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Alternate Reality Mock Draft: 2012 NFL Mock Draft/2012 MLB Mock Draft

I did a few alternate reality mock drafts back in the day, so I thought I’d bring one back for a little lighthearted Friday fun. I had started this earlier in the week, so ignore any pre-draft (NFL Draft, that is) commentary that is no longer relevant. The premise here is simple: what if the MLB Draft order was determined by the NFL Draft order? Here’s how I set it up last time:

Roger Goodell rules the NFL with an iron fist, does he not? After finally tiring of wielding his unprecedented power of America’s Game, the commissioner now has set his sights on making big changes to America’s Pastime. First change? Unifying the draft order between the two sports. That’s right. This year’s MLB Draft order will be taken directly from the recently completed 2010 NFL Draft. As soon as the Rams went on the clock last night, so did the Cardinals. When the Lions celebrated taking the draft’s best player with the second overall pick, scouts for the Tigers were pouring over scouting reports of players they never believed they’d have a chance to get under the previous draft rules. Get the idea? Good. Prepare for more inanity with yet another Friday edition of an Alternate Reality Mock Draft!

Swap out the years and we’re more or less doing the same thing. Let’s do it…

Indianapolis – pass

I breifly thought about giving this pick to the Pirates, but came to my senses when I decided that a) having a AAA affiliate in the city isn’t good enough for my little alternate universe game, and b) any scenario when the Pirates have the chance to take the already banged up Lucas Giolito would surely result in tears for all involved. I guess that joke doesn’t work as well considering Pittsburgh’s recent stretch of relatively healthy minor league arms, but their run of failed first round pitching prospects amazes me so much that I had to mention it. If nothing else, I feel better after honoring the ghosts of Bobby Bradley and John VanBenschoten.

1. Washington

We all know by now that no team picks for need in baseball, right? Even mentioning the idea that a team might consider anything except best player available (BPA) is idiotic, right? Right? Well, here’s the thing – right or wrong, I’m pretty sure teams consider need on draft day. For smart teams it isn’t the determining factor, but it is a consideration. If the room is divided between two closely ranked prospects then it isn’t a stretch to believe that the ugly four-letter n-word, as determined by position and proximity to the big leagues, is as good a tie-breaker as any. Teams don’t go into the first round with tunnel vision to the point that they only consider right fielders because the man currently manning the position is in a contract year, but need, as we’ll loosely define below, isn’t as evil as some may lead you to believe.

The nice thing about need is that you can really define it any way you want. Need when it comes to baseball prospects, many of whom are at least two full minor league seasons away from even threatening to crack the big league roster, is a meaningless term. Allow me to explain using two 2012 Draft examples.

1) Washington has built a team that is ready to win now (or, at worst, now-ish), so the temptation for a quick rising prospect at a position of need (Mike Zunino) makes a lot of sense. Zunino fills an immediate organizational need while providing the team with a relatively high floor (starting caliber catcher a la Charles Johnson?) prospect who should be ready to go by 2015.

2) Washington has built a team that is ready to win now (or, at worst, now-ish), but must continue to replenish their minor league system with impact talent. Recent drafts have been kind to the Nationals in this regard. Things are no different in this alternate reality where, thanks to the Redskins dogged pursuit of their QB of the future, they hold the first overall pick in a draft with one potentially transcendant position player talent. From Strasburg to Harper to Rendon to Buxton? Byron Buxton fills the long-standing CF hole in DC. His timetable should position him to lead the next wave — the current group is already in DC or biding time in AAA — of pennant contending talent into the nation’s capital. If say, Buxton is up to stay in 2017, then he’ll likely be playing to Bryce Harper’s right. In this scenario, Harper is a grizzled veteran about to embark on his fifth big league season. This speaks to the importance of continuing the talent pipeline and staggering minor league prospects across levels.

So what does “need” even mean when it comes to drafting in baseball? Need can mean whatever you want it to mean. The Pirates needed to add a potential frontline starter in last year’s draft more than they decided they needed a polished college bat, so they selected Gerrit Cole over Anthony Rendon. I know this isn’t how need is typically viewed, but I think the whole concept of “need vs BPA” is overblown. How often does it even come up in a typical draft anyway? Has a team ever publicly admitted to drafting for need? Why do we even think it happens in the first place? I’m done thinking about drafting for need. Need is boring.

Florida C Mike Zunino is the pick, by the way.

2. Minnesota

Tough year for Minnesota sports, eh? The Twins lose no ground in this exercise with a friendly assist from their disappointing football counterparts. This reminds me that I wrote up a long piece about Christian Ponder (and Sean Gilmartin) and the myth of the “overdraft” last year, but never quite got it to the point where I was comfortable publishing. The fifteen second synopsis: if your guy is on the board and you don’t think he’ll be around the next time you pick, then you take him. There are other factors at play, of course, but the value gained in waiting a round to take the guy you want is often not worth the risk of losing him in the interim.

I have no idea which direction the Twins are leaning this year, but I’ve heard college pitching could be the focus. Good enough for me. Zimmer was once the perfect Minnesota pitching prospect — average stuff, plus command, righthanded, and nondescript. He’s retained the middle two qualities while cranking up the stuff, thus becoming very descript. (NOTE: descript may not be a real word, but it should be.) He’s like your typical Twins prospect who has been exposed to gamma rays or something.

San Francisco RHP Kyle Zimmer, welcome to Minnesota.

3. Cleveland

While the Browns struggle with the decision about what marquee skill player they want at pick four in the NFL Draft — quick aside: how in the world did the Browns end up with the fourth overall pick and yet still wind up in what looks to me like an unwinnable spot in the draft? I don’t like Tannehill here, would much rather wait on a WR until the second, and, as much as I love Trent Richardson, I’m not sure adding him would have the desired impact on their future they are looking for — the Indians thank their lucky stars over their good fortune. They’ll continue building up the middle and add to their existing core of 2B Jason Kipnis, SS Francisco Lindor, and C Carlos Santana by adding the draft’s biggest upside play.

Cleveland awaits Appling County HS (Georgia) CF Byron Buxton’s arrival

4. Tampa Bay

Giving the Rays a pick this early in the draft may bring back flashbacks to their horrible Devil days, but I’m sure it is a trade that they’d gladly take once they remember how much fun it is picking high in the draft. It’s like the opposite of a life lesson that way: it isn’t the journey because, damn, the journey sucks,  it’s the destination.

A part of me would really like to see how a team like Tampa or Texas or Boston or even the Phillies would draft if they had the chance to select in the top ten. I’m sick of seeing the Pirates, Royals, and Orioles always picking near the top. I want to see what a smarter scouting staff would do with a premium pick. That’s why the Rays are going with my pick of Lucas Giolito here. The subtext there is pretty clear: I’m lumping myself in with what I’d imagine these smart teams would do. I’m pretty much in love with myself.

Get well soon and enjoy the Florida sunshine, Harvard-Westlake HS (California) RHP Lucas Giolito

5. St. Louis

This annoys me. Can I just skip this pick? It is my alternate reality and I am making up the rules as I go, after all. We’ll just keep it brief. Have fun with your stupid championship and the pre-season consensus top draft prospect, St. Louis. Some teams have all the luck…

Stanford Mark Appel is off the board.

Jacksonville – pass

My brother had the world’s ugliest Jaguars starter jacket when we growing up. Every shade of color on it looked like vomit. I didn’t associate teal, gold, and black with vomit before he got that coat, but now I know that anything is possible.

6. Miami

Duke RHP Marcus Stroman to Miami. Why? Why not? Florida might not have picked a short college righthander with an early first round pick, but anything goes in wild and crazy Miami.

Carolina – pass

My Panthers starter jacket on the other hand, oh boy, now that was a thing of beauty. If there’s a nicer shade of blue than Panther Blue, I haven’t seen it. Is it weird that one of the most vivid memories of my young life was watching the 1995 Hall of Fame Game with my brother (my two sisters had wandered off) while my parents shopped for some kind of big ticket appliance (either oven or washer/dryer, can’t remember) at Sears. Memory…how does it work?

Buffalo – pass

Baseball? More like snowball? Am I right? (It’s pretty cold in Buffalo during the winter) (I hear their summer is quite nice, lots of upper-70s and low-80s days) (The joke only works if you ignore the previous statement, so if it isn’t too much trouble you can just go ahead and do that). Anyway, no pick for Buffalo because they don’t have a MLB team. Someday, maybe!

7. Kansas City

Kansas City has been hot on the trail of a college starting pitcher every year since I’ve been running this site. Three years later and they have yet to draft a true college starting pitcher, though I’m admittedly hiding behind the Aaron Crow independent league loophole here. They haven’t drafted an honest to goodness college starting pitcher since Matt Campbell, a player I legitimately have no memory, in 2004. I’m going to go ahead and assume this is a true fact, despite the fact that ESPN wants me to believe the Royals drafted a guy named Mitchell Myer the year before. A good copy editor is priceless. They get their college starter and arguably the most talented of the bunch in Kevin Gasuman.

BBQ time for LSU RHP Kevin Gausman

8. Seattle

I gave up on trying to predict what Seattle would do last year before they made the shocking — to me, anyway — pick of Danny Hultzen. I’m man enough to admit when I’m beat. My logic for Correa is three-fold: 1) he’s the best player left on the board, 2) Seattle has a bevy of arms flying through the system, so the need (yes, need) for arms might not be on the forefront of their draft plan, and 3) I want to see a Correa-Dustin Ackley double play in person somewhere, someday. Lots of buzz out there that Correa is ahead of Buxton on Houston’s board, by the way.

Good luck in Seattle, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy SS Carlos Correa

9. Arizona

When I started this thing way back in 1997, I really thought mock drafts would be an integral part of the site. I enjoyed reading them, I wanted to challenge myself by making one myself, and, as I soon learned, people really, really, really love clicking on them – the first three search engine terms that lead people to my site all include the word “mock.” Then I started doing them and realized that they are more or less pointless (unless you are Jim Callis) beyond whatever entertainment and information you can provide in the rationale for each pick. Since I’m neither entertaining nor informative, I’ve moved away from mocks in recent years.

A good mock draft to me doesn’t necessarily have to get a single pick right. A good mock draft should be fun to read. A non-expert mock (i.e. anything not by Callis) should be a vessel for sharing information about interesting players while trying to make logical connections between prospects and teams. If you happen to have a little insider-y intelligence to share, so much the better. Marrero to Arizona falls under a few of my mock draft criterion. It is a logical fit (he’d be Stephen Drew’s long-term successor at short) and  there is a fun angle to write about (hometown player!). Sometimes that’s all it takes.

Arizona State SS Deven Marrero is already used to the dry heat, so…

10. Dallas

Even though the Rangers don’t need any extra help and, more importantly, I’ve spent a lifetime hating the Cowboys, I’ll throw the fine folks of Texas a bone and give the Cowboys pick to the Metroplex Rangers. This is a poor decision because it gives the talent-rich Texas club the draft’s best lefthander. Owner/GM/Scouting Direction/Secret Manager/Bullpen Catcher Nolan Ryan (as some Rangers fans tell it) should be pleased adding such a high upside arm in my fictional world.

Something something cowboy boots something something, Harvard-Westlake HS (California) LHP Max Fried

Favorites – Part I (ACC)

I’m an admitted draft junkie who loves tracking the NFL and NBA Drafts almost as much as I love keeping things current on this here MLB Draft site. Like any follower of any pro sport draft, I tend to obsess about certain players that I really, really, really would like to see my favorite team draft at some point. This is relatively easy when it comes to the NFL (Fletcher Cox, Brandon Boykin, Joe Adams, and Isaiah Pead would be a super first three rounds for the Eagles) and NBA (John Henson or Tony Mitchell, please) because I have no real dog, outside of said allegiance to “my” team, in those races. I watch the entire draft process unfold and enjoy it like the fan that I am. When it comes to baseball, things are a bit different. The idea of a draft favorite isn’t entirely consigned to “Boy, I hope my team drafts him.” There’s more separation between my feelings towards my team and the overarching respect I have for the entire year-round grind that is following the draft. I think I do a pretty good job of masking my Phillies fandom as much as I can, but I still have my moments, especially on draft day, when the raw emotion of “They took they guy I wanted them to take? They took the guy I wanted them to take! THEY TOOK THE GUY THEY WANTED THEM TO TAKE!!!” or, more likely, “Him? Why?????” takes over. That said, here’s my attempt to share a few names that I oh so cleverly denoted in my notes as personal favorites by marking each name with FAVORITE. There were 31 college guys and 12 high school guys that I marked as FAVORITE(s) before the season started. Apologies to anybody out there who finds this a tad self-indulgent — it is a bit more meta, than I personally like — but I’m short on time this week so this will have to do in a pinch. These favorites aren’t so much guys that I’d want my team to draft, but rather players who do certain things well and/or guys who have impressed me firsthand and/or prospects that I have that tricky to pin down “it” factor that just draws an evaluator towards them.

There’s no rhyme or reason to the order, other than the fact I organize my notes by conference starting with the AQ schools (ACC, Big East, SEC, etc.), then move to the “mid-majors,” and finish with junior colleges, NAIA, and Division II and III. Not every conference will be covered due to time constraints — the draft is less than six weeks away, you know — but we’ll get to as many was we can. Many, though not all, of the favorites are at least somewhat off the beaten track in terms of national attention, but I’m sure most readers will be familiar with the vast majority of names shared in this space. To kick things off, the ACC…

Virginia JR SS/3B Stephen Bruno (2012)

Why was he a favorite?

No weak tool – good speed, strong arm, plus or near plus defensive tools at short, more than enough pop for a middle infielder. I also have a soft spot for prospects who play out of position as amateurs, though I can’t really explain why. Plus, I wrote about him back in January 2010, so we’ve got a little history here.

Update (park/schedule adjusted stats)

.407/.458/.593 – 13 BB/16 K – 9/9 SB – 162 AB

Verdict

All scouting reports remain positive, and his performance in 2012 is getting him the notice he rightfully deserves. He’s been on the radar for years — once upon a time he was a New Jersey high school star and draft pick of the New York Yankees — but is finally breaking out in a big way on the college stage after missing the 2011 season due to injury. I haven’t stacked up the entire draft board yet, so I can’t really put a range on where he’ll be drafted, but his ceiling is considerable.

North Carolina SO 3B Colin Moran (2013)

Why was he a favorite?

I’m hardly alone in loving Moran’s upside, but his approach, picture perfect lefthanded stroke, and much improved defense at the hot corner are too much to ignore. I haven’t seen the experts lists for 2013 just yet, but I’m fairly certain that Moran will rank very, very highly (first overall?) on my own summer list.

Update (park/schedule adjusted stats)

.389/.463/.556 – 14 BB/11 K – 90 AB

Verdict

The numbers are eerily similar to Moran’s freshman season line of .351/.462/.577. The big difference has been Moran’s 2012 health – the UNC sophomore broke his right hand early about a third of the way through the current season. Before the injury there were some positive reports about Moran’s defense, as well as some less than positive things said about his overall tools package (e.g. only his hit tool is clearly above-average…the rest of his tools, not so much). There are tools beyond the standard big five that scouts look for, and Moran’s pitch recognition, plate coverage, ability to hit to all fields, and balanced swing mechanics all contribute to his plus-plus plate discipline. Every evaluator will weigh particular skills differently, but Moran’s plate discipline means a great deal more to me than the fact that he isn’t a great runner or not a burner on the base paths.

Georgia Tech SO 1B/OF Daniel Palka (2013)

Why was he a favorite?

Short and sweet: plus-plus raw power

Update (park/schedule adjusted stats)

.295/.378/.564 – 13 BB/31 K – 149 AB

Verdict

More or less about what we expected from Palka in his sophomore campaign. Like Moran before him, his 2012 numbers very closely mirror his freshman year stats (.310/.389/.586). The power will remain less of a question than his eventual defensive home. If he can handle an outfield corner from an athletic standpoint — with his arm, he’d look good in right — then he’s a potential first round pick in 2013. If he’s limited to first base, well, he could still wind up as a first day pick, but it will take the requisite amount of hitting (i.e. even more than he’s currently doing) to build the confidence that he can play everyday at first in the big leagues.

Georgia Tech SO OF Kyle Wren (2013)

Why was he a favorite?

I’m a sucker for speed, professional CF range, and the ideal leadoff hitter approach. He reminds me of Alabama’s Taylor Dugas, another FAVORITE you’ll see later on, but with louder tools.

Update (park/schedule adjusted stats)

.261/.355/.360 – 21 BB/19 K – 12/16 SB – 161 AB)

Verdict

As happy as I am to see he’s maintained many of his strengths — still fast, still a good defender, still taking pitches — there’s no denying that his 2012 has been a disappointment. The “good” news for college baseball fans is that they are likely to get another year out of Wren, as I’d be fairly surprised to see the draft-eligible sophomore get drafted high enough to keep him from returning to Georgia Tech for a junior season. I remain a fan, but concede the point that many have made all along – Wren will have to put on some muscle if he hopes to continue to make progress as a hitter.

Clemson SO 2B/SS Steve Wilkerson (2013)

Why was he a favorite?

Speed, athleticism, defensive tools, and a strong high school pedigree all put him on the map, but really strong word of mouth from scouts who saw him firsthand sold me on his potential big league starting infielder upside

Update (park/schedule adjusted stats)

.329/.374/.412 – 13 BB/26 K – 170 AB

Verdict

As much as any player listed above, the jury is still out on Wilkerson’s future. His bat has been even better than advertised and there is continued positivity about his speed and defense, but he’s reputation as a free swinger makes me a little nervous going forward. He’s one to watch all the same, and could emerge as an even better prospect than I currently give him credit for assuming he gets the chance to play some shortstop (he should once Jason Stolz graduates, right?) down the line.

2012 MLB Draft: Diligently Researched First Round Predictions/Totally Random Guesses

There are 31 first round picks in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. Our mission, as we’ve chosen to accept it, is to guess which 31 names will fill up those 31 free first round slots. By my count, almost half the first round spots are filled already. There are fifteen (15) names below that I’m extremely confident will hear their names called in the first round of this year’s draft. Consider these names as close as one can get to automatic first rounders…but also remember they are coming from a guy with approximately zero consistently reliable inside sources six weeks ahead of the draft’s first day.

Catchers (2)

Mike Zunino, Stryker Trahan

First Basemen (0)

None

Middle Infielders (2)

Carlos Correa, Deven Marrero

Third Basemen (1)

Richie Shaffer

Outfielders (3)

Byron Buxton, Albert Almora, David Dahl

Righthanded Pitchers (6)

Kyle Zimmer, Mark Appel, Kevin Gausman, Lucas Giolito, Michael Wacha, Marcus Stroman

Lefthanded Pitchers (1)

Max Fried

**********

Now this is when things get weird, so we’re not even going to bother trying to pinpoint the 16 exact players who will be taken in the first. Instead, we’ll look at a few of the seemingly infinite possibilities of player combinations we might see. The back of the first round sees an odd hodgepodge of quick moving college players (2011 version: Sean Gilmartin and Joe Panik), out of nowhere prep players (Kevin Matthews), and players who have fallen due to iffy springs, signability, injury concerns, or questionable big league roles (no great fits here last year…Blake Swihart and Tyler Beede, maybe?). The 2012 Draft could see a few players who fit these archetypes. Let’s throw a few names against the wall and see what sticks.

Quick Moving College Players (3)

Andrew Heaney, Brian Johnson (I’m not particularly fond of either pitcher, but that’s not the point here – we’ll get to that in due time), Travis Jankowski (not his biggest fan but could easily see a team falling in love with him – just a hunch)

Out of Nowhere Prep Players (4)

Well, if they are truly out of nowhere then we can’t really predict them now, right? For fun we’ll stick with a few prep pitchers (and all personal favorites) and say righties Kieran Lovegrove, Grayson Long, Trey Killian, and lefthander Kyle Twomey (this year’s Tyler Skaggs/Henry Owens?) 

Fallers (4)

Matt Smoral (injury), Joey Gallo (performance, though I don’t agree), Walker Weickel (stuff has been down, inconsistent), Lance McCullers (questionable role, though, again, I don’t agree)

Instead of doing the Fallers category, I originally wrote this for the group of Smoral, Gallo, Weickel, and McCullers: “Because there is such little consensus this year, I’m just going with the old gut and listing players that I think have legitimate first round talent.” I’m not yet ready to call any of them locks, but in my world they all should be.

**********

But that’s not all. We know the inherent volatility of any given draft day prohibits us from realistically placing players into neat little categories. They are a fun and easy construct for a lazy writer such as myself, but not all that useful when trying to make an honest to goodness prediction. Here are popular names that seem like logical bets to fill those remaining spots in the first round, even though I don’t necessarily agree that they are all necessarily first round talents (2)

Gavin Cecchini, Stephen Piscotty (you could also put the aforementioned Heaney and Johnson here)

There are also some prospects that I think are just about properly rated (borderline first round at this point) by many of the pundits (3)

Zach Eflin, Courtney Hawkins, Tyler Naquin

Those five names listed above (the first three I have the utmost confidence in, the first four I’d bet on with above-average confidence, and I’d only bet all five making it with 25-1 odds in my favor) all seem like industry favorites to sneak into the first at this point. Unfortunately, such a thing as an industry favorite doesn’t really exist. The tenth ranked player on my board is in the sixties on yours. Every draft in every sport is like to this to some degree, but no sport is as crazy to predict as baseball. Can’t predict ball, some might say. Instead of giving up entirely, let’s keep going – we’re nothing if not persistent. There are a few players that defy all of the categories above. The Others, as they shall be known, could all wind up in the first round for any number of legitimate reasons (6)

Addison Russell (he’s fine as a future third baseman for me, but if a team likes him at shortstop then he’s a first rounder for sure), Lewis Brinson (the glut of prep outfielders might push him down, but a tools-first team might not want to risk losing him later), Chris Stratton (the gap between Stratton and Wacha is more perception than reality, in my opinion), Wyatt Mathiesen (anecdotal observation without doing the five minutes of research to back it up: it feels like a prep catcher is always drafted late in the first or in the supplemental earlier than expected each year), Victor Roache (my favorite team, the offensively inept Phillies, pick at 40th, 54th, 77th, and 95th…if he falls out of the first, I hope they are all over him), Nolan Fontana (positional need + organization who prioritizes steady defense and on-base skills = first round possibility…he reminds me of Russ Adams as a college player/prospect) 

This brings our grand total up to 15 locks and 22 maybes. My calculator confirms that we now have 37 names for 31 spots. Not bad, all things considered. Knock out all 3 of our Quick Moving College Guys and three of the four Out of Nowhere Prep Players (I flipped a four-sided coin and it said to lose Long), and then we’re right at 31. We’ll check on this in six weeks to see how many of our 31 actually cracked the first round.

2012 MLB Draft Top 75 Prospect Big Board Commentary (1-5)

For the whole list follow this link:

2012 MLB Draft Top 75 Prospect Big Board (Hitters Only)

Florida JR C Mike Zunino

College sluggers tend to be among the best known draft prospects each year, so listing the reasons why Zunino is one of the 2012 draft’s top prospects is little more than academic at this point: we know that he has huge power (25-35 HR upside) that is already showing up against big-time college pitching, plus arm strength with above-average accuracy, and leadership qualities not seen since the likes of [insert the leader of your favorite team and/or political party] . Concerns with Zunino are three-fold: 1) his approach leaves a little something to be desired, 2) his swing, while shortened somewhat in 2012, still can get too long at times, leaving him exposed against good breaking balls, and 3) he’s a catcher, so all inherent risks that come with the position (injury, developmental stagnation, etc.) apply. One comp (obligatory comps are evil and irresponsible and spread obfuscate rather than illuminate) for Zunino that I particularly like: former state of Florida college catcher (Hurricanes, not Gators) Charles Johnson. Sticking with the Florida theme, fellow Gator (I had not idea this guy went to Florida when I thought up this comp, how about that?) Mike Stanley makes for an interesting historical comp of some merit, though I doubt we’ll see the same kind of patience from Zunino that Stanley exhibited as a pro. So, realistically I think a reasonable floor is something like Johnson or former Royal Mike MacFarlane (defense, leadership, .180ish ISO, .330ish wOBA – again, we’re talking floor, so take the power projection with a grain of salt), with the upside of Stanley or Phil Nevin (minus the position switch), and the middle ground of a modern guy like Chris Iannetta. He’s not the prospect that Matt Wieters (love that guy) was back in 2008, but I think the comparison between Zunino and Wieters makes a heck of a lot more sense than the silly Buster Posey comp I’ve seen thrown out (though, to be fair, it is often dismissed fairly quickly by the “expert”) around the internet. I could see a few years for Zunino like Wieters’ 2011 age-25 season (.262/.328/.450 with 22 homers) before his career is out., and that could still be underselling his long-term power. You’d really like to see a “can’t miss” college bat with better command of the strike zone (see concern 1 above) as Zunino’s combined BB/K ratio over the past two seasons is just 47 to 72 (park/schedule adjusted), but in a draft with so many question marks at the top, the Florida catcher’s power, defense, and leadership make him a premium pro prospect.

OF Byron Buxton (Appling County HS, Georgia)

Buxton has been covered at length already, so I’ll try to keep this brief. When I told my dad that I had recently compared (via a scout friend) a high school hitter to Mike Schmidt on the site, the long-time Phillies fan looked at me like I was crazy. Again, I don’t think 500+ homers is in Buxton’s future — I’m going out on a big limb with that prediction, I know — but the swing setup (wide base, backed way off from the plate) and bat speed are not entirely dissimilar. The beautiful thing about a prospect like Buxton is that he doesn’t have to hit like a future Hall of Famer to have a legitimately great big league career. This is hardly an original thought, but, man, athletic center fielders with plus range and plus speed are a ton of fun; not only do they offer elite upside, but their defensive upside and speed (never slumps!) give them a much higher floor than almost any other prospect archetype. Just writing this up makes me want to go back and revise the list to push down the one-dimensional first basemen who are all challenged with the slimmest margins for error going forward. Buxton could “not hit” as a pro (there are limits to this, of course: we’re talking “not hit” like not hit like a clear-cut big leaguer, and not not hit like what would happen if I ever got 600 minor league plate appearances…”not hit” requires a certain baseline competence), and still play a meaningful role on a big league club. Buxton’s speed, arm, range, athleticism, and body are all in that hard to fathom top 5% of all baseball players on the planet. If you really believe in his bat — I think he’ll hit, but am less sure of his ultimate power output — then you take him first overall and don’t look back. His remaining tools are all so strong that he’s safely ensconced in this draft’s top ten even if certain scouting departments are less sure about his offensive future.

SS Carlos Correa (Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico)

Correa represents my mea culpa for underrating Manny Machado in 2010. Their scouting reports read very, very similar, and are best summed up by the abundance of “above-average” and “plus” sprinkled throughout. Correa can throw with the best of them, and his foot speed, bat speed, approach, and range are all well above-average. He’ll need plenty of at bats against quality pitching, so his drafting team will have to be patient, but his experience against high velocity arms is encouraging.

C Stryker Trahan (Acadiana HS, Louisiana)

We covered Trahan the other day (“if Swihart could run…”), but the beauty of his swing bears highlighting once again. I’m no scout, but I like watching hitters hit. It seems to me that the best hitters, especially when at their very best, let the ball get deep in the zone before unleashing the full fury of their barrel through the zone. There are times when it is best to open up early and jump on a fastball, but for the most part I like to see hitters stay back as long as possible, give themselves time to recognize the pitch type and location, and then use the whole field with each swing. You need a discerning eye and quick hands to pull off such a trick with any consistency, and Trahan has both in spades. He’s a really good ballplayer who happens to have tantalizing athletic gifts, and not just a great athlete getting by.

SS CJ Hinojosa (Klein Collins HS, Texas)

At his best, Hinojosa swings the bat with some of the most fluid yet chaotic yet silky smooth violence you’d ever like to see – his level swing and crazy bat speed epitomize the old John Wooten quote “Be quick but don’t hurry.”  Defensively, I think he’ll stick up the middle fairly easily, but he’s one of those “tweener” types for some. Tweener is normally a pejorative turn, but in this case I’d say that the two things that Hinojosa is between are average or better shortstop and potential Gold Glove winning third baseman. His strong commitment to Texas and a season-ending shoulder injury should push him down the board, but I’d take him in the first if I thought he could be convinced to sign.

Random Draft Thoughts

2012 MLB Draft Top 75 Prospect Big Board (Hitters Only)

I only link it because that’s what I’m using as a jumping off point for these thoughts…

*** I feel a lot better about Buxton being an elite draft prospect (rather than just the best of an otherwise lackluster top half of the first round group) now that more information about his spring progress has been made publicly available, most notably with the reports filed by ESPN and the guys at Baseball America. Maybe that makes me a stupid dumb wannabe who has no business claiming to be a “scout” (good thing I’ve never once done that!), but I’m alright with that.

*** One fair criticism that I heard a lot of via email over the last week is my reliance on “old” scouting reports for high school prospects. I understand and appreciate the feedback, but there’s a method to my madness there. Anecdotally, it seems that prep players who struggle during the spring, for whatever reason, are continuously downgraded by pro teams. I’m not saying these pro teams are wrong per se; I’m merely suggesting that the recency effect is real and potentially detrimental to the larger goal of adding talent on draft day. I’m a big proponent of the simple idea that once a young player shows a tool, he owns it forever. (Usual caveats apply when it comes to “forever,” e.g. injury, age, sudden preference for professional cribbage, whatever). Additionally, so much of the information found online comes from a one time viewing of a prospect. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that — and it is something that I’ve done in the past, and will continue to do into the future — but it is worth keeping in mind when reading something written with absolute stone cold 100% authority. One game does not a scouting consensus make. It’s great to be have conviction, but greater to keep an open mind.

*** I also mentioned this on the actual big board post, but it bears repeating: by and large, injuries to draft prospects don’t really mean a whole heck of a lot to me. Sure, there’s some lost developmental time, and, yeah, it is nice to get those last looks at a player you might still be on the fence about, but the vast majority of first day caliber players have been on the scouting radar for years. A few weeks or months of lost time really shouldn’t shift anybody’s draft board too drastically. I suppose that’s a long way of saying that Lucas Giolito was the top prospect in this year’s draft for me before his injury, and he remains in the top spot today. Barring something unforeseen, Giolito would be my recommendation as this draft’s top player. Just wanted to get that out here in writing sooner rather than later.

*** “If Swihart could run, he’d be Stryker Trahan” – a smarter baseball man than I, who has seen both prospects a number of times in the last calendar year, shared that with me recently.  He could have also probably have said something like “if Swihart was seen as signable, he’d be Stryker Trahan,” but that’s not as fun. The comparison between the two athletic prep catchers is only natural, but I give the edge to the Trahan, the shiny new toy. In comparing the two, I think Trahan’s swing works better, has more power upside, and, though it ought to go without saying, possesses a vastly superior baseball name. I have a terrible memory, so it took looking up the last few big boards done for each draft here on the site to remember the “original” (note: baseball existed well before 2009) version of this prospect: 2010 draft prospect Justin O’Conner. Well, even that is probably a lie now that I’ve taken the extra step of going back to 2009 to see all of the ridiculous high school catching prospects who fit this profile (Wil Myers, Luke Bailey, 2012 prospect Jonathan Walsh). I feel a tangent coming on…

*** The previous bullet point got me thinking about what a combined 2009-2012 (as long as I’ve been doing this site) big board might look like. Below is my best shot. Keep in mind the following things: players are ranked as they were seen as prospects heading into the draft only, players are listed at the position they were expected to play professionally, and, most importantly, my memory is pretty terrible so my views on certain guys might be off, especially the 2009 prospects.  In other words, my awful ranking of Manny Machado sticks with me (to say nothing of my infamous — to me, anyway — Mike Trout whiff), Dustin Ackley is viewed as a prospective outfielder and Grant Green a shortstop, and, outside of the top few names, it is really, really hard to figure out who the better draft prospect was from years ago when you can barely remember what you ate for breakfast five hours ago.

  1. Community College of Southern Nevada FR C Bryce Harper
  2. Rice JR 3B Anthony Rendon
  3. North Carolina JR CF Dustin Ackley
  4. OF Bubba Starling (Gardner-Edgerton HS, Kansas)
  5. Florida JR C Mike Zunino
  6. OF Byron Buxton (Appling County HS, Georgia)
  7. Harvard Westlake HS (CA) OF Austin Wilson
  8. SS Carlos Correa (Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico)
  9. Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL) 3B Nick Castellanos
  10. C Stryker Trahan (Acadiana HS, Louisiana)
  11. C Blake Swihart (Cleveland HS, New Mexico)
  12. 3B Bobby Borchering (Bishop Verot HS, Florida)
  13. Southern California SS Grant Green
  14. CF Donavan Tate (Cartersville HS, Georgia)
  15. C Justin O’Conner (Cowan HS, Indiana)
  16. SS Francisco Lindor (Montverde Academy, Florida)
  17. OF Josh Bell (Jesuit College Prep School, Texas)
  18. OF Everett Williams (McCallum HS, Texas)
  19. SS Manny Machado (Brito Private HS, Florida)
  20. SS CJ Hinojosa (Klein Collins HS, Texas)
  21. Oregon State SO C Andrew Susac
  22. OF Brandon Nimmo (Cheyenne East HS, Wyoming)
  23. OF Albert Almora (Mater Academy, Florida)
  24. Connecticut JR OF George Springer
  25. Clemson JR 3B Richie Shaffer
  26. SS Trevor Story (Irving HS, Texas)
  27. 3B Javier Baez (Arlington County Day HS, Florida)
  28. Georgia Southern JR OF Victor Roache
  29. Bishop Blanchet HS (WA) OF Josh Sale
  30. LSU JR OF Jared Mitchell

*** If I had to re-rank based on present prospect value, Harper would remain the slam dunk number one. After that, chaos. Well, probably Machado, and maybe Ackley – I could be wrong, but I feel like a swap of those two players would be turned down by each team. Anyway, we have Harper, Machado, Ackley…then chaos! I like looking back and comparing somewhat similar prospects. In the battle for top four-year college bat, Rendon and Ackley  remains a huge toss-up (give me Ackley by a hair, but he’s an all-time personal favorite going back to his freshman year). Choosing between recent top prep outfielders Starling and Buxton is a matter of personal taste (more power for Bubba, Buxton’s speed and athleticism gives him the higher floor…with similar, but different, upsides, I’d give Buxton a slight edge). The only name that truly makes me cringe is probably Everett Williams – he’s a long way away from being a “bust,” but the word disappointment certainly comes to mind. Guys like Borchering (debatable, I guess), Green, Tate, O’Conner, and Sale don’t look great now, but were all perfectly defensible at the time. What this list lacks is the collection of names that didn’t rank highly on my personal pre-draft lists, for better or worse. For worse, we definitely have the aforementioned Trout. The absence of prospects like Tony Sanchez, Jiovanni Mier, Zack Cox (debatable), and Christian Colon is the best, I think.

A few other general thoughts from my earliest lists and then I swear I’m done patting myself on the back/admitting how dumb I was/am. Back in 2009 I liked Scooter Gennett more than most, Mier far less. There were many nasty emails (fine, just one) who said I should just give this whole thing up because I had Sanchez, who I saw play 80% of his college games, far too low (54th best prospect in 2009).  I stuck with Jonathan Singleton despite his down senior year (again, once you show those tools then you own them forever – Singleton’s big bat was not forgotten). In 2010, I was all-in on Kolbrin Vitek and Rob Segedin, preferring both to the more acclaimed Cox. Outfielders with range and patience like Tyler Holt and Trent Mummey were also gigantic favorites. My low ranking of Colon (45th) garned a similar nasty email to the one I got the year before about Tony Sanchez. Last year I was so much in my own personal bubble that I have no clue which players I had ranked higher or lower than most. I consider that progress.

2012 MLB Draft Top 75 Prospect Big Board (Hitters Only)

Lists stink because they simply aren’t all that informative. Sure, this particular list shows that, for example, I slightly prefer Rahier to Dahl, all else being equal, but without the rationale explaining the process, then there really isn’t a ton of value added to something that otherwise looks like any other cut-and-paste job of one of the dozens of lists floating around the internet at any given time. Long story short, this is just the beginning. The list itself, though unimpressive to look at, is the byproduct of hours upon hours of work, but, again, it is only the beginning. Explanations will be added throughout the week, so check back in over time to read the hows and whys of player placement. In the meantime, feel free to send along a note either in the comments or via email (robozga at gmail dot com) and I’ll get to it as soon as possible. Four quick notes because I apparently hate getting to bed at a reasonable hour:

* Zunino at one was much more of a slam dunk than I had anticipated when I started to build the actual list one month ago. That said, while I think his floor (definite big league catcher, borderline starter at worst) is considerable, I think the risks with any young catcher need to be put back in focus. Recent “can’t miss” college catching prospects like Posey (injury) and Wieters (“slow start” to his career, at least so goes the unfortunate perception of many) have had early pro careers that highlight some of the ups and downs young catchers go through as they transition to the pro game. Using a pair of top ten big league catchers doesn’t really show the point I’m trying to make — I think (hope?) I have it explained better in the forthcoming rationale for the picks — so maybe Zunino at number one makes even more sense than I think.

** I’m nervous about putting Buxton so high without ever having seen him in person since last summer. Rarely do I trust my own eyes in this way — long-time readers should remember that one of the early goals of this site was to consolidate all of the draft information from the many bright minds who really know the game — but the mixture of a lack of any overwhelming evidence about his superiority over the rest of the prep class (his tools are outstanding, just so we’re clear – I’m not hating here) and, yeah, a little bit of my growing cockiness has led me to this point. I guess the question for me remains pretty simple: what separates Buxton from all the other athletic prep outfielders with plus tools like Almora, Dahl, Brinson, and Winston? Again, I’m no scout, but I don’t see the hit tool/raw power for Buxton that clearly trumps what those other guys have. So why has Buxton been the helium guy all spring above the rest? I’m a little nervous there’s some groupthink going here, and it seemed that even the comps jumped up from Austin Jackson to an idealized combination of the Upton brothers practically overnight. Nervous or not, he’s still the pick for the second best position player in the country, so it isn’t like I’m downplaying his ability. Just being that guy, I guess.

*** Ah, nevermind. I wrote this back on 8/15/11: “We could talk about the wildest comp I’ve ever heard in my life — what high school outfielder’s swing had a salty veteran scout muttering the name of a Hall of Fame third baseman as an honest to goodness comp? — or we could talk about how I couldn’t place Lance McCullers similarity to somebody I “knew” (turned out to be pretty embarrassing, but the rising senior looks a lot like the actor Penn Badgley in a certain light) until well after the fact.” A scout in Chicago actually said that Buxton reminded him of Mike Schmidt as a hitter. As a native Philadelphian, I hate to admit that I’m just a tad too young to fully appreciate the reference, at least in terms of being a regular baseball watcher during Schmidt’s playing career, but a comp like that, mentioned by one scout (who was otherwise negative all day long) and backed up by another, isn’t something thrown around lightly. Buxton won’t hit 548 homers in his career, but as a point of reference (bat speed, bat speed, bat speed), it is fun to use as a starting point to let the imagination wander.

**** As a general prospect rule, I don’t care about injuries. You show a skill once, you own it. The injured players who rank highly here don’t deserve to get knocked down just because of some missed time in their draft year.

  1. Florida JR C Mike Zunino
  2. OF Byron Buxton (Appling County HS, Georgia)
  3. SS Carlos Correa (Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico)
  4. C Stryker Trahan (Acadiana HS, Louisiana)
  5. SS CJ Hinojosa (Klein Collins HS, Texas)
  6. OF Albert Almora (Mater Academy, Florida)
  7. Clemson JR 3B Richie Shaffer
  8. Georgia Southern JR OF Victor Roache
  9. 3B Trey Williams (Valencia HS, California)
  10. 3B Tanner Rahier (Palm Desert HS, California)
  11. OF David Dahl (Oak Mountain HS, Alabama)
  12. TCU JR C Josh Elander
  13. 3B/OF Joey Gallo (Bishop Gorman HS, Nevada)
  14. OF Courtney Hawkins (Mary Carroll HS, Texas)
  15. C/2B Alex Bregman (Albuquerque Academy, New Mexico)
  16. SS/2B Gavin Cecchini (Barbe HS, Louisiana)
  17. Texas Tech JR OF Barrett Barnes
  18. OF Lewis Brinson (Coral Springs HS, Florida)
  19. Arkansas JR 3B Matt Reynolds
  20. Buffalo JR C Tom Murphy
  21. Oklahoma City JR C Dane Phillips
  22. Florida JR SS Nolan Fontana
  23. Arizona State JR SS Deven Marrero
  24. OF Jameis Winston (Hueytown HS, Alabama)
  25. 3B Rio Ruiz (Bishop Amat HS, California)
  26. Purdue JR C Kevin Plawecki
  27. Texas A&M JR OF Tyler Naquin
  28. Kentucky JR C Luke Maile
  29. 3B/OF David Thompson (Westminster Christian HS, Florida)
  30. UCLA JR OF Jeff Gelalich
  31. Chipola SO OF Andrew Toles
  32. 3B Addison Russell (Pace HS, Florida)
  33. Florida State JR 1B Jayce Boyd
  34. South Carolina JR 1B Christian Walker
  35. OF Nick Williams (Galveston Ball HS, Texas)
  36. OF Anthony Alford (Petal HS, Mississippi)
  37. Walters State CC SO OF/1B Marcus Davis
  38. Connecticut JR 2B LJ Mazzilli
  39. Virginia JR SS Stephen Bruno
  40. Stanford JR 3B Stephen Piscotty
  41. St. Mary’s JR 3B Patrick Wisdom
  42. Cal Poly JR OF Mitch Haniger
  43. Jacksonville JR OF Adam Brett Walker
  44. SS/3B Corey Seager (Northwest Cabarrus HS, North Carolina)
  45. 3B Carson Kelly (Westview HS, Oregon)
  46. Florida State JR 2B Devon Travis
  47. Florida JR 1B Brian Johnson
  48. SS/2B Adrian Marin (Gulliver Prep HS, Florida)
  49. Georgia Tech SO OF Kyle Wren
  50. Miami JR SS Stephen Perez
  51. Stony Brook JR OF Travis Jankowski
  52. Florida State SR OF James Ramsey
  53. 1B Ron Miller (Serra HS, California)
  54. Florida SR 1B Preston Tucker
  55. Texas JR OF Jonathan Walsh
  56. Miami SR C Peter O’Brien
  57. North Carolina JR 2B/SS Tommy Coyle
  58. Stanford JR 2B/SS Kenny Diekroeger
  59. Virginia JR SS Chris Taylor
  60. OF Jesse Winker (Olympia HS, Florida)
  61. OF Fernelys Sanchez (George Washington HS, New York)
  62. Louisiana State JR OF Raph Rhymes
  63. Georgia Tech JR OF Brandon Thomas
  64. Baylor JR 1B Max Muncy
  65. OF Rhett Wiseman (Buckingham Browne & Nichols HS, Massachusetts)
  66. OF Josh Henderson (Home School, Virginia)
  67. Orange Coast JC SO C Stefan Sabol
  68. OF Vahn Bozoian (Ayala HS, California)
  69. 3B Daniel Robertson (Upland HS, California)
  70. Stanford JR OF Jacob Stewart (2012)
  71. Rice rJR OF Jeremy Rathjen (2012)
  72. Jacksonville JR OF Dan Gulbransen
  73. Vanderbilt JR OF Connor Harrell
  74. St. John’s JR OF Jeremy Baltz
  75. 2B Chase Nyman (Pascagoula HS, Mississippi)

Also receiving votes Missouri JR OF Blake Brown, Stanford JR OF Tyler Gaffney, Cypress Ranch HS (Texas) 2B/OF Leon Byrd, King HS (Florida) 1B Keon Barnum, TCU SR OF Jason Coats, Hamilton HS 3B Mitch Nay (Arizona), Providence HS (North Carolina) 3B Jackson Campana, Alabama SR OF Taylor Dugas, Farragut HS (Tennessee) SS AJ Simcox, Texas-Arlington JR OF Preston Beck, and James Madison HS (California) 3B Corey Oswalt.

2012 MLB Draft: Big West Position Players to Know

Five straight days of posting in a row. I’m as shocked as you are. Let’s wrap the week up with a look at some of the best Big West position players who are eligible for the 2012 MLB Draft. In all honesty, it’s Haniger and then a whole lot of iffy prospects, but, hey, pretend I didn’t write that and read the 727 words below anyway!

Catcher

  • UC Irvine SR C Ronnie Shaeffer

Shaeffer’s slow start knocks him down some in national circles, but he’s still the best of a sorry lot here in the Big West. His defense behind the plate is more than adequate and there’s some upside in his bat, but it is getting close to “put up or shut up” territory for him now.

First Base

  • Cal State Fullerton JR 1B Carlos Lopez
  • UC Irvine SR 1B Jordan Fox

Has anybody ever seen this Carlos Lopez and Wake Forest’s Carlos Lopez in the same place? Both young guys are really, really good college hitters. This Lopez has hit .375/.458/.462 in 104 AB. The other Lopez is hitting for a little bit more power at .359/.480/.689 in 103 AB. Both players have solid track records of success: the two put up similar numbers (Fullerton version: .329/.389/.468 – 16 BB/11 K – 158 AB…Wake Forest version: .287/.373/.567 – 23 BB/51 K – 178 AB) last season, so there is precedent for their strong 2012 performances. The biggest problem with both players, as least in term of their professional prospects, is defense. Neither profiles as a regular in any one defensive spot (this version is likely a 1B/corner OF guy, the other can add a competent 3B to those spots), but have consistently hit enough to get drafted this June.

Second Base

  • UC Irvine SR 2B Tommy Reyes
  • Cal State Fullerton JR 2B Matt Orloff
  • Cal State Fullerton JR 2B Derek Legg

All longshots to be drafted, but I’m feeling generous today, so why not? Reyes is a patient hitter, Orloff is a good defender who can run but has never hit enough to turn himself into a viable draft, and Legg has a cool last name (two G’s!).

Shortstop

  • UC Irvine SR SS DJ Crumlich
  • Cal State Fullerton JR SS Richy Pedroza
  • Cal Poly SR SS Mike Miller
  • Long Beach State JR SS Matt Duffy
  • Cal State Fullerton SR SS Anthony Trajano

There’s not enough power to project any name here as a regular, but both Crumlich and Pedroza are defensive stalwarts who could wind up as utility guys if everything breaks right. If any player listed breaks through in the low minors it’ll be Miller, a really smart hitter with sneaky pop.

Third Base

  • Cal State Northridge rJR 3B Adam Barry

Barry is a great athlete and a former football star who doesn’t quite have the tools one would expect from a two-sport performer. He doesn’t have a ton of power upside nor is he a burner on the base paths, but the possibility that he can hang behind the plate makes him a potential 2013 senior sign.

Outfield

  • Cal Poly JR OF Mitch Haniger
  • Cal State Fullerton JR OF Ivory Thomas
  • UC Irvine rSR OF Chris Ramirez
  • UC Santa Barbara JR OF Brett Vertigan
  • Cal State Fullerton JR OF Anthony Hutting
  • Cal State Fullerton JR OF Austin Kingsolver
  • UC Riverside JR OF David Andriese
  • Cal State Fullerton JR OF Casey Watkins
  • UC Santa Barbara SR OF Lance Roenicke
  • Long Beach State SR OF Jonathan Kim
  • Long Beach State SR OF Brennan Metzger
  • Cal State Northridge OF Miles Williams
  • UC Davis SR OF David Popkins

With above-average power, a strong arm, average speed, good athleticism, and well above-average range, Haniger has the look of a future everyday player in right field. I worry some about his bat – his power is nice, but will he make enough contact? – but in a weak college group of hitters, he’s a standout. After Haniger there is a steep drop off in pro talent. Thomas faces similar questions about his hit tool, but has impressive defensive tools in center field to fall back on if all else fails. He is a good bit behind Haniger as a prospect because of his lack of power upside. There’s yet another decline in talent after Thomas, if you can believe it. Ramirez offers many of the same skills as Thomas (speed, CF defense), just like Vertigan below him. Long story short, the Big West has all the speed and defense you could want, but none of the power (outside of Haniger).

2012 MLB Draft: Big 10 Pitchers to Know

Three giant tiers of Big 10 pitching can be found mere centimeters below this paragraph. I know what you’re thinking: what a great time to be alive. The first group is made up of pitchers whom I’d cautiously list as “likely” to get drafted in June, but, really, there is little to no consensus about which pitchers will have the best pro future from this conference. Even the “likely” list is full of names that could wait a very, very long time on draft day, if they get picked at all. In an attempt to clarify the muddled Big 10 pitching picture, I talked to a few cold weather baseball moles who have seen multiple guys on the list up close. I had hoped that their head-to-head (arm-to-arm?) comparisons would shed a little light on the subject, but, no, the wildly different viewpoints I got back have just confused me even more. A few of their insights, all of which I personally disagree with: 1) Wittgren is a stone cold lock to be drafted, but is by no means a professional starting pitching prospect; 2) Oakes is severely underrated and has a chance to be the first Big 10 pitcher off the board, and 3) there will be more Big 10 senior pitchers taken early on than juniors, due to a combination of the new draft rules and the relative strength of the senior class.

Tier 1

  1. Purdue JR RHP Nick Wittgren
  2. Illinois JR RHP Matt Milroy
  3. Nebraska JR RHP Thomas Lemke
  4. Michigan JR RHP Ben Ballantine
  5. Purdue JR RHP Brad Schreiber
  6. Michigan rSR RHP Kolby Wood
  7. Nebraska JR RHP Travis Huber
  8. Michigan State rSO RHP Michael Theodore
  9. Michigan State SR RHP Tony Bucciferro
  10. Ohio State rJR RHP Brad Goldberg
  11. Michigan SR RHP Brandon Sinnery
  12. Michigan rSR RHP Travis Smith
  13. Minnesota JR RHP TJ Oakes
  14. Iowa JR LHP Matt Dermody
  15. Penn State rSO LHP Joe Kurrasch
  16. Ohio State JR RHP Brett McKinney
  17. Indiana SR RHP Chad Martin
  18. Michigan State JR RHP Tony Wieber
  19. Nebraska JR RHP Kyle Hander
  20. Illinois JR RHP Kevin Johnson
  21. Ohio State SR LHP Andrew Armstrong
  22. Illinois rJR RHP Bryan Roberts
  23. Penn State JR RHP John Walter

There’s definitely some talented arms scattered throughout the Big 10 this year, but the majority profile as relievers at the next level. The best bet to reach the bigs as a starting pitcher is current Boilermakers reliever Wittgren, who has had success based largely on a strong three-pitch mix (low-90s fastball, good mid-70s curve, and average upper-70s change) and command well suited for a starter. Milroy’s above-average stuff (big fastball, wipeout slider) has not been nearly consistent enough to help him actually produce on the field. Lemke and Ballentine are both blessed with great size (6’7” and 6’8” respectively) and solid stuff (upper-80s fastballs, good changeups), but, like Milroy, haven’t put up particularly impressive starts to their 2012 campaigns. Ballentine’s teammate Wood is impressive (plus FB movement, nasty SL, splitter that flashes plus), but not on the mound enough to show off his wares. Schreiber is a speculative pick based on his outstanding fastball, a legitimate plus-plus pitch explosive offering. His lack of a consistent second pitch would hold him back even if healthy, but scouts will no doubt be hesitant to recommend him based on limited pre-Tommy John surgery looks last season.

Tier 2 is full of “maybes,” while Tier 3 is chock full of longer shots picked mostly due to solid college production.

Tier 2

  • Northwestern rJR RHP Zach Morton
  • Purdue SR RHP Lance Breedlove
  • Minnesota SR RHP Austin Lubinsky
  • Michigan rSO LHP Logan McAnallen
  • Michigan JR RHP Kyle Clark
  • Indiana SO LHP Joey DeNato
  • Illinois SR RHP Will Strack
  • Northwestern JR RHP Luke Farrell
  • Minnesota JR RHP Drew Ghelfi

Tier 3

  • Michigan SR RHP Kevin Vangheluwe
  • Purdue rSR LHP Calvin Gunter
  • Northwestern SR RHP Michael Jahns
  • Indiana JR RHP Jonny Hoffman
  • Penn State JR RHP Neal Herring
  • Northwestern SR RHP Francis Brooke
  • Northwestern JR LHP Jack Havey
  • Penn State JR RHP Steven Hill
  • Penn State SR LHP Mike Franklin
  • Purdue SR LHP Blake Mascarello
  • Purdue SR RHP Joe Haase
  • Purdue rJR RHP Robert Ramer
  • Nebraska JR RHP Tyler Niederklein
  • Nebraska JR RHP Dylan Vogt
  • Iowa SR LHP Jarred Hippen
  • Iowa SR RHP Nick Brown
  • Michigan rJR LHP Bobby Brosnahan
  • Minnesota JR RHP Billy Soule
  • Michigan State SR RHP Tim Simpson
  • Michigan State JR RHP Andrew Waszak

AQ Conference Follow List: 2012 MLB Draft Shortstops

I think the respective starts for Marrero and Fontana have opened up the debate for top college shortstop prospect in all the land. As a long-time Marrero doubter – first round, sure, but top five? Craziness! – you can probably guess where I stand on the issue. After those two big names, the field is wide open. I’d imagine many would have one of the ACC prospects as the third man at the top. The perpetually underrated Perez and rock steady Taylor are both fine candidates, but my long-standing allegiance to the other Virginia infielder is the pick. The big question from the opposite side of the country comes when trying to place Oregon State’s breakout star Tyler Smith. I’ll be honest: in my pre-season ranking of these exact players, Smith ranked ahead of only the since unfollowed (as in he’s fallen off my personal 2012 draft follow list) Villanova’s Marlon Calbi. That’s obviously not much of an endorsement, but what to do with Smith now that he’s started the year hitting .463/.527/.575? How much weight do 80 at bats have? Coming into the year my notes on Smith were short and sweet: “defensively versatile up the middle, well above-average at both SS and 2B, good arm strength, above-average speed though not necessarily a base stealer, whole-field line drive approach with power to the gaps, mid- to late-round utility future.” Not much has changed from a tools standpoint, but seeing him put it all together, even if only in a small sample, is encouraging. For reference’s sake, he hit .230/.389/.265 in 113 park/schedule adjusted at bats last year. I honestly have no clue how high he can fly between now and June, but I’d make a tentative guess that he could catch the single digit rounds at the rate he is going.

  • Alabama SR SS Jared Reaves
  • Arizona JR SS Alex Mejia
  • Arizona State JR SS Deven Marrero
  • Arkansas rSR SS Tim Carver
  • Florida JR SS Nolan Fontana
  • Florida JR SS Cody Dent
  • Florida State JR SS Justin Gonzalez
  • Georgia JR SS Kyle Farmer
  • Louisiana State SR SS Austin Nola
  • Maryland SR SS Alfredo Rodriguez
  • Miami JR SS Stephen Perez
  • Michigan JR SS Derek Dennis
  • Mississippi SR SS Blake Newalu
  • NC State JR SS Chris Diaz
  • NC State JR SS Matt Bergquist
  • Oklahoma SR SS Caleb Bushyhead
  • Oregon JR SS JJ Altobelli
  • Oregon State JR SS Tyler Smith
  • Oregon State SR SS Ryan Dunn
  • Tennessee SR SS Zach Osborne
  • Texas A&M JR SS Mikey Reynolds
  • Vanderbilt JR SS Anthony Gomez
  • Virginia JR SS Chris Taylor
  • Virginia JR SS Stephen Bruno
  • Wake Forest JR SS Pat Blair

2012 MLB Draft: Pac-12 Pitchers to Know

There are plenty of quality arms to be found in the Pac-12 this year, from the obvious at the top (Stanford’s Friday/Saturday duo, the pair of pitchability starters from The Grand Canyon State) to the slightly more obfuscated due to injury (Jenkins, Starr, Jones, Hershiser) or questions of readiness (Jaffe, Spivack). The Pac-12 also has some good head-to-head prospect ranking battles found on the same roster, most notably the close race for first drafted pitcher from Oregon State. I prefer Boyd (three average or better pitches, loads of deception, really tough on lefties), but could definitely hear arguments for any of the players listed below. Last but not least, the Pac-12 highlights the age old debate centered around starters and relievers. Appel and Mooneyham, one and two on my personal ranking, will both enter pro ball as well-established starting pitching prospects. After that you’re left with an interesting mishmash of potential back of the bullpen relievers (Griggs, Barrett) and potential back of the rotation starters (Heyer, Rodgers). It’ll be enlightening to see where pro teams have them come June. I currently like the relievers over the starters (in the order listed above), but that’s at least in part because I think Griggs might be able to start while both Heyer and Rodgers could be moved to the bullpen in time. Emphasis on could.

Players are listed in a rough order by team. This isn’t an overall ranking. As great as this year’s Stanford team is, I do not think they have the eight best pitching prospects in all the Pac-12 on their roster. I do think they have eight pitchers that could potentially be drafted in June. That’s the difference, and that’s why we call this list “2012 MLB Draft: Pac-12 Pitchers to Know.”

  • Stanford JR RHP Mark Appel
  • Stanford rJR LHP Brett Mooneyham
  • Stanford rSO RHP Chris Jenkins
  • Stanford JR RHP Dean McArdle
  • Stanford rSO LHP Garrett Hughes
  • Stanford SR RHP Brian Busick
  • Stanford JR RHP Sahil Bloom
  • Stanford SR RHP Elliot Byers
  • UCLA JR RHP Scott Griggs
  • UCLA rFR RHP Eric Jaffe
  • UCLA rSO RHP Ryan Deeter
  • UCLA JR RHP Mike Kerman
  • Arizona State JR RHP Jake Barrett
  • Arizona State JR RHP Brady Rodgers
  • Arizona State JR RHP Alex Blackford
  • Arizona State SR RHP Joseph Lopez
  • Arizona JR RHP Kurt Heyer
  • Arizona JR RHP Tyler Hale
  • Arizona JR RHP Nick Cunningham
  • Arizona JR LHP Vince Littleman
  • Oregon State JR LHP Matt Boyd
  • Oregon State JR RHP Tony Bryant
  • Oregon State SO LHP Ben Wetzler
  • Oregon State rSR RHP Taylor Starr
  • Oregon State SR RHP Ryan Gorton
  • Oregon rSO RHP Jeff Gold
  • Oregon JR LHP Christian Jones
  • Oregon rJR RHP Joey Housey
  • Oregon SR RHP Alex Keudell
  • Washington rJR RHP Aaron West
  • Washington rSO RHP Nick Palewicz
  • Washington JR RHP George Asmus
  • Washington JR RHP Adam Cimber
  • California JR LHP Justin Jones
  • California SR RHP Matt Flemer
  • California rSO RHP Seth Spivack
  • California JR RHP Logan Scott
  • Southern California SR RHP Martin Viramontes
  • Southern California rSR RHP Andrew Triggs
  • Southern California SR RHP Ben Mount
  • Southern California SR RHP Brandon Garcia
  • Southern California rSR RHP Jordan Hershiser
  • Utah JR RHP Tyler Wagner
  • Utah JR RHP Zach Adams
  • Utah JR RHP Tony Vocca
  • Utah JR RHP Brock Duke
  • Utah JR RHP Joe Pond
  • Utah SR RHP Kesley Kondo
  • Washington State JR LHP Bret DeRooy

AQ Conference Follow List: 2012 MLB Draft Second Basemen

Finally, we’ve come to a position breakdown with some real deal competition for the top spot. A legitimate case for that very spot could pretty easily be made for at least a half dozen different players. Case in point: the guy I had fourth overall a few weeks ago when I originally sketched this out (Diekroeger) will likely be the first player of this group off the board in June. Travis, Mazzilli, and Coyle could all be in the mix as well, though I realize these types of players (productive as anybody, but no carrying tool) don’t typically get as much love as I tend to expect on draft day. Diekroeger might also have to watch his back to be sure fellow Pac-12ers DeMichele and Renda keep their distance. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the hot pick of the early spring, Jamodrick McGruder. If internet gossip is to be believed — and it always should — then McGruder’s hot start and standout athleticism has helped him rise up draft boards. Maybe I’m just a sucker for getting as deep as possible with these lists (mostly beyond the point of even finding viable prospects, as one notoriously snarky “friend” in the industry informed me recently), but this is a fun group of players, especially at the top. How fun is it? Let’s compare it to 2011.

Using the number six (though I’m now realizing I mentioned seven guys above…let’s just pretend it was only six, alright?) as my fun with arbitrary number comparison starting point of the day, a quick look back at last year’s top college second basemen rankings reveals that the top six AQ college second basemen (Levi Michael – Joe Panik – Ryan Wright – Khayyan Norfork – Dan Gamache – Josh Adams) were all drafted. That’s the good news. The less good news is that outside of the top three, no 2011 college second basemen ranked in the top thirty of their pro team’s farm system per Baseball America. I don’t want to say the takeaway here is that my “friend” was right, but this quick and imperfect sample does help put things in a different perspective. As much as I personally like LJ Mazzilli today, I should probably slow down a bit with my plans of writing a 4,000 word essay on why I think he’ll be a big league player someday. Or I could just continue to ignore the odds and do whatever the hell I feel like doing on whatever given day it happens to be. Either way. Here’s the whole list of interesting draft follows from the AQ Conferences for, you know, completeness’ sake.

  1. Arizona State JR 2B Joey DeMichele
  2. California JR 2B Tony Renda
  3. Clemson SR 2B Jason Stolz
  4. Connecticut JR 2B LJ Mazzilli
  5. Florida State JR 2B Devon Travis
  6. Georgia SR 2B Levi Hyams
  7. Georgia Tech JR 2B Sam Dove
  8. Georgia Tech SR 2B Conner Winn
  9. Indiana JR 2B Micah Johnson
  10. Louisiana State SR 2B Tyler Hanover
  11. Michigan State rJR 2B Ryan Jones
  12. Mississippi JR 2B Alex Yarbrough
  13. Missouri JR 2B Eric Garcia
  14. North Carolina JR 2B Tommy Coyle
  15. Purdue rSR 2B Eric Charles
  16. St. John’s SR 2B Matt Wessinger
  17. Stanford JR 2B Kenny Diekroeger
  18. Texas SR 2B Jordan Etier
  19. Texas Tech JR 2B Jamodrick McGruder
  20. Virginia SR 2B Keith Werman
  21. Wake Forest JR 2B Mark Rhine

2012 MLB Draft: Big 10 Position Players of Note

As a lifelong resident of the northeastern corner of the United States, I’ve got nothing but love for cold weather college baseball. The Big 10 is always good for a few quality prospects each year (19 players were drafted in 2011), but rarely do we see any impact (i.e. early round) prospects pass through the conference. That’s likely the case once again in 2012, though the first name you’ll read below (or not, if you stop reading right…now) has the best chance of slipping into the draft’s first day than any other Big 10 player. Below you’ll find what I’m sure is an incomplete list (in a somewhat odd twist I find that the fewer legitimate prospects are in a conference, the more I tend to overlook/overrate) of this year’s most interesting Big 10 position player follows. There are surely some players who slipped through the cracks, so feel free to yell at me in the comments or via email if something seems off.

Catchers

  1. Purdue JR C Kevin Plawecki
  2. Nebraska JR C Richard Stock
  3. Michigan SR C Coley Crank
  • Iowa JR C Dan Sheppard
  • Michigan rSO C Zach Johnson

Plawecki has gotten attention from smart fans of cold weather college ball for starting the season white hot, but he’s due for some additional national exposure, especially as we get closer to draft day. There are definite faults to his game – he’s still raw behind the plate and his power upside has been questioned by scouts smarter than me – but I’m a believer in his improved footwork and quick release, as well as the way his selective approach helps him key on pitches he can drive to the gaps. In other words, what he lacks in certain raw tools (arm strength, power) he makes up for in other ways. There’s a lot to like here. I’ve heard mixed reports on Stock’s defense this spring, though it doesn’t appear that he has had much of an opportunity to show off behind the plate given Nebraska’s depth at the position. If pro teams think he can catch – he certainly has the arm strength for it – then he’s an interesting mid-round upside pick due to his intriguing raw power. If he’s limited to first base, then he’ll face a much tougher road. Crank’s defense has never been his forte and reports on his ability to hit anything but meatballs are not encouraging.

First Basemen

  1. Northwestern SR 1B Paul Snieder
  • Penn State SR 1B Joey DeBernardis

Snieder is a really good college player, but his tools are all a little light to profile as a big league player. He might have just enough pop to get drafted, and his defense and arm are both clear strengths.

Second Basemen

  1. Michigan State rJR 2B Ryan Jones
  2. Indiana JR 2B Micah Johnson
  3. Purdue rSR 2B Eric Charles
  • Ohio State JR 2B Kirby Pellant
  • Nebraska JR 2B Bryan Peters
  • Ohio State JR 2B Ryan Cypret

Jones, Johnson, and Charles all make up one of the most intriguing below the radar position groups that we’ve profiled so far. Jones may not have a singular standout tool, but, outside of a lack of big raw power, he is more or less average across the board, including being above-average defensively at both second and third. As much as it pains me to resort to such an empty cliché, Jones is a ballplayer, plain and simple. Johnson has more raw power, but isn’t quite the defender that Jones is. Charles may not profile as quite the offensive player as either Jones or Johnson, but his defense at second is outstanding.

Shortstops

  1. Michigan JR SS Derek Dennis
  2. Minnesota rJR SS Troy Larson
  • Michigan State SR SS Justin Scanlon

At some point we’re all going to collectively give up on Dennis as a pro prospect, but his well-rounded tools – I’ll believe in his ability to defend at a high level up the middle from now until forever – keep him on the radar even thought his college performances have been one disappointment after another.

Third Basemen

  1. Purdue JR 3B Cameron Perkins
  2. Illinois rSO 3B Jordan Parr
  3. Penn State SR 3B Jordan Steranka
  • Ohio State JR 3B Brad Hallberg
  • Purdue SR 3B Barrett Serrato
  • Minnesota SR 3B Kyle Geason
  • Nebraska JR 3B Kurt Farmer
  • Michigan SR 3B John Lorenz
  • Minnesota rJR 3B Matt Puhl

Perkins is the clear BMOC of the Big 10 third base group due to his above-average raw power, quick wrists, and sturdy big league frame. He might be best served working out as a four-corners (LF-RF-3B-1B) role player at the next level. Like Perkins, Parr is a free swinger with power, but his athleticism and versatility on defense are what endear him most to scouts.

Outfielders

  1. Michigan State JR OF Torsten Boss
  2. Nebraska rSO OF Kash Kalkowski
  3. Michigan JR OF Patrick Biondi
  4. Illinois SR OF Willie Argo
  5. Indiana JR OF Justin Cureton
  6. Nebraska JR OF Josh Scheffert
  7. Minnesota rSO OF Dan Olinger
  8. Illinois JR OF Davis Hendrickson
  9. Nebraska SR OF Khiry Cooper
  • Nebraska SR OF Kale Kiser
  • Ohio State rSO OF Mike Carroll
  • Minnesota JR OF Ryan Abrahamson
  • Michigan State JR OF Jordan Keur
  • Penn State SR OF Sean Deegan
  • Penn State JR OF Ryan Clark
  • Purdue SR OF Tyler Spillner
  • Purdue JR OF Stephen Talbott

The top two names on the list, Boss and Kalkowski, are both former and, depending on who winds up drafting them, future infielders. Boss, a converted third baseman, has acquitted himself quite well in center despite not being a classic burner with plus range. His bat might be strong enough even if pushed to a corner at the next level. Kalkowski is a great athlete with good raw power who could be tried at second base in the pros. Biondi is a three-true outcomes player, but only if you doctor the definition to include walks, strikeouts, and stolen bases. Without actually doing the research, I’d wager that Biondi’s 31 combined walks and strikeouts rank up at or near the top of all of college baseball. He’s reached based 46 times so far in 2012 and has stolen a base almost one out of every three times he’s done so. Without any type of context I can’t be sure that those numbers are special in any particular way, but they sure do seem impressive. Those last three sentences almost certainly qualify as only interesting to me, and I apologize. As a prospect, Biondi gives you lots of speed and all kinds of range in center. He won’t hit enough to be a regular, but those two carrying tools could carry him right into a fifth outfielder’s job someday. Argo offers a similar skill set (less arm strength, more physical strength), as does Cureton. Scheffert’s hot start has some believing he is finally beginning to turn his considerable tools into something while Olinger keeps hitting despite not being super toolsy himself. Khiry Cooper gets the last spot even though he has given up baseball for football. Hard to find his brand of athleticism on the diamond, so I could see a team taking a flier on him late.

AQ Conference Follow List: 2012 MLB Draft First Basemen

Shaffer looks pretty strong as the number one first baseman out of this group (not quite Zunino strong, but strong), so who is number two? Do any of these players profile as big league regulars at baseball’s most demanding offensive position? Which state of Florida prospect do you prefer: Boyd, Johnson, or Tucker? Speaking of Johnson, am I crazy for preferring him at first rather than on the mound? How high has Muncy’s strong start elevated his draft stock? Ard, Davies, Rash, or Wasserman: who wins that home run derby? So many questions, precious few answers. Here’s a list of all of my personal AQ conference follow list for first basemen eligible for the 2012 MLB Draft…

  1. Arkansas SR 1B Sam Bates
  2. Baylor JR 1B Max Muncy
  3. Clemson JR 1B Richie Shaffer
  4. Florida JR 1B Vickash Ramjit
  5. Florida JR 1B Brian Johnson
  6. Florida SR 1B Preston Tucker
  7. Florida State JR 1B Jayce Boyd
  8. Georgia Tech SR 1B Jake Davies
  9. Louisville JR 1B Zak Wasserman
  10. Miami JR 1B Cade Kreuter
  11. Mississippi SR 1B Matt Snyder
  12. North Carolina JR 1B Cody Stubbs
  13. Northwestern SR 1B Paul Snieder
  14. Oklahoma JR 1B Drew Harrison
  15. Oregon State JR 1B Danny Hayes
  16. South Carolina JR 1B Christian Walker
  17. South Florida SR 1B Todd Brazeal
  18. Stanford JR 1B Justin Ringo
  19. Texas A&M SR 1B Jacob House
  20. Virginia SR 1B Jared King
  21. Virginia Tech rJR 1B Andrew Rash
  22. Wake Forest JR 1B Matt Conway
  23. Washington State rJR 1B Taylor Ard
  24. Washington State rSO 1B Adam Nelubowich

My answers from above: Boyd. As everyday first basemen, probably not. Again, Boyd but it is very, very close. Probably, but that’s old news. Argument could be made that he is at or near the top, especially if he can play other spots (2B/OF) besides first as rumored. Ard, but they all have power to spare.

2012 MLB Draft: Pac-12 Position Players of Note

Who needs a fancy introduction on a Monday morning? Let’s dive right in and talk about some of the west coast’s most interesting college hitters.

Catchers

  1. UCLA JR C Tyler Heineman
  2. Washington JR C Chase Anselment
  3. California SR C Chadd Krist
  4. Oregon SO C Aaron Jones
  5. Arizona State JR C Max Rossiter
  6. Southern California SR C Kevin Roundtree
  7. Oregon rSR C Brett Hambright
  8. UCLA JR C Trevor Brown
  • UCLA rSO C Richie Brehaut
  • Utah JR C Parker Morin
  • Stanford JR C Christian Griffiths
  • Washington SR C BK Santy

Heineman is a breakout 2012 star based largely on an incredibly well-rounded skill set. His defense is big league quality as is, and his approach at the plate (none other than Aaron Fitt has lauded him for never wasting at bats) is top notch. There’s a chance he’ll be one of three UCLA catchers drafted in June. Brown profiles more as a utility guy (he’s a good defender already at first, and some think he’s athletic enough to hack it at second) and Brehaut, UCLA’s starting QB and one-time member of the baseball squad, might get picked as a total projection play despite not suiting up for the Bruins team this spring. Anselment is one of the best catchers on the left coast based on the strength of his solid defense, good pitch recognition, and above-average raw power. He’s showing off that power more often in 2012 leading some (fine, me) to believe that he’s finally turning into the player many (again, me) believed he’d be as one of top prospects to come out of his high school class. Jones is a true sophomore who is listed as a 2012 draft in my notes. He’s either eligible based on his age or I’ve made a mistake. His bat and athleticism are his current calling cards, as his defense behind the plate isn’t yet quite up to snuff.

First Basemen

  1. Washington State rJR 1B Taylor Ard
  • Oregon State JR 1B Danny Hayes
  • Stanford JR 1B Justin Ringo
  • Washington State rSO 1B Adam Nelubowich
  • California JR 1B Devon Rodriguez
  • Arizona State SR 1B Abe Ruiz

With his plus raw power and advanced approach, Ard’s upside stacks up against any collegiate first basemen in the country. Beyond Ard, I’d bet that the majority of the guys listed here will stick around until their senior years. Hayes is a gifted natural hitter, though you wouldn’t necessarily know it from his early season numbers He is hitting .188 through 17 games, but has an OBP of .409 thanks to 17 walks in only 48 at bats.

Second Basemen

  1. Stanford JR 2B Kenny Diekroeger
  2. Arizona State JR 2B Joey DeMichele
  3. California JR 2B Tony Renda
  • Oregon State JR 2B Tyler Smith

I’m firmly on board the Diekroeger as a second baseman bandwagon. We’re talking comfortably seated, safety belt on, and 72 ounces of Mountain Dew in my Big Gulp sweating in the cup holder. When I started out in this industry over thirty years ago (just kidding, I’m only 26 and I haven’t been doing this since the crib…), a crusty old scout named Virgil O’Marty once told me, “Son, always bet on tools. Even when the Mayans explode the world and buildings and whatnot are all collapsing around us, bet on tools.” So, yeah, that’s why I like Diekroeger. Athleticism, bat speed, enough foot speed and gap power to get the opposition honest, and that sneaky strength in his 6’2”, 200 pound build that some middle infielders have (e.g. the good ones) and some don’t all add up to make him the rare college second base prospect projected to play regularly at the big league level. Renda is also a good player, especially when allowed to play his best position: batter’s box. I’m actually one of the few who believe he will always be just good enough to stay at second, but I’m happy to acknowledge I’ve seen him a lot less than many of the people who are bearish about his future sticking up the middle. The same could be said for DeMichele, one of college ball’s underrated hitters. His lack of a surefire defensive home is somewhat concerning, but guys with that combo of a true plus hit tool and even average future power (maybe a touch more with added weight) don’t grow on cacti.

Shortstops

  1. Arizona State JR SS Deven Marrero
  • Oregon State SR SS Ryan Dunn
  • Arizona JR SS Alex Mejia

Marrero is a really good prospect with the chance to be an above-average regular at arguably the sport’s most difficult to fill (shortstop or catcher, flip a coin) defensive position. I’ve never watched him play and walked away thinking he’s an impact big league talent, but the positional adjustment is something that sometimes my tiny brain has a difficult time wrapping itself around. I mean, if he’s Yunel Escobar (my own personal off the wall comp), then you’re pretty thrilled taking him early in the first round, right? I had to lower the ranking of this Ryan Dunn when I found out he was not the inspiration for Freddy Prince Jr.’s Ryan Dunne. I have six specific bullet points regarding Mejia in my notes, all of which deal with his (strong) defensive abilities. Draw your own conclusions there.

Third Basemen

  1. Stanford JR 3B Stephen Piscotty
  2. UCLA JR 3B Cody Regis
  3. Washington JR 3B Jake Lamb
  4. Arizona JR 3B Seth Mejias-Brean
  • California JR 3B Mitch Delfino
  • Stanford JR 3B Eric Smith
  • Oregon JR 3B JJ Altobelli

I know I’ve read a pretty clever Garrett Atkins comp for Piscotty somewhere (BA?), but I’m pleased as punch to bust out the next generation perfect comp for Piscotty: former Gamecock and current Padre 3B/OF James Darnell. Both players can hit it to all fields, both guys are selective yet aggressive hitters (super plate coverage for both as well), and both are in between positions defensively. Piscotty’s upside in the field might be a little bit higher – he has a better shot at sticking at third, and has an arm that is plenty strong for RF – but the rest of the similarities (build, handedness, college numbers) are uncanny to me. Darnell was a second round pick in 2008 (fair value for Piscotty in my mind), but the relatively weak draft class could help push the Stanford slugger past that mark in 2012. Regis’s anemic start to the season has me a little concerned that something nefarious is afoot. A crowded third base field could knock him way down this list come June. Many would already have Lamb, a trendy first round sleeper coming into the year, ahead of Regis. I’d be a fool to look past Lamb’s impressive early season surge, but have a hard time reconciling his improved approach against his barely passable defense at third. He might be on a similar 3B/RF path as Piscotty, though I still think some creative team might give him a look behind the plate before it’s all said and done.

Outfielders

  1. UCLA JR OF Jeff Gelalich
  2. Stanford JR OF Jacob Stewart
  3. Stanford JR OF Tyler Gaffney
  4. Arizona State JR OF Andrew Aplin
  5. UCLA JR OF Beau Amaral
  6. Southern California JR OF Alex Glenn
  7. UCLA JR OF Cody Keefer
  8. Arizona JR OF Robert Refsnyder
  9. Utah SR OF Shaun Cooper
  10. Oregon JR OF Andrew Mendenhall
  11. Washington State SR OF Derek Jones
  12. Washington SR OF Caleb Brown
  13. Washington State SR OF Kyle Johnson
  14. Arizona JR OF Joey Rickard
  • Utah JR OF Connor Eppard
  • Oregon State JR OF Joey Matthews
  • Southern California SR OF Alex Sherrod
  • California JR OF Vince Bruno
  • Oregon State JR OF Ryan Barnes
  • California SR OF Danny Oh
  • California SR OF Chad Bunting
  • Oregon JR OF Ryan Hambright
  • Washington State SR OF Patrick Claussen
  • California JR OF Darrel Matthews
  • Washington State JR OF Brett Jacobs

Stewart is well known for his outstanding physical skills and five-tool ceiling, but Gelalich is no tools slouch in his own right. The only clear edge I’d give one over the other is raw power (Stewart), but everything else (hit, speed, defense, arm) is close. Gelalich’s better pitch recognition and more consistent production to date make him the better prospect by a hair. After those two, the Pac-12 is littered with prospects with reports that include some variation of the phrase “leadoff hitter profile, line drive swing, CF range, good athleticism, above-average speed, below-average power.” Sorting through Gaffney, Aplin, Amaral, Keefer, Glenn, and Refsnyder took me far longer than I’d like to admit. Despite his funky swing that causes many an evaluator to knock his hit tool down a grade or two, I just plain like Gaffney to contribute something somewhere someday at the big league level. That’s probably a testament to the fact that I’m not a scout, I guess. I can’t see a swing that works the way he does and decide that it is wrong and won’t work against more advanced pitching. Not saying that’s good or bad, just pointing out a potential blind spot in what I do here. Anyway, here’s my attempt to quantify what I’ve seen out of Aplin, Amaral, Keefer, Glenn, and Refsnyder:

  • Approach: Aplin, Amaral, Keefer
  • Hit tool: Aplin/Amaral/Keefer/Refsnyder (four-way tie)
  • Range: Glenn, Aplin, Amaral
  • Speed: Glenn, Amaral, Aplin
  • Arm: Aplin, Refsnyder, Glenn
  • Athleticism: Glenn, Refsnyder, Amaral
  • Pop: Refsnyder, Glenn, Amaral

If I assign points based on a 3-2-1 scale, I get the following totals:

  • Aplin: 11
  • Amaral: 9
  • Keefer: 3
  • Glenn: 12
  • Refsnyder: 9

My original order was the one you see above: Aplin, Amaral, Keefer, Glenn, Refsnyder. After this little thought exercise, the only change that I think I’m alright with making is bumping up Glenn over Keefer. Despite the higher score, Glenn’s rawness keeps him from leapfrogging the more polished duo of Aplin and Amaral. The reports I have on Refsnyder’s range all seem to indicate he’d be best in a corner, so he stays at the bottom despite outscoring Keefer by a healthy margin. I’m all for attempts to quantify this stuff, but it makes no sense to be a slave to any flawed numbers system, right?

Cooper has crazy power, but is an all-bat LF only in the pros. Jones has very good power, but is an all-bat LF only in the pros. Mendenhall has all the tools to succeed, but hasn’t done it at the college level. He’s like a less accomplished Adam Matthews (whoa, same initials!), in a way. You could say the same thing about Caleb Brown, minus the initials comment. Johnson and Rickard could both be in that “leadoff hitter, good speed, CF range, no power” category from above, but aren’t quite talented enough to fit in the names in that group. There is some talent down the list, but many of the names are in that nebulous “more data needed” group that we’ll get to some other time.

2012 MLB Draft: Big 12 Position Players of Note

The title pretty much says it all, does it not? Let’s see what’s what in the Big 12 this year…

Catchers

  1. Kansas SR C James Stanfield
  2. Kansas SR C Alex DeLeon
  3. Oklahoma State JR C Rick Stover
  4. Baylor SR C Josh Ludy
  5. Texas Tech JR C Bo Altobelli
  6. Oklahoma State SR C Jared Womack
  7. Baylor SR C Joey Hainsfurther

I’m a sucker on converted infielders trying their hand behind the plate. Athleticism in young catching prospects goes a long way, and those converted infielders typically have it in spades. Stanfield is no exception, though his athleticism should come with the always popular disclaimer “for a catcher.” Athletic…for a catcher. Above-average speed…for a catcher. Good tipper…for a catcher. Stanfield is already an above-average defender who still has some of that untapped upside that comes with players new to the position. He isn’t a world beater at the plate, but his mature approach to hitting and adequate pop make him a worthwhile follow, especially as a cheap mid-round senior sign option. Beyond Stanfield, you’ve got a mixed bag of good power/poor defense (DeLeon and Ludy) and good defense/light bats (Stover, at least going back to his juco days, and Altobelli). I think Stanfield is the only one who is a lock to be drafted, but some of the other names above also have a shot. A few other catchers to keep in mind just in case you are in the world’s deepest most insane keeper league (Big 12 only, naturally):

  • Missouri SR C Ben Turner
  • Texas Tech SR C Kevin Whitehead
  • Missouri JR C Scott Sommerfeld
  • Baylor JR C Nathan Orf
  • Oklahoma State JR C Victor Romero

First Basemen

  1. Baylor JR 1B Max Muncy
  2. Oklahoma JR 1B Drew Harrison
  3. Texas A&M SR 1B Jacob House

Muncy is a natural born hitter with a slew of average or better tools. He’s got enough power, speed, and defensive ability to be intriguing even at first, but his stock will shoot way up if a team believes he can handle an outfield spot or, better yet, second base. Harrison’s raw power and size (6-4, 255) help make him a classic old school slugging first base prospect. House is the conference’s best defender at first and one of the best overall defenders in the country. That’s both an honest to goodness positive (defense is important, after all) and a little bit of a backhanded compliment (when you play first base and the first thing they praise is your defense…)…

Ellipses parentheses ellipses. Now that’s quality writing right there. Three more first basemen from the Big 12 that could get lucky late on draft day…(or not…)…

  • Texas Tech rJR 1B Scott LeJeune
  • Baylor SR 1B Dan Evatt
  • Kansas SR 1B Chris Manship

Second Basemen

  1. Texas Tech JR 2B Jamodrick McGruder
  2. Texas SR 2B Jordan Etier
  3. Missouri JR 2B Eric Garcia

Awesome first name? Check. Equally awesome last name? Check. Jamodrick McGruder is more than just a great name, though. He’s a fantastic athlete who can really run the bases. Between his speed, defense, and relentlessness as a hitter (if I was the type to describe a player as scrappy, I’d use it here), McGruder looks like a potentially useful big league utility guy if everything shakes out. He reminds me a little bit of last year’s underrated for 99% of the spring (until the week of the draft, naturally) middle infielder, Jace Peterson. Two more second basemen because, well, that’s all I think are worth mentioning in the Big 12. Also, it’s second base, so why not go two deep here?

  • Oklahoma SR 2B Evan Mistich
  • Baylor JR 2B Steve DalPorto

Shortstops

  1. Texas A&M JR SS Mikey Reynolds
  2. Oklahoma SR SS Caleb Bushyhead

Unless I’m totally whiffing on somebody obvious, there is very little in the way of viable shortstop prospects to be found in the Big 12 2012 draft class. Reynolds (Texas A&M has some kind of magic when it comes to junior college middle infielders) and Bushyhead, both solid defenders, are the only two with a better than 50/50 shot to be drafted.

Third Basemen

  1. Oklahoma State SR 3B Mark Ginther
  2. Texas A&M SR 3B Matt Juengel
  3. Missouri SR 3B Connor Mach
  4. Kansas SR 3B Zac Elgie

The quartet above more or less sum up why I love following the draft. The odds of any of the four ever reaching the majors isn’t particularly high, but each guy has a solid collegiate track record and enough tools to make them stand out just enough to make you go “hmm…” Ginther’s swing can get too long at times, but his athleticism, arm strength, and defensive tools are all well above-average. Juengel is a smart hitter with good bat speed, but his power upside and defense ability lag behind Ginther’s at this point. Mach’s draft standing would improve if he can demonstrate a little more defensive versatility in 2012. Elgie has big raw power and good defensive tools, but there’s a bigger gap between what he could be and what he is then you typically see in a college senior. You could rearrange these four names in just about any order and still come out alright. These four aren’t the only interesting Big 12 third basemen to watch. Let’s double down and check out four more names worth paying some attention to this spring:

  • Baylor JR 3B Cal Towey
  • Baylor JR 3B Jake Miller
  • Texas SR 3B Kevin Lusson
  • Oklahoma JR 3B Garrett Carey

Outfielders

  1. Texas Tech JR OF Barrett Barnes
  2. Texas A&M JR OF Tyler Naquin
  3. Missouri JR OF Blake Brown
  4. Texas JR OF Jonathan Walsh
  5. Baylor JR OF Logan Vick
  6. Texas A&M SO OF Krey Bratsen
  7. Texas JR OF Matt Moynihan
  8. Oklahoma JR OF Max White
  9. Texas A&M SR OF Scott Arthur
  • Texas JR OF Cohl Walla
  • Kansas SR OF Jason Brunansky
  • Oklahoma SR OF Cody Reine
  • Missouri JR OF Dane Opel
  • Missouri JR OF Brannon Champagne
  • Texas A&M JR OF Brandon Wood
  • Oklahoma SR OF Erik Ross
  • Texas SR OF Tim Maitland
  • Texas Tech rJR OF Nick Hanslik
  • Kansas State SR OF Mike Kindel

The strength of the conference position players is easily this outfield group. Barrett Barnes is a huge personal favorite – my comically outdated big board from last summer had Barnes ranked as the 9th overall draft prospect and 1st among college outfielders – who literally does everything well. He’s got big raw power, plus speed, the tools to excel in center, and plenty of brute strength. The only aspect of his game that gives me pause is his inconsistent hit tool, but, hey, nobody’s perfect. I’m not sure where Barnes will ultimately rank once every college outfielder is evaluated, but he’s good enough to hold down the top spot out of any AQ conference outfielder in the country. All comps are the work of the devil caveats aside, I think Barnes’ tools line up pretty closely to Mikie Mahtook’s (31st overall pick last year), right down to their shared weaknesses (consistent contact and arm strength, though Mahtook’s arm is a grade better).

Naquin is both second to Barnes in both the Big 12 and all of the AQ conferences combined. Loyal readers of the site probably remember my serious affinity for Alabama’s Taylor Dugas. Think of Naquin as a super-charged version of Dugas. He has all the tools to play center and hit leadoff for a big league club down the line, but must improve his pitch recognition and put on some weight if he wants to give pitchers a reason not to throw him breaking balls out over the plate all day. Two words in my notes on Blake Brown keep popping out at me: natural hitter. I loved Walsh in 2009 and nothing that has transpired since he has enrolled at Texas has me changing my mind. Well, there was the whole position switch thing (catcher to outfielder), but that was more or less inevitable. Vick’s versatility makes him very appealing (same for Arthur), Bratsen has legit sprinter speed, and White could be in line for a big spring now that the 2011 second base experiment is but a distant memory.  Moynihan’s high ranking is a credit to his wonderful physical gifts (speed and athleticism) and leadoff hitter approach because he is raw as can be. He’d be a lot less raw if he played (he’s bounced from San Diego to Orange Coast College to Texas, and has yet to take the field for the Longhorns in 2012), but you can’t have everything I guess.