Draft : : State Preview
Friday, May 03, 2013

MLB Draft Preview: Louisiana

David Rawnsley        
Photo: LSU
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.  Please visit this page for all of the links to Perfect Game's 2013 Draft Preview content.



Louisiana State-by-State List

It’s been a tale of two springs in Louisiana, as there was plenty of enthusiasm in the scouting community and countless visits by cross-checkers and scouting directors into the state in the early spring. Much of that enthusiasm has slackened as the spring has progressed, especially for the state’s top high school prospects, as skills have been put under the microscope and in some cases performance has dropped.

One constant in the state, of course, is the Louisiana State Tigers, who are currently ranked No. 2 in the country and sport a 40-6 record. LSU could have 6-7 players drafted in the top 10 rounds, with right handed pitcher Ryan Eades a strong candidate to hear his name among the top 20-30 picks. The good news for the Baton Rouge faithful is that LSU’s two best players, freshman shortstop sensation Alex Bregman (.395-4-43) and sophomore right-hander Aaron Nola (8-0, 2.14 in 80 innings) aren’t even draft eligible, but will be considered top of the draft prospects for 2015 and 2014 respectively.

With the exception of Tulane right handed pitcher Tony Rizzotti, the rest of the Louisiana collegiate ranks have been quiet on the prospect front this spring, contributing to a below average number of potential top ten round picks for the state.


STRENGTH:
High school left-handed power; depth of LSU talent
WEAKNESS: Overall depth; premium position talent
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 3

BEST COLLEGE TEAM:
 Louisiana State
BEST JUNIOR-COLLEGE TEAM: LSU-Eunice
BEST HIGH SCHOOL TEAM: Barbe

PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Mason Katz, of/1b, Louisiana State.
While many of Louisiana’s top prospects seem to have peaked early in the spring, Katz is one player whose stock is rising. Undrafted after a solid .320-13-52 junior year in 2012, Katz has become one of the most dominant hitters in college baseball and ranks third nationally in RBI and eighth in slugging percentage while hitting .374-13-61 overall. With the new treatment given college seniors under the revised draft rules, don’t be surprised to hear Katz’s name called within the first six rounds.

WILD CARD: Jacoby Jones, 2b/cf, Louisiana State.
Even in a state with more than its share of wild cards, the toolsy Jones stands out. For much of the spring Jones was hitting below the Mendoza line, but a recent hot stretch has raised his average to .275-3-19 with 25 walks. At 6-foot-3, 200-pounds, Jones has a big league body, a full collection of big league tools and can play multiple positions in the middle of the field at a high level. The entire question rests with his bat and whether he’ll be able to make the adjustments to hit more successfully at the professional level than he has at the collegiate level.

BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Louisiana Connection:
Stuart Turner, c, University of Mississippi (attended high school in Eunice)
Top 2014 Prospect: Aaron Nola, rhp, Louisiana State
Top 2015 Prospect: Alex Bregman, ss, Louisiana State

HIGHEST DRAFT PICKS

Draft History:
Danny Goodwin, c, Southern U. (1975, Angels/1st round, 1st pick); Ben McDonald, rhp, Louisiana State U. (1989, Orioles/1st round, 1st pick)
2008 Draft: Shooter Hunt, rhp, Tulane U. (Twins/1st round, 31st pick)
2009 Draft: Jared Mitchell, of, Louisiana State U. (White Sox/1st round, 23rd round)
2010 Draft: Anthony Ranaudo, rhp, Louisiana State U. (Red Sox/1st round, 39th pick)
2011 Draft: Mikie Mahtook, of, Louisiana State U. (Rays/1st round, 31st pick)
2012 Draft: Kevin Gausman, rhp, Louisiana State U. (Orioles/1st round, 4th pick)

2012 DRAFT OVERVIEW

College Players Drafted/Signed:
 20/18
Junior College Players Drafted/Signed: 0/0
High School Players Drafted/Signed: 10/6

BEST TOOLS

Best Athlete: 
Jacoby Jones, 2b/cf, Louisiana State
Best Hitter: Mason Katz, of-1b, Louisiana State
Best Power: Justin Williams, of, Terrebonne HS, Houma
Best Speed: Jacoby Jones, 2b/cf, Louisiana State
Best Defender: Ty Ross, c, Louisiana State
Best Velocity: Ryan Eades, rhp, Louisiana State
Best Breaking Stuff: Garrett Williams, Calvary Baptist HS, Shreveport
Best Command: Tony Rizzotti, rhp, Tulane


TOP PROSPECTS - GROUPS 1 and 2

GROUP 1 (rounds 1-3)

1. RYAN EADES, rhp, Louisiana State (Jr.)
Eades and sophomore right handed pitcher Aaron Nola give LSU a pair of true Friday Night starters as talented as any duo in the country and they have combined to go 15-1, 2.21 in 22 starts this spring. In terms of draft stock, Eades has been trying to separate himself from a deep pack of college pitchers, including Arkansas’ Ryne Stanek, Nevada’s Brandon Shipley, Indiana State’s Sean Manaea and Jacksonville’s Chris Anderson, to determine who is the third best collegiate hurler behind Stanford’s Mark Appel and Oklahoma’s Jonathan Gray. The see-saw race seems to change every week. For more on Eades, click here for Frankie Piliere’s Perfect Game Draft Focus feature.

2. JUSTIN WILLIAMS, of, Terrebonne HS, Houma
Williams has been one of the most difficult players in the country to scout this spring, part of the reason that his name isn’t mentioned as frequently in national scouting circles as one might expect. Williams plays shortstop in high school and not his natural corner outfield position, plus he plays for a team that finished the season 10-18. Already one of the most pitched around players on the summer and fall travel circuit, Williams has rarely seen any pitches to hit this spring as well. A perfect summary of his spring came in the first game of his district playoffs. With Terrebonne High School up 7-1 in the fifth inning with one out and the bases empty, the opposing coach walked Williams intentionally for the second time in the game. The next hitter grounded into a double play to end the inning, the opposing team rallied and eventually won 8-7 in the bottom of the seventh. Local media accounts of the game said that Williams put on a BP show after the game, including over a dozen long home runs, for the scouts who were at the game. For more on the Perfect Game All-American, read his PG Draft Focus profile here.

3. JACOBY JONES, 2b/cf, Louisiana State (Jr.)
Jones came to LSU from a Mississippi high school after one of the most prolific high school careers on record, capped off by being a Perfect Game All-American in 2009. He immediately moved into the starting lineup for the Tigers and hit .338-4-32 as a freshman and looked destined to be a 2013 first round draft choice. Things have not gone as smoothly since then for Jones, however. He hit only .253-4-29 as a sophomore with only 15 walks and 47 strikeouts, then followed that up with very similar numbers in the Cape Cod League, hitting .253-5-18 with 10 walks and an alarming 55 strikeouts. Despite his still-pedestrian (for his raw talent) .275-3-19 production this spring, Jones has dramatically improved his contact rate and approach at the plate this spring, having almost doubled his career walk total with 25 while cutting down on his strikeouts. Tool-wise, Jones matches up with just about any position player in the 2013 draft. He was a high school shortstop with plus arm strength, but has played mostly second base and occasionally centerfield in college. He won the home run derby at the 2012 Cape Cod All-Star Game and can put on big power shows in batting practice. Scouts know that if the light ever comes on with Jones at the plate that he has potential All-Star level tools. That alone should guarantee that Jones gets drafted within the top three rounds. What happens after than is anyone’s guess.


GROUP 2 (rounds 4-10)

4. TONY RIZZOTTI, rhp, Tulane (So.)
Rizzotti was largely an unknown entering the year despite being 28th round draft pick of the Rockies out of a Dallas high school in 2010. He attended TCU as a freshman in 2011 but only threw 4-2/3 innings out of the bullpen. After undergoing surgeries on both knees in 2010 and 2011, Rizzotti transferred to Grayson Community College and did not pitch while undergoing complete rehab on both knees. He quickly and loudly announced himself to the scouting community on opening day of the college season, throwing a complete game one hit shutout against Sam Houston State while topping out at 95 mph on his heavy sinking fastball. Rizzotti has gone on to post a 5-3, 1.83 record this spring in 73 innings, with 18 walks and 54 strikeouts. His fastball has been consistently in the low-90s, topping out as high as 96 mph, and Rizzotti has shown the consistent ability to spot the pitch and keep it low in the strike zone. After some initial speculation that Rizzotti could evolve into a first day pick, scouts’ opinions have been tempered somewhat by the fact that Rizzotti’s slider and split-finger change, while being solid pitches, are both present below average offerings that still need improvement. Still, as a strong 6-foot-5, 225-pound right-hander with a plus fastball and good command, Rizzotti could easily sneak into the top three rounds. He will have two additional years of eligibility if he returns to Tulane.

5. GARRETT WILLIAMS, lhp, Calvary Baptist HS, Shreveport
Williams entered the spring as one of the fastest rising high school pitching prospects in the country. He missed much of the 2012 high school season with an oblique injury, but rounded into shape by the Area Code Games in early August where he was one of the top handful of prospects at that event, with most scouts feeling that his curveball was the best breaking pitch they saw that week. Williams then went on to play a lead role on the Gold Medal winning USA 18u National Team, going 1-0, 1.26, with 18 strikeouts in 16 innings. With a 90-92 mph fastball, a nasty upper-70s curveball that was a potential plus pitch, and above average athleticism, Williams looked like he could move into first round status with a strong spring. Things haven’t worked out that way according to scouts. Command was an issue early, then Williams velocity dropped into the mid- to upper-80s, occasionally touching 90 mph, as the season progressed. Calvary Baptist then traveled to Las Vegas to play nationally ranked Bishop Gorman on April 5 and Williams was knocked around for 16 runs (only 7 earned) in 2-1/3 innings in a 18-1 route. It’s hard to determine where Williams’ draft stock is now, with the added concern for scouts that he is a 4.0 student with a scholarship to Oklahoma State.

6. TY ROSS, c, Louisiana State (Jr.)
Ross has been disappointing offensively this spring, hitting only .213-3-23 after posting much stronger .292-3-41 numbers as a sophomore. But that doesn’t seem to have swayed scouts or his draft stock much at all due to his superior defensive skills and tools. Ross has plus raw arm strength, a quick release and an established record of controlling the running game. But scouts are even more impressed by his game management skills and the way he handles the talented LSU pitching staff. One scout even referred to the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Florida native simply as, “one tough S.O.B.” behind the plate. The consensus is that if Ross can even just hit .240-.250 in professional ball while mixing in a couple of home runs now and again, he’ll have a long big league career.

7. MASON KATZ, of/1b, Louisiana State (Sr.)
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Katz has split time between the outfield and first base the past two seasons before taking over the full-time job at first base as a senior. He profiles as a left fielder at the professional level, but scouts don’t overly concern themselves with the right handed hitter’s defensive profile, as he will be drafted solely on his offensive potential. As one scout put it, “Katz swings the bat like he wants to hurt the ball.” That type of aggressive swing approach and bat speed has endeared Katz to scouts this spring and significantly raised his draft profile after going undrafted as a junior in 2012.

8. IVAN WILSON, of, Ruston (LA) HS
Scouts entered the spring behind in their evaluations on Wilson, who had a very limited presence on the summer and fall circuit, but with high hopes for the 6-foot-3, 220-pound left handed hitter. Many noted the similarities between Wilson and Justin Williams due to their similar plus-strength physiques and overall tools. Wilson is a 6.6/6.7 type runner despite his size and an accomplished wide receiver during the fall, plus he has close to average arm strength from the outfield. But while many scouts feel Williams’ swing mechanics are on the raw side, Wilson’s proved to be even more so, with a one-piece rotational swing that creates plenty of raw bat speed but leaves little room for adjustments against good pitching and off-speed pitches. Some teams will still value Wilson’s power and physical ceiling enough to select him in the top 10 rounds, especially since he has no college commitment at present to compete with, but it is realistic to expect him to be a two-year rookie league player.

9. STEPHEN SENSLEY, of/1b, LSU Lab School, Baton Rouge
Sensely is a poor man’s Dominic Smith in many ways, from his 6-foot-1, 200-pound build to his easy left-handed swing to his first base/corner outfield defensive profile. Like Smith, Sensley’s primary tool is his bat. He has a loose, aggressive pull-oriented swing with very good bat speed and lots of power projection. Sensley ran 7.15 at the PG World Showcase in January and threw 93 mph from the outfield and 91 mph from first base, so he has the base athletic tools to become a good defensive player, although scouts have questioned his defensive instincts at both positions. Part of his projection is that he hasn’t played as much baseball as many of his peers as he also is a standout linebacker in football. Sensley has signed with junior college Division II powerhouse LSU-Eunice should he not sign professionally this summer.

10. NICK RUMBELOW, rhp, Louisiana State (Jr.)
The hard throwing Rumbelow would likely have a much greater role on most teams in the country, but the incredible depth in the LSU bullpen (14 pitchers have thrown at least 12 innings, a figure probably unmatched in college baseball) means that the Texas native has only pitched in a set-up role this spring (1-0, 3.15 in 20 innings). Rumbelow throws in the 91-94/95 mph range with his fastball, although he tends to muscle up on the pitch at times at the cost of command. His best pitch is a hard downer curveball that is a swing-and-miss pitch when he’s throwing it for strikes. Rumbelow had a very successful summer in the Cape Cod League for the league champion Wareham Gateman, going 1-0, 3.51 with 43 strikeouts in 26 innings in his customary set-up role. Without a changeup or polished command, it is doubtful that any team would look at trying Rumbelow as a starter at the minor league level, but his arm strength and two quality pitches should get him into the top 10 rounds as a power reliever.

11. WILL LAMARCHE, rhp, Louisiana State (Jr.)
LaMarche attended Long Beach State as a freshman in 2011 but missed the entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He transferred to Chabot JC closer to his Northern California home in 2012, but only threw 19 innings while continuing to rehab, although the Minnesota Twins saw enough of him to draft him in the 18th round last June. LaMarche then moved on to the Northwoods League last summer, where he was named the league’s eighth best prospect by Perfect Game due to a fastball that was regularly in the 94-97 mph range. The much traveled LaMarche has filled a similar role to teammate Nick Rumbelow (above) in the Tigers bullpen this spring, going 1-0, 4.19 in 19 innings of middle relief and topping out at 96 mph on his fastball. LaMarche’s second pitch is a big breaking slider that flashes potential but which is very inconsistent at this point. With a big, strong 6-foot-3, 220-pound build and a loose and fast arm, LaMarche could develop into a mid- to upper-90s power reliever if his parent organization is patient with the development of his slider and command.

12.
BUBBY RILEY, of, Delgado JC
Through the end of April, Riley was hitting the ball at a .308 clip, the same average he posted as a freshman at Delgado. But in no way is that a reflection that Riley’s game may have leveled off or even stalled out as he is strongly under consideration to be drafted in the first 10 rounds in June after being passed over in last year’s draft. Despite being pitched around as his team’s new 3-hole hitter, he leads the Dolphins with six homers (vs. 3 in 2012) and is second with 44 RBI (32 in 2012). He has also shown better strike-zone discipline with a 38-31 walk-to-strikeout ratio (35-45 in 2012), and tops the 43-9 Dolphins with 15 steals vs. nine all of last year. Beyond the numbers, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Riley has flashed five-tool ability with 6.7-second speed in the 60, the athleticism to run down balls in center field and solid average arm strength. The North Carolina State recruit also has enough juice in his powerful left-handed bat to justify a move to a corner outfield position at the next level.

13. CHAD REEVES, lhp, LSU-Eunice JC
Reeves has a significant strike against him as he is already 22, though is still, technically, just a freshman from an eligibility standpoint at the junior-college level. But as a wiry 6-foot-2 left-hander capable of reaching 94 mph, with significant tilt and deception in his delivery, Reeves has drawn his share of attention from scouts this spring at LSU-Eunice, the reigning National Junior College Athletic Association Division II champion. He has posted a 7-2, 2.38 record with 40 walks and 72 strikeouts in 68 innings as one of the team’s primary starters, while flashing the potential for three solid-average pitches, though he has struggled to command his 76-78 mph curve and 79-80 mph change. His fastball also has been more typically in the 88-92 mph range, but he has shown a capacity to reach back for more when the opportunity is at hand to put a hitter away. Reeves came to the attention of LSU-Eunice coaches last summer while pitching in a nearby semi-pro league. He had not pitched at the collegiate level in almost three years after initially enrolling at Louisiana-Monroe in 2009, before leaving that team a short time later from what has been characterized as a misunderstanding with the team’s coaches over his role on the team. At his advanced age, Reeves is deemed extremely signable and could conceivably come into play before the 10th round of this year’s draft as a potential budget-saver, though he may warrant being chosen there on ability, as well.

14. CHRISTIAN TRENT, lhp, Delgado JC
Trent was red-shirted a year ago as a freshman at Louisiana State, but more than made up for his time on the sidelines with a strong summer showing in the Prospect League. He was acknowledged as that league’s top left-handed pitching prospect, mainly on the strength of a fastball in the low-90s, peaking at 93 mph. The 6-foot, 200-pound Trent has continued to work at that velocity this spring after transferring to Delgado, and has posted an 8-2, 2.93 record, while walking 13 and striking out 69 in 68 innings. But he appears to have lost his preseason stature as the best potential draft in the Louisiana junior college ranks as he has struggled to develop his secondary stuff, though will flash a plus slider, and scouts have further determined that his thick frame may also profile best in a relief role at the professional level.

15. COLE STAPLER, rhp, Dutchtown HS, Geismer
Stapler is a big and strong 6-foot-5, 225-pound two-way prospect who could stand out as a power hitting first baseman in addition to pitching if he were to attend Nichols State. As a pitcher, Stapler has a low effort delivery and arm action and has seen his velocity improve this spring from its previous 87-89 mph range to 89-92 mph at times. Stapler also throws a mid-70s curveball that shows flashes of being a potential big league average pitch in the future, but he needs plenty of additional work in developing his changeup.


PROSPECTS TO WATCH

RAPH RHYMES, of, Louisiana State (Sr.)
Rhymes has not been able to duplicate his astounding 2012 season, when he led the NCAA in batting average at .431-4-53, but is still hitting .331-2-35 as a fifth-year senior. He has a special spot in Louisiana State baseball folklore, helped by the fact that he was cut from the Tiger roster as a walk-on in the fall of 2008 before transferring to LSU-Eunice and becoming a junior college All-American. While Rhymes has an acknowledged hit tool, he is strictly a left field defender and is already 23-years old. Rhymes has been drafted twice already, including in the 40th round by the Pirates in 2012, and will just be hoping for another opportunity in 2013.

MICHAEL STRENTZ, c, Louisiana-Lafayette (So.)
Strentz is a very strong 6-foot-1, 205-pound right handed hitting catcher with plus raw power (.302-5-33) and solid overall athleticism. He red-shirted in 2012 after injuring his elbow and undergoing Tommy John surgery and has yet to fully regain his arm strength this spring, although he he has been catching regularly. If a team is willing to trust his arm rehabilitation and Strentz is equally willing to pass on his final two years of eligibility, he could get into the top 10 rounds.

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