With the draft just two months away, here are some players who are moving up and down teams’ draft boards this spring. . .
Derek Dietrich, ss, Georgia Tech
Dietrich has been red hot lately. Over his last eight games, he’s gone 14-for-37 with two doubles, a triple and five home runs. On the season, he’s hitting .360/.474/.721 for Georgia Tech, the No. 2 team in the country.
“Dietrich has really been about the same guy for the past two years, but this year he’s really started to play well here of late,” a National League area scout said. “His tools are now showing, where before you sat and thought, ‘Man, I know it’s in there, is he ever going to show it?’ Well, now he’s showing it.”
A third-round pick by the Astros out of high school, Dietrich hit well enough in his first two seasons for the Yellow Jackets (.322, 24 homers), but this year he’s shown a nice step up from his freshman and sophomore campaigns.
“I think it just comes to age and comfort,” the scout said. “I think he’s probably hit a point at Georgia Tech where he’s very comfortable. He’s an older guy and he’s just relaxed. But what you really want to see out of him is some added strength. When you talk about him swinging the wood bat and going to pro ball and playing more games than he’s ever played before, you’d like to see him add some strength.”
Although most scouts believe Dietrich lacks the range to stay at shortstop at the next level, has plenty of arm strength for the left side of the infield. The scout said he could handle either second base or third base, but if it’s the latter, teams are going to want to see more power out of him.
“You just don’t know if he’s going to have enough power to play over there,” the scout said. “You think he’s going to hit and you just hope he’s going to have enough power, but I don’t think anyone really knows. But, defensively, he’d be fine at either place and he profiles better to go to second.”
Thomas Keeling, lhp, Oklahoma State
Despite this being his fourth year at Oklahoma State, Keeling had just 53 innings under his belt coming into this year—51 of which came last year. Keeling redshirted his freshman year (2007) because a growth plate in his shoulder blade was irritating a muscle and made just three appearances in 2008.
The 6-foot-3, 184-pounder had the best strikeout rate (12.9 per nine innings) on a talented Oklahoma State pitching staff last year and profiled as a sixth- to eighth-round pick. He fell much lower than that because of his leverage as a redshirt sophomore and the Yankees selected him in the 20th round.
On Friday, April 2, Keeling had the best start of his college career, allowing four hits over 7.1 shutout innings while walking four and striking out 11 in an 8-2 win against Nebraska. Walks have been a problem for Keeling in the past, but he’s showing better control this year than he has in the past. He could still stand to become more efficient, as Friday’s outing saw him throw 144 pitches.
“He’s a redshirt junior who had trouble with his control in the past, then he finally put it together,” a National League area scout said. “He’s throwing strikes, and he’s been up to 93 (mph). He throws a little slider, a slurvy breaking ball that’s a good pitch—and he throws it for strikes. He’s really helped himself.”
Although his ERA (4.72) isn’t the prettiest, he’s striking out plenty of batters while limiting his free passes. Over his first 34 innings for the Cowboys, Keeling struck out 52 batters and walked 16.
Mike Wagner, rhp, Centennial HS, Las Vegas
Wagner didn’t make Baseball America’s preseason high school Top 100 list, but he’d surely has pitched his way into Top 100 territory this spring.
The 6-foot-4, 185-pound righthander is a part of San Diego’s tremendous crop of recruits for next season. But his stuff has recently taken a step forward with a lot of scouts in attendance, and if he continues pitching like he has this spring, teams are going to do everything they can to make sure he doesn’t get there.
Wagner won a recent game against Arbor View High, 6-3, in front of 10 scouts. He threw 99 pitches (including 71 strikes) over his six innings of work, striking out seven without issuing a walk. He sat 91-95 mph with his fastball, including hitting 94 an impressive 18 times.
Last week in front of dozens of scouts, Wagner threw a one-hit shutout against Spring Valley High and had the same 91-95 mph velocity. That’s a good sign for evaluators because, before those two starts, Wagner was more of a 90-92 guy that flashed 93. His changeup is an above-average pitch, but he lacks a real breaking ball at this time.
Stefan Sabol, c, Aliso Niguel HS, Aliso Viejo, Calif.
Scouts have had questions about whether or not Sabol can stick behind the plate. Those questions have intensified this spring and the consensus seems to be that he’ll have to move to an easier position as a pro—most likely a corner outfield position.
If that’s the case, teams will be drafting Sabol based mostly on his bat, and the bat has to be more of a sure thing if he’s limited to a corner spot than it would have to be if he could continue to catch. He could still catch at the college level, and one scout predicted he’ll wind up fulfilling his Oregon commitment.
“He’s really struggled defensively, especially with his receiving,” an American League area scout said. “I think he’s headed to college because right now, you’d have to send him out as a left fielder, and he’s just not hitting like an elite bat right now.”
Robbie Ray, lhp, Brentwood (Tenn.) HS
While he was one of a handful of lefthanders to stand out on this summer’s showcase circuit, Ray’s fall and spring have been disappointing.
Not only has Ray’s stuff been down, but he’s no longer committed to Vanderbilt.
“I’m kind of surprised that Vanderbilt was really ever in the mix on him,” a National League area scout said. “Academically, he didn’t really fit their profile. So far this year, he’s been a little bit up and down and the effort level is something you question. I saw his first start of the year and early on he was up to 92 (mph) and by the end of the outing he was working at 84-85.
“And I heard real bad things from his final scrimmage of the year when there were 25 guys and a couple scouting directors in the place and the report was that it was real ugly. He hasn’t shown that he particularly wants to be there right now.”
Bryan Morgado, lhp, Tennessee
Last year, Morgado struck out 75 batters over 52 innings on his way to being a third-round pick by the White Sox as a draft-eligible sophomore.
This year hasn’t been as good. Last weekend against Ole Miss, Morgado gave up six runs on 10 hits over six innings. He did strike out seven but also walked four. The outing was right in line with his season performance thus far. Morgado is 2-3, 5.06 on the season with 49 strikeouts and 23 walks over 43 innings.
Last season, Morgado pitched with more power after moving to a bullpen role, but he shined in the Cape Cod League, going 2-1, 3.06 with 47 strikeouts in 32 innings. He hasn’t maintained that performance this spring, due in part to a different approach on the mound.
“Morgado looks like a different guy this year,” a National League area scout said. “He looks like someone told him at some point, ‘We want you to pitch and we don’t want you to show the big arm strength.’ I’ve seen him in the past up to 95-96 (mph) and certainly heard reports of a little bit better than that when he was just coming out of the ‘pen and blowing it. This year, it’s 88-91, mostly working 88-90. But he has smoothed out his delivery a little bit, he’s showing better command and he’s keeping the ball down in the zone for the most part.
“He’s gone back and forth between throwing the slider and the curveball his first two years at UT and now it’s more of a slider, but it doesn’t have the power that it did when he was throwing harder. Better location and he’s getting some results with it, but he’s had some weird games.”
One of those was at Oregon State on Feb. 26. Morgado recorded his first eight outs via strikeout, but while doing so also hit two batters, walked one and threw a wild pitch. His delivery has some violence to it and Morgado throws across his body, and some scouts believe he’ll never have the command to be a starter because of it.
However, the NL area scout does think the velocity is still in there, if Morgado (or the team that ends up selecting him) wants to go back to that approach.
“I don’t think it just went away from him,” the scout said. “Even last year though, it was real up and down. You’d see him one time and it was 92-95 and I know his final outing of the year over at Vanderbilt, he was 88-91 and just getting tattooed. I think it’s in there, but he’s a guy that is going to have to make a tradeoff: Either he’s going to pitch or he’s going to throw. If he decides to pitch, it’s going to be with more average stuff across the board and if he decides to throw, the command’s going to suffer, but there’s going to be a lot more power in there.”
CONTRIBUTING: Aaron Fitt, John Manuel