Comparing the top HS infielders

Draft : : Story
Published: Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Not based on Draft predictions
Manny Machado seems to have gathered the most steam over the past year.  He is an outstanding player who projects extremely well. Most draft predictions have him near the top of the list.

Nick Castellanos has held his own as the draft nears. Many think he is one of the nation’s top hitting prospects. Most draft predictions have him in the first round.

Justin O’Conner is getting a ton of interest, as he should.  However, some actually like him better as a first round catcher. Note: We still like him as an infielder. Most draft predictions have him going in the first round.

Yordy Cabrera has some big tools and hits with plus power, but he’s also a couple years older than most of these infielders listed here.  That doesn’t make him any less of a prospect though. Most draft predictions have him first to second round.

Tony Wolters surely must be high on some organization’s list.  Others may out-tool him, but can anyone outplay him? He is not listed on many draft predictions as a first round candidate.

Kellen Sweeney missed a lot of important action late last year, but he is on the same level, maybe even better, than the others. He is not listed as a first round candidate on most lists.

Other infielders in the mix for early round selections, depending on signability,  could be Kris Bryant (NV), Garin Cecchini (LA), Marcus Littlewood (UT), Matt Lipka (TX), Jacoby Jones (MS) and Zach Alvord (GA).  Then there’s a group that could easily become early round picks that includes Sean Coyle (PA), Mike Antonio (NY), and Connor Narron (NC).  We also like Mott Hyde (GA), Chad Lewis (CA) and Lonnie Kauppila (CA) among many others.

Now there’s a wild card… Mason Williams (FL) attended the PG National last June at the Metrodome as an outfielder. He was very good, showing excellent tools especially his running ability.  He has since become an even better prospect as a middle infielder somehow, even though not playing that position, and word is he could go in the first couple rounds.

While the draft will likely prove us wrong, here is the way that a group of PG scouts see the actual talent level among this group of infielders. Nearly all of these players attended the PG National last June, so we have seen them all playing at the same event. Also, we have seen these players many times over the past few years.

Note: Kaleb Cowart is as good as any infielder in the country, but is likely to be selected early as a RHP.  PG President,  Jerry Ford, has stated that he thinks Cowart is the best shortstop in the country.  “I know he is a potential early pick pitcher and that he has played 3B most of the time.  At the PG National last year we asked him to take infield as a shortstop.  Not sure how close people were watching, but to me there was no one with better actions, hands or especially arm.  Of course that arm looks awfully good on the mound, and I’m sure everyone knows that.”
Here are the reports on these players from the PG National Showcase held last June at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. 60 time/throwing velocity listed at the top.

Manny Machado Kaleb Cowart Yordi Cabrera Kellen Sweeney

Machado 6.81/90
PG National Showcase Report
Manny Machado is a 2010 SS with a 6'2'', 180 lb. frame from Hialeah, FL who attends Miami Brito HS. Lean athletic frame, projects large. Smooth footwork at SS, quick hands, showed good arm strength, athletic actions on all plays, solid body control. Starts his swing with wrapped bat but catches up to 90+ FB just fine, has leverage and hit balls hard in games, gets good extension, swing looked better against higher velocity. Pitched from 3/4 arm slot, good easy arm action, 90 mph FB has good movement, showed some good CB spin as well. Scouts need to keep a close eye on this talented player. Good student, verbal to Florida International.
PG Grade: 10.0

Cowart 6.84/94
PG National Showcase Report
Kaleb Cowart is a 2010 IF/P with a 6'3'', 190 lb. frame from Adel, GA who attends Cook County HS. 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.
PG Grade: 10.0

Cabrera  6.59/87
PG National Showcase Report
Yordy Cabrera is a 2010 SS/3B/P with a 6'4'', 190 lb. frame from Lakeland, FL who attends Lakeland HS. Extra strong,athletic build, big league ready body. Easy bat speed, ball jumps hard, short and quick to the ball, good balance to contact, serious power potential, aggressive swing, will expand the zone. Smooth defensive actions, moves well, hands work plus well, very good arm strength, doesn't air it out, could outgrow SS and move to 3B in the future. Also a top level pitching prospect, 90-94 mph FB, very easy directional delivery, could be early draft pick as a pitcher or as an infielder. Verbal to Miami. Aflac All-American.
PG Grade: 10.0

Sweeney 6.74/85
PG National Showcase Report
Kellen Sweeney is a 2010 SS/OF with a 6'0'', 180 lb. frame from Cedar Rapids, IA who attends Jefferson HS. Athletic frame, strength, loose athletic actions. Smooth left handed swing, quick hands, uses hands well, some lift in swing, polished professional approach, power potential. Good actions both OF and MIF, clean quick exchange at SS/2B, very quick laterally, 6.74 speed. Makes all the plays and makes it look easy. Strong accurate arm. No weaknesses in his game. Early draft prospect. Very good student. Aflac All-American.
PG Grade: 

Nick Castellanos Justin O'Conner Tony Wolters Kris Bryant

Castellanos 6.70/87
PG National Showcase Report
Nick Castellanos is a 2010 3B/SS with a 6'4'', 210 lb. frame from Davie, FL who attends Archbishop McCarthy HS. Long, lean athletic build, still plenty of room for strength gains. Smooth athletic actions, hands are soft and sure, can quicken release, 3B arm strength. Pull approach hitting, has leverage and lift in swing, very good raw bat speed, tends to drop hands to start bat, aggressive swing approach, looking to drive the ball, top level power tools, runs fairly well. The bat should create some early draft interest. Good student, verbal to Miami.
PG Grade: 

O’Conner 6.72/95/ also won the Rawlings Homerun Contest at the PG National
PG National Showcase Report
Justin O'Conner is a 2010 SS/RHP with a 6'1'', 190 lb. frame from Muncie, IN who attends Cowan HS. Square shouldered athletic build, outstanding present strength. Top level arm strength at SS, smooth quick release, hands work well, agile enough to stay at SS, arm strength/release are major defensive weapons. Open stance, short swing to ball, plus bat speed, hits them high/deep to all fields, ball jumps hard off bat, extends thru ball. Also pitched, 91-93 FB, has been mid 90's in past, better IF prospect now. Top level bat on excellent defensive MIF. Serious power. Very high draft potential. Aflac All-American.
PG Grade: 10.0

Wolters 6.81/87
PG National Showcase Report
Tony Wolters is a 2010 MIF with a 5'10'', 165 lb. frame from Vista, CA who attends Rancho Buena Vista HS. Strong athletic build, very good present strength. Polished left handed bat, square stance, very quick hands/hips, smooth swing, very good bat speed, can drive the ball deep, squares up, high performance hitter. 6.81 runner, plus on-field speed, will steal bases/beat out hits. Smooth MIF actions, can play both SS/2B, quick release with arm strength, soft hands, makes plays. Also pitched, 86-89 mph FB, good delivery, quality hard CB, throws strikes. Pure baseball player, high energy, top level performer, good tools and plays even better. Dustin Pedroia comp except Wolters better at the same stage. Good student, verbal to San Diego. Aflac All-American.
PG Grade: 10.0

Bryant 7.00/87
PG National Showcase Report
Kris Bryant is a 2010 3B/1B with a 6'5'', 205 lb. frame from Las Vegas, NV who attends Bonanza HS. Tall athletic body, long levers, very projectable strength. Easy low effort swing, huge leverage and lift in swing, can hit them plus high and far, has serious hitting ability, can shorten swing to velo, quick hands. 7.00 runner, best under way, balanced actions defensively, hands are soft. Power could be something extra special. Corey Hart/Dave Kingman comp physically, but maybe better hitter. Early draft prospect. Excellent student, verbal to San Diego. Aflac All-American.
PG Grade: 10.0

Garin Cecchini Marcus Littlewood Matt Lipka Zach Alvord

Cecchini 6.86/89
PG National Showcase Report
Garin Cecchini is a 2010 MIF/3B with a 6'2'', 200 lb. frame from Lake Charles, LA who attends Barbe HS. Strong athletic build, some projection remaining. Classic LH'd swing, pulls and lifts, creates excellent bat speed, ball jumps off bat, serious home run juice, repeats swing well, squares up. 6.86 runner, smooth defensive actions, profiles as pro 3B with tools/build, good arm with carry. Very strong baseball background, will play to tools, excellewnt draft prospect, outstanding student. Verbal to Louisiana State. PG Grade: 10.0

Littlewood 6.90/87
PG National Showcase Report
Marcus Littlewood is a 2010 SS/IF with a 6'3'', 190 lb. frame from St George, UT who attends Pineview HS. Athletic bodywith strong lower half. Extremely polished balanced defensive actions, very soft hands, quick exchange, can throw from any angle with + accuracy. Switch hitter, similar approach both sides, similar bat speed, more lift LH'd. Nice swing with gap power, square balanced stance, will improve power as he gets older. More physical Ryan Jackson (Miami) comp. Could create early draft interest. Very good student, verbal to San Diego. Aflac All-American.
PG Grade: 10.0

Lipka 6.35/89
PG National Showcase Report
Matt Lipka is a 2010 SS/P with a 6'1'', 192 lb. frame from Frisco, TX who attends McKinney HS. Tightly wound athletic strong build, shows football background. Excellent runner, 6.35 60, plus to 1B from the right side. Quick line drive swing, stays short to ball, strong hands, pull line drive approach, ball jumps off bat hard, hitting tools are present. Athlete who can play multiple positions, shows arm strength, good hands, good infielder, CF would be interesting, too. Also pitched, FB to 89 mph, turns FB over, clean arm. Outstanding athlete, plays the game hard. Highest level prospect. Good student. Aflac All-American.
PG Grade: 10.0

Alvord 6.76/94
PG National Showcase Report
Zach Alvord is a 2010 MIF/P with a 6'0'', 180 lb. frame from Alpharetta, GA who attends South Forsyth HS. Athletic build. Quick feet and actions equipped with a 94mph arm, very quick exchange on double play actions at second base, athletic enough to play anywhere in the field. Polished hitting mechanics, open stance, gets loaded with minimal movement, ball jumps off his bat, showed hitting ability vs 90+mph in games, serious power potential for middle infielder. Highest level draft prospect. Verballed to Auburn. Aflac All American
PG Grade: 10.0

Sean Coyle Connor Narron Lonnie Kauppila Mott Hyde

Coyle 6.40/88
PG National Showcase Report
Sean Coyle is a 2010 MIF with a 5'9'', 175 lb. frame from Chalfont, PA who attends Germantown HS. Compact athletic build, withvery good strength. Quick twitch athlete, 6.40 runner, very quick first step. Athletic MIF actions, hands work well, probably profiles best at 2B in pro ball, but excellent SS actions now. Square stance, quick efficient swing, shows power, hit game HR, recognizes pitches early, will hit to all fields, very good idea how to hit and play. Polished approach with plus intangibles to go with plus tools. Simply one of the best players in high school baseball. Could get some very serious draft interest. Very good student, verbal to North Carolina.
PG Grade: 10.0

Narron  7.01/84
PG National Showcase Report
Connor Narron is a 2010 SS/IF with a 6'3'', 187 lb. frame from Goldsboro, NC who attends Charles B Aycock HS. Long angular athletic build, good strength potential. Switch-hitter, better bat speed left handed, more lift right handed. Long extended swing, hitch to start, good bat speed, shows power potential, ball jumps on contact, tends to rotate/open early. Smooth defensive actions, quick release on throws, very accurate arm, speed/agility may be better suited to 3B when he fills out. Good student, verbal to North Carolina. Aflac All-American.
PG Grade: 9.5
Kauppila 6.92/82
PG National Showcase Report
Lonnie Kauppila is a 2010 SS/3B with a 6'1'', 170 lb. frame from Burbank, CA who attends Burbank HS. Slender wiry athleticbuild, deceptive strength. Crouch stance, very aggressive swing, quick twitch hips/hands, big time bat speed, polished hitter, can drive the ball to all fields with power, turns on plus FB's with wood, hits with confidence. Infield tools, quick release, multiple arm angles, playable arm strength, plays hard. Bat is a big time tool at any position. Could create early draft interest. Excellent student.
PG Grade: 10.0

Hyde 6.51/88
PG National Showcase Report
Mott Hyde is a 2010 MIF/3B with a 6'0'', 180 lb. frame from Resaca, GA who attends Calhoun HS. Strong athletic build, good frame. Very good bat speed, ball comes off barrell hard, line drive swing plane, overpowers balls, not much lift in swing at present, sound overall hitting approach. 6.51 runner, athletic ability and actions to play SS in college, more likely 2B/3B professionally, very good arm strength. Big offensive potential for a MIF. Serious tools could create early draft interest. Good student, verbal to Georgia Tech.
PG Grade: 10.0

Mason Williams

Williams 6.44/91 from the outfield
PG National Showcase Report
Mason Williams is a 2010 OF/P with a 6'0'', 148 lb. frame from Winter Garden, FL who attends West Orange HS. Slender build, wiry strength. Very light on feet, 6.44 runner, excellent defensive player, plus range/plus arm strength in CF, shows instincts, has played MIF in past with similar tools/skills. Left handed hitter, leadoff type skills, quick short swing, line drives to all fields, polished hitter, recognizes pitches, can bunt for hits, speed plays on bases, more strength will help get balls to gaps. Also pitches, side arm style with mid 80's fastball, big sweeping CB, effective spot pitching style. Projects large as he fills out his body. Tools are present. Good student.
PG Grade: 9.5

So who is the very best middle infield prospect among the prep ranks?

While we don’t envision this actually taking place, we vote for Kellen Sweeney from our hometown Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  This might surprise a lot of people, but this is one very special player.  When you combine the whole package, he stands out in the crowd.  Defensively he stands out and the hit/power combination is #1 among middle infield prospects. Some might claim that we favor the hometown boy because we also had Sweeney’s brother Ryan (Oakland A’s outfielder) ranked near the top of the 2003 list.  Ryan went in the 2nd round that year and has already established himself, now in his 5th year in the Big Leagues and still only 25 years old.

Maybe just as surprising is our selection as the second best middle infield prospect.  That would be Tony Wolters, another U of San Diego signee.  Others can outrun these guys or outsize them, but in the rest of the categories these two (Sweeney and Wolters) really have what it takes to excel at the Major League level in our estimation.  Anyone who thinks Wolters isn’t going to be a Big League stand out, just hasn’t been paying close attention.

This is not to discount the talent of Machado, Cabrera, or any of the other outstanding prospects.  We’ve seen them all many times now.  The draft might not prove us right, but we think the future results will.

The draft is always its own animal.  Signability is equally important as talent once that talent has been identified.  Opinions vary greatly even among those on Major League scouting departments. Then in the end someone has to pull the trigger.

While PG obviously doesn’t have to look at things from an investment standpoint, it doesn’t mean the track record should be ignored.  We could afford to be wrong, but we had Brett Anderson ranked #2, Clayton Kershaw #3 in the Nation before the draft in 2006.  Brett Anderson lasted until the second round.  Where would he be selected if that same draft was held today? We also had Chris Tillman, Mat Latos and Travis Snider near the top in 06. Latos went in the 11th round.  

We had Rick Porcello #1 and Jason Heyward #2 in 2007.  Six high school players were selected ahead of Heyward and fourteen high school players were drafted before Porcello.  Six high school pitchers were selected before the Tigers drafted Porcello. We had Bumgarner ranked #5 that year.

In 2005 we had Justin Upton #1 and Cameron Maybin #2, they actually became the first two High School players selected with Upton going first overall that year.  Others ranked near the top in 2005 included the following players,  Andrew McCutchen, Chris Volstad, Trevor Bell, Sean O’Sullivan, Ike Davis, Austin Jackson, Jay Bruce, Buster Posey, Michael Bowden,  Jonathan Niese, Justin Smoak, Tyson Ross and Ryan Tucker.  O’Sullivan went in the 3rd round.  Ike Davis went in the 19th round in 2005, then 1st round out of college in 2008. Austin Jackson went in the 8th round.  Buster Posey was drafted in the 50th round out of high school in 2005, then he went in the 1st round in 2008 out of college.

Jonathan Niese was selected in the 7th round in 2005. Justin Smoak went in the 16th round in 2005, first round out of college in 2008. Tyson Ross was a 2nd round pick in 2008, but went undrafted out of high school in 2005. Also in 2005 PG had Jeremy Hellickson, another Iowa kid, ranked in the top 15.  He wasn’t picked until the 4th round that year. He has been one of the top pitching prospects in professional baseball.
Even looking back several years ago in 1999, PG went against all others that rank players and had Josh Beckett ranked #1 with everyone’s first choice Josh Hamilton at #2.  However most amazing was that PG had a young Texas prep 3 sport athlete ranked in their top 5 that year.  That player wasn’t drafted until the second round and many were very surprised he went that high.  He has since become a MLB All Star, Carl Crawford.

Over the past 10 years or more the Perfect Game high school player rankings have identified, recognized and highly ranked every single high school draft pick who has gone on to play in the Major Leagues. On the other hand, PG did not rank every player drafted in the first couple rounds.  Not a single one of those players has made it in professional baseball at this time.  A good example would be Don Mattingley’s son Preston who was selected in the first round in 2006 and signed for $1.000.000.  We didn’t have Preston ranked in our top 500 that year and thought we had made a big mistake on draft day.  Then we saw Preston playing in Low A ball and realized we were right.  He was not one of the top 500 high school prospects in the 2006 class.  He did have a good body with athletic ability and the obvious bloodlines, but that is where it ended.  We thought, maybe he will end up hitting, though what we saw wasn’t someone who looked like he had great hitting potential.  In the field, he was drafted as a shortstop, but we saw him playing 2B and to be brutally honest he had bad actions and a very weak arm. He may have improved a lot over the past few years, but he was far from any prospect, let alone a first round type kid when we saw him. In 361 professional games, mostly played at the lower levels he has hit .234 with a .278 on base percentage.  He strikes out a lot and doesn’t hit with any significant power. He is an average runner, but lacks instincts on the field. In 361 games he has struckout 416 times while walking 82 times.  He has stolen 59 bases, but been thrown out 23 times. Don Mattingley was a great player and hitter. Preston is a bigger more athletic looking player, but lacked the necessary skills to be an early draft pick.  Yet he was an early draft pick, just not one that was listed in the PG Rankings. He just wasn’t good enough to be ranked.  Preston is still playing, he’s only 22 years old playing for Inland Empire in the Cal League which favors hitters in a big way.  As of now he has played in 10 games of the teams 46 games.  He has been converted to a left fielder and he is hitting .182 in his 5th season of pro ball. So, we will definitely have missed on Preston if he somehow turns things around.

To be fair, we have missed on a few over the years, ranking them too high, but the track record is very good. The future is always interesting and it will be again once the 2010 draft class has a few years under their belt.  That is when we all get to see a clearer picture of what should have taken place in June of 2010.  Only thing we can be sure of is that the draft never nails it completely and some players selected later on will outperform some who went early. It happens every year.
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