Jayhawk League Top 10 Prospects
The El Dorado Broncos posted the best record in the five-team Jayhawk League season, going 22-9, then led a strong league showing in the National Baseball Congress World Series by winning the event. The Liberal Beejays (third place) and Hays Larks (tied for fourth) also performed well in Wichita.
1. Wes Cunningham, 1b, El Dorado (Sr., Murray State)
Cunningham wasn't drafted this June even after hitting .380 and .411 the last two seasons for the Racers. Listed at 6-foot-1, he doesn't profile at first but ran a 6.6-second 60-yard dash at a pro workout this summer and could move to the outfield. He showed gap power while hitting .402 this summer and uses the whole field well; his power would improve if he learned to pull the ball more. Cunningham's motor is always running, and he should get the most out of his abilities. He helped lead the Broncos to the NBC World Series championship, scoring the winning run in the title game against the Anchorage Glacier Pilots.
2. Bobby Doran, rhp, Liberal (Jr., Texas Tech)
At 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, Doran was one of the league's most physical players and its best power arm. He spent the last two seasons at Seward (Kan.) CC, and by improving his physical conditioning, he increased the velocity on his fastball from the mid-80s to the 92-94 mph range. His arm works fairly easily and he has some athletic ability. Doran's biggest issue is learning to pitch with his quality stuff, as he's still learning to throw consistent strikes. His secondary stuff also is raw. The Pirates drafted Doran in the 30th round but didn't sign him, and he should be a part of Texas Tech's bullpen in 2010.
3. Andrew Heck, rhp/ss, Hays (Jr., Duquesne)
Heck is a legitimate two-way talent, athletic enough to handle shortstop at the college level, and he's a solid if overly aggressive hitter. He hit .500 with five RBIs in the NBC World Series, helping Hays to a fourth-place finish. His pro future lies on the mound, and he emerged as Hays' top starter this summer, his second with the Larks. Heck's fastball has good sink and tops out at 88-89 mph currently, but at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, he figures to add some velocity once he focuses exclusively on pitching. His changeup is his best pitch, also featuring sinking action, and his curveball improved significantly from 2008 to this summer. He pounds the strike zone as well, walking just 14 in 76 innings.
4. Justin Lindsey, rhp, El Dorado (So., Kansas State)
An Arizona native, Lindsey pitched out of the Wildcats' bullpen as a freshman before redshirting in 2009 due to elbow tendinitis. Still somewhat slight at 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Lindsey is lean, long and loose, and his velocity came on as the summer wound down, with one report that he hit 92 mph during the NBC World Series. He pitched in the upper 80s with his two-seamer, and he throws a solid slider as well that helped him get groundballs. Lindsey started the summer on a pitch count but was up to 100 pitches by the NBC and was at his best, winning both his starts. He's probably a middle reliever down the line in pro ball.
5. Jake Sabol, rhp, El Dorado (Jr., Central Michigan)
Sabol earned MVP honors in Wichita after working as the Broncos' "moment of truth" reliever. He'd close or go longer than one or two innings, as needed, and thrived in the role all summer. He was 6-0, 2.18 overall, showing a resilient arm that should serve him well in a future relief role as a pro. Sabol varies his arm slot and usually throws his fastball in the mid-to-upper 80s, with life down in the strike zone. His slider gives him another groundball-inducing pitch, and his competitiveness suits him well for the bullpen. If he winds up starting at Central Michigan, he'll have to trust his changeup more; he currently throws it primarily to lefthanded hitters, and it flashed solid potential.
6. Matt Hauser, rhp, Liberal (Sr., San Diego)
When injuries wrecked San Diego's rotation this spring, Hauser got a shot at extended innings and went 5-2, 4.82 for the Toreros. He moved more into a starting role with the Beejays this summer and took to it, going 3-2, 2.71 with 52 strikeouts in 53 innings. Hauser's fastball sat at 90 mph for most of the summer and he touched better. His secondary pitches are works in progress, as he worked more on a slider and split-grip changeup this summer. The former Orange Coast (Calif.) JC transfer wasn't drafted in June but should be a solid senior sign in 2010.
7. Mitch Caster, rhp/of, Liberal (Jr., Wichita State)
An all-state outfielder in high school, Caster has focused on hitting primarily for the Shockers, though without tremendous success. He has just six extra-base hits in 162 at-bats while batting .241. He hit .284 this summer in the regular season and was 12-for-28 (.429) in the NBC, but that's not why he made the list. Caster also has raw arm strength to go with athleticism, and he impressed as a pitcher this summer with the Beejays. Working out of the Liberal bullpen, Caster emerged as the team's second-hardest thrower after Bobby Doran, showing a 90-92 mph fastball. Caster's more of a thrower than a pitcher with his limited experience, but his arm strength set him apart in a league characterized more by strike-throwers this summer.
8. Eric Sim, c, Derby (Jr., South Florida)
Sim is a British Columbia native who spent two seasons at Colby (Kan.) CC, and he's transferring to South Florida for the 2010 season. Sim hit .342 with a team-high six home runs for Colby in the spring, and he hit a respectable .247 with wood over the summer, adding six extra-base hits in 81 at-bats. League managers weren't too high on his bat, and his receiving skills behind the plate need plenty of polish. However, his throwing arm earned him the last spot on the top 10, and jumped out to league managers as the best tool in the Jayhawk League. It's at least a 60 on the pro 20-to-80 scouting scale; Sim also has a pretty quick release and accuracy to go with his pure arm strength. At 6-foot-2, he has the size to try a move to the mound if necessary down the line.
9. Chris Craycraft, rhp, El Dorado (Jr., Murray State)
Murray State's ace the last two seasons, Craycraft wore down a bit at the end of the Jayhawk League season, not a surprise as he pitched 100 innings in the spring and 53 more for the Broncos. Craycraft doesn't have a dominant fastball, usually sitting in the mid-80s, but when he's fresh, his fastball has good sink. His go-to pitch is a slider, which at times is a strikeout pitch but usually is suited to getting groundballs. Craycraft changes speeds well and has above-average command for a college pitcher.
10. Brandon Eckerle, of, Hays (Jr., Michigan State)
Eckerle was one of the league's fastest players, and he stole 26 bases in 33 attempts. The Larks' top hitter batted .382, but just five of those hits went for extra bases. Eckerle, listed at 6-foot, 170 pounds, has to get stronger to drive the ball, or to at least threaten pitchers that he can drive the ball. He has just nine extra-base hits in two college seasons. Eckerle will have to be more than a singles hitter with wood to make a mark in pro ball, but he has other tools. He's a sound defender in center field with an average throwing arm, with enough arm strength to have been tried as a pitcher with the Spartans.