I’ve been very interested in recent years by the JUCO draft changes, as draft and follows have been eliminated in the current CBA. The result has been an interesting shift in how teams view JUCO players. Teams like the Braves see the JUCO ranks as a place to find players with the upside they desire, yet at the price they can afford. The leverage prep players have in terms of being able to go to school drives up their price, while JUCO players generally sign for slot. The result has been a growing emphasis on scouting JUCO players across the country. So, seeing that I want you to be as prepared as possible for draft day, here’s a general list of some of the better JUCO players in the country this Spring, noting that this is far from a comprehensive list. If you have any others guys you find interesting, post them in the comments, and I might do some individual profiles for better coverage.
Players to Watch
Jake Cowan, RHP, San Jacinto JC (TX) – A 14th rounder of the Boston Red Sox out of Roswell HS in Georgia in 2007, Cowan ended up going to Virginia, where he pitched last Spring with a line of 2-1, 3.34 ERA, 28-14 K/BB ratio in 32.1 innings, impressive for a freshman. After leaving Virginia for San Jacinto, he signed with the Texas Longhorns for the Spring of 2010. However, odds are against him making it to campus, as his draft stock is quite high. With a borderline plus fastball (I’d give it a solid 55 with 60 future potential) and good command of a slider and changeup, Cowan’s quite advanced for a JUCO prospect. At 6’3”, he’s also a scout’s dream. Projectability and current production. Entering his upcoming matchup in the JUCO World Series, and he should pitch Tuesday, Cowan is 5-0, 1.66 ERA, 65-28 K/BB ratio in 54.1 innings. Batters are hitting just .184 off of him. These things combined make him a possible first day talent for the draft, though the third round is probably his ceiling. Expect some good things from this kid.
Brett Wallach, RHP, Orange Coast JC (CA) – Remember third baseman Tim Wallach of the Expos and Dodgers? This is his son. Like his dad, Wallach plays third base, and while he has a nice bat, most recognition he’s getting in draft circles is because of his arm on the mound. Having just led his team to the CCCAA state championship, Wallach deserves the recognition. He ended the regular season with a 9-1 record and 2.23 ERA in 96.2 innings, striking out 102 and walking 36. He also hit .352. He’s been reported to hit 92 on the gun, but sits more in the 88-90 range. However, the whole package is enticing, as he’s improved so much in two years that scouts still see more projection in him. He’s committed to Long Beach State, but odds are that he’ll sign with the team that drafts him next month. I expect him to go somewhere early in the first day, most likely in the 5th round range.
Evan Chambers, OF, Hillsborough CC (FL) – Chambers, part of a huge Florida JUCO class, was a former Florida Gator who transferred out due to lack of playing time his freshman year (8 ABs). He has some good raw power and plate discipline, though he’s a bit of a small-bodied kid at 5’9”. He’s already up to 220 lbs., and I’ve seen more than one place show a bit of a concern that he might put on a little too much weight. As it stands, he’s a solid prospect with a decent arm and range for a corner outfielder. He’s not a center fielder by any means, though. His speed is about average, so the knock is his general range. For the most part, though, Chambers’ performance of a .324 average with 11 homers this Spring has elevated his stock, possibly making him a first day pick. Someone looking for a signability outfielder with decent raw power could even call his name in the second round. He’s committed to Tampa.
Jabari Blash, OF, Miami-Dade CC (FL) – Another Florida JUCO outfielder, Blash has been most impressive this Spring, hitting .353 with 10 homers in a tough JUCO environment. A Virgin Island native, Blash failed to qualify academically for Alcorn State as a recruit, and he ended up at Miami-Dade after playing in the Great South League last summer. Everything about Blash screams raw, but his tools are above and beyond that of normal college kids in the draft. For that reason alone, some team could take a risk on Blash early in the draft, with the third round being his possible ceiling. He’s got plus power potential, and while he’s not quite athletic or polished enough to handle center field, his defense in right shouldn’t hold him back. At 6’5”, 215 lbs., Blash is a physical specimen that catches the attention of anyone watching a game, so he’s sure to have moved up boards this spring.
Mychal Jones, SS, Miami-Dade CC (FL) – This should tell you something about how talented the Miami-Dade club was this spring. Jones, who will be 22 on draft day, is a plus runner with a plus hit tool, and there’s a good chance that he sticks at short in the pros after some polishing. With a .446 average and 12 homers this spring, Jones did nothing but fly up draft boards. A former North Florida Osprey, Jones also failed to qualify academically for his sophomore season, prompting the transfer and advanced age. I’m not as much of a believer in Jones as some, but I do think he’ll be an early second day draftee, probably in the area of the fourth to seventh round. His age is a big detractor, but if he can convince teams of his toolset in private workouts over the next few weeks, he’ll go early.
Miles Hamblin, C, Howard JC (TX) – This is a kid I’ve been all over this spring. A 6’2”, 190 lbs. catcher with a lefty bat, Hamblin’s the prototypical starting catcher to draft. Following a season in which he hit .412 with 11 homers as a freshman, Hamblin hit .448 with 16 homers this spring. He added 25 doubles and a triple, all in just 172 at-bats. In addition, he started every single game for Howard. His catching skillset is solid, though he’s newer to the position, but he’ll stick there as a pro, and his entire bat and glove package is probably as mature and advanced as any college catcher in the country, Tony Sanchez included. He’s committed to Ole Miss, but there’s no way he makes it there. I expect him to be off the board early in the second day, and my prediction is that he’s a fourth rounder.
There are tons of pitchers in addition to those above, so here’s a quick list to keep an eye on:
Kendall Korbal, RHP, Blinn JC (TX)
Devin Fuller, RHP, Chandler-Gilbert CC (AZ)
John Stilson, RHP, Texarkana JC (TX)
Braden Tullis, RHP, Skagit Valley CC (WA)
Randy Henry, RHP, South Mountain CC (AZ)
Darrell Ceciliana, OF, Columbia Basin CC (WA)
Danny Jimenez, LHP, John A. Logan JC (IL)
If you’ve got any for me to add, or if you want a longer writeup about someone in the JUCO ranks, let me know, and I’ll try to oblige.
Usual disclaimer: While the names listed are influenced by readings on BA and PG, info for writeups are in the free public sections of those sites with contributing information from newspaper and school-specific recaps. Direct info will be linked with attribution.