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May 30, 2014

Scouting the Draft

2014 Draft: Center Fielders to Know

by Nick J. Faleris

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Series Links: Catcher | Middle Infield | Corner Infield | Corner Outfield | Right-Handed Pitcher | Left-Handed Pitcher

Full 2014 Draft Video Library

Positional Overview
There’s upside up top but limited second-tier depth at the center field ranks. Derek Hill (Elk Grove (Elk Grove, CA)) is a potential five tool talent, with Monte’ Harrison (Lee’s Summit West (Lee’s Summit, MO)) and Marcus Wilson (JSerra (Los Angeles, CA)) high ceilings out of a less refined package. The collegiate ranks are headed by Bradley Zimmer (San Franciso), who carries with him some lingering questions as to future position but a strong spring performance on the offensive side anchored him to the first round. The San Francisco standout stands almost alone on an early-round island, with Greg Allen (San Diego) the most likely collegian center fielder to share top 100 status once the dust settles.

Michale Gettys (Gainesville (Gainesville, GA)) and Jeren Kendall (Holmen (Holmen, WI)) each continue to struggle with swing-and-miss issues, casting shadows over their draft stock, while Matthew Railey (North Florida Christian (Tallahassee, FL)) and Adam Haseley (The First Academy (Orlando, FL)) saw their stocks rise dramatically over the last four months thanks to loud and productive springs. The mid-single-digit rounds should be peppered with opportunities for upside plays, particularly outside of the top four or five rounds.

Top Players to Know

Derek Hill | OF | Elk Grove (Elk Grove, CA) | Commit: Oregon
Height/Weight:
6-foot-2/175 pounds
B/T: R/R
Draft Day Age: 18y 5m
Projected Slot: Round 1, as high as top half of first
Scouting Video: Video 1 | Video 2

Hill emerged from last year’s Perfect Game National Showcase, the kickoff to the summer showcase circuit, having flashed plus tools in the field and promise with the stick. Almost 12 months later he stands as one of the most exciting prep talents in the class, and perhaps the best overall defenders in recent memory. He glides through the grass utilizing long strides and plus-plus speed, showing a strong ability to close, including off his feet. He breaks well back on balls, and shows good aggression coming in once he has established his line. He’ll continue to grow his game with pro instruction, which could mean plus-plus defense up the middle by the time he reaches the bigs. The arm is a tick above average.

At the plate Hill utilizes minimal load and a compact swing to deliver the barrel with authority, and there is some power developing thanks to above-average bat speed. There is smoothing out to do in the approach, but it is more refinement than rebuild, making reps and general pro instruction potentially all that stands between present Hill and an above-average hit tool at the highest level. The Oregon commit shows good plate coverage and comfort in the box, and while he might not speed through the minors he is a good candidate to make steady developmental progress along the way. Hill has a projectable build and should add good weight as the body matures, projecting to average power. It’s a true potential five tool profile, and were the present offensive skills a little more advanced he would be in the discussion for top-of-the-draft consideration. As it stands he could come off the board in the top half of the first round and is unlikely to drop out of the first 30 picks.

Bradley Zimmer | OF | San Francisco
Height/Weight:
6-foot-4/185 pounds
B/T: L/R
Draft Day Age: 21y 6m
Projected Slot: Round 1, as high as top half of first
Scouting Video: Video 1

Zimmer has had a productive spring in a draft class shy on college bats. That alone would earn him evaluative attention, but the San Francisco standout piled on the good news by showing up at the start of the season with added strength while maintaining the mobility to play a solid center field. This development has at least partially quelled fears that once his broad, projectable build matures he will be forced to right field. Zimmer shows a plus arm that would play well out of the nine spot, but he should get every opportunity to stick in center to start his career.

The offensive profile skews toward the hit tool, with a contact-oriented cut that matches pitch plane well and helps Zimmer utilize the whole field. The drawback is that the swing isn’t really geared to lift, making over-the-fence pop a little harder to get to. Still, the hard contact should produce extra bases to the gaps thanks to above-average speed, and he has a chance to be an above-average producer for the position. While Zimmer has improved his approach this spring, he remains prone to bouts of aggression and can expand the zone as a result (an issue during his time with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team last summer). The skill set is a good fit in the middle of the first round, and could come off the board in the top ten selections.

Monte’ Harrison | OF/3B | Lee’s Summit West (Lee’s Summit, MO) | Commit: Nebraska
Height/Weight:
6-foot-4/180 pounds
B/T: S/R
Draft Day Age: 18y 10m
Projected Slot: Round 1 to First Supplemental, as high as middle of first
Scouting Video: Video 1

Harrison is a multi-sport star with a chance to play both football and baseball at Nebraska if he elects to forgo professional baseball this summer. Harrison hasn’t logged near the number of reps in the box as his contemporaries due to his devotion to three sports, but there is a foundation here for an average hit tool with above-average power thanks to a leveraged swing, quick twitch muscles, and a projectable and athletic build. He keeps a steady head and stays balanced throughout his swing, showing efficient weight transfer and forceful barrel delivery. He has plus straight-line speed but it plays to fringe average out of the box, ramping quickly back up to plus once he’s under way.

Defensively Harrison has the physical tools to fit well in center or right, showing plus-plus arm strength with adequate accuracy, and his speed helps him chase down mistakes. He will need time and instruction in order to improve his reads and routes, but could emerge an average or better defender at either position when all is said and done. There is a lot of upside and a lot of risk in the profile, and there is still some uncertainty as to how strong Harrison’s commitment to Nebraska is. The general consensus seems to be that he’ll be signable on day one, which is where he should be expect to be taken.

Marcus Wilson | OF | JSerra (Los Angeles, CA) | Commit: Arizona State
Height/Weight:
6-foot-3/170 pounds
B/T: R/R
Draft Day Age: 17y 10m
Projected Slot: Round 1 to Round 2, as high as back half of first
Scouting Video: Video 1 | Video 2

Wilson has an unrefined collection of tools, but it’s a collection that could be molded into an impact talent in time. There’s bat speed and excellent plate coverage, and when he is comfortable the swing is loose and whippy, generating hard contact. Wilson can get tight in his upper half, causing choppiness in his swing plane and complicating his barrel delivery. The frame and current build point toward additional mass as he continues to mature, which could help him to average power. He’s a plus runner who will need to improve his lines on the bases and his reads in order for the speed to fully play.

Defensively Wilson is at his best chewing through grass to chase down balls. He utilizes his speed to outrun mistakes at present, and with time could grow into a solid defender in center with enough arm strength to handle throws from the right-center gap. You are buying Wilson on spec, on the upside of a first division centerfielder with plus speed and potentially average tools otherwise across the board. He should come off the board somewhere in the top 50 picks or so.

Matthew Railey | OF | North Florida Christian (Tallahassee, FL) | Commit: Florida State
Height/Weight:
5-foot-11/195 pounds
B/T: L/L
Draft Day Age: 19y 3m
Projected Slot: Round 2 to Round 3, as high as supplemental-first
Scouting Video: Video 1

Railey is incredible compact to contact, utilizing a flat line-drive swing plane to spray hard contact to all fields. While he generates good torque through his core, it isn’t really a ideal swing for over-the-fence pop, making the overall profile that of an average or better hit tool to go with slightly below-average playable power. He has average straight line speed but gets good jumps out of the box, clocking home-to-first times in the 4.07 to 4.14 range from the left side. He could fit well toward the top of the order as a contact-oriented two-hole hitter capable of working the gaps and advancing runners.

The FSU commit isn’t a natural center fielder, but he runs and throws just well enough that he should get an opportunity to stick up the middle, where his bat is a more traditional fit. Railey enjoyed a strong spring from a performance standpoint and evaluators who like his hit tool really like his hit tool. He is a solid target early on day two and has a chance to get popped as high as the supplemental-first round to a team that believes in him as a center fielder, long term.

Michael Gettys | OF/RHP | Gainesville (Gainesville, GA) | Commit: Georgia
Height/Weight:
6-foot-2/205 pounds
B/T: R/R
Draft Day Age: 18y 7m
Projected Slot: Round 2 to Round 3, as high as late first
Scouting Video: Video 1 | Video 2 | Video 3 | Video 4

Gettys might have a higher ceiling than any position player in the draft. The arm is an easy plus-plus weapon, as is the foot speed, and both play in the field, helping him to a plus or better defensive profile in center. He will show plus raw power in batting practice, and can flash that power in game when he squares a ball up. Unfortunately, the Georgia commit has struggled mightily to square much of anything up this spring, and his struggles in the box stretch back to last summer’s scouting circuit, as well, giving evaluators a large sample size of swing-and-miss issues. The raw tools scream impact, but at present the inability to track pitches and find the ball with the barrel .

In the grass Gettys is an advanced defender with plus-plus speed and arm strength, cover both gaps with ease and excelling at coming in hard on the ball. He could be a plus or better defender when all is said and done, helping his aggregate value even if struggles with the bat persist. In the end, however, it’s going to be Gettys contact ability that determines whether he grows into a successful professional. The upside is immense, but there’s also legit risk he could struggle to make it out of Double-A. He could go as high as the late first round but the risk profiles fits better in the second or third.

Greg Allen | OF | San Diego State
Height/Weight:
6-foot-4/170 pounds
B/T: S/R
Draft Day Age: 21y 3m
Projected Slot: Round 3 to Round 5, as high as Round 2
Scouting Video: Video 1

Allen profiles as a fourth outfield type with a chance to carve out an everyday role if the hit tool plays at the highest level. He brings to both sides of the plate a slashing swing that works to slap the ball across the diamond and is capable of some pop to the gaps. He has improved his approach at the plate, but is still is more of a reactive than proactive hitter, and he’ll need to improve his plan at the plate at the next level in order to maximize his on-base potential. He runs well and should bean asset on the bases where he should have value via steal and in taking the extra base when available.

The glove is average to a tick above and Allen has enough arm to play all three outfield positions, though he would be stretched some in right. If the bat develops he could peak as a top-of-the-order on-base threat that provides above-average defense in center. His fallback is that of a fourth outfielder with value as a switch hitter and pinch runner. The depth of the class is likely to push him down the board a little more than the profile would generally merit, making him a likely third or fourth round target that could get popped as high as the second round to a team buying into the stick.

Jeren Kendall | OF | Holmen (Holmen, WI) | Commit: Vanderbilt
Height/Weight:
5-foot-10/175 pounds
B/T: L/R
Draft Day Age: 18y 4m
Projected Slot: Round 3 to Round 5, as high as Round 2
Scouting Video: Video 1 | Video 2

The Vandy commit has often struggled to utilize his athletic toolset in-game, showing inconsistently throughout the summer and fall. He underwhelmed at the highly scouted Prep Baseball Report Super 60 this February, and the late Wisconsin baseball season left little opportunity for evaluators to put eyes on the Vandy commit this spring. Kendall has flashed a traditional top-of-the-order toolset periodically, including during a single game performance at the Area Code Games last August wherein he reached base via infield hit and quickly stole his way to third, then followed up with a HBP and another stolen base. His swing comes with some bat speed and a flat line-drive plane that can produce hard contact, but he is passive in the box and hasn’t shown an ability to track spin.

The profile fits well in center field thanks to plus speed, solid reads and a solid average arm. Teams will be put in a tough position since there isn’t tons of positive track record to work with, and a perceived strong Vandy commit could mean that there isn’t room for the Badger Stater high enough on the board to buy him away from Coach Corbin and the ‘Dores. He’s a third to fifth rounder who could re-enter the draft in 2017 as top 30 type talent with further development in Nashville.

Lane Thomas | OF | Bearden (Knoxville, TN) | Commit: Tennessee
Height/Weight:
6-foot-1/180 pounds
B/T: R/R
Draft Day Age: 18y 10m
Projected Slot: Round 3 to Round 5, as high as late second
Scouting Video: Video 1

Thomas features a solid build and a compact stroke that can combine to produce power to the pull side and hard contact from the middle to pull when he gets extended. He is still learning to let the ball travel on the outer half, but shows enough feel you could project average power and an average hit tool with further development. He can get tripped up by good spin, but shows an ability to handle velocity. Lane moves well on the bases and is a heady runner capable of exploiting opportunities when they arise.

He does an adequate job in the outfield where his plus speed and above-average arm play well. Like most high school defenders he will need to improve his reads off the bat and his routes, and some scouts would like to see what he can do on the dirt where his agility and arm could play across the diamond. It’s an intriguing profile with checkered performance on the showcase circuit and with USA Baseball’s gold medal winning 18U club last September, making him a fair target outside of the top 100 picks with an off chance someone reaches for him as high as the late second round.

Adam Haseley | OF | The First Academy (Orlando, FL) | Commit: Virginia
Height/Weight:
6-foot-2/180 pounds
B/T: L/L
Draft Day Age: 18y 2m
Projected Slot: Round 4 to Round 6, as high as Round 3
Scouting Video: Video 1

Haseley entered the spring as a two-way talent who seemed to have a more promising pro future on the bump. After a strong showing early this spring with the bat, culminating in a 5-for-12 performance at the highly scouted USA Baseball National High School Invitational (including a triple, three walks, and two stolen bases), Haseley may have raised his positional profile high enough to garner signing round attention as a center fielder. He brings a short stroke to battle that emphasizes contact out front and a weight shift that can get him a little too far front of center. While his hand-eye coordination and barrel control is enough to overcome those hurdles at the high school ranks, he’ll likely need to clean up the swing mechanics some in order to tackle more advanced arms.

The UVA commit is an easy plus runner who is comfortable in the outfield and shows plenty of arm strength to stick in center field, long term. The wild card here is his commitment to Virginia, with Coach O’Connor notorious for hanging on to his signees. There’s enough developmental work remaining that Haseley may not get popped high enough to buy him out of Charlottesville, where he could develop along the lines of current Cav early round hopeful Mike Papi, who also exited high school as a two-way talent with a UVA commitment, high level barreling skills, and an overall unrefined skill set.

Quick Hits

Dale Carey (OF, Miami)
Scouting Video:
N/A
Carey led the Hurricanes in hitting this spring with a .313 average while posting a .402 on-base percentage and drawing 25 walks in just over 275 plate appearances. There is swing-and-miss to his game, and he’s unrefined on the bases, limiting the utility of his speed. But he offers advanced glovework in center and there is lots of athleticism for a dev staff to work with. The profile is top-10-round caliber, and his status as a senior should draw lots of attention from teams looking to save bonus money outside of the top five rounds in an effort to grab some over-slot talent that slips.

Elliot Cary (OF, Clackamas (Clackamas, OR)) | Commit: Oregon State
Scouting Video:
N/A
Believed to have a strong commitment to Oregon State, Cary represents a projectable upside play for teams looking to utilize extra bonus allotment to roll the dice on a multi-faceted profile that could top out as a table-setting center fielder with value on the basepaths. He boasts a loose swing that works well through the hit zone, and a likewise loose approach that will need to be tightened to maximize utility at the next level. While he’s going to add muscle as he fills in his frame, power is unlikely to be a huge part of his game, and he fits best as a contact-oriented bat capable of working the gaps and lines for extra bases. He was the speed, arm, and feel to continue in center at the collegiate and professional ranks.

Carl Chester (OF, Lake Brantley (Altamonte Springs, FL)) | Commit: Miami
Scouting Video:
Video 1
Chester is a burner with a center field profile highlighted by gap-to-gap range and solid reads off the bat. At the plate there’s significant tilt in the barrel, adding length to his swing path. Further complicating contact is an inconsistent weight transfer and backside that often pushes him into an uphill plane, limiting the barrel’s time in the zone. He’s a developmental project who could garner attention somewhere in the mid-single digit rounds if he is signable in that range.

Reese Cooley (OF, Fleming Island (Orange Park, FL) | Commit: Chipola
Scouting Video:
Video 1
Cooley is a plus runner and thrower who produces highly volatile results at the plate. He has bat speed to work with, but loads late entering his stride and has trouble getting his hands started from a consistent launch point. The swing path is generally solid, but he isn’t consistent through his checkpoints, which negatively impacts his contact ability. When he does barrel the ball, the contact is solid, and it’s easy to dream on what a more consistent swing could do for him. Cooley could slot in somewhere between round four and 10 thanks to his raw tools.

Austin Cousino (OF, Kentucky)
Scouting Video:
Video 1 | Video 2 | Video 3
It wasn’t an overly production spring for Cousino at the plate, as he struggled to make consistent contact and all but abandoned any semblance of approach as the season wore on. When right, the USA Baseball alum utilizes a line-drive approach that allows him to put his speed to work, and he’s an asset once on base, capable of gaining bags via steals or through good reads on balls in play. He defends well in center and should have no issue holding down the position at the pro ranks. He should fit somewhere in the single digit rounds, but there’s a non-zero chance he could drop further if teams think he’s a risk to return to Lexington to try and up his stock.

Brandon Downes (OF, Virginia)
Scouting Video:
Video 1
Downes started strong this spring, including a two home run performance against one of the top arms in the country, East Carolina’s Jeff Hoffman. As the Wahoos entered conference play, however, Downes got roughed up both physically and metaphorically, struggling with minor injuries and an unraveling approach. As noted here after the East Carolina series, Downes keeps a decent path through the zone and will flash pop in his barrel, but his hands can lag and he can struggle with timing—something that advanced arms will be able to more easily exploit. He’s a mid-single digit target who could still go as high as the fourth round if a team buys into the bat, which carries 50/50 hit/power upside. There are no questions about the glove, which should be an asset up-the-middle.

Danny Mars (OF, Chipola) | Commit: Arizona
Scouting Video:
N/A
Mars enjoyed a solid spring for the top ranked Indians, slashing .380/.460/.584 and generally showing a nose for hard contact at the plate. While he swiped 25 bases, those bags came at a cost, as the center fielder was gunned down 10 times in the process. He has missed a fair amount of developmental time due to an ankle injury last season, putting him a little behind schedule when it comes to approach, and he’ll need to work to slow the game down some in the box and on the bases as he progresses at the next level. His productive spring could put him on the radar in the top 10 rounds, and perhaps as early as the mid-single digits.

Zachary Sullivan (OF, C-P Post East (Corning, NY)) | Commit: Stony Brook
Scouting Video:
Video 1
Sullivan will flash pull-side power out of a leveraged swing that produces backspin and carry. There’s additional room in the frame to hang more muscle, and an argument can be made for plus raw pop by the time he’s done filling in. He is still quite raw in his approach and struggles with both spin and velocity, though that is not uncommon with cold weather high school bats, and supporters believe the hit tool will come along as he gets more regular exposure to advanced arms. He fits in the fifth to 10th round.

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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