1. Bryce Harper – C – College of Southern Nevada
2. Jameson Taillon – RHSP – The Woodlands HS (TX)
3. AJ Cole – RHSP – Oviedo HS (FL)
It would take something pretty funny to happen this spring to knock either Harper or Taillon off of their comfortable 1-2 perch in my rankings. Harper’s numbers (.362/.426/.681 at CSN through 47 at bats) don’t even begin to tell the whole story of how damn impressive he has looked so far. I mean, come on, have you seen the triple yet? Kid can move a little bit for a big guy, right? All of the backlash against Harper so far has been founded entirely on one of two premises – 1) no 17 year-old should be getting this kind of ridiculous hype, and/or 2) in a given year there are close to 1500 prospects drafted, so why is that the only player I ever read about on the websites for ESPN/SI/MAJOR SPORTS MEDIA GIANT OF YOUR CHOOSING is this Bryce Harper kid? Overexposed is not a synonym for overrated. That’ll be my non-stop mantra until June, especially so long as Harper throws up a .350/.425/.600+ line, so better get used to it now.
Hey, remember the last time we had pre-draft scouting reports on a high school pitcher with the last name Cole? Plus fastball, plus potential breaking ball, average change, projectable frame? All of that applies to AJ Cole as well, I think. Harper and Taillon get the majority of the attention at the top of the draft (and rightfully so), but Cole’s upside makes him the third best prospect in the draft by a good measure.
4. Nick Castellanos – 3B – Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL)
5. Austin Wilson – OF – Harvard Westlake HS (CA)
I’m unabashedly in love with the potential Castellanos has shown at the plate. With the way he has dropped down the experts’ boards this winter, I’m starting to feel all alone in my adoration. Wouldn’t be the first time. Reservations about his defense keep me from fawning incessantly about his pro potential — obviously his stock takes a dip if he is a 1B and not a 3B, a judgment that I’m not really qualified to make at this point in time — but I’m otherwise blinded by the beauty of his swing. I feel similarly about Wilson’s five-tool upside. As I said in the January Mock, Wilson could be this year’s Donovan Tate or Wilson could be this year’s Brian Goodwin. Too early to tell at this point, though my aggressive ranking tips my hand a bit.
6. Deck McGuire – RHSP – Georgia Tech
7. Brandon Workman – RHSP – Texas
8. James Paxton – LHSP – Kentucky?
Three college arms (or “college,” in Paxton’s case) above Anthony Ranaudo? What’s up with that? McGuire has the best three-pitch mix of any 2010 pitcher, Workman has an elite fastball and curve combination with room to grow, and Paxton possesses the best lefthanded stuff in the class.
9. Zack Cox – 3B – Arkansas
10. Chris Sale – LHSP – Florida Gulf Coast
11. Kyle Blair – RHSP – San Diego
Sale and Blair ranked over Ranaudo is a little harder to understand than McGuire, Workman, and Paxton, but let me try to explain the rationale. Sale’s another pitcher with a quality three-pitch mix and plus fastball command. Blair is similar to Workman in that both pitchers have already flashed special stuff, but still have huge amounts of untapped potential. As for Ranaudo, well, here is a quick breakdown on his stuff, based on what I’ve seen: fastball – good velocity, very good command, too straight at times; changeup – good velocity separation, good sink, underutilized; curveball – very good pitch when it is good, very hittable pitch when it isn’t, inconsistent velocity, shape, and command, but definite plus potential. Here’s something on Ranaudo I’ve been meaning to publish in the College Team Profile: LSU. It still needs some editing, but here goes nothing:
Everybody saw him when he was at his relative worst, completely worn down and exhibiting diminished velocity during the College World Series. His heater was sitting only in the upper-80s and the sharpness on his 12-6 curveball, the secondary offering generally considered his finest, was noticeably absent. I caught Ranaudo for the first time during the middle of conference play last season and came away impressed. His fastball was 91-93 MPH consistently, hitting as 94 at its peak. Many outlets regard his curve as a superior pitch to his change, but Ranaudo’s 82-84 MPH sinking changeup impressed as much as his high-70s curve, a pitch that flattened out too often and stayed consistently up in the zone.
In fact, the one thing I’d love to see first addressed with Ranaudo as a professional is his tendency to leave balls up. Darn near everything he threw, especially his fastballs and curves, were left up. Ranaudo is 6-7, 220 pounds and should be able to us e his frame to his advantage when attempting to generate a more favorable downward plane on his pitches. In fact, don’t be shocked to hear many of the experts assume that the big righty gets that great downward movement and the ensuing groundball outs that come with it. It’s a fine theory and one that will be correct more often than not, but in this instance it’s wrong. My quick 2009 GO/AO ratio using the publicly available data for Ranaudo is 0.71. That number would be best compared against all pitchers that make up the college ball landscape, but, alas, we’re stuck making an assumption of our own in lieu of spending far too much time and energy ginning up all that data. The assumption here is that 0.71, a number that more or less says Ranaudo induced 100 air outs for every 71 groundball out, makes the big LSU righty a pretty clear flyball pitcher.
All of the “non-skill” stuff with Ranaudo grades out as excellent. He gets high praise for his competitive makeup, he is an above-average athlete who prides himself on staying in tremendous baseball shape, and the LSU coaching staff has widely acknowledged his receptiveness to learning as much as possible about what it takes to be a big game pitcher. He had a healthy sophomore year, but it is still possible questions linger in the minds of clubs worried about the two missed months his freshman year due to tendinitis in his right elbow. Another season of healthy, dominant baseball in the SEC should put a lot of the haters’ (like me) doubts to bed.
It isn’t that I don’t like Ranaudo as a prospect, it’s just that I like a few of the other prospects in his class a little bit better.
12. Anthony Ranaudo – RHSP – LSU
13. Jesse Hahn – RHSP – Virginia Tech
14. Drew Pomeranz – LHSP – Mississippi
Hahn is only this high up based on the assumption/belief that he’ll continue to pitch well as a starter this spring. His performance as a starter on the Cape probably shouldn’t overshadow two iffy seasons out of the bullpen collegiately, but I’m a sucker for big fastballs, projectable frames, and high-K guys. Pomeranz isn’t particularly similar to Andy Oliver from last year, but I could see the lefthander having a draft day drop reminiscent to Oliver’s fall to the second round in 2009.
15. Cam Bedrosian – RHSP – East Coweta HS (GA)
16. Bryce Brentz – RF – Middle Tennessee State
17. Dylan Covey – RHSP – Maranatha HS (CA)
18. Kaleb Cowart – RHSP/3B – Cook County HS (GA)
19. Stetson Allie – RHSP – St. Edward HS (OH)
20. Karsten Whitson – RHSP – Chipley HS (FL)
The Top 20 is rounded out by a grouping that includes five of the best young righthanded amateur arms in the country. I love Bedrosian, ranking him higher than just about anybody and happy to have him as my third highest ranked prep righty after Taillon and Cole. His power stuff and potential for a decent change make me a believer. As for the other pitchers, here’s something grom my look at the Top 10 High School Righthanded Pitching Prospects back in December. Not a whole lot has changed my mind about them one way or another at this point, except for maybe beginning to wonder if Cowart’s future is not on the mound. I still think he has more upside as a pitcher than as a third baseman, but that’ll be worked out in the spring.
Covey, Cowart, Allie, and Whitson form a pretty logical quartet of high school arms. All four are big fellas (Covey is the shrimp of the group at a round, but athletic 6-2, 200 pounds), with big fastballs (all four have hit at least 95 on the gun at one point or another), and big questions that could define them come draft day. Covey, my current favorite of the four, has the easiest questions (inconsistent mechanics and command, plus a less than idea young pitcher body type) to answer going forward, especially when you consider how far he has come to answer one of those questions (his command has looked sharper every time I’ve seen him) already. Whitson, currently ranked fourth in this little subgroup, has a potential dynamite 1-2 punch with his fastball (sitting 91-93, hitting 95-96) and slider (works best in the mid-80s, but has shown up as a less effective slurvy high-70s CB at times), but I think his mechanics will need something pretty close to a complete overhaul as a professional. Cowart has grown on me just as much as a hitter than as a pitcher lately, but his potential on the mound is still vast. Cowart is as likely as anybody on the list to shoot up to the top of the subgroup and could, I stress could, actually challenge the more established top two if everything breaks right. Everything Cowart throws moves downward, from his sharp high-80s slider to his low-80s split-fingered changeup. Allie has the most electric arm of the foursome, but has been plagued by up and down command and control throughout his career on the high school showcase circuit. He also doesn’t have quite the secondary stuff as some of his contemporaries.
21. Matt Harvey – RHSP – North Carolina
I was stubborn with both Sean Black and Robert Stock last year, keeping their rankings higher than most had them because I couldn’t let go of the upside they had once shown as high schoolers. If I swing and miss with my equally stubborn Harvey ranking this year, I think it’ll be time to rethink my stance on prep stars turned disappointing college players. For now, however, I’ll remain blockheaded enough to keep Harvey up near the Top 20. I need college prospects to show three average or better big league pitches to convince me that they can start professionally. Harvey has shown, at various points in his development, that he has an above-average to plus fastball, an above-average to plus curve, and an average to above-average sinking changeup. Of course, he has also shown below-average fastball velocity, inconsistent curves, and a babied change. I said this during the January Mock and it holds up pretty well now – “If the right scouting director sees him on the right day, he’ll go high. If not, he’ll be lumped in with the rest of the college guys who project as relievers hoping to get a spot in the first five rounds.” I’ve been lucky to personally see him throw on the right days, but I’m not about to turn a blind eye toward his inconsistency.
22. Tony Wolters – SS – Rancho Buena Vista HS (CA)
23. Stefan Sabol – C – Aliso Niguel HS (CA)
Two prep players currently at the top of their respective position lists. Many downgrade the pair because they don’t think either will last in their spots defensively, but not me.
24. Sammy Solis – LHSP – San Diego
25. Alex Wimmers – RHSP – Ohio State
The strength of the draft really comes through when you see players of this quality falling this far down the list. It’s not hard to envision a slew of high school players performing well enough this spring to push some of the quality college talent out of the back of the first round. What a coup that would be for the teams drafting in the supplemental first and/or early second round.
26. LeVon Washington – CF – Chipola College
27. Christian Colon – SS – Cal State Fullerton
Wolters and Sabol are a pair that I have higher than most; Washington and Colon represent the opposite end of that spectrum. I love Washington’s tools (plus speed, plus arm, plus range in CF), but still question the long-term prognosis with the stick. Colon is more good than great across the board, and I’d prefer a higher upside prospect if I was drafting high in the first round. Again, I should point out that I’m probably underrating how valuable a potentially league average (or even better, according to those higher on his tools than I) shortstop really is.
28. Justin O’Conner – SS/C – Cowan HS (IN)
29. Manny Machado – SS – Brito Private HS (FL)
Of all the players here in the bottom half of the Top 30, O’Conner has the best chance of any prospect to rise up into the top half. Even now I’m wondering why it is I had Wolters above him in the first place. I’m really late to taking a liking to Machado because, quite honestly, I view him as being pretty close to a high school version of Colon. High probability of sticking at short, but no ridiculous tools that make you stand up and take notice. Steady, not spectacular. I’m beginning to come around and see the value in steady, but I’ll never totally stop lusting after spectacular.
30. Jarrett Parker – CF – Virginia
31. Rob Brantly – C – UC Riverside
Two college guys with legit production against high-level competition, in addition to impressive toolsets. Toolsy + Productive = First Round Grade. I also like my comps on each player, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise coming from an egomaniac such as myself. Jarrett Parker = Lastings Milledge. Rob Brantly = Derek Norris. Genius!
32. AJ Vanegas – RHSP – Redwood Christian HS (CA)
33. DeAndre Smelter – RHSP – Tatnall Square Academy (GA)
34. Brian Ragira – OF – James Martin HS (TX)
Ragira is a volatile prospect with loads of upside who should have enough defensive value to remain worthwhile even if the bat doesn’t develop as expected. He also has the best full name in the entire draft – Brian Aosa Mogaka Ragira. Vanegas can throw four pitches for strikes, a rare and beautiful thing for a high schooler. The Smelter = Kevin Brown comp is beginning to gain steam, based largely on Smelter’s outstanding power arsenal highlighted by Brown’s signature pitch, a deadly 82-84 MPH splitter.
35. Justin Grimm – RHSP – Georgia
36. Sam Dyson – RHSP – South Carolina
37. Gary Brown – CF – Cal State Fullerton
I’m almost done a brief writeup on Gary Brown for the Top 2010 Draft-Eligible Big West Outfielder piece, but I’ll throw out some of my unedited notes to fill the void until I polish everything up. Here’s the basic idea, in wonderful comp form. As you can see, I’m pretty high on the guy…
Watching Brown play reminds me of watching any number of successful big league players. He resembles Shane Victorino for his defensive range in center, plus speed, and intriguing power/speed combo; I see some Chone Figgins (pre-2009 breakout, mostly) in the way he’ll be an incredibly valuable player due to defensive versatility despite having only an average arm; at his very best, I see some young Johnny Damon, especially if his power potential comes around the way I expect.
I had Dyson 19th on my personal Big Board heading into the 2009 draft, by the way.
38. Drew Cisco – RHSP – Wando HS (FL)
39. Leon Landry – CF – LSU
40. Rick Hague – SS – Rice
41. Aaron Sanchez – RHSP – Barstow HS (CA)
Love Hague’s defense, but still see too many holes in his bat to envision him putting up consistently acceptable contact rates professionally. Landry could be 2009 first round pick Jared Mitchell with more power. Cisco’s bloodlines give him a huge leg up on the mental side of pitching, a nice advantage to have when many of the high school righthanders are so tightly bunched. Cisco’s cerebral approach, plus command, and, you guessed it, above-average potential with three different pitches make him a prospect worth watching. Many scoff at his underwhelming present fastball velocity, however. We’ll see.
42. Kevin Jacob – RHRP – Georgia Tech
43. Derek Dietrich – 3B – Georgia Tech
A pair of Yellow Jackets with solid upsides and reasonably high floors; Jacob is the top ranked pure reliever on the list, and Dietrich is a good bet to be a steady everyday third baseman professionally. Natural comparisons between Dietrich and former Georgia Tech third baseman Wes Hodges make sense, but, despite very similar production, I think Dietrich has superior tools.
44. Kris Bryant – 3B – Bonanza HS (NV)
45. Kolbrin Vitek – 3B/2B – Ball State
46. Josh Sale – OF – Bishop Blanchet HS (WA)
47. Rob Segedin – 3B – Tulane
Including Dietrich, this now makes 4 of the last 5 players on the list third basemen. Weird. Bryant gets compared often to Troy Glaus, a really good comp based on body type, raw power potential, and defensive skillset. Offensively, however, I think the player his absolute ceiling professionally matches up closest with is Arizona’s Mark Reynolds. That’s some serious upside, but the gap between where Bryant currently is and where he needs to be is gigantic. Vitek reminds me of Bryce Brentz without a publicist, but another big college season will finally get the kid his proper due. Segedin will get his fair share of digital ink this spring, beginning with a nice little writeup on this very site in Friday’s Draft Notebook.
48. Blake Forsythe – C – Tennessee
49. Yordy Cabrera – SS – Lakeland HS (FL)
50. Victor Sanchez – 3B – San Diego
Forsythe is my kind of player – patience and power combined with more power and a little extra patience. Anecdotally it seems that teams tend to reach on third basemen on draft day (no idea if this is true or not, I need to check recent draft history one of these days), so Sanchez could hear his name called a round or two earlier than many currently project. I like him as a draft prospect more than most, but that goes back to my undying love of highly skilled prep players with disappointing college resumes. I actually got some really positive news on Yordy Cabrera this very morning, so now I’m already regretting dropping him this far down. If there is one high school player in the draft I’d love to see play in person, it would be Yordy.