2023 SABR Analytics Conference Research Awards: Voting Open Now!

Brian Serven, C, Arizona State University
I certainly always prefer to see players multiple times in a series, and ideally over the span of a couple different series, before I start to draw conclusions about likely ranges of outcome. But there are some guys who’ll show their cards quicker, and Serven is one of them. He’s a three-year starting backstop for the Sun Devils, which is notable both for its rarity – he’s only the third one in program history – and because he looks every bit a three-year major-conference starter. This is a polished player with an excellent defensive package, obvious leadership qualities, and enough of an offensive baseline to dream of a big league starting catcher.

The frame is muscular and athletic at a listed 6-foot, 220 pounds. He has strength in his chest and shoulders, with a firm base and very strong legs. There’s some possibility for growing into top-half bulk, but his agility and quickness suggests enough wiry muscle at the base to keep him piling up innings. He showed as a field general, commanding the game and setting the defensive tone throughout.

All of Serven’s movements behind the plate are fluid and quick. He shows an easy, firm glove, with evident ability to anticipate trajectory and strong hands on receipt. His framing looked solid from scout-seat and side views alike, though he notably wasn’t able to sell borderline pitches to the plate umpire all night. Both the lateral and vertical quickness showed as plus, and he collapsed efficiently on balls in the dirt, making several nice plays to keep runners in place. He faced no in-game thievery attempts, but he popped 1.97 and 2.02 on the high end of seven recorded between-inning throws.

Offensively, Serven starts from a wide stance. He uses a toe tap into an aggressive stride that takes him even wider, helping him generate some separation and torque as he prepares to trigger. The bat is very quick into the zone; he kept his hips closed and used an almost exclusively opposite field-oriented swing plane. He lets the ball travel deep, using his strong wrists to create above-average bat speed along an extremely direct path. Aggressiveness around the zone leads to some swing and miss and a potentially lighter OBP profile, but in general it’s a swing and approach that suggests strong contact ability. There is enough strength and bat speed for ample doubles power and some carry on his fly balls that could eventually lead to average or above power.

He ran a 4.41 on a dig, and it was a high effort churn to get there. He’s a powerful runner, and he gets out of the box hard even on sure outs. But he’s not likely to improve past a below-average peak as a runner.

I’d need to get a couple more looks at the bat to feel comfortable in the projection, but he showed an impressive blend of skills and polish that should bear strong consideration on Day One, perhaps within the top 50 picks for a team that buys the offense.

Colby Woodmansee, SS, Arizona State University
The Sun Devil shortstop boasts an outstanding, projectable frame at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, with lean muscle and agility. He moves well in the field with some glide to his step and generally fluid actions, though he’ll make the occasional halting movement. He controls his body well though, and his range appeared adequate in extremely limited opportunities for evaluation. There was some rigidity in his setup to field his only live chance, but the hands were smooth, the transfer clean, and the arm strength plus.

It didn’t take long for Woodmansee to show that he knows a thing or two about hitting, as he quickly logged a strong eight-pitch plate appearance that ended with a rope to right center (the full at-bat may be found in the Gavin video below). He sets up wide, and generates early momentum off his back leg, with a toe tap and moderate stride on the bottom half and a slight hitch to add some separation up top. The load is high and adds some length at the swing’s inception, but his wrists and hands are strong through the hitting zone, and he shows advanced pitch recognition and strong hand-eye to help mitigate swing-and-miss. It’s a line drive stroke with mild leverage at present, though he took a couple shots at firing his hips and turning on balls in hitting counts.

It was a brief look to be sure, but the first impression was that of a solid hit tool, gap and occasional home run power, average speed, and defensive projection to potentially stay on the six.

John Gavin, LHP, Cal State Fullerton (Class of 2017)
Gavin is a sophomore left-hander who didn’t quite look his listed 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, but he’s not far off. It’s a big frame, with some junk in the trunk but solid build throughout. His motion is extremely deliberate, with a gradual build of momentum and torque through the leg kick and arm swing, like a rubber band being gradually stretched out. And true to form, there’s a slingshot arm action to a low three-quarters release on the back end. His foot strike is slightly inverted, and there’s some crossover from his plant angle.

He came out sitting 88-90 mph with the fastball, and the velocity plays up from the natural deception of his motion and the extension he gets at release. He eventually settled in at 87-88, not hitting 90 after the first inning. The command wandered for spells; he lost his timing for several pitches at a time on multiple occasions, yielding some hard-hit contact that found gloves in a couple of his five innings. He can spin a mid-70s curveball to compliment his fastball. The pitch flashed some late bite to it, with 2-7 shape and darting action across the zone. He held command of it more consistently than his fastball, showing some ability to bury it along the way. He also weaved in a high-70s changeups with strong tumbling action and some fade; he struggled with feel for the pitch initially, not generating quite as much movement as the arm slot suggested, before finding it in time to drop a couple dandies below the zone later into the outing.

It’s not strikeout stuff, but he showed an ability to repeat and generate outs with enough fastball and projectable secondaries. He got grounders, he got soft fly ball contact, and he got lucky with a couple line drives. I’d have liked to see some better cadence to his motion throughout the duration of the start, as he’s not the most athletic pitcher and wasn’t quite able to maintain the requisite precision for his kind of momentum gather. But there’s an interesting profile here of one of those Michael Myers lefties that just keep coming back and getting jobs year, after year, after year, and he’ll be a guy to watch next spring.

Chad Hockin, RHP, Cal State Fullerton

Hockin stands an athletic 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, with solid proportions and a toned frame. There’s no nonsense to his approach on the hill; he’s a quick worker with little emotion on his sleeve, and he came right at hitters with a potent two-pitch mix across three high-leverage innings (ninth to 11th). He works off the extreme first-base side of the rubber, with a simple, clean motion that he repeated consistently from start to finish in the outing. His arm path to a high three-quarters slot is quick and direct, and the arm speed is above-average. He gets downhill effectively to generate plane and create a later pick-up for hitters.

The stuff features two potential plus pitches; Hockin’s fastball worked 92-94 mph out of the gate with mild tail and solid life, and he paired it with a two-plane slider with late bite at 83-86. The velocity flagged to 91-93 by his third inning of work, and his command wandered a bit with it. But he dialed the fastball up to 95 on a just-missed put-away pitch, and he took the slider to 87 twice (both swinging strikes). He elevated with command and showed an ability to really drive it down to the corners as well, and the slider is a true bat-misser that snapped off consistently.

Relief prospects are certainly more difficult to gauge value-wise, but Hockin showed the goods to force the issue.

Quick Hits:

David Greer, 1B, Arizona State – Strong kid, filled-out frame with evident muscle mass, stiffness in movements; noisy swing; extreme load, torso and head drift, long stride; steep into the zone, most swings flat with limited leverage, will hit down on the ball; average bat speed, hard contact; 4.31 on a full dig, takes a couple strides to get to full gear, high-effort running motion, likely to grow into below-average speed; quick into fielding position, reacts well, solid hands, no receiving issues.

Greer has some physicality and strength, and he made some hard contact in this look, but he’ll need significantly better plane on his swing to facilitate the kind of power production he’ll need to grow into after shifting to first base.

Timmy Richards, SS, Cal State Fullerton – Compact frame, filled out with some stock, quick feet; short stroke, slight hitch, hands high and tight at trigger, steep into zone, linear path; quick leg kick, aggressive stride, synch issues between upper and lower halves, bat doesn’t stay in zone for long; lateral agility, quick steps, above-average speed, solid-average range, average arm strength.

Dylan Prohoroff, RHP, Cal State Fullerton – Broad shoulders, strong frame; balanced takeaway, deep arm swing, long arm action; gets extension, powerful drive lacks consistent balance, strong plane, modest deception; fastball 92-94 with sink, two variants of breaking ball, neither a bat-misser: slurvy 78-79 into the zone, 81-83 with sharper shape; control showed well, command wandered in-zone, loses pitches arm-side.

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