Draft : : State Preview
State Preview: Tennessee
Sunday, May 15, 2011
In the weeks leading up to the draft, Perfect Game will be providing a detailed
overview of each state in the U.S., including the District of Columbia, as well
as Canada and Puerto Rico. These overviews will list the state's strengths,
weaknesses and the players with the best tools, as well as providing
mini-scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players.
Tennessee State-by-State List
Talented Vanderbilt Squad Monopolizes State, Could Produce Record Draft
Over the 46-year
life of baseball’s first-year player draft, no college teams have impacted the
procedure quite like the 1994 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and 2008 Arizona State
On a Georgia Tech
team that finished second at the 1994 College World Series, the Yellow Jackets
had a star cast that included shortstop Nomar Garciaparra (12th pick
overall) and catcher Jason Varitek (14th), and produced four of the
first 46 picks in that year’s draft. No individual team has ever had such a
profound influence that early in the draft.
Arizona State had
a draft-record 15 players taken in 2008, including first-rounders Brett Wallace
and Ike Davis, both now starting in the big leagues. For all its obvious talent,
though, that Sun Devils team didn’t even reach the College World Series.
All of which
brings us to a 2011 Vanderbilt team that is so deep in talent that it could
realistically threaten the draft marks set in the past by Georgia Tech and
Arizona State. Led by projected early first-rounder Sonny Gray, the Commodores
have nine players that could legitimately be drafted in the top five rounds. In
Gray, third baseman Jason Esposito, lefthander Grayson Garvin and closer Navery
Moore, the team conceivably could produce four picks by the time the 46th
pick rolls around.
outside shot, too, that the Commodores could match ASU’s record total of 15
picks in one draft. Interestingly, Vanderbilt recruiting coordinator Josh
Holliday (son of long-time college coach Tom Holliday, older brother of St.
Louis Cardinals all-star outfielder Matt Holliday) was previously the recruiting
coordinator at ASU three years ago, and prior to that served the same position
for three years at Georgia Tech (2005-07).
been a mainstay in the draft in Tim Corbin’s eight-plus year run as head coach,
producing the likes of lefthander David Price, the No. 1 overall pick in the
2007 draft, and third baseman Pedro Alvarez, the No. 2 selection a year later.
Altogether, the school has had five first-round picks in the Corbin era.
But no Vanderbilt
class in the past comes close to matching the depth of talent in the current
one, particularly all the hard-throwing arms on the team’s pitching staff. At
least seven Commodore draft-eligible arms have been clocked as high as 93 mph
this spring, with several peaking at 95. The 5-foot-11 Gray, who is expected to
be one of the first 6-8 players drafted, has topped out at 98.
The lengthy list
of Vandy power pitchers doesn’t even include lefthanders Sam Selman and Kevin
Ziomek, who rank as Tennessee’s best draft picks in 2012 and 2013.
With such a
motherlode of talent on one college team, it will be considered a major upset in
June if Vanderbilt, which has been ranked in the top three all spring in the
national polls, doesn’t move on to the College World Series. But that is hardly
a given as Vanderbilt, for all the front-line talent it has fielded in recent
years, has never reached Omaha. It was stymied, in particular, in 2007 when the
No. 1-ranked Commodores bit the dust in stunning fashion in extra innings in
regional play, with Price on the mound. It was his only loss of the year.
With the top
nine-ranked college prospects in the state coming from Vanderbilt, the
Commodores overwhelmingly dominate the list of prospects in Tennessee in 2011.
The ninth of those nine players, 6-foot-5, fifth-year senior righthander Mark
Lamm, has been clocked routinely in the mid-90s in his role as a middle
reliever, and might have edged his way closer to the top 3-4 rounds had he not
had a history of arm problems. He missed the 2010 season with Tommy John
have also gotten unexpected mileage this spring from Moore, who has finally
gotten healthy after four years of dealing with an arm injury, sustained prior
to his junior year in high school. At the time, the then-16-year-old Moore was
rated the best pitching prospect in the country in his draft class. He has
fortified the back end of the Vandy bullpen as the team’s closer.
re-emergence as a top prospect has essentially offset the disappointing season
by Commodores 6-foot-7 righthander Jack Armstrong, who has flashed first-round
ability at various stages of his Vanderbilt and summer-league careers. Armstrong
was slowed by a strained back initially, but found meaningful innings hard to
come this spring and never got untracked.
Vanderbilt’s impressive array of talent, this is a banner year for college
talent overall in Tennessee. On the accompanying 2011 state follow list, 15
college players have been identified as legitimate candidates to go in the top
10 rounds. That includes two players each from Tennessee and Memphis, though
Memphis’ contribution is not expected to include junior shortstop Chad Zuercher,
who has led the nation in batting average much of the 2011 season. Zuercher is
hitting a resounding .457, but his power numbers are down significantly from a
year ago (0 HR this year, six homers in 2010), a result of the new bat standards
at the college level, and scouts say he lacks the arm strength to remain at
shortstop at the next level.
schools will also be represented in a significant way in this draft as
hard-throwing Science Hill lefthander Daniel Norris is expected to be taken in
the first 15-20 picks, and hard-hitting Farragut High catcher Nick Delmonico
could go before the start of the second round.
Norris has been
clocked as high as 96 mph on multiple occasions this spring, while Delmonico,
the third of three baseball-playing sons of former Tennessee coach Rod
Delmonico, is one of the elite power-hitting prospects in the 2011 class. If
teams were convinced Delmonico could catch on an everyday basis, at either the
college or pro levels, he might wedge his way into the first round, alongside
Farragut High teammate Philip Pfeifer, the winningest pitcher in Tennessee prep
history, ranked alongside Norris and Delmonico as the third member of a prized
Tennessee high-school class entering the 2011 season, but has been plagued by
tendinitis and missed five weeks of the season. His draft stock figures to take
a significant hit as he doesn’t possess above-average stuff anyway, and is
heavily committed to attending college at Tennessee. Norris is a Clemson
recruit, while Delmonico is earmarked for Georgia.
At the Tennessee
junior-college level, 2006 national-champion Walters State has typically
bludgeoned its way into the national limelight with a lineup full of power bats.
This year, the team’s biggest bat belongs to first baseman Cody Stubbs, who
spent his freshman season at Tennessee.
Stubbs ranked as
the state’s top JC prospect through most of the season as his bat continued to
heat up, but a lot of scouts were there recently when 6-foot-6, 245-pound
Columbia State JC righthander Clint Wright neutralized Stubbs, and the entire
Walters State lineup for the second time this year with a fastball up to 97 mph.
That performance has likely elevated Wright past Stubbs, and possibly into the
top 3-4 rounds of the draft.
Tennessee in a Nutshell:
STRENGTH: Vanderbilt talent.
WEAKNESS: Depth of high-school
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 5.
BEST COLLEGE TEAM: Vanderbilt.
BEST JUNIOR-COLLEGE TEAM:
BEST HIGH SCHOOL TEAM: Farragut HS,
PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Clint Wright,
rhp, Columbia State JC.
The 6-foot-6, 245-pound righthander made a steady progression up the Tennessee
prospect ranks this spring, culminating in a dominant performance over state JC
power Walters State, when his fastball was clocked up to 97 mph.
PROSPECT ON THE DECLINE: Philip
Pfeifer, lhp, Farragut HS, Knoxville.
Pfeifer, the winningest pitcher in Tennessee prep history, ranked alongside LHP
Daniel Norris and his Farragut High teammate Nick Delmonico, as top prospects
for this year’s draft, but his stock tumbled when he missed five weeks of the
season with tendinitis.
WILD CARD: Jack Armstrong, rhp,
Vanderbilt. The 6-foot-7 Armstrong, son of former major league all-star Jack
Armstrong, remains an enigma to scouts. At various stages of his college career,
he has looked like a near-bet first-rounder with his combination of a
projectable frame and superior stuff, including a fastball up to 97 mph. But
Armstrong has worked only 12 innings this season, stemming mostly from a nagging
back strain, and has pitched only sparingly on Vanderbilt’s deep, talented
pitching staff. Even when healthy, his stuff and control have not been up to his
BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Tennessee
Kes Carter, of, Western Kentucky University (attended high school in Nashville).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT: Sam Selman, lhp,
TOP 2013 PROSPECT:
Kevin Ziomek, lhp,
HIGHEST DRAFT PICKS
Draft History: David Price, lhp,
Vanderbilt U. (2007, Rays/1st round, 1st pick).
Bryan Morris, rhp, Motlow
State JC (Dodgers/1st round, 26th pick).
David Price, lhp,
Vanderbilt U. (Rays/1st round, 1st pick).
Pedro Alvarez, 3b,
Vanderbilt U. (Pirates/1st round, 2nd pick).
Mike Minor, lhp,
Vanderbilt U. (Braves/1st round, 7th pick).
Bryce Brentz, rhp/of,
Middle Tennessee State U. (Red Sox/1st round, 36th pick).
Best Hitter: Aaron Westlake, 1b,
Best Power: Nick Delmonico, c,
Farragut HS, Knoxville.
Best Speed: Drew Martinez, of,
University of Memphis.
Best Defender: Jason Esposito, 3b,
Best Velocity: Sonny Gray, rhp,
Best Breaking Stuff: Sonny Gray, rhp,
TOP PROSPECTS, GROUPS ONE and TWO
(Projected ELITE-Round Draft / Rounds 1-3)
1. SONNY GRAY, rhp, Vanderbilt University (Jr.)
Small frame, but lively 92-96 FB, T-99 in relief; ++ shape/velocity on CU; size,
fringy command only issues.
2. DANIEL NORRIS, lhp, Science Hill HS, Johnson City
2011 HS lefty, loose 6-3/180 body; fast arm, low 90s FB/tops 96, 2 types of CU,
nice CH, ++ projects.
3. JASON ESPOSITO, 3b, Vanderbilt University (Jr.)
Hits to all fields with fluid/easy stroke (.354-5-46); gifted 3B, + arm, makes
all plays; + instincts on bases.
4. NICK DELMONICO, c, Farragut HS, Knoxville
Strong build (6-3/215); injured wrist this spring, not shown ++ power, + hitting
potential, raw catching skills.
5. GRAYSON GARVIN, lhp, Vanderbilt University (Jr.)
6-6 frame; top arm on Cape (5-0, 0.74), ++ as JR (11-1, 2.08); throws ton of
strikes with 89-92 FB/T-95.
6. NAVERY MOORE, rhp, Vanderbilt University (Jr.)
Breakthrough year (4-2, 1.05, 9 SV) for ex-TJ victim; ball jumps out of hand on
heavy 93-96 FB, + 82-84 SL.
7. JACK ARMSTRONG, rhp, Vanderbilt University (Jr.)
Ultimate hi-risk/hi-reward; 6-7 RHP has peaked at 97 in past, bothered by back
strain all spring, just 12 IP.
8. AARON WESTLAKE, 1b, Vanderbilt University (Jr.)
best raw power in Vandy lineup (.363-11-39); consistent at plate for 3 years;
settled in at 1B.
Draft / Rounds 4-10)
9. TAYLOR HILL, rhp, Vanderbilt University (Sr.)
++ low-risk SR
sign; relies on pitchability for success (4-0, 3.17); + sink/run on 92-93
FB/T-95, 88-mph split.
10. CLINT WRIGHT, lhp, Columbia State JC (So.)
Fast-moving 6-7 LHP; delivery still raw, but arm works/throws strikes; FB 88-92
early, peaked 97 last start.
11. CODY STUBBS, 1b, Walters State JC (So.)
High-profile Tennessee transfer; got locked in at plate late (.411-12-64), but
tended to feast on inferior velo.
12. COREY WILLIAMS, lhp, Vanderbilt University (So.)
SO-eligible LHP with + upside, overlooked on ++ Vandy staff (1-0, 4.82); FB at
93-94, but command issues.
13. MARK LAMM, rhp, Vanderbilt University (Sr.)
Fifth-year SR, missed 2010 with TJ surgery; effective in short role (4-0, 2.45)
with 91-94 FB/T-95, avg SL.
14. MATT RAMSEY, rhp/c, University of Tennessee (Jr.)
Suited for pen role (FB 96-97), but slowed by strained elbow/catching duties at
UT; limited feel for pitching.
15. BEN PAULLUS, rhp, University of Memphis (Jr.)
Breakout season as closer (5-3, 2.49, 3 SV), can also start; electric stuff with
92-94 FB, ++ swing/miss SL.
16. STEPHEN GRUVER, lhp, University of Tennessee (Jr.)
starter has average 3-pitch stuff; FB at 88-92, OK CH/cutter; fights
17. DREW MARTINEZ, of, University of Memphis (Jr.)
Made-to-order leadoff man; tough out, sprays ball to all fields (.328-0-21, 20
SB); excels on bases, + in CF.
18. BRANDON ZAJAC, lhp, Walker Valley HS, Cleveland
6-4/205 LHP; loose arm, FB at 88-91/T-93, mid-70s CU; new to pitching,
max-effort delivery needs work.
19. MOOKIE BETTS, ss/of, John Overton HS, Nashville
Small, athletic player; good bat speed, slashes to all fields; + speed/impact
base runner; fringe SS arm/actions.
20. CODY GEYER, rhp/3b, Walters State JC (Fr.)
Small/physical frame (5-11/205); only 15 IP, but generated most new interest on
team with + arm/93-95 FB.
21. CURT CASALI, c, Vanderbilt University (Sr.)
hammy cost time behind plate in 2010; + handling Vandy arms, OK defender/bat
22. PHILIP PFEIFER, lhp, Farragut HS, Knoxville
State record 43 wins, 16-0 in 2010; out 5 weeks with bad shoulder; + deceptive,
FB 88-90, + CU/command.
23. DeANDRE ALLEN, rhp/ss, Sequoyah HS, Madisonville
Lacks hands/actions for SS, but made big strides this spring on mound; FB at
86-91, CU/mechanics very raw.
24. WILL LOCANTE, lhp, Cumberland University (Jr.)
of late heat on 2 small-college arms: Locante (93-94 FB), Tennessee Wesleyan RHP
David Bergin (92).
25. MICHAEL GUNN, 1b/lhp, Christian Brothers HS, Wilson, Ark.
Arkansas product, attends HS in Tennessee; 2-way college talent, upside as LH
bat, quick hands/feel to hit.
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