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Owasso HS (OK) RHP Dylan Bundy (3rd ranked draft prospect) is an elite prospect who, along with last year’s top pick shortstop Manny Machado, gives Baltimore one of baseball’s top pitcher/position player combinations. Bundy has long shown a devastating plus fastball/plus curveball pairing and outstanding top to bottom command, but the progress made with his above-average (at times) changeup (usable as a show-me pitch at the start of the season) and plus cutter (formerly an average slider) is what really stands out for me. The biggest (only?) questions with the former Oklahoma prep star stem from his lack of size, but, as I’ve mentioned here more times than I can count, I don’t give a hoot about size. This is especially true when a “short” (hey, I’m 5’8”…size is relative, you know?) righthander has none of the issues short righthanders supposedly suffer from: his mechanics are consistent, he throws strikes like a pitching machine, he holds his velocity deep into starts, he has plenty of arm strength, and his injury history is clean. So, basically, he’s not 6’5”. Everything else about him indicates greatness ahead. Unfortunately for Baltimore, there isn’t much in the way of potential greatness to be found after their first pick. That’s not to say there are some solid prospects sprinkled throughout, but rather an admission that Baltimore went for high floors over high ceilings this year.
RHP Dylan Bundy (Owasso HS, Oklahoma): 94-95 sitting velocity, 96-97 peak; good to plus 77-82 CB; CU with average upside at start of spring, may have surpassed that already; 85-87 SL that might have been the cutter; really like the FB/CB combo; smooth mechanics; plus 86-89 cutter; Dylan Covey comp?; extreme strike thrower, great control; now sitting 92-96, 97 peak; holds velocity late; 6-1, 205
Sometimes I like high floor picks. Vanderbilt 3B Jason Esposito (55th ranked draft prospect) and his potential plus defense is a nice example of a high floor selection working for me. A floor of a defense-first utility player – he’s already shown he can hold his own up the middle in a pinch – isn’t a terrible investment for a team with so many young arms, some who could use the confidence boost a strong infield defense would provide, in the pipeline.
Esposito’s defense is big league ready, and his hit tool, raw power, and speed all grade out as average future tools at the next level. I swear I was ready to mention Matt Dominguez as a potential comp before reading Baseball America beat me to the punch, but it is a good enough comp that I don’t mind repeating it. If my instincts count for anything, allow me to go on record as a believer in Esposito. As impressive a college career as he has had so far, I think he goes on to show more at the next level with the bat. Additionally, while his glove at third may not be Adrian Beltre good, he has the chance to be a top five defensive third baseman in the big leagues in very short order. That glove alone will give him very good value for a Baltimore team stocked with a bunch of interesting young arms.
Sometimes I don’t like high floor picks. East Carolina RHP Mike Wright and Arizona RHP Kyle Simon are both considered relatively safe bets to pitch in the big leagues someday, but I’m not so sure on either. I didn’t profile either before the draft because neither cracked my list of top 125 college pitching prospects. Then, lo and behold, Baltimore takes them both within the first 125 picks of the entire draft. I don’t think that makes my pre-draft ranking wrong, nor do I think it makes Baltimore stupid for taking their guys where they did; just differing opinions, that’s all. I do give credit to Baltimore for identifying the type of pitcher they wanted: Simon and Wright are two very, very similar pitching prospects, as you can see from my previously unpublished pre-draft notes on each below.
There isn’t a plus pitch between the two strapping young righties, but both young men have a lot of guts and are unafraid to pitch inside or challenge hitters when necessary. I prefer Wright’s four-seamer, slider and changeup. Simon gets the edge on his sinker, control, and delivery. Neither guy looks like much more than a potential middle reliever to me. Both Wright and Simon have made good use of their time in pro ball by already advancing to Baltimore’s Low A affiliate.
East Carolina JR RHP Mike Wright (2011): 90-92 FB, touching 93 with lots of sink; good but inconsistent SL; average at best CU; shows CB; delivery a concern; 6-5, 195 pounds; (6.93 K/9 – 2.61 BB/9 – 3.73 FIP – 100 IP)
Arizona JR RHP Kyle Simon (2011): 89-91 FB with plus sink, 92-93 peak; good splitter that works well off fastball; inconsistent SL with some promise; very good control; 6-5, 220 pounds; (6.28 K/9 – 0.77 BB/9 – 3.91 FIP – 129 IP)
Baltimore rounded out their top ten with six prospects I like. Middle Georgia JC LHP Matt Taylor brings good velocity from the left side and enough in the way of secondary offerings to profile as a potential back of the rotation arm. Ahead of him for me is Central Michigan LHP Trent Howard, a prospect who had only the following blurb in my notes: “plus-plus command of four otherwise unremarkable pitches.” Considering my love of lefties with the ability to put the ball wherever they want, I think I may have shortchanged him in my pre-draft rankings.
The two college righties selected in back-to-back rounds that have received the most ink are the 3rd/4th round duo of Wright and Simon, but I prefer the 9th/10th round coupling of Mississippi State RHP Devin Jones and Virginia RHP Tyler Wilson (219th ranked draft prospect). I’ve written a good bit about both guys over the past two seasons, so I’ll let past me take it away for a bit:
He [Jones] strikes me as a borderline starting candidate in pro ball at this point. Like many young pitchers, it’ll be the development of an effective changeup that makes or breaks him as a high round prospect or not. I really like his present mix (low-90s four-seam, upper-80s two-seam with great sink, and a mid- to upper-80s slider with plus upside) and he has the frame pro teams like to see in a starter (6’3″, 180). I’m a bit biased in my appreciation for Jones, as I’ve always liked the classically built sinker/slider specialists. I like it even more when these classic sinker/slider guys go all out and embrace who they are, so, if I may, a quick suggestion for Jones: ditch whatever version of the change you are currently working on and go with a splitter instead.
Mississippi State JR RHP Devin Jones: low-90s FB, peaking at 93; 87-88 two-seamer with great sink; 82-84 SL could be plus pitch; CU is work in progress; breaking stuff hasn’t quite developed as hoped, but still peaks 94-95 with FB; 6-4, 180 pounds
Virginia SR RHP Tyler Wilson: Wilson’s solid three-pitch mix (88-90 fastball, good sinking 80-82 change, average low-80s slider) gives credence to the idea he has value either in the bullpen or as a starter. Fastball plays up in short bursts (94 peak). 6-2, 190
Not much has changed since the time of those pieces: Jones is a better version of the sinker/slider arms taken a few rounds ahead of him, and Wilson’s versatility (stuff is good enough to start, but plays up nicely in relief) continues to make him a favorite.
Farragut HS (TN) 3B Nicky Delmonico (94th ranked draft prospect) was considered a difficult sign heading into the draft and questions about his signability pushed him down the board. I like his bat a lot more as a catcher than as a third baseman, and something about him rubs me the wrong way (though no real fault of his own…it’s just an instinctual thing, I guess), but there’s some power there.
Delmonico is another player who could realistically sneak into the first round who I’m not quite as high on as others. He’ll get the last laugh on draft day, so I don’t feel too bad breaking him down now. In Delmonico, I don’t see a standout tool. His arm works alright and there is some power upside, but there is no one part of his game that makes you stand up and take notice. In his defense, well, I like his defense. So many had written him off as a catcher, but in my brief looks and the scouting reports I’ve read, I don’t see anything that makes me think he’ll have to move to first anytime soon.
It was pretty considerate for Baltimore to draft both Arizona State OF John Ruettiger (169th ranked draft prospect) and TCU OF Jason Coats (Round 12 and my 114th ranked draft prospect) considering the two college outfielders were featured in a “Mystery Player” piece I did in early March. Not much has changed on either guy since then. The signed Ruettiger is a contact oriented leadoff type with a chance to stick in center professionally. The unsigned Coats has more thump and a quicker bat, but limited athleticism will keep him in a corner at the next level. I wrote a good bit on both players, so bear with me here. First, on Ruettiger:
[plus athlete; big hit tool; line drive machine; gap power at best; leadoff man profile; good patience; average to plus speed; good defender; iffy arm, more accurate than powerful; strong experience with wood; love the way he plays within himself; great athlete, great body; 6-2, 175 pounds]
Half Glass Full: Capable center fielder and irritating (to the opposition, naturally) leadoff man with double digit home run pop
Half Glass Empty: Modest power upside fails to manifest professionally; as a result, overall hit tool and plate discipline suffer against professional pitching
And now on Coats:
[plus athlete; very strong; special bat speed; decent to average speed; average arm; plus raw power; corner outfielder with good range; pitch recognition could make or break him; 6-2, 195 pounds]
Half Glass Full: Pitch recognition and overall approach at plate improves to the point his plus power allows him blossom as an above-average everyday corner outfielder
Half Glass Empty: Awesome power goes to waste as 4A slugger due to Jeff Francoeur-level plate discipline
Washington State OF Derek Jones (Round 13) is a similar, if slightly watered down, prospect to Coats. He’s strong (like Coats), a probable left fielder in the pros (like Coats), and has power to spare (like Coats. He also didn’t sign (like Coats!).
Washington State JR OF Derek Jones (2011): very strong, good speed, strong arm, best future tool is power; great athlete; holes in swing; stuck in LF; 6-1, 205 pounds
Illinois C Adam Davis (Round 11) can really catch. He won’t hit enough to warrant consideration for an everyday job, but catchers who can catch quickly become favorites within minor league coaching circles. South Carolina OF Adam Matthews (Round 23) will return to South Carolina next year with the inside track on the starting job in center field left vacant by Jackie Bradley Jr. TCU 2B Jerome Pena (Round 38) has decent pop for a middle infielder, but a lack of contact will be a problem.
Illinois JR C Adam Davis (2011): plus arm; very quick release; above-average defender; line-drive swing; 6-0, 205 pounds
South Carolina JR OF Adam Matthews (2011): plus speed; great athlete; good defender
As a speed guy first and foremost, Matthews’s battles with hamstring injuries all season long were a shame to see.
Temple JC (TX) RHP Mark Blackmar (Round 16) has the chance for three average or better pitches, so there is some hope that he could make it as a starter in pro ball. I view him more as a fastball/slider relief option, but to each his own. Ten rounds later Baltimore took a chance on Mesquite HS (AZ) RHP Zach Davies (Round 26), much to my delight. Davies has that short righthander who can spot four pitches and knows when to use them thing going for him. The Orioles then went shopping right in their backyard as they nabbed Maryland RHP Sander Beck (Round 33). Beck was number one hundred on my list of 2011 college pitchers and will head back to College Park to improve that ranking in 2012. If he can find a way to make his fastball dance just a little bit more (cut it, sink it, float it, whatever) while also drastically improving his control, then he’s a legit prospect. It also wouldn’t hurt if he maintains the gains made improving his secondary offerings, a spike curve and straight change.
RHP Zach Davies (Mesquite HS, Arizona): 90 FB; CB; SL; CU; good athlete; 6-0, 170
Maryland JR RHP Sander Beck: straight 88-92 FB with good command; improving spike CB that I really like; solid straight CU; SL; control an issue; 6-3, 200 pounds
Wetumpka HS (AL) 3B Brad Roney (Round 18) has a scouting profile that reads a lot like 2011 third round pick BA Vollmuth. I’m not just saying that because he just so happens to be off to Southern Mississippi to replace Vollmuth on the left side of the infield either. Also unsigned is Clovis North HS (CA) SS Chris Mariscal (Round 41). Mariscal has gotten a lot of hype as a potential 2014 first rounder, but the concerns about his power upside are grounded in truth. I realize not every player has to be a power hitter, but the threat of an extra base hit goes a long way in how pitchers approach a given hitter. I’ll hedge my bets and say I think he’ll be a top five round prospect after three years at Fresno State.
Broken record alert: Mariscal has really good defensive tools at short, a plus arm, above-average speed, a solid hit tool, and not a whole lot of power. In other words, he is pretty much exactly what you’d expect out of a non-first round high school shortstop prospect. Sorting out these players is something I do for fun here in this low-stakes couple thousands hits a day website; I can’t imagine how difficult it is to do it with literally millions of dollars of future player value at stake.
Last but not least, Virginia Tech RHP Ronnie Shaban (Round 49) deserves a mention as a solid college infielder drafted with the intention of moving him to the mound. He’ll be back at Virginia Tech for his senior season.
Virginia Tech JR SS Ronnie Shaban: strong arm; good pop; good defensive tools; average runner; 6-1, 195 pounds
I can’t really remember what made this particular box score stand out, but I must have copied and pasted it into a Word document for a reason. Could it be the 0-4 leadoff performance of the Mick Doyle, also known as college baseball’s best name to university fit? Perhaps. Or it could have been the good pitching matchup between Cole Johnson and Tyler Mizenko that lived up to the billing. Johnson’s talent (slightly above-average fastball and good slider) has too often surpassed his performance on the field. A big senior season could put him in line to be one of the top mid-round senior signs. Then again, and I realize I’m taking this whole “2011 college class has potential to be historically great” thing too far, this could be a historically great group of college pitching senior signs. Off the top of my head (or a Ctrl + F of “SR” of my 2011 college pitching Word doc), the 2011 group of senior sign pitching includes a whole boat load of potential big league middle relievers like Scott Matyas, Tyler Wilson, Brett Harman, Randy Fontanez, Patrick Johnson, Corey Pappel, Thomas Girdwood, TJ Walz, Steven Maxwell, Taylor Hill, Cole Green, Michael Rocha, James Nygren, Tim Kelley, Ryan Woolley, Rick Anton, Brian Dupra, Elliott Glynn, Kevin Jacob, Nick Fleece…the list goes on and on. Mizenko, on the other hand, is a damn fine junior prospect who has struggled with his stuff in the early going. His fastball velocity has been down and his typically sharp slider hasn’t been, well, sharp. I still like Mizenko’s upside as a potential three-pitch starting pitcher.
Villanova ace JR RHP Kyle McMyne is a personal favorite, so I’m always interested to see how he does against quality lineups. Wilmington’s lineup certainly qualifies, especially leadoff hitter Cameron Cockman and three-hole batter Andrew Cain. McMyne, one of the most consistent high velocity arms in the 2011 draft pool, delivered with a strong 7 inning, 10 strikeout outing good enough to get him the win. I’ll hopefully be seeing a lot of McMyne this spring, so expect a few firsthand accounts if all goes according to plan.
It was hard to pick one game out of the big Stanford-Texas. Then I figured, since this is college baseball after all, just go with the Friday night game. You know Taylor Jungmann is a good prospect when the biggest, and arguably only, question about his game focuses on his workload rather than his stuff or performance. The difference between Jungmann and Matt Purke is so minute that it really wouldn’t be a surprise to see team’s prefer the fresher arm (Purke) over the arm that has been “Augied.” We’ll see. Also, weird that a pitcher with Mark Appel’s stuff could ever go 7.1 innings pitched with only 2 strikeouts.
Mentioned it earlier, but it bears repeating: Trevor Bauer struck out 17 (!) batters in 10 (!) innings. Despite Bauer’s gem, UCLA still managed a way to lose. I wish I had mentioned this before the season started and the UCLA bats went cold, but the Bruins’ lineup is really underwhelming from a prospect standpoint. At first I thought my concerns about the their offense wouldn’t impact the 2011 team from a performance standpoint; certain college programs can be built on quality college hitters just doing enough to win behind excellent pitching and be quite successful. Now I’m officially worried that the lack of offense could hurt UCLA’s on-field bottom line. Outside of a solid prospect outfield (Keefer, Amaral, Gelalich, and Allen), there isn’t a lot of pro upside there.
59 batters stepped to the plate…only 10 reached base. Ground ball machine Hudson Randall (65% of his non-K outs recorded via the grounder) was particularly great on the mound (7 IP 1 H 0 ER 0 BB 5 K).
In absolutely no particular order, 2011 draft prospects that finished last season with over 10 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched, minimum 50 total innings pitched. For reference’s sake, prospects expected to go in the top three rounds are in bold…
Kentucky JR RHP Alex Meyer
Missouri State JR RHP Dan Kickham
Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Noe Ramirez
Virginia SR RHP Tyler Wilson
Maryland SR RHP Brett Harman
Vanderbilt JR RHP Sonny Gray
Texas A&M JR RHP John Stilson
Texas JR RHP Taylor Jungmann
Baylor JR RHP Logan Verrett
UCLA JR RHP Gerrit Cole
UCLA JR RHP Trevor Bauer
Washington JR RHP Andrew Kittredge
Georgia Tech JR LHP Jed Bradley
Virginia JR LHP/1B Danny Hultzen
Mississippi JR LHP Matt Crouse
Stanford JR LHP Brett Mooneyham
Arizona State JR LHP Mitchell Lambson
TCU SO LHP Matt Purke
Northeastern JR LHP Andrew Leenhouts
“Big” Name 2010s
Georgia Tech JR RHSP Deck McGuire – 7 IP 5 H 0 ER 0 BB 10 K
Florida Gulf Coast JR LHSP Chris Sale – 2 IP 0 H 0 ER 0 BB 2 K
LSU JR RHSP Anthony Ranaudo – 5 IP 1 H 0 ER 2 BB 6 K
North Carolina JR RHSP Matt Harvey – 5.2 IP 5 H 3 ER 2 BB 3 K
Ohio State JR RHSP Alex Wimmers – 6 IP 1 H 0 ER 1 BB 9 K
Georgia Tech JR RHRP Kevin Jacob – 1 IP 0 H 0 ER 0 BB 3 K
Mississippi JR LHSP Drew Pomeranz – 4 IP 4 H 1 ER 2 BB 7 K
Georgia JR RHSP Justin Grimm – 5 IP 4 H 2 ER 3 BB 6 K
Tennessee JR LHSP Bryan Morgado – 5 IP 4 H 3 ER 2 BB 6 K
Baylor JR RHSP Shawn Tolleson – 6 IP 5 H 3 ER 3 BB 11 K
Not really a bad line out of the entire Opening Night starter bunch, I’d say. Pomeranz’s command was shaky, Ranaudo’s stuff wasn’t as sharp as it could have been, and Harvey was all over the place with his control, but, all in all, a darn fine night for college baseball’s aces.
*** Sale only pitched two innings because he’s being saved for this upcoming Wednesday’s huge game at Miami. He was incredibly sharp in this one, hitting the mid-90s with regularity. Sale vs Miami is shaping up to be one of the most highly anticipated early season mid-week games in recent memory.
*** Baseball America had Harvey sitting 92-94, touching 96. Lack of control or not, that kind of velocity this early in the season is an excellent sign for Harvey, a pitcher with a history of inconsistent radar gun readings.
*** Best publicly available groundout ratios of the night belong to Harvey (10/1 ground out to air out ratio) and Wimmers (7/1). Use that information anyway you see fit.
“Lesser” Name 2010s
San Diego SR RHSP AJ Griffin – 6 IP 6 H 4 ER 0 BB 8 K
East Carolina JR RHSP Seth Maness – 5.2 IP 6 H 4 ER 1 BB 4 K
Notre Dame JR RHSP Cole Johnson – 5.1 IP 5 H 2 ER 0 BB 2 K
Virginia JR RHRP Tyler Wilson – 3 IP 2 H 0 ER 2 BB 4 K
Clemson JR LHSP Casey Harman – 5 IP 1 H 0 ER 1 BB 3 K
Louisville JR RHSP Thomas Royse – 5 IP 2 H 0 ER 0 BB 5 K
Arkansas SR RHSP Michael Bolsinger 5 IP 4 H 1 ER 1 BB 6 K
Florida JR RHSP Tommy Toledo – 3.1 IP 3 H 0 ER 2 BB 4 K (WP, 2 HBP)
*** Griffin had a bizarre 1/9 ground out to air out ratio. I’m almost positive Griffin was a significant groundball pitcher last year, so it’ll be interesting to see if this one start was an aberration or the start of a larger trend.
*** Johnson has a solid reputation and good stuff, but he still hasn’t been able to harness his natural talents to dominate at the college level. The solid line he put up on Friday is indicative of his college performance thus far. Steady results, uninspiring strikeout numbers.
*** Wilson is coming out of the bullpen because Virginia has a pitching staff that rivals that of some minor league teams, but his stuff is good enough to start professionally. He’s a top ten round player.
“Big” Name 2011s
Vanderbilt SO RHSP Sonny Gray 8 IP 3 H 0 ER 1 BB 8 K
UCLA SO RHSP Gerrit Cole – 6 IP 1 H 2 ER 0 BB 9 K
Texas SO RHSP Taylor Jungmann – 7 IP 7 H 1 ER 1 BB 8 K
Virginia SO LHSP Danny Hultzen – 6 IP 4 H 2 ER 3 BB 4 K
Kentucky SO RHSP Alex Meyer – 5 IP 4 H 2 ER 3 BB 8 K
Totals: 32 IP 19 H 7 ER 8 BB 37 K
Those five 2011 arms are something special. I’ve been toying with a 2011 Mock Draft for a couple of days and every time I do a rough sketch of the first ten to fifteen picks or so, all of the names above appear…but each time I do it, I come up with a new order. I think I like them in the order I have them above, but that’ll change, oh, about ten thousand times between now and next June.
The GO/AO numbers for the quintet: Jungmann – 9/1, Cole – 7/2, Hultzen – 9/3, Gray – 10/4, and Meyer – 2/4.
“Lesser” Name 2011s
Baylor SO RHSP Logan Verrett – 7 IP 9 H 6 ER 1 BB 5 K
Rice SO LHSP Taylor Wall – 3 IP 4 H 3 ER 2 BB 3 K
Verrett and Wall both struggled some in their debuts, but they are still both 2011s well keeping a close on eye, Verrett especially. He’s a pitcher that would be getting a lot more attention (talked about as a serious top of the first half round candidate) if he wasn’t part of such a loaded class. Timing is everything, I suppose.
One of the most popular (fine, the only) question I’ve been emailed since starting this site up goes a little something like this: I’m going to see ____ University/College/State play this weekend and I was wondering if there was anybody with a professional future that would be worth watching. The College Team Profiles are designed to preemptively answer any and all questions about the prospects from a particular college team…or maybe just open up a whole new debate full of new, even more confusing questions. We’ll see. The next three draft classes for one particular school are featured, with the players ranked in order (from greatest to least greatest) within each class. As always, whether you agree, disagree, or think I’m a dope who should leave this sort of stuff to the experts (thanks, Mom)…let’s hear it via email (you can use either robozga at gmail dot com or thebaseballdraftreport at gmail dot com) or in the comments section.
JR OF Jarrett Parker (2010) is one of the best of the many 2010 toolsy lottery ticket kind of players. I haven’t been doing this draft thing for that long, so it is hard for me to compare talent levels from class to class, but it seems that this year has a high number of mid-round high upside, high flameout potential players. I also haven’t been doing this writing thing long, as you can see from the mess that was that last sentence. Anyway, as mentioned, Parker is one of the very best of the so-called (by me) “lottery ticket” group, so he isn’t necessarily included in the mid-round subsection. In fact, many see him as a candidate to go in the first round. It’s easy to see why. His mix of tools and big-time sophomore numbers would make him a top-three round guy right now. Continued incremental improvements in his game his junior year will push his draft stock even higher. I’ll make a scary cross-race comparison here and claim Parker has a similar skill set as Lastings Milledge. He has plus power potential, an above-average arm, good speed, and the defensive chops to be a well above-average corner outfielder or a steady stopgap in center. Like Milledge, he struggles against breaking balls to the point that it’s hard not to see him as a 100+ strikeout big league hitter at this point. However, and I try my best to sandwich the bad news in between good news when I can, two big assets in Parker’s favor are his big league ready frame (6-4, 210 after packing on serious muscle), and the seemingly ever-increasing athleticism and agility (honed by practicing yoga) that should help him withstand the rigors of the professional grind. Additionally, Parker improved his walk rate from his freshman year to his sophomore year, and continued the positive trend during his otherwise disappointing campaign on the Cape this summer. I like that.
JR OF Dan Grovatt (2010) has a very patient approach at the plate, power to the gaps, average speed, and a good enough arm to play right field professionally. Sounds good, right? It should because Grovatt is a top five round caliber talent. My only worry is that his more good than great toolset makes him too similar a prospect to former Florida State standout Jack Rye. Rye was one of my all-time favorite college players and a guy I touted as a draft sleeper, but his pro numbers, especially his power indicators, haven’t exactly set the world on fire so far. The comparison is probably unfair – one player’s struggles don’t really have anything to do with another’s future – but, having seen both play, the similarity between the two seemed worth pointing out. However, the two aren’t clones of one another, either. Grovatt is the better athlete and defensive player, and he has more upside with the bat, especially in the power department. Those are all pretty important points in Grovatt’s favor. It’ll take more time and research to see where exactly Grovatt stacks up when compared to fellow 2010 college outfielders, but I have the feeling that he’ll grade out higher here than in most spots. His well-rounded game and extensive big-time college experience make him a good bet to hit the ground running professionally. I’d peg his upside as that of a solid everyday corner outfielder (defense included) with a still valuable floor as a good fourth outfielder.
JR RHP Robert Morey (2010) will, if nothing else, always have a big win over Stephen Strasburg in the opener of the 2009 Irvine Regional. Fortunately for him, however, he won’t have to limit himself to that one particular game when someday regaling his grandkids about his playing days. A low-90s fastball, above-average slider, and an emerging straight changeup, plus his status as the Saturday starter for a championship caliber college team, should get him into the top ten rounds this June as a future back of the rotation starter.
JR RHP Tyler Wilson (2010) will probably be the Cavalier most directly impacted by Cody Winiarski’s arrival on campus. The opportunity to slide into the vacant weekend starting spot would have done wonders for Wilson’s 2010 draft stock. Even without the starting gig, he’ll get noticed as Virginia’s primary reliever, the bullpen ace relied upon to pitch multiple innings at a time whenever called upon. His plus command, good athleticism, and easy, repeatable arm action help him thrive in the role. Additionally, Wilson’s solid three-pitch mix (fastball sitting 90-92 and topping out at 94, good sinking high-70s change, average slider) gives credence to the idea he has value either in the bullpen or as a starter. I like him a lot, and believe he’ll be a top-ten round guy in June.
JR RHP Kevin Arico (2010) had himself a breakout season as Virginia’s closer in 2009. His bread and butter is a plus low-80s slider that he has no problem throwing over and over and over again. The first time I saw Arico pitch I walked away pretty impressed with myself for finally finding a player that I could compare to Kiko Calero. After seeing him throw a few more times since then, I think I’m now ready to upgrade the comp a smidge to now qualify Arico for a Chad Qualls type of ceiling. There is little to no chance his final draft standing rivals Qualls’s (you’d think last names ending with the letter s would annoy me, but, brother let me tell you, nothing is worse than a name ending in z), but he could still find himself as a top 12-15 round pick who could be a quick mover for the team that takes the plunge. There should be some concern about a player so reliant on one specific skill, but Arico’s results against high level competition should help assuage most clubs’ worry.
JR INF/OF Phil Gosselin (2010) heads into the 2010 season as the man without a position. The 2009 First-Team All-ACC second baseman has been working out in leftfield almost exclusively this fall, but has also apparently been told to be ready to fill in just about anywhere (3B, 2B, maybe SS, in that order) as needed this spring. It’s rare that a college supersub would be a legit draft prospect, but Gosselin is just that. He is a slightly below-average infielder with an average arm (2B being his most likely pro landing spot if a team prefers him in the infield), who will almost certainly be first tried in the outfield as a pro. I’m not sure if that is the best way to maximize Gosselin’s pro value. He doesn’t have the glove/range for center, and doesn’t have the bat for a corner. If he isn’t a starting caliber outfielder, why not at least give him a shot in the infield? If he can bump his defense up to at least average in the infield, then you’ve got yourself a player who can help you stretch the limits of your 25-man roster, especially in the NL.
JR C/1B/OF Kenny Swab (2010) and his Cavalier teammate John Hicks (2011) – separated at birth? Swab figures to have the inside track on the primary backup catching job, but should also see time at first base, right field (to take advantage of his plus arm), and designated hitter. He’s got a live bat with above-average power potential, but it’ll take some serious lineup juggling from Brian O’Connor to get him the at bats he’ll need to boost his draft stock. As is, Swab is a potential 10-20th round player based on upside alone.
SR LHP Neal Davis (2010) goes into his senior season as Virginia’s top lefthanded relief pitcher, a player able to skillfully mix and match fastballs, sliders, and changeups to get hitters out. His most recent season was arguably his least successful – certainly his least dominating – so he heads into 2010 with plenty to prove. His big league frame (6-6, 210) and past success in a highly competitive conference (he struck out nearly a batter an inning [39 in 40] while only allowing 7 earned runs in 40 relief innings [1.58 ERA] in 2008) combined with intriguing stuff (sits in the high-80s to low-90s with the fastball and has an above-average mid-70s slider) make him another second half of the draft option for a team looking for a warm A-ball body on the cheap. I know I do this a lot, but I’d be remiss to write this much about Davis without mentioning the possibility that his stuff and frame would actually play well as a starting pitcher professionally.
JR RHP Cody Winiarski (2010) comes to Virginia via noted talent factory Madison Area Technical College. After doing a little bit of homework on him, I’ve found that he is a player with a whole lot of adamant supporters. Someone who saw him pitch on multiple occasions while at MATC raved about his potential plus changeup. Another admitted that while he had never actually seen Winiarski throw himself, he had heard very positive things from others about his command and general pitchability. Winiarski doesn’t have as much room for error as some pitchers with bigger fastballs, but the praise he has gotten from those who have seen him firsthand makes me a believer in his pro prospects. Assuming he holds down the last weekend starting job as expected, watch out for Winiarksi as a potential top-15 round arm this June.
SR INF Tyler Cannon (2010) reminds me of a better version of Missouri’s Greg Folgia, a player picked a round higher in 2009. Cannon is solid in all phases of the game, but lacks fluidity on defense at any position. Between his lack of a true defensive home and his steady, but unspectacular bat, Cannon has many believing his professional role will be that of a super-sub capable of playing literally every position on the diamond, including catcher. His college counting stats (through his first two seasons) match up with Eric Bruntlett’s in almost an eerie way, but the comparison falls apart when you look at each player’s rate stats. Anyway, I’d say that the Bruntlett comp may actually be a tad optimistic at this point. Cannon’s collegiate track record isn’t quite as strong as Bruntlett’s (though another big season like Cannon had last year would close the gap) and he lacks Bruntlett’s tremendous Civil War reenactor (that may be the single ugliest looking word in the English language) style beard, but I’d bet on enough marginal improvements as he progresses into his mid-20s to see him getting a chance as a AAAA utility guy good enough to position himself as a potential callup when injuries to the more talented players occur. His big junior year gives him something to build on heading into 2010, and the continued increase of talented infielders to the Cavalier program ought to give him more of an opportunity to show off the defensive versatility that will be his best shot at someday playing big league baseball.
SR C Franco Valdes (2010) plays exceptional defense behind the plate. He’s adept at blocking balls in the dirt, athletic enough to get out of his crouch to pounce on anything in front of him, and has a strong enough arm to keep potential base stealers honest. He also has one heck of a reputation when it comes to handling a pitching staff. However, and this is a biggie, his offense (career OBP = .301) leaves much to be desired. However, and this is may or may not be a biggie depending on how you feel about this sort of thing, he does have the benefit of draft pedigree (15th round pick of Detroit back in 2006) on his side. I never know how much stock to put into previous draft standing, especially when we’re talking about a college junior or senior who was drafted in a late round three or four years prior. So much can change in the span of three or four seasons, you know? Valdes certainly isn’t a 15th round caliber player anymore, mainly due to the stalled development of his offensive game, but the fact he was previously drafted makes me hesitant to claim he has no shot at all this time around. At best, he’s worth nothing more than a late late late round flier at this point.
JR OF John Barr (2010) is as nondescript a prospect as you’ll find. It’s nothing personal – in fact, I saw Barr play in high school, and I tend to form weird (non-creepy!) attachments to players I’ve seen early on – but nothing about his game stands out as being an average or better big league tool. His numbers dipped from his freshman year to his sophomore season, but he deserves the benefit of the doubt as he was recovering from shoulder surgery for much of 2009.
INF JR Corey Hunt (2010) has to be a big believer in the idea that timing is everything, if for not other reason than to help him ease his troubled head at night. In a different era of Virginia baseball it’s possible Hunt could have come in, gotten playing time early, established himself as a useful defense-first middle infielder with above-average on-base skills, and pushed his draft stock up enough by his senior season to be a worthwhile 20ish round or so pick. Instead, he has been behind some pretty good veteran infielders to start off his Cavalier career and he’ll be behind some really impressive youngsters to end his career. Without regular playing time he’ll be a very difficult player for scouts to assess come June. The lack of track record and standout tools make him a non-prospect at this point.
JR INF/OF Tyler Biddix (2010) has one of the most underrated names in all of college baseball. K’Nex, Lego, Megatendo, Fischertechnik, Biddix, Uberstix, Blockos…which ones are real building block toys and which ones are fake? Pretty sure the end table I bought from Ikea a few months ago was a Biddix. Damn, the Ikea joke was a better one than the K’Nex/Uberstix one, wasn’t it? Wish I would have thought of it first. Anyway, I have no doubt that the real Biddix (the person) is a better prospect than the flimsy table, but not by enough to make him a draftable prospect.
SO INF/C Keith Werman (2011) did his best Pat Venditte impression while in high school, pitching a seven-inning complete game both lefthanded (3.1 innings) and righthanded (3.2 innings). That fun fact from the Virginia baseball website may have absolutely no bearing on Werman’s prospect stock, but it’s undeniably cool. What is relevant about his prospect stock is the fact he is a plus defender at second base who also has experience at shortstop and catcher dating back to his prep career. He can also handle the bat (.400/.481/.457 line in 70 at bats) enough to keep himself in the mix for a starting spot in 2010. Werman’s draft upside may be limited by his size (5-7, 150 – not saying judging him on size is fair, but it’s the reality), but the universal praise he earned last year as a sparkplug second leadoff hitter (the nice way of saying 9-hole hitter) for Virginia down the stretch should continue to get him noticed on the college level. The gap between Werman and Stephen Bruno is more perception than reality.
FR SS Reed Gragnani (2012) is yet another talented young prospect expected to see significant time in a loaded Virginia infield. His game right now revolves largely around his well above-average speed, excellent athleticism, and impressive range up the middle, but he is no slouch with the bat either. Early comps include Brian Roberts (if he develops as is) and Ryan Zimmerman (if he bulks up and gains power). Gragnani’s brother, Robbie, grew four inches during his college tenure at Virginia Commonwealth, so that Ryan Zimmerman developmental path isn’t totally out of the question. That’s not to say that the only thing standing in the way between Gragnani and future big league All-Star status is a couple of inches and some muscle, but he’s a good player with high round talent all the same.
FR SS Stephen Bruno (2012) was one of the rarest of the rare coming out of high school – a prep player actually expected to stay at shortstop as a pro. We always hear about how pretty much every worthwhile big leaguer was the star shortstop/pitcher of his high school team, but it never registered how often these players were forced to move off the position after signing that first pro deal. I mean, Frank Thomas was a shortstop in high school* because, let’s be honest, that’s just where you put the best athlete at that level. I remember watching Billy Rowell play shortstop in high school. He positioned himself about 3 steps out on the outfield grass, basically admitting to all in attendance he had no range and instead relying exclusively on his rocket arm to gun people down at first. Rowell wasn’t a pro prospect as a shortstop, but he played shortstop on his high school team because, quite simply, if he didn’t, then who would? Bruno was a top ten round talent in 2009 who fell to the Yankees in the 26th round due to a very strong commitment to Virginia. He’ll stick at shortstop throughout his career due to his plus range, slightly above-average speed, and Speedy Gonzalez quick hands. He has flashed present power, launching a couple of 450 bombs his senior year of school, but lacks the overall strength to do it on a consistent basis. That last point may not seem like a huge deal for a middle infield prospect, but it does speak to the general concerns about Bruno’s future. Some players are projects based on the development of their tools, an area that Bruno grades out fairly well across the board (in addition to the aforementioned defensive skills, he has a 55 arm), but other players are projects based on their physical development. That’s where Bruno is at right now. He has worked his tail off to improve in each of the five tools (most notably speed and arm strength), but it’ll be the way is body fills out (keeping in mind he is 5-9, 165) that will make him into either a first round caliber guy or not.
***Frank Thomas may or may not have been a shortstop in high school. I actually have no idea. I just thought he was a good example for the point I was trying to make. Now I realize that making stuff up doesn’t help my argument at all, but it’s my site and I get to be as bad a writer and as big a liar as I want to be. Maybe Jim Thome would have been a better example; I bet he played shortstop in high school…
UPDATE: Found something! Go here, or just trust this excerpt: “In baseball, he was a 6-2, 175-pound shortstop. The Cincinnati Reds were interested but never drafted him. So Thome enrolled at Illinois Central College, where he played baseball and basketball. The Indians drafted him in the 13th round in 1989, one of the smartest selections they ever made.”
FR SS Chris Taylor (2012) might have hit himself into regular playing time after mashing the ball throughout the fall. One rumored starting infield for Virginia has Steven Proscia at first, Keith Werman at second, Tyler Cannon sliding back over to third, and Taylor getting regular time at short. Taylor has plus raw power and intriguing defensive tools, but comes to school with a bit less fanfare as fellow freshman infielders Gragnani and Bruno.