Draft : : State Preview
Wednesday, May 30, 2012

State Preview: New Jersey

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Monmouth

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

New Jersey State-by-State List
2011 New Jersey Overview

New Jersey Overview:
Draft Emphasis Swings to College Talent This Year

The New Jersey high-school draft crop invariably overshadows the talent coming out of the state’s college ranks, but this year is a definite exception.

Led by Monmouth righthander Pat Light and Rutgers overnight sensation Patrick Kivlehan, the draft emphasis in New Jersey this year has swung clearly in favor of college players. As many as four or five could be taken in the first 10-12 rounds, or possibly before a high-school player even becomes a consideration. In fact, some New Jersey-based scouts are saying that there may not even be a single prep talent signed from the state this year. Given that, most players in that demographic are expected to fall in the draft, and may not be drafted at all.

Such an occurrence took place as recently as 2010, when the first New Jersey high-school player wasn’t selected until the 46th
 round. It’s a rarity, though, that New Jersey doesn’t produce a prep pick of significant consequence in the first round or two, with current big leaguers Rick Porcello (Tigers, 2007/first round) and Mike Trout (Angels, 2009/first round) being obvious recent examples. Last year’s draft produced righthander Kevin Comer (Blue Jays) in the sandwich round and outfielder Carl Thomore (Rockies) in the second round, and they were the only two high-school players to sign among nine overall that were drafted.

There are three obvious talents in this year’s prep crop in righthanders Austin Sollecito (Boston College) and Michael Sheppard (St. John’s), and shortstop Kevin Bradley (Clemson). All are viewed as difficult signs because of their strong commitments to out-of-state colleges, and likely will be drafted significantly lower than where their talent warrants. They all come with a degree of intrigue, though, as Sollecito is legally deaf, while both Sheppard and Bradley have impressive pedigrees. Sheppard is the grandson of retired long-time Seton Hall coach Mike Sheppard, the son of Seton Hall Prep coach Mike Sheppard Jr. and the nephew of current Seton Hall coach Rob Sheppard. Bradley is the son of current Princeton coach and ex-big leaguer Scott Bradley.

With the lack of signable talent in this year’s high-school crop, the spotlight has shifted to the college talent, a rare occurrence in recent years as there hasn’t been a college player taken in the top 20 rounds since 2009, when Princeton righthander David Hale was picked in the third round by the Atlanta Braves. If Light is taken in the sandwich round or second round this year, as expected, he would become the highest New Jersey college selection since Rutgers shortstop Todd Frazier was claimed in the supplemental first round (34th
 overall) by the Cincinnati Reds in 2007.

New Jersey in a nutshell:

College talent, righthanded pitching.
WEAKNESS: High-school position prospects.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 4.

Seton Hall.
BEST HIGH SCHOOL TEAM: Don Bosco Prep, Ramsey.

PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Patrick Kivlehan, 3b, Rutgers University.
Kivlehan has progressed in the brief period of three months from not even existing on the baseball map, literally, to being a potential top 3-4 round pick in this year’s draft. Once a dominant high-school baseball player, Kivlehan put away his baseball bat and glove for four years while playing defensive back at Rutgers, and contributing to three bowl-winning football teams. With his football eligibility expired and still needing credits to graduate, Kivlehan decided to try out for the Rutgers baseball team this spring, but not before fulfilling an internship with Major League Baseball Advanced Media over the winter. He was an overnight sensation for the Scarlet Knights, and nearly won the Big East Conference triple crown by leading the league in batting (.392) and home runs (14), while finishing second to Louisville’s Stewart Ijames in RBIs (50 vs. Ijames’ 60). He also stole 24 of 28 bases to finish third in the Big East in that category. How high he rises before the draft is still uncertain, but his superior athleticism is certain to stand out in any number of team workouts he will participate in before the draft.

WILD CARD: Ryan Harvey, rhp, Seton Hall University.
Harvey presents scouts with a lot to digest with all his different looks, roles and pitches. He has worked successfully as both a starter and reliever at Seton Hall, and though his stuff is definitely firmer in a short role, his four-pitch potential makes him intriguing as a starter, especially as he has more of an opportunity to stretch out his arm in that role. Harvey’s ability to spin the ball, and throw both a plus slider and plus curve at different times, is unusual in a 21-year-old pitcher. Though he may not be drafted before the 8th-10th rounds, someone seeing him on the right day could really run him up a draft board.

BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, New Jersey Connection:
Steven Bruno, 3b/ss, University of Virginia (Played high-school ball in Audubon).
Top 2013 Prospect: Chris Oakley, rhp, St. Augustine Prep, Egg Harbor Township.
Top 2014 Prospect: Jeremiah Mohammad, of/rhp, Rutgers Prep, Somerset.


Draft History:
Jeff Kunkel, ss, Rider University (1983, Rangers/1st round, 3rd pick); Willie Banks, rhp, St. Anthony’s HS, Jersey City (1987, Twins/1st round, 3rd pick).
2006 Draft: Billy Rowell, 3b, Bishop Eustace HS, Pennsauken (Orioles/1st round, 9th pick).
2007 Draft: Rick Porcello, rhp, Seton Hall Prep, Chester (Tigers/1st round, 27th pick).
2008 Draft: Jason Knapp, rhp, North Hunterdon HS, Annandale (Phillies/2nd round).
2009 Draft: Mike Trout, of, Millville HS (Angels/1st round, 25th pick).
2010 Draft: J.C. Menna, rhp, Brookdale CC (A’s/14th round).
2011 Draft: Kevin Comer, rhp, Seneca HS (Blue Jays/1st round, 57th pick).


College Players Drafted/Signed:
Junior College Players Drafted/Signed: 1/1.
High School Players Drafted/Signed: 9/2.


Best Athlete:
Patrick Kivlehan, 3b, Rutgers University.
Best Hitter: Patrick Kivlehan, 3b, Rutgers University.
Best Power: Patrick Kivlehan, 3b, Rutgers University.
Best Speed: Patrick Kivlehan, 3b, Rutgers University.
Best Defender: Sam Mulroy, c, Princeton University.
Best Velocity: Pat Light, rhp, Monmouth University.
Best Breaking Stuff: Ryan Harvey, rhp, Seton Hall University.
Best Command: Pat Light, rhp, Monmouth University.


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

1. PAT LIGHT, rhp, Monmouth University (Jr.)
The 6-foot-6, 200-pound Light was lightly-recruited out of high school, despite posting a 20-0, 1.52 career mark at New Jersey’s Christian Brothers Academy, where he was actually better known as a basketball player. After passing up a 28th-round draft offer from the Minnesota Twins in 2009, he was thrown right into the fire as a freshman at Monmouth, and predictably struggled in going 2-6, 6.12. But he has steadily improved in the two years since, and even over the course of the last two months. Light finished this spring with an 8-3, 2.40 record in 103 innings, while allowing only 84 hits and 16 walks versus 102 strikeouts. He had his most-dominant outings late in the season, which helped to erase the sting of an unfortunate early-season start against Virginia on Feb. 24 that was heavily scouted. He allowed seven runs in five innings in that outing. But his consistent improvement since then paints him as a probable sandwich-round pick, and no worse than a second-rounder. Light’s best pitch is his fastball. He throws both a 2-seamer and 4-seamer, and will hit 95-96 mph frequently early in outings; he has also touched 97 mph when throwing out of the bullpen in the Cape Cod League last summer. Light has a tendency to lose velocity gradually over the course of an outing, perhaps the result of his long, lean frame, which has caused some scouts to think of him as a possible power reliever at the next level. His slider is a solid secondary pitch, when he keeps his arm angle up and his fingers above the ball. Light also throws a changeup that will need further developing as a professional but shows promise. Throwing strikes is obviously not a problem for Light, as his very favorable walk-to-strikeout ratio attests.

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