State Reports: Kentucky




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
The Bluegrass State produced a surprise first-rounder (Ben Revere, Twins) and a supplemental first-rounder (Trystan Magnuson, Blue Jays) in 2007, and it's even stronger this year, with what is likely the best crop of draftable talent in the state's history.

Eastern Kentucky lefthander Christian Friedrich will be the second or third college pitcher drafted, and there are four high schoolers (Robbie Ross, Daniel Webb, Nick Maronde, Zack Cox) with the talent to go in the first two rounds. Kentucky righthander Scott Green and Louisville third baseman Chris Dominguez also could go that high in the draft with the right club, and the colleges offers good depth beyond the headliners.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Christian Friedrich, lhp, Eastern Kentucky (National Rank: 14)
2. Robbie Ross, lhp, Lexington Christian Academy (National Rank: 43)
3. Daniel Webb, rhp, Heath HS, Paducah (National Rank: 48)
4. Nick Maronde, lhp, Lexington Catholic HS (National Rank: 70)
5. Zack Cox, 3b, Pleasure Ridge Park HS, Louisville (National Rank: 72)
6. Scott Green, rhp, Kentucky (National Rank: 118)
7. Chris Dominguez, 3b, Louisville (National Rank: 119)
8. Collin Cowgill, of, Kentucky (National Rank: 194)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

9. Chris Rusin, lhp, Kentucky
10. Sawyer Carroll, of, Kentucky
11. B.J. Rosenberg, rhp, Louisville
12. Alex Blodgett, rhp, Tates Creek HS, Lexington
13. Cory Farris, of/c, Boone County HS, Florence
14. Zack Pitts, rhp, Louisville
15. McKenzie Willoughby, rhp, Eastern Kentucky
16. Chad Cregar, of, Western Kentucky
17. Andrew Albers, lhp, Kentucky
18. Jake Shaffer, of, Northern Kentucky
19. Colby Brown, rhp, Eastern Kentucky
20. J.B. Paxson, c, Western Kentucky
21. Marty Popham, rhp, Union
22. Sean Bouthilette, rhp, Elizabethtown HS
23. Chad Wright, of, Heath HS, Paducah
24. Terrence Dayleg, ss, Western Kentucky
25. Justin McClanahan, 2b, Louisville
26. Chase Greene, ss/rhp, West Jessamine HS, Nicholasville
27. Aaron Lovett, rhp, Kentucky
28. Derek Self, rhp, Barren County HS, Glasgow
29. Ryan Wilkes, 2b, Kentucky
30. Derrick Alfonso, c, Louisville

SCOUTING REPORTS

1. Christian Friedrich, lhp, Eastern Kentucky (National Rank: 14)

Part of a prospect-studded Falmouth rotation that also included Aaron Crow and Shooter Hunt last summer, Friedrich struck out Buster Posey, Jason Castro and Gordon Beckham in his final inning in the Cape Cod League playoffs. Like Crow, Friedrich operated in the mid-80s as an undrafted high school senior in the Chicago area before blossoming in college. He now maintains solid-average 89-91 mph velocity throughout a game and can touch 94, but his money pitch is an over-the-top curveball with huge 12-to-6 break. Blisters have periodically bothered Friedrich this spring, so he has been using his slider more than he has in the past, and it has become a weapon at 80-82 mph. He also has a decent changeup that he'll need to incorporate more often in pro ball. While Friedrich throws strikes and can command his fastball to both sides of the plate, he sometimes leaves it up in the zone. He gets away with a lot of those mistakes because his deceptive delivery and the fear of his curveball allow his fastball to get on hitters quickly. He doesn't have the ceiling of San Diego's Brian Matusz, but Friedrich is clearly the second-best lefty available in the draft.

2. Robbie Ross, lhp, Lexington Christian Academy (National Rank: 43)

Kentucky offers its best draft crop ever this year, and its high school class is especially deep with four prospects with the talent to go in the top two rounds. The best of that contingent is Ross, a lefty with pitches and polish. He sits at 90-92 mph and touched 94 with his fastball, and his secondary pitches and command are just as impressive. He shows a hard slider and nice feel for a changeup, and he pounds the strike zone. The only knock on Ross is that he's just 6 feet tall, but he generates his quality stuff via athleticism and arm speed, rather than effort. Scouts eagerly anticipated his late-April matchup with fellow Lexington southpaw Nick Maronde, and Ross didn't disappoint. He struck out 14 and walked none, giving up just an unearned run while dealing Maronde the second loss of his prep career. He also outdueled Niceville (Fla.) lefty Brett DeVall earlier in the year, ending the game with a 94-mph fastball for a strikeout. A Kentucky recruit, Ross should be signable in the first two rounds.

3. Daniel Webb, rhp, Heath HS, Paducah (National Rank: 48)

Webb has the most arm strength among all the talented pitchers in Kentucky this spring, having hit 96 mph last fall and working consistently at 90-93 mph this spring. But he's not nearly as refined as lefthanders Christian Friedrich, Robbie Ross and Nick Maronde, so the club that takes him in the first two rounds will have to be patient. Webb's curveball is average at best right now, and he either needs to do a better job of staying on top of it or switch to a slider. His changeup and command also are works in progress. A strong 6-foot-3, 205-pounder, Webb has a delivery that's more powerful than smooth. He demonstrated impressive makeup in the 2007 state tournament, pitching a complete game and striking out 10 despite breaking a bone in his foot in the first inning. He has committed to Kentucky but is considered signable.

4. Nick Maronde, lhp, Lexington Catholic HS (National Rank: 70)

Maronde is very similar to crosstown rival Robbie Ross in that both have exceptional polish for high school lefthanders. The difference is that while Maronde has a more conventional pitcher's build at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, he can't quite match Ross' sheer stuff. Maronde isn't just a finesse guy, however. He pitches from 88-92 mph with his fastball, and his slider is good at times but still inconsistent. His changeup is advanced for his experience level, and he pounds the bottom of the strike zone with little difficulty. Maronde won 32 of his first 34 high school decisions, losing only a one-hitter and a duel with Ross, and was the U.S. junior national team's best pitcher last summer, going 2-0 and not allowing an earned run in nine innings. Teams would be very interested in Maronde if they thought he'd sign for second- or third-round money, but that appears unlikely. He's advised by the Scott Boras Corporation and has a scholarship to play at Florida.

5. Zack Cox, 3b, Pleasure Ridge Park HS, Louisville (National Rank: 72)

Cox has touched 92-93 mph off the mound, so his arm fits in with the rest of the pitching prospects in Kentucky's bumper crop. But his future is definitely with a bat in his hands, as he's one of the more talented high school hitters in the draft. Cox has the strong frame (6 feet, 205 pounds) and the swing to produce for both average and power. He won the home run derby at the Cape Cod Classic last summer. His makeup draws praise at well. The biggest questions surrounding Cox are his future position and his signability. While he easily has enough arm for the hot corner, his speed and athleticism are below-average, and it's uncertain whether he can remain there. Some clubs have wondered about converting him to a catcher, but his hands may limit him as a receiver. If Cox winds up at an outfield corner, he should have more than enough bat for that position. He would be draft-eligible as a sophomore in 2010, which could make it more tempting to follow through on his commitment to Arkansas.

6. Scott Green, rhp, Kentucky (National Rank: 118)

Green missed all of 2006 after Tommy John surgery and worked just 18 innings as a redshirt sophomore in 2007, but he positioned himself as a top prospect for 2008 with his performance in the Cape Cod League. The Red Sox, who drafted him in the 15th round, offered him $800,000 at the end of the summer, but Green turned them down in hopes of pitching his way into the first round this spring. That didn't happen because he was so inconsistent that he lost his spot in Kentucky's rotation. While his stuff was expected to take a step forward, Green looked stiff and sat mostly at 87-88 mph as a starter. The sink and armside run on his fastball were more impressive than his velocity. Once he moved to the bullpen, he reached the mid-90s at times, but he did so with a higher arm slot and more effort in his delivery. Green has flashed a good slider at times, but for the most part it has just been a decent pitch. While he has thrown strikes and missed bats, his command has been erratic and made him hittable at times. He still figures to go on the first day of the draft based on his size (6-foot-8, 240 pounds) and the potential he showed on the Cape, but his bonus won't be as high as it could have been last summer.

7. Chris Dominguez, 3b, Louisville (National Rank: 119)

Few position players can match Dominguez's size, power and arm strength. He's 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, and when he connects, he can drive baseballs as far as anyone in college baseball. The Big East Conference co-offensive player of the year, he led the league with 18 homers entering the postseason. However, his propensity to swing and miss and his lackluster performance with wood bats create questions about how consistent he'll be in pro ball. He tends to destroy mediocre pitchers but struggle against quality opponents, chasing pitches out of the zone and falling behind in the count. Dominguez hit just .216 with three homers in 29 games in the Cape Cod League last summer, striking out 38 times in 97 at-bats. He also led NCAA Division I with 88 strikeouts in 2007, though he has made better contact this spring. Dominguez flashed a mid-90s fastball as a reliever a year ago, though he has a strong desire to remain an everyday player and hasn't pitched this spring. His arm is an asset at third base and he also has decent hands, but he doesn't cover a lot of ground. He has improved defensively this year after making 18 errors in 2007. He played some outfield on the Cape but didn't look good there, leaving first base as his only alternative if he can't stick at the hot corner. Dominguez broke his forearm in a collision with a baserunner in 2006, so he's only a redshirt sophomore. Because teams fear their extra leverage, draft-eligible sophomores often get drafted lower than their ability would warrant, so Dominguez could slide. On talent, he's a second- to fourth-rounder.

8. Collin Cowgill, of, Kentucky (National Rank: 194)

Cowgill missed all of 2007 with a broken hamate bone and has done nothing but hit since returning. He batted .290 in the Cape Cod League last summer, earning all-star honors and helping Yarmouth-Dennis win the championship, after which he turned down the Athletics as a 29th-round pick. Cowgill is just 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds, but he plays bigger than his size and tools, which aren't lacking. He has a discerning eye and plenty of bat speed, allowing him to wait on and attack vulnerable pitches. He hit 16 homers in 2006 and 18 more during the regular season this year. He's a slightly below-average runner out of the batter's box and a slightly above-average runner under way, yet his instincts allow him to steal bases and track down most balls in center field. He also has a strong arm for the position. Cowgill's demographics aren't ideal—he bats righthanded and throw lefthanded, and he's 22 after losing a year to injury—but his gritty makeup and the results he gets are reminiscent of Reed Johnson.

More Talent At Kentucky

Along with Scott Green and Collin Cowgill, lefthander Chris Rusin and outfielder Sawyer Carroll give Kentucky two more players who should go in the first six or eight rounds. Rusin, who has been the Wildcats' No. 1 starter ahead of Green the last two years, is a typical crafty lefty. He works at 87-88 mph with good life on his fastball, and his curveball is a solid second pitch. There's funk in his delivery, but it adds deception without detracting from his command. He also has an outstanding pickoff move, making him tough to run on.

After hitting a Southeastern Conference-best 23 doubles but just three homers in last season—his first at Kentucky after transferring from Seminole State (Okla.) JC— Carroll had hit 16 homers entering NCAA regional play. He also had 21 doubles and a school-record 78 RBIs. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder is a quality lefthanded hitter, but scouts still wonder about his power with wood bats because he has average bat speed. His speed and arm are fringy tools, so his bat will have to carry him. The Nationals drafted him in the 18th round last year.

For the second straight year, Louisville has an intriguing fifth-year senior reliever. Following in the footsteps of Trystan Magnuson is righthander B.J. Rosenberg, who missed the Cardinals' 2007 College World Series run after having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. He opened this spring in Louisville's rotation and took off when he shifted to the bullpen in mid-March. Working in relief, Rosenberg boosted his fastball to 93-95 mph. If he had a more consistent slider and a better medical history, he'd be a sure bet for the first five rounds.

Louisville's top in-state recruit is righthander Alex Blodgett, who's projectable at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds. He had a tender arm and oftern worked at 86-88 mph this spring, but he has touched 92. If he improves his curveball and his mechanics, he could be an early draft pick after three years with the Cardinals.

Cory Farris is the state's best athlete. He was runner-up for Mr. Kentucky Football in the fall, rushing for 2,824 yards and 32 touchdowns. His 6,227 career rushing yards are second in northern Kentucky history, trailing only fellow Boone County product Shaun Alexander, the NFL's 2005 Most Valuable Player. On the diamond, the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder is a switch-hitter with a decent swing, power potential and average speed. Though he has primarily caught in high school, he has fringy defensive skills behind the plate and projects as more of an outfielder. It won't be easy to sign him away from a Kentucky baseball scholarship.

Righthander Zack Pitts hasn't matched his performance from 2007, when he tied a Louisville record with 10 wins and turned down the Nationals as a 30th-round pick. He hasn't cracked 90 mph often with his fastball, though it has life and he commands it well. His slider has flattened out a little this spring. Pitts pitches with a steel rod in his left femur, the remnant of a football injury in eighth grade.
 
Righthander McKenzie Willoughby can't match Rosenberg's stuff, but he's another fifth-year senior drawing pro interest. His best pitch is a low-80s slider that he sets up with an 87-90 mph fastball. He missed 2006 after having Tommy John surgery.

In his first season in the Sun Belt Conference, outfielder Chad Cregar led the league in homers (20) and RBIs (78, one shy of the Western Kentucky record) entering NCAA regional play. A transfer from Northwest Mississippi CC, he's a lefthanded hitter with size (6-foot-3, 221 pounds) and strength. He does have some holes in his swing that he'll have to close against more advanced pitching.