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Atlanta Braves 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Atlanta Braves 2011 Draft Selections

Florida State LHP Sean Gilmartin is definitely a grower. I saw him his freshman year, and thought he was a pretty good prospect. Then during his sophomore year, he improved to the point I was ready to drop the “pretty” qualifier and just call him a good prospect. When I saw him this past year, I was pretty damn impressed with the pitcher in front of me. By that logic, you’d think I’d be on board with the Braves popping the Florida State ace in the first round, right? Not so fast, my friend. His progression, in the eyes of this amateur evaluator, went from 10th rounder (freshman year) to 5th rounder (sophomore year) to 3rd rounder (draft day 2011).Gilmartin’s final destination as a first rounder was a legitimate surprise.

Most seem willing to give Atlanta the benefit of the doubt in taking the polished college lefty in the first round (something most did not do at the time of the Mike Minor selection, by the way), but it is a real head scratcher for me. My rankings are far from the final word in prospect evaluation, but I have to believe there was more value (value being an interesting topic in its own right) to be had with the 28th overall pick than my 53rd ranked pitcher. I loved the Minor selection at the time and have heard some compare the two college lefties, a comparison I don’t think I can get behind. At his best, Gilmartin throws four pitches for strikes — average FB, good CU, average SL, occasional above-average CB — and profiles as a solid back of the rotation arm. I’d want more upside out of my first round pick than that. However, and this is the fun part where I willing completely blow up my whole argument, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this year about value. Value in a draft where picks cannot be traded is entirely up to the drafting team. If the Braves really liked Gilmartin and didn’t think he’d be there at their next pick, they did the smart thing in selecting him when they could. That may come off as a tad simplistic, but I think it is true. Trust your scouts, create your board, and get to picking. Haters (such as yours truly) are going to hate.

Florida State JR LHP Sean Gilmartin: 87-89 FB, peak 91-92; sweeping 73-77 above-average CB that he has deemphasized in favor of CU and SL; very good 74-76 CU that keeps improving; 80-81 SL could be average pitch with time; good athlete; good hitter; 6-2, 190

The biggest sure thing on Florida State’s roster heading into 2011 is JR LHP Sean Gilmartin, a four-pitch Friday night starter that I can’t help but consistently underrate. Even though he has a very good mid-70s changeup and an above-average low-70s curveball, his inconsistent fastball, both in terms of velocity (sits mid- to upper-80s, peaks at 91-92) and command, worries me against professional hitters. Does a so-so fastball really undo the positives that three other potentially average or better (his low-80s slider isn’t great presently, but has the upside as a usable fourth pitch) secondary pitches bring to the table? As a guy who championed the pre-velocity spike Mike Minor, I’m inclined to say no, yet my instincts keep me away from endorsing Gilmartin as a potential top three round prospect. 

Connecticut SS Nick Ahmed is a favorite of mine who certainly looks the part of a big league ballplayer. His ceiling is an above-average regular at shortstop (plus bat, average at best glove) or third base/center field (average bat, above-average or better glove). Worst case scenario would be a utility player capable of playing literally anywhere on the field (yes, I’ve heard the rumors that some teams like him pre-draft as a catcher) or a potential mound conversion with the three pitches and athletic delivery to someday start in the big leagues.

I try not to let a quick look at a player influence my opinion on him too much, but Nick Ahmed gave off that somewhat silly yet undeniable big league look when I see him play earlier this year. He’s got an easy plus arm, strong defensive tools and athleticism that should play at multiple spots, and enough bat speed to drive good fastballs to the gaps. My only “concern,” if you even want to call it that, is that he’ll outgrow shortstop. The reason why I’m not ready to call that a legitimate concern just yet is because, based on his current tall and lanky frame, I would hope any physical growth he experiences professionally would be accompanied by additional strength, especially in his upper body, to help his eventual power output. In other words, if he gets too big for shortstop then at least he’ll then have the chance of having the power bat needed to play elsewhere.

The Braves made it hard on me this year by selecting so many early round college guys that I’ve run out of things to say about. Texas State 3B Kyle Kubitza is a gifted natural hitter whose success will be defined by his ability to stick at third base. There is also the added bonus of Kubitza’s affiliation with Texas State, a school with a coaching staff that has received a lot of positive chatter about the way they prepare players for the pros.

Kubitza has many of the key attributes you’d want in a third base prospect – good raw power, solid arm strength, and a patient approach at the plate. The biggest question he’ll have to answer is on the defensive side, but I’m on board with the idea that good pro coaching can help him through some of his concentration lapses in the field.

Strikeouts and groundballs are a recipe for success in pro ball. Santa Clara RHP JR Graham gets both in bunches. I love seeing future relievers get starting pitcher workloads early on (doubly so when they excel in said role), but concerns about his frame (6-0, 180 pounds) and delivery temper some of the recent enthusiasm that he might stick as a starter. From a stuff standpoint, I think he can do it: he has the plus “rising” four-seamer, nasty sinking two-seamer, and enough of a head start on developing his slider (flashes plus, but inconsistent) and changeup (much improved in last calendar year). As I’m reviewing this year’s draft I’m beginning to wonder if college relievers, once overdrafted with alarming regularity, are now a sneaky undervalued draft commodity. I understand the relative value of relievers to other players, but also think a bullpen with three or four top ten round college arms with middle relief floors has value in a) the joys of a quick return on the investment, and b) cost certainty at a spot so many teams pay far more than necessary. If a fourth round pick like Graham winds up as a pitcher the manager trusts to pitch the seventh inning, you’ve got yourself three dirt cheap years of service and an increased opportunity to spend on any of the 24 other spots on the roster.

Santa Clara JR RHP JR Graham: 94-98 peak; average 83-85 SL with plus potential but still very inconsistent like the Billy Wagner get me over slider; developing sinker; has hit 100-101; really shown improvement with CU; 6-0, 180

Blinn JC (TX) C Nick DeSantiago can hit a little bit, but I’m not sure he’ll catch. The former Longhorn has gotten off to a rocky start as a pro.

Fifth-year senior Vanderbilt RHP Mark Lamm was 100% a signability pick, but that doesn’t make him a bad prospect. The sixth round still feels a little rich for a guy who wasn’t the best senior sign pitcher on his college team (Taylor Hill) or the best Vanderbilt reliever drafted by Atlanta (Navery Moore).

My notes on Lamm were short and sweet: 90-94 FB; Tommy John survivor. The development of a pair of above-average offspeed pitches — a slider and a change — got him drafted way ahead of where I would have guessed. He’s up there as one of the top senior signs around and could be a quick mover through the system.

Remember what I said about drafting college relievers early on becoming the new market inefficiency? Yeah, the Braves went a little overboard with that strategy. Gonzaga RHP Cody Martin is yet another senior sign reliever. He’s a physically mature righthander with a chance to pitch in a big league bullpen someday. Stop me if you’ve heard that one before.

Gonzaga SR RHP Cody Martin (2011): 88-90 FB, sitting 92-93 out of bullpen; good 70-75 slurve-like CB that is much better as firmer mid-70s CB in 2011; good 86 CU

This is a little bit like the Matt Harvey to the Mets thing from a few years ago; it is such a pain in the neck seeing prospects I’ve invested so much time covering wind up with hated division rivals. I had Coastal Carolina 2B Tommy La Stella as a fifth rounder, yet am already kicking myself for having him so low. There are at least a half dozen college second base prospects with the chance to start in the big leagues someday, La Stella included. If he can handle the position defensively, he has star upside.

The number one knock I heard on La Stella heading into the season was his tendency to get too anxious at the plate and swing at pitcher’s pitches too often. This clearly wasn’t reflected in the numbers — notice the awesome batting averages and BB/K ratios — but it was a concern from smart people who had seen him often. When I receive scouting tips that contradict what the numbers reflect, I get dizzy. Trust the reports from people who are paid to this, banking on the idea that sometimes a scouting observation shows up before a dip in on-field production? Or acknowledge that sometimes even the best see things that sometimes aren’t really there? In La Stella’s case, I’m inclined to go with the latter. La Stella’s pure hit tool is on par with darn near any college prospect in this year’s draft.

Tough to make it in this world as an all-bat prospect, but Cameron OF Chase Larsson has a chance. As good a natural hitter as he is, this is a worthy gamble at this point in the draft.

I never really followed up on Western Kentucky SS Logan Robbins despite jotting his name down as an interesting 2011 college shortstop to follow. He has the classic speed/range/arm trio that will get a guy plenty of middle infield looks professionally, but I’m less certain than most that he’ll ever figure it out at the plate. He’s a little bit like the Bizzaro-La Stella in that way.

Atlanta’s most significant late round addition was Vanderbilt RHP Navery Moore (Round 14). He is another player that I’m all out of original thoughts on, so I’ll do an ugly grammatical recap: love his never straight plus fastball, don’t love his control or lack of a reliable second pitch, still think he is smart and athletic enough to thrive in a big league bullpen after a year or three working on his breaking ball in the minors. Writing is much easier when you don’t have to worry about following the rules.

Vanderbilt JR RHP Navery Moore: 92-96 plus FB, 99 peak; plus 81-84 SL that comes and goes; flashes plus CB; iffy control; Tommy John survivor; very occasional CU; “Intergalactic” is his closer music; has the stuff to start, but teams might not risk it from a health and delivery standpoint; 6-2, 205

Moore’s velocity was down late in the year. That’s a significant problem when your most marketable skill is a big fastball. That said, I still think he’s a good bet to settle in as a big league reliever someday due to his good athleticism and above-average raw stuff. The drop in velocity has to be addressed, however, whether or not it turns to be a mere matter of fatigue (treatment: rest, rest, more rest…and perhaps a tweak or two to his delivery) or a more serious health concern (treatment: shut him down, get him to a top surgeon, and hope he comes out healthy on the other side).

Like Moore, Arizona LHP Matt Chaffee (Round 12) is another solid relief prospect coming off an injury plagued college career. His raw stuff isn’t as good as Moore’s, but he gets a boost for his consistency and for being lefthanded. If healthy I’d like to see him get a chance to start, but his future is likely in the middle innings.

Arizona JR RHP Matt Chaffee (2011): 89-92 FB; average CU; mid-70s CB

I’ve always liked Oklahoma City SS Kirk Walker (Round 26). He may be limited to second base professionally as he lacks the foot speed for shortstop and the arm for third. If a pro training program can tick up both areas just a notch, he could have a future as a utility infielder.

Oklahoma City SR 3B Kirk Walker: gap power; average arm; slow; good athlete; could play 2B

The Braves only signed one player past the 37th round. We’ll save ourselves a little bit of time and not focus on all of the ones who got away, and instead focus on two of the bigger names that didn’t sign. Iolani HS (HI) LHP Carlos Rodriguez (Round 20) had an up and down spring and a strong commitment to Oregon State, so he was considered a tough sign to begin with. He’ll wisely take his intriguing three-pitch mix and skinny frame to college. Another really tough sign was Army RHP Kevin McKague (Round 50). It should come as no surprise that an agreement wasn’t reached between the Army man and Atlanta. A return to health and a more clearly defined outlook on his military future could have the nearly big league ready McKague shooting up draft boards next year.

Army SR RHP Kevin McKague: 92-96 FB; mid-80s SL; great splitter; missed most of 2011 due to back injury; 6-5, 230 pounds

Late edit! I missed the 37th round selection of Austin Peay RHP Ryne Harper. He’s got the fastball/slider needed to make it as a bullpen contributor if he gets the proper breaks.

Austin Peay SR RHP Ryne Harper (2011): 94 peak FB; very good SL; had offer from Vanderbilt out of high school

Final 2011 MLB Draft College Third Base Rankings

1. Rice JR 3B Anthony Rendon

*** 2010: .407/.544/.832 – 68 BB/21 K – 226 AB
*** 2011: .337/.536/.550 – 82 BB/30 K – 202 AB

There are a lot of amazing young arms in this year’s draft class, but Rendon is still the top prospect in 2011. There is not a single legitimate concern about his on-field performance. Despite his lack of size and some nagging injuries that held back his numbers some this year, there is little doubt that his power upside is substantial. His defensive tools are outstanding. The hit tool is well above-average and his approach to hitting is special. The two most popular comps thrown his way are Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria. I like the Zimmerman comp a lot, but I’ll toss another two names out there as well. Rendon’s play reminds me of a mix of a less physical, righthanded version of peak years Eric Chavez and current Boston third baseman Kevin Youkilis, minus the unorthodox swing setup. Can’t blame the Pirates for going with the rare commodity that is a potential ace with the first overall pick, but if I was in charge — and thank goodness for Pittsburgh or every other franchise I’m not — then Rendon would be the pick without thinking twice.

2. Georgia Tech JR 3B Matt Skole

*** 2010: .343/.448/.708 – 45 BB/34 K – 233 AB
*** 2011: .362/.457/.570 – 43 BB/31 K – 221 AB

It took me a while to warm up to Skole, but I’d rather be late to the party than too stubborn to change my mind. The plus power bat should play wherever you put him (first base is a safe fall back option, catcher is the riskier but more appealing choice), though it would obviously be preferable if he can continue to work to turn his surprisingly strong defensive tools (good arm, decent foot speed, quality athleticism) into at least league average caliber third base defense.

3. Vanderbilt JR 3B Jason Esposito

*** 2010: .397/.492/.660 – 37 BB/33 K – 262 AB
*** 2011: .357/.425/.552 – 16 BB/36 K – 230 AB

Esposito’s defense is big league ready, and his hit tool, raw power, and speed all grade out as average future tools at the next level. I swear I was ready to mention Matt Dominguez as a potential comp before reading Baseball America beat me to the punch, but it is a good enough comp that I don’t mind repeating it.

4. Southern Mississippi JR 3B BA Vollmuth

*** 2010: .380/.495/.733 – 44 BB/50 K – 236 AB
*** 2011: .304/.417/.546 – 38 BB/55 K – 207 AB

Some people believe in it, some don’t. Either way, I figured I’d pass along something two different people said to me with respect to BA Vollmuth. Two words were used to describe the Southern Mississippi shortstop: “star quality.” He has the requisite athleticism, arm, and above-average raw power to play third base in the big leagues down the line, but his loopy swing might need a tune-up

5. Arizona JR 3B Andy Burns

*** 2010: .282/.358/.565 – 20 BB/41 K – 177 AB

The only thing I don’t like about Andy Burns is the fact he had to sit out in 2011 after the former Colorado prep star transferred from Kentucky to Arizona. Every thing else is positive including his very good defensive tools (like the two guys sandwiched around him on this list, Burns is a former shortstop), plus arm, above-average speed, quick bat, and good raw power. He also has what could be a great separator if he hopes to crack this draft’s top five rounds: the proven ability to hit with wood. On top of all those legitimate reasons why I like Burns, I also have a strong instinctual feel for him. That’s almost certainly worth nothing to 99.9% of the readers out there, but I know my Mom likes it when I share stuff like that.

6. Miami JR 3B Harold Martinez

*** 2010: .328/.403/.672 – 33 BB/50 K – 241 AB
*** 2011: .328/.416/.424 – 29 BB/38 K – 198 AB

Had a weird moment when I was just about to start writing about Harold Martinez at the same time he came to the plate in the 4th inning against Florida during Regional play. Then I stepped away for a bit only to return to the still unfinished entry on Martinez exactly as he stepped up to bat in the 7th. Now that I see it typed out I realize it probably isn’t all that weird, but after writing about draft prospects almost non-stop over the past week and a half, I may be beginning to lose my mind.

As a prospect, Martinez does more than just time his television appearances well. He typifies what this uninspiring college third base class is all about: heavy duty of the word “but.” His defensive tools are solid and he certainly looks the part of a player capable of manning the hot corner, BUT his inconsistency making the routine play and erratic arm keep him from claiming third base as a sure fire long-term defensive home. He’s already plenty strong with the frame to get even bigger, BUT his above-average raw power fell off big time in 2011, in no small part because his long swing was geared towards the aluminum. He was a highly touted prep player who has played well over three years of competitive ACC ball, BUT he hasn’t dominated the competition in quite the way many had hoped. He’s a solid, potential top five round selection, BUT not a player you can pencil in as a long-term answer at third unless some of questions about his game are answered professionally.

7. Nebraska JR 3B Cody Asche

*** 2010: .335/.393/.565 – 18 BB/45 K – 209 AB
*** 2011: .337/.437/.668 – 36 BB/39 K – 208 AB

“Really like his approach, but have been underwhelmed by his overall package thus far” – that’s what I had in my notes re: Asche coming into the year. I’m happy to say that I’m no longer underwhelmed and now considered myself appropriately whelmed by his performance. I wasn’t alone in worrying that he wouldn’t stick at third coming into the year, but am now ready to go out on a limb and say I think his athleticism and instincts make him underrated at the position. Despite his very powerful throwing arm he’ll never be a good defender at third, but if his plus raw power would look really good if he can at least play at or around average defense as a pro.

8. Clemson JR 3B John Hinson

*** 2010: .370/.433/.635 – 27 BB/40 K – 230 AB
*** 2011: .333/.389/.504 – 22 BB/28 K – 228 AB

A plus hit tool combined with above-average speed and power will get you far professionally, but people smarter than myself have told me some teams question Hinson’s ability to play any one particular spot in the infield with the consistency needed of a regular. Based on my limited looks of him, I can’t say that I necessarily agree with that assessment, but his defensive skillset (good athlete, iffy arm) may make him better suited for second base than third. At either spot, he’s got the bat to make him a potential regular with a couple breaks along the way. He’s got a relatively high floor (easy to see him as a big league utility guy with pop) with the upside of a league average third baseman.

9. Texas State JR 3B Kyle Kubitza

*** 2010: .332/.433/.563 – 38 BB/41 K – 229 AB
*** 2011: .305/.445/.527 – 52 BB/46 K – 220 AB

Kubitza has many of the key attributes you’d want in a third base prospect – good raw power, solid arm strength, and a patient approach at the plate. The biggest question he’ll have to answer is on the defensive side, but I’m on board with the idea that good pro coaching can help him through some of his concentration lapses in the field.

10. TCU SO 3B Jantzen Witte

*** 2010: .415/.455/.592 – 9 BB/17 K – 147 AB
*** 2011: .365/.431/.515 – 28 BB/31 K – 241 AB

I do love a good draft-eligible sophomore, and Witte qualifies as one of the best in 2011. His defensive tools at third base are outstanding, worthy of consideration as top five (with Rendon, Esposito, maybe Burns…) in the college third base class. His swing and approach is geared towards hitting line drives and getting on base, but there’s still enough pop in his bat to keep pitchers honest.

11. Virginia JR 3B Steven Proscia

*** 2010: .325/.377/.548 – 22 BB/41 K – 252 AB
*** 2011: .354/.399/.527 – 17 BB/30 K – 237 AB

Most people love coffee. Every few months I’ll try a little sip, but it just doesn’t work for me. So many people enjoy it every day that I’m smart enough to know that it isn’t “bad” per se, but rather a specific taste that I just don’t enjoy as much as others. Proscia is a little bit like coffee for me. His defense at third is very good, he’ll show you a nice potential power/speed combo most days, and his athleticism is well above-average for the position. He’s a good prospect by any measure. Yet somehow after taking everything I’ve heard about him and having seen him play a few times myself, I remain unmoved by his upside. Solid player, no doubt; he wouldn’t be on this list otherwise. I just see him as much more likely to wind up a potential four-corners utility player than a starting third baseman.

12. Arizona State JR 3B Riccio Torrez

*** 2010: .386/.482/.627 – 20 BB/37 K – 228 AB – 21/25 SB
*** 2011: .309/.371/.466 – 15 BB/23 K – 204 AB

Torrez seems to finally have found a defensive home at third base. A team could draft him as a true third base prospect now and hope his bat grows into the role, or, and I think this is the more likely outcome, a team could draft him with the idea that he could develop into a versatile utility player. His only standout tool is his raw power, but even that is mitigated somewhat by a swing that currently lacks the proper loft needed to consistently drive balls up and out.

13. Coastal Carolina SR 3B Scott Woodward

*** 2010: .343/.512/.486 – 49 BB/48 K – 210 AB – 58/66 SB
*** 2011: .368/.500/.538 – 32 BB/54 K – 182 AB – 30/34 SB

It’s very easy to envision Scott Woodward playing in the big leagues someday. He’s got an outstanding approach to hitting, a discerning batting eye, and a really good idea of his fundamental strengths and weaknesses at the plate. Woodward ably uses his plus-plus speed to leg out infield hits, turn balls driven to the gaps into triples, and steal bases at a great success rate. Home runs will likely never be a big part of his game, but his is a game based more on speed and plate discipline anyway. He could have the type of career many once projected for former Dodgers prospect Joe Thurston. Another comp that I like a lot is Phillies minor leaguer Tyson Gillies, a comparison made more interesting due to the fact both players are hearing impaired, but one not at all dependent on that fact as the basis of the comp. When I first thought of it a few weeks ago the connection didn’t even occur to me, but the two players share enough distinct offensive similarities to make it work.

14. Kent State JR 3B Travis Shaw

*** 2010: .330/.453/.622 – 49 BB/41 K – 230 AB
*** 2011: .311/.408/.570 – 39 BB/36 K – 228 AB

Lacking lateral quickness and agility, Shaw’s future at third base is a major question as he enters pro ball. If he can stay at third base — good pre-pitch positioning and quicker than you’d expect reactions give him his best shot — then his big power, great approach, and strong track record with wood would make him a fast riser on draft boards. Most of the industry leaders are already moving him off of third, however, so perhaps I’m being unrealistic in thinking he could someday grow into an average-ish fielder there. Probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: if he is a first baseman at the next level, his value takes a big hit.

15. Texas A&M JR 3B Adam Smith

*** 2010: .263/.357/.495 – 20 BB/53 K – 194 AB
*** 2011: .225/.294/.387 – 12 BB/50 K – 142 AB

At some point, he has to do it on the field, right? Adam Smith is such a force of nature from a tools standpoint that you have to believe someday he’ll put it all together and show why so many have touted his ability for so long. He has the plus arm and plus defensive tools you’d expect from a former pitcher/shortstop, and his pro frame (6-3, 200) generates plenty of raw power on its own. What he doesn’t have is a good idea of the strike zone or a consistent at bat to at bat swing that can help him put said raw power to use. I’d love for my favorite team to take a chance on him after round ten (tools!), but probably couldn’t justify popping him much sooner than that (production…). One thing that would make gambling on Smith the third baseman a little less risky: if he doesn’t work out as a hitter, his plus arm could be put to good use back on the mound.

16. Mercer JR 3B Jacob Tanis

*** 2010: .354/.417/.668 – 21 BB/51 K – 268 AB
*** 2011: .321/.422/.565 – 35 BB/30 K – 237 AB

Tanis is an under the radar prospect who is capable of doing some good things at the next level if given the chance. His defense is good at third, his bat speed is more than adequate, and his athleticism gives him a chance to play a couple different positions in the field going forward.

17. Oklahoma JR 3B Garrett Buechele

*** 2010: .376/.460/.653 – 21 BB/41 K – 242 AB
*** 2011: .293/.354/.423 – 13 BB/31 K – 239 AB

Here’s what I wrote about Buechele last year at this time: “And so begins a stretch of players with starting caliber upside, but high bust potential. Buechele has one of the stronger pure hit tools of this college third base class, and his quickly emerging power make him one to watch. His defense is plenty good enough to stick at third, so the only thing that realistically stands in the way of Buechele succeeding professionally (you know, besides all of the other things that can get in the way for any player drafted) will be high strikeout totals. He’s not as talented as Zack Cox, so don’t take this as a direct comparison, but it seems that Buechele would be best served returning to school to work on honing his pitch recognition skills like the top player on this list managed to do in his sophomore season.”

I’d say most of that holds up today. His defense at third remains fine, but new questions about his power — was the emergence last year real or more of a juiced bat phenomenon? — keep his draft stock from being any higher. Others seem to like him a lot more than I do, for what it’s worth.

18. Texas-Pan American JR 3B Vincent Mejia

*** 2010: .385/.484/.582 – 41 BB/24 K – 208 AB
*** 2011: .337/.455/.479 – 38 BB/36 K – 190 AB

Mejia doesn’t get a lot of nationally recognized prospect love, but I think the guy can play at the next level. He doesn’t have a clear plus tool and may not have the range to play third base, but his approach is sound and his present power is intriguing. I’ve heard from one source that he is a sure fire senior sign candidate in 2012 (i.e. don’t hold your breath waiting for him to get drafted this year). I wonder if a pro team might look to him as a potential catcher, assuming they believe his arm will play behind the plate.

19. Oklahoma State JR 3B Mark Ginther

*** 2010: .311/.364/.547 – 18 BB/38 K – 225 AB
*** 2011: .306/.351/.541 – 16 BB/31 K – 229 AB

I came into the year thinking Ginther was a better player than he has shown, and I still feel that way after another good but not great college season. His athleticism is up there with any college third baseman in the class and his arm strength is an asset defensively, but his hit tool hasn’t shown much progress in his three years with the Cowboys. Ginther certainly looks the part of a potential big league third baseman with three well above-average tools (defense, arm, power) and special athleticism, but it’ll take much more contact and a less loopy swing if he wants to make it as a regular.

20. Tennessee SR 3B Matt Duffy

*** 2010: .304/.385/.444 – 20 BB/36 K – 207 AB
*** 2011: .302/.423/.481 – 29 BB/25 K – 189 AB

Duffy was a deep sleeper top five rounds candidate of mine heading into the 2010 season, so you know I’ve been irrationally high on his talent for a long time now. The Vermont transfer and current Tennesee standout has all of the defensive tools to play a decent shortstop professionally, but profiles better as a potential plus defender at the hot corner. For Duffy, a Jack Hannahan (with more raw power) or Andy LaRoche (with less raw power) type of career is possible.

21. UC Irvine SR 3B Brian Hernandez

*** 2010: .356/.421/.513 – 21 BB/26 K – 236 AB
*** 2011:  .358/.416/.419 – 19 BB/26 K – 229 AB

Last year I wrote: “he’s your typical ‘whole is greater than the sum of his parts’ kind of prospect, with the upside of a big league bench bat if everything breaks right.” I stand by that today (some pop, some speed, some plate discipline), with one additional comment I’ll present straight from my notes: “PLUS fielder.” All caps means you know I’m serious. Hernandez can really pick it at third.

22. Stetson JR 3B Ben Carhart

*** 2011: .349/.395/.500 – 17 BB/17 K – 232 AB

I liked Carhart more on the mound heading into the year, but now think his plus arm, gap power, and improved approach at the plate could play at third.

23. Penn State JR 3B Jordan Steranka

*** 2010: .309/.352/.483 – 10 BB/45 K – 236 AB
*** 2011: .327/.395/.548 – 25 BB/34 K – 217 AB

Steranka gives just about what you’d expect from a player this far down the ranking: a strong arm and some power upside. He also has the advantage of being a steady glove at third, though there are some rumblings that he could be tried behind the plate as a pro.

24. Louisiana Tech JR 3B Matt Threlkeld

*** 2010: .322/.382/.540 – 22 BB/44 K – 239 AB
*** 2011: .287/.383/.478 – 31 BB/46 K – 230 AB

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.

25. College of Charleston JR 3B Matt Leeds

*** 2010: .335/.442/.715 – 30 BB/46 K – 241 AB
*** 2011: .353/.454/.681 – 39 BB/60 K – 232 AB

Leeds has big power and a strong track record of showing it, but his average on his best day defense and just good enough arm temper some of the enthusiasm that he’ll play third base regularly as a pro. If his knees check out, he could have a future as a bat-first four corners backup.

26. Southern Mississippi JR 3B Ashley Graeter

*** 2011: .325/.393/.453 – 14 BB/22 K – 117 AB

27. Winthrop JR 3B Chas Crane

*** 2010: .356/.452/.673 – 39 BB/53 K – 208 AB
*** 2011: .280/.415/.338 – 45 BB/46 K – 207 AB

28. Texas A&M JR 3B Matt Juengel

*** 2010: .359/.424/.629 – 13 BB/30 K – 167 AB
*** 2011: .295/.376/.446 – 19 BB/34 K – 224 AB

29. Baylor SO 3B Cal Towey

*** 2010: .305/.434/.505 – 21 BB/31 K – 105 AB
*** 2011: .250/.424/.422 – 29 BB/43 K – 116 AB

30. Oklahoma City SR 3B Kirk Walker