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Favorites – Part I (ACC)

I’m an admitted draft junkie who loves tracking the NFL and NBA Drafts almost as much as I love keeping things current on this here MLB Draft site. Like any follower of any pro sport draft, I tend to obsess about certain players that I really, really, really would like to see my favorite team draft at some point. This is relatively easy when it comes to the NFL (Fletcher Cox, Brandon Boykin, Joe Adams, and Isaiah Pead would be a super first three rounds for the Eagles) and NBA (John Henson or Tony Mitchell, please) because I have no real dog, outside of said allegiance to “my” team, in those races. I watch the entire draft process unfold and enjoy it like the fan that I am. When it comes to baseball, things are a bit different. The idea of a draft favorite isn’t entirely consigned to “Boy, I hope my team drafts him.” There’s more separation between my feelings towards my team and the overarching respect I have for the entire year-round grind that is following the draft. I think I do a pretty good job of masking my Phillies fandom as much as I can, but I still have my moments, especially on draft day, when the raw emotion of “They took they guy I wanted them to take? They took the guy I wanted them to take! THEY TOOK THE GUY THEY WANTED THEM TO TAKE!!!” or, more likely, “Him? Why?????” takes over. That said, here’s my attempt to share a few names that I oh so cleverly denoted in my notes as personal favorites by marking each name with FAVORITE. There were 31 college guys and 12 high school guys that I marked as FAVORITE(s) before the season started. Apologies to anybody out there who finds this a tad self-indulgent — it is a bit more meta, than I personally like — but I’m short on time this week so this will have to do in a pinch. These favorites aren’t so much guys that I’d want my team to draft, but rather players who do certain things well and/or guys who have impressed me firsthand and/or prospects that I have that tricky to pin down “it” factor that just draws an evaluator towards them.

There’s no rhyme or reason to the order, other than the fact I organize my notes by conference starting with the AQ schools (ACC, Big East, SEC, etc.), then move to the “mid-majors,” and finish with junior colleges, NAIA, and Division II and III. Not every conference will be covered due to time constraints — the draft is less than six weeks away, you know — but we’ll get to as many was we can. Many, though not all, of the favorites are at least somewhat off the beaten track in terms of national attention, but I’m sure most readers will be familiar with the vast majority of names shared in this space. To kick things off, the ACC…

Virginia JR SS/3B Stephen Bruno (2012)

Why was he a favorite?

No weak tool – good speed, strong arm, plus or near plus defensive tools at short, more than enough pop for a middle infielder. I also have a soft spot for prospects who play out of position as amateurs, though I can’t really explain why. Plus, I wrote about him back in January 2010, so we’ve got a little history here.

Update (park/schedule adjusted stats)

.407/.458/.593 – 13 BB/16 K – 9/9 SB – 162 AB

Verdict

All scouting reports remain positive, and his performance in 2012 is getting him the notice he rightfully deserves. He’s been on the radar for years — once upon a time he was a New Jersey high school star and draft pick of the New York Yankees — but is finally breaking out in a big way on the college stage after missing the 2011 season due to injury. I haven’t stacked up the entire draft board yet, so I can’t really put a range on where he’ll be drafted, but his ceiling is considerable.

North Carolina SO 3B Colin Moran (2013)

Why was he a favorite?

I’m hardly alone in loving Moran’s upside, but his approach, picture perfect lefthanded stroke, and much improved defense at the hot corner are too much to ignore. I haven’t seen the experts lists for 2013 just yet, but I’m fairly certain that Moran will rank very, very highly (first overall?) on my own summer list.

Update (park/schedule adjusted stats)

.389/.463/.556 – 14 BB/11 K – 90 AB

Verdict

The numbers are eerily similar to Moran’s freshman season line of .351/.462/.577. The big difference has been Moran’s 2012 health – the UNC sophomore broke his right hand early about a third of the way through the current season. Before the injury there were some positive reports about Moran’s defense, as well as some less than positive things said about his overall tools package (e.g. only his hit tool is clearly above-average…the rest of his tools, not so much). There are tools beyond the standard big five that scouts look for, and Moran’s pitch recognition, plate coverage, ability to hit to all fields, and balanced swing mechanics all contribute to his plus-plus plate discipline. Every evaluator will weigh particular skills differently, but Moran’s plate discipline means a great deal more to me than the fact that he isn’t a great runner or not a burner on the base paths.

Georgia Tech SO 1B/OF Daniel Palka (2013)

Why was he a favorite?

Short and sweet: plus-plus raw power

Update (park/schedule adjusted stats)

.295/.378/.564 – 13 BB/31 K – 149 AB

Verdict

More or less about what we expected from Palka in his sophomore campaign. Like Moran before him, his 2012 numbers very closely mirror his freshman year stats (.310/.389/.586). The power will remain less of a question than his eventual defensive home. If he can handle an outfield corner from an athletic standpoint — with his arm, he’d look good in right — then he’s a potential first round pick in 2013. If he’s limited to first base, well, he could still wind up as a first day pick, but it will take the requisite amount of hitting (i.e. even more than he’s currently doing) to build the confidence that he can play everyday at first in the big leagues.

Georgia Tech SO OF Kyle Wren (2013)

Why was he a favorite?

I’m a sucker for speed, professional CF range, and the ideal leadoff hitter approach. He reminds me of Alabama’s Taylor Dugas, another FAVORITE you’ll see later on, but with louder tools.

Update (park/schedule adjusted stats)

.261/.355/.360 – 21 BB/19 K – 12/16 SB – 161 AB)

Verdict

As happy as I am to see he’s maintained many of his strengths — still fast, still a good defender, still taking pitches — there’s no denying that his 2012 has been a disappointment. The “good” news for college baseball fans is that they are likely to get another year out of Wren, as I’d be fairly surprised to see the draft-eligible sophomore get drafted high enough to keep him from returning to Georgia Tech for a junior season. I remain a fan, but concede the point that many have made all along – Wren will have to put on some muscle if he hopes to continue to make progress as a hitter.

Clemson SO 2B/SS Steve Wilkerson (2013)

Why was he a favorite?

Speed, athleticism, defensive tools, and a strong high school pedigree all put him on the map, but really strong word of mouth from scouts who saw him firsthand sold me on his potential big league starting infielder upside

Update (park/schedule adjusted stats)

.329/.374/.412 – 13 BB/26 K – 170 AB

Verdict

As much as any player listed above, the jury is still out on Wilkerson’s future. His bat has been even better than advertised and there is continued positivity about his speed and defense, but he’s reputation as a free swinger makes me a little nervous going forward. He’s one to watch all the same, and could emerge as an even better prospect than I currently give him credit for assuming he gets the chance to play some shortstop (he should once Jason Stolz graduates, right?) down the line.

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