Draft : : Story
Thursday, March 25, 2010

Biggest Surprises, Disappointments of Early Spring

David Rawnsley        
The 2010 season is still early, with colleges approximately 20 games into their seasons and high schools just getting started anywhere north of the Sun Belt states. It’s not too early, though, to look at some of the top surprises and a couple of the disappointments of the spring as it relates to the June draft.

Both surprise and disappointment are relative terms.

Some big surprises are very well known to scouts and baseball fans, such as the reemergence of North Carolina RHP Matt Harvey as a potential high first-round pick. Others, such as Division III standout RHP Dave Filak or slugging Louisiana high school 1B Hommy Rosado, have not been household names much beyond their own houses until now. But it’s always a great story to see a young man dramatically improve his draft status in the games and months leading up to the June draft dates.

While there are plenty of players underperforming, just as there always are, we’ve chosen to concentrate on a couple of players who are not playing at all and classify them as disappointments this spring. It would be easy to say that top prospects such as RHP Anthony Ranaudo or 3B Tony Thompson have disappointed, but at least they are back on the field after injuries that cost them much of the early season.

10 Draft Surprises
LHP Kevin Chapman (Florida): It would have been easy to classify Chapman as an afterthought on the young and talented Florida roster before the season, as the 6-4 lefty missed all the 2008 season with TJ surgery and threw only 11 innings in 2009. But Chapman has stepped forward to claim the Gators’ closer job (1-0, 1.20, 4 SV), along with showing a consistent plus fastball and sharp breaking curveball. There will be concerns about Chapman’s injury history, as he missed most of his senior high school season as well, but no one in the state of Florida has moved further up the draft charts faster than the Miami native.

RHP Dave Filak (Oneonta State): Filak led Division III in strikeouts per 9 innings last year with 14.86 (6-1, 2.36, 53 IP/88 K’s) but still was regarded as only the 15th-best prospect in the New York Collegiate Summer League last summer. The 6-5, 220 lb right hander has improved both the command and velocity on his fastball, which has been touching 96 mph early, and his hard curveball is a potential second plus pitch. Filak’s strikeout numbers this year are on pace to top last year’s; he’s K’d 31 hitters in only 15 innings versus 2 walks.
RHP Matt Harvey (North Carolina): Harvey spent considerable time as the #1 ranked prospect in the 2010 college class after turning down well in excess of $1M in bonus money from the Angels out of high school. His declining stuff, inconsistent mechanics and poor performance for the Tar Heels as a sophomore (7-2, 5.40, 88 H in 75 IP) plummeted his standing in the rankings and in scouts’ minds. That’s in the past, though, as Harvey is throwing better than ever this spring, touching 98 mph frequently and dominating hitters again (3-0, 1.97, 32 IP/20 H/37 K).

RHP Tyrell Jenkins (Henderson (TX) HS): Jenkins has long been an attraction to scouts with his 6-4, 185 lb frame and loose and easy athleticism. He’s also had his time divided by football and playing a position in baseball. Jenkins has blossomed this spring, boosting his fastball up to 96 mph at times and showing a much improved curveball. Scouts have made repeated Dwight Gooden comps when talking about Jenkins, and while that may be premature for draft purposes, there is definitely some first-round type talk out there.

C Michael Kvasnicka (Minnesota): Kvasnicka was certainly on the scouts’ radar based on his sophomore season with the Gophers (.341-10-63), but that was as a strong-armed right fielder. Although he has caught occasionally in the past, Kvasnicka has moved behind the plate more often this spring and shown scouts that he can handle the position defensively, giving him significantly more value than he would have in the outfield. He’s been mentioned as potentially one of the top three or four college catchers in the country for draft purposes. The switch-hitter has been pitched around severely this spring, drawing 16 walks in 21 games versus only 2 strikeouts while hitting .338-4-16.

RHP Barrett Loux (Texas A&M):
Loux was mediocre as a sophomore (3-3, 4.12) and underwent surgery in the summer to remove bone spurs from his elbow, thus entering the spring as a question mark. He now looks like a potential first rounder after a 3-1, 1.29 with 47 K’s in 28 innings. Loux has thrown very consistently in the 92-94 mph range with outstanding angle to the plate. He throws both a curveball and changeup that show plus potential and will even mix in a slider at times. Loux’s pitchability and maturity on the mound are also pluses, although some scouts are bound to be wary of his recent elbow history.

RHP Donn Roach (College of Southern Nevada):
Roach flamed out at Arizona as a freshman, going 1-4, 7.84 and necessitating a transfer back to his hometown of Las Vegas. Joining perhaps the most talented pitching staff at any level of college baseball, Roach has become perhaps the team’s top prospect after his catcher, Bryce Harper. His fastball has been up to 96 mph and he’s shown vast improvement on his ability to pitch and work ahead in counts.

1B Hommy Rosado (Barbe HS, Lake Charles, LA):
A broken hamate bone kept Rosado in the shadows of teammate Garin Cecchini (see below) last year, but there may not be a better high school hitter in the country right now than the Puerto Rican native. Rosado has slammed 18 home runs already this spring, many of the tape measure variety, and benefitted from the crowds of scouts coming out to see Cecchini before his unfortunate ACL injury. Rosado will have to overcome the fact that he is a 6-0, 220 lb right handed hitter limited to first base, but scouts say his swing bears an uncanny resemblance to Albert Pujols’, not a comparison to make lightly.

RHP Asher Wojciechowski (The Citadel):
Wojciechowski was hardly an unknown, having pitched for the USA National Team last summer (2-1, 2.18, 20 IP/29 K), but he has moved up his stuff to a new level this spring and put himself into first round consideration. The 6-4 right hander has been consistently 93-94 mph for entire outings and his low 80’s slider is close to a plus pitch right now. Wojciechowski is 5-0, 3.00 with 47 K’s in 33 innings after winning only 3 games last year.

1B Christian Yelich (Westlake HS, Thousand Oaks, CA):
Any number of California high school prospects could fill this spot, as players such as RHP Scott Frazier, RHP Eric Jaffe and RHP Vincent Velasquez have all shot up prospect charts. But the sweet swinging Yelich has come further to convince scouts that he is a sure-thing hitter as a 6-4, 190 lb left handed hitting first baseman with great projection. Talk now centers around Comp/Second Round, whereas before the spring there was little draft talk whatsoever.

Worth Noting:
RHP Seth Blair, RHP Adam Duke, RHP Mike Foltynewicz, RHP Scott Frazier, LHP Mario Hollands, OF Marcus Knecht, RHP Tyler Norwood, 1B Kyle Parker, LHP Rob Rasmussen, RHP Jordan Swagerty, RHP Vincent Velasquez

5 Draft Disappointments

3B Garin Cecchini (Barbe HS, Lake Charles, LA): Cecchini comes from a serious baseball family and has long been a favorite of scouts both on and off the field. He tore his ACL on a routine play going back into the first base bag on a pickoff throw and has already been operated on by Dr. James Andrews. That unfortunate injury seems likely to send him to LSU, whereas he might have been a top 2 or 3 round selection this year.

LHP Josh Osich (Oregon State): After throwing only 51 innings in his first two seasons at Oregon State, this spring was supposed to be Osich’s coming out party, a chance for his mid to upper 90’s fastball to dominate college hitters and propel him into high first round status. Pre-season TJ surgery derailed those plans, though. Don’t be surprised if some team still makes a strong run at the Idaho native despite the fact he won’t be able to pitch until next spring.

LHP James Paxton (Kentucky):
There are too many levels of disappointment here to even dwell on, starting with the NCAA taking a hard line on one individual when it is common knowledge that virtually all players with pro ability have agents by the NCAA definition. Paxton still had things to prove on the mound despite his turning down $1M+ from the Blue Jays last year. Now he’ll have to do it in shorter and stage-managed independent league performances instead of with a talented Kentucky team.

LHP Josh Spence (Arizona State):
The soft tossing but devastatingly effective southpaw turned down third round money from the Angels last year to return to Arizona State for his senior season. He has yet to pitch because of a sore arm, although he has recently starting throwing again with no timetable for a return to the mound. Arizona State hasn’t missed Spence, though, as they’ve started the season 20-0 and have a team ERA of 2.97.

University of Georgia Pitching Staff:
The Bulldogs’ pitching staff is loaded with plus fastballs and potential high draft picks, but the team is currently 8-13 with an unsightly team ERA of 8.21. RHP Justin Grimm has been competitive (1-2, 5.16), but has likely dropped out of first round consideration. RHPs Michal Palazzone (3-2, 9.25) and Jeff Walters (0-2, 9.58) are the other two weekend starters, but may have seen their draft hopes evaporate. Strong-armed closer LHP Alex McRee (0-1, 8.38, 3 SV, 13 BB in 9 IP) is in the same boat, and he threw 14 balls in 15 pitches in one appearance. Former top 2011 prospect RHP Cecil Tanner (1-1, 12.27, 20 BB in 11 IP) is faring no better.
Coming Friday: An updated top 500
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