|THIS YEAR’S CROP|
|*****||One for the books|
|***||Solid, not spectacular|
|**||Not up to par|
|*||Nothing to see here|
Impact high school talents Billy Rowell, Sean Black and Ryan Kalish more than make up for the lack of quality college players in New Jersey. All three of those players have the talent to go in the top three rounds, although Kalish’s strong commitment to Virginia means he might slip. Like elsewhere in the Northeast, New Jersey lacks depth beyond the top few players, and you can probably count on one hand the number of Garden State products who will go on the first day of the draft.
|National Top 200 Prospects
1. Bill Rowell, 3b, Bishop Eustace Prep, Pennsauken
2. Sean Black, rhp, Lenape HS
3. Ryan Kalish, of, Red Bank Catholic HS
|Other Players Of Note
4. Michael Murray, c, Westfield HS
5. Tim Fedroff, of, Hillsborough HS
6. Cole Kimball, rhp, Centenary College
7. Dewey Oriente, 2b, Bishop Eustace Prep, Pennsauken
8. David Williams, of, Rutgers
9. Andy Salini, of, Princeton
10. Erik Stiller, rhp, Princeton
11. Justin Bencsko, of, Pequannock HS, Pompton Plains
12. Nick Tyson, rhp/of, Timber Creek HS, Erial
13. Scott Knazek, c, Rider
14. Jeff Grose, of, Rutgers
15. Gerard Haran, c, College of New Jersey
16. Jerry Sullivan, rhp, Mount Olive HS
17. Nick Nolan, rhp, Roselle Catholic HS
1. Bill Rowell, 3b (National rank: 17)
School: Bishop Eustace Prep. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Sewell, N.J.
B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 198. Birthdate: 9/10/88.
Scouting Report: Rowell models his game and his approach after that of Giants outfielder Barry Bonds, and like Bonds his best tool is his power. Rowell’s raw power rates as a legitimate 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale (well above-average), and he does not have to muscle up to hit the ball a mile–he has a loose, fluid swing without a lot of moving parts. The lefthanded-hitting Rowell used to model his stance after Bonds, with his hands low and over the plate, but this year he’s raised his hands and done a better job spreading out at the plate, achieving more balance. He also has learned to hit the ball with power to the gaps instead of trying to yank everything. The only question about Rowell offensively is how well his enormous batting practice power translates to top game competition, but he has played well in some elite showcase events. Rowell’s hands are good enough for shortstop and his arm is above-average, but his range is fringy and he’ll probably outgrow the position. Some scouts see him at third base down the line, and some see him as a corner outfielder, but no one doubts that he’ll hit enough for a corner.
2. Sean Black, rhp (National rank: 69)
School: Lenape HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Mount Laurel, N.J.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 185. Birthdate: 4/23/88.
Scouting Report: A converted shortstop, Black has been one of the spring’s rapid risers. He is tall and athletic with a fresh arm because he pitched only sparingly a year ago, when he topped out at 88-89 mph with his fastball. This year he came out of nowhere to touch 95, although he pitches at 88-92. His curveball is inconsistent and has received mixed reviews. When it’s on, it’s a 75-78 mph power curve with hard downer action and good rotation that some scouts rate as a 60 (on the 20-80 scouting scale) future pitch. His changeup is in its early stages but he is developing some feel for it. Everything about Black is raw, including his delivery, which is workable but needs to be polished. He has a quick, electric arm and throws hard without much effort. Black is a good competitor who has come on fast and pitched well against the best competition he has faced–he held Bishop Eustace shortstop Bill Rowell to 0-for-3 and beat Seneca High, one of the best teams in New Jersey.
3. Ryan Kalish, of/lhp (National rank: 95)
School: Red Bank Catholic HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Shrewsbury, N.J.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 208. Birthdate: 3/28/88.
Scouting Report: A superior athlete who starred as a high school quarterback and played both ways on the baseball field, Kalish figures to be a tough sign because of his commitment to Virginia. There was talk Kalish could play both sports at UVa, but he appears to be focused on baseball. Kalish injured his arm playing basketball and aggravated it pitching early in the year, so he’s split time between center field, DH and first base to spare his sore arm. When healthy, Kalish has at least average arm strength that should play at any outfield position, and he’s at least an average runner. Scouts are divided on where he profiles. Some say he’s a pure center fielder, while others see him as a tweener who lacks the speed to play center and the power for a corner spot. A raw offensive player because of his three-sport background, Kalish has shown little power despite a compact frame that invites comparisons to Jim Edmonds and Trot Nixon. He consistently makes good contact, but his hands drift and he does not hit with much leverage. Like Nixon and Edmonds, Kalish is an intense competitor who plays with high energy.
High School-Heavy Crop
There is no clear-cut top player in New Jersey after the undisputed top three, but catcher Michael Murray stands out because he improved more than anyone else. He lost as much as 25 pounds in a year, and he has become one of the top power hitters in the state from the left side of the plate, although he has a bit of a hitch in his swing. Murray has two plus tools that give him a leg up on most of New Jersey’s other prep players: raw power and arm. In spite of his arm strength, Murray is a below-average defensive catcher with a lot of work to do on his footwork and receiving skills. It seems unlikely any team will buy him out of his commitment to Wake Forest.
Outfielder Tim Fedroff is in a similar position. He’s committed to North Carolina, and most scouts seem content to let him go. He is a good pure lefthanded hitter but does not have a lot of power and is just adequate in left field. Fedroff is not particularly big at 5-foot-10, and he lacks a plus tool, but he figures to be a good college player with a chance to boost his stock over the next three years.
Second baseman Dewey Oriente has gotten plenty of exposure thanks to having a high-profile teammate in Bill Rowell. Like Fedroff, he’s a good lefthanded hitter and a decent athlete, though he lacks a true position thanks to his fringy arm strength and speed. He’s got more pop in his bat than Fedroff, but he’s still more of a line-drive hitter. He’s almost certain to enroll at Villanova rather than sign.
Outfielder Justin Bencscko figures to join him there. He is a better athlete than Oriente with more raw power and speed and a stronger arm, but he is not as good a hitter. In a similar vein, Nick Tyson is probably the best pure athlete in New Jersey, with enticing speed and arm strength. He’s lanky and needs to fill out, but he could have a future as an outfielder or on the mound, thanks to his easy upper-80s heat and projectability.
Two players whose stock has plummeted are Nick Nolan and Jerry Sullivan. Nolan’s velocity has dropped drastically since he threw in the low to mid-90s a year ago, and his mechanics have similarly gone downhill. Sullivan showed similar velocity a year ago but had his season cut short by Tommy John surgery.
High Risk, High Reward For College Players?
The college crop in New Jersey is weak enough that Division III Centenary righthander Cole Kimball ranks at the top based solely on his arm strength. His fastball velocity has been up to 93 mph, and he looks the part of a pro pitcher with a 6-foot-4, 225-pound build, but he does not have a good feel for pitching. He walks too many and does not control the game. He throws a split-finger, but it needs work.
Similarly, Princeton righthander Erik Stiller has a projectable 6-foot-5 frame but gets hit more than he should in the Ivy League because he lacks deception and works over the middle of the plate too often. Unlike Kimball, Stiller has never shown plus velocity, but he has added a few mph to his fastball every year and now pitches at 87-89 mph, occasionally touching 91. He has a chance to add more velocity as he fills out, but not all scouts are convinced that will happen. He has a plus changeup and a chance to be drafted late on the first day.
Princeton outfielder Andy Salini is another guy with a pro body (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) and plenty of question marks. He has some power from the left side and a decent oufield arm, but he doesn’t run well or make adjustments at the plate, and his field makeup is a concern. Rutgers outfielder David Williams has better tools and the same measurements as Salini, but he has been plagued by injuries. A shoulder injury cost him time last year, and this season he was hampered by a wrist injury sustained in a first-base collision against Georgia Tech early in the year. He does have plus raw power and speed and a strong arm, but it’s uncertain how usable his tools are. Williams is a redshirt junior who has a chance to be drafted late in the second day on the strength of his athleticism.