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2013 MLB Draft Conference Preview: Mountain West Conference

Aaron Judge and DJ Peterson headline this year’s group of Mountain West Conference prospects. Both could hit their way into this year’s draft first round, especially if you believe that Judge can handle center field in the pros and Peterson can remain at third base. I think both guys will wind up sliding down the defensive spectrum a bit, but still see Judge as a potential first round pick thanks to a better package of tools outside of the batter’s box. I like Peterson just fine and can get behind an argument that supports him as a first round pick and the better overall prospect to Judge, but, as you’ll read below, I straight up love Judge.

  • Bold = locks to be drafted
  • Italics = definite maybes
  • Underlined = possible risers
  • Plain text = long shots

C

  • New Mexico SR C Mitchell Garver
  • Air Force SR C Garrett Custons
  • Fresno State SR C Austin Wynns
  • Fresno State rSR C Trent Garrison
  • San Diego State rSO C Brad Haynal
  • San Diego State SR C Jake Romanski
  • UNLV rSR C Ryan Scott

Top to bottom I think the catching position is the MWC’s deepest in 2013. What it lacks in star power — or, more honestly, starter power — it makes up for in quality depth. That depth could be turned into a handful of dependable big league backup backstops in due time, if the drafting team in each case is patient. I think Mitchell Garver could really take off in pro ball, especially on the defensive side. Get his throwing motion and footwork cleaned up, and there’s no reason he can’t make it as an above-average number two catcher. Garrett Custons’ bat is a little bit lighter, but his athleticism and plus-plus arm strength make him an ideal fit for a defense-first backup. Austin Wynns (standout receiver) and Trent Garrison (another legit plus-plus arm) give Fresno State a pair of veteran catchers most teams would knock themselves out over. Brad Haynal and Jake Romanski still have some proving to do with the bat, but both are above-average or better defenders. Haynal in particular is worth watching, thanks to some interesting tools and the intrigue of his return from a broken leg last season.

1B

  • New Mexico JR 1B DJ Peterson
  • Air Force JR 1B Seth Kline
  • Nevada SR 1B Brett Jones

The book on Peterson, the conference’s 1B prospect to Aaron Judge’s 1A, is fairly simple: raw power that rivals any hitter in the college game, explosive wrists, lightning in his forearms, and exciting hand/eye coordination that all add up to easy elite bat speed, and defense that can generously be projected as questionable at the pro level. The kindest report I’ve gotten on his glove at third has been “average at best,” so chalk the decision to list him as a 1B up to my theory that guys on the defensive fence as amateurs tend to topple over to the easier to play position sooner rather than later upon entering the pros. As tantalizing as the power is, I have a hard time giving a R/R first base (or, best case scenario, left field) prospect a first round grade at this point. If he slips enough in the draft — as I suspect he will, though it has to be mentioned..for anybody out there without a calendar of their own — that we’re a long way between now and June — then his most likely pro outcome (platoon player) starts to look pretty good.

2B

  • San Diego State JR 2B Tim Zier
  • Fresno State JR 2B Jake Alvarez

Tim Zier is probably more of a senior sign to watch in 2014, but he is such a fun college player to watch — rock steady glove, never gives away at bats, smart base runner — that I wouldn’t be stunned if an area scout falls in love with his game and recommends him just early enough to make signing him away from San Diego State a possibility.

SS

  • New Mexico SR SS Alex Allbritton (2013): 6-2, 185 pounds (2011: .234/.283/.303 – 13 BB/41 K – 218 AB) (2012: .222/.247/.280 – 8 BB/54 K – 2/4 SB – 207 AB)

Allbritton was the best I could come up with in my search for a viable 2013 MWC shortstop worth drafting. Allbritton hit .222/.247/.280 last season with 8 BB/54 K in 207 AB. Statement 1 + Statement 2 = there’s not a whole lot of 2013 middle infield talent in the conference this year.

OF

  • Fresno State JR OF Aaron Judge
  • Nevada JR OF Brad Gerig
  • Nevada SR OF Brooks Klein
  • UNLV SR OF Brandon Bayardi
  • New Mexico SR OF Josh Melendez
  • New Mexico rSR OF Luke Campbell
  • Air Force SR OF Alex Bast
  • New Mexico JR OF Chase Harris
  • Nevada SR OF Jamison Rowe

This is probably way too simplistic, but this past weekend works as a decent example of what I expect out of Aaron Judge this year. Series opener on Friday: 0-5, 3 K. Series finale on Sunday: 3-4, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, SB. There are going to be days like Friday to be sure, but I expect a lot more outings like Sunday as the season heats up. He’s still rough around the edges in many ways — his power is more theoretical than real life and his size makes him a historical outlier from the get go — but he does so many things so darn well (speed, defense, arm, approach, and, yes, raw power) that you can’t help but appreciate him as a prospect. Judge’s star is ascending, and I’m happy to have two feet firmly on the bandwagon as it rumbles its way towards June. One big thing I’m looking forward to tracking this year: Judge’s performances against upper-echelon pitching. The one knock on his game that I’ve heard from multiple sources is whether or not his current swing setup will work against pitchers who have both a) premium stuff, and b) an idea about pitch sequencing. Early in the count I’ll take him over just about any college bat, but can he make the necessary adjustments within each at bat to continue being successful at the pro level? Again, I’m quite bullish on Judge’s future, though it’s worth noting he’s got the same ominous R/R profile as Peterson.

I don’t know a ton about Brad Gerig, but literally everything I’ve heard about him so far has been positive. We’re talking no major weaknesses — average hit tool and range are the lowest grades I’ve gotten across the board — with enough power/speed to break out in a big way in 2013.

P

  • Nevada JR RHP Braden Shipley
  • New Mexico JR RHP Tyler Spencer 
  • San Diego State SR RHP Travis Pitcher 
  • New Mexico JR RHP Jake McCasland
  • Fresno State JR LHP Tyler Linehan
  • New Mexico SR RHP Sam Wolff
  • San Diego State JR RHP Philip Walby
  • UNLV JR RHP Zach Hartman
  • San Diego State JR RHP Justin Hepner
  • San Diego State SR RHP Ethan Miller
  • San Diego State JR RHP TJ Kendzora
  • Fresno State rSO LHP Aaron Gillis
  • New Mexico JR RHP Josh Walker
  • Air Force JR RHP Cameron White
  • UNLV JR RHP Buddy Borden
  • Air Force SR LHP Ben Bertelson
  • San Diego State SR RHP Bryan Crabb
  • San Diego State SR RHP Ryan Doran
  • New Mexico JR RHP Anthony Consiglio
  • Nevada SR RHP Tom Jameson
  • New Mexico JR RHP AJ Carman

Braden Shipley is going to rank very, very high up on my overall ranking of college pitchers (coming soon!). If I was better at searching this site, I’d look up every pitcher that I’ve described as my “ideal” pitching prospect or a pitcher “invented in a lab” to suit my needs or whatever other dumb phrase I’ve used to describe my idea of a “perfect” pitching prospect. Shipley rings every bell: easy velocity (92-95 as starter, has hit upwards of 97 in short bursts), low-80s change with above-average upside, solid upper-70s curve, good athleticism, improved command, good glove, effective pickoff move, sturdy frame with room to build on (6-3, 180 pounds), and experience as a hitter (.265/.351/.346 in 136 AB in 2011). I think he’s likely one of those guys I like a lot more than professional talent evaluators, but that’s alright: he may not be a first round, household name come June, but I still think he’s a future big leaguer.

I honestly believe Travis Pitcher is underrated because of his last name. If he was Travis Jones, we’d talk more about his three average or better pitches and strong frame than his name. As somebody who really enjoys fun names, I hope my endorsement of Pitcher comes from a position of some authority. Tyler Spencer is a favorite because he throws nothing straight: good sink and run on low-90s fastball, occasional plus slider, decent sinking change, and a new cutter that could be a weapon in time. Tyler Linehan has a long track record of success, no to mention above-average velocity for a lefthander and a potential plus slider. Sam Wolff is a guy I’ve liked since his days at Southern Nevada: when he’s going good, he’ll throw all four of his average or better pitches for strikes, showing good overall polish and a smooth, repeatable delivery.

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