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10. Oregon State JR 3B Stefen Romero
Romero is arguably the best present defender on the top ten list. He makes all the plays on balls hit at him, and has proven more than capable of ranging to both his left and right when needed. What really makes his draft stock pop in comparison to some other names on the list is his performance with wood last summer on the Cape. The raw numbers don’t jump right out at you, but all of the reports from the summer were positive. Romero kept the momentum going this spring by displaying a steady dose of good defense, above-average power, and decent athleticism. A few area scouts that have seen him play way more than I have seem to like him a lot more than I do, so take his placement on the list as a rare example of me trusting people smarter than myself. Rare not because I’m trusting them, but because there are people out there actually smarter than I am. Hard to believe, I know. Romero’s upside is a good four-corners bench bat for me, something true of the majority of the players on this list no matter how rosy a picture I try to paint of their ultimate super duper best case scenario big league ceilings.
9. Connecticut JR 3B Mike Olt
I’ve toyed with the idea of standardizing these quick scouting capsules, but always wind up just doing the rambling paragraph or two synopses you see up and down the page. Seems like all of those standardized reports have some sort of strengths/weaknesses attached somewhere, so let’s try it out with a personal favorite, Mike Olt:
Strengths: three above-average or better tools (65 raw power, 55 speed, and 65 arm), plus athleticism, and a big league ready frame
Weaknesses: present tool most need in work is his bat, due in large part to a largely unrefined approach and inconsistent swing mechanics
So, will Olt make enough consistent hard contact to put his other tools to use professionally? I think any one of the guys on one of the deepest top ten college position lists I can remember in the long, storied history of this site has the upside of an every day player if the circumstances allow it. That comes out as a cop-out, but it’s true; this is a really, really deep year for college third basemen.
8. San Diego JR 3B Victor Sanchez
My support of Victor Sanchez goes back to his prep days, so it’s hard for me to be completely objective when trying to evaluate his current draft stock. The memory of the potential plus defender with equally exciting power potential and a mature beyond his years approach to every single at bat may be just that, a memory. Sanchez’s slow recovery from labrum surgery has knocked his prospect stock way down, but I’m enthused by the perhaps misguided hope that his depressed draft standing will give him the chip on his shoulder (not literally) needed to prove all the teams that passed on him wrong. Talent doesn’t disappear, but it can get lost in the fog of injuries. Teams willing to take the chance that Sanchez will someday recovery 100% from his shoulder injury are betting that the fog will soon lift.
7. Kansas JR 3B Tony Thompson
If he sticks at third, you’ve got a real player on your hands. If he’s a first baseman long-term, the bat will need to go up a level or two before you could realistically consider him a potential regular at the spot. For now, I think he’s got nimble enough feet to stick at third through his mid-twenties. Thompson’s successful return to health after an early season injury has allowed him time to showcase the plus arm and plus power that should get him drafted in the first five rounds no matter what teams think about his defense.
6. Louisville SO 3B Phil Wunderlich
Makeup is one of the easiest scouting terms to throw around as a positive or a negative for any given prospect because anonymous internet sources (like mine!) are never asked to truly qualify what the word means. Here’s what I mean when I say Wunderlich’s makeup is off the charts: In an completely fictional, but totally possible survey of college coaches and players, Wunderlich would win the “most likely to manage” poll going away. He’s that kind of player. Intangibles aside, Wunderlich is an underrated athlete with legit plus power and amazing patience at the plate. He may not be a natural defender at third, but he’s also not the type of player you’d bet against working his tail off until he is at least a decent big league defensive player.
5. Oklahoma City JR 3B Matt Presley
A trio of haikus, one offensive, one defensive, and one summing it all up, to describe draft sleeper Matt Presley…
Strikeouts are scary
But bat gives pitchers nightmares
Power is special
Not Schmidt with leather
Still, strong arm and high effort
Might fit best in right
Star in Sooner state
Not quite on Durant’s level
Better nickname, though
In summary: Easy to fall in love with his bat, but hard to realistically see him ever being average or better at third. Also, I suck at haikus.
4. Pittsburgh JR 3B Joe Leonard
Leonard has gotten a ton of positive press over the past few weeks, all of it well earned. He came into the season as one of the best college hitting prospects and one of the few collegiate position players projected to be productive enough both at the plate and in the field to start every day in the big leagues. The one question that scouts had about his game was his power upside. Leonard has answered the bell by hitting for over 30 extra base hits and slugging well over .600. He’s a good athlete with a plus arm and great big league size for a third baseman. Defensively he’s presently skilled enough to be considered big league average at the position, and continued development ought to get him up above-average during his best defensive seasons.
Neither his offense nor his defense will ever quite approach the level of peak years Scott Rolen (a really underrated player by many, I think), but if you squint really hard you can begin to see Leonard as perhaps developing into that type of player – exciting defenders, strong physiques, and often mischaracterized as power hitters first and foremost. In fact, after looking at the numbers some, I’d compare Leonard’s upside as a hitter to something around what Rolen did his rookie season (.283/.377/.469) with the Phillies. That kind of upside is substantial, clearly, so it may very well be that Leonard’s placement on this list is a mistake that I’ll have to rectify before June 7th hits.
3. Georgia Tech JR 3B Derek Dietrich
I’m part of the small but vocal minority that seems to think Dietrich could play a decent shortstop professionally if given the chance, but, seeing as its highly unlikely he’ll ever get that opportunity, we’ll judge him here on the basis of his potential well above-average glove and plus arm at third. There’s very little mystery as to what kind of player a team will get if they take Dietrich early on; he’ll hit with both above-average contact and home run numbers (consistent 20 homer upside, I think), play solid to plus defense (as mentioned), and consistently work hard to improve his overall game. I’m no fan of writers/analysts/scouts/Larry Browns who fall back on the tired cliché “he plays the game the right way,” but, hypocrite that I am, Derek Dietrich simply plays the game the way it was meant to be played. He won’t be a sexy pick, but he’s as good a bet as any player on this list to contribute in some capacity in the big leagues.
2. Arkansas SO 3B Zack Cox
Easily confused fellow that I am, I don’t quite understand the negativity surrounding Cox’s power potential that has come to the surface this season. It seems to me that he can’t really win with some people. Last year people oohed and aahed as he flashed prodigious raw power, but disappointed in the plate discipline department. This year he’s taken a much more patient, contact-oriented approach, but is getting heat for not hitting for the same power as he did his freshman year. I realize slugging .600+ and socking 20 extra base hits in college (like Cox has done so far in 2010) isn’t quite the feat it appears to be at first blush, but it’s still a decent indicator that the guy hasn’t been reduced to a singles only hitter this year. Now imagine the possibility that good professional coaching can help Cox unlock the secret of maintaining his gains in plate discipline and a high contact rate while simultaneously helping him rediscover the big power stroke of his first collegiate season. Sounds pretty good, right?
As arguably the draft’s top position player prospect, much has already been written about Cox’s toolset. The cliff notes version is this: potential plus bat, above-average present power but plus projection, 45/50 runner, plus arm, good defender. His worst tool is probably his speed, and, as you can see, even that project to be around average. I think Cox’s ceiling is below that of your typical top half of the first round college bat, but he’s still a relatively safe pick to be an above-average regular third baseman for a first division club.
1. Tulane JR 3B Rob Segedin
I had Segedin as the 47th best draft-eligible player in the nation heading into the year, so it’s nice to see him succeed in 2010 for totally selfish reasons alone. Sure, it’s also nice to see a hard working young man work his way back from a season lost to injury to put himself in a position for a well earned big paycheck and chance at chasing his dream of professional baseball, but, really, it’s all about me, me, me! Anyway, Segedin has a gorgeous righthanded stroke that’s so pretty to look at it’s almost a surprise when he makes contact and the ball doesn’t fly to an unattended gap somewhere. Defensively, he’ll stick at third at least in the short-term (steady hands, limited range), but could become a rightfielder with average range and a cannon arm if needed. It’ll be the bat that makes him the big bucks, and it’s got all the makings of a special one. At the plate, Segedin is a professional player trapped in the college game. Rare plate discipline, gap power that’s finally beginning to round into over-the-fence pop, and impressive bat control make him a hitter with a big future going forward. When your floor is a lefty mashing four-corners utility guy, then you’d better believe the ceiling is much, much higher.
Wright State @ Virginia – Wright State goes into their weekend matchup against college baseball’s best team with a pretty solid nucleus of pro prospects. Included in that bunch are SR OF Casey McGrew (2010), JR RHP Max Friedman (2010), SR 3B Quentin Cate (2010), SO OF/1B Tristan Moore (2011), and FR LHP Cody Kopilchack (2012). All but Moore — the best prospect of the group, for what it’s worth — have struggled in the early going.
Georgia @ Florida State – The Seminoles try to keep the momentum going after an impressive effort against the defending National League champion Phillies on Wednesday. Florida State lost that game 13-6, but not before jumping out to a 5-0 lead based on the strength of the lineup battering Phillippe Aumont. Justin Grimm on Friday, John Gast on Saturday, and Michael Palazzone on Sunday will keep the series lively.
Middle Tennessee State @ Jacksonville State – Or Bryce Brentz @ Todd Cunningham, if you prefer.
Ball State v Pittsburgh – Two of my favorite non-first round college infield prospects go head to head as Kolbrin Vitek and the boys take on Joe Leonard’s Panthers. The last three times I’ve typed Joe Leonard’s name, I typed Leo Jeonard by accident. Pretty sure that means my brain is broken. This time I got it right the first time, I’m proud to share.
Arizona State v Oregon State – An abundance of offensive talent (Marrero, Ruettiger, Maggi, Calhoun, MacPhee, Torrez [x2], Newman, Barnes, Wilson, Maggi) squaring off against one of the deepest pitching staffs (Peavey, Waldron, Gaviglio, Sitton, Nygren, Robles, Rhoderick) in the country.
Florida @ Miami – Can the winner of this series lay claim to best team in the state? Depends on Florida State’s weekend, I suppose. From a prospect standpoint, I’d rank them Florida, Miami, and Florida State, but Florida State may have the best on-field college team of the threesome. Go figure. Apologies to South Florida (a fine college squad with lots of underrated pro talent) and, of course, Chris Sale.
Houston College Classic – Can the winner of this tournament (namely the Texas Christian v Texas Tech, Rice v Texas, and Texas Christian v Rice games) within a tournament (6-team quasi-round robin that also includes Houston and Missouri) lay claim to best team in the state? I wish I could be there in person to find out. 9 games in 3 days for just $30? That’s some serious value. Then again, I just bought this on sale for only $45:
Now that’s value! It’s alright to be jealous of my exciting, luxurious lifestyle.
Other series of note include Rutgers @ Georgia Tech, South Carolina @ Clemson, Michigan @ North Carolina, Arkansas @ California, Cal State Fullerton @ Arizona, Mississippi @ Tulane, Kentucky @ San Diego, Alabama @ College of Charleston, Florida Gulf Coast @ Wichita State, Washington @ Long Beach State, and Oregon @ Fresno State.