1. Even for a guy like me who doesn’t quite know what’s up with college baseball, it’s plain to see the talent level at Maryland is on the rise. Former Vanderbilt assistant Erik Bakich has done an incredible job of recruiting since getting hired in 2009. Would you believe me if I told you there could be up to fifteen Terrapins taken in this June’s draft? That’s obviously a perfect world projection where no player gets hurt, stalls in his development, or just plain falls flat on his fast, but the downside (say, a half dozen?) is still a pretty impressive draft output for a school to produce. I’m happy for Maryland, yes, but I’m a little peeved at the timing. See, it wasn’t too long ago that I had all sorts of nice connections down in and around Washington DC. Now that the Maryland program has finally grown into something worth seeing, I’ve lost all but the most tenuous of holds on my one strong Beltway hookup. What a bummer. Timing is everything, I guess.
2. I’m really excited to see what JR 3B Tomo Delp does against ACC pitching this spring. Almost all of the fall buzz about Bryce Harper’s CSN teammate has been positive, especially on the offensive side of the coin. I’m confident his bat will open some eyes, so I’ll be focusing on his progress with the glove. Good things have also been said about JR OF Korey Wacker, a true plus-plus speed guy with good range and a strong arm for centerfield. Yet another transfer who could make an instant draft impact is JR 2B Ryan Holland. He’s similar to Delp in that his bat is his calling card, but it has also been said that Holland’s defense has been more than adequate at second. As an added bonus, he also has experience holding it down at third base and shortstop. The most highly regarded returning Terrapins prospect is JR SS Alfredo Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a really good defender who will definitely stick at short as a pro. He made strides with the bat last spring, but is still almost exclusively a singles hitter at this point. Needless to say, great defense or not, I’m not as high on him as I know some are. JR OF Brandon Padula also could get a shot with a big spring, but he strikes me more as a good college player without a standout tool than a legitimate pro prospect. A lot can change between now and June, however.
3. Five position players mentioned so far, yet not a word on JR OF Matt Marquis. This past summer, a summer forever to be known to many prospect watchers as “The Summer of Trout,” I had a conversation with a friend well connected in the business who told me, and I know he won’t mind me quoting him here, “Matt Marquis was Mike Trout before Mike Trout was Mike Trout.” Pretty cool statement if you ask me. Marquis was a highly sought after high school prospect from New Jersey. He had speed, power to all fields, a strong arm, and an even stronger commitment to a great baseball school in Vanderbilt. A common comparison for each player, as funny as it seems with the benefit of hindsight, was Aaron Rowand. Getting the Trout vibe yet? Fast forward to today. Trout has completely blown up as a professional while Marquis has lagged behind. The second-year Maryland outfielder still offers up that tantalizing blend of above-average speed and raw power, but the production, from Nashville to College Park, has never matched the hype. Teams still hold out hope that he’ll put it all together as an above-average corner outfielder. Count me in as a believer.
Early 2011 Draft Guesses
Delp, Marquis, and Rodriguez are the three surest Maryland position players to be drafted, I think. They are followed by a pair of 50/50 shots in Padula and Holland. Wacker is probably a guy I’ve overrating based on strong tools – reminds me of last winter’s infatuation with Ridge Carpenter – so I’d probably put his odds as the longest to get drafted this year.
SR RHP Brett Harman deserves to be at or near the top of any team’s list of top senior signs. His strong three pitch mix features an upper-80s fastball with sink and a changeup that flashes plus, but it is above-average slider that makes everything else work. He reminds me of a favorite undervalued but effective big leaguer, newly signed Mariner Justin Miller SR LHP Eric Potter should also receive some looks as a mid- to late-round senior sign. His size and stuff remind me a little of his teammate on last year’s squad, Adam Kolarek. Kolarek, an eleventh round pick of the Mets in 2010, was drafted despite some control issues because of his above-average lefty velocity (though he generally sits upper-80s, I’ve personally seen him top out at 93 and I have read he’s been as high as 94) and an above-average mid-80s slider. Potter throws a curve instead of a slider, but the similarities in overall quality of stuff are there if you squint really hard. JR RHP Chuck Ghysels will probably get pigeonholed as a reliever because of his size (5-11, 200), but his three-pitch mix is definitely good enough to get college hitters out multiple times through a lineup. JR RHP Sander Beck throws a knuckle curveball, so you know he’s awesome. I think if your first name is Sander and you throw a knuckle curve, then you should be allowed to skip the minors and go straight to the big leagues. In all seriousness, Beck could be Maryland’s best 2011 draft prospect, even though I have my doubts about his way too hittable straight moving fastball. We’ll see. That’s four interesting pitchers to watch already and I haven’t even mentioned JR RHP Creighton Hoke (two average at worst pitchers already with his low-90s FB and SL) and JR RHP David Carroll (by rule, all 6-8, 235 pound pitchers deserve some love in this space). JR RHP Michael Boyden reminds me of the pitching version of JR OF Brandon Padula, steady yet unspectacular. A pair of senior RHPs Matt Quinn (whoa, I was looking at old notes the other day and realized that I saw him pitch when he was in high school…I had forgotten all about it) and Blair Delean could both sneak into the last few rounds with strong 2010 seasons, though I’d bet on both guys being on the outside looking in come June.
By my count that makes Harman, Beck, Ghysels, Potter, Hoke, Carroll, Delp, Marquis, Rodriguez, and Holland as good bets or better to be drafted with Padula, Wacker, and Boyden as maybes. Very strong group.