Analyzing Amateur Baseball Talent as it pertains to the MLB Draft

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College Notes 3-25-09

Game Observations

More and more games are available to watch on cable television, particularly now that conference play has begun. The Fox College Sports Network family of channels are the best way to have access to these games, and the Big Ten network will have a few games from the Illinois/Michigan State series on this weekend (in HD to boot!).

The games available this coming weekend include Wake Forest at Duke (who took their series against UNC last weekend) on Saturday, Ole Miss at LSU (Saturday), Alabama at Florida (Saturday) and Georgia Tech at Miami (Sunday). I will provide obvservations on those games at a similar time next week.

Clemson at Florida State

Two games of this series were available last weekend, the games from Friday and Sunday. My PG Crosschecker colleague Anup Sinha was at Saturday's game if you're interested in reading his notes.

The Seminoles have some nice talent. There is no one of Buster Posey's talent level on the team, but he did go fifth overall last year, which is a tough act to follow. Outfielder D'Vontrey Richardson is an amazing athlete, and I think he could really flourish in baseball if he chooses to give up football permanently. There's a good he does, as he clearly is focusing on baseball this spring to keep that option open.

He currently is platooning with Ohmed Danesh, a left-handed hitter, and unfortunately isn't getting as much regular playing time as he needs to work out the rough edges. He came in as a pinch hitter in Friday's game and started in Sunday's game before being lifted later in the game. On Friday he was retired quickly on strikes, and on Sunday he walked once and struck out once. I didn't get a good look at him in the field, but you can tell just by looking at him that he's an extraordinary athlete. He could play centerfield, a position occupied by senior leadoff man Tyler Holt, and he has tremendous arm strength. The bat speed, foot speed, arm strength and power potential are all there, it's just a matter of someone believing in him enough to draft him high enough to sign him away from football and give him an everyday opportunity to show what he can do. I'm guessing that will indeed happen.

Infielder Jason Stidham is about as patient of a college hitter as you can find, employing a wide open stance that makes him look like a left-handed hitting version of Jim Leyritz. Stidham's body type leads me to believe that his value may be at its highest if he's tried behind the plate. He doesn't have the greatest lateral quickness, despite having the ability to play every position on the infield, and I don't think his bat is strong enoughto hit at the upper levels. He works counts very deep, but at some point the bat needs to leave his shoulder (not that he doesn't, as he hit close to .400 his freshman year). I just think there's a chance he could handle catching, and that's the best way to make the most out of his approach.

LHP John Gast tossed an inning on both Friday and Sunday, and despite giving up a solo shot to Ben Paulsen on Friday, he looked pretty good.

Gast has a thick, barrel-chested frame with a strong lower half. He incorporates his entire body well, generating force from the bottom up to pump out low-90s fastballs. He mixes in a nice, big slow curveball that complements his fastball well, but that he needs to find more consistency with. He has a power repertoire and approach, as he isn't afraid to challenge hitters up in the strike zone and make them beat him.

My DVR failed me and unfortunately I was unable to check out Florida State closer Jimmy Marshall, so I hope to catch him soon (fortunately Florida State, and all of the major Florida programs, are on TV quite frequently).

For Clemson, first baseman Ben Paulsen is the biggest name to watch. Few players impressed me as much as Paulsen did last summer when I got to see footage of him briefly from the Cape Cod all-star game, showing an equally smooth bat and glove.

This past weekend, despite hitting a home run on Friday and a double on Sunday, he looked timid at the plate. He had really weak swings, struck out three times on Friday before hitting his home run and just didn't look like the offensive force I saw last summer.

He was hitting close to .400 entering the weekend, and his dinger Friday was his fourth of the year, so it may have been a matter of me watching a poor series for him. I thought at first that he may struggle against left-handed pitchers, since his three Ks came against Florida State freshman LHP Sean Gilmartin, but his home run came against Gast. Gilmartin is a different pitcher, beating hitter with soft stuff away and changing speeds, so there may be something to that. I'm anxious to see Paulsen again later this spring to see if he looks like the impressive middle-of-the-order force I saw last summer.

Addison Johnson, Clemson's centerfielder, is a pesky little bugger. He's really short and small in stature, although he did muscle out home run in game one (which would never have been a homer with a wood bat), and made a highlight reel diving catch. He has great speed, but his potential is seriously limited at the professional level.

Sophomore outfielder Jeff Schaus is an interesting prospect for the 2010 draft. A tall, angular left-handed hitter, Schaus' swing is made for line drives. He has power potential, but he needs to start showing he. He has a good eye at the plate as well, with great bat speed that can catch up with any fastball. He also has pretty good wheels and a strong arm, and I could see him exploding between now and next year when he's eligible for the draft.

Sophomore LHP Casey Harman started Sunday's game and looked really good, although there is room (and need) for improvement. He has good size, and an easy three-quarters delivery. His fastball seems to have some good zip on it, and he commands it well. His changeup looks like a slider/splitter hybrid, and while he snapped off one, maybe two good curveballs, his breaking pitch needs a lot of work. Like Schaus, keep an eye on Harman to see if he's able to put the entire package together for next year.

Clemson has a trio of pitchers coming out of their bullpen that deserve to be followed. LHP Ryan Hinson is draft-eligible this year and shows a good fastball with decent fastball command. There isn't much of a secondary pitch, although he tried to throw a few curveballs. They didn't break much, and his arm slowed down considerably. His fastball is good enough to get him past a few levels in the minors until he figures out a second pitch.

Righty Tomas Cruz showed a really nice sinking fastball and changeup combo. He works away from right-handed hitters to minimize damage and overall did a nice job on both Friday and Sunday showing that he knew how to pitch. He will always be a one or two-inning reliever at his best, as his stuff is limited, but the movement on his pitches could serve him well for a few more years.

Finally, freshman LHP Will Lamb is really a name to keep an eye on. I think he likely will be a member of the Tigers' starting rotation a year from now, along with Casey Harman. He was the most projectable pitcher that I saw pitch over the weekend, with a lanky, athletic body and an easy arm action. He has a good fastball-changeup combo, something Clemson must preach, as both pitches showed good, late movement and complemented each other perfectly. I didn't see a breaking pitch, but he didn't need one during his short stint.

I'll move to the lightning round for the second and third matchups to keep my thoughts a little more brief. Florida/Tennessee was played on Friday, while Boston College/Maryland was played Saturday. You can catch more thoughts from Anup Sinha from Sunday's Florida/Tennessee game here.

Florida at Tennessee

Kentrail Davis, CF, Tennessee: I've seen Davis plenty of times before, and as impressed as I am with his overall offensive skills, he still continues to get fooled by breaking balls in the dirt. He crushes fastballs, but he's going to need to learn to lay off the breaking stuff if he can't figure out how to hit them. He still reminds me of a left-handed hitting version of Shannon Stewart.

Cody Hawn, 1B, Tennessee: I was interested in seeing Hawn since he was drafted by the Brewers out of high school and put up some impressive numbers last year at Walters State. He already has nine home runs and 31 RBI. He smacked a dinger to left-centerfield in the first inning and showed his quick, compact yet powerful stroke. He's a natural run producer, but I'm concerned that his size is going to limit what he'll be able to do at the next level. He's listed at 5'11", and has already moved across the diamond from third base to first, meaning his bat is going to have to carry him.

Nick Hernandez, LHP, Tennessee: I haven't seen Hernandez in a while, and always get him confused with Miami LHP Chris Hernandez. Nick has a nice, athletic frame, and had decent line tossing a complete game despite picking up the loss. However, I'm not a big fan of his delivery. He throws from a low three-quarters arm slot and makes it look as though he's pushing or telegraphs the ball to homeplate. He also throws across hit body and there is somewhat of a head snap, which isn't always a bad thing, but it still gives me concern. That means the ball doesn't explode out of his hand, and I was surprised that he wasn't hit harder than what he was.

I guess that's a tribute to how his style works for him, but I wonder how much success he'll have as a pro. In his defense, he does a good job slowing the game down with runners on, lulling batters to sleep and dictating the pace of the game. He works more to the outer half with runners on as well, working around the zone before picking his time to bust batters in which usually induces a weak-lookign swing. He also has a good pickoff move. He commands his fastball well enough, and his slider is a good pitch at times.

Jesse Barfield, RHP, Florida: I've already had some good looks at Matt den Dekker and Riley Cooper, and didn't see much more from them last Friday to sway my opinion one way or the other (although Cooper didn't have the same seemingly newly patient approach at the plate). However, Barfield was a very pleasant surprise, and is yet another reason to keep an eye on the Gators moving forward, both later this spring and into next year.

Barfield has a good, athletic frame. He's a little more short and compact, but he's proportioned well and has a good delivery with no worries for concern. He commands his fastball very well, and the pitch has some nice late sink to it. He mixes in both a good slider and a good changeup, both of which can be nasty at times. I was most impressed with the way he threw all three pitches for strikes and really kept hitters off balance by keeping them guessing as to what he was going to throw next. But he did this by establishing his fastball first, the way it should be.

Boston College at Maryland

The big name to watch in this game was Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez, and despite going 1-for-5, he looked very good. His one hit was a monster blast off of a high two-seam fastball on the 10th pitch of the at-bat. He showed great bat speed and extension in his home run cut, not to mention great patience laying off some good pitches and also good plate coverage fouling so many off to get to that 10th pitch.

It doesn't look as though he has an ounce of body fat on his body. He is a wiry strong athlete with good movements,and he gets downthe line pretty fast for a catcher. It's clear he spends some time in the weight room, and appears to be dedicated to being the best he can be.

As I've seen him before, he's really quick behind the plate with a very strong arm. He's the type of catcher that exudes confidence and frames pitches very well. In other words, he's a pitcher's best friend, and there's a good chance he is drafted a lot higher than where people might think at this point in time. Remember when we thought it was crazy for Buster Posey to be taken among the top three to five picks at this time last year?

There were a few other interesting prospects to watch, including Boston College LHP/1B Mike Belfiore and a trio of Maryland players: Outfielder A.J. Casario, third baseman Mike Murphy and RHP Scott Swinson. Belfiore is an interesting left-handed relief prospect with a live arm and good looking stuff, while Swinson has a tall, projectable build and a pretty good looking changeup.

Dandy Dozen

SP
Tyler Matzek Polished lefty with power arsenal
SP
Alex White Second best college RHP to Strasburg
SP
Zack Wheeler Rising draft boards with impressive FB/CB
UT
Brooks Raley Smooth lefty leads A&M in ERA, BA
C
Luke Bailey Baseball rat with compact build, swing
1B
Jonathan Singleton Powerful prep slugger with big LH bat
IF
Ryan Jackson Slick defender with questions about bat
3B
Jiovanni Mier True SS with exciting tools
SS
Robbie Shields 2B/3B type with promising bat
OF
Tim Wheeler Exciting blend of power & speed
OF
LeVon Washington Blazing fast with exciting leadoff tools
OF
Everett Williams Great athlete with tools galore

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