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 York State-by-State List
Prospects Panik, Jerez Prop Up New York’s Staggering Draft Fortunes
There was a time, early
in the 46-year history of the baseball draft, when only one state
(California) produced more draftable talent than New York. Those days
are long gone.
In 1969, a total of 98
players were drafted that attended New York high schools—more than
Florida, more than Texas. Twenty years later, that number had dropped
to 47. Two years ago, it was just 30 (placing it 12th overall, and light years behind Florida’s accumulation of 173). No
state has seen such a precipitous decline over the 40-year period.
The reasons for New
York’s inability to develop baseball talent like it once did are
many and varied, but it’s readily apparent that the state’s
baseball demographics have changed. A quick look at the mixed bag of
talent available in this year’s draft class reflects that.
Though New York has 21
Division I programs (more than any other state, and spread over 10
different conferences), St. John’s is the state’s only mainstream
college factory. It was the only school to qualify for this year’s
NCAA tournament as an at-large entry (a second team, Manhattan,
qualified as the champion of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference).
Predictably, the best
talent in this year’s draft, shortstop Joe Panik, is from St.
John’s, and he was the heart and soul of the team. He led the Red
Storm in hitting (.402) and home runs (9), and has continued to edge
up draft boards this spring to a point where he may be a
consideration late in the first round.
The New York prep ranks
produced a rare first-rounder a year ago, when the New York Yankees
stayed close to home and took Rochester shortstop Cito Culver with
the 32nd pick overall, though it was the consensus of
industry observers that Culver wasn’t a true first-round talent,
that the Yankees reached a bit for a player with some local flavor.
That scenario could be
repeated this year as Grand Street Campus High outfielder Williams
Jerez has attracted the close scrutiny of clubs because of his
superior athleticism and impressive raw tools; others are skeptical
of his bat and background, and don’t have him rated as highly.
Beyond the obvious
presence of Panik at the college level, and Jerez at the high-school
level, the draftable talent in New York thins out quickly after those
York-based scouts who have followed Panik since early in his
high-school career have noted his year-to-year improvement, and that
improvement was especially evident this year, particularly in his
performance at the plate. He made a very easy transition to the new
bat standards introduced at the NCAA level, hitting .402-9-56 vs.
.374-10-53 with aluminum as a sophomore. He played a vital role in
every phase of the game in leading St. John’s to an unexpected
regional berth, topping the Red Storm in batting, homers, runs (59),
stolen bases (21) and walks (42).
are impressed with Panik’s excellent feel for hitting, especially
his polished, disciplined approach and strike-zone awareness. He
earns high marks, as well, for his smooth, easy, compact lefthanded
swing and ability to barrel up balls on a consistent basis. He
flashes power, but it is mostly to the gaps.
single quality, though, that scouts may most admire about Panik is
his general approach to the game. He is a very steady, dependable
player with an excellent work ethic and game awareness. He comes to
play every day and goes about his job with no flash, just substance.
He never gets too high, or too low.
consistently plays above his tools as his power and speed, and range
in the field are limited. Though he is not a burner, he more than
makes up for his lack of raw speed with superior base-running
are impressed with his long, lean athletic frame, but aren’t
convinced he will remain at shortstop as he climbs the ladder in
professional baseball. He has the soft hands and quick feet to play
short, but his range and arm strength may be better suited for second
base. He had labrum surgery on his shoulder following his freshman
season at St. John’s and has difficulty, at times, making the long
throw from the hole at shortstop.
of the way he plays the game, Panik ranks as one of the safer, more
low-risk players in this draft, and that quality alone will make him
appealing to a number of clubs.
was unquestionably the key to St. John’s success this season, but
the strength of the club probably lay in its talented sophomore
class, notably outfielder Jeremy Baltz, and righthanders Kyle Hansen
and Matt Carasiti, all of whom could be significant drafts in 2012.
In almost every way
imaginable, Jerez is a different kind of player than Panik.
Jerez grew up in the
Dominican Republic, where as a 16-year-old he was scouted more
aggressively as a pitcher than as a position player. He could have
signed professionally at the time, if he was prepared to focus on
pitching, but his father was determined to make him an everyday
player and moved with Jerez to New York two years ago with the
express purpose of developing his son’s hitting skills so he could
pursue a career in professional baseball as an outfielder.
Jerez took a year to
gain the attention of New York scouts. His breakthrough came last
summer when he just showed up at a local tryout for the Area Code
Games, and quickly opened a lot of eyes with his ability to sting
balls with authority.
As his bat progressed,
scouts began taking increased interest in the other aspects of Jerez’
game, particularly his lean, athletic 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame and
ability to play center field. From his experience as a pitcher, Jerez
obviously has impressive arm strength, and the ball comes out of his
hand easily. He also runs well (6.7 in the 60), especially underway.
Though Jerez remains very raw in most phases of his game, he could
emerge as a front-line talent with refinement and added strength.
With scouts watching his every move this spring, he hit a loud
.692-5-36 with 26 stolen bases.
Panik and Jerez earned
most of the attention in New York this spring, but Stony Brook
righthander Nick Tropeano and Siena second baseman Dan Paolini also
drew solid support for the fine junior seasons they authored.
Tropeano went 12-1, 1.84 with 24 walks and 119 strikeouts in 93
innings for a 42-12 Stony Brook club, while Paolini hammered 19
homers while hitting .346 with 67 RBIs.
Neither player, though,
is considered a serious candidate to go in the top 5-6 rounds as
Tropeano simply doesn’t throw hard enough and Paolini is considered
a liability in the field.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound
Tropeano made his mark last summer in the Cape Cod League, when he
tied for the league lead in strikeouts, and then was masterful in the
third and deciding game of the championship series, when he came on
in relief in the third inning and threw 6-1/3 no-hit innings to lead
Cotuit to the title. Tropeano succeeded against some of the top
hitters in the country by throwing almost exclusively changeups.
He continued his
backwards approach to pitching this spring in compiling his
impressive record, and while some of the sabermetric-inclined teams
will undoubtedly take special interest in him because of his
impressive track record and uncanny feel for pitching, the
more-conventional scouting organizations have kept a distance as
Tropeano threw his fastball mostly in the mid- to high-80s, though he
can touch 90-91 mph when he reaches back for a little more.
Paolini has hit 45 home
runs over the last two years at Siena, but scouts tend to downplay
his power somewhat as he played in a smaller park and doesn’t have
the most fluid swing or refined hitting mechanics. Paolini has a way
to square up balls and drive them with force out of the park on a
steady basis, but he doesn’t do it very pretty and his combination
of an unconventional swing, below-average tools and undefined
position will limit his draft appeal.
Panik, Tropeano and
Paolini are all solid bets to be taken in the top 10 rounds, but New
York has a fairly deep college crop overall and more players should
be taken in the middle rounds than normal. Among those position
players on the fringe of cracking the top 10 rounds are outfielders
Mike Gallic of Marist and Jerry Coleman of Division III Clarkson,
shortstops Matt Marra of LeMoyne and Jon Schwind of Marist, and Long
Island catcher Tyler Jones. Coleman looked like a good bet early on
to crack the top 10, but was largely exposed this spring as more of a
6-foot-4 singles hitter.
Players at Army rarely
make inroads on the draft unless they are seniors because of the
restrictions put on them by U.S. Military Academy. Even as seniors,
they are also required to spend a year in active duty in the first
full year after they turn pro.
With the likes of
righthander/closer Kevin McKague, lefthander/outfielder Joe Henshaw
and three-year starting shortstop Clint Moore, all seniors and
legitimate draft prospects, Army had high hopes for one of its better
seasons in years. None of the three fully measured up as expected,
though it was because of major injuries in the case of McKague and
Henshaw. Predictably, Army limped home with a 22-26 record overall.
Had he remained
healthy, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound McKague would have been a serious
candidate to go as early as the second or third rounds in this year’s
draft. His fastball was clocked in the mid-90s last summer in the
Coastal Plain League, and again in the fall on Scout Day, but he
sustained a back injury after just three appearances this season and
missed the balance of the campaign. McKague should be granted
red-shirt status for the 2011 season, and will almost certainly
return to Army in 2012.
The 6-foot-7, 250-pound
Henshaw was an early-round draft candidate as both a pitcher and
hitter, with his own 92-93 mph fastball and impressive power
potential. But he ended up as mostly a DH this season because of a
bad elbow that will require Tommy John surgery, and his raw power
simply never materialized in that role.
Moore tools are a
little short in most areas. He also didn’t hit initially with the
new bats that were introduced, though he came on to hit 11 home runs.
Moore should still get a shot in the middle rounds as he is a
personal favorite of many New York scouts, who are effusive in their
praise of his impressive makeup.
Xaverian High catcher
Elvin Soto appeared that he would challenge Jerez to become the
state’s first high-school draft initially, but as Jerez improved
his stock significantly this spring, Soto seemed to have regressed. Like Jerez, Soto
grew up in the Dominican Republic. He remains a solid defensive
catcher, but his bat and even his arm didn't look as strong as they have in the past.
New Rochelle corner
infielder Matt Duran has impressive raw power potential, and he may
have picked up where Soto left off. He should be the next high-school
player taken after Jerez.
New York in a Nutshell:
of college talent.
of high-school talent.
(1-to-5 scale): 3.
BEST COLLEGE TEAM:
TEAM: Suffolk County-Selden.
BEST HIGH SCHOOL
TEAM: Poly Prep, Brooklyn.
PROSPECT ON THE
RISE: Joe Panik, ss, St. John’s University. One of the
steadiest, most dependable college players in the country, Panik
inched towards the first round this spring by hitting a resounding
.402 and topping St. John’s in home runs and stolen bases. Outside
of his bat, the remainder of Panik’s tools are modest by
early-round standards, but he’ll get the most out of them with his
no-flash, all-substance approach.
PROSPECT ON THE
DECLINE: Elvin Soto, c, Xaverian HS, New York City. He ranked
alongside Williams Jerez as the state’s best prep prospect entering
2011 with his sound defensive ability and switch-hitting skills, but
his bat and arm regressed over the spring.
WILD CARD: Nick
Tropeano, rhp, Stony Brook University. Few college pitchers
amassed impressive numbers this spring quite like Tropeano, who will
appeal to those clubs that place a priority on performance. The more
traditional scouting-based clubs, though, will be less impressed with
a pitcher with a mid- to high-80s fastball that throws a steady diet
PROSPECT, New York Connection: Brian Dupra, rhp, University of
Notre Dame (attended high school in Rochester).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT:
Fernelys Sanchez, of, George Washington HS, Bronx.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT:
Matt Vogel, rhp, Patchogue HS, Medford.
HIGHEST DRAFT PICKS
Shawon Dunston, ss, Thomas Jefferson HS, Brooklyn (1982, Cubs/1st round, 1st pick).
2006 Draft: Glenn
Gibson, lhp, Center Moriches HS (Nationals/4th round).
2007 Draft: Matt
Rizzoti, 1b, Manhattan College (Phillies/6th round).
2008 Draft: Bobby
Lanigan, rhp, Adelphi U. (Twins/3rd round).
2009 Draft: Steve
Matz, lhp, Melville HS, East Setauket (Mets/2nd round).
2010 Draft: Cito
Culver, ss, West Irondequoit HS, Rochester (Yankees/1st,
Best Hitter: Joe
Panik, ss, St. John’s University.
Williams Jerez, of, Grand Street Campus HS, Brooklyn.
Williams Jerez, of, Grand Street Campus HS, Brooklyn.
Elvin Soto, c, Xaverian HS, New York City.
Best Breaking Stuff:
Nick Tropeano, rhp, Stony Brook University.
GROUPS ONE and TWO
ONE (Projected ELITE-Round Draft /
JOE PANIK, ss, St. John’s University (Jr.)
lean SS with ++ LH bat (.402-9-56,); rest of tools are average, but
comes to play, gets most of ability.
WILLIAMS JEREZ, of, Grand Street Campus HS, Brooklyn
Dominican immigrant; ++ build (6-4/190), LH bat, big power potential,
solid CF tools, + speed/arm.
TWO (Projected HIGH-Round Draft /
NICK TROPEANO, rhp, Stony Brook University (Jr.)
college arm, pitches backwards; dominates with ++ CH, rarely uses
85-88/T-91 FB; Moneyball draft.
DAN PAOLINI, 2b, Siena University (Jr.)
2B; slugged 26 HR in 2010, 19 this spring with new bats; rest of
tools are BA, LF in pro ball.
MATT DURAN, 3b, New Rochelle HS
frame (6-1/220)/big swing/big power, lets barrel fly, drives ball to
all fields, limited on D, 1B in future.
ELVIN SOTO, c, Xaverian HS, New York City
6-0/190 build, switch-hitter, quick defensive actions; + arm/bat
speed in past.