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2013 MLB Draft Conference Preview: Pac-12

Time for the Pac-12’s time in the sun. From where I’m sitting, the conference looks a little light in position players but plenty strong in arms. There are a few impact, early-round talents to account for in the position player group (Austin Wilson very clearly leading the way, trailed by Brian Ragira and Andrew Knapp) and some nice depth thereafter, but most of the talent in the 2013 draft class will be found on the mound. Mark Appel headlines the pitching talent with over a dozen names in serious competition to be selected second from the group. Should be a fun, competitive year with talent fairly evenly spread throughout the league. The one thing that shocked me when going through the Pac-12 rosters was the lack of interesting talent on what tends to be a traditionally strong Arizona State squad. Stanford, UCLA, Oregon, and Oregon State look to be the class of the conference, at least in terms of future professional talent. Alright, enough of that…let’s get to some 2013 MLB Draft talk.

Here’s the key for the player lists:

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

Here we go…

C

  • California JR C Andrew Knapp
  • Oregon State JR C Jake Rodriguez 
  • Washington State JR C Collin Slaybaugh
  • Arizona State SR C Max Rossiter 
  • Southern California JR C Jake Hernandez
  • Washington JR C Ryan Wiggins
  • Stanford JR C Brant Whiting

Without giving it a ton of thought, I think it is fair to include Andrew Knapp on any short list of best draft-eligible college catching prospects in the country. He made a really nice jump between his freshman and sophomore seasons, and I expect more of the same heading into his junior year. It is probably unfair to peg him as a “breakout” candidate for 2013 — he’s too big a name for that, I think — but a .300/.400/.500 season with improved defense behind the plate doesn’t seem out of the question. Neither Jake Rodriguez nor Collin Slaybaugh profile as everyday catchers, but both guys do enough well at the plate that their defensive versatility (infield for Rodriguez, outfield for Slaybaugh) means something beyond just a novelty. Rodriguez, who probably has the tools to play any spot on the diamond in a pinch, is especially intriguing thanks to his speed, arm, power to the gaps, and better by the day defense behind the plate. Max Rossiter and Jake Hernandez are both really good defenders who can give you a little something at the plate as well; Rossiter in particular looks like a really strong senior sign this year.

1B

  • Oregon JR 1B Ryon Healy
  • Oregon State SR 1B Danny Hayes
  • Washington State rJR 1B Adam Nelubowich
  • California rJR 1B Devon Rodriguez 
  • Arizona JR 1B Brandon Dixon
  • Stanford SR 1B Justin Ringo
  • California JR 1B Jacob Wark
  • UCLA JR 1B Pat Gallagher
  • Oregon JR 1B Jake Jelmini
  • Arizona JR 1B Sam Parris

Healy in a nutshell, from my notes: “loved him out of HS, but now a 1B only [was a 3B in HS] so he’ll have to hit a ton to make it.” I still believe in the bat, but admit to liking Healy a little bit more than your usual 1B prospect thanks to the “break glass in case of emergency” option that is his right arm. His most direct path to the big leagues is via his bat, obviously, though his mid-90s fastball past could give him an alternate route if necessary. Danny Hayes is a legitimately great college hitter. His ability to control the strike zone, hit for power, and do it all while operating at far less than 100% physically makes him one of my favorite 2013 prospects to watch. Still, the road to the upper-levels of professional ball is littered with great college hitters who can’t replicate their success enough to make it once hitting becomes a full-time job. Adam Nelubowich has a lot of fans in the scouting community, but I’m still reticent to go all-in on him as a prospect. For all the beauty of his swing and the clearly evident raw power, he hasn’t had a whole lot of positive outcomes as a college player. I think most of his backers would also argue fairly strongly against his placement on the 1B list, citing his decent foot speed, solid reactions, and overall improved defense at the hot corner. As even a slightly below-average 3B, I’d put him on top of the list of eligible PAC-12 prospects, but, for now, I’ll stick with my perhaps overly conservative approach.

2B

  • Stanford JR 2B Lonnie Kauppila
  • UCLA JR 2B Kevin Williams
  • Arizona State JR 2B Mike Benjamin 
  • Stanford JR 2B Brett Michael Doran
  • Oregon JR 2B Aaron Payne
  • Southern California SR 2B Adam Landecker

Lonnie Kauppila should be listed with the shortstops — he’s very good there — but I like his defense so much at second base, where he has the potential to be at or near the top of whatever league ranking he’s in, that he stays here for now. Ultimately, his value will likely come as a defense-first backup middle infielder, so it won’t really matter what position is his primary spot going forward. Kevin Williams is enough middle infielder with legitimate plus defensive ability and outstanding athleticism in the conference. Mike Benjamin has the most pop out of the group, so consider his a name to follow this spring. Fun line on Brett Michael Doran, from my notes: “walks and talks like a big league veteran.” So, if nothing else, he’s got that going for him.

3B

  • Oregon State JR 3B Jerad Casper
  • UCLA SR 3B Cody Regis
  • Southern California JR 3B Kevin Swick
  • Utah JR 3B Trey Nielsen

Third base is easily the weakest position group in the conference with a strong likelihood that no Pac-12 prospect manning the hot corner will get drafted this June. The steady fielding Jerad Casper has the best chance at the moment, though much remains to be seen in how his bat will translate to major college ball. Cody Regis will likely play little to no 3B this spring for UCLA, but has shown enough there to warrant a switch back if he gets a shot in pro ball. Swick gets high marks for his instincts and intelligence on the diamond, and his power upside remains intriguing, but he’ll have to come a long way with the bat to get noticed in time for the draft this summer. The only thing I have on Nielsen in my notes outside of basic biographical information is that he can spin a good breaking ball. That’s a positive to be sure, but not exactly what you want your calling card to be as a third base prospect.

SS

  • Oregon State SR SS Tyler Smith
  • Oregon SR SS JJ Altobelli
  • Oregon State JR SS Kavin Keyes
  • UCLA JR SS Pat Valaika
  • Southern California JR SS Jimmy Roberts
  • California JR SS Derek Campbell
  • Washington State rSO SS Trace Tam Sing
  • Stanford JR SS Danny Diekroeger
  • Oregon State JR SS Andy Peterson

I’d say it isn’t every season that a team finds itself with three draft-eligible shortstop prospects of note, but Oregon State has managed to pull off the trick in 2013. Tyler Smith is a steady glove with enough range and arm for the left side who is coming off an unexpected power explosion in 2012. Kavin Keyes can play average defense at short, third, and second, but will need to show a little more with the bat in 2013 to get more pro attention. Andy Peterson is coming off of two productive years at Santa Ana JC and comes highly regarded, though he’ll have to do his best to get at bats when he can behind both Smith (SS) and Keyes (2B). JJ Altobelli, Derek Campbell, and Trace Tam Sing can all more than hold their own in the field. I think it is worth mentioning that there were plenty of rumblings out of Stanford last spring that Danny was the better ballplayer than his older brother Kenny. Not necessarily the better prospect — though I’m sure some were willing to go that far — but the better ballplayer. Many casual draft fans get angry at this kind of logic — if he’s better now, how can he not be the better prospect? — but projection is king in the world of prospecting.

OF

  • Stanford JR OF Austin Wilson
  • Stanford JR OF Brian Ragira
  • UCLA SO OF Eric Filia-Snyder
  • Washington State JR OF Jason Monda
  • Arizona JR OF Johnny Field
  • UCLA JR OF Brenton Allen
  • Washington JR OF Will Sparks
  • Oregon SR OF Andrew Mendenhall 
  • Utah JR OF Braden Anderson
  • Oregon JR OF Connor Hofmann
  • Southern California SR OF Greg Zebrack
  • Oregon JR OF Kyle Garlick
  • Washington SR OF Michael Camporeale
  • California SR OF Vince Bruno
  • Oregon JR OF Brett Thomas
  • Southern California JR OF Omar Cotto Lozada
  • Oregon SR OF/RHP Ryan Hambright
  • Oregon State SR OF Ryan Barnes
  • Oregon State SR OF Joey Matthews
  • Utah SR OF Connor Eppard
  • Arizona State JR OF Kasey Coffman
  • Arizona State JR OF James McDonald
  • Arizona State rSO OF Trever Allen
  • Washington SR OF Jayce Ray
  • UCLA JR OF Brian Carroll
  • Oregon JR OF Tyler Baumgartner
  • Stanford JR OF Brian Guymon
  • Washington State rJR OF Brett Jacobs

There are some things to work on with Austin Wilson — a few swing issues that need ironing out, specifically his comically high back elbow that slows the whole operation down, and pitch recognition problems that may or may not be fixable with more at bats — but few amateur players across this country possess his blend of plus-plus power, much of it already present in-game, plus-plus arm strength, and above-average athleticism all wrapped up in a tight end strong 6-5, 250 pound frame.  I do find it interesting — not good, not bad, just interesting — that after two years of college we’ve learned so little about Wilson as a prospect. He’s pretty much the same player he was as a senior in high school that he is now. Here’s what I wrote about him then:

The comps for Wilson range from silly (Dave Winfield) to topical (Andre Dawson) to “man, I feel old comparing high school kids to players I loved when I was 10″ (Juan Gonzalez, Moises Alou) to intriguingly ultra-modern and therefore ultra-hip (Mike Taylor, Mike Stanton) all the way to completely made up by me just now (Shawn Green, Ellis Burks). It goes without saying that Wilson hitting his ceiling would be blessed to have a career like any of the players listed above (minus the minor leaguers, I suppose), but they do provide some context into what has been said about Wilson’s upside as a prospect so far. The two current minor league comps stick out to me as particularly interesting; Mike Stanton is a comp that mixes Wilson’s most immediate “realistic” upside as top minor league prospect with an equally plausible estimation of his tools (power, arm, good enough speed, should be good defenders in the corner), and Mike Taylor’s name serves as a reminder that Stanford commits like Wilson are always a pain in the neck to get signed.

Power, arm, good enough speed (especially for his size), should be good defender in a corner (RF)…I’d say all that holds true today. We still don’t know for sure about his plate discipline, other than what he’s actually done on the field thus far (7 BB/53 K as freshman, 25 BB/42 K as sophomore) and what little has been observed about his inability to pick up and hit good breaking stuff. One comp that I didn’t mention back in his high school days that I think makes a world of sense now, at least in terms of hitting style and build (especially if you don’t love his plate discipline outlook): former National and current Mariner Michael Morse. I think Morse represents a fairly realistic baseline for Wilson, if/when Wilson makes it as a big league regular.

Wilson’s teammate, Brian Ragira, is a hard player to figure defensively. As great as Ragira is at first base, his offensive profile fits much, much nicer in right field. I think he has the athleticism for it, but the emergence of Dominic Smith, first base defensive whiz at the high school level, has me reconsidering my view a bit. See, Smith is such an excellent glove at first that I wouldn’t want to move him off the position even if I thought he could become an average or better glove (I do think this, by the way) in an outfield corner. If Ragira can offer the same defensive upside at first base — and many think his glove at first is on par with Smith’s for best overall in the class — then maybe you keep him there, reap the defensive rewards, and pray that the bat can at least become average or even slightly below-average for the position in time. I’d still roll the dice on him in right field — he was an excellent defender in CF as a high schooler, if memory serves — and wait out his plus raw power, mature approach (which I could see really taking a leap forward in BB/K results this year), and quick bat developing over time.

The two UCLA prospects are exactly that: prospects. If the high ranking seems unusually aggressive, then, well, it probably is. Eric Filia-Snyder has all of 53 college at bats to his name. Brenton Allen has 24 total at bats in two post-high school years. A lot of faith is being put in Filia-Snyder’s advanced hit tool and Allen’s raw speed/power combination, doubly so when you combine the lack of experience with the unfortunate truth that both guys have below-average arms that will likely limit them to LF professionally. Jason Monda remains too aggressive for his own good at the plate, but flashes enough speed, arm, power, and athleticism to remain interesting. Johnny Field is totally different: his physical tools are all underwhelming, but he can roll out of bed ready to hit line drives. If he can play 2B, as some believe, he could be a fast riser this spring.

Where things get really interesting is the next tier down. The Pac-12 is absolutely loaded with plus running athletes up and down the league. With most of these guys you’re trading some degree of refinement and experience for said speed and athleticism, but if you gamble and wind up taking the right one, you’ll be sitting pretty.  Sparks, Mendenhall, Anderson, and Hofmann all have the sheer physical skills to rank third behind only the two Stanford standouts in terms of ceiling.  Sparks showed well in limited chances last year, and has the best raw power of the bunch. Mendenhall remains intriguing because of the relative low price tag the senior sign figures to jump at, not to mention his higher than usual ceiling for a fourth year player. Anderson is the best runner of the group and Hofmann, the rawest of the four, offers the widest range of current tools (arm, speed, hit, range). Then there’s Omar Cotto Lozada, a player described in my notes as “if Usain bolt played baseball.” I think that comparison is probably more true than even Cotto Lozada would like: you love the plus-plus-plus speed he brings, but his current skill level at the plate is closer to what you’d expect from a real deal non-baseball player like Bolt. Greg Zebrack doesn’t fit this speed/athleticism mold — his game is more power, smarts, and approach — but he’s a fun story to watch (started at USC, then went to Penn, where I saw him, and now back at USC for grad school) as a potential late-round senior sign.

SP

  • Stanford JR RHP Mark Appel
  • Oregon rJR LHP Christian Jones
  • UCLA JR RHP Adam Plutko
  • Stanford JR RHP AJ Vanegas
  • UCLA JR RHP Zack Weiss
  • UCLA JR RHP Nick Vander Tuig
  • Arizona State JR RHP Trevor Williams
  • Oregon JR RHP Jimmie Sherfy
  • Oregon State JR RHP Dan Child
  • Oregon rSO RHP Clayton Crum
  • Arizona JR RHP Konner Wade
  • Oregon State SR LHP Matt Boyd
  • Washington SR RHP Josh Fredendall
  • Oregon State JR LHP Ben Wetzler 
  • Oregon State SR RHP Cole Brocker 
  • Oregon State SR RHP Tony Bryant 
  • California JR LHP Mike Theofanopoulos
  • Oregon JR RHP Brando Tessar
  • Utah SR RHP Zach Adams
  • Arizona State SR RHP Alex Blackford
  • California SR LHP Justin Jones
  • Washington State JR RHP JD Leckenby
  • Oregon rJR RHP Jeff Gold
  • Washington rJR RHP Nick Palewicz 
  • Washington JR RHP Austin Voth
  • Oregon State rSR RHP Taylor Starr
  • Arizona SR RHP Tyler Hale
  • Arizona JR RHP James Farris
  • Oregon State JR RHP Scott Schultz
  • Stanford rJR LHP Garrett Hughes
  • California rSO RHP Dylan Nelson
  • UCLA rJR RHP Ryan Deeter
  • Arizona SR RHP Nick Cunningham
  • California rJR RHP Seth Spivack
  • Utah JR RHP Ben Mordini 
  • California JR LHP Kyle Porter
  • Washington JR RHP Tyler Kane
  • Stanford SR RHP Dean McArdle 
  • Southern California JR LHP Kyle Richter
  • Washington JR RHP Trevor Dunlap
  • Oregon State JR RHP Clay Bauer
  • Oregon State rSO LHP Tyler Painton
  • California SR RHP Ryan Wertenberger 
  • Southern California JR RHP James Guillen
  • Arizona State SR LHP Matt Dunbar
  • Washington JR RHP Jeff Brigham
  • Southern California SR RHP Matt Munson
  • Arizona SR LHP Vince Littleman
  • Utah SR RHP Brock Duke
  • Utah SR RHP Joe Pond 
  • California SR RHP Logan Scott
  • Utah SR RHP Chase Rezac
  • Southern California JR LHP Bobby Wheatley
  • Washington State JR RHP Kellen Camus
  • Washington JR RHP Zach Wright
  • Washington State rSO RHP Scott Simon
  • Utah JR LHP Tanner Banks
  • Stanford SR RHP Sahil Bloom

Here’s what we said about Appel last June, no reason to switch it up now (updated only to indicate change in year and height/weight):

Stanford SR RHP Mark Appel: sits 93-97 with four-seamer, hitting 99; holds velocity late: still at 94-95 in ninth innings; all FBs typically between 90-95; 88-92 two-seam FB with excellent sink; excellent FB command, but gets in trouble with too many hitter’s strikes – almost a little bit of a great control vs. good command situation; FB also gets in trouble at higher velocity when it flattens out and comes in too straight, especially when he forgets about two-seamer; sat consistently 96-98 with FB in summer 2011; easiest high velocity arm in class by a wide margin; rarely dips below 92; opening start 2012: 91-95 FB, 97 peak; above-average 82-84 SL that remains inconsistent; low-80s CU; for me, he’s at his best when he is 92-94 with plus sink and throwing lots of SL, sometimes gets too dependent on FB and overthrows it causing him to miss up in the zone; as the spring moved on, his SL improved considerably, though it lacks the sharpness and break of a true SL (it is more of a hybrid-breaking ball at this point) – now it is a more consistent, though still not reliable, 82-85 pitch with plus upside that can reach even higher (86-87 when he rears back); 80-85 circle CU with very good sink is currently an average big league pitch with plus upside – it is currently his best swing and miss pitch and my favorite of his offspeed offerings; can get in trouble showing too much of the ball in his delivery; no denying his raw stuff – taken individually, each pitch grades out as above-average to plus down the line, but the inability to throw all three pitches for strikes on any given day continues to be his downfall; downfall is, of course, relative – he still has the upside to be a frontline starter with the realistic floor of big league innings eater; 6-5, 215 pounds

He’s good. The gap between Appel and the next best pitching prospect in the conference is immense. That’s not to say there aren’t other high upside arms to be found — a quick glance at the UCLA roster disproves this notion in a hurry — but rather demonstrates the wonderful high ceiling/high floor projection that Appel carries with him. The aforementioned UCLA staff is so deep that my favorite pro arm can’t currently crack the weekend rotation. Zack Weiss has had an up and down career for the Bruins thus far, but possesses the three above-average pitches (FB/CB/SL) that could help him take off once given a more consistent opportunity.  Adam Plutko and Nick Vander Tuig, in line to start Friday and Saturday respectively this spring, are no prospect slouches in their own right. Plutko doesn’t blow his fastball by hitters, but the pitch still grades out as a consistent plus offering thanks to pinpoint command and exceptional late movement.  He’ll also flash a plus low-70s curve and work in solid but unspectacular changeups and sliders. I’m pretty sure just reviewing my notes and typing this out has convinced me to swap the two guys on my list. Just goes to show how important the fastball extras (command and movement) can be, especially when joined with beautiful, consistent mechanics. Vanegas, recently shut down due to injury, has back of the bullpen stuff that should help him take a huge step up in 2013, if his health allows it. The previously mentioned Vander Tuig and Trevor Williams feel like kindred spirits from a scouting perspective:  underwhelming performances, but optimism going forward thanks to fastballs with good sink, changeups that flash plus, and occasionally impressive breaking stuff. Lost in this discussion thus far is the man ranked one spot below Appel, Christian Jones. If Jones returns to even 80% of his pre-injury form before draft day, a team would be wise taking a chance on him early on. Jimmy Sherfy will be an interesting draft day case in that his numbers are second to none (14.38 K/9 in 2012) while his stuff is far more good than dominant. Dan Child fits the power-armed relief ace role more easily with a more consistently hot fastball and intimidating size (6-5, 225 pounds to Sherfy’s 6-0, 180), but hasn’t had quite the same kind of oppressive strikeout totals to date.

The overall depth of this year’s group of Pac-12 arms is quite impressive. I’m stuck wanting to talk about just about every name listed. For the sake of brevity I’ll just highlight a few interesting cases. Guys who stand out to me at this moment include Konner Wade (so well-rounded, plus sinking fastball), Matt Boyd (lefty, deep arsenal, good deception, very smart), Josh Fredenhall (everything down in zone, always), Zach Adams (inconsistent velocity, more inconsistent control, but electric when everything is working), JD Leckenby (underwhelming numbers but good stuff and excellent competitor), Taylor Starr (been in school for what seems like a decade, has endured multiple health challenges but shown good stuff when right), and Ben Mordini (one of the few players with an element of his game so bad I’d use the adjective “horrible” [control] but still flashes good stuff and can strike batters out). I feel bad leaving so many deserving pitchers without comments, so feel free to drop me a line via email or in the comments if there’s anything else that you’d like to see unearthed. One last name because I can’t help myself: Austin Voth (think I may be badly underrating him, but he throws strikes and has really good feel for his offspeed stuff, especially the change).

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.

Alternate Reality MLB Mock Draft 2010: The NFL Takes Over

Roger Goodell rules the NFL with an iron fist, does he not? After finally tiring of wielding his unprecedented power of America’s Game, the commissioner now has set his sights on making big changes to America’s Pastime. First change? Unifying the draft order between the two sports. That’s right. This year’s MLB Draft order will be taken directly from the recently completed 2010 NFL Draft. As soon as the Rams went on the clock last night, so did the Cardinals. When the Lions celebrated taking the draft’s best player with the second overall pick, scouts for the Tigers were pouring over scouting reports of players they never believed they’d have a chance to get under the previous draft rules. Get the idea? Good. Prepare for more inanity with yet another Friday edition of an Alternate Reality Mock Draft!

1.1 St. Louis Rams/Cardinals: C Bryce Harper – Southern Nevada

As one of the few who believes Jimmy Clausen will be a better pro QB than Sam Bradford, allow me to express my hypocritical bewilderment that anybody in his/her right mind could think of a realistic scenario where Bryce Harper does not go first overall in the 2010 MLB Draft. The very thought of Harper not going first overall is pure lunacy, but, as mentioned, I realize that such a statement is at least a tad hypocritical coming from somebody who prefers a second round quarterback to the consensus number one pick in the draft. I’ve been told by certain fellow NFL Draft nuts that Bradford is leap years ahead of Clausen as a prospect; these certain people are ridiculously devoted to following college football and the NFL Draft, and, for whatever it’s worth, have dozens more meaningful contacts within the NFL than I do within MLB. They tell me that all, or at the very least nearly all, 32 teams have Bradford above Clausen on their boards. They tell me that certain teams viewed Bradford as the best QB prospect since Eli Manning. You’d think I’d be smart and defer to their expertise, but…no. I’m stupid. I admit it, but, based on what I’ve seen and read, I just like Clausen more. The doubts about his game are less significant to me than the ones surrounding Bradford. I get that some people may feel the same way about the gigantic risks associated with taking a prospect likely to demand more money than any silly junior college catcher should ever ask for. That’s fine. I’m being stupid about Clausen, so they can be stupid about Harper. Who am I to judge?

1.2 Detroit Lions/Tigers: RHP Jameson Taillon – The Woodlands HS (Texas)

Fireballing righthanded pitcher goes to Detroit with an early round selection. Feels vaguely familiar, doesn’t it? Taillon going second overall isn’t quite the slam dunk that picking Ndamukong Suh was, but it’s pretty close. Verlander-Porcello-Scherzer-Turner-Taillon. Scary.

1.3 Tampa (Bay) Buccaneers/Rays: RHP AJ Cole – Oviedo HS (Florida)

Stubbornly sticking with Cole as the second prep pitcher off the board, but slowly beginning to soften my once Gerald McCoy-esque strong position on the subject. Am I forcing these NFL Draft analogies a little bit? Anyway, as for the Tampa connection to the pick, well, I’d be lying if I had any actual idea what direction they’d go with their pick of any non-Harper/non-Taillon player on the board available. The Rays have very few easily discernible draft patterns, with perhaps the one exception being an emphasis on long-term upside stemming from faith in their magic touch with in-house player development. Cole or Karsten Whitson certainly fit the bill on the upside tip, and I was tempted to give them a bat like Manny Machado or Nick Castellanos. Ultimately, Baby Verlander is the pick.

1.4 Washington Redskins/Nationals: LHP Drew Pomeranz – Mississippi

Stephen Strasburg is joined by the potentially quick moving Pomeranz as a lethal 1-2 combination atop the Nationals rotation. If the presence of two ace caliber pitchers can’t get the fans out to the ballpark in Washington, nothing short of actually moving the Redskins back to the District will.

1.5 Kansas City Chiefs/Royals: RHP Karsten Whitson – Chipley HS (Florida)

Back in December I wrote this about Whitson: “Whitson, currently ranked fourth in this little subgroup, has a potential dynamite 1-2 punch with his fastball (sitting 91-93, hitting 95-96) and slider (works best in the mid-80s, but has shown up as a less effective slurvy high-70s CB at times), but I think his mechanics will need something pretty close to a complete overhaul as a professional.”

Sounds like the slider has tightened up a great deal this spring and his changeup is much improved. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway – that’s very, very good news for his prospect stock. Next stop, consensus top ten pick!

1.6 Seattle Seahawks/Mariners: 3B Zack Cox – Arkansas

Wanted to give Jack Z an elite projectable high school arm or a plus defender at a premium defensive position, but, alas, no such player exists at this point in the draft. Cox, far and away the best college position player in 2010, is a swell consolation prize and, as an added bonus, gives the Seattle system someone with much needed power upside.

1.7 Cleveland Browns/Indians: RHP Deck McGuire – Georgia Tech

Both Cleveland and Kansas City stinking in both baseball and football really make this mock easy for me. I really like McGuire to Cleveland in a real mock, so it only makes sense to stick with him here.

1.8 Oakland Raiders/Athletics: RHP Anthony Ranaudo – Louisiana State

Buffalo and Jacksonville, owners of the next two picks in the NFL Draft’s first round, will both have to enjoy CJ Spiller and Tyson Alaualu instead of partaking in my fake NFL/MLB mock amalgalmation here. Injured college starting pitchers are the new Moneyball! I may not like a healthy Ranaudo as much as many seem to, but even I can’t quibble with a pro team scouting him and scouting him and scouting him until they are happy enough to slap a top ten grade on him. I’m opinionated, no doubt, but I also know my limitations; Ranaudo may not be my guy, but I can at least appreciate why some team is likely to grade him out as a top ten prospect.

1.9 Denver Broncos/Colorado Rockies: OF Austin Wilson – Harvard-Westlake HS (California)

Broncos? NFL? Draft? That can only mean one thing! TebowTebowTebowTebowTebowTebowTebowTebowTebow…

1.10 Miami Dolphins/Florida Marlins: SS Manny Machado – Brito HS (Florida)

Not really sure how well Machado would fit in Parcells’ 3-4, but he could potentially serve as a long-term successor to Hanley Ramirez in case the Marlins MVP ever has to move off the position. Also, he’s a local product and, let’s face it, lazy writers love plugging in local players to their nearest pro team when they have no other idea how to finish a mock…

Alternate Reality MLB Mock Draft 2010: The Name Game

Same warning as last year before we go on…

Don’t freak out, this isn’t a “real” mock draft.

We did this last year, and we’re trying it again here in 2010 as a Friday feature leading up until the draft. Alternate Reality Mock Drafts. I’ve got some pretty fun ones planned this year, but we’ll kick things off with perhaps the most nonsensical version – the Name Game. Let’s pretend for a second that Bud Selig is utterly incompetent, out of touch, and flat out bad at his job. I know it’s a stretch, but try your best. Now let’s pretend that Bud’s latest executive decision was to announce that all big league clubs could only draft players with last names that share the first letter of the city in which they play. Got it? Good. Ignoring for a minute how utterly stupid and arbitrary such a decision would be, let’s see how this Alternate Reality Mock Draft would look if such rules were in place…

1.1 Washington Nationals: OF Austin Wilson – Harvard Westlake HS (California)

Missing out on Harper stings, but the Nationals do the best they can to recover by going with the high upside outfielder over an impressive field of righthanded pitching prospects. Wilson instead of Karsten Whitson, Brandon Workman, and Alex Wimmers is a gamble, but one that could give Washington close to 1-1 value if the stars align. I also like Wilson in this spot because it would present one of the most interesting signing decisions that I can remember. Does Wilson, the Stanford commit who seems like at least a 50/50 shot to wind up on campus next fall, stick to his academic guns in the face of the highest honor an amateur ballplayer can achieve? The pressure, prestige, attention, and cold hard cash that comes with going first overall would really test Wilson’s signability.

Last Year’s Pick: RHP Zack Wheeler

1.2 Pittsburgh Pirates: LHP James Paxton – Kentucky

Drew Pomeranz has emerged as a front runner for the Pirates pick in the real world, but I’ll change things up and go with my favorite 2010 lefthanded pitcher for the sake of updating his current playing status. I mean, Pomeranz has gotten plenty of digital ink spilled his way in recent days and I’m sure, nice guy that he is and all, he wouldn’t mind sharing the spotlight just this once with a fellow SEC lefty in need of some love. Paxton will pitch this season for the Grand Prairie AirHogs. His season begins May 14. His manager will be none other than former big leaguer Pete Incaviglia. I see no way that this ends in anything other than excellence for all involved.

Last Year’s Pick: LHP Matt Purke

1.3 Baltimore Orioles: RHP Cameron Bedrosian – East Coweta HS (Georgia)

Surprisingly slim pickings here, but Baltimore bypasses the alliterative choice in Bryce Brentz — why take the Markakis knock-off when you’ve got the real deal already? — to take a personal favorite of mine, Cameron Bedrosian. Kyle Blair, another favorite of mine, also received some thought here. Some insight into my thought process on this pick. First, I thought about Brentz, then I thought about Bedrosian, then back to Brentz, then Blair, and finally back to Bedrosian. All that thinking made me tired and cranky, so…that’s about all I’ve got for Baltimore. On the plus side, at least I didn’t make any snide remarks about Billy Rowell like I did last year. Progress!

Last Year’s Pick: 3B Bobby Borchering

1.4 Kansas City Royals: RHP Dan Klein – UCLA

Nary a first round lock in the K player pool, although the emergence of Klein at least gives the Royals a potential successor to Joakim Soria if/when they either trade him or move him to the rotation. In fact, and I promise I’m not just doing this for the sake of convenience, but Klein’s four-pitch mix (change, curve, slider) and low-90s fastball actually remind me a little bit of the erstwhile Royals closer. Soria’s curve is better than Klein’s, Klein’s change is better than Soria’s, but each player has done impressive things at the back end of the bullpen with the stuff more typical of a successful starting pitcher. Haven’t heard any talk of Klein moving to the rotation yet, but it’s something that wouldn’t surprise me as we get closer to the day of the draft.

Oh, and again I’m not saying this just to make the small but vocal Golden Gophers reading contingent happy, I strongly considered Mike Kvasnicka for this spot before settling on Klein.

No Pick Last Year

1.5 Cleveland Indians: 3B Zack Cox – Arkansas

More depth with the C’s than just about any other letter here in the top ten. I’m going off my own personal big board by jumping Cox over four, count ’em four, prep players I like more. With apologies to Nick Castellanos, AJ Cole, Dylan Covey, and Kaleb Cowart, Zack Cox just feels like the best fit based on what Cleveland has done in the past. I know I’m shuffling some players around here, but I like the thought of a LaPorta-Chisenhall-Cabrera-Cox infield.

No Pick Last Year

1.6 Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP Stetson Allie – St. Edward HS (Ohio)

This pick was Robbie Aviles for a solid week in my head before I was reminded of the existence of Stetson Allie in conversation last night. In said conversation it was intimated to me that Allie’s commitment to North Carolina is a lot stronger than has been reported. I don’t typically pass along any sort of insider information like that because, well, I don’t typically have access to it (nor do I think anybody should listen to some dummy like me just because I like to pretend I’m some great big draft authority), but there you go. I’m putting ten bucks on Allie winding up in Chapel Hill, but, really, and I can’t stress this enough, what the heck do I know?

No Pick Last Year

1.7 New York Mets: RHP Jimmy Nelson – Alabama

Nelson is a fastball-slider pitcher with the modest upside of a generic big league middle reliever. For a team picking seventh overall, that would most certainly qualify as bad news. Good news for the Mets, however, comes in the form of the money saved with Nelson’s significantly underslot bonus. That’s important, you see, because (as I assume) Fred Wilpon will happily tell you, the Earth will fly right off its axis and crash straight into the Sun if any Metropolitan draft pick is signed to an overslot contract. Anything to keep a smile on the face of the Commish, right?

No Pick Last Year

1.8 Houston Astros: C Bryce Harper – Southern Nevada

Without piling on too much, I’ll just say that I’m pleased to see something go Houston’s way in this version of the mock. To paraphrase a bad joke I made when doing this last year, no truth to the rumor that the Astros organization is petitioning Major League Baseball to adopt my silly draft rules in time . To take the bad joke a step too far, Houston may want to rethink making the Name Game rule permanent. It would be a real shame to miss out on Anthony Rendon after they get the number one pick next year…

No Pick Last Year

1.9 San Diego Padres: LHP Chris Sale – Florida Gulf Coast

Sale is the right pick, but Sammy Solis would have been a much cuter pick. San Diego to San Diego? Torero to Padre? Cunningham Stadium to Petco Park? All too perfect. As it stands now, Sale to San Diego is actually not a bad pick for a real life mock draft, assuming he is still on the board.

Last Year’s Pick: RHP Tanner Scheppers

1.10 Oakland Athletics: SS Justin O’Connor – Cowan HS (Indiana)

Prep players from both Ohio and Indiana represented in the top ten of a mock. As somebody who has always lived somewhere cold, I appreciate players from chilly locales succeeding, even if it’s only in my Alternate Reality Mock Draft. I know the momentum connecting O’Connor and catching is pretty much unstoppable at this point, but I wonder why it doesn’t seem like anybody has stopped and asked, hey, why not just let him keep playing shortstop, a pretty darn important position in its own right, until he can’t play it anymore? I suppose many don’t think he can stick there as a pro, but I think he’s got the tools to play up the middle professionally. I don’t hate the catcher idea (quite the opposite, really), but O’Connor is a shortstop in my mind until proven otherwise.

2010 MLB Draft – First Round Names To (Probably) Know

Guessing the 32 names expected to go in the first round two and a half months in advance probably isn’t an activity that makes a whole lot of sense, but, hey, why start making sense now?

Last year I threw out 30 names that I thought would be first rounders in 2009. Remember that? Good times. I hit on a whopping 17 of them. I’m not sure what the success rate should be, but I get the feeling that 17 of 30 isn’t particularly good. The players I had in the first round who weren’t first rounders in the end included Tyler Skaggs, Tanner Scheppers, Luke Bailey, Austin Maddox, Rich Poythress, James Paxton, DJ LeMahieu, Kentrail Davis, Trent Stevenson, Alex Wilson, Ryan Berry, Andy Oliver, and Jason Stoffel. The majority of those misses make me feel like a real dope in hindsight.

Poythress, LeMahieu, and Davis were all non-elite college bats that I pushed up the draft board in large part to being near the best of a weak college crop of hitters. Lesson #1: Teams will let the draft board come to them early on rather than reach for the better players at the draft’s weakest positions. Stevenson (hopped on his bandwagon after reading a lot of positive early season buzz), Wilson (another early season helium guy and the reason I was too scared to put Barret Loux on the list), Berry (really liked his glasses), Oliver (didn’t really like him, but succumbed to peer pressure), and Stoffel (figured big league teams would reach on a reliever in the late first) were all part of my pitching misses.

Skaggs, Scheppers, Bailey, Maddox, and Paxton aren’t misses I’m too stressed out about for a variety of reasons, mostly because I think they are all darn good prospects that are better than some of the players taken in the first round. Yes, I think quite highly of myself, why do you ask? Skaggs’s prospect stock was hurt by a better than usual lefthanded pitching crop, Scheppers and Bailey both had major injury concerns, Maddox fell at least partly because of signability concerns, and Paxton’s stock shot up late in the draft season, but never made it quite high enough to get into the first.

Enough about 2009, let’s see if we can do better here in 2010. First up, the best of the best. I’d call them locks if I had more of a backbone, but will instead hide behind the quotes. “Locks” it is.

2010 MLB Draft First Round “Locks”

C – Bryce Harper

1B –

2B –

SS – Christian Colon, Manny Machado, Yordy Cabrera

3B – Zack Cox, Nick Castellanos

CF –

OF – Bryce Brentz, Austin Wilson

RHP – Deck McGuire, Jesse Hahn, Anthony Ranaudo, Jameson Taillon, AJ Cole, Karsten Whitson, Dylan Covey

LHP – Drew Pomeranz, Chris Sale

I originally wanted to leave it at the locks and call it a day, but what’s the harm in stretching this out to attach 32 names to the 32 first round spots? My next set of guesses includes the following names:

SS Justin O’Conner, CF Chevy Clarke, OF Josh Sale, RHP Stetson Allie, RHP DeAndre Smelter, RHP Kaleb Cowart, RHP Kevin Gausman, RHP Matt Harvey, RHP Brandon Workman, RHP Alex Wimmers, and LHP James Paxton

17 “locks” plus the 11 new names brings us to 28 potential first rounders so far. Four more to go. Hmm. Let’s see what four names we can pull out of the old magic hat here…

College Catcher, C Stefan Sabol, CF Angelo Gumbs, RHP Cam Bedrosian

Wouldn’t it be weird if there was a draft-eligible player by the name College Catcher? It would be like my favorite player in the non-Jordan licensed NBA Live 97, Roster Player. To add to the realism, I’d always look at the R.Player in the lineup and just pretend his first name was Reggie. Anyway, College Catcher isn’t actually a real person, but if he was real than I’d mentally change his name to Charlie Catcher whenever I’d see C.Catcher in the lineup. So who will be the 2010 draft’s Charlie Catcher? Odds are good that at least one of the two big college catchers from the junior class will go in this year’s first, I think. That’s why I wimped out and hedged my bets by reserving a first round spot for “college catcher of your choosing.” Feel free to pencil in Miami’s Yasmani Grandal and/or LSU’s Micah Gibbs if that’s the direction you see things going this June. Contrarian that I am, my pick isn’t one of the two junior catchers but rather UC Riverside’s sophomore draft-eligible backstop Rob Brantly. What a twist!

Sabol is a favorite due to his strong bat and great athleticism, but I’m reminded of my fondness of Austin Maddox last year and I get a little gun-shy. Sabol is a much better athlete and runner, but the two share enough similarities with the bat to give me pause. Gumbs gets a mention for two reasons. First, and I’ll be as succinct here as possible, all five tools are first round quality. Easy enough. The second reason I’m sticking here is my belief he fits the mold of the type of player the Phillies could target at pick 27. Then again, Philadelphia’s front office recently came out and specifically mentioned third base and catcher as positions of organizational need that will be addressed this June. Bedrosian’s long been a favorite, so might as well stick with him.