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.
New Jersey State-by-State List
New Jersey Overview:
Jersey Looks to Thomore, Attempts to Recover from Barren 2010 Draft
historically-relevant draft years in every state, and then there are
really historically-relevant bad draft years. For New Jersey, such a
year occurred in 2010.
The draftable talent in
the state was so lean a year ago that only three players were
selected in the first 30 rounds, with unheralded Brookdale Community
College righthander Kevin Menna the first player off the board in the
14th round. None of the top nine ranked high-school
players in New Jersey was even drafted, and no prep player of any
kind went before the 46th round.
To put that into
perspective, Nebraska (8), Iowa (7) and Minnesota (5) all had
significantly more players drafted in the top 30 rounds last year
than New Jersey. Historically, New Jersey’s annual haul in the
draft normally matches the combined total of those three states.
To put all that into
New Jersey’s own historical perspective, the state averaged 11
players in the top 30 rounds over the previous five drafts
(2005-2009), and produced premium first-round talents such as
outfielder Mike Trout (Angels/2009, 25th overall),
righthander Rick Porcello (Tigers/2007, 27th overall) and
third baseman Billy Rowell (Orioles/2005, 9th overall)
during that period.
In many years, some of
the elite high-school players in New Jersey are passed over in the
early rounds of the draft because they are deemed unsignable as they
have near-binding commitments to major college programs. Players like
former Louisiana State righthander Anthony Ranaudo, a supplemental
first-round pick a year ago, and current college players like Florida
righthander Anthony DeScalfani and Virginia third baseman Steve
Proscia, come to mind. But last year, there just wasn’t any notable
professional-level talent in the state.
Though the 2011 New
Jersey college crop remains relatively barren, and the expectation
exists again that a junior-college player will be the first college
player taken, the talent pendulum at the high-school level has swung
back closer to the middle, and cross-checkers returned to the state
this spring with increasing regularity to evaluate the 10-12 players
with the potential to be drafted in the first 10 rounds.
The source of most of
the scrutiny was East Brunswick High outfielder Carl Thomore, who
separated himself this spring from Seneca High righthander Kevin
Comer and a pack of other players with designs on edging into the top
Thomore is a physically
impressive, 6-foot-2, 215-pound athlete who flashes above-average
potential in all five basic tools, and wins additional points from
scouts for his enthusiastic style of play and outgoing personality.
He has also battled back from his share of adversity.
He lost his mother to
breast cancer in 2005, and Thomore literally saw his own baseball
career nearly end in tragic fashion last summer in Marietta, Ga., at
Perfect Game’s World Wood Bat Association 17-and-under national
championship. He slid hard into third base, catching his cleats, and
both dislocated and fractured his ankle. The ankle was turned 180
paramedics were backed up in traffic and wouldn’t reach the field
for some time, an assistant coach for a team from Indiana that was
waiting to play the next game happened to be an orthopedic surgeon,
and quickly took matters into his own hands. He saw immediately that
Thomore had no pulse or blood circulation in his badly-damaged foot
due to the severity of the injury, and soon realized that Thomore
could lose his foot if the injury wasn’t treated promptly. While
Thomore gritted his teeth, the doctor popped his foot back into place
on the field. Thomore has since made what appears to be a full
recovery, but that heroic gesture probably saved his career. He has
been clocked in the 60 in 6.4 seconds this spring, and shows no
outward signs of any lingering issues when he runs.
somewhat crude in his approach to hitting, but has impressive power
potential. And scouts have scrutinized his every move this spring as
they feel they got somewhat burned two years ago when Trout, a
five-tool outfielder from Millville High who has emerged as one of
the elite prospects in the minor leagues, slipped slightly under
their radar and lasted until the 25th pick in the 2009
draft. Thomore is considered the best talent in the state since
While Thomore is viewed
as very signable in the upper rounds, scouts will have to carefully
evaluate the signability of many of the state’s other top
high-school prospects as most are committed to colleges that
traditionally hang on to their top recruits.
The most difficult
player for New Jersey-based scouts to get a read on this spring is
Comer, a Vanderbilt recruit. Based on his athletic 6-foot-4,
210-pound frame, superior stuff with a fastball in the mid-90s and
advanced feel for pitching, Comer showed all the ingredients last
fall to become a first-round pick in this year’s draft, and many
teams rated him the best pitching prospect in the entire Northeast.
But Comer has been a
mystery to scouts this spring. By late May, he had thrown just 14
innings. He missed several starts for a variety of reasons, and when
he did pitch, his stuff was nowhere near as good as it was last
fall—or even in his first scrimmage of the 2011 season.
Every other top New
Jersey high-school player also has a commitment to a major Division I
program, but none, outside of Thomore, has the natural ability of
Comer. It’s unclear how many players, but notably Comer, will
tumble in the draft because teams have gotten a clear indication that
college is their first option.
In addition to Comer,
Seton Hall Prep outfielder John Norwood has committed to Vanderbilt.
Westfield High catcher A.J. Murray is scheduled to attend Georgia
Tech, South Plainfield High outfielder Brandon Downes is slated to
play for Virginia and Hunterdon Central High shortstop Josh Ake has
signed with North Carolina. Those players, along with Thomore, a
Rutgers recruit, are regarded as the top half dozen players in the
New Jersey high-school crop.
That drain of local
high-school talent to high-profile, out-of-state schools is hardly a
new phenomenon for New Jersey, although top prospects like former
Rutgers shortstop Todd Frazier (Reds/2007, first round) and ex-Seton
Hall righthander Sean Black (Yankees/2009, 7th round, but
a high-school second-rounder) have stayed in state in the last
decade. That has left the state’s two primary Division I college
programs, Seton Hall and Rutgers, battling on a year-to-year basis
just to maintain their talent levels.
Seton Hall (33-23)
unexpectedly won its first Big East Conference title since 2001 this
spring as a No. 5 seed, and earned a rare NCAA tournament appearance.
Senior righthander Joe DiRocco was named the tournament’s Most
Valuable Player and is the only New Jersey college product given a
realistic shot of getting picked in the top 10 rounds. DiRocco went
8-1, 1.68 on the year, a big step forward from his 5-7, 5.05 record
Rutgers had high hopes
for one of its better seasons in recent years, but suffered through a
disappointing 20-30 campaign. Sophomore shortstop Steve Nyisztor,
considered a potential first-rounder in 2012 after a .410-4-51
freshman season, missed all but 12 games due to illness, and was
red-shirted. Top pitching prospect Charlie Law also was red-shirted
after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2010.
No team in the country
may have been more negatively affected by the change in bat standards
at the NCAA level than Rutgers, which went from 71 home runs in 2010
to 11 in 2011. The plummeting production was best exemplified by the
team’s top 2011 draft prospect, senior outfielder Michael Lang, who
hit .317-12-34 in 2010 and just .344-2-13 this spring.
traditionally fields some of the top NCAA Division III teams in the
country, and Kean College continued its strong showing on a national
scale by advancing to the Division III College World Series for the
fourth time in five years, while finishing the season with a 42-11
record. Six-foot-6 righthander Mike Russo, a transfer from North
Carolina State, was the team’s best prospect and went 10-2, 1.98 on
the season, although he walked 52 hitters in 88 innings. Russo can
run his fastball up to 93 mph, but lacks polish and a reliable
With only DiRocco given
a realistic chance to squeeze into the top 10 rounds among New
Jersey’s college talent, the state’s unappreciated junior-college
ranks could once again produce the first non-high school draft
selection in the state. Mercer County freshman righthander James
Pugliese rung up a 6-1, 1.27 record with 71 strikeouts in 57 innings,
with a fastball up to 93 mph.
champion Gloucester County advanced again to the NJCAA Division III
World Series, but came home empty-handed this year after winning the
2010 title with an impressive 43-2 record.
New Jersey in a
(1-to-5 scale): 3.
BEST COLLEGE TEAM:
TEAM: Gloucester County.
BEST HIGH SCHOOL
TEAM: Don Bosco Prep, Ramsey.
PROSPECT ON THE
RISE: Carl Thomore, of, East Brunswick HS. Thomore was a huge
question mark heading into the 2011 season because of the horrific
ankle injury he sustained last summer playing in a travel-league
game. But he responded with an impressive spring (.493-3-22, 25 SB)
and showed pro-quality tools across the board. His personality and
attitude have earned him praise throughout the scouting community.
PROSPECT ON THE
DECLINE: Kevin Comer, rhp, Seneca HS. Comer has thrown a limited
number of innings this spring and scouts have become resigned that
his commitment to Vanderbilt is a done deal. He could re-emerge as a
first-round talent after three years in college with normal
WILD CARD: John
Norwood, of, Seton Hall Prep. Norwood has the type of athletic
build and raw skills that scouts can dream on. He could go much
higher than projected if a team believes it can sign him away from
PROSPECT, New Jersey Connection: Anthony DeSclafani, rhp,
University of Florida (attended high school in Freehold).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT:
Steve Nyisztor, 2b-ss, Rutgers University.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT:
Michael Zavala, c, Rutgers University.
HIGHEST DRAFT PICKS
Jeff Kunkel, ss, Rider U. (1983, Rangers/1st round, 3rd pick); Willie Banks, rhp, St. Anthony’s HS, Jersey City (1987,
Twins/1st round, 3rd pick).
2006 Draft: Billy
Rowell, 3b, Bishop Eustace HS, Pennsauken (Orioles/1st round, 9th pick).
2007 Draft: Rick
Porcello, rhp, Seton Hall Prep, Chester (Tigers/1st round/27th pick).
2008 Draft: Jason
Knapp, rhp, North Hunterdon HS, Annandale (Phillies/2nd round).
2009 Draft: Mike
Trout, of, Millville HS (Angels/1st round, 25th pick).
2010 Draft: J.C.
Menna, rhp, Brookdale CC (A’s/14th round).
Best Hitter: Carl
Thomore, of, East Brunswick HS.
Best Power: A.J.
Murray, c, Westfield HS.
Best Speed: John
Norwood, of, Seton Hall Prep, Orange.
Best Defender: John
Norwood, of, Seton Hall Prep, Orange.
Best Velocity: Kevin
Comer, rhp, Seneca HS, Shamong.
Best Breaking Stuff:
Kevin Comer, rhp, Seneca HS, Shamong.
GROUPS ONE and TWO
ONE (Projected ELITE-Round Draft / Rounds 1-3)
CARL THOMORE, of, East Brunswick HS
6-2/210, + speed, strong OF tools, + bat speed (.493-2-22, 25 SB,
only 2 K’s), ++ makeup.
TWO (Projected HIGH-Round Draft /
2. KEVIN COMER, rhp,
Seneca HS, Shamong
Top 2/3-round talent,
but Vandy ride is complicating factor; FB 90-92/T-94, potential + CU,
3. A.J. MURRAY, c,
D-I FB linebacker, ++
strong athlete, power bat (.568-9-50), 6.9 runner in 60, catch/throw
tools only fair.
4. JOHN NORWOOD, of,
Seton Hall Prep, Orange
+ athlete at 6-2/190,
CF tools, 6.50 runner, + arm/++ range, flashes bat speed/line-drive
plane; Vandy signee.
5. JOSH AKE, ss,
Hunterdon Central HS, Flemington
skills, RH bat, surprising pop with short/quick swing, 7.0 runner,
6. BRANDON DOWNES,
of, South Plainfield HS
Loose swing in 6-3/170
frame; pull approach, 15 HR as JR, pitched around as SR, 6.8 speed, +
7. ALEX DeBELLIS,
c/rhp , Pope John XXII, Kinnelon
5-11/205, + strong; +
bat speed, crushes the ball; + arm strength, T-92 off the mound, raw
8. JAMES PUGLIESE,
rhp, Mercer County JC (Fr.)
18-year-old FR; +
improvement, low 90s FB, solid CU, projectable 6-3/195 frame, raw
9. JOE DiROCCO, rhp,
Quality SR sign (8-1,
1.68, 113 IP/78 SO); has 4 solid pitches, mixes them well with 91 FB,
10. JORDAN GROSS,
lhp, Don Bosco Prep, Franklin Lakes
upper-80s FB/T-90, nice cutting life; big/deep CU, CH a WIP, proven
winner, Tulane signee.