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Seriously, what can you say? 12 picks in the draft’s top 89 turned into 8 prospects in my personal top 79 and 14 total players within my top 166 list. Even if you think my list is garbage or don’t like being manipulated with arbitrary endpoints (what, top 166’s aren’t the norm?), you have to admit that Tampa walked away with quite a haul this past June. The biggest prize from draft day was first round pick Spring Valley HS (SC) RHP Taylor Guerrieri. Guerrieri has everything you want in a young pitching prospect. Feels like I’ve said that about a few 2011 arms so far. Just when I begin to think I’m being too optimistic about He throws hard yet easy, shows signs of a plus breaking ball, and repeats his mechanics as well as any teenager in pro ball. He also has a long track record of holding his velocity late into games to go along with a much shorter but still promising history of improved overall command.
RHP Taylor Guerrieri (North Augusta HS, South Carolina): 87-90 FB last summer until sudden 97 peak this spring; now sitting 93-94 due to added physical strength with a consistent peak of 97-98, holds velocity late as well as any prep pitcher I remember; FB has plus life; emerging 77-83 CB with plus upside that has turned into a weapon already; heavy FB; very low effort mechanics; FB command greatly improved; mid-80s SL with upside; will show CU with upside and cutter; 6-3, 195 (up from 180)
This is the first thing I ever wrote about Louisiana State OF Mikie Mahtook for this site: “Mikie Mahtook is white. I don’t know why that surprises me, but it does. It really does. I’m not proud of this fact.” Yeah, I was/am a dope. The unintentional but still weak admission embarrasses me to this day. That’s not to say I still don’t occasionally associate certain names with mental images – I blame society for that, in addition to all my other flaws – but I have made a conscious effort since then not to jump to any kind of unfortunate and unnecessary racial conclusions based solely on an individual’s name. Ah, feels good to get that off my chest. No matter what color he is, Mahtook is a really good prospect with one of the higher floors of any 2011 position player. He doesn’t have a single weak tool – maybe his speed/range in center will slip as he ages and bulks up, but both are presently average at worst – while possessing the right mix of power upside and athleticism that tends to get a guy noticed. Mahtook also gets bonus points from me for being a tools-first player who lived up to the hype collegiately; the year-to-year progression from tools to skills was easily seen to anybody lucky enough to watch him play from high school to his junior season at LSU. From a production/skill set standpoint, two comps that I think are fun: peak years Angel Pagan (’09 and ’10 mostly) and 2011 Melky Cabrera (but hopefully with a little more plate discipline).
[above-average to plus speed; good defender; above-average to plus arm; big power potential, but swing holds him back; excellent athlete; good approach; great athlete; 6-1, 195 pounds]
Sierra Vista HS (NV) SS Jake Hager is caught in between two worlds. On one hand, he’s a player with a well-deserved reputation as a throwback scrappy grinder gym rat who always gives 110% and leaves it all out on the field. The guy plays his butt off every game and practice. Hager has worked very hard to get to this point in his career. If we can now ignore my lame attempt at humor in the opening sentence, high effort and hard work are legitimate positives that ought to be lauded and, despite not being quantifiable, are correctly taken into consideration by all thirty MLB teams during pre-draft meetings. That said, man cannot live on scrap alone. Thankfully, on the other hand, Hager’s tools are pretty damn solid. He has tools that are good enough across the board that they ought to be the headliner while his dirtbag persona takes a backseat. Luckily for Tampa, they don’t have to choose between the two – they’ll get the best of both worlds. Hager’s defensive tools and skills (arm, footwork, pre-pitch positioning, and instincts) are particularly strong, especially if he moves to third base. If third is what the future holds, I really think his glove will be strong enough of a tool to carry him, perhaps as a player similar to Marlins prospect Matt Dominguez or fellow 2011 draftee Jason Esposito. If he can combine that with the offensive comp I heard on him pre-draft (the good version of Daric Barton), then you’ve got a star level player, right? I’m not proud of throwing back-to-back sentences beginning with “if” at you, but that kind of comes with the territory when talking prep prospects.
Hager is a shortstop on many team’s draft boards, but I prefer him as a potential defensive star at third base. His arm and reaction time are both perfectly suited for the hot corner. The only downside with moving him off short is the acknowledgement that his bat, specifically his power, profiles better as a middle infielder that at a corner. His approach to hitting and history of hitting with wood assuage some of those worries, but I understand the concern. I’ve heard a Daric Barton comp on his bat that I like.
I liked Santiago HS (CA) SS Brandon Martin just a touch better than Hager pre-draft. Nothing has happened since that has changed my opinion. I only bring it up to reiterate how close the two players were and are in my mind. The two guys are really similar players, so almost everything said about Hager above applies to Martin here. Martin gets the edge for me because of his slightly better chance of sticking at shortstop (total judgment call there – seems many like Hager as a shortstop way more than I do, and that’s cool) and a slightly more advanced to hitting (e.g. more patience and better pitch recognition). Tracking the progress of these two similar prospects will be a lot of fun in the coming years.
What stands out to me about Martin’s game is his approach to hitting. His speed is good, his arm is good, and the likelihood he sticks at shortstop is, well, good, but it is his potential plus hit tool and professional approach at the plate that separates him from the pack. Regular readers of the site probably realize that certain hitting-related buzzwords — approach, patience, maturity — get my attention more than others — aggressive being the first that comes to mind — and many of my favorites just so happen to be words that scouts often use to describe Martin.
Potential plus defense at the hot corner is what helps St. Francis HS (CA) 3B Tyler Goeddel stand out among the glut of infielders drafted by Tampa in 2011. His bat should play quite well at the position, and his athleticism, quick release, and footwork will continue to earn him sterling reviews with the glove.
Fast rising Tyler Goeddel has emerged as one of the finest prep players in California this spring. He’s shown all five tools in game action, including a really strong hit tool. His arm, speed, and power are all average or better, and his pro frame gives him room to mature physically.
How can you not love Lower Columbia JC RHP Jeff Ames? He fits the classic plus fastball but little else potential shutdown reliever archetype better than any prospect in this year’s draft. One thing to watch: when Ames misses, he misses high. His fastball is really tough from about the elbows/letters down, but when he starts elevating the pitch, it becomes much, much easier to drive. If the Tampa staff can help him continue to progress cutting and sinking his fastball, he’s a keeper.
Lower Columbia JC SO RHP Jeff Ames: 92-95 FB, 97 peak; plus movement on FB; inconsistent offspeed stuff
The buzz on Shorewood HS (WA) LHP Blake Snell grew and grew as the spring progressed. Unfortunately, that buzz wasn’t particularly positive as many scouts and front office types came away believing college might be best for Snell’s long-term outlook. Whether or not the college route was the right course of action is a moot point; Snell is a professional and there’s no looking back now. The flashes he showed as a high school senior – lefties who hit 94 are nothing to sneeze at – give some hope that he’ll flourish as a pro, but he’s not one of my personal favorites from this class due to his lack of any consistent offspeed offering.
LHP Blake Snell (Shorewood HS, Washington): 86-90 FB, 92-94 peak; slow CB flashes above-average; average CU; less polished than expected; good athlete; 6-4, 190
For most of the spring I thought I was higher on Western Kentucky OF Kes Carter than most; that smug satisfaction blew up in my face once I saw I had actually underrated Carter’s upside, at least in terms of draft stock. Tampa selecting Carter in the supplemental first caught me by surprise – had him pegged somewhere between rounds 5-10, though closer to 5 than 10 – but it is easy to see why they liked him so high. His in-game play and consensus scouting reports both remind me of Shane Victorino. A quick search of the archives reveals that I like using Victorino as a comp. Previously compared to Shane Victorino by me: Jackie Bradley Jr. (but only if you are a believer in his bat) and Gary Brown (still like this one a lot). The Victorino comp is basically a proxy for the following: good speed, CF range, plus arm, strong OBP skills, and deceptive power upside. One big difference between Carter and Victorino at similar points in their development: Carter turns 22 in March and has 15 pro plate appearances while Victorino, he of the unusual minor league career path, still managed 1576 plate appearances by the same age. Probably unwise to compare a college draftee to a high school pick, but what’s done is done. Additionally, if you are into making size/power upside judgments (I’m not, but I don’t judge), keep in mind that Carter has a good five inches on Victorino. It should go without saying that the Victorino comp is Carter’s perfect world projection. Also, take the comp as something I find logical for the reasons listed, and not necessarily how I think things will go; intuitively, I just don’t have a very strong feeling about Carter ever becoming an impact player as a pro. I think his more realistic ceiling is as a high-level fourth outfielder. Then again, that’s the same ceiling many fans put on Victorino back in the day. Hmm…
[91 peak FB; plus arm; capable CF; little power at present, but raw power is there; above-average speed; 6-1, 190 pounds]
Pretty much everything about Vanderbilt LHP Grayson Garvin I feel like saying I’ve already said, but I’ll ramble on a bit because I’m a sucker for completeness. Garvin has retained the skills of a soft-tossing lefthander even though he suddenly started throwing much harder this past spring. I’m much more comfortable betting on a pitcher with a clear consistently above-average second pitch than Garvin shows, but he is well-rounded enough that a long career pitching at the back of a big league rotation seems well within reach. A more physical Paul Maholm, maybe?
Vanderbilt JR LHP Grayson Garvin: started 87-89 FB, 90-91 peak; sitting 89-92 now, 93-95 peak; good FB command; 70-73 CB with upside if thrown harder; now up to 73-75 and above-average pitch; average 77-80 CU with room for improvement, could be plus in time; cutter; SL; good athlete; outstanding control; 6-6, 220
Garvin is a classic pitchability lefty (love his FB command and overall control) who has just so happened to grow into above-average velocity from the left side. He doesn’t have a pitch that is a consistent out pitch, but both his curve and change flash above-average enough to give him the upside of a back of the rotation arm.
I can’t decide if Oakland Technical HS (CA) OF James Harris is the high school version of Kes Carter or if Carter is the college version of James Harris. Either way, the two prospects are fairly similar: strong glove, good speed, not much power upside. I prefer Harris based on his youth, superior range in center, and better speed. If you liked Carter because of his strong college production, more advanced hit tool, and an arm strong enough that he could be tried on the mound if need be, I wouldn’t call you crazy. Wrong, but not crazy…
[plus-plus range in CF; plus runner; plus athlete; limited raw power; bat has a long way to go; iffy arm; classic leadoff hitter approach]
It really is impossible to dislike Tampa’s 2011 draft. Sure, you can nitpick a couple selections here and there, but having 12 picks in the draft’s first 89 makes it really hard for a team to out and out blow it. I’m not really sure what it means then that Palmetto HS (FL) OF Granden Goetzman, Tampa’s eleventh overall pick but their first selection outside of the first round, is actually my favorite non- Guerrieri pick, but I think it is a good thing. There’s a really thin line that separates Goetzman from guys like Eierman, Goeddel, and Mahtook. The next tier of Martin, Hager, and Garvin isn’t really that big a step down, either. Of all those prospects, however, I’d take Goetzman over the rest. His pro debut (.173/.262/.213 in 75 AB) betrays his rawness, but you don’t draft a prospect like Goetzman for instant impact. Tampa drafted two similar prospects at different stages of their development in Kes Carter (college) and James Harris (high school). In Goetzman, they have a player with a wide tool base (55’s or better across the board) who reminds a lot of where Mikie Mahtook was as a prospect before enrolling at LSU.
[plus speed; plus raw power; arm enough for 3B or RF; raw; lots of range in CF; bat is raw, but quick; huge upside gamble; 6-3, 200]
With a name like Hawaii RHP Lenny Linsky’s, you are pretty much preordained to be a big league reliever, right? Lenny Linsky is just a great bullpen name. A true plus fastball due to outstanding velocity and movement (that phrase would be redundant if anybody in baseball used the word “velocity” correctly, but that’s a battle I’ve long given up on) is his bread and butter, but his unique hard cut slider is a legitimate weapon in its own right. My not so bold prediction of the day: it won’t be long before Linsky is closing in Tampa.
Hawaii JR RHP Lenny Linsky: 94-97 peak FB with plus sink; plus upper-80s cut SL
Warsaw HS (MO) OF Johnny Eierman’s much discussed move to the outfield could get his bat going a lot quicker than if he was left to fend for himself playing up the middle of the infield. I get that. But can you imagine his upside as an all-around ballplayer if he can stick at either short or second? I suppose he’d also provide plenty of value if he someday proves himself capable of handling center, but visions of Eierman turning two at the keystone keep dancing in my head.
Like Phillip Evans, Johnny Eierman’s a future professional second baseman with a chance of going in the first round. Also like Evans, Eierman has plus raw power, a plus arm, and plus defensive tools. His bat speed rivals that of any player in the class, college or pro, and his athleticism makes him an option at almost any position on the field. He’s an undeniably raw prospect with a complicated swing setup in need of some good old fashioned pro coaching, but if it all clicks for him he has easy big league All-Star upside.
Arizona State 3B Riccio Torrez represents what I think was Tampa’s attempt to make a “safe” college pick. So much of their draft was focused on upside that the potential reality of rolling snake eyes on all of their high school upside gambles, however small those odds may be, began creeping into the collective consciousness of their draft day decision makers. That’s one theory, at least. Guess it could also be possible that the Rays genuinely liked Torrez as a potential big leaguer someday. He does have some upside as an offense-first utility guy, but he’s never been a big personal favorite. For me, he’s a AAAA bat without quite enough value in his other tools (though, in fairness, versatility isn’t a tool yet he still deserves credit for it) to get him to the big leagues, at least not in any linear developmental path.
Torrez seems to finally have found a defensive home at third base. A team could draft him as a true third base prospect now and hope his bat grows into the role, or, and I think this is the more likely outcome, a team could draft him with the idea that he could develop into a versatile utility player. His only standout tool is his raw power, but even that is mitigated somewhat by a swing that currently lacks the proper loft needed to consistently drive balls up and out.
Elk Grove HS (CA) 3B JD Davis enters college as one of the most intriguing freshman two-way talents. I’m actually thrilled Davis is going to school because he is the epitome of a two-way college guy: just athletic enough to both pitch and play the field, but not quite athletic enough to handle much more than first base; plus arm and plus raw power with questions about command and ability to hit for average. Whoops, think I just previewed 2012 draft prospect Austin Maddox by accident.
Yet another two-way player likely heading off to college. Davis sports a well-rounded skill set, but no plus tool that will get a scout hot and bothered.
Cal State Fullerton RHP Jake Floethe is far more of a scouting pick than a numbers-approved selection. With the potential for three average or better big league pitches, Floethe is an intriguing gamble despite his less than thrilling college stats. His upside falls somewhere between fourth/fifth starter (if his changeup and slider continue to progress) or middle reliever (if it is decided he scrap an offspeed pitch and focus on sharper, shorter bursts). That’s upside, mind.
Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Jake Floethe (2011): 90-93 FB with plus sink; good CU; promising SL; room for growth
You often hear about a prep pitching star who peaked velocity-wise as a teenager – Kasey Kiker being the most recent example – but Gonzaga LHP Ryan Carpenter is the rare example of a college guy doing the same. Guys like this make the whole projection game really difficult. A pessimist might choose to focus on the fact that Carpenter may never recapture his college peak velocity (low-90s sitting fastball, 95 peak). An optimist could then point to his more refined (by necessity) offspeed stuff that complements his still acceptable upper-80s heater quite nicely. I’m not too proud to say I have no idea what his future holds – so much depends on his return to form as he recovers fully from arm troubles.
Gonzaga JR LHP Ryan Carpenter: at one time threw a heavy 92-94 FB, touching 95 with movement; now sits upper-80s, with rare peak of 92; above-average 81-82 SL, dominant at times; inconsistent but quickly improving 77-78 CU; low-70s CB that he uses very sparingly; 6-5, 225 pounds
Let’s squint our eyes together and look far off into Tampa’s future: Goeddel at third, Martin at short, Hager at second, and Glendora HS (CA) 1B John Alexander bringing the power at first? Everything working out just like that isn’t bloody likely, but the fact that we can even pretend it could happen is a testament to the wonderfully ecumenical (a rare SAT word that has stuck with me) approach Tampa took on draft day. For the millionth time, first basemen need to hit a ton to even be considered a viable prospect let alone a potential big leaguer. Alexander has an uphill road because of this, but his power upside, exciting athleticism, and mature beyond his years approach to hitting make him interesting to track. I wasn’t on him pre-draft, but that’s less of a commentary on Alexander’s upside than it is an indictment on my ability to follow everybody that deserves attention.
The Rays were wise to save a little cash by snagging a cheaper senior sign like Western Kentucky C Matt Rice within the draft’s first ten rounds. Rice is a good athlete, good defender, and by all accounts a good guy; it’s easy to see why Tampa would like a guy like this handling their bevy of up and coming arms.
Rice is a definite riser in my mind; very little chance he winds up as 2011′s Mr. Irrelevant (last overall pick in draft) like he was in 2010. He’s still a late-rounder, but he makes a lot of sense in the larger context of the draft. Sure, the ultimate goal is to draft as many potential big league contributors as possible. We all know that much. Come rounds 25 and on, however, you’re mixing and matching prep athletes with upside and signability questions and org players needed to fill out minor league rosters. Rice strikes me as a perfect org guy – great teammate, wonderful influence on his peers, and not totally devoid of talent in his own right.
Gahr HS (CA) RHP Jacob Faria was a really good get as a tenth rounder with significant upside. There’s a large gap between what he is and what he will be, but his promising pro start (14 K/1 BB in 15.2 IP) certainly doesn’t hurt his cause.
That finally covers Tampa’s first ten rounds. Haven’t bothered to do a word count, but I’m willing to bet there is more here on just their top ten rounders than what I’ve written on some teams’ entire drafts. Crazy. Thankfully, the expenditure from the first ten rounds made the later rounds a little bit lighter than normal, but there are some interesting names worth noting.
Oklahoma 1B Cameron Seitzer (Round 11) has gotten more attention than your usual later draft selection because of his famous last name. Like Faria above, his pro start was pretty darn encouraging, so long as you ignore the whole age/development/league/sample size issues of a college guy tearing up rookie ball.
Power and bloodlines will help get Seitzer through the door, but it could be the development of his already much improved two-strike approach that makes or breaks him as a pro.
Shorewood HS (WA) 1B Trevor Mitsui (Round 12) goes to Washington to prove that his bat is strong enough to carry him as a professional first base prospect. St. James HS (SC) OF Tanner English (Round 13) takes his awesome speed, center field defense, and solid hit tool to South Carolina. English is the better prospect, but either guy would have been a fine signing for Tampa. Consider these losses the downside of having 33 (give or take) first round picks.
I’ve run out of nice things to say about Coastal Carolina SS Taylor Motter (Round 17). Nice original things, that is – I could say nice things about him all day, but I’m pretty sure at this point I’m just repeating myself. He’s a stat-head favorite who has just enough going for him in the raw tools department to get the unfortunate stat-head only stigma attached to his name. Here’s something nice I don’t think I’ve said about him before: you can win a championship with Taylor Motter as your starting shortstop. The flood of upcoming Tampa middle infield prospects could push him aside. I think he’s holding onto because, at worst, he looks like a valuable utility infielder to me.
I can’t even begin to guess where Motter will actually go on draft day, but I’m willing to stick my neck out and say that whatever team winds up with him will get one of the draft’s underrated gems. Like Brandon Loy ranked just below him, Motter’s biggest strengths are his plus glove and plus throwing arm. Any above-average tools besides those two are gravy, though it certainly doesn’t hurt that Motter has an average hit tool and good speed. A couple of really nice things I heard about Motter after talking to people in the know included a description that included ”he simply does not waste at bats” and a glowing report on “his professional knowledge of the strike zone.” Motter obviously doesn’t profile as a Troy Tulowitzki type of power hitter, but with his defense, speed, and command of the strike zone, he won’t have to hit the ball out of the ballpark to someday get a chance as a starting big league shortstop.
Tennessee RHP Matt Ramsey (Round 20) could be a fast riser if healthy. His fastball peaks in the mid- to upper-90s and his curve is a plus offering when on. The former catcher’s mechanics have improved significantly over the past calendar year, so there’s some hope that there’s even more velocity to be had. I’m not so sure about that – if he’s peaking 96-98 already, how much higher can he realistically go? – but I could see his current fluctuating velocity become more consistent.
Tennessee JR RHP Matt Ramsey: low-90s peak in HS, now up to 96 peak FB; low-80s CB that flashes plus; converted catcher who PG compared to Russell Martin in high school; 5-10, 200
I’m totally in the bag for Dexter HS (MA) RHP John Magliozzi (Round 35) because, as any long-time readers know, very few things excite me more than short righthanded pitchers. Magliozzi may be undersized, but his fastball (sits low-90s, peaks 94) is plenty tall. His changeup is a strong second pitch and he worked in both a slider and a curve at times while in high school. If he is draft-eligible as a freshman as Baseball America claims (and I have no reason to doubt them, just highlighting the pain in the neck that is determining draft eligibility at times), then we’ll likely be talking about him again in a few months.
RHP John Magliozzi (Dexter HS, Massachusetts): 90-92 FB, 93-94 peak; good 80-81 CU; SL; 5-10, 175
Kansas RHP Tanner Poppe (Round 37) heads back to Kansas hoping to rebound after a disappointingly lackluster sophomore season. Poppe has the size, stuff, and mechanics to get himself drafted in the single digit rounds in 2012, but it’ll take a drastic turn in performance this spring.
Kansas SO RHP Tanner Poppe (2011): 90-93 FB with late life; solid 74 CB; 80 CU; easy mechanics; extremely projectable; 6-5, 220 pounds; (4.82 K/9 – 4.82 BB/9 – 4.51 FIP – 61.2 IP)
UC Irvine 1B Jordan Leyland (Round 44) has big raw power, but that’s about it when it comes to average or better tools. Texas C Kevin Lusson (Round 45) also returns to school. At bats could be hard to come by in an improved Longhorns lineup. Despite having played third base and catcher in the past, his best bet for college at bats could be at first.
1. Rice JR 3B Anthony Rendon
*** 2010: .407/.544/.832 – 68 BB/21 K – 226 AB
*** 2011: .337/.536/.550 – 82 BB/30 K – 202 AB
There are a lot of amazing young arms in this year’s draft class, but Rendon is still the top prospect in 2011. There is not a single legitimate concern about his on-field performance. Despite his lack of size and some nagging injuries that held back his numbers some this year, there is little doubt that his power upside is substantial. His defensive tools are outstanding. The hit tool is well above-average and his approach to hitting is special. The two most popular comps thrown his way are Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria. I like the Zimmerman comp a lot, but I’ll toss another two names out there as well. Rendon’s play reminds me of a mix of a less physical, righthanded version of peak years Eric Chavez and current Boston third baseman Kevin Youkilis, minus the unorthodox swing setup. Can’t blame the Pirates for going with the rare commodity that is a potential ace with the first overall pick, but if I was in charge — and thank goodness for Pittsburgh or every other franchise I’m not — then Rendon would be the pick without thinking twice.
2. Georgia Tech JR 3B Matt Skole
*** 2010: .343/.448/.708 – 45 BB/34 K – 233 AB
*** 2011: .362/.457/.570 – 43 BB/31 K – 221 AB
It took me a while to warm up to Skole, but I’d rather be late to the party than too stubborn to change my mind. The plus power bat should play wherever you put him (first base is a safe fall back option, catcher is the riskier but more appealing choice), though it would obviously be preferable if he can continue to work to turn his surprisingly strong defensive tools (good arm, decent foot speed, quality athleticism) into at least league average caliber third base defense.
3. Vanderbilt JR 3B Jason Esposito
*** 2010: .397/.492/.660 – 37 BB/33 K – 262 AB
*** 2011: .357/.425/.552 – 16 BB/36 K – 230 AB
Esposito’s defense is big league ready, and his hit tool, raw power, and speed all grade out as average future tools at the next level. I swear I was ready to mention Matt Dominguez as a potential comp before reading Baseball America beat me to the punch, but it is a good enough comp that I don’t mind repeating it.
4. Southern Mississippi JR 3B BA Vollmuth
*** 2010: .380/.495/.733 – 44 BB/50 K – 236 AB
*** 2011: .304/.417/.546 – 38 BB/55 K – 207 AB
Some people believe in it, some don’t. Either way, I figured I’d pass along something two different people said to me with respect to BA Vollmuth. Two words were used to describe the Southern Mississippi shortstop: “star quality.” He has the requisite athleticism, arm, and above-average raw power to play third base in the big leagues down the line, but his loopy swing might need a tune-up
5. Arizona JR 3B Andy Burns
*** 2010: .282/.358/.565 – 20 BB/41 K – 177 AB
The only thing I don’t like about Andy Burns is the fact he had to sit out in 2011 after the former Colorado prep star transferred from Kentucky to Arizona. Every thing else is positive including his very good defensive tools (like the two guys sandwiched around him on this list, Burns is a former shortstop), plus arm, above-average speed, quick bat, and good raw power. He also has what could be a great separator if he hopes to crack this draft’s top five rounds: the proven ability to hit with wood. On top of all those legitimate reasons why I like Burns, I also have a strong instinctual feel for him. That’s almost certainly worth nothing to 99.9% of the readers out there, but I know my Mom likes it when I share stuff like that.
6. Miami JR 3B Harold Martinez
*** 2010: .328/.403/.672 – 33 BB/50 K – 241 AB
*** 2011: .328/.416/.424 – 29 BB/38 K – 198 AB
Had a weird moment when I was just about to start writing about Harold Martinez at the same time he came to the plate in the 4th inning against Florida during Regional play. Then I stepped away for a bit only to return to the still unfinished entry on Martinez exactly as he stepped up to bat in the 7th. Now that I see it typed out I realize it probably isn’t all that weird, but after writing about draft prospects almost non-stop over the past week and a half, I may be beginning to lose my mind.
As a prospect, Martinez does more than just time his television appearances well. He typifies what this uninspiring college third base class is all about: heavy duty of the word “but.” His defensive tools are solid and he certainly looks the part of a player capable of manning the hot corner, BUT his inconsistency making the routine play and erratic arm keep him from claiming third base as a sure fire long-term defensive home. He’s already plenty strong with the frame to get even bigger, BUT his above-average raw power fell off big time in 2011, in no small part because his long swing was geared towards the aluminum. He was a highly touted prep player who has played well over three years of competitive ACC ball, BUT he hasn’t dominated the competition in quite the way many had hoped. He’s a solid, potential top five round selection, BUT not a player you can pencil in as a long-term answer at third unless some of questions about his game are answered professionally.
7. Nebraska JR 3B Cody Asche
*** 2010: .335/.393/.565 – 18 BB/45 K – 209 AB
*** 2011: .337/.437/.668 – 36 BB/39 K – 208 AB
“Really like his approach, but have been underwhelmed by his overall package thus far” – that’s what I had in my notes re: Asche coming into the year. I’m happy to say that I’m no longer underwhelmed and now considered myself appropriately whelmed by his performance. I wasn’t alone in worrying that he wouldn’t stick at third coming into the year, but am now ready to go out on a limb and say I think his athleticism and instincts make him underrated at the position. Despite his very powerful throwing arm he’ll never be a good defender at third, but if his plus raw power would look really good if he can at least play at or around average defense as a pro.
8. Clemson JR 3B John Hinson
*** 2010: .370/.433/.635 – 27 BB/40 K – 230 AB
*** 2011: .333/.389/.504 – 22 BB/28 K – 228 AB
A plus hit tool combined with above-average speed and power will get you far professionally, but people smarter than myself have told me some teams question Hinson’s ability to play any one particular spot in the infield with the consistency needed of a regular. Based on my limited looks of him, I can’t say that I necessarily agree with that assessment, but his defensive skillset (good athlete, iffy arm) may make him better suited for second base than third. At either spot, he’s got the bat to make him a potential regular with a couple breaks along the way. He’s got a relatively high floor (easy to see him as a big league utility guy with pop) with the upside of a league average third baseman.
9. Texas State JR 3B Kyle Kubitza
*** 2010: .332/.433/.563 – 38 BB/41 K – 229 AB
*** 2011: .305/.445/.527 – 52 BB/46 K – 220 AB
Kubitza has many of the key attributes you’d want in a third base prospect – good raw power, solid arm strength, and a patient approach at the plate. The biggest question he’ll have to answer is on the defensive side, but I’m on board with the idea that good pro coaching can help him through some of his concentration lapses in the field.
10. TCU SO 3B Jantzen Witte
*** 2010: .415/.455/.592 – 9 BB/17 K – 147 AB
*** 2011: .365/.431/.515 – 28 BB/31 K – 241 AB
I do love a good draft-eligible sophomore, and Witte qualifies as one of the best in 2011. His defensive tools at third base are outstanding, worthy of consideration as top five (with Rendon, Esposito, maybe Burns…) in the college third base class. His swing and approach is geared towards hitting line drives and getting on base, but there’s still enough pop in his bat to keep pitchers honest.
11. Virginia JR 3B Steven Proscia
*** 2010: .325/.377/.548 – 22 BB/41 K – 252 AB
*** 2011: .354/.399/.527 – 17 BB/30 K – 237 AB
Most people love coffee. Every few months I’ll try a little sip, but it just doesn’t work for me. So many people enjoy it every day that I’m smart enough to know that it isn’t “bad” per se, but rather a specific taste that I just don’t enjoy as much as others. Proscia is a little bit like coffee for me. His defense at third is very good, he’ll show you a nice potential power/speed combo most days, and his athleticism is well above-average for the position. He’s a good prospect by any measure. Yet somehow after taking everything I’ve heard about him and having seen him play a few times myself, I remain unmoved by his upside. Solid player, no doubt; he wouldn’t be on this list otherwise. I just see him as much more likely to wind up a potential four-corners utility player than a starting third baseman.
12. Arizona State JR 3B Riccio Torrez
*** 2010: .386/.482/.627 – 20 BB/37 K – 228 AB – 21/25 SB
*** 2011: .309/.371/.466 – 15 BB/23 K – 204 AB
Torrez seems to finally have found a defensive home at third base. A team could draft him as a true third base prospect now and hope his bat grows into the role, or, and I think this is the more likely outcome, a team could draft him with the idea that he could develop into a versatile utility player. His only standout tool is his raw power, but even that is mitigated somewhat by a swing that currently lacks the proper loft needed to consistently drive balls up and out.
13. Coastal Carolina SR 3B Scott Woodward
*** 2010: .343/.512/.486 – 49 BB/48 K – 210 AB – 58/66 SB
*** 2011: .368/.500/.538 – 32 BB/54 K – 182 AB – 30/34 SB
It’s very easy to envision Scott Woodward playing in the big leagues someday. He’s got an outstanding approach to hitting, a discerning batting eye, and a really good idea of his fundamental strengths and weaknesses at the plate. Woodward ably uses his plus-plus speed to leg out infield hits, turn balls driven to the gaps into triples, and steal bases at a great success rate. Home runs will likely never be a big part of his game, but his is a game based more on speed and plate discipline anyway. He could have the type of career many once projected for former Dodgers prospect Joe Thurston. Another comp that I like a lot is Phillies minor leaguer Tyson Gillies, a comparison made more interesting due to the fact both players are hearing impaired, but one not at all dependent on that fact as the basis of the comp. When I first thought of it a few weeks ago the connection didn’t even occur to me, but the two players share enough distinct offensive similarities to make it work.
14. Kent State JR 3B Travis Shaw
*** 2010: .330/.453/.622 – 49 BB/41 K – 230 AB
*** 2011: .311/.408/.570 – 39 BB/36 K – 228 AB
Lacking lateral quickness and agility, Shaw’s future at third base is a major question as he enters pro ball. If he can stay at third base — good pre-pitch positioning and quicker than you’d expect reactions give him his best shot — then his big power, great approach, and strong track record with wood would make him a fast riser on draft boards. Most of the industry leaders are already moving him off of third, however, so perhaps I’m being unrealistic in thinking he could someday grow into an average-ish fielder there. Probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: if he is a first baseman at the next level, his value takes a big hit.
15. Texas A&M JR 3B Adam Smith
*** 2010: .263/.357/.495 – 20 BB/53 K – 194 AB
*** 2011: .225/.294/.387 – 12 BB/50 K – 142 AB
At some point, he has to do it on the field, right? Adam Smith is such a force of nature from a tools standpoint that you have to believe someday he’ll put it all together and show why so many have touted his ability for so long. He has the plus arm and plus defensive tools you’d expect from a former pitcher/shortstop, and his pro frame (6-3, 200) generates plenty of raw power on its own. What he doesn’t have is a good idea of the strike zone or a consistent at bat to at bat swing that can help him put said raw power to use. I’d love for my favorite team to take a chance on him after round ten (tools!), but probably couldn’t justify popping him much sooner than that (production…). One thing that would make gambling on Smith the third baseman a little less risky: if he doesn’t work out as a hitter, his plus arm could be put to good use back on the mound.
16. Mercer JR 3B Jacob Tanis
*** 2010: .354/.417/.668 – 21 BB/51 K – 268 AB
*** 2011: .321/.422/.565 – 35 BB/30 K – 237 AB
Tanis is an under the radar prospect who is capable of doing some good things at the next level if given the chance. His defense is good at third, his bat speed is more than adequate, and his athleticism gives him a chance to play a couple different positions in the field going forward.
17. Oklahoma JR 3B Garrett Buechele
*** 2010: .376/.460/.653 – 21 BB/41 K – 242 AB
*** 2011: .293/.354/.423 – 13 BB/31 K – 239 AB
Here’s what I wrote about Buechele last year at this time: “And so begins a stretch of players with starting caliber upside, but high bust potential. Buechele has one of the stronger pure hit tools of this college third base class, and his quickly emerging power make him one to watch. His defense is plenty good enough to stick at third, so the only thing that realistically stands in the way of Buechele succeeding professionally (you know, besides all of the other things that can get in the way for any player drafted) will be high strikeout totals. He’s not as talented as Zack Cox, so don’t take this as a direct comparison, but it seems that Buechele would be best served returning to school to work on honing his pitch recognition skills like the top player on this list managed to do in his sophomore season.”
I’d say most of that holds up today. His defense at third remains fine, but new questions about his power — was the emergence last year real or more of a juiced bat phenomenon? — keep his draft stock from being any higher. Others seem to like him a lot more than I do, for what it’s worth.
18. Texas-Pan American JR 3B Vincent Mejia
*** 2010: .385/.484/.582 – 41 BB/24 K – 208 AB
*** 2011: .337/.455/.479 – 38 BB/36 K – 190 AB
Mejia doesn’t get a lot of nationally recognized prospect love, but I think the guy can play at the next level. He doesn’t have a clear plus tool and may not have the range to play third base, but his approach is sound and his present power is intriguing. I’ve heard from one source that he is a sure fire senior sign candidate in 2012 (i.e. don’t hold your breath waiting for him to get drafted this year). I wonder if a pro team might look to him as a potential catcher, assuming they believe his arm will play behind the plate.
19. Oklahoma State JR 3B Mark Ginther
*** 2010: .311/.364/.547 – 18 BB/38 K – 225 AB
*** 2011: .306/.351/.541 – 16 BB/31 K – 229 AB
I came into the year thinking Ginther was a better player than he has shown, and I still feel that way after another good but not great college season. His athleticism is up there with any college third baseman in the class and his arm strength is an asset defensively, but his hit tool hasn’t shown much progress in his three years with the Cowboys. Ginther certainly looks the part of a potential big league third baseman with three well above-average tools (defense, arm, power) and special athleticism, but it’ll take much more contact and a less loopy swing if he wants to make it as a regular.
20. Tennessee SR 3B Matt Duffy
*** 2010: .304/.385/.444 – 20 BB/36 K – 207 AB
*** 2011: .302/.423/.481 – 29 BB/25 K – 189 AB
Duffy was a deep sleeper top five rounds candidate of mine heading into the 2010 season, so you know I’ve been irrationally high on his talent for a long time now. The Vermont transfer and current Tennesee standout has all of the defensive tools to play a decent shortstop professionally, but profiles better as a potential plus defender at the hot corner. For Duffy, a Jack Hannahan (with more raw power) or Andy LaRoche (with less raw power) type of career is possible.
21. UC Irvine SR 3B Brian Hernandez
*** 2010: .356/.421/.513 – 21 BB/26 K – 236 AB
*** 2011: .358/.416/.419 – 19 BB/26 K – 229 AB
Last year I wrote: “he’s your typical ‘whole is greater than the sum of his parts’ kind of prospect, with the upside of a big league bench bat if everything breaks right.” I stand by that today (some pop, some speed, some plate discipline), with one additional comment I’ll present straight from my notes: “PLUS fielder.” All caps means you know I’m serious. Hernandez can really pick it at third.
22. Stetson JR 3B Ben Carhart
*** 2011: .349/.395/.500 – 17 BB/17 K – 232 AB
I liked Carhart more on the mound heading into the year, but now think his plus arm, gap power, and improved approach at the plate could play at third.
23. Penn State JR 3B Jordan Steranka
*** 2010: .309/.352/.483 – 10 BB/45 K – 236 AB
*** 2011: .327/.395/.548 – 25 BB/34 K – 217 AB
Steranka gives just about what you’d expect from a player this far down the ranking: a strong arm and some power upside. He also has the advantage of being a steady glove at third, though there are some rumblings that he could be tried behind the plate as a pro.
24. Louisiana Tech JR 3B Matt Threlkeld
*** 2010: .322/.382/.540 – 22 BB/44 K – 239 AB
*** 2011: .287/.383/.478 – 31 BB/46 K – 230 AB
Threlkeld gives just about what you’d expect from a player this far down the ranking: huge raw power and a strong arm. The reason Steranka gets the one spot edge over him is because of Threlkeld’s questionable defensive ability.
25. College of Charleston JR 3B Matt Leeds
*** 2010: .335/.442/.715 – 30 BB/46 K – 241 AB
*** 2011: .353/.454/.681 – 39 BB/60 K – 232 AB
Leeds has big power and a strong track record of showing it, but his average on his best day defense and just good enough arm temper some of the enthusiasm that he’ll play third base regularly as a pro. If his knees check out, he could have a future as a bat-first four corners backup.
26. Southern Mississippi JR 3B Ashley Graeter
*** 2011: .325/.393/.453 – 14 BB/22 K – 117 AB
27. Winthrop JR 3B Chas Crane
*** 2010: .356/.452/.673 – 39 BB/53 K – 208 AB
*** 2011: .280/.415/.338 – 45 BB/46 K – 207 AB
28. Texas A&M JR 3B Matt Juengel
*** 2010: .359/.424/.629 – 13 BB/30 K – 167 AB
*** 2011: .295/.376/.446 – 19 BB/34 K – 224 AB
29. Baylor SO 3B Cal Towey
*** 2010: .305/.434/.505 – 21 BB/31 K – 105 AB
*** 2011: .250/.424/.422 – 29 BB/43 K – 116 AB
30. Oklahoma City SR 3B Kirk Walker
1. Arguably the biggest story to come out of college baseball’s opening weekend (from a prospect standpoint…and before news of Stanford JR LHP Brett Mooneyham’s season-ending finger injury came to the surface) centered on the decision to have Vanderbilt JR 3B Jason Esposito play shortstop. Bigger still, he went out and played it well. Fun question of the day: if Esposito can show to scouts that he can at least play a league average big league shortstop, then he’ll go [fill-in-the-blank] in the 2011 MLB Draft. Top half of the first round, no doubt…right? Top ten? Higher? I know Ryan Zimmerman is the name often thrown around when talking Rice JR 3B Anthony Rendon, but I think it is a really natural comparison for Esposito.
2. Other notable position “switches”: LSU 3B FR JaCoby Jones played 2B, Tulane JR C Jeremy Schaffer played 3B (a spot where he has some prior experience), and Washington SR 1B Troy Scott played 3B (ditto). Schaffer and Scott are mid-round guys here in 2011, but Jones has first round upside in 2013. I want to sit down and do preliminary rankings for 2012 and 2013 sometime before this June. In a vacuum, Jones has top ten potential, but I’ll need to see where he stacks up in what looks to be a strong 2013 draft class.
3. The LSU staff has three years to move JaCoby Jones around the infield, and, as mentioned, Schaffer and Scott are mid-round guys at best. That leaves the position switch with the most immediate and significant draft prospect consequence as the move of Utah JR C CJ Cron playing first base all weekend long. The switch was not entirely unexpected – Cron’s defense behind the plate has never been his strong suit, plus he has played 1B for the Utes in the past – but the buzz surrounding it makes it seem less and less likely that Cron will don the tools of ignorance much at all in 2011.
A few completely random interesting hitting lines of the weekend, complete with equally random commentary…
College of Charleston JR “C” Rob Kral (2011): 667/714/778 (6-9, 2B, RBI, 5 R, 4 BB/0 K)
- Kral may not be a catcher professionally, but, man, can he hit. Great patience and great power typically leads to great things…
North Carolina State JR C Pratt Maynard (2011): 538/571/692 (7-13, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 3 R)
Mississippi SR C Miles Hamblin (2011): 444/643/778 (4-9, HR, 4 RBI, 4 R, 3 BB/3 K, 3/3 SB)
Oklahoma SO 2B Max White (2012): 467/556/667 (7-15, 3 2B, 6 R, 4 RBI, 3 HBP, 1/1 SB)
- As great as that line looks, White’s defense at second drew the most praise over the weekend. Pretty amazing considering White is a converted outfield learning the position as he goes.
Tennessee JR 2B Khayyan Norfork (2011): 556/667/1.222 (5-9, HR, 3B, 2B, 4 RBI, 3 R, 1/2 SB)
- I ignored all of the positive buzz coming out of Tennessee’s fall/winter practices and, even though it has only been one weekend, I regret it. I did say this: “Khayyan Norfork might just be the player primed to make the biggest rise up draft boards of the players listed.” Really nice blend of speed, pop, and defense…
Florida SO SS Nolan Fontana (2012): 750/786/833 (9-12, 2B, 5 R, 2 HBP, K, 1/1 SB)
Clemson JR SS Brad Miller (2011): 375/643/375 (3-8, 5 R, 2 RBI, 6 BB/0 K, 4/4 SB)
- Didn’t have the power numbers of many players on the list, but easy to love that BB/K ratio.
Texas Tech JR SS Kelby Tomlinson (2011): 583/667/583 (7-12, 6 RBI, 3 R, 5 BB/1 K, 5/6 SB)
Arizona State JR 3B Riccio Torrez (2011): 462/462/1.231 (6-13, 3 HR, 2B, 7 RBI, 4 R, 2-2 SB)
Oklahoma JR 3B Garrett Buechele (2011): 625/700/1.188 (10-16, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 4 R)
Texas A&M JR 3B Matt Juengel (2011): 455/500/1.364 (5-11, 2 HR, 2 3B, 7 RBI, 5 R)
- More evidence that shows how deep this year’s group of college third basemen is; Torrez was ranked 7th, Buechele was ranked 15th, and Juengel was 23rd.
Texas FR 3B Erich Weiss (2013): 818/824/1.273 (9-11, 2 3B, 2B, 7 RBI, 6 R, 5 BB/0 K, 1/1 SB)
Southern Carolina JR OF Jackie Bradley (2011): 583/615/1.083 (7-12, HR, 3 2B, 3 RBI, 4 R)
UAB JR OF Jamal Austin (2011): 462/462/538 (6-13, 2B, RBI, 2 R, 3/4 SB)
Kent State SR OF Ben Klafczynski (2011): 538/571/538 (7-13, RBI, 2 R)
Stanford FR OF Austin Wilson (2013): 500/500/750 (6-12, HR, 4 RBI, R, 1/1 SB)
- With the first pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, the New York Yankees select…
LSU JR OF Mikie Mahtook (2011): 444/545/1.778 (4-9, 4 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R)
- I tried to limit the list to one player per college, but leaving fellow Tigers JaCoby Jones and Tyler Hanover off pained me greatly. Mahtook’s decision to only hit home runs could really pay off this year…
Honorable Mention! Virginia SR C Kenny Swab (2011): 000/571/000 (0-6, 5 R, 6 BB, 2 HBP, 2/2 SB)
Honorable Mention 2.0! Any JMU player. Five different players slugged over 1.100 over the weekend: Tenaglia, Herbek, Foltz, Knight, and Lowery. I was most impressed with SO OF Johnny Bladel’s 533/720/733 (6/3 BB/K and 5/5 SB) line. He’s my very early super sneaky 2012 first round possibility.
Whatever the term “franchise player” means to you, consider that the upside of Anthony Rendon. Will teams still think this highly of Andy Burns even after he sits out 2011 after transferring in from Kentucky? Adam Smith is a tools gamble much liked highly ranked Oregon State C Andrew Susac; both were highly touted preps who have had up-and-down collegiate careers, but remain highly regarded by most talent evaluators. There are some really good names lower on this list than I anticipated (Hinson, Buechele, Ginther, Asche, Proscia, and Bream, to name a few), but this year’s draft class is just that strong.
- Rice JR 3B Anthony Rendon
- Southern Mississippi JR 3B BA Vollmuth
- Vanderbilt JR 3B Jason Esposito
- Georgia Tech JR 3B Matt Skole
- Miami JR 3B Harold Martinez
- Arizona JR 3B Andy Burns
- Arizona State JR 3B Riccio Torrez
- Wichita State JR 3B Johnny Coy
- Texas A&M JR 3B Adam Smith
- Kent State JR 3B Travis Shaw
- Clemson JR 3B John Hinson
- Texas State JR 3B Kyle Kubitza
- Winthrop JR 3B Chas Crane
- Coastal Carolina SR 3B Scott Woodward
- Oklahoma JR 3B Garrett Buechele
- TCU SO 3B Jantzen Witte
- Texas JR 3B Kevin Lusson
- Texas-Pan American JR 3B Vincent Mejia
- San Francisco SR 3B Steven Yarrow
- Tarleton State SR 3B Chris Casazza
- Oklahoma State JR 3B Mark Ginther
- Nebraska JR 3B Cody Asche
- Texas A&M JR 3B Matt Juengel
- Virginia JR 3B Steven Proscia
- Louisiana Tech JR 3B Matt Threlkeld
- College of Charleston JR 3B Matt Leeds
- Oklahoma City SR 3B Kirk Walker
- Baylor SO 3B Cal Towey
- Liberty JR 3B Tyler Bream
- East Carolina JR 3B Corey Thompson