1. My love of Braden Shipley is pretty well established at this point (see below for the quick burst of excitement I wrote about him from February, way before he was a potential top ten pick let alone first round lock), so please allow me to champion the NAIA version of Shipley in this year’s draft class, Myles Smith from Lee University. The well-traveled Smith is a well known commodity at this point in the draft process, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve an extra shot of attention heading into June. Just about everything I wrote about Shipley below applies to Smith: easy plus velocity (90-95, 96-97 peak all spring), plus low-80s change (my favorite pitch), a much improved 78-82 slider, and, just as importantly, outstanding athleticism and a plus fielder. I don’t yet know how brave I’ll be when it comes down to final rankings, but I do know this: if my favorite team decides to shock the world and take Smith with the 16th overall pick, I won’t complain one bit. That’s bold, right?
Braden Shipley is going to rank very, very high up on my overall ranking of college pitchers (coming soon!). If I was better at searching this site, I’d look up every pitcher that I’ve described as my “ideal” pitching prospect or a pitcher “invented in a lab” to suit my needs or whatever other dumb phrase I’ve used to describe my idea of a “perfect” pitching prospect. Shipley rings every bell: easy velocity (92-95 as starter, has hit upwards of 97 in short bursts), low-80s change with above-average upside, solid upper-70s curve, good athleticism, improved command, good glove, effective pickoff move, sturdy frame with room to build on (6-3, 180 pounds), and experience as a hitter (.265/.351/.346 in 136 AB in 2011). I think he’s likely one of those guys I like a lot more than professional talent evaluators, but that’s alright: he may not be a first round, household name come June, but I still think he’s a future big leaguer.
2. I’m honing in on and finalizing high school positional lists now. I like doing the prep prospects first because it gives me a chance to wait until the end of the college regular season before evaluating those guys. I’ll probably be popping in and out over the next few days with seemingly random observations about this year’s high school class. One such example: damn, California is loaded with high school catching this year. Everybody knows about the quality and depth of prep catching across the country this year, but California alone has enough prospects of interest behind the plate to make it a good year for young catching almost by itself. It is looking highly unlikely I’ll have a California catcher in my top five (leaning WA, OK, SC, FL, and BC as of now), but there could be 5 in the top 11, 7 in the top 16, and 11 in the top 28. Sorting them out is a whole other issue, of course. You’ve got the strong, athletic, powerful yet raw defender in Jacob Nottingham. Francis Christy is similar, though arguably a little less powerful and a little more agile. Jake Sweaney is in a similar situation. There’s yet another raw defender in Tyler Alamo, but he’s a favorite thanks to one of the most mature approaches at the plate of any high schooler this year. And this all says nothing of a pair of rock solid, realistic big league floor guys (obvious caveat: the floor for any prospect is flaming out in A-ball, so we use a “realistic” floor to represent a best-case worst-case scenario, if that makes sense) in the dissected to death but still a damn good ballplayer Jeremy Martinez and Arden Pabst.
3. This likely qualifies as “too much information,” but my go-to bathroom reading over the past year or two has been my copy of the 2005 Baseball America Prospect Handbook. Many of my best (and worst!) comps have come from the pages of that particular book. My most recent comparison is a bit of a stretch, but not crazy if you keep an open mind. Here we go…
- 6-2, 225 pounds (when drafted)
- 14th overall draft pick (underslot predraft deal)
- “patient approach and line-drive mentality”
- “quick hands and excellent hand-eye coordination”
- “uses the whole field and generates natural loft”
- “must improve flexibility to enhance his range at third base”
- “eventually may have to move to first base”
- “below-average runner but not a base-clogger”
The 2013 prospect in question fits much, if not all, of these statements. Plus, he’s listed 6-1, 205 pounds, he’s R/R, and he could go off the board around the 14th pick (probably lower, which would fit the underslot thing). Slow start to the 2013 season aside, Billy Butler, the player described in the bullets above, has turned himself into an excellent big league hitter. If you’re taking DJ Peterson in a similar range in 2013, then you’re doing so with the hope that he hits as a pro like Butler has to this point. The one major difference between the two players is their respective paths to the pro game: Butler signed out of high school while Peterson obviously went the college route. That’s pretty important here, especially when you consider Butler was a big league regular at the same point in Peterson’s current development. So, don’t the comp too seriously. Just a ceiling thing, and a potential rationale for a team selecting Peterson higher than you or I might currently expect.