GAINESVILLE, FL- The University of Louisville Cardinals feature corner infielders who could both make an impact on the draft. Third baseman Chris Dominguez was a 5th-round pick as a redshirt sophomore by the Colorado Rockies but turned down a reported $250G to return to school for his junior year. First baseman Drew Clark was the 18th-round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers out of an Indiana high school in 2006. He played his freshman year at the University of Mississippi before transferring to Louisville last year.
It was a tough weekend for the Cardinals, who were swept in the opening series by the host Florida Gators. Despite the poor performance, there was obvious talent coming out of their dugout.
Dominguez comes into the season ranked 23rd overall by PGCrosschecker.com for the 2009 draft. The 6-4, 240 Dominguez is a legitimate power-hitting prospect. His body is in very good shape right now, he’s large-framed but with a good taper and no excessive thickness in his lower-half. Dominguez takes a big swing at the plate. With a spread-out stance, Dominguez generates average major league bat-speed with very good extension and 65/70 raw power. There is some length to his swing and I can see how he’ll be beat inside with wood when he’s not guessing right on a good fastball. Dominguez did show some bat-head skills, able to use his hands to poke out a hard single to left in the first inning. It would be his only hit of the day, however, as he’d end up 1-3 with a walk.
Dominguez struck out a whopping 88 times in 271 AB during his (redshirt) freshman year. He reduced it to 47 as a sophomore and also raised his .262-15-61 line to .365-21-75. While I think he’ll always be a high strikeout guy, Dominguez has enough bat-handle skills to keep it to, say, 120-130, which is okay if he becomes a 30 HR+ guy.
Defensively, Dominguez has long actions. The long throwing motion reduces the effectiveness of an otherwise above-average arm. Dominguez made the routine plays and both his first step and his hands are okay. I think he’d have a chance to play an adequate third base down the road, he’s similarly athletic as, say, Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers. But of course, he’ll have to hit big to be an asset much like Cabrera has. He’s a well below-average runner on the bases (20 on the 20-80 scale) but I wonder if someone would venture to pull a Matt LaPorta job on him and put him in the outfield. Dominguez’s arm would likely be a plus tool out there.
Can Dominguez be a first-rounder? That’s where we have him in the preseason rankings, and there’s a chance but he’ll have to show he’s a very polished hitter to go so early. He didn’t show it today and he’s off to a slow start, going 1-10 during the opening series at Florida. Those who like him so early will probably make the Miguel Cabrera comparisons.
Drew Clark is a 6-3, 220 lefthanded hitting first baseman with good actions around the bag and the potential to become a solid-average bat. Clark generates average bat-speed with a stroke that’s short to the ball, but lacks time in the zone. Still, he’s shown good hand-eye coordination and is able to center the ball. He showed me an ability to use the field, too, though he went 0-4 with a strikeout (looking at a curveball) today.
Clark should become a solid-average defensive first baseman because he has good hands and a quick first step. His arm is below-average, with an awkward arm-action, so in light of his below-average speed he’s likely limited to first base.
Clark is a very good high-D1 first baseman without a big ceiling, but a chance to become a solid major league role player down the road. His body is nearly mature, so there may not be much projection left. I can see him going in the 7th-10th rounds come June.
OTHER LOUISVILLE NOTES: Louisville ran out a couple of underclass pitchers who showed promise for future drafts. Freshman righty Tony Zych is a 6-2, 180 Chicago product who doubles as a backup infielder. With an easy, compact arm-action that seems to release the ball out of his sleeve, Zych has natural deception to hitters. He threw 90-92 MPH in his first inning of work and showed a potential major league curveball. Fellow righty Thomas Royse followed Zych. The sophomore has a prototypical pitcher’s body at 6-5, 215, and showed a 90-91 MPH fastball in short relief. Though he took the loss in the bottom of the ninth (Florida winning 3-2), his upside was apparent. Royse’s curveball is a two-plane breaker at 77 MPH that also has a chance to become a 55-60 pitch in the big leagues…. Starting pitcher Matt Lea is a 6-5, 220 redshirt junior. The son of former Montreal Expo righty Charlie Lea was given draft consideration out of high school before first enrolling at Mississippi State. Today, he topped out at 85 MPH. He pitched well and showed a major league average curve, slider, and cutter, but the lack of juice on his fastball and below-average athleticism keeps him out of early round consideration…. Sophomore rightfielder Josh Richmond is on draft follow lists for 2010. The 6-2, 205 Cincinnati high school product has a good baseball build with sloped shoulders. He’s an average runner to first with an average arm and a decent swing. The development of his bat will tell his tale during his draft year in 2010.