State Report: Kansas




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
For the first time ever, all three of the state's Division I programs (Kansas, Kansas State, Wichita State) earned NCAA regional berths. The college talent in Kansas drops off quickly, however, after righthander A.J. Morris, who pitched the Wildcats to the first regional appearance in school history. The state's strength is high school righthanders who can work in the low 90s, led by potential first-rounder Garrett Gould, Tanner Poppe and Kurt Giller.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Garrett Gould, rhp, Maize HS (National Rank: 25)
2. A.J. Morris, rhp, Kansas State (National Rank: 60)
3. Tanner Poppe, rhp, Girard HS (National Rank: 185)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

4. Stephen Kohlscheen, rhp, Cowley County CC
5. Kurt Giller, rhp, Manhattan HS
6. Justin Bloxom, 1b, Kansas State
7. Dillon Hazlett, ss, Allen County CC
8. Buck Afenir, c, Kansas
9. Tim Kelley, rhp, Wichita State
10. Ryan Jones, of, Wichita State
11. Trevor Rosenthal, rhp/ss, Cowley County CC
12. Drew Biery, ss, Kansas State
13. Shaeffer Hall, lhp, Kansas
14. Robby Price, 2b, Kansas
15. Clint McKeever, 1b, Wichita State
16. Paul Smyth, rhp, Kansas
17. Bobby Doran, rhp, Seward County CC
18. Tim Statz, lhp, Hutchinson CC
19. T.J. McGreevy, rhp, Hayden Catholic HS, Topeka
20. Beau Stoker, 3b, Bishop Ward HS, Kansas City

SCOUTING REPORTS

GARRETT GOULD, RHP, MAIZE HS

Gould just keeps getting better and was quickly pitching his way into the first round. He was the Kansas 6-A pitcher of the year in 2008, when he broke big leaguer Nate Robertson's Maize High record with 95 strikeouts in 57 innings. He won MVP honors at the World Wood Bat Association championship last October, beating Shelby Miller in the quarterfinals and allowing just one hit and one walk while fanning 18 in eight shutout innings. After adding strength in the offseason, Gould has taken his fastball from 88-91 mph in 2008 to 91-94 mph this spring—and it's not even his best pitch. He has one of the best curves among this draft's high schoolers, a power breaker he delivers from a high three-quarters arm slot. He also dabbles with a changeup. Some scouts worry a little about effort in his mechanics, while others like how he stays tall and gets good extension out front. Gould is a quality 6-foot-4, 200-pound athlete who starred as a quarterback in football and as a forward in basketball before deciding to focus on baseball as a senior. He plays the outfield when he's not pitching and has enough righthanded power to play both ways for Wichita State should he attend college. But he'll probably go too high in the draft for that to happen.

A.J. MORRIS, RHP, KANSAS STATE

Morris has been one of the biggest surprises of the college season, setting Kansas State single-season records for wins (14) and strikeouts (100 in 116 innings). He handed Arizona State's Mike Leake his only loss of the season, and would have dealt Missouri's Kyle Gibson a defeat if the Wildcats' bullpen hadn't blown a lead for him. It has been a far cry from his 4-4, 6.04 performance as a sophomore. Morris has dominated with just two pitches, a 90-91 mph fastball that tops out at 94 and a solid slider. He locates both with precision, usually on the corners and at the knees, and his command allows them both to play above their average grades. Morris is throwing from a lower arm slot this year, giving him more lateral life on his pitches, and he has scrapped an ineffective curveball. Hitters have trouble picking up his pitches. He also has added 15 pounds and now carries 200 on his 6-foot-2 frame. Morris hasn't needed a changeup and some area scouts say they haven't even see him throw one while warming up between innings. His emergence began in the West Coast League last summer, and some clubs tried to sign him as a free agent after he went undrafted last June as a sophomore-eligible. Some scouts worry about his size, arm action and lack of a third pitch, but a team that believes heavily in performance could take him early in the second round.

TANNER POPPE, RHP, GIRARD HS

Poppe was much better known as a football and basketball star before he hit 93 mph at the World Wood Bat Championships in Jupiter, Fla., last fall. He had been recruited by NCAA Division I-A football programs as a tight end before giving up football as a senior, and he led Girard to runner-up finishes in the last two Kansas state 4-A basketball tournaments. His athleticism is evident on the mound as well, as he uses his 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame to throw low-90s fastball with little effort. Poppe is still a work in progress on the mound, as he works mainly with his heater and still is refining a curveball and changeup. He's an outstanding student, so he could be difficult to sign away from a Kansas scholarship. Poppe may not be signable enough to go early in the 2009 draft but could develop into a premium pick for 2012.

Lots Of Connections In Kansas

Righthander Stephen Kohlscheen, the state's top juco prospect, helped Cowley County reach the Junior College World Series. For a 6-foot-7, 210-pounder, he does a good job of repeating his delivery. His fastball sits at 88-89 mph and touches 93 and could add velocity. He has improved his slider but still needs to make it tighter and more consistent. His father Brian is the Midwest crosschecker for the Phillies.

Scouts didn't pay much attention to righthander Kurt Giller when he threw 85-86 mph last summer, but they came to see him this spring when his fastball started to touch 92. The Nebraska recruit has a strong 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame and the makings of an effective breaking ball.

First baseman Justin Bloxom fueled Kansas State's playoff run by leading the team in all three triple-crown categories at .361-12-63. A 6-foot-1, 195-pound switch-hitter, he's a gap hitter with more power from the left side. He's a decent athlete with some arm strength, so he may be able to play left field as a pro.

If he's signable away from a North Carolina scholarship, shortstop Dillon Hazlett could be the first position player drafted out of Kansas this year. He's a 6-foot-1, 191-pound athlete with plus speed, good actions and arm strength. His quick hands give him surprising pop, and he batted .470 with 12 homers and 35 steals in 37 tries as a sophomore.

Senior catcher Buck Afenir is the best 2009 prospect on a gritty Kansas team that won 39 games. He's also one of three Jayhawks with big league bloodlines. He's the nephew of former big league catcher Troy Afenir, while righthander Brett Bochy's dad Bruce manages the Giants and outfielder Jason Brunansky's father Tom played 14 seasons in the majors. Six-foot-1 and 205 pounds, Afenir can punish fastballs as a righthanded hitter, has a solid arm and runs a staff well.

Righthander Tim Kelley is the nephew of a former big league catcher, Charlie O'Brien, who helped steer him to Wichita State. Another uncle is another former Shockers star, Erik Sonberg, who's best known for being drafted one choice ahead of Roger Clemens in 1983's first round. Kelley, better known as an all-state basketball guard at his Oklahoma high school, became Wichita State's ace as a redshirt sophomore, going 5-4, 2.86 with 102 strikeouts in 94 innings. Despite that performance and a projectable 6-foot-6, 215-pound frame, he won't be a high pick. Kelley's best pitch is his changeup, and his lively mid-80s fastball and his slider don't blow scouts away. He throws strikes and has good feel for pitching.

Outfielder Ryan Jones has the best tools in the state, with solid speed, arm strength and range. But the 6-foot, 185-pound lefthanded hitter never got his bat going, hitting .277 with seven homers this spring after struggling with wood bats in the Cape Cod League last summer. He has a line-drive approach and uses the whole field, yet he still looks overmatched at times.