Most Intriguing Pre-Season 2013 MLB Draft Prospect(s)
1. JR 3B Chad Pinder
2. rJR OF Tyler Horan
3. JR RHP Brad Markey
4. JR LHP Eddie Campbell
5. SR RHP Joe Mantiply
For the millionth time, I’m not a college baseball expert. I don’t really know what teams are good and what teams will disappoint, and, to be honest, I don’t particularly care. I like prospects. For that reason, I like Virginia Tech. They have good prospects. Now common sense leads me to believe that, with some exceptions teams with good prospects, especially veteran prospects, tend to fare fairly well during the college baseball season. So it is my opinion as a newfound college baseball expert that Virginia Tech is going to be pretty good this year: seven legit position player prospects (plus speedy FR OF Saige Jenco) and a pitching staff with a half-dozen upperclassmen worth knowing. Let’s start with the best of those prospects.
It is way too early to start assigning draft grades, so take the following with a jumbo sized chunk of salt: if you’re a fan of a team in need of a third baseman of the future, then Chad Pinder is as good a non-first round name to follow as any. If my favorite team misses out on and/or goes a different direction on, say, Colin Moran in the mid-first, then I’d be more than happy with Pinder being the next man up within the round two to five range. Pinder’s defense at third is legitimately exciting to watch. He has really quick feet, a strong arm, and great instincts on the left side of the infield. In a pinch, I’d have no problem playing him up the middle at short, a la a young Ryan Zimmerman. As a hitter, his power is right where you want it for a corner infielder (20+ home run upside) and he’s shown an ability to make critical adjustments game to game as well as pitch to pitch. The big quibble would be his plate discipline — 15 BB/40 K last season — but I think that’s more of a byproduct of how he was pitched in 2012. Tyler Horan has more power, but not quite as strong a hit tool. He also is a corner outfielder only, potentially limited to left field, so the margin of error for his stick is more pronounced. The power is enticing enough that he’ll rightfully get drafted with the thought he’ll someday hold down an everyday outfield spot.
You can put the three Virginia Tech pitchers listed above in any order and I couldn’t find much to argue. I liked Markey a lot last year — he was my 446th overall draft prospect, after all — and I see no reason why I should turn on him now. The well-traveled junior throws three pitches for strikes (88-92 FB, 93 peak with a good CB and average CU). Campbell impressed on the Cape thanks to his crafty lefty repertoire that includes an upper-80s to low-90s FB (92 peak) and above-average curve. I’m more bearish on him than most, due to stuff that doesn’t blow me away and too frequent lapses in control. Joe Mantiply should be a solid senior sign thanks to a fastball between 88-92 fastball (notice a trend?), pro size (6-4, 215 pounds), and a pair of usable offspeed pitches.
rSR OF Andrew Rash and rJR C Chad Morgan are both veterans of the draft process, so the stakes ought to be pretty clear at this point. Rash’s huge righthanded power is enough for me to take a chance on him late in the draft, but I could see why teams may be hesitant to pull the trigger on a guy with contact issues and an inconsistent approach. He deserves credit for working himself into a playable right fielder. Questions about Morgan’s bat are even bigger – I had him pegged as the next great early round ACC catcher a few years back, but his game has badly stagnated. I think he can still defend the position with the best of them — at least on the college level — but that’s fairly self-evident by now. What scouts will be focusing in on this spring will be his swing – I’ve heard it has been modified and shortened since last season. On talent alone, both guys should be drafted. We’ll see if their production matches the hype in a few months.
SR RHP Jake Joyce has consistently performed out of the Virginia Tech bullpen (9.96 K/9 in 2011, 11.16 K/9 last year), so it wouldn’t be a shock to see a club that emphasizes prior production giving him a look this spring. Same could be said about SR RHP Tanner McIntyre, a pitcher who has done the job when called upon (10.16 K/9 last year) but still could be on the outside looking in come June if teams decide they can’t look past lack of size (5-9, 170 pounds) and pedestrian (by pro standards) stuff. You can go ahead and put 5-9, 175 pound SR RHP Clark Labitan in the same category.
2014 MLB Draft Name(s) to Know
1. SO C/OF Mark Zagunis
2. SO 1B/OF Sean Keselica
Mark Zagunis’ upside behind the plate has me all excited. I know, I know…I feel for a young Virginia Tech catcher not that long ago, (see above) and that hasn’t worked out all that well, but this time is different. Zagunis is a great athlete coming off a really impressive freshman season (.344/.432/.513) who can run, hit, and flash some serious power. His defense is what will have to be closely monitored, but I’m a believer. It’s not a comp because I’ve yet to see Zagunis in person (that changes this year, thankfully), but the scouting reports give off a little bit of a Josh Elander vibe. Keselica isn’t quite on the same level for me, but I know some who follow the Hokies more extensively than I disagree with that assessment. A little bit down the prospect line are SO 1B Brendon Hayden and SO 2B/SS Alex Perez. Hayden has size, strength, and power. Perez has a patient approach and good defensive tools. Both guys should be in the 2014 mix after building on their solid freshman seasons this spring.