State Report: Utah




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
While Utah righthander Stephen Fife was the 85th overall pick in last year's draft, going to the Red Sox in the third round, it was actually an unusually thin year in the Beehive State, with just four players drafted. Utah won't have a player drafted in the top 100 picks this time around, but there will be a lot more than four players selected overall and the state should return to its 2006 and 2007 levels, when 12 and 11 players were drafted. Brigham Young leads the way with three of the state's four top prospects, though it was Utah that advanced to regionals with a surprise victory in the Mountain West Conference tournament.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

None

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

1. Steve Parker, 3b, Brigham Young
2. Jeremy Toole, rhp, Brigham Young
3. Kent Walton, of, Brigham Young
4. Jordan Whatcott, rhp, Utah
5. Michael Dedrick, rhp, Canyon View HS, Cedar City
6. Nick Freitas, of, Southern Utah
7. Keenyn Walker, of, Judge Memorial HS, Salt Lake City
8. Jace Brinkerhoff, 3b, Utah Valley
9. Josh Mooney, of, American Fork HS
10. Brock Duke, rhp, Spanish Fork HS
11. Greg Krause, rhp, Utah
12. Blake Torgerson, rhp, Brigham Young
13. Justin Smith, rhp, Utah Valley
14. Sean McNaughton, of, Brigham Young
15. Corey Shimada, 2b, Utah
16. Brook Sargent, rhp, Utah Valley
17. Brian Budrow, rhp, Utah
18. Keli'i Zablan, ss, Southern Utah
19. Andrew Law, 2b, Brigham Young

SCOUTING REPORTS

Cougars On The Prowl

The first player likely to be selected out of the Beehive State is Brigham Young third baseman Steve Parker, who drew glowing praise from coaches and scouts. BYU recruiting coordinator Ryan Roberts said he likes Parker's chance to hit in the big leagues more than any other player he's coached in his 12 years in the business. The numbers back up the rave reviews. In 205 at-bats, Parker hit .361/.465/.595 with 13 doubles and nine home runs. He shows good pitch recognition and strong wrists. He can drive the ball the other way with authority and is short to the ball with a swing that spends a lot of time in the strike zone. Parker has worked hard to improve his defense at third base, cutting his errors in half this season. He's still likely to move off the position, perhaps to second base, but even if he goes to first base he is a pure enough hitter to warrant a Mark Grace comparison from one scout.

Kent Walton has also been a force for the Cougars this season. Coming off labrum surgery in the fall, he has not been able to play the field but has been fine at the plate, batting .377/.448/.583 as a senior. Walton put on some weight after the surgery, which has taken away from his speed a little bit. While he was running a 6.5-second 60-yard dash last year and playing center field, he's now at 6.7 seconds. The thicker lower half has given him a more solid base and increased his power, however. Walton has good plate discipline, can handle velocity and stays on hard breaking pitches. A 42nd-round pick in 2008 by the Athletics, he'll likely be a late-round pick again, especially since he didn't get back out into the outfield this year. His best profile as a pro might be as a second baseman.

Outfielder Sean McNaughton was a 38th-round selection by the Cubs last year as a draft-eligible sophomore, but returned to Provo for his junior year and his numbers were down across the board. His family is financially secure and he's expected to return for his senior year.

The Cougars have some pitchers too, led by righthander Jeremy Toole, who has a commanding presence on the mound. Drafted in the 41st round by the Royals out of Huntsville (Texas) High in 2006, Toole instead headed to BYU. He came in overweight, but eventually dropped 20 pounds and is now 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds. Toole missed time at the end of last season with arm soreness, but he has been fine this season and lighting up radar guns. He touched 97 mph in the fall, and pitched more at 88-94 this spring, touching 95. Toole also throws a 12-to-6 curveball that breaks so much he sometimes has trouble controlling it. He's had difficulty with his command in general, walking 53 batters over 83 innings. Toole has some effort in his delivery, and some scouts are concerned about the violence in his mechanics, meaning he could end up as a reliever. Because he also has an 82 mph slider and a changeup, though, he'll be given every chance to succeed as a starter.

Junior righthander Blake Torgerson put up uninspiring numbers this year, but gets noticed because of his 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame. He can run his fastball up to 92 mph, but it's straight and his secondary stuff is middling. Junior second baseman Andrew Law is older after serving a Mormon mission, but he could be a late-round pick because his father Vance—who is BYU's head coach—spent 11 years in the big leagues. Vance was a late bloomer physically, and Andrew could be the same way.

The Cinderella story of the conference tournaments this year was sixth-seeded Utah defeating San Diego State twice to earn its first regional berth since 1960. Leading the Utes was senior righthander Jordan Whatcott. He has a hard, thick body and repeats his delivery well. As a pitcher and second baseman at South Mountain (Ariz.) CC last year, he was 88-90 mph off the mound, and his stuff took a step forward this spring as he focused on pitching. His fastball sat between 90-92 mph, and touched 95, and he mixed in a firm, 83-84 mph slider that is an out pitch, as well as a work-in-progress changeup. His command needs work, but the biggest knocks on Whatcott are his size (6 feet and 200 pounds) and age. After serving a two-year Mormon mission in Brazil, he's older than most draft-eligible players. The team that drafts him will be giving him a nice present, as June 10 is his 24th birthday. So he'll need to be on a fast track, but he has a great work ethic.

Senior righthander Greg Krause hasn't had much success until this year, but he gets noticed because he's 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds. Coming out of the Utes' bullpen, he has been mainly a sinker/slider guy, with his fastball up to 93 mph. Senior righthander Brian Budrow spent his first two seasons at Oregon State, where he was part of back-to-back College World Series winners, but he totaled just nine innings in those two years and transferred to Utah to get more time on the mound. He has shown scouts an 88-91 mph fastball with sink and a slider. He could get a chance as a senior sign, as could second baseman Corey Shimada. Shimada's undersized and doesn't really have a position, but he's a lefty who has always hit and shows a good eye at the plate—consistently recording more walks than strikeouts.

Small School Standouts

Righthander Justin Smith flies under the radar a little bit at Utah Valley. He has a smaller frame, but had success this season with a fastball that sat 88-91 mph and touched 93. He also has a plus slider and a changeup with good depth. Wolverines third baseman Jace Brinkerhoff is a switch-hitter with three tools. He can defend, he has a good arm and he makes good contact. At 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, he'll never be a good runner, but he could turn doubles into home runs down the road and is equally good from either side of the plate. He has a great baseball IQ and is a natural leader. Utah Valley righthander Brook Sargent is a converted catcher who was on the mound for the first time this year. He too is relatively old after spending two years on a mission in Tonga, but he has good arm strength, sitting 88-92 mph and touching 94. His velocity fades quickly but could play up in short stints out of the bullpen.

Southern Utah outfielder Nick Freitas is an enigma. He grew up in Hawaii and then spent a year at Miami before transferring to play for the Thunderbirds. He has big tools, running a 6.6-second 60-yard dash, throwing 96 mph from the outfield and showing above-average raw power. The tools have shown up in the statistics, too. Freitas hit .347/.424/.647 this year, though he put up similar numbers as a junior and didn't get drafted. Some scouts are skeptical about the move from Miami to Southern Utah and raised questions about his makeup.

Shortstop Keli'i Zablan has slick hands and a big arm across the diamond. He also closed games for Southern Utah this year and was 91-93 off the mound. He's not a big guy, but is a spray hitter with the speed and range to stay up the middle.

Canyon View High righthander Michael Dedrick started the year at the top of many scouts' watch lists after he was sitting 91-94 mph with his fastball last summer. But he came into the spring 15 pounds overweight and his stuff took a hit. His fastball was down in the 86-88 mph range and was disappointing for scouts, some of whom didn't even turn him in. A team that liked him in the past could take him and hope he can get back to where he was in summer ball, but he'll likely end up honoring his commitment to San Diego.

Outfielder Keenyn Walker is a great athlete. He runs well, has been up to 90 mph off the mound and plays football. He's a switch-hitter who has wiry strength and good bat speed, but his overall game is raw and he's expected to end up at Central Arizona CC. Righthander Brock Duke has a pro body at 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds. He commands four pitches, but his fastball is topping out at 88 mph and he'll also probably go the college route to try and improve his stock at Utah. Duke's younger brother Adam will be part of a very good high school class next year in Utah, as he's already been up to 93 mph with a plus curveball. Josh Mooney has good size at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. Teams are split on whether he's a pitcher or a corner outfielder, but his stock took a big hit when he was suspended for an off-the-field incident.