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30. Howard JC SO 2B Marcellous Biggins – Raw on the bases, in the field, and at the plate, but when you are this far down the list a plus tool like Biggins’ speed is enough to get noticed.
29. Pacific JR 2B JB Brown – Above-average hitter in the mold of Josh Vitters, Howie Kendrick, and Placido Polanco. Of course, those three names were superior prospects at various points in their respective development; I’m talking about the type of hitter, not necessarily the quality of hitter. Brown is a notorious hacker, but has shown an uncanny ability to swing at pitches he can handle. Hitters like this are typically far too batting average dependent to emerge as successful professionals, but they make for interesting case studies as they progress through the minors.
28. Sam Houston State JR 2B Braden Riley – Another player with an interesting hit tool, but probably not enough power or patience to advance too far up the ladder professionally.
27. Kent State JR 2B Jared Humphreys – Really good athlete with plus speed and great baseball instincts who is capable of playing a variety of positions on the diamond. He’s probably best defensively in the outfield, but his bat players much better at second. Could be an organizational player who wears down a team over
26. Connecticut JR 2B Pierre LePage – Stock is lower here than in other spots, an opinion based largely on his groundball inducing swing plane and lack of meaningful physical strength. In his defense, LePage qualifies as the type of player who grows on you every time you watch him play; pro scouts love guys like that. He can do just enough of everything, and do it all pretty well, but his slap hitting style could get the bat knocked out of his hands as a pro.
25. North Carolina State SR 2B Dallas Poulk – Four years of starter’s at bats have finally paid off for the hard working Poulk. Long considered the inferior prospect to his cousin, Drew, Dallas’s ultra productive 2010 season has finally gotten the attention of area scouts. What they are seeing is another potential organizational player at second, but one with just enough juice in his bat to make a conversion to catching a worthwhile risk.
24. Arizona JR 2B Rafael Valenzuela – Less toolsy, less athletic version of Jared Humphreys, but similar defensive versatility and solid hit tool. What separates Valenzuela is a more professional approach at the plate and, despite less upside, a greater chance of helping a big league team someday.
23. St John’s JR 2B Greg Hopkins – A college third baseman better suited for second in the pros, Hopkins is a very well-rounded ballplayer who grades out with at least fringe average tools in all areas but foot speed. His 45 arm should be enough for second, and his gap power is better suited for the keystone sack than third. Looks like another organizational guy with the upside of a utility player.
22. Central Florida JR 2B Derek Luciano – His name makes me think slick fielding, speed middle infielder, but in reality Luciano is a below-average runner and inconsistent fielder who will have to rely on his lefthanded power if he wants to make it in pro ball. His good, but not great 2010 season has tempered some of the pre-season enthusiasm surrounding his prospect stock.
21. Florida JR 2B Josh Adams– Personal favorite heading into the year has struggled as one of the veteran anchors of a young Gators lineup. His scouting reports are largely favorable, despite the subpar junior season. Like a few other names below him on the list, Adams will be helped by his positional versatility as he tries to make it in the pros as a utility guy.
20. College of Charleston SR 2B Joey Bergman – Any regular reader should know that I wasn’t a Christian Colon fan coming into the year. To fill the void atop my shortstop rankings, I stubbornly tried to convince myself that there was somebody at the college level better. The one name that came up in conversations with people smarter than I am multiple times was Joey Bergman, but always with the caveat that he won’t stick at the position as a pro. Ultimately, nobody could vouch for any player over Colon at shortstop, but the positive vibes I kept hearing when discussing Bergman stuck with me. He’s another versatile defender who can play both up the middle spots, and his high contact rate bodes well going forward.
19. Georgia Southern SR 2B AJ Wirnsberger – The position-less Wirnsberger is on the second base list by default because, well, his bat is good enough to get him drafted, but his glove leaves much to be desired. Unlike a few other defensively flexible players on the list, Wirnsberger projects as a utility guy based more on a reputation as an iffy glove that needs to be hidden rather than a naturally versatile defender. The reason finding him a position is worth the trouble at all is the bat. A hotly recruited prep player, Wirnsberger has good loft on his swing and punishes mistakes, especially when he can get his hands extended. He could find a home behind the plate if a team believes his strong arm will play.
18. Miami SR 2B Scott Lawson – Lawson, Jemile Weeks’ successor at second for Miami, has done nothing but hit since stepping on campus. Above-average hit tool, fantastic plate discipline, ten homer pro pop, and strong defense across the board…can you tell he is a personal favorite? Lawson’s spot on the list begins a stretch of players that I think can play regularly in the big leagues if everything, and I mean everything, breaks right for them.
17. Clemson SR 2B Mike Freeman – Almost an identical player to Scott Lawson, but Freeman provides better footwork in the field and a smidge better speed on the bases. He also possesses one of the quietest, most compact swings I’ve seen at the college level in some time, and has a well earned reputation as a player who doesn’t go the plate without first knowing as much as possible about the opposition. Solid hit tool, above-average speed, good defender, efficient swing, veteran approach….obvious enough we have another personal favorite on our hands, right?
16. Canisius JR 2B Steve McQuail – McQuail has a pro body, pro power, and pro arm, but currently has too many holes in his long, loopy swing to profile as a regular. That said, McQuail’s tools are good enough to believe he has a chance to succeed professionally with the help of a good professional hitting instructor. I know I’m coming off like a broken record here, but when I read certain aspects of McQuail’s scouting reports (athletic, plus arm, only decent at second) I really can’t help but think some pro team has to think of him as a potential catching conversion.
15. Cal State Fullerton JR 2B Corey Jones – Jones is in pretty good company as the best 2010 draft-eligible Titan after a couple of guys named Christian Colon and Gary Brown. Live bat, power potential, and quickly maturing plate discipline, plus the possibility of some time back at his natural shortstop make for an intriguing pro prospect with more upside than your typical college athlete.
14. Southern JR 2B Curtis Wilson– Underrated player who is a good athlete with above-average speed and a really well rounded tool set. Biggest obstacle might be the lack of exposure and lack of one signature standout tool. Funny how a strength (no true weaknesses to his game) can be portrayed as a liability (no eye opening tool) in the next sentence. Speaking of second baseman from Southern, how awesome was Rickie Weeks? His junior year numbers: .500/.619/.987 with 27 steals in 27 tries. He’s probably the second baseman on my all-time favorite non-home team player team.
13. Kentucky JR 2B Chris Bisson– Steady enough to someday ascend to an everyday big league spot, but not currently in possession of any consistent standout tool. Noticing a trend yet? Bisson is lower here than ever I expected, but it’s more about liking the players ranked higher than disliking him. His upside is as a regular .275ish hitter (55) with low double digit homers (40) and above-average plate discipline. Add in a glove that borders on plus and you’ve got yourself a player that big league teams should start thinking about popping in the top ten rounds easy.
12. Kansas SR 2B Robby Price – Differences between Bisson and Price are more perception than reality at this point. Bisson offers up more speed and a little more power projection, but Price has the edge in the field and batting eye. For teams that go overslot both early (first 5 rounds) and late (round 25 and up) in the draft, the middle rounds — 10ish to 25ish — are an area where cheap organizational types are often gobbled up. Price fits that prototype, but is more talented than the typical fringe of the roster taken.
11. California JR 2B BJ Guinn – Might be good enough to hold an everyday job for a team that emphasizes speed and defense up the middle based on those two plus tools alone. The speed is very good, I don’t want to deemphasize his ability there, but it’s Guinn’s glove that really gets your attention. His arm may be a little short for the left side of the diamond, but his crazy range as second can’t help but make you wonder what kind of shortstop he’d be if given the chance.
10. Florida Southern JR 2B Wade Kirkland– For me, a better prospect than Robbie Shields, third rounder in 2009. Shields has more raw power and a better arm, but Kirkland has more present gap power and a more reliable glove.
9. Rutgers JR 2B Brandon Boykin– After excelling against relatively high level northeastern prep competition at Don Bosco Prep, Boykin has finally enjoyed a breakout season with the bat in year three at Rutgers. Friend of a friend of a friend told me the Phillies have him as a high priority mid-round middle infield target, no doubt because of his plus speed and surprisingly springy bat.
8. Cerritos CC SO 2B Joe Terry– The quintessential hitting machine who makes hard contact darn near every time he steps to the plate. He does more than just hit, however; Terry is also an above-average runner with a strong arm who, despite appearing to fight his body sometimes in the field, should settle in as at least an average second baseman with the help of professional coaching. He reinvented himself somewhat in 2010 sacrificing some power for a more patient approach, but the 19th round pick from 2010 has maintained that draft momentum all the same.
7. Alabama JR 2B Ross Wilson– Pretty clear scouting over statistics pick. Wilson has as much power potential and athleticism as any player below him on the list, but has disappointed scouts who expected much more with the bat this spring. His numbers all fall below the three magic thresholds (slugging below .550, more K’s than BB’s, way less than 20 steals), so his placement on this list is a testament to the confidence I have in a plus athlete figuring out how to apply his significant tools before long. High risk, high reward pick that could either emerge as a legit big league caliber starting player or flame out in AA.
6. Virginia JR 2B Phil Gosselin– Remains an average to slightly below-average infielder (capable of playing third and short in a pinch) with an average arm well suited for second base, who many believe may ultimately wind up in the outfield as a pro. That’s what I’ve heard, anyway. I’m not necessarily buying it; heck, his mere presence on this list indicates I think it would be best to keep Gosselin at second as long as possible professionally. He doesn’t have the glove/range for center, and doesn’t have the bat for a corner. If he isn’t a starting caliber outfielder, why not at least give him a shot in the infield? Coming into the year I thought his future was as a big league super-sub, but his big junior year has me thinking his bat could work at second if the glove cooperates.
5. Louisville SR 2B Adam Duvall – I’m as big a Louisville fan (prospect-wise) you’ll find outside of Kentucky, so take the Duvall ranking with a grain of salt. His speed and defense aren’t elite, but he’s strong enough in both areas. It’ll be his bat that gets him his shot as he rises to minor league prominence. Duvall reminds me a lot of great deal of 2009 fourth round pick Derek McCallum. Both players have really nice swings who should each hit for good averages with enough extra-base hits to keep pitchers honest.
4. Stanford JR 2B Colin Walsh – I wrote before the season that Walsh had a really pretty swing that caused scouts to project more power in his future. The future is now. Walsh’s excellent results on the field have finally caught up to his positive scouting reports. He also has an outstanding glove at second that may actually be good enough to work at shortstop, giving hope that he can be a utility infielder in the mold of Marco Scutaro someday. His offensive progression with Stanford actually reminds me of former Cardinal Cord Phelps, but, and this bears repeating, Walsh’s glove is outstanding. Phelps was a third rounder as a hitter with slightly less college production, a bit more physical projection, and a significantly lesser glove. 2010 is a really strong draft, especially near the top, but I’d still say that comparison bodes well for Walsh come draft day.
3. Chipola JC FR 2B LeVon Washington – Thought Washington wasn’t worth a first round grade in 2009, but the Tampa front office’s seal of approval is enough to make any good draft fan reconsider. His plus speed remains a major strength, as does his strong contact skills and intriguing power potential, but his post-injury noodle arm is a concern at any defensive position, even second. Even though I’m still not personally sold on the bat playing at higher levels, there is little denying Washington’s four-tool upside.
2. West Virginia JR 2B Jedd Gyorko – I’m not a scout, so I try not to pretend to be one if at all possible, but, if you’ll indulge me just this one, I have to point out the marked difference between Gyorko’s 2010 swing and his 2009 swing. The majority of his damage last season came on guesswork when he’d get nearly all his weight shifted up on his front foot and hack away. His stride is way more efficient this year, with a vastly improved, far more balanced load and launch. Very encouraging progress. Defensively, Gyorko will never be known for his range, but his soft hands should enable him to make all the plays at balls hit at or near him. The two most prevalent (and optimistic) comps are Kevin Youkilis and Dan Uggla, but ultimately Gyorko’s power upside pales in comparison. For me, Gyorko’s upside is that of the new Ben Zobrist.
1. Ball State JR 2B Kolbrin Vitek – Modest son of a gun I am, I’d never toot my own horn about getting out ahead of a prospect’s emergence, but, seeing as I’m wrong 95% of the time, give or take, I’d figure now is as good a time as any to point out this gem from early January: “Vitek’s tools all grade out similarly to fellow small school sensation Bryce Brentz. They both have plus bat speed, good plate discipline, and plus power potential. They are also both two-way players who have had success on the mound collegiately, though only Vitek could actually pull of the trick of being a legit draft prospect as either a hitter or pitcher. In addition to a glove/arm combination that will definitely play at third professionally, Vitek does all the little things well that make scouts (and wannabe’s like me) very happy. He is a sensational base runner, works deep counts, and has one of the coolest names this side of Yordy Cabrera. Vitek’s utter dominance of the Great Lakes League this past summer sealed the deal for me. He may not be a first rounder in June, but he is as good a bet as any college hitter in the 2010 to be an impact player in the big leagues.” Ha, I called him “Bryce Brentz without a publicist.” Genius prognosticating and comic gold. The myth of the next Jim Callis/Steve Martin super-hybrid has finally been realized.
One of the most popular (fine, the only) question I’ve been emailed since starting this site up goes a little something like this: I’m going to see ____ University/College/State play this weekend and I was wondering if there was anybody with a professional future that would be worth watching. The College Team Profiles are designed to preemptively answer any and all questions about the prospects from a particular college team…or maybe just open up a whole new debate full of new, even more confusing questions. We’ll see. The next three draft classes for one particular school are featured, with the players ranked in order (from greatest to least greatest) within each class. As always, whether you agree, disagree, or think I’m a dope who should leave this sort of stuff to the experts (thanks, Mom)…let’s hear it via email (you can use either robozga at gmail dot com or thebaseballdraftreport at gmail dot com) or in the comments section.
JR OF Jarrett Parker (2010) is one of the best of the many 2010 toolsy lottery ticket kind of players. I haven’t been doing this draft thing for that long, so it is hard for me to compare talent levels from class to class, but it seems that this year has a high number of mid-round high upside, high flameout potential players. I also haven’t been doing this writing thing long, as you can see from the mess that was that last sentence. Anyway, as mentioned, Parker is one of the very best of the so-called (by me) “lottery ticket” group, so he isn’t necessarily included in the mid-round subsection. In fact, many see him as a candidate to go in the first round. It’s easy to see why. His mix of tools and big-time sophomore numbers would make him a top-three round guy right now. Continued incremental improvements in his game his junior year will push his draft stock even higher. I’ll make a scary cross-race comparison here and claim Parker has a similar skill set as Lastings Milledge. He has plus power potential, an above-average arm, good speed, and the defensive chops to be a well above-average corner outfielder or a steady stopgap in center. Like Milledge, he struggles against breaking balls to the point that it’s hard not to see him as a 100+ strikeout big league hitter at this point. However, and I try my best to sandwich the bad news in between good news when I can, two big assets in Parker’s favor are his big league ready frame (6-4, 210 after packing on serious muscle), and the seemingly ever-increasing athleticism and agility (honed by practicing yoga) that should help him withstand the rigors of the professional grind. Additionally, Parker improved his walk rate from his freshman year to his sophomore year, and continued the positive trend during his otherwise disappointing campaign on the Cape this summer. I like that.
JR OF Dan Grovatt (2010) has a very patient approach at the plate, power to the gaps, average speed, and a good enough arm to play right field professionally. Sounds good, right? It should because Grovatt is a top five round caliber talent. My only worry is that his more good than great toolset makes him too similar a prospect to former Florida State standout Jack Rye. Rye was one of my all-time favorite college players and a guy I touted as a draft sleeper, but his pro numbers, especially his power indicators, haven’t exactly set the world on fire so far. The comparison is probably unfair – one player’s struggles don’t really have anything to do with another’s future – but, having seen both play, the similarity between the two seemed worth pointing out. However, the two aren’t clones of one another, either. Grovatt is the better athlete and defensive player, and he has more upside with the bat, especially in the power department. Those are all pretty important points in Grovatt’s favor. It’ll take more time and research to see where exactly Grovatt stacks up when compared to fellow 2010 college outfielders, but I have the feeling that he’ll grade out higher here than in most spots. His well-rounded game and extensive big-time college experience make him a good bet to hit the ground running professionally. I’d peg his upside as that of a solid everyday corner outfielder (defense included) with a still valuable floor as a good fourth outfielder.
JR RHP Robert Morey (2010) will, if nothing else, always have a big win over Stephen Strasburg in the opener of the 2009 Irvine Regional. Fortunately for him, however, he won’t have to limit himself to that one particular game when someday regaling his grandkids about his playing days. A low-90s fastball, above-average slider, and an emerging straight changeup, plus his status as the Saturday starter for a championship caliber college team, should get him into the top ten rounds this June as a future back of the rotation starter.
JR RHP Tyler Wilson (2010) will probably be the Cavalier most directly impacted by Cody Winiarski’s arrival on campus. The opportunity to slide into the vacant weekend starting spot would have done wonders for Wilson’s 2010 draft stock. Even without the starting gig, he’ll get noticed as Virginia’s primary reliever, the bullpen ace relied upon to pitch multiple innings at a time whenever called upon. His plus command, good athleticism, and easy, repeatable arm action help him thrive in the role. Additionally, Wilson’s solid three-pitch mix (fastball sitting 90-92 and topping out at 94, good sinking high-70s change, average slider) gives credence to the idea he has value either in the bullpen or as a starter. I like him a lot, and believe he’ll be a top-ten round guy in June.
JR RHP Kevin Arico (2010) had himself a breakout season as Virginia’s closer in 2009. His bread and butter is a plus low-80s slider that he has no problem throwing over and over and over again. The first time I saw Arico pitch I walked away pretty impressed with myself for finally finding a player that I could compare to Kiko Calero. After seeing him throw a few more times since then, I think I’m now ready to upgrade the comp a smidge to now qualify Arico for a Chad Qualls type of ceiling. There is little to no chance his final draft standing rivals Qualls’s (you’d think last names ending with the letter s would annoy me, but, brother let me tell you, nothing is worse than a name ending in z), but he could still find himself as a top 12-15 round pick who could be a quick mover for the team that takes the plunge. There should be some concern about a player so reliant on one specific skill, but Arico’s results against high level competition should help assuage most clubs’ worry.
JR INF/OF Phil Gosselin (2010) heads into the 2010 season as the man without a position. The 2009 First-Team All-ACC second baseman has been working out in leftfield almost exclusively this fall, but has also apparently been told to be ready to fill in just about anywhere (3B, 2B, maybe SS, in that order) as needed this spring. It’s rare that a college supersub would be a legit draft prospect, but Gosselin is just that. He is a slightly below-average infielder with an average arm (2B being his most likely pro landing spot if a team prefers him in the infield), who will almost certainly be first tried in the outfield as a pro. I’m not sure if that is the best way to maximize Gosselin’s pro value. He doesn’t have the glove/range for center, and doesn’t have the bat for a corner. If he isn’t a starting caliber outfielder, why not at least give him a shot in the infield? If he can bump his defense up to at least average in the infield, then you’ve got yourself a player who can help you stretch the limits of your 25-man roster, especially in the NL.
JR C/1B/OF Kenny Swab (2010) and his Cavalier teammate John Hicks (2011) – separated at birth? Swab figures to have the inside track on the primary backup catching job, but should also see time at first base, right field (to take advantage of his plus arm), and designated hitter. He’s got a live bat with above-average power potential, but it’ll take some serious lineup juggling from Brian O’Connor to get him the at bats he’ll need to boost his draft stock. As is, Swab is a potential 10-20th round player based on upside alone.
SR LHP Neal Davis (2010) goes into his senior season as Virginia’s top lefthanded relief pitcher, a player able to skillfully mix and match fastballs, sliders, and changeups to get hitters out. His most recent season was arguably his least successful – certainly his least dominating – so he heads into 2010 with plenty to prove. His big league frame (6-6, 210) and past success in a highly competitive conference (he struck out nearly a batter an inning [39 in 40] while only allowing 7 earned runs in 40 relief innings [1.58 ERA] in 2008) combined with intriguing stuff (sits in the high-80s to low-90s with the fastball and has an above-average mid-70s slider) make him another second half of the draft option for a team looking for a warm A-ball body on the cheap. I know I do this a lot, but I’d be remiss to write this much about Davis without mentioning the possibility that his stuff and frame would actually play well as a starting pitcher professionally.
JR RHP Cody Winiarski (2010) comes to Virginia via noted talent factory Madison Area Technical College. After doing a little bit of homework on him, I’ve found that he is a player with a whole lot of adamant supporters. Someone who saw him pitch on multiple occasions while at MATC raved about his potential plus changeup. Another admitted that while he had never actually seen Winiarski throw himself, he had heard very positive things from others about his command and general pitchability. Winiarski doesn’t have as much room for error as some pitchers with bigger fastballs, but the praise he has gotten from those who have seen him firsthand makes me a believer in his pro prospects. Assuming he holds down the last weekend starting job as expected, watch out for Winiarksi as a potential top-15 round arm this June.
SR INF Tyler Cannon (2010) reminds me of a better version of Missouri’s Greg Folgia, a player picked a round higher in 2009. Cannon is solid in all phases of the game, but lacks fluidity on defense at any position. Between his lack of a true defensive home and his steady, but unspectacular bat, Cannon has many believing his professional role will be that of a super-sub capable of playing literally every position on the diamond, including catcher. His college counting stats (through his first two seasons) match up with Eric Bruntlett’s in almost an eerie way, but the comparison falls apart when you look at each player’s rate stats. Anyway, I’d say that the Bruntlett comp may actually be a tad optimistic at this point. Cannon’s collegiate track record isn’t quite as strong as Bruntlett’s (though another big season like Cannon had last year would close the gap) and he lacks Bruntlett’s tremendous Civil War reenactor (that may be the single ugliest looking word in the English language) style beard, but I’d bet on enough marginal improvements as he progresses into his mid-20s to see him getting a chance as a AAAA utility guy good enough to position himself as a potential callup when injuries to the more talented players occur. His big junior year gives him something to build on heading into 2010, and the continued increase of talented infielders to the Cavalier program ought to give him more of an opportunity to show off the defensive versatility that will be his best shot at someday playing big league baseball.
SR C Franco Valdes (2010) plays exceptional defense behind the plate. He’s adept at blocking balls in the dirt, athletic enough to get out of his crouch to pounce on anything in front of him, and has a strong enough arm to keep potential base stealers honest. He also has one heck of a reputation when it comes to handling a pitching staff. However, and this is a biggie, his offense (career OBP = .301) leaves much to be desired. However, and this is may or may not be a biggie depending on how you feel about this sort of thing, he does have the benefit of draft pedigree (15th round pick of Detroit back in 2006) on his side. I never know how much stock to put into previous draft standing, especially when we’re talking about a college junior or senior who was drafted in a late round three or four years prior. So much can change in the span of three or four seasons, you know? Valdes certainly isn’t a 15th round caliber player anymore, mainly due to the stalled development of his offensive game, but the fact he was previously drafted makes me hesitant to claim he has no shot at all this time around. At best, he’s worth nothing more than a late late late round flier at this point.
JR OF John Barr (2010) is as nondescript a prospect as you’ll find. It’s nothing personal – in fact, I saw Barr play in high school, and I tend to form weird (non-creepy!) attachments to players I’ve seen early on – but nothing about his game stands out as being an average or better big league tool. His numbers dipped from his freshman year to his sophomore season, but he deserves the benefit of the doubt as he was recovering from shoulder surgery for much of 2009.
INF JR Corey Hunt (2010) has to be a big believer in the idea that timing is everything, if for not other reason than to help him ease his troubled head at night. In a different era of Virginia baseball it’s possible Hunt could have come in, gotten playing time early, established himself as a useful defense-first middle infielder with above-average on-base skills, and pushed his draft stock up enough by his senior season to be a worthwhile 20ish round or so pick. Instead, he has been behind some pretty good veteran infielders to start off his Cavalier career and he’ll be behind some really impressive youngsters to end his career. Without regular playing time he’ll be a very difficult player for scouts to assess come June. The lack of track record and standout tools make him a non-prospect at this point.
JR INF/OF Tyler Biddix (2010) has one of the most underrated names in all of college baseball. K’Nex, Lego, Megatendo, Fischertechnik, Biddix, Uberstix, Blockos…which ones are real building block toys and which ones are fake? Pretty sure the end table I bought from Ikea a few months ago was a Biddix. Damn, the Ikea joke was a better one than the K’Nex/Uberstix one, wasn’t it? Wish I would have thought of it first. Anyway, I have no doubt that the real Biddix (the person) is a better prospect than the flimsy table, but not by enough to make him a draftable prospect.
SO INF/C Keith Werman (2011) did his best Pat Venditte impression while in high school, pitching a seven-inning complete game both lefthanded (3.1 innings) and righthanded (3.2 innings). That fun fact from the Virginia baseball website may have absolutely no bearing on Werman’s prospect stock, but it’s undeniably cool. What is relevant about his prospect stock is the fact he is a plus defender at second base who also has experience at shortstop and catcher dating back to his prep career. He can also handle the bat (.400/.481/.457 line in 70 at bats) enough to keep himself in the mix for a starting spot in 2010. Werman’s draft upside may be limited by his size (5-7, 150 – not saying judging him on size is fair, but it’s the reality), but the universal praise he earned last year as a sparkplug second leadoff hitter (the nice way of saying 9-hole hitter) for Virginia down the stretch should continue to get him noticed on the college level. The gap between Werman and Stephen Bruno is more perception than reality.
FR SS Reed Gragnani (2012) is yet another talented young prospect expected to see significant time in a loaded Virginia infield. His game right now revolves largely around his well above-average speed, excellent athleticism, and impressive range up the middle, but he is no slouch with the bat either. Early comps include Brian Roberts (if he develops as is) and Ryan Zimmerman (if he bulks up and gains power). Gragnani’s brother, Robbie, grew four inches during his college tenure at Virginia Commonwealth, so that Ryan Zimmerman developmental path isn’t totally out of the question. That’s not to say that the only thing standing in the way between Gragnani and future big league All-Star status is a couple of inches and some muscle, but he’s a good player with high round talent all the same.
FR SS Stephen Bruno (2012) was one of the rarest of the rare coming out of high school – a prep player actually expected to stay at shortstop as a pro. We always hear about how pretty much every worthwhile big leaguer was the star shortstop/pitcher of his high school team, but it never registered how often these players were forced to move off the position after signing that first pro deal. I mean, Frank Thomas was a shortstop in high school* because, let’s be honest, that’s just where you put the best athlete at that level. I remember watching Billy Rowell play shortstop in high school. He positioned himself about 3 steps out on the outfield grass, basically admitting to all in attendance he had no range and instead relying exclusively on his rocket arm to gun people down at first. Rowell wasn’t a pro prospect as a shortstop, but he played shortstop on his high school team because, quite simply, if he didn’t, then who would? Bruno was a top ten round talent in 2009 who fell to the Yankees in the 26th round due to a very strong commitment to Virginia. He’ll stick at shortstop throughout his career due to his plus range, slightly above-average speed, and Speedy Gonzalez quick hands. He has flashed present power, launching a couple of 450 bombs his senior year of school, but lacks the overall strength to do it on a consistent basis. That last point may not seem like a huge deal for a middle infield prospect, but it does speak to the general concerns about Bruno’s future. Some players are projects based on the development of their tools, an area that Bruno grades out fairly well across the board (in addition to the aforementioned defensive skills, he has a 55 arm), but other players are projects based on their physical development. That’s where Bruno is at right now. He has worked his tail off to improve in each of the five tools (most notably speed and arm strength), but it’ll be the way is body fills out (keeping in mind he is 5-9, 165) that will make him into either a first round caliber guy or not.
***Frank Thomas may or may not have been a shortstop in high school. I actually have no idea. I just thought he was a good example for the point I was trying to make. Now I realize that making stuff up doesn’t help my argument at all, but it’s my site and I get to be as bad a writer and as big a liar as I want to be. Maybe Jim Thome would have been a better example; I bet he played shortstop in high school…
UPDATE: Found something! Go here, or just trust this excerpt: “In baseball, he was a 6-2, 175-pound shortstop. The Cincinnati Reds were interested but never drafted him. So Thome enrolled at Illinois Central College, where he played baseball and basketball. The Indians drafted him in the 13th round in 1989, one of the smartest selections they ever made.”
FR SS Chris Taylor (2012) might have hit himself into regular playing time after mashing the ball throughout the fall. One rumored starting infield for Virginia has Steven Proscia at first, Keith Werman at second, Tyler Cannon sliding back over to third, and Taylor getting regular time at short. Taylor has plus raw power and intriguing defensive tools, but comes to school with a bit less fanfare as fellow freshman infielders Gragnani and Bruno.
Quick spin around college baseball’s opening weekend. A whole bunch of Friday starters (and relievers) were already covered, so let’s take a look at some of the most meaningful hitting performances of the weekend. Of course, since I can’t resist, I threw some interesting pitching lines in at the bottom. Small sample size caveats apply, as always. (more…)