The Baseball Draft Report

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2013 MLB Draft Conference Preview: Big East

This may be a lean week because of some real life — well, as “real” as grad school can be — paper writing that needs to be done. 2,000+ words about the Big East will have to suffice until then.

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

C

  • Pittsburgh SO C Elvin Soto
  • Louisville JR C Kyle Gibson
  • Rutgers SR C Jeff Melillo
  • St. John’s JR C Frank Schwindel
  • St. John’s SR C Danny Bethea
  • Louisville SR C Matt Helms

Elvin Soto’s arm, hands, upside as a defender, and untapped potential at the plate — big things are expected, but worth noting he hit .236/.302/.384 in 216 freshman ABs — could propel him into the discussion as one of this year’s draft few college catchers with big league starter upside. I’m not quite there, but that’s more my issue with his general profile (plus arm, intriguing power, questionable plate discipline) than him as an individual prospect. In fact, I actually initially had him lower than Kyle Gibson. Gibson is a decent upside sleeper play thanks to outstanding athleticism, above-average speed, and a strong arm. There’s still some improvement needed in his defense behind the dish, but you can see that he has the tools to work himself into a dependable backstop in time. I think guys like Gibson (i.e. athletic with a mature approach to hitting) profile better as big league backups than the all-or-nothing power/arm types. Could just be my recent Phillies fandom bias kicking in: love Carlos Ruiz, couldn’t stand Rod Barajas.

The ACC draft preview goes up next, so the comparison of Jeff Melillo to Duke’s Jeff Kremer should make more sense then. I like both guys as mid-round catchers worth stashing in the minors as insurance to your more highly regarded catching prospects. After four, five, even six years of minor league time go by, you suddenly find yourself in possession of a competent catcher who can get on base a bit and is universally well-liked by pitchers. Frank Schwindel (.322/.350/416 in 202 AB) may not have the defensive chops to stay a catcher in pro ball; if that’s the case, slot him in between Gardner and Anderson on the first base list.

1B

  • Notre Dame JR 1B Eric Jagielo
  • Notre Dame JR 1B Trey Mancini
  • Cincinnati JR 1B Justin Glass
  • Louisville SR 1B Zak Wasserman
  • Louisville JR 1B Jeff Gardner
  • Georgetown JR 1B Steve Anderson
  • South Florida SR 1B Jimmy Falla

My one scheduling regret this spring is not getting a chance to see Notre Dame, a team that plays Villanova in South Bend and not nearby in Plymouth Meeting, PA in 2013. Eric Jagielo and Trey Mancini alone are well worth making a trek to see the Fighting Irish if you get the chance. Both look the part of potential middle-of-the-order thumpers. Jagielo, whom I’ve knocked down to 1B despite the fact many believe he can play at least a passable 3B, is the marquee attraction right now, but it wouldn’t stun me to see Mancini overtake him as a prospect. Alright, fine, it would be a pretty big shocker…I just wanted to say something controversial for a change. I forget who made the initial comp, but I really like the hitting comparison between Jagielo and Mike Olt. Mancini is more of a prototypical first baseman (a rock solid 6-5, 225 pounds), but both guys are above-average athletes with substantial raw power and impressive plate discipline. I’ve started putting together positional lists of all the conferences I’ve profiled so far, and Jagielo and Mancini are tentatively 1-2 on the rankings, ahead of names like DJ Peterson and Daniel Palka (again, ACC preview coming soon!).

Justin Glass is stuck being the third wheel in this group, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a viable 2013 prospect in his own right. His raw power — emphasis on raw — is on par with any hitter in the conference, Jagielo and Mancini included. If his arm was 100% healthy and a team believed he could handle LF, then Glass’ draft stock should get a nice shot in the arm. The two Louisville guys are interesting, as well: Wasserman is a big man with power befitting his 6-6, 240 pound frame and Gardner’s experience behind the plate and in the outfield could help him with teams looking for a mid-round pick with positional versatility. I’m also impressed with Jimmy Falla, a player who manages to contribute to a college baseball team while moonlighting as the host of a late night talk show.

2B

  • Connecticut SR 2B LJ Mazzilli
  • Louisville JR 2B Ty Young
  • Louisville SR 2B Nick Ratajczak
  • Villanova rSR 2B Tyler Sciacca
  • Georgetown SR 2B Corbin Blakey

LJ Mazzilli’s curious slide down the draft board last year — signability concerns fully acknowledged — makes me hesitant to champion his cause once again, but there’s something about the guy I like. Could be the impressive for a college second baseman tools package (more than enough speed, pop, and contact ability), could be his consistent production (.375/.425/.535 in 2011, .389/.451/.619 in 2012), could be his much improved (in my personal view) defense. I’m pretty loyal to prospects I like, so don’t act shocked when I spend another few months championing the cause of Mazzilli, a future big leaguer in my book. He finished sixth in the college second base rankings last year, and he’s currently second (keep in mind I’ve only been through a dozen or so conferences thus far) only to Lonnie Kauppila. Not bad. Here are a few things I’ve written on Mazzilli over the years:

150. Connecticut JR 2B LJ Mazzilli: above-average speed; good athlete; chance to be really good defender, but isn’t quite there yet – still think he’s better than many of the national outlets are reporting, but I get that there’s plenty of wiggle room in player evaluation; no discernible platoon split; 6-1, 190 pounds; I’ve long championed Mazzilli as a potential big league starting second baseman, so I might as well ride it out: Really impressed by 2B LJ Mazzilli‘s swing and approach at the plate. He has a little toe-tap timing mechanism that reminds me a little bit of Mark Reynolds’ swing, only without the swing-and-miss length. Good speed, good athleticism, and good hands should keep him up the middle, and a little physical maturation at the plate could help turn him into one of those super annoying scrappy middle infielders we all know and love (or hate, depending on the player).

Really impressed by SO 2B LJ Mazzilli‘s swing and approach at the plate. He has a little toe-tap timing mechanism that reminds me a little bit of Mark Reynolds’ swing, only without the swing-and-miss length. Good speed, good athleticism, and good hands should keep him up the middle, and a little physical maturation at the plate could help turn him into one of those super annoying scrappy middle infielders we all know and love (or hate, depending on the player).

The Louisville duo — you see how deep that squad is this year in the way they have multiple guys at seemingly every position…and that’s with no mention of the 2014’s and 2015’s coming up through the pipeline — is impressive from the outside looking in. Ty Young is the tools guy (speed, versatility, sneaky pop) with upside while Nick Ratajczak is the steady, sure-handed defender who posted eye-catching plate discipline numbers last year (28 BB/9 K in 245 AB). Funny that their names match up with their scouting profiles, at least as far as I’m concerned: “Ty Young” sounds like he should have a little flash to his game and “Nick Ratajczak” just feels hard working and dependable. Or maybe I’m just a crazy person. I’m excited to see more of Tyler Sciacca this year, especially after reviewing my notes on him from the handful of times I saw him in person last season. He was definitely a player that grew on me as the season progressed.

3B

  • Seton Hall JR 3B Chris Selden
  • St. John’s SR 3B Sean O’Hare
  • Cincinnati JR 3B Matt Williams
  • Pittsburgh SR 3B Sam Parente

My notes on the quartet above are quite sparse — out of the four I only have enough info on Selden to draw any conclusions about his game — but I’ve heard enough generally positive things (e.g. “He doesn’t stink”) combined with what we know about the college production of each — it ranges from passable (Parente, Williams, Selden) to not too bad at all (O’Hare) — to include the names you see above. That right there is a sentence that makes me feel guilty to all who helped me learn to read and write. Chris Selden has the most to prove of the group — he only had 46 AB last year — but brings the most in the way of physical projection to the table.

SS

  • Rutgers JR SS Nick Favatella
  • Louisville JR SS Alex Chittenden
  • Connecticut JR SS Tom Verdi
  • Seton Hall SR SS Giuseppe Papaccio
  • Pittsburgh SR SS Evan Oswald

Like the third base bunch above, there’s not a lot of information on my end when it comes to these Big East shortstops. Nick Favatella’s production is what stood out for me: .317/.408/.407 in 2011, .342/.424/.491 in 2012 (42 BB/64 K in just under 400 combined AB). I’d venture Alex Chittenden or Tom Verdi will emerge as most scouts’ favorite of the group, but I’m still on the fence on Chittenden’s long-term defensive forecast. Some might be more optimistic and call that impressive defensive versatility (SS/2B/3B), so far be from me to be the bearer of pessimistic spin. Verdi has an interesting pop/speed combo that makes him a worthwhile follow this spring.

OF

  • South Florida JR OF James Ramsay
  • Louisville JR OF Adam Engel
  • Connecticut rSR OF Billy Ferriter
  • Louisville JR OF Cole Sturgeon
  • Pittsburgh JR OF Casey Roche
  • Louisville JR OF Coco Johnson
  • Georgetown SR OF Justin Leeson
  • South Florida rSR OF Alex Mendez
  • Rutgers JR OF Brian O’Grady
  • Seton Hall JR OF Zach Granite
  • Pittsburgh JR OF Stephen Vranka
  • Notre Dame SR OF Charlie Markson
  • Seton Hall SR OF Ryan Sullivan
  • Villanova SR OF Paul Rambaud
  • St. John’s SR OF Jimmy Brennan
  • South Florida SR OF Chad Taylor
  • Villanova JR OF Connor Jones

My guy in Florida raves about James Ramsay’s upside, so he made for an easy choice in the top spot in what appears to be a lackluster group of Big East outfielder talent. Ramsay looks like the only guy you’d draft with the hopes of getting an everyday player, so you’re left looking at flawed prospects who can excel enough in certain areas of their game the rest of the way down. Adam Engel’s speed/instincts (his 38/40 SB mark from last year is as good as I’ve noticed so far), athleticism, and exciting CF range allow him to hold up his end of the bargain. Billy Ferriter, a favorite going on three draft years now, offers a similar, if less “center field-y,” profile. Cole Sturgeon is actually a better direct comparison to Ferriter (above-average speed, potential to be quite good in a corner, flashes of pop/patience at the plate), though there are teams that might put him back on the mound. Same could be said for Alex Mendez, a guy who once sat in the low-90s coming from the left side in high school. Casey Roche is well-rounded, Coco Johnson is fast, and Justin Leeson’s catching past may appeal to teams willing act a little unconventionally.

P

  • Louisville JR RHP Jeff Thompson
  • South Florida JR LHP Nick Gonzalez
  • Pittsburgh JR RHP Matt Wotherspoon
  • Notre Dame JR RHP Dan Slania
  • Villanova JR RHP Pat Young
  • Louisville JR RHP Dace Kime
  • Notre Dame JR RHP Donald Hissa
  • Pittsburgh JR RHP Ethan Mildren
  • St. John’s rJR RHP James Lomangino
  • Louisville JR RHP Chad Green
  • Pittsburgh rSO RHP Joe Harvey
  • Seton Hall SR RHP Jon Prosinski
  • Connecticut JR LHP Brian Ward
  • Cincinnati rJR RHP Christian McElroy
  • Notre Dame JR RHP Cristian Torres
  • St. John’s SR RHP Anthony Cervone
  • Connecticut SR RHP Pat Butler
  • Louisville rSO LHP Kyle McGrath
  • St. John’s SR RHP Jerome Werniuk
  • Rutgers rJR RHP Charlie Law
  • Connecticut SR RHP Ryan Moore
  • Seton Hall JR RHP Brian Gilbert
  • Seton Hall SR RHP Frank Morris
  • St. John’s SR LHP Sean Hagan
  • Rutgers SR LHP Rob Smorol
  • Rutgers SR RHP Tyler Gebler
  • Connecticut JR LHP Anthony Marzi
  • Cincinnati SR LHP Thomas Gentile
  • Notre Dame JR RHP Sean Fitzgerald
  • Louisville JR LHP Cody Ege
  • Connecticut rSO LHP David Mahoney
  • South Florida SR RHP Joe Lovecchio
  • Notre Dame SR RHP Pat Veerkamp
  • Rutgers SR LHP Rob Corsi
  • South Florida JR LHP Nolan Thomas
  • South Florida JR RHP Alex Vetter
  • Pittsburgh rJR RHP JR Leonardi
  • Seton Hall SR LHP Rick Mangione
  • Cincinnati SR RHP Andrew Strenge
  • Connecticut SR RHP Dan Feehan
  • Rutgers SR RHP Jerry Elsing
  • Cincinnati rSO RHP Matt Ring
  • Georgetown SR RHP Charles Steinman
  • Connecticut rSO RHP Carson Cross
  • Villanova JR LHP Matt Meurer
  • Pittsburgh SR LHP Alex Caravella
  • Villanova SR RHP Kevin MacLachlan
  • Villanova JR RHP Matt Lengel
  • Notre Dame SR RHP Adam Norton
  • Connecticut rSR RHP Will Jolin
  • Georgetown SR RHP James Heine
  • Rutgers SR RHP Pat O’Leary
  • Seton Hall SR LHP Greg Terhune
  • Villanova SR RHP Stephen Ostapeck
  • Georgetown JR RHP Alex Baker

I’d describe the Big East’s group of 2013 pitching talent as good, not great. There’s plenty of size — Thompson is 6-6, 250; Gonzalez is 6-4, 220; Young is 6-7, 210; Kime is 6-5, 220 — but not much in the way of arms likely to ever crack a big league rotation. The biggest — and best, for many — pitcher in the conference is Dan Slania. Slania has gotten a lot of love, but my reluctance to promote jumbo-sized (6-5, 275 pounds) relievers without a knockout breaking ball — again, those who love him disagree with me there —  has me lower on him than the majority. I’ve heard the Jonathan Broxton comp, but I think the better point of comparison is Matt Capps. Good prospect, no doubt, but not the potential first day guy I’ve heard others calling him.

Jeff Thompson has the best shot to start in pro ball — 88-92 FB with sink, occasional plus low-80s SL, steady low-80s CU, significant athleticism, strong college track record — so that’s why he’s tops on the list. Pretty simple, really. Nick Gonzalez is a lump of lefthanded clay that I easily envision a pro team taking a chance on earlier than anybody is currently ready to admit. Matt Wotherspoon is underrated and I’m not quite sure why: he can get it up to 93/94/95, flashes a plus breaking ball, and has incorporated a changeup with promise to his repertoire  all while putting up strong numbers (8.38 K/9 in 91.1 IP last season) as the workhorse of the Pittsburgh pitching staff. Nothing about that is flashy, I suppose, but it does sound like a guy who could make a strong mark as an above-average big league reliever, at worst. Putting Pat Young fifth on this list may look silly by June. He’s already getting plenty of buzz from the smart fellows at Baseball America and now finds himself in a great position to fly up draft boards. Incidentally, I mistyped his name initially as “Pay Young.” Soon enough. I’ll be seeing him a ton this spring.

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