Draft : : State Preview
Friday, June 03, 2011

State Preview: Ohio

Allan Simpson        
Photo: Kent State

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.

Ohio State-by-State List

Ohio Overview:
Kent State Dominates On the Field, Will also Play Prominent Role in Draft

The Ohio State University may have self-proclaimed itself as the university in Ohio, but when it comes to college baseball, no one takes a back seat to Kent State.

The Golden Flashes have become the pre-eminent baseball program in the state in head coach Scott Stricklin’s seven-year tenure, posting a 266-143 record overall and earning four NCAA tournament bids. They earned their third straight regional appearance this season by breezing to the Mid-American Conference regular-season and post-season tournament titles. With a 44-15 record entering regional play, the Golden Flashes needed to win just one more game to tie the school record for wins in a season, set in 1992.

Not only has Kent State been winning at a steady clip, but it has been producing more than its share of talent. The school’s impact on the draft could be greater than ever this year with a potential first-rounder in sophomore lefthander Andrew Chafin, and the possibility of up to 10 selections overall in this year’s draft. It’s even possible that the Golden Flashes could have six or seven players in the bag before mighty Ohio State has its first player taken.

Chafin’s emergence as a top starting candidate for the 2011 draft has been somewhat slow to evolve as he spent his freshman year at Kent State as a dominant closer and sophomore year on the shelf, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He hurt his elbow late in his freshman season after going 4-1, 1.26 with eight saves, striking out 55 in 36 innings.

Even with no prior experience as a starter in college, Chafin was dominant in that role early this spring as Kent State’s Friday starter, with his signature outing being a 1-0, complete-game win over Toledo on the opening weekend of the Mid-American Conference schedule. He allowed four hits and no walks, struck out 15 and threw 88 strikes in his 113-pitch masterpiece. Soon, though, Chafin’s heavy workload caught up with him and he was forced to miss a weekend start with what Kent State coaches called a fatigued arm, though a minor back issue may have been at the root of the problem.

As regional play began, Chafin was 7-1, 1.90 with 55 hits, 21 walks and 97 strikeouts in 80 innings. The tall, athletic southpaw has always flashed starter stuff, with a fastball in the 92-95 mph range. But the development of his secondary pitches into legitimate offerings has enabled him to settle in seamlessly this spring as a starter. His power slider has become a dominant second pitch, and his changeup is now a viable third offering.

Chain’s unflappable mound presence has also served him well as a starter. He was the Friday starter in Kent State’s rare all-lefthanded rotation, and the trio was instrumental in the team winning its fourth straight MAC title (regular season or tournament). As a staff, the Golden Flashes boast a 2.54 ERA and have struck out 487 in 525 innings.

Though all three southpaws can throw strikes routinely and specialize at getting ahead early in the count, they are very different in their approaches to pitching. Senior lefthander Kyle Hallock (10-4, 1.91, 99 IP/83 SO) and sophomore lefty David Starn (9-2, 1.95, 101 IP/114 SO) have outpitched Chafin from time to time, but neither comes close to possessing Chafin’s professional upside.

Where Chafin’s fastball is in the mid-90s, Hallock is typically 87-89 mph, topping at 91-92, but can throw four pitches for strikes. Starn is even more of a soft tosser, with a fastball at 83-85, and succeeds mostly working with his dominant changeup. If anything, he will be a late-round pick in this year’s draft.

If Chafin can overcome his mid-season speed bump and pitch effectively in his final start or two this season, he could slip into the back end of the first round. Otherwise, he should fit safely in the sandwich round.

No Ohio college pitchers, Chafin included, may have made more strides this spring than Hallock and Kent State closer Kyle McMillen. Hallock was just a 49th-rounder a year ago after a modestly-successful 8-5, 5.64 junior season, but he ratcheted up his game considerably this spring by throwing 2-3 mph harder than a year ago. He had only one subpar start all year, and his season-long dominance led to his selection as the conference pitcher of the year. Hallock’s command has also been much sharper, and he can now throw four pitches for strikes. He should be one of the top senior signs in the entire draft.

McMillen was equal parts pitching prospect and position prospect a year ago, and finally established a true role for himself this spring by settling in as a closer. He saved 17 games for the Golden Flashes. McMillen’s fastball has ranged from 91-94 mph, peaking at 95 and he could throw even harder in the future. His slider, which has reached 87, has also been a plus pitch, on occasion, but he has had trouble commanding it.

The highly-athletic McMillen also has significant power at the plate from the left side. He hit .354-6-46 as the team’s starting first baseman in 2010, while going an unimpressive 1-2, 4.44 with four saves. But he essentially abandoned his two-way duties, and that enabled him to blossom on the mound.

Kent State’s impact on the draft may seem top heavy in pitching prospects with Chafin, McMillen, and Hallock all expected to be drafted in the first 10 rounds, but its impact won’t end there. Junior third baseman Travis Shaw (.316-14-51), who leads the team in home runs, and senior outfielder Ben Klafczynski (.368-10-54), the team leader in batting and RBIs, should factor in quickly thereafter.

Shaw, son of ex-major leaguer Jeff Shaw, has one of the top lefthanded power bats in the Upper Midwest, but is not overly athletic, and the remainder of his tools are a little short. A third baseman most of his college career, Shaw will likely face a move across the diamond at the pro level.

Klafczynski hit .362-10-62 as an undrafted junior, very comparable to his 2011 season totals, but scouts say he is a different player this season because he finally learned to apply his vast assortment of tools in a positive way. Klafczynski has a big right-field arm, and impressive speed and power.

Bowling Green State appears to be the only other Ohio college team that has a chance to prevent a near clean sweep in the drafty by Kent State. It has two players who could be early-round factors, junior shortstop Jon Berti and junior righthander Ross Gerdeman.

Berti is a scrappy, hard-nosed little shortstop with speed and arm strength, though there is concern whether he can remain at shortstop over the long haul. Gerdeman was a relative unknown entering the MAC tournament, but impressed scouts with a consistent 90-93 fastball and above-average slider—superior stuff than what he showed earlier in the season.

The Ohio high-school ranks, meanwhile, will be hard-pressed to have more than one player crack the top 10 rounds.

Bryan High’s 6-foot-3 175-pound righthander Matt Wisler is acknowledged as the state’s best prep prospect, and is a probably an 8th-10 rounder on talent. He has solid pitchability with four pitches he can throw for strikes, including an 88-92 mph fastball. But Wisler also lacks strength in his lean 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame and reportedly has a steep price tag, and those factors may see him slide out of the early rounds.

All of the state’s other top high-school players appear earmarked for college, including Kentucky-bound outfielder Austin Cousino, regarded as the state’s best position prospect. Cousino has advanced bat skills, but needs to get stronger to be able to utilize them more efficiently.

A year from now, Ohio will have a pair of high-end young arms and scouts have already taken note. Six-foot-9, 255-pound righthander Taylore Cherry is expected to be one of the top high-school arms, while Solon High lefthander Mark Smoral will also be a first-round consideration.

For this year, though, most of Ohio’s talent is concentrated at Kent State.

Ohio in a Nutshell:

Power arms.
WEAKNESS: Established bats.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 3.

Kent State.
BEST HIGH SCHOOL TEAM: Walsh Jesuit HS, Cuyahoga Falls.

PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Ross Gerdeman, rhp, Bowling Green State University.
Gerdeman hardly raised an eyebrow with most scouts early in the 2011 season with his generic stuff, but he moved them to the edge of their seats, straining to get a better look in the Mid-American Conference tournament, when he suddenly pushed his fastball velocity to 93 mph, and complemented that pitch with a second plus offering, a hardslider.


WILD CARD: Matt Wisler, rhp, Bryan HS.
Ohio’s chances of landing a high-school player in the first 10 rounds pretty much rest with Wisler. But a lot of that depends on whether Wisler, an Ohio State signee, prices himself out of a signable round.

Steven Gruver, lhp, University of Tennessee (attended high school in Canfield).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT: Taylore Cherry, rhp, Vandalia Butler HS, Dayton.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT: Josh Desze, rhp/1b, Ohio State University.

Draft History: Tim Belcher, rhp, Mount Vernon Nazarene College (1983, Twins/1st round, 1st pick); Ken Griffey Jr., of, Moeller HS, Cincinnati (1987, Mariners/1st round, 1st pick).
2006 Draft: Emmanuel Burris, ss, Kent State U. (Giants/1st round; 33rd pick).
2007 Draft: Cory Luebke, lhp, Ohio State U. (Padres/1st round, 63rd pick).
2008 Draft: Chris Carpenter, rhp, Kent State U. (Cubs/3rd round).
2009 Draft: Marc Krauss, of, Ohio U. (Diamondbacks/2nd round).
2010 Draft: Alex Wimmers, lhp, Ohio State U. (Twins/1st round/21st pick).

Best Hitter: Jon Berti, ss, Bowling Green State University.
Best Power: Travis Shaw, 3b, Kent State University.
Best Speed: Jon Berti, ss, Bowling Green State University.
Best Defender: Jon Berti, ss, Bowling Green State University.
Best Velocity: Andrew Chafin, lhp, Kent State University.
Best Breaking Stuff: Andrew Chafin, lhp, Kent State University.


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

1. ANDREW CHAFIN, lhp, Kent State University (So.)
TJ surgery victim in 2010; ++ stuff, FB sits 93-95, + break; starter this year, effort in delivery, profiles relief.
2. KYLE McMILLEN, rhp, Kent State University (Jr.)
Legit 2-way talent in past settled into closer role (17 SV); FB up to 94, + SL, still needs to refine command.

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

3. JON BERTI, ss, Bowling Green State University (Jr.)
Scrappy, plays ++ hard; + bat/strength in swing (.356-2-26), 6.6 speed; + arm, makes all routine plays at SS.
4. MATT WISLER, rhp, Bryan HS
+ projectable at 6-3/180; FB 88-91/T-92, more velo there, power CU/nice CH, 7-2, 0.34/117 K’s, OSU sign.
5. ROSS GERDEMAN, rhp, Bowling Green State University (Jr.)
Late bloomer; came on strong at end with 90-93 FB, + SL; big frame (6-3/215), 2-1, 3.57, 1 SV, 58 IP/42 SO.
6. KYLE HALLOCK, lhp, Kent State (Sr.)
Made huge strides as SR (8-5, 5.64 in 2010; 10-4, 1.91 in 2011); commands 4 pitches, FB now 88-90/T-92.

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