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Houston went a little college heavy for my taste, but that’s forgivable considering the interesting collection of college prospects they rounded up. The early round pitching additions and handful of high upside college position players make it a slightly above-average class on balance. Connecticut OF George Springer (23rd ranked draft prospect) is a favorite of mine who I’ve seen up close multiple times, so forgive me for being super annoying and going with the long quote from my most recent viewing. The cliff notes: Springer shows four big league tools (strong arm, big raw power, good speed, and good CF defense/great RF defense), a hit tool/approach that has been the subject of debate going on two years now, and all the intangibles (work ethic, passion for the game, high aptitude to learn) you’d want in a potential franchise cornerstone. The gap between what Springer is and what he’ll eventually be is quite large by college first round hitter standards, but you don’t need an amateur hack like me to tell you his upside is immense.
Good pro coaching will do wonders for him, though it will be really interesting to see how much tinkering his future employer will really want to do after investing a hefty bonus in the college version of Springer’s swing. He looks a little bow-legged in the photo above, but it isn’t a great representation of his swing setup because it captures him just as he started his stride. I had great video of him swinging the bat, but it disappeared into the ether during a file conversion. As for Springer’s swing, again, I’m not a scout, but I was really impressed with his balance at the plate, both in his approach and follow through. I didn’t like his collapsed back elbow, but found many of his flaws to be those decidedly under the “Coach Him Up and He’ll Be Alright” umbrella. This may be a cop-out, but the rise of so many other prospects could really be a boon for Springer’s career. Taking him in the top ten scares the heck out of me, but if he slips closer to the middle or end of the round, watch out. Lowered expectations + more stable pro organization, especially at the big league level (less need to rush him) = transformation from overrated to underrated almost overnight.
Another quick note I’ll pass along without much comment: George Springer cares. I realize this is a dangerous game to play because, really, how can we ever know such a thing, but George Springer (his name just sounds better when you use the first and the last) cares, or, at worst, is one heck of an actor. I’d never get on a player for not reacting to a strikeout with anger (and, by extension, showing that they care) because, as a quiet guy myself, I know demonstrative displays of emotion shouldn’t be the standard by which we judge effort and dedication. But the way Springer reacted to an early strikeout — pacing back and forth in front of the bench seemingly in search of a tunnel to pop into and blow off some steam (soon enough, George) until finally settling to the far end of the dugout, just off to the side, where he took a knee, closed his eyes, and started pantomiming his swing — really stood out to me. Probably nothing, but there you go.
None of that changes my view of George Springer the prospect, by the way. Just thought it was a relatively interesting tidbit worth passing along. I have to admit that I do kind of love the idea of a player with a wOBA approaching .500 getting that worked up over a bad at bat. Or maybe I love the way a player who is is clearly pressing at the plate has still somehow managed to put up a league/park adjusted triple slash of .386/.482/.667 (as of mid-April).
Two pro comparisons for Springer came immediately to mind. The first is 100% physical and in no way any kind of projection of future pro value. Something about Springer’s body, swing, and overall on-field demeanor reminded me a great deal of Florida’s Mike Stanton. Again, the two are very different players, but the physical similarities were interesting. A comp like that is probably why most people don’t like comps, but they’ll live.
The second comparison is much, much better, I think. Springer’s upside and overall tools package remind me so much of Minnesota minor leaguer Joe Benson that it’s scary. File that one away…
And now we get the run on early round pitching additions. Locust Grove HS (OK) RHP Adrian Houser (174th ranked draft prospect) stood out in a crowded Oklahoma prep pitching class due to his plus fastball and advanced curveball. So much can happen with a prep arm developmentally that I’d be making stuff up if I gave you any definitive take on his future, but I can say with confidence that two quality pitches often makes for a good base to build a successful career on.
The Astros gambled on the signability of Vanderbilt RHP Jack Armstrong (49th ranked draft prospect) and came out big winners. He’s big, he’s athletic, and he has a big league ready fastball/curveball combo. If the change comes around, he’s a potential mid-rotation innings eater with the chance to put together. Out of all the excellent Vanderbilt draft prospects, I liked him second only to Sonny Gray.
Vanderbilt JR RHP Jack Armstrong: 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.
Santa Fe CC (FL) LHP Chris Lee is a lefty with good present velocity and the body to grow into even more. He signed quickly and, though his control left something to be desire, he showed impressive strikeout and groundball numbers.
If you can’t love Stony Brook RHP Nick Tropeano (108th ranked draft prospect), then we can’t be friends. How can you not fall for a big righthander that throws much slower than his frame suggests, but gets incredible results due to movement, great secondaries, and a big league veteran feel for pitching? Tropeano’s upside is a solid big league starting pitcher; his stuff (FB/CU/SL) reminds me a little bit of what Kyle Lohse brings to the mound. To keep this from being too positive – who would ever want to read positive thoughts on the internet? – there is some concern that, without a proper fastball, Tropeano’s future is starting pitcher or bust (i.e. he lacks the safety net of becoming a reliever).
Stony Brook JR RHP Nick Tropeano: 87-88, tops out at 90-91 with FB; velocity up a tick this year; better sink on FB; very good CU; very good SL with plus upside; advanced feel for pitching; relies very heavily on CU; 6-4, 205 pounds
I really liked what Houston did when it came time to pick college outfielders. Bringing in three toolsy, athletic, and physically gifted prospects gives the organizational depth chart a nice boost as they attempt to remake their outfield at the big league level. San Diego State OF Brandon Meredith is, well, toolsy, athletic, and physically gifted. He also works deep counts and flashes enough power/speed/arm to make him a potential regular right fielder down the line. With most non-elite college prospects, his most realistic path to landing a big league opportunity is to put up unignorable (note: not a real word) numbers year after year in the minors until he finally gets the chance to contribute either after a trade leaves a hole in the lineup or he is needed to bolster the big league bench. From there, who knows?
San Diego State JR OF Brandon Meredith: good arm; plus bat speed; good raw power; solid speed; RF professionally; (388/490/547 – 29 BB/39 K – 9/13 SB – 201 AB)
King HS (FL) OF Javaris Reynolds is a lottery ticket who was taken at the right time (7th round) you’d like to see your team gamble on high upside/low probability type players. Forsyth Country Day HS (NC) RHP Brandon Culbreth is the pitching equivalent to Reynolds; raw, but with a pro frame and enough flashes of quality stuff that you can start your daydreaming. Baseball players at least five years away from the big leagues are what people daydream about, right?
Creighton RHP Jonas Dufek is a watered down version of Nick Tropeano. He’s big, has below-average fastball velocity, and reliant on his offspeed and command to keep himself in ballgames. As a senior sign, he also only cost one-fourth the price of Tropeano; I’d be pleasantly surprised if he can achieve one-fourth the success I think Tropeano will have in the pros.
I know certain allowances are made for lefthanders, but you have to admit that the selection of Kent State LHP Kyle Hallock officially marks an early round trend for Houston. Between Tropeano, Dufek, and now Hallock, that’s three college arms with fastballs that stay below the 90 MPH barrier more often than not. As a three-pitch lefty with a little bit of projection left, Hallock is my kind of senior sign.
Minnesota OF Justin Gominsky (Round 11) is a really, really nice addition this late in the draft. He fits the toolsy, athletic, and physically gifted prospect mold mentioned earlier. The arm, speed, and center field defense are all big league quality; the difference between getting a shot playing every day or being pigeon holed into a fourth/fifth outfielder role comes down to his hit tool, plate discipline, and ability to tap into his considerable raw power. I tend to believe in elite athletes figuring out the baseball side of things more often than I probably should, so take my hearty endorsement of Gominsky as a prospect with a grain of salt.
Minnesota JR CF Justin Gominsky (2011): good arm; very good defender; plus athlete; good speed; interesting hit tool; 6-4, 185
Mississippi C Miles Hamblin (Round 12) serves as a harsh reminder of why I shouldn’t get too excited about prospects based predominantly on their junior college production. That’s not to say Hamblin’s numbers at Howard JC were the only thing that drew me to him (his scouting reports have been fairly positive going on three years now), but it was the incredible statistics that had me touting him as a potential top five round pick (whoops) back in 2009. His so-so showing in the SEC and slightly less optimistic defensive projection has me a little nervous, but I’ll stubbornly cling to the idea that his plus arm/plus raw power combo gives him a shot to make it as a backup in the pros.
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;
Clemson 2B John Hinson (Round 13) turned down the Phillies twice including last year after talks got rather acrimonious when money couldn’t be agreed on after Philadelphia drafted him in the 13th round. He went back to school, had a nice season, and came out the other side as a signed 13th round selection of the Houston Astros. I think the pre-draft report on Hinson holds up pretty well: good athlete, good speed, good hit tool, raw defensively, most likely a versatile big league utility guy with the chance of being an above-average regular (with the bat) at second. That’s some serious value in the 13th round.
A plus hit tool combined with above-average speed and power will get you far professionally, but people smarter than myself have told me some teams question Hinson’s ability to play any one particular spot in the infield with the consistency needed of a regular. Based on my limited looks of him, I can’t say that I necessarily agree with that assessment, but his defensive skillset (good athlete, iffy arm) may make him better suited for second base than third. At either spot, he’s got the bat to make him a potential regular with a couple breaks along the way. He’s got a relatively high floor (easy to see him as a big league utility guy with pop) with the upside of a league average third baseman.
The Astros broke out of their college streak (3 of 13 including 5 in a row) by taking Lufkin HS (TX) RHP Gandy Stubblefield (Round 14). There really isn’t a ton of talent that separates Stubblefield from Houston’s second round pick Adrian Houser. Both pitchers have projectable frames, good fastballs, curveballs with upside, and the need for a reliable third pitch. The fact that one guy was selected in the second round and the other in the fourteenth just goes to show how messed up the current system (signability is king!) really is. Stubblefield is off to join an absolutely stacked (my early count has them with at least ten draftable 2012s) Texas A&M team.
RHP Gandy Stubblefield (Lufkin HS, Texas): 6-4, 190; 88-92 FB, 94-95 peak; CB with upside
The little scouting report below on Arizona State LHP Mitchell Lambson (Round 19) says it all. I make it a rule to always start with notes on the fastball because a) I think it is the most important pitch in baseball, and b) it helps keeps my notes organized and easier to peruse quickly. That said, Lambson’s change is so good and he relies on it so heavily, there really is no other way to talk about him without first mentioning the pitch. The Josh Spence isn’t really meant to be taken literally – guys as weird and awesome as Spence can’t be compared to mere mortals – but more of a funky lefthander with the chance to put up surprising results in an unconventional manner. In other words, don’t sleep on Lambson.
Arizona State JR LHP Mitchell Lambson: outstanding 72-74 CU with outstanding arm action that sometimes dips into upper-60s; uses the CU a ton; 85-87 FB, 88-90 peak; plus command; plus control; maybe a little Josh Spence in him; 6-1, 200 pounds
I have an irrational like of Tennessee 3B Matt Duffy (Round 20) that I can only attempt to explain in terms of relevant baseball skills by talking about his excellent defense at third and patient approach at the plate. Beyond that, I just plain have a good feeling about his pro prospects. If given the chance, I think he could have a season not unlike the one Jack Hannahan is currently having: slightly below league average with the bat, well above-average in the field. That might not sound super sexy, but, again, that’s value for a 20th rounder.
Duffy was a deep sleeper top five rounds candidate of mine heading into the 2010 season, so you know I’ve been irrationally high on his talent for a long time now. The Vermont transfer and current Tennessee standout has all of the defensive tools to play a decent shortstop professionally, but profiles better as a potential plus defender at the hot corner. For Duffy, a Jack Hannahan (with more raw power) or Andy LaRoche (with less raw power) type of career is possible.
Much like Miles Hamblin, North Carolina 1B Jesse Wierzbicki (Round 24) has been on the radar dating back to his days catching at junior college. The scouting blurb below 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, but it appears I’m now in the minority. As a first baseman I don’t see how his bat will work at the pro level. Hopefully the Astros will be creative and try him in a utility role going forward. I can’t explain how he went higher in the draft than college teammates Patrick Johnson and Jacob Stallings.
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.
For what it’s worth, I talked to one scout who preferred Central Catholic HS (CA) OF Billy Flamion (Round 25) to New York first round pick Brandon Nimmo. Flamion’s bat is universally praised, but his other tools (speed, arm, and defense) are met with skepticism. I think he gets a bad rap considering his football background and lack of experience on the diamond. He’s a better athlete than given credit for with enough foot speed and arm strength to become at least an average left fielder in time. If he hits as expected, you can live with that. I think the most interesting thing to watch as he heads to school will be whether or not his aggressive approach can be reined in enough to make him as prolific a slugger as he could be.
[plus bat speed; special sound; plus lefthanded pull power; above-average arm; average speed; average range in corner, likely LF; good athlete; lots of swing and miss]
Not signing Flamion hurts, obviously, but the consolation prize of signing Bishop Amat HS (CA) OF Wallace Gonzalez (Round 29) isn’t half bad. I’ve talked about this before, but sometimes teams will draft two questionable signs within a few rounds of each other with the intention of offering similar money and seeing if they can get one to bite. In this case, we know Flamion’s asking price was really high (first round money, reportedly) and Gonzalez “only” got six figures, so maybe my theory is off. Either way, Flamion is off to Oregon and Gonzalez is an Astro, so let’s focus on the new pro and leave the college guy until 2014. Wallace Gonzalez has tools you’d never expect to see out of guy a few pounds short of Lions receiver Calvin Johnson. His raw power, plus arm, and great athleticism are major strong points. Like the Lambson/Spence comp from before, here’s another comparison not meant to be taken too literally: Gonzalez and Astros 2009 third round 1B/OF Telvin Nash. Both Gonzalez and Nash are righthanded hitting first baseman/outfielders with enough upside to hit in the middle of a big league lineup someday.
We’re issuing a major upside alert with Wallace Gonzalez, a rare first base prospect that can lay claim to legit five-tool upside. Those tools run the gamut from “wow” (plus raw power and a bazooka – not literally, that would be a “WOW!” tool – attached to his shoulder) to “hmm, didn’t expect that” (watching a 6-5, 220 pound man with 45 speed is cognitive dissonance personified). With great upside often comes great rawness, however. Gonzalez is better known as a football star with intriguing upside as a tight end capable of developing into a dangerous downfield threat. His commitment to the gridiron makes his signability just murky enough that some teams could shy away on draft day. Years of football experience also means less time honing his baseball skills, so the onus will be on his drafting team to really coach him up. At this point in the rankings, a boom or bust prospect like Gonzalez makes a lot of sense.
Penn State 3B Jordan Steranka (Round 30) heads back to Happy Valley hoping to boost his stock leading up to the 2012 Draft. He’s a little bit like Matt Duffy, though probably not as strong as a defender.
Steranka gives just about what you’d expect from a player this far down the ranking: a strong arm and some power upside. He also has the advantage of being a steady glove at third, though there are some rumblings that he could be tried behind the plate as a pro.
Arkansas OF Jarrod McKinney (Round 31) is the last of our toolsy, athletic, and physically gifted college outfield prospects taken by Houston. He is similar to Meredith from a tools standpoint (power/speed/arm enough for right field), but an ugly pro debut (.182/.233/.231 in 121 at bats) is a reflection on his rawness as a prospect. McKinney has never been super productive at the plate and injuries have kept his overall at bats down. His talent, however, exceeds that of a typical late round pick.
Arkansas JR OF Jarrod McKinney (2011): line drive swing; power potential; good speed; great range; good arm; strong; missed most of 2010 with knee injury; catcher in HS; (190/346/270 – 9 BB/13 K – 2/5 SB – 63 AB)
Oklahoma State RHP Brad Propst (Round 38) doesn’t throw hard (topped out at 88 when I saw him), but has a dynamite changeup and the athleticism you’d expect from a former middle infielder. His time spent at shortstop has me wondering if there could be some hidden velocity that could be unearthed with 100% focus on pitching as a pro.
Oklahoma State SR RHP/SS Brad Propst (2011): 86-88 FB; plus 79-80 CU; SF CU developing
Georgia 1B Chase Davidson (Round 41) was once a symbol for all that was wrong with Houston’s cheap approach to the draft. Well, maybe Davidson himself wasn’t a symbol; he was more of the cherry on top of the disappointing draft sundae that was the 2007 MLBDraft. That was the year Houston couldn’t agree to deals with their top two picks (Derek Dietrich and Brett Eibner), as well as eighth round pick Chad Bettis. To go a year without bringing in a top four round pick (free agent compensation took care of the rest) puts a serious strain on the farm system. In 2008, the Astros signed their first rounder, comp rounder, and second rounder. Things were looking up, despite the fact they badly reached on Jason Castro with the tenth pick of the draft; I mean, at least they signed him, right? Then the third round came around and the Astros swung and missed with inking big-time slugging high school prospect Chase Davidson. The few Houston fans I knew were understandably apoplectic. I’m in no way defending Houston’s cheapness at the time, but it is fun to flash forward three drafts to the Astros drafting and signing Davidson as a 41st rounder in 2011. I don’t hold out a ton of hope for Davidson, but I also don’t see a ton of differences between him and last year’s fourth round pick of Milwaukee, Auburn 1B Hunter Morris. That alone makes Davidson a pretty huge steal this late in the draft. The bar is set so low for 41st rounders that even a career as a minor league slugger would count as a success story. Anything more is a bonus.
Davidson is all power all the time but with a hack at all costs attitude. Been a long time (three years to be exact) since we heard those Jim Thome comparisons…
Clemson OF Chris Epps (Round 45) gets a mention because it feels like he has been at Clemson for the better part of the last decade. Consider this his college hitter lifetime achievement award. Epps is a talented guy who gets hurt by his tweener status: probably not enough pop to carry him in a corner, but not a good enough defender for center. His approach to hitting is professional quality, but, much like Davidson the 41st rounder, I’d say a long career as a 4A star would be an impressive outcome for this 45th round pick.
Clemson SR OF Chris Epps (2011): leadoff hitter profile; average gap-style power; above-average speed; below-average arm; not a CF; 6-1, 195 pounds; (237/420/365 – 48 BB/49 K – 156 AB – 15/21 SB)
Westfield HS (NJ) C AJ Murray (Round 48) had a strong commitment to Georgia Tech that no doubt scared teams off, but I suspect they’ll be plenty of organizations kicking themselves once they realize the kind of player they let slip away. Murray is a great athlete with good speed and plenty of raw power. There is some concern he won’t be able to stick behind the plate long-term, but I’ve heard differently. I’m excited about following Murray’s development over the next few years, starting from his time at Georgia Tech all the way through draft day 2014.
Fast-rising prospect poised to make me look stupid for having him this low. Area scouts rave about his athleticism and sheer physical strength.
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…
Data good through May 20th. Weekend homework will be completing a few more college position lists (3B, OF, RHP, LHP) and starting back in with the high schoolers. For now, in an effort to buy me some more time to work on big stuff like that, I present the finest publicly available GO% in all the land…
North Carolina JR RHP Matt Harvey: 64%
Tennessee JR LHP Bryan Morgado: 51%
Texas Tech JR RHP Chad Bettis: 70% (!)
Texas JR RHP Brandon Workman: 56%
LSU JR RHP Austin Ross: 39%
Miami JR LHP Chris Hernandez: 63%
South Carolina JR RHP Sam Dyson: 68%
Florida State JR LHP John Gast: 69%
Virginia Tech JR RHP Jesse Hahn: 73% (10/0 GO/AO ratio in return from injury)
Texas SO RHP Taylor Jungmann: 65%
Virginia SO LHP Danny Hultzen: 50%
Kentucky SO RHP Alex Meyer: 53%
Rice SO LHP Taylor Wall: 58%
UCLA SO RHP Trevor Bauer: 44%
Vanderbilt SO RHP Jack Armstrong: 57%
Gonzaga SO LHP Ryan Carpenter: 56%
Kentucky JR LHP Logan Darnell: 57%
Random sampling of some of the players I’ve kept track of so far this year…
School – Year – Pitcher – % of batted ball outs classified as “ground balls”
San Diego SR RHP AJ Griffin – 31%
Texas Tech JR RHP Chad Bettis – 71%
Texas JR RHP Brandon Workman – 55%
Louisiana State JR RHP Austin Ross – 38%
South Carolina JR RHP Sam Dyson – 64%
San Diego JR RHP Kyle Blair – 50%
San Diego JR LHP Sammy Solis – 56%
California JR RHP Dixon Anderson – 67%
Virginia Tech JR RHP Jesse Hahn – 70%
Arkansas JR RHP Brett Eibner – 43%
Florida State JR LHP John Gast – 67%
Stanford SO LHP Brett Mooneyham – 66%
UCLA SO RHP Trevor Bauer – 43%
Vanderbilt SO RHP Jack Armstrong – 61%