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Half Dozen JuCos to Watch

Despite the fact that there are numerous places that cover the draft these days, one of the still-enduring mysteries of draft prospects are those in the junior college ranks. They aren’t easy to follow, their statistics aren’t always easy to track, and scouting reports can sometimes be vague. Luckily for 2010, three of the top JuCo prospects were renowned prep prospects, two of which did not sign at last year’s signing deadline as players picked in the first two rounds of the 2009 draft. This fact has renewed interest in JuCo players, and hopefully it will make JuCo coverage more extensive for 2010.

Here are some summaries of players you should be watching this spring, starting with the obvious trio of Bryce Harper, LeVon Washington, and Jake Eliopoulos. Eliopoulos likely won’t improve on his draft position from last year unless he has an excellent season, but Washington could easily move into the top ten for the 2010 draft. Harper’s still the favorite for the top overall pick, so that should really draw attention to the JuCo ranks as the season goes along.

Put the following players on your follow list this spring:

Bryce Harper, C, CC of Southern Nevada, Freshman

I put the class year down, because it’s important. When it comes to contract negotiations, JuCo freshmen are about as hard to sign as draft-eligible sophomores in the four-year college ranks. Harper not only has the best ceiling in this draft, but he also has considerable negotiating power as a player that will be 17 with another year of junior college left when draft day comes along. Add Scott Boras to the fire, and you probably have one of the top signing bonuses in draft history. Harper is indeed the top talent when it comes to tools in this draft. As I’m sure you’ve read multiple times, Harper has a pair of 80 tools, the highest rating a tool can receive. Those power and arm tools are outstanding and only a catastrophic arm injury could bring him down to anyone else’s level this spring. That’s a distinct possibility, as Harper has indeed asked his coach to pitch him in relief. He has all the pieces to be a plus hitter, though he has to adjust his timing mechanism in his swing to be able to hit pro caliber offspeed stuff.  As I tweeted earlier in the week, Harper’s vulnerable to “hard in and soft away,” but he should be able to compensate at the JuCo level. His speed and fielding also might come in as plus, though the speed is more above-average (55) than plus. He’s playing all over the diamond this spring, including third base and the outfield, and he might have to go to one of those spots as a pro, so that bears watching. Overall, though, Harper is an elite talent that I’d have trouble passing over for the top pick if I were the Nationals.

LeVon Washington, OF, Chipola JC (FL), Freshman

As much as we’re familiar with Harper, Washington comes a fairly close second. That’s what happens when you go unsigned as a first-round pick. Tampa Bay took Washington with their first pick of 2009 at #30 overall, and though Washington’s demands were reportedly not extremely high, the Rays declined to sign him. Boras also represents Washington, so that might have had something to do with it, but I’m not ready to pass blame on to an adviser before looking more closely at the team. Washington features a pair of plus tools in his bat and legs, as he should hit for average and steal a high number of bases over the course of a pro career. The big question mark with him is whether his arm can come back this year. A year ago he struggled through shoulder surgery recovery, and he was limited to second base and designated hitter. I’m happy to announce that he’s back in center field with Chipola this spring, and his arm is getting closer to where it was before his injury. Back in the day it was a plus tool, so in the four months between now and the draft we could see a drastic improvement. That would easily raise Washington’s stock, as he’s hitting fairly well and is moving well on the bases so far in limited action in Florida. I expect him to move into the top ten with a good season, and while Boras is his agent, I don’t expect earth-shattering bonus demands similar to Harper’s. Washington has every reason to sign if he goes in the first round in back-to-back years, as there’s really no direction but down from there.

Jake Eliopoulos, LHP, Chipola JC (FL), Freshman

Eliopoulos became Washington’s teammate at Chipola when he decided to not sign as Toronto’s second round pick in 2009. While Eliopoulos doesn’t bring the best pure stuff to the table at the moment, he has a projectable body and good command of fairly advanced stuff for his age. His fastball is more of an 87-90 pitch, though he projects to sit around 90-92 when all is said and done. He commands his secondary offerings well, and his changeup is ahead of where most players just of high school have theirs. Those pieces all combined to make him a second round pick a year ago, though I don’t see much possibility of him improving upon his draft position for 2010. While Eliopoulos has the projection to add velocity to his frame, that bump usually doesn’t come at age 19. Therefore, scouts will essentially be seeing the same Eliopoulos they did a year ago, just against better competition in the Florida JuCo ranks. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a strong first-day candidate. His advanced arsenal has a good chance of succeeding this year, and the pressure is off of him at Chipola, too, as he’s not even their number one starter. His first outing showed a little early season jitters, and he was held to a 50 pitches, though he also flashed the ability to put away hitters with some quality offerings. I see him as a late second-round candidate again this year, and unless he sees himself gaining velocity for his sophomore campaign, he won’t have much incentive to return to Chipola for his sophomore year.

Damien Magnifico, RHP, Howard JC (TX), Freshman

Magnifico, like Washington and Eliopoulos, enters junior college with more notoriety than your average JuCo recruit. An unsigned fifth-rounder of the Mets from 2009, Magnifico relies on a plus fastball to dominate hitters. However, due to having such a plus fastball, his secondary stuff lags behind. That was one of the reasons why the Mets were reluctant to pony up his asking price a year ago, as he was asking somewhere in the neighborhood of $900,000 to $1 million. As a freshman, he’s not expected to fill the number one role on a team that had one of baseball’s most historic seasons last year in a run to a championship at the Junior College World Series. That role goes to Burch Smith, written about below. However, Magnifico is expected to carry his weight as Howard’s number two starter, and the workload will be a large step up from his prep days. His build isn’t the best for durability, as he “only” stands at 6’1’’ and carries 190 pounds, so one of the questions that needs to be answered this year is whether he can stand up to a more grueling pitching schedule for one of the top JuCo teams in the nation. I expect him to have a large amount of success due to the great history of Howard’s coaching system, so I see him improving his draft slot to perhaps the second or third round. He’ll also have the leverage of being a college freshman, so I could see another scenario where he asks for seven figures again. All told, though, Magnifico’s a solid talent that could be a number two starter in the big leagues if everything pans out.

Burch Smith, RHP, Howard JC (TX), Sophomore

Smith is a holdover from the historic 63-1 team from the 2009 season, and he’s their best returning arm and number one starter. Blessed with a pro body, Smith’s arm has really started to develop over the past year. He was drafted as a 49th-rounder a year ago by the Indians, but it was more of a follow approach than any real attempt at signing him. Undrafted out of high school, he had the talent to go in the mid-teens a year ago, but was simply only interested in returning to Howard after a wildly successful freshman campaign. The result has been a big step forward in terms of his velocity and command, and he could easily go in the first two rounds in June, higher than either Eliopoulos or teammate Magnifico. He’s committed to Oklahoma for next year, and while that might be an obstacle in some ways, I think he’ll be signable for slot in the first three rounds. He’ll only be two months past turning 20 on draft day, so there’s still significant upside here. His mature, yet projectable, 6’5’’, 195 pound frame should be able to handle another 25 pounds of muscle, and there might be number two upside in his low 90’s arm. His fastball isn’t as elite as his teammate’s, but it’s still plus due to good life and command, and it peaks around 95. He could easily be the top JuCo arm come June.

Tony Dischler, RHP, LSU-Eunice JC (LA), Sophomore

Dischler struggled mightily as a freshman at UL Monroe, and that prompted a transfer to LSU-Eunice, Louisiana’s premier JuCo feeder for its four year college counterparts. However, to UL Monroe’s chagrin, Dischler put on positive weight and strength after his transfer and he was popping mid-90s fastballs in the fall. The bad news is that Dischler’s fastball is pretty straight and can be hittable from time-to-time. His command isn’t great, and it also doesn’t really project to be anything above average in the future. That was his downfall while at UL Monroe, and he needs to shore up his mechanics if he’s to be successful this season while at Eunice. He has all the components to be a number two starter, though he hasn’t begun to quite put it together. His debut with Eunice against Pensacola JC showed his ability to dominate, but also his penchant for losing command, as he went four innings, only allowing a run on two hits, but also walking three and striking out only one. Without the downhill plane his fastball gets due to his 6’4’’, 200 pound frame, it would be tough for Dischler to be successful. However, with a body that’s attractive to pro scouts and a fastball that could already be rated as plus, he should draw first-day draft interest. If the birth date on his baseball cube page is correct, and I haven’t had a chance to confirm it, then Dischler is the same age as college juniors from this class, making his signability less of an issue and his scholarship for next year is only to minor program UL Lafayette. His lack of refinement and proven product is a worry, but the components are hard to resist.

These are just a half dozen players to keep an eye on, and I’ll give you more names to watch as you go along. Just as a reference, this is about what you should expect in the form of writeups for the 2010 MLB Draft Notebook. They’ll include short snippets about a player’s history, tools or stuff, and where I expect them to go and their signability. All these things are important to consider when evaluating a draft prospect.

If you like the writeups you see here, pre-order the 2010 MLB Draft Notebook now, and you’ll get over 750 writeups just like these for your perusal in a convenient PDF format. It will be good for draft day and beyond, as you look for reports on the players your favorite team drafts.

A weekend column on the scouting scale will be up tomorrow as a weekend column, which are broader editorial pieces that I’ll write discussing areas of scouting or drafting during the weekend of the season. Follow me on Twitter, and I’ll provide you updates on players during weekends, as I probably won’t do full writeups during weekends.

Hope you guys have a great weekend, and be sure to continue to check in here on MLB Bonus Baby, and tell your friends about the great content you can only get for free here.

February 5, 2010 Posted by | JUCO | , , , , , | 3 Comments

2010 Outfielders

This is the first of a series where I give quick looks at the players at a given position for the 2010 draft. First up is the outfielders.

College Prospects

Bryce Brentz, Middle Tennessee
Brentz is a corner outfielder with a plus arm who fits best long-term in right field. He’s got plus hit and power tools, and he’s probably got the highest ceiling of any college hitter in the 2010 class. Read more about Brentz here. Projected draft slot: Early- to mid-first round.

LeVon Washington, Chipola JC (FL)
It’s hard to really point at a huge number of JUCO prospects yet, so Washington falls into the college category. A first-rounder a year ago, he’s projected to do the same this year. He’s got plus hit and speed tools, and if his arm firms up to become somewhere in 40-50 range, he’ll be a plus overall fielder. Projected draft slot: Mid- to late-first round.

Jarrett Parker, Virginia
A center fielder, Parker’s someone whose draft position is up in the air. He was absolutely horrible on the Cape, and even though it was probably due to exhaustion from a long season, he looked incredibly out of sync. He’s a power-speed type of guy and he should be about average as a pro center fielder. I like his overall patience, but the summer hurt his stock. Projected draft slot: Late-first to late-second round.

Todd Cunningham, Jacksonville State
Cunningham’s also a center fielder with a good chance to stay there as a pro. His biggest tool is his hit tool, and it’s outstanding. I got a question in the comments of my first 2010 mock a few days ago about what hitters were the best pure hitters in the class. Cunningham might be number one. He doesn’t have a lot of power, and he’s not exceptionally speedy, but he’s definitely a solid option for a number one or two hitter in the pros. Projected draft slot: Supplemental-first to late-second round.

Gary Brown, Cal State Fullerton
Brown’s a controversial guy in the scouting community, but I put him here just to keep you aware of him. This spot could have easily gone to one of Leon Landry, Tyler Holt, or Michael Choice, but Brown’s a lesser name that you should remember. He’s got plus-plus speed and a solid hit tool, and even though he’ll never hit for much power, that should make him a decent offensive threat. His speed also makes him a good defender in center, though he needs to add arm strength to an otherwise accurate arm. Projected draft slot: Early-second to early-third round.

Prep Prospects

Austin Wilson, Harvard Westlake HS (CA)
Big-time tools include plus raw power and a plus-plus arm. However, he’s probably a right fielder in the long-run, and not a lot of prep corner outfielders go incredibly high in the draft. His bat isn’t quite elite enough to warrant top five consideration like Donavan Tate could command a year ago, but Wilson’s got enough raw talent to lock himself into the first round for now. Projected draft slot: Mid-first to late-first round.

Josh Sale, Bishop Blanchet HS (WA)
Not a lot of great hitters come into the pros as preps from the state of Washington, but Sale’s got that potential. A lefty at the plate and a corner outfield prospect, Sale’s got good power potential and a good hit tool, and he’s made himself into a household name in scouting circles. Projected draft slot: Mid-first to early-second round.

Chevez Clarke, Marietta HS (GA)
A lot of early summer hype was around fellow Georgia prep outfielder Trey Griffin, but Clarke has come out ahead of Griffin this fall. Clarke has all the tools to be a plus center fielder in the pros, and that really allows to gain ground on future corner outfielders like Wilson and Sale. A switch-hitter, Clarke doesn’t have a ton of current power, but he should become near average there with a plus hit tool. He’s very fast, so the tools are all there. Projected draft slot: Late-first to late-second round.

Brian Ragira, James Martin HS (TX)
Ragira’s got arguably the highest amount of potential of this group of hitters, as he has plus raw power and a plus hit tool, though his current tools in game action aren’t as strong as the players above. There’s some question about his future position, as he might be a bit of a ‘tweener defensively, with a good arm, but only above-average speed with the possibility of losing range as he gets bigger. Projected draft slot: Early-second to mid-third round.

Reggie Golden, Wetumpka HS (AL)
Golden is such a toolsy player that it’s hard to take your eyes off him when he’s on the field. However, he’s your usual raw prep hitter that has some big troubles with pitch recognition and patience. He’s got plus raw power, plus speed, and a plus arm, all of which will play in center field. Hit-or-miss type of player. Projected draft slot: Early-second to late-third round.

October 7, 2009 Posted by | 2010 Position Capsules | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Draft Stock Updates – Prep Outfielders

Here’s the second installment of my Draft Stock Update series, this time focusing on prep outfielders.

Rising

Mike Trout, Millville HS (NJ) – Trout’s taken to his draft year with a certain enthusiasm that scouts seem to love. He’s gone out of his way to keep scouts informed with his practice and game schedule, as bad weather and a late start make playing in New Jersey quite unpredictable.  As a result, scouts are always at his events, and they love what they see.  He’s jumped up boards with a solid toolset, and it seems to me that he’s going to be some team’s consolation prize for not getting Donavan Tate.  He’ll be less refined when entering pro ball, but he’s a natural gift to play.

Everett Williams, McCallum HS (TX) – Williams has used a solid reputation coming into the Spring to launch himself into a new stratosphere.  Despite being just 5’10”, Williams has amazing power that immediately draws spectators.  There’s been some doubt about his signability, as he’s signed on to play in Austin for the Longhorns, but there’s now a good chance he’s going to go in the first round.  I’d say he’s probably earned himself an extra $250K with his performance this Spring, and although I wonder if he’s got the projection to stay a power hitter, I think his tools will play in pro ball.

LeVon Washington, Gainesville HS (FL) – After having rotator cuff surgery, and playing with an arm that BA says could be below a 20 on the 20-80 scouting scale, I thought I might be placing Washington in the other column.  However, with a solid bat and otherworldly speed, Washington seems to have moved up boards quickly.  A University of Florida recruit, I’d be surprised if he makes it there this fall, as he looks like a second round talent.

Reymond Fuentes, Fernando Callejo HS (PR) – Talk about helium.  Fuentes, best known in most baseball circles as the nephew of Carlos Beltran, has jumped up draft boards lately, and Keith Law speculated he won’t last past Texas at #44 overall.  That’s a large jump for someone I considered a 5th-7th round type of guy coming into the Spring.  He’s similar to his uncle in his skillset, or at least how his uncle was at his age.  He’s very fast, makes good contact, has good range in center field, but lacks Beltran’s arm.  However, Fuentes is obviously the best Puerto Rican draft prospect this year, and he’s possibly the best in quite awhile.

Todd Glaesmann, Midway HS (TX) – Glaesmann was a huge disappointment to me last summer, when he was sub-par in showcases.  I didn’t expect him to rebound, as it seemed to me the pressure got to him a little.  However, Glaesmann’s proved me wrong.  Despite having come off Fall thumb surgery as a result of football, Glaesmann has performed remarkably well, moving himself possibly as high as the second round.  At 6’4”, 205 lbs., he’s exactly what scouts dream of when thinking about prototypical pro outfielders, and his approach at the plate this Spring has shown a more balanced player.

Jacob Stewart, Rocky Mountain HS (CO) – Stewart entered the Spring as easily the best prep player in the state of Colorado, but that’s not saying much.  I’ve speculated in the past that he’s someone I would take in the fourth round, as it might take some overnight negotiations between the first and second day of the draft to get him to sign away from Stanford.  However, Stewart’s possibly moved into the first day, quite possibly into the early second round.  He has a huge toolset, having been a star football and basketball player, and he’s dominated everything he’s come against.  He’s very, very raw, but he’s an intriguing player.

Falling

Slade Heathcott, Texas HS (TX) – Okay, maybe his stock hasn’t fallen that much, but Heathcott’s combination of injuries and signability questions makes him a falling star.  Heathcott tore his ACL playing football in the Fall (notice a football injury theme?), hurt his shoulder in the outfield early on in the season, and he’s been DHing almost ever since.  The reason I think his stock has fallen is that he hasn’t gotten up on the mound, where he was a legitimate prospect, as well.  He’s cut his options in half, and the injuries have almost certainly cost him tens of thousands of dollars.  He’s got time to rebound, but no one wants an injury-prone prep bat with signability questions on the first day.

Brian Goodwin, Rocky Mount HS (NC) – One of the worst things a draft prospect can do is combine a mediocre draft season with a signature on the dotted line of a Boras Corp. contract.  That’s exactly what Goodwin has done this Spring.  He already had signability questions, having signed on with UNC before the season started.  Scouts don’t really doubt Goodwin’s toolset, but they wonder if he’s just an athlete playing baseball rather than a baseball player.  He’s a decent hitter, though he lacks much power projection, and I think he’d be well-served going to school and making himself into a true first rounder for 2012.

Trayce Thompson, Santa Margarita HS (CA) – You know what I said about Goodwin being more of an athlete than a baseball player?  Copy that and paste it here, then magnify it by ten times.  Thompson’s got huge tools, and he has more power projection than Goodwin could dream of having.  At 6’4”, 200 lbs., Thompson also has the prototypical pro body and an excellent arm to boot.  However, he looks kinda funny on the field, and I’ve seen a couple accounts of him being as refined as I was during my first year of player pitch ball in Little League.  He’s committed to UCLA, and his family has money (his dad played in the NBA), so I wonder if he’s going to go to school.

Reggie Williams Jr., Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate HS (FL) – Williams was included in BA’s Draft Tracker Chart for a time, meaning they thought he might be getting consideration for the first round.  However, Williams has made little headway in turning his toolset into skills this Spring.  A pure blazer, Williams has speed to match any prospect in this entire draft class, but his bat lags so far behind.  His dad was a Major Leaguer, but I think it will be awhile before we see his son make the bigs.  He’s committed to Miami, and that’s probably the best route for him now, as I think he’s hit himself out of the first day altogether.

Ruben Sierra, Jr., Programa Alcance HS (PR) – Let’s stay with the bloodlines flavor today.  Although his stock hasn’t dipped a lot, I still get the feeling that Sierra’s being doubted by a number of scouts.  It even goes to the point that David Rawnsley of PGCrosschecker.com speculates that Sierra’s pull-off at the plate is a result of being afraid of the ball.  That’s a pretty harsh speculation, as that kind of fear can ruin a career.  On the bright side, Sierra’s been a workout star, showing off good tools.  Those tools haven’t translated into games so much, and there’s always some doubt about the competition Puerto Rican prospects face.  That will drop him into the second day.

Donavan Tate, Cartersville HS (GA) – This is just for fun, as I’m sure most people still love Tate as much as ever.  There’s some speculation that Tate will go #3 overall to the Padres, but I’m going to insert a new scenario to think about.  Tate’s possibly asking for money in the $6 million range, with Scott Boras as his adviser, and he holds a commitment to UNC, as well.  Once you get into the teams that don’t pay premium money, I can easily see Tate slipping so far down that he’s a late first rounder.  That’s big slippage for a kid who was in consideration for the #2 overall slot before the Spring began.  Just something to think about.

The usual disclaimer: writeups on draft status going into the draft were a mixture of BA and PG unless otherwise noted.  Go to their sites for draft coverage.  They’re awesome.

Who are your risers for the Spring?

May 23, 2009 Posted by | Draft Stock Updates | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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