With only three weeks until the draft,
it’s a good time for players to be moving up and a bad one for players to be moving down. Here are six players moving one way or another as June 9 approaches . . .
Garrett Gould, rhp, Maize (Kan.) HS
Gould just keeps getting better and better, and he’s quickly pitching his way into the first round of the draft. He was the Kansas 6-A pitcher of the year in 2008, when he broke big leaguer Nate Robertson’s Maize High record with 95 strikeouts in 57 innings. He won MVP honors at the World Wood Bat Association championship last October, beating Shelby Miller in the quarterfinals and allowing just one hit and one walk while fanning 18 in eight shutout innings. After working to add strength in the offseason, Gould has taken his fastball from 88-91 mph in 2008 to 91-94 mph this spring—and it’s not even his best pitch. He has one of the best curves among this draft’s high schoolers, a power breaker he delivers from a high three-quarters arm slot. He also dabbles with a changeup. Some scouts worry a little about some effort in his mechanics, while others aren’t bothered by it and like how he stays tall and gets good extension out front. Gould is a quality 6-foot-4, 200-pound athlete who starred as a quarterback in football and as a forward in basketball before deciding to focus solely on baseball as a senior. He also plays the outfield when he’s not pitching and has enough righthanded power to play both ways for Wichita State should he attend college. But he’ll probably go too high in the draft for that to happen.
Chris Owings, ss, Gilbert (S.C.) High
A South Carolina signee and the best prep hitter in the Palmetto State, Owings elicits a mixed reaction from scouts and college recruiters. For some, he evokes Gordon Beckham, the former Georgia All-American and No. 8 overall pick in 2008. Those who like Owings see strength in his forearms and some real juice in his bat, to go with average other tools across the board with a plus run tool. Others see tools but less feel for the game than Beckham displayed, and disagree with the rosy projections on Owings’ power. In a year with few position players moving up boards, Owings has a chance to move into the second round, if not a bit higher.
Kent Matthes, of, Alabama
A highly recruited player out of high school, Matthes struggled with soft stuff and overaggressiveness for most of his first three seasons at Alabama. He wasn’t even drafted as a junior, which one area scout called “an indictment of our industry” as Matthes was tearing up the Southeastern Conference this spring. Matthes leads the nation with 27 home runs and has enough arm strength and athleticism to profile as an everyday right fielder. He should be one of the first seniors off the draft board.
Kendal Volz, rhp, Baylor
It’s been a down year in general for the Baylor pitching staff. Expectations were high for Volz after he showed a 92-95 mph fastball and a low-80s slider with late break as Team USA’s closer last summer. He didn’t allow an earned run in 14 innings, saved the gold-medal game at the FISU World Championships in the Czech Republic and looked like a possible top-10 pick for 2009. But his stuff had gone backwards so much by May that he might not even go in the first two rounds. His fastball parked in the high 80s and flattened out, and his slider no longer was a weapon. His delivery looks different, as it now contains some ugly recoil, and his command has gotten worse as well. Volz has flashed an effective changeup and has a 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame built for a workhorse role, so he has the ingredients to be a starter at the next level—provided his previous fastball, slider and command return. If not, he looked well suited for a late-inning role last summer. But outside of his time with Team USA, he has been hit harder than someone with his stuff should.
Ben Tootle, rhp, Jacksonville State
Tootle was the No. 4 prospect in the Cape Cod League last summer, but he has had a difficult spring. He caught a virus that prompted him to lose approximately 15 pounds, and he missed a month, only returning to the mound in May. In his last two starts against Tennessee Tech and Tennessee-Martin, he failed to make it out of the fifth against Tech, tiring in his longest outing since his virus, and got the loss against Tennessee-Martin. Both opposing coaches report that Tootle threw in the 92-94 mph range in those starts, touching 96. In the Cape, he regularly reached 98 mph. Tootle also struggled to knock off some rust from his layoff, with his fastball command coming and going, and against Tennessee-Martin this weekend, he missed the mark with his breaking ball. Scouts still love Tootle’s arm strength, athleticism, work ethic and big fastball. He should have a chance to go in the first three rounds on June 9, but he could slip out of those first 110 selections and into the fourth round.
Scott Griggs, rhp, San Ramon Valley High, Danville, Calif.
Griggs entered the year on a high note, after a successful showcase tour last summer. This season just hasn’t gone as planned. Lauded for his command coming into the year, Griggs has been uncharacteristically wild this spring. Over 35 innings for the Wolves this year, Griggs has 44 strikeouts, but also has 26 walks. His fastball still has a lot of life, sometimes touching 95 mph, but the command isn’t ready for pro ball. He’ll be tough to sign away from his commitment to UCLA.
Contributing: Jim Callis, Conor Glassey & John Manuel