Most Intriguing Pre-Season 2013 MLB Draft Prospect(s)
- JR LHP Kyle Crockett
- JR RHP Artie Lewicki
- rSR LHP Scott Silverstein
- JR OF Mitchell Shifflett
- SR OF Reid Gragnani
- rJR RHP Whit Mayberry
This year’s Virginia team offers up an unusually sparse amount of prospects worth getting excited about. It isn’t, however, something to be concerned about if you’re a fan of the team. This is mostly true because of the really strong group of 2014s and 2015s coming up behind the lackluster 2013s, but also because one of the reasons 2013 doesn’t look as promising as it could is because of the one thing you really can’t predict: injuries. That’s a long way of pointing out the obvious: this group would look a lot better if Artie Lewicki was healthy. Lewicki, who will miss the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, could have challenged for a spot in the draft’s first three rounds if healthy. As it is, a team may yet gamble on his power arm (easy low-90s heat that peaks at 96, nasty low-80s slider) returning to form in his potential first full year of pro ball in 2014. His injury opens the door for Kyle Crockett to emerge as Virginia’s best 2013 draft prospect. Crockett reminds me a little bit of a slightly lesser version of North Carolina’s Kent Emanuel. He’s produced at a ridiculously high level since day one (9.56 K/9 in 2011, 9.00 K/9 and only 1.65 BB/9 in 60 innings last year) and has enough looseness in his arm to project some velocity gain (he’s currently upper-80s mostly) going forward. My notes on Crockett include the phrase “murder on lefties,” so, even if you don’t love him as a starter professionally, it sounds like he has a strong future in relief.
I refuse to give up on Scott Silverstein and you shouldn’t either. The redshirt senior has worked his tail off to get back to the low-90s after undergoing multiple operations to repair a torn left labrum. Add in a solid slider and an always strong changeup, and you’ve got a pretty good looking young pitcher. His medical history and advanced age may knock him back a few rounds past where his talent deserves. Even still, a smart team would be wise to stick with him this spring to see if his arm continues to bounce back. Fellow surgical patient Whit Mayberry (torn UCL in 2012) hopes to make his return to the diamond in similar triumphant fashion. Mayberry’s stuff wasn’t huge pre-injury, but he’s shown enough (some low-90s) with a strong track record (right around 9.00 K/9 over his 60 innings the past two years) to at least warrant some pre-season discussion.
Shifflett figures to be drafted on the basis on one tool: plus-plus speed. You can be limited in all other areas of the game, but you’ve got as good a shot as anybody on draft day if you have a legitimate 80 tool to call your own. I don’t think Shifflett will ever hit enough to put his speed to much use professionally, but between his legs, range, and (fingers crossed) improved patience at the plate, he could have some value as a backup outfielder somewhere, someday. He’s a fun college player to watch, in any event. Gragnani is a long-time favorite who simply hasn’t put it all together for an extended stretch at the college level. He needs at bats, so hopefully he can stay healthy and play at the high level that many – like me – think he can perform.
The duo of JR RHP Austin Young and rJR OF Colin Harrington make up another pair of names worth keeping an eye on. Young is a big guy with good numbers (8.64 K/9 in 33.1 IP) and Harrington has performed well (two years of .400+ OBP) in limited at bats.
2014 MLB Draft Name(s) to Know
- SO OF Derek Fisher
- SO RHP/3B Nick Howard
- SO OF/1B Mike Papi
- SO C Nate Irving
- SO C Brandon Downes
A big season out of Derek Fisher will get him in the conversation for a very early (top five? top ten?) pick in 2014. He’s good enough in multiple areas – average-ish defender in a corner, average-ish speed, average-ish arm – that his big time power looks even better. He’s not a hulking slugger nor is he a gifted natural hitter who happens to hit for power; he’s just a well-rounded player with the chance to be an above-average player in an outfield corner.
SO OF/1B Mike Papi and SO RHP/3B Nick Howard aren’t on the same level as Fisher as prospects, but they aren’t all that far behind. If Papi continues to prove himself athletic enough to handle an outfield corner, his stock will continue to rise. Howard’s future is still largely to be determined as many talent evaluators remain split on whether or not he’ll wind up as a hitter or a pitcher. Virginia is lucky to have a pair of talented catchers coming off admirable first year performances in SO C Brandon Downes and SO C Nate Irving. I think Irving may be the better defender while Downes has more upside at the plate.
I also like SO 2B Branden Cogswell, a middle infielder with an intriguing offensive profile and frame that suggests pop to come. SO INF/C Kenny Towns and SO RHP Barrett O’Neill round out a very strong group of Virginia sophomores.
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