The best prospect at each position is featured in our “everyday eight.” The “starting rotation” is made up of pitchers who are all lumped together in one bit lefty/righty/starter/reliever mess. For the “bench,” we tried to follow the guideline of at least one backup catcher, a backup middle infielder (or two), a backup corner infielder (or two), and at least one reserve outfielder (though typically two). Remaining spots went to the best available pitching prospects who are no doubt thrilled to be a part of our “bullpen.” Add it all up and we should have a 25-man roster of interesting 2012 MLB Draft Prospects from the Big East.
Notre Dame JR C Joe Hudson
Hudson gets the slightest of edge over the similarly talented C Joe Pavone (Connecticut). I admit that the fifth-year senior Pavone might be the safer bet to be drafted based while Hudson will likely wind up as a 2013 senior sign assuming his bat didn’t transform over this past offseason. Both players profile as defensive-first organizational catchers. These are the types of prospects that you draft knowing that you need somebody capable of helping along young pitching prospects. Deep down, however, there is no shame in hoping that your late-round defensive-first catcher might show enough pop to someday pop up as a viable third catcher worth stashing in AAA.
Louisville JR 1B Zak Wasserman
Wasserman hasn’t done much at Louisville yet (after park/schedule adjustments, he barely slugged his weight in 2011), but his big raw power and pro frame make him the best of an uninspiring group of Big East power hitters.
Connecticut JR 2B LJ Mazzilli
Spoiler alert: Mazzilli isn’t just the best Big East second base prospect, but the best overall position player prospect in the entire conference. His speed, athleticism, and defense all have stood out as I’ve watched him grow in a big way as a hitter over the past two seasons.
Villanova SR SS Marlon Calbi
There’s simply nothing in the way of interesting Big East shortstop prospects this year. Calbi’s strong 2011 season gives him the nod, but he’s really not a viable pro prospect at this point. I debated on cheating and putting St. John’s SR 2B Matt Wessinger at shortstop, where he’s played some in the past, but left him on the bench in favor of the truer shortstop in Calbi.
Connecticut SR 3B Ryan Fuller
Like the man chosen to stand to his left on this fictional team of 2012 prospects, Fuller isn’t a pro prospect in any traditional sense of the term. He does stand a better chance to be drafted due in large part to his athleticism and just enough pop and speed to intrigue as a fill out the roster kind of late round pick.
St. John’s JR OF Jeremy Baltz
St. John’s rSO OF Kevin Grove
Georgetown SR OF Rand Ravnaas
Much has been written about Baltz by the experts already, so I’ll keep it short and sweet. As a corner outfield prospect with little in the way of tools besides his bat, he’ll need to hit a ton as a pro if he ever wants a shot at regular playing time. It is probably worth nothing that I was impressed last year (in an admittedly quick viewing) with his non-hit tools, so much so that I came away thinking he’s universally underrated both as an athlete and as a defender in left. That’s not to say anything but the bat will ever get him in the lineup, and I would never say he’s good at anything but hitting baseballs, but he’s not a total slug out there, either. Grove is under the radar as a redshirt sophomore who has legit pro power and enough ability in a few other areas (average runner, strong enough arm) that he could develop into an interesting draft with more at bats. Ravnaas is more solid college outfielder than intriguing pro prospect, but his skill set is well-rounded and his production has been consistently strong. A more refined approach, especially with two strikes, might be too much to ask at this point for the senior, but a little less aggression (or, more aptly, better controlled aggression) would go a long way.
Connecticut rSR C Joe Pavone
The aforementioned Pavone gets a spot on the bench as the Big East’s second best catching prospect thanks to his steady defensive work behind the plate.
South Florida SR 1B/OF Todd Brazeal
Brazeal, an eighth-year senior for the Bulls, has always intrigued with the hit tool, but has never been able to reign in his long swing enough to make consistent enough contact to succeed. Positional versatility (1B, OF, and 3B are all on his resume) could get him drafted, as could his well-earned reputation of being a great teammate and hard worker. Never hurts to fill out low minors rosters with guys like Brazeal.
St. John’s SR 2B/SS Matt Wessinger
Wessinger is a nice college infielder who does enough well across the board to get a look by pro teams in the market for a mid- to late-round senior sign. He’s more second baseman than shortstop, but can handle the left side of the infield well enough in a pinch to profile as a utility guy in a perfect world.
West Virginia rSR 3B Dan DiBartolomeo
DiBartolomeo is another highly productive player who feels like he’s been in college for the better part of a decade now. He fits in nicely on a roster full of high makeup, grinder college players who don’t necessarily project for much in the pros. Still a fun player to watch, though.
Connecticut rJR OF Billy Ferriter
Louisville SR OF/LHP Stewart Ijames
Ferriter and Ijames: two long-time favorites that I’m very close to admitting defeat on. Ferriter can run, defend, and handle the bat, but will need to clean up his approach in a big way if he hopes to make it in pro ball. Ijames has been my guy going on three years now; unfortunately, it is time to face the music and admit he’s more of a college standout than a pro prospect. I’ll always appreciate his solid approach, strong arm, and power to the gaps, but if it hasn’t all come together by now, I’m not sure it ever will. Even if Ijames puts together a big final season for the Cardinals and gets drafted higher than I think this June, he’ll still face the daunting challenge of being one of the few players — I can think of none off the top of my head — that have turned 24 during their first pro season and then went on to big league success.
St. John’s JR RHP Kyle Hansen
St. John’s JR RHP Matt Carasiti
Louisville JR RHP Matt Koch
Louisville JR RHP Justin Amlung
Louisville JR RHP Andy Flett
The Big East is deep in pitching, but lacks the type of early round impact talent that tends to get a conference noticed early on in the season. The depth of talent will change that as the season moves along. Heading up our rotation is the big righthander from St. John’s, Kyle Hansen. Hansen has the three pitches needed to start professionally (low-90s FB that peaks at 94-96, a consistently average low-80s SL that flashes plus, especially when thrown harder, and a raw low-80s CU that has gotten much better since his high school days) and should get the chance to do exactly that, despite what some have said about his delivery being better suited for the bullpen. His teammate Carasiti joins him in our “rotation,” but there is little doubt his pro future is as a reliever. He’s got the heavy hard fastball, good upper-70s slider, and emerging splitter to profile as a fine middle reliever in the big leagues.
The two St. John’s pitchers are joined by our trio of Cardinals. Matt Koch is another reliever all the way. He has similar stuff when compared to Carasiti (arguably a better fastball, though I prefer Carasiti’s slightly slower but more difficult to square up offering), but loses out due to a slightly less exciting overall repertoire (Koch is FB/SL all the way) and less flashes of collegiate dominance. Amlung’s on the border between starter and reliever. He throws four pitches for strikes, but might be best off if he streamlined his arsenal and stuck with his two best pitches, a good sinking fastball and a tight low-80s slider. Flett is a personal favorite who succeeds in large part due to superior fastball command and a good mid-70s curveball. There’s still some projection left in his 6-7, 185 pound frame, so envisioning a future where his low-90s fastball (mostly 90-93) picks up a few ticks isn’t exactly out of line.
My only regret here is leaving off the slew of interesting pitchers for South Florida. Seriously, any one of just about any arm on their staff could have been included. Andrew Barbosa, Ray Delphey, Derrick Stulz, Austin Adams, Trey Dahl (who I recently noticed was no longer listed on the 2012 roster), and Joe Lovecchio are all firmly in the mix to be drafted in 2012, but I’m in a little bit of a continued wait and see mode due to many of their arms having questionable health backgrounds heading into this year. So far, so good for many of the hurlers, both in terms of good health and production. The combined numbers of Stultz, Adams, Delphey, and Lovecchio so far (3-0 record): 24 IP 28 K 10 BB 19 H 3 ER.
Rutgers rSO RHP Charlie Law
Seton Hall JR RHP Ryan Harvey
St. John’s JR RHP Jerome Werniuk
St. John’s JR RHP Anthony Cervone
Cincinnati JR RHP Zach Isler
Seton Hall JR RHP Frank Morris
St. John’s is heavily represented in both the rotation and the bullpen on this squad. Charlie Law has been on the radar long enough that it is hard to call him a sleeper, but injuries and erratic command have some forgetting about how solid his three-pitch mix is when on. Werniuk is somewhat similar as another bigger guy (6-5, 210 pounds to Law’s 6-7, 235) with a history of trouble throwing strikes. You could say the same thing about Cervone, come to think of it. Ryan Harvey’s big 2011 season (park/schedule adjusted 15.11 K/9 in 44.2 IP) was more impressive than his raw stuff (upper-80s fastball, plus slider) indicates, but, as you can read, it isn’t like his stuff is bad. His teammate Frank Morris joins him as an athletic projection peak capable of hitting 93-94 with his fastball. Finally, we have Cincinnati’s Zach Isler. Isler is the kind of guy the bullpens were designed for. His stuff isn’t particularly exciting when stretched out over longer appearances, but in short bursts he can let it fly with a fastball hitting 94-95 and an above-average low-80s slider.
I’m inclined to think differently about Stewart Ijames. Whatever the case may be that he did not get drafted last year. He seems to have made the appropriate adjustments and is off to a great early start (3 HR, .375 average, .833 SLG, and .483OB%) Granted, he is older than the rest of the squad, but he brings a lot of raw power and a good arm. It has been interesting thus far seeing him play as a 1B. I still think if he puts up great numbers and actually increases his on base percentage he could be drafted at a similar round of his 2010 performance (29th round, Yankees) or in the lower teens. I wouldn’t give up all hope on Stewart Ijames. I think he’s just getting started. Just some thoughts.
All good thoughts, thanks for chiming in. I think you are right to remain positive about Ijames, especially in a year with so few clear cut standout college hitters. The age thing concerns me perhaps more than it should. Let’s say he gets drafted and tears it up in short-season ball, then earns a late year promotion to Low-A. Where does he go from there? Starting the 2013 season at A+? The more appropriate for his age AA? Fair or not, at 24 years of age he’ll have to move quickly if he ever hopes to be taken seriously as a pro prospect. I put nothing past any of these young players, many of whom have already beaten substantial odds to even get to where they currently are, but I’m less hopeful than I used to be. I admire you for sticking with him, though. His numbers so far this year are currently encouraging and, as you noted, his power and arm haven’t gone anywhere.
I have to admit, my own complicated history with Ijames as a prospect could be clouding my judgment on him somewhat. I liked him enough in 2010 to draft him with a 10th round pick in a shadow draft, so his year-to-year draft backslide has me a bit puzzled. He’s gone from the top Big East outfielder two years ago (see the set of quotes below/6th overall college OF prospect), to second last year (behind George Springer/26th overall college OF prospect), to slipping to the five spot this year (final college OF ranking TBD). Ranking in the top five at your position group within a conference in three straight years has to be worth something, right? The guy is definitely talented, and his sophomore year numbers showed that he has the capacity to put his tools to good use. As one of the site’s first draft favorites, I’ll be rooting for him. Whenever I doubt a guy, I’d much rather be wrong than right.