March 2010

Top 20 Draft prospects revisited

A while back (early February), I threw up a very early look at the Top 20 talents in the 2010 Draft class. It was ranked by talent, not according to what order I thought they would get picked. I did it two stages, with Nos. 1-10 on one day and Nos. 11-20 the next.

As I said back then, things change very quickly in the Draft world. I’m not going to re-rank the list right now. We’ll save that for another day. For now, let’s just take a look at the 20 I posted back then and see how they’ve fared so far. We’ll do it the same way, with 1-10 today and 11-20 tomorrow.

1. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, LSU — After pitching five innings in LSU’s opener on Feb. 19, Ranaudo hasn’t pitched since, sitting out with an elbow issue (stress reaction). He is slated to start on Sunday against Tennessee. He reportedly threw all his pitches from the mound on Sunday for the first time since the opener. If all goes well, he’ll be stretched out and moved to Friday within two weeks after this weekend’s return.

2. Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Ole Miss — The southpaw was last week’s SEC Pitcher of the Week after tossing a shutout against Kentucky. He’s 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA over five starts. In 29 1/3 innings, he’s allowed 18 hits and nine walks while striking out 49. Opponents are hitting just .170 against him.

3. James Taillon, RHP, The Woodlands (HS),  TX
— A potential No. 1 overall pick (see story here), he won USA Baseball’s first International Performance of the Year Award. Scouts have raved about his combination of stuff, size and poise.

4. Bryce Harper, C, College of Southern Nevada — After a little bit of a slow start, Harper’s been as good as advertised offensively. In 27 games that he’s  played, Harper has hit .420 with eight homers, 27 RBIs, a .864 slugging percentage and .514 on-base  percentage. He leads or is tied for the team lead in nine offensive categories.
5. Dylan Covey, RHP, Maranatha HS, Calif. — He stood out at the Major League Scouting Bureau’s showcase and has continued to dominate. According to MaxPreps, he hasn’t allowed an earned run over 17 2/3 IP, yielding just seven hits (.113 average against) and four walks while striking out 35.

6. Chris Sale, LHP, Florida Gulf Coast University — He’s made five starts for FGCU to date and has gone 2-0 with a 1.73 ERA over 26 IP. He’s given up 22 hits (.222 average), walking just four and striking out 40.

7. Jesse Hahn, RHP, Virginia Tech — Until a rough start this past weekend, Hahn has been outstanding, becoming more of a pitcher than a thrower. Overall, his numbers still look pretty good, with a 4-1 record and 1.34 ERA over five starts. In 33 2/3 IP, he’s allowed 27 hits and six walks  while striking out 29.

8.  Zack Cox, 3B, Arkansas — The draft-eligible sophomore has lived up to his reputation as one of better pure hitters in the class, with a .405 average in 18 games. He’s struck out just seven times in 74 at-bats, spanning 18 games.

9. Manny Machado, SS, Miami Brito HS, FLA
— Sometimes, finding high school information isn’t so easy. I’ll come back with some stuff on Machado after I’ve talked to some scouts who’ve seen him recently. He did go 3-for-4 with a homer and a pair of RBIs in a recent game against Hialeah Gardens.

10. Kaleb Cowart, 3B/RHP, Cook County HS, Ga. —  A very interesting two-way player, there might be some good debate over whether he should pitch or hit. The Georgia high school season is just getting cranking now. 

Kid in a candy store

That’s pretty much how I feel as I type this. I’m sitting at City of Palms Park. The main game is long over. Most of the people have gone home. But in many ways, for me, the fun was just beginning.

That’s because the Red Sox scheduled a second game, this one of the intrasquad variety. It was a necessity to get pitchers the work they needed, thanks to rain-related time lost. And while big-league fans probably are happy to hear that Hideki Okajima and Daniel Bard each tossed scoreless innings, I’m more fired up by the prospects involved in this game.

The big one, of course, is Casey Kelly, who’s gotten to pitch in big-league camp. This is the first time I’ve seen him pitch where I could pay close attention. He threw in last year’s Futures Game, but I must admit to not having been able to focus like I can now. Aside from a pitch he left up to Luis Exposito (which Expo tattooed over the LF fence), Kelly looked extremely sharp. I wasn’t sitting near a gun, so I don’t know how hard he was throwing. What I do know is that he works fast, throws strikes and keeps the ball down. He went three innings and I can’t imagine anyone having anything negative about that outing.

What made it even more fun were some of the hitters participating in the game. At one point, Kelly was pitching to Will Middlebrooks (he got him to ground into a double play). Oscar Tejeda is in the game. I see Derrik Gibson in one dugout and assume he’ll see some time later. Tim Federowicz doubled off of Kelly. Former first-rounder Jason Place, the list goes on and on. Not just big prospects, but interesting minor league guys like Jeff Natale, who’s drawn over 100 walks more than times he’s struck out in his professional career.

I know, I know, the fact that seeing Bubba Bell hit makes me this giddy shows just how prospect geeky I am. But that’s why you come to read B3, isn’t it?

Oh, and I owe a Prospect O’ the Day, don’t I? There wasn’t one from yesterday with everything being washed out. On Thursday, I was at the Orioles-Twins game. I was hoping Josh Bell would do something worthy of me writing about it, but he had a non-descript game.

No, the guy I want to talk about wouldn’t even be termed a true prospect by most. I mentioned Juan Portes a few days ago following his two-homer game.  He’s in big-league camp mostly as a reward because he’s a very hard working organizational type. He was a draft pick way back in 2004 and had a decent, though not extraordinary year in Double-A in 2009. He’ll play all season at age 24. You probably won’t find him on any prospect list for the Twins organization.

And all he’s done is rake. Portes doubled and homered on Thursday in two at-bats. He now gone 7-for-10 this spring with three homers, a double and eight RBIs. His slugging percentage is 1.700. I know, meaningless, but the dude deserves some credit for having a great camp.

Getting back into the swing of things

By now, I’m hoping most of you realize that when I say “I’ll be back tomorrow with draft-related stuff,” I’m speaking figuratively.

I’m down in Ft. Myers currently and will spend the next 10 days covering Spring Training, giving our hard-working beat writers a chance to catch their breaths. But while I’m technically on big-league duty, rest assured that we’ll be on full-fledged prospect watch. I’m sure I’ll mix in some stories on Minor Leaguers along the way. I’m going to do my best to link to ’em on here and also throw up a “prospect of the day” based on players I’ll see.

But back to that earlier promise about Draft-related stuff. In case you haven’t seen it yet, we’ve started up our coverage of the 2010 Draft. We’ve posted 21 Draft Reports (thanks to UnderArmour for their support) to date, all with information gathered from talking to scouts, complete with video. You can check them out here. Check back weekly as we’ll be updating it weekly.

This year, I’m doing weekly features to accompany them. There’ve been two so far: SoCal HS outfielder Austin Wilson and Virginia Tech RHP Jesse Hahn. So be sure to check them out.

I did promise some Bryce Harper info last time. Well, to be honest, there’s not a whole lot to report. His College of Southern Nevada team has just started conference play and last I checked, it was the top-rated junior college squad in the nation (OK, I just checked now). He started off slow, but has settled in a bit. He’s leading his team in homers, RBIs and slugging. To be fair, he’s feasted some off some of the lesser lights pitching-wise on the junior college scene. And I’ve had scouts tell me he’s still having some issues with his approach at the plate, getting out front too quickly. Still, keep in mind how young he is and how much pressure there is (yes, I know, he put much of it on himself, but that doesn’t make it easier). I’m taking a wait-and-see approach to see how he continues to make adjustments and show improvement. As always, I’ll update on him and other top Draft prospects right here as the spring unfolds.

For now, if you’ve got questions for prospects I might be seeing, leave them in comments and I’ll try to get answers. Tomorrow, I’ve got the Yankees @ Twins, so ask away.

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