Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pre-Season 2010 Amateur Draft Fabulous Fifty

Jameson Taillon leads an extremely talented group of prep pitchers

With the Amateur Draft less than four months away, and baseball season swinging into high-gear in high schools and colleges around the country, it’s time for our first 2010 view of what we can expect in June. With that, we present our regular feature, the Diamond Futures’ Amateur Draft Fabulous Fifty. These are the fifty players that we currently feel represent the best that the 2010 draft class has to offer. We will be updating this list every couple of weeks through March and then on a weekly basis up until draft time. While we don’t rank them from #1 - #50, we do list them in order, within their respective positions. The draft itself appears to be extremely thin on college position players, and there are prep left-handers on this list.

High School Catchers

Stefan Sabol (Aliso Viejo, CA) - Sabol is an athletic player with a high baseball IQ. He possesses line drive power and solid contact skills. Defensively he is raw behind the plate, but shows promise.

College Catchers

Bryce Harper (CC of Southern Nevada)
– Much has already been written on Harper, who figures to go #1 overall. Offensively he is the best prep hitter in the last few years and may possesses more raw power than any prep player in even longer than that. Defensively he has a cannon for an arm and solid backstop instincts. If that hasn’t piqued your attention, his 17yo age and 6’3”, 195-lb, promise even further upside projection.

Micah Gibbs (Louisiana State) - While Gibbs doesn’t possess a significant upside, he is a switch-hitting catcher that scores high with his defensive and game management skills, and possesses a tremendous ‘make-up’.

High School Corner Infielders

Nick Castellanos (Davie, FL) – Castellanos has added 30lbs over the last two years and is now a potential offensive beast at 6’4”, 210lbs. Plus power is his best skill, but he will struggle with contact at times. Defensively he has the hands and arm strength to stick at 3B, but his footwork could use polish.

Kris Bryant (Las Vegas, NV) – Has played the last couple of seasons in the shadow of Harper in the Las Vegas area, but is a potent offensive force in his own right, as he possesses an athletic, projectable, 6’5”, 205lb frame. Power is his predominant offensive skill, as he isn’t exceptionally speedy. Defensively, he possesses a solid arm and soft hands. He is likely to add strength and bulk as he matures, which may force a move to an OF corner or 1B.

College Corner Infielders

Zack Cox (Arkansas) – Cox had a breakout summer on the Cape, where he may have put to rest some lingering concerns about his ability to hit with wood bats. Cox looks likely to remain at 3B, and post above average offensive numbers.

High School Middle Infielders

Manny Machado (Hialeah, FL) – Machado is a fast rising prep shortstop that possesses a combination that has been rare in recent drafts…namely plus shortstop defensive skills combined with above average offensive potential.

Yordy Cabrera (Lakeland, FL) – Cabrera has often times appeared to be a man among boys at his showcase appearances, as he has the type of chiseled-frame you don’t expect from a prep player. At 6’4”, 200lbs, he possesses plus raw power potential, but can be over-aggressive at times. Defensively he has soft hands and a powerful arm. The only real knocks against Cabrera are the fact that he is already 19yo, and that he is unlikely to stay at SS.

Justin O’Conner (Muncie, IN) – O’Conner is a baseball player, pure and simple, as he possesses plus offensive skills to go along with soft-hands, exceptional defensive instincts and a powerful arm. Don’t underestimate his hard-nosed approach or tremendous baseball IQ.

Tony Wolters (Vista, CA) – Smallish shortstop prospect who shows plus defensive skills at the position, and enough bat to succeed. More of a contact hitter than power guy, he uses solid baseball instincts to enhance his speed on the bases.

College Middle Infielders

Christian Colon (Cal State Fullerton) – One of the top returning college position players, Colon makes up for what he may lack in raw tools with a gritty, intelligent, approach. Colon should become a solid Major League shortstop.

Ricky Hague (Rice) – A solid summer with Team USA, vaulted Hague to prominence. Offensively he can be a force, but he does struggle with contact at times. Defensively he possesses enough skills to stay at shortstop at the next level.

Jedd Gyorko (West Virginia) - A tremendous contact hitter, Gyorko put together one of the more impressive summers on the cape. Defensively he is likely to move to 2B, but his offense should play well there.

High School Outfielders

Josh Sale (Seattle, WA) – For our money, Sale possesses the most potent offensive game among the prep players in this class. Sale is an aggressive hitter, with solid fundamentals that allows him to make solid contact with plus power potential. Defensively, Sale uses tremendous athleticism and solid instincts to make him a playable corner OF. If there is a downside, it is that he may profile better in LF than RF.

Austin Wilson (North Hollywood, CA) - Wilson possesses a tremendously athletic build, and perhaps the best combination of tools and performance among the prep players in this class. He also possesses a huge offensive upside, and defensively capable of becoming a gold glove RF. More impressive is that he is a ‘character’ guy, with a high baseball IQ.

Chavez Clarke (Marietta, GA) – Clarke is a fast rising CF prospect that possesses tremendous defensive skills, plus speed and at least average offensive skills. Additional pluses include a solid ability from both sides of the plate and tremendous ‘make-up’.

Brian Ragira (Austin, TX) – Ragira had mixed reviews this summer, as in some events he was one of the top players at the event, and in others he seemingly disappeared. Ragira possesses a significant tool set, that hasn’t always translated into performance. None-the-less, he has among the highest ceilings in this class, and is extremely bright and if he turns some of those tools into performance he could become a mid-first round selection.

College Outfielders

LeVon Washington (Chipola JC, FL) – Washington was a first round pick by the Rays last summer, but felt he could improve his draft stock by demonstrating that he has recovered from a torn labrum. An extremely ‘toolsy’ player, with a significant upside, Washington’s performance will dictate how high he goes.

Bryce Brentz (Middle Tennessee) – Brentz is the owner of what is presently the most potent bat in the draft. He possesses plus power potential and above average contact skills. While the plan is for him to play CF this season, there is concern that he is really a corner and that he may profile better in LF than RF. Additionally he has gotten a knock for a poor work-ethic/attitude and plays at a mid-tier baseball school. We say watch his on-field performance carefully this year, because this bat is special.

Jarrett Parker (Virginia) – Toolsy, athletic CF, who has a ton of upside, but whiffs too much for our liking at the moment.

Todd Cunningham (Jacksonville State) – A pre-season all-american, despite playing at a mid-tier school, Cunningham is a switch-hitting outfielder that possesses some of the best contact skills at the collegiate level.

Michael Choice (Texas Arlington) – Choice posted a solid summer with Team USA, and enters the season with a career average just short of .400. A highly athletic player, Choice has the speed to play CF and the arm to play RF. He’d get more notoriety if not for the school where he plays.

Gary Brown (Cal State Fullerton) – Brown is a speedy, athletic outfielder, that makes inconsistent contact. He is the classic top of the order threat and Brown keys the Titan attack.

Leon Landry (Louisiana State) - Landry is an athletic outfielder with plus speed and outstanding defensive skills. Unfortunately, his offense hasn’t quite caught up yet and what Landry does with the bat in 2010 will likely determine how high he goes.

High School Right-Handed Pitchers

Jameson Taillon (Woodlands, TX) – Taillon is the best prep arm in this year’s draft, and compares favorably with any prep pitcher drafted in 2009. With a 6’7”, 230lb frame, Taillon is a horse that fires up mid-90s fastballs and plus curves. While his change hasn’t received much work as he hasn’t needed it, it too shows promise.

A.J. Cole (Winter Springs, FL) – More projection than actual performance at this stage, the 6’5”, 190lb Cole has as high an upside as any prep pitcher in the class. His fastball is a low- to mid-90s offering, and his curve is also a potential plus pitch. Additionally, while not a tremendously polished pitcher, he demonstrates significant pithcability.

Karsten Whitson (Chipley, FL) – Son of a former Major League pitcher, Whitson has actually, at times, out-pitched the two pitchers above him on this list. Whitson is an athletic pitcher, with a low-90s fastball and a potentially plus slider.

Dylan Covey (Pasadena, CA) – Covey doesn’t possess as much projection as some of the other prep pitchers, but he already possesses a low-90s fastball, a potentially plus curve and a developing change.

Stetson Allie (Olmstead Falls, OH) – A physical beast at 6’4”, 225lbs, Allie has had difficulties finding consistency. When he is on, he possesses a mid-90s fastball and a potentially devastating slider. But he often has difficulty locating the plate. We feel he profiles better as a back of the bullpen guy, and if his command doesn’t evolve, don’t rule out 3B.

Kevin Gausman (Aurora, CO) – At 6’4”, 180lbs, Gausman shows significant remaining projection, despite the fact that he is already one of the more polished prep pitchers. Gausman possesses a low-90s fastball that he does exceptionally well at keeping it down in the zone, and advanced breaking offerings.

Kaleb Cowart (Adel, GA) – Cowart is an exceptional athlete, that is a potential early round pick as a middle infielder. Cowart uses a low-90s fastball and a significant baseball IQ.

Deandre Smelter (Macon, GA) – Smelter is a highly-athletic, highly-projectable hurler, that is relatively raw. While he possesses a potentially plus slider, he almost exclusively uses his low-90s fastball.

Peter Tago (Laguna Nigel, CA) – A smallish 6’1”, 160lbs, Tago is a raw right-hander that features a low-90s fastball and a potentially plus curve.

Taijuan Walker (Yucaipa, CA) – Walker is a fast climbing, athletic, right-hander that features a low-90s fastball and a potentially plus curve. Walker possesses significant remaining projection.

Cameron Bedrosian ( Senoia, GA) – Bedrosian is an extremely polished pitcher with a low-90s fastball, quality secondary offerings and an advanced feel for pitching.

A.J. Vanegas ( Alameda, CA) – Vanegas is an extremely polished pitcher with and advanced four-pitch repertoire that features a 90-mph fastball.

College Right-Handed Pitchers

Anthony Ranaudo (Lousiana State) – We felt Ranaudo was the second best collegiate pitcher in 2009, and only expect him to be better this season. Ranaudo has the entire package, with intimidating size, a mid-90s fastball, and a wipeout curve. The Friday night starter for the Tigers, Ranaudo will shoulder a heavy load for the extremely talented LSU team in 2010.

Deck McGuire (Georgia Tech) – 19-3 over his last two season, McGuire has good size and outstanding command of a four-pitch repertoire that features a low-90s fastball.

Brandon Workman (Texas) – Another college righty with good-size, Workman was arguably the longhorns best pitcher last season, despite not being part of their weekend rotation. His low-90s fastball headlines a solid four-pitch repertoire.

Jess Hahn (Virginia Tech) – Hahn remains more projection than production at this point, as he is one of the few college pitchers that consistently sits in the mid-90s. Hahn has a solid curve to compliment the heater and now just needs to refine his often erratic command.

Alex Wimmers (Ohio State) – Wimmers still flies under the radar, despite being the best starter in the Big Ten in 2009. While Wimmers has a solid low-90s fastball, it is his devastating curve that is his best offering. Wimmers’ change also shows potential as a plus pitch.

Chad Bettis (Texas Tech) – Not a lot of projection here in the smallish Bettis, but he has a low-90s fastball and a potentially plus slider.

Justin Grimm (Georgia) – Grimm still has projection left on his low-90s fastball that he compliments with a downward-breaking curve. A prep elbow injury still concerns some scouts.

Kyle Blair (San Diego) – Blair followed up a solid sophomore season with an impressive performance this summer on the Cape. While he has a low-90s fastball, it is a wipeout slider that is his best pitch. Command is where he struggles though and he will need to improve it this year.

Brett Eibner (Arkansas) – Eibner is perhaps the best two-way player in the draft, but is likely to make a bigger impact on the mound. An alum of the same high school as prep standout Jameson Taillon, Eibner is a highly athletic pitcher will a low-90s fastball and promising curve.

Kevin Jacob (Georgia Tech) – No potential college reliever in the class features better raw stuff than the 6’6” Jacob. He can dial his fastball into the extreme upper 90s and compliments it with a devastating slider.

College Left-Handed Pitchers

Chris Sale (Florida Gulf Coast) – Sale stamped himself as one of the top pitching prospects with an impressive performance on the Cape last summer. With a low-90s fastball and one of college’s best changes, Sale has all the makings of a solid Major League mid-rotation starter.

Drew Pomeranz (Mississippi) – Pomeranz improved upon an inconsistent sophomore season by becoming the most dominant pitcher on Team USA this summer. With a low- to mid-90s fastball and a devastating curve, Pomeranz just needs to show improved command to secure his place in the first half of the first round.

James Paxton (Kentucky) – After an inconsistent junior year at Kentucky, Paxton was selected by the Blue Jays in the sandwich round but opted to return to Kentucky. Legal issues with the NCAA, having to do with the handling of all that, has thrown his 2010 season in jeopardy.

Bryan Morgado ( Tennessee) – Morgado was selected by the White Sox in the third round last June after an inconsistent sophomore season. He returns to make amends this season, featuring a low- to mid-90s fastball and promising secondary offerings.

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