Scouting Reports: Virginia




2007 MLB Draft Virginia has had a nice run of producing talent recently, but 2007 ends that trend, as the state will not have a significant impact on the draft. Of the state's targeted prospects coming into the spring, James Madison's Kellen Kulbacki was the only one to make it through the season without seeing his draft stock drop considerably.

THIS YEAR'S CROP
*****One for the books
****Banner year
***Solid, not spectacular
**Not up to par
*Nothing to see here
Virginia first baseman/lefthander Sean Doolittle was a second-team Preseason All-American after a strong stint with USA Baseball's college national team last year, and prep righthander Neil Ramirez was considered a potential first-rounder as well. By the time May rolled around, it was uncertain if either player would go higher than the second round.

Outside of the athletic Russell Wilson, Virginia Commonwealth's Sergio Moranda and UVa second baseman Brandon Guyer, none of the state's second-tier group showed much improvement, either. There were a handful of high school pitchers who showed promise last summer on the showcase circuit, but they had yet to fulfill their projections.

National Top 200 Prospects

1. Kellen Kulbacki, of, James Madison
2. Neil Ramirez, rhp, Kempsville (Va.) HS
3. Sean Doolittle, 1b/lhp, Virginia
4. Justin Grimm, rhp, Virginia HS, Bristol, Va.

Other Prospects Of Note

5. Brandon Guyer, 2b, Virginia
6. Sean Tierney, lhp, Clover Hill HS, Midlothian, Va.
7. Russell Wilson, of/2b, Collegiate School, Richmond
8. Sergio Moranda, ss, Virginia Commonwealth
9. Gabriel Ortiz, ss, Notre Dame Academy, Middleburg, Va.
10. Tyler Mann, of, Highland HS, Virginia Beach
11. Deck McGuire, rhp, Princess Anne HS, Richmond
12. Gary Bulman, rhp, Greenbrier Christian Academy, Virginia Beach

Scouting Reports

1. Kellen Kulbacki, of (National rank: 66)
School: James Madison. Class: Jr.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 205. Birthdate: 11/21/85.
Scouting Report: At the outset of the season, scouts made sure to pay a visit to Harrisonburg, Va., to try to get a better read on Kulbacki. They were scratching their heads after he won the Colonial Athletic Association triple crown and led Division I in home runs and slugging percentage as a sophomore. The success didn't translate in the Cape Cod League last summer, though, making this spring key to his draft status. Because he's a well-below-average defender with average speed, all of his value lies in the bat, but most scouts seem confident that he will be an above-average major league hitter. His advanced approach and feel for hitting prompted one scout to say Kulbacki is an average major league hitter now. He can handle lefthanded pitching, which he proved by lining a double off the wall in a game against Maryland's Brett Cecil. Kulbacki's game is a similar to that of Nationals prospect Kory Casto, and how much power he develops will be vital to his ultimate value. Because he makes such consistent hard contact, he should hit for at least average power. He could be taken as high as the supplemental round.

2. Neil Ramirez, rhp (National rank: 71)
School: Kempsville (Va.) HS. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Birthdate: 5/25/89.
Scouting Report: Ramirez entered his senior season ranked among the top prep pitchers in the country, but an up-and-down spring has depressed his draft stock. Last summer he ranked as the top prospect in the Cal Ripken Senior League, despite pitching against players that were as many as three years older. Most of his inconsistency this spring stemmed from mechanical flaws, though he also missed a week with a back injury. He has a drop-and-drive delivery and tends to rush to the plate, leaving his arm behind and causing his stuff to flatten out. His velocity has been anywhere from 88-96 mph. He'll flash an above-average curveball at 78 mph, but it gets loose and loopy at 71 mph as well. He has some feel for a changeup. He'll occasionally pitch to both sides of the plate with his fastball, while at other times work deep in counts. He could go as high as the supplemental round to a team that has seen him at his best and believes it can iron out the kinks.

3. Sean Doolittle, 1b/lhp (National rank: 91)
School: Virginia. Class: Jr.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 180. Birthdate: 9/26/86.
Scouting Report: As a polished two-way prospect out of a New Jersey high school, Doolittle had all the makings of a perennial all-American candidate when he arrived at Virginia. He stepped into the Cavaliers' starting lineup as a freshman and slammed 11 home runs, but has hit just 11 since, including seven this season as a junior. His swing lacks loft and he hasn't significantly improved his strength, leading to comparisons to former major leaguer Dave Magadan and Dodgers prospect James Loney. He's an intelligent hitter with a patient, cerebral approach. He uses the whole field and shows command of the strike zone. He's also an above-average defender with smooth actions around the bag at first base. Because of doubts regarding his power potential, Doolittle might be around in the second round of the draft. He struggled from the mound this year and isn't considered a frontline pro prospect as a lefthanded pitcher.

4. Justin Grimm, rhp (National rank: 178)
School: Virginia HS, Bristol, Va. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 175. Birthdate: 8/6/88.
Scouting Report: Rural Southern Virginia produced the season's first pop-up player when the little-known Grimm came out of the gate showing low-90s velocity. He missed his junior season and skipped the travel ball and showcase tour because of an arm injury. He broke his arm when he fell down in a parking lot, and a pin that was inserted near his elbow to stabilize the bone was removed last fall. Grimm's feel for pitching and mechanics remain extremely raw, but he has a lightning-quick arm and will flash two plus pitches. His fastball sits between 91-93 mph. His breaking ball has improved, showing sharp break and more of a true curveball action as opposed to the slurvy pitch he showed early in the season. He has the prototypical power pitcher's delivery, with a stiff front leg and a tendency to fly open with his lead shoulder, leading to below-average command. Grimm originally committed to Walters State (Tenn.) Junior College, but opted to commit to Georgia after he had some success this spring. He was considered signable in the top five- to seven-rounds, and could go as early as the third.

Looking For Diamonds In The Rough

Virginia's talent isn't deep, but two college infielders who made moves up draft boards this season were Brandon Guyer and Sergio Moranda. Guyer played poorly in the Cape Cod League last year, and he ultimately could fall into the category of solid hitter without enough power for a corner or quickness for the middle of the diamond. The consistent hard contact he made for the Cavaliers this spring opened the eyes of scouts, however, and in a draft thin in college hitters, he had a chance to go off the board in the top five rounds. He plays the game with fervor and has an aggressive, all-out approach. He doesn't work counts and he will swing and miss often, but he has solid-average bat speed and an ability to lash line drives from gap to gap. He's a 60 runner on the 20-80 scale, but lacks the lateral quickness to develop into an above-average defensive second baseman, and his fringy arm strength plays best in left field.

Moranda is another gamer who gives his best on every play. He's more of a slap-and-run hitter, but he too has enough bat speed and strength to pile up doubles as a professional. A switch-hitter, he shows a feel for the strike zone and has fair plate discipline. He's a solid-average runner with an average arm and adequate defensive ability at shortstop. He has value as a potential utilityman in the big leagues and should be drafted in the fifth- to seventh-round range.

When a prominent travel team from Southern California, the ABD Bulldogs, needed a couple of pitchers to fill out its roster at a World Wood Bat tournament in suburban Atlanta last summer, Sean Tierney got the call. He had committed to Virginia, but other than the Cavaliers coaching staff, not many people knew about Tierney. After his outing on the main field at the East Cobb complex, he shot up follow lists in the state. Tierney has a tall, thin, projectable frame, and his delivery has good tempo and easy arm action. Last summer,he flashed average fastball velocity, a plus curveball with true three-quarter tilt and feel for a changeup. He creates good angle and plane on his pitches. He opened the spring with a chance to be taken in the top three rounds, but pitched poorly and then missed time with tendinitis in his shoulder. Like Neal Davis, a similar lefty from Maryland in last year's draft class who went on to UVa, Tierney has made it clear to clubs that he plans to honor his college commitment.

While Tierney was backing up, Russell Wilson was coming on strong this spring. A talented athlete who has accepted a scholarship offer to play football at North Carolina State, Wilson had a strong season, tightening his swing and showing plus bat speed and enough pop to project to hit for average power. He's still learning the game and he doesn't repeat his swing, but has good aptitude and work ethic. Although Wilson was an option quarterback in high school, he's just a fringe-average runner, and while he has played in the middle infield in the past, he profiles better at third base or a corner outfield position. He has average arm strength. All his tools play up because of the ease with which the game seems to come to him. Clubs were trying to accurately gauge his signability, and if he would sign for slot money in the fifth round, he could be taken in that neighborhood.