(I’m away on my first non-baseball trip in way too long, but there are a few more 2011 draft reviews in the can for when I get back. Next up is Atlanta (Friday or Monday, break in travel schedule Thursday night pending), followed by the White Sox next week. As always, thanks for reading…)
I’m not even an Angels fan, but I sure do miss Eddie Bane. I do not understand what the Angels did on draft day this year. If I had to guess, here are my three principles of Los Angeles’ 2011 drafting philosophy: 1) say yes to junior college guys and no to high school prospects, 2) pitchers without arm strength need not apply, and 3) stick to scouting the big three – Texas, California, and, most noticeably, Florida. Let’s dive in deeper with a look at their top ten rounds and beyond…
Good to start off with a player that totally contradicts my opening paragraph, I think. Keeps the readers on their toes. Utah 1B CJ Cron (29th ranked draft prospect) is a college position player from the great state of Utah. He’s not a juco or prep player, not a pitcher with a plus arm (in fact, a shoulder injury has kept him from throwing for most of 2011), and not from Texas, California, or Florida. Cron’s scouting profile is eerily reminiscent to former catcher Paul Konerko, a popular comp for a reason. I’ve also heard Cron compared to a righthanded hitting version of Texas’ Mitch Moreland. He’ll hit enough to be, at worst, a league average bat at first.
Cron’s numbers sync up well with his scouting reports. I may be in the minority, but I actually like his pure hit tool more than I like his power. Either way, both are above-average tools. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they are his only above-average tools. Again, I find myself in the minority in thinking he could at least be a passable catcher at the next level, but I’ll concede to the experts on that one. Looks like Cron will be the first first baseman off the board, college or high school. His well above-average hit tool and present power make him a safe bet to become a starting first baseman and middle of the lineup bat
If the opening paragraph wasn’t enough, another warning: there are very few positives forthcoming. An exception comes with the selection of Florida LHP Nick Maronde (80th ranked draft prospect), an outstanding prospect. My only hope is that Los Angeles continues to give Maronde the opportunity to start as he progresses through the system. The former Florida reliever has the three pitches needed to start in the big leagues, but it will take time for him to get back into the starting pitching mindset.
Florida JR LHP Nick Maronde: 90-91 FB, peak 93 as starter; now sitting 93-95, 96 peak out of bullpen; plus low-80s SL that he doesn’t use enough; CB; good 81 CU; relieved in college, but I like him as a starter; 6-3, 200
Seminole State JC (FL) RHP Mike Clevinger hits on all three of the Angels criteria listed above. He’s an arm strength reliever all the way. Northeast Texas CC (TX) OF Andrew Ray was a curious underslot signing who profiles as a backup outfielder and/or four corners utility guy. Grayson County CC (TX) C Abel Baker makes three junior college players drafted in the top seven rounds by the Angels. Of the three, Baker is my favorite by far. His raw power, arm strength, and makeup are all exactly what you’d like to see in a catching prospect. He was pretty far under the radar this spring – a genius like me missed him, for example – but the Angels know Grayson County CC prospects (John Lackey and Jordan Walden) better than anybody.
Southern California RHP Austin Wood (50th ranked draft prospect) is like a more experienced (as a starter) righthanded version of Nick Maronde. His inconsistency is maddening, but the raw stuff is good enough to start at the highest level. Settling on a breaking ball would be a great first step for Wood’s professional career. Wood’s teammate Southern California RHP Logan Odom has the size of a power pitcher, but not the stuff. I know I’m just one list crazy guy, but Odom didn’t crack the top 400 on my pre-draft top college pitchers list. He wasn’t even my favorite Odom (I liked JT of Mercer) in this year’s class. Needless to say, the Angels like Logan way more than I do.
Southern California JR RHP Austin Wood: 92-94 FB, 95-96 peak; interesting SL; emerging 80-82 CU that still needs work; average CB; 6-4, 215
California prospect RHP Nick Mutz is a scout’s dream. Without an organized team to call his own, Mutz got himself noticed by throwing bullpens for teams on request. I lost track of him after he left Dakota State, but my old notes mentioned a Jason Motte comp that I think holds up pretty well. Memphis OF Drew Martinez is a nice little player who gives you exactly what you’d expect: defense, speed, and patience. He might not be the burner some teams want in the role of fifth outfielder/pinch runner, but his instincts, both in the outfield and on the bases, make me think he’d thrive in the role.
Memphis JR OF Drew Martinez (2011): outstanding CF defense; plus speed; below-average arm; no power; average at best bat; great base runner; FAVORITE; 5-10, 170 pounds; (392/445/469 – 25 BB/27 K – 20/30 SB – 260 AB)
College baseball fans have to be pretty pleased with the way the Angels whiffed on signing a quartet of interesting mid-round high school draftees. Boca Raton (FL) HS OF Domonic Jose (Round 15), Bell HS (TX) C Hunter Lockwood (Round 17), Tunkhannock Area HS (PA) OF Mike Papi (Round 30 and my 181st draft prospect), and West HS (WA) SS Erik Forgione (Round 33) all could emerge as single digit round selections in three years. Jose was a worthy gamble for a fifteenth rounder with a strong Stanford commitment; no harm in trying with the toolsy outfielder, but it is probably the best for all involved for him to head to school and work on his swing. Lockwood will head to Oklahoma and could step in right away by getting some at bats at first, designated hitter, and behind the plate. Offensively, he reminds me a bit of the fan he could be replacing at catcher (Tyler Ogle), but whether or not the direct catcher to catcher comparison can be made depends on Lockwood’s defense. Papi, who I consistently referred to as Matt for unexplained reasons prior to the draft, could be Virginia’s starting right fielder from day one. Forgione is ready for full-time shortstop duty defensively and could get the chance if the Washington coaching staff can live with the growing pains that will come as his bat develops.
No weaknesses in Lockwood’s game, just a really solid, well-rounded skill set.
Another player with a better than average shot at winding up in class this fall, Matt Papi’s solid across the board tool set could get him drafted early enough to keep him away from enrolling at Virginia. His best tool is an electric right arm, a true plus tool that helps the still raw defender compensate for his occasional defensive shortcomings.
One of my favorite sleepers from the Pacific Northwest, Forgione is a plus runner with great range and athleticism.
The Angels didn’t just fail when it came time to sign their mid-round high school prospects. They also dropped the ball on getting anything done with Florida RHP Greg Larson (Round 29) and Fresno State C Trent Garrison (Round 50). I’m inclined to give them a mulligan on these instances, as Larson made it known early on he wanted to head back to Florida and Garrison, one of the very last overall picks of the entire draft, was a really tough sign as he rehabbed from injury. Larson reminds me a great deal of recently promoted Phillies reliever and one-time fourteenth round pick Michael Schwimer. A good senior year could get him selected up in a similar draft range. Garrison, who I foolishly removed my personal board due to injury, is an elite defender with enough upside at the plate to shoot up draft boards with a healthy senior season. I actually give the Angels a lot of credit for staying with him this spring and taking a chance on him signing on.
Florida JR RHP Greg Larson (2011): 87-88, 90 peak FB; 81-82 SL with upside
Fresno State JR C Trent Garrison: solid defender; above-average arm
UC Riverside SS Trevor Hairgrove (Round 18) has a slick glove at short, but very limited upside with the bat. UC Irvine 3B Brian Hernandez (Round 27), as you can read from his pre-draft report below, is cut from a very similar cloth. With an intriguing hit tool and little else, Arizona State OF Andy Workman (Round 34) goes the other way. All three make for good organizational players. One college prospect from out west that I think can be more than an organizational player is Arizona C Jett Bandy (Round 31). I’m shocked that Bandy fell all the way to the 31st round and even more surprised to see he signed a contract. There’s no denying that Bandy’s stock took a nosedive in 2011, but it is highly unlikely that whatever skills he showed as a sophomore disappeared. In addition to his rough junior year, I think he lost some points with scouting departments because he is more of a well-rounded catcher who doesn’t wow in either the power or arm strength department. It may take some time and perhaps a few different organizations, but I’m not giving up hope of seeing Bandy emerge as a big league backstop somewhere down the line.
Last year I wrote: “he’s [Hernandez] your typical ‘whole is greater than the sum of his parts’ kind of prospect, with the upside of a big league bench bat if everything breaks right.” I stand by that today (some pop, some speed, some plate discipline), with one additional comment I’ll present straight from my notes: “PLUS fielder.” All caps means you know I’m serious. Hernandez can really pick it at third.
Arizona State JR OF Andy Workman (2011): best tool is hit tool; fantastic base runner; gap power, but could develop more; slightly below-average arm; LF future; good OF range; 6-2, 180 pounds
Hard to explain Bandy’s 2011 collapse, especially when you consider there has been no news of any down tick in his scouting reports. I’m not super concerned about the dip in production for that reason, but Bandy’s signability could become a question if he slips past the first five rounds as expected. He is still exactly the player I’d target past round ten. Even without knowing why he slipped so badly this year, I still think it is safe to say that he didn’t completely forget how to play baseball.
Eastern Illinois OF Zach Borenstein (Round 23) does everything well, but nothing in his scouting profile portends big things to come. As a lefty with some pop and a history of playing all over the iamond, he’ll get his chances. Southeastern Louisiana RHP Brandon Efferson (Round 37) was a favorite during his college days, but I never came away after watching him thinking that I just saw a big league caliber arm. He’s way more talented than I’d ever dream to be, of course, but with a lackluster fastball and a lack of quality secondary stuff I don’t see how he can successfully hang in pro ball.
Eastern Illinois JR OF Zach Borenstein: good speed; good power; leadoff profile; (353/438/575 – 26 BB/36 K – 12/15 SB – 207 AB)
Southeastern Louisiana SR RHP Brandon Efferson (2011): sits high-80s, 92 peak FB; good cutter; CB; CU
It wouldn’t be a fair and balanced evaluation if I didn’t mention the one late round overslot deal that could work out for the Angels. Hillsborough CC (FL) LHP Michael Johnson (Round 46) getting six figures was a surprise to many, this writer included. Nothing stands out in terms of Johnson’s junior college stats, stuff, or frame, but perhaps the Angels know something I don’t. A big summer for the Utica Brewers might have been what convinced Los Angeles to take the plunge.
Last and almost certainly least, we have the time honored baseball tradition of nepotism. Round 44 would have been preposterously early. Round 46 could have hurt his ego. Round 45 was just right. Notre Dame C Matt Scioscia (Round 45) joins the same organization as his father, but I hear there could be trouble brewing already. Seems Matt hasn’t taken to kindly to being the third wheel to Mike’s adopted son, Jeff Mathis.