As part of Perfect Game's partnership with Baseball Prospectus, David Rawnsley, Todd Gold and Patrick Ebert will be conducting a “Before They Were Pros” series, providing select scouting reports on some of the top prospects in baseball from when they were in high school attending PG events. This six-part series (one for each division in MLB) will appear once Baseball Prospectus has provided their own detailed scouting reports of the top prospects, team-by-team, as part of their “Prospects Will Break Your Heart” series.
We start with a look at the American League West. Be sure to read Baseball Prospectus' features on each of the five teams:
Carlos Correa – SS
The first Perfect Game event that dynamic shortstop Carlos Correa attended was the 2010 16u BCS Finals held in late July in Fort Myers, Fla. Fort Myers served as Correa's home away from home the next few years, as he returned five more times, the last of which was his incredibly impressive performance at the 2012 World Showcase. In 2011, Correa was the first Puerto Rican named to the Perfect Game All-American Classic, prior to becoming the highest-drafted Puerto Rican ever when the Astros took him no. 1 overall in 2012.
While Correa's tools were always evident, including his large, modern-day shortstop build, smooth, gliding infield actions, strong arm and budding power potential, he firmly put himself in the conversation for the no. 1 pick in the draft with that performance. He set an event record by throwing 97 mph across the infield, took one of the more impressive rounds of batting practice, and looked even better in game situations against elite pitching.
In his first at-bat of the event, Correa showed the ability to pull his hands in and drive a 93 mph fastball out of the hand of fellow Puerto Rican J.O. Berrios and drove the pitch hard over the left fielder's head for a double. In his second at-bat, against hard-throwing left-hander Anthony Siese, Correa drove an upper-80s fastball over the wall in left-center field for a booming home run. Not only were his bat speed, strength, and leverage already evident, but his pitching recognition and ability to make adjustments against high-level pitching were even more impressive.
Here is his PG report from that showing:
Outstanding athletic build, inevitable comparisons with Alex Rodriguez at same age. Unparalleled infield arm strength, PG record 97 mph in drills, does it with game actions and footwork, smooth quick soft hands, could work through ball more aggressively but doesn't need to with arm strength. Big improvement with bat, showed plus leverage and bat speed, long loose extension, back spins the ball with plus carry, consistent hard contact, can make swing adjustments and pull hands in but wants to extend. Huge BP and game home runs to left-center field.
The biggest question at the time involved his eventual position. Although he always displayed deft infield actions at the shortstop position, his body size and type led to questions about whether or not he would have to move to third base, where he would have more than enough arm strength and power potential to fit the mold at the hot corner. However, that was and continues to be a long-range conversation and not something that will need to be addressed at any point in the near future. —Patrick Ebert
Mark Appel – RHP
Mark Appel's arm strength has always been evident, and he showed encouraging development in a seven-month span when his fastball velocity spiked from 87 mph at the National Underclass Showcase late in 2007 to 92 mph at the National Showcase in June of 2008.
At the National, Appel showed the full three-pitch repertoire that continues to serve as the foundation of his current arsenal. In addition to his fastball, he threw an upper-70s slider and low-80s changeup. A good overall athlete, Appel also offered some promise as an outfielder, where he displayed his usual strong arm to go along with good foot speed and the ability to drive the ball when he squared it up.
Here is his scouting report from the National Showcase:
Appel has a very good pitchers build and uses a 3/4 arm slot and touched 92 with his fastball. He can easily throw 90 and has good arm speed. His fastball also has good life. He compliments his fastball with a 78mph slider that works, 82 mph change and also threw a 85 mph cutter. He projects well and showed athleticism by running a 6.94 sixty. He keeps improving each time we see him and will be interesting to follow over the next year. He is also an outstanding student.
After being selected by the Tigers in the 15th round of the 2009 draft, Appel opted to honor his commitment to Stanford where his stuff continued to improve. His statistical performance didn't reflect his dominant stuff until his junior year in college when he truly found comfort changing speeds between his fastball, which now sat in the 93-97 range peaking a few ticks higher, a biting mid-80s slider and a polished fading changeup. His fastball can flatten out at times and can be hittable despite the gaudy velocity readings, but he routinely displayed the stuff, in addition to the prototypical size and stature, to develop in a future staff ace at the big-league level. —Patrick Ebert
Mike Foltynewicz – RHP
Before to the start of his junior campaign at Minooka High School in the southwestern suburbs of Chicago, Foltynewicz put himself on the radar 15 months prior to the 2010 draft by showing a lot of potential at the 2009 PG Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase. He topped out at 90 mph and showed bite on his curveball in that outing, earning himself an invitation to the PG National Showcase. The Illinois native showed consistent development through the spring of his high school season, seeing his fastball velocity climb occasionally into the mid-90s, and while he wasn’t able to consistently show a reliable breaking ball, he did flash elite potential with it frequently enough for scouts to project it to become a plus offering over time.
The following February (2010) Foltynewicz returned to the PG Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase where his fastball velocity showed a significant uptick in velocity. Here's his report from that event:
Pro profile build, good overall strength, some physical maturity. Outstanding power arm, comes through fast and clean, hip turn delivery, gets plenty of power from lower half, does tend to occ drift to the plate and leave FB up. FB to 94 mph, lots of 93/94's, gets late hard running action even at 94, flashed power CB with sharpness, big 11/5 shape, inconsistent release this date, change also had good deception and running action. Potential first round pick, keeps improving. Signed with Texas.
In hindsight his commitment to Texas wasn’t a huge factor to his draft stock, as he went on to become a first round pick. But as a relatively late bloomer, he didn’t firmly establish himself as a first round candidate until the spring of his senior season and prior to that development there was some uncertainty about whether he’d pass on the Longhorns if he were to last until the second or third round.
Foltynewicz is the kind of story that scouts really enjoy watching unfold. He went from a potential D-I recruit to a solid draft prospect before working his way into first round prospect status through a steady rate of development over time. —Todd Gold
Lance McCullers – RHP
McCullers appearance on the mound on the final day of the 2011 National Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla. was enough reason for scouts to stick around for the entire four-day event. He flashed his usual incredible arm strength that day, with his first two pitches recording 97 mph and his third hitting 98. He also showed the ability to snap off a very nasty curveball that peaked at 86 mph while mixing in a handful of low-80s changeups.
Pitching in the mid-90s is something McCullers did with great regularity at numerous PG showcase and tournament events, and he also offered pro-level promise as an infielder, matching his fastball by throwing 98 mph across the infield—even if a few crop-hops were included—while showing good power potential from the left side of the batter's box.
Here's his report from the National Showcase:
Solid athletic body, good present strength. Full delivery, long loose arm action, outstanding arm speed, high 3/4s release point, some effort on release, good downhill angle. Elite level fastball velocity, 94-98 mph, lots of 96-97's, fastball mostly straight. Threw better curveball/change up in warm ups, humps up and tries to be too nasty in games. Curveball shows plus/plus power and spin at times, nice change up with sink when in the zone. Potential for 3 plus/plus pitches. Very athletic, would be a definite top 3 round pick strictly as a shortstop/third baseman, left handed hitter with present bat speed, good extension, power approach. Special arm.
Although McCullers' arm strength certainly was never in question, there was a lingering starter vs. closer debate since everything he threw he threw hard and his aggressive approach made some believe he may be better suited finishing games where he wouldn't have to worry about pacing himself. That said, he also showed the ability to paint the corners with his fastball and effectively changed speeds between his three pitches.
McCullers sat at or near the top of the class of 2012 rankings for quite some time during his high school career, and started the 2011 Perfect Game All-American Classic for the East squad, where he peaked at 96 mph. —Patrick Ebert
Taijuan Walker – RHP
Taijuan Walker was best known athletically in high school initially as a top level basketball player with Division I potential. His early high school baseball experience was playing shortstop beside future first round pick and current Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Matt Davidson at Yuciapa High School in Southern California, where Davidson was a year ahead of Walker.
Walker's first exposure as a pitcher on the national scouting stage didn't occur until the summer before his senior year, when he appeared at the 2009 16u BCS Finals and the WWBA 17u National Championship. Here are the Perfect Game scouting notes from the 16u BCS Finals:
Projectable 6-4, 190, very lean and rangy. Some actions at SS but bat is far away. Showed mid-high-80s on the mound, might be his better spot. D-I prospect, pro follow as pitcher.
But Walker's big event when he created a buzz and sense of urgency to catch up on rapidly improving righthander was in Jupiter at the 2009 WWBA World Championship in late October. Performing as only a pitcher with the Southeast Texas Sun Devils, Walker sat steadily in the 91-93 mph range with a 77 mph curveball in front of a huge crowd of scouts. The PG scout notes from that day read as follows:
Long arm action, arm speed, arm works, 11-5 CB, bite on CB, live arm, high leg kick, some down plane, extension, nice shape CB, FB explodes, balanced, maintained velo well, very projectable, quick arm, lower 1/2 opens a little early, good arm speed, going to throw hard, no drive w/ legs, 12-6 sharp CB, good feet on move to 1st, CB could be plus pitch.
Walker continued to improve his velocity during the spring of his senior season, topping out regularly at 95-96 mph, although he never showed quite the consistency and quality with his curveball that scouts wanted to see. That, and Walker's relative inexperience on the mound, were the reasons he slid to the Mariners at the 43rd-overall pick in the 2010 draft. —David Rawnsley
Edwin Diaz – RHP
Built long and loose with broad shoulders and a high waist, it was easy to dream on Puerto Rican right-hander Edwin Diaz. His first PG event was the 2010 16u BCS Finals in which he played for the same team as Carlos Correa. He was listed at 6-foot-2, 165 pounds and peaked at 87 mph with his fastball.
Diaz was part of the same Puerto Rican draft class as the aforementioned Correa as well as Jose Berrios and Jesmuel Valentin, all of whom were selected among the top 100 picks in the 2012 draft. All four also attended the 2011 National Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla., with Diaz making a favorable impression by taking significant step forward.
At the National, Diaz threw easily and steadily in the low 90s, peaking at 92 mph, while mixing in two solid off-speed pitches in his mid-70s curve and low-80s change. Similar to Correa, Diaz' stuff took another step up just seven months later at the 2013 World Showcase, peaking at 94 mph and seeing a similar uptick in velocity on his secondaries. Here's the PG report on Diaz from the World Showcase:
Slender build, long arms and legs, loose whippy actions. Busy delivery with big leg raise, hands over head, extended mid 3/4's to 3/4's release point, works downhill at times. Very inconsistent front side/front leg position, will cruise for 4-5 pitches, then lose it completely for 2-3 pitches. Dominant fastball, sits at 93 mph, touched 94 mph, very good run down in the zone, could throw harder with strength. Flashes tight spin on curveball, proper shape and velocity, throws CB for strikes, CB has improved considerably. Rare change up shows quality, nice run and arm speed. Can be first round talent with improved consistency, has the pitches, arm strength and projection.
As noted in that report, Diaz did have some mechanical issues that needed to be addressed, none of which were believed to be of concern, which was easy to overlook given his arm speed and how easily he threw, not to mention his seemingly endless growth potential. Reports continued to surface from the island later that spring that Diaz' velocity had continued to improve, with some indicating he had thrown as hard as 97 mph on more than one occasion. —Patrick Ebert
Tyler Marlette – C
The Baseball Prospectus report written by Jason Parks contains several phrases about Marlette that are very telling, insightful, and accurate, because they go beyond what you would normally expect to find in a minor-league prospect report on a 20-year-old Midwest League catcher.
Comes from a highly competitive amateur background…lauded work ethic and makeup…Scouts seem to like Marlette, dating back to his amateur days when his power was turning heads on the showcase circuit…his makeup and competitive background offer hope when it comes to his defensive development behind the plate.
Jason gets that the analysis of a top young prospect should go beyond just what he's done since signing a professional contract. The information is out there, especially with a high-profile player such as Marlette.
After reading Baseball Prospectus' report on Marlette, Jered Goodwin, who coached the Florida native both at Hagerty High School near Orlando during the spring and for FTB Mizuno during the summer and fall, responded to these by comments by saying quite simply, “Wow, that’s awesome!” There is no one in baseball who knows Marlette better than Goodwin does.
Marlette appeared in more than 20 Perfect Game tournaments and showcases between the 2008 BCS 18u Finals and the 2011 World Showcase, highlighted by his MVP performance in the 2010 Perfect Game All-American Classic. During this time Marlette would regularly and very consistently post the best pop times. His best in drills was a 1.72-second throw, and drill throws in the 1.7s were commonplace. His throws in between innings were almost always in the 1.8 to 1.9 range and his game throws between 1.9 and 2.0. His reputation was such that he didn’t have much opportunity to throw in games.
While there are many other things that go into evaluating catchers defensively, some of them much more important, it’s worth recognizing that Marlette had—and still has—almost the perfect combination of physical traits to get the ball down to second base quickly. He’s generously listed at 5-foot-11, giving him short levers and compact actions. He’s a quick-twitch athlete who has run in the 6.8-second range in the sixty. And he has plus raw arm strength, regularly registering in the mid 80s on his throws to second base. It’s the same combination of physical tools that Pudge Rodriguez had in his prime.
But even more than his catch-and-throw ability, Marlette was known for his surprising power. As noted, he wasn’t a physical presence on the field, but he was a middle-of-the-order power hitter with strength, raw bat speed and a very aggressive approach at the plate. When Marlette launched a two-run no doubt home run to left-center field at San Diego’s spacious Petco Park in the 2010 All-American Classic, no one at Perfect Game was especially surprised.
But in the end, Marlette’s lasting trademark was that he epitomized the intense, highly competitive red head. It’s a matter of lore in the scouting industry that many old-time scouts steer clear of red heads, and maybe that’s why Marlette surprisingly lasted until the fifth round of the 2011 draft (It didn’t seem to affect Clint Frazier last year, on the other hand). Marlette always played the game at the high school level like someone told him he couldn’t do something and he was out to prove that he could. One presumes that he still does today professionally. —David Rawnsley
Kaleb Cowart – 3B
If Perfect Game had a Hall of Fame for achievements related to PG events, Kaleb Cowart would find his way into it very quickly.
The Georgia native participated in his first event in 2006 just after leaving eighth grade and celebrating his 14th birthday. He was listed at 6-foot-1, 165-pounds at the 2006 National Underclass Showcase and is undoubtedly one of the youngest participants ever in that prestigious event. And not only did he play well, he stood out both as a shortstop and as a pitcher. Here’s the report from that event.
He has a tall, lean young frame that could really fill out and get strong as he gets older. Cowart has very good two-way prospect tools and was named to the showcase Top Prospect Team. As a position player, Cowart had middle infield athleticism and very, very good arm strength for his age. He can make plays in both directions and has a live, flexible body. His hands work and he has a quick exchange and release. His 7.34 speed will improve with age and strength and he looks like the type of athlete who will be able to play all over the field. Cowart is a switch-hitter who is more advanced with better bat speed right now from the right side. He has good rhythm and a crisp, quick swing right handed. His left handed swing is longer but shows promise, as the bat speed and balance are there. Despite his position/hitting tools, Cowart might be a better pitching prospect. He has an athletic, easy delivery with good arm speed and a mature ability to repeat his release point. His fastball was up to 86 mph and he pounded his riding fastball inside to right handed hitters. Cowart threw both a curveball and slider and both were good pitches. His slider had very good spin and 2-plane tilt, while his curveball had 12/6 dower break. He also showed a change up. Cowart has the pitches and mechanics in place as a pitcher, it's just a matter of getting stronger. Right now Cowart is one of the top 2010 players in the country and he should just keep getting better.
Cowart would go on to play in 26 Perfect Game tournament and showcase events, mostly for the East Cobb Astros, and eventually ended up as the No. 2 ranked prospect in the 2010 class rankings just prior to the draft.
There is one notable thing from that report on the 14-year old Cowart above that was an issue all the way through his high school development and even was a factor in the Angels decision to pick him with the 18th overall pick in the draft. It lies in the sentence “Despite his position/hitting tools, Cowart might be a better pitching prospect.”
Cowart always was a primary infielder for East Cobb and pitched primarily as a closer, often seemingly reluctantly. But he had a special arm and couldn’t hide it. He was topping out at 94 mph on the mound as early as his sophomore year and eventually threw even harder, topping out at 95 mph at the 2009 Perfect Game All-American Classic. Cowart took drills in the outfield at one showcase, even though he didn't play the position, and threw 100 mph. He played absurdly deep defensively at third base when there was no threat of a bunt because that long throw wasn’t a challenge for him.
It was widely circulated before the 2010 draft that Cowart wouldn’t consider signing with a team that wanted him as a primary pitcher and would instead honor his commitment to Florida State instead, as he also shined the classroom.
It’s also notable that the report written after the 2009 National Showcase, where Cowart was listed as a primary infielder, discusses his pitching first and leaves his hitting ability for last.
Loose athletic build, good strength potential. Top two way potential. Fast easy arm, loose athletic actions on the mound. Long powerful arm stroke, FB 90-92 this outing, often 94-95 in recent past. Hard spinning CB with very good depth, good 2 plane shape, developing change up. Outstanding defensive infielder, quick feet, athletic movements/balance, cannon arm. Switch-hitter, very good bat speed RH'd, ball jumps hard, long and smooth LH'd, shows power both ways, 6.84 runner. Ethan Martin comp but better overall athlete. Early draft prospect. Very good student, verbal to Florida State.
It was always clear to the Perfect Game scouts that Cowart’s biggest challenge moving on in his baseball career was going to be to develop as a hitter, but his athleticism and tools are just as obvious. —David Rawnsley
Randal Grichuk – OF
While Houston area native Randal Grichuk will always be known as the high school outfielder that the Angels took just before Mike Trout in the 2009 draft, the selection actually made sense in the context of the time that the decision was made. Trout was a late bloomer in high school, especially with the bat, and New Jersey had an especially cold and rainy spring that year, making it difficult for cross-checkers and scouting directors to get a thorough read on him. Trout wasn’t an unknown by any means, but there wasn’t much surety on him.
Grichuk, on the other hand, had been putting up eye opening home run numbers in the Houston area since he was in Little League. He was the dominant performer on the 2007 Team USA 16u National Team—which included players such as Nick Franklin, A.J. Cole, Matt Davidson, and Zach Lee—and he hit .563-3-6 in six games. He played in Jupiter twice with the Houston Heat and won the 2009 International High School Power Showcase, blasting 20 home runs overall. In his senior year in high school, Grichuk hit .613-21-46.
The ball made a different sound when it came off Grichuk’s bat at that age, it just exploded. It wasn’t a classic or even pretty swing by any means, he hit down to the ball in an almost exaggerated way and didn’t have the lift and extension out front that one normally sees in power hitters. He just overpowered the ball with strength and bat speed.
Grichuk was also a 6.85 runner and regularly ran in the 4.2 to 4.3-second range to first base from the right side of the batter's box. He was considered a plus makeup young man with a plus motor on the field.
Here are the notes on Grichuk from the 2008 Area Code Games:
Strong kid, quick hands, live body look, kind of stiff at ball, level to almost downward swing, hits bombs, 420' to LCF off 90 mph FB, can flat hit, very hard contact, ball explodes, will fish at outside CBs, one of the best hitters in the 2009 class. Arm is marginal, likely LF future. —David Rawnsley
Every year a handful of top international prospects make it to the States to play in select Perfect Game events and further showcase themselves to the scouting community. In 2009, young Venezuelan infielders Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas were among them. Each played at the 2009 Perfect Game National Showcase and Odor stayed around to play in the WWBA 17u and 18u National Championships as well.
Sardinas had turned 17 years old in May and his age fit squarely into the 2010 draft class he was playing with at the Metrodome. Odor was eight months younger, though, and would have been a member of the 2011 class if he attended a high school in the United States.
Despite the age difference, Odor was clearly the more polished player at the time both offensively and defensively. His lefthanded bat and his overall skills stood out more than his athleticism. Here is the report filed after the National Showcase:
Left handed hitter, straight stance, good balance, busy hands, simple swing approach, good bat speed, smooth extension out front, line drive plane, squares it up well, hard contact, gap power. Smooth and easy infield actions, quick first step, works through the ball well, charges aggressively, good arm strength with carry, footwork still developing. Nice looking young athlete with skills.
The PG scout notes from the 17u and 18u National Championships were just as enthusiastic:
Can really play defense, strong arm, great actions at SS, aggressive hitter, quick hands, some pop, good balance and patience, big prospect if he gets stronger
Sardinas had a very slender and physically immature build at 6-foot, 150-pounds. He ran a 6.83 60-yard dash and had a slashing swing from the left side that got him out of the box quickly enough to run a 3.96-second home-to-first time. His right-handed swing had more strength to it at that time, although his highlight of the showcase might have been squarely lining a 95 mph fastball from Jameson Taillon up the middle for a hit.
Sardinas’ easy middle infield actions also stood out. Here is his report from the National:
Very lean, loose build. Very easy infield actions, glides effortlessly, very loose sure hands, quick release charging, arm strength presently short. Switch-hitter, busy load, run and slash swing, short to ball, good extension out front, handles the bat head, quick out of box, battled hard vs. Jameson Taillon.
In retrospect, and looking at just their showings in the United States, Odor looked like the better prospect at the time. He wasn’t the defender at shortstop that Sardinas was, but he still was a middle infield athlete with skills. His bat however, was better than Sardinas', and he had a quiet maturity to his game that was easy to notice. Sardinas had the build and athleticism to project and dream on but had further to go despite being the older player.
At the time the Rangers clearly thought Sardinas the better prospect and signed him for a $1.5 million bonus. Odor signed his first professional contract for a relatively modest $425,000. Both look like very sound investments today. —David Rawnsley
Nick Williams – OF
Following his sophomore season at Galveston Ball High School in the Houston area, Williams burst onto the national scene during the summer of 2010. It was one of the loudest debuts in WWBA history, and included a four homer game, a key home run in the semifinals and MVP honors at the 16u National Championship. His electric tools across the board caused Williams to soar as high as the no. 2 position in the PG Class of 2012 rankings entering the summer of 2011. He wasn't quite as productive during his senior season, in which he hit one home run and tallied nine extra-base hits.
While these developments scared away some organizations, there is an adage regarding player makeup that the most difficult thing to do in scouting is to walk away from talent. A lot of teams did just that with Williams. But other scouts saw his willingness to use the whole field as evidence of a high offensive IQ. Despite having obvious top of the first round physical tools, his stock was quite cloudy as the 2012 draft approached. In PG’s Texas state draft preview, David Rawnsley highlighted Williams as the state’s biggest wild card, writing:
Williams’ raw physical tools and overall athletic profile have drawn comparisons to some of the most-talented baseball players of this generation, including Ken Griffey Jr., but his play this spring has rarely reflected his tools. Given his immense talent he still could be taken in the first or second round by a team that has done its homework and isn't willing to let his talent slide past them, but his eventual draft position remains up in the air.
That high risk, high reward profile aligned perfectly with the goals of the Texas Rangers in that draft, and they snagged him in the second round along with slugging third baseman Joey Gallo. It was a noisy pick that served as an exclamation point for an ultra-aggressive draft approach by the Rangers in 2012. That draft strategy has a chance to pay major dividends and Williams is arguably the strongest bet in the system for those rewards to manifest. —Todd Gold
Joey Gallo – 3B
Power has come easily for Gallo throughout his baseball career, setting numerous records at the high school level and frequently providing tape measure shots at notable, national events. The biggest of such hits came at the 2011 Perfect Game All-American Classic, where Gallo stroked a 92 mph fastball out of the hand of current Atlanta Braves farmhand Lucas Sims to right-center field, a 442-foot shot that still stands as the 10th-longest home run ever hit at Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres.
With a 6-foot-5, 220-pound build, he generated that power easily with an easy and free swing generating great bat speed and leverage to drive the ball with authority to all parks of the ballpark.
That easy power was also on display at the 2011 National Showcase in which every ball he hit during batting practice was hit high in the air to a different part of the park. The length in his swing due to his size has always been evident, as those that watched him play in high school knew that high strikeout totals would also come with his desire to hit the long ball, but he also displays a keen eye at the plate and is able to work pitchers deep into counts, which also will allow him to reach base at a high rate.
One aspect of Gallo's game at the time was just how good he was as a pitcher. In addition to his incredible power potential, he offered a first-round arm, with the ability to sit in the low-to-mid-90s fastball—which approached triple digits during his senior year at national powerhouse Bishop Gorman High School – while dropping in a hammer of a curveball.
Here's Gallo's report from the 2011 National Showcase, where he played on the same team as other notable prospects including Addison Russell, Lance McCullers and current Florida State star quarterback, Jameis Winston:
Large well proportioned athletic build, very good present strength. Smooth and polished defensive actions, soft hands, charges well, good balance, outstanding arm strength, accurate on line lasers. Left handed hitter, extraordinary strength and leverage, light tower power in batting practice, 100 mph + off the bat in games even when not squared, lets the ball travel deep, hands can be late at times and pull barrel through zone, can be beat by well placed velocity at present. Also pitches, easy leg raise delivery, extended 3/4's release point with good angle. Fastball 92-94 mph, good hard run/bore at times, throws strikes with his fastball, nice change up with fading action, tends to get under curveball, shows polish on the mound considering inexperience. Huge tools, very high ceiling talent, scouts split on 3B vs. RHP future. —Patrick Ebert
Addison Russell – SS
Russell established himself as a prominent prospect in the 2012 class at an early age. After a strong tournament debut following his freshman year of high school, Russell turned heads at the 2009 PG Southeast Underclass Showcase. His report from that event reads:
Broad shouldered, high waisted build, very athletic. Outstanding bat speed for age, quick hands, no problem with 90 mph velo, aggressive swing, good balance and rhythm, extends through contact, potential to be a top level hitter. 6.75 runner, plays faster on field, excellent range at shortstop, quick release, arm strength good now with more to come. Plays the game hard. Chance to be a special player. Good student.
He built off of that showing and remained among the most well known and scrutinized prospects in the 2012 class throughout his prep career. But by the end of his junior season, Russell began to develop the kind of physicality you’d expect from a football prospect. With that physical change, he lost a bit of his range and began to be viewed as a future third baseman by a lot of scouts. While he was a standout defender at third, his prospect profile value remained higher as a shortstop, where his power potential was considered a plus-plus attribute. In PG’s draft focus feature on Russell David Rawnsley wrote:
Russell has changed physically since (2009) but the tools and potential remain. His broad shoulders have filled out and he was a rock solid 210 pounds last summer. That extra strength and mass has cost him a step of quickness and raised the inevitable questions about his future defensive position. Most scouts have consigned him to third base in the near future…If Russell can remain quick and lean enough to stay at shortstop, his offensive potential is a huge asset. A right handed hitter, Russell has the strength and bat speed to overpower the ball when he gets his arms extended and is an intelligent and mature hitter who is advanced at looking for the pitch he wants during an at bat and jumping on it.
Heading into his senior year, Russell refocused his training and converted himself back into the physical mold of a prototypical shortstop. During the spring of his senior season he began to show the high level ability at shortstop that had been instrumental in vaulting him to the top of the class a few years prior. As a result, as he climbed back towards the top of draft boards, eventually being selected 11th overall by the A’s. —Todd Gold
Michael Choice – OF
When you think of Michael Choice, you think of the big, strong power hitting outfielder who was the 10th pick in the 2010 draft after a dominant college career at Texas-Arlington. That present impression is nowhere close to what Choice, a native of the Dallas area, left after the 2006 Southeast Top Showcase in Atlanta prior to his senior year in high school.
First, Choice was listed at 6-foot-1, 180-pounds. However, there are many references in the notes from the event that say he was closer to 195 pounds, with a thick, muscular lower half. He is listed today on MLB.com at 6-foot, 215-pounds.
Most intriguingly, though, Choice came to the event as a primary second baseman, secondary pitcher. He played some shortstop in the games as well and threw 83-87 mph with a big sweeping curveball off the mound. Here are his fielding notes from the event:
Listed as 2B, has 3B tools and look. More like 195, strong lower half/hips. Very good arm strength, quick actions. Actually a C type build and arm strength. Athletic actions, very good game arm strength.
The full report that was published afterwards shows some other nuggets of Choice’s potential for growth, although in retrospect his PG Grade of 8.5 should have been a 9. It mentions that Choice had an exaggerated no stride/no trigger, still bat approach, and if he could make adjustments he had a high ceiling as a hitter. It also mentioned his plus makeup and energy on the field, which is always a big plus in projecting talent.
Mike Choice is a 2007 2B/P with a 6'1'', 180 lb. frame from Arlington TX, who attends Mansfield Timberview HS. He has a strong, loose body, especially in his lower half, and looks bigger than his listed 180 pounds. Choice listed himself as a primary 2B but that's probably the last position we would considered him at. Choice is a 7.02 runner who showed very good arm strength in drills and during the games from shortstop. As an infielder Choice profiles at third base but if you'd had no background and just saw him and his tools on the field you'd think he should be catching. He has athletic actions at any position. Offensively, Choice hits out of an exaggerated pre-load, no stride approach, which doesn't do him any favors. He manages to generate very good bat speed and stays on the plane of the ball for a long time, with nice extension out front. The ball jumps off his bat and he has quick, strong hands. Give Choice a trigger and some rhythm to the ball and he could really develop. To show he had the full package of tools, Choice also took the mound and threw a very heavy 83-87 mph fastball with a big sweeping 72 mph curveball and a very nice changeup, all from a rather raw delivery. Overall, Choice has a strong set of tools and once he defines his position and batting style a bit better, has a very high ceiling. He played hard and really enjoyed himself on the field.
If Choice becomes a future standout big league outfielder, remember that he was a pretty decent high school second baseman. —David Rawnsley
Bobby Wahl – RHP
Wahl was already throwing in the low-90s by his junior year in high school, and peaked at 92 mph at the 2009 National Showcase. Given his athletic 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame and easy, repeatable delivery it was obvious at the time that it was only a matter of time before he was throwing in the mid-90s with greater regularity.
It was also obvious that the biggest thing holding Wahl back was improving the consistency of the break on his breaking pitches as well as the command of his changeup. He flashed the ability to do so, so similar to him throwing in the mid-90s it seemed as though it would be only a matter of time, with more experience, that he would do so.
Here's his report from the National Showcase:
Long and slender build, projects physically. Nice delivery, throws under control, fast loose arm, good direction, repeats well. Primary FB pitcher, topped at 92 mph, can see mid-90s in future, tries to spot FB. Limited present feel for off speed, CB/SL both tend to be flat, throws change too hard, no mechanical reason he can't develop secondary pitches.
The fastball velocity did indeed increase, often settling in at his showcase high of 92 mph, with Ole Miss while touching the 94-96 range with frequent regularity. He also improved the break on his breaking ball, developing a sharp low-to-mid-80s slider that he's able to drop in the zone for strikes as well as burying in the dirt to record strikeouts. His changeup has also developed to give him the requisite three pitches for a starter. Wahl's success in college was predicated on him establishing his fastball early in the count and pitching aggressively while not being afraid to elevate his fastball.
The biggest thing that kept Wahl from being a first round pick this past June was a blister problem that effected his velocity, command and ability to consistently snap off an effective breaking ball, although he battled through these issues to go 10-0 with a 2.03 ERA his junior year. —Patrick Ebert
Daniel Robertson – 3B
The SoCal product always stood out for his polished hitting ability as an amateur. Robertson was selected to the 2011 PG All-American Classic at Petco Park and was consistently ranked among the top 50 high school prospects in the nation in PG’s Class of 2012 rankings. A look through his scout notes from his PG career returns a consistent theme: hitability. His notes from the PG National Showcase read:
Strong, strides in, swings hard, good load, extends on ball, hits through, all fields, good barrel. Crushed 2 balls to CF in games, including 84 SL off LCF wall. Mashed the next game as well, can flat out hit.
Six weeks later his Area Code Games notes included:
Natural hitter, sees the ball, consistent hard contact, all fields, gets hits on weak swings, finds the barrel.
His righthanded swing was more sound than sexy, and while he never showed the kind of massive raw power to captivate the imaginations of scouts, he gave plenty of reason to believe he would continue to hit at the next level. He also consistently showed the requisite defensive ability and arm strength to be able to handle third base at the professional level well, and scouts acknowledged his ability to handle that spot throughout his career, barring injury.
While it’s not the most exciting profile in baseball, a player who is expected to continue hitting at a high level as a professional while contributing quality defense at a skill position is certainly an attractive prospect. As a result, the A’s supplemented their first round selection of Addison Russell by snagging Robertson with the 34th overall pick in the 2012 draft. —Todd Gold