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2013 MLB Draft Conference Preview: Big 12

Going team by team was fun, but the college season is creeping up way too quickly for me to get as many teams done as I’d like. Instead, we’ll take a larger view and go conference by conference. The only thing that will slow me down at this point is incomplete or missing 2013 rosters…North Carolina, Louisville, South Carolina, Oregon State, you are all on notice. Congratulations to the Big 12 for being the first conference I’ve seen with every school’s updated roster. So far so good on the Big 10, so as of now they are the leader for next conference up.

Oh yeah, I’ve also started messing around with a 2013 MLB Draft Mock Draft. Not sure it’ll ever see the light of day, but at least it is started. We’ll see if my guilt over not doing a mock for two years overtakes my shallow desire for sweet sweet Google aided page views. Back to the Big 12…

Here’s the key for the player lists:

  • Bold = locks to be drafted
  • Italics = definite maybes
  • Underlined = possible risers
  • Plain text = long shots

I included a few relevant comments when I could, but I’m happy to expand on the players from any Big 12 team if anybody is interested. Here we go…

C

  • Texas JR C Jacob Felts 
  • Baylor SR C Nathan Orf 
  • Kansas JR C Kai’ana Eldredge
  • Texas Christian JR C Kyle Bacak
  • Oklahoma State rJR C Rick Stover
  • Oklahoma State JR C Tyler Palmer
  • Kansas State rJR C Blair DeBord
  • Oklahoma JR C Jake Smith
  • Oklahoma State SR C Victor Romero

Felts is the marquee name and the only stone cold mortal lock to get drafted in 2013. I don’t think he’ll hit enough to profile as much more than a quality backup backstop at the pro level, but a backup big league projection beats the heck out of a no big league projection at all. Orf warrants a mention as the best returning Big 12 hitting catcher; he hit a park/schedule adjusted .303/.456/.389 in 234 AB last year. Eldredge ranks second only to Felts in name value — like Felts he was a highly regarded prep prospect back in the day — and offers similar professional upside. I’ve always been fond of athletic catchers, so my longstanding appreciation for Eldredge’s game should come as no  shock. Time at both 2B and SS have kept his defense behind the plate raw, but his arm and agility give him a strong enough defensive foundation to build on. The next step will be figuring things out as a hitter: his .178/.245/.199 line last season would disqualify him as a prospect were it not for the belief that he’s significantly better than he’s shown. Bacak, Stover, and Palmer are all really good defensive players with exceptional throwing arms. If any of the three bust out with the bat, then you have to think draft consideration would quickly follow.

1B

  • Texas SR 1B Landon Steinhagen
  • Kansas SR 1B Alex DeLeon
  • West Virginia JR 1B Ryan McBroom
  • Texas Tech rSR 1B Scott LeJeune
  • Oklahoma State JR 1B Tanner Krietemeier
  • Oklahoma State SO 1B Wes Jones

No huge surprise, but there isn’t much in the way of actual first base prospects in this year’s Big 12 class. Numbers aren’t everything, of course, but it is fairly telling that the highest park/schedule adjusted 2012 slugging mark out of this group comes in at a paltry (by 1B standards) .410. Steinhagen, who can also play some corner OF, has more power than he’s shown, but he’s still less than a 50/50 bet to get drafted. Same could be said for DeLeon, after substituting catcher for corner OF. McBroom, he of the pace-setting .273/.349/.410 line, offers up some promise. I’m barely literate, so correct me if I’m wrong, but do McBroom and LeJeune rhyme? That would be a fun coincidence.

2B

  • Kansas State JR 2B Ross Kivett
  • Texas Christian SR 2B Josh Gonzales
  • Baylor rJR 2B Lawton Langford
  • Texas Christian JR 2B Brett Johnson
  • Baylor SR 2B Steve DalPorto

Rare to find a true second base prospect worth getting excited about — most 2B are made and not born, after all — but there are a few moderately interesting Big 12 middle infielders of note. The one thing that stands out across the board is the impressive plate discipline shown by each member of this group. The player strongest in this area, Ross Kivett, just so happens to be my favorite. Kivett’s a really good runner, both in terms of speed and smarts, with just enough pop that I think his bat will keep from being a zero professionally. Gonzales is also a speedster; his steadier glove and senior sign status could help him overtake Kivett before the end of the year. Langford is a rock solid college player who defends the heck out of his position. Lack of defensive versatility hurts just about every guy on the list; the zero sum positional game is one of the reasons why 2B is such a tough position to find viable prospects.

3B

  • Texas JR 3B Erich Weiss
  • Texas Tech JR 3B Jake Barrios
  • Texas Christian rSR 3B Jantzen Witte
  • Texas JR 3B Madison Carter
  • Baylor SR 3B/OF Cal Towey
  • Texas Christian rSR 3B Davy Wright
  • Kansas State rJR 3B RJ Santigate
  • Oklahoma SR 3B Garrett Carey
  • Baylor SR 3B Jake Miller

The top three names are all exciting to me for various reasons. Weiss is criminally underrated for reasons I’m not quite sure I understand. Again, numbers don’t always tell the whole story when scouting, but compare these two players last two seasons (park/schedule adjusted):

Player A

2011: .351/.462/.577 – 51 BB/31 K – 248 AB
2012: .341/.417/.471 – 22 BB/23 K – 170 AB – 1/3 SB)

Player B

2011: .384/.514/.558 – 55 BB/36 K – 224 AB
2012: .409/.481/.635 – 23 BB/41 K – 203 AB – 10/12 SB

Those 2011’s are eerily similar, right? There’s some separation in 2012: Player A strikes out less, steals fewer bases, and hits for less power. All things being equal, as much as I love the slightly better walk rate of Player A, I’d have to go Player B on the strength of his numbers alone. Player B is Erich Weiss, Player A is everybody’s first round pick Colin Moran. Now even after all that, I’d still take Moran. The UNC junior is a much better defender at third, and, yeah, more patient at the plate, a big plus for me always. I know some have knocked Weiss’ swing and believe he’s in for a major revamp at the professional level. I can’t say I agree, but it is at least a legitimate argument for Moran’s bat — he could wake up in the middle of the night and hit line drives with his swing — over Weiss’. Relative strengths of bats aside, it ultimately comes down to this fairly simple observation: the possibility that Weiss is a corner outfielder in the pros looms much more likely than in the case of Moran. I really, really want a chance to see Texas this year, so hopefully I’ll learn some firsthand knowledge about Weiss’ defense at the hot corner. Failing that, I’ll keep my ear to the ground for any mention at all about his defensive progress. Big, underrated draft story line to watch this spring. While everybody is watching San Diego’s Kris Bryant, a player with a somewhat similar defensive forecast, I’ll be focused on Weiss. Well, Weiss and Bryant. And a few hundred others. I enjoy multi-tasking.

Barrios, the second name on the list, has been on the draft radar for years. He’s certainly got a lot of life experience out of his travels — from LSU to juco ball in Kansas (Seward County) and now settling in at Texas Tech — but the lack of consistent playing time leaves him something of a mystery as a prospect. I like his defensive tools, power upside, and positional versatility can also play 2B and SS). Nice player. One note on Barrios that I may only find interesting: he’s shrunk since high school. Not literally, of course, but rather in how his height and weight have appeared through the years. My oldest notes on him had him at 6-3, 200 pounds and growing. Texas Tech currently lists him at 6-0, 200 pounds. Wonder where those three inches went…

The third and final exciting name belongs to Jantzen Witte.  I actually used the word “love” twice in my notes on Witte, first when talking about his defense and again when referencing his approach to hitting. His part/schedule adjusted numbers have been stellar the past two years (.370/.434/.516 in 2011 and .364/.419/.500 in 2012) though there are still some around the game who question whether or not he’ll hit enough to profile as a regular at third. I’ll admit to never really associating Witte’s name with starting caliber big league player in my mind, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have it in him. I’m pulling these numbers out of thin air here, but I’d be quite pleased if my favorite team targeted him as an affordable senior sign prospect between rounds six and ten. There are some big college names later in the ranks as the Big 12 is stacked with veteran third basemen this year. Towey’s defensive versatility makes him the most draftable at present, though arguments could be made for Santigate, Carey, and Miller, above-average defensive players all. As with the catchers profiled above, if any one of those three get the bat going, draft day could get interesting in a hurry.

SS

  • Texas Christian SO SS Derek Odell
  • Texas Christian JR SS Paul Hendrix
  • Oklahoma SR SS Jack Mayfield
  • Texas JR SS Alex Silver
  • Oklahoma JR SS Hector Lorenzana
  • Texas JR SS Ty Marlow
  • Kansas SR SS Kevin Kuntz

I’m not quite sure how TCU’s opening day lineup will shake out, but I do know there is some envious depth found up and down the roster. So far we have two redshirt-seniors on the 3B list, two worthwhile 2B prospects, and now two quality shortstops.  I’m not positive either player will actually stick at shortstop, but I’ll give both Horned Frogs the benefit of the doubt for now. Odell’s bat has a chance of playing at 3B if his lack of foot speed necessitates a switch. Hendrix could probably due the same, thanks to impressive power to the gaps, above-average athleticism, and a strong arm. Mayfield is an intriguing two-way talent whom I prefer as a middle infielder. His plus athleticism, above-average speed, and quick hands give him the look of a future utility option. There’s little impact potential within the group, but Odell’s tool set, impressive freshman season (.322/.383/.471 in 174 AB), and last name that makes me nostalgic for my old Apple IIGS all help make him the current leader of the pack.

OF

  • Kansas State JR OF Jared King
  • Texas JR OF Mark Payton
  • Texas rJR OF Matt Moynihan
  • Oklahoma SR OF Max White 
  • Oklahoma State JR OF Aaron Cornell
  • Texas rJR OF Cohl Walla
  • Kansas State SR OF Tanner Witt
  • Texas Christian rSO OF Axel Johnson
  • Kansas SO OF Michael Suiter
  • West Virginia SR OF Brady Wilson
  • West Virginia rJR OF Matt Frazer
  • Texas JR OF Weston Hall
  • Texas Tech rJR OF Devon Conley
  • Kansas JR OF Tucker Tharp
  • Oklahoma State SR OF Jarrett Higgins
  • Oklahoma State SR OF Trey Whaley
  • Texas Tech SR OF Brennan Moore
  • Oklahoma rSO OF Colt Bickerstaff
  • West Virginia rSR OF Chris Rasky

I don’t want to downplay how strong a prospect Jared King is (uses whole field extremely well, good hit tool and power upside, like him but don’t love him due to range/arm that likely limits him to LF), but the real headliner from this group of outfield prospects is the current collection of flycatchers in Austin. I’d happily pay more money than a broke 20something with lousy student loans ought to just to watch the trio of Mark Payton, Matt Moynihan, and Cohl Walla chase down flyballs. Injuries and transfer rules have kept the three from playing much together — not sure they’ve ever all been in the same outfield, but I’m too lazy to check — but a new year brings hope that the three will finally take the field as a unit. Payton is the safest prospect of the three, a legitimate plus to plus-plus runner with clear CF range, sneaky pop, and a balanced approach at the plate. He’s also the only one of the three who can say has been on the field enough to put up meaningful numbers (.370/.461/.567 with 8/13 SB) over the past calendar year. After transfers from both San Diego and Orange Coast CC, Moynihan has now approached mythical creature status for me: he’s like the Slender Man of the college baseball world. When he has played, he’s shown tremendous speed and athleticism with an approach to hitting well suited for the top of a lineup. Walla missed the 2012 season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ACL. Before the injury he had speed and CF range that rivaled both Payton and Moynihan, at one point earning defensive comps to former Longhorns CF Drew Stubbs. At 100% a case could be made for Walla as the most intriguing of the three outfielders, thanks in large part to having the most raw power and arm strength of the group. Unfortunately there’s no telling how the injury will impact his game. Additionally, the lack of collegiate production (.250/.343/.313 in 144 swing at everything in 144 AB in 2011) can’t wholly be ignored.

King and the Texas trio aren’t the only Big 12 outfielders worth knowing for 2013. Max White and Tanner Witt have both hit enough in the past that you can project them as potential backup outfielders at the next level. That alone would be great, but there’s no need to stop simply at backup outfielder: both guys have played extensively at other positions — White can play anywhere but C and SS, Witt has experience at both 2B and SS — over the years. I admittedly didn’t know much about Witt just a few days ago, but his positional versatility, speed, and plate discipline (41 BB/20 K last year) have my attention. Cornell, Johnson, and Suiter have all flashed big league tools at times, but have yet to put it together over an extended stretch of time.

P

  • Oklahoma JR RHP Jonathan Gray
  • Texas Christian JR RHP Andrew Mitchell
  • Texas JR RHP Corey Knebel
  • Oklahoma JR LHP Dillon Overton
  • Texas Christian rSO RHP Trey Teakell
  • Oklahoma State rJR RHP/OF Mark Robinette
  • Oklahoma JR LHP Billy Waltrip
  • Texas JR RHP Nathan Thornhill
  • Texas Tech JR RHP Trey Masek
  • Kansas SR RHP Tanner Poppe
  • Oklahoma State SR RHP Randy McCurry
  • Texas rJR RHP Josh Urban
  • Baylor JR RHP Dillon Newman
  • Baylor JR RHP Trae Davis
  • Baylor rSR RHP Max Garner
  • Oklahoma State rSO RHP Jason Hursh
  • Texas Christian JR RHP Stefan Crichton
  • Kansas JR RHP Frank Duncan
  • Baylor JR RHP Miles Landry
  • Oklahoma JR RHP Kyle Hayes
  • Baylor SR RHP Kolt Browder 
  • Kansas State JR LHP Gerardo Esquivel
  • Texas JR LHP Kirby Bellow
  • Texas Christian JR LHP Trevor Seidenberger
  • Baylor SR LHP Crayton Bare
  • Baylor JR LHP Brad Kuntz
  • Texas Christian JR RHP Nick Frey
  • Texas JR RHP Justin Peters
  • Kansas State JR LHP Jared Moore
  • Kansas rSR RHP Thomas Taylor
  • Texas Christian SR RHP Justin Scharf
  • Oklahoma SR LHP Jake Fisher
  • Texas Tech JR LHP Andre Wheeler
  • West Virginia JR RHP Ryan Tezak
  • Oklahoma JR LHP Ethan Carnes
  • Kansas State SR LHP Joe Flattery
  • Oklahoma JR RHP Kindle Ladd
  • Oklahoma State JR RHP Vince Wheeland
  • Kansas State rSO LHP/1B Shane Conlon
  • West Virginia SR RHP Dan Dierdorff
  • West Virginia rSO LHP Harrison Musgrave
  • West Virginia rJR LHP Marshall Thompson
  • West Virginia JR RHP Josh Harlow
  • Oklahoma State rSO LHP Tyler Nurdin
  • Kansas State SO RHP Nate Williams
  • West Virginia JR LHP Zach Bargeron
  • West Virginia JR RHP Corey Walter

I generally feel that making early proclamations on pitchers ends badly for the prognosticator. Maybe it’s because pitchers are inherently fickle beasts. Maybe it’s because sudden jumps in stuff can happen with changes in role and/or mechanics once that special something clicks. Maybe it’s because I don’t know nearly as much as I think I do about baseball. In any event, this year’s group of Big 12 pitchers is particularly confounding. The top five arms could all be switched around and I wouldn’t put up a fight. In fact, I juggled them around a few times myself just before hitting the Publish button.

After a good bit of internal debate, I leapfrogged Jonathan Gray over Andrew Mitchell for the top spot. Gray is a big, strong righthanded pitcher who can show up to four plus pitches on any given day. He’s good. Mitchell reminds me a little bit of Arkansas RHP Nolan Sanburn at this same point last year. He has the three-pitch mix needed to make it as a starting pitcher in pro ball. That’s a role he can potentially excel in, but I do worry some about his diminished fastball velocity as a starter. Corey Knebel earned the rare and beautiful FAVORITE distinction in my notes after his freshman season at Texas. Nothing since then has made me like him any less: good heat (91-94), nasty yet underutilized CB, good sinker. His changeup still needs work, but there’s a lot to like. Dillon Overton had a sensational 2012 season (9.68 K/9 | 1.69 BB/9 | 3.16 FIP | 122.2 IP) that got a little bit lost in the upperclassman 2012 draft shuffle. It’s now his turn to step out of Andrew Heaney’s shadow and get his due in 2013. Trey Teakell’s buzz word this spring will be projection. He’s already got a diverse four-pitch mix going for him, so teams will be excited to see if his obvious athleticism, easy velocity, and frame with ample room to grow combine to help him round into something truly great.

There are plenty of future relievers of note who should hear their names called on draft day. Randy McCurry has long been a favorite as an athletic two-way talent capable of reaching the mid-90s while flashing a plus breaking ball. Josh Urban can also hit the mid-90s, but below-average command and control has held him back to this point. Jason Hursh’s (another FAVORITE) return from Tommy John surgery didn’t quite go as planned last spring, but his raw stuff (97-98 peak FB with explosive movement down in zone, flashes above-average CB) rivals that of any pitcher in the conference when on. Stefan Crichton might be viewed as a starter for some, and rightfully so, but I like him best as a sinker/slider reliever at the next level. The best mix of present stuff, production, and projection from the next talent level down probably belongs to either Frank Duncan (well-rounded four-pitch mix, 8.41 K/9 last year, sturdy 6-4, 200 pound frame) or Kolt Browder (low-90s heat, occasional plus breaking ball, sweet baseball name). Kyle Hayes hasn’t yet had the opportunity to do it under the bright lights of college baseball, but the San Diego State and Howard JC transfer is one to watch. The fastest fastball I have on any of the underlined guys is 90 MPH, so you know they all find find ways with command, movement, and at least one above-average offspeed pitch apiece. There’s some solid bullpen upside there, hence the bonus points awarded for the lefties.

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1 Comment

  1. […] say it all the time (proof here, here, here, and from yesterday), but it’s true: second base prospects are made and not born. A little […]

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