Draft : : State Preview
Wednesday, June 01, 2011

State Preview: Virginia

Allan Simpson        
Photo: Virginia

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Perfect Game will be providing a detailed overview of each state in the U.S., including the District of Columbia, as well as Canada and Puerto Rico. These overviews will list the state's strengths, weaknesses and the players with the best tools, as well as providing mini-scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players.

Virginia State-by-State List

Virginia Overview:
Talented Virginia Club Dominates on Field, Will Significantly Impact Draft

The University of Virginia won a school-record 49 games in 2009, and made its first-ever appearance in the College World Series. That success, however, was only an appetizer for 2010 and 2011.

In each of the last two years, the Cavaliers have entered NCAA regional play as the consensus No. 1 team nationally. Though they were upset a year ago in super-regional play, one game away from a return trip to the CWS, they set a new school record with 51 wins and had a record nine players drafted.

Both those records could come tumbling down again this year as the Cavaliers already had 49 wins by the start of regional play and could easily top last year’s team record for most players drafted. Moreover, star lefthander Danny Hultzen could become the highest draft selection ever produced by the school as he is projected to go in the top three picks (former Virginia third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, the fourth overall pick in 2005, currently holds that mark).

The 2011 season has been as much about the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Hultzen as it has about the Cavaliers. He has played key roles as both a pitcher and hitter, making him a leading candidate for national player of the year, and attracted droves of scouts to every game he has pitched.

An unsigned 10th-rounder in the 2008 draft, Hultzen has not only witnessed his team’s amazing success first hand over the last three years, but has played as big a role in it as anyone. He dominated as a freshman for the Cavaliers, going 9-1, 2.17 with 107 strikeouts in 95 innings. Like his team, though, he has only continued to get better over his next two years. As a sophomore, Hultzen went 11-1, 2.78 with 123 strikeouts in 107 innings. In his first 96 innings this season, he was 10-3, 1.59 with 16 walks and 136 strikeouts. He has also swung the bat at a .305-1-29 clip.

Not coincidentally, Hultzen has made a significant upgrade in his stuff and command over three seasons. His fastball, 89-92 mph earlier in his career, is now a consistent 95-96. His curve and slider have become more-refined secondary pitches. His pitchability, always the key to his game, has become more refined than ever this season.

As dominating as Hultzen has become this season, his improvement has actually been no more significant in the success Virginia has enjoyed again this year than the improvement enjoyed by several other Virginia players—notably senior righthander Tyler Wilson (7-0, 2.41, 82 IP/20 BB/104 SO) and junior righthander Will Roberts (10-1, 1.78, 86 IP/12 BB/76 SO). They have been difference-makers in the Virginia rotation behind Hultzen.

Wilson was a lowly 35th-rounder a year ago, while Roberts won just three times. While neither pitcher will ever blow a hitter away with his raw stuff, they both have solid shots at being drafted in the top 10 rounds.

Wilson has an average fastball, with a slider as his out pitch. Roberts’ fastball is actually below average, at 86-89 mph, but the 6-foot-5 righthander has a solid delivery, and like most Virginia pitchers, he succeeds by throwing a high number of quality strikes—and quality sliders. Earlier this year, Roberts needed just 98 pitches to throw the first perfect game in Virginia history, and eighth in NCAA annals.

Virginia has a 2.34 team ERA (second in the nation behind Texas), so much of its success this season has stemmed from exceptional pitching. But the Cavaliers also have a handful of position players that will factor prominently in the drafted, notably junior catcher John Hicks (.338-6-50) and junior third baseman Steve Proscia (.333-7-53).

Hicks is an unusually-good athlete for a catcher, with solid-average speed, and could end up in the outfield down the road as there are questions about his catching and throwing skills. Proscia leads the Cavaliers in homers and stolen bases, and is a fixture defensively at third base, but the new bats in use this spring at the college level have somewhat exposed his long swing.

There’s little question that Virginia, the Atlantic Coast Conference champion, will factor strongly in this year’s draft. James Madison, the Colonial Athletic Association champ, should also be a presence.

JMU’s big catch is junior catcher Jake Lowery, who hit a resounding .357-22-83 on the season. His power onslaught gradually won over dubious scouts who initially believed his power numbers, in a year where offense is down significantly throughout college baseball, were a factor of JMU’s small ball park.

Though his power may eventually be more to the gaps, Lowery impressed scouts with his bat speed, arm strength and overall athletic ability. He should be one of the top catchers in the country taken in the draft, and may rank behind only Hultzen among college players in the state. He will be challenged for that spot, though, by Hicks and Proscia.

Had Liberty’s 6-foot-4, 215-pound sophomore righthander Blake Forslund, a transfer from Virginia, been healthy all season, he might have been in the running to be the second player drafted in the state after Hultzen. Forslund’s fastball was clocked at 96-97 mph in the fall, and more commonly at 94 this spring, but he sat out four weeks with a nagging knee injury. He went just 1-2, 8.31, and allowed 47 base runners (32 hits, 15 walks) in just 22 innings.

More than anything, Forslund needs innings and experience. He was part of the same Virginia recruiting class as Hultzen three years ago, but worked in only one inning as a freshman for the Cavaliers before sitting out the 2010 season while transferring to Liberty.

While Forslund’s meager output was a disappointment for Liberty, the biggest disappointment of all for the Flames was the underwhelming performance turned in by junior third baseman Tyler Bream. He projected as a potential top-five-round talent at the start of the 2011 season after topping the Cape Cod League in RBIs last summer. But with the draft on his mind, he became prone to swinging at a lot of bad pitches all spring, and hit just .252-3-33. His draft stock has nosedived in the process.

Bream is the son of former big leaguer and ex-Liberty star Sid Bream. His cousin, Doug, a senior outfielder, actually led Liberty in hitting this season, at .349, but is considered just a marginal prospect.

At the Virginia high-school level, Kecoughtan High lefthander/outfielder Jake Cave and Menchville High righthander DeShorn Lake were solidly entrenched as the top two prospects at the start of the 2011 season, and there has been very little shakeup in the ranks all season. Predictably, most of the talent in the state was concentrated in the Tidewater area.

Cave is a significant two-way player, and the debate continued all spring whether he is more highly-skilled as a hitter or pitcher.

As an everyday player, he has a powerful swing from the left side and enjoyed a better season at the plate than on the mound, hitting .621. But his fastball was also clocked at 92-93, topping at 94 mph, and his secondary pitches remain on track. Cave struggled early in the season with delivery issues and worked in just 48 innings overall, posting a 5-3, 1.90 record with 24 walks and 89 strikeouts.

Cave scores high marks in some quarters for his aggressive makeup, while others say he lacks maturity and he made headlines for all the wrong reasons late in the season, when he was ejected from a district championship playoff game for wearing a necklace. The was in violation of National Federation of State High School Association rules and Cave was required to sit out the next game, which turned out to be a loss in what amounted to the final game of his otherwise distinguished prep career.

Lake has his own notoriety, as he stands out as much for his intriguing background as his 95-mph fastball. He is a resident of the Virgin Islands, and moved to Virginia two years ago so he could play baseball in a formal high-school program, an opportunity that was not afforded him in his native land. His fastball was typically 91-92 mph this spring, and he threw it with a free, easy motion. He also has a feel for two future-average breaking balls, but his slider and changeup are still at developmental stages.

Beyond Cave and Lake, First Colonial High shortstop T.J. Costen and Ocean Lakes High lefthander Shawn Morimando were two more prospects of note that brought cross-checkers to the Virginia Beach area.

South County High righthander Evan Beal, meanwhile, was the best prep prospect in northern Virginia, and played an instrumental role in leading his team to a 24-0 record and within reach of a state championship. With significant upside in his 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame, Beal has a solid chance to eclipse the draft position of his brother Jesse, who was a 14th-round pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 2008.

Virginia in a Nutshell:

University of Virginia talent.
WEAKNESS: Signable high-school players.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 4.

BEST HIGH SCHOOL TEAM: South County HS, Fairfax Station.

PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Jake Lowery, c, James Madison University.
With 22 homers from the left side, solid athletic ability and a strong arm behind the plate, Lowery made big strides as a prospect this season.

PROSPECT ON THE DECLINE: Tyler Bream, 3b, Liberty University.
His teammate Blake Forslund might have gone as high as the second round had he not been an unproductive 1-2, 8.31, but his disappointing season can be explained by a lingering knee injury and simple inexperience. Scouts have a tougher time explaining Bream’s difficult season at the plate, when he went from leading the Cape Cod League last summer in RBIs to hitting just .252 with three homers.

Jake Cave, lhp/of, Kecoughtan HS, Hampton. Scouts are split on Cave’s future role, pitcher or hitter. He may be a very difficult player to sign away from Louisiana State anyway, and the simple solution may be to let him settle the debate on his own in three years at the college level.

BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Virginia Connection:
Jackie Bradley, of, University of South Carolina (attended high school in Prince George).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT: Branden Kline, rhp, Virginia.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT: Andy McGuire, ss/rhp, James Madison HS, Oakton.

Draft History: Justin Upton, ss, Great Bridge HS, Chesapeake (2005, Diamondbackss/1st round, 1st pick);
2006 Draft: Jeremy Jeffress, rhp, Halifax County HS, South Boston (Brewers/1st round; 16th pick).
2007 Draft: Kellen Kulbacki, of, James Madison U. (Padres/1st round, 40th pick).
2008 Draft: David Adams, 2b, U. of Virginia (Yankees/3rd round).
2009 Draft: Andrew Carraway, rhp, U. of Virginia (Mariners/12th round).
2010 Draft: Jarrett Parker, of, U. of Virginia (Giants/2nd round).

Best Hitter: John Hicks, c, University of Virginia.
Best Power: Jake Lowery, c, James Madison University.
Best Speed: T.J. Costen, ss, First Colonial HS, Virginia Beach.
Best Defender: Steve Proscia, 3b, University of Virginia.
Best Velocity: Danny Hultzen, lhp, University of Virginia.
Best Breaking Stuff: Danny Hultzen, lhp, University of Virginia.


(Projected ELITE-Round Draft / Rounds 1-3)

1. DANNY HULTZEN, lhp, University of Virginia (Jr.)
Top LHP in draft (1.59, 96 IP/16 BB/136 SO); ++ pitchability, difference in 2011 is spike in velo to 95-96.

(Projected HIGH-Round Draft / Rounds 4-10)

2. JAKE CAVE, lhp/of, Kecoughtan HS, Hampton
Legit 2-way prospect; FB 88-91/T-94, upper-70s CU, effort in delivery; + OF/arm; + LH swing, 6.8 speed.
3. JAKE LOWERY, c, James Madison University (Jr.)
Athletic C, + arm; + LH bat/gap power, breakout year (.357-22-83); needs improve blocking/receiving skills.
4. JOHN HICKS, c, University of Virginia (Jr.)
Offensive C (+ bat/speed, hit .338-6-50), marginal arm/defensive skills, athletic enough to move to outfield.
5. STEVE PROSCIA, 3b, University of Virginia (Jr.)
Key role at bat (.333-7-53)/in field for nation’s No. 1 team; athletic, can run, + D; concern over long swing.
6. DESHORN LAKE, rhp, Menchville HS, Newport News
Virgin Islands native; + strong (6-0/210), fast arm; drop/drive delivery, FB 89-92/T-94, 83 SL, OK
7. BLAKE FORSLUND, rhp, Liberty University (So.)
Big upside in 6-4/215 RHP; hurt by injuries/command issues, but FB at 96-97 in fall/95 in spring, power SL.
8. TYLER WILSON, rhp, University of Virginia (Sr.)
+ SR sign (7-0, 2.41, 82 IP/20 BB/104 SO); smart pitcher, commands 3 pitches, 89-92 FB, emphasizes +
9. EVAN BEAL, rhp, South County HS, Fairfax Station
+ projectable at 6-5/200, brother Jesse in O’s system; FB only 88-89, but more velo in tank; + SL/feel for
10. TIM SMALLING, ss, Virginia Tech (Sr.)
5th-year SR, 14th-rounder in 2010, bargain pick in 2011; ++ SS, stabilizer in IF; steady at plate (.314-9-42).
11. T.J. COSTEN, ss, First Colonial HS, Virginia Beach
++ athlete, disruptive speed (6.41 in 60), strong arm, also plays CF, RH bat, pull approach with gap power.
12. WILL ROBERTS, rhp, University of Virginia (Jr.)
Stuff below average (FB 87-89), but big frame (6-5/210), sound delivery, ++ pitchability; wins (10-1, 1.78).

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