In conversations with coaches in the Cape Cod League, you learn one thing quickly: they factor in age immediately upon evaluating players. All of them know the freshman from the sophomores, and with that, the teenagers get slack for any flaw. Where a sophomore is punished for “giving away at-bats against southpaws,” a freshman with the same mistakes “will probably figure it out eventually.”
In writing my previous rankings of the Cape Cod League, I decided to focus only on players eligible for the 2008 draft. These players entered the Cape under the bigger microscope, faced bigger demands, and will be bigger names all of next spring. In my opinion, I thought BP readers might find it more valuable to read about a guy like Beemer Weems, a mid-round shortstop who could enter the first round if he shows enough offensive potential in the spring, rather than a freshman 22 months from the first round.
However, I recognize some of you are still interested in the players that are looking like potential high choices in the 2009 draft. While most of the top players in the 2008 class played on Team USA this summer, the Cape offered the nation’s best freshman, with the exception of Team USA pitchers Mike Minor and Ryan Berry and catcher Tommy Medica. Below are, through my conversations with the league’s coaches, the top five Cape Cod League prospects for the 2009 draft.
1. Kyle Gibson, rhp, Missouri (Falmouth)
Missouri coach Tim Jamieson thought enough of Kyle Gibson to use him as the Tigers closer as a freshman, but after allowing just six earned runs in eight starts this summer, it’s clearly apparent his future is on the mound. The key push forward for Gibson this summer was the progression of his change-up, an impossible pitch to pick up with late-breaking action. Like most prep players, Gibson’s change lagged behind in high school, but he worked hard on the pitch in Falmouth. Gibson also draws praise for a clean delivery, projectable frame and very good command of his developing high 80s fastball. The next step for Gibson is adding 15 pounds and five mph, and if he does, he’ll be the first pitcher drafted in 2009.
2. Grant Green, ss, USC (Yarmouth-Dennis)
Seniority often rules in the Cape Cod League, and when the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox got commitments from both Gordon Beckham and Grant Green for this summer, they knew Beckham would spend most of the summer at shortstop. It was one of Beckham’s final chances to prove he could stay at the position in the long-term, while Green would have many more chances to re-affirm the belief that he was a shortstop. In just 15 games at the position it was clear that while Green is large for the middle infield, he should likely remain a shortstop in professional baseball. As such, Green’s offensive potential means so much more, as his developing power is a large asset at the position. Green shows potential for all five tools, and if he can cut down on his strikeout numbers in his final two seasons, he should be the highest Trojan drafted since Mark Prior.
3. Robert Stock, c, USC (Cotuit)
Stock is the Cape’s most unique player in years; he’ll turn 18 in November, making him 2.5 years younger than the average player in the league. Stock may have been a first round pick in June out of high school, but he made a conscious decision to forego his senior season and join Chad Kreuter at USC a year early. Having an accomplished veteran catcher as a coach was a blessing for Stock, because while he always had the athleticism and arm (he’s a talented pitcher) to succeed at the position, his defensive skills were very raw. The year did well for Stock, who offers a good pop time but allows too many passed balls by sitting on his heels behind the plate. Offensively Stock has a really high ceiling, with above-average power potential, good contact skills, and horrendous plate discipline.
4. Andy Oliver, lhp, Oklahoma State (Wareham)
Oliver didn’t pitch much for the Cowboys in the spring as he struggled with command, but in the summer, Oliver proved to be the freshman class’ second-best southpaw, behind Team USA ace Mike Minor. At different times, Oliver showed coaches three plus pitches, and with refinement, they believe the offerings will wreak havoc on hitters. The problem is that on any given day, Oliver might lose command of his low 90s fastball, struggle to find the strike zone with his big curve, or lose feel for his out-pitch change. Oliver has very good mechanics and extension, so coaches believe with more innings, Oliver will find the consistency to become a top 2009 arm.
5. Cole Figueroa, ss, Florida (Harwich)
Perhaps, in my talk with Cape coaches, Cole Figueroa was the group’s favorite player in the league. All agreed that his upside wasn’t equal to those ranked above him, but his make-up and present ability are light years ahead of his contemporaries. From a baseball standpoint, Figueroa gets great points for his ability to repeat his swing and never give up at-bats. The two, combined with his hand-eye potential, give Figueroa the freshman class’ best plate coverage. However, Cole doesn’t have fantastic power potential, as coaches believe he will be a leadoff hitter at the next level. Figueroa might be able to stay at shortstop but could be a better fit at second base, and if you’re like me, you are probably reading this scouting report with the image of Russ Adams in the back of your head.
The Next Ten
Alex White, rhp, UNC: A little tired after a long spring, but White showed polish and stuff all summer.
Kendal Volz, rhp, Baylor: Projectable right-hander with good sink on fastball and putaway curve.
Sean Ochinko, c/1b, LSU: Won’t work behind plate, but could lead nation in HRs in 2009.
Curtis Dupart, of, Georgia Tech: Terribly raw, with a swing far too long, but has all five tools in game.
Blake Dean, of, LSU: A nice left-handed swing with good bat control, and a good outfielder.
Charles Brewer, rhp, UCLA: Randy Johnson throwing-mate very polished with movement.
Josh Phegley, c, Indiana: Horrible spring offset by fantastic pop times and developing power.
Preston Claiborne, rhp, Tulane: Too emotional on mound, but has big fastball-curve combo.
Garrett Richards, rhp, Oklahoma: Big reliever touched 96 with fastball, all else a mess.
Ryan Jackson, ss, Miami: Only slightly less disappointing than fellow blue-chipper D. Dickerson.