Eyes on Austin Bergner, Brendan Rodgers, Matt Imhof, Michael Conforto and other draft prospects.
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.
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We put eyes on Alex Blandino, Casey Gillaspie, Bradley Zimmer, and other amateurs of interest for this year's draft.
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.
One of the top collegiate arms squared off with one of the nation's best squads last weekend; here are eyewitness accounts of players who stood out.
I was down in Charlottesville this weekend for the highly anticipated matchup between Virginia and East Carolina, featuring one of the top arms in the draft class, Jeff Hoffman (East Carolina), and one of the deepest teams in the country in UVA. While there were plenty of 2014 draft eligibles on display, Virginia’s impact talent stretches to the 2015 and 2016 classes, as well. We’ll have some additional notes on ECU players, as well as further collegiate and prep updates, in next Monday’s extended Draft Ten Pack.
Player Spotlight: Jeff Hoffman (RHP, East Carolina)
The Phillies and the NCAA do a college player wrong, and only the player suffers.
Last June the Philadelphia Phillies used their fifth- and sixth-round draft picks to select Pac 10 talents Ben Wetzler (LHP, Oregon State) and Jason Monda (OF, Washington State), ultimately failing to sign each. Earlier this week Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt broke the news that last fall the Phillies turned in both Wetzler and Monda to the NCAA, claiming that both violated NCAA regulations that prevent an amateur player from using an agent to negotiate a contract on the player’s behalf. Violation of those regulations has the potential to negate the player’s NCAA eligibility. Monda has since been cleared to play, while Wetzler sits on the sidelines with his case still under review.
USA Baseball arms (including Carlos Rodon) and Florida High School updates.
Last Friday marked the beginning of the baseball season for the vast majority of collegiate programs (junior colleges have been in action since Feb. 1st), and it was an eventful opening weekend for a number of high-interest USA Collegiate National Team alums. The draft’s presumptive leader for 1-1 honors, Carlos Rodon, (LHP, NC State), had a less-than-stellar opener, while a quartet of his Team USA rotation-mates found varying levels of success in their respective starts. Down in the Sunshine State, high school ball is underway and we have notes on five arms and their early season starts.
Carlos Rodon, LHP, NC State Scouting Video
It was a disappointing start all around for NC State ace Rodon. After weather-related issues bumped State’s opener from Friday in Southern California to Sunday in Raleigh, the lefty took the mound without his usual overpowering arsenal. Rodon sat as low as 89-90 mph and generally 90-92, several ticks shy of his usual comfort zone, while struggling to command the pitch to his typical ability. His power breaker, normally the go-to pitch in his repertoire, was unresponsive, and with his fastball velocity down Canisius was able to succeed with a choke-and-poke approach, taking advantage of Rodon’s bouts of wildness and a flat NC State defense. The final line was a ho-hum six innings pitched, four hits, three runs (one earned), and one walk allowed, with six strikeouts and three batsmen hit by pitches. While Sunday’s performance was less than ideal, Rodon’s track record, and the fact that he has more than three months’ worth of starts before draft day, lessen the blow for evaluators. He gets Appalachian State next weekend. –Nick J. Faleris
As part of Baseball Prospectus’ increased draft coverage in 2014, we are excited to introduce an addition to the “Ten Pack” series: the MLB Draft Edition. Each Tuesday we will touch on 10 draft-eligible players, sometimes a few more, with a combination of stock updates, scouting notes, and video. This week we open the series with scouting notes from three of the top prep winter showcases, each taking place annually in early February. I was in attendance at the Prep Baseball Super 60, which focuses on some of the top Midwest talent at the high school ranks. Our partners at Perfect Game had Todd Gold in attendance at the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau’s SoCal Invitational, and David Rawnsley in Cedar Rapids for the Perfect Game Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase.
Simeon Lucas, C, Grant Community (Fox Lake, IL) Scouting Video Lucas continues to see his stock rise, as he carried his momentum from the fall to his Super 60 workout on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday. He produced consistent loud contact through batting practice, launching several balls on a line to the net hanging a couple hundred feet away, giving scouts more of what they have come to expect from the offense-minded backstop. Where we saw a step forward, however, was behind the plate, where Lucas’ pop times hovered around 2.00 throughout his catch-and-throw workout, while he simultaneously demonstrated improved footwork both to second and on his block and back-pick drills. While catching bullpen sessions for the pitchers, Lucas drew a couple of arms that regularly buried their breaking balls, which turned out to be a blessing. Scouts walked away generally impressed with his lateral movements and blocking. The jury is still out, but the Super 60 was another good day for Lucas from a draft stock standpoint. –Nick J. Faleris
Position at a Glance This is one of the most important cross-sections of talent in any draft class. The top players, and certainly the top athletes, in high school programs tend to gravitate towards shortstop, where they can more regularly impact the game. Because of the difficulty associated with the position at the Major League level, it is not uncommon for these high school standouts to shift to a less demanding defensive home at some point during their pro development, making the high school middle infield group the incubator for a wide variety of Major League talent types. It is no wonder pro teams have gotten more aggressive in signing up-the-middle defenders out of high school over the last decade, and this year appears to offer MLB organizations a wide and varied collection through which to shop.
Introducing Scouting the Draft: Positional Preview Series
As the start of the amateur baseball season draws near, we will be rolling out a twelve part preview series that introduces many of the key names in play for the 2014 MLB Draft. The series will cover both the high school and collegiate levels, in each case with one piece devoted to the catchers, middle infielders, corner infielders, outfielders, right-handed pitchers, and left-handed pitchers. Yesterday we kicked things off with a look at the high school catchers, touching on twenty total players and providing some thoughts and video on each.
The Positional Preview Series will serve as our mechanism to catch you up with anything you might have missed on the amateur circuit since last June's MLB Draft. While not all encompassing, they should provide a helpful "CliffsNotes" style summary of the big names to know as of the start of the spring season. These twelve pieces will prepare you for the four months of amateur action leading up to June's draft, while also setting the stage for the remainder of our draft coverage to come.
In-depth looks at the prep catchers you'll be paying attention to this June.
Position at a Glance Evaluating and projecting out high school catchers is a difficult task, with high developmental attrition rates stemming from the fact that the hit tool and catcher defense are two of the most difficult skills to grow and refine at the professional level. The most sought-after talents within this cross section are those players who have elite present ability with either the hit tool or defense, with the holy grail being that unique player capable of stepping into a minor-league system and thriving defensively while also projecting out with the bat. This year’s crop boasts an elite talent in Alex Jackson, as well as a number of players who could step into that top tier with a little further growth this spring.