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Draft Retrospective: 2009 MLB Draft Top Ten High School First Basemen

In simpler, far more innocent times, a young scamp with nothing but a few connections, a love of baseball, and a dream sat down in his mother’s basement to rank a bunch of first basemen a few weeks in advance of the 2009 MLB Draft. If I had to do it all over again I think Singleton would be on top, followed closely by Jeff Malm and then Telvin Nash.

If we forget about my list and look strictly at where the players were selected on draft day, we’d have an order of Nash (3rd Round), Malm (5th), Singleton (8th), Geoffrey Baldwin (11th), Corey Davis (15th), and Ronald Sanchez (16th). Nash, Malm, Singleton, and Baldwin are all covered below, but I had to do some digging on Davis and Sanchez.

Assuming I found the right Corey Davis, he’s coming off a season where he hit .397/.486/.662 with 26 BB and 26/27 SB as a sophomore at Walters State CC. Not bad, right? Sanchez, however, signed out of high school and is currently hitting below .200 without a homer in almost 300 professional at bats so far for Houston. He is far too young to write off completely — a theme you’ll find throughout these rankings — but it’s probably not a positive that he has more errors at first (11) than extra base hits (9) as a pro.

The rankings below are from 2009 and don’t reflect current value. Stats are current as of earlier this week. New commentary comes first and the old scouting blurb is in beautiful navy.

1. Jeff Malm | Tampa Bay Rays | 5th Round Pick (2009)

.308/.439/.633 – 19 BB/27 K – 120 AB

Love it or hate it, Tampa has a developmental philosophy that they stick to almost no matter what. They stand by their strict slow and steady developmental path unlike any organization I can remember. Malm has gone from a short stint in one Rookie league (GCL Rays) in 2009, a longer (200 AB) run with another Rookie league team in 2010 (Princeton Rays), and is now in Short Season ball, where he is flourishing. He’ll be 21 going into what is hopefully his first shot at full season ball next spring. I’ll admit to being pretty stunned Malm couldn’t crack an admittedly loaded Tampa Bay top 30, at least according to Baseball America. I’m a huge Baseball America defender, but, come on, Malm really wasn’t good enough a prospect to rank ahead of Leslie Anderson (28th ranked in organization) on their system-wide first base depth chart?

good size (6-2, 220); plenty of pop to stick at first long-term; above-average defensive player with a fantastic throwing arm; not sure he couldn’t stick in RF if given enough reps with professional instruction and if he puts enough time in the gym; part of a star studded Southern Cal class that will never set foot on campus including Jiovanni Mier, Brooks Pounders, and Matt Davidson; judging solely by the bat and no other tool, he stacks up surprisingly well with other prep players including Myers, Bailey, Borchering, Davidson, and maybe an unnamed outfielder or two to be determined…

2. Colton Cain | Pittsburgh Pirates | 8th Round (2009)

3.13 ERA – 95 IP – 74 K/26 BB – 0.89 GO/AO

Cain is pitching well as a youngster (20 all season) in Low A with the added bonus of still not having a ton of mileage on his arm. His solid 2011 performance was preceded by good performances last year (strong peripherals). I like pitchers like Cain: guys with good enough fastballs to keep getting looks and secondaries that will either click and become legit big league pitches all at once or…not. Of course there is some middle ground between the two outcomes, but not as much as one might think. If you’re patient you may wind up with a three-pitch starting pitcher, but the risk here is fairly self-evident.

first thing that stands about about Cain is his very pretty lefthanded stroke; like a lot of the players on this list has an unusually strong arm for a first base prospect; because of that raw arm strength many scouts like him at least as much on the mound as at the plate; I like him as the prototypical two-way high school player that has the potential to really emerge once he concentrates on hitting full time; Texas commit

3. Jonathan Singleton | Philadelphia Phillies | 8th Round (2009)

.284/.387/.406 – 53 BB/79 K – 303 AB

Long-term readers of the site may remember that I’m a Phillies fan. I try my best to be fair and balanced, but I’m only human. Well this human is an unabashed Singleton fan. He absolutely killed it his first two pro seasons, and is now hitting pretty well after a slow start. I’ve always walked away impressed with his gorgeous swing, excellent balance, and overall approach to hitting. I have no insider knowledge on what the Phillies think about his eventual defensive home, but he looked far more competent in left field than I had expected. Long the subject of trade rumors, wherever he winds up next year — left or first, Philadelphia or Houston — he’ll hit. Bonus points for being likely to start his age 20 season at AA next year.

very real plus power, both raw and present; many rough edges to his game, but he impressed many scouts this spring with his willingness to work towards improving his approach; can get too pull heavy at times, but again that raw power is hard to ignore; intriguing potential pick because he possesses a bat with the clear upside of a first baseman without needing a potential position switch to enhance his value, something that is surprisingly rare among non-elite (high first round) prep first basemen; well above average defender who has gotten better around the bag with every passing year of his prep career; Long Beach State commit

4. KC Hobson | Toronto Blue Jays | 6th Round (2009)

.252/.355/.328 – 51 BB/56 K – 326 AB

Funny how well Hobson’s pre-draft scouting reports match up with his pro performance so far: his approach has always been sound but his power upside remains in question. Hobson still gets high marks for his hit tool and overall approach, so his once high stock has remained mostly unchanged.

not enough foot speed to play anywhere but first base, so the pressure is really on Hobson’s bat becoming a major weapon; gap power that projects to home run power down the line, but his swing mechanics may need retooling after signing to untap power potential; yet another plus arm; Texas A&M commit

5. Telvin Nash | Houston Astros | 3rd Round (2009)

.287/.400/.487 – 26 BB/46 K – 150 AB

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to see the raw Nash hitting as well as he so far in 2011. As a righthander with significant power, he’s very much one of the brightest spots in a weak Astros system. For the record, he’s played as much OF as 1B this year.

above-average power potential and a strong arm; outstanding athlete with well above-average foot speed who should be capable of playing a corner outfield spot with little problem; Kennesaw State commit

6. Ethan Bright 

Bright was last seen (by me, at least) putting up a line of .348/.408/.449 (6 BB/16 K) in 89 AB for Hinds CC after his dismissal from Mississippi State. Sorry I can’t offer much more than that, but probably not as sorry as Bright, who has thus far missed out on chance of being the eight player with the last name Bright to be drafted to a big league team.

in what is probably more of a weird coincidence than anything else, Bright has been compared to a couple of Canadian stars – his body has been compared to Justin Morneau’s (6-5, 230) and his bat control has been compared to Larry Walker’s; average power potential for the position (20ish homer peak), but the aforementioned ability to control the zone is intriguing; Mississippi State commit

7. Geoffrey Baldwin | Kansas City Royals | 10th Round (2009)

Baldwin struggled mightily in 2010 (.460 OPS in 174 AB) but much of that can be forgiven as rumors of family issues swirled. In what is likely not a coincidence, Baldwin has not played at all in 2011 and is currently on the Restricted List.

potential plus defense and a well above-average athlete; slow runner who is stuck at first; yes, he’s got a strong arm; with a frame that suggests future growth, Baldwin’s potential alone would probably put him fourth on the list, but it takes a little wishcasting to picture a future where he puts it all together; a Nebraska commit

8. Breck Ashdown 

From undrafted to Oregon State and now to Notre Dame, Ashdown has seen it all. He’ll be a draft-eligible sophomore at Notre Dame and 23 years old by the time the 2012 MLB Draft rolls around.

ML-frame (6-4, 210); potentially above-average defensively with a plus throwing arm; above-average athlete with, you guessed it, above-average speed on the basepaths; bat has been more good than great, but his frame does lead some to believe more power is coming; all told, he’s a well-rounded prospect that does a lot of things well, but doesn’t feature that one stand out tool that makes him look like a sure-fire future big league first baseman; Oregon State commit who may be best taking his plus arm to Corvallis as a two-way player

9. Rudy Flores

.300/.378/.500 – 27 BB/60 K – 230 AB

Flores has shown big power since stepping on campus at Florida International and is now one of the better college first base prospects around. I saw him on tape this past year and came away impressed with his bat speed, pretty swing, and above-average present lefthanded power.

excelled against high level competition, but questions remain about the development of his bat at the professional level; good lefty power, good frame (6-3, 205), and a good arm (high-80s fastball), but borderline top ten round pick who may not get paid enough to sway him from following through on his commitment to Florida International

10. Kelly Dugan | Philadelphia Phillies | 2nd Round (2009)

.268/.320/.348 – 8 BB/24 K – 5/5 SB – 138 AB

After the draft I upgraded Dugan’s ceiling from Casey Kotchman (see below) to a poor man’s Lance Berkman in an attempt to talk myself into the selection (again, Phillies fan here), but he’s three years in and still in Short Season ball. That isn’t encouraging. My man on the scene who has seen a lot of Dugan since he signed has been effusive in his praise — mainly, that everything he hits is right on the nose and he’s got that special line drive sound working for him — but the numbers aren’t pretty. It was a massive overdraft at the time, and it doesn’t look any better with the benefit of hindsight.

my personal dilemma with Dugan is fairly simple…the main reason I have him higher than most is also the thing that scares me from putting him any higher; watch Dugan swing a bat and you can see he has the innate ability to wait, wait, wait…and then snap his wrists through the zone; spin that another way and you can say he lacks appropriate pull power for a first baseman due to a slow bat; a professional conditioning program and a tweak or two to his swing setup could give him that split second of bat speed missing to make him a doubles machine reminiscent of a young Casey Kotchman; I’d take the big money and go forth towards reaching my ultimate dream 99 times out of 100, but if I had a scholarship to play baseball in Malibu for Pepperdine like Dugan has…well, I’d have to think long and hard about that one – we’ll see what he does in a few months

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2009 MLB Draft Grades – Philadelphia Phillies

I don’t have a plan of attack in how I want to approach draft grades, so I just made up some categories and started writing. If anybody out there has a better idea on how to do this, I’m all ears. For now, my quick look at what each big league team did in the 2009 MLB Draft…

Three (3) Picks I Liked A Lot

Am I a byproduct of a the instant-gratification, “what have you done for me lately” generation? Do I place too high a value on a singular event that doesn’t have quite the real life importance explaining the way a team operates the way it does that I’ve assigned to it? Or am I just a typical Negadelphian who is only ever happy when there is something, real or imagined, to complain about? Yes, yes, and yes. I’m not happy that the Phillies, just one year removed from providing me with some of the very best moments of my young life, have now put themselves in the position where their 2009 draft class, a draft class that serves as a proxy to their true commitment to putting a winning product on the field, will be considered a success or failure based almost entirely on the whims of a 7th round high school righthanded pitcher from Louisiana. Brody Colvin (7th Round – HS RHP) is easily the most talented player taken by the Phillies in 2009, but whether or not he signs is a 50/50 proposition at best. No matter what happens, it’s hard not to like the pick itself, especially when looked at from an actual cost/potential benefit perspective. I’m finally buying into the Kelly Dugan (2nd Round – HS OF) selection, even though I’m not sure what to make of his ultimate upside. His is a weird skillset to wrap the head around as it isn’t every day a high school first baseman is converted instantly to centerfield as a professional. Lance Berkman is the pie in the sky optimist comp being bandied about, but even 80% of Berkman would work just fine over the long haul. Jonathan Singleton (8th Round – HS 1B) should be what Michael Durant could have been.

Three (3) Picks I Didn’t Like At All

Kyrell Hudson (3rd Round – HS OF) may in fact be a worthy high upside gamble in the third round (he looks great in a uniform, I’m told), but high school players with well below-average hit tools just plain don’t excite me personally. This seems like a research project worth looking into, though it may be difficult to objectively pin down the parameters to make it worthwhile. The Adam Buschini (4th Round – COL 2B) pick is a frustrating one because it brings back terrible memories of an inexplicably cheap Phillies ownership group overdrafting signable no-leverage college players for no clear reason.

Three (3) Best Bets to Play Major League Ball

Kelly Dugan and Brody Colvin are the two easiest names because each player has the upside needed to be above-average at their position while also coming ready made with useful enough tools that should play within the confines of a carefully carved out big league role if things don’t all come together and stardom isn’t achieved. The wild card of this group is Washington State LHP Matt Way, a fifth round pick. Brian Gump (26th Round – COL OF) could be a fifth outfielder somewhere, someday based on his plus speed tool alone, but now I’m just getting cute with this category. Part of my appreciation of Gump here is my coy way of mentioning that two of his many nicknames include “Hot Pants” and “Shiggles.” Shiggles Gump. For real.

California Condor Award (Longest Incubation Period aka Longest Expected Time in Minors)

Plenty of one promotion at a time high school guys in this particular class – lots of 2014 ETA’s. Hudson is probably the biggest name among the group that would take the longest time to reach the bigs…if that makes sense.

Highest Upside

Hudson is almost all projection at this point, so he would appear to be a favorite for this category. On paper, it does make some sense – Hudson is Eddie Murphy raw with tons of potential growth to his game. Then again, your mileage might vary on how high his actual upside really is. It’s great that he can run really fast and even better that his physical frame belies potential plus power down the road, but if a player can’t hit high school pitching with any kind of regularity then his upside is ultimately going to be quite limited. It’s too early to say Hudson — or any high school player for that matter — will never hit as a professional, so I won’t come out and say it, but…it’s generally not too wise to invest too much hope in players who haven’t shown the ability to make consistent contact against what should be overmatched competition. My real answer would be Colvin, a pitcher with true top of the rotation quality stuff and the drive to get there.

Tina Small Biggest Potential Bust Award (Google Her, It’ll Make Sense – NSFW)

Has to be Hudson at this point, right? He could conceivably never make it past AA. If you are counting on underslot top five round college signees to become above-average big league contributors, then you could also throw either Buschini or Way in the mix. I personally would be surprised to see Buschini get a big league at bat. That would make his selection a “bust,” right? I guess it depends on how we want to define “bust.” For now, I’m just looking at high round players (top five, generally) that have a long ways away from being big league quality players. Hudson fits that definition almost too perfectly.

Highest Floor

Way could be a back of the rotation crafty lefty starter if things break the way he and the Phillies hope, but his most likely landing spot is as a LOOGY. Austin Hyatt (15th Round – COL RHP) is another player that may not quite have the upside as a legit big league starter, but has just enough stuff and more than enough guile to outwork those around him and win a bullpen job someday.

Three (3) Unsignable (Probably) Players To Remember

I’m too much of an optimist to put Colvin here, so I won’t. I’d actually bet on him signing a pro contract in the next month or so over him heading down to LSU. If the category was really best non-top five round high school player, then Colvin, Singleton, and Andrew Susac (16th Round – HS C) would make for an easy top three. If we restrict the category to players picked in rounds 10 or later, the best bets to emerge as legit prospects in 2012 include Jake Stewart (Round 14 – HS OF), Susac, and Jeff Gelalich (Round 41 – HS OF).

Final Grade

As it stands now, this draft is one of the weaker ones from top to bottom. However, like many drafts around the league at this point, that potentially negative grade comes with plenty of caveats. Attempting to grade the Phillies prep bunch is tricky because it raises the question of talent vs. signability. Do you grade the high school players on talent or on the likelihood of whether or not each player signs? If it’s the former we’re ignoring the realities of the draft, but if it’s the latter then we’ve just wasted time analyzing picks that shouldn’t really be discussed until after the August signing deadline. I guess a balance is the way to go, let’s try that approach and see what sticks.

Dugan could be an above-average regular outfielder, but was still an undeniable overdraft and not great relative value. Hudson is an all or nothing pick, no other way of putting it. Singleton could be the high schooler than makes or breaks this particular subset (high school bats) because his power potential, bat speed, and age all point to big things to come. Aaron Altherr (Round 9 – HS OF) is Kyrell Hudson with better makeup, thus making him an excellent gamble at this point in the draft. An incredibly raw high school outfielder with a questionable hit tool in the third? Bad idea. Similar player in the ninth round? Let’s roll the dice and see if we can get lucky. Speaking of toolsy outfielders, Stewart and Gelalich both qualify as worthy shots in the dark past round ten. Stewart could part of the insurance policy the Phillies took out in case Colvin doesn’t sign. Susac and the already signed Marlon Mitchell (Round 27 – HS C) are both quality defensive catchers that could develop into starting caliber players.

Colvin is naturally the star of the prep pitching group. His basic scouting report (mid-90s fastball, near plus curveball, above-average athlete and hitter, sometimes sloppy mechanics) sounds a lot like former Phillies first round pick Kyle Drabek’s coming out of high school to me. Steven Inch (Round 6 – HS RHP) has a great frame and that fantastic blend of untapped potential mixed with present polish that make him a personal favorite. Colin Kleven (Round 33 – HS RHP), like Inch a Canadian, grades out as having a tad less upside and a great deal less polish, but he could be a possibility as an early August sign simply because he is one of the very few projectable arms drafted by the Phils here in 2009.

One or more out of Way, Nick Hernandez (12 Round – COL LHP), Hyatt, or still unsigned AJ Griffin (34th Round – COL RHP) should reach the bigs in some capacity – I’m personally a huge Griffin fan, though the lack of a signature on a pro contract by now seems to indicate the ship has all but sailed on him signing and he’ll head back to San Diego for his senior year. The quartet make up four of my favorite under the radar college arms from this year’s class, so at least they have that going for them. There are almost literally no college bats that profile as Major Leaguers, with the only exceptions being longshots like Buschini (who I’m on record as not liking), Darin Ruf (20th Round – COL 1B), and unsigned Texas A&M Aggie Brodie Greene (37th Round – COL 2B). I’m doubtful that any of the three get more than a handful of big league at bats, but Ruf was still a solid selection as a late round senior sign and Greene was a worthy gamble (though it is doubtful he signs) as an offensive second baseman in the 37th round.

Overall, it’s a draft heavy on high school bats and college arms. Based on what I know and what I think I know, they’ll sign two of the four toolsy outfielders (Hudson and Altherr), none or both of the prep righties (I think both Colvin and Inch sign), and then one of the two remaining potential impact bats (either Singleton or Susac, with Singleton being the more likely of the two). A haul of Colvin, Dugan, Singleton, Inch, (Susac), (Stewart), (Gelalich), Hudson, Altherr, Hernandez, Mitchell, Way, Ruf, Buschini, and Hyatt wouldn’t match the potentially historic 2008 draft class for overall value, but it still stacks up as an above-average group with plenty of impact upside.

C+

2009 MLB Draft Live Blog

5:45 PM

How ’bout them Pirates? Tony Sanchez at 4 is flat out insanity, sorry. I get that they are hoping to use some of their player development acquisition cash on the international scene, but it seems like a gigantic risk banking on being able to sign the guys they want on the free market like that. What if Miguel Sano backs out of their agreement and they somehow swing and miss on the other top international prospects? Risky, risky, risky.

I mentioned seeing Dustin Ackley more than any other player in the draft in one of the recent mocks, but Tony Sanchez and I go back almost as far. I probably saw Sanchez play about 30 games at BC and nothing about his game ever screamed front-line ML catcher to me. We’ll see.

I can’t be the only one stunned to see Matt Hobgood’s name connected with Baltimore at 5. I never would have guessed he would be the top prep arm off the bard in a billion years. Bizarre pick.

6:00 PM

Christmas in June. They are really holding the draft in Studio 42? What a hideous set. Jim Callis = Bob Saget. I formed that opinion based on a picture I saw long ago, so even when I see him on video like tonight and realize the comp is a stretch, I can’t get the Saget image out of my head.

(more…)

2009 MLB Draft: Top Ten High School First Basemen

  1. Jeff Malm (Nevada) – good size (6-2, 220); plenty of pop to stick at first long-term; above-average defensive player with a fantastic throwing arm; not sure he couldn’t stick in RF if given enough reps with professional instruction and if he puts enough time in the gym; part of a star studded Southern Cal class that will never set foot on campus including Jiovanni Mier, Brooks Pounders, and Matt Davidson; judging solely by the bat and no other tool, he stacks up surprisingly well with other prep players including Myers, Bailey, Borchering, Davidson, and maybe an unnamed outfielder or two to be determined…
  2. Colton Cain (Texas) – first thing that stands about about Cain is his very pretty lefthanded stroke; like a lot of the players on this list has an unusually strong arm for a first base prospect; because of that raw arm strength many scouts like him at least as much on the mound as at the plate; I like him as the prototypical two-way high school player that has the potential to really emerge once he concentrates on hitting full time; Texas commit
  3. Jonathan Singleton (California) – very real plus power, both raw and present; many rough edges to his game, but he impressed many scouts this spring with his willingness to work towards improving his approach; can get too pull heavy at times, but again that raw power is hard to ignore; intriguing potential pick because he possesses a bat with the clear upside of a first baseman without needing a potential position switch to enhance his value, something that is surprisingly rare among non-elite (high first round) prep first basemen; well above average defender who has gotten better around the bag with every passing year of his prep career; Long Beach State commit
  4. Kris (KC) Hobson (California) – not enough foot speed to play anywhere but first base, so the pressure is really on Hobson’s bat becoming a major weapon; gap power that projects to home run power down the line, but his swing mechanics may need retooling after signing to untap power potential; yet another plus arm; Texas A&M commit
  5. Telvin Nash (Georgia) – above-average power potential and a strong arm; outstanding athlete with well above-average foot speed who should be capable of playing a corner outfield spot with little problem; Kennesaw State commit
  6. Ethan Bright (Mississippi) – in what is probably more of a weird coincidence than anything else, Bright has been compared to a couple of Canadian stars – his body has been compared to Justin Morneau’s (6-5, 230) and his bat control has been compared to Larry Walker’s; average power potential for the position (20ish homer peak), but the aforementioned ability to control the zone is intriguing; Mississippi State commit
  7. Geoff Baldwin (Colorado) – potential plus defense and a well above-average athlete; slow runner who is stuck at first; yes, he’s got a strong arm; with a frame that suggests future growth, Baldwin’s potential alone would probably put him fourth on the list, but it takes a little wishcasting to picture a future where he puts it all together; a Nebraska commit
  8. Breck Ashdown (Arizona) – ML-frame (6-4, 210); potentially above-average defensively with a plus throwing arm; above-average athlete with, you guessed it, above-average speed on the basepaths; bat has been more good than great, but his frame does lead some to believe more power is coming; all told, he’s a well-rounded prospect that does a lot of things well, but doesn’t feature that one stand out tool that makes him look like a sure-fire future big league first baseman; Oregon State commit who may be best taking his plus arm to Corvallis as a two-way player
  9. Rudy Flores (Texas) – excelled against high level competition, but questions remain about the development of his bat at the professional level; good lefty power, good frame (6-3, 205), and a good arm (high-80s fastball), but borderline top ten round pick who may not get paid enough to sway him from following through on his commitment to Florida International
  10. Kelly Dugan (California) – my personal dilemma with Dugan is fairly simple…the main reason I have him higher than most is also the thing that scares me from putting him any higher; watch Dugan swing a bat and you can see he has the innate ability to wait, wait, wait…and then snap his wrists through the zone; spin that another way and you can say he lacks appropriate pull power for a first baseman due to a slow bat; a professional conditioning program and a tweak or two to his swing setup could give him that split second of bat speed missing to make him a doubles machine reminiscent of a young Casey Kotchman; I’d take the big money and go forth towards reaching my ultimate dream 99 times out of 100, but if I had a scholarship to play baseball in Malibu for Pepperdine like Dugan has…well, I’d have to think long and hard about that one – we’ll see what he does in a few months