State Report: Michigan

Scouts find disappointment around every corner

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***** 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
Not much went right in the Great Lakes State from a scouting standpoint this spring. Michigan righthander Kolby Wood, the Major League Scouting Bureau's top-rated prospect in the state entering the year, blew out his biceps in his second game and had season-ending surgery. Teammate Derek Dennis, a shortstop who turned down sandwich-round money from the Rays out of high school, broke a bone in his foot and batted .216. Even the state's two best talents, Central Michigan lefthander Trent Howard and Michigan righty Tyler Mills, didn't finish as strongly as they began the season. Most of the state's top prospects are college pitchers, and the overall high school crop is extremely weak.




1. Trent Howard, lhp, Central Michigan
2. Tyler Mills, rhp, Michigan
3. Jeff Holm, 1b, Michigan State
4. Zach Cooper, rhp, Central Michigan
5. Joel Seddon, rhp, St. Clair HS
6. Kurt Wunderlich, rhp, Michigan State
7. Brett Shankin, rhp, Wayne State
8. Brandon Eckerle, of, Michigan State
9. Derek Dennis, ss, Michigan
10. Zack Leonard, 2b, Eastern Michigan
11. James Bourque, rhp, Huron HS, Ann Arbor
12. Brian Stroud, rhp, Western Michigan
13. Mick Van Vossen, rhp, Forest Hills Central HS, Grand Rapids
14. Eric Haase, c, Divine Child HS, Dearborn
15. Tyler Hall, 3b, Central Michigan


Howard Succeeds With Average Stuff

Trent Howard turned in some spectacular outings this spring, including a two-hit shutout of Indiana on Central Michigan's swing through Florida, a 13-strikeout gem against Miami (Ohio) and a duel with Kent State Andrew Chafin in which Howard fanned the first nine batters. He probably still will be the state's top draft pick, but he looked like a lock until he came down with biceps tendinitis in late April. After taking a week off, he got hit hard in two of his final three starts. A 6-foot-2, 198-pound lefthander, Howard is a craftsman who mixes four pitches. His sinker sits at 86-89 mph and touches the low 90s, his changeup is effective against both lefties and righties, and his slider acts like a cutter. He also has a curveball he can throw for strikes. His command is more notable than any of his individual offerings, and at times he gets too rotational in his delivery, which cause his stuff to flatten out. Howard's ceiling is no more than that of a No. 4 starter, but he has a good chance of reaching it.
Tyler Mills arrived at Michigan as an outfielder, redshirting in 2009 and getting just 11 at-bats last season. He opened scouts' eyes when he pitched two innings of relief in the season opener against Louisville, throwing a 94-96 mph fastball and an 84-87 mph slider. He threw 127 pitches in the third outing of his college career, however, and his stuff rarely was as sharp afterward. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder worked more at 88-92 mph and with a shorter slider, and he couldn't hold his spot in the weekend rotation. Mills still looks like a position player trying to pitch, working out of the stretch and struggling to repeat a less-than-smooth delivery. He'll have to be a reliever in pro ball. He's a draft-eligible sophomore, which complicates his signability.

Jeff Holm was player of the year and nearly won the triple crown in the Prospect League last summer, then did the same in the Big Ten Conference this spring. He led the Big Ten with 61 RBIs and ranked second with a .376 average and nine homers—nearly doubling his career total of five in three previous seasons at Michigan State. One of the best senior signs in the Midwest, Holm controls the strike zone and makes contact from the left side of the plate. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder collapses on his backside and has an uphill stroke, so he doesn't generate a lot of backspin and may top out at 15-20 homers in pro ball. That's not the power teams want at first base, where Holm is a quality defender, but he has the average speed and enough arm strength to move to the outfield.

Holm is one of three Michigan State players who went undrafted as juniors in 2010 but will be nice senior signs after leading the Spartans to their first Big Ten regular-season title since 1979. Kurt Wunderlich was named Big Ten pitcher of the year after going 10-2, 3.19. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder is a finesse righthander who throws three pitches for strikes: an 87-89 mph sinker that peaks at 91, a good changeup and a little slider. He showed more velocity when the Spartans used him as a reliever two years ago, and that could be his role in pro ball.

The third Spartan senior sign is Brandon Eckerle, who edged Holm for the Big Ten batting title with a .379 average. He set Michigan State records for hits in a season (96) and career (261), thanks to his plus speed. He puts the ball on the ground and uses his legs to get on base, a slap approach that allows him to make contact but leaves the 6-foot, 175-pound righthanded hitter with little power. He gets good jumps and takes good routes in center field.

Righthander Zach Cooper has an 88-93 mph fastball, but he doesn't use it or command it enough. His hard, biting slider is his out pitch, and he relies on it too much. He's just 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, and he has some effort and works uphill in his delivery, so he'll be a reliever in pro ball. His stuff should play up when he comes out of the bullpen, and could be good enough for set-up duty.

Righthander Joel Seddon is Michigan's top high school prospect, but scouts believe he'd be better off attending South Carolina than turning pro out of high school. He already throws 86-90 mph and touches 91, and he has more projection than most 6-footers because he can add strength to his 170-pound frame. He flashes a good curveball and has more feel for pitching than most high schoolers. There's some effort in his delivery, but he's also athletic and has a quick arm. The Gamecocks may give him a chance as a two-way player, though his pro future is on the mound.

Brett Shankin blossomed as a senior at Wayne State and earned a shot at pro ball. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound righthander depends on his 88-92 mph sinker because his secondary pitches are fringy, but he throws strikes with his entire repertoire. He projects as a middle reliever.

Shortstop Derek Dennis turned down $750,000 from the Rays as a 10th-round pick out of high school in 2009, and it's unlikely he'll get offered a similar bonus again. The 6-foot-3, 178-pounder lacks strength and has a long, loopy righthanded swing. He pulls off pitches and doesn't make consistent contact. After hitting .178/.235/.206 with wood bats in the Cape Cod League last summer, he batted .216/.329/.250 this spring and missed a month after breaking a bone in his foot on a slide. He's a fringe-average runner with a solid arm and decent hands at shortstop. A draft-eligible sophomore, he needs to return to Michigan to try to boost his stock.

Michigan got just four innings each out of two of their projected weekend starters. Kolby Wood, who had the highest Major League Scouting Bureau preseason grade in the state, needed surgery to repair a torn biceps. Travis Smith went down with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. Both are 6-foot-6 righthanders who can run their fastballs into the low 90s, and they're expected to return to the Wolverines as redshirt seniors in 2012.