Draft | State Preview | 5/22/2011

State Preview: Arizona

Allan Simpson        
Photo: Arizona

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 mini-scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players.

Arizona State-by-State List

Arizona Overview:
JC Player, Two High-School Talents Upstage Traditional College Powers

With eight national championships between them, plus a steady procession of future big-league ball players that have passed through their schools, the University of Arizona and Arizona State University have thoroughly dominated the Arizona baseball landscape since the draft’s inception in 1965. They are the state’s only two Division I schools and no program nationally has had more players drafted overall than the Sun Devils.

While both schools will play their usual primary role in this year’s draft proceedings, the best prospect in Arizona will probably come from the junior-college ranks, mercurial Central Arizona outfielder Keenyn Walker.

Moreover, the two best draft storylines in the state this spring have probably been at the prep level, involving Mountain Pointe High catcher Kevin Cron, Arizona’s No. 1-ranked high-school prospect, and his record-breaking 2011 home-run exploits, and Notre Dame Prep righthander Tayler Scott, a South Africa native, and his improbable rise in prospect status to No. 2 among high-school players in the state.

ASU and Arizona, meanwhile, will still play a significant role in the draft, producing perhaps as many as 10-12 picks between them in the first 10 rounds. But it is highly unlikely that either school will yield a player in the first round, especially with so many players on both teams becoming susceptible to the pronounced change in the bat standards at the college level that have seen batting averages and power numbers take a sharp dip throughout the country.

Players like Arizona State junior second baseman Zack MacPhee (.389-9-64 in 2010, .278-1-23 in 2011), junior first baseman/outfielder Zach Wilson (.349-8-45 in 2010, .259-5-41 in 2011) and junior outfielder Johnny Ruettiger (.351-4-35 in 2010, .327-0-28 in 2011), plus Arizona junior catcher Jett Bandy (.354-6-42 in 2010, .265-0-33 in 2011) and junior outfielder Steve Selsky (.370-9-52 in 2010, .219-2-11 in 2011), in particular, have all experienced significant downturns in their offensive productivity.

In most cases, the falloff has significantly impacted the draft status of the players. Wilson, Bandy and Selsky are the biggest power threats in that quintet, and have probably been hurt the most. MacPhee was the Pacific-10 Conference player of the year in 2010, and that honor should still hold him in good standing with scouts. But he has been largely exposed this spring for what he is: a solid college second baseman with limited offensive upside.

Ruettiger was viewed in some quarters as a first-round long shot for this year’s draft after capturing the Cape Cod League batting title last summer, at .369. But with his drop in production, a below-average arm and the lack of true raw speed needed to play in the middle have suddenly come more squarely info focus. He is no longer seen as an everyday center fielder at the professional level, and the new bats have exposed his almost complete lack of power, which makes left field an unlikely option if he can’t cut it in center. With his inability now to profile a position, Ruettiger’s draft stock may plummet.

While the true draft status of those players has been a challenge for scouts to properly evaluate this spring, they have at least been seen on a recurring basis against the top-flight pitching that exists in the Pac-10. The same cannot be said for Arizona third baseman Andy Burns.

He was ineligible to play in 2011 while in the process of transferring from Kentucky. Burns was seen as a possible second- or third-rounder last summer, following a fine season in the Cape Cod League, but his status after sitting out the spring season is more problematic.

The performance of every Arizona college player has not suffered this spring, though.

Junior righthander Kyle Simon (9-3) leads Arizona in wins, sophomore-eligible first baseman Cole Frenzel tops the Wildcats in batting (.374) and senior lefthander Matt Chaffeee is tops on the team in saves (6), and the strong performance of each has significantly boosted their stock in the draft.

The two biggest surprises in the state, though, could be 6-foot-4, 245-pound Arizona lefthander Bryce Bandilla, who failed to wrestle the UA closer’s job away from Chaffee, and yet remains the favorite to be the first college player drafted. His fastball has remained steadily in the mid-90s, though he struggles to command his stuff.

The biggest draft surprise of all may be seldom-used ASU outfielder Brandon Magee, who has gotten just 12 at-bats all spring, and struck out on nine occasions. A star linebacker for the Sun Devils football team, Magee is a superior athlete and has displayed his massive raw power in batting practice. It is entirely possible a team could pop him by the fifth or sixth rounds.

No player in the state, though, has flashed athletic ability on a daily basis quite like Walker, the Arizona junior college player of the year. He has the best chance of being drafted first of any the talent after hitting .396-4-48 with 63 stolen bases in 66 attempts. Walker’s speed is a significant asset on the bases and in center field, but he also has all the other tools. He has made huge strides this spring in his approach at the plate, driving balls hard to all fields.

While Walker’s speed is his best asset and there isn’t a faster runner in the state, the junior-college ranks also boast the hardest thrower. Yavapai JC righthander Kenny Giles has been clocked as high as 98-99 mph, enabling him to strike out hitters at the rate of 15.75 per nine innings. He has more issues than Walker, but could join Walker as a second JC player in the top 3-4 rounds.

At the high-school level, the talk of Arizona much of the spring has been the hitting exploits of Cron, who could join his older brother C.J., a first baseman at the University of Utah, in the top 2-3 rounds. Both rank among the elite hitters/power hitters in the country.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Cron has enjoyed a record-breaking senior season by systematically demolishing Arizona prep home-run records. He finished with 27 homers on the season, easily topping the prior record of 22, set in 1999 by Desert Ridge High’s Corey Myers (the fourth overall pick in that year’s draft) and tied a year ago by Cron himself. He also hit 59 long balls over his career, 15 more than the old Arizona standard, and ended the 2011 season with a batting average near .600.

For all of his prowess as a power threat, Cron was the winningest pitcher this season for Mountain Pointe High. He outdueled Gilbert High’s Stephen Tarpley, possibly the best high-school pitching prospect in Arizona for this year’s draft, by a 2-1 score in a playoff game with a fastball that topped out at 92 mph. He subsequently led his team to the state 5-A/Division I title by going all eight innings of a hard-fought, 7-6 win in the championship game. He struck out 14, and also went an uncharacteristic 0-for-4 in the game.

Cron avenged his team’s loss in the final a year earlier, even while clubbing his then-record-tying 22
nd home run. He also played that game with an aggravating stress fracture in his left foot, and though he did not have to subsequently undergo surgery, he was forced to rehab the injury the remainder of last summer.

Cron, who is the son of former major leaguer Chris Cron, currently the manager of Double-A Erie in the Detroit Tigers system, has exceptional hands for hitting. Combined with sound mechanics and his big frame, he can seriously juice balls. While his brother is considered the better overall hitter of the two, Kevin has greater natural raw power. He is more likely to loft balls, and has cleared his share of light towers in his rising young career.

Cron’s draft stock may be suppressed a bit because his signability could be a little tricky. He’s a solid student (3.96 GPA) with a scholarship offer to Texas Christian. With his family’s background in the game, plus his brother’s progression from a 44
th-rounder in 2008 to potential first-rounder this year after three prolific seasons in college, he may be in no hurry to begin his professional career.

For all of Cron’s obvious prowess at the plate, his story may actually be less compelling than Taylor’s. The 6-foot-1 righthander is a native of Johannesburg, South Africa, and didn’t take up baseball seriously until he moved to Arizona two years ago, all with the express purpose of becoming the first player from South Africa to play in the big leagues. His parents continue to keep their primary home in South Africa, and regularly travel back and forth to watch their son pitch.

At the time he arrived in the U.S., Taylor’s fastball was an unimpressive 84 mph. But with all the coaching available to him in this country, he had elevated his velocity into the mid-90s this spring.

Cron and Taylor aside, Arizona high schools are not expected to make a big impact on this year’s draft. But they should continue to make the same, steady progress they have made in recent years.

Over the seven-year period from 2004-10, Arizona high schools produced the fifth-most players (347) who were drafted (whether directly out of high school, or subsequently out of college), among all 50 states. That standing is notable as Arizona high schools were almost a non-factor as a talent source when the draft was implemented in 1965. It was all about Arizona State and Arizona, and ASU outfielder was appropriately the first pick in the very first draft.

In 1969, only 19 players were drafted who came from Arizona’s prep ranks. By 1989, that numbers was 37. Two year ago, it was 57—representing a 300 percent increase over a 40-year period, the greatest increase of any state in the country.

Arizona in a Nutshell:

Depth of college/JC talent.
WEAKNESS: High-end college talent.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 3.

Arizona State.
BEST HIGH SCHOOL TEAM: Mountain Pointe, Phoenix.

PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Keenyn Walker, of, Central Arizona.
His superior speed continues to be his best tool, but Walker has flashed five-tool potential this year, elevating him from a potential top-10 round pick to a potential first-round pick.

PROSPECT ON THE DECLINE: Zach Wilson, 1b, Arizona State.
Wilson had shown signs of becoming a significant draft pick at various stages of his high-school, college and summer-league careers, but things regressed significantly this spring as he hit just .259, lowest average among ASU regulars. He also spent the entire spring at first base after initially showing signs that he might settle into a more-demanding corner-outfield position. He’ll still showcase occasional thunder, but not much else.

WILD CARD: Andy Burns, 3b, University of Arizona.
He was forced to sit out the 2011 season while transferring from Kentucky, so remains a bit of a mystery to Arizona-based scouts. Based on his performance with wood last summer in the Cape Cod League, where he flashed power potential, and also led the league with 25 stolen bases while playing a solid third base, he could emerge as a second-round pick just as easy as he could a sixth- to eighth-rounder.

C.J. Cron, 1b, University of Utah (attended high school in Phoenix).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT: Deven Marrero, ss, Arizona State.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT: Konnor Wade, rhp, University of Arizona.

Draft History: Rick Monday, of, Arizona State U. (1965, Athletics/1st round, 1st pick); Floyd Bannister, lhp, Arizona State U. (1976, Astros/1st round, 1st pick); Bob Horner, 3b, Arizona State U. (1978, Braves/1st round, 1st pick).
2006 Draft: Jason Donald, ss, U. of Arizona (Phillies/3rd round).
2007 Draft: Tim Alderson, rhp, Horizon HS, Phoenix (Giants/1st round, 22nd pick).
2008 Draft: Brett Wallace, 3b, Arizona State U. (Cardinals/1st round, 13th pick).
2009 Draft: Mike Leake, rhp, Arizona State U. (Reds/1st round, 8th pick).
2010 Draft: Taylor Lindsey, ss, Desert Mountain HS, Scottsdale (Angels/1st round, 37th pick).

Best Hitter: Riccio Torrez, 3b, Arizona State University.
Best Power: Kevin Cron, c, Mountain Pointe HS, Phoenix.
Best Speed: Keenyn Walker, of, Central Arizona CC.
Best Defender: Johnny Ruettiger, of, Arizona State University.
Best Velocity: Kenny Giles, rhp, Yavapai JC.
Best Breaking Stuff: Matt Chaffee, lhp, University of Arizona.


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

1. KEENYN WALKER, of, Central Arizona CC (So.)
Across-the-board improvement; ++ athlete, became ball player in 2011; ++ speed on bases/CF, better contact.
2. BRYCE BANDILLA, lhp, University of Arizona (Jr.)
Power arm in 6-4 LHP; FB up to 95, shaky command (4-2, 3.63, 40 IP/31 BB), struggles to repeat delivery.
3. KYLE SIMON, rhp, University of Arizona (Jr.)
Best arm, most success (9-3, 2.69, 104 IP/10 BB/73 SO) at UA; ton of ground balls on 2-seam FB, up to 92.
4. KEVIN CRON, c/rhp, Mountain Pointe HS, Phoenix
Huge frame (6-5/250), ++ bloodlines; light-tower power (49 HR last 2 years), limited as C, faces move to 1B.
5. KENNY GILES, rhp, Yavapai JC (So.)
Limited IP/success in 3 years; ++ hot/cold, FB at 90-95, also 98, SL is WIP; ++ arm, room for development.
6. RICCIO TORREZ, 3b/1b, Arizona State University (Jr.)
Plays anywhere in IF, but found home at 3B, not flashy/gets job done; bat plays (.314-3-41), enough power.

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

7. TAYLER SCOTT, rhp, Notre Dame Prep, Scottsdale
Intriguing South Africa background; made huge strides in 2 years, + upside; FB up to 93, can spin break ball.
8. JOHNNY RUETTIGER, of, Arizona State University (Jr.)
Swings bat (.327-0-28), tracks balls ++ in CF, + speed; almost no extra-base pop, arm more suited for LF.
9. ANDY BURNS, 3b, University of Arizona (ineligible)
Ex-Kentucky 3B, unknown since sat out 2011 season; solid player/tools, + run, flashes power, solid defender.
10. TREY FORD, ss, South Mountain JC (So.)
Ex-UA player, headed for Texas Tech; made ++ strides at plate (.364-2-32), in field; versatile, arm/speed OK.
11. STEPHEN TARPLEY, lhp, Gilbert HS
2-way HS player (.378-4-15; 3-2, 3.50, 30 IP/7 BB/47 SO); upside on mound with loose arm, 93 FB, + break.
12. ZACH WILSON, 1b/of, Arizona State University (Jr.)
Backtracked at plate in 2011 (.259-5-41), failed to secure OF job; occasional pull power is only real tool.
13. MICHAEL HOWARD, lhp/of, Prescott HS
LHP with projectable frame/stuff, clean arm stroke; FB up to 93, CU lacks sharpness; 1.20, 56 IP/108 SO.
14. ZACH DANDO, rhp, Central Arizona CC (So.)
Became CAC ace (9-3, 1.68, 80 IP/79 SO) in 2011; better command of 88-91 FB, + SL, has developed a CH.
15. ZACK MacPHEE, 2b, Arizona State University (Jr.)
Pac-10 top player in 2010, on downslide; small frame, Pedroia-type player, sprays balls, just OK speed/arm.
16. COLE FRENZEL, 1b, University of Arizona (So.)
SO-eligible North Dakota product; + LH bat, surprising pop (.374-3-42); settled in at 1B, enough arm for 3B.
17. BRANDON MAGEE, of, Arizona State University (Jr.)
++ athlete/linebacker on FB team; 12 AB all year, lacks rhythm in swing, ++ raw power in BP, surprise draft.
18. MATT CHAFFEE, lhp, University of Arizona (Sr.)
Medical issues in past; better pitcher than Bandilla (No. 1); loose arm, aggressive approach, FB to 92, ++ CU.
19. MAX ROSSITER, c, Central Arizona CC (So.)
Solid year at plate (.326-3-30); question always his arm, now average; + receiver; hurt in 2010, ASU in 2012.
20. ZACH DAVIES, rhp/ss, Mesquite HS, Gilbert
Best overall HS pitcher in state (12-0, 1.68), flashes 4 solid pitches, FB up to 90; slight frame limits future.
21. MIKEY REYNOLDS, ss, Paradise Valley CC (So.)
Scrappy approach, L-D bat, but small frame limits upside at plate (.389-0-30, 29 SB); + speed, profiles as 2B.
22. MITCH LAMBSON, lhp, Arizona State (Jr.)
Need put gun away to scout him; FB 86-87, keep hitters off balance with ++ CH; history of success at ASU.
23. KRAMER CHAMPLIN, rhp, Arizona State (Jr.)
Not overpowering at 6-4/210, tops at 90; gets + ground-balls (7-2, 3.08, 88 IP/67 SO) with sinker/SL combo.
24. ZAK MILLER, rhp, Yavapai JC (So.)
Canadian RHP/transfer from New Mexico; 6-4/195 frame, flashes + FB/SL, 7-2, 2.18, delivery needs work.
25. TYLER PARMENTER, rhp/ss, Cibola HS, Yuma
Athletic 2-way talent; FB up to 94 on mound, arm big tool at SS; can run, swing bat (.354-1-14); UA bound.

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