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Colorado Rockies 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Colorado 2011 Draft Selections

Without actually looking through the top of every team’s draft, I have to say the Rockies first three picks have to be up there near the top of any trio in the league in terms of ultimate big league upside, especially when Colorado’s relative draft position for each pick is taken into consideration. Oregon LHP Tyler Anderson has top of the rotation stuff, but that’s boring. I mean, hasn’t top of the rotation upside become the norm when we’re talking first day arms from this past year’s college class? Anderson’s arsenal includes a low-90s fastball he commands really well, a hard low-80s slider that works best when thrown with more velocity, a mid-70s curve that works as a solid “show-me” pitch, and a maddeningly inconsistent low-80s changeup that flashes plus at times but isn’t used enough by Anderson to perfect. On top of that, he’s a good athlete with good size (6-4, 215 pounds) and impressive knowledge of pitch sequences. His delivery is a fluid and repeatable, and his velocity stayed constant through most of the spring. Outside of his bouts of inconsistency with a few of his offspeed pitches, there really isn’t much to nitpick here. I’m guilty of being too positive on first round prospects at times, but it is tough to find fault with this year’s group of college pitchers.

Oregon JR LHP Tyler Anderson: 88-92 FB, 93-95 peak; well above-average FB command; good 76-84 SL that is better when thrown in low-80s; average 80-83 CU that flashes plus but isn’t used enough; good 75-78 CB; good pitchability; repeats delivery well; good control; holds velocity well; 6-4, 215

Francisco Lindor received all of the pre-draft hype – and deservedly so, of course – but Irving HS (TX) SS Trevor Story was a second first round caliber high school shortstop prospect who was a great value pick for the Rockies in the comp round. His defensive upside rivals that of the shortstop currently playing for Colorado’s big club. His offense won’t ever begin to approach what Troy Tulowitzki has and will do, but that’s an unfair standard to set for any young player. A scout who saw him this spring compared his offensive upside to Marco Scutaro. A high contact hitter who is also a plus defender is a prospect any team would be happy to have.

Trevor Story is about 90% of Francisco Lindor with only about 10% of the hype. His biggest tool is the draft’s best infield arm, a literal rocket launcher (note: arm may not be literally a rocket launcher) affixed to his upper body capable of producing consistent mid-90s heat. His range at short is more good than great, but his crazy arm strength actually helps in this regard as it enables him to play back far enough in the hole. Unlike Lindor, I think more of his hit tool than his raw power – his swing is at its best when geared towards making solid contact, and he actually hurts himself when he overswings to create more power.

I shouldn’t even bring up the name here because even I know it is silly, but East Brunswick HS (NJ) OF Carl Thomore, before his injury, could have been a draft prospect on par with Mike Trout. There are two important bits of information there that make all the difference: 1) “before his injury,” and 2) “draft prospect.” The injury part is self-explanatory, but the draft prospect line is worth expanding on. The 2011 version of Mike Trout is very different from Mike Trout the draft prospect. That’s not an excuse for so many teams missing out on Trout back in his draft year. The Angels obviously saw enough in Trout to project him beyond what any team picking they did managed to see. Despite my blathering on about him, this isn’t about Trout. Carl Thomore has first round tools across the board (speed, power, and arm top the list) and a lightning quick bat. He’s going to take time to mature as a ballplayer, but his upside is immense.

[above-average speed; shows all five tools; above-average power; plus bat speed; above-average arm; personal favorite]

Bethune-Cookman C Peter O’Brien surprised everybody when he didn’t sign as a third round pick this past June. He surprised everybody again when he announced his intention to transfer to Miami with the hopes of being eligible to play for the Hurricanes in 2012. If deemed eligible, I think this is a genius move on O’Brien’s part. He now has the opportunity to play big time college ball in a major conference for a team with legitimate postseason aspirations. Scouts who questioned his defense and ability to make enough contact – the same questions that were asked last year at this time, by the way — will get many marquee ACC matchups to come see him play. Bonus points for doing all of that while soaking up his last year of limited responsibility in the awesome college backdrop Miami provides. 99% of the time I think players should take the pro money and not think twice (if I was O’Brien’s “advisor” I would have begged him to sign with the Rockies), but quality of life, even if that “life” is only one year, shouldn’t be ignored. Maybe this is all an overreaction because I foolishly spent my four undergrad years in snowy Boston, but good on O’Brien for taking the road less travelled.

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.

Westbury Christian HS (TX) OF Dillon Thomas reminds me a little bit of another all-bat Texas high school outfielder JP Ramirez. I liked Ramirez a lot back in his draft year, but don’t quite have the same instinctive feel pulling me towards Thomas. As a rule I tend to be bearish on prospects that rely almost exclusively on their hit tool for value, so take my lack of love for Thomas with that in mind. If nothing else, we can be sure that through all the trials and tribulations of pro ball, Thomas won’t “go gentle into that good night.” Sorry, everyone.

Texas Christian SS Taylor Featherston’s most likely outcome, according to the noted draft expert me, is an offensive-minded backup infielder. His defense up the middle will determine whether or not he’ll ever hold down a starter’s spot. With few exceptions, it seems Colorado likes these kind of bat-first prospects for the infield while doing the complete opposite in the outfield (those guys tend to be super athletic and excellent, versatile defenders).

In much the same way I now link Motter and Loy together in my head, Nick Ahmed and Taylor Featherston stick together as similar prospects in many respects. Like Ahmed, Featherston has good size, above-average athleticism, average speed, and gap power. Featherston also faces similar questions about his eventual defensive landing spot. For now, I like Featherston to stick at shortstop. The defensive strides he has made from his freshman season to today give me reason to believe he has only scratched the surface on what he can do at shortstop. He doesn’t profile as ever having an above-average glove at short as he still has the tendency to do too much in the field at times, but I’d rather see a player going all out to make plays than have a steady, error-free performer who won’t get to nearly as many balls. If his most realistic outcome is as an offensive-minded backup infielder, so bet it.

San Diego RHP Chris Jensen went back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation in college, but his fastball and sometimes good sometimes bad upper-70s breaking ball work better in the bullpen. He’s a mostly generic relief arm, though it’d be rash to dismiss any young arm who can hit 94 on the gun.

San Diego JR RHP Chris Jensen (2011): 92-94 FB; good but inconsistent 76-79 breaking ball         

North Carolina State 1B Harold Riggins has intriguing upside for a bat-first seventh round college prospect. He’s a sneaky good athlete and a strong defender who could turn himself into an interesting stopgap starting first baseman for a team in between players at the spot. If nothing else, he could be a lefty mashing half of a platoon. The problem with Riggins is the same problem we talk about over and over and over and over again. To be a starting big league first baseman, you have to really hit. Much as I like Riggins, I don’t think he, or for that matter any 2011 college first baseman save maybe CJ Cron, can really hit.

Riggins has done a great job of getting his body into better shape over the years, but you have to wonder whether or not the loss of bulk had some impact on the decrease of his power numbers. It could also just be the switch in bats, but you never know. Like Ramirez one spot above, I think I like Riggins’ surprisingly effective defense at first just as much as his above-average raw power.

I’m kicking myself for underrating San Jose State LHP Roberto Padilla. Now that I look back at my notes (below) on him, I’m seeing a steady three-pitch mix with good enough command to potentially start. His fastball is a little short, but you can live with that with a lefthander when he also has a plus change and a solid curve.

San Jose State JR LHP Roberto Padilla (2011): 87-89 FB, 90-92 peak FB; plus CU; average to good CB; good command

Texas A&M RHP Ross Stripling returns to school as an interesting senior sign for 2012. I like him as a two-pitch relief option (love his curve) at the next level, but he should log starter’s innings this spring for the Aggies.

Texas A&M JR RHP Ross Stripling: 90-94 FB; plus CB that he uses a ton; good athlete

St. Olaf RHP Ben Hughes throws a variety of pitches and, good news for the Rockies, most of them are good ones. His splitter shows the most promise and he commands his upper-70s curve well. Hughes has the repertoire to start, but might have stuff that will play up best in relief.

St. Olaf SO RHP Ben Hughes (2011): 88-91 FB, peak 93; 78-80 average breaking ball; improving CU; splitter that flashes plus; 6-5, 210

Pepperdine OF Brian Humphries (Round 14) has all the tools to succeed at the next level, but comes with legitimate questions about why he never put up the big numbers expected of him in college. His value is tied up in his ability to do everything pretty well, though hit tool is probably his best singular attribute. With baseball instincts befitting a big league veteran and great athleticism, Humphries’ average speed plays up in center, where his range is well above-average, with the way he a) gets jumps on balls immediately off the bat (instincts!), and b) covers a ton of ground in those first few moments a ball is in the air by accelerating much quicker than he runs underway (love those quick twitch athletes). He’ll never hit for much power, but you could do a lot worse than having a defense-first backup outfielder who consistently makes hard contact. He may not be the player many thought he’d be back when he enrolled at Pepperdine, but he could still help out a big league club down the line.

Pepperdine JR OF Brian Humphries (2011): very good athlete; good arm; average speed; leadoff profile; strong hit tool; questionable power upside; line drive machine; really good baseball instincts; above-average CF

Of course, if Humphries isn’t your cup of tea you could always take a sip of Northern Colorado OF Jarod Berggren (Round 32). No, I take that back. Please don’t take a sip of anybody; that’s just weird. Instead of drinking Jarod Berggren, I suggest watching him play instead. Much of what I said about Humphries applies with Berggren, except the former Northern Colorado standout has much more power upside. Both he and Humphries seemed to have struggled under the weight of high expectations some. Fortunately, they were both drafted into a Colorado farm system adept at helping outfield prospects find the niches they were born to fill.

[plus speed; above-average arm; good to plus raw power; 6-3, 205]

I’ve touted Virginia Tech SS Tim Smalling (Round 15) as an early round pick since the site began, so it is nice to see him finally get his professional career under way for no other reason than I won’t have to write about him anymore. What you see is what you get with Smalling at this point: he’s a steady, versatile defender with nice pop and not a whole lot of patience. Smalling reminds me of another one-time Colorado draftee (tenth round, Indiana State, 2000) who is now in position to make himself a few bucks in free agency: Clint Barmes. I’ve never been a huge fan of Barmes (career .302 OBP explains that) and I hope my favorite team doesn’t pick him up to play shortstop, but there’s little doubt that Smalling (and the Rockies) would be ecstatic to have even have the career Barmes has had so far.

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

Colorado wasn’t able to lure Florida 1B Preston Tucker (Round 16) away from the college game, but did bring in another player at the position who was sure to sign as a senior in Fresno State 1B Jordan Ribera (Round 21). Ribera had a huge junior season, but suffered through a total offensive meltdown his senior year. His early pro numbers are nothing to write home about, but if you buy that there’s even the tiniest sliver of hope Ribera can rediscover his power stroke then you have to like the gamble here in the 21st round. I have no such reservations about Tucker’s bat. The upcoming draft is deficient in high level college bats, so don’t be shocked if he gets selected in the top five rounds, minimum.

Take a minute and process Ribera’s 2011 numbers. That’s one complete and utter collapse. I can’t believe that it is entirely the new bats to blame, like some have insinuated. Unlike Channing, Ribera doesn’t have the option of returning to school in 2012, so he can’t do much more than to hold out hope some team saw him at his best in 2010.

The case for Florida JR 1B Preston Tucker’s bat is strong; as a hitter, he is as close to big league ready as any player in the 2011 MLB Draft with plus present power and impeccable plate discipline. He’s also been praised for his crazy high baseball IQ and tremendous strength in his forearms, wrists, and hands. Of course, no scouting report on Tucker can be written without mentioning his body. Tucker won’t help whatever team drafts him “sell any jeans,” but he could help them win some ballgames, bad body and all.

In fairness to Tucker, his “bad body” is more about a height deficiency (generous listed at 6-0) than a weight surplus, so the typical concerns that follow less than ideally fit prospects aren’t warranted. In any case, I don’t care much about the “bad body,” especially when weighed against the practical plusses that come with his awesome wrist and hand strength. The unconventional swing mechanics also don’t bother me. If it works, and if it is projected to work going forward, stick with it. Plus power and plate discipline are an easy recipe for a high prospect ranking on this site, but I keep coming back to my general aversion to first base prospects. To be an above-average first baseman in the bigs, you either need to have a special bat, outrageously good defense, or a well above-average mixture of the two. Not sure Tucker falls into any of those three categories, but that doesn’t make him a non-prospect. There is some precedent for a player of Tucker’s skill set and body type going in the first round, believe it or not. In 2008, both Brett Wallace and David Cooper rode the wave of undeniably great college production and plus lefthanded power to become first rounders despite less than ideal body types. Tucker’s shot at the first round has seemingly come and gone, but I’d still pop the advanced college bat as early as the fifth or sixth round.

Louisiana State RHP Ben Alsup (Round 18) pitched better as a pro than he did during his disappointing senior year for the Tigers. There’s some sleeper potential here (good slider, solid change), but I wouldn’t go out buying any rookie cards just yet. A better bet would be North Carolina RHP Patrick Johnson (Round 25). Alsup and Johnson have similar stuff (replace Alsup’s slider with Johnson’s curve and they might as well be twins), but Johnson’s much, much better college track record makes the more intriguing prospect. His well-earned reputation as a bulldog on the mound could give him the chance to advance through the system as a thinking man’s reliever.

JR RHP Ben Alsup (2010) is in line to fill the all-important role of swingman of this year’s LSU staff. His low-90s fastball, above-average athleticism, and projectable 6-3, 160 pound frame all remind me of another pitcher formerly in the program that often saved the bullpen with multiple inning outings, Louis Coleman.

Patrick Johnson: 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.

Unsigned Regis Jesuit HS (CO) OF Connor McKay (Round 24) gets a mention here because his arrival on campus at Kansas is a really, really big deal for the program. If he’s healthy and in shape (that 6-6, 180 pound frame could use some filling out), he could be a big-time power threat in the middle of the Jayhawks lineup.

Carroll HS (TX) RHP John Curtiss (Round 30) is a stud who deserved first day consideration and likely would have gone in that range had teams not been scared off by his strong commitment to stay home and pitch for the Longhorns. It has been said before, but it bears repeating: Curtiss has the stuff (plus fastball, plus slider, average but improving change) and size to become a first rounder in three years.

RHP John Curtiss (Carroll HS, Texas): 88-92 FB with good sink, peak 93-95; plus 77-78 SL; good 82-84 CU; strong Texas commit; 6-4, 190

South Florida SS Sam Mende (Round 31) is a good defender who is a great athlete with both a good and great (grood?) throwing arm. That line seemed cleverer to me last night at one in the morning. Mende does have an excellent throwing arm that could have him tried on the mound if hitting doesn’t work out. I thought he was on the verge of a breakout heading into 2011, but his senior year numbers dipped ever so slightly from the year before. He’s somewhat similar to Tim Smalling in how there’s more power here than you’d expect from a shortstop, but not enough plate discipline to get too excited.

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.

Three More Quick Thoughts on College Baseball’s Third Weekend

1. The elite college pitching is really hard to keep up with. On Friday night, the trio of Andrew Chafin (10 K’s), Gerrit Cole (8), and Tyler Anderson (14) combined to total 24 innings of shutout, 9-hit baseball between them. Not to be outdone, Sonny Gray (9 IP 3 H 1 ER 0 BB 15 K) and Danny Hultzen (7 IP 2 H 0 ER 0 BB 11 K) also dominated in their Friday night matchups. Hultzen, the early favorite for the Golden Spikes Award, helped himself at the plate and on the base paths yet again, this time by walking three times and stealing two bases. On the year he has allowed 9 base runners in 20.2 innings on the mound while reaching base twice as often (13 hits and 5 walks in just over 40 plate appearances) at the plate. On the other end of the spectrum, it was disappointing to see Nick Tropeano struggle a little bit on the big stage against North Carolina, but, in what could be definitely be considered a silver lining (or grasping for straws at a really tiny sample size), he did manage to keep UNC’s best hitter Levi Michael quiet. Also disappointed to see Taylor Jungmann throw 120 pitches. I’ve been hesitant to downgrade Jungmann, but, in a year with so many premium college arms tightly bunched at the top, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility to see Jungmann dip below similarly, or in some cases slightly less, talented arms with more favorable college usage patterns.

2. Remember Player A from Friday? The guy who fit the following description: potential plus hit tool; line drive machine; gap power upside; leadoff man profile with above-average speed and good plate discipline; solid defender in CF; average at best throwing arm that grades out higher in terms of accuracy than strength; good track record with wood; great athlete with a pro body; 6-2, 175 pounds? That guy? His line for the weekend (6-9, BB, 2 RBI, 3 R, 2 SB, K) fit in nicely with his scouting report. 6 hits, all singles. Player B, meanwhile, was described like this: great physical strength; plus raw power; plus bat speed; average speed; average arm; good range in a corner; pitch recognition, or lack thereof, could make or break him; 6-2, 195 pounds. His line (7-12, 2 HR, 3B, 2B, BB, 6 RBI, 4 R, 2 SB, K) was also in line with the scouting reports (especially the power outburst), except with improved plate discipline. All in all, good weekends for both Johnny Ruettiger and Jason Coats.

3. No rhyme or reason behind the methodology of choosing players for this list, other than the desire of wanting to spotlight batting lines that intrigued me enough to jot down. As a draft-eligible sophomore coming off of an uninspiring freshman campaign, Andrew Susac was a prime “wait and see” player for me heading into 2011. It is still early, but, man, it is easy to like what the guy has done so far. All stats are from the weekend of 3/4 to 3/6…

  • Oregon State SO C Andrew Susac (7-13, 2 HR, 2 2B, 4 BB, 8 RBI, 9 R)
  • Bethune Cookman JR C Peter O’Brien (6-11, 2 HR, 2B, 6 RBI, 4 R, K)
  • Connecticut JR SS Nick Ahmed (4-5, HR, BB, RBI, 3 R, 2 SB on Saturday followed by 0-4 on Sunday)
  • St. John’s JR SS Joe Panik (7-11, 2B, 4 BB, 4 RBI, 7 R, 2 SB, K)
  • Virginia JR LHP/1B Danny Hultzen (2-4, 3B, 4 BB, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 SB)
  • LSU JR OF Mikie Mahtook (3-9, HR, 2B, 4 BB, RBI, 5 R, 3 SB, 2 K)
  • Oregon State SO OF Garrett Nash (5-12, 2B, 2 BB, 4 RBI, 9 R, 3 HBP, 2 SB, K)
  • Rice JR OF Jeremy Rathjen (4-12, 2 2B, BB, 3 RBI, SB, K)

Another draft-eligible Oregon State sophomore is primed to rise up draft boards if he can keep stringing together weekends like this past weekend’s. The biggest questions Nash needed to answer this spring surrounded his hit tool and the early returns, from a scouting perspective anyway, are positive enough. The big weekend only brought his season line up to .200/.409/.233, but the plus-plus speed and potential for plus defense in center remain strong points in his favor.

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