Welcome to my first mailbag here at Baseball America. I decided to start a draft mailbag this year and I'll try not to step on the toes of Aaron Fitt's great College Mailbag or Jim Callis' weekly Ask BA. To submit questions for future installments, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @conorglassey.
We have a lot of fun year-round here at Baseball America, but it's an especially exciting time of year with college baseball just getting underway, yesterday's release of our Top 100 Prospects and the beginning of spring training.
It's even better when you combine those things, and, for some reason, I've always loved when major league teams play college teams in spring training exhibitions. Florida State played the Phillies today. Tomorrow, the Pirates take on the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, and the Tigers go up against Florida Southern. On Saturday, the Red Sox split up their squad and half of them will take on Boston College, while the other half goes up against Northeastern.
In the same vein, the Canadian Junior National Team often goes to spring training in April and scrimmages against professional players. This year, the team will be in Florida from April 20-30 and will play eight games against pro clubs.
I will have a Draft Blog post up tomorrow spotlighting some of the Canadian Junior National Team's best players.
Let's get to the questions. . .
As the top-rated high school position player heading toward this year's draft, how does Bubba Starling rank and compare amongst these other toolsy prep outfielders from the past few drafts: Mike Trout, Donavan Tate and Aaron Hicks?
Great question, Joe. It's interesting that, of those three, Tate was the biggest deal in high school and he's had the toughest time as a pro so far. All of the players listed are obviously gifted athletes. Trout played three sports in high school, Tate was committed to North Carolina for baseball and football and Hicks was a promising golfer before he started playing baseball.
But none are quite on Starling's level. He's just a freak athlete. He's the best position player in this year's high school class and, while he's more raw as a pitcher, he can still throw 94 mph and would be highly-ranked even if he didn't have five-tool potential as a position player. He's the seventh-best high school quarterback in the nation, according to ESPNU's Top 150 of 2011, and he could play Division-I basketball too if he wanted. He's just the kind of kid that can do almost anything he wants athletically. Check out some of his YouTube football highlights, they're pretty incredible.
Starling may just stand out more to me because I've seen the most of him. He's the only player of that group that I've seen as an amateur and I've seen him the most of all four of those guys. So, to get a better perspective for you, I asked a scouting director to weigh in on the subject. The scout I spoke with said he didn't see a lot of Tate, but saw a lot of the other three. . .
"They're all toolsy, high-ceiling guys, but physically you were hoping that Hicks would gain a little more size and strength. Starling has a little more strength and Trout is kind of a combination of all of it. He has the size and the strength and the speed. I think Trout was probably the strongest and the closer product to what the finished product was going to be. Hicks was probably the furthest away as far as looking at some projection down the line and Starling's probably somewhere in the middle of that group—a little further ahead of Hicks, but man, I had a special place for Trout."
Aside from Ray Black, are there any Western PA draft prospects ('11 or future) that I should make an effort to see?
You're right to be excited about Black—Aaron Fitt reported he was up to 96 mph last weekend! While most of the state's talent is located in the central or eastern part of the state, there are a few interesting players in your neck of the woods.
At Peters Township High in McMurray, there's outfielder Justin Bianco. He's not overly impressive physically at 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, but Bianco has some strength in his frame. He's a plus runner with a knack for putting the bat on the ball and a little bit of pop.
And then there's Zac LaNeve at Pine Richland High in Gibsonia. He's a shortstop that's on the smaller side, but he's a good athlete with good defensive fundamentals and some feel for hitting. LaNeve is committed to North Carolina.
There's also an interesting outfielder just over the border in Youngstown, Ohio, named Boo Vazquez. He's a physical specimen at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds. There's definitely some rawness to his game, but there are some things to get excited about too. Vazquez is committed to Pittsburgh.
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