State Report: Missouri

Lefthanders lead decent crop in Show-Me 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
In a down year for lefthanders, the Show-Me State has three of the better ones in the draft in Missouri State's Mike Kickham and Aaron Meade, and South Harrison High's (Bethany) Jordan Shipers. The state also has decent position-player depth in Missouri teammates Brett Nicholas and Aaron Senne and outfielders Chuckie Jones (Boonville High) and Les Smith (Meramec CC).

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Mike Kickham, lhp, Missouri State (National Rank: 110)
2. Nick Tepesch, rhp, Missouri (National Rank: 130)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

3. Matt Stites, rhp, Jefferson CC
4. Jordan Shipers, lhp, South Harrison HS, Bethany
5. Brett Nicholas, c/3b, Missouri
6. Aaron Senne, 1b, Missouri
7. Aaron Meade, lhp, Missouri State
8. Chuckie Jones, of, Boonville HS
9. Les Smith, of, Meramec CC
10. Ryan Hafner, rhp, Lee's Summit West HS
11. James Hudelson, rhp, Jefferson CC
12. Tyler Clark, rhp, Missouri
13. Zach Beringer, rhp, Harrisburg HS
14. Brooks Martin, rhp, Central Missouri State
15. Steven Ross, of, Maple Woods CC
16. Jim Klocke, c, Southeast Missouri State
17. Seth Conner, 3b, Rogersville HS
18. Dan Kickham, rhp, Crowder CC
19. Danny Brock, 1b, Saint Louis
20. Zach Tolliver, rhp, St. Charles CC   
21. Matt Linderer, rhp, Bishop DuBourg HS, St. Louis
22. Jon Myers, 3b, Saint Louis
23. Sam Bates, of, Crowder CC
24. Drew Levi, of, Jefferson CC
25. Sal Belfonte, of, Rockhurst HS, Kansas City

SCOUTING REPORTS

Mike Kickham, lhp

Missouri State


Missouri State has produced six big league pitchers (Ross Detwiler, Jeff Gray, Shaun Marcum, Matt Palmer, John Rheinecker, Brad Ziegler) and two first-round arms (Detwiler, Brett Sinkbeil) in the last decade. The Bears have another quality pitching prospect—it's just not who scouts expected. Aaron Meade was coming off a strong sophomore season and summer in the Cape Cod League, but fellow lefthander Kickham has surpassed him. Missouri State didn't recruit him out of a local Springfield, Mo., high school, and he didn't turn any heads while going 3-3, 5.62 at Crowder (Mo.) JC in 2009. When his velocity increased to the high 80s in the MINK League last summer, the Bears offered him the opportunity to transfer. Kickham's fastball has continued to improve, sitting at 90-92 mph and touching 94 consistently throughout the spring. A strong 6-foot-4, 210-pounder, he backs up his fastball with a true slider that has good depth. He also throws a solid changeup and an overhand curveball. Scouts like his size, stuff and command, but also wonder why that hasn't translated into more success, as he went 4-9, 5.25 in 15 starts. Though he's a draft-eligible sophomore, he's expected to go high enough in the draft to sign. Kickham's twin brother Dan, a righthander who helped pitch Crowder to the Junior College World Series, also has seen his velocity spike this spring and should get drafted in the later rounds.

Nick Tepesch, rhp

Missouri


If Tepesch hadn't angled for a seven-figure bonus, he would have gone in the first three rounds of the 2007 draft coming out of high school. He was seen as the next in the recent line of Missouri first-round pitchers—Max Scherzer, Aaron Crow, Kyle Gibson—and while he won't get chosen that high, he still offers intriguing upside. He's a 6-foot-5, 225-pounder whose arm works well, and he added polish in the Cape Cod League last summer and with the Tigers this spring. He opened the season pitching in the high 80s, but his fastball has settled in at 90-92 mph and touched 94. He can run his fastball into the mid-90s, but has found better command and success not trying to max out his velocity. Tepesch's secondary pitches are getting better but still need work. His curveball is his No. 2 offering but is inconsistent, and he has made the most strides with his changeup this spring. He also throws a cutter. In part because of his size, Tepesch has a long arm action that makes it easier for hitters to pick up his pitches. He's still a work in progress, but he's also showing improvement.

Smaller Pitchers Have Big Arms

Righthander Matt Stites stands just 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, but he has a big arsenal. Before he tired toward the end of the season, Stites showed an 88-92 mph fastball that touched 94, a slider that served as an out pitch and a solid curveball. He's a quick-twitch athlete rather than a max-effort thrower, and he commands his fastball to both sides of the plate. He may be tough to lure away from a commitment to Missouri for 2010.

Likewise, the state's top high school pitcher is undersized yet delivers velocity. Jordan Shipers, who's 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, pairs an 89-90 mph fastball that reaches 92 with a slider that shows depth at times. He doesn't do it as easily as Stites, with more effort in a delivery that puts stress on his shoulder, and his slider isn't as consistent. He's lefthanded, however, and has the potential for three solid-average major league pitches in his fastball, slider and advanced changeup. South Harrison High doesn't have a team, so he had to showcase his stuff in a wood-bat league in Iowa on weekends. Scouts don't believe he's signable, and he'll be a draft-eligible sophomore at Missouri State in 2012 if he doesn't turn pro.

Brett Nicholas began his college career as a backup first baseman at Gonzaga, transferred to Scottsdale (Ariz.) CC and caught for the 2009 Division II Junior College World Series runners-up. He has seen time at catcher and third base after joining Missouri this spring. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder has shown hitting aptitude and power from the left side of the plate. As a catcher, he has a solid-average arm and decent receiving skills with room for improvement. He's not particularly agile, so he fits better behind the plate than at the hot corner.

Aaron Senne projected as a possible third-round pick before the 2009 season, but he dropped all the way to the Twins in the 32nd round after catching draftitis and batting .305 with six homers. After remaking his stance by coming out of a crouch and lowering his hands, he batted .400 with 16 home runs this spring and established himself as a quality senior sign. Missouri's all-time leader in hits, doubles, extra-base hits and total bases, Senne is a 6-foot-2, 199-pounder with lefthanded power. He played right field in his first three seasons with the Tigers and has more than enough arm for the position. He doesn't run well or take good routes, however, so he moved to first base in 2010.

Aaron Meade performed well in the Cape Cod League last summer, but the Yankees decided not to sign him as a 28th-round sophomore. Mike Kickham passed him as Missouri State's top prospect for 2010, though Meade recorded a lower ERA (4.18) and opponent average (.260) with lesser stuff. The 6-foot-2, 175-pounder relies on deception and his ability to locate a fastball that can range from 83-87 or 87-91 mph. His changeup is much more effective than his slurvy breaking ball.

Chuckie Jones keeps fine company. He's the state's high school player of the year, following in the footsteps of pitchers Tim Melville and Jacob Turner, both of whom turned pro for seven-figure bonuses. He's committed to Maple Woods CC, the program that also launched the careers of Albert Pujols and Logan Morrison. A 6-foot-3, 230-pound outfielder, Jones stands out for his raw righthanded power and has solid hitting ability, speed and arm strength. His swing can get long at times, though he does a good job of making adjustments at the plate.

Les Smith batted .284 with nine homers as a Louisiana-Lafayette freshman last spring before transferring to Meramec CC for 2010. His best assets are his strong 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame, his bat speed from the left side of the plate and his plus arm strength. There's some effort to his game and he's a below-average runner, but he's expected to go high enough in the draft to get him to forgo a commitment to Mississippi for next year.

Righthander Ryan Hafner has a lot of projection remaining in his 6-foot-6, 215-pound frame. He throws an 87-90 mph fastball with little effort, though his breaking ball needs refinement. He could be an early-round pick in 2013 after three years at Missouri State.

Brooks Martin led Central Missouri State to the NCAA Division II Junior College World Series, where he spun a four-hit shutout against Tampa for the Mules' lone win. He's a 6-foot-1, 190-pound righthander who stands out more for his command than his stuff (upper-80s fastball, solid curveball). Drafted in the 47th round out of high school by the Marlins in 2006, Martin hasn't been drafted since despite being eligible each of the last three years at Parkland (Ill.) CC and Central Missouri State. He should be a nice senior sign in the middle rounds this June.

Though first baseman Danny Brock hit 18 homers and set a Saint Louis record with 75 RBIs this spring, scouts think he'll hit more for average than power as a pro because he lacks plus bat speed. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder is an all-offense player with below-average speed, athleticism and defensive ability, but his bat and bloodlines (his father Greg played in the major leagues) will get him a chances as a senior sign.