State Report: Michigan




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
The high schools have most of the talent this spring in Michigan. Shortstops Derek Dennis and Daniel Fields and outfielders Victor Roache, Patrick Biondi and Torsten Boss are all quality athletes who could be quality prospects for the 2012 draft, if they don't begin their pro careers this year. Most of the top prep players have commitments that would keep them close to home, which could provide a boost after the state's colleges had a down year. No Michigan school qualified for NCAA Division I regionals, and most of the projected top players fell well short of expectations.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Derek Dennis, ss, Forest Hills Central HS, Grand Rapids (National Rank: 130)
2. Daniel Fields, ss, University of Detroit Jesuit HS (National Rank: 148)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

3. Chris Fetter, rhp, Michigan
4. Victor Roache, of, Lincoln HS, Ypsilanti
5. Patrick Biondi, of, Divine Child HS, Dearborn
6. Dan Taylor, lhp, Central Michigan
7. Torsten Boss, of, Lowell HS
8. Kyle Clark, rhp, Portage Central HS
9. Mike Dufek, 1b, Michigan
10. Billy Morrison, rhp, Western Michigan
11. Chris Roberts, 2b, Michigan State
12. Chris Lewis, of, Western Michigan
13. Dale Cornstubble, c, Central Michigan
14. Andre Benjamin, lhp, Grand Valley State
15. Tyler Higgins, rhp, Mount Pleasant HS
16. Justin Wilson, of, Oakland
17. Danny Lyall, rhp, Henry Ford CC
18. Danny Richard, rhp, Grand Valley State
19. Devan Kline, rhp, Central Michigan
20. Michael Theodore, rhp, Detroit Country Day School, Beverly Hills

SCOUTING REPORTS

DEREK DENNIS, SS, FOREST HILLS CENTRAL HS, GRAND RAPIDS

Dennis has surpassed fellow Michigan shortstop recruit Daniel Fields as the Wolverine State's best prospect this spring. An athletic 6-foot-3, 175-pounder, Dennis was also an all-state guard in basketball, averaging 21.6 points a game as a senior and finishing his career as the leading scorer in Forest Hills Central's history. Scouts describe him as a cross between former Michigan high school product D.J. LeMahieu (now at Louisiana State) and former Wolverines shortstop Jason Christian (the Athletics' fifth-round pick in 2008). Dennis is a better athlete than LeMahieu but isn't quite as advanced as a hitter. He's no slouch at the plate, however, and Dennis has a long finish from the right side and uses the opposite field like LeMahieu does. He should develop at least solid power as he fills out his frame, and he has shown the ability to drive the ball with a wood bat. Dennis grades as an average runner, in part because he has a long swing and it takes him time to get out of the box, but he makes all the plays at shortstop. He has a quick first step, good range and a strong arm. The draft is thin on middle infielders and it's easy to dream on Dennis, so a team that likes him could pop him as early as the third round. He's considered a potential tough sign, though, and could slide much further. He strained his ribcage in mid-May, making it difficult for clubs to get a good look at him right before the draft.

DANIEL FIELDS, SS, UNIVERSITY OF DETROIT JESUIT HS

Fields' father Bruce had a brief major league career and won three minor league batting titles before becoming a hitting instructor. Currently the Indians' minor league hitting coordinator, he was the Tigers' big league batting coach in 2003 when Daniel hit a batting-practice homer at Comerica Park—as a 12-year-old, with a wood bat. In addition to good bloodlines, he has a body and a package of tools that scouts can dream on. He's 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds and offers a tantalizing combination of above-average power potential and speed. He's strong and has good lift in his lefthanded swing. Fields has less polish than might be expected of the son of a former big leaguer, but a strong spring has erased his reputation for being more of a showcase standout than a game performer. Fields is athletic, moves well and has a solid arm, but his size makes it likely that he'll move off shortstop at the next level. He projects better defensively as either a third baseman or an outfielder, and it's possible that he could play in center. Fields attends a prestigious private school and has committed to Michigan, so he probably won't be signable as a projected fourth- to seventh-round pick. His dad wants him to stay at shortstop and receive a seven-figure bonus, further complicating matters. He has the tools to blossom into a first-rounder after three years with the Wolverines.

Fetter Finds Velocity

Chris Fetter made the all-Big 10 Conference team for the third straight season, but scouts didn't really warm up to the 6-foot-8, 230-pound righthander this spring. In the past, he neutralized his height by pitching from a low arm angle and peaked in the mid-80s. After raising to a high three-quarters slot and doing a lot of work with weighted balls and long toss, Fetter threw 90-93 mph with good run on his fastball as a fifth-year senior. He still drops down on occasion, but not nearly as much as in the past. His slider also improved but is average at best, so he may need to shift to a splitter in pro ball. Fetter finished his career in third place in wins (28-10) and strikeouts (281 in 332 innings) in Michigan history.

Outfielder Victor Roache gives the state another tooled-up high school athlete. A 6-foot-2, 195-pound specimen, he offers righthanded power and plus speed, though he runs flat-footed. It would be tough to sign him away from a commitment to Georgia Southern, and going to college would serve him well. He lacks polish and has trouble hitting breaking balls.

Outfielder Patrick Biondi won't be a high pick because he's 5-foot-9 and strongly committed to Michigan, but he should make an immediate impact for the Wolverines in 2010 and be a good pick in 2012. More polished but not nearly as strong as Roache, Biondi provides above-average speed, center-field defense and arm strength. He also has a quick bat and scouts love his makeup.

The two best pitching prospects in the state are college seniors. Dan Taylor didn't have a redshirt year like Fetter did, and he won't turn 22 until July. The 6-foot, 205-pounder doesn't have an overpowering pitch, but his 88-89 mph fastball, curveball and changeup are all close to average. He's also a lefthander who throws strikes.

Torsten Boss is one of the state's best football players. Last fall, he led Lowell High in tackles, caught 73 passes for 1,730 yards and scored touchdowns as a rusher, receiver, kick returner and defender. The 6-foot, 170-pounder is also a talented outfielder who had shown hitting ability with wood bats and plus speed. He also has a strong arm and has been clocked at 87 mph off the mound. He could blossom into an early draft pick after three years at Michigan State.

Righthander Kyle Clark is all but unsignable after committing to Michigan and dislocating his right knee while fielding a routine grounder as a third baseman in May. He offers plenty of projection at 6-foot-5 and 170 pounds, so he should be able to add significant velocity to his fastball, which currently resides at 86-87 mph. He flashes a promising breaking ball.

First baseman Mike Dufek has strong football bloodlines. His grandfather Don Sr. was MVP of the 1949 Rose Bowl, and his father Joe and uncle Don Jr. played in the NFL. Dufek has touched 92 mph as a reliever, but he's more valuable to Michigan and pro clubs for his power. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder tied a Michigan record for home runs by a lefty hitter with 17 homers.

Drafted in the ninth round by the Mariners last June, righthander Billy Morrison turned down a $120,000 bonus to return for his redshirt junior season at Western Michigan. He still looks the part at 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds but has regressed, going 2-9, 8.50 as his fastball dropped from 89-91 mph to 86-88. His breaking ball and command also got worse.

Danny Richard helped Grand Valley State reach the NCAA Division II football quarterfinals and the D-II College World Series. As a defensive lineman, the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder recorded eight sacks and led the Lakers with 17 tackles for a loss. As a righthander, he threw a seven-inning perfect game against Kentucky Wesleyan in March. He locates his 86-88 mph fastball down in the strike zone to get ground balls. His curveball is nothing special, but he competes well. He's a redshirt sophomore who missed most of 2008 with a knee injury.