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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2012 MLB Draft: Big West Position Players to Know

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

Catcher

  • UC Irvine SR C Ronnie Shaeffer

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

First Base

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

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

Second Base

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

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

Shortstop

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

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

Third Base

  • Cal State Northridge rJR 3B Adam Barry

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

Outfield

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

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

2012 MLB Draft: Big 10 Pitchers to Know

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

Tier 1

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

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

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

Tier 2

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

Tier 3

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

AQ Conference Follow List: 2012 MLB Draft Shortstops

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

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

2012 MLB Draft: Pac-12 Pitchers to Know

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

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

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

AQ Conference Follow List: 2012 MLB Draft Second Basemen

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

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

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

2012 MLB Draft: Big 10 Position Players of Note

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

Catchers

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

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

First Basemen

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

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

Second Basemen

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

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

Shortstops

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

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

Third Basemen

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

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

Outfielders

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

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

AQ Conference Follow List: 2012 MLB Draft First Basemen

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

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

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

2012 MLB Draft: Pac-12 Position Players of Note

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

Catchers

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

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

First Basemen

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

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

Second Basemen

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

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

Shortstops

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

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

Third Basemen

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

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

Outfielders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2012 MLB Draft: Big 12 Position Players of Note

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

Catchers

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

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

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

First Basemen

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

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

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

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

Second Basemen

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

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

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

Shortstops

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

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

Third Basemen

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

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

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

Outfielders

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

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

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

AQ Conference Follow List: 2012 MLB Draft Catchers

Anybody who has paid even the slightest bit of interest in this year’s draft class (i.e. literally nobody I actually talk to in real life) knows who is number one among the following group of catchers. The real question here is who’s number two after Alex San Juan Mike Zunino? I actually think there are three fairly similar guys (good power/arm, questionable defense) right behind him in spots two through four, followed by three additional personal favorites (Jacob Stallings alert!) that help round out the AQ conference super seven group of catching prospects. I’ll share the names later on, but I’m curious to see if anybody out there has an opinion on which players should fall in after Zunino. For extra credit: is your number two catcher from this group of AQ conference catchers the same as your number two catcher in all of college baseball? I don’t think mine will be, but I won’t know for sure until another week or so after I finish reviewing the rest of the conferences here on the site. With no further ado, here’s a list of all of my personal AQ conference follow list for catchers eligible for the 2012 MLB Draft…

  1. Arizona State JR C Max Rossiter
  2. Baylor JR C Nathan Orf
  3. Baylor SR C Josh Ludy
  4. California SR C Chadd Krist
  5. Cincinnati SR C Braden Kline
  6. Clemson JR C Spencer Kieboom
  7. Clemson SR C Phil Pohl
  8. Connecticut rSR C Joe Pavone
  9. Duke JR C Jeff Kremer
  10. Florida JR C Mike Zunino
  11. Florida State rSO C Stephen McGee
  12. Georgia JR C Brett DeLoach
  13. Iowa JR C Dan Sheppard
  14. Kansas SR C Alex DeLeon
  15. Kansas SR C James Stanfield
  16. Kentucky JR C Luke Maile
  17. Kentucky SR C Michael Williams
  18. Miami JR C Alex San Juan
  19. Miami SR C Peter O’Brien
  20. Michigan SR C Coley Crank
  21. Mississippi SR C Taylor Hightower
  22. Mississippi State JR C Mitch Slauter
  23. Missouri JR C Scott Sommerfeld
  24. Missouri SR C Ben Turner
  25. Nebraska JR C Richard Stock
  26. North Carolina SR C Jacob Stallings
  27. Notre Dame JR C Joe Hudson
  28. Oklahoma State JR C Rick Stover
  29. Oklahoma State JR C Victor Romero
  30. Oklahoma State SR C Jared Womack
  31. Oregon rSR C Brett Hambright
  32. Oregon SO C Aaron Jones
  33. Purdue JR C Kevin Plawecki
  34. South Carolina JR C Dante Rosenberg
  35. Southern California SR C Kevin Roundtree
  36. Stanford JR C Christian Griffiths
  37. Texas Tech JR C/INF Bo Altobelli
  38. Texas Tech SR C Kevin Whitehead
  39. UCLA JR C Tyler Heineman
  40. UCLA JR C Trevor Brown
  41. UCLA rSO C Richie Brehaut
  42. Utah JR C Parker Morin
  43. Vanderbilt rSR C Drew Fann
  44. Virginia JR C Chace Mitchell
  45. Virginia Tech rSO C Chad Morgan
  46. Wake Forest JR C Brett Armour
  47. Washington JR C Chase Anselment
  48. Washington SR C BK Santy

Lucas Giolito

This is a bummer. It stinks for fans of the game, it stinks for the chief decision-makers of teams at the top of the draft (if nothing else there’s now one less potential star to push your guy down the board), it stinks for the area guys who haven’t dragged themselves to see Harvard-Westlake yet (I have a friend in this current position…yeah, he’s not great at his job), and, above all else, it stinks for Giolito.

A few more thoughts, including speculation that isn’t really front page worthy, if you click below…

(more…)

2012 MLB Draft: SEC Pitchers to Know

A few names were covered last Friday, but a list like this deserves more explanation. Off the top, I need to confess that finding a way to reconcile what to do with pitchers who profile as starters (three pitches and repeatable mechanics being the first two things that need to be checked off) versus pitchers who are almost certainly confined to bullpen roles from now until eternity.

That’s a big part of what gives Selman the edge over a few safer, arguably more presently talented arms like Sanburn, Price, Gardeck, and Maddox. Selman’s bad start has me nervous, but it isn’t like he is struggling due to a lack of stuff. With Selman, you know both below-average present command and control are what has kept him from becoming a big-time prospect. For better or worse, and right now we’re seeing that worse at its worst, that’s part of the deal. Sanburn is probably the most justifiable choice as the conference’s second best pitching arm, but it kills me that Arkansas hasn’t given him the chance to start. I get where they are coming from — the Razorbacks have a loaded pitching class that will heard from early and often in each of the next three draft years — but, man, I’d love to have a better idea how Sanburn’s stuff would play across longer outings. He’s got a deep enough arsenal of pitches — fastball, change, slider, and curve — and a consistent enough delivery to transition well to the rotation in theory. Price could also start professionally, and recent rumblings have some scouts who have seen Maddox this year thinking he could be tried in a rotation in the pros. Gardeck is the only sure-fire reliever of the quartet, but the fact that the other three pitchers have questions about their long-term role causes just enough hesitation for me that I can’t put any of them over a classic starting pitching type like Selman. Of course, Selman’s inability to throw consistent strikes could keep him from ever amounting to anything, so…

I might be a little nuts to include Derrick Bleeker at all, but arm strength like his can’t be ignored. I already covered the similarities between Randall and Palazzone, so it should be no surprise to see the two so tightly bunched on the rankings. You could probably lump Godley in with those two, but I just plain like his stuff (mostly his cutter and mid-70s curve) better. From Clinard onward, the list is almost all reliever, all the time. The only potential exceptions that I see are Westmoreland, Bourgeois, Boling (if healthy, but that’s a big if), and maybe Blount. From Fant to the end, the odds of each player getting popped goes down, down, down. The ones most likely to find a home on draft day are those that excel in one particular area: Smith with his sinker, Watson with good lefty velocity, and Wallen with a sidearm delivery that makes life tough on righthanded hitters. Belcher (missed 2011 season) and Wolfe (has/will miss 2012 season) got tacked on to the end despite the fact that both has serious questions to answer about their health going forward. Belcher was also included because I’d like very much for Milwaukee to spend their 50th round pick on him this year.

  1. Louisiana State SO RHP Kevin Gausman
  2. Vanderbilt JR LHP Sam Selman
  3. Arkansas SO RHP Nolan Sanburn
  4. South Carolina rJR RHP Matt Price
  5. Georgia rSO LHP Alex Wood
  6. Kentucky JR LHP Taylor Rogers
  7. Alabama JR RHP Ian Gardeck
  8. Florida JR RHP Austin Maddox
  9. Mississippi State JR RHP Chris Stratton
  10. Arkansas JR RHP DJ Baxendale
  11. Florida JR LHP Steven Rodriguez
  12. Kentucky JR LHP Jerad Grundy
  13. Tennessee JR RHP Zack Godley
  14. Florida JR RHP Hudson Randall
  15. Georgia SR RHP Michael Palazzone
  16. Vanderbilt rJR RHP Will Clinard
  17. Kentucky JR RHP Chris Garrison
  18. Arkansas JR RHP Derrick Bleeker
  19. South Carolina JR RHP Ethan Carter
  20. Mississippi JR RHP Brett Huber
  21. Arkansas rJR LHP Trent Daniel
  22. Georgia JR RHP Tyler Maloof
  23. Mississippi rSR RHP RJ Hively
  24. Florida SR RHP Greg Larson
  25. South Carolina JR LHP Adam Westmoreland
  26. South Carolina SR LHP Michael Roth
  27. South Carolina JR RHP Colby Holmes
  28. Louisiana State JR RHP Joey Bourgeois
  29. Mississippi State rSO RHP Ben Bracewell
  30. Louisiana State JR RHP Nick Goody
  31. Vanderbilt JR RHP Drew Verhagen
  32. Georgia JR LHP Patrick Boling
  33. Tennessee JR RHP Nicholas Blount
  34. Mississippi State JR LHP Nick Routt
  35. Arkansas JR LHP Randall Fant
  36. Vanderbilt rSO LHP Keenan Kolinsky
  37. Auburn SR RHP Derek Varnadore
  38. South Carolina JR LHP Tyler Webb
  39. Auburn JR RHP Slade Smith
  40. Mississippi State rSO LHP CC Watson
  41. Georgia JR LHP Blake Dieterich
  42. Auburn SR RHP Ethan Wallen
  43. Mississippi JR LHP Dylan Chavez
  44. South Carolina SR LHP Logan Munson
  45. Auburn SR LHP Cory Luckie
  46. Mississippi State SR RHP Caleb Reed
  47. Arkansas JR LHP Cade Lynch
  48. Auburn SR RHP Jon Luke Jacobs
  49. Kentucky SR LHP Alex Phillips
  50. Alabama JR RHP Trey Pilkington
  51. Georgia JR RHP Bryan Benzor
  52. Mississippi State JR LHP Luis Pollorena
  53. Mississippi State JR LHP Chad Girodo
  54. Kentucky JR RHP Walter Wijas
  55. Mississippi State JR RHP Kendall Graveman
  56. Alabama JR RHP Tucker Hawley
  57. Louisiana State JR RHP Kevin Berry
  58. Georgia SR LHP Chase Hawkins
  59. South Carolina JR LHP Nolan Belcher
  60. Alabama JR LHP Taylor Wolfe

2012 MLB Draft: SEC Position Players of Note

Since we covered SEC pitching last week (the full list will be published tomorrow), why not start off the first full week of March with a look around college baseball’s best conference and see what kind of position player talent we can find…

Catchers

  1. Florida JR C Mike Zunino
  2. Kentucky JR C Luke Maile
  3. Kentucky SR C Michael Williams
  4. South Carolina JR C Dante Rosenberg
  5. Georgia JR C Brett DeLoach
  6. Mississippi SR C Taylor Hightower
  7. Vanderbilt rSR C Drew Fann
  8. Mississippi State JR C Mitch Slauter

Zunino is a star and as close to a sure-thing as any prospect in this year’s draft. The skeptic in me doesn’t like his K/BB numbers, but the rest of his skill set is just too damn strong to worry about the one less than thrilling component (no, I won’t count his sub-glacial speed against him) of his game. His approach could keep him from being the star that some see him as, but nothing short of a meteor striking him down in the batter’s box (you can’t see me, but rest assured I’m knocking on wood) should keep him from being an above-average everyday catcher in the big leagues. That’s tremendously valuable, but you knew that already. Senior signs like Williams, Hightower, and Fann are all known for providing above-average (or, in Hightower’s case, better than that) defense behind the plate. Williams and Hightower both have exceptional arm strength. Rosenberg is an excellent defensive catcher as well; how he performs at the plate in 2012 will determine whether or not he gets popped early enough to sign in June or if he’ll suffer the same fate as Williams, Hightower, and Fann (seniors rule!). I’m most intrigued by the pair of players who may or may not stick behind the plate long-term. I think both Maile and DeLoach can catch professionally (ah, so that’s why they are included with the catchers!), but I understand the concerns on both. Maile has the tools, frame, and athleticism to catch, but lacks proper experience. DeLoach offers similar strengths, but his future defensive home might come down to matters of health. If his arm is sound, he should catch. If not, he’ll face the steep uphill battle of trying to hit enough to hold down a spot in either left field or first base. Maile’s bat has more of a chance of playing elsewhere due to his prodigious raw power.

Who Gets Drafted? Zunino, Maile (though perhaps not as a catcher), Williams, and Hightower. The juniors are all squarely on the bubble, but probably more likely to wind up as senior signs than juniors drafted early enough to leave school.

First Basemen

  1. Florida JR 1B Brian Johnson
  2. South Carolina JR 1B Christian Walker
  3. Florida SR 1B Preston Tucker
  4. Florida JR 1B Vickash Ramjit
  5. Mississippi SR 1B Matt Snyder
  6. South Carolina rSO 1B Brison Celek
  7. Arkansas SR 1B Sam Bates
  8. Louisiana State JR 1B Alex Edward
  9. Louisiana State SR 1B Grant Dozar
  10. Tennessee SR 1B Davis Morgan

I tend to err on the side of “pitch first, hit second,” but Brian Johnson is a better position player prospect for me right now so that’s where he sits. I believe in the power enough that I think his bat could be enough to hold down an everyday job at first in the big leagues someday. Check a first base minor league prospect ranking to see how rare that is these days. Walker is the only other player on the list with a realistic chance to play every day, but even that’s a stretch. That’s no slight against Walker, a really gifted natural hitter with solid power potential and a good approach, but rather yet another example of how difficult it is to seize one of the thirty MLB first base starting positions. The next few names all profile nicely as potential bench bats or, in an ideal world, platoon players. Tucker has been a long-time favorite who just keeps hitting, hitting, and hitting. A little bit of positional versatility shown at the college level has helped his stock just enough that some teams might view him as a viable spot starter in the outfield. Ramjit, the third Gator in this particular top four, might have the most untapped upside of the remaining players. He has the size, athleticism, and power upside to surprise people by playing better as a professional than he ever did in the Swamp.

Who Gets Drafted? Johnson, Walker, and Tucker are all locks to be drafted. Both Johnson and Walker will likely be off the board within the draft’s first three to five rounds. I could see Ramjit wanting to return for a shot at more playing time and a better draft standing in 2013. The rest of the seniors, with Snyder and Bates leading the way, are all legitimate mid-round depth selections for teams looking to round out their low minor league lineups.

Second Basemen

  1. Mississippi JR 2B Alex Yarbrough
  2. Georgia SR 2B Levi Hyams
  3. Louisiana State SR 2B Tyler Hanover
  4. Vanderbilt SR 2B Riley Reynolds
  5. Arkansas SR 2B Bo Bigham
  6. South Carolina JR 2B Chase Vergason
  7. Louisiana State JR 2B Casey Yocom

As expected for a position where players are more often created than born, second base is thin in the SEC. Yarbrough has a strong hit tool and above-average speed, but he’s not a lock to stay up the middle defensively. Hyams and Hanover both do enough well to profile as potential utility infielders. If you’re feeling generous, you could probably say the same for fellow potential senior signs Reynolds and Bigham. I originally had Arkansas 2B Kenny Roberts on the list, but didn’t see his name on the Razorbacks roster last I checked.

Who Gets Drafted? Because teams need players capable of holding down middle infield spots, I could see Yarbrough and the four seniors all getting drafted at some point this June. Vergason’s slow start could cost him as younger players (and better long-term prospects) begin to eat into his playing time.

Shortstops

  1. Florida JR SS Nolan Fontana
  2. Georgia JR SS Kyle Farmer
  3. Louisiana State SR SS Austin Nola
  4. Tennessee SR SS Zach Osborne
  5. Vanderbilt JR SS Anthony Gomez
  6. Florida JR SS Cody Dent
  7. Mississippi SR SS Blake Newalu
  8. Alabama SR SS Jared Reaves
  9. Arkansas rSR SS Tim Carver

Fontana won’t go in the top five this year, but I’m pretty sure I like him as much as the player he was often compared to out of high school, Christian Colon. Zunino’s floor is arguably higher than any prospect’s in the country, but Fontana’s isn’t so bad either. He consistently catches the ball, gets on base, and has just enough pop to keep pitchers honest. He might never hit higher than 8th in a lineup (9th if he lands with the Cardinals…yes, I know that joke makes no sense now that LaRussa is gone, but that hasn’t stopped me before), but the fact that he’ll hit in a lineup at all is promising. Farmer, Nola, and Osborne all play good enough defense to make some noise as potential top ten round players this draft. Of the three, Farmer is the only one with an honest shot to make it as a regular. I wish I knew more about Jared Reaves because his 2011 park/schedule adjusted numbers (.369/.434/.535 – 25 BB/30 K – 241 AB) are intriguing.

Who Gets Drafted? Absolutely Fontana, and almost certainly Farmer and Nola. Osborne and Gomez have better than average shots to be drafted. Dent has just enough in the way of tools, not to mention the bloodlines that teams love, to warrant consideration, but his performances haven’t exactly lit the world on fire and he might be stretched defensively at short. Carver is a damn fine college player who hasn’t hit enough to justify a draft pick, at least not yet.

Third Basemen

  1. Arkansas JR 3B Matt Reynolds
  2. Georgia SR 3B Colby May
  3. Kentucky SR 3B Thomas McCarthy
  4. Auburn SR 3B Creede Simpson
  5. Mississippi JR 3B Andrew Mistone
  6. South Carolina JR 3B LB Dantzler
  7. Alabama JR 3B Brett Booth
  8. Georgia JR 3B Curt Powell

The only thing keeping Matt Reynolds from being a slam dunk first day pick is a lack of raw power. As a pure hitter he compares favorably to former Razorbacks third basemen Logan Forsythe and Zack Cox, and his power upside likely falls somewhere between the two. The rest of his tools work just fine: his defense at third is excellent, his arm and speed are both above-average, and his athleticism is so good that some pro teams think he’ll be just fine playing second base or even catcher at the next level. From a tools-only standpoint, there are some blurry comparisons to the Virginia version of Ryan Zimmerman. A reality check reveals that Reynolds was a park/schedule adjusted .238 hitter last year, so…

Who Gets Drafted? Reynolds, for sure, with May (SS and 1B), Simpson (OF), Mistone (2B), and Booth (C) all in the mix as potential super-subs professionally.

Outfielders

  1. Vanderbilt JR OF Connor Harrell
  2. Louisiana State JR OF Raph Rhymes
  3. Tennessee JR OF Drew Steckenrider
  4. Alabama SR OF Taylor Dugas
  5. Vanderbilt JR OF Michael Yastrzemski
  6. Louisiana State JR OF Mason Katz
  7. South Carolina JR OF Evan Marzilli
  8. Arkansas JR OF Matt Vinson
  9. Louisiana State JR OF Arby Fields
  10. Georgia SR OF Peter Verdin
  11. Mississippi SR OF Zach Kirksey
  12. Mississippi JR OF Tanner Mathis
  13. South Carolina SR OF Adam Matthews
  14. Kentucky JR OF Brian Adams
  15. Arkansas rSO OF Jacob Morris
  16. Florida SR OF Tyler Thompson
  17. Florida SR OF Daniel Pigott
  18. Alabama JR OF Cameron Carlisle
  19. Vanderbilt rJR OF Jack Lupo
  20. Georgia JR OF Kevin Ruiz
  21. Auburn JR OF Cullen Wacker
  22. Alabama JR OF Andrew Miller
  23. Tennessee JR OF Chris Fritts
  24. Mississippi State SR OF Brent Brownlee
  25. Alabama SR OF Jon Kelton

The SEC is littered with outfielders with big-time tools and below-average production. Steckenrider, Marzilli, Vinson, Verdin, and Kirksey all have tools that have outpaced their collegiate performances thus far. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are grinders like Dugas and Yastrzemski who play above their modest tools. Rhymes doesn’t quite fit either group, but he’s such a gifted natural hitter that he deserves far more recognition than he gets; for me, there isn’t a ton separating him from the much better known Jeremy Baltz. The aforementioned Steckenrider is more or less the Brian Johnson of SEC outfielders. Both men are universally regarded as superior on the mound, but each has so much raw power at the plate that there is at least some question about their long-term baseball homes.

Who Gets Drafted? I’m inclined to say everybody from Harrell to Pigott, but even I know that’s probably more names than what we’ll really hear in June. I sent a quick draft of this to somebody in the know who didn’t particularly care for the order (“Rhymes second is crazy, Steckenrider is a reliever, and you need to knock off the cheerleading for Dugas”) who wanted me to also explicitly pass along that I’m crazy for having Morris where he is. He said, “Morris has the talent to be much closer to the top than his current standing near the bottom.”

SEC 2012 MLB Draft Pitching Potpourri

Kicking off the weekend with a little bit of stream of consciousness writing about the SEC, its players, and the 2012 MLB Draft. Despite being born and raised in Big East country (and the Atlantic 10 principality), I was a long-time loyalist of ACC baseball. Access to plenty of games while spending my late teenage summers running around the The Triangle down in North Carolina gave me the chance to see some really exciting players before they were known as prospects, if you catch my drift. Though come to think of it, many of the guys with “star” upside didn’t really make it. Still holding out hope for Andrew Miller, but I think that’s due mostly to the memory of his UNC era Blake Anderson mustache. My college years allowed me time to freeze my butt off (not literally, I still do in fact have a butt) while watching the best and the brightest pass through Boston College’s dual-purpose ballpark/parking lot (or, better yet, ballparking lot) to say nothing of that memorable day I saw the CAA’s finest prospect, Northeastern’s ace and the man who would become the school’s first ever big league pitcher Adam Ottavino, throw a no-hitter against a solid James Madison lineup. Ah, college. Such wild and crazy times.

Long story short, I’m now a full-fledged SEC homer. You can thank me having a brother in Nashville and the subsequent possibility of many Vanderbilt games in my future for the change in allegiance. See how easy I can be bought and sold? Special attention will be paid to the SEC this year due simply to the fact that I’ll likely be seeing more players from that conference than any other. After a few years of squeezing rocks to make milk (I swear this reference makes sense: it’s from a fable I was read in my youth, but Google seems to think I’m making it up) by watching Villanova play up (Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame!) and down (Georgetown, Seton Hall, and, even though I know they can’t technically play themselves, Villanova!) competition, I’m ready to enjoy getting the opportunity to see a slew of interesting games against my new “hometown” team. Of course, life would be a lot easier (and cost-effective) if only Penn, a pretty darn good looking club from both the competitive college team and draftable prospect standpoints, had a more interesting home conference schedule in 2012. Then I could enjoy good baseball within minutes of my apartment (cost of the walk: $0.00) instead of being forced to fly south every other weekend (cost of the flight: don’t even want to think about it), but what can you do, right? Maybe in 2013 when hopefully Princeton (Mike Fagan, maybe Matt Bowman), Harvard, and Dartmouth (Mitch Horacek, maybe Kyle Hunter) come to town. Then I’ll swap allegiances once again and become the world’s loudest and proudest Ivy League baseball backer.

So, where were we? SEC baseball and the 2012 MLB Draft? Ah, of course. Some general impressions on the state of the conference’s pitching as we fire up weekend number three of the college baseball season…

*** LSU SO RHP Kevin Gausman is pretty clearly at the top of the conference’s draft pitching pecking order, but who is number two? I’ve done the homework, talked to some smart people, read as much as a human can read, and watched whenever possible and I still don’t have a clue. I went into all this thinking fellow SO RHP Nolan Sanburn (Arkansas) would be the consensus pick, but of the four well-connected people I talked to, only one had him at the number two spot with any confidence. Of course, these people thought I was wasting my time trying to rank players within a conference (“What’s the big idea? You know players from every conference are eligible on draft day, right?”), but that’s besides the point. South Carolina rJR RHP Matt Price (battle-tested with big league stuff) got a vote, as did Vanderbilt JR LHP Sam Selman (upside) and, curiously enough, Florida JR RHP Hudson Randall (battle-tested without definite big league stuff). After careful consideration, I’m leaning a different way altogether. I reserve the right to change my mind (i.e. come to my senses) after one last weekend of thinking it all over, so check back in next week to see who is number two.

*** Speaking of Hudson Randall, is there really anything that separates him from a guy like, say, Georgia SR RHP Michael Palazzone? They both live in the upper-80s with their fastballs, both lean heavily on two-seamers, both have average-ish breaking balls (though in Randall’s case he has two), and both rely on precise command in the absence of dazzling raw stuff. Statistically, both had outstanding 2011 seasons, at least when looked at superficially. Randall went 11-3 with an ERA of 2.17 ERA while Palazzone went 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA. Not bad, right? And similar enough, yes? Digging a bit deeper reveals some questionable peripherals as well as starker similarities between the two. Randall’s K/9 in 124.1 IP: 5.65. Palazzone’s K/9 in 120.1 IP? 6.36. Their park/schedule adjusted FIP’s were nearly identical: Randall at 4.43 and Palazzone at 4.47. What does it all mean? Honestly, not a whole lot. I just think it is funny that Randall, a much bigger name in college baseball due in large part to his awesome production on some great Gators teams, is ranked by many as a far superior prospect to Palazzone, at one time a really well-regarded arm in his own right.

*** There are a lot of relievers primed to make an impact out of the SEC in this year’s draft. Some of the bigger names include the aforementioned Sanburn (whom I’m not convinced can’t start professionally, but we’ll see), Alabama JR RHP Ian Gardeck, Florida JR RHP Austin Maddox, Maddox’s teammate JR LHP Steven Rodriguez. It is also possible, or in some cases likely, that guys like Price, Selman, and Kentucky JR LHP Jerad Grundy wind up in the bullpen at the next level. My crystal ball is in the shop, but if I had to guess I’d say that Gausman looks like the only slam dunk guarantee to remain a starting pitcher in pro ball two or three years down the line.

*** I’m pretty sure I like Florida JR LHP/1B Brian Johnson more as a hitter than a pitcher. I’ve isolated myself somewhat from the experts so far this year — that will change soon because, quite frankly, reading Baseball America is too enjoyable to quit in the name of wanting to remain unsullied by industry approved opinions — so I’m out of the loop on what people think about his pro future. His performance in 2012 will go a long way in determining his future one way or another (there’s your obvious statement of the day…hope you enjoyed it), so this is a situation worth monitoring.

*** A few quick hits to wrap this up:

1) In a battle of two pitchers with similar stuff, I prefer Mississippi State JR RHP Chris Stratton to Arkansas JR RHP DJ Baxendale, though it is close. Again, I’m out of the loop here with what people are saying: is Stratton on the national draft radar or would he qualify as a sleeper? I never know what a “sleeper” is anymore. Whenever I see likely top three round prospects touted as sleepers, I die a little inside.

2) I’ll never be able to quit on long-time favorite South Carolina JR RHP Ethan Carter. It has been hard keeping up with him over the years (high school hot shot to surprise enrollee at South Carolina to sudden transfer to Louisburg JC to even bigger surprise reentry to South Carolina), but he’s too talented to ever really lose sight of. Great to see he’s off to a dominating start (9 K and only 3 base runners allowed in 8.1 scoreless innings) out of the Gamecocks pen so far.

3) The talent is really spread out on the pitching side in the SEC. My initial ranking of the top seven 2012 arms from the conference features pitchers from seven different schools. Expand the list to eleven names and then you’re up to nine different teams represented. Ten different teams have players in the top thirteen. Sorry, Mississippi and Auburn. I take it back: no apology needed for Ole Miss. Auburn, sure, we can apologize to Auburn. But Mississippi’s 2013 and 2014 draft class talent looks potentially devastating at this point. Alright, once we start talking about a draft 27 months away then we know it is time to stop rambling. Enjoy the games this weekend, everybody.