State Reports: Arkansas




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
The University of Arkansas often provides most of the state's best draft talent, and that's true again this year, but perhaps illustrating the down year in the state the Razorbacks barely sneaked into the NCAA regionals this year. Third baseman Logan Forsythe will come off the board in the second or third round, but lefthander Cliff Springston is the only other Razorback who figures to go in the top 10 rounds. The rest of the state doesn't offer much, and as usual, the best high school and junior college talents are too raw for pro ball.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Logan Forsythe, 3b, Arkansas (National Rank: 76)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

2. Cliff Springston, lhp, Arkansas
3. Chase Ware, rhp, Arkansas State
4. Brian Bryles, of/rhp, North Little Rock HS
5. Robert Taylor, c/of, Arkansas-Little Rock
6. Steve Gilgenbach, lhp, Arkansas-Little Rock
7. Cobey Guy, rhp, Arkansas-Fort Smith JC
8. Chase Huchingson, lhp, Arkansas-Fort Smith JC
9. Matt Whitaker, rhp, Central Arkansas
10. Ian Gilley, ss/rhp, Northside HS, Fort Smith
11. Ryan Cisterna, c, Arkansas
12. Jim Streicher, c, Ouachita Baptist
13. Destan Makonnen, 1b, Ouachita Baptist
14. Jim Youngblood, rhp, Camden Fairview HS, Camden
15. Ben Tschepikow, 2b, Arkansas
16. Tyler Wilson, rhp, Greenwood HS
17. Chase Leavitt, of, Arkansas
18. Aaron Murphree, 1b, Arkansas
19. Tanner Bailey, 3b/rhp, Little Rock Christian HS
20. Casey Coon, of, Arkansas

SCOUTING REPORTS

1. Logan Forsythe, 3b, Arkansas (National Rank: 76)

Forsythe ranked second on Team USA with six steals and third with a .309 batting average (trailing only cinch first-rounder Pedro Alvarez and Brett Wallace), but he came down with a stress fracture in his right foot at the end of last summer. After having surgery in November, he wasn't able to train as he normally would, resulting in a hamstring pull this spring. Forsythe uses his legs in his swing, and the hamstring injury affected his stroke in the early going. Once he healed, he again began drilling line drives into the gaps and making a push for the second round. Scouts believe he'll have average power in the big leagues and liken his approach to Mike Lowell's, so he should provide enough offense to stick at the hot corner. If not, he's versatile enough to also have played second base, shortstop and left field for Team USA. The 6-foot-1, 208-pounder is more athletic than most third basemen. He has an above-average arm, moves well and is a solid-average runner with good instincts.

Sprinston Sharper For Razorbacks

A two-way player for two years at Baylor, Cliff Springston found more success after focusing solely on pitching when he transferred to Arkansas. After the Razorbacks lost their weekend rotation (Nick Schmidt, Jess Todd, Duke Welker) to the first two rounds of the 2007 draft, Springston has become their top starter. He's a lefty with good size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and a feel for pitching. He can spot his 86-90 mph fastball to both sides of the plate, and he may have more velocity in him. Springston has a clean delivery, mixes four pitches and flashes a solid slider when he stays on top of it.

Righthander Chase Ware, who spent the previous two seasons at Northwest Mississippi CC, is a 6-foot-4, 210-pounder who attracted attention when he touched 93 mph early in the season. He wore down a little during the spring, pitching from 86-91 mph when scouts went in to see him. He uses a splitter as an effective changeup, but his breaking ball needs work.

The state's top high school player, outfielder/righthander Brian Bryles, hasn't committed to a four-year school, so he may be signable. As a center fielder, he offers speed and upside with a line-drive-oriented bat. On the mound, he can crack the 90s with his fastball. The 6-foot-2, 180-pounder lacks polish as both a hitter and a pitcher and will need time to develop. He was part of North Little Rock's state-champion 4 x 100 meter relay team.

Catcher/outfielder Robert Taylor might have been drafted in 2007 had a bone bruise on his left hand not restricted him from playing much behind the plate. He has good size (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) and righthanded power, though it remains to be seen if he can stick at catcher. His receiving skills are decent and he has some arm strength, but his throwing mechanics are long. He has enough athleticism to try the outfield corners or third base if catching doesn't work out.

Like Taylor, many of the state's best college prospects are senior signs. Steve Gilgenbach lacks consistency, but he's a 6-foot-3, 220-pound lefty who pitches at 90-92 mph on his best days. He's still fine-tuning his delivery, his command and his slurvy slider. Righthander Matt Whitaker holds the single-game (14), season (116 in 2007) and career (269 in 250 innings) strikeout records at Central Arkansas. His stuff was better last year, as he has relied on his hard breaking ball too much at the expense of his fastball. The co-MVP of the 2006 NBC World Series, he has touched 92 mph in the past.

Arkansas-Fort Smith JC has a pair of pitchers who could become decent draft picks in future years. Wichita State-bound righthander Cobey Guy is a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder with a hard breaking ball and a fastball that sits at 87-91 mph for three innings. Freshman Chase Huchingson is a projectable 6-foot-5, 185-pound lefty who can pitch into the low 90s with his fastball, but everything else is a work in progress.

Similar to Bryles, shortstop/righthander Ian Gilley is a raw two-way player who hasn't signed with a four-year school. Committed to Texarkana (Texas) CC, he has arm strength (87-89 mph) and some pop in his bat. His tools haven't translated into performance yet, so he would have been a perfect player to draft-and-follow when those rules were in effect. He's 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, so he may have more of a future as a shortstop.

Many of the state's top high school baseball athletes have signed football scholarships: righthanders Jim Youngblood and Tyler Wilson, and Sylvan Hills (Sherwood) outfielder/righthander Hunter Miller. Youngblood and Wilson are Arkansas-bound quarterbacks, while Miller will play safety at Mississippi. With a high-80s fastball and a relatively advanced breaking ball, the 6-foot-3, 213-pound Youngblood is the best and most signable of the trio.