State Report: Virginia

College players dominate the list again




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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
After a couple of down years, Virginia has rebounded nicely in 2010 and 2011 with a strong crop of college prospects. This year's class isn't quite as powerful or deep as 2010, with only one player in BA's predraft Top 100, but he's a good one. UVa lefthander Danny Hultzen is expected to be one of the first five overall picks, competing with Ryan Zimmerman, who went fourth overall to the Nationals in 2005, to be the highest-drafted Cavalier ever.

After producing stars like the Upton brothers and David Wright in the early 2000s, Virginia looked like it was an emerging hotbed for baseball talent, but the state has not sustained that wave. The high school talent has taken a dip since then, and the state's draft prospect list is again full of college players.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Danny Hultzen, lhp, Virginia (National Rank: 4)
2. Steven Proscia, 3b, Virginia (National Rank: 144)
3. John Hicks, c, Virginia (National Rank: 159)
4. Jake Cave, lhp/of, Kecoughtan HS, Hampton (National Rank: 182)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

5. Jake Lowery, c, James Madison
6. Deshorn Lake, rhp, Menchville HS, Newport News
7. Blake Forslund, rhp, Liberty
8. Ronnie Shaban, rhp, Virginia Tech
9. Kenny Swab, c, Virginia
10. David Herbek, ss, James Madison
11. John Barr, of, Virginia
12. Tim Smalling, ss, Virginia Tech
13. Matt Williams, ss, Liberty
14. Will Roberts, rhp, Virginia
15. Evan Beal, rhp, South County HS, Lorton
16. T.J. Costen, ss, First Colonial HS, Virginia Beach
17. Jeremy Fitzgerald, rhp, Patrick Henry CC
18. Mark Montgomery, rhp, Longwood
19. Steven Evans, lhp, Liberty
20. Cody Cox, rhp, Thomas Nelson CC
21. Andrew Rash, of, Virginia Tech
22. Tyler Bream, 3b, Liberty
23. Jeff Kemp, ss, Radford
24. Mike Devine, rhp, Virginia Military
25. Kyle Hald, lhp, Old Dominion
26. Logan Billbrough, rhp, William & Mary
27. Tyler Wilson, rhp, Virginia
28. Cody Winiarski, rhp, Virginia
29. Sam Roberts, rhp, Virginia Military
30. Jeffrey Zona, rhp, Hanover HS, Mechanicsville
31. Shawn Morimando, lhp, Ocean Lakes HS, Virginia Beach
32. Kevin White, c, St. Anne's Belfield HS, Charlottesville
33. Patrick Corbett, rhp, Tabb HS, Yorktown
34. Josh Wright, ss, Old Dominion
35. Manny Martir, rhp, Virginia Tech

SCOUTING REPORTS

Danny Hultzen, lhp
Virginia

Hultzen was a late riser at St. Albans High in Washington, D.C., three years ago, but teams correctly figured they wouldn't be able to sign him away from his Virginia commitment. The Diamondbacks took a shot in the 10th round, but he headed to Charlottesville and immediately became the Friday starter. He was a Freshman All-American in 2009 as a two-way player, batting .327 and going 9-1, 2.17, and was a second team All-American in 2010, going 10-1, 2.83. Considered a first-round prospect coming into 2011, Hultzen has pitched himself into consideration for the No. 1 pick, going 9-3, 1.49 with 131 strikeouts and 15 walks in 90 innings as UVa spent much of the season at No. 1. Hultzen has a strong frame at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds and offers two plus pitches and above-average command. After working mostly at 88-91 mph his first two college seasons, Hultzen now sits around 93 and touches 96. His changeup is his best secondary pitch, and he commands it well and gets good fade thanks to a low three-quarters arm slot. His slider also shows flashes of being an above-average pitch. His arm slot can make it difficult to find consistency in the pitch, but scouts say he's now closer to the higher arm slot he showed in high school than the low three-quarters he had the last two years at UVa. A good athlete, Hultzen has seen time as a first baseman and DH in all three of his college seasons, though the Cavaliers have limited his at-bats in the last two years. He could be the safest bet among the top prospects in the country and isn't likely to make it past the first five picks.

Steven Proscia, 3b
Virginia

Proscia attended New Jersey's Don Bosco Prep for high school, when he was a third baseman on a team that finished No. 2 in the country in 2008, as well as a wide receiver and defensive back for the nationally ranked football team. At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, he is a physical athlete. He doesn't move well laterally but has a chance to stay at third base thanks to a strong arm, soft hands and ability to come in on balls. He can handle the bat, though sometimes he swings too much with his upper body and shoulders rather than letting his hands work. He has solid power, tying teammate John Hicks with five home runs for the team lead in Virginia's expansive ballpark.

John Hicks, c
Virginia

Hicks could provide a lot of value if he can stay behind the plate. He has shown improvement defensively, though his arm is average and the receiving skills are fringy. He is a good athlete with a live body, and teams may think that will allow him to continue to develop as a catcher. Hicks has some power, but he's more likely to work the gaps while teammate Steven Proscia has more loft. Hicks has shown good plate discipline this season, though his swing can get long at times. If a team buys into him as a catcher, he could go higher than Proscia; he doesn't profile nearly as well as a first baseman or corner outfielder.

Jake Cave, lhp/of
Kecoughtan HS, Hampton

Cave was a big reason scouts were excited to cover Virginia this spring, but he and several others had seen their stock fall this spring. A legitimate two-way prospect, Cave has scouts divided on whether he projects better on the mound or in the outfield. As a hitter, he shows bat speed, but he has a loop in his swing that could be a long-term problem. He has a lean frame at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds and figures to move to a corner as he fills out. He also lacks the speed for center field. If he concentrates on hitting, his arm would allow him to stick in right field, though he might not have the power to profile there. On the mound, Cave ranges from 86-93 mph with his fastball, usually sitting around 90-91 and touching 94. His best offspeed pitch is a changeup. He has tinkered with a slider this season, but it needs work and scouts haven't seen it much. While some like his aggressive makeup, others describe it as reckless and immature. He's committed to Louisiana State, where he would contribute on both sides of the ball.

Cavaliers Lead Deep College Group

Virginia has a star in Danny Hultzen and gets plenty of offense from Steven Proscia and John Hicks, but the team has become a national contender the last three years thanks to a deep roster. Kenny Swab hasn't seen much time behind the plate because of Hicks, but he has a plus arm and could get a chance in the later rounds. He was hitting .311/.443/.426. Righthander Will Roberts was a midweek starter at the beginning of the year and forced his way into the Sunday role after throwing a perfect game against George Washington in late March. He didn't lose a game until the last series of the regular season, going 10-1, 1.67 in 81 innings. Roberts ranges from 88-92 mph with his fastball, and offers a good slider and solid changeup. Tyler Wilson and Cody Winiarski work with fastballs in the upper 80s and solid secondary stuff.

Catcher Jake Lowery's numbers jump off the page, but scouts take them with a grain of salt because of the coziness of James Madison's ballpark. Lowery was hitting .357/.444/.796 with 22 home runs, tying him for second in the nation heading into regionals. He has solid power and an ability to hit to all fields. He has shown arm strength behind the plate, but needs plenty of polish to avoid a move to first base. Dukes shortstop David Herbek hadn't shown quite as much power but was batting .374/.456/.701 with 15 home runs. That drew scouts' interest because Herbek also has a chance to stick at shortstop.

Liberty looked like it might have two candidates for the first five rounds heading into the season, but things didn't pan out. Righthander Blake Forslund pitched at 92-95 mph in the fall, but inexperience and a knee injury made for a disappointing spring. A redshirt sophomore, Forslund made a single one-inning appearance for Virginia in 2009 before transferring. He sat out 2010 and was thrown right into the fire this season, but he struggled with his command and went 1-2, 8.31. He also missed time with the knee injury and threw just 22 innings. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, he has good frame and power stuff and can get his fastball into the mid-90s. But he doesn't work off his fastball enough and has a tendency to leave his pitches up in the zone.

Third baseman Tyler Bream impressed at the plate in 2010, hitting .357/.393/.546 with 22 doubles and nine home runs in 269 at-bats. Whether it's the less lively bats or just draftitis, he batted .252/.291/.332 in 226 at-bats this season, with three home runs and nine doubles. Tyler is the son of former major leaguer Sid Bream, so some teams may bet on the pedigree and hope things will click in pro ball. But his performance this season may mean he'll be back for his senior year.

Ronnie Shaban is a .322 career hitter for Virginia Tech, but he doesn't profile well as a position player and teams have interest in him as a righthanded reliever. There's effort to his delivery, but his fastball is 92-94 mph.

Another Thin Prep Class

Righthander Deshorn Lake, whose school plays in the same district as Jake Cave's, is from the Virgin Islands and moved to the Tidewater region of Virginia as a high school junior. He has a live but raw right arm and strong, athletic frame at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds. He was sitting 92-93 mph this spring. He lacks command and secondary stuff, has a long arm stroke in the back and he doesn't repeat his release point well, so teams might be content to check on him again after three years at East Carolina.

The state had a lightning-fast high schooler in Mitchell Shifflett in 2010, and doubts about his bat and his commitment to Virginia led to him not getting drafted at all. While T.J. Costen can handle the bat a little better, he figures to follow a similar path. A plus (or better) runner, three years with South Carolina could turn him into a dynamic player.

South County High spent time in the national rankings this year, thanks in large part to righthander Evan Beal, a South Carolina commitment. Beal has an ideal pitcher's frame at 6-foot-5, 195 pounds. His fastball velocity is below-average now at 85-87 mph, but his projection and ability to spin a breaking ball make scouts think he could take a big step forward. He just hasn't taken it yet. His breaking ball is a sharp slider.