Bryan Smith drops by to talk about the first weekend of the college baseball season.
Bryan Smith: Hi everyone, glad to be here after a great weekend of college baseball. It sounds like it was raining almost everywhere, but we got a lot of great games in. If you haven't checked out my Unfiltered post yet, do that, and later today a column I wrote for Sports Illustrated about the best 20 draft-eligible prospects will be up. College and draft questions are certainly going to get preference around here, but I'll talk about anything from the Bulls trade last week to (and let's talk about it) the Oscars last night.
Daniel (De Land): See any college ball this weekend?
Bryan Smith: Sadly, I'm too far north to have caught any action live. Thanks to video, however, at one point on Friday, I was watching video of Preston Guilmet pitch to Gordon Beckham at the same time Tanner Robles was pitching to Pedro Alvarez. Glarious. In case you're curious, Beckham doubled and Alvarez walked, so the hitters won out. Guilmet allowed 4 runs in that first inning after allowing just 34 in 2007.
GrinnellSteve (Grinnell): Will the new roster rules absolutely end walk-ons? Or will it simply hold them down? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
A few years ago one of our high school wide receivers, Jack Whitver, was a walk-on at Iowa State. He became one of their best receivers. It seems like losing possibilities like that is bad, but maybe there are things to counter-balance it.
I'd appreciate your thoughts. Thanks.
Bryan Smith: Great question, Steve. I think every university has, in their history, about 8-10 stories about walk-ons that become valuable role players for their respective sport. I agree with you, the roster restrictions are certainly going to "hold down" walk-ons, and as we've talked about, that will do nothing but expose some pitching depth problems at various universities. Schools have long been dependent on walk-ons to pitch mop-up innings, so believe it or not, they'll miss that. The only good thing is that these kids will likely end up going to different schools where they'll receive more playing time, if maybe a bit worse instruction, and that has the potential to widen the parity in the sport.
colintj (ann arbor): I watched a decent number of Michigan games last year and came to the conclusion that Maloney must be recruiting sinkerballers specifically. They really seemed to focus on having strong defense up the middle and taking advantage of the fact that getting the ball up in the air in the Big Ten is a difficult feat. Any thoughts?
Also, it was my estimation that Putnam is a much better pitching prospect than hitting. Do I have it about right? Where would he go in the draft if he were just a hitter? And how about Recknagel?
Bryan Smith: My thought is that is a very astute observation, Colin. I was privy to some batted ball numbers from the Wolverines last year, and the numbers (and scouting reports) certainly back up what you're saying. Putnam has one of the best sinkers in the nation. Mike Wilson and Michael Powers and even Chris Fetter all show GB-FB numbers well over one. I had a call into Michigan today and I'm hoping to talk to Rich Maloney this week about his first weekend and upcoming trip to Tempe, and I'll absolutely ask him that and report back. I will say that if sinkers are their preference on the recruiting trail, they'll also need to keep getting players like Justin Christian for infield defense.
colintj (ann arbor): Also, it was my estimation that Putnam is a much better pitching prospect than hitting. Do I have it about right? Where would he go in the draft if he were just a hitter? And how about Recknagel?
Bryan Smith: Question was too loaded, I had to split it in two. You're absolutely right, Zach is a much better pitching prospect than a hitter, though he didn't pitch last weekend and certainly his bat led them to a series sweep over Villanova. I hate to speculate where Zach would go without talking to scouts. He'd be a guy that profiled as a right fielder because of arm strength and athleticism, but he only offers gap power. He'd be a bit of a tweener, and to throw a complete guess out there, probably go in the 8-12 round area.
Steve (North Dakota): Bryan, what in the world happened to Brian Matusz this weekend?
Bryan Smith: A couple questions on this. To me, the most concerning thing from Brian Matusz' start were the four walks he allowed in 4.2 innings. I mean, look, some starts the balls are going to find their holes and you're going to allow 8 hits like that. And even a guy like Nick Romero for SDSU, a very good player, will sometimes hit a home run off an All-American like Matusz. But the walks are a problem that we haven't seen much from the polished southpaw. Big weekend ahead for the Torreros as they host a good tournament, so I might try and get a more thorough answer from Rich Hill before my Thursday article.
Steven U (MT): So what'd you learn from the video scouting?
Bryan Smith: I learned that web streamed college baseball is a difficult game to scout. But seriously, IANAS withstanding, I was surprised to see Preston Guilmet was so over the top -- it makes sense he doesn't garner first round interest. Michael Demperio looks like a good transfer for Dave Perno; I like him at the top of the order and in the field. Tanner Robles didn't impress me like I thought he might, the bad angle made it look like he short-arms it a bit, and he didn't have great fastball command. Good curve, though.
James (Lubbock, Texas): Bryan, sorry if you've addressed this in a column and I missed it, but do you have any thoughts on Texas A&M?
Bryan Smith: James, I hit on the Aggies a bit in my Unfiltered post this morning, as well as my February 12 column, but certainly territory we can re-cross. I think Texas A&M really has to show they are going to hit in a world post-Brandon Hicks and Craig Stinson. Stouffer had an awful weekend as the Aggies split a series with lowly Northern Colorado, but he'll come around. It does appear that they are going to pitch a little bit, as Barret Loux looks like a special freshman, and Thebeau, Migl and Rivers all have brilliance in their systems.
Lincoln (Dallas): Haven't checked the box scores yet, how did my man - and future Rangers first baseman - Yonder Alonso do in the opening seires for the Canes?
Bryan Smith: You know what I love, is that for the first time this year, we are seeing the blogosphere start to take ownership of draft prospects. I've seen it from the boys at Future Redbirds, and then this question ... it's just great. As far as Yonder goes, it wasn't a good weekend against Cincinnati. He book-ended a two-hit Saturday with 0-fers on Friday and Sunday. No extra base hits to report. He'll have better weekends. Key from that team was Ryan Jackson, the 'Canes shortstop, who looks to be coming around a bit.
Hubb (Bloomington): What do you make of the hard-fought series my Hoosiers had with LSU, who I know you really liked. They almost won the series, including a big Sunday win.
Bryan Smith: Very nice weekend for Tracy Smith and the Hoosiers, who almost beat the Tigers on Friday and then went ahead and did so on Sunday. The problem for Indiana was just three extra-base hits in 100 at-bats, but really encouraging early returns from Cape standout Josh Phegley. I also talked to Smith last August about Kyle Leiendecker, and he was very enthused, and it looks for good reason. The best player in the series though was clearly LSU's Jordan Brown, who shut down the Hoosiers on Saturday.
Augie (Austin): Where do you think Jordan Danks will go in the draft - assuming he has a year this year along the same lines as last? Who's playing in for the Championship in Omaha?
Bryan Smith: Where does Danks go if he hits .332/.440/.479 again, and continues to allude being thrown out? While scouts would be a bit upset the power still hasn't shown, I can't imagine him not being taken in the Supplemental First, or at worst, the second round. Say what you want about him never fully developing, he absolutely has the ideal leadoff starter set.
rsoripwa (Lowell, MA): Speaking as someone who has seen all the major films out there, how did Juno get so much love. I just don't see it. Has there ever been a worse soundtrack? It sounded like I was listening to a CD made by 3rd graders.
Bryan Smith: As someone who clearly loved" Juno, I have to say that I think it was the best combination of written characters and acted ensemble of the year. I understand the complaints about the soundtrack -- Once was clearly better in that regard -- but I think the movie resonates extremely well. Also, keep in mind this movie plays best to a certain demographic, and is hardly meant to be so divisive.
rawagman (Work): Bryan, Love your insights. Do you plan on doing anything with the Junior College ranks? Are there any players in that realm we should be looking at for this year's draft?
Bryan Smith: I always look to Nevada for the best players, and sure enough, there are a couple good ones this season. Devin Shepherd is a supremely talented outfielder that didn't cut it at Oklahoma, but has first round tools and should go before the end of Round 3. Taylor Cole was supposed to be a great for BYU, but he decided the 2008 draft was too enticing. Both of those guys will go high.
Travis (Napa): What can you tell me about the JUCO transfer that Florida State picked up--Villanueva?
Bryan Smith: He's the Seminole in the unenviable spot to replace Bryan Henry on Friday nights. At his third school in three years, Villanueva wanted a lot of money from Miami-Dade CC last year, and when he didn't, he took FSU's offer to be the top guy. He runs it in the low 90s and shows a good hard slider. Probably a reliever at the next level, but with enough stuff to succeed on Friday nights. Between he and new shortstop Tony Delmonico, a lot of Florida State's success is dependent on new faces.
10graham43 (Indiana): 2 pitchers I have followed, Lance Lynn of Miss, and Tyson Ross Cal....what range will they be drafted?
Bryan Smith: Over at SI.com I'll have an article going up today ranking the top 20 draft-eligible players on the year, and I have Ross at 5 and Lynn at 9. Both pitchers had a fabulous start to their college season, if you excuse the leadoff home run Ross allowed before retiring 15 of the next 16 hitters. Lynn struck out 12 Gophers. Both are big, thick right-handed pitchers that will run it up around 93-94 and show good breaking balls. Ross' change seems a bit more advanced than Lynn's now. Both have first round profiles from where I'm sitting.
Troy Kingery (Grinnell, IA): I was a little disappointed in Iowa dropping 2 of 3 this weekend. Not a good start. What are Iowa's chances of a second straight trip to the Big Ten Tourney?
Bryan Smith: I'm with you, Troy, our Hawkeyes certainly could have started the season better. They should have won that game against Notre Dame, scoring 2 in the top half of the tenth frame before giving it all back in the bottom half. Inexcusable, and then it looks like they were just drained against Liberty on Sunday. Your question is whether they get in the top 6 of the Big Ten? Well, Michigan should be the top team, and I think we're looking at Indiana, Penn State and Ohio State taking down those next 3 slots. You know, I'm betting not. I think Purdue and either Minnesota or Michigan State will outpace a Hawkeyes team that still struggles to pitch.
Izzy (MD): HOW MANY TEAMS DO YOU THINK ARE INTERESTED IN ERIC HOSMER AT THIS POINT? ARE THE O"S ONE OF THEM?
Bryan Smith: Caps, yikes. Every team in the top fifteen will be scouting Hosmer hard this spring, and I can't imagine he makes it out of the top ten. Hosmer is a pure left-handed bat with good power, and one of about two dozen players that I've heard compared to Will Clark that I actually agree with. The Orioles could have a very interesting decision at 4 between two first baseman, Hosmer and Justin Smoak, if they go that route.
Hendo (Silver Spring, Md.): Thanks for the chat. Anyone worth following in the DC area this season?
Bryan Smith: The best college players I can think of are the two good Old Dominion pitchers in Norfolk, Dan Hudson and Anthony Shawler. Hudson is the better pro prospect coming off a Cape Cod League summer where he was showing 93 mph sink on his fastball. But Shawler had the better weekend, striking out 10 Scarlet Knights in 6 innings. Outside of that, your best bet is Maryland's schedule, which has UNC, Clemson, Virginia, and Georgia Tech in town.
patrickc (NYC): Bryan, thanks for the chat. In your unfiltered post today you mentioned that Long Beach State freshman Jake Thompson skipped his senior year of high school a la Robert Stock. What's the logic behind that decision, and do you think we are seeing the beginning of a trend? Is it too soon to guess at Stock's draft prospects?
Bryan Smith: The logic is that you reach the draft a year earlier, and it's probably smarter for pitchers who have that all-too-dangerous injury nexus to worry about. Thompson weighed his options, and he figured that with 3 years of college experience by 20, he'd be better suited to get a big bonus than in 4 months at the end of high school at 18. His start signifies it's a good bet, but if he gets injured in '09 or '10, it won't have been. I do think it could be a trend we start seeing, particularly in California, with high school players on that second tier.
Jake (St. Louis, MO): Bryan, what are your thoughts on the Missouri Tigers this season?
Bryan Smith: Missouri is a very dangerous team with one of the best rotations in college baseball. That group is obviously led by Aaron Crow and Kyle Gibson, potential top ten draft choices in the 2008 and 2009 drafts, respectively. In their first starts this weekend, the two combined for 17 strikeouts and no walks in 11 innings. The key for the Tigers, since they will obviously pitch, is finding consistent offense. I like the middle of that order with Lollis, Senne, Priday and Coleman, but it's a little weak on the periphery. Certainly an Omaha contender.
sockeye (Alaska): Hi Bryan,
Can you shed some light on how players are placed into summer wood bat leagues such as Cape Cod and Alaska leagues? I've gotten to see some pretty good players since moving to Alaska a few years ago, but it's still a mystery as to why I see the players I do. Is this a much-desired invite, or are these guys being dragged up at gunpoint. How does the talent level in the two leagues compare?
Bryan Smith: Well, over the years, universities have developed relationships with summer leagues, and every summer the leagues come back and ask for players. For leagues like the Texas Collegiate and the ones in California, it's about finding players in those neck of the woods. For more historically-capable leagues like Cape Cod and even Alaska, I think players see it as an honor. Back in the day, the Cape used to get the best from the east and Alaska the best from the west. Now, the Cape seems to get the best from everywhere, and Alaska grabs that second-tier talent from the West and, oddly enough, the Ivy League.
siddfynch (Alaska): Related question about summer league: How much to the major league teams scout a remote summer league like Alaska? I know the Cards seem comfortable taking guys from there - Canham (failed to sign), Maiques, and Daley were all taken by the Cards after playing up here. Do the Cards have a scout on hand to follow these guys in June and July?
Bryan Smith: Let's go back to back here. I don't want to say every Major League team covers the Alaska League, but yeah, I could probably say it -- every team spends at least some time there. The Northwest area scout for every team is going to be sent up to Alaska for at least a week or two, but when the league is surveyed and it looks particularly juicy, I'm sure a host of teams will spend even more time up there. I think you picked up on an interesting trend from the Cards, and I'm sure St. Louis scouts the league.
Sun Devil (Scottsdale): You mention Ole Miss as the best team in the nation. What about the Sun Devils? We laid some serious aluminum to OSU and Vandy - two teams that were incredible last year.
Bryan Smith: My friend Chris Krygier out in Tempe asked me this same question after he watched the Sun Devils stomp out three wins over the weekend. But what do we know about ASU that we didn't know Friday morning? That they could hit any kind of pitching? We already knew that. We knew Wallace was a stud, that Paramore is as consistent as it gets, etc etc. But, until Jarvis and Fuller are definitively off that pitching staff, I can't say they have the depth there to be 1. Seth Blair was certainly good, and if he continues that, they'll give the Rebels a run for their money. But once I saw Ole Miss was going to hit like that, they had to be 1 for me.
abernethyj (Chapel Hill, NC): As a UNC alum, should I look forward to being treated with another run to Omaha in 2008 from the Diamond Heels? Any weekend series to look out for other than FSU (which has All-American Buster Posey behind the plate)?
Bryan Smith: The Heels almost made my weekend review, as they went and hit like crazy against Florida Atlantic over the weekend. The leader of the weekend, big surprise, was Dustin Ackley, who hit three home runs and about 40 million other base hits. Kyle Seager also had a very big weekend. I assume you mean home series there, and other than FSU, the two best are NC State (with Eric Surkamp) and Georgia Tech, with big southpaw David Duncan.
Erik (Cedar Rapids, IA): Thanks for the FR mention. We'd like to claim Alonso as our own, assuming he can catch or even play LF. So back off Ranger fans! Seriously, though, Brett Wallace got off to a roaring start...is he playing 3B this year, and can he stick there? Because if so, Future Redbirds will be claiming him next.
Bryan Smith: Mr. Manning with an appearance. What's funny is that our previous Alonso questioner sent me a comment back that maybe he'll jump aboard the Brett Wallace train, too. Let's not be too reactionary, people, Alonso is certainly still the better prospect. Wallace is an absolute butcher at third, but Pat Murphy has some depth issues. He won't stick there, but he's got one of the draft's purest bats since Billy Butler, so there's that.
eric (oakland): do you think A's regret not signing Smoak in 05? upside and ETA of josh horton/corey brown??
Bryan Smith: Yes and no. I mean, go through any team's draft history, and there are a lot of players that teams draft and allow to go to college, and then ultimately regret it. Do the D-Rays wish they had paid $1 million for Andrew Miller out of high school? Yes. How about the Red Sox and Pedro Alvarez? Absolutely. The A's talked about signing Smoak, but he wanted to go to college, and it's hard to get around that. As for those players, I think you're looking at late 2010, early 2011 as an optimistic ETA.
Steve (North Dakota): Bryan it's awesome to see some college baseball again. How do you think the Longhorns will do with their inexperienced staff? And which of their two big name OF's, Kyle Russell and Jordan Danks, do you think will have the better pro career? Thanks.
Bryan Smith: It was absolutely huge for Texas to get Kenn Kasparek back on the mound Sunday. The 6-10 righthander was supposed to be one of the keys last year before needing surgery, and to have him back gives Texas one more experienced arm on a staff that needs them. Between him and Austin Wood, as well as what you're going to get from Riley Boening and new faces Brandon Workman and Casey Whitmer, I like Texas' pitching staff. Of the outfielders, I like Danks better, because I think he has one fantastic leadoff profile. I still can't help but wonder if Russell has what scouts would call an aluminum bat swing.
ricko30 (Toronto): Hey Bryan, I didn't see Dennis Raben's name in any Miami boxscores. Any news there?
Thanks for the chat...
Bryan Smith: Yeah it was strange, Raben blogged for CSTV on Friday about how excited he was for the start of the season. And then he goes and sits out the weekend with a sore back. I'm starting to worry that for as many times as I've written that Raben fits perfectly in right, that maybe physical issues will relegate him to first ultimately. It'd be a shame, too, because he has a cannon.
Dusty (Not Chicago): What kind of years do you see Reid Brignac, Clayton Kershaw and Adam Jones having? Do you see any of them potentially becoming busts?
Bryan Smith: I just hope that Jones plays everyday for the Orioles, and if he does, I think what I envisioned and what PECOTA sees are right in line. Kershaw should start in Double-A and could be a really interesting bullpen option at the end of the year as they look to integrate him in with the big club. I would like Brignac best if he went back to Double-A, but I think he gets the whole year in the minors and hits well. He's probably the one with the most 'bust potential', if you will.
Jon (Philly): Thoughts on who made the best speech from last night? Anything non-winner related to remember from the Oscars?
Bryan Smith: Well we didn't have a streaker, but Gary Busey's attack on Jennifer Garner was pretty damn hilarious. She was so off-put, and clearly angry at Ben for not being there. But who can blame Busey, Garner was back to drop-dead gorgeous last night. As far as the best speech, I appreciate the most genuine ones, so Marion Cotillard and Diablo Cody both gave speeches to remember.
Draft Nut (War Room): Best performances from the weekend that have an effect on this June's draft?
Bryan Smith: Good question, let me run through my list. Tanner Scheppers outing was big as he walks toward the first round, as was Lance Lynn's and Shooter Hunt's. The walks will be important for all three of those. For hitters, Reese Havens had a fantastic weekend, and more like that will really help his stock. Digging a bit deeper, a couple periphery Cape guys, Evan Crawford (Auburn) and Jeremy Bleich (Stanford) both had good weekends.
Frank (Arlington): Thoughts on a couple pitchers as far as projection and potential draft slot; Thompson for Virginia and Friedrich fron Eastern Kentucky.
Bryan Smith: Friedrich had a decent first start, striking out 11 in five innings but still allowing 3 runs against a team with nothing to write home about. Still, I do think he leads the nations in K's this spring. If he shows anything in ways of fastball command and a change, he's about 11-16. As far as Thompson, I've never really been on that train, but the dude just pitches every time he goes out. It's hard to argue with results, and while his scouting reports do nothing for me special, I think he'll go in the 25-45 range.
Jim (Wrigley Field): In 03 when the Cubs were 5 outs from the World Series, it was believed that they had one of the best minor league systems in addition to a pretty good major league team, but within a couple of years both the major league team and the minor league system were in disarray. I know they made the playoffs last year and have a decent chance this year, but have you ever seen another organization fall so far so fast?
Bryan Smith: I feel your pain, Jim, I'm a fellow Cubs fan. I was at the Prior-Maddux start that postseason, and I was heart broken when they didn't win it. But I'm not sure I agree that they've fallen too far -- I mean, what are they, one of about 3 teams likely to win the NL pennant? Obviously the farm system has a ways to go, but Wilken is the right guy in place to do it. And there is a lot of youth on that roster -- Soto, Pie, Hill, Marmol -- from that 2003 minor league system. They've done a nice job, but I'll say this: Ryan Dempster needs to be right.
Deadbeat (Las Vegas): I'm in Vegas, like, right now! Heading to the Sportsbook in a little bit, and I could use some advice...
Bryan Smith: Well, first of all, if you're in Vegas, what the hell are you doing in this chat? Go throw those dice! Put some on the pass line for me. But if you're headed to the sportsbook, check Nate's projected standings first. If I did that, I can tell you that I would like the Tampa over, the St. Louis under, the Mariners under, and maybe the Giants under, depending what they're quoting. And I look $5 on 22 at the roulette table...
Bryan Smith: Sorry guys, but I do have to run. I told Joe Sheehan when he set up the chat that I wanted a quick hour to hit on the college weekend, and we did good, with more than 30 questions answered. I hope to be back longer soon, when we have a little more season to draw from. Have a good week, and I'll be back on BP with a new column Thursday.