Draft Scouting Reports: Shortstops
Several top prospects haven't lived up to expectations
One of the draft class's weakest points, as few players have lived up to expectations and the college ranks provide precious few contributors.
1. Grant Green, Southern California, B-T: R-R
Local area scouts have long been familiar with Green, who was drafted by the Padres in the 14th round in 2006 out of high school in Anaheim. Now 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, Green should move to the top of the first round this year, building on his terrific showing in the Cape Cod League last summer, where he was overwhelmingly chosen as the top prospect. He struggled early this season, perhaps due to a touch of draftitis as well as two nagging injuries: a rolled ankle and hand blisters. His average hovered near the Mendoza line early, but he rallied to .365/.436/.556 as the regular season wound down. After pounding nine homers in 2008, he had three this season. Potential five-tool middle infielders are rare at the college level, prompting comparisons to former Long Beach State stars Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria. Green does not project to have the same thunder in his bat—compared with Longoria, in particular—but he is similar to Tulowitzki in his defensive skills and playmaking ability. He has excellent range, outstanding hands and the smooth and fluid actions of a possible Gold Glove defender. Green has a fine arm, though not quite the cannon Tulowitzki possesses. He's faster than either Longoria or Tulowitzki, frequently clocking in the 6.6-second range over 60 yards. While he doesn't profile as an offensive powerhouse, he should become a long-term middle-infield fixture, a solid .280-plus big league hitter who may produce 15-20 home runs annually. Such potential is extremely rare in a college player, which is why Green ranks as one of the draft's top 10 talents.
2. Jiovanni Mier, Bonita HS, LaVerne, Calif., B-T: R-R
Mier is supported by a large and enthusiastic family. At the 2008 Aflac Classic they made up a sizeable cheering section, complete with artfully constructed banners and signs. His mother Leticia is a fixture at his games, with her ever-present video camera, and has seen plenty of highlights this year. Mier is the rare prep shortstop who projects to remain at that position in pro ball. He has above-average speed and a powerful arm that grades out to well-above-average. He occasionally pitches for his high school squad, and scouts have gunned his fastball in the 91-93 mph range. He has an athletic and projectable 6-foot-2 170-pound frame. Mier has decent hands, though his actions need to be smoother, which should come with experience. He has been inconsistent with the bat, struggling last summer during showcases but looking sensational last fall at the World Wood Bat Championship and the Southern California scout ball all-star game. Overstriding threw off his timing earlier in the spring, but of late he shortened his stride, though he still has a tendency to lunge at the ball and get his weight out on his front leg. When Mier squares a pitch up, the ball flies off his bat. He has the natural quickness and hand-eye coordination to be an excellent hitter. He projects as a line-drive singles and doubles hitter, with slightly below-average power.
3. Mychal Givens, Plant HS, Tampa, B-T: R-R
Givens started making noise as a prospect after his freshman season in high school, and he hasn't stopped. A veteran of the Aflac and Under Armour games from last summer, Givens has been evaluated at a national level repeatedly. Over time, he has evolved as a prospect, going from hitter to pitcher and back again. He has a strong, athletic body and physical frame, with elite tools including one of the best arms in the draft. He's reached 97 mph off the mound in short bursts and still shows above-average velocity from a low arm slot, pitching Plant High deep into the state playoffs. While some scouts do like him better on the mound, most see him as a reliever and see more value as a position player. He has strength and good hands that should allow him to hit for power down the line, though his swing will need tweaking. Defensively, Givens isn't smooth at short but has first-step quickness and plenty of arm. His Oklahoma State commitment isn't considered a significant impediment to him signing in the first three rounds.
4. Nick Franklin, Lake Brantley HS, Altamonte Springs, Fla., B-T: S-R
An Auburn recruit, Franklin is the latest in a line of Lake Brantley High baseball stars that has included Jason Varitek, Felipe Lopez and brothers Rickie and Jemile Weeks. Franklin, who helped lead last year's team to a state 6-A title, has surpassed them all in terms of performance, hitting 10 homers this spring to lead Lake Brantley back to the state playoffs. A switch-hitter, Franklin has shown bat speed to catch up to good fastballs and uses the whole field. Scouts don't expect him to hit for even average power with wood, but he should have enough strength in his wiry frame to keep pitchers honest. Scouts have made comparisons to players such as Aaron Hill or Lopez offensively, though he has less power. He's an above-average runner with fast-twitch athleticism and the ability to stay at shortstop as a pro, which makes him likely to go out in the first two rounds. Franklin has infield actions, solid footwork that needs polish and more than enough arm strength for shortstop, as it grades above-average. Franklin's makeup resembles Hill's more than Lopez's, which is a strong positive.
5. Ryan Jackson, Miami, B-T: R-R
Jackson developed into one of the draft's bigger enigmas as the year progressed. As a sophomore, he was a premium defender and .360 hitter toward the bottom of a loaded Miami lineup. He helped the Hurricanes reach the College World Series, then joined USA Baseball's college national team for the summer. Scouts have questioned Jackson's bat since he was in high school; he wasn't drafted as a prep and scouts have seen his bat go backward this spring. Jackson was dropped from high in the Miami order to the bottom before moving back up as the draft approached. He's a below-average runner with below-average raw power, and virtually all his value is in his glove. Despite his lack of speed, Jackson plays shortstop with grace, showing good hands, a strong arm, outstanding instincts and smooth actions. Jackson's glove is good enough to make him a regular if he can hit .250 with wood, but he was barely hitting .250 with metal, making it difficult to peg his draft position.
6. Chris Owings, Gilbert (S.C.) HS, B-T: R-R
Owings streaked to the front of the class of prep hitters in South Carolina and into second-round consideration for several teams, who saw him as an offensive middle infielder capable of staying at shortstop. He joined North Carolina's top prep hitter, Wil Myers, as part of a boffo South Carolina recruiting class, but both were in danger of signing as two of the more accomplished prep position players with present offensive skills and middle-of-the-diamond defensive ability. Owings reminds some scouts of former Georgia All-American Gordon Beckham, though with less power. Owings has offensive tools and put them together at the right time for crosscheckers and scouting directors. He has quick, strong hands and average speed, and makes an impact in several ways as a hitter. He added strength over the last year and hits with more authority, prompting his move up draft boards. He's an average defender at short, though he lacks natural, true shortstop actions. Some scouts believe Owings' value is less than the sum of his parts, as they question his feel for hitting and peg him to move to second base as a pro, rather than remain at shortstop. While he might be a better value in the fifth round, he's not expected to last that long.
7. David Nick, Cypress (Calif.) HS, B-T: R-R
Cypress High in Orange County is a top-notch program that has recently produced first-rounders Scott Moore (2002) and Josh Vitters (2007). Nick doesn't figure to be drafted quite that high, but he is an outstanding player nonetheless. A 6-foot-2 high school shortstop, Nick will probably move to second base in pro ball. He doesn't have the arm, hands or actions to hold down shortstop beyond college, but second should be a perfect fit. Nick is an excellent all-around athlete, with one of the most interesting batting stances seen in years. Eschewing modern hitting theory, he stands dead still at the plate, with his feet spread and the bat held above his back shoulder. Motionless as the pitch comes in, he turns on the ball by whipping the bat and snapping his wrists violently at the last instant. No one would be foolish enough to compare a high schooler to Joe DiMaggio, but Nick's swing is a near copy. And it gets results. Nick is a line-drive hitter, and the ball screams off his bat when he squares a pitch up. The only concern with Nick is that his terrific quickness will at times cause him to pull off the ball too soon, imparting topspin to the ball. As a professional, Nick profiles as an offense-oriented second baseman with average defensive skills, above-average speed, average power, and potentially well-above-average hitting skills.
8. Robbie Shields, Florida Southern, B-T: R-R
9. Derek Dennis, Forest Hills Central HS, Grand Rapids, Mich., B-T: R-R
10. Mycal Jones, Miami-Dade CC, B-T: R-R
11. Stephen Perez, Gulliver Prep, Miami, B-T: S-R
12. Deven Marrero, American Heritage HS, Plantation, Fla., B-T: R-R
13. Scooter Gennett, Sarasota (Fla.) HS, B-T: L-R
14. Daniel Fields, University of Detroit Jesuit HS, B-T: L-R
15. Shaver Hansen, Baylor, B-T: S-R