State Report: New Jersey




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
The talent pool is shallower overall in New Jersey than it has been in recent years, but the 2009 crop is considerably better at the top than last year's class. Prep outfielder Mike Trout gives the Garden State a near-lock first-round pick, and college righthanders David Hale, Ryan Buch and Sean Black are power arms who could all be drafted in the top five rounds. High school righty Andrew Del Colle could also sneak up into that range, but the class drops off quickly after that.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Mike Trout, of, Millville HS (National Rank: 22)
2. David Hale, rhp, Princeton (National Rank: 76)
3. Ryan Buch, rhp, Monmouth (National Rank: 90)
4. Sean Black, rhp, Seton Hall (National Rank: 175)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

5. Andrew Del Colle, rhp, Newark Academy
6. Jack Murphy, c, Princeton
7. Chris Jenkins, rhp, Westfield HS
8. Stephen Bruno, ss, Gloucester Catholic HS, Gloucester City
9. Brian Dudzinski, rhp, Brookdale CC
10. Niko Speziale, lhp, Don Bosco Prep HS, Ramsey
11. Evan De Luca, lhp, Immaculata HS, Somerville, N.J.
12. Patrick Light, rhp, Christian Brothers HS, Lincroft
13. Brad Gemberling, rhp, Princeton
14. Brett Knief, of, Don Bosco Prep HS, Ramsey
15. Brett Brach, rhp, Monmouth
16. Gerald Menna, rhp, Brookdale CC
17. Jared Forestieri, lhp, Memorial HS, Elmwood Park
18. Anthony Gomez, ss, Don Bosco Prep HS, Ramsey
19. Fabian Roman, rhp, Marist HS, Bayonne
20. Greg Van Horn, ss, Princeton
21. Jerry Elsing, rhp, Montville Township HS
22. Nick Alloway, rhp Gloucester County CC
23. Joe Talerico, of, Brookdale CC

SCOUTING REPORTS

MIKE TROUT, OF, MILVILLE HS

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.

DAVID HALE, RHP, PRINCETON

A premium athlete with a prototype pitcher's frame (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) and a lightning-quick arm, Hale has split time between pitching and playing center field in three years at Princeton, and many scouts believe he could take off once he starts concentrating on pitching full-time in pro ball. The biggest knock on Hale is that he has never dominated in the Ivy League—he went 2-3, 4.43 with 47 strikeouts and 24 walks in 41 innings this spring—or in the Cape Cod League, but his power stuff is undeniable. Hale helped himself considerably in his final outing of the season in front of a bevy of scouts, holding his 92-93 mph fastball velocity into the sixth inning and regularly reaching 95-96. He has topped out at 97 this year and pitches with minimal effort, but some scouts say his fastball is flat and easy to pick up. At times he'll flash a plus slider in the 84-86 range, reaching 88, but other times the pitch is sweeping and he struggled to command it. Hale still needs to learn to command his stuff in the strike zone, and questions about his ability to do so lead many scouts to project him as a reliever, though he'll show some feel for a changeup every once in a while.

RYAN BUCH, RHP, MONMOUTH

Buch broke out in 2007, when he went 9-2, 2.44 as a freshman at Monmouth and ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Atlantic Collegiate League that summer. He's always had a prototype pitcher's frame and an excellent curveball, but his stock soared in April along with his velocity. Buch has reached the low 90s with his fastball since he was a freshman, and he has still pitched in that range for most of this spring. More recently he had run his fastball up to 95, sitting at 92-93. The velocity on his sharp, downer curveball has also spiked, reaching 84-85 mph. Even when he throws it slower—and some scouts report seeing a 74-77 breaker, while others have seen it at 81-82— it's still a true above-average offering. But when he throws it harder, it can rate as a 70 or better pitch on the 20-80 scouting scale. Buch is refining his fastball command, and he does not have a lot of feel for his changeup. But scouts can dream on him, and he seems likely to be drafted in the first two rounds in June.

SEAN BLACK, RHP, SETON HALL

A converted shortstop who pitched sparingly until his senior year at New Jersey's Lenape High, Black burst onto scouts' radars in 2006 after running his fastball up to 95 mph, and the Nationals took him in the second round of the draft that year, but he turned down an above-slot offer to enroll at Seton Hall. He has not developed as hoped with the Pirates, posting a pedestrian 4-6, 3.99 line as the staff ace this spring. Black pitched in the 89-93 range most of the spring, sitting around 90-91, but he touched 94-95 in the early innings of several starts down the stretch. Now and then he'll show an average or slightly better curveball, but he has not been able to repeat the pitch. He also flashes an average changeup, but he struggles to throw it consistently with the same arm speed as his fastball. Scouts are divided on his arm action—some have no qualms with it, while others say it's too short and fluttery in the back. The bigger problems with his delivery are issues of balance and tempo. An organization that regards those things as fixable—and some do—could take Black in the top five rounds, but he will not approach the signing bonus he turned down coming out of high school.

Looking For Diamonds In The Rough

After the clear top four prospects in the state, most of New Jersey's intriguing long-term talents come from the prep ranks. Other than Trout, only righthander Andrew Del Colle has a strong chance to be drafted in the top 10 rounds. Del Colle has a strong, durable build (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and an easy delivery, but his velocity has vacillated this spring between the 81-85 mph range and the 87-91 range, reaching as high as 93. That inconsistency and questions about the health of his arm lead some scouts content to let Del Colle honor his scholarship to Boston College. Other clubs seem eager to sign him now based on his upside. When he's on, Del Colle complements his average fastball with a 77-79 mph downer curveball with good depth. He can command both offerings but has yet to develop a third pitch. If he gets a clean bill of health, Del Colle could be drafted anywhere from the fifth to the 10th round.

Stanford recruit Chris Jenkins stands out for his size (6-foot-7, 235 pounds) and arm strength. At times, he has run his fastball up to the 93-94 mph range, but like Del Colle his velocity has been up and down this spring. A number of scouts saw him throw hard in bitterly cold weather early in the season, then saw him throw in the 87-88 range in warmer weather. Jenkins must smooth out his long, stiff arm action and improve his coordination on the mound. His secondary stuff has a long way to go, and so does his command. He's all but certain to enroll at Stanford.

A trio of prospects from perennial power Don Bosco Prep are also likely headed to school. Lefthander Niko Speziale, a Wake Forest signee, is a big-game pitcher with a good body (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) and feel for pitching, but he lacks a quality breaking to go with his 86-91 mph fastball. Outfielder Brett Knief is an excellent athlete with plus speed and a chance for average tools across the board after that, but his bat needs to develop at North Carolina. Vanderbilt recruit Anthony Gomez stands out for his smooth middle-infield actions and sure hands, but he's undersized, doesn't run particularly well and must improve his offensive game.

Another shortstop, Stephen Bruno, endeared himself to a number of scouting directors and national crosscheckers with a strong all-around performance at last year's Area Code Games. Scouting heavyweights seem to like him more than area scouts, who question his ability to adjust to breaking balls and to catch up with good fastballs. Undersized at 5-foot-9, Bruno is a fringy runner with an average arm, but he has excellent actions at shortstop and excellent makeup. Rumors persist that he could be drafted in the top 10 rounds, but most scouts are reluctant to buy him out of his commitment to Virginia.

More college-bound pitchers with arm strength round out the prep ranks. Righthander Pat Light opened eyes on the showcase circuit last year, showing a 91-92 mph fastball with vicious sink, but he came out of basketball season with a bout of tendinitis and sat in the mid-80s most of this spring. He's plenty projectable at 6-foot-5, 185 pounds, and he could blossom into the next Monmouth ace. Lefty Evan De Luca, a San Diego recruit, is another fine athlete with an 87-91 mph fastball and good arm action, but he's struggled to throw strikes at times and must improve his breaking ball. Another lefty, Arizona signee Jared Forestieri, bears a physical resemblance to Mike Stanton and works with a fastball up to 90 along with a decent curveball.

From the college ranks, Princeton has more notable prospects than any other program in the state. David Hale will be drafted first based on his electric arm, but senior righty Brad Gemberling is more polished at this point. His ERA (6.67) was inflated by a horrendous final outing of the season against Cornell (0.2 IP, 9 ER). Gemberling throws strikes with an average fastball in the 88-91 mph range, bumping 92 on occasion. He also works in a fringy slider and changeup, as well as a curveball he uses as a show pitch. A few scouts would consider Gemberling in the top 10 to 12 rounds, but most regard him as a senior sign later in the draft.

Princeton catcher Jack Murphy is likely to go in the top 10 rounds based solely on his size (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) and power potential. A switch-hitter, he shows above-average power from both sides of the plate in batting practice, but it doesn't translate into games, as he hit just .291/.394/.455 with four homers in 134 at-bats this spring. His swing is stiff from both sides, and he needs to clean up his offensive approach, particularly from the left side. Murphy does have soft hands and an average arm behind the plate, though he lacks mobility.

Two Brookdale CC righthanders could be sleepers. Six-foot-6 sophomore Brian Dudzinski has run his fastball up to 91 mph and projects to throw harder as he fills out his frame. He flashes an average slider and has good feel for a changeup. Teammate Gerald Menna also has good size (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) and has run his fastball up to 92 this spring, to go along with a mediocre 12-to-6 curveball and feel for a change. Scouts have had a difficult time seeing the pair pitch, but both could go in the top 10-15 rounds if the right scouts saw them on the right days.