2012 California Collegiate League Top 10 Prospects
Perennial power Santa Barbara had to win its final six games of the California Collegiate League season to finish 20-10 in league play and tie San Luis Obispo for the CCL title. It marked the second straight year that the Foresters and Blues shared the championship, after the Foresters won each of the previous nine titles outright. The Foresters and Blues both went on to the NBC World Series in Wichita, where Santa Barbara became the first team to repeat as champion since Kenai of the Alaska League in 1993-94. The Foresters, who extended their overall winning streak to 14 games before a loss to the Hays Larks, beat the Seattle Studs 6-2 in the championship game.
As usual, the CCL prospects list is dominated by Foresters and Blues. Santa Barbara righty Jason Hursh (Oklahoma State), working his way back from Tommy John surgery, would have topped this list if he had logged enough innings to qualify. In five relief appearances, he ran his fastball up to 95-96 mph and showed a fluid, effortless arm action.
1. Cody Dickson, lhp, Santa Barbara (Jr., Sam Houston State)
Dickson thrived in the Friday starter role for the first half of the spring at SHSU, then ran into control struggles and found himself in a midweek role. His walk rate remained too high this summer, when he issued 19 free passes while striking out 25 in 23 innings, but he also held hitters to a .156 average and posted a 3.13 ERA. He actually showed decent control with the exception of one very poor outing, and his stuff is electric. A 6-foot-3, 175-pound southpaw, Dickson sits in the low 90s and touches 95 with his fastball. He flashes a plus curveball in the 76-78 range and a promising changeup with good arm speed, but he needs to repeat his secondary stuff more consistently. He sometimes rushes to the plate and spins out of his delivery, but when he stays in sync he can be dominant. He has more upside as he fills out his slender frame.
2. Daniel Mengden, rhp/c, San Luis Obispo (So., Texas A&M)
The Aggies threw Mengden into the fire as their closer early in his freshman year, then moved him to middle relief when he encountered some adversity at the back of the bullpen. By the end of the season, he had reinvented himself as a starting pitcher, thriving in four starts, and finished 3-4, 3.83 with three saves in 47 innings overall. He returned to the bullpen at San Luis Obispo, posting a 1.46 ERA with 18 strikeouts and seven walks in 12 innings as the Blues' closer, recording nine saves in 13 appearances. That earned him the start in the league's all-star game, where his fastball sat in the 91-94 mph range, and he showed a quality power slider in the 80-83 range. He also mixed in a sharp 76 mph curveball that he could throw for a strike and an improving 82-84 changeup. His changeup is a work in progress, but he also throws a split-finger that can be a swing-and-miss offering when it's on. Mengden also hit .286 in 28 at-bats, but his summer was cut short when he was hit by a pitch on the wrist. He has raw power potential and the tools to be a quality catching prospect, but his electric stuff figures to ensure a pro future on the mound.
3. Gandy Stubblefield, rhp, San Luis Obispo (So., Texas A&M)
Drafted in the 14th round out of high school, Stubblefield has premium arm strength but is still learning to refine his control and develop his secondary stuff. He made four midweek starts as a freshman this spring but pitched just 21 innings in 10 appearances overall as a freshman. He spent the summer building up his endurance as a starter, going 5-1, 3.46 with 53 strikeouts and 16 walks in 39 innings. Lean and loose at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Stubblefield works in the 91-93 range and bumps 95 as a reliever, but he settled into the 89-93 range as a starter. When he stays through his fastball, it explodes out of his hand with arm-side and sinking life.
Stubblefield's second pitch this spring was a curveball, but he started throwing a changeup midway through the season and made continued progress with it this summer, though it needs further refinement. He also began throwing a slider during the final week of the spring, and that pitch took a big step forward this summer, coming in at 80-83 with short, sharp tilt. His 76-79 curveball has more depth but can be more difficult for him to command. If Stubblefield can continue to make progress harnessing his stuff, he should earn a starting rotation spot at A&M next spring and could be a top draft in 2014.
4. John Beck, rhp, Santa Barbara (Jr., Texas-Arlington)
After going 3-1, 4.30 in nine outings (seven starts) as a sophomore this spring, Beck blossomed in the CCL, going 3-1, 2.29 with 27 strikeouts and 12 walks in 35 innings. He capped his sterling summer by striking out 10 and allowing just one run over 6 1/3 innings in the NBC World Series championship game. Beck's calling card is his ability to locate his 91-94 mph fastball, which he spots very well down and away. He also has above-average command of his quality slider, which he can throw for a strike or use as a chase pitch. He flashes an average changeup but needs to refine his command of the pitch. Beck has a loose arm, a smooth delivery and an athletic 6-foot-2, 175-pound frame.
5. Nick Palewicz, rhp, Santa Barbara (Jr., Washington)
Palewicz's uncle, Al Palewicz, played in the NFL for the Chiefs and the Jets, and Nick has a football player's physicality at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds. He worked exclusively in relief as a redshirt sophomore this spring, going 1-2, 5.34 in 25 appearances, but he handled a starting role ably for the Foresters, going 4-3, 2.92 with a sparkling 46-6 strikeout-walk mark in 37 innings. His strong performance earned him the start in the CCL all-star game, where he struck out two and got three groundball outs in two innings. Palewicz worked consistently in the 91-94 mph range this summer, and his heavy fastball has good life. His No. 2 pitch is an average slider at 82-84 with short break, and he mixes in a serviceable 81-83 changeup without much action. He also throws a high-70s curveball as a show pitch. Palewicz has some stiffness to his body and delivery, but he showed surprising feel for pitching this summer and looks ready to transition to Washington's weekend rotation next spring. He has at least a chance to start in pro ball, but he profiles better as a reliever.
6. Dylan Munger, lhp, San Luis Obispo (So., Alabama-Birmingham)
Munger pitched better than his 5.98 ERA suggests as a freshman this spring, striking out 40 while walking 18 in 41 innings. He earned CCL all-star honors this summer, going 4-0, 1.91 with 38 strikeouts and nine walks in 38 innings. A projectable 6-foot-3, 190-pound lefty, Munger has a quick arm, a good delivery and natural life on his 87-90 fastball. He throws a sharp slurve at 76-77 with two-plane break, using it to get swings and misses against righties and lefties alike. He also has promising feel for his changeup, which gives him another weapon against righties. Munger is still mastering the mental part of the game, as he can be hard on himself when he falls behind in counts or works up in the zone. But he largely stayed ahead of hitters and minimized his walks this summer, a very encouraging sign for his future. With a good frame and a legitimate three-pitch mix, Munger has a future as a weekend starter at UAB, and has a solid chance to work as a starter in pro ball as well.
7. Albert Minnis, lhp, Santa Barbara (Jr., Wichita State)
An unsigned 33rd-round pick by the Braves out of high school, Minnis gained some notoriety when he was victimized by the NCAA's unevenly applied no-agent rule before the 2011 season, limiting him to just 23 innings as a freshman. He split time between starting and relieving as a sophomore, going 4-4, 3.82 with 52 strikeouts in 66 innings, and he was dominant in a setup role for Santa Barbara, going 1-0, 2.10 with 32 strikeouts and six walks in 26 innings. A stocky, tenacious bulldog at 6-foot, 200 pounds, Minnis attacks hitters with an 89-92 mph fastball from a three-quarters slot. His heater disappears at the plate thanks to excellent run and sink. He gets loads of groundball outs with that pitch, and he mixes in an average slider at 78-79. Minnis also has a changeup, but he seldom uses it in a relief role. His deception, fastball life and aggressiveness give him a chance to be an effective lefty reliever in pro ball.
8. Matt Shortall, of, San Luis Obispo (Jr., Texas-Arlington)
Shortall spent his 2010 freshman year at Tulane, where he played sparingly before transferring to UTA. After sitting out 2011 due to transfer rules, he emerged as a key middle-of-the-order presence for the Mavericks this spring, hitting .275/.321/.464 with six homers in 153 at-bats. He took off in the CCL, batting .336/.414/.586 with four homers and 25 RBIs. Shortall stood out for his above-average arm strength at the league's scouting combine, throwing on a line in the air to third base and home plate from right field. He also covered 60 yards in 6.9 seconds, demonstrating serviceable speed. Shortall worked hard on improving the quality of his at-bats this summer, and he his feel for hitting made significant progress. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, he generates good backspin with his righthanded swing, showing plus raw power potential. Shortall has the pop and arm strength to profile as a right fielder in pro ball, but his ability to make adjustments at the plate will determine how far he goes.
9. Jacob Felts, c, Santa Barbara (Jr., Texas)
The everyday catcher at Texas since his freshman year, Felts improved his offense considerably as a sophomore, boosting his average from .215 in 2011 to .282 in 2012. He got off to a torrid start for the Foresters before cooling off in the second half of the summer, finishing at .276 with three homers and 17 RBIs. Felts works hard at his hitting, and he projects as a below-average hitter with a chance for fringe-average power, which would make him a serviceable pro catcher. His defense behind the plate will carry him. Felts is a solid-average receiver and blocker, and though his arm action is a little long, he has average arm strength and good accuracy. He also handles a pitching staff very well and is a well-respected leader in the clubhouse.
10. Marvin Campbell, 1b/of, Team Vegas (Sr., Hawaii Pacific)
A 31st-round pick by the Marlins out of high school in Las Vegas, Campbell began his collegiate career at JC of Southern Nevada, where he hit 15 home runs as a sophomore in 2010 alongside Bryce Harper, leading the Coyotes to the NJCAA World Series. He followed coach Tim Chambers to UNLV in 2011, taking a medical redshirt that year. He got off to a slow start in 2012, hitting .238/.360/.397 and getting released by the team midway through the season. But he rebounded in the CCL, hitting .396/.448/.670 with five homers and 29 RBIs in 91 at-bats.
At 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, Campbell strikes an intimidating figure in the batter's box. His calling card is his well above-average raw power from the left side, and he worked hard at keeping his hands inside the ball and driving it middle-away this year. He'll always have some swing-and-miss to his game, but his pitch selection and strike-zone awareness are improving. Campbell lowered his hands this summer, getting them into a better hitting slot and allowing him to take advantage of his lightning-quick hands. Campbell is surprisingly light on his feet for his size, and though he's a below-average runner, he can hold his own in left field or at first base. But he'll go as far as his powerful bat will carry him, and he could provide excellent value as a fifth-year senior sign next spring.