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2011 Quick Draft Thoughts – Rutgers Scarlet Knights

SR OF Michael Lang’s scouting profile screams potential fourth outfielder. Above-average in many phases of the game (speed, arm strength, range) with consistent strong production at the plate (.378/.471/.700 – 27 BB/39 K – 11/15 SB – 230 AB), not to mention one of the finest people I’ve talked to/people who say ridiculously nice things about him ratios I’ve come across. Yes, Lang’s PITT/PWSRNTAH stat is simply off the charts. Regular readers of the site know I try to straddle that fine line when it comes to makeup – not wanting to be completely dismissive of it, not willing to use it to make blanket statements defending or denouncing any particular prospect’s ranking – but I do think it makes an interesting tie-breaker during equally talented player comparisons, especially for prospects who aren’t expected to be regulars in the big leagues. Call me naïve, but sometimes I like to think of the business of baseball like I would any other job market that exists in our world. If I had final say on draft day, I’d always stop and ask myself this very simple question: Do you feel confident hiring this man to join your company? Lang’s done enough on the field, shown enough of a projectable skill set, and is by all accounts a potential model employee.

JR RHP Charlie Law is a projection pick all the way at this point. The potential for three big league average or better pitches (88-92 FB with sink, above-average CU that really impressed me when I saw him in high school, raw CB with promise) and a great frame (6-7, 235) make him one of college baseball’s most intriguing mystery men. With only 36 innings pitched through his first two seasons as a Scarlet Knight, Law has a lot to prove in 2011. I personally find his height interesting because it is one of those rare attributes that is both very clearly a positive (downward plane, some potential for more heat, better suited for durability, etc.) and a negative. I haven’t seen him since high school, so don’t take this as gospel, but his height often appeared to throw his mechanics out of sync which in turn hurt the way he commanded his fastball.

I really, really liked SR OF Brandon Boykin last year, but the more time he spends away from the infield the less I seem to like his prospect stock. Despite his plus speed and impressive pop for his size, I’d still rank him behind Lang.  JR RHP Nathaniel Roe is well off the radar for many draft fans at this point, but he throws two good secondary pitches (low-70s CB and mid-70s CU) and might be able to get a look despite a below-average heater.

Those are the top four prospects on my Rutgers board at this point. Law and Lang are locks to get drafted. Boykin is a solid maybe. Despite my appreciation, Roe might be viewed as a 2012 senior sign more than anything else. After that, it’s lottery ticket time. The very athletic SR LHP Sean Campbell is probably the only other Rutgers pitcher with a shot to get drafted. Two grip and rip players, JR OF Ryan Kapp and JR 3B/1B Russ Hopkins, are both really strong college power hitters not exactly known for their plate discipline. Picking one over the other is tricky. I think Hopkins has a better chance of figuring things out at the plate, but the possibility he won’t stick at 3B in the pros is scary. Kapp’s strong track record with wood and enviable present power make me happy, but corner outfielders who can’t control the strike zone aren’t exactly in high demand these days, Dayton Moore excepted. Kapp by a hair, but the two are awfully close.

JR RHP Willie Beard, after throwing up a less than stellar 8.57 FIP in 35.2 IP last season, needs a better junior season to get back on the map. Insightful commentary, I know. The point I am clumsily trying to make is that Beard, a player who scouts actually said nice things about as a freshman, is not without talent despite his poor sophomore season. I don’t think he is a draftable talent – short righthanded pitchers either need above-average stuff, dominating numbers, or, in many instances, both to get noticed – but he can be filed away as a deep, deep, deep  sleeper if you’re into that sort of thing.

Lastly we come to two draft-eligible sophomores with enough untapped upside to deserve mention. SO OF/LHP Steven Zavala and SO C Justin Olsen both flashed enough talent as prep players to warrant some consideration here in 2011. The key word there is some; do keep in mind that non-premium draft-eligible sophomores typically don’t hear their names called on draft day

2011 MLB Draft Prognosis

Lang and Law are definites, Boykin is a strong maybe, Kapp and Hopkins are weak maybes, and Campbell, Roe, Olsen, and Zavala are long shots. That covers the prediction part of things. As far as my own prospect tastes, I’d personally rank them Law, Lang, Boykin, Roe, Kapp, Hopkins, Olsen, and Zavala, in order.