State Report: Arizona

Talent down everywhere in the Grand Canyon 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
It's not a good year in the Four Corners, especially for scouts who don't also have Las Vegas as part of their territory (which meant getting to see Bryce Harper). Most who scout Arizona also have Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, and while the Grand Canyon State usually supplies the bulk of the talent, this season the pickings are slim.

Arizona State had a strong season in the wake of Pat Murphy's departure and could have two players drafted in the top two rounds, but the Sun Devils were lacking their usual depth. Arizona sneaked into regionals, but the Wildcats' talent is in their freshman and sophomore classes. The talent in Arizona is down all around. The high school crop isn't quite as bad as 2006, when the first Arizona high schooler wasn't taken until the ninth round, but it's not far off. One scout lamented that if you asked seven or eight scouts to name the best high school player in the state, you might get seven or eight different answers.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Seth Blair, rhp, Arizona State (National Rank: 34)
2. Jordan Swagerty, rhp, Arizona State (National Rank: 61)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

3. Jake Cole, rhp, Sahuaro HS, Tucson
4. Dan Slania, rhp, Salpointe Catholic HS, Tucson
5. T.C. Mark, c, Pinnacle HS, Phoenix
6. Drew Maggi, ss, Arizona State
7. Konner Wade, rhp, Chaparral HS, Scottsdale
8. Taylor Lindsey, of, Desert Mountain HS, Scottsdale
9. D.J. Peterson, 3b, Gilbert HS
10. Merrill Kelly, rhp, Arizona State
11. Jorge Flores, ss, Hamilton HS, Chandler
12. James Dykstra, rhp, Yavapai JC
13. Devyn Rivera, rhp, Chandler-Gilbert CC
14. Josh Alexander, of, Mountain Pointe HS, Mesa
15. Sam Lind, ss, Central Arizona JC
16. DeMarcus Tidwell, of, Yavapai JC
17. Travis Flores, 1b, Desert Ridge HS, Mesa
18. Chris Joyce, lhp, Central Arizona JC
19. Anthony Haase, rhp, Cochise JC
20. Josh Spence, lhp, Arizona State
21. Steve Selsky, of, Arizona
22. Jimmy Patterson, of/lhp, Arizona State
23. Parker Markel, rhp, Yavapai JC
24. Keenyn Walker, of, Central Arizona JC
25. James Pazos, lhp, Chandler-Gilbert CC
26. Xorge Carrillo, c, Arizona State
27. Casey Upperman, rhp, Yavapai JC
28. Tyler Bremer, rhp, Yavapai JC
29. Derek Cone, rhp, Mesa CC
30. Jake Borup, rhp, Arizona State
32. Kole Calhoun, of, Arizona State
32. Vinny Zazueta, ss, Arizona Western JC
33. A.J. Schugel, rhp, Central Arizona JC
34. James McDonald, ss, Chaparral HS, Phoenix
35. Kyle Ottoson, lhp, South Mountain CC
36. Aaron Fujiki, c, Yavapai JC
37. Cam Schiller, ss, Yavapai JC
38. Karsten Strieby, 1b, Arizona Western JC
39. Josh Moody, rhp, Arizona State
40. James Farris, rhp, Highland HS, Gilbert
41. Rafael Valenzuela, 1b, Arizona
42. Ryan Casillas, 1b, Hamilton HS, Chandler
43. Tim Keller, rhp, Arizona Western JC

SCOUTING REPORTS

Seth Blair, rhp
Arizona State

A Top 200 draft prospect out of Rock Falls (Ill.) High in 2007, signability caused Blair to drop to the 47th round and he headed west to Arizona State. He always had good stuff, and his results have taken a step forward every year there. He came into the season expecting to be Arizona State's Saturday starter, but was thrust into the Friday night lights when lefthander Josh Spence was shut down all season. He stepped up nicely, helping the Sun Devils get off to a 24-0 start and rank among the nation's top teams all season. Blair showed electric stuff earlier in the season, sitting 93-95 mph and even touching 97. He tailed off a little as the year went on, but he still pitches at 92-94. It's a heavy fastball with riding life and some sink when it's down in the zone, although it can flatten out later in games. His curveball is an average pitch now with a chance to be plus. He has a good changeup and a cutter that he uses occasionally. A long arm action in the back and some pulling off to his glove side cause him to have average command. His walk rate is down this year, but he still hits a batter nearly every game and runs up a high pitch count that causes him to leave games earlier than teams would like to see out of top pitchers. Blair is a Boras Corp. client, but teams don't consider him a particularly tough sign.

Jordan Swagerty, rhp
Arizona State

Swagerty was a highly touted high school player out of Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas. He was a 2007 Aflac All-American and a member of Team USA's junior national team. Now a draft-eligible sophomore, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound righthander has been dynamite at the back end of the Sun Devils' bullpen. His fastball sits in the 92-94 mph range and can get up to 96 when he's amped up. But, that's not his best pitch. Swagerty also throws a 84-86 mph curveball that grades out as a legit 70 on the 20-80 scale. It's a true 12-6 hammer. Swagerty's size concerns some scouts, but he can hold his velocity in back-to-back outings. He doesn't quite profile as a big league closer, but should move quickly to the big leagues and reminds scouts of Angels set-up man Scot Shields.

Best Record Doesn't Mean Best Talent

Despite going 47-8 and earning the No. 1 seed for NCAA regionals, Arizona State isn't flush with top draft prospects. Sophomore-eligible Drew Maggi is a good little player. He's not flashy but can do a little bit of everything. He's an above-average runner who makes all the plays at shortstop, though he could move to center field as a pro. He gets the bat on the ball and will find the gap enough to hit plenty of doubles. Scouts who like him see him as a top-of-the-order sparkplug with speed and versatility. Scouts who don't say he'll cost too much to buy out of ASU as a draft-eligible sophomore and could wind up as a bench player. He's a hard worker with good makeup, and if he doesn't sign he'll likely play for Team USA this summer.

Righthander Merril Kelly gets results, but does it with a lot of funk and deception. He sinks an average fastball that touches 92 mph, and he throws it for strikes. But he's rigid with an "iron Mike" delivery, and as one scout put it, "You just don't see guys pitch like that in the big leagues." Kelly mixes in a breaking ball, but it's his above-average changeup that is his second-best pitch. Because of his mechanical issues, he profiles better as a reliever in pro ball.

Australian lefthander Josh Spence was a third-round pick by the Angels last year. He didn't sign and came back to Arizona State for his senior year, but he hasn't pitched at all due to a mysterious elbow injury. The school never released any specific information about a diagnosis, though Spence has said he is confident he'll pitch again. As a soft-tossing lefthander he'll always have to prove himself, and he'll be a late pick this year, if he's drafted at all. Spence has graduated from school but could get a redshirt and return for one more year.

Jimmy Patterson was an interesting two-way prospect at Central Arizona JC last year and reportedly turned down a six-figure offer from the Red Sox as a 34th-round pick. He saw limited action this year, pitching 30 innings and getting 15 at-bats, so scouts expect him to return for another year unless he transfers elsewhere. Catcher Xorge Carrillo has been drafted twice, but a forearm injury limited him to just 34 at-bats this season. Outfielder Kole Calhoun is a 5-foot-10 overachiever who should get a job somewhere, and righthander Jake Borup is a draft-eligible sophomore who is already 23 after spending two years on a Mormon mission. He throws his fastball in the 89-92 mph range with a 79-81 mph slider and a good feel for a changeup. He throws all his pitches for strikes and has a good pitcher's frame at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds.

Arizona has a young team, and its best draft prospect this year is sophomore-eligible outfielder Steve Selsky. Selsky finished second in the Pac-10 in batting at .383/.463/.622, but scouts don't like his approach at the plate. He has average raw power or slightly above, but it shows up only in batting practice because he utilizes a more inside-out, contact-oriented approach during games. He bats and throws righthanded and will have to play a corner outfield spot, so he doesn't have a lot of projection and is a better college player than a pro prospect at this point. Teammate Rafael Valenzuela should get drafted, but he has bulked up to the point that he's limited to first base now, which dented his value as a prospect.

Down Year For Junior College Talent

It's a down year for Arizona talent in general, and particularly at the traditionally strong junior colleges. Scouts certainly didn't see any Rich Hardens or Curt Schillings this year. Not surprisingly, the most juco talent is at Yavapai JC, and the most interesting of the bunch is righthander James Dykstra, the younger brother of Padres prospect Alan Dykstra. Dykstra is a converted outfielder with a strong arm and a projectable body. He has been clocked at 92-93 mph, but his breaking ball needs work and he'll be a tough sell to scouting directors because he threw a handful of innings this year. Righthander Parker Markel can run his fastball up to 93 mph, but he's another guy who doesn't have a clean delivery and profiles as a middle reliever. Righthander Casey Upperman can also run it up to 93 and has a good curveball. He has toned down his Hideki Okajima-esque delivery but is still a max-effort guy.

Opposing coaches loved outfielder DeMarcus Tidwell this season, but it was difficult to find a scout who bought into his package. He's a good athlete and was a highly recruited wide receiver out of Grenada (Miss.) High in 2008, but he hasn't shown the speed scouts expected from that profile. Scouts consider him more of an average runner. Tidwell, a 6-foot-3, 180-pounder who bats and throws lefthanded, also was bothered by a hamstring injury this year. He also doesn't have good baseball instincts, running into outs on the bases and struggling to track routine fly balls. He led the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference in batting and has good bat control, but he did it with an opposite-field approach. Playing every day will help Tidwell learn the game, and if he can add a little strength, trust his hands and start turning on more balls, he could be interesting. He also raised makeup questions when he got suspended from his previous team at Bossier Parish (La.) CC.

Chandler-Gilbert JC righthander Devyn Rivera has good stuff, getting up to 93 mph in the past. His delivery needs work and he doesn't have a clean arm action. He significantly cut his walks from his freshman year, when he had 57 over 63 innings, but he's committed to Arizona State and will likely be looking for more money than teams are willing to invest. Teammate James Pazos hasn't improved from last year as Rivera did. He has arm strength, and his future is in the bullpen.

Opposing coaches were impressed by Cochise JC righthander Anthony Haase this year, but scouts didn't hold the same opinion. He has been up to 94 mph, but his velocity has fluctuated this spring. He pitched mostly at 88-91 mph with sink, and some scouts saw him in the 86-88 mph range. He has a below-average breaking ball and a funky delivery with bad arm action. He's a tough competitor and could get another shot this year after being a 38th-round pick by the Rays out of high school.

Lefthander Chris Joyce came to Central Arizona JC from UC Santa Barbara, where he spent his freshman year but did not pitch because he wasn't eligible academically. He was a 10th-round draft pick by the Dodgers out of high school and won't come close to that this time around. Joyce has a soft, maxed-out body at 6 feet and 190 pounds. He'll start out the game throwing his fastball at 85 mph, and as the game goes on his stuff gets better. That may explain why reports of his velocity fluctuated considerably this spring. Some scouts saw him dial it up to 93 mph, while other saw him in the low 80s. His breaking ball is the same way. Early in the game, it's more of a short cutter, but in the later innings it's more of a true slider. Joyce throws a changeup too, but it's his third-best pitch.

Joyce's teammate, A.J. Schugel, is an interesting case. He's an infielder for the Vaqueros, but profiles better as a pro as a pitcher. He doesn't pitch in college because he just doesn't have the feel for it. He'll throw a good bullpen session, sitting 92-93 mph, but is more of a thrower than a pitcher. His father Jeff is a scout for the Angels, so many scouts believe that's where he'll wind up. If he doesn't sign, he'll transfer to New Mexico.

Shortstop Sam Lind is the rare baseball prospect from South Dakota and came to Central Arizona via Missouri, where he spent his freshman year. He doesn't profile as a shortstop and doesn't run well, but could be an offensive second baseman because he has a knack for squaring the ball up. A team that has seen him hit well may give him a shot, and he's getting recruited by Southern California, Arizona and Vanderbilt as well.

High School Talent Dries Up In Desert

Righthanders Jake Cole and Dan Slania are similar and frequently mentioned in the same breath by scouts. Cole is 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds and committed to North Carolina, while Slania is 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds and committed to Notre Dame. Cole started the season at 92-93 mph and touched 95, but he was down to 88-91 mph later in the season. Slania has been clocked at 90-92 mph. Both pitchers need to work on their below-average secondary stuff and watch their weight. They are also both considered tough signs.

Scouts are divided on catcher T.C. Mark. He didn't catch consistently for his high school team this year and his arm is average, at best, but some scouts think he'll be passable behind the plate, and if he is he offers an intriguing package. One scout compared him to Brad Fullmer, another bat-first prospect who tried to make it as a catcher before he became a corner infielder. Mark has strong forearms and a good line-drive approach from the left side of the plate. He has more of an up-the-middle and opposite-field approach now, and could hit for more power if he starts lifting and pulling the ball. He'll have to tone down his swing, as he has a lot of head movement and is inconsistent. He didn't crack BA's Top 200 but could get drafted in that range because catchers—especially those who can hit—get pushed up draft boards. If he doesn't sign, Mark will head to Arizona.

Taylor Lindsey has been a hot name in Arizona, but the tools and profile haven't matched the hype. He will not be a pro shortstop, as he has a thick lower half and is a below-average runner with a below-average arm. He might be able to move to second base or more likely left field. While he has a nice lefthanded swing, his power is average at best and one scout said it was a metal-bat swing that won't translate to wood. Lindsey is committed to Arizona State. Late rumors said at least one team liked Lindsey enough to take him in the supplemental first round. While that team is an outlier, one team is all it takes. Third baseman D.J. Peterson has a similar profile, except that he bats righthanded, and he's probably destined for left field or first base. He does have a little pop from an uppercut swing. He is committed to Arizona.

Righthander Konner Wade looked like a stud in the fall, sitting 92-93 mph with a hammer curveball. This spring was a different story, though. His fastball was more in the upper 80s, touching 90, and his curveball flattened out. He could be an interesting summer follow, but teams may just let him go to school. He is committed to Arizona, but could also wind up at Central Arizona.

Shortstop Jorge Flores has legitimate tools as an above-average defender with an above-average arm. He can really pick it at shortstop and has great baseball instincts. He's a below-average runner and his lefthanded swing is a little light, but that's because he's one of the smallest players who will get drafted at 5-foot-6 and 175 pounds. The Diamondbacks have been rumored to be the most interested in him. If he doesn't sign he'll head to Central Arizona.

With his big power, first baseman Travis Flores might have the best single tool in the state's high school class. He won the Power Showcase home run derby last winter. But he's a one-dimensional player, and scouts are worried his power will show only in BP at the pro level because he has trouble recognizing offspeed pitches and breaking balls. Defensively, he's limited to first. He is committed to Arizona State.

Outfielder Josh Alexander is a better athlete than baseball player right now. At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds he has tools, but he doesn't always show them. He's a fringe-average runner with a solid arm and bat speed, and he should be able to power because of his strong frame. He's a bit of a project, and if teams don't take a chance on him he'll head to Utah.