2011 Top 33
Tim Chalberg • Thursday, June 02, 2011
I promise that I won't continue expanding, but what started as a casual suggestion from a friend is now a reality. Truth be told, I don't like picking arbitrary lengths for lists, especially with common numbers like 10 and 25. From now on, I will rank as many players as there are first round draft slots (excluding the "sandwich" round, which are technically supplementary first round draft picks at the end of the first round). This number will always be around 30, but will vary depending on how many teams do not sign their first round draft picks.
So, from now on, my formal list of prospects is in theory my list of first-round talents. If I ran a team's scouting department, I probably would not use a list like this, opting to put players with similar grades in large pools, and selecting the best player for my organization out of the highest pool remaining.
Pools aren't as fun to talk about as lists though, and not nearly as succinct or easy to lay out on a blog. So, a list this shall remain. Plus, it forces me to go out on a limb from time to time and actually make some decisions on particular players.
Before unveiling the prospects I like the most in 2011, I have to share that it has been a great year to follow folks from previous lists. This year alone, eight different players that I've featured in the past have made their MLB debuts, and several more are waiting in AAA. Most interesting to me is that the 2008 list has one more player than the 2007 one to reach the majors so far, which is a good sign for my personal development as a talent evaluator.
With that said, I am far from a professional. This is an intensive side hobby for me, where I depend on College Splits data, and whatever videos I can find - mostly between searches for individual players on YouTube, and videos posted on Baseball Beginnings. I owe a ton to these sites, which is why I linked to them.
While I take pride in my list, I try to remain realistic. I am one weekend warrior "competing" against trained professionals. I spend no cash at all, while teams spend thousands - if not millions - to scour the nation for the finest amateur talent, along with a small army of full-time employees at their disposal. Even outside experts get more time and resources to comb over data and reports, not to mention opportunities to see players in person. The odds should be stacked against me.
I've had some nice successes though. I had Josh Collmenter ranked as one of the 25 best college prospects in the 2007 draft, yet he lasted until the 15th round. He made the majors this year. On my very first list, I ranked Tim Lincecum as the top prospect in the 2006 draft, and that has worked out quite well too.
I love looking at prospects, and I keep faring well enough to go through the draft process each year. I try my best to be an independent thinking without being different simply for the sake of being different. These are my educated opinions based on the resources available to me. Every team should be able to do better than me, but history suggests that won't happen. Without further ado, my top 33 prospects in the 2011 draft, in reverse order:
33. Charlie Lowell, LHP, Wichita State - I couldn't find any video for Lowell , or even a scouting report, so Charlie is on this list purely on production. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because there is plenty to like on paper. Lowell is a 6'4" lefty that has produced for three years in a pretty good program. His stuff appears hard to hit, as he strikes out over a batter an inning, and has allowed only one home run in over 100 innings pitched. However, control is also a bit of an issue, and I wonder if his high BABIP has something to do with a lack of command as well. Control tends to improve, and the BABIP could also simply be bad luck, especially considering the lack of homers. There is lots to like with Lowell, hence why he is on the list.
32. Matt Purke, LHP, TCU - Purke is one of the toughest guys to rank this year. His stuff is undeniably electric when he is healthy. He also brings a bulldog mentality to the mound. Purke isn't a soft guy that easily wants to come out of ballgames, and he has the type of competitive drive that allows him to manage without his best stuff. It's both a blessing and a curse for him, especially as this season unfolded. Purke's velocity steadily declined through the spring, to the point that he was only topping out at 82 miles an hour in one start, after consistently sitting in the mid to upper 90s last year. He was diagnosed with a strained shoulder, but his mechanics were a worry even before any sort of injury history. While the strained shoulder all by itself isn't very serious, it feels like a harbinger of future problems. If I were the team to draft Purke, I would rest him the rest of this season, and over the winter try to tweak his delivery to alleviate some of the pressure in his current wind-up. If that fails miserably, I would convert him to a reliever, and ride his overwhelming stuff for as long as it lasts.
31. Noe Ramirez, RHP, Cal State Fullerton - The junior righty for the Titans is not an imposing presence physically, but he more than gets the job done. From day one on campus, Ramirez has been a steady pitcher, and has asserted himself as one of the best college arms in the nation. He has a bit of an unorthodox sidearm delivery, but has proven that he can control the ball from that arm slot. It's the type of slot that tends to produce significant platoon splits though, so he might be quite susceptible to lefties as he faces advanced professionals. However, Noe produces good sink on his pitches, as he is yet to give up a home run in over 80 innings pitched this season. Even if lefties make a bunch more contact, it won't hurt Ramirez much if most of it comes in the form of grounders. He seems to be quite relaxed on the mound too, which is a plus. If that's not enough, he is an easy guy to root for, as this ESPN Los Angeles feature details.
30. Dillon Howard, RHP, Searcy HS (AR) - There are lots of power arms in the prep ranks this year, some of which made my list, and some of which did not. There were pitchers with deliveries that I liked, and others that I did not. I leave it to you to decipher which group I preferred. Velocity fades with time, so pitchers need something else to sustain a career. I don't get as excited over velocity as others. Still, Howard caught my attention. He has a good body for pitching, along with a good idea of how to use it. He reaches the mid 90s with his heat, and reportedly has a good feel for a change up and slurvy breaking ball. I don't like his breaking stuff as much as others, but he does not have to learn a new pitch to become a good MLB starter. That's ultimately what got him this spot on my list, along with the aforementioned clean delivery with velocity.
29. Michael Kelly, RHP, West Boca Roton HS (FL) - This is about as projectable as I'm willing to go with a pitcher. Kelly is a hard-throwing righty that will take a while to make it to the Major Leagues. His mechanics are inconsistent, which in turn makes his stuff and command inconsistent. However, he doesn't have any bad habits to correct, and I like his arm path. The mechanical fixes aren't needed to save his arm from injury, but rather to make him a more effective pitcher. Kelly's fastball has great life, and his breaking ball flashes major potential too. As Michael's body matures, and his mechanics tighten up, he could develop into an anchor in someone's starting rotation. At the very least his command should improve, but there might be a bunch of untapped velocity in his body as well. Or, he could also go the Blake Beavan route, and lose velocity as he gains command. Such is the fickle nature with projectable prep arms.
28. Trent Gilbert, SS, Torrance HS (CA) - I have mixed feelings on Gilbert, but ultimately settled on this spot on my board. There are several things to like. It seems many think that he will have to move off of shortstop, but I'm not nearly as convinced. He has active feet and good hands. Obviously, if he can stick at short, then his value goes up. Even if Gilbert can't, his bat is promising. He is too spread out at the plate for my taste, and it makes him seem entrenched. I watched several swings where it took him a while to get in a running position, which worries me some. Still, the swing itself is nice, and he remains pretty well balanced. Gilbert is also left-handed, which I like, especially if he can stay at shortstop. It's rare to find a left-handed hitting shortstop, because left-handed throwing shortstops are unheard of. I'm not real sure how good of a hitter or defender Gilbert will be, but there is talent and polish in all areas of his game, so I would take a chance on him and see what happens.
27. Joe Panik, 2B, St. John's - After a look at some projectable high schoolers, we are back to the classic kind of prospect that I like. Panik plays shortstop for St. John's, but profiles better as a second baseman. He has good range, but questionable arm strength. He could probably play shortstop in a pinch in the pros. Panik will give a team professional at bat after professional at bat, as he has a good eye with a stroke that's good at steadily making solid contact. He likely won't hit for power, and he won't ever be flashy, but he should be steady and productive. I can see him having a long, steady career, along the lines of Mark Grudzielanek.
26. Tyler Anderson, LHP, Oregon - The ace of the Ducks staff this year, Anderson has steadily progressed throughout his college career. The stat line this year is flawless. Nothing much stands out about his repertoire, though he does seem to do a good job hiding the ball in his delivery. He also features a quirky leg kick, which might make batters uncomfortable. Anderson's best strength might be a killer pickoff move, though I didn't really consider that as I figured out his place on this list. Overall, Anderson is a polished college pitcher that is probably close to reaching his ceiling already. He should move fast through someone's minor league system, and become a dependable starter. With the killer pick-off move, he could be a poor man's Andy Pettitte.
25. Sean Gilmartin, LHP, Florida State - I could copy and paste Anderson's write-up for Gilmartin, sans the killer pickoff move. Gilmartin rebounded extremely well from a rough sophomore campaign, after a nice freshman season. Watching him pitch, I don't see where the strikeouts come from, but they are there. He throws a ton of strikes, and I wonder if college hitters just let him get ahead too much in counts. Gilmartin will have to rely heavily on command as a pro, but I think he has it in him. I see some Mark Buehrle tendencies in his pitching.
24. Ryan Wright, 2B, Louisville - After a strong summer as part of the US national team, Wright fell off the radar, thanks to a slow start. However, he heated up with the weather, flashing a solid blend of power and speed, especially from the middle infield. Here is a video of him getting more or less owned (around the 1:40 mark) by Matt Barnes (who perhaps has an upcoming appearance on this list), which reveals to a degree why Wright isn't higher. Neither his power nor his speed are breathtaking tools, merely good, and he also is a smidge strikeout proned. Also, Wright is definitely limited to second base with the tosses I saw on film. Still, I think the game will continue to swing in the pitcher's favor, so a bat up the middle even with gap power might prove to be rather valuable.
23. Javier Baez, 3B, Arlington County Day School (FL) - While Baez has played shortstop in high school, I don't see how he sticks there. His body is built to fill out, and from the limited video I saw of him on the MLB website, he doesn't have the kind of natural, fluid motions to stick right now either. What Baez has is a powerful swing, that is even borderline violent at times. I'd say he over swings, but his head doesn't jerk around too violently, so he might be able to track pitches even with the big hacks. I see quite a bit of power potential in Baez's bat, enough to probably even carry him to the majors in a corner outfield spot, or at first base. He'd have more value at third though, so that's where I would start him out. In some ways, Baez's swing and body type remind me of Adrian Beltre, though that's an unfair comparison. Nobody picks balls at third like Beltre, and his raw strength is pretty ridiculous too.
22. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Owasso HS (OK) - This is much lower than a vast majority of folks have Bundy. First of all, I like to play the odds, and they say that the highest risk pick is a high school pitcher. Arms in general are more volatile, and high-schoolers are tougher to project. Throw both together, and it's smart to have a healthy skepticism towards prep arms. Bundy has a nice, easy delivery, that doesn't suggest future arm problems. He also has a nice body for pitching. That's the thing for me with Bundy...everything is nice. Scouts claim he has polished breaking stuff, but I didn't get any good looks at it. If I did, maybe I'd put him much higher. However, I'll go off what I've seen, and what I see is a polished prep arm that might be closer to a finished product than others see. I could be well off here, because I probably would have said similar things about Zack Greinke when he was drafted, but high school players for me need higher ceilings than college players to justify the risk, since they are also more likely to flame out. I like Bundy (he's on the list after all), but I haven't fallen for him like most others.
21. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, Spring Valley HS (SC) - I haven't seen anyone with Guerrieri above Bundy, but if you've followed my draft lists in the past, I've never been accused of following the masses. While Bundy has a bit easier delivery and a few more pitches, I think Guerrieri's pure stuff is a bit better. His fastball seems more explosive (though that could just be because he's facing worse hitters, I don't know). What I really like was the depth and downward bite on his curve ball. It doesn't loop, but instead seems to take a sharp downward turn halfway to the plate. This video has some good looks at his hook, including a few that make hitters falsely duck for cover. Thanks to Guerrieri's overhand release, his curve should be a viable weapon against righties and lefties too. Plus, if he has the ability to throw a curve ball with depth, I like his chances to develop other pitches that are at least decent. The curve is one of the most challenging pitches to throw. Bottom line, I like Guerrieri's upside, and I'm a sucker for the classic power fastball-power curve combo.
20. Jed Bradley, LHP, Georgia Tech - Jed came on very strong this year, starting with a great showing over the summer. His velocity has improved in college, and he has a promising breaking ball as well. While Bradley's numbers were lackluster until this year, I'm not as concerned with that. It makes sense that his numbers would improve as his stuff improves. Bradley might be a bit of a late bloomer, and if he continues to make quantum leaps forward, I have him underrated. While I anticipate his command to improve as he gets used to his bigger and better pitches, I think he has physically matured at this point. Even though Bradley is young, and has developed a ton the past three years, I think his major development is pretty much done. He profiles as a mid-rotation arm in my view.
19. Greg Bird, 1B, Grandview HS (CO) - Bird plays some catcher, but I saw footage of him throwing to second base, and he is not cut out for the position. Besides, what I absolutely love about him is his swing. It's smooth and effortless, with plenty of loft. There's an amazing video showing all of his high school home runs (or at least most of them) shot by the Grandview baseball team. You'd think it would get boring, but I think it's hilarious listening to all the parent reactions in the background, and knowing every pitch is going to get jacked out of the park. Plus, you get to see Bird destroy a variety of pitches to all fields, which says something about his pure hitting ability. I think baseball is heading for a power outage, and if Bird can be a classic masher, he is quite valuable. Honestly, I haven't seen much buzz around him, and I can't figure out why. He appeared in some of the national showcases, and uses a gorgeous swing to hit with power to all fields.
18. Matt Barnes, RHP, Connecticut - I struggled to figure out where I would rank Barnes, and in the end settled on a slot that's probably close to where he will actually go in the MLB draft. He makes pitching look easy, and I like the movement he gets on pitches. This video gives a nice overview of all he has to offer (complete with a successful pickoff of a runner at second base!) What concerns me is that he has never posted big strikeout numbers in college. They are good, but haven't ever gone above one per inning, which I more or less consider the line between potential impact starter and potential innings eater. However, Barnes also doesn't give up many hits. He has a BABIP below .220, which is certainly unsustainably low, but might also explain the relatively low K rate. Matt's stuff doesn't look all that easy to square up, and his low walk rate suggests lots of strikes. He seems to be inducing lots of weak contact. Pro hitters will be more disciplined, and might be more liable to wait for better pitches to hit. I actually think that Barnes is a good candidate to see his K rate increase in the minors, though if he establishes himself in the majors, I don't think he'll be known for his strikeout totals.
17. C.J. Cron, 1B, Utah - Cron was even tougher to rank than Barnes. In my eyes, he is the best pure hitter in the college ranks this year, bar none. He hits for a high average without many strikeouts (or walks for that matter), gets his share of home runs, and more than his fair share of doubles. In other words, C.J. has great plate coverage, and hits hard line drives all over the field. However, as a pro, I worry that he doesn't fit first base well, yet he can't really defend anywhere else. Cron doesn't add value defensively, and I wonder how much power he will have as a pro. He doesn't look like the kind of guy who will club 25-30 home runs annually. Just how valuable is a mediocre defensive first basemen that hits for average with doubles? There is value there, but it reminds me some of what Lyle Overbay was like at his best - kind of nice, but that's about it. Cron is still young though, so there is a solid chance that many of his doubles turn into home runs, especially if power is made a priority. He's just too good of a pure hitter to put much lower on the list.
16. Alex Meyer, RHP, Kentucky - Meyer is the fastest rising player on my draft board. He is quite raw by college standards, but has come a long way. His 6'9" body produces blistering fastballs, and a devastating breaking ball, as can be seen particularly well in this strikeout. His problem has always been command, but he started to turn the corner this year. The walk rate is still too high, but most tall power pitchers tend to struggle with their control much longer than other pitchers. Just ask Randy Johnson. Meyer isn't going to make the majors as fast as many college arms (unless he's converted to relief), but he might be worth the wait. There is a chance that he stays wild, but he has the potential to become a dominating starter.
15. Andrew Chafin, LHP, Kent State - The Golden Flashes are one of the most surprising stories in college baseball. According to College Splits, they are among the best teams in the nation, even though they haven't stuck in other polls. Either way, it's been a great season for Kent State, thanks in large part to the return of Chafin. He is a redshirt sophomore because he missed all of last year with Tommy John surgery. It was a tough blow after a promising freshman year, but Chafin has come back with a vengeance. He features a nice four pitch mix, and what might be most impressive is his low walk rate. Many pitchers don't fully bounce back from Tommy John surgery until their second year, particularly when it comes to command. I like Chafin as is, but the chance for another big bump next year really intrigues me.
14. Sonny Gray, RHP, Vanderbilt - While I think that Gray has a bit of a stilted wind-up, that's about my only complaint with him. He has been one of the most productive pitchers in the SEC the past few seasons, thanks mostly to a great fastball-curve combo. His curve has a big bend and a nice bite to it. Here is a nice video with some Tennessee Volunteers getting jelly-legged. A good curve ball is a fast way up my prospect list, and Gray's is among the finest in this draft class.
13. Bubba Starling, CF, Gardner Edgerton HS (KS) - Again, if nothing else, nobody can claim that I just copy and past someone else's rankings. I'm much more pessimistic on Starling than most. I don't doubt his talent - he's the best athlete in this draft, hands down. The five-tool talent is obvious. However, there were too many videos for my taste where I saw pretty weak contact from him. Starling looks very raw at the plate to me (though oddly with advanced discipline), and while he doesn't have any bad habits, he is a long ways off. That's understandable, given that he plays all sorts of sports, and hasn't focused on any of them yet. He can develop. However, the multi-sport thing is a problem, given that Starling has the opportunity to play football for Nebraska, maybe even as the quarterback. It's going to take some serious cash to get him to commit baseball, where he is too raw to be a guaranteed star. Starling is a very high risk, very high reward kind of guy. Everyone talks about the reward, but I've got him lower because I think he's more of a risk than many are willing to admit. He definitely has more upside than pretty much everyone I have above him, but the chance of flame-out, combined with the chance he goes to college, give him a low basement as well.
12. Brian Goodwin, CF, Miami Dade CC - After a successful freshman season at North Carolina, followed by a good showing in the Cape Cod league, Goodwin was dismissed from UNC for "violating a university policy." I don't know what that means, but it wasn't bad enough to scare off South Carolina, who has him signed for next year if he doesn't sign in the draft. Goodwin has killer speed, an advanced approach at the plate, and a swing that might have more power in it as he matures. As it is, there already is a little thunder there, and it's worth remembering that he is a year younger than the rest of his college peers. Goodwin has lots of tools to like, and already is mature (at least on the field) beyond his years. Whatever happened at UNC concerns me some, but not enough to throw him off my board. He could be a left-handed Alexis Rios of sorts if his power develops.
11. Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Texas - Jungmann has a bit of the Matt Barnes syndrome going this year. His K rate is relatively low (lagging just behind the batter per inning I look for), but the BABIP (and ERA) are extremely low. He seems to be pitching to contact and/or getting hitters to swing at bad pitches to hit. However, Jungmann has put up similar production in a stiffer conference, and has succeeded with the bright lights and expectations of Texas baseball beaming down on him. I worry some about Jungmann's workload, because the Texas program has a bit of a history of overusing good pitchers, but I think he has skirted around that rather well by throwing so many strikes, and thus being efficient. I am not sure he ever becomes an ace, but I definitely could see him as a great mid-rotation starter that is unflappable in pressure situations.
10. Mikie Mahtook, CF, LSU - This is a little bit higher than I see Mahtook going in most mock drafts, and I'm not sure why. He is a center fielder in the SEC with speed and power. Granted, LSU did not have a great season, so perhaps he has flown under the radar. Still, a guy with Mikie's tools and production in a major conference should get a little more attention than he has so far. He strikes out a little more than I'd like, and looking at his stance, I think it's partly due to how spread out and crouched he is at the plate. It's not enough to zap his value though, especially if he continues to develop solid plate discipline.
9. Kolten Wong, 2B, Hawai'i - I don't think Wong has star potential. I also think he is the safest bet to make the majors. In many ways, he is the anti-Starling, for better and for worse. Wong brings a little bit of everything to the table - speed, contact, power, and adequate defense up the middle. Physically, he is what he is already with little projection. College Splits seems to think that his home park is a pitcher's paradise, and I'm taking their lead by placing him this high on my board. A good hitter that isn't a defensive liability up the middle is valuable, especially in a climate where offense is coming harder and harder to come by.
8. Archie Bradley, RHP, Broken Arrow HS (OK) - The more I watch Bradley, the more I like him. His delivery seems effortless, and his body is built for pitching. He stands 6'4" with long legs, and a loose arm. He already touches the mid-90s with his fastball, and complements that with a tight slider. The breaking pitch is what particularly impressed me - I think it is one of the better ones in this draft, including college pitchers. Bradley already exhibits plenty of polish in his game, but has a high ceiling too. In short, he is exactly the kind of prep pitcher I look for.
7. George Springer, CF, Connecticut - Despite a slow start to the season, Springer's overall numbers are right where anyone could have expected them to be. He is a good defender, thanks in large part to great speed. He hits for plenty of power too, and the high doubles rate suggest that there might be even more to come. The only blemish in his game is a slightly elevated K rate, though I think the team that drafts him will have to live with that. Shortening his stroke would likely also rob him of some of his power. Springer projects as a player along the lines of Drew Stubbs and Mike Cameron (in his prime). That's some good company.
6. Francisco Lindor, SS, Montverde Academy (FL) - Any player that can stick at shortstop has to get a good look. Lindor not only should be able to stick, but also be a good defender at the most demanding position on the diamond. On top of that, Lindor is a switch hitter that can do more than slap at the ball. Here is a video of him winning a prep home run derby. My only little worry with his swing is how pronounced his leg kick is. It definitely serves as a timing device, but I worry about him getting behind pitches because he doesn't get his foot down in time. That's a small thing though, and on top of that, he whips his core around very quickly with a quick, compact stroke. Lindor has a little bit of everything in his game, and he does it with a youthful exuberance that he hopefully will keep. It's the kind of attitude that could endear him to fans (especially as a potential franchise cornerstone), and rub off in a clubhouse. Intangibles aren't what have Lindor so high on every draft board, but they are yet a few more positives on top of everything else.
5. Blake Swihart, C, Cleveland HS (NM) - Another prep switch-hitter (it was a curiously strong year for prep switch-hitters), Swihart also plays a premium position, just like Lindor. I worry some about Swihart's build, because he seems too slight to survive the grind of catching day in and day out over an entire professional season. Then again, he is still young, so he will likely mature physically. Swihart has a cannon for an arm, and I couldn't get enough of his throws to second base. His swing is quite level too, and he shows an uncanny knack for timing pitches, even noticeably delaying his swing when needed. Those are some special skills, and they were on full display with the U-18 national team. He was clearly the best hitter. Swihart's hitting plays well at any position, but especially at catcher, where his defensive skills alone are enticing. I have Swihart much higher on my board than most, but I see the potential for him to become one of best catchers in the game, both offensively and defensively.
4. Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA - It is weird to feel like people will be surprised at how "low" Cole is at this spot on my list, but that's what happens when a prospect gets incredibly overhyped. First of all, Cole is a tremendous prospect, and a potential ace that should get to the majors quickly. However, there are some things to pick at with his production. He has always posted "high" ERAs, and by high, I mean over 3.00, which isn't all that high. Still, elite college pitchers are pretty much always below 3.00, if not below 2.00. The biggest problem for Cole is an elevated home run rate, which given how hard he throws, could very well follow him into the pros. I see some Josh Beckett in his game, as he also has dealt with homer problems at times in his career. However, Beckett also anchored a couple World Series winning pitching staffs. The home runs are an issue, but it's important to keep it in perspective.
3. Trevor Bauer, RHP, UCLA - This is a long video of Bauer pitching, but really, the first toss is the entire reason I linked to it. Part of me feels like he should ditch the all-out, max effort, initial warm-up pitch. However, as a fan, I absolutely love it. What a signature move that you only would see at the ballpark. I am sure there is a story behind it too. Anyway, the warm up toss is not what got Bauer such a lofty spot on my list, even edging just barely past his highly esteemed rotation mate, Gerrit Cole. Bauer throws hard with a bit of quirky leg kick, but a pretty solid arm path. He complements that with a breaking ball that floats a bit, but more than that freezes hitters. Bauer, for my money, has been the most dominating pitcher in college baseball this year, and strikes out batters rather literally by the dozen. I came into this season preferring Cole, but Bauer went out this year and simply outperformed him by way too much for me to ignore. Bauer and Cole weren't that far apart to begin with, and they still aren't that far apart now.
2. Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia - People cannot ignore the production that Hultzen boasts in the ACC. It has vaulted him into consideration for the top overall pick, and terms like his "poise" and "advanced approach" come up again and again. In other words, Hultzen is being cast as the safe pick, and to a large degree he is. However, what I really think is that Hultzen is a victim of his velocity. It's not the triple digit smoke that Cole has, or even the mid-90s readings that many other prospects in this class possess. While Hultzen has good enough velocity, the real magic is in his arm slot and repertoire. He throws a bit side arm, making him tough to pick up for lefties. In fact, he would seem to be a strong candidate to run huge platoon splits with the arm slot, with righties crushing him...expect that his best off-speed pitch is a change-up. Because of Hultzen's arm slot, his change-up runs away pretty hard from righties. It is definitely a circle change that he features (around the 1:20 mark of the video linked to is a run on good circle changes). Maybe it's a crafty and deceptive way to make a living, but it is every bit as effective as pure heat. It's not junk that Hultzen outsmarts hitters with, just not classic power stuff. Still, swings and misses are swings and misses, no matter what the batter swings at.
1. Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice - Not all injuries are created equal. Nobody questioned Rendon's spot at the top of this draft class until he came up with a bum shoulder. After proclaiming him a potential Gold Glove defender, some wonder if he can even stick at third. Others worry if he has the power to stick at a corner spot now, after raving about his bat speed over the summer. Certainly, Rendon has had a down year by his terms, but that still features an OBP over .500 and an OPS over 1.000. Not too shabby for a down year. Furthermore, Rendon walks more than once a game on average, which tells you just how scared other teams are of him. They won't pitch to him very often, even though they know his shoulder limits him. I'd be more worried if the shoulder kept Rendon from playing at all, but he claims it's just a strain. Even though Rendon has a vested interest in downplaying the injury, I'm inclined to believe him. His symptoms are consistent with a shoulder strain, and a strain will persist if it is not rested. Rendon needs to rest his shoulder to allow it to heal, and he should get that chance once he is drafted. Once it is back to full strength, he can continue his path towards stardom as a five-tool talent at the hot corner.
My best guess right now is that 25 guys on my list actually go in the first round. This year's list is not characterized with deep sleepers like other lists have featured (though I've got plenty of guys that caught my eye to talk about as I re-load for the second and third days). The differences are in where I put several guys. Time will tell whether my conclusions are on par with others. Sometimes I wonder how much of a difference all that extra time that teams put in makes.