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Los Angeles Angels 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Los Angeles Angels 2011 Draft Selections

(I’m away on my first non-baseball trip in way too long, but there are a few more 2011 draft reviews in the can for when I get back. Next up is Atlanta (Friday or Monday, break in travel schedule Thursday night pending), followed by the White Sox next week. As always, thanks for reading…)

I’m not even an Angels fan, but I sure do miss Eddie Bane. I do not understand what the Angels did on draft day this year. If I had to guess, here are my three principles of Los Angeles’ 2011 drafting philosophy: 1) say yes to junior college guys and no to high school prospects, 2) pitchers without arm strength need not apply, and 3) stick to scouting the big three – Texas, California, and, most noticeably, Florida. Let’s dive in deeper with a look at their top ten rounds and beyond…

Good to start off with a player that totally contradicts my opening paragraph, I think. Keeps the readers on their toes. Utah 1B CJ Cron (29th ranked draft prospect) is a college position player from the great state of Utah. He’s not a juco or prep player, not a pitcher with a plus arm (in fact, a shoulder injury has kept him from throwing for most of 2011), and not from Texas, California, or Florida. Cron’s scouting profile is eerily reminiscent to former catcher Paul Konerko, a popular comp for a reason. I’ve also heard Cron compared to a righthanded hitting version of Texas’ Mitch Moreland. He’ll hit enough to be, at worst, a league average bat at first.

Cron’s numbers sync up well with his scouting reports. I may be in the minority, but I actually like his pure hit tool more than I like his power. Either way, both are above-average tools. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they are his only above-average tools. Again, I find myself in the minority in thinking he could at least be a passable catcher at the next level, but I’ll concede to the experts on that one. Looks like Cron will be the first first baseman off the board, college or high school. His well above-average hit tool and present power make him a safe bet to become a starting first baseman and middle of the lineup bat

If the opening paragraph wasn’t enough, another warning: there are very few positives forthcoming. An exception comes with the selection of Florida LHP Nick Maronde (80th ranked draft prospect), an outstanding prospect. My only hope is that Los Angeles continues to give Maronde the opportunity to start as he progresses through the system. The former Florida reliever has the three pitches needed to start in the big leagues, but it will take time for him to get back into the starting pitching mindset.

Florida JR LHP Nick Maronde: 90-91 FB, peak 93 as starter; now sitting 93-95, 96 peak out of bullpen; plus low-80s SL that he doesn’t use enough; CB; good 81 CU; relieved in college, but I like him as a starter; 6-3, 200

Seminole State JC (FL) RHP Mike Clevinger hits on all three of the Angels criteria listed above. He’s an arm strength reliever all the way. Northeast Texas CC (TX) OF Andrew Ray was a curious underslot signing who profiles as a backup outfielder and/or four corners utility guy. Grayson County CC (TX) C Abel Baker makes three junior college players drafted in the top seven rounds by the Angels. Of the three, Baker is my favorite by far. His raw power, arm strength, and makeup are all exactly what you’d like to see in a catching prospect. He was pretty far under the radar this spring – a genius like me missed him, for example – but the Angels know Grayson County CC prospects (John Lackey and Jordan Walden) better than anybody.

Southern California RHP Austin Wood (50th ranked draft prospect) is like a more experienced (as a starter) righthanded version of Nick Maronde. His inconsistency is maddening, but the raw stuff is good enough to start at the highest level. Settling on a breaking ball would be a great first step for Wood’s professional career.  Wood’s teammate Southern California RHP Logan Odom has the size of a power pitcher, but not the stuff. I know I’m just one list crazy guy, but Odom didn’t crack the top 400 on my pre-draft top college pitchers list. He wasn’t even my favorite Odom (I liked JT of Mercer) in this year’s class. Needless to say, the Angels like Logan way more than I do.

Southern California JR RHP Austin Wood: 92-94 FB, 95-96 peak; interesting SL; emerging 80-82 CU that still needs work; average CB; 6-4, 215

California prospect RHP Nick Mutz is a scout’s dream. Without an organized team to call his own, Mutz got himself noticed by throwing bullpens for teams on request. I lost track of him after he left Dakota State, but my old notes mentioned a Jason Motte comp that I think holds up pretty well. Memphis OF Drew Martinez is a nice little player who gives you exactly what you’d expect: defense, speed, and patience. He might not be the burner some teams want in the role of fifth outfielder/pinch runner, but his instincts, both in the outfield and on the bases, make me think he’d thrive in the role.

Memphis JR OF Drew Martinez (2011): outstanding CF defense; plus speed; below-average arm; no power; average at best bat; great base runner; FAVORITE; 5-10, 170 pounds; (392/445/469 – 25 BB/27 K – 20/30 SB – 260 AB)

College baseball fans have to be pretty pleased with the way the Angels whiffed on signing a quartet of interesting mid-round high school draftees. Boca Raton (FL) HS OF Domonic Jose (Round 15), Bell HS (TX) C Hunter Lockwood (Round 17), Tunkhannock Area HS (PA) OF Mike Papi (Round 30 and my 181st draft prospect), and West HS (WA) SS Erik Forgione (Round 33) all could emerge as single digit round selections in three years. Jose was a worthy gamble for a fifteenth rounder with a strong Stanford commitment; no harm in trying with the toolsy outfielder, but it is probably the best for all involved for him to head to school and work on his swing. Lockwood will head to Oklahoma and could step in right away by getting some at bats at first, designated hitter, and behind the plate. Offensively, he reminds me a bit of the fan he could be replacing at catcher (Tyler Ogle), but whether or not the direct catcher to catcher comparison can be made depends on Lockwood’s defense. Papi, who I consistently referred to as Matt for unexplained reasons prior to the draft, could be Virginia’s starting right fielder from day one. Forgione is ready for full-time shortstop duty defensively and could get the chance if the Washington coaching staff can live with the growing pains that will come as his bat develops.

No weaknesses in Lockwood’s game, just a really solid, well-rounded skill set.

Another player with a better than average shot at winding up in class this fall, Matt Papi’s solid across the board tool set could get him drafted early enough to keep him away from enrolling at Virginia. His best tool is an electric right arm, a true plus tool that helps the still raw defender compensate for his occasional defensive shortcomings.

One of my favorite sleepers from the Pacific Northwest, Forgione is a plus runner with great range and athleticism.

The Angels didn’t just fail when it came time to sign their mid-round high school prospects. They also dropped the ball on getting anything done with Florida RHP Greg Larson (Round 29) and Fresno State C Trent Garrison (Round 50). I’m inclined to give them a mulligan on these instances, as Larson made it known early on he wanted to head back to Florida and Garrison, one of the very last overall picks of the entire draft, was a really tough sign as he rehabbed from injury. Larson reminds me a great deal of recently promoted Phillies reliever and one-time fourteenth round pick Michael Schwimer. A good senior year could get him selected up in a similar draft range. Garrison, who I foolishly removed my personal board due to injury, is an elite defender with enough upside at the plate to shoot up draft boards with a healthy senior season. I actually give the Angels a lot of credit for staying with him this spring and taking a chance on him signing on.

Florida JR RHP Greg Larson (2011): 87-88, 90 peak FB; 81-82 SL with upside

Fresno State JR C Trent Garrison: solid defender; above-average arm

UC Riverside SS Trevor Hairgrove (Round 18) has a slick glove at short, but very limited upside with the bat. UC Irvine 3B Brian Hernandez (Round 27), as you can read from his pre-draft report below, is cut from a very similar cloth. With an intriguing hit tool and little else, Arizona State OF Andy Workman (Round 34) goes the other way. All three make for good organizational players. One college prospect from out west that I think can be more than an organizational player is Arizona C Jett Bandy (Round 31). I’m shocked that Bandy fell all the way to the 31st round and even more surprised to see he signed a contract. There’s no denying that Bandy’s stock took a nosedive in 2011, but it is highly unlikely that whatever skills he showed as a sophomore disappeared. In addition to his rough junior year, I think he lost some points with scouting departments because he is more of a well-rounded catcher who doesn’t wow in either the power or arm strength department. It may take some time and perhaps a few different organizations, but I’m not giving up hope of seeing Bandy emerge as a big league backstop somewhere down the line.

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

Arizona State JR OF Andy Workman (2011): best tool is hit tool; fantastic base runner; gap power, but could develop more; slightly below-average arm; LF future; good OF range; 6-2, 180 pounds

Hard to explain Bandy’s 2011 collapse, especially when you consider there has been no news of any down tick in his scouting reports. I’m not super concerned about the dip in production for that reason, but Bandy’s signability could become a question if he slips past the first five rounds as expected. He is still exactly the player I’d target past round ten. Even without knowing why he slipped so badly this year, I still think it is safe to say that he didn’t completely forget how to play baseball.

Eastern Illinois OF Zach Borenstein (Round 23) does everything well, but nothing in his scouting profile portends big things to come. As a lefty with some pop and a history of playing all over the iamond, he’ll get his chances. Southeastern Louisiana RHP Brandon Efferson (Round 37) was a favorite during his college days, but I never came away after watching him thinking that I just saw a big league caliber arm. He’s way more talented than I’d ever dream to be, of course, but with a lackluster fastball and a lack of quality secondary stuff I don’t see how he can successfully hang in pro ball.

Eastern Illinois JR OF Zach Borenstein: good speed; good power; leadoff profile; (353/438/575 – 26 BB/36 K – 12/15 SB – 207 AB)

Southeastern Louisiana SR RHP Brandon Efferson (2011): sits high-80s, 92 peak FB; good cutter; CB; CU

It wouldn’t be a fair and balanced evaluation if I didn’t mention the one late round overslot deal that could work out for the Angels. Hillsborough CC (FL) LHP Michael Johnson (Round 46) getting six figures was a surprise to many, this writer included. Nothing stands out in terms of Johnson’s junior college stats, stuff, or frame, but perhaps the Angels know something I don’t. A big summer for the Utica Brewers might have been what convinced Los Angeles to take the plunge.

Last and almost certainly least, we have the time honored baseball tradition of nepotism. Round 44 would have been preposterously early. Round 46 could have hurt his ego. Round 45 was just right. Notre Dame C Matt Scioscia (Round 45) joins the same organization as his father, but I hear there could be trouble brewing already. Seems Matt hasn’t taken to kindly to being the third wheel to Mike’s adopted son, Jeff Mathis.

College First Basemen: 2008 to 2012

As I sat down over the weekend to at least begin to attempt to justify some of the odder placements from last Friday’s 2012 initial top 100 list, I found myself struck with the weirdest case of writer’s block I’ve ever experienced. There was plenty to talk about — a defense of Lance McCullers at the top, the super high top ten rankings of a pair of college guys from Texas schools, a higher than usual number of draft-eligible sophomores primed to crash the first round — but for some reason my mind kept coming back to 2008, the year I started to look at the draft less in terms of specific players I had personally seen play and more in a comprehensive, 30 team/50 round way. I’ve also always been a sucker for a good hook, so the allure of any type of draft-related “Year of the _____” appealed to me. The 2008 draft was built up as the “Year of the First Baseman,” and, though the results have been predictably mixed thus far, on balance I think the hype has been justified. I became so stuck on this one thought — early round first basemen of the recent past and how they stack up to the four first basemen on my top 100 — that I couldn’t get to anything else.

What I think I’ve always been fascinated about with respect to first base prospects is the high stakes gamble that comes with taking a first baseman early on draft day. If your athletic five-tool up-the-middle draft prospect doesn’t hit as expected, you’ve still got — wait, let me get my calculator — four tools, including defense and the ancillary positional value boost, remaining. If your first base prospect doesn’t hit (and hit a ton), then you’re left with nothing but regret. I also like the fact that college first baseman represent arguably the safest possible investment early on in the draft. Close reading shows that we’ve gone from “high stakes gamble” to “safest possible investment” in a single paragraph. Studies (that I can’t seem to be able to Google up right now) have shown that elite college hitters (with the numbers to back up said “eliteness”) tend to translate very well to the pro game. That’s what made 2008 so thrilling for me, I guess. Justin Smoak and Yonder Alonso had that power/plate discipline blend that made them look like ready-made big league regulars even on draft day. College teammates Brett Wallace and Ike Davis both seemed likely to settle in as starters as well. It wasn’t crazy to think Allan Dykstra and David Cooper would be hitting 25+ bombs a year. If any of their bats betrayed them, however, then poof! any hope of a real big league career would be gone.

As I’ve written before, this past year didn’t have a Smoak, Alonso, or even a Wallace, at least not until it became clear CJ Cron wouldn’t be capable of donning the tools of ignorance as a pro. Even still, Cron, as impressive a hitter as he is, was seen as a prospect closer in pre-draft stature to Davis than one of ’08’s bigger names. A comparison, rough as it is, between Baseball America’s very early draft preview (taken from the Prospect Handbook published in January each year) and this year’s current rising group of first base prospects (according to me) provides some context to the discussion. Included are only players who wound up as first, supplemental first, or second round picks:

Draft Year: Player Name (ranking)

2008: Smoak (3), Alonso (5), Dykstra (24), Wallace (28), Cooper (55), Davis (68)

2009: Rich Poythress (33)

2010:

2011: Cron (40)

2012: Jayce Boyd (25), Christian Walker (27), Richie Shaffer (38), Max Muncy (69)

The upcoming draft won’t have six college first baseman taken in the first round nor will it have two (or three, depending on how some felt about Wallace at the time) potential franchise cornerstones who happen to play first, but it does have a handful of young men who just might have enough bat to play first base everyday at the highest level. Without getting too deep into the scouting profiles of Boyd, Walker, Shaffer, and Muncy (plenty of time for that in the next 11 months, plus I’ve already gone into some detail on Boyd here and Shaffer there), I thought a “quick” look at how all twelve of these college first basemen stack up from both the statistical and scouting sides could be interesting.

To keep the comparisons going, I’ve provided the basic information for all eight of those first, supplemental first, and second round college first base picks from the past three drafts, plus the four players listed in my early top 100 for 2012. All stat lines are raw, unfortunately, as we don’t have access to park/league/schedule adjusted stats going back a few years. Keep in mind that the batting lines are also really tough to compare on account of the BBCOR bats debuting in 2011. Also included are quotes taken from the aforementioned Baseball America Prospect Handbook, as chosen by yours truly. All quotes for the prospects from 2008 and 2009 are from the prospect’s first year out of college. The CJ Cron entry has quotes pulled from Baseball America’s draft preview, and the quotes on the current college players are ones that I’ve managed to get on record from the always entertainingly nebulous “industry insiders.”

You may be wondering “what’s the point?” after reading though the comparison below. Truthfully, I’m not sure there is one. I had originally hoped some wonderful epiphany about college first base prospects would come to me, either in the form of a statistical trend or a certain scouting similarities. Heck, you know as much as I like to “force” comps that I’m dying to match up some of the 2008-2011 players with a 2012 counterpart, but I’m really not sure I see a fit. As it is, I think what we have here is context.

*****

Yonder Alonso | 2008 | Cincinnati | 1.7 | University of Miami

FR – .295/.373/.492 – 32 BB/37 K – 244 AB
SO – .376/.519/.705 – 64 BB/31 K – 210 AB
JR – .370/.534/.777 – 76 BB/35 K – 211 AB

  • “rare hitter who has both plus power and the swing and pitch awareness to hit for a high average as well”
  • “allergic to strikeouts”
  • “yet to prove that he can recognize and hit a quality breaking ball”
  • “below-average athlete and runner”
  • “soft hands and adequate range should allow him to develop into at least an average defender”

Justin Smoak | 2008 | Texas | 1.11 | University of South Carolina

FR – .303/.407/.586 – 40 BB/39 K – 244 AB
SO – .315/.434/.631 – 54 BB/40 K – 260 AB
JR – .383/.505/.757 – 57 BB/28 K – 235 AB

  • “well-above-average power”
  • “Gold Glove potential at first base”
  • “below-average speed”
  • “projects as a middle-of-the-order power hitter”

Brett Wallace | 2008 | St. Louis | 1.13 | Arizona State University

FR – .371/.439/.583 – 17 BB/26 K – 151 AB
SO – .423/.500/.719 – 37 BB/34 K – 253 AB
JR – .410/.526/.753 – 48 BB/33 K – 239 AB

  • “one of the best pure hitters in the minors”
  • “balanced, level swing creates consistent line drives”
  • “Think batting champ with the ability to be a big bopper”
  • “average arm and surprising footwork”
  • “below-average athleticism, speed, and agility”

David Cooper | 2008 | Toronto | 1.17 | University of California

FR – .305/.337/.404 – 9 BB/18 K – 151 AB
SO – .382/.450/.627 – 30 BB/21 K – 204 AB
JR – .359/.449/.682 – 37 BB/35 K – 220 AB

  • “tremendous barrel awareness and excellent hand-eye coordination”
  • “should produce high batting averages”
  • “could develop average power and hit 18-20 homers per season”
  • “below-average athlete and poor runner”
  • “offers limited range and slow reactions at first base”

Ike Davis | 2008 | New York Mets | 1.18 | Arizona State University

FR – .329/.387/.542 – 20 BB/58 K – 240 AB
SO – .346/.400/.532 – 26 BB/39 K – 231 AB
JR – .385/.457/.742 – 31 BB/34 K – 213 AB

  • “considered a slick defensive first baseman – the type who could contend for a Gold Glove some day”
  • “strong arm”
  • “below-average speed”

Allan Dykstra | 2008 | San Diego | 1.23 | Wake Forest University

FR – .324/.479/.670 – 51 BB/32 K – 185 AB
SO – .310/.479/.615 – 57 BB/33 K – 226 AB
JR – .323/.519/.645 – 62 BB/45 K – 186 AB

  • “plus-plus raw power and plate discipline”
  • “should hit for some average as well”
  • “above-average arm”
  • “below-average athlete, runner, and defender at first base”

Rich Poythress | 2009 | Seattle | 2.51 | University of Georgia

FR – .282/.354/.410 – 17 BB/31 K – 156 AB
SO – .374/.461/.626 – 46 BB/40 K – 265 AB
JR – .376/.473/.764 – 42 BB/39 K – 237 AB

  • “power is his standout tool”
  • “controls the strike zone and doesn’t try to pull everything”
  • “ought to hit for a decent average”
  • “below-average range and fringy arm”
  • “doesn’t have much speed”
  • “Some scouts who saw him in college wonder if his power will play against better velocity”

CJ Cron | 2011 | Los Angeles Angels | 1.17 | University of Utah

FR – .337/.380/.557 – 14 BB/31 K – 246 AB
SO – .431/.493/.817 – 17 BB/23 K – 197 AB
JR – .434/.517/.803 – 31 BB/21 K – 198 AB

  • “doesn’t move well at first base and is a bottom-of-the-scale runner”
  • “above-average hitter”
  • “legitimate 80 raw power that translates into at least above-average usable power”

*****

Jayce Boyd | 2012 | ranked 25th | Florida State University

FR – .326/.394/.507 – 27 BB/38 K – 227 AB
SO – .335/.415/.515 – 34 BB/32 K – 233 AB

  • “plus raw power, maybe a touch less”
  • “potential award winner with glove at first base”
  • “such a naturally gifted hitter that he could probably do it with his eyes closed”

Christian Walker | 2012 | ranked 27th | University of South Carolina

FR – .327/.384/.518 – 18 BB/18 K – 226 AB
SO – .361/.442/.556 – 32 BB/26 K – 241 AB

  • “plus hit tool with enough strength and loft to hit 20+ homers at next level”
  • “currently a shaky defender, but upside to be average”

Richie Shaffer | 2012 | ranked 38th | Clemson University

FR – .323/.415/.525 – 18 BB/36 K – 158 AB
SO – .315/.438/.577 – 44 BB/53 K – 222 AB

  • “recovered from broken hamate to show true plus power”
  • “good present defender with the chance to be excellent”
  • “strong arm”

Max Muncy | 2012 | ranked 69th | Baylor University

FR – .300/.374/.500 – 24 BB/48 K – 230 AB
SO – .322/.428/.511 – 37 BB/36 K – 227 AB

  • “far from the prototypical slugging first base prospect”
  • “good athlete, good defender, average runner”
  • “line drive machine who specializes in squaring up and making consistent solid contact”
  • “development of power will make or break him…bat currently profiles as much better at his high school position [catcher]”

College Catchers Revisited – 2011 MLB Draft

All of these rankings are based on where I had each guy preseason. Comments reflect present draft stock. Any revised list of top college catchers almost certainly wouldn’t include CJ Cron and Peter O’Brien (both safe bets to move to 1B professionally) and would begin with Andrew Susac. My real quick top five might go: 1. Andrew Susac, 2. Curt Casali, 3. Zach Kometani, 4. Jacob Stallings, and 5. Tyler Ogle. Subject to change, of course…

All park/league adjusted stats courtesy of the invaluable College Splits.

***

1. Utah JR C/1B CJ Cron: 513/571/850 (14 BB/11 K)

Cron’s numbers sync up well with his scouting reports. I may be in the minority, but I actually like his pure hit tool more than I like his power. Either way, both are above-average tools. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they are his only above-average tools. Again, I find myself in the minority in thinking he could at least be a passable catcher at the next level, but I’ll concede to the experts on that one. Looks like Cron will be the first first baseman off the board, college or high school.

2. San Diego JR C Zach Kometani: 344/385/489 (7 BB/12 K)

This super aggressive ranking of Kometani has held up pretty well, I think. His 2011 numbers are at least as good, if not better, than any other member of the top ten lower than him besides Susac and Ogle. Alright, that’s a lot of qualifiers, but I have to defend my guy, right? Some question his future behind the plate, but that’s more of a matter of consistency than anything else. I maintain he has the hands and athleticism to turn himself into a pretty good catcher down the line. I’m a little surprised by his modest 2011 power showing because I think there’s more there.

3. Bethune-Cookman JR C/1B Peter O’Brien: 299/382/604 (17 BB/34 K)

Kind of nice when a prospect does almost exactly what everybody expects. Big power, questionable approach, iffy defense…yeah, that’s O’Brien. He doesn’t typically fit the mold of a player I’d like, but O’Brien’s makeup, praised far and wide this spring, makes him an especially intriguing prospect to watch once he enters pro ball. O’Brien is a big lump of very talented, coachable clay. More than any other catcher on this list, he has that boom/bust factor working for him. Pro coaching could do wonders for him. Or his long swing and impatience at the plate will be further exposed against higher quality pitching. Intuitively, I’m more in step with the latter possibility than the former, but I’d love to be wrong.

4. Arizona JR C Jett Bandy: 272/329/346 (5 BB/11 K)

Hard to explain Bandy’s 2011 collapse, especially when you consider there has been no news of any down tick in his scouting reports. I’m not super concerned about the dip in production for that reason, but Bandy’s signability could become a question if he slips past the first five rounds.

5. Vanderbilt SR C Curt Casali: 354/438/504 (12 BB/11 K)

Every game Casali plays is one game further removed from 2009 Tommy John surgery. The difference it has made in his defense behind the plate (more than just big league ready – he’d be in the upper half defensively of pro catchers) and his offense at the plate (near-plus raw power and a phenomenal whole field approach) give him the look of a future big leaguer to me. It is a rare senior that warrants draft consideration before round five, but Casali is an exception. Love this guy.

6. North Carolina State JR C Pratt Maynard: 336/433/473 (25 BB/27 K)

In an effort to show more power, Maynard’s been more aggressive at the plate this year. I wonder if his positional versatility will help or hurt him in the eyes of pro scouts. He reminds me a little bit of a less athletic Ryan Ortiz, former Oregon State star and current A’s prospect. Ortiz was a sixth rounder in his draft year; that seems like a plausible outcome for Maynard at this point.

7. North Carolina JR C Jacob Stallings: 300/435/431 (33 BB/23 K)

There is no question about Stallings’s plus defense; that alone could be his ticket to the show as a backup catcher. Like Kometani, there’s more raw power here than he has shown so far. Stallings isn’t really talked about as a top college catching prospect, but he’s a really talented prospect with a plus-plus arm that could make him an interesting mound conversion if things don’t work out behind the dish.

8. Oregon State SO C Andrew Susac: 420/547/682 (23 BB/21 K)

The biggest takeaway from Susac’s outstanding 2011 season: beware reading too much into small sample freshman year stats, especially when judging a first year college guy’s numbers to those of sophomores and juniors. Susac’s freshman year struggles are but a distant memory at this point. My biggest preseason concern with Susac was his inconsistent defense behind the plate. For a player praised as a college-ready receiver back in his original draft year, I was surprised how raw he looked defensively last year, at least in the early going. Employing the “wait and see” approach that I typically despise was a poor decision on my end. Susac really put it all together this year, showing improvements in all phases of the game – increased power, much better plate discipline, and, most importantly, way more polish catching and throwing. The hamate injury is a mild concern, but it would be a shock if it kept him from being the top college catcher off the board. In a weird way, the injury could be a blessing in disguise for Susac’s draft stock – all the scouts who have already seen him have walked away happy and his excellent numbers stand up just fine as is. The only thing keeping him out of the first round (or, more conservatively, the comp round) could be his signability, though that’s just speculation on my part.

9. Oklahoma JR C Tyler Ogle: 367/483/617 (20 BB/22 K)

Big, big season so far for the very well-rounded Ogle. Pro-caliber defense, good arm, level line drive swing, and gap power. The only thing that could ding Ogle (and Bandy, a similarly talented prospect) is the lack of a standout tool. Many teams look for a plus tool — often arm strength or raw power — when they are in the market for college catching. Players who are solid across the board sometimes get overlooked. Ogle’s very consistent college production could help him appeal to more stat-oriented clubs picking in the top ten rounds.

10. Kentucky JR C Mike Williams: 262/342/449 (11 BB/18 K)

His BB/K ratio may not seem impressive, but Williams has come a long way in a short time. He is the antithesis of the player ranked right above him. Plus-plus arm and plus raw power will continue to get him looks, even as his hit tool lags behind other players in his class.

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.