Jayhawk League Top 10 Prospects
The Haysville Heat had a lineup loaded with older college players, including batting champ Gary Owens, a 23-year-old outfielder out of Southern Poly (Ga.) who hit .391. The Heat edged Liberal by a game in the league standings and won a Midwest regional title for an automatic NBC World Series berth. The Beejays, with first-year manager Jason Martin replacing former big leaguer Mike Hargrove in the dugout, got their revenge, though, by winning the NBC title for the first time since 2000 and the fourth time in franchise history.
1. Charlie Lowell, lhp, El Dorado (Jr., Wichita State)
Lowell and 6-foot-8 Broncos (and Shockers) teammate Brian Flynn both got support as the Jayhawk League's top prospect, with Lowell earning the edge for his combination of polish and arm strength. While the Laurence-Dumont Stadium radar gun had Lowell register 98 mph during the NBC World Series, most observers thought the gun was hot, by at least 3 mph. However hard he was throwing, he fanned 16 in 12 innings of work in the NBC. Lowell's fastball sits around 90 mph regularly, though, and he touches 93-94. He has a solid-average slider with above-average potential; together with the angle he manufactures with his delivery, he can be very tough on lefthanded hitters. Lowell, who went 0-1, 4.00 this summer for the Broncos, has some feel for pitching, adding and subtracting from his pitches, and has a solid changeup with room to grow. If the 6-foot-4, 234-pounder doesn't stick as a starter, he could wind up as a lefty reliever.
2. Brian Flynn, lhp, El Dorado (So., Wichita State)
Flynn, who as a redshirt sophomore will be draft-eligible in 2011, went 0-1, 3.51 with 28 strikeouts in 27 innings for the Broncos this summer while toning up his listed 6-foot-8, 249-pound body. He's physical and can sit in the low-90s with his fastball when he has all the pieces moving in the same direction in his delivery. Flynn pitches aggressively with his fastball as well and has the strength to maintain his velocity throughout his outings, though he was regularly on a pitch count this summer. Flynn's secondary stuff lags behind that of his teammate Lowell, as his breaking ball lacks sharpness at times.
3. Kelby Tomlinson, ss, Liberal (Jr., Texas Tech)
Tomlinson played the last two seasons at Seward County (Kan.) CC and is set to transfer to Texas Tech for the 2011 season. Long and lean at 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, coaches agree he was the league's best athlete and should be a solid college shortstop, with enough range and arm for the position. He probably lacks the quickness to play the spot at the major league level but should have the hands and arm strength to stay in the infield, perhaps as a utility player as a pro. He is a plus runner whose speed translates well offensively. He's an aggressive and smart baserunner who led the league in stolen bases but who also showed wiry strength and good gap power. Offensively, Tomlinson showed a knack for getting on base, working counts and for bat control as he hit .363, fourth in the Jayhawk. He drew seven walks and stole a tournament-high 12 bases in Liberal's eight games en route to the NBC World Series championship.
4. Brock Green, 3b/1b, Dodge City/Haysville (Jr., Ouachita Baptist, Ark.)
Green hit .336 during the summer for Dodge City before latching on with league regular-season champ Haysville for the NBC World Series, batting 7-for-19 in Wichita. His smooth lefthanded swing made him the league's best hitting prospect. His hands work well at the plate and he showed gap power to the opposite field as he led the league with 13 doubles. At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, he has room to add some strength and projects to have average power. His other tools rate as average or below, though one manager cited Green for playing excellent defense in a stint at first base.
5. Ben Kline, ss, Haysville (Jr., Creighton)
Kline spent two years as a starter at Nebraska before sitting out 2010 as a transfer. He didn't show a ton of rust as he hit .359 for the Heat, yet batted eighth most of the season, even in the NBC World Series, where he homered. He showed surprising pop all summer with five homers and likes to get his arms extended, though he's a bit vulnerable to velocity inside. He stood out more defensively, where he has an above-average arm that helps him play a solid shortstop. Tall and rangy at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Kline may fit better at third as a pro if he can maintain his newfound power but fits as a shortstop in college.
6. Connor Sinclair, rhp, El Dorado (Jr., Lipscomb)
Radar guns are scarce in the Jayhawk League, which made it a good fit for Sinclair. He's much more of a pitcher than a thrower, and while he can touch 91 mph with a fairly straight four-seamer, he's better sitting in the upper 80s with a two-seam fastball. His two-seamer has some run and good sink, and he commands it to both sides of the plate, making him a groundball machine when he's right. He's efficient and competitive, and managers lauded his ability to change speeds. His slider and changeup have their moments and play up thanks to his command and his ability to pitch off his fastball.
7. Garrett Bayliff, of, Derby (So., Wichita State)
Some league managers considered Bayliff the best young player in the league. Just 5-foot-11, 181 pounds, Bayliff nonetheless rivaled Tomlinson as the league's top athlete. He hit a solid .311 for the Twins after batting just .226 as a Wichita State freshman. Bayliff has a solid lefthanded swing with good bat control and got into a good rhythm this summer at the plate. He's a solid-average runner who showed range in the outfield as well. He'll have to get stronger to have more of an impact offensively and avoid being a tweener. Managers liked his grinder mentality.
8. Brian Martin, of, Hays (Sr., Bradley)
Martin was primarily a wrestler in high school who had a scholarship to Fresno State that fell through when the program dropped wrestling. He took a year off from school to reacquaint himself with baseball, which he played as a prep freshman and senior, and has done nothing but hit and run since then. He stands just 5-foot-9 and bats righthanded; his profile would work better if he batted lefty, and he could move to second base for Bradley next season. He's a solid runner with a quick, strong swing, and he made consistent solid contact all summer, batting .386 with 11 doubles, ranking second in the former category. Martin draws walks and steals bases with aplomb and has a track record for hitting with wood, having hit .302 in the Prospect League last summer. He's more grinder than toolshed and already is 22 years old.
9. Kirk Walker, 3b, El Dorado (Sr., Oklahoma City)
Walker's best tool is his bat, as he has a career average north of .400 at NAIA power Oklahoma City in three seasons. He wasn't drafted as a junior but hit .375 in the Jayhawk League and should be a solid senior sign. He's a grinder who hits, thanks to an excellent work ethic and quick bat. Walker has surprising athletic ability that allowed him to slide to shortstop for the injury-plagued Broncos for part of the summer, but he fits better at third in college. His gap power and size might make him a better fit at second base, though he may lack the quickness to play there. He has an average arm but is a below-average runner.
10. Andrew Heck, rhp/of, Hays (Sr., Oklahoma State)
Heck was high on this list last season, and put his names all over the Hays Larks record books with three strong Jayhawk League seasons. He wasn't drafted, though, after a solid two-way season in the final year of Duquesne's baseball program and will transfer to Oklahoma State in the fall; he'll be eligible immediately. While scouts don't see any tool that stands out, Heck does have athletic ability, and league managers love his makeup. On the mound, he's a strike-throwing sinkerballer with fringe-average velocity who seems to throw harder as the game goes on. His competitiveness and ability to get groundballs has some believing his best fit would be in middle relief as a pro, and he was 5-0, 2.50 this summer, with 31 strikeouts in 50 innings. Others point to his speed and see him more as a super-utility player as a hitter, with solid contact ability and defensive versatility. He hit .293 with five homers for the Larks this summer.