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2010 MLB Draft: Top 30 College Third Base Prospects (10-1)

10. Oregon State JR 3B Stefen Romero

Romero is arguably the best present defender on the top ten list. He makes all the plays on balls hit at him, and has proven more than capable of ranging to both his left and right when needed. What really makes his draft stock pop in comparison to some other names on the list is his performance with wood last summer on the Cape. The raw numbers don’t jump right out at you, but all of the reports from the summer were positive. Romero kept the momentum going this spring by displaying a steady dose of good defense, above-average power, and decent athleticism. A few area scouts that have seen him play way more than I have seem to like him a lot more than I do, so take his placement on the list as a rare example of me trusting people smarter than myself. Rare not because I’m trusting them, but because there are people out there actually smarter than I am. Hard to believe, I know. Romero’s upside is a good four-corners bench bat for me, something true of the majority of the players on this list no matter how rosy a picture I try to paint of their ultimate super duper best case scenario big league ceilings.

9. Connecticut JR 3B Mike Olt

I’ve toyed with the idea of standardizing these quick scouting capsules, but always wind up just doing the rambling paragraph or two synopses you see up and down the page. Seems like all of those standardized reports have some sort of strengths/weaknesses attached somewhere, so let’s try it out with a personal favorite, Mike Olt:

Strengths: three above-average or better tools (65 raw power, 55 speed, and 65 arm), plus athleticism, and a big league ready frame

Weaknesses:  present tool most need in work is his bat, due in large part to a largely unrefined approach and inconsistent swing mechanics

So, will Olt make enough consistent hard contact to put his other tools to use professionally? I think any one of the guys on one of the deepest top ten college position lists I can remember in the long, storied history of this site has the upside of an every day player if the circumstances allow it. That comes out as a cop-out, but it’s true; this is a really, really deep year for college third basemen.

8. San Diego JR 3B Victor Sanchez

My support of Victor Sanchez goes back to his prep days, so it’s hard for me to be completely objective when trying to evaluate his current draft stock. The memory of the potential plus defender with equally exciting power potential and a mature beyond his years approach to every single at bat may be just that, a memory. Sanchez’s slow recovery from labrum surgery has knocked his prospect stock way down, but I’m enthused by the perhaps misguided hope that his depressed draft standing will give him the chip on his shoulder (not literally) needed to prove all the teams that passed on him wrong. Talent doesn’t disappear, but it can get lost in the fog of injuries. Teams willing to take the chance that Sanchez will someday recovery 100% from his shoulder injury are betting that the fog will soon lift.

7. Kansas JR 3B Tony Thompson

If he sticks at third, you’ve got a real player on your hands. If he’s a first baseman long-term, the bat will need to go up a level or two before you could realistically consider him a potential regular at the spot. For now, I think he’s got nimble enough feet to stick at third through his mid-twenties. Thompson’s successful return to health after an early season injury has allowed him time to showcase the plus arm and plus power that should get him drafted in the first five rounds no matter what teams think about his defense.

6. Louisville SO 3B Phil Wunderlich

Makeup is one of the easiest scouting terms to throw around as a positive or a negative for any given prospect because anonymous internet sources (like mine!) are never asked to truly qualify what the word means. Here’s what I mean when I say Wunderlich’s makeup is off the charts: In an completely fictional, but totally possible survey of college coaches and players, Wunderlich would win the “most likely to manage” poll going away. He’s that kind of player.  Intangibles aside, Wunderlich is an underrated athlete with legit plus power and amazing patience at the plate. He may not be a natural defender at third, but he’s also not the type of player you’d bet against working his tail off until he is at least a decent big league defensive player.

5. Oklahoma City JR 3B Matt Presley

A trio of haikus, one offensive, one defensive, and one summing it all up, to describe draft sleeper Matt Presley…

Strikeouts are scary
But bat gives pitchers nightmares
Power is special

Not Schmidt with leather
Still, strong arm and high effort
Might fit best in right

Star in Sooner state
Not quite on Durant’s level
Better nickname, though

In summary: Easy to fall in love with his bat, but hard to realistically see him ever being average or better at third. Also, I suck at haikus.

4. Pittsburgh JR 3B Joe Leonard

Leonard has gotten a ton of positive press over the past few weeks, all of it well earned. He came into the season as one of the best college hitting prospects and one of the few collegiate position players projected to be productive enough both at the plate and in the field to start every day in the big leagues. The one question that scouts had about his game was his power upside. Leonard has answered the bell by hitting for over 30 extra base hits and slugging well over .600. He’s a good athlete with a plus arm and great big league size for a third baseman. Defensively he’s presently skilled enough to be considered big league average at the position, and continued development ought to get him up above-average during his best defensive seasons.

Neither his offense nor his defense will ever quite approach the level of peak years Scott Rolen (a really underrated player by many, I think), but if you squint really hard you can begin to see Leonard as perhaps developing into that type of player – exciting defenders, strong physiques, and often mischaracterized as power hitters first and foremost. In fact, after looking at the numbers some, I’d compare Leonard’s upside as a hitter to something around what Rolen did his rookie season (.283/.377/.469) with the Phillies. That kind of upside is substantial, clearly, so it may very well be that Leonard’s placement on this list is a mistake that I’ll have to rectify before June 7th hits.

3. Georgia Tech JR 3B Derek Dietrich

I’m part of the small but vocal minority that seems to think Dietrich could play a decent shortstop professionally if given the chance, but, seeing as its highly unlikely he’ll ever get that opportunity, we’ll judge him here on the basis of his potential well above-average glove and plus arm at third. There’s very little mystery as to what kind of player a team will get if they take Dietrich early on; he’ll hit with both above-average contact and home run numbers (consistent 20 homer upside, I think), play solid to plus defense (as mentioned), and consistently work hard to improve his overall game. I’m no fan of writers/analysts/scouts/Larry Browns who fall back on the tired cliché “he plays the game the right way,” but, hypocrite that I am, Derek Dietrich simply plays the game the way it was meant to be played. He won’t be a sexy pick, but he’s as good a bet as any player on this list to contribute in some capacity in the big leagues.

2. Arkansas SO 3B Zack Cox

Easily confused fellow that I am, I don’t quite understand the negativity surrounding Cox’s power potential that has come to the surface this season. It seems to me that he can’t really win with some people. Last year people oohed and aahed as he flashed prodigious raw power, but disappointed in the plate discipline department. This year he’s taken a much more patient, contact-oriented approach, but is getting heat for not hitting for the same power as he did his freshman year. I realize slugging .600+ and socking 20 extra base hits in college (like Cox has done so far in 2010) isn’t quite the feat it appears to be at first blush, but it’s still a decent indicator that the guy hasn’t been reduced to a singles only hitter this year. Now imagine the possibility that good professional coaching can help Cox unlock the secret of maintaining his gains in plate discipline and a high contact rate while simultaneously helping him rediscover the big power stroke of his first collegiate season. Sounds pretty good, right?

As arguably the draft’s top position player prospect, much has already been written about Cox’s toolset. The cliff notes version is this: potential plus bat, above-average present power but plus projection, 45/50 runner, plus arm, good defender. His worst tool is probably his speed, and, as you can see, even that project to be around average. I think Cox’s ceiling is below that of your typical top half of the first round college bat, but he’s still a relatively safe pick to be an above-average regular third baseman for a first division club.

1. Tulane JR 3B Rob Segedin

I had Segedin as the 47th best draft-eligible player in the nation heading into the year, so it’s nice to see him succeed in 2010 for totally selfish reasons alone. Sure, it’s also nice to see a hard working young man work his way back from a season lost to injury to put himself in a position for a well earned big paycheck and chance at chasing his dream of professional baseball, but, really, it’s all about me, me, me! Anyway, Segedin has a gorgeous righthanded stroke that’s so pretty to look at it’s almost a surprise when he makes contact and the ball doesn’t fly to an unattended gap somewhere. Defensively, he’ll stick at third at least in the short-term (steady hands, limited range), but could become a rightfielder with average range and a cannon arm if needed. It’ll be the bat that makes him the big bucks, and it’s got all the makings of a special one. At the plate, Segedin is a professional player trapped in the college game. Rare plate discipline, gap power that’s finally beginning to round into over-the-fence pop, and impressive bat control make him a hitter with a big future going forward. When your floor is a lefty mashing four-corners utility guy, then you’d better believe the ceiling is much, much higher.

2010 MLB Draft: Top 30 College Third Base Prospects (20-11)

20. Alabama SR 3B Jake Smith

Players coming off of more accomplished collegiate seasons precede Smith on this list, so take this aggressive ranking as a show of good faith that the Alabama senior’s tools will trump his up-and-down college career when it comes to his success or failure in the pros. Hey, speaking of aggressive, one of Smith’s biggest current issues is a tendency to get too aggressive at the plate, jumping out at pitches before they reach his happy zone. He’s gotten away with it to some extent in college, but hacking at anything 16 inches (give or take) off, up, or away from the plate is no way to advance up the minor league ladder in the enlightened age of baseball we’re lucky to be living in. Smith’s tremendous raw power and excellent defensive tools play in any era of baseball, but he’s been slow to recover from a serious ankle injury. I get the feeling based on all of the above that we’re talking about another four-corners backup type here. Fun fact: Replace “serious ankle injury” with “labrum injury” and you’ve got a very similar situation to what the number eight overall prospect on this list is dealing with. Any guesses about the identify of our mystery prospect?

19. Clemson SO 3B John Hinson

John Hinson was a tough player to rank because of his status as a redshirt and thus draft-eligible sophomore and his positional versatility across the infield. He was an easy guy to rank this high because of the really nice things that anybody who has seen him play this year had to say about him. Hinson was a highly touted prospect out of high school who was considered advanced enough after his freshman year to be asked to play for Hyannis in the Cape Cod League. Back surgery cost him all of his 2009 season, but the fully recovered version of Hinson put up a  2010 statistical line that reads a lot like Pittsburgh’s Joe Leonard’s work this season. A plus hit tool combined with above-average speed and power will get you far professionally, but people smarter than myself that I talked with told me some teams question his ability to play any one particular spot in the infield with the consistency needed of a regular. Based on the limited looks of Hinson that I’ve seen, I can’t say that I necessarily agree with that assessment, but his defensive skillset (good athlete, iffy arm) may make him better suited for second base than third. At either spot, he’s got the bat to make him a potential regular with a couple breaks along the way.

18. Tarleton State JR 3B Chris Casazza

Like Jayson Langfels and Jake Smith before, and Jason Martinson and Mike Olt after, Chris Casazza’s biggest deficiency is a long swing with holes in it that winds up waving and missing at the ball far too often. Like Martinson a few spots ahead of him, Casazza’s good batting eye and sneaky power upside should keep his secondary statistics afloat even when the K’s are trying to drag his prospect stock below the surface. In many ways he’s quite simply the better version of Alabama’s Jake Smith, especially at the plate – more power, more patience, less strikeouts, and better all-around bat. Definite sleeper to watch.

17. Tennessee JR 3B Matt Duffy

Duffy was a deep sleeper top five rounds candidate of mine heading into the season, so you know his underwhelming, but still solid, junior season won’t downgrade his stock too much for me. The Vermont transfer 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.

16. Azusa Pacific SR 3B Ryan Delgado

Delgado earned his way on the list because of his ridiculous power numbers over the years, but it certainly doesn’t hurt that Azusa Pacific has one of the most fun college names to say out loud. Try it, you won’t be disappointed. Besides the cool college name and plus power potential, Delgado has a true plus arm and a well above-average overall hit tool. His defense at third isn’t currently at the level where you could project him as above-average professionally, but the tools are there for him at least wind up a decent defensive player at least through his twenties. If it doesn’t work at third, however, there’s a backup plan that I know for a fact is actually Plan A for some teams. Delgado’s future for some teams might be donning the tools of ignorance behind the plate every day. It’s a stretch and it’s based largely on the 3B/C future that could be in store, but I can’t shake the Jake Fox comp for Delgado that I heard way back when.

15. Coastal Carolina JR 3B Scott Woodward

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 tremendous success rate (46 steals in 52 tries). 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.

14. North Carolina State JR 3B Russell Wilson

Betting on Wilson is betting on upside, a worthy risk to take when you are considering which mid-round college hitter to gamble on. See, the sad little truth about lists like this are that the players, while undeniably impressive and accomplished and talented, are more than likely never going to play in the big leagues. Heck, many of them won’t see AA. Once you get past the top two or three names on any of these college lists, it’s all a big guessing game. Educated guessing, to be sure, but guessing all the same. To make a long intro slightly less long, if you’re are going to bet on a mid-round college player, go for the rare guy with untapped potential. That’s Wilson. Here’s why…

I tend to overuse this word when writing about draft prospects, but it applies to Wilson so well here that I can’t help myself. Wilson is an interesting prospect. More than one team affiliated employee I spoke to used that word to describe Wilson in some way – “interesting upside,” “interesting bat,” and “interesting future.” Watch him for just a couple of innings and you’ll see evidence of all five tools right away. His bat is, well, interesting, and his power, while mostly to the gaps at this point, could top out with homer totals in the teens professionally. As a former quarterback unafraid to take off with the ball when needed, it comes as no surprise that his speed rates as an easy 60, with startlingly quick acceleration. Defensively he may have the speed, instincts, and athleticism to play up the middle (2B or CF), but his presence on this particular list is a bet on his plus arm playing best at third base over the long run. Wilson’s numbers this year were solid across the board, but his performance must be judged with his lack of college ball experiences prior to 2010 in mind. He needs more reps on the diamond, but if a team is patient with him they could be rewarded with a player who closely mirrors the Melvin Mora developmental path, something that will no doubt interest a big league club or two come draft day.

13. Texas State JR 3B Jason Martinson

The more I do this, the more I begin to gain an appreciation for the way certain college programs recruit and develop talent. The job Ty Harrington has done in San Marcos is nothing short of spectacular. I relate it to a college football team with very specific offensive and defensive schemes recruiting not based on consensus overall talent levels, but rather best fits for the program. You’d think these less talented players would succeed mainly due to the system in college, but then, lo and behold, draft day comes and teams start taking these supposed system talents left and right. Turns out that players overlooked in high school can turn out to be pretty valuable prospects after three years of quality college coaching. I suppose that’s really just my long way of saying that even though it’s common the best high school players sign out of high school, and even though it’s common the best unsigned high school players go to the big name schools in Texas, it’s still possible to have some really talented players wind up at non-traditional baseball schools. Schools like that often have coaching staffs more familiar with coaching guys up than allowing them to coast by on natural abilities they may or may not have.

Martinson is a plus athlete with very good defensive tools who, similar to Tennessee’s Matt Duffy, may be good enough with the leather to stick up the middle (either shortstop or second base) in some organizations. For me, however, his hands, range, and arm all play best at third, a position where he could eventually be a decidedly above-average defender. Offensively the rap on Martinson coming into the year was that he swung and miss too often to ever hit for an acceptable average professionally. That may or may not be true going forward — his 2010 performance has been very similar to his 2009 — but his quick wrists and above-average plate discipline should help keep his on-base percentage up even when he is striking out more often than you’d like. Teams will worry less about the low contact rate if Martinson can begin to tap into some of the long awaited above-average raw power that hasn’t really showed up through three seasons of college ball. If he can begin to apply some of his brute physical strength into homerun power professionally, he’s got a chance to be a starter. If not, his best chance of earning the big bucks will be in the good defender/patient pinch hitter role.

12. Wichita State FR 3B Johnny Coy

Coy has taken a long, strange trip to get to this point, but the eventual payoff could very well make it all worth it. Coy’s story began as a two-sport high school star, regarded by many as a better basketball prospect than baseball. After getting drafted by the Phillies in the 7th round, protracted and sometimes testy (allegedly) negotiations between player and team led to the two sides opting to go their separate ways. Coy’s older brother was reportedly heavily involved with negotiations, strongly pushing his bro to either a) get every last penny from the Phillies as possible (making him a greedy villain to many) or b) go to school and get a quality education (a far more admirable position, some might say). Coy wound up enrolling at Arizona State, but never made it to baseball season. He left the Sun Devils to move closer to home after his father suffered a stroke in late 2008. That led him to Wichita State. As a Shocker, Coy has been able to focus on honing his considerable baseball skills. All of his raw tools grade out as average or better – 55 speed, 60 arm, 65-70 raw power, average hit tool, and, perhaps most controversially, above-average upside with the glove at third. I remember not believing for a second that he’d ever stick at third after seeing video of him in high school, but all of the noise regarding his defensive progress coming out of Wichita has been positive. I’m a big believer in the big (6-8, 210 pound) righthanded freshman. As mentioned, Coy was a 7th round pick by the Phillies back in 2008. The questions concerning his signability will probably keep him from hitting that mark here in 2010, but his true talent level makes him a top ten round candidate worth pursuing if he even begins to hint that he’ll consider signing.

11. Fresno City College FR 3B David Rohm

Rohm hits and hits and hits. He can also steal a bag when left unattended (great instincts on the bases), smack a ball the other way (very mature hitting style), and crank it out of the ballpark when the mood strikes (above-average present power). Mostly though, he hits. His defense ranks in the bottom third of players here in the top 30, but he still has a better than 50/50 shot to stick at the position through his first six years of big league control. Ah, the defense update is appreciated,  you’re thinking, but, wait, can the guy hit? Excellent question; yes, David Rohm can hit.

2010 MLB Draft: Top 30 College Third Base Prospects (30-21)

30. Bowling Green SR 3B Derek Spencer

Spencer won’t wow you with his tools or outstanding collegiate production, but his skills are good enough when taken in altogether to get himself on a professional roster. He’s the classic well-rounded, hard working, good enough senior sign who doesn’t do any one thing exceptionally well, but does everything so wonderfully competently that he profiles as an organizational player with backup upside. Three of his tools have average upside or better (power, speed, glove), so it’s no stretch to see him sneak him onto a big league bench someday.

29. Florida JR 3B Bryson Smith

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.

28. UC Irvine JR Brian Hernandez

Hernandez has a similar scouting profile as Derek Spencer, but gets the edge because of better plate discipline and more balanced swing mechanics. Like Spencer, he’s your typical “whole is greater than the sum of his parts” kind of prospect, with the upside of a big league bench bat if everything breaks right.

27. Chipola FR 3B Michael Revell

Revell has really impressive tools across the board, but his production in 2010 didn’t reflect his true talent level. His plus bat speed, strong arm, good athleticism, and 20 homer lefthanded power upside will keep him on many follow lists despite his struggles. The down year will probably keep him at Chipola for a sophomore season; disappointing, sure, but perhaps a good thing for his long-term draft stock. Revell has the tools to succeed, but is raw enough that the extra relatively low pressure junior college at bats could help turn his substantial promise into production. It’s rare to see a player capable of starting in the big leagues so low on a prospect list like this, but it’s an acknowledgement of the wide gap between what Revell could be versus what he currently is. He makes the list as more of a token 2011 name to watch than a realistic 2010 draft target.

26. Holy Cross SR 3B Matt Perry

Is it sad that one of the first things I thought about when looking at my notes on Perry was “gee, I bet Bill Simmons would get a kick out of having a fellow Holy Cross guy show up on some anonymous internet nobody’s top 30 college third base prospect list…”? Perry is one of my favorite 2010 senior signs because of his advanced strike zone knowledge, good defensive tools, and renowned drive to succeed. It’s a rare college senior who plays in the big leagues, so sometimes it’s alright to dig deep to find a small something extra about a player that you think sets him apart. Perry’s steady four year progression, strong performance under pressure as a legacy at Holy Cross, and success with wood in the summer makes me think he’s a guy worth gambling on.

25. Eastern Kentucky JR 3B Jayson Langfels

Langfels came into the season with a reputation as a total hacker at the plate, but curbed his swinging and missing ways just enough to finally unlock his good raw power in game situations. I’ve gotten mixed reports on his defense this year, but his hands in the past have gotten him into some trouble at third. It ranges anywhere from somewhat possible to very likely that he’ll wind up as more of a power hitting four-corners utility type than a starting third base candidate; either way, there’s value enough in the bat.

24. Toledo JR 3B Jared Hoying

Hoying’s an interesting scouting, coaching, and prospect development test case. His swing is ugly, but his bat speed is exceptional. Knowing that, do you a) let Hoying be Hoying and go with what works, b) attempt to make slight alterations while preserving the integrity of the swing, or c) work to maintain Hoying’s great bat speed while simultaneously trying to reinvent his swing mechanics? More to the point, how exactly do you go about coaching the kid up? What coaches in the organization do you assign to help him? How much time and energy should be spent working with a mid-round draft prospect? Hoying’s swing isn’t the only intriguing, but raw part of his game. He’s an obviously raw defender, but the tools, most notably a plus arm and athleticism equally suited up the middle, are there for him to succeed anywhere in the infield in a pinch. His high strikeout rate is absolutely a concern, but the aforementioned bat speed, plus arm, and above-average base running give him the look of a potential above-average utility infielder in the mold of former Ranger, Indian, Cub, Brave, Brewer, Rockie, Cub again, Pirate, Dodger, Indian again, Pirate again, and Phillie Jose Hernandez.

23. Oklahoma SO 3B Garrett Buechele

And so begins a stretch of players with starting caliber upside, but high bust potential. Buechele has one of the stronger pure hit tools of this college third base class, and his quickly emerging power make him one to watch. His defense is plenty good enough to stick at third, so the only thing that realistically stands in the way of Buechele succeeding professionally (you know, besides all of the other things that can get in the way for any player drafted) will be high strikeout totals. He’s not as talented as Zack cox, so don’t take this as a direct comparison, but it seems that Buechele would be best served returning to school to work on honing his pitch recognition skills like the top player on this list managed to do in his sophomore season.

22. San Francisco JR 3B Stephen Yarrow

Yarrow’s basic story is very similar to Garrett Buechele’s in that both prospects have legit plus power potential and a strong overall hit tool. Going against Yarrow is his tendency to pull darn near everything, below-average tools outside of the batter’s box, and a long-term future as a four-corners type of player, not an everyday third baseman.

21. Furman JR 3B Brian Harrison

Harrison is a good, good player. Case in point, Harrison has a good arm, is a good defender, and has a good hit tool, with good power potential. He’s a really good athlete, perhaps too good to be “wasted” at third if there’s really a team out there willing to try him in centerfield as rumored. I wish he would have gotten more at bats on the Cape this past summer, but, as too often the case with Harrison, injuries limited his playing time. Get him healthy, get him a regular defensive home, and get a good, good player with starter upside past round ten. Good bargain. The relatively low ranking is more about the players ahead of him than the above-average (or, in other words, “good”) overall talent package that Harrison brings to the table.

College Pitching, Bryce Harper, and Scheduling

The Week Ahead

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

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

Bryce Harper

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

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

Friday

Second Tier 2010 Arms

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

Third Tier 2010 Arms

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

Relievers

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

2011/2012 Names to Remember

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

Saturday

First Tier 2010 Arms

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

Second Tier 2010 Arms

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

Relievers

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

2011/2012 Names to Remember

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

Sunday

First Tier 2010 Arms

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

Second Tier 2010 Arms

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

Relievers

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

2011/2012 Names to Remember

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

2010 MLB Draft: Top 30 College Shortstop Prospects

1. Cal State Fullerton JR SS Christian Colon
2. Kansas State JR SS Carter Jurica
3. Duke JR SS Jake Lemmerman
4. Long Beach State JR SS Devin Lohman
5. Alabama JR SS Josh Rutledge
6. Virginia Tech JR SS Tim Smalling
7. Rice JR SS Rick Hague
8. James Madison JR SS David Herbek
9. Virginia SR SS Tyler Cannon
10. Arizona State SO SS Drew Maggi
11. Fresno State JR SS Danny Muno
12. East Carolina JR SS Dustin Harrington
13. Francis Marion SR SS Barrett Kleinknecht
14. Old Dominion SR SS Jake McAloose
15. Central Arizona FR SS Sam Lind
16. Virginia Military Institute JR SS Sam Roberts
17. San Francisco SR Derek Poppert
18. Creighton JR SS Elliot Soto
19. Kennesaw State SR SS Tyler Stubblefield
20. Florida Atlantic JR SS Nick DelGuidice
21. North Carolina SR SS Ryan Graepel
22. UT-San Antonio JR SS Ryan Hutson
23. Florida State SR SS Stephen Cardullo
24. Texas Tech SR SS Joey Kenworthy
25. Kansas JR SS Brandon Macias
26. Michigan State JR SS Jonathan Roof
27. Texas A&M JR SS Kenny Jackson
28. Washington State JR SS Shea Vucinich
29. Minnesota SO SS AJ Pettersen
30. San Diego JR SS Zach Walters

Reports on the 30 players listed above with a few extra prospects who didn’t make the list for good measure, after the jump. Stat lines are as of mid-May 2010 and are park/schedule adjusted. They include BA/OBP/SLG, BB/K, and SB/Attempts…

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2010 MLB Draft: Top 30 College Catching Prospects

30. Pittsburgh JR C Kevan Smith

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

29. Louisville SR C Jeff Arnold

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

28. New Mexico JR C Rafael Neda

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

27. Texas Tech JR C Jeremy Mayo

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

26. Ohio State JR C Dan Burkhart

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

25. Rice SR C Diego Seastrunk

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

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

24. Oklahoma State JR C Kevin David

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

23. Embry-Riddle SR C Austin Goolsby

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

22. Southern Illinois SR C Tyler Bullock

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

21. Western Kentucky JR C Matt Rice

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

20. Georgia Tech JR C Cole Leonida

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

19. Virginia JR C Kenny Swab

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

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

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

18. Missouri JR C Brett Nicholas

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

17. Arizona State JR C Xorge Carrillo

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

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

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

15. North Carolina State JR C Chris Schaeffer

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

14. North Carolina JR C Jesse Wierzbicki

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

13. Santa Clara SR C Tommy Medica

Medica was profiled last year:

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

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

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

12. TCU SR C Bryan Holaday

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

11. Coastal Carolina SR C Jose Iglesias

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

10. Tennessee JR C Blake Forsythe

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

9. Vanderbilt JR C Curt Casali

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

8. Texas JR C Cameron Rupp

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

7. UNC Wilmington JR C Cody Stanley

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

6. UC Riverside SO C Rob Brantly

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

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

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

5. Villanova SO C Matt Szczur

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

4. Louisiana State JR C Micah Gibbs

Previously on Micah Gibbs

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

Next week on Micah Gibbs

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

3. Minnesota JR C Mike Kvasnicka

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

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

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

2. Miami JR C Yasmani Grandal

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

1. Community College of Southern Nevada FR C Bryce Harper

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

2010 MLB Draft: Top 30 College Catching Prospects (8-5)

[Again, my apologies for continuing to stretch this out as long as I have. The real life job that pays me real life dollar bills is crazy right now, but things should slow down at the “office” by Wednesday night. If it helps any, 2010 MLB Mock Draft 2.0 is almost ready to see the light of day. In the meantime, hey, how about that Villanova guy ranked fifth?]

8. Texas JR C Cameron Rupp

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

7. UNC Wilmington JR C Cody Stanley

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

6. UC Riverside SO C Rob Brantly

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

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

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

5. Villanova SO C Matt Szczur

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

2010 MLB Draft: Top 30 College First Base Prospects

30. College of Southern Nevada SO 1B Trent Cook
29. Delaware SR 1B Ryan Cuneo
28. Central Florida JR 1B Jonathan Griffin
27. Long Beach State SO 1B Joey Terdoslavich
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Terdoslavich was once a pretty exciting prospect, but his transfer to Long Beach has taken his name out of the big-time college spotlight. His power remains, but the 2010 drop in plate discipline is worrying. In his favor, however, is the positional versatility so many of these first base prospects will need if they want big league bench jobs someday. Griffin is a gigantic human being with exactly the raw power you’d expect his frame to deliver, but is hurt as a prospect because he offers little else beyond that one above-average tool. Cuneo has good gap power and a solid glove, but profiles best as an organizational player than even a potential big league bench bat at this point. Trent Cook has seen his draft stock jump up a bit this spring, due in large part to the exposure his famous teammate with the initials BH has given the CSN program this spring…yes, the scouts are all flocking to Vegas to see that Bryan Harper fella.
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26. Rice SR 1B Jimmy Comerota
25. Arizona State SR 1B Kole Calhoun
24. Middle Tennessee State SR 1B Blake McDade
23. Oklahoma State JR 1B Dean Green
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Comerota and Calhoun both look like better versions of Ryan Cuneo to me – gap power, good glove, good athleticism, good batting eye…but not enough raw power to ever project as starting caliber players. McDade gets consistently overshadowed by teammate Bryce Brentz, but his approach is professional quality. Dean Green has a pretty well-rounded skillset and his strong showing on the Cape last summer gives him the extra bounce up the rankings here.
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22. South Carolina SR 1B Nick Ebert
21. Mississippi JR 1B Matt Smith
20. Tennessee JR 1B Cody Hawn
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Trio of SEC sluggers who could all hit their way to the big leagues if they get a few breaks along the way. Hawn is a really darn good natural hitter, but the lack of physical projection and any above-average tool besides the bat holds his prospect stock down. Smith’s power and approach are both intriguing while Ebert, the senior, has really impressed with the way he has worked at his game, improving from an organizational player all the way in his junior year to a legit mid- to late-round draft here in 2010.
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19. Chipola JC SO 1B Cody Martin
18. Carson-Newman SR 1B Jeff Lockwood
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Martin is another candidate for most underrated player on this list. He’s a really good athlete, potential plus defender, and has shown well above-average power in the past. Lockwood does a lot of the same things as Martin, but does them all just a smidge better at this point.
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17. Cal State Northridge JR 1B Dominic D’Anna
16. Hawaii SR 1B Kevin Macdonald
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Really like D’Anna’s swing, from setup to finish. Macdonald can get a little long with his swing, but offers more long-term power than D’Anna. D’Anna is a better bet to start for a big league club someday, but is a real long shot to ever realize that upside. Macdonald is less likely to ever start for a big league team, but more likely to contribute as a bench bat somewhere down the line someday. That’s why Macdonald gets the slight nod in the rankings. That logic isn’t foolproof, but it’s all I’ve got.
_____
15. Hillsborough JC FR 1B Jamie Mallard
14. Lake Sumter CC FR 1B Bryan Hill
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Mallard is the biggest boom/bust prospect on this list. If he booms, it’ll be because of the tremendous thunder in his bat; his power rivals that of any college player in the 2010 class. If he busts, it’ll be because he eats his way right out of the game. Hill’s upside should probably jump him up this list because he has as good a shot as almost any player ranked higher to actually land a starting big league job someday.
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13. Mt. Hood CC SO 1B Taylor Ard
12. Boston College JR 1B Mickey Wiswall
11. Washington JR 1B Troy Scott
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Scott, Wiswall, and Ard make up my personal list of three biggest first base disappointments in 2010. Ard gets a mulligan because of a bum wrist, but his injured hamate bone is a definite concern for a player who came into the year hoping his plus raw power would get him into the top five rounds. Scott actually had the top spot in one of my many unpublished preseason college first base prospect lists, but his 2010 has been a disaster (where’s the power?) anyway you look at it. Wiswall was a favorite in the scouting community coming into this season, but has always been too much of a grip and rip guess hitting hacker for my tastes. At this point in the rankings we’re talking mostly about bench bats, so a grip and rip guess hitting hacker with above-average power potential and intriguing positional versatility (he could be a four corners guy in the pros) isn’t such a bad thing…
_____
10. Alabama SR 1B Clay Jones
9. Louisiana State SR 1B Blake Dean
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Jones has been a success in high school, community college, wood bat summer leagues, and in the SEC. Blake Dean profiles similarly, as both SEC seniors are professional bats that come up a bit short as starters but should fit in nicely as big league bench weapons.
_____
8. Georgia Tech SR 1B Tony Plagman
7. Texas Christian SR 1B Matt Curry
6. East Carolina SR 1B Kyle Roller
5. Tennessee Tech JR 1B AJ Kirby-Jones
4. Mississippi State SR 1B Connor Powers
3. Louisville SR 1B Andrew Clark
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Clark is a hitter with a clue. If there is a pitch in your happy zone, swing hard and watch it fly. If the pitcher won’t give in, don’t get yourself out by swinging at junk. Clark does those two things as well as any hitter in all of college baseball. I’m very impressed with the improvements that Connor Powers has made to his game between his junior and senior seasons – he came into the year as a hacker who was limited to first base defensively, but will graduate as a more disciplined bat and an above-average glove at first. If Michael Choice played first base, he’d be Kirby-Jones. That’s a pretty nice compliment for the Tennessee Tech junior. Roller and Curry are both professional hitters with power, but neither prospect offers much beyond what they can deliver in the batter’s box. Plagman is similar to Powers in that he did a tremendous job patching up the holes in his game (namely the holes in his bat) by taking a more patient, measured approach to hitting this spring.
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2. Auburn JR 1B Hunter Morris
1. Arkansas JR 1B Andy Wilkins
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Wilkins and Morris are the two most likely early round first base prospects to actually play the position regularly in the big leagues someday. More on these two to come…

2010 MLB Draft: Who Will Be Drafted? Atlantic 10 Edition

Players are obviously grouped according to school, but there is no rhyme or reason to the actual order. Potential top-five round selections in bold. Any player on the list that absolutely shouldn’t be there? Any clear misses? Any players on my own list of near-misses (below) that deserve to be promoted to the first list? Any recommendations for next conference breakdown?

  1. Charlotte JR 1B/OF Ryan Rivers
  2. Charlotte SR C/OF Zane Williams
  3. George Washington JR RHP Eric Cantrell
  4. George Washington SR SS Tom Zebroski
  5. St. Louis SR RHP Bryant Cotton
  6. Dayton SO LHP Cameron Hobson
  7. Dayton SO RHP Burny Mitchem
  8. Rhode Island SR RHP Tim Boyce
  9. Duquesne JR RHP/3B Andrew Heck
  10. Richmond JR OF/RHP Billy Barber
  11. Richmond SR 3B Cameron Brown
  12. Richmond SR RHP Ian Marshall

I really like the Charlotte pair (Rivers and Williams) and the two “big name” pitchers (Cantrell and Hobson) both look like legit big league prospects to me. Marshall is the hardest thrower of the group. Best future prospect of the group is Dayton FR RHP Ian Gardeck (2012) with a fastball peaking in the mid-90s and a good slider.

  1. (Charlotte SO OF Shane Brown)
  2. (Charlotte JR OF Justin Wilson)
  3. (Charlotte JR RHP Joe Yermal)
  4. (Charlotte JR RHP Bryan Hamilton)
  5. (Charlotte SR RHP Patrick Lawson)
  6. (Charlotte SR RHP Kelly McLain)
  7. (Charlotte JR 3B/SS Kevin Gillespie)
  8. (Charlotte JR OF Cory Tilton)
  9. (George Washington SR 2B Sean Rockey)
  10. (George Washington JR OF Brendon Kelliher)
  11. (George Washington SR 1B Chris Luick)
  12. (St. Louis SR 1B Danny Brock)
  13. (St. Louis JR OF Jon Myers)
  14. (St. Louis SR C Ben Braaten)
  15. (Dayton SR OF Aaron Dunsmore)
  16. (Dayton SR SS Cole Tyrell)
  17. (Rhode Island JR OF/1B Tom Coulombe)
  18. (Rhode Island JR RHP Gardner Leaver)
  19. (St. Joseph’s SR 2B David Valesente)
  20. (Fordham SR OF Mike Mobbs)
  21. (Duquesne SR C/1B Mark Tracy)
  22. (Xavier JR OF John McCambridge)
  23. (Xavier JR LHP Tommy Shirley)
  24. (Xavier JR SS Phil Bauer)
  25. (Richmond SR LHP Matt Zielinski)
  26. (Richmond SR SS Victor Croglio)
  27. (Massachusetts SR 2B Eric Fredette)
  28. (Massachusetts SR OF Mike Donato)
  29. (St. Bonaventure JR SS Jesse Bosnik)
  30. (Temple JR SS Adrian Perez)

Data, Data, Data 2 – Revenge of the Worm Killers

Yesterday we looked at some of the flyballiest of college baseball’s most flyballing flyball pitchers. Today, the opposite. I limited it to potential first round candidates only, but now feel guilty about leaving out other strong groundball pitchers like Miami’s Chris Hernandez (68%), Cal’s Dixon Anderson (67%), and Florida State’s John Gast (70%). With that out of the way and my guilt finally assuaged, here are five potential first round starting pitchers with groundball percentages greater than 50%…

North Carolina JR RHP Matt Harvey – 78%

Florida Gulf Coast JR LHP Chris Sale – 67%

Texas Tech JR RHP Chad Bettis – 75%

Texas JR RHP Brandon Workman – 62%

Virginia Tech JR RHP Jesse Hahn – 71%

And a pair of top-five 2011 prospects because it’s Friday…

Texas SO RHP Taylor Jungmann – 75%

Vanderbilt SO RHP Sonny Gray – 71%

Data, Data, Data

Big couple of days ahead at the real life, steady paycheck job, so today we’ll dig deeper into the data compiled so far and update the groundball/flyball pitcher numbers that pop up here on the site from time to time. Today let’s take a closer look at five potential first round starting pitchers with groundout percentages less than 50%…

Mississippi JR LHP Drew Pomeranz – 48%

LSU JR RHP Anthony Ranaudo – 44%

Georgia Tech JR RHP Deck McGuire – 49%

San Diego JR RHP Kyle Blair – 38%

Arkansas JR RHP Brett Eibner – 47%

2010 Draft-Eligible Pitching: Groundout Percentage

The week ahead is wide open, so let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see. I’m currently working on a couple of high school position rankings, more college stuff (mostly position lists by conference), an updated big board, and a brand spanking new mock draft. With so much half-finished content staring me in the face, I’m happy to put something on hold to do something new and exciting as a change of pace, so if there is anything new and exciting you want to see, please let me know and I’ll make it happen.

Because I hate posts that don’t have much to do with baseball, how about a little content? The title says it all, except for the brief and wondrous snippets of 2011 draft-eligible players included (both 2011s would be second on their lists, by the way). The data I have doesn’t include every pitcher in college baseball, but rather a sampling of some of the biggest names…I’m only one man, after all. Like last time, if you have a player you are curious about, let me know.

Highest Percentage of Groundball Outs

1) North Carolina JR RHP Matt Harvey

2) Texas Tech JR RHP Chad Bettis

3) Florida Gulf Coast JR LHP Chris Sale

HM) 2011 draft-eligible Texas SO RHP Taylor Jungmann

Lowest Percentage of Groundball Outs

1) San Diego SR RHP AJ Griffin

2) San Diego JR RHP Kyle Blair

3) LSU JR RHP Austin Ross

HM) Cal State Fullerton SO RHP Tyler Pill

2010 MLB Draft: Pac-10 Shortstops

It’s purely coincidental that the first three conferences I’ve looked at have exactly four potential draft picks who play shortstop apiece. Weird. The order of these four really could be picked out of a hat and look about as good as what I’ve got here; we’re talking about a group of tightly bunched, similarly talented future utility guys, so I guess it makes sense that they are so close. Let’s see who is worth knowing in the Pac-10…

Stanford JR SS Jake Schlander
Height, Weight: 6-2, 195

FR – .232/.307/.256 (24 BB/41 K; 3-3 SB)
SO – .232/.288/.324 (16 BB/41 K; 3-4 SB)
JR – .283/.420/.472 (12 BB/7 K; 1-1 SB)

Jake Schlander can really pick it at shortstop, but his inability to make consistent contact, hit for power, and get on base regularly through his first two college seasons has put a damper on his pro prospects. He’s started since day one at Stanford, putting up lines of .232/.307/.256 and .232/.285/.324 in his freshman and sophomore year. Those are stunningly bad numbers. However, as mentioned, Schlander can really pick it at shortstop. I mean, he can really, really pick it. Plus range, flawless hands, strong arm; defensively, Schlander has it all. His defense is so good that I felt comfortable predicting that he’d be on draft boards back when his offensive numbers were, and I say this with all due respect, straight up horrible. One month into the college season Schlander’s bat has show such unexpected signs of life that it may be time to start recalibrating his final draft position’s ceiling. Before the season I wrote this: “Expect a forward thinking front office, maybe Seattle or Boston, to pop Schlander late (round 35+) against all offensive odds.” If the offensive gains can be maintained, Schlander could see his draft stock jump up 20 rounds. Too drastic a reaction to a small sample of early season plate appearances? Perhaps, but I’m alright with jumping the gun a bit when the tools are there to justify it.

Washington State JR SS Shea Vucinich
Height, Weight: 6-0, 183

FR – .316/.357/.440 (8 BB/34 K; 2-5 SB)
SO – .230/.341/.377 (27 BB/41 K; 8-10 SB)
JR – .358/.460/.604 (6 BB/13 K; 3-4 SB)

Reports on Vucinich’s defense vary depending on the day, but most seem to agree his upside with the glove is significant. I’ve even heard some evaluators touting him as a potential plus defender up the middle. He also has shown good power potential throughout his career with the Cougars. That’s the good news. The less good news is centered around Vucinich’s aggressive approach at the plate. His free swinging ways help explain some of power output (swing hard at anything around the plate and sometimes the ball goes very far), but it’s also gotten him in trouble in the past. Something about his skill set had me really curious about locking down some worthwhile comps. Best two I came up with are former Padres starting SS/2B Damian Jackson (44th rounder) and current Red Sox minor leaguer Tug Hulett (14th rounder). It wouldn’t surprise me to see Vucinich split the difference between the two, both in eventual draft landing spot and pro career accomplishments.

Arizona JR SS Bryce Ortega
Height, Weight: 5-11, 175
Birth Date: 9/22/88 (Age-21 season)

FR – .326/.409/.429 (25 BB/24 K; 13-15 SB)
SO – .324/.420/.438 (31 BB/32 K; 16-18 SB)
JR – .258/.390/.274 (11 BB/4 K; 9-9 SB)

Ortega put up very consistent numbers in his first two full seasons at Arizona, but has taken a step backwards in the power department in the early going of 2010. As a matter of fact, he’s the only one of the four players listed who has experienced a decline in his performance so far in 2010. The most commonly cited reason for Ortega’s early season struggles relate back to his transition from shortstop (a position he is more than capable of playing, for the record) to second base; not sure I buy it, but it’s a thought. Strong base running and good patience have long been the bedrocks of his offensive game, so it’s good to see those areas remain consistent despite his 2010 contact and power deficiencies. Patience at the plate, a two-year track record of pop (2010 be damned), excellent base running instincts, and a versatile glove fit the potential utility infielder mold pretty well, don’t you think?

UCLA JR SS Niko Gallego
Height, Weight: 5-11, 180
Birth Date: 12/29/88 (Age-21 season)

FR – .317/.378/.415 (2 BB/7 K; 1-2 SB)
SO – .273/.361/.326 (16 BB/34 K; 6-10 SB)
JR – .305/.411/.542 (8 BB/8 K; 5-5 SB)

Gallego didn’t do much to impress in his first two years with the Bruins, but experience in two quality wood bat summer leagues (Northwoods League and Cape Cod League) and pro baseball bloodlines (father Mike had almost 3,000 big league at bats) make him a good bet to hear his name called on draft day. The quality start in 2010 certainly doesn’t hurt his prospect stock, but, again, his pro future maxes out at utility player. He doesn’t quite have dear old dad’s glove, but may have more upside in his bat than the .239/.320/.328 career line put up by his father. Speaking of comparisons to Mike Gallego, enjoy this quote from former Arizona State head coach Pat Murphy on comparing Gallego the senior to Dustin Pedroia:

I’ve been trying to figure it out and I can’t. Mike Gallego is a good friend of mine and I used to tell him that he reminded me of Gags. That used to piss Pedroia off. He would say ‘Mike [expletive] Gallego, are you [expletive] me?’ and he would say that all the way back when he was a freshman. Can you imagine a freshman in college baseball reacting like that when you’re comparing him to a Major Leaguer…but that’s exactly the way Pedro is.

2010 MLB Draft: Big 12 Shortstops

I’m digging these quick looks at different 2010 MLB Draft position groups, so let’s keep it going with a look at the handful of Big 12 draft-eligible shortstops of note. I think this group is actually a touch better on the whole than the ACC quartet, but I’m probably splitting hairs with that assessment considering the most probable career path of the eight players listed so far would be considered under the umbrella category of “utility player of varying value.” Speaking of the ACC list from yesterday, a comp for one of the players on the list came to mind last night: Tim Smalling as the college version of Tampa’s Reid Brignac. Bit of a stretch, perhaps, but there are some similar tool-based similarities between the two. Just a thought.

Texas A&M JR SS Kenny Jackson
Height, Weight: 6-4, 195
Birth Date: 7/2/89 (Age-20 season)

JR – .421/.511/.447 (7 BB/4 K; 1-1 SB)

The former Alvin College shortstop reminds me of current Cardinals starter Brendan Ryan. Both players are smooth defenders, possess strong arms, bigger than usual shortstop frames, and enough offensive skills and defensive consistency to provide value as a starter. Jackson hasn’t put up big power numbers in 2010, but showed off enough pop prior to joining the Aggies to have some observers (myself included) buy in to his double digit home run potential as a professional. Like the vast majority of the college shortstops on this list, Jackson’s clearest path to the big leagues will be as a utility player with a strong glove. Unlike so many of the others, however, Jackson has clear starter upside at the position if he continue to tap into his above-average tools.

Kansas State JR SS Carter Jurica
Height, Weight: 5-11, 185
Birth Date: 9/23/88 (Age-21 season)

FR – .240/.329/.360 (15 BB/23 K; 9-14 SB)
SO – .353/.437/.492 (26 BB/45 K; 23-32 SB)
JR – .432/.495/.662 (11 BB/9 K; 10-13 SB)

In a weak college shortstop class, Carter Jurica should see his stock soar this spring. He has always had the right tools to succeed (plus speed, enough pop, good athlete), but has put everything together in a big way so far this season. The raw tools are there for Jurica to succeed professionally, but it’ll take a team buying in to his long-range projection if he wants to sneak up into the top ten rounds this June.

Kansas JR SS Brandon Macias
Height, Weight: 5-10, 183
Birth Date: 10/10/88 (Age-21 season)

JR – .213/.261/.262 (3 BB/10 K; 0-0 SB)

There is certainly an argument that could be made for Macias to sit atop this particular shortstop list, what with his excellent defensive tools and true plus arm strength and accuracy, but the early season struggles of the former Arizona State enrollee and South Mountain CC shortstop give me pause. Macias has received universal praise for his outstanding work ethic and love of the game, and his big first year playing for South Mountain (in a wood bat league, no less) had scouts thinking they were watching a future everyday shortstop in the making. A disappointing sophomore season chock full of struggles due in large part to a nagging hamstring injury took him off the radar to some degree, but, despite the down year, Macias showed off enough evidence that he’s a player with all five tools (in addition to the aforementioned defensive gifts, Macias has above-average speed and good gap power) present in his game. Kansas has a surprisingly rich recent history of shortstops drafted into the professional ranks, a factor that can only help Macias this June. Many talent evaluators look for programs that have coaching staffs with reputations coaching up certain positions or player types; in this way, Kansas’ strong track record developing up the middle types could be Macias’ gain this June.

Texas Tech SR SS Joey Kenworthy
Height, Weight: 5-5, 160
Birth Date: 6/6/88 (Age-22 season)

FR – .182/.262/.255 (4 BB/6 K; 1-1 SB)
SO – .313/.431/.411 (39 BB/20 K; 5-6 SB)
JR – .335/.363/.417 (12 BB/24 K; 5-7 SB)
SR – .303/.444/.461 (14 BB/8 K; 3-6 SB)

No, Kenworthy isn’t the water boy, scorekeeper, or equipment manager, thanks so much for asking. Opposing fans do a double take when the 5-5, 160 pound Kenworthy steps up to the plate for the first time, but his solid defense and not completely worthless bat (how’s that for a ringing endorsement?) typically give him the last laugh. I wonder if Kenworthy’s draft stock would have been higher if he was a senior coming out of school at the height of post-World Series Angels victory induced David Eckstein craze of a few years ago. As it stands, his draft prospects are touch and go, but a continuation of his improved senior year numbers might be enough to sneak him into the last few rounds this year.

2010 MLB Draft: ACC Shortstops

I’ve started to make some prospect rankings lists, but am realizing that there are some really tight competitions in certain conferences and position groups. Last night I was rolling along as I put together a list of the best 2010 draft eligible position players in the ACC until I hit a roadblock at around the tenth spot. There were four shortstops on my shortlist that hadn’t been included, so I figured, hey, why not tease that ranking out a bit to see how the four players ranked head to head to head to head?

Virginia Tech JR SS Tim Smalling
Height, Weight: 6-3, 207
Birth Date: 10/14/87 (Age-22 season)

FR – .288/.389/.397 (21 BB/27 K; 1-4 SB)
SO – .250/.309/.442 (17 BB/61 K; 6-8 SB)
JR – (transferred in from Arkansas; sat out 2009 season)
rJR – .436/.482/.667 (5 BB/7 K; 2-3 SB)

Smalling is, perhaps somewhat ironically, the biggest of the four shortstops on our list. It’s ironic because his name has “small” in it. Clever observation, right? Anyway, that size (6-3, 207) and a strong arm make him look like a player capable of playing third professionally, but his skill set is still far better suited for shortstop. Good footwork and soft hands should keep him up the middle going forward, but that aforementioned potential for defensive versatility should help him in his cause for playing time at the next level. It may be a little strange to see a player like Smalling, a guy with a reputation as being more than a little hacktastic, atop this list, but his combined hit/power tools top that of any other draft-eligible middle infielder in the conference. Admittedly, Smalling’s plate discipline doesn’t look all that promising when judging solely by the numbers above, but scouts have given him high grades in his pitch recognition so far in 2010. He’s done a much better job at laying off balls he knows he can’t do much with (note the drop of strikeouts so far) and hammering pitches in his happy fun-time hitting zone (hard to argue with his power indicators thus far). Smalling’s total package of above-average offensive and defensive skills could get him into the top 5 rounds this June.

Duke JR SS Jake Lemmerman
Height, Weight: 6-2, 185
Birth Date: 5/4/89 (Age-21 season)

FR – .283/.353/.373 (15 BB/24 K; 5-7 SB)
SO – .287/.355/.448 (20 BB/32 K; 13-16 SB)
JR – .293/.391/.520 (11 BB/14 K; 4-5 SB)

Lemmerman, the youngest and best defensive player of our quartet, is a good runner (22-28 career SB) with enough untapped potential with the bat to legitimately claim an everyday role professionally someday. Lemmerman is already a plus defender with quick hands, above-average range, and an uncanny knack for turning the double play. If his strong offensive start to 2010 is for real, as many believe, he could hear his name called anywhere between rounds 5 through 8 on draft day. The renewed interest in defense should help Lemmerman as much as just about any player in this year’s college class.

Virginia SR SS Tyler Cannon
Height, Weight: 6-0, 205
Birth Date: 8/30/87 (Age-22 season)

FR – .279/.350/.354 (20 BB/46 K; 8-12 SB)
SO – .252/.324/.345 (23 BB/45 K; 14-17 SB)
JR – .351/.451/.489 (35 BB/41 K; 17-19 SB)
SR – .368/.442/.566 (10 BB/12 K; 0-2 SB)

Cannon is solid in all phases of the game, but lacks fluidity on defense at any one given position. Between his lack of a true defensive home and his steady, but unspectacular bat, he has many believing his professional role will be that of a super-sub capable of playing literally every position on the diamond, including catcher. I’ve compared him to current big league utility infielder Eric Bruntlett (who hit .342/.463/.485 with more walks than strikeouts for Stanford in his third and final year as a college player) in the past, a resemblance many first think of as an insult, but one I consider to be a compliment. Cannon is a proven versatile defender at the college level who, as previously mentioned, doesn’t really have any glaring deficiencies in his tool set, minus a lack of long ball power.

It seems that the majority of area scouts like Cannon better than I do, so it really wouldn’t be a shock to see Cannon go first out of the players listed. I’ll stick to my guns and insist on liking the guys listed above due largely to their greater probability of sticking at shortstop professionally, but I can see how Cannon would be a player who would grow on you with repeated viewings. After all, my “insulting” comp Bruntlett went in the 9th round back in 2000. That seems like the area of the draft that Cannon’s final projection will likely be in June.

Florida State SR SS Stephen Cardullo
Height, Weight: 6-0, 200
Birth Date: 8/31/87 (Age-22 season)

FR – .273/.308/.545 (1 BB/2 K; 0-0 SB; limited at bats)
SO – .387/.473/.613 (11 BB/14 K; 2-3 SB; limited at bats)
JR – .376/.476/.612 (45 BB/46 K; 20-24 SB)
SR – .324/.449/.437 (13 BB/13 K; 5-5 SB)

Cardullo’s defense is arguably the weakest of this bunch, but his junior year numbers are simply too wonderful to be ignored. Those numbers are made all the more impressive when you consider Cardullo started with Florida state as a walk-on who only earned 73 at bats through the end of sophomore year. The junior year breakout came completely out of nowhere, but Cardullo has managed to maintain some of the gains (largely those made in his mature, discipline approach at the plate) while still showing just enough of the gap power to keep scouts believing he has enough pop to spend a 15th to 20th round pick on him. I liken him to a less acclaimed version of former teammate Tony Delmonico, 2008 6th round pick of the Dodgers. Delmonico has seen time behind the plate and on the right side of the infield in the minors so far, a path that could be the best hope for Cardullo (who already has some college experience at both first and second) to follow if he wants to someday crack a big league roster. Without sounding too much like a broken record, defensive value through versatility will be a large part of what gets any of the above players to the big leagues. Steady defense at all five defensive spots + professional approach taken to every at bat + gap power + average speed = potential big league utility player.

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