State Report: Utah

Potential first-rounder in the Beehive State




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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 last time a player from Utah was taken in the first round was in 2005, when the Cubs took lefhander Mark Pawelek out of Springville High. The last time a college player had that distinction was back in 1984—four years before C.J. Cron was born—when the Indians selected shortstop Cory Snyder out of Brigham Young.

Cron crushed the Mountain West Conference in baseball like Jimmer Fredette did in basketball, hitting .434/.517/.803 with 26 doubles and 15 home runs. He has one of the most exciting bats in this year's draft class, and his presence alone makes it an above-average year for The Beehive State. The state's other intriguing prospect is Taylor Cole, who was drafted twice before embarking on a two-year Mormon mission. Beyond Cron and Cole, there are intriguing tools that come with a lot of question marks.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. C.J. Cron, 1b, Utah (National Rank: 26)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

2. Taylor Cole, rhp, Brigham Young
3. Dominique Taylor, of, Salt Lake CC
4. Rick Anton, lhp, Utah
5. James Brooks, ss, Utah
6. Braden Anderson, of, Salt Lake CC
7. Matthew Neil, rhp, Brigham Young
8. Ryan Bernal, 1b, Brigham Young
9. Alex Wolfe, c, Brigham Young
10. Jordy Hart, of, Westlake HS, Saratoga Springs

SCOUTING REPORTS

C.J. Cron, 1b
Utah

Power numbers are way down in college baseball this year because of less-potent bats, but don't tell that to Cron, who hit .434/.517/.803 with 15 home runs in 198 at-bats for Utah. His father Chris played in the big leagues and has managed in the minor leagues since 1995, so C.J. has grown up around the game. He has come through the amateur ranks as a catcher, but he's just serviceable behind the plate and has not played there this season because of an injury to his throwing shoulder and his days as a catcher may be over. He doesn't move well at first base and is a bottom-of-the-scale runner, but that's all right because he's the best all-around hitter in the country and should have no problem producing the numbers teams expect from a first baseman. Cron has the unique combination of pure hitting ability and power. He projects to be an above-average hitter and has legitimate 80 raw power on the 20-80 scale that translates into at least above-average usable power. He has great hand-eye coordination and the strength in his hands to drive good pitches for singles and doubles. He uses a good approach at the plate and makes adjustments well, so he should move quickly through a team's system.

Cole Picks Up Where He Left Off

Brigham Young righthander Taylor Cole was rated the No. 79 in the country heading into the 2007 draft, as a senior at Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas. He slipped to the 26th round and headed to JC of Southern Nevada, where he fell even further to the 31st round in 2008. Cole then spent 2009 and 2010 on a Mormon mission in Toronto. He returned and pitched well this year, sitting in the 90-92 mph range early and touching 94. He mixed in a slider and changeup. He tired down the stretch, with his fastball dipping down to the mid-80s at times, which isn't shocking from a player who took two years off. While Cole is athletic, he doesn't have a workhorse frame at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds. He could go off the board as high as the fifth round to a team that saw him good this year and remembers him touching 96 mph out of high school.

Righthander Matthew Neil also attracted attention for the Cougars. He has a big frame at 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds and ran his fastball up to 92 mph with a slider and occasional changeup. He's old for a senior after serving a two-year Mormon mission to New York. Neil has experience as a starter, but will likely get his chance as a reliever at the next level.

C.J. Cron was obviously the main attraction, but a couple of other players at Utah drew interest: senior lefthander Rick Anton and junior shortstop James Brooks. Anton helped himself out with a great outing against John Stilson and Texas A&M. He pitches with a fringy fastball but has touched 92 mph as late as the fourth inning, with a four-pitch mix. In addition to the fastball, he throws a changeup, a curveball and a cutter that he added this year.

Brooks came to Utah via Cochise (Ariz.) CC and came to the United States via Melbourne, Australia, where he was mostly a fast-pitch softball player. Brooks has a pro body at 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds. He's a fluid defender and above-average runner and has impressive arm strength. He's a switch-hitter with good hand-eye coordination, though he'll need to cut down on his strikeouts. He has performed well and still has upside because he didn't start playing the game until he was 16.

Freshmen outfielders Dominique Taylor and Braden Anderson both performed well this season for Salt Lake CC. Taylor shows top-of-the-scale speed at times and has power potential, but he is a little raw as a pro prospect. His swing needs refinement and he has fringy arm strength. Anderson is a natural switch-hitter, but mostly hit lefthanded this year because of a fracture in his hand. He can run, play defense and has gap power. He needs to work on controlling his emotions on the field.

The best high school player in the state would have been Kavin Keyes from Alta High in Sandy, but he graduated a year early and headed to Oregon State, where he hit .315/.366/.389 this spring. That left outfielder Jordy Hart as the top prep prospect. Hart is built like a running back, with a compact, muscular frame at 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds. As an undersized righthanded hitter with gap power, he doesn't profile well, but he's an above-average runner and can play center field. Chances are he winds up at Utah Valley State.