Draft : : State Preview
Tuesday, May 22, 2012

State Preview: Virginia

Allan Simpson        
Photo: Perfect Game

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: David Rawnsley

Virginia State-by-State List
2011 Virginia Overview

Virginia Overview:
Despite Rebuilding Year, Cavaliers Still Set Draft Tone

The University of Virginia is still in search of its first College World Series championship, but few college programs in the country accomplished more than the Cavaliers from 2009 to 2011. From a school-record 49 wins in 2009, they eclipsed that mark with 51 victories in 2010, and raised the bar to 56 a year ago. Not even two-time CWS champion South Carolina won as many games in any of those seasons.

With the departure of their top four hitters and all four starting pitchers from a team that placed third nationally in 2011, this has understandably been a rebuilding year for the Cavaliers. And yet they have produced a solid 36-15 record (18-11 in Atlantic Coast Conference play), and once again should play a prominent role in the draft from a Virginia-wide perspective, although not to the degree of last year, when they had eight selections, including the second pick overall in lefthander Danny Hultzen.

Righthander Branden Kline, who was moved to the Friday role this spring for Virginia after posting a school-record 18 saves a year ago, is expected to be the first in-state player tabbed, although it may not be any earlier than the sandwich round. Cavalier infielders Chris Taylor and Stephen Bruno are then expected to go in the next 2-4 rounds.

The presence of Taylor and Bruno near the top of the draft board is noteworthy as the 2012 Virginia draft crop is heavily slanted towards pitching, and it’s possible that the two infielders will be the only two position players snapped up in the first 10 rounds. Meanwhile, as many as 8-10 arms could be popped in the same area.

Of the state’s top seven-ranked high-school prospects, six are pitchers, though James River High lefthander Nathan Kirby, considered a second- to third-round talent, will likely slip through the draft altogether as he refused to sign a Major League Baseball directive that requires 200 of the top prospects (as determined by the Major League Scouting Bureau) to consent to pre-draft drug and medical tests; he opted out ostensibly because he preferred not to mislead scouts about his college intentions. That rejection all but paves his way to attend college at Virginia.

The crop of Virginia pitching prospects includes some of the hardest throwers in the entire draft with the likes of Kline and fellow college righthanders like Radford’s Eddie Butler, Virginia Commonwealth’s Blake Hauser, Liberty’s Blake Forslund, George Mason’s Brandon Kuter and Virginia Tech’s Patrick Scoggin, who have all been clocked upwards of 95 mph this spring, or in the past 12 months. The ability to throw quality strikes with that kind of superior raw stuff has been a separator, though, and Kline and Butler are the only two who have shown the most consistent ability to do both this spring. Appropriately, they rank 1-2 on the list of the state’s top prospects for this year’s draft.

Virginia in a nutshell:

Depth of power arms.
WEAKNESS: Athletic position players.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5): 3.

BEST HIGH SCHOOL TEAM: James River HS, Midlothian.

PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Damion Carroll, rhp, King George HS.
Not only has the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Carroll vaulted up draft boards this spring on the strength of a much-improved fastball that has peaked in the mid-90s, but he stands an excellent chance of becoming the first Virginia high-school player drafted. Carroll has few college options, while most of the other top prospects in the Virginia prep class are heavily committed to attending college—chief among them Virginia-bound lefthander Nathan Kirby.

WILD CARD: Blake Hauser, rhp, Virginia Commonwealth University.
Hauser showed all indications of ranking alongside Virginia’s Branden Kline and Radford’s Eddie Butler as a triumvirate of hard-throwing college righthanders knocking on the door of the first round, but his performance in a closing role for VCU has been erratic most of the spring. Still, 62 strikeouts in 32 innings and a .134 opponent batting average speak graphically to Hauser’s level of dominance, and a team could buy into his act on those numbers alone.

BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Virginia Connection:
(Attended high school in ).
TOP 2013 PROSPECT: Andy McGuire, ss/rhp, James Madison HS, Oakton.
Top 2014 Prospect: Derek Fisher, of, University of Virginia.


Draft History:
Justin Upton, ss, Great Bridge HS, Chesapeake (2005, Diamondbackss/1st round, 1st pick);
2006 Draft: Jeremy Jeffress, rhp, Halifax County HS, South Boston (Brewers/1st round; 16th pick).
2007 Draft: Kellen Kulbacki, of, James Madison University (Padres/1st round, 40th pick).
2008 Draft: David Adams, 2b, University of Virginia (Yankees/3rd round).
2009 Draft: Andrew Carraway, rhp, University of Virginia (Mariners/12th round).
2010 Draft: Jarrett Parker, of, University of Virginia (Giants/2nd round).
2011 Draft: Danny Hultzen, lhp, University of Virginia (Mariners/1st round, 2nd pick).


College Players Drafted/Signed:
Junior College Players Drafted/Signed: 1/0.
High School Players Drafted/Signed: 7/2.


Best Athlete:
Chris Taylor, ss, University of Virginia.
Best Hitter: Stephen Bruno, if, University of Virginia.
Best Power: Josh Henderson, of, First Baptist Christian HS, Suffolk
Best Speed: Chris Taylor, ss, University of Virginia.
Best Defender: Chris Taylor, ss, University of Virghinia.
Best Velocity: Eddie Butler, rhp, Radford University; Blake Hauser, rhp, Virginia Commonwealth University.
Best Breaking Stuff: Blake Hauser, rhp, Virginia Commonwealth University.
Best Pitchability: Jack Wynkoop, lhp, Cape Henry Collegiate HS, Virginia Beach.


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

1. BRANDEN KLINE, rhp, University of Virginia (Jr.)
With a school record-tying 18 saves in 32 relief appearances, Kline was one of the nation’s elite college closers in 2011. But with Virginia needing to rebuild its rotation this season after losing its entire starting staff, including lefthander Danny Hultzen (12-3, 1.37), the second pick in last year’s draft, the Cavaliers were in need of an experienced arm to lead the way, and Kline was handed that responsibility. He has responded by going 6-3, 3.89 with team-high totals of 37 walks and 84 strikeouts in 81 innings—compared with a 4-1, 1.88 mark, with 22 walks and 56 strikeouts in 43 innings as a sophomore. He got off to a slow start in his new role, but then went through a stretch of 5-6 starts where he was nearly unhittable. Kline's fastball has fluctuated anywhere from 88 to 95 mph, while his slider has been steadier at 83-85 and his curve at 77-78. A changeup that he incorporated into his role as a starter was 82-84 mph initially, and when Kline is on his game, his stuff can be electric and he commands all his pitches. Most scouts would let Kline start out of the chute in pro ball, though acknowledge he’ll need to be more consistent and continue to develop his change to remain in the role. The last time Kline was primarily a starter was at a Frederick, Md., high school, in 2009, when he was on his way to becoming a sixth-round pick of the Boston Red Sox. He unexpectedly passed up an offer to sign at the time and has easily enhanced his standing for this year’s draft with his combination of a projectable, athletic frame, superior stuff and success to date at the college level.

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