The Baseball Draft Report

Home » 2010 » April

Monthly Archives: April 2010

Update: 2010 MLB Draft Top 30 College Second Base Prospects

Click to see the completed top 30 all in one spot right here! Or scroll down one post. Or forget those fools ranked 30-6 and just focus on the top five, republished below…

5. Louisville SR 2B Adam Duvall – I’m as big a Louisville fan (prospect-wise) you’ll find outside of Kentucky, so take the Duvall ranking with a grain of salt. His speed and defense aren’t elite, but he’s strong enough in both areas. It’ll be his bat that gets him his shot as he rises to minor league prominence. Duvall reminds me a lot of great deal of 2009 fourth round pick Derek McCallum. Both players have really nice swings who should each hit for good averages with enough extra-base hits to keep pitchers honest.

4. Stanford JR 2B Colin Walsh – I wrote before the season that Walsh had a really pretty swing that caused scouts to project more power in his future. The future is now. Walsh’s excellent results on the field have finally caught up to his positive scouting reports. He also has an outstanding glove at second that may actually be good enough to work at shortstop, giving hope that he can be a utility infielder in the mold of Marco Scutaro someday. His offensive progression with Stanford actually reminds me of former Cardinal Cord Phelps, but, and this bears repeating, Walsh’s glove is outstanding. Phelps was a third rounder as a hitter with slightly less college production, a bit more physical projection, and a significantly lesser glove. 2010 is a really strong draft, especially near the top, but I’d still say that comparison bodes well for Walsh come draft day.

3. Chipola JC FR 2B LeVon Washington – Thought Washington wasn’t worth a first round grade in 2009, but the Tampa front office’s seal of approval is enough to make any good draft fan reconsider. His plus speed remains a major strength, as does his strong contact skills and intriguing power potential, but his post-injury noodle arm is a concern at any defensive position, even second. Even though I’m still not personally sold on the bat playing at higher levels, there is little denying Washington’s four-tool upside.

2. West Virginia JR 2B Jedd Gyorko – I’m not a scout, so I try not to pretend to be one if at all possible, but, if you’ll indulge me just this one, I have to point out the marked difference between Gyorko’s 2010 swing and his 2009 swing. The majority of his damage last season came on guesswork when he’d get nearly all his weight shifted up on his front foot and hack away. His stride is way more efficient this year, with a vastly improved, far more balanced load and launch. Very encouraging progress. Defensively, Gyorko will never be known for his range, but his soft hands should enable him to make all the plays at balls hit at or near him. The two most prevalent (and optimistic) comps are Kevin Youkilis and Dan Uggla, but ultimately Gyorko’s power upside pales in comparison. For me, Gyorko’s upside is that of the new Ben Zobrist.

1. Ball State JR 2B Kolbrin Vitek – Modest son of a gun I am, I’d never toot my own horn about getting out ahead of a prospect’s emergence, but, seeing as I’m wrong 95% of the time, give or take, I’d figure now is as good a time as any to point out this gem from early January: “Vitek’s tools all grade out similarly to fellow small school sensation Bryce Brentz. They both have plus bat speed, good plate discipline, and plus power potential. They are also both two-way players who have had success on the mound collegiately, though only Vitek could actually pull of the trick of being a legit draft prospect as either a hitter or pitcher. In addition to a glove/arm combination that will definitely play at third professionally, Vitek does all the little things well that make scouts (and wannabe’s like me) very happy. He is a sensational base runner, works deep counts, and has one of the coolest names this side of Yordy Cabrera. Vitek’s utter dominance of the Great Lakes League this past summer sealed the deal for me. He may not be a first rounder in June, but he is as good a bet as any college hitter in the 2010 to be an impact player in the big leagues.” Ha, I called him “Bryce Brentz without a publicist.” Genius prognosticating and comic gold. The myth of the next Jim Callis/Steve Martin super-hybrid has finally been realized.

2010 MLB Draft: Top 30 College Second Base Prospects

30. Howard JC SO 2B Marcellous Biggins – Raw on the bases, in the field, and at the plate, but when you are this far down the list a plus tool like Biggins’ speed is enough to get noticed.

29. Pacific JR 2B JB Brown – Above-average hitter in the mold of Josh Vitters, Howie Kendrick, and Placido Polanco. Of course, those three names were superior prospects at various points in their respective development; I’m talking about the type of hitter, not necessarily the quality of hitter. Brown is a notorious hacker, but has shown an uncanny ability to swing at pitches he can handle. Hitters like this are typically far too batting average dependent to emerge as successful professionals, but they make for interesting case studies as they progress through the minors.

28. Sam Houston State JR 2B Braden Riley – Another player with an interesting hit tool, but probably not enough power or patience to advance too far up the ladder professionally.

27. Kent State JR 2B Jared Humphreys – Really good athlete with plus speed and great baseball instincts who is capable of playing a variety of positions on the diamond. He’s probably best defensively in the outfield, but his bat players much better at second. Could be an organizational player who wears down a team over

26. Connecticut JR 2B Pierre LePage – Stock is lower here than in other spots, an opinion based largely on his groundball inducing swing plane and lack of meaningful physical strength. In his defense, LePage qualifies as the type of player who grows on you every time you watch him play; pro scouts love guys like that. He can do just enough of everything, and do it all pretty well, but his slap hitting style could get the bat knocked out of his hands as a pro.

25. North Carolina State SR 2B Dallas Poulk – Four years of starter’s at bats have finally paid off for the hard working Poulk. Long considered the inferior prospect to his cousin, Drew, Dallas’s ultra productive 2010 season has finally gotten the attention of area scouts. What they are seeing is another potential organizational player at second, but one with just enough juice in his bat to make a conversion to catching a worthwhile risk.

24. Arizona JR 2B Rafael Valenzuela – Less toolsy, less athletic version of Jared Humphreys, but similar defensive versatility and solid hit tool. What separates Valenzuela is a more professional approach at the plate and, despite less upside, a greater chance of helping a big league team someday.

23. St John’s JR 2B Greg Hopkins – A college third baseman better suited for second in the pros, Hopkins is a very well-rounded ballplayer who grades out with at least fringe average tools in all areas but foot speed. His 45 arm should be enough for second, and his gap power is better suited for the keystone sack than third. Looks like another organizational guy with the upside of a utility player.

22. Central Florida JR 2B Derek Luciano – His name makes me think slick fielding, speed middle infielder, but in reality Luciano is a below-average runner and inconsistent fielder who will have to rely on his lefthanded power if he wants to make it in pro ball. His good, but not great 2010 season has tempered some of the pre-season enthusiasm surrounding his prospect stock.

21. Florida JR 2B Josh Adams– Personal favorite heading into the year has struggled as one of the veteran anchors of a young Gators lineup. His scouting reports are largely favorable, despite the subpar junior season. Like a few other names below him on the list, Adams will be helped by his positional versatility as he tries to make it in the pros as a utility guy.

20. College of Charleston SR 2B Joey Bergman – Any regular reader should know that I wasn’t a Christian Colon fan coming into the year. To fill the void atop my shortstop rankings, I stubbornly tried to convince myself that there was somebody at the college level better. The one name that came up in conversations with people smarter than I am multiple times was Joey Bergman, but always with the caveat that he won’t stick at the position as a pro. Ultimately, nobody could vouch for any player over Colon at shortstop, but the positive vibes I kept hearing when discussing Bergman stuck with me. He’s another versatile defender who can play both up the middle spots, and his high contact rate bodes well going forward.

19. Georgia Southern SR 2B AJ Wirnsberger – The position-less Wirnsberger is on the second base list by default because, well, his bat is good enough to get him drafted, but his glove leaves much to be desired. Unlike a few other defensively flexible players on the list, Wirnsberger projects as a utility guy based more on a reputation as an iffy glove that needs to be hidden rather than a naturally versatile defender. The reason finding him a position is worth the trouble at all is the bat. A hotly recruited prep player, Wirnsberger has good loft on his swing and punishes mistakes, especially when he can get his hands extended. He could find a home behind the plate if a team believes his strong arm will play.

18. Miami SR 2B Scott Lawson – Lawson, Jemile Weeks’ successor at second for Miami, has done nothing but hit since stepping on campus. Above-average hit tool, fantastic plate discipline, ten homer pro pop, and strong defense across the board…can you tell he is a personal favorite? Lawson’s spot on the list begins a stretch of players that I think can play regularly in the big leagues if everything, and I mean everything, breaks right for them.

17. Clemson SR 2B Mike Freeman – Almost an identical player to Scott Lawson, but Freeman provides better footwork in the field and a smidge better speed on the bases. He also possesses one of the quietest, most compact swings I’ve seen at the college level in some time, and has a well earned reputation as a player who doesn’t go the plate without first knowing as much as possible about the opposition. Solid hit tool, above-average speed, good defender, efficient swing, veteran approach….obvious enough we have another personal favorite on our hands, right?

16. Canisius JR 2B Steve McQuail – McQuail has a pro body, pro power, and pro arm, but currently has too many holes in his long, loopy swing to profile as a regular. That said, McQuail’s tools are good enough to believe he has a chance to succeed professionally with the help of a good professional hitting instructor. I know I’m coming off like a broken record here, but when I read certain aspects of McQuail’s scouting reports (athletic, plus arm, only decent at second) I really can’t help but think some pro team has to think of him as a potential catching conversion.

15. Cal State Fullerton JR 2B Corey Jones – Jones is in pretty good company as the best 2010 draft-eligible Titan after a couple of guys named Christian Colon and Gary Brown. Live bat, power potential, and quickly maturing plate discipline, plus the possibility of some time back at his natural shortstop make for an intriguing pro prospect with more upside than your typical college athlete.

14. Southern JR 2B Curtis Wilson– Underrated player who is a good athlete with above-average speed and a really well rounded tool set. Biggest obstacle might be the lack of exposure and lack of one signature standout tool. Funny how a strength (no true weaknesses to his game) can be portrayed as a liability (no eye opening tool) in the next sentence. Speaking of second baseman from Southern, how awesome was Rickie Weeks? His junior year numbers: .500/.619/.987 with 27 steals in 27 tries. He’s probably the second baseman on my all-time favorite non-home team player team.

13. Kentucky JR 2B Chris Bisson– Steady enough to someday ascend to an everyday big league spot, but not currently in possession of any consistent standout tool. Noticing a trend yet? Bisson is lower here than ever I expected, but it’s more about liking the players ranked higher than disliking him. His upside is as a regular .275ish hitter (55) with low double digit homers (40) and above-average plate discipline. Add in a glove that borders on plus and you’ve got yourself a player that big league teams should start thinking about popping in the top ten rounds easy.

12. Kansas SR 2B Robby Price – Differences between Bisson and Price are more perception than reality at this point. Bisson offers up more speed and a little more power projection, but Price has the edge in the field and batting eye. For teams that go overslot both early (first 5 rounds) and late (round 25 and up) in the draft, the middle rounds — 10ish to 25ish — are an area where cheap organizational types are often gobbled up. Price fits that prototype, but is more talented than the typical fringe of the roster taken.

11. California JR 2B BJ Guinn – Might be good enough to hold an everyday job for a team that emphasizes speed and defense up the middle based on those two plus tools alone. The speed is very good, I don’t want to deemphasize his ability there, but it’s Guinn’s glove that really gets your attention. His arm may be a little short for the left side of the diamond, but his crazy range as second can’t help but make you wonder what kind of shortstop he’d be if given the chance.

10. Florida Southern JR 2B Wade Kirkland– For me, a better prospect than Robbie Shields, third rounder in 2009. Shields has more raw power and a better arm, but Kirkland has more present gap power and a more reliable glove.

9. Rutgers JR 2B Brandon Boykin– After excelling against relatively high level northeastern prep competition at Don Bosco Prep, Boykin has finally enjoyed a breakout season with the bat in year three at Rutgers. Friend of a friend of a friend told me the Phillies have him as a high priority mid-round middle infield target, no doubt because of his plus speed and surprisingly springy bat.

8. Cerritos CC SO 2B Joe Terry– The quintessential hitting machine who makes hard contact darn near every time he steps to the plate. He does more than just hit, however; Terry is also an above-average runner with a strong arm who, despite appearing to fight his body sometimes in the field, should settle in as at least an average second baseman with the help of professional coaching. He reinvented himself somewhat in 2010 sacrificing some power for a more patient approach, but the 19th round pick from 2010 has maintained that draft momentum all the same.

7. Alabama JR 2B Ross Wilson– Pretty clear scouting over statistics pick. Wilson has as much power potential and athleticism as any player below him on the list, but has disappointed scouts who expected much more with the bat this spring. His numbers all fall below the three magic thresholds (slugging below .550, more K’s than BB’s, way less than 20 steals), so his placement on this list is a testament to the confidence I have in a plus athlete figuring out how to apply his significant tools before long. High risk, high reward pick that could either emerge as a legit big league caliber starting player or flame out in AA.

6. Virginia JR 2B Phil Gosselin– Remains an average to slightly below-average infielder (capable of playing third and short in a pinch) with an average arm well suited for second base, who many believe may ultimately wind up in the outfield as a pro. That’s what I’ve heard, anyway. I’m not necessarily buying it; heck, his mere presence on this list indicates I think it would be best to keep Gosselin at second as long as possible professionally. He doesn’t have the glove/range for center, and doesn’t have the bat for a corner. If he isn’t a starting caliber outfielder, why not at least give him a shot in the infield? Coming into the year I thought his future was as a big league super-sub, but his big junior year has me thinking his bat could work at second if the glove cooperates.

5. Louisville SR 2B Adam Duvall – I’m as big a Louisville fan (prospect-wise) you’ll find outside of Kentucky, so take the Duvall ranking with a grain of salt. His speed and defense aren’t elite, but he’s strong enough in both areas. It’ll be his bat that gets him his shot as he rises to minor league prominence. Duvall reminds me a lot of great deal of 2009 fourth round pick Derek McCallum. Both players have really nice swings who should each hit for good averages with enough extra-base hits to keep pitchers honest.

4. Stanford JR 2B Colin Walsh – I wrote before the season that Walsh had a really pretty swing that caused scouts to project more power in his future. The future is now. Walsh’s excellent results on the field have finally caught up to his positive scouting reports. He also has an outstanding glove at second that may actually be good enough to work at shortstop, giving hope that he can be a utility infielder in the mold of Marco Scutaro someday. His offensive progression with Stanford actually reminds me of former Cardinal Cord Phelps, but, and this bears repeating, Walsh’s glove is outstanding. Phelps was a third rounder as a hitter with slightly less college production, a bit more physical projection, and a significantly lesser glove. 2010 is a really strong draft, especially near the top, but I’d still say that comparison bodes well for Walsh come draft day.

3. Chipola JC FR 2B LeVon Washington – Thought Washington wasn’t worth a first round grade in 2009, but the Tampa front office’s seal of approval is enough to make any good draft fan reconsider. His plus speed remains a major strength, as does his strong contact skills and intriguing power potential, but his post-injury noodle arm is a concern at any defensive position, even second. Even though I’m still not personally sold on the bat playing at higher levels, there is little denying Washington’s four-tool upside.

2. West Virginia JR 2B Jedd Gyorko – I’m not a scout, so I try not to pretend to be one if at all possible, but, if you’ll indulge me just this one, I have to point out the marked difference between Gyorko’s 2010 swing and his 2009 swing. The majority of his damage last season came on guesswork when he’d get nearly all his weight shifted up on his front foot and hack away. His stride is way more efficient this year, with a vastly improved, far more balanced load and launch. Very encouraging progress. Defensively, Gyorko will never be known for his range, but his soft hands should enable him to make all the plays at balls hit at or near him. The two most prevalent (and optimistic) comps are Kevin Youkilis and Dan Uggla, but ultimately Gyorko’s power upside pales in comparison. For me, Gyorko’s upside is that of the new Ben Zobrist.

1. Ball State JR 2B Kolbrin Vitek – Modest son of a gun I am, I’d never toot my own horn about getting out ahead of a prospect’s emergence, but, seeing as I’m wrong 95% of the time, give or take, I’d figure now is as good a time as any to point out this gem from early January: “Vitek’s tools all grade out similarly to fellow small school sensation Bryce Brentz. They both have plus bat speed, good plate discipline, and plus power potential. They are also both two-way players who have had success on the mound collegiately, though only Vitek could actually pull of the trick of being a legit draft prospect as either a hitter or pitcher. In addition to a glove/arm combination that will definitely play at third professionally, Vitek does all the little things well that make scouts (and wannabe’s like me) very happy. He is a sensational base runner, works deep counts, and has one of the coolest names this side of Yordy Cabrera. Vitek’s utter dominance of the Great Lakes League this past summer sealed the deal for me. He may not be a first rounder in June, but he is as good a bet as any college hitter in the 2010 to be an impact player in the big leagues.” Ha, I called him “Bryce Brentz without a publicist.” Genius prognosticating and comic gold. The myth of the next Jim Callis/Steve Martin super-hybrid has finally been realized.

College Second Basemen: A Brief History

Breaking news! College second basemen selected in the first 20 rounds of the MLB Draft need to show exceptional ability in one of three offensive categories –  power, plate discipline, or speed. I know, I was shocked to find out that big league clubs value those things as well. A quick study of early round college second basemen shows that 78% of college 2B taken in the top 20 rounds over the past three years showed standout skills in one of the three aforementioned areas.

Caveats for this quick and dirty study include a) small sample (only three years worth of data), b) unscientific standards (power = minimum .550 SLG; plate discipline = more walks than strikeouts; speed = 20+ stolen bases), and c) 2010 statistics were park and scheduled adjusted (thanks, College Splits!), but 2007-2009 statistics were left as is.

Tomorrow we’ll look at players in the 2010 draft class that fit the criteria, as well as a top 20…or 25…or 30…list of top college 2B prospects. To just give an idea of what information can potentially be teased out with these quick studies, three “big” name players that don’t currently (as of 4/26/10) surpass any of the three statistical benchmarks include Alabama JR 2B Ross Wilson, California JR 2B Brian Guinn and Central Florida JR 2B Derek Luciano. That’s not to say that the positive scouting reports on each will be ignored, but it’s something to at least consider going forward. On the flip side, there are three or four 2010 draft-eligible college second basemen with the chance to hit the over on all three statistical benchmarks. Identities revealed tomorrow.

Until then, check out the complete list of college second basemen taken in the top twenty rounds over the past three drafts. Slash stats are obvious (AVG/OBP/SLG), but the other two sets of numbers are BB/K and SB/SBA. Players that did not hit any of the three benchmarks are in bold. Players that hit on all three benchmarks denoted with the triple star (***) badge of honor.

2009

California JR 2B Jeff Kobernus: .341/.385/.544 (17/25; 20/24)

North Carolina JR 2B Kyle Seager: .393/.487/.592 (45/38; 13/14)

Minnesota JR 2B Derek McCallum: .409/.485/.741 (30/34; 6/6)

Cal Poly JR 2B Adam Buschini: .422/.484/.730 (21/26; 13/15)

LSU JR 2B Ryan Schimpf: .336/.449/.668 (44/50; 18/25)

*** Western Carolina JR 2B Nick Liles: .367/.421/.571 (21/21; 24/30)

Rice JR 2B Brock Holt: .348/.427/.560 (34/35; 11/16)

Pittsburgh JR 2B Chris Sedon: .398/.453/.796 (13/41; 19/25)

Southern Mississippi SR 2B James Ewing: .308/.384/.418 (26/19; 3/5)

*** New Mexico JR 2B Mike Brownstein: .414/.486/.611 (34/23; 20/26)

Belmont JR 2B Daniel Wagner: .323/.359/.523 (13/27; 24/28)

Coastal Carolina SR 2B Tyler Bortnick: .363/.461/.566 (38/33; 10/15)

Arkansas SR 2B Ben Tschepikow: .317/.398/.513 (31/33; 17/23)

UC Santa Barbara JR 2B Matt Valaika: .343/.413/.545 (13/16; 1/2)

2008

*** Miami JR 2B Jemile Weeks: .363/.452/.641 (35/38; 22/23)

New Orleans JR 2B Johnny Giovotella: .354/.470/.591 (53/25; 19/26)

Virginia JR 2B David Adams: .286/.384/.411 (41/39; 16/19)

Stanford JR 2B Cord Phelps: .351/.445/.587 (41/38; 6/10)

Delaware JR 2B Alex Buchholz: .319/.401/.515 (15/24; 4/6)

*** Cincinnati JR 2B Josh Harrison: .378/.437/.559 (25/20; 32/40)

California SR 2B Josh Satin: .379/.500/.723 (47/45; 6/9)

Tulane JR 2B Anthony Scelfo: .322/.453/.578 (54/46; 8/11)

Auburn JR 2B Matthew Hall: .279/.342/.411 (19/41; 7/10)

Belmont Abbey College SO 2B Alex Castellanos: .390/.452/.683 (15/22; 9/14)

Vanderbilt SR 2B Dominic De la Osa: .297/.410/.506 (36/54; 27/33)

Mississippi State JR 2B Michael Turner: .217/.217/.348 (0/1; 0/0)

Nebraska SR 2B Jake Opitz: .339/.434/.568 (37/26; 13/15)

Texas A&M SR 2B Blake Stouffer: .258/.399/.378 (47/48; 17/21)

Fresno State JR 2B Erik Wetzel: .365/.452/.495 (44/42; 12/18)

Florida Atlantic SR 2B Daniel Cook: .293/.410/.556 (21/16; 3/7)

UCLA SR 2B Alden Carrithers: .377/.484/.543 (40/32; 17/23)

Georgia Southern SR 2B Jeremy Beckham: .333/.434/.386 (26/22; 24/29)

Tennessee SR 2B Andrew Simunic: .297/.379/.370 (23/25; 20/23)

UC Irvine SR 2B Ben Orloff: .358/.414/.409 (21/16; 18/23)

Long Beach State JR 2B Jason Tweedy: .306/.370/.430 (10/26; 2/3)

Southern Mississippi SR 2B Trey Sutton: .315/.409/.457 (20/20; 3/5)

2007

Arizona State JR 2B Eric Sogard: .394/.488/.619 (39/23; 18/23)

*** Florida State JR 2B Tony Thomas: .430/.522/.733 (43/39; 31/36)

Loyola Marymount JR 2B Eric Farris: .349/.418/.466 (23/14; 33/42)

South Carolina JR 2B Travis Jones: .318/.416/.594 (28/46; 13/17)

Auburn JR 2B Russell Dixon: .313/.379/.470 (14/40; 0/2)

Wichita State JR 2B Damon Sublett: .354/.462/.496 (49/40; 14/16)

UC Irvine SR 2B Cody Cipriano: .339/.433/.605 (35/50; 10/15)

New Mexico JR 2B Jordan Pacheco: .397/.511/.580 (43/28; 7/10)

Mississippi JR 2B Justin Henry: .381/.450/.496 (30/21; 22/28)

Southern California JR 2B Matt Cusick: .324/.415/.412 (31/17; 10/15)

Tulane JR 2B Brad Emaus: .329/.439/.443 (41/23; 3/7)

Missouri State JR 2B Matt Lawson: .270/.313/.352 (13/43; 17/22)

Southern Indiana JR 2B Darin Mastroianni: .409/.484/.549 (31/22; 64/67)

Mississippi State SR 2B Jeffrey Rea: .343/.417/.412 (29/20; 13/17)

Texas SR 2B Nick Peoples: .329/.421/.488 (19/34; 18/23)

Tampa JR 2B Ryan Kennedy: .387/.485/.641 (42/18; 7/11)

Western Carolina SR 2B Kenny Smith: .390/.451/.759 (30/20; 14/16)

Louisville SR 2B Logan Johnson: .364/.488/.663 (35/29; 9/13)

Bryce Harper – The Importance of Makeup

There have been whispers out of Las Vegas for months now that presumptive first overall pick Bryce Harper’s, shall we say, “intensively competitive” and “self-assured” manner wasn’t playing all that well with the scouts assigned to watch his every step. This past week, however, those whispers grew just a teensy bit louder after Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus dropped the following in a piece about the lingering questions some talent evaluators still have about Harper’s lock on the top overall spot in the draft:

The Makeup: This should not be underrated. It’s impossible to find any talent evaluator who isn’t blown away by Harper’s ability on the field, but it’s equally difficult to find one who doesn’t genuinely dislike the kid. One scout called him among the worst amateur players he’s ever seen from a makeup standpoint, with top-of-the-scale arrogance, a disturbingly large sense of entitlement, and on-field behavior that includes taunting opponents. “He’s just a bad, bad guy,” said one front-office official. “He’s basically the anti-Joe Mauer.” How this plays into the negotiation or future evaluation is yet to be determined, as history has shown us that the bigger talent a player is, the more makeup issues teams will deal with. Bench players can’t afford to be problems, but plenty of teams happily put up with difficult superstars.

One of the most interesting and underrated aspects of the entire draft process is the depth in which area scouts go to uncover as much information about the prospects they are assigned to cover. If the NFL Scouting Combine really is the “world’s largest job interview,” as I’ve heard it referred to in the past, then the amateur scouting period in baseball is certainly in the running for the longest. Major League Baseball is a billion dollar industry with a finite number of job openings. Before investing large sums of money in a new employee, you’d better be darn sure you’ve done everything in your power to ensure that you are hiring a person you trust can get the job done. To that end, I have no qualms whatsoever with the abstract idea of “makeup.” Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of a player’s performance on the field is priority one, but that same evaluation of a player’s on-field abilities must be weighed against certain general personality parameters (“makeup”), especially traits that are believed could potentially alter future job performance.

Deciding on what traits could potentially alter job performance is entirely up to the individual doing the evaluating, I suppose. For me, “makeup” boils down to two main sets of questions. I first want to know whether or not the player is receptive to coaching. Will he put in the work to improve his game? Is he willing to listen when asked to consider trying a different approach or technique? Can he subjugate his ego long enough to take legitimate instruction from somebody paid to help him succeed? I then want to know how the player will react when things don’t go well. A large number of top amateur players, especially the high schoolers, have never experienced any kind of sustained stretch of significant athletic failure. How does the high school star who only knows the ups of hitting .600 and being the big man on campus react when suddenly hitting under .200 while riding lonely buses from Danville to Pulaski? This concern doubles back into the initial set of questions; when a player struggles, and it truly is a matter of when and not if, can he accept the professional coaching and support designed to help him become a big leaguer?

As far as the actual quotes cited in Goldstein’s piece, well, it appears to me as though an opportunity was missed. To the front-office official who called Harper “a bad, bad guy,” I’d really want to know if, based on the perceived seriousness of such an accusation, he would have the fortitude to go to his boss and recommend another player over Harper atop the draft board. Do these talent evaluators so willing to go on record about Harper’s makeup genuinely believe his “bad, bad” personality to be such a potential problem to his development that they would not want their employer to draft him? Are these personality issues so severe that the unnamed front-office officials don’t believe Harper will ever be able to fully harness his immense physical gifts? Or do the makeup concerns represent something closer to an annoyance, one not quite large enough to prevent Harper from superstardom on the field, but always lurking on the periphery as a warning not to do anything to upset the mercurial franchise player? I’d like to ask the front-office official whether he thought Harper’s makeup concerns were closer stylistically to Barry Bonds’ (entitled jerk off the field, destroyer of opposing teams’ dreams on it) or somebody like Darryl Strawberry’s (victimized by personal demons so severe that his on-field play suffered despite unrivaled physical talent)? As much as I think I know the answer to those questions already, I’d genuinely like to know how the front-office official would respond when pressed. Of course, that will never happen.

As someone who follows the draft almost exclusively as an outsider in the industry, I’m not privy to the kind of front-office member chatter that others can claim. I’m left to make the majority of my judgments on publicly available information. I won’t ever profess to having any insider knowledge about Bryce Harper’s personality or general on-field temperament other than what anybody else out there can read or see with their own two eyes. That said, Harper’s performance both on and off the field this season serves as a pretty strong argument in his favor. If I’m going on facts alone, the simple fact is Bryce Harper is having one heck of a year playing baseball. To accomplish all that has done on the field against players sometimes three or four years older while simulatenously dealing with the biggest amateur baseball media circus since, well I guess since Stephen Strasburg last season, but before that since as long as anybody can remember, is truly a remarkable feat. His on-field performance has exceeded even the most optimistic of projections and the coaching staff at Southern Nevada has been effusive in their praise of the kid. Really, what more can anybody realistically ask for a 17 year old catching prospect already dubbed the LeBron James of baseball playing wood bat junior college ball with the eyes of the industry watching his every move?

Since the article was published, by the way, Harper has put up the following batting line while splitting time in right field and behind the plate:

7-14, 4 HR, 2B, 13 RBI, 8 R, 2 SB, 1 BB, 1 K

That’s good for a weekend line of .500/.533/1.429. If Washington could fast forward the next six weeks and take Harper first overall tomorrow, they’d do it.

Alternate Reality MLB Mock Draft 2010: The NFL Takes Over

Roger Goodell rules the NFL with an iron fist, does he not? After finally tiring of wielding his unprecedented power of America’s Game, the commissioner now has set his sights on making big changes to America’s Pastime. First change? Unifying the draft order between the two sports. That’s right. This year’s MLB Draft order will be taken directly from the recently completed 2010 NFL Draft. As soon as the Rams went on the clock last night, so did the Cardinals. When the Lions celebrated taking the draft’s best player with the second overall pick, scouts for the Tigers were pouring over scouting reports of players they never believed they’d have a chance to get under the previous draft rules. Get the idea? Good. Prepare for more inanity with yet another Friday edition of an Alternate Reality Mock Draft!

1.1 St. Louis Rams/Cardinals: C Bryce Harper – Southern Nevada

As one of the few who believes Jimmy Clausen will be a better pro QB than Sam Bradford, allow me to express my hypocritical bewilderment that anybody in his/her right mind could think of a realistic scenario where Bryce Harper does not go first overall in the 2010 MLB Draft. The very thought of Harper not going first overall is pure lunacy, but, as mentioned, I realize that such a statement is at least a tad hypocritical coming from somebody who prefers a second round quarterback to the consensus number one pick in the draft. I’ve been told by certain fellow NFL Draft nuts that Bradford is leap years ahead of Clausen as a prospect; these certain people are ridiculously devoted to following college football and the NFL Draft, and, for whatever it’s worth, have dozens more meaningful contacts within the NFL than I do within MLB. They tell me that all, or at the very least nearly all, 32 teams have Bradford above Clausen on their boards. They tell me that certain teams viewed Bradford as the best QB prospect since Eli Manning. You’d think I’d be smart and defer to their expertise, but…no. I’m stupid. I admit it, but, based on what I’ve seen and read, I just like Clausen more. The doubts about his game are less significant to me than the ones surrounding Bradford. I get that some people may feel the same way about the gigantic risks associated with taking a prospect likely to demand more money than any silly junior college catcher should ever ask for. That’s fine. I’m being stupid about Clausen, so they can be stupid about Harper. Who am I to judge?

1.2 Detroit Lions/Tigers: RHP Jameson Taillon – The Woodlands HS (Texas)

Fireballing righthanded pitcher goes to Detroit with an early round selection. Feels vaguely familiar, doesn’t it? Taillon going second overall isn’t quite the slam dunk that picking Ndamukong Suh was, but it’s pretty close. Verlander-Porcello-Scherzer-Turner-Taillon. Scary.

1.3 Tampa (Bay) Buccaneers/Rays: RHP AJ Cole – Oviedo HS (Florida)

Stubbornly sticking with Cole as the second prep pitcher off the board, but slowly beginning to soften my once Gerald McCoy-esque strong position on the subject. Am I forcing these NFL Draft analogies a little bit? Anyway, as for the Tampa connection to the pick, well, I’d be lying if I had any actual idea what direction they’d go with their pick of any non-Harper/non-Taillon player on the board available. The Rays have very few easily discernible draft patterns, with perhaps the one exception being an emphasis on long-term upside stemming from faith in their magic touch with in-house player development. Cole or Karsten Whitson certainly fit the bill on the upside tip, and I was tempted to give them a bat like Manny Machado or Nick Castellanos. Ultimately, Baby Verlander is the pick.

1.4 Washington Redskins/Nationals: LHP Drew Pomeranz – Mississippi

Stephen Strasburg is joined by the potentially quick moving Pomeranz as a lethal 1-2 combination atop the Nationals rotation. If the presence of two ace caliber pitchers can’t get the fans out to the ballpark in Washington, nothing short of actually moving the Redskins back to the District will.

1.5 Kansas City Chiefs/Royals: RHP Karsten Whitson – Chipley HS (Florida)

Back in December I wrote this about Whitson: “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.”

Sounds like the slider has tightened up a great deal this spring and his changeup is much improved. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway – that’s very, very good news for his prospect stock. Next stop, consensus top ten pick!

1.6 Seattle Seahawks/Mariners: 3B Zack Cox – Arkansas

Wanted to give Jack Z an elite projectable high school arm or a plus defender at a premium defensive position, but, alas, no such player exists at this point in the draft. Cox, far and away the best college position player in 2010, is a swell consolation prize and, as an added bonus, gives the Seattle system someone with much needed power upside.

1.7 Cleveland Browns/Indians: RHP Deck McGuire – Georgia Tech

Both Cleveland and Kansas City stinking in both baseball and football really make this mock easy for me. I really like McGuire to Cleveland in a real mock, so it only makes sense to stick with him here.

1.8 Oakland Raiders/Athletics: RHP Anthony Ranaudo – Louisiana State

Buffalo and Jacksonville, owners of the next two picks in the NFL Draft’s first round, will both have to enjoy CJ Spiller and Tyson Alaualu instead of partaking in my fake NFL/MLB mock amalgalmation here. Injured college starting pitchers are the new Moneyball! I may not like a healthy Ranaudo as much as many seem to, but even I can’t quibble with a pro team scouting him and scouting him and scouting him until they are happy enough to slap a top ten grade on him. I’m opinionated, no doubt, but I also know my limitations; Ranaudo may not be my guy, but I can at least appreciate why some team is likely to grade him out as a top ten prospect.

1.9 Denver Broncos/Colorado Rockies: OF Austin Wilson – Harvard-Westlake HS (California)

Broncos? NFL? Draft? That can only mean one thing! TebowTebowTebowTebowTebowTebowTebowTebowTebow…

1.10 Miami Dolphins/Florida Marlins: SS Manny Machado – Brito HS (Florida)

Not really sure how well Machado would fit in Parcells’ 3-4, but he could potentially serve as a long-term successor to Hanley Ramirez in case the Marlins MVP ever has to move off the position. Also, he’s a local product and, let’s face it, lazy writers love plugging in local players to their nearest pro team when they have no other idea how to finish a mock…

More Data – April 22, 2010

Random sampling of some of the players I’ve kept track of so far this year…

***

School – Year – Pitcher – % of batted ball outs classified as “ground balls”

San Diego SR RHP AJ Griffin – 31%

Texas Tech JR RHP Chad Bettis – 71%

Texas JR RHP Brandon Workman – 55%

Louisiana State JR RHP Austin Ross – 38%

South Carolina JR RHP Sam Dyson – 64%

San Diego JR RHP Kyle Blair – 50%

San Diego JR LHP Sammy Solis – 56%

California JR RHP Dixon Anderson – 67%

Virginia Tech JR RHP Jesse Hahn – 70%

Arkansas JR RHP Brett Eibner – 43%

Florida State JR LHP John Gast – 67%

***

Stanford SO LHP Brett Mooneyham – 66%

UCLA SO RHP Trevor Bauer – 43%

Vanderbilt SO RHP Jack Armstrong – 61%

Data – Friday Night Starting Pitchers

Something about Clemson’s Friday night lineup caught my eye recently. Anything about the following configuration of names look unusual?

Chris Epps
Mike Freeman
Jeff Schaus
Kyle Parker
Wilson Boyd
John Hinson
Brad Miller
John Nester
Will Lamb
Casey Harman

No? How about when you look at it from the official Clemson baseball website? Anything?

It is entirely likely that I’m 100% insane, but the way the names are configured in that lineup is just a little bit too perfect. You could draw a line down the right side of the last names and almost get a perfectly straight line. It would look darn near perfect if not for Mike Freeman near the top and starting pitcher Casey Harman at the bottom; their names each have 11 letters total, first and last.

The entire lineup in total letters (first and last name, including the pitcher):

9 – 11 – 10 – 10 – 10 – 10 – 10 – 10 – 8 – 11

The third through eighth batters in the lineup all have exactly ten letters in their names! Amazing!

It’s the little things in life we find amusing sometimes, right? Thank you all for humoring me, now please do enjoy some exclusive ground out percentages from a sampling of college baseball’s finest Friday night starting pitchers.

School – Year – Pitcher – % of batted ball outs classified as “ground balls”

***

North Carolina JR RHP Matt Harvey – 69%
Notre Dame JR RHP Brian Dupra – 65%
Miami JR LHP Chris Hernandez – 64%
Kentucky JR LHP Logan Darnell – 64%
Florida Gulf Coast JR LHP Chris Sale – 62%
Mississippi JR LHP Drew Pomeranz – 52%
Tennessee JR LHP Bryan Morgado – 51%
Ohio State JR RHP Alex Wimmers – 50%
San Diego JR RHP Kyle Blair – 50%
Georgia JR RHP Justin Grimm – 46%
Missouri JR RHP Nick Tepesch – 45%
Louisiana State JR RHP Anthony Ranaudo – 41%

***

Vanderbilt SO RHP Sonny Gray – 72%
Texas SO RHP Taylor Jungmann – 69%
UCLA SO RHP Gerrit Cole – 59%
Rice SO LHP Taylor Wall – 55%