I love the three names at the top. Unreasonably so, maybe, but they make up as dynamic a trio of future second basemen from the high school ranks in as long as I can remember. Guys with tools like this simply don’t see themselves projected as future second basemen all that often. Adding talent like this at second base is a good thing for the game (obvious statements are obvious, but stay with me), and perhaps an acknowledgment that a) a good second basemen is hard to find, b) sending out lesser players to second base isn’t a sound long-term development strategy, and c) offensively, the two positions up the middle have a freakishly similar threshold of acceptance (2B: .251/.309/.364 [.299 wOBA, 89 wRC+]; SS: .250/.307/.363 [.298 wOBA, 87 wRC+]). We’ve been conditioned to think of second basemen as nothing more than “failed shortstops,” but the perception of how difficult it is to play the position well appears to be changing. I realize there simply aren’t enough athletes to go around to field thirty middle infielders with two “shortstops” playing up the middle, but that shouldn’t (and it doesn’t, obviously) stop teams from trying. Let’s embrace second basemen in the same way we have long showered praise on shortstops; the position is important and difficult to play well and more than just guys who couldn’t hack it at short.
Of course, we are still cheating in a way. A good HS second base prospect is still very hard to find. As much as I look at the top names on this list as primary second basemen, I’d still be surprised if any of the above players wind up actually playing much of the position this upcoming spring for their high school teams. That’s just the nature of high school ball. Alonzo Jones is passable at shortstop (maybe better) and will forever be an intriguing option in center field thanks to his plus to plus-plus speed. Kyler Murray (see below) is almost as fast and no less athletic. Cornelius Randolph could play a variety of positions, and I wouldn’t argue with anybody who projected him as a third basemen or even a corner outfielder going forward. I think he fits best at second, but the body type more clearly fits the traditional third base mold. Either way, he’s not a great bet to get a ton of reps this spring at the keystone unless things change between now and then.
I know Murray is listed as a shortstop in many places on the internet, but those I’ve asked about him have been emphatic that he’ll wind up at second base in the long run. I find this interesting because athleticism (or lack thereof) is often cited as one of the main reasons a middle infielder will make the shift to his left to second base; if you know anything about Murray, you know damn well that his plus athleticism is not in question. All of this could be moot if he winds up playing college football, but I’ve learned that it doesn’t make sense to close the book on a prospect just because the football threat exists. On talent, he’s a no-brainer top two talent at second in this class. If you expand the rankings a bit, it’s clear he’s very much in the mix as a top five HS middle infield prospect. Always bet on athleticism.
Second, short, or center, Jones can really play. There might not have been a player I enjoyed watching more this summer than him. I’m not one to typically throw around scouting buzz words, but it was hard to describe the way he plays the game as anything but effortless ease. There’s not a future tool here that you’d rate average or worse, and his speed, athleticism, physical strength, bat speed, and swing all rank at or near the top of the class. I know some still ultimately question how much he’ll hit, so consider that one of the few remaining questions about his game as we head into the 2015 draft season. A big spring will lock him into the first round. I think the natural comparison we’ll see this spring – maybe not in the form of a comp, but more in a competition to see who goes first in this year’s draft – will be between Jones and Ian Happ of Cincinnati.
Randolph can’t quite compare as an athlete, runner, and defender with the two players ranked above him, but his hit tool could put him on the top of the list by next June. I really enjoy the Terry Pendleton comp that Perfect Game put out there. I’ve heard two fairly interesting ones as well: a lefthanded Bill Madlock (well before my time, but based on what I now know I can buy it) and Gregg Jefferies. I think Jefferies is a particularly interesting comp for a variety of reasons, though I wonder if he’s one of those rare players (well, not so much as a player since things didn’t quite go as planned, but as a prospect) that we shouldn’t comp anybody to. Probably not, but I have heard from multiple (two!) industry types that Jefferies was the most impressive young player they had ever scouted to that point.
We’ll circle all the way back to the original thought about this being a particularly strong year of “true” (truer than in year’s past, at least) high school second base prospects. As much as I think this year has the potential to be an exception to draft history, it should be noted that the track record for prep second basemen isn’t much to get worked up about. Only 11 HS second basemen were drafted last season. Of that 11, only seven signed. As the 35th overall selection in the draft Forrest Wall was the freak of the class (in a good way); after him, signed second basemen went in rounds 7, 7, 10, 12, 14, and 15. Positional designations do play a part in the data appearing the way it does – despite being placed on this list today, there is no guarantee they’ll still be here come June, let alone called a 2B by their drafting team on the big day – but it’s still worth remembering that players expected to settle in at second base at an early age aren’t typically sought after as amateur prospects. It’s not crazy to expect this year’s class to buck the trend.
2B/OF Alonzo Jones (Columbus HS, Georgia)
2B/SS Kyler Murray (Allen HS, Texas)
2B/3B/OF Cornelius Randolph (Griffin HS, Georgia)
2B/OF Jagger Rusconi (West Ranch HS, California)
2B Pikai Winchester (Iolani HS, Hawaii)
2B/SS Luke Alexander (Belmond HS, Mississippi)
2B Kody Clemens (Memorial HS, Texas)
2B Cobie Vance (Pine Forest HS, North Carolina)
2B Ethan Paul (Newport HS, Washington)