State Report: Lower New England

Connecticut, Rhode Island




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
It was a banner year for the University of Rhode Island, which won 37 games but was left out of regionals after losing in the finals of the Atlantic-10 Conference tournament. The Rams also lead the draft crop in lower New England; righthander Eric Smith headlines a group of five Rams with a chance to be drafted. There are no top-five-round talents in the region after Smith, but there is plenty of depth, particularly on the mound.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Eric Smith, rhp, Rhode Island (National Rank: 88)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

2. Dan Mahoney, rhp, Connecticut
3. Matt Carasiti, rhp, Berlin (Conn.) HS
4. Brandon Josselyn, rhp, Yale
5. Chris Gloor, lhp, Quinnipiac
6. Rob Gariano, rhp, Fairfield
7. Nick Greenwood, lhp Rhode Island
8. Tim Boyce, rhp, Rhode Island
9. Evan Marzilli, of, Bishop Hendricken HS, Warwick, R.I.
10. Dominic Leone, rhp, Norwich Free Academy
11. Devin Burke, rhp, Darien
12. John Folino, rhp, Connecticut
13. Dan Rhault, ss, Rhode Island
14. Matt Nuzzo, ss/2b, Brown
15. Tim Brechbuehler, rhp, Avon Old Farms
16. Chris Constantino, 3b, Bishop Hendricken HS, Warwick, R.I.
17. George Dummar, rhp, Branford
18. Jeff Hanson, 1b, Sacred Heart
19. Sean Killeen, c, Trinity (Conn.)
20. Jeremiah Bayer, rhp, Trinity (Conn.)
21. Luke Demko, rhp, Rhode Island
22. John Tangerlini, rhp, Lincoln (R.I.) HS
23. Steve Daniels, of, Brown
24. Will Weidig, rhp, Brown
25. James Wood, of, Trinity
26. David Erickson, rhp, Connecticut

SCOUTING REPORTS

ERIC SMITH, RHP, RHODE ISLAND

Smith has made great strides in three years since arriving at Rhode Island as a raw, immature freshman with mechanical issues and an 85-87 mph fastball. He worked mostly in relief in 2007, then showed a glimmer of his potential that summer in the Atlantic Collegiate League, where he ranked as the No. 7 prospect. He broke out this spring, opening eyes with eight shutout innings in a win against Miami in early March, followed by a strong performance against Cal State Fullerton when he allowed three runs over 6 2/3 innings. Smith now pitches with an 89-93 mph fastball with power sink that he commands at the knees. He adds and subtracts with his slider, sometimes throwing it in the 84-86 mph range, and the pitch can be average or even plus at times, though it remains a bit inconsistent. He also flashes a solid-average changeup and is improving his feel for the pitch. He drops in a curveball occasionally as a show pitch, particularly for a back-door strike against lefties. Smith is a fierce competitor with a physical 6-foot-3, 213-pound build, and he has the best feel for pitching in the Northeast. He's a safe bet to go in the top three rounds, with a chance to go in the top two.

Arms Highlight Fairly Deep Crop

Connecticut righthander Dan Mahoney is the clear-cut No. 2 prospect in lower New England behind Eric Smith, but scouts have been exasperated all spring by how difficult he has been to see, as the Huskies use him in a middle relief role. A 16th-round pick by the Yankees out of Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Mass., in 2007, Mahoney dominated as a closer in the New England Collegiate League last summer, ranking as the circuit's No. 2 prospect. He has a projectable 6-foot-4, 204-pound frame and a quick arm that produces fastballs up to 94 mph, though the pitch can be flat. He also flashes an above-average 76-78 mph curveball with sharp 11-to-5 break and an average or slightly better changeup. Sometimes he impresses scouts with his aggressive approach, but other times he's tentative and struggles with his command. There are questions about Mahoney's delivery, as he has a wrist wrap and often struggles to repeat his release point. A club that managed to get a few good looks at Mahoney could take him in the top six rounds, and he is believed to be signable as a draft-eligible sophomore.

A number of other college arms could be drafted in the top 20 rounds. Yale senior righthander Brandon Josselyn went 5-3, 4.29 to win Ivy League pitcher of the year honors. A physical 6-foot-3, 200-pound strike-thrower, Josselyn commands a lively 88-92 mph fastball down in the strike zone, and he mixes in an occasional slider and changeup. Fairfield's Rob Gariano is a bulldog with a 90-92 mph fastball, an average 80-83 mph slider and good feel for a changeup. He had a good year as a starter for the Stags, going 5-4, 3.43 with 88 strikeouts and 19 walks in 84 innings, but he profiles as a reliever in pro ball thanks to his size (5-foot-10, 180 pounds). That small stature will make it difficult for a club to buy Gariano out of his senior year.

Quinnipiac senior lefthander Chris Gloor burst onto the prospect landscape in the Coastal Plain League in 2007, ranking as the circuit's No. 1 prospect. Gloor pitched in the 90-94 mph range that summer, but his velocity dipped into the 83-87 range as a junior last spring, and he slipped to the Tigers in the 39th round of the draft. He rebounded a bit this spring, going 7-4, 4.63 with 81 strikeouts and 35 walks in 82 innings, and a number of scouts reported seeing him hold his 88-91 mph fastball velocity deep into some outings, though he still had days where he worked in the 84-86 range. Gloor has an average changeup and a fringy, loopy curveball, but he can throw all three for strikes. As a 6-foot-6, 255-pound lefthander with an idea how to pitch, Gloor could be drafted in the top 10 to 15 rounds.

A pair of URI juniors have a shot to go in the top 10 to 15 rounds as well. Lefthander Nick Greenwood is a quality athlete who turned down opportunities to play Division I soccer to pitch for the Rams. He's not overly physical at 6-foot-1, 177 pounds, but he makes up for it with his competitiveness and feel for pitching. Greenwood has some funk and deception in his delivery, making his 87-90 mph fastball play up. He shows an average curveball and average changeup, giving him a chance to be more than just a left-on-left situational reliever. Righthander Tim Boyce spent two years as Rhode Island's closer before moving into a starting role in the NECBL last summer, sharing pitcher of the year honors with Dan Mahoney. He got off to a slow start this spring but pitched better down the stretch, working in the 87-91 mph range with a lively fastball. He complements it with a curveball, slider and changeup, though none of the three is a standout pitch. Scouts have reservations about Boyce's delivery and arm action, but like most URI pitchers, he scores points for his competitiveness.

The same is true of senior righty Luke Demko, who racked up 11 saves and 43 strikeouts in 32 innings this spring after ranking as the No. 9 prospect in the Coastal Plain League last summer. Rhode Island's all-time saves leader, Demko doesn't excite scouts despite his success. He lacks velocity considering his huge 6-foot-6, 289-pound body (which multiple scouts referred to as sloppy), working in the 86-88 mph range and topping out at 90, though he did reach 93-94 in the CPL all-star game last summer. Demko has some life and deception, but his secondary stuff rates as below-average, and he will be a late draft if he's taken at all. A better senior sign is UConn righty John Folino, who gets by with mediocre stuff but a good feel for pitching. Folino's fastball is fringe-average at best, and his slider and changeup are below-average, but he competes and locates. He'll be a late-rounds roster filler, as will be Trinity senior righty Jeremiah Bayer, a strike-thrower with an 86-88 mph sinker and a passable slider.

All of the prep prospects in the region are expected to head to school, but several of them have intriguing upside. The best of the lot is righthander Matt Carasiti, a projectable athlete with plenty of arm strength. Carasiti works in the 88-91 mph range now but figures to add velocity as he matures. He flashes a decent slider and is working on a split-finger, and he could develop into a premium pick in three years at St. John's

Fellow Nutmeg State prepsters Dominic Leone, Devin Burke and Tim Brechbuehler flash plus velocity but remain raw. Leone is undersized at 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, but he works in the 88-91 mph range and has touched 93. He his slurvy 75-78 mph breaking ball needs tightening, and he's almost certain to wind up at Duke. Burke has been up to 94 mph and shown a promising slider, but his commitment to Clemson is strong. Brechbuehler is also bound for the Atlantic Coast Conference—he's committed to North Carolina. His 6-foot-8 frame is plenty projectable, but his delivery is not loose or fluid, and he struggles to repeat it. His fastball has topped out at 90-91, and but he cannot throw his breaking ball for strikes, and he must improve his feel for pitching. A sleeper is 6-foot-4 righty George Dummar, who is raw but shows a promising 87-89 mph sinker with armside run and bore. He has limited feel for pitching presently but could blossom at Quinnipiac.

Three Rhode Island high schoolers bear mentioning. Evan Marzilli has been limited by a back injury this spring, but he is a strong defensive center fielder with a promising gap-to-gap, lefthanded bat, and a couple of scouts think he can become an All-American at South Carolina. Marzilli's Bishop Hendricken teammate Chris Constantino has been the best prep pitcher in the Ocean State this spring, but his future is with the bat. He has above-average raw power from the right side, and his strong arm plays well at third base, though he might wind up at first as he matures. Constantino is going to Walters (Tenn.) State JC. Six-foot-6 righthander John Tangherlini has had some issues with injuries and weight, but he has arm strength, as evidenced by a fastball that can reach the 91-93 range.