State Report: Virginia

Commonwealth is suddenly a college hotbed






See also: Baseball America's Complete 2010 Draft Map


THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
The 2009 draft was an uncharacteristically down year for Virginia, which has established itself as one of the better second-tier producers of draft talent over the last decade. The first player taken from the state last year was righthander Andrew Carraway, who went in the 12th round (353rd overall) to the Mariners.

This year will be quite different. The college crop is arguably the best the state has seen in a decade, with five players in the Top 200. The University of Virginia has established itself as a national power under coach Brian O'Connor, winning its first regional and super-regional titles last year (and thus making the school's first trip to Omaha). The Cavaliers have spent much of this season ranked No. 1 and could have 11 players drafted. Virginia Tech is also on the rise, on the way to making its first regional appearance since 2000, and the Hokies could have three players drafted in the first two rounds.

The high school prospects still aren't back to the caliber seen in the early 2000s. Only one prep arm had a shot at making the Top 200, but he had an unsteady spring and most scouts now think it would be best for him to head to college. Most of the other members of the prep class have an interesting tool or two but lack the overall package to garner a high selection.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Jesse Hahn, rhp, Virginia Tech (National Rank: 31)
2. Jarrett Parker, of, Virginia (National Rank: 41)
3. Austin Wates, of, Virginia Tech (National Rank: 64)
4. Mathew Price, rhp, Virginia Tech (National Rank: 68)
5. Kevin Munson, rhp, James Madison (National Rank: 82)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

6. Robert Morey, rhp, Virginia
7. Phil Gosselin, 2b, Virginia
8. Dan Grovatt, of, Virginia
9. Bobby Wahl, rhp, West Springfield HS
10. Cody Cox, rhp, Grassfield HS, Chesapeake
11. Tyler Cannon, ss, Virginia
12. Tim Smalling, ss, Virginia Tech
13. Tyler Wilson, rhp, Virginia
14. Kevin Arico, rhp, Virginia
15. John Barr, of, Virginia
16. Turner Phelps, rhp, James Madison
17. Joe Van Meter, rhp/3b, Virginia Commonwealth
18. Austin Chrismon, rhp, Menchville HS, Newport News
19. Jeremy Fitzgerald, rhp, Patrick Henry CC
20. Cody Winiarski, rhp, Virginia
21. Mitchell Shifflett, of, Cosby HS, Midlothian
22. Kurt Fleming, of, St. Christopher's School, Richmond
23. Franco Valdes, c, Virginia
24. Steve Domecus, c/of, Virginia Tech
25. Austin Young, rhp/1b, Atlee HS, Mechanicsville
26. Justin Wright, lhp, Virginia Tech
27. Ty McFarland, rhp/ss, Ashby HS, Bridgewater
28. Patrick Harrington, c, Kellam HS, Newport News
29. Sean Ryan, of, Virginia Tech
30. Chad Pinder, ss, Poquoson HS
31. Sam Roberts, rhp/ss, Virginia Military Institute

SCOUTING REPORTS

Jesse Hahn, rhp
Virginia Tech

Three years ago, one of Hahn's high school teammates and rotation partners was getting tons of draft attention. Righthander Matt Harvey ended up dropping to the third round and honoring his commitment to North Carolina. Now, both Fitch (Conn.) High alums could be drafted in the first round. Hahn has an ideal pitcher's frame at 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, though he three consecutive starts this spring with kidney stones and a sore arm. An MRI revealed no structural damage, and he returned to the mound in mid-May against Duke. When healthy, Hahn has an electric arsenal. He has a plus fastball that sits 92-94 mph with armside run. He has been able to run his fastball up to 96-97, especially when he pitched out of the bullpen in the Cape Cod League last summer, but has learned that he's better when he dials it back. He has two average to plus secondary offerings in a slider and curveball, as well as a potentially average changeup. His curveball has 12-to-6 action, but he raises his arm slot on the pitch, which could tip it to hitters. His changeup has some fade and works well when he locates it down and to his arm side. His command isn't exceptional, but scouts don't see it as a problem. Hahn posted mediocre results working mostly out of the bullpen in his first two seasons at Virginia Tech, but was 5-2, 2.81 with 64 strikeouts and 14 walks through 58 innings this year. He had not looked as good since returning from his layoff as he had earlier in the season, however. He still showed plus velocity and sharp breaking stuff early, but his stuff dropped off after the first few innings.

Jarrett Parker, of
Virginia

Parker was a key player in Virginia's College World Series run in 2009, and he looked like a likely first-rounder with his body and track record. He slowed down by the time the Cavaliers arrived in Omaha, though, and he hit just .188 in the Cape Cod League. He got off to a slow start in 2010, and his stock continued to fall. His average dipped below .300 for some time, though he turned it on as the draft approached, raising his line to .322/.414/.574 with seven home runs in mid-May. At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Parker would be the final product if someone were asked to draw up the body of a major league outfielder with his long, lean frame. He's a good defender in center field with plus speed and an average arm. At the plate, Parker's strength and leverage give him good raw power. Against Duke this season he crushed a hanging changeup that one-hopped an office building in right field at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, which is also home of the Triple-A franchise. Parker's long arms do make him prone to a long swing and high strikeout numbers, and most scouts think he won't hit for a very high average. He would benefit from shortening up his swing and utilizing his speed more. Many hoped for a better season out of him and see him as a risky pick, but there's a lot of upside as well. He could go in the sandwich round, though it's possible that he could slide into the second round.

Austin Wates, of
Virginia Tech

Scouts have had a hard time pinning down Wates this season because he profiles as a center fielder but plays right and first base for the Hokies. Ranked as the No. 15 prospect in the Cape Cod League last summer, Wates is a good athlete with a good track record of hitting for average. He has a medium-sized frame at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds and is an above-average runner. His arm is below-average but playable in center. He has below-average power as well, but it's not part of his game. Scouts universally describe his swing as unorthodox. It's not the typical short, flat path that you find in pure hitters and has a little bit of loop to it. Even so, he manages to consistently put the barrel on balls and does a good job working deep counts. Through 178 at-bats this spring, Wates was hitting .382/484/.624 with 25 extra-base hits and 15 stolen bases. He walked (29) more than he struck out (24) and leads Virginia Tech in runs with 51.

Mathew Price, rhp
Virginia Tech

A draft-eligible sophomore, Price has a thin body at 6-foot-3, 170 pounds, and some scouts don't think he'll add much weight and compared his frame to Mike MacDougal's. Price is comparable to teammate Jesse Hahn, but he's a notch below him overall. His fastball sits comfortably at 92-93 mph, and he has touched 94-95 late in games. His curveball is average, but he flashes some that scouts can dream on. His second pitch is a changeup that's an average pitch now and has a chance to get better. His command as a freshman was below-average, but it's average to slightly above now. The concern with Price is his delivery. His arm is quick, but it's not real loose. There's stiffness to his delivery, as he has a short stride for someone with his height and lands on a stiff front leg. This causes him to sometimes leave pitches up in the zone. His stuff puts him as a second-round candidate, high enough to consider him signable despite the leverage of returning for his junior season. For the Hokies, Price was 7-3, 4.37 through his first 12 appearances, 10 of which were starts. In 70 innings he had 68 strikeouts and 21 walks.

Kevin Munson, rhp
James Madison

The closer for the Dukes, Munson has a thick, strong frame at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds. He has two average or better pitches that help him shut down batters at the end of games. His fastball consistently sits 90-93 mph, with good sink and armside run thanks to good extension in his delivery. His second pitch is a power slider that can buckle hitters' knees. He gets hard, late depth on the pitch and uses it almost exclusively at times. Occasionally, the break will get a little big on him and the pitch lacks bite. He came to James Madison as a catcher/righthander, so his arm is relatively fresh. He has shown that he can work multiple-inning outings and hold his velocity. In 24 appearances he has tossed 43 innings, striking out 61 and walking 19. Even though he hasn't made a start in his college career, a couple of scouts didn't rule out the possibility if he can find a third pitch.

Wahoos Surge

Not only did Virginia reach the College World Series for the first time in school history in 2009, but the Cavaliers also returned a strong core of sophomores and juniors from that team, helping them remain around the top of Baseball America's college rankings for the entire season. Jarrett Parker is the team's top prospect and the only one likely to go in the first few rounds, but plenty of others have made big contributions and should get drafted well.

Phil Gosselin got a lot of attention after a first-inning home run against Stephen Strasburg in the 2009 Irvine regional, and he was building on that by batting .385/.465./619 with eight home runs, 58 runs and a team-best 21 doubles this spring. He's a good athlete capable of playing multiple positions, though he fits best at second base. He has good bat speed and is a solid-average runner. The other Cavalier to make a name for himself against Strasburg was Robert Morey. He went six innings in that game, allowing five hits, three walks and no runs while striking out nine. He was 9-2, 3.14 in 86 innings this season with 66 strikeouts and 33 walks as Virginia's Saturday starter. His fastball sits around 90-91 mph, though he can touch higher early in games. Against Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament he touched 95 mph but dropped off quickly and got knocked around. Morey competes enough to go deep in games, as he averages better than six innings a start. His second-best offering is a slider that is inconsistent but shows flashes of being a good pitch. He's a good athlete, but at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, scouts can't project him to add much to his arsenal.

Virginia's deep pitching staff has been a key to its success, and two key contributors in the bullpen should get drafted, though their stuff is a bit fringy for pro ball. Tyler Wilson and Kevin Arico are the only Virginia pitchers with more than 20 appearances on the season. Wilson was 7-3, 3.11 in 55 innings with 60 strikeouts and 24 walks, while Arico was 1-1, 2.96 in 25 appearances with 16 saves. Both are good college pitchers, but they work with fastballs that sit in the upper 80s and don't touch 90 or better enough. Arico throws a slider a majority of the time, though it's an average pitch at best. Wilson probably has a better shot of getting picked higher because he has shown an ability to start in the past.

Senior Tyler Cannon was Virginia's top hitting prospect last year, but he didn't sign as a 41st-round pick of the Pirates and returned to finish his degree. He can hit line drives with gap power from both sides of the plate, though he's in just his second year of switch-hitting. He was batting .340/.420/.505 this spring with 17 doubles and 35 RBIs. He's a good defensive shortstop for college, but he can't play there every day at the next level. Scouts see him as a useful utilityman who can play all four infield positions, and he has enough arm strength that he could get a look behind the plate. Cannon will go out much higher this year as a senior sign.

Dan Grovatt is a physical corner outfielder at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds. He was batting just .292/.395/.465 this season, and he's unconventional at the plate. He has an upper body swing, and scouts don't see his power being better than average. His best tool is a plus arm, and he gets high marks for his makeup.

To the West, ACC rival Virginia Tech was putting together one of its best seasons and appeared in the Top 25 for the first time since March 1992. The Hokies were led by Jesse Hahn and Mathew Price on the mound and Austin Wates on offense, but also had depth behind them.

Shortstop Tim Smalling, who transferred from Arkansas and sat out last season, has a pro body at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds. Scouts think he may be able to stay at shortstop as a pro, and he has an average arm. Teams might take a chance on his body and athleticism. Steve Domecus doesn't have great tools but has produced with the bat: he was hitting .372/.435/.641. He's unlikely to stay behind the plate and will likely move to left field. He's a redshirt senior who was last drafted in the 38th round in 2008 by the White Sox.

The other colleges in the state don't have nearly as much to offer, with Joe Van Meter at Virginia Commonwealth garnering the most interest. He has shown power at the plate and a good arm at third base, but scouts like him on the mound. He's a natural thrower who can pitch in low 90s without much effort. In the fall he touched 94 and 95 mph, but he hasn't shown it this spring and sometimes threw in the mid-80s. He's unpolished because he doesn't have a lot of experience as a pitcher, so he would be a project. His secondary stuff is below-average. He won't go in the first 10 rounds, but a team might take a chance on him late with an eye toward making him a reliever.

Preps Still Down

Coming into the spring season after traveling the showcase circuit in 2009, Bobby Wahl had the potential to go in the first four rounds. But he has been inconsistent this spring and his stock has taken a hit. He came out of the gates slowly before his velocity started to pick up, but then he got hit just above his pitching elbow by a line drive. The injury wasn't serious—just a bruise—but he took extra time off as a precaution. Wahl showed low 90s velocity at times this spring, but only sporadically. On other days he was 84-89 mph with a slowed delivery. When he's right, Wahl has a driving delivery with good extension. At USA Baseball's Tournament of Stars last summer, several scouts said his his delivery reminded them of a taller Roy Oswalt (Wahl is 6-foot-3, 195 pounds). His fastball sits at 90-92 mph and touches 93 when he's right. He has confidence in his slider, which is a good pitch with hard break. He also shows a changeup and curveball, but both pitches need work. Unless a team drafts him on the form he showed last summer, Wahl will probably honor his Mississippi commitment.

Cody Cox was gaining momentum as the draft approached. He was on follow lists going into the spring, but he wasn't a priority because he had pitched mostly in the mid-80s. Before his team was eliminated in the district playoffs, however, Cox was sitting 89-90 mph and touching 93 with his fastball thanks to a quick arm. His secondary stuff is all right and needs the refinements typical of a high school arm. Cox offers plenty of projection at a lanky 6-foot-5, 185 pounds, and he has a lot of moving parts in his delivery. He could go from rounds 6-10, but scouts didn't have a good read on what it would take to steer him away from his commitment to Old Dominion.

Righthander Austin Chrismon has had an outstanding career for Menchville—he hadn't lost a game until April 2010—but he hasn't thrown as well as scouts had hoped this season, and some questioned his conditioning. One scout saw him 84-87 mph with his fastball this spring, though he had seen better in the past. He is committed to East Carolina.

Outfielder Mitchell Shifflett is one of the fastest players in the state. A Virginia signee, he reeled off a 6.3-second 60-yard dash last summer, but as the old baseball saw goes, you can't steal first base. Scouts haven't seen him produce enough with the bat to sign him away from school, so he'll become a Cavalier and get re-evaluated in 2013.

Kurt Fleming is another Richmond-area outfielder with speed comparable to Shifflett's. He's arguably the best athlete in the state and is committed to play football for Army. His dad is Steven Fleming, the Braves' East Coast crosschecker.