We’ve covered the 2011 freshmen. We’ve covered the 2010 sophomores. We’ve even dipped our toe into the 2009 college draft pool by looking at a few of the top seniors eligible to be picked four months from now. Time to finally dive right in and take a look at some potential impact talents available to your favorite team this June. Draft-eligible sophomores ready and raring to get picked in the 2009 Rule 4 Draft after the jump, but be forewarned, writeups may be more less detailed than in other classes due to the crazy amount of virtual ink expected to be spilled for these players over the next few months…
C – Micah Gibbs (Lousiana State)
1B – Matt Smith (Mississippi)
SS – DJ LeMahieu (Lousiana State)
OF – Kentrail Davis (Tennessee)
OF – Jake Locker (Washington)
OF – Riley Cooper (Florida)
I searched and searched, yet I’m still missing two spots on the All-Draft-Eligible Sophomore team. No second baseman. No third baseman. I’m embarrassed. After spending more time than I’d like to publicly admit trying to find the missing players, I must admit defeat. Suggestions welcome.
Gibbs had a big freshman season, showing off tremendous plate discipline and impressive enough gap power to have earned a shot at hitting cleanup for the Tigers in 2009. He is also an above-average defender behind the plate. Smith is another youngster expected to carry the load for an SEC school by batting in the fourth spot in the lineup. He isn’t a favorite of scouts and won’t be a high round pick this spring, but he could rise up draft boards with more time spent producing in school.
LeMahieu’s defense has been questioned in the past, but he’s gotten stronger at short since his high school days. That said, his big league frame (6-4, 200…and growing) could necessitate a switch to third as a professional. He still looks like the kind of player you let play off of a premium position before moving him down the defensive spectrum, but it’s nice to know he has enough baseball instincts and a quality arm to handle third if need be. What stands out about David John LeMahieu at the plate is his very strong wrists capable of muscling balls the other way.
Kentrail Davis is a consensus first round talent, but there are still questions concerning his frame (5-9, 200), contact skills (56 K’s last season, almost 25% of his at bats), and ultimate defensive position. I haven’t seen Davis play in person yet, so any report I have on him is secondhand. I find this extremely frustrating because, of all the draft-eligible players this season, he is one of the most polarizing. As you’ll soon see, I’m no Davis backer. Early information I received on him wasn’t overly positive – bad body, iffy defense and arm confining him to leftfield, good but not great bat. Reports on his defense and arm have been good of late, but questions regarding his positional future will linger through June. If he can play center, he’s a first round lock. If he’s a leftfielder only, he could slip. His downside might be Marlon Byrd, but that comparison may be too relient on the body comp and not enough on actual skillset.
Jake Locker is one of my guys. I’ve heard a couple Grady Sizemore comps on Locker over the years that have totally zapped me of any objectivity I may have when talking about him. So, let’s focus on the negatives. Locker is a football player first, so it’s very hard to gauge where he’ll be on organizations’ draft boards this spring (if he’s on them at all), but his raw talent stacks up with any college hitter in this year’s draft (sorry, too positive?). Oh, how about this one – he won’t actually be playing baseball this year as he rehabs from a football injury. Locker could very well be a nonfactor on draft day, but the talent makes him worth mentioning until he officially comes out and says he’ll never consider giving baseball a shot professionally.
Let’s stick with the high upside, two-sport star theme and talk about Riley Cooper from Florida. Cooper had top three round talent as a baseball playing footballer in high school, but fell to the fifteenth round due to his very strong commitment to Urban Meyer’s Gators. It’s all raw talent with Cooper because his production (.207/.303/.379) thus far is a couple doubles short of even being called “weak.” He has apparently committed to baseball “full-time” as of a few days ago, so he has at least that edge on Locker, if nothing else…
Devin Harris (East Carolina), Addison Johnson (Clemson), and Kipp Schutz (Indiana) are all other names to watch that could surprise this spring.
RHP – Sam Dyson (South Carolina)
RHP – Mike Nesseth (Nebraska)
RHP – Shawn Tolleson (Baylor)
Dyson and Nesseth are both fantastic prospects with first round caliber arms. Nesseth is one of my favorite pitchers in the 2009 draft, but there are questions about whether he has the ability to remain a starter as a professional. Dyson is an extremely hard thrower coming back from a serious labrum injury. Tolleson throws hard and has a frame with room to add even more velocity as he matures. He also figures to be even stronger as more time is put between his Tommy John surgery as a high school senior.
Tolleson’s Baylor teammate, Craig Fritsch, Graham Stoneburner (Clemson), and Antwonie Hubbard (Oklahoma) all received strong consideration for spots on the list.
LHP – Mario Hollands (UC Santa Barbara)
LHP – Bryan Morgado (Tennessee)
LHP – Brooks Raley (Texas A&M)
Morgado’s big fastball, first round caliber stuff, and status as the Volunteers Friday starter makes him the marquee name of the bunch. Hollands is a steady young lefty with plus pitchability who stands to gain velocity as his body matures. Raley is the fun wildcard who is currently slated to be the Aggies Friday starter, a huge accomplishment on such a loaded pitching staff.