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Early 2012 MLB Draft Thoughts – Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Wake Forest has been an intriguing team to watch for draft fans high on upside due in large part to two names. rJR OF Mac Williamson, a favorite of scouts for years, has long tantalized those who have seen him play with his five (four if you don’t like his hit tool as much as I do) potentially average or better tools. His numbers as a redshirt sophomore (.293/.389/.532 – 27 BB/55 K – 205 AB) give some hope that the improvements shown in approach can help him demonstrate his above-average raw power more easily during game action. Below is some of the older stuff written about Williamson from this very site:

I can’t wait to see if Wake Forest OF Mac Williamson (Round 46) can put it all together in his redshirt junior season. He’s a legit five-tool prospect who has made great strides in his approach to hitting since arriving at Wake Forest. From a pure tools standpoint, I’m not sure there are five better outfielders in all of college baseball. The biggest strike against him for me is the fact he’ll almost be 22 years old by the time next June’s draft rolls around.

Williamson, a potential catching conversion candidate at the pro level, has serious power upside and a plus arm, but his swing at everything approach could prevent him from ever getting the chance to put his crazy raw tools to use. He could very well be viewed as a potential late inning relief prospect because of the reported mid-90s heat to go along with a solid sinker/slider mix.

Fellow redshirt junior RHP Daniel Marrs hasn’t received as much love as Williamson, but that’s because scouts haven’t had the same chance to see him play. From an upside standpoint, however, the hard throwing righthander is right up there with the Demons star outfielder. If the reports of his improved arm strength are true, we might be seeing mid-90s fastballs like he once showed as a prep star. Due to his checkered medical history, I’m not sure what else he currently throws — I know he’s shown a splitter and a slider in addition to his four-seamer and two-seamer in the past — but I do know that his progress will be closely tied to his recovery from his labrum surgery and the subsequent adjustments to his mechanics and repertoire. I wrote about Marrs pretty extensively last year, and much of what I said then holds true today. It bears mentioning that reports about his health are more positive in the here and now compared to last year at a similar juncture:

Three bullet points and no mention of one of my favorite 2011 draft “sleepers,” SO RHP Daniel Marrs. Before injuring his labrum, Marrs was a prospect on the same level of current Phillies minor leaguer (ed. note: now Houston farmhand) Jarred Cosart. His pre-injury power stuff (most notably a 92-94 FB peaking at 97 and a good splitter that worked as CU) could tempt a team into drafting him well before his present stuff (sinking upper-80s FB, rapidly improving cutter) would typically merit. Whether or not he ever recaptures that pre-surgery stuff remains to be seen, but Marrs is good enough to continue to expand his repertoire — the new cutter was a great fall ball surprise, I’m told — if that what it takes to succeed.  

JR LHP Tim Cooney is a strong Friday night starting pitcher with solid stuff (upper-80s fastball, 91 peak; good curve) that plays up due to good command. He also has size (6’3″, 200), handedness (left), and a track record of success in the ACC (8.85 K/9 in 98.2 IP) on his side. Cooney is the early favorite to be the first Wake Forest player off the board this June, though the two upside plays mentioned above (Williamson and Marrs, for those with short-term memory loss and/or too lazy to scroll up) could overtake him with big/healthy springs.

I like JR 1B Matt Conway more than most because of his underrated raw power, keen eye at the plate, and menacing 6’7″, 250+ pound physique. The high expectations with the bat placed on first basemen severely limit his ceiling, but he’s a fun one to track all the same. JR 2B Mark Rhine and JR C Brett Armour didn’t quite live up to sophomore expectations as their classmate Conway, but both are prospects worth knowing. Rhine has a nice swing, decent speed, and strong defensive tools. Armour brings all of those things to the table as well (dude runs well, and not just for a catcher – we’re talking good athlete speed here), but gets bonus points on the overall value side because of his capacity for catching. Armour’s footwork behind the plate combined with his ability to quickly identify the best course of action (get down, shift weight, backhand, etc.) when blocking balls in the dirt could help make him one of college baseball’s better defensive catchers in 2012. Also in the prospect mix is SR 3B Carlos Lopez. The ninth-year senior (could be just me, but it feels like he’s been around forever) is a consistent hitter who has above-average raw power. I don’t think his bat is quite good enough to overcome his other less than thrilling tools, but he’s a darn productive college player any way you look at him.

Wake has a slew of arms that could warrant consideration on draft day(s). The trio of seniors — RHPs Michael Dimock and Gabe Feldman, along with LHP Zach White — all have shown enough at one point or another to at least get in the prospect discussion. There isn’t a single plus velocity fastball in the bunch, but Dimock’s slider and Feldman’s cutter and curve are all weapons when utilized properly. Of the three, Dimock has the best chance of being a late round senior sign.

Other arms to consider include JR RHP Justin Van Grouw and JR LHP Niko Spezial. Much like the situation the three pitchers listed above found themselves in last year, neither Van Grouw or Spezial is a slam dunk to be drafted in 2012. Both guys, however, have a chance. Van Grouw has one of the better (the best?) fastball/slider combos on the staff, and Spezial has above-average heat from the left side. I’d tentatively rank the five like this (in order, but with the caveat that said order is subject to change on a whim): Dimock – Van Grouw – Spezial – Feldman – White.

I won’t lie and pretend to know too much about JR SS Pat Blair or JR LHP Brian Holmes, but their park/schedule adjusted stats are pretty to look at. Blair (.275/.453/.410 – 55 BB/39 K – 178 AB) and Holmes (9.13 K/9 in 69 IP) will both be followed by me this spring for their impressive sophomore numbers alone. More homework is necessary before a more informed opinion can be shared.

For those already bored with the 2012 Draft, the two most interesting names to know for 2013 at this point are both outfielders: SO OF James Harris and rFR OF Kevin Jordan. Harris has all the tools you’d find in a right field prospect including huge raw power, a strong arm, and enough speed and instincts to easily handle the defensive responsibilities the position requires. Kevin Jordan, by all accounts healthy after receiving a kidney from Wake coach Tom Walter exactly one year and one day ago today, is primed for a big first season of college ball. His speed and athleticism should make him a defensive asset in center field. That defense should serve him well while he shakes the rust off his bat. I remember not being quite as in love with Jordan as a prospect out of high school (121st ranked prep prospect in 2010) as other outlets because of concerns about whether or not he’d ever hit enough to be a regular big league player, but his upside is undeniably intriguing.

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