As part of Baseball Prospectus’ increased draft coverage in 2014, we are excited to introduce an addition to the “Ten Pack” series: the MLB Draft Edition. Each Tuesday we will touch on 10 draft-eligible players, sometimes a few more, with a combination of stock updates, scouting notes, and video. This week we open the series with scouting notes from three of the top prep winter showcases, each taking place annually in early February. I was in attendance at the Prep Baseball Super 60, which focuses on some of the top Midwest talent at the high school ranks. Our partners at Perfect Game had Todd Gold in attendance at the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau’s SoCal Invitational, and David Rawnsley in Cedar Rapids for the Perfect Game Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase.
Simeon Lucas, C, Grant Community (Fox Lake, IL)
Lucas continues to see his stock rise, as he carried his momentum from the fall to his Super 60 workout on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday. He produced consistent loud contact through batting practice, launching several balls on a line to the net hanging a couple hundred feet away, giving scouts more of what they have come to expect from the offense-minded backstop. Where we saw a step forward, however, was behind the plate, where Lucas’ pop times hovered around 2.00 throughout his catch-and-throw workout, while he simultaneously demonstrated improved footwork both to second and on his block and back-pick drills. While catching bullpen sessions for the pitchers, Lucas drew a couple of arms that regularly buried their breaking balls, which turned out to be a blessing. Scouts walked away generally impressed with his lateral movements and blocking. The jury is still out, but the Super 60 was another good day for Lucas from a draft stock standpoint. –Nick J. Faleris
Marcus Wilson, OF, JSerra (Los Angeles, CA)
One of the highest-ceiling prospects in the 2014 draft, Wilson had a big showing at the MLSB SoCal Invitational Showcase over the weekend. Highly projectable physically, Wilson looks the part of a future big leaguer at 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, with a long limbed rangy frame, high waist and plenty of room for added muscle mass. He is a plus present runner and ran a 6.44 60-yard dash in Compton. He has solid present power, best to the pull side but capable across the field, and it shows up frequently in games and projects to develop significantly as he gets stronger. Earns high marks in the work ethic category and while he lacks finer-point skill development at present, he has progressed in this regard and his skills should eventually catch up to the high-end tools. Wilson enters the spring as a likely sandwich round or second round pick, where he would offer tremendous value, but he has the talent to play his way into the first round this spring. –Todd Gold
Tanner Houck, RHP, Collinsville (Collinsville, IL)
Houck had an impressive bullpen session in front of a few dozen area scouts and upper-level evaluators at the Super 60, popping the second-highest fastball velocity with multiple 93 mph readings and otherwise comfortably registering 92s with a slight crossfire delivery. The Missouri commit pounded the lower-U of the zone on a good downhill plane with some dance. His curve shifted between an 11-to-5 and 12-to-6 breaker, as the projectable righty continues to work to find consistent feel for the offering. He also showed a too-firm change in the 83 to 85 mph range. Houck’s arm has a tendency to drag, leading to inconsistent placement in the zone and a release point and arm slot that can vary pitch to pitch. The performance should help Houck firm up prominent placement on Midwest follow lists this spring, with a chance to come off the board early on day two if he can show further secondary development and a little more consistency in execution this spring. –Nick J. Faleris
Jake Nix, RHP, Los Alamitos (Los Alamitos, CA)
Nix is the top high school pitching prospect in the Los Angeles/Orange County area in this year's draft class and was the best pitching prospect in attendance at the MLSB SoCal Invitational Showcase. He has run his fastball up to 94 mph in the past and works comfortably in the low 90s with good command. The arm works clean with a low-effort delivery that has potential for increased velocity. His slider has progressed since his summer travel ball circuit appearances, but must continue to improve this spring to rate on draft day. The UCLA commit also shows the foundation for a quality future changeup. Nix has the look of a future starter, creating significant additional value and potentially warranting early-round consideration, provided he is signable. –Todd Gold
Evan Skoug, C/1B, Libertyville (Libertyville, IL)
Skoug continues to impress with the bat, registering upper-90s exit velocities during BP and showing off his usual leveraged, pull-oriented power stroke. There is no question the TCU commit has a chance to be a standout power bat at the collegiate ranks, and as he learns to trust his strength and let the ball travel he could develop into an impactful pole-to-pole home run threat at the pro ranks. He popped as low as 1.97 during catcher workouts, and handled some of the livelier arms during bullpen breakouts. Skoug’s stock on draft day will be closely tied to his ultimate defensive projection, with a team that believes in him as a potential future backstop grabbing him as early as the first couple of rounds. While his left-handed power makes the first base fallback a palatable option, the presence of more dynamic prep profiles and college arms could drop him to the fourth- to sixth-round range if he finds himself limited to the three-spot. –Nick J. Faleris
Josh Morgan, SS/2B, Orange Lutheran (Orange, CA)
Morgan is the type of high school prospect who offers the promise to change a franchise's fortune and comes with the inherent risk of investing a high pick and a large sum of signing bonus money in a teenager. His upside is that of an everyday shortstop who makes significant contributions in the power department. He possesses the present athleticism and ability to handle the shortstop position and already has average present raw power that shows up in games. But the power hitting high school shortstop demographic entails a delicate balancing act; getting stronger with physical maturity to develop that power further without regressing athletically. At the MLSB SoCal Invitational Showcase Morgan ran a 6.81 60-yard dash and showed playable middle infield range and emphatically announced his presence in the box by hammering a deep fly ball off the wall in his first at-bat. It was a strong showing that came with a massive contingent of scouting directors and cross-checkers on hand. The 2014 draft class is fairly deep at the shortstop position, especially compared to the 2013 class, which will allow teams to go with safer options early on, but Morgan offers about as much upside as any shortstop in this class. –Todd Gold
Keith Grieshaber, SS/2B, Marquette (Chesterfield, MO)
Grieshaber has not been easily accessible to scouts due to his commitments on the soccer field where he stands out as a high level prospect, as well. The athletic middle-infielder will be spurning his soccer cleats for spikes, however, as a confirmed commit to Arkansas, which does not field a men’s soccer team. At this year’s Super 60, Grieshaber still looked to be shaking off the rust some, but showed enough to pique the interest of area scouts with Show Me State coverage. After running a solid 6.81 60-yard dash, Griesh displayed solid actions on the left side of the infield with an arm that could play at short or third at the collegiate ranks, but may be better suited for second base as a pro. At the plate, he has a slight rock through his load and trigger, and the barrel is quick in and out of the zone, making contact against quality secondaries and velocity a concern for some evaluators. It was not an issue during BP, where he registered the third-highest exit velocity (97 mph) and drew nods of approval from the scouts flanking the batter’s box. He could be a helium guy this spring if the weather cooperates and affords him ample opportunity to show scouts what he can do in game action. He’ll be closely monitored over the next four months. –Nick J. Faleris
Shane Mardirosian, 2B, Martin Luther King (Riverside, CA)
Each year the MLSB SoCal Invitational Showcase has one player who comes out and surprises scouts with his improvement over the offseason. This year that player was Shane Mardirosian, who was known nationally as the hard-nosed second baseman from the Southern California (Brewers) team at the Area Code Games. But after peppering hard line drives all over the spacious Urban Youth Academy outfield in BP, he led off the game with a sharply hit line drive to the opposite field against quality arm-side pitching. He made play after play at second base, including a diving stop in shallow right field to nearly rob what appeared to be a certain hit. While he plays some shortstop as well, he clearly profiles as a second baseman at the pro level, a draft demographic that is typically viewed with significant skepticism. But after standing out in batting practice, the 60-yard dash (where he ran an impressive 6.51), the infield workout, and in every other facet of the game, Mardirosian has improved his draft stock significantly. He looks like a very viable signing round prospect as he enters his senior spring and could continue to climb. –Todd Gold
Matt Ruppenthal, RHP, Brother Rice (Bloomfield, MI)
Ruppenthal sat comfortably in the 90-91 mph range at the Super 60, touching 92 and showing some arm-side life on the fastball throughout his session. His off-speed is an 77 to 81 mph changeup that mirrors his fastball’s arm-side action, and he brings a solid 79 to 81 mph slider that flashes sharp bite and tilt. The body is already a bit high maintenance, and evaluators would like to see things tightened up sooner rather than later. In the past, Ruppenthal has struggled to keep his velocity above the high 80s as he works deeper into his starts, so it is more than just aesthetics fueling the conditioning concerns. The good news is that should Ruppenthal land in Nashville for a few years, the Vandy conditioning program should ultimately help him get to where he needs to be physically, and could potentially add a boost to a solid, but not standout, repertoire. In a cold-weather state shallow on prep draft goods, Ruppenthal will enter the spring as one of the top arms on follow lists. –Nick J. Faleris
Brad Archer, RHP, Lebanon (Lebanon, MO)
Archer threw with the last grouping of arms at the Super 60, rousing evaluators from their mid- to upper-80s stupor with 94 mph fastball right out of the gate. His heater sat 90 to 92 mph for the session, though he struggled to find consistency in his release and showed inconsistent command across his arsenal. His change sat 80 to 82 mph and flashed late drop, and the Missouri State commit also mixed in two breaking balls. The first was a below-average curve in the low-to-mid-70s, and the second a rudimentary 78 to 80 mph slider that he struggled to control but that flashed good plane deception and some bite. In the past the pitches bled together, so it is progress that we are seeing two distinct pitches, even if both require additional work. As a righty who is not overly physical, he will likely need to show growth in his secondaries and an ability to maintain the velo well into his starts in order to garner enough draft attention to steer him away from Missouri State. –Nick J. Faleris
Chris Betts, C, Woodrow Wilson (Los Angeles, CA)
The SoCal Invitational Showcase is a senior event, bringing in the top draft-eligible high school prospects for that year's draft. But Betts, who is one of the top high school players in the 2015 class, was given the opportunity to participate as a "bullpen catcher", and was also allowed to take part in the entire workout and to hit in games. He is a well-known name to the scouting community and his inclusion in the event speaks to his elevated status among the scouts. He has big raw power from the left side and showed it off in batting practice, with the very loud sound his bat makes at contact echoing loudly in the ears of a huge cross-section of decisionmakers in attendance. He posted one workout pop time of 1.88 while most were upper 1.9s/low 2.0s, which is steady improvement from his 2.0-2.1 range during the national showcase circuit last summer and fall. There are still developmental hurdles remaining for the underclassman, but he has the kind of loud tools that will make him an attractive draft prospect next year, and he continued to build his prospect resume this weekend. –Todd Gold
Charlie Donovan, SS/2B, Westmont (Westmont, IL)
One of a handful of underclassmen partaking in the Super 60, Donovan stood shoulder to shoulder with the 2014 class and delivered an impressive performance (understandable, in part, since Donovan is older for his class as an 18-year old-junior). His day began with a 6.62 60-yard dash—the third fastest time of the event—and continued on a high note through infield workouts, where he showed adequate actions from short and an easy left-side arm out of a short circle (he logged the hardest infield velocity for the event at 93 mph). The Michigan commit took a solid BP, as well, working with a short load and solid trigger that will improve as he adds some strength and shaves some drag off the barrel. It’s a swing geared to slash gap to gap, and the minimalist mechanics should be an asset as he continues to refine his approach and grow his offensive skill set. –Nick J. Faleris
Underclassmen Highlight Perfect Game Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase
The Perfect Game Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase is one of the oldest events on the PG calendar and has always managed to draw in top talent from around the Upper Midwest despite being seemingly held on the coldest weekend of the year on an annual basis. This year was no different, excepting that some of the more talented players made the trek up north from Arkansas.
The Arkansas quartet was made up of 2015 right-handers and included Andy Pagnozzi (Fayetteville East (Fayetteville, AR)), Ty Harpenau (Southside (Fort Smith, AR)), Cody Davenport (Fayetteville East (Fayetteville, AR)), and Jake Reindl (Shiloh Christian (Springdale, AR)).
Pagnozzi, the son of former big league All-Star and Gold Glove winner Tom Pagnozzi, was the top pitching prospect at the event, pitching in the 88-90 mph range and touching 91 mph. As one might expect with his background, Pagnozzi’s mechanics and approach to pitching are extremely polished, with a solid three-pitch mix and plus/plus command potential. For more background on Pagnozzi, check out the story written this weekend by Perfect Game’s Jeff Dahn.
Davenport, Pagnozzi’s teammate at Fayetteville East High School, has high-end fastball potential, with a present 87-89 mph heater that projects to above average in the future. He also throws a hard slider.
Harpenau, whose father Dale is entering his 16th season as the head baseball coach at University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, also sat in the upper 80s with one of the best breaking balls at the event, a 77 mph hammer with big two-plane shape.
Reindl pitched in the mid-80s with a short, sharp slider and an upper 70s changeup.
The top overall prospect at the showcase was 2015 OF/RHP Matthew Vierling (Christian Brothers College (St. Louis, MO)). Vierling has added size and strength since the last time we saw him and is now 6-foot-4, 195-pounds of lean muscle. He has a very nice right-handed swing with present bat speed and projects well enough as an outfielder that his present 89-91 mph fastball is just window dressing on his prospect resume. He could develop into an impact prospect in the Class of 2015.
The most notable 2016 prospect was right-hander Anthony Holubecki (Kaneland Senior (Kaneville, IL)) from Elgun, Illinois. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Holubecki has a very fast arm that produced an 88-90 mph fastball that is just going to keep picking up velocity as he gets stronger.
2014 Perfect Game All-American RHP/1B Keaton McKinney Ankeny (Ankeny, IA)) is just beginning his early-season throwing program and did not pitch at the event, although he took his turns in the cage and showed his bat speed and power. Although he projects as a pitcher at the professional level, McKinney could be a two-way standout at Arkansas should he attend college. –David Rawnsley
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