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Forcing Comps: Carlos Rodon

Spent my Easter morning thinking about Carlos Rodon because that’s a perfectly normal thing to do, right? First, here’s what I wrote about him a few weeks ago…
Fastball not as fast, command way down, slider still awesome (but he uses it a ton, which may or may not be worrisome going forward), and, most frustratingly of all, no real positive gains made in areas that I was concerned about going into the year (he’s not a great athlete, his body is what it is, and his change is still not where you want it to be). When your strengths are not quite as strong and your weaknesses show little to no improvement, things aren’t going so great. Before you could say that his fastball/slider combo was so dominant that he’d be a damn good MLB starter regardless of those negatives — some are more dogmatic about the need for three average or better pitches to be a starter (I once was, to be honest), but reading about how Doc Gooden was messed with by trying too hard to bring along a third pitch after his huge early success with the Mets has me thinking that an above-average to plus FB and a SL that has elicited comparisons to a guy named Carlton would suffice three times through a lineup quite nicely — but now that his FB command has wavered and the overall velocity is down across the board, well, you have to wonder. He’s still a big-time talent and a likely top five lock, but I’d definitely bet the field over him if we’re talking strictly 1-1.

Things move quickly in the world of amateur draft prospects, but I think all that still stands today. Rodon is still a primarily FB/SL pitcher who is struggling (for him) this season in large part due to inconsistent command and decreased velocity. Assuming those two things can be helped in pro ball, where does he fit in at the next level? Let’s explore.

Before going further it’s worth saying that I don’t mean to disregard the non-FB/SL assortment of pitches Rodon offers, but I’ve yet to personally see or hear from somebody I trust about a consistent third big league pitch at this point in his development. Some like the change (“inconsistent, but will flash average or better”), others vouch for the upside of one of his two variations of the curve (harder one used primarily in bullpens, low-80s one occasionally mixed in during games), and I’ve heard a few who think he can differentiate enough between his “true” slider and an even harder low-90s cut-slider to keep hitters off balance with hard, harder, and hardest stuff.

Using the Fangraphs 2013 leaderboards, I found a few guys who got away with FB/SL combos and little else last year: Greg Holland, Patrick Corbin, Chris Archer, and Mike Dunn. None are great fits as direct comparisons, though I guess the two lefthanders (Corbin and Dunn) provide the easiest to see templates to success. Corbin’s slider is a very different version than Rodon’s (nor nearly as firm), and he does mix in a changeup every ten pitches or so. Dunn matches up better across the board (averages 94 MPH with FB and 87 with SL, closer in body type, etc.), but likely represents Rodon’s non-catastrophic injury worst case scenario as a big leaguer. Interesting.

I then looked back at every pitcher in the Fangraphs database that “often” (defined as 15% or more usage) threw a “hard” slider (defined as 85 MPH or more), while also adjusting when possible for handedness (edge for lefthanders, obviously), usage of other pitches (fewer the better), and body type (mostly eliminating sub-six-footers). Not exactly the most scientific approach, but, hey, the price is right. Four names stood out to me.

The best historical comp I could come up with, and it is admittedly a very generous one (and a bit of a stretch using some of the criteria listed above), is former starter/reliever and likely future HOFer John Smoltz. The two share a similar hard fastballs/slider combination that each leans/leaned on heavily, with the biggest stuff exception being Smoltz’s reliance (especially later in his career) on a splitter as a third pitch (10.2% usage). There’s also the thorny issue of handedness being flipped, but that’s something I can personally get past when the rest of the pieces fit. My memory would also say that, despite very similar listed frames (6-3, 220ish to 240ish), the body types weren’t all that close, and, more importantly, the athleticism was a separator in Smoltz’s favor. Still, not the most unrealistic best-case (probably should capitalize and bold that before I get in trouble with the comps are evil crowd: BEST-CASE) scenario comparison out there, I believe. Close, sure, but I could have thrown Koufax, Unit, or Spahn out there instead. (That’s a joke, everybody!). If you want to throw this away because comping anybody to a HOF-caliber player is a waste of time, well, then I wouldn’t blame you. All part of working through this particular thought exercise.

The best comp based off an existing one that I could find is Texas lefthander Robbie Ross. Stay with me on this one. Ross is far more dependent on his fastball than Rodon, but he is at least almost exclusively a FB/SL pitcher. The fact that he has had success going this route is encouraging to me, especially when you consider Rodon’s fastball and slider are both ahead of where Ross is at. The reason I’ve categorized him as a comp based off an existing one is because there have been some that have compared Rodon to Ross’s Texas teammate, Matt Harrison. For various reasons, mostly due to a far better-rounded repertoire, I don’t really see the Harrison comp, though I think the bodies match up fairly well. Ross has a completely different body type, so keep that in mind here. Far from perfect yet again, but I liked seeing a young player succeeding while relying solely on his fastball and slider.

The best college prospect comp I could muster is former Tar Heel and current Red Sox pitcher Andrew Miller. A part of me feels like we’ve seen this Rodon story unfold already, you know? This is a good comp, and, in my opinion, so obvious that I can’t believe the major publications haven’t run with it yet. Miller, though longer, leaner, and more athletic than Rodon, entered his draft year with very similar 1-1 hype. I saw Miller about a dozen times in his last two years at Carolina, and the buzz at every one of his starts was palpable. His fastball was explosive and his slider was even better. Even to an untrained eye like mine you could tell his mechanics needed some ironing out in pro ball, but he was still such an easy prospect to dream on. So, let’s circle back: highly touted lefthander from a major university in North Carolina, plus to plus-plus fastball/slider combination, underdeveloped changeup, and command issues stemming from mechanical inconsistencies. Come on! As a reliever now Miller is exclusively FB/SL after completely ditching the changeup after 2012. If we’re talking floor as a big leaguer, I think Miller is an interesting recent data point to consider. Better than the earlier Mike Dunn floor, and with the added collegiate prospect parallels to boot.

The best overall comp I can come up with is current Giants star lefthander Madison Bumgarner. Hear me out. Outside of Bumgarner’s own interesting career path to date (hard to believe now, but he was an extremely divisive prospect just a few short years ago) and his edge in athleticism, I think the comp is pretty damn near ideal if you keep an open mind towards comps in general. Baseball America had Bumgarner at 92-94 (97 peak) with his fastball pre-draft in 2007 with a “fringe-average” breaking ball at 81 MPH. They also cited his inconsistent mechanics and below-average changeup. After the 2009 season, they made note of plus makeup (“ornery competitor” with “zero fear”). His last prospect year (2010) brought news about his now “outstanding” slider and exceptional “mound savvy.” Does that not sound similar to the path Rodon has been on over these last few years? The frame matches up fairly well (Bumgarner is listed at 6-5, 235) and no starter that I found relies more on his slider than the San Francisco ace (over 34% in his career!). Bumgarner has found a way to mix in more changeups and curveballs than scouting reports anticipated, but that’s a credit to the aforementioned makeup and the excellent developmental staff in the Giants organization. No comp is perfect, but if Rodon straightens himself out in pro ball, I could see him doing Bumgarner-type things. He’ll throw harder, and chances are he won’t have as deep an overall arsenal (though it wouldn’t shock me if better instruction helped fine-tune a better third pitch than we’re currently seeing going forward), but his slider should be a similarly special pitch and nobody disputes his similar competitive zeal for the game. I don’t want to like this comp as much as I do, but it’s not without merit.

The biggest thing that gives me pause is the developmental years Rodon “lost” at college. Bumgarner turned 22 on August 1, 2011. That was the middle of a his first full season as a big league starter, a year he pitched to a 2.67 FIP in 204.2 innings. That’s good. Rodon will likely enter his first full season as a professional (at AA, most likely) at 22 next year. That doesn’t mean Rodon won’t reach the same heights Bumgarner has, but it does give him a long road to catch up. Guess that falls under the “no comp is perfect” caveat. I tried to track what would have been Bumgarner’s “college years” developmentally in the preceding paragraph, but comparing prospects from HS to college guys, pitchers especially, is a fool’s errand. I’m clearly a fool and am quite alright with that.

Job on the line, I don’t think I’d pound the table for the Rodon as Bumgarner comp, but suggesting it as an upside feels optimistically fair, if that makes sense. I did save one comp for last…

SUMMARY and CONCLUSION

Carlos Rodon has disappointed in 2014. His disappointment has more to do with meaningful changes to his professional projection as outlined above, though the industry hype machine that helped build him does seem unfairly quick to tear him down. He’s still a really good pro prospect with many favorable career paths before him, and it isn’t outlandish to believe he winds up as one of the (if not the) best college pitchers from this draft class. He’s also not a sure thing, and that’s before any potential concerns about overuse are brought into play. I think this season is actually a fairly instructive one to keep in mind as he beings his professional journey: enough flashes of ace-caliber stuff to frustrate you that he isn’t better than he is while still putting up consistently above-average results. You want him to be more than he is (perhaps rightfully so), therefore it is hard to appreciate how well he’s actually turned out. If that sounds a little bit like a lefthanded version of Josh Johnson, another hard-throwing FB/SL heavy (88.1% combined usage) pitcher with a checkered injury history, then we’re on the same page.

GO/AO 2014

Long-time readers of the site may remember I’ve done a good bit of box score sleuthing over the years to determine ground ball/fly ball ratios for the draft’s top pitching prospects.

I’ll open it up to the wisdom of our crowd to name any interesting pitchers worth tracking. I’m going off my own personal board for now (spoiler alert!), so that means I’m currently following Jeff Hoffman, Carlos Rodon, Tyler Beede, Chris Ellis, Luke Weaver, and Erik Fedde. It probably comes as no surprise, but Weaver (he of the popular Tim Hudson comp) is the early front runner for highest GB% — I suppose that should be the title of the post rather than GO/AO, but old habits die hard — with Tyler Beede bringing up the rear. Sample sizes are obviously still quite small, but fun to track all the same.

I don’t mind going up to ten guys this season, so there are still up to four free spots on my list. I’d like to avoid relievers if at all possible — Michael Cederoth would be next on my list, but I’m not patient enough to go through every game of his — and I tend to prefer righthanders, but I’m flexible. Really long-time readers of the site remember that I originally tried to track literally hundreds of pitchers…man, what began as a fun way to get a little extra data out there spiraled way out of control in a hurry. I mean, I enjoy looking through the box scores and inputting data, but not when the scope of the task made it feel like a part-time job. Now that I’m older and, depending on your view, either wiser or lazier, I’ll stick with a manageable number that allows me to still get excited when doing the weekly update.

Milwaukee Brewers 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Brewers 2011 MLB Draft Selections

I think Texas RHP Taylor Jungmann unfairly got lost amongst the collection of so many talented 2011 college arms. I think his fastball command is so good that he’ll have early enough pro success to buy him some time to sharpen up his inconsistent offspeed stuff. I think the Jared Weaver comp – made by Baseball America, if memory serves – is a good approximation for his ceiling. So concludes three things I think I think about Taylor Jungmann.

Texas JR RHP Taylor Jungmann: has touched 96-99, but regularly sits low-90s (91-93); new reports have him 92-95; can still reach back and crank upper-90s (like on opening day 2011), but sits most comfortably 92-93, occasionally dipping to 89-91; plus FB command; good sink on FB; plus 75-78 CB; plus CB command; good 85-87 CU; good SL; love the Jered Weaver comp

The parallel careers of Georgia Tech LHP Jed Bradley and new Seattle Mariner LHP Danny Hultzen will be fascinating to watch. Bradley can do many of the same things that caused so many to fall in love with Hultzen this past spring. Hultzen dominated the college game in a way Bradley didn’t, but, from a stuff perspective, the two lefties are much closer than you might think. Bradley’s fastball might even be a tick better than Hultzen’s, though his secondary offerings are nowhere near as consistent. There are days, however, that his change and slider look just as good as Hultzen’s top two offspeed pitches.

Georgia Tech JR LHP Jed Bradley: 88-92 FB with plus life and good sink, pretty steady peak up at 94-96; loves to cut the FB; has sat 91-93 at times; holds velocity late; good sink on FB; average 80-84 SL that flashes plus when velocity gets up to 86-87; good 77-79 CB; plus 79-83 CU that he has worked very hard on, but sometimes goes away from for too long; both the SL and CB are very inconsistent offerings; 6-4, 200 pounds

Academia de Milagrosa (PR) HS RHP Jorge Lopez is a really intriguing mix of polished present stuff and long-range upside. He currently can throw three pitches for strikes – fastball, curve, change – and there’s a chance each pitch winds up big league average or better. He’s also a great athlete with exactly the kind of projectable frame that gets the scouts hot and bothered.

RHP Jorge Lopez (Academia la Milagrosa, Puerto Rico): 88-91 FB with good command, 93 peak; very good 73-75 CB; plus CU; 6-5, 175

The early pro reports on Long Beach State RHP Drew Gagnon’s velocity are promising (e.g. fewer pitches in the upper-80s, peaking at 95), but I’m still lukewarm about any pitcher without one clear knockout pitch. His slider (82-85) shows the most promise, but he leaves it up too often and has difficulty putting it in a spot where hitters will consistently chase it. There remains value in Gagnon’s steady three-pitch assortment (he still throws the curve, a fourth pitch, but that should be scrapped going forward) and his plus fastball command, like Jungmann, is attractive, but limited upside keeps me from loving the pick. I do appreciate the stacking of starting pitchers early, however; it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that the Brewers added four big league starting pitchers with their first four picks in the draft.

Long Beach State JR RHP Andrew Gagnon: 89-91 FB, has hit 93-94; once promising slurvy breaking ball has turned into above-average 82-85 SL; rapidly improving 85-86 CU that is now at least an average pitch; plus command; 78-82 CB; breaking ball command an issue; 6-2, 188 pounds

Lefthanded power and good defense does not a star first base prospect make. Cal State Fullerton 1B Nick Ramirez can hit it out of the park and shows no problems fielding his position, but the expectations for a first base prospect are likely too high for him to ever provide value as an everyday player. I don’t think he’ll struggle so much as a hitter that he’ll ever be tempted to return to pitching, but the thought of him someday holding down a lefthanded reliever/power bench bat role makes me happy. For me, Nick Ramirez is the next step of the evolution that began the post-injury version of Joe Savery.

Ramirez has a well-deserved reputation as a power hitting first baseman with a plus throwing arm, but what I think I enjoy most about his game is his quality defense. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: no matter what becomes of Ramirez as a pro, he’ll go down as one of my favorite college players to watch.

Overslot fifth round pick Leander HS (TX) OF Michael Reed is a toolsy yet raw athlete from Texas. He looks great in a uniform and possesses the strength you’d normally see from a star football player, but there are legitimate questions about how he’ll bat will play as a pro. The fifth round is as good a time as any to start taking chances on prospects like this.

[strong; plus arm; average speed; raw bat; shows all five tools]

Most high school athletes are raw. That’s a fairly uncontroversial statement that we can all agree to, right? There are, of course, degrees of rawness, but the gap between what a player shows as a teenager to what he’ll hopefully show once he’s on the precipice of becoming a big league ballplayer is immense. The following might be a little bit more subjective, but hear me out: Like Michael Reed, Newbury Park HS (CA) RHP Daniel Keller is another raw prospect with big tools, but, as a pitcher, has upside that can be more reasonably met with good instruction. At one point or another, Keller has shown all of the things you’d want to see in a future big league pitcher: his fastball sits between 88-92 (peaking 93-94) with occasionally impressive sink, his change has shown flashes of being an above-average pitch, and both his curve and slider look like usable pitches on his best day. The problem with Keller is that he’s never really had all of his pitches going at the same time. That, combined with a delivery befitting a pitcher as raw as he is, makes Keller a long-term project. The abilities that go into throwing hard, locating pitches, and spinning breaking balls strike me as skills that you own forever (more or less) once you’ve shown that you can do them. Figuring out how to hit all these crazy pitches, like Reed will have to do, requires a far steeper learning curve. In other words, all else being equal, I’ll take the raw pitcher over the raw position player.

RHP Danny Keller (Newbury Park HS, California): 88-92 FB, 94 peak; good sinker; raw but interesting CU; good 79-80 CB; 75 SL; raw; violent delivery; 6-5, 185

Mississippi RHP David Goforth throws very, very hard. That’s good. David Goforth also throws the ball very, very straight. That’s less good. Pro hitters don’t have as much trouble squaring up on straight fastballs as their SEC counterparts. Upper-90s heat can work even without a ton of movement when complemented with a consistent, well-placed offspeed pitch. When on, Goforth’s slider qualifies and, though it isn’t offspeed per se, the new and improved cutter could also work. Big fastball plus the potential for an interesting secondary plus a max effort delivery all adds up to a future big league reliever.

Mississippi JR RHP David Goforth: 93-96 straight FB; has hit 97-99 in relief; average 79-83 SL that flashes plus; occasional CU; max effort delivery; good athlete; poor command; new 88-91 cutter has been effective; has been up to 98-100 in 2011; 5-11, 185

Biggest thing working in Brookswood SS (BC) C Dustin Houle’s favor is time. He’s young enough that he’ll have plenty of time to show that he can hit professional pitching and defend at either third or behind the plate. I know it is a lazy comp and I apologize, but I’m a lazy apologetic man: Houle’s perfect world upside sounds a lot like fellow Canadian Russell Martin to me.

Houle probably fits best behind the plate, but I’m sticking with him as a third baseman for now. He is a talented player who will need a lot of minor league reps. That shouldn’t be a problem for him because, as one of the youngest draft-eligible players this year, youth is on his side.

I’ve heard the Brewers were pleasantly surprised at how good La Grange HS (GA) OF Malcolm Dowell looked in his first shot at pro ball. They knew he was a great athlete who would steal bases and cover a lot of ground in center, but his approach to hitting was far more refined than expected. If everything works out, he has leadoff hitter upside. Not a bad potential outcome for a player I personally badly missed on leading up to the draft.

I honestly can’t remember why I cooled on Oklahoma State LHP Mike Strong this past spring; reports on his stuff were somewhat down in 2011, but his results remained as strong as ever. He succeeds with a good fastball and a better curve. A new cutter and better conditioning helped him pitch deeper into games, but his iffy control might not be what the pros want out of a starting pitcher. As a lefty with three usable pitches, he’ll get his chances even if he moves to the bullpen in the not so distant future.

Oklahoma State SR LHP Mike Strong (2011): 88-92 FB; holds velocity late; plus hammer mid-70s CB; cutter; developing CU; 6-0, 180 pounds; (9.65 K/9 – 4.90 BB/9 – 4.42 FIP – 64.1 IP)

Florida RHP Tommy Toledo (Round 11) is an intriguing sleeper that could emerge as a legit starting pitching prospect if his arm checks out. When he commands his low-90s fastball, he’s tough to hit. If the starting experiment doesn’t work, Toledo can always move back to the bullpen into the role he played so well while at Florida.

Florida JR RHP Tommy Toledo: coming back from arm injury; 88-91 FB; took line drive off of face in 2010; 91-93 back and healthy; command comes and goes; really nice breaking stuff

Neither UNC Wilmington OF Andrew Cain (Round 12) nor Holly Springs HS (NC) LHP Carlos Rodon (Round 16) signed with Milwaukee, so both will head back to the great state of North Carolina to play college ball. In the case of Cain, he’s taking his pro grade speed, raw power, and size back to UNC Wilmington. An improvement to his offensive approach would go a long way towards getting him picked where the rest of his talent – we’re talking top five tools – warrants. Rodon will give it the old college try at North Carolina State. He’s flashed well above-average stuff across the board, but inconsistency rightfully knocked him down on draft day. Those three potential pro pitches – fastball, slider, and change – make him a potential first day pick next time around.

LHP Carlos Rodon (Holly Springs HS, North Carolina): 87-89 FB, peak 92-93; loses velocity early; 75-76 CB; good 76-80 SL; emerging CU; raw enough that he may be better off at NC State; inconsistent offspeed stuff; spotty command; good athlete; 6-2, 210

Outside of the three pitchers taken by Milwaukee in the first two rounds, Lufkin HS (TX) SS Chris McFarland (Round 18) is the best long-range prospect selected in 2011. All of his tools work really well at third, and I believe in his bat in a big way. Reagan HS (FL) C Mario Amaral (Round 17) got away, but he’ll be a fun prospect to watch develop at Florida State.

The 2014 draft class might wind up loaded with premium third base prospects if all of the supposed difficult signs wind up at their respective universities. McFarland’s down senior year has many thinking he’ll wind up at Rice this fall. That’d be great news for college baseball, but a bummer for the fans of whatever team drafts him. They’d be missing out on an excellent athlete with five-tool upside at third. McFarland’s lightning quick bat is his best tool, followed closely behind by his well above-average raw power and aided by his discerning eye at the plate. His speed, size, and arm are all exactly what you’d want out of a potential big league regular.

I’m a huge sucker for hitters who know the strike zone better than the umpire, so count me in as a fan of Connecticut 1B Michael Nemeth (Round 21). Unfortunately, I’m more of a fan of Nemeth the player rather than Nemeth the prospect, if that makes sense. It’s really hard to hitch your wagon to a first base only prospect without neither a plus hit tool nor plus power. Patient hitters with gap power who play above-average or better defense are not without value, but those guys face a pretty massive uphill slog to legit prospectdom in today’s game.

Nemeth’s name kept coming up in discussions with people in the know leading up to the publication of this list. He was admittedly off my radar heading into the year, but those 2011 plate discipline numbers are eye popping. After having seen him myself a few times this year, I can say he looked to me like a guy with good power to the gaps with the chance to be an average hitter and above-average defender down the line.

I’ve long been a fan of Florida C Ben McMahan (Round 23), and see no reason why he won’t turn up as a big league backup catching option a few years down the line. He won’t hit enough to play every day, but his defense is top notch.

There is still a part of me that thinks McMahan could surface a few years down the line as a big league backup, based largely on the strength of his plus defensive tools.

Georgia RHP Michael Palazzone (Round 24) doesn’t wow you with the fastball (sits upper-80s, 92 peak), but his top two secondary pitches are good ones. A good final season for the Bulldogs could get him taken in the top ten rounds.

Georgia JR RHP Michael Palazzone: 92 peak FB; plus CU; solid CB

If Orange Coast CC RHP Chad Thompson (Round 27) is healthy, then the Brewers got a major steal this late in the draft. He’s got the size, heat, and upside of a prospect who typically would be selected within the first five rounds. In a weak Brewers farm system, Thompson could rise up into their top ten by season’s end. Or his stuff, slow to recover from Tommy John surgery so far, never returns to his high school level. If that’s the case, the Crew are out a 27th round pick. Classic low risk, high reward pick. Either way, great gamble by Milwaukee at this stage in the draft.

Thompson is huge (6-8, 215) with an explosive low-90s FB (90-93) peaking at 94-95, nasty splitter, upper-70s circle change with serious sink, and a raw mid-70s curve that needs polish. There are also rumblings that he now throws a good forkball, but, haven’t not seen him personally since high school, I can neither confirm nor deny its existence. If Thompson’s elbow is structurally sound after last May’s Tommy John surgery, the Phillies have a major sleeper on their hands.

On top of being a pretty darn fine draft prospect, Mesquite HS (TX) C BreShon Kimbell also deserves credit for being a man of many names. Baseball America has him listed incorrectly as “Kimbrell” in their draft database and the Louisiana Tech website lists his first name as Bre’shon. I personally like Bre$hon, but just because I think it looks cool. The unsigned Kimbell has a heck of a chance to become Louisiana Tech’s best draft prospect since Brian Rike in 2007. If/when he reaches the bigs, he’ll have his sights set on David Segui, currently the most accomplished Bulldog of all time. Kimbell has the raw talent to do big things in college, but he has a long way to go.

Kimbell is unusually strong, very athletic, and a gifted defender. He also has shown big raw power in the past, but inconsistencies with his swing mechanics make his trips to the plate hit or miss, no pun intended. Some good pro coaching could turn him into a high level pro prospect in short order. Also, BreShon – a fella with a name like that is obviously destined for greatness, even though I sometimes read it as Bre$hon.

You know Maryland SS Alfredo Rodriguez (Round 32) must really, really, really be able to pick it at short if he pulled off getting drafted despite a 2011 slugging percentage less than Ravens tackle Michael Oher’s listed (313 pounds) weight.

The most highly regarded returning Terrapins prospect is JR SS Alfredo Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a really good defender who will definitely stick at short as a pro. He made strides with the bat last spring, but is still almost exclusively a singles hitter at this point. Needless to say, great defense or not, I’m not as high on him as I know some are. 

Born, raised, educated, and now a professional ballplayer, all in the great state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin-Milwaukee RHP Chad Pierce (Round 38) is just a bit more than a feel-good local pick, however; his fastball peaks at 92 and he’s got the athleticism you’d expect from a converted college catcher.

Connecticut LHP Elliott Glynn (Round 39) is a crafty lefty with a mid-80s fastball that dances low in the zone often enough to get him way more groundballs than your typical crafty lefty. He also has two solid secondaries (slider and change) that he’ll throw at any point in the count. There’s some relief upside here which, for a 39th rounder, makes Glynn more interesting than most. Connecticut C Doug Elliot (Round 35), Glynn’s college battery mate, is a solid defender with interesting but undeveloped power. Seems like a handy org guy to me.

Connecticut SR LHP Elliot Glynn (2011): upper-80s FB with good movement; 82-83, peak at 86; solid SL; plus CU

I’ve heard conflicting reports on whether or not we’ll be seeing Trinity Christian Academy (FL) SS Ahmad Christian (Round 46) play baseball for the Gamecocks this spring. He’s such a good athlete that the NFL is a possibility down the line, but I still hope he gives baseball a shot. His defense at short is already professional quality. In reading up on both Christian and new teammate/fellow two-way athlete Shon Carson, I stumbled upon a fact that I feel like the last person on the planet to either know or care about. Sheldon Brown, former Eagle and current Brown defensive back, was a part-time outfielder for the USC baseball team?

It sure doesn’t seem like Christian will sign a pro contract this year, but his crazy athleticism, great range, and plus glove are all too good to leave him off this list. In the likely event he’ll wind up at South Carolina, it’ll be interesting to track his development as a dual-sport (the other being football) prospect. Like Hunter Cole before him, going off to school could be a blessing in disguise for his long-term outlook. There are still many concerns about Christian’s offensive ability and three years in the SEC will provide a clearer picture of his skills.