Scouting Reports: Tennessee




2007 MLB Draft In the South, Tennessee, South Carolina and Mississippi traditionally trail Georgia and Alabama in the production of pro prospects each year. Thanks to a private college with an enrollment of less than 12,000, that trend may be changing.

Since Tim Corbin became coach at Vanderbilt in 2003, the Commodores not only have asserted themselves as a national power, but they also are starting to crank out professional prospects. Vanderbilt has spent most of this season as the No. 1 team in the Baseball America's Top 25 rankings, won the school's first regular season Southeastern Conference title and won 50 games for the first time in school history. The Commodores have never been to the College World Series--and in fact had just three regional trips in school history before Corbin arrived--yet will be looked at as one of the favorites to get to Omaha this year.

THIS YEAR'S CROP
*****One for the books
****Banner year
***Solid, not spectacular
**Not up to par
*Nothing to see here
Whether that works out, Vanderbilt will play a large role in the draft, with lefthander David Price looking like the favorite for the No. 1 overall pick and righthander Casey Weathers also a candidate for the first round. Dominic de la Osa is the best player in the next tier of Commodores prospects.

Tennessee's season has not been as good as Vanderbilt's, but the Volunteers have three players who should go in the first two rounds. The season got off to a miserable start when the Volunteers were swept at Florida State, lost outfielder Julio Borbon to an ankle injury and shortly thereafter saw catcher J.P. Arencibia go down with back trouble. The Preseason All-Americans eventually returned and Tennessee finished eighth in the SEC, making the conference tournament and likely the NCAA tournament as well. Borbon and Arencibia did enough to restore their stock, and lefthander James Adkins cemented a spot in the top two rounds when he held Vandy to one hit in eight-plus innings in the first round of the SEC tournament.

The state's small-college talent is also promising. A pair of prospects popped up at Division II Carson-Newman College, and Walters State Junior College had its usual group of toolsy, professional-minded players. The high school crop was down for the second year in a row, however, and was summed up this way by one scout: "There were more mid- to upper-80s guys that live off their breaking balls this year. More of some solid college prospects as opposed to the type of guys that have potential to go out and be drafted and perform. It's a little bit of a disappointing year from a high school standpoint."

National Top 200 Prospects

1. David Price, lhp, Vanderbilt
2. Julio Borbon, of, Tennessee
3. Casey Weathers, rhp, Vanderbilt
4. J.P. Arencibia, c/1b, Tennessee
5. James Adkins, lhp, Tennessee

Other Prospects Of Note

6. Steven Cishek, rhp, Carson-Newman (Tenn.) College
7. Dominic de la Osa, of, Vanderbilt
8. Drew Pomeranz, lhp, Collierville (Tenn.) HS
9. Matt Teague, lhp, Carson-Newman (Tenn.) College
10. Lance Zawadzki, ss, Lee (Tenn.) University
11. Stephen Shults, 3b, Walters State (Tenn.) CC (SIGNED: Braves)
12. Kevin Hammonds, lhp, Tusculum
13. Dustin Black, c, Cleveland State (Tenn.) CC (CONTROL: Orioles)
14. Taylor Hill, rhp, Mt. Juliet (Tenn.) HS
15. Josh Liles, of, Jackson (Tenn.) HS
16. Cody Hawn, of, South Doyle HS, Knoxville
17. Drew Bowlin, rhp, Chattanooga CC
18. Jonny White, of, Vanderbilt
19. Jack Tilghman, rhp, Walters State (Tenn.) CC (CONTROL: Braves)
20. Adam Milligan, of, Walters State (Tenn.) JC (CONTROL: Braves)
21. Ryan Kelly, rhp, Walters State (Tenn.) JC (CONTROL: Pirates)
22. Bryce Brentz, rhp, South Doyle HS, Knoxville
23. Nick Belcher, ss, Walters State (Tenn.) CC
24. Cody Crowell, lhp, Vanderbilt
25. Tyler Rhoden, rhp, Vanderbilt
26. Michael Wheeler, c/of, Walters State (Tenn.) CC (CONTROL: Royals)
27. Chad Bell, lhp, South Doyle HS, Knoxville
28. Ty Davis, rhp, Vanderbilt

Scouting Reports

David Price1. David Price, lhp (National rank: 1)
School: Vanderbilt. Class: Jr.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 215. Birthdate: 8/26/85.
Scouting Report: Price entered his junior season as the best amateur player in the country and reinforced his reputation with a third dominant season. He has the complete portfolio of athleticism, stuff, makeup and a proven track record. He posted a 0.43 ERA with 151 strikeouts in 65 innings as a high school senior and would have been a high-round pick if it hadn't for signability questions. The Dodgers made a run at signing him after drafting him in the 19th round in 2004, but Price stuck to his Vanderbilt commitment and stepped into the rotation right away, earning Freshman All-America honors. Price attends Vanderbilt on a financial scholarship, rather than a baseball ride, and he is lauded for his positive, team-first attitude. He took two tours with USA Baseball's college national team, including a 5-1, 0.20 stint in 2006 when he led Team USA to a gold medal in the World University Games in Cuba and was named Summer Player of the Year. His fastball/slider/changeup repertoire is unmatched among amateurs. He pitches at 90-91 mph, but the late life, arm-side run and finish of his fastball make it a weapon. He can dial it up to 95, seemingly whenever he needs to. His slider touches 87 with hard, late, sharp bite, grading as a 70 pitch on the 20-80 scale. His changeup is deceptive, and a third plus pitch. He spots all three of his pitches to all four quadrants of the strike zone, adds and subtracts and carves up hitters with efficiency and ease. His arm action and delivery are excellent. Price was an honorable mention all-Tennessee selection in basketball in high school, an indication of his athletic ability, which helps him field his position well and repeat his delivery. He profiles, conservatively, as a No. 2 starter, while some scouts see him as a true No. 1. The Devil Rays are expected to make him the top pick.

Julio Borbon2. Julio Borbon, of (National rank: 19)
School: Tennessee. Class: Jr.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 190. Birthdate: 2/20/86.
Scouting Report: The top college outfielder in a draft virtually devoid of them, Borbon broke his ankle during an intrasquad game a week before the spring season started. He made it back to the Tennessee lineup by the end of March, but he had just two home runs and seven doubles in 143 at-bats. He had not shown the consistent hard contact that made him Team USA's catalyst last summer, when the college national team brought home a gold medal from the World University Championship in Cuba. At his best, Borbon is a top-of-the-order hitter who makes sharp contact and changes games with his plus speed. He's more than a slap-and-run type, with above-average bat speed and some sock in his bat. A Dominican native, he has an aggressive approach and doesn't walk often. His defense is adequate, but he could improve his reads and routes. A popular comparison for Borbon is Johnny Damon, for the pop in his bat as well as his speed and well-below-average arm. He was expected to be taken in the first round despite a lackluster junior year.

Casey Weathers3. Casey Weathers, rhp (National rank: 22)
School: Vanderbilt. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 200. Birthdate: 6/10/85.
Scouting Report: Weathers was a light-hitting junior-college outfielder when he and a teammate climbed atop a mound one day after practice to see how hard they could throw. Weathers hit 92 mph, and his days in the outfield were over. He transferred to Vanderbilt and has flourished in the back of the bullpen for college baseball's best team, routinely blowing 96-97 mph gas. He was summoned from the Alaska League last year and joined USA Baseball's college national team's bullpen. He establishes his fastball early in counts, will elevate it late in counts and pitches to both sides of the plate. His delivery is generally fine, though his arm action occasionally gets long, which prevents him from getting on top of his pitches and leads to erratic command and hanging sliders. His slider has touched 91, and when he stays through the pitch upon release, it has hard, three-quarter tilt with power. He's been durable in his brief pitching career, and his two-pitch mix (he also has a changeup) could allow him to close in the majors. As a senior, he should sign quickly and won't make it out of the first round.

4. J.P. Arencibia, c/1b (National rank: 57)
School: Tennessee. Class: Jr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 195. Birthdate: 1/5/86.
Scouting Report: Shortly after Julio Borbon broke his ankle in the preseason, Tennessee's next best hitter, Arencibia, pulled a muscle in his back and was forced out of the lineup until mid-March. He ranked with Borbon among USA Baseball's college national team's top prospects last summer after leading the team with nine home runs in 121 at-bats. Power has long been his calling card. The Miami native tied Alex Rodriguez' Westminster Christian High career record for home runs with 17 and was drafted by the Mariners in the 17th round in 2004. A potential first-rounder entering the season, Arencibia struggled offensively and behind the plate upon returning to the lineup. He's an aggressive hitter with plus power to all fields. His swing gets long and he tends to have too much of an uppercut stroke. The verdict is out on whether he'll stay behind the plate as a pro. His receiving skills are rudimentary at best, and his footwork prevents him from getting off better throws despite solid-average to plus arm strength. His stock has slipped, but he won't make it out of the second round.

5. James Adkins, lhp (National rank: 80)
School: Tennessee. Class: Jr.
B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 225. Birthdate: 11/26/85.
Scouting Report: Adkins established himself as a weekend starter when, in his first turn in the Vols rotation as a freshman, he tossed seven strong innings against Oklahoma State. He has pitched well in showdowns with Arkansas' Nick Schmidt and Vandy's David Price, further bolstering a resume that includes a spot atop Tennessee's all-time strikeouts list. He had shoulder surgery to relieve an impingement before his sophomore season. Adkins is most comfortable pitching off his secondary stuff. He throws a hard slider at 79-82 mph as well as 76-78 mph curveball. He throws them both for strikes, mixing in a fringe-average fastball that sits at 87-90 mph and a rudimentary changeup. His plus command and feel for pitching make him a No. 5 starter candidate as a professional, and he should be drafted in the second or third round.

Commodores Sail On

Not only does Vanderbilt have the best player in the country in Price, along with a dominant closer in Weathers and perhaps the top prospect in the Class of 2008 in Pedro Alvarez, but a couple of the Commodores' complementary players also have potential as professionals.

Batting in front of Alvarez and sophomore shortstop Ryan Flaherty has its benefits, and junior outfielder Dominic de la Oso made the most of his spot in the Vandy batting order. He led the team in stolen bases (19), home runs (17) and slugging percentage (.736) and finished second in average (.384), and he generated a lot of buzz among scouts in the weeks leading up to the draft. He has added about 25 pounds to his compact, athletic frame since he arrived at Vanderbilt as a lightly recruited high school player from South Florida. He played shortstop as a freshman but struggled defensively and moved to the outfield.

De la Oso's value lies in his bat, though his arm strength and speed are also pluses. He starts his swing wrapping the bat behind his head with a lot of pre-pitch movement, but he gets the barrel through the zone with quickness. He's been a streaky hitter throughout his career. He prefers to pull the ball, but uses his hands well in his swing and has shown more of a willingness to use the opposite field this season. De la Oso has plus raw power. His strike-zone discipline could hinder his average as he faces more advanced pitching, though he has improved his pitch selection as he's matured. He's a hard worker, and some scouts envision him developing into a versatile utilityman who could be drafted as high as the third round.

De la Oso's emergence has made it tough for draft-eligible sophomore Jonny White to crack the lineup. He broke the hamate bone in his right wrist last summer while playing in the New England Collegiate League, and rust from the time off carried over into the spring. White has turned in times under 6.5 seconds in the 60-yard-dash, making him a 65 runner on the 20-80 scale. He's raw at the plate, but has good bat speed and solid-average raw power. White's approach is unrefined. He's susceptible to offspeed pitches and doesn't make consistent hard contact. White was planning to return to the NECBL this summer and was a candidate to be drafted late on the first day and followed leading up to the August 15 signing deadline.

Cody Crowell, Ty Davis and Tyler Rhoden are all redshirt junior relievers who should garner some interest in the middle rounds of the draft. Being lefthanded with an occasional plus breaking ball, Crowell has value as a situational reliever. His fastball sits between 85-88 mph. Davis was pitching well late in the season, including six-plus innings of no-hit relief against Georgia in May. He was ranked among the top prospects in the Alaska League following his sophomore season in 2005 but had back surgery last year and was just beginning to show the form he flashed as an underclassman. His fastball can touch 94, though he pitches more often near 91. Rhoden sits 91-93 with his fastball, though he has been inconsistent with his secondary stuff and mound presence.

Small-College Gems

After Price, Weathers and Adkins, the top two draft-eligible pitching prospects in the state popped up at Carson-Newman College this spring. Steven Cishek was throwing between 82-84 mph as a high school senior in Cape Cod, but has been up to 95 this season and has a prototypical pitcher's body. His fastball shows occasional plus run and sink and his arm works well from a low-three-quarter arm slot, allowing him to pitch with average command of his fastball, which sits between 90-93 mph. His slider is below-average but his changeup is a plus offering. Cishek had elbow soreness as a sophomore, which was alleviated by improving his conditioning and strength. He was tough to scout as a middle reliever at a small school, but at least a dozen teams have had him crosschecked, and he could be taken as high as the fourth round.

Like Cishek, lefty Matt Teague will go off the board much quicker than would have been expected at the outset of the season. His fastball sits at 88-92 mph and he pitches off it, spotting it to both sides of the plate. His breaking ball is below-average, but his command, feel for pitching and fringe-average changeup provide him with the ingredients of a lefthanded middle reliever.

Lance Zawadzki's path to NAIA Lee University was a circuitous one. He began his college career at Louisiana State but never played for the Tigers, instead transferring to San Diego State. He missed playing time as a freshman in 2004 with appendicitis, a dislocated knee and a pulled hamstring, but batted .335-10-53 in 2005. He fell to .243-3-26 in 2006, and as his performance suggests, Zawadzki's game is erratic. The Cardinals drafted him in the 15th round last year, but he elected to transfer to Lee. He was also drafted by the then-Expos in the 48th round out of high school in 2003. He has intriguing tools, with plus bat speed, plus raw power and lively actions in the middle of the diamond. A switch-hitter, he sprays the ball to all fields from the right side. He uses his hands a little better from the left side, pulling the ball with authority. Zawadzki is also a plus runner and has a well-above-average arm. He will likely sign for slot money somewhere in the sixth to eighth round.

A year after making a deep run to Grand Junction, Colo., in the Junior College World Series, Walters State had a disappointing sequel. A handful of players were under control from the 2006 draft, but other than third baseman Stephen Shults, who signed with the Braves after the season, few had as much success as sophomores as they enjoyed as freshmen. Shults has good bat speed and crushes fastballs, though he is prone to empty swings, especially against breaking balls. He regressed defensively this season, posting an .872 fielding percentage.

Righty Jack Tilghman (16th round) and outfielder Adam Milligan (28th round) were also drafted and followed by the Braves. Tilghman was lights-out as a freshman, but his command and lack of consistency with his offspeed pitches made him a liability at times on the mound. His velocity was on par with last year--touching 96 mph and sitting at 92-93--but his arm strength is his only usable tool at present. He tends to overthrow and his mechanics have been inconsistent, leading to 25 walks in 43 innings a year after he had 19 in 105. Milligan is built like Greek god. He originally planned to play football as a defensive back at Austin Peay, but began to show more potential as a baseball player as a senior in high school and opted to attend Walters State after being drafted. He's an exceptional athlete, with surprising speed for such a big man. He's raw in all phases of the game, but shows plus raw power and is the type of athlete scouts like to dream on.

It wasn't Milligan, but rather shortstop Nick Belcher who won Walters State's weightlifting and athleticism competition in the fall. His tools are below-average across the board, but he performs, including making contact and all the plays up the middle. He fits more in the mold of a signable senior than a high draft this year, and he's committed to East Tennessee State.

Early in the season, it appeared righthander Ryan Kelly could assume the role of staff ace given Tilghman's struggles. He flashed a 90-93 mph fastball, solid-average command and a plus slider, but as the season wore on his stuff wasn't as firm and he was hit hard. A 28th-round pick by the Pirates out of high school in South Carolina last year, Kelly's athleticism is a reason to stick with him as a prospect. He has a relatively clean arm action, though there's some effort to his delivery. His two-pitch mix is hard and harder, and he needs to develop an offering that provides some separation in velocity, as his changeup is below-average.

Dustin Black was considered one of the state's top juco prospects. He's unrefined in his catch-and-throw skills but has plus arm strength and athleticism. He was expected to sign with the Orioles.

Two other potential eighth- to 15th-rounders who popped up from Tennessee's small colleges were righthander Drew Bowlin and lefty Kevin Hammonds. Bowlin, a converted catcher, left Tennessee and moved to the mound, where he's raw but promising. His fastball has been up to 92 mph, though he sat more often in the 87-88 range. He has a curveball, slider and splitter, and none of them is an average offering at this point. He tends to get around his breaking balls, though his 77-80 mph slider could become a usable pitch. Hammonds earned pitcher of the year honors in his league. His fastball isn't overpowering, coming in at 87-89 mph, but he has good feel for pitching and three pitches that he can throw for strikes.

Thin High School Ranks

For the second year in a row, the Tennessee high school crop is poor. Lefty Drew Pomeranz, the brother of Cardinals minor leaguer Stuart, was considered the most professional-ready prep pitcher in the state. He got off to a slow start and appeared bound for Mississippi but has come on strong down the stretch. He's long and lean, similar to his brother, but his arm isn't as quick and his velocity hasn't developed quite as expected. Pomeranz is projectable, however, and his delivery and stuff showed marked improvement from last summer and fall. His knuckle-curveball can be a wipeout offering, showing downer action with depth.

Taylor Hill is the best high school righthander in the state. He has an athletic build and shows the makings of solid-average command of two pitches. Like Pomeranz, Chad Bell has made strides since his junior season. He was bumping 90 mph with his fastball and has some feel for his breaking ball. Bell's teammate, righthander Bryce Brentz, pitched well late in the season, running his fastball up to 92 mph.

Outfielder Josh Liles played alongside Pomeranz at the East Coast Showcase last summer, and he's a promising athlete who lacks the present skills to warrant a top-five-round selection. He can run the 60-yard-dash in 6.5 seconds and has some looseness in his swing and a fair feel for the strike zone. Cody Hawn is another good hitter. He mashed 17 home runs as a junior, but was derailed by a knee injury he sustained while playing basketball before the season.