Scouting Reports: Tennessee

THIS YEAR’S CROP
***** One for the
books
**** Banner
year
*** Solid, not
spectacular
** Not up to
par
* Nothing to see
here

In the South, Tennessee, South Carolina and Mississippi traditionally trail Georgia and Alabama in the production of pro prospects each year. Thanks to a private college with an enrollment of less than 12,000, that trend may be changing.

Since Tim Corbin became coach at Vanderbilt in 2003, the Commodores not only have asserted themselves as a national power, but they also are starting to crank out professional prospects. Vanderbilt has spent most of this season as the No. 1 team in the Baseball America’s Top 25 rankings, won the school’s first regular season Southeastern Conference title and won 50 games for the first time in school history. The Commodores have never been to the College World Series–and in fact had just three regional trips in school history before Corbin arrived–yet will be looked at as one of the favorites to get to Omaha this year.

Whether that works out, Vanderbilt will play a large role in the draft, with lefthander David Price looking like the favorite for the No. 1 overall pick and righthander Casey Weathers also a candidate for the first round. Dominic de la Osa is the best player in the next tier of Commodores prospects.

Tennessee’s season has not been as good as Vanderbilt’s, but the Volunteers have three players who should go in the first two rounds. The season got off to a miserable start when the Volunteers were swept at Florida State, lost outfielder Julio Borbon to an ankle injury and shortly thereafter saw catcher J.P. Arencibia go down with back trouble. The Preseason All-Americans eventually returned and Tennessee finished eighth in the SEC, making the conference tournament and likely the NCAA tournament as well. Borbon and Arencibia did enough to restore their stock, and lefthander James Adkins cemented a spot in the top two rounds when he held Vandy to one hit in eight-plus innings in the first round of the SEC tournament.

The state’s small-college talent is also promising. A pair of prospects popped up at Division II Carson-Newman College, and Walters State Junior College had its usual group of toolsy, professional-minded players. The high school crop was down for the second year in a row, however, and was summed up this way by one scout: “There were more mid- to upper-80s guys that live off their breaking balls this year. More of some solid college prospects as opposed to the type of guys that have potential to go out and be drafted and perform. It’s a little bit of a disappointing year from a high school standpoint.”

National Top 200
Prospects

1. David Price,
lhp, Vanderbilt
2. Julio Borbon, of,
Tennessee
3. Casey Weathers, rhp,
Vanderbilt
4. J.P. Arencibia, c/1b,
Tennessee
5. James Adkins, lhp,
Tennessee

Other Prospects Of
Note

6. Steven Cishek, rhp, Carson-Newman (Tenn.) College
7. Dominic de la Osa, of, Vanderbilt
8. Drew Pomeranz, lhp, Collierville (Tenn.) HS
9. Matt Teague, lhp, Carson-Newman (Tenn.) College
10. Lance Zawadzki, ss, Lee (Tenn.) University
11. Stephen Shults, 3b, Walters State (Tenn.) CC (SIGNED: Braves)
12. Kevin Hammonds, lhp, Tusculum
13. Dustin Black, c, Cleveland State (Tenn.) CC (CONTROL: Orioles)
14. Taylor Hill, rhp, Mt. Juliet (Tenn.) HS
15. Josh Liles, of, Jackson (Tenn.) HS
16. Cody Hawn, of, South Doyle HS, Knoxville
17. Drew Bowlin, rhp, Chattanooga CC
18. Jonny White, of, Vanderbilt
19. Jack Tilghman, rhp, Walters State (Tenn.) CC (CONTROL: Braves)
20. Adam Milligan, of, Walters State (Tenn.) JC (CONTROL: Braves)
21. Ryan Kelly, rhp, Walters State (Tenn.) JC (CONTROL: Pirates)
22. Bryce Brentz, rhp, South Doyle HS, Knoxville
23. Nick Belcher, ss, Walters State (Tenn.) CC
24. Cody Crowell, lhp, Vanderbilt
25. Tyler Rhoden, rhp, Vanderbilt
26. Michael Wheeler, c/of, Walters State (Tenn.) CC (CONTROL: Royals)
27. Chad Bell, lhp, South Doyle HS, Knoxville
28. Ty Davis, rhp, Vanderbilt

Scouting
Reports

David Price1. David Price, lhp
(National rank:
1)

School:
Vanderbilt. Class:
Jr.
B-T: L-L.
Ht.: 6-5.
Wt.: 215.
Birthdate:
8/26/85.
Scouting
Report:
Price entered his junior season as the best
amateur player in the country and reinforced his reputation with a
third dominant season. He has the complete portfolio of athleticism,
stuff, makeup and a proven track record. He posted a 0.43 ERA with 151
strikeouts in 65 innings as a high school senior and would have been a
high-round pick if it hadn’t for signability questions. The Dodgers
made a run at signing him after drafting him in the 19th round in 2004,
but Price stuck to his Vanderbilt commitment and stepped into the
rotation right away, earning Freshman All-America honors. Price attends
Vanderbilt on a financial scholarship, rather than a baseball ride, and
he is lauded for his positive, team-first attitude. He took two tours
with USA Baseball’s college national team, including a 5-1, 0.20 stint
in 2006 when he led Team USA to a gold medal in the World University
Games in Cuba and was named Summer Player of the Year. His
fastball/slider/changeup repertoire is unmatched among amateurs. He
pitches at 90-91 mph, but the late life, arm-side run and finish of his
fastball make it a weapon. He can dial it up to 95, seemingly whenever
he needs to. His slider touches 87 with hard, late, sharp bite, grading
as a 70 pitch on the 20-80 scale. His changeup is deceptive, and a
third plus pitch. He spots all three of his pitches to all four
quadrants of the strike zone, adds and subtracts and carves up hitters
with efficiency and ease. His arm action and delivery are excellent.
Price was an honorable mention all-Tennessee selection in basketball in
high school, an indication of his athletic ability, which helps him
field his position well and repeat his delivery. He profiles,
conservatively, as a No. 2 starter, while some scouts see him as a true
No. 1. The Devil Rays are expected to make him the top
pick.

Julio Borbon2. Julio Borbon, of
(National rank:
19)

School:
Tennessee. Class:
Jr.
B-T: L-L.
Ht.: 6-1.
Wt.: 190.
Birthdate:
2/20/86.
Scouting
Report:
The top college outfielder in a draft virtually
devoid of them, Borbon broke his ankle during an intrasquad game a week
before the spring season started. He made it back to the Tennessee
lineup by the end of March, but he had just two home runs and seven
doubles in 143 at-bats. He had not shown the consistent hard contact
that made him Team USA’s catalyst last summer, when the college
national team brought home a gold medal from the World University
Championship in Cuba. At his best, Borbon is a top-of-the-order hitter
who makes sharp contact and changes games with his plus speed. He’s
more than a slap-and-run type, with above-average bat speed and some
sock in his bat. A Dominican native, he has an aggressive approach and
doesn’t walk often. His defense is adequate, but he could improve his
reads and routes. A popular comparison for Borbon is Johnny Damon, for
the pop in his bat as well as his speed and well-below-average arm. He
was expected to be taken in the first round despite a lackluster junior
year.

Casey Weathers3. Casey Weathers,
rhp (National rank:
22)

School:
Vanderbilt. Class:
Sr.
B-T: R-R.
Ht.: 6-1.
Wt.: 200.
Birthdate:
6/10/85.
Scouting
Report:
Weathers was a light-hitting junior-college
outfielder when he and a teammate climbed atop a mound one day after
practice to see how hard they could throw. Weathers hit 92 mph, and his
days in the outfield were over. He transferred to Vanderbilt and has
flourished in the back of the bullpen for college baseball’s best team,
routinely blowing 96-97 mph gas. He was summoned from the Alaska League
last year and joined USA Baseball’s college national team’s bullpen. He
establishes his fastball early in counts, will elevate it late in
counts and pitches to both sides of the plate. His delivery is
generally fine, though his arm action occasionally gets long, which
prevents him from getting on top of his pitches and leads to erratic
command and hanging sliders. His slider has touched 91, and when he
stays through the pitch upon release, it has hard, three-quarter tilt
with power. He’s been durable in his brief pitching career, and his
two-pitch mix (he also has a changeup) could allow him to close in the
majors. As a senior, he should sign quickly and won’t make it out of
the first
round.

4. J.P. Arencibia,
c/1b (National rank:
57)

School:
Tennessee. Class:
Jr.
B-T: R-R.
Ht.: 6-1.
Wt.: 195.
Birthdate:
1/5/86.
Scouting
Report:
Shortly after Julio Borbon broke his ankle in
the preseason, Tennessee’s next best hitter, Arencibia, pulled a muscle
in his back and was forced out of the lineup until mid-March. He ranked
with Borbon among USA Baseball’s college national team’s top prospects
last summer after leading the team with nine home runs in 121 at-bats.
Power has long been his calling card. The Miami native tied Alex
Rodriguez’ Westminster Christian High career record for home runs with
17 and was drafted by the Mariners in the 17th round in 2004. A
potential first-rounder entering the season, Arencibia struggled
offensively and behind the plate upon returning to the lineup. He’s an
aggressive hitter with plus power to all fields. His swing gets long
and he tends to have too much of an uppercut stroke. The verdict is out
on whether he’ll stay behind the plate as a pro. His receiving skills
are rudimentary at best, and his footwork prevents him from getting off
better throws despite solid-average to plus arm strength. His stock has
slipped, but he won’t make it out of the second
round.

5. James Adkins, lhp
(National rank:
80)

School:
Tennessee. Class:
Jr.
B-T: R-L.
Ht.: 6-6.
Wt.: 225.
Birthdate:
11/26/85.
Scouting
Report:
Adkins established himself as a weekend starter
when, in his first turn in the Vols rotation as a freshman, he tossed
seven strong innings against Oklahoma State. He has pitched well in
showdowns with Arkansas’ Nick Schmidt and Vandy’s David Price, further
bolstering a resume that includes a spot atop Tennessee’s all-time
strikeouts list. He had shoulder surgery to relieve an impingement
before his sophomore season. Adkins is most comfortable pitching off
his secondary stuff. He throws a hard slider at 79-82 mph as well as
76-78 mph curveball. He throws them both for strikes, mixing in a
fringe-average fastball that sits at 87-90 mph and a rudimentary
changeup. His plus command and feel for pitching make him a No. 5
starter candidate as a professional, and he should be drafted in the
second or third
round.

Commodores Sail On

Not
only does Vanderbilt have the best player in the country in Price,
along with a dominant closer in Weathers and perhaps the top prospect
in the Class of 2008 in Pedro Alvarez, but a couple of the Commodores’
complementary players also have potential as professionals.

Batting in front of Alvarez and sophomore shortstop Ryan Flaherty has its benefits, and junior outfielder Dominic de la Oso
made the most of his spot in the Vandy batting order. He led the team
in stolen bases (19), home runs (17) and slugging percentage (.736) and
finished second in average (.384), and he generated a lot of buzz among
scouts in the weeks leading up to the draft. He has added about 25
pounds to his compact, athletic frame since he arrived at Vanderbilt as
a lightly recruited high school player from South Florida. He played
shortstop as a freshman but struggled defensively and moved to the
outfield.

De la Oso’s value lies in his bat, though his arm
strength and speed are also pluses. He starts his swing wrapping the
bat behind his head with a lot of pre-pitch movement, but he gets the
barrel through the zone with quickness. He’s been a streaky hitter
throughout his career. He prefers to pull the ball, but uses his hands
well in his swing and has shown more of a willingness to use the
opposite field this season. De la Oso has plus raw power. His
strike-zone discipline could hinder his average as he faces more
advanced pitching, though he has improved his pitch selection as he’s
matured. He’s a hard worker, and some scouts envision him developing
into a versatile utilityman who could be drafted as high as the third
round.

De la Oso’s emergence has made it tough for draft-eligible sophomore Jonny White
to crack the lineup. He broke the hamate bone in his right wrist last
summer while playing in the New England Collegiate League, and rust
from the time off carried over into the spring. White has turned in
times under 6.5 seconds in the 60-yard-dash, making him a 65 runner on
the 20-80 scale. He’s raw at the plate, but has good bat speed and
solid-average raw power. White’s approach is unrefined. He’s
susceptible to offspeed pitches and doesn’t make consistent hard
contact. White was planning to return to the NECBL this summer and was
a candidate to be drafted late on the first day and followed leading up
to the August 15 signing deadline.

Cody Crowell, Ty Davis and Tyler Rhoden
are all redshirt junior relievers who should garner some interest in
the middle rounds of the draft. Being lefthanded with an occasional
plus breaking ball, Crowell has value as a situational reliever. His
fastball sits between 85-88 mph. Davis was pitching well late in the
season, including six-plus innings of no-hit relief against Georgia in
May. He was ranked among the top prospects in the Alaska League
following his sophomore season in 2005 but had back surgery last year
and was just beginning to show the form he flashed as an underclassman.
His fastball can touch 94, though he pitches more often near 91. Rhoden
sits 91-93 with his fastball, though he has been inconsistent with his
secondary stuff and mound presence.

Small-College Gems

After
Price, Weathers and Adkins, the top two draft-eligible pitching
prospects in the state popped up at Carson-Newman College this spring. Steven Cishek
was throwing between 82-84 mph as a high school senior in Cape Cod, but
has been up to 95 this season and has a prototypical pitcher’s body.
His fastball shows occasional plus run and sink and his arm works well
from a low-three-quarter arm slot, allowing him to pitch with average
command of his fastball, which sits between 90-93 mph. His slider is
below-average but his changeup is a plus offering. Cishek had elbow
soreness as a sophomore, which was alleviated by improving his
conditioning and strength. He was tough to scout as a middle reliever
at a small school, but at least a dozen teams have had him
crosschecked, and he could be taken as high as the fourth round.

Like Cishek, lefty Matt Teague
will go off the board much quicker than would have been expected at the
outset of the season. His fastball sits at 88-92 mph and he pitches off
it, spotting it to both sides of the plate. His breaking ball is
below-average, but his command, feel for pitching and fringe-average
changeup provide him with the ingredients of a lefthanded middle
reliever.

Lance Zawadzki’s
path to NAIA Lee University was a circuitous one. He began his college
career at Louisiana State but never played for the Tigers, instead
transferring to San Diego State. He missed playing time as a freshman
in 2004 with appendicitis, a dislocated knee and a pulled hamstring,
but batted .335-10-53 in 2005. He fell to .243-3-26 in 2006, and as his
performance suggests, Zawadzki’s game is erratic. The Cardinals drafted
him in the 15th round last year, but he elected to transfer to Lee. He
was also drafted by the then-Expos in the 48th round out of high school
in 2003. He has intriguing tools, with plus bat speed, plus raw power
and lively actions in the middle of the diamond. A switch-hitter, he
sprays the ball to all fields from the right side. He uses his hands a
little better from the left side, pulling the ball with authority.
Zawadzki is also a plus runner and has a well-above-average arm. He
will likely sign for slot money somewhere in the sixth to eighth round.

A
year after making a deep run to Grand Junction, Colo., in the Junior
College World Series, Walters State had a disappointing sequel. A
handful of players were under control from the 2006 draft, but other
than third baseman Stephen Shults,
who signed with the Braves after the season, few had as much success as
sophomores as they enjoyed as freshmen. Shults has good bat speed and
crushes fastballs, though he is prone to empty swings, especially
against breaking balls. He regressed defensively this season, posting
an .872 fielding percentage.

Righty Jack Tilghman (16th round) and outfielder Adam Milligan
(28th round) were also drafted and followed by the Braves. Tilghman was
lights-out as a freshman, but his command and lack of consistency with
his offspeed pitches made him a liability at times on the mound. His
velocity was on par with last year–touching 96 mph and sitting at
92-93–but his arm strength is his only usable tool at present. He
tends to overthrow and his mechanics have been inconsistent, leading to
25 walks in 43 innings a year after he had 19 in 105. Milligan is built
like Greek god. He originally planned to play football as a defensive
back at Austin Peay, but began to show more potential as a baseball
player as a senior in high school and opted to attend Walters State
after being drafted. He’s an exceptional athlete, with surprising speed
for such a big man. He’s raw in all phases of the game, but shows plus
raw power and is the type of athlete scouts like to dream on.

It wasn’t Milligan, but rather shortstop Nick Belcher
who won Walters State’s weightlifting and athleticism competition in
the fall. His tools are below-average across the board, but he
performs, including making contact and all the plays up the middle. He
fits more in the mold of a signable senior than a high draft this year,
and he’s committed to East Tennessee State.

Early in the season, it appeared righthander Ryan Kelly
could assume the role of staff ace given Tilghman’s struggles. He
flashed a 90-93 mph fastball, solid-average command and a plus slider,
but as the season wore on his stuff wasn’t as firm and he was hit hard.
A 28th-round pick by the Pirates out of high school in South Carolina
last year, Kelly’s athleticism is a reason to stick with him as a
prospect. He has a relatively clean arm action, though there’s some
effort to his delivery. His two-pitch mix is hard and harder, and he
needs to develop an offering that provides some separation in velocity,
as his changeup is below-average.

Dustin Black
was considered one of the state’s top juco prospects. He’s unrefined in
his catch-and-throw skills but has plus arm strength and athleticism.
He was expected to sign with the Orioles.

Two other potential eighth- to 15th-rounders who popped up from Tennessee’s small colleges were righthander Drew Bowlin and lefty Kevin Hammonds.
Bowlin, a converted catcher, left Tennessee and moved to the mound,
where he’s raw but promising. His fastball has been up to 92 mph,
though he sat more often in the 87-88 range. He has a curveball, slider
and splitter, and none of them is an average offering at this point. He
tends to get around his breaking balls, though his 77-80 mph slider
could become a usable pitch. Hammonds earned pitcher of the year honors
in his league. His fastball isn’t overpowering, coming in at 87-89 mph,
but he has good feel for pitching and three pitches that he can throw
for strikes.

Thin High School Ranks

For the second year in a row, the Tennessee high school crop is poor. Lefty Drew Pomeranz,
the brother of Cardinals minor leaguer Stuart, was considered the most
professional-ready prep pitcher in the state. He got off to a slow
start and appeared bound for Mississippi but has come on strong down
the stretch. He’s long and lean, similar to his brother, but his arm
isn’t as quick and his velocity hasn’t developed quite as expected.
Pomeranz is projectable, however, and his delivery and stuff showed
marked improvement from last summer and fall. His knuckle-curveball can
be a wipeout offering, showing downer action with depth.

Taylor Hill
is the best high school righthander in the state. He has an athletic
build and shows the makings of solid-average command of two pitches.
Like Pomeranz, Chad Bell has
made strides since his junior season. He was bumping 90 mph with his
fastball and has some feel for his breaking ball. Bell’s teammate,
righthander Bryce Brentz, pitched well late in the season, running his fastball up to 92 mph.

Outfielder Josh Liles
played alongside Pomeranz at the East Coast Showcase last summer, and
he’s a promising athlete who lacks the present skills to warrant a
top-five-round selection. He can run the 60-yard-dash in 6.5 seconds
and has some looseness in his swing and a fair feel for the strike
zone. Cody Hawn is another
good hitter. He mashed 17 home runs as a junior, but was derailed by a
knee injury he sustained while playing basketball before the season.

Draft | #2007

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