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2010 MLB Draft: Top 30 College Third Base Prospects (10-1)

10. Oregon State JR 3B Stefen Romero

Romero is arguably the best present defender on the top ten list. He makes all the plays on balls hit at him, and has proven more than capable of ranging to both his left and right when needed. What really makes his draft stock pop in comparison to some other names on the list is his performance with wood last summer on the Cape. The raw numbers don’t jump right out at you, but all of the reports from the summer were positive. Romero kept the momentum going this spring by displaying a steady dose of good defense, above-average power, and decent athleticism. A few area scouts that have seen him play way more than I have seem to like him a lot more than I do, so take his placement on the list as a rare example of me trusting people smarter than myself. Rare not because I’m trusting them, but because there are people out there actually smarter than I am. Hard to believe, I know. Romero’s upside is a good four-corners bench bat for me, something true of the majority of the players on this list no matter how rosy a picture I try to paint of their ultimate super duper best case scenario big league ceilings.

9. Connecticut JR 3B Mike Olt

I’ve toyed with the idea of standardizing these quick scouting capsules, but always wind up just doing the rambling paragraph or two synopses you see up and down the page. Seems like all of those standardized reports have some sort of strengths/weaknesses attached somewhere, so let’s try it out with a personal favorite, Mike Olt:

Strengths: three above-average or better tools (65 raw power, 55 speed, and 65 arm), plus athleticism, and a big league ready frame

Weaknesses:  present tool most need in work is his bat, due in large part to a largely unrefined approach and inconsistent swing mechanics

So, will Olt make enough consistent hard contact to put his other tools to use professionally? I think any one of the guys on one of the deepest top ten college position lists I can remember in the long, storied history of this site has the upside of an every day player if the circumstances allow it. That comes out as a cop-out, but it’s true; this is a really, really deep year for college third basemen.

8. San Diego JR 3B Victor Sanchez

My support of Victor Sanchez goes back to his prep days, so it’s hard for me to be completely objective when trying to evaluate his current draft stock. The memory of the potential plus defender with equally exciting power potential and a mature beyond his years approach to every single at bat may be just that, a memory. Sanchez’s slow recovery from labrum surgery has knocked his prospect stock way down, but I’m enthused by the perhaps misguided hope that his depressed draft standing will give him the chip on his shoulder (not literally) needed to prove all the teams that passed on him wrong. Talent doesn’t disappear, but it can get lost in the fog of injuries. Teams willing to take the chance that Sanchez will someday recovery 100% from his shoulder injury are betting that the fog will soon lift.

7. Kansas JR 3B Tony Thompson

If he sticks at third, you’ve got a real player on your hands. If he’s a first baseman long-term, the bat will need to go up a level or two before you could realistically consider him a potential regular at the spot. For now, I think he’s got nimble enough feet to stick at third through his mid-twenties. Thompson’s successful return to health after an early season injury has allowed him time to showcase the plus arm and plus power that should get him drafted in the first five rounds no matter what teams think about his defense.

6. Louisville SO 3B Phil Wunderlich

Makeup is one of the easiest scouting terms to throw around as a positive or a negative for any given prospect because anonymous internet sources (like mine!) are never asked to truly qualify what the word means. Here’s what I mean when I say Wunderlich’s makeup is off the charts: In an completely fictional, but totally possible survey of college coaches and players, Wunderlich would win the “most likely to manage” poll going away. He’s that kind of player.  Intangibles aside, Wunderlich is an underrated athlete with legit plus power and amazing patience at the plate. He may not be a natural defender at third, but he’s also not the type of player you’d bet against working his tail off until he is at least a decent big league defensive player.

5. Oklahoma City JR 3B Matt Presley

A trio of haikus, one offensive, one defensive, and one summing it all up, to describe draft sleeper Matt Presley…

Strikeouts are scary
But bat gives pitchers nightmares
Power is special

Not Schmidt with leather
Still, strong arm and high effort
Might fit best in right

Star in Sooner state
Not quite on Durant’s level
Better nickname, though

In summary: Easy to fall in love with his bat, but hard to realistically see him ever being average or better at third. Also, I suck at haikus.

4. Pittsburgh JR 3B Joe Leonard

Leonard has gotten a ton of positive press over the past few weeks, all of it well earned. He came into the season as one of the best college hitting prospects and one of the few collegiate position players projected to be productive enough both at the plate and in the field to start every day in the big leagues. The one question that scouts had about his game was his power upside. Leonard has answered the bell by hitting for over 30 extra base hits and slugging well over .600. He’s a good athlete with a plus arm and great big league size for a third baseman. Defensively he’s presently skilled enough to be considered big league average at the position, and continued development ought to get him up above-average during his best defensive seasons.

Neither his offense nor his defense will ever quite approach the level of peak years Scott Rolen (a really underrated player by many, I think), but if you squint really hard you can begin to see Leonard as perhaps developing into that type of player – exciting defenders, strong physiques, and often mischaracterized as power hitters first and foremost. In fact, after looking at the numbers some, I’d compare Leonard’s upside as a hitter to something around what Rolen did his rookie season (.283/.377/.469) with the Phillies. That kind of upside is substantial, clearly, so it may very well be that Leonard’s placement on this list is a mistake that I’ll have to rectify before June 7th hits.

3. Georgia Tech JR 3B Derek Dietrich

I’m part of the small but vocal minority that seems to think Dietrich could play a decent shortstop professionally if given the chance, but, seeing as its highly unlikely he’ll ever get that opportunity, we’ll judge him here on the basis of his potential well above-average glove and plus arm at third. There’s very little mystery as to what kind of player a team will get if they take Dietrich early on; he’ll hit with both above-average contact and home run numbers (consistent 20 homer upside, I think), play solid to plus defense (as mentioned), and consistently work hard to improve his overall game. I’m no fan of writers/analysts/scouts/Larry Browns who fall back on the tired cliché “he plays the game the right way,” but, hypocrite that I am, Derek Dietrich simply plays the game the way it was meant to be played. He won’t be a sexy pick, but he’s as good a bet as any player on this list to contribute in some capacity in the big leagues.

2. Arkansas SO 3B Zack Cox

Easily confused fellow that I am, I don’t quite understand the negativity surrounding Cox’s power potential that has come to the surface this season. It seems to me that he can’t really win with some people. Last year people oohed and aahed as he flashed prodigious raw power, but disappointed in the plate discipline department. This year he’s taken a much more patient, contact-oriented approach, but is getting heat for not hitting for the same power as he did his freshman year. I realize slugging .600+ and socking 20 extra base hits in college (like Cox has done so far in 2010) isn’t quite the feat it appears to be at first blush, but it’s still a decent indicator that the guy hasn’t been reduced to a singles only hitter this year. Now imagine the possibility that good professional coaching can help Cox unlock the secret of maintaining his gains in plate discipline and a high contact rate while simultaneously helping him rediscover the big power stroke of his first collegiate season. Sounds pretty good, right?

As arguably the draft’s top position player prospect, much has already been written about Cox’s toolset. The cliff notes version is this: potential plus bat, above-average present power but plus projection, 45/50 runner, plus arm, good defender. His worst tool is probably his speed, and, as you can see, even that project to be around average. I think Cox’s ceiling is below that of your typical top half of the first round college bat, but he’s still a relatively safe pick to be an above-average regular third baseman for a first division club.

1. Tulane JR 3B Rob Segedin

I had Segedin as the 47th best draft-eligible player in the nation heading into the year, so it’s nice to see him succeed in 2010 for totally selfish reasons alone. Sure, it’s also nice to see a hard working young man work his way back from a season lost to injury to put himself in a position for a well earned big paycheck and chance at chasing his dream of professional baseball, but, really, it’s all about me, me, me! Anyway, Segedin has a gorgeous righthanded stroke that’s so pretty to look at it’s almost a surprise when he makes contact and the ball doesn’t fly to an unattended gap somewhere. Defensively, he’ll stick at third at least in the short-term (steady hands, limited range), but could become a rightfielder with average range and a cannon arm if needed. It’ll be the bat that makes him the big bucks, and it’s got all the makings of a special one. At the plate, Segedin is a professional player trapped in the college game. Rare plate discipline, gap power that’s finally beginning to round into over-the-fence pop, and impressive bat control make him a hitter with a big future going forward. When your floor is a lefty mashing four-corners utility guy, then you’d better believe the ceiling is much, much higher.

Quick College Look Ahead – UConn, LSU, and Kansas

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.

Connecticut

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.

LSU

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.

Kansas

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.