As Spring comes to a close and the 2016 draft looms larger than ever, scouts are finishing up evaluations on players and trying to get one last look. One of the most difficult things for them to do is line up their pref list. The pref list is where they rank each player in order of how they would select them in a vacuum. It mainly follows an OFP (Overall Future Potential) number but sometimes a player will be ranked higher on the list because of intangibles or an area scout’s feel on a player. Most clubs take it a step further at the cross-checker level and have them rank their players by position as well. When all is said and done, there will be a master pref list, or big board, and several smaller lists by position. The team will use this list as the draft unfolds and it allows them to keep track of priority guys and trends that are happening within the draft.
The debates between scouts on particular player positioning can be intense, especially when two area scouts or cross-checkers are pit against each other, but eventually the scouting director will make a decision based on his evaluations of the particular players. Last week James Fisher looked at a couple college right-handers in Justin Dunn and Cody Sedlock projected to go off the board somewhere around the end of the first or beginning of the second round. This week we’ll creep north on the draft board to contrast a couple more college righties, Stanford Tommy John convalescent Cal Quantrill and Mississippi State ace Dakota Hudson, both of whom Chris ranked inside his top 25.
Cal Quantrill, RHP, Stanford
The son of former All-Star—yes, I said All-Star—reliever Paul, Quantrill was a well-known name coming out of The Great North, but his strong commitment to Stanford meant that he was going to end up in the Pac-12 rather than in someone’s organization after the 2013 draft. He was good as a freshman followed by flashes of dominance as a sophomore, and if you had asked in March of 2015 who the favorite for top pick in 2016 was, Quantrill would be that guy. Unfortunately, the Tommy John monster is a cruel, unbiased menace, and he hasn’t thrown a pitch in well over a year now. There are rumors that this is due to him having a deal already signed with a club, but they are obviously impossible to verify.
When Quantrill is 100 percent, the stuff has been impressive. He’s not overpowering, but he’ll get his fastball into the mid 90s, and he locates it to all four quadrants. He’ll throw two competent breaking-balls, the best being his curve with excellent spin and good depth. The slider is nothing to sneeze at, either, as it has enough tilt to keep big-league hitters honest. The best offspeed pitch is the change, however, as he has superb feel for the offering and its fade makes it a plus pitch. He doesn’t have elite command, but the delivery is clean, and he should throw more than enough strikes to allow him to stay in the back of a rotation.
Dakota Hudson, RHP, Mississippi State
Hudson drew significant interest as a raw but talented prep arm out of Tennessee in 2013, but well-founded concerns about signability had him plummet to the 36th round, and on to the collegiate ranks he went. He sat in the mid-90s across his first couple outings as a freshman to keep eyebrows raised, but unremarkable results across a handful of starts, followed by a poor sophomore campaign out of the bullpen left him on the back burner heading to the Cape last summer. That’s where he started turning head in earnest, showing significantly better command and allowing just three extra base hits across his 42-plus innings.
I caught him in his third start of the spring, when he battled his fastball command for seven solid-if-unspectacular innings against UCLA. It was an impressive performance, in the sense that his timing was off just so all night and he never really found a groove, but he was still able to battle through and make pitches for most of the night. The arsenal is highlighted by a nasty cutter that’ll touch 90, allowing him to get inside on left-handed hitters and induce ample ground ball contact (or not contact at all) from righties. His fastball showed plus velocity, sitting 92-94 and touching 96, and subsequent reports have had it up a tick from that band at points this spring. It’s a fairly straight heater with just mild run and sink, however, and the fine command in my look wasn’t there, nor did it project as imminent on account of some length to his arm slot and an inconsistent drive with some crossfire. The high-70s curve and 82-85 change both showed plenty of utility, though neither featured more than average projection in a best-case.
There’s some nice raw material to work with for a drafting team, between a relatively deep arsenal, notable arm strength, and a track record of inducing absurd groundball rates and performing well in a tough conference. A baseline projection to the back of a big-league rotation is the starting point.
The end-game draft profile for both guys isn’t all that dissimilar as college arms with no. 4 starter projection that’ll likely cost teams a first-round pick. That Quantrill hasn’t faced live game action in over a year makes him an inherently bigger risk, even if the ultimate ceiling may be a touch higher (assuming full recovery, of course). Hudson offers his own uncertainties around the command development, but the track record and intriguing tool box makes him the preferred pick here.
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