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Big 12 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

Oklahoma JR C Chris Shaw
Texas Tech JR 1B Eric Gutierrez
Kansas JR 2B Colby Wright
Texas JR SS CJ Hinojosa
Oklahoma JR 3B Kolbey Carpenter
Texas JR OF Ben Johnson
Texas Tech JR OF Tyler Neslony
Kansas State SR OF Max Brown

Texas Christian JR LHP Alex Young
Texas Christian JR RHP Riley Ferrell
Texas Christian rSO RHP Mitchell Traver
Oklahoma rJR LHP Adam Choplick
Texas SR RHP Parker French

I normally start with the hitters here because I’m a creature of habit bound by my small-minded attempt at maintaining some semblance of consistent order in an otherwise chaotic world. Today we’re breaking that habit not because of personal growth, but simply because the pitching in the Big 12, most notably at TCU, is worth talking about. I’m way late to the party, I know, but the collection of arms they have in Fort Worth is something to be celebrated.

Oklahoma rJR LHP Adam Choplick is a 6-8, 260 pound lefthander who can reach the mid-90s and for whatever reason very little has been written about him nationally. My contribution to help remedy that: he’s really good. I’d love to know more about Texas SR RHP Parker French’s batted ball data. He has some serious worm-killing stuff (88-94 FB with sink, 97 peak; good 78-84 CU with sink; good mid-80s cut-SL) and has succeeded over the years without striking out a ton of hitters. That last bit is a tad worrisome because pro hitters are not college hitters, but if he can be a 60% groundball guy in the pros then who knows.

Oklahoma State is loaded in its own right with draft-eligible pitchers. rJR RHP/OF Conor Costello has the depth of stuff to start and the athleticism to repeat his delivery through long outings. He’s also a decent enough hitter that letting him start in the National League could lead to some fun at bats. JR RHP Koda Glover uses a 92-95 MPH fastball and intriguing offspeed stuff (no, that’s not just that code that I need more info on him…except I do, which must be an incredible coincidence) to miss bats at a high rate. SO RHP Trey Cobb comes from a star-studded Oklahoma high school class with a sinker/slider mix that should keep him employed for a long time. SR RHP Jon Perrin could be a good bang for your buck as a potential fifth starter/middle relief type available on the cheap come drat day.

I’ve written all that (and my brief note on Choplick, can’t forget that beauty) while totally forgetting I’ve covered Kansas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State already. So, read those if you want more on any of those schools. I think we’ve waited long enough to finally get to the main event that is Texas Christian University. They might not be able to match Vanderbilt in terms of pure ceiling (Buehler and Fulmer are tough to beat), but their balance of star power, hard throwers, polished veterans, and Preston Morrison (he gets his own category) is special.

I think you almost need to find a rare three-headed coin to determine the best pitcher from TCU (and thus the best in the conference) between JR LHP Alex Young, JR RHP Riley Ferrell, and rSO RHP Mitchell Traver. All three guys fit nice neat little archetypes, so they make for a fun and relatively easy group to discuss. Young is the sure-fire starter going forward with a legit classic four-pitch mix (FB, CU, CB, SL), average overall command (above-average FB command, which is nice) and solid athleticism/size. He’s also put up numbers since day one on campus (8.41 K/9 in 2013, 8.37 K/9 in 2014), so there’s not too much need to project some kind of crazy unrealistic future where he turns into something that he’s not. The delta between his ceiling and floor is a tiny one as at his best he’s probably a mid-rotation workhorse and at his worst he figures to be a fifth starter/bullpen weapon. He’d fit in as a really swell second or third pick for a team that would prefer to reach for the stars with their first rounder. He has to be on the short list as one of the “safest” draft prospects or “quickest movers” to the big leagues. Ferrell is the future back end of the bullpen stalwart with closer upside. Like Young (and most big-time college relief prospects) Ferrell has a small gap between his dream scenario (elite closer) and his most likely scenario (good reliever who gets to the big leagues in a hurry). Also like Young, Ferrell’s track record at TCU is impeccable; with a trail of missed bats lying in his wake (11.02 K/9 in 2013, 13.90 K/9 in 2014, 14.50 K/9 so far this year), what you see is what you get. At his best he’s in the upper-90s with the heat and a plus mid-80s slider as the putaway pitch; at his less than best (like, say, on the second half of a back-to-back), his fastball sits low-90s with a slider that flashes but doesn’t have quite the same shape. I think he likely will fall in somewhere between last year’s top two relievers, Nick Burdi (pick 46) and Michael Cederoth (pick 79), were drafted last year. That seems fair for now. Traver is the wild card. His health has held up so far this year and his stuff has been as advertised. If you can’t get excited for a 6-7, 250 pound capable of hitting the mid-90s (90-94, 96 peak) with a plus mid-80s slider and a usable changeup who is finally healthy after missing the better part of two seasons with arm injuries (Tommy John back in 2013 did a number on him), then you’re reading the wrong site. I’ve gotten an interesting range of comps for Traver including a solid starter (Gil Meche), a quality reliever (Nick Masset), and a personal favorite of mine that will go down as a starting member of the what could have been team (Dustin McGowan). I like to occasionally look a comparison cousins, my lame turn of phrase for two prospects connected by being once compared to the same player. The only other time I’ve used a Dustin McGowan comp was when it was mentioned to me last year as a possible outcome for Tyler Kolek. That’s…interesting.

Those are the top names at TCU, but far from the only ones. SO LHP Tyler Alexander is a potential back of the rotation starter who has good stuff with excellent command. rSO RHP Brian Trieglaff can get it up to 94, SR LHP Travis Evans throws three pitches for strikes (including a good breaking ball), and rSR RHP Trey Teakell is an outstanding senior sign with the size (6-5, 175), repertoire (87-92 FB, low-80s CU, upper-70s CB, hard splitter), and, big shocker, sterling track record to warrant top ten round consideration. Finally we get to SR RHP Preston Morrison, college baseball’s weirdest pitcher. Morrison gets results with a mid-80s fastball with serious sink and a variety of offspeed offerings (72-74 CB, 69-74 SL, 76-81 CU) that comes in from a funky sidearm but not quite sidearm angle. I rule nothing out when it comes to Morrison’s pro future, though I think a middle relief ceiling as a guy who gives hitters a totally different look from most big league relievers feels like a fair best case scenario right now.

I’m still holding out hope that we see Oklahoma JR C Chris Shaw get going on the big stage, especially after the tremendous power displays he put on after relatively slow starts the past two seasons in junior college. Truthfully, the question as to whether or not he’ll hit for power isn’t a debate; Shaw’s success or failure going forward will be determined by the adjustments in approach he is able to make. He’s always been a touch too aggressive for his own good, but his power could mask some of the deficiencies he’s shown at lower-levels. More experienced arms will keep exploiting the holes in his approach unless he makes some changes. The power alone still makes him a high follow, but much of the optimism I felt in January has eroded under the rocky shores of reality.

I won’t move Shaw off the top spot out of a combination of wanting to keep these lists consistent with my pre-season thoughts and the prospect of him still having high-level power at the next level, but one of the two Cowboys right behind him would give him a run for his money in a revised ranking. I wish SR C/OF Gage Green was more of a sure thing to stay behind the plate because his offensive game has shown a lot of growth over the years. I also really like SR C Bryan Case, the much better glove of the two, though he’s a tough player to fairly judge due to his lack of playing time. When given a chance to play he’s hit, so I think there’s something there. After a bit more thought, I’d say that Oklahoma JR C Anthony Hermelyn would also be right up there near the top of this list in a re-ranking. His hit tool is interesting, he has a strong defensive profile with no doubts about his arm strength (been clocked as high as 94 MPH off the mound), and his plate discipline is trending in the right direction. All in all, not a bad group of catchers

Texas Tech JR 1B/LHP Eric Gutierrez is one of my favorite power hitters in a class desperately in need of some good ones. Some teams might be turned off than his less than ideal frame (5-10, 205), but so long as he keeps mashing he has a better than average shot to hear his name called in a signable range this June. Kansas State rSR 1B/LHP Shane Conlon has always intrigued me due to his reasonable power upside, average speed, and plus glove. It’s a a fun profile and one I hope we get a chance to keep following in pro ball.

Kansas JR 2B/SS Colby Wright has been a baseball magnet this season (11 HBP in 65 official AB!). I liked his pop, patience, and glove combination coming into the year, and nothing has moved me off that as of yet. I think he’s the best of a lackluster group of Big 12 second basemen. At shortstop it’s still Texas JR SS/3B CJ Hinojosa’s top spot to lose. Much has been written on these very pages already about Hinojosa, so I’ll spare you any needless rehashing and just leave you with my Marco Scuatro comp and call it a day. Almost. We’re now far enough along with the season (20 games in already, time flies), so it’s silly for me to keep pretending that these are strictly previews and not, at least in part, ongoing assessments. The rankings are more or less unchanged from where I stood pre-season, but I do try to pepper the commentary with some updates where applicable. Hinojosa’s slow start (.197/.337/.310) is notable, though it’s a) only 71 AB, and b) not as bad when you look at some underlying numbers (most notably 14 BB/11 K). I’m a little bit concerned and would consider dropping him in future overall prospect rankings, but he still is a good prospect with top five round upside.

Texas Tech rSO SS/2B Cory Raley could be a fascinating utility player prospect with the chance for more. He has the ability to be really good at second and playable at short with enough speed, athleticism, and size to buy him time as he figures out how to hit. So far so good as hitter for Raley this winter, so consider me sufficiently intrigued at what now appears to be a lower than deserved ranking. I also have to mention TCU rJR SS Keaton Jones, a player so good with the glove that he’ll get drafted almost no matter what he does at the plate this spring. The fact that he’s more than holding his own as a hitter for the first time collegiately is icing on the mid-round cake. I’m glad I went with Oklahoma JR 3B Kolbey Carpenter as the conference’s top third baseman. He impressed all those I talked to last spring with his power upside and steady glove, so it’s nice to see him off to a hot start this season. Like second base, however, it’s worth noting that he’s the best of a very thin group of potential future pros. That in no way detracts from his underrated play, of course. I have a good intuitive feeling about Carpenter as a draft prospect.

The outfield is where things get really interesting in the Big 12. I know I say this about so many prospects that it probably renders the distinction meaningless, but Texas JR OF Ben Johnson has to be one of this year’s draft’s most fascinating prospects. Johnson’s name has come up over and over again so far this season as a tooled-up prospect finally turning into a deeply skilled player. Or so I thought. All of the chatter over Johnson excited me because I had assumed he was finally doing the things that he’ll need to do to be a better pro. Full disclosure: I haven’t gotten any updates about him this season (since the fall) from anybody I know who has seen him and (I’M NOT A SCOUT) I’ve only personally seen him twice this year on the tube. So I’m not working with all the needed info to make any overarching statements that should be taken as fact. I’m just theorizing that maybe college analysts (and perhaps certain pro scouting staffs that weigh projection significantly ahead of production [they aren’t wrong for this, by the way]) are getting a little ahead of themselves in proclaiming this to be the start of Johnson’s ascension to day one of the 2015 MLB Draft. Johnson has been absolutely phenomenal this season by most every measure: .432/.463/.659 is damn good work in 88 at bats. Maybe he’s made adjustments as a hitter that the public will hear about as some of the best prospect writers begin doing some digging. Maybe (hopefully) I’ll hear something from one of my contacts sooner rather than later that brings some good news on his outburst. Until then, however, I think Ben Johnson is just doing Ben Johnson things. I won’t say that I anticipated this kind of start, but his numbers aren’t out of line with what you’d expect from a player with his kind of tools at the college level. It’s not crazy to say that he, like about a dozen or so players in this and every class, is too physically gifted for the college game. Johnson is a pro-level glove in center with an average or better arm, average or better raw power, and, most interestingly, the kind of jaw-dropping athleticism and game-changing speed that puts the whole package over the top.

Again, Johnson is putting up a ridiculous .432/.463/.659 line so far this year. That’s really great. With only 2 walks to 12 strikeouts, however, I’m not sure how all his considerable offensive gifts will continue to play as he climbs the ladder. For all the positives he brings to the table he still looks like a very high potential pick since athletes like him often provide value well beyond what they do at the plate (running, defending, you get it). That relatively high floor makes Johnson extra appealing; using a supplemental first, second, or third round pick on him is not likely to completely blow up in your face simply because he’s almost too damn athletic to do nothing. On the off chance he puts it together, watch out. If that paragraph reads like I’m hedging my bets on him, then you’re on the right track.

Hot start or not, I still lump Johnson in with fellow toolsy outfield peers like Florida JR OF Harrison Bader and Clemson JR OF Steven Duggar for the moment. Just because those guys rank 5-6-7 (further down if you consider any of Ian Happ, Richie Martin, or BC’s Chris Shaw outfielders) on my “current” (as current as anything draft-related can be that’s three weeks old) college outfield list does not mean I view them as ordinary, mid-round prospects. I didn’t write nearly enough about last year’s draft than I would have liked, but I’ll say this without the benefit of hindsight (not that a few weeks of pro ball should change anybody’s mind about anybody): I’d take this year’s toolsy outfielders above any college outfielder from last year with the exception of Michael Conforto, Bradley Zimmer, Mike Papi, and maybe (if he’s really an OF, which I’m still unsure of) Connor Joe. That’s above last year’s 37th overall pick, Derek Fisher, for what it’s worth.

In other non-Ben Johnson Big 12 outfield news, Texas Tech JR OF Tyler Neslony’s positive approach and power upside make him a strong bat worth knowing. His plate discipline has backed up a bit since last year here in the early going, so almost all caveats with such players apply. Same with Kansas State SR OF Max Brown, a rare senior sign that doubles as one of the draft’s finer physical specimens. The 6-5, 200 pound plus runner showed well in limited at bats last year, but, stop me if you’ve heard this before, his approach at the plate needs significant work. A crazy argument could be made that he might be the most valuable draft property of the three already mentioned Big 12 outfielders based solely on his talent (below Johnson to be sure, but he’s no slouch), projected round (no idea, but I’d be surprised if it was all that high), and potential bonus demands (no leverage).

The only draft-eligible outfielder listed below having an above-average season by my measures – I mean, Johnson clearly is and I’m being way too hard on him so pay no mind to the only part – is Oklahoma JR OF Craig Aikin, an above-average runner and glove with an interesting leadoff approach to hitting. Since we scratched the “only” from the previous sentence allow me to also recognize TCU SR OF Cody Jones as having a fine start to his 2015 season. He’s an even more interesting senior sign with his blazing speed, plus CF range, strong arm, and very selective approach. I don’t see enough power out of him to profile as more than a backup, but you could do worse when looking for a future speed and defense fourth or fifth outfielder.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Texas JR SS/3B CJ Hinojosa
  2. Texas JR OF Ben Johnson
  3. Texas Tech JR OF Tyler Neslony
  4. Kansas State SR OF Max Brown
  5. Oklahoma JR C Chris Shaw
  6. Oklahoma JR OF Hunter Haley
  7. Kansas SR OF/RHP Dakota Smith
  8. Oklahoma State JR SS/2B Donnie Walton
  9. Texas Tech JR 1B/LHP Eric Gutierrez
  10. Kansas rJR OF Steve Goldstein
  11. Kansas SR OF Connor McKay
  12. Oklahoma State SR C/OF Gage Green
  13. Oklahoma State SR C Bryan Case
  14. Kansas JR 2B/SS Colby Wright
  15. Texas Tech SR SS Tim Proudfoot
  16. Texas Christian SR OF Cody Jones
  17. Oklahoma JR 3B Kolbey Carpenter
  18. Oklahoma JR OF Craig Aikin
  19. Texas Christian JR OF Nolan Brown
  20. Texas SR OF Collin Shaw
  21. Texas Christian SR 3B/2B Derek Odell
  22. Kansas State rSR 1B/LHP Shane Conlon
  23. Oklahoma JR C/RHP Anthony Hermelyn
  24. Kansas State SR 2B/OF Carter Yagi
  25. Oklahoma State SR 2B/OF Tim Arakawa
  26. Texas SR 2B Brooks Marlow
  27. Kansas SR 2B/SS Justin Protacio
  28. Texas Tech rSO SS/2B Cory Raley
  29. Texas Christian JR 2B Garrett Crain
  30. Kansas rJR OF Joe Moroney
  31. Texas Tech JR C Kholton Sanchez
  32. Texas Tech JR C Tyler Floyd
  33. Baylor JR 1B Mitch Price
  34. Texas Tech SR 2B Bryant Burleson

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

  1. Texas Christian JR LHP Alex Young
  2. Texas Christian JR RHP Riley Ferrell
  3. Texas Christian rSO RHP Mitchell Traver
  4. Oklahoma rJR LHP Adam Choplick
  5. Texas SR RHP Parker French
  6. Texas Tech JR RHP Matt Withrow
  7. Oklahoma State rJR RHP/OF Conor Costello
  8. Baylor SR RHP Austin Stone
  9. Oklahoma State JR RHP Koda Glover
  10. Oklahoma State SO RHP Trey Cobb
  11. Texas Christian SO LHP Tyler Alexander
  12. Texas Christian rSO RHP Brian Triegflaff
  13. Texas Christian SR LHP Travis Evans
  14. Texas Christian rSR RHP Trey Teakell
  15. Texas rSR RHP Ty Marlow
  16. Oklahoma JR LHP/1B Jacob Evans
  17. Kansas JR RHP Hayden Edwards
  18. Oklahoma JR RHP Blake Rogers
  19. Oklahoma State SR RHP Jon Perrin
  20. Baylor rSR LHP Brad Kuntz
  21. Texas Tech JR RHP/OF Quinn Carpenter
  22. Kansas State rJR RHP Nate Williams
  23. Oklahoma rSR RHP Robert Tasin
  24. Baylor rJR RHP Ryan Smith
  25. Texas JR RHP Chad Hollingsworth
  26. Texas Tech SR RHP Dominic Moreno
  27. Texas JR LHP Travis Duke
  28. Oklahoma JR RHP RHP Corey Copping
  29. Texas Christian SR RHP Preston Morrison
  30. Kansas State rSO RHP Nate Griep
  31. Oklahoma State rSR LHP Tyler Nurdin
  32. Kansas State JR RHP Levi MaVorhis
  33. Kansas State rSO RHP Colton Kalmus
  34. Oklahoma State JR LHP Alex Hackerott
  35. Texas JR LHP Ty Culbreth
  36. Texas Tech SR LHP Cameron Smith
  37. Texas Tech SR RHP Corey Taylor
  38. West Virginia JR RHP Jeff Hardy
  39. Texas Tech JR RHP Dalton Brown
  40. Baylor SR RHP Sean Spicer
  41. Kansas State rSO RHP Blake McFadden
  42. Oklahoma JR LHP Jeffrey Curran
  43. West Virginia rJR LHP Ross Vance

2015 MLB Draft Prospects – Oklahoma

JR RHP Blake Rogers (2015)
rJR LHP Adam Choplick (2015)
JR RHP RHP Corey Copping (2015)
JR RHP Ralph Garza (2015)
rSR RHP Robert Tasin (2015)
JR LHP Jeffrey Curran (2015)
JR LHP/1B Jacob Evans (2015)
JR C/RHP Anthony Hermelyn (2015)
JR OF Hunter Haley (2015)
rSR OF Taylor Alspaugh (2015)
SR 2B/SS Josh Ake (2015)
JR OF Craig Aikin (2015)
JR 3B Kolbey Carpenter (2015)
SO RHP Alec Hansen (2016)
SO 3B/RHP Sheldon Neuse (2016)
SO OF Cody Thomas (2016)
SO RHP Jake Elliott (2016)
SO 1B Austin O’Brien (2016)

I always tell myself I’ll stay out of the overrated/underrated game because I really don’t know enough about the consensus view on college baseball to make such proclamations, but this year’s Oklahoma pitching staff appears underrated to me based on the ratio of talent on hand and the relative quiet surrounding their arms found in print over the past few months. rJR LHP Adam Choplick remains as raw as a fourth-year college player can get, but the size (6-8, 260), fastball (low-90s, 94 peak), underrated (there I go using that word again) athleticism, and flashes of dominance (maybe not in terms of run prevention, but back to back seasons with more than a strikeout per inning and walk rates within reason are nothing to sneeze at) make him one of college baseball’s sleeping giants in terms of draft prospects. Choplick is the main reason why I find the Sooner staff underrated nationally, but not the only reason. I like both JR RHPs Blake Rogers and Corey Cropping as potential middle relievers at the highest level. I like JR LHP Jacob Evans (upper-80s heat that plays up because of pinpoint command, low-70s CB flashes plus, solid CU) a little bit more than. I also like JR LHP Jeffrey Curran even though I know little to nothing about him right now, but as a lefthander with size and seemingly some projection left (6-3, 165) his 2014 numbers (8.54 K/9 and 0.68 BB/9 in 26.1 IP) get him on the follow list. If your pitching staff can go five deep with reasonable pro prospects, that’s a quality group.

I’m less enthused about Oklahoma’s lineup, though there are still some draft-worthy talents sprinkled in. As a center fielder with average or better speed, pop, arm strength, range, and athleticism, JR OF Hunter Haley might have the highest ceiling of the class. He’s struggled with finding the right approach at the plate (27 BB/78 K in his career), but there’s no denying his physical gifts. JR C Anthony Hermelyn could get a look as a reasonably athletic catching prospect with a decent hit tool. JR OF Craig Aikin should wind up similarly regarded, only as a backup outfielder type with decent speed and a patient approach. JR 3B Kolbey Carpenter might the best blend of hit tool/power/patience on the team (at least in terms of 2015 prospects), so he’ll be closely watched this spring to see if last year’s small sample size bump in production was for real.

That just about covers the 2015 draft as far as I can tell. Now we can get to the crown jewels of this Oklahoma roster. As much as I like the 2015 class, the 2016 group has two players with star upside that will make Norman a destination for scouts from all over the country. SO RHP Alec Hansen has a huge arm (90-96 FB, 98 peak) with an above-average hard slider (mid-80s) that flashes plus and some feel for a slower breaking ball in the mid- to upper-70s. Like any large human who pitches, he’ll have to continue to work to refine his delivery and command (the two so often go hand-in-hand). Hansen also showed some serious wildness last year (10.32 BB/9) in his very short sample of a debut (11.1 IP), so that will have to be monitored each time he takes the mound this spring. There’s a long way to go between what he is and what he will be, so teams will have to keep a close eye on him as they straddle that thin line between high risk and major reward. SO 3B/RHP Sheldon Neuse is more of a sure thing with a ceiling that arguably matches Hansen’s. Even though I list him as a primary third baseman, Neuse has a legit shot at sticking at shortstop professionally. I remember following him in high school and thinking that he’d be at least average at short and potentially plus at third. Those thoughts haven’t changed after one year of college. I also liked him better on the mound. That opinion is far more debatable and at this point I’d strongly lean towards sending him out as a position player. He was very impressive on the mound as a freshman (8.25 K/9 and 3.00 BB/9 in 12 IP), but truly outstanding as a hitter (.304/.369/.521 with 27 BB/31 K in 240 AB). Neuse has a huge leg up on the majority of his 2016 competition when it comes to locking down a spot in next year’s first round.

Arizona Diamondbacks 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Arizona Diamondbacks 2011 Draft Selections

I probably shouldn’t have started with Arizona because starting with Arizona doesn’t give me any real perspective on how they did when compared with the 29 other teams. This would obviously be a problem with whatever team I chose to begin with, but Arizona’s draft was so strong that I’d really like to be in a position to call it one of my favorites. In a vacuum, however, I can freely say that Arizona did an excellent job selecting a mix of players, especially on the pitching side, that fill up that sweet spot on the high upside/high probability of reaching upside matrix.

UCLA RHP Trevor Bauer (4th ranked draft prospect), a future top of the rotation arm already at AA and on the verge of a big league promotion, is emblematic of that high upside/high probability of reaching upside sweet spot. Broken Arrow HS (OK) RHP Archie Bradley (6th ranked draft prospect) is less of a sure thing, but offers similar top of the rotation upside.

UCLA JR RHP Trevor Bauer: 88-92 FB, peak 93-94; began to hit 95-96 this past fall, has said he’ll hit 98 at some point; currently sitting 91-93, 95 consistent peak; plus 72-78 CB that he leans on heavily; good 80-84 CU; any one (and often more than one) of his 78-82 SL, cutter, 84-89 screwball/reverse slider, or 84-86 splitter is a plus pitch on a given day

RHP Archie Bradley (Broken Arrow HS, Oklahoma): 89-93 FB, hitting 94-97; power knuckle CB 80-86 with plus potential that improved drastically throughout spring; good SL; emerging circle CU; very easy 95 peak every outing; rumors of a 101 one-time peak in state title game; 6-4, 220 pounds

Kent State LHP Andrew Chafin (19th ranked draft prospect) has the three pitch mix, delivery, and frame to start as a big leaguer, with the fallback plan as a shutdown fastball/slider reliever. If you’re scoring at home, and, really, why wouldn’t you be, that’s three top 20 draft prospects selected with Arizona’s first three picks. Having two picks in the top seven help, no doubt, but nabbing Chafin with pick 43 could make the Arizona scouting department look really, really smart in short order.

You can certainly make the argument that focusing on so much pitching early in a pitching rich draft makes the Diamondbacks susceptible to a draft that winds up short on hitting talent. I get that, but ultimately think the opportunity to add three arms of this quality was just the talent/excitement infusion the franchise needed back in June. It also doesn’t hurt that all three players will probably take different routes to the big leagues: Bauer should move quickly, Bradley will take the typical elite prep arm path (maybe a touch quicker), and Chafin could either come quickly or slowly, depending on how Arizona views his progress from last year’s Tommy John surgery. I might be alone in thinking any of that is important, but I like the idea of staggering the arrival of young arms when possible.

Kent State SO LHP Andrew Chafin: missed 2010 after Tommy John surgery; 89-93 FB, 94-95 peak; potential plus 81-83 SL that is a big league ready pitch; very good CU; command slowly coming on after surgery

And that’s not all! Arizona landed a fourth premium pitching prospect in as many picks by selecting Coastal Carolina RHP Anthony Meo (130th ranked draft prospect) in the second round. I’m typically of the “start him until he proves he’s a bullpen arm” mindset, but Meo’s stuff and delivery are tailor-made for relief work.

Coastal Carolina JR RHP Anthony Meo: last summer showed 89-94 FB with good life; now sitting 92-93, 96-97 peak that comes often; flashed plus 78-85 SL that is now plus-plus SL up to 87-90; 82-86 CB; occasional average straight 84-85 CU; 6-2, 185

I wonder if Justin Bianco’s third round selection was impacted in some part of a cross promotion with famous Phoenix pizza joint Pizzeria Bianco. Terrible joke aside, Bianco’s lack of a clear plus tool makes me less than enthused to see the high school outfielder go so early. Important note: this isn’t a bad pick just because I don’t like it. I know full well I’m just a guy with a laptop and some free time who cannot compete with the depth and scope of their resources. Every team picks players they know way more about than I could possibly imagine, and I respect even apparent “overdrafts” because often teams know things – including information about the individual prospect in question as well as intel on what other teams think of their guy and where he is likely to be drafted – the general public (like me!) is not privy to. That said, I still wouldn’t have taken Bianco in the third and don’t like the pick. Wish him well, as always, but don’t like the pick.

Kansas State RHP Evan Marshall was one of the many Big 12 relievers to go off the board early, and his future as a potential plus fastball/plus slider bullpen arm seems like one he’s got a good shot to achieve. Marshall has gotten off to a very fast start as a pro, striking out a batter an inning and getting groundballs consistently. Colegio Vocacional Para Adultos (PR) C Michael Perez was a pre-draft miss on my end. He has two things that all teams look for in young catchers: above-average athleticism and a strong, accurate arm. I don’t love the bat, but the defense profiles well.

Kansas State JR RHP Evan Marshall: 93-94 FB, 96 peak; plus SL; 6-1, 210

I’ve never really bought into South Carolina RHP Matt Price as a prime pro prospect, even though I enjoy watching him close out games for the Gamecocks. Sentinel HS (MT) OF Ben Roberts (101st ranked draft prospect) was obviously strong value in round 7 (pick 214), but part of that undoubtedly had to do with eventually unsigned outfielder’s signability. Three years at Washington State will go a long way in determining whether or not the raw (no surprise there, right?) Roberts has the speed and arm to stick in center (as I believe) or if he is destined to play left field or first base long-term. If nothing else, I’ll always remember Roberts as being one of the pioneers of what looks like a promising few years – 2012 looks stacked, relatively speaking – of Montana prep prospects. Who would have thought?

South Carolina SO RHP Matt Price: no plus pitch; really like his low-80s SL; CB; 89-92 FB; also like his CU quite a bit

OF Ben Roberts (Missoula Sentinel HS, Montana): plus speed; plus arm; CF defense; 6-4, 200 pounds

Fresno Pacific RHP Jesse Darrah is another potential reliever for me, but could have the three pitches (FB/CU/CB) to work as a starter. He’s done a good job as a pro so far (56 K in 51 IP), so, sample sized be damned, there is some sleeper upside here. I’m pretty stunned Connellsville HS (PA) SS John Leonard signed; guess I’ll need to fire one of my tipsters as pre-draft insider scoop on his signability was apparently way off the mark.

TCU RHP Kyle Winkler (78th ranked draft prospect) is a legit steal as a 10th rounder (304th overall). Health concerns and rumored bonus demands dropped him down draft boards, but plus pitchability, crazy fastball movement, and an array of quality offspeed offerings (I’m partial to the slider and changeup, but I know some think he should rely more heavily on the cutter) make him the poor man’s Trevor Bauer. For the record, we’re talking super-duper poor bordering on foreclosure here: Bauer is a potential ace and Winkler’s ceiling ranges from mid-rotation innings eater to late inning (but likely not ninth inning) reliever.

TCU JR RHP Kyle Winkler: 89-92 FB; peak 93-94; FB is plus pitch because of movement; loses velocity early, falling to upper-80s; good deception in delivery; plus 86-88 sinker; decent 88 cutter; decent 75-76 CB that has largely been phases out in favor of cutter and SL; 81-83 SL that needs tons of work; SL gained velocity and now flashes plus-plus at 85-89; quality low-80s CU with plus upside, now more consistently plus; 5-11, 195 pounds

Illinois SS Josh Parr (Round 12) has the speed and defensive chops to sneak his way into the big leagues as a utility infielder someday. I’m still not a fan due to his penchant for high strikeouts and low walk totals, but there are some physical tools to work with here.

Parr is a really good athlete with plus defensive tools, but his inability to control the strike zone presents a concern going forward. There is enough rawness in his hitting approach to think he is due for that big sophomore to junior year breakout at the plate. He definitely has the potential to make me look stupid for not finding a spot for him earlier. 

Early on in a pitching-rich draft, Arizona focused on pitching. In the middle rounds of a draft with an unusually high number of quality west coast college position player prospects, the Diamondbacks focused on, you guessed it, mid-round west coast college position player prospects. The odds of landing an above-average big league player from a four-year college are obviously not high, but there are always some solid depth pieces to be found that could serve a role in professional ball down the line. Players such as UCLA C Steve Rodriguez (Round 15), Fresno State SS Garrett Weber (Round 22), Oregon State 3B Carter Bell (Round 29), Cal Poly 2B Matt Jensen (Round 31), and Stanford C Zach Jones (Round 34) all qualify as high character, potential big league backup types. I’ve never been crazy about Rodriguez (pro: very good defender who has handled big league quality pitching/con: anemic bat), but Weber and Bell (pro: potential late bloomer/con: not enough range for short) offer enough defensive versatility to give off a slight glimmer of a bench role. Of the group, oddly enough, I prefer the two players drafted past the thirtieth round, Jensen and Jones. As you’ll see in my pre-draft note below, I thought Jensen could come back for a senior try and become a top ten round player in 2012. That’s not bad value for a 31st round pick. Jones may not be a “good” prospect by most traditional measures, but I value uniqueness in ballplayers and he is certainly a catcher who breaks the mold.

I really wish I could explain what happened to Jensen this year, but I’ve got nothing. Still really like his bat speed and power upside, and he has apparently made strides as a defender. A big senior season, either back at second or on the mound, could get him drafted in the top ten rounds like his talent probably warrants.

JR C Zach Jones (2010) is a bit of an enigma – a potential above-average defender behind the plate who doubles as an outstanding athlete and fantastic baserunner. I like guys who break the mold, and players who can legitimately catch AND steal double digit bases are a rarity. I also like guys who can hit, something Jones hasn’t proven he can do. His defense may be enough to get him drafted, but it won’t be until very late…and it may not be until his senior year.

North Carolina State OF Brett Williams (Round 25) will return to what is looking like a potentially dangerous Wolfpack squad. I’ve always had a soft spot for both junior college studs (like Williams before transferring to Raleigh) and underdog universities (so tough to compete in the shadow of those other Triangle schools), so I’ll be watching the well-rounded (and much discussed in the comments section) Williams’ 2012 performance with great interest. An outfielder from a southern school that did sign is Vanderbilt OF Joe Loftus (Round 46). From a tools standpoint I prefer Loftus to Williams, but Williams clearly outperformed Loftus on the field in 2011. In a somewhat unexpected wrinkle, Loftus is expected to see time at third base as a pro.

Not sure how signable Loftus is as a 46th rounder because his blend of arm strength, athleticism, and untapped raw power make him an unusually talented late round pick. If he returns to school, he could easily jump up 25+ rounds with a big senior season.

Liberty 3B Tyler Bream (Round 42) is another surprise junior sign who seemed likely to test the waters again as a senior in 2012. Disappointing junior year aside, the above-average raw power and strong arm play. I’m not sold on his future at the hot corner, and there are already rumors (unconfirmed!) that he’s seen as a potential catching convert within the organization, if he shows quick enough feet this fall and winter. Late in the draft it makes sense to take fliers on tough signs out of high school (which almost every team does) and college performers with interesting tools coming off down years (still not enough love for these guys). I liked Central Florida 3B Derek Luciano (Round 44) a lot more a few years ago when I thought he could stick up the middle. Luciano’s college teammate Central Florida 1B Jonathan Griffin (Round 21)

His name makes me think slick fielding, speed middle infielder, but in reality Luciano is a below-average runner and inconsistent fielder who will have to rely on his lefthanded power if he wants to make it in pro ball. His good, but not great 2010 season has tempered some of the pre-season enthusiasm surrounding his prospect stock.

The Diamondbacks top two picks (Bauer and Bradley) look like slam dunks to start in the big leagues someday. After that, however, there is a lack of starter quality arms. Chafin is a good bet to start and Winkler has a shot, but Meo, Marshall, and Darrah look like relievers to me. Of those seven arms, only one (Bradley) is a high schooler. Surely Arizona took some gambles on a few high upside prep pitchers, right? Meet Ryan HS (TX) LHP Adam Choplick (Round 17) and Steele Canyon HS (CA) RHP Michael Cederoth (Round 41 and my 147th ranked draft prospect). Unfortunately for the D’Backs, neither signed. Choplick is a monster with stuff that didn’t wow this spring on account of his recovery from Tommy John surgery. He seemed like a worthwhile risk in the 17th round, but will head off to Oklahoma in the fall. Cederoth is another talented but raw arm trying to make his way back from some high school injuries. I’d love to know what his price tag was and what Arizona wound up offering because arms like Cederoth’s don’t grow on trees. Thank goodness for that…just thinking about trees with arms for branches creeps me out. Arizona did manage to ink Holy Cross LHP John Pedrotty (Round 13), a crafty lefty who looks more like a middling relief piece than a future starter to me. His lack of a true out pitch is my biggest hang up.

RHP Michael Cederoth (Steele Canyon HS, California): 87-90 FB jumped up to 90-93 with 95-96 peak; average CB; 72 SL; good 86-88 cutter; very raw; violent delivery; 6-5, 185