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March 11, 2014

Draft Ten Pack

March 11, 2014

by Nick J. Faleris and BP Prospect Staff

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We follow last week’s two-part “jumbo” edition of the Draft Ten Pack with a more restrained collection of updates from the scouting world of amateur baseball, headlined by a player spotlight on Oregon State’s Michael Conforto. Ronit Shah and Perfect Game’s Todd Gold caught USC’s Wyatt Strahan on back-to-back weekends while Steffan Segui continues his immersive coverage of baseball in the sunshine state, with collegiate and prep notes on 2014 players and some high-profile underclassmen.

Player Spotlight: Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State

Conforto has long been known as a big-time power prospect, with a pronounced uppercut that generates easy lift and raw strength that allows even mis-struck balls to cover ground from pole-to-pole and beyond the walls. The tradeoff is a diminished overlap in swing and pitch plane due to the barrel’s quick passage through the hit zone. The ultimate result is a lot of empty hacks between blasts as the swing does not allow for easy off-speed and secondary adjustment. Additionally, the defensive profile is limited to an outfield corner, adding added pressure to the bat’s development and more scrutiny from evaluators on the risks and upside associated with that development.

Through the first 17 games of 2014, however, Conforto has yet to run into swing-and-miss troubles, with this past weekend marking a high point for the USA Collegiate National Team alum as Northern Illinois was able to retire him just once in his 14 trips to the plate (Conforto totaled seven hits, including two doubles and a triple, in eight at-bats, and tallied five walks and a hit-by-pitch). So long as the swing mechanics are consistent, there is a likely late first round ceiling on Conforto’s draft stock. But each week that he continues to perform nudges him closer to that outcome. As we currently stand, the corner outfielder is hitting .396/.570/.566, with a whopping 21 walks to just five strikeouts. As Oregon State gears up for conference play, the competition could force those numbers to regress some, but Conforto is doing everything to get his name called on day one. –Nick J. Faleris

Double-Take: Wyatt Strahan, RHP, Southern California
In his outing against Cal Poly, Strahan's fastball sat 91-93 and touched 95 twice in the first inning before he was interrupted by an hour-long rain delay. Upon returning to the mound, he worked in the 90-92 range the rest of the way. He pitches with a live arm working from a high three-quarters arm slot, showing a four-pitch arsenal centered on a swing-and-miss curveball with hard bite and big depth. He also showed a good tilted slider at 82-83 with similar upside to the curve, though he lacked the same level of control with the offering. He also flashed an 80-82 mph changeup. The fact that he pitches exclusively from the stretch would suggest he profiles as a reliever, as does the velocity decline over the course of the start. If he winds up in the bullpen, he profiles as a power armed reliever who can likely work comfortably in the mid-90s, and possibly higher, operating in short stints. Additionally, you might see him scrap one breaking ball at the next level in order to focus on further developing the other into a plus-plus offering. –Todd Gold

Strahan possesses impressive size at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, and he carries it well, but the delivery needs refinement. He doesn't use the back leg and can improve on his fastball plane. The right-handed starter sat 93 throughout the start, topping out at 96 when he reared back to strike out Aaron Brown, Pepperdine’s two-way player and a fellow draft prospect, at a critical moment. Strahan possesses an average breaking ball as his primary secondary offering, but he showed two kinds on this day. He threw the curveball (77-78 mph) more often, but his slider showed better in this outing, with a few showing above-average with late bite. Against lefties he'll also mix in a changeup that features some late fade. –Ronit Shah

More Collegiate Notes

Matt Imhof, LHP, Cal Poly
Scouting Video
As a 6-foot-5 left hander with an impressive college track record, Matt Imhof entered the spring with plenty of national hype. His scheduled Friday night matchup against USC's Wyatt Strahan generated a lot of scouting attention, but was pushed back to Sunday due to rain. Imhof has an unorthodox delivery, with a high leg kick and a slower-paced gather phase, followed by a fast-paced lunging stride toward the plate. The funk in his delivery combined with the steep downhill plane led to some uncomfortable swings from the Trojans hitters and he got a number of swings and misses with his fastball, which featured natural cut. His best secondary pitch is a slider that ranged between 78 and 82 mph. At its most effective, the slider showed enough bite to generate some swings and misses, though not consistently. The closest comp for Imhof is Jimmy Gobble. It's not a perfectly tight comparison, as Imhof has a more unorthodox arm action, with a severe hook that is neither clean nor pretty. Still, he gets the ball into the driveline on time and whips through his arm stroke without any friction, showing a clean finish out front, and salvaging the characterization of the total mechanical package as effective with playable deception. Gobble was the 43rd overall pick in 1999 and Imhof looks like he has a chance to go somewhere in that range, though the overall pitching depth of this class may push him a bit lower. –Todd Gold

Jake Stinnett, RHP, Maryland
Scouting Video
As a college senior, Stinnett has less leverage than the traditional draft-eligible junior, and should be a cheap sign for a team relative to where he is drafted. Thus far in 2014, Stinnett has allowed only 10 hits in 28 innings, with nine of the innings coming in a no-hitter against the University of Massachusetts. Last Friday, he outpitched likely first rounder Luke Weaver for the first six innings of the start before getting touched up in the seventh. A mid- to upper-80s arm in high school, Stinnett has seen a spike in velocity since coming to Maryland, and now works in the low-90s, regularly touching 94. He has a useable straight changeup at 82-84 and a sharp slider that is created by his very long arm stroke. Stinnett pitches off an exaggerated hip load, where he tilts back substantially and gets his arm to the bottom of the circle to help create arm speed. This action helps produce a good amount of deception as he throws uphill over his high front side. With runners on, he tends to rush his mechanics and he loses his command. With the precision required by his mechanics, any lag in his mechanics generally causes him to drive pitches up in the zone. If he can continue to pitch at his current level, especially as Maryland gets deeper into their ACC schedule, Stinnett’s stock will continue to fly up draft boards. –Steffan Segui

Peter Miller, RHP, Florida State
Scouting Video
A weekend starter in the past, and a likely Friday or Saturday starter in most programs, Miller finds himself the odd man out of the talented 2014 FSU weekend rotation. At 6-foot-2, he has a slight build similar to that of Tim Hudson or Roy Oswalt and repeatable linear mechanics. He doesn’t have the quickest arm or loudest stuff, but it’s usable and his overall feel and pitchability should help him to make his way to the upper minors quickly. Miller possesses an average fastball that sits around 90 and was as high as 92 this week against South Florida. In five innings he struck out 11 USF hitters without really breaking a sweat. He leaned heavily on an above-average curveball, showing some slurve and big shape at 80 mph, once ahead with two strikes. He broke out the changeup, showing fade and sink, earlier in counts. Over the course of the season, Miller is sure to see some periodic weekend work and should be taken in the top 10 rounds come June. Like Stinnett, Miller will be a senior sign, lacking leverage. –Steffan Segui

Austin Davis, LHP, Cal State – Bakersfield
Scouting Video
Left handed pitcher Austin Davis of Cal State Bakersfield is a name that has begun to surface in recent months, and for good reason. He was well under the radar before this fall, after going undrafted out of high school, Davis posted a 6.49 ERA out of the bullpen as a freshman. He was then ruled ineligible for the 2013 season after testing positive for a banned substance. He took a redshirt year and regained his eligibility for 2014 and caught scouts by surprise this fall when he touched 95 mph. In a recent start against Towson, Davis worked consistently at 88-92 and maintained his velocity range for six full innings and was still sitting 89-91 in the seventh. At that range he throws with relatively little effort and gets good use of his strong lower half. He owns a very mature build at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, with thick muscular legs, a strong core and well defined muscle structure. His physical build and sturdy frame would suggest he's prepared to become a workhorse type, capable of handling gradually increasing innings as he climbs the professional ladder. He creates heavy sink on his fastball and breezed through the early innings, retiring the first five batters he faced with weak groundballs. Over the course of his seven innings he used his entire four-pitch arsenal. He pitched primarily off of his fastball in the early going and tried to use his slider as his out pitch. The slider has deep diagonal break at 78-81 and shows potential, though it only flashes bite at times and has a long meandering path to the strike zone. His best secondary offering is his changeup, with good tumbling action at 80-82 mph, playing well off of the fastball. He also shows a low-mid-70s curveball. His ability to induce groundballs and change speeds effectively while working ahead with good glove side command makes him a potential mid-rotation left-handed starter, possibly with the ability to handle a large innings workload. While not the sexiest prospect profile, there is a lot of value in it. It’s enough that he’ll most likely land in the third or fourth round. –Todd Gold

Prep Notes

Jack Flaherty, SS/RHP, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, CA)
Scouting Video
Flaherty has one of the most extensive prospect resumes of any player in the 2014 class. His two-way ability has made him a staple on USA Baseball's national teams throughout his prep career and he was a standout over the summer of 2013 at multiple high profile prospect events. His 6.43 60-yard dash time at the PG National Showcase in the Metrodome opened eyes, as did his pitching performance at Harvard-Westlake and the U.S. National Team. While he's shown high-level ability as a two-way prospect as an underclassmen, Flaherty's strides on the mound suggest that his future lies as a right-handed starter. In his opening day start there was a large scouting turnout of 50-plus, including crosscheckers and scouting directors. He touched 92 mph with his fastball in the early going and worked in the 87-90 mph range. His delivery from the third-base side of the rubber features angle and he creates both cut and sink on his fastball. The most advanced pitch in his present arsenal is the slider, which features good shape and late break and is a swing-and-miss offering. He also has a low-70s curveball as a deceptive change-of-pace pitch and a low-80s changeup. Flaherty showed good command and maintained his velocity in his first start of the season, which supports his track record on the mound as a potential starter long term. It was a dominant start to the season with several high-level decision makers on hand, suggesting that he could be in the mix for an early selection with numerous organizations. –Todd Gold

Shane Mardirosian, SS/2B, Martin Luther King (Riverside, CA)
Scouting Video
Mardirosian entered the showcase season as an unknown name, but that quickly changed by summer's end after he showed he can hit against top high schools arms (and velocity) in the country. The Santa Barbara commit began his senior season and showed why some area scouts have been dropping Duston Pedroia comparisons. Mardirosian displayed his clean, simple line-drive swing with quick hands that attack the baseball. But it was on defense where Mardirosian grabbed the eyes of the audience, making several dazzling plays at shortstop in which he showed range, arm strength and strong actions. At shortstop he is a clear early rounder, though his outlook clouds some if he is forced into the rare classification of high school second baseman of interest. –Ronit Shah

Alex Faedo, RHP, Alonso (Tampa, FL)
Scouting Video
Florida Gators commit Alex Faedo made his much-anticipated pitching debut February 28th after being held off the mound through the opening weeks due to a toe injury. Looking understandably rusty, Faedo still managed to top out at 92 while working in the upper 80s out of the pen. His slurvy breaking ball was adequate, sitting around 80 mph with tight spin but inconsistent command. Faedo is a big boy, standing at 6-foot-5 with little superfluous pudge. On the mound, he carried with him a slight air of indifference and didn’t demonstrate much in the way of athleticism. His delivery, and the velocity it produces, is easy, but there remains a fair amount of work to do in polishing the intricacies. During his arm stroke, Faedo cuts off his arm circle, inverting his pitching arm (a la Stephen Strasburg). From speaking with scouts, it isn’t a normal thing for him and seems to be more due to having not pitched recently. He also throws against an overly stiff front leg that weakens his front side and is likely what causes his arm stroke to shorten. Due to having to get over his front side, he was falling off to the first base side, causing his command to be inconsistent. Faedo should regain his dominant stuff with time. These issues shouldn’t effect his high draft stock but they are definitely concerns to keep an eye on. –Steffan Segui

Brad Depperman, RHP, East Lake (Palm Harbor, FL)
Scouting Video
Depperman pitches well above what his North Florida commitment may suggest. Not that UNF isn’t a good school (I went there) but Depperman has somehow remained under the radar despite his good stuff. Depperman is very athletic and fluid in his delivery and repeats it well. He has excellent overall mechanics, staying closed throughout with a high leg lift and a clean arm action at a high three-quarters release point. Depperman can be an inconsistent strider, which causes him to lose angle at times and to not always repeat his release point, hurting his overall command. His breaking pitch is a tight slider with depth and he showed decent feel for a changeup though he didn’t use it much. Overall, Depperman is a bit of an under-the-radar prospect, though scouts have been at all of his starts. He has all the intangibles you want in a high draft pick; he is an intense competitor, his velocity lasts in the low 90s deep in games and he has good offspeed but questions about size and projectability might keep some teams away in the first couple rounds this season. –Steffan Segui

Underclass Notes

Brendan Rodgers, SS, Lake Mary (Lake Mary, FL) (2015)
Rodgers is a top offensive prospect for 2015 and is a sure bet Perfect Game All-American this summer. Bringing all-around ability to the game, Rodgers really has no glaring weaknesses and shows the potential for all his tools to be above average or better. Not real big, (six feet, 180), Rodgers possesses lightning-quick hands that should produce at least average pop in pro ball. Defensively he is smooth and confident, showing excellent hands, a quick first step and apt footwork. Upon first glance Rodgers reminds some of fellow state of Florida draftee Javier Baez, with maybe not quite the power (though who does?) but a better shot to stay at shortstop long term. Like Baez, Rodgers can catch up to any fastball but struggles with slow stuff, though his plate discipline and pitch selection should improve as he matures. Rodgers will be the guy to see in 2015 and will attract dozens of scouts at every game in his senior season. –Steffan Segui

Kyle Tucker, OF, Plant (Tampa, FL) (2015)
Brother of Houston’s Preston Tucker, Kyle has an even better swing with more potential than his big brother. With his easy power, uncanny bat control and an unteachable quick, loose swing, Tucker will be one of the most highly regarded high school bats in 2015. Currently in center field, Tucker will eventually end up in the corners or 1B as his body fills out into his big 6-foot-4 frame. Defensively Tucker has good instincts that allow his average speed to play up in the outfield, and if projections say he can stay in center field longer, he will be an even better prospect next season. His arm is just fringy for pro standards but added strength could push it to average. His bat will always be his calling card and could push him into the elite category next season. –Steffan Segui

Jake Woodford, RHP, Plant (Tampa, FL) (2015)
Among the top high school pitching prospects for the 2015 draft, Woodford is advanced beyond his years and his peers. Woodford pitched a complete game two-hitter vs. rival Alonso on February 28th. He is well built with a big Matt Cain-type frame that could hold another 20 pounds or so. His fastball reaches 92 and sits around 90, with an uptick in velocity still expected. Woodford has excellent overall command of all four of his pitches. His curveball is a tight downer that he keeps down well but which he can also throw for strikes. The slider has a similar shape with a bit more horizontal movement. On the mound, he has a tenacious, attacking presence, with an up-tempo delivery that he is able to repeat well. Woodford has allowed one run in 18 innings this year, striking out 22 and walking only three. –Steffan Segui

Austin Bergner, RHP, West Orange (Winter Garden, FL) (2016)
Bergner would be strongly considered in the first round if he were eligible this June. However, still being a sophomore, that won’t happen for two more years. Bergner is a tall, thin pitcher from the Orlando area. I saw him touch 94 with his fastball and work 89-92 on two different occasions. He also features an excellent curveball that he can throw for strikes and for chase. His delivery is solid, though he can get a bit jumpy at times and get behind the ball. While he is a year older than most class of 16’s, Bergner has a better overall feel than many top 14’s and his command is excellent for his combination of age and stuff. In an outing vs. Lake Mary, Bergner got top 2015 prospect Brendan Rodgers to ground back to the pitcher and strike out swinging on a sharp curveball in the dirt. Overall, Bergner is currently the top high school arm for the 2016 draft due to his present skills and his projectable body. –Steffan Segui

Kyle Twomey, LHP, Southern California (2015)
Twomey is a 6-foot-3, lanky southpaw who could afford to put on more weight, but doesn't necessarily have the frame to carry it. In his Friday night outing against non-conference opponent Houston, the former third round selection in the 2012 amateur draft battled through five innings before coming apart in the sixth. Twomey's fastball sat 89-91 with some arm-side movement, and he showed an ability to command it glove side. However, Twomey could not command the fastball out of the stretch, nor did he have a quality secondary pitch to work with. He paired the fastball with a slow breaking ball that had a slurvey shape in the early innings before becoming more of a loopy offering that hung over the heart of the plate. –Ronit Shah

Nick J. Faleris is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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