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SR OF Michael Lang’s scouting profile screams potential fourth outfielder. Above-average in many phases of the game (speed, arm strength, range) with consistent strong production at the plate (.378/.471/.700 – 27 BB/39 K – 11/15 SB – 230 AB), not to mention one of the finest people I’ve talked to/people who say ridiculously nice things about him ratios I’ve come across. Yes, Lang’s PITT/PWSRNTAH stat is simply off the charts. Regular readers of the site know I try to straddle that fine line when it comes to makeup – not wanting to be completely dismissive of it, not willing to use it to make blanket statements defending or denouncing any particular prospect’s ranking – but I do think it makes an interesting tie-breaker during equally talented player comparisons, especially for prospects who aren’t expected to be regulars in the big leagues. Call me naïve, but sometimes I like to think of the business of baseball like I would any other job market that exists in our world. If I had final say on draft day, I’d always stop and ask myself this very simple question: Do you feel confident hiring this man to join your company? Lang’s done enough on the field, shown enough of a projectable skill set, and is by all accounts a potential model employee.
JR RHP Charlie Law is a projection pick all the way at this point. The potential for three big league average or better pitches (88-92 FB with sink, above-average CU that really impressed me when I saw him in high school, raw CB with promise) and a great frame (6-7, 235) make him one of college baseball’s most intriguing mystery men. With only 36 innings pitched through his first two seasons as a Scarlet Knight, Law has a lot to prove in 2011. I personally find his height interesting because it is one of those rare attributes that is both very clearly a positive (downward plane, some potential for more heat, better suited for durability, etc.) and a negative. I haven’t seen him since high school, so don’t take this as gospel, but his height often appeared to throw his mechanics out of sync which in turn hurt the way he commanded his fastball.
I really, really liked SR OF Brandon Boykin last year, but the more time he spends away from the infield the less I seem to like his prospect stock. Despite his plus speed and impressive pop for his size, I’d still rank him behind Lang. JR RHP Nathaniel Roe is well off the radar for many draft fans at this point, but he throws two good secondary pitches (low-70s CB and mid-70s CU) and might be able to get a look despite a below-average heater.
Those are the top four prospects on my Rutgers board at this point. Law and Lang are locks to get drafted. Boykin is a solid maybe. Despite my appreciation, Roe might be viewed as a 2012 senior sign more than anything else. After that, it’s lottery ticket time. The very athletic SR LHP Sean Campbell is probably the only other Rutgers pitcher with a shot to get drafted. Two grip and rip players, JR OF Ryan Kapp and JR 3B/1B Russ Hopkins, are both really strong college power hitters not exactly known for their plate discipline. Picking one over the other is tricky. I think Hopkins has a better chance of figuring things out at the plate, but the possibility he won’t stick at 3B in the pros is scary. Kapp’s strong track record with wood and enviable present power make me happy, but corner outfielders who can’t control the strike zone aren’t exactly in high demand these days, Dayton Moore excepted. Kapp by a hair, but the two are awfully close.
JR RHP Willie Beard, after throwing up a less than stellar 8.57 FIP in 35.2 IP last season, needs a better junior season to get back on the map. Insightful commentary, I know. The point I am clumsily trying to make is that Beard, a player who scouts actually said nice things about as a freshman, is not without talent despite his poor sophomore season. I don’t think he is a draftable talent – short righthanded pitchers either need above-average stuff, dominating numbers, or, in many instances, both to get noticed – but he can be filed away as a deep, deep, deep sleeper if you’re into that sort of thing.
Lastly we come to two draft-eligible sophomores with enough untapped upside to deserve mention. SO OF/LHP Steven Zavala and SO C Justin Olsen both flashed enough talent as prep players to warrant some consideration here in 2011. The key word there is some; do keep in mind that non-premium draft-eligible sophomores typically don’t hear their names called on draft day
2011 MLB Draft Prognosis
Lang and Law are definites, Boykin is a strong maybe, Kapp and Hopkins are weak maybes, and Campbell, Roe, Olsen, and Zavala are long shots. That covers the prediction part of things. As far as my own prospect tastes, I’d personally rank them Law, Lang, Boykin, Roe, Kapp, Hopkins, Olsen, and Zavala, in order.
Pick a conference, pick a position, pick a draft year, and go. That’s basically the formula for the 2010 MLB Draft College Conference Position Breakdowns. Nothing fancy, just a quick snapshot of where the college talent is and a quicker way of disseminating 2010 draft-eligible player information to the masses. Three quick facts worth remembering as you read – 1) All rankings are preliminary and subject to change, 2) The current rankings are the top X amount of guys, but players at the back end will be added intermittenly until all players are ranked, and 3) I can’t really think of a third thing to remember, but they say you’re always supposed to list things in three, so here you go…
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.
Some quick thoughts before we get to the guts of the rankings. First, this isn’t a particularly good crop of prospects. If you are only really interested in the first few rounds of the draft, Ijames is probably the only name you need to know. After that, I’d guess only Lang, Lockwood, and maybe Richmond would be top ten round guys. The Cincinnati trio all show promise, but really everybody ranked after number four needs a good year of hitting if they want to head into the draft confident of getting selected.
1. SO OF Stewart Ijames (2010 – Louisville) missed the majority of the 2009 season with a torn rotator cuff, but his talent is so obvious that he heads into the 2010 season with top five round buzz. Ijames has excellent bat speed and plus power potential, a good approach at the plate, and enough defensive aptitude that he should be an above-average defender in a corner. He reminds me a little bit of Idaho guard Mike Iupati; both players have last names that I’ve seen mistakenly spelled with an “L” instead of an “I.”
2. JR OF Michael Lang (2010 – Rutgers) offers up a very intriguing power/speed combination, emphasis on the speed. The former walk-on has come a long way since enrolling at Rutgers; I actually like him a little bit better than his more highly regarded teammate Jaren Matthews. Lang has the ability to play centerfield professionally and his plus arm should make him a defensive athlete in due time. His offensive skill set could make him an option hitting leadoff in the big leagues someday.
3. JR OF Ryan Lockwood (2010 – South Florida) couldn’t duplicate the success of his outstanding freshman campaign, but still showed off enough of his toolset to keep scouts happy. Lockwood has good speed, plays above-average defense, and has average raw power (though little of it has manifested just yet). His best tool is obviously the bat, something a .415 freshman batting average does a good job of arguing in favor of. His draft stock will shoot up as high as his bat takes him, but his other skills (namely the defense and speed) will help keep him in the first 15-20 rounds even if he doesn’t hit .400 again.
4. JR OF Josh Richmond (2010 – Louisville) delivers five solid tools – defense good enough for center, a very strong arm, emerging power but questionable ceiling with the bat, and average speed. Richmond is currently below the radar a little bit, but he could pretty easily put it all together and get himself picked in the first ten rounds this spring.
5. SO OF Anthony Howard (2010 – Cincinnati) is a draft-eligible sophomore with a lot to like about his game. He is a solid contact hitter who goes to the plate with a plan in mind. That, along with his plus athleticism and good speed, should make him a successful leadoff hitter going forward. Some teams may like him more as an infielder, a position he played in high school. He has great baseball instincts no matter where he plays, and his above-average arm should play well at any position.
6. JR OF Mikel Huston (2010 – Cincinnati) comes to Cincinnati with the reputation as a hitter first and an athlete second. That’s alright by me so long as you can really hit, something we won’t really know about Huston until he starts getting his swings in this spring. Early word, so take it for what it’s worth, is that he has an advanced hit tool with enough power potential to get on follow lists. He has below-average speed that will relegate to him to an outfield corner, but, again take these for what they are, early reports are that his defensive instincts are excellent. I’d guess he doesn’t have quite enough bat to ever play every day, but could make a solid backup down the line.
7. JR OF Justin Riddell (2010 – Cincinnati) is a good natural hitter that may not have the requisite secondary skills to make it as much more of a role player professionally.
8. OF/2B JR Brandon Boykin (2010 – Rutgers) may be coming off a poor sophomore year, but his plus speed and excellent athleticism make him worth watching this spring. His value will go up if scouts believe he can play in the infield.
9. SR OF Jimmy Parque (2010 – St. John’s) was a 40th round pick out of junior college in 2008 with solid gap power and a good approach at the dish. His size (5-9, 170) may be a deterrent for some teams, but a big final college season could make him a late round senior sign candidate.
10. 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.
11. JR OF Stephen Hunt (2010 – South Florida) has a strong arm tailor made for right field and enough pop to garner some attention, but probably needs a big junior season if he wants to exceed his draft standing (17th round) out of high school here in 2010.
12. JR OF Junior Carlin (2010 – South Florida) profiles similarly to teammate Ryan Lockwood, except Carlin put together a huge batting average dependent line as a sophomore while Lockwood’s big line (.415/.493/.513) came in his freshman season. Like Lockwood, Carlin can also play a legitimate centerfield, but, unlike Lockwood, his speed has been questioned. So, he’s like Lockwood but without some of the speed and the secondary hitting skills. Not an awful prospect, but not a stone cold lock to be drafted either.
13. SR OF Jarred Jimenez (2010 – Rutgers) is a bit of a rarity, a small (5-9, 190) outfielder without the speed and range to project as a centerfielder. He does have good plate discipline, so he has at least that one plus going for him.
14. SR OF David Mills (2010 – Notre Dame) is a similar player to Jarred Jimenez of Rutgers – strong arm, corner outfielder, tiny (5-9, 165), great plate discipline. Mills is probably the better runner of the two. He has a reputation of being a line drive machine, but the knocks against him (size, power, can’t play center) keep his ceiling from being much higher than fifth outfielder on a good day.
15. JR OF Pat Biserta (2010 – Rutgers) only has one tool that grades out as above-average, but it is the ever important power tool. Just to be clear, we’re talking about the hitting the ball out of the ballpark kind of power tool, not the cordless drill kind of power tool.