Analyzing Amateur Baseball Talent as it pertains to the MLB Draft

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Draft Notes 4-21-09

I watched the rest of the Miami/North Carolina game that was played last Saturday, and it reminded just how well-oiled the baseball programs are at each school. I can't think of too many other programs that are as strong, year after year, as these two. They not only rarely suffer down seasons, but they also rarely don't have a slew of professional talent to follow, in pretty much every draft class.

Dustin Ackley obviously is the prized prospect in this matchup. I shared some thoughts on Ackley last week, and I plan to share more in my column at PG Crosschecker next week. Alex White is the other prized UNC prospect, and while I haven't seen him pitch this spring, outside of a brief recap during the telecast of Friday's game (and he looked nasty), word is that no other college pitcher, outside of Stephen Strasburg, has the combination of stuff, athleticism and command as White. I've guessed heading into the spring that White is probably the one player I could see the Nationals going with if Strasburg prices himself out of the universe.

Mark Fleury has been one of my favorite prospective catchers since his days in high school. He, like every single hitter in both lineups (something Mike Fox and Jim Morris undoubtedly preach to their players) shows incredible patience and takes a ton of walks. One important reminder about watching games versus following boxscores happened in the eighth inning when Fleury hit a pop-up to no-man's land in left center-field. The play should have been made by the left fielder (Chris Herrmann), but he had to pull up as center-fielder Nathan Melendres was flying across the outfield and made a diving attempt to catch the ball. The ball was not caught, folled past both of them, and the slow-footed Fleury ended up at third base and eventually scored the tieing run.

In the box score, a triple looks pretty impressive. How did he hit it? Was it a booming shot his straight over the center-fielder's head? Did he slice an outside fastball the opposite way down the third base line with the fielders playing him to pull? Does he have particularly good wheels for a catcher? Nope, especially on the last point, but that isn't to take anything away from Fleury, who remains one of my favorite catching prospects.

And that's because he's a do-it-all player. He handles a very advanced staff, a staff that collectively could get outs at the big-league level. He has a strong, although inconsistent arm. He has power from the left-side of the plate, and every time I see him play, including the taped game from last Saturday, he comes up big.

Kyle Seager I'm not so sure about. I know he entered the spring with early round aspirations, and is having a good year at the plate, but I'm not sure how his body, or bat, translates to the next level. He's a little soft in the lower half for a player that would project better to play at second base than third, and his bat speed is good, not great.

Relief pitcher Colin Bates is going to pitch in the big-leagues some day. He's a high-waisted righty with an angular delivery that reminds me an awful lot of Joey Devin, who was a first-round pick of the Braves out of North Carolina State in 2005. Like Devine, Bates has nice life on his fastball and a slider that perfectly complements his heater. He is hard to make hard contact off of, and North Carolina uses him perfectly, having him come into the most important game situations instead of just saving him for the ninth inning.

For Miami, I've said this quite a few times before, but Ryan Jackson really can pick it. Since his bat remains a question mark, Adam Everett remains about as good of a comparison for any player that I can think of. Jackson does exhibit good plate discipline, which will help him get his glove to the big-leagues even if he never becomes a consistent threat at the plate.

Third baseman Harold Martinez reminds me of Ryan Braun as a Miami Hurricane in that he was recruited to play shortstop, has already move to third, and may end up in the outfield some day. He is a loose and rangy athlete whose bat is a very exciting tool. He is aggressively patient, just as Braun is, in that he often goes 0-2 in counts, but is always a threat to go deep.

Third baseman/left fielder Chris Herrmann is a real sleeper pick for me. I saw him much earlier in the spring and I really liked what I saw. He has such a professional approach at the plate, and he looks like a baseball player. With the usual sloped shoulders that you see the best hitters in the game have, he is short and quick to the ball, knows how to both go with and drive a pitch, and isn't afraid to draw a walk. He has decent wheels, and was playing left field on Saturday despite starting the year at the hot corner. I'm not sure how much power he'll hit for, which definitely limits his potential, but if he can be developed as a utility player, as a left-handed hitter he could make a pretty decent career for himself.

I didn't focus on Yasmani Grandal as much as I have in the past, but he's another name to watch for the 2010 draft as a switch-hitting catcher with good quickness, a strong arm, patience, and power from both sides of the plate.

This was my first opportunity that I can remember (I have seen Miami a lot the past few years) watching Kyle Bellamy. I was surprised by how big and good looking of an overall athlete he is, but then disappointed that he dropped his arm to such a low angle almost coming in as a side-armer a la Chad Bradford. Given his size and apparent athleticism, this is the type of guy you want to see come over the top and blow batters away. He is having a great year for the Hurricanes, but since he is drawing early round consideration I wonder what team would use an early pick to pick up such a potentially extreme specialist?

Prep Note

Florida prep lefty Patrick Schuster is creating some national buzz after he tossed his fourth consecutive no-hitter. My Perfect Game associate Anup Sinha was there to check out his outing, so be sure to catch his scouting report on Schuster here. David Rawnsley and the video team at BaseballWebTV also put together a nice video synoposis, sharing some of his work from last June's Perfect Game National Showcase.

As Sinha reports, Schuster is starting to draw early round interest, possibly as high as the sandwich round, thanks to his command of a 88-92 fastball and hammer curve. His delivery isn't orthodox, as shown in the video above, but it's hard to argue with the results.

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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