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Detroit Tigers 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Detroit 2011 Draft Selections

I’ve done enough of these draft reviews that I’m starting to repeat my repeats. I no longer can keep track of all of the silly claims (best draft, worst draft, whatever) that I’ve made so far. As I’ve surely said before, I’m not a huge fan of a team like Detroit taking so many college guys early on in the draft. When your first high school prospect is drafted in the fifteenth round, you’re doing it wrong.

Of course, you can always redeem yourself by simply drafting well. Whether we’re talking prospects from college, high school, junior college, or Cuba (looking in your direction, Onelki Garcia), the most important part of picking players is picking good players. I don’t like a college heavy approach, but if you are picking quality college players then who am I to complain?

That takes care of the top of Detroit’s draft. The back end was a mess. Brett Harrison, an overslot prep signing in the eighteenth round, was the last high school prospect signed by the Tigers. This probably doesn’t need to be said, but it isn’t good when you essentially stop drafting after round 18. Detroit managed to land a couple potential relief arms and a few org bats, but outside of intriguing 22nd round pick Tommy Collier, there is no impact upside. When you combine that with a college-heavy approach early on, you’re limiting the chances of landing a player who might contribute at or close to a star level in a big time way.

All I can do is throw up my hands and admit defeat when it comes to the Tigers first pick, Arkansas C James McCann. I figured teams would like him a lot more than I did, but never in my wildest fantasies did I think he’d crack the top two rounds. In my pre-draft comment (below), I said I’d spend upwards of a seventh rounder on him, but no more. Detroit obviously thought differently. Luckily for me, this is just the beginning. McCann’s pro career can go a lot of different ways from this point forward, so the jury is far from out when it comes time to determining whether or not this was a smart pick. Despite not being his biggest fan – from a prospect only and nothing personal standpoint – I’ll be rooting for him to exceed my expectations because by all accounts he is a really great guy. Still think he has a really good chance to become a steady professional backup catcher, though playing time might be hard to come by in an organization that has spent five picks in the draft’s top ten rounds over the past two years on catchers. They also have a pretty good young catcher at the big league level who figures to have a lock on the starting job for the foreseeable future.

I was impressed with the much discussed McCann’s well above-average athleticism and solid speed (for a catcher) in my admittedly quick look at him. His hit tool and power tool both project to around average (45 to 55, depending on the day) and his defense is already professional quality. I know I’ve been considered a McCann hater at times, but I think his relatively high floor (big league backup) makes him a worthy pick within the first seven to ten rounds.

There isn’t much to add about Vanderbilt 1B Aaron Westlake that hasn’t already been said. He has one clear big league tool (power) and a second that is average or better (hit), but is held back by the position he plays. If he hits in the minors, he’ll rise up. If he doesn’t hit, he’s sunk. There isn’t much of a speed/defense safety net, though there are some who think he is just athletic enough to be tried at various odd spots (corner OF, 3B, even C) around the diamond. His handedness (left) works in his favor in that he could potentially get platoon/pinch hit at bats against righthanded pitchers.

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.

Can’t say I completely understand the selection of Kansas State 3B Jason King this early on (137th overall), but what do I know? King put up good numbers for the Wildcats and has ample power upside, but I don’t think he’ll hit enough to be a regular in an outfield corner, his likely landing spot down the line.

Texas SS Brandon Loy’s defense is big league quality already, so it really is just a matter of whether or not he can do enough damage with the stick to be a regular. With their 5th round pick (159th overall) in 2009, the St. Louis Cardinals took Miami SS Ryan Jackson. Loy, a player with a similar college background, also went off the board in the 5th round (167th overall). As Peter King might say the kids might say, “Just sayin’.”

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

Howard JC OF Tyler Collins is similar from a basic scouting vantage point to Jason King. Both guys have big power, but project best as outfielders unable to play center. Guys like have to, wait for it, hit a ton to keep advancing in pro ball. I do like Collins’ pure hit tool over King’s and he is more of a natural in the outfield, so, you know, there’s that.

I was impressed Detroit got a deal done with Wichita State LHP Brian Flynn, a draft-eligible sophomore that many had pegged as likely to return for one more season with the Shockers. Lefties who are 6-8, 240ish pounds and can reach the mid-90s don’t come around too often, but it wasn’t just Flynn’s questionable signability that dropped him to the 7th round. At this precise moment in time, Flynn is a one-pitch pitcher. Even that one pitch, his fastball, isn’t that great an offering when you factor in his inconsistent ability to harness it. If the slider keeps developing and he shows he can work in the occasional change, then we might have a dark horse starting pitching prospect. If not, Flynn will try to make it in the competitive world of professional relief pitching.

Wichita State SO LHP Brian Flynn: 86-90 FB, peak 92; new peak of 94; command needs work; 6-8, 245 pounds

I lost track of Dallas Baptist OF Jason Krizan from early last season to just this very moment, so I’m pleasantly surprised to see he hit a Division I record for doubles this past year. Considering the only notes I had on him at the start of the year were “big power to gaps,” I can’t help but laugh. Krizan’s 2011 numbers have a distinct video game feel, but his lack of big tools – remember, a comment about his gap power was about the most positive thing said about him from a scouting perspective this past spring – keep him from being as good a prospect as his numbers might have you think. His inability to play center hurts him as well because, stop me if you’ve heard this before, if you want to play a big league corner outfield spot then you have to be able to hit, hit, and hit some more. With the right breaks Krizan could make it as a backup outfielder/pinch hitter, but he’d be stretched as an everyday player.

Kentucky OF Chad Wright profiles very similarly to the guy drafted one round ahead of him. He’s a “jack of all trades, master of none” prospect who is just good enough at everything to be interesting, but not quite good enough at any one thing to be a regular.

Kentucky JR OF Chad Wright (2011): average all around

I’ve written a lot about Vanderbilt C Curt Casali over the years, so I’ll make this brief: Curt Casali is going to play in the big leagues. I’ll go a step further and say he’s a better than 50/50 bet to outproduce the other SEC catcher taken by Detroit in the second round. I know I’m alone on this, but he reminds me a good bit of one-time catcher Josh Willingham at the plate. One thing that could definitely hold him back: I don’t know if he’s athletic enough to move out behind the plate if such a move is necessitated by his surgically reconstructed elbow.

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.

Barry 1B Dean Green (Round 11) got lost in the shuffle after transferring to Barry from Oklahoma State, but he’s a solid hitter with decent power. Michigan State OF Jeff Holm (Round 12) was a slick pick as one of the nation’s most intriguing senior signs. He has a long track record of excellent production, good speed, a great approach to hitting, and some defensive versatility (he plays a mean first base as well as average D in the outfield corners).

Michigan State SR OF Jeff Holm (2011): great approach; above-average to plus speed; gap power; average arm; average range in corner; has played 1B, but enough foot speed for corner; (340/411/534 – 28 BB/15 K – 22/25 SB – 206 AB)

I wanted all spring to champion Alabama-Birmingham RHP Ryan Woolley (Round 13), but his production (roughly 6 K/9) kept me from throwing any weight behind an endorsement. Down senior year aside, Woolley is a solid relief prospect with a good fastball that plays up in the bullpen and two offspeed pitches (slider and hard change) that flash above-average.

UAB SR RHP Ryan Woolley (2011): 90-91, topping at 92 with FB; has been up to 93-96 with FB; good 12-6 75-77 SL; power 82-83 CU; 6-1, 195 pounds; (6.75 K/9 – 4.64 BB/9 – 4.87 FIP – 64 IP*)

Stratford Academy (GA) OF Tyler Gibson (Round 15) might only have one plus tool, but it’s the right one to have. His big raw power gives him a chance to someday start in a corner, but he’s a long way away from being the player he’ll eventually be.

Green Valley HS (NV) 3B Brett Harrison (Round 18) got six figures mostly for his plus defensive upside and chance for a league average bat. I thought he could stick up the middle, but the Tigers prefer him at third.

My first draft originally had Harrison with the second base prospects, but a quick word from a smart guy suggested I was underselling his defensive upside. I believe a sampling of that quick word included the phrase “unbelievably light on his feet, like he is fielding on a cloud” or something weirdly poetic like that. There isn’t a whole lot there with the bat just yet, but after being told he had a “criminally underrated pure hit tool” I reconsidered and relented. Still not sold on the power ever coming around, but if he can combine an above-average hit tool with solid defense and a good arm, then we’ve got ourselves a nice looking prospect. There is an outside shot Harrison could go undrafted if teams are as convinced as my smart guy seems to be about his commitment to Hawaii.

If one player stands out as a potential late round steal for Detroit, it’s San Jacinto JC RHP Tommy Collier (Round 22). Collier throws two plus pitches already, and, if healthy, has the chance to unleash his nasty slider once again. He has the repertoire to start, but his health might necessitate a full-time switch to the bullpen. Mississippi LHP Matt Crouse (Round 24) is another arm with upside signed later on in the draft. His stuff was down this past spring, but he shows three average or better pitches when right and a projectable frame that could lead to a touch more velocity going forward. Southern California RHP Chad Smith (Round 17), who is equipped with a tidy low-90s heater/low-80s slider combo, could also make it as a reliever in pro ball

Mississippi JR LHP Matt Crouse: 86-88 FB, rare 91-92 peak; above-average CB that he leans on heavily; good CU; very projectable, but mechanics need cleaning up; 6-4, 185 pounds; stuff down this spring

Southern Cal JR RHP Chad Smith (2011): 90-92 FB; 93 peak; 80-84 SL; 6-3, 210

I can’t wait to see what Wichita State has planned for returning senior RHP Mitch Mormann (Round 25). He already has a plus fastball, both in terms of velocity and movement, and a slider that works as a solid second pitch in the bullpen. If his changeup shows progress, he could start this spring. If not, he could be on the short list of top college relievers for the 2012 Draft.

SR RHP Mitch Mormann (2012): 93-95 FB with great sink, 96 peak; average 83-85 SL; raw CU; 6-6, 255 pounds

Minnesota RHP Scott Matyas (Round 27) retired after just four rocky pro appearances, so, yeah, that’s that. He was going to be my sleeper pick, too. Glad I double-checked!

Minnesota SR RHP Scott Matyas: sits 88-91, 94 peak FB; above-average low-70s CB; good cutter; good command; mixes in upper-70s CU; really good athlete; 6-4, 220; Tommy John survivor

Missouri State RHP Dan Kickham (Round 33) might be the best of the sorry lot of players signed by Detroit after the 25th round. His fastball is too straight and his slider more good than great, but he has a chance to rise up in the system with some early pro successes.

Missouri State JR RHP Dan Kickham: 88-92 FB without much movement; average 81-83 SL; reliever; 6-4, 210

Portage HS (MI) 1B Ryan Krill (Round 40) is off to Michigan State. Well, I suppose he’s already there (it is almost November, after all), but you know what I mean. He has the chance to hit right away for a Spartans team that looks pretty decent on paper.

Krill is another prospect I was slow to come around on, but I’m buying into his mix of strong defensive tools, super athleticism, and big upside with the bat. Like Jacob Anderson before him, he’s got the wheels and instincts to play some outfield as a pro. There is enough to like about Krill that you can dream on him being a league average hitter and above-average glove at first down the line if everything works out. That may not sound all that sexy, and there is plenty of risk involved with assuming “everything works out,” but you have to remember how much you have to hit if you want to play first base in the bigs. As much as I like Krill now, I’ll be the first to admit that each and every one of these mid-round high school first basemen will all have to make major strides in pro ball (i.e. have “everything work out”) to begin to reach their upper level projections. Life is tough when you don’t have a fallback plan, I guess.

College First Basemen Revisited 2.0 – 2011 MLB Draft

First 15 there, next 15 here. Rankings are from the preseason list, numbers are from College Splits (when applicable), and opinions are entirely mine, and thus, probably wrong…

16. Cal Irvine JR 1B Jordan Leyland (.266/.340/.422 – 14 BB/31 K)

I had hoped a return to full health after struggling with a wrist injury last season would allow Leyland to show off his plus raw power.

17. Wake Forest JR 1B Austin Stadler

One at bat, one RBI groundout. That’s all Stadler has done at the plate in 2011. He’s been lit up as a starting pitcher (9.77 ERA in 47 IP), but his underlying numbers aren’t that terrible (4.55 FIP with 8.81 K/9). His season stats and scouting profile both read like Nick Ramirez, only if Ramirez wasn’t quite as good as he is. He’s the Hydrox to Nick Ramirez’s Oreo, if you will.

18. Washington SR 1B Troy Scott (.303/.374/.432 – 14 BB/22 K)

There was a point early last year when Scott was the top ranked college first baseman on my unpublished 2010 draft rankings. Whoops.

19. Georgia JR 1B Chase Davidson (.275/.342/.451 – 9 BB/33 K)

Remember the Jim Thome comps some threw Davidson’s way back in his high school days? Man, I was all over those. When he is totally locked in and you catch him in just the right light, yeah, maybe you can kind of sort of maybe see the basis for that original comparison, maybe. The problem, as shown through the lens of his less than inspiring season stats, is that Davidson’s time spent locked in isn’t enough to make him a viable pro prospect. That said, guys with his kind of raw power tend to get plenty of chances, and it only takes one team to believe professional coaching can get him back to his pre-college level of performance.

20. LSU SO 1B Jamie Bruno

No stats for Bruno as he sits out the year after leaving Tulane. I don’t think he has a chance to be drafted this year, so consider this aggressive ranking a placeholder for 2012.

21. Embry-Riddle JR 1B Matt Skipper

The well-traveled Skipper is sitting out the year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

22. Central Florida SR 1B Jonathan Griffin (.342/.397/.640 – 17 BB/32 K)

Griffin is the prototypical hulking (6-5, 230) first base slugger with ridiculous raw power and nothing else. You can be one-dimensional when that one dimension is as strong as Griffin’s power tool is, but his battle is still an uphill one.

23. South Alabama JR 1B Brad Hook (.298/.430/.460 – 27 BB/32 K)

Hook is yet another versatile performer, logging 37.1 decent innings on the mound in addition to his work at first base. A lot of players are mentioned as having just enough defensive aptitute to handle other positions (most commonly LF, RF, and 3B), but Hook actually has the chance of being average or better in the outfield.

24. San Diego JR 1B Bryan Haar (.320/.364/.410 – 6 BB/30 K)

After mocking eventual 26th rounder to the Phillies in the first round early last year, I really should have been smart enough to wise up and stop falling for prospects from USD. My notes on Haar heading into the season:

might list with either 3B or OF, as he is too good an athlete to restrict to first base; good raw power; good defender; power, speed, and arm strength all rate as above-average for position, but hasn’t lived up to potential as of yet; could play 3B this year with Kris Bryant at first; swing is holding him back as a hitter; great frame, like him a lot; utility future maybe; “Haar has a pro body, good defensive instincts, and an advanced approach at the plate.”

I’m obviously less enthused after his disappointing junior season. We’ll try again with Haar next year.

25. Kansas JR 1B Zac Elgie (.264/.325/.443 – 11 BB/24 K)

Elgie, one of North Dakota’s finest prep ballplayers and arguably the biggest recruit in recent Kansas baseball history, has had an up and down college career to this point. I know of a few pro teams that think he’s got the arm and athleticism to make the conversion to professional catcher.

26. Central Florida SO 1B DJ Hicks (.369/.443/.664 – 22 BB/28 K) (also logged 10.1 IP with good K-rate)

If any player on the list can be classified as a big 2011 draft riser, it’s this guy. With arguably the most raw power of any draft-eligible first baseman, Hicks is a certifiable sleeping giant in the prospect world. yet another intriguing two-way talent. His scouting report reminds me of a catcher — plus to plus-plus raw power and plus arm strength — so it is no surprise that there is some thought he’d work better at third, his occasional college position. He also is a pitching prospect who features an above-average (at times) fastball with what I consider a promising splitter.

27. Wofford JR 1B Konstantine Diamaduros (.313/.360/.388 – 13 BB/17 K)

If we’re looking for silver linings here, at least Diamaduros will have the chance to be on college baseball’s all name team for an extra year after he returns to Wofford in 2012.

28. Ouachita Baptist JR 1B Brock Green (.366/.484/.575 – 29 BB/24 K)

I’ll often compile notes on a player over the course of a few years. One of my bad habits is not dating my notes. So when I look back and see the following notes on Brock Green, I can’t help but laugh. Among a few other tidbits, the notes claim Green is both a “potential plus defender” and possesses an “iron glove.” I suppose they technically could both be true — the upside vs present performance thing — but I’m guessing it is more of an issue of timing than anything.

29. Barry SR 1B Dean Green (.414/.532/.845 – 33 BB/20 K)

Issues with competition aside, Dean Green is straight killing it this year. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy has already shown he can hang with the big boys by performing well on the Cape.

30. Oregon SR 1B Stephen Kaupang

Not listed on the Oregon 2011 roster and I couldn’t figure out what in the world happened to him. Anybody know?

2010 MLB Draft: Top 30 College First Base Prospects

30. College of Southern Nevada SO 1B Trent Cook
29. Delaware SR 1B Ryan Cuneo
28. Central Florida JR 1B Jonathan Griffin
27. Long Beach State SO 1B Joey Terdoslavich
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Terdoslavich was once a pretty exciting prospect, but his transfer to Long Beach has taken his name out of the big-time college spotlight. His power remains, but the 2010 drop in plate discipline is worrying. In his favor, however, is the positional versatility so many of these first base prospects will need if they want big league bench jobs someday. Griffin is a gigantic human being with exactly the raw power you’d expect his frame to deliver, but is hurt as a prospect because he offers little else beyond that one above-average tool. Cuneo has good gap power and a solid glove, but profiles best as an organizational player than even a potential big league bench bat at this point. Trent Cook has seen his draft stock jump up a bit this spring, due in large part to the exposure his famous teammate with the initials BH has given the CSN program this spring…yes, the scouts are all flocking to Vegas to see that Bryan Harper fella.
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26. Rice SR 1B Jimmy Comerota
25. Arizona State SR 1B Kole Calhoun
24. Middle Tennessee State SR 1B Blake McDade
23. Oklahoma State JR 1B Dean Green
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Comerota and Calhoun both look like better versions of Ryan Cuneo to me – gap power, good glove, good athleticism, good batting eye…but not enough raw power to ever project as starting caliber players. McDade gets consistently overshadowed by teammate Bryce Brentz, but his approach is professional quality. Dean Green has a pretty well-rounded skillset and his strong showing on the Cape last summer gives him the extra bounce up the rankings here.
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22. South Carolina SR 1B Nick Ebert
21. Mississippi JR 1B Matt Smith
20. Tennessee JR 1B Cody Hawn
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Trio of SEC sluggers who could all hit their way to the big leagues if they get a few breaks along the way. Hawn is a really darn good natural hitter, but the lack of physical projection and any above-average tool besides the bat holds his prospect stock down. Smith’s power and approach are both intriguing while Ebert, the senior, has really impressed with the way he has worked at his game, improving from an organizational player all the way in his junior year to a legit mid- to late-round draft here in 2010.
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19. Chipola JC SO 1B Cody Martin
18. Carson-Newman SR 1B Jeff Lockwood
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Martin is another candidate for most underrated player on this list. He’s a really good athlete, potential plus defender, and has shown well above-average power in the past. Lockwood does a lot of the same things as Martin, but does them all just a smidge better at this point.
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17. Cal State Northridge JR 1B Dominic D’Anna
16. Hawaii SR 1B Kevin Macdonald
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Really like D’Anna’s swing, from setup to finish. Macdonald can get a little long with his swing, but offers more long-term power than D’Anna. D’Anna is a better bet to start for a big league club someday, but is a real long shot to ever realize that upside. Macdonald is less likely to ever start for a big league team, but more likely to contribute as a bench bat somewhere down the line someday. That’s why Macdonald gets the slight nod in the rankings. That logic isn’t foolproof, but it’s all I’ve got.
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15. Hillsborough JC FR 1B Jamie Mallard
14. Lake Sumter CC FR 1B Bryan Hill
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Mallard is the biggest boom/bust prospect on this list. If he booms, it’ll be because of the tremendous thunder in his bat; his power rivals that of any college player in the 2010 class. If he busts, it’ll be because he eats his way right out of the game. Hill’s upside should probably jump him up this list because he has as good a shot as almost any player ranked higher to actually land a starting big league job someday.
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13. Mt. Hood CC SO 1B Taylor Ard
12. Boston College JR 1B Mickey Wiswall
11. Washington JR 1B Troy Scott
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Scott, Wiswall, and Ard make up my personal list of three biggest first base disappointments in 2010. Ard gets a mulligan because of a bum wrist, but his injured hamate bone is a definite concern for a player who came into the year hoping his plus raw power would get him into the top five rounds. Scott actually had the top spot in one of my many unpublished preseason college first base prospect lists, but his 2010 has been a disaster (where’s the power?) anyway you look at it. Wiswall was a favorite in the scouting community coming into this season, but has always been too much of a grip and rip guess hitting hacker for my tastes. At this point in the rankings we’re talking mostly about bench bats, so a grip and rip guess hitting hacker with above-average power potential and intriguing positional versatility (he could be a four corners guy in the pros) isn’t such a bad thing…
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10. Alabama SR 1B Clay Jones
9. Louisiana State SR 1B Blake Dean
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Jones has been a success in high school, community college, wood bat summer leagues, and in the SEC. Blake Dean profiles similarly, as both SEC seniors are professional bats that come up a bit short as starters but should fit in nicely as big league bench weapons.
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8. Georgia Tech SR 1B Tony Plagman
7. Texas Christian SR 1B Matt Curry
6. East Carolina SR 1B Kyle Roller
5. Tennessee Tech JR 1B AJ Kirby-Jones
4. Mississippi State SR 1B Connor Powers
3. Louisville SR 1B Andrew Clark
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Clark is a hitter with a clue. If there is a pitch in your happy zone, swing hard and watch it fly. If the pitcher won’t give in, don’t get yourself out by swinging at junk. Clark does those two things as well as any hitter in all of college baseball. I’m very impressed with the improvements that Connor Powers has made to his game between his junior and senior seasons – he came into the year as a hacker who was limited to first base defensively, but will graduate as a more disciplined bat and an above-average glove at first. If Michael Choice played first base, he’d be Kirby-Jones. That’s a pretty nice compliment for the Tennessee Tech junior. Roller and Curry are both professional hitters with power, but neither prospect offers much beyond what they can deliver in the batter’s box. Plagman is similar to Powers in that he did a tremendous job patching up the holes in his game (namely the holes in his bat) by taking a more patient, measured approach to hitting this spring.
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2. Auburn JR 1B Hunter Morris
1. Arkansas JR 1B Andy Wilkins
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Wilkins and Morris are the two most likely early round first base prospects to actually play the position regularly in the big leagues someday. More on these two to come…