Draft : : State Preview
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

State Preview: West Virginia

Allan Simpson        
Photo: Marshall

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.



West Virginia State-by-State List
2011 West Virginia Overview

West Virginia Overview:
Despite Limited On-Field Success, Marshall Makes Impact in Draft

Marshall University went 20-31 overall in 2011, and by going 7-17 in conference play was the only team to miss the Conference USA post-season tournament. Despite that, the Thundering Herd had the unusually high total of eight players drafted a year ago.

That scenario may well repeat itself this year. Marshall went 17-37 overall and missed the C-USA tournament again with a 5-19 conference mark. And yet, for all its limited on-field success, it could impact the 2012 draft in much the same way as a year ago.

It doesn’t hurt that three of the eight Marshall players drafted in 2011 chose not to sign, returned to school and should be re-drafted, with one of the three, red-shirt junior righthander Joe Church, expected to be the only player from the state drafted in the first 10 rounds. Church lasted until the 40th
 round a year ago as he was still on the mend from Tommy John surgery, but a year later, with a fastball in the mid-90s, could shoot up draft boards. Senior lefthander Mike Mason, a 23rd-rounder in 2011, and junior outfielder Isaac Ballou, a 36th-rounder, could also improve their draft worth.

West Virginia University (23-32, 9-18) had marginally more success in the Big East Conference again this spring than Marshall had in Conference USA, and yet it won’t impact the draft anywhere near to the degree that the Thundering Herd will. WVU’s 2012 season was perceived as a greater disappointment on another scale as it led to the dismissal of coach Greg Van Zant.

It’s a rarity that the West Virginia high-school ranks produce a premium-round draft pick, especially a position player, but Nitro High catcher Korey Dunbar is easily the best prep talent in the state and could conceivably factor into the first 6-8 rounds. He is a former battery-mate of ex-Nitro righthander J.R. Bradley, a second-rounder in 2010, and has evolved into probably the best pitching prospect in the state himself this spring, even though scouts continue to evaluate him only as an offensive-oriented catcher. He would become the first prep position player from the state selected in the first 10 rounds since 1995.

West Virginia in a nutshell:

STRENGTH:
Draftable Marshall talent.
WEAKNESS: High-school depth.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 3.

BEST COLLEGE TEAM:
West Virginia.
BEST JUNIOR-COLLEGE TEAM: Potomac State.
BEST HIGH SCHOOL TEAM: Nitro HS.

BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, West Virginia Connection:
Gavin Patton, lhp, Georgia Tech (Attended high school in South Charleston).
Top 2013 Prospect: Aaron Blair, rhp, Marshall University.
Top 2014 Prospect: Bobby Boyd, of, West Virginia University.

HIGHEST DRAFT PICKS

Draft History:
Chris Enochs, rhp, West Virginia University (1977, Athletics/1st round, 11th pick).
2006 Draft: David Carpenter, c, West Virginia University (Cardinals/12th round).
2007 Draft: Adam White, of, West Virginia University (Indians/9th round).
2008 Draft: Tyler Kuhn, ss, West Virginia University (White Sox/15th round).
2009 Draft: Tobias Streich, c, West Virginia University (Twins/5th round).
2010 Draft: J.R. Bradley, rhp, Nitro HS (Diamondbacks/2nd round).
2011 Draft: Greg Williams, lhp, Marshall University (Rangers/12th round).

2011 DRAFT OVERVIEW

College Players Drafted/Signed:
9/6.
Junior College Players Drafted/Signed: 0/0.
High School Players Drafted/Signed: 0/0.

TOP PROSPECTS, GROUPS ONE and TWO

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

None

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

1. KOREY DUNBAR, c, Nitro HS
Even though he began high school at 135 pounds, Dunbar has been a key contributor as a catcher since his freshman year for a Nitro High team that has won two of the last three West Virginia 3-A state titles, and is in line to capture another this season. Now a powerful 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, Dunbar has become an offensive force behind the plate for Nitro by hitting .462-9-34 deep into the state playoffs. But he has also evolved into a major factor on the mound, initially as a closer but more recently as a starter, in going 4-2, 0.53 with eight saves and 86 strikeouts in 53 innings. Though Dunbar has opened some eyes this spring as a pitcher, his value at the next level is clearly as a catcher. He has superior offensive skills with power to all fields, and his impressive work on the mound has only emphasized his raw arm strength, not to mention his athleticism and versatility. He has soft hands and a quick release, and pop times that are a steady 1.9-2.0 seconds.

2. JOE CHURCH, rhp, Marshall University (RS-Jr.)
A year off Tommy John surgery in 2011, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Church was inconsistent in going 2-2, 8.31 in 13 appearances for the Thundering Herd, and yet was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in the 40th round. It was hoped that Church, in electing to return to school for another season, would emerge this spring as a dominant closer, but he saved only one game in going 2-0, 2.45 in 20 relief appearances, while walking 14 and striking out 37 in 29 innings. But Church still had easily the best raw stuff on the Marshall staff with a fastball that was a steady 92-94 mph, and touched 96. His breaking ball was also a dominant secondary pitch. More than anything, Church just needed to get consistent this spring, and become more of a pitcher than a thrower, to have any shot of being drafted in the first 10 rounds, and he not only did that, but was lights-out, at times.

3 PROSPECTS TO WATCH

ISAAC BALLOU, of, Marshall University (Jr.)
A 36th-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates last year as a draft-eligible sophomore, Ballou has gotten stronger and refined his game in several subtle areas by returning to Marshall for another year. A .283-1-29 hitter with team-highs of 18 stolen bases and 32 walks in 2011, he progressed to .308-2-24 with a team-leading 21 stolen bases and 44 walks this spring, but his improvements were reflected in a more-refined swing, better plate discipline, and better skills as a bunter and base runner. His 6.5-second speed has always been an asset in all phases of his game, particularly on the bases and in center field, but his power has begun to evolve as he has gone from 165 pounds as a freshman to a firm 205 pounds as a junior. First baseman Nathan Gomez is another lefthanded hitter for Marshall with evolving skills. He led the Thundering Herd with .316 average and 39 RBIs this spring, and scouts believe it’s just a matter of time before the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Gomez begins turning on balls and hitting with more consistent power. He had only three homers this spring, but drilled a team-high 17 doubles.

MIKE MASON, lhp, Marshall University (Sr.)
Mason was drafted in the 23rd-round a year ago by the Texas Rangers after posting a 3-3, 4.83 record (78 IP/79 H/36 BB/65 SO) as Marshall’s No. 1 starter. He returned in the same role this season and improved on that performance in going 4-6, 4.15 (80 IP/98 H/27 BB/60 SO), and that should boost his draft status slightly, especially now that he is a senior. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Mason continued to impress scouts with his ability to throw four pitches for strikes, including a fastball in the 88-91 mph range, topping at 92. There’s debate, though, whether he profiles more as a starter or reliever, especially after his fastball reached 93 mph last fall while working in a short role.

BRADY WILSON, 2b/of, West Virginia University (Jr.)
Wilson did not perform to the same level this season as a junior (.271-4-21, 10/17 SB) that he did a year ago as a sophomore (.330-2-27, 12/14 SB), but continues to intrigue scouts with his one big tool, blazing speed. He won the 60-yard dash at the Valley League all-star game last summer in a very fast 6.22 seconds, but still has not mastered how to utilize his speed more efficiently on both sides of the ball. He continues to try and drive balls, rather than simply put them on the ground more consistently, and still has not shown instincts on the bases to become a true base-stealing threat. He continues to improve defensively in centerfield after starting his college career at second base.

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