Draft : : State Preview
Tuesday, May 15, 2012

State Preview: Nebraska

David Rawnsley        

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.

Contributing: Allan Simpson

Nebraska State-by-State List
2011 Nebraska Overview

Nebraska Overview:
Erstad Arrival Has Signaled New Era For Nebraska Baseball

The hiring of former University of Nebraska baseball/football hero Darin Erstad breathed new life into the Cornhuskers baseball program this spring after it had fallen on hard times since making its third and last College World Series appearance in a five-year period in 2005.

Erstad’s hiring coincided with Nebraska’s move from the Big 12 Conference to the Big Ten, and Cornhusker fans had expectations that their team would be an immediate powerhouse program in the less-competitive conference after missing post-season play in their final three seasons in the Big 12. But Erstad’s first squad was on the cusp of not even making the six-team Big Ten tournament, either, heading into the season’s final weekend.

From the start, Erstad and his staff had their work cut out for them as the Cornhuskers were seriously over the limit on scholarship commitments, and had to be in step with the allowable 11.7 limit as mandated by the NCAA by the start of fall classes, as mandated by the Big Ten (not the start of the spring season, as allowed by the Big 12). As a result, Erstad had to jettison several notable prospects from the Cornhuskers roster, such as the likes of lefthander Logan Ehlers, a Nebraska native who transferred to Howard (Texas) JC, and righthander Tanner Kreitemeier who ended up at Iowa Western CC. Both players have emerged as significant prospects for this year’s draft.

Erstad also inherited a banged-up and uncertain pitching staff that has struggled all of the 2012 season. But Erstad, a star outfielder at Nebraska from 1993-95 and the No. 1 overall pick in the 1995 draft, has had a notable influence on the team’s offense as the Cornhuskers are hitting .312 as a team, ranking it in the top 10 nationally.

The state’s other major-college program, Creighton, had its best season in 2011 since making its only appearance in the Omaha-based College World Series 20 years earlier, but suffered a couple of major graduation losses from its 45-16 NCAA tournament team, and are currently 21-25 overall (5-12 in Missouri Valley Conference play). Creighton’s vaunted pitching and defense have been as strong as ever, but the team was at the opposite end of the offensive spectrum from Nebraska, hitting only .235 as a team.

Creighton does boast the state’s best prospect for this year’s draft, in lefthander Ty Blach. He may be pressed to crack the top five rounds, but is expected to end a streak, dating back to 1999, that has seen the rival Cornhuskers produce the top draft prospect in the state each and every year over that stretch.

Nebraska in a nutshell:

University of Nebraska position players.
WEAKNESS: Draftable high-school talent.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 2.

BEST HIGH SCHOOL TEAM: Creighton Prep, Omaha.

PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Richard Stock, 1b/c, University of Nebraska.
Stock was a well-publicized prospect coming out of a southern California high school in 2009—in part of his own skills, in part because his brother Robert was one of the most-precocious talents in the 2007 class who chose to enter college at USC in 2006, a year ahead of schedule. Stock also attended USC as a freshman, but missed most of the 2010 season (only 17 at-bats) with shoulder problems, and then went undrafted in 2011 after transferring to Los Angeles Pierce JC. He has resurrected his career at Nebraska by starting to show the power potential scouts had seen in him all along. He has caught sparingly this spring, though, spending most of his time at first base.

WILD CARD: Nate Greip, rhp/of, Millard West HS, Omaha.
Nebraska high-school players are virtually ignored in the draft. Only seven have been selected since 2003, with lefthander Logan Ehlers (2010, 8th round) the only pick in the top 15 rounds. That drought isn’t likely to change in 2012, but if there is a surprise selection it would probably be the highly-athletic, 6-foot-2, 185-pound Greip. He has dominated the Omaha prep ranks this spring, with both his arm and bat. Greip generally works in the upper-80s with a hard, downer curve and has bumped 92 mph a couple of times. Much to the probable chagrin of Nebraska and Creighton, Greip has signed with Kansas State.

BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Nebraska Connection:
Logan Ehlers, lhp, Howard (Texas) JC (Attended high school in Nebraska City; played at University of Nebraska in 2011).
Top 2013 Prospect: Jon Keller, rhp, University of Nebraska.
Top 2014 Prospect: Jackson Raatz, c/rhp, Norris HS, Firth.


Draft History:
Darin Erstad, of, University of Nebraska (1995, Angels/1st round, 1st pick).
2006 Draft: Joba Chamberlain, rhp, University of Nebraska (Yankees/1st round, 41st pick).
2007 Draft: Drew Bowman, lhp, University of Nebraska (Reds/5th round).
2008 Draft: Aaron Pribanic, rhp, University of Nebraska (Mariners/3rd round).
2009 Draft: Mike Nesseth, rhp, University of Nebraska (Angels/15th round).
2010 Draft: Michael Mariot, rhp, University of Nebraska (Royals/8th round).
2011 Draft: Corey Asche, 3b, University of Nebraska (Phillies/4th round).


College Players Drafted/Signed:
Junior College Players Drafted/Signed: 0/0.
High School Players Drafted/Signed: 1/0.


Best Athlete:
Nate Greip, rhp/of, Millard West HS, Omaha.
Best Hitter: Richard Stock, 1b/c, University of Nebraska.
Best Power: Chad Christensen, ss, University of Nebraska.
Best Speed: Kevin Connelly, of, Creighton Prep, Omaha.
Best Defender: Cody Burleson, c, University of Nebraska.
Best Velocity: Travis Huber, rhp, University of Nebraska.
Best Breaking Stuff: Ty Blach, lhp, Creighton University.
Best Command: Ty Blach, lhp, Creighton University.


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


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

1. TY BLACH, lhp, Creighton University (Jr.)
After he went 10-3, 2.65 with 100 strikeouts in 102 innings in a dominating sophomore year, Blach hasn't been as strong this year, going 5-5, 2.80 with 67 strikeouts in 93 innings. Scouts say there is nothing wrong with Blach’s raw stuff, which is at least equal to what it was in 2011. At his best, the Colorado native works at 89-92 mph with his fastball, and will touch 93-94, at times. His strikeout pitch is a sharp-breaking, low-80s slider, and he also has a feel for a developing changeup. Durability isn’t an issue with the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Blach as he leads NCAA Division I pitchers with 16 starts, a result of occasionally starting mid-week games and throwing 1-2 innings, instead of throwing customary bullpens between his weekend starts. Blach could hear his name called as early as the fourth round by a team that is aggressively pursuing mature college pitching, but will likely last a round or two beyond that, which would be more in keeping with his raw stuff.

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