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It was a lot more difficult paring down the list of top 2010 MLB draft-eligible players down to 30 than it was at either 1B or 2B, so I figured I’d devote a little bit of electronic ink to the players that didn’t quite make the cut. First, the top five college catching prospects that were squeezed out of a surprisingly deep class of 30, in no particular order unless otherwise noted…
Auburn SR C Ryan Jenkins
Jenkins is the best prospect that didn’t make the cut. He’s a ready-made big league catcher defensively with a fantastic arm and a really nice, level swing. The mid-round college catching depth this year is really the only thing keeping him out of the top thirty.
Mississippi JR C Miles Hamblin
Big things were expected out of the junior college transfer Hamblin this season, but his debut year at Ole Miss has been a gigantic disappointment. I liked him enough last year to claim he was a superior prospect to Trevor Coleman of Missouri, a player at one time regarded as an easy top three round pick. Here’s what was said then:
Hamblin has above-average power potential and a live bat, plus he has the added advantage of being close to a sure bet of sticking behind the plate as a professional. His outstanding performance this season for a dominant junior college team has scouts buzzing. Lefty power, a great catcher’s frame, strong throwing arm (mid-80s fastball in high school), and a mature approach at the plate…don’t let the lack of pedigree bother you, Hamblin is a good prospect; so good a prospect, in fact, that I’d take him over Coleman, thank you very much.
His park and schedule adjusted season numbers as of early May: .221/.345/.375; 22 BB/33 K; 11 extra base hits. Gigantically disappointing. Hamblin’s solid all-around tools are all still present, so it’s hard to write him off as a prospect completely, but it’s harder still justifying a placement over a slew of more qualified catching candidates on the list.
Mississippi State JR C Wes Thigpen
Must be something in the water down in Mississippi. First it’s Hamblin disappointing, now it’s Thigpen. Way more power was expected out of the Bulldogs primary catcher in 2010, but his park and schedule adjusted line looks a lot like Hamblin’s: .232/.360/.354; 15 BB/26 K; 4 extra base hits. Ouch. Thigpen, a really good athlete and an even better defender, had me believing that this was the year he’d finally put some of his impressive raw power to use. Like talented but disappointing junior year players such as Jose Iglesias, Tommy Medica, and Diego Seastrunk last year, returning for a senior season may be the best/only course of action for Hamblin and Thigpen.
Rutgers SR C Jayson Hernandez
Another player I’ve written about before that also happened to just miss the list is Rutgers senior Jayson Hernandez. Here’s what was said about his laser rocket arm a few months back:
The guy may have little to no power to speak of, and he may be considered one of the weaker hitters currently playing major college ball, but, man oh man, can this guy throw. If he can wake up the bat even a teeny, tiny bit, he could find himself drafted with the chance of someday being a shutdown all-defense big league backup.
The ridiculous arm strength remains, but now Hernandez can lay claim to a spot on the 2010 list of most-improved college hitters. His power is still almost non-existent, but newfound patience at the plate has enabled him to work deeper counts. Deeper counts have meant more walks, obviously, but it’s also helped to set him up in more and more advantageous hitter’s counts. It would be nice if he could drive the ball with some authority in said hitter’s counts, but his increase in singles might be enough to elevate his stock from “hopeful some team will invite him for a tryout somewhere along the way” to “believing that he’ll see his name online as a late round flier on draft day.” Progress.
Minnesota SR C Kyle Knudson
The other Minnesota catcher with a chance to be drafted (more on his teammate much, much, much higher up the list) and yet another player that has already received some much coveted Baseball Draft Report screen time. Pre-season assessment of Knudson right here:
[Knudson] is a good athlete with a strong arm. He also has some pop and a big league ready frame, but the total tools package still comes up short. He’s not a real prospect at this point, but could get himself a professional job filling out a rookie ball roster if a team is in need of a reliable backstop. Catchers are always in demand, you know.
I do know! Catchers are always in demand, especially those coming off of solid senior seasons. Knudson is another player that took a step forward with the bat in 2010. He should probably consider himself in about the same “please, somebody take a late round flier on me” spot that Hernandez is now in. Again, that’s progress.
Other players of note who didn’t make the cut include, but are not limited to the following:
Houston SR C Chris Wallace
Cal State Fullerton SR C Billy Marcoe
Vanderbilt SR C Andrew Giobbi
Southern Mississippi SR C Travis Graves
South Carolina SR C Kyle Enders
Bryant SR C Jeff Vigurs
San Diego SR C Nick McCoy
Wallace is the best of the rest, a more than capable defender with enough power to keep pitchers honest and impressive 2010 season numbers. The remaining senior sign candidates all offer up varying degrees of above-average defense; in fact, my notes range from “solid” (McCoy) to “good” (Vigurs) to “near-plus” (Graves). Giobbi, one of the defenders noted as “good” in my notes, has the most offensive upside of the group. Any one player here could get drafted in the later stages of the draft. Any one player here could wind up as a big league backup backstop someday. The odds are obviously stacked against them, but part of the fun of the whole draft process is you just never know.
Two names that didn’t hit enough to warrant consideration, but are worth mentioning for their one plus tool alone:
South Florida JR C Eric Sim
Nebraska JR C Patric Tolentino
Two of the very best arms in all of college baseball attached to two of arguably the very worst everyday hitters. Sim’s arm is so good that his best hope at a pro career will probably come after first receiving some time on the mound his senior season. Tolentino’s arm and big league frame are both strengths, but, unfortunately, that’s about the limit of his redeeming on-field qualities.
Not enough offense, not enough defense:
College of Southern Nevada SO C Ryan Scott
Texas A&M JR C Kevin Gonzalez
UC Irvine SR C Francis Larson
In the same way Knudson is the other Minnesota catcher, Scott is the other CSN catcher. His defense is stellar, far better than teammate Bryce Harper’s at this stage, but his poor contact rate and minimal power keep him far away from the top thirty. Gonzalez will probably stick around College Station another year after he goes undrafted; he’ll no doubt look to improve upon his 2010 statistics, numbers that are eerily close to Larson’s. Gonzalez in 2010: .302/.326/.434. Larson in 2010: .291/.338/.426. Not enough power or patience for either player to get by without being tremendous on defense.
And finally rounding out the top 50…
Florida Southern JR C Zach Maggard
Virginia SR C Franco Valdes
Duke SR C Ryan McCurdy
Liberty JR C Jerry Neufang
Maggard, Valdes, McCurdy, and Neufang all had at least an outside shot of cracking the back end of the top thirty coming into the season, but all fell well short of expectations in 2010. Maggard has the most pop, but has no idea of the strike zone; he stands and swings like a professional (scouts have given him positive reviews most of the spring), but any pitcher with a clue can make quick work of him. Valdes, McCurdy, and Neufang don’t have a single above-average tool to share, unless you count McCurdy’s uncanny ability to get plunked by the opposition.
Fresno Pacific SR C Wes Dorrell had a chance to backdoor his way onto the top 30 with a healthy, productive spring. Unfortunately, a torn labrum prevented any of that from happening. Hard to even project a player who probably didn’t have the chops for catching everyday to rebound from such serious shoulder surgery, but Dorrell’s bat could get him a look in 2011 as a potential four-corners utility guy that can also suit up behind the dish in a pinch.
So, I’ve got a 33-page Word document going with every notable college team listed (including junior colleges and D-II/D-III teams) that is now up over 11,000 words. I don’t say it to brag — I mean, come on, how big a dork would I have to be proud of something like that? — but rather to set up the next couple of days of posting. Since my current Word doc has real quick notes on a ton of college players, I thought it would be a good idea to share out some of the more interesting findings so far. I won’t have complete player profiles done on the major guys for a while, and I doubt I’ll ever have complete profiles written on some of the lesser names, so this gives me a chance to shine the spotlight on some lesser known guys who happen to feature a truly standout tool or two.
SR C Jayson Hernandez (2010) and his jaw-dropping throwing arm. The guy may have little to no power to speak of, and he may be considered one of the weaker hitters currently playing major college ball, but, man oh man, can this guy throw. If he can wake up the bat even a teeny, tiny bit, he could find himself drafted with the chance of someday being a shutdown all-defense big league backup.
JR C Eric Sim (2010) and his almost as good as Hernandez’s plus-plus but not quite all the way there yet arm. Overall, Hernandez is the better defender; he is closer to a finished product defensively (his ability to block balls and his footwork are both currently ahead) and, as mentioned, has a slightly more impressive arm. Sim’s bat is more of a question mark at this point. I’ll be honest and say I’m not really sure how it’ll play in the Big East this spring. What I do know is that some scouts have already given up on Sim as a catcher and are instead dreaming of what kind of heat his arm could generate when getting reps throwing off the mound.
SO RHP/SS Adam Smith (2011) and the bazooka launcher attached to the right side of his body. If you’ve been following the draft over the past few years the name Adam Smith should sound familiar. No, not the Wealth of Nations guy. The highly sought after 2008 recruit who wound up in College Station playing for the Aggies. Smith has always had a crazy strong arm, but only recently has he had the chance to showcase it regularly on the mound. I still believe he can play a capable SS/3B and hit enough to be productive at either spot, but I couldn’t fault a team that instead saw him as a potential closer-type throwing easy 97 mph fastballs off the bump.
FR OF Matt Moynihan (2012) doing his very best Usain Bolt impression with legit plus-plus speed. A future piece here is definitely going to be about players who fit the ideal “leadoff man profile.” I must have wrote that phrase about 50 times when during the quick reports of college guys this year. Maybe I’m misremembering previous year’s talent bases, but it seems that 2010-2012 has a disproportionate amount of players with the potential for really good big league careers as lineup table setters and up the middle plus defenders. Moynihan has that potential, though he is obviously a few years off from getting there. He combines that plus-plus speed with good discipline along with superior range and an arm that fits well in CF to make himself an enticing prospect to watch.
JR LHP Kyle Hald (2010) and his dominating split-fingered changeup. Hald doesn’t throw hard (sitting mid-80s), but he does everything else you could possibly want a pitcher to do well. The secondary stuff is solid (hard SL and decent show-me CB), he is an outstanding fielder, his pickoff move is a legit weapon, and his mechanics are clean, consistent, and repeatable. That alone would make him a potential mid-round get, even when factoring in the below-average fastball. It’s the inclusion of his unique split-fingered change that makes him a sleeper to watch in 2010. I may be wildly overrating him based on one great pitch, but it’s a pitch that impressed me so much I’m willing to stick my neck out for it.
SR RHP Alex Jones (2010) and his surgically repaired elbow’s nasty slider. Jones is coming off from Tommy John surgery and, unfortunately, is feeling the impact hard. His fastball that once topped out in the low-90s was only able to get up over 86 this past summer. Thankfully the procedure and subsequent time off had no negative consequences on his plus-plus slider, a pitch that may be the best of its kind in all of college baseball. If Jones can pick up some of that lost velocity, he’ll find himself as another potential mid-round college reliever sleeper. He’s got the pro body (6-6, 190 pounds) and financial advantage (he’d be a senior sign) that many similarly talented pitchers in the mid-rounds seem to lack.