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October 10, 2012

Scouting the Draft

High School Outfielders

by Nick J. Faleris

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Almost immediately after the Amateur Draft is held in June, work begins anew for amateur scouting departments all across baseball. From June through August, area scouts (and in many cases cross-checkers, scouting directors, and even general managers) take in collegiate summer leagues and high profile prep showcases and tournaments, getting looks at the next crop of draft-eligible talent working its way towards draft day.

Over the coming weeks we are going to review some of the top names and performances from this past summer. The eight-part series will have two entries each week, covering four categories of players and forty players overall (full schedule at the bottom). The goal is not to cover every name worth knowing for next June; we have plenty of time to bring you full reports on the top draft-eligible players for 2013 over the next eight months.  This is meant to serve as an introduction to the draft class for those who have not yet begun following the action, and to pool in one place a rundown of some of the top performances over the past three months once we start parsing the class in more detail.

Today we tackle five high school outfielders who made a name for themselves on the “summer circuit."  

Trey Ball | OF/LHP | New Castle HS (New Castle, Ind.)

The Basics: 6-foot-6, 180-pounds; left/left profile; draft day age 18y 11m; University of Texas commit

Brings to the table: A smooth left-handed swing with good leverage and enough strength to drive the ball to all fields. Ball is a capable outfielder with above-average to plus arm strength and above-average straight-line speed that figures to drop to average once he fills out. He carries with him lots of physical projection and could end up an above-average defender in right field with above-average power.

Made a name for himself when: He strung together three solid offensive performances in August at the Area Code Games, East Coast Pro, and the Under Armour All-America Game.  Prior to August, Ball’s arm strength from the left side, feel for three pitches and projectable frame made the mound his most likely pro destination. After showing some pop and a more advanced approach than evaluators had previously seen, the door is wide open for him to be drafted as an outfielder.

Figures to get attention: Early and often this spring.  Ball is a legit early- to mid-1st round talent both ways, with a fair amount of physical projection remaining. That means area scouts could be looking at a big jump in his game over the next nine months, be it on the mound or as a position player.
 

Ryan Boldt | OF | Red Wing HS (Red Wing, Minn.)

The Basics: 6-foot-1, 185-pounds; left/right profile; draft day age 18y 6m; University of Nebraska commit

Brings to the table: A true center field profile, complete with plus speed and above-average to plus arm strength and accuracy. Boldt projects well as a two-hole hitter, capable of driving the gaps (and particularly the opposite gap) while producing enough natural backspin to put some over the fence. He has an advanced approach for a cold weather kid and shows an excellent feel for the game on the bases, allowing his speed to play up.

Made a name for himself when: He sprayed line drive after line drive throughout June at the PG National Showcase and USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars, all while flashing lots of leather in center field. This September he served as a catalyst at the top of the order for USA Baseball’s 18U gold medal winners, finishing third in OBP, walking more than he struck out, and going a perfect 13-for-13 in stolen base attempts.  

Figures to get attention: This October at the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter. With the Minnesota high school season shorter than those in warmer locales, cross-checkers and scouting directors may be limited in their opportunities to view Boldt this spring. His performance in Jupiter could go a long way towards solidifying his stock, which right now figures to land him somewhere in the mid-1st to 2nd round.
 

Clint Frazier | OF | Loganville HS (Loganville, Ga.)

The Basics: 6-foot-0, 190-pounds; right/right profile; draft day age 18y 9m; University of Georgia commit

Brings to the table: The most explosive bat in the draft class, with big bat speed and plus to plus-plus raw power. Despite some inconsistencies in his load and a swing that can appear hitchy at times, Frazier has no trouble catching up to velocity and already shows a knack for letting the ball travel and unloading on off-speed stuff. He is a high-intensity player with plus speed and good aggressiveness on the base paths. The Georgia commit profiles as a center or right fielder with plus to plus-plus arm strength but come-and-go accuracy.

Made a name for himself when: He put his bat to work at Wrigley Field at the Under Amour All-America Game. Frazier performed as expected during Friday’s scout workout at UIC, but really dazzled during Saturday’s festivities. While he finished second to Justin Williams (discussed below) in the home run derby, Frazier had the most impressive overall showing, logging the longest and the shortest impact-to-stands time of the event’s participants while almost clearing the bleachers with one drive. In-game, he stood out offensively, as well, smoking two doubles and stealing a base.

Figures to get attention: In the first ten picks come June, and is unlikely to drop past the mid-1st round. While he lacks the projectable frame of some of the other top high school positional players, there is more than enough physicality already in place for the Georgia prep star. Frazier is one of the few players in the class who could develop into a true impact player offensively, defensively, and on the bases.
 

Austin Meadows | OF | Grayson HS (Loganville, Ga.)

The Basics: 6-foot-3, 200 pounds; left/left profile; draft day age 18y 1m; University of Clemson commit

Brings to the table: The potential for five above-average or better tools, including plus to plus-plus speed. Meadows has above-average raw power generated through a quick bat and solid core strength. He can struggle to drive the ball the other way, instead contenting himself to barrel the ball a little more defensively and producing softer contact than you would like to see. Nitpicks aside, Meadows has arguably the highest ceiling of any 2013 draft-eligible talent and is an early favorite for top five consideration.

Made a name for himself when: He started hitting the ball with authority at East Coast Pro. Meadows’ tools are always apparent, but he was dinged earlier this summer by some area scouts for a perceived “low energy” on-field showing during the start of the summer circuit. Meadows did his part to alleviate these concerns by putting together strong performances in early August at East Coast Pro, driving the ball more consistently and giving away fewer at-bats. He concluded the summer by carrying over that momentum to good showings later in the month at the Perfect Game All-American Classic and the Under Armour All-America Game.  

Figures to get attention: With fellow Loganville, Georgia talent Clint Frazier. Like Frazier, Meadows seems like a lock to go in the first ten picks next June. His overall profile gives him a better chance than Frazier to stick in center, but that added value has been thus far negated by softer in-game and showcase showings against the top talent this summer. Right now it’s a coin flip as to who comes off the board first.
 

Justin Williams | OF | Terrebonne HS (Houma, La.)

The Basics: 6-foot-2, 215 pounds; left/right profile; draft day age 17y 9m; Louisiana St. University commit

Brings to the table: Big strength and one of the loudest power tools in the draft class. Williams profiles as a classic power-hitting corner outfielder, with the potential to grade out at true plus-plus playable power. He can currently struggle with off-speed and breaking stuff in games, due both to undeveloped pitch identification and some quirks in his weight transfer, but has shown some ability to shorten his swing and tighten his approach when needed. Williams is a fringe average runner with average arm strength.

Made a name for himself when: He sent multiple balls into the right field upper deck during workouts at PG Nationals. Though he fell short in the home run derby at that stop on the circuit, he avenged himself in August by capturing home run derby crowns at each of the Perfect Game All-American Classic and the Under Armour All-America Game. Williams’ approach is still raw, but he has squared balls throughout the summer, and each time he does the sound reminds you of his immense offensive potential.  

Figures to get attention: In the mid- to late-1st round, and he could come off the board even earlier if his power starts to manifest more regularly outside of batting practice. The other side of that coin is the real danger that inconsistent showings against uneven Louisiana high school arms will cause teams to wonder just how well that big raw power will ultimately play.  There are some questions as to his defense—his routes in particular—but teams buying into Williams are buying the bat first and foremost.
 

Up Next:  

High School Infielders/Catchers

Summer Summary Schedule:

Week 1:  High School Position Players
Week 2:  High School Pitchers
Week 3:  College Position Players
Week 4:  College Pitchers

Nick J. Faleris is a practicing structured finance attorney and Sports Industry team member in the Milwaukee office of Foley & Lardner LLP.  The views he expresses in Baseball Prospectus are his own, and not necessarily those of the law firm.

Nick J. Faleris is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Nick's other articles. You can contact Nick by clicking here

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