Chisenhall Hits Through Adversity

Former Gamecock top JUCO prospect despite legal trouble

With the Division I start date being pushed back three weeks and the elimination of draft and follows, junior college players have been afforded more looks by the scouting community this season.

Until the beginning of April, the consensus standout and top juco prospect for this year's draft draft was righthander Colby Shreve from the Community College of Southern Nevada.

1. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3b, Pitt (N.C.) (8)
Beginning to be known more for his bat than his off-field indiscretions; flat line-drive swing and ability to use the whole field has many calling him the best hitter in junior college.
2. Tyler Ladendorf, ss, Howard (Texas) (7)
Added power to a repertoire that included feel for hitting and speed. After stealing 65 bases last season, slugging over 1.000 this year.
3. Colby Shreve, rhp, Southern Nevada (1)
Showed first-round stuff in early February, but again didn't make it through a full season, this time going down with an elbow injury.
4. Taylor Cole, rhp, Southern Nevada (4)
Has a fierce competitive nature with a fastball reaching 93 mph, a plus curveball and superb athleticism.
5. Ryan Chaffee, rhp, Chipola (Fla.) (5)
Offers a fastball in the low 90s, a plus changeup and three different breaking balls from three different arm slots.
6. Ben Whitmore, lhp, Fresno (3)
Has three quality pitches and knows how to use them. Pitching around 88 with a solid changeup and curveball, he's dominated hitters in California, with a record of 7-1, 1.65.
7. Jarred Holloway, lhp, St. Petersburg (Fla.) (NR)
His 93 mph fastball and even higher projection has scouts intrigued, but command (19 BB in 26 IP) is poor.
8. Will Smith, lhp, Gulf Coast (Fla.) (NR)
Six-foot-4, lefthanded and projectable, knows how to pitch by working off his 90 mph fastball and adding and subtracting from his curveball to keep hitters off balance.
9. Braeden Schlehuber, c, So. Nevada (NR)
Has above-average arm strength and athleticism but his best tool is the bat; leads his wood-bat conference in hits, RBIs and home runs, despite overly aggressive approach.
10. Nick Akins, 2b, Riverside(Calif.) (NR)
Has makeup concerns but tremendous bat speed and tools project large; still a raw baseball player as his development has been slowed by off-field problems.
But for the second year in a row, Shreve started the season out strong only to be set back. Following a poor outing, Shreve was held out of his next two starts and got his arm looked at by a doctor.

After receiving word from a local doctor that he could need Tommy John surgery, Shreve sought out Angels medical director Dr. Lewis Yocum for a second opinion. Yocum diagnosed a sprain, not a tear, and recommended six weeks of rest instead of surgery.

That would leave Shreve a few days to work out just prior to the June 5-6 draft, making him a true draft wild card. Before the injury Shreve had compiled a record of 5-1, 2.30 in eight starts, including three complete games, against wood-bat competition. He had held opposing batters to a .146 average and struck out 43 in 47 innings.

An unsigned eighth-round pick of the Braves last year, Shreve is signed to play baseball at Arkansas next season. Before the injury, it was unlikely he would make it to school because he was likely to be selected in the first 50 picks of this year's draft. With the injury issue, his stock probably falls somewhat. Last year, Shreve threw 58 innings for the Coyotes and faded late, to the point where he didn't even pitch in CCSN's regional series loss to Western Nevada Community College.

Into The Breach

As a result of Shreve's injury, the player that moves to the top of the juco prospect list is Pitt (N.C.) Community College third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall.

Ranked as the No. 8 junior college prospect in the preseason, Chisenhall's ability on the field has seldom been questioned. His issues came off the field in his freshman year at South Carolina in 2007. Just before the Gamecocks' Southeastern Conference opener against Louisiana State last March, Chisenhall and teammate Nick Fuller were arrested and charged with burglary and grand larceny in the theft of items from an on-campus dorm. The two were immediately dismissed from the team, with Fuller landing at Walters (Tenn.) State Community College and Chisenhall at Pitt. Both were impact players for South Carolina, and Chisenhall was putting up numbers worthy of Freshman of the Year consideration.

"It was a major blow to our team," South Carolina assistant coach Monte Lee said. "We don't think they're bad kids or people—they just made a mistake. I still root for them and wish them the best of luck. It was unfortunate what happened."

Chisenhall pled guilty to grand larceny and burglary and was sentenced to six months probation. Fuller pled guilty to three counts of burglary and grand larceny and was sentenced to 18 months of probation.

Since then, Chisenhall has made the best of his situation, rebuilding his reputation while displaying his baseball talent.

"Lonnie has been nothing but positive here," Pitt head coach Tommy Eason said. "We all make mistakes and learn from them, and if you learn from them, then you're a better person for it."

On the field, Chisenhall is one of the best pure hitters in this year's draft class. Listed as a third baseman, the more pressing question for Chisenhall is whether he will hit for enough power to stay at a corner position.

"His power is not huge but he is a really good hitter," a National League scout said. "When you have a guy that can hit all the time, sometimes that power will come as they mature."

Although he doesn't fit the prototype at one particular position yet, Chisenhall's athleticism, speed and plus arm strength give him the flexibility to learn and adequately defend in multiple positions.

"He's got a chance to play a few different positions, but not shortstop," the NL scout said. "He could move to the outfield or maybe second base. He doesn't eliminate himself from any position. It will just depend on what team takes him and where he fits in."

Makeup will still be an issue for any team that's considering Chisenhall, who didn't sign out of high school when the Pirates drafted him in the 11th round.

"When something like that happens, it's not great and it's going to scare some people off," the NL scout said. "I don't think it's a killer. You try to do your due diligence and find out about the kid."

Chisenhall was batting .439/.535/.888 with seven home runs and 54 RBIs in 32 games this season and looks like a lock for the first three rounds. Fuller, his former South Carolina teammate, has not performed as well, going 5-2, 5.15 for Walters State.