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SR LHP John Valek (2016)
rJR RHP Hunter Newman (2016)
JR LHP Jared Poche’ (2016)
SR LHP Hunter Devall (2016)
rJR RHP Russell Reynolds (2016)
JR RHP Parker Bugg (2016)
rSO RHP Jesse Stallings (2016)
JR RHP Alden Cartwright (2016)
JR RHP Collin Strall (2016)
JR RHP Riley Smith (2016)
JR OF Jake Fraley (2016)
SO 3B/2B Greg Deichmann (2016)
JR 2B Kramer Robertson (2016)
JR OF Cody Ducote (2016)
JR 2B Cole Freeman (2016)
JR C Jordan Romero (2016)
SO RHP Austin Bain (2017)
SO RHP Alex Lange (2017)
rFR LHP Jake Latz (2017)
SO RHP Doug Norman (2017)
SO OF Beau Jordan (2017)
SO C/1B Bryce Jordan (2017)
SO C Mike Papierski (2017)
FR RHP Cole McKay (2018)
FR RHP Caleb Gilbert (2018)
FR OF/LHP Brennan Breaux (2018)
FR 3B/SS O’Neal Lochridge (2018)
FR SS Trey Dawson (2018)
FR OF Antoine Duplantis (2018)
FR OF/1B Brody Wofford (2018)
FR 3B Chris Reid (2018)
JR LHP Jared Poche’ is a tough guy to peg as a pro prospect because so much of his value comes from what he is rather than what he could be. That’s antithetical to everything that those who cover the draft are all about! What he is should be enough to have a long pro career: upper-80s fastball that can sometimes sit as high as 88-92 (93 peak), above-average or better 73-78 CB that flashes plus, and a really good 78-82 CU that is at least average and probably better. Add that in to a good new-ish cutter and strong overall command, and you can see that Poche’ has what it takes to get pro hitters out. How dare he be so polished and composed at such a young age!
What keeps Poche’ from being a true threat to crash the draft’s early rounds is the lack of projection in his 6-1, 200 pound frame and decent but not exciting peripherals (5.11 K/9 and 5.94 K/9) through two college seasons. He’s been an absolute workhorse as a weekend starter for LSU since first stepping foot on campus and his outstanding college career should be celebrated whether it comes to a close this June or next, but the possibility that he’s more great college pitcher than big-time pro prospect feels very real to me. His is just a tough profile to find any reasonable recent draft contemporaries to compare against. We need a filled-out lefthander with average velocity (give or take), a nice assortment of offspeed stuff, and lots of high-level college success despite underwhelming peripherals. Many guys check all but one of those boxes (size and peripherals are often the missing piece), but it’s hard to find anybody who went in the top five rounds or so with the same background. Closest that I found include guys (listed in order of my pre-draft rankings last June) like Travis Bergen from Kennesaw State (7th), Kevin Duchene from Illinois (5th), Scott Effross from Indiana (15th), Christian Trent from Mississippi (24th), Bobby Poyner from Florida (14th), and Reid Love from East Carolina (10th). Bergen and Duchene give me some hope that there’s room in the first seven or so rounds for a competitor like Poche’. Of course, comparisons like these lean heavily on historical trends often at the expense of the individual in question. It only takes one player to rise above and break past the ceiling that others have put on them, much the same way that “(fill in the blank) has never happened” until the first time that it does. Maybe Poche’ is the one to crack the draft’s top five rounds and make the paragraph you’re reading right now seem silly. I think Poche’ falling somewhere between round six and ten is the most likely outcome, but we’ll see.
SR LHP John Valek takes his mid- to upper-80s fastball, solid change, and plus command from Akron to LSU for the upcoming season. A year of holding his own in the SEC could get him some looks as a potential late-round matchup lefty possibility for some teams. rJR RHP Russell Reynolds has shown slow yet steady improvement as he’s come back from a labrum injury in 2013. He could force his way back into the draft mix if his stuff returns to pre-surgery levels. JR RHP Parker Bugg has enticing size (6-6, 220) and a fastball/slider combination that works well in relief. I’m a big fan of rSO RHP Jesse Stallings, a hard thrower (88-94, 95 peak) with a deceptive delivery and a split-change he makes good use of.
It’s unclear what to make of JR RHP Alden Cartwright at this point. Reports on his stuff are pretty ordinary — upper-80s heat complemented with a nice upper-70s curve — and he’s not particularly big (6-0, 190), but his peripherals last season (13.05 K/9 and 1.80 BB/9) make him worth keeping in mind. rJR RHP Hunter Newman’s stuff is a tick better across the board — 88-92 FB with a 75-77 CB with plus upside — and his peripherals aren’t far off the mark (8.27 K/9). Judging by more conventional standards, such as ERA (an eye-popping 0.49 in 36.2 IP last year), makes him a clear cut relief arm to know. I’ll always have a soft sport for undersized (5-8, 180) SR LHP Hunter Devall, a quality arm from the left side who keeps getting batters out year after year.
JR RHP Riley Smith is the biggest wild card on the staff. His raw ability suggests he could be the highest drafted arm off of this staff in 2016, but there’s always some risk in projecting a college arm who hasn’t done it at this level that high. I’ve always preferred talent to experience, so count me very much in on Smith heading into his draft year.
JR OF Jake Fraley is an outstanding prospect. I may have actually underrated him despite ranking him twentieth overall in the college class back in October. Here’s what was written then…
In a class with potential superstars like Lewis, Reed, and Ray roaming outfields at the top, it would be easy to overlook Fraley, a tooled-up center fielder with lightning in his wrists, an unusually balanced swing, and the patient approach of a future leadoff hitter. Do so at your own discretion. Since I started the site in 2009 there’s been at least one LSU outfielder drafted every year. That includes five top-three round picks (Mitchell, Landry, Mahtook, Jones, and Stevenson) in seven classes. Outfielder U seems poised to keep the overall streak alive and make the top three round run a cool six out of eight in 2016.
That fact about the outfielders still blows my mind. Six out of eight years with a top three round outfielder is one heck of a run for any university. Anyway, peers ranked over Fraley this year (according to me back in October) included names like Lewis, Reed, Ray, Boldt, and Reynolds. Banks, Wrenn, Quinn, Abreu, Brooks, and Dawson came next. I think if I had to do it again today with a few more months of research and thought under my belt, I would have Fraley behind only Lewis, Reed, and Ray, and in as close to a tie as humanly possible with Reynolds. He’s really good. In what is surely an unfair thing to say based on the sheer awesomeness of this guy’s numbers last year, I can see some opportunity for a Benintendi-like breakout for Fraley in 2016.
“If he’s not a star for this team, I’m quitting the internet draft game” – January 6, 2015. I said that about SO 3B/2B Greg Deichmann last year and I stand by it today. His first year at LSU didn’t end in stardom and as an older sophomore he’s able to leave after this year, so this could be do-or-die time for my sterling reputation as a prospect soothsayer. Of course, if Deichmann leaves LSU after this year then that almost certainly would mean he had a huge season that positioned himself to be drafted high enough to make turning pro a smart decision. If not, then I’ll at least get another year to tout him as the great prospect that I think he is. Deichmann completely won me over as a hitter in the year or so before he enrolled at LSU. Loved the swing, hands, bat speed, everything. His red flag during his prep days was his age, but that’s no longer a concern as a draft-eligible sophomore playing in the SEC. The new worry — or the old worry, if you weren’t sold on Deichmann as a hitter as I once was — is his approach. If said approach can move from “swing at anything that moves” to something slightly more refined, then he’ll take off as a hitter. That’s what I’m banking on in 2016.
I have Deichmann listed a primary 3B who can also play 2B; I’ve leaned toward him playing the latter position professionally, but a lot of smart people have finally convinced me that his long-term home is at third. JR 2B Kramer Robertson should have little difficulty staying at his position, so now the question will be whether or not he hits enough to make it worthwhile. On the surface he hasn’t done much in limited time, but despite his struggles making contact — he’s hit an empty .200 and .232 in his first two college seasons — he’s held his own in other ways (26 BB/30 K career). It’s a small thing, sure, but I like to see a guy battle like that in at bats even when things aren’t going great. From a tools standpoint, he’s still plenty intriguing: Robertson is a decent runner with pop and loads of athleticism, a steady glove, and a presence at the dish that makes his results to date all the more confusing. If the light bulb comes on — and there’s no guarantee he’ll even get the chance to keep working through things considering the depth that surrounds him on this roster — then he’s very much a draftable talent.
JR OF Cody Ducote (bat), JR 2B Cole Freeman (glove), and JR C Jordan Romero (arm) all do certain things well enough to be major players of interest to me this spring. Among the many, many underclass prospects to follow this spring are guys like SO RHP Austin Bain and SO RHP Alex Lange. I’d call them both future stars, but I think they are already there. Looking forward to seeing what rFR LHP Jake Latz and all of the true freshmen (McKay, Gilbert, Lochridge, Dawson, Duplantis, Wofford) do in their debuts.
JR 2B/SS Alex Bregman (2015)
JR OF Andrew Stevenson (2015)
JR OF Mark Laird (2015)
JR C Chris Chinea (2015)
SR 1B Conner Hale (2015)
SR OF Jared Foster (2015)
SR C Kade Scivicque (2015)
SR OF Chris Sciambra (2015)
SR RHP Brady Domangue (2015)
SR RHP Zac Person (2015)
SR LHP Kyle Bouman (2015)
rSO RHP Hunter Newman (2015)
rSO RHP Russell Reynolds (2015)
JR LHP Hunter Devall (2015)
SO OF Jake Fraley (2016)
SO LHP Jared Poche (2016)
SO RHP Parker Bugg (2016)
SO 2B Danny Zardon (2016)
SO 2B Kramer Robertson (2016)
SO RHP Collin Strall (2016)
SO RHP Alden Cartwright (2016)
FR RHP Alex Lange (2017)
FR RHP Jake Godfrey (2017)
FR LHP Jake Latz (2017)
FR 2B/SS Greg Deichmann (2017)
FR C Mike Papierski (2017)
FR RHP Austin Bain (2017)
FR SS Grayson Byrd (2017)
FR RHP Doug Norman (2017)
FR OF Beau Jordan (2017)
FR C/1B Bryce Jordan (2017)
There seem to be a pair of highly defensive sides developing when it comes to making a definitive declaration about JR 2B/SS Alex Bregman’s eventual defensive home. One side — the college baseball writers — seem personally offended whenever the other side — the draft writers — suggest Bregman will have to play anything but shortstop as a professional. The whole disagreement speaks to the uneasy relationship so many — players, coaches, parents, fans — have with balancing enjoying the college game for what it is with understanding the different level of analysis needed to determine the likelihood a player’s tools will continue to grow into skills when bumped to the professional game. Part of the logic from the college baseball watching side makes sense to me — bat, ball, glove…baseball is baseball, so if you can play then you can play — but scouting strictly based on performance and outcomes is a very bad road to travel. In any given at bat, game, or season, sure, the outcome trumps all else. If you get the big hit, big run, or big win, then, in that defining moment, it only should matter that it happened, not how it happened. But when trying to make projections about an all too uncertain future, understanding why and how something happened is ultimately far more valuable. Sometimes a limited process can get you desirable outcomes, but eventually that’s going to catch up with you.
I’m not writing all this to say that Bregman’s current success at shortstop in college masks the physical limitations that scouts see when trying to project a big league future for him. That does seem to be the consensus view of those on the side who watch and follow college baseball solely to find the next generation of professional players, a group of which I’ve made no bones about being a part of. I, however, am not yet willing to go there because I honestly don’t yet know what to make of Bregman’s defense. The safe bet would be to write him off as a future shortstop and go forward thinking of him as a second baseman. Forced to guess, I’d say that’s his most likely outcome. That doesn’t mean I think it’s crazy to think he could start his career off at shortstop for a few cheap, cost-controlled seasons. Thank goodness we all have another season’s worth of games to evaluate him before making a “final” decision (note: this decision is in no way final and can and likely will be changed multiple times early on his pro career, if not on the actual field than certainly in the internal conversations had by the player development staff of whatever team selects him) on his future. Ultimately, I think his defensive future will come down to a fairly simple either/or: you can have a slightly below-average shortstop with the chance to play his way to average before his lack of foot speed necessitates a move back to second OR you can have an average to above-average second baseman with the chance to play his way to plus with continued work on developing the finer points (e.g., footwork around the bag on the turn, positioning with each hitter, improving the first step on a ball hit to either side of him) of the position.
Wherever he lands defensively, Bregman is going to hit. The ability to play one of the middle infield spots and hit while doing it is what makes him as close to a first round lock as there is in this college class. If that sounds like exceedingly simple analysis, well, that’s because it is. He has an easy to identify above-average or better hit tool, average to above-average speed that plays up due to his impressive feel for the game, average raw power with an emphasis on splitting the gaps, plenty of bat speed, and a consistently smart approach at the plate. There aren’t a lot of holes you can poke in his game from an offensive standpoint. One thing I’ve found particularly fascinating about Bregman as a prospect is the response you get when his name comes up within the game. I think I’ve heard more comps on Bregman than literally any player I can remember. Something about his game just evokes that “every man” feeling deep inside talent evaluators, I guess. Take a look at the list I currently have of comps I’ve personally heard for Bregman: Mike Lansing, Mark Ellis (BA has used this), Robby Thompson, Orlando Hudson, Tony Renda, Randy Velarde, Bill Mueller, Jose Vidro, Edgardo Alfonzo, Carlos Baerga, Ray Durham, Jhonny Peralta, and Mark DeRosa. There’s also the increasingly popular Dustin Pedroia comp, which makes sense on the surface but is a scary comparison for anybody due to the unique set of circumstances (or, more plainly, an obsessive/borderline maniacal drive to be great) that has led to Pedroia’s rise in the game. I’ve also heard the cautionary comp of Bobby Crosby, though I’m not sure I buy the two being all the similar at similar points in their respective development. A statistical look comparing Bregman and Crosby makes for an interesting conversation starter (if, you know, you’re friends with other obsessive college baseball/draft fans)…
AB: .344/.408/.504 – 51 BB/46 K – 28/35 SB – 526 AB
BC: .340/.417/.496 – 70 BB/103 K – 40/51 SB – 635 AB
Top is Bregman so far, bottom is Crosby’s career college numbers. It would have worked better if I had left out the BB/K ratios, but that would have been intellectually dishonest and I’m far too morally upstanding to stoop to statistical manipulation to make a point. I’d never dream of doing such a thing. Hey, look at this comparison…
AB: .369/.419/.546 – 25 BB/24 K – 17/18 SB – 282 AB
AH: .329/.391/.550 – 20 BB/20 K – 10/11 SB – 222 AB
The top is Bregman’s first year at LSU, the bottom is Aaron Hill’s first year at LSU. Notice how I didn’t say freshman year: Hill transferred from Southern Illinois to LSU after his freshman season. Since we’ve already gone down this dark and twisted road of statistical manipulation, let’s go even deeper…
AB: .316/.397/.455 – 27 BB/21 K – 12/18 SB – 244 AB
AH: .299/.375/.463 – 15 BB/27 K – 6/7 SB – 134 AB
Those would be Bregman and Hill’s “other” college season; more specifically, you’re looking at Hill’s freshman year at Southern Illinois and Bregman’s more recent season. I’m not sure what could be gained from comparing these two seasons, but, hey, look how similar! Jokes aside — though, seriously, those are some freaky similar numbers — I think the comparison between Alex Bregman and Aaron Hill is probably the most apt comp out there at this point. If the numbers don’t sway you, just check Hill’s playing card from his draft year at Baseball America…
In a draft thin on shortstops, Hill is one of the few with legitimate offensive potential. There are questions as to whether he can handle that position all the way up to the majors, but he’ll get the shot to prove he can’t. His instincts and gritty makeup get the most out of his tools–which aren’t lacking. He has enough arm to make plays from the hole, along with range and quickness. He’s not flashy but gets the job done. At worst, the Southeastern Conference player of the year will be an all-around second baseman. Offensively, he has a beautiful swing, above-average speed and control of the strike zone. He doesn’t have plus home-run power, but he can hit the occasional longball and line balls into the gaps.
I don’t normally post full sections like that, but come on! Replace Hill for Bregman and that’s pretty much spot-on! Well, the bit about this being a draft thin on shortstops might not work that well — if the 2015 draft is strong at any one position player group in the college game, it’s shortstop — but still. Interesting to me that this quick scouting report glossed over Hill’s offensive promise much in the same way I coincidentally (I swear!) did with Bregman above. It’s almost as if it was a foregone conclusion that Hill would hit enough to play somewhere, just like how many, myself included, view Bregman today. I like Bregman to hit a little bit more than Hill, run a little bit better than Hill, and field a little bit better than Hill. Otherwise, I think the comparison is pretty damn good.
JR OFs Andrew Stevenson and Mark Laird are both elite runners and defenders in center field. I prefer Laird by the tiniest of margins (little more patience), but both have skill sets that will keep them employed for years in the minors, perhaps even long enough to one day break through at the big league level as a fourth/fifth outfielder. Stevenson might actually be the better bet going forward, but it’ll take flipping his BB/K numbers around (25 BB/53 K career mark) to really take off as a prospect. It’s incredibly difficult to predict a sudden jump in plate discipline, but I think there are some interesting indicators in Stevenson’s approach that could help get him where he needs to be. SR OF Jared Foster might get squeezed out in this crowded outfield yet again — SO OF Jake Fraley (.372/.419/.521 in 121 freshman AB) needs time, too — but he’s a great athlete who can really run and throw. It’s hard to imagine a better defensive outfield in the country than Stevenson, Laird, and Foster. For as much as I believe Stevenson is on the verge of a breakout season, JR C Chris Chinea’s expected 2015 should rival whatever he winds up doing. Chinea is a strong, mobile defender behind the plate who has held his own as a hitter in limited at bats to date. If he gets steady time — the underrated SR C Kade Scivicque could stand in his way — then I could see his patient approach and big raw power leading to big things at the plate. SR 1B Conner Hale had a similar offensive season to Scivicque’s 2014 and if the two build on those performances, it would be a surprise to see them passed over as senior signs this June.
There’s no Aaron Nola in this year’s pitching class, but rather a collection of good but not great arms with varying degrees of pro upside. If healthy, rSO RHP Russell Reynolds (88-93 FB, chance for two average or better offspeed pitches) might be the best prospect. A case could also be made for another inexperienced pitcher, rSO RHP Hunter Newman. Newman’s fastball is in that same range, but he’s flashes a better breaking ball (mid-70s CB with plus upside) and brings a frame with more projection (6-3, 185 pounds) to the mound. SR LHP Kyle Bouman and RHPs Brady Domangue and Zac Person all live in the mid- to upper-80s with nice offspeed stuff. Person’s numbers jump out (9.32 K/9 and 3.86 BB/9 in 28 IP) over the rest, but all have at least a chance to be senior signs with big years.
With Bregman this year and guys like SO 2B Danny Zardon, SO 2B Kramer Robertson, FR 2B/SS Greg Deichmann (if he’s not a star for this team, I’m quitting the internet draft game), and FR SS Grayson Byrd all in the pipeline, LSU has a chance to be known as “Middle Infield U” in the coming years. They’d have the chance to continue in the tradition of Ryan Schmipf, DJ LeMahieu, Tyler Hanover, Raph Rhymes, Austin Nola, and Jacoby Jones as recent Tiger middle infield prospects (yes, I realize I’m cheating some by including Rhymes and Jones) turned professional ballplayers. And even though the talent on the mound this year won’t blow you away, LSU also always seems to have a steady stream of useful arms coming through the program. Look at some the underclass talent poised to take over in the next year or three: SO LHP Jared Poche, SO RHP Parker Bugg, SO RHP Alden Cartwright, FR RHPs Alex Lange and Jake Godfrey, and FR LHP Jake Latz. This team is loaded.
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.
JR RHP Anthony Ranaudo (2010) has been likened to fellow Tiger Ben McDonald, but, while the similarity works in a lot of ways (both highly touted 6-7 Bayou Bengals), the comparison is more about shiny new toy syndrome and short memories than anything substantial. Ben McDonald was a phenomenal prospect coming out of school in 1989. Anthony Ranaudo is a very good prospect here in 2010. Big difference, although hardly an automatic strike against Ranaudo’s prospect stock. I guess all of this is self-evident (Ranaudo isn’t McDonald, what a revelation!), but I’ll be honest here – this whole paragraph was nothing more than a front for showing off one of my favorite SI covers of all time.
Makes me laugh every time. Anyway, everybody saw Ranaudo when he was at his relative worst, when he was completely worn down and exhibiting diminished velocity during the College World Series. His heater was sitting only in the upper-80s and the sharpness on his 12-6 curveball, the secondary offering generally considered his finest, was noticeably absent. I caught Ranaudo for the first time during the middle of conference play last season and came away impressed. His fastball was 91-93 MPH consistently, hitting as high as 94 at its peak. Many outlets regard his curve as a superior pitch to his change, but Ranaudo’s 82-84 MPH sinking changeup impressed as much as his high-70s curve, a pitch that flattened out too often and stayed consistently up in the zone.
In fact, that’s one of my biggest concerns about Ranaudo going forward. When he misses, he misses up. the one thing I’d love to see first addressed with Ranaudo as a professional is his tendency to leave balls up. Darn near everything he threw, especially his fastballs and curves, were left up. Ranaudo is 6-7, 220 pounds and should be able to us e his frame to his advantage when attempting to generate a more favorable downward plane on his pitches. In fact, don’t be shocked to hear many of the experts assume that the big righty gets that great downward movement and the ensuing groundball outs that come with it. It’s a fine theory and one that will be correct more often than not, but in this instance it’s wrong. My quick 2009 GO/AO ratio using the publicly available data for Ranaudo is 0.71. That number would be best compared against all pitchers that make up the college ball landscape, but, alas, we’re stuck making an assumption of our own in lieu of spending far too much time and energy ginning up all that data. The assumption here is that 0.71, a number that more or less says Ranaudo induced 100 air outs for every 71 groundball out, makes the big LSU righty a pretty clear flyball pitcher.
All of the “non-skill” stuff with Ranaudo grades out as excellent. He gets high praise for his competitive makeup, he is an above-average athlete who prides himself on staying in tremendous baseball shape, and the LSU coaching staff has widely acknowledged his receptiveness to learning as much as possible about what it takes to be a big game pitcher. He had a healthy sophomore year, but it is still possible questions linger in the minds of clubs worried about the two missed months his freshman year due to tendinitis in his right elbow. Another season of healthy, dominant baseball in the SEC should solidify his spot in the top ten.
Bottom line on Ranaudo’s aresenal heading into the 2010 season:
- Fastball – good velocity, very good command, too straight at times
- Changeup – good velocity separation, good sink, underutilized
- Curveball – very good pitch when it is good, very hittable pitch when it isn’t, inconsistent velocity, shape, and command
JR OF Leon Landry (2010) had better be prepared for the onslaught of Jared Mitchell comps sure to be thrown his way this spring. The comparisons between the two football playing outfielders work in some ways (both players have plus speed and are ridiculous athletes, but each guy had a below-average arm), but fall apart in other areas, most notably in the power department. Landry has already shown as much present power through two seasons of collegiate development as Mitchell did through three. A more interesting crop of first round caliber talents in 2010 may push Landry’s draft position down past where Mitchell went in 2009 (23rd overall), but I’m willing to go on the record and say that his forthcoming monster junior season will catapult his overall prospect stock past his former two sport teammate’s. He’s a potential plus defender in center with good range but a below-average arm for the position.
JR OF Chad Jones (2010) is a problem for me. It is very easy for me to get in the habit of being too darn positive about these prospects because it is more fun to think about upside and ceilings and perfect world projections while ignoring the nasty reality that so many little things can go wrong to torpedo any given player’s prospect stock between now and June. I try my best to be mean, to find red flags about players I know I’m overrating based on upside. Chad Jones probably should be one of those red flag players because, logically at least, there has to be at least a couple tools duds sprinkled into this star packed LSU outfield. Mahtook, Landry, Watkins, Dishon, Dean, and Jones all can’t be serious big league prospects, can they? Watkins is the speed guy, Dean is the well-rounded senior masher, but Mahtook, Landry, Dishon, and Jones are all big-time projection guys cut from the same ultra-toolsy cloth. Of those four, Jones is probably the best athlete. To take it a step further, Jones may actually be the most unbelievable athlete of the entire 2010 college class. He has great size, speed, and strength with a definite plus arm and above-average power potential. I put him in the same class as Jake Locker last year, for better or worse. Each player has enormous untapped potential on the diamond (for better!) which, unfortunately for baseball fans, may forever go untapped due to the presence of football (for worse…). There are so many questions surrounding Jones heading into his baseball season that is quite difficult to even place a draft value on him. Does he even play baseball this year for LSU? If so, will he actually attempt to play while simultaneously prepping for the NFL Draft Combine and pre-draft workouts? If he sticks with baseball, is his future brighter in the field or on the mound? Does he put it all off and stick another year out at LSU just to make us ask all of these questions again a year from now? The word is that his first love is baseball, but there are undeniable advantages in taking a top three round NFL signing bonus while keeping the possibility of baseball in your back pocket just in case. It should be fun following Jones whichever path he chooses…assuming he makes the right choice and chooses baseball, of course. That’s a joke…mostly.
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.
JR RHP Austin Ross (2010) is the prototypical four-seamer/sinker/slider guy. He occasionally expands upon the repertoire by branching out with a show-me change, but otherwise remains true to his sinking 90-92 fastball and solid slider with plus potential. He has excellent command of all of his pitches, most notably the four-seamer and the sinker. In addition to solid present value stuff, Ross has excellent mechanics and room to grow on his lanky 6-2, 190 pound frame. I group college pitching prospects into a couple of different categories. Ross will likely go in with the rest of the “potential back of the rotation arms” because he has the makings of at least three big league average or better pitches.
SO OF Johnny Dishon (2010) is yet another legit well-rounded five-tool talent. He has above-average speed, a plus arm, plays a good enough centerfield (though he fits best in right professionally), and has a really promising hit tool. After redshirting last season, he finds himself draft-eligible in 2010, but, and I’m sure a pretty clear theme is developing here, he has plenty to prove this upcoming season. Dishon heads into the season as LSU’s fourth outfielder, a testament to this team’s crazy outfield depth. At this point I consider Dishon to be one of the most underrated prospects in college baseball. He still swings and misses too often, but his base running is top notch and the pop in his bat could grow into real power with more reps.
SR 1B/OF Blake Dean (2010) is being counted on to start the season as LSU’s primary first baseman even after getting beat up on the operating table (torn labrum and appendectomy) this past offseason. Reports on his defense at first have been extremely positive so far. I liked Dean as a prospect a lot last year, but with every extra year (and every subsequent injury) spent not developing his craft professionally it gets harder and harder to envision Dean ever holding down a starting job in the bigs. His good but not great future with the bat makes me wonder if his overall package is going to be able to carry him at a defensive position like first base that demands more than just a good bat. Getting back into the outfield at some point this season (even if only doing so pre-game for scouts on hand) would be a very, very good thing for Dean’s prospect stock. As is, he represents value as a potential money saving senior sign option (with upside, no less) between rounds five and ten.
JR RHP Daniel Bradshaw (2010) is probably the better comp to Louis Coleman on the roster, but with stuff that grades out lower across the board. Bradshaw sits 86-90 with the fastball and throws a couple of average at best offspeed pitches (curveball and changeup). His lack of dominating, or even above-average, stuff dim the shine of his pro prospects, but he’ll at least have the benefit of spending two more years at a hugely respected college program to build up his draft resume. As a senior sign in 2011, he could get a real look, but I don’t see him getting picked high enough in 2010 to leave school early. Then again, he could also put together a fine season as LSU’s Saturday starter in 2010 and have us all reconsidering his future come June.
SR OF/1B Matt Gaudet (2010) is a player that finally helps answer the question what would a baseball player with severe sfairesphobia look like out in the field. In other, non-bastardized Greek words, Gaudet is a bit of a butcher defensively. His raw power is impressive, but he has a lot to prove after sitting out the 2009 season and, unfortunately for him, not a lot of time to do it. He is currently slated to be LSU’s righthanded hitting half of their designated hitter platoon.
JR 1B Kyle Koeneman (2010) has been both a highly decorated prospect coming out of high school (2007) and a well regarded junior college power hitter (2008-2009) who was very surprisingly bypassed in all three of his draft years. He has massive playable power and is capable of playing the outfield corners if needed. At bats will be hard to come by for Koeneman, but it’ll be interesting to see how he adapts to a bench role as that will almost certainly be his role if he can hack it in pro ball.
JR RHP Ben Alsup (2010) is in line to fill the all-important role of swingman of this year’s LSU staff. His low-90s fastball, above-average athleticism, and projectable 6-3, 160 pound frame all remind me of another pitcher formerly in the program that often saved the bullpen with multiple inning outings, Louis Coleman.
JR C Edmond Sparks (2010) has a plus arm and is solid behind the plate, but right now his bat still lags behind his defense. His track record in junior college shows a player slowly beginning to tap into his gap power potential, but he still needs to show something on the big college baseball stage. He didn’t get nearly as many at bats in 2009 at Chipola as he did in 2008 (not sure why), but he figures to get some actual time as Gibbs’ backup in 2010.
JR SS Mike Lowery (2010) is out for the year as he recovers from back surgery.
SO OF Mikie Mahtook (2011) projects to do just about everything well at the big league level. His tools all grade out as above-average or better, but the gap between where some of his skills currently are and where they ultimately need to be is substantial. Mahtook has made steady progress narrowing that gap since enrolling at LSU, but his performance this spring will be heavily scrutinized by scouts expecting big things out of the potential 2011 first rounder. Mahtook is a plus athlete with above-average raw power, above-average speed, a strong arm, and the potential to play an above-average centerfield as a professional.
SO OF Trey Watkins (2011) can run like the dickens. That’s fast. You know it’s fast because it prompted me to say something like he can run like the dickens. That’s not a phrase I’m willing to use publicly unless it was oh so true. Watkins’s plus-plus running ability allows him to cover huge chunks of ground in the field. His compact 5-8, 190 pound frame is very well proportioned with those explosive fast twitch muscles that make the eyes of scouts widen. I know this is a cop-out, but Watkins is a player you really need to watch play to understand. His upside could be Bobby Abreu with more speed and less home run power. JR OF Tyler Holt (2010) of Florida State is the best current prospect comp (although Holt strikes out a lot more) I can come up with; Holt is draft-eligible this year, so it’ll be interesting to see if his draft standing works as a litmus test to Watkins’s 2011 draft stock.
SO RHP Shane Riedie (2011) is on tap to be LSU’s early mid-week starter this season. He’s a really big kid (6-5, 240) that was worked really hard in high school, but has serious potential as a hard throwing innings eater type if it all comes together. Riedie’s fastball currently sits in the high-80s, but he can dial it up to the low-90s (I’ve seen him at 94) on occasion. That velocity should jump with time, perhaps as soon as this upcoming season. There are already reports from the summer saying he was sitting more comfortably in the low-90s, a fantastic sign for his development. The increased emphasis on high level conditioning, refinement in his mechanics (seems like he has a bit of a hitch in his delivery and it looks like he drags his throwing arm across his body more than most scouts like, plus his lower leg kick isn’t as high as I personally like to see) and more professional LSU throwing program (compared to what he did in high school) should continue to do wonders for his arm. Riedie’s best pitch is currently that high upside fastball, but his curve is already a solid second offering. His changeup is a work in progress, but the fact he has shown it in game situations (largely over the summer) is a good sign for its development. Riedie isn’t Anthony Ranaudo, but he isn’t so far off that the comparison is totally crazy.
SO RHP Matty Ott (2011) is exactly the kind of player that makes following the sport fun. He somehow pulls off always appearing both fiery and cool while on the mound, he gets big time results (69 K to 6 BB in 50.1 IP ) through unconventional means (his funky low ¾ delivery is only a hair or two from dropping officially down to sidearm), and he is by all accounts a wonderful example of what a student-athlete ought to be. His hard, sinking high-80s fastball works really well in concert with a high-70s big league ready slider that makes life miserable for both lefties and righties alike. Ott’s prospect stock is in limbo because he doesn’t fit any kind of traditional baseball archetype. He hasn’t currently shown the stuff needed to start (although I’ll happily go on record in saying I think he’d blossom if given the opportunity to refine a third pitch), and he doesn’t have the knockout fastball that so many teams require out of their late inning aces. Maybe it is a personal blind spot of mine, but, archetypes be damned, I like players like Ott that get just get guys out. He has two big league pitches at present (fastball is a little short, but the movement bumps it up a grade) and has time to polish up a third offering. He won’t be a first rounder, heck he may not even be a candidate to go in the top 150 or so picks, but he could wind up his college career as a high floor, close to the majors kind of prospect. If you read this thing regularly you know I value upside and star potential very highly, but in a world that Brandon Lyon can get a $15 million contract, you’d better believe there is value in locking in a player like Ott for six cost-controlled big league years.
RS FR 3B Wet Delatte (2011) is…wait…his name is Wet? I mean, sure, his real name is William, but he willingly goes by the name Wet. I have a pretty simple rule on this site: any player named Wet moves up 50 spots on the big board automatically. Wet is already a decent defender at third and a gifted natural hitter. He’ll get his chance as LSU’s staring third baseman heading into the spring.
SO 2B Tyler Hanover (2011) is actually a very similar player to his double play partner Austin Nola. Hanover has more pop than his 5-6, 163 pound frame suggests, but like Nola, he is a very good defender at his position. He is also capable of playing third base and is expected to be first in line at shortstop if anything happens to Nola. The natural comparison is to fellow tiny infielder David Eckstein, but the numbers don’t back it up. As of now, Hanover is a fairly unique player who could see his career go in any number of ways before his draft year comes up.
RS FR INF Beau Didier (2011) was drafted in the 40th round in 2008. Pittsburgh sure seems to have a thing for high school recruits committed to LSU, huh? Didier is the one who got away from the Pirates back in 2008, a loss that could sting over time. Didier has above-average power potential, but his recovery from Tommy John surgery has pushed the timetable back on the development of many of his skills. As a prep player Didier was known for having a laser rocket arm. It’ll be interesting to see if his recovery from the surgery was successful enough to allow him to throw like he once did. He is slated to start 2010 as one half of LSU’s designated hitter platoon, but is also capable of playing third and second. There are also quiet rumblings that many on staff think he would work best behind the plate. I think I’d like to see that as it would be a hoot to see LSU attempt to be the first team to attempt to field the first ever all catcher starting eight. I’m personally very curious to see how Didier responds defensively at the hot corner because people I’ve talked to have me believing he has enough range and good enough hands to stick at shortstop if given the chance. Didier isn’t draft eligible until 2011, but anytime a player has a family member with a scouting background its fun to begin to try to connect the dots. Those familial ties bind him to the Texas Rangers, so store that player to team link in your brain and we can revisit it about two years from now.
SO SS Austin Nola (2011) gained notoriety during LSU’s championship run last season as a damn fine defender with an above-average arm. He showed just barely enough with the bat (.240/.350/.364 as a freshman in the SEC isn’t awful) to make him an interesting all-around prospect to watch going forward, rather than just another all glove, small bat player. Even if he doesn’t progress at the plate, he could still have himself a pro career. As the market for good defense continues to grow, players like Nola will likely see their draft stock get a boost. I also can’t be the only one who likes having a player on the premier baseball university in Louisiana with the last name “Nola,” right? I know LSU is in Baton Rouge and not New Orleans, but it still feels right.
SO INF Grant Dozar (2011) impressed those who saw him practice with the team last season, but didn’t get enough at bats in 2009 to make any conclusions about what kind of player he’ll be on the college level. As of now, he is expected to see time at both first and third. If he can earn some playing time behind the plate, as some have speculated he might, the added versatility would give this under the radar prospect a chance to get a little recognition.
FR LHP Forrest Garrett (2012) was written up as a late round 2009 draft sleeper back in June, something I had forgotten all about until doing some of my very scientific research (Google) on Garrett. I won’t quote myself, but I will sum up my thoughts on Garrett here: gigantic sleeper with early round potential in 2012 because of great physical projection, high-80s to low-90s fastball with room to grow, present above-above changeup that should be plus pitch in time, above-average potential with curve, and solid command already.
FR C Wes Luquette (2012) put up titanic numbers as a prep quarterback for the Manning brothers’ alma mater Newman HS in New Orleans, but comes to LSU as a backup catcher with the inside track on succeeding Micah Gibbs. His strong commitment to LSU coupled with pesky reconstructive elbow surgery back in February dropped him to the Pirates in the 27th round in 2009, but he could see his stock shoot way up by 2012, especially if he establishes himself as worthy of a starting spot by 2011. It’ll be an uphill climb for Luquette due to the ever-increasing likelihood of him sitting out the season to recovery from Tommy John surgery, but he is still in good shape of becoming a two year starter at LSU.
FR C/INF/OF Mason Katz (2012) has some serious thunder in his bat for a smaller player. I’ve heard the coaches are excited about his ability to play multiple spots around the diamond, a big plus for a college team short on scholarships. However, I’ve also been told that his best position may eventually be “batter’s box.” I can’t honestly say whether that’s high praise for what his bat may become or an indictment of his handiwork with the leather.
I’m not well informed enough to make a controversial stance and say that the following universities have the “best” rosters (with regard to potential pro talent, not necessarily winning college talent), so I’ll totally wimp out and, for now anyway, call these rosters some of the most intriguing that I’ve seen so far. I’ve stuck to the big name conferences, but I’ll expand this list to some of the little guys as the offseason rolls along.
ACC – Virginia
Big East – South Florida
SEC – LSU/Georgia/Vanderbilt (even when being spineless, I can’t pick a favorite…)
Big 12 – Texas
Pac-10 – Oregon State
Big West – UC Riverside
West Coast – Gonzaga
Conference USA – Rice
Mountain West – Texas Christian
Not sure what direction to take now that I’m finally staring at almost four months without “meaningful” baseball. Right now the plan is to go back and respond to any comments I’ve missed over the past few weeks, continue plugging away with college/high school draft scouting reports, and sharing out any interesting tidbits that I happen to run across – probably doing that last bit on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule. I’m open to providing just about any kind of content (college team profiles, closer look at high school player groups, top ten positional rankings, whatever), so if there is anything in particular that anybody wants to see, drop me a comment or an email. It’s a loooooooooong offseason and this normally a pretty dead period for any kind of draft news, but reading and writing about faraway prospects may help the next couple of frigid months go a little quicker. For now, here are a couple notes about some interesting college teams and players to watch heading into 2010.
The Huskies feature one of the nation’s most intriguing pair of two-way talents in SO RHP/SS Nick Ahmed (2011) and SO RHP/3B Kevin Vance (2011). Ahmed turned some serious heads in summer league play with a fastball sitting in the low-90s, a low-70s curve with promise, and a presently league average change. Ahmed may have been the hotter name over the summer, but Vance’s stuff is currently a touch better. He has similar velocity to Ahmed (normally sitting 90-92 with the FB), but a better overall breaking ball and plus command give him the overall edge. Both players figure to see plenty of time on the mound in 2010, though neither should be limited to just pitching. Ahmed and Vance will each fight for time on the left side of the infield, an area that Connecticut has well covered between the two two-way guys and returning star Mike Olt. If Ahmed locks down either the 3B or SS spot on a semi-regular basis (with Olt manning the other spot), don’t be surprised to see Vance get a shot working behind the plate.
The defending champs bring back an absolutely loaded squad. There are some questions on the pitching side that will need to be sorted out, but the Tigers outfield depth is just silly. SO OF Mike Mahtook (2011), JR OF Leon Landry (2010), and SO Johnny Dishon (2011) would have been my guesses as the starting outfielders heading into the spring, but the return of SR OF Blake Dean (2010) and the arrival of SO OF Trey Watkins (2011) give LSU five legit pro prospects in the outfield. Mahtook is a definite five-tool talent who just looks like a future first rounder, Landry will draw plenty of Jared Mitchell comps due to his football playing background and impressive raw physical tools, and Dishon profiles similarly to Mahtook but may be just a little bit short in each tool category when directly compared to his outfield mate. Dean is slowly rounding back into baseball shape after a run of bad luck offseason medical work. Meanwhile, all early buzz on Trey Watkins has been nothing but positive. Reports of his plus-plus speed have not been exaggerated as Watkins really is a joy to watch run, especially when he is doing the running after having driven a ball into the gap for a triple.
The folks in Lawrence figure to be pretty occupied by a different kind of bball through early April, but the left side of the Jayhawks infield deserves an early mention before getting buried in the avalanche that is KU basketball. JR 3B Tony Thompson (2010) has special potential with the bat and a cannon for an arm at third. His 6-5, 220 pound frame, power potential, and questionable future at third base (even with the big arm he may have to slide across the diamond as a pro) garner late career Troy Glaus comps. The man to his left will be JR SS Brandon Macias (2010), another Kansas infielder with plus arm strength. Macias has very good defensive tools that should play up with as he gains experience playing at the highest level of collegiate ball. He has enough pop in his bat to go along with above-average speed to make him an interesting five-tool player to watch this spring.
Let’s kick things off with one of the finest moves a second rate website like this can make – the shameless traffic grab, of course. Hundreds of years of research shows that there is no better way to wake up Google than plastering up a picture of a popular, pretty girl. Erin Andrews is doing the sideline reporting for ESPN, so this isn’t quite as gratuitous as it could be…but, yeah, it’s still undeniably transparent.
Heat Index – 107 degrees
I like LSU to sweep, by the way.
LSU Lineup: LeMahieu, Schimpf, Dean, Gibbs, Mahtook, Mitchell, Ochinko, Helenihi, Nola
LeMahieu, Schimpf, Dean, Mitchell, and Ochinko were all drafted in the 2009 MLB Draft.
Texas starter tonight is RHP Chance Ruffin. Fastball has been in the low-90s so far. Best secondary offering has probably been the backup high-70s slider.
Ryan Schimpf (Blue Jays draftee, round 5) blasted a high, straight fastball deep to right to get the Tigers on the board
Texas Lineup: Torres, Tucker, Belt, Moldenhauer, Rupp, Keyes, Loy, Clark, Rowe
Mikie Mahtook is white. I don’t know why that surprises me, but it does. It really does. I’m not proud of this fact.
Still can’t get over that Cameron Rupp homer that tied the game against Arizona State on Friday. I haven’t heard the measured distance on it yet, but it was an absolute rocket to dead center. Had to have been over 430 feet.
Louis Coleman (5th rounder by Kansas City) has only thrown fastballs so far (as far as I can tell). I don’t have all of his readings, but the ones I’ve caught are: 92, 88, 85, 89, 90, 88, 91, 88, 89. No sooner do I type that does he end the inning with a strikeout on a 79 MPH offspeed pitch.
Sampling of Ruffin’s work so far:
FB: 92, 92, 87, 93, 87, 91, 85, 91, 90, 91, 92, 86
SL: 78, 79, 77, 79, 79, 81, 80, 82
CU: 72, 74, 76, 76
I could be wrong about those changeups…I miss having a DVR.
You know who Coleman reminds me of? Mechanically, anyway. His delivery reminds me a lot of Alex White’s low arm slot. Still looks like a future reliever, but worth trying as a starter so long as the results are there.
I legitimately forgot I wrote about Preston Clark earlier in the year. I knew I liked him, but I couldn’t remember if I thought about writing about him or if I actually followed through (a rare occurance, I know). Anyway, here’s what I wrote:
Preston Clark is one of the most talented players on the list and his incremental production from year to year at Texas is a nice sign going forward. He’ll never hit for a high average, but his plate discipline (29 BB in 179 AB last season) is good and he has just enough juice in his bat to keep pitchers honest. His health is a major question mark, but a spring that sees Clark in the lineup (and behind the plate) on a consistent basis should solidify him as prospect with a better than average shot of someday developing into a strong big league backup backstop. Even if he doesn’t catch all that often — sophomore Cameron Rupp is in line to get plenty of reps behind the dish as well — Clark’s defensive versatility (he’s capable of playing third and the outfield, in addition to catching) is an added bonus to his game.
I was wrong.
I really like Robin Ventura. He has two things that really work to his advantage from where I’m sitting – a) he’s quiet, and b) he has a sneaky sense of humor. I like Orel Hershiser just fine, but the way Ventura needles him is very amusing to me.
I didn’t really know about the LSU open stance thing before tonight. Quirks like that are one of the reasons I think college baseball is so much fun to follow – different programs preaching different things. From certain teams pushing certain pitches to the LSU open stance thing (I need a more clever name for it, but I’ve got nothing) to the infamous “Stanford swing,” college baseball is loaded with character if you just know where to look.
Who had odds on Travis Tucker hitting a homerun tonight? Travis Tucker’s mom, maybe, but that has to be about it. Baseball = funny game. Here’s what I said about Tucker earlier:
not a prospect worth going on about. He had a decent junior year (good on-base skills, tiny bit of pop, above-average baserunner), but his inability to play shortstop well will keep him as an organizational type at best.
Now Russell Moldenhauer, that homerun makes a little more sense. Well, it makes sense when you watch him hit. If you only saw his 2009 numbers, it’s an even bigger shock than Tucker’s. Moldenhauer came to Omaha with a whopping zero homeruns to his credit on the season. I’m a relatively big Moldenhauer fan, if such a thing outside of Texas exists:
Moldenhauer may yet rediscover the stroke that made him a third round pick once upon a time, but he is going to have to do so in a hurry if he wants to make it as a pro.
I forgot to mention Kevin Keyes’s homer in the fourth. Now there’s a homerun that can’t really be classified as a surprise. Keyes has first round potential heading into 2010, but has been more projection than production as a collegiate player so far. He’s a very different player than Jared Mitchell (power is his game, not speed) and he doesn’t have football as a reason for stalled development like LSU’s 2009 first rounder, but I think he is in a similar spot at respective points in their development.
Ruffin is cruising through five. His command is starting to waver a tiny bit, but his mechanics have stayed surprisingly consistent despite the conditions. I’m way more impressed with him than I thought I’d be coming in.
Connor Rowe is a lot of fun to watch in centerfield. Not so much fun at the plate right now, however.
Can Mikie Mahtook hit a breaking ball? Or take an accurate route to a flyball? His potential is vast, but there is no denying that you are watching a freshman, and a raw one at that, when you watch him play.
Jared Mitchell, what can you really say? Usain Bolt is probably faster than him, but that may be the extent of the list.
Only players with last names beginning with “M” matter, apparently. Mahtook, Mitchell, and now Moldenhauer. Russ Moldenhauer with two homers tonight. Both hits were “no doubt about it” homeruns that came on gorgeous swings. He’s now a guy to put on the early watch list for 2010 senior signs.
Laptop is dying, time to call it an early evening. Great game so far, should be fun to see how these last three innings play out…
How are things? Just swell, I trust. Alright, enough about you. Let’s talk about me. Here’s what I’ve been up to when not traveling too far to go to rained out rookie league games…
First, I updated the signings page. I did it quickly — really, can you blame me? It’s important info, no doubt, but boring to write/talk about, I think — so feel free to jump in and offer any corrections or changes you see fit. I’m making up the slot/above slot/under slot distinctions as I go because, quite truthfully, I’m not really sure how I stand on the issue of MLB’s suggestion that bonuses be reduced by 10% across the board. I mean, it wasn’t a formal request, right? I know for a fact that some teams just laughed it off, so can we really claim that it’s the new standard for this year’s “slot” bonuses?
I can’t decide on what standard I should follow, and, like I alluded to earlier, I find the whole slot/above slot/under slot aspect of the draft to be the most tiring draft quirk to follow. What I’m trying to say is, I won’t lose too much sleep if I’m off on some of my big bold colored claims I’ve been making. If a correction needs to be made, call me out on it and I’ll happily oblige.
I’ve also spent time contemplating on which of the immediate post-2009 draft projects (team grades, round-by-round discussion, or a 2010 mock) I want to get to first. Decisions, decisions.
Lastly, I made the executive decision to sit on the couch and watch baseball tonight. There’s a pretty important college game going on, so I’m going to use the occasion as an excuse to watch entertaining baseball under the guise of doing the “work” of updating this too long dormant site of mine (I hate going a day without something up here, let alone almost a week). Check back later tonight for live updates and draft-related commentary about Game 1 of the College World Series.