State Report: Pennsylvania

Best talent in years in the Keystone State






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
Pennsylvania's crop is the strongest in the Northeast. The Keystone State produced just one Top 200 prospect in each of the last three years, but this year it has four—its most since BA started ranking a Top 200 in 2002. All Pennsylvania lacks is a talent at the very top of the draft, so the state earns a four-star rating for the first time in the last decade.

The state also features a depth of talent beyond the top four players. Keenan Kish, Austin Urban, Ben Heath and Chris Kirsch are all top-10-rounds talents who just missed out on the Top 200. Beyond that group, Pennsylvania features a number of solid senior signs and raw prep players with upside.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Joe Leonard, 3b, Pittsburgh (National Rank: 104)
2. Sean Coyle, ss, Germantown Academy, Fort Washington, Pa. (National Rank: 111)
3. Jesse Biddle, lhp, Germantown Friends HS, Philadelphia (National Rank: 116)
4. Matt Szczur, of, Villanova (National Rank: 174)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

5. Keenan Kish, rhp, Germantown Academy, Fort Washington, Pa.
6. Austin Urban, rhp, Richland HS, Johnstown, Pa.
7. Ben Heath, c, Penn State
8. Chris Kirsch, lhp, Marple Newtown HS, Newtown Square
9. Tyler Vail, rhp, Notre Dame HS, Green Pond
10. Justin Bencsko, of, Villanova
11. Kevan Smith, c, Pittsburgh
12. Danny Lopez, ss, Pittsburgh
13. Kyle Redinger, 3b, Cedar Crest HS, Lebanon
14. Cory Brownstein, c, Pittsburgh
15. Patrick Leyland, c, Bishop Canevin HS, Pittsburgh
16. Victor Lara, rhp, Keystone
17. Nate Reed, lhp, Kutztown
18. Mark Tracy, c/1b, Duquesne
19. Sam DiMatteo, of, California (Pa.)
20. Paul Bingham, ss, Indiana (Pa.)
21. Don Puglise, rhp, Slippery Rock
22. Dillon Haviland, lhp, South Fayette HS
23. Nathan Hood, rhp, Pittsburgh
24. Derek Kline, rhp, Millersville
25. Grant Kernaghan, rhp, Bloomsburg
26. Mike Francisco, lhp, Villanova
27. Andrew Brouse, of, Bucknell
28. Doug Shribman, 1b, Bucknell

SCOUTING REPORTS

Joe Leonard, 3b
Pittsburgh

Leonard's father, John, was a first-round pick of the Orioles in 1982, and Joe stepped into Pitt's starting lineup as a freshman. After two solid seasons, Leonard exploded as a junior this spring, hitting .452/.507/.719 with eight homers and 60 RBIs though 199 at-bats. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Leonard has below-average game power currently, but he has shown good pop with wood bats in batting practice and projects for average power if he can add loft to his flat swing. His swing is long, making him vulnerable against good fastballs on the inner half, but he has good bat speed and feel for hitting, so he barrels up balls consistently. He projects as an average hitter. Leonard also reaches 92-93 mph off the mound as Pitt's closer, and his arm is above-average at third base. He is not a finished product defensively but has good feet and solid instincts, and he projects as a solid-average defender. He is a below-average runner but not a clogger. Leonard projects as a second- to third-round pick.

Sean Coyle, ss
Germantown Academy, Fort Washington, Pa.

Coyle's older brother Tommy was North Carolina's starting second baseman as a freshman this spring, and Sean will join him in Chapel Hill next year unless a major league club opens up its checkbook. Coyle is undersized at 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, but the consensus among scouts is that he has a legitimate chance to be an everyday big league second baseman in the Brian Roberts mold. He played shortstop for Germantown Academy and spent some time at DH this spring because of a mild forearm strain. Coyle might not be tall, but he has plenty of strength in his compact righthanded swing, and he makes consistent, hard contact to all fields, though he projects for below-average power. He has above-average speed and is aggressive on the basepaths. Coyle has sure hands and good infield instincts, and he should have solid-average range and arm strength at second base. He is a confident, competitive grinder who gets the most out of his quality tools.

Jesse Biddle, lhp
Germantown Friends HS, Philadelphia

Biddle's stock climbed along with his fastball velocity as the spring progressed. In his first outing of the season against Germantown Academy ace Keenan Kish, Biddle worked at 88-91 mph, but by the end of April he was sitting at 90-92 and touching 93-94 at times, with sinking and cutting action. Biddle's best assets are his arm strength and size; his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame is both physical and projectable, and his upside is significant. But Biddle lacks polish and must do a better job staying on top of his secondary stuff. Scouts widely agree that his slider is more promising than his soft curveball, but he seldom deploys the slider in games, relying instead on the curve. His slider has a chance to be above-average in time. Some scouts say Biddle has shown feel for a tumbling changeup in bullpens and between innings, but he does not throw it in games. Biddle is an Oregon recruit who is regarded as a difficult sign, but he is a top-three-rounds talent with a chance to land a high six-figure bonus.

Matt Szczur, of
Villanova

A wide receiver for Villanova's football team, Szczur led the Wildcats to a Football Championship Subdivision national title last fall, earning MVP honors in the championship game after racking up 270 all-purpose yards. He is a legitimate NFL draft prospect as a receiver in the Wes Welker mold, which clouds his baseball signability, but he also could be drafted as early as the fifth round in baseball. Szczur is an electrifying athlete with true 80 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale. He is still learning to put his speed to use in the outfield—he arrived at Villanova as a catcher and has never concentrated on baseball full-time—and has played right field for the Wildcats, but he could become an adequate defender in center or left with work. His arm is well-below-average. Offensively, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Szczur has an unorthodox, slashy swing, but he has a knack for barreling up balls consistently, and he projects as an average hitter with below-average power. He has a patient approach, and he can use all fields and make adjustments from at-bat to at-bat. Scouts love Szczur's intensity on the field, and coaches rave about his work ethic and ability to learn. He also has special makeup off the field; days after hitting for the cycle on April 27, Szczur donated bone marrow to a 1-year-old girl with leukemia, sidelining him for the next three weeks.

Keystone Cache Keyed By Kish, Kirsch

Prep righthanders Keenan Kish and Austin Urban (as well as Penn State catcher Ben Heath) all just missed out on the Top 200, but all three garnered Top 200 support from scouts.

Kish, the younger brother of Florida Southern outfielder Colin Kish, benefited from playing alongside Germantown star Sean Coyle, which gave scouts plenty of opportunity to see him. Loose and projectable at 6-foot-3, 192 pounds, Kish sat in the 88-91 mph range and touched 92 this spring, and he did a better job holding his velocity deep into games as the spring progressed. He has an easy arm action that leads scouts to believe he can throw harder as he fills out, though at times his textbook delivery can be almost too mechanical. He does a good job pitching off his fastball and has an excellent feel for pitching with his two-pitch repertoire, which also includes an average curveball with three-quarters tilt that projects as a potential plus pitch. He shows feel for a changeup but seldom needed to throw it against overmatched Northeast high school competition. Kish has the talent to be drafted in the top five to seven rounds, but his signability is clouded by a commitment to Florida, where he could be a quality two-way player (he also plays third base).

One scout called Urban "the flavor of the month" in April, when his fastball jumped into the 89-93 mph range with sink and occasional cut. He pitched mostly at 90-91 through the spring. Urban is not overly physical at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, and his long, loose, one-piece arm action evokes Jered Weaver, but with a higher slot. He flirts with a plus fastball, and the rest of his repertoire needs refinement. He'll flash a slightly above-average slider every half-dozen times he throws it, but he's still learning to command the pitch—not surprising considering he has pitched for just two years. He slows his arm speed to throw his changeup, yet it still comes out too hard. He has an even demeanor and plenty of potential, and a club could make a run at him in the top 10 rounds, but he's more likely headed to Penn State.

Heath was limited by a pulled quad muscle as a sophomore in 2009 and split time even when healthy, but he broke out as a junior, slugging 19 home runs to break Penn State's 32-year-old school record. He worked hard in the offseason to improve his flexibility, which has loosened up his swing and made him more agile behind the plate. No longer muscle-bound, Heath also improved his arm strength dramatically, to the point that it's now average. A few scouts say Heath's feet and receiving skills will eventually force him to move from behind the plate, but the consensus is that he can be an average defensive catcher with work. Offensively, Heath has an unorthodox set-up with a lot of pre-pitch waggle, but he quiets down just before his stride and gets his hands in good position to hit. He has a long, high finish, but his swing is actually compact through the zone. He'll have his share of strikeouts in pro ball and projects as a fringe-average hitter, but his above-average raw power is usable in games. Most scouts peg him as an eighth- to 10th-round talent, but he could go higher given the perennial demand for catching.

Like Urban, prep lefthander Chris Kirsch was a late-emerging prospect this spring. As a sophomore, he was a junior-varsity outfielder who showed no control whatsoever when he took the mound, but he soon overhauled his mechanics and learned to throw strikes. Scouts are intrigued by his projectable 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame, and he has touched 90 mph from the left side, though he currently pitches more in the 85-88 range. He also can spin a curveball with 10-to-4 break, giving him a potential out pitch down the road. Kirsch still had not made a college commitment, which might tempt a pro club to overlook his lack of present velocity and take a flier on him around the 10th round.

Several other high schoolers have generated a smattering of interest from scouts, but all seem destined to wind up in college. Six-foot-1 righthander Tyler Vail doesn't have a big frame and has a lot of effort in his delivery, but he has run his fastball up to 92 mph with boring action. His breaking ball and changeup are below-average to fringe-average, but both could develop into solid pitches over the next three years under the tutelage of Maryland pitching coach Sean Kenny.

Another Terrapins signee, catcher Patrick Leyland, is the son of Tigers manager Jim Leyland, so he'll almost certainly get drafted, but scouts don't think he's ready for pro ball yet. Leyland has worked hard to get his once-soft body into better shape, and he has improved his receiving skills, but his average arm is not accurate so he gets run on plenty. His bat is also a work in progress.

Third baseman Kyle Redinger, a Penn State signee, has a lanky 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame with plenty of power potential and athleticism, but scouts agreed that he needs to develop his overall game, which is raw. He could also help the Nittany Lions on the mound.

Panthers Produce Prospects

On the college side, Pitt made a strong run at its first regional appearance in 15 years thanks to a solid veteran core surrounding star Joe Leonard. Fourth-year junior Kevan Smith plus seniors Danny Lopez and Cory Brownstein had a lot to do with Pitt's success, and all three should be drafted in the top 20 rounds.

Smith has the most offensive potential of the trio. A former quarterback for the Pitt football team, he's a physical specimen at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, and he has above-average raw power to match. His pop doesn't play as well in games because he dips his shoulder and tries to launch balls, and he often struggles to catch up with good fastballs. Behind the plate, Smith has an average to plus arm but raw receiving skills, which is why Brownstein handled the lion's share of the catching duties for the Panthers this spring. Brownstein also had a better offensive year, hitting .395/.460/.530, but scouts say he has a metal-bat swing that probably won't play at the higher levels of the minors. He's a good defender, however, who does a nice job blocking balls in the dirt and has a 55 arm on the 20-80 scale.

Lopez, a four-year starter at shortstop for the Panthers, put together his best season as a senior this spring, hitting .349/.437/.488 with 24 stolen bases. Lopez is a spray hitter with some bat speed who draws his share of walks, but his 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame lacks strength. He's a flashy defender at short who sometimes boots routine grounders, and his fringy arm strength could make him a better fit as a second baseman or utilityman in pro ball.

Like his teammate Matt Szczur, Villanova senior Justin Bencsko's best tool is his speed. Bencsko's plus-plus speed helps him cover plenty of ground in center field, and it plays on the basepaths, where he has 24 steals in 31 tries. He's a contact hitter with strength through the strike zone, though he has below-average power.

Wildcats junior closer Mike Francisco, a 6-foot-5 lefthander, works at 88-91 mph and has improved his secondary stuff this spring. He scrapped his curveball in favor of a cutter and a slider, which are works in progress but are usable in games. Scouts seemed content to wait until his senior year to take a shot at him.

Duquesne will dissolve its baseball program after this spring, but will produce one more solid senior draft pick in catcher/first baseman Mark Tracy, the son of Rockies manager Jim Tracy. Mark spent his freshman year at Pepperdine, appearing in 20 games before opting to transfer to Duquesne. He hit just four home runs in 194 career at-bats entering this spring, but he slugged 12 in 224 at-bats as a senior. Tracy's righthanded swing generates easy raw power, and he can hit quality fastballs, but he swings and misses a lot and will never hit for average. He spent most of this season at first base, where he's a fringy defender, and is capable of filling in behind the plate.

As usual, Pennsylvania's small colleges offer a few diamonds in the rough. Division III Keystone College junior Victor Lara, a Miami native, spent his freshman year at Miami-Dade CC and his sophomore year at Monroe (N.Y.) CC before landing at Keystone. He struck out 32 in 18 innings as the team's closer this spring, but he remains unpolished. His best asset is his arm strength; he can run his fastball up to 95 mph in short stints and pitches in the low 90s. But his command and secondary stuff need work, with his slider rating below-average at best. Lara is short but sturdy at 6 feet, 204 pounds.

Kutztown senior Nate Reed spent his first three seasons at Pittsburgh, where he showed flashes but was inconsistent. He transferred to Kutztown for his senior season and threw a no-hitter against Bloomsburg in April, but his fastball has not shown the velocity it had in the past, sitting in the mid- to high 80s and topping out at 90. He has a durable 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame and shows a good breaking ball at times in bullpens, but it doesn't play as well in games. He also has a history of battling command woes.

California (Pa.) outfielder Sam DiMatteo is undersized at 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, but he is an above-average runner with an average arm. He had a stellar offensive season, hitting .400/.484/.756 with 11 home runs and 43 stolen bases in 48 tries, but it's unclear how his bat will play at higher levels. He profiles as an extra outfielder.

Indiana (Pa.) shortstop Paul Bingham also stands out for his plus speed, and he's an adequate defender at shortstop. Few scouts think he will hit above Double-A, but he could be a nice organization player.