The more I think about Peter O’Brien as a prospect, the more I think a comparison to Tommy Joseph makes sense. Both are big guys, both have some questions about their defensive future (Joseph has put most of these concerns to rest, but it has taken time), and both have the one plus tool that will keep them getting work for the foreseeable future: huge raw power. He had an auspicious pro debut, but that doesn’t change his basic scouting profile. If he can catch, he’ll be a star. Unlike many other catchers with questionable futures behind the dish, O’Brien should bring enough offense to give him a shot even if moved to first base. They key phrasing there is “give him a shot”: the bar is so darn high for the position that I’m not bold and/or stupid enough to say he’s a definite starting caliber big league first baseman. Not for nothing, but I had him ranked 94th on my final pre-draft big board…and the Yankees picked him with the 94th overall pick. Blind squirrel, acorn, etc.
100 plate appearances doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but I have to admit to being a teeny tiny bit worried about Nathan Mikolas’ professional debut. Worse prospects than Mikolas have had worse pro starts (.134/.290/.171) and still gone on to bigger and better things, so I think it is time to put that teeny tiny bit of doubt to bed. Mikolas may or may not be a good big league hitter, but those 100 plate appearances shouldn’t sway me one way or another. All that aside, I really believe in Mikolas’ bat. The limb I wouldn’t go out on for O’Brien is one that I’m happy to hop on for Mikolas. His bat is good enough for every day first base duty, though it will take some time. Matt Snyder was old for Staten Island, but he did the job he was asked to do. He has some righty-mashing platoon potential, though I’m not sure that the Yankees, or any team for that matter, has such a role in mind for their DH spot. You can copy that last sentence and apply the same logic to Saxon Butler. It’ll be interesting to see what the Yankees do with their three new lefthanded hitting first base prospects. I think Mikolas’ bat is advanced enough for full-season ball (ugly pro debut notwithstanding), but the presence of college sluggers Snyder and Butler creates a logjam in the system’s lower levels. The tea leaves seem to indicate that Butler will be in Tampa (A+), Snyder in Charleston (A), and Mikolas in Staten Island (R).
I love the OF to 2B conversion, so it should go without saying that the news of Robert Refsnyder moving from Arizona outfielder to Riverdogs second baseman made my day. Unfortunately, the transition appears to be on hold, at least for the time being. As a second baseman Refsnyder becomes a really intriguing prospect. He’s a great athlete with above-average speed, sneaky pop, and the grinder mentality that endears him to scouts, coaches, and teammates. He more than held his own with the bat at Charleston – strong walk rate, good success stealing bags – but it does without saying that his well-rounded offensive profile plays a lot better in the middle of the infield than it would as a corner outfielder. It still sounds like second base is in his future, but we’ll know more in a few months. A natural comparison here is Phillies draft prospect and fellow OF to 2B Andrew Pullin; it’ll be fun to track their two careers over the next few seasons.
Yankees fans have every right to be excited about Austin Aune as a prospect. As a former football star, there’s plenty of untapped raw talent and athleticism waiting to turn into actualized baseball skills with the help of consistent at bats and good coaching. If that was all Aune was, that would be enough. His tools are that good. There’s more to his game than just doing whatever comes naturally athletically. Aune is more advanced as a ballplayer than many give him credit, from his sweet lefthanded swing to his ability to make consistent hard contact no matter where the ball is pitched. As his body fills out and his raw power begins showing up more often when the lights come on, watch out.
Aune is joined in the 2012 Yankee draft class outfield by Taylor Dugas. I won’t try to put too fine a point on this, so I’ll just come out and say it: I love Taylor Dugas. He’s got three average or slightly better tools (hit, speed, defense), one slightly below-average tool (arm), and one well below-average tool (power). That skill set isn’t entirely uncommon, but what sets Dugas apart is his phenomenal plate discipline. I understand those who think he’ll top out in the high minors after pitchers, with little fear of an extra base hit, begin daring him to hit pitches in the strike zone. But just because I understand it doesn’t mean I agree with it. If Dugas fails to make the big leagues, I’ll do something crazy. Like eat a sautéed mushroom, the most disgusting food I can think of at the moment. Now that’s confidence! I will admit that there is some weirdness with Dugas being a Yankee. He feels like he should be a Padre. That said, his being a member of the Yankees organization does give him a perfect player to emulate in pro ball: Brett Gardner. That’s a pretty fantastic comp, if I do say so myself. Dugas should follow the Gardner path – Staten Island in year one, then Tampa and Trenton in year two – if all goes according to plan. I’m hoping that’s the case since I’m only 50 minutes on the train away from beautiful downtown Trenton, New Jersey.
I consistently get Ty Hensley and Shane Watson confused, so it was only fitting that the Yankees selected the former ten picks before the Phillies popped the latter. The two righthanders, born roughly two weeks apart, are very similar prospects across the board. Hensley has a little bit of bulk on Watson, but they are like twins otherwise. Like Watson, Hensley has a pro body, plus fastball, curveball with plus upside, and quickly emerging changeup that should be at least an average pitch in time. The overall package is rather impressive. Both Hensley and Watson should rank at or near the top of their respective organization’s pitching prospect rankings. Both pitchers have big league average upside (no small feat for a starting pitcher) or better. I’m just spitballing here, but I think Hensley is second only to Manny Banuelos in the Yankee pitching pecking order with the chance to rank as high as fourth overall (also behind both Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams) in the entire system.
I’ve said before that I don’t really believe in the concept of a sleeper. Look at Corey Black, the Yankees fourth round pick out of tiny Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama. All signs point to a sleeper, right? I mean, I’ve read on other sites that he was a sleeper, so it must be true. Well, Black’s career doesn’t begin and end at Faulkner University. He was once a big name at San Diego State. Before that, like many so-called sleepers, he was a standout prep prospect. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that Black has been on the draft radar going on five years now. I get that I devote far more time and energy to this stuff than the vast majority of the baseball consuming population, but it still burns me up when mainstream media types tout players as sleepers who are in no way sleepers. To some it seems that any player taken after the first day is a sleeper. Pandering to an audience that, let’s be honest, doesn’t give a darn about amateur baseball 364 days out of the year may be part of the job at some of the industry leaders, but don’t pretend that you’re a draft expert when you aren’t. Baseball America and Perfect Game are largely exempt from my rant, by the way. To a man the employees of both outlets do consistently excellent work on draft coverage. Moving on…
Corey Black’s upside depends on how great of a chance you think he has to start. As a starter, he has mid-rotation upside thanks to an excellent fastball, above-average change, and whatever breaking ball he can get over on a daily basis. Bonus points should be awarded for his ability to hold his velocity late into games. He’s also likely to be one of the better hitting pitchers wherever he goes. If left to his own in the bullpen, however, he has a chance to pitch some serious late inning, high leverage innings. Like most guys, you’ve got to try him as a starter and let him pitch in the rotation until he shows you he’s a reliever.
New York hit up many traditional scouting outposts like the Oklahoma and Texas prep ranks, as well as poaching players from talent-rich universities like Miami, Arizona, and LSU. What stood out to me, however, was their willingness to go beyond the typical talent boundaries and expand their search to exotic locales like Wisconsin, Montana, Ontario, and Utah. Mikolas is the poster boy for New York’s nationwide quest for talent, but he’s not the only cold weather prospect of note. Brady Lail, out of Utah, is an unquestionably great pick way down in the 18th round. In many respects, Brady Lail is Mr. High School Pitching Prospect. Like so many high school pitching prospects, Lail sits mostly upper-80s yet has a frame that suggests more velocity is in his future. Lail also features a breaking ball that can and should be a well above-average big league offering in time. However, like so many high school pitching prospects, he currently lacks the necessary third pitch to make it as an effective starter in pro ball. Lail gives you a lot to work with, so much so that it isn’t a stretch to say he has the potential to someday be in a big league rotation. Bridging the gap between what he is and what he’ll be, however, is where the fun comes in.
The trajectory of Lail’s career will be fascinating to follow, especially if you buy my thesis that he’s Mr. High School Pitching Prospect. Every young player’s career can go in an infinite number of directions at this developmental point, with so much depending on factors that are ostensibly outside of the player’s control. We’re talking things like coaching, injury, and opportunity here. Different developmental staffs have different ideas on how much of a difference they can really make in any young player. Some young arms just seem to get it in pro ball, some don’t. Some staffs believe certain pitches – most often breaking balls – are either in an arm or aren’t, others believe that any pitcher gifted with a big time arm can be taught how to spin a ball over time. Lail’s career won’t offer any particular insight into prospect development, especially with the limited information available to those removed from the process; he will, however, become another cog in the proverbial high risk/high reward baseball prospect machine.
Nick Goody had an excellent start to his pro career, something that really isn’t all the shocking considering the excellent season he had at LSU. As a general rule, relievers who dominate SEC competition fare quite well in the low minors. I can definitely see Goody becoming a favorite of the numbers-first crowd. Those who have seen him pitch share similar affection thanks to a sneaky fast fastball and well above-average breaking ball. Taylor Garrison is cut from a similar cloth. Comparable fastball, command, and breaking ball all wrapped up in a diminutive (i.e. under 6-foot) package. Garrison has a better third pitch (changeup), but Goody’s overall package is still stronger. Both seem likely to start the season in Tampa with Goody holding an outside shot at beginning a step ahead in AA.
Derek Varnadore is mostly fastball/slider coming out of the bullpen. He’s a clear step below both Goody and Garrison in the pecking order, but could still be one of those guys who hangs on long enough and someday gets his chance in the bigs. My favorite (pre-draft) reliever drafted by the Yankees is Stefan Lopez. I think Lopez has a chance to be a really fine bullpen piece. His fastball is one of those pitches that hitters can know is coming and still not make solid contact. Combine that with an above-average slider and decent feel for the slow stuff, and you’ve got yourself a potential big league reliever. That’s a really nice outcome for a player taken in the 16th round.
The Yankees collection of draft lefties isn’t something to write home about, but there are a few interesting names that should be familiar to fans of college baseball. Eric Erickson is one of the better stories to emerge from the 2012 draft class. I know for a fact that seeing him pitch well in pro ball pleased a lot of the scouts who have followed him over the past few seasons. He’s overcome a great deal from an injury standpoint to get this far, and he has a lot of fans in the industry who would like nothing more than to see him continue defy the odds. Now here comes the splash of cold water. Erickson has an incredibly tough road ahead of him if he ever wants to reach the highest level. Erickson will start next season having already turned 25 years old. As a point of reference, Dietrich Enns, another college lefty drafted by New York, turns 22 in May of next year. The two guys had weirdly similar underlying numbers in their debuts, but those three years make a big time difference going forward. Age alone doesn’t make Enns the better prospect – I’d go so far as to argue age is overrated for pitching prospects, especially guys with ceilings that top out in the bullpen – but with similar scouting profiles, statistical backgrounds, and body types, the edge goes to the younger, healthier arm.
No matter what happens in Erickson’s professional future, I hope he takes comfort in being able to say he pitched for the Yankees (Staten Island) in pro ball. That’s something nobody can ever take away from him. Stories like Erickson’s bring us back to remembering that the players drafted each year are real life living people. Becoming a successful big league player is the goal for everybody, but keeping the incredible journey along the way in perspective is plenty important in its own right.
As for the aforementioned Enns, well, he’s a little bit like the MAC version of Michael Roth. Unless that’s Kent State lefty David Starn. Turns out that high pitchability lefthanders with unexciting stuff aren’t so uncommon in college after all. Who knew?
More words were typed on the other guys, but I like James Pazos from San Diego the most out of the bunch. He did a nice job out of the bullpen for Staten Island, though I’d like to see him get a chance in a rotation starting next season. He has enough of a three pitch mix to get by, and his ability to induce groundballs is encouraging.
I didn’t write much or anything about the non-Lail trio of prep arms the Yankees managed to sign for $100,000 apiece past round 10. Caleb Frare, from noted baseball hotbed Montana, is a lefty with reasonable upside, Dayton Dawe of the Great White North has an advanced arsenal for a high school arm and good athleticism, and Jose Mesa Jr. is, well, Jose Mesa Jr. The world is a better place with a Joe Table in pro ball.
2.94 Miami C Peter O’Brien
8. Miami SR C Peter O’Brien: nothing has changed when it comes to O’Brien’s basic scouting report: plus-plus power and a strong arm, but below-average everywhere else; what has changed is his level of competition – doing what he did in the ACC has opened some eyes, and rightfully so; his hit tool isn’t as strong and he’s a better bet to stick behind the plate, but I think a comparison between O’Brien and last year’s preeminent college power hitter CJ Cron has some merit – if O’Brien had been moved off of catcher coming into the year, I wonder if scouts would appreciate his bat more rather than focusing on the negatives of his defense; 6-5, 225 pounds
3.124 Bradford HS (WI) 1B Nathan Mikolas
1. 1B Nathan Mikolas (Bradford HS, Wisconsin): strong hit tool; above-average power upside; good athlete; really smart young hitter; quick bat; can hit to all fields; questionable defender and athlete; best position is batter’s box; has also played some OF; 6-2, 200 pounds
10.337 Mississippi 1B Matt Snyder
26. Mississippi SR 1B Matt Snyder: mature approach pairs well with mature, physical, strong as an ox frame; well above-average raw power; average at best hit tool, but better than that of most college senior sign sluggers; below-average defender; below-average speed; 6-6, 215 pounds
33.1027 Samford 1B Saxon Butler
39. Samford SR 1B Saxon Butler: unheralded junior college transfer who has hit a ton since getting to campus; above-average present power; not a lot of projection nor is there much to his game outside of the batter’s box, but should be quality pro hitter; 6-2, 225 pounds
5.187 Arizona 2B Robert Refsnyder
129. Arizona JR OF Robert Refsnyder: plus athlete; 55 speed; big raw power, but currently to gaps (10 HRs a year?); strong arm for RF; gets most out of tools; strong hit tool; 6-1, 205 pounds
2.89 Argyle HS (TX) OF Austin Aune
20. OF Austin Aune (Argyle HS, Texas): pretty lefthanded swing; great athlete; first round tools; football star who is a questionable sign; good runner; strong arm; can hit the ball anywhere it is pitched; 6-3, 190 pounds
8.277 Alabama OF Taylor Dugas
63. Alabama SR OF Taylor Dugas: advanced idea of strike zone; above-average speed; good athlete; gap power; average at best arm; little power; good CF range; leadoff profile; earned one of my all-time all-caps FAVORITE designations going back to his sophomore season; drills high velocity with no problem; smart on bases; as much as I love him, I understand he has a limited ceiling and will have to continually drastically outperform more physically talented players to keep moving up through a system; 5-7, 175 pounds
1.30 Santa Fe HS (OK) RHP Ty Hensley
29. RHP Ty Hensley (Santa Fe HS, Oklahoma): 88-93 FB, 94-95 peak; velocity has been up at times, sitting 92-95, peaking 97-98; good FB command; really good 74-79 CB with plus upside that he relies on heavily; emerging 79-82 CU; 84-86 SL that he has difficult commanding; strong hitter; two potential plus pitches and a big league frame are a great start, but he’ll have to continue developing a third pitch, likely his nascent change, going forward; as is, he has first day stuff; 6-5, 220 pounds
4.157 Faulkner RHP Corey Black
56. Faulkner (AL) JR RHP Corey Black: 90-95 FB, 96 peak; holds velocity late; velocity way up in 2012: sitting 94-96, 98-99 peak; above-average 81-84 CU; occasional CB, average SL; transferred from San Diego State; good fielder; nice line drive swing; 5-11, 180 pounds
6.217 LSU RHP Nick Goody
180. LSU JR RHP Nick Goody: 88-92 FB, 94 peak; promising 78-82 breaking ball that falls somewhere between slider and power curve; good deception in delivery helps his fastball play up; has the small sample size of any one-year college reliever, but really hard to find fault with his 2012 performances (below); 6-0, 190 pounds
7.247 Fresno State RHP Taylor Garrison
187. Fresno State SR RHP Taylor Garrison: 89-93 FB, 94 peak; good command; good SL with cutter action; above-average CU; also throws CB; 5-10, 160 pounds
9.307 Auburn RHP Derek Varnadore
290. Auburn SR RHP Derek Varnadore: 89-92 FB, rare 94 peak; improved SL, has really firmed up – now 86-88 and an above-average pitch; shows CU; good deception; total package adds up to a solid mid- to late-round senior sign and a potential middle reliever if he hangs on long enough; 6-4, 215 pounds
13.427 San Diego LHP James Pazos
291. San Diego JR LHP James Pazos: 88-92 FB, 93 peak; good CU; SL with upside; has the repertoire, delivery, and demeanor to potentially start in pro ball; 6-3, 225 pounds
16.517 Southeastern Louisiana RHP Stefan Lopez
144. Southeastern Louisiana JR RHP Stefan Lopez: 89-94 FB, 95 peak; good FB command; relies heavily on FB; good 84 SL that he should use more of; might throw one CU per outing, if that; recovered from torn ACL in 2011; I’m on an island with this one, but I think pro coaching and continued progress as he heals from his knee injury could turn Lopez into a viable late-inning big league pitcher, potentially a closer; 6-2, 190 pounds
18.577 Bingham HS (UT) RHP Brady Lail
143. RHP Brady Lail (Bingham HS, Utah): 86-90 FB, 92 peak; good athlete; good 74-77 kCB; very good command, especially on breaking ball; shows CU, but still a raw third pitch; 6-3, 180 pounds
19.607 Central Michigan LHP Dietrich Enns
485. Central Michigan JR LHP Dietrich Enns: 88-92 FB; good CU; one of the country’s smartest pitchers and a lot of fun to watch him work; 6-1, 190 pounds
34.1057 Miami LHP Eric Erickson
356. Miami SR LHP Eric Erickson: 88-90 FB; CB; CU; 6-0, 190 pounds
Josh Ludy is a shining example of why college baseball is a smart option for some players. Ignoring the fact that he wasn’t a highly regarded prospect out of high school, signing at that point in his development would have been big trouble for Ludy’s career. It took him two years to get regular at bats for Baylor. When he finally got his big chance his junior year, his offensive output was met with an emphatic “meh.” Bet you didn’t think you could make “meh” emphatically, but you can. If Ludy had done what he had done in college in the pros, then the odds of him getting a pink tag in his locker at some point along the way would have been high. In college, however, you get more rope. Not a ton of rope, mind you, but more than in professional ball. With one more season to prove himself a legitimate professional talent, Ludy stepped up his game in a big way. That’s the good news for Ludy.
The counter-point to that heartwarming tale is the cruel reality that it is smart to beware college seniors who beat up on teenage arms fresh out of high school. When a college senior dominates Rookie ball, it is expected. Nobody raises an eyebrow when a grown man pummels teenage pitching. The competition at most major college conferences is comparable, especially when you look at most schools Friday/Saturday night starting pitchers. Ludy’s story is a good one, but there’s still a long way between the joy of a successful draft day and reaching the big leagues. He did a nice job in low-A Lakewood as a 22-year old, so perhaps the adjustments made over the years at Baylor have more meaning than initially thought. His story of perseverance makes him a fun guy to root for, in any case. I think the gains he has made as a hitter are legit, but it’ll be his glove, which ranges from adequate to unplayable on any given day, that determines his long range professional future. I like fellow college catcher Chad Carman and think he has value as an experienced backstop capable of guiding young pitching through the ups and downs of professional baseball. Whether or not he ever reaches the highest level remains to be seen – like any double-digit round prospect, it’s a long shot – but it seems likely he’ll provide value to whatever team he plays on regardless of what shows up in the box score.
Regular readers of the site know that I’m a big fan of comps. I think comps are a great way of bridging the gap between obsessive minor league and amateur baseball fans (that’s me and likely anybody reading this by choice) and casual big league only fans. A good comp gives a frame of reference – could be about tools, body type, mechanics, potential production, almost anything – that sheds light on prospects that often play in relative darkness. I understand the complaint that comps can create unrealistic expectations for players. I think that expectations on certain guys can get out of hand regardless of what I, or, more likely, anybody with a wider reach than I says about a particular prospect. Blaming the comp itself is an unnecessary copout. Expectations for prospects can be directly tied to what the industry leaders write. Comps or not, players ranked highly and praised publicly are viewed as future superstars who will hit the ground running from day one of their big league careers. If anything, I believe comps, when done responsibly, can actually help create a more realistic set of possible outcomes for any given player. Take the pre-draft note I heard on Chris Serritella. A scout who saw both players said that Serritella reminded him of Paul Goldschmidt at similar points in their respective development. If the reader’s take away from that is Serritella = Goldschmidt, then somewhere along the way the ball has been dropped. That was not the intention of the original note, but I can see why somebody might read Goldschmidt’s name in connection with Serritella and just run with the comp.
This is where it pays to be responsible whenever throwing out comps. I should have been clearer with the original note. There are some vague similarities between Serritella and Goldschmidt, but also some pretty huge differences (e.g. handedness). The comp originated based on what I had hoped was a fairly simple question: of all the college bat-only prospects in this year’s draft, which player could surprise in the same way Paul Goldschmidt once did? Serritella was the answer I received, but that doesn’t mean Serritella will ever necessarily achieve what Goldschmidt has. It is worth noting that Paul Goldschmidt wasn’t the Paul Goldschmidt we now know back when he was a draft prospect. Prospect development is weird and unpredictable, after all.
At the same age as Serritella, Goldschmidt socked 35 dingers in high-A (Cal League, but still), adding up to a total of 53 pro home runs to that point. Serritella has hit six homers in Rookie ball. I like Serritella because I’m a sucker for watching good power hitters hit, but it doesn’t take a genius to see he has a good amount of ground to make up if he ever wants to approach such a lofty comp. Luckily, he won’t have to turn himself into an everyday starter at first base to provide value as a fourth round pick. Serritella can have a long, fruitful career as a bench bat if he keeps up a good to very good yet not great hitting path. Or, more optimistically, Serritella could find himself in a first base timeshare where he can just mash righthanded pitching whenever the opportunity arises. Most teams shy away from platoons these days, especially at glamor hitting spots like first base, but that doesn’t really change how Serritella could potentially be useful. A smart team will find a way to utilize his talents, assuming he hits as expected.
William Carmona has serious power in his bat. Unfortunately, a below-average approach limits the utility of his one plus tool. His defensive shortcomings – bad in an outfield corner, worse at third base – lock him into first base over the long run. As an org guy who can help a minor league lineup win some games with his pop he’s fine, but very few players with his scouting profile ever reach the highest level. Honestly, I can’t think of any.
Cameron Perkins has a realistic floor of four-corners (LF/RF/3B/1B) bench bat, especially with the way he sees lefthanded pitching. The dearth of starting caliber big league third basemen makes him more of a prospect than he might otherwise be. If he gets his act together on defense – I say it like it is really as simple as that – then he has a chance to get regular time at the hot corner. I can see the future in Philadelphia now: a Cody Asche/Cameron Perkins platoon at third base. Third base has been an organizational black hole for almost fifteen years, so forgive me for fantasizing about Cody and Cameron mashing their way to the top together. I will say this: in much the same way Asche seemingly came out of nowhere this season, Perkins could do the same in 2013. I’m not crazy enough to predict that Perkins will go from Rookie ball to tearing up AA next year, but even suggesting the possibility is exciting. Perkins has some big time sleeper upside. For the record, Asche was the 2011 MLB Draft’s 170th best prospect (according to all-knowing me) while Perkins came in at 98th in 2012. That isn’t the best way to compare the two as draft prospects — last year’s draft had a lot more depth across the board – so I’ve included Asche’s brief pre-draft report below:
“Really like his approach, but have been underwhelmed by his overall package thus far” – that’s what I had in my notes re: Asche coming into the year. I’m happy to say that I’m no longer underwhelmed and now considered myself appropriately whelmed by his performance. I wasn’t alone in worrying that he wouldn’t stick at third coming into the year, but am now ready to go out on a limb and say I think his athleticism and instincts make him underrated at the position. Despite his very powerful throwing arm he’ll never be a good defender at third, but if his plus raw power would look really good if he can at least play at or around average defense as a pro.
Interesting to compare that to Perkins’ pre-draft report (found below). Here are their respective junior season park/schedule adjusted numbers for good measure:
Asche: .337/.437/.668 – 36 BB/39 K – 208 AB
Perkins: .406/.448/.613 – 12 BB/16 K – 217 AB
There’s not really a direct comparison to make between the two prospects, just some food for thought. Third base is a strength in the Phillies minor league system, if you can believe it. Keeping that in mind, I think Perkins could start the season in low-A Lakewood. If the Phillies aren’t as committed to keeping Perkins at third as I hope, then he could get challenged with the high-A Clearwater assignment, a la Asche last year. Maikel Franco should be getting the vast majority of time at third base for the Threshers, so Perkins would be best served in Lakewood if having him play third every day is the desired outcome. There will be an opening at AA Reading, but that’s a major stretch for a first full year starting assignment for a position player taken outside of the first round.
Tim Carver is a warm body who can catch the ball consistently at short. He’s not a big leaguer, but he can still give a professional organization some value. It never hurts having a sure-handed shortstop fielding grounders behind young pitching. The selection of Zach Green genuinely caught me by surprise. After getting over the initial shock, I can at least see what the Phillies were thinking: interesting defensive tools that play up due to excellent instincts and an advanced bat for a prep infielder. He played mostly third after signing, but I think he’s best left to fend for himself at short. The potential glut of third basemen in the system – man it feels weird writing that — has a tiny something to do with it, but it has more to do with Green’s good enough range and hands. It’s possible he’ll keep growing and overshoot the position anyway, but leaving him up the middle makes him a really interesting prospect rather than just another lottery ticket.
You can flip a coin between Perkins and Andrew Pullin to decide which position player drafted by the Phillies is the better bet going forward. The two were actually ranked back-to-back on my final big board: 98th for Perkins, 99th for Pullin. Pullin’s professional switch to second base gives him the edge currently as the best 2012 MLB Draft Phillies position player prospect. Sometimes it is harder to write a lot about favorite prospects because the prose can get a little too flowery and optimistic, so I’ll try to keep it brief with Pullin. Simply put, Pullin has star potential at second base. He won’t wow you with his tools, but he’ll still find a way to leave you walking away impressed. He’s extremely well-rounded for a young player, working deep counts yet always coming out on the positive ledger of the patient vs passive approach to hitting. He’s obviously a work in progress in the infield, but there’s little doubt that he has the hands, feet, and arm to make the conversion a success. The thought of him working as a double play combination with Roman Quinn playing to his right at Lakewood (Low-A) at some point next season makes me very happy. Keeping in mind everything I said about comps earlier, the Pullin/Quinn pairing up the middle looks a little bit like the Chase Utley/Jimmy Rollins duo. Utley and Rollins will both finish their careers as rock solid members of the Hall of Very Good, so projecting any prospect to someday play at that level is likely an exercise in futility. But it never hurts to dream, right?
The Dylan Cozens selection was widely panned by the industry leaders in the days that followed the draft. The impressive power, patience, and speed he showed as an 18-year old in the GCL shouldn’t be enough to quiet down those who initially opposed the pick, but I hope it puts to rest the idea that Cozens will never ever make it in pro ball. Cozens was a victim of both limited exposure and easily attainable information this spring. I think he makes for an excellent study in how opinions are formed in the online draft community. There’s such a fine line between trusting the data, empirical or otherwise, attained throughout the draft process and trusting the people within big league scouting staffs who evaluate amateur players for a living.
I don’t think one should like a pick simply because a certain team valued a player highly. It can be part of the conversation, but not the entire basis of liking or disliking a move. This phenomenon seems most common with minor league players, as certain teams (e.g. Tampa over the past few years, Texas currently) have such a strong track record of developing talent that it seems their players get a boost in rankings whether they deserve it or not. It also happens with the draft: see the fawning over any prep arm selected by Logan White and the Dodgers from a few years ago.
While I don’t think one should automatically like a pick because a certain scouting department made it, I do think there is some logic to the idea. It is alright to take a step back and try to consider what the drafting team knows that the general public might not. A few in the business appear to be of the mindset that it is best to form an opinion early and then stick to it no matter what evidence is uncovered along the way. A team drafting a player you ranked 239th (as I ranked Cozens) before the draft with the 77th overall pick doesn’t make anybody right or wrong. It is, however, a data point to be considered when reassessing the player. Ignoring the possibility that you might have misjudged the player initially negates any possibility for growth as an analyst of the sport. What did the Phillies see that I didn’t? What did they know that I didn’t? If after doubling back and re-researching the prospect still leads to the original conclusion on the player, so be it. But to simply dismiss the pick as a massive overdraft is missing an opportunity to do this job better.
I don’t get a chance to see every player in person; even if I did there wouldn’t be a great deal of value to come out of the limited looks from my admittedly amateur eye. Too many prospect writers seem to have made this industry an either or proposition in recent years. Either you go out and see prospects and write “scouting reports,” or you do your best as an aggregator of as many valuable sources as you can. Forgive me if I’m tilting at windmills here, but, really, what’s the harm in doing both? Trust your own opinion, but seek out others to either support or refute what you think you already know. I love going to games and watching video above all else, but I’m not foolhardy enough to think that my own view is the final word. I rely a great deal on my own little web of sources throughout the game. I’d also be lying if I said that I didn’t read and listen to what the industry leaders report on amateur prospects. When Aaron Fitt writes about a college pitcher sitting 88-92 with an above-average slider, that’s information that I can eventually use to help build a fuller picture of a prospect. I literally see no downside to this approach. Alright, I feel better. Let’s move on.
We’ll never know for sure if Cozens was “overdrafted” because we don’t have every team’s big board at our disposal. For all we know, Cozens may have been taken with the very next pick after Philadelphia at 77 if the Phillies decided to pass. All we know for sure is that the Phillies had him down as being worth at least a second round pick, possibly higher. That doesn’t make him good, bad, or anything in between, but, again, it is a viable data point to consider when evaluating him as a prospect. I compared Cozens to Wallace Gonzalez before the draft, but I now think it safe to say that Cozens is a far more athletic prospect who is also more advanced as a hitter. His defense will be something to watch closely, especially if he still has some growing to do in his 6-6, 235 pound frame. I’ve now heard him compared to what Aaron Judge, a potential first round pick from Fresno State, looked like from both an athletic standpoint and as a hitter (opposite handedness) coming out of high school. That would put Cozens’ upside at big league regular or better, depending on your current view of Judge. I’m cautiously optimistic about Cozens’ future.
Steven Golden fits the old Phillies mold of prep outfield prospect. He’s very athletic, a good runner, and an even better defender. The jury is still out on how much power he’ll grow into over the long run. As mentioned in his pre-draft report, I do like his hit tool – he has a far more balanced swing than the typical toolsy high school prospect – more than most I’ve talked to and read. The trouble with projecting high school bats like Golden (i.e. leadoff-type hitters) is that there’s really no telling what kind of plate discipline they’ll show once they get going in pro ball. There are a few indicators to watch out for from a scouting standpoint while they are still playing high school and summer ball, but plate discipline remains the toughest skill to project with any young amateur. There have been three big league players with the surname Golden (Jim, Mike, Roy), so the race to become number four is officially on. Steven will face still competition from last year’s second round pick by the Cubs, Reggie. Both are long shots.
Shane Watson and Mitchell Gueller will forever be linked together in the minds of fans associating the two supplemental first round picks as a package deal. At least that’s how I see it, anyway. Gueller’s fastball is on par with Watson’s, but his breaking ball isn’t as strong at present. A quick categorization of the two puts Watson as more of a polished pitcher (i.e. more pitchability, more refined stuff, better idea of how to put away hitters, etc.) and Gueller as more of an athletic project. That isn’t meant to downplay Watson’s ceiling; the popular Brett Myers comps speak to his mid-rotation or better upside.
One key thing both players share is a late season velocity spike that helped vault their draft stock considerably. Watson went from low-90s peaks to hitting 96. Gueller did the same. One of the interesting subplots to track with Gueller is how his desire to hit will impact his professional future. The Phillies gave him 900,000+ reasons to forget about hitting for the time being, but you have to wonder if his mind will drift back to life in the batter’s box if/when he struggles on the mound. That’s largely baseless conjecture on my end, so feel free to dismiss it if you like. I think there’s a strong argument that Gueller is the superior long-range prospect, especially if you’re all about upside – something about these cold weather pitchers with fewer miles on arm and extremely athletic builds – but the relative safety of Watson gives him the slim advantage. The fact that two really strong young pitching prospects will likely rank closer to 15 than 5 on most offseason organizational prospect rankings is a testament to the quality depth the Phillies have brought in over the past few seasons. I have Watson and Gueller each behind the lefthanded one-two punch of Jesse Biddle and Adam Morgan, likely behind righthanders Ethan Martin, Trevor May, and Jon Pettibone, and ahead of a large group of intriguing future late game relievers like Kenneth Giles, Lisalberto Bonilla, and, unfortunately yet inevitably, Brody Colvin.
Hoby Milner has all of the elements of recent Phillies mid- to late-round lefthanded pitching college steals. That’s what I originally wrote before going back and checking the last decade of Phillies drafts. Turns out they do seem to make a point of targeting a college lefthander or two within the draft’s first few rounds, but the success rate isn’t as high as I had imagined. It’s still very good, sure, but not quite as infallible as my memory wanted me to believe. Names like Justin Blaine (6th round) and Dan Brauer (6th round) are among the swings and misses. Phillies brass has to hope Milner’s more JA Happ and Adam Morgan than Bryan Morgado and Matthew Way, to say nothing of the worthy yet failed gamble on Joe Savery. I liked Milner a lot, ranking him over 100 spots higher on my pre-draft list than where he was actually drafted and noting that I think he’ll be a better pro than collegiate player. His body still has room to either add a few ticks to his peak fastball (from 92-93 peak to 95-96), gain more consistency on his sitting velocity (even if he moves from his current mid- to upper-80s to 88-91 that’s a good thing), or, in a perfect world, both. He has the potential for three above-average pitches (FB/CB/CU) that should help him start for the big club down the line. I don’t think this is necessarily a bold prediction, but all that is keeping him away from truly reaching his pro potential could be a better workout program, good pro coaching, and a more responsibly managed workload. Combine all that with his natural talent and he’ll be the first Phillies draft pick from 2012 to reach the big leagues.
Kevin Brady is another potential pitcher who should be better in pro ball than he showed in college. I’m typically a let the pitcher start until he proves he can’t kind of guy, but I think letting Brady stay in the bullpen and fire away is probably the best course of action. He could be a part of an intriguing High-A bullpen that should also include hard throwers Kenneth Giles and recent position player convert Tim Kennelly. Brady’s upside is likely middle relief; in fact, to use a current Phil as a point of comparison, he reminds me some of a more svelte Josh Lindblom.
The Phillies grabbed two more college arms with some relief upside in Zach Cooper and Jeb Stefan. Cooper lacks the prototypical size teams often search for, but he has plenty of arm strength, a good hard slider, and an average changeup. His ERA was exceptional in 34.2 IP (1.30) between Rookie ball and the Low-A, but his peripherals (6.49 K/9 and 4.56 SIERA) aren’t as exciting. Quick and less than thorough research shows that there has never been a player named Jeb to play big league baseball. Jeb Stefan probably won’t be the first, but he has a nice fastball (94 peak) and good size. Like Cooper, he likely lacks the one knockout pitch to make it as a big league reliever.
I happened to write up the Phillies and Yankees draft reviews back-to-back. That statement alone isn’t particularly interesting, but the timing gave my brain the chance to mash up the two drafts over and over again. The conclusion: these two franchises drafted very, very similarly. I get that you could probably play a similar game with any two random teams – ooh, toolsy outfielders and mature college bats…what are the odds of that in a draft with hundreds of players of each type? – but I happened to notice a connection between Philadelphia and New York, so, darnit, I’m going to run with it. Intriguing outfield to second base project? Big conference college catcher with power? Both teams picked them. High school hitter who has seen time at both first and the outfield? Of course. Hulking lefthanded college slugger? You got it. Freak athlete prep outfielder? Highly regarded high school arms at the top of the draft? Check and check. I favor Pullin’s youth, Peter O’Brien’s pedigree, Nathan Mikolas’ bat, Serritella’s well-roundedness, Austin Aune’s pedigree, and Ty Hensley’s present stuff, so that gives the one-to-one battles to New York. The rest of each team’s draft, however, tells a different story: Perkins and Green are better than any drafted Yankee infielder, and I’d rather have the Phils pitching triumvirate of Gueller/Milner/Brady than New York’s Black/Lail/Goody, though that one is closer than I would have guessed a few months ago. When you step back and look at each team’s respective draft, you see two teams with fairly similar draft day personalities. This entire paragraph is likely full of things that interest only me, but I suppose that’s the beauty of complete editorial control.
Yankees review will be up Monday. Enjoy the weekend, everybody.
8.278 C Josh Ludy (Baylor)
44. Baylor SR C Josh Ludy: above-average present power, strong, compact build; has improved in two major areas this spring – first, his questionable glove now has a chance to be average with continued work, and second, his hit tool, previously below-average, has improved just enough to put his power to use thanks to a cleaned up swing; strong arm; good approach; not sure he has the defensive chops to work as a backup, but power and physical strength are intriguing; 5-10, 210 pounds
24.758 C Chad Carman (Oklahoma City)
61. Oklahoma City rSR C Chad Carman: plus defender who defends well enough to warrant late-round consideration as potential backup catching option; age (23 as of May 9) works against him, but still could be of value to a team in need of a quality, professional presence to work with young pitching in low-minors; 5-10, 185 pounds
4.158 1B Chris Serritella (Southern Illinois)
15. Southern Illinois rJR 1B Chris Serritella: despite longish swing, still shows good bat speed capable of hitting big velocity; when everything is working, his swing is one of the prettiest in amateur ball; plus power potential; above-average defender; strong arm; slow even by first baseman standards; strong hit tool; heard a scout compare him developmentally to current Diamondbacks 1B Paul Goldschmidt during his college days; recovered from broken hamate injury with little to no apparent loss in power; like almost every other player on this list, the road to a starting first base job is paved with obstacles – you never want to rule out players with his kind of raw power, but the most likely positive outcome is a bench bat/platoon player; 6-3, 200 pounds
11.368 1B William Carmona (Stony Brook)
117. Stony Brook JR OF William Carmona: plus raw power; below-average plate discipline; poor defender at present with below-average range, so a move to 3B, where I’m not sure he’d be much better, may be necessary; plus arm strength – has hit 94 off mound; 6-0, 225 pounds
5.188 2B Andrew Pullin (Centralia HS, WA)
16. OF Andrew Pullin (Centralia HS, Washington): above-average arm; above-average speed; big raw power, but inconsistent in swing setup; more solid across the board than a standout in one area; little bit of Utley in swing; 6-0, 185 pounds; L/L
19.608 SS Tim Carver (Arkansas)
76. Arkansas rSR SS Tim Carver: similar to teammate and double-play partner Bo Bigham in that both are solid, high character college guys with little professional upside; gets in trouble trying to do too much at the plate at times; good speed; steady defender; 6-0, 185 pounds
3.125 3B Zach Green (Jesuit HS, CA)
21. SS Zach Green (Jesuit HS, California): good defensive instincts, first step is always right on; strong hit tool; average speed; average at best arm; seen as a future 3B, but not sure he arm for it – think he can stay at SS anyway; 6-3, 205 pounds
6.218 3B Cameron Perkins (Purdue)
15. Purdue JR 3B Cameron Perkins: above-average power upside; interesting profile as a hitter: he’s a well-known hacker, but with low strikeout totals and a well above-average ability to hit for contact; average speed; average defender; could be very good in RF; lets ball get very deep on hands; strong arm; good athlete; 6-5, 200 pounds; bad-ball hitter; hard to strikeout; 6-5, 200 pounds
2.77 OF Dylan Cozens (Chapparal HS, AZ)
13. 1B Dylan Cozens (Chaparral HS, Arizona): raw; big power upside; decent speed and good athleticism for big man; average arm; 6-6, 235 pounds; reminds me of Wallace Gonzalez from last year’s draft
13.428 OF Steven Golden (San Lorenzo HS, CA)
40. OF Steven Golden (St. Francis HS, California): good arm; very good speed; good instincts in OF combined with his speed give him plus range; line drive swing with very few moving parts – I like his hit tool more than most, though power upside is questionable; 6-3, 180 pounds; R/R
1s.40 RHP Shane Watson (Lakewood HS, CA)
35. RHP Shane Watson (Lakewood HS, California): 88-91 FB with sink, 92-93 peak; good 74-78 CB; definitely seen a good 76-80 SL; has shown 95-96 peak in spring 2012, sitting 91-93 FB; plus 78-80 CB; very consistent CB; everything down in zone; no real CU to speak of; 6-4, 200 pounds; spring 2012 UPDATE: 89-92 FB, 94 peak; above-average 75-76 CB; raw 78-81 CU; also rumors of 82 very good CB
1s.54 RHP Mitch Gueller (West HS, WA)
44. RHP Mitchell Gueller (WF West HS, Washington): 91-92 peak, up to 96 by early May; above-average speed; great athlete; CF range; low- to mid-70s CB that could be SL in time, either way has plus upside; low-80s CU; would rather hit, but most clubs prefer him on mound; 6-3, 205 pounds
7.248 LHP Hoby Milner (Texas)
62. Texas JR LHP Hoby Milner: 86-91 FB with great movement, 92-93 peak; used in a variety of ways as amateur: more often 86-89 FB as starter, low-90s as reliever; very good FB command, but not nearly as strong in this area with his offspeed stuff; once showed a potential plus mid-80s SL (freshman year?), but doesn’t use it now; instead relies heavily on mid-70s CB that has gotten a lot better since he first rolled it out as a sophomore; emerging 81-82 CU that is now solid; half-empty view might worry about his college workload/being jerked around between roles, but I think the value of his rubber arm; as thin a college pitcher as I can remember at 6-3, 165 pounds; some players give off the impression that they will be better pros than they showed in college – you watch Milner throw and you want him to be better than he is
10.338 RHP Kevin Brady (Clemson)
142. Clemson JR RHP Kevin Brady: for too long threw a too straight 90-92 FB that touched 94-96, but much improved late life in 2012; good FB command; above-average, but inconsistent 80-83 SL; once flashed plus CB, but ditched pitch for a long stretch before going back to it early in 2012; nondescript CU has gotten better, but is average at best pitch; debate over whether or not he fits best as starter or reliever professionally – health concerns and a lack of a developed third pitch seem to point towards the bullpen, though perhaps the switch comes later rather than sooner; 6-3, 220 pounds
15.488 RHP Zach Cooper (Central Michigan)
236. Central Michigan SR RHP Zach Cooper: 88-92 FB, 93 peak; has hit as high as 94-95 in past; good 82-87 SL; average CU; 5-10, 190 pounds
22.698 RHP Jeb Stefan (Louisiana Tech)
258. Louisiana Tech rJR RHP Jeb Stefan: 90-92 FB, 94 peak; also uses SL and CU, though neither profiles as big league out pitch at this point; iffy control; 6-4, 225 pounds
Courtney Hawkins was a slam dunk for Chicago in the first round. If that sentence brought back fond memories of the last great high flying dunk artist to play in the Windy City – Rusty LaRue, obviously – you’re alright in my book. Hawkins’ athleticism is outstanding and his physique ranks at or near the top of the entire 2012 MLB Draft class. His arm, speed, and raw power are all well above-average tools. Most impressive of all: the big Texan just kept getting better and better as the spring went on. I think he’s likely to outgrow center, but Adam Jones in right field still sounds pretty darn good to me. A lot can happen in the next few years to make this sound really dumb, but I still can’t believe the Mets passed on him for Gavin Cecchini. You don’t draft for need, but Hawkins is exactly what the Mets need. Heck, as a power hitting plus defending corner outfielder Hawkins is exactly what every time needs. The White Sox got themselves a long-term above-average regular here.
After Hawkins, the biggest bat drafted by Chicago belongs to Keon Barnum. I’m actually not sure if that is literally true — I’m not privy to bat weights — but it works when talking prospect stature. Barnum is old for his class, and, to be frank, he hit like it in his pro debut. We’ll know more about his future next year when he’s tested with a full-season assignment. For now, the power is encouraging, as is his impressive athleticism and physicality. I think the reticence many teams show towards drafting and developing first base only prospects, though perfectly understandable in theory, may have shifted bat-only prospects from overrated to undervalued. Barnum isn’t a great example of this, at least from my vantage point – I had him ranked 203rd overall when Chicago drafted him 48th – but I think the overarching idea has some merit.
The White Sox backed up their selection of a high school first baseman with a college guy. Former Sun Devil Abe Ruiz will have to hit and hit and hit to keep advancing through the system. I think he’s a nice org guy, and there’s no shame in that. Interestingly enough (to me), the White Sox opted not to back up Hawkins with any legitimate college outfield prospects. I realize you can only draft so many guys in forty rounds, but it still seemed like a curious position to totally disregard.
17th round pick Sam Ayala is young, so he has that going for him. Beyond that, he’s an excellent athlete – for any player, not just for a catcher – with the long-term upside of a starting catcher. The gap between what any young catcher is and what they may eventually be is as big as any position player prospect out there, so, as always, take the guess at his ceiling with a great big block of salt. Zac Fisher has teased scouts for years, but has yet to have the breakout performance so many believe is hiding within him. It’ll be interesting to hear about how his defense progresses professionally; he has the tools to be an asset behind the plate, but, stop me if you’ve heard this before, hasn’t put it all together yet. I still like his approach at the plate, though it remains to be seen if his raw power will ever move into the present power classification. The White Sox actually drafted Sunnyside HS (CA) C Jose Barraza before either Ayala or Fisher. I think he’s more of a non-prospect catching tweener in that he’ll never defend well enough to play behind the plate every day while falling well short of any of the hitting benchmarks necessary for a first baseman. On the whole the White Sox added some decent talent up the middle of their infield, but came up light in their pursuit of impact talent.
To further that point, look no further (-2 points, repetitive) than the players Chicago targeted to play second base. Just targeting second basemen alone tells you something about their draft strategy. What it tells you, well, that I don’t know…but it tells you something. I do like Joey DeMichele. I wish I could really like Joey DeMichele, but it is hard to really like any bat-first second base prospect who lacks the traditional speed, athleticism, and range of a big league middle infielder. If everything goes as planned, I could see a poor man’s Jeff Keppinger here, right down to the ability to hammer righthanded pitching. If he keeps hitting, he’ll keep getting chances. Micah Johnson is a similar, yet lesser version of DeMichele. Both players are limited by their lack of defensive versatility. Though I think Nick Basto is also likely to wind up at second base, he can at least make the claim to have the athleticism and arm strength to at least entertain the idea of moving around the diamond. I had 24th round pick Tampa 2B Eric Grabe on in-house rankings at various points over the past few years (“good approach, versatile glove” from my notes), but didn’t think enough of him to ever officially rank him as a viable draft prospect. He was too old for Rookie ball, but hit more than enough to get another shot in the organization next year. Division II prospects who last to the 24th round can’t ask for much more than that.
Chicago snagged only one third baseman of note: Kentucky senior Thomas McCarthy. McCarthy pulled off the impressive feat of getting himself ranked by me (80th best third base prospect!), but still managed to be one of the few players I listed without a comment. Like Grabe, it is likely he has already hit enough in 2012 to get another shot next season somewhere in the White Sox organization. Neither McCarthy nor Grabe are prospects in any conventional sense of the word, but their performances, both collegiately and as young professionals, warranted mentioning. I also had to mention them just in case anybody out there plays in a full-minors, 50 team dynasty league with 1,000 man rosters. There’s one in every crowd, after all.
The White Sox did a nice job of accumulating some interesting college arms who slipped further in the draft than anticipated. Landing Chris Beck, a preseason first round favorite of many, with the 76th overall pick exemplifies the idea. I’ve heard some of the anti-cutter crowd explain his decrease in 2012 velocity on an overreliance on the pitch. More empirical data and/or an organization other than Baltimore speaking out against the pitch is needed before I’m willing to go down that road. The return of some velocity and a truer slider would make him a big league starting pitching option once again. I’m optimistic.
Kyle Hansen and Brandon Brennan were both somewhat under-the-radar players who were selected in sensible spots by Chicago. I graded Hansen out as an early third round pick (103rd overall) and he went in the sixth round. I also said that he was likely to go three rounds after his talent warranted. Some simple math shows that I am indeed an all-knowing sorcerer. I still prefer Beck to Hansen in a vacuum, but the gap isn’t as wide as some might think. He has the depth of stuff (four-seam, two-seam, slider, change), size, and athleticism to continue starting professionally. Brennen’s stuff is a tick below Hansen’s, but still good enough to keep starting until he proves he can’t. A part of me thinks Brennen could have been a top-two round prospect if he would have stayed and developed over three years at Oregon, so, needless to say, that same part of me thinks he was a solid idea in the fourth round.
Isler is an interesting gamble that should continue to see his stuff play way up when coming out of the bullpen. I don’t know where Chicago gets their young relief pitching from, but Isler seems like as good an “out of nowhere” (apologies to Cincinnati, both a fine city and university and far from “nowhere”) as anybody else. He’s already got the nasty hard sinker/slider thing going for him. Tony Bucciferro’s report reads much the same way. He’ll throw bowling balls and dare hitters to try to elevate them. Both guys showed off strong groundball tendencies, albeit in small (Isler) and super small (Bucciferro) samples. I was surprised to see Eric Jaffe go off the board when he did. I was even more surprised when the White Sox managed to get a contract signed. He reminds me a little bit of current Sox minor leaguer Jacob Petricka. Jaffe also throws a fastball that is particularly hard for hitters to make consistent square contact on, if can believe it. He uses a curve (an excellent one, by the by) over a slider, but it is a pitch that moves sharply enough that it often gets the same desired results. If even one of the White Sox’ trio of college arms becomes a contributor to a big league bullpen someday, then you’d have to call their round 8 to 14 strategy a happy one.
Chicago went to the college reliever well twice more when they nabbed Adam Lopez and Zach Toney. Lopez has a pro body and is a hard thrower. He’s also a Tommy John surgery survivor who has had a fairly typical return from injury. In other words, his velocity is coming back nicely while his command still has a ways to go. It is still easy to appreciate the pick: getting guys who have hit the mid-90s in round 21 is almost always worth a shot, injury history be damned. Unbelievably, Toney is the only lefthanded pitching White Sox prospect of note to come out of the 2012 MLB Draft. Despite being a lefty, Toney’s prospect profile fits in just fine with the trio of righthanders featured in the paragraph centimeters above. For those with a short memory (or, more likely, those who skim) that would be “difficult to hit fastball, good breaking ball, potential big league reliever, fine pick at this point in draft.”
Last but not least, we have a late round steal from the Division II ranks. Enter Storm Throne. There’s no arguing with Throne’s size, athleticism, and potential for a plus heater. There is some quibbling with Throne’s inconsistent offspeed stuff (though I like his curve a lot more than many peers) and unreliable fastball velocity. On balance, Throne’s strengths outweigh his weaknesses. If it all comes together, he’s a rock solid middle of the rotation starting pitcher capable of getting ground ball outs. Throne is easily the best signed pick of round 25, though I doubt he’ll go off and put that on his business cards. My pre-draft overall pitching rankings went Beck/Hansen/Brennen/Throne, so, 25th round pick or not, he is a prospect worth keeping an eye on. In fact, after the three aforementioned pitchers, only Hawkins, Barnum, and DeMichele ranked higher on my pre-draft list than Throne. Whether or not you should be happy your 25th round pick doubles as your 7th best draft prospect depends on your general outlook on life. Half-fullers can appreciate the value of a late round find while half-emptyers have to wonder what was going on with all those rounds in between Hawkins and Throne.
Of Beck, Brennen, Hansen, Isler, Jaffe, Bucciferro, Lopez, Throne, and Toney, it is definitely worth pointing out that Buccifero is the shrimpiest. The “slender” righthander from Michigan State comes in at a mere 6-3, 200 pounds. I’m less into draft day patterns as I am scouting director preferences, but even a non-sorcerer can deduce that the White Sox have a certain body type in mind when drafting arms. Also of note: “shrimpiest” is not a word, yet “crimpiest” is. If you knew that already, you’re smarter than a sorcerer.
Position-by-Position Breakdown of Prospects of Note
(Players are listed by draft order…included below each name, in italics, are each player’s pre-draft notes and ranking within position group)
17.531 La Jolla Country Day School C Sammy Ayala
22. C Sam Ayala (La Jolla County Day School, California): good speed for catcher; good arm; above-average power upside; good athlete; 6-2, 200 pounds
27.831 New Mexico State C Zac Fisher
83. New Mexico State JR C Zac Fisher: bigger scout (and personal) favorite than the numbers might suggest; above-average raw power; advanced bat with a good approach; bat is currently way ahead of glove – still learning the finer points of what it takes to be a catcher, so, if drafted, time will have to be spent bringing his defense up to a more acceptable level; 6-3, 210 pounds
1s.48 King HS (FL) 1B Keon Barnum
5. 1B Keon Barnum (King HS, Florida): plus arm; plus power upside; Ryan Howard comp; solid defender; super strong; surprisingly athletic; compact swing; Jon Singleton comp; 6-4, 225 pounds; L/L
16.501 Arizona State 1B Abe Ruiz
38. Arizona State SR 1B Abe Ruiz: good present power – can really hammer average fastballs, but has big trouble with anything else; average defender; has hit for nice power in three out of four college seasons, but questionable hit tool and substandard approach leave much to be desired; 6-3, 240 pounds
3.108 Arizona State 2B Joey DeMichele
9. Arizona State JR 2B Joey DeMichele: decent speed; for the longest time he was a man without a position, but settled in as the kind of second baseman who makes plays on balls hit him and not much more; his plus hit tool is one of the best in his class; above-average power with the chance to hit 15+ homers professionally; 5-11, 185 pounds
9.291 Indiana 2B Micah Johnson
48. Indiana JR 2B Micah Johnson: good athlete; more raw power than most middle infielders in this class, but currently most of his power plays to the gaps; good speed; average at best defender, but has the chance to get better in time – it is more about concentration and technique than physical tools; limited arm before arm injury, so teams will need to be sure he can stick at 2B before using a pick on him; 5-11, 190 pounds
5.171 Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL) SS Nick Basto
25. 2B Nick Basto (Archbishop McCarthy HS, Florida): strong arm, but best utilized at second; some think he sticks at SS
1.13 Carroll HS (TX) OF Courtney Hawkins
4. OF Courtney Hawkins (Mary Carroll HS, Texas): very muscular build; good speed; strong arm; more present power than majority of class; plus raw power; lots of swing and miss and some pitch recognition issues; average or better speed; RF professionally; has improved a great deal across the board in last calendar year, especially on defense; good instincts in CF, but might not be quick enough; plus arm; speed, power, and arm will take him far; reminds me so much of Adam Jones it’s scary; 6-2, 215 pounds; R/R
2.76 Georgia Southern RHP Chris Beck
21. Georgia Southern JR RHP Chris Beck: 87-93 FB, 95-97 peak; FB velocity was way down in 2012 (88-92, 93 peak) and far too straight a pitch to fool pro bats; 80-86 cutter-like SL with plus upside, has hit upwards of 90, but was above-average at best throughout much of 2012 season; 80-84 straight CU with plus upside; command needs tightening; Dr. Jekyll is a first round pick, but Mr. Hyde barely warrants top ten round consideration – a smart team will figure out what they are getting in advance (or at least that’s the idea…), but outsiders like me can only guess; 6-3, 220 pounds
4.141 Orange Coast CC RHP Brandon Brennan
74. Orange Coast CC (CA) rFR RHP Brandon Brennan: 88-93 FB, 95 peak; average 83-84 SL; average CU with more upside than that for me; transfer from Oregon; 6-4, 225 pounds
6.201 St. John’s RHP Kyle Hansen
52. St. John’s JR RHP Kyle Hansen: 91-93 FB with good life, 94-96 peak; average 79-84 SL that is improving, pitch has plus upside but inconsistent shape: up to 88 on most recent looks and tends to work much better as truer slider at higher velocities than it does as an upper-70s SL/CB hybrid breaking ball; raw 80-82 CU when he started school that is now a really solid third pitch; has learned to use more upper-80s sinkers to complement four-seam heat; I’ve learned to be skeptical of overly large pitching prospects, but Hansen, for whatever reason, hasn’t gotten anywhere close to the kind of hype typically associated with similar pitchers in the past – he’s big, yes, but he is an excellent athlete who repeats his mechanics well and sits at consistent above-average velocities all while staying healthy while at college and putting up outstanding numbers year after year; hard to call a 6-8, 215 pound brother of a big leaguer a sleeper, but Hansen will likely be on the board a full three rounds past where I’d begin recommending him
8.261 Cincinnati RHP Zach Isler
191. Cincinnati JR RHP Zach Isler: fairly generic high-80s FB as starter, but a revelation out of the bullpen: sinking 90-92 FB, 94-95 peak; good low-80s SL; raw CU he can likely ditch as he moves to bullpen professionally; 6-4, 240 pounds
11.351 California RHP Eric Jaffe
184. UCLA rFR RHP Eric Jaffe: 90-95 FB that moves; plus 77-82 CB; has shown interesting 84-86 CU this past spring; disaster of a season leaves him a 100% speculative selection at this point – his signability isn’t supposed to be an issue, but it would be a surprise to see him drafted high enough to make it worth his while unless he really, really wants to play pro ball; 6-4, 230 pounds
14.441 Michigan State RHP Tony Bucciferro
243. Michigan State SR RHP Tony Bucciferro: heavy 86-88 FB, 90-92 peak; has no problem throwing sinkers all day; very good hard SL; developing 80-81 CU that has emerged as solid third pitch with above-average sink; plus control; plus pitchability; better than your average mid-round senior sign with stuff that could play up even more in short bursts; 6-3, 200 pounds
21.651 Virginia Military Institute RHP Adam Lopez
345. VMI SR RHP Adam Lopez: 88-92 FB, 94-96 peak; recovering from TJ surgery; 6-5, 220 pounds
25.771 Morningside HS (IA) RHP Storm Throne
145. Morningside (IA) JR RHP Storm Throne: 90-93 FB, 95-97 peak; good command of above-average 72-74 CB; shows CU; keeps the ball down; good athlete; 6-7, 240 pounds
26.801 Austin Peay State LHP Zach Toney
281. Austin Peay State SR LHP Zach Toney: 88-92 FB, 94 peak; solid CB; interesting splitter; iffy control; 6-3, 220 poundsPhoto via http://s305.photobucket.com/albums/nn205/chibully/all-time%20bulls/?action=view¤t=RustyLaRue.jpg&sort=ascending.
I liked the idea of doing these draft recaps position-by-position because of the way they are designed to give an overarching idea of what kind of talent has been added to each team’s farm system. It could be that my mind works in that particular organized way – my favorite feature, strange as it sounds, of each year’s Baseball America Prospect Handbook is the team-by-team positional depth chart illustrations – or it could be that I believe by thinking in terms of position, it is easier for me to see where prospects fit in in a larger, team-building context. Whatever the case is, Minnesota screwed it all up by taking pitcher after pitcher after pitcher. I literally can’t fill out a pretend lineup here. Thanks for nothing, Twins. I understand that the organization went heavy on infielders last year – worth noting that although Travis Harrison has excelled, the Twins haven’t gotten a darn thing out of the quartet of college middle infielders Levi Michael, Tyler Grimes, Adam Bryant, and AJ Pettersen – but it is still strange to see three positions (2B/SS/3B) completely ignored.
Minnesota’s 2012 infield prospects of note come down to Jorge Fernandez and DJ Hicks. Fernandez is a seventh round lottery ticket who was underscouted (i.e. missed by me) this spring. The Twins obviously saw something in him that they liked. I can’t add anything more than what Baseball America provided besides sharing that I had somebody tell me that they believe Fernandez compares favorably (he even preferred his bat) when stacked against Phildrick Llewellyn, an athletic catching prospect that I really liked prior to the draft. Llewellyn went a little bit later (13th round), but close enough that I think the comparison has some merit. Based on that comparison alone, I think Fernandez is a prospect worth watching.
I had Hicks right smack in between a pair of similar hulking college first basemen in Ben Waldrip and Matt Snyder. Both Waldrip and Snyder were off the board in the tenth round, so, if you think I have any clue what I’m talking about, then Hicks is good value for what he is. So what he is? Hicks is a large man who should slot in nicely as an organizational masher who, if all goes according to plan, should help all of the minor league teams he’ll wind up on win some ballgames. I’m down with the idea that lineup protection is a myth, especially at the big league level, but I think there is something to be said for surrounding young, impressionable minor league hitters, especially those in the lowest levels of the chain coming straight out of high school, with mature veteran teammates. The minor leagues are about development, not winning and losing; fostering a winning climate, and, more importantly, winning habits, are dismissed as being a part of the latter when it is really an important step in a player’s long-term development.
We can skip right by the rest of the infield because, as mentioned earlier, the Twins didn’t draft a single player of note at second, short, or third. You’d think a team that led all of baseball in 2012 draft spending would have gotten somebody to catch the ball up the middle, but things didn’t work out that way. Nobody will care about that so long as this next guy pans out…
So much has already been written about Byron Buxton that I’m not sure I can add anything meaningful to the conversation. He’s a phenomenal athlete with three plus to plus-plus tools (speed, arm, defense) who also has a long, long way to go with the bat. I respect the heck out of any scout that watched Buxton hit over the past calendar year and said to himself, “That kid is going to be a good big league hitter,” because projecting a bat as far away as Buxton’s is more art than science. I can’t help but remember Paul DePodesta’s blog entry published the day the Padres selected a similar prospect, Georgia prep CF Donavan Tate, with the third overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft. I realize that the public nature of DePodesta’s comments kept him from divulging too much, but I think there’s still something to be learned about how a big league front office thinks here:
“There has been a lot of speculation surrounding this pick over the past few weeks, but Tate has always been in the front of our minds. He is a potential 5-tool player who plays in the middle of the diamond and is probably the best athlete in the draft. We’re taking our shot.”
As outsiders to the entire draft process, it is only natural to sometimes fall into the “appeal to authority” trap when we assume that every scouting department knows more than we do. The opposite is, of course, also true: draft analysts rush to pan a pick (Dylan Cozens, for example) without acknowledging the possibility that a scouting staff that has seen a player dozens of times may be on to something that even the best of their “unnamed sources” or limited personal viewings did not reveal. It is alright to admit that a team might have made a pick that we don’t presently understand may have been done for valid reasons. I think the larger unsaid truth when it comes to scouting is, when it comes right down to it, baseball isn’t all that difficult a game to figure out. Anybody from inside the game – whether that means a scouting director, area scout, or even a prospect/draft guru paid to write for one of the industry leading publications — who insists otherwise does so to protect their own self-interests. It’s hard to blame them for that, really; that’s how people with awesome jobs keep their awesome jobs. Admitting that what you do isn’t exactly rocket science opens you up to all kinds of unwanted criticism. If you keep saying things like “Scouting is a more intricate process than the casual fan can comprehend,” then you are keeping casual fans at a distance just far enough away so that they are less inclined to challenge the conventional wisdom. Scouting is a field that has been mythologized for no other good reason than to protect those already on the inside. I don’t think anybody would deny that scouting is a tough job done with little fanfare by people who work their butts off on a daily basis, but that doesn’t make it a job that can only be done by a select few individuals. I respect the profession enough to avoid using certain terminology whenever possible — I slip at times, but, for the most part, you won’t read about me “scouting” or writing “scouting reports” because I know I’m not a scout — but acting like only professionally trained scouts can give opinions about amateur or minor league prospects stunts positive potential avenues of discourse.
All of that is just a long way of saying that the Twins don’t really know whether or not they have a future star on their hands in Byron Buxton. They think they do, but they don’t know. If he does wind up a star, then I can guarantee you that Buxton’s biggest backers within the organization will make sure that his selection is the very first thing on their résumés, always and forever. I must make clear the following: big league scouting staffs do a tremendous amount of homework, from both a baseball and personal/home life point of view, before making the big decisions that come with early round draft picks and big money international signings. After all the hours of work, however, it ultimately comes down to DePodesta’s original line: we’re taking our shot. Do your homework, say a prayer, and take your shot.
I’m not entirely sure where all of that came from, so let’s just move on. Adam Brett Walker, or just plain Adam Walker as he’s listed on the Elizabethton Twins roster, has the physical tools to join Buxton in an exciting Twins outfield of the future. You could go one step further and add Miguel Sano into the mix as the left fielder to complete what is likely the minor leagues highest upside future outfield configuration – if all three of Sano, Buxton, and Walker reach their ceilings, look out. As much as I like Walker, I think his realistic upside is closer to useful, versatile role player (this is where I liked the pre-draft John Mayberry Jr. comps) than first-division starter.
Jake Proctor can run and field with the best center fielders in this year’s draft class, but his lack of power and well below-average plate discipline (9 BB/40 K in 183 AB) severely limit his upside as a hitter. Zach Larson has the chance to do more at the plate, but it will take time. There’s no comparing any high school prospect’s physical tools to Byron Buxton’s, but Larson does a lot of the same things well (speed, arm, defense) while exhibiting similar rawness as a hitter. Larson’s selection and overslot signing might be considered more of a coup by a team that didn’t take the super-rich man’s version with the number two overall pick, but he’s worth getting reasonably excited about all the same.
The initial reaction to Minnesota’s draft around the internet has fixated on the idea that the Twins went too heavy on pitchers without starting pitcher upside. Too many relievers/future relievers. Upon closer review, that seems like a fair assessment. JO Berrios is easily the most intriguing long-range pitching prospect drafted by the Twins – the chance for three above-average pitches, the way he holds his velocity late in games despite an improved though still less than ideal build, and his impressive performances against top competition all lend credence to this idea. Unfortunately, Berrios is the only guy you can point to as a definite long-term starting pitching prospect. An argument can be made that fellow high school pick Andre Martinez can also thrive in a starting role in pro ball, but I’m not sure I can go that far on a six-foot tall breaking ball reliant lefty. Minnesota did snag one potential back-end starter in DJ Baxendale. The Arkansas righthander fits the old standard for a Twins starting pitcher to a t: underwhelming fastball, good command of a diverse mix of pitches, and, above all else, above-average pitchability. Guys like Baxendale are interesting to me because there is very little margin for error: either he makes it as a fifth starter or he doesn’t make it at all. The typical fallback of relief work doesn’t take too kindly to pitchers with fringy fastballs who lack a legitimate breaking ball out-pitch. The same analysis could be more or less be applied to Taylor Rogers. Rogers’ lefthandedness, better showing this spring (stuff-wise), and more projectable build make him the better project going forward, as either a starting pitcher prospect or future reliever.
If you’re going to draft too many college relievers, you should at least draft good ones. The Twins did well to target and acquire a boatload of hard throwing potential big league relievers. You’d like to see these kinds of players picked later in the draft, but I’ve found that the concepts of “overdrafts” are more of a media creation than a real deal big league concern. Here’s my draft day philosophy du jour: draft who you want the round before you believe you can’t get him. If you really want JT Chargois and don’t believe he’ll be there the next time you draft, then you either draft him right this second or go a different direction and pray that he’ll still be around. Seems logical enough, right? Enough with the abstraction, let’s meet some of these real life, flesh and blood college relievers.
Luke Bard has improved significantly stuff-wise every year dating back to his high school days. His fastball was sitting upper-90s this past spring before missing time with a lat injury. It has been speculated that the Twins view him as a starter long-term, and I’ve heard positive things about his ability to throw a changeup. That said, smart money is on Bard winding up as a reliever by the time he breaks through at the upper-levels professionally. He’s good enough to excel in a late inning role, though I don’t see the classic closer stuff typically associated with relievers taken so early. The guy with that kind of stuff is the aforementioned JT Chargois. Chargois has gotten a lot of positive pub for his plus fastball/breaking ball combo, but I don’t think enough has been said about how interesting an all-around player he is. I’ve heard him compared favorably as a hitter to former Rice 1B/LHP Joe Savery. Chargois could be utilized as a Brooks Kieschnick type of weapon, but with more emphasis on his pitching than hitting. The odds of that happening are slim to none, and not just because Chargois is on an American League team, but it is a fun possibility to dream on. Melotakis is a little bit similar to Bard in that both are almost certainly relievers with just enough of that little something extra to have you believe they could start. All three could play prominent roles in the Minnesota bullpen throughout the remainder of the decade.
The Twins also did well to grab even more hard throwers a little bit later on in the draft. Zack Jones and Christian Powell can both run their fastballs up to the mid-90s while complementing that plus heat with breaking balls that flash above-average. Like Chargois, Jones is also a good enough hitter to potentially do some damage at the plate if the opportunity ever arises professionally. Also like Chargois, Jones’ stuff looks late inning ready more or less right out of the shoot. Tyler Duffey, a teammate of Chargois at Rice, doesn’t have the premium stuff of many of the relievers taken by the Twins, but could fill a middle inning role as a sinker/slider guy at the next level.
Alex Muren fits this new Twins profile of athletic, two-way relievers. In almost the same way I feel about projecting a high school player like Byron Buxton’s hit tool, I feel about making any proclamations about a pitcher like Muren. The young righthander from Cal State Northridge hasn’t done much from a performance perspective, but his history of flashing an above-average fastball and occasionally interesting cutter was obviously enough to tempt the Twins. My rankings are far from the last word, but, for the record, I had Muren as the 560th best pitching prospect. That doesn’t make his selection as the 370th overall pick good or bad, but that’s where I had him. I prefer Travis Huber, the 700th overall pick, over Muren in the battle of the Twins two late round arms. Like Muren, Huber has underperformed relative to his stuff. The big difference between the two is that Huber’s performances haven’t been quite as disappointing and, more importantly, his stuff is flat better.
Add it all up and what do you get? One potential franchise cornerstone (Buxton), a high upside high school arm (Berrios), a strong complementary piece to a good lineup (Walker), and a plug and play near-ML ready bullpen (Chargois, Bard, Melotakis, Jones, Duffey, Powell, Rogers). It’s obvious that the success or failure of Buxton as a professional will ultimately define this draft, but the Twins hedged some of that risk by all but guaranteeing themselves eventual big league value by selecting their bevy of high floor college relievers.
Position-by-Position Breakdown of Prospects of Note
(Players are listed by draft order…included below each name, in italics, are each player’s pre-draft notes and ranking within position group)
7.220 Jorge Fernandez (International Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico)
17.520 DJ Hicks (Central Florida)
23. Central Florida rJR 1B DJ Hicks: ugly swing, but good bat speed and college production put him in the “if it ain’t broke…” category of young hitting prospects; his bat will be what carries him as his above-average hit tool (underrated, I think, and rare for such a big man) and plus power potential help him stand out in the crowd of college bats; plus arm strength; slow moving on bases and in the field; has shown promise on the mound with a fastball that sits 86-90 (92-94 peak), decent splitter, and slider with some promise; 6-5, 250 pounds
1.2 Byron Buxton (Appling County HS, Georgia)
1. OF Byron Buxton (Appling County HS, Georgia): 93-94 peak FB; plus-plus (80) speed; dead pull hitter; loves to swing; raw, but immensely talented; above-average to plus arm, closer to above-average now but accurate; crazy quick hands; bat speed, bat speed, bat speed; BJ Upton comp from an athletic standpoint makes sense; weirdest comp ever: Mike Schmidt, at least in terms of distance from plate and current swing; tremendous athlete; plus raw power; CF range if his instincts catch up, otherwise a potential Gold Glove winner in RF; 80 speed/60-70 arm/70 range
3.97 Adam Brett Walker (Jacksonville)
33. Jacksonville JR OF Adam Brett Walker: plus power upside; popular John Mayberry Jr. comps, especially in terms of frame makes a lot of sense; I’ll take the minority view and state that I think he has the chops to be an average RF as pro, but acknowledge that he could be very good defensively at 1B; average at best speed, but not for long as his body fills out; swing isn’t as long as you’d think and he’s a more refined ballplayer than often given credit; average hit tool; average at best arm; I think Walker gets an unfair reputation as a hulking all or nothing slugger who will have to hit 30+ homers to have any kind of long-term value; with a score of 45s/50s across the board, Walker’s game is relatively well-rounded – though, of course, it is still his power that will make him a potential big league regular or not; 6-5, 225 pounds
14.430 Jake Proctor (Cincinnati)
234. Cincinnati JR OF Jake Proctor: plus speed; good athlete; below-average arm; CF range; weird swing, but has been able to get it done at college level; 6-2, 215 pounds
20.610 Zach Larson (Lakewood Ranch HS, Florida)
156. OF Zach Larson (Lakewood Ranch HS, Florida): good athlete; good speed; good arm; CF range; raw; 6-4, 200 pounds
1s.32 RHP JO Berrios (Papa Juan XXIII HS, Puerto Rico)
47. RHP Jose Orlando (JO) Berrios (Juan XXIII HS, Puerto Rico): 87-93 FB, 95 peak on island; easy velocity, some deception; good 71-74 CB; 75 CU; SL; 77-79 breaking ball, not sure what type; slight frame; more commonly 92-93 sitting velocity; update: 91-95 FB, 96-97 peak; 80-81 SL; 82-84 CU; holds velocity well
1s.42 RHP Luke Bard (Georgia Tech)
136. Georgia Tech JR RHP Luke Bard: 88-92 FB, 94-95 peak; was up to a more consistent 95-97 before his early season lat injury; good 80 SL gives him the second pitch needed to eventually pitch in a big league bullpen; 6-3, 200 pounds
2.63 LHP Mason Melotakis (Northwestern State)
83. Northwestern State JR LHP Mason Melotakis: had him 91-95 FB, 97 peak coming into year; currently sits 94-98 much more consistently, rarely dipping below 93 in short stints; 85-87 SL that flashes plus, but is far too inconsistent; shows CU; I think he can work as a starter because of his improved breaking ball and ability to hold his velocity (92-95) as a starter, but the lack of a reliable third pitch and mechanics that scare scouts likely keep him in the bullpen professionally; 6-3, 200 pounds
2.72 RHP JT Chargois (Rice)
20. Rice JR RHP JT Chargois: 90-94 FB; easy 95-96 peak but can also get it up to 98 with a little more effort; plus 78-83 CB; average 79-81 CU flashes plus; also shows 85-87 SL, but uses it almost exclusively as a chase pitch in the dirt; really tough to pick up ball out of his hand due to nasty angle in delivery; between deception, velocity, movement, and command, Chargois’ fastball is a true plus to plus-plus pitch; as a two-way prospect – I liked him as a hitter more his freshman season – his arm is fresh and his above-average athleticism goes without saying; big question is command of offspeed stuff; despite the overwhelming consensus that he’s a reliever only in the pros, I think he has three pitches to start if his arm action is deemed acceptable by a pro team, something that has a higher chance of happening that he gets credit for when you factor in his relative newness to pitching; has arguably one of the draft’s highest floors (big league setup guy) with the chance for more (elite closer/above-average big league starting pitcher); 6-3, 200 pounds
4.130 RHP Zack Jones (San Jose State)
185. San Jose State JR RHP Zack Jones: 93-95 FB, 97-98 peak; FB moves; flashes good SL; iffy command; iffy control; profiles as reliever all the way, which is unfortunate because he swings a mean bat (2011: .316/.383/.458 – 16 BB/30 K – 155 AB)
5.160 RHP Tyler Duffey (Rice)
132. Rice JR RHP Tyler Duffey: 88-92 FB, 94 peak; good 79-82 CU; good two-seamer with above-average sink; hard 78-83 CB; average mid-80s SL that flashes plus; 6-3, 210 pounds
6.190 LHP Andre Martinez (Archbishop McCarthy HS, Florida)
8.250 RHP Christian Powell (College of Charleston)
202. College of Charleston JR RHP Christian Powell: 87-91 FB, 96 peak; up to more consistent 91-94 this year, still peaking 96; above-average breaking ball when he locates it; has worked in an emerging CU that flashes above-average; 6-4, 215 pounds
10.310 RHP DJ Baxendale (Arkansas)
174. Arkansas JR RHP DJ Baxendale: 87-92 FB, 93-94 peak; good FB movement; good 84-85 SL; solid 80-82 CU; really good 69-71 CB that is his best pitch; mid-80s cutter; stuff down in 2012: 86-89 much of season, offspeed not nearly as sharp; ability to throw multiple pitches for strikes gives him back of the rotation upside, but might be best served by becoming a primarily fastball/curveball reliever at the next level; 6-2, 190 pounds
11.340 LHP Taylor Rogers (Kentucky)
154. Kentucky JR LHP Taylor Rogers: 87-92 FB; good 75-80 CB; better 77 CU; 83 SL; good command; similar prospect to Texas LHP Hoby Milner; good mix of projection, polish, and present stuff; 6-3, 170 pounds
12.370 RHP Alex Muren (Cal State Northridge)
560. Cal State Northridge JR RHP Alex Muren: has hit as high as 95 in the past, but sitting velocity is inconsistent and not nearly as hot; interesting 82-85 cutter; pitches like a two-way prospect, for better or worse – more of a thrower than a pitcher at this point, but could be molded into something by a patient coaching staff; 6-3, 200 pounds
23.700 RHP Travis Huber (Nebraska)
241. Nebraska JR RHP Travis Huber: 88-92 FB with sink, 93-95 peak; very good 83-84 SL; good CB; raw CU; good athlete; 6-3, 225 pounds
I try not to draw too many conclusions from observing how a team drafts from the outside looking in, but there are always some interesting draft day patterns worth noting. For the San Francisco Giants, off the bat, it is pretty clear to see a surprising lack of, well, bats. Outside of Mac Williamson, there wasn’t a position player drafted by the Giants that I think even the most prospect-obsessed could realistically say is a potential big league regular. A case could be made for any one of Ryan Jones, Tyler Hollick, or Shayne Houck as the next best bet, but, like many of the hitters drafted by San Francisco, they all currently profile best as backups.
That actually leads to the next observation of the Giants 2012 draft: depth selections identified by the ability to play multiple positions. Jones, a second baseman by trade, also has extensive experience at the hot corner. Hollick currently plays a mean center field, but has shown well at second in the past. Prior to the draft, teams I spoke to were split 50/50 on whether or not Houck worked best as a third baseman or left fielder professionally. You can do the same with almost every position player drafted by the Giants. Trevor Brown, a prospect I’ve heard compared to a lighter, lesser version of current Giant minor leaguer and former Cal State Fullerton star Brett Pill, is a catcher who can also hold his own at any non-shortstop infield spot. Matt Duffy has played all over the diamond. Mitch Delfino has split time between third base and the mound, and Sam Eberle has done the same at third base and catcher. Andrew Cain has seen time at both corner outfield spots and first base. Even the owner of the Giants’ biggest draft bat, Williamson, a great athlete who many once believed had the agility and arm strength to be moved behind the plate, has pitching experience.
As for the talent level of the hitters drafted, well, there isn’t a ton of great news for Giants fans. The majority of the position players selected by San Francisco look like the kind of players typically considered organizational guys. The infielders (Brown, Duffy, Delfino, Eberle) all lack the type of raw physical tools associated with ballplayers capable of playing at the highest level. You can never totally rule out players capable of playing solid defense up-the-middle (good news for both Brown and Duffy, and potentially Eberle), but none of the aforementioned infielders will crack any offseason top thirty prospect list for the organization. Of all their drafted infielders, Jones stands the best chance of someday seeing time in the big leagues as a utility infielder.
Things are better in the outfield, though I realize that may sound like damning with faint praise. The selection of Williamson, he of above-average big league corner outfielder upside, alone makes this a better group of prospects over the infielders. There’s currently too much swing-and-miss to his game for him to reach his considerable ceiling, but college guys with power hitting track records are becoming a dying breed. In that light, a third round gamble makes some sense. I compared Williamson to Adam Brett Walker prior to the draft, but a more natural comparison seems to be his new organization-mate with the Giants, former Louisville standout and fellow third round pick Chris Dominguez. I know a lot of people like to hate on comps, but, come on, that’s a good one: fourth-year juniors from underrated baseball schools, similar size (6-4ish, 230ish), third round picks, strong enough arms to pitch, big raw power, trouble with anything that isn’t a fastball, worrisome strikeout totals – this thing writes itself! Williamson’s superior athleticism and speed give hope that he’ll adjust better to pro ball and/or provide more long-term defensive value. I’m already on record as stating Williamson alone makes the outfielders a better group than the infielders, but that shortchanges the potential contributions of a few other fly catchers taken by the Giants. It isn’t just Williamson that makes the outfield group intriguing. I’ve mentioned my affinity for Hollick already, but let’s go a little deeper. An argument can be made that Hollick, a player I didn’t give nearly enough love pre-draft, is the best position player drafted by the Giants. His scouting profile reads similar to current Giants prospect Gary Brown, but Hollick has a much stronger track record of working deep counts and drawing walks. McCall also deserves consideration as San Francisco’s top 2012 position player selection, though I’d have him behind Williamson, Hollick, and perhaps Jones. McCall is athletic enough to play either corner spot with an arm that should play at least average in right. The big question is, of course, whether or not he’ll hit enough to hold down an offensively demanding position in the big leagues. I’m encouraged by both what I’ve seen and heard, but would be lying if I could answer beyond that with any kind of certainty. Unlikely as it may be, a future all 2012 Draft outfield of McCall-Hollick-Williamson, from left to right, is fun to dream on. That trio could be backed up down the line by a pair of solid organization depth pieces in Cain and Houck. Both are older prospects – another San Francisco draft trend – who found themselves on the wrong side of 22 before notching their first pro at bats. Cain appears similar to Williamson on paper (big, good runner, intriguing power), but his tools aren’t quite as loud. Call him a deep sleeper as a 24th round pick and be prepared to either look super smart someday or, more likely, forget about him after he fails to make it to AA. Houck’s value would get a big boost if he shows he can play a little third base in addition to the outfield corners, but, like Cain, he’ll need to get his rear in gear in pro ball if he wants to keep cashing those sweet, sweet minor league paychecks.
San Francisco’s draft strategy when it comes to their approach to pitching was fairly clear in 2012: load up on college arms, early and often. The emphasis on high-floor/low-ceiling older arms wouldn’t be as troubling if buttressed with a few interesting long-term gambles at the high school level, but there is nary a signed prep arm to be found in this class. Fortunately, getting a pitcher like Chris Stratton with the twentieth overall pick makes it all worth it. Quibble with the no high school pitching approach if you must (seriously, though, what’s up with that?), but the Giants have a strong track record of identifying and developing pitchers at the top of their drafts. The last six drafts have produced the following first day pitchers: Kyle Crick, Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Alderson (the weak link of the group, but, hey, he did enough to bring value in a trade), and Tim Lincecum. It’s a little bit scary to think that Stratton could wind up as the fourth most successful pitcher of that group (fifth if you’re a big believer in Crick) and still be considered a major steal in this spot. There are some legitimate concerns surrounding his age (22 in August, old for a college junior) and workload (multiple 2012 starts well past 120+ pitches), but there’s really no questioning his outstanding stuff. Stratton boasts a full arsenal of pitches (FB, CB, CU, SL, cutter, two-seamer) that is as impressive in quality as it is in depth. I promised I wouldn’t turn these draft recaps into warmed over rehashes of my pre-draft analysis, but it’s probably worth mentioning that Stratton was my sixth favorite prospect in the entire draft, one spot ahead of the far more famous Mark Appel. Martin Agosta is another easy to like young righthander with a good chance of one day taking a big league mound as a starting pitcher. Two above-average offspeed pitches (cutter/slider thing and changeup) to go along with his solid fastball (made better be excellent command) are exactly what teams are looking for in prospective starters.
Steven Okert and Ty Blach could also be considered potential starters, but I think both will settle into relief roles after some of the adorable draft optimism (I only say this because I’m guilty of it every year) wears off. Okert goes plus fastball/above-average slider while mixing in a usable changeup with the chance for more. Blach’s stuff is more solid across the board – slider is just as good though not as consistent as Okert’s, but he’ll compensate by using a much more effective change – so the thought of him starting is a little bit easier to envision. I think both guys are ultimately relievers with Okert potentially being a darn good one.
I actually liked what the Giants did in targeting hard throwing yet flawed college relievers, though, upon closer review, the flaw in their approach becomes alarmingly evident. Okert, Stephen Johnson and EJ Encinosa are all almost certainly (call it a 99% certainty) relievers professionally. All are quality arms coming off really strong college seasons. All three throw hard, have good size, and feature at least one above-average or better secondary pitch. We’ve covered Okert already as a potential starting pitching convert, so we’ll focus on the two college relief aces. Johnson has arm strength you can’t teach but is in dire need of a consistent offspeed pitch, which hopefully you can. Encinosa profiles as a high-floor sinker/slider middle reliever, but with more mustard on both his four- and two-seam fastballs than your typical sixth/seventh inning guy. I like all three picks: cheap, controllable arms are big parts of what I think make good teams good. The less money spent on unpredictable, fungible middle relief, the more money is freed up to acquire elite talent at positions that have a greater nightly impact on the game. If all you achieve from one draft class is a half dozen or so legit big league relief options, then you’ve potentially saved yourself millions down the line. Then again, you could always avoid the temptation to blow money on veteran relievers in the first place, but that’s neither here nor there. What does come into the play is the concept of opportunity cost. A good argument could be made that of all the relievers selected by the Giants, the guy taken in the sixteenth round (we’ll get to him soon) is the most talented. If you can get quality relievers that late, and you can, then why spent a fourth, sixth, and seventh on relievers in the first place? Even Jason Forjet and Brandon Farley, 31st and 33rd rounders respectively, can be called potential big league relievers. They may not be on the level of Okert, Johhnson, or Encinonsa, but the cost of using a late-round pick on them is significantly less. Another example is 26th rounder Mason McVay. McVay throws hard (when healthy), has good size (6-8, 240 pounds), and features at least one above-average or better secondary pitch (curve). Sound familiar? Back to our aforementioned friend from round sixteen: Ian Gardeck continues the theme of plus fastball velocities with his mid- to upper-90s heater. His slider is devastating when on, a true plus big league out-pitch that hitters have a hell of a time recognizing before swinging over it. That’s the good news. The less good news is that I’m only half-kidding when I say the Giants might think about getting Gardeck’s eyes checked because it looks like he has no idea where the catcher is crouching half the time. The problem is likely in his mechanics, and not his arm, eyes, or head. If he can upgrade his control from nonexistent to “effectively wild,” then he’ll join Johnson in having big league closer upside.
All in all, I think we’re looking at five potential above-average big league relievers: Okert, Johnson, Encinosa, Gardeck, and McVay. Since wishing for different picks is fruitless at this point, all we can really do now is hope that two or three (or four!) live up to their promise and do our best to forget about what might have been. You don’t want to make a habit of rooting for a sweet relief pitching haul to be the best part of your draft class, but it’s better than nothing, right?
We’re just short of 3,000 words in what was intended as a short recap, so let’s hustle up and finish this thing. I am honestly surprised that Joe Kurrasch jumped to pro ball – he simply didn’t look ready when I saw him, and I heard similar things throughout the spring. Forjet and Farley both flash enough big league stuff to warrant follows as they travel through pro ball. I personally prefer Farley because he’s shown a little more zip on his fastball over the years, but when you’re debating the merits of two college relievers picked past the thirtieth round, everybody wins. Andrew Leenhouts is intriguing as a cold weather pitchability lefthander with the three pitches to start for a bit. His best chance of advancing to the bigs is probably via the bullpen (like so many college lefties, I’d love to know his splits to see if the lefty specialist path makes sense), but I think his talent level is closer to Blach’s than Kurrasch’s. That can be read in one of two ways, depending on your outlook on life: a) Leenhouts was good value for a 23rd round pick, or b) Blach was a serious overdraft in the fifth round.
Position-by-Position Breakdown of Prospects of Note
(Players are listed by draft order…included below each name, in italics, are each player’s pre-draft notes and ranking within position group)
10.328 Trevor Brown (UCLA)
77. UCLA JR C Trevor Brown: good defensive skills; good athlete; smooth defender at first base; can also play 2B; lack of power limits his offensive ceiling, but defensive versatility and a competent bat could carry him farther up the chain than you’d think; 6-2, 200 pounds
13.418 Ryan Jones (Michigan State)
22. Michigan State rJR 2B Ryan Jones: good speed; good approach; limited power upside; already a good defender at 2B and can also play 3B effectively; no standout tool, but easy to walk away impressed with him as a heady, instinctive ballplayer who does the little things right; 5-10, 170 rounds
18.568 Matt Duffy (Long Beach State)
58. Long Beach State JR SS Matt Duffy: nice swing; can play average defense at least at all spots on diamond; utility future; 6-2, 170 pounds
20.628 Mitch Delfino (California)
65. California JR 3B Mitch Delfino: average defender with what looks like a good enough arm once he gets his throwing mechanics retooled; has shown enough promise with the bat to get a look in the mid-rounds; 6-3, 210 pounds
25.778 Sam Eberle (Jacksonville State)
52. Jacksonville State SR C Sam Eberle: decent defender who might fit best at 3B in pro ball; good athlete; strong; good runner for either defensive spot; bat could be above-average if allowed to catch at next level, but he’ll have to improve footwork and speed of release; 6-1, 220 pounds
3.115 Mac Williamson (Wake Forest)
32. Wake Forest rJR OF Mac Williamson: impressive raw tools, emphasis on raw; above-average to plus arm strength; too aggressive at plate, gets himself out too often; I’ve long wanted to see him move back behind plate, but realize that dream is dead – as it is, he’s a good defender with the prototypical arm for RF; physically mature and very strong; plus power upside; above-average speed, but slow starter – once he gets underway, you see his speed; much improved as hitter in 2012, chasing fewer bad balls; Williamson is interesting for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being his consistently strong power performances and improved plate discipline; if it all comes together in pro ball, Williamson is a five-tool player (four of which are decidedly above-average, the most questionable tool being his bat) with big league starter upside – he profiles very similarly to Adam Brett Walker as a hitter and athlete, but with a higher floor based on his added defensive value; has also shown promise on the mound over the years: 88-92 FB, 94 peak; good sinker; good CB; shows CU; 6-4, 240 pounds
9.298 Shilo McCall (Piedra Vista HS, New Mexico)
151. OF Shilo McCall (Piedra Vista HS, New Mexico): good speed; good athlete; strong; above-average arm; 6-2, 215 pounds
14.448 Tyler Hollick (Chandler-Gilbert CC, Arizona)
79. Chandler-Gilbert (AZ) JC SO OF Tyler Hollick: plus speed; good CF range; I like his bat, others not sold; crazy production in 2012
24.748 Andrew Cain (UNC Wilmington)
29.898 Shayne Houck (Kutztown, Pennsylvania)
37. Kutztown (PA) SR 3B Shayne Houck: above-average hit tool; big raw power; can handle 3B and LF – stock goes way up if a team believes in him as a defender; 6-1, 200 pounds
1.20 RHP Chris Stratton (Mississippi State)
4. Mississippi State JR RHP Chris Stratton: 88-92 FB, 93-96 peak; velocity up in 2012 – more often 90-94, peaking at 95-96 consistently; leaves his FB up on occasion and it leads to trouble; holds velocity really well; really tough to square up on anything he throws, leaving him with reputation as a groundball machine; quality 77-80 CB; emerging 81-83 CU that is a good pitch now, could be plus in time; good 82-87 SL that flashes plus, but is hit or miss depending on start; solid cutter; added an effective two-seam FB; seen as four-pitch starter, but, depending on how you want to classify his fastball variations, he could eventually throw six legit pitches for strikes; above-average control and command; this is a comp that is decidedly not a comp, but a scout who saw Stratton said that, at his best, he reminded him of a righthanded version of Cliff Lee, mostly because his repertoire is so deep that he can use whatever pitch is working best on any given day; the fact that he throws two distinct breaking balls and has the fearlessness/understanding about how to use them is really impressive for an amateur prospect; 6-2, 200 pounds
2.84 RHP Martin Agosta (St. Mary’s)
23. St. Mary’s JR RHP Martin Agosta: 91-93 FB, 95-96 peak; sometimes sits 89-92 with 94 peak; 80-85 SL with upside, flashes plus – has also been called a cutter; good CB; above-average CU; plus overall command; gets better as game goes on; Agosta’s FB-SL-CU and command make him a good starting pitching prospect, and the chance he’ll continue to find ways to further differentiate his breaking ball – gaining some separation with his cutter and curve from his slider would be a start – make him especially intriguing; 6-1, 180 pounds
4.148 LHP Steven Okert (Oklahoma)
82. Oklahoma JR LHP Steven Okert: 88-91 FB, 92-94 peak; up to 94-97 out of bullpen; good SL; CU is better than often given credit; command comes and goes; reminds me a little bit of Chris Reed before Reed became last year’s “it” first round pick – could be a dominant reliever if everything breaks right, but also has the chance to continue starting at next level; 6-3, 220 pounds
5.178 LHP Ty Blach (Creighton)
254. Creighton JR LHP Ty Blach: 89-91 FB, 92-94 peak; good CU that has improved in last calendar year; attacks hitters on the inner-half and is a renowned strike thrower; low-80s SL flashes plus; good overall command; has the three pitches to start and above-average velocity from the left side, but lack of draft year dominance at the college level is a tad disconcerting; 6-1, 200 pounds
6.208 RHP Stephen Johnson (St. Edward’s, Texas)
64. St. Edward’s (TX) JR RHP Stephen Johnson: consistent 93-96 FB, 98 peak; has reportedly been as high as 101, but typically tops out upper-90s; 77-81 SL that has gotten harder (mid-80s) and better over the past year; hard 84-88 CU that is better when softer; great deception; closer upside; 6-4, 200 pounds
7.238 RHP EJ Encinosa (Miami)
131. Miami JR RHP EJ Encinosa: had him originally with a 87-91 FB with sink, 94 high school peak but hadn’t seen it in a while, instead peaking at 91-92; once committed to bullpen, velocity shot back up – now sits 94-95, and has hit 98 in 2012; no matter the velocity, the fastball remains an excellent pitch – very consistent plus-plus sink; plus low-80s SL; good, but inconsistent CU; reliever all the way (and likely not a closer), but a good one all the same; 6-4, 235 pounds
8.268 LHP Joe Kurrasch (Penn State)
315. Penn State rSO LHP Joe Kurrasch: as starter, sits 87-90, 92 peak; can get it a tick or two higher as reliever; average CU; has done a good job getting in better shape over past year, but doesn’t have the depth or quality of stuff to make much of a pro impact at this point; Cal transfer; 6-2, 200 pounds
16.508 RHP Ian Gardeck (Alabama)
256. Alabama JR RHP Ian Gardeck: 94-96 FB, 98-100 peak; plus to plus-plus mid- to upper-80s SL; bad control and command; mechanics need overhaul; stuff was down as he had an awful spring, but still showed enough flashes of two potential wipeout big league pitches that somebody will bite; 6-2, 225 pounds
23.718 LHP Drew Leenhouts (Northeastern)
270. Northeastern SR LHP Andrew Leenhouts: 87-88 FB, 90-91 peak; good CB; average CU that sometimes shows better; FB command needs work, and pitch is presently too straight; clean mechanics; 6-3, 200 pounds
26.808 LHP Mason McVay (Florida International)
103. Florida International rJR LHP Mason McVay: 87-91 FB post-injury as starter; solid potential with CB, plus upside; mechanics need cleaning up; control is an issue; peaked at 95-96 out of bullpen in fall 2011, so, if healthy, he can throw some smoke; Tommy John survivor; good coaching and good health will go a long way in determining his pro future, but his two potential plus pitches and size give him more upside than your typical double-digit round pick; 6-8, 240 pounds
31.958 RHP Jason Forjet (Florida Gulf Coast)
418. Florida Gulf Coast SR RHP Jason Forjet: upper-80s FB, low-90s peak; CB; CU; very good command; good athlete; 6-2, 200 pounds
33.1018 RHP Brandon Farley (Arkansas State)
393. Arkansas State SR RHP Brandon Farley: 89-92 FB, 94-95 peak; 6-2, 200 pounds