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Orioles, Dalles, and Cowan

I normally try to avoid the two things I’m about to do. I don’t like linking to somebody’s work if I can’t provide my own interesting take and, seeing I rarely have any interesting to say myself, I shy away from this popular (and easy to produce!) blog tactic. I don’t know, it just feels cheap to me to just throw up a link without adding to the conversation. I also really don’t like quoting myself because it feels tacky to me. Of course, now that I’m stumped on any ideas for new content, I’m more than happy to go all cheap and tacky if it’ll make my life easier. There’s a lesson in all this somewhere, I bet.

Enough with the boring introduction, onto the main course. I love these insider-y takes on scouting, the draft, and player valuation. The more first hand accounts detailing young mostly unknown players’ skill sets, the better.  Check it out, I’ll wait.

I enjoyed reading this piece entirely on its own merit, but once I realized it mentioned a couple of my favorite somewhat below the radar prospects from 2009 I knew that I had to squeeze a post out of it. The first name that caught my eye was Justin Dalles, catcher from South Carolina. I wrote this about him back in the day:

Dalles is exactly the kind of sneaky high upside, low risk that warrants taking a chance on once the top prep players on your wishlist are all long gone.

I waffled on his draft position before settling on him being taken in the 7/8 round range. He eventually went to Baltimore in the sixth. Baltimore scouting director Joe Jordan claims Dalles is an average defender with a slightly above-average arm, good enough athleticism, and a chance to have a bat worthy of starting in the bigs. Interesting.

I also loved Jake Cowan, ranking him as high as 13th overall among college righthanders and 1st overall out of the entire junior college ranks. Here’s what I said about him almost a year ago:

1. Jake Cowan (RHP – San Jacinto CC – Texas): Cowan combines a plus 95 MPH fastball with two above-average secondary offerings. A fastball like that coupled with strong secondary stuff makes Cowan stand out above his junior college peers. There are players below that have great fastballs, there are players below that have decent secondary offerings, but no player below combines the two quite like Cowan. To use an all too often repeated scouting cliche, Cowan is as much a pitcher as he is a thrower and that’s a very good thing going forward.

According to Jordan, Cowan was sitting 92-93 with the fastball, showing good sink on the pitch, in addition to a good slider and a decent changeup. It’s funny how you can see the vague scouting report from last February was inflated a smidge or two, but Cowan is no less of a prospect just because he didn’t hit 95 this summer or show as impressive a changeup as expected. The Orioles claim he was a third round talent that fell to them in the tenth. Not a bad gamble that late in the draft.

Now if only they didn’t take Matt Hobgood, future bust, with their first rounder. Alright, maybe I don’t really believe he’ll be a bust, but I certainly wasn’t enamored with the pick at the time. Anyway, that’s my conclusion. Impressed how I tied everything together there at the end? No? Don’t care, time for the weekend!

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

A Quick Word on Three College Catchers

Josh Phegley doesn’t deserve all the fun, does he? Time to give a little bit of love to the three left behinds in yesterday’s second to last (thankfully) top college catching prospect tournament or whatever the heck I’ve been calling it. Anyway, the losers yesterday were Tommy Medica, Justin Dalles, and Travis Tartamella. In no particular order, here are three college catching prospects that I think will be among the first ten or so best in the 2009 Rule 4 Draft…

Photo Source: Ben's

Photo Source: Ben's

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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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