Draft Scouting Reports: Center Fielders
Tate is tops of a talented group
After catcher, center field might be the strongest spot in the draft board for position players. It's filled more with solid talents than future stars.
1. Donavan Tate, Cartersville (Ga.) HS, B-T: R-R
Widely regarded as the top prep position player in the class entering the spring, Tate has done little to dissuade scouts of that notion. He earned that status with premium athletic ability, graceful actions, good bloodlines and emerging baseball skills. Tate showed his athleticism during a rigorous summer, playing for USA Baseball's 18U team, and in the Aflac and Under Armour games. The long summer prompted him to consider quitting football, but his father Lars played football at Georgia and in the NFL, and Tate has committed to play both football and baseball at North Carolina. So Tate changed his mind after one week and returned to the gridiron. His two-sport stardom has left his skills in need of some polish, particularly his hitting ability. He can get pull-happy and doesn't have a natural feel for hitting, but that doesn't significantly limit his ceiling. He has earned comparisons to fellow Georgia prep Jeff Francoeur for his athleticism, and has more feel for hitting than the Braves outfielder, with similar power potential. Tate has true bat speed and strength, and makes adjustments against better pitching. His other tools are outrageous: he's a plus-plus runner with Gold Glove potential in center field and a strong throwing arm that grades out above-average as well. Tate plays with supreme confidence that goes hand-in-hand with his well-above-average athletic ability. A Scott Boras Corp. client, Tate was considered a tough sign, and some teams wonder about his willingness to sign. Still, he remained near the top of every club's position-player board.
2. Tim Wheeler, Sacramento State, B-T: L-R
Among California scouts, a "Sac State guy" is typically an undersized, modestly talented but scrappy and energetic player, short on tools but long on hustle. At showcase events, it's common to hear scouts use the term as a shorthand way of identifying such players. No Sac State player has ever been drafted above the fourth round, but Wheeler will smash all of those precedents and clich√©s. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds with a strong and athletic frame and lefthanded bat, he's a prototypical corner outfield prospect. His wiry build has room for further projection. Scouts suspected Wheeler was poised for a breakout after a strong summer in the Cape Cod League, but he has exceeded even those expectations, batting .396/.500/.786 with 18 homers and 69 RBIs. Wheeler's bat is by far his primary tool. He projects to be a plus big league hitter, with power that is a shade above-average. An average arm and speed that's just a tick above-average probably mean he's best suited for left field in pro ball. Scouts laud his baserunning instincts. Scouts who saw Wheeler last year, or even earlier this year, would not have pegged him as a first-round candidate, but as the season has progressed his bat has made the prospect more and more likely.
3. Everett Williams, McCallum HS, Austin, B-T: L-R
Of all the elite high school athletes in this draft, Williams might have the best bat. He has a strong 5-foot-10, 200-pound build and big, quick hands, which allow him to power balls to all fields. One area scout says he's seen Williams hit a 500-foot blast, and the lefthanded hitter finished second in the home run derby at the Aflac All-American Game last summer. He has above-average speed that plays as plus-plus on the bases because of his instincts and aggressive nature. He'll need some time to smooth out his defense in center field, but he's certainly capable of staying there. His arm is fringe-average but playable in center. The biggest knock on Williams is a tendency to play on cruise control. Scouts say he's a good kid who just need to play harder on a more consistent basis. He didn't commit to Texas until March, but if he goes in the first round as expected, he won't suit up for his hometown Longhorns. Williams also has some of the best bloodlines in his draft, as his father played in the NFL, his cousin Cedric Allen pitched in the Reds system and two of his aunts are enshrined in the national softball hall of fame.
4. Mike Trout, Millville (N.J.) HS, B-T: R-R
Trout has turned himself into a favorite of scouts in the Northeast, both for his talent and his makeup. An East Carolina commitment, he has rocketed up draft boards as a senior, thanks to an improved offensive approach. Last year, even in the fall, he had a tendency to bail out in the batter's box, particularly against sliders. This spring he has quieted his approach and improved against breaking balls, and he's shown the ability to hit hard line drives to all fields, though his swing still gets loopy and long at times. Halfway through the spring, Trout even began working on hitting lefthanded, and he showed some aptitude for it. Trout's frame and skill set draws comparisons to Aaron Rowand, but he's a faster runner—he runs the 60-yard dash in 6.5 seconds. He has good range and instincts in center field and plenty of arm for the position. Trout's bat is not a sure thing, but he has a chance to be a solid-average hitter with average or better power. Like Rowand, Trout is a grinder who always plays the game hard.
5. A.J. Pollock, Notre Dame, B-T: R-R
Pollock hasn't performed as well this spring as he did last summer in the Cape Cod League, where he was the MVP after finishing second in hitting (.377) and first in slugging (.556). While there's debate as to whether he's a true first-round talent, with a shortage of quality college hitters he should get selected in the bottom third of the round. Six-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Pollock stands out most for his athleticism and pure hitting ability from the right side. He has a simple approach, a quick bat and strong hands. Scouts do say he'll have to stop cheating out on his front side and stay back more on pitches in pro ball. Those who like Pollock say that the rest of his tools are solid, while those who don't say he doesn't have another plus tool and question his power. He projects as a 30 doubles/15 homers threat in the majors, and he's a slightly above-average runner who has plus speed once he gets going. Pollock also has good instincts and a solid arm in center field.
6. Jared Mitchell, Louisiana State, B-T: L-L
Mitchell wanted $1 million to give up football and sign out of high school, when he flashed first-round talent and dropped to the Twins in the 10th round because of signability. Three years later, he has put himself in position to go in the first round and receive that seven-figure bonus. Louisiana State football coach Les Miles gave Mitchell the spring off to focus on baseball, and the extra work has paid off. The best athlete in college baseball, Mitchell is an electric 6-foot, 192-pounder with plus-plus speed and power potential. He was hitting a career-high .325 with a week to go in the regular season, and he has dramatically improved his plate discipline. He still strikes out a lot because he concentrates so much on taking pitches that he often falls behind in the count. His swing needs work too, as he'll have to spread out for more balance and use less of an uppercut in pro ball. Mitchell flies down the line from the left side and steals bases on sheer speed, and he'll be a terror once he gets better reads and jumps. He plays right field for Louisiana State but easily has enough range to move to center. His defense also needs refinement, as he tends to drift on fly balls. His arm is his lone below-average tool, but it will play fine in center field. A reserve wide receiver on the Tigers' 2007 national championship football team, Mitchell has a passion for baseball and is ready to give up the gridiron. He'll need more development time than most college players, but he also has the potential to become the next Carl Crawford.
7. Brett Jackson, California, B-T: L-R
Jackson is most frequently compared with J.D. Drew, at least physically. But while critics often question Drew's passion, the same accusation could never be directed at Jackson. Strong and muscular, Jackson is a wonderful athlete who is a perpetual motion machine on the field and plays with flair. He is an enthusiastic, upbeat and supportive teammate, and he's an aggressive baserunner who challenges outfielders and takes the extra base, often diving in headfirst while doing so. He uses his above-average speed to chase down drives in the gaps in center field, and he has the range to flag down balls hit in front of him or over his head. His arm can be inconsistent, but he has enough arm strength for both left and center. Most criticism surrounding Jackson centers on his hitting, where he's not nearly as polished as Drew. He utilizes an inward-turning, hand-pumping, leg-kicking, load-up-and-let-it-fly swing. He has excellent bat speed and shows the ability to rifle the ball around the diamond, with acceptable home run power, particularly for a leadoff man. His high strikeout totals hurt his draft chances, though, and he had 58 whiffs in 206 at-bats this season.
8. Kentrail Davis, Tennessee, B-T: L-R
An All-Freshman choice in 2008 who starred for Team USA, Davis is a sophomore-eligible who doesn't neatly fit any mold. His performance suffered this spring on a Tennessee team having a down season, and he had struck out in 25 percent of his at-bats in two college seasons. However, he has tools and hitting ability that stand out in the 2009 draft class. Strong and physical at 5-foot-9, 200 pounds, Davis has a short, powerful swing when he's going well, with bat speed to spare. Despite that, Davis had a tendency to chase pitches this year when pitched around, and he got pull happy, which caused his swing to get a little long. Similarly, Davis has plus speed as a 6.6 runner over 60 yards, but it doesn't play plus offensively. Davis is an average defender in center field, which is below what most big league teams look for. If he can't stay in center, his fringy arm will push him to left, where his power will have to play.
9. LeVon Washington, Gainesville (Fla.) HS, B-T: L-R
Washington attends the same high school that Marlins lefthander Andrew Miller did, but he's about as different a player as he can be. Washington's arm strength might be at the other end of the scale from Miller's, as he's recovering from rotator cuff surgery, and some scouts say his arm is below the 20 at the bottom of the 20-80 scouting scale. His arm and offensive package have drawn comparisons to Johnny Damon, another central Florida prep product. Like Damon, Washington can hit, and he was moving up draft boards thanks to his blazing speed and consistent spring. A 6.2-second runner over 60 yards at showcases, Washington has played mostly infield but doesn't have the arm for it, and most scouts see him as an outfielder thanks to his easy speed. Washington has bat speed at the plate, giving him solid pop, though not true power, and he has shown signs of developing a good pro approach. Washington, who spent three years in Guam when his father was assigned there while in the military, could move as high as the supplemental first round despite his arm.
10. Todd Glaesmann, Midway HS, Waco, Texas, B-T: R-R
After a so-so performance on the showcase circuit last summer and surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament last fall, Glaesmann has exceeded expectations this spring. He has emerged as a potential five-tool talent and a possible second-round pick. He has a prototype 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame that should give him plenty of leverage for power, though he employs more of a line-drive approach at this point. Glaesmann has some obvious length to his swing, but he shows patience and should hit for average from the right side of the plate. He has solid speed and arm strength, with the possibility of sticking in center field and the tools to be a standout in right field should he move there down the road. A quality athlete, Glaesmann played quarterback and wide receiver in high school and played through the injury to his left (non-throwing) thumb. One area scout compared him to former Texas high school and college star Drew Stubbs, the eighth overall pick in the 2006 draft, with less athleticism but better baseball skills. Glaesmann has committed to Texas A&M.
11. Slade Heathcott, Texas HS, Texarkana, Texas, B-T: L-L
Heathcott is an enigma for scouts. He's a legitimate second-round talent as both an outfielder and a lefthanded pitcher, but he has DHed for most of the spring. He was out until mid-March recovering from November surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, then jammed his throwing shoulder diving for a fly ball in his second game back. When healthy, he's an athletic outfielder with five-tool potential. He swings a quick bat from the left side and has strength and power in his 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame. He earns plus grades for his hitting and his speed, and he has good range and above-average arm strength in the outfield. Heathcott was selected for the Aflac All-American Game last summer as a pitcher, and some clubs like him more as a lefty with an 88-92 mph fastball that touches 94 and a promising curveball. There's effort in his delivery because he approaches pitching like he does everything else: full speed ahead. Heathcott hasn't pitched this spring because of the shoulder injury, however. His makeup also is a concern for several clubs, so it's uncertain where he'll fit in the draft. He's committed to Louisiana State.
12. Jake Marisnick, Riverside (Calif.) Poly HS, B-T: R-R
A tall, lanky and projectable 6-foot-4 outfielder, Marisnick's build and raw tools remind scouts of Jeff Francoeur and Dale Murphy. He's one of the best athletes in this draft class and has run a 6.7-second 60-yard dash with a vertical jump of nearly 36 inches (best among those tested at the Area Code Games). He also has a powerful throwing arm, which he shows off in pregame warm-ups. A center fielder in high school, Marisnick projects as a corner outfielder as he fills out. Scouts are split on his future hitting ability. Some are confident he will produce, while others point to mechanical concerns. He's well balanced throughout his swing, and his stride is short and closed. However, a weak beginning hand position sabotaged Marisnick early in the season, keeping him from driving the ball with authority. His frame and athletic skills make him one of the most appealing outfield prospects in the nation, but any club selecting him early will have to be convinced of his hitting potential.
13. Brian Goodwin, Rocky Mount (N.C.) HS, B-T: R-R
One of the better athletes in the draft class, Goodwin was part of a strong North Carolina prep class. He has very good tools across the board but wasn't having a tremendous spring, and his signability was thrown into question when he became a client of Scott Boras Corp. Goodwin does a lot of things well and doesn't have a below-average future tool. His bat will be the question, because unlike players such as Donavan Tate or Dustin Ackley, he's just a good athlete, not a great one. Goodwin shined on the showcase circuit last summer, winning MVP of the Aflac All-American Game. The lefthanded hitter has above-average speed, and scouts generally grade him as average or above across the board, with the question coming with his power. Goodwin has present strength and a football body, which makes sense as he was an excellent kick returner in high school. A North Carolina signee, Goodwin could go in the supplemental first round or not until much later due to his college commitment and adviser.
14. Jacob Stewart, Rocky Mountain HS, Fort Collins, Colo., B-T: R-R
Stewart is a phenomenal athlete—some say the best high school athlete ever to come from Colorado. He excelled on the football field, where he was a two-time all-state wide receiver. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder had 60 receptions for 945 yards last fall and had Division I scholarship offers not only in that sport, but basketball as well, where he was a standout forward. But baseball is his first love and will be his sole focus from now on. Described as an all-American kid with great makeup and work ethic, he shows potential in all five tools. He has exceptional speed and gets from home to first in four seconds flat from the right side. His throwing is passable and he has some work to do in the outfield, but scouts believe in the tools. The biggest question is his bat. While he's strong and shows good bat speed, he's raw at the plate, has inconsistent hand positioning and hasn't had much exposure to quality pitching. Stewart won't be easy to sign away from Stanford and will require patience in his development, but if he puts it all together he has a chance to be a special player.
15. Reymond Fuentes, Fernando Callejo HS, Manati, P.R. B-T: L-L
The nephew of Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran, Fuentes is an electric, game-changing player. The 6-foot, 160-pound center fielder is slender, but has wiry strength and can put a change in a ball during batting practice. Like a ticking clock, he hits line drives from foul pole to foul pole with his lefthanded swing. He's also an elite runner, clocking in at just under 6.3 seconds in the 60-yard dash at Puerto Rico's annual Excellence Tournament in early May. In game situations, Fuentes stays within himself, goes with a contact-oriented approach and lets his plus speed play to his advantage. These tools make Fuentes an ideal leadoff hitter. Defensively, Fuentes' range will allow him to stay in center field as a professional. Right down to his below-average arm, he's a similar player to the Yankees' Johnny Damon.
16. Jason Kipnis, Arizona State, B-T: L-R
Kipnis turned down fourth-round money from the Padres last year as a draft-eligible sophomore, and it's looking like a good decision, as he'll likely be a higher selection this time around. Kipnis redshirted at Kentucky as a freshman and was suspended from the team as a sophomore, but he has impressed the Sun Devils with his work ethic and was Pac-10 newcomer of the year in 2008. He has been even better this season, leading the team in batting, on-base percentage and slugging, as well as stolen bases. Kipnis doesn't have one standout tool, but can do a little bit of everything. He has a patient approach and a line-drive swing. He has shown he can hit quality pitching, though he doesn't profile for big power with a wood bat, making him a potential tweener. While his defense in center field has improved, he doesn't have the range to stay there long-term—yet he might not hit enough to man a corner spot. He may also get a chance to try second base.
17. Matt den Dekker, Florida, B-T: L-L
Den Dekker was recruited as a pitcher and hitter at Florida—in fact, Florida's official website still lists him as a pitcher—and he has a strong throwing arm that helps make him one of college baseball's better defenders in center field. He has easy plus range, tracks balls well and plays hard. A preseason second-team All-American, den Dekker played for USA Baseball's college national team last summer, hitting just .229 with one homer, and his offensive production has faltered this spring as well, making his draft position murky. Scouts still like his swing and struggle to explain his difficult season, as he was hitting .305 and slugging just .435 through 49 games. Den Dekker has solid raw power and the bat speed and strength to drive the ball consistently but still seems to fight his swing, which lacks fluidity. He's a plus runner and excellent basestealer, converting 34 of his last 35 attempts. Teams that believe in the bat could take den Dekker off the board by the sandwich round.
18. Trayce Thompson, Santa Margarita (Calif.) HS, B-T: R-R
Thompson is the son of Mychal Thompson, the former NBA star who played on several Los Angeles Lakers NBA championship clubs in the 1980s, and the bloodlines show. A 6-foot-4, 200-pound outfielder, Thompson has terrific bat speed, and his future power potential is exciting. He has a great frame that's both athletic and projectable, and his arm strength is impressive. The primary drawbacks are his instincts and feel for the game. He has the look of a player who is relatively new to baseball and is still learning the basics. He often hesitates in the outfield and won't attempt to throw out runners trying to advance, or will defer to other fielders on balls hit in the gaps. Thompson generates terrific bat speed, but his swing is long on the back end and his timing is affected by his habit of pulling out his front side too quickly. Thompson's selection in this draft would be made on potential alone. If he goes to UCLA, develops his skills and gains experience, he would likely be a much higher pick in 2012.
19. Billy Hamilton, Taylorsville (Miss.) HS, B-T: S-R
Hamilton, like many Mississippi prep products, remains raw, as he's never played baseball full-time and needs to face better competition. Hamilton ranks among the fastest players in the draft, a true 70 runner on the 20-80 scale. Hamilton also is among the lightest players, if not the lightest being considered in the first five rounds, checking in at around 150 pounds. One evaluator said he resembles Brewers utilityman Bill Hall at a similar stage of development. Hamilton lacks present strength in his wispy frame, and some teams will walk away from a player whose present bat is short. Hamilton's swing is fairly sound, though, and he's learning to bat lefthanded as well to take advantage of his speed. He has outstanding arm strength, reaching 94 mph off the mound, and might be able to remain a shortstop; if not he'll stay in the middle of the diamond in center field. He's a Mississippi State football recruit, but scouts still consider him signable.
20. Reggie Williams Jr., Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate HS, Tampa, B-T: S-R
21. Cohl Walla, Lake Travis HS, Austin, B-T: R-R
22. Ruben Sierra Jr., San Juan (P.R.) Educational School, B-T: L-L
23. Jordan Henry, Mississippi, B-T: L-R
24. Jamie Johnson, Oklahoma, B-T: L-R
25. Jeremy Hazelbaker, Ball State, B-T: L-R