Arizona State’s Jason Kipnis was a fourth-round pick a year ago, but scouts still aren’t sure what to make of him. Our scout at the DeMarini Invitational, at ASU’s Winkles Field-Packard Stadium, has not seen Kipnis at his best, as he relates.
DeMarini Invitational Day Three
Spotlight player: Jason Kipnis
What do Aaron Crow, Gerrit Cole, Tanner Scheppers, Scott Bittle, Chase Davidson and Zach Cone have in common? They were the only current college baseball players selected higher in the 2008 draft than Jason Kipnis at pick 135.
Kipnis burst onto the scene in the desert last year as a sophomore eligible after transferring from Kentucky. After hitting .337 as a freshman, off the field incidents at Kentucky led him to transfer to Arizona State for the 2008 season. He hit .371 with 16 doubles and 14 home runs, and the Padres drafted him in the fourth round. After summer negotiations, he failed to sign prior to the new draft deadline and returned to ASU for his junior season.
The 2009 opening weekend was a banner weekend for Kipnis as he hit over .700 and was BA’s Golden Spikes Award spolight player of the week. But, delving deeper into this player and breaking down his tools, it’s plain why scouts have a wide variety of opinions on him. Grading out his speed, he’s a fringe-average to average at best. So that would seem to rule out center field for most clubs. Not many everyday center fielders in the major leagues are fringe-average runners as amateur players.
Arm strength? If you like him, you can give him an average arm from the outfield. So now we move to a corner outfield spot.
Now we focus on hitting. With the power number being put up these days by corner outfielders, scouts have to evaluate what kind of power he will have in pro ball. Sixteen home runs is more than respectable in college. However, he does play in a ballpark known for the ball carrying. Then you also have the metal bat factor. How much of his power is “metal bat power”? Some scouts believe he feasts on average and below average college pitching. He struggled Thursday night against Kyle Gibson, Missouri’s potential first-rounder. Gibson struck him out with a fastball in, tied him up inside with a slider and coaxed an easy ground ball to first base. He also flied out to leftfield in the eighth inning off of a Missouri reliever.
Against Oregon State, he struggled going 0-4. He was tied up inside early in the game and grounded out to first base. He did hit the ball sharply in his next at-bat, a smash that was mishandled by the Oregon State third baseman. He also hit a towering fly ball to left that almost snuck over but was caught at the warning track. He struck out looking in the seventh.
Overall, he started the DeMarini tournament 0-11, many of those at-bats coming against quality pitching. He tends to be a little streaky at the plate and is sometimes his own worst enemy, being very hard on himself. [Editor's Note: This observation confirms several past scouting reports.] Few scouts question his competitive drive and aggressiveness with which he plays. He is a good, aggressive baserunner and a fearless defender.
One scout commented, “He’s tough to profile. He competes at the plate. I like guys that ‘are up there to hit’. But, he seems to struggle against good pitching and there’s an area in the strike zone that he doesn’t handle very well. More of an extra outfielder for me."
In a draft class that’s not overly strong in college outfielders, Kipnis is still a candidate to go higher than the fourth-round spot in 2008. Teams will have to do their homework on his make-up and make their decisive judgments about what type of role he will have in pro ball when considering what they are getting with Kipnis.
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