The more I think about Peter O’Brien as a prospect, the more I think a comparison to Tommy Joseph makes sense. Both are big guys, both have some questions about their defensive future (Joseph has put most of these concerns to rest, but it has taken time), and both have the one plus tool that will keep them getting work for the foreseeable future: huge raw power. He had an auspicious pro debut, but that doesn’t change his basic scouting profile. If he can catch, he’ll be a star. Unlike many other catchers with questionable futures behind the dish, O’Brien should bring enough offense to give him a shot even if moved to first base. They key phrasing there is “give him a shot”: the bar is so darn high for the position that I’m not bold and/or stupid enough to say he’s a definite starting caliber big league first baseman. Not for nothing, but I had him ranked 94th on my final pre-draft big board…and the Yankees picked him with the 94th overall pick. Blind squirrel, acorn, etc.
100 plate appearances doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but I have to admit to being a teeny tiny bit worried about Nathan Mikolas’ professional debut. Worse prospects than Mikolas have had worse pro starts (.134/.290/.171) and still gone on to bigger and better things, so I think it is time to put that teeny tiny bit of doubt to bed. Mikolas may or may not be a good big league hitter, but those 100 plate appearances shouldn’t sway me one way or another. All that aside, I really believe in Mikolas’ bat. The limb I wouldn’t go out on for O’Brien is one that I’m happy to hop on for Mikolas. His bat is good enough for every day first base duty, though it will take some time. Matt Snyder was old for Staten Island, but he did the job he was asked to do. He has some righty-mashing platoon potential, though I’m not sure that the Yankees, or any team for that matter, has such a role in mind for their DH spot. You can copy that last sentence and apply the same logic to Saxon Butler. It’ll be interesting to see what the Yankees do with their three new lefthanded hitting first base prospects. I think Mikolas’ bat is advanced enough for full-season ball (ugly pro debut notwithstanding), but the presence of college sluggers Snyder and Butler creates a logjam in the system’s lower levels. The tea leaves seem to indicate that Butler will be in Tampa (A+), Snyder in Charleston (A), and Mikolas in Staten Island (R).
I love the OF to 2B conversion, so it should go without saying that the news of Robert Refsnyder moving from Arizona outfielder to Riverdogs second baseman made my day. Unfortunately, the transition appears to be on hold, at least for the time being. As a second baseman Refsnyder becomes a really intriguing prospect. He’s a great athlete with above-average speed, sneaky pop, and the grinder mentality that endears him to scouts, coaches, and teammates. He more than held his own with the bat at Charleston – strong walk rate, good success stealing bags – but it does without saying that his well-rounded offensive profile plays a lot better in the middle of the infield than it would as a corner outfielder. It still sounds like second base is in his future, but we’ll know more in a few months. A natural comparison here is Phillies draft prospect and fellow OF to 2B Andrew Pullin; it’ll be fun to track their two careers over the next few seasons.
Yankees fans have every right to be excited about Austin Aune as a prospect. As a former football star, there’s plenty of untapped raw talent and athleticism waiting to turn into actualized baseball skills with the help of consistent at bats and good coaching. If that was all Aune was, that would be enough. His tools are that good. There’s more to his game than just doing whatever comes naturally athletically. Aune is more advanced as a ballplayer than many give him credit, from his sweet lefthanded swing to his ability to make consistent hard contact no matter where the ball is pitched. As his body fills out and his raw power begins showing up more often when the lights come on, watch out.
Aune is joined in the 2012 Yankee draft class outfield by Taylor Dugas. I won’t try to put too fine a point on this, so I’ll just come out and say it: I love Taylor Dugas. He’s got three average or slightly better tools (hit, speed, defense), one slightly below-average tool (arm), and one well below-average tool (power). That skill set isn’t entirely uncommon, but what sets Dugas apart is his phenomenal plate discipline. I understand those who think he’ll top out in the high minors after pitchers, with little fear of an extra base hit, begin daring him to hit pitches in the strike zone. But just because I understand it doesn’t mean I agree with it. If Dugas fails to make the big leagues, I’ll do something crazy. Like eat a sautéed mushroom, the most disgusting food I can think of at the moment. Now that’s confidence! I will admit that there is some weirdness with Dugas being a Yankee. He feels like he should be a Padre. That said, his being a member of the Yankees organization does give him a perfect player to emulate in pro ball: Brett Gardner. That’s a pretty fantastic comp, if I do say so myself. Dugas should follow the Gardner path – Staten Island in year one, then Tampa and Trenton in year two – if all goes according to plan. I’m hoping that’s the case since I’m only 50 minutes on the train away from beautiful downtown Trenton, New Jersey.
I consistently get Ty Hensley and Shane Watson confused, so it was only fitting that the Yankees selected the former ten picks before the Phillies popped the latter. The two righthanders, born roughly two weeks apart, are very similar prospects across the board. Hensley has a little bit of bulk on Watson, but they are like twins otherwise. Like Watson, Hensley has a pro body, plus fastball, curveball with plus upside, and quickly emerging changeup that should be at least an average pitch in time. The overall package is rather impressive. Both Hensley and Watson should rank at or near the top of their respective organization’s pitching prospect rankings. Both pitchers have big league average upside (no small feat for a starting pitcher) or better. I’m just spitballing here, but I think Hensley is second only to Manny Banuelos in the Yankee pitching pecking order with the chance to rank as high as fourth overall (also behind both Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams) in the entire system.
I’ve said before that I don’t really believe in the concept of a sleeper. Look at Corey Black, the Yankees fourth round pick out of tiny Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama. All signs point to a sleeper, right? I mean, I’ve read on other sites that he was a sleeper, so it must be true. Well, Black’s career doesn’t begin and end at Faulkner University. He was once a big name at San Diego State. Before that, like many so-called sleepers, he was a standout prep prospect. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that Black has been on the draft radar going on five years now. I get that I devote far more time and energy to this stuff than the vast majority of the baseball consuming population, but it still burns me up when mainstream media types tout players as sleepers who are in no way sleepers. To some it seems that any player taken after the first day is a sleeper. Pandering to an audience that, let’s be honest, doesn’t give a darn about amateur baseball 364 days out of the year may be part of the job at some of the industry leaders, but don’t pretend that you’re a draft expert when you aren’t. Baseball America and Perfect Game are largely exempt from my rant, by the way. To a man the employees of both outlets do consistently excellent work on draft coverage. Moving on…
Corey Black’s upside depends on how great of a chance you think he has to start. As a starter, he has mid-rotation upside thanks to an excellent fastball, above-average change, and whatever breaking ball he can get over on a daily basis. Bonus points should be awarded for his ability to hold his velocity late into games. He’s also likely to be one of the better hitting pitchers wherever he goes. If left to his own in the bullpen, however, he has a chance to pitch some serious late inning, high leverage innings. Like most guys, you’ve got to try him as a starter and let him pitch in the rotation until he shows you he’s a reliever.
New York hit up many traditional scouting outposts like the Oklahoma and Texas prep ranks, as well as poaching players from talent-rich universities like Miami, Arizona, and LSU. What stood out to me, however, was their willingness to go beyond the typical talent boundaries and expand their search to exotic locales like Wisconsin, Montana, Ontario, and Utah. Mikolas is the poster boy for New York’s nationwide quest for talent, but he’s not the only cold weather prospect of note. Brady Lail, out of Utah, is an unquestionably great pick way down in the 18th round. In many respects, Brady Lail is Mr. High School Pitching Prospect. Like so many high school pitching prospects, Lail sits mostly upper-80s yet has a frame that suggests more velocity is in his future. Lail also features a breaking ball that can and should be a well above-average big league offering in time. However, like so many high school pitching prospects, he currently lacks the necessary third pitch to make it as an effective starter in pro ball. Lail gives you a lot to work with, so much so that it isn’t a stretch to say he has the potential to someday be in a big league rotation. Bridging the gap between what he is and what he’ll be, however, is where the fun comes in.
The trajectory of Lail’s career will be fascinating to follow, especially if you buy my thesis that he’s Mr. High School Pitching Prospect. Every young player’s career can go in an infinite number of directions at this developmental point, with so much depending on factors that are ostensibly outside of the player’s control. We’re talking things like coaching, injury, and opportunity here. Different developmental staffs have different ideas on how much of a difference they can really make in any young player. Some young arms just seem to get it in pro ball, some don’t. Some staffs believe certain pitches – most often breaking balls – are either in an arm or aren’t, others believe that any pitcher gifted with a big time arm can be taught how to spin a ball over time. Lail’s career won’t offer any particular insight into prospect development, especially with the limited information available to those removed from the process; he will, however, become another cog in the proverbial high risk/high reward baseball prospect machine.
Nick Goody had an excellent start to his pro career, something that really isn’t all the shocking considering the excellent season he had at LSU. As a general rule, relievers who dominate SEC competition fare quite well in the low minors. I can definitely see Goody becoming a favorite of the numbers-first crowd. Those who have seen him pitch share similar affection thanks to a sneaky fast fastball and well above-average breaking ball. Taylor Garrison is cut from a similar cloth. Comparable fastball, command, and breaking ball all wrapped up in a diminutive (i.e. under 6-foot) package. Garrison has a better third pitch (changeup), but Goody’s overall package is still stronger. Both seem likely to start the season in Tampa with Goody holding an outside shot at beginning a step ahead in AA.
Derek Varnadore is mostly fastball/slider coming out of the bullpen. He’s a clear step below both Goody and Garrison in the pecking order, but could still be one of those guys who hangs on long enough and someday gets his chance in the bigs. My favorite (pre-draft) reliever drafted by the Yankees is Stefan Lopez. I think Lopez has a chance to be a really fine bullpen piece. His fastball is one of those pitches that hitters can know is coming and still not make solid contact. Combine that with an above-average slider and decent feel for the slow stuff, and you’ve got yourself a potential big league reliever. That’s a really nice outcome for a player taken in the 16th round.
The Yankees collection of draft lefties isn’t something to write home about, but there are a few interesting names that should be familiar to fans of college baseball. Eric Erickson is one of the better stories to emerge from the 2012 draft class. I know for a fact that seeing him pitch well in pro ball pleased a lot of the scouts who have followed him over the past few seasons. He’s overcome a great deal from an injury standpoint to get this far, and he has a lot of fans in the industry who would like nothing more than to see him continue defy the odds. Now here comes the splash of cold water. Erickson has an incredibly tough road ahead of him if he ever wants to reach the highest level. Erickson will start next season having already turned 25 years old. As a point of reference, Dietrich Enns, another college lefty drafted by New York, turns 22 in May of next year. The two guys had weirdly similar underlying numbers in their debuts, but those three years make a big time difference going forward. Age alone doesn’t make Enns the better prospect – I’d go so far as to argue age is overrated for pitching prospects, especially guys with ceilings that top out in the bullpen – but with similar scouting profiles, statistical backgrounds, and body types, the edge goes to the younger, healthier arm.
No matter what happens in Erickson’s professional future, I hope he takes comfort in being able to say he pitched for the Yankees (Staten Island) in pro ball. That’s something nobody can ever take away from him. Stories like Erickson’s bring us back to remembering that the players drafted each year are real life living people. Becoming a successful big league player is the goal for everybody, but keeping the incredible journey along the way in perspective is plenty important in its own right.
As for the aforementioned Enns, well, he’s a little bit like the MAC version of Michael Roth. Unless that’s Kent State lefty David Starn. Turns out that high pitchability lefthanders with unexciting stuff aren’t so uncommon in college after all. Who knew?
More words were typed on the other guys, but I like James Pazos from San Diego the most out of the bunch. He did a nice job out of the bullpen for Staten Island, though I’d like to see him get a chance in a rotation starting next season. He has enough of a three pitch mix to get by, and his ability to induce groundballs is encouraging.
I didn’t write much or anything about the non-Lail trio of prep arms the Yankees managed to sign for $100,000 apiece past round 10. Caleb Frare, from noted baseball hotbed Montana, is a lefty with reasonable upside, Dayton Dawe of the Great White North has an advanced arsenal for a high school arm and good athleticism, and Jose Mesa Jr. is, well, Jose Mesa Jr. The world is a better place with a Joe Table in pro ball.
2.94 Miami C Peter O’Brien
8. Miami SR C Peter O’Brien: nothing has changed when it comes to O’Brien’s basic scouting report: plus-plus power and a strong arm, but below-average everywhere else; what has changed is his level of competition – doing what he did in the ACC has opened some eyes, and rightfully so; his hit tool isn’t as strong and he’s a better bet to stick behind the plate, but I think a comparison between O’Brien and last year’s preeminent college power hitter CJ Cron has some merit – if O’Brien had been moved off of catcher coming into the year, I wonder if scouts would appreciate his bat more rather than focusing on the negatives of his defense; 6-5, 225 pounds
3.124 Bradford HS (WI) 1B Nathan Mikolas
1. 1B Nathan Mikolas (Bradford HS, Wisconsin): strong hit tool; above-average power upside; good athlete; really smart young hitter; quick bat; can hit to all fields; questionable defender and athlete; best position is batter’s box; has also played some OF; 6-2, 200 pounds
10.337 Mississippi 1B Matt Snyder
26. Mississippi SR 1B Matt Snyder: mature approach pairs well with mature, physical, strong as an ox frame; well above-average raw power; average at best hit tool, but better than that of most college senior sign sluggers; below-average defender; below-average speed; 6-6, 215 pounds
33.1027 Samford 1B Saxon Butler
39. Samford SR 1B Saxon Butler: unheralded junior college transfer who has hit a ton since getting to campus; above-average present power; not a lot of projection nor is there much to his game outside of the batter’s box, but should be quality pro hitter; 6-2, 225 pounds
5.187 Arizona 2B Robert Refsnyder
129. Arizona JR OF Robert Refsnyder: plus athlete; 55 speed; big raw power, but currently to gaps (10 HRs a year?); strong arm for RF; gets most out of tools; strong hit tool; 6-1, 205 pounds
2.89 Argyle HS (TX) OF Austin Aune
20. OF Austin Aune (Argyle HS, Texas): pretty lefthanded swing; great athlete; first round tools; football star who is a questionable sign; good runner; strong arm; can hit the ball anywhere it is pitched; 6-3, 190 pounds
8.277 Alabama OF Taylor Dugas
63. Alabama SR OF Taylor Dugas: advanced idea of strike zone; above-average speed; good athlete; gap power; average at best arm; little power; good CF range; leadoff profile; earned one of my all-time all-caps FAVORITE designations going back to his sophomore season; drills high velocity with no problem; smart on bases; as much as I love him, I understand he has a limited ceiling and will have to continually drastically outperform more physically talented players to keep moving up through a system; 5-7, 175 pounds
1.30 Santa Fe HS (OK) RHP Ty Hensley
29. RHP Ty Hensley (Santa Fe HS, Oklahoma): 88-93 FB, 94-95 peak; velocity has been up at times, sitting 92-95, peaking 97-98; good FB command; really good 74-79 CB with plus upside that he relies on heavily; emerging 79-82 CU; 84-86 SL that he has difficult commanding; strong hitter; two potential plus pitches and a big league frame are a great start, but he’ll have to continue developing a third pitch, likely his nascent change, going forward; as is, he has first day stuff; 6-5, 220 pounds
4.157 Faulkner RHP Corey Black
56. Faulkner (AL) JR RHP Corey Black: 90-95 FB, 96 peak; holds velocity late; velocity way up in 2012: sitting 94-96, 98-99 peak; above-average 81-84 CU; occasional CB, average SL; transferred from San Diego State; good fielder; nice line drive swing; 5-11, 180 pounds
6.217 LSU RHP Nick Goody
180. LSU JR RHP Nick Goody: 88-92 FB, 94 peak; promising 78-82 breaking ball that falls somewhere between slider and power curve; good deception in delivery helps his fastball play up; has the small sample size of any one-year college reliever, but really hard to find fault with his 2012 performances (below); 6-0, 190 pounds
7.247 Fresno State RHP Taylor Garrison
187. Fresno State SR RHP Taylor Garrison: 89-93 FB, 94 peak; good command; good SL with cutter action; above-average CU; also throws CB; 5-10, 160 pounds
9.307 Auburn RHP Derek Varnadore
290. Auburn SR RHP Derek Varnadore: 89-92 FB, rare 94 peak; improved SL, has really firmed up – now 86-88 and an above-average pitch; shows CU; good deception; total package adds up to a solid mid- to late-round senior sign and a potential middle reliever if he hangs on long enough; 6-4, 215 pounds
13.427 San Diego LHP James Pazos
291. San Diego JR LHP James Pazos: 88-92 FB, 93 peak; good CU; SL with upside; has the repertoire, delivery, and demeanor to potentially start in pro ball; 6-3, 225 pounds
16.517 Southeastern Louisiana RHP Stefan Lopez
144. Southeastern Louisiana JR RHP Stefan Lopez: 89-94 FB, 95 peak; good FB command; relies heavily on FB; good 84 SL that he should use more of; might throw one CU per outing, if that; recovered from torn ACL in 2011; I’m on an island with this one, but I think pro coaching and continued progress as he heals from his knee injury could turn Lopez into a viable late-inning big league pitcher, potentially a closer; 6-2, 190 pounds
18.577 Bingham HS (UT) RHP Brady Lail
143. RHP Brady Lail (Bingham HS, Utah): 86-90 FB, 92 peak; good athlete; good 74-77 kCB; very good command, especially on breaking ball; shows CU, but still a raw third pitch; 6-3, 180 pounds
19.607 Central Michigan LHP Dietrich Enns
485. Central Michigan JR LHP Dietrich Enns: 88-92 FB; good CU; one of the country’s smartest pitchers and a lot of fun to watch him work; 6-1, 190 pounds
34.1057 Miami LHP Eric Erickson
356. Miami SR LHP Eric Erickson: 88-90 FB; CB; CU; 6-0, 190 pounds
Josh Ludy is a shining example of why college baseball is a smart option for some players. Ignoring the fact that he wasn’t a highly regarded prospect out of high school, signing at that point in his development would have been big trouble for Ludy’s career. It took him two years to get regular at bats for Baylor. When he finally got his big chance his junior year, his offensive output was met with an emphatic “meh.” Bet you didn’t think you could make “meh” emphatically, but you can. If Ludy had done what he had done in college in the pros, then the odds of him getting a pink tag in his locker at some point along the way would have been high. In college, however, you get more rope. Not a ton of rope, mind you, but more than in professional ball. With one more season to prove himself a legitimate professional talent, Ludy stepped up his game in a big way. That’s the good news for Ludy.
The counter-point to that heartwarming tale is the cruel reality that it is smart to beware college seniors who beat up on teenage arms fresh out of high school. When a college senior dominates Rookie ball, it is expected. Nobody raises an eyebrow when a grown man pummels teenage pitching. The competition at most major college conferences is comparable, especially when you look at most schools Friday/Saturday night starting pitchers. Ludy’s story is a good one, but there’s still a long way between the joy of a successful draft day and reaching the big leagues. He did a nice job in low-A Lakewood as a 22-year old, so perhaps the adjustments made over the years at Baylor have more meaning than initially thought. His story of perseverance makes him a fun guy to root for, in any case. I think the gains he has made as a hitter are legit, but it’ll be his glove, which ranges from adequate to unplayable on any given day, that determines his long range professional future. I like fellow college catcher Chad Carman and think he has value as an experienced backstop capable of guiding young pitching through the ups and downs of professional baseball. Whether or not he ever reaches the highest level remains to be seen – like any double-digit round prospect, it’s a long shot – but it seems likely he’ll provide value to whatever team he plays on regardless of what shows up in the box score.
Regular readers of the site know that I’m a big fan of comps. I think comps are a great way of bridging the gap between obsessive minor league and amateur baseball fans (that’s me and likely anybody reading this by choice) and casual big league only fans. A good comp gives a frame of reference – could be about tools, body type, mechanics, potential production, almost anything – that sheds light on prospects that often play in relative darkness. I understand the complaint that comps can create unrealistic expectations for players. I think that expectations on certain guys can get out of hand regardless of what I, or, more likely, anybody with a wider reach than I says about a particular prospect. Blaming the comp itself is an unnecessary copout. Expectations for prospects can be directly tied to what the industry leaders write. Comps or not, players ranked highly and praised publicly are viewed as future superstars who will hit the ground running from day one of their big league careers. If anything, I believe comps, when done responsibly, can actually help create a more realistic set of possible outcomes for any given player. Take the pre-draft note I heard on Chris Serritella. A scout who saw both players said that Serritella reminded him of Paul Goldschmidt at similar points in their respective development. If the reader’s take away from that is Serritella = Goldschmidt, then somewhere along the way the ball has been dropped. That was not the intention of the original note, but I can see why somebody might read Goldschmidt’s name in connection with Serritella and just run with the comp.
This is where it pays to be responsible whenever throwing out comps. I should have been clearer with the original note. There are some vague similarities between Serritella and Goldschmidt, but also some pretty huge differences (e.g. handedness). The comp originated based on what I had hoped was a fairly simple question: of all the college bat-only prospects in this year’s draft, which player could surprise in the same way Paul Goldschmidt once did? Serritella was the answer I received, but that doesn’t mean Serritella will ever necessarily achieve what Goldschmidt has. It is worth noting that Paul Goldschmidt wasn’t the Paul Goldschmidt we now know back when he was a draft prospect. Prospect development is weird and unpredictable, after all.
At the same age as Serritella, Goldschmidt socked 35 dingers in high-A (Cal League, but still), adding up to a total of 53 pro home runs to that point. Serritella has hit six homers in Rookie ball. I like Serritella because I’m a sucker for watching good power hitters hit, but it doesn’t take a genius to see he has a good amount of ground to make up if he ever wants to approach such a lofty comp. Luckily, he won’t have to turn himself into an everyday starter at first base to provide value as a fourth round pick. Serritella can have a long, fruitful career as a bench bat if he keeps up a good to very good yet not great hitting path. Or, more optimistically, Serritella could find himself in a first base timeshare where he can just mash righthanded pitching whenever the opportunity arises. Most teams shy away from platoons these days, especially at glamor hitting spots like first base, but that doesn’t really change how Serritella could potentially be useful. A smart team will find a way to utilize his talents, assuming he hits as expected.
William Carmona has serious power in his bat. Unfortunately, a below-average approach limits the utility of his one plus tool. His defensive shortcomings – bad in an outfield corner, worse at third base – lock him into first base over the long run. As an org guy who can help a minor league lineup win some games with his pop he’s fine, but very few players with his scouting profile ever reach the highest level. Honestly, I can’t think of any.
Cameron Perkins has a realistic floor of four-corners (LF/RF/3B/1B) bench bat, especially with the way he sees lefthanded pitching. The dearth of starting caliber big league third basemen makes him more of a prospect than he might otherwise be. If he gets his act together on defense – I say it like it is really as simple as that – then he has a chance to get regular time at the hot corner. I can see the future in Philadelphia now: a Cody Asche/Cameron Perkins platoon at third base. Third base has been an organizational black hole for almost fifteen years, so forgive me for fantasizing about Cody and Cameron mashing their way to the top together. I will say this: in much the same way Asche seemingly came out of nowhere this season, Perkins could do the same in 2013. I’m not crazy enough to predict that Perkins will go from Rookie ball to tearing up AA next year, but even suggesting the possibility is exciting. Perkins has some big time sleeper upside. For the record, Asche was the 2011 MLB Draft’s 170th best prospect (according to all-knowing me) while Perkins came in at 98th in 2012. That isn’t the best way to compare the two as draft prospects — last year’s draft had a lot more depth across the board – so I’ve included Asche’s brief pre-draft report below:
“Really like his approach, but have been underwhelmed by his overall package thus far” – that’s what I had in my notes re: Asche coming into the year. I’m happy to say that I’m no longer underwhelmed and now considered myself appropriately whelmed by his performance. I wasn’t alone in worrying that he wouldn’t stick at third coming into the year, but am now ready to go out on a limb and say I think his athleticism and instincts make him underrated at the position. Despite his very powerful throwing arm he’ll never be a good defender at third, but if his plus raw power would look really good if he can at least play at or around average defense as a pro.
Interesting to compare that to Perkins’ pre-draft report (found below). Here are their respective junior season park/schedule adjusted numbers for good measure:
Asche: .337/.437/.668 – 36 BB/39 K – 208 AB
Perkins: .406/.448/.613 – 12 BB/16 K – 217 AB
There’s not really a direct comparison to make between the two prospects, just some food for thought. Third base is a strength in the Phillies minor league system, if you can believe it. Keeping that in mind, I think Perkins could start the season in low-A Lakewood. If the Phillies aren’t as committed to keeping Perkins at third as I hope, then he could get challenged with the high-A Clearwater assignment, a la Asche last year. Maikel Franco should be getting the vast majority of time at third base for the Threshers, so Perkins would be best served in Lakewood if having him play third every day is the desired outcome. There will be an opening at AA Reading, but that’s a major stretch for a first full year starting assignment for a position player taken outside of the first round.
Tim Carver is a warm body who can catch the ball consistently at short. He’s not a big leaguer, but he can still give a professional organization some value. It never hurts having a sure-handed shortstop fielding grounders behind young pitching. The selection of Zach Green genuinely caught me by surprise. After getting over the initial shock, I can at least see what the Phillies were thinking: interesting defensive tools that play up due to excellent instincts and an advanced bat for a prep infielder. He played mostly third after signing, but I think he’s best left to fend for himself at short. The potential glut of third basemen in the system – man it feels weird writing that — has a tiny something to do with it, but it has more to do with Green’s good enough range and hands. It’s possible he’ll keep growing and overshoot the position anyway, but leaving him up the middle makes him a really interesting prospect rather than just another lottery ticket.
You can flip a coin between Perkins and Andrew Pullin to decide which position player drafted by the Phillies is the better bet going forward. The two were actually ranked back-to-back on my final big board: 98th for Perkins, 99th for Pullin. Pullin’s professional switch to second base gives him the edge currently as the best 2012 MLB Draft Phillies position player prospect. Sometimes it is harder to write a lot about favorite prospects because the prose can get a little too flowery and optimistic, so I’ll try to keep it brief with Pullin. Simply put, Pullin has star potential at second base. He won’t wow you with his tools, but he’ll still find a way to leave you walking away impressed. He’s extremely well-rounded for a young player, working deep counts yet always coming out on the positive ledger of the patient vs passive approach to hitting. He’s obviously a work in progress in the infield, but there’s little doubt that he has the hands, feet, and arm to make the conversion a success. The thought of him working as a double play combination with Roman Quinn playing to his right at Lakewood (Low-A) at some point next season makes me very happy. Keeping in mind everything I said about comps earlier, the Pullin/Quinn pairing up the middle looks a little bit like the Chase Utley/Jimmy Rollins duo. Utley and Rollins will both finish their careers as rock solid members of the Hall of Very Good, so projecting any prospect to someday play at that level is likely an exercise in futility. But it never hurts to dream, right?
The Dylan Cozens selection was widely panned by the industry leaders in the days that followed the draft. The impressive power, patience, and speed he showed as an 18-year old in the GCL shouldn’t be enough to quiet down those who initially opposed the pick, but I hope it puts to rest the idea that Cozens will never ever make it in pro ball. Cozens was a victim of both limited exposure and easily attainable information this spring. I think he makes for an excellent study in how opinions are formed in the online draft community. There’s such a fine line between trusting the data, empirical or otherwise, attained throughout the draft process and trusting the people within big league scouting staffs who evaluate amateur players for a living.
I don’t think one should like a pick simply because a certain team valued a player highly. It can be part of the conversation, but not the entire basis of liking or disliking a move. This phenomenon seems most common with minor league players, as certain teams (e.g. Tampa over the past few years, Texas currently) have such a strong track record of developing talent that it seems their players get a boost in rankings whether they deserve it or not. It also happens with the draft: see the fawning over any prep arm selected by Logan White and the Dodgers from a few years ago.
While I don’t think one should automatically like a pick because a certain scouting department made it, I do think there is some logic to the idea. It is alright to take a step back and try to consider what the drafting team knows that the general public might not. A few in the business appear to be of the mindset that it is best to form an opinion early and then stick to it no matter what evidence is uncovered along the way. A team drafting a player you ranked 239th (as I ranked Cozens) before the draft with the 77th overall pick doesn’t make anybody right or wrong. It is, however, a data point to be considered when reassessing the player. Ignoring the possibility that you might have misjudged the player initially negates any possibility for growth as an analyst of the sport. What did the Phillies see that I didn’t? What did they know that I didn’t? If after doubling back and re-researching the prospect still leads to the original conclusion on the player, so be it. But to simply dismiss the pick as a massive overdraft is missing an opportunity to do this job better.
I don’t get a chance to see every player in person; even if I did there wouldn’t be a great deal of value to come out of the limited looks from my admittedly amateur eye. Too many prospect writers seem to have made this industry an either or proposition in recent years. Either you go out and see prospects and write “scouting reports,” or you do your best as an aggregator of as many valuable sources as you can. Forgive me if I’m tilting at windmills here, but, really, what’s the harm in doing both? Trust your own opinion, but seek out others to either support or refute what you think you already know. I love going to games and watching video above all else, but I’m not foolhardy enough to think that my own view is the final word. I rely a great deal on my own little web of sources throughout the game. I’d also be lying if I said that I didn’t read and listen to what the industry leaders report on amateur prospects. When Aaron Fitt writes about a college pitcher sitting 88-92 with an above-average slider, that’s information that I can eventually use to help build a fuller picture of a prospect. I literally see no downside to this approach. Alright, I feel better. Let’s move on.
We’ll never know for sure if Cozens was “overdrafted” because we don’t have every team’s big board at our disposal. For all we know, Cozens may have been taken with the very next pick after Philadelphia at 77 if the Phillies decided to pass. All we know for sure is that the Phillies had him down as being worth at least a second round pick, possibly higher. That doesn’t make him good, bad, or anything in between, but, again, it is a viable data point to consider when evaluating him as a prospect. I compared Cozens to Wallace Gonzalez before the draft, but I now think it safe to say that Cozens is a far more athletic prospect who is also more advanced as a hitter. His defense will be something to watch closely, especially if he still has some growing to do in his 6-6, 235 pound frame. I’ve now heard him compared to what Aaron Judge, a potential first round pick from Fresno State, looked like from both an athletic standpoint and as a hitter (opposite handedness) coming out of high school. That would put Cozens’ upside at big league regular or better, depending on your current view of Judge. I’m cautiously optimistic about Cozens’ future.
Steven Golden fits the old Phillies mold of prep outfield prospect. He’s very athletic, a good runner, and an even better defender. The jury is still out on how much power he’ll grow into over the long run. As mentioned in his pre-draft report, I do like his hit tool – he has a far more balanced swing than the typical toolsy high school prospect – more than most I’ve talked to and read. The trouble with projecting high school bats like Golden (i.e. leadoff-type hitters) is that there’s really no telling what kind of plate discipline they’ll show once they get going in pro ball. There are a few indicators to watch out for from a scouting standpoint while they are still playing high school and summer ball, but plate discipline remains the toughest skill to project with any young amateur. There have been three big league players with the surname Golden (Jim, Mike, Roy), so the race to become number four is officially on. Steven will face still competition from last year’s second round pick by the Cubs, Reggie. Both are long shots.
Shane Watson and Mitchell Gueller will forever be linked together in the minds of fans associating the two supplemental first round picks as a package deal. At least that’s how I see it, anyway. Gueller’s fastball is on par with Watson’s, but his breaking ball isn’t as strong at present. A quick categorization of the two puts Watson as more of a polished pitcher (i.e. more pitchability, more refined stuff, better idea of how to put away hitters, etc.) and Gueller as more of an athletic project. That isn’t meant to downplay Watson’s ceiling; the popular Brett Myers comps speak to his mid-rotation or better upside.
One key thing both players share is a late season velocity spike that helped vault their draft stock considerably. Watson went from low-90s peaks to hitting 96. Gueller did the same. One of the interesting subplots to track with Gueller is how his desire to hit will impact his professional future. The Phillies gave him 900,000+ reasons to forget about hitting for the time being, but you have to wonder if his mind will drift back to life in the batter’s box if/when he struggles on the mound. That’s largely baseless conjecture on my end, so feel free to dismiss it if you like. I think there’s a strong argument that Gueller is the superior long-range prospect, especially if you’re all about upside – something about these cold weather pitchers with fewer miles on arm and extremely athletic builds – but the relative safety of Watson gives him the slim advantage. The fact that two really strong young pitching prospects will likely rank closer to 15 than 5 on most offseason organizational prospect rankings is a testament to the quality depth the Phillies have brought in over the past few seasons. I have Watson and Gueller each behind the lefthanded one-two punch of Jesse Biddle and Adam Morgan, likely behind righthanders Ethan Martin, Trevor May, and Jon Pettibone, and ahead of a large group of intriguing future late game relievers like Kenneth Giles, Lisalberto Bonilla, and, unfortunately yet inevitably, Brody Colvin.
Hoby Milner has all of the elements of recent Phillies mid- to late-round lefthanded pitching college steals. That’s what I originally wrote before going back and checking the last decade of Phillies drafts. Turns out they do seem to make a point of targeting a college lefthander or two within the draft’s first few rounds, but the success rate isn’t as high as I had imagined. It’s still very good, sure, but not quite as infallible as my memory wanted me to believe. Names like Justin Blaine (6th round) and Dan Brauer (6th round) are among the swings and misses. Phillies brass has to hope Milner’s more JA Happ and Adam Morgan than Bryan Morgado and Matthew Way, to say nothing of the worthy yet failed gamble on Joe Savery. I liked Milner a lot, ranking him over 100 spots higher on my pre-draft list than where he was actually drafted and noting that I think he’ll be a better pro than collegiate player. His body still has room to either add a few ticks to his peak fastball (from 92-93 peak to 95-96), gain more consistency on his sitting velocity (even if he moves from his current mid- to upper-80s to 88-91 that’s a good thing), or, in a perfect world, both. He has the potential for three above-average pitches (FB/CB/CU) that should help him start for the big club down the line. I don’t think this is necessarily a bold prediction, but all that is keeping him away from truly reaching his pro potential could be a better workout program, good pro coaching, and a more responsibly managed workload. Combine all that with his natural talent and he’ll be the first Phillies draft pick from 2012 to reach the big leagues.
Kevin Brady is another potential pitcher who should be better in pro ball than he showed in college. I’m typically a let the pitcher start until he proves he can’t kind of guy, but I think letting Brady stay in the bullpen and fire away is probably the best course of action. He could be a part of an intriguing High-A bullpen that should also include hard throwers Kenneth Giles and recent position player convert Tim Kennelly. Brady’s upside is likely middle relief; in fact, to use a current Phil as a point of comparison, he reminds me some of a more svelte Josh Lindblom.
The Phillies grabbed two more college arms with some relief upside in Zach Cooper and Jeb Stefan. Cooper lacks the prototypical size teams often search for, but he has plenty of arm strength, a good hard slider, and an average changeup. His ERA was exceptional in 34.2 IP (1.30) between Rookie ball and the Low-A, but his peripherals (6.49 K/9 and 4.56 SIERA) aren’t as exciting. Quick and less than thorough research shows that there has never been a player named Jeb to play big league baseball. Jeb Stefan probably won’t be the first, but he has a nice fastball (94 peak) and good size. Like Cooper, he likely lacks the one knockout pitch to make it as a big league reliever.
I happened to write up the Phillies and Yankees draft reviews back-to-back. That statement alone isn’t particularly interesting, but the timing gave my brain the chance to mash up the two drafts over and over again. The conclusion: these two franchises drafted very, very similarly. I get that you could probably play a similar game with any two random teams – ooh, toolsy outfielders and mature college bats…what are the odds of that in a draft with hundreds of players of each type? – but I happened to notice a connection between Philadelphia and New York, so, darnit, I’m going to run with it. Intriguing outfield to second base project? Big conference college catcher with power? Both teams picked them. High school hitter who has seen time at both first and the outfield? Of course. Hulking lefthanded college slugger? You got it. Freak athlete prep outfielder? Highly regarded high school arms at the top of the draft? Check and check. I favor Pullin’s youth, Peter O’Brien’s pedigree, Nathan Mikolas’ bat, Serritella’s well-roundedness, Austin Aune’s pedigree, and Ty Hensley’s present stuff, so that gives the one-to-one battles to New York. The rest of each team’s draft, however, tells a different story: Perkins and Green are better than any drafted Yankee infielder, and I’d rather have the Phils pitching triumvirate of Gueller/Milner/Brady than New York’s Black/Lail/Goody, though that one is closer than I would have guessed a few months ago. When you step back and look at each team’s respective draft, you see two teams with fairly similar draft day personalities. This entire paragraph is likely full of things that interest only me, but I suppose that’s the beauty of complete editorial control.
Yankees review will be up Monday. Enjoy the weekend, everybody.
8.278 C Josh Ludy (Baylor)
44. Baylor SR C Josh Ludy: above-average present power, strong, compact build; has improved in two major areas this spring – first, his questionable glove now has a chance to be average with continued work, and second, his hit tool, previously below-average, has improved just enough to put his power to use thanks to a cleaned up swing; strong arm; good approach; not sure he has the defensive chops to work as a backup, but power and physical strength are intriguing; 5-10, 210 pounds
24.758 C Chad Carman (Oklahoma City)
61. Oklahoma City rSR C Chad Carman: plus defender who defends well enough to warrant late-round consideration as potential backup catching option; age (23 as of May 9) works against him, but still could be of value to a team in need of a quality, professional presence to work with young pitching in low-minors; 5-10, 185 pounds
4.158 1B Chris Serritella (Southern Illinois)
15. Southern Illinois rJR 1B Chris Serritella: despite longish swing, still shows good bat speed capable of hitting big velocity; when everything is working, his swing is one of the prettiest in amateur ball; plus power potential; above-average defender; strong arm; slow even by first baseman standards; strong hit tool; heard a scout compare him developmentally to current Diamondbacks 1B Paul Goldschmidt during his college days; recovered from broken hamate injury with little to no apparent loss in power; like almost every other player on this list, the road to a starting first base job is paved with obstacles – you never want to rule out players with his kind of raw power, but the most likely positive outcome is a bench bat/platoon player; 6-3, 200 pounds
11.368 1B William Carmona (Stony Brook)
117. Stony Brook JR OF William Carmona: plus raw power; below-average plate discipline; poor defender at present with below-average range, so a move to 3B, where I’m not sure he’d be much better, may be necessary; plus arm strength – has hit 94 off mound; 6-0, 225 pounds
5.188 2B Andrew Pullin (Centralia HS, WA)
16. OF Andrew Pullin (Centralia HS, Washington): above-average arm; above-average speed; big raw power, but inconsistent in swing setup; more solid across the board than a standout in one area; little bit of Utley in swing; 6-0, 185 pounds; L/L
19.608 SS Tim Carver (Arkansas)
76. Arkansas rSR SS Tim Carver: similar to teammate and double-play partner Bo Bigham in that both are solid, high character college guys with little professional upside; gets in trouble trying to do too much at the plate at times; good speed; steady defender; 6-0, 185 pounds
3.125 3B Zach Green (Jesuit HS, CA)
21. SS Zach Green (Jesuit HS, California): good defensive instincts, first step is always right on; strong hit tool; average speed; average at best arm; seen as a future 3B, but not sure he arm for it – think he can stay at SS anyway; 6-3, 205 pounds
6.218 3B Cameron Perkins (Purdue)
15. Purdue JR 3B Cameron Perkins: above-average power upside; interesting profile as a hitter: he’s a well-known hacker, but with low strikeout totals and a well above-average ability to hit for contact; average speed; average defender; could be very good in RF; lets ball get very deep on hands; strong arm; good athlete; 6-5, 200 pounds; bad-ball hitter; hard to strikeout; 6-5, 200 pounds
2.77 OF Dylan Cozens (Chapparal HS, AZ)
13. 1B Dylan Cozens (Chaparral HS, Arizona): raw; big power upside; decent speed and good athleticism for big man; average arm; 6-6, 235 pounds; reminds me of Wallace Gonzalez from last year’s draft
13.428 OF Steven Golden (San Lorenzo HS, CA)
40. OF Steven Golden (St. Francis HS, California): good arm; very good speed; good instincts in OF combined with his speed give him plus range; line drive swing with very few moving parts – I like his hit tool more than most, though power upside is questionable; 6-3, 180 pounds; R/R
1s.40 RHP Shane Watson (Lakewood HS, CA)
35. RHP Shane Watson (Lakewood HS, California): 88-91 FB with sink, 92-93 peak; good 74-78 CB; definitely seen a good 76-80 SL; has shown 95-96 peak in spring 2012, sitting 91-93 FB; plus 78-80 CB; very consistent CB; everything down in zone; no real CU to speak of; 6-4, 200 pounds; spring 2012 UPDATE: 89-92 FB, 94 peak; above-average 75-76 CB; raw 78-81 CU; also rumors of 82 very good CB
1s.54 RHP Mitch Gueller (West HS, WA)
44. RHP Mitchell Gueller (WF West HS, Washington): 91-92 peak, up to 96 by early May; above-average speed; great athlete; CF range; low- to mid-70s CB that could be SL in time, either way has plus upside; low-80s CU; would rather hit, but most clubs prefer him on mound; 6-3, 205 pounds
7.248 LHP Hoby Milner (Texas)
62. Texas JR LHP Hoby Milner: 86-91 FB with great movement, 92-93 peak; used in a variety of ways as amateur: more often 86-89 FB as starter, low-90s as reliever; very good FB command, but not nearly as strong in this area with his offspeed stuff; once showed a potential plus mid-80s SL (freshman year?), but doesn’t use it now; instead relies heavily on mid-70s CB that has gotten a lot better since he first rolled it out as a sophomore; emerging 81-82 CU that is now solid; half-empty view might worry about his college workload/being jerked around between roles, but I think the value of his rubber arm; as thin a college pitcher as I can remember at 6-3, 165 pounds; some players give off the impression that they will be better pros than they showed in college – you watch Milner throw and you want him to be better than he is
10.338 RHP Kevin Brady (Clemson)
142. Clemson JR RHP Kevin Brady: for too long threw a too straight 90-92 FB that touched 94-96, but much improved late life in 2012; good FB command; above-average, but inconsistent 80-83 SL; once flashed plus CB, but ditched pitch for a long stretch before going back to it early in 2012; nondescript CU has gotten better, but is average at best pitch; debate over whether or not he fits best as starter or reliever professionally – health concerns and a lack of a developed third pitch seem to point towards the bullpen, though perhaps the switch comes later rather than sooner; 6-3, 220 pounds
15.488 RHP Zach Cooper (Central Michigan)
236. Central Michigan SR RHP Zach Cooper: 88-92 FB, 93 peak; has hit as high as 94-95 in past; good 82-87 SL; average CU; 5-10, 190 pounds
22.698 RHP Jeb Stefan (Louisiana Tech)
258. Louisiana Tech rJR RHP Jeb Stefan: 90-92 FB, 94 peak; also uses SL and CU, though neither profiles as big league out pitch at this point; iffy control; 6-4, 225 pounds
Courtney Hawkins was a slam dunk for Chicago in the first round. If that sentence brought back fond memories of the last great high flying dunk artist to play in the Windy City – Rusty LaRue, obviously – you’re alright in my book. Hawkins’ athleticism is outstanding and his physique ranks at or near the top of the entire 2012 MLB Draft class. His arm, speed, and raw power are all well above-average tools. Most impressive of all: the big Texan just kept getting better and better as the spring went on. I think he’s likely to outgrow center, but Adam Jones in right field still sounds pretty darn good to me. A lot can happen in the next few years to make this sound really dumb, but I still can’t believe the Mets passed on him for Gavin Cecchini. You don’t draft for need, but Hawkins is exactly what the Mets need. Heck, as a power hitting plus defending corner outfielder Hawkins is exactly what every time needs. The White Sox got themselves a long-term above-average regular here.
After Hawkins, the biggest bat drafted by Chicago belongs to Keon Barnum. I’m actually not sure if that is literally true — I’m not privy to bat weights — but it works when talking prospect stature. Barnum is old for his class, and, to be frank, he hit like it in his pro debut. We’ll know more about his future next year when he’s tested with a full-season assignment. For now, the power is encouraging, as is his impressive athleticism and physicality. I think the reticence many teams show towards drafting and developing first base only prospects, though perfectly understandable in theory, may have shifted bat-only prospects from overrated to undervalued. Barnum isn’t a great example of this, at least from my vantage point – I had him ranked 203rd overall when Chicago drafted him 48th – but I think the overarching idea has some merit.
The White Sox backed up their selection of a high school first baseman with a college guy. Former Sun Devil Abe Ruiz will have to hit and hit and hit to keep advancing through the system. I think he’s a nice org guy, and there’s no shame in that. Interestingly enough (to me), the White Sox opted not to back up Hawkins with any legitimate college outfield prospects. I realize you can only draft so many guys in forty rounds, but it still seemed like a curious position to totally disregard.
17th round pick Sam Ayala is young, so he has that going for him. Beyond that, he’s an excellent athlete – for any player, not just for a catcher – with the long-term upside of a starting catcher. The gap between what any young catcher is and what they may eventually be is as big as any position player prospect out there, so, as always, take the guess at his ceiling with a great big block of salt. Zac Fisher has teased scouts for years, but has yet to have the breakout performance so many believe is hiding within him. It’ll be interesting to hear about how his defense progresses professionally; he has the tools to be an asset behind the plate, but, stop me if you’ve heard this before, hasn’t put it all together yet. I still like his approach at the plate, though it remains to be seen if his raw power will ever move into the present power classification. The White Sox actually drafted Sunnyside HS (CA) C Jose Barraza before either Ayala or Fisher. I think he’s more of a non-prospect catching tweener in that he’ll never defend well enough to play behind the plate every day while falling well short of any of the hitting benchmarks necessary for a first baseman. On the whole the White Sox added some decent talent up the middle of their infield, but came up light in their pursuit of impact talent.
To further that point, look no further (-2 points, repetitive) than the players Chicago targeted to play second base. Just targeting second basemen alone tells you something about their draft strategy. What it tells you, well, that I don’t know…but it tells you something. I do like Joey DeMichele. I wish I could really like Joey DeMichele, but it is hard to really like any bat-first second base prospect who lacks the traditional speed, athleticism, and range of a big league middle infielder. If everything goes as planned, I could see a poor man’s Jeff Keppinger here, right down to the ability to hammer righthanded pitching. If he keeps hitting, he’ll keep getting chances. Micah Johnson is a similar, yet lesser version of DeMichele. Both players are limited by their lack of defensive versatility. Though I think Nick Basto is also likely to wind up at second base, he can at least make the claim to have the athleticism and arm strength to at least entertain the idea of moving around the diamond. I had 24th round pick Tampa 2B Eric Grabe on in-house rankings at various points over the past few years (“good approach, versatile glove” from my notes), but didn’t think enough of him to ever officially rank him as a viable draft prospect. He was too old for Rookie ball, but hit more than enough to get another shot in the organization next year. Division II prospects who last to the 24th round can’t ask for much more than that.
Chicago snagged only one third baseman of note: Kentucky senior Thomas McCarthy. McCarthy pulled off the impressive feat of getting himself ranked by me (80th best third base prospect!), but still managed to be one of the few players I listed without a comment. Like Grabe, it is likely he has already hit enough in 2012 to get another shot next season somewhere in the White Sox organization. Neither McCarthy nor Grabe are prospects in any conventional sense of the word, but their performances, both collegiately and as young professionals, warranted mentioning. I also had to mention them just in case anybody out there plays in a full-minors, 50 team dynasty league with 1,000 man rosters. There’s one in every crowd, after all.
The White Sox did a nice job of accumulating some interesting college arms who slipped further in the draft than anticipated. Landing Chris Beck, a preseason first round favorite of many, with the 76th overall pick exemplifies the idea. I’ve heard some of the anti-cutter crowd explain his decrease in 2012 velocity on an overreliance on the pitch. More empirical data and/or an organization other than Baltimore speaking out against the pitch is needed before I’m willing to go down that road. The return of some velocity and a truer slider would make him a big league starting pitching option once again. I’m optimistic.
Kyle Hansen and Brandon Brennan were both somewhat under-the-radar players who were selected in sensible spots by Chicago. I graded Hansen out as an early third round pick (103rd overall) and he went in the sixth round. I also said that he was likely to go three rounds after his talent warranted. Some simple math shows that I am indeed an all-knowing sorcerer. I still prefer Beck to Hansen in a vacuum, but the gap isn’t as wide as some might think. He has the depth of stuff (four-seam, two-seam, slider, change), size, and athleticism to continue starting professionally. Brennen’s stuff is a tick below Hansen’s, but still good enough to keep starting until he proves he can’t. A part of me thinks Brennen could have been a top-two round prospect if he would have stayed and developed over three years at Oregon, so, needless to say, that same part of me thinks he was a solid idea in the fourth round.
Isler is an interesting gamble that should continue to see his stuff play way up when coming out of the bullpen. I don’t know where Chicago gets their young relief pitching from, but Isler seems like as good an “out of nowhere” (apologies to Cincinnati, both a fine city and university and far from “nowhere”) as anybody else. He’s already got the nasty hard sinker/slider thing going for him. Tony Bucciferro’s report reads much the same way. He’ll throw bowling balls and dare hitters to try to elevate them. Both guys showed off strong groundball tendencies, albeit in small (Isler) and super small (Bucciferro) samples. I was surprised to see Eric Jaffe go off the board when he did. I was even more surprised when the White Sox managed to get a contract signed. He reminds me a little bit of current Sox minor leaguer Jacob Petricka. Jaffe also throws a fastball that is particularly hard for hitters to make consistent square contact on, if can believe it. He uses a curve (an excellent one, by the by) over a slider, but it is a pitch that moves sharply enough that it often gets the same desired results. If even one of the White Sox’ trio of college arms becomes a contributor to a big league bullpen someday, then you’d have to call their round 8 to 14 strategy a happy one.
Chicago went to the college reliever well twice more when they nabbed Adam Lopez and Zach Toney. Lopez has a pro body and is a hard thrower. He’s also a Tommy John surgery survivor who has had a fairly typical return from injury. In other words, his velocity is coming back nicely while his command still has a ways to go. It is still easy to appreciate the pick: getting guys who have hit the mid-90s in round 21 is almost always worth a shot, injury history be damned. Unbelievably, Toney is the only lefthanded pitching White Sox prospect of note to come out of the 2012 MLB Draft. Despite being a lefty, Toney’s prospect profile fits in just fine with the trio of righthanders featured in the paragraph centimeters above. For those with a short memory (or, more likely, those who skim) that would be “difficult to hit fastball, good breaking ball, potential big league reliever, fine pick at this point in draft.”
Last but not least, we have a late round steal from the Division II ranks. Enter Storm Throne. There’s no arguing with Throne’s size, athleticism, and potential for a plus heater. There is some quibbling with Throne’s inconsistent offspeed stuff (though I like his curve a lot more than many peers) and unreliable fastball velocity. On balance, Throne’s strengths outweigh his weaknesses. If it all comes together, he’s a rock solid middle of the rotation starting pitcher capable of getting ground ball outs. Throne is easily the best signed pick of round 25, though I doubt he’ll go off and put that on his business cards. My pre-draft overall pitching rankings went Beck/Hansen/Brennen/Throne, so, 25th round pick or not, he is a prospect worth keeping an eye on. In fact, after the three aforementioned pitchers, only Hawkins, Barnum, and DeMichele ranked higher on my pre-draft list than Throne. Whether or not you should be happy your 25th round pick doubles as your 7th best draft prospect depends on your general outlook on life. Half-fullers can appreciate the value of a late round find while half-emptyers have to wonder what was going on with all those rounds in between Hawkins and Throne.
Of Beck, Brennen, Hansen, Isler, Jaffe, Bucciferro, Lopez, Throne, and Toney, it is definitely worth pointing out that Buccifero is the shrimpiest. The “slender” righthander from Michigan State comes in at a mere 6-3, 200 pounds. I’m less into draft day patterns as I am scouting director preferences, but even a non-sorcerer can deduce that the White Sox have a certain body type in mind when drafting arms. Also of note: “shrimpiest” is not a word, yet “crimpiest” is. If you knew that already, you’re smarter than a sorcerer.
Position-by-Position Breakdown of Prospects of Note
(Players are listed by draft order…included below each name, in italics, are each player’s pre-draft notes and ranking within position group)
17.531 La Jolla Country Day School C Sammy Ayala
22. C Sam Ayala (La Jolla County Day School, California): good speed for catcher; good arm; above-average power upside; good athlete; 6-2, 200 pounds
27.831 New Mexico State C Zac Fisher
83. New Mexico State JR C Zac Fisher: bigger scout (and personal) favorite than the numbers might suggest; above-average raw power; advanced bat with a good approach; bat is currently way ahead of glove – still learning the finer points of what it takes to be a catcher, so, if drafted, time will have to be spent bringing his defense up to a more acceptable level; 6-3, 210 pounds
1s.48 King HS (FL) 1B Keon Barnum
5. 1B Keon Barnum (King HS, Florida): plus arm; plus power upside; Ryan Howard comp; solid defender; super strong; surprisingly athletic; compact swing; Jon Singleton comp; 6-4, 225 pounds; L/L
16.501 Arizona State 1B Abe Ruiz
38. Arizona State SR 1B Abe Ruiz: good present power – can really hammer average fastballs, but has big trouble with anything else; average defender; has hit for nice power in three out of four college seasons, but questionable hit tool and substandard approach leave much to be desired; 6-3, 240 pounds
3.108 Arizona State 2B Joey DeMichele
9. Arizona State JR 2B Joey DeMichele: decent speed; for the longest time he was a man without a position, but settled in as the kind of second baseman who makes plays on balls hit him and not much more; his plus hit tool is one of the best in his class; above-average power with the chance to hit 15+ homers professionally; 5-11, 185 pounds
9.291 Indiana 2B Micah Johnson
48. Indiana JR 2B Micah Johnson: good athlete; more raw power than most middle infielders in this class, but currently most of his power plays to the gaps; good speed; average at best defender, but has the chance to get better in time – it is more about concentration and technique than physical tools; limited arm before arm injury, so teams will need to be sure he can stick at 2B before using a pick on him; 5-11, 190 pounds
5.171 Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL) SS Nick Basto
25. 2B Nick Basto (Archbishop McCarthy HS, Florida): strong arm, but best utilized at second; some think he sticks at SS
1.13 Carroll HS (TX) OF Courtney Hawkins
4. OF Courtney Hawkins (Mary Carroll HS, Texas): very muscular build; good speed; strong arm; more present power than majority of class; plus raw power; lots of swing and miss and some pitch recognition issues; average or better speed; RF professionally; has improved a great deal across the board in last calendar year, especially on defense; good instincts in CF, but might not be quick enough; plus arm; speed, power, and arm will take him far; reminds me so much of Adam Jones it’s scary; 6-2, 215 pounds; R/R
2.76 Georgia Southern RHP Chris Beck
21. Georgia Southern JR RHP Chris Beck: 87-93 FB, 95-97 peak; FB velocity was way down in 2012 (88-92, 93 peak) and far too straight a pitch to fool pro bats; 80-86 cutter-like SL with plus upside, has hit upwards of 90, but was above-average at best throughout much of 2012 season; 80-84 straight CU with plus upside; command needs tightening; Dr. Jekyll is a first round pick, but Mr. Hyde barely warrants top ten round consideration – a smart team will figure out what they are getting in advance (or at least that’s the idea…), but outsiders like me can only guess; 6-3, 220 pounds
4.141 Orange Coast CC RHP Brandon Brennan
74. Orange Coast CC (CA) rFR RHP Brandon Brennan: 88-93 FB, 95 peak; average 83-84 SL; average CU with more upside than that for me; transfer from Oregon; 6-4, 225 pounds
6.201 St. John’s RHP Kyle Hansen
52. St. John’s JR RHP Kyle Hansen: 91-93 FB with good life, 94-96 peak; average 79-84 SL that is improving, pitch has plus upside but inconsistent shape: up to 88 on most recent looks and tends to work much better as truer slider at higher velocities than it does as an upper-70s SL/CB hybrid breaking ball; raw 80-82 CU when he started school that is now a really solid third pitch; has learned to use more upper-80s sinkers to complement four-seam heat; I’ve learned to be skeptical of overly large pitching prospects, but Hansen, for whatever reason, hasn’t gotten anywhere close to the kind of hype typically associated with similar pitchers in the past – he’s big, yes, but he is an excellent athlete who repeats his mechanics well and sits at consistent above-average velocities all while staying healthy while at college and putting up outstanding numbers year after year; hard to call a 6-8, 215 pound brother of a big leaguer a sleeper, but Hansen will likely be on the board a full three rounds past where I’d begin recommending him
8.261 Cincinnati RHP Zach Isler
191. Cincinnati JR RHP Zach Isler: fairly generic high-80s FB as starter, but a revelation out of the bullpen: sinking 90-92 FB, 94-95 peak; good low-80s SL; raw CU he can likely ditch as he moves to bullpen professionally; 6-4, 240 pounds
11.351 California RHP Eric Jaffe
184. UCLA rFR RHP Eric Jaffe: 90-95 FB that moves; plus 77-82 CB; has shown interesting 84-86 CU this past spring; disaster of a season leaves him a 100% speculative selection at this point – his signability isn’t supposed to be an issue, but it would be a surprise to see him drafted high enough to make it worth his while unless he really, really wants to play pro ball; 6-4, 230 pounds
14.441 Michigan State RHP Tony Bucciferro
243. Michigan State SR RHP Tony Bucciferro: heavy 86-88 FB, 90-92 peak; has no problem throwing sinkers all day; very good hard SL; developing 80-81 CU that has emerged as solid third pitch with above-average sink; plus control; plus pitchability; better than your average mid-round senior sign with stuff that could play up even more in short bursts; 6-3, 200 pounds
21.651 Virginia Military Institute RHP Adam Lopez
345. VMI SR RHP Adam Lopez: 88-92 FB, 94-96 peak; recovering from TJ surgery; 6-5, 220 pounds
25.771 Morningside HS (IA) RHP Storm Throne
145. Morningside (IA) JR RHP Storm Throne: 90-93 FB, 95-97 peak; good command of above-average 72-74 CB; shows CU; keeps the ball down; good athlete; 6-7, 240 pounds
26.801 Austin Peay State LHP Zach Toney
281. Austin Peay State SR LHP Zach Toney: 88-92 FB, 94 peak; solid CB; interesting splitter; iffy control; 6-3, 220 poundsPhoto via http://s305.photobucket.com/albums/nn205/chibully/all-time%20bulls/?action=view¤t=RustyLaRue.jpg&sort=ascending.