After our Day 1 recap and Part 1 of the event wrap for the Scouting the Draft series, which focused on the arms of the PG National Showcase, part two takes a look at the positional talent in the draft.
Well-Rounded Prep Class
Overall, the 2014 class is much deeper than 2013, with multiple first-round candidates emerging at the up-the-middle skill positions, and in particular at catcher, shortstop, and center field. While the focus will likely be on these high-value defensive positions, there is also a fair amount of corner talent, capable of growing into usable pop at the pro ranks.
Derek Hill | OF | Elk Grove HS (Elk Grove, CA)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-1/175 pounds
Draft Day Age: 18 years, 5 months (12/30/1995)
Hill had one of the best overall events of any prospect in recent memory, showing top-shelf speed, an intriguing offensive profile, a high level of comfort in center field, and good in-game production at the plate, on the bases, and in the field (including this incredible catch to the right-center gap). His official 6.44 60-yard dash time was good for fifth-best at the event, and the speed plays in game both on the bases and in center.
At the plate, Hill is intriguing, offering a quick and compact swing with minimal load and length, but enough bat speed to drive the ball. He also boasts a “jail break” finish that allows him to get out the box incredibly quickly. The profile is a traditional top-of-the-order bat with a chance to impact the game at the plate and on the bases. He put together multiple solid at-bats in his three games, culminating in a hard-struck triple to center field off a 93 mph fastball from Nick Gordon (SS/RHP, Olympia HS (Orlando, FL)) on the inner half.
Hill is a legitimate four-tool talent with enough bat speed to potentially tease out his playable power to average. He should be one of the closest-watched players over the next five months, and with a couple more loud events could find himself squarely in first-round territory come next spring—no small feat considering the depth and quality of this draft class.
Four More Standouts
Alex Jackson | C/3B/OF | Rancho Bernardo HS (San Diego, CA)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2/210 pounds
Draft Day Age: 18 years, 5 months (12/25/1995)
Jackson was a national name entering the event, and he quickly reminded everyone why during morning/afternoon workouts on Day 1. Jackson boasted the top official registered velocity behind the plate, and the fourth-best from right field. He showed a quick transfer during pop drills, clocking in at 1.77 to 1.88 with good accuracy and a low, level line.
At the plate, Jackson is a potential impact power bat, showing plus to plus-plus raw power produced through big strength and leverage. There is length to his swing through a deep load, which can make in-game utility a bit hit-and-miss against the more advanced arms. He shows a solid approach, however, including an ability to shorten up when behind and work for a pitch he can handle. The Oregon commit currently leads what appears to be another deep crop of catchers, and has the athleticism to fit in at an infield or outfield corner should a drafting team wish to put the bat on a fast track.
Braxton Davidson | OF/1B | TC Roberson HS (Asheville, NC)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-3/215 pounds
Draft Day Age: 17 years, 11 months (6/18/1996)
Though his home runs lack the majesty of some of the other elite power bats at the prep ranks, Davidson probably has the most usable power in the class at this point, given his powerful core and trunk, compact swing, above-average bat speed, and natural loft. He gets to his power with little effort and shows an ability to produce .50-cal contact both in-game and during BP. The approach currently lags behind the simple and efficient mechanics, but that appears to be an issue with reps rather than feel.
Defensively, Davidson moves well enough to hold down an outfield corner, and has more than enough arm strength to handle right field. He is a below-average runner (and well below-average out of the box), but moves well enough underway not to be a detriment on the bases. Davidson looks like one of the top bats in the class, with the raw materials to produce premium power, and the mechanics to develop into an above-average hit tool with a more refined approach.
Gregory Deichmann | SS/3B | Brother Martin HS (New Orleans, LA)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2/180 pounds
Draft Day Age: 19 years, 0 month (5/31/1995)
A projectable middle infielder with upside on both sides of the ball, Deichmann is emerging as one of the most interesting talents in the prep ranks. At the plate, the LSU commit utilizes a simple load and barrel delivery, using his hips well and producing hard contact in-game. Deichmann was responsible for two of the hardest-hit balls of the event—a long double rocketed off of the 408 sign in straight-away center field and a long foul ball launched into the upper deck of the Metrodome, but yanked 15 to 20 feet foul.
Defensively, Deichmann shows solid actions up the middle, with adequate arm strength and good accuracy out of a quick transfer and release. He should fit easily as a shortstop at the collegiate level and shows enough comfort at present to project as a possible fit at the position at the pro ranks.
Jack Flaherty | SS/3B/RHP | Harvard-Westlake Sch. (Studio City, CA)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-4/205 pounds
Draft Day Age: 18 years, 7 months (10/15/1995)
Flaherty is five-tool shortstop with early first-round potential. His official 6.37 60-yard time during the morning on Day 1 was good for third overall at the event, and he showed an easy and accurate arm from short later in workouts. His glove was better showcased in game action, where he displayed an ability to move well in and up the middle from the shortstop position, but also showed some comfort at both second base and third as players were shuffled around. He had no trouble making the necessary throws from multiple angles.
Offensively, Flaherty is an intriguing mixture of leverage and bat speed, showing some length from barrel to contact, but more than making up for it with bat speed and a knack for finding the ball with the barrel. He squared up multiple balls in game action, including a hard double over the shortstop’s head and into the gap, and looked comfortable in the box throughout the weekend. It is a deep class for shortstops, and Flaherty currently figures to fit in comfortably toward the top.
Fifteen Additional Follows: Quick Hits
Nick Gordon (SS/RHP, Olympia HS (Orlando, FL)) entered the event as one of the class’ top talents at the plate, in the field, and on the mound. He left the event in very much the same place, showing well in all three facets. Defensively, Gordon shines through effortless actions, top-shelf arm strength, and an ability to finish plays across his field zone and then some. He currently flashes pull-side pop, but where he will make his money is working gap to gap. He showed a little more length to his swing over the course of the event than in the past, though some of that may have simply been an effort to add a little leverage and show a little more pop in front of the large scouting contingent. Scouting Video Here
Chase Vallot (C, St. Thomas More (Lafayette, LA)) won the Rawlings Home Run Challenge on Saturday night, but he had carved out a spot on follow lists well before that. The Mississippi State commit opened his showcase with a solid catch-and-throw showing during workouts, popping 1.88 to 2.01, and followed up with a loud BP. Vallot shows a balanced swing with a good, clean load and a combination of leverage and bat speed that produces loud, hard contact on the regular. 2014 looks to be another solid year for backstops, and Vallot has established himself as one of the best in the class. Scouting Video Here
Liam Sabino (SS, Blair Academy (Blairstown, NJ)) has established himself as the early favorite to be the first name off the board from the Keystone State come next June, showing offensive potential out of a middle-infield profile. The Vandy commit fires his hips well and produced lots of hard contact both during workouts and in-game, including a triple to the opposite-field gap in which he allowed a low-velocity fastball to travel on the outer half before squaring it up. Defensively, Sabino could fit as a shortstop at the collegiate ranks, though his range could be tested. If he has to move, second base is the most likely destination. Scouting Video Here
Kainoa Harrison (C/CIF, Punahou HS (Honolulu, HI)) is a highly interesting prospect behind the dish, with adequate catch-and-throw skills at present and the foundation for an above-average offensive profile for the position. He popped in the 1.94 to 2.06 range during workouts with clean form (no “half-crouch” cheating) and showed very well in games, gunning down a runner on the final day of the event and generally showing good feel behind the plate. There are some tweaks to his swing mechanics that could help him produce a little more power down the road, and right now his compact barrel delivery and line-drive plane play well. He was a bit overmatched by some good arms on Day 4 and Day 5, but there is a lot to like here. Harrison is committed to Oregon State. Scouting Video Here
Kel Johnson (OF/1B, Homeschooled (Palmetto, GA)) is another player who made a name for himself well before arriving in Minneapolis. His in-game showings were spotty, but the workout was loud, highlighted by big arm strength out of right field and some leverage and hard squares once he warmed up during his BP cycle. He will be limited to an outfield corner due to foot speed and overall feel, which should further the likelihood of Hunter Pence comps being dropped on him at some point this summer (if they haven’t already). Johnson didn’t take over the event, but he continues to show a projectable power bat that should grow into a pole-to-pole threat. He is committed to Georgia Tech. Scouting Video Here
Tim Susnara (C/OF, St. Francis HS (Mountain View, CA)) first opened eyes during catcher workouts, popping to second between 1.82 and 1.94 seconds, primarily off of his pure arm strength and accuracy, and in spite of some length on his arm swing and transfer. At the plate, Susnara works best up the middle and to the oppo gap, showing an ability to let the ball travel without sacrificing leverage. His upper and lower half can get out of sync, and there is work to be done cleaning up his fluidity, but the Oregon commit is an interesting blend of catch-and-throw and offensive upside. Scouting Video Here
D.J. Peters (OF/1B, Glendora HS (Glendora, CA)) enjoyed a loud offensive weekend, routinely squaring up the ball while seeking out fastballs and handling solid velocity. He stays balanced through his swing and creates good leverage out of a large, but projectable, frame. He projects to plus playable power as he continues to add strength, and his approach and mechanics could provide an adequate base for a solid hit tool as well. In addition to his in-game and workout performances, Peters finished second in Saturday night’s Rawlings Home Run Challenge. Scouting Video Here
Bryce Carter (C/OF, Cascia Hall Prep. (Tulsa, OK)) is one of the top offensive catchers in the class at this juncture, with a strong build, simple load, good leverage, and natural loft combining to produce easy power both to pull and to the opposite gap. He shows a good feel for the barrel and had little issue finding the ball in-game, including a very hard pull-side home run on Day 4 off of an 86 mph fastball, middle-out. Carter is still a work in progress behind the dish but shows a strong enough foundation to continue his progress there at the collegiate ranks, or early in his pro career. Should he shift out from behind home, his most logical landing spot is first base, despite some comfort in the outfield (due to well below-average straight-line speed and light arm strength for right field), and his bat projects to play across those potential destinations. Scouting Video Here
Ti’quan Forbes (SS, Columbia Academy (Columbia, MS)) didn’t wow in batting practice or during workouts, though he showed good bat speed and some raw pop. Once the games started for his Royal club, however, the Ole Miss recruit was in his element, utilizing a loose and easy swing to spray the ball up the middle and to the opposite field. Defensively, he moves well and should get every chance to stick at short due to his athletic actions. Should his arm force him off of the six spot, he would fit in easily at either second base of center field, with the ability to grow into an above-average defender at either spot. Scouting Video Here
Grayson Byrd (SS/RHP, Kings Ridge Christian (Alpharetta, GA)) stood out during BP as one of the most disciplined cycles at the event, starting by working the ball to the opposite field, moving up the middle, then letting the barrel fly on a couple before reining in and completing his session with a “hit it where it is” approach. The swing is leveraged, and the barrel comes on a clean path to contact, giving him a chance to hit for average and a little bit of power as he continues to refine. Defensively, Byrd has an easy left side arm, and his feet work well to get him in position and to set-up his throws. He has a shot to stick at short, and could otherwise fit at either the hot corner or the keystone, depending on team need. Like Deichmann, he is committed to LSU. Scouting Video Here
Slade Heggen (C/OF, Loyola Sacred Heart HS (Missoula, MT)) doesn’t have the showcase experience of many of the other kids at the event, but he looked right at home amongst the country’s top high school talent. The lone talent on display from the Treasure State, Heggen showed well in workouts before putting together three solid game performances. The swing is compact and geared to producing line drives. There is some smoothing out required, particularly in transitioning from load to swing.
While Heggen moves well behind the plate, his catch-and-throw game lags due to inconsistencies in his transfer and release (leading to lots of bounces into the bag), and there is some question as to whether he has the requisite frame and build to shoulder a full pro season behind the dish. He’s an average runner who could hold down a corner-outfield spot should he need to shift out from catcher. Scouting Video Here
Denz’l Chapman (OF, Serra HS (Los Angeles, CA)) turned in one of the best 60 times at the event (3.31 official—second only to Carl Chester (OF, Lake Brantley HS (Longwood, FL)). The switch-hitter can get out in front at the plate, but when he stays back he can produce some pop. He has an easy center-field profile with plenty of glove, speed, arm, and feel to fit at the eight spot, long-term. Scouting Video Here
Handsome Monica (C, St. Paul’s Sch. (Covington, LA)), aside from having an 80 name, Monica showed a loud stick and solid defensive profile throughout the weekend. The swing is a short barrel delivery powered by a strong core. A good competitor on the field, Monica maintains a laid-back demeanor on the field that can border on overly relaxed—he likes to keep it light. One of the more entertaining exchanges of the event came when Monica had his bat sawed off on the first pitch of an AB, and then proceeded to stare down the pitcher for a good ten seconds after the fact. He popped 1.87 to 1.95 during workouts and profiles as an average defender with a chance for an above-average bat. Scouting Video Here
Zach Shannon (OF/RHP, Anderson HS (Cincinnati, OH)) showed good pop during workouts and replicated that showing in three of his in-game at-bats (two resulting in loud outs and the third resulting in a two-bagger). The Ohio State commit is a below-average runner but comes with premium arm strength out of right field and the chance to produce some in-game pop. There is some cleanup to be done to the swing, including getting rid of the leak in his hips and helping to make uniform the starting point for his swing and load. Shannon also pitches, and reached 94 mph on the mound during the event while mixing in a solid breaking ball. Scouting Video Here
Michael Gettys (RHP/OF, Gainesville HS (Gainesville, GA)) is a burner with a center-field profile and elite arm strength to boot. After running an impressive 6.43 60-yard dash and showing off an arm in right field that reached triple digits on the official Perfect Game USA gun, there was little question Gettys could affect the game on the defensive side of things. He broadened his weapons base by breaking off a sub-4.0 home-to-first time on Day 1, and was generally a pest throughout the weekend. At the plate, his bat gets in and out of the zone quickly with little plane overlap, but there is also above-average raw pop due to the violence in his swing. Gettys is a true two-way talent whose exploits on the bump were captured in Part 1 of this series. Scouting Video Here
Perfect Game USA provides their Top Prospect list from the event, with notes on 50-plus of the top players in Minneapolis.
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.