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Cincinnati Reds 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Cincinnati 2011 Draft Selections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2011 College World Series Preview: North Carolina Tar Heels

The first team to get the full College World Series preview is your North Carolina Tar Heels. 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. 

1.30 JR SS Levi Michael (Minnesota Twins) | 34th ranked prospect overall

I’ve mentioned it before, but it is so incredible to me that it bears repeating: Levi Michael graduated high school early to enroll at UNC mid-year, and then went on to tear it up as a freshman playing as a starter in the ACC. Occasionally we’ll see pitchers do this, and last year we had the whole Bryce Harper skipping his senior year to go destroy wood ball junior college ball thing, but it is still pretty rare to see a hitter do what Michael did in the manner he did (repeat: he smashed the ball all over the place back in 2009 as an 18-year-old) that it is worth pointing out over and over again. Michael has plenty of bat speed, double-digit homer upside, and the footwork and instincts to potentially stick at his junior season college position of shortstop.

Big fan of Michael the college player and Michael the new Minnesota Twins first round prospect. He’s a joy to watch as a big play college shortstop and team leader who also projects as a potential above-average regular with plus defensive upside at second. I’ve always been a sucker for guys with the kind of plate discipline that have you wondering if they know the strike zone better than the men in blue actually paid to call balls and strikes.

8.247 SR RHP Greg Holt (Washington Nationals)

Huge raw power, but one of three natural first basemen vying for playing time behind Dustin Ackley on 2009 team; Moneyball listed as favorite book, so he has that going for him

How’s that for a blast from the past? Back in March 2009 Holt was battling Tarron Robinson and Brett Thomas for whatever at bats could be had behind eventual number two overall pick Dustin Ackley. Now Holt is a relief prospect with a fastball that sits 88-91 (93 peak) and a good low-80s slider.

24.730 SR 1B Jesse Wierzbicki (Houston Astros) | 164th ranked prospect overall (2010)

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.

That was written back in 2010 when I thought Wierzbicki could play behind the plate as a pro. I still think he’s got the athleticism and enough catch-and-throw ability to play back there. As a first baseman, however, I don’t see how his bat will work at all. Hopefully the Astros will be creative and try him in a utility role going forward.

25.768 SR RHP Patrick Johnson (Colorado Rockies)

Starter for UNC in the past, but profiles better as a reliever in the pros; too early to predict, but he could be on the Robert Woodard/Adam Warren four year path; good numbers, but has done it all against inferior mid-week competition; lack of size may doom him to the bullpen long-term, but his performance pitching largely out of the pen this season give hope that his stuff will play

Fairly prescient 2009 prognostication, if I do say so myself. Warren, who has been so much better as a pro than I ever would have imagined, is probably Johnson’s absolute best case scenario at this point. He throws an upper-80s fastball (92 peak), good upper-70s curve, and average change.

42.1285 JR C Jacob Stallings (Cincinnati Reds) | 158th ranked prospect overall

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.

I won’t lie here. I’m baffled about Stallings falling as low as he did. I suppose acceptance that strange things happen during the draft is the only way to survive in these topsy turvy times. Players with a legit upside of backup catcher/middle reliever are more useful than his draft pick warranted. I haven’t heard anything to back this up, but perhaps his signability is in question.

*****

JR RHP Jimmy Messer (2012) | 10.80 K/9 – 3.60 BB/9 – 5.09 FIP – 10 IP

44th round pick in 2008; favorite foods are sushi and Swiss cake rolls, a winning combination if I ever heard one; fastball sits in the low 90s, above-average (present) curveball with definite plus potential; another top three round candidate

Messer hasn’t quite developed into the player many thought he would, but there is still time for the rising senior. His average fastball (88-90, 92 peak), above-average 75-77 slider, and solid command could make him an attractive mid-round senior sign relief prospect in 2012. If nothing else, we’ll always have that sushi and Swiss cake roll combo…

JR RHP Garrett Davis (2012)

Good size (6-4, 195); currently no spot for him in the rotation, but may be stretched out as starter next year; definitely has the repertoire to start; will be draft eligible next year as a redshirt sophomore, velocity has crept back up after TJ surgery in March 2008, but his command and availability to pitch back-to-back games remain question marks going forward

Deservedly lauded for great raw stuff, Davis has dealt with nagging injuries and bouts of wildness that have limited his college innings. Modern medicine has spoiled us into thinking Tommy John surgery always ends happily; hard as it is to say, we must now entertain the thought that Davis will never return to his high school, pre-injury form. Or we can continue to believe he’ll find a consistent release point and improve his control as a senior. I prefer the latter.

***

SO RHP Michael Morin (2012) | 10.05 K/9 – 2.40 BB/9 – 2.86 FIP – 60 IP

The good news is Morin’s changeup is a true plus pitch. The bad news is…well…there isn’t much bad news. Backed up by his solid fastball (88-92 with room for more), good sinking two-seamer, average curve, above-average athleticism, pro frame (6-4, 180 pounds), and outstanding college production, Morin is one of the best college arms of the 2012 class.

SO RHP Cody Penny (2012) | 10.69 K/9 – 4.50 BB/9 – 2.59 FIP – 16 IP

Penny has the present stuff of a dominant college reliever (mid-90s peak fastball and a really good spike curve), and the future stuff (CU and SL coming on) of a potential pro starter.

SO 2B Tommy Coyle (2012) | .337/.429/.451 – 37 BB/21 K – 19/25 SB – 255 AB

Coyle played his high school ball about fifteen minutes from where I grew up, so I was lucky enough to catch him a couple of times during his senior season. He’s got above-average speed and athleticism, a really solid line drive swing, and an outstanding batting eye. It is still really early in the process, but I think we’re looking at a player with the ceiling of a big league regular with the possibility of a utility future a realistic backup option. I’m looking forward to seeing where he stacks up against the rest of the 2012 college middle infield crop, but I have a feeling he’ll be up there.

SO RHP Cody Stiles (2012) | 7.54 K/9 – 2.92 BB/9 – 3.91 FIP – 37 IP

With two breaking balls with above-average upside, Stiles heads into his junior campaign with a chance to shoot up draft boards. This isn’t a realistic comp for a sophomore coming off a 37 inning regular season, but there is something about Stiles’ repertoire (94 peak FB, promising SL and CB, CU with sink) that reads a little like 2011 first round pick Matt Barnes.

SO LHP RC Orlan (2012) | 12.56 K/9 – 5.65 BB/9 – 3.54 FIP – 14.1 IP

Sometimes good college pitchers are just that. Other times they become good pro pitchers. On rare occasions, they become great pro pitchers. It may be easy to lump Orlan into that first category, but I think he ultimately could fall into the middle grouping. His raw stuff doesn’t jump out at you — upper-80s FB (92 peak), above-average mid-80s cutter, a pair of usable breaking balls — and his slight frame doesn’t scream big leaguer, but his total package is greater than the sum of his individual parts.

SO OF Chaz Frank (2012) | .287/.430/.349 – 43 BB/27 K – 11/14 SB – 209 AB

There may not be a whole lot of raw power here, but Frank has a good approach, above-average speed, and a solid hit tool. His best present tool is probably his defensive range in the outfield.

SO RHP Chris Munnelly (2012) | 7.84 K/9 – 3.73 BB/9 – 4.29 FIP – 70 IP

If I’ve learned one thing in doing this post, it’s that North Carolina’s pitching depth is crazy. I can’t even imagine how they’ll divvy up innings if some of their biggest recruits wind up on campus this fall. One of the top returning pitchers next year will be Chris Munnelly. Munnelly was counted on to throw a lot this past spring for North Carolina, and with good reason. His decent fastball (88-91) plays up because of plus command, and both his advanced change and rapidly improving breaking stuff could be even bigger weapons in time.

*****

FR 3B Colin Moran (2013) | .348/.459/.583 – 48 BB/29 K – 230 AB

When he enrolled at North Carolina last fall, Moran’s name jumped out as the younger brother of former Tar Heels reliever Brian and nephew of former Tar Heel and big league star BJ Surhoff. I also knew he was a well regarded high school prospect out of New York, but, since we’re all pals now and have no reason not to be honest with one another, had assumed that the family legacy bit had way more to do with his scholarship than his ability. Take a look at his freshman year stat line and laugh at how very wrong I was. Moran is the real deal as a prospect, a hitter with legit big league upside, a gorgeous lefthanded stroke, and a great approach at the plate. He is an average defender at present, but there is enough there in the way of tools that makes you think he can become an above-average third baseman in time. Physically, he reminds me a little bit of former Ranger Hank Blalock.

FR LHP Kent Emanuel (2013) | 8.56 K/9 – 2.01 BB/9 – 3.56 FIP – 89.1 IP

Emanuel is another prospect who has far surpassed my expectations as a freshman. One thing I’ve enjoyed about Emanuel’s excellent freshman season has been the answer to the question “What would happen if a Tyler Skaggs/Henry Owens type went to campus instead of turning pro?” Emanuel tacked on over thirty pounds to his 6-4 frame (now up to 205) and upped his sitting fastball a couple ticks (now at 87-89 MPH). His change is already an above-average college offering, and could be plus pro pitch with the way he throws it with fastball arm speed. His best bet at another above-average pro pitch is probably a slider, but that is something to be developed down the line; for now, his cut fastball works as a usable college offering just fine.

FR C Matt Roberts (2013) | .237/.310/.316 – 2 BB/10 K – 38 AB

If Stallings signs with the Reds — hardly a foregone conclusion as a 42nd round pick — then Roberts should take over full-time duty behind the plate in 2012. On paper he has everything you’d want in a young catching prospect: athleticism, above-average defensive upside, and good power.

FR RHP Andrew Smith (2013) | 10.04 K/9 – 3.12 BB/9 – 3.55 FIP – 26 IP

I can’t wait to see what the super talented Smith does in an expanded role next season. He reminds me a bit of Cody Stiles (93 peak FB, potential plus mid-70s CB, SL with promise) and could really take off next year if his changeup, a pitch I’ve heard looked good in practice this year, comes around.

FR RHP Shane Taylor (2013) | 10.25 K/9 – 2.75 BB/9 – 3.01 FIP – 36 IP

Woodard, Warren, Johnson…Taylor? His upper-80s sitting fastball, good mid-70s curveball, and really impressive control and command definitely bring back memories of former Tar Heels pitchability righthanded greats.

FR RHP Jake Cole (2013)

Cole’s arm strength (92-93 peak) and the makings of a hard upper-70s slider make him a name to remember. There were some rumors that he will be given a retroactive redshirt for 2011; if that’s the case, he’ll remain a freshman in 2012, but also remain draft-eligible in 2013.

FR OF Jeff Bouton (2013) | .282/.378/.410 – 4 BB/21 K – 3/3 SB – 39 AB

Bouton came to school with the reputation of a good power/speed prospect, but almost all the power/speed in the world won’t work with plate discipline like that. Just a freshman, there is plenty of time for him to figure it out going forward.

FR 1B/OF Thomas Zengel (2013) | .214/.338/.313 – 20 BB/16 K – 112 AB

Zengel is a bat-first prospect who will have to keep on hitting if he hopes to get noticed. He strikes me more of a potentially really good college player more than a future big-time pro prospect, but the plate discipline shown in 2011 has me a little intrigued.

FR C Brian Holberton (2013) | .267/.352/.400 – 11 BB/13 K – 75 AB

Matt Roberts was the high profile catching recruit in 2011 and the expected heir apparent to the job, but Holberton has a chance to alter those plans. His defense behind the plate is his biggest strength and his gap power has been better than advertised.

FR 1B/2B Parks Jordan (2013) | .179/.343/.214 – 6 BB/10 K – 28 AB

There could be room for Parks Jordan to get some time at second base next year if North Carolina decides to shift Tommy Coyle to shortstop (i.e. the Levi Michael Special). There is some upside with the bat, but his glove is a question mark.

FR LHP Tate Parrish (2013): LOOGY upside; 6-0, 165 pounds; (9.39 K/9 – 5.28 BB/9 – 2.70 FIP – 15.1 IP)

Parrish is by all accounts a great guy and tireless worker. I could say that about a lot of the players on this list, but, when asking around about Parrish for this piece, almost every person I spoke to commented on Parrish the person before talking about Parrish the player. They also said that he’s got the stuff to get college lefthanders out consistently and, with continued development, perhaps pro lefthanders as well. That last sentence is structured horribly, but I’m losing steam here…

FR LHP Hobbs Johnson (2013)

Johnson is a pitchability lefty with an upper-80s fastball. That’s all I’ve got.

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.

College Team Profiles: North Carolina Tar Heels

One of the most popular (fine, the only) question I’ve been emailed since starting this site up goes a little something like this: I’m going to see ____ University/College/State play this weekend and I was wondering if there was anybody with a professional future that would be worth watching. The College Team Profiles are designed to preemptively answer any and all questions about the prospects from a particular college team…or maybe just open up a whole new set of questions, we’ll see. The next three draft classes for one particular school are featured, with the players ranked in order (great to less great) within each class.

As always, whether you agree, disagree, or think I’m a dope who should leave this sort of stuff to the experts (thanks, Mom)…let’s hear it via email (thebaseballdraftreport@gmail.com) or in the comments section.

Photo Source: Sports Logos and Screensavers

Photo Source: Sports Logos and Screensavers

22 of the finest the University of North Carolina has to offer after the jump… (more…)

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