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March 3, 2014

Draft Ten Pack

Jumbo College Edition

by Nick J. Faleris and BP Prospect Staff

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After a focus on the Virginia/East Carolina series last weekend, this week’s Draft Ten Pack returns to catching you up on early-season action across the college ranks. Steffan Segui and Ethan Purser provide notes from the southeast, while Perfect Game’s Todd Gold contributes from the west coast, with thoughts on some of the top underclass arms in the country. I chip in with some national notes, including a player spotlight on an infielder who is ringing in the season with a loud offensive performance. Tomorrow, we’ll have another Ten Pack on prep prospects.

Collegiate Spotlight: Alex Blandino (3B, Stanford)

In spite of a slightly disappointing 3-for-11 weekend as part of a hugely disappointing sweep at the hands of Vanderbilt, Alex Blandino has put together a noteworthy first three weeks of the 2014 season. Stanford, never a team to shy away from a difficult out-of-conference series to start the year, has tackled Rice, Texas, and now Vandy for their first three weekend opponents, and through those challenging matchups Blandino has put together a slash line of .385/.468/.564, including a home run, four doubles, and four walks to just one strikeout. It isn’t a crazy ceiling, but the Stanford third baseman has the chops to play a good hot corner while providing average power and an above-average hit tool. He showed well on the Cape last summer and through fall workouts, and has thus far carried that performance over to the spring. College bats with a track record are always coveted on draft day, and Blandino is working toward just that designation. –Nick J. Faleris

More Collegiate Notes

Casey Gillaspie (1B, Wichita State)
Scouting Video

Gillaspie entered the spring as a solid corner power bat with some contact question and a defensive profile limited to first base. That isn’t generally an exciting package for evaluators, but the Shockers first baseman is doing everything in his power to make sure that regional supervisors, cross-checkers, and scouting directors get Wichita on their travel schedule sooner rather than later. While going just 1-for-6 in a shortened series this weekend at Long Beach, in the aggregate Gillaspie is mashing at a .526/.640/.921 clip through his first 10 games, and has already connected for three home runs, four doubles, and a triple. Evaluators have to search for positive adjectives when asked about the glove, but when it comes to power you could put together a solid thesaurus entry for “big” by stringing together the descriptors bandied about. There are still questions surrounding Gillaspie’s bat speed with wood, as well as his ability to handle big velocity, but the left-side power is legit and you might have trouble finding a better mistake hitter at the college ranks. –Nick J. Faleris

–Nick J. Faleris

Matt Chapman (3B/RHP, Cal State Fullerton)
Scouting Video

While he doesn't possess the attention-grabbing frame that typically supports an early-round draft prospect, Chapman does feature a strong combination of tools and a knowledge of how to use them. His quiet hands at the plate allow him to make adjustments and frequent contact against a variety of pitch types and locations, with solid strength-generated bat speed. His strong, mature build is matched by a mature plate approach, as he shows good pitch recognition and selective aggression. He has solid raw power, but his typical game swings are geared for hard line-drive contact, and with his effective current approach the home runs he hits tend to be line drives. Defensively he features a plus arm from third, with easy carry on his throws. He moves well laterally and has good hands in the infield, and is an all-around solid defender with good instincts at third base. He has developed into the kind of polished, high-floor college position prospect that many organizations target in the early rounds of the draft and his strong start to the season only helps his stock. –Todd Gold

Bradley Zimmer (OF, San Francisco)
Scouting Video

One of the rarest types of early-round draft prospects, Zimmer is a projectable college position player with a polished hit tool. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, Zimmer has a long slender build on a frame with room to handle significant muscle mass gains. He has exceptional hand-eye coordination and shows a knack for squaring up quality pitches. Performing in front of a large scouting turnout, Zimmer made hitting high-level stuff look easy in a 3-for-4 showing that included a pair of instinctual opposite-field singles against well-placed velocity from two of the best pitchers in the western region: Justin Garza and Phil Bickford of Cal State Fullerton. He lacks the raw athletic tools that are present in most first-round draft picks: he’s an average runner with a below-average arm. Even though he projects for a long-term future in left field or at first base, Zimmer brings more than enough to the table offensively to warrant an early selection despite profiling at a low-priority defensive position. –Todd Gold

Max Pentecost (C, Kennessaw State)
Scouting Video

Pentecost opens the season as one of the top true catching prospects in this year’s draft after a dominant performance on the Cape. The Winder, GA native has hit for both average and power while showcasing his tools behind the dish during the first two weeks of play. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound catcher is very well proportioned and possesses good baseline skills behind the plate, skills that will play well at the professional level. He’s very athletic for a catcher and shows good side-to-side agility on balls in the dirt and possesses an average arm via a long release. At the plate, Pentecost utilizes a short, level stroke with above-average-to-plus bat speed. There’s a touch of lift at the end that occasionally leads to a non-optimal contact point with the ball, producing abundant topspin when he’s caught on his front foot or when he’s reacting to pitches low in the zone. The hit tool should allow his power to play in the form of hard line drives to the gaps and average over-the-fence pop. Pentecost is in the first round for many, and continued dominance throughout the spring will only help his case as he moves up draft boards. –Ethan Purser

Taylor Gushue (C, Florida)
Scouting Video

After taking over for Mike Zunino last season, Gushue became the latest draft prospect in the long line of Gator backstops. While currently completing his junior season in Gainesville, Gushue is the age of a sophomore after skipping his senior year of high school and joining the Gators in 2012, when he immediately started at first base and DH on a talented College World Series team. As a catcher, Gushue is fringy both catching and throwing. He has put on substantial bulk since arriving on campus and doesn’t have ideal quickness behind the plate. What might keep him there are his instincts, which allow his defensive tools to play up, and the natural leadership ability you want in every catcher. Gushue’s carrying tool, however, will always be his bat. While there is going to be swing-and-miss in his game, his power potential from both sides of the plate has the potential to get him drafted early this June. He has a short, quick swing from a wide stance somewhat resembling that of Jim Thome, and he is hitting .387 through two weekends, including a four-hit game versus Miami ace Chris Diaz. –Steffan Segui

Ryan Harris (RHP, Florida)
Scouting Video

Harris is Florida’s top reliever and could go one of two ways in pro ball. With his solid 6-foot-2 frame, fresh arm and mid-90s fastball, many scouts will project him as a potential starter in the minors, a la former UF reliever Anthony DiSclafani. With his history of success out of the pen, a deceptive high-energy delivery, and a lack of good secondary pitches, he could just as well be a quick mover through the minors out of the pen. Against Maryland, Harris showed better feel for his changeup but still did not use his slider much. He has become UF’s top pitching prospect (they still have former ninth overall pick Karsten Whitson) because of his well-controlled fastball that reaches 96 and darts down and away to the arm side. While he doesn’t miss a ton of bats, he specializes in missing barrels. His extremely closed uphill delivery adds deception and doesn’t affect his repeatability, and he has outstanding mechanics throughout to release from a three-quarters slot. –Steffan Segui

Austin Gomber (LHP, Florida Atlantic)
Scouting Video

After leading the Sun Belt Conference in ERA last season, Gomber is set to lead the Owls pitching staff as they enter Conference USA, earning pre-season pitcher of the year honors in a number of publications. He got the opening day nod two Saturdays ago against Notre Dame but was not his usual sharp self and ran into some bad luck with the wind blowing out. Gomber sat 90-92 with his fastball, showing natural cutting action on his four-seamer and arm-side run on his two-seamer, but got hurt when it flattened out up in the zone. His curveball sat in the mid-70s, showing loose break and allowing left-handed hitters to hang in without issue. His best pitch on the day was his changeup, which lacks movement but has a solid velocity differential from his fastball. His arm action, which has some effort and deception to it, helps the changeup play up. He collapses his back leg in his delivery and throws uphill, leaving him susceptible to missing up. While the line was worse than his effort on the day, Gomber’s start was lacking overall, resulting in few swings and misses and too much hard contact, –Jeff Moore

Underclass Spotlight: Matt Krook (RHP, Oregon)

One of the top prospects in a deep crop of high school lefties in the 2013 draft class, Krook was selected 35th overall by the Marlins but neglected to sign, providing a pleasant surprise for Oregon. He won't be draft eligible again until 2016 and will be closely followed in the interim, with a chance to come off the board as a high draft pick next time around if he can maintain his command and remain healthy over the next three seasons. Krook’s second collegiate start came against Loyola Marymount, and he pitched an even better game than his impressive line (6 1/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 11 K) would suggest. He commanded the glove side of the plate consistently, allowing the two runs on a misplaced fastball with two on and two out in the fourth inning. The lefty pitches with a laid-back, low heart rate demeanor, which is well suited for a starting role. He throws with a low-effort delivery and generates good two-seam sinking action at 88 to 92, and maintained his velocity into the fifth inning. He showed a pair of quality breaking balls, with a deep 1-7 curveball at 78-80 mph and the ability to consistently throw it for strikes. He used the curveball liberally, mixing it with the fastball in early counts whether ahead or behind, and would break out a vicious 82-84 mph slider with big depth and hard bite as his knockout pitch. The early returns have been positive so far and scouts will continue to monitor him closely as he progresses. –Todd Gold

More Underclass Notes

Ryan Burr (RHP, Arizona State)
Scouting Video

After Burr’s impressive freshman season as the Sun Devils' closer in 2013, Arizona State shifted him to the starting rotation for 2014, anointing him as their Friday night starter. He paired the heater with a power curve in the low 80s that flashes 12-6 shape from an over-the-top arm slot. He has the power arm and sturdy workhorse build to handle the rigors of pitching on back-to-back days, along with a natural aggression in approach that is well suited for short stints in high-intensity situations. In his second collegiate start last weekend, Burr had a quick first inning before being forced to work harder for outs in the second and seeing his command completely escape him in the third. He has worked about 4 mph lighter with the fastball as a starter, and it might prove a difficult transition for a pitcher who relishes overpowering hitters to learn to navigate his way through a lineup multiple times while maintaining. It hasn't been smooth in the early going. A successful transition to starting would provide a massive boost to his stock for the 2015 draft, and could push him toward the top of the class. But presently he fits the bill of a late-inning reliever. –Todd Gold

Cavan Biggio (INF, Notre Dame)
Scouting Video

As a starting freshman, and son of a future Hall of Famer, it would have been easy for Biggio to put added pressure on himself in his collegiate debut. If he did, it was unnoticeable. Biggio shows a good, patient approach at the plate and plus bat speed, understanding his role as a table setter and his strengths as a line-drive hitter. He has a good swing path from the left side once he gets his hands in position to hit, but there is a fair amount of movement in his pre-pitch stance, which might need to be smoothed out sooner rather than later. Biggio has the frame to add weight and strength and will need to do so as he develops in order to reach his potential average power projections. Defensively he has soft hands but will need to continue to refine his footwork on the infield dirt. –Jeff Moore

Justin Garza (RHP, Cal State Fullerton)
Scouting Video

The comp-less wonder, at 5-foot-10 Justin Garza will be a divisive prospect as the 2015 draft approaches. There is no tight comp for him, which clouds his draft stock. But there is no denying that he features big-time stuff. He typically works 90-94 with his fastball from a high three-quarters arm slot that allows him to generate the kind of downhill leverage you'd expect to see from a pitcher who is six feet tall. He has a live arm with a clean arm circle through the backside, hiding the baseball well through his delivery. He frequently commands both sides of the plate with good life on his fastball. He also has two good secondary offerings, a sharp 82-84 mph slider with sudden break and a 78-80 mph changeup with good arm-side fading action. The best history lesson to consider when evaluating Garza's draft prospects comes from the not-so-distant past, as 5-foot-9 right hander Marcus Stroman became the 22nd overall pick of the 2012 draft. Garza is, however, on pace to have a longer track record as a starting pitcher at the college level than Stroman had at Duke, suggesting that Tim Lincecum (10th overall, 2006) could likewise be a reasonable benchmark for his draft stock. Garza showed some rust in his 2014 debut, but this weekend returned to the form he showed throughout much of his freshman season in 2013, turning in seven shutout innings, allowing five hits (two to projected first-rounder Brad Zimmer) and one walk while striking out 12. –Todd Gold

Phil Bickford (RHP, Cal State Fullerton)
Scouting Video

Bickford shocked the industry when he spurned the Blue Jays, who selected him 10th overall in the 2013 draft, to head to Cal State Fullerton. Not only did Bickford turn down a massive signing bonus, but the Titans returned all three of their weekend starters from a Super Regional team whose rotation was their strength, setting lofty expectations for Bickford’s freshman season. After learning some hard lessons about the dangers of getting too comfortable in the middle of the strike zone earlier in the week against USC, Bickford responded with a crisp inning against San Francisco on Saturday, his fourth appearance of the season. He commanded his fastball in the lower half of the strike zone at 89-92 and his slider looked much sharper than it had at USC. The inning started out poorly as a bloop single fell safely into the Bermuda Triangle behind third base, and a well-placed fastball away to projected first rounder Brad Zimmer turned into an opposite-field single. Bickford responded in impressive fashion, striking out the side. –Todd Gold

Jeremy Martinez (C, Southern California)
What a difference a year makes. After dropping to the Chicago Cubs in the 37th round of the 2013 draft due to a combination of performance, signability, and “bad body” concerns, Martinez opted to forgo the start of his pro career in favor of joining a USC club that is slowly building an impressive talent base. Early looks at Martinez this spring have been nothing but positive. First and foremost, he has shed some softness, now carrying a lean but still sturdy build. The production has impressed, as well, with the true freshman starting all eight games for the 7-1 Trojans, knocking out a .353/.412/.395 slash line along the way and providing a solid glove and arm out of the two spot. He moves well behind the dish with a solid catch-and-throw game that can play to above-average pop times and good accuracy when his transfer and footwork are clean. A compact swing and some lower-body strength could carry the offensive profile to above average as well. Martinez won’t be draft eligible again until the conclusion of his junior year in 2016, but if these first few weeks are indicative of what we will see of Martinez moving forward, he will be an early round candidate when the time comes. –Nick J. Faleris

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

Related Content:  Draft,  Prospects,  Scouting,  2014 Draft

5 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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cooper7d7

Is Bradley Zimmer relatd to Kyle Zimmer, P, KC?

Mar 03, 2014 06:26 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Nick Faleris
BP staff

Yes, Kyle's younger brother (Kyle also attended San Fran).

Mar 03, 2014 06:44 AM
 
Nojsztat

A less sexy brother pairing than the Zimmers, but is Casey Gillaspie related to Connr Gillaspie?

Mar 03, 2014 08:16 AM
rating: 0
 
Nojsztat

Conor Gillaspie. I see now that Conor also went to Wichita State.

Mar 03, 2014 08:18 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Nick Faleris
BP staff

Yup -- brothers as well!

Mar 03, 2014 08:39 AM
 
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