- Tulane SR OF Nick Boullosa – plus speed, plus range
- Charlotte JR OF Shane Brown – plate discipline, plus speed
- Cal State Northridge SR OF Ridge Carpenter – plus speed
- Arizona SR OF Bobby Rinard – plus arm, plus speed
- North Carolina SR OF Ben Bunting – plus range, plus speed
- Middle Tennessee State JR OF Justin Guidry – plus speed
- Dallas Baptist JR OF Landon Anderson – plus speed
- UC Santa Barbara JR OF Lance Roenicke – plus speed
- Tennessee SR OF Josh Liles – good track record of plate discipline
- New Mexico State SR OF Wesley Starkes – plus speed, plus range
- Washington State JR OF Kyle Johnson – plus speed, plus range
- Dayton SR OF Zach Blanchette – plus speed
- Clemson SR OF Chris Epps – good track record of plate discipline
- Louisville SR OF Drew Haynes – plus speed
- McNeese State JR OF Seth Granger – plus range
- Kennesaw State JR OF Jordan Craft – plus speed, plus arm
- Texas A&M JR OF Scott Arthur – plus speed, plus range
- Oklahoma JR OF Erik Ross – plus speed
- Rice SO OF Ryan Lewis – plus range
- College of Charleston JR OF Marty Gantt – plus speed
- Georgia Tech JR OF Jarrett Didrick – plus arm, plus range
- Georgia Tech JR OF Roddy Jones – plus speed
- Maryland JR OF Korey Wacker – plus speed
- Central Missouri SR OF Jon Wegener – plus arm
- Santa Ana JC FR OF Dylan Jones – plus speed
- Lower Columbia Basin JC SO OF Ben McQuown – plus speed
- Nebraska JR OF Khiry Cooper – plus speed
- Georgia Southern SR OF Shawn Payne – plus speed
- Marist SR OF Mike Gallic – plus speed
- Georgia JR OF Johnathan Taylor – plus speed, good track record of plate discipline (more importantly: get well soon!)
Busy work week has me behind schedule on a couple ideas I wanted to have ready for the early part of this week. That can only mean one thing: data time. In no particular order because my Excel spreadsheet is refusing to sort properly today, here are a few of the very best college pitchers when it comes to getting ground ball outs:
- Simon and Heyer have been ground ball machines all year, but take their presence on this list as a leap of faith on my end. See, there is something about the Pac-10 that makes finding box scores for their games far more arduous a task than it needs to be. When Arizona and Arizona State play, the play-by-play data just seems to disappear into the ether.
- The state of Texas is very well represented thanks to the grounder inducing quartet of Kubitza (Rice), Jungmann (Texas), Stilson (Texas A&M), and Smith (Texas State). The last three are the big names to know for the 2011 draft, but Kubitza’s inclusion in particular makes me happiest to see. He has the look of a 2013 first rounder to me and it is nice to get confirmation that his scouting reports (plus-plus fastball life) match up with the numbers.
- Slade Smith almost literally does not strike anybody out (park/league adjusted 3.16 K/9), but opposing batters simply don’t hit the ball in the air against him. His groundball percentage of 85.3% is the highest I have in the database. I have no scouting notes on him at all, but I’m guessing he throws a heavy sinker and lacks an out pitch…
I really enjoyed researching and writing the college outfield categories piece from Wednesday and appreciate all of the positive feedback. Can’t quite put my finger on why, but I’ve always been drawn to non-starting players, like utility infielders and fourth outfielders and I find it really interesting to see where they come from. Maybe it is a stretch to say, but I like the idea that one of those players could be the next Dave Sappelt, a personal favorite mid-round outfield target back in 2008 who is now on the cusp of the big leagues. I wish the same luck to a few highly regarded 2010 favorites Trent Mummey (4th round), Rico Noel (5th), Gauntlett Eldemire (6th), as well as some deeper sleepers that probably fit more into Wednesday’s no top 25 college outfield prospect parameters like Robert Maddox (18th), Dan Grovatt (11th), and the inexplicably underrated Tyler Holt (10th).
In a similar vein, I thought we’d take a closer look at three potentially undervalued 2011 draft righthanded pitching prospects today. I hate calling anybody a sleeper because, quite honestly, I have no idea what the term even means anymore. I’ve always felt that 9 out of 10 “sleepers” are downright insulting to even a casual draft fan’s intelligence. Maybe I’m just hyper-sensitive, who knows? Anyway, here are some potentially undervalued prospects who are definitely not “sleepers” in any way, shape, or form…
Kansas JR RHP Colton Murray
Tennessee JR RHP Matt Ramsey
It is entirely possible that both Murray and Ramsey were built in some kind of top secret lab designed with the intent of creating prototype amateur relief prospects. Mid-90s fastball? Murray’s peaks at an impressive 95 (sits 91-93), but plays up because of excellent movement. both of the sinking and cutting variety. Ramsey’s fastball doesn’t have quite the same movement, but clocks in with a peak of 96 (low-90s sitting). Plus breaking ball? Ramsey has a raw low-80s curveball that flashes plus while Murray already throws a consistently excellent low- to mid-80s slider. Busy mechanics with lots of moving parts and a listed height at or below 6’0″? Double check for both players, though I have heard Ramsey, who does double duty as a catcher for the Volunteers, has cleaned up his throwing motion a great deal since last summer.
Murray is the better prospect at this point because of his better fastball, breaking ball, and the existence of a usable (but no better at this point) third pitch, a changeup. He looks like a potential early round (maybe somewhere between 5 and 10?) prospect that could eventually pitch at the back end of ballgames at the next level. If a pro team thinks they can unlock a few extra ticks on the fastball by cleaning up his windup, the possibility of closing someday can’t be ruled out.
Two random points that I couldn’t figure out how to wedge in the above paragraphs, so I will just blurt them out here. First, I’ve heard tons of good things about Murray’s work ethic. That may or may not mean anything over the long haul, but all of the high makeup praise I’ve heard comes back to the way Murray has worked his tail off to improve his breaking pitch over the years. I try my best to stay away from nebulous terms like “makeup” that can mean just about anything on any given day, but even I can admit it pretty cool to see a positive tangible result come out of this supposed “great makeup leading to sweeping slurve-like curve turning into tight slider” cause and effect. Second, on Ramsey, I just wanted wanted to point out that Perfect Game compared his upside as a prep catcher to the good version of Russell Martin. No real commentary on that particular comp, other than to say I love reading old reports on prospects (and PG is right up there with the very best at churning them out) and seeing the different developmental paths prospects have taken over the years. I guess if you want to apply it to Ramsey’s current prospect stock, then you could spin it as a positive check in the “athleticism” ledger on his scouting report.
Mississippi State JR RHP Devin Jones
Jones is the only current college starter of the three. He strikes me as a borderline starting candidate in pro ball at this point. Like many young pitchers, it’ll be the development of an effective changeup that makes or breaks him as a high round prospect or not. I really like his present mix (low-90s four-seam, upper-80s two-seam with great sink, and a mid- to upper-80s slider with plus upside) and he has the frame pro teams like to see in a starter (6’3″, 180). I’m a bit biased in my appreciation for Jones, as I’ve always liked the classically built sinker/slider specialists. I like it even more when these classic sinker/slider guys go all out and embrace who they are, so, if I may, a quick suggestion for Jones: ditch whatever version of the change you are currently working on and go with a splitter instead. Pretty sure I can trace back my love of the sinker/slider/splitter righthander to Ryan Dempster, a long-time personal favorite. Mississippi JR RHP David Goforth is more similar in stuff to Murray and Ramsey (big fastball, SL that flashes plus), but I’ve always connected him with Jones because both players seem like they have the stuff to dominate college hitters, yet consistently put up mediocre numbers. Both are currently winning the “scouting over stats” debate that infuses itself into all of my traditionally statistically charged player rankings, but big junior years would go a long way towards making me confident in endorsing them as potential big league assets.
Ugly personal confession time! I write something for the site with the intent of posting every weekday. A quick look back through my archives reveals that there have been many weekdays without posts. What gives? You may not know it by some of the so-so stuff that does get posted here, but I am a major league perfectionist.
Regular readers of the site know that I’ve been working on putting together a 2011 college outfielder prospect list. It was one of those projects that seemed like a good idea at the time, but has ultimately left me unsatisfied. Rankings tend to get people really worked up. I can’t deny that my perfectionist streak goes into overdrive as a little bit of paranoia sets in when I think about checking and rechecking whether or not leaving Player X off the list makes sense or if ranking Player Y twenty spots lower than the norm can be justified. Maintaining a website you’d like to update regularly with (hopefully) well reasoned opinions while battling a nasty streak of perfectionism bordering on OCD can be a pain the butt sometimes.
Consider this post a bit of catharsis on my end. Thank you for humoring me, I feel much better now. My “preseason” college outfield rankings are 99% complete, but, and this should come as no shock, I want to give them one last edit before I can publish them. If I don’t publish something soon, however, I know I’ll never get around to it; the rankings will always have one player in the wrong spot that needs to be fixed until eventually I get over it and just hit “publish.” So, this is me just hitting “publish,” for not other reason than me wanting to share some of the information I’ve compiled on the 2011 college outfield class.
Some qualifiers for this list before we begin. First, I only included “lesser known” prospects. Every player listed falls somewhere outside of my personal top 25 college outfielder ranking. Second, the players are not aligned within a group in any particular way, though there could be some patterns — I think I may have inputted most of the names in descending order, for example — that reveal my preferences if you look hard enough. Third, and I can’t stress this one enough, these categories are imperfect. This is all just a quick and easy way of generalizing what kind of scouting profiles the mid-round college outfield class offers. Different teams like different skill sets when they look for reserve outfielders/organizational filler late round picks, and this list is meant to illustrate the strengths of some unappreciated (relatively speaking) draft prospects.
Looking for potential leadoff hitter who can also play, at worst, a capable CF?
Xavier John McCambridge
Marshall Isaac Ballou
Virginia John Barr
Kansas Jason Brunansky
UAB Jamal Austin
Memphis Drew Martinez
Hawaii Collin Bennett
Pacific Brian Humphries
Oregon State Garrett Nash
Western Kentucky Kes Carter
LSU Trey Watkins
Wake Forest Steven Brooks
How about a potential leadoff hitter better suited for an outfield corner?
Stetson Spencer Theisen
If versatility is your thing, one of these prospects could be of interest…
West Virginia Grant Buckner (3B/SS)
Rutgers Brandon Boykin (2B)
UC Irvine Drew Hillman (3B)
San Diego Austin Green (C)
Michigan State Jeff Holm (1B)
Florida State Mike McGee (RHP)
Rice Michael Fuda (2B)
Bats. Plain and simple. Bats. The value of these prospects is tied up almost entirely with the hit tool…
Arizona Steve Selsky
Washington State Derek Jones
Arizona State Andy Workman
Florida State James Ramsey
Connecticut Billy Ferriter
Arizona State Zach Wilson
Arizona State Matt Newman
Stats. For those who are statistically inclined — myself included — these OBP kings will intrigue…
Oral Roberts Nick Baligod
North Carolina State John Gianis
Southern Mississippi Kameron Brunty
Pittsburgh John Schultz
Manhattan Mike McCann
Georgia State Mark Micowski
Oral Roberts Brandon King
Fourth outfielder alert! Some teams prefer well-rounded players (around average in all five tools, no real standout abilities) for potential bench roles…
Auburn Justin Fradejas
North Carolina State Brett Williams
South Carolina Adam Matthews
Connecticut John Andreoli
Duke Will Piwnica-Worms
Cornell Brian Billigen
Rutgers Michael Lang
Georgetown Rand Ravnaas
For entertainment value, you really can’t beat high upside/high bust potential prospects…
Miami Chris Pelaez
Maryland Matt Marquis
Angelo State Joe Leftridge
Florida State Taiwan Easterling
Southern Rodarrick Jones
Miami Nate Melendres
Minnesota Justin Gominsky
Maine Taylor Lewis
Stephen F. Austin State Bryson Myles
Arkansas Jarrod McKinney
Northern Colorado Jarod Berggren
Vanderbilt Joe Loftus
Illinois Willie Argo
Washington Caleb Brown
Missouri Ryan Gebhart
Florida International Pablo Bermudez
Just give these guys a few reps with good minor league coaching and they’ll be plus CF gloves in no time…
Texas Christian Aaron Schultz
Arguably the easiest tool to judge: speed. These players have it…
Florida Tyler Thompson
Oklahoma Chris Ellison
Cal Poly Bobby Crocker
UNC Wilmington Andrew Cain
Above-average raw power upside is one of the rarer commodities in college ball, but these players are all big time college thumpers…
Mississippi Matt Smith
Mississippi Zach Kirksey
Shippensburg Cody Kulp
Sam Houston State Mark Hudson
Gonzaga Royce Bollinger
Coastal Carolina Daniel Bowman
Fresno State Dusty Robinson
McNeese State Lee Orr
One of the things I love most about covering the draft is the absurdly high degree of unpredictability throughout the process. The sooner we can all accept that there are literally no certainties when it comes to the draft, the happier we will all be. It may sound corny, but I’ve long believed that sometimes the only thing you can count on is knowing that you can’t really count on anything. Remember how clever it was to say Anthony Rendon was a much better prospect than Bryce Harper? Now some are coming up with ways to push him to the 9th overall selection, a spot in the draft that conveniently belongs to a team with a gigantic fan base from a major market that just so happens to also have a really strong internet presence. Sorry, I try not to ever say a bad word about any of the experts but that seemed like a pretty egregious traffic grab to me. Anyway, for a more recent example of draft craziness, think back to last weekend. Which player was everybody excited about? Gerrit Cole, of course. This weekend, it seems like it has been all Anthony Meo, all the time. Matt Purke was once as close to a sure thing to go in the top five as anybody, but now the experts claim his stock is down across the board. What in the world is going on?
Minus the Rendon silliness, this is all great news. Well, maybe it isn’t particularly great for Matt Purke, but it is great for any outsider observer of the draft. From summer ball to winter showcases all the way up to live competitive baseball in the spring, the rankings and prospect lists expand and evolve. We’re currently in the midst of a pretty interesting shakeup atop draft boards around the league. In an effort to make some sense of the ever-shifting landscape, here is one man’s take, three months out, of what a 2011 first round draft board might look like:
C: Blake Swihart (Cleveland HS, NM)
SS: Francisco Lindor (Montverde Academy, FL)
3B: Anthony Rendon (Rice)
OF: George Springer (Connecticut) – Jackie Bradley (South Carolina) – Bubba Starling (Gardner-Edgerton HS, KS)
LHP: Matt Purke (TCU) – Jed Bradley (Georgia Tech) – Danny Hultzen (Virginia) – Daniel Norris (Science Hill HS, TN)
RHP: Gerrit Cole (UCLA) – Taylor Jungmann (Texas) – Sonny Gray (Vanderbilt) – Trevor Bauer (UCLA) – Matt Barnes (Connecticut) – Archie Bradley (Broken Arrow HS, OK)
I’d have a really hard time picking out one player that I thought could drop out of this list. I won’t deny that is at least partly because I played it very conservatively here — only five high schoolers — but it is also because the top of this draft has a really unique blend of high upside, high floor talents. Take Lindor and Bauer as two examples of this. If say, Lindor’s bat doesn’t develop quite as expected or Bauer’s quirky approach to pitching turns some teams off, then each player has enough of an unquestionably interesting skill set (Lindor’s plus glove and Bauer’s minimum two plus pitches) to at least warrant consideration later in the first. Outside of injury, there just isn’t a lot that could depress the draft stock of any player on the list.
That’s 16 prospects that I consider safely within the 2011 draft’s first round, leaving us with 17 more spots to fill. Let’s keep some semblance of symmetry going and knock out 16 more.
Very Good Bets
C: Andrew Susac (Oregon State)
2B: Kolten Wong (Hawaii)
SS: Phillip Evans (La Costa Canyon HS, CA)
OF: Brian Goodwin (Miami-Dade CC) – Mikie Mahtook (LSU) – Josh Bell (Jesuit College Prep School of Dallas, TX) – Travis Harrison (Tustin HS, CA)
LHP: Tyler Anderson (Oregon) – Josh Osich (Oregon State) – Henry Owens (Edison HS, CA)
RHP: John Stilson (Texas A&M) – Alex Meyer (Kentucky) – Anthony Meo (Coastal Carolina) – Dylan Bundy (Owasso HS, OK) – Jose Fernandez (Alonso HS, FL) – Taylor Guerrieri (Spring Valley HS, SC)
I’d actually be pretty surprised if Susac, now the clear frontrunner for first college catcher off the board, wasn’t a first rounder on the majority of draft boards as of this moment, but I’m playing it safe and keeping him here. I’d also be surprised if only one high school middle infielder gets selected in the first in what looks like a pretty strong year for the position. Evans is my favorite at the moment, but the exercise still works even if he is subbed out for your top remaining shortstop of choice. Travis Harrison reminds me a little bit of Nick Castellanos, at least in terms of prospect stock, so it will be interesting to see if he follows the expected 2010 first rounder out of the top round or if he keeps hitting enough (and/or keeps his bonus demands down low enough) to stay within the first 33 choices. Osich is the most interesting name on the pitching side. It isn’t every day that a college arm is projected to sneak into the first round without having thrown a breaking ball going into the last full week of March, but Osich’s big velocity and dedicated return from Tommy John surgery gives him a good amount of much deserved leeway. I don’t necessarily think Stilson, Meyer, and Meo are “very good bets,” but I’ve heard each name talked about by one particular club official as potential quick moving professional bullpen conversion candidates. Said official surmised a team picking near the back of the first round — perhaps a team with a record setting number of early picks looking to save a little cash while upgrading a potentially leaky relieving corps at the same time? — could jump on the chance to take any one of the three.
2B: Levi Michael (North Carolina)
3B: Jason Esposito (Vanderbilt)
OF: Derek Fisher (Cedar Crest HS, PA)
RHP: Carson Smith (Texas State)
I’m cheating here and giving four names, but only because I’ve heard each name mentioned specifically of being of heavy interest to a handful of teams picking in the latter half of the first round. I feel bad passing along information like that without being able to give a solid source, so don’t feel bad about thinking I’m full of it and not believing me. If I was reading this instead of writing it, I might not believe it either. Heck, I’m writing it and I’m not 100% believing it. When we look back at this list and see how wrong it was in June, put me down as believing Fisher will be the 33rd first rounder out of this group.
Gerrit Cole isn’t the only Cole expected to get drafted this June. Probably goes without saying that Gerrit is the most promising Cole, but there are three other collegiate Cole’s with mid-round, middle relief upside worth mentioning.
Texas SR RHP Cole Green is the best current pitcher of our Cole trio. His fastball sits consistently between 88-91 FB and he can muscle it up to 92-93 on the rarest of occasions. His biggest strengths are his pinpoint fastball command, plus control, and much improved above-average upper-70s slider that flashes plus. Throw in the fact he is a short righthanded pitcher and it sure sounds like Green will be typecast as a potential relief candidate, right? Short righties who pound the strike zone with that sinker/slider combo always have a chance to fill a bullpen niche in the pros. Then again, Green’s success as a college starter and the improvement of his changeup could help him work as a pro starter. Whether a pro team considers him a potential fifth starter or, more likely, a middle reliever, it is still highly unlikely he’ll approach his 2010 draft status (4th round to Detroit). Lastly, and take this for what it’s worth, every scouting report on Green mentions his reputation as a groundball pitcher, but the data I’ve compiled doesn’t fit that description at all. Wonder what the guys at College Splits would say to that?
BYU SO RHP Taylor Cole has the biggest fastball of the group (94-95 peak) and was the most heavily recruited out of high school. Lost development time has left him with not little besides that big fastball, but there is some promise with both his slider and changeup. A team will have to be really patient with Cole, but his upside, relatively fresh arm, and the unique path he’s taken since graduating from high school all help him stand out amongst his mid-round contemporaries. I know Taylor is a personal favorite of many followers of the draft, so don’t be shocked if his name starts getting bandied about as a high rising helium guy heading into June.
Notre Dame SR RHP Cole Johnson has a fastball that sits 88-92 FB and a good SL. Average fastball (maybe a tick above) and a good secondary pitch combined with a history of strong performance at a well known college program is often a pretty nice recipe for looks as a reliever on draft day. Johnson has the first two things down, but is still working on that pesky bit about having a history of strong performance. Underwhelming college stats to date (2010: 5.46 K/9 – 3.16 BB/9 – 4.69 FIP – 31.1 IP) have kept his stock down, but his solid start in 2011 could get teams back on the bandwagon.
I apologize for starting the week with a math problem, but…
Really busy baseball watching weekend +
Blue Screen of Death seconds before I hit post +
stupidly trying to type a post directly on site and not in Word doc +
Wordpress autosave feature not quite living up to my misguided hopes =
A really quick uncut summation of what I’ve seen out of Anthony Rendon’s biggest competitor for the draft’s number one spot, UCLA JR RHP Gerrit Cole. This is a rare case where I can combine all sorts of fun factors (video, three separate years of live personal “scouting,” and, as always, all of the written and spoken information from people way smarter than I am about this stuff that I could possibly digest) into formulating an opinion on a prospect. Here’s what I’ve got…
UCLA JR RHP Gerrit Cole (2011): 4-seam: really easy 92-96 four-seam FB, 97-99 FB peak; 98 on last pitch of opening day complete game; told by scout that he is unique in that he appears to hit 98 “whenever he wants” with FB; between velocity, movement, and improved command, the FB is a legit plus-plus pitch; speaking of command…relatively poor FB command through middle of sophomore season, but the improvement in this area has been nothing short of remarkable; holds velocity exceptionally well; 2-seam: 92-94 two-seam FB with above-average sink; Cutter: not personally 100% sold on the difference between the two-seam and the cutter (remember: I’m no professional, just a guy with a hobby), but enough smart people are labeling the pitch as a cut fastball at 87-91; Slider: plus 81-87 SL (more commonly and more effectively thrown harder at 86-88); was clocked harder still (consistently 87-89) on SL this past summer; Change: personal favorite offering is his excellent sinking extra firm 83-87 (!) CU with plus upside; pitch seems to get better with every outing;
By now regular readers know that I love forcing comps where they don’t necessarily belong. In the unlikely scenario I am ever forced to give a comp for Gerrit Cole or be forced to watch Miguel Cairo swing at the first pitch in what seemed like every single at bat during his Phillies tenure on loop, I’d throw this one out there as a potential ceiling: potential future teammate Felix Hernandez. Both have/had explosive fastballs, plus upside with unusually hard slider and changeup, similar enough builds (this one might be a stretch…), early questions about command and delivery…obviously this isn’t a perfect comp, but it is a rough outline of what kind of package Cole will bring to whatever pro team is lucky enough to draft him.