Texas Collegiate League Top 10 Prospects
The Coppell Copperheads swept a two-game series with the Victoria Generals to win their second TCL championship in the last three years. The Copperheads were a perfect 4-0 in the playoffs on the way to their third championship since the league began play in 2004.
1. Nathan Karns, rhp, Coppell (SIGNED: Nationals)
A hard-throwing righty with a good pitcher's build at 6-foot-3, 223 pounds, Karns never quite harnessed his power repertoire in his freshman year at North Carolina State or his two seasons at Texas Tech. As a Red Raiders junior this spring, he tossed 54 innings and compiled a 4-5, 5.47 mark, but he did improve his strikeout-walk ratio (57-30) from his sophomore campaign. He took another step in the right direction this summer, going 4-0, 1.20 with 47 strikeouts and 17 walks for the league champions. Karns delivers a low-90s fastball—which has been clocked up to 96 mph as recently as last summer in the Cape Cod League—and a hard, late-breaking curveball from a three-quarters arm slot. But if he is to cure his command struggles for good, he will need to smooth out a few mechanical kinks in his delivery. Although he is lauded for his maturity, scouts question his mental toughness and say that he must still improve his knowledge of the pitching process. Karns signed with the Nationals as a 12th-round pick right before the Aug. 17 deadline for $225,000.
2. Riley Cooper, of, McKinney (SIGNED: Rangers)
Cooper played in the Cape Cod League and the Valley League before transferring to the TCL to play for the Marshals. A wide receiver for the defending BCS national champion Florida Gators, he played in just 13 games for McKinney before heading back to Gainesville to reunite with roommate Tim Tebow and prepare for the upcoming football season, but that was enough time to showcase the all-around potential that made him a 25th-round draft pick of the Rangers. Cooper led his team in home runs (three) despite receiving roughly 100 fewer at-bats than the team's other leading hitters, evidence of the easy raw power in his projectable 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame. He is a plus runner with a plus arm, giving him the ideal center fielder's skill set. However, Cooper remains unpolished at the plate with a big swing that doesn't yet translate to wood. He struggles with offspeed pitches and exhibits poor pitch recognition, the result of having undeveloped baseball instincts as he divides his time between two sports. Although Cooper signed with the Rangers for $250,000, he is still eligible to play football for the Gators this fall before he commits all of his energy to pro baseball.
3. David Rollins, lhp, East Texas (So., San Jacinto JC, Texas)
As a freshman at San Jacinto (Texas) JC, Rollins went 8-3, 4.61 with 69 strikeouts and 39 walks in 66 innings, helping lead the powerhouse program to the Junior College World Series. His command improved during the summer, and he emerged as the Pump Jacks' ace while landing a place on the all-league team after going 5-2, 2.45 with 63 strikeouts and 26 walks in 51 innings. Rollins, 20, boasts advanced polish beyond his years, mixing a three-pitch repertoire from a smooth, mid-three-quarters arm slot. He creates good deception by hiding the ball well, helping his 88-91 mph fastball explode on hitters. His curveball is an out pitch with 12-to-6 action, and he shows good hand speed on his changeup, which has some fade. Rollins' velocity dipped toward the end of the summer, which was probably the result of a heavy workload over the spring and summer. Drafted out of high school in the 19th round by the Dodgers, Rollins was again selected this June as a 23rd-rounder by the Mariners, but he did not sign.
4. Rett Varner, rhp, Coppell (Jr., Texas-Arlington)
Described by one TCL manager as a "true pitcher", Varner combines an advanced feel for pitching with a projectable 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame. Hittable and erratic at times last spring, Varner was nothing of the sort this summer, helping pitch Coppell to the league title and winning pitcher of the year honors after going 4-2, 1.17 with 57 strikeouts and just seven walks in 46 innings. He throws a heavy, low-90s fastball to set up a hard, late-breaking slurve that functions as his out pitch. Varner also shows good arm speed when throwing a changeup, which runs in on righthanders. He commands all three pitches to either side of the plate, and his delivery is easy, suggesting more velocity to come as he adds strength. Varner was selected in the 34th round by the Cubs, but he will return to school.
5. Mark Hudson, of, Victoria (Jr., Sam Houston State)
The TCL's player of the year, Hudson led the league in batting (.386) and slugging (.591) while finishing second in on-base percentage (.419). The 6-foot-2, 200-pound outfielder is an athletic, all-around player with a good understanding of the game. An above-average runner equipped with a strong arm, his baseball instincts make him an even better baserunner and defender. Hudson is aggressive at the plate with an uphill swing, but he stays inside the ball well, allowing him to make consistent, hard contact to all fields. He also has exceptional bat speed, which gives him the chance to hit for enough power to play a corner outfield position at the next level. Hudson transferred from Alvin (Texas) JC to Sam Houston State for his junior season.
6. Carter Jurica, ss, McKinney (Jr., Kansas State)
Jurica enjoyed a banner sophomore season, batting .353/.433/.492 and leading the Wildcats to their first NCAA regional in school history. He came to McKinney with a nagging hip injury that carried over from the spring, limiting him to just 11 games, but Jurica made the most of his time. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound shortstop hit .302/.400/.395 for the Marshals, using a relaxed stance and a short, smooth swing. Jurica is athletic, displaying good range and sure actions in the middle of the diamond. An above-average runner with a gap-to-gap approach, he profiles well at the top of an order. With Kansas State first baseman Justin Bloxom signing with the Nationals as an 11th-round draft pick, Jurica will return to the Wildcats as the team's leading hitter and will have to produce in a big way if he hopes to lead his school back to a regional.
7. Matt Juengel, 3b, East Texas (So., Texas A&M)
Juengel is a lanky third baseman who generates surprising power from his 6-foot-1, 160-pound build, and one TCL manager said he bears a physical resemblance to Hunter Pence. As a freshman at Panola (Texas) JC last spring, he batted .404/.442/.747 with 14 doubles, 16 home runs and 57 RBIs. With an advanced approach, strong wrists and good bat speed, he adjusted well to a wood bat this summer, hitting .322/.398/.459 for the Pump Jacks. Juengel sets up at the plate with a wide base and takes a good path to the ball while keeping his hands back, allowing him to use the entire field. He is an adequate fielder with average range and arm strength, so a move to a corner outfield position is plausible. Juengel, who transferred to Texas A&M for his sophomore season, needs to add more strength to his smallish frame to withstand the rigors of pro ball.
8. Zach Nuding, rhp, Victoria (So., Weatherford JC, Texas)
A big-bodied power righty, Nuding possesses both the stuff and the bulldog mentality to be effective at the back end of a major league bullpen. The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder served as Victoria's closer this summer, notching six saves and 23 strikeouts in 20 innings for the team that finished with the best overall record in the TCL. Several managers said he was the hardest thrower in the league, sitting at 93-95 mph with his fastball and touching 96. Nuding also fires a hard, mid-80s slider from a mid-three-quarters arm slot, although he has trouble repeating his delivery. The Pirates selected Nuding in the 37th round of the draft but did not sign him.
9. Mike Bolsinger, rhp, McKinney (Sr., Arkansas)
Bolsinger didn't join the Marshals until midseason as a result of playing in the College World Series, where he recorded the save in the team's win against Cal State Fullerton. The 2008 TCL pitcher of the year, Bolsinger was excellent in his three starts, going 1-0, 1.50 with 24 strikeouts and just five walks in 18 innings. He lives down in the zone with an 89-91 mph sinking fastball and a slurvy breaking ball that is an effective out pitch, but he sometimes grows too reliant upon it. The righthander is still developing a circle changeup, which tends to flatten out. Bolsinger, who projects as a middle reliever in the pro ranks, was drafted by the Athletics in the 33rd round, but he did not sign.
10. Brett Nicholas, c, East Texas (Jr., Missouri)
Nicholas is an instinctual catcher with advanced defensive ability. At 6-foot-2, 214 pounds, he is agile with soft hands, allowing him to block stray pitches well, and his quick release makes stealing difficult for baserunners. Nicholas has a quiet approach from the left side of the plate and shows good pitch recognition. Using a thick lower half while keeping his weight back, he produces good power to both alleys. Nicholas spent his freshman year at Gonzaga before transferring to Scottsdale (Ariz.) JC, where he had a standout sophomore season (.379, 11 homers, 56 RBIs). He has transferred to Missouri for his junior year.