Draft | Story | 4/4/2008

Tyler Chatwood: All Over the Field

David Rawnsley        
The high school class of 2008 is unusually full of extremely-talented two-way players. The list starts with first-round talents such as OF-RHP Aaron Hicks (Woodrow Wilson HS, Long Beach, CA), RHP-3B Tim Melville (Wentzville Holt HS, Wentzville, Mo.) and 3B-RHP Ethan Martin (LaGrange, Ga., HS) and goes deep into the prospects lists.

Maybe the most versatile talent in the 2008 class, though, is a player that you might as well call a four-way player. That would be SS-CF-C-RHP Tyler Chatwood of Redlands East Valley High in Yucaipa, Calif.

Chatwood, who is generously listed at 6-feet and 185 pounds, doesn’t have the Eric Davis body and speed/power combination of Hicks, or the 6-foot-5 frame and graceful athleticism of Melville, or the easy ability to hit 400-foot home runs and throw 95 mph that Martin possesses. But what Chatwood has done is establish himself as a potential top 3 round prospect at four different positions.

Position Breakdown
Chatwood says that his favorite position is shortstop, “but that I really just like being out on the field.” He plays shortstop for his high school team and has moved between both middle-infield postions, the outfield and the pitcher’s mound while playing for the California-based ABD Bulldogs in the summer and fall.

From a scouting perspective, shortstop is probably Chatwood’s least natural position. His speed (6.62 seconds in the 60), well above-average arm strength from anywhere on the field and general athletic ability give him the necessary physical tools to play a high-level shortstop, but his actions at the position aren’t smooth or easy on ground balls.

It’s easy to fit Chatwood into center field as he’s an excellent defensive outfielder with his plus speed, plus arm strength (94 mph from the outfield, and accurate) and intense approach to the game.

A wild card in the position mix is catching. Chatwood caught only during the fall for ABD but caught at the World Wood Bat Association fall championship in Jupiter, Fla., before a huge crowd of scouts (before going out to the mound and throwing 92-94 mph). He says, “I really like catching, like it a lot, and would like to do it some more if I got the chance.”

Chatwood has the strength on his compact frame to handle the physical chores of the position and his quickness, athletic ability and intensity are all big pluses behind the plate. One of Chatwood’s best friends in the prospect community is Patriot High catching standout Kyle Skipworth, a projected first-round pick in this year’s draft, and Chatwood says they talk almost every day.

The position that has most of the scouting directors and crosscheckers flocking out to see Chatwood this spring is pitcher. He has been consistently betweein 92 and 95 mph this spring with unconfirmed reports of his topping out at 97. Chatwood also throws an upper-70s curveball and a surprisingly good changeup for a relatively inexperienced pitcher.

Something that might factor in on the position Chatwood will ultimately play at the professional level is he had Tommy John surgery after his freshman year of high school and missed his entire sophomore season. Different clubs take dramatically different approaches to such surgery in a young player.

Scouts Talk
A National League crosschecker who has seen Chatwood frequently over the past two years had this to say about the position question: “Everyone is running in from across the country to see him pitch and he’s showing him his stuff on the mound, so I’m going to bet that he’ll go out as a pitcher. But I really think that it’s more of a 50/50 split on pitcher vs. player, and then I’m not even sure what position you’re talking about as a player. I know I would probably send him out as a player first.”

Chatwood himself agrees with the 50/50 assessment, based on his own conversations with scouts. “I know that some are looking at me first as a pitcher and some are looking at me first as a player; they’ve told me that,” he said. “I’m not really sure which way it’s going to go right now.”

Probably the most representative Perfect Game scouting report written on Chatworth was authored by Blaine Clemmens, now an area scout with the Atlanta Braves. He filed this report late last summer.

“Chatwood isn’t among the most physical prospects in the 2008 class but he takes a backseat to no one in terms of tools and playability. He seems to impact every game he plays offensively, defensively and in his case, on the mound, too. He has plus bat speed that results in some power and he can handle anyone’s fastball. Few players can match Chatwood’s arm strength, which plays even better with his quick release, aggressive approach to the ball and deadly accurate arm. Chatwood has also shown 93-94 mph on the mound with a plus changeup. Tools and playability are highly valued and Chatwood has both--along with a very high baseball aptitude.

The Author’s Opinion
Everyone I’ve talked to about Chatwood, and observed on my own, says that this young man is pure baseball and isn’t going to fail because of lack of effort or desire. He’s a gamer with a great “baseball” attitude.

It isn’t mentioned much in the above profile, but Chatwood is a very good hitter with a fearless attitude at the plate and gap-to-gap power. His bat gets overlooked sometimes in the big picture but it plays plenty well enough to project his offensive contribution as a middle-of-the-field player.

If it were my decision, I would give Chatwood a long and hard look at catcher first. He has all the mental and physical tools to excel at that very difficult position and he looked very natural at it considering his extreme lack of experience when I saw him in Jupiter last fall. From talking to him, he seems honestly interested in playing the position, although I imagine that all he truly wants to be is on the field somewhere.

I think that Chatwood’s actions are short for the middle of the field, especially shortstop. As a third baseman or outfielder, he’s a bit of a tweener, with not quite the impact bat you’d want at a corner but not quite the impact speed you want in center field.

But his offense and speed would be a big plus behind the plate—if he has the desire and can develop the skills to play that position.

As far as pitching goes, that would be my second option if his bat doesn’t develop. If he’s healthy, that arm strength isn’t going to go away and might get even better. I mentioned Matt Bush (the former No. 1 pick as a shortstop, but now pitching in the Padres organization) and I could almost see Chatwood roll his eyes when he said, “Yeah, I know who Bush is . . . ”, as if to say, I don’t want to take that route.

I think Chatwood wants to play everyday and I think catching is the position he should tackle first. He’ll always be able to move back to another position if catching doesn’t work out for him—and to pitcher if the bat doesn’t work out.

Options are a great thing. Even if you have four of them.
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