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.
Kentucky State-by-State List
Draft Class Defined by Explosion Onto Scene of 6-9 Meyer
college ranks have produced just four first-round draft picks in 46
years, but that surprisingly-low total hardly does justice to the
state’s ever-increasing relevance as a baseball training ground.
Kentucky’s overall impact on the draft in recent years has been
growing by leaps and bounds.
year ago, 28 players were drafted from Kentucky colleges, the most in
state history. Louisville alone produced a school-record 10 draft
picks. In all, 28 players were drafted that originally attended high
school in Kentucky—nearly triple the annual totals from as recently
as 2004 and 2005.
if 2010 developments were revealing in terms of simply taking stock
on the general state of amateur baseball in a state better known for
basketball and horse racing, then this year’s draft could even
better define Kentucky’s growing relevance. Everything stems on the
fate of one player—University of Kentucky fireballing pitcher Alex
Meyer and his meteoric rise up draft boards this spring.
have been waiting patiently for two years for the 6-foot-9, 220-pound
Meyer to scratch through the surface of his top-of-the-rotation
potential. He has largely done that this year, posting a 7-5, 2.94
record with 46 walks and a Southeastern Conference-leading 110
strikeouts in 101 innings as the Wildcats ace.
those numbers alone don’t paint Meyer as being much different from
the wealth of other elite college arms in this year’s draft, they
do in the context of how fast Meyer has come as a legit, high-end
prospect in a relatively short period.
year ago, Meyer was frustratingly inconsistent for Kentucky, and went
just 5-3, 7.06. In addition to a fastball that sat at 94-96 mph and
touched 97-98 in every outing this season, he actually reached 100 in
a February scrimmage. His slider is a second superior pitch and has
been clocked in the mid- to high-80s.
the heavy lifting has sent Meyer’s stock flying up draft boards
this spring, faster perhaps than any other player in the country.
his season is now complete as the Wildcats failed to qualify for the
Southeastern Conference tournament, Meyer is in position where he now
might be one of the top 4-6 selections in the entire draft—and
might even challenge Morehead State lefthander Drew Hall’s record
as the earliest college pick in state history. Hall was picked third
overall in 1984.
Meyer’s overall stuff has improved only marginally from his
sophomore to junior year, his turnaround this spring stems mostly
from significant improvement in his overall pitchability, notably the
command and feel for his slider and changeup. This has been the first
season, in fact, that he has been able to throw his change for
strikes in a game.
what may have been the best outing of his three-year college career
on April 23 against SEC rival Arkansas, Meyer earned conference
pitcher-of-the-week honors by slamming the door on the Razorbacks in
a complete-game three-hitter with 10 strikeouts. He threw first-pitch
strikes to 20 of the first 34 hitters he faced and gave up only one
hard hit ball all game while pumping his fastball at a steady 94-98
mph. Most importantly, he threw both his slider and change for
game was in marked contrast to a typical Meyer outing in his first
two years at Kentucky, when he struggled to throw strikes, built up
high-pitch counts by the middle innings and won infrequently. He was
solid in every outing down the stretch this spring, so his dramatic
overall improvement is not seen as an aberration. And yet, he still
has untapped potential.
Prior to Meyer’s timely
emergence, the top prospect in the state was University of Louisville
closer Tony Zych, who cemented his own prospect status last summer
when he was selected the official top prospect in the Cape Cod
League. That was on the basis of a fastball that reached 97-98 mph.
The pitch peaked at 99 in almost every outing this spring, and he
complemented it with a mid-80s power slider.
teammate, infielder Ryan Wright, also excelled last summer in a stint
with Team USA’s college national team.
But neither player may
have improved his draft worth this spring as there is continuing
concern about Zych’s high-effort delivery and the lack of a true
infield position for Wright, a blue-collar player who spent the first
half of the 2011 season at second base for the Cardinals, before
moving to shortstop. He overcame a slow start at the plate to lead a
disappointing Louisville team in almost every offensive category, and
would seem to project as an offensive second baseman.
Meyer’s upside is so
significant that he blew right past both Zych and Wright when he went
on his late surge, to easily claim the top spot among Kentucky
players in this year’s draft.
outfielder Kes Carter also came on fast down the stretch and may have
emerged as the best hitting prospect in the state. He may have taken
larger strides this spring than even Meyer, moving from a potential
4th-5th round pick in February to a possible
But while Meyer and
Carter improved their worth, their progress has been offset by the
deterioration of a number of college prospects, notably Louisville
sophomore righthander Mike Nastold, and the failure of even one of
three caching prospects—Western Kentucky’s Matt Rice, Kentucky’s
Mike Williams and Morehead State’s Taylor Davis—to made enough
strides to land in the top 10 rounds. Nastold, who missed the 2010
season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, went backwards after
flashing a 94-mph fastball and considerable promise if the fall.
Most of the reason for
Kentucky’s upsurge as a baseball state has come from
vastly-improved programs at Kentucky and Louisville, which over the
previous five years both set and subsequently tied school records for
wins in a season. Louisville then eclipsed that mark in 2010.
Though both those schools
experienced relatively poor seasons this spring—Kentucky finished
at 25-30; Louisville was just 29-27 as it entered Big East Conference
post-season play as a No. 6 seeds—the 2011 season is expected to be
nothing more than a momentary lapse for the Wildcats and Cardinals.
Both schools have used
first-rate new facilities as the catalyst to taking their programs to
new levels. They have significantly broadened their recruiting
efforts, and successfully enticed players from traditional baseball
hotbeds like Florida, and more-distant locations, to come to Kentucky
to play baseball. They have also done an excellent job of keeping
most of the state’s best high-school talent at home. The top seven
seniors in this year’s Kentucky high-school class have all
committed to in-house colleges.
The consensus top
Kentucky prep talent for this year’s draft is Lawrence County High
righthander Chandler Shepherd, a Kentucky recruit. A standout as an
underclassmen (he pitched his school to a state title as a freshman,
and reeled off a state-record 46-inning scoreless streak as a
sophomore), Shepherd missed his junior season with Tommy John
surgery, though still hit more than .500 in a DH role. Healthy again
this year, Shepherd has pumped his fastball back into the mid-90s,
and added a cutter to his three-pitch mix.
There were three
clearly-defined prep prospects in Kentucky at the start of the 2011
season, all righthanded pitchers. But Warren East High’s Mark
Biggs, a Louisville recruit, may have jeopardized his chances of
being drafted in an early round when he fractured a vertebra in his
back after only one start. He has since resumed pitching, but failed
to sustain the velocity on his 90-93 mph fastball and had limited
feel for his breaking stuff.
The one other Kentucky
high-school player given a shot at going in the top 10 rounds is St.
Xavier’s Matt Spalding, the best arm on the state’s best prep
team, and a Western Kentucky recruit. Spalding also has been clocked
in the mid-90s, but his smaller frame and somewhat herky-jerky
delivery may limit him to a short role at the next level.
Kentucky in a
Emergence of righthander Alex Meyer.
High-school position players.
(1-to-5 scale): 3.
BEST COLLEGE TEAM:
BEST HIGH SCHOOL TEAM:
St. Xavier HS, Louisville.
PROSPECT ON THE RISE:
Alex Meyer, rhp, University of Kentucky. All the ingredients were
there for the 6-foot-9 Meyer to blossom into a legitimate prospect,
and he did so this spring with significantly-better command of all
his pitches and the emergence of a third pitch, his changeup, that he
was able to throw for strikes in any count.
PROSPECT ON THE
DECLINE: Mark Biggs, rhp, Warren East HS, Bowling Green. His
chance of becoming the state’s top high-school draft may have
evaporated when he broke a vertebra in his back after his first
pitching appearance of the 2011 season.
WILD CARD: Ryan
Wright, if, Louisville; Chad Wright, of, Kentucky. They are not
the Wright brothers (not related), but both have strikingly similar
profiles as baseball players. They are primarily blue-collar players
who led their teams in a number of offensive categories, and yet
don’t have defined positions. If teams buy into their bats, they
could rise up draft boards.
PROSPECT, Kentucky Connection: Nick Maronde, lhp, University of
Florida (attended high school in Lexington).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT:
Brian Adams, of, University of Kentucky.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT:
Clinton Hollon, rhp, Woodford County HS, Lexington.
HIGHEST DRAFT PICKS
Drew Hall, lhp, Morehead State U. (1984, Cubs/1st round,
2006 Draft: Ryan
Strieby, 1b, U. of Kentucky (Tigers/4th round).
2007 Draft: Ben
Revere, of, Lexington Catholic HS, Lexington (Twins/1st round, 28th pick).
2008 Draft: Christian
Friedrich, lhp, Eastern Kentucky U. (Rockies/1st round,
2009 Draft: James
Paxton, lhp, U. of Kentucky (Blue Jays/1st round, 36th pick).
2010 Draft: Thomas
Royse, rhp, U. of Louisville (White Sox/3rd round).
Best Hitter: Kes
Carter, of, Western Kentucky University.
Best Power: Braden
Kapteyn, rhp/1b, University of Kentucky.
Best Speed: Logan
Robbins, ss, Western Kentucky University.
Best Defender: Kes
Carter, of, Western Kentucky University.
Tony Zych, rhp, University of Louisville.
Best Breaking Stuff:
Alex Meyer, rhp, University of Kentucky.
TOP PROSPECTS, GROUPS
ONE and TWO
ONE (Projected ELITE-Round Draft /
ALEX MEYER, rhp, University of Kentucky (Jr.)
size (6-9/215), raw stuff (95-98 FB, ++ SL); made huge strides in
KES CARTER, of, Western Kentucky University (Jr.)
5-tool talent; best hitter in state (.348-7-38), emerging power,
speed for CF, arm strength for RF.
TONY ZYCH, rhp, University of Louisville (Jr.)
in closer role (2.84/12 SV as JR; 0.89/12 SV on Cape) with 97 FB, but
has violent/funky arm action.
RYAN WRIGHT, ss/2b, University of Louisville (Jr.)
steady player with ++ approach; lacks power for corner; quickness in
middle; ++ hitter (.343-11-44).
TWO (Projected HIGH-Round Draft /
BRADEN KAPTEYN, rhp/1b, University of Kentucky (Jr.)
figure (6-4/220) on mound (17 IP/27 SO), in batter’s box
(.300-6-42); 90-94 FB, regressed as RHP.
PHIL WETHERELL, rhp, Western Kentucky University (Jr.)
RHP, used in a variety of roles (0-3, 3.88, 4 starts, 5 SV); + arm
strength (FB 94-95), delivery issues.
CHANDLER SHEPHERD, rhp, Lawrence County HS, Louisa
arm action/most-ready-to-pitch of 3 prep arms in state, FB at 89-93,
OK break; + projectable frame.
LOGAN ROBBINS, ss, Western Kentucky University (Jr.)
all tools (++ range/arm at SS), 6.5 speed (16 SB), flashes power
(.285-3-29); needs to refine technique.
MATT SPALDING, rhp, St. Xavier HS, Louisville
head snap in delivery relegates him to short role in future; FB up to
96 in past, more 92-93 this spring.
STEWART IJAMES, of, University of Louisville (Jr.)
teases scouts with power potential (.250-11-45); no major flaws,
other tools average.
CHAD WRIGHT, of, University of Kentucky (Jr.)
swing bat (.359-6-40), but tough call on profile position; lacks
speed for CF, size for LF, big arm for RF.
TAYLOR BLACK, ss, University of Kentucky (Sr.)
SR sign; true SS actions/+ arm, should remain at position; easy
transition to new bats (.319-4-38).
MARK BIGGS, rhp/3b, Warren East HS, Bowling Green
vertebra after one start; + body/tools (90-93 FB); healthy again,
could make a late pre-draft push