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Kansas City Royals 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Royals 2011 MLB Draft Selections

How can you be a fan of the MLB Draft and not love the Royals picking local hero Gardner-Edgerton HS (KS) OF Bubba Starling with their first round pick? It really is a tremendous story. I can’t even begin to imagine how much Starling’s development is going to be scrutinized by obsessive fans (that’s said with much love, by the way) of the minor leagues. It’ll be like Aaron Hicks times one billion…

I’ll be honest and admit that I don’t have a great feel for what kind of player Bubba Starling is at this point. In many ways, his scouting report reads as Generic High School Dual-Sport Five-Tool Centerfielder/Pitcher, if that makes sense. He runs, he throws, he shows classic light tower power, and he catches anything and everything hit to him in center. Even his much discussed (alright, much maligned) hit tool improved a ton over the past year. As the pre-draft note says, Starling is “everything you’d look for in a prep player.” What worries me are the reports already trickling out of instructs that the Royals have had to make drastic changes to both his swing and throwing mechanics. Said reports are often spun in a positive light – after the changes were made, Starling looked great! What a quick study! – but the thought of investing $7.5 million on a high school player and then almost immediately changing some of the fundamental ways he plays the game makes raises a teeny tiny red flag for me. This hardly qualifies as hard-hitting analysis, but I’ll say it anyway: no player in this year’s draft has as drastic a difference between best-case and worst-case scenario as Bubba Starling. He is the quintessential boom/bust prospect. I realize there’s a chance he’ll have value almost no matter what based on his speed and defense alone (pretty sure first round prep outfielders with other worldly tools have to actively go out of their way to keep from advancing through a system…as a Phillies fan, I present you Exhibit A and Exhibit B), but I’m talking “boom” with respect to his draft position. If Starling isn’t an everyday player, he’s a major bust in the eyes of the majority. If he’s not a middle of the lineup fixture, he’ll always be known to fans as an underachiever. If he’s not a consistent All Star performer, his name will always be spoken with a ting of regret that he never was able to truly put it all together. The expectations are sky high for the young Kansas, and rightfully so.

[plus speed; really good bat speed; patient approach; plus raw power; 88-93 FB; very good 73-76 CB that could be plus in time; 6-4, 180; plus CF range; hit tool is legit; everything you’d look for in a prep player, including rapid improvement in last year]

Plus raw power, good arm, and physically strong: that’s Manheim Township HS (PA) C Cameron Gallagher in less than ten words.

The “local” guy that I’ve seen this year a few times – 90 minutes away is local, right? – has had himself an oddly inconsistent year for a potential top five round draft prospect. He reminds me a good bit of Tyler Marlette, except with a tiny bit (we’re talking teeny tiny) less arm strength and a good bit more raw power and physical strength. So, basically, he reminds me of Marlette except for three pretty big differences – maybe that’s not the best comp after all. Gallagher is still a very raw defender, but steady improvement throughout the spring has led me to believe he can remain a catcher, assuming he doesn’t experience another growth spurt. The raw power is undeniably his biggest strength and there are some who think he’s got enough bat to handle first base if the whole catching thing doesn’t pan out. Not sure I’m buying into the bat that hard, but also not sure he’ll be moving to first any time soon.

Maybe it is just a byproduct of my simple mind making the association between fellow The Woodlands alum, but The Woodlands HS (TX) RHP Bryan Brickhouse’s scouting profile reminds me a little bit of a less athletic Kyle Drabek.

RHP Bryan Brickhouse (The Woodlands HS, Texas): 88-92 FB, 94-95 peak; 75-77 knuckle CB; solid 80-85 SL with upside; emerging low-80s CU; good athlete; 6-2, 190

Some versions of my pre-draft high school pitching rankings had Santaluces HS (FL) RHP Kyle Smith in the back end of the top ten. Getting him this late is a major coup for Kansas City. His secondary stuff is as good as any non-first round prep arm in the country, and his fastball, athleticism, quick tempo, and, yes, intangibles all point him in the direction of becoming a very good big league starting pitcher.

RHP Kyle Smith (Santaluces HS, Florida): 88-92 FB with late burst, 93-95 peak; potential plus CU; excellent 77-78 CB; great pitchability; quick worker; good athlete; 6-0, 170

I like the move by Kansas City to get St. Thomas HS (TX) OF Patrick Leonard away from the infield, so he can instead concentrate on hitting. Leonard should be fine defensively in right field; his chances of showing a bat capable of handling the demands of a corner outfield spot are less than fine. Funny how a position switch can totally flip a player’s future: Leonard went from an interesting hitter with defensive questions at third to a prospect likely good enough to handle right field who might not have the bat to carry him in the outfield.

Leonard has a fun mix that includes an above-average hit tool, impressive power upside, good athleticism, and above-average arm strength. Questions about his defensive future keep him lower than his bat warrants, at least for now.

I have to give it to Kansas City for unearthing Caribbean JC LHP Cesar Ogando. Even with a few thousands of names in my files, Ogando slipped through the cracks. He’s got his youth, size, and a fastball peaking at 94 at the wonderfully named Excellence Games (per Baseball America), but was scary wild (24 BB in 31.2 IP) in his pro debut. That kind of thing happens when you are nineteen and trying to figure out how to get your 6’3”, 210 pound body familiar with throwing a baseball harder than 99.999999999% of the planet consistently in the strike zone for the first time as a professional. Or so I would guess.

There’s definitely some sleeper potential with Oregon RHP Kellen Moen. The former Ducks reliever was tried as a starter after signing because he has shown the makings of three solid pitches, but I think the difference between his upper-80s fastball (90ish peak) and the low-90s fastball (93-94 peak) makes him a better option in the bullpen, now and in the future. His breaking ball looks better in relief as well: we’re talking a mid-70s loopy curve compared to a much tighter upper-70s breaker. I understand the Royals wanting to get him as many innings in as possible, but he’s a reliever all the way for me.

I’m looking forward to seeing the big, talented South County HS (VA) RHP Evan Beal pitch for the two-time defending national champs in the future. College was a good choice for him. Assuming he stays injury free, he’s got the chance to be a very early pick in 2014.

I’m not sure what the Royals see in Cal State Bernardino RHP Aaron Brooks that I’m missing, but I would have rather targeted another bullpen senior sign (e.g. Kellen Moen) for half the price than spend close to six figures on a pitcher without an above-average offering. Of course, what do I know? Brooks was outstanding in his debut, getting that sexy mix of strikeouts and groundballs that drives all the real baseball groupies wild. Brooks was just far enough off the beaten path as a college prospect that we’re free to speculate that his signing scout must have really fought for him during pre-draft meetings.

The numbers that Brooks (73 K in 79.2 IP, 2.74 GO/AO) were more in line with what I expected out of Georgia Southern RHP Matt Murray’s debut. Murray’s numbers were fine (58 K in 53 IP), but it was a surprise to see his nasty sinker/slider combo get as few groundball outs as it did. I remain intrigued at his upside, either as a back of the rotation starter or a steady, groundball inducing (hopefully) 7th inning reliever.

Georgia Southern JR RHP Matt Murray: 88-92 FB with heavy sink; ground ball machine; solid upper-70s SL; better than solid CU that has come on a lot since getting to school; CB; 6-4, 240 pounds

I’m all in on incoming Louisville freshman Park Hill South HS (MO) LHP Adam Schemenauer (Round 12). A 6’9” lefthander with a fastball that hits 93 MPH and above-average athleticism? Sold! He’s a long way away from being what he’ll eventually be (if you follow), and the track record for jumbo-sized prep pitchers isn’t as strong as the handful of pro outliers might have you think, but I’m a sucker for upside and Schemenauer has it in spades.

Hey, speaking of upside… American LHP Stephen Lumpkins (Round 13) is a 6’8″ lefthander with a fastball that hits 92 MPH and above-average athleticism. Bonus points for being the rare college prospect to come out of a family member’s alma mater. My three siblings and I all went to private universities in the northeast (sure, DC stretches the limits of “northeast,” but let me have this one), never once considering the potential ramifications to our baseball prospect watching. Ah, to be eighteen again to go back and realize the importance of spending four years somewhere warm. Lumpkins, like Ogando, struggled with control in his debut, but, also like Ogando, his struggles can be forgiven for now.

I would have bet anything that UCLA 1B Dean Espy (Round 15) would wind up back in sunny Southern California for another year after his disappointing junior year. He found his missing power stroke after signing, but there’s still not enough power upside or plate discipline to envision him as a big league player. He’s yet another prospect in purgatory: a first baseman only without the bat to carry him there. Sad.

Deltona (FL) HS SS Jack Lopez (Round 16) might have been one of those players who benefited from my pet theory that defensive studs up the middle, especially at shortstop, benefit from three years of college more than any other type of prep prospect. If Lopez had decided to attend Miami and showed himself to be competent with the bat over a few seasons, his standing as a plus defender with a playable bat could have made him a first rounder. Then again, by bypassing school, Lopez wound up getting the same bonus as second rounder Cameron Gallagher. Maybe it’s for the best for all involved (except Miami, but they at least already have the college version of Lopez, Stephen Perez, in tow) that Lopez is getting an early start on the pros.

Plus defensive tools will keep Lopez at short until the day he retires from the game to go sell life insurance (or whatever it is ex-ballplayers do these days).

I have a hard time explaining why, but I just plain like Virginia C Kenny Swab (Round 21). He does everything pretty well, but nothing so spectacularly that you’d notice a specific play he was involved in during the course of a game. At the end of that game, however, when you think back to what players could help a big league club someday, you remember the athletic, confident, strong armed Swab and come away impressed with his righthanded pop and balanced swing. I’d love to see Kansas City get creative and get the most out of Swab’s athleticism by using him at a variety of positions.

Here’s what was said here about Mr. Swab back before the season started: “He’s got a live bat with above-average power potential, but it’ll take some serious lineup juggling from Brian O’Connor to get him the at bats he’ll need to boost his draft stock. As is, Swab is a potential 10-20th round player based on upside alone.” Not a bad preseason prediction on a fairly unheralded junior college transfer, right? In the at bats Swab’s earned this year, he’s impressed. Good power, good patience, good defender, good arm, and good positional versatility. He’s not a star by any means, but he’s a good player. That sounds pretty good to me.

Louisiana Tech 3B MarkThrelkeld (Round 25) gives you just about what you’d expect from a pla…you know what? Just check the pre-draft notes on Threlkeld below. That says it all, I think.

Threlkeld gives just about what you’d expect from a player this far down the ranking: huge raw power and a strong arm. The reason Steranka gets the one spot edge over him is because of Threlkeld’s questionable defensive ability.

The Royals convinced Chris Dwyer, draft-eligible Clemson lefty, to sign a few years ago, but couldn’t come to terms with Clemson LHP Joseph Moorefield (Round 26) this time around. Moorefield will take his low-90s heat and intriguing four-pitch mix back to Clemson rather than make the jump to pro ball. He’ll be joined on a stacked Clemson staff featuring a slew of future pros like Kevin Brady, Dominic Leone, Scott Firth, David Haselden, Mike Kent, Jonathan Meyer, Kevin Pohle, Matt Campbell, Daniel Gossett, Patrick Andrews, and Kyle Bailey. Not bad.

SO LHP Joseph Moorefield hasn’t gotten a lot of notice outside of Pickens County, but lefties with low-90s and four usable pitches don’t often get overlooked for long. His control is probably his biggest question mark right now; it’ll probably be the key in determining his role for the upcoming season which in turn could be the key in determining his 2011 draft stock. 

I was so sure that Rock Falls (IL) HS RHP Jake Junis (Round 29) would end up at North Carolina State that I recently had to delete his name of their roster in my college draft follow list. Junis has the three pitches – solid upper-80s fastball, good hard curve, and a solid change – to start as a pro and should go down as one of the great overslot signings of this year’s draft. Well done, Royals. Brickhouse, Smith, and Junis is a heck of a trio to build on.

RHP Jake Junis (Rock Falls HS, Illinois): 88-91 FB; good upper-70s CB with plus upside; solid CU; great athlete; 6-3, 200

Seems like the Royals like to gamble on size when it comes to their overslot late round high school pitching picks, no? 6’7” Mercersburg Academy (PA) RHP Christian Binford (Round 30) certainly fits the bill. Binford was below the radar for much of the spring, but has shown flashes of three average pitches in the past. Child of the 90’s that I am, I always think of Binford Tools and JTT (so dreamy!) when I hear his name.

Despite missing the entire 2011 season with a broken wrist, Southern Illinois 1B Chris Serritella (Round 31) went ahead and got himself drafted. That’s pretty badass. I’m just crazy enough to think that another year or two at Southern Illinois could turn Serritella into a viable righty mashing platoon bat at first base.

An unfortunate wrist injury has knocked Serritella out of action. Luckily, he retains two full years of draft eligibility to help rebuild his depressed stock. I still might take a chance on him this year because of his phenomenal track record against righthanded pitching.

There was lots of positive buzz surrounding the well-traveled Nova Southeastern OF/RHP Andrew Durden (Round 38) as a hitter this spring, so it came as no surprise that Durden was announced as an outfielder on draft day. However, his only pro experience so far is made up of 6.1 innings pitched for the AZL Royals. I’m intrigued and confused all at once; call it intfusion or, better yet, I’m contrigued.

South Carolina 3B Adrian Morales (Round 49) was first mentioned on this site back in February of 2009. Ah, memories. Morales should serve a purpose as an organizational soldier capable of helping out young pitchers by playing solid defense anywhere in the infield. Any upside with the bat is a bonus.

Morales’ best tool is probably his defense, but a lack of offensive upside slots him in as an organizational player at the next level. 

College Catchers Revisited 2.0 – 2011 MLB Draft

I wanted to follow up on last week’s post comparing the preseason ranking of college catchers with what they’ve done so far in 2011. That post looked at the top ten ranked players only; today we check on the catchers ranked 11-30. All stats come once again from College Splits with the exception of the junior college and DII numbers. Players aren’t listed in any particular order, other than being grouped together for my personal convenience.

(I’m still working out some kinks on the redesign. I like it well enough so far, but there are things I want to improve on. Pretty sure I don’t like that only one post shows up at a time, I think the text looks a little squished, and the tools in the background might be a little a) esoteric, or b) straight up ugly…haven’t decided yet. If anybody has any thoughts, feel free to comment or email me…I’m pretty useless when it comes to this kind of stuff, so any input, nice or not so nice, is welcomed.)

  • Arkansas JR C James McCann: 296/396/478 (17 BB/13 K)
  • California JR C Chadd Krist: 368/442/552 (17 BB/20 K)
  • Auburn SR C Tony Caldwell: 315/426/537 (17 BB/21 K)
  • Virginia JR C John Hicks: 379/429/522 (12 BB/12 K)
  • Georgetown SR C Erick Fernandez: 330/414/539 (10 BB/12 K)

I’d argue that all of the players above are doing just about what most followers of the draft (i.e. dorks like me) thought they would do in 2011. In other words, if you liked one of these guys before the year, chances are you like him just the same, if not a smidgen more, right about now. I was impressed with the much discussed McCann’s well above-average athleticism and solid speed (for a catcher) in my admittedly quick look at him.

Florida JR C Ben McMahan only has 39 at bats so far. While I still believe in him from a scouting standpoint, his aggressive ranking looks like a big swing and miss at this point. Taylor Hightower was another potential sleeper heading into the year who I still hold out hope for, but have to admit has left me feeling a little down on my prognosticating abilities. His numbers (.305/.414/.424 – 8 BB/12 K) are an improvement over his disastrous 2010 stats, but, like fellow SEC member McMahan, he just doesn’t have the plate appearances to draw any conclusions one way or another. Still think both guys play big league caliber defense, a talent good enough to at least warrant backup big league catcher upside, but improvement with the bat will ultimately determine their respective ceilings.

UCLA JR C Steve Rodriguez and Central Florida JR C Beau Taylor have both suffered from a power outage so far in 2011. I tend to be crazy optimistic on almost every player’s draft stock, but it seems like both Rodriguez and Taylor won’t have much of a choice but to return to school in 2012. Nothing wrong with getting that degree, of course.

Pittsburgh SR C Kevan Smith: 387/463/621 (14 BB/10 K)

Smith has been awesome at the plate (see above) and on the base paths (10/10 SB). It is great to see a player with such special physical gifts who is able to translate raw upside into big time college production. I never really have much of a clue how actual big league front offices view draft prospects and I haven’t heard any buzz about Smith’s draft stock, but I sure like him. Definitely on my short list of top senior signs.

College of Charleston JR C Rob Kral: 342/509/542 (43 BB/15 K)

Kral’s defense is the big concern, but there are no doubts whatsoever about the bat. Unfortunately, Kral doesn’t have the luxury of moving off catcher due to his lack of height and mobility. He reminds a little bit of Eric Arce in that way. I think his draft ceiling might be right around where Dan Black of Purdue went in 2009 (16th round). Should be no surprise that a guy with that kind of plate discipline qualifies as a personal favorite of mine.

Wofford JR C Mac Doyle: 298/398/582 (16 BB/30 K)

Doyle’s always had a bit of an “all or nothing” swing and this year is no different.

Michigan JR C Coley Crank: 273/367/479 (15 BB/34 K)

One of my updated reports on Crank reads simply: “Gets in his own way defensively; feasts on average or worse fastballs and nothing else.” Not super encouraging…

  • LSU-Eunice FR C Hommy Rosado: 355/467/600 (20 BB/29 K)
  • Chipola JC SO C Geno Escalante: 357/416/545 (9 BB/17 K)
  • Franklin Pierce JR C Mike Dowd: 378/432/593 (12 BB/4 K)

It’s tricky to put junior college numbers in context, but let’s try. That .355 BA looks wonderful, and I take nothing away from it, but keep in mind Rosado is only sixth on his team in terms of batting average. However, he’s second on the team in SLG. He’s also incorrectly placed on this list, as it turns out, seeing as he’s played almost exclusively at third this spring. With 10 errors and below-average range at the hot corner, he’s likely a man without a position. Next stop, first base. Escalante is the other junior college guy on the list; his numbers are obviously a notch below Rosado’s even with his added year of post-high school experience. Dowd, our lone Division II star on the list, has managed the strike zone brilliantly for Franklin Pierce while also ranking second among qualifiers in both BA and SLG. His arm may be his only above-average tool, but his bat, gap power, and defense should all play just fine at the next level.

Samford JR C Brandon Miller: 318/397/742 (16 BB/27 K)

Tulane JR C Jeremy Schaffer: 410/471/669 (13 BB/16 K)

Miller is a really underrated athlete with ample raw power and great physical strength, but, like so many near the bottom of these rankings, might not play the brand of defense pro teams seek out this time of year. You could probably say the same about Schaeffer, except the reports I’ve gotten on his defense all indicate he’s getting a teeny bit better every day.

Western Kentucky SR C Matt Rice: 348/432/529 (25 BB/22 K)

Rice is a definite riser in my mind; very little chance he winds up as 2011’s Mr. Irrelevant (last overall pick in draft) like he was in 2010. He’s still a late-rounder, but he makes a lot of sense in the larger context of the draft. Sure, the ultimate goal is to draft as many potential big league contributors as possible. We all know that much. Come rounds 25 and on, however, you’re mixing and matching prep athletes with upside and signability questions and org players needed to fill out minor league rosters. Rice strikes me as a perfect org guy – great teammate, wonderful influence on his peers, and not totally devoid of talent in his own right.

Virginia SR C Kenny Swab: 327/481/446 (22 BB/19 K) 9/9 SB

Swab is a personal favorite from last year that I consistently overrate. Love his mix of plate discipline, above-average pop, and defensive versatility.

Best Bats of College Baseball’s Opening Weekend (2/18/11 to 2/20/11)

1. Arguably the biggest story to come out of college baseball’s opening weekend (from a prospect standpoint…and before news of Stanford JR LHP Brett Mooneyham’s season-ending finger injury came to the surface) centered on the decision to have Vanderbilt JR 3B Jason Esposito play shortstop. Bigger still, he went out and played it well. Fun question of the day: if Esposito can show to scouts that he can at least play a league average big league shortstop, then he’ll go [fill-in-the-blank] in the 2011 MLB Draft. Top half of the first round, no doubt…right? Top ten? Higher? I know Ryan Zimmerman is the name often thrown around when talking Rice JR 3B Anthony Rendon, but I think it is a really natural comparison for Esposito.

2. Other notable position “switches”: LSU 3B FR JaCoby Jones played 2B, Tulane JR C Jeremy Schaffer played 3B (a spot where he has some prior experience), and Washington SR 1B Troy Scott played 3B (ditto). Schaffer and Scott are mid-round guys here in 2011, but Jones has first round upside in 2013. I want to sit down and do preliminary rankings for 2012 and 2013 sometime before this June.  In a vacuum, Jones has top ten potential, but I’ll need to see where he stacks up in what looks to be a strong 2013 draft class.

3. The LSU staff has three years to move JaCoby Jones around the infield, and, as mentioned, Schaffer and Scott are mid-round guys at best. That leaves the position switch with the most immediate and significant draft prospect consequence as the move of Utah JR C CJ Cron playing first base all weekend long. The switch was not entirely unexpected – Cron’s defense behind the plate has never been his strong suit, plus he has played 1B for the Utes in the past – but the buzz surrounding it makes it seem less and less likely that Cron will don the tools of ignorance much at all in 2011.

A few completely random interesting hitting lines of the weekend, complete with equally random commentary…

College of Charleston JR “C” Rob Kral (2011): 667/714/778 (6-9, 2B, RBI, 5 R, 4 BB/0 K)

  • Kral may not be a catcher professionally, but, man, can he hit. Great patience and great power typically leads to great things…

North Carolina State JR C Pratt Maynard (2011): 538/571/692 (7-13, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 3 R)

Mississippi SR C Miles Hamblin (2011): 444/643/778  (4-9, HR, 4 RBI, 4 R, 3 BB/3 K, 3/3 SB)

Oklahoma SO 2B Max White (2012): 467/556/667 (7-15, 3 2B, 6 R, 4 RBI, 3 HBP, 1/1 SB)

  • As great as that line looks, White’s defense at second drew the most praise over the weekend. Pretty amazing considering White is a converted outfield learning the position as he goes.

Tennessee JR 2B Khayyan Norfork (2011): 556/667/1.222 (5-9, HR, 3B, 2B, 4 RBI, 3 R, 1/2 SB)

  • I ignored all of the positive buzz coming out of Tennessee’s fall/winter practices and, even though it has only been one weekend, I regret it. I did say this: “Khayyan Norfork might just be the player primed to make the biggest rise up draft boards of the players listed.” Really nice blend of speed, pop, and defense…

Florida SO SS Nolan Fontana (2012): 750/786/833 (9-12, 2B, 5 R, 2 HBP, K, 1/1 SB)

Clemson JR SS Brad Miller (2011): 375/643/375 (3-8, 5 R, 2 RBI, 6 BB/0 K, 4/4 SB)

  • Didn’t have the power numbers of many players on the list, but easy to love that BB/K ratio.

Texas Tech JR SS Kelby Tomlinson (2011): 583/667/583 (7-12, 6 RBI, 3 R, 5 BB/1 K, 5/6 SB)

Arizona State JR 3B Riccio Torrez (2011): 462/462/1.231 (6-13, 3 HR, 2B, 7 RBI, 4 R, 2-2 SB)

Oklahoma JR 3B Garrett Buechele (2011): 625/700/1.188 (10-16, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 4 R)

Texas A&M JR 3B Matt Juengel (2011): 455/500/1.364 (5-11, 2 HR, 2 3B, 7 RBI, 5 R)

Texas FR 3B Erich Weiss (2013): 818/824/1.273 (9-11, 2 3B, 2B, 7 RBI, 6 R, 5 BB/0 K, 1/1 SB)

Southern Carolina JR OF Jackie Bradley (2011): 583/615/1.083 (7-12, HR, 3 2B, 3 RBI, 4 R)

UAB JR OF Jamal Austin (2011): 462/462/538 (6-13, 2B, RBI, 2 R, 3/4 SB)

Kent State SR OF Ben Klafczynski (2011): 538/571/538 (7-13, RBI, 2 R)

Stanford FR OF Austin Wilson (2013): 500/500/750 (6-12, HR, 4 RBI, R, 1/1 SB)

  • With the first pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, the New York Yankees select…

LSU JR OF Mikie Mahtook (2011): 444/545/1.778 (4-9, 4 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R)

  • I tried to limit the list to one player per college, but leaving fellow Tigers JaCoby Jones and Tyler Hanover off pained me greatly. Mahtook’s decision to only hit home runs could really pay off this year…

Honorable Mention! Virginia SR C Kenny Swab (2011): 000/571/000 (0-6, 5 R, 6 BB, 2 HBP, 2/2 SB)

Honorable Mention 2.0! Any JMU player. Five different players slugged over 1.100 over the weekend: Tenaglia, Herbek, Foltz, Knight, and Lowery. I was most impressed with SO OF Johnny Bladel’s 533/720/733 (6/3 BB/K and 5/5 SB) line. He’s my very early super sneaky 2012 first round possibility.

2010 MLB Draft: Top 30 College Catching Prospects

30. Pittsburgh JR C Kevan Smith

The former Panthers quarterback is a plus athlete with a strong arm who is still understandably raw in some phases of the game. He was a highly regarded prospect coming out of high school who was at one point seen as a potential top five round pick, but was downgraded because of his strong commitment to the gridiron. There’s already some speculation that he’ll stick around for his senior year to further showcase his skills.

29. Louisville SR C Jeff Arnold

Arnold is good enough defensively to stick behind the plate, but his above-average speed could tempt a pro team into moving him off the position into a super-sub role. He’s always had a keen batting eye and a solid hit tool, but the lack of power should limit him to backup work going forward.

28. New Mexico JR C Rafael Neda

Neda’s strong statistical profile syncs up well with the increasingly positive scouting reports thrown his way this spring. He came into the year with a solid defensive reputation and above-average power to the gaps, but now has some scouts thinking he could grow into a decent regular with double digit homerun totals.

27. Texas Tech JR C Jeremy Mayo

Reminds me a lot of Jeff Arnold in that both players are above-average runners with solid gloves, but Mayo’s edge in power makes him the better prospect.

26. Ohio State JR C Dan Burkhart

Despite being a legitimate pro prospect in his own right, his biggest claim to fame may be convincing best friend and potential first rounder Alex Wimmers to join him for three years in Columbus. Burkhart is yet another good defensive catcher with a good batting eye and a questionable power ceiling. His scouting reports and his numbers come very close to Kevan Smith’s, but Burkhart’s higher probability of contributing gives him the edge over Smith’s higher upside. Burkhart also receives high marks for being one of the few catchers in the college game trusted to call his own pitches.

25. Rice SR C Diego Seastrunk

I haven’t seen or heard this comp elsewhere, so take it for what it’s worth (not much), but Seastrunk’s scouting profile and video remind me of a lesser version of Ryan Doumit. That’s high praise. Seastrunk is the kind of player who’s overall package exceeds the sum of his parts. Of course, it’s not exactly like his parts are all that shabby. I love, love, love the way Seastrunk has transitioned to the role of full-time catcher this spring. Seastrunk’s combination of an above-average arm, gap power, and plus makeup (he’s a tireless worker and a great team player) has me believing his tools will play as a professional. He isn’t a natural behind the plate, but the instincts I’ve seen from him in going down to get balls in the dirt lead me to believe he’ll be an above-average defender before long. I eventually can see Seastrunk filling a supersub role (not unlike Doumit before he broke out).

The majority of catchers at this point in the ranking fall into one of three categories: 1) high ceiling, low floor (could be a starting catcher with all the right breaks, but doesn’t have the customary skill set big league clubs like in backup catchers), 2) low ceiling, high floor(ready-made big league backup skill set, especially defensively, but without the offensive upside to start) , 3) supersub upside (capable of contributing at first, third, and/or the outfield corners). Seastrunk has a throwing arm that flashes plus (great raw strength, improving pop times), gap power (notice this commonality among the back half of the top 30?), and good patience at the plate. He also has experience at all of the supersub positions listed above. He may never be a big league starting catcher, nor may he be a primary backup, but his versatility should be a boon for whatever pro team takes the chance on him.

24. Oklahoma State JR C Kevin David

On paper, David is a top ten college catching prospect, but his results through three years at Oklahoma State have been more good than great. There’s not much to quibble with when it comes to his excellent athleticism, strong throwing arm, and above-average glove, but all of that untapped potential needs to turn into production before long. His relatively low placement on the list — it’s possible he goes somewhere between round 5-10 — is more about the players ahead of him than anything else; if that’s a cop-out, so be it.

23. Embry-Riddle SR C Austin Goolsby

Besides having a fun name to say, Austin Goolsby is an intriguing NAIA catching prospect with elite defensive potential, good pro size, and power to the gaps. His skills as an economist, however, are at this point unknown.

22. Southern Illinois SR C Tyler Bullock

Bullock possesses the best present power of any player in the bottom half of the top thirty, no real shock when you consider his classic big bopper (6-4, 275) build. He’s a lesser version of one of my 2009 favorites, Purdue’s Dan Black, another large man with prodigious power potential. Like Black, Bullock’s defense is passable and his arm strength is above-average. Like Black, Bullock’s professional future is that of a versatile backup catcher capable of filling in at first base (Bullock and Black) and/or third base (Black only).

21. Western Kentucky JR C Matt Rice

Average hit tool, slightly above-average power, solid defender = mid-round pick with big league backup upside.

20. Georgia Tech JR C Cole Leonida

As one of the spring’s fastest rising prospects, Cole Leonida does a lot of little things very well. His defense around the plate is a strength, and his power potential is second only to Tyler Bullock’s here on the latter half of the top thirty. Leonida’s impressive throwing arm, while at least big league average in strength and above-average in accuracy, could really stand to benefit from some mechanical adjustments to help with his release point. With good coaching that big league average arm could easily become consistently above-average. As a hitter he’ll probably never hit at or near .300 professionally, but his raw power could translate into double digit homeruns if given enough playing time.

19. Virginia JR C Kenny Swab

Here’s what was said here about Mr. Swab back before the season started:

He’s got a live bat with above-average power potential, but it’ll take some serious lineup juggling from Brian O’Connor to get him the at bats he’ll need to boost his draft stock. As is, Swab is a potential 10-20th round player based on upside alone.

Not a bad preseason prediction on a fairly unheralded junior college transfer, right? In the at bats Swab’s earned this year, he’s impressed. Good power, good patience, good defender, good arm, and good positional versatility. He’s not a star by any means, but he’s a good player. That sounds pretty good to me.

18. Missouri JR C Brett Nicholas

Similar to Swab in that both are junior college transfers with solid hit tools capable of playing a variety of positions, but Nicholas’ greater power potential and more intriguing secondary position (Nicholas is at least passable on the hot corner) gives him the advantage.

17. Arizona State JR C Xorge Carrillo

Carrillo’s placement this high is largely speculative, but, hey, isn’t that really what a list like this is all about? Carrillo has missed almost all of the season with a bum forearm, but when healthy showed off impressive power to all fields and much improved athleticism behind the plate. That last reason is why I’m comfortable keeping the twice drafted Carrillo this high on the list despite the injury. The improvements in his body and subsequent uptick in footwork behind the plate indicate a dedication to getting better that makes me think his injury is just a minor blip on his path towards getting drafted a third time.

16. Lewis-Clark State JR C Kawika Emsley-Pai

Emsley-Pai’s injury history, most notably a stress fracture of his L5 veterbra that occurred in high school, could keep some teams away, but as a switch-hitter with patience and really good defensive tools he should get plenty of looks this June. Recent back tightness is a bit of a red flag, but, again, if his medicals check out then the former Longhorn will finally get his chance in pro ball.

15. North Carolina State JR C Chris Schaeffer

Good defensively? Check. Above-average power production? Check. Mature approach at the plate? Check. There really aren’t a lot of obvious chinks in Schaeffer’s prospect armor, especially when stacked up against his draft-eligible college catching competition. Biggest knock on Schaeffer that I’ve heard revolves around his swing. His experience with wood in the past hasn’t inspired a great deal of confidence that his power is more than an aluminum bat mirage. Even if we adjust for a loss of power, Schaeffer’s other aforementioned skills make him an attractive mid-round candidate as a developmental backup catcher type.

14. North Carolina JR C Jesse Wierzbicki

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.

13. Santa Clara SR C Tommy Medica

Medica was profiled last year:

Tommy Medica brings tons of experience with 92 starts behind plate in his first two years at Santa Clara. He offers up good size (6-1 215), gap power, a very fine throwing arm, above-average athleticism (he’s played a decent LF in the past), and a classic sounding baseball player name, but he hasn’t seen live action since leaving a game with what has been since diagnosed  as a separated shoulder on March 7th. That makes Medica a unique prospect to evaluate – what do we make of a solid mid-round catcher considered by many to have untapped potential with the bat (good!) who is on the mend rehabbing a pretty serious injury (bad!)?

He doesn’t necessarily have a standout tool (though his arm is darn good), but he also doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. I think I remember coming to the conclusion that catchers who are billed as solid players unspectacular in any one area tend to disappoint, yet I still can’t help but like Medica’s game. I need to fight that like and go with what my hastily thrown together research told me – Medica fits the profile of a player who faces a long climb towards attaining the ultimate goal of making himself a useful big leaguer.

He’s healthy this year and producing at about the level expected of his tools. The outfield experiment hasn’t gone quite as well as it has in the past, but the positional versatility still helps his stock. Teams that were in on him last year before the injury should probably be after him in the mid-rounds once again in 2010.

12. TCU SR C Bryan Holaday

Off the charts leadership, plus raw strength, excellent gap power, elite defender, and a plus arm. That description immediately makes me think of the guy ranked number four on this list. Quick conclusion: Bryan Holaday is about 90% of the player Micah Gibbs is with only about 9% of the hype. Of course, their respective placement on the list makes me guilty of overlooking Holaday as well. He’s a relatively safe investment in the mid-rounds for a team in need of a high floor backup with the upside of a solid second division starting player.

11. Coastal Carolina SR C Jose Iglesias

Iglesias started 2009 with as much helium as any college catcher in the country. I remembered talking to a scout really early in the season about Iglesias. He told me that from a body/tools/projection standpoint, Iglesias was as good a bet as any college catcher in the country, Tony Sanchez included. His junior season (.306/.381/.570) was a letdown for many, but only because of the tremendous expectations placed on his head during the winter. His numbers in 2010 are better across the board, and his skills, especially his batting eye and power potential, remain strong. As much as any catcher on the list so far, Iglesias has what it takes to be a big league starter behind the plate.

10. Tennessee JR C Blake Forsythe

As one of my favorite players in the country heading in the year, Forsythe, no doubt already feeling the heat as a key bat on a top SEC school expected to compete in 2010, had the added pressure of keeping this faceless internet stranger happy with a big season at and behind the plate. He’s responded with a season reminiscent of Jose Iglesias’s 2009 – good, but certainly not top five round worthy like many had hoped. Like Iglesias, it may be in his best interest to return for a senior season to rehabilitate his slipping draft stock. As it stands, his stock isn’t completely down the tubes; legit power potential and super plate discipline will get a guy chances, down year or not. I also think he’s a better athlete and runner than he often gets credit for, but those skills aren’t going to be what gets him paid. If he hits like expected, he’s a big leaguer.

9. Vanderbilt JR C Curt Casali

Casali has an almost perfect big league body, incredible athleticism for a catcher, and great physical strength. That’s all well and good (and I don’t say that derisively, it really is both well and good), but can he play baseball? Well, he’s an above-average defender who has caught a wide array of pitchers while at Vanderbilt, and his throwing arm has made a slow, but steady recovery from Tommy John surgery. His bat has some serious juice (near-plus power may be the tool that comes most naturally to him) and his patient approach makes him a legit candidate to play every day professionally.

8. Texas JR C Cameron Rupp

Now we’re finally getting to some college catching prospects with legit plus tools. In Rupp’s case, it’s plus raw power and a plus throwing arm. The raw power is hard to argue with, though there is some concern it’s more of a pure physical strength power rather than quick wrists and a classic swing kind of power. Rupp’s arm strength has been called above-average in some places, but, for me, his arm becomes a plus tool when you combine that above-average throwing power with his incredibly precise throwing accuracy. Arm and power, check. As for the other three tools, well, that’s more of a mixed bag. His running speed is well below-average and his long swing has enough holes against breaking pitches to keep him from ever having anything more than a league average bat. His defense, however, gives him a third above-average tool, especially his surprisingly nimble lateral movement behind the plate.

7. UNC Wilmington JR C Cody Stanley

Stanley gets the edge over Rupp due to better athleticism, but, really, the two are similar prospects in many respects. Both have plus power potential, both have plus throwing arms (Stanley’s isn’t as strong, but better footwork and a quicker release helps narrow the gap), and both profile as solid big league defenders behind the plate. Pretty similar, right? So what exactly gives Stanley the advantage as a prospect? Well, we’ve already covered Stanley’s superior athleticism, but the UNC Wilmington catcher also bests his Texas counterpart in baserunning (Stanley has great instincts and is an average runner for a catcher) and track record with a wood bat (Stanley killed it on the Cape this past summer). Stanley over Rupp by a hair; the proof is in the parentheses.

6. UC Riverside SO C Rob Brantly

Originally my favorite four-year college in the 2010 class, Brantly’s sophomore season hasn’t really done too much to hurt his stock, but has nonetheless seen his spot in the rankings slip as other college guys have simply done more. The one and only time (maye) I’ll lift something directly from the always wonderful Baseball America comes now:

[Redacted] has a strong, compact swing and the ability to make consistent, hard contact to all fields. He has a mature, patient offensive approach, excellent pitch recognition and advanced strike-zone awareness. He has above-average power to the pull side and also good power the other way.

That could very easily be written about Rob Brantly, but it was actually the most recent scouting report on Washington’s Derek Norris. The comparison isn’t perfect, but I think it works as a general outline – big bat, professional strike-zone awareness, solid defensive tools, but not yet a reliable backstop. Norris was a fourth round steal out of high school in 2007; Brantly could be the college equivalent, in round and value, here in 2010.

5. Villanova SO C Matt Szczur

I can’t really defend the last two biases on the list, but the first three are things that I know I’m not alone in looking out for. Szczur’s scouting credentials include the following: really impressive hit tool, good speed (not just good for a catcher, either), plus arm, plus athleticism, rapidly emerging power, championship pedigree, worthwhile positional versatility (3B and corner OF collegiate experience, above-average at all three spots), and, as a long-time two-sport star conditioned to split his training two ways since junior high, vast untapped potential on the diamond. I won’t profess to know Szczur’s ultimate upside as a ballplayer, but I have a hard time watching him play and seeing anything but a young man on the cusp of a long big league career. These rankings have been more or less surprise free to this point, but Szczur’s high placement is something I’m willing to roll the dice on.

4. Louisiana State JR C Micah Gibbs

Previously on Micah Gibbs

JR C Micah Gibbs (2010) is currently a potential late first round pick who, even with a subpar junior season, still ought to hear his name called in the first three rounds of the 2010 Draft. Offensively he is more solid than spectacular, though his plate discipline (career 69/76 BB/K ratio) is a skill worth getting somewhat excited about. Scouts have long pegged him as a player with big raw power, especially from the left side, but in two years at LSU he hasn’t been able to show off that batting practice thunder in game situations. Gibbs’ leadership is praised far and wide and his defense is beyond reproach, so expect Gibbs to get a ton of ink as one the chosen players MLB decides to “talk up” with positive press heading into the June draft.

Next week on Micah Gibbs

Unfunny joke aside, not much has really changed from Gibbs’ preseason outlook to now. Only the emergence of his in-game power qualifies, and even that’s a stretch when you consider said emergence was predicted by many heading into the year. Gibbs’ defensive skills make him a solid bet to reach the big leagues in some capacity. His power/speed combination makes him a pretty good bet to reach the big leagues ready to start and put up league average or better numbers for the position. In other words, Gibbs is a relatively safe player with a high floor worth betting on having some semblance of a successful big league career.

3. Minnesota JR C Mike Kvasnicka

I try my best to balance reading as much as possible about the draft as I can while also not allowing any one publication’s rankings influence my own. Kvasnicka at third overall on the list of top college catchers seemed so clever before checking one of the big boys’ lists (ESPN, I think) and seeing Kvasnicka up at the top as well. Oh well, clever doesn’t really suit me all that well anyway. Kvasnicka’s spot near the top is incredibly well deserved. Here’s what was said about him in the preseason:

JR OF/C Mike Kvasnicka (2010) possesses one of the longest swings of any major prospect in the 2010 draft. This is a good thing when he makes contact (I’ve heard both the thwack! of the bat in the Northwoods League and the ping! at Minnesota, both very impressive), but a very bad thing when up against pitchers with effective offspeed stuff. Kvasnicka has struck out 103 times in 438 college at bats. Any regular reader knows that I’m firmly entrenched in the strikeouts are no worse than any other kind of out camp, but that only really applies to big leaguers. There is something to be said for high-K rates being an indicator of poor contact abilities for minor leaguers and amateurs.  If I was told I’d be drafting the current iteration of Kvasnicka, then I’m not sure I’d be too happy selecting a hitter who I won’t think will make enough contact to be a regular. Luckily, nobody is drafting the February version of any potential draft pick. Any team drafting Kvasnicka isn’t getting the Kvasnicka of February, 2010; they’ll get the player he will be someday down the line. Given the fact that Kvasnicka is a plus athlete with a well-rounded toolset (good speed, decent arm, plus raw power), there should be plenty of teams interested to see if he can figure it all out professionally, long swing and strikeouts be damned. His draft stock (already pretty solid – round 4-7 is my current guess) gets a bump if teams buy into his defensive abilities behind the plate.

To recap: February Kvasnicka, the free swinging outfielder with the long swing, was an intriguing draft prospect, but May Kvasnicka, the catcher with the revamped swing and more mature approach, is a potential big league star. Again, all the positives from the preseason remain; his speed, arm, and power will all work at the big league level. That’s the good news. The better news is the way Kvasnicka has worked to improve across the board this spring. The swing itself is so much better than the last time I saw it. Equally important, however, is the process that went into correcting his long, loopy swing in the first place. The realization of the existence of a correctable problem, implementation of a plan to fix said problem, and successful execution through hard work and practice is exactly what teams are looking for. Remember, most amateur players that are drafted high aren’t prospects that came out of nowhere; these guys have been on the radar for years. Teams spend a lot of time, money, and energy trying to figure out which players in the draft pool have what it takes to successfully adjust their game over time. Kvasnicka’s phenomenal transformation from intriguing draft prospect to potential big league star ought to give big league scouting staffs all over the country confidence that he is one of those players capable of constantly working to improve his game.

2. Miami JR C Yasmani Grandal

From my notes on Grandal: “big lefty power, but with from right side.” If anybody can explain what the heck I was trying to say there, I’d love to know. The part that’s easy to decipher is the “big lefty power” part; the data from College Splits via Jonathan Mayo backs that scouting idea up with empirical evidence: “The left-handed hitting backstop has feasted off of righties to the tune of .485/.592/.897. Southpaws have been a little more challenging: .328/.488/.508.” Can you use a semicolon and a colon in the same sentence? Darned if I know, but I just did. You know who might know? Yasmani Grandal. Why? Well, the guy is on such a roll in 2010 that there’s no reason to put anything past him at this point. Plus lefty power, hit tool with league average potential, above-average throwing arm, and defense that won’t hurt you (the accomplished salsa dancer has shown off some really fancy footwork behind the dish this year) combine to give you a prospect with four potential big league average minimum tools. Sure, there are some things that need to be cleaned up (swing can get long, inconsistent release point on throws to second, etc.) once he gets going in pro ball, but Grandal very clearly has what it takes to be an above-average big league starting catcher from a tools/production standpoint.

1. Community College of Southern Nevada FR C Bryce Harper

.417/.509/.917. With wood. At 17 years old. Even BB/K ratio. 42 extra base hits. No discernable platoon split. I’m only now starting to come around to the idea that moving him off of catcher may give him the best chance to unlock all of the professional potential he has with the bat, but, man, I really do love his defensive tools behind the plate. That’s honestly my biggest question with him right now – will he wind up a great hitting catcher or a really great hitting right fielder? With that as the biggest question about his future, there’s no wonder he’s atop this particular list. Bryce Harper is good.

2010 MLB Draft: Top 30 College Catching Prospects (30-16)

30. Pittsburgh JR C Kevan Smith

The former Panthers quarterback is a plus athlete with a strong arm who is still understandably raw in some phases of the game. He was a highly regarded prospect coming out of high school who was at one point seen as a potential top five round pick, but was downgraded because of his strong commitment to the gridiron. There’s already some speculation that he’ll stick around for his senior year to further showcase his skills.

29. Louisville SR C Jeff Arnold

Arnold is good enough defensively to stick behind the plate, but his above-average speed could tempt a pro team into moving him off the position into a super-sub role. He’s always had a keen batting eye and a solid hit tool, but the lack of power should limit him to backup work going forward.

28. New Mexico JR C Rafael Neda

Neda’s strong statistical profile syncs up well with the increasingly positive scouting reports thrown his way this spring. He came into the year with a solid defensive reputation and above-average power to the gaps, but now has some scouts thinking he could grow into a decent regular with double digit homerun totals.

27. Texas Tech JR C Jeremy Mayo

Reminds me a lot of Jeff Arnold in that both players are above-average runners with solid gloves, but Mayo’s edge in power makes him the better prospect.

26. Ohio State JR C Dan Burkhart

Despite being a legitimate pro prospect in his own right, his biggest claim to fame may be convincing best friend and potential first rounder Alex Wimmers to join him for three years in Columbus. Burkhart is yet another good defensive catcher with a good batting eye and a questionable power ceiling. His scouting reports and his numbers come very close to Kevan Smith’s, but Burkhart’s higher probability of contributing gives him the edge over Smith’s higher upside. Burkhart also receives high marks for being one of the few catchers in the college game trusted to call his own pitches.

25. Rice SR C Diego Seastrunk

I haven’t seen or heard this comp elsewhere, so take it for what it’s worth (not much), but Seastrunk’s scouting profile and video remind me of a lesser version of Ryan Doumit. That’s high praise. Seastrunk is the kind of player who’s overall package exceeds the sum of his parts. Of course, it’s not exactly like his parts are all that shabby. I love, love, love the way Seastrunk has transitioned to the role of full-time catcher this spring. Seastrunk’s combination of an above-average arm, gap power, and plus makeup (he’s a tireless worker and a great team player) has me believing his tools will play as a professional. He isn’t a natural behind the plate, but the instincts I’ve seen from him in going down to get balls in the dirt lead me to believe he’ll be an above-average defender before long. I eventually can see Seastrunk filling a supersub role (not unlike Doumit before he broke out).

The majority of catchers at this point in the ranking fall into one of three categories: 1) high ceiling, low floor (could be a starting catcher with all the right breaks, but doesn’t have the customary skill set big league clubs like in backup catchers), 2) low ceiling, high floor(ready-made big league backup skill set, especially defensively, but without the offensive upside to start) , 3) supersub upside (capable of contributing at first, third, and/or the outfield corners). Seastrunk has a throwing arm that flashes plus (great raw strength, improving pop times), gap power (notice this commonality among the back half of the top 30?), and good patience at the plate. He also has experience at all of the supersub positions listed above. He may never be a big league starting catcher, nor may he be a primary backup, but his versatility should be a boon for whatever pro team takes the chance on him.

24. Oklahoma State JR C Kevin David

On paper, David is a top ten college catching prospect, but his results through three years at Oklahoma State have been more good than great. There’s not much to quibble with when it comes to his excellent athleticism, strong throwing arm, and above-average glove, but all of that untapped potential needs to turn into production before long. His relatively low placement on the list — it’s possible he goes somewhere between round 5-10 — is more about the players ahead of him than anything else; if that’s a cop-out, so be it.

23. Embry-Riddle SR C Austin Goolsby

Besides having a fun name to say, Austin Goolsby is an intriguing NAIA catching prospect with elite defensive potential, good pro size, and power to the gaps. His skills as an economist, however, are at this point unknown.

22. Southern Illinois SR C Tyler Bullock

Bullock possesses the best present power of any player in the bottom half of the top thirty, no real shock when you consider his classic big bopper (6-4, 275) build. He’s a lesser version of one of my 2009 favorites, Purdue’s Dan Black, another large man with prodigious power potential. Like Black, Bullock’s defense is passable and his arm strength is above-average. Like Black, Bullock’s professional future is that of a versatile backup catcher capable of filling in at first base (Bullock and Black) and/or third base (Black only).

21. Western Kentucky JR C Matt Rice

Average hit tool, slightly above-average power, solid defender = mid-round pick with big league backup upside.

20. Georgia Tech JR C Cole Leonida

As one of the spring’s fastest rising prospects, Cole Leonida does a lot of little things very well. His defense around the plate is a strength, and his power potential is second only to Tyler Bullock’s here on the latter half of the top thirty. Leonida’s impressive throwing arm, while at least big league average in strength and above-average in accuracy, could really stand to benefit from some mechanical adjustments to help with his release point. With good coaching that big league average arm could easily become consistently above-average. As a hitter he’ll probably never hit at or near .300 professionally, but his raw power could translate into double digit homeruns if given enough playing time.

19. Virginia JR C Kenny Swab

Here’s what was said here about Mr. Swab back before the season started:

He’s got a live bat with above-average power potential, but it’ll take some serious lineup juggling from Brian O’Connor to get him the at bats he’ll need to boost his draft stock. As is, Swab is a potential 10-20th round player based on upside alone.

Not a bad preseason prediction on a fairly unheralded junior college transfer, right? In the at bats Swab’s earned this year, he’s impressed. Good power, good patience, good defender, good arm, and good positional versatility. He’s not a star by any means, but he’s a good player. That sounds pretty good to me.

18. Missouri JR C Brett Nicholas

Similar to Swab in that both are junior college transfers with solid hit tools capable of playing a variety of positions, but Nicholas’ greater power potential and more intriguing secondary position (Nicholas is at least passable on the hot corner) gives him the advantage.

17. Arizona State JR C Xorge Carrillo

Carrillo’s placement this high is largely speculative, but, hey, isn’t that really what a list like this is all about? Carrillo has missed almost all of the season with a bum forearm, but when healthy showed off impressive power to all fields and much improved athleticism behind the plate. That last reason is why I’m comfortable keeping the twice drafted Carrillo this high on the list despite the injury. The improvements in his body and subsequent uptick in footwork behind the plate indicate a dedication to getting better that makes me think his injury is just a minor blip on his path towards getting drafted a third time.

16. Lewis-Clark State JR C Kawika Emsley-Pai

Emsley-Pai’s injury history, most notably a stress fracture of his L5 veterbra that occurred in high school, could keep some teams away, but as a switch-hitter with patience and really good defensive tools he should get plenty of looks this June. Recent back tightness is a bit of a red flag, but, again, if his medicals check out then the former Longhorn will finally get his chance in pro ball.

College Team Profiles: Virginia Cavaliers

One of the most popular (fine, the only) question I’ve been emailed since starting this site up goes a little something like this: I’m going to see ____ University/College/State play this weekend and I was wondering if there was anybody with a professional future that would be worth watching. The College Team Profiles are designed to preemptively answer any and all questions about the prospects from a particular college team…or maybe just open up a whole new debate full of new, even more confusing questions. We’ll see. The next three draft classes for one particular school are featured, with the players ranked in order (from greatest to least greatest) within each class. As always, whether you agree, disagree, or think I’m a dope who should leave this sort of stuff to the experts (thanks, Mom)…let’s hear it via email (you can use either robozga at gmail dot com or thebaseballdraftreport at gmail dot com) or in the comments section.

2010

JR OF Jarrett Parker (2010) is one of the best of the many 2010 toolsy lottery ticket kind of players. I haven’t been doing this draft thing for that long, so it is hard for me to compare talent levels from class to class, but it seems that this year has a high number of mid-round high upside, high flameout potential players. I also haven’t been doing this writing thing long, as you can see from the mess that was that last sentence. Anyway, as mentioned, Parker is one of the very best of the so-called (by me) “lottery ticket” group, so he isn’t necessarily included in the mid-round subsection. In fact, many see him as a candidate to go in the first round. It’s easy to see why.  His mix of tools and big-time sophomore numbers would make him a top-three round guy right now. Continued incremental improvements in his game his junior year will push his draft stock even higher. I’ll make a scary cross-race comparison here and claim Parker has a similar skill set as Lastings Milledge. He has plus power potential, an above-average arm, good speed, and the defensive chops to be a well above-average corner outfielder or a steady stopgap in center. Like Milledge, he struggles against breaking balls to the point that it’s hard not to see him as a 100+ strikeout big league hitter at this point. However, and I try my best to sandwich the bad news in between good news when I can, two big assets in Parker’s favor are his big league ready frame (6-4, 210 after packing on serious muscle), and the seemingly ever-increasing athleticism and agility (honed by practicing yoga) that should help him withstand the rigors of the professional grind.  Additionally, Parker improved his walk rate from his freshman year to his sophomore year, and continued the positive trend during his otherwise disappointing campaign on the Cape this summer. I like that.

JR OF Dan Grovatt (2010) has a very patient approach at the plate, power to the gaps, average speed, and a good enough arm to play right field professionally. Sounds good, right? It should because Grovatt is a top five round caliber talent. My only worry is that his more good than great toolset makes him too similar a prospect to former Florida State standout Jack Rye. Rye was one of my all-time favorite college players and a guy I touted as a draft sleeper, but his pro numbers, especially his power indicators, haven’t exactly set the world on fire so far. The comparison is probably unfair – one player’s struggles don’t really have anything to do with another’s future – but, having seen both play, the similarity between the two seemed worth pointing out. However, the two aren’t clones of one another, either. Grovatt is the better athlete and defensive player, and he has more upside with the bat, especially in the power department. Those are all pretty important points in Grovatt’s favor. It’ll take more time and research to see where exactly Grovatt stacks up when compared to fellow 2010 college outfielders, but I have the feeling that he’ll grade out higher here than in most spots. His well-rounded game and extensive big-time college experience make him a good bet to hit the ground running professionally. I’d peg his upside as that of a solid everyday corner outfielder (defense included) with a still valuable floor as a good fourth outfielder.

JR RHP Robert Morey (2010) will, if nothing else, always have a big win over Stephen Strasburg in the opener of the 2009 Irvine Regional. Fortunately for him, however, he won’t have to limit himself to that one particular game when someday regaling his grandkids about his playing days. A low-90s fastball, above-average slider, and an emerging straight changeup, plus his status as the Saturday starter for a championship caliber college team, should get him into the top ten rounds this June as a future back of the rotation starter.

JR RHP Tyler Wilson (2010) will probably be the Cavalier most directly impacted by Cody Winiarski’s arrival on campus. The opportunity to slide into the vacant weekend starting spot would have done wonders for Wilson’s 2010 draft stock. Even without the starting gig, he’ll get noticed as Virginia’s primary reliever, the bullpen ace relied upon to pitch multiple innings at a time whenever called upon. His plus command, good athleticism, and easy, repeatable arm action help him thrive in the role. Additionally, Wilson’s solid three-pitch mix (fastball sitting 90-92 and topping out at 94, good sinking high-70s change, average slider) gives credence to the idea he has value either in the bullpen or as a starter. I like him a lot, and believe he’ll be a top-ten round guy in June.

JR RHP Kevin Arico (2010) had himself a breakout season as Virginia’s closer in 2009. His bread and butter is a plus low-80s slider that he has no problem throwing over and over and over again. The first time I saw Arico pitch I walked away pretty impressed with myself for finally finding a player that I could compare to Kiko Calero. After seeing him throw a few more times since then, I think I’m now ready to upgrade the comp a smidge to now qualify Arico for a Chad Qualls type of ceiling. There is little to no chance his final draft standing rivals Qualls’s (you’d think last names ending with the letter s would annoy me, but, brother let me tell you, nothing is worse than a name ending in z), but he could still find himself as a top 12-15 round pick who could be a quick mover for the team that takes the plunge. There should be some concern about a player so reliant on one specific skill, but Arico’s results against high level competition should help assuage most clubs’ worry.

JR INF/OF Phil Gosselin (2010) heads into the 2010 season as the man without a position. The 2009 First-Team All-ACC second baseman has been working out in leftfield almost exclusively this fall, but has also apparently been told to be ready to fill in just about anywhere (3B, 2B, maybe SS, in that order) as needed this spring. It’s rare that a college supersub would be a legit draft prospect, but Gosselin is just that. He is a slightly below-average infielder with an average arm (2B being his most likely pro landing spot if a team prefers him in the infield), who will almost certainly be first tried in the outfield as a pro. I’m not sure if that is the best way to maximize Gosselin’s pro value. He doesn’t have the glove/range for center, and doesn’t have the bat for a corner. If he isn’t a starting caliber outfielder, why not at least give him a shot in the infield? If he can bump his defense up to at least average in the infield, then you’ve got yourself a player who can help you stretch the limits of your 25-man roster, especially in the NL.

JR C/1B/OF Kenny Swab (2010) and his Cavalier teammate John Hicks (2011) – separated at birth? Swab figures to have the inside track on the primary backup catching job, but should also see time at first base, right field (to take advantage of his plus arm), and designated hitter. He’s got a live bat with above-average power potential, but it’ll take some serious lineup juggling from Brian O’Connor to get him the at bats he’ll need to boost his draft stock. As is, Swab is a potential 10-20th round player based on upside alone.

SR LHP Neal Davis (2010) goes into his senior season as Virginia’s top lefthanded relief pitcher, a player able to skillfully mix and match fastballs, sliders, and changeups to get hitters out. His most recent season was arguably his least successful – certainly his least dominating – so he heads into 2010 with plenty to prove. His big league frame (6-6, 210) and past success in a highly competitive conference (he struck out nearly a batter an inning [39 in 40] while only allowing 7 earned runs in 40 relief innings [1.58 ERA] in 2008) combined with intriguing stuff (sits in the high-80s to low-90s with the fastball and has an above-average mid-70s slider) make him another second half of the draft option for a team looking for a warm A-ball body on the cheap. I know I do this a lot, but I’d be remiss to write this much about Davis without mentioning the possibility that his stuff and frame would actually play well as a starting pitcher professionally.

JR RHP Cody Winiarski (2010) comes to Virginia via noted talent factory Madison Area Technical College. After doing a little bit of homework on him, I’ve found that he is a player with a whole lot of adamant supporters. Someone who saw him pitch on multiple occasions while at MATC raved about his potential plus changeup. Another admitted that while he had never actually seen Winiarski throw himself, he had heard very positive things from others about his command and general pitchability. Winiarski doesn’t have as much room for error as some pitchers with bigger fastballs, but the praise he has gotten from those who have seen him firsthand makes me a believer in his pro prospects. Assuming he holds down the last weekend starting job as expected, watch out for Winiarksi as a potential top-15 round arm this June.

SR INF Tyler Cannon (2010) reminds me of a better version of Missouri’s Greg Folgia, a player picked a round higher in 2009. Cannon is solid in all phases of the game, but lacks fluidity on defense at any position. Between his lack of a true defensive home and his steady, but unspectacular bat, Cannon has many believing his professional role will be that of a super-sub capable of playing literally every position on the diamond, including catcher. His college counting stats (through his first two seasons) match up with Eric Bruntlett’s in almost an eerie way, but the comparison falls apart when you look at each player’s rate stats. Anyway, I’d say that the Bruntlett comp may actually be a tad optimistic at this point. Cannon’s collegiate track record isn’t quite as strong as Bruntlett’s (though another big season like Cannon had last year would close the gap) and he lacks Bruntlett’s tremendous Civil War reenactor (that may be the single ugliest looking word in the English language) style beard, but I’d bet on enough marginal improvements as he progresses into his mid-20s to see him getting a chance as a AAAA utility guy good enough to position himself as a potential callup when injuries to the more talented players occur. His big junior year gives him something to build on heading into 2010, and the continued increase of talented infielders to the Cavalier program ought to give him more of an opportunity to show off the defensive versatility that will be his best shot at someday playing big league baseball.

SR C Franco Valdes (2010) plays exceptional defense behind the plate. He’s adept at blocking balls in the dirt, athletic enough to get out of his crouch to pounce on anything in front of him, and has a strong enough arm to keep potential base stealers honest. He also has one heck of a reputation when it comes to handling a pitching staff. However, and this is a biggie, his offense (career OBP = .301) leaves much to be desired. However, and this is may or may not be a biggie depending on how you feel about this sort of thing, he does have the benefit of draft pedigree (15th round pick of Detroit back in 2006) on his side. I never know how much stock to put into previous draft standing, especially when we’re talking about a college junior or senior who was drafted in a late round three or four years prior. So much can change in the span of three or four seasons, you know? Valdes certainly isn’t a 15th round caliber player anymore, mainly due to the stalled development of his offensive game, but the fact he was previously drafted makes me hesitant to claim he has no shot at all this time around. At best, he’s worth nothing more than a late late late round flier at this point.

JR OF John Barr (2010) is as nondescript a prospect as you’ll find. It’s nothing personal – in fact, I saw Barr play in high school, and I tend to form weird (non-creepy!) attachments to players I’ve seen early on – but nothing about his game stands out as being an average or better big league tool. His numbers dipped from his freshman year to his sophomore season, but he deserves the benefit of the doubt as he was recovering from shoulder surgery for much of 2009.

INF JR Corey Hunt (2010) has to be a big believer in the idea that timing is everything, if for not other reason than to help him ease his troubled head at night. In a different era of Virginia baseball it’s possible Hunt could have come in, gotten playing time early, established himself as a useful defense-first middle infielder with above-average on-base skills, and pushed his draft stock up enough by his senior season to be a worthwhile 20ish round or so pick. Instead, he has been behind some pretty good veteran infielders to start off his Cavalier career and he’ll be behind some really impressive youngsters to end his career. Without regular playing time he’ll be a very difficult player for scouts to assess come June. The lack of track record and standout tools make him a non-prospect at this point.

JR INF/OF Tyler Biddix (2010) has one of the most underrated names in all of college baseball. K’Nex, Lego, Megatendo, Fischertechnik, Biddix, Uberstix, Blockos…which ones are real building block toys and which ones are fake? Pretty sure the end table I bought from Ikea a few months ago was a Biddix. Damn, the Ikea joke was a better one than the K’Nex/Uberstix one, wasn’t it? Wish I would have thought of it first. Anyway, I have no doubt that the real Biddix (the person) is a better prospect than the flimsy table, but not by enough to make him a draftable prospect.

2011

SO INF/C Keith Werman (2011) did his best Pat Venditte impression while in high school, pitching a seven-inning complete game both lefthanded (3.1 innings) and righthanded (3.2 innings). That fun fact from the Virginia baseball website may have absolutely no bearing on Werman’s prospect stock, but it’s undeniably cool. What is relevant about his prospect stock is the fact he is a plus defender at second base who also has experience at shortstop and catcher dating back to his prep career. He can also handle the bat (.400/.481/.457 line in 70 at bats) enough to keep himself in the mix for a starting spot in 2010. Werman’s draft upside may be limited by his size (5-7, 150 – not saying judging him on size is fair, but it’s the reality), but the universal praise he earned last year as a sparkplug second leadoff hitter (the nice way of saying 9-hole hitter) for Virginia down the stretch should continue to get him noticed on the college level. The gap between Werman and Stephen Bruno is more perception than reality.

2012

FR SS Reed Gragnani (2012) is yet another talented young prospect expected to see significant time in a loaded Virginia infield. His game right now revolves largely around his well above-average speed, excellent athleticism, and impressive range up the middle, but he is no slouch with the bat either. Early comps include Brian Roberts (if he develops as is) and Ryan Zimmerman (if he bulks up and gains power). Gragnani’s brother, Robbie, grew four inches during his college tenure at Virginia Commonwealth, so that Ryan Zimmerman developmental path isn’t totally out of the question. That’s not to say that the only thing standing in the way between Gragnani and future big league All-Star status is a couple of inches and some muscle, but he’s a good player with high round talent all the same.

FR SS Stephen Bruno (2012) was one of the rarest of the rare coming out of high school – a prep player actually expected to stay at shortstop as a pro. We always hear about how pretty much every worthwhile big leaguer was the star shortstop/pitcher of his high school team, but it never registered how often these players were forced to move off the position after signing that first pro deal. I mean, Frank Thomas was a shortstop in high school* because, let’s be honest, that’s just where you put the best athlete at that level. I remember watching Billy Rowell play shortstop in high school. He positioned himself about 3 steps out on the outfield grass, basically admitting to all in attendance he had no range and instead relying exclusively on his rocket arm to gun people down at first. Rowell wasn’t a pro prospect as a shortstop, but he played shortstop on his high school team because, quite simply, if he didn’t, then who would? Bruno was a top ten round talent in 2009 who fell to the Yankees in the 26th round due to a very strong commitment to Virginia. He’ll stick at shortstop throughout his career due to his plus range, slightly above-average speed, and Speedy Gonzalez quick hands. He has flashed present power, launching a couple of 450 bombs his senior year of school, but lacks the overall strength to do it on a consistent basis. That last point may not seem like a huge deal for a middle infield prospect, but it does speak to the general concerns about Bruno’s future. Some players are projects based on the development of their tools, an area that Bruno grades out fairly well across the board (in addition to the aforementioned defensive skills, he has a 55 arm), but other players are projects based on their physical development. That’s where Bruno is at right now. He has worked his tail off to improve in each of the five tools (most notably speed and arm strength), but it’ll be the way is body fills out (keeping in mind he is 5-9, 165) that will make him into either a first round caliber guy or not.

***Frank Thomas may or may not have been a shortstop in high school. I actually have no idea. I just thought he was a good example for the point I was trying to make. Now I realize that making stuff up doesn’t help my argument at all, but it’s my site and I get to be as bad a writer and as big a liar as I want to be. Maybe Jim Thome would have been a better example; I bet he played shortstop in high school…

UPDATE: Found something! Go here, or just trust this excerpt: “In baseball, he was a 6-2, 175-pound shortstop. The Cincinnati Reds were interested but never drafted him. So Thome enrolled at Illinois Central College, where he played baseball and basketball. The Indians drafted him in the 13th round in 1989, one of the smartest selections they ever made.”

FR SS Chris Taylor (2012) might have hit himself into regular playing time after mashing the ball throughout the fall. One rumored starting infield for Virginia has Steven Proscia at first, Keith Werman at second, Tyler Cannon sliding back over to third, and Taylor getting regular time at short. Taylor has plus raw power and intriguing defensive tools, but comes to school with a bit less fanfare as fellow freshman infielders Gragnani and Bruno.