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Seattle Mariners 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Mariners 2011 MLB Draft Selections

Polish. That’s the word that first came to mind as I sat watching Seattle’s draft last June. In an attempt to preempt any confusion, no, the Mariners didn’t draft a bunch of players from Poland. They did draft a player from nearby Germany, but we’ll get to him in a bit. I’m talking about polish in the highly refined baseball skill sense. Let’s talk polish…

Everything interesting about Virginia LHP Danny Hultzen’s amateur career has already been written, so let’s take a more timely approach and discuss his most recent body of work with a little help from a pair of authors from two of the best Seattle sites in the universe. The esteemed Jeff Sullivan’s hot sexy update of Hultzen’s AFL progress confirms that the young lefty’s velocity has maintained his junior year gains (92.5 MPH average, 95.1 MPH peak) while marc w provides interesting details on the progress of his change (spoiler: sharp as ever) and slider (spoiler 2: shows flashes of greatness, but inconsistent). It is silly to compare every lefty with a great changeup to Cole Hamels, but that’s a pretty logical ceiling here, at least in terms of potential performance.

Virginia JR LHP Danny Hultzen: plus command of all pitches; 88-91, will definitely touch 94; velocity jump due to 20 pounds of added muscle since high school, currently sitting 91-93, peaking 94-95; will throw upper-80s two-seam FB with good sink; 77-78 CB; plus 78-82 CU; quality 82-85 SL that he leans on at times

I can really appreciate the types of middle infield draft prospects that Seattle seems to target each year: athletic, versatile defensively, known to have a good approach to hitting. Clemson SS Brad Miller is/does all of those things, plus comes with a little bonus pop. In a weak class of college bats, Miller has the chance to really stand out as a middle infielder with starter’s upside. He’s Kyle Seager with more defensive upside.

Miller goes coast to coast as this season’s top collegiate shortstop prospect, beginning the year at the top spot and very deservedly finishing at number one as well. I’ve long held the position that the current Clemson shortstop has what it takes to stick at the position, an opinion tied far more closely to his defensive tools — most notably the speed and athleticism that give him well above-average range up the middle — than his present, sometimes erratic, ability. At the plate, he’s done everything expected of him and more. I’m admittedly more bullish on his power upside than most and can see him further tapping into said upside to the tune of 15+ homers annually. Even if the power doesn’t quite reach those levels, Miller’s consistent hard contact and good approach should help keep his batting average and on-base percentage at more than acceptable numbers for a starting middle infielder. It may be a popular comp for a lot of players, but I think a comparison between Brad Miller and former ACC star and current Oriole Brian Roberts is apt.

Mountain Pointe HS (AZ) 1B Kevin Cron is now at TCU after a deal with Seattle fell through. As a prospect, his power will define him…but you knew that already. What may or may not be known is what position he’ll be playing by the time his name is called again in 2014. Whispers about a potential position switch – I’ve heard both 3B and RF mentioned as possibilities – linger, but any defensive change would be contingent on his college conditioning program helping him firm up and shed some weight. Luckily for Cron, first base might be alright for him if his bat takes care of its end of the bargain. As mentioned in the pre-draft profile posted below, I can’t wait to compare and contrast Kevin’s college performance with his older brother CJ’s.

Cron has made headlines this spring, first as the younger brother of the amazing CJ Cron and then as a pretty damn good draft power hitting draft prospect himself. He’ll likely be picked too high to honor his commitment to TCU, but, man, I’d love to see him take a crack at the college game – the direct statistical comparison you could then make to his brother would be fascinating, I think. Cron the younger caught some in high school, but, like his bro, probably doesn’t have the requisite athleticism to catch at the next level. I’ve heard some quiet buzz about an attempted move to third, but I think that is probably from people who would hate to see his plus arm go to waste at first. Even working under the likely assumption he’s a first baseman in pro ball, Cron is a top five round prospect due to his highly advanced hit tool and gigantic raw power.

A copy/past fail left Mount Olive RHP Carter Capps off my list of the draft’s Top 250 prospects, but I’m sure the third round selection and half a million bucks helped him get over the unintentional snub. Capps is one of those guys – Stanford/Dodgers LHP Chris Reed is another – with both the frame and stuff to start, but, who, for some reason or another, looks so much better in shorter outings. I know almost all pitchers look better out of the bullpen, but Capps looks like a different pitcher altogether. At his best he’ll throw two plus pitches including a fastball that approaches triple digits (in short stints only) and an upper-70s to low-80s slider that flashes plus. He’s far too young to label him a reliever now and forever, but I do think the bullpen is his eventual home…and that’s a good thing.

Mount Olive FR RHP Carter Capps (2011): 94-96 FB with good movement; more commonly 87-91; saw him 90-92; 84-86 SL with plus upside that has lost some velocity, now upper-70s; upper-70s CU; 6-5, 220

There is no question Seattle went into the draft hoping to bolster their organizational depth behind the plate. Selecting Virginia C John Hicks was a good first step of the plan. He has above-average power upside and a knack for hitting the ball hard. I think his defense is fine, but if catching doesn’t work out he might be athletic enough to contribute defensively at a few other (corner outfield and first base most likely) spots.

Not too long ago I compared Hicks to teammate Kenny Swab and said I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take a similar career path, i.e. become an unsignable mid-round pick and go back to school as a senior to boost his stock. I was obviously wrong as it now seems Hicks’ athleticism, plus arm, and emerging power could make him a top ten round selection.

I’ve talked about draft stacking™ before, but I like discussing the idea so much that I’m going to repeat it here. Draft stacking occurs when a team drafts multiple prospects from the same position (pitchers excluded) within five rounds of each other. Bonus points when the prospects come from different places (i.e. one is from college and the other from high school). Double bonus points when the prospects are selected in back-to-back rounds. After selecting college catcher Hicks in the fourth round, Seattle turned right back around and nabbed Hagerty HS (FL) C Tyler Marlette in the fifth. Well done, Mariners. The only thing holding me back from publicly declaring my undying love to the Seattle front office is Marlette’s questionable future behind the plate. Draft stacking doesn’t work if one of the players is going to switch positions! Hopefully Marlette’s substantial defensive tools are actualized so that last summer’s breakout star can continue his ascension from showcase standout to big league catcher.

Marlette has as much upside at the plate as any high school catcher sans Swihart, but questions about his defense continue to suppress his stock. The shame of it is that he has above-average defensive tools – he’s surprisingly natural behind the plate – but lacks the polish that comes with years of practice at the position. The aforementioned upside as a hitter works in much the same way. In batting practice Marlette is a monster, but he’s more of a gap-to-gap hitter in game action thus far. A solid defensive catcher with plus power is a heck of a prospect, of course. An iffy defensive catcher who may or may not stick with gap power is less exciting. This is where teams who have seen Marlette multiple times over a couple of years have a huge leg up on what I do.

I had Rancho Cucamonga HS (CA) OF James Zamarripa down as a college guy, so I lost track of him somewhat this past spring. He’s more advanced than a typical prep prospect, but his ceiling (fourth outfielder) isn’t that exciting.

Virginia 3B Steven Proscia also isn’t especially exciting, but he’s a solid prospect with the chance to be a starter down the line. His strengths – arm, athleticism, power – mesh well with what most teams look for out of a third baseman.

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.

Texas State RHP Carson Smith is similar in many ways to Carter Capps. I prefer Smith, however, due to his more impressive fastball (the movement he gets on the pitch gives him the edge), more consistent third pitch (a changeup that could be quite good with some work), and better command of his breaking stuff. The eighth rounder is my second favorite prospect taken by Seattle this year.

Texas State JR RHP Carson Smith: very good athlete; 91-93 FB with great sink, 94-95 peak; sits 95-98 out of bullpen, 91-94 as starter; above-average potential with SL; CU with plus potential; commands CB well; 6-5, 215

Patch HS (Germany) SS Cavan Cohoes is a great story (Germany!) and a fun gamble for the Mariners to take. He’s also super raw at the plate, tremendously athletic, and really, really fast. Any more info than that would be me making stuff up because I’ve never seen the guy play and haven’t talked directly with anybody who has seen him either.

Tenth round pick Siena 2B Dan Paolini wound up beating my Dan Uggla draft comp (see below) by an entire round. I have a friend who has seen Paolini a lot who compares him to former big leaguer Mike Stanley as a hitter. Weird comp, right? My friend does this for a living – the baseball evaluating part, not the comp making part – so I’m not quite ready to say he’s crazy for the Stanley/Paolini comp but…well, let’s just say that I’m here to reiterate that I’m not the one going out on a limb suggesting a tenth round pick will play 15 seasons and hit close to 200 home runs. I’d take my Uggla anecdote to heart (again, see below) before getting too worked up about Paolini’s future one way or another, though I do want to profess my love of watching Paolini swing the bat.

Paolini has more present power than any college middle infielder. The question that remains to be answered is whether or not his long swing will lead to enough hits to make that power useful at the next level. If he doesn’t hit, he’s in trouble – only his power rates as above-average at this point, with the potential for an average hit tool down the road his only other tool of note. There’s a little sleeper Dan Uggla upside here, if everything breaks right. Of course, think about the original Uggla before getting too excited – how many things had to break exactly right for him to become the Dan Uggla we know and love (even as a long-time fan of a rival division team I have to admit his uppercut corkscrew swing is fun to watch) today? Paolini will probably start out around the same place as Uggla, a former 11th round pick.

Dayton LHP Cameron Hobson (Round 11) is hot and cold from outing to outing. When he’s going well, his fastball sits in the low-90s and he’s able to throw three pitches for strikes. It’ll be interesting to see if the Mariners view him as a starter or a reliever in the long run.

Dayton JR LHP Cameron Hobson: 87-91 FB with movement, sitting closer to 90-92 this year; good SL; solid CB; developing CU with potential; plus makeup; 6-1, 205 pounds

Franklin Pierce C Mike Dowd (Round 12) is fairly simple to understand. His arm is big league quality, but his other tools all come up a little bit short. In completely unrelated news, Henry Blanco has played 900 career games with an OBP of .293. Alright, back to Dowd: if he hits even a little bit, he’s a legitimate backup catching prospect.

Dowd, our lone Division II star on the list, has managed the strike zone brilliantly for Franklin Pierce while also ranking second among qualifiers in both BA and SLG. His arm may be his only above-average tool, but his bat, gap power, and defense should all play just fine at the next level.

UAB OF Jamal Austin (Round 13) can run, field, and take a pitch. I like that skillset. For as much shit as Juan Pierre has gotten from fans over his career (most, but not all of it justified), he’s now at the tail end of a twelve year career that has made him over fifty million bucks. Jamal Austin would be incredibly lucky to have anywhere close to as good a pro run. My worry with Austin remains the same as it has always been: will his inability to drive the ball prevent pitchers from throwing him anything but strikes? If that’s the case, I worry about him losing his greatest offensive asset, patience.

Love his speed/defense/approach, but do have some doubts about his almost complete lack of power and questionable arm. He sort of reminds me of a college-aged version of Juan Pierre and I’m not sure how his game will translate to the pros. The higher up you go, the more difficult it is to get away with having little power. 

Local (to me) product LaSalle RHP Cody Weiss (Round 14) has a fastball that touches 93 and an upper-70s curve that comes and goes as an effective second pitch. His spotty command and lack of physicality limit his upside, so, um, consider his upside limited.

SO RHP Cody Weiss (2011): 90-92 FB, peak 93; high-70s CB; iffy command; 6-0, 195

Loyal readers know by now that I have a huge weak spot for college seniors with outstanding four year track records at the plate. Florida State OF Mike McGee (Round 15) might be stretched in center, but he’s a good defender in either corner, and his elite plate discipline should make him a favorite to many as he rises up Seattle’s organizational chain. Whether or not Mike McGee makes it in pro ball is irrelevant to me; the guy has proven time and time again that he is, and please excuse me for the terrible cliché, a ballplayer. I hate that I’ve been reduced to such a hacky turn of phrase, but that’s what Mike McGee does to me. Check him out if he visits a minor league ballpark near you and you’ll understand. You can break down his individual tools and try to project what kind of player he’ll be once fully developed, or you can just watch him and appreciate that he plays the sport the way it ought to be played. Hey, better yet: do both! Or neither, whatever, do what what you want: it’s a free country.

[great approach; average speed; 88-90 FB, 92-93 peak; very good upper-70s SL; CU; drafted as a pitcher last year; good CB]

I devoted an entire post to Oregon C Jack Marder (Round 16) after the draft, so, yeah, you could say I like him. I was totally on board with Billy Beane when he made his “not selling jeans” comment – good players come in all shapes and sizes, after all – but I also think athleticism, and more specifically how athleticism relates with mechanics, muscle memory, and coordination is important. You don’t need to look good in a uniform to be a good athlete, but athleticism as a whole shouldn’t be ignored. Marder is an outstanding athlete, but more impressive is how he is able to channel his athleticism towards relevant baseball skills. His athleticism helps his defense behind the plate, his swing, and his throws to second and third. I’m intrigued.

SO 2B Jack Marder (2012): average runner; legit plus bat speed; very instinctual, high energy, just a fun player to watch; plus defender at 1B, one of the best I’ve seen at college level; has experience playing every position on diamond; with time should be above-average at either second, third, or an outfield corner, as well as average at shortstop; strong arm; will be tried at C this spring (5/11 update: soft hands, plus mobility, well above-average pop times, natural footwork, accurate arm, positive reports on feel for pitch sequencing and leadership of staff); great line drive producing swing, textbook front shoulder rotation that I love; above-average athleticism; easy top ten round guy, could go as high as round five; 6-0, 180 pounds; R/R

Miami OF Nathan Melendres (Round 17) has the tools to be remembered someday as a complete steal who had no business being taken as late as the seventeenth round. He can run, throw, and defend as well as any college outfielder in his class, but his crude approach to hitting has kept him from being labeled a legit five-tool player by the experts. He’ll need to work on his plate discipline – not just taking more pitches, but swinging at better pitches – if he hopes to be remembered at all.

[serious tools, but very raw; potential plus defender in CF; hacker; plus speed; above-average to plus arm; 5-11, 185 pounds]

Horizon HS (AZ) LHP Nick Valenza (Round 18) reminds me a little bit of Indians draft pick Dillon Peters. He’s short, throws hard, and shows the makings of enough pitchers to start at the next level. Once you get past his lack of physical stature, you can see that his stuff is pretty interesting. His biggest bugaboo at the pro level may be his inconsistent control.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Palm Beach CC C Luke Guarnaccia (Round 19) is a Mariners draft pick with good athleticism and a strong defensive reputation. Picking a favorite out of Hicks, Dowd, Marder, and Guarnaccia comes down to little more than personal preference at this point, as all four share fairly similar strengths and weaknesses as prospects.

Did I get carried away after three weeks of performances from Emporia State 2B Dillon Hazlett (Round 20) or what? Whenever anybody starts thinking I know what I’m talking about, I’m going to refer them to the passage below. Silly hyperbole aside, Hazlett is a nice prospect who can handle the bat just fine. Not Ackley-level fine, of course, but good enough to consider his bat, defensive versatility (like Ackley, I think he’s best in CF), and speed/base running instincts worth following through his minor league travails.

Name to know = North Carolina JR 1B Dillon Hazlett. I first heard the poor man’s Dustin Ackley comps coming out of Chapel Hill a few months ago, but dismissed them as nothing more than a coaching staff excited about a junior college transfer ready to step in and help fill the gigantic hole left behind by Ackley’s departure. The comp, like most are, was built on convenience – both players are way too athletic to be college first basemen, run well, and have questionable power upsides. That’s what the comp was trying to express, I think. Nobody actually meant that Hazlett would step in and show off a hit tool quite like the one Ackley had shown. Hazlett, though impressive so far, has a long way to go to even enter Ackley’s prospect stratosphere. Then again, Ackley’s final junior year line was .417/.517/.763. SMALL SAMPLE SIZE ALERT, but Hazlett has put up a .467/.541/.700 line through 9 games. Just store the name way, way, way in the back of your mind.

Stanford RHP Jordan Pries (Round 30) is a pitchability righthander who relies heavily on a near-plus upper-70s breaking ball. That makes sense because his mid-80s fastball alone wouldn’t cut it. I hadn’t expected Pries to be a high draft pick or anything, but it was a surprise to see him fall all the way to the thirtieth round. Used as a starter at Stanford, Pries could experience enough of a boost in stuff pitching in relief to make him interesting. His numbers were better across the board in six long relief outings than they were in his six pro starts, whatever that means.

Stanford JR RHP Jordan Pries: 86-87 FB; very good 76-78 breaking ball

Kansas State LHP Kyle Hunter (Round 31) is easy to lose among the influx of college pitchers with the same first name/last initial combination. There’s Kyle Hallock, Kyle Hald, Kyle Hendricks…and Kyle Hunter. Hunter has been on the prospect radar for years as a lefthander with solid stuff. He mixes his pitches well and has above-average command. With luck, he’ll carve out a home as a lefty reliever somewhere, someday.

I was happy to see Seattle give a chance to Miami C David Villasuso (Round 42). His power could help him sneak into the big leagues as a backup, but only if can first convince teams he can handle quality pitching behind the plate.

SR C David Villasuso has the power teams often consider gambling on, but his defensive limitations keep him from being a definite draft selection for me.

Final 2011 MLB Draft College Shortstop Rankings

I haven’t offered too much commentary on the position player groups as a whole, but, man, the college shortstop group is weak this year. Miller and Ahmed are the clear top two for me, but both could be moved off the position in pro ball (Miller in CF or 2B, Ahmed in CF or 3B). I’ve liked Motter for a long time, and Brandon Loy has grown on me with every viewing, but I’d only put money on one sure fire (or as close as one can get to “sure fire” when it comes to the draft) long-term starter (Miller).

With some luck, college 2B should be up later today. After that, I’ll be working on high school middle infield prospects. Then on to 3B and OF before finally getting to the most exciting part of this year’s draft, the pitching. All that will be left after that will be a complete big board and then the excitement of draft day.

1. Clemson JR SS Brad Miller

*** 2010: .407/.510/.641 – 53 BB/37 K – 231 AB – 10/12 SB
*** 2011: .439/.546/.614 – 40 BB/28 K – 171 AB – 22/26 SB

Miller goes coast to coast as this season’s top collegiate shortstop prospect, beginning the year at the top spot and very deservedly finishing at number one as well. I’ve long held the position that the current Clemson shortstop has what it takes to stick at the position, an opinion tied far more closely to his defensive tools — most notably the speed and athleticism that give him well above-average range up the middle — than his present, sometimes erratic, ability. At the plate, he’s done everything expected of him and more. I’m admittedly more bullish on his power upside than most and can see him further tapping into said upside to the tune of 15+ homers annually. Even if the power doesn’t quite reach those levels, Miller’s consistent hard contact and good approach should help keep his batting average and on-base percentage at more than acceptable numbers for a starting middle infielder. It may be a popular comp for a lot of players, but I think a comparison between Brad Miller and former ACC star and current Oriole Brian Roberts is apt.

2. Connecticut JR SS Nick Ahmed

*** 2010: .326/.390/.404 – 29 BB/31 K – 267 AB – 34/42 SB
*** 2011: .355/.448/.487 – 22 BB/14 K – 152 AB – 20/26 SB

I try not to let a quick look at a player influence my opinion on him too much, but Nick Ahmed gave off that somewhat silly yet undeniable big league look when I see him play earlier this year. He’s got an easy plus arm, strong defensive tools and athleticism that should play at multiple spots, and enough bat speed to drive good fastballs to the gaps. My only “concern,” if you even want to call it that, is that he’ll outgrow shortstop. The reason why I’m not ready to call that a legitimate concern just yet is because, based on his current tall and lanky frame, I would hope any physical growth he experiences professionally would be accompanied by additional strength, especially in his upper body, to help his eventual power output. In other words, if he gets too big for shortstop then at least he’ll then have the chance of having the power bat needed to play elsewhere.

3. Coastal Carolina JR SS Taylor Motter

*** 2010: .355/.457/.654 – 39 BB/35 K – 214 AB – 11/15 SB
*** 2011: .281/.412/.422 – 43 BB/37 K – 192 AB – 18/20 SB

I can’t even begin to guess where Motter will actually go on draft day, but I’m willing to stick my neck out and say that whatever team winds up with him will get one of the draft’s underrated gems. Like Brandon Loy ranked just below him, Motter’s biggest strengths are his plus glove and plus throwing arm. Any above-average tool besides those two are gravy, though it certainly doesn’t hurt that Motter has an average hit tool and good speed. A couple of really nice things I heard about Motter after talking to people in the know included a description of the  “he simply does not waste at bats” and a glowing report on “his professional knowledge of the strike zone.” Motter obviously doesn’t profile as a Troy Tulowitzki type of power hitter, but with his defense, speed, and command of the strike zone, he won’t have to hit the ball out of the ballpark to someday get a chance as a starting big league shortstop.

4. Texas JR SS Brandon Loy

*** 2010: .294/.399/.383 – 36 BB/37 K – 214 AB – 12/20 SB
*** 2011: .353/.431/.471 – 28 BB/20 K – 221 AB – 12/16 SB

Loy is a standout defensive player who makes up for his average foot speed with tremendous instincts and a plus arm that helps him execute all of the necessary throws from deep in the hole at short. He’s also a great athlete with awesome hand-eye coordination; that coordination is never more apparent than when he is called on to bunt, something he already does as well as the best big leaguer. I was slow to come around to Loy as a top prospect heading into the year, but the improvements with the bat have me thinking of him in a new light. Like Taylor Motter ranked one spot above him, Loy’s awesome defense should be his ticket to the big leagues, perhaps as a Paul Janish type down the road.

5. TCU JR SS Taylor Featherston

*** 2010: .380/.454/.630 – 19 BB/36 K – 216 AB – 5/9 SB
*** 2011: .386/.456/.520 – 16 BB/28 K – 223 AB – 6/11 SB

In much the same way I now link Motter and Loy together in my head, Nick Ahmed and Taylor Featherston stick together as similar prospects in many respects. Like Ahmed, Featherston has good size, above-average athleticism, average speed, and gap power. Featherston also faces similar questions about his eventual defensive landing spot. For now, I like Featherston to stick at shortstop. The defensive strides he has made from his freshman season to today give me reason to believe he has only scratched the surface on what he can do at shortstop. He doesn’t profile as ever having an above-average glove at short as he still has the tendency to do too much in the field at times, but I’d rather see a player going all out to make plays than have a steady, error-free performer who won’t get to nearly as many balls. If his most realistic outcome is as an offensive-minded backup infielder, so bet it.

6. Minnesota JR SS AJ Pettersen

*** 2010: .324/.404/.418 – 26 BB/42 K – 256 AB – 5/9 SB
*** 2011: .377/.428/.466 – 15 BB/17 K – 191 AB – 8/13 SB

In a year when very few college shortstops performed at or near their previous level of play, Pettersen improved across the board. He also improved in the eyes of scouts, turning what was considered an average at best hit tool at the start of the year into something most consider above-average at this point. Like many on the list he could wind up either at 2B or CF in pro ball, but I haven’t seen anything in his defensive game that makes me think he can’t at least start off as a shortstop. Like most players from now to the end of the list, his most likely ceiling is that of a quality big league utility guy.

7. Wichita State JR SS Tyler Grimes

*** 2010: .269/.439/.368 – 37 BB/47 K  – 193 AB – 7/14 SB
*** 2011: .299/.462/.419 – 52 BB/59 K – 234 AB – 25/29 SB

Grimes is another beneficiary of the weak college shortstop class, and is now regarded as one of the most advanced shortstop prospects around. His on-base skills are impressive, as is his defensive skill set, but the hit tool lags behind and his long, all or nothing swing doesn’t make a lot of sense for a player with limited power. I can see the appeal, but not to the point where I’d go around claiming he’ll be a big league regular any time soon.

8. LSU JR SS Austin Nola

*** 2010: .332/.400/.471 – 30 BB/37 K – 259 AB – 1/1 SB
*** 2011: .301/.385/.418 – 29 BB/34 K – 196 AB – 4/7 SB

Nola is a very good defender with just enough bat to give his drafting team hope that he’ll someday hit his way into a starting big league job. No above-average offensive tools (bat, power, speed) make it hard for me to project him as an everyday guy down the line, so I’ll go the broken record route and say, yet again, his most likely outcome is that of a utility infielder.

9. Southeast Missouri State JR SS Kenton Parmley

*** 2010: .363/.412/.553 – 19 BB/21 K – 237 AB – 12/17 SB
*** 2011: .279/.349/.433 – 22 BB/27 K – 208 AB – 8/10 SB

There are a lot of similarities in the upside between Parmley and Austin Nola – both are very good defensive players, average runners, and slightly below-average hitters. While I prefer Nola’s hit tool by a hair, the easiest difference to spot between the two prospects comes down to arm strength; Nola has plenty for shortstop while Parmley has plenty for a right fielder.

10. Michigan SO SS Derek Dennis

*** 2010: .278/.355/.375 – 14 BB/49 K – 176 AB – 7/9 SB
*** 2011: .236/.347/.270 – 20 BB/38 K – 148 AB – 5/6 SB

The 2009 unsigned tenth rounder entered school with the expectation that he’d continue to transform himself into a five-tool shortstop — heard a Danny Espinosa comp on him at one point — capable of doing enough of everything (50s and 55s across the board) to become a good big league starter. So far, not so much. The sum of Dennis’ tools simply do not yet add up to a good ballplayer. That’s alright for now because of the two remaining years of college eligibility Dennis has ahead of him. A team might take a chance on the tools despite his subpar college production, but you’d have to imagine Dennis wouldn’t jump to the pros with his value so low. In other words, if he is offered less than what he turned down in 2009, he’s staying in Ann Arbor at least another year.

11. Texas Tech JR SS Kelby Tomlinson

*** 2011: .304/.418/.364 – 41 BB/33 K – 214 AB – 22/30 SB

Tomlinson was identified as a sleeper heading into the year and, for the most part, he did not disappoint. The book on him was that he had plus speed, a very good arm, great athleticism, and the tools to be an excellent defensive shortstop. My only concern is his lack of power going forward – not so much in that I’m worried he won’t be a power hitter as a pro (it’s pretty much a given that he won’t be), but more so that he’ll have the bat knocked out of his hands at the next level.

12. James Madison SR SS David Herbek

*** 2010: 315/425/525 – 22 BB/32 K – 181 AB – 13/16 SB
*** 2011: .338/.425/.647 – 21 BB/28 K – 201 AB – 12/16 SB

Last year I wrote: “Herbek is a certifiable draft sleeper. He currently has gap power to all fields, but his beautifully level line drive stroke (reminiscent of Bill Mueller’s righthanded swing) has me thinking there is double digit home run potential if he can add some strength in the coming years.”

I didn’t anticipate that double digit home run totals to come in just over 200 senior year at bats, but there you go. His bat ranks up there with almost any other college shortstop in his class, but the relatively low ranking can be owed to his occasionally spotty defense. As an offense-first infielder off the bench he’ll do just fine.

13. Virginia Military Institute SR SS Sam Roberts

*** 2010: .313/.426/.531 – 42 BB/36 K – 211 AB – 9/16 SB
*** 2011: .342/.441/.500 – 35 BB/29 K – 202 AB – 13/17 SB

Roberts is a do-it-all utility player for VMI that leads off, plays short, and takes the hill every weekend as a starting pitcher. As a college player, there’s little he doesn’t do well and he’s been producing at a big time clip since first stepping on campus. He’s got just enough speed and power to be interesting on offense, and plenty of arm strength to play either spot on the left side of the infield.

14. Lake Erie College JR SS Ryan Rua

*** 2011: .400/.437/.594 – 9 BB/13 K – 170 AB – 19/23 SB

Rua faces the typical level of competition questions that come with playing Division II ball at Lake Erie College, but a strong junior year may have quieted some of the doubters. Some have him ticketed for CF as a pro, but I think his strong arm and above-average range should keep him in the middle infield to start his pro career. His bat isn’t quite as strong as his numbers suggest, though he profiles as an average to slightly below-average, slash and dash hitter down the road.

15. Florida Atlantic SR SS Nick DelGuidice

*** 2010: 294/341/498 – 19 BB/31 K – 245 AB – 3/4 SB
*** 2011: .324/.352/.484 – 11 BB/15 K – 213 AB – 3/5 SB

Never been all that high on DelGuidice’s bat, but his glove continues to impress. I think the leather should be enough to get him drafted, though I’m not sure if his limited ceiling will ever get him listed on Baseball America’s organizational top 30.

16. UCLA JR SS Tyler Rahmatulla

*** 2010: .336/.447/.530 – 42 BB/36 K –  232 AB – 14/21 SB
*** 2011: .250/.354/.294 – 7 BB/15 K – 68 AB – 5/6 SB

Jett Bandy, Ricky Oropesa, Zack MacPhee, and now Tyler Rahmatulla…that’s 4/5th of our Pac-10 all down year draft-eligible prospect team. Rahmatulla has injuries to explain away some of his slippage, but any year when your slugging percentage almost drops by half from the one before it isn’t a good one. A return engagement for a senior year could help him bring his stock back up to his pre-2011 level.

17. Troy SR SS Adam Bryant

*** 2010: .364/.439/.764 – 27 BB/37 K – 250 AB – 4/4 SB
*** 2011: .332/.395/.556 – 23 BB/25 K – 250 AB – 8/11 SB

Bryant is now fully recovered from last season’s labrum surgery and it shows. His defense has always been solid, and there is a surprising amount of power in his bat. He isn’t a top level prospect by any means, but he certainly qualifies as an intriguing senior sign.

18. California JR SS Marcus Semien

*** 2010: .359/.432/.533 – 26 BB/35 K – 195 AB – 5/7 SB
*** 2011: .266/.366/.391 – 26 BB/29 K – 184 AB – 7/11 SB

Semien is considered a draft sleeper by many, but I don’t see it. He probably has the range and arm to stay at short, so that’s a plus, but without much in the way of a hit tool, power, or speed, there isn’t enough there to project him as a big leaguer at this point.

19. South Carolina JR SS Peter Mooney

*** 2011: .271/.380/.383 – 35 BB/25 K – 214 AB – 3/6 SB

Mooney plays a mean shortstop for the defending champs, at times drawing the rare and beautiful “plus-plus” distinction for his glovework. Heard an amusing — probably because I’m a Phillies fan — Freddy Galvis comp on him that got me wondering about where the many age appropriate Latin American prospects who have already been in pro ball for years would be drafted if eligible in 2011. After about 20 minutes of trying to incorporate them into some kind of Alternate Reality Mock Draft, I gave up and came back to Mooney. The Gamecocks shortstop isn’t big (5-7, 150) or toolsy (besides his defense and a strong arm), but he could make it as a defense-first eight- or nine-hole hitter somewhere, someday.

20. UC Irvine JR SS DJ Crumlich

*** 2010: 310/421/422 – 19 BB/14 K – 116 AB – 2/4 SB
*** 2011: .299/.402/.403 – 29 BB/26 K – 201 AB – 4/7 SB

Crumlich has been very consistent since enrolling at UC Irvine. That consistency has been both a blessing — who doesn’t like a steady performer? — and a curse (consistently average or worse tools won’t draw anybody but an area scout down to see you). My guess is that Crumlich gets the chance to display that consistency for one more college season.

21. Oregon JR SS KC Serna

*** 2010: .365/.437/.498 – 23 BB/22 K – 233 AB – 14/22 SB
*** 2011: .234/.347/.299 – 25 BB/28 K – 167 AB – 12/12 SB

Rahmatulla, Semien, and now Serna – three Pac-10 shortstop prospects who underperformed greatly in 2011. Serna’s struggles are more damning, for no other reason than his spotty track record of staying out of trouble away from the diamond. Scouts will overlook character concerns as best they can if you can really, really play; if you can’t, you’ll be labeled as a player that will cause more headaches than you’re worth.

22. Army SR SS Clint Moore

*** 2010: .305/.410/.550 – 20 BB/27 K – 151 AB – 4/7 SB
*** 2011: .274/.367/.571 – 22 BB/45 K – 168 AB – 4/5 SB

Moore has better than you’d think range at short and a third base caliber arm, plus above-average power for a middle infielder. Like many on the list, he profiles best as a — wait for it — offensive-oriented utility guy. Unlike many on the list, he attends a university that requires a commitment beyond just four years of service. While admirable in a way that I can’t adequately describe, it certainly complicates his situation going forward.

23. Long Beach State JR SS Kirk Singer

*** 2010: .356/.435/.541 – 18 BB/26 K – 146 AB – 5/11 SB
*** 2011: .258/.343/.323 – 20 BB/44 K – 155 AB – 3/8 SB

I want to like Kirk Singer because of that sweet, sweet Long Beach State tradition of shortstops, but can’t fully buy in to a player with such an inconsistent bat. Defensively, he is exactly what you’d expect from a Dirtbag – plus arm, above-average lateral quickness, and 100% effort at all times. Maybe I’ve found a way to contradict myself in the space of a short paragraph, but, come to think of it, if I’m picking late and Singer is still out there and signable, his Long Beach pedigree would make him awfully tempting.

24. Southeastern Louisiana JR SS Justin Boudreaux

*** 2010: .309/.418/.543 – 36 BB/41 K – 230 AB – 17/21 SB
*** 2011: .314/.384/.505 – 23 BB/43 K – 220 AB – 14/17 SB

Boudreaux has a strong arm, above-average range, and steady hands. All in all, his defense works. That said, his best tool could be his wonderfully appropriate name; have to love a Boudreaux playing for Southeastern Louisiana.

25. LSU JR SS Tyler Hanover

*** 2010: .344/.421/.445 – 27 BB/26 K – 247 AB – 5/9 SB
*** 2011: .316/.414/.342 – 33 BB/16 K – 193 AB – 5/9 SB

Because I  stupidly forgot my laptop battery at work and won’t be able to plug back in until tomorrow, here are my unedited notes on Hanover instead of the brilliantly crafted paragraph you are all familiar with:

above-average speed, but more impressive as an instinctual base runner; very good defender – arguably his best present tool; competition for best tool includes a shocking plus-plus arm from his smaller frame; just enough pop to keep a pitcher honest, but mostly to the gaps; size gets him in trouble (attempts to do much), but this is inarguably a good college player; little bit of Jimmy Rollins to his game in that he is a little man with a big swing – again, this often gets him in more trouble than it should, as he is far, far less talented than Rollins on his worst day; great range to his right; definite utility future due to experience on left side; can get too jumpy at plate and swing at pithes outside the zone, but generally a patient hitter; 5-6, 155

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 Quick Draft Thoughts – Clemson Tigers

1. Clemson’s 2008 group of signees included Kevin Brady, David Haselden, Will Lamb, Brad Miller, Scott Weismann, Jason Stolz, Ethan Martin, and Chris Dwyer. I realize you can do that with the recruiting class of a major college program almost any year, but something about this class intrigued me. A college rotation of Dwyer, Martin (who I loved as a high school prospect), and Brady would have been fun.

2. SO RHP Kevin Brady confounds me. He’s good, no doubt, but I’m not yet sure how good. I’ve heard some smart people put forth convincing arguments against Brady as a premium draft arm (not enough movement on fastball, inconsistent slider, curve and change too far behind fastball/slider), but I’m leaning towards the thought that Brady is better than that. How good is it? I’m thinking really, really good (dominating numbers, good command of 90-92 FB that touches 94-95, good slider when he has it working, improving changeup) with the potential to vault into the top three rounds with a big spring.

3. The biggest reason why it took me so long to finish writing about Clemson is Brad Miller. See, I’m a big fan of his and I think he’s one of the best middle infield prospects in this year’s draft. Or that’s what I thought, at least. I thought he was one of the best and was going to write that, but then I figured, hey, it’s my site so why not put off finishing up the Clemson team report for a day while I put together my list of top college middle infield prospects. That way I can make a declarative statement about Brad Miller’s place on my personal middle infield rankings. As of now, I have Miller as college baseball’s best shortstop prospect and somewhere in the top three (with Kolten Wong and Levi Michael) when stacked against all college middle infielders.

Early 2011 Draft Guesses

The aforementioned Kevin Brady isn’t the only Clemson draft-eligible sophomore of note. SO LHP Joseph Moorfield hasn’t gotten a lot of notice outside of Pickens County, but lefties with low-90s and four usable pitches don’t often get overlooked for long. His control is probably his biggest question mark right now; it’ll probably be the key in determining his role for the upcoming season which in turn could be the key in determining his 2011 draft stock. JR RHP Scott Weismann is a big favorite of mine because of his strong power arsenal that I think will really play up pitching out of the bullpen professionally. From a filthy sinking low-90s fastball to a hard low-80s slider, every pitch that Weismann throws moves. Throw in a good splitter and you’ve got yourself a prospect to watch. Weismann might get downgraded by some teams turned off by classic short righthanded pitcher bias, but his stuff plays. As one of the smartest amateur pitchers you’d ever hope to see, JR RHP David Haselden has a chance to make a move this spring. I haven’t personally seen him throw, but I’ve heard his offspeed stuff is strong and his fastball command is even stronger. Interested in learning more about him in the coming months.

It’s a shame there are a lot more interesting outfielders to sort through than shortstops or else I would be able to make some kind of declaration about JR OF/LHP Will Lamb. I don’t know where he’ll eventual rank when compared to a pretty deep crop of college outfielders, but I do know it will darn high. He’s big and strong enough to drive balls out without necessarily having to try (always a good thing to look for in a young hitter), he has elite range and first step quickness in the outfield, and his arm is a legitimate weapon in center. The word is that the majority of scouts have told him they prefer his upside on the mound (6-5 projectable lefties with low-90s velocity and two present average secondary pitches), but I still like his upside as a position player. I think he’s got a chance to be this year’s Brett Eibner. If only SR OF Jeff Schaus pitched, he’d be Clemson’s carbon copy of Florida State’s Mike McGee, a senior who consistently produces at a level greater than the sum of his tools. There are a lot of averages in a Schaus scouting report — power and speed, to name two — but he’s a gifted natural hitter with a smart approach at the plate who possesses just enough of every relevant tool to remain intriguing. There’s definite fourth outfielder potential here.

JR 3B Jason Stolz has a strong reputation in scouting circles despite having no standout tools (his arm and defensive versatility are probably his two best attributes) and poor college production to this point. JR C Phil Pohl actually reminds me a lot of a catching version of Stolz; great promise once upon a time, but now relegated to backup duty. Either prospect could be drafted, but I think neither will leave Clemson until after their senior seasons. SR OF Addison Johnson is out until early 2011 with a torn ACL, a injury that is really a tough blow for a speed guy to take. Fellow SR OF Chris Epps is a nice college leadoff hitter, but his pro profile is a mess. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not sure even a fifty round draft will find room for a fast (but not plus) runner who is limited to a leftfield because of a weak arm and poor outfield instincts without power.

JR 3B John Hinson is a prospect I spent a lot of time thinking about last summer after he was drafted by the Phillies. Here’s some of what I said back then: Hinson was a highly touted prospect out of high school who was considered advanced enough after his freshman year to be asked to play for Hyannis in the Cape Cod League. Back surgery cost him all of his 2009 season, but the fully recovered version of Hinson put up a 2010 statistical line that reads a lot like Pittsburgh’s Joe Leonard’s work this season. A plus hit tool combined with above-average speed and power will get you far professionally, but people smarter than myself that I talked with told me some teams question his ability to play any one particular spot in the infield with the consistency needed of a regular. Based on the limited looks of Hinson that I’ve seen, 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.

Early 2011 Draft Guesses…for real this time

Miller, Lamb, and Brady should be early round selections. Weismann, Schaus, and Hinson are also locks to get taken. After that, things aren’t so clear. I like Moorefield, but I’m not so sure about him to put him with the locks. Stolz and Pohl are both solidly in the maybe pile at this point with longer shots like Johnson, Epps, and Haselden next up. I’m putting fictional money on Miller, Lamb, Brady, Weismann, Schaus, Hinson, Stolz, and Pohl even though I prefer Moorefield as a prospect over the last two names on the list.