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.
- UCLA JR C Tyler Heineman
- Washington JR C Chase Anselment
- California SR C Chadd Krist
- Oregon SO C Aaron Jones
- Arizona State JR C Max Rossiter
- Southern California SR C Kevin Roundtree
- Oregon rSR C Brett Hambright
- 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.
- 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.
- Stanford JR 2B Kenny Diekroeger
- Arizona State JR 2B Joey DeMichele
- 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.
- 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.
- Stanford JR 3B Stephen Piscotty
- UCLA JR 3B Cody Regis
- Washington JR 3B Jake Lamb
- 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.
- UCLA JR OF Jeff Gelalich
- Stanford JR OF Jacob Stewart
- Stanford JR OF Tyler Gaffney
- Arizona State JR OF Andrew Aplin
- UCLA JR OF Beau Amaral
- Southern California JR OF Alex Glenn
- UCLA JR OF Cody Keefer
- Arizona JR OF Robert Refsnyder
- Utah SR OF Shaun Cooper
- Oregon JR OF Andrew Mendenhall
- Washington State SR OF Derek Jones
- Washington SR OF Caleb Brown
- Washington State SR OF Kyle Johnson
- 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.
You were the first one to recognize UCLA Catcher, Tyler Heineman, as being one of the elite talents in NCAA D1 Baseball. You have an eye for “true” baseball talent and not just the “flavor of the month eye candy” that so many other prognosticators are so quick to tout. Nice call!
You missed on Abe Ruiz. By far the most talented hitting first baseman in the PAC-12. The man has a big league swing. I respect the numbers Ard has put up but you obviously have never seen Ruiz hit. Ask the UCLA fan above, I believe he hit two home runs that series the first clearing the hitting facility in right. One of the leaders in RBI’s and doubles and tied in first for home runs. Give him a look.