Scouting Reports: Arkansas




2007 MLB Draft The strength of this crop is the University of Arkansas' weekend rotation, as Nick Schmidt, Jess Todd and Duke Welker all should go in the first three rounds. If he hadn't gone down with Tommy John surgery, Shaun Seibert would have been a fourth Razorbacks starter pushing for the top five rounds.

THIS YEAR'S CROP
*****One for the books
****Banner year
***Solid, not spectacular
**Not up to par
*Nothing to see here
The high school crop, on the other hand, is thin, as the state's purest talents (outfielder Delta Cleary and lefthander Chase Hutchingson) are too raw for pro ball at this time.

National Top 200 Prospects

1. Nick Schmidt, lhp, Arkansas
2. Jess Todd, rhp, Arkansas
3. Duke Welker, rhp, Arkansas

Other Prospects Of Note

4. Danny Hamblin, 1b, Arkansas
5. Delta Cleary, of, Jonesboro (Ark.) HS
6. Michael Hubbard, of, Arkansas-Fort Smith JC (CONTROL: Marlins)
7. T.J. Brewer, rhp, Arkansas State
8. Lee Martin, rhp, Southern Arkansas
9. Justin Phillips, lhp, Harding (Ark.) (SIGNED: Royals)
10. Josh Yates, c/1b, Arkansas State
11. Casey Coon, of, Arkansas
12. Travis Hill, rhp, Arkansas
13. Chase Hutchingson, lhp, Fayetteville (Ark.) HS
14. Jacob Julius, of, Arkansas
15. Brian Walker, c, Arkansas
16. Drew Smyly, lhp, Little Rock (Ark.) Central HS
17. Josh Cruse, rhp, Pocahontas (Ark.) HS
18. Skyler Stromsmoe, 2b, Southern Arkansas (SIGNED: Giants)
19. Steve Gilgenbach, lhp, Arkansas-Little Rock
20. Matt Whitaker, rhp, Central Arkansas

Scouting Reports

Nick Schmidt1. Nick Schmidt, lhp (National rank: 26)
School: Arkansas. Class: Jr.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 230. Birthdate: 10/10/85.
Scouting Report: Schmidt was a second-team Preseason All-American, but he has since bypassed such pitchers as Jake Arrieta and Wes Roemer who rated ahead of him. He doesn't have wow stuff, but he's a big, durable lefthander who has been a No. 1 starter in the rugged Southeastern Conference since he was a freshman. His stock took a mild hit last summer, when his stuff was down a notch with Team USA. That was mostly the result of being tired after working 117 innings as a sophomore at Arkansas, but it didn't stop Schmidt from winning the championship game at the World University Games in Cuba--a tribute to his competitive nature. He was a workhorse again this spring, exceeding 100 innings before the end of the regular season. Schmidt pitches off an 88-92 mph fastball and backs it up with a solid changeup and curveball. While he doesn't have a swing-and-miss pitch, he does a fine job of using his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame to drive his pitches down in the strike zone. He won't be a No. 1 starter but should become a good No. 3 for the club that gets him toward the end of the first round.

2. Jess Todd, rhp (National rank: 110)
School: Arkansas. Class: Jr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 213. Birthdate: 4/20/86.
Scouting Report: Arkansas has a weekend rotation made up of pitchers who could go in the first three rounds of the draft: Nick Schmidt, Duke Welker and Todd. Todd has the best stuff of the trio, starting with a 90-94 mph four-seam fastball and a hard mid-80s slider that ranks as one of the best in the draft. He also throws an upper-80s two-seamer and a circle changeup that acts like a splitter. Todd took a circuitous route to Fayetteville, starting his college career at Texas Tech in the fall of 2004 before transferring to Navarro (Texas) Junior College. After two years at Navarro, he planned on attending Texas, but the Big 12 Conference wouldn't allow him to play for another member school without sitting out a year, so he went to Arkansas. He opened the spring as the Razorbacks' closer, and scouts envision him as a late-inning reliever in pro ball. Todd's size (6 feet, 213 pounds) and violent delivery lend themselves more to that role, though he has shown a deep repertoire, command and durability as a college starter. His competitive nature will help succeed in either capacity.

3. Duke Welker, rhp (National rank: 129)
School: Arkansas. Class: Jr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-7. Wt.: 221. Birthdate: 2/10/86.
Scouting Report: Welker has the most projection remaining in an all-prospect rotation at Arkansas that also includes Nick Schmidt and Jess Todd. His 6-foot-7, 221-pound frame allows him to throw downhill, making his 91-92 mph fastball that much more difficult to hit. He does a good job of pitching off his fastball and backing it up with an improved curveball and a changeup. He has a smooth delivery for a big pitcher and repeats it well. Maintaining his confidence is key, as he otherwise tends to nibble at the strike zone and lose effectiveness. Rated the No. 2 prospect in the Alaska League last summer behind projected first-rounder Casey Weathers of Vanderbilt, Welker joined the Razorbacks after two seasons at Seminole State (Okla.) Junior College. He pitched just 20 innings in 2004-05, missing most of his high school senior year with a strained back and having arthroscopic shoulder surgery to repair a frayed labrum as a freshman at Seminole State.

Hamblin Powers Up

First baseman Danny Hamblin sold out his swing for power, and as a result struggled to get his average over the Mendoza Line in the early season. He ranked among the national leaders with 67 strikeouts through 61 games, but he also topped the Southeastern Conference with 22 homers. He'd be a more attractive prospect if he could play third base, his original college position, but his arm hasn't been the same since he hurt his right shoulder on a slide as a freshman. The Athletics drafted him in the ninth round in 2006, and he could go a couple of rounds higher as a senior sign.

Outfielder Delta Cleary and lefthander Chase Hutchingson can flash impressive tools, but they don't get results on a consistent basis. Cleary is easily the best athlete in the state. He played quarterback for Jonesboro's football team, average 13 points a game as an explosive dunker on the Hurricane's state 6-A championship basketball team and carried the baseball team to the state quarterfinals. The cousin of Phoenix Suns star Shawn Marion, Cleary has average to plus tools across the board and will need time to develop. If he makes progress as Louisiana State-Eunice Junior College next year, he could be a much higher pick in 2008.

Hutchingson figured to be the first high school player drafted in the state, as a projectable 6-foot-5, 190-pound lefthander who could touch 90 mph this spring. But his mechanics got out of whack and he spent much of the spring working in the low 80s. He could be a premium pick three years down the road because it's unlikely a team will draft him high enough this year to divert him from Arizona State.

Outfielder Michael Hubbard is the only junior college prospect in the state drawing much interest. He finished second in the national juco home run race with 20 and has solid hitting ability and speed. He didn't sign with the Marlins as a 49th-round draft-and-follow, and will play at Mississippi next year if he doesn't turn pro.

Righthander T.J. Brewer struggled to throw strikes at Lincoln Trail (Ill.) Community College and in his first year at Arkansas State, but he has improved as a senior. The Sun Belt Conference ERA leader (2.48), he has two solid pitches in his 88-91 mph fastball and his curveball.

Righthander Lee Martin began his college career at Crowder (Mo.) Junior College before transferring to Arkansas and sitting out 2006 as a redshirt. Now at Southern Arkansas, the draft-eligible sophomore has piqued the interest of scouts by touching 91-92 mph with his fastball.

Lefthander Justin Phillips tied for the NCAA Division II lead in strikeouts (121 in 96 innings) and finished second in ERA (1.21). Strongly built at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, he works with a fastball that can reach the low 90s and an improved slider. A fifth-year senior, he signed with the Royals as a free agent before the draft.

Second baseman Skyler Stromsmoe also signed as a fifth-year senior free agent, with the Giants. He used his plus-plus speed to rank second in Division II with 52 steals in 55 attempts.

Catcher/first baseman Josh Yates missed six games when his wife gave birth to their second child, and 10 more when he had an emergency appendectomy. When he was in the lineup, he hit for his usual power. Yates finished second among national juco players with 19 homers at Wabash Valley (Ill.) Community College in 2005, and slugged 24 in two years at Arkansas State. He has caught in the past, but mostly DHed this spring and probably will be limited to first base as a pro.

Righthander Shaun Seibert led the Cape Cod League with a 0.39 ERA and was the circuit's co-pitcher of the year last summer, and he opened 2007 as the No. 2 starter behind Nick Schmidt in Arkansas' loaded rotation. Seibert also has had elbow problems since his senior year of high school, when he strained it trying to halt his delivery when an umpire called timeout. He finally had Tommy John surgery in March. His curveball is his best pitch, and he threw harder in high school (88-92 mph) than he has in college (85-88). His success on the Cape came because he enticed hitters to chase pitches just off the strike zone, and scouts wondered how well that approach would work against professionals.