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Minors | General | 12/14/2018

PG in the Pros: NL West

David Rawnsley        
Photo: MacKenzie Gore (Perfect Game)

As part of Perfect Game's recurring PG in the Pros series David Rawnsley will take a look at some of the top prospects in minor league baseball and their impact on the sport prior to their professional careers. This will be done in a six-part series, one feature for each division in Major League Baseball while identifying one of the top prospects for each team. Links are provided below to past installments of the PG in the Pros series for other reports on prospects, both past and present.

Previous 2018-19 PG in the Pros features: AL Central | NL Centra
l | NL East | AL East

Arizona Diamondbacks

Before They Were Pros, 2013-14 – Archie Bradley, Chris Owings, Stryker Trahan
Before They Were Pros, 2014-15– Braden Shipley, Aaron Blair, Brandon Drury
PG in the Pros, 2015-16 – Pete O’Brien
PG in the Pros, 2016-17 – Anthony Banda
PG in the Pros, 2017-18 – Marcus Wilson

Jon Duplantier, RHP

Duplantier was a primary football player in high school in the Houston area and between injuries (wrist, collarbone, knee) and playing football all summer and fall, never appeared in any national level events in baseball. Texas area scouts knew of Duplantier but his lack of experience on the mound, plus his status as an elite level student going to Rice, meant that he went undrafted out of high school. Duplantier did throw at the post-draft 18u WWBA National Championship for the Houston Banditos and was outstanding, showing a heavy sinking 90 mph fastball, power curveball with late biting action plus an effortless and easy arm action.

Duplantier showed his rawness as a freshman at Rice, walking 38 hitters in 59 innings in a swing role but his stuff shot forward now that he was away from football, with a fastball that now reached the mid-90s and a potential plus breaking ball. A draft-eligible sophomore, Duplantier entered his sophomore year as a potential Day 1 draft if he continued to improve. That sophomore year was a wash, though, as Duplantier missed the entire season with a shoulder impingement that did not require surgery.

Healthy again in 2016, Duplantier went 7-7, 3.24 in 111 innings, striking out 148 hitters and allowing only 77 hits. Teams still worried about Duplantier's command, as he still walked 47 hitters, and were equally worried about his health due to Rice's long history of sending injured pitchers to professional baseball. He lasted until the third round, where he signed with the Diamondbacks for a $686,000 bonus.

Notably, Duplantier reported to Arizona with a sore elbow after throwing a full college season and only threw one professional inning during his rookie summer.

Colorado Rockies

Before They Were Pros, 2013-14 – Eddie Butler, David Dahl, Kyle Parker, Trevor Story
Before They Were Pros, 2014-15 – Jonathan Gray, Ryan McMahon
PG in the Pros, 2015-16 – Forrest Wall
PG in the Pros, 2016-17 – Ryan Castellani
PG in the Pros, 2017-18 – Brendan Rodgers

Colton Welker, 3B

Welker was a regular on the WWBA tournament circuit with Elite Squad Prime and played in many national level showcases, including the 2015 Perfect Game National Showcase. A righthanded hitter with a strong and mature 6-foot-2, 195-pound build, Welker's best tool was always his bat and especially his ability to consistently square up good pitching hard to all fields. He played shortstop in high school, and while solid at that position, often played third base during the summers and it was always his likely future position. His report from the PG National read:

Big and strong athletic build. Looks too big for a middle infielder but has surprising athleticism and mobility and makes plays at both second base and shortstop. Agile lower half, 6.99 runner, fields the ball out front and has actions, can charge the ball and maintain balance, very strong arm with carry, if he does move out of the middle of the field he will be a top level defensive third baseman. Righthanded hitter, wide base with a early shift to contact, fluid easy swing with good separation and extension, barrels the ball up and hits it hard, more line drive than lift now but the ball carries. Loose and strong athlete who projects.

Welker had a very strong senior year, leading Marjory Stoneman Douglas to the Florida State 9A state title even though his teammate, lefthander Jesus Luzardo, now the A's top prospect, missed most of the season with an elbow injury. He hit .500-6-24 in 29 games with 15 walks and only seven strikeouts and ended his four-year varsity career as a .414 hitter. He was ranked 65th in the final Perfect Game class rankings.

Scouts recognized Welker's advanced bat and there was plenty of talk that he could sneak into the back of Day 1 if his projected average future defensive tools didn't stand in the way. That didn't happen, as Welker, a Miami signee, lasted until the fourth round and the 110th overall pick, where Colorado selected him and signed him for $855,000.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Before They Were Pros, 2013-14 – Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, Zach Lee
Before They Were Pros, 2014-15 – Chris Anderson, Scott Schebler
PG in the Pros, 2015-16 – Cody Bellinger
PG in the Pros, 2016-17 – Alex Verdugo
PG in the Pros, 2017-18 – Walker Buehler

Gavin Lux, SS

Lux is part of a growing number of national level prospects that have come out of Wisconsin in recent years. He comes from an athletic background as his uncle, Augie Schmidt, was the 1982 Golden Spikes Award winner and the second overall pick in the 1982 draft.

A lefthanded hitter, Lux first made his national mark early in his junior year playing for the Midland Redskins at the 2014 WWBA World Championship where he showed surprising power for his slender young build and an advanced hitting approach. Lux was invited to the 2015 Perfect Game National Showcase and had a strong event and was named to play in the 2015 PG All-American Classic. His National report read:

Long, lean, athletic build with young look, plenty of room to fill out and get stronger. Good athleticism and foot speed, ran a 6.88 60-yard dash. Stays low to ground, moves with ease to both sides while playing infield. Soft hands, good overall actions and quick release with solid arm strength, accurate throws. Lefthanded hitter, high hand-set, slight open stance with knee raise trigger. Line drive swing plane, short efficient path to ball, very quick hands and impressive bat speed. Good feel for the barrel, projects to hit for high average at next level, shows developing raw power, strength.

Lux dedicated himself to getting stronger during the Wisconsin winter and came back in the spring having added 15 pounds of strength, filling out his 6-foot-2 frame to 190-pounds. That showed in his raw bat speed as Lux hit .524 with six home runs, 23 stolen bases and 31 walks as a senior, but it also showed in his arm strength. Lux's arm had previously profiled him as a likely future second baseman but the extra grade of carry on his throws, together with his quickness and athleticism, gave scouts more hope that he could stay at shortstop long-term.

The Dodgers, who had drafted another lefthanded hitting high school middle infielder with a promising bat with the 18th pick in 2012 in Corey Seager, decided to try that formula again with Lux, picking him with the 20th overall selection and signing him away from Arizona State with a $2,314,000 bonus.

San Diego Padres

Before They Were Pros, 2013-14 – Austin Hedges, Matt Wisler, Max Fried, Joe Ross
Before They Were Pros, 2014-15 – Hunter Renfroe, Taylor Lindsey
PG in the Pros, 2015-16 – Colin Rea
PG in the Pros, 2016-17 – Josh Naylor
PG in the Pros, 2017-18 – Logan Allen

MacKenzie Gore, LHP

Gore was a legendary pitcher during his years at Whiteville (N.C.) High School (Whiteville’s population is 5,000-plus), leading the school to four consecutive state championship games, winning three, and being named Most Valuable Player for those three championships. He went 12-1, 0.08 as a junior, striking out 174 hitters in 88 innings, and was named the Gatorade Male National High School Athlete of the Year as a senior.

In the summer between his junior and senior years, Gore, then listed at a slender 6-foot-2, 170-pounds, generally worked in the 88-91 mph range, occasionally touching higher, and had advanced pitchability with command of three solid secondary pitches. His delivery was highly athletic and a bit deceptive, with a very high leg raise and tuck and an unusually long stride out front. Despite his only average fastball velocity, Gore was selected to play in the 2016 PG All-American Classic.

Gore had a growth spurt early in his senior year and filled out to 6-foot-3, 190-pounds. Early reports out of North Carolina were that he had significantly improved his raw stuff and was heading towards the top half of the first round. On a Monday during spring break in early April, scouts were able to double up on equally fast-rising North Carolina high school outfielder, Austin Beck (eventually the A's pick at number six), in the morning/early afternoon then drive an hour and a half through rural North Carolina to watch Gore pitch in the evening. Easily 125 scouts, including general managers, special assistants and a quorum of scouting directors, took advantage of the unique opportunity.

Gore was stunningly good, working 92-94 mph and touching 95 the entire game and showing three plus secondary pitches in his curveball, slider and changeup. His velocity and command never waivered the entire outing and when an opposing hitter sliced an opposite field base hit in the sixth inning of a 1-0 game, Gore was 94-95 to spots to the next hitter. It was one of those rare high school performances that even veteran scouts can count on one hand where it looked like a teenager could have successfully pitched to big league hitters.

High school pitchers went second and third in the 2017 draft behind top pick Royce Lewis, with Hunter Greene going second to the Reds and the Padres selecting Gore with the third overall pick. An East Carolina commit, who had probably looked like a great get for the ECU staff when he was throwing 85-87 mph as a sophomore, Gore signed for $6.7 million.

San Francisco Giants

Before They Were Pros, 2013-14 – Andrew Susac
Before They Were Pros, 2014-15 – Christian Arroyo, Steven Okert, Clayton Blackburn
PG in the Pros, 2015-16 – Tyler Beede
PG in the Pros, 2016-17 – Chris Shaw
PG in the Pros, 2017-18 – Austin Slater

Shaun Anderson, RHP

Anderson was one of the top performance pitchers nationally in the 2013 class pitching for the South Florida Elite Squad in the summer and fall and for American Heritage High School in the spring. With a big and strong 6-foot-5, 235-pound build, an easy delivery and arm action and an advanced ability to throw strikes, Anderson was a bulldog innings eater on the mound. His report from the 2012 Perfect Game National Showcase read as follows:

Big strong athletic build, young look, still projects, Josh Johnson/Brad Penny type big. Slow-paced delivery, full clean arm action, three-quarters to high three-quarters arm slot, can improve consistency and balance. Fastball to 91 mph, very good fastball life, both runs it and cuts it at different times. Potential plus curveball, throws it hard with big depth and bite, swing-and-miss pitch at times, 11-to-5 shape, developing changeup. Very good present stuff and projects well even at his size, has gained 3-4 mph in last year and not done.

Anderson went 12-1, 1.10 in 70 innings as a senior at American Heritage, but with a fastball that sat around 90 mph, wasn't considered a serious draft prospect out of high school, although the Nationals did spend a 40th round pick on him.

Anderson was buried for two years on the exceptionally deep Florida pitching staff, working only 39 innings between those two seasons with an ERA barely below 5.00.

With a Florida starting rotation featuring Logan Shore, A.J. Puk and Alex Faedo, Anderson, now armed with a 92-95 mph fastball and a mid-80s slider, was given an extended chance in the bullpen as a junior. He ended up as one of the top closers in the country, going 3-0, 0.97 with 13 saves in 36 games, including striking out 60 and only walking seven in 46 innings. Scouts remember Anderson's days as a high school starter, and noting that he still sometimes broke out his changeup, considered Anderson a starter for the draft even though he'd only started one game in three years.

The Red Sox picked Anderson in the third round with the 88th overall pick, signing him for a $700,000 bonus.

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