New England Collegiate League Top 10 Prospects
The Newport Gulls became the first team to win four NECBL championships, defeating the Vermont Mountaineers two games to one in the best-of-three championship series. Righthander Andrew Kittredge (Washington) struck out 12 in Newport's Game One victory, and Troy Scott (Washington) drove in five—including a three-run homer that gave the Gulls the lead for good—in the title-clinching win in Game Three.
1. Devin Jones, rhp, Danbury (So., Mississippi State)
Jones generated some interest from scouts out of Europa (Miss.) High and was drafted by the Indians in the 49th round. He broke his throwing hand early this spring as a freshman for Mississippi State and struggled in 23 innings upon his return, posting a 9.26 ERA, but he turned a corner in the NECBL this summer, going 3-1, 2.79 with 35 strikeouts and 18 walks in 29 innings. Opponents hit just .176 off him, an indication of the quality of his stuff, though he's still working on refining his command and control. Jones works in the 88-92 mph range with a good two-seam fastball and has a promising slider, though his changeup is a work in progress. He figures to add velocity as he continues filling out his lean 6-foot-2 frame—he arrived at MSU weighing 165 pounds but has already added 15 pounds.
2. Peter Verdin, of/c, Keene (So., Georgia)
Verdin was easily overlooked in Georgia's banner 2008 recruiting haul, but he made an impact as a freshman, hitting .316/.396/.408 in 98 at-bats. He followed up his spring by holding his own with a wood bat in the NECBL, hitting .296/.353/.398 with three homers and nine stolen bases in 30 games. If his power comes—and he does have good strength and gap-to-gap pop in his 6-foot, 200-pound frame—Verdin has a chance to be a true five-tool player. He is still developing as a hitter and must improve his plate discipline, but he has a knack for barreling up balls and he's an outstanding bunter. That skill helps him take advantage of his above-average speed (he runs the 60-yard dash in 6.6 seconds), which also plays very well in center field. Verdin also has an above-average arm from the outfield. The Bulldogs hope to use him behind the plate at least sometimes next spring, so he split time this summer between the outfield and catcher. He is raw as a backstop, but he showed good aptitude for the position. Verdin also earns praise for his makeup.
3. Tyler Mizenko, rhp, Sanford (So., Winthrop)
Mizenko emerged as a stalwart closer during his freshman year at Winthrop, racking up 14 saves and posting a 42-19 strikeout-walk ratio in 45 innings. He was even more dominant this summer in the NECBL, going 1-1, 0.46 with nine saves and a 23-10 K-BB ratio in 20 innings. Mizenko attacks hitters with two very good offerings: a 90-93 mph fastball that touched 95 and a hard, swing-and-miss slider with two-plane break. His deceptive low three-quarters arm slot lends his fastball good life, and he excels at running his slider in under the hands of lefthanded hitters. Mizenko has a loose, durable 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame with a high waist, broad shoulders and strong legs. He is still growing into his body and could develop into a bullpen horse in pro ball as he matures.
4. Troy Scott, 1b, Newport (Jr., Washington)
Scott led the Huskies in home runs (11) this spring and kept on mashing for league-champion Newport, hitting .316/.460/.537 with five homers and 22 RBIs in 95 at-bats. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound Scott has good leverage and plus raw power in his lefthanded swing. Most of his home run power is to right field presently, but he did show the ability to make adjustments on pitches over the outer half, knocking them the other way for singles or doubles. Scott also showed a patient approach at the plate, drawing 26 walks and striking out 24 times. He is a good defender at first base, but he runs well enough that some scouts think could handle left field. That versatility increases his value, but he has enough talent to hit his way to the big leagues even if he sticks at first base.
5. Joey Bergman, 3b, Newport (Sr., College of Charleston)
Bergman has been a hitting machine since he arrived at College of Charleston, though he did not take over a full-time role until this spring, when he put up video game numbers: .452/.551/.778 with 15 homers, 57 RBIs and 24 stolen bases in 26 attempts. He was drafted by the Cardinals in the 22nd round but did not sign, instead heading to Newport and tearing up the NECBL. Bergman batted .351/.425/.443 with one homer in 97 at-bats for the Gulls. At 6-foot, 200 pounds, Bergman has below-average power with wood bats and doesn't profile well at third base, though he's an outstanding defender at the hot corner with sure hands, calm actions and adequate arm strength. He profiles as an offensive second baseman in pro ball. Bergman is a very mature hitter who rarely chases pitches outside the strike zone. He has lightning-quick hands and the ability to lace hard line drives to all fields. He's not a burner on the basepaths but is a very good baserunner thanks to his keen instincts. Bergman simply has outstanding feel for all phases of the game.
6. Taylor Featherston, ss, New Bedford (So., Texas Christian)
A key member of TCU's heralded 2008 recruiting class, Featherston stepped right into the starting shortstop job as a freshman and struggled defensively, precipitating a move to second base. Injury forced him back to short toward the end of the spring, and he handled the position better. Featherston fielded at a solid .941 clip as New Bedford's shortstop this summer and also hit .321/.356/.481 in 81 at-bats. Featherston's best tools are his bat and his arm strength. He's a natural gap-to-gap hitter who projects for fringe-average power as he matures. Despite his strong arm, Featherston's footwork and range are below-average at shortstop, and he profiles better as a physical second baseman in the Mark DeRosa mold. A big-game player, Featherston rises to the challenge against the best competition.
7. Adam Conley, lhp, Keene (So., Washington State)
Conley posted a 5.97 ERA in 38 innings of mostly relief this spring, but he was a dynamo this summer, going 2-0, 0.00 with 37 strikeouts and 11 walks in 34 innings over eight appearances (four starts). Conley allowed just one unearned run and 14 hits for a .125 opponents' batting average. Conley carved up NECBL hitters by commanding three pitches to both sides of the plate, rarely above the knees. His changeup is a plus pitch with good arm speed and good sink and fade. He flashes a tight slider but needs to become more consistent with the pitch. Conley did not show overpowering velocity this summer, working in the 86-88 range, but his 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame is very projectable and it's easy to envision him throwing in the 90s in a couple of years. If that happens, he could be a premium draft pick in 2011.
8. Chad Arnold, rhp, Newport (Jr., Washington State)
Arnold had a chance to be a top-10-rounds draft pick out of high school but instead slipped to the 36th round because of an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. He redshirted in 2007, eased his way back in 2008 and emerged as a stalwart weekend starter for Washington State's regional team in 2009, going 8-3, 4.39 with 76 strikeouts in 80 innings. Cougars coach Donnie Marbut said this spring that Arnold is one of the biggest recruits that ever showed up on campus during his tenure, and he could blossom into a high draft pick next spring. Arnold showed just how overpowering he can be this summer, going 3-1, 2.68 with 49 strikeouts and 16 walks in 40 innings. He has truly started to grow into his 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame, and he comes right after righthanded hitters and lefties alike. Arnold's 87-90 mph fastball has heavy sink and run, and he should add velocity as he gets farther from his surgery and continues to mature physically. His low-80s slider can be a wipeout pitch at times, and he has good feel for a changeup. Early in the summer, opponents exploited Arnold on the basepaths, but he made adjustments and did a better job controlling running games later in the summer.
9. Andrew Benak, rhp, Vermont (So., Rice)
Benak arrived in the NECBL about 15 months removed from Tommy John surgery and had yet to get comfortable throwing his slider again. Early in the summer he filled up the strike zone with an 88-91 mph fastball and a good changeup, but by the end of the summer he was also snapping off hard, tight sliders on occasion. The pitch still needs work—sometimes it lacks depth—but it has a chance to be an average or better offering. Benak also should add velocity to his fastball as his arm strength builds and he grows into his strong 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame. Benak is still raw, but his upside is considerable.
10. Andrew Kittredge, rhp, Newport (So., Washington)
A 45th-round pick by the Mariners out of high school in 2008, Kittredge was Washington's top recruit last year as a two-way player. He worked solely as a pitcher as a freshman, going 4-5, 4.27 with 64 strikeouts and 17 walks in 72 innings. Kittredge showed off impeccable control this summer, posting a 41-3 strikeout-walk ratio in 37 innings and going 3-1, 2.43 for Newport. Kittredge has a strong, durable 6-foot, 200-pound frame and a resilient arm. He can locate his low-90s fastball anywhere he wants and also throws a quality breaking ball for strikes. Kittredge is very aggressive, works at a good tempo and does a great job keeping hitters off balance.