2012 Texas Collegiate League Top 10 Prospects
In a rematch of the 2010 championship series, the East Texas Pump Jacks rallied from an opening-game loss in the best-of-three series to defeat the Victoria Generals and capture the franchise's first Texas Collegiate League title. The Pump Jacks had the league's best record at 41-22 and produced four of the top 10 prospects on the list below, including top-ranked Jason Jester. Victoria finished with the third-best record in the TCL at 38-24.
1. Jason Jester, rhp, East Texas (Jr., Texas A&M)
Voted as the TCL's top closer a year ago, Jester had an utterly dominant summer in his return to East Texas. In 31 innings, Jester posted a 0.58 ERA, a 42-3 K-BB and allowed just 13 hits. He racked up 19 saves, shattering the previous league record of 12. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound righty has a strong, well-developed lower half, fluid mechanics and an electric arm. Jester sits 92-95 mph with his four-seam fastball and can touch 97. His late-breaking 79-82 mph curveball with substantial depth was unanimously rated as the league's best breaking ball by coaches. For years his changeup was a distant third pitch, but the high-70s offering has developed into a true swing-and-miss weapon against lefties. Coaches praise his seemingly inexhaustible work ethic, feel for pitching and command. After two seasons as a starter at Tyler (Texas) JC, Jester transferred to Texas A&M to become a late-inning reliever, but was declared academically ineligible after fall ball, causing him to go undrafted as a junior. The Aggies expect him to anchor their bullpen this spring, and he could be a high draft as a 22-year-old next spring.
2. Kyle Martin, rhp, Brazos Valley (Sr., Texas A&M)
A 39th-round pick of the Nationals in 2009, Martin entered College Station as an unrefined high-80s arm with a conventional delivery. Poor command limited Martin to five innings his freshman year, spurring coaches to make him a sidearmer. This spring, Martin was the Aggie's closer, saving seven games with a 3.20 ERA and a 2.5-1 strikeout-walk ratio. Ross Stripling and Michael Wacha's departures depleted the Aggies' rotation heading into next year, and coaches believe the 6-foot-7, 220-pound Martin can fill the void after changing to a high-three-quarters arm slot this summer. His previously 87-88 mph fastball velocity jumped to 93-95 from the higher slot. The towering righthander's new slot produces good sink on his fastball. Martin has feel for an 80-82 mph changeup with good tumble that is his best offspeed offering, with his slider a distant third pitch. Given his inexperience from the higher slot, Martin's slider development is in its nascent stages, but it has the potential to become a weapon. In three summer starts, Martin posted a 1.90 ERA and an 18-6 strikeout-walk mark in 19 innings, including a six-inning no-hitter. Drafted in the 35th round by the White Sox this year, Martin's mechanical changes give the 21-year-old a chance to drastically improve his draft stock as a senior.
3. Braden Mattson, c, Brazos Valley (So., San Jacinto, Texas, JC)
A key piece of TCU's 10th-ranked 2011 recruiting class, Mattson backed up Josh Elander and hit .190/.268/.270 in 27 games before a May suspension for violating team rules. The 19-year-old will be eligible for the 2013 draft after transferring to San Jacinto JC. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Mattson has a lean, muscular body that "just looks like he was just made to play baseball," a coach said. Behind the plate, Mattson has the league's best arm, capable of 1.85-1.95-second pop times. Although athletic with good hands, Mattson's receiving and blocking remain raw. He is a rare plus-running catcher, with 6.7-second 60-yard times. Mattson was among the TCL's top offensive performers, hitting .291/.359/.465 with five home runs, tied for fourth in the league. With good bat speed and physical strength, scouts project Mattson to develop 15-18 home run power as a professional, but project him as a below-average hitter because of an aggressive approach and contact questions. He drew just 12 walks while striking out 28 times in 139 plate appearances this summer.
"He can put on a show in batting practice, but the approach can make him look bad, and then he can hit it 400 (feet) in the same at-bat," a scout said. "He needs to be more consistent, but next spring he could draw a lot of attention."
4. Jacob Lindgren, lhp, East Texas (So., Mississippi State)
Lindgren, a 12th-round pick of the Cubs in 2011, became a key arm for the Bulldogs this spring, posting a 3.18 ERA with 24 strikeouts and seven walks in 28 innings and earning elimination game starts in the SEC tournament and regionals. Lindgren had one of the best arms in the TCL, sitting 90-92 mph with his four-seam fastball and a bat-breaking two-seamer with tremendous sink and arm-side run. Primarily a one-pitch reliever this spring, Lindgren's 82-83 mph slider and changeup improved this summer, but they will need further refinement before he joins the Bulldogs' rotation next year. So will his control, which was good this spring but resulted in 21 walks in 40 summer innings because of a tendency to fly open before release. The 5-foot-11, 206-pound Lindgren has a strong lower half with thick legs and throws from a three-quarters slot. He had a 3.60 ERA and struck out 27 this summer.
5. Kyle Kubat, lhp, East Texas (So., Nebraska)
Kubat emerged as a key arm for the Cornhuskers as a freshman, making eight weekend starts down the stretch and throwing 51 innings with a 2.63 ERA. Kubat's name litters the TCL's pitching leaderboards, placing in the top three in strikeouts (51), strikeout-walk ratio (3.9), ERA (1.65), and wins (6-0). The 19-year-old excels because of his superb command (1.95 walks per nine innings) of three pitches; coaches said his command was the best of any starter in the league. His 75-76 mph curveball with 12-to-6 break and his 74-75 mph changeup are strong offerings that Kubat will throw in any count. Although he has impressive command from the left side, Kubat is not a finesse pitcher, with a fastball that sits 87-89 mph and touches 90. Coaches anticipate Kubat's velocity will increase as his lean 6-foot-1, 170-pound frame matures and gains strength.
6. Dillon Newman, rhp, Victoria (Jr., Baylor)
As a sophomore, Newman emerged as a late-inning weapon with a 2.40 ERA and 44 strikeouts against 11 walks in 45 innings out of the Bears' bullpen. With the Bears losing their top three starters, Newman's summer performance demonstrated he is ready to contend for a weekend rotation spot next spring. In 35 innings, Newman struck out 41 while walking just three to post a 1.51 ERA. Newman has good control and mixes his three-pitch assortment well, although he mostly relies on his fastball-changeup combo. As a starter, Newman's fastball sat 89-92 mph, and his high-70s changeup is good enough to use against righties and lefties, showing good arm-side fade. His 80-82 mph slider improved this summer. Because Newman possesses strong command of his offspeed stuff, he sometimes pitches backward, but scouts would like to see the athletic 6-foot-2, 195-pound Newman pitch more off his fastball.
7. Trae Davis, rhp, Victoria (Jr., Baylor)
A heralded recruit out of Mexia (Texas) High, Davis has thrown just 33 innings in two seasons for Baylor because of command issues (6.5 walks per nine). But Davis has pure arm strength few can match, sitting 92-93 mph and touching 95 this summer. His offspeed pitches remain very inconsistent, although his 80-82 mph slider with good depth has potential. Davis replaced his split-finger with a changeup this summer, but presently it lags far behind slider. He had a 1.95 ERA with 22 strikeouts and 17 walks in 37 summer innings. The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Davis, who struggled in the Cape Cod League last summer, has a strong build with a thick lower half that offers minimal projection. With improved command and refined secondary stuff, the 20-year-old Davis will contend for a rotation spot next spring.
8. Nathan Sorenson, lhp, Brazos Valley (Jr., Texas A&M)
A 40th-round pick by the Pirates in 2010, Sorenson attended Oklahoma State on a dual-sport scholarship to play quarterback and pitch. Following a football redshirt and one inning pitched as a freshman, Sorenson sat out this spring after transferring to Texas A&M. The athletic 6-foot-3, 215-pound lefthander primarily pitches off his 88-90 mph fastball with heavy sink that can touch 92. His low-80s slider with three-quarters tilt can be tough on lefties, and his changeup is developing, but both pitches currently rate as below-average. This summer, Sorenson has a 1.67 ERA in 27 innings with 31 strikeouts. But some stiffness in his delivery and a head whack helped lead to 15 walks, although Sorenson has the athleticism to alleviate his control issues.
"He had a hard time repeating his release point and needs better command, but he is athletic with a good body and the arm works," a scout said. "He will certainly be interesting next spring."
9. Krey Bratsen, of, McKinney (Jr., Texas A&M)
Bratsen hit .332/.395/.373 with 31 steals as an impact freshman but went undrafted as a 21-year-old draft-eligible sophomore this spring, as his line sunk to .226/.316/.286. His hitting hasn't improved much this summer with a .241/.326/.253 line. In 176 plate appearances, the righthanded-hitting Bratsen mustered just two extra-base hits (both doubles), and his skinny 6-foot, 170-pound frame doesn't offer much power projection. Yet Bratsen's game-changing 80 speed is the single best tool in the TCL and keeps his sinking prospect status afloat. The speed merchant plays plus center-field defense, and his slightly above-average arm plays up due to a quick release. Some coaches questioned Bratsen's passion this summer, and he must make more consistent hard contact, but with three present average-or-better tools, Bratsen remains a player who warrants attention.
10. R.J. Santigate, 3b, East Texas (Jr., Kansas State)
The well-traveled Santigate ended his itinerant ways this spring after settling in as the third baseman for Kansas State, his third school in three years, although his .204/.301/.283 line left something to be desired. He hit .270/.372/.319 in 213 plate appearances this summer, but every coach in the league said Santigate was one of the TCL's best hitters with a smooth, balanced stroke from the left side. Santigate has a patient approach (28 walks and 32 strikeouts) and good bat-to-ball skills. Despite a strong 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame with broad shoulders, Santigate's power is presently his worst tool, as he produced just six extra-base hits and no home runs, but coaches believe he will develop gap-to-gap power. Smooth actions, soft hands, and above-average first-step quickness make Santigate's defense his best tool. With one of the best arms in the TCL, the 21-year-old Santigate can handle the hot corner at the next level. Drafted out of high school, improved hitting could make could make the fourth-year junior an interesting prospect because of his strong defense.