State Reports: Lower New England

Connecticut, Rhode Island




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
Lower New England lacks an elite draft talent in the class of righthander Matt Harvey (who ended up at North Carolina) a year ago, but the region has plenty of intriguing high schoolers with upside and decent depth among college pitchers.

A trio of Vanderbilt signees headlines the crop: Outfielders Anthony Hewitt and Ryan Westmoreland could be drafted in the first two rounds if a club is willing to open its wallet for them, and third baseman Jason Esposito is one of the better bats in the Northeast. The college crop lacks impact players after Yale catcher/outfielder Ryan Lavarnway, but it features several pitchers that could be useful professionals.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Anthony Hewitt, ss/of, Salisbury (Conn.) School (National Rank: 41)
2. Ryan Westmoreland, of, Portsmouth (R.I.) HS (National Rank: 113)
3. Ryan Lavarnway, c/of, Yale (National Rank: 186)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

4. Chris Dwyer, lhp, Salisbury (Conn.) School
5. Jason Esposito, 3b, Amity HS, Woodbridge, Conn.
6. Chris Gloor, lhp, Quinnipiac
7. Jim Fuller, lhp, Southern Connecticut State
8. Will Jolin, rhp, Guilford (Conn.) HS
9. George Springer, of, Avon (Conn.) Old Farms School
10. Brian Irving, rhp, Yale
11. David Erickson, rhp, Connecticut
13. Steve Gilman, rhp, Yale
14. Tim Kiely, rhp, Trinity (Conn.)
15. Brett Anderson, ss, Eastern HS, Bristol, Conn.
16. Erik Turgeon, rhp, Connecticut
17. Liam Ohlmann, rhp, Manchester (Conn.) JC
18. Anthony Meo, rhp, Cranston (R.I.) West HS
19. Matt Barnes, rhp, Bethel (Conn.) HS
20. Josh Cox, of, Yale
21. Mike Diaz, ss, Southern Connecticut State
22. Taylor Lewis, of, Montville (Conn.) HS
23. Zach Zaneski, c, Rhode Island
24. Matt Nuzzo, ss, Brown
25. Bill Perry, 3b, Hartford
26. Rob Hallberg, rhp, Brown
27. Pat Mahoney, c, Connecticut

SCOUTING REPORTS

1. Anthony Hewitt, ss/of, Salisbury (Conn.) School (National Rank: 41)

Hewitt is the epitome of high-risk, high-reward. The risk starts with his signability: Any team that drafts Hewitt must be prepared to open its wallet and buy the academic-minded Brooklyn native-turned-Connecticut boarding school star out of a commitment to Vanderbilt. There's also a huge risk that he simply won't hit in professional ball: his raw bat was overmatched against quality pitching on the showcase circuit last summer, and though he dominated vastly inferior prep competition this spring, he still struggles to recognize breaking balls and can get locked up at times by ordinary fastballs. But then he'll crush a ball 450 feet and give scouts a glimpse of his prodigious upside. Several scouts said he was second to Tim Beckham as the best athlete at the East Coast showcase last summer, and he has three legitimate above-average tools in his raw power, speed and arm strength. His muscular 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame evokes Ron Gant, and his work ethic and charisma stand out. Hewitt plays shortstop for Salisbury, but his poor footwork, stiff actions and lack of instincts will dictate a shift to third base or more likely the outfield, where he has enough speed and arm strength for center or right. Hewitt has generated mountains of buzz in the Northeast and could sneak into the supplemental round or even the back of the first round if a club falls in love with his potential enough to overlook his crudeness.

2. Ryan Westmoreland, of, Portsmouth (R.I.) HS (National Rank: 113)

Last summer, Westmoreland was intriguing as a thin, rangy, fast-twitch athlete who moonlighted as an all-state soccer player and standout basketball player. He added 15 pounds of muscle over the winter and increased his strength at the plate, his foot speed and even his velocity off the mound, where he used an 86-90 mph fastball and decent curveball to strike out 19 of the 21 batters he faced in a seven-inning perfect game this spring. That arm strength translates well to center field, where his well-above-average speed allows him to cover a lot of ground. As an athletic high school outfielder from Rhode Island, Westmoreland draws inevitable comparisons to fellow Ocean Stater Rocco Baldelli, and he has that kind of upside. He has quick hands and good hand-eye coordination, allowing him to put the barrel on the ball consistently, but he's still learning to incorporate his lower half into his swing and hit the ball with more authority. The scuttlebutt in the Northeast was that it would take at least a seven-figure signing bonus to buy him out of a commitment to Vanderbilt, but the Red Sox have expressed interest in the local boy, sending several prominent front-office executives in to see him.

3. Ryan Lavarnway, c/of, Yale (National Rank: 186)

Lavarnway led Division I in batting at .467 as a sophomore (adding 14 homers), and he led the Ivy League with 13 homers as a junior despite missing the final eight games of the conference season with a broken wrist. He was an outfielder at Woodland Hills (Calif.) High before converting to catcher at Yale, and he remains raw defensively. He has arm strength and decent hands, but he struggles moving laterally and blocking balls and has a slow release. He's athletic enough and has a good enough bat to move to a corner outfield spot if necessary. An aggressive hitter with an advanced approach, Lavarnway covers the whole plate and seldom has a low-quality at-bat. He has above-average raw power and solid-average game power. His health and his remaining year of eligibility at Yale cloud his draft status, but he should be a summer follow in the Cape Cod League.

Salisbury Stakes Are High

Anthony Hewitt isn't the only intriguing talent at the Salisbury School. Six-foot-3 lefthander Chris Dwyer is an impressive athlete who also starred as a quarterback for the Crimson Knights, but his baseball prowess earned him a scholarship to Clemson. Dwyer ran his fastball up to 92-93 mph early this season on a trip to Florida, but he worked in the 88-90 range most of the year without much life. He flashes an average breaking ball but lacks consistency with the pitch. Dwyer is already 20 and will be a draft-eligible freshman at Clemson, and most scouts consider him nearly unsignable this June.

Like Hewitt and Westmoreland, Amity High third baseman Jason Esposito has committed to Vanderbilt, and like them he's considered a difficult sign. Esposito's bat draws comparisons to another Northeast high school product who went to Vanderbilt, Ryan Flaherty, but he lacks Flaherty's instincts and ability to play shortstop. Esposito is an aggressive line-drive hitter with above-average raw power, but his swing has some length to it and he swings and misses a lot. He has good actions and decent hands at third base to go along with an above-average arm. He closes games for Amity and reaches 90 mph with his fastball.

No other prep players in lower New England are certain to be drafted, though several will get a look and could improve their stock in three years at college. Guilford High's Will Jolin is a wiry righthander with a lively 87-89 mph fastball, a promising but inconsistent slider, a good feel for pitching and a bulldog mentality on the mound. But he's an excellent student who is likely to honor his commitment to Florida.

Avon Old Farms School outfielder George Springer is a athletic but raw five-tool talent with above-average speed and arm strength whose bat lags behind, and he figures to wind up at Connecticut this fall. Fellow UConn signee Matt Barnes has a good pitcher's frame and a clean arm action to go along with an 88-90 mph fastball, but his breaking ball is inconsistent.

Shortstop Brett Anderson from Bristol's Eastern High should follow in the footsteps of quality Franklin Pierce (N.H.) shortstops Garrett Olson and Scott Savastano. His best tool is an above-average arm, and he has bat speed and instincts, but he's still learning how to hit. And Cranston (R.I.) West righthander Anthony Meo flashes 91-92 mph velocity from a low-three-quarters arm slot that lends his fastball some movement. But he throws across his body and lacks secondary stuff, and he'll probably wind up at Coastal Carolina in the fall.

Lefties Lead College Crop

Scouts are divided over college lefthanders Chris Gloor and Jim Fuller. Gloor has more upside but has underperformed this spring and comes with significant risk, while Fuller is an undersized, polished product with a limited ceiling.

Gloor dominated the Coastal Plain League last summer, topping out at 93 with his fastball and ranking as the league's top prospect. But he's been one of the Northeast's most notable disappointments this spring, with an 83-87 mph fastball that topped out at 88. He flashes a late, tight breaking ball at times but struggles to command it. He has feel for a changeup but can't throw any of his pitches for strikes consistently. He has an unathletic 6-foot-6, 255-pound frame and a max-effort delivery. He gets over to his front side too quickly, causing his arm to drag and his slot to vary. With better conditioning and mechanical adjustments, Gloor could be intriguing, but he'll be lucky to be drafted in the top 10 rounds.

Fuller went 9-3, 1.39 with 145 strikeouts and 23 walks in 97 innings for Southern Connecticut State as a draft-eligible sophomore this spring. Fuller is undersized at 5-foot-10 and has some effort in his delivery, but he pounds the strike zone with a solid-average 88-91 mph fastball, fringy breaking ball and effective changeup. He profiles as a middle reliever because of his size but could be drafted in the top 10 rounds.

Yale righthanders Brian Irving and Steve Gilman will be dollar-saving senior signs after the 10th round. Irving went 4-3, 3.86 with a 59-22 K-BB ratio in 51 innings as Yale's ace this spring. His 88-90 mph fastball can flatten out at times but is a decent pitch when he stays on top of it, and he flashes a solid-average mid-70s curveball with hard downer action and a decent changeup. Gilman has more arm strength—he reached 94 in the Atlantic Collegiate League two summers ago and topped out at 92 this spring—and a decent hard slider, helping him to 4-0, 1.00 with five saves as Yale's closer this spring. He profiles as a middle reliever in pro ball.

UConn junior relievers David Erickson and Erik Turgeon are a pair of undersized righthanders with fringy stuff who should be late drafts. Erickson showed plus velocity and a power breaking ball from a high three-quarters arm slot as a freshman before missing 2006 with Tommy John surgery. His arm slot is lower now and he works in the 88-91 mph range with a sinking fastball to go along with a decent slider. Turgeon works in the same velocity range and flashes a good, hard-breaking mid-70s curveball.