State Report: Indiana

Another strong year for the Hoosier 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
Indiana had just two first-rounders and no sandwich picks in the previous six drafts before producing two of each in 2009. The Hoosier State has a chance to match that this year, with scouts streaming into Muncie to see Cowan High catcher Justin O'Conner and Ball State teammates Kolbrin Vitek and Perci Garner. Indiana State righthander Jacob Petricka also turned heads when he started popping 98 mph fastballs in mid-April. Petricka and Garner faded a bit at the end of the season, but O'Conner and Vitek firmly established themselves as first-rounders.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Justin O'Conner, c, Cowan HS, Muncie (National Rank: 24)
2. Kolbrin Vitek, 2b, Ball State (National Rank: 25)
3. Jacob Petricka, rhp, Indiana State (National Rank: 40)
4. Perci Garner, rhp, Ball State (National Rank: 49)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

5. Conrad Gregor, of/1b, Carmel HS
6. Brian Dupra, rhp, Notre Dame
7. Matt Bischoff, rhp, Purdue
8. Ryan Strausborger, of/ss, Indiana State
9. Derek Eitel, rhp, Rose-Hulman
10. Justin Glass, of, Carroll HS, Fort Wayne
11. Chris Squires, rhp, Indiana
12. Bryce Shafer, rhp, Valparaiso
13. Clay Wallace, rhp, Zionsville Community HS
14. Nolan Sanburn, rhp/c, Kokomo HS
15. Greg Wallace, of, Evansville
16. Cody Fick 3b/1b, Evansville
17. T.J. Baumet, ss, Ball State
18. Jerrud Sabourin, 1b, Indiana
19. Matt Jansen, lhp, Purdue
20. Jeff Thompson, rhp, Floyd Central HS, Knobs

SCOUTING REPORTS

Justin O'Conner, c

Cowan HS, Muncie


Scouts had been split on whether O'Conner was a better prospect as a power-hitting third baseman or as a pitcher with a 93-95 mph fastball and a hammer curveball. When he began catching at the end of the showcase circuit last summer and played regularly behind the plate this spring, though, it settled any debate about his future. He's now the top high school catching prospect in the 2010 draft. His standout tool is his arm, which grades as plus-plus and is capable of producing 1.8-second pop times. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder is agile behind the plate, though his inexperience shows in his receiving. O'Conner also generates above-average thunder with his tremendous bat speed, showing power to all fields in batting practice. He homered twice (while pitching a one-hitter) in a state Class A sectional championship game, tying the Indiana career home run record with 51. A righthanded hitter, he's pull-conscious in games and struggled at times against quality pitching last summer, so there's some question whether he'll hit for a high average. Even if he doesn't, his arm and power could make him an all-star catcher. And if he can't make it as a position player, he has an attractive fallback option as a pitcher. The Arkansas recruit is unlikely to make it past the first round.



Kolbrin Vitek, 2b

Ball State


Vitek has pitched in Ball State's weekend rotation since he was a freshman, and has been a regular in the Cardinals' lineup, first as a DH, then as a third baseman and now as second baseman. Yet his professional future is more likely as an outfielder. In a draft short on premium college hitters, Vitek is one of the best. He ranked as the top prospect in the Great Lakes League last summer, batting .400 and winning the league's first triple crown. A 6-foot-3, 195-pound righthanded hitter, he's a more physical version of former Notre Dame outfielder A.J. Pollock, the 17th overall pick a year ago of the Diamondbacks. Despite a late-season slump, Vitek could go in the same range, and the Padres, who own the No. 9 choice, have shown interest in him. With quick hands and a sound approach, he consistently barrels balls and projects as an above-average hitter with average to plus power. On the 20-80 scouting scale, his speed rates as a 55 out of the box and 60-65 under way, leading to hope that he can play center field. If not, he has enough bat to carry him as a right fielder. Vitek lacks the hands and actions to play the infield in pro ball. He's also a legitimate prospect as a pitcher, throwing 88-92 mph from a low three-quarters arm slot and locating multiple pitches for strikes. He led the Mid-American Conference with a 3.28 ERA this spring and was named conference player of the year.

Jacob Petricka, rhp

Indiana State


Petricka may have had more helium than any player a month before the draft, with his stock rising so rapidly that it could have carried him into the first round. He cooled off by season's end, and now figures to go in the sandwich or second round. He began his college career at Iowa Western CC, where he sat out 2007 while recovering from Tommy John surgery and mostly pitched in the high 80s. He touched 94 early in the 2009 season after transferring to Indiana State, but didn't hold that velocity and ultimately turned down the Yankees, who took him in the 34th round as a draft-eligible sophomore. Petricka was on follow lists for 2010, and early in the season he was nothing special, sitting at 90 mph and featuring a soft curveball. Starting in mid-April, he made a quantum leap and began pitching at 92-94 mph and reaching 98 with his fastball, holding his velocity deep into games. His breaking ball now has some power to it and grades as a solid-average pitch. Scouts have noted that the 6-foot-4, 180-pounder is doing a much better job of using his legs and finishing his delivery.

Perci Garner, rhp

Ball State


Ball State produced a first-round pick (Bryan Bullington, No. 1 overall) and sandwich-rounder (Luke Hagerty) in the 2002 draft, and could repeat the feat again this year with Kolbrin Vitek and Garner. Garner joined the Cardinals on a football scholarship, but didn't see any game action in two years as a quarterback. After he emerged as the best pitching prospect in the Great Lakes League last summer, he gave up football, and he has continued to make strides this spring. Garner opened the season in Ball State's bullpen but moved into the rotation after shutting down a talented Louisville lineup for four innings in mid-March. He has a strong, athletic 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame and a pair of plus pitches in a lively 92-94 mph fastball that reaches 97 and a power curveball. He also throws a slider and a changeup. Garner's inexperience on the mound shows at times. His delivery can get slow and lack rhythm, and improving it would help his control. Though he's a draft-eligible sophomore, he's not considered a difficult sign.

Unsignable Gregor Has Bat Potential

The second-best high school player in the state may go undrafted. Outfielder/first baseman Conrad Gregor has an intriguing bat, but he's strongly committed to Vanderbilt. He has a great body at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, and the swing, bat speed and strength to hit for power and average from the left side of the plate. Though he's an average runner, Gregor is awkward in the field and has a below-average arm. His hands and feet are a liability at first base, so he fits better in left field.

Brian Dupra laid the groundwork to go early in the 2010 draft by reaching 95-96 mph at times as a reliever in the Cape Cod League last summer, but he struggled this spring. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound righthander sat at 88-91 mph and touched 94, and even when he threw hard he got hit. His slurvy slider regressed, as did his splitter and changeup. He throws strikes but doesn't locate his pitches well in the zone. Dupra went 13-13, 6.40 in three years as a starter at Notre Dame, and he'll almost certainly move to the bullpen in pro ball. The hope is that he'll have more success by focusing on his fastball and facing wood bats—though he posted a 5.48 ERA and allowed five homers in 23 innings on the Cape.

Righthander Matt Bischoff went undrafted after a disappointing season in 2009, but he rebounded to become the best senior sign in the Big 10 Conference. The first player in Purdue history to earn all-conference honors in four different seasons, he does an excellent job of competing with average stuff. He can add and subtract from a lively fastball that parks at 88-90 mph and reaches 92, and he gets late action on an 83-85 mph slider/cutter. He also mixes in a changeup and curveball. His size (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) and age (23) work against him, but area scouts believe in him and he could sneak into the first 10 rounds.

Ryan Strausborger is another good senior sign, a versatile athlete with plus speed. He earned all-Missouri Valley Conference honors in each of the last three seasons, as a second baseman in 2008 and a center fielder the last two years. Strausborger, who also played shortstop this spring, fits best in center and has a strong arm for the position. The 6-foot, 175-pound righthanded hitter makes consistent contact, but he'll needs to change his approach. He drops his shoulder and hits too many balls in the air. While he has gap power, he should get more out of his speed.

Derek Eitel starred at quarterback for Rose-Hulman, an NCAA Division III school, setting school records for career passing yards (7,507), touchdowns (52) and efficiency rating (125.4). He also went 29-10 in four years in the Fightin' Engineers rotation, and his pro future will be as a righthanded pitcher. A 6-foot-5, 205-pounder, his sinker jumped 3 mph from 2009 to 2010. He pitched at 89-91 mph and touched 92 as a senior, and improved his slurvy slider. He also throws a changeup and splitter. His delivery puts stress on his shoulder, but his size, arm strength and athleticism will give a pro club plenty to work with.

After O'Conner, the second high school player drafted in the state figures to be outfielder Justin Glass, a Cincinnati recruit who's considered more signable than Gregor. A 6-foot-2, 185-pound lefthanded hitter, Glass broke several Carroll High records this spring. He has an aggressive approach at the plate and is a good athlete with solid speed and arm strength.

Three of the state's more intriguing college players didn't get a chance to show what they could do on the diamond this spring. Notre Dame outfielder Golden Tate's absence wasn't unexpected, as the star wide receiver broke several of Jeff Samardzija's school records before focusing on the NFL draft, where he went in the second round to the Seattle Seahawks.

Teammate Evan Danieli had a 92-95 mph fastball and projected as an early-round pick before having Tommy John surgery last summer. He should be able to pitch in July, and a team will probably gamble a late-round pick on him and evaluate him this summer. Indiana lefthander Blake Monar has a nifty curveball, but rotator-cuff inflammation limited him to four innings. He's a draft-eligible sophomore who also figures to be a summer follow.