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Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Miami in 2016
18 – Braxton Garrett
184 – Thomas Jones
377 – Chad Smith
466 – Jarett Rindfleisch
471 – Sean Reynolds
479 – Eric Gutierrez
1.7 – LHP Braxton Garrett
Time will tell, of course, but the Miami 2016 MLB Draft class looks really thin on paper. Thankfully for fans of the Marlins, the MLB Draft — all drafts, really — can be analyzed until we’re blue in the face, but, more often than not, can ultimately be assessed as no more than a simple first pick pass/fail. If you hit on your first pick, then you’ve passed almost regardless of what transpires later. From this vantage point, it sure as heck looks like the Marlins have hit on their first round pick. Braxton Garrett (18) is a serious talent with true top of the rotation upside. He’s exactly the kind of high impact prospect that can make a draft. Garrett doesn’t have the velocity (87-92, 94 peak) that blows hitters away (yet), but he more than makes up for it with some of the best command you’ll find out of a teenage arm anywhere in the world. Garrett also have above-average control, tons of pitchability, and a pair of stellar offspeed pitches that include a legit plus curveball best in the low-80s and a mid-80s changeup that is already an average pitch with above-average to plus upside. There’s a reason ESPN compared the guy to both Jon Lester and Cole Hamels this past spring. Two additional names that I’ve heard include Rich Hill and Steven Matz. That’s a heck of a list of comps, something that ought to come as no surprise as Garrett is a heck of a prospect.
3.84 – OF Thomas Jones
After getting a deal done with Vanderbilt commit Braxton Garrett in the first round, Miami ensured they’d stay off Tim Corbin’s Christmas card list by by signing Thomas Jones (184) away from the Commodores in round three. Vandy’s loss is the Marlins gain as Jones checks just about every box you’d want to see in a young outfield prospect. He can run (above-average), throw (above-average), and hit for power (plus raw). Like any teenage position player there’s a big gap between what he is and what he could be, but favorable comps ranging from Devon White (Perfect Game), 39th overall pick Anfernee Grier (my own), and Carlos Gomez (heard this from a pro guy over the summer) are certainly intriguing.
4.113 – OF Sean Reynolds
The good news here is that my pre-draft positional designation of RHP/1B for Sean Reynolds undersold his athleticism and arm strength. Despite being a big guy (6-7, 200), he’s good enough in the outfield to project as a solid right fielder going forward. Reynolds is also still just a teenager (19 in April) who is only now focusing on hitting full-time for the first time in his life. He also has a quality fastball (85-90, 92 peak) and that aforementioned size to fall back on as a pitcher if hitting doesn’t work out in the long run. That leads us to the bad news. In his debut, Reynolds hit .155/.262/.196 with 37.0 K% and 12.7 BB% in 173 PA. That’s not the end of the world, but it does highlight some of the red flags I had heard pre-draft about Reynolds as a hitter, mainly the standard long-levers leading to big holes in his swing theory and general power over hit worries.
5.143 – RHP Sam Perez
On Sam Perez from March 2016…
Sam Perez could work as a sinker/slider reliever, but I’m more intrigued at the thought of him as a potential four-pitch starting pitcher capable of piling up outs on the ground.
Perez wound up being one of the rare college sinker/slider types (88-92 two-seam with plus sink/average or better slider) who didn’t produce expected results (45.16 GB% in his debut) after signing. Somewhat curious for a pitcher with “lots of ground balls” in his scouting notes. Still, Perez is a really capable pitcher who is clever on the mound when it comes to mixing that fastball, slider, average low-80s changeup, and average upper-70s curve. He’s a decent bet as a fifth starter type with some swingman upside out of the pen.
6.173 – RHP Remey Reed
The Marlins are known for loving their Oklahoma and Texas prospects, so taking the plunge with Remey Reed in round six is something that makes all the sense in the world. His fastball can get up to 94 MPH and he’ll throw an average or better changeup. That and the possibility of a better breaking ball coming together — he’s thrown both a slider and curve in the past — plus imposing size (6-5, 225), a big junior year as a Cowboy (11.22 K/9), and a name perfectly suited for middle relief all add to the appeal. Though I realize I’m starting to sound like a broken record, this one feels a bit early to me.
7.203 – OF Corey Bird
Fairly straightforward package here with Corey Bird: above-average to plus speed that plays up, elite center field defense, solid contact skills, patient approach, and literally no power. I won’t say that last part completely invalidates all the good that came before it, but…well, it kind of does. I appreciate what Bird does well and can see him carving out a big league role for himself if literally everything goes right in his development, but what’s his realistic upside? Fifth outfielder?
8.233 – OF Aaron Knapp
On Aaron Knapp from April 2016…
Aaron Knapp fascinates me as an athlete with easy center field range and impact speed, but with such little power that the profile might wind up shorting before he even gets a real chance in pro ball.
Remember what we said about Corey Bird one round earlier? It all applies to Aaron Knapp, too. Love the athleticism, speed, and range, but can’t see a guy with such little pop making serious noise in the pros. Knapp might be a good enough natural hitter to adjust somewhat, but it’s a long shot proposition. Marlins could have some fun backup outfielders soon, though. At least there’s that.
9.263 – C Jarett Rindfleisch
All Jarett Rindfleisch (466) did for three years at Ball State was hit. I like guys like that. He’s a capable defender behind the dish with a strong arm and the athleticism to stick. Likely a backup catcher ceiling, but could be a good one.
10.293 – LHP Dylan Lee
Dylan Lee is a more than acceptable senior-sign in the tenth round. Big lefties with velocity (88-93 FB) will always have a place in pro ball. Again, I’m not sure you’re getting anything more than a bullpen arm (sub in bench piece for the hitters), but that’s better than nothing. If you’re picking up on the fact I just don’t like this draft at all and I’m trying to be as nice as I can about it, you’re on to something.
11.323 – RHP Chad Smith
A draft pick spent on Chad Smith (377) is one made entirely with upside in mind. What Smith is — a one-pitch reliever with control woes — is nowhere near what he could be. The finished product could be a starting pitcher with three quality pitches and decent enough command to make it all work. The big selling point for Smith is his fastball, an explosive 90-95 MPH (97 peak) pitch that hitters can know is coming and still swing through. That pitch alone could get him to the high-minors. Certainly Smith and the Marlins have larger aspirations than that, and it’ll take improving his two present below-average offspeed pitches — an appealing yet inconsistent low-80s breaking ball that presently flashes both plus and minus in seemingly equal turns and a changeup that’s just sort of there — to get there. The gap between now and then is larger for Smith than most prospects coming out of a major college program like Ole Miss, but as far as lumps of clay go he’s a really interesting one to work with.
12.353 – RHP Mike King
Whenever I have something I think is interesting from the past to bring up when discussing a player’s future, I do so. Even when I’m saying dumb stuff like this excerpt from my Boston College preview back in December 2015…
For as much as I personally like [Justin] Dunn, others have JR RHP Mike King as Boston College’s top prospect (pitching or otherwise) heading into 2016. Frankly, it’s hard to argue. I mean, I had planned to do just that in this very space, but have mentally backtracked before I even got the chance to start. King has a solid heater (88-92, 93 peak), above-average low-80s changeup, and outstanding overall command. If one of his two breaking pitches sharpens up, then he’s a threat to crash the top five rounds just like Dunn. If you’re keeping score, I’d give the advantages of command, control, frame, and track record to King. It also shouldn’t be discounted that his name sounds like “viking” when said quickly. Dunn gets the edge in fastball velocity, all-around bat-missing stuff (this is double-counting his fastball some, but I’d say his slider is more of a strikeout pitch than King’s change, even while acknowledging that they are both more or less equally effective pitches) and athleticism. I’ll stick with the claim that both have top five round upside, but hedge some and say it’s more likely they wind up in the six to ten round range, where they’d be potential steals. Bonus prediction: Dunn gets drafted higher this June, but King winds up the (slightly) better long-term professional player.
I’m going to slowly walk away from that “(slightly) better long-term professional player” remark if it’s all the same to you. King might not have had the junior year bump — both in stuff and performance — as Dunn, but he’s still a solid get in the twelfth round. All of the things that made King a potential single-digit round prospect one year ago hold true today. He’s got pinpoint command, a quality sinker, and a fine assortment of offspeed pitches (79-83 CU, 80-85 cut-SL, 72-76 CB) that he can go to in any count. His best bet to make it at this point might be by embracing the sinker/slider/command aspects of his game in relief, though I still hold out a tiny sliver of hope that his well-rounded game could play as a starter.
14.418 – RHP Michael Mertz
I don’t like saying stuff like this because there’s an implication associated with it that I don’t care for (e.g., deficiencies in makeup, intelligence, work ethic), but Michael Mertz feels like one of those players who should be better than he is. It sounds like a bad thing — and, on balance, I suppose it is — but it’s actually a compliment to Mertz as a player. He’s really talented. He could see it all come together one day. It just hasn’t happened just yet.
The talent with Mertz begins with his outstanding mid-70s changeup, one of the best of its kind in this class. He also throws a really good 78-83 slider that can flash plus and a decent fastball at 88-92 (94 peak). What hurts him most is an inability to consistently command his breaking ball and an overall lack of control. If pro instruction can tighten up those two problem spots even a little, then the Marlins might have something with Mertz.
15.443 – SS James Nelson
James Nelson is a fascinating prospect that flew very much under my radar prior to the draft. Off the top, his given name of James is what he’s listed at just about everywhere, but he prefers to go by Ryan, his middle name. So Ryan Nelson it is. Ryan Nelson hit .434/.468/.796 with 14 BB/43 K in his freshman season at Cisco College. That’s really impressive even with the BB/K red flag staring us in the face. Of course, as we always try to remember, context matters: the Cisco team as a whole hit .388/.461/.634 in 2016. That’s incredible. Still, nobody was out there getting those hits for Nelson but Nelson himself, so that has to count for something; I’d rather have a guy hit big on a team with inflated offensive numbers than a guy not hit big on a team with inflated offensive numbers. Bold take, I know. Nelson’s draft day announcement had him called out as a shortstop, but he played every inning in his pro debut at third. Said pro debut went pretty well: .284/.344/.364 with 14 BB/30 K in 162 AB looks good to me. Remember what we said about how context matters? Those numbers look even better when you consider that Nelson was very young for his class. Even after a full year of college, Nelson played his entire pro debut at just 18-years-old. That makes him a full six months younger than prep to pros 2016 first round pick Blake Rutherford.
Put it all together and you’ve got a young infielder capable of playing the left side who has already been drafted twice (18th round by Boston in 2015) coming off a great yet flawed junior college season and a pro debut that showed growth in some of his seemingly weaker offensive areas. Having known little to nothing about Ryan Nelson as of about ten minutes ago, I can now say that he officially has my attention. Any port in the storm that is this year’s Marlins draft class.
16.473 – RHP Dustin Beggs
If you liked Mike King, then you’ll like Dustin Beggs. Both are highly competitive college righthanders from power conferences who get by more on the strength of stellar command, control, and guile than overwhelming stuff. Beggs doesn’t have enough fastball (87-91) to get picked by everybody, but Miami will happily bank on his well-rounded repertoire of offspeed pitches (upper-70s CB, low-80s SL, CU) and pitching acumen carrying him beyond what the grade on his heater would suggest. Only Ryan Nelson has interrupted the Marlins going with a different college pitcher archetype with every other pick here: Smith (intriguing stuff, iffy command), King (huge command, decent stuff), Mertz (intriguing stuff, iffy command), and Beggs (huge command, decent stuff). If the pattern holds then the Marlins will draft an intriguing stuff/iffy command guy next…
17.503 – RHP Brent Wheatley
Brent Wheatley isn’t quite the same type of intriguing stuff/iffy command guy the Marlins drafted in rounds eleven and fourteen, but he’s pretty close. He’s got size (6-4, 210), a long college track record that includes both good (9.71 K/9 as a senior) and bad (5.77 BB/9 and 6.03 ERA that same year), and solid stuff (88-93 FB, 82 cut-SL, 74-75 CB, 80 CU) that plays down due to his inability to throw consistent quality strikes. Unlike Chad Smith and Michael Mertz, I’m not sure the upside with Wheatley is quite high enough to warrant the longer than ideal developmental time likely required to turn him around, but we’ll see.
18.533 – C David Gauntt
Three really great years in a row at Washburn got David Gauntt noticed by Miami in round eighteen in 2016. An awesome senior year (.353/.518/.739 – 44 BB/45 K – 11/12 SB – 184 AB) helped boost his college career stats to an outstanding .304/.452/.611 lifetime mark. Also noteworthy are Gauntt’s career HBP totals (51 in 578 AB) and stolen base rate (21/25). Since I don’t have much on Gauntt beyond the numbers and it’s been a while since we’ve done one of these fun little “Where were you when it happened?” moments…
“I was in the middle of Walmart with my girlfriend, and when they called me we both got really happy and probably turned a couple heads,” Gauntt said. “People in the store probably thought we were crazy.”
Love that stuff.
19.563 – LHP Shane Sawczak
Here’s what Shane Sawczak did at Coastal Carolina in 2015, Palm Beach State in 2016, and his professional debut this past summer…
5.50 K/9 and 3.67 BB/9 in 54.0 IP
9.66 K/9 and 3.47 BB/9 in 59.2 IP
7.02 K/9 and 4.42 BB/9 in 34.2 IP
Nothing particularly interesting about those numbers, but I looked them up from three different places so you can be damn sure I was going to use them. This is what you do when you don’t know much else about a team’s nineteenth round pick.
20.593 – 1B Eric Gutierrez
It’s tough out there for righthanded hitting first base prospects lacking the classic size/strength profile of the position. Eric Gutierrez (479) will continue his attempt at being the exception to the rule in pro ball. From March 2015…
Texas Tech JR 1B/LHP Eric Gutierrez is one of my favorite power hitters in a class desperately in need of some good ones. Some teams might be turned off than his less than ideal frame (5-10, 205), but so long as he keeps mashing he has a better than average shot to hear his name called in a signable range this June.
A year later and now much changed with Gutierrez. He returned to Lubbock and had a monster senior season .333/.465/.581 with 42 BB/37 K in 234 AB), but questions about his long-term pro utility remain. You can hit and hit and hit, but sometimes being a 5-10, 200 pound righthanded hitting first baseman is too much to overcome. I still like the pick as Gutierrez should at least provide value as an org bat with some lefty-mashing bench upside.
21.623 – SS Luis Pintor
Miami presumably saw fifteenth round pick Ryan Nelson and twenty-first round pick Luis Pintor square off on May 13, 2016 as Nelson’s Cisco College squad squared up against New Mexico JC in the same town (Lubbock, Texas) that twentieth round pick Eric Gutierrez played his college home games at Texas Tech. That all has to mean something, right? Anyway, Pintor hit a single and scored a run in five at bats. Nelson…didn’t play. Probably should have checked that first before writing that opener, huh? Pintor’s 1 for 5 outing dragged down his season line all the way to .389/.484/.730 with 35 BB/26 K and 32/36 SB in 211 AB. His New Mexico JC team as a whole hit .377/.475/.691 on the season, so, you know, context. Still, Pintor hit a bunch in college and hit pretty well in his debut, so my interest is piqued. If you can squeeze out one potential utility player out of him and Nelson, that’s a win.
22.653 – RHP Alex Mateo
I don’t have much on Alex Mateo. Him winding up at Nova Southeastern by way of Point Park University in Pittsburgh, a school I don’t recall ever mentioning on this site before, is pretty interesting. Good but not great final year numbers at Nova Southeastern (7.69 K/9 and 2.16 BB/9) are a little less interesting. I got nothing.
23.683 – RHP Hunter Wells
Back-to-back picks where I’m bringing little to no scouting notes to the table. I’m clearly losing my touch. Hunter Wells out of Gonzaga had a decent junior year (9.13 K/9 and 4.63 BB/9 in 68.0 IP) with the Zags. He wasn’t as successful in his limited pro debut (4.50 K/9 and 3.21 BB/9 in 14.0 IP). That’s all I’ve got.
24.713 – SS JJ Gould
JJ Gould is a fun utility prospect with experience at second, short, and third and a nice power/patience blend at the plate. There’s probably too much swing-an-miss in his game to keep climbing the ladder barring a real chance in approach, but what he does well is interesting enough to warrant a twenty-fourth round shot all the same.
25.743 – 2B Mike Garzillo
I’ve seen a good amount of Mike Garzillo over the years. He’s not quite a JJ Gould clone, but the back-to-back college middle infielders share a lot of similar traits. On Garzillo from February 2016…
Garzillo has more tools than you’d expect out of a typical Patriot Leaguer, so it’s expected that his speed, arm strength, and pop should get him drafted as a senior-sign even if he doesn’t clean up his approach this spring.
And then again from May 2016…
We know what Mike Garzillo is by now as a draft prospect: real power, useful speed, a strong arm, and a “grip it and rip it” approach. It’s not my favorite profile, but there’s a place for it in pro ball.
Power and patience for a price (strikeouts) in addition to solid speed and arm strength give Garzillo a shot to make something of himself as a utility player if he can be trusted enough to play on the left side defensively.
26.773 – C Gunner Pollman
Gunner Pollman has outstanding arm strength, well above-average accuracy, a lightning quick release, and nimble footwork behind the plate. He also can’t hit even a little. Feels like a decent fit for an organization that employed Jeff Mathis the past four seasons.
27.803 – RHP Parker Bugg
It’s never quite this simple, but Parker Bugg’s success/failure in the pros always felt like it would come down to his ability to keep the ball on the ground with his sinker/slider combo playing up thanks to his 6-6, 210 pound frame giving him plenty of extension. Very early pro returns (34.74 GB%) are not super encouraging. He still has a long way to go, so we’ll see.
28.833 – 1B Colby Lusignan
Colby Lusignan is pretty much what you’d expect out of a 6-4, 230 pound lefthanded slugger from a Division II school like Lander: lots of power, lots of walks, lots of strikeouts. He mashed as a 23-year-old in the GCL but struggled in his small sample cameo in the slightly more age-appropriate NYPL. It’s an uphill battle for any first base only prospect, but I don’t hate betting on one with Lusignan’s type of power if you’re inclined to try.
29.863 – OF Walker Olis
Seeing a player put up big numbers at Pacific who completely flew under my radar confused me. As much as I like to pretend, I’m not all-knowing…but a guy hitting .415/.544/.711 with 44 BB/22 K and 28/29 SB is not one who typically escapes my attention. Finding out that Walker Olis put up those PlayStation numbers as a Pacific Boxer at a Division III school in Oregon and not as a Tiger in the West Coast Conference makes me feel a bit better for missing, but I’m still plenty intrigued about Olis’s brand of plus speed, advanced plate discipline, and sneaky pop.
31.923 – RHP Preston Guillory
Really nice pickup of a potential quick-moving middle reliever here in the thirty-first round with the selection of Preston Guillory of TCU. There’s no standout velocity or a go-to offspeed pitch here, but Guillory has enough (88-90 MPH heat, quality change, funky delivery) to consistently sit hitters down. I think he’s a big leaguer, thirty-first round pick or not.
32.953 – RHP Chevis Hoover
One of the coolest things about this whole draft review undertaking is getting to dive a little deeper into the backgrounds of prospects chosen in the later rounds. I had never heard of Chevis Hooper before two minutes ago (proof of that comes via the typo: his name is Chevis HOOVER not HOOPER) but now I’m genuinely pumped for his pro future. Chevis Hoover was a certified NAIA superstar in his senior year at Tennessee Wesleyan. He contributed both on the mound (11.87 K/9, 3.30 BB/9, and 3.13 ERA in 54.2 IP) and at the plate (.342/.435/.605 with 13 BB/18 K in 76 AB). With obvious athleticism and a fastball up to 94 MPH, Hoover is a pretty darn intriguing get this late. It’s a little reminiscent of something the Cardinals might have done. Needless to say, I approve.
33.983 – 1B Branden Berry
On Branden Berry from March 2016…
On the other end of the defensive spectrum is Branden Berry, the transfer from Washington. Berry’s early season offensive explosion may just be the case of an older guy picking on younger competition – his first three seasons were remarkably consistent in a good college player kind of way – but in a class thin on big bats, he could have scouts doing a double-take.
As is the case with most proper explosions, Berry’s turned out to be as brief as it was impressive. The Cal State Northridge slugger finished the year with a good but not great (in pro prospect terms; it’s a pretty great college season by any measure) .294/.403/.508 line with 22 BB/36 K. The bar is just so high for a first base prospect like Berry that it’s hard to think of him as much more than an org player at this stage. It is round thirty-three, though, so guess that makes sense.
34.1013 – LHP Trenton Hill
I liked Trenton Hill a bit more as a hitter than a pitcher, but I understand wanting to give a lefthander with size, athleticism, and deception a shot on the mound. If he can curb some of his wild ways, then his stuff (88-92 FB, 77-83 SL with promise) should keep him getting chances for years to come. Heck, as a low-90s lefty he’s got a shot to pitch forever even if he stays wild. Not for nothing, but Chevis Hoover, thirty-second round pick, was teammates with Hill at Lee in 2015.
35.1043 – 2B Matthew Brooks
Matthew Brooks was really good in his two years at Monroe College, assuming you agree that .353/.480/.538 with 58 BB/43 K and 29/39 SB in 275 AB is really good. His first shot at pro ball was a bit tougher, but those two good seasons are enough to give him one more go in 2017.
37.1103 – OF Zach Daly
The Marlins go back to Lander University to take Zach Daly because how else would you finish up a weak draft than driving me crazy with the small school double-dip? Daly comes with some pedigree as a former Tar Heel, but his impressive at first glance (.291/.397/.614 with 7/10 SB) senior season is undermined by a not insignificant plate discipline (24 BB/78 K) red flag.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Nick Eicholtz (Alabama), Garrett Suchey (Alabama), Matt Popowitz (Penn), Dustin Demeter (Hawaii), Caleb Scires (Navarro JC), Evan Douglas (Lewis-Clark)
I was planning on posting something with a more historical — going way back in the archives to the year 2009 — bent this afternoon, but with the trade deadline less than a week away and deals being made at a 2 Fast, 2 Furious pace, it only makes sense to go with what’s topical by discussing some of the prospects who are on the move. Pittsburgh and the Dodgers both beefed up their rosters in the hopes of some “flags fly forever” postseason glory, but, as we covered yesterday, the established big leaguers swapping laundry are nowhere as interesting — in the context of this site, naturally — than the recently drafted prospects hitting the road.
First, we have the Pirates overpaying Houston for Wandy Rodriguez. The money saved on moving Rodriguez and the addition of Robbie Grossman makes the trade a big win for the Astros, a franchise that I think will serve as a fantastic case study that will help answer the question “how long does it take to rebuild an organization?” over the next few seasons. One of the first steps to going from 100+ losses to competitive is figuring out how to flip bad contracts for useful parts. These useful parts tend to come in one of two standard archetypes: high ceiling/total bust floor lottery tickets OR average ceiling/big league backup floor near-ML ready talent. Ideally you can shed salary while picking up a combination of the two prospect types, though it is interesting to see that Jeff Luhnow and company have focused predominantly on the latter thus far. It’s too early to say that they are doing this as an organizational philosophy — there’s enough grey area between strictly adhering to an overarching philosophy and simply riding wherever the wave of the trade market takes you that as outsiders we can’t ever fully appreciate — but I happen to like Houston’s approach so far. The Astros have so far to come from a talent standpoint as an organization that adding cheap, controllable talent close to the big leagues will help buy time (and, as importantly, future payroll flexibility) while the players with star upside germinate in the minors.
Speaking of players with star upside, let’s finally tie this whole thing back to the draft. The Astros will get a full draft recap within the next few weeks/months, but, spoiler alert!, the addition of first overall pick Carlos Correa gives them the exact type of franchise-altering cornerstone talent that they’d be foolish to shop for on the trade market. The additions of overslot prep bats Rio Ruiz and Brett Phillips could also play major dividends down the road, though both players come with significant risk.
They stayed true to what I believe is their plan — we’ll call it the “hey, we owe it to our fans to not be terrible for years, so let’s instead try to identify a few cheap, young assets that the people of Houston can watch grow while we bide our time developing star talent in the minors that will make the fans thrilled that they stuck by our side during the lean years” — by supplementing the high boom/bust factor of Correa, Ruiz, and Phillips with college position players (their draft was curiously short on arms, I’m now noticing) that should move quickly. Few better players embody the average ceiling/big league backup floor archetype better than second round pick Nolan Fontana, and later picks like Tyler Heineman and Dan Gulbransen also fit the mold. Brady Rodgers, the only arm drafted between rounds 2 and 8, is cut from the same cloth. Of course, after all that, it is worth mentioning that Lance McCullers (star-ceiling/big league floor) is proof that the two categories of prospects do not begin to describe all of the prospect types of the spectrum. We’re getting further and further (I reference this in my writing daily, yet still screw it up almost as often) away from my original point, so let’s get back to the recent trades before I get totally lost in the Houston draft wormhole.
Houston is clearly moving in the right direction, and I think their path, from terrible to slightly less terrible to better AND, hopefully, more willing/able to spend to, finally, consistently competitive in the wild AL West will be fascinating to follow. Grossman is a good player, lefthander Rudy Owens is fine, and, finally, Colton Cain was well worth a flier. Fun Colton Cain fact of the day: the newest Astros lefthanded pitcher (well, he’s as new as Owens but you get my point) was once ranked between Jeff Malm (Tampa) and Jonathan Singleton (Houston) on a list of top draft-eligible high school first basemen. I revisited that ranking last summer and wrote the following (non-bold was from last year, bold signifies pre-draft notes from 2009):
2. Colton Cain | Pittsburgh Pirates | 8th Round (2009)
3.13 ERA – 95 IP – 74 K/26 BB – 0.89 GO/AO
Cain is pitching well as a youngster (20 all season) in Low A with the added bonus of still not having a ton of mileage on his arm. His solid 2011 performance was preceded by good performances last year (strong peripherals). I like pitchers like Cain: guys with good enough fastballs to keep getting looks and secondaries that will either click and become legit big league pitches all at once or…not. Of course there is some middle ground between the two outcomes, but not as much as one might think. If you’re patient you may wind up with a three-pitch starting pitcher, but the risk here is fairly self-evident.
first thing that stands about about Cain is his very pretty lefthanded stroke; like a lot of the players on this list has an unusually strong arm for a first base prospect; because of that raw arm strength many scouts like him at least as much on the mound as at the plate; I like him as the prototypical two-way high school player that has the potential to really emerge once he concentrates on hitting full time; Texas commit
I really did prefer him as a hitter back in his high school days, but obviously the Pirates, and, by extension, now the Astros disagree with me. What nerve. I’ll stand by what I wrote last year — “if you’re patient you may wind up with a three-pitch staring pitcher” — though, due to a mostly uninspiring season in high-A (6.12 K/9), I’m less confident in that outcome than I was twelve months ago. As a two-way player (predominantly a hitter) in high school and a pitcher who has missed some developmental time after back surgery, there’s still reason to believe that the light bulb will go off and his low-90s fastball will be joined by a consistent curve and changeup. It is worth repeating that Grossman and the money saved made this deal worth doing for Houston; the addition of Cain, a player the Pirates once paid over a million bucks to pass on Texas, is the lottery ticket. The Astros can’t expect to win the jackpot here, but scratching off the ticket is fun enough in and of itself…plus you never know when you might win a few bucks for your troubles.
In the most controversial deal thus far, the Dodgers picked up Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate from the Marlins for Nathan Eovaldi and Scott McGough. Eovaldi is a good get by the Marlins, especially considering the lack of money changing hands in this deal, though I think he ultimately winds up in the bullpen down the line. Take that analysis with a grain of salt, however, as I’ve never really met a Dodgers pitching prospect that I’ve particularly liked. I’m not so dumb to call any one of Zach Lee, Allen Webster, Eovaldi, Chris Reed, Garrett Gould, Chris Withrow, or Aaron Miller bad pitching prospects, but I think each one has been overrated by many of the national pundits. Always was, and remain, a big fan fan of Ethan Martin, so at least there’s that. Don’t hate me Dodgers fans!
The relevant draft piece to this trade is, of course, 2011 fifth round pick Scott McGough. McGough was the 164th overall pick and my own 139th ranked draft prospect heading into the draft. Here’s what I wrote both directly after (plain italics) and before (bold italics) the draft:
Oregon RHP Scott McGough has a fastball with excellent life, a much improved slider that has become an interesting future strikeout pitch, and enough of a low- to mid-80s changeup that leaves you thinking it could be a consistent above-average offering in due time. His profile reminds me a bit of former Angels reliever Scot Shields, but with a better fastball. Having seen both McGough and Reed pitch a few times each in conference play, I’m sticking with my belief that McGough has the brighter professional future.
Oregon JR RHP Scott McGough: 90-92 FB, peak 94-95; 78-79 CB; raw 83 CU; above-average 78-83 SL that flashes plus; potential plus 82-85 CU that is still very raw; working on splitter; great athlete; 6-1, 185 pounds
McGough hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire as a professional (control has been an issue at Rancho Cucamonga), but his career K/9 mark just under 10 in over 70 innings looks damn fine to me. His fastball remains a good pitch and he’ll flash enough above-average offspeed stuff to look like a future big league middle reliever. I’m still likely to look dumb for that McGough > Reed prediction, but if both wind up as solid big league pitchers, well, I could live with that.
This draft is a disaster. Unsigned third and fourth round picks. Only two high school prospects signed in the first eighteen rounds, and only one more signed from that point on. No player, high school or college, signed past round thirty-five. I can only hope that the Miami Marlins do a better job next year than this lame attempt by Florida.
The good news about any draft is that sometimes one player can redeem darn near the entire thing. This particular draft won’t be a total loss assuming Alonso HS (FL) RHP Jose Fernandez lives up to his promise. I may not have liked Fernandez pre-draft as much as many of my esteemed draft obsessed peers, but I can’t necessarily fault the Marlins for using a first rounder on him either. Detractors of comps will have a field day with these (restricting yourself to only comparing a player to others with the same first name is lazy, they say), but an honest to goodness scout paid to watch baseball mentioned both Jose Contreras (young version) and Jose Valverde as players similar to Fernandez. I thought those comparisons were fun and I wanted to pass them along, but feel free to draw your own conclusions beyond that. Comps aside, Fernandez has an excellent fastball/curveball combination that is pretty much big league ready, and the makings of two potential average additional secondary pitches (raw low-80s changeup and intriguing upper-70s slider). At his best, he looks like an innings eating horse, although not in a literal sense because a) he’s a person and not an actual horse, and b) horses, to the best of my knowledge, eat oats and plants, not innings. Gut instinct (wish I could put it in writing why I have my doubts) has Fernandez’s upside closer to solid than superstar; a career not unlike Jose Contreras’s – you know, minus the whole not pitching in the big leagues until his age-31 season thing – makes sense to me, at least in terms of peak years performance.
RHP Jose Fernandez (Alonso HS, Florida): 90-93 FB, peak 94-97; good 80-83 CB; good enough FB/CB combo to pitch in bigs right now; 81 CU; learning a 78-79 SL; good hitter; 6-4, 235
Washington State LHP Adam Conley reminds me of the famous New England saying I first heard back in my college days up in Boston: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.” The saying applies just as easily to Adam Conley: “If you don’t like this prospect, just wait one appearance.” At his best, Conley’s fastball is a plus pitch velocity-wise, and his changeup and slider often both work well as above-average secondary options. There are times, however, when his heater isn’t so hot and neither offspeed pitch is in the strike zone enough to be effective. Much, but not all, of Conley’s Jekyll and Hyde act can be attributed between the difference in his stuff when he starts and when he relieves; because of this, Conley is the rare pitching prospect that I’d rather see pitch exclusively in relief long-term. There’s little harm letting him start for now, I suppose, but a plus fastball, good changeup, and inconsistent though intriguing slider, combined with his difficulties maintaining velocity and command sharpness as a starter, add up to relief ace to me.
Washington State JR LHP Adam Conley: 86-88 FB; peaks at 90-92; up to 94 out of bullpen this spring; hits 95-96 when amped up; above-average 79-83 CU; very rare CB that has now been phased out; SL being added and now used a lot; great command; 6-3, 175 pounds; big peak FB could have been opening day juice; sitting more often 88-92; 6-3, 190 pounds
Neither Sumrall HS (MS) SS Connor Barron nor Wayne County HS (GA) 2B Tyler Palmer signed with Florida. The Marlins loss is college baseball’s gain. Barron is in line to get first crack at replacing BA Vollmuth at shortstop for Southern Mississippi while Palmer stays local by heading to Georgia. Both players offer interesting defensive tools, but Barron’s speed and strength give him the edge in any long-range forecast.
It is easy to see why Barron has been one of the draft’s fastest risers this spring. He has great speed, a strong arm, and a big league frame that makes projecting his bat easy relative to many of his draft class peers. The Reid Brignac comps are popular, and with good reason.
Broken Arrow HS (OK) RHP Mason Hope joined Archie Bradley in what has to be on the short list of scariest high school school 1-2 punches of all-time. Clint Everts and Scott Kazmir — based on what we all thought of them as prep players, not how their respective careers played out – might top the list, but the combination of Lucas Giolito and Max Fried might blow everybody out of the water next June. Hope is currently a two-pitch pitcher, but, boy, are those two pitches impressive. His fastball pops consistently in the low-90s and his curve is a true plus offering when on. Now all we have to do is sit back and watch to see whether or not Hope and the Marlins minor league staff can work together to produce a third consistent pitch. His low-70s changeup has looked good at times and he’ll also show a harder breaking ball – a slider that reaches the upper-70s – every now and again, so there is plenty of hope that the elusive third (and maybe fourth) pitch will be unearthed. It should be noted that Florida scouting director Stan Meek knows Oklahoma as well as any talent evaluator, so adjust your perception of the kid with the soap opera name accordingly.
RHP Mason Hope (Broken Arrow HS, Oklahoma): 90-92 FB, 94 peak; flashes plus CB
Wichita State LHP Charlie Lowell might have less electric stuff than Adam Conley, but he’s far more consistent and a better bet to remain a starting pitcher. He has the three pitches needed to start – good fastball, above-average slider, and solid changeup – and the body and arm action to handle heavy workloads.
34. Wichita State JR LHP Charlie Lowell: 89-92 FB, 93-94 peak; above-average SL; solid CU; 6-4, 235
JC of the Sequoias 1B Ryan Rieger is a really interesting gamble in the seventh round. His power and pedigree (Rieger was once a big-time prep prospect) are beyond reproach, but a broken hamate bone suffered late last season is a red flag for a player so reliant on the long ball. Fun fact that might only interest me: Rieger was committed to Long Beach State before deciding to sign with the Marlins. I think that’s neat because that one-time allegiance to the Dirtbags makes the comp to former Long Beach transfer (via Miami) and current Atlanta farmhand Joey Terdoslavich comp I heard a few weeks fit nicely.
Seminole State JC RHP Dejai Oliver is a fastball/slider relief prospect with big league bloodlines. Another potential reliever with family in pro ball (in this case, a brother) is UC Davis RHP Scott Lyman. There is some definite untapped upside with Lyman, especially when you consider his frame, raw arm strength, athleticism, and the time he has spent focused on hitting rather than pitching. I’d take his upside over Oliver’s, but that’s based largely on the leap of faith that good pro coaching will help turn him from thrower to pitcher.
Arizona State C Austin Barnes had more walks (25) than strikeouts (22) while putting up a .730 OPS in his first taste of pro ball in the New York-Penn League. He’s also a plus-plus defender who might just be good enough defensively to warrant a big league roster spot on the strength of his glove/arm/quick feet alone. I underrated Barnes for too long, but am now fully on the bandwagon.
Georgia Tech RHP Jacob Esch (Round 11) could make the Marlins look really, really smart in a few years. Or he’ll be just another eleventh round pick. If he makes Florida look smart, it’ll be because of a fastball that peaks in the mid-90s (94-95), a relatively fresh arm, great athleticism, and a drive to succeed that legitimately blew me away when hearing about him from those in the know at Georgia Tech.
Florida SS Josh Adams (Round 13) is a fine defensive player who can play anywhere on the infield. He also won’t kill you with the bat. A utility future is the dream, but solid organizational soldier is the most likely outcome. I’ve never been a huge Ryan Jackson fan, so consider my comp of Adams to Jackson more of an indictment of the latter than high praise for the former.
Adams is a long time personal who struggled as one of the veteran anchors of a young Gators lineup last year, but has rebounded a bit in 2011. His scouting reports remain largely favorable, despite his inconsistent performances. Adams will be helped by his positional versatility as he tries to make it in the pros as a utility guy.
Monterey Peninsula JC RHP Nick Grim (Round 14) gets a mention as a guy with early round upside (92-95 fastball, good breaking ball that flashes plus, shows changeup) heading off to school at Cal Poly. He isn’t perfect (command comes and goes, inconsistent velocity, odd hitch in delivery some teams might not like), but there’s enough here to get excited about. Bellevue CC RHP Adrian Sampson (Round 16) is similar to Grim in that both are unsigned junior college standouts, but Sampson won’t head off to a four-year school and instead stick with Bellevue for at least another season. The Tommy John survivor has good stuff (fastball sits in the upper-80s but peaks at 92-93, an above-average breaking ball, and a raw but promising changeup) and surprisingly strong command for a pitcher coming off of injury. His brother’s disappointing run in pro ball might be held against him by some teams, but Adrian should enter pro ball further along the developmental curve than Julian ever reached.
Connecticut LHP Greg Nappo (Round 18) only needed 14 innings in short-season ball before jumping to the South Atlantic League for six starts down the stretch and three late summer long relief appearances. All told, he struck out over a batter per inning (58 K in 55 IP) and showed much improved control (only 12 BB) compared to his inconsistent spring (40 BB in 95.2 IP as a senior). Such an impressive performance isn’t altogether surprising coming from a 22-year old (he actually turned 23 in late August) pitchability lefthander. Greg Nappo is also awesome because, yes, that’s him throwing a pitch in the header of this very site.
SR LHP Greg Nappo‘s upper-80s fastball plays up because of good deception in his delivery. It is still probably a below-average pitch on balance because the command isn’t quite what you’d hope it would be coming from a typical pitchability lefty. He relied quite heavily on the heater, mixing in occasional cutters and an average slow curve that he could drop into the strike zone more easily as the game went on.
Auburn C Tony Caldwell (Round 24) has enough defensive ability to rise up through the low minors as a potential backup catcher. If he hits, he’s a big leaguer. If not, he might top out at as a AAAA stopgap left to sit and wait for an opportunity to arise, i.e. quietly hope for a very minor injury to a catcher that would open the door just a crack.
I had Caldwell pegged as an all defense, no offense non-prospect heading into the year, but his hit tool has made a great deal of progress since last fall. Even without the emerging bat, Caldwell’s defense might have been enough to get him drafted.
Pitching almost exclusively in the GCL, Oregon State RHP James Nygren (Round 33) just straight killed it as a strikeout machine (35 K in 35 total IP) programmed to get groundballs at will (a ridiculous 3.24 GO/AO). He is a quality senior sign who throws nothing straight. At worst, he is David Herndon as a pro.
Oregon State SR RHP James Nygren (2011): 87-90 FB; touching 93; solid SL; nicely developing CU; clocked at 95 back in HS; 6-1, 195 pounds
I’ve always liked watching Pittsburgh OF John Schultz (Round 34) play. I’d be hard pressed, however, to name one tool of his that is clearly big league quality.
JR OF John Schultz (2010 – Pittsburgh) doesn’t have any exceptional tools, but his good plate discipline means he rarely gets cheated at the plate and his good speed can help him take extra bases when needed on the base paths.
I wrote about Iowa Western CC 3B Damek Tomscha (Round 36) last year (see below) after the Phillies took him in the final round out of high school. The latest buzz on Tomscha has pro scouts liking him more as a hard throwing righthanded pitcher as a pro.
Tomscha is a deep sleeper who has plenty of fans within the scouting community. I’m not a member of said community, but count me in as a fan all the same. As a high school guy without high school ball in Iowa, Tomscha’s upside was severely underrated this spring. He’s a really good athlete with a pretty swing, plus arm, and good raw defensive tools. My high pre-draft ranking was probably a bit of overcompensating for his lack of national love on my end, but it should definitely be noted that this your typical 50th round flier. Tomscha’s legit.
A pair of unsigned righthanded pitchers, San Dimas HS (CA) RHP Jacob Ehret (Round 37) and Marquette HS (IL) RHP Joe Ceja (Round 38), figure to hear their names called on draft day after three years at UCLA and Louisville respectively. Ehret is the more advanced prospect, but his path to the mound could be somewhat convoluted considering UCLA’s pitching depth. Ceja is more projectable (rare arm strength + pro body = good chance at upper-90s fastballs by his junior season), but should get an early opportunity to throw for a Louisville team in need of quality arms.
Watch Torrance HS (CA) SS Trent Gilbert (Round 40) if the opportunity arises this spring. He’ll be playing for the Arizona Wildcats, and he’ll be hitting. I haven’t seen or heard what Arizona plans to do with him defensively, but I hope he gets the chance to play second base every day. If that’s the case, he’ll be hitting in the middle of the lineup in no time. If you somehow need to be further sold on Gilbert, know that John Klima, who knows his stuff, loves the kid.
Gilbert swings the bat the exact way I would if a magic genie would finally grant my wish to have a picture perfect lefthanded stroke. I’m darn sure the hit tool will play at the next level, but there are some that think too much of his value is tied up in his bat. That makes some sense to me — there is some power here and a pretty strong arm, but his speed is below-average and his defense is a question mark going forward — but, boy, do I like that hit tool. Many of those defensive questions, by the way, may or may not be Gilbert’s fault. He’s currently in the tricky position of almost being too versatile defensively – I’ve heard some teams like him at 2B, some at 3B, and others still prefer him either at C or CF. Of course, I don’t mean to imply he’ll ever be a world beater at any of those spots, but the opportunity to hear a pro coach tell him, “here’s your new defensive home, practice and play here every day” ought to do him some good.
Heartland CC LHP Jerad Grundy (Round 42), a Miami transfer, should figure prominently in an improved Kentucky pitching staff next season. Coming out of high school he resembled what we saw out of Dillon Peters in this year’s prep class. Like Peters, Grundy has the stuff to start, but may be stuck in the bullpen because of effort in his delivery.
Heartland CC (Illinois) SO LHP Jerad Grundy (2011): 87-92 with movement; hard SL; promising CU; 6-0, 190; Miami transfer
Northeastern LHP Drew Leenhouts (Round 43) wasn’t as good as a junior as he was as a sophomore, but the lefty has the stuff to get picked twenty rounds higher next year. His arm won’t wow you, but he can throw three pitches for strikes and has silky smooth mechanics that portend additional velocity with help from a professional strength and conditioning program.
Northeastern JR LHP Andrew Leenhouts: 87-88 FB; good CB; average CU; command needs work; clean mechanics; 6-3, 200 pounds