2012 NECBL Top 10 Prospects
Behind stout starting pitching and a potent offense, the Newport Gulls swept the Danbury Westerners for their fifth New England Collegiate Baseball League championship. Daniel Wright (Arkansas State) and Pete Kelich (Bryant) combined to pitch 16 innings in the best-of-three series, allowing just three runs on seven hits while striking out 24 to keep Danbury at bay. Jeff Melillo (Rutgers) and Kasey Coffman (Vanderbilt) went a combined 9-for-19 with three long balls, two doubles and six runs scored, as Newport banged out 27 total hits. The Gulls' postseason stars were the same group that led them to a 31-10 regular-season mark; though none made the league's Top 10 prospects list, they all received mention from the league's managers, who named 45 players to be considered for this list.
Similar to other summer college leagues, pitching was down in the NECBL, which led to inflated offensive statistics and many broken records. Melillo, for example, set the league's on-base percentage record with an absurd .548 mark. And like last year, the league didn't feature any top-flight talent—like Mark Appel, Mike Olt and Stephen Strasburg of recent vintage—but there was plenty of depth. More than 40 scouts attended the league's all-star game.
1. Alex Haines, lhp, Vermont (Jr., Seton Hill, Pa.)
The NECBL pitcher of the year, Haines went 5-2, 0.90 in 40 innings with 54 strikeouts and just six walks, in a year when the league's collective slugging percentage was .433 and collective ERA was 5.23. For Haines, a common refrain became: "You go to Seton Hall, right?" Opposing managers and hitters quickly learned of Division II Seton Hill, located in Greensburg, Pa., where he landed after being lightly recruited out of high school 15 minutes away.
Though several managers joked Haines "came out of nowhere," he was named the WVIAC's pitcher of the year after going 7-2, 4.24 with 108 strikeouts in 70 innings for the Griffins this spring. A 6-foot-4, 215-pound physical lefty, Haines passes the eye test. His fastball sits at 90-93 mph with arm-side run, and he touched 96 in a one-inning stint starting the all-star game, in which he threw 12 straight fastballs in an empty frame. Haines' offspeed stuff is improving, and as one manager said, "He dominated the league by throwing fastballs, and fastballs only," though his changeup improved dramatically throughout the summer. His curveball is a work in progress. He worked to introduce a cutter late in the summer.
Haines had Tommy John surgery as a junior in high school, and though his fundamental delivery could be smoothed out, his arm action is clean. He has continued adding strength, and he long-tosses from pole-to-pole before starts. One scout projected Haines would be a top-five-rounds pick in next year's draft.
2. Danny Collins, 3b, Laconia (Jr., Troy)
Collins' path to being an NECBL record-holder hasn't been ordinary, but he emerged this summer as the NECBL's MVP and best position prospect. A well-regarded prep recruit from Niceville, Fla., Collins signed to play for Alabama, but he redshirted after injuring a knee as a freshman. He transferred to nearby Northwest Florida State JC, where he was an all-American, then followed his former high school coach Brad Phillips to Troy. Batting cleanup for the Trojans, Collins hit .318/.388/.562 with 17 doubles and 12 home runs, and he continued raking this summer. Collins posted a .390/.461/.818 line, setting league records for home runs (19), slugging percentage, extra base hits (29) and total bases (130).
Collins generates easy plus power with impressive carry to all fields from his stout, thick 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame. He won the all-star game's home run derby with seven long balls in the first round and five in the finals, including one that went 430 feet. Collins controls his bat head well, relying on a buggy whip swing, and he has good strike-zone discipline.
"He's the best pure hitter I've seen in three summers in the NECBL, and has the best usable power as well," Laconia manager Matt Alison said. He played mostly third base at Troy, but he split time at the corner infield spots for Laconia. His arm is fringe-average and might make him move to first base or left field professionally.
3. Yale Rosen, of, Newport (So., Washington State)
Rosen started only one game for Washington State this spring, but he took advantage of an opportunity to play every day for Newport. With a minor mechanical adjustment that lowered his already-open stance to start in a crouch and reduce head movement, Rosen became a much more dangerous hitter. He hit .330/.431/.730 with 12 home runs in just 30 games, showing off his impressive raw power and physicality. The tweak also helped Rosen go the other way; he was previously a dead-pull hitter. Rosen has a tendency to get caught out on his front foot, and he needs to improve his pitch recognition. He also would benefit from toning his approach down at times, particularly with two strikes, as he whiffed 37 times. As one manager joked, "He sure doesn't get cheated. He swings hard in case he hits it. But he hits it a lot."
A 6-foot-2, 208-pound three-sport high school star, Rosen is a good athlete. He's an average runner and profiles in an outfield corner, where he shows good instincts and range.
4. Grant Kay, 2b, Keene (So., Iowa Western CC)
More than any other descriptor, league managers described the 6-foot, 185-pound Kay this way: "He's just a good baseball player." As a freshman at Iowa Western, Kay batted .406 with 25 extra-base hits in 133 at-bats. He continued raking for Keene, putting together a .360/.421/.640 line with six doubles and 11 home runs. Kay sprays line drives from gap to gap and creates surprising pop with his torque-heavy swing. As one league manager said: "He was the thorn in everybody's side. You can't get the kid out. He was the one guy in the league I didn't want to see coming to the plate." Said another: "He can hit anything," like when he returned a 92 mph fastball headed for his chin off the fence in left-center field.
Kay ran a 6.6-second 60-yard dash at the league's skills competition. He played both third and second base this summer, though his arm best profiles at the keystone sack. Kay had offers from four-year programs but looks to be headed back to Iowa Western, where he could test the professional waters after next spring.
5. Scott Squier, lhp, Holyoke (So., Hawaii)
Squier made three appearances with Yarmouth-Dennis in the Cape Cod League—two as a reliever, his anticipated role—but he got a release from his contract to find a summer destination where he could start, and he landed across the state in Holyoke. He made just four starts with the Blue Sox before leaving early to tend to a family matter, but flashed his talent in a short, albeit inconsistent, stint. Squier went 1-3, 5.48 with 25 strikeouts in 21 innings, though he walked 10. Still, that came after Squier's freshman campaign, in which he went 3-4, 3.50 with 55 strikeouts in 64 innings at Hawaii.
At 6-foot-6 and 185 pounds, Squier is tall, lanky and projectable. He adds and subtracts from his 85-92 mph fastball that touches 94, and he could add velocity as he grows into his body. While they need refinement, his changeup and curveball show flashes of being plus offerings. He has a clean delivery with some effort. Squier was drafted in the 19th round as a Phoenix prep product, and with improvements in command and consistency he could be a top-round selection in two years.
6. Vince Conde, 3b, Laconia (So., Vanderbilt)
A member of Vanderbilt's top-ranked 2011 recruiting class, which included seven others who starred in the NECBL this summer, Conde stood out most to league managers and scouts for his combination of present tools and projection. Conde, a Puerto Rico native and high school teammate of Yankees second-rounder Dante Bichette Jr. at Orangewood Christian (Fla.) High, was the Commodores' everyday third baseman this spring, though he hit just .195/.280/.297. Conde seemed to break through this summer, when he posted a slash line of .287/.380/.507 with eight home runs.
A well-built 6-foot, 190-pounder, Conde has impressive bat speed and quick hands, which generate power to all fields. With Conde's hands positioned by his hips in his batting stance, pitchers thought they could pound him in; others tried to test him away. One manager joked his catcher came back to the dugout late in a game and asked, "Do you have any thoughts on how to get Conde out?"
Conde has smooth, soft hands and good instincts. He mostly played shortstop for the Muskrats, but he doesn't have great range. His fringe-average arm may force him to second professionally.
7. Max Pentecost, c, Holyoke (So., Kennesaw State)
Pentecost generated draft buzz early in his high school senior season, with some scouts speculating he could be taken as high as the supplemental first round, but he suffered an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. The Rangers still selected him in the seventh round, but Pentecost opted to attend Kennesaw State, where he hit .277/.364/.393 with 16 doubles, spending most of his time as a DH while Ronnie Freeman caught. Like Freeman, a 2012 fifth-round pick of the Diamondbacks, Pentecost played in the NECBL with Holyoke. He hit .303/.376/.424 with 10 extra-base hits and spent most of the summer catching.
Pentecost's calling card is his catch-and-throw ability, which scouts suggested were already superior to that of Freeman and fellow 2011 Holyoke teammate Tom Murphy, a third-round pick of the Rockies. Pentecost has an easy plus arm, though he could get even quicker on his exchange and release. He shows average power, and he should add strength as he grows into his 6-foot-1, 183-pound frame. He needs to improve his two-strike approach. Pentecost is a good athlete and runs well for a catcher.
8. Cole Peragine, ss/2b, Vermont (So., Stony Brook)
Peragine was the everyday shortstop during Stony Brook's remarkable run to the College World Series, earning freshman All-American honors after hitting .304/.386/.411. Ten days after the Seawolves' season ended, the Belle Ewart, Ontario, native debuted for Vermont—the same squad as former Stony Brook teammate William Carmona, an 11th-round selection of the Phillies—and hit .354/.461/.431.
"The amazing thing was, he never slowed down. He never lacked energy. He never was tired," said Mountaineers manager John Russo, who also coaches Hofstra. A switch-hitting middle infielder, Peragine doesn't have loud tools but he's "solid across the board in everything," Russo said. At 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, Peragine has a smooth righthanded swing that shows pop to the gaps, and he's improving from the left side. He's a solid defender, with smooth actions and soft hands. His arm might be light for shortstop professionally, though he hurt it diving for a ball in Omaha and wasn't playing at full strength. He's a solid-average runner. Scouts were buzzing about Peragine after he hit a home run in the all-star game, and he already agreed to play with Yarmouth-Dennis next summer.
9. Nic Manuppelli, rhp, Laconia (Jr., Youngstown State)
Manuppelli turned heads at the all-star game when he struck out the side on 16 pitches, capping off a summer in which he recorded eight saves in 13 appearances with 17 strikeouts in 11 innings. He struck out 36 in 37 innings as Youngstown State's closer while finishing 22 games. Manuppelli has a durable 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame, and while he has worked almost exclusively as a reliever for Youngstown, Laconia manager Matt Allison and a scout suggested Manuppelli might be able to handle a starter's workload, especially considering his three-pitch arsenal. "He is a strike-thrower with an easy, repeatable delivery," Allison said. "Nic's makeup is excellent, he's a competitor who wants the ball."
Mannuppelli works at 90-94 mph with his lively fastball, which he locates well. His changeup is a plus offering with tumble. Manuppelli's breaking ball is slurvy, though he tightened it up during the all-star game appearance. If he stays in the bullpen, Manuppelli has back-end potential.
10. Artie Lewicki, rhp, Keene (Jr., Virginia)
Lewicki's strong second half this spring (3-0, 1.59 ERA over a five-start stretch) helped key Virginia's late-season surge, and he threw seven shutout innings against Florida State in the ACC tournament. He continued to surge for the Swamp Bats, going 2-0, 4.28 with 26 strikeouts in 27 innings. Lewicki showed "absolutely electric" stuff—his fastball was sitting at 95 mph—in a mid-July start before suffering an arm injury that required Tommy John surgery; he also had bone chips removed from his elbow as a junior in high school. When healthy, Lewicki has shown a 90-94 mph fastball with run and a sharp low-80s slider. He has a strong, projectable 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame and a whippy arm action that could raise red flags after a second surgery. When he returns, Lewicki might best profile as a power reliever.