A couple weeks ago, we looked at the early-season progress of the handful of first rounders that had signed. This week, let’s shine the spotlight on a few players drafted after the first round that have gotten off on the right foot as professionals . . .
Ryan Wheeler, 1B
Diamondbacks (5th round)
Wheeler hit well at Loyola Marymount as part of a fearsome middle-of-the-order that also included outfielder Angelo Songco, a fourth-rounder for the Dodgers who was also off to a thunderous start before being promoted to the low Class A Midwest League. In college, Wheeler hit .319/.427/.547 and impressed scouts with his hitting ability and promising power as well as his patience and intelligent approach. His collegiate success has carried over to his professional debut. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder is playing for the short-season Yakima Bears in the Northwest League. Over his first 126 at-bats, he is hitting .349/.468/.516 with seven doubles, one triple and four home runs.
Kyle Rose, OF
Braves (8th round)
At 6-feet and 175 pounds, Rose doesn’t hit with a lot of power. At Northwest Shoals (Ala.) CC, he hit .366 as a sophomore with seven doubles, three triples and three home runs. But, while his bat is still considered raw, he’s very athletic with above-average speed. In college, he stole 22 bases in 33 games. Starting his professional career with the rookie-level GCL Braves, Rose is hitting .320/.414/.387 over his first 75 at-bats. He has two doubles, one home run and is second in the league with 14 stolen bases.
Braden Tullis, RHP
Rangers (8th round)
Tullis flew under the radar at Timberline High in Boise because he mostly played first base and closed games. But he ended up at Skagit Valley (Wash.) CC and opened eyes as a starting pitcher by filling up the bottom half of the strike zone with a 88-91 mph fastball with armside run and sink. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Tullis is an exceptional athlete that played linebacker on his high school football team and ran Skagit Valley’s fastest 60-yard dash. After going 9-2, 1.56 with 59 strikeouts and 26 walks over 75 innings, Tullis won the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges MVP award. Staying close to home, Tullis is now in the short-season Northwest League, pitching for the Spokane Indians, with similar success. Over his first nine games (six starts), Tullis is 2-0, 1.89 with 36 strikeouts and eight walks over 33 innings. And, like his stuff would suggest, he’s also generating a lot of groundballs.
Geoff Baldwin, 1B
Royals (10th round)
Baldwin had some critics coming out of Grand Junction (Colo.) HS. While he showed light-tower power from the left side of the plate during batting practice, some scouts didn’t like that he didn’t have a load to his swing and often swung off of his front foot. He was seen as a four o’clock hitter, a guy that struggled against live pitching—especially since he didn’t see a lot of velocity in high school. So far, though, he’s been hitting really well for the AZL Royals—one of the best starts for any high school hitter thus far. Over his first 95 at-bats, Baldwin is hitting .316/.409/.495 with six doubles, one triple and three home runs, but he also has 35 strikeouts in 28 games.
Nick Akins, OF
Dodgers (19th round)
The third time was a charm for Akins in the draft. He was drafted out of high school in the 13th round of the 2006 draft by the Dodgers, but didn’t sign, instead heading to Riverside (Calif.) CC. The Nationals drafted him last year in the 20th round, but he didn’t sign then either and transferred to Vanguard, an NAIA school. He led the Lions with 13 home runs and 15 doubles, but still showed the same strengths and weaknesses that made him a showcase star in high school. His sculpted build can produce massive home runs, but he struggles to handle breaking balls and offspeed stuff. However, Akins hasn’t struggled much as a professional yet. Over his first 96 at-bats with the AZL Dodgers though, Akins is hitting .354/.402/.708 with 10 doubles, three triples and six home runs.
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