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This preview is a little bit different because I focused only on the potential pro upside of the players on each side. Even though there is often tremendous overlap in the two categories, there is a distinction between a “really good college player” and a “really good pro prospect” that people miss when trying to wrap their minds around the difficult transition from college ball to pro ball. To see that in action, check out the pitching comparison between the two teams. South Carolina has an excellent college staff, loaded with pitchability arms designed to get consistent outs every weekend in the SEC. Florida has guys like that, no doubt, but they also have over a half dozen pitchers with pro velocity. I think Florida is the more talented group, but am uneasy predicting “Florida in two” like I want to because of South Carolina’s crazy postseason voodoo. I’m typically the first to dismiss intangibles as any meaningful reason for liking a player or a team over another, but this South Carolina team has one heck of a track record of winning big games against strong odds.
I’ll stick with my preseason prediction and my enduring belief that talent wins out…Florida in two.
South Carolina SR C Robert Beary
Florida SO C Mike Zunino
Prospect Advantage: Florida (by a long shot)
Christian Walker’s wrist injury could cause a shakeup here, but we’re going with the assumption of good enough health at this point. Some possible scenarios: Beary is healthy and locked in at either C or 1B, Walker will either be at 1B or out of the lineup entirely, Brady Thomas will either continue to DH or (if healthy) move to C, or the injured Walker and the banged up Thomas could both stay off the field (Thomas would still DH) while Beary catches and Michael Roth plays first base.
I actually like Beary a lot as a ballplayer — good power and useful positional versatility — but 30 scouting departments weren’t so kind to the undrafted senior. It is still probably too early to make such a pronouncement, but I can’t see any catcher in the 2012 draft class overtaking Zunino for the top spot. The Florida catcher is a big league catcher defensively already, and his bat should make him one of the better hitting catchers in pro ball before long. No mention of Zunino and this year’s College World Series without providing this unbelievable clip:
Pretty sure I reacted to seeing that live in much the same way I would have if aliens had just landed on the field. My mouth involuntarily popped open and wouldn’t shut for a good two minutes afterwards. Just watching the replay again elicited the same response.
South Carolina SO 1B Christian Walker
Florida JR 1B/OF Preston Tucker (16.498 – Colorado Rockies)
Prospect Advantage: South Carolina (closer than expected)
Really interesting prospect comparison here between two players that are likely to be on the board as potential early round 2012 power bat picks. Next year’s college first base class looks a lot stronger than 2011’s, and Walker is a big reason why. He is a similar player to fellow rising junior Jayce Boyd (Florida State) in that he is a really gifted natural hitter — his is a legit plus hit tool for me — who just so happens to have a swing and body capable of driving the ball out of the park with regularity. In other words, Walker is a great hitting prospect who also hits for loads of power; the slight distinction between that type of hitter and a pure power hitter is worth pointing out, I think. Of course, the wrist injury could render all of the Walker discussion moot, at least until next season.
Preston Tucker may have slipped to the 16th round, but his drop was more about signability than talent level. I’ve written about him a lot — first here and later here — but have now settled into thinking his range of pro outcome lies somewhere between Brett Wallace (not bad at all) and David Cooper (not nearly as exciting). I think it was Kyle Peterson — who really should be the lead color guy on all these college games, by the way — who compared him to Matt Stairs. Pretty interesting comp there, as well.
South Carolina SR 2B/SS Scott Wingo (11.344 – Los Angeles Dodgers)
Florida SR 2B/SS Josh Adams (13.403 – Florida Marlins)
Prospect Advantage: South Carolina (by the slimmest of margins)
I won’t spend as much time breaking down the prospects who are already, for all intents and purposes, professional players. I underrated Wingo all year long, and feel pretty guilty about it now. He had an excellent year at the plate (.329/.463/.419 – 45 BB/31 K – 7/8 SB – 222 AB) and is an outstanding defender at second. I overrated Adams last year, but have been impressed with the way he bounced back as a senior after his bout with draftitis in 2010. Adams doesn’t have the plate discipline of Wingo, but offers more usable power. Both Wingo and Adams play second for their college teams, but only because of the presence of superior defenders ahead of them at the depth chart at short; it is likely both players will see plenty of time at shortstop early on in their pro careers.
South Carolina SR 3B Adrian Morales (49.1476 – Kansas City Royals)
Florida SO 3B Cody Dent
Prospect Advantage: Florida
Arguably the least sexy prospect matchup between the two teams comes down to two similar players who fit best at second but have been forced into duty at third base due to circumstances outside of their control. Morales’ best tool is probably his defense, but a lack of offensive upside slots him in as an organizational player at the next level. With continued development, the sophomore Dent has a better chance to surpass Morales as a prospect. He is a pro-ready defender as an infielder with a solid approach to hitting and good speed that haven’t yet translated to exciting results.
South Carolina JR SS Peter Mooney (21.649 – Toronto Blue Jays)
Florida SO SS Nolan Fontana
Prospect Advantage: Florida
As much as I like Mooney — and as proud as I am to have been on him since February — the Florida sophomore and expected very early round 2012 draft pick gets the clear win here. Before we get into Fontana, here’s what I had on Mooney from before the draft:
Mooney plays a mean shortstop for the defending champs, at times drawing the rare and beautiful “plus-plus” distinction for his glovework. Heard an amusing — probably because I’m a Phillies fan — Freddy Galvis comp on him that got me wondering about where the many age appropriate Latin American prospects who have already been in pro ball for years would be drafted if eligible in 2011. After about 20 minutes of trying to incorporate them into some kind of Alternate Reality Mock Draft, I gave up and came back to Mooney. The Gamecocks shortstop isn’t big (5-7, 150) or toolsy (besides his defense and a strong arm), but he could make it as a defense-first eight- or nine-hole hitter somewhere, someday.
Fontana plays the same kind of defense Mooney plays, but provides much more upside at the plate. Actually, that first part last sentence is a lie; Fontana plays really good defense, much like Mooney does, but goes about it in a totally different way. Mooney can seemingly make any play up the middle, but is far more erratic in his ability to do so. Fontana, on the other hand, won’t wow you with tremendous physical gifts in the field, but the guy just makes every darn play imaginable. My notes on him describe that pretty well: “really, really good defender without elite defense tools or athleticism.” I’m not sure Fontana has a clear plus physical tool — maybe the hit tool, but even that’s probably a stretch — but the sum of his parts far exceed the whole package here. I know I run the risk of overusing this already nebulous phrase, but, much like fellow sophomore Mike Zunino, Fontana already plays the game like a big league ballplayer.
South Carolina JR OF Jackie Bradley (1.40 – Boston Red Sox)
South Carolina SO OF Evan Marzilli
South Carolina JR OF Jake Williams
Florida SR OF Bryson Smith (34.1045 – Cincinnati Reds)
Florida JR OF Daniel Pigott
Florida JR OF Tyler Thompson (46.1387 – Washington Nationals)
Prospect Advantage: South Carolina (similar depth, but star upside of JBJ puts USC over the top)
I think Bradley will hit at the next level, but I know for damn sure he’ll keep on playing his position in center as well as anybody in the game. If he hits, he could look a little bit like Shane Victorino. If he doesn’t, he could be Peter Bourjos. I’m very bullish on Marzilli heading into next year. I think he could be an above-average hitter and a potential plus defender in an outfield corner. Jake Williams is less exciting as a prospect, but works nicely in a college lineup as a guy willing to take a pitch who also plays solid defense.
Though the Gators have three quality performers in their outfield, none of the Florida guys do much for me from a pro standpoint. I remember writing that Smith was a prime candidate to return for a senior season last year, but could get squeezed out of his own college lineup by all of the emerging talent Kevin O’Sullivan and his staff have brought in since taking over. Never in a million years would I have guessed the former third baseman would reinvent himself as a center field prospect, and I give him a ton of credit for pulling off such an impressive feat. Pigott is a much better current ballplayer than Thompson, but Thompson got himself drafted based largely on his plus speed, great athleticism, and intriguing long-range upside. Neither player looks to me to be much more than low-level minor league roster filler.
South Carolina SR DH Brady Thomas
Florida SO DH/LHP Brian Johnson
It may be taking the whole lefthanded pitching two-way prospect thing too far, but I think there are some similarities between the Danny Hultzen of last season and this year’s Brian Johnson. He’ll hit this weekend, but his ultimate home is on the mound. His ceiling as a pitcher does not compare to Hultzen’s (i.e. don’t go penciling in Johnson as the 2012 second overall pick now or ever), but I see first round stuff (88-92 fastball, good upper-70s curve that flashes plus, much improved low-80s change, and a raw but promising slider) in Johnson’s four-pitch mix. Brady Thomas is a decent college hitter who could be pressed into duty behind the plate this series if certain dominoes fall into place.
Prospect Advantage: Florida
South Carolina JR OF Adam Matthews (23.695 – Baltimore Orioles)
Florida JR C Ben McMahan (23.701 – Milwaukee Brewers)
Not a prospect battle because neither it is likely that neither player will get into game action this weekend, but both Matthews and McMahan deserve some attention as solid junior performers who showed enough this year to get drafted. As a speed guy first and foremost, Matthews’s battles with hamstring injuries all season long were a shame to see. McMahan’s biggest obstacle this year wasn’t injury, but the presence of Mike Zunino. There is still a part of me that thinks McMahan could surface a few years down the line as a big league backup, based largely on the strength of his plus defensive tools.
South Carolina FR RHP Forrest Koumas
South Carolina SO RHP Colby Holmes
South Carolina JR LHP Michael Roth (31.938 – Cleveland Indians)
Florida SO RHP Hudson Randall
Florida FR RHP Karsten Whitson
Florida JR LHP Alex Panteliodis (9.282 – New York Mets)
Prospect Advantage: Florida
Koumas is the rare young pitcher that I actually would put in the bullpen from the start with the simple instruction “just let it fly.” As a starter his stuff is good — 88-92 FB, good sinker, flashes plus slider — but his fastball has looked so explosive in shorter stints (easy 95 peak) that I think his eventual destination will be the ‘pen. His opening night opposition will be Hudson Randall. Randall’s upside isn’t in the same league as many of his sophomore year contemporaries, but his average across the board raw stuff is underrated by many. Maybe he is a sinker/slider reliever long-term, but there could be some teams that value his plus command and his ability to keep four different pitches at or below the knees consistently enough to keep him as a starter.
There is still some growth left in Holmes’ game, despite the fact he is a dreaded short righthander. An adjustment to his delivery could help unlock a few ticks on his fastball, bringing it up to a more suitable low-90s sitting velocity. His upside is dwarfed by Florida’s game two starter, Karsten Whitson. Whitson is on the short list of first overall pick in 2013 candidates due to his plus fastball (sits 93-95, hits 97) and a well above-average slider that shows plus-plus when he cranks it up to the upper limits of its 82-87 MPH range.
Roth could presently be the lefty version of what Randall hopes to evolve into next year. He may not have a knockout pitch, but the way he works each batter’s eye level is a sight to behold. He faces off against the Florida lefthander Panteliodis, another pitcher without overpowering stuff but with good enough command and solid complementary stuff (CU/CB) to get by.
South Carolina SO RHP Matt Price (6.184 – Arizona Diamondbacks)
South Carolina SR RHP John Taylor (22.663 – Seattle Mariners)
South Carolina SR RHP Jose Mata
South Carolina SO LHP Tyler Webb (48.1465 – Cincinnati Reds)
South Carolina JR LHP/OF Steven Neff (41.1257 – San Francisco Giants)
South Carolina JR LHP Bryan Harper (30.907 – Washington Nationals)
Florida JR RHP Tommy Toledo (11.341 – Milwaukee Brewers)
Florida JR LHP Nick Maronde (3.104 – Los Angeles Angels)
Florida SO RHP/1B Austin Maddox
Florida JR RHP Greg Larson (29.885 – Los Angeles Angels)
Florida SO LHP Steven Rodriguez
Florida JR RHP Anthony DeSclafani (6.199 – Toronto Blue Jays)
Florida SR RHP Matt Campbell (24.751 – Philadelphia Phillies)
Prospect Advantage: Florida
South Carolina leans very heavily on the first two arms on the list. Matt Price, a sixth rounder of Arizona, is the ultimate college closer who manages to combine all kinds of big game guile with legit big league late inning stuff. I like him a lot less than many of the experts, but still think his solid fastball, good low-80s slider, and underrated changeup should work well either as a back of the rotation arm or as a 7th/8th inning setup type. Taylor and Mata are seniors who get by on their funky deliveries more than overwhelming stuff. Webb’s stuff is good enough that he is likely unsignable as a 48th round draft-eligible sophomore. Neff has had a weird, injury-plagued season, but has found a way to contribute as a power bench bat even after getting shut down on the mound. If signable, his low-90s fastball could help make him a steal for the Giants. Harper to Washington was the easiest pick to predict in the whole draft; with him, it was merely a matter of when, not if.
The only conclusion I can come to after looking over these rosters is that the Florida Gators are basically a minor league team at this point. When the bullpen alone features six pro quality arms (not counting Campbell, a 24th round pick this year), you’re doing something very right. Toledo’s rebounded nicely from a line drive to the face last year and is back to his low-90s fastball ways. Maronde, my 20th ranked college pitcher in the 2011 draft, has the stuff to start at the next level but will have to settle on dominating out of the bullpen for another week. Larson is a 6-8, 225 pound giant with limbs so long it looks like he is placing the ball in the catcher’s mitt from the mound. DeSclafani brings a fastball with plus life and an above-average slider to the table.
Maddox, a huge wild card, returns from injury to pump low- to mid-90s fastballs early in the count, late in the count, and any time in between. Rodriguez isn’t quite as talented as Maronde, but is similar in the way he may have stuff suited for starting down the line. Lefties with plus fastball movement and above-average velocity (88-91 FB, 93 peak) and the potential for a plus change aren’t often left in the bullpen for long.
The second team to get the full College World Series preview is your Vanderbilt Commodores. The setup up for this is about as simple as can be: first category is for players drafted in 2011, second category is for players eligible for the 2012 draft, and the last category is for, you guessed it, players eligible for the 2013 draft.
1.18 JR RHP Sonny Gray (Oakland Athletics) | 7th ranked prospect overall
plus FB in mid-90s (92-97) with excellent movement; currently rarely dips below 93-96 with nice sink; 81-85 plus to plus-plus CB; average command that comes and goes; 84-87 SL can be a weapon in time; 82-85 CU slow to emerge, but now a weapon more often than not; plus athlete; 5-11, 180
While everybody was making — and wisely subsequently dismissing — Tim Lincecum comps for UCLA’s Trevor Bauer, the closest thing to the Giants star pitcher in this year’s class has always been Sonny Gray. Of course, Gray isn’t really anything like Lincecum (really, who is?), but the three biggest knocks on Lincecum coming out of Washington — control, size, and an unorthodox delivery — are all also questions that Gray will have to answer to at the next level. The inconsistent control and violence in his delivery are a tad worrisome — his size doesn’t concern me in the least — but when you have raw stuff like Gray’s, you get lots of opportunities to work through your other issues. The realistic floor here is a dominant yet occasionally frustrating to watch shutdown reliever; the ceiling is a first division top of the rotation arm. Gray reminds me a little bit of Braves starter Tommy Hanson, give or take seven inches and forty pounds. I’ve also heard a slightly more size appropriate comp (still forty pounds off, but only about a four inch height difference) of Yovani Gallardo.
1.59 JR LHP Grayson Garvin (Tampa Bay Rays) | 79th ranked prospect overall
started 87-89 FB, 90-91 peak; sitting 89-92 now, 93-95 peak; good FB command; 70-73 CB with upside if thrown harder; now up to 73-75 and above-average pitch; average 77-80 CU with room for improvement, could be plus in time; cutter; SL; good athlete; outstanding control; 6-6, 220
Garvin is a classic pitchability lefty (love his FB command and overall control) who has just so happened to grow into above-average velocity from the left side. He doesn’t have a pitch that is a consistent out pitch, but both his curve and change flash above-average enough to give him the upside of a back of the rotation arm.
2.64 JR 3B Jason Esposito (Baltimore Orioles) | 55th ranked prospect overall
Esposito’s defense is big league ready, and his hit tool, raw power, and speed all grade out as average future tools at the next level. I swear I was ready to mention Matt Dominguez as a potential comp before reading Baseball America beat me to the punch, but it is a good enough comp that I don’t mind repeating it.
If my instincts count for anything, allow me to go on record as a believer in Esposito. As impressive a college career as he has had so far, I think he goes on to show more at the next level with the bat. Additionally, while his glove at third may not be Adrian Beltre good, he has the chance to be a top five defensive third baseman in the big leagues in very short order. That glove alone will give him very good value for a Baltimore team stocked with a bunch of interesting young arms.
3.99 JR RHP Jack Armstrong (Houston Astros) | 49th ranked prospect overall
91-93 FB sitting, 94-97 peak; 80-82 flashes plus CU; 81-82 CB with promise but slow to develop due to injuries; clean mechanics; finally healthy, CB better than ever; 6-7, 230 pounds
Sometimes it really is as simple as throwing away the performance aspect and looking at raw stuff. Armstrong’s track record on the mound doesn’t make him a top 100 pick (or a top 50 prospect on my pre-draft list), but his raw stuff ranks up there with almost anybody’s. Injury concerns could have Houston looking at Armstrong as a future reliever, but I’d love to see the big guy get a chance to start.
3.106 SR 1B Aaron Westlake (Detroit Tigers) | 126th ranked prospect overall
Westlake is going to hit as a professional, I’m sure of that much. Will he hit enough to hold down an everyday job at first? That’s the million dollar question, I suppose. He should be able to hit well enough against righthanded pitchers to at least work his way into a platoon role down the line. It could also be possible that his drafting team gets creativity with him, and tries him at a few different spots (corner OF, maybe a little third, perhaps some time behind the plate) a la Baltimore’s Jake Fox.
There isn’t much to add about Westlake that hasn’t already been said. He has one clear big league tool (power), but is held back by the position he plays. If he hits, he’ll make it. If he doesn’t, he won’t. There is no safety net. In the meantime, sit back and watch Westlake terrorize college pitching one last time in Omaha.
3.117 SO LHP Corey Williams (Minnesota Twins)
Williams as a top ten round pick would have surprised me, so his selection in the third had me perplexed. He has a good arm with the chance to consistently hit the mid-90s with some added strength, but it takes a pretty big leap of faith to use a third rounder on an untested relief prospect. As someone who knows a thing or two about jacked up kneecaps, I’ll definitely be rooting for Williams from now on. The question of whether or not I’ll be rooting him on as a member of the Twins organization or as a student at Vanderbilt remains to be answered. There is no reason to think he wouldn’t sign this year — hard to see him rising above third round money next year — but I only count six certainties on next year’s Vanderbilt pitching staff. The opportunity to come back and perhaps pitch in a more prestigious role could appeal to him.
6.187 SR RHP Taylor Hill (Washington Nationals) | 224th ranked prospect overall
88-91 FB with plus sink, 93-94 peak that I’ve seen with my own two eyes, have heard rumors of him hitting 95; 79-85 plus SL; very good 78-83 sinking CU also called a splitter; mechanics need smoothing out; 6-4, 225 pounds
Read that quick scouting report of Taylor Hill above and then check out where I ranked him on my pre-draft board. Pretty low for a pitcher of this caliber, right? Part of that can be explained by the unusually strong draft class, especially in terms of pitching depth. However, part of it can also be explained by me underrating one heck of a quality prospect.
6.206 SR RHP Mark Lamm (Atlanta Braves)
My notes on Lamm were short and sweet: 90-94 FB; Tommy John survivor. The development of a pair of above-average offspeed pitches — a slider and a change — got him drafted way ahead of where I would have guessed. He’s up there as one of the top senior signs around and could be a quick mover through the system.
10.317 SR C Curt Casali (Detroit Tigers) | 87th ranked prospect overall
Every game Casali plays is one game further removed from 2009 Tommy John surgery. The difference it has made in his defense behind the plate (more than just big league ready – he’d be in the upper half defensively of pro catchers) and his offense at the plate (near-plus raw power and a phenomenal whole field approach) give him the look of a future big leaguer to me. It is a rare senior that warrants draft consideration before round five, but Casali is an exception. Love this guy.
If I was a betting man, I’d be happy to put down a cool five bucks on Curt Casali reaching the big leagues in some capacity before too long. There are some really iffy big league catchers This will be the last time I open up the old SEC catcher debate from earlier in the year, so let me get this last shot in: Casali will have a better professional career than the catcher the Tigers first 2011 draft selection, Arkansas C James McCann.
14.446 JR RHP Navery Moore (Atlanta Braves) | 131st ranked prospect overall
92-96 plus FB, 99 peak; plus 81-84 SL that comes and goes; flashes plus CB; iffy control; Tommy John survivor; very occasional CU; “Intergalactic” is his closer music; has the stuff to start, but teams might not risk it from a health and delivery standpoint; 6-2, 205
Moore’s velocity was down late in the year. That’s a significant problem when your most marketable skill is a big fastball. That said, I still think he’s a good bet to settle in as a big league reliever some day due to his good athleticism and above-average raw stuff. The drop in velocity has to be addressed, however, whether or not it turns to be a mere matter of fatigue (treatment: rest, rest, more rest…and perhaps a tweak or two to his delivery) or a more serious health concern (treatment: shut him down, get him to a top surgeon, and hope he comes out healthy on the other side).
30.928 SO RHP Will Clinard (Minnesota Twins)
Clinard is similar to Corey Williams in that both are redshirt sophomore pitchers drafted by the Minnesota Twins. Clinard’s numbers across the board were more impressive than Williams, but you can’t just beat a high velocity lefthander, I suppose. I’m personally not so sure that I don’t prefer the big (6-4, 225) athletic righthander with the low-90s fastball and potential plus breaking ball. While it seems likely Williams will be offered enough to forgo his last two seasons of college eligibility, Clinard would probably need overslot money to head to the pros. If one of Ziomek, Pecoraro, or Selman get hurt and/or pitch below expectations, Clinard has the stuff to potentially sneak into a weekend starter’s gig.
46.1384 JR OF Joe Loftus (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Not sure how signable Loftus is as a 46th rounder because his blend of arm strength, athleticism, and untapped raw power make him an unusually talented late round pick. If he returns to school, he could easily jump up 25+ rounds with a big senior season.
JR C Drew Fann (2012)
Fann isn’t an early round candidate, but the demand for quality catch-and-throw prospects could get him drafted as a late round senior sign in 2012. The Vanderbilt catching job is up for grabs heading into next year, and it would come as no surprise if Fann took the job with a strong fall. I should point out that I’ve read that Fann is a senior who is exhausted his eligibility on a few Vanderbilt-specific sites, but the official Vandy website has him listed as a redshirt junior. In other words, I don’t know what’s going on with Fann, but the possibility exists that I just spent 117 words on an undrafted player without any more college eligibility .
JR 2B Riley Reynolds (2012) | .356/.407/.403 – 11 BB/19 K – 4/4 SB – 149 AB
I’m really surprised that Reynolds didn’t get drafted based on the strength of his solid freshman and junior seasons. His sophomore season was disappointing, no doubt, but at his best he has shown himself to be an average middle infield bat with a very steady glove at second. If he can play competently on the left side of the diamond — something that remains to be seen — then he’ll profile as a potential 2012 late round utility prospect.
SO SS Sam Lind (2012) | .239/.315/.391 – 3 BB/10 K – 46 AB
Lind has bounced from Missouri to Central Arizona to Vanderbilt. Alright, that’s a lie. He was draft eligible this past year, but didn’t hear his name called on the conference call. A second year in one place should do the middle infield with a strong arm and above-average hit tool some good. He was a personal favorite of mine heading into the year (15th on my preseason college shortstop list), so the pressure will really be on if he wants to get back into my good graces. That is what these guys are playing for, right? My approval? Not the fame, money, girls, and love of the game, but the respect of some nobody on the internet that they’ll never meet? Alright, good, just making sure.
SO LHP Sam Selman (2012)
There are way too many teams and players for me to keep track of everybody and everything quite the way I’d like to. The case of Sam Selman exemplifies the limits of my coverage. In doing research for this very piece, I checked out Selman’s 2011 stats, excited to see what kind of numbers a player with a potential plus fastball (mid-90s peak), plus slider, and promising changeup (per my notes) put up. Selman threw a whopping 6.1 innings last year. Based on the reports I had on him from his high school/early Vanderbilt days, some major injury must have popped up for Selman in 2011 to limit his innings that drastically, I thought. Not so fast, my friend. Selman’s lack of work can be traced to an overcrowded (in the best possible way) Vanderbilt pitching staff and a somewhat disappointingly slow transition to the college game, most notably from a strength standpoint. His string bean 6-3, 170 pound physique has not yet proven to be reliable enough to handle any kind of real innings workload and his control has kept him from being able to effectively utilize his array of promising pitches.
Even with all of those negatives disclosed, I’m still pleased to go on record as a huge Sam Selman fan. The fact I think he has the talent to rocket up from 6.1 innings as a sophomore to the 2012 first round pretty much says it all. Command and conditioning issues aside, there has been no degradation of Selman’s pro quality three-pitch arsenal. If he can lock down a weekend job this fall, watch how high he’ll fly up draft boards next spring.
SO OF Connor Harrell (2012) | .288/.354/.492 – 13 BB/38 K – 7/7 SB – 177 AB
As a legit five-tool player with pro size teetering on the edge of solid defensive center fielder and plus defensive corner outfielder, Harrell has a little Mikie Mahtook in his game. That probably won’t be the only time I use the Mahtook comp this upcoming year — Stanford’s Jake Stewart is another player cut from a similar toolsy free wheeling tweener cloth — and it isn’t the most instructive comparison in the world, but it is both a point of reference for Harrell’s style of play and a way to share my generally positive view of what I think he is capable of doing next spring. I’m a huge fan of Harrell’s plus arm, good range, well above-average raw power, and opportunistic ways on the base paths. If he can turn those ugly plate discipline ratios around, he’ll vault close to the top of the 2012 college outfield class.
SO OF Michael Yastrzemski (2012) | .311/.445/.388 – 44 BB/35 K – 23/26 SB – 206 AB
After already typing Michael Yastrzemski’s last name out incorrectly more than a few times, I can appreciate the first brilliant person who called his more famous grandfather “Yaz.” The younger Yaz is another five-tool talent, though more of a speed/defense/leadoff hitter type than his more powerful outfield wingman Connor Harrell. I swear it isn’t because of the similarly impressive lineage (or at least not only because), but I think of Michael Yastrzemski as a similar ballplayer as Orioles eighth round pick Johnny Ruettiger.
SO SS Anthony Gomez (2012) | .350/.366/.408 – 8 BB/12 K – 7/9 SB – 260 AB
What Gomez lacks in tools, he makes up for in his ability to make a crazy amount of contact. The contact is nice, but the unimpressive tool set keeps him from being much more than a marginal pro prospect. To wit, his defense up the middle isn’t yet good enough to have anybody believing his glove will carry him, and his foot speed is average at best.
SO OF Regan Flaherty (2012)
Never bet against a Flaherty, I always say. Actually I’ve never said that before just now, but it’s still true. The biggest problem facing Flaherty heading into next season will be finding playing time in a crowded Commodores outfield; he could see some time at first or designated hitter to get his bat in the lineup.
FR LHP Keenan Kolinsky (2012): 6-1, 210
Kolinsky, a redshirt freshman, hasn’t done a whole lot yet with Vanderbilt, but could see major innings out of the bullpen in 2012. He throws a solid upper-80s fastball and is a good athlete, so, hey, he’s got that going for him.
FR LHP Kevin Ziomek (2013) | 9.67 K/9 – 2.82 BB/9 – 3.40 FIP – 44.2 IP
I’m not so bold to say Ziomek is going to follow in the footsteps of previous Vanderbilt lefthanders David Price (1st overall) and Mike Minor (7th overall) and land in the draft’s top ten, but the fact that the thought even crossed my mind in the first place tells you plenty about Ziomek’s upside. Ziomek is predominantly a fastball/changeup pitcher, throwing the former between 91-94 MPH and the latter in the low-80s. His much improved curve and slider run into each other a bit too much velocity-wise now that that his curve has gained some heat, but right now the slider is the better pitch and a potential above-average big league offering. The whole package — good fastball, potential plus change, above-average slider, an interesting curve, and good athleticism — is first round quality.
FR RHP TJ Pecoraro (2013) | 9.76 K/9 – 2.72 BB/9 – 3.43 FIP – 39.2 IP
The similarities between the 2011 statistical lines of Pecoraro and Ziomek are striking, no? Pecoraro doesn’t quite have the scouting profile of Ziomek — few do — but is no slouch in the raw ability department. He is armed with a really good low-90s fastball (94 peak) with late life and two potential above-average offspeed pitches (curve and change). Short righthanders like Pecoraro will be my favorite undervalued draft asset until those in pro ball catch on. A torn elbow ligament in May puts a damper on his short-term outlook, but he remains a viable early round candidate for 2013.
FR 1B/OF Conrad Gregor (2013) | .351/.454/.464 – 29 BB/23 K – 151 AB
We knew Gregor had huge raw power. We didn’t know his freshman year approach would be so solid. I might seem overly optimistic on all of the players mentioned in the College World Series prospect series, but you have to remember this is an unusually talented CWS group. Gregor has that plus raw power, a potential plus hit tool, outstanding defense at first and average defense in an outfield corner, a strong throwing arm…in other words, just about everything you’d want in a prospect. Aaron Westlake went in the third round this year; it’ll be interesting to see if Gregor, a better player at this point in his development, can improve on that in two years.
FR OF Tony Kemp (2013) | .328/.431/.406 – 33 BB/29 K – 16/20 SB – 229 AB
If any less heralded player is going to steal the spotlight this weekend in Omaha, it’ll be Kemp. The diminutive freshman is a huge fan favorite due to his plus-plus speed, ridiculous range in center field, and keen awareness of the strike zone. I’m really looking forward to seeing how he progresses over the next two seasons, especially at the plate. I mentioned to a guy int he know that Kemp reminded me a bit of Ronnie Richardson, but was told the better comp was Mike Bourn.
FR SS Joel McKeithan (2013)
Objectivity is important, no doubt, but sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and just go with a guy you like. Joel McKeithan is that kind of guy for me. He is currently expected to fill a utility infielder role for the 2012 Vanderbilt squad, but I can easily envision his plus speed and plus defensive tools at short earning him time over Anthony Gomez at short. The little bit I saw of him in high school plus the positive college practice reports equal a potential big league starting shortstop in my mind.
FR RHP Robert Hansen (2013)
Hansen was given a redshirt this year to help space out some of Vanderbilt’s young pitching. He has a good low-90s fastball and an emerging low-80s slider.
FR LHP Steven Rice (2013)
Rice’s curve was one of the better breaking balls in the 2010 high school class. That pitch alone makes him an interesting prospect despite a fastball that only sits between 86-88 MPH.
FR C Spencer Navin (2013)
Navin’s glovework and plus arm should get him into the regular lineup as early as next season, but his bat is far from a sure thing.
FR OF Will Johnson (2013)
Johnson is a great athlete who is still working on the finer points of the game. Minimalist commentary like that is why it will forever be free to read this site…
The first team to get the full College World Series preview is your North Carolina Tar Heels. The setup up for this is about as simple as can be: first category is for players drafted in 2011, second category is for players eligible for the 2012 draft, and the last category is for, you guessed it, players eligible for the 2013 draft.
1.30 JR SS Levi Michael (Minnesota Twins) | 34th ranked prospect overall
I’ve mentioned it before, but it is so incredible to me that it bears repeating: Levi Michael graduated high school early to enroll at UNC mid-year, and then went on to tear it up as a freshman playing as a starter in the ACC. Occasionally we’ll see pitchers do this, and last year we had the whole Bryce Harper skipping his senior year to go destroy wood ball junior college ball thing, but it is still pretty rare to see a hitter do what Michael did in the manner he did (repeat: he smashed the ball all over the place back in 2009 as an 18-year-old) that it is worth pointing out over and over again. Michael has plenty of bat speed, double-digit homer upside, and the footwork and instincts to potentially stick at his junior season college position of shortstop.
Big fan of Michael the college player and Michael the new Minnesota Twins first round prospect. He’s a joy to watch as a big play college shortstop and team leader who also projects as a potential above-average regular with plus defensive upside at second. I’ve always been a sucker for guys with the kind of plate discipline that have you wondering if they know the strike zone better than the men in blue actually paid to call balls and strikes.
8.247 SR RHP Greg Holt (Washington Nationals)
Huge raw power, but one of three natural first basemen vying for playing time behind Dustin Ackley on 2009 team; Moneyball listed as favorite book, so he has that going for him
How’s that for a blast from the past? Back in March 2009 Holt was battling Tarron Robinson and Brett Thomas for whatever at bats could be had behind eventual number two overall pick Dustin Ackley. Now Holt is a relief prospect with a fastball that sits 88-91 (93 peak) and a good low-80s slider.
24.730 SR 1B Jesse Wierzbicki (Houston Astros) | 164th ranked prospect overall (2010)
Wierzbicki’s tools grade out as solid across the board, especially if you’re like me and willing to grade a catcher’s running speed on a curve. I tend to think of backup catchers falling into one of three general archetypes. The first group of backups are the sluggers (big raw power, capable of popping an extra base hit or two in that one start a week), the second are the defensive aces (nothing mesmerizes big league coaching staffs more than a catching with a plus arm), and the third are the players that do everything pretty well, but nothing great. Wierzbicki falls squarely in with that last category of player. He’s known for having power to the gaps, a consistent line drive generating swing, and a solid arm. He’s also a tireless worker who knows his own athletic limitations, two of those tricky intangible qualities that either mean a lot to a team or nothing at all.
That was written back in 2010 when I thought Wierzbicki could play behind the plate as a pro. I still think he’s got the athleticism and enough catch-and-throw ability to play back there. As a first baseman, however, I don’t see how his bat will work at all. Hopefully the Astros will be creative and try him in a utility role going forward.
25.768 SR RHP Patrick Johnson (Colorado Rockies)
Starter for UNC in the past, but profiles better as a reliever in the pros; too early to predict, but he could be on the Robert Woodard/Adam Warren four year path; good numbers, but has done it all against inferior mid-week competition; lack of size may doom him to the bullpen long-term, but his performance pitching largely out of the pen this season give hope that his stuff will play
Fairly prescient 2009 prognostication, if I do say so myself. Warren, who has been so much better as a pro than I ever would have imagined, is probably Johnson’s absolute best case scenario at this point. He throws an upper-80s fastball (92 peak), good upper-70s curve, and average change.
42.1285 JR C Jacob Stallings (Cincinnati Reds) | 158th ranked prospect overall
There is no question about Stallings’s plus defense; that alone could be his ticket to the show as a backup catcher. Like Kometani, there’s more raw power here than he has shown so far. Stallings isn’t really talked about as a top college catching prospect, but he’s a really talented prospect with a plus-plus arm that could make him an interesting mound conversion if things don’t work out behind the dish.
I won’t lie here. I’m baffled about Stallings falling as low as he did. I suppose acceptance that strange things happen during the draft is the only way to survive in these topsy turvy times. Players with a legit upside of backup catcher/middle reliever are more useful than his draft pick warranted. I haven’t heard anything to back this up, but perhaps his signability is in question.
JR RHP Jimmy Messer (2012) | 10.80 K/9 – 3.60 BB/9 – 5.09 FIP – 10 IP
44th round pick in 2008; favorite foods are sushi and Swiss cake rolls, a winning combination if I ever heard one; fastball sits in the low 90s, above-average (present) curveball with definite plus potential; another top three round candidate
Messer hasn’t quite developed into the player many thought he would, but there is still time for the rising senior. His average fastball (88-90, 92 peak), above-average 75-77 slider, and solid command could make him an attractive mid-round senior sign relief prospect in 2012. If nothing else, we’ll always have that sushi and Swiss cake roll combo…
JR RHP Garrett Davis (2012)
Good size (6-4, 195); currently no spot for him in the rotation, but may be stretched out as starter next year; definitely has the repertoire to start; will be draft eligible next year as a redshirt sophomore, velocity has crept back up after TJ surgery in March 2008, but his command and availability to pitch back-to-back games remain question marks going forward
Deservedly lauded for great raw stuff, Davis has dealt with nagging injuries and bouts of wildness that have limited his college innings. Modern medicine has spoiled us into thinking Tommy John surgery always ends happily; hard as it is to say, we must now entertain the thought that Davis will never return to his high school, pre-injury form. Or we can continue to believe he’ll find a consistent release point and improve his control as a senior. I prefer the latter.
SO RHP Michael Morin (2012) | 10.05 K/9 – 2.40 BB/9 – 2.86 FIP – 60 IP
The good news is Morin’s changeup is a true plus pitch. The bad news is…well…there isn’t much bad news. Backed up by his solid fastball (88-92 with room for more), good sinking two-seamer, average curve, above-average athleticism, pro frame (6-4, 180 pounds), and outstanding college production, Morin is one of the best college arms of the 2012 class.
SO RHP Cody Penny (2012) | 10.69 K/9 – 4.50 BB/9 – 2.59 FIP – 16 IP
Penny has the present stuff of a dominant college reliever (mid-90s peak fastball and a really good spike curve), and the future stuff (CU and SL coming on) of a potential pro starter.
SO 2B Tommy Coyle (2012) | .337/.429/.451 – 37 BB/21 K – 19/25 SB – 255 AB
Coyle played his high school ball about fifteen minutes from where I grew up, so I was lucky enough to catch him a couple of times during his senior season. He’s got above-average speed and athleticism, a really solid line drive swing, and an outstanding batting eye. It is still really early in the process, but I think we’re looking at a player with the ceiling of a big league regular with the possibility of a utility future a realistic backup option. I’m looking forward to seeing where he stacks up against the rest of the 2012 college middle infield crop, but I have a feeling he’ll be up there.
SO RHP Cody Stiles (2012) | 7.54 K/9 – 2.92 BB/9 – 3.91 FIP – 37 IP
With two breaking balls with above-average upside, Stiles heads into his junior campaign with a chance to shoot up draft boards. This isn’t a realistic comp for a sophomore coming off a 37 inning regular season, but there is something about Stiles’ repertoire (94 peak FB, promising SL and CB, CU with sink) that reads a little like 2011 first round pick Matt Barnes.
SO LHP RC Orlan (2012) | 12.56 K/9 – 5.65 BB/9 – 3.54 FIP – 14.1 IP
Sometimes good college pitchers are just that. Other times they become good pro pitchers. On rare occasions, they become great pro pitchers. It may be easy to lump Orlan into that first category, but I think he ultimately could fall into the middle grouping. His raw stuff doesn’t jump out at you — upper-80s FB (92 peak), above-average mid-80s cutter, a pair of usable breaking balls — and his slight frame doesn’t scream big leaguer, but his total package is greater than the sum of his individual parts.
SO OF Chaz Frank (2012) | .287/.430/.349 – 43 BB/27 K – 11/14 SB – 209 AB
There may not be a whole lot of raw power here, but Frank has a good approach, above-average speed, and a solid hit tool. His best present tool is probably his defensive range in the outfield.
SO RHP Chris Munnelly (2012) | 7.84 K/9 – 3.73 BB/9 – 4.29 FIP – 70 IP
If I’ve learned one thing in doing this post, it’s that North Carolina’s pitching depth is crazy. I can’t even imagine how they’ll divvy up innings if some of their biggest recruits wind up on campus this fall. One of the top returning pitchers next year will be Chris Munnelly. Munnelly was counted on to throw a lot this past spring for North Carolina, and with good reason. His decent fastball (88-91) plays up because of plus command, and both his advanced change and rapidly improving breaking stuff could be even bigger weapons in time.
FR 3B Colin Moran (2013) | .348/.459/.583 – 48 BB/29 K – 230 AB
When he enrolled at North Carolina last fall, Moran’s name jumped out as the younger brother of former Tar Heels reliever Brian and nephew of former Tar Heel and big league star BJ Surhoff. I also knew he was a well regarded high school prospect out of New York, but, since we’re all pals now and have no reason not to be honest with one another, had assumed that the family legacy bit had way more to do with his scholarship than his ability. Take a look at his freshman year stat line and laugh at how very wrong I was. Moran is the real deal as a prospect, a hitter with legit big league upside, a gorgeous lefthanded stroke, and a great approach at the plate. He is an average defender at present, but there is enough there in the way of tools that makes you think he can become an above-average third baseman in time. Physically, he reminds me a little bit of former Ranger Hank Blalock.
FR LHP Kent Emanuel (2013) | 8.56 K/9 – 2.01 BB/9 – 3.56 FIP – 89.1 IP
Emanuel is another prospect who has far surpassed my expectations as a freshman. One thing I’ve enjoyed about Emanuel’s excellent freshman season has been the answer to the question “What would happen if a Tyler Skaggs/Henry Owens type went to campus instead of turning pro?” Emanuel tacked on over thirty pounds to his 6-4 frame (now up to 205) and upped his sitting fastball a couple ticks (now at 87-89 MPH). His change is already an above-average college offering, and could be plus pro pitch with the way he throws it with fastball arm speed. His best bet at another above-average pro pitch is probably a slider, but that is something to be developed down the line; for now, his cut fastball works as a usable college offering just fine.
FR C Matt Roberts (2013) | .237/.310/.316 – 2 BB/10 K – 38 AB
If Stallings signs with the Reds — hardly a foregone conclusion as a 42nd round pick — then Roberts should take over full-time duty behind the plate in 2012. On paper he has everything you’d want in a young catching prospect: athleticism, above-average defensive upside, and good power.
FR RHP Andrew Smith (2013) | 10.04 K/9 – 3.12 BB/9 – 3.55 FIP – 26 IP
I can’t wait to see what the super talented Smith does in an expanded role next season. He reminds me a bit of Cody Stiles (93 peak FB, potential plus mid-70s CB, SL with promise) and could really take off next year if his changeup, a pitch I’ve heard looked good in practice this year, comes around.
FR RHP Shane Taylor (2013) | 10.25 K/9 – 2.75 BB/9 – 3.01 FIP – 36 IP
Woodard, Warren, Johnson…Taylor? His upper-80s sitting fastball, good mid-70s curveball, and really impressive control and command definitely bring back memories of former Tar Heels pitchability righthanded greats.
FR RHP Jake Cole (2013)
Cole’s arm strength (92-93 peak) and the makings of a hard upper-70s slider make him a name to remember. There were some rumors that he will be given a retroactive redshirt for 2011; if that’s the case, he’ll remain a freshman in 2012, but also remain draft-eligible in 2013.
FR OF Jeff Bouton (2013) | .282/.378/.410 – 4 BB/21 K – 3/3 SB – 39 AB
Bouton came to school with the reputation of a good power/speed prospect, but almost all the power/speed in the world won’t work with plate discipline like that. Just a freshman, there is plenty of time for him to figure it out going forward.
FR 1B/OF Thomas Zengel (2013) | .214/.338/.313 – 20 BB/16 K – 112 AB
Zengel is a bat-first prospect who will have to keep on hitting if he hopes to get noticed. He strikes me more of a potentially really good college player more than a future big-time pro prospect, but the plate discipline shown in 2011 has me a little intrigued.
FR C Brian Holberton (2013) | .267/.352/.400 – 11 BB/13 K – 75 AB
Matt Roberts was the high profile catching recruit in 2011 and the expected heir apparent to the job, but Holberton has a chance to alter those plans. His defense behind the plate is his biggest strength and his gap power has been better than advertised.
FR 1B/2B Parks Jordan (2013) | .179/.343/.214 – 6 BB/10 K – 28 AB
There could be room for Parks Jordan to get some time at second base next year if North Carolina decides to shift Tommy Coyle to shortstop (i.e. the Levi Michael Special). There is some upside with the bat, but his glove is a question mark.
FR LHP Tate Parrish (2013): LOOGY upside; 6-0, 165 pounds; (9.39 K/9 – 5.28 BB/9 – 2.70 FIP – 15.1 IP)
Parrish is by all accounts a great guy and tireless worker. I could say that about a lot of the players on this list, but, when asking around about Parrish for this piece, almost every person I spoke to commented on Parrish the person before talking about Parrish the player. They also said that he’s got the stuff to get college lefthanders out consistently and, with continued development, perhaps pro lefthanders as well. That last sentence is structured horribly, but I’m losing steam here…
FR LHP Hobbs Johnson (2013)
Johnson is a pitchability lefty with an upper-80s fastball. That’s all I’ve got.