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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Washington Nationals

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Washington in 2016

14 – Carter Kieboom
40 – Sheldon Neuse
58 – Jesus Luzardo
*100 – Dane Dunning
148 – Nick Banks
193 – Jake Noll
388 – AJ Bogucki

Complete List of 2016 Washington Draftees

1.28 – SS Carter Kieboom

The rich get richer as the Nationals do it again with an absolute steal with their first round pick. The birth of this site coincided with Washington’s unprecedented draft run beginning in 2009. I’m not sure a team has had better draft luck in any sport over an extended period* than what the Nationals experienced in the four drafts from ’09 to ’12. Being bad at the right time to land Stephen Strasburg (’09) and Bryce Harper (’10) is one thing, but having the number one prospects like Anthony Rendon (’11) and Lucas Giolito (’12) fall to pick six and sixteen in their respective years is otherworldly lucky. All credit to Washington for actually taking the plunge with Rendon and Giolito as they fell, but just being in that position in the first place is nothing short of a draft day miracle.

Getting Carter Kieboom (14) with the 28th overall pick might not qualify as another draft day miracle, but it’s not all that far off the mark, either. Some quick history on Kieboom, starting in April 2016…

Carter Kieboom is listed at third, but recent impressive defensive showings could allow him to remain at shortstop for the foreseeable future. If that’s the case, he could jump ten or more spots up these rankings because the bat is legit.

…and then again a month later…

Carter Kieboom was with the third base prospects in my notes up until about a month or so ago. The buzz on him being good enough to stick at shortstop for at least a few years grew too loud to ignore. In fact, said buzz reminds me quite a bit about how the slow yet steady drumbeat for Alex Bregman, Shortstop grew throughout the spring last season. Beyond the defensive comparison, I think there’s actually a little something to looking at Kieboom developing as a potential Bregman type impact bat over the next few seasons. He checks every box you’d want to see out of a high school infielder: hit (above-average), power (above-average raw), bat speed (yes), approach (mature beyond his years), athleticism (well above-average), speed (average), glove (average at short, could be better yet at third), and arm (average to above-average, more than enough for the left side). He’d be neck and neck with Drew Mendoza for third place on my third base list, but he gets the bump to second here with the shortstops. At either spot, he’s a definite first round talent for me.

There you go. Carter Kieboom: the next Alex Bregman. It’s not really that simple because it’s never really that simple, but the two young players share a lot of the same positive traits. Bregman’s incredible start to his pro career makes the direct one-to-one comparison extra scary. I love comps, but recognize they aren’t for everybody. The very nature of player comparisons can create unfair expectations based on misunderstanding the purpose of the enterprise; Kieboom not hitting the ground running quite like Bregman wouldn’t make him a failure, but the optics of linking the two together invites an extra layer of scrutiny that perhaps confuses more than clarifies. Still, I stand by the view that Kieboom has a lot of the same positive qualities in his game that make Bregman so good. I’m comfortable projecting Kieboom as a potential impact player on the same tier as Bregman.

*Maybe the Cleveland Cavaliers with an unfair run going back to getting arguably the most important first pick of all-time (LeBron James), the second piece of their Big Three (Kyrie Irving) after only having to suffer one year post-Decision, and the pick that would become the third member (Andrew Wiggins begat Kevin Love) falling into their laps despite just a 1.7% of happening. And that ignores the Anthony Bennett year, which, fine, was a wash, but it still put them in a position where they could have realistically taken somebody useful like Oladipo, Porter, Noel, or McCollum or unrealistically taken a superstar like Antetokounmpo or Gobert instead. The Pittsburgh Penguins could be in the mix with their Marc-Andre Fluery, Evgeni Malkin, and Sidney Crosby run.

The Colts are a sneaky darkhorse for one of the luckiest draft teams of all-time: going from fourteen seasons of Peyton Manning directly into the Andrew Luck era is pretty damn fortunate any way you look at it. Recent holiday boredom, however, revealed that the Colts are one of only three teams to have only had three quarterbacks (George, Manning, Luck) play all sixteen games in a season in the modern era. The others are the Patriots (Grogan, Bledsoe, Brady) and Jaguars (Brunell, Garrard, Bortles). The Texans have technically had the worst luck at the position (Carr and Schaub), but their history only goes back to 2002 so they get a mulligan for now. Anyway, I feel a little less jealous of the Colts now that I see how ugly things were for the decades that came before Manning/Luck. If you want to go way back, then I’d be willing to hear arguments for the Orlando Magic in the early-90s. If you flip the Strasburg/Harper drafts, then maybe you could flesh out a longform think piece worthy comparison between Orlando getting Shaq (transcendent superstar a la Harper) and Penny (crazy talented but oft-injured) in 1992 and 1993. I’d read that.

1.29 – RHP Dane Dunning

I messed up on Dane Dunning (*100). hence the asterisk next to his “pre-draft ranking.” From draft night…

A copy/paste error this morning kept Dunning off of the top 500 rankings. Now I’m paranoid that he’s not the only name missing since I tend to copy/paste in bunches. Anyway, Dunning has a really good arm. Going off memory, I think he was ranked somewhere just after the 200 mark near the Matt Krook, Matthias Dietz, Greg Veliz, and Tyler Mondile band of pitchers. My inexplicably unpublished notes on him…

JR RHP Dane Dunning: 88-94 FB with plus sink, 96 peak; average or better 81-83 SL; no longer uses good mid-70s CB as much; average 82-87 CU, flashes above-average with plus upside; improved command; good athlete; 6-3, 200 pounds

2014: 11.57 K/9 – 4.71 BB/9 – 21 IP – 5.14 ERA
2015: 8.25 K/9 – 3.45 BB/9 – 60.1 IP – 4.05 ERA
2016: 10.28 K/9 – 1.45 BB/9 – 68.1 IP – 2.50 ERA

For all the completists out there, Dunning finished 2016 at Florida with the following line…

10.08 K/9 – 1.37 BB/9 – 78.2 IP – 2.29 ERA

Anyway, good thing Dunning was just a late first round pick with little fanfare who didn’t make any noise this past offseason or anything. The newest member of the White Sox — or one of the newest members, it’s been a busy offseason on the South Side so far — is really good. I did some digging my own archives and found that the draft day estimate that placed Dunning around 200th overall was off. He was actually closer to the 100 mark in the same group as fellow Gator Shaun Anderson (90th), Ben Bowden (93rd), Mike Shawaryn (98th), and Bailey Clark (102nd). Dunning has a shot to be an impact mid-rotation arm — calling guys “mid-rotation,” as I’m often guilty of doing, is so vague; my attempt to differentiate that a bit with the “impact” adjective isn’t all that I wanted, but hopefully it shows some nuance that separates a damn good potential third starter mid-rotation arm from a innings-eating fourth starter mid-rotation arm — who piles up outs on the ground with an elite sinker/slider mix. He has the changeup, command, athleticism, and delivery to start with the experience in relief as a tantalizing fallback plan.

2.58 – 3B Sheldon Neuse

On Sheldon Neuse (40) from March 2016…

Recently got a Mike Olt draft comparison for Sheldon Neuse. Thought that was a pretty strong comp. Also liked that it was a draft comparison and not necessarily a pro prospect match. Olt’s big league disappointments don’t change the fact that he’s a really talented ballplayer capable of looking really good for long stretches at a time. Players develop in all kinds of different ways, so expecting one guy to follow another’s path is unwise. Maybe Neuse will fulfill his promise professionally in a way that Olt wasn’t able. Maybe he’ll experience similar developmental road blocks and see his game stall in a similar manner. Olt went 49th overall in the 2010 MLB Draft; snagging Neuse at any point after that would be a steal in 2016.

And then again in April 2016 (with a bonus pre-season take from October 2015 embedded within)…

On Sheldon Neuse before the season…

Neuse could still fulfill the promise many (myself included) saw in him during his excellent freshman season back when he looked like a potential Gold Glove defender at third with the kind of bat you’d happily stick in the middle of the order. He could also get more of a look this spring on the mound where he can properly put his mid-90s heat and promising pair of secondary offerings (SL, CU) to use. Or he could have something of a repeat of his 2015 season leaving us unsure how good he really is and thinking of him more of a second to fifth round project (a super talented one, mind you) than a first round prospect.

So far, so good on the whole fulfilling that promise thing: Neuse has hit .383/.483/.692 through 32 games with 23 BB/26 and 8/9 SB. On the mound, he’s been just as good: 16 K in 16.2 IP of 1.62 ERA ball. He’s now firmly back on the first round bubble and one of this draft’s quintessential first round talents that might get squeezed out of the top thirty or so picks because of the impressive depth at the top of this class.

Drafting Neuse any point after pick 49 would be a steal, I said. The Nationals took Neuse with pick 58. If one were to connect the dots, one might see a picture of, I don’t know, Neuse stealing something or the Nationals stealing Neuse or something that makes it clear that Washington did indeed get themselves fine value with their second round pick. Neuse’s plus-plus arm, quality defense at the hot corner, and intriguing power upside remind me a little bit of former Rutgers star Todd Frazier. It’s an imperfect comp — the body types are off — but similar career arcs don’t seem out of the question.

3.94 – LHP Jesus Luzardo

I really, really like the healthy version of Jesus Luzardo (58). The young lefty has about everything you’d want in a pitching prospect. Fastball? Sits anywhere from 87-95 MPH with peaks as high as 97 MPH. Changeup? Such an important pitch for a lefty and Luzardo delivers with an above-average 75-82 MPH version with plus upside. Breaking ball? You get two for the price of one as Luzardo throws a really good 75-82 MPH slider and a decent 73-78 curve. He commands his offspeed stuff well and his fastball exceptionally well. The only knocks on Luzardo are the standard risks that come with any teenage pitcher coming off of Tommy John surgery (Luzardo had his in March 2016) and the lack of projection — though it’s arguable how much he needs to grow with his present stuff being so strong — in his 6-1, 200 pound frame. I can’t help but view this pick as less of a 2016 third round selection and more of a bonus 2017 first rounder. Assuming his rehab goes as planned, Luzardo could be in line to start his career almost exactly one year after he would have if healthy from the start. We’re talking a mid- to late-summer rookie ball debut with the goal of having him ready for Low-A by April 2018. Mentioned it before the draft, but Luzardo reminds me a lot of last year’s second round pick by Cleveland — and 59th overall selection, just one spot off of Luzardo’s pre-draft ranking here…hmm — Juan Hillman. I think Luzardo is better, though.

4.124 – OF Nick Banks

On Nick Banks (148) from March 2016…

Hunter Renfroe went thirteenth overall in the 2013 MLB Draft, so his 2016 doppelganger Nick Banks going a few spots later seems appropriate. Banks is one of the many hitters with questionable BB/K marks before the season that scouts insisted had more mature approaches at the plate than the raw numbers suggested. The scouts have been redeemed by most of those hitters — Kyle Lewis most famously — but Banks has continued to struggle (5 BB/10 K) out of the gate so far. He could still have a fine pro career without polishing up his approach — he’s a legit five-tool guy with no singular grade falling below average on most scout cards — but plugging that last remaining hole could mean the difference between good and great.

Those scouts could still be be on to something as maybe Banks is just a late-bloomer as it pertains to his approach, but it probably makes more sense to just accept him for the free-swinger that he is. His BB/K as a junior at Texas A&M: 24 BB/47 K. His BB/K in his pro debut: 11 BB/37 K. Just as concerning for Banks is his defense; he’s more than fine in either corner, but stretched in center. Banks may very well be a classic outfielder tweener. His offense feels a half-step behind what you want for a corner player and his defense makes him a less than ideal fourth outfielder candidate. Working in his favor is a history of hitting righthanded pitching particularly well, so a platoon situation could benefit both him and his club if/when he reaches the big leagues. I’d be happy with that outcome at this point if I were in the Washington front office.

5.154 – OF Daniel Johnson

I’m always a bit apprehensive when a player’s best tools are arguably the two least important, but Daniel Johnson’s plus-plus arm strength and plus to plus-plus speed are almost so much better than the norm that I can accept it. His rawness at the plate still makes me a bit uneasy, but I get the appeal. Fifth round still seems way too early, though. Johnson is a great athlete who covers a lot of ground in center and can clearly throw and run with the best of them. If that’s all he is, then there’s some value there as a speed/defense fifth outfielder. If he hits even a little, then you might be able to squint and see a future regular depending on how highly you value what he does well.

Heard two interesting things about Johnson while doing some digging. First, a contact said that his team had Johnson much higher than Buddy Reed, a similar speed/defense type who may or may not hit. Thought that was pretty interesting. I also got an Aaron Brown comparison for Johnson that makes a little sense, especially if you once thought (as I did) that Brown’s most likely path to the big leagues was on the mound. I’m not necessarily saying the same about Johnson — he runs and defends in center better than Brown ever did — but the thought of seeing what his monster arm could do if unleashed as a pitcher is pretty damn intriguing.

6.184 – C Tres Barrera

I’ve always been high on Tres Barrera. He was ranked in the top 500 back in his high school days (356 in 2013, one spot ahead of Mitch Garver) and I continued to champion his abilities into April 2016…

Tres Barrera’s ordinary start – his approach has taken a big step back – knocks him down from his clear perch in the two spot to closer to the middle of the pack. Despite seeing some time at third base this year for the Longhorns, I still like him behind the plate over the long haul. His above-average raw power keeps him in the top ten round mix despite the aforementioned backslide in approach.

For as much as I liked Barrera over the years the weird shift in approach (33 BB/39 K as a sophomore to 28 BB/54 K as a junior) was enough of a red flag to keep him out of my top 500 in this draft class loaded with college coaching. Do I regret it? A little bit, especially after Barrera went back to a more pleasant to the eye BB/K ratio of 15/22 in his pro debut. That performance has me questioning a whole lot of what I knew — or thought I knew — about Barrera as an offensive player, to say nothing of my own process for evaluating talent from afar. Was reading into the 211 at bats Barrera compiled in his final season at Texas nothing more than a classic case of mistakenly sweating a small sample? Is the smaller pro sample (164 AB) more of an aberration that shouldn’t be read into, either? Or could it be that Barrera was just a 21-year-old (22 this past September) catcher going through the ups and downs of playing in a pressurized college environment, shifting between multiple positions on defense, and attempting to make the adjustment to pro ball on the fly, so, hey, maybe we (fine, I) should ease up on judging him as if he was a finished product? Let’s go with that for now. Barrera is talented — average power, average arm, more than athletic enough to make it behind the plate — and versatile, so he’ll get plenty of chances to sink or swim in pro ball. I’ll go high-level backup catcher good enough to play a few different spots defensively in a pinch. Maybe something like a more well-rounded version of Eli Marrero/Tyler Houston depending on how Washington deploys him, though all the smart money is on the Nationals being fully committed to him behind the plate.

7.214 – Jake Noll

I remember thinking that Jake Noll (193) looked a little bit like Ryan Zimmerman after seeing him play for Florida Gulf Coast this past spring. Now he’s in the same organization. Great analysis, right? For more insight like that, here’s me on Noll from March 2016…

One of the better on-the-radar mid-round (or better) middle infield juniors is Jake Noll. Noll is a good hitter with above-average bat speed, above-average foot speed, and enough defensive versatility (2B, 3B, OF) to be a really interesting pro prospect. He’s hit well so far in 2016 despite some uncommon plate discipline struggles (small sample alert!), so his opportunity to rise up boards in a college class in need of more up-the-middle talent remains present. I like Noll more than I love him right now, but he’s earned his spot atop an average at best all-around class of hitting talent.

An outside-the-box name to keep in mind when thinking about Jake Noll in the pros: Odubel Herrera. Both guys can run a little bit, play a few different positions (if Noll doesn’t stick at second, he could be a prime candidate to move to center like Herrera), and, most critically, know how to flat hit the baseball. Like Herrera, Noll can really hit. That ability should serve him well as the rest of his game catches up in the pros. Bonus comparison that also makes a little bit of sense: former Nationals prospect Max Schrock.

8.244 – RHP AJ Bogucki

I’ve seen a lot of AJ Bogucki (388) over the years, first at Boyertown HS (about 30 miles from me) and later at North Carolina, so I can say that his pre-draft ranking is more about what I’ve heard and read than what I’ve seen firsthand. Bogucki has always looked good when I’ve seen him — his results in three years as a Tar Heel back this up — but I’ve almost always walked away thinking he was one of those prospects who had many great individual components that never quite added up to a great prospect. Bogucki has a fine fastball (87-94, 96 peak) that he commands well at times (but not so well at others), plus an above-average breaking ball that flits between both a curve (upper-70s) and slider (low-80s). Going with the sinking fastball/harder slider (a pitch that flashes plus at times) combination could make him a useful reliever if that’s how he and the Nationals decide to take his development. It’s what I would do, at least.

9.274 – C Joey Harris

Defensively, Joey Harris fits in really well in the big leagues. His hands, arm, and athleticism could be his ticket to advancement in the years to come. Offensively, it takes some projection to get to a similar level. I don’t personally see it — not enough power, patience is just all right, contact skills are inconsistent — but I know for a fact (#SOURCES) that there are those in the Washington organization who see things differently. Harris is a guy seen as a future everyday catcher internally. We shall see.

10.304 – SS Paul Panaccione

Flattery will get you everywhere, they say. That may well be true, but I think the same could be said for positional versatility. Being able to play a variety of spots on the diamond as a non-premium prospect entering pro ball is the best way to get the playing time you need to make a meaningful impression on the powers that will ultimately decide your professional fate. Paul Panaccione has that part of the game well taken care of. In his debut, the shortstop from Grand Canyon played shortstop (duh), second, and third. He also mixed in a few innings in both left and right field for good measure. Defensive flexibility like his helped keep his bat in the lineup even as he scuffled to an ugly .205/.254/.250 start in his first 190 plate appearances. There’s no way to sugarcoat those awful numbers, so Panaccione will have to hope that his relative strengths and draft standing are enough to get him another honest shot in 2017. As a fan of his game, I hope that’s the case. Panaccione is a steady glove wherever you put him who uses his average speed well. He makes a lot of quality contact and has a patient approach at the plate. From March 2016…

It’s fairly well-established by now that this year’s college shortstop class isn’t good. I’m about as positive a guy as you’ll find willing to do this for free and even I’ll admit that. That said…there are way more mid-major and small school types that can a) probably stay at shortstop in the pros, and b) hit frozen ropes even when dragged out of bed to do so. Paul Panaccione is one of the best of those types. In drafting Panaccione, you’d be getting a steadying influence in the middle infield, a hitter with a very clear plan with every trip to the plate, and an all-around solid performer with an increasingly intriguing track record of getting it done at the college level.

Rough start or not, Panaccione still looks like one of the draft’s most interesting super-utility prospects. It’s not a super high ceiling and the odds of reaching it obviously took a little bit of hit since draft day, but for a tenth round pick it’s more than fair value.

11.334 – OF Armond Upshaw

I’ve heard from those in the know that there are those within the Washington organization view Armond Upshaw as a potential switch-hitting Michael Taylor. That would be a more than suitable outcome for an eleventh round pick. Upshaw has serious speed, more than enough range for center, and surprising feel as a hitter. Regular readers of the site know I try to stay away from the name game, but Armond Upshaw just sounds too good to fail. Major League Baseball is ready for an Armond Upshaw.

12.364 – LHP Hayden Howard

It’s easy to see the appeal of Hayden Howard, a big (6-4, 190) lefthander with a nice mix of present stuff (87-92 FB, low-80s CU, low-70s CB) and projection to come. The results, however, are enough to pump the breaks on Howard’s upside being much more than a potential matchup lefty out of the pen. Howard’s junior year at Texas Tech (5.66 K/9 and 2.06 BB/9 in 70.0 IP) looks a lot like what he did in his pro debut (5.41 K/9 and 3.86 BB/9 in 23.1 IP). I won’t write off Howard completely as a potential starting pitching option based on a little under one hundred combined college/pro 2016 innings, but the idea that he is what he is in that role has certainly crossed my mind. This doesn’t mean he’s useless, of course; as mentioned, a successful career in relief could very well be on the horizon for Howard.

13.394 – 1B Conner Simonetti

Monster power, quality first base defense, and one glaring potentially fatal flaw. That’s Conner Simonetti, a legit plus raw power bat from Kent State who struck out 126 times in 379 at bats between college and the pros in 2016. That’s a ton of swing-and-miss. I’m good with betting on power at this point in the draft even if the odds of Simonetti being able to make enough contact to make it worth it are low.

14.424 – RHP Kyle Simonds

Kyle Simonds not landing in my top 500 surprises me a little bit now that I have a few months of reflection behind me. Simonds is the kind of college arm that is unexciting on the surface (5.43 K/9 in 2015, 7.22 K/9 in 2016), but with the exact mix of polish (two average or better offspeed pitches), command (consistently above-average), athleticism (plus), and ground ball stuff (52.38%52.38%) to profile as a quick-mover in pro ball. I like Simonds’s three-pitch mix (86-92 sinking fastball, above-average low-80s slider, average or better 78-84 changeup) enough to keep starting, though his age (24 in May) means he’ll have to get moving fast. It may be a little rich, but there are enough similarities with Tanner Roark here that a career path along those lines wouldn’t be a shock. Value like that in round fourteen is excellent.

15.454 – LHP Ryan Williamson

Ryan Williamson is kind of what you get when you combine Hayden Howard and Kyle Simonds. He has the lefthandedness and history of run prevention of Howard while his stuff (87-93 FB, really good 77-83 SL, intriguing CU) more closely mirrors what Simonds throws. That makes him a closer prospect to Simonds in my mind, a good thing for Williamson’s pro prospects. Less good for Williamson’s pro prospects is the fact he’s likely to miss the entire 2017 season after Tommy John surgery in late-May of 2016. A return to full health would put Williamson right back on the prospect map. Lefties with three pitches and size (6-3, 200) coming off three straight seasons of double-digit strikeouts per nine in the ACC tend to get plenty of opportunities to impress in pro ball. I like this one a lot.

16.484 – RHP Phil Morse

The first two seasons for Phil Morse at Shenandoah…

6.70 K/9
4.34 BB/9
5.62 ERA
91.1 IP

The last two seasons for Phil Morse at Shenandoah…

9.26 K/9
4.81 BB/9
0.74 ERA
48.2 IP

Interesting, right? The jump in strikeouts and the drastic drop in run prevention coincides with two things: a shift to the bullpen and increased velocity. Morse went from 88-92 MPH as a starter to 92-96 MPH in relief. Part of that was the obvious shift in role, but it was also the culmination of a larger journey. Morse put on good weight, improved his conditioning, tweaked his delivery, and won the genetic lottery that allows some guys to suddenly see major upticks in velocity when others don’t. With his big fastball, cut-slider, and occasional change, Morse has a shot to pitch out of a big league bullpen one day if he can get his control under control.

17.514 – SS Tyler Beckwith

I like what Washington did in targeting potential utility options in this draft. They went alliterative early with Paul Panaccionne and late with Branden Boggetto, and settled on Tyler Beckwith in between. All three guys have proven themselves versatile defensively with intriguing offensive upside to match. Beckwith played third base, shortstop, and second base in his pro debut. He’s a really good athlete with standout speed and an above-average arm who has a chance to hit for solid power if he can keep advancing. What’s not to like there? Toss in Beckwith’s college experience in the outfield and you can see the outline of a true seven position super-sub if everything breaks right.

18.544 – LHP Ben Braymer

Size (6-2, 220) and arm strength (88-92, 94 peak) from the left side will always get you a foot in the door. A quality draft season in the SEC (8.81 K/9 and 2.35 BB/9 in 48.0 IP) doesn’t hurt, either. The development of a reliable offspeed pitch, be it the slider or the change, will determine how far Ben Braymer will go as a reliever from here on out. As the first of six consecutive signed college arms, competition figures to be fierce in the years to come.

20.604 – LHP Jake Barnett

Jake Barnett pitched well as a junior (9.84 K/9 and 2.93 BB/9) on a dominant Lewis-Clark pitching staff. Did some digging beyond that and…I’ve got nothing. He relies heavily on a sinker/slider combination, so at least I can share that. Beyond that…nothing.

21.634 – RHP Jacob Howell

Jacob Howell made his one and only season at Delta State worthwhile. His junior year numbers — 11.81 K/9 and 3.94 BB/9 — look good. Like Jake Barnett, his stuff is a bit of a mystery at this point for me. Low-90s fastball is all I’ve got. It’s a start.

22.664 – RHP Sterling Sharp

I lost track of Sterling Sharp, a Drury Panther by way of Eastern Michigan and Darton State who was a pretty big deal as prep prospect once upon a time, so it’s cool to see him reemerge as a legit pro prospect after a good but not great draft season (7.69 K/9 and 3.76 BB/9) in 2016. Sharp managed to follow that success with more of the same in pro ball. He posted a 7.34 K/9 and 1.16 BB/9 in 46.2 debut innings with the Nationals organization this past summer. Getting a really athletic righthander with low-90s heat and limited innings weighing down his arm is a nice move in the twenty-second round.

23.694 – RHP Michael Rishwain

I have nothing against the Nationals per se — Natitude is embarrassing, but can we really hold that against the organization forever? — yet them making things incredibly difficult for a one-man gang to come up with insightful things to say about all of their obscure college pitching prospects has me reconsidering how I feel about the franchise. Michael Rishwain did this at Westmont College in 35.2 innings: 7.84 K/9 , 1.77 BB/9, and 1.51 ERA. That’s all I’ve got.

24.724 – RHP Joseph Baltrip

Joseph Baltrip makes it five consecutive pitchers from non-D1 schools in a row for Washington. I’m not passing judgment, just noting that five in a row starting in a nice round number like twenty feels like more than just a coincidence. Or maybe I’m just a crazy conspiracy theorist. Nice to see Lewis-Clark State, Delta State, Drury University, Westmont College, and Wharton County Junior College get some draft love all the same. Baltrip, the one from Wharton County JC, might have put up the weirdest professional line of any 2016 draft pick. On the surface, things were great: can’t really argue with a 1.38 ERA in 26.0 IP even if it comes with a pedestrian 5.88 K/9, right? What if that 1.38 ERA came with a 7.96 BB/9 and an incomprehensibly high 93.3 LOB%? Of all pitchers with at least twenty innings thrown, only Henry Owens had a higher BB/9 in the big leagues this past season. Only two big league pitchers (Chris Capuano and Andrew Miller) had higher LOB%. Forget what I said earlier: what Baltrip did is the TRUE definition of effectively wild.

For better or worse, said wildness isn’t necessarily a new thing for Baltrip. In his draft year as a Pioneer, he managed a 10.73 K/9 and 5.36 BB/9. Into the mid-round potential middle relief pile he goes. Incidentally, Baltrip’s last name reminds me of the fictional basketball league I created as a kid. I obviously had to make up some killer names to fill the rosters of the 64-team league (because tournaments are awesome, you see), so necessity was the mother of invention as I looked wherever I could to find cool sounding ideas. I distinctly remember being at a baseball game and seeing the out of town scoreboard post the updated totals for the Orioles-Blue Jays game. Something about BAL-TOR sounded good to me, so Josh Baltor was born. He was terrible. Hopefully Joseph Baltrip enjoys more success.

25.754 – SS Branden Boggetto

I like Branden Boggetto as a potential bat-first utility prospect capable of playing any of the four infield spots in a pinch. The college shortstop took to second base in the pros as he continued to hit for solid power with a decent if sometimes overly aggressive approach.

26.784 – OF Jack Sundberg

On Jack Sundberg from March 2015…

Sundberg is held back by a lack of any kind of meaningful pop, but he can run, throw, and defend well enough in center that a team might put up with some growing pains with the stick. He profiles better as a 2016 senior sign to me.

I guess there are worse organizational guys to have around than Sundberg, though it’s hard seeing how a punchless outfielder with no real carrying tool (his glove, speed, and arm are all good, but nothing that bowls you over) who can’t hit lefthanded pitching carves out a role over the long haul.

27.814 – LHP Jeremy McDonald

Jeremy McDonald, all 5-9, 185 pounds of him, did this at California Baptist: 9.43 K/9 and 4.29 BB/9 in 84.0 IP. Then he went out and did this in the pros: 9.23 K/9 and 1.71 BB/9 in 26.1 IP. I’ve heard some quiet hype about McDonald being the next Tim Collins, but I have no idea if there’s real merit to the idea or if it’s just a short lefthander being compared to a short lefthander kind of thing.

28.844 – LHP Jonny Reid

Jonny Reid at Azusa Pacific: 7.33 K/9 and 2.09 BB/9. Jonny Reid in the pros: 6.00 K/9 and 1.75 BB/9. That’s all I’ve got. Sorry.

29.874 – RHP Sam Held

On Sam Held from April 2015…

His teammate JR RHP Sam Held is another good athlete with a strong fastball (94 peak) and plenty of projection left who hasn’t performed as hoped so far this season.

If Held’s 2015 was a disappointment (7.80 K/9, 6.00 BB/9, and 8.40 ERA in 15.1 IP), then I’m not quite sure what to call his 2016. His ERA went down to 5.17 and his innings went up to 38.1, so that’s good. He also significantly trimmed his walk rate (2.11 BB/9), so that’s really good. But somehow a long, lean, mid-90s throwing machine managed to get through his senior season only striking out 3.05 batters per nine. Of course then he went out and did this in 29.0 pro innings: 6.83 K/9, 2.48 BB/9, and 1.86 ERA. In short, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

31.934 – C CJ Picerni

Undergraduate universities attended by the four Ozga siblings: Boston University, American University, Pace University, and New York University. The last time a player was drafted from each respective school: 1969 (Nicholas Stipnovich and Joe Lasorsa), 2011 (Stephen Lumpkins), 2016 (Brett Bittiger), and 2016 (CJ Picerni). Figures I’m the only one without a draft pick from my school in the June draft ever. Anyway, Picerni getting selected by Washington is a pretty big deal for NYU. He’s the first NYU baseball player drafted since the school brought back the baseball program in 2015 after a 41-year hiatus. I honestly had no idea they brought baseball back. Shows what I know.

Is Picerni any good? I have no notes on him nor have I seen him, but his senior season stats (.258/.319/.331 with 7 BB/30 K) as a 23-year-old playing Division III ball don’t inspire much confidence. He was much better as a junior (.331/.365/.510 with 13 BB/21 K), so at least there’s that. If nothing else, he can always say he got drafted and played in pro ball. And my brother now has bragging rights on me once again.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Jarrett Gonzales (Grayson CC), Tristan Clarke (New Orleans), Garrett Gonzales (Incarnate Word), Ryan Wetzel (Pittsburg State), Morgan Cooper (Texas), Tristan Bayless (Texas A&M), Jordan McFarland (Arkansas), Cory Voss (Arizona), Noah Murdock (Virginia), Matt Mervis (Duke), Sean Cook (Maryland)

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2015 MLB Draft Reviews – Washington Nationals

Washington Nationals 2015 MLB Draft Picks

No catchers. Minimal power. Lots of relievers. Extremely college-heavy. SEC bats. If you’re into brevity, there’s the 2015 Washington Nationals draft in about half a tweet. If you’re up for a few more words on the topic, keep on reading.

I appreciate what OF Andrew Stevenson (115) has done as a pro so far (.322/.373/.402 with 13 BB/20 K and 21/26 SB in 195 PA) not only because that’s a really solid line for any player but also because it validates my view on him from early spring. Prospect evaluation is all about the prospect evaluator and not the prospect, right? That’s what people pay the big bucks to read. Anyway, here is what I wrote then…

LSU JR OF Andrew Stevenson could step into a AA lineup tomorrow (just in time for opening day!) because his defense in center (plus-plus), speed (plus), and hit tool (above-average) are all professional quality right now. He’s one of those players that it would be very hard to imagine not someday carving out a big league role for himself on the basis of his defensive prowess and game-changing speed on the base paths alone. When you add in that hit tool, his emerging pop, and an improved approach at the plate, it’s easy to envision him maturing into a table-setting leadoff hitter guaranteed to give you years of positive defensive and base running value in the bigs. I was high on Stevenson before writing this paragraph, but now I’m more pumped about him than ever.

It’s not AA, but he’s at least one of the few — annoyingly few, in my view — 2015 college draft prospects getting a chance to play in a full-season league already. I compared Stevenson to the draft version of Ben Revere (.326/.383/.404 career minor league player) before the draft, and I’ll stick with that today. Revere has been a pretty valuable player to date and that’s without the ability to play an above-average center field; Stevenson could hit like Revere and wind up a top ten overall big league CF with the way he’ll provide substantial defensive and base running value. Think Brett Gardner or Michael Bourn if it works. Or Sam Fuld (.284/.371/.405 minor league hitter), a comp I got from a source who doesn’t love Stevenson like I do (“extra outfielder, but a good one”) if it doesn’t. I’m clearly bullish on his upside and the likelihood of reaching said upside, though I’ll stick with a Revere-like bat more than Gardner. The Nationals got a good one here.

Fellow SEC OF Rhett Wiseman (146) reminded me of a lefthanded Mikie Mahtook while at Vanderbilt. I’m sticking with that platoon corner outfield bat upside for now. Some pre-draft thoughts…

I’ve run into two interesting schools of thought about Wiseman while putting this together. The first, and I’ll admit that this was my initial view from the start, is that he’s still more tools than skills right now. The tools are quite strong, but the fact that they haven’t turned into the skills many expected by now gives some pause. Still, those tools that were clear to almost all going back to his high school days are still real and still worth getting excited about. The breakout could come any day now for him and when it does we’ll be looking at a potential first-division regular in the outfield. The opposing view believes that Wiseman’s development has gone as scripted and what we’re seeing right now is more or less what we’re going to get with him. He’s a great athlete and a far more cerebral hitter than given credit, but the tools were overstated across the board at the onset of his amateur career and now we’re seeing expectations for him correcting themselves based on what he really is. There really are no pluses in his game and no carrying tool that will help him rise above his future fourth outfielder station. I’m a believer that it’s always wise to bet on athletes having the light bulb turn on before too long, so count me in as still leaning closer to the former (and my original) position. I do understand the concerns about Wiseman potentially topping out as a “tweener” outfield prospect — he hasn’t shown the power yet to work in a corner, but that’s where he’s clearly best defensively — so going on the first day might be off the table. He’s still an intriguing blend of production (good, not mind-blowing) and tools (same) who could wind up a relative bargain if he slips much later than that. I could see him both being ranked and drafted in the same area that I had him listed (110th overall) out of Buckingham Browne & Nichols.

In any event, I don’t think Wiseman’s viewed by many as quite the prospect he was back in high school and a good part of that was the way many — me included — viewed his rawness, age, and relative inexperience as a New England high school product as positives. We all are guilty of assuming there are concretely meaningful patterns we can expect from prospect development and that all young players will continue to get better with age and experience. Development is not linear and can be wildly unpredictable. Some guys are as good as they are going to get at 17 while others don’t figure it out (unfortunately) until way after their physical peak. This speaks to the heart of what makes assessing and drafting amateurs so much fun. We’re all just trying to gather as much information on as many players as possible and then making the best possible guesses as to what we’ll wind up with.

OF Blake Perkins (283) is a really intriguing yet really raw second round gamble. It wasn’t a direct comparison by any means, but one informed source told me after the fact that he believed Washington is hoping Perkins can be another version of Michael Taylor. I can dig it. OF Phil Diedrick was a surprise pick for me, though I guess once you get down to round 29 getting a player selected is really a matter of needing just one area scout pounding the table for his guy. I admittedly don’t know much about Diedrick, but the flashes of college power weren’t enough to overcome the questionable plate discipline for me to rank him in the draftable range. Didn’t see him this year, didn’t talk to anybody who had, so…take my opinion on him with measurable skepticism.

1B David Kerian (216) admittedly has never thrilled me as a hitter, but there’s no denying his senior year production at the plate. Still, the key word there is senior as much as any other; I think we know enough about the importance of age/experience relative to competition that it’s fair to be suspicious about any college senior who puts up numbers out of line with their career marks. He’s more than fine value in the ninth round, but I think his realistic ceiling is more up-and-down bench bat than future regular.

2B Max Schrock (57) in round thirteen is flat robbery. Matt Chapman, Tim Wallach, David Freese, and Kyle Seager were all mentioned as possible comps for Schrock at one time or another on this site. I eventually settled on calling him a “Mark Ellis type of hitter capable of giving you more or less league average production at the plate while making up the difference as needed with smart base running and steady defense” before identifying him as a late-second/early-third round value back in March. My mind didn’t change between then and June. I’d be surprised if he didn’t have a long career in the big leagues, though whether it’s as an everyday second baseman or super-utility player is up to him. Saw him in HS and had this to say then: “[I] hate to resort to the cliché, but he’s a ballplayer – no crazy tools, not a premium athlete, not always aesthetically pleasing watching him play, but will do the things that help you win games…and, yeah, he can hit, too.”

2B Dalton Dulin (274) is a tricky player to love, but an easy player to like. He’s a lot of fun to watch — like Schrock, he’s a “gamer” — who does what he does well (make consistent hard contact, pick his spots on the bases, position himself defensively) really well. The tricky part is he’s also a player with limitations. There’s not a ton of power presently or on the way, and, steady as he is at second, there’s a good chance that’s his only viable long-term pro spot defensively. I still like the pick in the 17th round because Dulin is by all accounts a guy you want on your side between the lines with the acknowledgment that it’s a very tough road for a second basemen with little power. 2B Melvin Rodriguez (373) is like a more extreme version of Kerian in that his big senior year must be viewed through the prism of being an older (24 in Rodriguez’s case) college senior. I like the approach, pop, and potential defensive versatility (maybe 2B, 3B, and corner OF?), but starting your first full season as a minor league player at age 25 is less than ideal.

SS Ian Sagdal (474) was well liked by many I talked to as an offensive player, but his long-term defensive home was an open question. I had somebody compare him to Marcus Semien, so take that one any way you’d like. I thought the abbreviated and underwhelming final college season of SS Angelo La Bruna would cost him a shot to get drafted, but Washington gave him a shot in round 33. I had a guy in the Carolinas absolutely raving about La Bruna prior to the then Duke shortstop’s junior season. Injuries kept that from happening, though I think it’s also fair to speculate about how much upside La Bruna ever had in the first place. 2B Jake Jefferies has always intrigued me from an athletic standpoint, but hasn’t had even a good college season as of yet. Sometimes my notes are incomplete, especially for high school prospects. For 3B Dalton DiNatale, all I had back when he was in HS was “good arm strength.” That’s all well and good, but hardly enough information to do anything with on draft day. Such is the life of attempting to cover a country’s worth of amateurs with an unpaid staff of one. DiNatale took his strong arm to Arizona State where he enjoyed three eerily consistent years of decent but hardly thrilling college production. He’s a thirty-second round organizational player at this point, but I’ll always remember him for my lame attempts at passing off my knowledge of his arm strength as something meaningful.

If RHP Mariano Rivera (198) doesn’t wind up an effective part of a big league bullpen within the next three years, I give up. Some things are just meant to be. From the pre-season…

Bloodlines can be overrated, but I’m buying the potential benefits that Iona JR RHP Mariano Rivera has and will continue to reap as the son of baseball’s all-time best closer. Senior was known for many things such as piling up 652 saves, finishing his career with an inconceivable 205 ERA+, and throwing arguably the greatest singular pitch known to man; while awesome, none of those things (well, maybe some of that cutter magic could rub off…) will translate to helping Junior achieve success on the diamond. It is fair to believe that the insane work ethic and preternatural ability to make adjustments on the mound could be traits passed down from father to son. For now, Rivera is a nice looking relief prospect with enough fastball (88-92, 94 peak) and an above-average slider to compensate for his lack of size and middling track record to date. To a man, every person I spoke to remarked that they believed Rivera would be a better professional than college player.

That last sentence is what stands out most to me. Everybody had Rivera pegged as a better potential pro than a college player and that was before he wound up as a pretty damn good college player in 2015. His improved performance — from 3.50 K/9 in 2013 to 6.43 K/9 in 2014 to 11.96 K/9 in 2015 — not so surprisingly coincided with an uptick of stuff.

LHP Matthew Crownover (161) has reminded me of Adam Morgan for quite some time now, so I’ll stick with that as he enters pro ball. Morgan had to overcome shoulder injuries to reach the big leagues while Crownover is a high school Tommy John survivor who took some time to get back to 100%. There’s not much projection left, but the Clemson southpaw has the three average pitches and command to make a run as a potential fifth starter as is. LHP Taylor Hearn is a fun case as a prospect drafted four straight years. He’s relatively young for a senior, has always put up good numbers, and throws hard. That’s all I’ve got. The fastball of LHP Taylor Guilbeau moves almost too much for his own good at times. It’s a plus pitch even in the upper-80s because of the way it dances, but harnessing it within the strike zone has been a problem for him dating back to his freshman season at Alabama. LHP Grant Borne has similar stuff (FB at 88-92, best secondary pitch is changeup) and ultimate upside (middle relief).

RHP Koda Glover is a really nice looking relief prospect. He had a super junior year at Oklahoma State (10.50 K/9 and 1.88 ERA in 23 IP) and has the fastball (92-96) and slider (above-average at 82-84) to keep missing bats as a pro. I’m in. I’m also a big fan of RHP Andrew Lee (233) as the pre-draft ranking in parentheses indicates. Giving the two-way star from Tennessee a chance to concentrate fully on pitching could make him a surprisingly quick riser through the minor leagues. There’s size (6-5, 220), athleticism, arm speed (upper-80s FB, 93 peak), and a pair of intriguing offspeed pitches. Honestly, what’s not to like? Great pick. RHP Tommy Peterson is a Tommy John survivor (2013) that took some time to return to form, but did so with a bang in 2015 (10.23 K/9 and 2.05 ERA in 43 IP). With a fastball that gets up to the mid-90s, he’s a reliever to keep in mind. RHP Calvin Copping is a sinker/slider arm that could see his upper-80s fastball play up some now that he’s made the move to a professional bullpen. RHP Jorge Pantoja has good size (6-6, 220 pounds), athleticism, and enough fastball (90-93) and slider (average or better low-80s) to keep things interesting. I love SWAC prospects, so he’s a guy I’ll be following closely. It wouldn’t shock me if one of these three eventually wind up pitching in the big leagues one day.

RHP Kevin Mooney (459) can miss bats with his one-two punch of his sinking fastball (88-92, 94 peak) and upper-70s curve with plus promise, but is just too wild to be trusted at this point. Betting on arm talent is smart, so it’s easy to see why Washington liked the local product. RHP Matt Pirro has similar strengths and weaknesses. From earlier in the season…

SR RHP Matt Pirro has a good arm (88-93 FB, 95 peak) with a knuckle-curve that flashes plus, but his below-average control hasn’t gotten much better over the years. Feels like a late round flier on a guy with arm strength is his best bet. Wonder if his bad control stems from bad mechanics; if so, can it be fixed?

RHP Ryan Brinley has a legit fastball (92-94, 95 peak), but his results haven’t quite lined up with his stuff as of yet. RHP Mick VanVossen gets such high marks for his pitchability and baseball IQ that he’s got future pitching coach written all over him. Even with his smarts and average stuff, however, missing bats has never really been his thing. Still, as a 28th round organizational player that can at least hold his own on the mound while hopefully imparting some wisdom to teammates along the way, it’s a nice pick. The one signed HS prospect of note outside of Blake Perkins is LHP Tyler Watson, a very intriguing 34th round pick that the Nationals went above and beyond to work out a deal. The reports and the performance have been nothing short of outstanding to date. I’m sufficiently intrigued.

Nationals taken in my pre-draft top 500…

57 – Max Schrock
115 – Andrew Stevenson
146 – Rhett Wiseman
161 – Matthew Crownover
198 – Mariano Rivera
216 – David Kerian
233 – Andrew Lee
274 – Dalton Dulin
283 – Blake Perkins
373 – Melvin Rodriguez
459 – Kevin Mooney
474 – Ian Sagdal

Washington Nationals 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Nationals 2011 MLB Draft Selections

I admit that I don’t read much post-draft reaction (proof that you can love something like crazy and still get burnt out on it), but the overall enthusiasm for what Washington did on draft day was loud enough that it seeped into the general baseball content that I digested in mid-June. Those first four picks are a thing of beauty, no doubt about it. Each of Washington’s first four picks are flashy names that come with enough of a human interest angle (one-time consensus first overall pick! giant right with giant stuff trying to make giant leap! college star to juco star! former first rounder trying to bounce back from injury!) to hook casual baseball fans – that’s probably why I heard the positive feedback despite avoiding post-draft coverage. Each guy has serious questions, sure, but the talent is clearly evident. Trusting guy that I am, I, well, trusted those who said Washington had a great draft. Outside of their first four picks, however, I’m not sure there is too much to be excited about here. The Nationals signed one and only one high school prospect. The Nationals drafted righthanded college relievers with five straight picks from round six to round ten.

The star quality of Rice 3B Anthony Rendon makes up for a lot of Washington’s lackluster drafting past the third round. This is hardly an original thought, and I know I repeat it more than I should, but it is really tricky finding interesting things to say about the draft’s best prospects. There are only so many ways you can say “yeah, he’s really good at X, Y, and Z, perhaps a bit lacking or flawed in A and B, but, on balance, he should be a really good big league player assuming good health, a typical developmental curve, and the continuation of the existence of mankind after 2012.”

Consider the narrative for Anthony Rendon. If you didn’t know any better you’d think he really “struggled” through a “down” junior season, right? Questions about his long-term health and his power upside with the new bats were quite popular all spring. Fun story, but little about it meshes with reality. After park/schedule adjustments, Anthony Rendon got on base over 53% of the time he came to the plate. The man walked in over a quarter of his overall plate appearances. When he wasn’t patiently waiting out pitchers too afraid/smart to pitch to him, he was putting up a park/schedule adjusted slugging percentage of .537 that, while not mind-blowing, still answers plenty of questions about his ability to hit with the unfortunate combination of a balky wrist and the limp new bats. I’m all for being critical about the prospects at the top, but there is something to be said about not wanting to create weaknesses that just aren’t there. Rendon isn’t a good runner. That’s the biggest negative I can honestly say about his game right now. No prospect is a sure thing, but Rendon is as close of a lock to an above-average big league regular as any player in this draft class. Combine that safety with his legitimate all-star upside, and it is easy to see why Washington was willing to draft Rendon despite the fact he happens to play the same spot as their current best everyday hitter. Speaking of which, I really hope that Washington comes up with some kind of solution that allows Rendon to play third base in the big leagues. He’s just too damn good at the hot corner to move elsewhere. I’m not saying they should move Ryan Zimmerman for Rendon’s sake – if Rendon turns into 3/4th the player Zimmerman has turned out to be, that would be a huge win for all involved. I just want to see some kind of happy solution where all of my selfish needs are met. Not sure I’m being overly demanding in suggesting that having great players playing their best positions is a good thing for the game.

There are a lot of amazing young arms in this year’s draft class, but Rendon is still the top prospect in 2011. There is not a single legitimate concern about his on-field performance. Despite his lack of size and some nagging injuries that held back his numbers some this year, there is little doubt that his power upside is substantial. His defensive tools are outstanding. The hit tool is well above-average and his approach to hitting is special. The two most popular comps thrown his way are Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria. I like the Zimmerman comp a lot, but I’ll toss another two names out there as well. Rendon’s play reminds me of a mix of a less physical, righthanded version of peak years Eric Chavez and current Boston third baseman Kevin Youkilis, minus the unorthodox swing setup. Can’t blame the Pirates for going with the rare commodity that is a potential ace with the first overall pick, but if I was in charge — and thank goodness for Pittsburgh or every other franchise I’m not — then Rendon would be the pick without thinking twice.

Kentucky RHP Alex Meyer would be a fun prospect to do a crystal ball report on because his future can conceivably go in so many different directions. He could be a top of the rotation arm, a lockdown reliever, or a total washout incapable of getting past AA. I’m a believer because I think the gains he made in 2011 are real based on the introduction of his sinker and more consistent softer stuff. His biggest issues are almost exactly what you’d expect from a 6’9” 220 pound behemoth: repeating his mechanics and release point and the subsequent inconsistencies with both command and control. I’m banking on his better than given credit for athleticism and hoping that a good pro pitching coach will get through to him, but there’s really no way of knowing which way Meyer’s future will turn out. Ah, the joys of prospecting.

Having seen both young starters in person collegiately, I must say that Aaron Fitt’s comp of Meyer to Andrew Brackman really made me think. Despite what those who only deal with the benefit of hindsight say, Brackman was an outstanding looking amateur prospect. He was at least as highly thought of as Meyer and was quite possibly a better long-term prospect. To put it in some context, the Pirates, the team that picked fourth in Brackman’s draft year, had front office higher-ups (e.g. Ed Creech and Dave Littlefield) in regular attendance at every Brackman start I saw that year. I’m on record as loving Meyer’s raw stuff and I believe he’ll be a top of the rotation anchor once he figures it all out, but the story of Brackman’s pro struggles should serve as a cautionary tale.

Kentucky JR RHP Alex Meyer: sitting 93-97 FB, dips closer to 92-94 later in games; inconsistent but plus 84-86 spike CB that works like a SL; 79-86 CU that flashes above-average when he throws it with more velocity; 92-93 two-seamer; all about command and control – if it is on, he’s incredibly tough to hit; FB is plus-plus down in zone, very hittable when left up; mechanical tweaks are likely needed; 6-9, 220

I heard a pretty crazy comp on Miami Dade JC OF Brian Goodwin that I will share knowing full well it is about as “out there” as any comp you’ll hear. It comes from somebody close to Goodwin – not friend/family close, but more like somebody local to him who has tracked him since his high school days – so take it with a block of salt. I’d imagine that Washington fans would be pretty thrilled if Goodwin can even scrape the ceiling of this Bernie Williams comp. I like the old faster Austin Kearns comp I heard back in the day, but anytime we can make comparisons to a potential Hall of Famer is a good time. Goodwin looked much better as the year went on, so I’m hopeful he’ll continue to show all five tools as a pro. His broad set of tools should make him a solid regular in due time.

[well-rounded with average at worst tools across board; average present power with plus-plus upside; above-average to plus-plus (70) speed; strong arm; fantastic athlete; update: plus athlete; very explosive; some question his swing; 10-20 homer upside as pro; above-average (55) runner; average arm for CF; raw fielder, but all the tools are there; 6-1, 190; DOB 11/2/90]

Texas Christian LHP Matt Purke ranks as one of this draft’s men of mystery. Injuries are the root cause of much of the uncertainty. Without access to his medical records, there is really no way of making a confident prediction about Purke’s future. At his healthiest he throws three plus (or almost plus) pitches: fastball, change, and slider. When banged up, he simply isn’t very good. There’s not much middle ground here.

TCU SO LHP Matt Purke: originally ranked 8th overall, but injury scare drops him; at his best throws 91-95 FB, 96-97 peak; command of FB needs work; potential plus 77-79 CU; solid CB; has shown plus 76-83 SL, but doesn’t use it anymore; SL was inconsistent, but best in upper-80s; plus makeup; sat 88-92 to start 2011, now down to upper-80s; loses feel for offspeed stuff quickly; 6-4, 180

Santa Barbara CC LHP Kylin Turnbull is a tough nut to crack. On the surface, his skill set paints the picture of a really good potential reliever. Case in point: he has an excellent fastball for a lefty, but struggles with velocity loss as innings pile up. Knife to your throat – I prefer my own grislier imagery to the played out “guy to your head” trope – I’m betting that “good lefty reliever” would be the consensus on Turnbull’s ceiling. A more daring prognosticator – or, simply, one without the fear of death driving the prediction – might look at Turnbull’s pro-caliber size, hard splitter with promise, and a slider that could be kind of sort of maybe decent after tons of reps and believe he could hold his own as a backend starter down the line. I’m hesitant about making such a bold claim (he’s more of a maybe reliever for me), but lefties with size and velocity are always in demand.

Santa Barbara CC SO LHP Kylin Turnbull: 88-92 FB, 94 peak; loses velocity early; above-average low-80s splitter; SL need work; 6-4, 200

Poor Georgia Tech 3B Matt Skole. You are in the wrong organization, my friend. If we’re talking about the possibility of Anthony Rendon moving off third or even picturing a world where a franchise player like Ryan Zimmerman moves on via trade or free agency, then what hope is there that things will work out just so and allow Skole to play third base in Washington. Like Rendon, I hope Skole gets the chance to man the hot corner somewhere, someday. His defensive tools (arm, athleticism, footwork, etc.) are better than his current ability, so one would think, given time and reps, that he could at least become average at the position. Adding the value of average defense at third on top of his existing patient and powerful bat would make him a good bet to become a solid regular down the line.

It took me a while to warm up to Skole, but I’d rather be late to the party than too stubborn to change my mind. The plus power bat should play wherever you put him (first base is a safe fall back option, catcher is the riskier but more appealing choice), though it would obviously be preferable if he can continue to work to turn his surprisingly strong defensive tools (good arm, decent foot speed, quality athleticism) into at least league average caliber third base defense.

Vanderbilt RHP Taylor Hill was my seventh favorite senior sign in 2011, but you could make a really strong argument that he’s the senior with the highest ceiling. Hill takes the notion that keeping the ball down is good and turns it up to 11. His sinker/slider combo is deadly when on, and his split-change drops clear out of the strike zone when he has it working. I tend to think of him as more of a groundball specialist reliever (his stuff definitely plays up in short bursts), but continued improvement in pro ball could allow him to start.

Vanderbilt SR RHP Taylor Hill: 88-91 FB with plus sink, 93-94 peak that I’ve seen with my own two eyes, have heard rumors of him hitting 95; 79-85 plus SL; very good 78-83 sinking CU also called a splitter; mechanics need smoothing out; 6-4, 225 pounds

I’ve seen more of Notre Dame RHP Brian Dupra over the years than I’ve seen certain members of my own immediate family. His fastball gets there in a hurry, but it flattens out badly when he either a) overthrows it, or b) gets deep into his pitch count. His slider is a good enough second pitch that he still has a chance to contribute as a relief arm at some point. Also helping his cause is his newfound upper-80s cutter that could become a weapon with continued use. He’s a better shot than many to help a big league pitching staff, but still a long shot.

Notre Dame SR RHP Brian Dupra: 91-95 FB; 88-91 cutter; good 79-81 SL; CU; 6-3, 205 pounds

Alright, now this is just getting ridiculous. I get that Washington spent so big on their first four picks that they had to dip into federal funds to pay everybody off – so that’s why my district keeps closer schools! – but are you really telling me they had to completely ignore the high school ranks and go back-to-back-to-back with college seniors in rounds 6, 7, and 8? One or the other, maybe, but doing both is no way to build up the kind of organizational depth an emerging franchise like Washington needs to keep the big league roster fresh. North Carolina RHP Greg Holt, come on down. Like new UNC reliever Derrick Bleeker (we’ll get to him soon), Holt has been known as much for his raw power at the plate as his pitching prowess. He has the fastball/slider thing down pat, so there is a chance he’ll pop up in a few years as a viable relief option. I’d rank the three seniors in the same order Washington drafted them with a really large gap between Hill and Dupra, and then a slightly smaller gap between Dupra and Holt.

Now Holt is a relief prospect with a fastball that sits 88-91 (93 peak) and a good low-80s slider.

I once had such high draft hopes for California RHP Dixon Anderson. Alexander, a fourth-year junior, was in line for a big 2011 season, but never found the velocity he lost from the previous season. He once showed the power stuff – mid-90s fastball, above-average low-80s breaking ball, and an emerging splitter – needed to excel in a relief role, but may have to reinvent himself as a sinker/slider/cutter guy if his four-seam heat doesn’t return. All in all, Anderson is a worthy gamble at this point in the draft.

California SO RHP Dixon Anderson: 92-94 FB; 96 FB peak; very good low-80s SL; splitter; 6-5, 225 pounds (4.89 FIP; 5.68 K/9; 3.55 BB/9)

Cuban born Barry RHP Manny Rodriguez, yet another older righthanded relief prospect from college (that’s five in a row!), impressed in his first taste of pro ball. His fastball was more consistently hitting his mid-90s peak, and the upside shown with his curve has some thinking it could be an above-average pitch in time. A nascent change gives his supporters hope he can stick in the rotation, but I believe Rodriguez would be best served airing it out in shorter outings. As much as I don’t approve of Washington using five straight early picks on college righthanders likely destined to the pen, getting one (likely), two (maybe), three (probably pushing it, but who knows) cost-controlled big league relievers out of it would help alleviate the temptation to go out and spend big bucks on volatile veteran bullpen pieces. As one of the great philosophical minds of our time once said, “that ain’t not bad!”

I always have admired Houston OF Caleb Ramsey’s (Round 11) approach to hitting, but fear he is too much of a tweener both offensively and defensively to ever rise above a AAA depth ceiling.

Great to see oft-injured Indiana LHP Blake Monar (Round 12) get the chance to give pro ball an honest shot. He’s a soft-tosser known for a big plus curve who has battled back valiantly from injuries.

mid- to upper-80s FB, peak at 87-88; plus CB; SL; injury set back progress in 2010; 6-2, 185 pounds

I can’t wait to see Walters State CC OF Cody Stubbs (Round 14) back on the field playing against major college opposition this spring. Going from Tennessee to Walters State to North Carolina certainly qualifies as the road less traveled, but Stubbs’ nomadic existence is not due to a lack of on-field talent. He has a chance to rise way up draft boards and get early round consideration in a year with little in the way of impact college bats.

Due to a similar positional reclassification (OF to 1B), Stubbs’ prospect stock gets the same artificial boost as fellow first baseman Jacob Anderson’s. Easy to like Stubbs’ power to all fields and above-average athleticism for a big man (6-4, 225). I remember thinking he could be a top five round prospect after three years at Tennessee. Things obviously didn’t work out for Stubbs as a Volunteer, but the talent that led me to that original conclusion hasn’t evaporated. If he slips past round five, as I think he will, you could wind up with a player with high round ability at the cost of a low round pick.

Biloxi HS (MS) RHP Hawtin Buchanan (Round 19) is upside personified. He’s big, he throws hard, and, due to the fact that he is big and already throws hard, he could very well throw very hard down the line. The reports on his curve improving as his senior season went on are really encouraging. That kind of aptitude will serve him well as he tries to put everything together and get himself a first round grade in a few years.

RHP Hawtin Buchanan (Biloxi HS, Mississippi): 89-91 FB with room to grow, 93-94 peak; good command; raw CB, but much improved as year went on; strong Mississippi commit; 6-8, 230

Tennessee 2B Khayyan Norfork (Round 23) was a favorite in college, but a long shot to contribute anything at the big league level. Somebody I know in the know dropped a Junior Spivey comp on him. That got a good laugh out of me, but not because it is a silly comp or anything. Who in their right mind would comp a player now or ever to Junior Spivey?

I wanted so badly to include Norfork on my preseason list, but chickened out at the last minute for reasons still unknown to me. He’s got the prerequisite leadoff man skill set — plus speed, great jumps from first, good bunting skills, some patience, some hit tool — and the defensive versatility to play around the infield. I don’t think he has the bat to ever log consistent starter’s at bats, but unlike a few of the guys chained to 2B now and forever, Norfork should be able to move around the infield in a backup’s role with success.

The comment from last year (below) on Arizona State LHP Kyle Ottoson (Round 24) holds true today. He’ll head back for one last year at one of America’s most entertaining campuses to continue to build his junkballing crafty lefty street cred. (EDIT: Ottoson’s senior year will be at Oklahoma State, not Arizona State. Totally forgot about this.)

Ottoson’s strong commitment to Arizona State makes him another difficult sign. He doesn’t have a present above-average pitch, but throws three pitches (85-88 FB; 76-79 KCB; low-70s CU) for strikes.

You have to believe Washington scouts saw local product Georgetown C Erick Fernandez (Round 25) plenty over the years. Fernandez went to Georgetown despite being recruited by schools like NC State and Miami out of high school. He has retained much of the athleticism from his days as a middle infielder and his defense is top notch. All told he isn’t likely to be more than an organizational player, but he could hit his way into a backup role someday, especially if Washington likes how he works with some of their young organizational pitching talent.

He’s more than just a courtesy draft, I swear! South Carolina LHP Bryan Harper (Round 30), older brother of Bryce, has good enough stuff from the left side to hang around pro ball for at least a couple years. His size and mature, if still inconsistent, offspeed stuff are plusses. His upside is obviously limited and he’ll have to keep proving himself for years in the minors, but Harper has more of a shot than other older brothers of more famous top draft picks ever did. Jake Mauer, I’m talking about you.

Harper: 88-92 FB; solid 76-78 CB; emerging CU; 6-5, 190 pounds

If Southeast Guilford HS (NC) SS Josh Tobias (Round 31) can handle the defensive responsibilities at either center field or second base, he’s a potential early round pick in 2014. His raw power is exceptional for a man his size and his speed is at least an average tool (potentially much better than that depending on what day you see him run). I’d almost always err on the side of pro instruction over college, but spending three years working with the brains behind the resurgence of Florida baseball works just fine. Like a few of the other “ones that got away” you’ll read about below, Tobias has first round potential in 2014.

[above-average to plus-plus speed; very strong; plus raw power; leadoff profile; ability to stick in CF will make or break him]

San Diego RHP Calvin Drummond (Round 34) has always had better stuff than results, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can put it all together this season for the Toreros.

San Diego SO RHP Calvin Drummond: 91-93 FB, 94 peak; 84-87 cutter/SL; 78-79 CB; 83-84 CU

Howard JC RHP Derrick Bleeker (Round 37) could really turn heads this spring as a late-inning relief option for the Tar Heels. He fits the reliever mold in all your typical ways: he throws hard (mid-90s peak), shows a breaking ball, and has intimidating size (6-5, 220 pounds). Bleeker is also a talented hitter with massive raw power who should get more and more at bats as the season unfolds.

Stanford LHP Brett Mooneyham (Round 38) is a little bit like a less famous Matt Purke. Both guys were big stars in high school that turned down sizable bonuses to play college ball. Both guys saw their stuff drop drastically because of a multiple injuries. And both guys were drafted by Washington in 2011. They are like twins! Purke signed, but Mooneyham will give it one more shot for Stanford this spring. He has the size and offspeed repertoire (love the cutter, like his change and breaking ball) to succeed, but his draft stock and pro future will be determined by his ability to reclaim his once above-average low-90s fastball. In this year’s so-so college class, Mooneyham has top three round stuff if healthy.

Stanford JR LHP Brett Mooneyham: 88-90 FB, 91-92 peak; sits 90-92 now; also seen 87-91; weak FB this summer at 86-88, 90 peak; average 78-80 SL; good 75-78 CB; good CU; 6-5; improved cutter; missed 2011 season due to finger injury

Mississippi 1B Matt Snyder (Round 44) is an all-bat prospect who faces very long odds if he hopes to play in the big leagues. That doesn’t take away from him being an excellent college slugger. Ole Miss is loaded with future talent, so Snyder will get his chances to impress scouts from the first pitch to the last out this season.

Positive reports on Snyder’s bat this spring had me give him a slight boost, but his defense, speed, and arm are all really weak. I’ve heard through the grapevine that he is likely to be back for his senior season.

Georgia OF Peter Verdin (Round 39) has set himself up to become one heck of a 2012 senior sign. He’s a great athlete with plenty of speed for center field and intriguing raw power. There has been some talk in the past about his defensive skill set working behind the plate. All that is missing is the teeny tiny matter of actually putting those tools to use on the field. Guys are senior signs for a reason, after all. If Verdin can put it all together, he could jump up close to 30 rounds next year.

Dorman HS (SC) 3B Hunter Cole (Round 49) will join Verdin in the Georgia lineup this spring. He could also play alongside Verdin in the Bulldogs outfield if the coaching staff prefers the incoming freshman there instead of at third. If he stays at the hot corner, I think he has the offensive upside and defensive tools to become a first round pick.

Cole is another really tough sign (strong Georgia commit) with loads of raw power and good defensive tools. His bat is currently way more advanced than his glove, so maybe part of the idea of heading to Athens is to polish up his overall game and help him pop up as a first rounder in 2014.

Bryce Harper – The Importance of Makeup

There have been whispers out of Las Vegas for months now that presumptive first overall pick Bryce Harper’s, shall we say, “intensively competitive” and “self-assured” manner wasn’t playing all that well with the scouts assigned to watch his every step. This past week, however, those whispers grew just a teensy bit louder after Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus dropped the following in a piece about the lingering questions some talent evaluators still have about Harper’s lock on the top overall spot in the draft:

The Makeup: This should not be underrated. It’s impossible to find any talent evaluator who isn’t blown away by Harper’s ability on the field, but it’s equally difficult to find one who doesn’t genuinely dislike the kid. One scout called him among the worst amateur players he’s ever seen from a makeup standpoint, with top-of-the-scale arrogance, a disturbingly large sense of entitlement, and on-field behavior that includes taunting opponents. “He’s just a bad, bad guy,” said one front-office official. “He’s basically the anti-Joe Mauer.” How this plays into the negotiation or future evaluation is yet to be determined, as history has shown us that the bigger talent a player is, the more makeup issues teams will deal with. Bench players can’t afford to be problems, but plenty of teams happily put up with difficult superstars.

One of the most interesting and underrated aspects of the entire draft process is the depth in which area scouts go to uncover as much information about the prospects they are assigned to cover. If the NFL Scouting Combine really is the “world’s largest job interview,” as I’ve heard it referred to in the past, then the amateur scouting period in baseball is certainly in the running for the longest. Major League Baseball is a billion dollar industry with a finite number of job openings. Before investing large sums of money in a new employee, you’d better be darn sure you’ve done everything in your power to ensure that you are hiring a person you trust can get the job done. To that end, I have no qualms whatsoever with the abstract idea of “makeup.” Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of a player’s performance on the field is priority one, but that same evaluation of a player’s on-field abilities must be weighed against certain general personality parameters (“makeup”), especially traits that are believed could potentially alter future job performance.

Deciding on what traits could potentially alter job performance is entirely up to the individual doing the evaluating, I suppose. For me, “makeup” boils down to two main sets of questions. I first want to know whether or not the player is receptive to coaching. Will he put in the work to improve his game? Is he willing to listen when asked to consider trying a different approach or technique? Can he subjugate his ego long enough to take legitimate instruction from somebody paid to help him succeed? I then want to know how the player will react when things don’t go well. A large number of top amateur players, especially the high schoolers, have never experienced any kind of sustained stretch of significant athletic failure. How does the high school star who only knows the ups of hitting .600 and being the big man on campus react when suddenly hitting under .200 while riding lonely buses from Danville to Pulaski? This concern doubles back into the initial set of questions; when a player struggles, and it truly is a matter of when and not if, can he accept the professional coaching and support designed to help him become a big leaguer?

As far as the actual quotes cited in Goldstein’s piece, well, it appears to me as though an opportunity was missed. To the front-office official who called Harper “a bad, bad guy,” I’d really want to know if, based on the perceived seriousness of such an accusation, he would have the fortitude to go to his boss and recommend another player over Harper atop the draft board. Do these talent evaluators so willing to go on record about Harper’s makeup genuinely believe his “bad, bad” personality to be such a potential problem to his development that they would not want their employer to draft him? Are these personality issues so severe that the unnamed front-office officials don’t believe Harper will ever be able to fully harness his immense physical gifts? Or do the makeup concerns represent something closer to an annoyance, one not quite large enough to prevent Harper from superstardom on the field, but always lurking on the periphery as a warning not to do anything to upset the mercurial franchise player? I’d like to ask the front-office official whether he thought Harper’s makeup concerns were closer stylistically to Barry Bonds’ (entitled jerk off the field, destroyer of opposing teams’ dreams on it) or somebody like Darryl Strawberry’s (victimized by personal demons so severe that his on-field play suffered despite unrivaled physical talent)? As much as I think I know the answer to those questions already, I’d genuinely like to know how the front-office official would respond when pressed. Of course, that will never happen.

As someone who follows the draft almost exclusively as an outsider in the industry, I’m not privy to the kind of front-office member chatter that others can claim. I’m left to make the majority of my judgments on publicly available information. I won’t ever profess to having any insider knowledge about Bryce Harper’s personality or general on-field temperament other than what anybody else out there can read or see with their own two eyes. That said, Harper’s performance both on and off the field this season serves as a pretty strong argument in his favor. If I’m going on facts alone, the simple fact is Bryce Harper is having one heck of a year playing baseball. To accomplish all that has done on the field against players sometimes three or four years older while simulatenously dealing with the biggest amateur baseball media circus since, well I guess since Stephen Strasburg last season, but before that since as long as anybody can remember, is truly a remarkable feat. His on-field performance has exceeded even the most optimistic of projections and the coaching staff at Southern Nevada has been effusive in their praise of the kid. Really, what more can anybody realistically ask for a 17 year old catching prospect already dubbed the LeBron James of baseball playing wood bat junior college ball with the eyes of the industry watching his every move?

Since the article was published, by the way, Harper has put up the following batting line while splitting time in right field and behind the plate:

7-14, 4 HR, 2B, 13 RBI, 8 R, 2 SB, 1 BB, 1 K

That’s good for a weekend line of .500/.533/1.429. If Washington could fast forward the next six weeks and take Harper first overall tomorrow, they’d do it.

Bryce Harper

That draft in 2009? Old news. Stephen Strasburg? Forget about him. We have seen the suddenly surprisingly near future – all Bryce Harper, all the time.

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

I’m not a fan of writing about straight “news” pieces (there are literally thousands of better websites to go to for that), but I’ve publicly ignored Bryce Harper long enough. The big story that broke over the weekend is that, yes, Nevada high school catcher Bryce Harper has taken the first steps towards locking up his place atop 2010 draft boards everywhere by registering for classes at the College of Southern Nevada. Harper has stated his desire to begin courses at CSN in August, earn his GED in the fall, play for the CSN baseball squad in the spring of 2010, and then, assuming everything goes according to plan, get picked number one overall by the Washington Nationals (thus earning more money in his signing bonus than my overpriced college educated behind will make in a lifetime, by the way) next June. Consider that last bit a sneak preview at the upcoming first edition of the 2010 mock…

One little thing from all the articles re: Harper that have broke over the past few days has left me a bit confused. I’m not quite sure how he plans to attend junior college classes beginning in August before trying to get his GED sometime in the fall. That’s the timeline presented in everything I’ve read about Harper’s story, but it doesn’t seem to add up. What am I missing here? Can you really attend junior college classes before getting a high school diploma (or equivalency)?

[UPDATE – After deciding to be proactive for once, I did about two minutes of Googling in an attempt to answer my own questions. It appears that in many states you can enroll at junior colleges (or in some cases four-year colleges) without first obtaining a high school degree. Interesting. It’s true what they say, you really do learn something new every day.]

Photo Credit: Palm Goon

Photo Credit: Palm Goon