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2013 MLB Draft Conference Preview: WAC

WAC now, Pac-12 and Missouri Valley both almost ready to see the light of day. Finally starting to make some progress on these things. No hesitation, let’s talk WAC…

Here’s the key for the player lists:

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

Here we go…

C

  • Cal State Bakersfield JR C Cael Brockmeyer
  • Texas State rJR C Tyler Pearson 
  • Louisiana Tech rJR C Kyle Arnsberg
  • Texas State SR C Andrew Stumph 
  • Dallas Baptist SR C Duncan McAlpine
  • Texas-Arlington JR C Greg McCall
  • Seattle rJR C Ryan Somers

Brockmeyer’s size (6-5, 220 pounds) may necessitate a permanent move to first at some point, but his defense at present is good enough to stick for the foreseeable future. It goes without saying that he’s a better prospect the longer he can catch, but it is also worth mentioning that his bat is interesting enough that he’d also be the top first base prospect in the conference if that’s where you think he’ll eventually wind up. A pair of recent transfers share the spotlight with Brockmeyer near the top of the list. Tyler Pearson, a Rice transfer, comes to Texas State as an acclaimed defender. He’ll join powerful yet raw defender Andrew Stumph in what could be a particularly strong offense/defense timeshare. Kyle Arnsberg underwhelmed at the plate last year after transferring from Arizona State by way of McLennan JC, but brings enough positives to the table — athleticism, above-average defender, size, plate discipline — to watch him as a potential senior sign of note.

1B

  • Sacramento State SR 1B Clay Cederquist
  • San Jose State JR 1B Matt Carroll
  • Texas-Arlington SR 1B JM Twitchell
  • San Jose State JR 1B Matt Lopez 
  • Texas State JR 1B Austin O’Neal
  • Dallas Baptist JR 1B Chane Lynch
  • New Mexico State SR 1B Kris Koerper

A good college first base prospect is hard to find, and things are no different in the WAC than they are across the rest of the country. Any one of Cederquist, Carroll, or Twitchell could be drafted based largely on the strength of their bats.  Koerper’s power would put him in the same ballpark, but I don’t believe he’ll be suiting up for New Mexico State in 2013.

2B

  • New Mexico State SR 2B Parker Hipp
  • Sacramento State SR 2B Andrew Ayers
  • San Jose State JR 2B Jacob Valdez
  • Cal State Bakersfield JR 2B Oscar Sanay

There continues to be little to no buzz about Parker Hipp from a scouting standpoint, but all he’s done is put up numbers for New Mexico State. I don’t have anything new on him since last spring, so I’m hoping that what I wrote about him last year holds true today: “raw totals are inflated by home park, but park/schedule adjusted numbers still show his tremendous plate discipline; getting him into pro ball may help him go back to a less power-oriented swing; solid glove.”

3B

  • Sacramento State JR 3B Will Soto
  • San Jose State JR 3B Caleb Natov
  • New Mexico State SR 3B Robert Lecount

Quick and easy view on the hot corner: three useful college players, but not much to see in terms of pro prospects.

SS

  • Louisiana Tech SR SS Taylor Terrasas
  • Texas State SR SS Nick Smelser 
  • Texas-Arlington JR SS Ryan Walker
  • Louisiana Tech JR SS Ryan Gebhardt

Things are a little bit better with this shortstop group, but I still think we’re looking at really good college players rather than legitimate professional prospects. Terrasas (.330/.435/.509) and Gebhardt (.327/.399/.399) both walked as much as they struck out last year, Walker showed the best power/speed blend (.428 slugging and 14/18 SB), and Smelser, the least impressive statistically of the quartet, has the best all-around tools package, especially on defense.

OF

  • Texas-San Antonio JR OF Riley Good
  • Dallas Baptist rSR OF Boomer Collins 
  • San Jose State SR OF Nick Schulz 
  • Louisiana Tech JR OF Sam Alvis 
  • Texas-Arlington rJR OF Matt Shortall
  • New Mexico State JR OF Quinnton Mack
  • Sacramento State JR OF Justin Higley
  • New Mexico State rJR OF Tanner Rust
  • Texas State SR OF Morgan Mickan
  • Texas-San Antonio SR OF Daniel Rockett
  • Sacramento State rJR OF David Del Grande
  • Texas-San Antonio JR OF John Welborn 
  • New Mexico State SR OF Kyle Phillips
  • Dallas Baptist SR OF Ronnie Mitchell

Regular readers know I hate the idea of sleepers — too many people out there care about this stuff that I find it very presumptuous to assume I’m the lone voice supporting a particular prospect — but Riley Good comes as close to the idea in the WAC as I can surmise. He does all the things you want out of a CF — catch the ball, run, throw — while also showing off an average hit tool with decent plate discipline. It seems highly doubtful that there are any starting caliber outfielders in the conference, so a backup outfielder skill set like Good’s begins to look just fine after a while.

On top of having a cool name, Boomer Collins can play. His numbers put him at the top of returning WAC outfielders by a comfortable margin and his average power/speed/arm strength combo is enticing. The Nebraska transfer is the better bet to have a superior college season than the man ranked one spot above him, but Good’s age and positional value give him the narrow edge. Two-way standout Sam Alvis could be in line for a breakout if allowed to focus more attention on his role as a position player. Shorthall, a Tulane transfer, has serious raw power, but has not yet been able to put it to consistent use thanks to the too much swing and miss in him. Quinnton Mack has his fans, and Tanner Rust, a versatile defender who may be able to stick at 3B or C with more reps, could intrigue a team late on draft day.

P

  • Texas State JR RHP Kyle Finnegan
  • Dallas Baptist rJR RHP Jake Johansen
  • Texas-Arlington JR RHP John Beck
  • New Mexico State SR LHP Ryan Beck
  • Dallas Baptist rSR RHP Michael Smith 
  • Texas State SR RHP Mitchell Pitts
  • Texas-San Antonio SR RHP Clint Sharp
  • Louisiana Tech SR RHP Trevor Petersen
  • Dallas Baptist JR RHP Cody Beam
  • Texas State JR RHP Scott Grist
  • New Mexico State SR RHP Adam Mott
  • Texas State JR RHP Hunter Lemke
  • San Jose State JR RHP DJ Slaton
  • Sacramento State JR RHP Dallas Chadwick
  • San Jose State JR LHP Johnny Melero
  • Sacramento State SR LHP Tyler Hoelzen
  • New Mexico State SR RHP Michael Ormseth
  • San Jose State SR LHP David Wayne Russo
  • Texas-San Antonio JR LHP Michael Kraft
  • Sacramento State JR RHP Tanner Mendonca
  • Cal State Bakersfield SR LHP Jeff McKenzie
  • Cal State Bakersfield SR RHP Scott Brattvet
  • Sacramento State SR RHP Brandon Creel
  • Cal State Bakersfield rSR LHP Jonathan Montoya 
  • Louisiana Tech SR RHP Caleb Dudley
  • San Jose State SR RHP Kyle Hassna
  • Cal State Bakersfield rSR RHP Brandon Van Dam

Best prospect in the conference goes to Kyle Finnegan in a landslide. He’ll be a fun player to stack up against the rest of the country’s top pitchers – little bit of a big fish/little pond vibe going on with Finnegan heading into 2013. He’s predominantly a sinker/slider guy, but calling his two-seam fastball just any old sinker undersells how good a pitch it has become. I’d put his explosive two-seamer up against just about any pitch in the college game, thanks in large part to his much improved ability to command it and the ever-present downward movement. Grading out a good fastball isn’t exactly rocket science: there are other factors to consider, but if you simplify it to 1) velocity, 2) movement, and 3) command, then you give yourself a pretty decent starting point to evaluate. We’ve covered movement and comment, but what of Finnegan’s heat? For the most part, the 6-2, 180 pound righthander lives in the low-90s, but he can crank it up to the 95-97 range at the expense of some/most of the movement and command that makes it so effective in the first place. In addition to his four-seam, two-seam, and slider (a true low-80s offering that flashes plus when he can command it), Finnegan also throws an improved but still lacking low-70s change and a mid- to upper-80s cutter that is often mislabeled as the slider. His numbers were more good than great last season (7.33 K/9 | 2.51 BB/9 | 3.67 FIP | 93.1 IP), but a big jump in performance is expected (by me, and plenty of other smarter people) in 2013.

I mentioned earlier how I’m curious about how Finnegan stacks up against pitchers from outside the WAC. We haven’t covered nearly enough conferences to get a full picture just yet, but we can still work with what we have. A really quick look at the pitchers I’ve ranked so far, plus a familiar name from the soon to be published Missouri Valley Conference preview coming later this week, would look a little something like: 1) Sean Manaea, 2) Jonathan Gray, 3) Andrew Mitchell, 4) Austin Kubitza, 5) Ben Lively, 6) Aaron Blair, 7) John Simms, 8) Corey Knebel, 9) Dillon Overton, and 10) Kyle Finnegan. I think the most direct comparison right now would be between Knebel and Finnegan: low-90s FB capable of hitting more, CU needs work, flashes plus breaking ball (CB for Knebel), not completely dissimilar builds (we’re stretching here as Knebel is bigger at 6-3, 200 pounds, but most top prospects are bigger than Finnegan), and similar 2012 production (Knebel’s 2012: 8.67 K/9 | 2.32 BB/9 | 3.04 FIP | 73.2 IP). No real conclusions here, just thinking out loud.

Finnegan isn’t the only pitching prospect of note in the WAC. In fact, you could make an argument that the top three prospects are pitchers this year. If you take my decisions on to bold or not to bold to heart, then that’s exactly the argument I’m making. Johansen has been known for years as the poster boy for hard throwing, big bodied, no control righthanded college pitching prospect. His fastball/slider is ready for a pro bullpen tomorrow, but it is hard to ignore his ongoing issues with control. I’ve also long been of the mind that he needs something slower to keep hitters guessing a little bit more, though I now think I’m good with him embracing hard, harder, hardest and just letting it fly as a reliever. There’s a drop in stuff after Johansen, but the Beck brothers (note: not really brothers) both command the requisite three average or better pitches needed to entertain the notion they can start in pro ball. Sharp and Peterson fall closer to the Johansen tree, as hard throwers with below-average present control.

The Cal State Bakersfield duo at the bottom both missed the 2012 season after Tommy John surgery. I include them not only because I always like the give a mention to players coming off of injury, but also because it is easy to like any pair of teammates that can be so similar (injury and…same team? I guess mostly just the injury…) and so very different: Montoya weighs in at 5-7, 155 pounds (fairly close to my height/weight, which I know is fascinating to everybody out there) while Van Dam measures up at 6-7, 235 pounds.

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