Draft : : State Preview
Monday, May 28, 2012

State Preview: Ohio

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

Ohio State-by-State List
2011 Ohio Overview

Ohio Overview:
Unpredictable Draft Status of Cherry, Smoral Symbolic of Ohio Class

This has been a very unpredictable spring for scouts in Ohio, both at the college and high-school levels. Not only has Xavier righthander Seth Willoughby, who was on few follow lists entering the 2012 season, emerged as the top college prospect in the state, but it's uncertain where the top two prep arms, righthander Taylore Cherry and lefthander Matt Smoral, who were considered near-locks to go in the first round, will be selected in the draft.

Moreover, Kent State, which rode a national-best 17-game winning streak into NCAA Division I tournament play, and Marietta College, the defending Division III champion and No. 1-ranked team entering the D-III World Series, are not expected to be factors in the draft befitting their strong seasons on the field.

Willoughby, a two-way prospect who was passed over a year ago as a draft-eligible sophomore, quickly and unexpectedly gained new-found respect from scouts only after he broke the hamate bone in his hand, which prevented him from swinging a bat but enabled him to concentrate on his duties on the mound. He blossomed in a closer-only role for the Musketeers with a fastball that reached the mid-90s and a dominant slider.

The 6-foot-9 Cherry hasn't been as consistent this spring as he's shown in the past, while the 6-foot-8 Smoral suffered a stress fracture in his foot in March, sidelining him for the season. It’s possible, though, that Smoral could still land in the first round if scouts are able to get a good handle on his medical status and are prepared to roll the dice on his status.

Kent State has become the pre-eminent D-I college program in the state, if not the entire upper Midwest, in head coach Scott Stricklin’s eight-year tenure that has resulted in a 305-160 record overall and four straight Mid-American Conference championships. The Golden Flashes produced four picks in the first 10 rounds a year ago, including supplemental first-rounder Andrew Chafin, but may be hard-pressed to produce a selection in the first 10 rounds this year.

Marietta has continued to dominate at the D-III level and also might be pushed to produce a pick in the first 10 rounds, though two seniors, righthander Austin Blaski and shortstop Tim Saunders, were named first-team All-Americans this year that put crowning touches on dominant four-year careers. Both players should be rewarded by being drafted for the first time, with Blaski considered the slightly better bet of going in the first 10 rounds.

Ohio in a nutshell:

WEAKNESS: College position players.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 3.

Kent State.

PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Seth Willoughby, rhp, Xavier University.
Draft-eligible in 2011, Willoughby was passed over as a two-way player after hitting .326-5-36 as a second baseman and saving nine games in 22 appearances as Xavier’s closer, while going 2-5, 3.66 overall. He sustained a broken hamate bone in his hand in the third game of this season, limiting him to pitching only in the early going, and that may have been a career break for Willoughby as his stuff improved dramatically when he was able to focus on one task. Suddenly his fastball began peaking in the mid-90s, his slider in the high-80s, and his draft value jumped noticeably as he assembled a 2-1, 1.26 record with 12 saves in 25 appearances.

WILD CARD: Matt Smoral, lhp, Solon HS.
Smoral was the early favorite to be the first lefthander drafted this year, but suffered a stress fracture in his landing foot in March, when working off a portable mound on his team’s spring trip to South Carolina. That abruptly ended his 2012 season, and left his status as a potential first-round pick uncertain with the draft nearing as he is not expected to resume pitching again until July. Teams have been weighing the risk of taking a pitcher with limited innings this spring versus the reward of selecting a lefthander with an extremely high upside.

Kris Hall, rhp, Lee (Tenn.) University (Attended high school in Strongsville).
Top 2013 Prospect: Josh Desze, rhp/1b, Ohio State University.
Top 2014 Prospect: Brian Clark, lhp, Kent State University.


Draft History:
Tim Belcher, rhp, Mount Vernon Nazarene College (1983, Twins/1st round, 1st pick); Ken Griffey Jr., of, Moeller HS, Cincinnati (1987, Mariners/1st round, 1st pick).
2006 Draft: Emmanuel Burris, ss, Kent State University (Giants/1st round; 33rd pick).
2007 Draft: Cory Luebke, lhp, Ohio State University (Padres/1st round, 63rd pick).
2008 Draft: Chris Carpenter, rhp, Kent State University (Cubs/3rd round).
2009 Draft: Marc Krauss, of, Ohio University (Diamondbacks/2nd round).
2010 Draft: Alex Wimmers, lhp, Ohio State University (Twins/1st round, 21st pick).
2011 Draft: Andrew Chafin, lhp, Kent State University (Diamondbacks/1st round, 43rd pick).


College Players Drafted/Signed:
Junior College Players Drafted/Signed: 1/0.
High School Players Drafted/Signed: 4/2.


Best Athlete:
Jacob Bosiokovic, 1b/rhp, Hayes HS, Delaware.
Best Hitter: Xavier Turner, 3b, Sandusky HS.
Best Power: Casey Schroeder, c, Ottawa-Glandorf HS, Ottawa.
Best Speed: Ryan Brenner, 2b, Miami University.
Best Defender: Tim Saunders, ss, Marietta College.
Best Velocity: Matt Smoral, lhp, Solon HS.
Best Breaking Stuff: Matt Smoral, lhp, Solon HS.
Best Pitchability: Ryan Bores, rhp, Kent State University.


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

1. MATT SMORAL, lhp, Solon HS
Smoral’s 2012 season ended after one outing in late March after he was diagnosed with a stress fracture of the fourth metatarsal bone in his right (landing) foot. He had surgery in early April. The 6-foot-8, 225-pound lefthander had made his season debut on his team’s spring trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., when he suffered the injury while working off a temporary mound in a side session between starts. It was the second time that Smoral had suffered the same injury in the same place, necessitating surgery. Despite essentially not pitching this spring, Smoral’s draft stock has potentially only slid slightly and he still stands a very good chance of going in the first round—provided he presents a realistic signing figure to buy him out of his North Carolina scholarship. Scouts were impressed with his first outing of the year, which was in keeping with the way he performed a year ago, when Smoral was seen at high-profile events like Perfect Game’s National Showcase, PG’s All-American Classic and the World Wood Bat Association fall championship in Jupiter, Fla., in October, and entered this spring as a potential top 10 pick overall. When healthy, Smoral throws from an easy, low-effort delivery with an extended mid-three-quarters release point that may be positively frightening for lefthanded hitters at the upper levels of the game. His fastball has been up to 94-95 mph, at times, but the big step he took late last year was replacing his mid-70s curve in favor of an 84 mph slider with hard, darting action that should become a more effective pitch against righthanded hitters. He also throws a mid-80s changeup that continues to develop. Smoral’s decision to attend college at North Carolina is ironic, given that his father, Steve, was a 6-foot-3 guard on the North Carolina State team that won the 1974 NCAA basketball championship.

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