I’ve started to make some prospect rankings lists, but am realizing that there are some really tight competitions in certain conferences and position groups. Last night I was rolling along as I put together a list of the best 2010 draft eligible position players in the ACC until I hit a roadblock at around the tenth spot. There were four shortstops on my shortlist that hadn’t been included, so I figured, hey, why not tease that ranking out a bit to see how the four players ranked head to head to head to head?
Virginia Tech JR SS Tim Smalling
Height, Weight: 6-3, 207
Birth Date: 10/14/87 (Age-22 season)
FR – .288/.389/.397 (21 BB/27 K; 1-4 SB)
SO – .250/.309/.442 (17 BB/61 K; 6-8 SB)
JR – (transferred in from Arkansas; sat out 2009 season)
rJR – .436/.482/.667 (5 BB/7 K; 2-3 SB)
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.
Duke JR SS Jake Lemmerman
Height, Weight: 6-2, 185
Birth Date: 5/4/89 (Age-21 season)
FR – .283/.353/.373 (15 BB/24 K; 5-7 SB)
SO – .287/.355/.448 (20 BB/32 K; 13-16 SB)
JR – .293/.391/.520 (11 BB/14 K; 4-5 SB)
Lemmerman, the youngest and best defensive player of our quartet, is a good runner (22-28 career SB) with enough untapped potential with the bat to legitimately claim an everyday role professionally someday. Lemmerman is already a plus defender with quick hands, above-average range, and an uncanny knack for turning the double play. If his strong offensive start to 2010 is for real, as many believe, he could hear his name called anywhere between rounds 5 through 8 on draft day. The renewed interest in defense should help Lemmerman as much as just about any player in this year’s college class.
Virginia SR SS Tyler Cannon
Height, Weight: 6-0, 205
Birth Date: 8/30/87 (Age-22 season)
FR – .279/.350/.354 (20 BB/46 K; 8-12 SB)
SO – .252/.324/.345 (23 BB/45 K; 14-17 SB)
JR – .351/.451/.489 (35 BB/41 K; 17-19 SB)
SR – .368/.442/.566 (10 BB/12 K; 0-2 SB)
Cannon is solid in all phases of the game, but lacks fluidity on defense at any one given position. Between his lack of a true defensive home and his steady, but unspectacular bat, he has many believing his professional role will be that of a super-sub capable of playing literally every position on the diamond, including catcher. I’ve compared him to current big league utility infielder Eric Bruntlett (who hit .342/.463/.485 with more walks than strikeouts for Stanford in his third and final year as a college player) in the past, a resemblance many first think of as an insult, but one I consider to be a compliment. Cannon is a proven versatile defender at the college level who, as previously mentioned, doesn’t really have any glaring deficiencies in his tool set, minus a lack of long ball power.
It seems that the majority of area scouts like Cannon better than I do, so it really wouldn’t be a shock to see Cannon go first out of the players listed. I’ll stick to my guns and insist on liking the guys listed above due largely to their greater probability of sticking at shortstop professionally, but I can see how Cannon would be a player who would grow on you with repeated viewings. After all, my “insulting” comp Bruntlett went in the 9th round back in 2000. That seems like the area of the draft that Cannon’s final projection will likely be in June.
Florida State SR SS Stephen Cardullo
Height, Weight: 6-0, 200
Birth Date: 8/31/87 (Age-22 season)
FR – .273/.308/.545 (1 BB/2 K; 0-0 SB; limited at bats)
SO – .387/.473/.613 (11 BB/14 K; 2-3 SB; limited at bats)
JR – .376/.476/.612 (45 BB/46 K; 20-24 SB)
SR – .324/.449/.437 (13 BB/13 K; 5-5 SB)
Cardullo’s defense is arguably the weakest of this bunch, but his junior year numbers are simply too wonderful to be ignored. Those numbers are made all the more impressive when you consider Cardullo started with Florida state as a walk-on who only earned 73 at bats through the end of sophomore year. The junior year breakout came completely out of nowhere, but Cardullo has managed to maintain some of the gains (largely those made in his mature, discipline approach at the plate) while still showing just enough of the gap power to keep scouts believing he has enough pop to spend a 15th to 20th round pick on him. I liken him to a less acclaimed version of former teammate Tony Delmonico, 2008 6th round pick of the Dodgers. Delmonico has seen time behind the plate and on the right side of the infield in the minors so far, a path that could be the best hope for Cardullo (who already has some college experience at both first and second) to follow if he wants to someday crack a big league roster. Without sounding too much like a broken record, defensive value through versatility will be a large part of what gets any of the above players to the big leagues. Steady defense at all five defensive spots + professional approach taken to every at bat + gap power + average speed = potential big league utility player.