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Washington Nationals 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Nationals 2011 MLB Draft Selections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vanderbilt SR RHP Taylor Hill: 88-91 FB with plus sink, 93-94 peak that I’ve seen with my own two eyes, have heard rumors of him hitting 95; 79-85 plus SL; very good 78-83 sinking CU also called a splitter; mechanics need smoothing out; 6-4, 225 pounds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final 2011 MLB Draft College Third Base Rankings

1. Rice JR 3B Anthony Rendon

*** 2010: .407/.544/.832 – 68 BB/21 K – 226 AB
*** 2011: .337/.536/.550 – 82 BB/30 K – 202 AB

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

2. Georgia Tech JR 3B Matt Skole

*** 2010: .343/.448/.708 – 45 BB/34 K – 233 AB
*** 2011: .362/.457/.570 – 43 BB/31 K – 221 AB

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

3. Vanderbilt JR 3B Jason Esposito

*** 2010: .397/.492/.660 – 37 BB/33 K – 262 AB
*** 2011: .357/.425/.552 – 16 BB/36 K – 230 AB

Esposito’s defense is big league ready, and his hit tool, raw power, and speed all grade out as average future tools at the next level. I swear I was ready to mention Matt Dominguez as a potential comp before reading Baseball America beat me to the punch, but it is a good enough comp that I don’t mind repeating it.

4. Southern Mississippi JR 3B BA Vollmuth

*** 2010: .380/.495/.733 – 44 BB/50 K – 236 AB
*** 2011: .304/.417/.546 – 38 BB/55 K – 207 AB

Some people believe in it, some don’t. Either way, I figured I’d pass along something two different people said to me with respect to BA Vollmuth. Two words were used to describe the Southern Mississippi shortstop: “star quality.” He has the requisite athleticism, arm, and above-average raw power to play third base in the big leagues down the line, but his loopy swing might need a tune-up

5. Arizona JR 3B Andy Burns

*** 2010: .282/.358/.565 – 20 BB/41 K – 177 AB

The only thing I don’t like about Andy Burns is the fact he had to sit out in 2011 after the former Colorado prep star transferred from Kentucky to Arizona. Every thing else is positive including his very good defensive tools (like the two guys sandwiched around him on this list, Burns is a former shortstop), plus arm, above-average speed, quick bat, and good raw power. He also has what could be a great separator if he hopes to crack this draft’s top five rounds: the proven ability to hit with wood. On top of all those legitimate reasons why I like Burns, I also have a strong instinctual feel for him. That’s almost certainly worth nothing to 99.9% of the readers out there, but I know my Mom likes it when I share stuff like that.

6. Miami JR 3B Harold Martinez

*** 2010: .328/.403/.672 – 33 BB/50 K – 241 AB
*** 2011: .328/.416/.424 – 29 BB/38 K – 198 AB

Had a weird moment when I was just about to start writing about Harold Martinez at the same time he came to the plate in the 4th inning against Florida during Regional play. Then I stepped away for a bit only to return to the still unfinished entry on Martinez exactly as he stepped up to bat in the 7th. Now that I see it typed out I realize it probably isn’t all that weird, but after writing about draft prospects almost non-stop over the past week and a half, I may be beginning to lose my mind.

As a prospect, Martinez does more than just time his television appearances well. He typifies what this uninspiring college third base class is all about: heavy duty of the word “but.” His defensive tools are solid and he certainly looks the part of a player capable of manning the hot corner, BUT his inconsistency making the routine play and erratic arm keep him from claiming third base as a sure fire long-term defensive home. He’s already plenty strong with the frame to get even bigger, BUT his above-average raw power fell off big time in 2011, in no small part because his long swing was geared towards the aluminum. He was a highly touted prep player who has played well over three years of competitive ACC ball, BUT he hasn’t dominated the competition in quite the way many had hoped. He’s a solid, potential top five round selection, BUT not a player you can pencil in as a long-term answer at third unless some of questions about his game are answered professionally.

7. Nebraska JR 3B Cody Asche

*** 2010: .335/.393/.565 – 18 BB/45 K – 209 AB
*** 2011: .337/.437/.668 – 36 BB/39 K – 208 AB

“Really like his approach, but have been underwhelmed by his overall package thus far” – that’s what I had in my notes re: Asche coming into the year. I’m happy to say that I’m no longer underwhelmed and now considered myself appropriately whelmed by his performance. I wasn’t alone in worrying that he wouldn’t stick at third coming into the year, but am now ready to go out on a limb and say I think his athleticism and instincts make him underrated at the position. Despite his very powerful throwing arm he’ll never be a good defender at third, but if his plus raw power would look really good if he can at least play at or around average defense as a pro.

8. Clemson JR 3B John Hinson

*** 2010: .370/.433/.635 – 27 BB/40 K – 230 AB
*** 2011: .333/.389/.504 – 22 BB/28 K – 228 AB

A plus hit tool combined with above-average speed and power will get you far professionally, but people smarter than myself have told me some teams question Hinson’s ability to play any one particular spot in the infield with the consistency needed of a regular. Based on my limited looks of him, I can’t say that I necessarily agree with that assessment, but his defensive skillset (good athlete, iffy arm) may make him better suited for second base than third. At either spot, he’s got the bat to make him a potential regular with a couple breaks along the way. He’s got a relatively high floor (easy to see him as a big league utility guy with pop) with the upside of a league average third baseman.

9. Texas State JR 3B Kyle Kubitza

*** 2010: .332/.433/.563 – 38 BB/41 K – 229 AB
*** 2011: .305/.445/.527 – 52 BB/46 K – 220 AB

Kubitza has many of the key attributes you’d want in a third base prospect – good raw power, solid arm strength, and a patient approach at the plate. The biggest question he’ll have to answer is on the defensive side, but I’m on board with the idea that good pro coaching can help him through some of his concentration lapses in the field.

10. TCU SO 3B Jantzen Witte

*** 2010: .415/.455/.592 – 9 BB/17 K – 147 AB
*** 2011: .365/.431/.515 – 28 BB/31 K – 241 AB

I do love a good draft-eligible sophomore, and Witte qualifies as one of the best in 2011. His defensive tools at third base are outstanding, worthy of consideration as top five (with Rendon, Esposito, maybe Burns…) in the college third base class. His swing and approach is geared towards hitting line drives and getting on base, but there’s still enough pop in his bat to keep pitchers honest.

11. Virginia JR 3B Steven Proscia

*** 2010: .325/.377/.548 – 22 BB/41 K – 252 AB
*** 2011: .354/.399/.527 – 17 BB/30 K – 237 AB

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

12. Arizona State JR 3B Riccio Torrez

*** 2010: .386/.482/.627 – 20 BB/37 K – 228 AB – 21/25 SB
*** 2011: .309/.371/.466 – 15 BB/23 K – 204 AB

Torrez seems to finally have found a defensive home at third base. A team could draft him as a true third base prospect now and hope his bat grows into the role, or, and I think this is the more likely outcome, a team could draft him with the idea that he could develop into a versatile utility player. His only standout tool is his raw power, but even that is mitigated somewhat by a swing that currently lacks the proper loft needed to consistently drive balls up and out.

13. Coastal Carolina SR 3B Scott Woodward

*** 2010: .343/.512/.486 – 49 BB/48 K – 210 AB – 58/66 SB
*** 2011: .368/.500/.538 – 32 BB/54 K – 182 AB – 30/34 SB

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

14. Kent State JR 3B Travis Shaw

*** 2010: .330/.453/.622 – 49 BB/41 K – 230 AB
*** 2011: .311/.408/.570 – 39 BB/36 K – 228 AB

Lacking lateral quickness and agility, Shaw’s future at third base is a major question as he enters pro ball. If he can stay at third base — good pre-pitch positioning and quicker than you’d expect reactions give him his best shot — then his big power, great approach, and strong track record with wood would make him a fast riser on draft boards. Most of the industry leaders are already moving him off of third, however, so perhaps I’m being unrealistic in thinking he could someday grow into an average-ish fielder there. Probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: if he is a first baseman at the next level, his value takes a big hit.

15. Texas A&M JR 3B Adam Smith

*** 2010: .263/.357/.495 – 20 BB/53 K – 194 AB
*** 2011: .225/.294/.387 – 12 BB/50 K – 142 AB

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

16. Mercer JR 3B Jacob Tanis

*** 2010: .354/.417/.668 – 21 BB/51 K – 268 AB
*** 2011: .321/.422/.565 – 35 BB/30 K – 237 AB

Tanis is an under the radar prospect who is capable of doing some good things at the next level if given the chance. His defense is good at third, his bat speed is more than adequate, and his athleticism gives him a chance to play a couple different positions in the field going forward.

17. Oklahoma JR 3B Garrett Buechele

*** 2010: .376/.460/.653 – 21 BB/41 K – 242 AB
*** 2011: .293/.354/.423 – 13 BB/31 K – 239 AB

Here’s what I wrote about Buechele last year at this time: “And so begins a stretch of players with starting caliber upside, but high bust potential. Buechele has one of the stronger pure hit tools of this college third base class, and his quickly emerging power make him one to watch. His defense is plenty good enough to stick at third, so the only thing that realistically stands in the way of Buechele succeeding professionally (you know, besides all of the other things that can get in the way for any player drafted) will be high strikeout totals. He’s not as talented as Zack Cox, so don’t take this as a direct comparison, but it seems that Buechele would be best served returning to school to work on honing his pitch recognition skills like the top player on this list managed to do in his sophomore season.”

I’d say most of that holds up today. His defense at third remains fine, but new questions about his power — was the emergence last year real or more of a juiced bat phenomenon? — keep his draft stock from being any higher. Others seem to like him a lot more than I do, for what it’s worth.

18. Texas-Pan American JR 3B Vincent Mejia

*** 2010: .385/.484/.582 – 41 BB/24 K – 208 AB
*** 2011: .337/.455/.479 – 38 BB/36 K – 190 AB

Mejia doesn’t get a lot of nationally recognized prospect love, but I think the guy can play at the next level. He doesn’t have a clear plus tool and may not have the range to play third base, but his approach is sound and his present power is intriguing. I’ve heard from one source that he is a sure fire senior sign candidate in 2012 (i.e. don’t hold your breath waiting for him to get drafted this year). I wonder if a pro team might look to him as a potential catcher, assuming they believe his arm will play behind the plate.

19. Oklahoma State JR 3B Mark Ginther

*** 2010: .311/.364/.547 – 18 BB/38 K – 225 AB
*** 2011: .306/.351/.541 – 16 BB/31 K – 229 AB

I came into the year thinking Ginther was a better player than he has shown, and I still feel that way after another good but not great college season. His athleticism is up there with any college third baseman in the class and his arm strength is an asset defensively, but his hit tool hasn’t shown much progress in his three years with the Cowboys. Ginther certainly looks the part of a potential big league third baseman with three well above-average tools (defense, arm, power) and special athleticism, but it’ll take much more contact and a less loopy swing if he wants to make it as a regular.

20. Tennessee SR 3B Matt Duffy

*** 2010: .304/.385/.444 – 20 BB/36 K – 207 AB
*** 2011: .302/.423/.481 – 29 BB/25 K – 189 AB

Duffy was a deep sleeper top five rounds candidate of mine heading into the 2010 season, so you know I’ve been irrationally high on his talent for a long time now. The Vermont transfer and current Tennesee standout has all of the defensive tools to play a decent shortstop professionally, but profiles better as a potential plus defender at the hot corner. For Duffy, a Jack Hannahan (with more raw power) or Andy LaRoche (with less raw power) type of career is possible.

21. UC Irvine SR 3B Brian Hernandez

*** 2010: .356/.421/.513 – 21 BB/26 K – 236 AB
*** 2011:  .358/.416/.419 – 19 BB/26 K – 229 AB

Last year I wrote: “he’s your typical ‘whole is greater than the sum of his parts’ kind of prospect, with the upside of a big league bench bat if everything breaks right.” I stand by that today (some pop, some speed, some plate discipline), with one additional comment I’ll present straight from my notes: “PLUS fielder.” All caps means you know I’m serious. Hernandez can really pick it at third.

22. Stetson JR 3B Ben Carhart

*** 2011: .349/.395/.500 – 17 BB/17 K – 232 AB

I liked Carhart more on the mound heading into the year, but now think his plus arm, gap power, and improved approach at the plate could play at third.

23. Penn State JR 3B Jordan Steranka

*** 2010: .309/.352/.483 – 10 BB/45 K – 236 AB
*** 2011: .327/.395/.548 – 25 BB/34 K – 217 AB

Steranka gives just about what you’d expect from a player this far down the ranking: a strong arm and some power upside. He also has the advantage of being a steady glove at third, though there are some rumblings that he could be tried behind the plate as a pro.

24. Louisiana Tech JR 3B Matt Threlkeld

*** 2010: .322/.382/.540 – 22 BB/44 K – 239 AB
*** 2011: .287/.383/.478 – 31 BB/46 K – 230 AB

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

25. College of Charleston JR 3B Matt Leeds

*** 2010: .335/.442/.715 – 30 BB/46 K – 241 AB
*** 2011: .353/.454/.681 – 39 BB/60 K – 232 AB

Leeds has big power and a strong track record of showing it, but his average on his best day defense and just good enough arm temper some of the enthusiasm that he’ll play third base regularly as a pro. If his knees check out, he could have a future as a bat-first four corners backup.

26. Southern Mississippi JR 3B Ashley Graeter

*** 2011: .325/.393/.453 – 14 BB/22 K – 117 AB

27. Winthrop JR 3B Chas Crane

*** 2010: .356/.452/.673 – 39 BB/53 K – 208 AB
*** 2011: .280/.415/.338 – 45 BB/46 K – 207 AB

28. Texas A&M JR 3B Matt Juengel

*** 2010: .359/.424/.629 – 13 BB/30 K – 167 AB
*** 2011: .295/.376/.446 – 19 BB/34 K – 224 AB

29. Baylor SO 3B Cal Towey

*** 2010: .305/.434/.505 – 21 BB/31 K – 105 AB
*** 2011: .250/.424/.422 – 29 BB/43 K – 116 AB

30. Oklahoma City SR 3B Kirk Walker

Best Bats of College Baseball’s Opening Weekend (2/18/11 to 2/20/11)

1. Arguably the biggest story to come out of college baseball’s opening weekend (from a prospect standpoint…and before news of Stanford JR LHP Brett Mooneyham’s season-ending finger injury came to the surface) centered on the decision to have Vanderbilt JR 3B Jason Esposito play shortstop. Bigger still, he went out and played it well. Fun question of the day: if Esposito can show to scouts that he can at least play a league average big league shortstop, then he’ll go [fill-in-the-blank] in the 2011 MLB Draft. Top half of the first round, no doubt…right? Top ten? Higher? I know Ryan Zimmerman is the name often thrown around when talking Rice JR 3B Anthony Rendon, but I think it is a really natural comparison for Esposito.

2. Other notable position “switches”: LSU 3B FR JaCoby Jones played 2B, Tulane JR C Jeremy Schaffer played 3B (a spot where he has some prior experience), and Washington SR 1B Troy Scott played 3B (ditto). Schaffer and Scott are mid-round guys here in 2011, but Jones has first round upside in 2013. I want to sit down and do preliminary rankings for 2012 and 2013 sometime before this June.  In a vacuum, Jones has top ten potential, but I’ll need to see where he stacks up in what looks to be a strong 2013 draft class.

3. The LSU staff has three years to move JaCoby Jones around the infield, and, as mentioned, Schaffer and Scott are mid-round guys at best. That leaves the position switch with the most immediate and significant draft prospect consequence as the move of Utah JR C CJ Cron playing first base all weekend long. The switch was not entirely unexpected – Cron’s defense behind the plate has never been his strong suit, plus he has played 1B for the Utes in the past – but the buzz surrounding it makes it seem less and less likely that Cron will don the tools of ignorance much at all in 2011.

A few completely random interesting hitting lines of the weekend, complete with equally random commentary…

College of Charleston JR “C” Rob Kral (2011): 667/714/778 (6-9, 2B, RBI, 5 R, 4 BB/0 K)

  • Kral may not be a catcher professionally, but, man, can he hit. Great patience and great power typically leads to great things…

North Carolina State JR C Pratt Maynard (2011): 538/571/692 (7-13, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 3 R)

Mississippi SR C Miles Hamblin (2011): 444/643/778  (4-9, HR, 4 RBI, 4 R, 3 BB/3 K, 3/3 SB)

Oklahoma SO 2B Max White (2012): 467/556/667 (7-15, 3 2B, 6 R, 4 RBI, 3 HBP, 1/1 SB)

  • As great as that line looks, White’s defense at second drew the most praise over the weekend. Pretty amazing considering White is a converted outfield learning the position as he goes.

Tennessee JR 2B Khayyan Norfork (2011): 556/667/1.222 (5-9, HR, 3B, 2B, 4 RBI, 3 R, 1/2 SB)

  • I ignored all of the positive buzz coming out of Tennessee’s fall/winter practices and, even though it has only been one weekend, I regret it. I did say this: “Khayyan Norfork might just be the player primed to make the biggest rise up draft boards of the players listed.” Really nice blend of speed, pop, and defense…

Florida SO SS Nolan Fontana (2012): 750/786/833 (9-12, 2B, 5 R, 2 HBP, K, 1/1 SB)

Clemson JR SS Brad Miller (2011): 375/643/375 (3-8, 5 R, 2 RBI, 6 BB/0 K, 4/4 SB)

  • Didn’t have the power numbers of many players on the list, but easy to love that BB/K ratio.

Texas Tech JR SS Kelby Tomlinson (2011): 583/667/583 (7-12, 6 RBI, 3 R, 5 BB/1 K, 5/6 SB)

Arizona State JR 3B Riccio Torrez (2011): 462/462/1.231 (6-13, 3 HR, 2B, 7 RBI, 4 R, 2-2 SB)

Oklahoma JR 3B Garrett Buechele (2011): 625/700/1.188 (10-16, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 4 R)

Texas A&M JR 3B Matt Juengel (2011): 455/500/1.364 (5-11, 2 HR, 2 3B, 7 RBI, 5 R)

Texas FR 3B Erich Weiss (2013): 818/824/1.273 (9-11, 2 3B, 2B, 7 RBI, 6 R, 5 BB/0 K, 1/1 SB)

Southern Carolina JR OF Jackie Bradley (2011): 583/615/1.083 (7-12, HR, 3 2B, 3 RBI, 4 R)

UAB JR OF Jamal Austin (2011): 462/462/538 (6-13, 2B, RBI, 2 R, 3/4 SB)

Kent State SR OF Ben Klafczynski (2011): 538/571/538 (7-13, RBI, 2 R)

Stanford FR OF Austin Wilson (2013): 500/500/750 (6-12, HR, 4 RBI, R, 1/1 SB)

  • With the first pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, the New York Yankees select…

LSU JR OF Mikie Mahtook (2011): 444/545/1.778 (4-9, 4 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R)

  • I tried to limit the list to one player per college, but leaving fellow Tigers JaCoby Jones and Tyler Hanover off pained me greatly. Mahtook’s decision to only hit home runs could really pay off this year…

Honorable Mention! Virginia SR C Kenny Swab (2011): 000/571/000 (0-6, 5 R, 6 BB, 2 HBP, 2/2 SB)

Honorable Mention 2.0! Any JMU player. Five different players slugged over 1.100 over the weekend: Tenaglia, Herbek, Foltz, Knight, and Lowery. I was most impressed with SO OF Johnny Bladel’s 533/720/733 (6/3 BB/K and 5/5 SB) line. He’s my very early super sneaky 2012 first round possibility.

2011 MLB Draft – Top 30 College 3B Follow List

Whatever the term “franchise player” means to you, consider that the upside of Anthony Rendon. Will teams still think this highly of Andy Burns even after he sits out 2011 after transferring in from Kentucky? Adam Smith is a tools gamble much liked highly ranked Oregon State C Andrew Susac; both were highly touted preps who have had up-and-down collegiate careers, but remain highly regarded by most talent evaluators. There are some really good names lower on this list than I anticipated (Hinson, Buechele, Ginther, Asche, Proscia, and Bream, to name a few), but this year’s draft class is just that strong.

  1. Rice JR 3B Anthony Rendon
  2. Southern Mississippi JR 3B BA Vollmuth
  3. Vanderbilt JR 3B Jason Esposito
  4. Georgia Tech JR 3B Matt Skole
  5. Miami JR 3B Harold Martinez
  6. Arizona JR 3B Andy Burns
  7. Arizona State JR 3B Riccio Torrez
  8. Wichita State JR 3B Johnny Coy
  9. Texas A&M JR 3B Adam Smith
  10. Kent State JR 3B Travis Shaw
  11. Clemson JR 3B John Hinson
  12. Texas State JR 3B Kyle Kubitza
  13. Winthrop JR 3B Chas Crane
  14. Coastal Carolina SR 3B Scott Woodward
  15. Oklahoma JR 3B Garrett Buechele
  16. TCU SO 3B Jantzen Witte
  17. Texas JR 3B Kevin Lusson
  18. Texas-Pan American JR 3B Vincent Mejia
  19. San Francisco SR 3B Steven Yarrow
  20. Tarleton State SR 3B Chris Casazza
  21. Oklahoma State JR 3B Mark Ginther
  22. Nebraska JR 3B Cody Asche
  23. Texas A&M JR 3B Matt Juengel
  24. Virginia JR 3B Steven Proscia
  25. Louisiana Tech JR 3B Matt Threlkeld
  26. College of Charleston JR 3B Matt Leeds
  27. Oklahoma City SR 3B Kirk Walker
  28. Baylor SO 3B Cal Towey
  29. Liberty JR 3B Tyler Bream
  30. East Carolina JR 3B Corey Thompson

2011 MLB Draft: Fearless Prediction #1

  • Rice JR 3B Anthony Rendon will be the first overall pick of the 2011 MLB Draft.

Not exactly the boldest of statements, I know. This first prediction of 2011 is a tad lame at face value, so, if nothing else, consider it my personal attempt at curtailing some of this “the top of the 2011 draft is wide open” talk that I’ve read over the past few months. To me, this is a prediction that doesn’t really need to be made because Rendon going to Pittsburgh is as much of a lock as any projected pick can be six months out. However, this isn’t the universally accepted truth that I expected it to be by this point. Rendon is the best prospect in this year’s draft by a wide enough margin that I have to believe that there are only three realistic reasons why somebody would question it at this point…

1. Desire to be different in an effort to stand apart from the pack and draw traffic (a tactic I pass no judgment on, by the way)

2. Lack of faith in Pittsburgh’s front office to make the “right” choice

3. General restlessness after incredibly predictable first overall picks in 2009 and 2010

As mentioned, the first reason is cool with me. For some, it gets pretty darn boring when one prospect stands so far above the rest. When that’s the case, it is only natural to shake things up and claim another prospect superior. As an added bonus, and perhaps the real reason some consistently love to take the contrary point, if you’re right about an off the wall prediction, then you look like a genius. If you’re wrong, well, at least you went down in a blaze of glory.

***

There are some interesting, and hopefully less cynical, reasons why somebody might think Rendon would slip. In the interest of fairness, here they are…

1. Rendon’s recovery from injury (practices have reportedly gone quite well, but some choose to wait until the games start to pass final judgment…)

2. Genuine appreciation of his draft competition, most notably the two high profile college pitching prospects UCLA RHP Gerrit Cole and TCU LHP Matt Purke

3. Any baseball talk in winter is a good thing, manufactured or not

***

All legitimate reasons in my view, but nothing there is evidence enough that he’ll go anywhere but first overall. The second reason is the most intriguing because both Cole and Purke are outstanding prospects who deserve to at least be in the conversation at this point, but, really, it ends there. They deserve to be in the conversation and nothing more. There are some really strong prep pitchers who might otherwise make a run for the top spot, but none of the big names — you’ll see which names in due time, I promise — really stack up to Cole and Purke, let alone Rendon. Same thing goes for the strong group of college position players this year. The idea floated by some that George Springer is in the mix to go first overall boggles my mind. Really nice prospect, no doubt, but comparing the two players, both statistically and from a scouting perspective, isn’t fair. The quick notes I have on Rendon, all taken prior to the 2010 season:

SO 3B Anthony Rendon (2011): special power, could be plus-plus in-game by graduation; can be inconsistent with glove, but truly excellent defensive tools (great hands, above-average mobility); weakest tool is speed, which is merely average; plus arm; rare discipline at plate, approaches every at bat like a professional; very popular Ryan Zimmerman comp, but has also been compared to Evan Longoria and Gordon Beckham

And then he went out and did this (slash lines are park/league adjusted): .407/.544/.832 with 68/21 BB/K and 15/19 SB

Most amazingly, Rendon did his best Joe Dimaggio impression by putting up the following (these aren’t park/league adjusted, just raw totals): 26 HR/22 K

  • Rice JR 3B Anthony Rendon will be the first overall pick of the 2011 MLB Draft.