State Report: Kentucky

Alex Meyer leads top-heavy group




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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
Kentucky righthander Alex Meyer will be the state's first first-round pick since Eastern Kentucky's Christian Friedrich three years ago. Louisville righthander Tony Zych and Western Kentucky outfielder Kes Carter could go in the sandwich round, and the Bluegrass State never has had three players selected that high in one draft. Louisville infielder Ryan Wright could go in the second round as well, but the high school crop is not nearly as strong.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Alex Meyer, rhp, Kentucky (National Rank: 19)
2. Tony Zych, rhp, Louisville (National Rank: 50)
3. Kes Carter, of, Western Kentucky (National Rank: 51)
4. Ryan Wright, ss/2b, Louisville (National Rank: 101)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

5. Chandler Shepherd, rhp, Lawrence County HS, Louisa
6. Matt Spalding, rhp, St. Xavier HS, Louisville
7. Mark Biggs, rhp, Warren East HS, Bowling Green
8. Phil Wetherell, rhp, Western Kentucky
9. Logan Robbins, ss, Western Kentucky
10. Justin Amlung, rhp, Louisville
11. Matt Rice, c, Western Kentucky
12. Jordan Cooper, rhp, Kentucky
13. Mike Nastold, rhp, Louisville
14. Braden Kapteyn, rhp/1b, Kentucky
15. Chad Wright, of, Kentucky
16. Derek Self, rhp, Louisville
17. Jackson Laumann, 1b, Boone County HS, Florence
18. Taylor Black, ss, Kentucky
19. Thomas McCarthy, 3b, Kentucky
20. Matt Fyfee, rhp, Eastern Kentucky
21. Jared Andreoli, of, Western Kentucky
22. Michael Williams, c, Kentucky
23. Stewart Ijames, of, Louisville
24. Ryan Hutchison, of, Western Kentucky
25. Dave Middendorf, lhp, Northern Kentucky

SCOUTING REPORTS

Alex Meyer, rhp

Kentucky


The Red Sox offered Meyer $2 million as a 20th-round pick out of high school three years ago. While he had the arm strength to merit first-round money, most scouts believed he would need time to improve his secondary pitches, command and maturity. They were proven correct when he went 6-7, 6.34 in his first two seasons at Kentucky. Meyer started making the transition from pitcher to thrower this year, and as a result he could go in the first 10 picks. He's as intimidating as ever, a 6-foot-9, 220-pounder who works at 95-96 mph and can scrape triple digits with his fastball. His slider gives him a second plus-plus pitch at times, though it's still more of a chase pitch than a true strike. He also has unveiled an effective changeup. The Wildcats have helped Meyer repeat his delivery better, though that's still an issue at times because his levers are so long. His command may never be more than average, but it's a lot better than it was in high school. So too is his ability to compete. Meyer still isn't a finished product, but the huge strides he has made this spring have been encouraging. He finished strong, outdueling projected Vanderbilt first-rounder Sonny Gray with a five-hit shutout in early May and beating then-No. 6 ranked Florida in his final start of the year.

Tony Zych, rhp

Louisville


Zych led the Cape Cod League with 12 saves last summer, when scouts voted him the circuit's top prospect after he dealt 97 mph fastballs during the all-star game. After using him sporadically as a starter in his first two seasons, Louisville has kept him in the bullpen this spring and he has thrived. He has worked at 94-97 mph all season, with a high of 99. His fastball gets on hitters quickly thanks to some funk in his delivery. Zych's arm action isn't pretty and puts some stress on his shoulder, but it adds to his deception and doesn't hamper his control. He's an athletic 6-foot-3, 188-pounder whom the Cardinals recruited as a two-way player who could contribute in the middle infield, where he saw some action as a freshman. Zych has the mental toughness to handle late-inning assignments and shouldn't require much time in the minors. Whether he becomes a closer or set-up man depends on how consistent his mid-80s slider becomes. He doesn't miss as many bats as he should because his fastball can get straight and his slider can flatten out.

Kes Carter, of

Western Kentucky


Western Kentucky is one of the better mid-major programs in college baseball, having won 77 games and produced 11 draft picks in the previous two seasons. The Hilltoppers should have another half-dozen players selected in 2011, led by Carter, who could become the highest-drafted player in school history. An athletic 6-foot-2, 205-pounder, Carter flashes all five tools. His smooth lefthanded stroke and disciplined approach allow him to hit for average, and he has at least average power potential. He still needs to fine-tune his timing at the plate and turn on balls more frequently. He has slightly above-average speed that plays up on the bases and in center field, as well as a solid arm for the position. The biggest issues with Carter are his struggles against lefthanded pitching and his health. He injured his hip in the Coastal Plain League last summer, sat out during fall practice and missed time this spring with a calf strain. Nevertheless, he shouldn't last past the second round.


Ryan Wright, ss/2b

Louisville


Wright's best tool is bat, which he showed last summer when he led the U.S. college national team with a .361 average, including a .458 mark at the World University Championship. He has a smooth righthanded stroke, making consistent line-drive contract. The 6-foot-1, 194-pounder has fringy raw power and speed, yet he has reached double figures in both homers and steals in each of the last two seasons. He has good hands at the plate and in the field, and his instincts enable him to play above his tools. He has started at five positions—second base, shortstop, third base, left and right field—at Louisville, and projects as either an offensive second baseman or a utilityman. His arm and range are average at best, but he makes all the routine plays. Wright started slowly this spring but rallied to carry the Cardinals down the stretch, and he may have played his way into the second round in the process.

Shepherd Rebounds To Top Of Prep Class

Chandler Shepherd set a state record by throwing 46 consecutive scoreless innings as a sophomore in 2009, then had Tommy John surgery that July and missed the 2010 season. He returned this spring and emerged as the best high school prospect in the state. An athletic 6-foot-2, 190-pound righthander, he has the makings of a solid three-pitch mix with an 87-91 mph fastball that touches 93, a hard curveball and good feel for a changeup. A Kentucky recruit, he may be difficult to sign.

Righthander Matt Spalding's fastball sits at 91-93 mph and peaks at 95, and he has held his velocity deep into games and throughout the spring. He has significant effort and a head whack in his delivery and there's not much projection in his 6-foot, 180-pound frame. His slider lacks consistent bite, and he faces a future as a reliever in pro ball. He's a good athlete who'll get the chance to be a two-way player if he attends Western Kentucky.

Some scouts thought Mark Biggs would have emerged as Kentucky's top prep prospect had he not fractured a vertebra in his back while lifting weights. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound righthander touched 94 mph in his first start before he got hurt, and returned before the end of his senior season. He needs to smooth out his high three-quarters delivery and improve his curveball, which is less advanced than his changeup. His athleticism and arm strength are promising. He's a good student who will both pitch and hit if he winds up at Louisville.

With a fastball that ranges from 90-95 mph and a splitter that's a legitimate swing-and-miss pitch, Phil Wetherell has the weapons to be an effective reliever in pro ball. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound righthander gets hit more than he should because he pitches up in the zone with his fastball and lacks an effective breaking ball. He has little effort in his delivery, but scouts worry about his one-piece arm action. He spent the first year of his college career at Kaskaskia (Ill.) CC and pitched just 29 innings as a sophomore, so he hasn't gotten a lot of exposure.

Logan Robbins has two legitimate pro tools, as his speed rates a 65 and his arm grades as a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale. The 6-foot, 190-pounder is a quick-twitch athlete who has good actions and covers a lot of ground at shortstop. He has bat speed too, but he swings from his heels and has an uphill righthanded stroke. A team that falls in love with his tools and thinks it can overhaul his swing could pop him in the first 10 rounds.

Righthander Justin Amlung originally attended Louisville on an academic scholarship and didn't get an opportunity to make the team as a walk-on until the Cardinals lost prized recruit Jake Odorizzi as a 2008 sandwich pick to the Brewers. After redshirting in 2009, Amlung blossomed into Louisville's top starter. He's not physical at 6 feet and 174 pounds, and he doesn't have overwhelming stuff, yet he gets outs and misses bats. A catcher in high school, he succeeds by commanding an 89-91 mph sinker that touches 93, as well as a short slider. His signability as a draft-eligible sophomore remains to be seen.

Matt Rice doesn't have outstanding tools and doesn't do much in orthodox fashion, but he got the job done as a hitter and catcher for four years at Western Kentucky. He has a spread-out stance and an uphill righthanded swing, with a knack for putting the barrel on the ball and making line-drive contact. The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder has gap power and is the Hilltoppers' all-time leader in hits (309) and RBIs (223). His long release detracts from his average arm strength and his receiving skills are just decent, yet he keeps the running game in check and does a nice job of leading a pitching staff. Area scouts love his makeup, and one described him as a "low risk, high reward" prospect. An exceptional student, Rice carries a 4.0 grade-point average in mechanical engineering and was the baseball academic all-American of the year. He also was a Rhodes Scholar finalist in 2010, when the Yankees drafted him in the 50th round.

Scouts don't know what to make of righthander Jordan Cooper. He opened the season in Kentucky's weekend rotation and pitched his way out of it after having little success with an 88-90 mph fastball and a mediocre breaking ball. Then the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder looked like a top-five-rounds pick in midweek starts against Louisville and Western Kentucky, dealing with an 89-94 mph sinker, a harder slider and a solid changeup. He didn't show the same stuff and lacked the same command when he returned to his Sunday slot. He has extra leverage as a 21-year-old sophomore, and the team that selects him likely will monitor his progress during the summer.

Righthander Mike Nastold intrigued scouts early in the season when he showed a heavy 90-92 mph fastball that reached 94 and backed it up with a hard curveball. In his first year back after having Tommy John surgery in May 2009, he couldn't maintain that stuff and lacked fastball command and consistent feel for his curve. He has a strong 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame, but he has a long arm action and a stiff delivery. Another Louisville redshirt sophomore, he's considered more signable than his teammate Justin Amlung.

Braden Kapteyn had much more success as a first baseman (.300, six homers) than as a righthander (9.00 ERA in 17 innings) this spring, but scouts prefer him on the mound. He has a big league body (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and a 90-92 mph fastball that touches 94, but his lack of success is puzzling, especially considering he posted a 0.64 ERA in the Cape Cod League last summer. Kapteyn is more of a thrower than a pitcher, and his slider regressed after showing flashes of being a wipeout pitch on the Cape. More strong than athletic, he has some effort in his delivery. Kapteyn also lacks finesse as a hitter, though he does offer impressive power from the right side of the plate.

The state's top prep position prospect is Jackson Laumann, whose father Doug is the White Sox scouting director. A 6-foot-3, 215-pound first baseman, he stands out most for his righthanded power potential. He has committed to Cincinnati.