Draft : : Top Prospects
Thursday, April 08, 2010

College Class of 2011 Taking Shape

David Rawnsley        
The top prospects in the Class of 2011, college version, are pretty well known. Many are having outstanding years as well.

RHP Gerrit Cole (UCLA) throws in the upper 90s and has led a surprising UCLA team, ranked No. 2, to a 23-2 record thus far. Despite some recent control problems, Cole is 6-0, 2.49 with 61 K’s in 43 innings.

RHP Taylor Jungmann (Texas) survived an outing at Texas Tech with gusting 50 mph winds, and has posted a 3-1, 2.94 record with 61 K’s in 49 innings. His raw stuff is just a small notch behind Cole’s.

Rice has been disappointing as a team this spring (17-12), but don’t blame 3B Anthony Rendon. College baseball’s biggest offensive threat (at least when he’s pitched to) is hitting .320-11-34 with an excellent 39:15 walk-to-strikeout ratio.

LHP Matthew Purke (Texas Christian) turned down high first-round money from the Texas Rangers last year, but hasn’t missed a beat as a freshman, going 3-0, 3.52 with 48 K’s in 38 innings. He will be a draft-eligible sophomore in 2011.

LHP Danny Hultzen (Virginia) doesn’t have mid- to upper-90’s stuff to warrant being an early first-rounder like the other prospects on the preferred list for 2011, but his 90-92 mph heater is plenty firm enough and he might be the best “pitcher” in college baseball. His Virginia team has spent plenty of time in the No. 1 spot in the national rankings this spring, in large part because of Hultzen’s work on Friday nights (4-1, 1.57, 46 IP/8 BB/55 K).

Beyond those five obvious standouts, there are a number of other talented 2011 college prospects who might not be as well-known to the casual baseball fan, but who could be making some big noise in the 2011 draft.

We decided to look at 20 such players who are putting together impressive seasons this spring. We have also noted five players with high-round potential whose struggles this spring could affect their eventual draft status in 2011. Player stats are through Wednesday’s games.

C Jett Bandy (Arizona): Bandy was a very strong-armed 6-foot-4 catcher with a cool name, and a long, strong swing out of high school. He played mainly third base as a freshman at Arizona, attesting to his athleticism. Back at catcher this spring, Bandy is hitting .450-5-27 with 15 walks and only seven strikeouts, which seems to address how he has adjusted his swing. Tools plus performance plus athleticism plus premium position . . . hard to imagine that doesn’t equal a very high draft pick.

RHP Matt Barnes (Connecticut): The 6-4, 205-pound Barnes could well find himself lumped with righthanders like Cole and Jungmann over the next year. He has excellent command of mid-90s type stuff and has been overmatching hitters all spring (5-0, 2.10, 34 IP/6 BB/35 K).

RHP Trevor Bauer (UCLA): Cole and potential 2010 first-rounders Dan Klein and Rob Rasmussen seem to get most of the attention at UCLA, but the 6-1, 175-pound Bauer could well be the team’s best pitcher in terms of his combination of stuff and pitchability. The amazing thing is that Bauer skipped his senior year in high school and should just be a freshman now. He’s 5-1, 2.28 this spring with 59 strikeouts and only 12 walks in 45 innings.

OF Jackie Bradley (South Carolina): Bradley may have set a record in his quick return from a broken hamate bone this spring, so don’t expect to see his true power this spring. He is hitting .360-2-13. He’s a high-level hitter when healthy, with just enough speed to impact the game. His throwing arm? Bradley threw 101 mph from right field at Perfect Game’s 2008 Pre-Draft Showcase.

LHP Jed Bradley (Georgia Tech): The 6-4, 210-pound Bradley has followed a classic projection curve since being a slender mid-80s southpaw as a high-school junior. He now overpowers hitters (4-1, 3.46, 39 IP/10 BB/50 K) with a low-90s fastball and effective curve/changeup combination.

OF Kes Carter (Western Kentucky): The Hilltoppers are still somewhat overlooked with Kentucky and Louisville in the same state, but are 24-7 and look like a big-time program. The 6-1, 200-pound, lefthanded-hitting Carter is their best athlete, with a plus arm/speed combination and a bat (.362-5-36, 10 SB’s) that is starting to show its potential.

OF Jason Coats (Texas Christian): Scouts say that the ball just explodes off the 6-2, 195-pound Coats’ bat when he squares up balls, which is very frequently. The righthanded hitter’s defensive/athletic tools are solid but unspectacular, so the bat is going to have to carry him. He is hitting .422-5-27 this spring.

OF Zach Cone (Georgia): Georgia’s poor season (10-17) and well-documented pitching struggles have overshadowed Cone’s development as a player, but he is hitting .371-6-28. All scouts know that he’s a plus athlete, and his continued improvement will put him among the top position players for the 2011 draft.

LHP Adam Conley (Washington State): The 6-3, 170-pound Conley garnered attention last summer by posting a 0.00 ERA in 34 innings in the New England Collegiate League. He did that while pitching in the 86-88 mph range with an outstanding changeup and workable slurve. Reports out of the Northwest this spring say that Conley is now touching 94 mph while dominating hitters as Washington State’s closer (2-1, 0.84, 5 SV). Loose, projectable southpaws who can touch 94 and have a dominating secondary pitch usually get drafted very high.

C C.J. Cron (Utah): Cron’s father, Chris, is a former major league first baseman and currently a coach in the Chicago White Sox organization, so he has hitting genetics that he’s using to the fullest. He has surprising athleticism for a 6-4, 230-pound catcher, but it’s his bat that gets the most notice. Cron is hitting .438-9-38 this spring after an impressive .337-11-58 freshman year that included a three-hit performance off Stephen Strasburg.

OF Alex Dickerson (Indiana): The 6-3, 210-pound Dickerson doesn’t offer much on defense except playable left-field/first-base tools, but his lefthanded bat makes up for the difference. He can drive the ball out of the park to all fields, but especially to left-center, a nice attribute to see in a young power hitter. The California native is hitting .444-12-39 this spring after being selected the Big 10 Freshman of the Year in 2009.

3B Jason Esposito (Vanderbilt): Esposito, an unsigned seventh-round pick in 2008, is too good an athlete and too good a hitter to expect him to be anything but a first-round pick in 2011. He’s hitting .363-7-38 with 14 steals this spring, and is a standout defensively at third base.

OF Kyle Gaedele (Valparaiso): Valparaiso is a peer school in Indiana of NCAA basketball runner-up Butler, so there may be some positive karma at work here. The 6-5, 230-pound Gaedele played with LSU star CF Mikie Mahtook last summer in the Prospect League, and scouts were split on which was the better athlete, which speaks loudly. Gaedele is a plus-run/plus-throw athlete with excellent defensive instincts, and his bat is moving forward nicely this spring (.352-3-27).

3B Mark Ginther (Oklahoma State): The 6-4, 200-pound Ginther quarterbacked his high school to two state football championships and was the state player of the year in that sport as a senior, so he’s still adjusting to baseball full-time. His .351-6-32 performance this year says he’s adjusting quickly.

3B Harold Martinez (Miami): Martinez was a 2007 Aflac All-American, so he’s hardly an unrecognized player. But his development as a third baseman and hitter at Miami has been steady and impressive. He’s hitting .300-8-28 thus far and has a 20:24 walk-to-strikeout ratio, noteworthy for a young power hitter who used to be a free swinger.

OF Nick Martini (Kansas State):
Martini isn’t a physical specimen at 5-10, 180, but the lefthanded hitter has slightly above-average speed and a strong throwing arm. What he can really do, though, is hit. He’s at .402-2-30 this year with a 16:8 walk/strikeout ratio, and has hit everywhere he’s played his entire life. Martini’s profile doesn’t often get drafted high, but many players like Martini end up playing in the big leagues.

RHP John Stilson (Texas A&M): Stilson created some late-spring draft buzz last year while at Texarkana (Texas) JC, but playing shortstop when not pitching kept his raw stuff from reaching the premium area. That’s changed this spring and Stilson has overwhelmed hitters (6-0, 0.96, 4 SV, 58 K’s in 37 IP) with his mid- to upper-90s heat and deceptive delivery.

SS B.A. Vollmuth (Southern Mississippi):
Vollmuth was one of the driving forces behind Southern Mississippi’s improbable CWS drive last spring, and has kept improving from there. He is hitting .400-7-32 this spring and has significantly improved his contact ratios. The 6-4, 200-pound Vollmuth projects to third base at the pro level as he struggles with his consistency at shortstop (13 errors this year, 13 errors in 27 games in the Cape Cod League last summer).

OF Cohl Walla (Texas):
Walla joins Purke as the only freshmen identified here, and will be a draft-eligible sophomore. He worked his way into the Texas starting lineup after three weeks and looks like he won’t give up his spot (.360-2-13, 7 SB’s in 17 starts). Walla’s run and throw tools are both plusses, and if he hits and hits with power like he’s shown so far, he’s a top-3 round pick for sure in 2011.

2B Ryan Wright (Louisville):
The 6-1, 200-pound Wright has played all over the field as a freshman for Louisville (2B, SS, 3B, RF, LF), but has settled in at second base this year and at the halfway point of the spring has not made an error in 101 chances. The righthanded hitter can flat hit (.387-7-32) and has the type of power that big-league teams crave in the middle of the field.
Not every college player in the 2011 draft class has performed to expectations this spring. Here are five that may need to pick up their pace to preserve their high standing:

LHP Ryan Carpenter (Gonzaga):
The 6-foot-5 Carpenter just needs to start matching results with his ability. He had a passable freshman year (6-4, 5.26 in 65 IP) and was dominant during the summer in the Alaska League (2-2, 0.67, 54 K’s in 40 IP). But he has been very hittable this spring (2-3, 7.20 in 7 starts) with no firm explanation why.

RHP Alex Meyer (Kentucky):
As PG scout/writer Pat Ebert wrote about earlier this week (http://www.pgcrosschecker.com/articles/DisplayArticle.aspx?article=2243) Meyer still has top-half-of-the-first-round stuff. He’s a late bloomer who is still growing into his 6-9, 220-pound body, but scouts will be looking increasingly for improved performance (4-2, 7.64, 65 base runners in 35 IP) before June 2011.

LHP Brett Mooneyham (Stanford):
Mooneyham still shows top-level raw stuff and might have been a first-rounder out of high school if it weren’t for his strong commitment to Stanford. His command has not come close to matching his stuff, though, and he has struggled to an unimpressive 0-4, 7.52 record with 32 walks in 26 innings over seven starts this spring.

SS Adam Smith (Texas A&M):
Smith has one of the best arms in college baseball, but was moved from shortstop and out of the Texas A&M lineup after making eight errors early in the season and failing to make consistent contact at the plate. He has made some appearances in left field recently and hit the ball better, but is not among the 15 Aggies who have taken to the mound this spring, despite his 97 mph fastball.

RHP Cecil Tanner (Georgia):
Tanner has flashed first-round potential in the past, including a mid to upper 90’s fastball, but has seen his command completely evaporate this spring. He has gone just 1-2, 14.18 with 26 walks in 13 innings. His command has never been particularly outstanding (27 BB in 35 IP as a freshman), but it’s worth noting that Tanner is not very experienced, especially for a Georgia high-school prospect, as he threw only 28 innings as a high-school senior in addition to last year’s 35 innings.
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