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.
Connecticut State-by-State List
For The Ages Being Challenged to Live Up to Lofty Expectations
This was supposed to be
the year when it all came together.
With the greatest
assembly of talent on one college team in New England history, this
was supposed to be the year that the University of Connecticut blew
past every team, and every record imaginable and established its
rightful place as the greatest team ever to come from the region.
The Huskies gave sign
of things to come in 2010, when they set a school record for wins
while going 48-16. But that was just supposed to be a lead-up to this
season, when they were expected to not only top that mark and make a
serious run at a College World Series bid, but smash draft records of
all kinds for a team from the Northeast.
Long-time area scouts
said that this year’s version of the Huskies were the most
physical, athletic team they had seen in years, and believed that
they would produce double-digit draft picks, including the two
highest selections in school history, outfielder George Springer and
righthander Matt Barnes, two home-grown products.
It hasn’t been that
The Huskies struggled
out of the gate on an ambitious, season-opening road trip to Florida,
Texas and California, and limped home with just a 7-8 record. Though
they righted the ship and easily finished atop the Big East
Conference standings, the Huskies hit another speed bump at the end,
with their very season on the line.
They failed to win the
Big East post-season tournament and then got trounced 13-1 in the
opening game of regional play. Suddenly, they find themselves a
single loss away from a season of immense promise coming crashing
down, far short of what was expected.
Springer and Barnes
have enjoyed fine seasons overall, solidifying their status as
first-round picks, but both players have had their challenging
Springer played well
below expectations to begin the season, when he was heavily exposed
to scouts in other areas of the country, but managed to pick up his
pace considerably as the season progressed, and led UConn in batting
(.354), home runs (12), RBIs (74) and stolen bases (31) as regional
Barnes was stellar
throughout the 2011 season, and took an 11-3 record with a
scintillating 1.13 ERA into regional competition. But he picked the
worst time to have the worst outing of his 2011 season, when he was
rocked for seven runs and nine hits in four-plus innings in his
team’s one-sided regional tournament loss to Coastal Carolina.
Springer was no better in that contest as he went 0-for-4 with two
It’s unlikely that
one bad game will impact the draft status of both players as they had
pretty much secured spots in the top half of the first round, which
would make them the two highest drafts picks in school history.
Righthander Charles Nagy was the 17th pick overall in
1988, and represents the only other first-rounder produced by the
It’s even possible
that one or the other among Springer and Barnes, more likely the
latter, could challenge former Stamford High shortstop Bobby
Valentine to become the highest draft pick in state history.
Valentine was taken with the fifth overall pick in 1968.
Barnes has been a
revelation since going undrafted in 2008 as a little-known,
lightly-recruited prospect out of a Connecticut high school. He
started slowly in college, but by his sophomore year with the
Huskies, he had added 7-8 mph in velocity to his fastball, peaking at
97, and significantly developed his off-speed pitches. He went 8-3,
3.92 a year ago, and had a standout summer with Team USA, going 3-0,
1.42 with 26 strikeouts and five walks in 19 innings. All that set
the stage for 2011.
Though the 6-foot-4,
205-pound Barnes was largely unheralded when he enrolled at UConn, he
has always had a loose arm and projectable frame. Along with his
significant increase in velocity, his feel for pitching has also
improved by leaps and bounds. He gets a good downhill angle on his
fastball, and generates more arm-side run on the pitch than sinking
action, though he does get good sink on his two-seamer. Besides his
above-average fastball, Barnes has a chance for three average
secondary pitches. His hard, sharp 75-78 mph curve is his best
Springer was part of
the same vaunted 2008 Connecticut prep class that included Barnes,
plus the Salisbury School’s Chris Dwyer (signed with Kansas City in
2009 for $1.4 million) and Anthony Hewitt (first-round pick of
Philadelphia Phillies), and Amity Regional High shortstop Jason
Esposito (Royals unsigned seventh-rounder, now at Vanderbilt). As a
48th-rounder that year, Springer was relatively overlooked at the
time, but he has a chance to surpass the accomplishments of that
put himself on the map with a breakout freshman season in 2009 for
UConn, hitting .358-16-57 with a school-record 75 runs, and has only
added to his profile over the next two years. As a sophomore, he hit
.337-18-62, was successful on 33 of 35 stolen-base attempts and broke
his own school record with 84 runs scored. With his elite combination
of power and speed, Springer may rank as the top five-tool athlete in
this year’s draft.
He also receives high
marks for his right-field arm strength and sound defensive ability,
even as a center fielder. The area of Springer’s game that
continues to evolve is his hitting—both his mechanics and approach.
He has always swung with a lot of effort and tended to come off
pitches too quickly, resulting in a long swing path that
sophisticated pitchers have been able to exploit. When he gets his
bat head through the zone and is direct to the ball, though, he can
hit pitches a long way. He can especially punish fastballs, but tends
to get over-anxious against off-speed stuff, especially with two
While Barnes and
Springer have been the main focus of the many scouts who have
followed UConn this spring, they are hardly the only players on the
team that have been closely evaluated.
shortstop Nick Ahmed is also expected to be a premium draft, possibly
as early as the sandwich- or second-rounds. He has endured his own
challenges this spring as he missed 15 games at mid-season when he
was involved in an on-field collision that led to his being
hospitalized with a punctured lung. But he recovered from that ordeal
and was hitting .325-2-31 with 21 stolen bases as regional play
Ahmed’s best tool is
his arm. He didn’t pitch at all this season, but has done so
briefly in the past, with impressive results, and there are teams
that still may entertain drafting him with the idea of converting him
to the mound. In short bursts, his fastball once reached 93-94 mph. A
lot will depend on how Ahmed’s bat, considered his weakest tool,
The Huskies still
expect to have as many as 10 players drafted, which would be a
single-season record for a team from the region. In addition to
Barnes, Springer and Ahmed, ace closer Kevin Vance (0-0, 0.98, 13 SV)
and fast-improving set-up man David Fischer have a shot to crack the
top 10 rounds.
All eyes have
understandably been on UConn this spring, and it has clearly
monopolized the talent supply that will come from Connecticut this
spring. No other college team is expected to produce a player in the
first 20-25 rounds.
At the high-school
level, Southington High righthander Sal Romano has quietly worked his
way into the top-10 round picture. Romano snuck up on a few scouts
this spring after missing most of last summer with a broken jaw,
preventing him from gaining exposure on the showcase circuit.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound
righthander bears a striking physical resemblance to former
Southington High star and current big leaguer Carl Pavano, and also
has similar stuff and mechanics. He gained significant scouting
attention when his fastball reached 92-93 mph this spring, and his
breaking ball, now a hard hammer, showed vast improvement.
Connecticut in a
High-end high-school talent.
(1-to-5 scale): 5.
BEST COLLEGE TEAM:
TEAM: Connecticut-Avery Point.
BEST HIGH SCHOOL
TEAM: Avon Old Farms, Avon.
PROSPECT ON THE
RISE: David Fischer, rhp, University of Connecticut. Lost in the
shuffle in the past on the ultra-talented UConn squad, the 6-foot-5
Fischer came out firing his fastball at 92-93 mph on the opening
weekend of the 2011 season, and his draft stock took off. He could
squeeze his way into the first 10 rounds.
PROSPECT ON THE
DECLINE: Kevin Vance, rhp, University of Connecticut. Considered
an equal talent as a third baseman (.322-7-35 in 2010) and closer
prior to this season, Vance focused only on his pitching duties this
season, and dominated in that role (0.98 ERA, 13 SV). His draft worth
may have taken a minor hit in the process, though, as his fastball
velocity fell off from a customary 93-94 mph last summer to the
high-80s, at times.
WILD CARD: Nick
Ahmed, ss, University of Connecticut. He missed 15 games at
mid-season with bruised ribs and a collapsed lung, a result of an
on-field collision. That openly caused scouts to re-think his draft
position, and had them contemplating dropping him appreciably. Ahmed
appears 100 per cent healthy again. His best tool is unquestionably
his powerful arm, and there are clubs that believe he might have a
higher upside on the mound.
PROSPECT, Connecticut Connection: Jason Esposito, ss, Vanderbilt
University (attended high school in Amity).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT:
L.J. Mazzilli, 2b, University of Connecticut.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT:
David Mahoney, lhp, University of Connecticut.
HIGHEST DRAFT PICKS
Bobby Valentine, ss, Rippowam HS, Stamford (1968, Dodgers/1st round, 5th pick).
2006 Draft: Tim
Norton, rhp, U. of Connecticut (Yankees/7th round).
2007 Draft: Matt
Harvey, rhp, Fitch HS, Groton (Angels/3rd round).
2008 Draft: Anthony
Hewitt, 3b, Salisbury School (Phillies/1st round, 24th pick).
2009 Draft: Dan
Mahoney, rhp, U. of Connecticut (Marlins/4th round).
2010 Draft: Michael
Olt, 3b, U. of Connecticut (Rangers/1st round, 49th pick).
Best Hitter: Mike
Nemeth, 1b, University of Connecticut.
Best Power: George
Springer, of, University of Connecticut.
George Springer, of, University of Connecticut.
Best Defender: Nick
Ahmed, ss, University of Connecticut.
Matt Barnes, rhp, University of Connecticut.
Best Breaking Stuff:
Matt Barnes, rhp, University of Connecticut.
GROUPS ONE and TWO
ONE (Projected ELITE-Round Draft /
MATT BARNES, rhp, University of Connecticut (Jr.)
Has made huge strides
in 3 years; FB now at 92-97, has developed off-speed stuff; now
commands 4 pitches.
GEORGE SPRINGER, of, University of Connecticut (Jr.)
of best athletes/5-tool prospects in draft; power/speed best tools,
still needs to refine hitting mechanics.
NICK AHMED, ss, University of Connecticut (Jr.)
player; solid defender at SS with ++ arm; bat is suspect; recovered
from collapsed lung.
TWO (Projected HIGH-Round Draft /
SAL ROMANO, rhp, Southington HS
to ex-Southington RHP Carl Pavano in size, style; FB 92-93, +
improved CU; has delivery issues.
KEVIN VANCE, rhp, University of Connecticut (Jr.)
2-way player, settled in as ++ closer (0.98 ERA, 13 SV); 3 pitches,
FB at 94 in past, more 89-91 now.
DAVID FISCHER, rhp, University of Connecticut (Jr.)
UConn player; came out early with FB at 92-93, off-speed needs work;
projectable 6-5 frame.