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Way Too Early 2013 MLB Draft Big Board: Honorable Mentions

No fancy introduction today. The list is here. The guys who didn’t make the cut are….

…here. Well, not here here. But right after this sentence…

UCLA JR RHP Zack Weiss flashes excellent stuff and has a deep enough arsenal to keep starting as a professional. Summer sensation UC Irvine JR RHP Andrew Thurman shares some similarities (FB/CB/CU/cut-SL all could be average big league pitches or better) and could be in line for a breakout junior season after his star turn on the Cape. Weiss’ teammate UCLA JR RHP Nick Vander Tuig doesn’t have the same velocity, but gets by relying on a bevvy of offspeed pitches with upside. I actually hadn’t realize it before just this minute, but there are some definite similarities between Vander Tuig and Thurman, the biggest exception being Thurman’s increased fastball velocity (up to 90-94 from 88-92) this summer. It is also easy to like Texas Tech JR RHP Trey Masek, a short righthander with a good fastball (90-94), above-average changeup, and a variety of other stuff (have seen bits and pieces of slider, curve, and cutter). Arizona JR RHP Konner Wade continues the recent Wildcat tradition of pitchers who know how to keep the ball down in the zone. Everything he throws is down, from his plus sinker to his hard sinking changeup to, of course, his upper-70s slider. St. Mary’s JR LHP Jordan Mills is a sleeper who excels at doing a lot of the things teams look for in college lefthanders: his upper-80s fastball dances, he has a potential plus change, he can mix in an ever-improving slider, and, you guessed it, he’s got a funky delivery that makes everything play up. That’s my kind of college lefty right there.

A fairly easy argument could be made that all those names pale in comparison to Stanford JR RHP AJ Vanegas. Of all of the names not on the list that I can see myself looking back wanting to kick myself for leaving off, Vanegas leads the way. I hate when analysts say “if this player does what I think he’ll do, then he’ll rank highly on my list” because I think it is part of the job of the analyst to figure out if the player will do what you think he’ll do. Don’t rank him outside the top 100 if you think he’ll wind up in the top ten with a good year. If you think he’ll have a good year, he should be ranked in the top ten! Alright, quick rant over. If Vanegas does what I think he’ll do, then he’ll rank highly on my list! Kidding! But the possibility that Vanegas is exactly that type of prospect exists. The Stanford righthander is an excellent prospect with a ton of upside, but the lack of both command (love the scout quote on him: “his fastball is the rare pitch that moves too much for its own good”) and control concern me going forward. The likelihood that he winds up in the bullpen long-term keeps him out of the top 100 for now, but his fastball/slider combination is so good when on that he could fly up lists like these in due time. I’m not sure if that makes me a hypocrite or not, but there it is.

It was hard to leave off big personal favorite Nova Southeastern JR 2B Carlos Asuaje. If there are five smarter hitters in all of amateur baseball than Asuaje, then I’ve yet to come across them. Asuaje is also a capable defender at both second and third, and might just be good enough to hang at short in a pinch. I see no reason why Asuaje can’t join current big leaguers from Nova Southeastern Mike Fiers, JD Martinez, and Miles Mikolas in the majors someday soon. Asuaje may be my favorite college bat outside of the top 100, but he’s not the only player worth chatting about. LSU JR C Tyler Ross was a big time recruit who has handled the bat well, but has yet to show the big raw power that was his calling card in high school. I had Ross as the Phillies fifth best prospect selected in 2010; Philadelphia was obviously unable to sign him, putting him in good company along with other potential 2013 early round picks like Scott Frazier and Daniel Palka. California SO C Andrew Knapp offers the same kind of upside with the bat, though there are many who question his defense going forward. I’m not one of them, but it bears noting. Vanderbilt JR OF/1B Conrad Gregor is one of 2013’s best bats: above-average or better raw power, a great approach, and two really, really strong years of production in the SEC. What knocked him down the list is the other side of the game – he may be an outstanding defensive first baseman, but he’s still just another guy limited to first base for many. His prognosis gets a little rosier if you like him in an outfield corner (like I do), but the bar for hitters is just so darn high at his three primary positions. Virginia Tech rJR OF Tyler Horan faces the same question going forward: will he hit enough to play everyday in an outfield corner? His run on the Cape seems to suggest he’s got a heck of a chance to do just that. Mississippi State JR OF/RHP Hunter Renfroe rounds out the group of interesting college sluggers. Renfroe’s plus-plus arm is easily his best tool; in fact, his arm ranks up near the top of any singular tool for any amateur player in the entire country. A little bit of improved pitch recognition would go a long way towards enabling him to more consistently tap into his above-average raw power. Failing that, he could be tried as a defense-first backstop or fireballing short reliever.

It is way too early to make any bold proclamations about the state of 2013’s prep arms, but, if forced to give an opinion, I’d say I’m currently less than impressed on the whole. That doesn’t mean some intriguing names weren’t left off the early big board, of course. RHP Jordan Sheffield (Tullahoma HS, Tennessee), RHP Devin Williams (Hazelwood East HS, Missouri), RHP Shaun Anderson (American Heritage HS, Florida), and RHP Ed Voyles (Holy Innocents Episcopal HS, Georgia) are all varying degrees of interesting at this point. Sheffield has the best fastball velocity, Williams the best fastball movement, Anderson the strongest overall present big league profile (four distinct pitches, good command, and a mature 6-5, 220 pound frame), and Voyles the most long-term projection. RHP Brett Hanewich (IMG Academy, Florida) also deserves mention as a guy who has made great strides — he’s picked up a good bit of velocity and now sits low-90s with ease — over the past calendar year. RHP Trevor Clifton (Heritage HS, Tennessee) could be a really good one if/when he figures out a way to tone down his delivery and improve his command. The stuff and body are certainly there already.

My three favorite high school arms that didn’t make the cut are RHP Taylor Blatch (Jensen Beach HS, Florida), RHP Casey Shane (Burleson Centennial HS, Texas), and LHP Jonah Wesely (Tracy HS, California). Blatch has impressed me with his multitude of above-average offspeed pitches: the mid-70s slider is my favorite, followed closely by an intriguing low- to mid-80s change. I’ve heard yet haven’t seen positive things about his curve, as well. Shane has the big Texas sinker/slider thing down pat. His is some of the easiest velocity that I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing in this year’s class. Wesely’s strong commitment to UCLA will have to be monitored, but, if deemed signable this spring, he’ll be a favorite of the area guys for sure. He may not have the classic projection that scouts crave, but there are times he’ll go through a lineup with such ease — his pitchability stands out — that he looks like a professional already.

Trey Williams was the only junior college player on the initial big board, but a case could be made for Scottsdale (AZ) CC SO LHP Stephen Tarpley, formerly of USC. His freshman numbers pitching in the Pac-12 (2012: 8.04 K/9 | 3.22 BB/9 | 3.45 FIP | 78.1 IP) and good present stuff (upper-80s fastball that hits as high as 93, really strong mid- to upper-70s curve, and emerging change) should help him improve on his 2011 draft standing (7th round). There’s some serious ground to cover to get inside the first 100 picks, but lefties who can pitch seem to do alright most years.

Finally, we’ve come to the group of high school bats that didn’t quite crack the list. I could name a few dozen guys who just missed the list, but we’ll stick to the quick position-by-position run around the diamond for the sake of brevity. C Brian Navarreto (Arlington County Day HS, Florida), fresh off his stellar showing at Wrigley Field, is 1B to AJ Vanegas’ 1A on the list of players most likely to make me look dumb in time. The bar for defense in the world of prep catching has been set in recent years by Austin Hedges. Scouts in Chicago weren’t quite there while watching Navaretto, but his name was at least brought up…in hushed tones, of course. 1B Pete Alonso (Plant HS, Florida) is an excellent defender who can hit the ball to all fields with power. 2B/SS Dalton Dulin (Memphis University HS, Tennessee) is a spark plug with a good hit tool and enough speed and defense to keep getting work. I can’t say I’ve given this comp too much thought, but I saw a little Scooter Gennett, an old favorite, in his game. We’ll go with an all Empire State left side of the infield: SS Stephen Alemais (All Hallows HS, New York) has big league-ready defense and 3B Dylan Manwaring (Horseheads HS, New York) has shown big talent both in the field, in the batter’s box, and on the mound.

I’ll cheat in the outfield and name four guys that have really piqued my interest thus far. I like OF Stephen Wrenn (Walton HS, Georgia) for his speed, glove, arm, and live bat, OF/3B Kevin Franklin (Gahr HS, California) for his incredible strength, OF Corey Ray (Simeon Career Academy, Illinois) for his ability to handle high velocity and impressive plate coverage, and OF William Abreu (Mater Academy HS, Florida), an above-average player without any obvious weaknesses. RHP/SS Sheldon Neuse (Fossil Ridge HS, Texas) is a wild card as a two-way prospect with legitimate upside as both a pitcher (93 peak, two strong offspeed pitches) and hitter (love his defensive tools above all else).


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