Draft | State Preview | 5/13/2011

State Preview: Alabama

Allan Simpson        
Alabama State-by-State List
Alabama Overview:
Golden Opportunity For Alabama Prep Prospects To Make their Mark
At the outset of the 2011 season, Wetumpka High outfielder Jamal Golden was Alabama’s top-rated high-school baseball talent. A year ago, his uncle Reggie Golden held the same designation and subsequently went on to become a second-round pick of the Chicago Cubs in the 2010 draft.
Like his uncle and former teammate, Jamal Golden is a significant two-sport talent. But ever since he was tabbed as Alabama’s Mr. Football last fall, Golden seems to be less inclined to follow in his uncle’s footsteps and pursue a career in baseball. Instead, he appears more determined to pursue a career in football, as a defensive back at Georgia Tech.
As interest in Golden has waned this spring among area scouts, two other high-school players, in particular, have more than made up for his absence and become Alabama’s most-draftable prep seniors. One of the players is Golden’s Wetumpka High teammate, third baseman Brad Roney, whose explosive raw power and above-average arm strength at the hot corner have made him a solid candidate to go in the first three or four rounds.
Alabama’s best high-school talent on the eve of the 2011 draft, though, has become 6-foot-5 Slocomb High righthander Clayton Holmes, a player who barely registered as a prospect as late as last summer.
With his combination of a big, athletic frame, fastball in the 90-93 mph range (touching 95-96), spike curveball with significant 12-to-6 shape and surprising feel for pitching for a previously-unknown high-school arm, Holmes took the state by storm this spring. He even stands an excellent chance of becoming the first player drafted in the state overall, possibly as early as the second or third round. But scouts are also wary that he is a top student, and could command a significant price not to attend college at Auburn.
Holmes’ primary competition for the honor of going first overall will in all probability be University of Alabama lefthander Adam Morgan, the state’s best college prospect. The Crimson Tide, in fact, should produce the first two college draft picks in Alabama, Morgan and diminutive outfielder Taylor Dugas. Morgan is seen as a legitimate candidate to go as early as the third round, while Dugas should go 3-4 rounds later.
Even with the state’s two best college prospects, Alabama (30-20 overall, 12-12 in Southeastern Conference play) may have its work cut out just to advance to NCAA post-season play. Auburn, the state’s other Southeastern Conference power, has an even taller task.
Alabama and Auburn, and every college team in the state, have been upstaged this spring by the inspired play of Troy University, which is 35-14 overall and leads the Sun Belt Conference with a 17-7 record. Like the Crimson Tide, the Trojans have two impact players of their own in junior righthander Tyler Ray (11-0, 1.75) and senior shortstop Adam Bryant (.344-6-48). Neither player, though, is expected to be drafted in the same range as Alabama’s two best college talents.
For all his success this season, Ray is viewed mainly as just a solid college pitcher. His fastball velocity has been mostly in the 86-88 mph range, though has pushed as high as 90-91 on occasion late in the spring. He commands all his pitches well, but simply lacks overpowering stuff. Morgan, by comparison, has a fastball in the 90-93 mph range, along with an 80-82 mph slider and solid changeup. With better command of his stuff this spring, Morgan has solidified his lofty draft position.
Bryant had a big 2010 season for Troy, hitting a robust .365-23-65 while committing just three errors at shortstop. But it was very telling that the 5-foot-11, 180-pound infielder wasn’t even drafted a year ago. Bryant has enjoyed another solid season for Troy (.344-6-48), leading the team in a number of offensive categories, but his overall tools are marginal by pro standards and the new bats in play this spring in the college game have marginalized his power. Bryant should at least be a solid senior sign this year.
Like Bryant, Auburn’s own undersized shortstop Casey McElroy (.360-6-46) is the top offensive threat in his team’s lineup and should be that team’s best draft. He is also seen as just a marginal talent, though, as scouts aren’t convinced he can be an everyday shortstop at the next level.
Dugas, Alabama’s 5-foot-7 center fielder, meanwhile, is the poster boy in this draft for the cause that size does not matter. He has been relatively unaffected by the new bat standards. Even with his extra-small frame, Dugas has been a force at the top of the Crimson Tide lineup and actually leads his team with five homers. He also tops the Tide in runs scored, walks and stolen bases, and is an accomplished defender in center field.
Scouts describe Dugas as a pure baseball player with a gritty approach and game-changing speed. He has mainly a contact-oriented stroke and his tools should translate easily to the professional ranks.
Beyond the obvious impact that Alabama’s two best prospects will make on the draft, and to a lesser degree the talent that Auburn and Troy will contribute, the college team that could make the biggest splash of all is Samford, which has three players that are making a serious run at going in the top 10 rounds.
Two of Samford’s three best prospects are righthanded relievers who were passed over in the draft a year ago. But 6-foot-4 senior Andrew Jones and 6-foot-5 red-shirt junior Grant Sides have grabbed the attention of scouts this spring.
Jones (1-3, 1.86, 11 SV), the most-decorated closer in Samford history, has made strides with a fastball that peaks at 93 mph. Scouts, however, may be more intrigued with the upside of Sides (0-0, 2.25 in 17 G), whose fastball sits at 93-95 mph, and has peaked at 97. He has been used cautiously all season, mostly in one-inning stints, after he missed most of last season with an elbow injury and subsequently underwent Tommy John surgery.
Catcher/outfielder Brandon Miller is the third Samford player that could squeeze into the early rounds. Miller, a junior-college transfer who began his college career at Georgia Tech, has blasted 15 home runs this season for the Trojans and his raw power ranks among the best in the state. Though Miller has spent most of the 2011 season in the outfield, rather than behind the plate, he is still projected to be a catcher at the pro level. His arm has been clocked at 92-93 mph from the outfield, and is considered an asset behind the plate.
Most of the best junior-college talent in the state, meanwhile, was concentrated again at Chattahoochee Valley, a young team that otherwise benefitted from the transfer of two significant offensive players from Georgia colleges, outfielder Bryce Dial (.344-18-65, 18 SB), who spent the 2010 season at Georgia Southern, and first baseman Robert Shipman (.306-16-63), a transfer from Georgia.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Dial has speed (6.5 in the 60), power and arm strength, and is considered the best potential JC draft in the state. The powerful Shipman is seen as more of a one-tool talent, and should slide as a result. A third Chattahoochee Valley prospect, freshman righthander Zach Helewski (7-4, 3.42), was clocked up to 94 mph and could also factor in the middle rounds.
A potential wild card in the Alabama junior-college ranks is freshman two-way player Cooper Moseley, a former Alabama high-school player of some note who transferred to Central Alabama in January after a semester at Georgia. Despite his modest 5-foot-11, 170-pound frame, Moseley excelled in both the outfield (.423-7-47) and on the mound (3-3, 2.19, 5 SV, 49 IP/64 SO) this spring. He has more upside as a pitcher with an impressive two-pitch mix that includes a fastball in the low- to mid-90s and hard slider.
Alabama in a Nutshell:
STRENGTH: Depth of college talent.
WEAKNESS: High-end talent.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 3.
BEST COLLEGE TEAM: Troy University.
BEST JUNIOR-COLLEGE TEAM: Chattahoochee Valley.
PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Clayton Holmes, rhp/3b, Slocomb HS. Holmes was a virtual unknown to scouts last summer, but the athletic 6-foot-5, 210-pound righthander made huge strides this spring with the improvement in his raw stuff, including a fastball at 90-93 mph, topping at 96. In 54 innings, he went 6-2, 2.06 and struck out 84. He also played third base for his high-school team, and hit .351-4-32. Holmes may not be a slam-dunk to sign, though, as he is a 4.0 student with a commitment to Auburn.
PROSPECTS ON THE DECLINE: Andrew Morris, rhp, Auburn/Bradley Hendrix, rhp, Auburn. Morris, a 16th-round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2010 after two strong seasons at Gulf Coast (Fla.) JC, was supposed to be Auburn’s No. 1 starter and best draft pick. Hendrix, a senior, was also expected to be a significant factor in the draft and Tigers rotation after pumping his fastball up to 96 mph in the fall. But both pitchers performed poorly as starters, stemming mostly from a loss of velocity, and were banished to the bullpen. Their draft stock has tumbled accordingly. Morris is just 2-3, 6.68 on the season, while Hendrix is 2-1, 5.13.
WILD CARD: Jamal Golden, of, Wetumpka HS. Reggie Golden was Alabama’s top high-school draft pick a year ago, and his nephew Jamal could follow in those footsteps. Both players are highly athletic and have similar tools. But scouts have become increasingly wary of the younger Golden’s intentions to play football at Georgia Tech, and he could slide in the draft if they can’t get a read on his signability.
BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Alabama Connection: Jed Bradley, lhp, Georgia Tech (Attended high school in Huntsville).
Top 2012 Prospect: Lex Rutledge, lhp, Samford University.
Top 2013 Prospect: Kevin Davis, rhp, T.R. Miller HS, Brewton.
Draft History: Gregg Olson, rhp, Auburn U. (1988, Orioles/1st round, 4th pick).
2006 Draft: Kasey Kiker, lhp, Russell County HS, Phenix City (Rangers/1st round, 12th pick).
2007 Draft: Josh Donaldson, c, Auburn U. (Cubs/1st round, 48th pick).
2008 Draft: Destin Hood, of, St. Paul’s Episcopal HS, Mobile (Nationals/2nd round).
2009 Draft: Ben Tootle, rhp, Jacksonville State U. (Twins/3rd round).
2010 Draft: Todd Cunningham, of, Jacksonville State U. (Braves/2nd round).
Best Hitter: Taylor Dugas, of, Alabama.
Best Power: Brad Roney, 3b, Wetumpka HS.
Best Speed: Taylor Dugas, of, Alabama.
Best Defender: Taylor Dugas, of, Alabama.
Best Velocity: Grant Sides, rhp, Samford.
Best Breaking Stuff: Clayton Holmes, rhp, Slocomb HS.
GROUP ONE (Projected ELITE-Round Draft / Rounds 1-3)
1. CLAYTON HOLMES, rhp, Slocomb HS
6-5/210 frame, very athletic, fast arm, FB tops 95-96 mph, 12/6 spike CU, improving command; + student.
2. ADAM MORGAN, lhp, University of Alabama (Jr.)
Solidified 3rd-round status with command of 90-93 FB, 80-82 SL, solid CH; 5-4, 3.84, 75 IP/19 BB/60 SO.
GROUP TWO (Projected HIGH-Round Draft / Rounds 4-10)
3. BRAD RONEY, 3b, Wetumpka HS
Solid tools at plate/in field; pull/power approach, + bat speed ( .393-4-19, 22 SB); ++ arm, quick feet at 3B.
4. TAYLOR DUGAS, of, University of Alabama (Jr.)
Little frame belies impressive tools; can hit (.335-5-23; .395 in 2010) with occasional pop, + CF, base runner.
5. JO-EL BENNETT, of/rhp, Houston Academy, Midland City
Projectable 6-2/180 athlete; 6.7 speed, + underway, polished hitter, quick, line-drive swing, + OF instincts.
6. GRANT SIDES, rhp, Samford University (Jr.)
A year off TJ surgery, FB already sits 93-95, peaks at 97; struggles with command, needs a secondary pitch.
7. CASEY McELROY, ss, Auburn University (Jr.)
Short LH swing, ball jumps off bat , makes Auburn offense go (.360-6-46); projects utility role at pro level.
8. JAMAL GOLDEN, of, Wetumpka HS
Nephew of Reggie Golden (Cubs ‘10/2nd round); + athlete/instincts, 6.9 speed, line-drive bat (.403-2-20).
9. BRANDON MILLER, c, Samford University (Jr.)
Impressive raw power/arm strength are selling points; has to prove he can catch; streaky hitter (.289-15-40).
10. ANDREW JONES, rhp, Samford University (Sr.)
Lanky 6-4 RHP found home as SR as closer (1.86 ERA, 11 SV); has arm strength (91-93), + CH from ¾ slot.
11. BRYCE DIAL, of, Chattahoochee Valley CC (So.)
Georgia Southern transfer flashed impressive power/speed package (.344-18-65, 18 SB), 5-tool potential.
12. ROCKY McCORD, rhp, Spanish Fort HS
Auburn-bound 2-way player can pitch (8-1, 1.11), hit (8 HR, 45 RBIs); made big strides with his command.
13. COOPER MOSELEY, rhp/of, Central Alabama CC (So.)
Versatile player can do it all on field, size limits pro appeal; future on mound, has + FB/SL, but max effort.
14. TYLER RAY, rhp, Troy University (Jr.)
Solid college pitcher (11-0, 1.75, 88 IP, 10 BB); excels with command of 3 pitches, lacks overwhelming stuff.
15. JUSTIN KAMPLAIN, lhp, Walker HS, Jasper
Smallish LHP exploded on scene this spring; 5-10/165 frame limits him, but he commands 86-91 FB/CU/CH.
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