6-0, 190

Washington State 1B Taylor Ard (Round 25) has been a big favorite since his days at Mount Hood CC for his big raw power and surprising big man athleticism. He could jump into the top ten rounds with a big senior season, but the usual bat-first prospect caveats apply.

I feel as though my notes on Ard sum up his game pretty well: plus-plus raw power; average at best hit tool; good athlete; wrist injury kept him down in 2010; solid defender; strong track record hitting with wood; some question about ability to hit with funky swing, but just as likely an adjustment will help him tap into his raw power even more. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Maryland OF Matt Marquis (Round 41) in a nutshell: at Maryland he hit .207/.207/.310 in 29 at bats, but as a professional he hit .337/.429/.494 in 83 at bats. He’s a really gifted athlete who still shows all of the physical tools that made him such a highly sought after high school recruit, but something has held him back to this point. I’m seeing high boom/bust potential (starting caliber performances or stalling out in AA) in his future.

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.

I can’t wait to see if Wake Forest OF Mac Williamson (Round 46) can put it all together in his redshirt junior season. He’s a legit five-tool prospect who has made great strides in his approach to hitting since arriving at Wake Forest. From a pure tools standpoint, I’m not sure there are five better outfielders in all of college baseball. The biggest strike against him for me is the fact he’ll almost be 22 years old by the time next June’s draft rolls around.

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. He 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.

Florida Marlins 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Florida 2011 Draft Selections

This draft is a disaster. Unsigned third and fourth round picks. Only two high school prospects signed in the first eighteen rounds, and only one more signed from that point on. No player, high school or college, signed past round thirty-five. I can only hope that the Miami Marlins do a better job next year than this lame attempt by Florida.

The good news about any draft is that sometimes one player can redeem darn near the entire thing. This particular draft won’t be a total loss assuming Alonso HS (FL) RHP Jose Fernandez lives up to his promise. I may not have liked Fernandez pre-draft as much as many of my esteemed draft obsessed peers, but I can’t necessarily fault the Marlins for using a first rounder on him either. Detractors of comps will have a field day with these (restricting yourself to only comparing a player to others with the same first name is lazy, they say), but an honest to goodness scout paid to watch baseball mentioned both Jose Contreras (young version) and Jose Valverde as players similar to Fernandez. I thought those comparisons were fun and I wanted to pass them along, but feel free to draw your own conclusions beyond that. Comps aside, Fernandez has an excellent fastball/curveball combination that is pretty much big league ready, and the makings of two potential average additional secondary pitches (raw low-80s changeup and intriguing upper-70s slider). At his best, he looks like an innings eating horse, although not in a literal sense because a) he’s a person and not an actual horse, and b) horses, to the best of my knowledge, eat oats and plants, not innings. Gut instinct (wish I could put it in writing why I have my doubts) has Fernandez’s upside closer to solid than superstar; a career not unlike Jose Contreras’s – you know, minus the whole not pitching in the big leagues until his age-31 season thing – makes sense to me, at least in terms of peak years performance.

RHP Jose Fernandez (Alonso HS, Florida): 90-93 FB, peak 94-97; good 80-83 CB; good enough FB/CB combo to pitch in bigs right now; 81 CU; learning a 78-79 SL; good hitter; 6-4, 235

Washington State LHP Adam Conley reminds me of the famous New England saying I first heard back in my college days up in Boston: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.” The saying applies just as easily to Adam Conley: “If you don’t like this prospect, just wait one appearance.”  At his best, Conley’s fastball is a plus pitch velocity-wise, and his changeup and slider often both work well as above-average secondary options. There are times, however, when his heater isn’t so hot and neither offspeed pitch is in the strike zone enough to be effective. Much, but not all, of Conley’s Jekyll and Hyde act can be attributed between the difference in his stuff when he starts and when he relieves; because of this, Conley is the rare pitching prospect that I’d rather see pitch exclusively in relief long-term. There’s little harm letting him start for now, I suppose, but a plus fastball, good changeup, and inconsistent though intriguing slider, combined with his difficulties maintaining velocity and command sharpness as a starter, add up to relief ace to me.

Washington State JR LHP Adam Conley: 86-88 FB; peaks at 90-92; up to 94 out of bullpen this spring; hits 95-96 when amped up; above-average 79-83 CU; very rare CB that has now been phased out; SL being added and now used a lot; great command; 6-3, 175 pounds; big peak FB could have been opening day juice; sitting more often 88-92; 6-3, 190 pounds

Neither Sumrall HS (MS) SS Connor Barron nor Wayne County HS (GA) 2B Tyler Palmer signed with Florida. The Marlins loss is college baseball’s gain. Barron is in line to get first crack at replacing BA Vollmuth at shortstop for Southern Mississippi while Palmer stays local by heading to Georgia. Both players offer interesting defensive tools, but Barron’s speed and strength give him the edge in any long-range forecast.

It is easy to see why Barron has been one of the draft’s fastest risers this spring. He has great speed, a strong arm, and a big league frame that makes projecting his bat easy relative to many of his draft class peers. The Reid Brignac comps are popular, and with good reason.

Broken Arrow HS (OK) RHP Mason Hope joined Archie Bradley in what has to be on the short list of scariest high school school 1-2 punches of all-time. Clint Everts and Scott Kazmir  — based on what we all thought of them as prep players, not how their respective careers played out – might top the list, but the combination of Lucas Giolito and Max Fried might blow everybody out of the water next June. Hope is currently a two-pitch pitcher, but, boy, are those two pitches impressive. His fastball pops consistently in the low-90s and his curve is a true plus offering when on. Now all we have to do is sit back and watch to see whether or not Hope and the Marlins minor league staff can work together to produce a third consistent pitch. His low-70s changeup has looked good at times and he’ll also show a harder breaking ball – a slider that reaches the upper-70s – every now and again, so there is plenty of hope that the elusive third (and maybe fourth) pitch will be unearthed. It should be noted that Florida scouting director Stan Meek knows Oklahoma as well as any talent evaluator, so adjust your perception of the kid with the soap opera name accordingly.

RHP Mason Hope (Broken Arrow HS, Oklahoma): 90-92 FB, 94 peak; flashes plus CB

Wichita State LHP Charlie Lowell might have less electric stuff than Adam Conley, but he’s far more consistent and a better bet to remain a starting pitcher. He has the three pitches needed to start – good fastball, above-average slider, and solid changeup – and the body and arm action to handle heavy workloads.

34. Wichita State JR LHP Charlie Lowell: 89-92 FB, 93-94 peak; above-average SL; solid CU; 6-4, 235

JC of the Sequoias 1B Ryan Rieger is a really interesting gamble in the seventh round. His power and pedigree (Rieger was once a big-time prep prospect) are beyond reproach, but a broken hamate bone suffered late last season is a red flag for a player so reliant on the long ball. Fun fact that might only interest me: Rieger was committed to Long Beach State before deciding to sign with the Marlins. I think that’s neat because that one-time allegiance to the Dirtbags makes the comp to former Long Beach transfer (via Miami) and current Atlanta farmhand Joey Terdoslavich comp I heard a few weeks fit nicely.

Seminole State JC RHP Dejai Oliver is a fastball/slider relief prospect with big league bloodlines. Another potential reliever with family in pro ball (in this case, a brother) is UC Davis RHP Scott Lyman. There is some definite untapped upside with Lyman, especially when you consider his frame, raw arm strength, athleticism, and the time he has spent focused on hitting rather than pitching. I’d take his upside over Oliver’s, but that’s based largely on the leap of faith that good pro coaching will help turn him from thrower to pitcher.

Arizona State C Austin Barnes had more walks (25) than strikeouts (22) while putting up a .730 OPS in his first taste of pro ball in the New York-Penn League. He’s also a plus-plus defender who might just be good enough defensively to warrant a big league roster spot on the strength of his glove/arm/quick feet alone. I underrated Barnes for too long, but am now fully on the bandwagon.

Georgia Tech RHP Jacob Esch (Round 11) could make the Marlins look really, really smart in a few years. Or he’ll be just another eleventh round pick. If he makes Florida look smart, it’ll be because of a fastball that peaks in the mid-90s (94-95), a relatively fresh arm, great athleticism, and a drive to succeed that legitimately blew me away when hearing about him from those in the know at Georgia Tech.

Florida SS Josh Adams (Round 13) is a fine defensive player who can play anywhere on the infield. He also won’t kill you with the bat. A utility future is the dream, but solid organizational soldier is the most likely outcome. I’ve never been a huge Ryan Jackson fan, so consider my comp of Adams to Jackson more of an indictment of the latter than high praise for the former.

Adams is a long time personal who struggled as one of the veteran anchors of a young Gators lineup last year, but has rebounded a bit in 2011. His scouting reports remain largely favorable, despite his inconsistent performances. Adams will be helped by his positional versatility as he tries to make it in the pros as a utility guy.

Monterey Peninsula JC RHP Nick Grim (Round 14) gets a mention as a guy with early round upside (92-95 fastball, good breaking ball that flashes plus, shows changeup) heading off to school at Cal Poly. He isn’t perfect (command comes and goes, inconsistent velocity, odd hitch in delivery some teams might not like), but there’s enough here to get excited about. Bellevue CC RHP Adrian Sampson (Round 16) is similar to Grim in that both are unsigned junior college standouts, but Sampson won’t head off to a four-year school and instead stick with Bellevue for at least another season. The Tommy John survivor has good stuff (fastball sits in the upper-80s but peaks at 92-93, an above-average breaking ball, and a raw but promising changeup) and surprisingly strong command for a pitcher coming off of injury. His brother’s disappointing run in pro ball might be held against him by some teams, but Adrian should enter pro ball further along the developmental curve than Julian ever reached.

Connecticut LHP Greg Nappo (Round 18) only needed 14 innings in short-season ball before jumping to the South Atlantic League for six starts down the stretch and three late summer long relief appearances. All told, he struck out over a batter per inning (58 K in 55 IP) and showed much improved control (only 12 BB) compared to his inconsistent spring (40 BB in 95.2 IP as a senior). Such an impressive performance isn’t altogether surprising coming from a 22-year old (he actually turned 23 in late August) pitchability lefthander. Greg Nappo is also awesome because, yes, that’s him throwing a pitch in the header of this very site.

SR LHP Greg Nappo‘s upper-80s fastball plays up because of good deception in his delivery. It is still probably a below-average pitch on balance because the command isn’t quite what you’d hope it would be coming from a typical pitchability lefty. He relied quite heavily on the heater, mixing in occasional cutters and an average slow curve that he could drop into the strike zone more easily as the game went on. 

Auburn C Tony Caldwell (Round 24) has enough defensive ability to rise up through the low minors as a potential backup catcher. If he hits, he’s a big leaguer. If not, he might top out at as a AAAA stopgap left to sit and wait for an opportunity to arise, i.e. quietly hope for a very minor injury to a catcher that would open the door just a crack.

I had Caldwell pegged as an all defense, no offense non-prospect heading into the year, but his hit tool has made a great deal of progress since last fall. Even without the emerging bat, Caldwell’s defense might have been enough to get him drafted.

Pitching almost exclusively in the GCL, Oregon State RHP James Nygren (Round 33) just straight killed it as a strikeout machine (35 K in 35 total IP) programmed to get groundballs at will (a ridiculous 3.24 GO/AO). He is a quality senior sign who throws nothing straight. At worst, he is David Herndon as a pro.

Oregon State SR RHP James Nygren (2011): 87-90 FB; touching 93; solid SL; nicely developing CU; clocked at 95 back in HS; 6-1, 195 pounds

I’ve always liked watching Pittsburgh OF John Schultz (Round 34) play. I’d be hard pressed, however, to name one tool of his that is clearly big league quality.

JR OF John Schultz (2010 – Pittsburgh) doesn’t have any exceptional tools, but his good plate discipline means he rarely gets cheated at the plate and his good speed can help him take extra bases when needed on the base paths.

I wrote about Iowa Western CC 3B Damek Tomscha (Round 36) last year (see below) after the Phillies took him in the final round out of high school. The latest buzz on Tomscha has pro scouts liking him more as a hard throwing righthanded pitcher as a pro.

Tomscha is a deep sleeper who has plenty of fans within the scouting community. I’m not a member of said community, but count me in as a fan all the same. As a high school guy without high school ball in Iowa, Tomscha’s upside was severely underrated this spring. He’s a really good athlete with a pretty swing, plus arm, and good raw defensive tools. My high pre-draft ranking was probably a bit of overcompensating for his lack of national love on my end, but it should definitely be noted that this your typical 50th round flier. Tomscha’s legit.

A pair of unsigned righthanded pitchers, San Dimas HS (CA) RHP Jacob Ehret (Round 37) and Marquette HS (IL) RHP Joe Ceja (Round 38), figure to hear their names called on draft day after three years at UCLA and Louisville respectively. Ehret is the more advanced prospect, but his path to the mound could be somewhat convoluted considering UCLA’s pitching depth. Ceja is more projectable (rare arm strength + pro body = good chance at upper-90s fastballs by his junior season), but should get an early opportunity to throw for a Louisville team in need of quality arms.

Watch Torrance HS (CA) SS Trent Gilbert (Round 40) if the opportunity arises this spring. He’ll be playing for the Arizona Wildcats, and he’ll be hitting. I haven’t seen or heard what Arizona plans to do with him defensively, but I hope he gets the chance to play second base every day. If that’s the case, he’ll be hitting in the middle of the lineup in no time. If you somehow need to be further sold on Gilbert, know that John Klima, who knows his stuff, loves the kid.

Gilbert swings the bat the exact way I would if a magic genie would finally grant my wish to have a picture perfect lefthanded stroke. I’m darn sure the hit tool will play at the next level, but there are some that think too much of his value is tied up in his bat. That makes some sense to me — there is some power here and a pretty strong arm, but his speed is below-average and his defense is a question mark going forward — but, boy, do I like that hit tool. Many of those defensive questions, by the way, may or may not be Gilbert’s fault. He’s currently in the tricky position of almost being too versatile defensively – I’ve heard some teams like him at 2B, some at 3B, and others still prefer him either at C or CF. Of course, I don’t mean to imply he’ll ever be a world beater at any of those spots, but the opportunity to hear a pro coach tell him, “here’s your new defensive home, practice and play here every day” ought to do him some good.

Heartland CC LHP Jerad Grundy (Round 42), a Miami transfer, should figure prominently in an improved Kentucky pitching staff next season. Coming out of high school he resembled what we saw out of Dillon Peters in this year’s prep class. Like Peters, Grundy has the stuff to start, but may be stuck in the bullpen because of effort in his delivery.

Heartland CC (Illinois) SO LHP Jerad Grundy (2011): 87-92 with movement; hard SL; promising CU; 6-0, 190; Miami transfer

Northeastern LHP Drew Leenhouts (Round 43) wasn’t as good as a junior as he was as a sophomore, but the lefty has the stuff to get picked twenty rounds higher next year. His arm won’t wow you, but he can throw three pitches for strikes and has silky smooth mechanics that portend additional velocity with help from a professional strength and conditioning program.

Northeastern JR LHP Andrew Leenhouts: 87-88 FB; good CB; average CU; command needs work; clean mechanics; 6-3, 200 pounds

Cleveland Indians 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Cleveland 2011 Draft Selections

Without repeating myself pre-draft too much (check all the bold below for that take), here’s where I stand on Monteverde Academy (FL) SS Francisco Lindor. Of all the positives he brings to the field, the two biggest positives I can currently give him credit for are his defense and time/age. Lindor’s defensive skills really are exemplary and there is no doubt that he’ll stick at shortstop through his first big league contract (at least). As for time/age, well, consider this a preemptive plea in the event Lindor struggles at the plate next season: the guy will be playing his entire first full pro season at just eighteen years old. For reference’s sake, Jimmy Rollins, the player I compared Lindor’s upside to leading up to the draft, played his entire Age-18 season at Low-A in the South Atlantic League and hit .270/.330/.370 in 624 plate appearances. A year like that wouldn’t be a shocker unless he goes all Jurickson Profar, a name Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks recently evoked after watching Lindor, on the low minors. Either way, I’m much happier with this pick now than I would have been a few months ago. Cleveland saw the opportunity to land a superstar talent at a premium defensive position and went for it, high risk and all.

So much has already been written about Lindor that I think I’ll cut right to the chase and explain what excites me about him and what worries me about him. First, and most obvious, is the glove. There are many factors that lead to attrition when it comes to amateur shortstops hoping to stick at the position professionally, but Lindor is as safe a bet as any prep player to stay at short that I can remember. He has the range, the hands, the instincts, the athleticism, and the arm to not only stick up to middle, but to excel there. With that out of the way, we can focus on his bat. At the plate, Lindor has one big thing going for him: his age. At only 17 years of age, Lindor is one of the 2011 draft’s youngest prospects. For a guy with as many questions with the bat as Lindor has, it is a very good thing that he has time on his side. His swing really works from the right side, generating surprisingly easy pull power. From the left side, there is much work to be done. There is something about his lefty stroke that seems to limit his power (can’t put my finger on what exactly), but you have to imagine good coaching and hard work give that a solid chance to improve. The iffy swing is mitigated some by his impressive bat speed, but it is still a worry. On balance, however, I have to say I do like his raw power upside as much as any of his offensive tools (hit tool is average for me and I don’t think he’ll be a big basestealing threat as a pro) and can envision a future where he hits upwards of fifteen homers annually. This may be an example of me forcing a comp when there really isn’t one there, but I’ve come around to the idea that Lindor shares many similarities to current Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus (Lindor’s power advantage and Andrus’ plus speed make this one a stretch, but I could see vaguely similar batting lines despite the differences). Rather than a ceiling comp, however, I’d say that Andrus qualifies as Lindor’s big league floor. If we’re talking upside, Lindor compares favorably with Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

Getting a first round talent like Searcy HS (AR) RHP Dillon Howard with the 67th overall pick is a big win for the Cleveland scouting staff. Howard’s two-seamer is a true bat breaker and his sinking low-80s changeup is a swing and miss pitch when on. Like any young pitching prospect some refinement is needed – work on commanding the four-seamer and a renewed emphasis on his promising slider – but there are enough positives to imagine a future where Howard is an above-average middle of the rotation arm with three pitches he can throw for strikes.

RHP Dillon Howard (Searcy HS, Arkansas): 90-92 FB, 93-95 peak; rumors of a 98 peak; also throws sinker that will break bats; outstanding sinking 81-83 CU; 76-78 CB; good 81-82 SL that he too often gets away from; good athlete; 6-3, 200

Merced JC (CA) RHP Jake Sisco was very much under the national radar for much of the spring, but area scouts knew him quite well. I knew him only as a hard thrower with underdeveloped secondary stuff, but Baseball America touted him as having the “makings of four plus pitches.” All I can really say is that I’ve heard differently. His fastball and pro body alone make him an interesting prospect, and the possibility of above-average secondaries make him a worthy early round gamble. As for Sisco having the potential for four plus pitches, here’s my honest take: Baseball America doesn’t know everything, of course, but they know a whole heck of a lot and you should probably trust them over me.

Merced JC FR RHP Jake Sisco: 92-93 FB, 95 peak; 6-3, 200

I don’t hold it against James Madison C Jake Lowery, but, man, does this guy have some fervent supporters. I rarely get any emails concerning the site, but Lowery had half a dozen friends/family members/fans who all very much enjoyed telling me how awful I was to rank Lowery anywhere but atop the top spot of the college catcher rankings. To them I humbly say: he’s a good player! Honestly, he’s a good player coming off an outrageous college season with the chance to someday play in the big leagues. However, he simply isn’t as good as his video game college numbers had some believing pre-draft. For my money, he’s in that big group of college catchers that could find work as big league backups due to his patient approach, average power upside, and good enough defense.

Lowery has a solid arm and is an above-average defender, but let’s be real here, it is the amazing power uptick that has scouts buzzing this spring.

Cleveland took Virginia RHP Will Roberts about ten rounds before I would have guessed he’d go off the board. His fastball isn’t overly impressive, but he does have a pair of secondary pitches (good change, average slider). His college claim to fame was throwing the first perfect game in Virginia history, so, you know, that’s pretty awesome. As a pro prospect, I’ll just say I really, really wish he was a lefty and leave it at that. I’m almost certainly falling into the trap of lowering Roberts’ stock in my head based off a few less than thrilling firsthand looks the past two springs, so consider my somewhat irrational bias in mind when forming your own opinion of Roberts.

Virginia JR RHP Will Roberts: 85-89 FB, 92 peak; good CU

Stephen F. Austin State OF Bryson Myles profiles as an interesting offense-first backup outfielder who, with proper pro coaching, should also contribute on the base paths. If you buy the bat a little more than I do, then you could be talking a player with similar upside to Marlon Byrd. I’ll be the under on the comp, but Myles, coming off a crazy college season of .440/.509/.627 (park/schedule adjusted) and a strong showing (.302/.394/.401) in the New York-Penn League, should still be a fun player to watch develop.

[plus athlete; good speed; interesting upside with bat]

I’m an unabashed supported of Divine Child HS (MI) C Eric Haase because I like athletic catchers with above-average hit tools and strong defensive tools. His journey to the big leagues will take some time, but Haase’s upside is worth the wait.

The biggest question mark on Haase is how the Westland, Michigan native wound up committing to Ohio State in the first place. Lack of allegiance to his home state university aside (I kid!), Haase profiles similarly to Blake Swihart, except without Swihart’s switch-hitting ability. Despite the typical risk involved that comes from selecting a cold weather prospect early, he’ll still find his way ranked near the top of some clubs’ draft boards. Strong defensive chops, plus athleticism, a strong pro-ready build, and a balanced swing will do that for a guy.

Gilbert HS (AZ) LHP Stephen Tarpley is an interesting case. He isn’t super physical, but his arm strength is big league quality. He shows flashes of above-average secondary pitches, but wasn’t consistent enough with his offspeed offerings to do anything but pitch predominantly off the fastball this past spring. If it came down solely to Haase or Tarpley as an either/or signing, I think Cleveland made the right choice, but Tarpley still has the athleticism and overall promise to get him to the early rounds in 2014.

LHP Stephen Tarpley (Gilbert HS, Arizona): 88-91 FB, 93 peak; good 74-76 CB needs polish; 81 CU; good athlete; 6-0, 170

St. Cloud State 3B Jordan Smith reminds me a little bit of former Indians first round pick Beau Mills. Mills obviously wasn’t a good pick in hindsight, but was a well-regarded prospect at the time. That said, bat-first prospects like Mills either have to be special (though let the record show that, at the time, Cleveland and many others thought Mills’ bat was in fact special) or, you know, not top half of the first round selections. Smith may not have a special bat, but he did enough with the stick at St. Cloud to make a ninth round selection seem worth a shot.

What you see is what you get with Cal Poly RHP Jeff Johnson. That’s a good thing when what you see is a big fastball and plus hard splitter. His ceiling is limited by the fact he’s a reliever all the way, but still rates as good a bet as any player drafted by Cleveland to contribute to the big club. A high floor power reliever is a good get in the tenth round.

Cal Poly JR RHP Jeff Johnson: 92-95 peak FB; nasty 86-88 splitter; two pitch pitcher makes it work; 6-0, 200

I wish Arizona State 2B Zack MacPhee (Round 13) had the arm strength to play on the left side. As it is, his future might be second base or bust. When he hits like he has in the past then being limited to second is fine, but the major tumble he had this past season is cause for concern going forward.

This isn’t quite Jett Bandy bad — notice the still strong BB/K numbers — but the degradation of MacPhee’s once promising prospect stock is still disappointing to see. On the bright side, he still has near plus speed, impressive bat speed, and excellent defensive tools up the middle. I’d love to know whether or not his batting average collapse had something to do with a BABIP-fueled string of bad luck or if he just isn’t making the kind of hard contact he did in 2010. Reports on him struggling to square up on balls this spring have me afraid it is the latter, but that great 2010 season should be enough to have a handful of teams buying into him as a potential utility player.

Feather River JC (CA) RHP Cody Anderson (Round 14) is another good example of a team doing its due diligence by closing monitoring both a player’s skill level and signability over the course of multiple years. Not much was though of Anderson last year at this time, but a year well spent at junior college now catapults his upside to the land of potential hard throwing starting pitcher. He’s still plenty rough around the edges – he fits the mold of thrower more than pitcher, for me – but the possibility he puts it all together is pretty tantalizing.

If I had any real baseball talent, I’m 99% certain I’d sign for big early round money out of high school rather than go to college. Three discounted years of hanging out in an educational environment like the ones found on campuses at North Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Stanford would be awful tempting, but I’m still quite sure I’d take the money and follow my ultimate dream instead. That could be the reason why I root so hard for players who do the exact opposite. Clemson RHP Kevin Brady (Round 17) turned down big early round Red Sox money out of high school to instead go to school. Two inconsistent, injury-plagued seasons later find Brady, a draft-eligible sophomore this past summer, still at Clemson trying to recapture the promise he showed as a high school standout. A strong junior season should easily get him picked ten rounds higher next June. Not for nothing, but Brady ranked 148th on my pre-draft prospect list. Whether or not he shows he can handle starting pitching – from both repertoire (he’s got the hard stuff to start, but still waiting on a usable change) and workload (can he handle the innings?) points of view – will determine his 2012 draft status.

Clemson SO RHP Kevin Brady: straight 90-92 FB, touches 94-95; good FB command; good, but inconsistent SL; occasional CB; improved CU; offered third round deal from Red Sox out of high school; 6-3, 205

Armstrong is a really underrated name for a pitcher. It is probably just me, but I take for granted how well it fits. East Carolina RHP Shawn Armstrong (Round 18) has, you guessed it, a strong arm. He also has an above-average slider to compliment his low-90s heat. I include him here mostly because I saw him a few times up close this past spring (oh, and also the name), but can’t say I’m particularly bullish about his prospect stock. If he irons out his control wrinkles and sharpens up his stuff, he’s a potential middle reliever. This Shawn Armstrong should not be confused with 2012 Draft prospect Shawn Armstrong of Morehead City, by the way. Don’t make the same initial mistake I did…

Cleveland delivered a nasty one-two punch to East Carolina with the signing of back-to-back picks Armstrong and ECU commit Ocean Lakes HS (VA) LHP Shawn Morimando (Round 19). Morimando is the second of Cleveland’s trio of short high school lefties, sandwiched between unsigned Stephen Tarpley and unsigned Dillon Peters. Unfortunately for Cleveland, Morimando is the least impressive of the three. Fortunately for Cleveland, there was enough of an uptick in his stuff this spring – offspeed stuff has always looked solid to me, and now his fastball is finally fast enough – to give hope that there’s a potential starting pitcher tucked away in his 5’11”, 170 pound frame.

Ranked one spot behind fellow unsigned high school lefty Stephen Tarpley on my pre-draft list, Cathedral HS (IN) LHP Dillon Peters (Round 20) is an uncannily similar prospect. He’s a little bit more advanced than Tarpley, but offers less projection and uglier mechanics. He has the three pitches needed to start at Texas, but concerns about his size and herky jerky delivery could keep him in the bullpen, at least at the onset of his college career. Without putting undue pressure on the Longhorns coaching staff, I’d say Peters is putting some serious money on the line by gambling a) he’ll be used responsibly in college and b) he’ll find a coach who can clean up his delivery enough to make him a viable starting pitching candidate. If in three years Tarpley is a Friday night starter mowing down college competition in line for a potential top three round selection, as his raw talent suggests, then there ought to be some Longhorn Network cash headed the way of Texas pitching coach Skip Johnson.

LHP Dillon Peters (Cathedral HS, Indiana): 90-92 FB, 94 peak; good 80 CU; very good 73-76 CB; 5-10, 195 pounds

Rice RHP Matthew Reckling (Round 22) is well positioned to become one of the 2012 Draft’s top pitching senior signs. A relative newcomer to pitching, Reckling struggles with some of the finer aspects of the craft like holding his velocity late into starts and showing the consistent command needed to get good hitters out, but flashes of a promising fastball and a good curve make up a solid base to build on.

Rice JR RHP Matthew Reckling: 90-93 FB at start, velocity dips to 86-89 quickly; good 79-81 CB, loses effectiveness when it dips to mid-70s

High Point RHP Cody Allen (Round 23) throws a fastball that hitters have a really hard time squaring up. That alone makes him interesting to me, though his above-average upper-70s curve gives him a second pitch to lean on in what will likely be a bullpen or bust career path. He impressed the Indians brass from day one due to his performance (75 K and 14 BB in 54.2 combined IP of 1.65 ERA ball) and maturity (filled in at High A and AA when organizational roster crunch necessitated a young arm to fill in).

High Point JR RHP Cody Allen (2011): 90-93 FB with great movement; 76-78 CB; 84-86 sinker; 80-82 CU

In a perfect world, every team would sign every player for a lot of money and we’d all be happy and content to go about our day. In reality, decisions sometimes have to be made about how wise sinking six figures into a pro contract for an 18-year old really is. St. John Bosco HS (CA) 3B Taylor Sparks (Round 24) would have been a good signing by Cleveland, but it is perfectly understandable why a deal wasn’t reached between the two parties. Sparks’ athleticism is borderline unfair (I know I’m jealous…), but it hasn’t translated to meaningful baseball skills, let alone exciting baseball tools, at this point.

Taylor Sparks, the former American Idol finalist (probably), is one of the most fascinating draft prospects in this year’s class. There are polished prospects who may be short on tools, but have high floors and a relatively clear path up the minor league ladder. There are raw prospects who have tremendous physical gifts, but need a lot of professional work to reach their admittedly difficult to hit ceilings. Then we have a guy like Sparks, a rare prospect with upside who is undeniably raw yet somehow not super toolsy. There are a lot of 50s in his scouting report (average arm, average power, average speed, average defense), but also something about his game that leaves you wanting more, in a good way. Part of that could be the rapid improvement he showed in certain areas — namely power and speed — this spring. If he can improve in those two areas, who is to say he can’t keep getting better after he signs on the dotted line?

The most interesting thing to watch concerning the development of Turlock HS (CA) SS Kevin Kramer (Round 25) over the next three years at UCLA will be his defense. If the fast-rising middle infielder’s hit tool continues to impress, he’ll be a legitimate early round prospect at shortstop in 2014. If he winds up at second, as I expect, he’s downgraded slightly but still a potential big leaguer. I’ve heard from “somebody who knows” that UCLA is pretty happy that Kramer made it to campus; to say he’s looked better than the player they saw in high school would be an understatement.

Strength, both at the plate and jammed into his throwing arm, describes Kramer’s biggest current asset. I also like his bat a lot — feel like I’ve said that about a half dozen players already, but it’s true — and have a strong intuitive feel on him.

All college baseball fans should be excited about the return of South Carolina LHP Michael Roth (Round 31) to college. Well, all fans of teams outside of the SEC. Roth is a tremendous college pitcher, an outstanding competitor, and by all accounts a fascinating guy with a vast assortment of varied interests outside the game. Rumors abound that he isn’t a lock to sign with a pro team even after his upcoming senior year, but, assuming he gives pro ball a shot, he’d make a fine mid- to late-round senior sign who would contribute to an organization beyond whatever he accomplishes between the lines.

Roth could presently be the lefty version of what Randall hopes to evolve into next year. He may not have a knockout pitch, but the way he works each batter’s eye level is a sight to behold. 

My only notes on Cal Poly RHP Mason Radeke (Round 35): “had elbow trouble in 2009.” He’s a little bit like Will Roberts in that, because of slightly underwhelming stuff, I wish he was lefthanded.

I have nobody to blame but myself for making a bad American Idol joke about Taylor Sparks when I could have just as easily saved it for unsigned Oregon State RHP Taylor Starr (Round 37). Sparks has gotten a Scott Mathieson comp from a friend who has seen both, though I can’t help but wonder how much their similar injury histories (Tommy John surgery twice each? Seriously, guys?) has to do with that. At his best he’s a hard thrower (pre-injury 94-95 peak), but you wouldn’t really know that from his college career. After throwing 22.1 IP in 2008, Starr has only faced three batters, and they all came in 2009. If you’ll allow me a rare bad word on this otherwise family friendly site…injuries are the fucking worst. There really is no telling what to expect out of Starr in 2012, but a return to good health would be an excellent start. We’re rooting for him.

I wrote about Virginia OF John Barr (Round 39) almost two years ago. This is what I came up with: “JR OF John Barr (2010) is as nondescript a prospect as you’ll find. It’s nothing personal – in fact, I saw Barr play in high school, and I tend to form weird (non-creepy!) attachments to players I’ve seen early on – but nothing about his game stands out as being an average or better big league tool. His numbers dipped from his freshman year to his sophomore season, but he deserves the benefit of the doubt as he was recovering from shoulder surgery for much of 2009.” Yeah, I’m sticking with that. He can run, defend, and take a walk, but there isn’t enough beyond that (i.e. he won’t hit) to make him a legit pro prospect. He’s still a good guy to have on the back end of your minor league roster, however.

Oregon SS KC Serna (Round 42) had a disappointing draft year, but rebounded somewhat in the eyes of scouts with his steady play in the field after being assigned to Mahoning, Cleveland’s New York-Penn League affiliate. Small sample size alert: the righthanded Serna destroyed lefties to the tune of .436/.489/.513 in 39 at bats as a pro. I can’t emphasize the small sample warning enough, but it could be something to keep an eye on. Late round college guys need to find a niche in pro ball if they want to keep the dream alive. A utility infielder who hits lefties well isn’t a role in crazy demand in the pros, but stranger things have happened.

Rahmatulla, Semien, and now Serna – three Pac-10 shortstop prospects who underperformed greatly in 2011. Serna’s struggles are more damning, for no other reason than his spotty track record of staying out of trouble away from the diamond. Scouts will overlook character concerns as best they can if you can really, really play; if you can’t, you’ll be labeled as a player that will cause more headaches than you’re worth.

I really like what Arkansas LHP Geoff Davenport (Round 43) and Cleveland did by coming together and agreeing on an overslot bonus of $100,000. Davenport wins because he gets to rehab from his March Tommy John surgery with a professional training staff at no personal cost. Well, that, and he gets 100,000 bucks. Good deal, I’d say. Cleveland wins because they get a quality starting pitching prospect for a relatively low financial figure all at the low, low price of a 43rd round pick. Davenport is obviously way more talented than your usual 43rd rounder who is well worth keeping an eye on as he rehabs into next season. When healthy, he shows that classic lefthanded pitchability repertoire (upper-80s fastball, good mid-70s curve, and solid change) that occasionally pays off with a prospect.

Arkansas JR LHP Geoffrey Davenport: 87-90 FB, 91 peak; above-average 76 CB; decent CU; good command; 6-1, 180 ; Tommy John surgery in March 2011

 

Houston Astros 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Houston 2011 Draft Selections

Houston went a little college heavy for my taste, but that’s forgivable considering the interesting collection of college prospects they rounded up. The early round pitching additions and handful of high upside college position players make it a slightly above-average class on balance. Connecticut OF George Springer (23rd ranked draft prospect) is a favorite of mine who I’ve seen up close multiple times, so forgive me for being super annoying and going with the long quote from my most recent viewing. The cliff notes: Springer shows four big league tools (strong arm, big raw power, good speed, and good CF defense/great RF defense), a hit tool/approach that has been the subject of debate going on two years now, and all the intangibles (work ethic, passion for the game, high aptitude to learn) you’d want in a potential franchise cornerstone. The gap between what Springer is and what he’ll eventually be is quite large by college first round hitter standards, but you don’t need an amateur hack like me to tell you his upside is immense.

Good pro coaching will do wonders for him, though it will be really interesting to see how much tinkering his future employer will really want to do after investing a hefty bonus in the college version of Springer’s swing. He looks a little bow-legged in the photo above, but it isn’t a great representation of his swing setup because it captures him just as he started his stride. I had great video of him swinging the bat, but it disappeared into the ether during a file conversion. As for Springer’s swing, again, I’m not a scout, but I was really impressed with his balance at the plate, both in his approach and follow through. I didn’t like his collapsed back elbow, but found many of his flaws to be those decidedly under the “Coach Him Up and He’ll Be Alright” umbrella. This may be a cop-out, but the rise of so many other prospects could really be a boon for Springer’s career. Taking him in the top ten scares the heck out of me, but if he slips closer to the middle or end of the round, watch out. Lowered expectations + more stable pro organization, especially at the big league level (less need to rush him) = transformation from overrated to underrated almost overnight.

Another quick note I’ll pass along without much comment: George Springer cares. I realize this is a dangerous game to play because, really, how can we ever know such a thing, but George Springer (his name just sounds better when you use the first and the last) cares, or, at worst, is one heck of an actor. I’d never get on a player for not reacting to a strikeout with anger (and, by extension, showing that they care) because, as a quiet guy myself, I know demonstrative displays of emotion shouldn’t be the standard by which we judge effort and dedication. But the way Springer reacted to an early strikeout — pacing back and forth in front of the bench seemingly in search of a tunnel to pop into and blow off some steam (soon enough, George) until finally settling to the far end of the dugout, just off to the side, where he took a knee, closed his eyes, and started pantomiming his swing — really stood out to me. Probably nothing, but there you go.

None of that changes my view of George Springer the prospect, by the way. Just thought it was a relatively interesting tidbit worth passing along. I have to admit that I do kind of love the idea of a player with a wOBA approaching .500 getting that worked up over a bad at bat. Or maybe I love the way a player who is is clearly pressing at the plate has still somehow managed to put up a league/park adjusted triple slash of .386/.482/.667 (as of mid-April).

Two pro comparisons for Springer came immediately to mind. The first is 100% physical and in no way any kind of projection of future pro value. Something about Springer’s body, swing, and overall on-field demeanor reminded me a great deal of Florida’s Mike Stanton. Again, the two are very different players, but the physical similarities were interesting. A comp like that is probably why most people don’t like comps, but they’ll live.

The second comparison is much, much better, I think. Springer’s upside and overall tools package remind me so much of Minnesota minor leaguer Joe Benson that it’s scary. File that one away…

And now we get the run on early round pitching additions. Locust Grove HS (OK) RHP Adrian Houser (174th ranked draft prospect) stood out in a crowded Oklahoma prep pitching class due to his plus fastball and advanced curveball. So much can happen with a prep arm developmentally that I’d be making stuff up if I gave you any definitive take on his future, but I can say with confidence that two quality pitches often makes for a good base to build a successful career on.

The Astros gambled on the signability of Vanderbilt RHP Jack Armstrong (49th ranked draft prospect) and came out big winners. He’s big, he’s athletic, and he has a big league ready fastball/curveball combo. If the change comes around, he’s a potential mid-rotation innings eater with the chance to put together. Out of all the excellent Vanderbilt draft prospects, I liked him second only to Sonny Gray.

Vanderbilt JR RHP Jack Armstrong: 91-93 FB sitting, 94-97 peak; 80-82 flashes plus CU; 81-82 CB with promise but slow to develop due to injuries; clean mechanics; finally healthy, CB better than ever; 6-7, 230 pounds

Sometimes it really is as simple as throwing away the performance aspect and looking at raw stuff. Armstrong’s track record on the mound doesn’t make him a top 100 pick (or a top 50 prospect on my pre-draft list), but his raw stuff ranks up there with almost anybody’s. Injury concerns could have Houston looking at Armstrong as a future reliever, but I’d love to see the big guy get a chance to start.

Santa Fe CC (FL) LHP Chris Lee is a lefty with good present velocity and the body to grow into even more. He signed quickly and, though his control left something to be desire, he showed impressive strikeout and groundball numbers.

If you can’t love Stony Brook RHP Nick Tropeano (108th ranked draft prospect), then we can’t be friends. How can you not fall for a big righthander that throws much slower than his frame suggests, but gets incredible results due to movement, great secondaries, and a big league veteran feel for pitching? Tropeano’s upside is a solid big league starting pitcher; his stuff (FB/CU/SL) reminds me a little bit of what Kyle Lohse brings to the mound. To keep this from being too positive – who would ever want to read positive thoughts on the internet? – there is some concern that, without a proper fastball, Tropeano’s future is starting pitcher or bust (i.e. he lacks the safety net of becoming a reliever).

Stony Brook JR RHP Nick Tropeano: 87-88, tops out at 90-91 with FB; velocity up a tick this year; better sink on FB; very good CU; very good SL with plus upside; advanced feel for pitching; relies very heavily on CU; 6-4, 205 pounds

I really liked what Houston did when it came time to pick college outfielders. Bringing in three toolsy, athletic, and physically gifted prospects gives the organizational depth chart a nice boost as they attempt to remake their outfield at the big league level. San Diego State OF Brandon Meredith is, well, toolsy, athletic, and physically gifted. He also works deep counts and flashes enough power/speed/arm to make him a potential regular right fielder down the line. With most non-elite college prospects, his most realistic path to landing a big league opportunity is to put up unignorable (note: not a real word) numbers year after year in the minors until he finally gets the chance to contribute either after a trade leaves a hole in the lineup or he is needed to bolster the big league bench. From there, who knows?

San Diego State JR OF Brandon Meredith: good arm; plus bat speed; good raw power; solid speed; RF professionally; (388/490/547 – 29 BB/39 K – 9/13 SB – 201 AB)

King HS (FL) OF Javaris Reynolds is a lottery ticket who was taken at the right time (7th round) you’d like to see your team gamble on high upside/low probability type players. Forsyth Country Day HS (NC) RHP Brandon Culbreth is the pitching equivalent to Reynolds; raw, but with a pro frame and enough flashes of quality stuff that you can start your daydreaming. Baseball players at least five years away from the big leagues are what people daydream about, right?

Creighton RHP Jonas Dufek is a watered down version of Nick Tropeano. He’s big, has below-average fastball velocity, and reliant on his offspeed and command to keep himself in ballgames. As a senior sign, he also only cost one-fourth the price of Tropeano; I’d be pleasantly surprised if he can achieve one-fourth the success I think Tropeano will have in the pros.

I know certain allowances are made for lefthanders, but you have to admit that the selection of Kent State LHP Kyle Hallock officially marks an early round trend for Houston. Between Tropeano, Dufek, and now Hallock, that’s three college arms with fastballs that stay below the 90 MPH barrier more often than not. As a three-pitch lefty with a little bit of projection left, Hallock is my kind of senior sign.

Minnesota OF Justin Gominsky (Round 11) is a really, really nice addition this late in the draft. He fits the toolsy, athletic, and physically gifted prospect mold mentioned earlier. The arm, speed, and center field defense are all big league quality; the difference between getting a shot playing every day or being pigeon holed into a fourth/fifth outfielder role comes down to his hit tool, plate discipline, and ability to tap into his considerable raw power. I tend to believe in elite athletes figuring out the baseball side of things more often than I probably should, so take my hearty endorsement of Gominsky as a prospect with a grain of salt.

Minnesota JR CF Justin Gominsky (2011): good arm; very good defender; plus athlete; good speed; interesting hit tool; 6-4, 185

Mississippi C Miles Hamblin (Round 12) serves as a harsh reminder of why I shouldn’t get too excited about prospects based predominantly on their junior college production. That’s not to say Hamblin’s numbers at Howard JC were the only thing that drew me to him (his scouting reports have been fairly positive going on three years now), but it was the incredible statistics that had me touting him as a potential top five round pick (whoops) back in 2009. His so-so showing in the SEC and slightly less optimistic defensive projection has me a little nervous, but I’ll stubbornly cling to the idea that his plus arm/plus raw power combo gives him a shot to make it as a backup in the pros.

Hamblin has above-average power potential and a live bat, plus he has the added advantage of being close to a sure bet of sticking behind the plate as a professional. His outstanding performance this season for a dominant junior college team has scouts buzzing. Lefty power, a great catcher’s frame, strong throwing arm (mid-80s fastball in high school), and a mature approach at the plate…don’t let the lack of pedigree bother you, Hamblin is a good prospect;

Clemson 2B John Hinson (Round 13) turned down the Phillies twice including last year after talks got rather acrimonious when money couldn’t be agreed on after Philadelphia drafted him in the 13th round. He went back to school, had a nice season, and came out the other side as a signed 13th round selection of the Houston Astros. I think the pre-draft report on Hinson holds up pretty well: good athlete, good speed, good hit tool, raw defensively, most likely a versatile big league utility guy with the chance of being an above-average regular (with the bat) at second. That’s some serious value in the 13th round.

A plus hit tool combined with above-average speed and power will get you far professionally, but people smarter than myself have told me some teams question Hinson’s ability to play any one particular spot in the infield with the consistency needed of a regular. Based on my limited looks of him, 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. He’s got a relatively high floor (easy to see him as a big league utility guy with pop) with the upside of a league average third baseman.

The Astros broke out of their college streak (3 of 13 including 5 in a row) by taking Lufkin HS (TX) RHP Gandy Stubblefield (Round 14). There really isn’t a ton of talent that separates Stubblefield from Houston’s second round pick Adrian Houser. Both pitchers have projectable frames, good fastballs, curveballs with upside, and the need for a reliable third pitch. The fact that one guy was selected in the second round and the other in the fourteenth just goes to show how messed up the current system (signability is king!) really is. Stubblefield is off to join an absolutely stacked (my early count has them with at least ten draftable 2012s) Texas A&M team.

RHP Gandy Stubblefield (Lufkin HS, Texas): 6-4, 190; 88-92 FB, 94-95 peak; CB with upside

The little scouting report below on Arizona State LHP Mitchell Lambson (Round 19) says it all. I make it a rule to always start with notes on the fastball because a) I think it is the most important pitch in baseball, and b) it helps keeps my notes organized and easier to peruse quickly. That said, Lambson’s change is so good and he relies on it so heavily, there really is no other way to talk about him without first mentioning the pitch. The Josh Spence isn’t really meant to be taken literally – guys as weird and awesome as Spence can’t be compared to mere mortals – but more of a funky lefthander with the chance to put up surprising results in an unconventional manner. In other words, don’t sleep on Lambson.

Arizona State JR LHP Mitchell Lambson: outstanding 72-74 CU with outstanding arm action that sometimes dips into upper-60s; uses the CU a ton; 85-87 FB, 88-90 peak; plus command; plus control; maybe a little Josh Spence in him; 6-1, 200 pounds

I have an irrational like of Tennessee 3B Matt Duffy (Round 20) that I can only attempt to explain in terms of relevant baseball skills by talking about his excellent defense at third and patient approach at the plate. Beyond that, I just plain have a good feeling about his pro prospects. If given the chance, I think he could have a season not unlike the one Jack Hannahan is currently having: slightly below league average with the bat, well above-average in the field. That might not sound super sexy, but, again, that’s value for a 20th rounder.

Duffy was a deep sleeper top five rounds candidate of mine heading into the 2010 season, so you know I’ve been irrationally high on his talent for a long time now. The Vermont transfer and current Tennessee standout has all of the defensive tools to play a decent shortstop professionally, but profiles better as a potential plus defender at the hot corner. For Duffy, a Jack Hannahan (with more raw power) or Andy LaRoche (with less raw power) type of career is possible.

Much like Miles Hamblin, North Carolina 1B Jesse Wierzbicki (Round 24) has been on the radar dating back to his days catching at junior college. The scouting blurb below was written back in 2010 when I thought Wierzbicki could play behind the plate as a pro. I still think he’s got the athleticism and enough catch-and-throw ability to play back there, but it appears I’m now in the minority. As a first baseman I don’t see how his bat will work at the pro level. Hopefully the Astros will be creative and try him in a utility role going forward. I can’t explain how he went higher in the draft than college teammates Patrick Johnson and Jacob Stallings.

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.

For what it’s worth, I talked to one scout who preferred Central Catholic HS (CA) OF Billy Flamion (Round 25) to New York first round pick Brandon Nimmo. Flamion’s bat is universally praised, but his other tools (speed, arm, and defense) are met with skepticism. I think he gets a bad rap considering his football background and lack of experience on the diamond. He’s a better athlete than given credit for with enough foot speed and arm strength to become at least an average left fielder in time. If he hits as expected, you can live with that. I think the most interesting thing to watch as he heads to school will be whether or not his aggressive approach can be reined in enough to make him as prolific a slugger as he could be.

[plus bat speed; special sound; plus lefthanded pull power; above-average arm; average speed; average range in corner, likely LF; good athlete; lots of swing and miss]

Not signing Flamion hurts, obviously, but the consolation prize of signing Bishop Amat HS (CA) OF Wallace Gonzalez (Round 29) isn’t half bad. I’ve talked about this before, but sometimes teams will draft two questionable signs within a few rounds of each other with the intention of offering similar money and seeing if they can get one to bite. In this case, we know Flamion’s asking price was really high (first round money, reportedly) and Gonzalez “only” got six figures, so maybe my theory is off. Either way, Flamion is off to Oregon and Gonzalez is an Astro, so let’s focus on the new pro and leave the college guy until 2014. Wallace Gonzalez has tools you’d never expect to see out of guy a few pounds short of Lions receiver Calvin Johnson. His raw power, plus arm, and great athleticism are major strong points. Like the Lambson/Spence comp from before, here’s another comparison not meant to be taken too literally: Gonzalez and Astros 2009 third round 1B/OF Telvin Nash. Both Gonzalez and Nash are righthanded hitting first baseman/outfielders with enough upside to hit in the middle of a big league lineup someday.

We’re issuing a major upside alert with Wallace Gonzalez, a rare first base prospect that can lay claim to legit five-tool upside. Those tools run the gamut from “wow” (plus raw power and a bazooka – not literally, that would be a “WOW!” tool – attached to his shoulder) to “hmm, didn’t expect that” (watching a 6-5, 220 pound man with 45 speed is cognitive dissonance personified). With great upside often comes great rawness, however. Gonzalez is better known as a football star with intriguing upside as a tight end capable of developing into a dangerous downfield threat. His commitment to the gridiron makes his signability just murky enough that some teams could shy away on draft day. Years of football experience also means less time honing his baseball skills, so the onus will be on his drafting team to really coach him up. At this point in the rankings, a boom or bust prospect like Gonzalez makes a lot of sense.

Penn State 3B Jordan Steranka (Round 30) heads back to Happy Valley hoping to boost his stock leading up to the 2012 Draft. He’s a little bit like Matt Duffy, though probably not as strong as a defender.

Steranka gives just about what you’d expect from a player this far down the ranking: a strong arm and some power upside. He also has the advantage of being a steady glove at third, though there are some rumblings that he could be tried behind the plate as a pro.

Arkansas OF Jarrod McKinney (Round 31) is the last of our toolsy, athletic, and physically gifted college outfield prospects taken by Houston. He is similar to Meredith from a tools standpoint (power/speed/arm enough for right field), but an ugly pro debut (.182/.233/.231 in 121 at bats) is a reflection on his rawness as a prospect. McKinney has never been super productive at the plate and injuries have kept his overall at bats down. His talent, however, exceeds that of a typical late round pick.

Arkansas JR OF Jarrod McKinney (2011): line drive swing; power potential; good speed; great range; good arm; strong; missed most of 2010 with knee injury; catcher in HS; (190/346/270 – 9 BB/13 K – 2/5 SB – 63 AB)

Oklahoma State RHP Brad Propst (Round 38) doesn’t throw hard (topped out at 88 when I saw him), but has a dynamite changeup and the athleticism you’d expect from a former middle infielder. His time spent at shortstop has me wondering if there could be some hidden velocity that could be unearthed with 100% focus on pitching as a pro.

Oklahoma State SR RHP/SS Brad Propst (2011): 86-88 FB; plus 79-80 CU; SF CU developing

Georgia 1B Chase Davidson (Round 41) was once a symbol for all that was wrong with Houston’s cheap approach to the draft. Well, maybe Davidson himself wasn’t a symbol; he was more of the cherry on top of the disappointing draft sundae that was the 2007 MLBDraft. That was the year Houston couldn’t agree to deals with their top two picks (Derek Dietrich and Brett Eibner), as well as eighth round pick Chad Bettis. To go a year without bringing in a top four round pick (free agent compensation took care of the rest) puts a serious strain on the farm system. In 2008, the Astros signed their first rounder, comp rounder, and second rounder. Things were looking up, despite the fact they badly reached on Jason Castro with the tenth pick of the draft; I mean, at least they signed him, right? Then the third round came around and the Astros swung and missed with inking big-time slugging high school prospect Chase Davidson. The few Houston fans I knew were understandably apoplectic. I’m in no way defending Houston’s cheapness at the time, but it is fun to flash forward three drafts to the Astros drafting and signing Davidson as a 41st rounder in 2011. I don’t hold out a ton of hope for Davidson, but I also don’t see a ton of differences between him and last year’s fourth round pick of Milwaukee, Auburn 1B Hunter Morris. That alone makes Davidson a pretty huge steal this late in the draft. The bar is set so low for 41st rounders that even a career as a minor league slugger would count as a success story. Anything more is a bonus.

Davidson is all power all the time but with a hack at all costs attitude. Been a long time (three years to be exact) since we heard those Jim Thome comparisons…

Clemson OF Chris Epps (Round 45) gets a mention because it feels like he has been at Clemson for the better part of the last decade. Consider this his college hitter lifetime achievement award. Epps is a talented guy who gets hurt by his tweener status: probably not enough pop to carry him in a corner, but not a good enough defender for center. His approach to hitting is professional quality, but, much like Davidson the 41st rounder, I’d say a long career as a 4A star would be an impressive outcome for this 45th round pick.

Clemson SR OF Chris Epps (2011): leadoff hitter profile; average gap-style power; above-average speed; below-average arm; not a CF; 6-1, 195 pounds; (237/420/365 – 48 BB/49 K – 156 AB – 15/21 SB)

Westfield HS (NJ) C AJ Murray (Round 48) had a strong commitment to Georgia Tech that no doubt scared teams off, but I suspect they’ll be plenty of organizations kicking themselves once they realize the kind of player they let slip away. Murray is a great athlete with good speed and plenty of raw power. There is some concern he won’t be able to stick behind the plate long-term, but I’ve heard differently. I’m excited about following Murray’s development over the next few years, starting from his time at Georgia Tech all the way through draft day 2014.

Fast-rising prospect poised to make me look stupid for having him this low. Area scouts rave about his athleticism and sheer physical strength.

Oakland Athletics 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Oakland 2011 Draft Selections

Drafting a potential top of the line starter like Vanderbilt RHP Sonny Gray (7th ranked draft prospect) with the 18th overall pick is a heck of a way to kick off a draft. The A’s 2011 draft train flew right on off the track and into a puppy orphanage after that, but, to paraphrase a former Oakland great, we’re not here to talk about the past. We’ll get to the letdown that is the Oakland draft in toto later on, but it wouldn’t be right to let a bad overall haul taint the excellent first round pick. (Edit: After going through Oakland’s draft pick-by-pick, I’m not quite as down as it as I initially guessed. I still don’t like going so heavy on older depth over younger upside, but it is at least a defensible strategy. Super cheap, though.) Popular industry comps for Gray over the years focus on smaller righthanders like Roy Oswalt and Ben Sheets; my pre-draft comps to Tommy Hanson and Yovani Gallardo focused more on stuff/pro impact. I think Gray would have received the same amount of love Trevor Bauer wound up enjoying in any other non-Bauer draft year. Both guys are undersized with unorthodox deliveries and inconsistent command. Both guys also have dynamite fastball/curveball combinations, plus enough extras (Gray: change and maybe the slider; Bauer: change, slider, cutter, screwball, and splitter) to excel as a starter in professional baseball. This isn’t an argument for Gray over Bauer (heck, reading through the laundry list of pitches Bauer can turn to on any given day reminds me of Cliff Lee…needless to say, I love Bauer), but rather a comparison to show how similar the two players, one selected third overall and one that fell to the eighteenth overall pick, really are. The only thing holding back Gray from his front of the rotation destiny is the Oakland medical staff.

Vanderbilt JR RHP Sonny Gray: plus FB in mid-90s (92-97) with excellent movement; currently rarely dips below 93-96 with nice sink; 81-85 plus to plus-plus CB; average command that comes and goes; 84-87 SL can be a weapon in time; 82-85 CU slow to emerge, but now a weapon more often than not; plus athlete; 5-11, 180

While everybody was making — and wisely subsequently dismissing — Tim Lincecum comps for UCLA’s Trevor Bauer, the closest thing to the Giants star pitcher in this year’s class has always been Sonny Gray. Of course, Gray isn’t really anything like Lincecum (really, who is?), but the three biggest knocks on Lincecum coming out of Washington — control, size, and an unorthodox delivery — are all also questions that Gray will have to answer to at the next level. The inconsistent control and violence in his delivery are a tad worrisome — his size doesn’t concern me in the least — but when you have raw stuff like Gray’s, you get lots of opportunities to work through your other issues. The realistic floor here is a dominant yet occasionally frustrating to watch shutdown reliever; the ceiling is a first division top of the rotation arm. Gray reminds me a little bit of Braves starter Tommy Hanson, give or take seven inches and forty pounds. I’ve also heard a slightly more size appropriate comp (still forty pounds off, but only about a four inch height difference) of Yovani Gallardo.

I’m not quite ready to bury the Oakland draft. Southern Mississippi 3B BA Vollmuth (90th ranked draft prospect) is an unusually toolsy college prospect with high boom/bust potential. The boom is worth the bust with a third round pick. Vollmuth isn’t your typical Oakland college pick – if such a pick even exists anymore – in that he’s not a statistical darling but instead a tools gamble with above-average big league upside.

Some people believe in it, some don’t. Either way, I figured I’d pass along something two different people said to me with respect to BA Vollmuth. Two words were used to describe the Southern Mississippi shortstop: “star quality.” He has the requisite athleticism, arm, and above-average raw power to play third base in the big leagues down the line, but his loopy swing might need a tune-up at the pro level.

The scouting reports on Cal Poly OF Bobby Crocker have been all over the place, but I’m wary of a guy I think is a corner outfielder (good athlete, but too big to play up the middle) without a premium bat. Others think he’ll be good enough to stick in center with the bat and foot speed to be an offensive asset. Even though I’m not as high on Crocker as others, I have to admit a potential fourth outfielder with a shot for more is fine value (there’s that word again!) in the fourth round.

Bobby Crocker: good whole field approach at plate; poor arm limits him to LF; plus raw speed but closer to average in-game; too many K’s; arm has also been called solid; great body; great athlete; plus defender in corner, average or better in CF; plus bat speed; swing has come a long way, but still needs refining; real curious about arm…could be difference between RF and LF; 6-3, 210 pound

With some pop, a good approach to hitting, and better than average defense, Central Florida C Beau Taylor has all the makings of a well-rounded quality backup catcher.

Taylor’s scouting profile reminds me a great deal of James McCann’s – great defense, flashes of power, better than average plate discipline.

Feather River JC (CA) OF Dayton Alexander has two plus tools (speed and CF range) and the chance to hit if he hooks up with the right coaching staff. His speed would be better utilized if he was a lefthanded hitter, but sometimes you can’t have everything.

Small school senior signs don’t typically have the stuff South Dakota State RHP Blake Treinen has, but his is an unusual case. He has the size and stuff to start, but could be a late inning possibility if he stays in the bullpen. Either way, his inexperience means he’ll take some time to develop. On the plus side, however, said inexperience means he has plenty of bullets left in his right arm.

South Dakota State SR RHP Blake Treinen: 92-94 FB, 97 peak; improved SL; working on CU; improved command; 6-4, 220 pounds

Cal State Fullerton RHP Colin O’Connell got so lost in the shuffle in a stacked college rotation that, in my two week non-stop writeathon induced haze leading up to the draft, I had him mentally pegged as a short righthander with plus command in my head. I think I probably confused him with Tyler Pill. Pointless interlude aside, O’Connell is actually a strapping lad (6-6, 200 pounds) with stuff that doesn’t impress as a starter, but plays up nicely in the bullpen.

After his eye poppingly awesome summer playing in the West Coast League, Oakland made every attempt (update: or not! Check the comments section for a clarification on this) to sign Southridge HS (OR) LHP Jace Fry, but ultimately came up short. They’ll be kicking themselves for not laying the groundwork on a deal before he blew up for a long time. Lefties with plus fastball velocity and plus sliders are worth spending a little extra cheddar on. I’ve heard rumors that he’s shown good feel for a changeup in bullpen sessions; if that pitch becomes a weapon, Fry could have top of the rotation upside.

Fresno State OF Dusty Robinson has huge raw power and just enough speed, arm, and athleticism to hold his own in right field. Too many empty swings keeps me from endorsing him as a bona fide future big league starter, but he has the talent to slot in nicely as a big league  bench thumper someday. I don’t buy the talk that he can play up the middle one bit, for what it’s worth.

Davidson LHP Chris Lamb (Round 11) has LOOGY with the chance for more written all over him (note: not literally as that would be one super weird tattoo). I saw him this year and came away very impressed with both his curve and splitter (redundantly I described both as “nasty” in my notes), as well as his control. Lamb isn’t a junkballing lefty per se, but his fastball is easily the least impressive pitch of his three-pitch mix.

North Carolina A&T OF Xavier Macklin (Round 12) is a sensational athlete who made a pretty shocking (in a good way) leap between his freshman and sophomore seasons, especially in terms of plate discipline. He has the speed to handle center, as well as the arm/power upside to move to right if necessary. He has as much upside as any freshly minted Oakland college hitter this side of BA Vollmuth.

[great athlete; big jump in plate discipline freshman to sophomore season; CF speed; raw, but plus makeup]

Mercer 3B Jacob Tanis (Round 13) and Stetson C Nick Rickles (Round 14) are a pair of small school standouts who look to make good on the bright stage that is low-level minor league baseball. While not being particularly fleet of foot, Tanis is a good enough athlete that he could be tried at multiple spots on the diamond, including behind the plate. Rickles, a catcher by trade, is a better version of Beau Taylor. He has the chance to exceed Taylor’s ceiling (backup catcher) and emerge as a good, cheap, young starting catcher at the big league level. It also isn’t out of the question that one day Taylor (a lefty) and Rickles (a righty) are both on the big league roster in some sort of platoon but not quite a platoon (this assumes Rickles winds up the better overall player, as I do) situation.

Tanis is an under the radar prospect who is capable of doing some good things at the next level if given the chance. His defense is good at third, his bat speed is more than adequate, and his athleticism gives him a chance to play a couple different positions in the field going forward.

The only negative I had on Rickles heading into the year was a report that his bat speed really tailed off as the year dragged on. Everything else checked out – good athleticism, a natural behind the plate with a great approach at it, and above-average power upside. Hitting close to .400 might not completely answer the bat speed question, but it is a clear step in the right direction.

Kansas RHP TJ Walz (Round 15), a long-time favorite of the Oakland scouting staff, has solid middle reliever stuff. He’s predominantly a sinker/slider guy, but enough flashes of a plus slider and sneaky hot fastball (up to94 inmy viewing) that could make him one of the better versions of the archetype. Maryland LHP Eric Potter (Round 19) is another reliever that could have gone five to ten rounds (give or take) sooner. His stuff is fine (88-92 FB, average curve and change), but his strengths (big bodied lefthander) and weaknesses (inconsistent control) are what define him best as a prospect.

Michigan State RHP Kurt Wunderlich (Round 20) and Georgia RHP Cecil Tanner (Round 23) make a fun late round pair in much the same way Oscar and Felix made for a fun pair of roommates. Wunderlich, an accomplished college arm, gets by on pitchability and command. Tanner, a disappointment at Georgia any way you slice it, has the stuff to thrive in pro ball (mid-90s fastball, good upper-70s slider) but wasn’t able to iron out his mechanics (a major factor explaining his poor command) in three years at college. Both pitchers face long odds to make it even to AA, but, forced to choose, I’ll take the guy with big league stuff.

Georgia JR RHP Cecil Tanner: 91-94 FB with sink; 96-98 peak FB; good 77 SL; below-average command; Jonathan Broxton and Bobby Jenks body comps; hasn’t ironed out mechanics in three years at Georgia; 6-6, 260

Unsigned Zionsville Community HS (IN) SS Max Kuhn (Round 24) surprised those who thought him quite signable by heading off to college with the hope of taking his advanced bat to the early rounds in 2014. Aquinas Institute (NY) SS Chris Bostick (Round 44), seen by many as a sure thing to land at St. John’s, is now one of the newest members of the Oakland Athletics. Baseball is a funny game, both on and off the diamond. A big pro start for Bostick is great to see; sure, he’s really a .442 hitter, but the hit tool is solid, he’s got speed coming out of his ears, and he’s a slightly better than 50/50 shot to stay at shortstop.

Three reasons why I like Max Kuhn: 1) his upside with the bat, 2) any early round prep prospect from Indiana is fun, and 3) baseball could use another quality Max. One of my first — and as it turns out, only — autographs came from Max Patkin, the Clown Prince of Baseball, at a shoe store when I was six.

I don’t intentionally group every mid-round prospect with a partner, but the Oakland draft just lends itself to pairs. Tennessee Tech OF Chad Oberacker (Round 25) and Virginia Military Institute RHP Sam Roberts (Round 26) both come from non-traditional baseball schools. Neither player, however, lacks in talent. Oberacker is a patient hitter with a strong wood bat track record, good speed, and enough pop to keep a pitcher honest. He might be stretched a bit defensively in center, but his strong arm makes him an asset in right. Roberts was announced as a pitcher on draft day, but played shortstop for Vermont after signing. I’m not sure if this is the long-term intention or just a nice way of giving his arm a breather before heading back to the mound next year. I like him just find on the left side of the infield for now; even without a standout offensive tool, there’s enough in the total package to give him the look of a utility guy assuming the proper developmental breaks.

Tennessee Tech SR OF Chad Oberacker: good history with wood; above-average speed; decent pop; strong arm; (431/507/661 – 33 BB/24 K – 14/18 SB – 239 AB)

Roberts is a do-it-all utility player for VMI that leads off, plays short, and takes the hill every weekend as a starting pitcher. As a college player, there’s little he doesn’t do well and he’s been producing at a big time clip since first stepping on campus. He’s got just enough speed and power to be interesting on offense, and plenty of arm strength to play either spot on the left side of the infield.

After first round pick Sonny Gray, Harvard RHP Max Perlman (Round 35) might be the best known name to prospect fans that don’t care too much about amateur ball. Perlman made the leap from Harvard to Rookie League all the way to AAA Sacramento for two solid starts all in the matter of ten weeks. I also could have sworn he threw a no-hitter after signing, but five minutes of Google leave me with nothing but regret for five minutes I’ll never get back. No-hitter or not, Perlman had a great pro debut. I’m bummed I never wrote him up, especially considering my strange fascination with the Ivies. Apologies to Perlman, Vince Voiro (Penn), Dan Bracey (Columbia), and all of the other Ivy League players I neglected this spring.

I’ll spare you any of the dumb jokes that come to mind and just share Oakland’s final selection in the 2011 MLB Draft: Cypress JC (CA) RHP Travis Pitcher (Round 50).

Because I don’t want to go out on that note, I’ll instead close with something sad. Elon RHP Thomas Girdwood (Round 28) turned down the Twins as a fifteenth rounder last year. He returned to Elon for a senior year only to fall in the draft and eventually get his meager senior signing bonus voided due to injury. He has the plus fastball/plus slider (92-95 FB, 82-84 SL) mix to possibly make it as a reliever, if he can get healthy and land on his feet somewhere.

Cincinnati Reds 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Cincinnati 2011 Draft Selections

Alhambra HS (CA) RHP Robert Stephenson (18th ranked draft prospect) is everything you’d want in a late first round high school pitching prospect. I’m not feeling super creative with the whole writing thing today, so let’s just list off the positives: 1) great, but not out of nowhere, spring, 2) amble projection in his frame, 3) repeatable mechanics that appear both natural and expertly “coached-up” all at once, 4) plus fastball, 5) breaking ball (curve) flashes plus, 6) making of good changeup (love his arm action on it), 7) no questions with makeup and/or intelligence. It has been reported that Atlanta had Stephenson atop their attainable late first round draft board. So much has been made of the college pitching class – and rightfully so, I should say – that the high school arms were ignored by know it all self-proclaimed experts like me. With a little time and perspective on my side, I’m not sure there is too much separating Stephenson from any of the hugely hyped 2009 high school arms. If I had to pick one such arm to compare Stephenson to, I’d go with the high school version of Shelby Miller: similar quality fastball and curve, frame, smooth mechanics, and ability to hold velocity late. More plainly, like Miller, Stephenson is a stud prospect with top of the rotation upside.

RHP Robert Stephenson (Alhambra HS, California): 92-93 FB with great movement, 94-95 peak; plus 77-80 CB; 78-80 raw CU; has been seen sitting 94-97 early in games, still holding low-90s velocity late while hitting upwards of 94; 6-3, 185

Colegio Hector Urdaneta (PR) OF Gabriel Rosa (239th ranked draft prospect) does a lot of things well – there’s some power, good speed, athleticism – but lacks that one standout tool that would make him an elite prospect. Guessing what any prospect will be in five years is hard work, but it is made even harder by lanky, raw, toolsy, position switching types like Rosa. Intuitively I’m not a fan of Rosa (not sold on his bat and don’t think his other tools can carry him), but with time and patience the Reds might have something worthwhile on their hands.

Gabriel Rosa: good raw power; good speed; average arm; swing is a mess; may or may not stick in CF as converted SS

Rice LHP Tony Cingrani (198th ranked draft prospect) and Villanova RHP Kyle McMyne (202nd ranked draft prospect) both went a bit earlier than I would have guessed. If you believe in Cingrani’s senior year breakout and McMyne harnessing his quality stuff better as a pro than a college pitcher, that’s fine. Good news, Reds fans: I believe in both. Cingrani has most, though not all, of the ingredients of a legit starting pitching prospect. The fastball, change, and frame all work, but a better third pitch is a must. Bear with me as I extrapolate a bit here, but I’m betting on Cingrani, a willing student who trusted the Rice staff to completely revamp his delivery this past year, finding that third pitch in pro ball. I saw a lot of McMyne this past year and, as much as it pains me to admit it, think he profiles much better in the bullpen than as a starter. He has two average or better breaking balls (hard slider is nasty when on, slower curve works as a de facto change rather than a swing-and-miss pitch) and plenty of fastball, but his breaking stuff flattens out as the game goes on and he becomes a fastball only pitcher into the late innings. If teams still employed relief aces, pitchers capable of going two or three innings at a time during big spots in games (i.e. not just standard long relief), McMyne would be a perfect fit for the job. As it is, he’ll get every chance to start with the fallback floor of above-average big league middle reliever.

Rice SR LHP Tony Cingrani: was 88-90 FB, now sitting low-90s with revamped delivery with 94-96 peak; plus CU; above-average at times CB; 6-4, 190 pounds

Villanova RHP Kyle McMyne: 92-94 FB, peak 96; above-average 82-84 SL that he relies on; sitting 94-96 in early going of 2011; flashes above-average 75-78 CB that works best as show-me pitch; occasional CU; 6-0, 210 pounds

Louisville 2B Ryan Wright (132nd ranked draft prospect) is a player who has gotten a lot of electronic ink on this site. The bolded pre-draft section below should handle much of the analysis. I will share a skill set/career path comp for Wright that I like: Detroit LF/2B/RF Ryan Raburn. No comp is perfect, but that one is pretty good, right?

Wright’s case is a unique one because, even though his numbers dipped slightly from 2010 to 2011, his stock improved. The smarter people I talked to all came away more impressed with his 2011 approach to the new bats than they were with his “sell out for power” approach with the old aluminum. That sounds like a good sign as he makes the transition to wood. I mentioned Joe Panik, Wright’s Big East buddy, as having arguably the most raw power for a college second baseman, but you could probably flip a coin and be happy with either him or Wright at the top of that list. The difference there is that Panik has tapped into his power and shown pretty much all he can do in that area of his game; Wright, on the other hand, still has just enough untapped raw power that I sometimes wonder if the right organization could help him unlock the key (I use that phrase a lot — “unlock the key” — even though it makes no sense and isn’t listed as a real idiom anywhere. Sounds cool to me, though…) to a 20 homer season down the road. Even if his present gap power is all that we see at the next level, Wright’s solid glove, average foot speed, and promising hit tool will keep getting him chances.

I get the positive spin on St. Petersburg JC (FL) 3B Sean Buckley, but, come on, this was at least five rounds too high for the kid. He’s a good prospect  who had a chance to go in the top ten rounds on merit, but there is no way I’ll ever be convinced his connection with the Cincinnati organization (his dad is only the Reds scouting director, no big deal) didn’t earn him an extra couple rounds and subsequent bonus dollars. As a prospect, he reminds me a little bit of a physically mature version of second rounder Rosa (good power and athleticism), minus Rosa’s speed. If he sticks at third, he’s a prospect. If he’s a right fielder, the expectations on his bat might be too much for him to reach.

Kansas State RHP James Allen has a strong track record of success, but is a little short on pro quality stuff for my liking. It may be only rookie ball, but Allen’s fast start as a professional (strikeouts and groundballs, baby) is impressive. St. Petersburg JC (FL) RHP Jon Matthews is an athlete who can run really fast, and is thus a worthy gamble in the eighth round. Texas RHP Cole Green will put up really good minor league numbers (a la recently promoted lefties Eric Surkamp and Tom Milone) and get some fans really worked up, but will settle in as either a solid fifth starter or middle reliever in the end. I’ve heard a Josh Towers comp on him that makes sense; that might not sound like much, but, as bad a big league pitcher Towers was, he still pitched over 700 innings and made north of six million dollars in his career.

Texas SR RHP Cole Green: 87-91 FB; plus command; great sinker; plus control; plus SL; really good 79-81 CU that comes and goes; 75-77 CB

Baylor RHP Brooks Pinckard’s name has shown up on follow lists for both college pitchers and college outfielders over the years. As an outfielder, Pinckard is super fast with a strong arm and legit center field range. As a pitcher he’s more or less fastball only at the moment, but it’s a good enough pitch that he can live off it while his slider and change come around. I’ve said before that I love uniqueness, so I’m 100% on board with Pinckard as a reliever who can be used as a pinch runner/defensive replacement on days he is unavailable. Better yet, Pinckard could pitch to a righty, move to the outfield while a LOOGY comes in for a lefty, and then move back to the mound for another righthanded hitter. That’s exactly what I’ll be rooting for, though I suspect a managerial change for the big league club may be in order for my plan to ever come to fruition.

Baylor JR RHP/OF Brooks Pinckard (2011): 92-93, 95 peak FB with sink; 93-95 out of bullpen; have unconfirmed 97-97 peak; 78-80 SL; CU; plus speed; strong arm; 6-1, 175 pounds; (4.91 K/9 – 4.36 BB/9 – 4.80 FIP – 33 IP)

Killarney SS (BC) RHP Vaughn Covington (Round 11) and Henderson International School (NV) LHP Amir Garrett (Round 22) are a fine pair of high upside, high risk overslot pitching prospects. Both have great size, flash plus fastballs, promising curves, and considerable risk. Covington was wise to sign as he’ll now have the opportunity to work with a professional medical staff as he recovers from last September’s Tommy John surgery. Garrett’s upside is tantalizing and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt due to his obvious natural talent (crazy I know, but not just anybody can throw 90+ lefthanded) and ridiculous athleticism. Many have dismissed him as a prospect due to his limited high school experience, but for the price of a 22nd round pick and a cool million bucks, why not roll the dice? A third overslot prep arm, Southington HS (CT) RHP Sal Romano (Round 23) also offers projection, a pro body (6-4, 220 pounds), and a good starting point in terms of stuff (low-90s FB and flashes of quality offspeed pitches).

RHP Vaughn Covington (Killarney SS, British Columbia): 90-92 FB with good sink, 93-94 peak as starter and 96 peak in short bursts; promising CB; recovering from Tommy John surgery in September; 6-5

LHP Amir Garrett (Leuzinger HS, California): 88-94 FB. 96 peak; very interesting low-80s CB; raw CU; very athletic; 6-5, 175

Texas A&M RHP Nick Fleece (Round 13) throws a really heavy ball and profiles as a potential power sinker/slider bullpen piece. Fellow Lone Star state college arm Texas Christian RHP Erik Miller (Round 31) has a similar sinker/slider pairing, but also throws a good low-80s curve and a useable change. Four pitch pitchers who throw strikes tend to get shots starting in the pros, but Miller could be the exception. Boston College RHP Mike Dennhardt (Round 32) could also wind up an intriguing bullpen candidate (strong fastball/curve combo) if he returns to health from early season Tommy John surgery.

TCU JR RHP Erik Miller: 87-91 at new arm angle, 93-94 peak; good sink; good SL; good 81 CB; average CU; strong three year track record; has relieved, but could be seen as starter; 6-3, 210; Tommy John survivor

Minnesota 1B Nick O’Shea (Round 24) and Cal State Fullerton 3B Joe Terry (Round 30) are both long shots to contribute, but not without some upside. O’Shea would look a lot better if he can hack it behind the plate as some suggest. Terry’s success or failure may come down to how well he recovers from his 2011 hamate injury.

O’Shea does a little bit of everything quite well, but nothing exceptionally well besides perhaps his defense. Still think there is some untapped upside here with the bat and I intuitively just like him as a prospect.

Joe Terry: The much-hyped (by me) hitting machine who last year made hard contact in just about every at bat failed to live up to his Bill Hall (my comp for him last year) billing in 2011. I still like the rest of his skills — good enough speed, loads of arm strength, unconventional fielding motions but underrated at second — and I’m willing to bet that bat wakes up next year. Whether the bat rises and shines in pro ball or back at Fullerton for a senior season remains to be seen.

Plano East HS (TX) 2B Ty Washington (Round 43) joins Covington, Garrett, and Romano as big money later round splurges by Cincinnati. He could be an outstanding defender at second with enough reps, but the viability of his hit tool remains a bit of a mystery to me.

Washington is a very signable prospect best known for his excellent defensive tools and good speed. He had a reputation coming into the year as a guy who too often attempted to do too much at the plate, but patience has been a virtue for him so far this season.

Tampa 2B Taylor Wrenn (Round 27), Arizona OF Steve Selsky (Round 33), and Florida OF Bryson Smith (Round 34) make up the last of Cincinnati’s noteworthy signed prospects. I like Wrenn a lot, an opinion largely founded on his plus defensive tools, good speed, and longstanding status as a prospect (thrice drafted). Selsky uttered one of my favorite 2011 draft prospect quotes: “But I don’t think I’m like any Vladimir Guerrero or Jayson Werth or big-ass guys, I think I’m an average-sized guy who can hit the ball a little bit.” He’s a better hitter than fellow outfielder Smith, but the Florida product and former third baseman gets bonus points for his defensive versatility.

Arizona JR OF Steve Selsky (2011): gap power at present, average or slightly better raw power; good speed; good range in corner; strong arm; similar to FSU guy Ramsey; might be wise to alter approach this year to show more power

Smith has a big league body, intriguing pop, useful positional versatility, but has been held back by injuries in 2010. Injury induced subpar seasons for mid- to late-round underclassman prospects are normally a recipe for a senior season return engagement, but Smith may be a victim of his own college team’s success. Playing time in 2011 looks to be very hard to come by on a young, stacked Florida starting nine, so Smith may try his luck professionally if a team is willing to bet that a return to health will bring him closer to the player he was at junior college than he was as a Gator.

The Reds went above and beyond to sign guys like Covington, Garrett, Romano, Miller, and Washington. They couldn’t reach deals with top 20 round high school picks Joe Serrano, Conor Costello, and Morgan Phillips. They also missed the boat on a bunch of late round fliers, many of whom were presumably insurance in case the players on that first list didn’t sign. Critics could look at the talented group of unsigned Reds and get worked up over the lost opportunity, but no team, not even the Nationals, have infinite draft budgets. The Reds drafted a bunch of good players; many were signed, some got away. For the sake of brevity, we’ll focus on three college and four high school guys.

Coastal Carolina OF Daniel Bowman (Round 38) is often too aggressive at the plate, but his raw power is up there with any college player in America. He’ll return to school as a promising senior sign for 2012. Louisville RHP Justin Amlung (Round 39) is a really strong Friday night starter, but his underwhelming stuff currently fits a lot better at the college game than as a professional. North Carolina C Jacob Stallings (Round 42) will have to split time with Matt Roberts next year in Chapel Hill; he deserved better than his 42nd round selection.

Daniel Bowman: impressive plus raw power, but it may be his only real tool; strong enough arm for RF; decent speed; hacker; too many K’s; underrated athlete; 6-1, 210 pounds

There is no question about Stallings’s plus defense; that alone could be his ticket to the show as a backup catcher. Like Kometani, there’s more raw power here than he has shown so far. Stallings isn’t really talked about as a top college catching prospect, but he’s a really talented prospect with a plus-plus arm that could make him an interesting mound conversion if things don’t work out behind the dish.

The top unsigned pitcher of this class: Parkway HS (LA) RHP Carson Baranik (Round 41). Baranik has an explosive fastball (when healthy), emerging offspeed stuff (when healthy), and a world of potential (if healthy).

RHP Carson Baranik (Parkway HS, Louisiana): 87-89 FB, 90-92 peak; improved conditioning now has him sitting 91-93, 95 peak; 73-74 CB; 77-78 SL that needs tightening; low-70s CU; 6-3, 205

The top unsigned position player of this class: Lake City HS (SC) OF Shon Carson (Round 44). Carson’s sushi grade raw as a prospect and probably a better player on the gridiron at this point. There is no questioning his speed, athleticism, and physical strength, but it’ll be up to the coaching staff of the two-time national champion Gamecocks to transform him into a ballplayer.

Carson is an easy player to write about because his strengths and weaknesses are so clearly delineated at this point. Obvious strengths include his plus-plus speed, absurd athleticism, and football star strong. His biggest weakness is most often cited as his inability to play baseball all that well, also known as a cute way of saying he is a very raw prospect with a long way to go. If those are his easily recognized pros and cons, I’d like to throw in one additional strength to his game that I feel often goes unnoticed: Shon Carson understands what kind of player he is. Sounds almost silly to say that, but Carson plays within himself in a way that is mature beyond his years. He doesn’t try to do too much at the plate, will happily take a walk when the situation calls for it (probably doesn’t hurt to know that a walk is as good as a triple with the way he steals bags), and makes every attempt to utilize his potentially game changing speed.

Oaks Christian HS (CA) LHP Travis Radke (Round 45) and Notre Dame HS (LA) RHP Austin Robichaux (Round 50) round out Cincinnati’s late round unsigned haul. Radke’s fastball won’t wow you, but good command of a pair of solid offspeed pitches (curve and change) make him a fun pitchability guy to track in college. Robichaux has a classic Louisiana name, so it stands to reason he’ll be a great fit pitching for his dad at Louisiana-Lafayette. Mashing up his improved fastball, good curve, projectable frame, and lifetime spent around the game gives you the Ragin’ Cajuns best prospect since Jonathan Lucroy.

LHP Travis Radke (Oaks Christian HS, California): 86-88 FB, 90 peak; good 74-75 CB; emerging 70-72 CU; low-70s SL that needs tons of work

RHP Austin Robichaux (Notre Dame HS, Louisiana): 87-89 FB, 90 peak; now sits 91-93 with lots of movement; good 75 CB; 6-5, 180

Chicago White Sox 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Chicago White Sox 2011 Draft Selections

Through absolutely no fault of his own, Central Arizona JC (AZ) OF Keenyn Walker (134th ranked draft prospect) drives me nuts. A few months ago I had just finished writing up a particularly insightful piece (if I do say so myself) on 2011’s junior college prospects (Walker included) when a wayward first grader sent my laptop crashing to the floor. Most, but not all, of my work was recovered. Losing my notes on the junior college prospects was rough, but I’ll do my best not to associate that sad, expensive day when evaluating Walker. I wrote about him a bit last year after the Phillies drafted him (see below). I felt that report was fairly positive, but I now feel even better about Walker’s prospects. He should be an above-average defender in center with top of the lineup speed and double digit home run power.

I like him more than your typical toolsy junior college outfielder because of his history dating back to his high school days as a guy with serious thunder from the left side. Whether or not that power plays professionally remains to be seen, but his plus athleticism, good speed, and strong arm will all help if the bat isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Guys like California RHP Erik Johnson (205th ranked draft prospect) are what make scouting tricky. At his best, Johnson looks like a mid-rotation horse with two quality offspeed offerings that flash plus. On his rougher days – like the day I saw him throw this past spring – he is a one pitch pitcher (fastballs only) that profiles best as a reliever. I realize this could be said about so many prospects, but I’ll state the obvious anyway: so much of this player’s development will come down to his adjustment to the pro game. If Johnson stays in shape/drops a few pounds and finds himself a consistent release point on the mound, he’s a big league starter. If not, he’s a reliever at best.

California JR RHP Erik Johnson: heavy 90-92 FB, 93-94 peak; emerging 76-78 CB that is now a weapon; 81-84 CU needs work, but is now plus pitch with added velo; command needs work; decent 85-88 SL that could also be a cutter; no sure fire consistent plus offering; 6-3, 240 pounds

Johnson County CC (KS) RHP Jeff Soptic (250th ranked draft prospect) is like a watered down version of the guy taken by the White Sox one round earlier. He’s got a big league fastball and has shown flashes of quality offspeed stuff, but has struggled with consistency, both command and control, and his mechanics.

Johnson County CC SO RHP Jeff Soptic: 93-96 FB, 98-100 peak; flashes plus 83-84 SL; average CU on his best day; control issues; 6-6, 200

Kent State RHP Kyle McMillen and Stanford LHP Scott Snodgress are more than just quality pitching prospects; they are data points for those (like me) who make the case that the 2011 draft had a once in a generation group of college pitchers. These two guys were buried on the college pitching prospect depth chart, but they both have big league talent. Snodgress, the more likely of the two to remain a starter, is particularly interesting as a lefthander with an above-average to plus fastball and the makings of a pair of average or better offspeed pitches. McMillen lacks a putaway breaking ball at this point, but has a solid heater and outstanding athleticism.

Kent State JR RHP/1B Kyle McMillen (2011): 89-92 FB, 93-94 peak; decent SL; average CU; power potential; 6-2, 185 pounds

Stanford JR LHP Scott Snodgress (2011): low- to mid- 90s FB, touches 96; potentially above-average CB and CU; 6-5, 210 pounds; sitting 90-92 in 2011; also at 88-91, 92 peak

I’m not a huge fan of California SS Marcus Semien (utility infielder ceiling), but he’s decent value as a sixth rounder. Pittsburgh C Kevan Smith (186th ranked draft prospect), however, is a totally different story. I’m an unabashed huge fan of his and consider him way more than just decent value as a seventh rounder; he’s a flat out steal. The tools have turned into skills, and I’m willing to go out on a limb and say I think Smith is a future big league starting catcher.

Semien is considered a draft sleeper by many, but I don’t see it. He probably has the range and arm to stay at short, so that’s a plus, but without much in the way of a hit tool, power, or speed, there isn’t enough there to project him as a big leaguer at this point.

Smith has been awesome at the plate and on the base paths (10/11 SB). It is great to see a player with such special physical gifts who is able to translate raw upside into big time college production. I never really have much of a clue how actual big league front offices view draft prospects and I haven’t heard any buzz about Smith’s draft stock, but I sure like him. Definitely on my short list of top senior signs.

Not signing eight round pick Angelina JC (TX) RHP Ian Gardeck is rough. I’ve seen him a few times over the years, from his time at Dayton to his days playing summer ball up in New England, and always came away impressed. His biggest current issues are, in order, poor command, a violent delivery, and a lack of any semblance of a third pitch. I tend to think his command has a chance to at least ramp up to average if his delivery – featuring a pronounced herky jerky head movement – gets cleaned up. That takes care of the first two issues. If, and that’s an “if” with a capital I, the coaches at Alabama can help with his delivery/command, Gardeck will be in the running for first college reliever off the board next June. That, in a way, takes care of the third issues; no need for a third pitch when you’ve got two plus offerings as a reliever.

Angelina JC SO RHP Ian Gardeck (2011): 91-93 FB, 94-96 peak, now hitting 98; good mid- to upper-80s SL; huge command issues; good athlete; Dayton transfer; holds velocity really well; violent delivery; 6-2, 210

Northwest Florida State JC (FL) LHP Matt Lane continues the trend of Chicago selecting big pitchers with quality fastballs and questionable breaking stuff. Unsigned Santa Fe CC (FL) LHP Ben O’Shea also happens to be a big pitcher (6-6, 250 pounds) with a quality fastball and questionable breaking stuff, though his change is more advanced than Lane’s. He’ll head to Maryland and be eligible for next year’s draft.

On account of the White Sox frugality and unwillingness to bust slot, there are a ton of college prospects outside of the top ten rounds to discuss. For reference’s sake, a “ton” in this case is equal to 32 rounds worth of college or junior college players. That’s crazy. Kicking things off we have California C Chadd Krist (Round 13). Krist has the defensive chops to play pro ball, but will have to ply his wares at the college level another year. He’s a backup catcher at best for now, but continued offensive improvement would make him an easy top ten round senior sign catching prospect in 2012.

Krist’s defense has been dinged as inconsistent in the past, but having seen him play a couple times in 2011 I have to say I think he’s underrated behind the plate. His arm might not rate above average and his power upside is limited, but he does enough just well enough to have backup catcher upside.

Chicago also couldn’t sign their next pick Oklahoma State 3B Mark Ginther (Round 14). Ginther has a world of untapped upside who could emerge as a top five round prospect and future big league starter at the hot corner.

I came into the year thinking Ginther was a better player than he has shown, and I still feel that way after another good but not great college season. His athleticism is up there with any college third baseman in the class and his arm strength is an asset defensively, but his hit tool hasn’t shown much progress in his three years with the Cowboys. Ginther certainly looks the part of a potential big league third baseman with three well above-average tools (defense, arm, power) and special athleticism, but it’ll take much more contact and a less loopy swing if he wants to make it as a regular.

James Madison SS David Herbek (Round 15) was good value in the fifteenth round as a high floor player with the upside of an offense-first infielder off the bench. The Bill Mueller comp from last year represents his absolute ceiling.

Last year I wrote: “Herbek is a certifiable draft sleeper. He currently has gap power to all fields, but his beautifully level line drive stroke (reminiscent of Bill Mueller’s righthanded swing) has me thinking there is double digit home run potential if he can add some strength in the coming years.”

I didn’t anticipate that double digit home run totals to come in just over 200 senior year at bats, but there you go. His bat ranks up there with almost any other college shortstop in his class, but the relatively low ranking can be owed to his occasionally spotty defense. As an offense-first infielder off the bench he’ll do just fine.

Arkansas OF Collin Kuhn (Round 17) does everything pretty well but throw. Jack of all trades, master of none players often find homes as reserve outfielders if they show enough of the hit tool early on.

Arkansas JR OF Collin Kuhn (2011): strong hit tool; good runner; good power; great range; good approach; great athlete

Connecticut RHP Kevin Vance (Round 19) was outstanding value this late in the draft. I like his stuff at least as much if not more than Chicago’s fourth round pick, Kyle McMillen. The evidence that we just witnessed a crazy strong college pitching draft continues to mount.

Connecticut JR RHP/3B Kevin Vance (2011): 88-92 FB; plus CB; plus command; has some experience behind plate; average power; 6-0, 200 pounds

Still think I prefer JR UTIL Kevin Vance as part of a battery, whether that be behind the plate or on the mound, than at the hot corner. I like his above-average fastball/plus curveball combo and plus command as a potential relief arm down the line. If he sticks as a position player, I think that arm would be best served as a catcher. Surprised to see his batting line as weak as it is because I really liked his level, powerful, and well-balanced swing. A team could gamble on his upside, but it is starting to look like his down junior year could keep him a Husky for another season.

Between rounds 20 and 25 the White Sox selected college players from the state of California with five out of six picks. Two of those players are Southern California 2B Joe DePinto (Round 21) and UC Santa Barbara OF Mark Haddow (Round 24). DePinto fell as a prospect due to an ACL injury, but is now back to full health. Haddow was a nice senior sign who shows flashes of four of the five tools, but the one that is lacking (the hit tool) is a biggie.

UC Santa Barbara SR OF Mark Haddow (2011): good athlete; plus power potential; too many K’s; good runner; solid-average RF arm; 6-2, 215 pounds; (263/365/409 – 22 BB/48 K – 17/21 SB – 198 AB)

JR OF Mark Haddow (2010 – UC Santa Barbara) offers up plus power potential, but also strikeouts about as much as you’d expected from a raw college player with plus power potential. Luckily, power isn’t his only claim to fame. Haddow can also rely on his solid athleticism, better than you’d think speed, and slightly above-average big league right field arm. He has the raw tools to dramatically rise up draft boards, but first needs to take a more disciplined approach at the plate to show big league clubs he’d cut it as something more than a backup outfielder professionally. If he begins even to hint at improvement in those deficient areas in his game, I’d bet good money some team out there will draft him with the idea that he’ll be a big league starter in right someday.

West Virginia 3B Grant Buckner (Round 26) went from relative unknown (to me, at least) to legitimate senior sign draft pick. His arm and raw power are his two best tools, but what I like most about him as a prospect is his defensive versatility.

Valhalla HS (CA) C Bryce Mosier (Round 33) will go down in the history books as Chicago’s first American high school draftee in 2011. He’s also a solid catching prospect who many teams didn’t think of as signable after round 15. The White Sox, much to their credit, did their homework and stuck with him as he fell down the board. I’m a big fan of his ability behind the plate and believe his arm is one of the best of any 2011 high school catcher. The White Sox followed up the pick of Mosier with another prep player, Washington HS (IA) RHP Dakota Freese (Round 34). Don’t go uncorking the champagne just yet because, unfortunately, they didn’t sign him. He’s off to LSU-Eunice where he’ll have the opportunity to pitch early and put himself in position to go in the top ten rounds in 2012. Irresponsible anonymous source alert: a scout friend praised his stuff this past spring before quickly saying they couldn’t recommend him to higher ups because of questions about how he’d handle the professional part of pro ball.

RHP Dakota Freese (Washington HS, Iowa): 88-90 FB, 92 peak; good CB; 6-4, 190

Our quick high school interlude is over; like young adults all over the country this week, it is time to head back to college. I’ve written a disproportionate amount on Virginia RHP Cody Winiarski (Round 36) over the years. He looks like a solid minor league arm at this point. Liberty RHP Keegan Linza (Round 38), he of the bigger fastball, looks like he could be a little more than that.

Virginia SR RHP Cody Winiarski (2011): high-80s fastball, 88-90, 92 peak; good 81-83 CU; average SL

Liberty SR RHP Keegan Linza (2011): low-90s

The unsigned trio of Helix Charter HS (CA) RHP Jake Reed (Round 40), Lawrence County HS (KY) RHP Chandler Shepherd (Round 41), and Madison JC (WI) RHP Joel Effertz (Round 43) all should be heard from in the coming years. Reed and Shepherd are especially intriguing prospects; both are athletic, have frames to put on some size, and better than expected (for late round high school pitchers) breaking stuff.

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