It’s purely coincidental that the first three conferences I’ve looked at have exactly four potential draft picks who play shortstop apiece. Weird. The order of these four really could be picked out of a hat and look about as good as what I’ve got here; we’re talking about a group of tightly bunched, similarly talented future utility guys, so I guess it makes sense that they are so close. Let’s see who is worth knowing in the Pac-10…
Stanford JR SS Jake Schlander
Height, Weight: 6-2, 195
FR – .232/.307/.256 (24 BB/41 K; 3-3 SB)
SO – .232/.288/.324 (16 BB/41 K; 3-4 SB)
JR – .283/.420/.472 (12 BB/7 K; 1-1 SB)
Jake Schlander can really pick it at shortstop, but his inability to make consistent contact, hit for power, and get on base regularly through his first two college seasons has put a damper on his pro prospects. He’s started since day one at Stanford, putting up lines of .232/.307/.256 and .232/.285/.324 in his freshman and sophomore year. Those are stunningly bad numbers. However, as mentioned, Schlander can really pick it at shortstop. I mean, he can really, really pick it. Plus range, flawless hands, strong arm; defensively, Schlander has it all. His defense is so good that I felt comfortable predicting that he’d be on draft boards back when his offensive numbers were, and I say this with all due respect, straight up horrible. One month into the college season Schlander’s bat has show such unexpected signs of life that it may be time to start recalibrating his final draft position’s ceiling. Before the season I wrote this: “Expect a forward thinking front office, maybe Seattle or Boston, to pop Schlander late (round 35+) against all offensive odds.” If the offensive gains can be maintained, Schlander could see his draft stock jump up 20 rounds. Too drastic a reaction to a small sample of early season plate appearances? Perhaps, but I’m alright with jumping the gun a bit when the tools are there to justify it.
Washington State JR SS Shea Vucinich
Height, Weight: 6-0, 183
FR – .316/.357/.440 (8 BB/34 K; 2-5 SB)
SO – .230/.341/.377 (27 BB/41 K; 8-10 SB)
JR – .358/.460/.604 (6 BB/13 K; 3-4 SB)
Reports on Vucinich’s defense vary depending on the day, but most seem to agree his upside with the glove is significant. I’ve even heard some evaluators touting him as a potential plus defender up the middle. He also has shown good power potential throughout his career with the Cougars. That’s the good news. The less good news is centered around Vucinich’s aggressive approach at the plate. His free swinging ways help explain some of power output (swing hard at anything around the plate and sometimes the ball goes very far), but it’s also gotten him in trouble in the past. Something about his skill set had me really curious about locking down some worthwhile comps. Best two I came up with are former Padres starting SS/2B Damian Jackson (44th rounder) and current Red Sox minor leaguer Tug Hulett (14th rounder). It wouldn’t surprise me to see Vucinich split the difference between the two, both in eventual draft landing spot and pro career accomplishments.
Arizona JR SS Bryce Ortega
Height, Weight: 5-11, 175
Birth Date: 9/22/88 (Age-21 season)
FR – .326/.409/.429 (25 BB/24 K; 13-15 SB)
SO – .324/.420/.438 (31 BB/32 K; 16-18 SB)
JR – .258/.390/.274 (11 BB/4 K; 9-9 SB)
Ortega put up very consistent numbers in his first two full seasons at Arizona, but has taken a step backwards in the power department in the early going of 2010. As a matter of fact, he’s the only one of the four players listed who has experienced a decline in his performance so far in 2010. The most commonly cited reason for Ortega’s early season struggles relate back to his transition from shortstop (a position he is more than capable of playing, for the record) to second base; not sure I buy it, but it’s a thought. Strong base running and good patience have long been the bedrocks of his offensive game, so it’s good to see those areas remain consistent despite his 2010 contact and power deficiencies. Patience at the plate, a two-year track record of pop (2010 be damned), excellent base running instincts, and a versatile glove fit the potential utility infielder mold pretty well, don’t you think?
UCLA JR SS Niko Gallego
Height, Weight: 5-11, 180
Birth Date: 12/29/88 (Age-21 season)
FR – .317/.378/.415 (2 BB/7 K; 1-2 SB)
SO – .273/.361/.326 (16 BB/34 K; 6-10 SB)
JR – .305/.411/.542 (8 BB/8 K; 5-5 SB)
Gallego didn’t do much to impress in his first two years with the Bruins, but experience in two quality wood bat summer leagues (Northwoods League and Cape Cod League) and pro baseball bloodlines (father Mike had almost 3,000 big league at bats) make him a good bet to hear his name called on draft day. The quality start in 2010 certainly doesn’t hurt his prospect stock, but, again, his pro future maxes out at utility player. He doesn’t quite have dear old dad’s glove, but may have more upside in his bat than the .239/.320/.328 career line put up by his father. Speaking of comparisons to Mike Gallego, enjoy this quote from former Arizona State head coach Pat Murphy on comparing Gallego the senior to Dustin Pedroia:
I’ve been trying to figure it out and I can’t. Mike Gallego is a good friend of mine and I used to tell him that he reminded me of Gags. That used to piss Pedroia off. He would say ‘Mike [expletive] Gallego, are you [expletive] me?’ and he would say that all the way back when he was a freshman. Can you imagine a freshman in college baseball reacting like that when you’re comparing him to a Major Leaguer…but that’s exactly the way Pedro is.