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AQ Conference Follow List: 2012 MLB Draft Second Basemen

Finally, we’ve come to a position breakdown with some real deal competition for the top spot. A legitimate case for that very spot could pretty easily be made for at least a half dozen different players. Case in point: the guy I had fourth overall a few weeks ago when I originally sketched this out (Diekroeger) will likely be the first player of this group off the board in June. Travis, Mazzilli, and Coyle could all be in the mix as well, though I realize these types of players (productive as anybody, but no carrying tool) don’t typically get as much love as I tend to expect on draft day. Diekroeger might also have to watch his back to be sure fellow Pac-12ers DeMichele and Renda keep their distance. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the hot pick of the early spring, Jamodrick McGruder. If internet gossip is to be believed — and it always should — then McGruder’s hot start and standout athleticism has helped him rise up draft boards. Maybe I’m just a sucker for getting as deep as possible with these lists (mostly beyond the point of even finding viable prospects, as one notoriously snarky “friend” in the industry informed me recently), but this is a fun group of players, especially at the top. How fun is it? Let’s compare it to 2011.

Using the number six (though I’m now realizing I mentioned seven guys above…let’s just pretend it was only six, alright?) as my fun with arbitrary number comparison starting point of the day, a quick look back at last year’s top college second basemen rankings reveals that the top six AQ college second basemen (Levi Michael – Joe Panik – Ryan Wright – Khayyan Norfork – Dan Gamache – Josh Adams) were all drafted. That’s the good news. The less good news is that outside of the top three, no 2011 college second basemen ranked in the top thirty of their pro team’s farm system per Baseball America. I don’t want to say the takeaway here is that my “friend” was right, but this quick and imperfect sample does help put things in a different perspective. As much as I personally like LJ Mazzilli today, I should probably slow down a bit with my plans of writing a 4,000 word essay on why I think he’ll be a big league player someday. Or I could just continue to ignore the odds and do whatever the hell I feel like doing on whatever given day it happens to be. Either way. Here’s the whole list of interesting draft follows from the AQ Conferences for, you know, completeness’ sake.

  1. Arizona State JR 2B Joey DeMichele
  2. California JR 2B Tony Renda
  3. Clemson SR 2B Jason Stolz
  4. Connecticut JR 2B LJ Mazzilli
  5. Florida State JR 2B Devon Travis
  6. Georgia SR 2B Levi Hyams
  7. Georgia Tech JR 2B Sam Dove
  8. Georgia Tech SR 2B Conner Winn
  9. Indiana JR 2B Micah Johnson
  10. Louisiana State SR 2B Tyler Hanover
  11. Michigan State rJR 2B Ryan Jones
  12. Mississippi JR 2B Alex Yarbrough
  13. Missouri JR 2B Eric Garcia
  14. North Carolina JR 2B Tommy Coyle
  15. Purdue rSR 2B Eric Charles
  16. St. John’s SR 2B Matt Wessinger
  17. Stanford JR 2B Kenny Diekroeger
  18. Texas SR 2B Jordan Etier
  19. Texas Tech JR 2B Jamodrick McGruder
  20. Virginia SR 2B Keith Werman
  21. Wake Forest JR 2B Mark Rhine

2012 MLB Draft: Big 10 Position Players of Note

As a lifelong resident of the northeastern corner of the United States, I’ve got nothing but love for cold weather college baseball. The Big 10 is always good for a few quality prospects each year (19 players were drafted in 2011), but rarely do we see any impact (i.e. early round) prospects pass through the conference. That’s likely the case once again in 2012, though the first name you’ll read below (or not, if you stop reading right…now) has the best chance of slipping into the draft’s first day than any other Big 10 player. Below you’ll find what I’m sure is an incomplete list (in a somewhat odd twist I find that the fewer legitimate prospects are in a conference, the more I tend to overlook/overrate) of this year’s most interesting Big 10 position player follows. There are surely some players who slipped through the cracks, so feel free to yell at me in the comments or via email if something seems off.

Catchers

  1. Purdue JR C Kevin Plawecki
  2. Nebraska JR C Richard Stock
  3. Michigan SR C Coley Crank
  • Iowa JR C Dan Sheppard
  • Michigan rSO C Zach Johnson

Plawecki has gotten attention from smart fans of cold weather college ball for starting the season white hot, but he’s due for some additional national exposure, especially as we get closer to draft day. There are definite faults to his game – he’s still raw behind the plate and his power upside has been questioned by scouts smarter than me – but I’m a believer in his improved footwork and quick release, as well as the way his selective approach helps him key on pitches he can drive to the gaps. In other words, what he lacks in certain raw tools (arm strength, power) he makes up for in other ways. There’s a lot to like here. I’ve heard mixed reports on Stock’s defense this spring, though it doesn’t appear that he has had much of an opportunity to show off behind the plate given Nebraska’s depth at the position. If pro teams think he can catch – he certainly has the arm strength for it – then he’s an interesting mid-round upside pick due to his intriguing raw power. If he’s limited to first base, then he’ll face a much tougher road. Crank’s defense has never been his forte and reports on his ability to hit anything but meatballs are not encouraging.

First Basemen

  1. Northwestern SR 1B Paul Snieder
  • Penn State SR 1B Joey DeBernardis

Snieder is a really good college player, but his tools are all a little light to profile as a big league player. He might have just enough pop to get drafted, and his defense and arm are both clear strengths.

Second Basemen

  1. Michigan State rJR 2B Ryan Jones
  2. Indiana JR 2B Micah Johnson
  3. Purdue rSR 2B Eric Charles
  • Ohio State JR 2B Kirby Pellant
  • Nebraska JR 2B Bryan Peters
  • Ohio State JR 2B Ryan Cypret

Jones, Johnson, and Charles all make up one of the most intriguing below the radar position groups that we’ve profiled so far. Jones may not have a singular standout tool, but, outside of a lack of big raw power, he is more or less average across the board, including being above-average defensively at both second and third. As much as it pains me to resort to such an empty cliché, Jones is a ballplayer, plain and simple. Johnson has more raw power, but isn’t quite the defender that Jones is. Charles may not profile as quite the offensive player as either Jones or Johnson, but his defense at second is outstanding.

Shortstops

  1. Michigan JR SS Derek Dennis
  2. Minnesota rJR SS Troy Larson
  • Michigan State SR SS Justin Scanlon

At some point we’re all going to collectively give up on Dennis as a pro prospect, but his well-rounded tools – I’ll believe in his ability to defend at a high level up the middle from now until forever – keep him on the radar even thought his college performances have been one disappointment after another.

Third Basemen

  1. Purdue JR 3B Cameron Perkins
  2. Illinois rSO 3B Jordan Parr
  3. Penn State SR 3B Jordan Steranka
  • Ohio State JR 3B Brad Hallberg
  • Purdue SR 3B Barrett Serrato
  • Minnesota SR 3B Kyle Geason
  • Nebraska JR 3B Kurt Farmer
  • Michigan SR 3B John Lorenz
  • Minnesota rJR 3B Matt Puhl

Perkins is the clear BMOC of the Big 10 third base group due to his above-average raw power, quick wrists, and sturdy big league frame. He might be best served working out as a four-corners (LF-RF-3B-1B) role player at the next level. Like Perkins, Parr is a free swinger with power, but his athleticism and versatility on defense are what endear him most to scouts.

Outfielders

  1. Michigan State JR OF Torsten Boss
  2. Nebraska rSO OF Kash Kalkowski
  3. Michigan JR OF Patrick Biondi
  4. Illinois SR OF Willie Argo
  5. Indiana JR OF Justin Cureton
  6. Nebraska JR OF Josh Scheffert
  7. Minnesota rSO OF Dan Olinger
  8. Illinois JR OF Davis Hendrickson
  9. Nebraska SR OF Khiry Cooper
  • Nebraska SR OF Kale Kiser
  • Ohio State rSO OF Mike Carroll
  • Minnesota JR OF Ryan Abrahamson
  • Michigan State JR OF Jordan Keur
  • Penn State SR OF Sean Deegan
  • Penn State JR OF Ryan Clark
  • Purdue SR OF Tyler Spillner
  • Purdue JR OF Stephen Talbott

The top two names on the list, Boss and Kalkowski, are both former and, depending on who winds up drafting them, future infielders. Boss, a converted third baseman, has acquitted himself quite well in center despite not being a classic burner with plus range. His bat might be strong enough even if pushed to a corner at the next level. Kalkowski is a great athlete with good raw power who could be tried at second base in the pros. Biondi is a three-true outcomes player, but only if you doctor the definition to include walks, strikeouts, and stolen bases. Without actually doing the research, I’d wager that Biondi’s 31 combined walks and strikeouts rank up at or near the top of all of college baseball. He’s reached based 46 times so far in 2012 and has stolen a base almost one out of every three times he’s done so. Without any type of context I can’t be sure that those numbers are special in any particular way, but they sure do seem impressive. Those last three sentences almost certainly qualify as only interesting to me, and I apologize. As a prospect, Biondi gives you lots of speed and all kinds of range in center. He won’t hit enough to be a regular, but those two carrying tools could carry him right into a fifth outfielder’s job someday. Argo offers a similar skill set (less arm strength, more physical strength), as does Cureton. Scheffert’s hot start has some believing he is finally beginning to turn his considerable tools into something while Olinger keeps hitting despite not being super toolsy himself. Khiry Cooper gets the last spot even though he has given up baseball for football. Hard to find his brand of athleticism on the diamond, so I could see a team taking a flier on him late.

AQ Conference Follow List: 2012 MLB Draft First Basemen

Shaffer looks pretty strong as the number one first baseman out of this group (not quite Zunino strong, but strong), so who is number two? Do any of these players profile as big league regulars at baseball’s most demanding offensive position? Which state of Florida prospect do you prefer: Boyd, Johnson, or Tucker? Speaking of Johnson, am I crazy for preferring him at first rather than on the mound? How high has Muncy’s strong start elevated his draft stock? Ard, Davies, Rash, or Wasserman: who wins that home run derby? So many questions, precious few answers. Here’s a list of all of my personal AQ conference follow list for first basemen eligible for the 2012 MLB Draft…

  1. Arkansas SR 1B Sam Bates
  2. Baylor JR 1B Max Muncy
  3. Clemson JR 1B Richie Shaffer
  4. Florida JR 1B Vickash Ramjit
  5. Florida JR 1B Brian Johnson
  6. Florida SR 1B Preston Tucker
  7. Florida State JR 1B Jayce Boyd
  8. Georgia Tech SR 1B Jake Davies
  9. Louisville JR 1B Zak Wasserman
  10. Miami JR 1B Cade Kreuter
  11. Mississippi SR 1B Matt Snyder
  12. North Carolina JR 1B Cody Stubbs
  13. Northwestern SR 1B Paul Snieder
  14. Oklahoma JR 1B Drew Harrison
  15. Oregon State JR 1B Danny Hayes
  16. South Carolina JR 1B Christian Walker
  17. South Florida SR 1B Todd Brazeal
  18. Stanford JR 1B Justin Ringo
  19. Texas A&M SR 1B Jacob House
  20. Virginia SR 1B Jared King
  21. Virginia Tech rJR 1B Andrew Rash
  22. Wake Forest JR 1B Matt Conway
  23. Washington State rJR 1B Taylor Ard
  24. Washington State rSO 1B Adam Nelubowich

My answers from above: Boyd. As everyday first basemen, probably not. Again, Boyd but it is very, very close. Probably, but that’s old news. Argument could be made that he is at or near the top, especially if he can play other spots (2B/OF) besides first as rumored. Ard, but they all have power to spare.

2012 MLB Draft: Pac-12 Position Players of Note

Who needs a fancy introduction on a Monday morning? Let’s dive right in and talk about some of the west coast’s most interesting college hitters.

Catchers

  1. UCLA JR C Tyler Heineman
  2. Washington JR C Chase Anselment
  3. California SR C Chadd Krist
  4. Oregon SO C Aaron Jones
  5. Arizona State JR C Max Rossiter
  6. Southern California SR C Kevin Roundtree
  7. Oregon rSR C Brett Hambright
  8. UCLA JR C Trevor Brown
  • UCLA rSO C Richie Brehaut
  • Utah JR C Parker Morin
  • Stanford JR C Christian Griffiths
  • Washington SR C BK Santy

Heineman is a breakout 2012 star based largely on an incredibly well-rounded skill set. His defense is big league quality as is, and his approach at the plate (none other than Aaron Fitt has lauded him for never wasting at bats) is top notch. There’s a chance he’ll be one of three UCLA catchers drafted in June. Brown profiles more as a utility guy (he’s a good defender already at first, and some think he’s athletic enough to hack it at second) and Brehaut, UCLA’s starting QB and one-time member of the baseball squad, might get picked as a total projection play despite not suiting up for the Bruins team this spring. Anselment is one of the best catchers on the left coast based on the strength of his solid defense, good pitch recognition, and above-average raw power. He’s showing off that power more often in 2012 leading some (fine, me) to believe that he’s finally turning into the player many (again, me) believed he’d be as one of top prospects to come out of his high school class. Jones is a true sophomore who is listed as a 2012 draft in my notes. He’s either eligible based on his age or I’ve made a mistake. His bat and athleticism are his current calling cards, as his defense behind the plate isn’t yet quite up to snuff.

First Basemen

  1. Washington State rJR 1B Taylor Ard
  • Oregon State JR 1B Danny Hayes
  • Stanford JR 1B Justin Ringo
  • Washington State rSO 1B Adam Nelubowich
  • California JR 1B Devon Rodriguez
  • Arizona State SR 1B Abe Ruiz

With his plus raw power and advanced approach, Ard’s upside stacks up against any collegiate first basemen in the country. Beyond Ard, I’d bet that the majority of the guys listed here will stick around until their senior years. Hayes is a gifted natural hitter, though you wouldn’t necessarily know it from his early season numbers He is hitting .188 through 17 games, but has an OBP of .409 thanks to 17 walks in only 48 at bats.

Second Basemen

  1. Stanford JR 2B Kenny Diekroeger
  2. Arizona State JR 2B Joey DeMichele
  3. California JR 2B Tony Renda
  • Oregon State JR 2B Tyler Smith

I’m firmly on board the Diekroeger as a second baseman bandwagon. We’re talking comfortably seated, safety belt on, and 72 ounces of Mountain Dew in my Big Gulp sweating in the cup holder. When I started out in this industry over thirty years ago (just kidding, I’m only 26 and I haven’t been doing this since the crib…), a crusty old scout named Virgil O’Marty once told me, “Son, always bet on tools. Even when the Mayans explode the world and buildings and whatnot are all collapsing around us, bet on tools.” So, yeah, that’s why I like Diekroeger. Athleticism, bat speed, enough foot speed and gap power to get the opposition honest, and that sneaky strength in his 6’2”, 200 pound build that some middle infielders have (e.g. the good ones) and some don’t all add up to make him the rare college second base prospect projected to play regularly at the big league level. Renda is also a good player, especially when allowed to play his best position: batter’s box. I’m actually one of the few who believe he will always be just good enough to stay at second, but I’m happy to acknowledge I’ve seen him a lot less than many of the people who are bearish about his future sticking up the middle. The same could be said for DeMichele, one of college ball’s underrated hitters. His lack of a surefire defensive home is somewhat concerning, but guys with that combo of a true plus hit tool and even average future power (maybe a touch more with added weight) don’t grow on cacti.

Shortstops

  1. Arizona State JR SS Deven Marrero
  • Oregon State SR SS Ryan Dunn
  • Arizona JR SS Alex Mejia

Marrero is a really good prospect with the chance to be an above-average regular at arguably the sport’s most difficult to fill (shortstop or catcher, flip a coin) defensive position. I’ve never watched him play and walked away thinking he’s an impact big league talent, but the positional adjustment is something that sometimes my tiny brain has a difficult time wrapping itself around. I mean, if he’s Yunel Escobar (my own personal off the wall comp), then you’re pretty thrilled taking him early in the first round, right? I had to lower the ranking of this Ryan Dunn when I found out he was not the inspiration for Freddy Prince Jr.’s Ryan Dunne. I have six specific bullet points regarding Mejia in my notes, all of which deal with his (strong) defensive abilities. Draw your own conclusions there.

Third Basemen

  1. Stanford JR 3B Stephen Piscotty
  2. UCLA JR 3B Cody Regis
  3. Washington JR 3B Jake Lamb
  4. Arizona JR 3B Seth Mejias-Brean
  • California JR 3B Mitch Delfino
  • Stanford JR 3B Eric Smith
  • Oregon JR 3B JJ Altobelli

I know I’ve read a pretty clever Garrett Atkins comp for Piscotty somewhere (BA?), but I’m pleased as punch to bust out the next generation perfect comp for Piscotty: former Gamecock and current Padre 3B/OF James Darnell. Both players can hit it to all fields, both guys are selective yet aggressive hitters (super plate coverage for both as well), and both are in between positions defensively. Piscotty’s upside in the field might be a little bit higher – he has a better shot at sticking at third, and has an arm that is plenty strong for RF – but the rest of the similarities (build, handedness, college numbers) are uncanny to me. Darnell was a second round pick in 2008 (fair value for Piscotty in my mind), but the relatively weak draft class could help push the Stanford slugger past that mark in 2012. Regis’s anemic start to the season has me a little concerned that something nefarious is afoot. A crowded third base field could knock him way down this list come June. Many would already have Lamb, a trendy first round sleeper coming into the year, ahead of Regis. I’d be a fool to look past Lamb’s impressive early season surge, but have a hard time reconciling his improved approach against his barely passable defense at third. He might be on a similar 3B/RF path as Piscotty, though I still think some creative team might give him a look behind the plate before it’s all said and done.

Outfielders

  1. UCLA JR OF Jeff Gelalich
  2. Stanford JR OF Jacob Stewart
  3. Stanford JR OF Tyler Gaffney
  4. Arizona State JR OF Andrew Aplin
  5. UCLA JR OF Beau Amaral
  6. Southern California JR OF Alex Glenn
  7. UCLA JR OF Cody Keefer
  8. Arizona JR OF Robert Refsnyder
  9. Utah SR OF Shaun Cooper
  10. Oregon JR OF Andrew Mendenhall
  11. Washington State SR OF Derek Jones
  12. Washington SR OF Caleb Brown
  13. Washington State SR OF Kyle Johnson
  14. Arizona JR OF Joey Rickard
  • Utah JR OF Connor Eppard
  • Oregon State JR OF Joey Matthews
  • Southern California SR OF Alex Sherrod
  • California JR OF Vince Bruno
  • Oregon State JR OF Ryan Barnes
  • California SR OF Danny Oh
  • California SR OF Chad Bunting
  • Oregon JR OF Ryan Hambright
  • Washington State SR OF Patrick Claussen
  • California JR OF Darrel Matthews
  • Washington State JR OF Brett Jacobs

Stewart is well known for his outstanding physical skills and five-tool ceiling, but Gelalich is no tools slouch in his own right. The only clear edge I’d give one over the other is raw power (Stewart), but everything else (hit, speed, defense, arm) is close. Gelalich’s better pitch recognition and more consistent production to date make him the better prospect by a hair. After those two, the Pac-12 is littered with prospects with reports that include some variation of the phrase “leadoff hitter profile, line drive swing, CF range, good athleticism, above-average speed, below-average power.” Sorting through Gaffney, Aplin, Amaral, Keefer, Glenn, and Refsnyder took me far longer than I’d like to admit. Despite his funky swing that causes many an evaluator to knock his hit tool down a grade or two, I just plain like Gaffney to contribute something somewhere someday at the big league level. That’s probably a testament to the fact that I’m not a scout, I guess. I can’t see a swing that works the way he does and decide that it is wrong and won’t work against more advanced pitching. Not saying that’s good or bad, just pointing out a potential blind spot in what I do here. Anyway, here’s my attempt to quantify what I’ve seen out of Aplin, Amaral, Keefer, Glenn, and Refsnyder:

  • Approach: Aplin, Amaral, Keefer
  • Hit tool: Aplin/Amaral/Keefer/Refsnyder (four-way tie)
  • Range: Glenn, Aplin, Amaral
  • Speed: Glenn, Amaral, Aplin
  • Arm: Aplin, Refsnyder, Glenn
  • Athleticism: Glenn, Refsnyder, Amaral
  • Pop: Refsnyder, Glenn, Amaral

If I assign points based on a 3-2-1 scale, I get the following totals:

  • Aplin: 11
  • Amaral: 9
  • Keefer: 3
  • Glenn: 12
  • Refsnyder: 9

My original order was the one you see above: Aplin, Amaral, Keefer, Glenn, Refsnyder. After this little thought exercise, the only change that I think I’m alright with making is bumping up Glenn over Keefer. Despite the higher score, Glenn’s rawness keeps him from leapfrogging the more polished duo of Aplin and Amaral. The reports I have on Refsnyder’s range all seem to indicate he’d be best in a corner, so he stays at the bottom despite outscoring Keefer by a healthy margin. I’m all for attempts to quantify this stuff, but it makes no sense to be a slave to any flawed numbers system, right?

Cooper has crazy power, but is an all-bat LF only in the pros. Jones has very good power, but is an all-bat LF only in the pros. Mendenhall has all the tools to succeed, but hasn’t done it at the college level. He’s like a less accomplished Adam Matthews (whoa, same initials!), in a way. You could say the same thing about Caleb Brown, minus the initials comment. Johnson and Rickard could both be in that “leadoff hitter, good speed, CF range, no power” category from above, but aren’t quite talented enough to fit in the names in that group. There is some talent down the list, but many of the names are in that nebulous “more data needed” group that we’ll get to some other time.

2012 MLB Draft: Big 12 Position Players of Note

The title pretty much says it all, does it not? Let’s see what’s what in the Big 12 this year…

Catchers

  1. Kansas SR C James Stanfield
  2. Kansas SR C Alex DeLeon
  3. Oklahoma State JR C Rick Stover
  4. Baylor SR C Josh Ludy
  5. Texas Tech JR C Bo Altobelli
  6. Oklahoma State SR C Jared Womack
  7. Baylor SR C Joey Hainsfurther

I’m a sucker on converted infielders trying their hand behind the plate. Athleticism in young catching prospects goes a long way, and those converted infielders typically have it in spades. Stanfield is no exception, though his athleticism should come with the always popular disclaimer “for a catcher.” Athletic…for a catcher. Above-average speed…for a catcher. Good tipper…for a catcher. Stanfield is already an above-average defender who still has some of that untapped upside that comes with players new to the position. He isn’t a world beater at the plate, but his mature approach to hitting and adequate pop make him a worthwhile follow, especially as a cheap mid-round senior sign option. Beyond Stanfield, you’ve got a mixed bag of good power/poor defense (DeLeon and Ludy) and good defense/light bats (Stover, at least going back to his juco days, and Altobelli). I think Stanfield is the only one who is a lock to be drafted, but some of the other names above also have a shot. A few other catchers to keep in mind just in case you are in the world’s deepest most insane keeper league (Big 12 only, naturally):

  • Missouri SR C Ben Turner
  • Texas Tech SR C Kevin Whitehead
  • Missouri JR C Scott Sommerfeld
  • Baylor JR C Nathan Orf
  • Oklahoma State JR C Victor Romero

First Basemen

  1. Baylor JR 1B Max Muncy
  2. Oklahoma JR 1B Drew Harrison
  3. Texas A&M SR 1B Jacob House

Muncy is a natural born hitter with a slew of average or better tools. He’s got enough power, speed, and defensive ability to be intriguing even at first, but his stock will shoot way up if a team believes he can handle an outfield spot or, better yet, second base. Harrison’s raw power and size (6-4, 255) help make him a classic old school slugging first base prospect. House is the conference’s best defender at first and one of the best overall defenders in the country. That’s both an honest to goodness positive (defense is important, after all) and a little bit of a backhanded compliment (when you play first base and the first thing they praise is your defense…)…

Ellipses parentheses ellipses. Now that’s quality writing right there. Three more first basemen from the Big 12 that could get lucky late on draft day…(or not…)…

  • Texas Tech rJR 1B Scott LeJeune
  • Baylor SR 1B Dan Evatt
  • Kansas SR 1B Chris Manship

Second Basemen

  1. Texas Tech JR 2B Jamodrick McGruder
  2. Texas SR 2B Jordan Etier
  3. Missouri JR 2B Eric Garcia

Awesome first name? Check. Equally awesome last name? Check. Jamodrick McGruder is more than just a great name, though. He’s a fantastic athlete who can really run the bases. Between his speed, defense, and relentlessness as a hitter (if I was the type to describe a player as scrappy, I’d use it here), McGruder looks like a potentially useful big league utility guy if everything shakes out. He reminds me a little bit of last year’s underrated for 99% of the spring (until the week of the draft, naturally) middle infielder, Jace Peterson. Two more second basemen because, well, that’s all I think are worth mentioning in the Big 12. Also, it’s second base, so why not go two deep here?

  • Oklahoma SR 2B Evan Mistich
  • Baylor JR 2B Steve DalPorto

Shortstops

  1. Texas A&M JR SS Mikey Reynolds
  2. Oklahoma SR SS Caleb Bushyhead

Unless I’m totally whiffing on somebody obvious, there is very little in the way of viable shortstop prospects to be found in the Big 12 2012 draft class. Reynolds (Texas A&M has some kind of magic when it comes to junior college middle infielders) and Bushyhead, both solid defenders, are the only two with a better than 50/50 shot to be drafted.

Third Basemen

  1. Oklahoma State SR 3B Mark Ginther
  2. Texas A&M SR 3B Matt Juengel
  3. Missouri SR 3B Connor Mach
  4. Kansas SR 3B Zac Elgie

The quartet above more or less sum up why I love following the draft. The odds of any of the four ever reaching the majors isn’t particularly high, but each guy has a solid collegiate track record and enough tools to make them stand out just enough to make you go “hmm…” Ginther’s swing can get too long at times, but his athleticism, arm strength, and defensive tools are all well above-average. Juengel is a smart hitter with good bat speed, but his power upside and defense ability lag behind Ginther’s at this point. Mach’s draft standing would improve if he can demonstrate a little more defensive versatility in 2012. Elgie has big raw power and good defensive tools, but there’s a bigger gap between what he could be and what he is then you typically see in a college senior. You could rearrange these four names in just about any order and still come out alright. These four aren’t the only interesting Big 12 third basemen to watch. Let’s double down and check out four more names worth paying some attention to this spring:

  • Baylor JR 3B Cal Towey
  • Baylor JR 3B Jake Miller
  • Texas SR 3B Kevin Lusson
  • Oklahoma JR 3B Garrett Carey

Outfielders

  1. Texas Tech JR OF Barrett Barnes
  2. Texas A&M JR OF Tyler Naquin
  3. Missouri JR OF Blake Brown
  4. Texas JR OF Jonathan Walsh
  5. Baylor JR OF Logan Vick
  6. Texas A&M SO OF Krey Bratsen
  7. Texas JR OF Matt Moynihan
  8. Oklahoma JR OF Max White
  9. Texas A&M SR OF Scott Arthur
  • Texas JR OF Cohl Walla
  • Kansas SR OF Jason Brunansky
  • Oklahoma SR OF Cody Reine
  • Missouri JR OF Dane Opel
  • Missouri JR OF Brannon Champagne
  • Texas A&M JR OF Brandon Wood
  • Oklahoma SR OF Erik Ross
  • Texas SR OF Tim Maitland
  • Texas Tech rJR OF Nick Hanslik
  • Kansas State SR OF Mike Kindel

The strength of the conference position players is easily this outfield group. Barrett Barnes is a huge personal favorite – my comically outdated big board from last summer had Barnes ranked as the 9th overall draft prospect and 1st among college outfielders – who literally does everything well. He’s got big raw power, plus speed, the tools to excel in center, and plenty of brute strength. The only aspect of his game that gives me pause is his inconsistent hit tool, but, hey, nobody’s perfect. I’m not sure where Barnes will ultimately rank once every college outfielder is evaluated, but he’s good enough to hold down the top spot out of any AQ conference outfielder in the country. All comps are the work of the devil caveats aside, I think Barnes’ tools line up pretty closely to Mikie Mahtook’s (31st overall pick last year), right down to their shared weaknesses (consistent contact and arm strength, though Mahtook’s arm is a grade better).

Naquin is both second to Barnes in both the Big 12 and all of the AQ conferences combined. Loyal readers of the site probably remember my serious affinity for Alabama’s Taylor Dugas. Think of Naquin as a super-charged version of Dugas. He has all the tools to play center and hit leadoff for a big league club down the line, but must improve his pitch recognition and put on some weight if he wants to give pitchers a reason not to throw him breaking balls out over the plate all day. Two words in my notes on Blake Brown keep popping out at me: natural hitter. I loved Walsh in 2009 and nothing that has transpired since he has enrolled at Texas has me changing my mind. Well, there was the whole position switch thing (catcher to outfielder), but that was more or less inevitable. Vick’s versatility makes him very appealing (same for Arthur), Bratsen has legit sprinter speed, and White could be in line for a big spring now that the 2011 second base experiment is but a distant memory.  Moynihan’s high ranking is a credit to his wonderful physical gifts (speed and athleticism) and leadoff hitter approach because he is raw as can be. He’d be a lot less raw if he played (he’s bounced from San Diego to Orange Coast College to Texas, and has yet to take the field for the Longhorns in 2012), but you can’t have everything I guess.

Basketball School No More: Kentucky Wildcats

As the following run-on sentence shows, I’m really not much of a writer. Knowing this about myself, I’m always on the lookout for a clever hook that can help me find a way to share a little bit of what I know in a way that is a little bit more readable than yet another list. Since much of the past four days was spent keeping tabs on the NCAA basketball tournament, I figured going with the prohibitive favorite university on brackets across the country (mine included) would be a fine excuse to write about one of baseball’s biggest early season surprises. We’re almost certainly getting too far ahead of ourselves with the title, but let’s enjoy the Wildcats perfect start and talk some Kentucky baseball anyway.

I’m a gigantic fan of JR C Luke Maile. In fact, I’m a big enough fan that I think he’s the second best college catcher from any of the AQ conference schools I’ve looked at so far. He came into the year with everything checked off on my”potential big league starting catcher” checklist (power, arm, athleticism, works deep counts), but needed to do a better job defensively and improve his two strike approach. So far, so good. All the reports about his defense have been positive this spring (well, winter) and his impressive 11/3 BB/K ratio matches up nicely with his own stated goal of shortening his two strike swing. Maile is the second best catching prospect in the SEC, the second best catching prospect in any AQ conference, and, who knows, he might just be the second best catching prospect in all of college baseball. Alright, that last point might be stretching it a bit (a certain Horned Frog might have something to say about that, as might a major thumper who calls Western New York home), but he’ll be up there.

In addition to Maile, Kentucky has three other position players worth watching. SR C Michael Williams won’t hit enough to ever play everyday, but his defense is so damn good that he is a solid draft as a potential backup catcher down the line. JR OF Brian Adams is similar to Williams in that any team taking a chance on him on draft day is doing so based largely on tools beyond his bat. The former football star is an outstanding athlete with plus-plus speed, but is still super duper raw when it comes to the finer points of actually playing baseball. SR 3B Thomas McCarthy’s 2012 numbers are down, but his 2011 production (.376/.443/.590 – 20 BB/32 K – 210 AB) and average across the board tools are enough to at least get on the radar at one of the draft’s weaker positions. Kentucky also has a pair of hot hitting transfers lighting it up in JR OF Cameron Flynn (via Morehead State) and JR OF Zac Zellers (via Heartland CC).

Kentucky also has a trio of lefthanders who should all get looks throughout the spring. SR LHP Alex Phillips is far from a household name, but he has the funky lefty stuff down pat. Good deception, plus command, and a super change help him get consistent outs at the college level (7.05 K/9 in 2011, 9.60 K/9 so far in 2012) despite not having the fastest of fastballs (sits mid-80s, peaks up near 87-88). The total package sounds like it could play as a late round senior sign with LOOGY upside. The two bigger name lefties on the Wildcats staff both slot in quite comfortably in the draft’s first ten rounds. JR LHP Taylor Rogers sits in the upper-80s with room for more as his body fills out. He already throws two good offspeed pitches for strikes – his changeup is consistently above-average and flashes plus, while his upper-70s curve is nasty when on. JR LHP Jerad Grundy, finally settled in at Kentucky by way of Miami and Heatland CC, has found success with a fastball with a little more juice than Rogers’ and a much improved slider. Both lefties are off to excellent starts in 2012, but the exciting thought is that there are even better days ahead for each.

JR RHP Chris Garrison and JR RHP Walter Wijas both have good stuff, but haven’t done it at the college level with enough consistency to call either sure-fire drafts. Garrison profiles better as a pro — good fastball, two good breaking balls, especially his slider, and a usable splitter — but he’ll need to turn things around quickly and/or hope scouts catch him on his best days if he wants to get drafted where his talent should get him popped. Western Nevada transfer JR RHP Tim Peterson has also put himself in the draft mix with a big start to his season.

Looking ahead to the next two drafts, there’s some solid talent to be found in the Bluegrass State. SO LHP Corey Littrell (2013) has the three pitches (FB/CU/SL, all with above-average or better upside) to start as a pro while SO RHP Trevor Gott (2013) has that classic fastball/slider combo to excel in the back of a bullpen. SO 2B JT Riddle (2013) could be talked about as one of the better prospects at his position (or at third) with a big sophomore season. FR 2B Max Kuhn (2014) might wind up as an even better version of Riddle by his draft year. The Wildcats also have a few outfielders of note to watch out for in the next few years. SO OF Lucas Witt (2013) and FR OF Austin Cousino (2014) are both good athletes with enough range to hang in center who show off that patient approach at the plate that you like to see in young hitters. A trio of 2014 arms in RHP Chandler Shepherd, LHP AJ Reed (might be best off as a hitter at 1B), and RHP Taylor Martin all could emerge as early round picks in time.

AQ Conference Follow List: 2012 MLB Draft Catchers

Anybody who has paid even the slightest bit of interest in this year’s draft class (i.e. literally nobody I actually talk to in real life) knows who is number one among the following group of catchers. The real question here is who’s number two after Alex San Juan Mike Zunino? I actually think there are three fairly similar guys (good power/arm, questionable defense) right behind him in spots two through four, followed by three additional personal favorites (Jacob Stallings alert!) that help round out the AQ conference super seven group of catching prospects. I’ll share the names later on, but I’m curious to see if anybody out there has an opinion on which players should fall in after Zunino. For extra credit: is your number two catcher from this group of AQ conference catchers the same as your number two catcher in all of college baseball? I don’t think mine will be, but I won’t know for sure until another week or so after I finish reviewing the rest of the conferences here on the site. With no further ado, here’s a list of all of my personal AQ conference follow list for catchers eligible for the 2012 MLB Draft…

  1. Arizona State JR C Max Rossiter
  2. Baylor JR C Nathan Orf
  3. Baylor SR C Josh Ludy
  4. California SR C Chadd Krist
  5. Cincinnati SR C Braden Kline
  6. Clemson JR C Spencer Kieboom
  7. Clemson SR C Phil Pohl
  8. Connecticut rSR C Joe Pavone
  9. Duke JR C Jeff Kremer
  10. Florida JR C Mike Zunino
  11. Florida State rSO C Stephen McGee
  12. Georgia JR C Brett DeLoach
  13. Iowa JR C Dan Sheppard
  14. Kansas SR C Alex DeLeon
  15. Kansas SR C James Stanfield
  16. Kentucky JR C Luke Maile
  17. Kentucky SR C Michael Williams
  18. Miami JR C Alex San Juan
  19. Miami SR C Peter O’Brien
  20. Michigan SR C Coley Crank
  21. Mississippi SR C Taylor Hightower
  22. Mississippi State JR C Mitch Slauter
  23. Missouri JR C Scott Sommerfeld
  24. Missouri SR C Ben Turner
  25. Nebraska JR C Richard Stock
  26. North Carolina SR C Jacob Stallings
  27. Notre Dame JR C Joe Hudson
  28. Oklahoma State JR C Rick Stover
  29. Oklahoma State JR C Victor Romero
  30. Oklahoma State SR C Jared Womack
  31. Oregon rSR C Brett Hambright
  32. Oregon SO C Aaron Jones
  33. Purdue JR C Kevin Plawecki
  34. South Carolina JR C Dante Rosenberg
  35. Southern California SR C Kevin Roundtree
  36. Stanford JR C Christian Griffiths
  37. Texas Tech JR C/INF Bo Altobelli
  38. Texas Tech SR C Kevin Whitehead
  39. UCLA JR C Tyler Heineman
  40. UCLA JR C Trevor Brown
  41. UCLA rSO C Richie Brehaut
  42. Utah JR C Parker Morin
  43. Vanderbilt rSR C Drew Fann
  44. Virginia JR C Chace Mitchell
  45. Virginia Tech rSO C Chad Morgan
  46. Wake Forest JR C Brett Armour
  47. Washington JR C Chase Anselment
  48. Washington SR C BK Santy