|THIS YEAR’S CROP|
|*****||One for the books|
|***||Solid, not spectacular|
|**||Not up to par|
|*||Nothing to see here|
Indiana has more than its share of intriguing prospects this year, led by a good group of college pitchers. Notre Dame righthander/wide receiver Jeff Samardzija has legitimate first-round potential in the baseball and football drafts. At the top of the high school crop, Kyle Gibson is one of the most projectable pitchers in the draft, and late in the spring Preston Mattingly suddenly started looking like a righty-hitting version of his father, former Yankees great Don–only with more athleticism and speed. The state also has two of the best sophomore-eligible collegians available in Jeff Manship and Ben Snyder.
|National Top 200 Prospects
1. Jeff Samardzija, rhp, Notre Dame
2. Kyle Gibson, rhp, Greenfield-Central HS, Greenfield
3. Jeff Manship, rhp, Notre Dame
4. Ben Snyder, lhp, Ball State
|Other Players Of Note
5. Preston Mattingly, ss, Evansville Central HS, Evansville
6. Brian Omogrosso, rhp, Indiana State
7. Jay Buente, rhp, Purdue
8. Andrew Clark, 1b, New Palestine HS, Palestine
9. Mitch Hilligoss, ss, Purdue
10. Dan Black, 3b/c, Carmel HS
11. Jared Baehl, ss/rhp, Poseyville HS, North Posey
12. Chris Toneguzzi, rhp, Purdue
13. Nevin Ashley, c, Indiana State
14. Brad Miller, 1b, Ball State
15. Chris LaGrow, lhp, Snider HS, Fort Wayne
16. Brett Clark, c, Lake Central HS, St. John
17. Craig Cooper, 1b, Notre Dame
18. Tony Sedlmeyer, rhp, Snider HS, Fort Wayne
19. Mike Sullivan, of, Ball State
20. Reggie Watson, of, Indiana
21. Sean Gaston, c, Notre Dame
22. Tom Thornton, lhp, Notre Dame
23. Adam Rogers, rhp, Evansville
24. Greg Lopez, ss, Notre Dame
25. Matt Singleton, c, Ball State (CONTROL: Athletics)
1. Jeff Samardzija, rhp (National rank: 37)
School: Notre Dame. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Valparaiso, Ind.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 215. Birthdate: 1/23/85.
Scouting Report: If Samardzija were solely a baseball player, he’d be much more advanced as a pitcher and a lock first-rounder. But he’s not. A consensus football all-American who set Notre Dame records for receptions (77) and touchdown catches (15) last fall, he’s also the top-rated wide receiver for the 2007 NFL draft. His fastball has increased from 89-92 mph in 2005 to 91-94 mph this year, touching 96 on occasion. His 6-foot-5 frame and three-quarters arm slot give him power sink on his fastball. He has scrapped a sloppy curveball in favor of an 81-84 mph slider that already is an average pitch. He still has a lot of work to do on the mound. He gets hit more than he should because his control, command and secondary pitches are works in progress. While his mechanics are free and easy, he lacks deception. Samardzija has told Fighting Irish coaches that he’ll return for his senior season of football, and he has made it clear to baseball teams that he’ll at least explore the NFL next spring. While baseball clubs can give him a backloaded five-year deal as a two-sport star, few want to risk an early draft pick on a player who might walk away in a year. He makes the most sense to a team that has extra picks and can afford to gamble one, or to a club with few picks that wants to try to hit a home run. The Cubs fall into the latter category. Chicago GM Jim Hendry is a close friend of Notre Dame coach Paul Mainieri, and the Cubs spent well over slot money to land Irish righthander Grant Johnson in a similar situation two years ago.
2. Kyle Gibson, rhp (National rank: 100)
School: Greenfield-Central HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Greenfield, Ind.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 175. Birthdate: 10/23/87.
Scouting Report: Gibson may not be physically ready for pro ball, but area scouts say he could grow into one of the top picks for the 2009 draft if he attends Missouri for three years. One said he could take the same path as Bryan Bullington, who went from a raw high schooler to the No. 1 overall pick in 2002. Gibson is 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds, and he may not be able to pack more than another 20 pounds on his lanky frame. He has a clean delivery, though that allows hitters to get a good look at him and take comfortable hacks. But it’s easy to dream on Gibson’s stuff. He already throws 88-91 mph and scouts envision him growing into a 90-96 mph fastball. Similarly, they see his fringy breaking ball and changeup developing into average to plus pitches.
3. Jeff Manship, rhp (National rank: 111)
School: Notre Dame. Class: Jr.
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 195. Birthdate: 1/16/85.
Scouting Report: One of the most coveted recruits in the 2003 high school class, Manship blew out his elbow in the summer before he arrived at Notre Dame. After he had Tommy John surgery in February 2004, the Fighting Irish eased him back in last year before turning him loose this spring. Though Jeff Samardzija has more spectacular stuff, Manship has been the Fighting Irish’s most effective weekend starter. His curveball was his signature pitch before he got hurt, and while it’s still an above-average offering, it’s not as good as it once was. He has compensated by relying more on a fastball that usually runs from 89-92 mph. He also has improved his changeup and can mix in a slider when needed. He has good command and competes well. Scouts aren’t as leery about his medical record as they are of his arm action, which they worry could lead to more elbow trouble down the road. As a draft-eligible sophomore, Manship has more leverage than most college prospects, but is willing to sign if he goes in the first three or four rounds. His brother Matt should be a senior draft out of Stanford.
4. Ben Snyder, lhp (National rank: 137)
School: Ball State. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Bellevue, Ohio
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 200. Birthdate: 7/20/85.
Scouting Report: Snyder’s older brother Brad is an Indians outfield prospect who went 18th overall in the 2003 draft. Ben won’t go that high, but he should go in the first five rounds because he’s a classic pitchability lefthander with a strong competitive makeup. His forte is throwing four pitches for strikes. His fastball usually ranges from 85-88 mph and occasionally touches 90, but he can put it where he wants. Even when it sits at 84-86 mph, he gets by with his ability to sink, cut and command it. His curveball is average, and he enhances it by adding and subtracting velocity from it. His changeup is a good weapon, though at 81-82 mph it could use more separation from his fastball. If his changeup doesn’t have its normal sink, it gets hit. He also throws a cut fastball that he calls a slider. The top prospect in the Great Lakes League last summer, Snyder has additional bargaining power. He’s a draft-eligible sophomore after redshirting in 2004.
Demand Grows For Another Mattingly
For the son of a former batting champion and MVP like Don Mattingly, not to mention a multisport athlete in his own right, shortstop Preston Mattingly didn’t get much exposure for most of the spring. He was a well-kept secret among a few scouts, so a lot of clubs didn’t get a chance to crosscheck him. An all-state wide receiver in football and a 20-point-a-game scorer in basketball, he has plus speed and is much quicker than his father ever was. He’s a 6-foot-3, 200-pound righthanded hitter with bat speed, pop and an advanced approach. The one thing Mattingly lacks is a definite position. For all his athleticism, his footwork and actions aren’t smooth, and his arm is slightly below-average. He could get a look at third base or center field, but it’s possible that he could wind up as nothing more than a physically gifted left fielder–in which case his bat would really have to carry him. The Yankees, for whom Don starred and currently serves as batting coach, are known to have interest in Preston and signed his brother Taylor as a 42nd-round pick in 2003. Other teams in the hunt include the Dodgers, Marlins, Orioles, Red Sox and Twins, and there may be enough competition for Mattingly to drive him into the first five rounds. He’ll attend Tennessee if he doesn’t turn pro.
When righthander Brian Omogrosso threw 92-95 mph with a plus slider as a sophomore in 2004, he set himself up as an early-round pick for 2005. Tommy John surgery intervened, but he has pitched well enough in his comeback this spring that he could go anywhere from the third to the seventh round. Omogrosso has dropped his arm angle from low three-quarters to sidearm, and he hit 96 mph early in the year. He pitched at 92-93 with good life for much of the season before dropping to 88-91 at the end. His slider hasn’t bounced back as well as his fastball, and his command is not sharp, but he’s still a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder with a lot of arm strength.
Righthander Jay Buente has taken a step forward since he went undrafted as a junior a year ago. He nearly won the Northwoods League pitching triple crown and earned Summer All-America honors last summer, and he came back as a senior and finally claimed a spot in the Boilermakers weekend rotation. He’ll make a nifty pro reliever because when he’s fresh he can attack hitters with a 90-93 mph sinker and a splitter. The splitter is the better of the two pitches, though he throws it too much, which affects his fastball command.
Andrew Clark, the state’s high school player of the year, was more of a prospect as a lefthanded pitcher until he hurt his shoulder when he fell running the bases at the East Coast Professional Showcase last spring. Though his fastball no longer touches 91-92 mph, he still has a chance to be a solid draft choice as a lefthanded power hitter. Six-foot-2 and 205 pounds, he has a strong body and hands to go with a good approach at the plate. Clark doesn’t offer much beyond offense, as he’s a below-average first baseman and runner, and some scouts think his bat speed is closer to ordinary than outstanding. Committed to Mississippi, he may be a tough sign after the fourth round and probably won’t go quite that high. Another Rebels recruit, Dan Black, beat Clark with a two-run homer in a head-to-head matchup in May. Black has a similar profile as a big (6-foot-4, 210-pound) slugger, and as a bonus he’s a switch-hitter. Currently a catcher, he has marginal receiving and throwing skills, so he’ll be a third baseman or first baseman at the next level.
Mitch Hilligoss is the state’s best pure hitter. He won the Big 10 Conference batting title with a .404 average in 2005–surpassing ex-major leaguer Archi Cianfrocco’s Purdue hits record with 92 along the way–and finished second with a .386 mark this spring. Hilligoss employs a simple lefthanded swing, uses the whole field and has average speed. He has some range and arm strength, but his hands aren’t soft enough for him to stay at shortstop. Scouts say third base and the outfield are two possibilities, and converting him to catcher might be worth a shot. A club looking for a polished college bat could take him in the first 10 rounds, and the Giants and Yankees are believed to have interest.
Though Jared Baehl won the Indiana Class 2-A title game as a junior, he’s more of a prospect as a hitter. A star fullback for the North Posey football team, he packs plenty of strength in his 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame. He has some arm strength and OK hands, but he’s too big and doesn’t have enough range to stay at shortstop. More of a third baseman, he could go as high as the seventh to 10th round. On the mound, he shows an 86-88 mph fastball and a decent curveball.
After sporadic success as a starter in his first two years at Purdue, righthander Chris Toneguzzi had dominated as a reliever during the last two. He’s a one-pitch guy, relying on a fastball that reached 94 mph in the Cape Cod League last summer but has sat at 88-90 this spring. He doesn’t have much life on his heater despite throwing from a low three-quarters arm angle, a slot that has restricted his ability to refine a breaking ball. Undrafted in 2005, he’ll get a chance this time around as a senior sign.
Catcher Nevin Ashley doesn’t look pretty but gets the job done. While he takes some ugly hacks at the plate, he makes hard contact. His arm action isn’t ideal, but he has arm strength and throws out basestealers. He tightened up his 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame this year, and he has good speed and athleticism for a backstop. A fringe prospect coming into 2006, he’ll now go sometime on the first day of the draft as a catcher with all-around skills.
First baseman Brad Miller hit 15 homers as a sophomore and was the Great Lakes League player of the year in 2004, but he tanked in his draft year in 2005. He hit just eight homers and went undrafted. Miller has rebounded with 21 homers as a senior, setting Ball State records for single-season RBIs (75) and career hits (300), homers (50) and RBIs (227). His 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame gives him plenty of raw power, but scouts still question his bat speed and say his swing is too long. He’s slick around the bag at first base.
Tall righthanders Dan Kapala (Notre Dame) and Luke Behning (Ball State) would have been early-round picks had they not injured their shoulders. Six-foot-5 and 225 pounds, Kapala throws hard from a low three-quarters slot, reaching 95 mph in the Cape Cod League last summer. Six-foot-6 and 205 pounds, Behning led the Great Lakes League with a 0.86 ERA last summer. He had a 90-92 mph fastball and was making strides with his slider and changeup. Behning, who spent his first two college seasons at Butler, will be a fifth-year senior in 2007 and thus can be draft-and-followed.