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.
Arkansas State-by-State List
Draft Class Shallow Beyond Obvious Talents Howard, McCann
The 2010 draft was
outstanding by Arkansas’ modest standards. Two players—Southern
Arkansas righthander Hayden Simpson (16th/Cubs) and
Arkansas third baseman Zach Cox (25th/Cardinals)—were
taken in the first round, and six more players had their names called
in the top 10 rounds. Altogether, 16 players with Arkansas
connections signed professional contracts, an exceptionally-high
total for the state.
Those memories will have
to satisfy an Arkansas draft fan base, as 2011 looks to be as shallow
as 2010 was deep. Only two players, Searcy High righthander Dillon
Howard and Arkansas catcher James McCann, appear likely to be drafted
in the top five rounds.
has a realistic chance to become the highest-drafted high-school
player from the state since Arkansas High (Texarkana) righthanders
Dustin Moseley in 2000 (34th
overall/Reds) and Tony McKnight in 1995 (22nd
overall/Astros), and possibly even since Pine Bluff High outfielder
Torii Hunter in 1993 (20th
signability could be an interesting puzzle for scouts to figure out,
though, as he is being advised by the Boras Corporation, which has a
documented history of steering high-school clients to college before
entering professional baseball. In addition, Howard would be eligible
to re-enter the draft as a college sophomore, due to his age, if he
chooses to honor his scholarship to Arkansas.
those factors aren’t enough for Howard to ponder, his stature as
one of the top high-school prospects ever raised and developed in
Arkansas may put added pressure on him to play for the
extremely-popular state school, and potentially even lead that
program to its first-ever College World Series title.
has been considered a near first-round lock since he was clocked at
92 mph in his first high-school appearance as a freshman, and homered
in his first at-bat. Within a year, he was touching 95 with
regularity. Even though he throws no harder now than he did then,
Howard has developed into a pitcher, instead of just a thrower. His
steady 91-95 mph fastball gets nice running action, and he’s
increasingly able to spot the pitch to different parts of the strike
zone while mixing in two types of breaking balls.
Howard has dominated his competition in Arkansas since his freshman
year, his Searcy High team lost in the 6-A state final in each of the
last three years. This year’s setback was the most gut-wrenching
for Howard as he was cruising along with a tidy one-hitter through
six innings, and took a seemingly insurmountable 5-1 lead into the
final inning. But Jacksonville High scored four runs in the seventh
to tie the game 5-5, the final three coming on a two-out, two-strike,
Howard moving to shortstop in the eighth inning, Jacksonville quickly
pushed across the winning run for an unlikely 6-5 victory. To add
insult to injury, Howard went 0-for-4, hitting in the cleanup spot. A
year earlier, Howard was unable to take the mound in the state final
because of a minor shoulder injury. While Howard’s otherwise
distinguished prep career ended on a sour note, he has the draft
squarely in his sights.
The state’s other top
high-school prospect, lefthander Mark Reyes, meanwhile, closed out
his career in style by striking out 17 and slamming a two-run homer
in leading Jessieville High a 9-1 win over Elkins High in the state
3-A title game. Reyes’ fastball peaks out at 92 mph, and like
Howard, he is committed to Arkansas.
The University of
Arkansas’ contribution to this year’s draft is expected to be
minimal, unlike last year when the Razorbacks produced a
first-rounder (Cox), two second-rounders, a fifth-rounder and seven
players in all that went in the top 16 rounds.
McCann, a California
native, stands out this year as the only Razorback with obvious
top-10 round potential.
his superior defensive skills, refined mechanics and take-charge
approach, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound McCann could catch in the big
leagues right now. He is regarded in a class of his own defensively
among college catchers. Not only is he strong, durable and athletic
behind the plate, but has very mature instincts for catching.
McCann’s athleticism is readily evident defensively, he struggles
to show the same kind of consistent athleticism in his approach at
the plate. He hit just .105 last summer as the regular catcher for
Cotuit, the Cape Cod League champion, as pitchers routinely exposed
his long swing and stride. He has quickened the hip rotation in his
swing this spring, though, enabling him to turn on balls more
consistently and he has shown marked improvement with the bat, also
hitting a number of timely home runs.
junior lefthander Geoff Davenport (3-1, 4.95) not succumbed to Tommy
John surgery earlier this season, he might have been a second
Razorback player to go in the top 10. Davenport had shown an ability
to pitch with a fastball in the 88-92 mph range and a solid breaking
ball. A team still may take a flier on him in the middle rounds.
Outfielder Kyle Robinson (.280-8-42), who tops the Razorbacks in home
runs, is also a consideration in the top 10 rounds as one of the
better senior signs in the draft.
It’s not that Arkansas
(36-18 in the regular season) is suffering from a lack of talent this
year; most of it just isn’t draft-eligible. Sophomore righthander
D.J. Baxendale (8-2, 1.62) is the staff ace, and corner infielder
Dominic Ficociello (.347-4-47), who leads the team in batting and
RBIs, and righthander Ryne Stanek, an unsigned third-rounder in last
year’s draft, are two of the nation’s top freshmen. Each is a
potential first-round talent and should significantly impact the 2012
and 2013 drafts.
Razorbacks have recruited one of the nation’s top 2011 high-school
classes, headlined by local prospects Howard and Reyes, but also
including noteworthy prospects such as Wyoming outfielder Brandon
Nimmo, Oklahoma righthander Michael Fulmer, Colorado catcher Greg
Bird and Texas shortstop Drake Roberts.
The state’s other
Division I programs—Arkansas State, Arkansas-Little Rock,
Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Central Arkansas—all finished with sub-.500
records, combining for a 79-125 mark. Their contributions to the
draft are expected to be minimal.
One scenario that
definitely won’t repeat itself in 2011 is a surprise first-round
selection of a Division II player, such as occurred a year ago when
the Chicago Cubs threw a curveball by taking Southern Arkansas’
Simpson with the 16th overall pick. Simpson was a dominant
D-II pitcher with plus raw stuff, but his short, slender build
painted him more as a 3rd-5th rounder for most
scouts. Interestingly, Simpson has a younger brother, Landon, who has
drawn some attention this spring as a righthanded pitcher at Magnolia
High, but he is similarly undersized at 5-foot-9. He has signed with
With the reclassification
of Arkansas-Fort Smith from a junior college to a four-year school,
that development seemed to close the door in Arkansas on another
talent source. But an obscure junior college, Arkansas Baptist, has a
potential five-tool talent in outfielder Kentrell Hill, who had local
scouts buzzing this spring. An Oral Roberts recruit, Hill hit
.401-11-49 with 35 stolen bases.
Arkansas in a
Howard, James McCann.
pitching, high-school prospects.
(1-to-5 scale): 2.
BEST COLLEGE TEAM:
TEAM: Arkansas Baptist.
BEST HIGH-SCHOOL TEAM:
PROSPECT ON THE RISE:
Kentrell Hill, of, Arkansas Baptist JC: Hill is an Arkansas
native who attended Cisco (Texas) JC as a freshman, before
transferring back to his home state as a sophomore. He’s an
excellent athlete with superior speed and defensive skills in center
field, and his rapidly-emerging offensive skills could make him a
PROSPECT ON THE
DECLINE: Jarrod McKinney, of, University of Arkansas.
McKinney came to Arkansas three years ago as a very highly-regarded
prospect with a well above-average power/speed combination. That
power simply hasn’t developed in three years of college (.285-2-18
WILD CARD: Geoff
Davenport, lhp, University of Arkansas. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound
Davenport projected as a 5th-8th round pick in
this year’s draft, until he injured his elbow in March and
eventually underwent Tommy John surgery. Though he is expected to
slide because of the injury, he could still be a significant draft
for a team prepared to be patient with his rehab process. Prior to
the injury, Davenport showed a good ability to mix three pitches,
including an 88-92 mph fastball.
PROSPECT, Arkansas Connection: Austin O’Donnell, rhp, Northeast
Texas JC (Attended high school in Magnolia).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT:
D.J. Baxendale, rhp, University of Arkansas.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT:
Dominic Ficociello, 3b/1b, University of Arkansas.
HIGHEST DRAFT PICKS
Jeff King, 3b, U. of Arkansas (1986, Pirates/1st round,
2006 Draft: Dan
Stegall, of, Greenwood HS (Mets/7th round).
2007 Draft: Nick
Schmidt, lhp, U. of Arkansas (Padres/1st round, 23rd pick).
2008 Draft: Logan
Forsythe, 3b, U. of Arkansas (Padres/1st round, 46th pick).
2009 Draft: Dallas
Keuchel, lhp, U. of Arkansas (Astros/7th round).
2010 Draft: Hayden
Simpson, rhp, U. of Southern Arkansas (Cubs/1st round,
TOP PROSPECTS, GROUPS
ONE and TWO
GROUP ONE (Projected
ELITE-Round Draft / Rounds 1-3)
1. DILLON HOWARD, rhp,
Long-established HS arm;
strong build (6-4/205), FB 92-95, + power CU/developing CH, better
2. JAMES McCANN, c,
University of Arkansas (Jr.)
Quality athlete for C; +
quickness/agility on defense, strong arm; bat speed just fair
(.308-6-31), flashes pop.
TWO (Projected HIGH-Round Draft /
3. KENTRELL HILL, of,
Arkansas Baptist JC (So.)
+ CF/leadoff tools with
6.48 speed, ++ range, strong arm; solid bat speed (.401-11-49, 35
SB); ORU signee.
4. MARK REYES, lhp/of,
Jessieville HS, Hot SpringsVillage
Loose-armed 6-2/180 LHP;
FB up to 92, + CU; K’d 35 in 2 playoff games for 3-A champs;