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After consensus top two prep outfielders Bubba Starling and Josh Bell, East HS (WY) OF Brandon Nimmo stands alone as the draft’s third best young outfield prospect. Nimmo’s asencion to the upper half of the first round wasn’t always a forgone conclusion; it took almost the entire spring for the prep outfield picture to develop, as early favorites like Derek Fisher and Larry Greene slipped and late risers such as Granden Goetzman and Senquez Golson couldn’t quite reach the loftiest of draft heights. Nimmo was left standing as the clear third best prep outfielder for very good reason. For as much praise as his raw tools received leading up to the draft, Nimmo showed in his brief pro outing that he’s more than that. There have been equal amounts of plaudits for his present skills, most notably his far better than expected plate discipline. When you combine an advanced approach with his existing tools (most notably his arm, speed, and hit tool), it is easy to envision a potential above-average regular in right. I’m pretty good at separating draft stuff from personal rooting interests (five years of development time gives some perspective, I think), but the Phillies fan in me is annoyed to have to “root against” such a compelling prospect in Nimmo. My annoyance is doubled when I think back to last year’s draft when the Mets grabbed personal favorite Matt Harvey. Annoyance is tripled (and then some) with the realization that, for as much justified criticism as the Mets have received for their thrifty drafting ways of recent years, they managed to undo a good bit of recent damage with what I consider to be a pretty darn strong 2011 try. Nimmo, Phillip Evans, and maybe Brad Marquez all have the potential to be well above-average regulars, and New York’s balanced approach to adding arms in the first ten rounds or so (figure at least one of the college guys wind up a steady starting pitcher, as well as one of the two overslot prep righties). If New York winds up with either Nimmo/Marquez (starting OF) and Evans (starting 2B) offensively, and, going off my own pre-draft list, Logan Verrett and Christian Montgomery in a future rotation, they will have done quite well for themselves.
[good athlete; above-average arm well suited for RF; above-average speed would work in CF; good approach; gifted natural hitter; gap power; 6-3, 185]
The first big overslot prep arm selected by the Mets was Deer Creek HS (OK) RHP Michael Fulmer. Fulmer’s big fastball is already a plus pitch and his hard slider is well on its way. Those two pitches, combined with a mature frame with little growth potential, have many thinking future reliever. As always, it comes down to the development of a usable third offering. If Fulmer’s changeup, splitter, or whatever, turns into a quality pitch, his ceiling gets elevated. Without having any knowledge of if or how he’ll manage that third pitch, he’s a future reliever.
RHP Michael Fulmer (Deer Creek HS, Oklahoma): 90-94 FB, 97 peak; 83-85 SL; CU needs work; 6-2, 200
Solid. That’s the word I’ve heard used most often to describe North Carolina State RHP Cory Mazzoni. He throws three pitches for strikes, showed steady improvement in three years in the ACC, and has the control to be trusted as a reliever if that’s where he ultimately winds up. He pitched well in limited pro innings, but continued to have difficulties keeping the ball on the ground. Not all successful pitchers get groundballs and not all groundball pitchers are successful, but the ability to keep the ball out of the air is really important for pitchers who lack premium stuff. Remember, Mazzoni’s repertoire is solid…not premium. Also, for what it’s worth, I’ve had people I trust tell me that all of Mazzoni’s reported mid- to upper-90s peak heat was all recorded on hot guns. Baseball America, based out of nearby (to Raleigh) Durham and likely to have had multiple staffers on site who have seen Mazzoni throw over the years, says he’s hit 97 MPH. I don’t know who to believe, but I figured I’d pass along my info and let you, John Q. Public, decide on whether or not to trust the industry leader or some fool with a free WordPress blog. Choose wisely!
North Carolina State JR RHP Cory Mazzoni: 88-91 FB, touching 92; SL; good 70-76 CB; emerging splitter used as CU; good command; 6-1, 200 pounds
Baylor RHP Logan Verrett is sandwiched between Mazzoni and Fullerton RHP Tyler Pill in terms of draft round, but I like him a good deal more than either guy. Verrett has shown the ability to spin two above-average breaking balls (curve and slider) in addition to an inconsistent fastball that sits in the low-90s and a good changeup. For his junior year, however, Verrett scrapped the curve. I didn’t like the decision to abandon the pitch then and I don’t like it now, but the new Mets prospect still has the requisite three pitches necessary to start as a professional. He’ll need to throw his upper-70s fading change more going forward, but that’ll come as he learns he can no longer rely exclusively on his fastball/slider combo as he so often did in college. Like Mazzoni, Verrett draws praise for his competitiveness and fearlessness on the mound; also like Mazzoni, Verrett’s occasional overreliance on his too-straight fastball gets him into trouble. When he’s at his best, he’s mixing his pitches and staying low in the zone. On those days, he looks like a good big league starting pitcher.
Baylor JR RHP Logan Verrett: very good command when on; sitting 89-91, 92-94 peak FB with sink; good 77-79 CU with fade; big-time CB; uses 82-85 SL with plus potential more in 2011; good athlete; relies most heavily on FB/SL, with occasional CU and very rare CB; 6-3, 185
I love the Baseball America comp of Cal State Fullerton RHP Tyler Pill to current Diamondbacks RHP Ian Kennedy. As amateur prospects, their backgrounds align really nicely: fastball reliant (Kennedy ranked in the top twenty of fastball usage, per Fangraphs) command righties capable of throwing at least three other pitches (curve, change, slider for Kennedy as an amateur; curve, change, cutter for Pill) for strikes at any point in the count. Kennedy’s success as a pro skyrocketed once he more or less ditched his ineffectual slider in favor of a much more promising cutter. Pill made that same switch as an amateur, so, if you’re on board with the comp, he’s ahead of the curve there.
Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Tyler Pill: 89-92 FB; very good 77-78 CB; plus command; quality 82 CU; great athlete; holds velocity well, 88-89 late; 6-1, 185 pounds
Massachusetts-Lowell LHP Jack Leathersich didn’t warrant a high ranking from me prior to the draft, but that was mainly because of my personal aversion to future relievers. The Mets using a fifth round selection on him seems a bit rich for my blood. Lefties with low-90s velocity and flashes of a plus breaking ball (slider) don’t go on trees, so I can at least see the logic here. His early pro returns (26 K in 12.2 IP for Brooklyn) are encouraging.
UMass-Lowell JR LHP Jack Leathersich (2011): 89-93 FB; plus SL; decent slow CB; 6-0, 190 pounds
Northern HS (PA) OF Joe Tuschak is a lottery ticket, plain and simple. He’s a rawer version of Brad Marquez, though his elite athleticism and well above-average speed give him a strong tool base to build on.
Like so many players we’ve talked about before, Arizona 1B Cole Frenzel’s greatest challenge will be hitting enough to warrant playing time at a position that demands consistent offensive excellence. A baseball pal who has seen Frenzel play a lot compared him to a poor man’s Jeff Cirillo at the plate. If he can play a few other positions passably, he could have a future as a four-corners utility guy. Also, there’s no way I’m the only guy who reads his name and immediately thinks of this guy, right?
Fresno State SS Danny Muno has good plate discipline, a little bit of speed, and enough defensive chops to hang at any infield spot, though I prefer him at second. He absolutely destroyed New York-Penn League pitching – compared to all Mets minor leaguers, he came in first in both BA and OBP and second in SLG – and likely positioned himself to start next season at St. Lucie. Considering their long-standing devotion to putting together strong teams in Brooklyn, the Mets must have been thrilled to have Muno tear it up for the Cyclones. Expectations have risen some, but if this is Muno’s peak, I’m sure the Mets could live with the return they’ve already enjoyed on their $10,000 investment.
Florida LHP Alex Panteliodis is like the anti-Jack Leathersich. Besides both players profiling best in relief and having ridiculously awesome names, they couldn’t be less alike. Leathersich is all fastball with an inconsistent slider that looks great when on, awful when off. Panteliodis is more command-oriented and better equipped to throw softer stuff for strikes when backed into a corner. The latter could get a chance to start, but is likely a LOOGY at best in pro ball.
He faces off against the Florida lefthander Panteliodis, another pitcher without overpowering stuff but with good enough command and solid complementary stuff (CU/CB) to get by.
Florida JR LHP Alex Panteliodis (2011): good CU; good CB; not overpowering; great FB command
Woodbridge HS (CA) RHP Matt Budgell throws a sinker, curve, and change. His curve is presently his best pitch, but he has plenty of room to add weight to his crazy thin 6’2”, 150 pound and add some ticks to his upper-80s fastball. There’s some concern about his lack of dominance at the high school level, but I’d again point to that frame and note that he’s a pick for the future, not for the now.
Lawrence HS (IN) RHP Christian Montgomery (Round 11) formed a darn good one-two punch with incoming Louisville freshman RHP Jared Ruxer in high school. With Montgomery it all comes down to which version of the hefty righthander you’re going to get. The Mets are obviously banking on the showcase circuit version of Montgomery showing up to instructs (see below to read what his stuff was like then) next season. If his stuff stays down, then we might have to acknowledge the reality that pitchers don’t always follow a typical developmental path; sometimes guys peak as high school juniors, hard as it is to admit.
RHP Christian Montgomery (Lawrence Central HS, Indiana): 89-93 FB, 95 peak; potential plus 72-81 CB that goes both hard and soft; low-80s CU; plus pitchability; 6-1, 240
Even if Arizona State C Xorge Carrillo (Round 14) couldn’t play, I’d have to mention him here for his name alone. Xorge, Leathersich, and Panteliodis = one heck of a draft from a name standpoint. Besides the plus name, Carrillo is a good defender with interesting power upside. The Sun Devils have become pretty good at pumping out pro catching prospects in recent years; they’ve had a catcher taken in each of the past four drafts from Austin Barnes (’11) and Carrillo (11 and ’10) to Carlos Ramirez (’09) and Petey Paramore (’08).
Carrillo’s placement this high is largely speculative, but, hey, isn’t that really what a list like this is all about? Carrillo has missed almost all of the season  with a bum forearm, but when healthy showed off impressive power to all fields and much improved athleticism behind the plate. That last reason is why I’m comfortable keeping the twice drafted Carrillo this high on the list despite the injury. The improvements in his body and subsequent uptick in footwork behind the plate indicate a dedication to getting better that makes me think his injury is just a minor blip on his path towards getting drafted a third time.
Now this is how you draft, at least in the world of the old CBA. La Costa Canyon HS (CA) SS Phillip Evans (Round 15) was a borderline first round prospect who fell all the way to the fifteenth round and then signed for a fairly reasonable $650,000. A comp that I like for Evans is current Rays infielder Sean Rodriguez, a former third round pick (probably where Evans would have gone on talent alone) of the Angels.
It isn’t easy finding high school middle infielders who project to second baseman in the pros who are also worthy of first round consideration, but this year’s class has a couple players that fit the bill. With three plus future tools (defense, arm, raw power), Phillip Evans is one of those guys. In addition to those three projected plus tools, Evans can also run and hit a bit. His speed is average at best, but great instincts and exceptional first step quickness help him both in the field and on the bases. I love his approach at the plate, especially with two strikes. I also love his ability to hit for power to all fields. If you’re counting at home, that’s now five tools that Evans possesses with the potential to be around average (speed), above-average (bat), and plus (defense, arm, power).
The advantage that Evans holds over Johnny Eierman, a similarly talented prospect in many ways and the prospect ranked just below him on this very list, is in present defensive value. Evans is already an outstanding middle infielder while Eierman merely looks the part. Eierman’s edge over Evans is probably in present power. It is expected that both players should close the respective gaps — i.e. Eierman turning his intriguing defensive tools into more useful skills, and Evans learning to more consistently give his line drive approach loft to generate more in-game power — but I think Evans is the safer play to do so. Eierman may have more long range upside, but Evans has a significantly higher floor.
Odessa HS (TX) OF Brad Marquez (Round 16) is a ton of fun to watch play baseball. He’s as fast as a hedgehog – hedgehogs are fast, right? Sega wouldn’t like to me, would they? – and one of the five best athletes in the entire draft pool. Best of all, Marquez understands that he’s a speed-first guy who can hit a little and doesn’t try to do anything more than that. With any minimal power prospect there’s some risk – why throw anything but stuff in the zone to a hitter incapable of driving anything? – but Marquez’s speed and athleticism should enable him to get chances as a rangy center fielder.
I’m not a scout nor do I try to play one on the internet. Scouts do time-consuming work for very little money and public notoriety. Like any profession, there are good scouts, medium scouts, and bad scouts. Despite being an outsider to that world, I think it is fair to say that one of the trickier aspects of the job is trying to be as objective as possible even when your livelihood is dependent on subjective decisions. This is something that I’m fairly certain even the best scouts struggle with. It is really difficult assessing an individual’s baseball talents without first passing his abilities through one’s own personal scouting worldview. Bias exists, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If a scout is predisposed to favor a player with loud tools, for example, then he will likely not come away as impressed with George County HS (MS) OF Mason Robbins (Round 20) as, say, a scout that values a well-developed, differentiated skill set. Robbins is the kind of player who grows on you with every viewing. The words and phrases “underrated,” “better than given credit,” and “surprisingly” pepper his scouting reports because, at first glance, he’s a solid ballplayer with some room to grow and not much more. The more you watch him play, the more you grow to appreciate his tools. Robbins should hit the ground running just fine this spring at Southern Miss.
[well-rounded five-tool player with no standout tool; underrated arm; average speed; interesting gap power that has plus upside; fantastic approach; likely LF in pros; better athlete than given credit]
Wiregrasss Ranch HS (FL) RHP John Gant (Round 21) and Cranston West HS (RI) C Jeff Diehl (Round 23) both received overslot cash from New York, a beautiful and rare treat for Mets fans. Gant’s stuff (upper-80s fastball, mid-70s curve, low-70s change) needs refinement, but, like Budgell, there’s a good deal of projection. Diehl has great size and above-average raw power, but his value going forward will be tied into his ability to stick behind the plate or not. Some believe he has the bat to sustain a position switch, but he’s a catcher or nothing for me at this point.
Unsigned Terre Haute South HS (IN) LHP AJ Reed (Round 25) gets a mention because, judging from his high school, he might just be the next Larry Bird. He’ll head to Kentucky where he might get the chance to play both ways. Fellow unsigned prospect Miami Dade JC RHP Jharel Cotton (Round 28) takes his low-90s fastball (93-94 peak) to what should be a very competitive East Carolina squad. Cotton also throws a change and a slider that will both flash plus.
Miami-Dade CC SO RHP Jharel Cotton: low-90s FB; very good to plus 80-81 CU; good CB; turned down low six-figures from Dodgers last year; native of Virgin Islands; 5-11, 190
I kind of like South Florida RHP Randy Fontanez (Round 27) as a sleeper relief prospect, though the reports that I have on his “sinking FB” don’t jive with his 0.90 GO/AO as a pro. I know it’s only 38.1 innings, but, hey, I’m a worrier by nature. Fontanez is a long shot to pitch in the big leagues, but I needed somebody to write about as a post-25 round steal, so…
South Florida SR RHP Randy Fontanez (2011): 88-91 sinking FB; quality CB and SL; splitter; great control; 6-1, 200 pounds
Memphis SS Chad Zurcher (Round 31) didn’t have quite the pro start as fellow middle infielder Danny Muno, but profiles similarly (potential utility guy) in the future. Texas-San Antonio 1B Ryan Hutson (Round 36) controls the strike zone well and flashes some intriguing power, but the former college middle infielder’s move to an infield corner ends almost any chance he has of breaking through as a pro.
In a draft of great names, Santa Fe CC RHP Malcolm Clapsaddle (Round 48) wins the prize. Follow all of Clapsaddle’s wacky adventures this spring at High Point.