UCLA JR RHP James Kaprielian
USC JR LHP Kyle Twomey
Arizona State JR LHP Brett Lilek
Oregon rSO LHP Cole Irvin
UCLA JR RHP Cody Poteet
Stanford JR RHP Marc Brakeman
Arizona State JR LHP Ryan Kellogg
Arizona State JR RHP Ryan Burr
Oregon JR LHP Garrett Cleavinger
Oregon State JR RHP Andrew Moore
I’m oddly fascinated at the idea of a pitcher with a “four-pitch mix” because I feel like that phrase almost exclusively is thrown around at the amateur level. Maybe you’ll hear it at times for minor leaguers, but depth of repertoire is not something discussed much in the big leagues. Obviously this is because we’ve got a self-selecting sample and pitchers without the requisite three or four pitches needed to run through lineups multiple times have already been converted to relief, but I still think there’s perhaps something to the way evaluators overrate prospects with a ton of decent pitches (who must be starters then!) and underrate young arms with two knockout pitches (relief all the way!) without factoring in that pitchers can in fact develop additional effective pitches along the way. I’m not saying a young guy who can’t throw a curve will one day wake up finding one in his wrist, but there have been enough recent examples of pitchers tinkering around the edges with grips that help previously unusable pitches (changeups, cutters, occasionally sliders) suddenly work to help get advanced hitters out. Even my old notes on Michael Wacha, a player that I think compares in certain respect to the guy we’re eventually going to talk about, make mention of this phenomena…
Texas A&M JR RHP Michael Wacha: big velocity jump during college tenure – once peaked only as high as 92, but now regularly sits 90-95 FB, hitting 96-97; like many young arms, can get himself in trouble when he overthrows fastball and it begins to straighten out; somewhat similar to Kyle Zimmer in the way he relied on excellent fastball command before seeing a velocity spike; holds velocity well, very rarely dipping below 90; have heard he’ll throw his legitimate plus to plus-plus CU with two distinct grips: one at 82-85 with the circle change grip, the other more of an upper-70s straight change; either way, the CU should be a weapon from day one on; occasional 81-85 SL with cutter action; also will go with a very rare upper-70s CB that could be the breaking pitch he’ll be asked to run with as a pro; neither breaking ball is pro-ready, but both have flashed enough that it is easy to imagine a pro staff believing it can coach him up; natural comparison is Ryan Madson, especially if Wacha never develops a consistent third pitch and is used out of the bullpen; as a starter, I think there are some similarities in terms of stuff when you compare him to Braves prospect Julio Teheran; 6-6, 200 pounds
Wacha wasn’t quite a two-pitch guy in college, but he was close. The idea that a player capable of hitting the mid-90s with an easy plus change, clean mechanics, and a prototypical starter’s frame would be relegated to the bullpen because of an iffy present third pitch was silly at the time and downright preposterous in hindsight. Thankfully, it also represents a learning experience and the chance to reevaluate what elements are most crucial when projecting pitchers into the future. Going back to the idea that amateurs need three or four pitches to start spurred me to look up what big league arms actually throw four quality pitches. The only three starting pitchers I found with positive pitch values (per Fangraphs) for each of the four pitches in the classic “four-pitch mix” (FB/CU/CB/SL) last season were Felix Hernandez, Anibal Sanchez, and Tanner Roark. If you expand it to include relievers, then Danny Farquhar, Tom Wilhelmsen, and Zach Duke join the fun. If you let David Price’s cutter in stand in for a slider, then you can add him to the starter party. Many players were close (Clayton Kershaw, Julio Teheran, Matt Garza, and Scott Kazmir to name a few) and the whole thing is about as unscientific as you can get, but I found it interesting and a fine use of five spare minutes.
This whole discussion goes back to a “four-pitch mix,” which admittedly is a bit of a strawman of a premise in the first place. I don’t know of anybody who says you NEED four pitches to make it as a starting pitcher in the big leagues. Three pitches is the most common baseline and a quick spin around Fangraphs Pitch Type leaderboard validates this idea. The only two pitchers you could even make a flimsy argument for being two-pitch starters (out of the 88 player sample of 2014 qualified pitchers) are Bartolo Colon (11.8% SL, 5.6% CU) and Lance Lynn (10.2% SL, 8.4% CB, 2.4% CU). Those two might be closest, but neither is what I’d expect anybody to call a two-pitch pitcher. Lynn, who is literally (!) a four-pitch pitcher, being included in this conversation at all is somehow both absurd (he throws four pitches!) and justified (showing a pitch and throwing a pitch aren’t the same, right?), but the whole thing is still a stretch. The three pitch minimum lives on.
That was a lot of words when I could have simply said that even though years of being in and around the game have conditioned me to want to see three usable big league pitches on any amateur (college, especially) before feeling confident enough to project him as a big league starter pitcher, I’ve come around to the idea that young guys with two above-average or better pitches can be just as likely to develop a usable third pitch as a more advanced at present peer. Even shorter still: give me the pitcher with two nasty pitches over the one with four average pitches, assuming all else (delivery, athleticism, command, control, etc.) is equal.
This all brings me to the guy I think Wacha compares to on some level, UCLA JR RHP James Kaprielian. Draft people like me who sometimes try to get too cute for own good have fought it in the past, but there’s no denying that Kaprielian warrants a first round grade this June. Well-built righthanders with four pitches (ding!) and consistently excellent results in a tough conference profile as big league starting pitchers more often than not. I’m going to just go with an excerpt of some of my notes on Kaprielian because they are among the longest running that I have on any player in this college class…
JR RHP James Kaprielian (2015): 87-92 FB, 94-95 peak; potential plus 79-84 CB, commands it well; potential plus 80-85 CU with serious sink; above-average 79-85 SL; good athlete; excellent overall command; 2014 Summer: 88-92 FB, 93 peak; above-average to plus or better 75-79 CB with plus command, still gets it up to 85 depending on situation; average or better upside with 79-82 SL; FAVORITE; average or better upside with mid-80s CU with splitter action; UPDATE: 83-85 SL, flashes above-average; average 78-80 CB with above-average to plus upside; good athlete; commands both breaking balls well; 2015: 89-94 FB; above-average 78-81 CB flashes plus; above-average 83-85 SL; above-average mid-80s CU, flashes better; 6-4, 200 pounds (2013: 12.39 K/9 | 5.09 BB/9 | 2.20 FIP | 40.2 IP) (2014: 9.17 K/9 – 2.97 BB/9 – 106 IP – 2.29 ERA)
The UPDATE and 2015 sections give the most pertinent information (88-94 FB, 95 peak; above-average 78-81 CB, flashes plus; average 83-85 SL, flashes above-average; above-average mid-80s CU with drop, flashes plus; good athleticism; commands both breaking balls ably; plus overall command), but I like including the whole thing (or as much as can be published) to highlight the growth he’s made. Kaprielian is damn good and smart team picking in the latter half of the first round will get a quick-moving mid-rotation arm who still might have a bit of upside left in him beyond that.
On the other end of the spectrum (kind of) is USC JR LHP Kyle Twomey. Twomey has long been a favorite thanks to a fastball/changeup combination (just two pitches, gasp!) good enough to get big league swings and misses within the year. His fastball doesn’t have premium velocity (87-92, 94 peak), but the heaps of movement he gets on it make it a consistent above-average to plus offering. His change does a lot of the same things from the same arm speed, making the 78-82 MPH pitch above-average with plus upside. Those two pitches and room to grow on a 6-3, 170 pound frame make him a very appealing prospect. There are some issues that will need ironing out at the pro level – deciding on whether to further refine his cutter/slider hybrid or tightening up his soft curve, plus improving his overall control and offspeed command – but the pieces are there for him to make it as a big league starting pitcher.
I was all about UCLA rSO LHP Hunter Virant heading into the season as a prospect with no college track record storming up boards and claiming his spot in the first round. I think on the original iteration of this list he was in the top five. Whoops. His situation in school isn’t exactly the same as Matt Purke’s, but there are enough depressing similarities to the two that I think citing their stories might give the push to recommend pro ball to any young arm. That’s not to say that anything specifically done to Virant while at UCLA has damaged his pro prospects; pitchers get hurt no matter the time and place. Heck, if anything you could argue that Virant is better off with (presumably) three years of coursework towards a degree at a fine university than he would have been taking bonus money out of high school and flaming out of pro ball by now. Other HS arms I loved once upon a time that have fallen into hard times collegiately include the Stanford duo of JR RHP Freddy Avis and JR RHP Daniel Starwalt. I still have hope for all these players, but every day that passes without them pitching effectively on the mound (or pitching at all, really) makes it a little tougher to justify the faith.
In happier news, Oregon rSO LHP Cole Irvin’s return from injury (Tommy John) has gone fairly well to date. I’d say he’s done enough to show he should be in the top five round mix this June, especially when his pre-injury talent level, athleticism, control, and plus-plus pickoff move are all taken into account.
Somebody at Perfect Game (I believe) compared Arizona State JR LHP Brett Lilek to a lefty Phil Bickford. I can buy it to some degree as their stuff (and frame and command) isn’t too far off, but Lilek has never shown the same ability to miss bats as Bickford, admittedly at a different level, right now. He’s still a lefthander with size (6-4, 200), velocity (90-94, 95 peak), and three offspeed pitches each with a varying degree of promise (I’d rank them slider, curve, change). Yes, I fully understand the irony of pumping up Lilek, a potential four-pitch pitcher (though more likely three-pitch) with a prospect status built more on the strength of a high likelihood of at least some success (league average starter?) rather than sheer upside, right after my weird little tangent about no longer wanting to overrate prospects just like him. Maybe every prospect should be evaluated on their own merits or something? Lilek’s teammate JR LHP Ryan Kellogg is a similar prospect (size, command, smarts) but has neither the same fastball (87-92) nor the same quality of offspeed stuff. That’s not meant to diminish his ability as he still has a chance (just slightly less so than Lilek for me) to make it as a back-end big league starter.
I swear I’m not making this up, but my notes on UCLA JR RHP Cody Poteet include this exact phrase: “legit four-pitch mix.” I mean, it is true after all. What Poteet lacks in physicality he more than makes up for with the depth of his stuff. I like more than love him as a prospect, but his slider has the makings of a really good pro pitch. USC JR RHP/C Kyle Davis and Oregon State JR RHP Andrew Moore (easy plus command and control guy) give the class two additional short righthanders with well-rounded stuff and strong track records.
Stanford JR RHP Marc Brakeman is more of a two-pitch prospect (like Twomey) that I’ve referenced above. Armed with a nice albeit inconsistent heater (88-94, 95 peak – though I’ve seen him sit more on the low end of that range at times) and an outstanding low-80s changeup, Brakeman could move up boards quickly once he gets healthy again. I’ve been the low man on him in the past, but that’s more due to an intuition thing than anything I can reasonably express.
Arizona State JR RHP Ryan Burr and Oregon JR LHP Garrett Cleavinger stand together as the two best 2015 relief prospects likely to come out of the conference. Burr has gotten some recent love as a possible starter at the next level, but I don’t really see it. Been there, done that. He has the stuff (90-96 FB, above-average low-80s SL, ability to mix in raw yet intriguing mid-80s CU and upper-70s CB) to pull it off, but the delivery, control (though improved), and command all scream reliever to me. I haven’t heard anybody mention Cleavinger as a potential pro starter. Keeping him in the pen also makes sense to me because, though he has the pitches (90-96 FB, above-average breaking ball, average CU) to face a lineup multiple times through, he has the arm action and stamina (stuff plays way up in short bursts) to thrive in the relief role in the pros. There has been some market correction on how teams value college relievers in recent drafts, but I still expect to see Burr go higher than he’ll wind up on my personal board this June. He’s really good, so it isn’t as though that will be a horrible mistake…but assuming Cleavinger (and other “second tier” college relievers) wind up going multiple rounds lower, that’s the value play I’d lean towards.
I’ve said many times I don’t believe in sleepers. I find the whole concept a tad demeaning to all involved. To call somebody a sleeper insults the player, the audience, and the profession (or, if you’d prefer, industry). If you’re any good, somebody somewhere knows who you are, so you’re not a sleeper by my own personal, admittedly crazy narrow, definition. Still, insults might be too strong a word because I don’t take any of this stuff that seriously – I do this entirely for fun, I acknowledge that my influence is nonexistent, I don’t buy into scouting as some sacred insider only thing that only real baseball men can participate in, I actively root for all prospects (even the ones I “miss” on) to do well and make millions and live out all their dreams, etc. – but few things bug me more when reading draft or prospect stuff than really famous players being called “sleepers.” I realize the interest in the MLB Draft isn’t on par with the NFL or NBA counterparts, but when actual paid professional draft writers start with the assumption that their audience only knows players expected to go in the top five picks and then pat themselves on the back years later when their draft “sleeper” (picked, like, fourteenth overall) winds up a great player, a little part of me dies inside. Another example of this is the way that most publications write up at least thirty prospects per organization, but then the one that limits it to ten has the gall to name an additional prospect from each system a “sleeper” and crow when that player — nominally the eleventh ranked player in the system — has a good year. Come on.
I guess instead of sleepers I can just call them players I think I’ll wind up having ranked higher than where they’ll be drafted. Even then, if I like a guy more than most right now and wind up “right” about him as pro teams get wise to his ability/upside, then judging by that standard doesn’t seem particularly fair. Calling them guys I like more than the consensus isn’t very meaningful when most draft rankings only go about fifty deep (if that) up until the week leading up until the draft.
This tangent doesn’t really apply here since many of my potential sleepers (there’s that word again) haven’t quite lived up to expectations so far this year, but there are a few guys that will be drafted fairly late that I like quite bit. I like Arizona State SR RHP Darrin Gillies as a sinker/slider guy with size, Washington SR RHP Brandon Choate for similar reasons (90-94 FB, 96 peak; SL flashes plus; lots of ground balls), Oregon JR RHP Conor Harber (who might be too good to be a sleeper…I have no idea anymore) for his untapped upside, athleticism, and fresh arm, and, in the most decidedly non-sleeper of them all, UCLA SR RHP David Berg, who is just plain fun to watch carve up good hitters in high pressure situations with mid-80s fastballs and impeccable control. If I updated this list today rather than just reusing my existing preseason list with Virant dropped a dozen spots from his original lofty perch, all four guys would be higher than they are below. Harber would be much higher. I also try to tack on a few speculative picks at the end of these rankings when I can (the bottom quarter of many of these lists are mostly a combination of players with clearly defined potential big league roles — like a future lefty specialist or something — or players I don’t know much about with about much of a track record but with substantial upside), so don’t sleep on UCLA rSO RHP Tucker Forbes.
2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching
- UCLA JR RHP James Kaprielian
- USC JR LHP Kyle Twomey
- Arizona State JR LHP Brett Lilek
- Oregon rSO LHP Cole Irvin
- UCLA JR RHP Cody Poteet
- Stanford JR RHP Marc Brakeman
- Arizona State JR LHP Ryan Kellogg
- Arizona State JR RHP Ryan Burr
- Oregon JR LHP Garrett Cleavinger
- Oregon State JR RHP Andrew Moore
- Arizona rJR RHP Matthew Troupe
- UCLA rSO LHP Hunter Virant
- USC JR RHP/C Kyle Davis
- Oregon JR RHP/OF Conor Harber
- Arizona State SR RHP Darin Gillies
- Stanford JR RHP Freddy Avis
- Stanford JR RHP Daniel Starwalt
- Arizona JR RHP Nathan Bannister
- Washington SR RHP Brandon Choate
- Washington State rSR RHP Scott Simon
- California JR RHP Ryan Mason
- UCLA rSO RHP Nick Kern
- Arizona State JR RHP/OF David Graybill
- California rSR RHP Dylan Nelson
- Arizona JR LHP Cody Moffett
- Washington JR RHP Troy Rallings
- UCLA SR RHP David Berg
- UCLA SR LHP Grant Watson
- UCLA rSO RHP Tucker Forbes
- Washington rSR RHP Josh Fredendall
- Stanford JR LHP Logan James
- USC JR LHP Marc Huberman
- Stanford SR RHP David Schmidt
- Washington JR RHP Alex Nesbitt
- Utah JR RHP Dalton Carroll
- Utah JR RHP Bret Helton
- Washington State SR RHP Sam Triece
- Arizona State JR RHP/2B Jordan Aboites
- Arizona SR LHP Tyler Crawford
- Arizona JR RHP Tyger Talley
- USC JR LHP Tyler Gilbert
- Washington State SR RHP Sean Hartnett
- USC JR RHP Brooks Kriske
- USC JR RHP Brent Wheatley
- Washington SR RHP Tyler Davis
- Stanford SR LHP Jonathan Hochstatter
- Washington JR RHP Ryan Schmitten
- Washington State JR LHP Matt Bower
Scott, I live in Tucson and have seen Newman and Kingery many times over the last three years. I can see them both as major league second basemen, but Kingery is the better prospect, and if scouts are paying attention, he’s playing himself into the first half of the first round with just an incredible season at the plate.
He has quite a bit more pop in his bat than Newman, and recently has come into his power with three 400+ foot bombs in the last five games. I’ve never seen a hotter bat than what he’s swinging right now.
Defensively, I strongly believe the opposite of what you say to be the case. There’s no way Newman can stay at short, because he doesn’t have a 4th and 5th gear on his arm. I’ve never seen him throw anybody out when he has to go more than a step or two to his right, or make any play that requires a strong throw. He doesn’t even try to gun the ball — just flips it with a quick release. He can look fine on routine plays with that flipper throw, but that’s the only gear he’s got.
Kingery, on the other hand, might have enough arm to move to short. He made strong, accurate throws from the outfield. Newman is the SS because Lopez decided he would be before either got to school. And obviously he’s done well enough there as a college player that there has been no apparent reason.to move him. But I’ve seen his lack of arm strength cost UA a few runs.
I like Newman, but he’s got only one position. Kingery can play second, CF, and maybe short. I swear, he’s Mookie Betts.
Not sure who Scott is, but this is a GREAT comment. Thanks a bunch. It might make me sound a bit wishy-washy since I didn’t explicitly go there in the original piece, but I’ve seen and heard a lot of the same concerns about his arm (“average at best arm strength, struggles with throws at deep short, quick release helps it play up” are my notes on it). Got a little caught up in some of the other praise of his game that I put those concerns aside, which I regret. Time to flip him back to second base in my notes. Thanks for that.
The stuff on Kingery is so damn exciting. I’ll credit you, but might have to steal that Mookie Betts comparison. Seriously though, your insights (especially love the aside about Lopez, which is too true of college coaches) are very much appreciated. Please chime in whenever because this was awesome. Probably the best comment I’ve gotten in the seven years I’ve done this.
Sorry — saw the name Scott Heineman and somehow thought that was the author of the blog. I was fishing around the net to find some place to say my piece about Kingery, and found you. It’s great stuff. Look forward to reading more.
I won’t burden you with more “insights” about Lopez, because it would take the rest of the day. Suffice to say, no Arizona game will ever conclude in under three and a half hours, and you will spend more time watching coaches doing their thing than players.
Since I watch Arizona so much, might as well chime in on the pitchers too, though this staff is no draft cornucopia, by any means. Talley has looked the best. He had a 9-inning shutout against Stanford, and might have had one against Utah if he hadn’t been pulled in the eighth. I don’t know what his fastball readings are, but he throws it past people a surprising number of times. He has a good curveball (plus, in the view of scouts, I’d think), but uses a flat slider a lot more. It almost seems like Arizona coaches pitchers to flatten out their breaking pitches and cut down on the break — presumably for control reasons, if so. Conditioning is a concern with Talley, and willingness to prepare may be as well.
The two lefthanders, Moffett and Crawford, being ranked ahead of Talley must be based on two-year-old scouting reports. Crawford is out with Tommy John this year, throws in the mid 80s, and last year was nothing but batting practice. Moffett just can’t seem to find any rhythm, or innings to pitch in. You’ve omitted their Friday starter this year and Saturday last year, Cody Hamlin. He’s a sidearmer whose ball moves both ways, but not much else. He’s competitive in the PAC, but it’s hard to see much more of a ceiling. Their best strikeout guy this year has been Xavier Borde, a lefty who has a fastball/curve combination that is close to ML caliber. But he has a very mechanical motion that can break down under pressure, and he loses the plate.
Troupe nobody knows yet, because he’s not all the way back from TJ.
One more note on Newman’s arm: You saw all you needed to know in a play against Rice. An easy to handle ball to Newman a few feet behind the infield grass. Runner on third goes. A strong, accurate throw gets him easily. But Newman doesn’t even try to make one, because he can’t. He does the quick-release flip he always does when a strong throw is needed. The “throw” was high and late, and the runner scored easily.
I don’t want to keep pounding on Newman, because I do like him, but he’d be better served if moved directly to second, rather than set up to fail at short, with the number that could do on his confidence.
And hey, my record of evaluating the arms of Arizona shortstops is pretty good. I needed to see Trevor Hoffman throw over to first only twice back in 1989 to know that he should be moved to the mound. It was two years later before anybody else had the idea.
Crack about using two year old reports aside (which isn’t true…but, if we’re being honest, not entirely untrue, either – such is life when you try to cover a nation’s worth of amateurs as a hobby by yourself), thanks for this. Always good to get firsthand opinions.
I don’t really have any strong opinions about any of the Wildcat arms you mentioned, believe it or not. Lots of good college arms, but fairly uninteresting from a pro draft standpoint. In fact, I’m not sure there is a sure-fire draft pick in the whole lot, let alone an actual big league player.
For what it’s worth, if I re-ranked Moffett, Crawford, and Talley now, then I’d almost certainly put Talley first. He still wouldn’t be a guy I’d necessarily give a draftable grade as I see him as a potential middle reliever if everything breaks right…and there are literally dozens (if not more) similar college arms with similar ceilings that I prefer. Worried a bit about the body/conditioning, velocity is only average (88-92 at last check), and I haven’t heard the same things (more average than anything from what I’ve been told) that you’ve reported about his breaking stuff. Your update is intriguing though, so I’ll check in on it and see if I can find out anything more.
I still like Moffett even if the coaching staff doesn’t. Stuff is good, so we’ll see. I’ve heard that some like Crawford as a potential matchup guy (L v L), which would at least give him a role in the pros. Between the injury, the rough year last year (still had decent peripherals though), and the underwhelming velocity (82-84 in my notes), he’s really not a prospect and probably shouldn’t have been included. Hamlin doesn’t do it for me, but I’m intrigued by what you say about Borde (and what he’s done this year). I had him at 88-92 with a good CB in my notes, but didn’t stick him on here because of his rough abbreviated 2014. Bad call by me, but good to see he’s figured something out this year and you can be sure he’ll be on an updated list.
I really, really liked Troupe when I saw him initially, especially his change. Shame about him so far, but hopefully he’ll get back to full strength before too long. I’d take him over any other Arizona arm without second thought based solely on the chance he could recapture some of his old stuff before long, but that says as much about him as it does the rest of the 2015 pitching class.
Cool Hoffman story. One of my favorites.
I was just thinking that it’s been 2013 since Moffett or Crawford were registering with positive performance. Apparently Moffett was very good in Alaska that summer and was supposed to close for Arizona, but then they do nothing with him. I’ve seen him throw bullpen sessions in practice with a look of struggle on his face, which the staff’s failure to give him any confidence probably has a lot to do with. Heard Lopez say to him that he hits 90 once in a while, but not reliably so.
I’m pretty certain Talley has an interesting curveball, but some other, much smaller breaking pitch always shows up in the games.
Yes, a lot of OK but uninspiring arms out there in college it appears. As a former Duke pitcher, I’m very intrigued to see a successor in line as a possible top pick, but it doesn’t look like he’s performing this season. Personally, I have the opposite of the scouts’ bias in favor of the big pitchers, but then I was a 5-8 RHP who didn’t show up on their radar, despite some good moments. Marcus Stroman size, but about 8mph less on the FB.
As much time as it takes me just to follow Arizona closely, it’s amazing that you can follow all the guys across the country. You’re right on the money, by the way, about Justin Benkhe and Garrett Stubbs. I love Stubbs. Sunday he leapt in the air for a pitch — literally left his feet, presumably on an errant pitchout — and nearly threw out Kingery stealing second.
Lost a long response to this when my computer decided it had to restart on its own right this second, but I’ll try to sum it up as quick as I can…
1) My own bad joke about my scouting reports being old actually does have a kernel of truth to it because I (too) often find myself working off of old scouting reports. I hate it, but it’s the nature of the beast. That’s why comments like yours are awesome, so thanks again. Love the firsthand perspective.
2) The Newman/Kingery stuff is quickly becoming my favorite draft subplot. You likely have seen it by now, but Keith Law had Newman second (!) overall on his latest draft rankings and the more reputable (in my view) mentioned him as a possible top ten pick. That floors me. All opinions are welcomed, but that’s…an interesting take. You helped push me over the edge in thinking Kingery > Newman, by the way.
3) I’ve been thinking a good bit about Kingery lately and wanted to ask if there was anybody he reminded you of. You mentioned Mookie Betts already (which would be fantastic), but curious if you anybody else came to mind. I know comps aren’t for everybody, so you can ignore this but somebody I know recently said he reminded him some of Jay Bell. That led me back to a Ray Durham comp, which isn’t perfect but I kind of like it.
Newman going 2nd?! I hadn’t read it. If you want to use that pick on somebody who might be a nice second baseman with good makeup who sprays line drives all over and could hit .300 without power, then he’s your man. But if you think a major league shortstop needs a strong arm, there’s no way he can stay at the position. I do think you need to see him over time to evaluate his arm, as his short-arm throws on routine plays can look pretty zippy. But as I said, that arm just doesn’t have a 4th and 5th gear. He will never make a play from the hole. It’s gotten so that he kind of surrounds balls hit to his right so as to make them look more difficult than they are, and often doesn’t even make a throw. I’ve wanted to set Law straight, but can’t find contact info for him.
Betts is absolutely the closest comparison I can think of for Kingery, in size, skill set and instincts for the game. Another guy who comes to mind sort of, mainly because he’s also in that small category of players I’ve fallen in love with, is Anthony Rendon. Kingery doesn’t have his wrists, power, and supernatural hand-eye coordination, but he does have that amazing ability to barrel up the ball time after time, and the same great instincts for the game. If I think of another comp — and again, it would be somebody who, imo, can play both middle infield positions and center — I’ll weigh back in. I agree with you, by the way, that Kingery was a great centerfielder. For years Arizona has had CFers who can really go and get the ball, and I think Kingery has had the best arm of any of them.
Kingery’s situation is, as you say, kind of exciting. This is a kid who has performed at every level, going back to the Little League World Series. he was a high school all-American, but not only attracted no attention from MLB, but also Div 1 schools, presumably because of his size. He was going to juco.until Arizona said he could come as a preferred walk-on, and he then proceeded to hit about .500 in fall intersquad games. I love his game, and Lopez says he’s a great kid (as is Newman), so I hope he finally gets the respect he deserves in the draft.
What’s craziest to me is how insistent so many are about his arm being plenty strong. I swear somebody (forget who) actually called it plus. Most, in fairness, have called it “adequate,” which seemed noteworthy to me not only because that’s on the low end of what I’d deem acceptable for a shortstop already a bit short on defensive upside but also because multiple sources used the same exact word. Probably a coincidence, but a part of me wonders if they are all getting their info from the same contact.
Jason Kipnis, Ben Zobrist, and (because I happen to live in Philly, not because I think it’s a reasonable comp) Cesar Hernandez were three 2B/CF I could think of. Josh Harrison hasn’t played center in the bigs (why would he in Pittsburgh?), but I imagine he could do so in a pinch…and I’m not sure if he ever did so while at school in Cincinnati. Speaking of the Bearcats, Ian Happ is a really interesting contemporary comparison for Kingery’s skill set. I like Happ a whole lot, but Kingery is right there with him. It might not be the smartest allocation of resources possible, but imagine a team grabbing Happ with their first pick and then coming back and snagging Kingery with their supplemental/second round pick.
Eric Longenhagen, all of 22 years old, went to the ASU series this weekend, and said Newman has a plus arm. Blew my mind. If MLB had something like the NF’s combine, and players were required to make all the throws required of their position, Newman would be exposed quickly enough.
I saw Kipnis play for ASU. Struck me as a football player/fine athlete playing baseball, whereas Kingery is pure baseball player. Now, Kingery doesn’t have the natural-strength upside of a guy like Kipnis, and, like Betts, has kind of a slight build, but he is a workout junkie who has built himself up in the weightroom, while staying lean. And it looks like he grew an inch over the past year, putting him close to his listed height of 5-11. All this would suggest the power tool isn’t there, if I hadn’t recently seen him hit three balls waaay out of a cavernous park. You can make a case for five tools.
And oh yeah — if Kingery falls to the second round, it will be because my team the Nats threw away my emails unread, as I intend to pester them to use their first round pick on him. It’s unclear whether they currently have their second baseman of the future in house (maybe Wilmer Difo). I wanted them to try to trade Strasburg for Betts, but if you can draft Betts, all the better. And Kingery might have a stronger arm than Trea Turner. Rendon, by the way, could also play short if needed.
Ha, as a Phillies fan I’ll quietly root for that not to happen. Tough enough to see guys like Giolito and Rendon fall into their laps over the years, not to mention seeing Matt Harvey, one of my all-time favorites going back to his HS days in CT, getting nabbed by the Mets.
I’m writing up a pretty random/pointless post now, but curious if you had any thoughts on Willie Calhoun before I hit publish. Liked him a lot in HS, heard he made a good impression on Lopez as a freshman, and now he’s absolutely raking in juco ball.
Condolences on the Phillies fan thing, at least for a few years.
I do have thoughts on Calhoun. Very short — maybe 5-6 to 5-7 — but sturdy build. He was raking in the preseason last year, and in the early part of the season, then tailed off precipitously. Hits to all fields, with a bit of pop to right. Lopez apparently is unimpressed with the importance of the throwing tool (he also has a catcher who can’t throw, Riley Moore, and will replace him with another one next year), because he played Calhoun at third when he wasn’t DHing, and he doesn’t have enough arm for the position. Like Newman, his only position is second.
I wasn’t here for fall practices, but apparently Lopez, disgusted with last season, made it completely open tryouts, and Calhoun didn’t make the cut, which is why he’s in juco. Don’t know if any attitude problems were in play. Assume not, though Lopez likes to throw teams under the bus, and he’s done that with last year’s team. Not a representative Lopez team, is how he frames it.
But yes, Calhoun’s hit tool is very interesting. I think he can run a bit, but don’t hold me to it.
Cool, thanks. That fits a lot with what I thought I knew. Heard Lopez liked him a lot personally, but, as you said, wanted to find the “best team” after open tryouts and for his own reasons deemed Calhoun unworthy of a spot. That’s his prerogative, of course, but I still really like everything I’ve seen/heard about Calhoun otherwise. Lots of “average at bests” on his card, but the bat (contact, patience, pop) could take him a longer way than many think. I’m in.
Funny when coaches/managers throw teams made up of players of their choosing who have learned under their tutelage under the bus. Almost as if the players on the team suddenly materialized out of thin air and that’s what the coaching staff was left to deal with.
Yeah, UA’s problem for the last two years has been pitching, and all Lopez has to say –,as he has — is that he lost some unexpectedly to the draft, and a couple of others didn’t pan out as expected. No need to throw the whole team under, as he did also in 2009.
Hey, when you launch the campaign to become the Mel Kiper of the baseball draft, let me know what I can do to help. Granted we’re not the NFL, but if a “bracketologist” can be gainfully employed in the sports world, surely there’s a place for a baseball draft expert.
And oh yeah, the comp, or at least ideal prototype, for Calhoun at the plate is another infielder from northern California — fellow name of Joe Morgan. Some real similarities, at least in the box,
Whoa, now that’s a comp. I get that it’s not to be taken literally, but still high praise. I just got a name from a smart person who has seen Calhoun a lot that I thought I’d pass on: Bip Roberts. Said Calhoun has a bit more pop, but otherwise felt the two were similar players. Seemed like a good one to me, but what do I know.
Had forgotten all about Bip. Yeah, I can see it, but Willie is burlier, and probably does have more pop. Did I read you correctly that he has 22 HR’s?
In any case, Lopez probably regrets cutting him, as the UA DH role is still unsettled two thirds of the way into the season, and their offense usually falls off quite a bit against good pitching. Tyler Krause had the job at the beginning of the season, and was hitting in the 3-hole, so he apparently tore it up in the pre-season. But he hit his way out of the job against right-handers.
A comp for Kingery that keeps coming to mind is a smaller Ryan Sandberg. They have the same playing personality — quiet and unflashy, but very consistent and fundamentally sound.
[…] Reports from his college days indicate Ryan Burr has long struggled with developing above-average off-speed stuff to match his impressive fastball. Assuming some truth there about his Arizona State days, then, his history suggests he may never quite develop the secondary stuff you’d hope for in an eight-inning set-up man. Even with a truly impressive fastball, that’ll hold Ryan Burr back some, and the Chicago White Sox may find him more apt for a seventh-inning type of role — still short-stint high-leverage, but short of the ceiling. Then again, the Pale Hose may well have made the trade for Burr specifically because they have an idea to improve his slider in a way that wasn’t being done at Arizona State or with the Diamondbacks. If that’s the case, then maybe the Chicago White Sox have fleeced a trade for a future closer-type. Until I see a markedly improved slider to that end, though, I’ll stick with projecting a future set-up man role for Ryan Burr. […]