State Report: New Jersey

Garden State bounces back from historically bad crop




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THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
Rating compares this year's group to what a state typically produces, not to other states
The 2010 draft was historically bad for the Garden State, with just 11 players drafted overall and only one before the 24th round: righthander J.C. Menna, who was taken by the Athletics in the 14th out of Brookdale CC. While this year's group features two prep prospects in BA's Top 200, it's otherwise not dramatically better than last year thanks to another weak year in the college ranks.

The state is at least strong at the top this year, with outfielder Carl Thomore expected to go in the first three rounds with his solid package of tools. After that, it's anybody's guess as to who will get selected and when. Righthander Kevin Comer has the stuff to go in the first three rounds, but he'll be a tough sign away from his Vanderbilt commitment, and the overall talent drops off after that.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Kevin Comer, rhp, Seneca HS, Tabernacle (National Rank: 102)
2. Carl Thomore, of, East Brunswick HS (National Rank: 112)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

3. Andrew Murray, c, Westfield HS
4. John Norwood, of, Seton Hall Prep, Orange
5. Joe DiRocco, rhp, Seton Hall
6. Brandon Downes, of, South Plainfield HS
7. James Pugilese, rhp, Mercer County CC
8. Jordan Gross, lhp, Don Bosco Prep, Ramsey
9. Josh Ake, ss, Hunterdon Central HS, Flemington
10. Alex DeBellis, c, Pope John XXIII HS, Sparta
11. Mike Russo, rhp, Kean
12. Mike Thomas, lhp, Rider
13. Daron Moore, of, Millville HS

SCOUTING REPORTS

Kevin Comer, rhp
Seneca HS, Tabernacle

At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Comer passes the eye test, and at his best he flashes stuff that would make him a lock for the top three rounds. Scouts haven't been able to get a good read on him this season, as he had thrown just 14 innings and had been inconsistent. Out of the gates, Comer sat in the low 90s and made it look easy. At his best, he also has a 12-to-6 curveball that falls off the table and has shown feel for a changeup. But he missed about 10 days in the middle of the season because of a class trip, and then left a game early and was showing mid-80s velocity. Scouts aren't sure if he is injured or just isn't interested in signing. He is committed to Vanderbilt, and most agree he could be a first-rounder after three years there.

Carl Thomore, of
East Brunswick HS

Thomore has battled adversity to become a premium prospect in this year's draft. His mother died with breast cancer in 2005, and then he sustained a gruesome injury in a showcase in suburban Atlanta last summer. Thomore's cleat got caught in the dirt as he slid into third base, dislocating and breaking his ankle. An orthopedic surgeon who was in the stands came onto the field to help. He offered the choice of going to the hospital for treatment—risking complications because Thomore's circulation had been restricted—or popping the bone back into place on the field. Thomore gritted his teeth and chose the latter, and some say the decision and the doctor (who has never been identified) saved his baseball career. Scouts love Thomore's grinder mentality, and he grows on people the more they seem him. His only standout tool is his power, which is above-average. A plus runner before the injury, Thomore is now average, but he's aggressive with good instincts and is better under way. He profiles as a corner outfielder with an average arm. He's a physical 6-foot-1, 195 pounds and projects as an average hitter who can go to all fields.

See You In Three Years

After Thomore and Comer, scouts don't see another Top 200 prospect in the high school ranks in New Jersey, but they do see players with intriguing tools. Catcher Andrew Murray was a two-sport standout at Westfield High, the same high school that Stanford righthander Chris Jenkins attended. Murray is well put together at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds thanks to his time as a football player, but he's let scouts know that he wants to play on the diamond. He has power and can handle the bat, but has below-average receiving skills and will likely end up as a first baseman or DH, putting a lot of pressure on his bat. He is committed to Georgia Tech.

John Norwood, a Vanderbilt signee, is the latest prospect to come out of Seton Hall Prep, the alma mater of Rick Porcello and Eric Duncan. An outfielder with plus speed, Norwood is an average hitter with below-average power. He's a solid defender and some teams think he'll stick in center field, while others don't think his speed translates.

Don Bosco Prep has taken over as the state powerhouse in the last few years, producing several Division I players including Virginia third baseman Steven Proscia, who ranks No. 144 on our Top 200 this year. The Ironmen have a strong junior class, and this year's top prospect is lefthander Jordan Gross, who is committed to Tulane. His fastball can range from 85-90 mph and he shows a solid curveball with some shape. He isn't considered signable, but scouts are intrigued to see what he could turn into in three years.

The toughest read in the state is outfielder Daron Moore. Many scouts saw him when he was a sophomore and they were in to see Mike Trout, but they assumed he would focus on football rather than baseball. Moore is just 5-foot-11, but a rock-solid 200 pounder who played linebacker and fullback on the gridiron. He's athletic and now football isn't in Moore's future, so teams are trying to decide what to make of him. He also does not have a college commitment. Speed is his best tool.

Slim Pickins In College Ranks

Seton Hall righthander Joe DiRocco will likely be the first college player picked out of the state. He had a successful season, going 6-1, 1.54 in 100 innings with 71 strikeouts and 36 walks, and succeeds with his feel for pitching more than his stuff. He sits in the upper 80s and can touch 90-91 mph, and his secondary stuff and command are average.

The most interesting juco prospect in the state is righthander James Pugilese. There's effort to his delivery and his arm action raises concerns, but he has a 90-92 mph fastball and average breaking ball to go with a projectable 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame. In 57 innings, he struck out 71 while walking 23 and allowing just 30 hits.

Righthander Mike Russo is a 6-foot-6, 220-pounder who transferred to Kean from North Carolina State. He's a New Jersey native who helped Kean advance to the Division III College World Series, going 9-1, 1.36 with 55 strikeouts and 39 walks in 73 innings. He has touched 93 mph in the past but lacks command and dials it down to 86-87 when he needs a strike. His breaking ball is well below-average.