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Update: 2010 MLB Draft Top 30 College Second Base Prospects

Click to see the completed top 30 all in one spot right here! Or scroll down one post. Or forget those fools ranked 30-6 and just focus on the top five, republished below…

5. Louisville SR 2B Adam Duvall – I’m as big a Louisville fan (prospect-wise) you’ll find outside of Kentucky, so take the Duvall ranking with a grain of salt. His speed and defense aren’t elite, but he’s strong enough in both areas. It’ll be his bat that gets him his shot as he rises to minor league prominence. Duvall reminds me a lot of great deal of 2009 fourth round pick Derek McCallum. Both players have really nice swings who should each hit for good averages with enough extra-base hits to keep pitchers honest.

4. Stanford JR 2B Colin Walsh – I wrote before the season that Walsh had a really pretty swing that caused scouts to project more power in his future. The future is now. Walsh’s excellent results on the field have finally caught up to his positive scouting reports. He also has an outstanding glove at second that may actually be good enough to work at shortstop, giving hope that he can be a utility infielder in the mold of Marco Scutaro someday. His offensive progression with Stanford actually reminds me of former Cardinal Cord Phelps, but, and this bears repeating, Walsh’s glove is outstanding. Phelps was a third rounder as a hitter with slightly less college production, a bit more physical projection, and a significantly lesser glove. 2010 is a really strong draft, especially near the top, but I’d still say that comparison bodes well for Walsh come draft day.

3. Chipola JC FR 2B LeVon Washington – Thought Washington wasn’t worth a first round grade in 2009, but the Tampa front office’s seal of approval is enough to make any good draft fan reconsider. His plus speed remains a major strength, as does his strong contact skills and intriguing power potential, but his post-injury noodle arm is a concern at any defensive position, even second. Even though I’m still not personally sold on the bat playing at higher levels, there is little denying Washington’s four-tool upside.

2. West Virginia JR 2B Jedd Gyorko – I’m not a scout, so I try not to pretend to be one if at all possible, but, if you’ll indulge me just this one, I have to point out the marked difference between Gyorko’s 2010 swing and his 2009 swing. The majority of his damage last season came on guesswork when he’d get nearly all his weight shifted up on his front foot and hack away. His stride is way more efficient this year, with a vastly improved, far more balanced load and launch. Very encouraging progress. Defensively, Gyorko will never be known for his range, but his soft hands should enable him to make all the plays at balls hit at or near him. The two most prevalent (and optimistic) comps are Kevin Youkilis and Dan Uggla, but ultimately Gyorko’s power upside pales in comparison. For me, Gyorko’s upside is that of the new Ben Zobrist.

1. Ball State JR 2B Kolbrin Vitek – Modest son of a gun I am, I’d never toot my own horn about getting out ahead of a prospect’s emergence, but, seeing as I’m wrong 95% of the time, give or take, I’d figure now is as good a time as any to point out this gem from early January: “Vitek’s tools all grade out similarly to fellow small school sensation Bryce Brentz. They both have plus bat speed, good plate discipline, and plus power potential. They are also both two-way players who have had success on the mound collegiately, though only Vitek could actually pull of the trick of being a legit draft prospect as either a hitter or pitcher. In addition to a glove/arm combination that will definitely play at third professionally, Vitek does all the little things well that make scouts (and wannabe’s like me) very happy. He is a sensational base runner, works deep counts, and has one of the coolest names this side of Yordy Cabrera. Vitek’s utter dominance of the Great Lakes League this past summer sealed the deal for me. He may not be a first rounder in June, but he is as good a bet as any college hitter in the 2010 to be an impact player in the big leagues.” Ha, I called him “Bryce Brentz without a publicist.” Genius prognosticating and comic gold. The myth of the next Jim Callis/Steve Martin super-hybrid has finally been realized.

2010 MLB Draft: Top 30 College Second Base Prospects

30. Howard JC SO 2B Marcellous Biggins – Raw on the bases, in the field, and at the plate, but when you are this far down the list a plus tool like Biggins’ speed is enough to get noticed.

29. Pacific JR 2B JB Brown – Above-average hitter in the mold of Josh Vitters, Howie Kendrick, and Placido Polanco. Of course, those three names were superior prospects at various points in their respective development; I’m talking about the type of hitter, not necessarily the quality of hitter. Brown is a notorious hacker, but has shown an uncanny ability to swing at pitches he can handle. Hitters like this are typically far too batting average dependent to emerge as successful professionals, but they make for interesting case studies as they progress through the minors.

28. Sam Houston State JR 2B Braden Riley – Another player with an interesting hit tool, but probably not enough power or patience to advance too far up the ladder professionally.

27. Kent State JR 2B Jared Humphreys – Really good athlete with plus speed and great baseball instincts who is capable of playing a variety of positions on the diamond. He’s probably best defensively in the outfield, but his bat players much better at second. Could be an organizational player who wears down a team over

26. Connecticut JR 2B Pierre LePage – Stock is lower here than in other spots, an opinion based largely on his groundball inducing swing plane and lack of meaningful physical strength. In his defense, LePage qualifies as the type of player who grows on you every time you watch him play; pro scouts love guys like that. He can do just enough of everything, and do it all pretty well, but his slap hitting style could get the bat knocked out of his hands as a pro.

25. North Carolina State SR 2B Dallas Poulk – Four years of starter’s at bats have finally paid off for the hard working Poulk. Long considered the inferior prospect to his cousin, Drew, Dallas’s ultra productive 2010 season has finally gotten the attention of area scouts. What they are seeing is another potential organizational player at second, but one with just enough juice in his bat to make a conversion to catching a worthwhile risk.

24. Arizona JR 2B Rafael Valenzuela – Less toolsy, less athletic version of Jared Humphreys, but similar defensive versatility and solid hit tool. What separates Valenzuela is a more professional approach at the plate and, despite less upside, a greater chance of helping a big league team someday.

23. St John’s JR 2B Greg Hopkins – A college third baseman better suited for second in the pros, Hopkins is a very well-rounded ballplayer who grades out with at least fringe average tools in all areas but foot speed. His 45 arm should be enough for second, and his gap power is better suited for the keystone sack than third. Looks like another organizational guy with the upside of a utility player.

22. Central Florida JR 2B Derek Luciano – His name makes me think slick fielding, speed middle infielder, but in reality Luciano is a below-average runner and inconsistent fielder who will have to rely on his lefthanded power if he wants to make it in pro ball. His good, but not great 2010 season has tempered some of the pre-season enthusiasm surrounding his prospect stock.

21. Florida JR 2B Josh Adams– Personal favorite heading into the year has struggled as one of the veteran anchors of a young Gators lineup. His scouting reports are largely favorable, despite the subpar junior season. Like a few other names below him on the list, Adams will be helped by his positional versatility as he tries to make it in the pros as a utility guy.

20. College of Charleston SR 2B Joey Bergman – Any regular reader should know that I wasn’t a Christian Colon fan coming into the year. To fill the void atop my shortstop rankings, I stubbornly tried to convince myself that there was somebody at the college level better. The one name that came up in conversations with people smarter than I am multiple times was Joey Bergman, but always with the caveat that he won’t stick at the position as a pro. Ultimately, nobody could vouch for any player over Colon at shortstop, but the positive vibes I kept hearing when discussing Bergman stuck with me. He’s another versatile defender who can play both up the middle spots, and his high contact rate bodes well going forward.

19. Georgia Southern SR 2B AJ Wirnsberger – The position-less Wirnsberger is on the second base list by default because, well, his bat is good enough to get him drafted, but his glove leaves much to be desired. Unlike a few other defensively flexible players on the list, Wirnsberger projects as a utility guy based more on a reputation as an iffy glove that needs to be hidden rather than a naturally versatile defender. The reason finding him a position is worth the trouble at all is the bat. A hotly recruited prep player, Wirnsberger has good loft on his swing and punishes mistakes, especially when he can get his hands extended. He could find a home behind the plate if a team believes his strong arm will play.

18. Miami SR 2B Scott Lawson – Lawson, Jemile Weeks’ successor at second for Miami, has done nothing but hit since stepping on campus. Above-average hit tool, fantastic plate discipline, ten homer pro pop, and strong defense across the board…can you tell he is a personal favorite? Lawson’s spot on the list begins a stretch of players that I think can play regularly in the big leagues if everything, and I mean everything, breaks right for them.

17. Clemson SR 2B Mike Freeman – Almost an identical player to Scott Lawson, but Freeman provides better footwork in the field and a smidge better speed on the bases. He also possesses one of the quietest, most compact swings I’ve seen at the college level in some time, and has a well earned reputation as a player who doesn’t go the plate without first knowing as much as possible about the opposition. Solid hit tool, above-average speed, good defender, efficient swing, veteran approach….obvious enough we have another personal favorite on our hands, right?

16. Canisius JR 2B Steve McQuail – McQuail has a pro body, pro power, and pro arm, but currently has too many holes in his long, loopy swing to profile as a regular. That said, McQuail’s tools are good enough to believe he has a chance to succeed professionally with the help of a good professional hitting instructor. I know I’m coming off like a broken record here, but when I read certain aspects of McQuail’s scouting reports (athletic, plus arm, only decent at second) I really can’t help but think some pro team has to think of him as a potential catching conversion.

15. Cal State Fullerton JR 2B Corey Jones – Jones is in pretty good company as the best 2010 draft-eligible Titan after a couple of guys named Christian Colon and Gary Brown. Live bat, power potential, and quickly maturing plate discipline, plus the possibility of some time back at his natural shortstop make for an intriguing pro prospect with more upside than your typical college athlete.

14. Southern JR 2B Curtis Wilson– Underrated player who is a good athlete with above-average speed and a really well rounded tool set. Biggest obstacle might be the lack of exposure and lack of one signature standout tool. Funny how a strength (no true weaknesses to his game) can be portrayed as a liability (no eye opening tool) in the next sentence. Speaking of second baseman from Southern, how awesome was Rickie Weeks? His junior year numbers: .500/.619/.987 with 27 steals in 27 tries. He’s probably the second baseman on my all-time favorite non-home team player team.

13. Kentucky JR 2B Chris Bisson– Steady enough to someday ascend to an everyday big league spot, but not currently in possession of any consistent standout tool. Noticing a trend yet? Bisson is lower here than ever I expected, but it’s more about liking the players ranked higher than disliking him. His upside is as a regular .275ish hitter (55) with low double digit homers (40) and above-average plate discipline. Add in a glove that borders on plus and you’ve got yourself a player that big league teams should start thinking about popping in the top ten rounds easy.

12. Kansas SR 2B Robby Price – Differences between Bisson and Price are more perception than reality at this point. Bisson offers up more speed and a little more power projection, but Price has the edge in the field and batting eye. For teams that go overslot both early (first 5 rounds) and late (round 25 and up) in the draft, the middle rounds — 10ish to 25ish — are an area where cheap organizational types are often gobbled up. Price fits that prototype, but is more talented than the typical fringe of the roster taken.

11. California JR 2B BJ Guinn – Might be good enough to hold an everyday job for a team that emphasizes speed and defense up the middle based on those two plus tools alone. The speed is very good, I don’t want to deemphasize his ability there, but it’s Guinn’s glove that really gets your attention. His arm may be a little short for the left side of the diamond, but his crazy range as second can’t help but make you wonder what kind of shortstop he’d be if given the chance.

10. Florida Southern JR 2B Wade Kirkland– For me, a better prospect than Robbie Shields, third rounder in 2009. Shields has more raw power and a better arm, but Kirkland has more present gap power and a more reliable glove.

9. Rutgers JR 2B Brandon Boykin– After excelling against relatively high level northeastern prep competition at Don Bosco Prep, Boykin has finally enjoyed a breakout season with the bat in year three at Rutgers. Friend of a friend of a friend told me the Phillies have him as a high priority mid-round middle infield target, no doubt because of his plus speed and surprisingly springy bat.

8. Cerritos CC SO 2B Joe Terry– The quintessential hitting machine who makes hard contact darn near every time he steps to the plate. He does more than just hit, however; Terry is also an above-average runner with a strong arm who, despite appearing to fight his body sometimes in the field, should settle in as at least an average second baseman with the help of professional coaching. He reinvented himself somewhat in 2010 sacrificing some power for a more patient approach, but the 19th round pick from 2010 has maintained that draft momentum all the same.

7. Alabama JR 2B Ross Wilson– Pretty clear scouting over statistics pick. Wilson has as much power potential and athleticism as any player below him on the list, but has disappointed scouts who expected much more with the bat this spring. His numbers all fall below the three magic thresholds (slugging below .550, more K’s than BB’s, way less than 20 steals), so his placement on this list is a testament to the confidence I have in a plus athlete figuring out how to apply his significant tools before long. High risk, high reward pick that could either emerge as a legit big league caliber starting player or flame out in AA.

6. Virginia JR 2B Phil Gosselin– Remains an average to slightly below-average infielder (capable of playing third and short in a pinch) with an average arm well suited for second base, who many believe may ultimately wind up in the outfield as a pro. That’s what I’ve heard, anyway. I’m not necessarily buying it; heck, his mere presence on this list indicates I think it would be best to keep Gosselin at second as long as possible professionally. He doesn’t have the glove/range for center, and doesn’t have the bat for a corner. If he isn’t a starting caliber outfielder, why not at least give him a shot in the infield? Coming into the year I thought his future was as a big league super-sub, but his big junior year has me thinking his bat could work at second if the glove cooperates.

5. Louisville SR 2B Adam Duvall – I’m as big a Louisville fan (prospect-wise) you’ll find outside of Kentucky, so take the Duvall ranking with a grain of salt. His speed and defense aren’t elite, but he’s strong enough in both areas. It’ll be his bat that gets him his shot as he rises to minor league prominence. Duvall reminds me a lot of great deal of 2009 fourth round pick Derek McCallum. Both players have really nice swings who should each hit for good averages with enough extra-base hits to keep pitchers honest.

4. Stanford JR 2B Colin Walsh – I wrote before the season that Walsh had a really pretty swing that caused scouts to project more power in his future. The future is now. Walsh’s excellent results on the field have finally caught up to his positive scouting reports. He also has an outstanding glove at second that may actually be good enough to work at shortstop, giving hope that he can be a utility infielder in the mold of Marco Scutaro someday. His offensive progression with Stanford actually reminds me of former Cardinal Cord Phelps, but, and this bears repeating, Walsh’s glove is outstanding. Phelps was a third rounder as a hitter with slightly less college production, a bit more physical projection, and a significantly lesser glove. 2010 is a really strong draft, especially near the top, but I’d still say that comparison bodes well for Walsh come draft day.

3. Chipola JC FR 2B LeVon Washington – Thought Washington wasn’t worth a first round grade in 2009, but the Tampa front office’s seal of approval is enough to make any good draft fan reconsider. His plus speed remains a major strength, as does his strong contact skills and intriguing power potential, but his post-injury noodle arm is a concern at any defensive position, even second. Even though I’m still not personally sold on the bat playing at higher levels, there is little denying Washington’s four-tool upside.

2. West Virginia JR 2B Jedd Gyorko – I’m not a scout, so I try not to pretend to be one if at all possible, but, if you’ll indulge me just this one, I have to point out the marked difference between Gyorko’s 2010 swing and his 2009 swing. The majority of his damage last season came on guesswork when he’d get nearly all his weight shifted up on his front foot and hack away. His stride is way more efficient this year, with a vastly improved, far more balanced load and launch. Very encouraging progress. Defensively, Gyorko will never be known for his range, but his soft hands should enable him to make all the plays at balls hit at or near him. The two most prevalent (and optimistic) comps are Kevin Youkilis and Dan Uggla, but ultimately Gyorko’s power upside pales in comparison. For me, Gyorko’s upside is that of the new Ben Zobrist.

1. Ball State JR 2B Kolbrin Vitek – Modest son of a gun I am, I’d never toot my own horn about getting out ahead of a prospect’s emergence, but, seeing as I’m wrong 95% of the time, give or take, I’d figure now is as good a time as any to point out this gem from early January: “Vitek’s tools all grade out similarly to fellow small school sensation Bryce Brentz. They both have plus bat speed, good plate discipline, and plus power potential. They are also both two-way players who have had success on the mound collegiately, though only Vitek could actually pull of the trick of being a legit draft prospect as either a hitter or pitcher. In addition to a glove/arm combination that will definitely play at third professionally, Vitek does all the little things well that make scouts (and wannabe’s like me) very happy. He is a sensational base runner, works deep counts, and has one of the coolest names this side of Yordy Cabrera. Vitek’s utter dominance of the Great Lakes League this past summer sealed the deal for me. He may not be a first rounder in June, but he is as good a bet as any college hitter in the 2010 to be an impact player in the big leagues.” Ha, I called him “Bryce Brentz without a publicist.” Genius prognosticating and comic gold. The myth of the next Jim Callis/Steve Martin super-hybrid has finally been realized.

2010 MLB Draft: Top 30 College First Base Prospects

30. College of Southern Nevada SO 1B Trent Cook
29. Delaware SR 1B Ryan Cuneo
28. Central Florida JR 1B Jonathan Griffin
27. Long Beach State SO 1B Joey Terdoslavich
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Terdoslavich was once a pretty exciting prospect, but his transfer to Long Beach has taken his name out of the big-time college spotlight. His power remains, but the 2010 drop in plate discipline is worrying. In his favor, however, is the positional versatility so many of these first base prospects will need if they want big league bench jobs someday. Griffin is a gigantic human being with exactly the raw power you’d expect his frame to deliver, but is hurt as a prospect because he offers little else beyond that one above-average tool. Cuneo has good gap power and a solid glove, but profiles best as an organizational player than even a potential big league bench bat at this point. Trent Cook has seen his draft stock jump up a bit this spring, due in large part to the exposure his famous teammate with the initials BH has given the CSN program this spring…yes, the scouts are all flocking to Vegas to see that Bryan Harper fella.
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26. Rice SR 1B Jimmy Comerota
25. Arizona State SR 1B Kole Calhoun
24. Middle Tennessee State SR 1B Blake McDade
23. Oklahoma State JR 1B Dean Green
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Comerota and Calhoun both look like better versions of Ryan Cuneo to me – gap power, good glove, good athleticism, good batting eye…but not enough raw power to ever project as starting caliber players. McDade gets consistently overshadowed by teammate Bryce Brentz, but his approach is professional quality. Dean Green has a pretty well-rounded skillset and his strong showing on the Cape last summer gives him the extra bounce up the rankings here.
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22. South Carolina SR 1B Nick Ebert
21. Mississippi JR 1B Matt Smith
20. Tennessee JR 1B Cody Hawn
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Trio of SEC sluggers who could all hit their way to the big leagues if they get a few breaks along the way. Hawn is a really darn good natural hitter, but the lack of physical projection and any above-average tool besides the bat holds his prospect stock down. Smith’s power and approach are both intriguing while Ebert, the senior, has really impressed with the way he has worked at his game, improving from an organizational player all the way in his junior year to a legit mid- to late-round draft here in 2010.
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19. Chipola JC SO 1B Cody Martin
18. Carson-Newman SR 1B Jeff Lockwood
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Martin is another candidate for most underrated player on this list. He’s a really good athlete, potential plus defender, and has shown well above-average power in the past. Lockwood does a lot of the same things as Martin, but does them all just a smidge better at this point.
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17. Cal State Northridge JR 1B Dominic D’Anna
16. Hawaii SR 1B Kevin Macdonald
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Really like D’Anna’s swing, from setup to finish. Macdonald can get a little long with his swing, but offers more long-term power than D’Anna. D’Anna is a better bet to start for a big league club someday, but is a real long shot to ever realize that upside. Macdonald is less likely to ever start for a big league team, but more likely to contribute as a bench bat somewhere down the line someday. That’s why Macdonald gets the slight nod in the rankings. That logic isn’t foolproof, but it’s all I’ve got.
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15. Hillsborough JC FR 1B Jamie Mallard
14. Lake Sumter CC FR 1B Bryan Hill
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Mallard is the biggest boom/bust prospect on this list. If he booms, it’ll be because of the tremendous thunder in his bat; his power rivals that of any college player in the 2010 class. If he busts, it’ll be because he eats his way right out of the game. Hill’s upside should probably jump him up this list because he has as good a shot as almost any player ranked higher to actually land a starting big league job someday.
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13. Mt. Hood CC SO 1B Taylor Ard
12. Boston College JR 1B Mickey Wiswall
11. Washington JR 1B Troy Scott
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Scott, Wiswall, and Ard make up my personal list of three biggest first base disappointments in 2010. Ard gets a mulligan because of a bum wrist, but his injured hamate bone is a definite concern for a player who came into the year hoping his plus raw power would get him into the top five rounds. Scott actually had the top spot in one of my many unpublished preseason college first base prospect lists, but his 2010 has been a disaster (where’s the power?) anyway you look at it. Wiswall was a favorite in the scouting community coming into this season, but has always been too much of a grip and rip guess hitting hacker for my tastes. At this point in the rankings we’re talking mostly about bench bats, so a grip and rip guess hitting hacker with above-average power potential and intriguing positional versatility (he could be a four corners guy in the pros) isn’t such a bad thing…
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10. Alabama SR 1B Clay Jones
9. Louisiana State SR 1B Blake Dean
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Jones has been a success in high school, community college, wood bat summer leagues, and in the SEC. Blake Dean profiles similarly, as both SEC seniors are professional bats that come up a bit short as starters but should fit in nicely as big league bench weapons.
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8. Georgia Tech SR 1B Tony Plagman
7. Texas Christian SR 1B Matt Curry
6. East Carolina SR 1B Kyle Roller
5. Tennessee Tech JR 1B AJ Kirby-Jones
4. Mississippi State SR 1B Connor Powers
3. Louisville SR 1B Andrew Clark
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Clark is a hitter with a clue. If there is a pitch in your happy zone, swing hard and watch it fly. If the pitcher won’t give in, don’t get yourself out by swinging at junk. Clark does those two things as well as any hitter in all of college baseball. I’m very impressed with the improvements that Connor Powers has made to his game between his junior and senior seasons – he came into the year as a hacker who was limited to first base defensively, but will graduate as a more disciplined bat and an above-average glove at first. If Michael Choice played first base, he’d be Kirby-Jones. That’s a pretty nice compliment for the Tennessee Tech junior. Roller and Curry are both professional hitters with power, but neither prospect offers much beyond what they can deliver in the batter’s box. Plagman is similar to Powers in that he did a tremendous job patching up the holes in his game (namely the holes in his bat) by taking a more patient, measured approach to hitting this spring.
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2. Auburn JR 1B Hunter Morris
1. Arkansas JR 1B Andy Wilkins
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Wilkins and Morris are the two most likely early round first base prospects to actually play the position regularly in the big leagues someday. More on these two to come…

2010 MLB Draft: Pac-10 Shortstops

It’s purely coincidental that the first three conferences I’ve looked at have exactly four potential draft picks who play shortstop apiece. Weird. The order of these four really could be picked out of a hat and look about as good as what I’ve got here; we’re talking about a group of tightly bunched, similarly talented future utility guys, so I guess it makes sense that they are so close. Let’s see who is worth knowing in the Pac-10…

Stanford JR SS Jake Schlander
Height, Weight: 6-2, 195

FR – .232/.307/.256 (24 BB/41 K; 3-3 SB)
SO – .232/.288/.324 (16 BB/41 K; 3-4 SB)
JR – .283/.420/.472 (12 BB/7 K; 1-1 SB)

Jake Schlander can really pick it at shortstop, but his inability to make consistent contact, hit for power, and get on base regularly through his first two college seasons has put a damper on his pro prospects. He’s started since day one at Stanford, putting up lines of .232/.307/.256 and .232/.285/.324 in his freshman and sophomore year. Those are stunningly bad numbers. However, as mentioned, Schlander can really pick it at shortstop. I mean, he can really, really pick it. Plus range, flawless hands, strong arm; defensively, Schlander has it all. His defense is so good that I felt comfortable predicting that he’d be on draft boards back when his offensive numbers were, and I say this with all due respect, straight up horrible. One month into the college season Schlander’s bat has show such unexpected signs of life that it may be time to start recalibrating his final draft position’s ceiling. Before the season I wrote this: “Expect a forward thinking front office, maybe Seattle or Boston, to pop Schlander late (round 35+) against all offensive odds.” If the offensive gains can be maintained, Schlander could see his draft stock jump up 20 rounds. Too drastic a reaction to a small sample of early season plate appearances? Perhaps, but I’m alright with jumping the gun a bit when the tools are there to justify it.

Washington State JR SS Shea Vucinich
Height, Weight: 6-0, 183

FR – .316/.357/.440 (8 BB/34 K; 2-5 SB)
SO – .230/.341/.377 (27 BB/41 K; 8-10 SB)
JR – .358/.460/.604 (6 BB/13 K; 3-4 SB)

Reports on Vucinich’s defense vary depending on the day, but most seem to agree his upside with the glove is significant. I’ve even heard some evaluators touting him as a potential plus defender up the middle. He also has shown good power potential throughout his career with the Cougars. That’s the good news. The less good news is centered around Vucinich’s aggressive approach at the plate. His free swinging ways help explain some of power output (swing hard at anything around the plate and sometimes the ball goes very far), but it’s also gotten him in trouble in the past. Something about his skill set had me really curious about locking down some worthwhile comps. Best two I came up with are former Padres starting SS/2B Damian Jackson (44th rounder) and current Red Sox minor leaguer Tug Hulett (14th rounder). It wouldn’t surprise me to see Vucinich split the difference between the two, both in eventual draft landing spot and pro career accomplishments.

Arizona JR SS Bryce Ortega
Height, Weight: 5-11, 175
Birth Date: 9/22/88 (Age-21 season)

FR – .326/.409/.429 (25 BB/24 K; 13-15 SB)
SO – .324/.420/.438 (31 BB/32 K; 16-18 SB)
JR – .258/.390/.274 (11 BB/4 K; 9-9 SB)

Ortega put up very consistent numbers in his first two full seasons at Arizona, but has taken a step backwards in the power department in the early going of 2010. As a matter of fact, he’s the only one of the four players listed who has experienced a decline in his performance so far in 2010. The most commonly cited reason for Ortega’s early season struggles relate back to his transition from shortstop (a position he is more than capable of playing, for the record) to second base; not sure I buy it, but it’s a thought. Strong base running and good patience have long been the bedrocks of his offensive game, so it’s good to see those areas remain consistent despite his 2010 contact and power deficiencies. Patience at the plate, a two-year track record of pop (2010 be damned), excellent base running instincts, and a versatile glove fit the potential utility infielder mold pretty well, don’t you think?

UCLA JR SS Niko Gallego
Height, Weight: 5-11, 180
Birth Date: 12/29/88 (Age-21 season)

FR – .317/.378/.415 (2 BB/7 K; 1-2 SB)
SO – .273/.361/.326 (16 BB/34 K; 6-10 SB)
JR – .305/.411/.542 (8 BB/8 K; 5-5 SB)

Gallego didn’t do much to impress in his first two years with the Bruins, but experience in two quality wood bat summer leagues (Northwoods League and Cape Cod League) and pro baseball bloodlines (father Mike had almost 3,000 big league at bats) make him a good bet to hear his name called on draft day. The quality start in 2010 certainly doesn’t hurt his prospect stock, but, again, his pro future maxes out at utility player. He doesn’t quite have dear old dad’s glove, but may have more upside in his bat than the .239/.320/.328 career line put up by his father. Speaking of comparisons to Mike Gallego, enjoy this quote from former Arizona State head coach Pat Murphy on comparing Gallego the senior to Dustin Pedroia:

I’ve been trying to figure it out and I can’t. Mike Gallego is a good friend of mine and I used to tell him that he reminded me of Gags. That used to piss Pedroia off. He would say ‘Mike [expletive] Gallego, are you [expletive] me?’ and he would say that all the way back when he was a freshman. Can you imagine a freshman in college baseball reacting like that when you’re comparing him to a Major Leaguer…but that’s exactly the way Pedro is.

2010 MLB Draft: Big 12 Shortstops

I’m digging these quick looks at different 2010 MLB Draft position groups, so let’s keep it going with a look at the handful of Big 12 draft-eligible shortstops of note. I think this group is actually a touch better on the whole than the ACC quartet, but I’m probably splitting hairs with that assessment considering the most probable career path of the eight players listed so far would be considered under the umbrella category of “utility player of varying value.” Speaking of the ACC list from yesterday, a comp for one of the players on the list came to mind last night: Tim Smalling as the college version of Tampa’s Reid Brignac. Bit of a stretch, perhaps, but there are some similar tool-based similarities between the two. Just a thought.

Texas A&M JR SS Kenny Jackson
Height, Weight: 6-4, 195
Birth Date: 7/2/89 (Age-20 season)

JR – .421/.511/.447 (7 BB/4 K; 1-1 SB)

The former Alvin College shortstop reminds me of current Cardinals starter Brendan Ryan. Both players are smooth defenders, possess strong arms, bigger than usual shortstop frames, and enough offensive skills and defensive consistency to provide value as a starter. Jackson hasn’t put up big power numbers in 2010, but showed off enough pop prior to joining the Aggies to have some observers (myself included) buy in to his double digit home run potential as a professional. Like the vast majority of the college shortstops on this list, Jackson’s clearest path to the big leagues will be as a utility player with a strong glove. Unlike so many of the others, however, Jackson has clear starter upside at the position if he continue to tap into his above-average tools.

Kansas State JR SS Carter Jurica
Height, Weight: 5-11, 185
Birth Date: 9/23/88 (Age-21 season)

FR – .240/.329/.360 (15 BB/23 K; 9-14 SB)
SO – .353/.437/.492 (26 BB/45 K; 23-32 SB)
JR – .432/.495/.662 (11 BB/9 K; 10-13 SB)

In a weak college shortstop class, Carter Jurica should see his stock soar this spring. He has always had the right tools to succeed (plus speed, enough pop, good athlete), but has put everything together in a big way so far this season. The raw tools are there for Jurica to succeed professionally, but it’ll take a team buying in to his long-range projection if he wants to sneak up into the top ten rounds this June.

Kansas JR SS Brandon Macias
Height, Weight: 5-10, 183
Birth Date: 10/10/88 (Age-21 season)

JR – .213/.261/.262 (3 BB/10 K; 0-0 SB)

There is certainly an argument that could be made for Macias to sit atop this particular shortstop list, what with his excellent defensive tools and true plus arm strength and accuracy, but the early season struggles of the former Arizona State enrollee and South Mountain CC shortstop give me pause. Macias has received universal praise for his outstanding work ethic and love of the game, and his big first year playing for South Mountain (in a wood bat league, no less) had scouts thinking they were watching a future everyday shortstop in the making. A disappointing sophomore season chock full of struggles due in large part to a nagging hamstring injury took him off the radar to some degree, but, despite the down year, Macias showed off enough evidence that he’s a player with all five tools (in addition to the aforementioned defensive gifts, Macias has above-average speed and good gap power) present in his game. Kansas has a surprisingly rich recent history of shortstops drafted into the professional ranks, a factor that can only help Macias this June. Many talent evaluators look for programs that have coaching staffs with reputations coaching up certain positions or player types; in this way, Kansas’ strong track record developing up the middle types could be Macias’ gain this June.

Texas Tech SR SS Joey Kenworthy
Height, Weight: 5-5, 160
Birth Date: 6/6/88 (Age-22 season)

FR – .182/.262/.255 (4 BB/6 K; 1-1 SB)
SO – .313/.431/.411 (39 BB/20 K; 5-6 SB)
JR – .335/.363/.417 (12 BB/24 K; 5-7 SB)
SR – .303/.444/.461 (14 BB/8 K; 3-6 SB)

No, Kenworthy isn’t the water boy, scorekeeper, or equipment manager, thanks so much for asking. Opposing fans do a double take when the 5-5, 160 pound Kenworthy steps up to the plate for the first time, but his solid defense and not completely worthless bat (how’s that for a ringing endorsement?) typically give him the last laugh. I wonder if Kenworthy’s draft stock would have been higher if he was a senior coming out of school at the height of post-World Series Angels victory induced David Eckstein craze of a few years ago. As it stands, his draft prospects are touch and go, but a continuation of his improved senior year numbers might be enough to sneak him into the last few rounds this year.

2010 MLB Draft: ACC Shortstops

I’ve started to make some prospect rankings lists, but am realizing that there are some really tight competitions in certain conferences and position groups. Last night I was rolling along as I put together a list of the best 2010 draft eligible position players in the ACC until I hit a roadblock at around the tenth spot. There were four shortstops on my shortlist that hadn’t been included, so I figured, hey, why not tease that ranking out a bit to see how the four players ranked head to head to head to head?

Virginia Tech JR SS Tim Smalling
Height, Weight: 6-3, 207
Birth Date: 10/14/87 (Age-22 season)

FR – .288/.389/.397 (21 BB/27 K; 1-4 SB)
SO – .250/.309/.442 (17 BB/61 K; 6-8 SB)
JR – (transferred in from Arkansas; sat out 2009 season)
rJR – .436/.482/.667 (5 BB/7 K; 2-3 SB)

Smalling is, perhaps somewhat ironically, the biggest of the four shortstops on our list. It’s ironic because his name has “small” in it. Clever observation, right? Anyway, that size (6-3, 207) and a strong arm make him look like a player capable of playing third professionally, but his skill set is still far better suited for shortstop. Good footwork and soft hands should keep him up the middle going forward, but that aforementioned potential for defensive versatility should help him in his cause for playing time at the next level. It may be a little strange to see a player like Smalling, a guy with a reputation as being more than a little hacktastic, atop this list, but his combined hit/power tools top that of any other draft-eligible middle infielder in the conference. Admittedly, Smalling’s plate discipline doesn’t look all that promising when judging solely by the numbers above, but scouts have given him high grades in his pitch recognition so far in 2010. He’s done a much better job at laying off balls he knows he can’t do much with (note the drop of strikeouts so far) and hammering pitches in his happy fun-time hitting zone (hard to argue with his power indicators thus far). Smalling’s total package of above-average offensive and defensive skills could get him into the top 5 rounds this June.

Duke JR SS Jake Lemmerman
Height, Weight: 6-2, 185
Birth Date: 5/4/89 (Age-21 season)

FR – .283/.353/.373 (15 BB/24 K; 5-7 SB)
SO – .287/.355/.448 (20 BB/32 K; 13-16 SB)
JR – .293/.391/.520 (11 BB/14 K; 4-5 SB)

Lemmerman, the youngest and best defensive player of our quartet, is a good runner (22-28 career SB) with enough untapped potential with the bat to legitimately claim an everyday role professionally someday. Lemmerman is already a plus defender with quick hands, above-average range, and an uncanny knack for turning the double play. If his strong offensive start to 2010 is for real, as many believe, he could hear his name called anywhere between rounds 5 through 8 on draft day. The renewed interest in defense should help Lemmerman as much as just about any player in this year’s college class.

Virginia SR SS Tyler Cannon
Height, Weight: 6-0, 205
Birth Date: 8/30/87 (Age-22 season)

FR – .279/.350/.354 (20 BB/46 K; 8-12 SB)
SO – .252/.324/.345 (23 BB/45 K; 14-17 SB)
JR – .351/.451/.489 (35 BB/41 K; 17-19 SB)
SR – .368/.442/.566 (10 BB/12 K; 0-2 SB)

Cannon is solid in all phases of the game, but lacks fluidity on defense at any one given position. Between his lack of a true defensive home and his steady, but unspectacular bat, he has many believing his professional role will be that of a super-sub capable of playing literally every position on the diamond, including catcher. I’ve compared him to current big league utility infielder Eric Bruntlett (who hit .342/.463/.485 with more walks than strikeouts for Stanford in his third and final year as a college player) in the past, a resemblance many first think of as an insult, but one I consider to be a compliment. Cannon is a proven versatile defender at the college level who, as previously mentioned, doesn’t really have any glaring deficiencies in his tool set, minus a lack of long ball power.

It seems that the majority of area scouts like Cannon better than I do, so it really wouldn’t be a shock to see Cannon go first out of the players listed. I’ll stick to my guns and insist on liking the guys listed above due largely to their greater probability of sticking at shortstop professionally, but I can see how Cannon would be a player who would grow on you with repeated viewings. After all, my “insulting” comp Bruntlett went in the 9th round back in 2000. That seems like the area of the draft that Cannon’s final projection will likely be in June.

Florida State SR SS Stephen Cardullo
Height, Weight: 6-0, 200
Birth Date: 8/31/87 (Age-22 season)

FR – .273/.308/.545 (1 BB/2 K; 0-0 SB; limited at bats)
SO – .387/.473/.613 (11 BB/14 K; 2-3 SB; limited at bats)
JR – .376/.476/.612 (45 BB/46 K; 20-24 SB)
SR – .324/.449/.437 (13 BB/13 K; 5-5 SB)

Cardullo’s defense is arguably the weakest of this bunch, but his junior year numbers are simply too wonderful to be ignored. Those numbers are made all the more impressive when you consider Cardullo started with Florida state as a walk-on who only earned 73 at bats through the end of sophomore year. The junior year breakout came completely out of nowhere, but Cardullo has managed to maintain some of the gains (largely those made in his mature, discipline approach at the plate) while still showing just enough of the gap power to keep scouts believing he has enough pop to spend a 15th to 20th round pick on him. I liken him to a less acclaimed version of former teammate Tony Delmonico, 2008 6th round pick of the Dodgers. Delmonico has seen time behind the plate and on the right side of the infield in the minors so far, a path that could be the best hope for Cardullo (who already has some college experience at both first and second) to follow if he wants to someday crack a big league roster. Without sounding too much like a broken record, defensive value through versatility will be a large part of what gets any of the above players to the big leagues. Steady defense at all five defensive spots + professional approach taken to every at bat + gap power + average speed = potential big league utility player.

2010 MLB Draft College Conference Position Breakdowns – Big West Outfielders

Pick a conference, pick a position, pick a draft year, and go. That’s basically the formula for the 2010 MLB Draft College Conference Position Breakdowns. Nothing fancy, just a quick snapshot of where the college talent is and a quicker way of disseminating 2010 draft-eligible player information to the masses. Three quick facts worth remembering as you read – 1) All rankings are preliminary and subject to change, 2) The current rankings are the top X amount of guys, but players at the back end will be added intermittenly until all players are ranked, and 3) I can’t really think of a third thing to remember, but they say you’re always supposed to list things in three, so here you go…

As always, whether you agree, disagree, or think I’m a dope who should leave this sort of stuff to the experts (thanks, Mom)…let’s hear it via email (you can use either robozga at gmail dot com or thebaseballdraftreport at gmail dot com) or in the comments section.


JR OF Gary Brown (2010 – Cal State Fullerton) reminds me of three established big leaguers, all for different reasons. He resembles Shane Victorino for his defensive range in center, plus speed, and intriguing power/speed combo. I see some Chone Figgins (pre-2009 breakout, mostly) in the way he’ll be an incredibly valuable player due to defensive versatility despite having only an average arm. At his very best, however, I can see some young Johnny Damon in his game, especially if his power potential comes around the way I expect it will. Brown has legit plus speed, untapped raw power, and a good but not great throwing arm. He’s a joy to watch on the bases and his defense is excellent in centerfield, although some think he has the natural fielding actions to make a move to second base a possibility. He is expected to be the veteran anchor in a Fullerton outfield where he’ll be flanked by freshman Anthony Hutting and two-way sophomore Tyler Pill, and backed up by Casey Watkins and Ivory Thomas, a pair of promising freshmen. Continued development could push him up into the late first round, but his most likely draft ceiling is late supplemental first/early second. I’m not saying he is a better baseball player than teammate Christian Colon, but I think the gap is much closer than the majority of people think. In fact, I think Brown’s superior tools actually make him a better bet to be a well above-average player than Colon.

JR OF Ridge Carpenter (2010 – Cal State Northridge) is a big personal favorite. He has a five-tool ceiling, with speed and potential plus defense in center being his calling cards. His good approach, in addition to the aforementioned speed, make him a potential leadoff hitter, but his game is much more than the slash and dash style so many other college leadoff hitters employ. He has enough current pop — his .679 slugging percentage trumped his next closest junior college teammate by a whopping 185 points, how’s that for context? – and a big league frame (6-2, 190) that make me think his easy swing will continue to generate power as he gets more reps against top level pitching. He has what it takes to be a top five round player, I think.

JR OF Mark Haddow (2010 – UC Santa Barbara) offers up plus power potential, but also strikeouts about as much as you’d expected from a raw college player with plus power potential. Luckily, power isn’t his only claim to fame. Haddow can also rely on his solid athleticism, better than you’d think speed, and slightly above-average big league right field arm. He has the raw tools to dramatically rise up draft boards, but first needs to take a more disciplined approach at the plate to show big league clubs he’d cut it as something more than a backup outfielder professionally. If he begins even to hint at improvement in those deficient areas in his game, I’d bet good money some team out there will draft him with the idea that he’ll be a big league starter in right someday.

JR OF Nick Longmire (2010 – Pacific) is an above-average athlete who has demonstrated good range in centerfield. If you’ve read enough of these blurbs, you’d know that the combination of athleticism and good defense in center can give a prospect a huge head start on the competition. Longmire takes his head start and runs with it. He has above-average power potential, good bat speed, and success with wood bats from summer league play. He profiles best as a fourth outfielder capable of doing a little bit of everything pretty well. I’ve heard a Jay Payton comp thrown his way and, despite Payton’s far more decorated collegiate career, I don’t think I hate it from a tools standpoint.

SR OF Luke Yoder (2010 – Cal Poly) was a gymnast for 13 years. Now that we’ve got that bit out of the way, we can talk about Yoder the ballplayer. His strong points include a good power/patience blend, heady base running, and, yes, impressive athleticism due in no small part to all those years on the balance beam. The case against his prospectdom include his age (he’ll turn 23 one month after the draft) and his sometimes shaky outfield defense. As a mid- to late-round senior sign, he’d make sense for a team looking for a potentially quick moving backup outfielder/AAAA bench bat depth piece. It’s also important to note that Yoder has been drafted twice already

JR OF Brett Morgan (2010 – UC Davis) joins the Aggies after two seasons at San Joaquin Delta College, where he’ll go from being coached by one brother (Reed Peters) to another (Rex Peters). Now that we’ve got our fun fact quota for the day out of the way, let’s talk about this talented juco transfer. Morgan is another player that fits the classic leadoff hitter archetype – plus speed, good approach at the plate, solid hit tool, and good defense up the middle. I’ve heard really good things about him, but we’re obviously in wait-and-see mode until he actually gets some big time college at bats.

SR OF Michael Hur (2010 – UC Riverside) has had scouts eagerly waiting on his power potential for years now, finally breaking through last season. However, questions still linger about whether it was the first step toward a continued power surge or a fluky one year spike. There have been enough concerns from those smarter than I that Hur doesn’t have the physical strength to ever be much more than the occasional gap power hitter professionally. I suppose to take that viewpoint would be to make the claim that last season was a power outlier. On top of that, Hur doesn’t really have any standout tools to speak of. He has average range and a decent throwing arm. He’ll be a late round senior sign.

JR OF Todd Eskelin (2010 – Cal State Northridge) only has a limited of college at bats to his credit, but it hasn’t stopped him from producing when called upon. Real above-average power potential is there, but it’ll be interesting to see if his swing for the fences approach works once pitchers get more of a read on his strengths and weaknesses. Without much else to say, how about checking out a funny typo from the “Personal” section of the Cal State Northridge website? There it informs us that Eskelin’s “favorites include television show ‘Smallville’ and eggs.” I had a roommate in college who Netflixed every episode of Smallville (pretty sure he had a crush on Tom Welling), but I never got into it; Eggs on the other hand, now that’s quality TV.

SR OF TJ Mittelstaedt (2010 – Long Beach State) might be able to play second base professionally, a potential boon to his erstwhile lackluster draft standing. He has a strong arm, good present power, and good plate discipline, but the real key in differentiating himself from so many similar college outfielders will be whether or not a team wants to gamble on him as an infielder.

JR OF Ryan Fisher (2010 – UC Irvine) has a good frame (6-3, 210), steady college production, good power, and a nice swing. He’s yet another non-starter in the corner outfield, so his value is inherently limited. However, all of that changes quickly if he can play third base or second base as some think. Fisher as a left fielder…no thanks. Fisher as a second baseman…I’m intrigued.

SR OF Cory Olson (2010 – UC Irvine) is a good defender, shows solid leadoff hitter skills (great approach, decent speed) and enough pop to keep pitchers honest. His tools cup doesn’t runneth over, but he is a well-rounded player that offers enough in the way of secondary skills to make him a worthwhile prospect to watch. I also happen to like this quote: “It sounds simple, but I try to only swing at strikes and pitches in the zone of my swing,” said Olson. “If I get a hit, I get a hit, and if I get out, I get out. I don’t put pressure on myself. I see through the ball and let the bat do the work.” Any player more focused on process than results is alright in my book.

SR OF Adam Melker (2010 – Cal Poly) has shown decent gap power, a good approach at the plate, and versatility in the field. He’s a step behind fellow Big West senior outfielders Michael Hur (better tools) and TJ Mittelstaedt (might be able to play second), but still in the running for a late round senior sign draft selection.

JR OF DJ Gentile (2010 – Cal Poly) gets the lightning round treatment. Shows some promise with the bat! Once a 43rd round pick of Cleveland! Not a good defender!

SR OF Sean Madigan (2010 – UC Irvine) returns to action this spring after missing almost all of 2009 with an injury. He put up decent numbers his first two seasons, flashing the occasional power and decent all-around tools. He’s a long shot to get drafted, but it’ll come down to his senior year production more than anything.

JR OF Christian Ramirez (2010 – UC Irvine) has some pop, some patience, some speed, and some pretty nothing special pretty uninspiring defensive scouting reports. I bet we’ll have a similar conversation about Ramirez this time next year.

SR OF Dillon Bell (2010 – UC Irvine) has one of the prettiest lefthanded swings in all of college baseball. Beautiful swing, decent production…something doesn’t quite add up there. His value will be tied up almost entirely in his bat, so the production needs to take a jump from decent to fantastic if he wants to get drafted late.

JR OF Derek Eligio (2010 – UC Santa Barbara) flashed some pop, above-average speed, and impressive range in center while at Santa Ana College, above-average speed. Scouts and coaches have both said he improved markedly from his freshman to his sophomore season, so there is some hope he’ll see another jump in offensive output in 2010.

JR OF Jono Grayson (2010 – Cal Poly) gets a mention here as a potential late round flier. The accomplished slotback, wide receiver, and return man will attempt to crack the Cal Poly outfield in 2010. He has a good high school track record, but is currently slated to start off as a backup. His plus athleticism makes him a name worth storing away in the deepest darkest recesses in your mind.

SR OF Ryan Tregoning (2010 – UC Santa Barbara) is a big guy (6-3, 200) who had an accomplished junior college career, coming to Santa Barbara with a strong reputation as a hitter. He was more aggressive than expected with Santa Barbara in 2009, getting away from his patient juco ways.  If he can get himself more regular playing time in 2010, it’ll be interesting to see if he goes back to waiting on something to drive rather than hacking away at the first ball within eight inches off the plate. Even if he reverts back to the patient, powerful junior college version of himself questions will remain about what else he offers besides a bat.

2010 MLB Draft College Conference Position Breakdowns – Big East Outfielders

Pick a conference, pick a position, pick a draft year, and go. That’s basically the formula for the 2010 MLB Draft College Conference Position Breakdowns. Nothing fancy, just a quick snapshot of where the college talent is and a quicker way of disseminating 2010 draft-eligible player information to the masses. Three quick facts worth remembering as you read – 1) All rankings are preliminary and subject to change, 2) The current rankings are the top X amount of guys, but players at the back end will be added intermittenly until all players are ranked, and 3) I can’t really think of a third thing to remember, but they say you’re always supposed to list things in three, so here you go…

As always, whether you agree, disagree, or think I’m a dope who should leave this sort of stuff to the experts (thanks, Mom)…let’s hear it via email (you can use either robozga at gmail dot com or thebaseballdraftreport at gmail dot com) or in the comments section.

Some quick thoughts before we get to the guts of the rankings. First, this isn’t a particularly good crop of prospects. If you are only really interested in the first few rounds of the draft, Ijames is probably the only name you need to know. After that, I’d guess only Lang, Lockwood, and maybe Richmond would be top ten round guys. The Cincinnati trio all show promise, but really everybody ranked after number four needs a good year of hitting if they want to head into the draft confident of getting selected.

1. SO OF Stewart Ijames (2010 – Louisville) missed the majority of the 2009 season with a torn rotator cuff, but his talent is so obvious that he heads into the 2010 season with top five round buzz. Ijames has excellent bat speed and plus power potential, a good approach at the plate, and enough defensive aptitude that he should be an above-average defender in a corner. He reminds me a little bit of Idaho guard Mike Iupati; both players have last names that I’ve seen mistakenly spelled with an “L” instead of an “I.”

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2. JR OF Michael Lang (2010 – Rutgers) offers up a very intriguing power/speed combination, emphasis on the speed. The former walk-on has come a long way since enrolling at Rutgers; I actually like him a little bit better than his more highly regarded teammate Jaren Matthews. Lang has the ability to play centerfield professionally and his plus arm should make him a defensive athlete in due time. His offensive skill set could make him an option hitting leadoff in the big leagues someday.

3. JR OF Ryan Lockwood (2010 – South Florida) couldn’t duplicate the success of his outstanding freshman campaign, but still showed off enough of his toolset to keep scouts happy. Lockwood has good speed, plays above-average defense, and has average raw power (though little of it has manifested just yet). His best tool is obviously the bat, something a .415 freshman batting average does a good job of arguing in favor of. His draft stock will shoot up as high as his bat takes him, but his other skills (namely the defense and speed) will help keep him in the first 15-20 rounds even if he doesn’t hit .400 again.

4. JR OF Josh Richmond (2010 – Louisville) delivers five solid tools – defense good enough for center, a very strong arm, emerging power but questionable ceiling with the bat, and average speed. Richmond is currently below the radar a little bit, but he could pretty easily put it all together and get himself picked in the first ten rounds this spring.

5. SO OF Anthony Howard (2010 – Cincinnati) is a draft-eligible sophomore with a lot to like about his game. He is a solid contact hitter who goes to the plate with a plan in mind. That, along with his plus athleticism and good speed, should make him a successful leadoff hitter going forward. Some teams may like him more as an infielder, a position he played in high school. He has great baseball instincts no matter where he plays, and his above-average arm should play well at any position.

6. JR OF Mikel Huston (2010 – Cincinnati) comes to Cincinnati with the reputation as a hitter first and an athlete second. That’s alright by me so long as you can really hit, something we won’t really know about Huston until he starts getting his swings in this spring. Early word, so take it for what it’s worth, is that he has an advanced hit tool with enough power potential to get on follow lists. He has below-average speed that will relegate to him to an outfield corner, but, again take these for what they are, early reports are that his defensive instincts are excellent. I’d guess he doesn’t have quite enough bat to ever play every day, but could make a solid backup down the line.

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7. JR OF Justin Riddell (2010 – Cincinnati) is a good natural hitter that may not have the requisite secondary skills to make it as much more of a role player professionally.

8. OF/2B JR Brandon Boykin (2010 – Rutgers) may be coming off a poor sophomore year, but his plus speed and excellent athleticism make him worth watching this spring. His value will go up if scouts believe he can play in the infield.

9. SR OF Jimmy Parque (2010 – St. John’s) was a 40th round pick out of junior college in 2008 with solid gap power and a good approach at the dish. His size (5-9, 170) may be a deterrent for some teams, but a big final college season could make him a late round senior sign candidate.

10. JR OF John Schultz (2010 – Pittsburgh) doesn’t have any exceptional tools, but his good plate discipline means he rarely gets cheated at the plate and his good speed can help him take extra bases when needed on the base paths.

11. JR OF Stephen Hunt (2010 – South Florida) has a strong arm tailor made for right field and enough pop to garner some attention, but probably needs a big junior season if he wants to exceed his draft standing (17th round) out of high school here in 2010.

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12. JR OF Junior Carlin (2010 – South Florida) profiles similarly to teammate Ryan Lockwood, except Carlin put together a huge batting average dependent line as a sophomore while Lockwood’s big line (.415/.493/.513) came in his freshman season. Like Lockwood, Carlin can also play a legitimate centerfield, but, unlike Lockwood, his speed has been questioned. So, he’s like Lockwood but without some of the speed and the secondary hitting skills. Not an awful prospect, but not a stone cold lock to be drafted either.

13. SR OF Jarred Jimenez (2010 – Rutgers) is a bit of a rarity, a small (5-9, 190) outfielder without the speed and range to project as a centerfielder. He does have good plate discipline, so he has at least that one plus going for him.

14. SR OF David Mills (2010 – Notre Dame) is a similar player to Jarred Jimenez of Rutgers – strong arm, corner outfielder, tiny (5-9, 165), great plate discipline. Mills is probably the better runner of the two. He has a reputation of being a line drive machine, but the knocks against him (size, power, can’t play center) keep his ceiling from being much higher than fifth outfielder on a good day.

15. JR OF Pat Biserta (2010 – Rutgers) only has one tool that grades out as above-average, but it is the ever important power tool. Just to be clear, we’re talking about the hitting the ball out of the ballpark kind of power tool, not the cordless drill kind of power tool.

2010 MLB Draft College Conference Position Breakdowns – ACC Outfielders

Pick a conference, pick a position, pick a draft year, and go. That’s basically the formula for the 2010 MLB Draft College Conference Position Breakdowns. Nothing fancy, just a quick snapshot of where the college talent is and a quicker way of disseminating 2010 draft-eligible player information to the masses. Three quick facts worth remembering as you read – 1) All rankings are preliminary and subject to change, 2) The current rankings are the top X amount of guys, but players at the back end will be added intermittenly until all players are ranked, and 3) I can’t really think of a third thing to remember, but they say you’re always supposed to list things in three, so here you go…

As always, whether you agree, disagree, or think I’m a dope who should leave this sort of stuff to the experts (thanks, Mom)…let’s hear it via email (you can use either robozga at gmail dot com or thebaseballdraftreport at gmail dot com) or in the comments section.
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1. JR OF Jarrett Parker (2010 – Virginia) is one of the best of the many 2010 toolsy lottery ticket kind of players. I haven’t been doing this draft thing for that long, so it is hard for me to compare talent levels from class to class, but it seems that this year has a high number of mid-round high upside, high flameout potential players. I also haven’t been doing this writing thing long, as you can see from the mess that was that last sentence. Anyway, as mentioned, Parker is one of the very best of the so-called (by me) “lottery ticket” group, so he isn’t necessarily included in the mid-round subsection. In fact, many see him as a candidate to go in the first round. It’s easy to see why.  His mix of tools and big-time sophomore numbers would make him a top-three round guy right now. Continued incremental improvements in his game his junior year will push his draft stock even higher. I’ll make a scary cross-race comparison here and claim Parker has a similar skill set as Lastings Milledge. He has plus power potential, an above-average arm, good speed, and the defensive chops to be a well above-average corner outfielder or a steady stopgap in center. Like Milledge, he struggles against breaking balls to the point that it’s hard not to see him as a 100+ strikeout big league hitter at this point. However, and I try my best to sandwich the bad news in between good news when I can, two big assets in Parker’s favor are his big league ready frame (6-4, 210 after packing on serious muscle), and the seemingly ever-increasing athleticism and agility (honed by practicing yoga) that should help him withstand the rigors of the professional grind.  Additionally, Parker improved his walk rate from his freshman year to his sophomore year, and continued the positive trend during his otherwise disappointing campaign on the Cape this summer. I like that.
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2. JR OF Tyler Holt (2010 – Florida State)
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3. JR OF Jeff Rowland (2010) is probably the single toolsiest player on the Georgia Tech roster. His plus speed, above-average power potential, gorgeous lefthanded swing, and above-average defense in center will comfortably get him into the top five rounds. His speed and ability to play center give him the edge over the similarly talented bat of Virginia OF Dan Grovatt.
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4. JR OF Jeff Schaus (2010 – Clemson)
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5. JR OF Dan Grovatt (2010 – Virginia) has a very patient approach at the plate, power to the gaps, average speed, and a good enough arm to play right field professionally. Sounds good, right? It should because Grovatt is a top five round caliber talent. My only worry is that his more good than great toolset makes him too similar a prospect to former Florida State standout Jack Rye. Rye was one of my all-time favorite college players and a guy I touted as a draft sleeper, but his pro numbers, especially his power indicators, haven’t exactly set the world on fire so far. The comparison is probably unfair – one player’s struggles don’t really have anything to do with another’s future – but, having seen both play, the similarity between the two seemed worth pointing out. However, the two aren’t clones of one another, either. Grovatt is the better athlete and defensive player, and he has more upside with the bat, especially in the power department. Those are all pretty important points in Grovatt’s favor. It’ll take more time and research to see where exactly Grovatt stacks up when compared to fellow 2010 college outfielders, but I have the feeling that he’ll grade out higher here than in most spots. His well-rounded game and extensive big-time college experience make him a good bet to hit the ground running professionally. I’d peg his upside as that of a solid everyday corner outfielder (defense included) with a still valuable floor as a good fourth outfielder.
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6. JR OF Chris Epps (2010 – Clemson)
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7. JR OF Kyle Parker (2010 – Clemson)
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8. JR OF Chase Burnette (2010 – Georgia Tech) can play. His sophomore .351/.447/.691 line (albeit in only 97 at bats) shows the promise he has at the plate. On top of that, he’s a very good athlete with solid speed and an accurate outfield arm. In the past Burnette’s draft stock might have been dinged by teams that considered him to be a tweener – not quite a good enough defender for center, not quite the bat of a big league slugger in a corner. However, as more and more front offices begin to properly value defense, perhaps the market for a potential league average bat with an above-average glove will see a bump on draft day.
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9. JR OF Addison Johnson (2010 – Clemson)
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10. SR OF Wilson Boyd (2010 – Clemson)
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11. JR OF Steven Brooks (2010 – Wake Forest)
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12. SR OF Gabriel Saade (2010 – Duke) is a difficult player to figure out. He went into his junior year as a legitimate pro prospect, a versatile defender capable of playing anywhere up the middle (2B, SS, CF) coming off of two solid years playing every day in the ACC (.269/.354/.456 as a freshman, .286/.376/.483 as a sophomore). His junior year didn’t quite go according to plan, unless Saade’s plan was to hit .237/.339/.333. If that was the case, then his plan really couldn’t have gone any better. The big dip in numbers is concerning, especially the total disappearance of power, but there are some positives to glean from his 2009 performance. His K/BB ratio has dipped each season (2.26 to 1.96 to 1.33) and his stolen base numbers have remained consistently stellar (46/54 collegiately, including his stint in the Valley League). If he can bounce back to his pre-junior levels of production, something many scouts think he is capable of doing if he stops being so darn pull-happy, then he has a shot at being an interesting senior sign (round 15-25, maybe) for a team believing in his future as a steady fielding big league utility player.
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13. SR OF/C Steve Domecus (2010 – Virginia Tech)
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14. JR OF Ben Bunting (2010 – North Carolina) brings two plus tools to the table – plus speed and plus defense. I’m a pretty big Tyler Holt fan, so please consider the following statement a compliment: Bunting is the homeless man’s version of Holt. Of course, while Holt has the upside of a big league starter, Bunting’s ceiling is probably that of a speedy fifth outfielder.
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15. SR OF Jay Dantzler (2010 – Georgia Tech) looks like a pretty solid senior sign candidate to me. In many ways he is an older version of fellow Georgia Tech outfielder Chase Burnette. Both players are good athletes, have decent arms, and have shown enough promise with the bat to at least get him a few looks here and there from scouts. His junior year numbers (.281/.397/.579) show a player with tons of patience and emerging power. But if he really is an older version of Burnette, then the elephant of the room becomes bigger, louder, and, yes, even brighter. It’s a big loud glowing elephant, and that elephant is age. Dantzler will be 23 years old by draft day. Even still, a big senior year could get him drafted in the last half of the draft.
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16. SR OF Robbie Anston (2010 – Boston College)

2010 MLB Draft: Top 10 High School Righthanded Pitching Prospects

For the full list of my top 25 high school righthanded pitching prospects, click here. Or just look at the post below. Whichever way is easier because, let’s be honest, I’m not getting a red cent either way. Check below for my annotated list of the top 10 high school righthanded pitching prospects. Also, a quick question – did I totally miss on Zach Lee? I mean, yeah, I literally missed putting him on my list initially even though I had planned on slotting him somewhere among the top 25 righty arms, but, now that I’ve gone through my notes on each guy again to explain my picks, I’m totally at a loss as to where Lee can be wedged in. Am I going to look really dumb in a few months for leaving him off of this entirely? Or will I look like the prescient genius that, let’s be real, we all know that deep down I really am? Or, most likely, do I already look dumb for leaving him off this first run?
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  1. Jameson Taillon (The Woodlands HS, Texas)
  2. AJ Cole (Oviedo HS, Florida)
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    Both Taillon and Cole have already had their moment in the sun. Check out a scouting profile on AJ Cole written by some wonderfully handsome writer right here. Click here for an equally insightful profile of Jameson Taillon. If you are far too busy and important to read all those silly words, I’m happy to provide a quick summary. AJ Cole is really good now, and he could be really, really good in the future. Jameson Taillon is really, really good now, and he should stay really, really good in the future. I compared Cole’s upside to Justin Verlander and Taillon’s to Josh Johnson. Too positive? Probably seems that way, but remember we’re talking upside here and, again, remember that AJ Cole and Jameson Taillon both have the potential to be very, very good.
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  3. Cam Bedrosian (East Coweta HS, Georgia)
  4. Dylan Covey (Maranatha HS, California)
  5. Kaleb Cowart (Cook County HS, Georgia)
  6. Stetson Allie (St. Edward HS, Ohio)
  7. Karsten Whitson (Chipley HS, Florida)
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    Taillon vs Cole is the marquee prep pitching battle, but the undercard that will decide which high school pitcher goes third will probably wind up being one of the most entertaining subplots of the 2010 draft season. I’ve already done close to a complete 180 spin on my rankings of the non-Taillon/Cole arms and it’s still December. Allie and Whitson positioned themselves as the favorites early on. Covey and Cowart followed those two very closely behind. Also in the mix was the short righthander with the familiar last name, Cam Bedrosian. Previously, I had them ranked Whitson, Allie, Bedrosian, Covey, and then Cowart. Now, as you can see, things are a little different.First, I’ll willingly admit I like Bedrosian more than most talent evaluators do a the moment. One of the reasons I think I like him more than others is simple – short righties don’t scare me. I know I’ve made the Bedrosian/Kyle Drabek comparison before, and I’m happy to mention again in print here. Bedrosian’s 6-0, 195 pound frame doesn’t bother me much at all because it is compact and muscular in all the right places, most notably the legs. His arm action is a thing of beauty with a consistent landing spot and a very smooth, repeatable delivery. Bedrosian’s fastball is a potential plus big league offering, already sitting 90-93 and hitting 95-96, and his curve is on the very short list of the very best high school secondary pitches I’ve had the pleasure of watching. Beyond those two plus/potential plus pitches, Bedrosian can mix in a mid-70s CU and a really exciting high-80s splitter that could grow into a big league strikeout pitch in time. Power stuff (FB, hard CB, SF) combined with at least the occasional appearance of that changeup makes Bedrosian a rare bird among young pitchers. I’m often quick to dismiss bloodlines as a reason for liking one prospect over another, but Bedrosian’s cerebral approach to pitching has pretty clearly been influenced by having a former professional ballplayer as a father.Covey, Cowart, Allie, and Whitson form a pretty logical quartet of high school arms. All four are big fellas (Covey is the shrimp of the group at a round, but athletic 6-2, 200 pounds), with big fastballs (all four have hit at least 95 on the gun at one point or another), and big questions that could define them come draft day. Covey, my current favorite of the four, has the easiest questions (inconsistent mechanics and command, plus a less than idea young pitcher body type) to answer going forward, especially when you consider how far he has come to answer one of those questions (his command has looked sharper every time I’ve seen him) already. Whitson, currently ranked fourth in this little subgroup, has a potential dynamite 1-2 punch with his fastball (sitting 91-93, hitting 95-96) and slider (works best in the mid-80s, but has shown up as a less effective slurvy high-70s CB at times), but I think his mechanics will need something pretty close to a complete overhaul as a professional. Cowart has grown on me just as much as a hitter than as a pitcher lately, but his potential on the mound is still vast. Cowart is as likely as anybody on the list to shoot up to the top of the subgroup and could, I stress could, actually challenge the more established top two if everything breaks right. Everything Cowart throws moves downward, from his sharp high-80s slider to his low-80s split-fingered changeup. Allie has the most electric arm of the foursome, but has been plagued by up and down command and control throughout his career on the high school showcase circuit. He also doesn’t have quite the secondary stuff as some of his contemporaries.
  8. AJ Vanegas (Redwood Christian HS, California)
  9. DeAndre Smelter (Tattnall County HS, Georgia)
  10. Drew Cisco (Wando HS, South Carolina)
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    The potential of Vanegas’s four-pitch mix (FB, CB, CU, SL) is very appealing, as is his superb fastball command and his ability to add and subtract off of the pitch. Smelter is a plus athlete with plus command and a potentially devastating 82-84 mph splitter. Cisco, like Bedrosian a player with outstanding pitching instincts and a strong background of being around the game, is the kind of player that scouts will keep finding a way to ding (fastball is a little too short, secondary stuff isn’t quite top notch quality), but will continue to get results. Or at least that’s what I think will happen this spring. Cisco’s fastball has hit 92 in the past, but sits 88-90 with the pitch. He has a curveball at 74-77 that is already an above-average pitch in addition to a low-80s CU that has above-average potential. Three potentially above-average pitches (fastball grade gets a boost due to impressive movement and pinpoint command) make Cisco one of the most professional baseball ready arms in all of high school baseball.

2010 MLB Draft: Top 25 High School Righthanded Pitching Prospects

I love to travel for a lot of reasons. Who doesn’t enjoy the chance to see a new locale, interact with new people, and experience new things? Those are all perfectly acceptable reasons to enjoy travel, but there is another, far less interesting reason why I like getting away. I like the peace and quiet of planes, trains, and buses. Peace and quiet = one shockingly productive baseball dork. Behold, the result of one such 90 minute plane ride.
Before I go further, be forewarned – this list is just the beginning. First, it’s the initial long form list of position prospects for the 2010 draft. Additionally, this list is incomplete and merely a starting point for something greater. See, I don’t normally like to include player rankings without commentary, so expect to see brief comments on each player on the list in the coming days. For now, check out my initial ranking of 2010’s top righthanded high school pitching prospects.
  1. Jameson Taillon
  2. AJ Cole
  3. Cam Bedrosian
  4. Dylan Covey
  5. Kaleb Cowart
  6. Stetson Allie
  7. Karsten Whitson
  8. AJ Vanegas
  9. DeAndre Smelter
  10. Drew Cisco
  11. Kevin Gausman
  12. Tyrell Jenkins
  13. Brandon Brennan
  14. Robbie Aviles
  15. Aaron Sanchez
  16. Robby Rowland
  17. Taijuan Walker
  18. Luke Jackson
  19. Eric Stevens
  20. John Simms
  21. Brandon Williams
  22. Tony Rizzotti
  23. Adam Duke
  24. Cody Buckel
  25. Evan Hudson

2010 MLB Draft Prospect: Jameson Taillon

RHP Jameson Taillon (The Woodlands HS, Texas)

  • heavy 92-94 FB; also seen at easy 93-95; most recently hit 96-97
  • plus 77-84 CB; 75-76 maybe?
  • underutilized 76 CU with real potential
  • 83-84 with SF
  • plus command
  • 6-7, 230 pounds
  • popular comps include Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Josh Beckett, and, wait for it, Roger Clemens…

[Before I get to all of the drawn out prose I had originally planned, let me add this late edit that doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the piece, but was too good to let pass. Random Anonymous Scout (so take it for what it’s worth) told me the other day that Jameson Taillon could currently pitch out of a big league bullpen and hold his own. Pretty high praise, I thought. It also reinforces the idea in my head that Taillon is the 2010 version of Tanner Scheppers, another talented fastball/power curve guy that I thought could pitch out of the bullpen from day one if called upon. For the record, I don’t advocate either guy pitching exclusively out of the bullpen professionally, although I get why it makes sense for Scheppers to go that route. Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled Taillon scouting profile…]

The first sentence in my entirely hypothetical yet undoubtedly terrible essay entitled “Why I Love Following Pro Sport Draft(s)” might go a little something like this: “There’s a very obvious thrill that comes in forever chasing the next big thing…” One of my favorite parts of following the respective drafts in all of the major sports is the lack of and/or conflicting information out there about certain players. This isn’t so much a problem with NBA and NFL draft coverage where the college game is televised seemingly every day of the calendar year, and I can never personally name more than 3 players in a given NHL Draft, but the Rule 4 MLB Draft is different. Sure, baseball’s draft coverage has become more prevalent what with the rise of many quality rogue handsome bloggers — which reminds me that I have to update the sidebar links in the coming days — in conjunction with increased output from the major media standbys (BA/Kevin Goldstein/Keith Law), but information regarding the skills of specific draft prospects, high school guys mostly, can be very, very hard to find, especially outside of the top handful of big name prospects. I like that. I like the mystery that comes with nobody having a 100% idea of the ins and outs of a player’s particular skill set.

(Incidentally, one of my ideas for “proving” the NBA and NFL Drafts get more coverage than the MLB counterpart was by comparing Google hits for each phrase. I figured “NFL Draft” would have the most by far, “NBA Draft” would be a clear second, and either “MLB Draft” or “NHL Draft” would bring up the rear. How wrong I was. “MLB Draft” produced more hits than any of the others. Go figure.)

The lack of concrete information regarding specific players makes following the baseball draft all the more rewarding in the end. You can really come up with just about any wacky justification about why you prefer Player X over Player Y as long as you can back it up with some kind of reasoned argument. It’s damn hard to say with any kind of certainty that any one player is definitely, absolutely, positively a better prospect than another; there are too many variables at play. Prefer Player X? Fine, but tell me why. Hope your team drafts Player Y? Alright by me, so long as you can explain the relative pros and cons of the two.

There normally is more exposure given to college athletes and certainly more of a significant statistical base to draw from, so arguments over which college players make the best pro prospects have more of a “right/wrong” feel to them. Arguments about prep players, however, can be spun in any number of directions. With limited and/or conflicting information to go off of, it’s inevitable that personal preferences will come into play. If you are predisposed to believing the changeup is the neatest pitch around, then chances are high you are going to elevate the ranking of a pitcher with a plus change. I watched a college game a few years ago next to a scout that told me that his scouting director was only interested in college pitchers with at least two above-average to plus pitches. Another scout chimed in that his scouting director told him that any prep pitchers taken by his time were required to at least show three different pitches, no matter the quality. We all look for different ways to differentiate the good prospects from the so-so prospects, and, perhaps more importantly, the great prospects from the good prospects.

There are a lot of different ways one can evaluate high school pitching prospects, with no real right way or wrong way of reaching a conclusion.  Of course, let’s be honest here – there is little accountability on my end when it comes to how I rank these guys. I take pride in my work and am ridiculously appreciative of every single reader who stops by, but I understand my job isn’t on the line when I endorse one player over another.  One of the things that really stood out to me in really digging deep into the high school pitching prospect ranks last year was how rare finding a high school pitching prospect with two present plus pitches is. Jameson Taillon has those two pitches.

Taillon will easily sit in the low-90s as a professional, with a peak fastball that has already reached the high-90s. He is close to a finished product coming out of high school as I can remember in recent years, a fact that will unbelievably work against him as draft day draws closer. The comparisons to fellow top high school righthander AJ Cole are inevitable. AJ Cole has a plus fastball and a potential plus curve; Jameson Taillon has a plus fastball and a present plus curve. Taillon also has the current leg up with his changeup, although he hasn’t really shown the pitch off in real game situations just yet.

It’ll be really interesting to see if the Cole vs Taillon storyline emerges as a viable draft subplot this spring. The two young arms are a study in contrast, despite sporting similar high end velocities and offspeed stuff. Additionally, both young righties have top of the rotation upside. Cole may ultimately have more upside, but there is little arguing he is currently further from reaching it. Taillon is the more finished product, but some scouts worry he is currently throwing better than he’ll ever throw professionally. In a world that encourages controversy by demanding that all things boil down to building up one side of an argument while simultaneously tearing down the other, it would not be the least bit surprising to see plenty of people frame the Cole vs Taillon debate in this way. There is no problem with picking a favorite horse in the race, heck it’s part of the whole reason this site is around. Building up one player is appreciated, but I don’t see why it has to come at the expense of another. I guess it’s just the subtle different between Cole over Taillon (or vice versa) and Cole vs Taillon; I’m hoping for the former, but I fear we’ll see more of the latter.

The consensus on Taillon’s mechanics seems to indicate there is more good than bad with his delivery. Repeated looks at Taillon have me believing that the scouts know what they are talking about here. I think Taillon’s shoulder looks a little stiff, and he takes too short a stride on his follow through, but I like his consistent release point and the powerful high leg kick. He has a tendency to drift toward the 1st base side, but it’s hardly a cause for concern because he manages to drift off in almost the exact same manner every time he does it. That seems to be the overarching theme with Taillon’s mechanics. Even if an individual aspect of his delivery is unconventional looking, it at least remains the same with every pitch he throws. Taillon’s massive frame and unique arm action enable him to keep nearly everything he throws down in the zone. Righties have taken some ridiculously bad swings against him, repeatedly banging his sinking fastball/slider combo into the ground for routine outs.

I can’t really speak to the rather generous comps to Strasburg, Beckett, and Clemens, but I think it’s pretty clear that Taillon is a far more well-rounded prospect than Gerrit Cole was coming out of high school in 2008. To take it a step further, Taillon’s scouting profile reminds me a little bit of what scouts said about Josh Johnson as he was coming up through Florida’s system. While I’m not brave enough to claim Taillon will ever have a pro season quite like the one Johnson just had, I have no problem pointing out that Taillon is currently a better prospect than Johnson ever was. Taillon has a better overall fastball, better secondary offering (though Johnson’s slider has turned into a real weapon professionally), and eerily similar command, makeup, and mound presence. The light clearly went on for Johnson enough to turn him from a good prospect to a great pitcher, a perfect example of how different developmental paths can be for different players. There’s no telling what kind of path Taillon will actually take, but the fact that he even has the chance to follow in the footsteps of a guy like Johnson is darn exciting.

A thought just occurred to me. I may be a bit overzealous with some of my comps, but let’s go with what I’ve got so far, for argument’s sake if nothing else. If AJ Cole is Justin Verlander and Jameson Taillon is Josh Johnson, and neither player is excepted to go number one overall in this draft, then what is there really left to say about what kind of prospect Bryce Harper is?

2010 MLB Draft Prospect: AJ Cole

RHP AJ Cole (Oviedo HS, Florida)

  • 91-93 FB/94-96 peak; has reportedly been as high as 98
  • potential plus 76-80 KCB
  • average 84-88 SF that acts as a change
  • 78-81 SL that appears to come and go from outing to outing (?)
  • projectable frame at 6-5, 190 pounds
  • Zach Wheeler and Rick Porcello comps


Lots to like about AJ Cole’s game, clearly. His biggest strengths include his present plus fastball velocity, a potential plus knuckle curveball, and that wildly projectable 6-5, 190 pound frame. For a prep pitching prospect, that’s about as close to the holy trinity as you can get. I’m just about positive that I’ve seen Cole throw a splitter and I can’t remember ever seeing him throw a true change, so I’m doing a bit of guesswork when I claim he uses that mid-80s split as a de facto changeup. Without any legit industry source backing me up, I’ll hedge my bets and stick with calling the pitch a “splitter that he uses as a facsimile for a change” for now. Whatever you want to call the pitch, it’s probably a stretch to call it anything more than average right now. That may sound like a knock, but remember how rare it is to see a high school prospect with three present average or better pitches. An average third pitch may not be a negative, but it does highlight a clear area where Cole could stand to improve this spring. There are currently conflicting reports on the existence of Cole’s slider (I personally haven’t seen it), but smarter men than I have clocked it anywhere from 78-81 miles per hour. The similar velocities of the slider and his knuckle curve has me wondering if Cole actually throws two distinct breaking balls at all. If I had to guess, I’d say his actual repertoire consists of a fastball, a spike curve sharp enough that it’s been confused with a slider, and a changeup with above-average downward movement that may or may not be held with an actual splitter grip. A rough conservative breakdown of that arsenal might look something like this:

Fastball: 60/70
Curveball: 45/60
Changeup: 40/55

I see a lot to like in the Cole’s delivery and throwing mechanics. His arm action seems nice and easy and he appears to have little trouble repeating the same consistent 3/4 delivery from pitch to pitch, batter to batter. The one negative thing I can say about Cole’s mechanics is that he seems to rush through each step of his delivery a heck of a lot quicker than most guys I’ve seen. That last problem seems like one that can be corrected with good professional coaching, but that’s an evaluation that will be made on a team-by-team basis this spring.

Speaking of pitching mechanics, allow me to make an admission of apathy on the subject. It’s true, I’m largely indifferent to pitching mechanics. My pet theory is that 99.99% of the baseball watching population can only derive so much usefulness from evaluating a pitcher’s throwing mechanics. In my estimation, all pitching deliveries fall somewhere along a bell curve  that looks a little bit like the following – maybe 15% of the time a pitcher’s mechanics are so perfect (Nolan Ryan, for example) that it is abundantly clear whatever he is doing is working and will continue to work going forward, roughly 15% of the time a guy’s mechanics are so obviously cringe-worthy that you can’t help classify his arm as nothing more than a ticking time bomb, and then there is that big fat middle 60% or so that falls somewhere in between the two extremes. If a pitcher has mechanics in that middle part of the curve, I’m willing to change my personal focus from analyzing each individual part of the setup, windup, and follow through (yeah, like I can really do that anyway…) to worrying about a) does the pitcher have any kind of track record of arm problems, b) can the pitcher repeat whatever they are doing on the mound pitch after pitch after pitch, c) does the pitcher maintain velocity of his fastball and sharpness of his breaking balls, and d) does the pitcher tip off the batter by showing clear differences in arm speed when throwing different pitches. Those four things are what I care about most. That is, of course, unless something obviously good or bad (highly subjective, I know) jumps out at me. If enough people I talk to/read like a certain guy’s mechanics, I’m sold. If, in addition to getting a passing mark from somebody I trust, the pitcher is able to repeat his delivery and maintain a consistent velocity while doing so, I’m sold twice over.

The popular industry comp of Porcello works in a lot of ways, but I much prefer sizing the young Florida righthander up with Porcello’s Detroit teammate, Justin Verlander. Verlander represents Cole’s ultimate upside as a big leaguer, but it’s interesting to compare the two pitchers at similar points in their development. Despite possessing a 93 MPH peak velocity fastball, Verlander wasn’t even drafted coming out of Goochland HS (VA). Scouts questioned his shaky control and inconsistent mechanics while also citing concerns over how his 6-4, 170 pound high school frame would hold up as a professional. He embarked on an intense workout program upon enrolling at Old Dominion that helped move him closer to the finished product that we see today. Cole offers a similar velocity floor (low-90s) when compared to the high school version of Verlander, but has the edge when it comes to prep peak velocity as he has been clocked as high as 96-98 MPH at various stages in the past year. So, Cole has a better fastball at this point in his development, plus more consistent breaking stuff and a more advanced overall feel for pitching. If, and it is admittedly a pretty sizable if, Cole’s 6-5, 190 pound frame fills out like Verlander’s similarly projectable high school frame did, then you could eventually be talking about two very similar pitching prospects come draft time.  With a little more muscle packed on, Cole’s fastball has the potential to be one of the signature pitches in all of baseball much in the same way Verlander’s heater has emerged as a special offering.

If you don’t like the Verlander comp, or the more popular Wheeler/Porcello industry comps, maybe you like the totally coincidental comparison to a trio of Yankee stars, future, present, and past – Phil Hughes, AJ Burnett, and a bigger and harder throwing version of Mike Mussina. When the upside is Burnett (3 WAR floor), Mussina (future HOFer), and Verlander (2.80 FIP in 2009), and the most similar prospects in reason memory are Rick Porcello ($3.5 million bonus) and Phil Hughes (BA’s fourth best prospect in baseball in 2007), only signability concerns or injury will keep you out of the first ten picks.