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Analyzing Amateur Baseball Talent as it pertains to the MLB Draft

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College Notes 3-7-11

I caught a couple of more games over the weekend, including Matt Purke’s return for TCU on Sunday after missing a week with blister problems. I haven’t been shy about sharing my praise for Purke in the past, and he didn’t seem to miss a beat.

Matt Purke

I don’t know if it is possible for me to overstate how much I enjoy watching Purke pitch. His competitive spirit is clearly evident, as this kid wants the ball in his hand and he’s absolutely fearless. He’s not shy about sharing a fist pump after a strikeout, and sprints off the field, sometimes yelling, at the end of his half innings of work.

His delivery has been questioned by quite a few people, with a really low three-quarters arm delivery and the much debate inverted W that people point to as a potential future injury concern. He definitely has an upside down takeaway in which the ball is pointing towards the ground as part of his windup (as opposed to facing up) but many pitchers throw the ball this way (Taylor Jungmann is another one). There is some effort to his delivery, he does throw across his body some, and there is a visible head snap at the point of his release, but these are all correctable. Even if they aren’t, these things don’t necessarily mean that he’s going to have a hard time staying health, as I like his arm overall and the ball really does explode out of his hand with some natural deception.

The low arm angle allows him to add some natural movement to his pitches. He can be effectively wild at times, because he pitches fearlessly and aggressively, with a bulldog mentality on the mound.

His fastball continues to be difficult to catch up to, working in the 90-92 range in this game while mixing in his usually nasty slider. He was inducing quite a few weakly hit ground balls. He allowed only one hard hit ball in this game, a deep fly ball off of the bat of Texas Tech’s Duke von Schamann that Jason Coats at the base of the left field fence. The next batter, Stephen Hagen, recorded the only hit against Purke in six frames with a single that got through the hole on the left side of the infield.

Purke entered the game on a 60-70 pitch count, and I thought he would be done after five innings at 62 pitches. He came back in for the sixth, and struck out the first batter he faced, and issued the only walk on the day in the middle of two groundouts, finishing the day at 82 pitches. He had six punchouts on the day, allowing only that one walk and the one hit.

Probably the most evident thing to me in this game was his stature, as he has clearly added some meat to his bones. If you saw him pitch last year you will remember that he was rail thin, as he has done a good job hitting the weight room to add some strength to both his upper and lower body. He’s not hulking by any means, just sturdier looking.

Jason Coats

I’m not going to spend too much time on Coats, as I have had better looks at him before. He still reminds me an awful lot of Jason Bay, with a good hit tool and some power, but he probably will never be more than average defensively in left field. He has good size, and like Purke it looks like he too added more strength in the offseason.

Taylor Featherston

I think I have been higher on Featherston defensively than most, as I’m really impressed with the way he routinely makes play on the move, either charging balls or by moving to either side. His arm is strong enough for the position, and he makes accurate throws to first base. The only really thing I could see happening is him moving to second base due to less than ideal range. I don’t think that happens anytime soon, as he should progress through the minors as a shortstop.

At the plate I think he has more work to do, as his swing can get too long for the type of hitter he profiles to be at the next level. He can take some aggressive hacks up there with a pronounced swing plane, but overall shows a pretty good eye and strike zone discipline.

Kelby Tomlinson

This was my first look at Tomlinson, a transfer from Seward County Community College. The first thing you notice is his athleticism, as he is really put together well with good size and some strength. I had only been aware of him after being named the third best prospect in the Jayhawk League where he was hailed for his combination of speed and defense. He didn’t have an opportunity to show off his speed, but he made a few nice looking plays at short, showing good instincts and overall feel for the game.

At the plate, again, he didn’t do much, but he has a nice presence in the batter’s box, showed a decent eye at the plate and made good contact in a couple of his plate appearances. With his stature I could see him developing more power down the road, which is pretty much his biggest question mark at this point in his career.

Barrett Barnes

This was also my first extended look at Barnes, another exciting athlete who has obvious potential for bigger and better things. Physically he is built similar to Milton Bradley, somewhat resembling an NFL running back, but he takes long, loping strides in the outfield similar to Devon White. I’m not quite so sure Barnes can consistently play the centerfield position that well, but he has the tools to do so, with a pretty good arm as well.

At the plate is where he has the greatest upside, with good bat speed and overall power potential. He also has enough speed to swipe 15-20 bases (possibly more) on an annual basis, with good power potential to the alleys. His swing needs some refinement, as he appears to swing out of his shoes at times, and can be susceptible to breaking pitches. It is important to remember that he faced Matt Purke three times in this game, and has started the season a little more slowly after being named a freshman all-american a year ago when he led the Red Raiders in batting, slugging and on-base percentage.

Hudson Randall

I also had the opportunity to catch the Saturday game of the Florida-Miami game on TV. The game ended with the Gators winning 1-0 in a game that was played in just over two hours. I’m going to focus on the pitchers in this contest since the top hitting prospects (Zeke DeVoss, Harold Martinez, Stephen Perez, Preston Tucker, Austin Maddox, Nolan Fontana and Mike Zunino) were a combined 0-for-21.

We’ll start with Florida Saturday starter Hudson Randall, and it was nice to catch him after seeing Johnson pitch to open the season a few weeks ago. This was my second or third look at Randall, as I recall being impressed with the way he threw the ball a year ago, and is yet another Florida product expected to go in the early rounds of next year’s draft.

Randall doesn’t overpower hitters, but he does do a good job throwing three pitches for strikes. His fastball sits in the upper-80s with the ability to touch the low-90s. It has some movement at times, but overall its value comes in Randall’s ability to put it where he wants. He does a nice job dropping in slow-breaking curveballs into the zone, and pulled the string perfectly on a handful of changeups thrown with the exact same arm speed and action as his fastball, but coming to the plate 10 mph slower.

He has a modest, thin build with broad shoulders and a high waist. Due to his limited velocity his ceiling is equally limited,but he has shown that he can pitch since the moment he stepped onto Florida’s campus. I also liked how he really slowed down his tempo with runners on, forcing the hitters to play to his speed.

Anthony DeSclafani

I caught DeSclafani a couple of weeks ago to open the season when he came on in relief for Brian Johnson. I noted then that his curveball and slider needed more break and overall consistency, and while he didn’t throw many breaking balls in this contest, both pitches looked significantly more sharp. He buried one slider in the dirt to strikeout Zeke DeVoss in the ninth inning, and snapped off a pretty sharp, although not with a huge break, curveball a few pitches earlier. He was once again mainly fastballs, pumping it up in the 92-94 range. He was clearly more fired up in the ninth inning with a 1-0 lead, and prior to striking out the last two batters of the ballgame he induced four straight groundouts. There is talk of him returning to the rotation at some point this spring, even if it is in a mid-week role, but I really like what I have seen in two short relief appearances.

E.J. Encinosa

Encinosa is a big fella, listed at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds. There is a little softness to his stature, so he will have to watch his conditioning moving forward, but overall he is a pretty sturdy and durable looking righty.

He has what I call a ‘lazy’ delivery, in that it doesn’t look like he puts as much effort into it as he could, landing rather upright while slinging the ball from a low, frisbee type three-quarters delivery. He doesn’t appear to be over-powering, but did a good job pounding the zone while throwing a decent curve, slider and change. He snapped off a few breaking balls in this game that looked significantly better than others, and a few of the changeups he threw really had nice fading action to them.

Zeke DeVoss

I won’t spend much time covering the hitters, but DeVoss interested me since I covered him in the Northwoods League last summer. He’s a smaller, pesky type of hitter that takes a ton of pitches. He didn’t get on base in this game, but I know what kind of tools he brings to the table as a potential leadoff hitter. Physically he reminds me of a couple of former Hurricanes in John Jay and Jemile Weeks. He doesn’t have as sweet of a swing as Jay, and isn’t quite as dynamic as Weeks, but he has some intriguing tools.

Harold Martinez

Martinez of course has been a potential first-round pick for this year’s draft since he was thought to be a potential first-round pick coming out of high school three years ago. As noted above, he didn’t do much in this game, if anyone can be taken in the first round for their body type alone, it would be Martinez. Built long and lean with long, strong limbs and sloped shoulders, he looks like a big leaguer. He has a big swing at the plate and great extension, and when he connects, the ball can go a long, long way. That didn’t happen in this game, and overall he’s off to a slow start (he was dropped to the seventh spot in the lineup), but should he heat up he should continue a long line of notable Hurricanes sluggers.

Zack Powers

In my notes column from 2-20-11, I mentioned how much I liked Powers at the plate. He impressed me once again, with a mature and balanced approach. He did a nice job turning on an inside fastball, keeping his hands in, to yank the pitch down the right field line for a double, and overall shows a good eye. He had good actions/instincts at the hot corner as well, and has the room to add strength over the next two to three years.

Brian Johnson

I was reminded in this game why I liked Johnson so much as a hitter a year ago. He is incredibly patient at the plate, and for the most part thinks up the middle and the other way with an inside out swing. With his size and swing path, he has easy power potential, and with that approach I like his chances developing more power as he progresses. That likely will never happen since his faster ticket to success is on the mound.

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Dandy Dozen

SP
Andrew Gagnon Well rounded RHP w/ good size, repertoire
SP
Erik Johnson Big bodied RHP with good FB/CB combo
SP
Deshorn Lake Live-armed RHP with sharp breaking ball
CL
Nick Maronde Lived-armed LHP tough to catch up to
C
Nick Delmonico May not be C long-term, big body, LH bat
1B
Zach Wilson Aggressive hitter can put sting in ball
IF
Sean Trent Well built hitter with pop, speed, arm
3B
Dante Bichette, Jr. Clone of father with big build, power
SS
Austin Nola Steady D' at shortstop, improving strength
OF
Nick Martini Good all around player with patient eye
OF
Shon Carson Shorter, well built 2-sport speedster
OF
Granden Goetzman Fast riser w/ exciting power/speed combo

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