Texas Collegiate League Top 10 Prospects
The McKinney Marshals completed a two-game sweep of the Coppell Copperheads to capture their second TCL championship in the last three years. Having lost to Coppell in the championship last year, McKinney took back the throne by winning a pair of one-run games.
McKinney was the most talented team in the TCL this summer and dominated the postseason awards. Four of the top seven players on this list are also Marshals, led by Alabama teammates Del Howell and Jimmy Nelson. A third Alabama player, third baseman Jake Smith, nearly gave McKinney a fifth representative on the list.
1. Del Howell, lhp, McKinney (So., Alabama)
A two-way player, Howell spent most of his freshman year at Alabama as a DH and threw just 24 innings over his first two seasons. He went to the TCL with an eye toward increasing his workload and refining his stuff, and he succeeded admirably, going 2-2, 2.41 with 47 strikeouts and 19 walks in 34 innings. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound lefty has a closer's mentality and pitched much better out of the bullpen than he did as a starter, though he made great strides improving his third pitch—a changeup. Howell's low-90s fastball reaches 93-94 and has good movement. His out pitch was a vicious slider that he can bury down and in against righthanded hitters or get lefties to chase low and away.
2. Luke Burnett, rhp, East Texas (SIGNED: Mariners)
Burnett's imposing 6-foot-8, 260-pound physique and mid-to-upper-90s fastball helped him rank as the No. 8 prospect in the Cape Cod League last summer, and he earned second-team preseason All-America honors heading into his junior year at Louisiana Tech. But his stuff and command deserted him during a nightmarish spring, and he went 0-4, 8.41 with 30 strikeouts and 32 walks in 41 innings. Some of his struggles can be chalked up to tendinitis, so he took six weeks off and then slowly worked his way back to health this summer, going 0-1, 3.07 with a 21-8 strikeout-walk ratio in 15 innings of relief. He still hasn't regained his old velocity but did run his fastball up to 93-94 at times for East Texas, though the pitch is rather flat for someone of Burnett's size. He needs to do a better job pitching down in the strike zone with his fastball, but he does a better job commanding his split-finger, which is his second pitch. His slider was very inconsistent this summer, occasionally showing a workable one but other times showing little action on the pitch. The Mariners saw enough from Burnett to sign him for a $200,000 bonus as a 14th-round pick at the end of the summer, and that may end up as a major steal.
3. Jimmy Nelson, rhp, McKinney (So., Alabama)
A power pitcher with an imposing 6-foot-6, 210-pound build, Nelson made huge strides from the spring, when he went 3-3, 6.26 with a 37-29 K-BB ratio in 42 innings, mostly in relief. His control was an issue in the spring and he remained wild at the start of the summer, but he was able to throw all his pitches for strikes by summer's end. Nelson gets ahead in the count with his 88-92 mph fastball, then uses his hard slider with good tilt to get strikeouts (he racked up 66 of them in 49 innings this summer, to go along with a 3-2, 2.55 mark and 23 walks). He maintains his arm speed on his changeup, but the pitch is still a work in progress. His release point sometimes varies, causing him to leave pitches up in the zone, and he needs to do a better job commanding the inner half of the plate, because he lives on the outside corner right now. Nelson has significant upside and could step into Alabama's weekend rotation as a sophomore.
4. Dustin Dickerson, 1b, Brazos Valley (Jr., Baylor)
Dickerson was the premier power hitter in Baylor's No. 1 ranked 2006 recruiting class, but he's hit just seven homers in two full seasons as a starter for the Bears. He took classes during the week this summer and only played for Brazos Valley on weekends, but he looked decent in the 51 at-bats he garnered, hitting .314/.339/.412. Dickerson's 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame hints at huge power yet to be unlocked. Opposing managers raved about his mature offensive approach and good lefthanded swing. He's also a solid defender at first base.
5. Todd Cunningham, of, Brazos Valley (So., Jacksonville State)
Cunningham stepped right into a starting role as a freshman for Jacksonville State and shined as a leadoff man, batting .340 with a 40-31 BB-K ratio and six steals in seven attempts. He followed with a strong summer, hitting .310/.402/.387 with a 16-12 BB-K ratio and 12 steals in 15 tries. The 6-foot, 200-pound switch-hitter embraces his table-setting role: He's a patient hitter who gets on base any way he can and causes havoc with his excellent speed. Cunningham has below-average power but can poke balls into the gaps now and then and uses all fields. Like most young switch-hitters, he's a better hitter from the left side than the right. Cunningham is also a terrific defender in center field with a strong arm.
6. Myrio Richard, of, McKinney (Jr., Prairie View A&M)
With a strong 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame, Richard was the TCL's premier athlete in 2008. His power/speed package was on full display this spring, when he hit .370 with 10 homers and 15 stolen bases for Prairie View, and he fared similarly well with a wood bat this summer, hitting .283/.393/.507 with six homers and 21 steals in 23 tries. The player of the year in both the Southwestern Athletic Conference and the TCL this year, Richard is a natural center fielder who was athletic enough to fill in at third base and first to fill injury voids this spring. Richard's power and speed are both average or better tools, and he has a knack for putting the bat on the ball, but he's a dead pull hitter who needs to refine his offensive approach. He could be a good center fielder with time, but his routes and baseball instincts are suspect. Richard's older brother Michael starred for Prairie View and spent this year at low Class A Kane COunty, and Myrio has even more upside if he can put it all together.
7. Mike Bolsinger, rhp, McKinney (So., Arkansas)
Bolsinger helped pitch Coppell to its first TCL title in 2007 following his freshman year at Grayson County (Texas) CC, but the McKinney native pitched for his hometown team in 2008, going 2-2, 2.80 with 56 strikeouts and 20 walks in 45 innings to capture TCL pitcher of the year honors. He also had a good strikeout rate in a relief role this spring for Arkansas, whiffing 39 in 31 innings. Bolsinger pitches in and out with a heavy 88-91 mph sinker. His out pitch is a tight downer curveball, and he worked on developing his changeup this summer, but the pitch lacks action currently. He has a physical 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame but needs to improve his endurance and competitiveness.
8. Aaron Wilkerson, rhp, East Texas (So., Panola JC, Texas)
Wilkerson dominated as a closer for Panola as a freshman, going 3-2, 1.86 with 12 saves and a 67-23 K-BB ratio in 63 innings. His summer was nearly a carbon copy of his spring, as he went 4-2, 1.96 with a 31-11 K-BB ratio in 23 innings of relief. Wilkerson has a slow delivery that makes the ball seem to explode out of his hand from an over-the-top angle. That makes his 88-91 mph fastball play up, and he runs it up to 92-93 on occasion. Lean and projectable at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, Wilkerson could add velocity as he fills out his frame and does a better job incorporating his lower half into his delivery. He complements his fastball with a good overhand curveball in the 67-68 range that freezes hitters used to his much harder fastball. He dabbles with a changeup, but it is little more than a show pitch right now.
9. Riley Boening, lhp, Coppell (R-Jr., Texas)
Boening missed all of 2007 with an arm injury and struggled as a redshirt sophomore in 2008, going 3-1, 6.34 in 44 innings. He was much better this summer, going 2-1, 2.17 with 34 strikeouts and 11 walks in 37 innings. His velocity was back up into the 88-91 range this summer, touching 92. He flashes a good curveball now and then but needs to get more consistent with the pitch. His changeup is effective against righthanded hitters. Boening has a good pitcher's frame at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, and he gets high marks for his tenacity on the mound.
10. Travis Sample, 3b/of/dh, Coppell (Jr., Arkansas)
Sample hit .505 and smashed 19 homers and 21 doubles for Howard (Texas) JC this spring, earning NJCAA all-America honors. He was a late arrival in the TCL but made his presence felt in 49 at-bats, hitting .367/.377/.673 with three homers, six doubles and 19 RBIs. His power bat is his best tool, and two separate TCL managers said he reminded them of Albert Pujols, because he has a similar stance. The righthanded-hitting Sample has huge pull power and feasts on fastballs but is susceptible to breaking balls away. He mostly DHed this summer and his defense is an unknown commodity.