Draft : : State Preview
Tuesday, May 15, 2012

State Preview: Arkansas

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Arkansas

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 scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players as ranked in Perfect Game's state-by-state scouting lists.

Contributing: Allan Simpson

Arkansas State-by-State List
2011 Arkansas Overview

Arkansas Overview:

The overall talent coming out of Arkansas in any year is almost wholly dependent on the state’s major talent source, the University of Arkansas. The Razorbacks are a perennial Top 25-caliber college program, and enjoying another fine season at 35-16 overall, though just 13-13 in Southeastern Conference play, and should have three or four prospects drafted in the top 10 rounds.

But there is a healthy balance of other top prospects in Arkansas this year, especially from the state’s high-school ranks. Over the previous five drafts, only two Arkansas high-school players have been selected in the first 10 rounds: righthanders Dillon Howard (2nd
 round, 2011) and RHP Randy Wells (7th round, 2010). That total could potentially double this year, depending on how pre-draft signability issues in a new draft environment shake out.

Athletic Jacksonville High outfielder D’Vone McClure has emerged as the state’s top prep position prospect in the last decade and could conceivably land in the top three rounds, while Rogers Heritage High catcher Blake Baxendale and Mountain Home High righthander Trey Killian have also shown the potential to go in the top 5-6 rounds. Baxendale is the younger brother of Razorbacks pitching stalwart D.J. Baxendale, who was initially projected going in the top 2-3 rounds.

The state’s No. 1-ranked prospect, Arkansas sophomore righthander Nolan Sanburn, has thrown well at times this spring but hasn’t established himself in a role where scouts can get a firm grip on where his professional future lies—either in the bullpen with closer-type potential, or as a starter. His raw stuff is first-round quality, but Sanburn will likely be relegated to the second, or even third round due to his lack of mound experience and related uncertainties. There were also concerns in the weeks leading up to the draft that Sanburn was battling a sore shoulder, or even fatigue.

Arkansas would have had almost a sure-fire first-rounder had sophomore righthander Ryne Stanek been eligible, but he narrowly missed the deadline. Although Sanburn and Stanek were born only five days apart, Sanburn’s birthdate (July 21) falls on the last allowable day for eligibility—and within the 45-day window after the draft’s final day (June 6)—while Stanek was born just outside the deadline. Stanek, along with corner infielder Dominic Ficociello, will be potential first-round picks for the Razorbacks in 2013.

Arkansas doesn’t hold a monopoly on all the college talent in the state this year as Arkansas State, which shared the Sun Belt Conference lead with two weekends remaining in the regular season, has three potential drafts of note in senior righthanders Jacob Lee and Brandon Farley, and speedy outfielder Michael Faulkner.

Arkansas in a nutshell:

High-school talent.
WEAKNESS: Lack of a clearly-defined top prospect.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 4.

BEST HIGH SCHOOL TEAM: Rogers Heritage HS, Rogers.

PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Michael Faulkner, of, Arkansas State University.
A 21st-round pick of the Oakland A’s in 2009, Faulkner hit .336 as a freshman for Arkansas State, but flew under the radar as a sophomore as he battled nagging hamstring and shoulder issues. Though he is hitting just .279 this season and is still looking for his first collegiate home run, Faulkner has stolen 33 bases in 34 attempts and scouts have shown a renewed interest in him because of his one exceptional tool, his blazing speed.

WILD CARD: D.J. Baxendale, rhp, University of Arkansas.
Baxendale showed the raw stuff and advanced pitching ability in his first two years at Arkansas to command second- or third-round interest, but his velocity has taken a noticeable dip this year, even as he has continued to pitch with skill and precision. Baxendale has too much of a track record of success to fall too far.

BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Arkansas Connection:
Jalen Beeks, lhp, Crowder (Mo.) JC (Attended high school in Prairie Grove).
Top 2013 Prospect: Ryne Stanek, rhp, University of Arkansas.
Top 2014 Prospect: Blake Wiggins, ss, Pulaski Academy, Little Rock.


Draft History:
Jeff King, 3b, University of Arkansas (1986, Pirates/1st round, 1st pick).
2006 Draft: Dan Stegall, of, Greenwood HS (Mets/7th round).
2007 Draft: Nick Schmidt, lhp, University of Arkansas (Padres/1st round, 23rd pick).
2008 Draft: Logan Forsythe, 3b, University of Arkansas (Padres/1st round, 46th pick).
2009 Draft: Dallas Keuchel, lhp, University of Arkansas (Astros/7th round)
2010 Draft: Hayden Simpson, rhp, University of Southern Arkansas (Cubs/1st round, 16th pick)
2011 Draft: Dillon Howard, rhp, Searcy HS (Indians/2nd round).


College Players Drafted/Signed:
Junior College Players Drafted/Signed: 1/1.
High School Players Drafted/Signed: 5/1.


Best Athlete:
D’Vone McClure, of, Jacksonville HS.
Best Hitter: Matt Reynolds, 3b, University of Arkansas.
Best Power: Blake Baxendale, c, Rogers Heritage HS, Sherwood.
Best Speed: Michael Faulkner, of, Arkansas State University.
Best Defender: Jacob Morris, of, University of Arkansas.
Best Velocity: Nolan Sanburn, rhp, University of Arkansas.
Best Breaking Stuff: D.J. Baxendale, rhp, University of Arkansas.
Best Command: D.J. Baxendale, rhp, University of Arkansas.


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

1. NOLAN SANBURN, rhp, University of Arkansas (So.)
Sanburn was a significant part of a promising freshman class at Arkansas in 2011, although he wasn't quite as heralded as teammates Ryne Stanek and Dominic Ficociello (both potential first-rounders in 2013) to begin his college career. The Razorbacks targeted the versatile Sanburn as a pitcher from the start, even as he pitched and played the outfield, and also caught at an Indiana high school. Sanburn had just as strong an impact as a freshman for Arkansas as Ficiociello and Stanek did, serving as the team’s primary closer, and posting eight saves with a 3.62 ERA in 24 relief appearances. He carried that success into last summer in the Northwoods League, where he was recognized as that league's No. 1 prospect, although he appeared in only six games (two starts). Most impressive, he showed sound command of his 90-94 mph fastball, which topped out at 98. His slider also projected as a plus pitch. Based on that showing, Sanburn projected as a possible first-rounder this spring as a draft-eligible sophomore, but he made little progress in establishing himself as either a starter or closer, or in a set role of any kind. In 16 appearances (3 starts, no saves), he is 3-1, 2.43 with 15 walks and 37 strikeouts in 30 innings. Sanburn has flashed dominating stuff at times, with his fastball sitting in the mid-90s, but also topping at 98-99 mph, and continues to flash a power breaking in the mid-80s. Although he has tried to mix in an occasional changeup, Sanburn effectively projects as a power reliever at the professional level. His fastball remains his best pitch, not only for its velocity but for the angles he throws it, and his aggressive, bulldog-like approach on the mound makes it a true swing-and-miss pitch. Scouts are well aware of his athleticism and powerful lower half, and believe he could evolve into a starter if given the opportunity.

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