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I like what New York does more than most people because I have a lot of respect for the way they let their strong scouting staff do the job they were hired to do. There isn’t a lot of upper-management meddling and nobody within the organization seems to worry about what the national pundits seem to say about the players they select. I do my best to not talk about “value” or “overdrafts” when discussing top ten picks because, in baseball more than any other sport, beauty is in the eye of the beholder on draft day. Maybe the Yankees could have waited until their second or perhaps third round pick before taking Dante Bichette; if they could have pulled that off, nobody would have claimed he was overdrafted and instead they would have praised the excellent value the Yankees got with their pick. At some point on draft day, however, you have to take the players you love. My one cross-sport reference of the day harkens back to last year’s NFL Draft when the Vikings “overdrafted” QB Christian Ponder. I didn’t particularly love Ponder as a prospect, but Minnesota did. If he was the highest rated player on their board and they had even the slightest doubt he’d be around for their next pick, then they were wise to take their guy, value be damned. The comparison isn’t perfect – the ability to trade down in football’s version of the draft complicates things a bit – and I realize they’ll always be an opportunity cost with taking players a round or two “earlier” than projected, but the point of the draft is to come away with as many players you love as possible. Draft who you want, ignore the haters.
Alright, now time for me to start hating…
The fact that Orangewood Christian HS (FL) 3B Dante Bichette hit really well during his first taste of pro ball is great. Even better are the reports on how quickly he adjusted his swing (shortened to help find consistency and designed to help him hit to all fields more effectively) and better than expected defense at the hot corner. Makes the pre-draft notes on him (below) seem downright prophetic, right? There is still a Dante Bichette Sr. sized gap between what Junior is and what he might be, and I’d be lying if I said I felt good about his future from an instinctual standpoint, but, hey, so far so good.
I’ve gone back and forth on Bichette for over a year now. The first thing I noticed when watching him hit is how his inside-out swing looks a lot like his father’s. This is a positive when he’s going well, as it is a really good looking swing that helps him generate plus bat speed and well above-average raw power. It is a negative when he is going poorly because, as much as I like the swing for an experience professional, it may have a little too much length and too many moving parts to allow him to pull it off consistently. I can’t help but wonder what his first pro hitting instructor’s advice will be. I should also note that I’ve slowly come around to the idea that Bichette might be able to stick at third base professionally because of his much improved athleticism and surprising nimbleness.
Not signing Texas LHP Sam Stafford is a serious black eye for the Yankees draft. It can be excused somewhat because of the reason behind it (a pre-signing physical showed something that scared the Yankees off from offering even slot money), but the final result of not signing a pick in the top 100 is bad news any way you slice it. Stafford has been a frustrating prospect to follow because of his general inconsistencies and lapses in command. If his stuff wasn’t so good, you might be inclined to write him off as a first day prospect altogether. Lefthanders with great size who hit the mid-90s and show the makings of two average or better offspeed pitches (love his low-80s power curve/slider hybrid, still hopeful the change gets better) get every chance to convince teams that they’ll figure out that pesky command thing in pro ball someday.
Texas JR LHP Sam Stafford: 88-92 FB, peak 94-95; FB command issues hold him back; holds velocity well; good 80-85 SL; 73-78 CB is ahead of SL; average 83-85 CU; 6-4, 190
Winnisquam HS (NH) RHP Jordan Cote was a surprise pick this early in the draft. The Yankees place a lot of trust in their area scouts, especially those based in or close to New York, to advocate for players they love. Somebody must have really gone to bat, so to speak, for Cote. That doesn’t mean Cote wasn’t deserving of a third round pick. His fastball is fine, he’s shown some aptitude with a pair of breaking balls, and his size and relatively fresh arm both hint at more velocity to come.
RHP Jordan Cote (Winnisquam HS, New Hampshire): 88-90 FB, 92-93 peak; good CB; SL; raw CU; 6-5, 200
If Cote represented the Yankees willingness to trust their scouts based in and around New York, the selection of New Rochelle HS (NY) 3B Matt Duran takes it up a notch. Not only is Duran a native New Yorker, but he’s also one of the draft’s youngest prospects. In addition to drafting heavily from the Northeast, New York has focused on another of the draft market’s inefficiencies: age. Duran, like last year’s first pick and fellow New York resident Cito Culver, is very young for a high school senior. He has but one plus tool, though, as said many times before, if you’re going to have only one tool, it might as well be power. I for one find it pretty nuts that the Yankees drafted three of the draft’s most interesting prep first base prospects (Bichette, Duran, and Rookie Davis), as well as the promising Austin Jones. New York could have a fun problem on their hands in a few years if Bichette, Duran, and Davis don’t take to their new positions.
If Grandview HS (CO) C Greg Bird can catch, his massive power makes him a big-time prospect. If he can’t, then he’ll join the potential logjam of Yankees first base prospects taken in this year’s draft. I had a scout compare him to Jesus Montero, but with a few huge caveats. First, he only made the comparison after the Yankees drafted Bird and admitted the appeal of comparing two players in the same organization influenced his typically stellar (right…) decision making. Second, he only was talking power upside and defensive ineptitude. That’s all. To build on that, he backtracked even more by saying Montero is way ahead of Bird as a hitter, in terms of both contact ability and plate discipline. In other words, Bird and Montero aren’t all that alike besides the fact they both play “catcher,” they both have ample present power (a rarity for young hitters more than people think – big difference between present power and raw power), and they are both Yankees. I love comps.
Bird came into the year a big prospect, but much of the hype that came with catching Kevin Gausman last year seems to have disappeared after Gausman went off to LSU. The Colorado high school catcher has a little bit of Cameron Gallagher to his game. Both prospects are raw defensively with impressive raw power that has been seen firsthand by area scouts at the high school level. That’s an important thing to note, I think. We hear so much about raw power, so it is worth pointing out when a player has plus raw power and average present power. That’s where I think Bird is currently at. There might not be a ton of projection to him, for better or worse.
I almost always guess wrong on what position a two-way prospect will play professionally, so it’s nice to see the Yankees think the same way I do about Kecoughtan HS (VA) LHP Jake Cave. True, almost everybody thought Cave would be a pitcher, but I’ll take any tiny victory I can get. On the mound he’ll give you an excellent fastball (93-94 peak), a potential plus mid- to late-70s change, and a breaking ball that has shown flashes but needs significant work. The reason I like Cave a lot more than even his raw stuff suggests is his elite athleticism. Long-time readers of the site know that I value athleticism (and all the ancillary benefits, most notably the ability to repeat one’s delivery) in young pitchers very, very highly.
LHP Jake Cave (Kecoughtan HS, Virginia): 88-91 FB, peak 93-94; 75-77 SL or CB; potential plus 74-79 CU; good athlete; power potential; good speed; strong LSU commit; 6-1, 180
Edmonds-Woodway HS (WA) 1B Austin Jones is a little bit like a less publicized version of Greg Bird. Bird received more pre-draft ink because he’s been on the radar longer due mostly to catching Kevin Gausman in high school. Bird also received more pre-draft love because, quite honestly, he’s a better prospect than Jones. Think of Jones as Bird-lite: not quite as much power, not quite as good defensively. That second reason has already been put into practice by New York as the Yanks have moved Jones out from behind the plate and made him a full-time first baseman.
Western Kentucky RHP Phil Wetherell has the two pitches needed to succeed in a bullpen and an arm with minimal wear and tear, but his pedestrian performance at the college level left me lukewarm about his pro prospects. Then he went out and dominated (41 K in 30 IP) for Staten Island. I’m not one to put too much weight in rookie ball stats, but you’d still rather see a guy perform well than not.
Like Wetherell, Lewis-Clark State RHP Zach Arneson is a reliever all the way due to a limited arsenal of pitches and questionable arm action. Also like Wetherell, Arneson put up good numbers (17 K in 17.2 IP) for Staten Island. I prefer Arneson’s fastball to Wetherell’s, but Wetherell has the better secondary pitch (his splitter). Both guys are iffy bets to pitch in the big leagues, but because quality relievers are always in demand, you just never know. I might not be getting paid to write this, but that’s some professional quality hedging right there.
Lewis-Clark State RHP Zach Arneson (2011): 96 peak FB
Eastern Oklahoma State JC RHP Jonathan Gray also fits the Wetherell/Arneson mold. As an unsigned prospect, he’ll have another year of development to mature into something more. He has the fastball/slider combo needed to at least get a look as a potential reliever at some point.
My favorite college relief prospect drafted by New York is Longwood RHP Mark Montgomery (Round 11). Montgomery has been overlooked in the past due to his lack of size and physicality, but he’s close to big league ready with his fastball and plus low- to mid-80s slider. All Montgomery has done is perform at a high level (48 K in 30.1 college IP) everywhere he’s been (41 K in 24.1 IP in the Sally). If he keeps pitching this well next year at Tampa, he’ll officially be a relief sleeper per the national pundits. Get on the ground floor with him now.
Longwood JR RHP Mark Montgomery: 88-92 FB; peak 94; hard 82-84 SL with plus upside; really consistent numbers over three years; 6-0, 205 pounds
Remember when I said I always guess wrong on what position a two-way prospect will play professionally? Come on down, Dixon HS (NC) RHP Rookie Davis! I would almost always rather a young prospect try hitting first – seems to be less variability in development and can get a young arm through the injury nexus in the event he moves back to the mound later on – but I can see why the Yankees prefer Davis, what with his potential for two solid pitches and imposing size, as a pitcher. I like him more as an athletic first base prospect with plus raw power, but I get it.
My biggest concern with ranking Rookie Davis this high is based on the nagging thought some team will pop him as a pitcher instead of a hitter. Currently equipped with two above-average future pitches (good low-90s fastball and an emerging mid-70s curve), Davis’ future could be on the mound. Like most two-way prospects, I think he’d be best served by giving hitting a go from the start. If that’s the case, then his plus raw power, classic slugger’s frame (6-5, 220), and strong track record hitting with wood could help him get drafted in the first few rounds and give him a chance to become pro baseball’s first ever Rookie.
For what it’s worth, I prefer unsigned Northridge HS (CA) RHP Mathew Troupe (Round 17) to the signed third rounder Jordan Cote. Troupe’s secondary pitches rank as some of the better offerings of this year’s high school class. His curve is a really good pitch when he commands it, and his changeup, thrown with the same arm speed as his fastball, flashes plus. His strong commitment to Arizona and fluctuating fastball velocity kept him from going earlier, but he could pop up as an early round pick in three years.
RHP Matt Troupe (Northridge HS, California): 90-92 FB, 94 peak; very good CB; plus CU; SL; inconsistent FB velocity so he sometimes sits 87-88, peak 91
The trio of Morris HS RHP Hayden Sharp (Round 18), Cathedral Catholic HS (CA) LHP Daniel Camarena (Round 20), and Bedford HS (NH) RHP Joey Maher (Round 38) make for an impressive compilation of late round big money prep pitching prospects. For good reason, the athletic lefty Camarena got the biggest bucks. His three pitch mix should help him adjust to a full-time starting pitching load as a professional. Of the three, he’s probably the safest bet going forward. The pitcher with the most upside of the troika is Sharp. His big fastball (upper-90s peak), plus athleticism, and pro body are all easy to dream on. Lacking the security of Camarena’s well-honed secondary stuff and the razzle dazzle of Sharp’s heat, Joey Maher is the least impressive prospect of the three. The raw righty from New Hampshire is a long way away from even reaching his modest (fifth starter?) big league upside.
LHP Daniel Camarena: high-80s FB with late life, 90-91 peak; above-average future 70-73 CB; average 70-75 CU; line drive hitter; good approach; power upside, but hasn’t shown too much yet; RF arm; 6-0, 200 pounds
Memphis RHP Ben Paullus (Round 19) is interesting for a couple reasons. First and foremost, his stuff (good low-90s fastball and plus hard curve) is big league quality. Second and not foremost, his delivery, while sometimes so herky jerky that it is hard to watch, gives him tremendous deception and makes him very tough to hit. Texas A&M RHP Adam Smith (Round 25) reminds me some of Robert Stock. I really liked Stock as a catcher and have been happy to see St. Louis stick with him behind the plate so far, despite the growing sentiment that wants his plus arm on the mound. Smith played third base for Texas A&M, but is expected to pitch full-time going forward for the Yankees. I wish he’d get a chance to put his awesome physical tools to use as an infielder – remember, he could always move to the mound in a year or three if needed – but, again, I get why New York would want to put an arm like Smith’s on the mound from the start.
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.
Arizona State 1B Zach Wilson (Round 21) is a gifted natural hitter, but the bar is simply too high at first base and/or the corner outfield to ever expect him to earn consistent playing time in the big leagues. His professional future could evolve into a career path along the lines of “professional hitters” Dave Hansen’s or Mark Sweeney’s.
[very talented natural hitter; average power; average runner; no real defensive home]
Now that we’ve watched out last meaningful pro game until the spring, it is time to turn our attention to baseball’s next opening day. No sense waiting until April for the pros to start up again when college starts six weeks sooner, right? The Yankees couldn’t come to terms with three players expected to play major roles on some of college baseball’s finest teams this spring. Louisiana State SS Tyler Hanover (Round 40), Rice OF Jeremy Rathjen (Round 41), and Missouri 3B Conner Mach (Round 46) all return to school with plenty to prove. What Hanover lacks in physical tools he makes up for in plus plate discipline and veteran-level defensive positioning. I love him as a potential utility guy down the road and think he could have a career similar to – deep gulp – David Eckstein. Rathjen is the anti-Hanover, but still a really good prospect. He gets himself into trouble by being too aggressive at the plate and on the bases, but his tools rank up near any other right fielder in all of college baseball. If he returns healthy in 2012 as expected, he could wind up a top three round selection. Mach is a personal favorite as an above-average hitter with some defensive versatility.
Hanover: 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
Rathjen: [above-average speed, raw power, and arm; too aggressive at plate; good defensive feel; average range in corner; gap power at present that could turn into HRs in time; 6-6, 200 pounds]
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.
One of the most popular (fine, the only) question I’ve been emailed since starting this site up goes a little something like this: I’m going to see ____ University/College/State play this weekend and I was wondering if there was anybody with a professional future that would be worth watching. The College Team Profiles are designed to preemptively answer any and all questions about the prospects from a particular college team…or maybe just open up a whole new debate full of new, even more confusing questions. We’ll see. The next three draft classes for one particular school are featured, with the players ranked in order (from greatest to least greatest) within each class.
As always, whether you agree, disagree, or think I’m a dope who should leave this sort of stuff to the experts (thanks, Mom)…let’s hear it via email (you can use either robozga at gmail dot com or thebaseballdraftreport at gmail dot com) or in the comments section.
JR RHP Anthony Ranaudo (2010) has been likened to fellow Tiger Ben McDonald, but, while the similarity works in a lot of ways (both highly touted 6-7 Bayou Bengals), the comparison is more about shiny new toy syndrome and short memories than anything substantial. Ben McDonald was a phenomenal prospect coming out of school in 1989. Anthony Ranaudo is a very good prospect here in 2010. Big difference, although hardly an automatic strike against Ranaudo’s prospect stock. I guess all of this is self-evident (Ranaudo isn’t McDonald, what a revelation!), but I’ll be honest here – this whole paragraph was nothing more than a front for showing off one of my favorite SI covers of all time.
Makes me laugh every time. Anyway, everybody saw Ranaudo when he was at his relative worst, when he was completely worn down and exhibiting diminished velocity during the College World Series. His heater was sitting only in the upper-80s and the sharpness on his 12-6 curveball, the secondary offering generally considered his finest, was noticeably absent. I caught Ranaudo for the first time during the middle of conference play last season and came away impressed. His fastball was 91-93 MPH consistently, hitting as high as 94 at its peak. Many outlets regard his curve as a superior pitch to his change, but Ranaudo’s 82-84 MPH sinking changeup impressed as much as his high-70s curve, a pitch that flattened out too often and stayed consistently up in the zone.
In fact, that’s one of my biggest concerns about Ranaudo going forward. When he misses, he misses up. the one thing I’d love to see first addressed with Ranaudo as a professional is his tendency to leave balls up. Darn near everything he threw, especially his fastballs and curves, were left up. Ranaudo is 6-7, 220 pounds and should be able to us e his frame to his advantage when attempting to generate a more favorable downward plane on his pitches. In fact, don’t be shocked to hear many of the experts assume that the big righty gets that great downward movement and the ensuing groundball outs that come with it. It’s a fine theory and one that will be correct more often than not, but in this instance it’s wrong. My quick 2009 GO/AO ratio using the publicly available data for Ranaudo is 0.71. That number would be best compared against all pitchers that make up the college ball landscape, but, alas, we’re stuck making an assumption of our own in lieu of spending far too much time and energy ginning up all that data. The assumption here is that 0.71, a number that more or less says Ranaudo induced 100 air outs for every 71 groundball out, makes the big LSU righty a pretty clear flyball pitcher.
All of the “non-skill” stuff with Ranaudo grades out as excellent. He gets high praise for his competitive makeup, he is an above-average athlete who prides himself on staying in tremendous baseball shape, and the LSU coaching staff has widely acknowledged his receptiveness to learning as much as possible about what it takes to be a big game pitcher. He had a healthy sophomore year, but it is still possible questions linger in the minds of clubs worried about the two missed months his freshman year due to tendinitis in his right elbow. Another season of healthy, dominant baseball in the SEC should solidify his spot in the top ten.
Bottom line on Ranaudo’s aresenal heading into the 2010 season:
- Fastball – good velocity, very good command, too straight at times
- Changeup – good velocity separation, good sink, underutilized
- Curveball – very good pitch when it is good, very hittable pitch when it isn’t, inconsistent velocity, shape, and command
JR OF Leon Landry (2010) had better be prepared for the onslaught of Jared Mitchell comps sure to be thrown his way this spring. The comparisons between the two football playing outfielders work in some ways (both players have plus speed and are ridiculous athletes, but each guy had a below-average arm), but fall apart in other areas, most notably in the power department. Landry has already shown as much present power through two seasons of collegiate development as Mitchell did through three. A more interesting crop of first round caliber talents in 2010 may push Landry’s draft position down past where Mitchell went in 2009 (23rd overall), but I’m willing to go on the record and say that his forthcoming monster junior season will catapult his overall prospect stock past his former two sport teammate’s. He’s a potential plus defender in center with good range but a below-average arm for the position.
JR OF Chad Jones (2010) is a problem for me. It is very easy for me to get in the habit of being too darn positive about these prospects because it is more fun to think about upside and ceilings and perfect world projections while ignoring the nasty reality that so many little things can go wrong to torpedo any given player’s prospect stock between now and June. I try my best to be mean, to find red flags about players I know I’m overrating based on upside. Chad Jones probably should be one of those red flag players because, logically at least, there has to be at least a couple tools duds sprinkled into this star packed LSU outfield. Mahtook, Landry, Watkins, Dishon, Dean, and Jones all can’t be serious big league prospects, can they? Watkins is the speed guy, Dean is the well-rounded senior masher, but Mahtook, Landry, Dishon, and Jones are all big-time projection guys cut from the same ultra-toolsy cloth. Of those four, Jones is probably the best athlete. To take it a step further, Jones may actually be the most unbelievable athlete of the entire 2010 college class. He has great size, speed, and strength with a definite plus arm and above-average power potential. I put him in the same class as Jake Locker last year, for better or worse. Each player has enormous untapped potential on the diamond (for better!) which, unfortunately for baseball fans, may forever go untapped due to the presence of football (for worse…). There are so many questions surrounding Jones heading into his baseball season that is quite difficult to even place a draft value on him. Does he even play baseball this year for LSU? If so, will he actually attempt to play while simultaneously prepping for the NFL Draft Combine and pre-draft workouts? If he sticks with baseball, is his future brighter in the field or on the mound? Does he put it all off and stick another year out at LSU just to make us ask all of these questions again a year from now? The word is that his first love is baseball, but there are undeniable advantages in taking a top three round NFL signing bonus while keeping the possibility of baseball in your back pocket just in case. It should be fun following Jones whichever path he chooses…assuming he makes the right choice and chooses baseball, of course. That’s a joke…mostly.
JR C Micah Gibbs (2010) is currently a potential late first round pick who, even with a subpar junior season, still ought to hear his name called in the first three rounds of the 2010 Draft. Offensively he is more solid than spectacular, though his plate discipline (career 69/76 BB/K ratio) is a skill worth getting somewhat excited about. Scouts have long pegged him as a player with big raw power, especially from the left side, but in two years at LSU he hasn’t been able to show off that batting practice thunder in game situations. Gibbs’ leadership is praised far and wide and his defense is beyond reproach, so expect Gibbs to get a ton of ink as one the chosen players MLB decides to “talk up” with positive press heading into the June draft.
JR RHP Austin Ross (2010) is the prototypical four-seamer/sinker/slider guy. He occasionally expands upon the repertoire by branching out with a show-me change, but otherwise remains true to his sinking 90-92 fastball and solid slider with plus potential. He has excellent command of all of his pitches, most notably the four-seamer and the sinker. In addition to solid present value stuff, Ross has excellent mechanics and room to grow on his lanky 6-2, 190 pound frame. I group college pitching prospects into a couple of different categories. Ross will likely go in with the rest of the “potential back of the rotation arms” because he has the makings of at least three big league average or better pitches.
SO OF Johnny Dishon (2010) is yet another legit well-rounded five-tool talent. He has above-average speed, a plus arm, plays a good enough centerfield (though he fits best in right professionally), and has a really promising hit tool. After redshirting last season, he finds himself draft-eligible in 2010, but, and I’m sure a pretty clear theme is developing here, he has plenty to prove this upcoming season. Dishon heads into the season as LSU’s fourth outfielder, a testament to this team’s crazy outfield depth. At this point I consider Dishon to be one of the most underrated prospects in college baseball. He still swings and misses too often, but his base running is top notch and the pop in his bat could grow into real power with more reps.
SR 1B/OF Blake Dean (2010) is being counted on to start the season as LSU’s primary first baseman even after getting beat up on the operating table (torn labrum and appendectomy) this past offseason. Reports on his defense at first have been extremely positive so far. I liked Dean as a prospect a lot last year, but with every extra year (and every subsequent injury) spent not developing his craft professionally it gets harder and harder to envision Dean ever holding down a starting job in the bigs. His good but not great future with the bat makes me wonder if his overall package is going to be able to carry him at a defensive position like first base that demands more than just a good bat. Getting back into the outfield at some point this season (even if only doing so pre-game for scouts on hand) would be a very, very good thing for Dean’s prospect stock. As is, he represents value as a potential money saving senior sign option (with upside, no less) between rounds five and ten.
JR RHP Daniel Bradshaw (2010) is probably the better comp to Louis Coleman on the roster, but with stuff that grades out lower across the board. Bradshaw sits 86-90 with the fastball and throws a couple of average at best offspeed pitches (curveball and changeup). His lack of dominating, or even above-average, stuff dim the shine of his pro prospects, but he’ll at least have the benefit of spending two more years at a hugely respected college program to build up his draft resume. As a senior sign in 2011, he could get a real look, but I don’t see him getting picked high enough in 2010 to leave school early. Then again, he could also put together a fine season as LSU’s Saturday starter in 2010 and have us all reconsidering his future come June.
SR OF/1B Matt Gaudet (2010) is a player that finally helps answer the question what would a baseball player with severe sfairesphobia look like out in the field. In other, non-bastardized Greek words, Gaudet is a bit of a butcher defensively. His raw power is impressive, but he has a lot to prove after sitting out the 2009 season and, unfortunately for him, not a lot of time to do it. He is currently slated to be LSU’s righthanded hitting half of their designated hitter platoon.
JR 1B Kyle Koeneman (2010) has been both a highly decorated prospect coming out of high school (2007) and a well regarded junior college power hitter (2008-2009) who was very surprisingly bypassed in all three of his draft years. He has massive playable power and is capable of playing the outfield corners if needed. At bats will be hard to come by for Koeneman, but it’ll be interesting to see how he adapts to a bench role as that will almost certainly be his role if he can hack it in pro ball.
JR RHP Ben Alsup (2010) is in line to fill the all-important role of swingman of this year’s LSU staff. His low-90s fastball, above-average athleticism, and projectable 6-3, 160 pound frame all remind me of another pitcher formerly in the program that often saved the bullpen with multiple inning outings, Louis Coleman.
JR C Edmond Sparks (2010) has a plus arm and is solid behind the plate, but right now his bat still lags behind his defense. His track record in junior college shows a player slowly beginning to tap into his gap power potential, but he still needs to show something on the big college baseball stage. He didn’t get nearly as many at bats in 2009 at Chipola as he did in 2008 (not sure why), but he figures to get some actual time as Gibbs’ backup in 2010.
JR SS Mike Lowery (2010) is out for the year as he recovers from back surgery.
SO OF Mikie Mahtook (2011) projects to do just about everything well at the big league level. His tools all grade out as above-average or better, but the gap between where some of his skills currently are and where they ultimately need to be is substantial. Mahtook has made steady progress narrowing that gap since enrolling at LSU, but his performance this spring will be heavily scrutinized by scouts expecting big things out of the potential 2011 first rounder. Mahtook is a plus athlete with above-average raw power, above-average speed, a strong arm, and the potential to play an above-average centerfield as a professional.
SO OF Trey Watkins (2011) can run like the dickens. That’s fast. You know it’s fast because it prompted me to say something like he can run like the dickens. That’s not a phrase I’m willing to use publicly unless it was oh so true. Watkins’s plus-plus running ability allows him to cover huge chunks of ground in the field. His compact 5-8, 190 pound frame is very well proportioned with those explosive fast twitch muscles that make the eyes of scouts widen. I know this is a cop-out, but Watkins is a player you really need to watch play to understand. His upside could be Bobby Abreu with more speed and less home run power. JR OF Tyler Holt (2010) of Florida State is the best current prospect comp (although Holt strikes out a lot more) I can come up with; Holt is draft-eligible this year, so it’ll be interesting to see if his draft standing works as a litmus test to Watkins’s 2011 draft stock.
SO RHP Shane Riedie (2011) is on tap to be LSU’s early mid-week starter this season. He’s a really big kid (6-5, 240) that was worked really hard in high school, but has serious potential as a hard throwing innings eater type if it all comes together. Riedie’s fastball currently sits in the high-80s, but he can dial it up to the low-90s (I’ve seen him at 94) on occasion. That velocity should jump with time, perhaps as soon as this upcoming season. There are already reports from the summer saying he was sitting more comfortably in the low-90s, a fantastic sign for his development. The increased emphasis on high level conditioning, refinement in his mechanics (seems like he has a bit of a hitch in his delivery and it looks like he drags his throwing arm across his body more than most scouts like, plus his lower leg kick isn’t as high as I personally like to see) and more professional LSU throwing program (compared to what he did in high school) should continue to do wonders for his arm. Riedie’s best pitch is currently that high upside fastball, but his curve is already a solid second offering. His changeup is a work in progress, but the fact he has shown it in game situations (largely over the summer) is a good sign for its development. Riedie isn’t Anthony Ranaudo, but he isn’t so far off that the comparison is totally crazy.
SO RHP Matty Ott (2011) is exactly the kind of player that makes following the sport fun. He somehow pulls off always appearing both fiery and cool while on the mound, he gets big time results (69 K to 6 BB in 50.1 IP ) through unconventional means (his funky low ¾ delivery is only a hair or two from dropping officially down to sidearm), and he is by all accounts a wonderful example of what a student-athlete ought to be. His hard, sinking high-80s fastball works really well in concert with a high-70s big league ready slider that makes life miserable for both lefties and righties alike. Ott’s prospect stock is in limbo because he doesn’t fit any kind of traditional baseball archetype. He hasn’t currently shown the stuff needed to start (although I’ll happily go on record in saying I think he’d blossom if given the opportunity to refine a third pitch), and he doesn’t have the knockout fastball that so many teams require out of their late inning aces. Maybe it is a personal blind spot of mine, but, archetypes be damned, I like players like Ott that get just get guys out. He has two big league pitches at present (fastball is a little short, but the movement bumps it up a grade) and has time to polish up a third offering. He won’t be a first rounder, heck he may not even be a candidate to go in the top 150 or so picks, but he could wind up his college career as a high floor, close to the majors kind of prospect. If you read this thing regularly you know I value upside and star potential very highly, but in a world that Brandon Lyon can get a $15 million contract, you’d better believe there is value in locking in a player like Ott for six cost-controlled big league years.
RS FR 3B Wet Delatte (2011) is…wait…his name is Wet? I mean, sure, his real name is William, but he willingly goes by the name Wet. I have a pretty simple rule on this site: any player named Wet moves up 50 spots on the big board automatically. Wet is already a decent defender at third and a gifted natural hitter. He’ll get his chance as LSU’s staring third baseman heading into the spring.
SO 2B Tyler Hanover (2011) is actually a very similar player to his double play partner Austin Nola. Hanover has more pop than his 5-6, 163 pound frame suggests, but like Nola, he is a very good defender at his position. He is also capable of playing third base and is expected to be first in line at shortstop if anything happens to Nola. The natural comparison is to fellow tiny infielder David Eckstein, but the numbers don’t back it up. As of now, Hanover is a fairly unique player who could see his career go in any number of ways before his draft year comes up.
RS FR INF Beau Didier (2011) was drafted in the 40th round in 2008. Pittsburgh sure seems to have a thing for high school recruits committed to LSU, huh? Didier is the one who got away from the Pirates back in 2008, a loss that could sting over time. Didier has above-average power potential, but his recovery from Tommy John surgery has pushed the timetable back on the development of many of his skills. As a prep player Didier was known for having a laser rocket arm. It’ll be interesting to see if his recovery from the surgery was successful enough to allow him to throw like he once did. He is slated to start 2010 as one half of LSU’s designated hitter platoon, but is also capable of playing third and second. There are also quiet rumblings that many on staff think he would work best behind the plate. I think I’d like to see that as it would be a hoot to see LSU attempt to be the first team to attempt to field the first ever all catcher starting eight. I’m personally very curious to see how Didier responds defensively at the hot corner because people I’ve talked to have me believing he has enough range and good enough hands to stick at shortstop if given the chance. Didier isn’t draft eligible until 2011, but anytime a player has a family member with a scouting background its fun to begin to try to connect the dots. Those familial ties bind him to the Texas Rangers, so store that player to team link in your brain and we can revisit it about two years from now.
SO SS Austin Nola (2011) gained notoriety during LSU’s championship run last season as a damn fine defender with an above-average arm. He showed just barely enough with the bat (.240/.350/.364 as a freshman in the SEC isn’t awful) to make him an interesting all-around prospect to watch going forward, rather than just another all glove, small bat player. Even if he doesn’t progress at the plate, he could still have himself a pro career. As the market for good defense continues to grow, players like Nola will likely see their draft stock get a boost. I also can’t be the only one who likes having a player on the premier baseball university in Louisiana with the last name “Nola,” right? I know LSU is in Baton Rouge and not New Orleans, but it still feels right.
SO INF Grant Dozar (2011) impressed those who saw him practice with the team last season, but didn’t get enough at bats in 2009 to make any conclusions about what kind of player he’ll be on the college level. As of now, he is expected to see time at both first and third. If he can earn some playing time behind the plate, as some have speculated he might, the added versatility would give this under the radar prospect a chance to get a little recognition.
FR LHP Forrest Garrett (2012) was written up as a late round 2009 draft sleeper back in June, something I had forgotten all about until doing some of my very scientific research (Google) on Garrett. I won’t quote myself, but I will sum up my thoughts on Garrett here: gigantic sleeper with early round potential in 2012 because of great physical projection, high-80s to low-90s fastball with room to grow, present above-above changeup that should be plus pitch in time, above-average potential with curve, and solid command already.
FR C Wes Luquette (2012) put up titanic numbers as a prep quarterback for the Manning brothers’ alma mater Newman HS in New Orleans, but comes to LSU as a backup catcher with the inside track on succeeding Micah Gibbs. His strong commitment to LSU coupled with pesky reconstructive elbow surgery back in February dropped him to the Pirates in the 27th round in 2009, but he could see his stock shoot way up by 2012, especially if he establishes himself as worthy of a starting spot by 2011. It’ll be an uphill climb for Luquette due to the ever-increasing likelihood of him sitting out the season to recovery from Tommy John surgery, but he is still in good shape of becoming a two year starter at LSU.
FR C/INF/OF Mason Katz (2012) has some serious thunder in his bat for a smaller player. I’ve heard the coaches are excited about his ability to play multiple spots around the diamond, a big plus for a college team short on scholarships. However, I’ve also been told that his best position may eventually be “batter’s box.” I can’t honestly say whether that’s high praise for what his bat may become or an indictment of his handiwork with the leather.