Draft : : Story
Friday, May 07, 2010

A Look Back to High School (Part II)

David Rawnsley        
There was some good feedback to the article last week (http://www.pgcrosschecker.com/articles/DisplayArticle.aspx?article=2294) on five college players who are expected to be picked very high next month, and how they compare to what they were in high school when they attended Perfect Game showcases.

Anthony Ranaudo, Deck McGuire, Jesse Hahn, Chris Sale and Michael Choice aren’t the only potential first rounders with a rich Perfect Game showcase history, however. Here are five more such players, all of whom participated in either the 2006 or 2007 PG National Showcase. Unfortunately, I wrote the 2007 report on Zach Cox (Cox is a draft-eligible sophomore and thus a year behind the other four) as I was doing Baseball Web TV duty at the 2006 National in Fayetteville, but I think we pretty much nailed all these players.

Today we’re looking back at Christian Colon (Cal State Fullerton), Zack Cox (Arkansas), Sammy Solis (University of San Diego), Yasmani Grandal (University of Miami) and Hunter Morris (Auburn).

2006 National Showcase

Christian Colon is a 2007 right-hand hitting middle infielder from Canyon HS in Anaheim Hills, CA. Colon has a strong, compact, small athletic build on a 5'11" 175 lb. frame. He is one of the more polished players in the '07 high school class and he showed it in Fayetteville, where he ranked #5 among PG National Top 100 position players, earning an Aflac All-American selection. Certain players seem to move at a different pace in the game than their peers and Colon is one of them. He rarely looks like he has to put out much effort to excel in any phase of the game, maybe with raw speed being the exception. He just plays with such ease, both at the plate and certainly in the field. As a hitter Colon has plus plus hands. He is a spray line drive hitter with surprising gap power. The ball jumps off his bat well because he accelerates through the ball, not to the ball as most players do. His bat control is also a plus, as he showed he can hit all pitches to all fields. Colon showed the ability to pull the fastball and to sit back and hit the breaking ball hard to right field. He can move a runner or drive in a run, whatever is needed. With a short, compact swing and good bat speed, there are very few strikeouts in his future. Colon could hit anywhere in a lineup and be productive. In the field he is a joy to watch. Colon is as smooth and polished as any middle infielder in the '07 high school class. He makes all the plays, to both sides as well as the slow roller. His hands are soft and his release is quick. Colon has a strong arm and a baseball clock ticking that tells him how much time he has and how much he needs to get on a throw. He sets up to the ball well and once the ball is hit his way, everyone in the park figures it is an out. The only real thing to pick at, besides his smallish build, is that he is an average runner, with a 4.35 home/1st time and 6.96 60 yard time. However, his speed is playable and usable and his instincts are plus, including on the bases. He is a base stealer without being a burner. Colon has verbally committed to Cal State Fullerton but is also targeted as one of the premier position players for the 2007 draft.

Colon first appeared in a Perfect Game event as an 8th grader when going by the name Christian Rodriguez. The Puerto Rican native has since lived in Texas, Utah and California and grown into one of the top position players in the country. Actually, very little has changed about Colon in the past eight years. He’s never been an extremely toolsy player and whenever scouts start getting down on him they usually start talking about his straight-ahead running speed, which is not close to big league average. But Colon has baseball speed, baseball instincts and as referenced below, a baseball clock. The report below probably doesn’t look much different, aside from the size and running times, than a report written last week, nor a report written in 2004.

2007 National Showcase

Zack Cox is a 2008 RHP/3B with a 6'0'', 205 lb. frame from Louisville, KY who attends Pleasure Ridge Park HS. He has a mature frame with good strength throughout. Cox has been a high profile pitching prospect for some time, but we might be at the point right now where we think he's a better third base prospect. Certainly pro scouts looking at him as a 6-0 right hander are more likely to see his third base power potential right now than his high velocity fastball. On the mound, Cox has a medium effort delivery with a high leg kick and a head jerk at release. His fastball is steady in the 90-93 mph range and has heavy sinking action at the plate. Cox throws a hard sweeping slider in the upper 70's that has good tilt to it. His stuff doesn't project much but is plenty good as it is. As Cox has gotten stronger over the past 2 years, his bat has really come on. He has very good bat speed and a short, powerful stroke that consistently squares up on the ball. He's more of a line drive, gap to gap hitter now but projects plenty of power. Cox is surprisingly athletic at third base and is a top level defensive player. He's one of the top two-way prospects in the country and has more polished tools than most other 2-way types.

Cox came to the 2007 National Showcase in Cincinnati as a primary right handed pitcher, a role he’d excelled playing at numerous WWBA events and during his high school career. But the 2007 National was the first time it became obvious that his ceiling with the bat was at least as high as on the mound and probably higher. The most interesting thing about the report below looking back is that it mentions Cox’s short powerful line drive swing that is more of a line drive, gap type swing and that the power will have to be projected. That is the same concern that scouts have three years later, that Cox (.443-7-45, 30 BB) is a polished hitter but that he hasn’t started hitting for the over-the-fence type power you want to see on your third baseman.

2006 National Showcase

Sammy Solis is a 2007 left hand pitcher from Aqua Fria HS in Litchfield Park, AZ. Solis has a very lanky and loose build on his 6'5" 225 lb. frame. He is still physically maturing and quite projectable in a physical sense. One of the top left handers in the '07 class, moreso in terms of future development, he ranked #55 among PG National Top 85 pitchers. He pitches free and easy from a high 3/4 arm slot with a very loose arm. On the back side his arm makes a short circle and he creates good arm speed. Solis has a decent delivery that gets better on the front side where he gets his hand to excellent extension. His overall effort level is quite low, another good sign going forward. He mixes his pitches well, has good command, is a quick worker, and can simply pitch. Solis has an easy upper 80s fastball that topped at 91 mph. He showed the willingness to compete inside well with the fastball. His breaking ball is a slurvy mid-70s curveball that has decent spin and shape. As he gains strength and more arm speed, that pitch has a chance to develop into an above average pitch. He already has a plus change-up with a lot of arm side life and the ability to use it effectively. Solis has been a highly recruited prospect by top D1 programs and likely will get some crosschecker attention this spring... there simply are not a lot of lefties in the four corners with his present day stuff and projectability.

Sammy Solis comes from the same Arizona high school background as former U. San Diego left hander and current Baltimore Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz, which indicates that scouts need to take projectable 6-5 Arizona southpaws more seriously out of high school. He is a red-shirt sophomore as he missed almost all of 2009 with a back injury, but he has stepped forward this year and could go late in the first round. As with pitchers such as McGuire and Ranaudo from the previous “College Lookback,” the center point of Solis’ improvement has simply been adding that 3-4 mph of power to his fastball and curveball while maintaining his delivery and improving his command. The ingredients and projectability were all there four years ago.

2006 National Showcase

Yasmani Grandal is a 2007 switch-hitting hitting catcher from Miami Springs HS in Hialeah, FL. Grandal has a strong, powerful build on his 6'2" 205 lb. frame that appears to be the type that will stand up well to the rigors of the catching position. Grandal came on strong this summer and performed up to expectations at this showcase, ending up being ranked #32 among PG National Top 100 position players and receiving an Aflac All-American selection. He has moved near the front of the list of top catchers in the '07 high school draft class on the strength of his defensive abilities, though he is not without ability at the plate. From the right side of the plate Grandal showed himself to be a good line drive hitter, with a flat swing plane and consistently good barrel contact. He has good feel and timing at the plate. Grandal also looks like he will hit with some power in the future from the right side as the ball came off his bat very well, an indication of his acceleration through contact. From the left side he did a nice job of staying inside the ball and hit line drives with power. The ball also made a plus exit from his left hand stroke. Grandal showed a bit more bat speed from that side and his hands really worked well. He can certainly hit and will be in the middle of most lineups, but it is Grandal's defense that will make him his money. His arm tracks very well to second base and he is on the bag accurate. The ball just jumps out of his hand with little effort. He is a quiet receiver and presents a good target to his pitcher. Grandal is agile and did a very nice job blocking and controlling the ball in the dirt. There is very little to pick at in his defensive game. He ran 4.89 home/1st, with a 7.81 60 time. There generally are not too many switch-hitting high school catchers that can handle the bat and also possess top tier defensive abilities. Grandal is one such player and not only is he a high caliber D1 prospect, but will also get a lot of scout attention this spring. If his bat continues to play well, Grandal should have a very favorable opportunity to sign a pro contract in June.

Yasmani Grandal passed on the opportunity to sign for a $1M+ signing bonus out of high school, as he was a polished prospect back then. He’s essentially the same player now, only a couple of years wiser and stronger. The concern with Grandal is primarily about his raw bat speed and how that will translate to wood against pro level pitching. It seems as if scouts sometimes almost want to apologize for his production at Miami (.424-10-48, 43 BB’s this year, 16 HR’s as a sophomore). Grandal has improved steadily, if not dramatically, as a hitter in college and part of that is because he is such an intelligent player. Scouts do have a legitimate concern about Grandal’s switch-hitting potential at the Major League level, because, as noted below in the report from four years ago, his bat speed and hands from the left side are significantly better than from the right side.

2006 National Showcase

Hunter Morris is a 2007 left hand hitting infielder/outfielder from Grissom HS in Huntsville, AL. Morris has a strong, athletic build on his broad, and powerful, yet still developing 6'4" 200 lb. frame. Morris was one of the most intriguing prospects in terms of his tools, playability, and remaining projection. He was ranked #9 among PG National Top 100 position players and was selected to participate in the Aflac All-American Classic. Strength is apparent when Morris swings the bat. He made a lot of plus barrel contact and has many attributes of a young power hitter. He stays behind the ball well and showed good timing. His hands are a plus attribute with his flat, line drive planed swing. As he continues to get stronger his line drives will carry out of the yard. Morris accelerates through contact and the ball just jumps off his bat. There is not a lot of effort in Morris' swing and he looks like he is going to hit a ton. Defensively he is a prospect at either a corner outfield spot or at 3rd base. He has a near plus arm and good hands, while flowing well to the ball. Basically Morris has a full set of tools for the defensive half of the game, much like he does on the offensive half. He looked comfortable at both defensive spots. Morris ran 4.28 home/1st with a laser timed 6.89 60 yard time. If he goes to college he is an impact freshman. Morris is going to be on the crosschecker's follow list and with a good spring he should find himself in the upper rounds of the draft. His left hand bat and all-around tool set are among the most impressive in the '07 high school class. Maybe the best thing about Morris is that although he is very good now, he still has tremendous upside.

Hunter Morris was a second-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2007 (84th overall) and figures to go higher this time around. He has been one of the most dominant hitters in major college baseball this year (.394-15-58). The only thing we missed on was projecting that Morris could play third base or a corner outfield position. While it is certainly possible that a professional team could try Morris there, he’s been a first baseman since he first stepped on the Auburn campus.

In the strange but true story department, two years ago I got off a plane in Orlando, Florida at about 8:30 in the evening, picked up the rental car and was driving to my hotel. I stopped at a completely random gas station to get some supplies for the hotel room on the way and there was one other customer in the shop. We sort of looked at each other with that wary “Don’t I know you?” look that you don’t want to be too obvious with in case you don’t really know them (especially since the person I was looking at was just as big as me with a meaner looking beard). Ends up it was Jeff Morris, Hunter’s dad, who I had spoken to many times at various events when Hunter was in high school, and who was in Orlando for business meetings.
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