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2011 College World Series Preview: Vanderbilt Commodores

The second team to get the full College World Series preview is your Vanderbilt Commodores. The setup up for this is about as simple as can be: first category is for players drafted in 2011, second category is for players eligible for the 2012 draft, and the last category is for, you guessed it, players eligible for the 2013 draft. 

1.18 JR RHP Sonny Gray (Oakland Athletics) | 7th ranked prospect overall

plus FB in mid-90s (92-97) with excellent movement; currently rarely dips below 93-96 with nice sink; 81-85 plus to plus-plus CB; average command that comes and goes; 84-87 SL can be a weapon in time; 82-85 CU slow to emerge, but now a weapon more often than not; plus athlete; 5-11, 180

While everybody was making — and wisely subsequently dismissing — Tim Lincecum comps for UCLA’s Trevor Bauer, the closest thing to the Giants star pitcher in this year’s class has always been Sonny Gray. Of course, Gray isn’t really anything like Lincecum (really, who is?), but the three biggest knocks on Lincecum coming out of Washington — control, size, and an unorthodox delivery — are all also questions that Gray will have to answer to at the next level. The inconsistent control and violence in his delivery are a tad worrisome — his size doesn’t concern me in the least — but when you have raw stuff like Gray’s, you get lots of opportunities to work through your other issues. The realistic floor here is a dominant yet occasionally frustrating to watch shutdown reliever; the ceiling is a first division top of the rotation arm. Gray reminds me a little bit of Braves starter Tommy Hanson, give or take seven inches and forty pounds. I’ve also heard a slightly more size appropriate comp (still forty pounds off, but only about a four inch height difference) of Yovani Gallardo.

1.59 JR LHP Grayson Garvin (Tampa Bay Rays) | 79th ranked prospect overall

started 87-89 FB, 90-91 peak; sitting 89-92 now, 93-95 peak; good FB command; 70-73 CB with upside if thrown harder; now up to 73-75 and above-average pitch; average 77-80 CU with room for improvement, could be plus in time; cutter; SL; good athlete; outstanding control; 6-6, 220

Garvin is a classic pitchability lefty (love his FB command and overall control) who has just so happened to grow into above-average velocity from the left side. He doesn’t have a pitch that is a consistent out pitch, but both his curve and change flash above-average enough to give him the upside of a back of the rotation arm.

2.64 JR 3B Jason Esposito (Baltimore Orioles) | 55th ranked prospect overall

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

If my instincts count for anything, allow me to go on record as a believer in Esposito. As impressive a college career as he has had so far, I think he goes on to show more at the next level with the bat. Additionally, while his glove at third may not be Adrian Beltre good, he has the chance to be a top five defensive third baseman in the big leagues in very short order. That glove alone will give him very good value for a Baltimore team stocked with a bunch of interesting young arms.

3.99 JR RHP Jack Armstrong (Houston Astros) | 49th ranked prospect overall

91-93 FB sitting, 94-97 peak; 80-82 flashes plus CU; 81-82 CB with promise but slow to develop due to injuries; clean mechanics; finally healthy, CB better than ever; 6-7, 230 pounds

Sometimes it really is as simple as throwing away the performance aspect and looking at raw stuff. Armstrong’s track record on the mound doesn’t make him a top 100 pick (or a top 50 prospect on my pre-draft list), but his raw stuff ranks up there with almost anybody’s. Injury concerns could have Houston looking at Armstrong as a future reliever, but I’d love to see the big guy get a chance to start.

3.106 SR 1B Aaron Westlake (Detroit Tigers) | 126th ranked prospect overall

Westlake is going to hit as a professional, I’m sure of that much. Will he hit enough to hold down an everyday job at first? That’s the million dollar question, I suppose. He should be able to hit well enough against righthanded pitchers to at least work his way into a platoon role down the line. It could also be possible that his drafting team gets creativity with him, and tries him at a few different spots (corner OF, maybe a little third, perhaps some time behind the plate) a la Baltimore’s Jake Fox.

There isn’t much to add about Westlake that hasn’t already been said. He has one clear big league tool (power), but is held back by the position he plays. If he hits, he’ll make it. If he doesn’t, he won’t. There is no safety net. In the meantime, sit back and watch Westlake terrorize college pitching one last time in Omaha.

3.117 SO LHP Corey Williams (Minnesota Twins)

Williams as a top ten round pick would have surprised me, so his selection in the third had me perplexed. He has a good arm with the chance to consistently hit the mid-90s with some added strength, but it takes a pretty big leap of faith to use a third rounder on an untested relief prospect. As someone who knows a thing or two about jacked up kneecaps, I’ll definitely be rooting for Williams from now on. The question of whether or not I’ll be rooting him on as a member of the Twins organization or as a student at Vanderbilt remains to be answered. There is no reason to think he wouldn’t sign this year — hard to see him rising above third round money next year — but I only count six certainties on next year’s Vanderbilt pitching staff. The opportunity to come back and perhaps pitch in a more prestigious role could appeal to him.

6.187 SR RHP Taylor Hill (Washington Nationals) | 224th ranked prospect overall

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

Read that quick scouting report of Taylor Hill above and then check out where I ranked him on my pre-draft board. Pretty low for a pitcher of this caliber, right? Part of that can be explained by the unusually strong draft class, especially in terms of pitching depth. However, part of it can also be explained by me underrating one heck of a quality prospect.

6.206 SR RHP Mark Lamm (Atlanta Braves)

My notes on Lamm were short and sweet: 90-94 FB; Tommy John survivor. The development of a pair of above-average offspeed pitches — a slider and a change — got him drafted way ahead of where I would have guessed. He’s up there as one of the top senior signs around and could be a quick mover through the system.

10.317 SR C Curt Casali (Detroit Tigers) | 87th ranked prospect overall

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.

If I was a betting man, I’d be happy to put down a cool five bucks on Curt Casali reaching the big leagues in some capacity before too long. There are some really iffy big league catchers This will be the last time I open up the old SEC catcher debate from earlier in the year, so let me get this last shot in: Casali will have a better professional career than the catcher the Tigers first 2011 draft selection, Arkansas C James McCann.

14.446 JR RHP Navery Moore (Atlanta Braves) | 131st ranked prospect overall

92-96 plus FB, 99 peak; plus 81-84 SL that comes and goes; flashes plus CB; iffy control; Tommy John survivor; very occasional CU; “Intergalactic” is his closer music; has the stuff to start, but teams might not risk it from a health and delivery standpoint; 6-2, 205

Moore’s velocity was down late in the year. That’s a significant problem when your most marketable skill is a big fastball. That said, I still think he’s a good bet to settle in as a big league reliever some day due to his good athleticism and above-average raw stuff. The drop in velocity has to be addressed, however, whether or not it turns to be a mere matter of fatigue (treatment: rest, rest, more rest…and perhaps a tweak or two to his delivery) or a more serious health concern (treatment: shut him down, get him to a top surgeon, and hope he comes out healthy on the other side).

30.928 SO RHP Will Clinard (Minnesota Twins)

Clinard is similar to Corey Williams in that both are redshirt sophomore pitchers drafted by the Minnesota Twins. Clinard’s numbers across the board were more impressive than Williams, but you can’t just beat a high velocity lefthander, I suppose. I’m personally not so sure that I don’t prefer the big (6-4, 225) athletic righthander with the low-90s fastball and potential plus breaking ball. While it seems likely Williams will be offered enough to forgo his last two seasons of college eligibility, Clinard would probably need overslot money to head to the pros. If one of Ziomek, Pecoraro, or Selman get hurt and/or pitch below expectations, Clinard has the stuff to potentially sneak into a weekend starter’s gig.

46.1384 JR OF Joe Loftus (Arizona Diamondbacks)

Not sure how signable Loftus is as a 46th rounder because his blend of arm strength, athleticism, and untapped raw power make him an unusually talented late round pick. If he returns to school, he could easily jump up 25+ rounds with a big senior season.

*****

JR C Drew Fann (2012)

Fann isn’t an early round candidate, but the demand for quality catch-and-throw prospects could get him drafted as a late round senior sign in 2012. The Vanderbilt catching job is up for grabs heading into next year, and it would come as no surprise if Fann took the job with a strong fall. I should point out that I’ve read that Fann is a senior who is exhausted his eligibility on a few Vanderbilt-specific sites, but the official Vandy website has him listed as a redshirt junior. In other words, I don’t know what’s going on with Fann, but the possibility exists that I just spent 117 words on an undrafted player without any more college eligibility .

JR 2B Riley Reynolds (2012) | .356/.407/.403 – 11 BB/19 K – 4/4 SB – 149 AB

I’m really surprised that Reynolds didn’t get drafted based on the strength of his solid freshman and junior seasons. His sophomore season was disappointing, no doubt, but at his best he has shown himself to be an average middle infield bat with a very steady glove at second. If he can play competently on the left side of the diamond — something that remains to be seen — then he’ll profile as a potential 2012 late round utility prospect.

SO SS Sam Lind (2012) | .239/.315/.391 – 3 BB/10 K – 46 AB

Lind has bounced from Missouri to Central Arizona to Vanderbilt. Alright, that’s a lie. He was draft eligible this past year, but didn’t hear his name called on the conference call. A second year in one place should do the middle infield with a strong arm and above-average hit tool some good. He was a personal favorite of mine heading into the year (15th on my preseason college shortstop list), so the pressure will really be on if he wants to get back into my good graces. That is what these guys are playing for, right? My approval? Not the fame, money, girls, and love of the game, but the respect of some nobody on the internet that they’ll never meet? Alright, good, just making sure.

SO LHP Sam Selman (2012)

There are way too many teams and players for me to keep track of everybody and everything quite the way I’d like to. The case of Sam Selman exemplifies the limits of my coverage. In doing research for this very piece, I checked out Selman’s 2011 stats, excited to see what kind of numbers a player with a potential plus fastball (mid-90s peak), plus slider, and promising changeup (per my notes) put up. Selman threw a whopping 6.1 innings last year. Based on the reports I had on him from his high school/early Vanderbilt days, some major injury must have popped up for Selman in 2011 to limit his innings that drastically, I thought. Not so fast, my friend. Selman’s lack of work can be traced to an overcrowded (in the best possible way) Vanderbilt pitching staff and a somewhat disappointingly slow transition to the college game, most notably from a strength standpoint. His string bean 6-3, 170 pound physique has not yet proven to be reliable enough to handle any kind of real innings workload and his control has kept him from being able to effectively utilize his array of promising pitches.

Even with all of those negatives disclosed, I’m still pleased to go on record as a huge Sam Selman fan. The fact I think he has the talent to rocket up from 6.1 innings as a sophomore to the 2012 first round pretty much says it all. Command and conditioning issues aside, there has been no degradation of Selman’s pro quality three-pitch arsenal. If he can lock down a weekend job this fall, watch how high he’ll fly up draft boards next spring.

SO OF Connor Harrell (2012) | .288/.354/.492 – 13 BB/38 K – 7/7 SB – 177 AB

As a legit five-tool player with pro size teetering on the edge of solid defensive center fielder and plus defensive corner outfielder, Harrell has a little Mikie Mahtook in his game. That probably won’t be the only time I use the Mahtook comp this upcoming year — Stanford’s Jake Stewart is another player cut from a similar toolsy free wheeling tweener cloth — and it isn’t the most instructive comparison in the world, but it is both a point of reference for Harrell’s style of play and a way to share my generally positive view of what I think he is capable of doing next spring. I’m a huge fan of Harrell’s plus arm, good range, well above-average raw power, and opportunistic ways on the base paths. If he can turn those ugly plate discipline ratios around, he’ll vault close to the top of the 2012 college outfield class.

SO OF Michael Yastrzemski (2012) | .311/.445/.388 – 44 BB/35 K – 23/26 SB – 206 AB

After already typing Michael Yastrzemski’s last name out incorrectly more than a few times, I can appreciate the first brilliant person who called his more famous grandfather “Yaz.” The younger Yaz is another five-tool talent, though more of a speed/defense/leadoff hitter type than his more powerful outfield wingman Connor Harrell. I swear it isn’t because of the similarly impressive lineage (or at least not only because), but I think of Michael Yastrzemski as a similar ballplayer as Orioles eighth round pick Johnny Ruettiger.

SO SS Anthony Gomez (2012) | .350/.366/.408 – 8 BB/12 K – 7/9 SB – 260 AB

What Gomez lacks in tools, he makes up for in his ability to make a crazy amount of contact. The contact is nice, but the unimpressive tool set keeps him from being much more than a marginal pro prospect. To wit, his defense up the middle isn’t yet good enough to have anybody believing his glove will carry him, and his foot speed is average at best.

SO OF Regan Flaherty (2012)

Never bet against a Flaherty, I always say. Actually I’ve never said that before just now, but it’s still true. The biggest problem facing Flaherty heading into next season will be finding playing time in a crowded Commodores outfield; he could see some time at first or designated hitter to get his bat in the lineup.

FR LHP Keenan Kolinsky (2012): 6-1, 210

Kolinsky, a redshirt freshman, hasn’t done a whole lot yet with Vanderbilt, but could see major innings out of the bullpen in 2012. He throws a solid upper-80s fastball and is a good athlete, so, hey, he’s got that going for him.

*****

FR LHP Kevin Ziomek (2013) | 9.67 K/9 – 2.82 BB/9 – 3.40 FIP – 44.2 IP

I’m not so bold to say Ziomek is going to follow in the footsteps of previous Vanderbilt lefthanders David Price (1st overall) and Mike Minor (7th overall) and land in the draft’s top ten, but the fact that the thought even crossed my mind in the first place tells you plenty about Ziomek’s upside. Ziomek is predominantly a fastball/changeup pitcher, throwing the former between 91-94 MPH and the latter in the low-80s. His much improved curve and slider run into each other a bit too much velocity-wise now that that his curve has gained some heat, but right now the slider is the better pitch and a potential above-average big league offering. The whole package — good fastball, potential plus change, above-average slider, an interesting curve, and good athleticism — is first round quality.

FR RHP TJ Pecoraro (2013) | 9.76 K/9 – 2.72 BB/9 – 3.43 FIP – 39.2 IP

The similarities between the 2011 statistical lines of Pecoraro and Ziomek are striking, no? Pecoraro doesn’t quite have the scouting profile of Ziomek — few do — but is no slouch in the raw ability department. He is armed with a really good low-90s fastball (94 peak) with late life and two potential above-average offspeed pitches (curve and change). Short righthanders like Pecoraro will be my favorite undervalued draft asset until those in pro ball catch on. A torn elbow ligament in May puts a damper on his short-term outlook, but he remains a viable early round candidate for 2013.

FR 1B/OF Conrad Gregor (2013) | .351/.454/.464 – 29 BB/23 K – 151 AB

We knew Gregor had huge raw power. We didn’t know his freshman year approach would be so solid. I might seem overly optimistic on all of the players mentioned in the College World Series prospect series, but you have to remember this is an unusually talented CWS group. Gregor has that plus raw power, a potential plus hit tool, outstanding defense at first and average defense in an outfield corner, a strong throwing arm…in other words, just about everything you’d want in a prospect. Aaron Westlake went in the third round this year; it’ll be interesting to see if Gregor, a better player at this point in his development, can improve on that in two years.

FR OF Tony Kemp (2013) | .328/.431/.406 – 33 BB/29 K – 16/20 SB – 229 AB

If any less heralded player is going to steal the spotlight this weekend in Omaha, it’ll be Kemp. The diminutive freshman is a huge fan favorite due to his plus-plus speed, ridiculous range in center field, and keen awareness of the strike zone. I’m really looking forward to seeing how he progresses over the next two seasons, especially at the plate. I mentioned to a guy int he know that Kemp reminded me a bit of Ronnie Richardson, but was told the better comp was Mike Bourn.

FR SS Joel McKeithan (2013)

Objectivity is important, no doubt, but sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and just go with a guy you like. Joel McKeithan is that kind of guy for me. He is currently expected to fill a utility infielder role for the 2012 Vanderbilt squad, but I can easily envision his plus speed and plus defensive tools at short earning him time over Anthony Gomez at short. The little bit I saw of him in high school plus the positive college practice reports equal a potential big league starting shortstop in my mind.

FR RHP Robert Hansen (2013)

Hansen was given a redshirt this year to help space out some of Vanderbilt’s young pitching. He has a good low-90s fastball and an emerging low-80s slider.

FR LHP Steven Rice (2013)

Rice’s curve was one of the better breaking balls in the 2010 high school class. That pitch alone makes him an interesting prospect despite a fastball that only sits between 86-88 MPH.

FR C Spencer Navin (2013)

Navin’s glovework and plus arm should get him into the regular lineup as early as next season, but his bat is far from a sure thing.

FR OF Will Johnson (2013)

Johnson is a great athlete who is still working on the finer points of the game. Minimalist commentary like that is why it will forever be free to read this site…

2011 College World Series Preview: North Carolina Tar Heels

The first team to get the full College World Series preview is your North Carolina Tar Heels. The setup up for this is about as simple as can be: first category is for players drafted in 2011, second category is for players eligible for the 2012 draft, and the last category is for, you guessed it, players eligible for the 2013 draft. 

1.30 JR SS Levi Michael (Minnesota Twins) | 34th ranked prospect overall

I’ve mentioned it before, but it is so incredible to me that it bears repeating: Levi Michael graduated high school early to enroll at UNC mid-year, and then went on to tear it up as a freshman playing as a starter in the ACC. Occasionally we’ll see pitchers do this, and last year we had the whole Bryce Harper skipping his senior year to go destroy wood ball junior college ball thing, but it is still pretty rare to see a hitter do what Michael did in the manner he did (repeat: he smashed the ball all over the place back in 2009 as an 18-year-old) that it is worth pointing out over and over again. Michael has plenty of bat speed, double-digit homer upside, and the footwork and instincts to potentially stick at his junior season college position of shortstop.

Big fan of Michael the college player and Michael the new Minnesota Twins first round prospect. He’s a joy to watch as a big play college shortstop and team leader who also projects as a potential above-average regular with plus defensive upside at second. I’ve always been a sucker for guys with the kind of plate discipline that have you wondering if they know the strike zone better than the men in blue actually paid to call balls and strikes.

8.247 SR RHP Greg Holt (Washington Nationals)

Huge raw power, but one of three natural first basemen vying for playing time behind Dustin Ackley on 2009 team; Moneyball listed as favorite book, so he has that going for him

How’s that for a blast from the past? Back in March 2009 Holt was battling Tarron Robinson and Brett Thomas for whatever at bats could be had behind eventual number two overall pick Dustin Ackley. Now Holt is a relief prospect with a fastball that sits 88-91 (93 peak) and a good low-80s slider.

24.730 SR 1B Jesse Wierzbicki (Houston Astros) | 164th ranked prospect overall (2010)

Wierzbicki’s tools grade out as solid across the board, especially if you’re like me and willing to grade a catcher’s running speed on a curve. I tend to think of backup catchers falling into one of three general archetypes. The first group of backups are the sluggers (big raw power, capable of popping an extra base hit or two in that one start a week), the second are the defensive aces (nothing mesmerizes big league coaching staffs more than a catching with a plus arm), and the third are the players that do everything pretty well, but nothing great. Wierzbicki falls squarely in with that last category of player. He’s known for having power to the gaps, a consistent line drive generating swing, and a solid arm. He’s also a tireless worker who knows his own athletic limitations, two of those tricky intangible qualities that either mean a lot to a team or nothing at all.

That was written back in 2010 when I thought Wierzbicki could play behind the plate as a pro. I still think he’s got the athleticism and enough catch-and-throw ability to play back there. As a first baseman, however, I don’t see how his bat will work at all. Hopefully the Astros will be creative and try him in a utility role going forward.

25.768 SR RHP Patrick Johnson (Colorado Rockies)

Starter for UNC in the past, but profiles better as a reliever in the pros; too early to predict, but he could be on the Robert Woodard/Adam Warren four year path; good numbers, but has done it all against inferior mid-week competition; lack of size may doom him to the bullpen long-term, but his performance pitching largely out of the pen this season give hope that his stuff will play

Fairly prescient 2009 prognostication, if I do say so myself. Warren, who has been so much better as a pro than I ever would have imagined, is probably Johnson’s absolute best case scenario at this point. He throws an upper-80s fastball (92 peak), good upper-70s curve, and average change.

42.1285 JR C Jacob Stallings (Cincinnati Reds) | 158th ranked prospect overall

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.

I won’t lie here. I’m baffled about Stallings falling as low as he did. I suppose acceptance that strange things happen during the draft is the only way to survive in these topsy turvy times. Players with a legit upside of backup catcher/middle reliever are more useful than his draft pick warranted. I haven’t heard anything to back this up, but perhaps his signability is in question.

*****

JR RHP Jimmy Messer (2012) | 10.80 K/9 – 3.60 BB/9 – 5.09 FIP – 10 IP

44th round pick in 2008; favorite foods are sushi and Swiss cake rolls, a winning combination if I ever heard one; fastball sits in the low 90s, above-average (present) curveball with definite plus potential; another top three round candidate

Messer hasn’t quite developed into the player many thought he would, but there is still time for the rising senior. His average fastball (88-90, 92 peak), above-average 75-77 slider, and solid command could make him an attractive mid-round senior sign relief prospect in 2012. If nothing else, we’ll always have that sushi and Swiss cake roll combo…

JR RHP Garrett Davis (2012)

Good size (6-4, 195); currently no spot for him in the rotation, but may be stretched out as starter next year; definitely has the repertoire to start; will be draft eligible next year as a redshirt sophomore, velocity has crept back up after TJ surgery in March 2008, but his command and availability to pitch back-to-back games remain question marks going forward

Deservedly lauded for great raw stuff, Davis has dealt with nagging injuries and bouts of wildness that have limited his college innings. Modern medicine has spoiled us into thinking Tommy John surgery always ends happily; hard as it is to say, we must now entertain the thought that Davis will never return to his high school, pre-injury form. Or we can continue to believe he’ll find a consistent release point and improve his control as a senior. I prefer the latter.

***

SO RHP Michael Morin (2012) | 10.05 K/9 – 2.40 BB/9 – 2.86 FIP – 60 IP

The good news is Morin’s changeup is a true plus pitch. The bad news is…well…there isn’t much bad news. Backed up by his solid fastball (88-92 with room for more), good sinking two-seamer, average curve, above-average athleticism, pro frame (6-4, 180 pounds), and outstanding college production, Morin is one of the best college arms of the 2012 class.

SO RHP Cody Penny (2012) | 10.69 K/9 – 4.50 BB/9 – 2.59 FIP – 16 IP

Penny has the present stuff of a dominant college reliever (mid-90s peak fastball and a really good spike curve), and the future stuff (CU and SL coming on) of a potential pro starter.

SO 2B Tommy Coyle (2012) | .337/.429/.451 – 37 BB/21 K – 19/25 SB – 255 AB

Coyle played his high school ball about fifteen minutes from where I grew up, so I was lucky enough to catch him a couple of times during his senior season. He’s got above-average speed and athleticism, a really solid line drive swing, and an outstanding batting eye. It is still really early in the process, but I think we’re looking at a player with the ceiling of a big league regular with the possibility of a utility future a realistic backup option. I’m looking forward to seeing where he stacks up against the rest of the 2012 college middle infield crop, but I have a feeling he’ll be up there.

SO RHP Cody Stiles (2012) | 7.54 K/9 – 2.92 BB/9 – 3.91 FIP – 37 IP

With two breaking balls with above-average upside, Stiles heads into his junior campaign with a chance to shoot up draft boards. This isn’t a realistic comp for a sophomore coming off a 37 inning regular season, but there is something about Stiles’ repertoire (94 peak FB, promising SL and CB, CU with sink) that reads a little like 2011 first round pick Matt Barnes.

SO LHP RC Orlan (2012) | 12.56 K/9 – 5.65 BB/9 – 3.54 FIP – 14.1 IP

Sometimes good college pitchers are just that. Other times they become good pro pitchers. On rare occasions, they become great pro pitchers. It may be easy to lump Orlan into that first category, but I think he ultimately could fall into the middle grouping. His raw stuff doesn’t jump out at you — upper-80s FB (92 peak), above-average mid-80s cutter, a pair of usable breaking balls — and his slight frame doesn’t scream big leaguer, but his total package is greater than the sum of his individual parts.

SO OF Chaz Frank (2012) | .287/.430/.349 – 43 BB/27 K – 11/14 SB – 209 AB

There may not be a whole lot of raw power here, but Frank has a good approach, above-average speed, and a solid hit tool. His best present tool is probably his defensive range in the outfield.

SO RHP Chris Munnelly (2012) | 7.84 K/9 – 3.73 BB/9 – 4.29 FIP – 70 IP

If I’ve learned one thing in doing this post, it’s that North Carolina’s pitching depth is crazy. I can’t even imagine how they’ll divvy up innings if some of their biggest recruits wind up on campus this fall. One of the top returning pitchers next year will be Chris Munnelly. Munnelly was counted on to throw a lot this past spring for North Carolina, and with good reason. His decent fastball (88-91) plays up because of plus command, and both his advanced change and rapidly improving breaking stuff could be even bigger weapons in time.

*****

FR 3B Colin Moran (2013) | .348/.459/.583 – 48 BB/29 K – 230 AB

When he enrolled at North Carolina last fall, Moran’s name jumped out as the younger brother of former Tar Heels reliever Brian and nephew of former Tar Heel and big league star BJ Surhoff. I also knew he was a well regarded high school prospect out of New York, but, since we’re all pals now and have no reason not to be honest with one another, had assumed that the family legacy bit had way more to do with his scholarship than his ability. Take a look at his freshman year stat line and laugh at how very wrong I was. Moran is the real deal as a prospect, a hitter with legit big league upside, a gorgeous lefthanded stroke, and a great approach at the plate. He is an average defender at present, but there is enough there in the way of tools that makes you think he can become an above-average third baseman in time. Physically, he reminds me a little bit of former Ranger Hank Blalock.

FR LHP Kent Emanuel (2013) | 8.56 K/9 – 2.01 BB/9 – 3.56 FIP – 89.1 IP

Emanuel is another prospect who has far surpassed my expectations as a freshman. One thing I’ve enjoyed about Emanuel’s excellent freshman season has been the answer to the question “What would happen if a Tyler Skaggs/Henry Owens type went to campus instead of turning pro?” Emanuel tacked on over thirty pounds to his 6-4 frame (now up to 205) and upped his sitting fastball a couple ticks (now at 87-89 MPH). His change is already an above-average college offering, and could be plus pro pitch with the way he throws it with fastball arm speed. His best bet at another above-average pro pitch is probably a slider, but that is something to be developed down the line; for now, his cut fastball works as a usable college offering just fine.

FR C Matt Roberts (2013) | .237/.310/.316 – 2 BB/10 K – 38 AB

If Stallings signs with the Reds — hardly a foregone conclusion as a 42nd round pick — then Roberts should take over full-time duty behind the plate in 2012. On paper he has everything you’d want in a young catching prospect: athleticism, above-average defensive upside, and good power.

FR RHP Andrew Smith (2013) | 10.04 K/9 – 3.12 BB/9 – 3.55 FIP – 26 IP

I can’t wait to see what the super talented Smith does in an expanded role next season. He reminds me a bit of Cody Stiles (93 peak FB, potential plus mid-70s CB, SL with promise) and could really take off next year if his changeup, a pitch I’ve heard looked good in practice this year, comes around.

FR RHP Shane Taylor (2013) | 10.25 K/9 – 2.75 BB/9 – 3.01 FIP – 36 IP

Woodard, Warren, Johnson…Taylor? His upper-80s sitting fastball, good mid-70s curveball, and really impressive control and command definitely bring back memories of former Tar Heels pitchability righthanded greats.

FR RHP Jake Cole (2013)

Cole’s arm strength (92-93 peak) and the makings of a hard upper-70s slider make him a name to remember. There were some rumors that he will be given a retroactive redshirt for 2011; if that’s the case, he’ll remain a freshman in 2012, but also remain draft-eligible in 2013.

FR OF Jeff Bouton (2013) | .282/.378/.410 – 4 BB/21 K – 3/3 SB – 39 AB

Bouton came to school with the reputation of a good power/speed prospect, but almost all the power/speed in the world won’t work with plate discipline like that. Just a freshman, there is plenty of time for him to figure it out going forward.

FR 1B/OF Thomas Zengel (2013) | .214/.338/.313 – 20 BB/16 K – 112 AB

Zengel is a bat-first prospect who will have to keep on hitting if he hopes to get noticed. He strikes me more of a potentially really good college player more than a future big-time pro prospect, but the plate discipline shown in 2011 has me a little intrigued.

FR C Brian Holberton (2013) | .267/.352/.400 – 11 BB/13 K – 75 AB

Matt Roberts was the high profile catching recruit in 2011 and the expected heir apparent to the job, but Holberton has a chance to alter those plans. His defense behind the plate is his biggest strength and his gap power has been better than advertised.

FR 1B/2B Parks Jordan (2013) | .179/.343/.214 – 6 BB/10 K – 28 AB

There could be room for Parks Jordan to get some time at second base next year if North Carolina decides to shift Tommy Coyle to shortstop (i.e. the Levi Michael Special). There is some upside with the bat, but his glove is a question mark.

FR LHP Tate Parrish (2013): LOOGY upside; 6-0, 165 pounds; (9.39 K/9 – 5.28 BB/9 – 2.70 FIP – 15.1 IP)

Parrish is by all accounts a great guy and tireless worker. I could say that about a lot of the players on this list, but, when asking around about Parrish for this piece, almost every person I spoke to commented on Parrish the person before talking about Parrish the player. They also said that he’s got the stuff to get college lefthanders out consistently and, with continued development, perhaps pro lefthanders as well. That last sentence is structured horribly, but I’m losing steam here…

FR LHP Hobbs Johnson (2013)

Johnson is a pitchability lefty with an upper-80s fastball. That’s all I’ve got.

2010 College World Series – Florida State’s 2011 MLB Draft Players of Note

I’m a little bit at a loss as I try to decide my next move with the site. 2010 draft recaps, 2011 early previews, college team profiles…I’m not really sure what I want to do. In the meantime, here’s something quick on one of the eight remaining teams in the 2010 College World Series. Ideally I’d do one of these for every team. We’ll see. Also, comments and emails will be answered over the next few days.

2011 MLB Draft Players to Know – Florida State

SO LHP Sean Gilmartin (4.73 FIP; 9.12 K/9; 2.68 BB/9; 100.2 IP)

SO 2B Sherman Johnson (.335/.449/.513; 44/36 BB/K; 7/10 SB; 224 AB)

SO RHP Hunter Scantling* (5.00 FIP; 7.98 K/9; 2.66 BB/9; 44 IP)

SO OF James Ramsey (.291/.443/.539; 48/41 BB/K; 10/11 SB; 206 AB)

JR RHP Daniel Bennett* (3.56 FIP; 10.06 K/9; 3.18 BB/9; 34 IP)

SO LHP Brian Busch* (4.36 FIP; 8.74 K/9; 3.99 BB/9; 70 IP)

JR 3B Stuart Tapley (.281/.419/.454; 40/57 BB/K; 7/9 SB; 185 AB)

JR RHP Tyler Everett* (3.46 FIP; 7.92 K/9; 4.47 BB/9; 44.1 IP)

JR C Rafael Lopez (.290/.405/.427; 20/29 BB/K; 0/0 SB; 131 AB)

JR C Parker Brunelle (.222/.297/.395; 8/13 BB/K; 0/1 SB; 81 AB)

JR RHP Andrew Durden* (3.84 FIP; 7.71 K/9; 4.82 BB/9; 9.1 IP)

JR LHP Tye Buckley* (5.27 FIP; 5.40 K/9; 8.78 BB/9; 13.1 IP)

JR LHP Robby Scott* (2.19 FIP; 10.80 K/9; 7.20 BB/9; 5 IP)

JR OF Robby Stahl (.000/.250/.000; 2/3 BB/K; 0/0 SB; 5 AB)

JR OF Jack Posey: Fall 2009 Tommy John surgery

Gilmartin throws an upper-80s fastball with the potential for three average or better secondary pitches (low-70s curve, mid-70s changeup, slider) in time. Johnson, a former walk-on, is one of my favorite college position player sleeper prospects heading into 2011. He’s taken to the patented ultra-patient Florida State approach like he’s been doing it all his life while still showing off tremendous bat control and an advanced feel for what opposing pitchers want to do against him. He’s also got the defensive tools to be well above-average at both second base and third base, though he could ultimately work best as a smooth fielding shortstop. If nothing else, his defensive talent at multiple infield spots makes a utility future seem like a decent floor projection. I won’t lie and claim to have a comprehensive knowledge of all 2011 college middle infield prospects at this point, but I’d be hard pressed to come up with as well-rounded a player as Johnson. The rising junior has enough of every tool to succeed at the next level. Scantling is huge (6-8, 270 pounds) and athletic, but his stuff still doesn’t quite match his imposing frame. That could change in a hurry, but for now he’s still sitting in the same upper-80s with iffy breaking stuff that he was at back in high school. It’ll be interesting to see if he’ll get more consistent innings as a starter or if Florida State opts to keep him coming out of the bullpen in 2011. Ramsey is generally seen as one of the better 2011 college outfield prospects, but at this point in his development he’s little more than an above-average bat to me. His arm is currently average at best and his range in the outfield is below-average. In addition, he’s a decent runner who picks his spots on the bases well. College players limited to leftfield need to be able to hit a ton to make it in pro ball.

Bennett has been counted on in many big spots as the Seminoles primary non-closer relief pitcher. His deceptive sidearm delivery, above-average fastball, and impressive junior year peripherals make him one to watch. The former Tallahassee Community College standout should get first crack at reclaiming the closer’s job he lost to Mike McGee this season in 2011. Busch won’t wow you with his stuff, but he does have a decent curveball and good command. Tapley is a favorite among coaches, scouts, and fans for his superior work ethic, hustle, and on-field demeanor, so it’s easy to believe he could be in store for a quick return trip back up teams’ draft boards with a big senior season. He’s not a third baseman long-term, but a utility future could be in the cards if he can show any kind of aptitude at second. If that doesn’t work, he could be a four-corners bench bat type. Tapley was one of the last few cuts from my 2010 list of top 30 college third basemen, for what it’s worth.

Everett has done a good job over the years for the Seminoles, but has done it more with pitchability than stuff. Lopez is a really good defender with a strong throwing arm, but little projection with the bat makes his best case scenario that of a backup catcher. It seems there were plenty of 2010 surprise senior breakout players among college catchers, so maybe there is hope for Lopez after all. Brunelle, a top high school prospect way back when, has disappointed since enrolling at Florida State. He’s still an outstanding athlete with a line drive swing, so there may still be some hope he’s another late blooming catching prospect. Unfortunately, the lack of power and an average at best throwing arm represent two major strikes against him. I liked Durden more as a position player out of high school, but he’s shown enough on the mound in limited action to be worth a look as a potential mid-round senior sign relief project. Buckley has received some positive buzz as an effective LOOGY out of the pen, but his numbers leave much to be desired. Scott, Stahl, and Posey all received little to no playing time in 2010. Posey’s excuse, Tommy John surgery in late 2009, is understandable.

TEXAS v LSU – 2009 College World Series Championship Game One Live Blog

Let’s kick things off with one of the finest moves a second rate website like this can make – the shameless traffic grab, of course. Hundreds of years of research shows that there is no better way to wake up Google than plastering up a picture of a popular, pretty girl. Erin Andrews is doing the sideline reporting for ESPN, so this isn’t quite as gratuitous as it could be…but, yeah, it’s still undeniably transparent.

Erin Andrews

FIRST INNING

Heat Index – 107 degrees

I like LSU to sweep, by the way.

LSU Lineup: LeMahieu, Schimpf, Dean, Gibbs, Mahtook, Mitchell, Ochinko, Helenihi, Nola

LeMahieu, Schimpf, Dean, Mitchell, and Ochinko were all drafted in the 2009 MLB Draft.

Texas starter tonight is RHP Chance Ruffin. Fastball has been in the low-90s so far. Best secondary offering has probably been the backup high-70s slider.

Ryan Schimpf (Blue Jays draftee, round 5) blasted a high, straight fastball deep to right to get the Tigers on the board

Texas Lineup: Torres, Tucker, Belt, Moldenhauer, Rupp, Keyes, Loy, Clark, Rowe

SECOND INNING

Mikie Mahtook is white. I don’t know why that surprises me, but it does. It really does. I’m not proud of this fact.

Still can’t get over that Cameron Rupp homer that tied the game against Arizona State on Friday. I haven’t heard the measured distance on it yet, but it was an absolute rocket to dead center. Had to have been over 430 feet.

Louis Coleman (5th rounder by Kansas City) has only thrown fastballs so far (as far as I can tell). I don’t have all of his readings, but the ones I’ve caught are: 92, 88, 85, 89, 90, 88, 91, 88, 89. No sooner do I type that does he end the inning with a strikeout on a 79 MPH offspeed pitch.

THIRD INNING

Sampling of Ruffin’s work so far:

FB: 92, 92, 87, 93, 87, 91, 85, 91, 90, 91, 92, 86
SL: 78, 79, 77, 79, 79, 81, 80, 82
CU: 72, 74, 76, 76

I could be wrong about those changeups…I miss having a DVR.

You know who Coleman reminds me of? Mechanically, anyway. His delivery reminds me a lot of Alex White’s low arm slot. Still looks like a future reliever, but worth trying as a starter so long as the results are there.

FOURTH INNING

I legitimately forgot I wrote about Preston Clark earlier in the year. I knew I liked him, but I couldn’t remember if I thought about writing about him or if I actually followed through (a rare occurance, I know). Anyway, here’s what I wrote:

Preston Clark is one of the most talented players on the list and his incremental production from year to year at Texas is a nice sign going forward. He’ll never hit for a high average, but his plate discipline (29 BB in 179 AB last season) is good and he has just enough juice in his bat to keep pitchers honest. His health is a major question mark, but a spring that sees Clark in the lineup (and behind the plate) on a consistent basis should solidify him as prospect with a better than average shot of someday developing into a strong big league backup backstop. Even if he doesn’t catch all that often — sophomore Cameron Rupp is in line to get plenty of reps behind the dish as well — Clark’s defensive versatility (he’s capable of playing third and the outfield, in addition to catching) is an added bonus to his game.

I was wrong.

I really like Robin Ventura. He has two things that really work to his advantage from where I’m sitting – a) he’s quiet, and b) he has a sneaky sense of humor. I like Orel Hershiser just fine, but the way Ventura needles him is very amusing to me.

I didn’t really know about the LSU open stance thing before tonight. Quirks like that are one of the reasons I think college baseball is so much fun to follow – different programs preaching different things. From certain teams pushing certain pitches to the LSU open stance thing (I need a more clever name for it, but I’ve got nothing) to the infamous “Stanford swing,” college baseball is loaded with character if you just know where to look.

Who had odds on Travis Tucker hitting a homerun tonight? Travis Tucker’s mom, maybe, but that has to be about it. Baseball = funny game. Here’s what I said about Tucker earlier:

not a prospect worth going on about. He had a decent junior year (good on-base skills, tiny bit of pop, above-average baserunner), but his inability to play shortstop well will keep him as an organizational type at best.

Now Russell Moldenhauer, that homerun makes a little more sense. Well, it makes sense when you watch him hit. If you only saw his 2009 numbers, it’s an even bigger shock than Tucker’s. Moldenhauer came to Omaha with a whopping zero homeruns to his credit on the season. I’m a relatively big Moldenhauer fan, if such a thing outside of Texas exists:

Moldenhauer may yet rediscover the stroke that made him a third round pick once upon a time, but he is going to have to do so in a hurry if he wants to make it as a pro.

FIFTH INNING

I forgot to mention Kevin Keyes’s homer in the fourth. Now there’s a homerun that can’t really be classified as a surprise. Keyes has first round potential heading into 2010, but has been more projection than production as a collegiate player so far. He’s a very different player than Jared Mitchell (power is his game, not speed) and he doesn’t have football as a reason for stalled development like LSU’s 2009 first rounder, but I think he is in a similar spot at respective points in their development.

Ruffin is cruising through five. His command is starting to waver a tiny bit, but his mechanics have stayed surprisingly consistent despite the conditions. I’m way more impressed with him than I thought I’d be coming in.

Connor Rowe is a lot of fun to watch in centerfield. Not so much fun at the plate right now, however.

SIXTH INNING

Can Mikie Mahtook hit a breaking ball? Or take an accurate route to a flyball? His potential is vast, but there is no denying that you are watching a freshman, and a raw one at that, when you watch him play.

Jared Mitchell, what can you really say? Usain Bolt is probably faster than him, but that may be the extent of the list.

Only players with last names beginning with “M” matter, apparently. Mahtook, Mitchell, and now Moldenhauer. Russ Moldenhauer with two homers tonight. Both hits were “no doubt about it” homeruns that came on gorgeous swings. He’s now a guy to put on the early watch list for 2010 senior signs.

Laptop is dying, time to call it an early evening. Great game so far, should be fun to see how these last three innings play out…

Signings Update and College World Series Championship Live Blog

How are things? Just swell, I trust. Alright, enough about you. Let’s talk about me. Here’s what I’ve been up to when not traveling too far to go to rained out rookie league games…

First, I updated the signings page. I did it quickly — really, can you blame me? It’s important info, no doubt, but boring to write/talk about, I think — so feel free to jump in and offer any corrections or changes you see fit. I’m making up the slot/above slot/under slot distinctions as I go because, quite truthfully, I’m not really sure how I stand on the issue of MLB’s suggestion that bonuses be reduced by 10% across the board. I mean, it wasn’t a formal request, right? I know for a fact that some teams just laughed it off, so can we really claim that it’s the new standard for this year’s “slot” bonuses?

I can’t decide on what standard I should follow, and, like I alluded to earlier, I find the whole slot/above slot/under slot aspect of the draft to be the most tiring draft quirk to follow. What I’m trying to say is, I won’t lose too much sleep if I’m off on some of my big bold colored claims I’ve been making. If a correction needs to be made, call me out on it and I’ll happily oblige.

I’ve also spent time contemplating on which of the immediate post-2009 draft projects (team grades, round-by-round discussion, or a 2010 mock) I want to get to first. Decisions, decisions.

Lastly, I made the executive decision to sit on the couch and watch baseball tonight. There’s a pretty important college game going on, so I’m going to use the occasion as an excuse to watch entertaining baseball under the guise of doing the “work” of updating this too long dormant site of mine (I hate going a day without something up here, let alone almost a week). Check back later tonight for live updates and draft-related commentary about Game 1 of the College World Series.