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Quick Comparison – 2010 College Catchers vs 2009 College Catchers

Given the choice of a random sampling of college catching prospects from 2010 and 2009, what side of the ’10 vs ’09 debate will you fall on? It’s been said that 2010 is the better year for college catching, a sentiment I agree with for what it’s worth, but why not actually put conventional wisdom to the death with a head-to-head comparison? Originally I had planned to pick players 1-5-10-15-20-25 from each draft class (2010 based on my rankings, 2009 based on draft order) and compare, but the presence of Bryce Harper would make the entire exercise even more pointless than it probably already is. Instead, we’ll compare 2-7-12-17-22-27. Also, I may have miscounted with the 2009 draft class, but, really, the comparison is unscientific enough already, what’s the harm in mixing things up even further?

Full 2010 college catcher rankings tomorrow. Maybe an Alternate Reality Mock Draft, too. Real Mock Draft is almost done, should be ready to be published early next week. Additionally, comments and emails will be answered in the next 48 hours. Please, do try to contain your excitement. As for our college catching comparison, here’s the quick breakdown:

2010

Yasmani Grandal
Cody Stanley
Tommy Medica
Xorge Carrillo
Tyler Bullock
Jeremy Mayo

OR

2009

Josh Phegley
Tobias Streich
Carlos Ramirez
Tyson Van Winkle
Michael Thomas
Jeremy Gillan

Personally, I like Grandal better than Phegley, Stanley over Streich, and Ramirez more than Medica. 2 wins for 2010, 1 win for 2009. After that, things get pretty close to even with each matchup. Xorge Carrillo gets the edge over Van Winkle in the battle of hilariously named prospects, Bullock (offense!) wins by the slightest of margins over Thomas (defense!), and Mayo/Gillan is a true pick-em. 4 wins for 2010, 1 win for 2009, 1 too close to call. Admittedly not the most scientific way to determine a particular year’s draft strength, but it’s at least one more tiny data point for the pro-2010 crowd.

2009 MLB Draft: Top 25 Draft-Eligible Catcher Big Board

Hope everybody out there had a nice, relaxing long weekend. I spent too much of mine trying to think of creative ways I could cobble something ready to publish Tuesday morning without having it eat into my own nice, relaxing long weekend. I also made my selections as the Angels scouting director in the MVN MLB Outsider Mock Draft, so I’ll be sure to shamelessly self promote my rationale once it goes live later this week.

In the meantime, let’s unleash the full fury of my very own personal draft-eligible catcher big board. It’s not necessarily where I think the players will go on draft day (i.e. Stassi and Sanchez seem like they’ll both land in the first), but instead where I would value each player if I was the boss. Next up in the queue: College Team Profile – Texas Longhorns

Round 1: Wil Myers

Round 1s/2: Luke Bailey, Josh Phegley, Austin Maddox, Max Stassi, Tony Sanchez

Round 4/5: Mike Ohlman, Jonathan Walsh

Round 5/6: Tucker Barnhart, Dan Black, Mark Fleury, Tommy Joseph, Andrew Susac, Josh Leyland, Miles Hamblin, JR Murphy

Round 7/8: Michael Zunino, Jack Murphy, Justin Dalles

Round 9/10: Carlos Ramirez, Steve Baron, Cameron Garfield

Round 10+: Dane Phillips, Miles Head, Robert Stock

2009 Draft-Eligible Top College Catcher Tournament (Part III)

It’s been a while since we started this thing up, so take a minute to check out a link or two to see what the heck we’re doing here – Part I and Part II. Who is the best draft-eligible college catcher in all the land? We’re going to find out tournament-style! Next up, the four participants facing off in our very special Joe Mauer Regional…

Joe Mauer Regional

1. Josh Phegley
4. Travis Tartamella

2. Tommy Medica
3. Justin Dalles

Two great American past times...

No suspense here, I’m sorry to report. After upsets in the first two regionals (Stock and Fleury), Josh Phegley blows away all comers here in the Joe Mauer Regional. It’s no surprise, really, as many publications have Phegley safely ensconced as one of the top two college catchers in all the land and a great bet to be off the board by the end of round two. We’ll talk about the other three names at a later date (I like Dalles over Medica, injury or not, by the way), but for now we’ll shine the prospect spotlight on the champ.

I’m excited for June 9 for all sorts of reasons. There are plenty of draft storylines that deserve more press coverage than they’ll inevitably get, but I hope the eventual destination of Josh Phegley gets a little bit of love come draft day. By the numbers, Phegley is truly a standout amongst a group of less than stellar college bats. There is no denying this man’s college production. So where will he land and when? Teams that place a greater importance on statistical performance will be hard pressed to find a better college prospect than Indiana’s star backstop. His numbers both in and out of context are staggering —> .438/.507/.746 with a 34/22 walk to strikeout ratio his sophomore year and .383/.485/.688 with 29 walks to 23 strikeouts so far this year, all while playing home games in a neutral park in the chilly north. To find fault in Phegley’s collegiate numbers is to complain about a stray splatter on a Jackson Pollock.

Phegley’s production has been top notch, but what about his projection? This is where things get more complicated. There are doubts surrounding his defense, his pro power potential, and his bat speed. To be fair, no college hitting prospect this side of Rich Poythress (though even he gets dinged for being limited to first defensively) comes without warts, but the fact that Phegley’s detractors knock his bat so severely is telling. My quick and dirty notes from watching his swing over a few games earlier this season:

  • Pronounced crouch (a little like Aaron Rowand’s), good leverage and balance
  • Circles bat pre-swing as timing mechanism; keeping hands high is key – when they drop, so does his power
  • Uneven feet with his back leg staggered back in box, impressive in the way his lower half moves in sync with the rest of his body during setup and follow through
  • Lets ball get unusually deep, but his wrists (more strong than quick) help his plate coverage – Phegley can afford to wait and wait and wait because, at worst, he has a knack for fouling balls off until he gets one he can drive
  • Swing gets knocked for being long, but I saw it level and surprisingly compact and efficient; the helicopter finish may slow down the swing enough to give certain teams pause

I’d agree with a scout that questions Phegley’s future power potential as his swing is closer to that of a player with consistent line drive, gap power. I’m not sure I’d worry as much about a slow bat, but I do think some tweaks (namely toning down the finish a smidge) could help him shave some time off his swing and perhaps unleash a little bit of the power he loses with his level, one-plane swing.

Phegley’s defense is a topic that has generated plenty of discussion in scouting circles because, well, scouts love talking about an otherwise solid player’s glaring deficiency. Phegley’s defensive tools are solid as he possesses an average to above-average throwing arm with a quick release, but his shoddy footwork and consistent struggles blocking balls in the dirt keep his present defensive grade below-average.

Despite the fact that many of the specific concerns about his defense are valid, he’ll stick behind the plate as a professional. The aforementioned tools are there for Phegley to be an average defensive player and with a bat like his that should be enough. Picture an offense-first, slightly below-average to barely average defender behind the dish. A peak that looks a little something like Michael Barrett’s (2004-2006) with much better plate discipline (one of Phegley’s biggest and most unique strengths) sounds like a reasonable enough upside for Phegley going forward. For those looking for a decent prospect comp, I’ve got two names to consider –  Phillies catcher Lou Marson (with a little more juice in his bat, but less glove) and Rangers catcher Max Ramirez (with less power, but better defense).

In the end, I think a Marson comp (right down to their similar level swings) makes the most sense with a more patient Barrett-like peak well within reason. One of the perks of an established college player with a strong statistical history like Phegley is the near elimination of the total bust factor; it’s hard to see Phegley completely flaming out as a pro, he’s had too much success against high level competition to bet against him at least reaching the bigs as a backup. With a ceiling of Mike Barrett and a floor of Josh Bard (high level backup deemed not quite good enough to catch full-time, but productive when given opportunities). There’s some very real value there, especially considering the typical dearth of catching prospects throughout baseball. It remains to be seen how far down the top prep college catchers will push the college guys on draft day, but Phegley’s statistical profile and good enough tools could get him picked anywhere from late in the first (to a competitive team in need of a quick moving catcher…Tampa? Boston?) to the middle of the third round. I’d take him over any other college catcher, but probably not until midway through the second round.

The Field of 16 – Top College Catching Prospects

It’s about time we got back to doing some positional rankings around these parts, don’t you think? We covered the top prep righthanded pitching prospects here, here, here, and here, as well as the top college righthanded starting pitching prospects here, here, and here. After a bit of a break, it’s time to jump back in this time with college catching prospects, a topic danced around but never ranked both here and here. Because straight rankings can become a little tiresome after a while, I decided to do something different with the catching prospects. Will it be cool? Will it be super lame? Will it be more confusing and time-consuming than it’s worth? Stay tuned! The top 16 college catching prospects in all the land after the jump, as well as the unveiling of just how we’ll be ranking them this time…

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2009 MLB Draft – First Round Tiers

It’s April now. The weather is slowly getting warmer here in the northeast (finally), Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is just days away (finally), and the Rule 4 Draft’s first round is slowly beginning to take shape. I’ve been lax in publishing any of my macro draft projections, but it seems like as good a time as any to put this first look at the first round out there for all the world to see. And for those of you that only visit these parts for the mocks — something I do for plenty of NFL and NBA sites, so believe me when I say I’m passing no judgment — consider this a precursor to the eventual April mock draft (coming soon!) and, who knows, maybe a helpful resource to aid in putting together a mock of your own.

There are 32 picks in this year’s first round. How many of those spots are currently accounted for? How many are still up for grabs? Which players are most likely to land the last few spots in the round and which players are such stone cold mortal locks that they can feel safe putting down payments on a whole bunch of fancy new toys? Any player with a chance of going in the first round in June has been broken down into a distinct tier. The tiers are far from perfect (maybe a player is in Tier 4, but should be in Tier 5), but they serve as realistic classifications of where players are currently valued by big league clubs.

  • Tier 1 —> 1 player

RHSP Stephen Strasburg

This guy is so far and away the best prospect in this draft that he gets his own tier…but you knew that already.

Confidence Level —> Couldn’t be higher

  • Tier 2 —> 10 players

College: OF/1B Dustin Ackley, RHSP Kyle Gibson, RHSP Aaron Crow, RHSP Alex White, SS Grant Green
Prep: RHSP Shelby Miller, LHSP Tyler Matzek, LHSP Matt Purke, LHSP Tyler Skaggs, OF Donovan Tate

The only tier split up into distinct college and prep sides, Tier 2 includes 10 players that are “write it down in that super never disappearing pen that S. Epatha Merkerson advertises for” kind of locks for the first round. Seattle has to be hoping against hope that one of these players will separate himself from the group because, at this point anyway, you could make a legitimate argument for literally any of the players on the list going to the Mariners at pick number two. I’d love to hear the arguments in favor of any of the prep pitchers going that high (none of the four players are quite talented enough to warrant taking a chance on that high, I think), but the other 6 players all could conceivably wind up in the Pacific Northwest.

Confidence Level —> Bet more than you have on any odds that these players will be first rounders

  • Tier 3 —> 5 players

RHSP Mike Leake, RHSP Tanner Scheppers, C Luke Bailey, C Austin Maddox, 1B Rich Poythress

These players just barely missed the previous tier, so know that if I was a bolder prognosticator I would have had them in that group without reservation. Of course, there are reasons why each player doesn’t get the Uniball pen Youtube video of approval. Leake may be my favorite prospect in all the draft, but I’m not sure how much my opinion matters to teams drafting in the first round…yes, he’s a very good prospect and an almost sure-fire first rounder, but I don’t want my inflated opinion of him getting in the way of properly assessing his relative value. Same story for Scheppers, another personal favorite.

Bailey and Maddox are hard to place on a draft board because, well, they are high school catchers. In a typical year it’s hard to figure out how early teams are willing to take a chance on a prep backstop, but it’s even wilder this year because of the excess of quality high school catchers expected to be taken early. Poythress is another player tricky to place, but for the opposite reasons. He is an established college first baseman, a position with an absurdly high success rate when taken early in the draft. However, this year’s draft is so devoid of quality bats (especially advanced bats) that it is hard to narrow down exactly what range he’ll go in – will teams overdraft a hitter knowing they are less likely to find a good one later? Or will teams instead focus on the strength of the draft — pitching, pitching, and more pitching — and go best player available, thus pushing hitters down the board?

Concerns aside, these players are still top-level prospects who should feel confident enough in their draft stock to begin daydreaming about their big first round pay days ahead.

Confidence Level —> As high as it gets without being a stone cold lock

  • Tier 4 —> 8 players

LHSP James Paxton, LHSP Mike Minor, SS DJ LeMahieu, OF Jared Mitchell, OF Kentrail Davis, RHSP Trent Stevenson, RHSP Zack Wheeler, RHSP Jacob Turner

Much like the group prior, these latest 8 prospects should feel really good about getting the chance to hear their names called on draft day. We’re up to 24 overall players through 4 tiers with definite consensus first round grades at this point in the process. The biggest reaches on this group are the two fastest risers of the bunch – Paxton and Stevenson.

Confidence Level —> Beginning to waver slightly, but still feeling good about 7 of the 8 players listed winding up as first rounders…which player or two (or three) doesn’t make the cut is anybody’s guess

  • Tier 5 —> 6 players

RHSP Alex Wilson, RHSP Ryan Berry, LHSP Andy Oliver, OF Brett Jackson, RHRP Jason Stoffel, RHSP Matt Hobgood

With the inclusion of Tier 5, our grand total of potential first rounders is now up to a nice, round 30. There are 32 first round spots up for grabs this year. Of note, Wilson and Berry are both Texas-based college guys that have risen in tandem up the boards this spring, Oliver has seen a dip in his stock but could still easily be a tier or two higher (I’m doing my best to be conservative here), and Stoffel is another hard to judge player based on the position he plays.

Confidence Level —> Nobody predicts who will go in the first round over two months ahead of time, so confidence is low that these are the right names. However, and remember this is me going out on a limb (something I’m too big a pun to normally do), at least three of the five college guys will be first rounders. Bold, right?

  • The Rest…

3B/OF Matt Davidson, 3B Bobby Borchering, C Max Stassi, SS Jiovanni Mier, OF/2B AJ Pollock, OF Brian Goodwin, RHSP Kendal Volz, RHSP Sam Dyson, LHSP Brooks Raley, SS Robbie Shields, SS Ryan Jackson, RHSP Mychal Givens, RHRP Brad Boxberger, C Josh Phegley, C Tony Sanchez, RHSP Keyvius Sampson

16 other names in the mix as potential first rounders bringing our final tally to 46 players duking it out for 32 spots. If I had to bet, I’d say Borchering and Mier wind up as first rounders based little more on the fact that a) the first round needs more high schoolers, and b) the first round needs more hitters, especially if said hitters can defend at important infield positions.

Who am I missing? Who do I have that won’t wind up a first rounder come June?

Why Do College Catching Prospects Always Fail?

Photo Source: About.com

Photo Source: About.com

Alright, always might qualify as a bit of hyperbole (you can’t make it in this world without shock value, you know?), but it’s not as big of a stretch as it sounds. A quick scan of college catching prospects over the past few gradable drafts (gradable meaning we are far enough away to begin accessing what worked and what didn’t, thus eliminating the past four drafts, for now) show college catchers to be an awful investment for big league clubs to make.

The impetus for doing the research, such as it is, was pretty simple. Going through the upcoming draft’s available talent, position by position, revealed what I thought was a simple truth – boy, do these college catchers stink. However, since that initial reaction, I’ve come to a) appreciate some of the potentially undervalued mid-round players, and b) learn to accept the reality that college catchers are largely an underwhelming lot.  With a little historical perspective, this year’s class doesn’t look so bad, all things considered.

The research below follows a fairly simple methodology. I took five draft classes – recent enough to be relevant, but with enough time past to give the players a chance to develop – and simply assessed the success/failure of every college catcher drafted. I began by looking at the first ten catchers taken in each draft class. The number ten was chosen for two reasons – 1) it’s a nice round number and people just love round numbers, and 2) I had originally decided to make my 2009 college catching prospect list a top ten (I’ve since expanded it, but more on that later…). From there, I pulled out the college catchers from the previously selected draft classes and did a very scientific, high tech analysis of each player. My highly sophisticated method of measuring success/failure was based on a complicated, hard to comprehend question; for each catcher, I asked myself the following: is this player a “useful” major leaguer or not?

There are flaws in the research, something I recognize and feel obligated to point out. Five years is hardly a representative sample, the absence of the success/failure rate of other positions is a real drawback (I’d love to compare and contrast these findings with, say, the success rate of college middle infielders or something), and the vague terminology (“useful”) is open to interpretation…all of these are definite flaws that should be taken into consideration going forward. However, sometimes the data paints such a clear picture that it’s difficult to envision being able to draw any other conclusion.

After the jump, the damning evidence that college catching prospects don’t want you to see…

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2009 MLB Draft: College Big Board Report Cards

Things have been quiet around here lately, but for good reason…it’s report card season! Yes, I do have a day job that may keep me updating from time to time, and, yes, filling out report card after report card takes priority over draft coverage – sad, but true. However, with all that grading in the books, it’s time to move on. What better way to celebrate than by doing some more grading!

In case you’ve been busy like me and haven’t kept up with some of the top college prospects, below the jump is a look back at our earlier College Big Board 1.0 (just the top 25 this time) with grades based on their performance through the first three weeks of the college baseball season. (more…)

2009 MLB Draft: College Big Board 1.0

1. Steven Strasburg (RHSP – San Diego State)

Alright, so far this is pretty easy…

2. Alex White (RHSP – North Carolina)
3. Grant Green (SS – Southern California)
4. Dustin Ackley (OF – North Carolina)
5. Kyle Gibson (RHSP – Missouri)

White is a confusing prospect. On one hand, he’s second on the board and, while Green may be very close behind him at number three, is a worthy candidate to go number two overall. On the other hand, if we pretended Strasburg wasn’t draft-eligible this year, would White as the number one pick in the country feel right? That may be a silly way of looking at it, but I can’t help it. Maybe it’s more about my personal hangup about what a number one overall pick should be. I like White a lot and genuinely believe he can front a big league rotation, but it would feel like a weak draft if he went number one overall. Ugh, that makes no sense. I’m just thinking out loud, disregard this paragraph…

6. Mike Minor (LHSP – Vanderbilt)
7. Tanner Scheppers (RHSP – Fresno State/St. Paul Saints)
8. Aaron Crow (RHSP – Missouri/Forth Worth Cats)
9. Andrew Oliver (LHSP – Oklahoma State)

Minor is a personal favorite and higher on this list than he’ll sure be on others – watching Cole Hamels every fifth day the last few years has turned me into a huge backer of lefties with plus changeups. Scheppers is also higher here than he’ll be on most rankings, but, remember, this ranking is based on the assumption of good health into the summer.

10. Josh Phegley (C – Indiana)
11. Mike Leake (RHSP – Arizona State)
12. James Jones (LHSP – Long Island)
13. Kendal Volz (RHSP – Baylor)
14. Mike Nesseth (RHSP – Nebraska)

Phegley as the third ranked college bat may seem a little strange, but his statistical profile is hard to ignore. He heads up an underrated group of college catchers that feature a surprisingly high number of players on the list – well, maybe it isn’t all that surprising, but it was surprising to me as I put the list together, whatever that’s worth. Leake over Volz is a little strange, but it came down to present plus command and movement over potential power plus stuff across the board.

15. Sean Black (RHSP – Seton Hall)
16. Jake Locker (OF – Washington)

Sometimes I have a hard time letting go. I know I previously admitted having Locker = poor man’s Grady Sizemore burned into my brain, but Sean Black this high could be just as egregious a selection. Black was a big prep prospect not too long ago who has failed to live up to the hype at Seton Hall. Loads of raw talent + more difficult playing conditions (subpar team, so-so conference, and colder weather) = potential sleeper prospect. Locker will fall down the list (and eventually off altogether) as other players emerge this spring, but I had to put him way up here as a nod to his prodigious talent.

17. Kentrail Davis (OF – Tennessee)
18. Robbie Shields (SS – Florida Southern)
19. Jared Mitchell (OF – Louisiana State)
20. Kyle Seager (2B – North Carolina)
21. Rich Poythress (1B – Georgia)

Counting Locker at 16th, that gives us sixth straight position players in a row. How about that? These five should all be big league starters if all goes according to plan, though only the two outfielders profile as potential all-stars.

22. Sam Dyson (RHSP – South Carolina)
23. Chris Dominguez (3B – Louisville)

All or nothing, here we come. Dyson’s arm is electric, but his injury history and control both need some cleaning up. Dominguez has his detractors, but two plus tools (arm and power) make him stand out in a weak college class for hitters. If he puts it all together this season, expect crazy power numbers out of Dominguez, especially in Big East play.

24. Ryan Ortiz (C – Oregon State)
25. DJ LeMahieu (SS – Louisiana State)
26. Trevor Coleman (C – Missouri)
27. Robert Stock (C – Southern California)
28. Ryan Jackson (SS – Miami)

Five spots, only two positions. Sorting out the college catchers and middle infielders is one of the trickier things to do in this class. Ortiz is an underrated player because his skillset is so broad. Players like this often get overlooked for not having one standout tool to suck scouts in. LeMahieu is a far better hitter than Jackson, but they are close in the overall rankings because Jackson’s defense is outstanding. Big league front offices realize the importance of quality defense now more than ever, so where Jackson falls on actual draft boards will make an interesting case study in just how focused teams are developing their own standout defenders through the draft. As I already wrote about in the mock draft, Stock = catching version of Sean Black. Of course, baseball is a weird game so there may be more to the story than that simple equation (I like equations, by the way…if you haven’t noticed. We might be able to claim that Stock = Black without the catching disclaimer if the Southern Cal product has a big season on the mound for the Trojans.

29. AJ Pollock (OF/2B – Notre Dame)
30. Jason Stoffel (RHRP – Arizona)
31. Bryan Morgado (LHSP – Tennessee)
32. Kyle Heckathorn (RHSP – Kennesaw State)

Pollock is a hard player to figure, but if the position switch to second base actually sticks, he’ll fly up draft boards this spring. He is a very good basestealer, has playable pop, and is difficult to strike out. Pollock is one of the few I haven’t seen play yet, so I’m just throwing this out there…what about Chone Figgins as a comp?

33. Ben Tootle (RHRP – Jacksonville State)
34. Shawn Tolleson (RHSP – Baylor)
35. Jake Cowan (RHSP – San Jacinto JC)
36. Blake Smith (OF/RHSP – California)

The first junior college player to make the list is a righty with a great frame, 95 MPH fastball, and three plus pitches. Cowan, the former Virginia recruit, will be in contention to be the first juco player picked in 2009.

37. Tyler Lyons (LHSP – Oklahoma State)
38. Jeff Inman (RHSP – Stanford)
39. Ryan Weber (RHSP – St. Petersburg JC)

Weber is the second junior college arm on the list, a fact worth noting because neither the aforementioned Jake Cowan or Weber is Daniel Webb. Webb, the consensus top junior college talent, failed to crack the top fifty. Blazing fastball or not, he was just too raw a prospect for our tastes.

40. Micah Gibbs (C – Louisiana State)
41. Matt Thomson (RHSP – San Diego)
42. Brad Boxberger (RHRP – Southern California)
43. Tommy Medica (C – Santa Clara)
44. Brad Stillings (RHSP – Kent State)
45. Steve Fischback (RHRP – Cal Poly)
46. Nick Hernandez (LHSP – Tennessee)
47. Gavin Brooks (LHSP – UCLA)
48. Jordan Henry (OF – Mississippi)
49. David Hale (RHSP – Princeton)
50. Ben Paulsen (1B – Clemson)

And that’s 50. Not a very inspiring last group, but, let’s be real, it’s not a very exciting year for high-end college talent. I think I picked the wrong year to start doing this…

Check back all weekend long for occasional updates on college baseball’s opening weekend.

2009 MLB Mock Draft 1.0

First, an apology. The Angels have picks 25 and 26 from the Mets and Yankees respectively, the Mariners have pick 28 from the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, and the Rockies have the Angels pick at 33, the last pick of the first round. This mock took a bit longer than anticipated to complete, so it still reads as if the original draft order stands. Subsequent versions will have the updated order and picks. Please accept my apology in the form of a 6,511 word mock draft written for an event four and a half months away. Full first round mock draft after the jump…

AP Photo

Photo Credit: AP Photo

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