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Tampa Bay Rays 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Rays 2011 MLB Draft Selections

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.

Final 2011 MLB Draft College Shortstop Rankings

I haven’t offered too much commentary on the position player groups as a whole, but, man, the college shortstop group is weak this year. Miller and Ahmed are the clear top two for me, but both could be moved off the position in pro ball (Miller in CF or 2B, Ahmed in CF or 3B). I’ve liked Motter for a long time, and Brandon Loy has grown on me with every viewing, but I’d only put money on one sure fire (or as close as one can get to “sure fire” when it comes to the draft) long-term starter (Miller).

With some luck, college 2B should be up later today. After that, I’ll be working on high school middle infield prospects. Then on to 3B and OF before finally getting to the most exciting part of this year’s draft, the pitching. All that will be left after that will be a complete big board and then the excitement of draft day.

1. Clemson JR SS Brad Miller

*** 2010: .407/.510/.641 – 53 BB/37 K – 231 AB – 10/12 SB
*** 2011: .439/.546/.614 – 40 BB/28 K – 171 AB – 22/26 SB

Miller goes coast to coast as this season’s top collegiate shortstop prospect, beginning the year at the top spot and very deservedly finishing at number one as well. I’ve long held the position that the current Clemson shortstop has what it takes to stick at the position, an opinion tied far more closely to his defensive tools — most notably the speed and athleticism that give him well above-average range up the middle — than his present, sometimes erratic, ability. At the plate, he’s done everything expected of him and more. I’m admittedly more bullish on his power upside than most and can see him further tapping into said upside to the tune of 15+ homers annually. Even if the power doesn’t quite reach those levels, Miller’s consistent hard contact and good approach should help keep his batting average and on-base percentage at more than acceptable numbers for a starting middle infielder. It may be a popular comp for a lot of players, but I think a comparison between Brad Miller and former ACC star and current Oriole Brian Roberts is apt.

2. Connecticut JR SS Nick Ahmed

*** 2010: .326/.390/.404 – 29 BB/31 K – 267 AB – 34/42 SB
*** 2011: .355/.448/.487 – 22 BB/14 K – 152 AB – 20/26 SB

I try not to let a quick look at a player influence my opinion on him too much, but Nick Ahmed gave off that somewhat silly yet undeniable big league look when I see him play earlier this year. He’s got an easy plus arm, strong defensive tools and athleticism that should play at multiple spots, and enough bat speed to drive good fastballs to the gaps. My only “concern,” if you even want to call it that, is that he’ll outgrow shortstop. The reason why I’m not ready to call that a legitimate concern just yet is because, based on his current tall and lanky frame, I would hope any physical growth he experiences professionally would be accompanied by additional strength, especially in his upper body, to help his eventual power output. In other words, if he gets too big for shortstop then at least he’ll then have the chance of having the power bat needed to play elsewhere.

3. Coastal Carolina JR SS Taylor Motter

*** 2010: .355/.457/.654 – 39 BB/35 K – 214 AB – 11/15 SB
*** 2011: .281/.412/.422 – 43 BB/37 K – 192 AB – 18/20 SB

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 tool 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 of the  “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.

4. Texas JR SS Brandon Loy

*** 2010: .294/.399/.383 – 36 BB/37 K – 214 AB – 12/20 SB
*** 2011: .353/.431/.471 – 28 BB/20 K – 221 AB – 12/16 SB

Loy is a standout defensive player who makes up for his average foot speed with tremendous instincts and a plus arm that helps him execute all of the necessary throws from deep in the hole at short. He’s also a great athlete with awesome hand-eye coordination; that coordination is never more apparent than when he is called on to bunt, something he already does as well as the best big leaguer. I was slow to come around to Loy as a top prospect heading into the year, but the improvements with the bat have me thinking of him in a new light. Like Taylor Motter ranked one spot above him, Loy’s awesome defense should be his ticket to the big leagues, perhaps as a Paul Janish type down the road.

5. TCU JR SS Taylor Featherston

*** 2010: .380/.454/.630 – 19 BB/36 K – 216 AB – 5/9 SB
*** 2011: .386/.456/.520 – 16 BB/28 K – 223 AB – 6/11 SB

In much the same way I now link Motter and Loy together in my head, Nick Ahmed and Taylor Featherston stick together as similar prospects in many respects. Like Ahmed, Featherston has good size, above-average athleticism, average speed, and gap power. Featherston also faces similar questions about his eventual defensive landing spot. For now, I like Featherston to stick at shortstop. The defensive strides he has made from his freshman season to today give me reason to believe he has only scratched the surface on what he can do at shortstop. He doesn’t profile as ever having an above-average glove at short as he still has the tendency to do too much in the field at times, but I’d rather see a player going all out to make plays than have a steady, error-free performer who won’t get to nearly as many balls. If his most realistic outcome is as an offensive-minded backup infielder, so bet it.

6. Minnesota JR SS AJ Pettersen

*** 2010: .324/.404/.418 – 26 BB/42 K – 256 AB – 5/9 SB
*** 2011: .377/.428/.466 – 15 BB/17 K – 191 AB – 8/13 SB

In a year when very few college shortstops performed at or near their previous level of play, Pettersen improved across the board. He also improved in the eyes of scouts, turning what was considered an average at best hit tool at the start of the year into something most consider above-average at this point. Like many on the list he could wind up either at 2B or CF in pro ball, but I haven’t seen anything in his defensive game that makes me think he can’t at least start off as a shortstop. Like most players from now to the end of the list, his most likely ceiling is that of a quality big league utility guy.

7. Wichita State JR SS Tyler Grimes

*** 2010: .269/.439/.368 – 37 BB/47 K  – 193 AB – 7/14 SB
*** 2011: .299/.462/.419 – 52 BB/59 K – 234 AB – 25/29 SB

Grimes is another beneficiary of the weak college shortstop class, and is now regarded as one of the most advanced shortstop prospects around. His on-base skills are impressive, as is his defensive skill set, but the hit tool lags behind and his long, all or nothing swing doesn’t make a lot of sense for a player with limited power. I can see the appeal, but not to the point where I’d go around claiming he’ll be a big league regular any time soon.

8. LSU JR SS Austin Nola

*** 2010: .332/.400/.471 – 30 BB/37 K – 259 AB – 1/1 SB
*** 2011: .301/.385/.418 – 29 BB/34 K – 196 AB – 4/7 SB

Nola is a very good defender with just enough bat to give his drafting team hope that he’ll someday hit his way into a starting big league job. No above-average offensive tools (bat, power, speed) make it hard for me to project him as an everyday guy down the line, so I’ll go the broken record route and say, yet again, his most likely outcome is that of a utility infielder.

9. Southeast Missouri State JR SS Kenton Parmley

*** 2010: .363/.412/.553 – 19 BB/21 K – 237 AB – 12/17 SB
*** 2011: .279/.349/.433 – 22 BB/27 K – 208 AB – 8/10 SB

There are a lot of similarities in the upside between Parmley and Austin Nola – both are very good defensive players, average runners, and slightly below-average hitters. While I prefer Nola’s hit tool by a hair, the easiest difference to spot between the two prospects comes down to arm strength; Nola has plenty for shortstop while Parmley has plenty for a right fielder.

10. Michigan SO SS Derek Dennis

*** 2010: .278/.355/.375 – 14 BB/49 K – 176 AB – 7/9 SB
*** 2011: .236/.347/.270 – 20 BB/38 K – 148 AB – 5/6 SB

The 2009 unsigned tenth rounder entered school with the expectation that he’d continue to transform himself into a five-tool shortstop — heard a Danny Espinosa comp on him at one point — capable of doing enough of everything (50s and 55s across the board) to become a good big league starter. So far, not so much. The sum of Dennis’ tools simply do not yet add up to a good ballplayer. That’s alright for now because of the two remaining years of college eligibility Dennis has ahead of him. A team might take a chance on the tools despite his subpar college production, but you’d have to imagine Dennis wouldn’t jump to the pros with his value so low. In other words, if he is offered less than what he turned down in 2009, he’s staying in Ann Arbor at least another year.

11. Texas Tech JR SS Kelby Tomlinson

*** 2011: .304/.418/.364 – 41 BB/33 K – 214 AB – 22/30 SB

Tomlinson was identified as a sleeper heading into the year and, for the most part, he did not disappoint. The book on him was that he had plus speed, a very good arm, great athleticism, and the tools to be an excellent defensive shortstop. My only concern is his lack of power going forward – not so much in that I’m worried he won’t be a power hitter as a pro (it’s pretty much a given that he won’t be), but more so that he’ll have the bat knocked out of his hands at the next level.

12. James Madison SR SS David Herbek

*** 2010: 315/425/525 – 22 BB/32 K – 181 AB – 13/16 SB
*** 2011: .338/.425/.647 – 21 BB/28 K – 201 AB – 12/16 SB

Last year I wrote: “Herbek is a certifiable draft sleeper. He currently has gap power to all fields, but his beautifully level line drive stroke (reminiscent of Bill Mueller’s righthanded swing) has me thinking there is double digit home run potential if he can add some strength in the coming years.”

I didn’t anticipate that double digit home run totals to come in just over 200 senior year at bats, but there you go. His bat ranks up there with almost any other college shortstop in his class, but the relatively low ranking can be owed to his occasionally spotty defense. As an offense-first infielder off the bench he’ll do just fine.

13. Virginia Military Institute SR SS Sam Roberts

*** 2010: .313/.426/.531 – 42 BB/36 K – 211 AB – 9/16 SB
*** 2011: .342/.441/.500 – 35 BB/29 K – 202 AB – 13/17 SB

Roberts is a do-it-all utility player for VMI that leads off, plays short, and takes the hill every weekend as a starting pitcher. As a college player, there’s little he doesn’t do well and he’s been producing at a big time clip since first stepping on campus. He’s got just enough speed and power to be interesting on offense, and plenty of arm strength to play either spot on the left side of the infield.

14. Lake Erie College JR SS Ryan Rua

*** 2011: .400/.437/.594 – 9 BB/13 K – 170 AB – 19/23 SB

Rua faces the typical level of competition questions that come with playing Division II ball at Lake Erie College, but a strong junior year may have quieted some of the doubters. Some have him ticketed for CF as a pro, but I think his strong arm and above-average range should keep him in the middle infield to start his pro career. His bat isn’t quite as strong as his numbers suggest, though he profiles as an average to slightly below-average, slash and dash hitter down the road.

15. Florida Atlantic SR SS Nick DelGuidice

*** 2010: 294/341/498 – 19 BB/31 K – 245 AB – 3/4 SB
*** 2011: .324/.352/.484 – 11 BB/15 K – 213 AB – 3/5 SB

Never been all that high on DelGuidice’s bat, but his glove continues to impress. I think the leather should be enough to get him drafted, though I’m not sure if his limited ceiling will ever get him listed on Baseball America’s organizational top 30.

16. UCLA JR SS Tyler Rahmatulla

*** 2010: .336/.447/.530 – 42 BB/36 K –  232 AB – 14/21 SB
*** 2011: .250/.354/.294 – 7 BB/15 K – 68 AB – 5/6 SB

Jett Bandy, Ricky Oropesa, Zack MacPhee, and now Tyler Rahmatulla…that’s 4/5th of our Pac-10 all down year draft-eligible prospect team. Rahmatulla has injuries to explain away some of his slippage, but any year when your slugging percentage almost drops by half from the one before it isn’t a good one. A return engagement for a senior year could help him bring his stock back up to his pre-2011 level.

17. Troy SR SS Adam Bryant

*** 2010: .364/.439/.764 – 27 BB/37 K – 250 AB – 4/4 SB
*** 2011: .332/.395/.556 – 23 BB/25 K – 250 AB – 8/11 SB

Bryant is now fully recovered from last season’s labrum surgery and it shows. His defense has always been solid, and there is a surprising amount of power in his bat. He isn’t a top level prospect by any means, but he certainly qualifies as an intriguing senior sign.

18. California JR SS Marcus Semien

*** 2010: .359/.432/.533 – 26 BB/35 K – 195 AB – 5/7 SB
*** 2011: .266/.366/.391 – 26 BB/29 K – 184 AB – 7/11 SB

Semien is considered a draft sleeper by many, but I don’t see it. He probably has the range and arm to stay at short, so that’s a plus, but without much in the way of a hit tool, power, or speed, there isn’t enough there to project him as a big leaguer at this point.

19. South Carolina JR SS Peter Mooney

*** 2011: .271/.380/.383 – 35 BB/25 K – 214 AB – 3/6 SB

Mooney plays a mean shortstop for the defending champs, at times drawing the rare and beautiful “plus-plus” distinction for his glovework. Heard an amusing — probably because I’m a Phillies fan — Freddy Galvis comp on him that got me wondering about where the many age appropriate Latin American prospects who have already been in pro ball for years would be drafted if eligible in 2011. After about 20 minutes of trying to incorporate them into some kind of Alternate Reality Mock Draft, I gave up and came back to Mooney. The Gamecocks shortstop isn’t big (5-7, 150) or toolsy (besides his defense and a strong arm), but he could make it as a defense-first eight- or nine-hole hitter somewhere, someday.

20. UC Irvine JR SS DJ Crumlich

*** 2010: 310/421/422 – 19 BB/14 K – 116 AB – 2/4 SB
*** 2011: .299/.402/.403 – 29 BB/26 K – 201 AB – 4/7 SB

Crumlich has been very consistent since enrolling at UC Irvine. That consistency has been both a blessing — who doesn’t like a steady performer? — and a curse (consistently average or worse tools won’t draw anybody but an area scout down to see you). My guess is that Crumlich gets the chance to display that consistency for one more college season.

21. Oregon JR SS KC Serna

*** 2010: .365/.437/.498 – 23 BB/22 K – 233 AB – 14/22 SB
*** 2011: .234/.347/.299 – 25 BB/28 K – 167 AB – 12/12 SB

Rahmatulla, Semien, and now Serna – three Pac-10 shortstop prospects who underperformed greatly in 2011. Serna’s struggles are more damning, for no other reason than his spotty track record of staying out of trouble away from the diamond. Scouts will overlook character concerns as best they can if you can really, really play; if you can’t, you’ll be labeled as a player that will cause more headaches than you’re worth.

22. Army SR SS Clint Moore

*** 2010: .305/.410/.550 – 20 BB/27 K – 151 AB – 4/7 SB
*** 2011: .274/.367/.571 – 22 BB/45 K – 168 AB – 4/5 SB

Moore has better than you’d think range at short and a third base caliber arm, plus above-average power for a middle infielder. Like many on the list, he profiles best as a — wait for it — offensive-oriented utility guy. Unlike many on the list, he attends a university that requires a commitment beyond just four years of service. While admirable in a way that I can’t adequately describe, it certainly complicates his situation going forward.

23. Long Beach State JR SS Kirk Singer

*** 2010: .356/.435/.541 – 18 BB/26 K – 146 AB – 5/11 SB
*** 2011: .258/.343/.323 – 20 BB/44 K – 155 AB – 3/8 SB

I want to like Kirk Singer because of that sweet, sweet Long Beach State tradition of shortstops, but can’t fully buy in to a player with such an inconsistent bat. Defensively, he is exactly what you’d expect from a Dirtbag – plus arm, above-average lateral quickness, and 100% effort at all times. Maybe I’ve found a way to contradict myself in the space of a short paragraph, but, come to think of it, if I’m picking late and Singer is still out there and signable, his Long Beach pedigree would make him awfully tempting.

24. Southeastern Louisiana JR SS Justin Boudreaux

*** 2010: .309/.418/.543 – 36 BB/41 K – 230 AB – 17/21 SB
*** 2011: .314/.384/.505 – 23 BB/43 K – 220 AB – 14/17 SB

Boudreaux has a strong arm, above-average range, and steady hands. All in all, his defense works. That said, his best tool could be his wonderfully appropriate name; have to love a Boudreaux playing for Southeastern Louisiana.

25. LSU JR SS Tyler Hanover

*** 2010: .344/.421/.445 – 27 BB/26 K – 247 AB – 5/9 SB
*** 2011: .316/.414/.342 – 33 BB/16 K – 193 AB – 5/9 SB

Because I  stupidly forgot my laptop battery at work and won’t be able to plug back in until tomorrow, here are my unedited notes on Hanover instead of the brilliantly crafted paragraph you are all familiar with:

above-average speed, but more impressive as an instinctual base runner; very good defender – arguably his best present tool; competition for best tool includes a shocking plus-plus arm from his smaller frame; just enough pop to keep a pitcher honest, but mostly to the gaps; size gets him in trouble (attempts to do much), but this is inarguably a good college player; little bit of Jimmy Rollins to his game in that he is a little man with a big swing – again, this often gets him in more trouble than it should, as he is far, far less talented than Rollins on his worst day; great range to his right; definite utility future due to experience on left side; can get too jumpy at plate and swing at pithes outside the zone, but generally a patient hitter; 5-6, 155