2010 Draft Preview: Outfielders
See also: Scouting
reports for catchers projected to go in the top two
See also: Scouting
reports for outfielders projected to go in the top two
After it was well-received last year, we return to a
position by position format for our scouting reports. This week we break
them up by position and next week we'll present the Top 200 list, which
will be more accurate because we've had time to further report and sort
through what looks to be a very complex draft.
classification system is relatively straightforward, and the players who
qualified for writeups are those who we think have the talent to go in
the first two rounds. We also give you a thumbnail assessment of how the
talent looks at each position this year.
rankings and scouting reports are based on conversations with major
league front-office personnel, scouts, and college and high school
coaches in the weeks leading up to the draft. The scouting reports were
written by Jim Callis, Aaron Fitt, Conor Glassey, John Manuel and David
Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker emerged as a potential first-rounder on the baseball diamond this year, giving larger Division I schools some representation on the corners. Otherwise, the players deemed offensive enough for a corner profile are mostly high school bats and smaller-college sluggers such as Michael Choice and Bryce Brentz.
1. Josh Sale
Bishop Blanchet HS, Seattle
Though he works hard, Sale isn't a great fielder, thrower or runner, but there's thunder in his bat. And in a year thin on impact hitters, that's what teams will be buying with Sale in the first round. Sale's father is Samoan and ranks among the best in the nation in drug-free powerlifting. He has inherited his father's love for working out and has a rock-solid, 6-toot-1, 215-pound frame. With bat speed better than Travis Snider—one scout even called it the best bat speed he has ever seen from an amateur—Sale has raw power that approaches the top of the scouting scale. How much of his power he'll be able to use, though, is a question because of a few flaws in Sale's lefthanded swing. He has a high back elbow and sometimes strides too early, but the biggest concern is that he raises up out of his crouched stance, changing his eye level and leaving him susceptible to breaking balls. Most scouts believe the problems are fixable because he's coachable and works hard. He also has a great feel for the strike zone and a patient approach at the plate, and he's so strong that calming down his swing shouldn't sap his power. He also has great hand-eye coordination, as evidenced by the fact that he golfed with a single-digit handicap until he was 15—as a righthanded player. Scouts rave about Sale's makeup and work ethic. He is articulate and studies hard in school, but won't make it to Gonzaga.
2. Michael Choice
Choice is a lock to eclipse Hunter Pence (second round, 2004) as the highest-drafted player in Texas-Arlington history, and he could be the first college position player drafted this year. He has the best power among four-year college players in this draft class. He starred for Team USA's college squad last summer, leading all players with three homers at the World Baseball Challenge, and was chasing the Southland Conference triple crown this spring. Texas-Arlington's career leader in batting and homers (.398, with 34 homers through mid-May), Choice has a strong 6-foot, 215-pound frame. He lets balls travel deep before unleashing his lightning bat speed and crushing them to all fields, though he can get pull-conscious and lengthen his righthanded swing at times. He racks up strikeouts but also draws walks, leading NCAA Division I with 66. That total is inflated by 17 intentional and several semi-intentional walks, but he's willing to take a base when pitchers won't challenge him. Choice has 6.6-second speed in the 60-yard dash, so some scouts believe he may be able to stay in center field. Others think he lacks the jumps and instincts for center and fits better on a corner. He may have enough arm strength for right field, and he definitely has the power profile to fit in left. One of the youngest college juniors in the draft, he won't turn 21 until November.
3. Austin Wilson
Harvard-Westlake School, Studio City, Calif.
In the summer after his freshman year at Harvard-Westlake, Wilson was invited to the Southern California preliminary Area Code tryouts at Orange Coast JC. At that tender age Wilson carried a bit of baby fat, and while he did not make the final roster (freshmen rarely do) he displayed a provocative arm and 7.15-second speed in the 60-yard dash. Since then, Wilson has developed into the finest right-field prospect the Southern California region has seen since 2007, when Mike Stanton, the current Marlins phenom, came out of another Sherman Oaks private school (Notre Dame). Sporting a chiseled pro corner outfielder's frame, Wilson displays a throwing arm that conservatively grades out to a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He has lowered his 60 times to around 6.78 seconds, outstanding for a player of his 6-foot-4, 210-pound size. A stress fracture in his lower back, since healed, prevented him from touring the showcase circuit last fall. Before that setback, Wilson put on some of the more impressive wood-bat batting-practice sessions local scouts have seen in years. As one example, in the fall of 2008 at JC of the Canyons in Valencia, Wilson blasted about 20 balls out of the yard, leaving jaws dropping all over the ballpark. The main on-field reservation scouts have regarding Wilson is how his bat will play in games. He struggles with pitch recognition, needs to be more patient, has difficulty with balls down in the zone and will need to avoid committing his front side too soon. Much has been made of Wilson's background. Both of his parents hold advanced degrees from prestigious universities, and he has a Stanford commitment. He is perhaps the draft's most fascinating wild card. He has no adviser heading into the draft and scouts were having difficulty gauging his signability.
4. Bryce Brentz
Middle Tennessee State
Drafted as a pitcher out of high school by the Indians in the 30th round, Brentz was known more for a fastball that reached 92 mph. He was in the weekend rotation as a sophomore but made much more noise at the plate, leading Division I in batting at .465 as well as in home runs (28) and slugging (.930). Brentz followed up by hitting .366 for Team USA and moved to center field as a junior, but he hasn't had the encore season he or scouts hoped for, despite giving up pitching. Brentz got off to a bit of a slow start, then missed three weeks with a hairline fracture of his right ankle. He moved to right field after returning from the injury and profiles better there anyway. His arm hasn't quite bounced back to what it was in high school; once above-average, it's now more solid average. Brentz's all-or-nothing approach at the plate makes him streaky, but he has explosive power, and even in a difficult year he was slugging close to .700. The salutatorian at his high school, Brentz is bright, plays hard and is what he is, a feast-or-famine slugger who fits the right-field profile. He shouldn't last past the first round.
5. Kyle Parker
Parker has unique leverage, as he's a junior in baseball but finished his redshirt freshman football season in January as Clemson's starting quarterback. He threw for 2,526 yards and 20 touchdowns for the Tigers, and he's the first player in Division I history to throw for 20 touchdowns and hit 15 homers in the same season. Parker graduated high school a semester early to join the baseball team and was a Freshman All-American in 2008, clubbing 14 homers. His plate discipline slipped last year, but he has bounced back with a splendid junior season, hitting .391 with 17 home runs, making more consistent contact and being much more selective at the plate. Parker's a good athlete but not an elite, fast-twitch one, and his arm strength, like many quarterbacks, is just average in baseball. He may have enough arm for right field but would be a solid-average left fielder with polish. He has tremendous bat speed at the plate as well as good strength. He's a grinder on the ballfield, and scouts like his aptitude.
6. Drew Vettleson
Central Kitsap HS, Silverdale, Wash.
Vettleson has generated more publicity for being a rare switch-pitcher, but he's a pro prospect as an outfielder. He sits at 88-90 mph from the right side with a good curveball, but he's a better hitter—which says a lot. Vettleson has a quiet approach in the box and he's patient with good pitch recognition. His hand positioning is unique, as he starts with his hands letter-high and deep behind his rear leg. It's a simple swing and he's short to the ball, but it also causes stiffness in his lead arm, which could cause problems when he faces better velocity. It worked for him on the showcase circuit, as he was on fire against some of the country's best pitchers all summer. His swing is smooth and scouts believe he'll make adjustments to hit for average and power. He profiles as a corner outfielder with below-average speed, but has great instincts and makeup. Vettleson hasn't played against great high school competition and has been hard to see, as he's typically pitching, playing shortstop or playing center field lefthanded. Where he ends up going in the draft will likely hinge on how he does in predraft workouts.
7. Marcus Knecht, Connors State (Okla.) JC
8. Reggie Golden, Wetumpka (Ala.) HS
9. Kendrick Perkins, LaPorte (Texas) HS
10. Ty Linton, Charlotte (N.C.) Christian School
11. Michael Lorenzen, Fullerton (Calif.) Union HS
12. Brian Ragira, Martin HS, Arlington, Texas
13. Joc Pederson, Palo Alto (Calif.) HS
14. Sean Dwyer, Tavares (Fla.) HS
15. Nick Longmire, Pacific
16. Austin Southall, University HS, Baton Rouge
Perhaps the deepest position for position players, center fielders are in plentiful supply in 2010, particularly on the high school side. Georgia, the nation's strongest state, is lousy with athletic prep center fielders, and the college ranks are unusually strong with plus runners who can play center and aren't just slap hitters.
1. Gary Brown
Cal State Fullerton
Grades and stats can be dry and don't tell the full story about Brown, one of the most electrifying players seen in Southern California in years. The 6-foot, 180-pounder is one of the fastest players in the nation at any level of amateur play. An early-season game found him blazing down the line from the right side in 3.69 seconds on a bunt attempt. On two separate infield grounders, Brown got down to first base in 3.91 and 3.94 seconds, giving him 80 speed on the 20-80 scale. The rap on Brown since he failed to sign with the Athletics as a 12th-round pick out of high school in 2007 has been his hitting ability, or perceived lack thereof. After slow but steady improvement in his first two seasons, he has exploded as a junior, ranking among the national leaders with a .449 average in mid-May. Brown has shown interesting pop with a slugging percentage well over .700 as well, and he projects as an above-average hitter as a pro. Brown owes his turnaround to a better stance. He keeps his feet planted to maintain his foundation at the plate, then simply lets his exceptionally quick hands work to attack the ball. An aggressive hitter, the only drawback in Brown's offensive game is his miniscule number of walks and below-average home run power. In the field, Brown has found a home in center field after playing the outfield corners, second and third base in previous seasons. He sports an average arm, and his combination of speed and fly-chasing skills permit Brown to project as a plus defensive center fielder.
2. Ryan LaMarre
The University of Michigan hasn't produced a first-round pick since the Yankees overdrafted David Parrish 10 years ago. Since breaking his thumb diving for a fly ball in the third game of the season and missing the next 18 games, LaMarre has returned with a vengeance and could end that draft drought. He's one of the best college athletes available, a 6-foot-2, 206-pounder with plus-plus speed. Though the injury has cost him some strength in his wrist and left him basically swinging with one hand, he has consistently squared balls up and was hitting .400 through mid-May. He has enough bat speed and lift in his righthanded stroke to project as a plus hitter with slightly above-average power. His tools and performance have erased memories of a weak summer in the Cape Cod League in 2009. While he has drawn just two walks in his first 26 games this spring, he has shown solid plate discipline in the past. Though the Wolverines eased LaMarre back into their lineup as a left fielder, he's a legitimate center fielder with a decent arm. Area scouts love his makeup, raving about his gamer mentality, work ethic and value as a teammate.
3. Jarrett Parker
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.
4. Austin Wates
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 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.
5. Delino DeShields Jr.
Woodward Academy, College Park, Ga.
In 2005, the most recent year Baseball America conducted its Baseball for the Ages survey, DeShields ranked as the nation's top 12-year-old, beating out Bryce Harper and A.J. Cole, among others. He had just finished seventh grade. The son of the former big leaguer and 1987 first-round pick of the same name, DeShields has had an up-and-down high school career that included a modest showing at the East Coast Pro Showcase last summer. His loud tools have helped him leap past his peers and jumped him, for some scouts, to the top of a deep crop of Georgia prep talent. His best tool is his explosive speed, which has jumped up a grade to earn 80s on the 20-80 scale. Like many big league progeny, DeShields doesn't play with a ton of energy, and he got off to a slow start, which scared off some clubs. When the weather heated up, DeShields' bat did likewise. He showcased electric bat speed and present strength, leading to projections of average power in his future. His swing needs some fine-tuning and his defense in center field is raw. He has enough arm for center, though it's below-average. Some scouts also had makeup concerns after DeShields changed his mind about his college choice, eventually settling on Louisiana State.
6. LeVon Washington
Chipola (Fla.) JC
Washington is one of the biggest enigmas of the last two drafts. Born in Guam to a military family, he entered 2009 as perhaps the fastest prep talent in the country and earned Johnny Damon comparisons for his hitting ability, speed and lack of arm strength. A shoulder injury left Washington with a 20 arm on the 20-80 scale, but the Rays looked past that and his Boras Corp. representation and drafted him 30th overall. Washington failed to sign; he also failed to qualify at Florida and wound up at Chipola JC. The Indians and Washington had disappointing seasons, and scouts still don't know quite what to make of him even after another year of evaluation. Athletic and quick, Washington hasn't shown the explosive speed he once did and doesn't run hard consistently. He also didn't run on fall scout day at Chipola, and some scouts now consider him more of an above-average runner than the top-of-the-scale grades he got in the fall of 2008. His arm has improved, to a 30 grade, but he did play the outfield and should be an average defender. Clubs that like Washington are buying the bat, however. Despite a spread-out stance in which he leans over the plate, he barrels up balls consistently, thanks to excellent hand-eye coordination and quick wrists. He's not a slap hitter and would likely have to change to a more conventional stance to hit for average power. Washington doesn't figure to go as high this year but still fits inside the first two rounds.
7. Aaron Shipman
Brooks County HS, Quitman, Ga.
The "pop-up" player in Georgia this year shouldn't have been off the radar. Shipman comes from a baseball family, as his father Robert—a 10th-round pick in 1987 by the Tigers—is his high school coach and his brother Robert III is a freshman at Georgia. While his older brother is a slugging first baseman and baseclogger, Aaron Shipman is a fast-twitch athlete who compares favorably to anyone in Georgia's deep class of athletic center fielders. He just hasn't played in the East Cobb program as a south Georgia kid, but he was getting plenty of attention as the draft approached and could go in the second round. Shipman earns above-average grades from scouts in speed, throwing arm and future center field defense, though he could use some polish. His swing is perhaps just as exciting, as it's smooth and low-maintenance. Shipman also pitches and runs his fastball up to 91 mph, but he is a much better prospect in the field and doesn't figure to wind up at Mercer, his college commitment.
8. Todd Cunningham, Jacksonville State
9. Leon Landry, Louisiana State
10. Gauntlett Eldemire, Ohio
11. Chevez Clarke, Marietta (Ga.) HS
12. Angelo Gumbs, Torrance (Calif.) HS
13. Tyler Holt, Florida State
14. Mel Rojas Jr., Wabash Valley (Ill.) CC
15. Kyle Waldrop, Riverdale HS, Fort Myers, Fla.
16. Ryan Bolden, Madison (Miss.) Central HS
17. Mason Williams, West Orange HS, Winter Garden, Fla.
18. Ryan Brett, Highline HS, Burien, Wash.
19. Matt Szczur, Villanova
20. Krey Bratsen, Bryan (Texas) HS