September 3, 2007
Wait 'Til Next Year
Cape Cod League Prospects, Part Two
The tone for every June draft is set the previous summer, when showcase leagues pit the nation's best high school players against each other on the same field, and the college players show scouts their abilities while playing every day with wooden bats. Next spring will be the final opportunity for players to show where their skills have progressed to, but for many, this summer has already determined their draft position. No summer league offers more high-end talent than the Cape Cod League, and while the league didn't offer as many blue-chip prospects as previous years, the league's managers universally lauded its depth.
Team USA had most of the 2008 draft's top projected talent-namely, the top threesome of Pedro Alvarez, Justin Smoak, and Brian Matusz-but the Cape was rich in players that should be drafted between the second and fifth rounds. For these players, a good summer gave them the foot in the door and their name on a follow list, and all that remains for them is following through next spring. After releasing my top 15 prospects list last Tuesday, here are the league's 15 next-best 2008 draft-eligible players, as determined through conversations with coaches across the league:
It was a good sign for Falmouth that Shooter Hunt, the ace of the staff in 2006, became the Commodores' fifth starter in 2007. The biggest problem was that Hunt began nibbling, attempting to paint the corners with a fastball that has the life to do the work for him. Hunt's fastball command problems rendered his slider pretty useless; he has always struggled to throw the breaking pitch for strikes. As odd as it was, Hunt had much more success as a thrower a year ago than attempting to pitch this summer. His arm is sufficiently special that he should put it all together next spring, although it might means that he becomes a reliever in the end.
If Aaron Crow was the league's biggest surprise as a pitcher, Gillaspie was the unexpected hitter who took the league by storm, eventually winning the MVP award. Gillaspie made a conscious choice to improve his approach, and it worked, and while he won't hit more than 20 home runs as a professional, he has good gap power. Gillaspie gets points for his old-school mentality, but his tools come up a bit short at third base. Gillaspie is a first-round bat at second base, but considering his struggles to move to his left at third, the keystone could be impossible. Gillaspie will need more loft in his swing next spring to convince scouts to give him a future starter profile at the hot corner.
Surkamp had one of the nation's most whirlwind summers, sandwiching the Cape between Team USA trials and a stint with the red, white, and blue when San Diego southpaw Brian Matusz left the team. Surkamp is a big, imposing southpaw without a lot of velocity, only reaching 90 mph, and then only sometimes. What he has is one of the league's best changeups, good command, and an average breaking ball. His three-pitch arsenal should get him in the top three rounds next June.
Injuries have kept Green from matching the high expectations that come with a player of his size (6'8"), and he's pitched less than 20 innings in his last two springs in Lexington. However, an appreciation of his talent led the Red Sox to take the sophomore-eligible draftee in the fourteenth round, and his success in the Cape led to a more active but eventually fruitless negotiation. Returning to the Wildcats should prove a sound decision, as Green showed good and revived stuff all summer, pitching at 90-94 mph. Green has a good slider despite his height, and while a third pitch has proven elusive, sustained health in his junior season should be enough to land in the first three rounds of 2008.
Yarmouth-Dennis would not have won the Cape League without some valuable midseason additions this summer, and the best of their reinforcements came in the form of their 25 games from Luna. Adding a power bat of his caliber gave the Red Sox the league's best offense, and with enough pitching, they took the championship from a more talented Falmouth team. Luna showed more power from the right side than Gordon Beckham; the former running back has a ton of strength and destroys fastballs. However, Luna never worked out well in the infield and isn't even a great fit in left, and his offensive skills outside of his power are pretty unrefined. Luna is a dark horse to lead the nation in home runs next season, but his draft status is unlikely to shift much given his limitations.
If pitching is about groundballs and strikeouts, Hudson is going to get a lot of attention in the next ten months. Perpetually on the cusp of breaking out, but never an elite name, Hudson slowly made a case for himself as an early-round guy by following up a good spring with a good summer. He pounds the lower half of the zone from a low, almost sidearm delivery, and the movement on his fastball helped keep the ball in the park for all of 2007. However, at times he struggles to control the pitch and his mechanics fall apart, so Hudson will need further instruction in pro ball. His secondary offerings are a tick above average, as he shows good feel for his slow curve and change, occasionally using his breaking ball as an out pitch. Hudson is a guy to watch, and if he walks fewer people next spring, he'll be a hard guy to pass on.
First, a look at the positives. Behind the plate, Federowicz has two really good things going for him. First, he has the velocity of a strong-armed pitcher throwing from behind the plate, from having done some relieving for both North Carolina and Team USA (in 2006). More importantly, he has a big, durable frame that will lend itself to a career in catching. However, he's far from perfect behind the plate, as Federowicz has some bad habits and below-average agility. At the plate he's an odd duck-he doesn't have the power his swing would suggest, but he's generally a smart hitter. If everything breaks right and Federowicz fixes his bad habits, he could become a Michael Barrett-type catcher.
The most frustratingly inconsistent player on the Cape, Daly always flashed big stuff, but his good outings did not come often enough. However, he is occasionally brilliant, and threw the league's lone no-hitter in 2007. Scouts discount Daly for his size; none need to stand next to him to know he is shorter than his listed 5'11". While that bias will hurt him in next June's draft, his arm action goes some of the way to nullify the disadvantage of his height. That's because Daly pitched at 92-94 mph and touched 96, and coaches give him credit for exploding late life on his heat. However, Daly too rarely commands the pitch, and his slider is really only average. As a reliever Daly might have been among the league's best, sort of like Hawaii ace Steven Wright two years ago, but as a starter he was middle of the pack with a solid "future reliever" profile.
Protected from the Cape Cod League by his college coaches a year ago, Miley fared well against the nation's best. Miley's stuff stayed true all summer, but in his last few starts, his command left him. Miley has the tendency to lose his mechanics within his starts, ending up with too many walks. However, with his good stuff, Miley was one of the Cape's best southpaws. His velocity will never play up, as he offers little projection behind his current 88-90 mph; Miley's at his best when he is throwing his curve for strikes, a deadly pitch that he can works in and out of the strike zone. With his changeup, he's inconsistent, but sometimes good.
Like David Adams, Dykstra was a non-factor in the league until July, but at the midway point he became one of the league's better hitters. Coaches were familiar with him because this was his second season in the league, and all raved about his patient approach at the plate. While his approach is good, there is still convincing to be done whether Dykstra has a "metal bat swing," meaning there are concerns his power won't transfer well to the professional level.
Five-tool players are hard to come by in college baseball, so it might seem a surprise to see me touting one now. While Barto's career at Tulane has been disappointing, he progressed mightily during his two years at Falmouth. Barto's athleticism sets him above everyone else on the Cape League's diamonds, as he plays a very good outfield and proved this summer that he can do more damage on the basepaths than Tulane's coaches have previously asked of him. At the plate, Barto shows fantastic power in batting practice but not often enough in games. Barto isn't far from putting it all together, and on talent alone he rates as one of the league's best.
With Darnell, Havens, Justin Smoak, and Travis Jones, South Carolina's 2007 infield was certainly one to watch. While Havens and Smoak had all the notoriety, it was Darnell and Jones that powered the offense at times. Darnell's strong year continued in the Cape Cod League, where he showed his power by hitting home runs at a torrid pace. There's no denying Darnell's power is above-average, and the coaches in the league loved his swing. It's everything else in Darnell's game that is the problem. He doesn't play a good third base, and too often brings a bad approach to the plate, and he struck out as often in the summer as he did in the spring.
I can't decide if this is a conservative or aggressive ranking for Davis. Coaches in the league seemed to be split as well, with many recognizing his obvious ability, and others wondering where it was this summer. Davis didn't stay in the Cape long enough to show his true power, but many believe he just has doubles power, despite his size and swing. Davis has good hand-eye coordination, but he doesn't walk enough at the plate. The outfield is a stretch for Davis, particularly because of his limited range, but he has the arm to play anywhere, and even avoided allowing a run in 2 2/3 innings and throwing in the low 90s for Wareham. Arguments can be made for David Cooper and Andrew Clark in this spot as well.
Every coach loves Weems, to the point that if he hadn't found a way into the rankings, I would have heard about it. But as a matter of talent, he belongs. He's a hard worker that is going to stay at shortstop, and teams will love that he bats from both sides. There is work to be done. Weems succeeds at short more from good habits and grit than any natural athleticism, and he hasn't shown the ability to steal bases effectively. He also lacks a great approach at the plate, striking out far too often, and he hardly walked at all this summer. Weems showed some power at Baylor, but it's not a part of his game, so the sooner an organization shortens up his swing, the better everyone thinks he will be.
The Bulldogs opted to stay conservative with their pitchers this summer, giving Yarmouth-Dennis a half-season of Steven Dodson, followed by a half-season of Holder. It turned out that Holder provided the push needed to take Y-D to the top, winning the playoff MVP award after striking out 10 batters in the championship win. Praise for Holder is generally directed at his pitchability, but he also has solid stuff, particularly a plus change. He commands his 89-92 mph fastball well, but ultimately, it will be his progress with his breaking ball that will decide his fate.
Five That Just Missed
Five Players With Not Enough Time to Be Ranked
Top Freshman: I'll be naming one in an Unfiltered post shortly.