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Detroit Tigers 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Detroit 2011 Draft Selections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2011 College World Series Preview: Vanderbilt Commodores

The second team to get the full College World Series preview is your Vanderbilt Commodores. The setup up for this is about as simple as can be: first category is for players drafted in 2011, second category is for players eligible for the 2012 draft, and the last category is for, you guessed it, players eligible for the 2013 draft. 

1.18 JR RHP Sonny Gray (Oakland Athletics) | 7th ranked prospect overall

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

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

1.59 JR LHP Grayson Garvin (Tampa Bay Rays) | 79th ranked prospect overall

started 87-89 FB, 90-91 peak; sitting 89-92 now, 93-95 peak; good FB command; 70-73 CB with upside if thrown harder; now up to 73-75 and above-average pitch; average 77-80 CU with room for improvement, could be plus in time; cutter; SL; good athlete; outstanding control; 6-6, 220

Garvin is a classic pitchability lefty (love his FB command and overall control) who has just so happened to grow into above-average velocity from the left side. He doesn’t have a pitch that is a consistent out pitch, but both his curve and change flash above-average enough to give him the upside of a back of the rotation arm.

2.64 JR 3B Jason Esposito (Baltimore Orioles) | 55th ranked prospect overall

Esposito’s defense is big league ready, and his hit tool, raw power, and speed all grade out as average future tools at the next level. I swear I was ready to mention Matt Dominguez as a potential comp before reading Baseball America beat me to the punch, but it is a good enough comp that I don’t mind repeating it.

If my instincts count for anything, allow me to go on record as a believer in Esposito. As impressive a college career as he has had so far, I think he goes on to show more at the next level with the bat. Additionally, while his glove at third may not be Adrian Beltre good, he has the chance to be a top five defensive third baseman in the big leagues in very short order. That glove alone will give him very good value for a Baltimore team stocked with a bunch of interesting young arms.

3.99 JR RHP Jack Armstrong (Houston Astros) | 49th ranked prospect overall

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

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

3.106 SR 1B Aaron Westlake (Detroit Tigers) | 126th ranked prospect overall

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

There isn’t much to add about Westlake that hasn’t already been said. He has one clear big league tool (power), but is held back by the position he plays. If he hits, he’ll make it. If he doesn’t, he won’t. There is no safety net. In the meantime, sit back and watch Westlake terrorize college pitching one last time in Omaha.

3.117 SO LHP Corey Williams (Minnesota Twins)

Williams as a top ten round pick would have surprised me, so his selection in the third had me perplexed. He has a good arm with the chance to consistently hit the mid-90s with some added strength, but it takes a pretty big leap of faith to use a third rounder on an untested relief prospect. As someone who knows a thing or two about jacked up kneecaps, I’ll definitely be rooting for Williams from now on. The question of whether or not I’ll be rooting him on as a member of the Twins organization or as a student at Vanderbilt remains to be answered. There is no reason to think he wouldn’t sign this year — hard to see him rising above third round money next year — but I only count six certainties on next year’s Vanderbilt pitching staff. The opportunity to come back and perhaps pitch in a more prestigious role could appeal to him.

6.187 SR RHP Taylor Hill (Washington Nationals) | 224th ranked prospect overall

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

Read that quick scouting report of Taylor Hill above and then check out where I ranked him on my pre-draft board. Pretty low for a pitcher of this caliber, right? Part of that can be explained by the unusually strong draft class, especially in terms of pitching depth. However, part of it can also be explained by me underrating one heck of a quality prospect.

6.206 SR RHP Mark Lamm (Atlanta Braves)

My notes on Lamm were short and sweet: 90-94 FB; Tommy John survivor. The development of a pair of above-average offspeed pitches — a slider and a change — got him drafted way ahead of where I would have guessed. He’s up there as one of the top senior signs around and could be a quick mover through the system.

10.317 SR C Curt Casali (Detroit Tigers) | 87th ranked prospect overall

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

If I was a betting man, I’d be happy to put down a cool five bucks on Curt Casali reaching the big leagues in some capacity before too long. There are some really iffy big league catchers This will be the last time I open up the old SEC catcher debate from earlier in the year, so let me get this last shot in: Casali will have a better professional career than the catcher the Tigers first 2011 draft selection, Arkansas C James McCann.

14.446 JR RHP Navery Moore (Atlanta Braves) | 131st ranked prospect overall

92-96 plus FB, 99 peak; plus 81-84 SL that comes and goes; flashes plus CB; iffy control; Tommy John survivor; very occasional CU; “Intergalactic” is his closer music; has the stuff to start, but teams might not risk it from a health and delivery standpoint; 6-2, 205

Moore’s velocity was down late in the year. That’s a significant problem when your most marketable skill is a big fastball. That said, I still think he’s a good bet to settle in as a big league reliever some day due to his good athleticism and above-average raw stuff. The drop in velocity has to be addressed, however, whether or not it turns to be a mere matter of fatigue (treatment: rest, rest, more rest…and perhaps a tweak or two to his delivery) or a more serious health concern (treatment: shut him down, get him to a top surgeon, and hope he comes out healthy on the other side).

30.928 SO RHP Will Clinard (Minnesota Twins)

Clinard is similar to Corey Williams in that both are redshirt sophomore pitchers drafted by the Minnesota Twins. Clinard’s numbers across the board were more impressive than Williams, but you can’t just beat a high velocity lefthander, I suppose. I’m personally not so sure that I don’t prefer the big (6-4, 225) athletic righthander with the low-90s fastball and potential plus breaking ball. While it seems likely Williams will be offered enough to forgo his last two seasons of college eligibility, Clinard would probably need overslot money to head to the pros. If one of Ziomek, Pecoraro, or Selman get hurt and/or pitch below expectations, Clinard has the stuff to potentially sneak into a weekend starter’s gig.

46.1384 JR OF Joe Loftus (Arizona Diamondbacks)

Not sure how signable Loftus is as a 46th rounder because his blend of arm strength, athleticism, and untapped raw power make him an unusually talented late round pick. If he returns to school, he could easily jump up 25+ rounds with a big senior season.

*****

JR C Drew Fann (2012)

Fann isn’t an early round candidate, but the demand for quality catch-and-throw prospects could get him drafted as a late round senior sign in 2012. The Vanderbilt catching job is up for grabs heading into next year, and it would come as no surprise if Fann took the job with a strong fall. I should point out that I’ve read that Fann is a senior who is exhausted his eligibility on a few Vanderbilt-specific sites, but the official Vandy website has him listed as a redshirt junior. In other words, I don’t know what’s going on with Fann, but the possibility exists that I just spent 117 words on an undrafted player without any more college eligibility .

JR 2B Riley Reynolds (2012) | .356/.407/.403 – 11 BB/19 K – 4/4 SB – 149 AB

I’m really surprised that Reynolds didn’t get drafted based on the strength of his solid freshman and junior seasons. His sophomore season was disappointing, no doubt, but at his best he has shown himself to be an average middle infield bat with a very steady glove at second. If he can play competently on the left side of the diamond — something that remains to be seen — then he’ll profile as a potential 2012 late round utility prospect.

SO SS Sam Lind (2012) | .239/.315/.391 – 3 BB/10 K – 46 AB

Lind has bounced from Missouri to Central Arizona to Vanderbilt. Alright, that’s a lie. He was draft eligible this past year, but didn’t hear his name called on the conference call. A second year in one place should do the middle infield with a strong arm and above-average hit tool some good. He was a personal favorite of mine heading into the year (15th on my preseason college shortstop list), so the pressure will really be on if he wants to get back into my good graces. That is what these guys are playing for, right? My approval? Not the fame, money, girls, and love of the game, but the respect of some nobody on the internet that they’ll never meet? Alright, good, just making sure.

SO LHP Sam Selman (2012)

There are way too many teams and players for me to keep track of everybody and everything quite the way I’d like to. The case of Sam Selman exemplifies the limits of my coverage. In doing research for this very piece, I checked out Selman’s 2011 stats, excited to see what kind of numbers a player with a potential plus fastball (mid-90s peak), plus slider, and promising changeup (per my notes) put up. Selman threw a whopping 6.1 innings last year. Based on the reports I had on him from his high school/early Vanderbilt days, some major injury must have popped up for Selman in 2011 to limit his innings that drastically, I thought. Not so fast, my friend. Selman’s lack of work can be traced to an overcrowded (in the best possible way) Vanderbilt pitching staff and a somewhat disappointingly slow transition to the college game, most notably from a strength standpoint. His string bean 6-3, 170 pound physique has not yet proven to be reliable enough to handle any kind of real innings workload and his control has kept him from being able to effectively utilize his array of promising pitches.

Even with all of those negatives disclosed, I’m still pleased to go on record as a huge Sam Selman fan. The fact I think he has the talent to rocket up from 6.1 innings as a sophomore to the 2012 first round pretty much says it all. Command and conditioning issues aside, there has been no degradation of Selman’s pro quality three-pitch arsenal. If he can lock down a weekend job this fall, watch how high he’ll fly up draft boards next spring.

SO OF Connor Harrell (2012) | .288/.354/.492 – 13 BB/38 K – 7/7 SB – 177 AB

As a legit five-tool player with pro size teetering on the edge of solid defensive center fielder and plus defensive corner outfielder, Harrell has a little Mikie Mahtook in his game. That probably won’t be the only time I use the Mahtook comp this upcoming year — Stanford’s Jake Stewart is another player cut from a similar toolsy free wheeling tweener cloth — and it isn’t the most instructive comparison in the world, but it is both a point of reference for Harrell’s style of play and a way to share my generally positive view of what I think he is capable of doing next spring. I’m a huge fan of Harrell’s plus arm, good range, well above-average raw power, and opportunistic ways on the base paths. If he can turn those ugly plate discipline ratios around, he’ll vault close to the top of the 2012 college outfield class.

SO OF Michael Yastrzemski (2012) | .311/.445/.388 – 44 BB/35 K – 23/26 SB – 206 AB

After already typing Michael Yastrzemski’s last name out incorrectly more than a few times, I can appreciate the first brilliant person who called his more famous grandfather “Yaz.” The younger Yaz is another five-tool talent, though more of a speed/defense/leadoff hitter type than his more powerful outfield wingman Connor Harrell. I swear it isn’t because of the similarly impressive lineage (or at least not only because), but I think of Michael Yastrzemski as a similar ballplayer as Orioles eighth round pick Johnny Ruettiger.

SO SS Anthony Gomez (2012) | .350/.366/.408 – 8 BB/12 K – 7/9 SB – 260 AB

What Gomez lacks in tools, he makes up for in his ability to make a crazy amount of contact. The contact is nice, but the unimpressive tool set keeps him from being much more than a marginal pro prospect. To wit, his defense up the middle isn’t yet good enough to have anybody believing his glove will carry him, and his foot speed is average at best.

SO OF Regan Flaherty (2012)

Never bet against a Flaherty, I always say. Actually I’ve never said that before just now, but it’s still true. The biggest problem facing Flaherty heading into next season will be finding playing time in a crowded Commodores outfield; he could see some time at first or designated hitter to get his bat in the lineup.

FR LHP Keenan Kolinsky (2012): 6-1, 210

Kolinsky, a redshirt freshman, hasn’t done a whole lot yet with Vanderbilt, but could see major innings out of the bullpen in 2012. He throws a solid upper-80s fastball and is a good athlete, so, hey, he’s got that going for him.

*****

FR LHP Kevin Ziomek (2013) | 9.67 K/9 – 2.82 BB/9 – 3.40 FIP – 44.2 IP

I’m not so bold to say Ziomek is going to follow in the footsteps of previous Vanderbilt lefthanders David Price (1st overall) and Mike Minor (7th overall) and land in the draft’s top ten, but the fact that the thought even crossed my mind in the first place tells you plenty about Ziomek’s upside. Ziomek is predominantly a fastball/changeup pitcher, throwing the former between 91-94 MPH and the latter in the low-80s. His much improved curve and slider run into each other a bit too much velocity-wise now that that his curve has gained some heat, but right now the slider is the better pitch and a potential above-average big league offering. The whole package — good fastball, potential plus change, above-average slider, an interesting curve, and good athleticism — is first round quality.

FR RHP TJ Pecoraro (2013) | 9.76 K/9 – 2.72 BB/9 – 3.43 FIP – 39.2 IP

The similarities between the 2011 statistical lines of Pecoraro and Ziomek are striking, no? Pecoraro doesn’t quite have the scouting profile of Ziomek — few do — but is no slouch in the raw ability department. He is armed with a really good low-90s fastball (94 peak) with late life and two potential above-average offspeed pitches (curve and change). Short righthanders like Pecoraro will be my favorite undervalued draft asset until those in pro ball catch on. A torn elbow ligament in May puts a damper on his short-term outlook, but he remains a viable early round candidate for 2013.

FR 1B/OF Conrad Gregor (2013) | .351/.454/.464 – 29 BB/23 K – 151 AB

We knew Gregor had huge raw power. We didn’t know his freshman year approach would be so solid. I might seem overly optimistic on all of the players mentioned in the College World Series prospect series, but you have to remember this is an unusually talented CWS group. Gregor has that plus raw power, a potential plus hit tool, outstanding defense at first and average defense in an outfield corner, a strong throwing arm…in other words, just about everything you’d want in a prospect. Aaron Westlake went in the third round this year; it’ll be interesting to see if Gregor, a better player at this point in his development, can improve on that in two years.

FR OF Tony Kemp (2013) | .328/.431/.406 – 33 BB/29 K – 16/20 SB – 229 AB

If any less heralded player is going to steal the spotlight this weekend in Omaha, it’ll be Kemp. The diminutive freshman is a huge fan favorite due to his plus-plus speed, ridiculous range in center field, and keen awareness of the strike zone. I’m really looking forward to seeing how he progresses over the next two seasons, especially at the plate. I mentioned to a guy int he know that Kemp reminded me a bit of Ronnie Richardson, but was told the better comp was Mike Bourn.

FR SS Joel McKeithan (2013)

Objectivity is important, no doubt, but sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and just go with a guy you like. Joel McKeithan is that kind of guy for me. He is currently expected to fill a utility infielder role for the 2012 Vanderbilt squad, but I can easily envision his plus speed and plus defensive tools at short earning him time over Anthony Gomez at short. The little bit I saw of him in high school plus the positive college practice reports equal a potential big league starting shortstop in my mind.

FR RHP Robert Hansen (2013)

Hansen was given a redshirt this year to help space out some of Vanderbilt’s young pitching. He has a good low-90s fastball and an emerging low-80s slider.

FR LHP Steven Rice (2013)

Rice’s curve was one of the better breaking balls in the 2010 high school class. That pitch alone makes him an interesting prospect despite a fastball that only sits between 86-88 MPH.

FR C Spencer Navin (2013)

Navin’s glovework and plus arm should get him into the regular lineup as early as next season, but his bat is far from a sure thing.

FR OF Will Johnson (2013)

Johnson is a great athlete who is still working on the finer points of the game. Minimalist commentary like that is why it will forever be free to read this site…

Final 2011 MLB Draft College Catcher Rankings

1. Oregon State SO C Andrew Susac

The biggest takeaway from Susac’s outstanding 2011 season: beware reading too much into small sample freshman year stats, especially when judging a first year college guy’s numbers to those of sophomores and juniors. Susac’s freshman year struggles are but a distant memory at this point. My biggest preseason concern with Susac was his inconsistent defense behind the plate. For a player praised as a college-ready receiver back in his original draft year, I was surprised how raw he looked defensively last year, at least in the early going. Employing the “wait and see” approach that I typically despise was a poor decision on my end. Susac really put it all together this year, showing improvements in all phases of the game – increased power, much better plate discipline, and, most importantly, way more polish catching and throwing. The hamate injury is a mild concern, but it would be a shock if it kept him from being the top college catcher off the board. In a weird way, the injury could be a blessing in disguise for Susac’s draft stock – all the scouts who have already seen him have walked away happy and his excellent numbers stand up just fine as is. The only thing keeping him out of the first round (or, more conservatively, the comp round) could be his signability, though that’s just speculation on my part.

*** 2010: .292/.420/.396 – 16 BB/21 K – 96 AB
*** 2011: .367/.504/.643 – 25 BB/25 K – 98 AB

2. North Carolina State JR C Pratt Maynard

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

*** 2010: .263/.449/.464 – 66/41 BB/K – 209 AB
*** 2011: .346/.431/.509 – 32 BB/37 K – 214 AB

3. Vanderbilt SR C Curt Casali

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

*** 2010: .343/.478/.577 – 34 BB/30 K – 175 AB
*** 2011: .311/.389/.467 – 14 BB/13 K – 180 AB

4. Bethune-Cookman JR C Peter O’Brien

Kind of nice when a prospect does almost exactly what everybody expects. Big power, questionable approach, iffy defense…yeah, that’s O’Brien. He doesn’t typically fit the mold of a player I’d like, but O’Brien’s makeup, praised far and wide this spring, makes him an especially intriguing prospect to watch once he enters pro ball. O’Brien is a big lump of very talented, coachable clay. More than any other catcher on this list, he has that boom/bust factor working for him. Pro coaching could do wonders for him. Or his long swing and impatience at the plate will be further exposed against higher quality pitching. Intuitively, I’m more in step with the latter possibility than the former, but I’d love to be wrong.

*** 2010: .371/.432/.718 – 18 BB/40 K – 202 AB
*** 2011: .275/.354/.507 – 22 BB/49 K – 207 AB

5. San Diego JR C Zach Kometani

Some question Kometani’s future behind the plate, but that’s more of a matter of consistency than anything else. I maintain he has the hands and athleticism to turn himself into a pretty good catcher down the line. I’m a little surprised by his modest 2011 power showing because I think there’s more there.

*** 2010: .372/.454/.628 – 11 BB/11 K – 94 AB
*** 2011: .371/.414/.532 – 9 BB/18 K – 186 AB

6. North Carolina JR C Jacob Stallings

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

*** 2010: .336/.447/.493 – 28 BB/33 K – 140 AB
*** 2011: .275/.403/.401 – 41 BB/35 K – 182 AB

7. Oklahoma JR C Tyler Ogle

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

*** 2010: .320/.425/.547 – 24 BB/24 K – 150 AB
*** 2011: .310/.435/.517 – 28 BB/30 K – 174 AB

8. Pittsburgh SR C Kevan Smith

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

*** 2010: .335/.399/.481 – 20 BB/15 K – 233 AB
*** 2011: .359/.438/.582 – 21 BB/15 K – 184 AB

9. Arkansas JR C James McCann

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

*** 2010: .286/.377/.441 – 19 BB/26 K – 213 AB
***2011: .300/.399/.482 – 24 BB/20 K – 170 AB

10. Virginia JR C John Hicks

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

*** 2010: .313/.368/.513 – 17 BB/27 K  – 240 AB
*** 2011: .385/.432/.563 – 16 BB/13 K – 208 AB

11. James Madison JR C Jake Lowery

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

*** 2010: .296/.372/.516 – 23 BB/40 K – 186 AB
*** 2011: .341/.437/.798 – 35 BB/39 K – 208 AB

12. Arizona JR C Jett Bandy

Hard to explain Bandy’s 2011 collapse, especially when you consider there has been no news of any down tick in his scouting reports. I’m not super concerned about the dip in production for that reason, but Bandy’s signability could become a question if he slips past the first five rounds as expected. He is still exactly the player I’d target past round ten. Even without knowing why he slipped so badly this year, I still think it is safe to say that he didn’t completely forget how to play baseball.

*** 2010: .336/.433/.516 – 22 BB/21 K – 223 AB
*** 2011: .232/.298/.305 – 6 BB/12 K – 177 AB

13. Stetson JR C Nick Rickles

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

*** 2010: .293/.331/.413 – 14 BB/23 K – 225 AB
*** 2011: .392/.455/.694 – 23 BB/7 K – 209 AB

14. Tulane JR C Jeremy Schaffer

Schaffer is a really underrated athlete with ample raw power and great physical strength who might not play the brand of defense pro teams desire. That was the word before the season. Most of the reports I’ve gotten on his 2011 defense indicate he’s getting a teeny bit better every day.

*** 2010: .303/.375/.566 – 21 BB/24 K – 175 AB
*** 2011: .418/.511/.693 – 34 BB/25 K – 189 AB

15. College of Charleston JR C Rob Kral

Kral’s defense is the big concern, but there are no doubts whatsoever about the bat. Unfortunately, Kral doesn’t have the luxury of moving off catcher due to his lack of height and mobility. He reminds a little bit of Eric Arce in that way. I think his draft ceiling might be right around where Dan Black of Purdue went in 2009 (16th round). Should be no surprise that a guy with that kind of plate discipline qualifies as a personal favorite of mine.

*** 2010: .353/.493/.623 – 60 BB/32 K – 215 AB
*** 2011: .333/.485/.561 – 53 BB/23 K – 180 AB

16. Western Kentucky SR C Matt Rice

Rice is a definite riser in my mind; very little chance he winds up as 2011′s Mr. Irrelevant (last overall pick in draft) like he was in 2010. He’s still a late-rounder, but he makes a lot of sense in the larger context of the draft. Sure, the ultimate goal is to draft as many potential big league contributors as possible. We all know that much. Come rounds 25 and on, however, you’re mixing and matching prep athletes with upside and signability questions and org players needed to fill out minor league rosters. Rice strikes me as a perfect org guy – great teammate, wonderful influence on his peers, and not totally devoid of talent in his own right.

*** 2010: .349/.431/.552 – 32 BB/46 K – 241 AB
*** 2011: .344/.419/.530 – 30 BB/34 K – 215 AB

17. California JR C Chadd Krist

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

*** 2010: .375/.454/.661 – 27 BB/40 K – 192 AB
*** 2011: .335/.417/.491 – 24 BB/26 K – 173 AB

18. Samford JR C Brandon Miller

Key word in Miller’s scouting reports has been “inconsistent.” He has a strong arm, but very inconsistent accuracy. He has intriguing defensive tools, but inconsistent footwork limits him. Good bat speed, but inconsistent swing setup leads to a too long swing that leaves him exposed by high velocity arms. Good catching could fix this. Or not.

*** 2010: .361/.406/.533 – 13 BB/23 K – 244 AB
*** 2011: .297/.396/.651 – 26 BB/40 K – 172 AB

19. Central Florida JR C Beau Taylor

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

*** 2010: .359/.433/.566 – 23 BB/31 K – 198 AB
*** 2011: .342/.412/.466 – 22 BB/22 K – 193 AB

20. Auburn SR C Tony Caldwell

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

*** 2010: .365/.430/.587 – 18 BB/45 K – 189 AB
*** 2011: 341/.462/.535 – 30 BB/29 K – 170 AB

College Catchers Revisited – 2011 MLB Draft

All of these rankings are based on where I had each guy preseason. Comments reflect present draft stock. Any revised list of top college catchers almost certainly wouldn’t include CJ Cron and Peter O’Brien (both safe bets to move to 1B professionally) and would begin with Andrew Susac. My real quick top five might go: 1. Andrew Susac, 2. Curt Casali, 3. Zach Kometani, 4. Jacob Stallings, and 5. Tyler Ogle. Subject to change, of course…

All park/league adjusted stats courtesy of the invaluable College Splits.

***

1. Utah JR C/1B CJ Cron: 513/571/850 (14 BB/11 K)

Cron’s numbers sync up well with his scouting reports. I may be in the minority, but I actually like his pure hit tool more than I like his power. Either way, both are above-average tools. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they are his only above-average tools. Again, I find myself in the minority in thinking he could at least be a passable catcher at the next level, but I’ll concede to the experts on that one. Looks like Cron will be the first first baseman off the board, college or high school.

2. San Diego JR C Zach Kometani: 344/385/489 (7 BB/12 K)

This super aggressive ranking of Kometani has held up pretty well, I think. His 2011 numbers are at least as good, if not better, than any other member of the top ten lower than him besides Susac and Ogle. Alright, that’s a lot of qualifiers, but I have to defend my guy, right? Some question his future behind the plate, but that’s more of a matter of consistency than anything else. I maintain he has the hands and athleticism to turn himself into a pretty good catcher down the line. I’m a little surprised by his modest 2011 power showing because I think there’s more there.

3. Bethune-Cookman JR C/1B Peter O’Brien: 299/382/604 (17 BB/34 K)

Kind of nice when a prospect does almost exactly what everybody expects. Big power, questionable approach, iffy defense…yeah, that’s O’Brien. He doesn’t typically fit the mold of a player I’d like, but O’Brien’s makeup, praised far and wide this spring, makes him an especially intriguing prospect to watch once he enters pro ball. O’Brien is a big lump of very talented, coachable clay. More than any other catcher on this list, he has that boom/bust factor working for him. Pro coaching could do wonders for him. Or his long swing and impatience at the plate will be further exposed against higher quality pitching. Intuitively, I’m more in step with the latter possibility than the former, but I’d love to be wrong.

4. Arizona JR C Jett Bandy: 272/329/346 (5 BB/11 K)

Hard to explain Bandy’s 2011 collapse, especially when you consider there has been no news of any down tick in his scouting reports. I’m not super concerned about the dip in production for that reason, but Bandy’s signability could become a question if he slips past the first five rounds.

5. Vanderbilt SR C Curt Casali: 354/438/504 (12 BB/11 K)

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

6. North Carolina State JR C Pratt Maynard: 336/433/473 (25 BB/27 K)

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

7. North Carolina JR C Jacob Stallings: 300/435/431 (33 BB/23 K)

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

8. Oregon State SO C Andrew Susac: 420/547/682 (23 BB/21 K)

The biggest takeaway from Susac’s outstanding 2011 season: beware reading too much into small sample freshman year stats, especially when judging a first year college guy’s numbers to those of sophomores and juniors. Susac’s freshman year struggles are but a distant memory at this point. My biggest preseason concern with Susac was his inconsistent defense behind the plate. For a player praised as a college-ready receiver back in his original draft year, I was surprised how raw he looked defensively last year, at least in the early going. Employing the “wait and see” approach that I typically despise was a poor decision on my end. Susac really put it all together this year, showing improvements in all phases of the game – increased power, much better plate discipline, and, most importantly, way more polish catching and throwing. The hamate injury is a mild concern, but it would be a shock if it kept him from being the top college catcher off the board. In a weird way, the injury could be a blessing in disguise for Susac’s draft stock – all the scouts who have already seen him have walked away happy and his excellent numbers stand up just fine as is. The only thing keeping him out of the first round (or, more conservatively, the comp round) could be his signability, though that’s just speculation on my part.

9. Oklahoma JR C Tyler Ogle: 367/483/617 (20 BB/22 K)

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

10. Kentucky JR C Mike Williams: 262/342/449 (11 BB/18 K)

His BB/K ratio may not seem impressive, but Williams has come a long way in a short time. He is the antithesis of the player ranked right above him. Plus-plus arm and plus raw power will continue to get him looks, even as his hit tool lags behind other players in his class.

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 (15-9)

(Sorry to keep stretching out the Top 30 College Catching Prospects bit, but I spent far too much time working on site maintenance — re-tagged and recategorized every post ever — and long-range draft projects that should hopefully pay off big in the coming weeks. Stay tuned…)

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.

2009 College Baseball Opening Weekend – Little Bit of Everything Version

Quick spin around college baseball’s opening weekend. A whole bunch of Friday starters (and relievers) were already covered, so let’s take a look at some of the most meaningful hitting performances of the weekend. Of course, since I can’t resist, I threw some interesting pitching lines in at the bottom. Small sample size caveats apply, as always. (more…)

All Sophomore Prospect Team (Class of ’10)

A handy tip for those who have a hard time meeting self-imposed deadlines – making your schedule public makes it a heck of a lot easier to stick to. Remember this?

Monday: (2/16): All Freshman Prospect Team
Tuesday (2/17): All Sophomore Prospect Team
Wednesday (2/18): All Senior Prospect Team
Thursday (2/19): All Draft-Eligible Sophomore Prospect Team AND All Junior Prospect Team
Friday (2/20): College Opening Day Hip-Hop Pizza Party featuring the debut of The Baseball Draft Report 2009 College Prospect Big Board

No matter what happens this week, I’m sticking to this darned schedule. If today is Tuesday, that means it is All Sophomore Prospect Team Day! The players listed below are all, as far as I know, draft-eligible as of the 2010 season. There are no redshirt sophomores on the list — the 2009-eligible sophomores will get their own list — only players eligible for the 2010 draft. Something about this class really appeals to me, so I went a little overboard with some of the writeups. Enjoy the All Sophomore Prospect Team after the jump…

(more…)

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