State Reports: Utah




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
The 2007 Utah draft class seemed unique, with lefty Tanner Robles and infielder Garrett Nash garnering significant interest, as well as righthander Cole Abbott. All three were drafted, though only Abbott signed, with the Mets. Nash and Robles wound up at Oregon State, and this year's prep class in Utah is much lighter than last year's, with the top players expected to attend college.

Utah righthander Stephen Fife popped up as a possible first-three-rounds pick during the spring, giving the state an early-round talent, and Utah's prep ranks look strong the next couple of years, with premium prospects such as 2010 shortstop Marcus Littlewood and hard-throwing 2009 righthander Mike Dedrick.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Stephen Fife, rhp, Utah (National Rank: 57)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

2. Nick Freitas, of, Southern Utah
3. Daniel Sechrest, rhp, Lone Peak HS, Highland
4. Brian Budrow, rhp, Utah
5. Kyle Beverley, if, Cottonwood HS, Salt Lake City
6. Dan Vargas, ss, Brigham Young
7. Kent Walton, of, Brigham Young
8. Tyler Hanks, rhp, Spanish Fork HS
9. Bennett Askew, rhp, Utah
10. Sean McNaughton, of, Brigham Young
11. Jacob Noyes, rhp, Southern Utah
12. Tyson Bailey, rhp, Dixie Sate
13. Keli'i Zablan, ss/2b, Southern Utah
14. Cory Shimada, 2b/of, Utah
15. Marcus Moore, rhp, Utah Valley State

SCOUTING REPORTS

1. Stephen Fife, rhp, Utah (National Rank: 57)

An Idaho native, Fife played in the Little League World Series in 1999, and two of his teammates have joined him this season as roommates and starters at Utah. Fife was just 160 pounds as a prep senior when the Utes first spotted him and he went to Everett (Wash.) CC for a year, pitching against wood bats. He put on 20 pounds that year and now checks in at a physical 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. He pitched middle relief for much of 2007 before earning a rotation spot late in the year, and entered this season as a possible eighth- to 12th-round pick. He's just learning to pitch with power stuff and started to emerge as a popup prospect in April, when he was on the losing end of a 1-0 duel with San Diego State man-child Stephen Strasburg. While Strasburg struck out 23 in that game, Fife pitched well enough to win and has been at his best since, one-hitting Utah and ramping up his velocity. His fastball sits in the 89-92 mph range and has touched 95, and he's shown the ability to maintain velocity deep into games, with several 93s in the eighth inning of a recent start. Fife throws two breaking balls, a true curveball he can bury or throw for strikes and a decent, early-count slider. His changeup also shows good sink, though he could refine his location and arm speed with the pitch. A late bloomer, Fife just has started to dominate, with 44 strikeouts in 41 innings since the Strasburg matchup. He started getting crosschecked in late April in a game with New Mexico and senior lefty Bobby LaFramboise, and other teams were scrambling to have him scouted heavily enough to pick him in the first three rounds. He had as much helium as any player in the West
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Down Year For Utah Preps

Utah's high school class wasn't considered special this year, with infielder Kyle Beverley and righthander Daniel Sechrest considered the best of a down class. Beverley does everything fairly well but doesn't have a standout or plus tool that could get him to pro ball early. He does run well and has a chance to contribute early in his career at Oregon State. Sechrest has much more of a pro body at 6-foot-8, 250 pounds, though he needs to improve his conditioning and repeat his delivery better. While his fastball sits in the mid-to-upper 80s, he can reach 90 mph and should have more velocity as he firms up his body. He's committed to Brigham Young.

The BYU program had a tumultuous year filled with awful pitching (a 7.27 ERA), and the suspension of the team's top prospect, speedy outfielder Kent Walton, at the beginning of the season for lack of church attendance at the Mormon institution. Walton was quickly reinstated but his performance suffered, as he hit just .309 with less power than his .350 sophomore season. Walton is a plus runner who runs a 6.5-second 60 and can play center field or slide in at second base.

An All-Freshman choice in 2005 as a second baseman, Sean McNaughton returned to BYU this year after his two-year Mormon mission and led the team in the triple-crown categories as well as in stolen bases. He's a talented, physical offensive player with bat speed but no defined position or pro profile at just 5-foot-9, 180 pounds.

Shortstop Dan Vargas may have passed both as a prospect because he has a plus arm and excellent infield actions. A San Diego native, he has excellent instincts at a crucial defensive position, and scouts consider him capable of improving his penchant to try to make too many plays, which helped lead to 29 errors. His bat has less potential than his glove, though he showed gap power and a more patient approach this season.

While Stephen Fife has the bigger arm, Oregon State transfer Brian Budrow had the better season for Utah. His 85-87 mph fastball has below-average velocity but good sink, and he yielded just two home runs in 80 innings. He throws his slider for strikes as well and has a durable 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame, though he's not terribly athletic. He fits better as a senior sign. Teammate Bennett Askew has size (6-foot-8) and more velocity (touching 92) but lacks experience or a feel for pitching.
 
Outfielder Nick Freitas has intrigued area scouts as a native of Hawaii who originally attended Miami. He transferred to Southern Utah, as his father had played in high school for the father of Thunderbirds coach David Eldridge. Freitas remains raw but got needed at-bats and has tools. His arm and speed play average but he has above-average ability, running a 6.7-second 60 and touching 90 mph off the mound. In the subpar Summit League, he dominated, leading the league with 34 stolen bases and ranking second with 16 home runs. He doesn't recognize breaking balls and struck out nearly once every three at-bats (65 in 219 at-bats). He could be a summer follow as he'll play in the West Coast Collegiate League this summer.

Southern Utah had one of its best seasons thanks to Freitas, righthanded closer Jacob Noyes, and shortstop Keli'i Zablan, all juniors. Freitas is the most likely to sign this year, with the other two profiling better as senior signs. Zablan has some average tools in his arm and speed and can hit at the Summit League level but has yet to face premium velocity. Noyes usually sits in the upper 80s, though he's touched 92 out of the bullpen, and he throws a solid-average curveball for strikes.

Utah Valley State's Marcus Moore should be a decent senior sign as a durable sinker baller but is seen as an organizational soldier. He threw a complete-game shutout at Hawaii in his final start sitting in the 84-88 mph range with his sinker.