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Washington Nationals 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Nationals 2011 MLB Draft Selections

I admit that I don’t read much post-draft reaction (proof that you can love something like crazy and still get burnt out on it), but the overall enthusiasm for what Washington did on draft day was loud enough that it seeped into the general baseball content that I digested in mid-June. Those first four picks are a thing of beauty, no doubt about it. Each of Washington’s first four picks are flashy names that come with enough of a human interest angle (one-time consensus first overall pick! giant right with giant stuff trying to make giant leap! college star to juco star! former first rounder trying to bounce back from injury!) to hook casual baseball fans – that’s probably why I heard the positive feedback despite avoiding post-draft coverage. Each guy has serious questions, sure, but the talent is clearly evident. Trusting guy that I am, I, well, trusted those who said Washington had a great draft. Outside of their first four picks, however, I’m not sure there is too much to be excited about here. The Nationals signed one and only one high school prospect. The Nationals drafted righthanded college relievers with five straight picks from round six to round ten.

The star quality of Rice 3B Anthony Rendon makes up for a lot of Washington’s lackluster drafting past the third round. This is hardly an original thought, and I know I repeat it more than I should, but it is really tricky finding interesting things to say about the draft’s best prospects. There are only so many ways you can say “yeah, he’s really good at X, Y, and Z, perhaps a bit lacking or flawed in A and B, but, on balance, he should be a really good big league player assuming good health, a typical developmental curve, and the continuation of the existence of mankind after 2012.”

Consider the narrative for Anthony Rendon. If you didn’t know any better you’d think he really “struggled” through a “down” junior season, right? Questions about his long-term health and his power upside with the new bats were quite popular all spring. Fun story, but little about it meshes with reality. After park/schedule adjustments, Anthony Rendon got on base over 53% of the time he came to the plate. The man walked in over a quarter of his overall plate appearances. When he wasn’t patiently waiting out pitchers too afraid/smart to pitch to him, he was putting up a park/schedule adjusted slugging percentage of .537 that, while not mind-blowing, still answers plenty of questions about his ability to hit with the unfortunate combination of a balky wrist and the limp new bats. I’m all for being critical about the prospects at the top, but there is something to be said about not wanting to create weaknesses that just aren’t there. Rendon isn’t a good runner. That’s the biggest negative I can honestly say about his game right now. No prospect is a sure thing, but Rendon is as close of a lock to an above-average big league regular as any player in this draft class. Combine that safety with his legitimate all-star upside, and it is easy to see why Washington was willing to draft Rendon despite the fact he happens to play the same spot as their current best everyday hitter. Speaking of which, I really hope that Washington comes up with some kind of solution that allows Rendon to play third base in the big leagues. He’s just too damn good at the hot corner to move elsewhere. I’m not saying they should move Ryan Zimmerman for Rendon’s sake – if Rendon turns into 3/4th the player Zimmerman has turned out to be, that would be a huge win for all involved. I just want to see some kind of happy solution where all of my selfish needs are met. Not sure I’m being overly demanding in suggesting that having great players playing their best positions is a good thing for the game.

There are a lot of amazing young arms in this year’s draft class, but Rendon is still the top prospect in 2011. There is not a single legitimate concern about his on-field performance. Despite his lack of size and some nagging injuries that held back his numbers some this year, there is little doubt that his power upside is substantial. His defensive tools are outstanding. The hit tool is well above-average and his approach to hitting is special. The two most popular comps thrown his way are Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria. I like the Zimmerman comp a lot, but I’ll toss another two names out there as well. Rendon’s play reminds me of a mix of a less physical, righthanded version of peak years Eric Chavez and current Boston third baseman Kevin Youkilis, minus the unorthodox swing setup. Can’t blame the Pirates for going with the rare commodity that is a potential ace with the first overall pick, but if I was in charge — and thank goodness for Pittsburgh or every other franchise I’m not — then Rendon would be the pick without thinking twice.

Kentucky RHP Alex Meyer would be a fun prospect to do a crystal ball report on because his future can conceivably go in so many different directions. He could be a top of the rotation arm, a lockdown reliever, or a total washout incapable of getting past AA. I’m a believer because I think the gains he made in 2011 are real based on the introduction of his sinker and more consistent softer stuff. His biggest issues are almost exactly what you’d expect from a 6’9” 220 pound behemoth: repeating his mechanics and release point and the subsequent inconsistencies with both command and control. I’m banking on his better than given credit for athleticism and hoping that a good pro pitching coach will get through to him, but there’s really no way of knowing which way Meyer’s future will turn out. Ah, the joys of prospecting.

Having seen both young starters in person collegiately, I must say that Aaron Fitt’s comp of Meyer to Andrew Brackman really made me think. Despite what those who only deal with the benefit of hindsight say, Brackman was an outstanding looking amateur prospect. He was at least as highly thought of as Meyer and was quite possibly a better long-term prospect. To put it in some context, the Pirates, the team that picked fourth in Brackman’s draft year, had front office higher-ups (e.g. Ed Creech and Dave Littlefield) in regular attendance at every Brackman start I saw that year. I’m on record as loving Meyer’s raw stuff and I believe he’ll be a top of the rotation anchor once he figures it all out, but the story of Brackman’s pro struggles should serve as a cautionary tale.

Kentucky JR RHP Alex Meyer: sitting 93-97 FB, dips closer to 92-94 later in games; inconsistent but plus 84-86 spike CB that works like a SL; 79-86 CU that flashes above-average when he throws it with more velocity; 92-93 two-seamer; all about command and control – if it is on, he’s incredibly tough to hit; FB is plus-plus down in zone, very hittable when left up; mechanical tweaks are likely needed; 6-9, 220

I heard a pretty crazy comp on Miami Dade JC OF Brian Goodwin that I will share knowing full well it is about as “out there” as any comp you’ll hear. It comes from somebody close to Goodwin – not friend/family close, but more like somebody local to him who has tracked him since his high school days – so take it with a block of salt. I’d imagine that Washington fans would be pretty thrilled if Goodwin can even scrape the ceiling of this Bernie Williams comp. I like the old faster Austin Kearns comp I heard back in the day, but anytime we can make comparisons to a potential Hall of Famer is a good time. Goodwin looked much better as the year went on, so I’m hopeful he’ll continue to show all five tools as a pro. His broad set of tools should make him a solid regular in due time.

[well-rounded with average at worst tools across board; average present power with plus-plus upside; above-average to plus-plus (70) speed; strong arm; fantastic athlete; update: plus athlete; very explosive; some question his swing; 10-20 homer upside as pro; above-average (55) runner; average arm for CF; raw fielder, but all the tools are there; 6-1, 190; DOB 11/2/90]

Texas Christian LHP Matt Purke ranks as one of this draft’s men of mystery. Injuries are the root cause of much of the uncertainty. Without access to his medical records, there is really no way of making a confident prediction about Purke’s future. At his healthiest he throws three plus (or almost plus) pitches: fastball, change, and slider. When banged up, he simply isn’t very good. There’s not much middle ground here.

TCU SO LHP Matt Purke: originally ranked 8th overall, but injury scare drops him; at his best throws 91-95 FB, 96-97 peak; command of FB needs work; potential plus 77-79 CU; solid CB; has shown plus 76-83 SL, but doesn’t use it anymore; SL was inconsistent, but best in upper-80s; plus makeup; sat 88-92 to start 2011, now down to upper-80s; loses feel for offspeed stuff quickly; 6-4, 180

Santa Barbara CC LHP Kylin Turnbull is a tough nut to crack. On the surface, his skill set paints the picture of a really good potential reliever. Case in point: he has an excellent fastball for a lefty, but struggles with velocity loss as innings pile up. Knife to your throat – I prefer my own grislier imagery to the played out “guy to your head” trope – I’m betting that “good lefty reliever” would be the consensus on Turnbull’s ceiling. A more daring prognosticator – or, simply, one without the fear of death driving the prediction – might look at Turnbull’s pro-caliber size, hard splitter with promise, and a slider that could be kind of sort of maybe decent after tons of reps and believe he could hold his own as a backend starter down the line. I’m hesitant about making such a bold claim (he’s more of a maybe reliever for me), but lefties with size and velocity are always in demand.

Santa Barbara CC SO LHP Kylin Turnbull: 88-92 FB, 94 peak; loses velocity early; above-average low-80s splitter; SL need work; 6-4, 200

Poor Georgia Tech 3B Matt Skole. You are in the wrong organization, my friend. If we’re talking about the possibility of Anthony Rendon moving off third or even picturing a world where a franchise player like Ryan Zimmerman moves on via trade or free agency, then what hope is there that things will work out just so and allow Skole to play third base in Washington. Like Rendon, I hope Skole gets the chance to man the hot corner somewhere, someday. His defensive tools (arm, athleticism, footwork, etc.) are better than his current ability, so one would think, given time and reps, that he could at least become average at the position. Adding the value of average defense at third on top of his existing patient and powerful bat would make him a good bet to become a solid regular down the line.

It took me a while to warm up to Skole, but I’d rather be late to the party than too stubborn to change my mind. The plus power bat should play wherever you put him (first base is a safe fall back option, catcher is the riskier but more appealing choice), though it would obviously be preferable if he can continue to work to turn his surprisingly strong defensive tools (good arm, decent foot speed, quality athleticism) into at least league average caliber third base defense.

Vanderbilt RHP Taylor Hill was my seventh favorite senior sign in 2011, but you could make a really strong argument that he’s the senior with the highest ceiling. Hill takes the notion that keeping the ball down is good and turns it up to 11. His sinker/slider combo is deadly when on, and his split-change drops clear out of the strike zone when he has it working. I tend to think of him as more of a groundball specialist reliever (his stuff definitely plays up in short bursts), but continued improvement in pro ball could allow him to start.

Vanderbilt SR RHP Taylor Hill: 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

I’ve seen more of Notre Dame RHP Brian Dupra over the years than I’ve seen certain members of my own immediate family. His fastball gets there in a hurry, but it flattens out badly when he either a) overthrows it, or b) gets deep into his pitch count. His slider is a good enough second pitch that he still has a chance to contribute as a relief arm at some point. Also helping his cause is his newfound upper-80s cutter that could become a weapon with continued use. He’s a better shot than many to help a big league pitching staff, but still a long shot.

Notre Dame SR RHP Brian Dupra: 91-95 FB; 88-91 cutter; good 79-81 SL; CU; 6-3, 205 pounds

Alright, now this is just getting ridiculous. I get that Washington spent so big on their first four picks that they had to dip into federal funds to pay everybody off – so that’s why my district keeps closer schools! – but are you really telling me they had to completely ignore the high school ranks and go back-to-back-to-back with college seniors in rounds 6, 7, and 8? One or the other, maybe, but doing both is no way to build up the kind of organizational depth an emerging franchise like Washington needs to keep the big league roster fresh. North Carolina RHP Greg Holt, come on down. Like new UNC reliever Derrick Bleeker (we’ll get to him soon), Holt has been known as much for his raw power at the plate as his pitching prowess. He has the fastball/slider thing down pat, so there is a chance he’ll pop up in a few years as a viable relief option. I’d rank the three seniors in the same order Washington drafted them with a really large gap between Hill and Dupra, and then a slightly smaller gap between Dupra and Holt.

Now Holt is a relief prospect with a fastball that sits 88-91 (93 peak) and a good low-80s slider.

I once had such high draft hopes for California RHP Dixon Anderson. Alexander, a fourth-year junior, was in line for a big 2011 season, but never found the velocity he lost from the previous season. He once showed the power stuff – mid-90s fastball, above-average low-80s breaking ball, and an emerging splitter – needed to excel in a relief role, but may have to reinvent himself as a sinker/slider/cutter guy if his four-seam heat doesn’t return. All in all, Anderson is a worthy gamble at this point in the draft.

California SO RHP Dixon Anderson: 92-94 FB; 96 FB peak; very good low-80s SL; splitter; 6-5, 225 pounds (4.89 FIP; 5.68 K/9; 3.55 BB/9)

Cuban born Barry RHP Manny Rodriguez, yet another older righthanded relief prospect from college (that’s five in a row!), impressed in his first taste of pro ball. His fastball was more consistently hitting his mid-90s peak, and the upside shown with his curve has some thinking it could be an above-average pitch in time. A nascent change gives his supporters hope he can stick in the rotation, but I believe Rodriguez would be best served airing it out in shorter outings. As much as I don’t approve of Washington using five straight early picks on college righthanders likely destined to the pen, getting one (likely), two (maybe), three (probably pushing it, but who knows) cost-controlled big league relievers out of it would help alleviate the temptation to go out and spend big bucks on volatile veteran bullpen pieces. As one of the great philosophical minds of our time once said, “that ain’t not bad!”

I always have admired Houston OF Caleb Ramsey’s (Round 11) approach to hitting, but fear he is too much of a tweener both offensively and defensively to ever rise above a AAA depth ceiling.

Great to see oft-injured Indiana LHP Blake Monar (Round 12) get the chance to give pro ball an honest shot. He’s a soft-tosser known for a big plus curve who has battled back valiantly from injuries.

mid- to upper-80s FB, peak at 87-88; plus CB; SL; injury set back progress in 2010; 6-2, 185 pounds

I can’t wait to see Walters State CC OF Cody Stubbs (Round 14) back on the field playing against major college opposition this spring. Going from Tennessee to Walters State to North Carolina certainly qualifies as the road less traveled, but Stubbs’ nomadic existence is not due to a lack of on-field talent. He has a chance to rise way up draft boards and get early round consideration in a year with little in the way of impact college bats.

Due to a similar positional reclassification (OF to 1B), Stubbs’ prospect stock gets the same artificial boost as fellow first baseman Jacob Anderson’s. Easy to like Stubbs’ power to all fields and above-average athleticism for a big man (6-4, 225). I remember thinking he could be a top five round prospect after three years at Tennessee. Things obviously didn’t work out for Stubbs as a Volunteer, but the talent that led me to that original conclusion hasn’t evaporated. If he slips past round five, as I think he will, you could wind up with a player with high round ability at the cost of a low round pick.

Biloxi HS (MS) RHP Hawtin Buchanan (Round 19) is upside personified. He’s big, he throws hard, and, due to the fact that he is big and already throws hard, he could very well throw very hard down the line. The reports on his curve improving as his senior season went on are really encouraging. That kind of aptitude will serve him well as he tries to put everything together and get himself a first round grade in a few years.

RHP Hawtin Buchanan (Biloxi HS, Mississippi): 89-91 FB with room to grow, 93-94 peak; good command; raw CB, but much improved as year went on; strong Mississippi commit; 6-8, 230

Tennessee 2B Khayyan Norfork (Round 23) was a favorite in college, but a long shot to contribute anything at the big league level. Somebody I know in the know dropped a Junior Spivey comp on him. That got a good laugh out of me, but not because it is a silly comp or anything. Who in their right mind would comp a player now or ever to Junior Spivey?

I wanted so badly to include Norfork on my preseason list, but chickened out at the last minute for reasons still unknown to me. He’s got the prerequisite leadoff man skill set — plus speed, great jumps from first, good bunting skills, some patience, some hit tool — and the defensive versatility to play around the infield. I don’t think he has the bat to ever log consistent starter’s at bats, but unlike a few of the guys chained to 2B now and forever, Norfork should be able to move around the infield in a backup’s role with success.

The comment from last year (below) on Arizona State LHP Kyle Ottoson (Round 24) holds true today. He’ll head back for one last year at one of America’s most entertaining campuses to continue to build his junkballing crafty lefty street cred. (EDIT: Ottoson’s senior year will be at Oklahoma State, not Arizona State. Totally forgot about this.)

Ottoson’s strong commitment to Arizona State makes him another difficult sign. He doesn’t have a present above-average pitch, but throws three pitches (85-88 FB; 76-79 KCB; low-70s CU) for strikes.

You have to believe Washington scouts saw local product Georgetown C Erick Fernandez (Round 25) plenty over the years. Fernandez went to Georgetown despite being recruited by schools like NC State and Miami out of high school. He has retained much of the athleticism from his days as a middle infielder and his defense is top notch. All told he isn’t likely to be more than an organizational player, but he could hit his way into a backup role someday, especially if Washington likes how he works with some of their young organizational pitching talent.

He’s more than just a courtesy draft, I swear! South Carolina LHP Bryan Harper (Round 30), older brother of Bryce, has good enough stuff from the left side to hang around pro ball for at least a couple years. His size and mature, if still inconsistent, offspeed stuff are plusses. His upside is obviously limited and he’ll have to keep proving himself for years in the minors, but Harper has more of a shot than other older brothers of more famous top draft picks ever did. Jake Mauer, I’m talking about you.

Harper: 88-92 FB; solid 76-78 CB; emerging CU; 6-5, 190 pounds

If Southeast Guilford HS (NC) SS Josh Tobias (Round 31) can handle the defensive responsibilities at either center field or second base, he’s a potential early round pick in 2014. His raw power is exceptional for a man his size and his speed is at least an average tool (potentially much better than that depending on what day you see him run). I’d almost always err on the side of pro instruction over college, but spending three years working with the brains behind the resurgence of Florida baseball works just fine. Like a few of the other “ones that got away” you’ll read about below, Tobias has first round potential in 2014.

[above-average to plus-plus speed; very strong; plus raw power; leadoff profile; ability to stick in CF will make or break him]

San Diego RHP Calvin Drummond (Round 34) has always had better stuff than results, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can put it all together this season for the Toreros.

San Diego SO RHP Calvin Drummond: 91-93 FB, 94 peak; 84-87 cutter/SL; 78-79 CB; 83-84 CU

Howard JC RHP Derrick Bleeker (Round 37) could really turn heads this spring as a late-inning relief option for the Tar Heels. He fits the reliever mold in all your typical ways: he throws hard (mid-90s peak), shows a breaking ball, and has intimidating size (6-5, 220 pounds). Bleeker is also a talented hitter with massive raw power who should get more and more at bats as the season unfolds.

Stanford LHP Brett Mooneyham (Round 38) is a little bit like a less famous Matt Purke. Both guys were big stars in high school that turned down sizable bonuses to play college ball. Both guys saw their stuff drop drastically because of a multiple injuries. And both guys were drafted by Washington in 2011. They are like twins! Purke signed, but Mooneyham will give it one more shot for Stanford this spring. He has the size and offspeed repertoire (love the cutter, like his change and breaking ball) to succeed, but his draft stock and pro future will be determined by his ability to reclaim his once above-average low-90s fastball. In this year’s so-so college class, Mooneyham has top three round stuff if healthy.

Stanford JR LHP Brett Mooneyham: 88-90 FB, 91-92 peak; sits 90-92 now; also seen 87-91; weak FB this summer at 86-88, 90 peak; average 78-80 SL; good 75-78 CB; good CU; 6-5; improved cutter; missed 2011 season due to finger injury

Mississippi 1B Matt Snyder (Round 44) is an all-bat prospect who faces very long odds if he hopes to play in the big leagues. That doesn’t take away from him being an excellent college slugger. Ole Miss is loaded with future talent, so Snyder will get his chances to impress scouts from the first pitch to the last out this season.

Positive reports on Snyder’s bat this spring had me give him a slight boost, but his defense, speed, and arm are all really weak. I’ve heard through the grapevine that he is likely to be back for his senior season.

Georgia OF Peter Verdin (Round 39) has set himself up to become one heck of a 2012 senior sign. He’s a great athlete with plenty of speed for center field and intriguing raw power. There has been some talk in the past about his defensive skill set working behind the plate. All that is missing is the teeny tiny matter of actually putting those tools to use on the field. Guys are senior signs for a reason, after all. If Verdin can put it all together, he could jump up close to 30 rounds next year.

Dorman HS (SC) 3B Hunter Cole (Round 49) will join Verdin in the Georgia lineup this spring. He could also play alongside Verdin in the Bulldogs outfield if the coaching staff prefers the incoming freshman there instead of at third. If he stays at the hot corner, I think he has the offensive upside and defensive tools to become a first round pick.

Cole is another really tough sign (strong Georgia commit) with loads of raw power and good defensive tools. His bat is currently way more advanced than his glove, so maybe part of the idea of heading to Athens is to polish up his overall game and help him pop up as a first rounder in 2014.

Milwaukee Brewers 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Brewers 2011 MLB Draft Selections

I think Texas RHP Taylor Jungmann unfairly got lost amongst the collection of so many talented 2011 college arms. I think his fastball command is so good that he’ll have early enough pro success to buy him some time to sharpen up his inconsistent offspeed stuff. I think the Jared Weaver comp – made by Baseball America, if memory serves – is a good approximation for his ceiling. So concludes three things I think I think about Taylor Jungmann.

Texas JR RHP Taylor Jungmann: has touched 96-99, but regularly sits low-90s (91-93); new reports have him 92-95; can still reach back and crank upper-90s (like on opening day 2011), but sits most comfortably 92-93, occasionally dipping to 89-91; plus FB command; good sink on FB; plus 75-78 CB; plus CB command; good 85-87 CU; good SL; love the Jered Weaver comp

The parallel careers of Georgia Tech LHP Jed Bradley and new Seattle Mariner LHP Danny Hultzen will be fascinating to watch. Bradley can do many of the same things that caused so many to fall in love with Hultzen this past spring. Hultzen dominated the college game in a way Bradley didn’t, but, from a stuff perspective, the two lefties are much closer than you might think. Bradley’s fastball might even be a tick better than Hultzen’s, though his secondary offerings are nowhere near as consistent. There are days, however, that his change and slider look just as good as Hultzen’s top two offspeed pitches.

Georgia Tech JR LHP Jed Bradley: 88-92 FB with plus life and good sink, pretty steady peak up at 94-96; loves to cut the FB; has sat 91-93 at times; holds velocity late; good sink on FB; average 80-84 SL that flashes plus when velocity gets up to 86-87; good 77-79 CB; plus 79-83 CU that he has worked very hard on, but sometimes goes away from for too long; both the SL and CB are very inconsistent offerings; 6-4, 200 pounds

Academia de Milagrosa (PR) HS RHP Jorge Lopez is a really intriguing mix of polished present stuff and long-range upside. He currently can throw three pitches for strikes – fastball, curve, change – and there’s a chance each pitch winds up big league average or better. He’s also a great athlete with exactly the kind of projectable frame that gets the scouts hot and bothered.

RHP Jorge Lopez (Academia la Milagrosa, Puerto Rico): 88-91 FB with good command, 93 peak; very good 73-75 CB; plus CU; 6-5, 175

The early pro reports on Long Beach State RHP Drew Gagnon’s velocity are promising (e.g. fewer pitches in the upper-80s, peaking at 95), but I’m still lukewarm about any pitcher without one clear knockout pitch. His slider (82-85) shows the most promise, but he leaves it up too often and has difficulty putting it in a spot where hitters will consistently chase it. There remains value in Gagnon’s steady three-pitch assortment (he still throws the curve, a fourth pitch, but that should be scrapped going forward) and his plus fastball command, like Jungmann, is attractive, but limited upside keeps me from loving the pick. I do appreciate the stacking of starting pitchers early, however; it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that the Brewers added four big league starting pitchers with their first four picks in the draft.

Long Beach State JR RHP Andrew Gagnon: 89-91 FB, has hit 93-94; once promising slurvy breaking ball has turned into above-average 82-85 SL; rapidly improving 85-86 CU that is now at least an average pitch; plus command; 78-82 CB; breaking ball command an issue; 6-2, 188 pounds

Lefthanded power and good defense does not a star first base prospect make. Cal State Fullerton 1B Nick Ramirez can hit it out of the park and shows no problems fielding his position, but the expectations for a first base prospect are likely too high for him to ever provide value as an everyday player. I don’t think he’ll struggle so much as a hitter that he’ll ever be tempted to return to pitching, but the thought of him someday holding down a lefthanded reliever/power bench bat role makes me happy. For me, Nick Ramirez is the next step of the evolution that began the post-injury version of Joe Savery.

Ramirez has a well-deserved reputation as a power hitting first baseman with a plus throwing arm, but what I think I enjoy most about his game is his quality defense. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: no matter what becomes of Ramirez as a pro, he’ll go down as one of my favorite college players to watch.

Overslot fifth round pick Leander HS (TX) OF Michael Reed is a toolsy yet raw athlete from Texas. He looks great in a uniform and possesses the strength you’d normally see from a star football player, but there are legitimate questions about how he’ll bat will play as a pro. The fifth round is as good a time as any to start taking chances on prospects like this.

[strong; plus arm; average speed; raw bat; shows all five tools]

Most high school athletes are raw. That’s a fairly uncontroversial statement that we can all agree to, right? There are, of course, degrees of rawness, but the gap between what a player shows as a teenager to what he’ll hopefully show once he’s on the precipice of becoming a big league ballplayer is immense. The following might be a little bit more subjective, but hear me out: Like Michael Reed, Newbury Park HS (CA) RHP Daniel Keller is another raw prospect with big tools, but, as a pitcher, has upside that can be more reasonably met with good instruction. At one point or another, Keller has shown all of the things you’d want to see in a future big league pitcher: his fastball sits between 88-92 (peaking 93-94) with occasionally impressive sink, his change has shown flashes of being an above-average pitch, and both his curve and slider look like usable pitches on his best day. The problem with Keller is that he’s never really had all of his pitches going at the same time. That, combined with a delivery befitting a pitcher as raw as he is, makes Keller a long-term project. The abilities that go into throwing hard, locating pitches, and spinning breaking balls strike me as skills that you own forever (more or less) once you’ve shown that you can do them. Figuring out how to hit all these crazy pitches, like Reed will have to do, requires a far steeper learning curve. In other words, all else being equal, I’ll take the raw pitcher over the raw position player.

RHP Danny Keller (Newbury Park HS, California): 88-92 FB, 94 peak; good sinker; raw but interesting CU; good 79-80 CB; 75 SL; raw; violent delivery; 6-5, 185

Mississippi RHP David Goforth throws very, very hard. That’s good. David Goforth also throws the ball very, very straight. That’s less good. Pro hitters don’t have as much trouble squaring up on straight fastballs as their SEC counterparts. Upper-90s heat can work even without a ton of movement when complemented with a consistent, well-placed offspeed pitch. When on, Goforth’s slider qualifies and, though it isn’t offspeed per se, the new and improved cutter could also work. Big fastball plus the potential for an interesting secondary plus a max effort delivery all adds up to a future big league reliever.

Mississippi JR RHP David Goforth: 93-96 straight FB; has hit 97-99 in relief; average 79-83 SL that flashes plus; occasional CU; max effort delivery; good athlete; poor command; new 88-91 cutter has been effective; has been up to 98-100 in 2011; 5-11, 185

Biggest thing working in Brookswood SS (BC) C Dustin Houle’s favor is time. He’s young enough that he’ll have plenty of time to show that he can hit professional pitching and defend at either third or behind the plate. I know it is a lazy comp and I apologize, but I’m a lazy apologetic man: Houle’s perfect world upside sounds a lot like fellow Canadian Russell Martin to me.

Houle probably fits best behind the plate, but I’m sticking with him as a third baseman for now. He is a talented player who will need a lot of minor league reps. That shouldn’t be a problem for him because, as one of the youngest draft-eligible players this year, youth is on his side.

I’ve heard the Brewers were pleasantly surprised at how good La Grange HS (GA) OF Malcolm Dowell looked in his first shot at pro ball. They knew he was a great athlete who would steal bases and cover a lot of ground in center, but his approach to hitting was far more refined than expected. If everything works out, he has leadoff hitter upside. Not a bad potential outcome for a player I personally badly missed on leading up to the draft.

I honestly can’t remember why I cooled on Oklahoma State LHP Mike Strong this past spring; reports on his stuff were somewhat down in 2011, but his results remained as strong as ever. He succeeds with a good fastball and a better curve. A new cutter and better conditioning helped him pitch deeper into games, but his iffy control might not be what the pros want out of a starting pitcher. As a lefty with three usable pitches, he’ll get his chances even if he moves to the bullpen in the not so distant future.

Oklahoma State SR LHP Mike Strong (2011): 88-92 FB; holds velocity late; plus hammer mid-70s CB; cutter; developing CU; 6-0, 180 pounds; (9.65 K/9 – 4.90 BB/9 – 4.42 FIP – 64.1 IP)

Florida RHP Tommy Toledo (Round 11) is an intriguing sleeper that could emerge as a legit starting pitching prospect if his arm checks out. When he commands his low-90s fastball, he’s tough to hit. If the starting experiment doesn’t work, Toledo can always move back to the bullpen into the role he played so well while at Florida.

Florida JR RHP Tommy Toledo: coming back from arm injury; 88-91 FB; took line drive off of face in 2010; 91-93 back and healthy; command comes and goes; really nice breaking stuff

Neither UNC Wilmington OF Andrew Cain (Round 12) nor Holly Springs HS (NC) LHP Carlos Rodon (Round 16) signed with Milwaukee, so both will head back to the great state of North Carolina to play college ball. In the case of Cain, he’s taking his pro grade speed, raw power, and size back to UNC Wilmington. An improvement to his offensive approach would go a long way towards getting him picked where the rest of his talent – we’re talking top five tools – warrants. Rodon will give it the old college try at North Carolina State. He’s flashed well above-average stuff across the board, but inconsistency rightfully knocked him down on draft day. Those three potential pro pitches – fastball, slider, and change – make him a potential first day pick next time around.

LHP Carlos Rodon (Holly Springs HS, North Carolina): 87-89 FB, peak 92-93; loses velocity early; 75-76 CB; good 76-80 SL; emerging CU; raw enough that he may be better off at NC State; inconsistent offspeed stuff; spotty command; good athlete; 6-2, 210

Outside of the three pitchers taken by Milwaukee in the first two rounds, Lufkin HS (TX) SS Chris McFarland (Round 18) is the best long-range prospect selected in 2011. All of his tools work really well at third, and I believe in his bat in a big way. Reagan HS (FL) C Mario Amaral (Round 17) got away, but he’ll be a fun prospect to watch develop at Florida State.

The 2014 draft class might wind up loaded with premium third base prospects if all of the supposed difficult signs wind up at their respective universities. McFarland’s down senior year has many thinking he’ll wind up at Rice this fall. That’d be great news for college baseball, but a bummer for the fans of whatever team drafts him. They’d be missing out on an excellent athlete with five-tool upside at third. McFarland’s lightning quick bat is his best tool, followed closely behind by his well above-average raw power and aided by his discerning eye at the plate. His speed, size, and arm are all exactly what you’d want out of a potential big league regular.

I’m a huge sucker for hitters who know the strike zone better than the umpire, so count me in as a fan of Connecticut 1B Michael Nemeth (Round 21). Unfortunately, I’m more of a fan of Nemeth the player rather than Nemeth the prospect, if that makes sense. It’s really hard to hitch your wagon to a first base only prospect without neither a plus hit tool nor plus power. Patient hitters with gap power who play above-average or better defense are not without value, but those guys face a pretty massive uphill slog to legit prospectdom in today’s game.

Nemeth’s name kept coming up in discussions with people in the know leading up to the publication of this list. He was admittedly off my radar heading into the year, but those 2011 plate discipline numbers are eye popping. After having seen him myself a few times this year, I can say he looked to me like a guy with good power to the gaps with the chance to be an average hitter and above-average defender down the line.

I’ve long been a fan of Florida C Ben McMahan (Round 23), and see no reason why he won’t turn up as a big league backup catching option a few years down the line. He won’t hit enough to play every day, but his defense is top notch.

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.

Georgia RHP Michael Palazzone (Round 24) doesn’t wow you with the fastball (sits upper-80s, 92 peak), but his top two secondary pitches are good ones. A good final season for the Bulldogs could get him taken in the top ten rounds.

Georgia JR RHP Michael Palazzone: 92 peak FB; plus CU; solid CB

If Orange Coast CC RHP Chad Thompson (Round 27) is healthy, then the Brewers got a major steal this late in the draft. He’s got the size, heat, and upside of a prospect who typically would be selected within the first five rounds. In a weak Brewers farm system, Thompson could rise up into their top ten by season’s end. Or his stuff, slow to recover from Tommy John surgery so far, never returns to his high school level. If that’s the case, the Crew are out a 27th round pick. Classic low risk, high reward pick. Either way, great gamble by Milwaukee at this stage in the draft.

Thompson is huge (6-8, 215) with an explosive low-90s FB (90-93) peaking at 94-95, nasty splitter, upper-70s circle change with serious sink, and a raw mid-70s curve that needs polish. There are also rumblings that he now throws a good forkball, but, haven’t not seen him personally since high school, I can neither confirm nor deny its existence. If Thompson’s elbow is structurally sound after last May’s Tommy John surgery, the Phillies have a major sleeper on their hands.

On top of being a pretty darn fine draft prospect, Mesquite HS (TX) C BreShon Kimbell also deserves credit for being a man of many names. Baseball America has him listed incorrectly as “Kimbrell” in their draft database and the Louisiana Tech website lists his first name as Bre’shon. I personally like Bre$hon, but just because I think it looks cool. The unsigned Kimbell has a heck of a chance to become Louisiana Tech’s best draft prospect since Brian Rike in 2007. If/when he reaches the bigs, he’ll have his sights set on David Segui, currently the most accomplished Bulldog of all time. Kimbell has the raw talent to do big things in college, but he has a long way to go.

Kimbell is unusually strong, very athletic, and a gifted defender. He also has shown big raw power in the past, but inconsistencies with his swing mechanics make his trips to the plate hit or miss, no pun intended. Some good pro coaching could turn him into a high level pro prospect in short order. Also, BreShon – a fella with a name like that is obviously destined for greatness, even though I sometimes read it as Bre$hon.

You know Maryland SS Alfredo Rodriguez (Round 32) must really, really, really be able to pick it at short if he pulled off getting drafted despite a 2011 slugging percentage less than Ravens tackle Michael Oher’s listed (313 pounds) weight.

The most highly regarded returning Terrapins prospect is JR SS Alfredo Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a really good defender who will definitely stick at short as a pro. He made strides with the bat last spring, but is still almost exclusively a singles hitter at this point. Needless to say, great defense or not, I’m not as high on him as I know some are. 

Born, raised, educated, and now a professional ballplayer, all in the great state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin-Milwaukee RHP Chad Pierce (Round 38) is just a bit more than a feel-good local pick, however; his fastball peaks at 92 and he’s got the athleticism you’d expect from a converted college catcher.

Connecticut LHP Elliott Glynn (Round 39) is a crafty lefty with a mid-80s fastball that dances low in the zone often enough to get him way more groundballs than your typical crafty lefty. He also has two solid secondaries (slider and change) that he’ll throw at any point in the count. There’s some relief upside here which, for a 39th rounder, makes Glynn more interesting than most. Connecticut C Doug Elliot (Round 35), Glynn’s college battery mate, is a solid defender with interesting but undeveloped power. Seems like a handy org guy to me.

Connecticut SR LHP Elliot Glynn (2011): upper-80s FB with good movement; 82-83, peak at 86; solid SL; plus CU

I’ve heard conflicting reports on whether or not we’ll be seeing Trinity Christian Academy (FL) SS Ahmad Christian (Round 46) play baseball for the Gamecocks this spring. He’s such a good athlete that the NFL is a possibility down the line, but I still hope he gives baseball a shot. His defense at short is already professional quality. In reading up on both Christian and new teammate/fellow two-way athlete Shon Carson, I stumbled upon a fact that I feel like the last person on the planet to either know or care about. Sheldon Brown, former Eagle and current Brown defensive back, was a part-time outfielder for the USC baseball team?

It sure doesn’t seem like Christian will sign a pro contract this year, but his crazy athleticism, great range, and plus glove are all too good to leave him off this list. In the likely event he’ll wind up at South Carolina, it’ll be interesting to track his development as a dual-sport (the other being football) prospect. Like Hunter Cole before him, going off to school could be a blessing in disguise for his long-term outlook. There are still many concerns about Christian’s offensive ability and three years in the SEC will provide a clearer picture of his skills.

Kansas City Royals 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Royals 2011 MLB Draft Selections

How can you be a fan of the MLB Draft and not love the Royals picking local hero Gardner-Edgerton HS (KS) OF Bubba Starling with their first round pick? It really is a tremendous story. I can’t even begin to imagine how much Starling’s development is going to be scrutinized by obsessive fans (that’s said with much love, by the way) of the minor leagues. It’ll be like Aaron Hicks times one billion…

I’ll be honest and admit that I don’t have a great feel for what kind of player Bubba Starling is at this point. In many ways, his scouting report reads as Generic High School Dual-Sport Five-Tool Centerfielder/Pitcher, if that makes sense. He runs, he throws, he shows classic light tower power, and he catches anything and everything hit to him in center. Even his much discussed (alright, much maligned) hit tool improved a ton over the past year. As the pre-draft note says, Starling is “everything you’d look for in a prep player.” What worries me are the reports already trickling out of instructs that the Royals have had to make drastic changes to both his swing and throwing mechanics. Said reports are often spun in a positive light – after the changes were made, Starling looked great! What a quick study! – but the thought of investing $7.5 million on a high school player and then almost immediately changing some of the fundamental ways he plays the game makes raises a teeny tiny red flag for me. This hardly qualifies as hard-hitting analysis, but I’ll say it anyway: no player in this year’s draft has as drastic a difference between best-case and worst-case scenario as Bubba Starling. He is the quintessential boom/bust prospect. I realize there’s a chance he’ll have value almost no matter what based on his speed and defense alone (pretty sure first round prep outfielders with other worldly tools have to actively go out of their way to keep from advancing through a system…as a Phillies fan, I present you Exhibit A and Exhibit B), but I’m talking “boom” with respect to his draft position. If Starling isn’t an everyday player, he’s a major bust in the eyes of the majority. If he’s not a middle of the lineup fixture, he’ll always be known to fans as an underachiever. If he’s not a consistent All Star performer, his name will always be spoken with a ting of regret that he never was able to truly put it all together. The expectations are sky high for the young Kansas, and rightfully so.

[plus speed; really good bat speed; patient approach; plus raw power; 88-93 FB; very good 73-76 CB that could be plus in time; 6-4, 180; plus CF range; hit tool is legit; everything you’d look for in a prep player, including rapid improvement in last year]

Plus raw power, good arm, and physically strong: that’s Manheim Township HS (PA) C Cameron Gallagher in less than ten words.

The “local” guy that I’ve seen this year a few times – 90 minutes away is local, right? – has had himself an oddly inconsistent year for a potential top five round draft prospect. He reminds me a good bit of Tyler Marlette, except with a tiny bit (we’re talking teeny tiny) less arm strength and a good bit more raw power and physical strength. So, basically, he reminds me of Marlette except for three pretty big differences – maybe that’s not the best comp after all. Gallagher is still a very raw defender, but steady improvement throughout the spring has led me to believe he can remain a catcher, assuming he doesn’t experience another growth spurt. The raw power is undeniably his biggest strength and there are some who think he’s got enough bat to handle first base if the whole catching thing doesn’t pan out. Not sure I’m buying into the bat that hard, but also not sure he’ll be moving to first any time soon.

Maybe it is just a byproduct of my simple mind making the association between fellow The Woodlands alum, but The Woodlands HS (TX) RHP Bryan Brickhouse’s scouting profile reminds me a little bit of a less athletic Kyle Drabek.

RHP Bryan Brickhouse (The Woodlands HS, Texas): 88-92 FB, 94-95 peak; 75-77 knuckle CB; solid 80-85 SL with upside; emerging low-80s CU; good athlete; 6-2, 190

Some versions of my pre-draft high school pitching rankings had Santaluces HS (FL) RHP Kyle Smith in the back end of the top ten. Getting him this late is a major coup for Kansas City. His secondary stuff is as good as any non-first round prep arm in the country, and his fastball, athleticism, quick tempo, and, yes, intangibles all point him in the direction of becoming a very good big league starting pitcher.

RHP Kyle Smith (Santaluces HS, Florida): 88-92 FB with late burst, 93-95 peak; potential plus CU; excellent 77-78 CB; great pitchability; quick worker; good athlete; 6-0, 170

I like the move by Kansas City to get St. Thomas HS (TX) OF Patrick Leonard away from the infield, so he can instead concentrate on hitting. Leonard should be fine defensively in right field; his chances of showing a bat capable of handling the demands of a corner outfield spot are less than fine. Funny how a position switch can totally flip a player’s future: Leonard went from an interesting hitter with defensive questions at third to a prospect likely good enough to handle right field who might not have the bat to carry him in the outfield.

Leonard has a fun mix that includes an above-average hit tool, impressive power upside, good athleticism, and above-average arm strength. Questions about his defensive future keep him lower than his bat warrants, at least for now.

I have to give it to Kansas City for unearthing Caribbean JC LHP Cesar Ogando. Even with a few thousands of names in my files, Ogando slipped through the cracks. He’s got his youth, size, and a fastball peaking at 94 at the wonderfully named Excellence Games (per Baseball America), but was scary wild (24 BB in 31.2 IP) in his pro debut. That kind of thing happens when you are nineteen and trying to figure out how to get your 6’3”, 210 pound body familiar with throwing a baseball harder than 99.999999999% of the planet consistently in the strike zone for the first time as a professional. Or so I would guess.

There’s definitely some sleeper potential with Oregon RHP Kellen Moen. The former Ducks reliever was tried as a starter after signing because he has shown the makings of three solid pitches, but I think the difference between his upper-80s fastball (90ish peak) and the low-90s fastball (93-94 peak) makes him a better option in the bullpen, now and in the future. His breaking ball looks better in relief as well: we’re talking a mid-70s loopy curve compared to a much tighter upper-70s breaker. I understand the Royals wanting to get him as many innings in as possible, but he’s a reliever all the way for me.

I’m looking forward to seeing the big, talented South County HS (VA) RHP Evan Beal pitch for the two-time defending national champs in the future. College was a good choice for him. Assuming he stays injury free, he’s got the chance to be a very early pick in 2014.

I’m not sure what the Royals see in Cal State Bernardino RHP Aaron Brooks that I’m missing, but I would have rather targeted another bullpen senior sign (e.g. Kellen Moen) for half the price than spend close to six figures on a pitcher without an above-average offering. Of course, what do I know? Brooks was outstanding in his debut, getting that sexy mix of strikeouts and groundballs that drives all the real baseball groupies wild. Brooks was just far enough off the beaten path as a college prospect that we’re free to speculate that his signing scout must have really fought for him during pre-draft meetings.

The numbers that Brooks (73 K in 79.2 IP, 2.74 GO/AO) were more in line with what I expected out of Georgia Southern RHP Matt Murray’s debut. Murray’s numbers were fine (58 K in 53 IP), but it was a surprise to see his nasty sinker/slider combo get as few groundball outs as it did. I remain intrigued at his upside, either as a back of the rotation starter or a steady, groundball inducing (hopefully) 7th inning reliever.

Georgia Southern JR RHP Matt Murray: 88-92 FB with heavy sink; ground ball machine; solid upper-70s SL; better than solid CU that has come on a lot since getting to school; CB; 6-4, 240 pounds

I’m all in on incoming Louisville freshman Park Hill South HS (MO) LHP Adam Schemenauer (Round 12). A 6’9” lefthander with a fastball that hits 93 MPH and above-average athleticism? Sold! He’s a long way away from being what he’ll eventually be (if you follow), and the track record for jumbo-sized prep pitchers isn’t as strong as the handful of pro outliers might have you think, but I’m a sucker for upside and Schemenauer has it in spades.

Hey, speaking of upside… American LHP Stephen Lumpkins (Round 13) is a 6’8″ lefthander with a fastball that hits 92 MPH and above-average athleticism. Bonus points for being the rare college prospect to come out of a family member’s alma mater. My three siblings and I all went to private universities in the northeast (sure, DC stretches the limits of “northeast,” but let me have this one), never once considering the potential ramifications to our baseball prospect watching. Ah, to be eighteen again to go back and realize the importance of spending four years somewhere warm. Lumpkins, like Ogando, struggled with control in his debut, but, also like Ogando, his struggles can be forgiven for now.

I would have bet anything that UCLA 1B Dean Espy (Round 15) would wind up back in sunny Southern California for another year after his disappointing junior year. He found his missing power stroke after signing, but there’s still not enough power upside or plate discipline to envision him as a big league player. He’s yet another prospect in purgatory: a first baseman only without the bat to carry him there. Sad.

Deltona (FL) HS SS Jack Lopez (Round 16) might have been one of those players who benefited from my pet theory that defensive studs up the middle, especially at shortstop, benefit from three years of college more than any other type of prep prospect. If Lopez had decided to attend Miami and showed himself to be competent with the bat over a few seasons, his standing as a plus defender with a playable bat could have made him a first rounder. Then again, by bypassing school, Lopez wound up getting the same bonus as second rounder Cameron Gallagher. Maybe it’s for the best for all involved (except Miami, but they at least already have the college version of Lopez, Stephen Perez, in tow) that Lopez is getting an early start on the pros.

Plus defensive tools will keep Lopez at short until the day he retires from the game to go sell life insurance (or whatever it is ex-ballplayers do these days).

I have a hard time explaining why, but I just plain like Virginia C Kenny Swab (Round 21). He does everything pretty well, but nothing so spectacularly that you’d notice a specific play he was involved in during the course of a game. At the end of that game, however, when you think back to what players could help a big league club someday, you remember the athletic, confident, strong armed Swab and come away impressed with his righthanded pop and balanced swing. I’d love to see Kansas City get creative and get the most out of Swab’s athleticism by using him at a variety of positions.

Here’s what was said here about Mr. Swab back before the season started: “He’s got a live bat with above-average power potential, but it’ll take some serious lineup juggling from Brian O’Connor to get him the at bats he’ll need to boost his draft stock. As is, Swab is a potential 10-20th round player based on upside alone.” Not a bad preseason prediction on a fairly unheralded junior college transfer, right? In the at bats Swab’s earned this year, he’s impressed. Good power, good patience, good defender, good arm, and good positional versatility. He’s not a star by any means, but he’s a good player. That sounds pretty good to me.

Louisiana Tech 3B MarkThrelkeld (Round 25) gives you just about what you’d expect from a pla…you know what? Just check the pre-draft notes on Threlkeld below. That says it all, I think.

Threlkeld gives just about what you’d expect from a player this far down the ranking: huge raw power and a strong arm. The reason Steranka gets the one spot edge over him is because of Threlkeld’s questionable defensive ability.

The Royals convinced Chris Dwyer, draft-eligible Clemson lefty, to sign a few years ago, but couldn’t come to terms with Clemson LHP Joseph Moorefield (Round 26) this time around. Moorefield will take his low-90s heat and intriguing four-pitch mix back to Clemson rather than make the jump to pro ball. He’ll be joined on a stacked Clemson staff featuring a slew of future pros like Kevin Brady, Dominic Leone, Scott Firth, David Haselden, Mike Kent, Jonathan Meyer, Kevin Pohle, Matt Campbell, Daniel Gossett, Patrick Andrews, and Kyle Bailey. Not bad.

SO LHP Joseph Moorefield hasn’t gotten a lot of notice outside of Pickens County, but lefties with low-90s and four usable pitches don’t often get overlooked for long. His control is probably his biggest question mark right now; it’ll probably be the key in determining his role for the upcoming season which in turn could be the key in determining his 2011 draft stock. 

I was so sure that Rock Falls (IL) HS RHP Jake Junis (Round 29) would end up at North Carolina State that I recently had to delete his name of their roster in my college draft follow list. Junis has the three pitches – solid upper-80s fastball, good hard curve, and a solid change – to start as a pro and should go down as one of the great overslot signings of this year’s draft. Well done, Royals. Brickhouse, Smith, and Junis is a heck of a trio to build on.

RHP Jake Junis (Rock Falls HS, Illinois): 88-91 FB; good upper-70s CB with plus upside; solid CU; great athlete; 6-3, 200

Seems like the Royals like to gamble on size when it comes to their overslot late round high school pitching picks, no? 6’7” Mercersburg Academy (PA) RHP Christian Binford (Round 30) certainly fits the bill. Binford was below the radar for much of the spring, but has shown flashes of three average pitches in the past. Child of the 90’s that I am, I always think of Binford Tools and JTT (so dreamy!) when I hear his name.

Despite missing the entire 2011 season with a broken wrist, Southern Illinois 1B Chris Serritella (Round 31) went ahead and got himself drafted. That’s pretty badass. I’m just crazy enough to think that another year or two at Southern Illinois could turn Serritella into a viable righty mashing platoon bat at first base.

An unfortunate wrist injury has knocked Serritella out of action. Luckily, he retains two full years of draft eligibility to help rebuild his depressed stock. I still might take a chance on him this year because of his phenomenal track record against righthanded pitching.

There was lots of positive buzz surrounding the well-traveled Nova Southeastern OF/RHP Andrew Durden (Round 38) as a hitter this spring, so it came as no surprise that Durden was announced as an outfielder on draft day. However, his only pro experience so far is made up of 6.1 innings pitched for the AZL Royals. I’m intrigued and confused all at once; call it intfusion or, better yet, I’m contrigued.

South Carolina 3B Adrian Morales (Round 49) was first mentioned on this site back in February of 2009. Ah, memories. Morales should serve a purpose as an organizational soldier capable of helping out young pitchers by playing solid defense anywhere in the infield. Any upside with the bat is a bonus.

Morales’ best tool is probably his defense, but a lack of offensive upside slots him in as an organizational player at the next level. 

New York Mets 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Mets 2011 MLB Draft Selections

After consensus top two prep outfielders Bubba Starling and Josh Bell, East HS (WY) OF Brandon Nimmo stands alone as the draft’s third best young outfield prospect. Nimmo’s asencion to the upper half of the first round wasn’t always a forgone conclusion; it took almost the entire spring for the prep outfield picture to develop, as early favorites like Derek Fisher and Larry Greene slipped and late risers such as Granden Goetzman and Senquez Golson couldn’t quite reach the loftiest of draft heights. Nimmo was left standing as the clear third best prep outfielder for very good reason. For as much praise as his raw tools received leading up to the draft, Nimmo showed in his brief pro outing that he’s more than that. There have been equal amounts of plaudits for his present skills, most notably his far better than expected plate discipline. When you combine an advanced approach with his existing tools (most notably his arm, speed, and hit tool), it is easy to envision a potential above-average regular in right. I’m pretty good at separating draft stuff from personal rooting interests (five years of development time gives some perspective, I think), but the Phillies fan in me is annoyed to have to “root against” such a compelling prospect in Nimmo. My annoyance is doubled when I think back to last year’s draft when the Mets grabbed personal favorite Matt Harvey. Annoyance is tripled (and then some) with the realization that, for as much justified criticism as the Mets have received for their thrifty drafting ways of recent years, they managed to undo a good bit of recent damage with what I consider to be a pretty darn strong 2011 try. Nimmo, Phillip Evans, and maybe Brad Marquez all have the potential to be well above-average regulars, and New York’s balanced approach to adding arms in the first ten rounds or so (figure at least one of the college guys wind up a steady starting pitcher, as well as one of the two overslot prep righties). If New York winds up with either Nimmo/Marquez (starting OF) and Evans (starting 2B) offensively, and, going off my own pre-draft list, Logan Verrett and Christian Montgomery in a future rotation, they will have done quite well for themselves.

[good athlete; above-average arm well suited for RF; above-average speed would work in CF; good approach; gifted natural hitter; gap power; 6-3, 185]

The first big overslot prep arm selected by the Mets was Deer Creek HS (OK) RHP Michael Fulmer. Fulmer’s big fastball is already a plus pitch and his hard slider is well on its way. Those two pitches, combined with a mature frame with little growth potential, have many thinking future reliever. As always, it comes down to the development of a usable third offering. If Fulmer’s changeup, splitter, or whatever, turns into a quality pitch, his ceiling gets elevated. Without having any knowledge of if or how he’ll manage that third pitch, he’s a future reliever.

RHP Michael Fulmer (Deer Creek HS, Oklahoma): 90-94 FB, 97 peak; 83-85 SL; CU needs work; 6-2, 200

Solid. That’s the word I’ve heard used most often to describe North Carolina State RHP Cory Mazzoni. He throws three pitches for strikes, showed steady improvement in three years in the ACC, and has the control to be trusted as a reliever if that’s where he ultimately winds up. He pitched well in limited pro innings, but continued to have difficulties keeping the ball on the ground. Not all successful pitchers get groundballs and not all groundball pitchers are successful, but the ability to keep the ball out of the air is really important for pitchers who lack premium stuff. Remember, Mazzoni’s repertoire is solid…not premium. Also, for what it’s worth, I’ve had people I trust tell me that all of Mazzoni’s reported mid- to upper-90s peak heat was all recorded on hot guns. Baseball America, based out of nearby (to Raleigh) Durham and likely to have had multiple staffers on site who have seen Mazzoni throw over the years, says he’s hit 97 MPH. I don’t know who to believe, but I figured I’d pass along my info and let you, John Q. Public, decide on whether or not to trust the industry leader or some fool with a free WordPress blog. Choose wisely!

North Carolina State JR RHP Cory Mazzoni: 88-91 FB, touching 92; SL; good 70-76 CB; emerging splitter used as CU; good command; 6-1, 200 pounds

Baylor RHP Logan Verrett is sandwiched between Mazzoni and Fullerton RHP Tyler Pill in terms of draft round, but I like him a good deal more than either guy. Verrett has shown the ability to spin two above-average breaking balls (curve and slider) in addition to an inconsistent fastball that sits in the low-90s and a good changeup. For his junior year, however, Verrett scrapped the curve. I didn’t like the decision to abandon the pitch then and I don’t like it now, but the new Mets prospect still has the requisite three pitches necessary to start as a professional. He’ll need to throw his upper-70s fading change more going forward, but that’ll come as he learns he can no longer rely exclusively on his fastball/slider combo as he so often did in college. Like Mazzoni, Verrett draws praise for his competitiveness and fearlessness on the mound; also like Mazzoni, Verrett’s occasional overreliance on his too-straight fastball gets him into trouble. When he’s at his best, he’s mixing his pitches and staying low in the zone. On those days, he looks like a good big league starting pitcher.

Baylor JR RHP Logan Verrett: very good command when on; sitting 89-91, 92-94 peak FB with sink; good 77-79 CU with fade; big-time CB; uses 82-85 SL with plus potential more in 2011; good athlete; relies most heavily on FB/SL, with occasional CU and very rare CB; 6-3, 185

I love the Baseball America comp of Cal State Fullerton RHP Tyler Pill to current Diamondbacks RHP Ian Kennedy. As amateur prospects, their backgrounds align really nicely: fastball reliant (Kennedy ranked in the top twenty of fastball usage, per Fangraphs) command righties capable of throwing at least three other pitches (curve, change, slider for Kennedy as an amateur; curve, change, cutter for Pill) for strikes at any point in the count. Kennedy’s success as a pro skyrocketed once he more or less ditched his ineffectual slider in favor of a much more promising cutter. Pill made that same switch as an amateur, so, if you’re on board with the comp, he’s ahead of the curve there.

Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Tyler Pill: 89-92 FB; very good 77-78 CB; plus command; quality 82 CU; great athlete; holds velocity well, 88-89 late; 6-1, 185 pounds

Massachusetts-Lowell LHP Jack Leathersich didn’t warrant a high ranking from me prior to the draft, but that was mainly because of my personal aversion to future relievers. The Mets using a fifth round selection on him seems a bit rich for my blood. Lefties with low-90s velocity and flashes of a plus breaking ball (slider) don’t go on trees, so I can at least see the logic here. His early pro returns (26 K in 12.2 IP for Brooklyn) are encouraging.

UMass-Lowell JR LHP Jack Leathersich (2011): 89-93 FB; plus SL; decent slow CB; 6-0, 190 pounds

Northern HS (PA) OF Joe Tuschak is a lottery ticket, plain and simple. He’s a rawer version of Brad Marquez, though his elite athleticism and well above-average speed give him a strong tool base to build on.

Like so many players we’ve talked about before, Arizona 1B Cole Frenzel’s greatest challenge will be hitting enough to warrant playing time at a position that demands consistent offensive excellence. A baseball pal who has seen Frenzel play a lot compared him to a poor man’s Jeff Cirillo at the plate. If he can play a few other positions passably, he could have a future as a four-corners utility guy. Also, there’s no way I’m the only guy who reads his name and immediately thinks of this guy, right?

Fresno State SS Danny Muno has good plate discipline, a little bit of speed, and enough defensive chops to hang at any infield spot, though I prefer him at second. He absolutely destroyed New York-Penn League pitching – compared to all Mets minor leaguers, he came in first in both BA and OBP and second in SLG – and likely positioned himself to start next season at St. Lucie. Considering their long-standing devotion to putting together strong teams in Brooklyn, the Mets must have been thrilled to have Muno tear it up for the Cyclones. Expectations have risen some, but if this is Muno’s peak, I’m sure the Mets could live with the return they’ve already enjoyed on their $10,000 investment.

Florida LHP Alex Panteliodis is like the anti-Jack Leathersich. Besides both players profiling best in relief and having ridiculously awesome names, they couldn’t be less alike. Leathersich is all fastball with an inconsistent slider that looks great when on, awful when off. Panteliodis is more command-oriented and better equipped to throw softer stuff for strikes when backed into a corner. The latter could get a chance to start, but is likely a LOOGY at best in pro ball.

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.

Florida JR LHP Alex Panteliodis (2011): good CU; good CB; not overpowering; great FB command

Woodbridge HS (CA) RHP Matt Budgell throws a sinker, curve, and change. His curve is presently his best pitch, but he has plenty of room to add weight to his crazy thin 6’2”, 150 pound and add some ticks to his upper-80s fastball. There’s some concern about his lack of dominance at the high school level, but I’d again point to that frame and note that he’s a pick for the future, not for the now.

Lawrence HS (IN) RHP Christian Montgomery (Round 11) formed a darn good one-two punch with incoming Louisville freshman RHP Jared Ruxer in high school. With Montgomery it all comes down to which version of the hefty righthander you’re going to get. The Mets are obviously banking on the showcase circuit version of Montgomery showing up to instructs (see below to read what his stuff was like then) next season. If his stuff stays down, then we might have to acknowledge the reality that pitchers don’t always follow a typical developmental path; sometimes guys peak as high school juniors, hard as it is to admit.

RHP Christian Montgomery (Lawrence Central HS, Indiana): 89-93 FB, 95 peak; potential plus 72-81 CB that goes both hard and soft; low-80s CU; plus pitchability; 6-1, 240

Even if Arizona State C Xorge Carrillo (Round 14) couldn’t play, I’d have to mention him here for his name alone. Xorge, Leathersich, and Panteliodis = one heck of a draft from a name standpoint. Besides the plus name, Carrillo is a good defender with interesting power upside. The Sun Devils have become pretty good at pumping out pro catching prospects in recent years; they’ve had a catcher taken in each of the past four drafts from Austin Barnes (’11) and Carrillo (11 and ’10) to Carlos Ramirez (’09) and Petey Paramore (’08).

Carrillo’s placement this high is largely speculative, but, hey, isn’t that really what a list like this is all about? Carrillo has missed almost all of the season [2010] with a bum forearm, but when healthy showed off impressive power to all fields and much improved athleticism behind the plate. That last reason is why I’m comfortable keeping the twice drafted Carrillo this high on the list despite the injury. The improvements in his body and subsequent uptick in footwork behind the plate indicate a dedication to getting better that makes me think his injury is just a minor blip on his path towards getting drafted a third time.

Now this is how you draft, at least in the world of the old CBA. La Costa Canyon HS (CA) SS Phillip Evans (Round 15) was a borderline first round prospect who fell all the way to the fifteenth round and then signed for a fairly reasonable $650,000. A comp that I like for Evans is current Rays infielder Sean Rodriguez, a former third round pick (probably where Evans would have gone on talent alone) of the Angels.

It isn’t easy finding high school middle infielders who project to second baseman in the pros who are also worthy of first round consideration, but this year’s class has a couple players that fit the bill. With three plus future tools (defense, arm, raw power), Phillip Evans is one of those guys. In addition to those three projected plus tools, Evans can also run and hit a bit. His speed is average at best, but great instincts and exceptional first step quickness help him both in the field and on the bases. I love his approach at the plate, especially with two strikes. I also love his ability to hit for power to all fields. If you’re counting at home, that’s now five tools that Evans possesses with the potential to be around average (speed), above-average (bat), and plus (defense, arm, power).

The advantage that Evans holds over Johnny Eierman, a similarly talented prospect in many ways and the prospect ranked just below him on this very list, is in present defensive value. Evans is already an outstanding middle infielder while Eierman merely looks the part. Eierman’s edge over Evans is probably in present power. It is expected that both players should close the respective gaps — i.e. Eierman turning his intriguing defensive tools into more useful skills, and Evans learning to more consistently give his line drive approach loft to generate more in-game power — but I think Evans is the safer play to do so. Eierman may have more long range upside, but Evans has a significantly higher floor.

Odessa HS (TX) OF Brad Marquez (Round 16) is a ton of fun to watch play baseball. He’s as fast as a hedgehog – hedgehogs are fast, right? Sega wouldn’t like to me, would they? – and one of the five best athletes in the entire draft pool. Best of all, Marquez understands that he’s a speed-first guy who can hit a little and doesn’t try to do anything more than that. With any minimal power prospect there’s some risk – why throw anything but stuff in the zone to a hitter incapable of driving anything? – but Marquez’s speed and athleticism should enable him to get chances as a rangy center fielder.

I’m not a scout nor do I try to play one on the internet. Scouts do time-consuming work for very little money and public notoriety. Like any profession, there are good scouts, medium scouts, and bad scouts. Despite being an outsider to that world, I think it is fair to say that one of the trickier aspects of the job is trying to be as objective as possible even when your livelihood is dependent on subjective decisions. This is something that I’m fairly certain even the best scouts struggle with. It is really difficult assessing an individual’s baseball talents without first passing his abilities through one’s own personal scouting worldview. Bias exists, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If a scout is predisposed to favor a player with loud tools, for example, then he will likely not come away as impressed with George County HS (MS) OF Mason Robbins (Round 20) as, say, a scout that values a well-developed, differentiated skill set. Robbins is the kind of player who grows on you with every viewing. The words and phrases “underrated,” “better than given credit,” and “surprisingly” pepper his scouting reports because, at first glance, he’s a solid ballplayer with some room to grow and not much more. The more you watch him play, the more you grow to appreciate his tools. Robbins should hit the ground running just fine this spring at Southern Miss.

[well-rounded five-tool player with no standout tool; underrated  arm; average speed; interesting gap power that has plus upside; fantastic approach; likely LF in pros; better athlete than given credit]

Wiregrasss Ranch HS (FL) RHP John Gant (Round 21) and Cranston West HS (RI) C Jeff Diehl (Round 23) both received overslot cash from New York, a beautiful and rare treat for Mets fans. Gant’s stuff (upper-80s fastball, mid-70s curve, low-70s change) needs refinement, but, like Budgell, there’s a good deal of projection. Diehl has great size and above-average raw power, but his value going forward will be tied into his ability to stick behind the plate or not. Some believe he has the bat to sustain a position switch, but he’s a catcher or nothing for me at this point.

Unsigned Terre Haute South HS (IN) LHP AJ Reed (Round 25) gets a mention because, judging from his high school, he might just be the next Larry Bird. He’ll head to Kentucky where he might get the chance to play both ways. Fellow unsigned prospect Miami Dade JC RHP Jharel Cotton (Round 28) takes his low-90s fastball (93-94 peak) to what should be a very competitive East Carolina squad. Cotton also throws a change and a slider that will both flash plus.

Miami-Dade CC SO RHP Jharel Cotton: low-90s FB; very good to plus 80-81 CU; good CB; turned down low six-figures from Dodgers last year; native of Virgin Islands; 5-11, 190

I kind of like South Florida RHP Randy Fontanez (Round 27) as a sleeper relief prospect, though the reports that I have on his “sinking FB” don’t jive with his 0.90 GO/AO as a pro. I know it’s only 38.1 innings, but, hey, I’m a worrier by nature. Fontanez is a long shot to pitch in the big leagues, but I needed somebody to write about as a post-25 round steal, so…

South Florida SR RHP Randy Fontanez (2011): 88-91 sinking FB; quality CB and SL; splitter; great control; 6-1, 200 pounds

Memphis SS Chad Zurcher (Round 31) didn’t have quite the pro start as fellow middle infielder Danny Muno, but profiles similarly (potential utility guy) in the future. Texas-San Antonio 1B Ryan Hutson (Round 36) controls the strike zone well and flashes some intriguing power, but the former college middle infielder’s move to an infield corner ends almost any chance he has of breaking through as a pro.

In a draft of great names, Santa Fe CC RHP Malcolm Clapsaddle (Round 48) wins the prize. Follow all of Clapsaddle’s wacky adventures this spring at High Point.

Seattle Mariners 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Mariners 2011 MLB Draft Selections

Polish. That’s the word that first came to mind as I sat watching Seattle’s draft last June. In an attempt to preempt any confusion, no, the Mariners didn’t draft a bunch of players from Poland. They did draft a player from nearby Germany, but we’ll get to him in a bit. I’m talking about polish in the highly refined baseball skill sense. Let’s talk polish…

Everything interesting about Virginia LHP Danny Hultzen’s amateur career has already been written, so let’s take a more timely approach and discuss his most recent body of work with a little help from a pair of authors from two of the best Seattle sites in the universe. The esteemed Jeff Sullivan’s hot sexy update of Hultzen’s AFL progress confirms that the young lefty’s velocity has maintained his junior year gains (92.5 MPH average, 95.1 MPH peak) while marc w provides interesting details on the progress of his change (spoiler: sharp as ever) and slider (spoiler 2: shows flashes of greatness, but inconsistent). It is silly to compare every lefty with a great changeup to Cole Hamels, but that’s a pretty logical ceiling here, at least in terms of potential performance.

Virginia JR LHP Danny Hultzen: plus command of all pitches; 88-91, will definitely touch 94; velocity jump due to 20 pounds of added muscle since high school, currently sitting 91-93, peaking 94-95; will throw upper-80s two-seam FB with good sink; 77-78 CB; plus 78-82 CU; quality 82-85 SL that he leans on at times

I can really appreciate the types of middle infield draft prospects that Seattle seems to target each year: athletic, versatile defensively, known to have a good approach to hitting. Clemson SS Brad Miller is/does all of those things, plus comes with a little bonus pop. In a weak class of college bats, Miller has the chance to really stand out as a middle infielder with starter’s upside. He’s Kyle Seager with more defensive upside.

Miller goes coast to coast as this season’s top collegiate shortstop prospect, beginning the year at the top spot and very deservedly finishing at number one as well. I’ve long held the position that the current Clemson shortstop has what it takes to stick at the position, an opinion tied far more closely to his defensive tools — most notably the speed and athleticism that give him well above-average range up the middle — than his present, sometimes erratic, ability. At the plate, he’s done everything expected of him and more. I’m admittedly more bullish on his power upside than most and can see him further tapping into said upside to the tune of 15+ homers annually. Even if the power doesn’t quite reach those levels, Miller’s consistent hard contact and good approach should help keep his batting average and on-base percentage at more than acceptable numbers for a starting middle infielder. It may be a popular comp for a lot of players, but I think a comparison between Brad Miller and former ACC star and current Oriole Brian Roberts is apt.

Mountain Pointe HS (AZ) 1B Kevin Cron is now at TCU after a deal with Seattle fell through. As a prospect, his power will define him…but you knew that already. What may or may not be known is what position he’ll be playing by the time his name is called again in 2014. Whispers about a potential position switch – I’ve heard both 3B and RF mentioned as possibilities – linger, but any defensive change would be contingent on his college conditioning program helping him firm up and shed some weight. Luckily for Cron, first base might be alright for him if his bat takes care of its end of the bargain. As mentioned in the pre-draft profile posted below, I can’t wait to compare and contrast Kevin’s college performance with his older brother CJ’s.

Cron has made headlines this spring, first as the younger brother of the amazing CJ Cron and then as a pretty damn good draft power hitting draft prospect himself. He’ll likely be picked too high to honor his commitment to TCU, but, man, I’d love to see him take a crack at the college game – the direct statistical comparison you could then make to his brother would be fascinating, I think. Cron the younger caught some in high school, but, like his bro, probably doesn’t have the requisite athleticism to catch at the next level. I’ve heard some quiet buzz about an attempted move to third, but I think that is probably from people who would hate to see his plus arm go to waste at first. Even working under the likely assumption he’s a first baseman in pro ball, Cron is a top five round prospect due to his highly advanced hit tool and gigantic raw power.

A copy/past fail left Mount Olive RHP Carter Capps off my list of the draft’s Top 250 prospects, but I’m sure the third round selection and half a million bucks helped him get over the unintentional snub. Capps is one of those guys – Stanford/Dodgers LHP Chris Reed is another – with both the frame and stuff to start, but, who, for some reason or another, looks so much better in shorter outings. I know almost all pitchers look better out of the bullpen, but Capps looks like a different pitcher altogether. At his best he’ll throw two plus pitches including a fastball that approaches triple digits (in short stints only) and an upper-70s to low-80s slider that flashes plus. He’s far too young to label him a reliever now and forever, but I do think the bullpen is his eventual home…and that’s a good thing.

Mount Olive FR RHP Carter Capps (2011): 94-96 FB with good movement; more commonly 87-91; saw him 90-92; 84-86 SL with plus upside that has lost some velocity, now upper-70s; upper-70s CU; 6-5, 220

There is no question Seattle went into the draft hoping to bolster their organizational depth behind the plate. Selecting Virginia C John Hicks was a good first step of the plan. He has above-average power upside and a knack for hitting the ball hard. I think his defense is fine, but if catching doesn’t work out he might be athletic enough to contribute defensively at a few other (corner outfield and first base most likely) spots.

Not too long ago I compared Hicks to teammate Kenny Swab and said I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take a similar career path, i.e. become an unsignable mid-round pick and go back to school as a senior to boost his stock. I was obviously wrong as it now seems Hicks’ athleticism, plus arm, and emerging power could make him a top ten round selection.

I’ve talked about draft stacking™ before, but I like discussing the idea so much that I’m going to repeat it here. Draft stacking occurs when a team drafts multiple prospects from the same position (pitchers excluded) within five rounds of each other. Bonus points when the prospects come from different places (i.e. one is from college and the other from high school). Double bonus points when the prospects are selected in back-to-back rounds. After selecting college catcher Hicks in the fourth round, Seattle turned right back around and nabbed Hagerty HS (FL) C Tyler Marlette in the fifth. Well done, Mariners. The only thing holding me back from publicly declaring my undying love to the Seattle front office is Marlette’s questionable future behind the plate. Draft stacking doesn’t work if one of the players is going to switch positions! Hopefully Marlette’s substantial defensive tools are actualized so that last summer’s breakout star can continue his ascension from showcase standout to big league catcher.

Marlette has as much upside at the plate as any high school catcher sans Swihart, but questions about his defense continue to suppress his stock. The shame of it is that he has above-average defensive tools – he’s surprisingly natural behind the plate – but lacks the polish that comes with years of practice at the position. The aforementioned upside as a hitter works in much the same way. In batting practice Marlette is a monster, but he’s more of a gap-to-gap hitter in game action thus far. A solid defensive catcher with plus power is a heck of a prospect, of course. An iffy defensive catcher who may or may not stick with gap power is less exciting. This is where teams who have seen Marlette multiple times over a couple of years have a huge leg up on what I do.

I had Rancho Cucamonga HS (CA) OF James Zamarripa down as a college guy, so I lost track of him somewhat this past spring. He’s more advanced than a typical prep prospect, but his ceiling (fourth outfielder) isn’t that exciting.

Virginia 3B Steven Proscia also isn’t especially exciting, but he’s a solid prospect with the chance to be a starter down the line. His strengths – arm, athleticism, power – mesh well with what most teams look for out of a third baseman.

Most people love coffee. Every few months I’ll try a little sip, but it just doesn’t work for me. So many people enjoy it every day that I’m smart enough to know that it isn’t “bad” per se, but rather a specific taste that I just don’t enjoy as much as others. Proscia is a little bit like coffee for me. His defense at third is very good, he’ll show you a nice potential power/speed combo most days, and his athleticism is well above-average for the position. He’s a good prospect by any measure. Yet somehow after taking everything I’ve heard about him and having seen him play a few times myself, I remain unmoved by his upside. Solid player, no doubt; he wouldn’t be on this list otherwise. I just see him as much more likely to wind up a potential four-corners utility player than a starting third baseman.

Texas State RHP Carson Smith is similar in many ways to Carter Capps. I prefer Smith, however, due to his more impressive fastball (the movement he gets on the pitch gives him the edge), more consistent third pitch (a changeup that could be quite good with some work), and better command of his breaking stuff. The eighth rounder is my second favorite prospect taken by Seattle this year.

Texas State JR RHP Carson Smith: very good athlete; 91-93 FB with great sink, 94-95 peak; sits 95-98 out of bullpen, 91-94 as starter; above-average potential with SL; CU with plus potential; commands CB well; 6-5, 215

Patch HS (Germany) SS Cavan Cohoes is a great story (Germany!) and a fun gamble for the Mariners to take. He’s also super raw at the plate, tremendously athletic, and really, really fast. Any more info than that would be me making stuff up because I’ve never seen the guy play and haven’t talked directly with anybody who has seen him either.

Tenth round pick Siena 2B Dan Paolini wound up beating my Dan Uggla draft comp (see below) by an entire round. I have a friend who has seen Paolini a lot who compares him to former big leaguer Mike Stanley as a hitter. Weird comp, right? My friend does this for a living – the baseball evaluating part, not the comp making part – so I’m not quite ready to say he’s crazy for the Stanley/Paolini comp but…well, let’s just say that I’m here to reiterate that I’m not the one going out on a limb suggesting a tenth round pick will play 15 seasons and hit close to 200 home runs. I’d take my Uggla anecdote to heart (again, see below) before getting too worked up about Paolini’s future one way or another, though I do want to profess my love of watching Paolini swing the bat.

Paolini has more present power than any college middle infielder. The question that remains to be answered is whether or not his long swing will lead to enough hits to make that power useful at the next level. If he doesn’t hit, he’s in trouble – only his power rates as above-average at this point, with the potential for an average hit tool down the road his only other tool of note. There’s a little sleeper Dan Uggla upside here, if everything breaks right. Of course, think about the original Uggla before getting too excited – how many things had to break exactly right for him to become the Dan Uggla we know and love (even as a long-time fan of a rival division team I have to admit his uppercut corkscrew swing is fun to watch) today? Paolini will probably start out around the same place as Uggla, a former 11th round pick.

Dayton LHP Cameron Hobson (Round 11) is hot and cold from outing to outing. When he’s going well, his fastball sits in the low-90s and he’s able to throw three pitches for strikes. It’ll be interesting to see if the Mariners view him as a starter or a reliever in the long run.

Dayton JR LHP Cameron Hobson: 87-91 FB with movement, sitting closer to 90-92 this year; good SL; solid CB; developing CU with potential; plus makeup; 6-1, 205 pounds

Franklin Pierce C Mike Dowd (Round 12) is fairly simple to understand. His arm is big league quality, but his other tools all come up a little bit short. In completely unrelated news, Henry Blanco has played 900 career games with an OBP of .293. Alright, back to Dowd: if he hits even a little bit, he’s a legitimate backup catching prospect.

Dowd, our lone Division II star on the list, has managed the strike zone brilliantly for Franklin Pierce while also ranking second among qualifiers in both BA and SLG. His arm may be his only above-average tool, but his bat, gap power, and defense should all play just fine at the next level.

UAB OF Jamal Austin (Round 13) can run, field, and take a pitch. I like that skillset. For as much shit as Juan Pierre has gotten from fans over his career (most, but not all of it justified), he’s now at the tail end of a twelve year career that has made him over fifty million bucks. Jamal Austin would be incredibly lucky to have anywhere close to as good a pro run. My worry with Austin remains the same as it has always been: will his inability to drive the ball prevent pitchers from throwing him anything but strikes? If that’s the case, I worry about him losing his greatest offensive asset, patience.

Love his speed/defense/approach, but do have some doubts about his almost complete lack of power and questionable arm. He sort of reminds me of a college-aged version of Juan Pierre and I’m not sure how his game will translate to the pros. The higher up you go, the more difficult it is to get away with having little power. 

Local (to me) product LaSalle RHP Cody Weiss (Round 14) has a fastball that touches 93 and an upper-70s curve that comes and goes as an effective second pitch. His spotty command and lack of physicality limit his upside, so, um, consider his upside limited.

SO RHP Cody Weiss (2011): 90-92 FB, peak 93; high-70s CB; iffy command; 6-0, 195

Loyal readers know by now that I have a huge weak spot for college seniors with outstanding four year track records at the plate. Florida State OF Mike McGee (Round 15) might be stretched in center, but he’s a good defender in either corner, and his elite plate discipline should make him a favorite to many as he rises up Seattle’s organizational chain. Whether or not Mike McGee makes it in pro ball is irrelevant to me; the guy has proven time and time again that he is, and please excuse me for the terrible cliché, a ballplayer. I hate that I’ve been reduced to such a hacky turn of phrase, but that’s what Mike McGee does to me. Check him out if he visits a minor league ballpark near you and you’ll understand. You can break down his individual tools and try to project what kind of player he’ll be once fully developed, or you can just watch him and appreciate that he plays the sport the way it ought to be played. Hey, better yet: do both! Or neither, whatever, do what what you want: it’s a free country.

[great approach; average speed; 88-90 FB, 92-93 peak; very good upper-70s SL; CU; drafted as a pitcher last year; good CB]

I devoted an entire post to Oregon C Jack Marder (Round 16) after the draft, so, yeah, you could say I like him. I was totally on board with Billy Beane when he made his “not selling jeans” comment – good players come in all shapes and sizes, after all – but I also think athleticism, and more specifically how athleticism relates with mechanics, muscle memory, and coordination is important. You don’t need to look good in a uniform to be a good athlete, but athleticism as a whole shouldn’t be ignored. Marder is an outstanding athlete, but more impressive is how he is able to channel his athleticism towards relevant baseball skills. His athleticism helps his defense behind the plate, his swing, and his throws to second and third. I’m intrigued.

SO 2B Jack Marder (2012): average runner; legit plus bat speed; very instinctual, high energy, just a fun player to watch; plus defender at 1B, one of the best I’ve seen at college level; has experience playing every position on diamond; with time should be above-average at either second, third, or an outfield corner, as well as average at shortstop; strong arm; will be tried at C this spring (5/11 update: soft hands, plus mobility, well above-average pop times, natural footwork, accurate arm, positive reports on feel for pitch sequencing and leadership of staff); great line drive producing swing, textbook front shoulder rotation that I love; above-average athleticism; easy top ten round guy, could go as high as round five; 6-0, 180 pounds; R/R

Miami OF Nathan Melendres (Round 17) has the tools to be remembered someday as a complete steal who had no business being taken as late as the seventeenth round. He can run, throw, and defend as well as any college outfielder in his class, but his crude approach to hitting has kept him from being labeled a legit five-tool player by the experts. He’ll need to work on his plate discipline – not just taking more pitches, but swinging at better pitches – if he hopes to be remembered at all.

[serious tools, but very raw; potential plus defender in CF; hacker; plus speed; above-average to plus arm; 5-11, 185 pounds]

Horizon HS (AZ) LHP Nick Valenza (Round 18) reminds me a little bit of Indians draft pick Dillon Peters. He’s short, throws hard, and shows the makings of enough pitchers to start at the next level. Once you get past his lack of physical stature, you can see that his stuff is pretty interesting. His biggest bugaboo at the pro level may be his inconsistent control.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Palm Beach CC C Luke Guarnaccia (Round 19) is a Mariners draft pick with good athleticism and a strong defensive reputation. Picking a favorite out of Hicks, Dowd, Marder, and Guarnaccia comes down to little more than personal preference at this point, as all four share fairly similar strengths and weaknesses as prospects.

Did I get carried away after three weeks of performances from Emporia State 2B Dillon Hazlett (Round 20) or what? Whenever anybody starts thinking I know what I’m talking about, I’m going to refer them to the passage below. Silly hyperbole aside, Hazlett is a nice prospect who can handle the bat just fine. Not Ackley-level fine, of course, but good enough to consider his bat, defensive versatility (like Ackley, I think he’s best in CF), and speed/base running instincts worth following through his minor league travails.

Name to know = North Carolina JR 1B Dillon Hazlett. I first heard the poor man’s Dustin Ackley comps coming out of Chapel Hill a few months ago, but dismissed them as nothing more than a coaching staff excited about a junior college transfer ready to step in and help fill the gigantic hole left behind by Ackley’s departure. The comp, like most are, was built on convenience – both players are way too athletic to be college first basemen, run well, and have questionable power upsides. That’s what the comp was trying to express, I think. Nobody actually meant that Hazlett would step in and show off a hit tool quite like the one Ackley had shown. Hazlett, though impressive so far, has a long way to go to even enter Ackley’s prospect stratosphere. Then again, Ackley’s final junior year line was .417/.517/.763. SMALL SAMPLE SIZE ALERT, but Hazlett has put up a .467/.541/.700 line through 9 games. Just store the name way, way, way in the back of your mind.

Stanford RHP Jordan Pries (Round 30) is a pitchability righthander who relies heavily on a near-plus upper-70s breaking ball. That makes sense because his mid-80s fastball alone wouldn’t cut it. I hadn’t expected Pries to be a high draft pick or anything, but it was a surprise to see him fall all the way to the thirtieth round. Used as a starter at Stanford, Pries could experience enough of a boost in stuff pitching in relief to make him interesting. His numbers were better across the board in six long relief outings than they were in his six pro starts, whatever that means.

Stanford JR RHP Jordan Pries: 86-87 FB; very good 76-78 breaking ball

Kansas State LHP Kyle Hunter (Round 31) is easy to lose among the influx of college pitchers with the same first name/last initial combination. There’s Kyle Hallock, Kyle Hald, Kyle Hendricks…and Kyle Hunter. Hunter has been on the prospect radar for years as a lefthander with solid stuff. He mixes his pitches well and has above-average command. With luck, he’ll carve out a home as a lefty reliever somewhere, someday.

I was happy to see Seattle give a chance to Miami C David Villasuso (Round 42). His power could help him sneak into the big leagues as a backup, but only if can first convince teams he can handle quality pitching behind the plate.

SR C David Villasuso has the power teams often consider gambling on, but his defensive limitations keep him from being a definite draft selection for me.

Los Angeles Dodgers 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Dodgers 2011 MLB Draft Selections

As one of the most divisive 2011 MLB Draft prospects, Stanford LHP Chris Reed will enter his first full season of pro ball with plenty to prove. He could make me look very stupid for ranking him as low as I did before the draft (200th overall prospect) by fulfilling the promise of becoming a serious starting pitching prospect as a professional. I don’t doubt that he can start as he has the three-pitch mix, frame, and mechanics to do so; I just question whether or not he should start. Advocating for time spent in the bullpen is not something I often do, but Reed’s stuff, especially his fastball, just looks so much better in shorter stints. Of course, he might grow into a starter’s role in time. I like that he’s getting innings to straighten out his changeup and command sooner rather than later. Ultimately, however, Reed is a reliever for me; a potentially very good reliever, mind, but a reliever all the same. Relievers are valuable, but the demand for their work shouldn’t match up with the sixteenth overall pick in a loaded draft.

Stanford JR LHP Chris Reed: 89-92 FB, sits 92-94 as reliever; good low-80s SL; emerging CU; 6-4, 205

Mariner HS (FL) 3B Alex Santana intrigues me for his athleticism and projectable frame. I’m not yet convinced he’ll ever hit enough to put those positives to good use, but time is definitely on the youthful (he’ll be 18 the vast majority of his first full pro season) Santana’s side. It should also be noted that Santana signed right away and was thus able to log professional at bats in his draft year. I know it is silly to get worked up over a draftee’s performance in such a limited sample, but I wonder if there is any correlation between early playing time and long-term success. Is there any truth to the idea that a prospect is better off forgoing a few extra bonus bucks if it means they can get back to game action (if the theory that the more pro at bats early in a career the better holds true this would increase future earnings) as quickly as possible? Do those extra at bats translate to better long-term performances?

As a plus athlete with above-average speed, Santana is a bit of an anomaly in this year’s high school class. Some question his power upside, but there is a long way to go before his body (6-4, 190) fills out.

My biggest worry about North Carolina State C Pratt Maynard is his defense. He isn’t quite a non-prospect if he can’t catch regularly, but his stock would take a drastic hit if he’s forced to move to a corner. Bat looks good for a backstop, though.

In an effort to show more power, Maynard’s been more aggressive at the plate this year. I wonder if his positional versatility will help or hurt him in the eyes of pro scouts. He reminds me a little bit of a less athletic Ryan Ortiz, former Oregon State star and current A’s prospect. Ortiz was a sixth rounder in his draft year; that seems like a plausible outcome for Maynard at this point.

I really like the pick of Oklahoma City RHP Ryan O’Sullivan. He comes equipped with a darting low-90s fastball that is tough to square up on and a low-80s curve with plus upside. If his mind’s right (a bigger if with O’Sullivan than for most prospects), he has a shot to outperform the much wealthier Chris Reed, especially if pro coaching can help him develop a third usable pitch.

Oregon RHP Scott McGough has a fastball with excellent life, a much improved slider that has become an interesting future strikeout pitch, and enough of a low- to mid-80s changeup that leaves you thinking it could be a consistent above-average offering in due time. His profile reminds me a bit of former Angels reliever Scot Shields, but with a better fastball. Having seen both McGough and Reed pitch a few times each in conference play, I’m sticking with my belief that McGough has the brighter professional future.

Oregon JR RHP Scott McGough: 90-92 FB, peak 94-95; 78-79 CB; raw 83 CU; above-average 78-83 SL that flashes plus; potential plus 82-85 CU that is still very raw; working on splitter; great athlete; 6-1, 185

I had Golden Valley HS (CA) RHP Scott Barlow pegged as a college guy because of the general lack of polish to his game. He’s a project with some upside, but I’ve heard from somebody who watched him multiple times in high school that there is a worry lefthanded hitters are going to eat him up in pro ball.

Coastal Carolina OF Scott Woodward’s versatility is his ticket to the bigs. He played both third base and the outfield in his first pro season, but also could handle second in a pinch. His value isn’t entirely tied to his defense; Woodward’s speed and plate discipline are also above-average aspects of his game. This pick is also noteworthy because it marks the third straight Scott drafted by the Dodgers. That’s a big deal!

It’s very easy to envision Scott Woodward playing in the big leagues someday. He’s got an outstanding approach to hitting, a discerning batting eye, and a really good idea of his fundamental strengths and weaknesses at the plate. Woodward ably uses his plus-plus speed to leg out infield hits, turn balls driven to the gaps into triples, and steal bases at a great success rate. Home runs will likely never be a big part of his game, but his is a game based more on speed and plate discipline anyway. He could have the type of career many once projected for former Dodgers prospect Joe Thurston. Another comp that I like a lot is Phillies minor leaguer Tyson Gillies, a comparison made more interesting due to the fact both players are hearing impaired, but one not at all dependent on that fact as the basis of the comp. When I first thought of it a few weeks ago the connection didn’t even occur to me, but the two players share enough distinct offensive similarities to make it work.

The budget-conscious Dodgers grabbed their second college senior in a row with the selection of Utah LHP Rick Anton. His fastball isn’t anything special, but lefties who throw four pitches for strikes – in addition to his upper-80s heater he throws a low-80s change, upper-70s curve, and mid-80s cutter – get chances in pro ball. I think his best chance is to continue to focus on his newly learned cutter, pick an offspeed pitch (curve, probably), and hope he can consistently hit the low-90s coming out of the bullpen. If he can do all that, then maybe he’ll grow up to be a big league reliever.

Utah SR LHP Rick Anton (2011): 87-90 FB, 91 peak; 82 CU; 75-78 CB; leans on 85-86 cutter; 6-0, 190; FAVORITE; (6.67 K9 – 2.57 BB/9 – 4.10 FIP – 87.2 IP*)

Though he lacks a standout tool, Oklahoma C Tyler Ogle’s ability to do everything pretty well make him an interesting catcher to track in pro ball. His outstanding junior production doesn’t hurt, either.

Big, big season so far for the very well-rounded Ogle. Pro-caliber defense, good arm, level line drive swing, and gap power. The only thing that could ding Ogle (and Bandy, a similarly talented prospect) is the lack of a standout tool. Many teams look for a plus tool — often arm strength or raw power — when they are in the market for college catching. Players who are solid across the board sometimes get overlooked. Ogle’s very consistent college production could help him appeal to more stat-oriented clubs picking in the top ten rounds.

Westchester HS (CA) LHP Jamaal Moore was a surprise top ten round selection who spurned the Dodgers to instead attend baseball hotbed Los Angeles Harbor College. He throws a low-90s fastball, changeup, curve, and a splitter. He’ll be draft-eligible once again next spring. There’s enough present stuff and athleticism here to follow him closely this year.

South Carolina 2B Scott Wingo (Round 11) reminds me of another college middle infielder who won back-to-back championships before being drafted to the pros. It’s not perfect, but I see a lot of Darwin Barney in Wingo’s game.

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.

The dearth of quality middle infield prospects throughout the minor leagues makes Southeastern Louisiana SS Justin Boudreaux (Round 14) a name worth stashing somewhere deep in the back of your mind. He’s not a star, and almost certainly not a starter, but his bat isn’t inept and he can field his position (and, if not, he’ll be fine at second), so there’s a chance he can find a role on a big league roster somewhere down the line. Standards for quality shortstopping are low, after all.

Boudreaux has a strong arm, above-average range, and steady hands. All in all, his defense works. That said, his best tool could be his wonderfully appropriate name; have to love a Boudreaux playing for Southeastern Louisiana.

There are a lot of averages in a Clemson OF Jeff Schaus (Round 16) scouting report — power and speed, to name two — but he’s a gifted natural hitter with a smart approach at the plate who possesses just enough of every relevant tool to remain intriguing. There’s definite fourth outfielder potential here.

[pretty swing; good natural hitter; average power; average speed, more quick than fast; inconsistent arm strength, but flashes plus; top ten round possibility last year who fell due to bonus demands]

I prefer Oxnard JC 3B Jesus Valdez (Round 17) on the mound, but the Dodgers didn’t consult me when they decided to move Valdez to the hot corner for regular duty. By all accounts he’s a good defender with solid power upside. Valdez the pitcher is athletic, projectable, and has shown flashes of a good slider and changeup to go along with his low-90s fastball.

Oxnard CC FR RHP Jesus Valdez: 90-92 FB, 94 peak; good SL; emerging CU; 6-3, 180

Wichita State C Chris O’Brien (Round 18) was almost always the last cut whenever I made up a list of top 2011 college catching prospects. It sounds silly to put this much of an emphasis on makeup, but I’ve had scouts tell me that O’Brien’s leadership skills behind the plate and in the clubhouse could be enough to make him a ten-year big league backup catcher. I’ll just say that if there is one position on the diamond where I’d emphasis intangibles it would be catcher…and leave it at that. If intangibles aren’t your thing, then the strong start to his pro career lends credence to the idea that his breakout 2011 season with the bat wasn’t a mirage.

I know I’m not alone in being excited to see what kind of year Johnson County CC RHP Vince Spilker (Round 20) has in store in 2012. I wasn’t sure where I’d be able to follow him this spring, but after some digging I found out he’ll be suiting up for the University of Central Missouri. He should get the chance to start there, a role well-suited for his plus fastball and pair of solid or better secondary offerings (curve and change).

Johnson County CC SO RHP Vince Spilker: 96 peak FB; good CB; solid or better CU

Oklahoma State OF Devin Shines (Round 38) gets a mention because of the overall weakness of the Dodgers late round picks. True, the crazy athletic Hamilton HS (AZ) 2B Malcolm Holland (Round 33) got overslot cash to sign, but beyond him there’s not much to talk about. Enter Shines, a player with big league bloodlines, solid speed, and more pop than his 5-8, 180 pound frame suggests. When drafting on a budget like the Dodgers, you have to take what you can get in the later rounds.

I’m really excited to see Bolles School (FL) SS Austin Slater (Round 44) play college ball this upcoming season for Stanford. I like his long-term upside a lot and believe there’s a chance he’ll wind up closer to the player many thought new teammate Kenny Diekroeger would be.

I don’t often account for signability in these rankings unless something obvious is up. That’s exactly the case with Slater, a player who would be ranked higher on merit (really like the bat) but dinged for being a 99% slam dunk to attend Stanford (their new strategy targeting top prep stars named Austin has now worked two years in a row) after hobbling through an injury plagued senior season of high school. He could reemerge in three years as a premium pick once again.

New York Yankees 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Yankees 2011 Draft Selections

I like what New York does more than most people because I have a lot of respect for the way they let their strong scouting staff do the job they were hired to do. There isn’t a lot of upper-management meddling and nobody within the organization seems to worry about what the national pundits seem to say about the players they select. I do my best to not talk about “value” or “overdrafts” when discussing top ten picks because, in baseball more than any other sport, beauty is in the eye of the beholder on draft day. Maybe the Yankees could have waited until their second or perhaps third round pick before taking Dante Bichette; if they could have pulled that off, nobody would have claimed he was overdrafted and instead they would have praised the excellent value the Yankees got with their pick. At some point on draft day, however, you have to take the players you love. My one cross-sport reference of the day harkens back to last year’s NFL Draft when the Vikings “overdrafted” QB Christian Ponder. I didn’t particularly love Ponder as a prospect, but Minnesota did. If he was the highest rated player on their board and they had even the slightest doubt he’d be around for their next pick, then they were wise to take their guy, value be damned. The comparison isn’t perfect – the ability to trade down in football’s version of the draft complicates things a bit – and I realize they’ll always be an opportunity cost with taking players a round or two “earlier” than projected, but the point of the draft is to come away with as many players you love as possible. Draft who you want, ignore the haters.

Alright, now time for me to start hating…

The fact that Orangewood Christian HS (FL) 3B Dante Bichette hit really well during his first taste of pro ball is great. Even better are the reports on how quickly he adjusted his swing (shortened to help find consistency and designed to help him hit to all fields more effectively) and better than expected defense at the hot corner. Makes the pre-draft notes on him (below) seem downright prophetic, right? There is still a Dante Bichette Sr. sized gap between what Junior is and what he might be, and I’d be lying if I said I felt good about his future from an instinctual standpoint, but, hey, so far so good.

I’ve gone back and forth on Bichette for over a year now. The first thing I noticed when watching him hit is how his inside-out swing looks a lot like his father’s. This is a positive when he’s going well, as it is a really good looking swing that helps him generate plus bat speed and well above-average raw power. It is a negative when he is going poorly because, as much as I like the swing for an experience professional, it may have a little too much length and too many moving parts to allow him to pull it off consistently. I can’t help but wonder what his first pro hitting instructor’s advice will be. I should also note that I’ve slowly come around to the idea that Bichette might be able to stick at third base professionally because of his much improved athleticism and surprising nimbleness.

Not signing Texas LHP Sam Stafford is a serious black eye for the Yankees draft. It can be excused somewhat because of the reason behind it (a pre-signing physical showed something that scared the Yankees off from offering even slot money), but the final result of not signing a pick in the top 100 is bad news any way you slice it. Stafford has been a frustrating prospect to follow because of his general inconsistencies and lapses in command. If his stuff wasn’t so good, you might be inclined to write him off as a first day prospect altogether. Lefthanders with great size who hit the mid-90s and show the makings of two average or better offspeed pitches (love his low-80s power curve/slider hybrid, still hopeful the change gets better) get every chance to convince teams that they’ll figure out that pesky command thing in pro ball someday.

Texas JR LHP Sam Stafford: 88-92 FB, peak 94-95; FB command issues hold him back; holds velocity well; good 80-85 SL; 73-78 CB is ahead of SL; average 83-85 CU; 6-4, 190

Winnisquam HS (NH) RHP Jordan Cote was a surprise pick this early in the draft. The Yankees place a lot of trust in their area scouts, especially those based in or close to New York, to advocate for players they love. Somebody must have really gone to bat, so to speak, for Cote. That doesn’t mean Cote wasn’t deserving of a third round pick. His fastball is fine, he’s shown some aptitude with a pair of breaking balls, and his size and relatively fresh arm both hint at more velocity to come.

RHP Jordan Cote (Winnisquam HS, New Hampshire): 88-90 FB, 92-93 peak; good CB; SL; raw CU; 6-5, 200

If Cote represented the Yankees willingness to trust their scouts based in and around New York, the selection of New Rochelle HS (NY) 3B Matt Duran takes it up a notch. Not only is Duran a native New Yorker, but he’s also one of the draft’s youngest prospects. In addition to drafting heavily from the Northeast, New York has focused on another of the draft market’s inefficiencies: age. Duran, like last year’s first pick and fellow New York resident Cito Culver, is very young for a high school senior. He has but one plus tool, though, as said many times before, if you’re going to have only one tool, it might as well be power. I for one find it pretty nuts that the Yankees drafted three of the draft’s most interesting prep first base prospects (Bichette, Duran, and Rookie Davis), as well as the promising Austin Jones. New York could have a fun problem on their hands in a few years if Bichette, Duran, and Davis don’t take to their new positions.

If Grandview HS (CO) C Greg Bird can catch, his massive power makes him a big-time prospect. If he can’t, then he’ll join the potential logjam of Yankees first base prospects taken in this year’s draft. I had a scout compare him to Jesus Montero, but with a few huge caveats. First, he only made the comparison after the Yankees drafted Bird and admitted the appeal of comparing two players in the same organization influenced his typically stellar (right…) decision making. Second, he only was talking power upside and defensive ineptitude. That’s all. To build on that, he backtracked even more by saying Montero is way ahead of Bird as a hitter, in terms of both contact ability and plate discipline. In other words, Bird and Montero aren’t all that alike besides the fact they both play “catcher,” they both have ample present power (a rarity for young hitters more than people think – big difference between present power and raw power), and they are both Yankees. I love comps.

Bird came into the year a big prospect, but much of the hype that came with catching Kevin Gausman last year seems to have disappeared after Gausman went off to LSU. The Colorado high school catcher has a little bit of Cameron Gallagher to his game. Both prospects are raw defensively with impressive raw power that has been seen firsthand by area scouts at the high school level. That’s an important thing to note, I think. We hear so much about raw power, so it is worth pointing out when a player has plus raw power and average present power. That’s where I think Bird is currently at. There might not be a ton of projection to him, for better or worse.

I almost always guess wrong on what position a two-way prospect will play professionally, so it’s nice to see the Yankees think the same way I do about Kecoughtan HS (VA) LHP Jake Cave. True, almost everybody thought Cave would be a pitcher, but I’ll take any tiny victory I can get. On the mound he’ll give you an excellent fastball (93-94 peak), a potential plus mid- to late-70s change, and a breaking ball that has shown flashes but needs significant work. The reason I like Cave a lot more than even his raw stuff suggests is his elite athleticism. Long-time readers of the site know that I value athleticism (and all the ancillary benefits, most notably the ability to repeat one’s delivery) in young pitchers very, very highly.

LHP Jake Cave (Kecoughtan HS, Virginia): 88-91 FB, peak 93-94; 75-77 SL or CB; potential plus 74-79 CU; good athlete; power potential; good speed; strong LSU commit; 6-1, 180

Edmonds-Woodway HS (WA) 1B Austin Jones is a little bit like a less publicized version of Greg Bird. Bird received more pre-draft ink because he’s been on the radar longer due mostly to catching Kevin Gausman in high school. Bird also received more pre-draft love because, quite honestly, he’s a better prospect than Jones. Think of Jones as Bird-lite: not quite as much power, not quite as good defensively. That second reason has already been put into practice by New York as the Yanks have moved Jones out from behind the plate and made him a full-time first baseman.

Western Kentucky RHP Phil Wetherell has the two pitches needed to succeed in a bullpen and an arm with minimal wear and tear, but his pedestrian performance at the college level left me lukewarm about his pro prospects. Then he went out and dominated (41 K in 30 IP) for Staten Island. I’m not one to put too much weight in rookie ball stats, but you’d still rather see a guy perform well than not.

Like Wetherell, Lewis-Clark State RHP Zach Arneson is a reliever all the way due to a limited arsenal of pitches and questionable arm action. Also like Wetherell, Arneson put up good numbers (17 K in 17.2 IP) for Staten Island. I prefer Arneson’s fastball to Wetherell’s, but Wetherell has the better secondary pitch (his splitter). Both guys are iffy bets to pitch in the big leagues, but because quality relievers are always in demand, you just never know. I might not be getting paid to write this, but that’s some professional quality hedging right there.

Lewis-Clark State RHP Zach Arneson (2011): 96 peak FB

Eastern Oklahoma State JC RHP Jonathan Gray also fits the Wetherell/Arneson mold. As an unsigned prospect, he’ll have another year of development to mature into something more. He has the fastball/slider combo needed to at least get a look as a potential reliever at some point.

My favorite college relief prospect drafted by New York is Longwood RHP Mark Montgomery (Round 11). Montgomery has been overlooked in the past due to his lack of size and physicality, but he’s close to big league ready with his fastball and plus low- to mid-80s slider. All Montgomery has done is perform at a high level (48 K in 30.1 college IP) everywhere he’s been (41 K in 24.1 IP in the Sally). If he keeps pitching this well next year at Tampa, he’ll officially be a relief sleeper per the national pundits. Get on the ground floor with him now.

Longwood JR RHP Mark Montgomery: 88-92 FB; peak 94; hard 82-84 SL with plus upside; really consistent numbers over three years; 6-0, 205 pounds

Remember when I said I always guess wrong on what position a two-way prospect will play professionally? Come on down, Dixon HS (NC) RHP Rookie Davis! I would almost always rather a young prospect try hitting first – seems to be less variability in development and can get a young arm through the injury nexus in the event he moves back to the mound later on – but I can see why the Yankees prefer Davis, what with his potential for two solid pitches and imposing size, as a pitcher. I like him more as an athletic first base prospect with plus raw power, but I get it.

My biggest concern with ranking Rookie Davis this high is based on the nagging thought some team will pop him as a pitcher instead of a hitter. Currently equipped with two above-average future pitches (good low-90s fastball and an emerging mid-70s curve), Davis’ future could be on the mound. Like most two-way prospects, I think he’d be best served by giving hitting a go from the start. If that’s the case, then his plus raw power, classic slugger’s frame (6-5, 220), and strong track record hitting with wood could help him get drafted in the first few rounds and give him a chance to become pro baseball’s first ever Rookie.

For what it’s worth, I prefer unsigned Northridge HS (CA) RHP Mathew Troupe (Round 17) to the signed third rounder Jordan Cote. Troupe’s secondary pitches rank as some of the better offerings of this year’s high school class. His curve is a really good pitch when he commands it, and his changeup, thrown with the same arm speed as his fastball, flashes plus. His strong commitment to Arizona and fluctuating fastball velocity kept him from going earlier, but he could pop up as an early round pick in three years.

RHP Matt Troupe (Northridge HS, California): 90-92 FB, 94 peak; very good CB; plus CU; SL; inconsistent FB velocity so he sometimes sits 87-88, peak 91

The trio of Morris HS RHP Hayden Sharp (Round 18), Cathedral Catholic HS (CA) LHP Daniel Camarena (Round 20), and Bedford HS (NH) RHP Joey Maher (Round 38) make for an impressive compilation of late round big money prep pitching prospects. For good reason, the athletic lefty Camarena got the biggest bucks. His three pitch mix should help him adjust to a full-time starting pitching load as a professional. Of the three, he’s probably the safest bet going forward. The pitcher with the most upside of the troika is Sharp. His big fastball (upper-90s peak), plus athleticism, and pro body are all easy to dream on. Lacking the security of Camarena’s well-honed secondary stuff and the razzle dazzle of Sharp’s heat, Joey Maher is the least impressive prospect of the three. The raw righty from New Hampshire is a long way away from even reaching his modest (fifth starter?) big league upside.

LHP Daniel Camarena: high-80s FB with late life, 90-91 peak; above-average future 70-73 CB; average 70-75 CU; line drive hitter; good approach; power upside, but hasn’t shown too much yet; RF arm; 6-0, 200 pounds

Memphis RHP Ben Paullus (Round 19) is interesting for a couple reasons. First and foremost, his stuff (good low-90s fastball and plus hard curve) is big league quality. Second and not foremost, his delivery, while sometimes so herky jerky that it is hard to watch, gives him tremendous deception and makes him very tough to hit. Texas A&M RHP Adam Smith (Round 25) reminds me some of Robert Stock. I really liked Stock as a catcher and have been happy to see St. Louis stick with him behind the plate so far, despite the growing sentiment that wants his plus arm on the mound. Smith played third base for Texas A&M, but is expected to pitch full-time going forward for the Yankees. I wish he’d get a chance to put his awesome physical tools to use as an infielder – remember, he could always move to the mound in a year or three if needed – but, again, I get why New York would want to put an arm like Smith’s on the mound from the start.

At some point, he has to do it on the field, right? Adam Smith is such a force of nature from a tools standpoint that you have to believe someday he’ll put it all together and show why so many have touted his ability for so long. He has the plus arm and plus defensive tools you’d expect from a former pitcher/shortstop, and his pro frame (6-3, 200) generates plenty of raw power on its own. What he doesn’t have is a good idea of the strike zone or a consistent at bat to at bat swing that can help him put said raw power to use. I’d love for my favorite team to take a chance on him after round ten (tools!), but probably couldn’t justify popping him much sooner than that (production…). One thing that would make gambling on Smith the third baseman a little less risky: if he doesn’t work out as a hitter, his plus arm could be put to good use back on the mound.

Arizona State 1B Zach Wilson (Round 21) is a gifted natural hitter, but the bar is simply too high at first base and/or the corner outfield to ever expect him to earn consistent playing time in the big leagues. His professional future could evolve into a career path along the lines of “professional hitters” Dave Hansen’s or Mark Sweeney’s.

[very talented natural hitter; average power; average runner; no real defensive home]

Now that we’ve watched out last meaningful pro game until the spring, it is time to turn our attention to baseball’s next opening day. No sense waiting until April for the pros to start up again when college starts six weeks sooner, right? The Yankees couldn’t come to terms with three players expected to play major roles on some of college baseball’s finest teams this spring. Louisiana State SS Tyler Hanover (Round 40), Rice OF Jeremy Rathjen (Round 41), and Missouri 3B Conner Mach (Round 46) all return to school with plenty to prove. What Hanover lacks in physical tools he makes up for in plus plate discipline and veteran-level defensive positioning. I love him as a potential utility guy down the road and think he could have a career similar to – deep gulp – David Eckstein. Rathjen is the anti-Hanover, but still a really good prospect. He gets himself into trouble by being too aggressive at the plate and on the bases, but his tools rank up near any other right fielder in all of college baseball. If he returns healthy in 2012 as expected, he could wind up a top three round selection. Mach is a personal favorite as an above-average hitter with some defensive versatility.

Hanover: above-average speed, but more impressive as an instinctual base runner; very good defender – arguably his best present tool; competition for best tool includes a shocking plus-plus arm from his smaller frame; just enough pop to keep a pitcher honest, but mostly to the gaps; size gets him in trouble (attempts to do much), but this is inarguably a good college player; little bit of Jimmy Rollins to his game in that he is a little man with a big swing – again, this often gets him in more trouble than it should, as he is far, far less talented than Rollins on his worst day; great range to his right; definite utility future due to experience on left side; can get too jumpy at plate and swing at pithes outside the zone, but generally a patient hitter; 5-6, 155

Rathjen: [above-average speed, raw power, and arm; too aggressive at plate; good defensive feel; average range in corner; gap power at present that could turn into HRs in time; 6-6, 200 pounds]