Draft : : Story
Monday, May 03, 2010

When Top College Prospects Were Young

David Rawnsley        
I was looking at Patrick Ebert’s mock first-round draft that was posted late last week and started thinking about how many of the 32 players I had seen and how many had been to Perfect Game events. By my count I had seen 26 of the 32 players in person, with only college pitchers Jesse Hahn, Alex Wimmers, Brandon Workman, Ashur Wojciehowski and Rob Rasmussen, plus college OF Gary Brown, missing. Of those remaining six players, only UCLA’s Rasmussen, a Southern California native, did not attend a Perfect Game event as a high school player. So there is an incredibly varied and deep amount of scouting information on these top prospects from their developing years.

I started to look at some of the top college players to see what they were doing when they were 16 or 17 years old. People often wonder how a first-round pick out of college goes undrafted out of high school or is at best drafted in a low round as an afterthought. The answer is simply “Some players get better, significantly better!”
It’s not that the players below were unknown to scouts; the five players listed below were all ranked nationally by Perfect Game going into their senior years in high school. But each of these five top college prospects improved significantly in different areas while in college, just as many other players do over that period of time..
Here are some of our earlier scouting reports on those players:

2006 Southeast Top Prospect Showcase

Mike Choice is a 2007 2B/P/OF with a 6'1'', 180 lb. frame from Arlington TX, who attends Mansfield Timberview HS. He has a strong, loose body, especially in his lower half, and looks bigger than his listed 180 pounds. Choice listed himself as a primary 2B but that's probably the last position we would considered him at. Choice is a 7.02 runner who showed very good arm strength in drills and during the games from shortstop. As an infielder Choice profiles at third base, but if you'd had no background and just saw him and his tools on the field you'd think he should be catching. He has athletic actions at any position. Offensively, Choice hits out of an exaggerated pre-load, no stride approach, which doesn't do him any favors. He manages to generate very good bat speed and stays on the plane of the ball for a long time, with nice extension out front. The ball jumps off his bat and he has quick, strong hands. Give Choice a trigger and some rhythm to the ball and he could really develop. To show he had the full package of tools, Choice also took the mound and threw a very heavy 83-87 mph fastball with a big sweeping 72 mph curveball and a very nice changeup, all from a rather raw delivery. Overall, Choice has a strong set of tools and once he defines his position and batting style a bit better, has a very high ceiling. He played hard and really enjoyed himself on the field. Choice is also a very good student. PG Grade: 8.5, 7.02 (60), 85 mph (IF)

To tell you the truth, I didn’t remember seeing Choice play until I looked up this report and realized that I had written it almost four years ago. It’s easy to see why Choice wasn’t considered a top prospect at that point. He was playing a position (2B/SS) that wasn’t appropriate to his skills and tools, not to mention future build, and he was using a hitting approach that, as I stated at the time, “doesn’t do him any favors.” Even with that hitting approach, his raw hitting skills were obvious at that time and they’ve blossomed since. Choice’s speed also has improved over the past few years to where he’s a fringy plus runner (6.6 to 6.7 in the 60 according to reports) instead of a below-average runner.

2006 Sunshine East Showcase

Christopher Sale is a 2007 LHP with a 6'5'', 170 lb. frame from Lakeland FL, who attends Lakeland HS. He has a very long and loose pitcher's body that is highly projectable. Sale has a balanced delivery and does a good job hiding the ball during his delivery and providing a bit of deception to the hitter. His arm works smooth and loosely out front. Sale's fastball was 83-86 mph and had occasional explosive life at the plate. He maintained his velocity well and threw strikes with an idea. Sale's curveball was 68 mph and his changeup 77 mph, both were secondary pitches to his fastball but showed promise. Sale does lots of things well now and he's a very good bet to keep improving as he gets stronger. It wouldn't be surprising to see him take a nice step forward before next spring and see him getting some attention from the scouting community. Sale is also a good student. FB 83-86, CB 68, CHG 77 PG Grade: 9

In the interests of keeping scouting reports positive, what I didn’t write on this report on the Florida Gulf Coast southpaw was that he was painfully thin and had what could be generously called an awkward multi-piece delivery. The telling thing was that even with a lack of strength and a less than classic delivery, Sale threw consistent strikes and had a loose and easy arm out front. He still has an unconventional delivery and release point, but he has some of the best command of any pitcher in the draft and a couple of present plus pitches to go with it. In fact, as many of the top college pitchers have their minor struggles with injuries or performance, Sale keeps on cruising along this spring and may have pitched his most impressive game this past weekend, an eight-inning domination of Clemson.
2006 National Showcase

Deck McGuire is a 2007 righthand pitcher from Deep Run HS, residing in Richmond, VA. He is big and completely noticeable when you walk into a yard, with that big, long body and wide shoulders that set atop his 6'6" 225 lb. frame. He throws hard now and even at 6'6", he still has some projection left. Realistically he could be 6'6" 245-250 someday and blow 93-94 mph. McGuire pitches from a 3/4 slot, somewhat lower than you might expect from a 6'6" pitcher. His arm works pretty well and he works with pretty minimal effort. His arm speed is good and the ball comes out pretty easily. For such a large young pitcher, he does a nice job of keeping his delivery on line and stays balanced. McGuire has good command and a good idea of how to pitch and approach hitters. He gets downhill with his stuff and did a nice job of mixing pitches. His upper 80s fastball can be heavy, capable of getting a lot of ground balls. He topped out at 91 so there is clearly some arm strength there. Of his two breaking balls, his big 77-79 mph slider is the better of the two. It has big sweeping action and with his slot, he can start it at a RH hitter’s hip and still sweep it down and away or off the plate, depending on where he starts on the rubber. His 11/5 shaped curveball was 69-71 mph. His slot is simply better for the slurvy slider. He is a top D1 program prospect and will be on the follow lists of his area scouts this spring. If he starts pitching in the 90-92 range this spring, look for him to go in the early part of the first day of the draft. PG Grade: 9.5, FB 87-91, SL 79, CB 71

McGuire hasn’t done anything exceptional since 2006 such as adding 8 mph like Sale, he’s just added some power to all three pitches that he threw pretty well back then, plus added a nice changeup while at Georgia Tech. The thing about McGuire even back in high school was that he was an advanced pitcher with the ability to repeat his delivery and throw multiple quality pitches to spots. He’s stayed healthy in the past 3 ½ years, matured physically and incrementally got better the entire time. That’s a good recipe for success.

2006 Northeast Top Prospect Showcase

Jesse Hahn is a 2007 RHP with a 6'4'', 170 lb. frame from Groton, CT who attends Fitch HS. Jesse has a tall projectable build that profiles very well for a pitcher. He plays on the same high school team as Matt Harvey so he should get plenty of chances to impress scouts this spring. On the mound Jesse throws from a 3/4 arm slot with good arm speed and stays around the plate with his pitches. He showed a sharp CB with good depth and a nice straight changeup. Jesse does a good job of staying on top of his breaking pitches and projects quite well in the future. He is a player that should attract attention from some scouts this spring while also being a highest-level college prospect. PG Grade 9, FB 85-89, FB 71, Chg 74
Hahn’s struggles with, of all things, kidney stones, have hampered his spring but he still easily could be a top 10 pick. He’s grown from 6-4, 170 lbs in high school to 6-5, 200 lbs as a college junior and seen his raw stuff improve by a good 8 mph. In case you think that’s a classic projection for a Northeast pitcher, remember that Chris Sale (above) has experienced a similar improvement in raw stuff over the same period of time living in south Florida. Where Hahn was perhaps behind many of his peers was in his ability to pitch, as it’s taken him three years in college to learn how to get hitters out.

2006 Northeast Top Prospect Showcase

Anthony Ranaudo is a 2007 RHP from St Rose HS in Jackson, New Jersey, with a 6'8"/225 pound frame. 3/4 arm slot, big tall body, long loose arm action, good arm speed, slightly across body, easy arm action, tight 11-5 CB, good run on CH with late life, CH has potential to be plus pitch, projectable body and velocity, topped out at 89. PG Grade 9, FB 85-89, CB 70, Chg 77

The 2006 Northeast Top Prospect Showcase must have been some event, as Ranaudo and Hahn were just two of the top prospects that also included SS Derek Dietrich (Georgia Tech), RHP Matt Harvey (North Carolina), OF/LHP Ryan Westmoreland (Boston Red Sox), RHP Keith Moran (Boston College) and 3B Jason Esposito (Vanderbilt). Ranaudo also pitched at numerous WWBA events for the New Jersey Super 17’s while in high school and was very consistent at those events, throwing primarily in the upper 80’s with very athleticism and command for a 6-foot-8 young pitcher. His improvement as a prospect is much like Deck McGuire’s. Ranaudo gained some strength and moved his already solid stuff forward a notch while retaining his ability to pitch.
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